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פָּרָשַׁת שְׁמוֹת | Parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1), color-coded according to its narrative layers

According to the poetry of the Midrash Tanchuma, Bereshit 1:1, the words of the Torah were inscribed “black fire on white fire.” For many years, I’ve wanted to look deeply into the black fire and visualize the full spectrum of the Torah’s sources, hidden within the black fire but revealed through a critical analysis of its layers of redaction. Below, I’ve set the text of the first Torah portion in the annual Torah reading cycle, using color-coding to distinguish the stratigraphic layers forming the composition of the Masoretic text according to the Supplementary Hypothesis presented by Tsemaḥ Yoreh in his Kernel to Canon series of books (2013-2017). As Dr. Yoreh explains,

The Supplementary Hypothesis asserts that the Pentateuch was composed by several different writers. This reflects an overwhelming academic consensus on Biblical authorship, even among scholars who do not subscribe to the Supplementary Hypothesis in particular.[….] According to the Supplementary Hypothesis, Biblical narrative is layered. No editor took a blowtorch to the parts of the Bible he disagreed with and destroyed them; if he had, we would not find these repetitions and contradictions. Instead, Biblical narrative began with a coherent, foundational bedrock, which over time accreted more and more storylines. Unlike geological processes, though, this process of addition was deliberate. What happened if one author disagreed with his predecessor’s storyline or worldview? He did not simply take an axe to the narrative; instead, he attempted to bury his predecessor’s point of view by repeating his own over and over again, thus skewing our understanding of the story in new ways. Every generation of readers sees the world differently, and thus every generation of writers seeks to adapt their predecessors’ cultural heritage to their own situation. We are not meant simply to dismiss earlier stories; rather, the intention of later writers is to transform our understanding of those stories via their additions.

⬛ The kernel of biblical text upon which all other narratives were laid is thought to have been composed in the mid- to late eighth century BCE toward the end of the heyday of the northern Kingdom of Ephraim (one of the two kingdoms that occupied Biblical Israel). This layer, commonly referred to as ‘E’, is indicated with INDIGO text. The first parashah containing text of this layer was parashat Vayera in Sefer Bereshit.

⬛ The next oldest layer is thought to have been composed in the late 8th or early 7th century BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah. This layer, commonly known as ‘J’, is indicated with a BLUE text.

⬛ The next strata, thought to have been composed during the exilic to early post-exilic period (571–486 BCE) is, as Dr. Yoreh explains, “responsible for supplementing the ‘J’ narrative with dates, names, and numbers, thus ‘ordering’ and authenticating ‘J’s account.” This layer, commonly referred to as ‘P’ (for ‘Priestly’) appears here in GREEN text.

⬛ The next strata popularized Kohanite law for the remnant of Judah after the Temple was destroyed, and functioned as an intermediary between Kohanite lists and laws and the surrounding narrative. This layer, which Dr. Yoreh calls ‘H’ (for the ‘Holiness Code’) appears here in LIME-GREEN text.

⬛ The most recent layer of text, is a post-exilic (pre-3rd century BCE) text that Dr. Yoreh refers to as the “Bridger” which supplements earlier strata with genealogies and popular myths, providing narrative bridges between distant story cycles. This ‘B’ layer is presented here in FUCHSIA.

Parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) in the annual Torah reading cycle, is read on the third shabbat of the month of Tevet. The parashah is preceded by Vayeḥi (Genesis 47:28-50:26); parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35) follows it.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

א א וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה אֵ֣ת יַעֲקֹ֔ב אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵית֖וֹ בָּֽאוּ׃ ב רְאוּבֵ֣ן שִׁמְע֔וֹן לֵוִ֖י וִיהוּדָֽה׃ ג יִשָּׂשכָ֥ר זְבוּלֻ֖ן וּבִנְיָמִֽן׃ ד דָּ֥ן וְנַפְתָּלִ֖י גָּ֥ד וְאָשֵֽׁר׃ ה וַֽיְהִ֗י כׇּל־נֶ֛פֶשׁ יֹצְאֵ֥י יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שִׁבְעִ֣ים נָ֑פֶשׁ וְיוֹסֵ֖ף הָיָ֥ה בְמִצְרָֽיִם׃ ו וַיָּ֤מׇת יוֹסֵף֙ וְכׇל־אֶחָ֔יו וְכֹ֖ל הַדּ֥וֹר הַהֽוּא׃ ז וּבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל פָּר֧וּ וַֽיִּשְׁרְצ֛וּ וַיִּרְבּ֥וּ וַיַּֽעַצְמ֖וּ בִּמְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֑ד וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ אֹתָֽם׃
1 1 Now these are the names of the children of Yisrael coming to Mitsrayim, with Yaaqov, each-man and his household they came: 2 Re’uven, Shim’on, Levi and Yehudah, 3 Yissakhar, Zevulun and Binyamin, 4 Dan and Naftali, Gad and Asher. 5 So all the persons, those issuing from Yaaqov’s loins, were seventy persons, – Yosef was (already) in Mitsrayim. 6 Now Yosef died, and all his brothers, and all that generation. 7 Yet the Children of Yisrael bore fruit, they swarmed, they became many, they grew mighty (in number) – exceedingly, yes, exceedingly; the land filled up with them.[1]The first verses of Exodus 1 serve as a narrative bridge between the books of Genesis and Exodus, and recount how the Israelites evolved from a family into a people. Note the genealogical information typical to P and compare similar lists in Genesis 35:23-26 and 46:8-27. The population increase in vs. 7 is described using the same terms as God’s blessing to humans in Genesis 1:28 (P) and 9:7 (P).

ח וַיָּ֥קׇם מֶֽלֶךְ־חָדָ֖שׁ עַל־מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע אֶת־יוֹסֵֽף׃ ט וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־עַמּ֑וֹ הִנֵּ֗ה עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֥ב וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ י הָ֥בָה נִֽתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שֹׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
8 Now a new king arose over Mitsrayim, who had not known Yosef. 9 He said to his people: “Here, (this) people, the Children of Yisrael, is many-more and mightier (in number) than we! 10 Come-now, let us use-our-wits against it, lest it become many-more, and then, if war should occur, it too be added to our enemies and make war upon us or go up away from the land!”[2]Note the use of “King of Egypt” in vs. 8, this term will be used by E, as opposed to J’s Pharaoh. The words רב ועצום – “powerful and mighty” in vs. 10, more likely, indicate military might, not numerical might since in vs. 10 the King says “lest they increase” [פן ירבה], which seems to mean that they haven’t increased yet, and it is only an eventuality that the king prepares for.

יא וַיָּשִׂ֤ימוּ עָלָיו֙ שָׂרֵ֣י מִסִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן עַנֹּת֖וֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיִּ֜בֶן עָרֵ֤י מִסְכְּנוֹת֙ לְפַרְעֹ֔ה אֶת־פִּתֹ֖ם וְאֶת־רַעַמְסֵֽס׃ יב וְכַאֲשֶׁר֙ יְעַנּ֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ כֵּ֥ן יִרְבֶּ֖ה וְכֵ֣ן יִפְרֹ֑ץ וַיָּקֻ֕צוּ מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ יג וַיַּעֲבִ֧דוּ מִצְרַ֛יִם אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃ יד וַיְמָרְר֨וּ אֶת־חַיֵּיהֶ֜ם בַּעֲבֹדָ֣ה קָשָׁ֗ה בְּחֹ֙מֶר֙ וּבִלְבֵנִ֔ים וּבְכׇל־עֲבֹדָ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה אֵ֚ת כׇּל־עֲבֹ֣דָתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־עָבְד֥וּ בָהֶ֖ם בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃
11 So they set gang-captains over it, to afflict it with their burdens. It built storage-cities for Pharaoh – Pitom and Ra’amses. 12 But as they afflicted it, so did it become many, so did it burst forth. And they felt dread before the Children of Yisrael. 13 So they, Mitsrayim, made the Children of Yisrael subservient with crushing-labor; 14 they embittered their lives with hard servitude in loam and in bricks and with all kinds of servitude in the field – all their service in which they made them subservient with crushing-labor.[3]The oppression of the Israelites through taskmasters is a Yahwistic innovation, and compare Exodus 5:4ff. Vss. 11-14, do not logically follow vss. 8-10 – setting taskmasters over the Israelites may perhaps be described as a cruel measure though not as ruse.

טו וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת הָֽעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר שֵׁ֤ם הָֽאַחַת֙ שִׁפְרָ֔ה וְשֵׁ֥ם הַשֵּׁנִ֖ית פּוּעָֽה׃ טז וַיֹּ֗אמֶר בְּיַלֶּדְכֶן֙ אֶת־הָֽעִבְרִיּ֔וֹת וּרְאִיתֶ֖ן עַל־הָאׇבְנָ֑יִם אִם־בֵּ֥ן הוּא֙ וַהֲמִתֶּ֣ן אֹת֔וֹ וְאִם־בַּ֥ת הִ֖וא וָחָֽיָה׃ יז וַתִּירֶ֤אןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְלֹ֣א עָשׂ֔וּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ן מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִֽים׃ שני יח וַיִּקְרָ֤א מֶֽלֶךְ־מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֔ת וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֔ן מַדּ֥וּעַ עֲשִׂיתֶ֖ן הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִֽים׃ יט וַתֹּאמַ֤רְןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה כִּ֣י לֹ֧א כַנָּשִׁ֛ים הַמִּצְרִיֹּ֖ת הָֽעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת כִּֽי־חָי֣וֹת הֵ֔נָּה בְּטֶ֨רֶם תָּב֧וֹא אֲלֵהֶ֛ן הַמְיַלֶּ֖דֶת וְיָלָֽדוּ׃
15 Now the king of Mitsrayim said to the midwives of the Ivrim – the name of the first one was Shifrah, the name of the second was Pu’ah – 16 he said: “When you help the Ivri women give birth, see the supporting-stones: if he be a son, put him to death, but if she be a daughter, she may live.” 17 But the midwives held Elohim in awe, and they did not do as the king of Mitsrayim had spoken to them, they let the (male) children live. 18 The king of Mitsrayim called for the midwives and said to them: “Why have you done this thing, you have let the children live‽” 19 The midwives said[4]This narrative is at odds with vast numbers of Israelites posited by P in Numbers 2:32-34, and Numbers 26:51, since a nation of several million (600, 000 men above the age 20) could not survive with only two midwives. Some commentators suggest that Shifra and Puah were only the representatives or leaders of the midwives. Another option is that this narrative is folkloric and the details need not accord with other non-folkloric traditions. The simplest solution in my mind is that in the E narrative, the number of Israelites is nowhere near as prolific as in P, and that the source assumes a number closer to 6000. This approximation accords with many of the other E narratives, which speak of one well (Numbers 20:1-10), 70 date palms (Exodus 15:22-27), or 600 soldiers pursuing the Israelites (Exodus 14:5). to Pharaoh:[5]For the sake of consistency I posit that the name Pharaoh is an insertion here, since the name used throughout the Elohistic verses of this section (Exodus 1:8-10, 15-29, 21) is the King of Egypt. It is possible that the later author (perhaps J) seeks to give the narrative a more Egyptian flavor, and compare this insertion of names to Genesis 45:25, 46:1, and elsewhere in Elohistic passages. “Indeed, not like the Mitsri (women) are the Ivri (women), indeed, they are lively: before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth!”[6]This detail accords with the King’s description of the Israelites as vital in vs. 9, they don’t even need midwives.

כ וַיֵּ֥יטֶב אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֑ת וַיִּ֧רֶב הָעָ֛ם וַיַּֽעַצְמ֖וּ מְאֹֽד׃ כא וַיְהִ֕י כִּֽי־יָרְא֥וּ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיַּ֥עַשׂ לָהֶ֖ם בָּתִּֽים׃
20 Elohim dealt well with the midwives. And the people became many and grew exceedingly mighty (in number).[7]In vs. 21, E describes the midwives as God-Fearing a typical Elohistic sentiment (and compare Genesis 22:12), and therefore worthy of God’s reward, likely progeny (although the Hebrew is ambivalent). In vs. 20, their reward is stated more generally, and the main focus of the verse is the failure of the King’s ruse. Together the verses are repetitive. It seems likely, that vs. 20 is an addition, since it focuses on the population increase which is a Priestly theme in Exodus 12:37, Numbers 1-2, Numbers 26:51 and elsewhere. 21 It was, since the midwives held Elohim in awe, that he made them households.[8]See the above comment.

כב וַיְצַ֣ו פַּרְעֹ֔ה לְכׇל־עַמּ֖וֹ לֵאמֹ֑ר כׇּל־הַבֵּ֣ן הַיִּלּ֗וֹד הַיְאֹ֙רָה֙ תַּשְׁלִיכֻ֔הוּ וְכׇל־הַבַּ֖ת תְּחַיּֽוּן׃
22 Now Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying: “Every son that is born, throw him into the Nile, but let every daughter live.”[9]This verse function as a Precursor to Exodus 2 (J), in which Moses is found floating on the Nile after his mother places him them there in a wicker basket (and note the use of the name Pharaoh.) In E, however, no further attempt to curtail Israel’s might is recorded.

ב א וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ אִ֖ישׁ מִבֵּ֣ית לֵוִ֑י וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־בַּת־לֵוִֽי׃ ב וַתַּ֥הַר הָאִשָּׁ֖ה וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַתֵּ֤רֶא אֹתוֹ֙ כִּי־ט֣וֹב ה֔וּא וַֽתִּצְפְּנֵ֖הוּ שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה יְרָחִֽים׃ ג וְלֹא־יָכְלָ֣ה עוֹד֮ הַצְּפִינוֹ֒ וַתִּֽקַּֽח־לוֹ֙ תֵּ֣בַת גֹּ֔מֶא וַתַּחְמְרָ֥ה בַחֵמָ֖ר וּבַזָּ֑פֶת וַתָּ֤שֶׂם בָּהּ֙ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד וַתָּ֥שֶׂם בַּסּ֖וּף עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיְאֹֽר׃ ד וַתֵּתַצַּ֥ב אֲחֹת֖וֹ מֵרָחֹ֑ק לְדֵעָ֕ה מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה לֽוֹ׃ ה וַתֵּ֤רֶד בַּת־פַּרְעֹה֙ לִרְחֹ֣ץ עַל־הַיְאֹ֔ר וְנַעֲרֹתֶ֥יהָ הֹלְכֹ֖ת עַל־יַ֣ד הַיְאֹ֑ר וַתֵּ֤רֶא אֶת־הַתֵּבָה֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַסּ֔וּף וַתִּשְׁלַ֥ח אֶת־אֲמָתָ֖הּ וַתִּקָּחֶֽהָ׃ ו וַתִּפְתַּח֙ וַתִּרְאֵ֣הוּ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד וְהִנֵּה־נַ֖עַר בֹּכֶ֑ה וַתַּחְמֹ֣ל עָלָ֔יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר מִיַּלְדֵ֥י הָֽעִבְרִ֖ים זֶֽה׃
2 1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took (to wife) a daughter of Levi. 2 The woman became pregnant and bore a son. When she saw him – that he was goodly, she hid him, for three months. 3 And when she was no longer able to hide him, she took for him a little-ark of papyrus, she loamed it with loam and with pitch, placed the child in it, and placed it in the reeds by the shore of the Nile. 4 Now his sister stationed herself far off, to know what would be done to him. 5 Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe at the Nile, and her girls were walking along the Nile. She saw the little-ark among the reeds and sent her maid, and she fetched it. 6 She opened (it) and saw him, the child – here, a boy weeping! She pitied him, and she said: “One of the Ivrim children is this!”

ז וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֲחֹתוֹ֮ אֶל־בַּת־פַּרְעֹה֒ הַאֵלֵ֗ךְ וְקָרָ֤אתִי לָךְ֙ אִשָּׁ֣ה מֵינֶ֔קֶת מִ֖ן הָעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת וְתֵינִ֥ק לָ֖ךְ אֶת־הַיָּֽלֶד׃ ח וַתֹּֽאמֶר־לָ֥הּ בַּת־פַּרְעֹ֖ה לֵ֑כִי וַתֵּ֙לֶךְ֙ הָֽעַלְמָ֔ה וַתִּקְרָ֖א אֶת־אֵ֥ם הַיָּֽלֶד׃ ט וַתֹּ֧אמֶר לָ֣הּ בַּת־פַּרְעֹ֗ה הֵילִ֜יכִי אֶת־הַיֶּ֤לֶד הַזֶּה֙ וְהֵינִקִ֣הוּ לִ֔י וַאֲנִ֖י אֶתֵּ֣ן אֶת־שְׂכָרֵ֑ךְ וַתִּקַּ֧ח הָאִשָּׁ֛ה הַיֶּ֖לֶד וַתְּנִיקֵֽהוּ׃ י וַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַיֶּ֗לֶד וַתְּבִאֵ֙הוּ֙ לְבַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א שְׁמוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י מִן־הַמַּ֖יִם מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ׃
7 Now his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter: “Shall I go and call a nursing woman from the Ivrim for you, that she may nurse the child for you?” 8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her: “Go!” The maiden went and called the child’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her: “Have this child go with you and nurse him for me, and I myself will give you your wages. So the woman took the child and she nursed him.” 10 The child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She called his name: ‘Mosheh/He-who-pulls-out’; she said: “For out of the water meshitihu/I-pulled-him.”

שלישי יא וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵאֶחָֽיו׃ יב וַיִּ֤פֶן כֹּה֙ וָכֹ֔ה וַיַּ֖רְא כִּ֣י אֵ֣ין אִ֑ישׁ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֔י וַֽיִּטְמְנֵ֖הוּ בַּחֽוֹל׃ יג וַיֵּצֵא֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשֵּׁנִ֔י וְהִנֵּ֛ה שְׁנֵֽי־אֲנָשִׁ֥ים עִבְרִ֖ים נִצִּ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לָֽרָשָׁ֔ע לָ֥מָּה תַכֶּ֖ה רֵעֶֽךָ׃ יד וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר מִ֣י שָֽׂמְךָ֞ לְאִ֨ישׁ שַׂ֤ר וְשֹׁפֵט֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ הַלְהׇרְגֵ֙נִי֙ אַתָּ֣ה אֹמֵ֔ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר הָרַ֖גְתָּ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֑י וַיִּירָ֤א מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר אָכֵ֖ן נוֹדַ֥ע הַדָּבָֽר׃
11 Now it was some years later, Mosheh grew up; he went out to his brothers and saw their burdens. He saw an Mitsrayimian man striking an Ivri man, (one) of his brothers. 12 He turned this-way and that-way, and seeing that there was no man (there), he struck down the Mitsrayimian and buried him in the sand. 13 He went out again on the next day, and here: two Ivri men scuffling! He said to the guilty-one: “For-what-reason do you strike your fellow?” 14 He said: “Who made you prince and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Mitsri?” Mosheh became afraid and said: “Surely the matter is known!”

טו וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה וַיְבַקֵּ֖שׁ לַהֲרֹ֣ג אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיִּבְרַ֤ח מֹשֶׁה֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־מִדְיָ֖ן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב עַֽל־הַבְּאֵֽר׃ טז וּלְכֹהֵ֥ן מִדְיָ֖ן שֶׁ֣בַע בָּנ֑וֹת וַתָּבֹ֣אנָה וַתִּדְלֶ֗נָה וַתְּמַלֶּ֙אנָה֙ אֶת־הָ֣רְהָטִ֔ים לְהַשְׁק֖וֹת צֹ֥אן אֲבִיהֶֽן׃ יז וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ הָרֹעִ֖ים וַיְגָרְשׁ֑וּם וַיָּ֤קׇם מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיּ֣וֹשִׁעָ֔ן וַיַּ֖שְׁקְ אֶת־צֹאנָֽם׃
15 Pharaoh heard of this matter and sought to kill Mosheh. But Mosheh fled from Pharaoh’s face and settled in the land of Midyan; he sat down by a well. 16 Now the priest of Midyan had seven daughters; they came, they drew (water) and they filled the troughs, to give-drink to their father’s sheep. 17 Shepherds came and drove them away. But Mosheh rose up, he delivered them and gave-drink to their sheep.

יח וַתָּבֹ֕אנָה אֶל־רְעוּאֵ֖ל אֲבִיהֶ֑ן וַיֹּ֕אמֶר מַדּ֛וּעַ מִהַרְתֶּ֥ן בֹּ֖א הַיּֽוֹם׃ יט וַתֹּאמַ֕רְןָ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י הִצִּילָ֖נוּ מִיַּ֣ד הָרֹעִ֑ים וְגַם־דָּלֹ֤ה דָלָה֙ לָ֔נוּ וַיַּ֖שְׁקְ אֶת־הַצֹּֽאן׃ כ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֶל־בְּנֹתָ֖יו וְאַיּ֑וֹ לָ֤מָּה זֶּה֙ עֲזַבְתֶּ֣ן אֶת־הָאִ֔ישׁ קִרְאֶ֥ן ל֖וֹ וְיֹ֥אכַל לָֽחֶם׃
18 When they came (home) to Re’uel their father, he said: “Why have you come (home) so quickly today?” 19 They said: “A Mitsri man rescued us from the hand of the shepherds, and also he drew, yes, drew for us and watered the sheep!” 20 He said to his daughters: “So-where-is-he? For-what-reason then have you left the man behind? Call him, that he may eat bread (with us)!”

כא וַיּ֥וֹאֶל מֹשֶׁ֖ה לָשֶׁ֣בֶת אֶת־הָאִ֑ישׁ וַיִּתֵּ֛ן אֶת־צִפֹּרָ֥ה בִתּ֖וֹ לְמֹשֶֽׁה׃ כב וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֔ן וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ גֵּרְשֹׁ֑ם כִּ֣י אָמַ֔ר גֵּ֣ר הָיִ֔יתִי בְּאֶ֖רֶץ נׇכְרִיָּֽה׃
21 Mosheh agreed to settle down with the man, and he gave Tsipporah his daughter to Mosheh. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name: ‘Gershom/Sojourner There,’ for he said: “A sojourner have I become in a foreign land.”[10]In E, we are introduced to Moses when God appears to him in the desert. A more historically oriented source such as J must address the question of Moses’ origins, thus this account of Moses’ childhood and early adulthood. ¶ Note that the word אמתה in vs. 5, translated here as “her hand / arm”, is usually rendered by English translations as “her maidservant” (which the masoretic vocalization supports). J, however, does not employ the word אמה for maidservant, preferring the parallel שפחה, if this passage is Yahwistic our translation / emendation is preferable. Note that אמה is attested to as arm or appendage in Psalms 91:4 (after the vocalization is emended) and elsewhere as was correctly noted by Zeligman.

כג וַיְהִי֩ בַיָּמִ֨ים הָֽרַבִּ֜ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיָּ֙מׇת֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֵּאָנְח֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִן־הָעֲבֹדָ֖ה וַיִּזְעָ֑קוּ וַתַּ֧עַל שַׁוְעָתָ֛ם אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מִן־הָעֲבֹדָֽה׃ כד וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־נַאֲקָתָ֑ם וַיִּזְכֹּ֤ר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־בְּרִית֔וֹ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃ כה וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּ֖דַע אֱלֹהִֽים׃
23 It was, many years later, the king of Mitsrayim died. The Children of Yisrael groaned from the servitude, and they cried out; and their plea-for-help went up to Elohim, from the servitude. 24 Elohim hearkened to their moaning, Elohim called-to-mind his covenant with Avraham, with Yitsḥaq, and with Yaaqov, 25 Elohim saw the Children of Yisrael, and Elohim knew.[11]The only source that mentions a covenant with the forefathers is P, in Genesis 17 – this covenant is also alluded to in Exodus 6:3 (P). Note also a similar sequence of redemptive actions in the first verses of Exodus 6 (P). P accepts J’s version of events in which the Israelites were enslaved – according to E, this is not necessarily the case, and see above, in Exodus 1.

רביעי ג א וּמֹשֶׁ֗ה הָיָ֥ה רֹעֶ֛ה אֶת־צֹ֛אן יִתְר֥וֹ חֹתְנ֖וֹ כֹּהֵ֣ן מִדְיָ֑ן וַיִּנְהַ֤ג אֶת־הַצֹּאן֙ אַחַ֣ר הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר וַיָּבֹ֛א אֶל־הַ֥ר הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים חֹרֵֽבָה׃ ב וַ֠יֵּרָ֠א מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֵלָ֛יו בְּלַבַּת־אֵ֖שׁ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֑ה וַיַּ֗רְא וְהִנֵּ֤ה הַסְּנֶה֙ בֹּעֵ֣ר בָּאֵ֔שׁ וְהַסְּנֶ֖ה אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אֻכָּֽל׃ ג וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה אָסֻֽרָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה אֶת־הַמַּרְאֶ֥ה הַגָּדֹ֖ל הַזֶּ֑ה מַדּ֖וּעַ לֹא־יִבְעַ֥ר הַסְּנֶֽה׃
3 1 Now Mosheh was shepherding the flock of Yitro his father-in-law, priest of Midyan. He led the flock behind the wilderness – and he came to the mountain of Elohim,[12]Our first encounter with Moses according to E. Note the parallel terms – Mountain of God here, Mount Sinai in J and P, and Horeb in Deuteronomistic literature. The Deuteronomistic term is added here to harmonize between traditions. to Ḥorev.[13]See above comment. 2 And YHVH’s messenger was seen by him in the flame of a fire out of the midst of a bush.[14]Note the abrupt switch from God (E) to the Angel of the Lord (J) – this type of abruptness characterizes the chapter. J’s addition here clarifies that God wasn’t in the bush (a stationary object), but rather in the fire, a frequent vehicle of divine manifestation. Moreover, it wasn’t God himself but rather his angel. He saw: here, the bush is burning with fire, and the bush is not consumed! 3 Mosheh said: “Now let me turn aside that I may see this great sight – why the bush does not burn up!”[15]In the more concise Elohistic narrative the burning bush draws Moses towards it – the more reason oriented J articulates that this was the Lord’s purpose.

ד וַיַּ֥רְא יְהֹוָ֖ה כִּ֣י סָ֣ר לִרְא֑וֹת וַיִּקְרָא֩ אֵלָ֨יו אֱלֹהִ֜ים מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֗ה וַיֹּ֛אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֥ה מֹשֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַל־תִּקְרַ֣ב הֲלֹ֑ם שַׁל־נְעָלֶ֙יךָ֙ מֵעַ֣ל רַגְלֶ֔יךָ כִּ֣י הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ עוֹמֵ֣ד עָלָ֔יו אַדְמַת־קֹ֖דֶשׁ הֽוּא׃ ו וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אָנֹכִי֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י אָבִ֔יךָ אֱלֹהֵ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִצְחָ֖ק וֵאלֹהֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֑ב וַיַּסְתֵּ֤ר מֹשֶׁה֙ פָּנָ֔יו כִּ֣י יָרֵ֔א מֵהַבִּ֖יט אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִֽים׃
4 When YHVH saw that he had turned aside to see,[16]See the above comment. Elohim called to him out of the midst of the bush, he said: “Mosheh! Mosheh!” He said: “Here I am.” 5 He said: “Do not come near to here, put off your sandal from your foot, for the place on which you stand – it is holy ground!” 6 And he said: “I am the elo’ah of your father,[17]Note the abrupt switch from Lord to God indicating multiple authorship. God names himself as the “God of Moses’ father” in the singular – a plurality of three forefathers follow, however. It is likely that this triad is an addition to the text relating Moses to the patriarchs of Genesis, thus connecting the narrative traditions. This triad is unknown to E since in his version of the Patriarchal narratives Abraham and Jacob are not related.
Moses’ direct father remains unspecified in E and in J (in Exodus 6 [H] he is named), and in this context the divine title is likely a generic reference connecting Moses to the God of the Israelite nation.
the elo’ah of Avraham, the elo’ah of Yitsḥaq, and the elo’ah of Yaaqov.”[18]See the above comment. Mosheh concealed his face, for he was afraid to gaze upon Elohim.[19]Note Moses’ fear vis-à-vis the divine – this is the appropriate reaction in all interactions with God according to E, and compare the Midwives fear in Exodus 1:21.

ז וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֔ה רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃ ח וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ טוֹבָה֙ וּרְחָבָ֔ה אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ אֶל־מְק֤וֹם הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַ֣חִתִּ֔י וְהָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י וְהַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִֽי׃ ט וְעַתָּ֕ה הִנֵּ֛ה צַעֲקַ֥ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּ֣אָה אֵלָ֑י וְגַם־רָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־הַלַּ֔חַץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם לֹחֲצִ֥ים אֹתָֽם׃ י וְעַתָּ֣ה לְכָ֔ה וְאֶֽשְׁלָחֲךָ֖ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְהוֹצֵ֛א אֶת־עַמִּ֥י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃
7 Now YHVH said: “I have seen, yes, seen the affliction of my people that is in Mitsrayim, their cry I have heard in the face of their slave-drivers; indeed, I have known their sufferings! 8 So I have come down to rescue it from the hand of Mitsrayim, to bring it up from that land to a land, goodly and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the K’naani and the Ḥitti, of the Emori and the Perizzi, of the Ḥivvi and the Yevusi.[20]In J (vss. 7-8), the Lord announces to Moses his intention to Personally descend to Egypt and rescue the Israelites, Moses is merely the Lord’s mouthpiece. In E (vss. 9-10), God appoints Moses to rescue the Israelites and the means are left up to Moses himself. Note also the allusion to the Egyptian taskmasters which J introduced to Exodus 1, according to E, the Israelites were not enslaved. 9 So now,[21]The word behold here was likely added in order to better connect the disparate statements in vss. 7-8 and 9-10. here, the cry of the Children of Yisrael has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which Mitsrayim oppresses them. 10 So now, go, for I send you to Pharaoh – bring my people, the Children of Yisrael, out of Mitsrayim!”

יא וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי כִּ֥י אֵלֵ֖ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְכִ֥י אוֹצִ֛יא אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ יב וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ בְּהוֹצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃
11 Mosheh said to Elohim: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, that I should bring the Children of Yisrael out of Mitsrayim?” 12 He said: “Indeed, I will be-there with you, and this is the sign for you that I myself have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Mitsrayim, you will (all) serve Elohim by this mountain.”

יג וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֣י בָא֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וְאָמַרְתִּ֣י לָהֶ֔ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י אֲבוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וְאָֽמְרוּ־לִ֣י מַה־שְּׁמ֔וֹ מָ֥ה אֹמַ֖ר אֲלֵהֶֽם׃ יד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃
13 Mosheh said to Elohim: “Here, I will come to the Children of Yisrael and I will say to them: ‘The elo’ah of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they will say to me: ‘What is his name?’ – what shall I say to them?” 14 Elohim said to Mosheh: “‘EHYEH ASHER EHYEH/I will be-there howsoever I will be-there.'” And he said: “Thus shall you say to the Children of Yisrael: ‘EHYEH/I-WILL-BE-THERE sends me to you.'”[22]The Masoretic (Hebrew) text employs the title Pharaoh in these verses (10 and 11) – there may be evidence from other textual witnesses that this is not the original title and thus we employ King of Egypt here which is used by E in Exodus 1, and elsewhere.

There is frequent debate among commentators regarding the sign God gave Moses in vs. 12. It is unlikely that it was verbal since it would not have aided him in proving God’s existence and commitment to the Israelites. The structure of vs. 12 seems to indicate that God’s sign to Moses is the subsequent worship on the Mountain of God, this is difficult since it does not validate Moses’ leadership until after the fact. If, however, this sign is read in the context of the E narrative it makes a lot of sense since worship at Mount Sinai is the first manifestation of God in this source after Exodus 3, and occurs at the relative beginning of Moses’ tenure as leader which ends in E after the conquest of the land in Numbers 21 (in J and P Moses is only a desert leader). The sign thus validates Moses’ continued leadership in God’s first Elohistic manifestation after Exodus 3.

According to some documentary scholars it is at this point in the narrative where E switches to “the Lord”. There is, however, little textual evidence to support this claim since vs. 15 (15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.) is clearly an addition to the text (note the word “also”). God has already been named: “I am who I am” in vs. 14, and vs. 15 clearly contradicts this statement. Moreover, vs. 15, mentions the Patriarchal triad which did not exist according to E (Isaac was killed in Genesis 22). Vs. 15 is a verse in the Yahwistic vein which seeks to reveal God special name “Yahweh” to the world through the Exodus.


טו וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ ע֨וֹד אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה כֹּֽה־תֹאמַר֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ יְהֹוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתֵיכֶ֗ם אֱלֹהֵ֨י אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִצְחָ֛ק וֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם זֶה־שְּׁמִ֣י לְעֹלָ֔ם וְזֶ֥ה זִכְרִ֖י לְדֹ֥ר דֹּֽר׃ חמישי טז לֵ֣ךְ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֞ אֶת־זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֤ אֲלֵהֶם֙ יְהֹוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י אֲבֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ נִרְאָ֣ה אֵלַ֔י אֱלֹהֵ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם יִצְחָ֥ק וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב לֵאמֹ֑ר פָּקֹ֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְאֶת־הֶעָשׂ֥וּי לָכֶ֖ם בְּמִצְרָֽיִם׃ יז וָאֹמַ֗ר אַעֲלֶ֣ה אֶתְכֶם֮ מֵעֳנִ֣י מִצְרַ֒יִם֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַ֣חִתִּ֔י וְהָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י וְהַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִ֑י אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃
15 And Elohim said further to Mosheh: “Thus shall you say to the Children of Yisrael: ‘YHVH, the elo’ah of your fathers, the elo’ah of Avraham, the elo’ah of Yitsḥaq, and the elo’ah of Yaaqov, sends me to you. That is my name for the ages, that is my title (from) generation to generation.’ 16 Go, gather the elders of Yisrael and say to them: ‘YHVH, the elo’ah of your fathers, has been seen by me, the elo’ah of Avraham, of Yitsḥaq, and of Yaaqov, saying: I have taken account, yes, account of you and of what is being done to you in Mitsrayim, 17 and I have declared: I will bring you up from the affliction of Mitsrayim, to the land of the K’naani and of the Ḥitti, of the Emori and of the Perizzi, of the Ḥivvi and of the Yevusi, to a land flowing with milk and honey.'”[23]Note the nature of Moses’ leadership – he is to act as the Lord’s mouthpiece (and see vss. 7-8).

יח וְשָׁמְע֖וּ לְקֹלֶ֑ךָ וּבָאתָ֡ אַתָּה֩ וְזִקְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶל־מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֗יִם וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֵלָיו֙ יְהֹוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י הָֽעִבְרִיִּים֙ נִקְרָ֣ה עָלֵ֔ינוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה נֵֽלְכָה־נָּ֞א דֶּ֣רֶךְ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְנִזְבְּחָ֖ה לַֽיהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ׃ יט וַאֲנִ֣י יָדַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֠י לֹֽא־יִתֵּ֥ן אֶתְכֶ֛ם מֶ֥לֶךְ מִצְרַ֖יִם לַהֲלֹ֑ךְ וְלֹ֖א בְּיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה׃ כ וְשָׁלַחְתִּ֤י אֶת־יָדִי֙ וְהִכֵּיתִ֣י אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּכֹל֙ נִפְלְאֹתַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה בְּקִרְבּ֑וֹ וְאַחֲרֵי־כֵ֖ן יְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֶתְכֶֽם׃
18 “They will hearken to your voice, and you will come, you and the elders of Yisrael, to the king of Mitsrayim and say to him: YHVH, the elo’ah of the Ivrim, has met with us – so now, pray let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and let us slaughter (offerings) to YHVH our elo’ah! 19 But I, I know that the king of Mitsrayim will not give you leave to go, not (even) under a strong hand.[24]The antecedent of “they” in vs. 18, is the Israelites (vs. 14) rather than the elders of vs. 17. ¶ God is named here as the “God of the Hebrews” which follows the Septuagint [Greek] rather than the Masoretic [Hebrew] text: “Yhwh God of the Hebrews”. ¶ Note that according to E, the King of Egypt will not let them go, even if compelled to do so by a mighty hand – and indeed according to E, the Israelites escape Egypt after the plagues. In J, however, Pharaoh, sends them away, and thus the addition of vs. 20. 20 So I will send forth my hand and I will strike Mitsrayim with all my wonders which I will do in its midst – after that he will send you free!”[25]See the above comment.

כא וְנָתַתִּ֛י אֶת־חֵ֥ן הָֽעָם־הַזֶּ֖ה בְּעֵינֵ֣י מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהָיָה֙ כִּ֣י תֵֽלֵכ֔וּן לֹ֥א תֵלְכ֖וּ רֵיקָֽם׃ כב וְשָׁאֲלָ֨ה אִשָּׁ֤ה מִשְּׁכֶנְתָּהּ֙ וּמִגָּרַ֣ת בֵּיתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֛סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָ֖ב וּשְׂמָלֹ֑ת וְשַׂמְתֶּ֗ם עַל־בְּנֵיכֶם֙ וְעַל־בְּנֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם וְנִצַּלְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־מִצְרָֽיִם׃
21 “And I will give this people favor in the eyes of Mitsrayim; it will be that when you go, you shall not go empty-handed: 22 each woman shall ask of her neighbor and of the sojourner in her house objects of silver and objects of gold, and clothing, you shall put (them) on your sons and on your daughters – so shall you strip Mitsrayim!”[26]The tradition of plundering the Egyptians appears in Genesis 15:14, which is generally attributed to a very late stratum of Genesis (in our divisions it is attributed to B). In Exodus 11:1-3 it interrupts narrative continuity, thus a good case can be made for attributing to the same late stratum at this point as well.

ד א וַיַּ֤עַן מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֹּ֔אמֶר וְהֵן֙ לֹֽא־יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לִ֔י וְלֹ֥א יִשְׁמְע֖וּ בְּקֹלִ֑י כִּ֣י יֹֽאמְר֔וּ לֹֽא־נִרְאָ֥ה אֵלֶ֖יךָ יְהֹוָֽה׃ ב וַיֹּ֧אמֶר אֵלָ֛יו יְהֹוָ֖ה [מזה] מַה־זֶּ֣ה בְיָדֶ֑ךָ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מַטֶּֽה׃ ג וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַשְׁלִיכֵ֣הוּ אַ֔רְצָה וַיַּשְׁלִכֵ֥הוּ אַ֖רְצָה וַיְהִ֣י לְנָחָ֑שׁ וַיָּ֥נׇס מֹשֶׁ֖ה מִפָּנָֽיו׃ ד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה שְׁלַח֙ יָֽדְךָ֔ וֶאֱחֹ֖ז בִּזְנָב֑וֹ וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָדוֹ֙ וַיַּ֣חֲזֶק בּ֔וֹ וַיְהִ֥י לְמַטֶּ֖ה בְּכַפּֽוֹ׃ ה לְמַ֣עַן יַאֲמִ֔ינוּ כִּֽי־נִרְאָ֥ה אֵלֶ֛יךָ יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתָ֑ם אֱלֹהֵ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִצְחָ֖ק וֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹֽב׃
4 1 Mosheh spoke up, he said: “But they will not trust me, and will not hearken to my voice, indeed, they will say: ‘YHVH has not been seen by you. . . !'” 2 YHVH said to him: “What is that in your hand?” He said: “A staff.” 3 He said: “Throw it to the ground!” He threw it to the ground, and it became a snake, and Mosheh fled from its face. 4 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Send forth your hand! Seize it by its tail!” – He sent forth his hand, took hold of it, and it became a staff in his fist – 5 “so that they may trust that YHVH, the elo’ah of their fathers, the elo’ah of Avraham, the elo’ah of Yitsḥaq, and the elo’ah of Yaaqov, has been seen by you.”

ו וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה ל֜וֹ ע֗וֹד הָֽבֵא־נָ֤א יָֽדְךָ֙ בְּחֵיקֶ֔ךָ וַיָּבֵ֥א יָד֖וֹ בְּחֵיק֑וֹ וַיּ֣וֹצִאָ֔הּ וְהִנֵּ֥ה יָד֖וֹ מְצֹרַ֥עַת כַּשָּֽׁלֶג׃ ז וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הָשֵׁ֤ב יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־חֵיקֶ֔ךָ וַיָּ֥שֶׁב יָד֖וֹ אֶל־חֵיק֑וֹ וַיּֽוֹצִאָהּ֙ מֵֽחֵיק֔וֹ וְהִנֵּה־שָׁ֖בָה כִּבְשָׂרֽוֹ׃
6 YHVH said further to him: “Pray put your hand in your bosom!” He put his hand in his bosom, then he took it out, and here: his hand had tsaraat, like snow! 7 Now he said: “Return your hand to your bosom!” – He returned his hand to his bosom, then he took it out of his bosom, and here: it had returned (to be) like his (other) flesh.

ח וְהָיָה֙ אִם־לֹ֣א יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לָ֔ךְ וְלֹ֣א יִשְׁמְע֔וּ לְקֹ֖ל הָאֹ֣ת הָרִאשׁ֑וֹן וְהֶֽאֱמִ֔ינוּ לְקֹ֖ל הָאֹ֥ת הָאַחֲרֽוֹן׃ ט וְהָיָ֡ה אִם־לֹ֣א יַאֲמִ֡ינוּ גַּם֩ לִשְׁנֵ֨י הָאֹת֜וֹת הָאֵ֗לֶּה וְלֹ֤א יִשְׁמְעוּן֙ לְקֹלֶ֔ךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ֙ מִמֵּימֵ֣י הַיְאֹ֔ר וְשָׁפַכְתָּ֖ הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וְהָי֤וּ הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּקַּ֣ח מִן־הַיְאֹ֔ר וְהָי֥וּ לְדָ֖ם בַּיַּבָּֽשֶׁת׃
8 “So it shall be, if they do not trust you, and do not hearken to the voice of the former sign, that they will put their trust in the voice of the latter sign. 9 And it shall be, if they do not put their trust in even these two signs, and do not hearken to your voice: then take some of the water of the Nile and pour it out on the dry-land, and the water that you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry-land.”

י וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶל־יְהֹוָה֮ בִּ֣י אֲדֹנָי֒ לֹא֩ אִ֨ישׁ דְּבָרִ֜ים אָנֹ֗כִי גַּ֤ם מִתְּמוֹל֙ גַּ֣ם מִשִּׁלְשֹׁ֔ם גַּ֛ם מֵאָ֥ז דַּבֶּרְךָ֖ אֶל־עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ כִּ֧י כְבַד־פֶּ֛ה וּכְבַ֥ד לָשׁ֖וֹן אָנֹֽכִי׃ יא וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֵלָ֗יו מִ֣י שָׂ֣ם פֶּה֮ לָֽאָדָם֒ א֚וֹ מִֽי־יָשׂ֣וּם אִלֵּ֔ם א֣וֹ חֵרֵ֔שׁ א֥וֹ פִקֵּ֖חַ א֣וֹ עִוֵּ֑ר הֲלֹ֥א אָנֹכִ֖י יְהֹוָֽה׃ יב וְעַתָּ֖ה לֵ֑ךְ וְאָנֹכִי֙ אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִם־פִּ֔יךָ וְהוֹרֵיתִ֖יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּדַבֵּֽר׃ יג וַיֹּ֖אמֶר בִּ֣י אֲדֹנָ֑י שְֽׁלַֽח־נָ֖א בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָֽח׃
10 Mosheh said to YHVH: “Please, my Lord, no man of words am I, not from yesterday, not from the day-before, not (even) since you have spoken to your servant, for heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue am I! 11 YHVH said to him: “Who placed a mouth in human beings or who (is it that) makes one mute or deaf or open-eyed or blind? Is it not I, YHVH? 12 So now, go! I myself will be-there with your mouth and will instruct you as to what you are to speak.” 13 But he said: “Please, my Lord, pray send by whose hand you will send!”

יד וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֨ף יְהֹוָ֜ה בְּמֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הֲלֹ֨א אַהֲרֹ֤ן אָחִ֙יךָ֙ הַלֵּוִ֔י יָדַ֕עְתִּי כִּֽי־דַבֵּ֥ר יְדַבֵּ֖ר ה֑וּא וְגַ֤ם הִנֵּה־הוּא֙ יֹצֵ֣א לִקְרָאתֶ֔ךָ וְרָאֲךָ֖ וְשָׂמַ֥ח בְּלִבּֽוֹ׃ טו וְדִבַּרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֔יו וְשַׂמְתָּ֥ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים בְּפִ֑יו וְאָנֹכִ֗י אֶֽהְיֶ֤ה עִם־פִּ֙יךָ֙ וְעִם־פִּ֔יהוּ וְהוֹרֵיתִ֣י אֶתְכֶ֔ם אֵ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּעֲשֽׂוּן׃ טז וְדִבֶּר־ה֥וּא לְךָ֖ אֶל־הָעָ֑ם וְהָ֤יָה הוּא֙ יִֽהְיֶה־לְּךָ֣ לְפֶ֔ה וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּֽהְיֶה־לּ֥וֹ לֵֽאלֹהִֽים׃ יז וְאֶת־הַמַּטֶּ֥ה הַזֶּ֖ה תִּקַּ֣ח בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּעֲשֶׂה־בּ֖וֹ אֶת־הָאֹתֹֽת׃
14 YHVH’s anger flared up against Mosheh, he said: “Is there not Aharon your brother, the Levite – I know that he can speak, yes, speak well, and here, he is even going out to meet you; when he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him, you shall put the words in his mouth! I myself will be-there with your mouth and with his mouth, and will instruct you as to what you shall do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, he, he shall be for you a mouth, and you, you shall be for him Elohim. 17 And this staff, take in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.”[27]E’s validation of Moses will occur on the Mountain of God following the exodus, this does not suffice for J since in his elongated version the Exodus is a much longer process, and thus the Lord presents Moses with three signs. Vss. 1-17 also portray Moses as a reluctant mouthpiece rather than the dynamic leader in the E text, all to further J’s aggrandizement of the Lord. The Lord was the orchestrator of the Exodus not Moses. Even Moses’ staff is no more than an ordinary staff and completely under the Lord’s control.

ששי יח וַיֵּ֨לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֜ה וַיָּ֣שׇׁב ׀ אֶל־יֶ֣תֶר חֹֽתְנ֗וֹ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ אֵ֣לְכָה נָּ֗א וְאָשׁ֙וּבָה֙ אֶל־אַחַ֣י אֲשֶׁר־בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם וְאֶרְאֶ֖ה הַעוֹדָ֣ם חַיִּ֑ים וַיֹּ֧אמֶר יִתְר֛וֹ לְמֹשֶׁ֖ה לֵ֥ךְ לְשָׁלֽוֹם׃ יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֤ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ בְּמִדְיָ֔ן לֵ֖ךְ שֻׁ֣ב מִצְרָ֑יִם כִּי־מֵ֙תוּ֙ כׇּל־הָ֣אֲנָשִׁ֔ים הַֽמְבַקְשִׁ֖ים אֶת־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃ כ וַיִּקַּ֨ח מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֣וֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֗יו וַיַּרְכִּבֵם֙ עַֽל־הַחֲמֹ֔ר וַיָּ֖שׇׁב אַ֣רְצָה מִצְרָ֑יִם וַיִּקַּ֥ח מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־מַטֵּ֥ה הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּיָדֽוֹ׃
18 Mosheh went and returned to Yitro his father-in-law and said to him: “Pray let me go and return to my brothers that are in Mitsrayim, that I may see whether they are still alive.” Yitro said to Mosheh: “Go in peace!”[28]Moses’ father in law’s name is Jether or Jethro as opposed to Reul in J (e.g. Exodus 2:18). 19 Now YHVH said to Mosheh in Midyan: “Go, return to Mitsrayim, for all the men who sought (to take) your life have died.”[29]J connects this narrative with Moses’ adventures in Chapter 2. The reason for Moses’ sojourn in Midian was that he’d murdered an Egyptian, in E no reason is given for Moses’ residence in Midian. Moses is commanded to go to Egypt he doesn’t do so on his own initiative, further highlighting his reluctance. 20 So Mosheh took his wife and his sons and mounted them upon a donkey,[30]We know Moses is married according to E, the name of his family members are deemed unimportant. The more historically oriented J furnishes us with details in Chapter 2 and in Chapter 18. to return to the land of Mitsrayim,[31]Moses does as the Lord commanded in vs. 19. and Mosheh took the staff of Elohim in his hand.[32]In E, Moses’ staff is under his own control (although referring to it as the staff of God implies that Moses’ actions with the staff are divinely mandated) as we will find in the Elohistic version of the plagues in Chapters 9-10, in E’s parting of the Reed Sea in Chapter 14, and in the Israelites war against Amalek in Exodus 17:7ff.

כא וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ בְּלֶכְתְּךָ֙ לָשׁ֣וּב מִצְרַ֔יְמָה רְאֵ֗ה כׇּל־הַמֹּֽפְתִים֙ אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֣מְתִּי בְיָדֶ֔ךָ וַעֲשִׂיתָ֖ם לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וַאֲנִי֙ אֲחַזֵּ֣ק אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א יְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃ כב וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּנִ֥י בְכֹרִ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ כג וָאֹמַ֣ר אֵלֶ֗יךָ שַׁלַּ֤ח אֶת־בְּנִי֙ וְיַֽעַבְדֵ֔נִי וַתְּמָאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלְּח֑וֹ הִנֵּה֙ אָנֹכִ֣י הֹרֵ֔ג אֶת־בִּנְךָ֖ בְּכֹרֶֽךָ׃
21 YHVH said to Mosheh: “When you go to return to Mitsrayim, see: All the portents that I have put in your hand, you are to do before Pharaoh, but I will make his heart strong-willed, so that he will not send the people free. 22 Then you are to say to Pharaoh: ‘Thus says YHVH: My son, my firstborn, is Yisrael! 23 I said to you: Send free my son, that he may serve me, but you have refused to send him free, (so) here: I will kill your son, your firstborn!'”[33]Vss. 21-23 foreshadow the slaughtering of the first-born and are part of late H framing of the Plague narrative the other half of the frame is in Exodus 11:-10. In P and H, the slaughtering of the first born is not one of the ten plagues which begin with the swallowing of the snakes and end with darkness – according to P and H the plagues are non-fatal signs and wonders (and note the use of “wonders” in vs. 21).

Note also the use of the verb חזק – “to harden” – as opposed to כבד also “to harden” which is employed by J. In P and H God causes Pharaoh to harden his heart whereas in J Pharaoh hardens it on his own.

We know that this section was added on by H rather than the earlier P since the verses use the name “the Lord” which is not employed by P until Exodus 6:2.


כד וַיְהִ֥י בַדֶּ֖רֶךְ בַּמָּל֑וֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁ֣הוּ יְהֹוָ֔ה וַיְבַקֵּ֖שׁ הֲמִיתֽוֹ׃ כה וַתִּקַּ֨ח צִפֹּרָ֜ה צֹ֗ר וַתִּכְרֹת֙ אֶת־עׇרְלַ֣ת בְּנָ֔הּ וַתַּגַּ֖ע לְרַגְלָ֑יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֧י חֲתַן־דָּמִ֛ים אַתָּ֖ה לִֽי׃ כו וַיִּ֖רֶף מִמֶּ֑נּוּ אָ֚ז אָֽמְרָ֔ה חֲתַ֥ן דָּמִ֖ים לַמּוּלֹֽת׃
24 Now it was on the journey, at the night-camp, that YHVH encountered him and sought to make him die. 25 Tsipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, she touched it to his legs and said: “Indeed, a bridegroom of blood are you to me!” 26 Thereupon he released him. Then she said, “a bridegroom of blood” upon the circumcision-cuttings.[34][An interpolation by B.] No reason is given for the Lord’s sudden violence against Moses or his son [the text does not specify the target of the attack either]. The blood of the circumcision protects them from the divine wrath, which is comparable to the blood on the doors which prevent the angel of death from entering in Exodus 12:13.

כז וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן לֵ֛ךְ לִקְרַ֥את מֹשֶׁ֖ה הַמִּדְבָּ֑רָה וַיֵּ֗לֶךְ וַֽיִּפְגְּשֵׁ֛הוּ בְּהַ֥ר הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים וַיִּשַּׁק־לֽוֹ׃ כח וַיַּגֵּ֤ד מֹשֶׁה֙ לְאַֽהֲרֹ֔ן אֵ֛ת כׇּל־דִּבְרֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר שְׁלָח֑וֹ וְאֵ֥ת כׇּל־הָאֹתֹ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּֽהוּ׃
27 Now YHVH said to Aharon: “Go to meet Mosheh in the wilderness!”[35]The Lord orchestrates events with a heavy hand in J’s theistically centered account and as He promised in vs. 14 he sends Aaron to meet Moses. In E, Aaron simply comes out to meet him. He went, he encountered him at the mountain of Elohim and he kissed him.[36]See the above comment. 28 And Mosheh told Aharon all YHVH’s words with which he had sent him and all the signs with which he had charged him.[37]A direct allusion to the signs the Lord gave Moses in vss. 1-17 (J).

כט וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹ֑ן וַיַּ֣אַסְפ֔וּ אֶת־כׇּל־זִקְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ל וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר אַהֲרֹ֔ן אֵ֚ת כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיַּ֥עַשׂ הָאֹתֹ֖ת לְעֵינֵ֥י הָעָֽם׃ לא וַֽיַּאֲמֵ֖ן הָעָ֑ם וַֽיִּשְׁמְע֡וּ כִּֽי־פָקַ֨ד יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְכִ֤י רָאָה֙ אֶת־עׇנְיָ֔ם וַֽיִּקְּד֖וּ וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲוֽוּ׃
29 Mosheh and Aharon went, they gathered all the elders of the Children of Yisrael,[38]As God commanded him in Exodus 3:18 (E). They then, according to E, go together to the King of Egypt (5:1 or 5:3, depending on the source). 30 and Aharon spoke all the words which YHVH had spoken to Mosheh, he did the signs before the people’s eyes. 31 The people trusted, they hearkened that YHVH had taken account of the Children of Yisrael, that he had seen their affliction. And they bowed low and did homage.[39]A further allusion to the Lord’s commands of vss. 1-17 (J).

שביעי ה א וְאַחַ֗ר בָּ֚אוּ מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאַהֲרֹ֔ן וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י וְיָחֹ֥גּוּ לִ֖י בַּמִּדְבָּֽר׃ ב וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֔ה מִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶשְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹל֔וֹ לְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לֹ֤א יָדַ֙עְתִּי֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְגַ֥ם אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֹ֥א אֲשַׁלֵּֽחַ׃ ג וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ אֱלֹהֵ֥י הָעִבְרִ֖ים נִקְרָ֣א עָלֵ֑ינוּ נֵ֣לְכָה נָּ֡א דֶּ֩רֶךְ֩ שְׁלֹ֨שֶׁת יָמִ֜ים בַּמִּדְבָּ֗ר וְנִזְבְּחָה֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֔ינוּ פֶּ֨ן־יִפְגָּעֵ֔נוּ בַּדֶּ֖בֶר א֥וֹ בֶחָֽרֶב׃
5 1 Afterward Mosheh and Aharon came and said to Pharaoh: “Thus says YHVH, the elo’ah of Yisrael: Send free my people, that they may hold-a-festival to me in the wilderness!” 2 Pharaoh said: “Who is YHVH, that I should hearken to his voice to send Yisrael free? I do not know YHVH, moreover, Yisrael I will not send free!”[40]Pharaoh is introduced to the Lord, whose fame is J’s focus throughout the Exodus narratives. Moses’ forceful request of vss. 1-2 (J) is placed before the more diplomatically worded request in vss. 3-4 (E). 3 They said: “The elo’ah of the Ivrim has met with us; pray let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, and let us slaughter (offerings) to YHVH our elo’ah, lest he confront us with the pestilence or the sword!”

ד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לָ֚מָּה מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאַהֲרֹ֔ן תַּפְרִ֥יעוּ אֶת־הָעָ֖ם מִמַּֽעֲשָׂ֑יו לְכ֖וּ לְסִבְלֹתֵיכֶֽם׃ ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֔ה הֵן־רַבִּ֥ים עַתָּ֖ה עַ֣ם הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהִשְׁבַּתֶּ֥ם אֹתָ֖ם מִסִּבְלֹתָֽם׃ ו וַיְצַ֥ו פַּרְעֹ֖ה בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא אֶת־הַנֹּגְשִׂ֣ים בָּעָ֔ם וְאֶת־שֹׁטְרָ֖יו לֵאמֹֽר׃ ז לֹ֣א תֹאסִפ֞וּן לָתֵ֨ת תֶּ֧בֶן לָעָ֛ם לִלְבֹּ֥ן הַלְּבֵנִ֖ים כִּתְמ֣וֹל שִׁלְשֹׁ֑ם הֵ֚ם יֵֽלְכ֔וּ וְקֹשְׁשׁ֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם תֶּֽבֶן׃ ח וְאֶת־מַתְכֹּ֨נֶת הַלְּבֵנִ֜ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֵם֩ עֹשִׂ֨ים תְּמ֤וֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם֙ תָּשִׂ֣ימוּ עֲלֵיהֶ֔ם לֹ֥א תִגְרְע֖וּ מִמֶּ֑נּוּ כִּֽי־נִרְפִּ֣ים הֵ֔ם עַל־כֵּ֗ן הֵ֤ם צֹֽעֲקִים֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר נֵלְכָ֖ה נִזְבְּחָ֥ה לֵאלֹהֵֽינוּ׃ ט תִּכְבַּ֧ד הָעֲבֹדָ֛ה עַל־הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים וְיַעֲשׂוּ־בָ֑הּ וְאַל־יִשְׁע֖וּ בְּדִבְרֵי־שָֽׁקֶר׃
4 The king of Mitsrayim said to them: “For-what-reason, Mosheh and Aharon, would you let the people loose from their tasks? Go back to your burdens!”[41]Note the use of “the King of Egypt in vs. 4, we assume that he was introduced with this title in vs. 3 (and was omitted after vss. 1-2 were added) which in E follows Moses’ gathering of the elders in 4:29 (E). In E’s account, after the King refuses to grant him his request, Moses immediately smites him with plagues. Note that in our rendition vs. 3 follows the Septuagint which omits the Lord’s name – and simply reads “Our God”. 5 Pharaoh said: “Here, too many now are the people of the land, and you would have them cease from their burdens!” 6 So that day Pharaoh commanded the slave-drivers of the people and its officers, saying: 7 “You are no longer to give straw to the people to make the bricks as yesterday and the day-before; let it be them that go and gather straw for themselves! 8 But the (same) measure of bricks that they have been making, yesterday and the day-before, you are to impose on them, you are not to subtract from it! For they are lax – therefore they cry out, saying: ‘Let us go, let us slaughter (offerings) to our elo’ah!’ 9 Let the servitude weigh-heavily on the men! They shall have to do it, so that they pay no more regard to false words!”

י וַיֵּ֨צְא֜וּ נֹגְשֵׂ֤י הָעָם֙ וְשֹׁ֣טְרָ֔יו וַיֹּאמְר֥וּ אֶל־הָעָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר פַּרְעֹ֔ה אֵינֶ֛נִּי נֹתֵ֥ן לָכֶ֖ם תֶּֽבֶן׃ יא אַתֶּ֗ם לְכ֨וּ קְח֤וּ לָכֶם֙ תֶּ֔בֶן מֵאֲשֶׁ֖ר תִּמְצָ֑אוּ כִּ֣י אֵ֥ין נִגְרָ֛ע מֵעֲבֹדַתְכֶ֖ם דָּבָֽר׃ יב וַיָּ֥פֶץ הָעָ֖ם בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם לְקֹשֵׁ֥שׁ קַ֖שׁ לַתֶּֽבֶן׃ יג וְהַנֹּגְשִׂ֖ים אָצִ֣ים לֵאמֹ֑ר כַּלּ֤וּ מַעֲשֵׂיכֶם֙ דְּבַר־י֣וֹם בְּיוֹמ֔וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר בִּהְי֥וֹת הַתֶּֽבֶן׃ יד וַיֻּכּ֗וּ שֹֽׁטְרֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֣מוּ עֲלֵהֶ֔ם נֹגְשֵׂ֥י פַרְעֹ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר מַדּ֡וּעַ לֹא֩ כִלִּיתֶ֨ם חׇקְכֶ֤ם לִלְבֹּן֙ כִּתְמ֣וֹל שִׁלְשֹׁ֔ם גַּם־תְּמ֖וֹל גַּם־הַיּֽוֹם׃
10 The slave-drivers of the people and its officers went out and said to the people, saying: “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I will not give you straw: 11 You go, get yourselves straw, wherever you can find (it), indeed, not one (load) is to be subtracted from your servitude!'” 12 The people scattered throughout all the land of Mitsrayim, gathering stubble-gatherings for straw. 13 But the slave-drivers pressed them hard, saying: “Finish your tasks, each-day’s work-load in its day, as when there was straw! 14 And the officers of the Children of Yisrael, whom Pharaoh’s slave-drivers had set over them, were beaten, they said (to them): “For-what-reason have you not finished baking your allocation as yesterday and the day-before, so yesterday, so today?”

טו וַיָּבֹ֗אוּ שֹֽׁטְרֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר לָ֧מָּה תַעֲשֶׂ֦ה כֹ֖ה לַעֲבָדֶֽיךָ׃ טז תֶּ֗בֶן אֵ֤ין נִתָּן֙ לַעֲבָדֶ֔יךָ וּלְבֵנִ֛ים אֹמְרִ֥ים לָ֖נוּ עֲשׂ֑וּ וְהִנֵּ֧ה עֲבָדֶ֛יךָ מֻכִּ֖ים וְחָטָ֥את עַמֶּֽךָ׃ יז וַיֹּ֛אמֶר נִרְפִּ֥ים אַתֶּ֖ם נִרְפִּ֑ים עַל־כֵּן֙ אַתֶּ֣ם אֹֽמְרִ֔ים נֵלְכָ֖ה נִזְבְּחָ֥ה לַֽיהֹוָֽה׃ יח וְעַתָּה֙ לְכ֣וּ עִבְד֔וּ וְתֶ֖בֶן לֹא־יִנָּתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְתֹ֥כֶן לְבֵנִ֖ים תִּתֵּֽנוּ׃ יט וַיִּרְא֞וּ שֹֽׁטְרֵ֧י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֹתָ֖ם בְּרָ֣ע לֵאמֹ֑ר לֹא־תִגְרְע֥וּ מִלִּבְנֵיכֶ֖ם דְּבַר־י֥וֹם בְּיוֹמֽוֹ׃
15 The officers of the Children of Yisrael came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying: “Why do you do thus to your servants? 16 No straw is being given to your servants, and as for bricks – they say to us, ‘Make (them)!’ Here, your servants are being beaten, and the fault is your people’s!” 17 But he said: “Lax you are, lax, therefore you say: ‘Let us go, let us slaughter (offerings) to YHVH’ – 18 so now, go-serve; no straw will be given to you, and the full-measure in bricks you must give back!” 19 The officers of the Children of Yisrael saw that they were in an ill-plight, having to say: “Do not subtract from your bricks each-day’s work-load in its day!”

כ וַֽיִּפְגְּעוּ֙ אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאֶֽת־אַהֲרֹ֔ן נִצָּבִ֖ים לִקְרָאתָ֑ם בְּצֵאתָ֖ם מֵאֵ֥ת פַּרְעֹֽה׃ כא וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם יֵ֧רֶא יְהֹוָ֛ה עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם וְיִשְׁפֹּ֑ט אֲשֶׁ֧ר הִבְאַשְׁתֶּ֣ם אֶת־רֵיחֵ֗נוּ בְּעֵינֵ֤י פַרְעֹה֙ וּבְעֵינֵ֣י עֲבָדָ֔יו לָֽתֶת־חֶ֥רֶב בְּיָדָ֖ם לְהׇרְגֵֽנוּ׃ מפטיר כב וַיָּ֧שׇׁב מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶל־יְהֹוָ֖ה וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲדֹנָ֗י לָמָ֤ה הֲרֵעֹ֙תָה֙ לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה שְׁלַחְתָּֽנִי׃ כג וּמֵאָ֞ז בָּ֤אתִי אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר בִּשְׁמֶ֔ךָ הֵרַ֖ע לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה וְהַצֵּ֥ל לֹא־הִצַּ֖לְתָּ אֶת־עַמֶּֽךָ׃
20 They confronted Mosheh and Aharon, stationing themselves to meet them when they came out from Pharaoh, 21 they said to them: “May YHVH see you and judge, for having made our smell reek in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, giving a sword into their hand, to kill us!” 22 Mosheh returned to YHVH and said: “My Lord, for-what-reason have you dealt so ill with this people? For-what-reason have you sent me? 23 Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has dealt only ill with this people, and rescued-you have not rescued your people!”[42]The Yahwist eloquently describes the Egyptian subjugation of the Israelites elaborating upon his original addition to Exodus 1 (vss. 11-14). In E the Israelites were simply prevented from leaving Egypt, not necessarily enslaved by the Egyptians.

ו א וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה עַתָּ֣ה תִרְאֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה לְפַרְעֹ֑ה כִּ֣י בְיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ יְשַׁלְּחֵ֔ם וּבְיָ֣ד חֲזָקָ֔ה יְגָרְשֵׁ֖ם מֵאַרְצֽוֹ׃
6 1 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand he will send them free, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”[43]A response to Moses’ complaint at the conclusion of Chapter 5, Moses is once again depicted as a reluctant leader, who doesn’t do well in the face of adversity, and compare to the dialogue of 4:1-17(J).

The Masoretic text presented here is from Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish’s Miqra al pi ha-Mesorah. For the translation in English, I have adapted the translation of Everett Fox in the Schocken Bible (1997), mostly to re-Hebraize divine names, place names, and personal names. Aside from these, I have made minor punctuation changes.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. The first verses of Exodus 1 serve as a narrative bridge between the books of Genesis and Exodus, and recount how the Israelites evolved from a family into a people. Note the genealogical information typical to P and compare similar lists in Genesis 35:23-26 and 46:8-27. The population increase in vs. 7 is described using the same terms as God’s blessing to humans in Genesis 1:28 (P) and 9:7 (P).
  2. Note the use of “King of Egypt” in vs. 8, this term will be used by E, as opposed to J’s Pharaoh. The words רב ועצום – “powerful and mighty” in vs. 10, more likely, indicate military might, not numerical might since in vs. 10 the King says “lest they increase” [פן ירבה], which seems to mean that they haven’t increased yet, and it is only an eventuality that the king prepares for.
  3. The oppression of the Israelites through taskmasters is a Yahwistic innovation, and compare Exodus 5:4ff. Vss. 11-14, do not logically follow vss. 8-10 – setting taskmasters over the Israelites may perhaps be described as a cruel measure though not as ruse.
  4. This narrative is at odds with vast numbers of Israelites posited by P in Numbers 2:32-34, and Numbers 26:51, since a nation of several million (600, 000 men above the age 20) could not survive with only two midwives. Some commentators suggest that Shifra and Puah were only the representatives or leaders of the midwives. Another option is that this narrative is folkloric and the details need not accord with other non-folkloric traditions. The simplest solution in my mind is that in the E narrative, the number of Israelites is nowhere near as prolific as in P, and that the source assumes a number closer to 6000. This approximation accords with many of the other E narratives, which speak of one well (Numbers 20:1-10), 70 date palms (Exodus 15:22-27), or 600 soldiers pursuing the Israelites (Exodus 14:5).
  5. For the sake of consistency I posit that the name Pharaoh is an insertion here, since the name used throughout the Elohistic verses of this section (Exodus 1:8-10, 15-29, 21) is the King of Egypt. It is possible that the later author (perhaps J) seeks to give the narrative a more Egyptian flavor, and compare this insertion of names to Genesis 45:25, 46:1, and elsewhere in Elohistic passages.
  6. This detail accords with the King’s description of the Israelites as vital in vs. 9, they don’t even need midwives.
  7. In vs. 21, E describes the midwives as God-Fearing a typical Elohistic sentiment (and compare Genesis 22:12), and therefore worthy of God’s reward, likely progeny (although the Hebrew is ambivalent). In vs. 20, their reward is stated more generally, and the main focus of the verse is the failure of the King’s ruse. Together the verses are repetitive. It seems likely, that vs. 20 is an addition, since it focuses on the population increase which is a Priestly theme in Exodus 12:37, Numbers 1-2, Numbers 26:51 and elsewhere.
  8, 16, 18, 25, 36. See the above comment.
  9. This verse function as a Precursor to Exodus 2 (J), in which Moses is found floating on the Nile after his mother places him them there in a wicker basket (and note the use of the name Pharaoh.) In E, however, no further attempt to curtail Israel’s might is recorded.
  10. In E, we are introduced to Moses when God appears to him in the desert. A more historically oriented source such as J must address the question of Moses’ origins, thus this account of Moses’ childhood and early adulthood. ¶ Note that the word אמתה in vs. 5, translated here as “her hand / arm”, is usually rendered by English translations as “her maidservant” (which the masoretic vocalization supports). J, however, does not employ the word אמה for maidservant, preferring the parallel שפחה, if this passage is Yahwistic our translation / emendation is preferable. Note that אמה is attested to as arm or appendage in Psalms 91:4 (after the vocalization is emended) and elsewhere as was correctly noted by Zeligman.
  11. The only source that mentions a covenant with the forefathers is P, in Genesis 17 – this covenant is also alluded to in Exodus 6:3 (P). Note also a similar sequence of redemptive actions in the first verses of Exodus 6 (P). P accepts J’s version of events in which the Israelites were enslaved – according to E, this is not necessarily the case, and see above, in Exodus 1.
  12. Our first encounter with Moses according to E. Note the parallel terms – Mountain of God here, Mount Sinai in J and P, and Horeb in Deuteronomistic literature. The Deuteronomistic term is added here to harmonize between traditions.
  13. See above comment.
  14. Note the abrupt switch from God (E) to the Angel of the Lord (J) – this type of abruptness characterizes the chapter. J’s addition here clarifies that God wasn’t in the bush (a stationary object), but rather in the fire, a frequent vehicle of divine manifestation. Moreover, it wasn’t God himself but rather his angel.
  15. In the more concise Elohistic narrative the burning bush draws Moses towards it – the more reason oriented J articulates that this was the Lord’s purpose.
  17. Note the abrupt switch from Lord to God indicating multiple authorship. God names himself as the “God of Moses’ father” in the singular – a plurality of three forefathers follow, however. It is likely that this triad is an addition to the text relating Moses to the patriarchs of Genesis, thus connecting the narrative traditions. This triad is unknown to E since in his version of the Patriarchal narratives Abraham and Jacob are not related.
Moses’ direct father remains unspecified in E and in J (in Exodus 6 [H] he is named), and in this context the divine title is likely a generic reference connecting Moses to the God of the Israelite nation.
  19. Note Moses’ fear vis-à-vis the divine – this is the appropriate reaction in all interactions with God according to E, and compare the Midwives fear in Exodus 1:21.
  20. In J (vss. 7-8), the Lord announces to Moses his intention to Personally descend to Egypt and rescue the Israelites, Moses is merely the Lord’s mouthpiece. In E (vss. 9-10), God appoints Moses to rescue the Israelites and the means are left up to Moses himself. Note also the allusion to the Egyptian taskmasters which J introduced to Exodus 1, according to E, the Israelites were not enslaved.
  21. The word behold here was likely added in order to better connect the disparate statements in vss. 7-8 and 9-10.
  22. The Masoretic (Hebrew) text employs the title Pharaoh in these verses (10 and 11) – there may be evidence from other textual witnesses that this is not the original title and thus we employ King of Egypt here which is used by E in Exodus 1, and elsewhere.

There is frequent debate among commentators regarding the sign God gave Moses in vs. 12. It is unlikely that it was verbal since it would not have aided him in proving God’s existence and commitment to the Israelites. The structure of vs. 12 seems to indicate that God’s sign to Moses is the subsequent worship on the Mountain of God, this is difficult since it does not validate Moses’ leadership until after the fact. If, however, this sign is read in the context of the E narrative it makes a lot of sense since worship at Mount Sinai is the first manifestation of God in this source after Exodus 3, and occurs at the relative beginning of Moses’ tenure as leader which ends in E after the conquest of the land in Numbers 21 (in J and P Moses is only a desert leader). The sign thus validates Moses’ continued leadership in God’s first Elohistic manifestation after Exodus 3.

According to some documentary scholars it is at this point in the narrative where E switches to “the Lord”. There is, however, little textual evidence to support this claim since vs. 15 (15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.) is clearly an addition to the text (note the word “also”). God has already been named: “I am who I am” in vs. 14, and vs. 15 clearly contradicts this statement. Moreover, vs. 15, mentions the Patriarchal triad which did not exist according to E (Isaac was killed in Genesis 22). Vs. 15 is a verse in the Yahwistic vein which seeks to reveal God special name “Yahweh” to the world through the Exodus.

  23. Note the nature of Moses’ leadership – he is to act as the Lord’s mouthpiece (and see vss. 7-8).
  24. The antecedent of “they” in vs. 18, is the Israelites (vs. 14) rather than the elders of vs. 17. ¶ God is named here as the “God of the Hebrews” which follows the Septuagint [Greek] rather than the Masoretic [Hebrew] text: “Yhwh God of the Hebrews”. ¶ Note that according to E, the King of Egypt will not let them go, even if compelled to do so by a mighty hand – and indeed according to E, the Israelites escape Egypt after the plagues. In J, however, Pharaoh, sends them away, and thus the addition of vs. 20.
  26. The tradition of plundering the Egyptians appears in Genesis 15:14, which is generally attributed to a very late stratum of Genesis (in our divisions it is attributed to B). In Exodus 11:1-3 it interrupts narrative continuity, thus a good case can be made for attributing to the same late stratum at this point as well.
  27. E’s validation of Moses will occur on the Mountain of God following the exodus, this does not suffice for J since in his elongated version the Exodus is a much longer process, and thus the Lord presents Moses with three signs. Vss. 1-17 also portray Moses as a reluctant mouthpiece rather than the dynamic leader in the E text, all to further J’s aggrandizement of the Lord. The Lord was the orchestrator of the Exodus not Moses. Even Moses’ staff is no more than an ordinary staff and completely under the Lord’s control.
  28. Moses’ father in law’s name is Jether or Jethro as opposed to Reul in J (e.g. Exodus 2:18).
  29. J connects this narrative with Moses’ adventures in Chapter 2. The reason for Moses’ sojourn in Midian was that he’d murdered an Egyptian, in E no reason is given for Moses’ residence in Midian. Moses is commanded to go to Egypt he doesn’t do so on his own initiative, further highlighting his reluctance.
  30. We know Moses is married according to E, the name of his family members are deemed unimportant. The more historically oriented J furnishes us with details in Chapter 2 and in Chapter 18.
  31. Moses does as the Lord commanded in vs. 19.
  32. In E, Moses’ staff is under his own control (although referring to it as the staff of God implies that Moses’ actions with the staff are divinely mandated) as we will find in the Elohistic version of the plagues in Chapters 9-10, in E’s parting of the Reed Sea in Chapter 14, and in the Israelites war against Amalek in Exodus 17:7ff.
  33. Vss. 21-23 foreshadow the slaughtering of the first-born and are part of late H framing of the Plague narrative the other half of the frame is in Exodus 11:-10. In P and H, the slaughtering of the first born is not one of the ten plagues which begin with the swallowing of the snakes and end with darkness – according to P and H the plagues are non-fatal signs and wonders (and note the use of “wonders” in vs. 21).

Note also the use of the verb חזק – “to harden” – as opposed to כבד also “to harden” which is employed by J. In P and H God causes Pharaoh to harden his heart whereas in J Pharaoh hardens it on his own.

We know that this section was added on by H rather than the earlier P since the verses use the name “the Lord” which is not employed by P until Exodus 6:2.

  34. [An interpolation by B.] No reason is given for the Lord’s sudden violence against Moses or his son [the text does not specify the target of the attack either]. The blood of the circumcision protects them from the divine wrath, which is comparable to the blood on the doors which prevent the angel of death from entering in Exodus 12:13.
  35. The Lord orchestrates events with a heavy hand in J’s theistically centered account and as He promised in vs. 14 he sends Aaron to meet Moses. In E, Aaron simply comes out to meet him.
  37. A direct allusion to the signs the Lord gave Moses in vss. 1-17 (J).
  38. As God commanded him in Exodus 3:18 (E). They then, according to E, go together to the King of Egypt (5:1 or 5:3, depending on the source).
  39. A further allusion to the Lord’s commands of vss. 1-17 (J).
  40. Pharaoh is introduced to the Lord, whose fame is J’s focus throughout the Exodus narratives. Moses’ forceful request of vss. 1-2 (J) is placed before the more diplomatically worded request in vss. 3-4 (E).
  41. Note the use of “the King of Egypt in vs. 4, we assume that he was introduced with this title in vs. 3 (and was omitted after vss. 1-2 were added) which in E follows Moses’ gathering of the elders in 4:29 (E). In E’s account, after the King refuses to grant him his request, Moses immediately smites him with plagues. Note that in our rendition vs. 3 follows the Septuagint which omits the Lord’s name – and simply reads “Our God”.
  42. The Yahwist eloquently describes the Egyptian subjugation of the Israelites elaborating upon his original addition to Exodus 1 (vss. 11-14). In E the Israelites were simply prevented from leaving Egypt, not necessarily enslaved by the Egyptians.
  43. A response to Moses’ complaint at the conclusion of Chapter 5, Moses is once again depicted as a reluctant leader, who doesn’t do well in the face of adversity, and compare to the dialogue of 4:1-17(J).

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