Exodus 1-6: The Burning Bush

Exodus 1-6: The Burning Bush

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now Joel at the end of the book of Genesis you had this big family reunion of Jacob and his family in in Egypt then Jacob dies they take him home Joseph dies and whoops suddenly we start off in Exodus and the whole people is enslaved how did they get to be slaves in the beginning of Exodus there is this notice that after the death of Joseph
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and his brothers and that whole generation a new Pharaoh arose who didn't know Joseph and seems to his first act is now that we have a new generation he looked around me thought boy there's a lot of awful lot of Israelites in Egypt right now and we have to remember that back at the very end of Genesis we are told that even before Jacob dies whether the people multiply and increase greatly right in
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the fulfillment of that classical be fruitful and multiply line from Genesis 1 the people do exactly that so the Israelites are not just that few people of Jacob in his family they are now evidently some sort of substantial population and with the turning over of a new generation I feel like the Pharaoh looked around and thought I'm a little uncomfortable a little uncomfortable with with just how many Israelites seem to be here and probably also with the
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status that they seemed to hold for themselves you know Joseph had been essentially second-in-command yeah and a pharaoh who had not obligated to Joseph at all might be a little bit wary of that situation I don't mean to excuse excuse the enslavement but I think that that's the the impetus for it is there are just too many Israelites right it is effectively its population control yeah there is a phenomenon here that will come up again from time to time and the the Old Testament that it's a very success of the people and of course the
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fact that they are a discrete block and they don't assimilate into Egypt but there is a certain irony it seems to me in the enslavement because when Joseph was writing hi one of the things that he does is make all the Egyptian slaves to Pharaoh so you know he has set a precedent for it and she the Bible is a little roller coaster of things like this you solve one problem and in the process of it you create another one and
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then to the rescue comes Moses right now talk about tall tales in the Bible but he maketh the story of the birth of Moses well it's such an interesting story not only because I mean we love the story right the mother putting him in the basket and because she's trying to avoid having to kill him accordant with pharaoh's decree and he's picked up by the you know the princess who raises him in the palace
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it really looks a lot like a mechanism for explaining Moses's name right the name moses has given to him not by his mother but by the daughter of pharaoh and it is at least an element in a lot of egyptian name it is I think it's decidedly an Egyptian name right this is the name Moses that we know from Tut Moses from ramasees right it's the same the same ending right it means it means son of it means born to know the story
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that you get in Exodus tries to explain this with them being taken out of the Nile mm-hmm is that real etymology of the name no no actually if it was going to be right the the Hebrew word the in Hebrew his name is Moshe in Hebrew the verb to draw something out is Masha but if Moshe is from that it means he's the one who does the drawing is rather than being the one who gets drawn so my sense is this is a classic
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what we call a false at a false etymology which happens I mean almost everywhere in the Bible almost every name Edom ology in the Bible is false this way it's an attempt to explain a name on the basis of of a story as a - however it may have come about in this case it being Egyptian so now we have Moses growing up in the lap of luxury in the court of Pharaoh why doesn't he just stay there and become the new Joseph so
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to speak and be Viceroy of Egypt and succeed the failure of any ties and whatever what happens gen he seems to have some sort of innate sense of his own ethnic past right famously he goes out and he sees the Egyptian beating the Israelites and he is suddenly emotionally worked up about it now would you figure from that that it must be a sense of his own ethnic past he wouldn't have gotten worked up if he
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just saw somebody beating an Israelite unless he happened to be an Israelite himself the question I think is was this really the first time he saw an Egyptian beating in Israelites right if he has been growing up in pharaoh's court presumably this is the kind of thing he's encountered before so you know he reached a tipping point maybe maybe this was the blow that broke the camel's back so to speak and in any case whatever I mean whatever it was
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this is what drives him out of Egypt right is this this initial rebellious act yes and he's that's a great precedent doesn't he hmm for how should you deal with oppression mm-hmm this is this is clearly the kernel of what he goes on to do later on and in some sense the question of why Moses is the one who liberates the Israelites I think this story is meant to be an explanation right Moses is the one who liberates the
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Israelites because Moses is the one who we know is capable of acting yeah although I would say also that this is exceptional you know that later on when Pharaoh is pursuing them he doesn't set an ambush you know if this is the one case where he actually takes things into his own hands and kills somebody mm-hmm but it's interesting to have it in there I maybe will circle back to that issue a bit but he goes off he finds himself in Midian right where is Midian
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well it's way the hell over now that the side-eye Peninsula doesn't that carrot that hangs down you know where we usually think of Mount Sinai but across another body of water over directly south of of Israel and this then begins to look suspicious now one of the part he'll find there is a bush Assam a it is surely a play on the name of Sinai surely it is and also will find with
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Sinai there are a lot of passages in the Bible to talk about yeah we coming from the south mmm-hmm and from South coming from Sinai and coming from saynay yeah and so there seems to be a tradition of Yahweh being a God to reveal himself on Mount Sinai right that was independent of the story of the Exodus now this at least has often been argued that you have two traditions here one of them are both the Exodus another one of God's revealing himself on Mount Sinai
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and in order to put those together you've got to take people on quite a journey that's right you've got to take him way out of their way right and Moses is trip to Midian is as is that is the first the first sort of leg of that trip right he makes it in advance and then he'll take the Israelites back on the way that he went when he was a younger man yeah but he got his exercise he certainly did Midian is not the most obvious place to run away yeah it's quite it is quite some distance ya know
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when he's there then he sees this bush mm-hm and he gets this strange voice calling to him out of the bush and when he asks for a name the answer that he gets is at least but it looks like is I am Who I am it's just an evasive answer it is a mysterious answer to be sure it's one that has caused a lot of consternation in scholarship the number of scholarly articles that are written on this verse may be as great as have been read
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on any other single verse what does God mean when he says yeah a share Here I am what I am or I am Who I am or I will be what I will be we don't even know exactly how to take it could even be I used to be who I used to be it could be it could be I continue to be who I may have once been it's it's it's nostalgia for lost youth what what I think we probably have here is really no more than a pun right this is God whose name
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is Yahweh making a sort of a something of a joke right you're asking me my name Yeah right I am Who I am and then he goes on to say right when so when the Israelites ask you who sent you you say yeah tell him Yahweh sent you he explains the joke he explains the pun I think we're just not comfortable with God joking but I think that I think if we think for a second about about how the name is
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constructed right yahwah the the name of Israel's God is a third-person verb he who causes to be perhaps so this is what an Israelite would call God right God is he who causes to be what has got what's God gonna call himself I am and he changes it to the first person which is exactly what echa is so I think we need to probably take it a little easier with this not worry so much about it the text itself explains that it's upon
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but it is it is certainly a mysterious kind of moment now this was translated into Greek it was rendered as a Miha own I am the one who is and you often get this in modern translations I am Who am as an assertion of absolute being and the providential thing if you like about this is that when they encountered Greek philosophy they found that the there was
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a lot of speculation about being with a capital B and you could make a case that all of Western certainly Christian philosophy and theology was built and the assumption that the God of the exodus is the same as absolute being now this is certainly nothing you could have imagined in Hebrew I don't know that you could have expressed it in Hebrew you wouldn't want to have expressed it the way you get in an exodus anyway no I don't think how I suppose Christian theologians were think of this as what
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we call a Felix culpa you know a happy fault a mistaken translation that was a new revelation that itself when could I suppose also taken as charitable view of it but we let that be yeah now is that does this God at all reveal anything important about himself with this apart from joking about his name what is there in the story that tells us what this God is about well I mean the real revelation
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here is the name itself right that is in the story of Exodus 3 when Moses says what do I call you it's I think it's a genuine it's a genuine question because according to this story and here we have to talk somewhat about again the sources the three sources of the of the Exodus story according to this story which is from the e source nobody has known God's name to this point so this is a real
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moment of God revealing more about himself in the name which in the ancient world names were powerful things right names were really a description of your essence and in some way maybe not in the Greek philosophical way but they they had power beyond mere identification so to know God's name is to become much closer to God much closer relationship then I think was previously the case so he tells us in Exodus 3 that God for the
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first time reveals his true name to Moses and to the end to the Israelites and doesn't do it very directly and doesn't do it very directly on the contrary when we come to chapter 6 where we sort of have the exact same scene again once again God comes to Moses and says I'm gonna tell you my real name which no one knew before this is one of these classic sort of doublets and contradictions in the text at this
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time he actually comes right out he says right out and says it tell them Yahweh that's right he says right before this I revealed myself to Abraham Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai right how would you translate El Shaddai the god he got all night - probably god of the mountains probably originally but indeed indeed in Genesis God in the priestly source reveals himself as El Shaddai repeatedly and now he comes next assistance in 6 to Moses
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and says I used to be all shy died now you can call me Yahweh now there are two aspects I think of this revelation that one may think about on the one hand he is saying I am actually the same God that Abraham Isaac and Jacob we're dealing with now this wouldn't at all have been obvious after our labor him Isaac and Jacob weren't on Mount Sinai so it's making a connection there and it's claiming for this God a certain history but you could say that in later
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tradition what's really taken as the essence of the revelation of God here is that he brings them out of slavery in the land of Egypt and what are we going to make of that is this a God who is you know this is a passage that's greatly beloved of liberation theologians and should we take this as a paradigm that God is on the side of the oppressed that God is committed to liberating people from
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slavery I think as nice as that reading is as much as we'd like it to say that I think it's a hard one to maintain in the face of a couple of other issues first of all it seems to me that when we get further along into the laws which will - eventually there are laws that say things like now when you own a slave here's how you treat it and actually some of the ways that you treated are not so great in other words the Israelites are looking forward in some
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senses to being liberated from slavery so that they can have their own so they can have their own slaves yes and there's also so that that's one direction the other one is the Israelites are being liberated from slavery to the Egyptians so that they can effectively be enslaved to God right which it says quite explicitly right you will be my be my slaves is that the same kind of thing the same kind of slavery it's not the same kind of slavery insofar as it's not oppressive but it is
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the same sort of master-servant relationship I think well you know it's certainly true I think that Exodus isn't promoting an idea of liberal democracy or anything of that sort no this is all in the context of a very traditional kind of society and it isn't actually changing the structures of society no but at the same time I think one can reasonably infer that you know what you're being liberated from does matter
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and whether it matters as much as what for I think you can't really neglect either side of that equation that and there is I think an admission in the story then the slavery of these the kind of slavery they had in the land of Egypt was a bad thing and that it was good to be liberated from so I think there's a certain legitimacy to appropriate in the story and extending it I think this I I think that it you're right that there's
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different kinds of slavery but I would also think we have to take into consideration that it is also a specific people right God is liberating Israel from slavery so I mean if you push that idea you would be saying and Christians shouldn't be bothering with this stuff at all this is the story of Israel and it's only relates to us back get to this people I don't think you would say that I wouldn't but I'm pressing you first to
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see whether you would because I know what if your teachers would one of my TV right would whenever my teachers John Robinson yes but but you know if it touches on a question of how you take a story that was written for one specific kind of situation and whether you can then apply that in a quite different situation and draw analogies from it you know are you bound in the end by if we can talk both the original intention of
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a text other texts don't really have intentions but the the implication of the text in its original context or can you take that out and say by analogy so that you might even say that even though the Israelites were quick to get their own slaves they really shouldn't have if they were following through the story to its logical conclusion I think that what I would say is it is perfectly acceptable to broaden as long as you're
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conscious of the fact that you were doing the broadening that's right that's right yeah I would agree with that as another scholar Jonathan Boyer and put it that the exodus doesn't really impose a theology on you that it's available for effective rhetoric and I think that's really prayed this story has had such appeal to people is because people do read and identify with the
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sames even if they're not people of Israel you know they can do the in fact people do use it that way now I'd say they're also selective in how they use the story and they don't always follow it through to the conclusion but it is a matter of how you use the story it's not that the story imposes this theology on you so on a note of agreement we leave that up again

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