Why Does the Plague of Darkness Last for Three Days? Source Ascription and Literary Motif in Exodus 10:21-23, 27

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 The University of Chicago Divinity School

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This article addresses the question of source ascription for the plague of darkness in Exod 10:21-23, 27. It argues that attention to the specific content of this episode, and especially its indication of a three-day duration for the darkness, ties it to Exod 6:9-12, Moses’s initial interaction with the Israelites in the pentateuchal Priestly source (P). Beyond style or form, the darkness plague plays an essential role in the Priestly plot and for this reason may be confidently assigned to P.

  • 17)

    Greenberg, “Redaction,” p. 249.

  • 23)

    Greenberg, “Redaction,” p. 248.

  • 24)

    Propp, Exodus 1-18, p. 315.

  • 25)

    Philippe Guillaume, “Only Six Plagues in the Priestly Narrative,” Biblische Notizen 123 (2004), pp. 31-33.

  • 26)

    Loewenstamm, Evolution, p. 179.

  • 28)

    Loewenstamm, Evolution, pp. 95-96.

  • 31)

    Blum, Komposition, 248. The most significant stylistic features that recommend the ascription of darkness to P are its uses of בכל ארץ מצרים ‚נט״י ידך, and חז״ק לב. Exod 10:24-26 may be confidently assigned to J rather than P based on their content. The negotiation between Pharaoh and Moses concerning a worship excursion into the wilderness is a recurrent theme in the J plagues (Exod 4:23; 7:16, 26; 8:16, 25; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 8, 11; 12:31). In this case, vv. 24-26 follow immediately upon Exod 10:19 in J and are a continuation of J’s locust episode (cf. Greenberg, “Redaction,” p. 252).

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  • 44)

    Jacob Milgrom, “Israel’s Sanctuary: The Priestly ‘Picture of Dorian Gray,’” RB 83 (1976), pp. 390-399; Baruch J. Schwartz, “The Bearing of Sin in the Priestly Literature,” in David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman, and Avi Hurvitz (eds.), Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom (Winona Lake, Ind., 1995), pp. 3-21.

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  • 48)

    See, e.g., M. G. Swanepoel, “Die ‘drie dae’-motief in die Ou Testament,” Nederduits Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif 32 (1991), pp. 541-551; Roland Gradwohl, “Drei Tage und der dritte Tag,” VT 47 (1997), pp. 373-378.

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