Saturday, February 03, 2007

Exodus Outline and Themes

The outline of Exodus is as follows:
I. Calling of Moses, chs 1-6
II. The Plagues and Passover, chs 7-13
III. From the Red Sea to Sinai, chs 14-19
IV. The Book of the Covenant, chs 20-24
V. Instructions for the Tabernacle and its Furnishings, chs 25-31
VI. The Golden Calf Episode, chs 32-34
VII. The Tabernacle Built and Dedicated, chs 35-40

The major theme of the book is obviously deliverance. Connected with that is the centrality of Moses as the human tool of God in the deliverance. In addition, you have the revelation of the name of Yhwh as the covenant name of God. This is not to say that the name was not known before (see, for example, Gen 4:26). Instead, there is a whole element to the significance of the divine name that had not been previously revealed.

This also calls for a brief note on the significance of names in the Old Testament. Many interpreters (for example, Henry Morris in The Genesis Record) attempt to give a meaning for every name that occurs. I am leery of that project for a couple of reasons. First, not all names are noted for their significance in the OT record. Second, the signifcance of the name often does not hang on the strict etymology of the name, but on a play on words involving the name. Now the name of Isaac is strictly etymological. It means "he laughs" and that laughter is the connection given to the name in Gen 21:6. On the other hand, the significance of Samuel's name is given as "I have asked him of the Lord" (1 Sam 1:20), implying that perhaps the name Samuel has some connection to the word "ask." But it does not. It sounds sort of like the phrase "God heard," but even there the connection is only aural. Thus, to assign a significance to a Biblical name when the text itself does not do so is a questionable practice.

Back briefly to the name Yhwh. There is perhaps some significance to the fact that the discussion of the divine name shows up near the beginning of the book (chapter 3) and again near the end of the book (chapter 34), providing an inclusio (parentheses) around the book, giving the focus of the book as God delivering his people according to his promise to the patriarchs.

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