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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Exodus and the Reader.

1.

As with any great work of literature, what Exodus means is in the end up to the reader. Creative readings of the book depend not merely on the readers' needs and perspectives, but upon their propensity to read themselves into the book. Thus, although Miranda's reading of YHWH's motives in Ex 3 (see above, D.4) may seem distorted, we understand it when we realize that he speaks for the Latin-American base communities, conscious of their own oppression, who identify themselves with oppressed Israel and claim God's just deliverance for themselves. Thus Exodus, despite its emphasis on God's self-regarding motives and destructive activity, has taken a central place in liberation perspectives on the Bible (cf. also Gutiérrez 1988; Croatto 1981 ).

2.

The book's original purpose was to create or strengthen the identity of the community of Israel, and that is certainly the way in which it has been read by Jews ever since. The book forms the warrant for the festival of Passover. In traditional Christian exegesis, on the other hand, Christians have seen themselves as the Israelites brought through the Red Sea by the hand of God, and the experience of the Sea has been identified with the Resurrection, as in John of Damascus's Easter hymns (e.g. ‘Come ye faithful, raise the strain’) or with baptism (1 Cor 10:1–5 ; Origen, Homily on Exodus, 5.5 ).

3.

More recently, some readers have read Exodus ‘against the grain’ of the text, identifying themselves with groups who are marginal to it, such as women (Exum 1993, 1994; Fewell and Gunn 1993 ), or simply reading as moderns sceptical of the values maintained by the book (Clines 1995a and b), and pointing to their socially relative character. This procedure, of course, makes it more difficult to embrace the witness of the book; but that does not make these any less legitimate readings. On the contrary, they should be welcomed as powerful tests of the validity of the far-reaching claims that the book makes.

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