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פָּרָשַׁת וָאֵרָא | Parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35), 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.

Parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35) in the annual Torah reading cycle, is read on the fourth shabbat of the month of Tevet. The parashah is preceded by parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1); parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16) follows it.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

ו ב וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃ ג וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃ ד וְגַ֨ם הֲקִמֹ֤תִי אֶת־בְּרִיתִי֙ אִתָּ֔ם לָתֵ֥ת לָהֶ֖ם אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן אֵ֛ת אֶ֥רֶץ מְגֻרֵיהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־גָּ֥רוּ בָֽהּ׃ ה וְגַ֣ם ׀ אֲנִ֣י שָׁמַ֗עְתִּי אֶֽת־נַאֲקַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם וָאֶזְכֹּ֖ר אֶת־בְּרִיתִֽי׃ ו לָכֵ֞ן אֱמֹ֥ר לִבְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָה֒ וְהוֹצֵאתִ֣י אֶתְכֶ֗ם מִתַּ֙חַת֙ סִבְלֹ֣ת מִצְרַ֔יִם וְהִצַּלְתִּ֥י אֶתְכֶ֖ם מֵעֲבֹדָתָ֑ם וְגָאַלְתִּ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ בִּזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבִשְׁפָטִ֖ים גְּדֹלִֽים׃ ז וְלָקַחְתִּ֨י אֶתְכֶ֥ם לִי֙ לְעָ֔ם וְהָיִ֥יתִי לָכֶ֖ם לֵֽאלֹהִ֑ים וִֽידַעְתֶּ֗ם כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹ֣הֵיכֶ֔ם הַמּוֹצִ֣יא אֶתְכֶ֔ם מִתַּ֖חַת סִבְל֥וֹת מִצְרָֽיִם׃ ח וְהֵבֵאתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָשָׂ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־יָדִ֔י לָתֵ֣ת אֹתָ֔הּ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב וְנָתַתִּ֨י אֹתָ֥הּ לָכֶ֛ם מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃
6 2 Elohim spoke to Mosheh, he said to him: “I am YHVH. 3 I was seen by Avraham, by Yitsḥaq, and by Yaaqov as El Shaddai, but (by) my name YHVH I was not known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of K’naan, the land of their sojournings, where they had sojourned. 5 And I have also heard the moaning of the Children of Yisrael, whom Mitsrayim is holding-in-servitude, and I have called-to-mind my covenant. 6 Therefore, say to the Children of Yisrael: ‘I am YHVH; I will bring you out from beneath the burdens of Mitsrayim, I will rescue you from servitude to them, I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, with great (acts of) judgment; 7 I will take you for me as a people, and I will be for you as Elohim; and you shall know that I am YHVH your elo’ah, who brings you out from beneath the burdens of Mitsrayim. 8 I will bring you into the land (over) which I lifted my hand (in an oath) to give to Avraham, to Yitsḥaq, and to Yaaqov. I will give it to you as a possession, I, YHVH.'”

ט וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר מֹשֶׁ֛ה כֵּ֖ן אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה׃ י וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ יא בֹּ֣א דַבֵּ֔ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֖ה מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם וִֽישַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאַרְצֽוֹ׃ יב וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֵ֤ן בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֹֽא־שָׁמְע֣וּ אֵלַ֔י וְאֵיךְ֙ יִשְׁמָעֵ֣נִי פַרְעֹ֔ה וַאֲנִ֖י עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם׃ יג וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר יְהֹוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאֶֽל־אַהֲרֹן֒ וַיְצַוֵּם֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶל־פַּרְעֹ֖ה מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם לְהוֹצִ֥יא אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃
9 Mosheh spoke thus to the Children of Yisrael. But they did not hearken to Mosheh, out of shortness of spirit and out of hard servitude. 10 YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying: 11 “Go in, speak to Pharaoh king of Mitsrayim, that he may send free the Children of Yisrael from his land.” 12 Mosheh spoke before YHVH, saying: “Here, (if) the Children of Yisrael do not hearken to me, how will Pharaoh hearken to me? – and I am of foreskinned lips!” 13 YHVH spoke to Mosheh and to Aharon, and charged them to the Children of Yisrael and to Pharaoh king of Mitsrayim, to bring the Children of Yisrael out of the land of Mitsrayim.[1]In 6:2, P ceases to use the names Elohim [God] and El Shaddai [God Almighty] and will only use “Yhwh” [the Lord]. Elohim and El Shadday are the patriarchal names for the deity whereas Yhwh is the national name which is fitting since this the first P narrative which the divinity addresses a national group. Note the allusion to P’s covenant / promise to the patriarchs (specifically to Abraham in 17:8) to grant their descendants the land of Canaan.

P’s statement: “but by my name of the Lord I didn’t make myself known to them” is meant to color our perception of the patriarchal period since P is clearly cognizant of J narratives in which “the Lord” is revealed by name. It is strategically placed following the patriarchal narratives so that P has the last word.

P’s reliance upon J is quite obvious since J introduced the idea that the Israelites were enslaved in 1:11-14 and in 3:7-8, and more importantly J introduced us to Moses, who is the assumed leader here without any prior Priestly introduction.


שני יד אֵ֖לֶּה רָאשֵׁ֣י בֵית־אֲבֹתָ֑ם בְּנֵ֨י רְאוּבֵ֜ן בְּכֹ֣ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל חֲנ֤וֹךְ וּפַלּוּא֙ חֶצְרֹ֣ן וְכַרְמִ֔י אֵ֖לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת רְאוּבֵֽן׃ טו וּבְנֵ֣י שִׁמְע֗וֹן יְמוּאֵ֨ל וְיָמִ֤ין וְאֹ֙הַד֙ וְיָכִ֣ין וְצֹ֔חַר וְשָׁא֖וּל בֶּן־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֑ית אֵ֖לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת שִׁמְעֽוֹן׃ טז וְאֵ֨לֶּה שְׁמ֤וֹת בְּנֵֽי־לֵוִי֙ לְתֹ֣לְדֹתָ֔ם גֵּרְשׁ֕וֹן וּקְהָ֖ת וּמְרָרִ֑י וּשְׁנֵי֙ חַיֵּ֣י לֵוִ֔י שֶׁ֧בַע וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֛ים וּמְאַ֖ת שָׁנָֽה׃ יז בְּנֵ֥י גֵרְשׁ֛וֹן לִבְנִ֥י וְשִׁמְעִ֖י לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָֽם׃ יח וּבְנֵ֣י קְהָ֔ת עַמְרָ֣ם וְיִצְהָ֔ר וְחֶבְר֖וֹן וְעֻזִּיאֵ֑ל וּשְׁנֵי֙ חַיֵּ֣י קְהָ֔ת שָׁלֹ֧שׁ וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֛ים וּמְאַ֖ת שָׁנָֽה׃ יט וּבְנֵ֥י מְרָרִ֖י מַחְלִ֣י וּמוּשִׁ֑י אֵ֛לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הַלֵּוִ֖י לְתֹלְדֹתָֽם׃ כ וַיִּקַּ֨ח עַמְרָ֜ם אֶת־יוֹכֶ֤בֶד דֹּֽדָתוֹ֙ ל֣וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֔ה וַתֵּ֣לֶד ל֔וֹ אֶֽת־אַהֲרֹ֖ן וְאֶת־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וּשְׁנֵי֙ חַיֵּ֣י עַמְרָ֔ם שֶׁ֧בַע וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֛ים וּמְאַ֖ת שָׁנָֽה׃ כא וּבְנֵ֖י יִצְהָ֑ר קֹ֥רַח וָנֶ֖פֶג וְזִכְרִֽי׃ כב וּבְנֵ֖י עֻזִּיאֵ֑ל מִֽישָׁאֵ֥ל וְאֶלְצָפָ֖ן וְסִתְרִֽי׃ כג וַיִּקַּ֨ח אַהֲרֹ֜ן אֶת־אֱלִישֶׁ֧בַע בַּת־עַמִּינָדָ֛ב אֲח֥וֹת נַחְשׁ֖וֹן ל֣וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֑ה וַתֵּ֣לֶד ל֗וֹ אֶת־נָדָב֙ וְאֶת־אֲבִיה֔וּא אֶת־אֶלְעָזָ֖ר וְאֶת־אִֽיתָמָֽר׃
14 These are the heads of their Fathers’ Houses: The sons of Re’uven, firstborn of Yisrael: Ḥanokh and Phallu, Ḥetzron and Kharmi, these are the clans of Re’uven. 15 And the sons of Shim’on: Yemuel, Yamin, Ohad, Yakhin and Tsoḥar, and Sha’ul the son of the K’naanit-woman, these are the clans of Shim’on. 16 Now these are the names of the Sons of Levi according to their progeny: Gershon, Qehat and Merari. Now the years of Levi’s life were seven and thirty and a hundred years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Livni and Shim’i, according to their clans. 18 And the sons of Qehat: Amram, Yitshar, Ḥevron and Uzziel. Now the years of Qehat’s life were three and thirty and a hundred years. 19 And the sons of Merari: Maḥli and Mushi. These are the clans of Levi, according to their progeny. 20 Amram took himself Yokheved his aunt as a wife, she bore him Aharon and Mosheh. Now the years of Amram’s life were seven and thirty and a hundred years. 21 Now the sons of Yitshar: Qoraḥ, Nefeg and Zikhri. 22 And the sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Eltsafan and Sitri. 23 Aharon took himself Elisheva daughter of Amminadav, Naḥshon’s sister, as a wife. She bore him Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Itamar.

כד וּבְנֵ֣י קֹ֔רַח אַסִּ֥יר וְאֶלְקָנָ֖ה וַאֲבִיאָסָ֑ף אֵ֖לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הַקׇּרְחִֽי׃ כה וְאֶלְעָזָ֨ר בֶּֽן־אַהֲרֹ֜ן לָקַֽח־ל֨וֹ מִבְּנ֤וֹת פּֽוּטִיאֵל֙ ל֣וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֔ה וַתֵּ֥לֶד ל֖וֹ אֶת־פִּֽינְחָ֑ס אֵ֗לֶּה רָאשֵׁ֛י אֲב֥וֹת הַלְוִיִּ֖ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָֽם׃ כו ה֥וּא אַהֲרֹ֖ן וּמֹשֶׁ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָמַ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ לָהֶ֔ם הוֹצִ֜יאוּ אֶת־בְּנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם עַל־צִבְאֹתָֽם׃ כז הֵ֗ם הַֽמְדַבְּרִים֙ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֣ה מֶֽלֶךְ־מִצְרַ֔יִם לְהוֹצִ֥יא אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם ה֥וּא מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹֽן׃
24 Now the sons of Qoraḥ: Assir, Elqana and Aviasaf; these are the Qoraḥi clans. 25 Elazar son of Aharon took himself one of Putiel’s daughters for himself as a wife, she bore him Pin’ḥas. These are the heads of the Levite father-groupings according to their clans. 26 That is (the) Aharon and Mosheh to whom YHVH said: “Bring the Children of Yisrael out of the land of Mitsrayim by their forces;” 27 those (were they) who spoke to Pharaoh king of Mitsrayim, to bring the Children of Yisrael out of Mitsrayim, that Mosheh and Aharon.

כח וַיְהִ֗י בְּי֨וֹם דִּבֶּ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֖ה בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ שלישי כט וַיְדַבֵּ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹ֖ר אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה דַּבֵּ֗ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם אֵ֛ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י דֹּבֵ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃ ל וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֖ה לִפְנֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה הֵ֤ן אֲנִי֙ עֲרַ֣ל שְׂפָתַ֔יִם וְאֵ֕יךְ יִשְׁמַ֥ע אֵלַ֖י פַּרְעֹֽה׃ ז א וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה רְאֵ֛ה נְתַתִּ֥יךָ אֱלֹהִ֖ים לְפַרְעֹ֑ה וְאַהֲרֹ֥ן אָחִ֖יךָ יִהְיֶ֥ה נְבִיאֶֽךָ׃ ב אַתָּ֣ה תְדַבֵּ֔ר אֵ֖ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲצַוֶּ֑ךָּ וְאַהֲרֹ֤ן אָחִ֙יךָ֙ יְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְשִׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאַרְצֽוֹ׃ ג וַאֲנִ֥י אַקְשֶׁ֖ה אֶת־לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְהִרְבֵּיתִ֧י אֶת־אֹתֹתַ֛י וְאֶת־מוֹפְתַ֖י בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ ד וְלֹֽא־יִשְׁמַ֤ע אֲלֵכֶם֙ פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְנָתַתִּ֥י אֶת־יָדִ֖י בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְהוֹצֵאתִ֨י אֶת־צִבְאֹתַ֜י אֶת־עַמִּ֤י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם בִּשְׁפָטִ֖ים גְּדֹלִֽים׃ ה וְיָדְע֤וּ מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה בִּנְטֹתִ֥י אֶת־יָדִ֖י עַל־מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהוֹצֵאתִ֥י אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִתּוֹכָֽם׃ ו וַיַּ֥עַשׂ מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹ֑ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה אֹתָ֖ם כֵּ֥ן עָשֽׂוּ׃ ז וּמֹשֶׁה֙ בֶּן־שְׁמֹנִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַֽהֲרֹ֔ן בֶּן־שָׁלֹ֥שׁ וּשְׁמֹנִ֖ים שָׁנָ֑ה בְּדַבְּרָ֖ם אֶל־פַּרְעֹֽה׃
28 So it was on the day that YHVH spoke to Mosheh in the land of Mitsrayim, 29 YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying: “I am YHVH; speak to Pharaoh king of Mitsrayim all that I speak to you.” 30 Mosheh said before YHVH: “If I am of foreskinned lips, how will Pharaoh hearken to me?”[2]This genealogy was inserted by the later priestly author H, and note one of the most classic cases of resumptive repetition in vss. 10-13 and vss. 28-30 – the genealogy of vss. 14-27 was an aside and the narrator brings you back to speed in vss. 28-30. The function of the genealogy was to legitimize Moses by providing the reader with concrete genealogical information tying him back to the tribe of Levi and to the Patriarchs. Genealogy in service of narrative is common in H and note the narrative expansion to the Genealogies of Numbers 26. 7 1 YHVH said to Mosheh: “See, I will make you as Elohim for Pharaoh, and Aharon your brother will be your prophet. 2 You are to speak all that I command you, and Aharon your brother is to speak to Pharaoh so that he may send free the Children of Yisrael from his land. 3 But I, I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, I will make my signs and my portents many in the land of Mitsrayim: 4 Pharaoh will not hearken to you, so I will set my hand against Mitsrayim, and I will bring out my forces, my people, the Children of Yisrael, from the land of Mitsrayim, with great (acts of) judgment; 5 the Mitsrim will know that I am YHVH, when I stretch out my hand over Mitsrayim and bring the Children of Yisrael out from their midst.” 6 Mosheh and Aharon did as YHVH had commanded them, thus they did. 7 Now Mosheh was eighty years old, and Aharon was eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

רביעי ח וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֔ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה וְאֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֖ן לֵאמֹֽר׃ ט כִּי֩ יְדַבֵּ֨ר אֲלֵכֶ֤ם פַּרְעֹה֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר תְּנ֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם מוֹפֵ֑ת וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן קַ֧ח אֶֽת־מַטְּךָ֛ וְהַשְׁלֵ֥ךְ לִפְנֵֽי־פַרְעֹ֖ה יְהִ֥י לְתַנִּֽין׃ י וַיָּבֹ֨א מֹשֶׁ֤ה וְאַהֲרֹן֙ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַיַּ֣עֲשׂוּ כֵ֔ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר צִוָּ֣ה יְהֹוָ֑ה וַיַּשְׁלֵ֨ךְ אַהֲרֹ֜ן אֶת־מַטֵּ֗הוּ לִפְנֵ֥י פַרְעֹ֛ה וְלִפְנֵ֥י עֲבָדָ֖יו וַיְהִ֥י לְתַנִּֽין׃ יא וַיִּקְרָא֙ גַּם־פַּרְעֹ֔ה לַֽחֲכָמִ֖ים וְלַֽמְכַשְּׁפִ֑ים וַיַּֽעֲשׂ֨וּ גַם־הֵ֜ם חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֛יִם בְּלַהֲטֵיהֶ֖ם כֵּֽן׃ יב וַיַּשְׁלִ֙יכוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ מַטֵּ֔הוּ וַיִּהְי֖וּ לְתַנִּינִ֑ם וַיִּבְלַ֥ע מַטֵּֽה־אַהֲרֹ֖ן אֶת־מַטֹּתָֽם׃ יג וַיֶּחֱזַק֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה׃
8 YHVH said to Mosheh and to Aharon, saying: 9 “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying: ‘Give, you, a portent,’ then say to Aharon: ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh: Let it become a serpent.'” 10 Mosheh and Aharon came to Pharaoh, they did thus, as YHVH had commanded, Aharon threw down his staff before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Pharaoh too called for the wise men and for the sorcerers, that they too, the magicians of Mitsrayim, should do thus with their occult-arts, 12 they threw down, each-man, his staff, and these became serpents. But Aharon’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHVH had spoken.[3]The first of the Priestly signs (the others being lice and boils) which are added to J’s seven plagues for a total of ten. The priestly signs are described as a contest between Aaron / Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians which Aaron and Moses win. Note the use of the root חזק ( to harden) to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, as opposed to J’s כבד.

יד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה כָּבֵ֖ד לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה מֵאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלַּ֥ח הָעָֽם׃ טו לֵ֣ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֞ה בַּבֹּ֗קֶר הִנֵּה֙ יֹצֵ֣א הַמַּ֔יְמָה וְנִצַּבְתָּ֥ לִקְרָאת֖וֹ עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיְאֹ֑ר וְהַמַּטֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־נֶהְפַּ֥ךְ לְנָחָ֖שׁ תִּקַּ֥ח בְּיָדֶֽךָ׃ טז וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו יְהֹוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י הָעִבְרִים֙ שְׁלָחַ֤נִי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י וְיַֽעַבְדֻ֖נִי בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְהִנֵּ֥ה לֹא־שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ עַד־כֹּֽה׃ יז כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּזֹ֣את תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֖י אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י מַכֶּ֣ה ׀ בַּמַּטֶּ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־בְּיָדִ֗י עַל־הַמַּ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּיְאֹ֖ר וְנֶהֶפְכ֥וּ לְדָֽם׃ יח וְהַדָּגָ֧ה אֲשֶׁר־בַּיְאֹ֛ר תָּמ֖וּת וּבָאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֑ר וְנִלְא֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן־הַיְאֹֽר׃
14 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Pharaoh’s heart is heavy-with-stubbornness – he refuses to send the people free. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, here, he goes out to the Nile, station yourself to meet him by the shore of the Nile, and the staff that changed into a snake, take in your hand, 16 and say to him: ‘YHVH, the elo’ah of the Ivrim, has sent me to you, saying: Send free my people, that they may serve me in the wilderness! But here, you have not hearkened thus far. 17 Thus says YHVH: By this shall you know that I am YHVH: here, I will strike – with the staff that is in my hand – upon the water that is in the Nile, and it will change into blood. 18 The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will reek, and the Mitsrim will be unable to drink water from the Nile.'”[4]J adds four plagues (blood, frogs, flies, and pestilence) to E’s three (hail, locusts and darkness) for a total of seven. J’s plagues (and the material he adds to E’s plagues) are characterized by negotiation with Pharoah, repeated prophetic warnings quoting the God of the Hebrews, the hardening Pharoah’s heart (in P – the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heat), and the Lord’s ultimate responsibility for the plagues, emphasizing His greatness.

יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֱמֹ֣ר אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֡ן קַ֣ח מַטְּךָ֣ וּנְטֵֽה־יָדְךָ֩ עַל־מֵימֵ֨י מִצְרַ֜יִם עַֽל־נַהֲרֹתָ֣ם ׀ עַל־יְאֹרֵיהֶ֣ם וְעַל־אַגְמֵיהֶ֗ם וְעַ֛ל כׇּל־מִקְוֵ֥ה מֵימֵיהֶ֖ם וְיִֽהְיוּ־דָ֑ם וְהָ֤יָה דָם֙ בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וּבָעֵצִ֖ים וּבָאֲבָנִֽים׃
19 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Say to Aharon: ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Mitsrayim, over their tributaries, over their Nile-canals, over their ponds and over all their bodies of water, and let them become blood! There will be blood throughout all the land of Mitsrayim – in the wooden-containers, in the stoneware.'”

כ וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ־כֵן֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה וְאַהֲרֹ֜ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר ׀ צִוָּ֣ה יְהֹוָ֗ה וַיָּ֤רֶם בַּמַּטֶּה֙ וַיַּ֤ךְ אֶת־הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּיְאֹ֔ר לְעֵינֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י עֲבָדָ֑יו וַיֵּהָ֥פְכ֛וּ כׇּל־הַמַּ֥יִם אֲשֶׁר־בַּיְאֹ֖ר לְדָֽם׃ כא וְהַדָּגָ֨ה אֲשֶׁר־בַּיְאֹ֥ר מֵ֙תָה֙ וַיִּבְאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֔ר וְלֹא־יָכְל֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן־הַיְאֹ֑ר וַיְהִ֥י הַדָּ֖ם בְּכׇל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ כב וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ־כֵ֛ן חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּלָטֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק לֵב־פַּרְעֹה֙ וְלֹא־שָׁמַ֣ע אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה׃ כג וַיִּ֣פֶן פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֖א אֶל־בֵּית֑וֹ וְלֹא־שָׁ֥ת לִבּ֖וֹ גַּם־לָזֹֽאת׃ כד וַיַּחְפְּר֧וּ כׇל־מִצְרַ֛יִם סְבִיבֹ֥ת הַיְאֹ֖ר מַ֣יִם לִשְׁתּ֑וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לִשְׁתֹּ֔ת מִמֵּימֵ֖י הַיְאֹֽר׃ כה וַיִּמָּלֵ֖א שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים אַחֲרֵ֥י הַכּוֹת־יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶת־הַיְאֹֽר׃
20 Mosheh and Aharon did thus, as YHVH had commanded them.[5]P adds the divine command to perform the plague and Aaron’s compliance – this type of command and compliance sequence is common throughout P, and compare the multiple times this phrase (and x did just as the Lord commanded) appears when the tabernacle is erected in Exodus 39-40. He raised the staff and struck the water in the Nile, before the eyes of Pharaoh and before the eyes of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood. 21 The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile reeked, and the Mitsrim could not drink water from the Nile; the blood was throughout all the land of Mitsrayim.[6]In J the antecedent of “He lifted up the staff” is Moses (vs. 17), whereas in P its Aaron (vs. 19). 22 But the magicians of Mitsrayim did thus with their occult-arts, and Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHVH had spoken.[7]The competition between the magicians and Aaron / Moses is characteristic of the P signs as in 7:11. 23 So Pharaoh turned and came into his house, neither did he pay any mind to this. 24 But all Mitsrayim had to dig around the Nile to drink water, for they could not drink from the waters of the Nile. 25 Seven days were fulfilled, after YHVH had struck the Nile.[8]The Lord is described here as performing the plague: ” Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile” (vs. 25), Moses is the Lord’s vessel according to J as we find in vs. 17 “Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood” as opposed to Aaron performance of the plague in vs. 19 (P).

כו וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃ כז וְאִם־מָאֵ֥ן אַתָּ֖ה לְשַׁלֵּ֑חַ הִנֵּ֣ה אָנֹכִ֗י נֹגֵ֛ף אֶת־כׇּל־גְּבוּלְךָ֖ בַּֽצְפַרְדְּעִֽים׃ כח וְשָׁרַ֣ץ הַיְאֹר֮ צְפַרְדְּעִים֒ וְעָלוּ֙ וּבָ֣אוּ בְּבֵיתֶ֔ךָ וּבַחֲדַ֥ר מִשְׁכָּבְךָ֖ וְעַל־מִטָּתֶ֑ךָ וּבְבֵ֤ית עֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ וּבְעַמֶּ֔ךָ וּבְתַנּוּרֶ֖יךָ וּבְמִשְׁאֲרוֹתֶֽיךָ׃ כט וּבְכָ֥ה וּֽבְעַמְּךָ֖ וּבְכׇל־עֲבָדֶ֑יךָ יַעֲל֖וּ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִֽים׃
26 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Come to Pharaoh and say to him: ‘Thus says YHVH: Send free my people, that they may serve me! 27 Now if you refuse to send them free, here, I will smite your entire territory with frogs. 28 The Nile will swarm with frogs; they will ascend, they will come into your house, into your bedroom, upon your couch, into your servants’ houses, in among your people, into your ovens and into your dough-pans; 29 onto you, onto your people, onto all your servants will the frogs ascend!'”[9]Note The Yahwistic plague pattern:. 1. A divine command to release the Israelite; 2. The repercussions if Pharaoh fails to do so; 3. Performance of the plague by the Lord; 4. Pharaoh promising to release the Israelite in exchange for the cessation of the plague; 4. The cessation of the plague; 5. Pharaoh hardens his heart.

ח א וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ אֱמֹ֣ר אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן נְטֵ֤ה אֶת־יָדְךָ֙ בְּמַטֶּ֔ךָ עַ֨ל־הַנְּהָרֹ֔ת עַל־הַיְאֹרִ֖ים וְעַל־הָאֲגַמִּ֑ים וְהַ֥עַל אֶת־הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֖ים עַל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ ב וַיֵּ֤ט אַהֲרֹן֙ אֶת־יָד֔וֹ עַ֖ל מֵימֵ֣י מִצְרָ֑יִם וַתַּ֙עַל֙ הַצְּפַרְדֵּ֔עַ וַתְּכַ֖ס אֶת־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ ג וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ־כֵ֥ן הַֽחַרְטֻמִּ֖ים בְּלָטֵיהֶ֑ם וַיַּעֲל֥וּ אֶת־הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֖ים עַל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ ד וַיִּקְרָ֨א פַרְעֹ֜ה לְמֹשֶׁ֣ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַעְתִּ֣ירוּ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְיָסֵר֙ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִמֶּ֖נִּי וּמֵֽעַמִּ֑י וַאֲשַׁלְּחָה֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וְיִזְבְּח֖וּ לַיהֹוָֽה׃ ה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֣ה לְפַרְעֹה֮ הִתְפָּאֵ֣ר עָלַי֒ לְמָתַ֣י ׀ אַעְתִּ֣יר לְךָ֗ וְלַעֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ וּֽלְעַמְּךָ֔ לְהַכְרִית֙ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִמְּךָ֖ וּמִבָּתֶּ֑יךָ רַ֥ק בַּיְאֹ֖ר תִּשָּׁאַֽרְנָה׃ ו וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לְמָחָ֑ר וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ כִּדְבָ֣רְךָ֔ לְמַ֣עַן תֵּדַ֔ע כִּי־אֵ֖ין כַּיהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ׃ חמישי ז וְסָר֣וּ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֗ים מִמְּךָ֙ וּמִבָּ֣תֶּ֔יךָ וּמֵעֲבָדֶ֖יךָ וּמֵעַמֶּ֑ךָ רַ֥ק בַּיְאֹ֖ר תִּשָּׁאַֽרְנָה׃
8 1 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Say to Aharon: ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff, over the tributaries, over the Nile-canals, and over the ponds, make the frogs ascend upon the land of Mitsrayim!'”[10]Just as in the plague of blood (and previously the transformation of Aaron’s staff into a snake) the Priestly author brings in Aaron as the performer of the plague, and note the very typical Priestly divine command – human compliance pattern. In J it is the Lord who brings about the plagues (just as he kills the plague off in vss. 13-14), and Moses is simply the mouthpiece. 2 Aharon stretched out his hand over the waters of Mitsrayim,[11]The Lord performed the plague according to J, and thus after the Lord promised that the frogs would come, the frogs simply descended upon Egypt. the frog-horde ascended and covered the land of Mitsrayim. 3 Now the magicians did thus with their occult-arts – they made frogs ascend upon the land of Mitsrayim.[12]The magicians are a Priestly additions to the Plague narrative, depicting the plague/signs as a contest between the divine emissaries Moses and Aaron and the heathen sorcerers. At this stage in the contest the magicians are as able as Moses and Aaron. This motif is foreign to J who wishes to de-emphasize the power of Moses and Aaron and highlight the Lord’s prowess. 4 Pharaoh had Mosheh and Aharon called and said: “Plead with YHVH, that he may remove the frogs from me and from my people, and I will send the people free, that they may slaughter (offerings) to YHVH!” 5 Mosheh said to Pharaoh: “Be praised over me: For when shall I plead for you, for your servants, for your people, to cut off the frogs from you and from your houses, (so that) only in the Nile will they remain?” 6 He said: “For the morrow.” He said: “According to your words, (then)! In order that you may know that there is none like YHVH our elo’ah. 7 The frogs shall remove from you, from your houses, from your servants, from your people, – only in the Nile shall they remain.”

ח וַיֵּצֵ֥א מֹשֶׁ֛ה וְאַהֲרֹ֖ן מֵעִ֣ם פַּרְעֹ֑ה וַיִּצְעַ֤ק מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה עַל־דְּבַ֥ר הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֖ים אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֥ם לְפַרְעֹֽה׃ ט וַיַּ֥עַשׂ יְהֹוָ֖ה כִּדְבַ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיָּמֻ֙תוּ֙ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִן־הַבָּתִּ֥ים מִן־הַחֲצֵרֹ֖ת וּמִן־הַשָּׂדֹֽת׃ י וַיִּצְבְּר֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם חֳמָרִ֣ם חֳמָרִ֑ם וַתִּבְאַ֖שׁ הָאָֽרֶץ׃ יא וַיַּ֣רְא פַּרְעֹ֗ה כִּ֤י הָֽיְתָה֙ הָֽרְוָחָ֔ה וְהַכְבֵּד֙ אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה׃
8 Mosheh[13]The Lord proves that he was responsible for the plague of frogs by showing that he can take them away whenever Pharaoh asks. and Aharon[14]It is likely that Aaron (the future high priest) was added to some of the plagues by P, in order to highlight his leadership role – and note that in vs. 12 the verbal form “went out” is singular in the Hebrew implying a singular subject (Moses) rather than the expected plural form which would imply a plural subject (Moses and Aaron). This does not necessarily imply that Aaron was added to the text (since Biblical Hebrew sometimes will use a singular verbal form for a plural subject) but it is somewhat suggestive. went out from Pharaoh, Mosheh cried out to YHVH on account of the frogs that he had imposed upon Pharaoh. 9 And YHVH did according to Mosheh’s words: the frogs died away, from the houses, from the courtyards, and from the fields. 10 They piled them up, heaps upon heaps, and the land reeked. 11 But when Pharaoh saw that there was breathing-room, he made his heart heavy-with-stubbornness, and did not hearken to them,[15]Note the narrative progression within J. During the plague of blood, Pharaoh completely ignores the Lord’s request, here Pharaoh promises to release the Israelites after having been smitten., and during the plague of locusts he begins negotiations before being smitten. as YHVH had spoken.

יב וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ אֱמֹר֙ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן נְטֵ֣ה אֶֽת־מַטְּךָ֔ וְהַ֖ךְ אֶת־עֲפַ֣ר הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהָיָ֥ה לְכִנִּ֖ם בְּכׇל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ יג וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ־כֵ֗ן וַיֵּט֩ אַהֲרֹ֨ן אֶת־יָד֤וֹ בְמַטֵּ֙הוּ֙ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־עֲפַ֣ר הָאָ֔רֶץ וַתְּהִי֙ הַכִּנָּ֔ם בָּאָדָ֖ם וּבַבְּהֵמָ֑ה כׇּל־עֲפַ֥ר הָאָ֛רֶץ הָיָ֥ה כִנִּ֖ים בְּכׇל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ יד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ־כֵ֨ן הַחַרְטֻמִּ֧ים בְּלָטֵיהֶ֛ם לְהוֹצִ֥יא אֶת־הַכִּנִּ֖ים וְלֹ֣א יָכֹ֑לוּ וַתְּהִי֙ הַכִּנָּ֔ם בָּאָדָ֖ם וּבַבְּהֵמָֽה׃ טו וַיֹּאמְר֤וּ הַֽחַרְטֻמִּם֙ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה אֶצְבַּ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים הִ֑וא וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק לֵב־פַּרְעֹה֙ וְלֹֽא־שָׁמַ֣ע אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה׃
12 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Say to Aharon: ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land, it will become gnats throughout all the land of Mitsrayim!'” 13 They did thus, Aharon stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the ground, and gnats were on man and on herd-animal; all the dust of the ground became gnats throughout all the land of Mitsrayim. 14 Now the magicians did thus with their occult-arts, to bring forth the gnats, but they could not, the gnats were on man and on herd-animal. 15 The magicians said to Pharaoh: “This is the finger of Elohim!” But Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHVH had spoken.[16]It seems likely that P added the final phrase just as the Lord had said, to vs. 15, since the verse employs the J – כבד, and in J’s vs. 32 for example (and elsewhere) Pharaoh hardens his heart on his own, whereas according to P – its always the Lord that causes the hardening. This third exclusively P plague once again highlights Aaron as the active performer of the plagues, as opposed to Moses (in E) or the Lord (in J), and note also the magicians admitting defeat in vs. 19, after attempting to duplicate Moses and Aaron’s miracles 3 times.

טז וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הַשְׁכֵּ֤ם בַּבֹּ֙קֶר֙ וְהִתְיַצֵּב֙ לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה הִנֵּ֖ה יוֹצֵ֣א הַמָּ֑יְמָה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה שַׁלַּ֥ח עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃ יז כִּ֣י אִם־אֵינְךָ֮ מְשַׁלֵּ֣חַ אֶת־עַמִּי֒ הִנְנִי֩ מַשְׁלִ֨יחַ בְּךָ֜ וּבַעֲבָדֶ֧יךָ וּֽבְעַמְּךָ֛ וּבְבָתֶּ֖יךָ אֶת־הֶעָרֹ֑ב וּמָ֨לְא֜וּ בָּתֵּ֤י מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ אֶת־הֶ֣עָרֹ֔ב וְגַ֥ם הָאֲדָמָ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־הֵ֥ם עָלֶֽיהָ׃ יח וְהִפְלֵיתִי֩ בַיּ֨וֹם הַה֜וּא אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ גֹּ֗שֶׁן אֲשֶׁ֤ר עַמִּי֙ עֹמֵ֣ד עָלֶ֔יהָ לְבִלְתִּ֥י הֱיֽוֹת־שָׁ֖ם עָרֹ֑ב לְמַ֣עַן תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּקֶ֥רֶב הָאָֽרֶץ׃ ששי יט וְשַׂמְתִּ֣י פְדֻ֔ת בֵּ֥ין עַמִּ֖י וּבֵ֣ין עַמֶּ֑ךָ לְמָחָ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה הָאֹ֥ת הַזֶּֽה׃
16 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Start-early in the morning, station yourself before Pharaoh – here, he goes out to the water, and say to him: ‘Thus says YHVH: Send free my people, that they may serve me! 17 Indeed, if you do not send my people free, here, I will send upon you, upon your servants, upon your people, upon your houses – insects, the houses of Mitsrayim will be full of the insects, as well as the ground upon which they are! 18 But I will make distinct, on that day, the region of Goshen, where my people is situated, so that there will be no insects there, in order that you may know that I am YHVH in the land; 19 I will put a ransom between my people and your people – on the morrow will this sign occur.'”

כ וַיַּ֤עַשׂ יְהֹוָה֙ כֵּ֔ן וַיָּבֹא֙ עָרֹ֣ב כָּבֵ֔ד בֵּ֥יתָה פַרְעֹ֖ה וּבֵ֣ית עֲבָדָ֑יו וּבְכׇל־אֶ֧רֶץ מִצְרַ֛יִם תִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ מִפְּנֵ֥י הֶעָרֹֽב׃ כא וַיִּקְרָ֣א פַרְעֹ֔ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֖ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֑ן וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לְכ֛וּ זִבְח֥וּ לֵאלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם בָּאָֽרֶץ׃ כב וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֗ה לֹ֤א נָכוֹן֙ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת כֵּ֔ן כִּ֚י תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת מִצְרַ֔יִם נִזְבַּ֖ח לַיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ הֵ֣ן נִזְבַּ֞ח אֶת־תּוֹעֲבַ֥ת מִצְרַ֛יִם לְעֵינֵיהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א יִסְקְלֻֽנוּ׃ כג דֶּ֚רֶךְ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֔ים נֵלֵ֖ךְ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְזָבַ֙חְנוּ֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֔ינוּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר יֹאמַ֥ר אֵלֵֽינוּ׃ כד וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֗ה אָנֹכִ֞י אֲשַׁלַּ֤ח אֶתְכֶם֙ וּזְבַחְתֶּ֞ם לַיהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר רַ֛ק הַרְחֵ֥ק לֹא־תַרְחִ֖יקוּ לָלֶ֑כֶת הַעְתִּ֖ירוּ בַּעֲדִֽי׃
20 YHVH did thus, heavy insect (swarms) came into Pharaoh’s house, into the houses of his servants, throughout all the land of Mitsrayim, the land was in ruins in the face of the insects. 21 Pharaoh had Mosheh and Aharon called and said: “Go, slaughter (offerings) to your elo’ah in the land!” 22 Mosheh said: “It would not be wise to do thuswise: for Mitsrayim’s abomination is what we slaughter for YHVH our elo’ah; if we were to slaughter Mitsrayim’s abomination before their eyes, would they not stone us? 23 Let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, and we shall slaughter (offerings) to YHVH our elo’ah, as he has said to us.” 24 Pharaoh said: “I will send you free, that you may slaughter (offerings) to YHVH your elo’ah in the wilderness, only: you are not to go far, too far! Plead for me!”

כה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י יוֹצֵ֤א מֵֽעִמָּךְ֙ וְהַעְתַּרְתִּ֣י אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְסָ֣ר הֶעָרֹ֗ב מִפַּרְעֹ֛ה מֵעֲבָדָ֥יו וּמֵעַמּ֖וֹ מָחָ֑ר רַ֗ק אַל־יֹסֵ֤ף פַּרְעֹה֙ הָתֵ֔ל לְבִלְתִּי֙ שַׁלַּ֣ח אֶת־הָעָ֔ם לִזְבֹּ֖חַ לַֽיהֹוָֽה׃ כו וַיֵּצֵ֥א מֹשֶׁ֖ה מֵעִ֣ם פַּרְעֹ֑ה וַיֶּעְתַּ֖ר אֶל־יְהֹוָֽה׃ כז וַיַּ֤עַשׂ יְהֹוָה֙ כִּדְבַ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיָּ֙סַר֙ הֶעָרֹ֔ב מִפַּרְעֹ֖ה מֵעֲבָדָ֣יו וּמֵעַמּ֑וֹ לֹ֥א נִשְׁאַ֖ר אֶחָֽד׃ כח וַיַּכְבֵּ֤ד פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ גַּ֖ם בַּפַּ֣עַם הַזֹּ֑את וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃
25 Mosheh said: “Here, when I go out from you, I will plead with YHVH, and the insects will remove from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, on the morrow, only: let not Pharaoh continue to trifle (with us), by not sending the people free to slaughter (offerings) to YHVH!” 26 Mosheh went out from before Pharaoh and pleaded with YHVH. 27 And YHVH did according to Mosheh’s words, he removed the insects from Pharaoh, from his servants and from his people, not one remained. 28 But Pharaoh made his heart heavy-with-stubbornness this time as well, and he did not send the people free.

ט א וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְדִבַּרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעִבְרִ֔ים שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃ ב כִּ֛י אִם־מָאֵ֥ן אַתָּ֖ה לְשַׁלֵּ֑חַ וְעוֹדְךָ֖ מַחֲזִ֥יק בָּֽם׃ ג הִנֵּ֨ה יַד־יְהֹוָ֜ה הוֹיָ֗ה בְּמִקְנְךָ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה בַּסּוּסִ֤ים בַּֽחֲמֹרִים֙ בַּגְּמַלִּ֔ים בַּבָּקָ֖ר וּבַצֹּ֑אן דֶּ֖בֶר כָּבֵ֥ד מְאֹֽד׃ ד וְהִפְלָ֣ה יְהֹוָ֔ה בֵּ֚ין מִקְנֵ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּבֵ֖ין מִקְנֵ֣ה מִצְרָ֑יִם וְלֹ֥א יָמ֛וּת מִכׇּל־לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל דָּבָֽר׃
9 1 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Come to Pharaoh and speak to him: ‘Thus says YHVH, the elo’ah of the Ivrim: Send free my people, that they may serve me! 2 If you refuse to send (them) free, and continue to hold-on-strongly to them, 3 here, YHVH’s hand will be on your livestock in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, (and) on the sheep – an exceedingly heavy pestilence! 4 And YHVH will make-a-distinction between the livestock of Yisrael and the livestock of Mitsrayim: there will not die among all that belong to the Children of Yisrael a thing!'”

ה וַיָּ֥שֶׂם יְהֹוָ֖ה מוֹעֵ֣ד לֵאמֹ֑ר מָחָ֗ר יַעֲשֶׂ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה בָּאָֽרֶץ׃ ו וַיַּ֨עַשׂ יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶת־הַדָּבָ֤ר הַזֶּה֙ מִֽמׇּחֳרָ֔ת וַיָּ֕מׇת כֹּ֖ל מִקְנֵ֣ה מִצְרָ֑יִם וּמִמִּקְנֵ֥ה בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֹא־מֵ֥ת אֶחָֽד׃ ז וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְהִנֵּ֗ה לֹא־מֵ֛ת מִמִּקְנֵ֥ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־אֶחָ֑ד וַיִּכְבַּד֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃
5 YHVH set an appointed-time, saying: “On the morrow, YHVH will do this thing in the land.” 6 YHVH did that thing on the morrow – all the livestock of Mitsrayim died, but of the livestock of the Children of Yisrael, there died not one. 7 Pharaoh sent to inquire, and here: there had not died of the livestock of the Children of Yisrael even one. But Pharaoh’s heart remained heavy-with-stubbornness, and he did not send the people free.[17]A new element is added to this J plague, the distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians. This ability to distinguish is a further mark of divine power.

A succinct Yahwistic formulation (Moses quotes the divine with a warning of the coming plague, the Lord performs the plague, Pharaoh hardens his heart and doesn’t let the people go). Note the added distinction J makes between Israel and Egypt, proving the Lord’s ability to control not only the time of the plague but who it strikes.


ח וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאֶֽל־אַהֲרֹן֒ קְח֤וּ לָכֶם֙ מְלֹ֣א חׇפְנֵיכֶ֔ם פִּ֖יחַ כִּבְשָׁ֑ן וּזְרָק֥וֹ מֹשֶׁ֛ה הַשָּׁמַ֖יְמָה לְעֵינֵ֥י פַרְעֹֽה׃ ט וְהָיָ֣ה לְאָבָ֔ק עַ֖ל כׇּל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהָיָ֨ה עַל־הָאָדָ֜ם וְעַל־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה לִשְׁחִ֥ין פֹּרֵ֛חַ אֲבַעְבֻּעֹ֖ת בְּכׇל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ י וַיִּקְח֞וּ אֶת־פִּ֣יחַ הַכִּבְשָׁ֗ן וַיַּֽעַמְדוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וַיִּזְרֹ֥ק אֹת֛וֹ מֹשֶׁ֖ה הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וַיְהִ֗י שְׁחִין֙ אֲבַעְבֻּעֹ֔ת פֹּרֵ֕חַ בָּאָדָ֖ם וּבַבְּהֵמָֽה׃ יא וְלֹֽא־יָכְל֣וּ הַֽחַרְטֻמִּ֗ים לַעֲמֹ֛ד לִפְנֵ֥י מֹשֶׁ֖ה מִפְּנֵ֣י הַשְּׁחִ֑ין כִּֽי־הָיָ֣ה הַשְּׁחִ֔ין בַּֽחַרְטֻמִּ֖ם וּבְכׇל־מִצְרָֽיִם׃ יב וַיְחַזֵּ֤ק יְהֹוָה֙ אֶת־לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶֽׁה׃
8 YHVH said to Mosheh and to Aharon: “Take yourselves fistfuls of soot from a furnace and let Mosheh toss it heavenward before Pharaoh’s eyes, 9 it will become fine-dust on all the land of Mitsrayim, and on man and on herd-animal, it will become boils sprouting into blisters, throughout all the land of Mitsrayim!” 10 They took the soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh, and Mosheh tossed it heavenward, and it became boil-blisters, sprouting on man and on herd-animal. 11 Now the magicians could not stand before Mosheh because of the boils, for the boils were upon the magicians and upon all Mitsrayim. 12 But YHVH made Pharaoh’s heart strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHVH had said to Mosheh.[18]The last of the [purely] Priestly plagues (note the typical Priestly markers, Aaron as the performer of the plague [together with Aaron], the command-compliance formulae, and the Egyptian magicians who finally admit defeat).

יג וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה הַשְׁכֵּ֣ם בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וְהִתְיַצֵּ֖ב לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעִבְרִ֔ים שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃ יד כִּ֣י ׀ בַּפַּ֣עַם הַזֹּ֗את אֲנִ֨י שֹׁלֵ֜חַ אֶת־כׇּל־מַגֵּפֹתַי֙ אֶֽל־לִבְּךָ֔ וּבַעֲבָדֶ֖יךָ וּבְעַמֶּ֑ךָ בַּעֲב֣וּר תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין כָּמֹ֖נִי בְּכׇל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ טו כִּ֤י עַתָּה֙ שָׁלַ֣חְתִּי אֶת־יָדִ֔י וָאַ֥ךְ אוֹתְךָ֛ וְאֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֖ בַּדָּ֑בֶר וַתִּכָּחֵ֖ד מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ טז וְאוּלָ֗ם בַּעֲב֥וּר זֹאת֙ הֶעֱמַדְתִּ֔יךָ בַּעֲב֖וּר הַרְאֹתְךָ֣ אֶת־כֹּחִ֑י וּלְמַ֛עַן סַפֵּ֥ר שְׁמִ֖י בְּכׇל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ שביעי יז עוֹדְךָ֖ מִסְתּוֹלֵ֣ל בְּעַמִּ֑י לְבִלְתִּ֖י שַׁלְּחָֽם׃ יח הִנְנִ֤י מַמְטִיר֙ כָּעֵ֣ת מָחָ֔ר בָּרָ֖ד כָּבֵ֣ד מְאֹ֑ד אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־הָיָ֤ה כָמֹ֙הוּ֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם לְמִן־הַיּ֥וֹם הִוָּסְדָ֖ה וְעַד־עָֽתָּה׃ יט וְעַתָּ֗ה שְׁלַ֤ח הָעֵז֙ אֶֽת־מִקְנְךָ֔ וְאֵ֛ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לְךָ֖ בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה כׇּל־הָאָדָ֨ם וְהַבְּהֵמָ֜ה אֲשֶֽׁר־יִמָּצֵ֣א בַשָּׂדֶ֗ה וְלֹ֤א יֵֽאָסֵף֙ הַבַּ֔יְתָה וְיָרַ֧ד עֲלֵהֶ֛ם הַבָּרָ֖ד וָמֵֽתוּ׃ כ הַיָּרֵא֙ אֶת־דְּבַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה מֵֽעַבְדֵ֖י פַּרְעֹ֑ה הֵנִ֛יס אֶת־עֲבָדָ֥יו וְאֶת־מִקְנֵ֖הוּ אֶל־הַבָּתִּֽים׃ כא וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־שָׂ֛ם לִבּ֖וֹ אֶל־דְּבַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֑ה וַֽיַּעֲזֹ֛ב אֶת־עֲבָדָ֥יו וְאֶת־מִקְנֵ֖הוּ בַּשָּׂדֶֽה׃
13 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Start-early in the morning, station yourself before Pharaoh and say to him: ‘Thus says YHVH, the elo’ah of the Ivrim: Send free my people, that they may serve me! 14 Indeed, this time I will send all my blows upon your heart, and against your servants, and against your people, so that you may know that there is none like me throughout all the land; 15 indeed, by now I could have sent out my hand and struck you and your people with the pestilence, and you would have vanished from the land; 16 however, just on account of this I have allowed you to withstand, to make you see my power. and in order that they might recount my name throughout all the land. 17 (But) still you set yourself up over my people, by not sending them free – 18 here, around this time tomorrow I will cause to rain down an exceedingly heavy hail, the like of which has never been in Mitsrayim from the days of its founding until now! 19 So now: send (word): give refuge to your livestock and to all that is yours in the field; all men and herd-animals who are found in the field and who have not been gathered into the house – the hail will come down upon them, and they will die!'” 20 Whoever had awe for the word of YHVH among Pharaoh’s servants had his servants and his livestock flee into the houses, 21 but whoever did not pay any mind to the word of YHVH left his servants and his livestock out in the field.

כב וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה נְטֵ֤ה אֶת־יָֽדְךָ֙ עַל־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וִיהִ֥י בָרָ֖ד בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם עַל־הָאָדָ֣ם וְעַל־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה וְעַ֛ל כׇּל־עֵ֥שֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ כג וַיֵּ֨ט מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶת־מַטֵּ֘הוּ֮ עַל־הַשָּׁמַ֒יִם֒ וַֽיהֹוָ֗ה נָתַ֤ן קֹלֹת֙ וּבָרָ֔ד וַתִּ֥הֲלַךְ אֵ֖שׁ אָ֑רְצָה וַיַּמְטֵ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה בָּרָ֖ד עַל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ כד וַיְהִ֣י בָרָ֔ד וְאֵ֕שׁ מִתְלַקַּ֖חַת בְּת֣וֹךְ הַבָּרָ֑ד כָּבֵ֣ד מְאֹ֔ד אֲ֠שֶׁ֠ר לֹֽא־הָיָ֤ה כָמֹ֙הוּ֙ בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵאָ֖ז הָיְתָ֥ה לְגֽוֹי׃ כה וַיַּ֨ךְ הַבָּרָ֜ד בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֗יִם אֵ֚ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה מֵאָדָ֖ם וְעַד־בְּהֵמָ֑ה וְאֵ֨ת כׇּל־עֵ֤שֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה֙ הִכָּ֣ה הַבָּרָ֔ד וְאֶת־כׇּל־עֵ֥ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה שִׁבֵּֽר׃ כו רַ֚ק בְּאֶ֣רֶץ גֹּ֔שֶׁן אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לֹ֥א הָיָ֖ה בָּרָֽד׃
22 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Stretch out your hand over the heavens: Let there be hail throughout all the land of Mitsrayim, on man and on herd-animal and on all the plants of the field, throughout the land of Mitsrayim!”[19]The function of the long prelude to the Plague of Hail is to explain why the Lord didn’t just annihilate the Egyptians from the get go – it wasn’t because of any lack of power but rather because the Lord wanted word of his prowess to spread. This concern for divine omnipotence is typical of J, and compare the perceived threats to the Lord’s power when Adam ate from the tree of knowledge (Genesis 3) or when the post-flood generation built the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1ff.) 23 Mosheh stretched out his staff over the heavens,[20]The obvious question which arises in this passage is if the Lord performed the plague of hail, what need was there for Moses to act in any way, save for ostentation – and there is no implication that Moses performed the plagues in front of an audience. It is thus likely that the Lord’s role here was tacked on by J to the original Elohistic plague which was performed solely by Moses. In E, all three plagues (hail, locusts, darkness+ the parting of the Reed Sea) are performed by Moses with his (implied) staff, and in all cases J is careful to that the Lord actually caused the plague. and YHVH gave forth thunder-sounds and hail, and fire went toward the earth, and YHVH caused hail to rain down upon the land of Mitsrayim.[21]See the above comment. 24 There was hail and a fire taking-hold-of-itself amidst the hail, exceedingly heavy, the like of which had never been throughout all the land of Mitsrayim since it had become a nation. 25 The hail struck, throughout all the land of Mitsrayim, all that was in the field, from man to herd-animal; all the plants of the field the hail struck, and all the trees of the field it broke down;[22]All three Elohistic plagues are very severe and come without warning for the added shock value. The previous Elohistic narrative was Moses’ failed interaction with Pharaoh in chapter 5, after this failure, Moses hits with his magical 1-2-3. 26 only in the region of Goshen, where the Children of Yisrael were, was there no hail.

כז וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח פַּרְעֹ֗ה וַיִּקְרָא֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֣ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֔ן וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֖ם חָטָ֣אתִי הַפָּ֑עַם יְהֹוָה֙ הַצַּדִּ֔יק וַאֲנִ֥י וְעַמִּ֖י הָרְשָׁעִֽים׃ כח הַעְתִּ֙ירוּ֙ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְרַ֕ב מִֽהְיֹ֛ת קֹלֹ֥ת אֱלֹהִ֖ים וּבָרָ֑ד וַאֲשַׁלְּחָ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְלֹ֥א תֹסִפ֖וּן לַעֲמֹֽד׃ כט וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה כְּצֵאתִי֙ אֶת־הָעִ֔יר אֶפְרֹ֥שׂ אֶת־כַּפַּ֖י אֶל־יְהֹוָ֑ה הַקֹּל֣וֹת יֶחְדָּל֗וּן וְהַבָּרָד֙ לֹ֣א יִֽהְיֶה־ע֔וֹד לְמַ֣עַן תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֥י לַיהֹוָ֖ה הָאָֽרֶץ׃ ל וְאַתָּ֖ה וַעֲבָדֶ֑יךָ יָדַ֕עְתִּי כִּ֚י טֶ֣רֶם תִּֽירְא֔וּן מִפְּנֵ֖י יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִֽים׃
27 Pharaoh sent and had Mosheh and Aharon called and said to them: “This-time I have sinned! YHVH is the one-in-the-right, I and my people are the ones-in-the-wrong! 28 Plead with YHVH! For enough is the elohim-thunder and this hail! Let me send you free – do not continue staying here!” 29 Mosheh said to him: “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to YHVH, the thunder will stop and the hail will be no more – in order that you may know that the land belongs to YHVH. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know well that you do not yet stand-in-fear before the face of YHVH Elohim!”

לא וְהַפִּשְׁתָּ֥ה וְהַשְּׂעֹרָ֖ה נֻכָּ֑תָה כִּ֤י הַשְּׂעֹרָה֙ אָבִ֔יב וְהַפִּשְׁתָּ֖ה גִּבְעֹֽל׃ לב וְהַחִטָּ֥ה וְהַכֻּסֶּ֖מֶת לֹ֣א נֻכּ֑וּ כִּ֥י אֲפִילֹ֖ת הֵֽנָּה׃ מפטיר לג וַיֵּצֵ֨א מֹשֶׁ֜ה מֵעִ֤ם פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶת־הָעִ֔יר וַיִּפְרֹ֥שׂ כַּפָּ֖יו אֶל־יְהֹוָ֑ה וַֽיַּחְדְּל֤וּ הַקֹּלוֹת֙ וְהַבָּרָ֔ד וּמָטָ֖ר לֹא־נִתַּ֥ךְ אָֽרְצָה׃ לד וַיַּ֣רְא פַּרְעֹ֗ה כִּֽי־חָדַ֨ל הַמָּטָ֧ר וְהַבָּרָ֛ד וְהַקֹּלֹ֖ת וַיֹּ֣סֶף לַחֲטֹ֑א וַיַּכְבֵּ֥ד לִבּ֖וֹ ה֥וּא וַעֲבָדָֽיו׃ לה וַֽיֶּחֱזַק֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּיַד־מֹשֶֽׁה׃
31  – Now the flax and the barley were stricken, for the barley was in ears and the flax was in buds, 32 but the wheat and the spelt were not stricken, for late (-ripening) are they. – 33 Mosheh went from Pharaoh, outside the city, and spread out his hands to YHVH: the thunder and the hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down to earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had stopped, he continued to sin: he made his heart heavy-with-stubbornness, his and his servants’.[23]Note the typical negotiation – hardening pattern as in previous J plagues. 35 Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not send the Children of Yisrael free, as YHVH had spoken through Mosheh.[24]Note J’s use of כבד to describe Pharaoh’s hardening as opposed to P’s חזק. Once again the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart in P, in contrast with J, where the monarch’s stubbornness is all his own.

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. For the translation of “behemah,” I have chosen “herd-animal” over Fox’s “beast” to emphasize the distinction between behemot (domesticated animals or animals depending on humankind for their welfare) and ḥayot (wild animals or animals that make their own living). This choice also offers consistency with the translation for behemah in the parashot of Genesis. Aside from these, I have made minor punctuation changes.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. In 6:2, P ceases to use the names Elohim [God] and El Shaddai [God Almighty] and will only use “Yhwh” [the Lord]. Elohim and El Shadday are the patriarchal names for the deity whereas Yhwh is the national name which is fitting since this the first P narrative which the divinity addresses a national group. Note the allusion to P’s covenant / promise to the patriarchs (specifically to Abraham in 17:8) to grant their descendants the land of Canaan.

P’s statement: “but by my name of the Lord I didn’t make myself known to them” is meant to color our perception of the patriarchal period since P is clearly cognizant of J narratives in which “the Lord” is revealed by name. It is strategically placed following the patriarchal narratives so that P has the last word.

P’s reliance upon J is quite obvious since J introduced the idea that the Israelites were enslaved in 1:11-14 and in 3:7-8, and more importantly J introduced us to Moses, who is the assumed leader here without any prior Priestly introduction.

  2. This genealogy was inserted by the later priestly author H, and note one of the most classic cases of resumptive repetition in vss. 10-13 and vss. 28-30 – the genealogy of vss. 14-27 was an aside and the narrator brings you back to speed in vss. 28-30. The function of the genealogy was to legitimize Moses by providing the reader with concrete genealogical information tying him back to the tribe of Levi and to the Patriarchs. Genealogy in service of narrative is common in H and note the narrative expansion to the Genealogies of Numbers 26.
  3. The first of the Priestly signs (the others being lice and boils) which are added to J’s seven plagues for a total of ten. The priestly signs are described as a contest between Aaron / Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians which Aaron and Moses win. Note the use of the root חזק ( to harden) to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, as opposed to J’s כבד.
  4. J adds four plagues (blood, frogs, flies, and pestilence) to E’s three (hail, locusts and darkness) for a total of seven. J’s plagues (and the material he adds to E’s plagues) are characterized by negotiation with Pharoah, repeated prophetic warnings quoting the God of the Hebrews, the hardening Pharoah’s heart (in P – the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heat), and the Lord’s ultimate responsibility for the plagues, emphasizing His greatness.
  5. P adds the divine command to perform the plague and Aaron’s compliance – this type of command and compliance sequence is common throughout P, and compare the multiple times this phrase (and x did just as the Lord commanded) appears when the tabernacle is erected in Exodus 39-40.
  6. In J the antecedent of “He lifted up the staff” is Moses (vs. 17), whereas in P its Aaron (vs. 19).
  7. The competition between the magicians and Aaron / Moses is characteristic of the P signs as in 7:11.
  8. The Lord is described here as performing the plague: ” Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile” (vs. 25), Moses is the Lord’s vessel according to J as we find in vs. 17 “Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood” as opposed to Aaron performance of the plague in vs. 19 (P).
  9. Note The Yahwistic plague pattern:. 1. A divine command to release the Israelite; 2. The repercussions if Pharaoh fails to do so; 3. Performance of the plague by the Lord; 4. Pharaoh promising to release the Israelite in exchange for the cessation of the plague; 4. The cessation of the plague; 5. Pharaoh hardens his heart.
  10. Just as in the plague of blood (and previously the transformation of Aaron’s staff into a snake) the Priestly author brings in Aaron as the performer of the plague, and note the very typical Priestly divine command – human compliance pattern. In J it is the Lord who brings about the plagues (just as he kills the plague off in vss. 13-14), and Moses is simply the mouthpiece.
  11. The Lord performed the plague according to J, and thus after the Lord promised that the frogs would come, the frogs simply descended upon Egypt.
  12. The magicians are a Priestly additions to the Plague narrative, depicting the plague/signs as a contest between the divine emissaries Moses and Aaron and the heathen sorcerers. At this stage in the contest the magicians are as able as Moses and Aaron. This motif is foreign to J who wishes to de-emphasize the power of Moses and Aaron and highlight the Lord’s prowess.
  13. The Lord proves that he was responsible for the plague of frogs by showing that he can take them away whenever Pharaoh asks.
  14. It is likely that Aaron (the future high priest) was added to some of the plagues by P, in order to highlight his leadership role – and note that in vs. 12 the verbal form “went out” is singular in the Hebrew implying a singular subject (Moses) rather than the expected plural form which would imply a plural subject (Moses and Aaron). This does not necessarily imply that Aaron was added to the text (since Biblical Hebrew sometimes will use a singular verbal form for a plural subject) but it is somewhat suggestive.
  15. Note the narrative progression within J. During the plague of blood, Pharaoh completely ignores the Lord’s request, here Pharaoh promises to release the Israelites after having been smitten., and during the plague of locusts he begins negotiations before being smitten.
  16. It seems likely that P added the final phrase just as the Lord had said, to vs. 15, since the verse employs the J – כבד, and in J’s vs. 32 for example (and elsewhere) Pharaoh hardens his heart on his own, whereas according to P – its always the Lord that causes the hardening. This third exclusively P plague once again highlights Aaron as the active performer of the plagues, as opposed to Moses (in E) or the Lord (in J), and note also the magicians admitting defeat in vs. 19, after attempting to duplicate Moses and Aaron’s miracles 3 times.
  17. A new element is added to this J plague, the distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians. This ability to distinguish is a further mark of divine power.

A succinct Yahwistic formulation (Moses quotes the divine with a warning of the coming plague, the Lord performs the plague, Pharaoh hardens his heart and doesn’t let the people go). Note the added distinction J makes between Israel and Egypt, proving the Lord’s ability to control not only the time of the plague but who it strikes.

  18. The last of the [purely] Priestly plagues (note the typical Priestly markers, Aaron as the performer of the plague [together with Aaron], the command-compliance formulae, and the Egyptian magicians who finally admit defeat).
  19. The function of the long prelude to the Plague of Hail is to explain why the Lord didn’t just annihilate the Egyptians from the get go – it wasn’t because of any lack of power but rather because the Lord wanted word of his prowess to spread. This concern for divine omnipotence is typical of J, and compare the perceived threats to the Lord’s power when Adam ate from the tree of knowledge (Genesis 3) or when the post-flood generation built the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1ff.)
  20. The obvious question which arises in this passage is if the Lord performed the plague of hail, what need was there for Moses to act in any way, save for ostentation – and there is no implication that Moses performed the plagues in front of an audience. It is thus likely that the Lord’s role here was tacked on by J to the original Elohistic plague which was performed solely by Moses. In E, all three plagues (hail, locusts, darkness+ the parting of the Reed Sea) are performed by Moses with his (implied) staff, and in all cases J is careful to that the Lord actually caused the plague.
  21. See the above comment.
  22. All three Elohistic plagues are very severe and come without warning for the added shock value. The previous Elohistic narrative was Moses’ failed interaction with Pharaoh in chapter 5, after this failure, Moses hits with his magical 1-2-3.
  23. Note the typical negotiation – hardening pattern as in previous J plagues.
  24. Note J’s use of כבד to describe Pharaoh’s hardening as opposed to P’s חזק. Once again the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart in P, in contrast with J, where the monarch’s stubbornness is all his own.

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