Mark Leuchter, «Eisodus as Exodus: The Song of the Sea (Exod 15) Reconsidered.», Vol. 92 (2011) 321-346
This study continues a line of inquiry from the author’s previous essay regarding the 12th century BCE battle traditions embedded in the Song of Deborah (Judg 5) as the basis for a nascent Exodus ideology surfacing in the Song of the Sea (Exod 15). Exod 15 is identified as developing an agrarian ideal into a basis for national identity: Israel’s successful struggles against competing Canaanite military forces echoing earlier Egyptian imperial hegemony is liturgized into a myth where YHWH defeats the Egyptian foe and then settles his own sacred agrarian estate.
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340 MARK LEUCHTER
to Mt. Zion 78. Alternately, some scholars see it as a reference to
Sinai/Horeb, with the poem commemorating the covenant tradition
associated with that locale 79. However, the phrase may also repre-
sent the highlands themselves (with rh functioning as a collective
singular) 80, presented as inherited territory deriving from YHWH.
The term hlxn appears widely in the depiction of ancestral estates
fostered within rural clan settings 81, and it is fitting that in transfer-
ring the highlands to Israel, YHWH provides the horticultural proto-
type of how they are to pass it on to their own progeny. YHWH
â€œplantsâ€ (wm(+tw) his people in a manner consistent with the agrar-
ian themes persisting in Deut 32,2.9-10.13-14; Hos 2,16-17.23-24;
Jer 2,2-3 and other later texts 82. And just as the people are charged
to cultivate the land, YHWH cultivates his people by remaining
among them in the highlands (Ktb#l Nwkm), a presence attested in
other Biblical sources as well 83.
This image contrasts strongly with Merneptahâ€™s assertion that the
â€œseedâ€ of Israel was annihilated in the famous inscription on the
Merneptah Stele (ca. 1209 BCE). Exod 15 affirms the very opposite:
that Israelâ€™s seed is alive and well, and no less than YHWH himself
is the one who has planted them. Here we find an Israelite affirma-
tion of a common late 2nd Millennium convention of using agricul-
tural language to characterize the conditions of a group of people in
relation to a larger power 84. In the case of Merneptah, who presents
BATTO; SPIECKERMANN, et al.
RUSSELL, Song, 25; B. HALPERN, The Emergence of Israel in Canaan
(SBLM 29; Chico, CA 1983) 38-39.
Scholars who view the poem as monarchic and Jerusalemite assume
that the phrase must refer to Zion specifically, but a similar use of the col-
lective singular can be found in 1 Sam 1,1 (Myrp) rh) in relation to the
Ephraimite highlands. KLOOS, Yhwhâ€™s Combat, 135, is correct to note the ab-
stract nature of the phrase, which fits a general reference to the highlands as
a mythic landscape.
VAN DER TOORN, Family Religion, 199, 201.
On the connection between land cultivation, kinship networks, and the an-
cestral cult, see J.S. BERGMA, The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran (VTS 115; Lei-
den 2007) 65; F. STAVRAKOPOULOU, Land of Our Fathers. The Role of Ancestor
Veneration in Biblical Land Claims (LHBOTS 473; London â€“ New York 2010).
See, e.g., Deut 33,29. The image/theme is discussed by HALPERN,
â€œJerusalem and the Lineagesâ€, 68-69.
The rhetoric in the Merneptah Stele is very close to that found in the
chronicles of Tiglath-Pileser I, see A.K. GRAYSON, Assyrian and Babylonian
Chronicles (Locust Valley, NY 1970) 189.