Exodus: Final Thoughts

We started this discussion by describing he battle of Kadesh and then by looking at the inscriptions called the Kadesh Poem.  I would like to return to the Poem in this final article.

Hendel claimed that most of the motifs cited in Berman’s essay, far from being distinctive to these two sources,  were instead “formulaic and widely distributed” in ancient Egyptian literature.

Berman says in response: “This is a strong claim, so let’s set the record straight. No Egyptian composition other than the Kadesh Poem speaks of how the pharaoh’s troops fell into disarray when surprised by an enemy chariot force. No other Egyptian composition speaks of the pharaoh pleading to his god and being told to proceed forward in battle against all odds. No other Egyptian composition has defeated enemy troops vocally acknowledging the superiority of the Egyptian divinity who has been working against them. No other Egyptian composition describes (let alone visually portraying in a bas relief, as in the case of the Ramesses monuments) the drowning of the enemy force in a body of water. No other Egyptian composition describes how the pharaoh’s own formerly dispirited troops return to the battlefield, survey the enemy corpses, and erupt in a spontaneous, extended hymn.”

If we accept Berman’s statements, then the Kadesh Poem is a singularly unique poem without precedent or equal in Egyptian literature.

Berman does allow that there are some elements of the poem that are not unique.  For example, the poem refers to the Hittites being consumed “like chaff” by the fire of the Pharaoh.  This reference appears in at least one additional source.  Berman, for one, argues that this expressions which appears in this additional source was copied from the Kadesh poem in that additional source, but cites no evidence for this position.  In further rebuttal Berman argues, that ” not a single one of the motifs listed above appears anywhere else in Egyptian literature. But all of them do appear in this one case, and all of them match the account in Exodus. Moreover, they appear in these two sources in essentially the same sequence…”  This might be construed, as Sommer argued,  as being ” persuasive force of the parallels” Berman has identified. I identify.

Still, if you add these distinctive motifs to the Poem’s more widely attested motifs that  Berman cited—like the return of the victorious forces to the palace and the grant of eternal rule—the Kadesh Poem and the Exodus account can be seen to exhibit almost exactly the same order.

Again, all of this does not prove the Exodus story, but it sheds some light.

I accept Berman’s conclusions.  I see in his work the following:

1. The Author of the 14th and 15th Chapters of Exodus knew of the Kadesh Poem and mimicked it in his own work;

2. The Author felt he was relating something so powerful that the only parallel he could use to describe the event was to relate it in terms of the most important event that had occurred in his memory or the memory of the world at that time: the battle between two super powers, involving thousands of men and chariots;

3. In the something that the Author was relating was a true event in the history of his people; and

4. In that event which the Author was relating, the Author saw the hand of God at work and that the hand of God was working for his people in history and in time.


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