Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible

By Frederick J. Murphy | Go to book overview

4
Moses: Biblical Antiquities 9-19

Moses is the most dominant figure in the Biblical Antiquities, as is evident in the sheer number of chapters devoted to him. The narratives about Moses in chapters 9-19 also concern the Exodus, the giving of the Law, and the first approaches to the land of Israel. These chapters lay the foundation for Israel itself, and so describe the presuppositions of the rest of the book. In Moses' story, the tension between God's mercy and God's justice is particularly evident, and as the ideal mediator between God and humanity, Moses addresses it specifically.


LAB 9:1-8: Amram, Father of Moses

Most of LAB 9 is not from the Bible. The chapter is important as an introduction to the birth and career of Moses, as well as for its incorporation of several themes crucial to Pseudo-Philo's worldview. It exhibits the four-part "plan form" discerned in LAB 6: plan, counterplan, dissent, and divine intervention. Pharaoh proposes a plan that is accepted and added to by the Egyptians (9:1); the Israelite elders propose a counterplan (9:2); Amram objects to the counterplan (9:3-6); God intervenes, rewarding Amram and saving Israel from the Egyptians' plan through Amram's son Moses (9:7-10).1 The message is that human plans tend to be ineffective or even evil, and God's plans always prevail.

Pseudo-Philo condenses the story of Pharaoh's oppression of Israel, going directly to the killing of all male Hebrew babies ( Exod. 1:22). The element of human planning is highlighted when Pharaoh says, "Let us make a plan against them" (9:1). As in the biblical text, LAB 9:1 says that female babies are to be spared. Then there is a significant addition to the story: "And the Egyptians answered their king, saying, 'Let us kill their males, and we will keep their females so that we may give them to our slaves as wives. And whoever is born from them will be a slave and will serve us.' And this [hoc] is what seemed wicked before the LORD" ( LAB 9:1). The referent of hoc is not clear in the last sentence. It may indicate all of the Egyptians' plans or it may denote the

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1.
See Murphy, "Divine Plan,"10-12.

-52-

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