Saturday, July 31, 2010

These are the Names

The book of Exodus begins with the line "And these are the names of the sons of Israel..." In the Hebrew Bible the name of the book of Exodus is an abbreviation of this line, simply "names."

Exodus 6:14-27 is clearly an echo of that opening sentence. The word "these" is used once in Exodus 4 in a more generic way, but after Exodus 1:1, the word is used seven times in Exodus 6 signaling a new beginning. And the text seems to underline this point as it climaxes with the tribe of Levi. It begins with, "these are the heads of their fathers' houses," and then moves to "these are the families of Reuben" and then "these are the families of Simeon," and finally "these are the names of the sons of Levi..."

The three fold repetition of the "these are..." culminating in a line that echoes Exodus 1:1 nearly word for word underlines this new beginning, this new creation that is coming about through the tribe of Levi.

But looking more closely, it's also clear that this genealogy is laid out in a chiastic structure:

A. These are the heads of their father's houses (6:14a)
B. These are the families of Reuben (6:14b)
C. These are the families of Simeon (6:15)
D. These are the names of the sons of Levi (6:16-18)
C'. These are the families of Levi (6:19-23)
B'. These are the families of the Korahites (6:24)
A'. These are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites (6:25)

The center of the "these are the..." is "these are the names..." just like Exodus 1 began.

One other interesting point is that the text switches to a singular form of "these" in 6:26-27. My NKJV still uses "these" but the word is different; it's the singular masculine pronoun "he" better translated in this context as "this" except for the fact that the singular pronoun doesn't agree with the plural nouns "Moses and Aaron" which is why it is rendered as a plural "these."

But the connection is still there, and the point is clear. "These" families, "these" names are people that God knows and loves, and "these" men, Moses and Aaron are included in that number and are specific instruments for the fulfillment of God's purposes with these families, these names.

And it does not seems like an accident that Yahweh has just revealed (again) His name and insisted that it will be known and understood in a new way by His people (6:2-3). These are the names of the people who bear the name of Yahweh their Redeemer.

No comments: