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What's in a Name?

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

Exodus, along with the book of Genesis, is one of my favourites in the Tanakh. Before we move into the main study, let us first establish a little time line because the narrative moves at breakneck speed. There are a lot of questions that we can ask. Scholarly, the debate among the authors and sources of the text, play a great part in our understanding and also in the perspective of the narrative. There are a number of perspectives which we find in the text that are considered to come from a few sources, each source dealing with a different view. The sources in a nutshell, are the Yahwist, which considers the nation under oppression, and the Priestly which views the people in enslavement. The Elohist source is considered to be Levitical but fragmentary in its existing parts. It generally refers to YHVH in His deity (Elohim) instead of in His name form, YHVH. However, we see this form of writing throughout scripture where God is identified by different character names: YHVH, Adonai Tzva'ot, I AM; all are dependent upon how He is revealing Himself at the time.

As we study the books within the Bible , it would do us good to understand more about the authors and the sources from where the writing comes. It also helps us to understand the author's endeavours, purpose and intentions and sometimes the bias in relaying the message to us.

It is interesting, that throughout the annals of scripture, Israel is not portrayed as an all powerful, holy and conquering nation but one that coexists in partnership or covenant with YHVH, despite her faults. Scripture highlights Israel in various forms, personified in Jacob and as a corporate people. Their struggles throughout history, with enslavement, exile, wars, the judgements of YHVH and of course His blessings, tell us ultimately of the battle we have as individuals with Him and how we cannot exist independently. We were created to be a partner with YHVH and ultimately to be One with Him — as a bride. This is something that the modern Christian movement often fails to grasp in depth. YHVH is not a slave to us. He is not a genie in a bottle, there to grant our every wish. We were designed to work with Him and in His will.

Scripture tells us that we are co-workers with Him.

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

The sources in the text, variously speak of enslavement and oppression. Sometimes the themes cross over but with a little study, we can separate the two. Looking at these two themes we recognise that enslavement and oppression are quite different. In the case of Israel’s continuing transition, we see them move, more often than not, from oppression to oppression under subsequent conquering nations. In this case we see them in exile. However, in the theme of Exodus we see them transit from a nation in prosperity to one in enslavement.

This narrative is fundamentally the fulfilment of the YHVH’s prophesy to Abraham.

Genesis 15:13, Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.”NIV

However, we can consider that the enslavement and oppression under exile of YHVH’s people is consistent throughout history.