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Lesson #12

Book of the Covenant, Part 2


(Exodus 22: 6 24: 18)
In Lesson #10, we learned that the covenant stipulations (the Ten
Commandments, or ten principles) must be applied in specific
cases, and we began exploring the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:
22 23: 33) to learn how those principles are applied.

Drawing on the Code of Hammurabi as a source and structural
template, the Book of the Covenant may be divided into four parts:

1. Cultic ordinances (20: 22-26);
2. Legal prescriptions (21: 1 22: 16);
3. Religious, moral and cultic instructions (22: 17 23: 19); and
4. Epilogue (23: 20-33)

Exodus 24: 1-18 then ratifies the covenant as a whole.

















In Lesson #12 we continue exploring the legal prescriptions,
working our way to the end of the Book of the Covenant,
where we conclude with God ratifying the covenant.

1. Cultic ordinances (20: 22-26);
2. Legal prescriptions (21: 1 22: 16);
3. Religious, moral and cultic instructions (22: 17 23: 19);
and
4. Epilogue (23: 20-33)

Conclusion: God ratifies the covenant (24: 1-18)







As we enter Lesson #12 we continue where we left off
midway in Lesson #11 at Exodus 22: 6.


1. Cultic ordinances (20: 22-26);
2. Legal prescriptions (21: 1 22: 16);
3. Religious, moral and cultic instructions (22: 17 23: 19); and
4. Epilogue (23: 20-33)

















This seemingly random miscellany of laws that spans 21: 122:
16 has a structural logic to it that is easy to miss, unless you
know where to look!















As Robert Alter suggests, the order of
these laws is largely determined by
recurring key words or thematic
associations:

A close look reveals a convention used in
biblical narrative of linking two adjacent units
using the same word twice, but with two
different meanings. In 22: 4, for example, the
verb hivir (to cause to graze) is used, and in
22: 5 it is used in its other sense, to set a fire.

As for thematic association, verses 4 & 5 are
linked to the cluster of verses at the end of
chapter 21 which deal with damages caused by
ones livestock.
Legal prescriptions regarding stolen or damaged property
(22: 6-16)


















The Book of the Covenant


1. Cultic ordinances (20: 22-26);
2. Legal prescriptions (21: 1 22: 16);
3. Religious, moral and cultic instructions (22: 17 23: 19); and
4. Epilogue (23: 20-33)

















You shall not let a woman who practices sorcery live.
(Exodus 22: 17)


















As we move from legal prescriptions to
religious, moral and cultic instructions, the
laws are no longer casuistic, but
imperative.

The Hebrew word for one who practices
sorcery (a witch, medium, or
sorceress) is grammatically feminine,
since such people were predominately
women, as was the witch of Endor who
advises King Saul in 1 Samuel 28: 8-25.

The biblical world believed in the efficacy
of sorcery, but sorcery intruded into the
spiritual world, which was the exclusive
realm of God, and hence a serious offense.














Whoever sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord
alone, shall be put under the ban (22: 19)
Baal, (bronze, 14
th
century B.C.) and Ashteroth
(alabaster, 3
rd
century B.C.). Both statuettes are
in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
Baal, god of the heavens, and
Ashteroth, goddess of fertility and
sexuality become Gods primary
rivals in the hearts and minds of
the Israelites as our story
continues.

Ahab, 7
th
king of Israel (874-853
B.C), and his wife Jezebel, build a
vast temple to Baal in Samaria and
maintain 450 prophets of Baal in
their royal residence in Samaria.













The Book of the Covenant has already
expressed a humanitarian concern for
animals:

When you notice the donkey of one
who hates you lying down under its
burden, you should not desert him; you
must help him with it (23: 5).

Thus, the prohibition of boiling a young
goat in its mothers milk, a
fundamentally cruel thing to do to an
animal.

This is the source of isolating meat and
dairy in a kosher kitchen!



Keep Kosher,
my friends!
















Meat
Cheese
The Book of the Covenant


1. Cultic ordinances (20: 22-26);
2. Legal prescriptions (21: 1 22: 16);
3. Religious, moral and cultic instructions (22: 17 23: 19); and
4. Epilogue (23: 20-33)































I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines,
and from the wilderness to the Euphrates (Exodus 23: 31).
Israel today
Promised Land in the
Book of the Covenant















Given the strongly anthropomorphic
imagery throughout Exodus, we might
imagine this messenger as an agent
of God, perhaps in human form; thus
St. Paul identifies the messenger with
the pre-incarnate Christ:

[Our ancestors] all ate the same
spiritual food, and they all drank the
same spiritual drink, for they drank
from a spiritual rock that followed
them, and that rock was the Christ.
(1 Corinthians 10: 3).


Desis Mosaic, depicting Christ Pantrocrator (c.1261),
South Gallery, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Photography by Ana Maria Vargas
Epilogue, Reward for Fidelity (23: 20-33).














Biblical Interpretation
Codex Vaticanus (ink on vellum), c. 325-350.
Vatican Library, Rome.
This and Codex Sinaiticus are the two most important
4
th
-century biblical manuscripts.
Christian biblical exegesis
understands that Scripture has
levels of meaning beyond the
literal words of the text. Such
understanding dates back to
Greek platonic philosophy and
the early rabbinical schools of
Judaism.

Embracing multiple levels of the
text is a fundamental precept of
Roman Catholic biblical
interpretation.














Biblical Interpretation
Sandro Botticelli. Saint Augustine in His
Study (Tempera on panel), 1494. Uffizi
Gallery, Florence.
St. Augustine, prior to his conversion a
Professor of Rhetoric in Milan, was woefully
disappointed in Scripture since it lacked the
style and elegance of Cicero, probes beneath
the surface of Scripture in Books 11-13 of his
Confessions (A.D. 398). Reading the creation
story, Augustine goes beyond the literal
meaning of the text to discover a deeper, more
satisfying allegorical meaning.

Augustine develops this allegorical approach to
Scripture in De doctrina christiana (A.D. 397-
486), in which he describes how to interpret
and teach Scripture.

Augustines methodology profoundly affected
Scriptural interpretation through the Middle
Ages, and his influence continues.














Today the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2
nd
edition) offers
guidelines for reading and interpreting Scripture that have their
roots in Augustines thinking.


The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and
discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: All other
senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.
The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of Gods plan, not only the text of
Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of
events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the
Red Sea is a sign or type of Christs victory and also of Christian Baptism.
The moral sense. These events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act
justly.
The anagogical sense. We can view realities and events in terms of their
eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland.


According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses
of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into
the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses.
Biblical Interpretation



















Such an approach to
Scripture deepens our
understanding and greatly
enriches our experience of
the biblical text.


1. Cultic ordinances (20: 22-26);
2. Legal prescriptions (21: 1 22: 16);
3. Religious, moral and cultic instructions (22: 17 23: 19);
and
4. Epilogue (23: 20-33)

Conclusion: God ratifies the covenant (24: 1-18)







Moses then went up . . . [and] beheld the God of Israel. Under his feet there
appeared to be sapphire tile work, as clear as the sky itself (24: 9-10).














1. In the Book of the Covenant, what is Gods attitude
toward the poor?
2. How are the laws in the Book of the Covenant applied
today in Judaism?
3. Are the laws in the Book of the Covenant relevant to
Christians today?
4. God sends an angel *messenger+ to guard the Israelites
on their journey. Who is it?
5. On Mt. Sinai the glory of the Lord was seen as a
consuming fire on the top of the mountain and Moses
entered into the midst of it, where he spends forty days.
If you were an Israelite watching from the foot of the
mountain, 5,000 feet below, what would you think?




Copyright 2014 by William C. Creasy
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