Study Guide

Book of Exodus Reputation

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He answered, "Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "Surely the thing is known." (NRSV 2:14)

And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. (KJV 2:14)

Here it is: the event that sends Moses on his long journey. The writers are very careful to say that Moses killed the Egyptian when no one was around, so how did these guys find out? The implication is that stuff like this lingers in people's minds. You can run, Moses, but you can't hide.

They said, "An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock." He said to his daughters, "Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread." Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, "I have been an alien residing in a foreign land." (NRSV 2:19-22)

And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Does this passage give Moses a kind of hero status? Why? And why does it all go down so quickly? It seems like a lot of life to cover in three measly verses. When the Bible wants to zip, it zips.

But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. (NRSV 9:16)

And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. (KJV 9:16)

You heard him. God is doing this to prove himself. Think about how our politicians work: you often have to cultivate an image before you get elected, right? It was no different for God.

[A]nd that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them—so that you may know that I am the Lord." (NRSV 10:2)

And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord. (KJV 10:2)

God isn't in this business for kicks. He's here to create a strong and lasting image. After all, Exodus is about creating a national memory that will define the people.

"Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!" (NRSV 12:32)

Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. (KJV 12:32)

This is Pharaoh talking. Yep, Pharaoh. What happened to make him say this? Well, he sure isn't suddenly deciding he's down with God. He basically just saying uncle. He cedes his own reputation under the pressure of God's power. "Bless me also" is just the icing on the cake.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, "If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. (NRSV 13:17-18)

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. (KJV 13:17-18)

What would happen if the Israelites returned to Egypt? God would lose a ton of street cred. God definitely recognizes the limits on his own power; he got them out of Egypt, sure, but the Philistines are a different story.

[A]nd they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank. The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction." So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, "Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them." Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. (NRSV 24:10-16)

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. (KJV 24:10-16)

Yowza. The God of Exodus is definitely a physically present character. In later books of the Bible, God asserts himself in other ways that give him a different type of reputation. Here, you see the guy. We can imagine that image would be pretty convincing.

Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. (NRSV 32:12)

Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. (KJV 32:12)

Moses tries to convince God not to destroy the Israelites after the golden calf incident. He doesn't use the lawfulness argument, though ("Don't kill them! You just said murder wasn't cool!"). Instead, he uses the reputation argument, because that's what matters to God. It looks like Moses knows God pretty well.

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