The Myth of Exodus Essay

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The Myth of Exodus

There are many themes running through the Old Testament myth of Exodus – slavery, rescue and redemption, guidance, commandments on how to live, the creation of a nation, and God’s power over other gods. In this paper I will explore what appears to be the chief reasoning behind the creation of the Exodus myth – the explanation of the creation of a monotheistic religion and the similarities of the Exodus myth to the ancient myths, as well as how one should approach the reading of the myth.

First of all, we need to understand what a myth is. William Bascom says in his essay, “The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives”, “Myths are prose narratives which, in the society in which they are told, are considered to be
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At the heart of the matter, the creators of a myth are attempting to explain their world in a world absent of science and sophisticated tools of research. In approaching myth, the reader must enter into the world of the creators of the myth, instead of attempting to impose their own societal beliefs and expectations on it. In short, we need to read the myth in imitation of how the myth was originally received.

In the myth of Exodus, a monotheistic system of worship was needed in order to create a unified nation with one god. Exodus attempts to provide an explanation for this movement away from the traditional polytheistic religion. Lauri Honko says in her essay, “The Problem of Defining Myth”, “…myths can be characterized as ontological: they are incorporated and integrated into a coherent view of the world, and they describe very important aspects of life and the universe” (Dundes 51). Within the pages of Exodus we find the first code of laws – the Ten Commandments – for living as a monotheistic society. God begins the Ten Commandments with admonishment to keep Him above all other gods,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1-3).

In this passage, God reminds Moses that God is supreme above all other gods and he reminds Moses of the miracle he has performed in bringing the people out of Egypt. The

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