Lectionary Year A
September 29, 2002
Exodus 17:1-7

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre - Exodus, Chapter 16 ends with the wanderers getting the quails and manna God promised and instructed them on how to collect it.

Post - Chapter 17 ends with an account of Amalek’s attacking Israel and God’s promising such encounters to continue.


As with last week, the Book of Exodus documents Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (chapters 1-15), their wanderings in the wilderness of Sinai (chapters 16-18) and their encounter with Yahweh on Mt. Sinai (chapters 19-40). In this book, Israel becomes a people, distinctively a people in covenant with their God. Here, they become primarily a theologically oriented people and secondarily a politically organized people.


John Gray, in the Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible identifies the sources of these verses. They seem to be the product of all three of the schools the documentary hypothesis labels. Accordingly, verse 1a is Priestly while verses 1b–2b, 4-6, 7b are attributed to the Elohist. That leaves verses 2c-3 and 7a and c to the Yahwists. The Priestly editors evidently come from the Priestly circles in about the 6th century BCE. “P” emphasizes God’s regulations with little regard for humans’ reflections on or struggling to obey them. Their style is ponderous, pedantic and wordy, long-winded and even redundant. The Elohist editor(s) composed in the northern kingdom in about the ninth century BCE. They like symbolism and present Moses as a prophet par excellence, as Davie Napier says in his Song of the Vineyard. The Yahwist recorded the earliest traditions of the people which remained current and fluid down to the tenth century BCE. “J” exhibits positive attitudes, especially, re: agricultural experiences, referring to the deity in bold anthropomorphisms in a charming, if simplistic and in rather clearly distinguishing literary features.

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