Before looking in detail at the scriptures for this week, consider the following possible chiastic parallels between the story of Moses’s life and the story of Israel’s experience. Of course parallels are what we make of them. Some may see these as more tightly like one another than others do. Some may be skeptical about these chiasmuses, especially since one of them has missing parts. Some may see nothing at all. If you don’t find these parallels interesting, or at least thought-provoking, skip them and go on to the questions. If you do find them interesting, perhaps they will be useful for thinking about these stories—but don’t make more of them than is reasonably possible.
(Some of the tables I used to diagram the chiasmuses turned out strange, though readable, when I pasted this from Word. The others turned out fine. I don’t have a clue why, so I also don’t have a clue how to fix them. Thanks for your patience.)
I. Moses life:
|A: Moses is born.|
|B: Moses is introduced into a life in two communities (Israel and Egypt) via an act of violence, the killing of the children.|
|C and D: Moses is a member of both communities, but the dominant community is that of Egypt.|
|E: Moses is cast out of both Egypt and Israel by and act of violence, killing the Egyptian taskmaster.|
|F: Moses tends sheep in the wilderness.|
|G: Moses discovers who he is when he is called to lead Israel in a vision of God on Mount Horeb.|
|F’: Moses travels through the wilderness to return to Egypt.|
|E’: Moses reenters Egypt and Israel by an act of violence, the circumcision of his son (Exodus 4.24-26).|
|D’ and C’: Moses is a member of both communities, but the dominant community is that of Israel.|
|B’: Moses leaves his life in two communities via an act of violence, the killing of the Egyptian firstborn.|
|A’: Israel is born as a nation.|
II. Israel’s life:
|A: Israel has its beginnings (is born) as the children of Jacob.|
|B: Israel is introduced into a joint citizenship through an act of violence, the kidnapping of Joseph and the famine.|
|C and D: There are two communities, Israel and Egypt, but Egypt is the dominant community.|
|E: Israel leaves its dual citizenship and goes into the wilderness by an act of violence, the killing of the Egyptian firstborn.|
|X: Israel crosses the Red Sea on dry land, delivered by God.|
|F: Israel wanders in the wilderness.|
|G: Israel is constituted as a community, given the Law, in a vision of God on Mount Sinai.|
|F’: Israel wanders in the wilderness.|
|X’: Israel crosses the Jordan River on dry land, delivered into the Promised Land by God.|
|E’: Israel is born as a nation with a homeland through an act of violence, the destruction of the Canaanites.|
|D’ and C’: Israel takes up dual citizenship; though it dominates, it is also Canaanite.|
|B’: This element is not in the story, but given what we’ve seen in the story of Moses, what might we infer belongs here?|
|A’: This is also not in the story, but given what we’ve seen in the story of Moses, what might we infer here?|
III. Now think about how this general pattern might be a type or figure of other things. For example, is it a type of Christ’s life?
|B: Execution of the innocents|
|C and D: In this world, but not of it|
|D’ and C’: In this world, but not of it|
IV. Can we see the pattern as a figure of every human life?
|A: Birth in innocence|
|B: Coming to accountability—the violence of sin|
|C and D: Life in Babylon and the Kingdom|
|E: Despair at our failings—something else?|
|F: Wandering in the wilderness|
|G: Epiphany: conversion, a change of heart|
|F’: Wandering in the wilderness|
|D’ and C’: Life in the Spirit World|
|B’: Judgment, often portrayed in scripture as something violent|
|A’: Entrance into the Father’s Kingdom|
There are other ways of thinking about the story of Moses and Israel in terms of figures or types. For example, we believe that the law of Moses is a figure of Christ: Mosiah 13:31; Alma 13:36, 25:15. You might wish to look at parts of that law to try to understand how they prefigure Christ. Some of the laws of sacrifice are obvious, but what about the other laws, such as the laws concerning leprosy? For Christians, the only way to read Leviticus or Deuteronomy is figurally. Though they do not read those books looking for types of Christ, Jews sometimes read them figurally as well as literally.
One lesson of the story of Moses and Israel—and of Christ’s life—may be that we cannot escape suffering, but must bear it. Our suffering can be a type of Christ’s. (See Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:19-23 and 4:13; and Jacob 1:8.) Could that typology be a comfort to someone who is suffering? How?
Before you read the story of Moses and Israel and the exodus from Egypt, read 1 Corinthians 10:1-6. How does Paul read this story What does that suggest about how we can or should read it?
I am indebted to a friend, Arthur Bassett, for the inspiration of many of these questions. I would be happy also to share any blame they bring, but that wouldn’t be fair, so I’ll keep that for myself. I’ve not looked at as many secondary source for questions and ideas as I usually do. My apologies.
In Hebrew, the first six words of this verse are an exact quotation of the first six words of Genesis 46:8: “These are the names of the children of Israel that came into Egypt.” Why does Moses make that rhetorical connection?
Verse 5: Is it significant that in Genesis 10, the nations of the world numbered 70 and in this verse, the people of Israel number 70? What might that suggest about the relation of Israel to the world? Within the story of Israel that begins here, what does knowing that 70 persons came into Egypt tell us about the Israelites? Compare verse 7.
Verses 8-10: What does it mean to say that the new king did not know Joseph? Why does the new Pharoah fear the Israelites? Why does he say “let us deal wisely with them”? What does the word wisely suggest?
Verse 11: What was the first solution to the “Israelite problem”? How would that have been a solution to Egyptian fears?
Verses 15-16: Why is Pharaoh willing to allow the women to live, but not the sons?
Verses 17-21: What does this tell us about the Hebrew midwives? How is the midwives’ reward (see the footnote to verse 21) appropriate considering what they have done?
Verse 22: Does the way that Pharaoh kills the children foreshadow what will happen to his army?
The Hebrew word translated “ark” is used only here and in the story of Noah.
How is this ark a figure of Noah’s ark? How is Moses a figure of Noah? How is each of them a figure of Christ?
Verses 9-10: What kind of household was Moses raised in, Israelite or Egyptian? When did he become a son of the pharaoh’s daughter? When did he get the name “Moses”? What does the name mean in Egyptian? (See the footnote for verse 10.) What does it mean in Hebrew? How is each of these meaning significant to the story?
Verses 11-15: It is apparent that Moses knew he was a Hebrew. Why does he kill the Egyptian? How are the Egyptian smiting the Hebrew and the Hebrew smiting another Hebrew parallel? How do you explain the difference in the way that Moses handled each? What does the man mean when he responds to Moses in verse 14? Why does he seem bitter towards Moses? What does the beginning of verse 15 tell us about the man who threatened Moses in verse 14? Why did Pharaoh want to kill Moses? When Moses sits down by the well, what stories ought we to remember from Genesis? Are there any parallel stories in the New Testament? How does each help us understand the other?
Verses 16-22: Why does Moses begin this part of the story by telling us that he was dealing with the family of the priest of Midian? Why is his priesthood significant? (See D&C 84:6.) In verse 18, the priest of Midian is called “Ruel,” meaning “friend of God.” We will see him called “Jethro,” “excellence,” in Exodus 3:1. Why the two names? Might there be a reason for using one name in some places and the other name in other places? Is it significant that Jethro is part of the household in which the covenant descends? What does that tell us about the covenant and the priesthood? Why do we hear nothing or almost nothing about Moses’ children later? Why does Moses tell us so little about his life in Midian? Where is Midian? Who are the people of Midian? (See Genesis 25:2 and 37:28).
Verses 22-25: Of what significance is it that the Lord remembered the covenant? How is the covenant relevant to their bondage and to the Lord’s response to that bondage? What does Moses mean when he says “God had respect unto them,” in other words to “the children of Israel”?
Verses 1–6: The JST says that “the presence of the Lord” appeared in the burning bush. What does that mean? Why say “presence of the Lord” rather than “Lord”? Is there a difference? What is the significance of Moses removing his shoes? Why do we remove our shoes in holy places? Why does the Lord introduce himself as he does: “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? Why is Moses afraid to look at God?
Verses 7-10: How does what the Lord says here relate to the covenant that he made with Abraham?
Verse 11: How would you put Moses’s question in your own words?
Verse 12: How is this an answer to Moses’s question, “Who am I?” What sign does the Lord tell Moses will be a sign that the children of Israel have been delivered by God’s power? What is the significance of that sign?
Verses 13-14: Why does Moses ask about the name of God? Why does the Lord answer, “I am”? What does that title signify? How is it meaningful to this situation? Is it partially a response to Moses’s question, “Who am I?” (Verse 11)?
Verses 15-16: The Lord repeats his instructions here. Why?
Verses 18-19: Does the Lord tell Moses to misrepresent his intentions when he tells him to tell the pharaoh that the Israelites are going to go three days into the wilderness to sacrifice? Why does the Lord tell Moses that the pharaoh will refuse his request? Why have Moses make the request if the Lord knows that the pharaoh won’t grant it?
Verses 20-22: What does the Lord mean when he says “I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians”? Does he mean that the Egyptians will like the Israelites? Why does the Lord promise the Israelites treasure? They won’t be able to use it in the wilderness. What does he mean when he says, “Ye shall spoil the Egyptians”?
Verses 1-19: What does Moses ask the pharaoh to do for the Israelites? How does he respond?
Verses 20-21: How do the people respond to Moses and Aaron? Is this, perhaps, what the pharaoh was hoping for?
Verses 22-23: What is Moses’ complaint? What prompts the complaint? How does this compare to such things as Abraham’s bargaining with the Lord (Genesis 18:23-32)? What does this suggest that Moses had expected? What do you think he hopes to gain by this complaint? Why did the Lord put Moses in a position to cause the people to be burdened and to complain about him?
Verse 3: What does the change that the JST makes teach us?
Verses 6-8: The promises that the Lord makes to Israel in verse 6 and 8 are reasonably clear, but what is he promising in verse 7? What does such a promise mean?
Verse 9: Why do the children of Israel not listen to Moses? What does it mean to say that they didn’t listen to him? Why does the word “hearken” mean and why is it the verb so often used to describe our relation to the Lord and his prophets
Verses 9-13: What does Moses mean when he says that he has uncircumcised lips (verse 12)? Why is the charge to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt to both the children of Israel and to the pharaoh rather than only to the pharaoh?
Verse 2: Why does the Lord instruct the Israelites to borrow jewels and gold from their neighbors?
Verse 3: What is the import of this verse? What does it mean to say that the Israelites were favored in the sight of the Egyptians and that Moses was a great man in Egypt?
Verse 4: Is it significant that the plague will come at midnight?
Verse 5: Why is the firstborn the one to be killed? What does that signify? Is that related to the sacrifice of Christ? If so, how, since the death of these children is not an atoning sacrifice, is it?
Verse 7: How do you explain this verse given that the scriptures also teach that God is no respecter of persons?
Verse 2: Why does the Lord make this month the beginning of months for Israel? What is the significance of this change of the calendar? What does it signify with regard to Christ?
Verses 3-6: Can you explain in your own words what the instructions are for the Passover lamb? Do these instructions have any figural significance?
Verse 7: Why was the blood to be put on the door post and on the lintel?
Verse 8: What does the unleavened bread symbolize? (See verse 34.) Is it a figure of anything in Christ’s life or service? What about the bitter herbs?
Verse 11: Why must they eat the Passover lamb with their loins girded, their shoes on, and their staffs in their hands? Why must they eat it in haste?
Verse 14: This verse says that the covenant people must celebrate the Passover forever. Why don’t we celebrate it if we are the modern-day covenant people? How is the ordinance of the Sacrament related to the Passover feast? What do the differences between the two ordinances teach us?
Verse 31: At what time of day does the pharaoh tell Moses and Aaron that the Israelites can go? So what?
Verses 37-40: How many Israelites leave Egypt? Were there nonIsraelites with them? Do you suppose that they, too, had put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts? What might that teach us? How long had the children of Israel been in Egypt? Look back at Genesis 15:12-14. What do you make of that prophesy Why did it occur in “an horror of great darkness”?
Verses 48-49: What does verse 48 describe? What does it mean to say that one law shall be to the homeborn and the stranger? Who is the stranger?
Verse 2: What does it mean to “sanctify” the firstborn? Why should they be sanctified? What is the figural significance of sanctifying the firstborn? How would one sanctify a firstborn child? Is the sanctification of Israel’s firstborn related in any meaningful way to the deaths of the firstborn in Egypt?
Verses 21-22: What might the cloud and the fire signify?
Verse 5: Why does the pharaoh change his mind about letting the Israelites go?
Verses 11-14: Explain the Israelites’ complaint in your own words. Put Moses’s response in your own words. What does he mean when he says, “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord”? Does this interchange between Israel and Moses typify anything that we see in our own lives?
Verse 15: Does the Lord rebuke Moses in this verse for telling the Israelites to stand still?
Verse 28: Is there a connection between this drowning and the drowning of the Israelite children in chapter 1 (verse 22)?
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