God at War: Power in the Exodus Tradition

Synopsis

The destruction of the Egyptian army in the Book of Exodus is the primary story of salvation for Israel; God is the chief combatant in this story. "Yahweh is a warrior!" So goes the victory hymn in Exodus 15:3 after the annihilation of the enemy by Yahweh, marking the importance held by this show of divine power. This unleashing of divine power and its militaristic imagery has long caught the attention of scholars as starkly nationalistic. Thomas B. Dozeman furthers this study by addressing the theological problem of divine power in the Exodus story and, by extension, the Judeo-Christian attempt to deify nationalism by calling its wars holy. He interprets Exodus as liturgy, the Day of Yahweh, celebrating God's defeat of Pharaoh and the ultimate ascendancy of Israelite authority. This liturgy, though, did not remain static, but changed as the national experience of exile changed the practice of Israelite worship. An isolated event evolved into an extended account of salvation history, in which the life of faith becomes a wilderness march to the promised land. Dozeman traces how revisionary embellishments in the plot structure and characters of the Exodus story reflected the new understanding of divine power. By combining literary and historical interpretation this study offers the first serious inquiry into the idea of divine power, and makes a major contribution to resurgent research on the Pentateuch as a whole. No scholar concerned with biblical historiography and its justification of holy wars can afford to ignore this book.

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