#120. How is the Red sea dried up: Moses divides it with his rod OR Yahweh with the wind OR Yahweh with his own breath OR with a shout? (Ex 14:16 vs Ex 14:21 vs Ex 15:10 vs Ps 106:9)
#121. Do the Israelites advance through the sea bed followed by the Egyptians OR do they remain on the shore and only the Egyptians enter the dried sea bed? (Ex 14:23 vs Ex 14:13-14, 25, 27)
#122. Do the Egyptians get washed up dead on the sea shore OR do they sink to the bottom? (Ex 14:30 vs Ex 15:5)

There are three classic examples that biblical scholars use to demonstrate the Documentary Hypothesis: the Flood narratives (#14-18), the Joseph story (#72-73), and the crossing of the Red Sea. In fact there are three visible accounts of this story in Exodus 14-15: 1) the original Yahwist account (the Elohist account is no longer wholly visible); 2) the Priestly writer’s account which was later stitched into the Yahwist account; and 3) anRead More

#119. In their exodus, are the Israelites protected by Yahweh going in front of them in a pillar of cloud and fire OR by an angel of God? (Ex 13:21, 14:19b vs Ex 14:19a)

Tradition has it that the Israelites, while being pursued by the numerous Egyptian cavalry and charioteers, were nevertheless protected by Yahweh’s presence. But the traditions, each in their own manner, variously represent this divine presence. The Yahwist tradition always depicts Yahweh as being present in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. This is true even in the wilderness narratives. The Elohist account, however, speaksRead More

#118. Must one be circumcised to celebrate and eat the Passover OR not? (Ex 12:43-49 vs Deut 16:1-8; Gal 3-4)

Continuing with our discussion of the differences between the Priestly writer’s Passover account in Exodus 12 and that of Deuteronomy 16 (#117), we note that while nothing is said in Deuteronomy about circumcision, in the Priestly literature it is forbidden for an uncircumcised male to eat and partake of the Passover. And Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron: “This is the law of the Passover: Any foreigner shall not eat it.Read More

#117. Is the Passover celebrated at home OR is it a national pilgrimage festival celebrated only at Jerusalem? (Ex 12:3-8, Ex 12:43-46 vs Deut 16:1-7)

As previously noted (#109-110, #111, #112), the ritual prescriptions outlined in the Priestly writer’s account of the Passover in Exodus 12:1-20 and 12:40-50—all from P—are at odds with the ritual prescriptions of the Passover outlined in Deuteronomy 16:1-8. This is not because Yahweh changed his mind 40 years later, following the narrative chronology, but rather because these two texts were written by two different priestly guilds and each one sought toRead More

#116. How many Israelites left Egypt during the Exodus: 600,000 OR 625,550? (Ex 12:37 vs Ex 38:26; Num 3:39)

There are two contradictory traditions relating the number of males that left Egypt in the Exodus. The older Elohist tradition relates that there were 600,000. This number is revised upward by the later Priestly writer to 625,550. The reason for this revision is unclear. Perhaps the Priestly writer fabricated it in order to lend verisimilitude to the earlier tradition’s too round of a number. Another Priestly text tells us that thereRead More

#115. When did Yahweh bring the Israelites out of Egypt: in the morning OR in the evening? (Ex 12:22; Num 33:3 vs Deut 16:1)

There seems to be some variation in the exodus tradition regarding when the Israelites left Egypt. As we saw in the previous entry (#114), in the Elohist tradition although the Israelites were commanded to stay in their houses “until morning” it does seem that they nevertheless leave Egypt during that very evening. But this is certainly not clear from the text (Ex 12:31-34). They could have left in the morning, therebyRead More

#114. Are the Israelites forbidden to leave their houses during the night of the Passover OR do they leave their houses? (Ex 12:22 vs Ex 12:31-32)

During the night of the Passover, Yahweh sends his Destroyer out over Egypt to kill all the firstborns. The Israelites themselves are protected by the apotropaic blood rite of the Passover (#109-110): the lamb’s blood smeared on the doorposts of all the Israelites’ houses ward off the evil of the Destroyer. Thus they are commanded not to leave their houses “until morning”—lest Yahweh’s Destroyer strike them down too! Yet later inRead More

#113. When does the festival of Unleavened Bread begin: on the 14th OR the 15th? (Ex 12:18 vs Lev 23:6; Num 28:17)

There are several different festival calendars in the Pentateuch, and each one originally belonged to a different textual tradition: Ex 23:14-19 (E); Ex 34:18-23 (J); Deut 16:1-17 (D); and Lev 23 and Num 28-29 (P). When compared against each other, one notices minor differences in festival names, their dates of celebration, and even the place where they were to be celebrated. We will look at these contradictions at a later date. Presently, we are onlyRead More

#112. Is the paschal animal to be roasted OR boiled? (Ex 12:8-9 vs Deut 16:7)

The Priestly Passover legislation of Exodus 12:1-11 not only stipulates the preparation of the sacrificial animal prior to its slaughter (#111), but also how it is to be cooked and eaten. “Do not eat any of it raw or cooked in water, but fire-roasted” (12:9). Yet this is not at all what is relayed in the Passover legislation found in Deuteronomy 16:1-8. There we are told that the paschal lamb or cattleRead More

#111. Is only a small goat/sheep permissible as the sacrificial animal for the Passover OR are older cattle included as well? (Ex 12:3, 12:21 vs Deut 16:2)

Both Exodus 12:21, from the Elohist version of the Passover, and Exodus 12:3, from the Priestly writer (#109-110), state that the sacrificial animal of the Passover must come from the flock. The Hebrew denotes a small goat or sheep. The Priestly writer’s Passover legislation exhibits other differences as well. As would be expected from a text written by priests, at a later date, and to bring the Elohist Passover tradition inlineRead More

#109. When does the slaughter of the firstborns and the Passover occur: on the eve of the day that Moses last speaks to Pharaoh OR 4 to 14 days later? (Ex 11:1-8 vs Ex 12:1-11)
# 110. When is the Passover animal chosen: on the very eve of the slaughter of all the Egyptian firstborns OR 4 days earlier? (Ex 12:21 vs Ex 12:1-11)

The 10th and final plague that Yahweh unleashes on the Egyptians is the death of all firstborns, livestock and humans—no exceptions. In fact, this decree not only goes out to the Egyptians, but to ALL humans in the land of Egypt. The Israelite firstborns are merely redeemed through an apotropaic blood ritual that keeps them protected from Yahweh’s Destroyer. “And the blood will be for you as a sign on theRead More

#108. Moses never sees Pharaoh’s face again OR Moses does see Pharaoh again? (Ex 10:29 vs Ex 12:31-32)

There seems to be an inconsistency between Exodus 10:29 and Exodus 12:31-32. In the former passage Moses declares that he will never see Pharaoh’s face again; yet later on in the narrative he does indeed confront Pharaoh face to face once more, and for the last time. Scholars have been troubled by this passage because this contradiction, as in the case of the previous one (#107), is not the result ofRead More

#107. “All the cattle died” OR the cattle are still alive? (Ex 9:6 vs Ex 9:18, 10:25, 11:5, 14:28, etc.)

The fifth plague falls upon the Egyptian livestock. Yahweh inflicts a heavy plague upon cattle, horses, sheep, goats, camels, and asses. “And Yahweh did this thing on the next day. And all Egypt’s cattle died” (9:6). Yet later on in the same narrative, there is mention of cattle. In 9:18-25 the text speaks of cattle being struck by Yahweh’s seventh deed, hail; in 10:25 it is implied that the Egyptians willRead More

#106. What is the order and number of the plagues: water into blood, frogs, mosquitoes, horseflies, etc. OR some other order and number? (Ex 7-9 vs Ps 78:44-51, 105:27-36)

There are a number of different traditions in the Bible concerning the number and order of Yahweh’s signs and wonders when he brought the Israelites out of Egypt. The less obvious of these differences are those between the Elohist and Priestly versions which we have already encountered (#105). There are, however, a couple of variant traditions preserved in the Psalms, both of which exhibit differences in the number and sequence ofRead More

#105. Does Moses strike the Nile with his staff for the first plague OR does Aaron with his own staff? (Ex 7:15-18 vs Ex 7:19-20)

In the story related in Exodus 7:14-18, Yahweh commands Moses to take his staff, “the staff that was changed into a snake,” and to go to Pharaoh and say: “Here, I’m striking with the staff that’s in my hand on the waters that are in the Nile, and they’ll be changed into blood. And the fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will stink, and Egypt willRead More

#104. What is the first plague: the staff into serpent OR the waters into blood? (Ex 7:8-13 vs Ex 7:14-18)

Close readers of the Plague narrative (Exodus 7-9) have observed that it too seems to be a composite of, mainly, two different sources: the Priestly source and the Elohist. Each version stresses unique themes and accentuates different aspects of the story. We will see in #106 that Psalms 78 and 105 also preserve variant versions of the Plague signs and their order. Here, we are interested in the first sign, whichRead More

#103. Does Aaron perform the rod-to-snake/serpent trick in front of the Israelites OR Pharaoh? (Ex 4:30 vs 7:10)

The beginning of the book of Exodus is marred with doublets, sometimes triplets—that is two unique versions of its various stories are presented, both of which most likely came from two, or three, once independent sources. Often these versions contradict one another in minor narrative details or in some cases larger theological claims. We have already seen many of these: 2 contradictory versions about the length of the captivity in EgyptRead More

#102. Do the people believe and listen to Moses OR do they not? (Ex 4:29-31 vs Ex 6:9-12)

We have already seen how, and attempted to understand why, the later Priestly writer when rewriting the exodus story presented Moses as initially failing in his task (#91, #93, #97-98). Contradiction #102 continues from these observations. In one version of the story (E), Yahweh reveals himself to Moses in Midian at the burning bush and informs Moses that he has heard his people’s sufferings and has prepared to liberate them inRead More

#100. Does Moses take his wife and son(s) with him on his return to Egypt OR do they stay behind in Midian? (Ex 4:19-20 vs Ex 18:4)
#101. Does Moses have one son OR two? (Ex 4:20 vs Ex 18:4)

One hundred days, one hundred contradictions. Booyah! I would have never known that April 10th is the 100th day of the year if it weren’t for this project. Picking up where we left off (#99), Exodus 4:20 informs us that Moses took with him on his return to Egypt his son(s) and his wife. Additionally, although the text as it now stands states that Moses took “his sons” there has onlyRead More

#99. Does Moses return to Egypt by asking Jethro’s leave OR is he commanded by Yahweh to return to Egypt? (Ex 4:18 vs Ex 4:19)

Exodus 4:18-20 seems to narrate Moses’ return to Egypt twice. Let’s look closely at the features of this passage. 18And Moses went back to Jethro, his father-in-law, and said to him, “Let me go so I may go back to my brothers who are in Egypt and see if they’re still living.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19And Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, “Go! Go back toRead More

#97. Is Aaron commissioned before OR after Moses fails to convince Pharaoh? (Ex 4:14-16 vs Ex 5:4-5, 7:1-2)
#98. Is Aaron commissioned to help Moses address Israel OR address Pharaoh? (Ex 4:14-16, 4:27-31 vs Ex 7:1-2)

Another narrative discrepancy that occurs from the combination of our duplicate stories is the, now, doublet of Aaron’s commission. Since P’s story of the revelation of Yahweh and commission of Aaron (Ex 6:2-7:13) is placed after E’s version, where both the revelation of Yahweh and commission of Aaron have already been narrated (Ex 4:1-30), these events in the current version of the text happen twice. Aaron is therefore commissioned both beforeRead More

#96. Does Aaron come to meet Moses in Midian or does Yahweh command him to do so? (Ex 4:14 vs Ex 4:27)

Aaron appears on the scene from nowhere. In Exodus 4:14 the narrator tells us that he is coming to meet Moses, his Levite brother (#95), in Midian without having previously introduced the character of Aaron. We can only surmise: Did he too escape Pharaoh’s decree to kill all the firstborns (#83)? Yet Exodus 4:27 would seem to be a doublet, narrating a second time Aaron’s coming. Except now Aaron is commandedRead More

#95. Is Aaron Moses’ brother Levite OR brother? (Ex 4:14 vs Ex 6:20, 7:1, 7:7; Num 26:59)

Exodus 4:14, usually identified as belonging to the Elohist source, labels Aaron as Moses’ Levite brother, that is, a fellow Levite. However, at Exodus 6:20, 7:1, and 7:7 Aaron is presented as Moses’ flesh and blood brother. In fact, Exodus 7:7 identifies Aaron as the older brother by 3 years! These passages fall in with other Priestly indicators and have been identified as part of the Priestly source. As we sawRead More

#94. Does Yahweh make a person blind, deaf, or dumb OR does Beelzebub (Ex 4:11 vs Mk 1:34, 3:22, 5:9-13; Matt 9:33, 12:22, etc.)

“Who makes a person dumb or deaf, gives sight or makes blind? Is it not I, Yahweh!” Exodus 4:11, like other Old Testament passages, expresses a theological tenet shared by many of the authors of the Hebrew Bible—namely that Yahweh is sovereign. Other examples of this theological perspective can be found elsewhere. Here are just a couple examples: “Should evil befall a city and Yahweh has not done it?” (Amos 3:6)Read More

#93. Does Moses have a heavy mouth and tongue OR uncircumcised lips? (Ex 4:10 vs Ex 6:12, 6:30)

We have already seen in contradiction #91 how the later Priestly writer modified the tradition that he inherited so that it better suited his own ideology and legitimated his own priestly guild, while on the other hand denigrated that of the Levites, whose forefather was Moses. Yet nowhere is the Priestly writer’s bias against Moses more pronounced than in his rewriting of E’s Moses, who is literally “heavy of mouth andRead More

#92. Does the staff turn into a snake OR a serpent? (Ex 4:3 vs Ex 7:9-10)

Not only do the Elohist and Priestly sources disagree on whose staff we’re talking about: Moses’ or Aaron’s (#91), but they also use different terms when it comes to describing the serpent or snake it turns into. In E (4:3) the staff becomes a snake (nahash), but in P (7:10) it becomes a serpent (tannîn). Each author chose a different term, and the Priestly writer might have even had a reasonRead More

#91. Moses’ staff OR Aaron’s staff OR God’s staff? (Ex 4:2, 7:15, 17:20, 9:23, 10:13 vs Ex 7:9-12, 7:19 vs Ex 4:20, )

Exodus 4:2, 7:15, 7:20, 9:23, and 10:13 all indicate that the staff or rod involved in producing Yahweh’s signs was Moses’ staff, perhaps even his personal shepherd’s staff. Indeed 4:2, which introduces the staff in the narrative, seems to imply that it was already on Moses’ person: “‘What’s this in your hand?’ ‘A staff.’” However, Ex 7:10, 7:12, 7:19, 8:1, and 8:12 refer to the same staff now as “Aaron’s staff”Read More