The destruction of the Egyptian army in the Book of Exodus is the primary story of salvation for Israel and center stage is a portrait of God in combat. Indeed, the annihilation of the enemy is commemorated by a victory hymn with the words of praise, “Yahweh is a warrior!” Such unleashing of divine power with militaristic imagery and nationalistic motives has long caught the attention of scholars.
In God at War, Thomas B. Dozeman examines ancient Israel’s confessions of divine power in the exodus. He interprets the story of the exodus as liturgy that undergoes change as Israelite worship was transformed through the experience of exile. The reinterpretation of the exodus, he argues, was achieved through additions to the story and not through the writing of new versions. Dozeman proposes that additions to Exodus were intended to modify plot structure and character interactions, creating, in the process, a new understanding of divine power. What began as a liturgy of the Day of Yahweh, celebrating God’s triumph over Pharaoh at sea and kingship in the land, evolved into an extended account of salvation history, in which the life of faith becomes a wilderness march with divine kingship in the land a hope for the future.
Through this process of literary and cultic change, divine power is also transformed; once perceived as static and independent, it becomes a more dynamic and interdependent force in the world. Combining the insights of literary and historical interpretation, this study elucidates the idea of divine power and makes a significant contribution to resurgent research on the Pentateuch as a whole.