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Yahweh and Moses in Conflict

The Role of Exodus 4:24-26 in the Book of Exodus


John T. Willis

The interpretation of Exodus 4:24-26 is very controversial. Scholars have treated this text from various viewpoints on the basis of divergent methods or approaches. Two fundamental problems cause uncertainty about the origin and meaning of this text. One problem has to do with the nature of Exod 4:24-26. Another problem is the identity of the persons mentioned in Exod 4:24-26. This book arranges forty-two documented interpretations under each approach or approaches, presenting the view of each scholar proposing his/her interpretation of Exodus 4:24-26 in chronological order. The author presents his own view in the concluding chapter, essentially adopting a redactional, canonical, narrative, rhetorical methodology.


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Introduction 1


1 Noncommittal Commentators and Contributors Before launching into a study of the history and interpretation of Exod 4:24-26, at some point, the reader will come to realize that some scholars choose to refuse to take a position on the meaning of this text, or allude to this text in dealing with a certain subject pertaining to an idea in this passage. Thus, before attempting to categorize the various interpretations of this text, this section describes relevant scholars who have dealt with Exod 4:24-26 in noncommittal ways. Exod 4:24-26 bristles with difficulties. This is without doubt the most obscure passage in the book of Exodus. A. Bertholet, R. E. Mur- phy, T. C. Mitchell, J. P. Hyatt, E. Isaac, W. Dumbrell, O. Betz, N. A. van Uchelen, M. Görg, T. Pippin and G. Aichele, and A. Herbst do not attempt to explain its meaning or its function in the narrative.8 A. Bertholet [very similarly O. Betz] does not offer an interpreta- tion of Exod 4:24-26. He remarks that the use of stone instruments to perform circumcision (Exod 4:25; Josh 5:2) suggests circumcision goes back to the Stone Age. He asserts that in early human history, people circumcised boys at puberty, so circumcision was a puberty rite. Origi- nally it was connected with marriage, as Exod 4:25 and Gen 34:14ff, and the word htn, meaning ‘bridegroom,’ show. Some trace circumcision back to Joshua’s act to roll away the contempt of the circumcised...

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