Torah Study Notes 1-2-16

January 2, 2016

Introductions to start the New Year. About sixteen present. Welcome back to Christian Judd!

Page 355

We are coming to the end of Exodus. Sh’mot means “Names.” These are the names of the people who came from Egypt.

4:18  Moses asks his father in law Jethro for permission to return to Egypt and see how his kinfolk there are faring.  God now tells him to return to Egypt and bring the rod of God – which he subsequently uses to perform “magic” in front of Pharaoh. LL:  Was Moses circumcised?  If he was raised as an Egyptian it seems unlikely.  How did he find out he was of the tribe of Israel? Various explanations in the films.[i] Why did God stiffen P’s heart? MS: We do not want this to be easy because this struggle eventually unites the people.  RB: Also, P is a “god” so the redactors are setting up this god vs God situation. There is a theory that each of the plagues deals with a separate Egyptian god.  God is in the process of proving to the Israelite’s that He is a powerful god.  This is one of the few cases where God interferes with human free will. Paul C: I am troubled by what seems to be an excess of cruelty here. There seems to be a lack of creativity in addressing a crisis by the Hebrew God. RR We are still in the very earliest stages in the development of Judaism. There was much cruelty in the religions of the Middle East at that time. RB The rabbis have struggled with this as well in terms of justifying this level of wrath against the Egyptians. This section of Exodus is attributed to the “Elohist” author. See Friedman Who Wrote the Bible.

The “Yahwist” is credited with the part[ii] where God is telling Moses to go back to Egypt. The “harden his heart” language may have been added later. Note that there is no word for “brain” in ancient Hebrew. The heart was considered to be the seat of thinking as well as emotion. Those actions are undifferentiated.

4:20   The account of the circumcision of their son by Moses Midianite wife Zipporah. See excellent Essay on page 365.  Recall the effort to retain the priestly line via Aaron. We are not told much about the line of Moses. At the time circumcision was done eight days before the wedding night. The origin of circumcision is not really known. It may have pre-existed the Israelites. Z takes on this responsibility. See Apotropaic – blood has a supernatural power. See:

5:1 Moses and Aaron ask that P let the people go. Aaron is brought in as spokesperson for Moses –who had some speech defect.  Here they seem to be asking for a few days off. There is a suggestion of three days of travel to festival. Later this becomes Passover.

5:6  In response to their plea Pharaoh charges the taskmaster – let the people gather straw themselves. LL This is like a labor dispute initially. The people could not complete the same amount of bricks. They are accused by P of being “shirkers.” The people are now angry at Moses and Aaron for bringing these troubles upon them. God tells them that P will :drive them from this land.” The people are not responding well to the prospect of change.

———————————————-Films of Moses and Israel in the desert


[1] The Jahwist, or Yahwist, often abbreviated J, is one of the sources of the Pentateuch (Torah), together with the Deuteronomist, the Elohist and the Priestly source. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh (German Jahwe, Hebrew YHWH) for God in the book of Genesis.

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