This episode of the podcast begins our discussion of the circumstances of the exodus event. There are many difficulties and issues that have distracted scholars over the years. Exodus 12:37 and Exodus 12:40 are two that we will discuss in this episode. The first confronts us with the problem of large numbers of people in the Exodus narratives. The second takes us into the duration of the sojourn (bondage) of Israel in Egypt, an item made controversial by its apparent disagreement with several other biblical passages.
D. M. Fouts, “A Defense of the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Large Numbers in the Old Testament,” JETS 40: 3 (1997): 377–87.
Exodus 11 and 12 focus on the final plague against Egypt, the death of the firstborn, and the institution of the Passover (Hebrew: pesaḥ / pesach). Like the other plagues, the death of the firstborn is an assault on not only the pharaoh and his people, but on Maat, the principle of cosmic order to be maintained by the gods of Egypt. This episode touches on that polemic, but also on the meaning and typology of Passover and the “Destroyer” of the final plague.
The previous episode discussed the four scholarly approaches to understanding the plagues upon Egypt in the exodus story. Two of those approaches (polemic, de-creation) were deemed more fruitful than the others, for they cast the plagues in terms of Yahweh’s mastery over creation order (the Egyptian concept of Maat) that in turn serves as a polemic against the theology of the ancient Egyptians. In this episode we go through the plagues of Exodus 8-10 (plague numbers 2 through 9) with an eye toward thinking about each plague as de-creation and polemic.