The “At-Sinai Narrative”: Exodus 18–Numbers 10 -- By: John I. Lawlor

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 21:1 (NA 2011)
Article: The “At-Sinai Narrative”: Exodus 18–Numbers 10
Author: John I. Lawlor

The “At-Sinai Narrative”: Exodus 18–Numbers 10

John I. Lawlor

Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

The content and placement of “in-law pericopes” at each end of the Sinai narrative together with the “chronological disjunction” of each in its respective textual setting calls attention to their combined function to serve as an ironic frame for the Sinai narrative. The centrality of the golden calf narrative in the larger Sinai narrative draws the reader’s attention to the role of Moses as intercessor on behalf of Israel, but the “in-law pericopes” seem to image Moses as motivated by self-interest. The paired function of the “in-law scenes” sets the stage for recognition of the paired function of the other movements that comprise this large narrative complex.

Key Words: narrative, chronological disjunction, Moses, tent of meeting, irony


Views of what constitutes the “Sinai narrative” are many and wide ranging. Alexander’s insightful article of 1999 appears to take a rather narrow perspective on the matter—dealing only with Exod 19–24.1 Blenkinsopp treats Exod 19–34 as the Sinai narrative in his 1997 essay.2 Booij includes more than Alexander but is more delimiting than Blenkinsopp: “The Sinai narrative in Exod 19–20; 24; 32–35 not only is a very specific datum within OT writings, but also appears to be remarkably isolated with respect to considerable parts of that literature.”3 Although Ruwe’s discussion is limited to Leviticus, his title represents a more expansive perspective on the Sinai narrative than those referenced above.4 Of course, various studies

may represent a wider or narrower range of material depending on the individual approach to the textual content and a given writer’s purpose for writing.

Approaching the text in its final form5 and from a broad perspective, the present study proposes that the “at-Sinai narrative” extends from Exod 18 through Num 10. The inclusion of the Jethro narrative of Exod 18 in the Sinai material...

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