Lectionary Year B
March 23, 2003
Exodus 20: 1-17

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - Exodus 19 is about 3 months since leaving Egypt when God called Moses from the mountain and promised to keep Israel as His holy nation and priestly kingdom as long as they remember how He brought them out of Egypt, obey His voice and keep His covenant. The Elders and the people agree so to do and God tells Moses He would accompany them so they could hear Him. God instructed them to cleanse themselves to prepare for a divine appearance. Clouds, smoke, thunder and loud trumpet blasts announced the theophany, where God forbad any humans to look upon Him. God called Aaron to come with Moses up the mountain, untouchable by any others.

Post -Verses 21-26 of Exodus 20 tell of the peoples' fearing the God announced by the thunder, lightening, smoke and trumpet blasts. Then God tells Moses to tell the people not to make idols of silver or gold or sacrificial mounds of earth nor of stone for sacrificing animals by which to remember God and they are to stay below the mountain.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole

(JFC) The Book of Exodus can be divided into 2 parts, the first concerning the departure from Egypt through the first 18 chapters and the second "the theophany and the making of the covenant on Sinai," according to Martin Noth's Exodus in the OTL. It tells of the Decalogue around which the rest of the Book revolves. Driver divides the Book into 3 parts: 1) chapters 1-11, the increase of the slaves' population, Moses' birth and failed attempts to get his people free, legally, from Pharaoh and the first nine plagues; 2) chapters 12-18, the slaves' departure from Egypt and their journey as far as Rephidim; 3) chapters 19-40, Mount Sinai, the Book of the Covenant and further directions, etc. It gets to the formation of Israel as a community developing.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) Exodus was compiled by several authors and authors' schools; "J", probably written in Judah in the 9th century BCE, and "E", written a little later in the Northern Kingdom and some notes from "P" mostly collected later from a longer developing list of stories and/or documents, found mostly in chapters 1-24. All these parts were originally mostly oral, except chapters 20-23 and 34:10-28, the often called, "written laws".

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