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BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 2004

First, this pattern is found in the large poetic text (Gen. 49:1-27) at the close of the patriarchal narratives, along with the epilogue of Genesis 50.

Second, the two major narrative units that follow that of Gene- sis--the Exodus narratives and the wilderness narratives-both conclude with a poetic section, Exodus 15 and Numbers 23-24.

Third, the pattern embraces the whole Pentateuchal narrative, which concludes with the poetic "Song of Moses" and "Blessing of Moses" (Deut. 32-33) and the epilogue of Deuteronomy 34. 12

This study is concerned with the use of poetry that is set within the narrative of Israel's adventure at the Re(e)d Sea.13 Fol- lowing an examination of the prose narrative and the poetic portion of the Re(e)d Sea crossing, basic hermeneutical principles will be drawn and applied to an evaluation of the historicity of each liter- ary genre as well as the event itself.



The narrative of the Re(e)d Sea crossing forms a pivotal part of a larger narrative detailing the Hebrews' journey from Egypt to Si- nai (Exod. 12:37-19:2). The major stages of the itinerary are marked structurally by the recurring phrase "and they departed from." The narrative traces the Israelites' movement from Egypt to Succoth (12:37-13:19), from Succoth to the sea (13:20-15:21), from the sea to the oasis at Elim (15:22-27), from Elim to the Desert of Sin (16:1-36), from Sin to Rephidim (17:1-18:27), and from Re- phidim to Sinai (19:1-2). 14

12 John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 35-36.

13 The debate as to whether the precise body of water involved should be called the Red or Reed Sea (JUs M Ay, which reflects the Egyptian word twfy, "papyrus reed") is

not at issue here. For details see William F. Albright, The Vocalization of the Egyp- tian Syllabic Orthography (New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 1966), 65; Thomas 0. Lambdin, "Egyptian Loan Words in the Old Testament," Journal of the American Oriental Society 73 (1953): 153; Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 140-41; Richard D. Patterson, in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 2:620; James K. Hoffmeier, in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 3:943; Ber- nard F. Batto, "The Reed Sea: Requiescat in Pace," Journal of Biblical Literature 102 (1983): 27-35; and James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt (New York: Oxford, 1996), 199-222.

14 The identification of the various sites listed in the Exodus itinerary and their

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