Biblical Literacy

Session 4: March 4, 2021

The Session Assignment [link]

The Lead-in:

I'm delighted that Susan Wood will give us the benefit of her experience with archaeology with a presentation on the history of the middle east leading up to the Exodus based on the archeological evidence.

We'll then go on to discuss what are without doubt the two most significant events in the history of ancient Israel, the escape from Egypt and the theophany at Mt. Sinai.

We'll focus on understanding the three sources for the narrative of the deliverance at the Reed Sea, both of which are discussed by both Kugel and Hayes. (I think Hayes's presentation is the superior one so please be sure to read it, p. 8-13.)

I, at least, find the incident of the Golden Calf shocking and quite inconsistent with the storyline. I'll try to find some good information about the likelihood that it's an interpolation by a group of Northern Kingdom priests who would like to sully Aaron's reputation.

See you soon!

The Lead-out:

Many thanks to Susan for a terrific presentation! We'll be taking advantage of this background in our discussion of the conquest of Canaan next time.

We saw yet again with the story of the parting of the Reed Sea that the biblical narrative is made up of many sources and that scholars have had stunning success in proposing plausible ways in which those sources originated and were brought together by redactors.

The story of the Mosaic covenant is the central and indispensible focus of the Hebrew Bible. We considered the strangeness of the story of the golden calf incident and I suggested that it may be an attempt to diminish Aaron's reputation.

We didn't get to consider the reason why Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan but we would probably not have found a satisfying one: scholars are still puzzled!

The Takeaways:

  1. In the century preceding the Exodus, Canaan consisted of independent city-states which were vassels of the Eqyptian pharaoh. They were thus, at least among the elite, well acquainted with Eqyptian culture and names.
  2. The last half of the thirteenth century BCE saw the destruction of numerous well-established cultures in the eastern Mediteranean with no wide-spread domination.
  3. The Mosaic covenant was the third one we've seen but the first to involve bi-lateral obligations.
  4. The Ten Commandments expanded the behavioral norms expected within a clan to the nation as a whole.
  5. The golden calf incident resulted in the forty years of wandering which ensured that those who were adults at the time would not enter the promised land.