BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 161 (January-March 2004): 42-54 Copyright © 2004 Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
VICTORY AT SEA: PROSE AND POETRY IN EXODUS 14-15
Richard D. Patterson
THE PRACTICE OF SETTING FORTH a historical event in both prose and poetic form occurs with some frequency in Hamito-Semitic literature. Watts notes that poetic "hymnic prologues and epilogues frequently bracket the central narrative."1 He points out, however, that "the cuneiform texts use hymnic ma- terial as structural (primarily concluding) elements in both prose and poetic compositions, but do not mix the modes of presenta- tion."2 Likewise Lichtheim, commenting on the Kadesh battle in- scription of Ramses II, observes that "the combination, in historical inscriptions, of prose narratives with poems extolling the royal vic- tories is of course not new. What is new is that the poem should be more than a brief song of triumph that sums up the narration and should itself be narrative."3 In fact in Egyptian literature poetry often occurs within historical prose narrative. Thus Ramses's in- scription is formed with a prose introduction and conclusion as well as providing a prose narrative at one point to give the setting for Ramses's heroic extraction of himself from surrounding Hittite forces.4 Having been deserted by his own soldiers in the critical hour of battle against the people of the area, Ramses asserted, "I attacked all the countries, I alone." 5
Richard D. Patterson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Semitics and Old Tes- tament, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.
1 James W. Watts, "Song and the Ancient Reader," Perspectives in Religious Stud- ies 22 (1995): 135. Ibid., 138. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976), 2:59. Lichtheim views the Kadesh Inscription as an example of epic poetry. For details see Alan H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961), 259-64. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:62. 2 3 4 5