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The Endangerment of Moses: Towards a New Reading of Exodus 4:24-26

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Moses’ endangerment in Exodus 4:24-26 in which Yahweh sought to kill him has perplexed scholarship as to its rationale: why kill Moses, the one chosen to deliver Israel out of slavery? Scholarly responses to this pericope tend to identify causality for Moses’ endangerment that is both Moses’ doing and external to the call and journey. The following article suggests that Moses’ endangerment is a formalized rite of passage which is part of a wider, literary unit. As such, Moses is endangered precisely because he has undertaken this journey and for no other reason; his jeopardy is both internal to the narrative and a functional component of his mission. The paper proposes that this wider, literary unit is also the framework around which the story of Balaam’s journey in Numbers 22 is built. As such, Exodus 4 and Numbers 22 are read, and best understood, in conversation with one another.

Affiliations: 1: Northwest University Kirkland, WA United States


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