Storied Salvation: Part VII

Let's jump right back into our look at the story of salvation. Beginning here, I'm going to give a small amount of background information that will lead us up to the Exodus story  - which is the backdrop for the Jesus story.

The Setting

Egypt was an anti-kingdom, and Israel was under its oppression. Deuteronomy speaks of Israel as being Yahweh’s inheritance, how he found, cared and guarded them, spreading his wings over them in protection. Other places make reference to how they sacrificed to demons and served other gods their fathers did not know.

Eze 20:5-18 contains Yahweh’s polemic against them:

do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt (v. 7)[they] did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt (v. 8); their heart continually went after their idols (v. 16)[to the children he pled] do not . . . defile yourselves with their idols (v. 18); their eyes were on the idols of their fathers (v. 24).”

This is repeated throughout the prophets, reminding Israel how God found them, took them out cared for them and how they have responded to his kindness toward them. (cf. Jos 24:14; 2 Sa 7:23; Hos 11). It took one day for Israel to come out of Egypt, but forty years for Egypt to come out of Israel. 

“A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph”
Exo 1:8.

The word “know” in this text is yada. This same word is employed in the next chapter. This does not indicate that he had never heard of Joseph – from historical ignorance – but rather a failure to acknowledge Joseph or his actions. To most Christians Joseph is viewed as an outstanding individual of unwavering character. The Egyptians however, may not have shared the same sentiment. Joseph – while saving Egypt from famine – also enslaved Egypt by putting everyone under Pharaoh’s control. After Joseph was elevated to second in command, Pharaoh owned everything. It could be that there was resentment on the part of some Egyptians because of what Joseph had done, capitalizing on a crisis. While Pharaoh did not “recognize” (know, yada) Joseph (1:8), in 2:25 we find that Yahweh, Israel’s God,

“saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice [yada] of them.” 

This, in the narrative, set up a dual between the God of Israel and Pharaoh, who was the representative and religious steward of the God’s of Egypt. 

“They cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.” Exo 2:23.

The text says the people cried out without specifying as to whom they cried, but it was their God who heard and responded. The word “cry” is modest. This word (זְעָקוּ) means to call out for help in a wailing, bitter desperate and perhaps weeping manner. It can be accompanied by public display of physical pain and emotional anguish. In the Davidic Psalm 22, the writer alludes to Israel’s call upon Yahweh by using the same verb in the Psalm (22:4-5) that Jesus would latter quote when hanging on the cross “crying” out in anguish, desperation, pain and emotion to God. The context of both the stories is that God hears this “cry” and responds accordingly.

The story indicates that Moses was informed of God’s “name,” having previously known him as el shaddai (3:6, 13-15; 6:2-3).

“His statement does not suggest that the patriarchs had never been introduced to the name Yahweh, but that he had not fulfilled that role in their experience. . . . Yahweh was not presented as a name they had never heard of before, but as a name representing a function that they had not as yet experienced. The god Yahweh who had made promises of land to their forefathers was now ready to function in that implied capacity – he was forming a relationship with the family of Abraham (Exod. 19:3-6; Lev. 26:12) and was electing them as a people to populate the land.” [1]

This is also reflected in the Yahwistic derivation of Moses’ mother’s name Yokheved (יוֹכֶבֶד - Exo 6:2, Num 26:59).

The Psalmist would later say of the God of Israel:

“They [the righteous] cry out, and the LORD hears, and saves them from all their troubles” (Ps 34:18 TNK).

[1] John Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Baker Academic, 2006), 92-3.

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