CHAPTER 6 When Memory Is Hope: The Response to Exile in P. The Priestly writing in the Pentateuch wrestles with the problems of exile through its retelling of the primeval history and of Israel's history before the conquest. This focus on the past is no mere literary technique; rather, P proposes that God will be present with his people, thereby actualizing his ancient promises to Noah and the patriarchs, precisely under the conditions mediated by Moses to the cultic community during the wilderness wanderings.
1. It is here assumed that the materials of P were once part of an independent source, not merely editorial additions made in the course of the Pentateuch's redaction. See Norbert Lohfink, S.J., "Die Priesterschrift und die Geschiclite," Congress Volume: G6ttingen, 1977, VTSup 29 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978), pp. 189-225. Per contra Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, Mass.- Harvard University Press, 1973), pp. 293-325. We follow Lohfink and others in distinguishing between a basic priestly document (Pg) and various later expansions which incorporated additional, primarily legal material (Ps). For an authoritative list of passages in Pg, see Karl Elliger, "Sinn und Ursprung der priesterlichen Geschichtserzählung," ZTK 49 (1952) : 121-22. In this chapter the terms P and Priestly writer refer primarily to the materials of Pg. P ended either with the death of Moses (Martin Noth, Cross) or with a few additional passages found in Joshua (Lohfink, and Joseph Blenkinsopp, "The Structure of P," CBQ 38 : 275-92). P probably was written in Babylon during the Exile (Cross and Lohfink). The author gave his work a clear structure by his use of the ten Toledoth formulas ("These are the generations of... ") and by travel notices drawn from an old desert itinerary (Cross and Lohfink) . Lohfink has called attention to a series of paired events scattered throughout P that help us see which things the writer considered important. Cf. also Blenkinsopp.125
CREATION AND SABBATH While the sixth day and its works of creation represent a very high moment in P, it is the seventh day toward which his whole creation account flows. The seventh day was the first day set aside as "holy"; it also received a blessing (Gen. 2:3), just as the animals (1:22) and men and women did (1:28). We read of God's joyful satisfaction on the Sabbath with what had been completed in creation, a satisfaction which men and women, presumably, are supposed to share.
Observing the Sabbath in Babylon, whatever had been its history in earlier Israel2 would have been a highly confessional act, making Israel stand out sharply from its environment-Sabbath was not observed by Israel's Babylonian conquerors. Many of the exiles would have been tempted to ignore the Sabbath observance lest they make unnecessary waves. Such lack of observance, given the historical context, would mean a fateful step back from identifying oneself with God's chosen community. The Priestly creation story counters such backsliding by noting that Sabbath keeping fits into the God-given structures of the world. It is so important that even God himself kept a Sabbath as a climax to the very first week of the world's existence. One could easily draw conclusions from the greater to the lesser: if Sabbath is kept by God, how much more should it be kept by faithful Israelites .3
The emphasis on Sabbath in P's creation story is part of an attempt to preserve Israel's identity by linking the Sabbath to creation and by grounding its observance in an imitation of God himself. Sabbath keeping indicates whether one stands within Israel or not. As we shall see below, the other great mark of
2. For the latest survey of the Sabbath, its history, and theology in Israel, see Niels-Erik A. Andreasen, "Recent Studies of the Old Testament Sabbath," ZA W 86 (1974): 453-69.
3. Cf. also Exod. 16:22-27; 20:8-11, where obedience to the Sabbath com- mand is related to creation; Exod. 3I:12-17, where Sabbath keeping is called an everlasting covenant and a sign between Yahweh and Israel; and Exod. 35:1-3.
Israelite religious identity, circumcision, is also given high status in P. CREATION AND P'S ANTHROPOLOGY In P's discussion of the image of God we find a second significant contribution to exilic theology in his creation account (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:1; 9:6). The events of the first six days proceed with a measured but irresistible cadence until 1:26, but then God took counsel with himself before completing the peak of his creation pyramid. God created man and woman simultaneously and as equals in his sight; he made them both in his own image. Exactly what is meant by this "image" has long been discussed. Are men and women a kind of statue set up by God to indicate his control of the world even in his absence? Does the image consist in being able to respond to God's will, a talent presumably possessed only by the human family? Or are people placed in the world with the primary role of being rulers, vice-presidents in charge of God's estate? Perhaps each of these interpretations has some claim to legitimacy, but the rulership designation seems to be the primary intention. In Gen. 9:6 we are told that the image of God continues in force after the flood, though with modification: animals can now be killed for food without that counting as violence (Gen. 9:2-3; cf. 1:29-30). The killing of humans, however, is totally prohibited: "For God made man in his own image" (9:5-6).
P tells his exilic audience that they are not really or merely prisoners of war, homesick and angry deportees, or the remnants of a once-proud aristocracy. Rather, they really are the kings and queens of God's estate, his agents in charge of the world. In P's own phraseology- they are-even after their disaster-men and women created in the image of God.
But P's radical anthropology can only be fully appreciated when it is compared with that of Babylonian theology and its view of creation and man as presented in Enuma elish (ANET 60-72). After Marduk, the god of Babylon, had killed the rebel goddess Ti'5mat in single combat and consigned her hapless con-sort Kingu to the charge of the god of death, he sliced Ti'amat like a shellfish in two parts, forming the sky from the upper part of her body and, presumably, the earth from the lower half. Later Marduk responded to the gods' complaints about their heavy work by proposing that mankind be created from the blood of Kingu, the ringleader of the erstwhile revolt. On the people created by Marduk would be imposed the heavy work formerly done by the gods. Accordingly, human beings have two major defects: (1) their vocation is to do the dirty work of which the gods grew weary, that is, man's toil lets the gods be free; and (2) human beings are essentially evil since they are created from the blood of the chief rebellious deity.
Viewed against this backdrop, the role of human beings in the Priestly work takes on sharper contours. Perhaps one can even detect a polemic directed against the ideology of the Babylonian realm. Human beings are servants in the biblical perspective too, but theirs is a kingly, royal service that brings with it much status. Furthermore, far from being essentially evil, men and women-like the rest of creation-are called "very good" (1:31).
The polemic against the Babylonian religion in Genesis I may also be seen in the complete lack of dualistic or polytheistic conflict. No trace of a figure like Ti'amat can be found, unless it be in the word "deep" (Gen. 1:2), which is probably related only etymologically to the Babylonian word Ti'amat. While the Babylonians spoke of the dangerous monsters of sky, land, and sea, Genesis I mentions only that all fowl and the land and sea animals were created by God on the fifth day of creation. In Babylonian religion the sun and moon gods, Shamash and Sin, were prominent and popular deities, but the biblical writer has reduced the function of these luminaries to that of a clock, or a calendar, or a lamp giving light to the earth (v. 14). The stars, whose movements were searched by ancient astrologers for guidance and the like, show up almost as an afterthought in v. 16. The sun and the moon are not even given the identity and re- spect inherent in a name. They are but the "big one" that rules the day and the "little one" that rules the night.
CREATION AND THE WORD OF GOD Vv. 3-5 of Genesis I illustrate a tightly composed pattern, which recurs throughout the chapter (vv. 6-8, 9-10, 11-13, 14-19, 20-23, 24-31): declarative formula ("And God said"); command ("Let there be light"); execution ("And there was light"); approbation ("And God saw that the light was good"). God's word of command that brings about creation is the same word which causes the later events in history. If anything special happens in history, a word of God must previously have gone forth-such is the priestly view .4 The flood is called forth by God's speech to Noah (Gen. 6:13-21), and events like the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17), the mission of Moses (Exod. 6), the plagues in Egypt (Exod. 7ff.), the crossing of the Reed Sea (Exod. 14), or the erection of the tabernacle (Exod. 25ff.) happen because Yahweh has given a command which must be carried out.
Many of these commands are followed by notices about specific human beings who carried God's wishes out (Noah, Gen. 6:22; Moses and Aaron, Exod. 7:6; cf. 39:32, 42-43; 40:16). Westermann observes that such human agents are naturally impossible in the creation account, but that, nevertheless, the Priestly writer maintains the unbreakable sequence of God's command and its actualization. just as the command to Noah is the real event which releases the flood, so the command at creation is sufficient to create light, the firmament, or whatever, regardless of the presence or absence of a human agent. The idea that God's word will always be carried out even without a human agent applies also, in our view, to God's words of promise after creation, such as "I will be God for you and your descendants" (Gen. 17:7). In such cases human agents are not so much impossible as they are inappropriate.
In exile, when God's promise to Noah or Abraham might seem
4. Claus Westermann, Creation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), p. 42; and idem, Genesis, BKAT 1/1 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1974), p. 555. See also A. Eitz, Studien zum Verhältnis von Priesterschriff und Deuterojesaia (Heidelberg Dissertation, 1970), P. 90.
to be nothing but "words, words, words," P could remind his readers that the words, commands, or promises of God are no vacuous thing. By words of command God made the world. Back then at creation, or now in the crisis of exile, he needed no human helpers for his word to be effective.
CREATION AND FERTILITY The command/promise for humans to be fruitful and multiply repeats itself time and again in the Priestly work. In Gen. 1:28 it is added to the statement about men and women being created in the image of God: "And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.'"5 This command/promise has its first fulfillment in the ten-generation Toledoth of Genesis 5.
The promise reappears in Gen. 9:1. This promise to Noah, the father of all postdiluvian humanity, also works: the Toledoth in Genesis 10 (the table of nations) lists the numerous offspring of Noah's three sons. Since these offspring are (the fathers of) all the nations of the world, Genesis 10 is a particularly powerful attestation of the power inherent in the fertility promise. The Toledoth genealogy of Shem in Gen. 11: 10-26 adds further evidence for the efficaciousness of this blessing.
With Genesis 17, however, we find a major shift in emphasis. Here the fertility promise given to man and woman at creation and to Noah after the flood is extended-or limited-to Abraham the father of the people Israel, and it is linked directly to an everlasting covenant (vv. 2-6). By the double use of the adverb "exceedingly" (me'od) in vv. 2 and 6, P indicates the sureness of the promise and the fullness of the expectations therein contained. He etymologizes the patriarch's new name Abraham as "father of a multitude of nations," thus giving added stress to the
5. Walter Brueggemann has detected in the commands to be fruitful and multiply the kerygma of P and has interpreted the whole fertility blessing as referring primarily to the gift of the land. See "The Kerygma of the Priestly Writers," ZAW 84 (1972): 397-414, reprinted in The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), pp. 101-13.
fertility promise. Abraham's great fruitfulness is to result in his siring nations (Israelites, Ishmaelites, and Edomites; cf. Gen. 12:3 J) and kings (that is, the Israelite monarchy). The promise's unilateral character is underscored by the great ages (100 and 90) of Abraham and Sarah.
But it is Jacob who is the real "man of blessing" in P's view.6 In the central text (Gen. 35; cf. 28:3 and 48:4) God appears to Jacob at Bethel after his return from Paddan-Aram, blesses him, and says: "I am El Shaddai: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come forth from you, and kings shall spring from you" (v. 11 RWK). The changing of Jacob's name to Israel (v. 10) foretells his destiny: his descendants will become the people Israel. By adding a list of Jacob's sons born in Paddan-Aram (35:22b-26) the Priestly writer demonstrated how the fertility promise became a reality within the patriarch's own lifetime. In Exod. 1:1ff. P presents a similar list, but under the rubric "the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob." From Exodus I on, the nation Israel assumes center stage in P's account. Jacob, the man of blessing, has brought forth the nation with whom the covenant made with Abraham would be concretized and actualized.
Two additional notices in P bring the fertility theme and the Jacob story to a climax: "And [Israel] gained possessions in it [Egypt], and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly (Gen. 47: 27b); "But the descendants of Israel were fruitful and swarmed; they multiplied and grew strong exceedingly exceedingly; so that the land was filled with them" (Exod. 1:7 RWK).
The promises of fertility in Genesis 1, 9, 17 and 35 have been fulfilled repeatedly and, last of all, in--of all places!--Egypt, a land where Israel had lived in a kind of exile. The Priestly writer seems to be promising to his audience that they too might expect the fulfillment of the fertility promise made to all people at the creation and after the flood, and to Israel in the accounts of
6. Walter Gross, "Jakob, der Mann des Segens," Bib 49 (1968): 321-44, has developed a contrast between Abraham, the man of covenant, and Jacob, the man of blessing.
Abraham and Jacob. The exilic community could expect a fulfillment since the fertility promise was part of the everlasting commitment, or covenant, to Abraham. THE FLOOD When we turn to P's account of the flood, we come upon three additional ways in which the writer responded to exile. We refer to his understanding of sin, of an everlasting covenant, and of God's remembering. In each case we will describe the motif as it occurs in the flood account and as it appears in later sections of P.
SIN IN THE PRIESTLY WRITER7 It is most striking that P has no account of the Fall, Cain and Abel, the sin of Canaan, or the golden calf. Even when P repeats stories from the epic sources which reported mankind's sins, he often changes them radically by removing the specific mention of sin.,, These omissions or reinterpretations lend greater importance to those few passages where P does report the sins of mankind in general, the sins of the political leaders and the people, and the sins of Moses and Aaron, the mediators of Yahweh. Lohfink has called the sins mentioned in these accounts Ursünden (primeval or original sins). P's intention is not so much to write history as to show the beginning of and a primitive picture of everything which will happen later. These sins foreshadow the sins which are rampant in P's own audience.
The sin of mankind in general is designated as "violence" in P's flood story (Gen. 6: 11 and 13). Violence is the injustice people do to one another, their irresponsible oppression and inconsiderate violation of one another. As such it is a challenge to God, and it corrupts the good creation (6:11-12). Over against
7. The following section is largely a summary and retracing of the work of Lohfink, "Die Ursünden in der priestertichen Geschichtserzahlung," Die Zeit Jesu, cd. G. Bornkamm and K. Rahner (Freiburg: Herder, 1970), pp. 38-57.
8. The scattering of the people in Gen. 10:32 is a blessing in P, not the result of the sin of the Tower of Babel as it was in J. Jacob did not flee because he had cheated his brother out of the blessing but because he ought not to marry a local Hittite as his brother Esau had done (28:1-2. 7; cf. 26:34-35; 27:46).such a picture the Priestly work holds up Noah as a righteous man, perfect in his generation. He walked with God (6:9) as had Enoch (cf. 5:22, 24). When Abraham was commanded to walk before God and be perfect (17:1), he was really being urged to live like Noah and so to avoid the violence that is common to all mankind. Exilic Israel knew from her prophets that she too had done such violence.9 Her potential sin, according to P, was one she had committed in the past, and it is the common failing of all mankind: violence.
But there was also a sin-an original sin-done by Israel's political leaders and the entire people in the desert. They slandered or despised the saving gift of the land (Num. 13:32; 14: 36-37). Because of the spies' evil report (13:32) the people murmured (14:2), rejecting the gift of the land and even the Exodus itself (14:3); they became an evil congregation (14:27). Lohfink has proposed that the leaders of the exilic community, and the masses whom they misled, did not listen to God's exhortation to return to the land and no longer wanted to have this land and live in it since they no longer thought highly of it (cf. Ezek. 36). just as the original spies led the rest of the people to sin (Num. 14:2 and 36), so the political leaders in exile faced a similar temp- tation to mislead the people. In wilderness times the people ex- pressed their disdain for the land by wishing they had died in Egypt or that death would overtake them now in the wilderness (14:2). This last request was literally fulfilled (14:28-29 and 35), and its message for exilic Israel would be unmistakable: despising the saving gift of the land can only lead to death outside the land for the sinful generation.
As a contrast to these rebels the Priestly work holds up Joshua and Caleb as models. They considered slander against the land blasphemy against the God who gave it, and so they rent their clothes (14:6). Through their good report of the land (14:7) they avoided the sin of the other leaders and of the masses. Because they displayed the proper relationship to God, they were the only ones in their generation who were allowed to enter the land.
9. Cf. Amos 3:10; Mic. 6:12; jer. 22:3; Ezek. 7:23 and 12:19.
The third original sin involved the spiritual or religious leaders. This is the sin of Moses and Aaron, who sinned when they brought water from the rock at Kadesh (Num. 20:1-13). Moses' words, "Shall we bring forth water for you from the rock?" displayed the uncertainty of a question instead of the confidence of a command (20: 10). The exilic religious leaders, according to this understanding of P, were in danger of failing to trust in and proclaim the miraculous power of Yahweh, which is capable of doing the impossible (cf. v. 12).
EVERLASTING COVENANTS IN THE PRIESTLY WRITER As a conclusion to the flood account, P presents God's covenant with Noah, the first of his everlasting covenants (Gen. 9:8-17). The covenant's unilateral, promissory character is brought out in a number of ways. It is called "my" (= God's) covenant (vv. 9, 12, 15); it is never called Noah's. While the technical term for making a covenant in the epic sources is to "cut a covenant," a term which perhaps denoted the performance of symbolic sanctions against potential violators of the covenant at a cultic ceremony, the covenant with Noah is not cut, it is "given" (v. 12; cf. 17:2) or "established" (v 17; cf. 17:7 and Exod. 6:4). This covenant is decreed, given by God's orders. The promissory character is also denoted by the sign of the covenant, the rainbow, intended to refresh God's memory.
This unilateral covenant will last forever. It will be valid for Noah and his sons, their descendants, and all the creatures who came from the ark (vv. 9-10) for perpetual generations (v. 12). The term everlasting was used by Ezekiel to indicate the unbreakable character of the new covenant of peace which God plans for the exiles (Ezek. 37:26; cf. Jer. 31:32), but P employs the same term to indicate that the promises of the oldest covenant in his scheme, the one made with Noah, still hold good (cf. Isa. 54: 10).
And what does this covenant promise? (a) All flesh will not be cut off again by flood waters, and (b) the world itself will never return to chaos (9:1 1). In this yes to creation, God guarantees the existence of natural and human history. This promise cannot and will not be undone by catastrophes, for example, a worldwide flood or the Exile to Babylon, nor can the mistakes, corruption, or revolt of man annul it.
The specific promises of the everlasting covenant with Abraham will occupy us below. Suffice it to say here that this covenant differs from that with Noah in that its promises relate only to Israel, and in that its sign (circumcision) is not something like the rainbow placed in nature by God, but it is part of the willing assent of Abraham to the covenant (17:10).10 Although circumcision had been practiced in Israel long before the Exile, P's account of the Abrahamic covenant elevated it to a new height of significance:" Circumcision must be practiced forever in Israel, even if such practice evokes the ridicule and disapproval of Israel's Babylonian captors, who did not circumcise their sons, or of the peoples surrounding Palestine, who gave up the practice at about this time. Circumcision, like Sabbath keeping, was a mark of Israel's identity-and faithfulness. Note with what alacrity-on the same day! (vv. 23 and 26)-Abraham circumcised himself, Ishmael, the slaves born in his house, those acquired for money, and all the men of his household (v. 23). Exactly eight days after Isaac's birth Abraham circumcised him as well (21:4). Prompt circumcision is part of Abraham's perfect obedience (17:1).
GOD'S REMEMBERING IN THE PRIESTLY WRITER No matter how sure and universal the covenant with Noah or how independent from any human participation its validity, might not some in exile have thought even so that God had for- gotten them (cf. Lam. 5:20; Ps. 74:18, 22; and Isa. 49:14-15) and that all hope was in vain? For such a crisis P pointed to the rain- bow as a sign-for God-of the everlasting covenant. It is a mnemonic device to help him remember the covenant.
The term remember is something of a favorite of P's. When God remembered Noah and all the beasts and the cattle with
10. See Michael V. Fox, "The Sign of the Covenant: Circumcision in the Light of the Priestly '6t Etiologies," RB 81 (1974): 588.
11. Ezekiel did not yet know the new significance of circumcision. The phrase "uncircumcised in heart and flesh" (44:7-9) comes from a secondary stratum.
him (8: 1), the result was the subsiding of the waters and the safe landing of the ark. God also heard the groaning of Israel in Egypt and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob (Exod. 2:24; cf. 6:5 and Lev. 26:42). As the following chapters in Exodus make clear, God's remembering of his cove- nant is not an abstract phenomenon. Remembering his covenant means the raising of a Moses, the besting of Pharaoh, and the liberation of Israel from Egypt.
In both Exod. 2:24 and 6:5, P states that God remembered his people when they were in a foreign land. Precisely when he had seemed to be most forgetful, he did remember after all. P would have the exiles understand the rainbow as the "string tied around Yahweh's finger" that would never let him forget the covenant with Noah. Life and the world are therefore sure.
THE COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM IN P The everlasting covenant with Abraham went well beyond a promise of fertility or a new name that marked the patriarch's new status. God's principal promise in chap. 17 was "to be God to you and to your seed after you" (v. 7). The reference to "seed after you" is P's way of making vivid the ongoing validity of the covenant for his audience, which was of course Abraham's seed, though it lived in Babylonian exile. The sentence "I will be God to you" is called the "covenant formula" by many Old Testament scholars. It appears primarily in late texts - and is usually accompanied by a second clause: "You shall be my people. "12 For our purposes, however, it seems more useful to call it the "God promise." One fulfillment of this God promise came in the Exodus from Egypt, when Yahweh demonstrated once and for all what it means for him to be Israel's God (Exod. 6:6-7; cf. Lev. 11:45; 23:33; 26:45; and Num. 15:41). P may have found in this fulfillment of the God promise reason to hope for a similar fulfillment for exilic Israel. In Exod. 29:43-44, P reports that God would "meet" with Israel at the tent of meeting so that he
could consecrate the tent, the altar, and Aaron and his sons (that is, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood). His citation of Yahweh continues in v. 45: "And I will dwell among the people of Israel, and will be their God." Thus in, or via, his dwelling with Israel in the sanctuary Yahweh would also fulfill the promise to be the God for his people.
The third way in which this God promise manifests itself in P appears already in Genesis 17: "I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (v. 8).13 The descendants of Abraham are explicitly identified here as the corecipients of the promise: they will have everlasting possession of the land and thereby Yahweh will be their God.
But the promised land is only the land of Abraham's sojournings. By the term sojournings P recognized that the patriarchs never really occupied the land as owners.14 In fact, the only piece of land owned and occupied by the patriarchs was the burial cave in the field of Machpelah (Genesis 23). Nevertheless, since the original recipients of the promise were sojourners, it is clear that such sojourners-or should we say exiles?-can be recipients of the land promise (cf. Gen. 28:1-4).
In P's account of the call of Moses Yahweh announced that the promise of land would be fulfilled for the people of Moses' day (v. 8). But the Exodus generation did not, in fact, get to occupy the land. Despite their repeated resistance (Exod. 6:9; 14:10, 15; 16:2-3), God spared the people until the incident with the spies, but then he decreed, "And of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me, not one shall come into the land where I $wore I would make you dwell" (Num. 14:29-30). Yet the land promise was not annulled. God committed himself to it even in his last command to Moses to go up and see the land which he had given to the
13. On the land promise in P see Elliger, "Sinn und Ursprung," 121-43; and R. Kilian, "Die Hoffnung auf Heimkehr in der Priesterschrift," BibLeb (1966): 39-51.
14. For the patriarchs as sojourners see Gen. 17:8; 23:4; 28:4; 36:7; 37:14 47:9; and Exod. 6:4
people of Israel (Num. 27:12; cf. 20:12). Moses looked into the land not just with longing but with confidence, since he knew that the promise stood fast. The second generation in the wilder- ness, that finally did get the land, was one which in distinction to their ancestors trusted in God. Joshua is held up by P as the one who never faltered in his belief that God would give the land (Num. 14:6-7; Deut. 34:9). Exilic Israel is implicitly urged by P to mimic Joshua's faith and that of the second generation in the wilderness, who walked in perfection and the land was theirs (Deut. 34:9). So Yahweh had once fulfilled the God promise; so would he fulfill it again.
THE NEW DEAL BEGINS: THE CALL OF MOSES How the events of Exodus and Sinai are the fulfillment of the patriarchal covenant becomes clear in a comparison of Genesis 17 and Exodus 6. In the latter passage we read of the covenant Yahweh established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them the land (Exod. 6:4). That covenant, says Yahweh, has now been remembered (v. 5), and the oath promising land to the patriarchs will be kept by giving it to the Exodus generation (v. 8). God's whole nature and identity, his name Yahweh (v. 8; cf. Exod. 12:12), are the guarantee that makes the promise sure.
P divided history into periods, each having its distinctive name for God. In the earliest times, when God's activities in creation and flood concerned the whole world and all of humanity, P employed the generic term for the deity, Elohim. When a new stage began with the covenant with Israel's ancestor Abraham, God assumed a new name to mark his new role as the promiser to Israel. He called himself El Shaddai (Gen. 17:1; cf. 28:3; 35:11; 48:3). The call of Moses begins another new period in P's history, a period that witnessed not only the Exodus from Egypt and the march toward the land but also the institution of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrificial system. The events beginning with the Exodus are the ones which disclose God's final identity, his name. We might paraphrase: "I am Yahweh. My true identityis that of liberator from Egyptian burdens and bondage. Hence you can count on everything I say."15
The name Yahweh plays a crucial role in the subsequent recognition formulas ("You shall know that I am Yahweh"), which disclose key emphases in P's theology. When Moses reported his call to the people, for example, his use of the recognition formula made the Exodus the means by which Yahweh became known and the content of Israel's knowledge of God: "I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians ... and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (Exod. 6:6-7; cf. 16:6 and 29:45-46). Further, Yahweh's attack on the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus and his getting glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his riders led even the Egyptians to recognize who he was. These and subsequent recognition formulas disclosed that Yahweh is known only via his gracious actions on and for Israel. Yahweh's actions for Israel in providing them with quails and manna, for example, led to a recognition of his identity (Exod. 16:12) as the God who liberates his people (Exod. 16:6). Even keeping the Sabbath (Exod. 31:13) and the festival of booths (Lev. 23:42-43) were to lead people to recognize how Yahweh, whose promises are permanently valid, acted concretely for his people in the past.
ARE THE PROMISES STILL VALID? How could Israel believe that these promises of the ever- lasting covenants would become realities, that the Exile would, in fact, end? These questions are answered by P in two ways: (a) by pointing to previous partial fulfillments of the promises; and (b) by describing God's superiority to tyrannical power as it has been manifested in Israel's oppression by Pharaonic Egypt.
15. The call of Moses contains the only passage in which P uses the term redeem of God's actions (Exod. 6:6). Redemption is Yahweh's displaying his role as Israel's kinsman in the only way adequate for a people under I real bondage: he used significant and sufficient power to set them free.
FULFILLED PROMISES The partial fulfillments demonstrated the effectiveness of the promise. God remembered Noah even before the covenant with him was established (Gen. 8: 1), but the greatest remembrance of all was God's redeeming Israel from Egypt with great acts of war (Exod. 2:24 and 6:5). The command to be fruitful and multiply was fulfilled effectively both in the Toledoth genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10-11, and in the notices that Israel was fruitful and multiplied in Egypt (Gen. 47:27 and Exod. 1:7). This promise of fertility also had a fulfillment within Abraham's lifetime with the birth of Isaac (Gen. 21:lb).
The land promise, too, had had its fulfillment even for the patriarchs, for the land came into their hands at death. So we hear that Abraham buried Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre in the land of Canaan. The field and cave were made over to Abraham as a possession for burying by the Hittites (Gen. 23:9 and 19-20). Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the same cave (25:10), and Jacob gave elaborate instructions to his twelve sons that he be buried at Machpelah (49:30). He also recounted how "they" had buried Abraham and Sarah there, as well as Isaac and Rebekah, and how he had buried Leah (49:31). Jacob's wishes were carried out to the letter by his sons, who brought his body from Egypt to the land of Canaan for burial (50:12-13). The promise of land also had a fulfillment for that wilderness generation that finally entered Palestine with Joshua. These fulfillments demonstrated the power inherent in the promise. If the word of promise had been effective for the patriarchs and the wilderness generation, should not one expect it to be effective also in the Exile? Or could the power of the Babylonian gods or the kings of the Neo-Babylonian Empire thwart God's word of promise?
YAHWEH'S SUPERIORITY TO TYRANNICAL POWER The Priestly work deals with this last question by spelling out how superior Yahweh was to the most fearsome enemy power: the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The plagues in P describe a contest between God and Pharaoh to see who has the greatest power or glory.16 So pervasive is this approach in P that the demand for the release from Egypt is never mentioned in the course of the plagues themselves (but see 6:11 and 7:2). The climax of P's contest account comes in Yahweh's word at the crossing of the Reed Sea: "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them (= Israel) and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host" (14:4; cf. v. 18).',- In the end, not one Egyptian was left, but the Israelites paraded through the Reed Sea on dry ground (14:28-29). The Exodus battle, then, was a tournament that determined once and for all whose was the glory.
P illustrates Yahweh's superior power in several ways. First, he tends to heighten the miraculous element in the plague ac- counts and therefore heighten the degree of Yahweh's victory. When Aaron's rod was cast down before Pharaoh, it became a dragon (tannin, Exod. 7:9), whereas earlier tradition had spoken of Moses' rod that became a snake (nachash, Exod. 4:2-5 and 7:15). According to J, Yahweh had told Moses to take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground so that it would become blood and verify Moses' credentials to his own people (Exod. 4:9). This sign becomes the first plague in P. Moreover, the plague involved not only the Nile, whose fish had died according to j when Yahweh struck the water, but all the canals, ponds, rivers, and pools of Egypt, and even the sap in the trees and the water in the springs (Exod. 7:19). A heightening of the miraculous may also be seen in P's description of the Reed Sea crossing, with water piled up on both sides like walls.
An even more striking demonstration of Yahweh's superiority is the contest between Pharaoh's magicians and Aaron. The magicians represented on the one hand the bureaucracy of an impos-
16. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart in P gives Yahweh the opportunity to do more miracles (Exod. 11:9). See Brevard S. Childs, Exodus, OTL (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), pp. 170-75.
17. Yahweh also got glory for himself when fire came out and devoured Nadab and Abihu, who offered unholy fire (Lev. 10:2). Thus Yahweh has power over external threats (Pharaoh and the Egyptians) and over internal threats (Nadab and Abihu).
ing world power (cf. Dan. 2:10), but their wisdom and magic were also subtle covers for hostile divine powers (cf. Exod. 12:12). At first they matched the power of Aaron. When Aaron cast down his rod so that it might become a dragon, the magicians too turned their rods into dragons by their secret arts. Aaron's rod then devoured those of the magicians, thus ]tinting at Yahweh's ultimate victory (Exod. 7:11-12).
In turning water into blood (see above) the magicians matched Aaron a second time by their secret arts, that is by their quasi- divine powers. Though the plague was already nationwide before the magicians tried to match Moses and Aaron (Exod. 7:21b), P seems undisturbed by this logical difficulty. Similarly the magicians could bring up frogs in the next plague, just as Aaron had done, though the frogs were already nationwide (Exod. 8:5-7). The plague of frogs, in any case, marked the apex of the magicians' power. When they tried to bring up gnats in the third plague, they-and so their secret arts and the go(is who stood behind them-failed (8:16-19). The magicians confessed, "This is the finger of God." They faced, however, one final indignity. In the sixth plague Moses threw ashes skyward and they became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast-including the magicians (Exod. 9: 1 I) I So the magicians passed from the scene in disgrace and implicitly conceded the victory to Yahweh. His was the glory!18
THE NEW LIFE PRESCRIBED: SINAI Sinai plays a central role in P's history and theology. And yet, how different is P's Sinai from that of the Deuteronomists, for whom Sinai/Horeb was the place where God gave the retributive covenant with its threatening curses (Deut. 29:20; cf. Lev. 26:25). 18. P has another context in which he refers to God's glory: episodes from IsraeI's everday life in the wilderness (Exod. 16:10; Num' 14:10; 16:19; 42; and 20:6). See Westermann, "Die Herrlichkeit Gottes in der Priesterschrift," Wort-Gebot-Glaube, ed. H. J. Stoebe (Zurich: Zwingli Verlag, 1970), pp. 227-49. These episodes show that it is one and the same God who met Israel on the sacred mountain, in the tabernacle, and in historical events. Like his fellow priest from the Exile, Ezekiel, P proposed that wholeness in all things would result from God's glorious presence in the world.
P solved the problem of broken covenant by restricting the term covenant to those unilateral promises made to Noah and Abraham and by giving Sinai a different meaning for Israel's faith.19 At Sinai Yahweh prescribed the ideal cultic community in which he would graciously dwell with his people and in which they would serve him with a proper priesthood and a proper sacrificial system. In such a community the promises inherent in the ever- lasting covenants would be realized, and the community's insti- tutions would make possible a blessed and an ongoing life.
YAHWEH DWELLS WITH HIS PEOPLE P begins his ordering of the cult with the tabernacle. When plans for it were to be given, the glory of Yahweh settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered the mountain for six days. On the seventh, climactic day (Exod. 24:16; cf. Gen. 2:2), God called Moses up the mountain (Exod. 24:15b-18) and gave him detailed prescriptions for the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings (Exod. 25-27, 30) according to a pattern, or tabnit, shown Moses by God (Exod. 25:9, 40; cf. 26:30). Because of the prescriptions written in Exodus 25-27, 30, we might say that exilic Israel itself now had possession of the tabnit, thus making possible the tabernacle's reerection.
When the tabernacle was completed on New Year's Day (Exod. 40:1 and 17; cf. Gen. 8:13), the cloud and the glory of Yahweh, which had appeared prior to Moses' receiving the instructions to build, covered the tent of meeting and filled the tabernacle. Thus P stressed the importance of the tabernacle by punctuating both the beginning and the end of its construction with an ap- pearance of the glory of Yahweh. The tabernacle (mishkan) was simply indispensable. It made possible the practice of Israel's cult, but it was also the means by which God's dwelling (Shakan) among his people took place (Exod. 25:8). This sanctuary is also called the tent of meeting. Whatever the historical roots of this name, for P it designated the place where "I will meet with you,
19. See Walther Zimmerli, "Sinaibund und Abrahambund," Gottes Offen- barung, TBii 19 (Miinchen: Christian Kaiser, 1963), pp. 205-16.
to speak there to you" (Exod. 29:42). The community that gath- ers around the tent of meeting ('ohel mo`ed), where God meets with his people (y'd, Niphal), is called the congregation ('add). P employed the archaic term shakan to indicate that God's presence with his people is not to be taken for granted or understood as the concrete abiding of Yahweh in his shrine.20 God's freedom and transcendence are carefully maintained. P makes very clear that God's dwelling with his people is. the fulfillment of the promise to be their God (Exod. 29:45) and that it is the goal behind the Exodus itself.
The sanctuary was the place from which God directed his people from time to time already in the wilderness (cf. Num. 10: 1-1 3). That this direction was not limited to the period of the wilderness leaders, Moses and Aaron, is demonstrated by the accounts of their deaths and the orderly transition of leadership from Aaron to Eleazar (Num. 20:22-29) and from Moses to Joshua (Num. 27:12-23; Deut. 34:1-7, 9). Israel's life goes for- ward after these events the same as before, except now Moses' successor Joshua is subject to Eleazar the priest, the leader of P's cultic community (Num. 27:20-21; per contra Exod. 7:1). Here we see adumbrated the great power of the priesthood, that became nearly absolute in postexilic times.
God's dwelling with Israel in the cloud is such an awesome thing that it prevents even Moses from entering the tent of meeting (Exod. 40:35). The picture of the camp in P illustrates this sense of holiness or awe by putting the tabernacle in the center of two concentric rings. In the innermost ring, closest to the tabernacle, are the Levites to protect and transport the sacred shrine (Num. 1:47-54). Moses, Aaron, and his sons (Num. 3:38) occupy the favored eastern position while the other Levitic groups (Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites) occupy the southern, western, and northern positions respectively (Num. 3:23, 29, 35). The secular tribes are relegated to the second ring (Num. 2:3-31).
God's dwelling in the midst of the holy camp was not to be defiled by the presence of lepers (Lev. 13:46), people with a dis- 20.
See Cross, "The Tabernacle," BA 10 (1947) : 65-68.
charge (Lev. 15), or people who had contact with the dead (Lev. 21:1-12; cf. Num. 5:2-3).21 Such unclean people cannot coexist with Yahweh in the camp. Israel of wilderness days set an example by driving them out of the camp in obedience to Yahweh's command (Num. 5:4).
In addition to facilitating the meeting between Yahweh and his people, the tabernacle also provided housing for the "testimony" (edi2t), which was contained in the ark (e.g. Exod. 25:16, 21). It seems clear that 'edi2t refers to the law tablets or Decalogue of the old Sinai covenant (see especially Exod. 31:18 and 34:29).22 How could there be a Sinai without some kind of document corresponding to the Ten Commandments? But P does not discuss the contents of the 'edut and, significantly, it is not called berit.23
In any case, P's ideal for the future worship of Israel involved a return to the cult initiated at Sinai. Back then God met his people in his tabernacle dwelling. That tabernacle housed the law tablets, and in its precincts the sacrifices were carried out by a priesthood legitimated at Sinai. So it once was; so it should be again.
PRIESTS OF THE PAST AND FUTURE This is not the place to spell out all of P's views on the priest- hood and the sacrificial system.24 According to P the only legitimate priests were Aaron and his sons who had been invested by Moses himself. Far inferior to the priests were the Levites, who were assigned menial tasks (Num. 3-4; 8; 18:2-7). P's account
21. These rules may well be late (largely PI) , but there is no reason to doubt that they are legitimate inferences drawn from the theology of Pg. Cf. also Num. 35:34.
22. Cf. B. Volkwein, "Massoretisches 'edut, edwot, edot--'Zeugnis' oder 'Bundesbestimmungen,"' BZ 13 (1969): 18-40.
23. The possible bridges between P's cultic emphases at Sinai and the old covenantal traditions have been discussed by Delbert Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969), pp. 162-66.
24. See the excellent short discussions and bibliographies in IDBSup: B. A. Levine, "Priests," pp. 687-90; J. Milgrom, "Atonement, Day of," 82-83; and idem, "Sacrifices and Offerings, OT," pp. 763-71.
of the rebellion of Korah demonstrates the fatal consequences of any attempt to encroach upon the privileges of the sons of Aaron (Num. 16; cf. 18:7).
The service for the ordination of the priests was prescribed at Sinai (Exod. 29:1-37), and it was first carried out, also at Sinai,, in obedient response to God's command (Lev. 8-9). So important were the questions of legitimate priesthood and proper sacri- fice that P reports remarkable phenomena that accompanied the ordination of the first priests and the carrying out of the initial sacrifices: the appearance of the glory of Yahweh and the kindling of the sacrificial fire by no one less than Yahweh himself (Lev. 9:23-24).
SACRIFICES PAST AND FUTURE25 Israel according to P was a sinful people (cf. our discussion of the sins of the people and their leaders), and P was aware that the people would constantly come into contact with the unclean world in daily life. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that expiation and purification receive major emphasis in the sacrificial system. Much of the Holiness Code (Lev. 17-26), which was eventually incorporated into P, is concerned with the cultic and ethical holiness of the people before God.
The purpose of the blood in the frequent sin offerings (hatta't), was to purge the sanctuary and its holy furnishings. By such offerings the priests cleansed the sacred areas that had been pol- luted by physical impurity (Lev. 12-15) or by inadvertent of- fense to God (Lev. 4). Presumptuous, high-handed sins, on the other hand, could only be purged, at least in the final form of P by the annual rite of purgation for the sanctuary and the nation, that is, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The slain bull and goat on this day were to purge the shrine of the physical pollution effected by Israel's brazen sins (Lev. 16:16, 19). Without such
25. The question of which parts of the sacrificial regulations belong to Ps and which to Ps remains, now as before, highly disputed. We believe that what is said below about the sacrificial system and its purposes would have made sense to the priestly tradents already in the Exile, regardless of when the specific texts went through their final editing.
purgations the pollution would adhere to the sanctuary and amass until God could not longer abide there. By driving away the "scapegoat" on the Day of Atonement, the guilt for the people's iniquities, which had been transferred to the goat (Lev. 16:22), was also carried off. Thus the slain hatta't purged the sanctuary from pollution while the living hatta't carried off the people's sins.
Purgation and forgiveness26 are not prerequisites to God's renewed dwelling in the tabernacle and land; they are, rather, necessary requirements that must be carried through if that dwelling is to have an abiding future. The sins of individuals threaten the community as a whole since the pollution of individual sins left unpurged leads finally to the destruction of the community itself. The following exhortations in the Holiness Code presumably express common priestly understanding of the consequences of sin's pollution: "You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations . . . lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you" (Lev. 18:26 and 28).
CONCLUSION P's new community is to be shaped after that one formed at Sinai, whose chief characteristics were a tabernacle in which Yahweh dwelled, a proper priesthood, and a proper sacrificial system. This new community is to be brought about only by the force inherent in promises from the past, the covenants with Noah and Abraham. P showed in numerous ways how the promises of these covenants had been effective in the past and why they could be trusted in exile. He urged the exiles to maintain their identity by keeping the Sabbath and practicing circumcision. Each year Israel remembered at the Passover what Yahweh had done in Egypt (Exod. 12:14; 13:9), but they would also be led by the message of P to expect Yahweh to repeat his saving actions, so that both Israel and the nations among whom they lived would
26. On forgiveness see J. J. Stamm's discussion of slh in Theologisches Hand- w6rterbuch zum Alten Testament, ed. E. Jenni and C. Westermann (Munich: C. Kaiser, 1966), vol. 2, col. 150-60.
recognize Yahweh as the mighty God, who gets glory for himself in his historical deeds. A reader of P would know what good things happen to Israel and what bad things to their oppressors when God remembers his covenant. And God could not forget his covenant with Noah and Abraham despite his apparent forgetfulness in P's day. The rainbow, Yahweh's gracious addition to the created order, would inevitably bring his memory of the covenant to life. P ends his narrative with old Israel on the verge of the land and full of hope, and that is where and how he wanted his audience to understand themselves as well.