Thursday, July 14, 2016

Irony in Exodus 2

One of the important hermeneutic tools of interpreting narratives is irony. The Bible is full of irony and when discovered makes the text even more rich. While preaching through Exodus 1-2, I discovered a number of ironies utilized by the author that really enrich the text. I offer a few of them below.

2:3 - wicker basket

Though this would not be classified as ironic, it is worth mentioning. The word used here is the same word used in Genesis to describe the ark of Noah. The two stories are similar: life is being saved from deadly water by a boat.

2:3 - set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile

The Nile River was the source of life for Egypt. Pharaoh's command to drown the Jewish boys turned it into a river of blood (more irony). Moses's mother obeys Pharaoh by placing Moses in the Nile but instead of killing the child, the great river once again becomes a source of preserving life.

2:3 - set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile

Moses's mother hides her child for three months and then places him in a basket (an ark) and trusts the Nile to protect him. The irony of this is that the Nile is where Jewish babies were being drowned. She trusts, by faith, the Nile will preserve her child.

2:10 - And she named him Moses

The name Moses is defined later in the verse as "drawn out of water" and rightly so. That is what the Hebrew means (as we will see next). Yet there is more to Moses name then the nature of his adoption. Moses in Egyptian means something else - "son of." Compare the names Thutmose and Ahmose. Thutmose means "son of thot" while Ahmose means "son of Iah" 

That's the irony of Moses's name. Who is Moses the son of? His parents are not named until chapter 6 nor is Pharaoh or his daughter named. As the narrative unfolds we discover that Moses must decide if he will be a son of Egypt of a son of Jacob (Israel). The story of slaying of the Egyptian reveals his decision. Furthermore, in chapter 4 God speaks of Israel as his firstborn. Moses, ultimately, is a child of God.

2:10 - Because I drew him out of the water 

Moses is named, we are told, because he was found in the Nile River and drawn out of the water. The reader should not miss the irony. Moses is a Jewish baby swimming in the Nile saved by an Egyptian. Moses was drawn out of the river while the rest of the Jewish male toddlers were drowned in the river.
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