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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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Chapter VIII – Recurring Conflicts between Yahweh and Moses 201


Chapter VIII Recurring Conflicts between Moses and Yahweh In this study, I would like to propose another way of thinking about Exod 4:24-26, which in some ways agrees with several of the details advanced in the views presented above, but also differs with several details, and in addition perceives this story in a somewhat different way in the context of the narrative of the Pentateuch of which it is a part. Textual Criticism, Literary Criticism, Narrative Criticism, and Theologi- cal Criticism play significant roles in proposing this viewpoint. But Rhe- torical Criticism in particular may provide some important insights into ways of understanding Exod 4:24-26. This approach emphasizes that biblical works were composed for oral reading and/or dramatic presenta- tion to be ‘heard’ by a (religious) assembly. Speaking of the poetry of the Hebrew Bible, D. K. Berry writes: ‘Rhetorical criticism analyzes Hebrew poetry in terms of its aural qualities, and this is always of pri- mary importance when dealing with oral poetry. The critic must remem- ber that the printed form of the poem arose only as a by-product of its oral transmission. The specific effects engendered by the written forms of the poem (lineation, strophe, etc.) are important only in so far as they reflect audible patterns.’1 The same applies to biblical narrative. Three major concerns of rhe- torical criticism are the speaker/author, the text, and the hearer (audi- ence)/reader. This raises numerous issues, as whether modern scholars and/or readers can recover the authorial intention...

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