#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 going in front of the camp of Israel. The martial language of “camp” and having the Israelites flee “armed” (13:18) are also unique features of the Elohist version.

These two unique features were originally part of two unique tellings of the crossing of the Red, actually Reed, sea. Tomorrow will will examine in some detail these varying accounts.

Did you know that Exodus 14-15 preserves 3 once independent traditions recounting this event? Can you spot the contradictions between these 3 accounts? Chapter 14 needs particular care and attention in its reading. We will look at this chapter closely tomorrow.

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