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Exodus 14

"And the Israelites came into the sea on dry land, the waters a wall to them on their right and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and came after them, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his riders, into the sea. And it happened in the morning watch that the LORD looked out over the camp of Egypt in a pillar of fire and cloud and He panicked the camp of Egypt. And He took off the wheels of their chariots and drove them heavily, and Egypt said, “Let me flee before Israel, for the LORD does battle for them against Egypt.”

Robert Alter: "in the morning watch": By Israelite reckoning, the last third of the night, from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. The Hebrews, then, would have marched through the Sea of Reeds during the night, literally plunging into the dark, for the pillar of fire would have been behind them rather than leading them on their way. "the LORD looked out": The Hebrew verb hishqif is generally reserved for looking down or out from a high vantage point.
"in a pillar of fire and cloud": The double identification is presumably because of the moment of transition toward daybreak when the fire becomes cloud. The narrative sequence at this point is not entirely clear, but it might be sorted out as follows: during the night, the Israelites make their way across the sea, with the protective pillar of fire following after them. The Egyptians, seeing their movement, which would be joined with the receding pillar of fire, begin pursuit. As day breaks, G-d looks down on them from the pillar of fire just as it turns back into a pillar of cloud.

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Exodus 8

And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the Nile channels and over the ponds, and bring up the frogs over the land of Egypt.”  And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt... And Pharaoh called to Moses and to Aaron and said, “Entreat the LORD that He take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I shall send off the people, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” And Moses said to Pharaoh, “You may vaunt over me as for when I should entreat for you and for your servants and for your people to cut off the frogs from you and from your houses—only in the Nile will they remain.” And he said, “For tomorrow.” And he said, “As you have spoken, so that you may know there is none like the LORD our G-d."

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Exodus 1:16-19

...And (the Pharaoh) said, “When you deliver the Hebrew women and look on the birth-stool, if it is a boy, you shall put him to death, and if it is a girl, she may live.” And the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, and they let the children live. And the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why did you do this thing and let the children live?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “For not like the Egyptian women are the Hebrew women, for they are hardy. Before the midwife comes to them they give birth.”

Robert Alter: "birth-stool": Literally, “double stones.” Although there is some debate about the meaning of the term, there are persuasive grounds to understand it as the double stone or brick structure that the childbearing woman gripped as she kneeled, the standard position to give birth. There is an Egyptian magical papyrus that announces it is to be recited “over the two bricks of birthing.”

"for they are hardy": “Hardy,” hạ yot, is derived from the verb “to live,” which has just been used twice in connection with the newborn. (Hence the King James Version’s “lively,” though in modern English that unfortunately suggests vivaciousness or bounciness.) The fact that hạ yot as a noun means “animals” may reinforce the strong connection between the Israelites and the procreative forces of the natural world: like animals, the Hebrew women need no midwife.

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(no subject)

"And (Joseph) said, “Far be it from me to do this! The man in whose hand the goblet was found, he shall become my slave, and you, go up in peace to your father.” And Judah approached him and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing... Your servant became pledge for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him to you, I will bear the blame to my father for all time.’ And so, let your servant, pray, stay instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father, if the lad be not with us?" -- Genesis 44.

"Judah, who conceived the plan of selling Joseph into slavery, now comes around 180 degrees by offering himself as a slave in place of Benjamin... This of course stands in stark contrast to his willingness years before to watch his father writhe in anguish over Joseph’s supposed death. The entire speech, as these concluding words suggest, is at once a moving piece of rhetoric and the expression of a profound inner change." -- Robert Alter.

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40.

"And Joseph came to them in the morning and saw them and, look, they were frowning. And he asked Pharaoh’s courtiers who were with him under guard in his lord’s house, saying, “Why are your faces downcast today?” And they said to him, “We dreamed a dream and there is no one to solve it.” And Joseph said to them, “Are not solutions from G-d? Pray, recount them to me.” Genesis 40.

"Are not solutions from G-d? Joseph in Egyptian captivity remains a good Hebrew monotheist. In Egypt, the interpretation of dreams was regarded as a science, and formal instruction in techniques of dream interpretation was given in schools called “houses of life.” Joseph is saying, then, to these two high-ranking Egyptians that no trained hermeneut of the oneiric — no professional poter — is required; since G-d possesses the meanings of dreams, if He chooses, He will simply reveal the meanings to the properly attentive person." — Robert Alter.

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(no subject)

"And it happened about three months later that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the whore and what’s more, she’s conceived by her whoring.” And Judah said, “Take her out to be burned.” Out she was taken, when she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong I have conceived,” and she said, “Recognize, pray, whose are this seal-and-cord and this staff?”

— Genesis 38.

"And Judah said, “Take her out to be burned": The precipitous speed of Judah’s judgment, without the slightest reflection or call for evidence, is breathtaking. The peremptory character of the death sentence — and burning was reserved in biblical law only for the most atrocious crimes — is even more evident in the Hebrew, where Judah’s decree consists of only two words, a verb in the imperative (“take-her-out”) followed by “that-she-be-burned,”
hotsiʾuha wetisaref."Robert Alter.

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(no subject)

"And Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. And they saw him from afar before he drew near them and they plotted against him to put him to death. And they said to each other, “Here comes that dream-master! And so now, let us kill him and fling him into one of the pits and we can say, a vicious beast has devoured him, and we shall see what will come of his dreams." 

Genesis 37.

"that dream-master: Although time-honored tradition renders this in English simply as “dreamer,” the Hebrew term baʿal hahạ lomot is stronger, and thus in context more sarcastic. The baʿal component suggests someone who has a special proprietary relation to, or mastery of, the noun that follows it.
...The flinging after the killing underscores the naked brutality of the brothers’ intentions. The denial of proper burial was among the Hebrews, as among the Greeks, deeply felt as an atrocity." — Robert Alter.

(I haven't researched this sufficiently, but perhaps Ba'al had originally been a higher-ranking (in human worship terms) deity among this branch of Semitic peoples. His name seems very commonly used in similar contexts!)

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(no subject)

"...And Jacob passed before them and bowed to the ground seven times until he drew near his brother. And Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell upon his neck and kissed him, and they wept... And Esau said, “What do you mean by all this camp I have met?” And Jacob said, “To find favor in the eyes of my lord.” And Esau said, “I have much, my brother. Keep what you have.” And Jacob said, “O, no, pray, if I have found favor in your eyes, take this tribute from my hand, for have I not seen your face as one might see G-d’s face, and you received me in kindness? Pray, take my blessing that has been brought you, for G-d has favored me and I have everything.” And Jacob pressed him, and he took it."

— Genesis 33.

"I have everything. Jacob of course means “I have everything I need.” But there is a nice discrepancy between his words and the parallel ones of his brother that is obscured by all English translators (with the exception of Everett Fox), who use some term like “enough” in both instances. Esau says he has plenty; Jacob says he has everything—on the surface, simply declaring that he doesn’t need the flocks he is offering as a gift, but implicitly “outbidding” his brother, obliquely referring to the comprehensiveness of the blessing he received from their father." — Robert Alter.

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(no subject)

"And Laban said to Jacob, “Look, this mound, and, look, the pillar that I cast up between you and me, witness be the mound and witness the pillar, that I will not cross over to you ... and you will not cross over to me past this mound, and past this pillar, for harm. May the god of Abraham and the god of Nahor”—the gods of their fathers —“judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the Terror of his father Isaac."Genesis 31.

"Terror of his father Isaac: This denomination of the deity... occurs only in this episode. What is noteworthy is that Jacob resists the universal Semitic term for God, ʾelohim, and the equation between the gods of Nahor and Abraham. He himself does not presume to go back as far as Abraham, but in the God of his father Isaac he senses something numinous, awesome, frightening." — Robert Alter.

"The Seventh Plague" (by John Martin). (Click on the "no subject" phrase to open full-size.)

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(no subject)

"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed in his eyes but a few days in his love for her. And Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is done, and let me come to bed with her.” And Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. And when evening came, he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob, and he came to bed with her... And when morning came, look, she was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you, and why have you deceived me?” And Laban said, “It is not done thus in our place, to give the younger girl before the firstborn. Finish out the bridal week of this one and we shall give you the other as well for the service you render me for still another seven years.”

— Genesis 30.

"It has been clearly recognized since late antiquity that the whole story of the switched brides is a meting out of poetic justice to Jacob (for his theft of Jacob's blessing from Esau) —the deceiver deceived, deprived by darkness of the sense of sight as his father is by blindness, relying, like his father, on the misleading sense of touch. 

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