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Exodus 7-24 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 7

The Lord answered Moses: See! I have made you a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your prophet.[a] You will speak all that I command you. In turn, your brother Aaron will tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. Yet I will make Pharaoh so headstrong that, despite the many signs and wonders that I work in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Therefore I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring my armies, my people the Israelites, out of the land of Egypt. All Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of their midst.

This, then, is what Moses and Aaron did. They did exactly as the Lord had commanded them. Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

III. The Contest with Pharaoh

The Staff Turned into a Serpent. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: When Pharaoh demands of you, “Produce a sign or wonder,” you will say to Aaron: “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will turn into a serpent.” 10 Then Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord had commanded. Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it turned into a serpent. 11 Pharaoh, in turn, summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing by their magic arts. 12 Each one threw down his staff, and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs. 13 Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had foretold.

First Plague: Water Turned into Blood.[b] 14 Then the Lord said to Moses: Pharaoh is obstinate[c] in refusing to let the people go. 15 In the morning, just when he sets out for the water, go to Pharaoh and present yourself by the bank of the Nile, holding in your hand the staff that turned into a snake.[d] 16 Say to him: The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you with the message: Let my people go to serve me in the wilderness. But as yet you have not listened. 17 Thus says the Lord: This is how you will know that I am the Lord. With the staff here in my hand, I will strike the water in the Nile and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the Nile itself will stink so that the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from the Nile.

19 The Lord then spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—its streams, its canals, its ponds, and all its supplies of water—that they may become blood. There will be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in the wooden pails and stone jars.

20 This, then, is what Moses and Aaron did, exactly as the Lord had commanded. Aaron raised his staff and struck the waters in the Nile in full view of Pharaoh and his servants, and all the water in the Nile was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the Nile itself stank so that the Egyptians could not drink water from it. There was blood throughout the land of Egypt. 22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same[e] by their magic arts. So Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned away and went into his house, with no concern even for this. 24 All the Egyptians had to dig round about the Nile for drinking water, since they could not drink any water from the Nile.

Second Plague: The Frogs. 25 Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile. 26 Then the Lord said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh and tell him: Thus says the Lord: Let my people go to serve me. 27 If you refuse to let them go, then I will send a plague of frogs over all your territory. 28 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up and enter into your palace and into your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your servants, too, and among your people, even into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 29 The frogs will come up over you and your people and all your servants.

Chapter 8

The Lord then spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams, the canals, and the ponds, and make frogs overrun the land of Egypt. So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the same by their magic arts and made frogs overrun the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to remove the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses answered Pharaoh, “Please designate for me the time when I am to pray for you and your servants and your people, to get rid of the frogs from you and your houses. They will be left only in the Nile.” “Tomorrow,” he said. Then Moses replied, “It will be as you have said, so that you may know that there is none like the Lord, our God. The frogs will leave you and your houses, your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.”

After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh’s presence, Moses cried out to the Lord on account of the frogs that he had inflicted on Pharaoh; and the Lord did as Moses had asked. The frogs died off in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 10 Heaps of them were piled up, and the land stank. 11 But when Pharaoh saw there was a respite, he became obstinate and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Third Plague: The Gnats. 12 Thereupon the Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, and it will turn into gnats[f] throughout the land of Egypt. 13 They did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came upon human being and beast alike. All the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the land of Egypt. 14 Though the magicians did the same thing to produce gnats by their magic arts, they could not do so. The gnats were on human being and beast alike, 15 and the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”[g] Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Fourth Plague: The Flies. 16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: Early tomorrow morning present yourself to Pharaoh when he sets out toward the water, and say to him: Thus says the Lord: Let my people go to serve me. 17 For if you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies upon you and your servants and your people and your houses. The houses of the Egyptians and the very ground on which they stand will be filled with swarms of flies. 18 But on that day I will make an exception of the land of Goshen, where my people are, and no swarms of flies will be there, so that you may know that I the Lord am in the midst of the land. 19 I will make a distinction[h] between my people and your people. This sign will take place tomorrow. 20 This the Lord did. Thick swarms of flies entered the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants; throughout Egypt the land was devastated on account of the swarms of flies.

21 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go sacrifice to your God within the land.” 22 But Moses replied, “It is not right to do so, for what we sacrifice to the Lord, our God, is abhorrent to the Egyptians.[i] If we sacrifice what is abhorrent to the Egyptians before their very eyes, will they not stone us? 23 We must go a three days’ journey in the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord, our God, as he commands us.” 24 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord, your God, in the wilderness, provided that you do not go too far away. Pray for me.” 25 Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you I will pray to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, his servants, and his people. Pharaoh, however, must not act deceitfully again and refuse to let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” 26 When Moses left Pharaoh, he prayed to the Lord; 27 and the Lord did as Moses had asked, removing the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, his servants, and his people. Not one remained. 28 But once more Pharaoh became obstinate and would not let the people go.

Chapter 9

Fifth Plague: The Pestilence. Then the Lord said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh and tell him: Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go to serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and persist in holding them, the hand of the Lord will strike your livestock in the field—your horses, donkeys, camels, herds and flocks—with a very severe pestilence. But the Lord will distinguish between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that nothing belonging to the Israelites will die. And the Lord set a definite time, saying: Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land. And on the next day the Lord did it. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. But although Pharaoh found upon inquiry that not even so much as one of the livestock of the Israelites had died, he remained obstinate and would not let the people go.

Sixth Plague: The Boils. So the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: Each of you take handfuls of soot from a kiln, and in the presence of Pharaoh let Moses scatter it toward the sky. It will turn into fine dust over the whole land of Egypt and cause festering boils[j] on human being and beast alike throughout the land of Egypt.

10 So they took the soot from a kiln and appeared before Pharaoh. When Moses scattered it toward the sky, it caused festering boils on human being and beast alike. 11 Because of the boils the magicians could not stand in Moses’ presence, for there were boils on the magicians as well as on the rest of the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said to Moses.

Seventh Plague: The Hail. 13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: Early tomorrow morning present yourself to Pharaoh and say to him: Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go to serve me, 14 for this time I will unleash all my blows upon you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me anywhere on earth. 15 For by now I should have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with such pestilence that you would have vanished from the earth. 16 But this is why I have let you survive: to show you[k] my power and to make my name resound throughout the earth! 17 Will you continue to exalt yourself over my people and not let them go? 18 At this time tomorrow, therefore, I am going to rain down such fierce hail as there has never been in Egypt from the day it was founded up to the present. 19 Therefore, order your livestock and whatever else you have in the open fields to be brought to a place of safety. Whatever human being or animal is found in the fields and is not brought to shelter will die when the hail comes down upon them. 20 Those of Pharaoh’s servants who feared the word of the Lord hurried their servants and their livestock off to shelter. 21 But those who did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left their servants and their livestock in the fields.

22 The Lord then said to Moses: Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that hail may fall upon the entire land of Egypt, on human being and beast alike and all the vegetation of the fields in the land of Egypt. 23 So Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent forth peals of thunder and hail. Lightning flashed toward the earth, and the Lord rained down hail upon the land of Egypt. 24 There was hail and lightning flashing here and there through the hail, and the hail was so fierce that nothing like it had been seen in Egypt since it became a nation. 25 Throughout the land of Egypt the hail struck down everything in the fields, human being and beast alike; it struck down all the vegetation of the fields and splintered every tree in the fields. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were, was there no hail.

27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I have sinned this time! The Lord is the just one, and I and my people are the ones at fault. 28 Pray to the Lord! Enough of the thunder[l] and hail! I will let you go; you need stay no longer.” 29 Moses replied to him, “As soon as I leave the city I will extend my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail so that you may know that the earth belongs to the Lord. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.”

31 Now the flax and the barley were ruined, because the barley was in ear and the flax in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they grow later.

33 When Moses had left Pharaoh and gone out of the city, he extended his hands to the Lord. The thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured down upon the earth. 34 But Pharaoh, seeing that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, sinned again and became obstinate, both he and his servants. 35 In the hardness of his heart, Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.

Chapter 10

Eighth Plague: The Locusts. Then the Lord said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his servants obstinate in order that I may perform these signs of mine among them and that you may recount to your son and grandson how I made a fool of the Egyptians and what signs I did among them, so that you may know that I am the Lord.

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and told him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: How long will you refuse to submit to me? Let my people go to serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. They will cover the surface of the earth, so that the earth itself will not be visible. They will eat up the remnant you saved undamaged from the hail, as well as all the trees that are growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and the houses of your servants and of all the Egyptians—something your parents and your grandparents have not seen from the day they appeared on this soil until today.” With that he turned and left Pharaoh.

But Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will he be a snare for us? Let the people go to serve the Lord, their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is being destroyed?” So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, who said to them, “Go, serve the Lord, your God. But who exactly will go?” Moses answered, “With our young and old we must go; with our sons and daughters, with our flocks and herds we must go. It is a pilgrimage feast of the Lord for us.” 10 “The Lord help you,”[m] Pharaoh replied, “if I let your little ones go with you! Clearly, you have some evil in mind. 11 By no means! Just you men go and serve the Lord.[n] After all, that is what you have been asking for.” With that they were driven from Pharaoh’s presence.

12 The Lord then said to Moses: Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon it and eat up all the land’s vegetation, whatever the hail has left. 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord drove an east wind[o] over the land all that day and all night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over the whole land of Egypt and settled down over all its territory. Never before had there been such a fierce swarm of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered the surface of the whole land, so that it became black. They ate up all the vegetation in the land and all the fruit of the trees the hail had spared. Nothing green was left on any tree or plant in the fields throughout the land of Egypt.

16 Pharaoh hurriedly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord, your God, and against you. 17 But now, do forgive me my sin only this once, and pray to the Lord, your God, only to take this death from me.” 18 When Moses left Pharaoh, he prayed to the Lord, 19 and the Lord caused the wind to shift to a very strong west wind, which took up the locusts and hurled them into the Red Sea.[p] Not a single locust remained within the whole territory of Egypt. 20 Yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

Ninth Plague: The Darkness. 21 Then the Lord said to Moses: Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that over the land of Egypt there may be such darkness[q] that one can feel it. 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was dense darkness throughout the land of Egypt for three days. 23 People could not see one another, nor could they get up from where they were, for three days. But all the Israelites had light where they lived.

24 Pharaoh then summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, serve the Lord. Only your flocks and herds will be detained. Even your little ones may go with you.” 25 But Moses replied, “You also must give us sacrifices and burnt offerings to make to the Lord, our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us. Not an animal must be left behind, for some of them we will select for service[r] to the Lord, our God; but we will not know with which ones we are to serve the Lord until we arrive there.” 27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go. 28 Pharaoh said to Moses, “Leave me, and see to it that you do not see my face again! For the day you do see my face you will die!” 29 Moses replied, “You are right! I will never see your face again.”

Chapter 11

Tenth Plague: The Death of the Firstborn. Then the Lord spoke to Moses: One more plague I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. After that he will let you depart. In fact, when he finally lets you go, he will drive you away. Instruct the people that every man is to ask his neighbor, and every woman her neighbor, for silver and gold articles and for clothing. The Lord indeed made the Egyptians well-disposed toward the people; Moses himself was very highly regarded by Pharaoh’s servants and the people in the land of Egypt.

Moses then said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go forth through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the slave-girl who is at the handmill,[s] as well as all the firstborn of the animals. Then there will be loud wailing throughout the land of Egypt, such as has never been, nor will ever be again. But among all the Israelites, among human beings and animals alike, not even a dog will growl, so that you may know that the Lord distinguishes between Egypt and Israel. All these servants of yours will then come down to me and bow down before me, saying: Leave, you and all your followers! Then I will depart.” With that he left Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger.

The Lord said to Moses: Pharaoh will not listen to you so that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. 10 Thus, although Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go from his land.

Chapter 12

The Passover Ritual Prescribed.[t] The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: [u]This month will stand at the head of your calendar; you will reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every family must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a household is too small for a lamb, it along with its nearest neighbor will procure one, and apportion the lamb’s cost[v] in proportion to the number of persons, according to what each household consumes. Your lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole community of Israel assembled, it will be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They will take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They will consume its meat that same night, eating it roasted with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or even boiled in water, but roasted, with its head and shanks and inner organs. 10 You must not keep any of it beyond the morning; whatever is left over in the morning must be burned up.

11 This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you will eat it in a hurry. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn in the land, human being and beast alike, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the Lord! 13 But for you the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thereby, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.

14 This day will be a day of remembrance for you, which your future generations will celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord; you will celebrate it as a statute forever. 15 For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. From the very first day you will have your houses clear of all leaven. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh will be cut off[w] from Israel. 16 On the first day you will hold a sacred assembly, and likewise on the seventh. On these days no sort of work shall be done, except to prepare the food that everyone needs. 17 Keep, then, the custom of the unleavened bread, since it was on this very day that I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. You must observe this day throughout your generations as a statute forever. 18 From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day of this month you will eat unleavened bread. 19 For seven days no leaven may be found in your houses; for anyone, a resident alien or a native, who eats leavened food will be cut off from the community of Israel. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; wherever you dwell you may eat only unleavened bread.

Promulgation of the Passover. 21 Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and procure lambs for your families, and slaughter the Passover victims. 22 Then take a bunch of hyssop,[x] and dipping it in the blood that is in the basin, apply some of this blood to the lintel and the two doorposts. And none of you shall go outdoors until morning. 23 For when the Lord goes by to strike down the Egyptians, seeing the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you down.

24 “You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants. 25 Thus, when you have entered the land which the Lord will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite. 26 When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ 27 you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’”

Then the people knelt and bowed down, 28 and the Israelites went and did exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

Death of the Firstborn. 29 And so at midnight the Lord struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, as well as all the firstborn of the animals. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was loud wailing throughout Egypt, for there was not a house without its dead.

Permission to Depart. 31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Leave my people at once, you and the Israelites! Go and serve the Lord as you said. 32 Take your flocks, too, and your herds, as you said, and go; and bless me, too!”[y]

33 The Egyptians, in a hurry to send them away from the land, urged the people on, for they said, “All of us will die!” 34 The people, therefore, took their dough before it was leavened, in their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 And the Israelites did as Moses had commanded: they asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 Indeed the Lord had made the Egyptians so well-disposed toward the people that they let them have whatever they asked for. And so they despoiled the Egyptians.

Departure from Egypt. 37 The Israelites set out from Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting the children. 38 A crowd of mixed ancestry[z] also went up with them, with livestock in great abundance, both flocks and herds. 39 The dough they had brought out of Egypt they baked into unleavened loaves. It was not leavened, because they had been driven out of Egypt and could not wait. They did not even prepare food for the journey.

40 The time the Israelites had stayed in Egypt[aa] was four hundred and thirty years. 41 At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on this very date, all the armies of the Lord left the land of Egypt. 42 This was a night of vigil for the Lord, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt; so on this night all Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord throughout their generations.

Law of the Passover. 43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the Passover statute. No foreigner may eat of it. 44 However, every slave bought for money you will circumcise; then he may eat of it. 45 But no tenant or hired worker may eat of it. 46 It must be eaten in one house; you may not take any of its meat outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones.[ab] 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate this feast. 48 If any alien residing among you would celebrate the Passover for the Lord, all his males must be circumcised, and then he may join in its celebration just like the natives. But no one who is uncircumcised may eat of it. 49 There will be one law[ac] for the native and for the alien residing among you.

50 All the Israelites did exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 On that same day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt company by company.

Chapter 13

Consecration of Firstborn. The Lord spoke to Moses and said: Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites, whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.

Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery. For it was with a strong hand that the Lord brought you out from there. Nothing made with leaven may be eaten. This day on which you are going out is in the month of Abib.[ad] Therefore, when the Lord, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perrizites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you will perform the following service[ae] in this month. For seven days you will eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day will also be a festival to the Lord. Unleavened bread may be eaten during the seven days, but nothing leavened and no leaven may be found in your possession in all your territory. And on that day you will explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It will be like a sign[af] on your hand and a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord will be on your lips: with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 You will keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

11 “When the Lord, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, just as he swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you, 12 you will dedicate to the Lord every newborn that opens the womb; and every firstborn male of your animals will belong to the Lord. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you will ransom with a sheep. If you do not ransom it, you will break its neck. Every human firstborn of your sons you must ransom. 14 And when your son asks you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you will tell him, ‘With a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, the firstborn of human being and beast alike. That is why I sacrifice to the Lord every male that opens the womb, and why I ransom every firstborn of my sons.’ 16 It will be like a sign on your hand and a band on your forehead that with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

IV. The Deliverance of the Israelites from Pharaoh and Victory at the Sea

Toward the Red Sea. 17 Now, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the Philistines’ land,[ag] though this was the nearest; for God said: If the people see that they have to fight, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. 18 Instead, God rerouted them toward the Red Sea by way of the wilderness road, and the Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt arrayed for battle. 19 Moses also took Joseph’s bones with him, for Joseph had made the Israelites take a solemn oath, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you must bring my bones up with you from here.”

20 Setting out from Succoth, they camped at Etham near the edge of the wilderness.

21 The Lord preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire[ah] to give them light. Thus they could travel both day and night. 22 Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.

Chapter 14

Then the Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the Israelites: Let them turn about and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. Camp in front of Baal-zephon,[ai] just opposite, by the sea. Pharaoh will then say, “The Israelites are wandering about aimlessly in the land. The wilderness has closed in on them.” I will so harden Pharaoh’s heart that he will pursue them. Thus I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.

This the Israelites did. When it was reported to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart about the people. “What in the world have we done!” they said. “We have released Israel from our service!” So Pharaoh harnessed his chariots and took his army with him. He took six hundred select chariots and all the chariots of Egypt, with officers[aj] on all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites while they were going out in triumph. The Egyptians pursued them—all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, his horsemen,[ak] and his army—and caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea, at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Crossing the Red Sea. 10 Now Pharaoh was near when the Israelites looked up and saw that the Egyptians had set out after them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11 To Moses they said, “Were there no burial places in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? Far better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 But Moses answered the people, “Do not fear! Stand your ground and see the victory the Lord will win for you today. For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

15 Then the Lord said to Moses: Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to set out. 16 And you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea, and split it in two, that the Israelites may pass through the sea on dry land. 17 But I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I receive glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.

19 The angel of God,[al] who had been leading Israel’s army, now moved and went around behind them. And the column of cloud, moving from in front of them, took up its place behind them, 20 so that it came between the Egyptian army and that of Israel. And when it became dark, the cloud illumined the night; and so the rival camps did not come any closer together all night long.[am] 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind all night long and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, 22 so that the Israelites entered into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water as a wall to their right and to their left.

Rout of the Egyptians. 23 The Egyptians followed in pursuit after them—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen—into the midst of the sea. 24 But during the watch just before dawn, the Lord looked down from a column of fiery cloud upon the Egyptian army and threw it into a panic; 25 and he so clogged their chariot wheels that they could drive only with difficulty. With that the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their horsemen. 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal flow. The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward it when the Lord cast the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the horsemen. Of all Pharaoh’s army which had followed the Israelites into the sea, not even one escaped. 29 But the Israelites had walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, with the water as a wall to their right and to their left. 30 Thus the Lord saved Israel on that day from the power of Egypt. When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore 31 and saw the great power that the Lord had shown against Egypt, the people feared the Lord. They believed in the Lord and in Moses his servant.

Chapter 15

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:[an]

I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant;
    horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my refuge is the Lord,
    and he has become my savior.
This is my God, I praise him;
    the God of my father, I extol him.
The Lord is a warrior,
    Lord is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
    the elite of his officers were drowned in the Red Sea.[ao]
The flood waters covered them,
    they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, magnificent in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
In your great majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
    you loosed your wrath to consume them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,
    the flowing waters stood like a mound,
    the flood waters foamed in the midst of the sea.
The enemy boasted, “I will pursue and overtake them;
    I will divide the spoils and have my fill of them;
    I will draw my sword; my hand will despoil them!”
10 When you blew with your breath, the sea covered them;
    like lead they sank in the mighty waters.
11 Who is like you among the gods, O Lord?
    Who is like you, magnificent among the holy ones?
Awe-inspiring in deeds of renown, worker of wonders,
12     when you stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them!
13 In your love[ap] you led the people you redeemed;
    in your strength you guided them to your holy dwelling.
14 The peoples heard and quaked;
    anguish gripped the dwellers in Philistia.
15 Then were the chieftains of Edom dismayed,
    the nobles of Moab seized by trembling;
All the inhabitants of Canaan melted away;
16     terror and dread fell upon them.
By the might of your arm they became silent like stone,
    while your people, Lord, passed over,
    while the people whom you created passed over.[aq]
17 You brought them in, you planted them
    on the mountain that is your own—
The place you made the base of your throne, Lord,
    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.
18 May the Lord reign forever and ever!

19 When Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen entered the sea, the Lord made the waters of the sea flow back upon them, though the Israelites walked on dry land through the midst of the sea. 20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; 21 and she responded[ar] to them:

Sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant;
    horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

V. The Journey in the Wilderness to Sinai

At Marah and Elim. 22 Then Moses led Israel forward from the Red Sea,[as] and they marched out to the wilderness of Shur. After traveling for three days through the wilderness without finding water, 23 they arrived at Marah, where they could not drink its water, because it was too bitter. Hence this place was called Marah. 24 As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” 25 he cried out to the Lord, who pointed out to him a piece of wood. When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.

It was here that God, in making statutes and ordinances for them, put them to the test. 26 He said: If you listen closely to the voice of the Lord, your God, and do what is right in his eyes: if you heed his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases with which I afflicted the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

Chapter 16

The Wilderness of Sin. Having set out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came into the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month[at] after their departure from the land of Egypt. Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!”

The Quail and the Manna. Then the Lord said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven[au] for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days. So Moses and Aaron told all the Israelites, “At evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, when he hears your grumbling against him. But who are we that you should grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and in the morning your fill of bread, and hears the grumbling you utter against him, who then are we? Your grumbling is not against us, but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole Israelite community: Approach the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.” 10 But while Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they turned in the direction of the wilderness, and there the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud! 11 The Lord said to Moses: 12 I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the Lord, am your God.

13 In the evening, quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp, 14 and when the layer of dew evaporated, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness, fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. 15 On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”[av] for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.

Regulations Regarding the Manna. 16 “Now, this is what the Lord has commanded. Gather as much of it as each needs to eat, an omer[aw] for each person for as many of you as there are, each of you providing for those in your own tent.” 17 The Israelites did so. Some gathered a large and some a small amount. 18 [ax]But when they measured it out by the omer, the one who had gathered a large amount did not have too much, and the one who had gathered a small amount did not have too little. They gathered as much as each needed to eat. 19 Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses, and some kept a part of it over until morning, and it became wormy and stank. Therefore Moses was angry with them.

21 Morning after morning they gathered it, as much as each needed to eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers for each person. When all the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses, 23 he told them, “That is what the Lord has prescribed. Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy sabbath of the Lord. Whatever you want to bake, bake; whatever you want to boil, boil; but whatever is left put away and keep until the morning.” 24 When they put it away until the morning, as Moses commanded, it did not stink nor were there worms in it. 25 Moses then said, “Eat it today, for today is the sabbath of the Lord. Today you will not find any in the field. 26 Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, it will not be there.” 27 Still, on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it, but they did not find any. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses: How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my instructions? 29 Take note! The Lord has given you the sabbath. That is why on the sixth day he gives you food for two days. Each of you stay where you are and let no one go out on the seventh day. 30 After that the people rested on the seventh day.

31 The house of Israel named this food manna. It was like coriander seed,[ay] white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey.

32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded. Keep a full omer of it for your future generations, so that they may see the food I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” 33 Moses then told Aaron, “Take a jar[az] and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to keep it for your future generations.” 34 As the Lord had commanded Moses, Aaron placed it in front of the covenant[ba] to keep it.

35 The Israelites ate the manna for forty years, until they came to settled land; they ate the manna until they came to the borders of Canaan. 36 (An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)[bb]

Chapter 17

Water from the Rock. From the wilderness of Sin the whole Israelite community journeyed by stages, as the Lord directed, and encamped at Rephidim.

But there was no water for the people to drink, and so they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to a test?” Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” The Lord answered Moses: Go on ahead of the people, and take along with you some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the Nile. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. Moses did this, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah,[bc] because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”

Battle with Amalek. Then Amalek[bd] came and waged war against Israel in Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle while Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. 12 Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they took a rock and put it under him and he sat on it. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset. 13 And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses: Write this down in a book as something to be remembered, and recite it to Joshua: I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. 15 Moses built an altar there, which he named Yahweh-nissi;[be] 16 for he said, “Take up the banner of the Lord![bf] The Lord has a war against Amalek through the ages.”

Chapter 18

Meeting with Jethro. Now Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel: how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. So his father-in-law Jethro took along Zipporah, Moses’ wife—now this was after Moses had sent her back—[bg] and her two sons. One of these was named Gershom; for he said, “I am a resident alien in a foreign land.” The other was named Eliezer; for he said, “The God of my father is my help; he has rescued me from Pharaoh’s sword.” Together with Moses’ wife and sons, then, his father-in-law Jethro came to him in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God,[bh] and he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, along with your wife and her two sons.”

Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and then kissed him. Having greeted each other, they went into the tent. Moses then told his father-in-law of all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for the sake of Israel, and of all the hardships that had beset them on their journey, and how the Lord had rescued them. Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness that the Lord had shown Israel in rescuing them from the power of the Egyptians. 10 “Blessed be the Lord,” he said, “who has rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for he rescued the people from the power of the Egyptians when they treated them arrogantly.” 12 Then Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, brought a burnt offering[bi] and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to share with Moses’ father-in-law in the meal before God.

Appointment of Minor Judges. 13 The next day Moses sat in judgment for the people, while they stood around him from morning until evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he asked, “What is this business that you are conducting for the people? Why do you sit alone while all the people have to stand about you from morning till evening?” 15 Moses answered his father-in-law, “The people come to me to consult God. 16 Whenever they have a disagreement, they come to me to have me settle the matter between them and make known to them God’s statutes and instructions.”

17 “What you are doing is not wise,” Moses’ father-in-law replied. 18 “You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. 19 [bj]Now, listen to me, and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. Act as the people’s representative before God, and bring their disputes to God. 20 Enlighten them in regard to the statutes and instructions, showing them how they are to conduct themselves and what they are to do. 21 But you should also look among all the people for able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and set them over the people as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 Let these render decisions for the people in all routine cases. Every important case they should refer to you, but every lesser case they can settle themselves. Lighten your burden by letting them bear it with you! 23 If you do this, and God so commands you,[bk] you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people, too, will go home content.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 He picked out able men from all Israel and put them in charge of the people as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 They rendered decisions for the people in all routine cases. The more difficult cases they referred to Moses, but all the lesser cases they settled themselves. 27 Then Moses said farewell to his father-in-law, who went off to his own country.

VI. Covenant and Legislation at Mount Sinai

Chapter 19

Arrival at Sinai. In the third month after the Israelites’ departure from the land of Egypt, on the first day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai. After they made the journey from Rephidim and entered the wilderness of Sinai, they then pitched camp in the wilderness.[bl]

While Israel was encamped there in front of the mountain, Moses went up to the mountain of God. Then the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying: This is what you will say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites: You have seen how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now, if you obey me completely and keep my covenant,[bm] you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, though all the earth is mine. You will be to me a kingdom of priests,[bn] a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites. So Moses went and summoned the elders of the people. When he set before them all that the Lord had ordered him to tell them, all the people answered together, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do.” Then Moses brought back to the Lord the response of the people.

The Lord said to Moses: I am coming to you now in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they will also remain faithful to you.

When Moses, then, had reported the response of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses: Go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow. Have them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Set limits for the people all around, saying: Take care not to go up the mountain, or even to touch its edge. All who touch the mountain must be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch them, but they must be stoned to death or killed with arrows. Whether human being or beast, they must not be allowed to live. Only when the ram’s horn sounds may they go up on the mountain.[bo] 14 Then Moses came down from the mountain to the people and had them sanctify themselves, and they washed their garments. 15 He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day. Do not approach a woman.”

The Great Theophany. 16 On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar,[bp] so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 But Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the Lord had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 The blast of the shofar grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God was answering him with thunder.

20 [bq]When the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 Then the Lord told Moses: Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord in order to see him; otherwise many of them will be struck down. 22 For their part, the priests, who approach the Lord must sanctify themselves; else the Lord will break out in anger against them. 23 But Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot go up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying: Set limits around the mountain to make it sacred.” 24 So the Lord said to him: Go down and come up along with Aaron. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord; else he will break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.

Chapter 20

The Ten Commandments.[br] Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.[bs] You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything[bt] in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation[bu]; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.[bv] For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain.

Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy.[bw] Six days you may labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.[bx]

12 [by]Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 You shall not kill.[bz]

14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Moses Accepted as Mediator. 18 Now as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the shofar and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled. So they took up a position farther away 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die.” 20 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.” 21 So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

The Covenant Code. 22 [ca]The Lord said to Moses: This is what you will say to the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven. 23 You shall not make alongside of me gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth make for me, and sacrifice upon it your burnt offerings and communion sacrifices, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be invoked[cb] I will come to you and bless you. 25 But if you make an altar of stone for me, do not build it of cut stone, for by putting a chisel to it you profane it. 26 You shall not ascend to my altar by steps, lest your nakedness be exposed.

Chapter 21

Laws Regarding Slaves. These are the ordinances[cc] you shall lay before them. When you purchase a Hebrew slave,[cd] he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall leave as a free person without any payment. If he comes into service alone, he shall leave alone; if he comes with a wife, his wife shall leave with him. But if his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children belong to her master and the man shall leave alone. If, however, the slave declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children; I will not leave as a free person,’ his master shall bring him to God[ce] and there, at the door or doorpost, he shall pierce his ear with an awl, thus keeping him as his slave forever.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go free as male slaves do. But if she displeases her master, who had designated her[cf] for himself, he shall let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall treat her according to the ordinance for daughters. 10 If he takes another wife, he shall not withhold her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11 If he does not do these three things for her, she may leave without cost, without any payment.

Personal Injury. 12 [cg]Whoever strikes someone a mortal blow must be put to death. 13 However, regarding the one who did not hunt another down, but God caused death to happen by his hand, I will set apart for you a place to which that one may flee. 14 But when someone kills a neighbor after maliciously scheming to do so, you must take him even from my altar and put him to death. 15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.[ch]

16 A kidnapper, whether he sells the person or the person is found in his possession, shall be put to death.

17 Whoever curses[ci] father or mother shall be put to death.

18 When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, not mortally, but enough to put him in bed, 19 the one who struck the blow shall be acquitted, provided the other can get up and walk around with the help of his staff. Still, he must compensate him for his recovery time and make provision for his complete healing.

20 When someone strikes his male or female slave with a rod so that the slave dies under his hand, the act shall certainly be avenged. 21 If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

22 [cj]When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. 23 But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 When someone strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye. 27 If he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the tooth.

28 When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned; its meat may not be eaten. The owner of the ox, however, shall be free of blame. 29 But if an ox was previously in the habit of goring people and its owner, though warned, would not watch it; should it then kill a man or a woman, not only must the ox be stoned, but its owner also must be put to death. 30 If, however, a fine is imposed on him, he must pay in ransom[ck] for his life whatever amount is imposed on him. 31 This ordinance applies if it is a boy or a girl that the ox gores. 32 But if it is a male or a female slave that it gores, he must pay the owner of the slave thirty shekels of silver, and the ox must be stoned.

Property Damage. 33 When someone uncovers or digs a cistern and does not cover it over again, should an ox or a donkey fall into it, 34 the owner of the cistern must make good by restoring the value of the animal to its owner, but the dead animal he may keep.

35 When one man’s ox hurts another’s ox and it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide this money as well as the dead animal equally between them. 36 But if it was known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner would not watch it, he must make full restitution, an ox for an ox; but the dead animal he may keep.

37 When someone steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for the one ox, and four sheep for the one sheep.

Chapter 22

[If a thief is caught[cl] in the act of housebreaking and beaten to death, there is no bloodguilt involved. But if after sunrise he is thus beaten, there is bloodguilt.] He must make full restitution. If he has nothing, he shall be sold to pay for his theft. If what he stole is found alive in his possession, be it an ox, a donkey or a sheep, he shall make twofold restitution.

When someone causes a field or a vineyard to be grazed over, by sending his cattle to graze in another’s field, he must make restitution with the best produce of his own field or vineyard. If a fire breaks out, catches on to thorn bushes, and consumes shocked grain, standing grain, or the field itself, the one who started the fire must make full restitution.

Trusts and Loans. When someone gives money or articles to another for safekeeping and they are stolen from the latter’s house, the thief, if caught, must make twofold restitution. If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house shall be brought to God,[cm] to swear that he himself did not lay hands on his neighbor’s property. In every case of dishonest appropriation, whether it be about an ox, or a donkey, or a sheep, or a garment, or anything else that has disappeared, where another claims that the thing is his, the claim of both parties shall be brought before God; the one whom God convicts must make twofold restitution to the other.

When someone gives an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any other animal to another for safekeeping, if it dies, or is maimed or snatched away, without anyone witnessing the fact, 10 there shall be an oath before the Lord between the two of them that the guardian did not lay hands on his neighbor’s property; the owner must accept the oath, and no restitution is to be made. 11 But if the guardian has actually stolen from it, then he must make restitution to the owner. 12 If it has been killed by a wild beast, let him bring it as evidence; he need not make restitution for the mangled animal.

13 When someone borrows an animal from a neighbor, if it is maimed or dies while the owner is not present, that one must make restitution. 14 But if the owner is present, that one need not make restitution. If it was hired, this was covered by the price of its hire.

Social Laws. 15 When a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall make her his wife by paying the bride price. 16 If her father refuses to give her to him, he must still pay him the bride price for virgins.[cn]

17 You shall not let a woman who practices sorcery live.

18 Anyone who lies with an animal shall be put to death.

19 Whoever sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord alone, shall be put under the ban.

20 You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. 21 You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 22 If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. 23 My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

24 If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them. 25 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; 26 for this is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What will he sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate.

27 You shall not despise God,[co] nor curse a leader of your people.

28 You shall not delay the offering of your harvest and your press. You shall give me the firstborn of your sons. 29 You must do the same with your oxen and your sheep; for seven days the firstling may stay with its mother, but on the eighth day you must give it to me.

30 You shall be a people sacred to me. Flesh torn to pieces in the field you shall not eat; you must throw it to the dogs.

Chapter 23

You shall not repeat a false report. Do not join your hand with the wicked to be a witness supporting violence. You shall not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When testifying in a lawsuit, you shall not follow the crowd in perverting justice. You shall not favor the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you must see to it that it is returned. When you notice the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you should not desert him; you must help him with it.

You shall not pervert justice for the needy among you in a lawsuit. You shall keep away from anything dishonest. The innocent and the just you shall not put to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Never take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and distorts the words of the just. You shall not oppress a resident alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.

Religious Laws. 10 For six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce. 11 But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and fallow, that the poor of your people may eat of it and their leftovers the wild animals may eat. So also shall you do in regard to your vineyard and your olive grove.

12 For six days you may do your work, but on the seventh day you must rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and that the son of your maidservant and the resident alien may be refreshed. 13 Give heed to all that I have told you.

You shall not mention the name of any other god; it shall not be heard from your lips.

14 Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me.[cp] 15 You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread. As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me[cq] empty-handed. 16 You shall also keep the feast of the grain harvest with the first fruits of the crop that you sow in the field; and finally, the feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you collect your produce from the fields. 17 Three times a year shall all your men appear before the Lord God.

18 You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened; nor shall the fat of my feast be kept overnight till the next day. 19 The choicest first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord, your God.

You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.[cr]

Reward of Fidelity. 20 See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Be attentive to him and obey him. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin. My authority is within him.[cs] 22 If you obey him and carry out all I tell you, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.

23 My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out. 24 Therefore, you shall not bow down to their gods and serve them, nor shall you act as they do; rather, you must demolish them and smash their sacred stones.[ct] 25 You shall serve the Lord, your God; then he will bless your food and drink, and I will remove sickness from your midst; 26 no woman in your land will be barren or miscarry; and I will give you a full span of life.

27 I will have the terror of me precede you, so that I will throw into panic every nation you reach. I will make all your enemies turn from you in flight, 28 and ahead of you I will send hornets[cu] to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. 29 But I will not drive them all out before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild animals multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have grown numerous enough to take possession of the land. 31 I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines,[cv] and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; all who dwell in this land I will hand over to you and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall not make a covenant with them or their gods. 33 They must not live in your land. For if you serve their gods, this will become a snare to you.

Chapter 24

Ratification of the Covenant. Moses himself was told: Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, with Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You shall bow down at a distance. Moses alone is to come close to the Lord; the others shall not come close, and the people shall not come up with them.

When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the Lord, they all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord and, rising early in the morning, he built at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve sacred stones[cw] for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will hear and do.” Then he took the blood and splashed it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”

Footnotes:

  1. 7:1 Prophet: Hebrew nabi, one who can legitimately speak for God and in God’s name to another or others. Just as God spoke to Moses, so Moses will speak to Aaron, who will be a “prophet” to Pharaoh. Cf. 4:16.
  2. 7:14–12:30 After a brief preface (vv. 8–13) drawn from the Priestly source, a narrative depicting the series of ten disasters that God brings upon Pharaoh because of his stubbornness ensues. Although most of these disasters, known traditionally as the “ten plagues of Egypt,” could be interpreted as naturally occurring phenomena, they are clearly represented by the biblical authors as extraordinary events indicative of God’s intervention on behalf of Israel and as occurring exactly according to Moses’ commands. See Ps 78:43–51 and 105:27–36 for poetic versions of these plagues, which also differ significantly from the account here.
  3. 7:14 Pharaoh is obstinate: lit., “Pharaoh’s heart is heavy” (kabed); thus not precisely the same Hebrew idiom as found in vv. 13 and 22, “stubborn,” lit., “Pharaoh’s heart was hard(ened)” (hazaq) (cf. the related idiom with Pharaoh as the object, e.g., 4:21).
  4. 7:15 The staff that turned into a snake: the allusion is to 4:2–4 rather than 7:9–12. The latter comes from the hand of the Priestly writer and features Aaron—with his staff—as the principal actor.
  5. 7:22 The Egyptian magicians did the same: this is an exaggeration, presumably influenced by the similar statement in v. 11; whereas the magicians could turn their staffs into snakes after Aaron had done so, after Aaron’s sign there should not have been any water in Egypt still unchanged to blood for the magicians “to do the same” with it (cf. v. 24).
  6. 8:12, 17 Gnats, flies: it is uncertain what species of troublesome insects are meant here in vv. 12–14 and then in vv. 17–27, the identification as “gnat” (vv. 12–14) and as “fly” (vv. 17–27) being based on the rendering of the Septuagint. Others suggest “lice” in vv. 12–14, while rabbinic literature renders Hebrew ‘arob in vv. 17–27 as a “mixture of wild animals.” In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word occurs only in the context of the plagues (see also Ps 78:45 and 105:31).
  7. 8:15 The finger of God: previously the magicians had, for the most part, been able to replicate the signs and wonders Moses performed to manifest God’s power—turning their staffs into snakes (7:11–12), turning water into blood (7:22), and producing frogs to overrun the land of Egypt (8:3). But now for the first time they are unable to compete, and confess a power greater than their own is at work. Cf. Lk 11:20.
  8. 8:19 A distinction: while some uncertainty surrounds the Hebrew here rendered as “distinction,” it is clear that now the Israelites begin to be set apart from the Egyptians, a separation that reaches a climax in the death of the Egyptian firstborn (11:7).
  9. 8:22 Perhaps Moses is deceiving the Pharaoh much like the “God-fearing” midwives (1:16–20), although ancient historians writing about Egypt some time after the period in which the exodus is set do note Egyptian prohibitions on sacrificing cattle or slaughtering sacred animals. As such, the Egyptians might well have fiercely resented certain sacrificial practices of the Israelites. Certain animals were held sacred in Egypt, as the representations of various deities.
  10. 9:9 Boils: the exact nature of the disease is not clear. Semitic cognates, for example, suggest the Hebrew root means “to be hot” and thus point to some sort of inflammation. The fact that soot taken from the kiln is the agent of the disease would point in the same direction. See further Lv 13:18–23; Dt 28:35; 2 Kgs 20:7.
  11. 9:16 To show you: some ancient versions such as the Septuagint read, “to show through you.” Cf. Rom 9:17.
  12. 9:28 Thunder: lit., “divine voices,” “voices of God,” or the like.
  13. 10:10 The Lord help you…: lit., “May the Lord be with you in the same way as I let you…”; a sarcastic blessing intended as a curse.
  14. 10:11 Pharaoh realized that if the men alone went they would have to return to their families. He suspected that the Hebrews had no intention of returning.
  15. 10:13 East wind: coming across the desert from Arabia, the strong east wind brings Egypt the burning sirocco and, at times, locusts. Cf. 14:21.
  16. 10:19 The Red Sea: the traditional translation, cf. Septuagint and other Versions; but the Hebrew literally means “sea of reeds” or “reedy sea,” which could probably be applied to a number of bodies of shallow water, most likely somewhat to the north of the present deep Red Sea.
  17. 10:21 Darkness: commentators note that at times a storm from the south, called the khamsin, blackens the sky of Egypt with sand from the Sahara; the dust in the air is then so thick that the darkness can, in a sense, “be felt.” But such observations should not obscure the fact that for the biblical author what transpires in each of the plagues is clearly something extraordinary, an event which witnesses to the unrivaled power of Israel’s God.
  18. 10:26 Service: as is obvious from v. 25, the service in question here is the offering of sacrifice. The continued use of the verb ‘bd “to serve” and related nouns for both the people’s bondage in Egypt and their subsequent service to the Lord dramatizes the point of the conflict between Pharaoh and the God of Israel, who demands from the Israelites an attachment which is exclusive. See Lv 25:55.
  19. 11:5 Handmill: two pieces of stone were used to grind grain. A smaller upper stone was moved back and forth over a larger stationary stone. This menial work was done by slaves and captives.
  20. 12:1–20 This section, which interrupts the narrative of the exodus, contains later legislation concerning the celebration of Passover.
  21. 12:2 As if to affirm victory over Pharaoh and sovereignty over the Israelites, the Lord proclaims a new calendar for Israel. This month: Abib, the month of “ripe grain.” Cf. 13:4; 23:15; 34:18; Dt 16:1. It occurred near the vernal equinox, March–April. Later it was known by the Babylonian name of Nisan. Cf. Neh 2:1; Est 3:7.
  22. 12:4 The lamb’s cost: some render the Hebrew, “reckon for the lamb the number of persons required to eat it.” Cf. v. 10.
  23. 12:15 Cut off: a common Priestly term, not easily reduced to a simple English equivalent, since its usage appears to involve a number of associated punishments, some or all of which may come into play in any instance of the term’s use. These included the excommunication of the offender from the Israelite community, the premature death of the offender, the eventual eradication of the offender’s posterity, and finally the loss by the offender of all ancestral holdings.
  24. 12:22 Hyssop: a plant with many small woody branches that was convenient for a sprinkling rite.
  25. 12:32 Bless me, too: in a final and humiliating admission of defeat, once again Pharaoh asks Moses to intercede for him (cf. 8:24). However, Pharaoh may be speaking sarcastically.
  26. 12:38 Mixed ancestry: not simply descendants of Jacob; cf. Nm 11:4; Lv 24:10–11.
  27. 12:40 In Egypt: according to the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch “in Canaan and Egypt,” thus reckoning from the time of Abraham. Cf. Gal 3:17.
  28. 12:46 You shall not break any of its bones: the application of these words to Jesus on the cross (Jn 19:36) sees the Paschal lamb as a prophetic type of Christ, sacrificed to free men and women from the bondage of sin. Cf. also 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.
  29. 12:49 One law: the first appearance of the word torah, traditionally translated as “law,” though it can have the broader meaning of “teaching” or “instruction.” Elsewhere, too, it is said that the “alien” is to be accorded the same treatment as the Israelite (e.g., Lv 19:34).
  30. 13:4 Abib: lit., “ear (of grain),” the old Canaanite name for this month; Israel later called it “Nisan.” It was the first month in their liturgical calendar (cf. Ex 12:2).
  31. 13:5 The following service: the celebration of the feast of Unleavened Bread now constitutes the Israelites’ service, in contrast to the “service” they performed for Pharaoh as his slaves.
  32. 13:9 Sign: while here observance of the feast of Unleavened Bread is likened only metaphorically to a physical sign of one’s piety that can be worn as a kind of badge in commemoration of the exodus, from ancient times Jews have seen in this verse also the basis for the wearing of phylacteries. These are small receptacles for copies of biblical verses which Jewish men bind to the arms and forehead as a kind of mnemonic device for the observance of the Law.
  33. 13:17 By way of the Philistines’ land: the most direct route from Egypt to Palestine, along the shore of the Mediterranean.
  34. 13:21 A column of cloud…a column of fire: probably one and the same extraordinary phenomenon, a central nucleus of fire surrounded by smoke; only at night was its luminous nature visible; cf. 40:38.
  35. 14:2 Pi-hahiroth…Migdol…Baal-zephon: these places have not been definitively identified. Even the relative position of Pi-hahiroth and Baal-zephon is not clear; perhaps the former was on the west shore of the sea, where the Israelites were, and the latter on the opposite shore.
  36. 14:7 Officers: cf. 1 Kgs 9:22; Ez 23:15. The Hebrew word shalish, rendered in 1 Kgs 9:22 as “adjutant,” has yet to have its meaning convincingly established. Given the very possible etymological connection with the number “three,” others suggest the translation “three-man crew” or, less likely, the “third man in the chariot” although Egyptian chariots carried two-man crews. The author of the text may have been describing the chariots of his experience without direct historical knowledge of Egyptian ways.
  37. 14:9 Horsemen: the usage here may be anachronistic, since horsemen, or cavalry, play a part in warfare only at the end of the second millennium B.C.
  38. 14:19 Angel of God: Hebrew mal’ak ha’elohim (Septuagint ho angelos tou theou) here refers not to an independent spiritual being but to God’s power at work in the world; corresponding to the column of cloud/fire, the expression more clearly preserves a sense of distance between God and God’s creatures. The two halves of the verse are parallel and may come from different narrative sources.
  39. 14:20 The reading of the Hebrew text here is uncertain. The image is of a darkly glowing storm cloud, ominously bright, keeping the two camps apart.
  40. 15:1–21

    This poem, regarded by many scholars as one of the oldest compositions in the Bible, was once an independent work. It has been inserted at this important juncture in the large narrative of Exodus to celebrate God’s saving power, having miraculously delivered the people from their enemies, and ultimately leading them to the promised land.

    Although the victory it describes over the Egyptians at the sea bears a superficial resemblance in v. 8 to the preceding depiction of the water standing like a wall (14:22), the poem (as opposed to the following prose verse, v. 19) suggests a different version of the victory at sea than that found in chap. 14. There is no splitting of the sea in an act reminiscent of the Lord’s combat at creation with the sea monsters Rahab and Leviathan (Jb 9:13; 26:12; Ps 74:13–14; 89:11; Is 51:9–10); nor is there mention of an east wind driving the waters back so that the Israelites can cross. In this version it is by means of a storm at sea, caused by a ferocious blast from his nostrils, that the Lord achieves a decisive victory against Pharaoh and his army (vv. 1–12). The second half of the poem (vv. 13–18) describes God’s guidance into the promised land.

  41. 15:4 Red Sea: the traditional translation of the Hebrew yam suph, which actually means “Sea of Reeds” or “reedy sea.” The location is uncertain, though in view of the route taken by the Israelites from Egypt to Sinai, it could not have been the Red Sea, which is too far south. It was probably a smaller body of water south of the Gulf of Suez. The term occurs also in Exodus at 10:19; 13:18; and 23:31.
  42. 15:13 Love: the very important Hebrew term hesed carries a variety of nuances depending on context: love, kindness, faithfulness. It is often rendered “steadfast love.” It implies a relationship that generates an obligation and therefore is at home in a covenant context. Cf. 20:6.
  43. 15:16 Passed over: an allusion to the crossing of the Jordan River (cf. Jos 3–5), written as if the entry into the promised land had already occurred. This verse suggests that at one time there was a ritual enactment of the conquest at a shrine near the Jordan River which included also a celebration of the victory at the sea.
  44. 15:21 She responded: Miriam’s refrain echoes the first verse of this song and was probably sung as an antiphon after each verse.
  45. 15:22 Red Sea: see note on Ex 15:4.
  46. 16:1 On the fifteenth day of the second month: just one full month after their departure from Egypt. Cf. 12:2, 51; Nm 33:3–4. The Septuagint takes the date to be the beginning of the Israelites’ grumbling.
  47. 16:4 Bread from heaven: as a gift from God, the manna is said to come down from the sky. Cf. Ps 78:24–25; Wis 16:20. Perhaps it was similar to a natural substance that is still found in small quantities on the Sinai peninsula—probably the honey-like resin from the tamarisk tree—but here it is, at least in part, clearly an extraordinary sign of God’s providence. With reference to Jn 6:32, 49–52, the Christian tradition has regarded the manna as a type of the Eucharist. Test: as the text stands, it seems to leave open the question whether the test concerns trusting in God to provide them with the daily gift of food or observing the sabbath instructions.
  48. 16:15 What is this: the Hebrew man hu is thus rendered by the ancient versions, which understood the phrase as a popular etymology of the Hebrew word man, “manna”; but some render man hu, “This is manna.”
  49. 16:16 Omer: a dry measure of approximately two quarts.
  50. 16:18 Paul cites this passage as an example of equitable sharing (2 Cor 8:15).
  51. 16:31 Coriander seed: small, round, aromatic seeds of bright brown color; the comparison, therefore, refers merely to the size and shape, not to the taste or color of the manna.
  52. 16:33 Jar: according to the Greek translation, which is followed in Hb 9:4, this was a golden vessel.
  53. 16:34 The covenant: i.e., the ark of the covenant, in which were placed the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. Cf. 25:16, 21–22.
  54. 16:36 Omer…ephah: see note on Is 5:10.
  55. 17:7 Massah…Meribah: Hebrew words meaning, respectively, “the place of the test” and “the place of strife, of quarreling.”
  56. 17:8 Amalek: the Amalekites appear in the Bible as early inhabitants of southern Palestine and the Sinai peninsula prior to the appearance of the Israelites in the region. Cf. Nm 24:20.
  57. 17:15 Yahweh-nissi: meaning, “the Lord is my banner.”
  58. 17:16 Take up the banner of the Lord: lit., “a hand on the Lord’s banner,” apparently a war cry for the Israelite troops in the conduct of Holy War; however, the Hebrew text is difficult to interpret.
  59. 18:2 Moses had sent her back: a later gloss which attempts to harmonize Zipporah’s presence with Jethro here in this story and the account of Moses’ return to Egypt with Zipporah in 4:20.
  60. 18:5 The allusion to meeting Moses encamped at the mountain of God, prior to the arrival of the Israelites at Sinai in chap. 19, might well suggest a different narrative context for this story from an earlier stage of the biblical tradition’s development. It is noteworthy that immediately after the Sinai pericope (Ex 19:1–Nm 10:28), recounting the theophany at Sinai and the giving of the law, the narrative of Israel’s march through the wilderness resumes with an apparent doublet of the visit by Moses’ father-in-law (Nm 10:29–32).
  61. 18:12 That a non-Israelite, such as Jethro, should bless Israel’s God by way of acknowledging what God had done for Israel (v. 10) is not entirely surprising; but the Midianite priest’s sacrifice to the God of Israel, including his presiding over a sacrificial meal with Aaron and the elders of Israel, is unusual, suggesting that he was himself already a worshiper of Yhwh, Israel’s God. Note further in this connection the role Jethro takes in the following narrative (vv. 13–27) in instituting a permanent judiciary for the Israelites. Burnt offering: a sacrifice wholly burnt up as an offering to God.
  62. 18:19–20 By emphasizing Moses’ mediatorial role for the people before God in regard to God’s statutes and instructions, this story about the institution of Israel’s judiciary prepares for Moses’ role in the upcoming revelation of the law at Sinai.
  63. 18:23 And God so commands you: i.e., and God approves.
  64. 19:2 Apparently from a different source (P) than v. 1, which notes the date, v. 2 from the J source includes a second notice of the arrival in the wilderness of Sinai. The Israelites now will be camped at Sinai from this point on all the way to Nm 10:10. This is a striking indication of the centrality and importance of the Sinai narrative in the overall composition of the Pentateuch.
  65. 19:5 Covenant: while covenants between individuals and between nations are ubiquitous in the ancient Near East, the adaptation of this concept to express the relationship that will henceforth characterize God’s relationship to Israel represents an important innovation of biblical faith. Other gods might “choose” nations to fulfill a special destiny or role in the world; but only Israel’s God is bound to a people by covenant. Thereby Israel’s identity as a people is put upon a foundation that does not depend upon the vicissitudes of Israelite statehood or the normal trappings of national existence. Israel will be a covenant people.
  66. 19:6 Kingdom of priests: inasmuch as this phrase is parallel to “holy nation,” it most likely means that the whole Israelite nation is set apart from other nations and so consecrated to God, or holy, in the way priests are among the people (cf. Is 61:6; 1 Pt 2:5, 9).
  67. 19:13 May they go up on the mountain: in vv. 12–13a, a later Priestly reshaping of an earlier version of the instructions governing how the people are to prepare for the encounter with God (vv. 10–11, 13b), the people are to be restrained from ascending the mountain, which is suffused with the holiness of God and too dangerous for their approach. In the earlier version, as v. 13b suggests, the sanctified people must come near, in order to hear God speaking with Moses (v. 9) and in this way receive confirmation of his special relationship with God.
  68. 19:16 Shofar: a ram’s horn used like a trumpet for signaling both for liturgical and military purposes.
  69. 19:20–25 At this point the Priestly additions of vv. 12–13a are elaborated with further Priestly instructions, which include the priests’ sanctifying themselves apart from the people (v. 22) and Aaron accompanying Moses to the top of the mountain (v. 24).
  70. 20:1–17

    The precise numbering and division of these precepts into “ten commandments” is somewhat uncertain. Traditionally among Catholics and Lutherans vv. 1–6 are considered as only one commandment, and v. 17 as two. The Anglican, Greek Orthodox, and Reformed churches count vv. 1–6 as two, and v. 17 as one. Cf. Dt 5:6–21. The traditional designation as “ten” is not found here but in 34:28 (and also Dt 4:13 and 10:4), where these precepts are alluded to literally as “the ten words.” That they were originally written on two tablets appears in Ex 32:15–16; 34:28–29; Dt 4:13; 10:2–4.

    The present form of the commands is a product of a long development, as is clear from the fact that the individual precepts vary considerably in length and from the slightly different formulation of Dt 5:6–21 (see especially vv. 12–15 and 21). Indeed they represent a mature formulation of a traditional morality. Why this specific selection of commands should be set apart is not entirely clear. None of them is unique in the Old Testament and all of the laws which follow are also from God and equally binding on the Israelites. Even so, this collection represents a privileged expression of God’s moral demands on Israel and is here set apart from the others as a direct, unmediated communication of God to the Israelites and the basis of the covenant being concluded on Sinai.

  71. 20:3

    Beside me: this commandment is traditionally understood as an outright denial of the existence of other gods except the God of Israel; however, in the context of the more general prohibitions in vv. 4–5, v. 3 is, more precisely, God’s demand for Israel’s exclusive worship and allegiance.

    The Hebrew phrase underlying the translation “beside me” is, nonetheless, problematic and has been variously translated, e.g., “except me,” “in addition to me,” “in preference to me,” “in defiance of me,” and “in front of me” or “before my face.” The latter translation, with its concrete, spatial nuances, has suggested to some that the prohibition once sought to exclude from the Lord’s sanctuary the cult images or idols of other gods, such as the asherah, or stylized sacred tree of life, associated with the Canaanite goddess Asherah (34:13). Over the course of time, as vv. 4–5 suggest, the original scope of v. 3 was expanded.

  72. 20:4 Or a likeness of anything: compare this formulation to that found in Dt 5:8, which understands this phrase and the following phrases as specifications of the prohibited idol (Hebrew pesel), which usually refers to an image that is carved or hewn rather than cast.
  73. 20:5 Jealous: demanding exclusive allegiance. Inflicting punishment…the third and fourth generation: the intended emphasis is on God’s mercy by the contrast between punishment and mercy (“to the thousandth generation”—v. 6). Other Old Testament texts repudiate the idea of punishment devolving on later generations (cf. Dt 24:16; Jer 31:29–30; Ez 18:2–4). Yet it is known that later generations may suffer the punishing effects of sins of earlier generations, but not the guilt.
  74. 20:7 In vain: i.e., to no good purpose, a general framing of the prohibition which includes swearing falsely, especially in the context of a legal proceeding, but also goes beyond it (cf. Lv 24:16; Prv 30:8–9).
  75. 20:8 Keep it holy: i.e., to set it apart from the other days of the week, in part, as the following verse explains, by not doing work that is ordinarily done in the course of a week. The special importance of this command can be seen in the fact that, together with vv. 9–11, it represents the longest of the Decalogue’s precepts.
  76. 20:11 Here, in a formulation which reflects Priestly theology, the veneration of the sabbath is grounded in God’s own hallowing of the sabbath in creation. Compare 31:13; Dt 5:15.
  77. 20:12–17 The Decalogue falls into two parts: the preceding precepts refer to God, the following refer primarily to one’s fellow Israelites.
  78. 20:13 Kill: as frequent instances of killing in the context of war or certain crimes (see vv. 12–18) demonstrate in the Old Testament, not all killing comes within the scope of the commandment. For this reason, the Hebrew verb translated here as “kill” is often understood as “murder,” although it is in fact used in the Old Testament at times for unintentional acts of killing (e.g., Dt 4:41; Jos 20:3) and for legally sanctioned killing (Nm 35:30). The term may originally have designated any killing of another Israelite, including acts of manslaughter, for which the victim’s kin could exact vengeance. In the present context, it denotes the killing of one Israelite by another, motivated by hatred or the like (Nm 35:20; cf. Hos 6:9).
  79. 20:22–23:33 This collection consists of the civil and religious laws, both apodictic (absolute) and casuistic (conditional), which were given to the people through the mediation of Moses. They will be written down by Moses in 24:4.
  80. 20:24 Where I cause my name to be invoked: i.e., at the sacred site where God wishes to be worshiped. Dt 12 will demand the centralization of all sacrificial worship in one place chosen by God.
  81. 21:1 Ordinances: judicial precedents to be used in settling questions of law and custom. More than half of the civil and religious laws in this collection (20:22–23:33), designated in 24:7 as “the book of the covenant,” have parallels in the cuneiform laws of the ancient Near East. It is clear that Israel participated in a common legal culture with its neighbors.
  82. 21:2 Slave: an Israelite could become a slave of another Israelite as a means of paying a debt, or an Israelite could be born into slavery due to a parent’s status as a slave. Here a time limit is prescribed for such slavery; other stipulations (vv. 20–21, 26–27) tried to reduce the evils of slavery, but slavery itself is not condemned in the Old Testament.
  83. 21:6 To God: the ritual of the piercing of the slave’s ear, which signified a lifetime commitment to the master, probably took place at the door of the household, where God as protector of the household was called upon as a witness. Another possible location for the ritual would have been the door of the sanctuary, where God or judges would have witnessed the slave’s promise of lifetime obedience to his master.
  84. 21:8 Designated her: intended her as a wife of second rank.
  85. 21:12–14 Unintentional homicide is to be punished differently from premeditated, deliberate murder. One who kills unintentionally can seek asylum by grasping the horns of the altar at the local sanctuary. In later Israelite history, when worship was centralized in Jerusalem, cities throughout the realm were designated as places of refuge. Apparently the leaders of the local community were to determine whether or not the homicide was intentional.
  86. 21:15 The verb used most often signifies a violent, sometimes deadly, attack. The severe penalty assigned is intended to safeguard the integrity of the family.
  87. 21:17 Curses: not merely an angrily uttered expletive at one’s parents, but a solemn juridical formula of justifiable retribution which was considered to be legally binding and guaranteed by God.
  88. 21:22–25 This law of talion is applied here in the specific case of a pregnant woman who, as an innocent bystander, is injured by two fighting men. The law of talion is not held up as a general principle to be applied throughout the book of the covenant. (But see note on Lv 24:19–20.) Here this principle of rigorous accountability aimed to prevent injury to a woman about to give birth by apparently requiring the assailant to have his own wife injured as she was about to bring new life into his family. However, it is debatable whether talion was ever understood or applied literally in Israel. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his audience to find a deeper form of justice than the supposed equilibrium offered by talion (Mt 5:38–40).
  89. 21:30 Ransom: the amount of money or material goods required to restore the relationship between the relatives of the victim and the negligent owner of the goring ox.
  90. 22:1–2 If a thief is caught: this seems to be a fragment of what was once a longer law on housebreaking, which has been inserted here into the middle of a law on stealing animals. At night the householder would be justified in killing a burglar outright, but not so in the daytime, when the burglar could more easily be caught alive. He must make full restitution: this stood originally immediately after 21:37.
  91. 22:7 Brought to God: either within the household or at the sanctuary, the owner of the house is required to take an oath before God.
  92. 22:16 The bride price for virgins: fifty shekels according to Dt 22:29.
  93. 22:27 Despise God: a turning away from God’s authority and so failing to honor God (cf. 1 Sm 2:30).
  94. 23:14 These three feasts—Passover/Unleavened Bread, Weeks (Pentecost), and Booths (Tabernacles or Succoth/Sukkoth)—are also listed in 34:18–26; Lv 23; Dt 16.
  95. 23:15 Appear before me: the original expression was “see my face”; so also in several other places, as 23:17; 34:23–24; Dt 16:16; 31:11.
  96. 23:19 Boil a young goat in its mother’s milk: this command, repeated in 34:26 and Dt 14:21, is difficult to understand. It may originate from a taboo that forbade killing the young that were still nursing from the mother, or that forbade the mixing of life and death: the slaughtered young goat with the milk that previously had nourished its life. The Jewish dietary custom of keeping meat and dairy products separate is based on this command.
  97. 23:21 My authority is within him: lit., “My name is within him.”
  98. 23:24 Sacred stones: objects that symbolized the presence of Canaanite deities. In general, standing stones served as memorials for deities, persons, or significant events such as military victories or covenant-making. See 24:4.
  99. 23:28 Hornets: the Hebrew sir’ah is a disputed term, but according to ancient interpreters it refers to hornets that were unleashed against the enemy to sting them and cause panic (cf. Dt 7:20; Jos 24:12; Wis 12:8). Others associate the word with plagues or troublesome afflictions.
  100. 23:31 The sea of the Philistines: the Mediterranean. Only in the time of David and Solomon did the territory of Israel come near to reaching such distant borders.
  101. 24:4 Sacred stones: stone shafts or slabs, erected as symbols of the fact that each of the twelve tribes had entered into this covenant with God; see 23:24; Gn 28:18.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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