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The Structural Paradigm of the Ten Plagues Narrative and the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

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The Ten Plagues narrative is classically considered a heavily redacted unit. The most widely accepted structural division in research is the model of three units of three plagues, which concludes with the death of the firstborn (3-3-3-1). This theory, well justified as it is from a structural and textual perspective, is not without its problems. One notable issue is its failure to explain the anomalous description of the seventh and eighth plagues, hail and locusts. This study proposes a new division of the plagues into a unit of seven plagues followed by a unit of three. This division, which, I will show, is supported by the redactive design, has special theological significance. Through this model, I will illustrate how (at least) two different structural paradigms can coexist within a single narrative, illuminating different facets of the multilayered text. In this paradigm, the plagues narrative emerges as two educational processes: the first seven plagues, ending with the plague of hail, are designed to educate Pharaoh and the Egyptians, while the unit of three is also geared towards the education of the Israelites.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Biblical StudiesBar Ilan


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