Ode to Moses

Preaching weekly through Genesis over the last year or so has given me a much deeper appreciation for the literary artistry of Moses. We’re in chapter 46, and I see better than ever that the themes of seed, land, and blessing are truly ubiquitous after chapter 12. They are key to understanding the details of the book.

I’ll give you an example: Joseph says that he was brought to Egypt to save much people alive (Gen 50:20). I always got that, and that is such a precious passage to me.

But I never noticed (till a literary master of Genesis pointed it out to me) that Joseph gave a more specific reason for his sojourn in Egypt in that earliest conversation with his brothers:

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth. (Gen 45:7)

It was the protection and preservation of Abraham’s seed that God was most interested in—or at least first interested in—when He sent Joseph to Egypt “by the hands of wicked men.” His concern for the nations was not far behind, but that concern was to come to real fruition only later in God’s timetable. Genesis 12ff. is all about Abraham’s seed, his land, and his blessing (that last one in more than one sense).

Another example: Isaac’s conflicts with his neighbors over well-digging. I explained that as an indication that God was not giving Isaac the land yet. If he didn’t have peaceful rest in the land, he didn’t have the land.

In any case, “seed, land, and blessing” are permanently burned into my memory as irreplaceable hermeneutical keys—keys right there in the text—for understanding Genesis. I dare say that my hearers are tired of hearing me repeat them, but that they’ve seen their value.

God didn’t have to use an author highly educated in Egypt to produce the Pentateuch. But I can’t help but wonder what rhetoric lesson (or maybe example?) from an Egyptian tutor stands behind some of the skill with which Moses writes.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. Don Johnson on July 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    That’s an interesting observation, Mark. I wonder how much the Psalms rest on the style of Moses – there are poetic bits in the Pentateuch that are really indistinguishable in style from the Psalms and there is Psalm 90 as well… I wonder if there have been studies comparing pre-Moses Egyptian style with the Hebrew style.

Leave a Reply