Life, love and conflict in the hill country around 1200BC
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Richard Abbott

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Abstract of “Triumphal accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian”

This thesis considers the literary structure of the triumphal song recorded in Exodus 15 of the Hebrew Bible, commonly known as the Song of the Sea and attributed in the biblical text primarily to Moses and secondarily to Miriam. This literary structure is investigated in relation to triumphal material and other poetry written in Egypt, predominantly in the New Kingdom period. It is argued that cross-cultural literary influences shaped the construction of the Song of the Sea, to the point that the author’s familiarity with Egyptian styles and conventions can still be recognised.

The exploration begins with a review of both Hebrew and Egyptian poetry, considering some of the typical patterns used in each culture. In particular, the construction of poetic couplets and the relationships between A- and B-lines of these couplets is studied in order to derive some basic principles of composition in common use.

The Israel Stele of Merenptah is chosen as a suitable point of comparison, and the large-scale structures of both this work and the Song of the Sea are compared and contrasted to highlight key areas of stylistic overlap. In particular, the use of chiasmus to structure these works, the use of divine or Pharaonic names as structural markers, and the use of complex arrangements of geographical or ethnic names in each text are highlighted.

In the later stages of the work, some additional lines of evidence are reviewed which lend support to the idea that Egyptian habits of writing may have been familiar to writers in early Israel, even after the decline of Egypt’s territorial ambitions in the Levant. This in turn suggests ways to understand the subsequent incorporation of the Song of the Sea into the larger Exodus narrative, as well as the social location of the author.

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