Category Archives: Exodus

#4. Is the origin of the Sabbath to be found in God’s rest on the 7th day OR the manner in which Yahweh gave rest to the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt? (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11 vs Deut 5:12-15)







The origins of the Sabbath are obscure; there are no contemporary parallels in ancient Near Eastern practices. On the other hand, the Bible gives two contradictory accounts for its origin. Both Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 20:8-11 claim that its origin is

because for six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day. On account of this, Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The last sentence … Read more

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#11. When was the name Yahweh first invoked: in the earliest generations of man OR not till Moses at Sinai? (Gen 4:26, 12:8, 13:4, 15:7, etc. vs Ex 6:2-3)







This is a contradiction that you won’t find listed on your average, nor above average, contradictions in the Bible website; in fact, I doubt you’ll find it anywhere but here! It, like many of the ones to come, is only perceivable to those who have carefully studied the theologies of the various biblical authors. In fact, this is one in my long-list of favorites, because we start to see what the biblical scribes were up to as they crafted their narratives … Read more

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#13. Does Yahweh regret and change his mind OR does he not? (Gen 6:6-7; Ex 32:13-14; 1 Sam 2:30-31, 15:35; Amos 7:3; Jon 3:10 vs Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Mal 3:6)







“And Yahweh regretted that he had made mankind on the earth and he was grieved to his heart” (Gen 6:6).

We have already discussed the Yahwist’s anthropomorphic portrait of Yahweh [or if you've missed it see: Conflicting portraits of Israel's deity], so there is nothing surprising in this characterization of the deity in this verse. The Hebrew word, nehem, in this passage describes a change of heart or mind, and is typical of J’s anthropomorphic conception of the … Read more

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#27. Are Yahweh and El the same god OR different gods? (Gen 14:22, 17:1, 21:33; Ex 6:2-3; Ps 82:1 vs Deut 32:8-9; Ps 29:1, 89:6-8)







Recent archaeological, biblical, and extrabiblical research has led scholars working in the area of the origins of Israelite religion to assert rather boldly and confidently that the original god of Israel was in fact the Canaanite deity El.1 Just exactly how has this come about you ask?

First, the name Israel is not a Yahwistic name. El is the name of the deity invoked in the name Israel, which translates: “May El persevere.”2 This suggests that El … Read more

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#32. 400 years of slavery in Egypt OR 430? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex 12:40)







The legendary time-span in which the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt is variously given. Genesis 15:13 states that it was 400 years, presented in the guise of prophecy from Yahweh’s own mouth. While in Exodus 12:40 the narrator states that it was 430 years. Not surprisingly, both of these passages belong to 2 different and once separate textual traditions which were later edited together. The account in Genesis is from the Yahwist, while that of Exodus from the Priestly writer, … Read more

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#63. Can a mortal see God face-to-face and live OR not? (Gen 16:13, 32:30; Ex 24:9-11, 33:11; Num 14:14; Deut 5:21, 34:10 vs Ex 33:20; John 1:18, 5:37; 1 Tim 6:16)







This is an oldie but a goodie as they say, and can be found on numerous other sites and throughout the literature. I will keep to my procedure of stressing that such contradictions are the result of an editorial process that brought together different textual traditions written over a period of 1,000 years, each expressing divergent and contradictory beliefs, worldviews, and theologies.

In fact, contradictory traditions now preserved side-by-side in the Bible yield divergent responses to this question. In the Yahwist narratives of … Read more

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#76. Was it 66 OR 70 OR 75 males from Jacob’s loins who came to Egypt? (Gen 46:26 vs Gen 46:27, Ex 1:5, Deut 10:22 vs Acts 7:14)







The passage in question is Genesis 46:8-27 which breaks from the narrative to offer yet another genealogy: “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt…”

We have seen elsewhere that such interest in genealogies, dates, and ages were evidence of the Priestly writer’s hand. Yet this passage also evidences editorial reworking, possibly even done by a scribal hand during the recopying of the manuscript. In other words, within this single source there is a … Read more

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#80. Were the children of Jacob given the land of Rameses to inhabit OR did they build it generations later? (Gen 47:11 vs Ex 1:11)







This is our last contradiction for the book of Genesis and it should be held in tandem with tomorrow’s #81, our first Exodus contradiction.

The various textual traditions that we have been examining in Genesis—the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly—continue into the book of Exodus. The Yahwist source makes minor appearances in Exodus and when it does it often presents duplicate traditions to those narrated by the Elohist. The Elohist has a stronger presence, particularly visible in the Plague narrative, … Read more

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#81. When did the Exodus allegedly happen: during the reign of Rameses II (1279-1213 BC) OR in 1447 BC? (Ex 1:11 vs 1 Kgs 6:1)







In its present form, the book of Exodus is a composite of the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly sources. These biblical traditions, which record the story of the Israelites’ enslavement in and exodus from Egypt, maintain that the Israelites were oppressed by an unnamed Pharaoh, used as forced laborers in the Pharaoh’s building projects, and were subsequently liberated by Moses, under Yahweh’s guidance, with signs and wonders.

Yet despite these traditions, historical specifics are never described, and neither are there any extent … Read more

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#82. How long were the Hebrews enslaved: 400 years OR a mere generation? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex1:6-12)







As I was typing up yesterday’s contradiction (#81), it dawned on me that the imposition of the later Priestly writer’s chronology onto the older JE sources was not the only visible discrepancy in the narrative’s chronology. It was also there in the older sources themselves. So we’ll backtrack a bit here and note one more Genesis-Exodus contradiction.

In Genesis 15:13, Yahweh is presented as claiming/prophesying to Abraham that the Hebrews will be “slaves in a land not theirs … Read more

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#83. Does Egypt’s king command the Hebrew midwives to kill all male infants OR does Pharaoh command his people to drown them?
#84. Are all the male infants spared OR is only Moses? (Ex 1:15-21 vs Ex 1:22-2:10)







Exodus 1:15–2:10, the story of Pharaoh’s decree to put to death all male-born Hebrews, presents itself in its current form as: first, a failed attempt by Egypt’s king since the Hebrew midwives refuse to comply to the king’s demand, and thus all the newborn babes are spared (1:18); and second, a supposed reissue of the ordinance by Pharaoh to his people, this time specifying to drown the male infants, wherein we learn of the legendary tale relating Moses’ birth and … Read more

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#85. Is Moses’ father-in-law Reuel OR Jethro OR Hobab? (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29 vs Ex 3:1 vs Judg 4:11)







There seems to be some confusion in the traditions preserving—or creating as the case may be—the name of Moses’ father-in-law, Zipporah’s father.

The textual tradition identified as the Yahwist consistently refers to him as Reuel (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29), while the Elohist tradition uses the name Jethro (Ex 3:1, 3:18, 18:1-27).

To further complicate issues, another source names Hobab as the father-in-law of Moses (Judg 4:11), and Num 10:29 refers to Hobab as Reuel’s son, implying therefore that Reuel was … Read more

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#86. Is the mount of revelation Horeb OR Sinai? (Ex 3:1, 17:6; Deut 1:6, 4:10, etc. vs Ex 19:11, 19:18, etc.; Lev 7:38, 26:46, etc.)







Variant textual traditions now preserved side-by-side in the Bible reference two different places or place-names where Yahweh revealed himself and his commandments to Moses—neither of which has been archeologically identified.1

Both the Elohist and the later Deuteronomist consistently refer to the place of revelation as Horeb or “the mountain of the god.” Contrary to the Elohist however, the Deuteronomist does not present the giving of the laws as happening at Horeb, as we will see when we get to … Read more

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#87. Does the god of the Hebrews reveal himself to Moses in Midian OR in Egypt? (Ex 3:1-15 vs Ex 6:2-3, 6:28-29; Ezek 20:5)







Did you know that the Bible recounts two different revelation scenes in the book of Exodus? That there are two different stories recounting the revelation of Yahweh, his person and his name, to Moses? Are you also aware that these two revelation scenes occur in two different geographical locations: in Midian and in Egypt? By now, you’re probably not surprised to hear that these two different accounts have been identified as parts of two different, and once separate, sources: in … Read more

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#88. Does Yahweh command Moses to perform the signs before the elders of Israel OR before Pharaoh? (Ex 3:16, 4:1, 4:8 vs Ex 4:21)







The opening chapters of Exodus display narrative inconsistencies, doublets, differing styles and vocabulary, and indeed contradictions that have continuously led scholars to reaffirm the text’s composite nature. Having said that, it is difficult to assign with certainty some of these passages to the Elohist or Yahwist source. P remains clear; but since the Elohist now starts to use the divine name Yahweh, seeing that it has now been revealed, this feature no longer separates the Yahwist and Elohist textual traditions … Read more

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#89. Does Moses demand a leave of three days from Pharaoh’s service in order to sacrifice to Yahweh OR an unconditional release? (Ex 3:18, 5:3, 8:23 vs Ex 6:6-8)







“And you will come, you and Israel’s elders, to the king of Egypt, and say to him: ‘Yahweh, god of the Hebrews happened upon us. And now, let us go on a trip of three days in the wilderness so we may sacrifice to Yahweh, our god’” (Ex 3:18).

The theme of a petition to leave the king’s service for three days in order to sacrifice to Yahweh in the wilderness—an apparent shame or trick on the part of Moses—is … Read more

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#90. Does Pharaoh choose not to let the Hebrews go OR does Yahweh harden his heart? (Ex 3:19, 7:13-14, 8:11-15, 9:35 vs Ex 4:22, 7:3, 9:12)







This is not necessarily a contradiction between sources, but rather a theological tension inherent in the Hebrew Bible itself. The question of agency with respect to a wrongdoing or sin is often presented in a dual manner. The present case is merely one example of that.

Here, the plague narrative presents both Pharaoh as choosing not to let the Hebrews go and Yahweh as pulling his strings, so to speak, and hardening his heart.

On the other hand, the Hebrew … Read more

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#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” and, more surprisingly, depict Aaron, not Moses, performing the … Read more

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#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 reason for changing nahashRead more

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#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 and tongue” (Ex 4:10), to “uncircumcised of lips” (Ex 6:12). … Read more

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#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)

“I am Yahweh and there is none other; I

Read more

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#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 saw in contradictions #91 and #93, here too the … Read more

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#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 commanded by Yahweh to meet Moses … Read more

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#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 before (4:14-16) Moses is sent to the people (4:27-31), in … Read more

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#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 to Egypt because all the people who sought

Read more

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#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 only been one son mentioned thus … Read more

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#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 in all his pomp and glory—the … Read more

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#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 Egypt (#82)
  • 2 versions of a decree to
  • Read more

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#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, which in the composite text is the turning of the … Read more

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#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 will weary themselves to drink from the Nile.”

But this … Read more

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#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 of Yahweh’s signs. Psalm 78:43-51 presents them as … Read more

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#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 will provide the Israelites with sacrificial animals; in 11:5 the … Read more

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#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 of different sources. Both passages seem to belong … Read more

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#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 the houses where you are. And I will see

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#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 inline with this priestly guild’s sacrificial traditions and … Read more

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#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 cattle is to be cooked, and what is … Read more

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#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 only interested in the discrepancy between the date of the … Read more

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#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 in the narrative (Ex 12:31-34) they do indeed … Read more

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#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, thereby remaining in their houses “until morning.”

Exodus … Read more

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#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 there were 603,550 non-Levite males (Ex 38:26) and 22,000 Levite … Read more

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#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 to present the Passover, authorized through … Read more

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#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.
  • Every slave purchased with money, you shall

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#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, speaks of the god’s presence as an angel, who was … Read more

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#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) an old song version now preserved … Read more

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#123. Is Miriam Aaron’s sister only OR Aaron and Moses’ sister? (Ex 15:20, 4:14 vs Ex 7:20)







And Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a drum in her hand, and all the women went behind her with drums and with dances. And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to Yahweh for he triumphed!
Horse and its rider he cast in the sea.

This passage (Ex 15:20) identifies Miraim as Aaron’s sister only, and says nothing of Moses. It comes from the same source that defines Aaron and Moses’ relationship as brother Levites, not siblings (see #95). Thus … Read more

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#124. Were the Israelites rebellious and disobedient toward Yahweh throughout the wilderness period OR were they loyal and obedient? (Ex 14:11-12, 16:2-8, 17:1-7, 32:1-29; Num 11:1-6, 14:2-4, 16:13-14, 20:2-13, 21:4-5; Ps 78, 106 vs Hos 2:14-15; Jer 2:1-2)







Exodus 14:11-12 (#120-122) is the first in a series of passages belonging to the “murmuring” traditions associated with the wilderness period. These stories repeatedly depict this newly redeemed nation of Israelites as a bunch of faithless and rebellious grumblers who tested Yahweh on numerous occasions.

In this tradition, we find stories about the Israelites complaining that they have nothing to drink and nothing to eat, to which Yahweh responds with indignation providing them with water, manna, and even … Read more

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#125. When did Yahweh provide quails as meat for the Israelites: before OR after Sinai? (Ex 16:1-15 vs Num 11:4-35)







Many of the stories from the “murmuring” tradition (#124) were told in more than one textual tradition. In the present case, the story about the people’s desire for meat in the wilderness and Yahweh’s reluctant response to send quails is recorded in both the Elohist and Priestly traditions. When these textual traditions were later edited together, both versions of the story were preserved. In the composite text we call “the Bible,” the Priestly version of the quails story … Read more

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#126. Did the Israelites have meat to eat in the wilderness OR not? (Ex 12:38, 17:3, Lev 8-9; Num 32:1 vs Ex 16:2-3; Num 11:4-6)







Contradictory to the claims made in the quail stories (#125)—namely, that the people did not have any meat to eat and that they would have starved to death if they did not get some meat to eat—the same tradition tells us that they did indeed have a very large and sizable livestock with them.

  • Exodus 12:38 records how the Israelites went up from Egypt with a large livestock. “And a mixed multitude had gone up with them, and
  • Read more

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#127. The water from the rock at Meribah happens before OR after Sinai? (Ex 17:2-7 vs Num 20:2-13)







As we saw with the quail stories (#125), so too with the story about drawing water from a rock at Meribah. In other words, Exodus 17:2-7 and Numbers 20:2-13 are doublets. And we might surmise as we did with the quail stories, that the redactor preserved both versions by placing one before Sinai and the other after Sinai.

Both versions of the story share identical themes: the people’s complaint that they are thirsty; their testing and contention; hitting … Read more

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#128. When does Moses’ father-in-law return to his land: before or after Sinai? (Ex 18:27 vs Num 10:29-30)







In the composite text that we now call “the Bible” there are two places in the narrative where Moses’ father-in-law returns to his land: Exodus 18:27 and Numbers 10:29-30, before and after Sinai respectively. In the same manner that we saw in the two previous entries (#125 & #127), these two stories are doublets. Both passages speak of Moses’ father-in-law’s departure back to his land. However, as we’ve already seen (#85) both of these textual traditions … Read more

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#129. Do the people agree to Yahweh’s words and commandments before OR after Yahweh gives them? (Ex 19:7 vs Ex 24:3, 24:7)
#130. Are the priest commanded to approach Yahweh OR are they not? (Ex 19:22 vs Ex 19:24, 24:1)
#131. Who ascends the mountain: Moses OR Moses and Aaron OR Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders? (Ex 19:3, 19:19, 24:3, 32:3 vs Ex 19:24 vs Ex 24:1, 24:9)
#132. What mountain is ascended: Horeb OR Sinai? (Ex 24:13 vs Ex 19:18, 24:13, 34:2)







In its current form, Exodus 19-24 is a compilation of different traditions relating Moses’ or Moses and company’s ascent(s) and descent(s) to and fro Yahweh, the giving(s) of Yahweh’s commandments, Yahweh’s theophany(ies), and the ritual ceremonies ratifying Yahweh and Israel’s covenant—all of which are a byproduct of lengthy editorial processes, which in the end have created a composite narrative with some amusing internal inconsistencies.

For example, in the text’s current narrative sequence Moses ascends a total of 6 times (19:3, … Read more

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#133. Who speaks the Ten Commandments to the people: Moses OR Yahweh? (Ex 19:25 vs Ex 20:1)







The storyline at the end of Exodus chapter 19 is disconnected to what is immediately presented at the opening of chapter 20.

19:25And Moses went down to the people and he said to them. 20:1And God spoke all these words: “I am Yahweh your god… You shall have no other gods before me.”

What continues from here to verse 18 is the Ten Commandments. Verses 1-17 are an insert. The Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17) was inserted here, into … Read more

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#134. Which Ten Commandments: Ex 20:1-17 OR Ex 34:14-26?
#135. Did Yahweh write down the same Ten Commandments OR did he not? (Ex 34:1 vs Ex 20:1-17, 34:14-26)







Unknown to millions of so-called “readers” of the Bible, there are actually two different and quite unique accounts of the Ten Commandments. In fact, the only one that is specifically referred to in the text as “Yahweh’s 10 words” is the version least known!

In the composite JEP text that we now have before us, these two once independent Ten Commandments traditions were brought together by a later editor to form a new narrative—the giving (Ex 20-23), breaking (Ex 32), … Read more

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#136. Are the sins of the parents reckoned on their children to the third and fourth generation OR are sins reckoned to each offender only? (Ex 20:5, 34:7; Deut 5:9 vs Deut 24:16; Jr 31:29-30; Ez 18:2-4)







The notion of hereditary guilt runs throughout the Bible and was a common characteristic of most ancient societies.

Exodus 20:5, for example, claims from the mouth of Yahweh himself that he is a jealous god, “reckoning fathers’ sins upon sons, on the third and on the fourth generation.”

This theology of inherited sin is duplicated in the Deuteronomic version of the Ten Commandments (Deut 5:9), and is prominent throughout the Deuteronomic History. It was also cited to provide the theological … Read more

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#137. Does Yahweh decree that his altars are to be built of earth OR his one altar of acacia wood plated with bronze, 5 cubits by 5 cubits? (Ex 20:24 vs Ex 27:1-2, 38:1-2)
#138. Are sacrifices to Yahweh permitted on any altar OR only the altar before the Tabernacle? (Ex 20:24 vs Lev 1-9, 17)







Today’s contradiction actually marks our first contradiction between the Pentateuch’s law codes. As it has come to be assembled, the Pentateuch contains three separate law codes: Exodus 20-23, Leviticus 17-27, and Deuteronomy 12-26. Each one of these law codes was written by a different author, in a different historical era, and to address the concerns and needs of different audiences. In general they share much in common, but there are also gaping differences in their worldviews, ideologies, and even conceptions of … Read more

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#139. Are Hebrews permitted to have Hebrew slaves OR not? (Ex 21:2; Deut 15:12-18 vs Lev 25:39-43)
#140. How long should a Hebrew work for another Hebrew: for 6 years OR until the Jubilee? (Ex 21:2 vs Lev 25:40)







I suppose an entry about slavery is inline since the Bible’s stance toward it is variously represented by 3 different sources: the Elohist (Ex 21:12-6), the Deuteronomic (Deut 15:12-18), and the Priestly (Lev 25:39-55).

The typical manner in which the slavery contradiction is articulated is to ask if Hebrew slavery was permitted or not—the 2 contradictory texts being Exodus 21:2 and Deuteronomy 15:12-18, which clearly speak of Hebrew slaves (i.e., to other Hebrews), and and Leviticus 25:39-43, whose stance is … Read more

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#141. A manslayer may seek asylum at Yahweh’s altar OR not? (Ex 21:14 vs Ex 29:37; Lev 8; Num 4:13-15, etc.)







Whoever strikes a man and he dies, he shall be put to death. But the one who did not lie in wait, but God by happenstance conveyed it to his hand, I shall set a place for you that he shall flee to. But if a man will plot against his neighbor to kill him with treachery, him you shall take from my altar to die. (Ex 21:12-14)

Ancient cultures typically associated a deity’s altar as a place of sanctuary … Read more

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#142. Can a murderer ransom his life through a monetary compensation? (Ex 21:30 vs Num 35:31)







All of the Pentateuch’s 3 law codes attest to the ancient custom of lex talionis, the law of retaliation—in this case, a life for a life.

The law code in Exodus 21 lays out this penalty quite clearly.

  • one who strikes a man and he dies shall be put to death!
  • one who strikes his father or mother shall be put to death!
  • one who steals a man and sells him shall be put to death!
  • one who curses
  • Read more

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#143. If someone strikes you do you seek retribution per the law OR offer the other cheek as well? (Ex 21:12-24 vs Matt 5:39)







One who strikes a man and he dies, he shall be put to death! (Ex 21:12)

And if there be any injury, then you shall give a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a hurt for a hurt! (Ex 21:24)

The lex talionis—the law of equal retaliation—was a common principle or … Read more

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#144. Is the reparation for stealing four or fivefold OR one and one-fifth fold? (Ex 21:37 vs Lev 5:24)







The Bible’s variant legal codes give 2 contradictory responses concerning how much reparation ought to be payed by a thief.

Exodus 21:37 states that if a man should steal an ox or a sheep and slaughter it or sell it, he shall pay 5 oxen for the stolen ox, and 4 sheep for the stolen sheep. Later one at 22:3 we’re informed that if the stolen animal is still alive or in the thief’s possession then he shall pay back … Read more

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#145. Are firstborn sons sacrificed to Yahweh OR are they redeemed? (Ex 22:28 vs Ex 13:2, 13:11-16, 34:19-20; Lev 27:26-27; Num 3:12-13, 3:40-59, 8:16-18, 18:15-18)







The Bible’s sacrificial theology mandates that the firstfruits of reproduction—whether of plants, animals, or humans—be sacrificed to Yahweh.

“Consecrate every firstborn for me [Yahweh]. The first birth of every womb of the children of Israel, of a human and of an animal, is mine!” (Ex 13:2)

This divine decree must be understood in the context of the Passover narrative. In other words, biblical scribes accredited the origin of sacrificing all firstborn sons to Yahweh to the Passover/Exodus. Its origins, however, … Read more

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#146. Does Yahweh vindicate the guilty OR not? (Rom 3-4; Gal 3-5 vs Ex 23:7)







“For I shall not vindicate a guilty one!” (Ex 23:7)

One of the many gaping theological contradictions between the Old and the New Testaments—between a culture and worldview which existed in the 1st half of the 1st millennium BC and one which existed in the 1st century AD—has to do with who Yahweh vindicates or accords righteousness to.

As posted in an earlier entry (#6), Old Testament theology was constructed on the empirical. If an … Read more

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#147. Who writes the laws and commandments on stone tablets: Moses OR Yahweh? (Ex 24:4, 34:28 vs Ex 24:12, 32:16, 34:1)







The traditions relating the giving of the law present both Moses and Yahweh writing them down on stone tablets. If we follow the composite text as it now stands, here is how the occurrences progress.

  1. Exodus 24:4 states that “Moses wrote all of Yahweh’s words.” Presumably we are to understand this in its context, that is that Moses wrote down both the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and the laws of Exodus 21-23—all of Yahweh’s words.
  2. But Exodus 24:12 states
  3. Read more

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#148. Are sacrifices permitted before the Tabernacle, Altar, and Aaronid priesthood are established and consecrated OR are they not? (Ex 24:4-6 vs Ex 40; Lev 1-10)
#149. Is Moses allowed to perform sacrifices OR are only Aaron and his descendants? (Ex 24:4-6 vs Ex 29:1-9, 19:28-29, 40:12-16; Lev 1-9; Num 25:10-13)







We have now finished examining the contradictions in the Sinai traditions (#129-132, #134-135), and the Elohist’s law code (#137-138, #139-140, #141, #142, etc.) found in the book of Exodus. With the exception of JE material in Exodus 32-34, the remainder of the book of Exodus is from the Priestly source. And the book of Leviticus, our next stop, is also all from the pen of P.

What we have seen thus far … Read more

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#150. Are the poles of the Ark not to be removed OR are they? (Ex 25:15 vs Num 4:6)







Exodus 25-31, from the hand of the Priestly writer, is a detailed description of the components of the Tabernacle and all of its equipment and how they are to be constructed, which Moses receives from Yahweh while on Sinai.

Likewise, Exodus 35-40 is a detailed account of the construction of the Tabernacle and all of its components per its descriptions. There are a few contradictions in these Priestly passages, but more apparent are the contradictions that Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 … Read more

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#151. Does Yahweh dwell among the people, in the Temple OR not? (Ex 25:8, 29:45 vs Deut 12:11, 12:21; Acts 7:48)







“And they shall make me a holy place and I shall dwell among them.” (Ex 25:8; cf. Ex 29:45)

One or the central and most important theological tenets of the Priestly theocracy was that Yahweh dwelt among the people, tented in the Tabernacle which was at the center of their camp.

This theological conviction alone necessitated a strict ethical and ritual code that quickly expunged and expiated any impurities that came into the camp—thus the Priestly legislation’s strict adherence to … Read more

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#152. Does Yahweh choose only the Aaronids as priests OR all the Levites? (Ex 28:1, 28:41, 29:1-9, 40:12-16; Lev 1-8; Num 3:1-9, 25:10-12 vs Deut 18:1-8)







“Bring Aaron, your brother, forward to you, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel for him to function as a priest for me.” (Ex 28:1)

The redacted text of the Pentateuch as it now stands bears witness to an internecine rivalry that existed within the tribe of Levi, that is within the priesthood itself. At least two priestly groups that we know of wrote texts aimed at legitimating their right as sole officiating high priests and … Read more

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#153. Who judges the people: the Aaronid priests OR the Levites OR the elders OR the prohets? (Ex 28:30; Lev 13; Num 5:16-28 vs Deut 17:8-13 vs Ex 18:13-26 vs 1 Sam 7:15, etc.)
#154. Who carries the Urim and the Thummim: the Aaronid high priest OR the Levites? (Ex 28:30 vs Deut 33:8-10)







As a composite text of competing ideologies and theologies, the Bible—the creation of a later generation of readers living centuries after these once individual texts were written (see What is the Bible?)—preserves multiple origin stories relating the establishment of its judiciary and who ministers judgment. Indeed, these competing texts do share one definable common feature: Yahweh is the ultimate Judge. It is he who judges. But what is variously represented in the Bible’s competing sources is who, or which … Read more

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#155. Does Yahweh command sacrifices during the wilderness period OR not? (Ex 29:38-42; Lev 1-9, 16-17, 23; Num 7, 19:1-10, 28-29 vs Amos 5:25; Jer 7:22, etc.)







In the Priestly literature that we are now looking at, the cult, sacrifices, and maintaining strict ritual and ethical purity were the central concerns and elements of its belief system and worldview. As we’ve already discussed (#148-149, #151, #152) the Priestly writer’s legislation was largely concerned with safeguarding and/or restoring ritual purity and cleanliness, as well as ethical purity and cleanliness, i.e., being blameless or sinless.

When an individual came into contact with something prohibited by … Read more

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#156. What is written on the stone tablets that are placed in the Ark: the instructions for building the Tabernacle OR the Ten Commandments? (Ex 31:18 vs Ex 24:12, 34:27-28)







In the Priestly tradition, what is engraved upon the stone tablets that are placed in the Ark would appear to be the instructions for building the Tabernacle and all its equipment, which Moses receives from Yahweh while on Sinai (Ex 25-31).

And when he finished speaking with him in mount Sinai, he gave the two tablets of the Testimony to Moses, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. (Ex 31:18)

I have already noted that the Bible’s various … Read more

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#157. Is the festival associated with the Golden Calf a festival to Yahweh OR to other gods? (Ex 32:5 vs Ex 32:1, 32:4, 32:8)







The Golden Calf narrative is perhaps one of the most memorable tales from the pen of the Elohist. But the story is not as ancient as one might think. In fact, it most probably was put to pen some time in the 8th or 7th century BC. The specific contradiction presented here is not so much a contradiction between two textual traditions; rather, it is between some apparent inconsistencies in the narrative itself.

For instance, the people clamor … Read more

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#158. Is the people’s gold used for fabricating the Golden Calf OR for the construction of the Ark, Menorah, Tabernacle, and Altar of incense? (Ex 32:2-4, 32:23 vs Ex 25-26, 35:4-24)







Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 clearly stand as a unit. Not only do all of its chapters use the same vocabulary and expressions, but their content is also the same. Exodus 25-31 details instructions for the constructing of the Tent of Meeting and all its components: the Tabernacle, the ark, the table and menorah, the altar, the incense altar, and the garments for the high priest, Aaron. Exodus 35-40 passes over the same material in the same detailed manner except now … Read more

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#159. The Golden Calf OR the Golden Cherubs? (Ex 32:4 vs Ex 25:18-20, 37:7-9)







This is a continuation of yesterday’s (#158) and the previous day’s entry (#157).

In the Priestly literature that now surrounds the Elohist’s Golden Calf story, Yahweh commands Moses to have the Israelites make two golden cherubs, of solid hammered gold. These cherubim moreover sit on top of the Ark’s atonement dais which resides in the inner most shrine of the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies.

And he made two cherubs of gold. He made them of

Read more

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#160. Does Aaron bring the great sin upon the people OR does he bear the people’s sin and atone for it? (Ex 32:21 vs Ex 28:38-41; Lev 4-5, 16:16, etc.)
#161. Does Yahweh vow to erase Aaron for his sin OR make him his exclusive anointed high priest? (Ex 32:33 vs Ex 28:38-41, 29:6-29, 40:12-16)







The narrative tensions and deep-rooted theological contradictions created when the JE material of Exodus 32-34 is inserted between the Priestly literature of Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 is nowhere more apparent than in its portrait of Aaron. On the one hand, he is the cause of the people’s sin, having fabricated the Golden Calf (#157); and on the other hand, he is the exclusive anointed of Yahweh, consecrated and without sin, the sole high priest whose function it was … Read more

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#162. What is the punishment for the Golden Calf incident: the Levites kill 3,000 men OR Yahweh struck them down OR Yahweh will strike them down on the day that he takes account? (Ex 32:27-28 vs Ex 32:35 vs Ex 32:34)







There are 3 different punishments stated for the sin of the Golden Calf, two of which are ambiguous in nature. The most explicit is that Moses and the Levites kill about 3,000 men: “kill each man his brother, each man his neighbor, and each man his relative.”

The text goes a far way to explicitly present the Levites in the favorable role of expiating the sin. In other words, the Levites are portrayed in a priestly function here, making atonement … Read more

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#163. Do the people divest themselves of their jewelry OR not? (Ex 33:6 vs Ex 35:22)







Another contradiction created from the stitching together of the Priestly text of Exodus 35-40 and the Elohist text of Exodus 32-33 has to do with what happens to the people’s jewelry (see also #158). As a result of their sin in the Elohist’s Golden Calf story, Yahweh commands them to divest themselves of their jewelry and to leave it behind. “And the children of Israel divested their jewelry from mount Horeb” (Ex 33:6).

The Priestly literature, however, has already … Read more

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#164. Is the Tent of Meeting in the camp OR outside the camp? (Ex 25:8; Num 1:50-2:32 vs Ex 33:7-11)
#165. When is the Tent of Meeting constructed: on the New Year of the second year from the Exodus OR sometime before that? (Ex 40 vs Ex 33:7)







Et voilà! — More contradictions that resulted from the stitching together of the Elohist text of Exodus 32-33 and the Priestly literature of Exodus 25-31 & 33-40. Honestly, this is not magic. I did not contrive these contradictions. Rather, competing priestly guilds and scribal schools of ancient Israel did, with their different views and beliefs. Not my fault either that readers living centuries later, for reasons endemic to their own historical circumstances, stitched the texts of these competing scribal and … Read more

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#166. Is Joshua allowed to enter the Tent of Meeting OR are only Aaronid priests? (Ex 33:11 vs Num 1:51, 3:10, 3:38, 18:5-7)







This contradiction continues from the previous two (#164-165), where we saw that the views and perceptions concerning the Tent of Meeting differed radically depending on what source we were looking at, the Elohist or the Priestly source.

Here too, the Elohist attaches no priestly, cultic, nor holy and sacred significance to the Tent of Meeting, at least not in the manner in which we find the Aaronid priestly writers doing in the Priestly source. So in the Elohist … Read more

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#167. Is Yahweh a god slow to anger OR a god whose anger flares often and erratically? (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18 vs Ex 4:14, 22:23, 32:10; Num 11:1, 11:10, 11:33, 12:9, 22:22, 25:3)







Exodus 34 is the Yahwist’s version of the Ten Commandments, which was treated in an earlier entry, along with the fact that Exodus 34:1 is a lie—Yahweh does not, as the text claims, write the same material on these new tablets of stone that were on the original tablets (#134-135)!  Today’s contradiction treats a different matter and fits in with the Conflicting portraits of Yahweh penned by the Bible’s different authors.

The Yahwist tradition preserves the following hymn … Read more

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#168. Is the festival of firstfruits the festival of Harvest OR of Weeks? (Ex 23:16 vs Ex 34:22)







There are several different festival calendars in the Bible, each penned by a different author: Exodus 23:24-19 (E), Exodus 34:18-23 (J), Deuteronomy 16:1-17 (D), and Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29 (P).

We will look at these differences in greater detail later on. Here, I simply note that the spring festival of reaping the first barely crop is variously labeled as the festival of Harvest in the Elohist tradition and the festival of Weeks in the Yahwist. It is possible the … Read more

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#169. Yahweh makes a covenant with Israel based on which Ten Commandments? (Ex 24:3-8 vs Ex 34:27)







Both Exodus 24:3-8 and Exodus 34:27 present Yahweh as making a covenant with the children of Israel based on “all of Yahweh’s words (Ex 24:4) and “based on these words” (Ex 34:27). Yet the words, or commandments, referred to in each of these passages, Ex 20:1-23:19 and Exodus 34:14-26 respectively, are not the same—despite the fact that the text claims that they are (Ex 34:1)!

This contradiction is an extension of the 2 versions of the Ten Commandments (#134-135Read more

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#170. Does the action from Exodus 40 to Numbers 7 take place on one day OR not? (Ex 40:2-33; Lev 8; Num 7:1 vs Lev 9; Num 1:1)







And it was in the 1st month, in the 2nd year, on the 1st of the month, the Tabernacle was set up. (Ex 40:17)

This is the Priestly writer’s chronology: the cultic institution, around which its whole theology is based, is erected on the New Year’s day of the second year from the Exodus (see also #109-110). Yet, even within the Priestly source there seems to be some discrepancies concerning what happens on this day.

On … Read more

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#171. Was the law of the Sabbath known before Sinai OR was it only given at Sinai? (Ex 16:23-30 vs Ex 23:12, 31:12-17, 35:1-3)







This entry looks to be our last contradiction for the book of Exodus. Like others, this one appears repeatedly in the scholarly literature.

The particular textual peculiarity is: While Exodus 31:12-17 and 35:1-3 officially present Yahweh giving the commandment to observe the Sabbath for the first time in P (but in E, already at Ex 23:12), Exodus 16 not only speaks of the Sabbath but presumes that the people already know the Sabbath commandment (Ex 16:28). Indeed, the Sabbath … Read more

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#181. What happens after the Tabernacle is set up and anointed: Moses anoints Aaron and his sons as Yahweh’s priests OR Israel’s tribes make dedication offerings? (Ex 40; Lev 8-9 vs Num 7)
#182. Where did Yahweh appear to the people: at Horeb/Sinai or at the Tent of Meeting? (Ex 19, 34 vs Lev 9:23-25)







That the Tabernacle and the cult are the central most important concerns to the Priestly writers is incontrovertible. Yet within this body of literature itself, there seems to be two different traditions about what transpires on the day that the Tabernacle is established.

As previously noted, there is also a chronological discrepancy within the Priestly source (#170). Exodus 40:1, 40:17, Leviticus 1:1, and Numbers 7:1 indicate that all of the action from Exodus 40 to Numbers 7 happened … Read more

Posted in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers | 2 Comments

#188. Is it permissible to eat a carcass or torn animal OR not? (Lev 17:15-16 vs Deut 14:21; Ex 22:30)







News flash! —- Yahweh has apparently contradicted himself once again at Sinai, claiming at one point that eating a carcass or a torn animal is strictly prohibited and not even a week later—that’s right folks one week later!—claiming that it is permissible to eat. What madness!

Or, we have yet another example of different and contradictory law codes penned by different authors, to address different historical communities, and which were both placed on the lips of Yahweh and at various … Read more

Posted in Deuteronomy, Exodus, Leviticus | 6 Comments

#189. What is the punishment for having sex with an animal: Death OR being cut off OR being cursed? (Ex 22:18; Lev 20:15-16 vs Lev 18:22-23 vs Deut 27:21)







The ancient scrolls that centuries later came to be labeled the Bible by a later generation of readers contain variant punishments for having, or in one case intending to have, sex with an animal. It is clear that this act was intolerable and highly offensive to all biblical scribes. However, whether it was punishable by death or not may have been a point of contention.

Our oldest text, E, clearly assigns death for this hideous act: “Anyone who lies with … Read more

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The Festival Calendars (Ex 23:14-17 vs Ex 34:18-26 vs Deut 34:18-26 vs Lev 23 vs Num 28-29)







There are 5 different festival calendars in the Pentateuch, each one originating from a once separate and independent source:

  1. Exodus 23:14-17 (from the Elohist source)
  2. Exodus 34:18-26 (from the Yahwist)
  3. Deuteronomy 16:1-17 (from the Deuteronomist)
  4. Leviticus 23 (from the Priestly source, accredited to the Holiness Code)
  5. Numbers 28-29 (also from the pen of P)

I am presently going through these different calendars and will be posting their contradictions and differences over the next few days/weeks. I have already noted a … Read more

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#194. Was the Festival of Unleavened Bread a pilgrimage festival OR not? (Ex 13:6, 23:14-15, 34:18-23; Lev 23:6-8; Num 28:18-19; Deut 16:16 vs Deut 16:7-8)
#195. Was Passover and Unleavened Bread one festival OR two? (Deut 16:1-7 vs Ex 12:21-27, 13:3-10; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16-23)
#196. On what day was the pilgrimage for the Festival of Unleavened Bread: the 1st day OR the 7th day OR all 7 days? (Deut 16:2, 16:7, 16:16 vs Ex 13:6 vs Lev 23:6-8; Num 28:17-24)
#197. How many days was the Festival of Unleavened Bread: 6 OR 7? (Deut 16:8 vs Ex 12:15-16, 12:18-19, 13:6; Lev 6-8; Num 28:17)







Changes and Transformations in the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread:
From the Pentateuch’s Earliest Sources to Its Latest

Working from what was previously posted about the Pentateuch’s 5 Festival calendars, we can see that the two oldest sources, the Elohist and the Yahwist, make no mention of the Passover, and indeed this is to be expected since what is listed in Exodus 23:14-17 & 34:18-26 are those festivals which required a pilgrimage to local sanctuaries.

By pilgrimage … Read more

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#198. When was the Festival of Firstfruits or Weeks celebrated: on the day the first grains were reaped OR the day following the next Sabbath after the first reaping OR 7 weeks later? (Ex 23:16 vs Lev 23:9-11 vs Ex 34:22; Deut 16:9-11; Num 28:26)
#199. Is the Festival of Weeks a pilgrimage festival OR not? (Ex 23:16, 34:22; Deut 16:10-11 vs Lev 23:17)
#200. On the Festival of Harvest/Weeks what is brought as an offering to Yahweh: the firstfruits of what is sown OR a contribution akin to a tithe? (Ex 23:16; Lev 23:10-11 vs Deut 16:10, 17)
#201. When was the counting of weeks to begin: from the day of the first reaping OR from the first Sabbath afterwards? (Deut 16:9 vs Lev:15-16)
#202. Are Israelites to offer up sacrifices and a first sheaf of their harvest to Yahweh on the first barely harvest OR not? (Lev 23:9-14 vs Num 28:26-30)
#203. What is offered up to Yahweh on the Festival of Weeks: 1 bull, 2 rams, and 7 lambs OR 2 bulls, 1 ram, and 7 lambs? (Lev 23:18 vs Num 28:27)
#204. Is a peace-offering of an additional 2 lambs sacrificed on the Festival of Weeks OR not? (Lev 23:19-20 vs Num 28:27-31)







Like the Festival of Passover & Unleavened Bread (#194-197), the Harvest Festival or the Festival of Weeks also went through several modifications from the earliest period of Israel’s cultic practices to the Aaronid-led cult of the post-exilic period. Once again, it is the Pentateuch’s various sources which bear witness to these developments, or in our case, these contradictions.

Our two earliest witnesses, E and J (see list of festivals by sources here), merely mention that the Harvest … Read more

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#205. Was the autumn harvest festival called the Festival of Ingathering OR Booths? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Lev 23:34-43; Deut 16:13-15)
#206. Was the Festival of Ingathering/Booths a 1 day pilgrimage festival OR 7 days? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Lev 23:36, 39; Num 29:12-34; Deut 16:13-15)
#207. Where was this pilgrimage festival: to a local altar OR to Jerusalem? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Deut 16:15)
#208. What was offered to Yahweh on this festival: the crops from the field OR a tithe from the threshing floor and wine press? (Ex 23:16; Lev 23:39 vs Deut 16:13)







As with the previous 2 pilgrimage festivals—Unleavened Bread (#194-197) and Weeks (#198-204)—so too here: the Festival of Ingathering developed and modified into the Festival of Booths with some minor changes implemented by the Deuteronomist, some of which were kept by the Priestly writer, while others were not.

Preceding chronologically—through the sources of the Torah (E, J, D, P) not the narrative as it now stands—the Elohist text of Exodus 23:16 is our oldest witness. This festival … Read more

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#209. What is remitted or ceased every 7th year: the sowing of the land OR debt and indentured Hebrew slaves? (Ex 23:10-11; Lev 25:1-7 vs Deut 15:1-15)







Leviticus 25 is devoted to Yahweh’s commandments concerning the 7th year land Sabbath, which is basically a reprint of the older Elohist law preserved in Exodus 23:10-11.

“And in the 7th year the land shall have a Sabbath, a ceasing, a Sabbath for Yahweh: you shall not seed your field, and you shall not prune your vineyard; you shall not reap your harvest’s free growth, and you shall not cut off your untrimmed grapes.” (Lev 25:4-5)

The tradition … Read more

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#210 When an indentured Hebrew slave is released is he liberated with his children OR not? (Lev 25:39-41 vs Ex 21:1-4)







The law of the Jubilee year in Leviticus 25 is all encompassing.

And you shall consecrate the year that makes 50 years and proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you! And you shall go back, each to his possession; and you shall go back, each to his family.” (Lev 25:10)

In other words, everything is redeemed and restored: possessions; persons, that is indentured servants; houses sold during the jubilee period; and … Read more

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#211. Israelites are to consecrate the firstborn of animals to Yahweh OR not? (Ex 13:2; Deut 15:19 vs Lev 27:26)







All of the Pentateuch’s sources adhere to the law of the firstborns, a sacrificial theology which mandates that the firstfruits of reproduction—whether of plants, animals, or humans—be sacrificed to Yahweh.

“Consecrate every firstborn for me [Yahweh]. The first birth of every womb of the children of Israel, of a human and of an animal, is mine!” (Ex 13:2)

I have already addressed this firstborn sacrificial theology as it relates to all firstborn human males, which, rather than being sacrificed up … Read more

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#212. An impure firstborn animal, particularly an ass, is redeemed with a lamb OR the priest’s appraisal price plus a fifth OR 5 shekels? (Ex 13:13, 34:20 vs Lev 27:27 vs Num 15-16)







This contradiction follows from the previous one, #211, and an earlier contradiction dealing with the consecration of all firstborns to Yahweh, #145.

All of the Pentateuch’s sources agree that firstborn human males, firstborn male animals, and the firstfruits of the harvest are to be consecrated to Yahweh.

“Consecrate every firstborn for me [Yahweh]. The first birth of every womb of the children of Israel, of a human and of an animal, is mine!” (Ex 13:2)

The “historicised” rational … Read more

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#213. Must a firstborn ass that is not redeemed be killed OR sold? (Ex 13:13, 34:22 vs Lev 27:27)







This contradiction should have been added to the previous one, #212, since it goes with it. It deals with the fate of an unredeemed firstling ass.

Reiterating the sacrificial theology of all firstborns—humans and animals—found in all of the sources of the Pentateuch, I reproduce again Exodus 13:2.

“Consecrate every firstborn for me [Yahweh]. The first birth of every womb of the children of Israel, of a human and of an animal, is mine!” (Ex 13:2)

The same pronouncement … Read more

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#217. What was the organization of the Israelite camp during the wilderness period: no arrangement with the Tent of Meeting outside the camp OR in a circular tribal arrangement around the Tent of Meeting at its center? (Ex 33:7-8; Num 11:26, 12:4 vs Num 2)







This entry will serve as a general introduction to the book of Numbers—75% of which is a continuation of a once independently existing scroll written by the Aaronid priesthood of the exilic and post-exilic periods. In fact, all of the literature from Exodus 35 to Numbers 10:11 is from the pen of this elite priestly guild. This is supported by this literature’s sustained emphasis on the Aaronid priesthood (#152, #153-154, #160-161, #166, #177); the … Read more

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#221. What transpires on the day Moses sets up and anoints the Tabernacle: Aaron and his sons are anointed as Yahweh’s priests and shut in the Tent of Meeting for a 7 day ordination OR Israel’s 12 chieftains present sacrificial offerings to Yahweh, 1 a day for the following 12 days? (Ex 40:1-17; Lev 8-9 vs Num 7)







Numbers 7 claims to narrate events that happened “on the day Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle” (Num 7:1), “on the day it was anointed” (7:10). This, however, presents two particular difficulties—contradictions—when reading, erroneously, these wilderness stories as a single homogeneous, divinely-authored or any single-authored, historical narrative. This is not what our biblical scribes were doing nor saw themselves as doing. Rather, as stressed repeatedly in other posts, these are the erroneous ideas and beliefs of readers living centuries after … Read more

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#222. Must one be pure for Passover OR not? (Num 9:9-11 vs Deut 16:1-8)
#223. Is the observance of Passover an eternal law OR not? (Ex 12:14-17; Lev 23:4-5 vs Gal 3-4)







As we have repeatedly seen already (#175, #178, #183, #184, #185, etc.) that concern for ritual and ethical purity was top priority for the Aaronid priesthood that penned the book of Leviticus and 75% of what is now the book of Numbers.

Throughout Leviticus, and especially in those chapters devoted to its laws and commandments (Lev 11-22), the role of the Aaronid priests is repeatedly defined through the phrase “to distinguish between the holy … Read more

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#226. The Ark of Yahweh: an empty throne seat which served a martial function OR the holy of holies which served a ritual function? (Num 10:33-36, 14:44-45; 1 Sam 4:1-7 vs Ex 25:22, 37:1-9; Lev 16:11-17; Num 4:5-15)







At Numbers 10:33, attributed to J, we are abruptly introduced to a story about the Ark of the covenant of Yahweh, which is portrayed in a very unique role.

And it was, when the Ark traveled that Moses said “Arise Yahweh and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee from your presence.” (Num 10:35)

In this passage, as in others, the Ark of Yahweh is being presented in martial terms. It was not only carried … Read more

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#227. Was there only manna to eat OR not? (Ex 16:35; Num 11:6 vs Ex 12:38, 17:3, 24:5, 34:3; Lev 1-27; Num 7, 9:1-14, 28-29)







Numbers 11—a story about the people’s complaining to Moses that they have no meat to eat, only manna—is part of the murmuring traditions, some of which we have already looked at (#125, #126, #127) and even seen use contradictorily by other biblical scribes (#124).

To a large extent the quail story of Numbers 11, where Yahweh responds to the Israelite’s complaining that they have had no meat to eat only manna by sending them … Read more

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