Exodus 14–15 as an Anti-Baal Polemic Based on Literary and Historical Context

Since the discovery of the Baal Cycle tablets at Ras Shamra in 1929, the vast majority of inquiring scholars have noticed the narrative and semantic parallels between the Baal Myth and Exodus 14–15. Building upon this scholarship, this paper, derived from my 2021 dissertation, will demonstrate that Exodus 14–15 function as an anti-Baal polemic based on these chapters’ literary context in Exodus as well as the New Kingdom historical context of the exodus presented by the biblical canon. Four pieces of evidence will be adduced: (1) the Baal Myth parallels in the Song of the Sea; (2) the Baal-zephon cultic site references in the Song’s immediate canonical context; (3) the theme of Yahweh’s defeat of the gods of Egypt in Exodus 1–15; and (4) the historical evidence for the centrality of Baal-zephon worship in the East Nile Delta—particularly as the controller of waterways—during the New Kingdom period, precisely the historical context for the exodus presented in Exodus 1–15. For methodological control, the paper will briefly test this conclusion with Yairah Amit’s criteria for identifying implicit biblical polemics: namely, the existence of other biblical texts which evidence a polemic on the same subject; “one striking, unmistakable sign” or “a number of signs by whose means the author directs the reader toward the polemic;” and other references to this polemic within the history of exegesis.

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