Monday, May 5, 2014

Exodus: Chapter 17

Water to stone
Stone to water

Hold me up,
or crush me down

We test each other
Are you inside me?

The crevices
of incompleteness

[For full chapter, click here
The chapter continues seamlessly from the first, a further fall, an exacerbation of desperation and bitterness. And the underlying fear is at last revealed: "Is God amongst us or nothingness?" God's "testing" of Israel with constant uncertainty is answered by a need to "test" his presence. A young relationship, tearing itself apart.
The complaint is a chiastic closing to the series of complaints that followed in the immediate wake of the Splitting of the Sea. From hunger, we return, once more, to thirst. Now the children of Israel do not merely complain, they "fight" with Moses. Again the hint of distrust and acrimony. "Why did you take us out from Egypt, to kill me, and my children, and my cattle, with thirst?"--an intensification and personilization of "For you have taken us out to this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."  Moses indeed feels threatened: "What should I do for this people, soon they will stone me!"
This "stone" becomes thematic, an sad link to the seemingly-forgotten Song of the Sea, where the Egyptian  "sank like a stone" and  enemies grew silent "as stone."
Now, Moses smites the stone to bring forth water; his heavy tired arms must be propped by stones on each side. Yet his arms remain "faithful" (emunah), a return to the "faith" that closed the Song of the Sea.]

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