Literature / Book of Exodus

This page will also discuss Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua for convenience.

Exodus: 400 years after the Israelites' migration to Egypt at the end of Genesis, a new pharaoh subjects them to slavery and has all their newborn children killed. One baby escapes and is found by pharaoh's daughter and named Moses. As an adult, he kills an overseer for beating an Israelite and flees to the desert. He settles down into the life of a shepherd when he is called by God to liberate his brethren.

Leviticus: The guide book about how the Israelites are to properly worship God.

Numbers: The Israelites are on their way to The Promised Land while battling hostile nomadic peoples and internal dissension. Things do not go entirely to plan.

Deuteronomy: Moses' last instructions to the new generation of Israelites about to enter Canaan.

Joshua: Moses and the previous generation of Israelites are dead and its up to Joshua to lead the new generation in conquering the Promised Land.

Joshua is followed by the Book of Judges.


These books contain the following tropes:

  • Adapted Out: Moses' brother Aaron is always either removed entirely or has most of his deeds taken over by Moses himself.
  • After-Action Report: According to tradition, these books were written near the end of Moses' and Joshua's lifetimes.
  • All Flyers Are Birds: In the Long List of laws detailing what animals are and are not OK to eat, note  bats are listed among the unclean birds. note  Bats are mammals, not birds (either this distinction wasn't known in those days or birds was a catch-all term for all vertebrates that could fly).
  • Artistic License – History: Possibly. There is no archaeological evidence or written record of a mass migration of people (enslaved or otherwise) out of Ancient Egypt and into the Middle East. However, the ancient Egyptians never recorded their defeats and even turned some of them into victories. It's believed that there's a historical core to the story since one of the oldest poems in the book titled "The Song of the Sea" is dated to the 12th century BC. These are two of various reasons why even scholars who aren't Christian or even members of the Abrahamic faiths think there must have been a exodus (or several of them) of some sort whether or not it happened in the grander way the Bible describes it. Also most (if not all) of Egypt's monuments were built not by foreign slaves, but by Egyptian day-laborers (often farmers in the off-season), though the Bible also stipulates that the Hebrews didn't build the monuments, they did more menial tasks such as making bricks.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • Moses was 120 when he died. Joshua finally became leader, at 80.
    • Caleb, the other faithful spy along with Joshua, carries this Up to Eleven in Joshua chapter 14. He states outright that he's 85 years old but doesn't feel a day over 40 and asks that his inheritance be a mountain fortress filled with Anakim, and confidently expresses his belief that God will give him victory over them. The name Anakim means giant and many bible scholars think Goliath was one of the last Anakim. Eighty-Five year old Caleb was asking to go fight an entire fortress full of giants.
  • Because I Said So: Invoked many times by God, or by leaders like Moses and later kings, who would claim that the edicts were issued directly by God.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Any person who is caught having sex with an animal is to be executed. The animal too, is considered Defiled Forever by this act and must be slaughtered.
  • Big Blackout: One of God's plagues upon Egypt was to plunge it into thick darkness.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Israelites conquer Canaan but it's foretold the next generation will be unfaithful to God. Also Moses is told he can not enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience to God's word.
  • Burn the Witch!: There is a command to not allow a "sorceress" to live.
  • Bury Your Gays: Leviticus 20:13 states: "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." note 
  • Church Militant: Contrary to what you see in The Ten Commandments, the worshipers of the golden calf were not swallowed up by the earth. God had Moses command the Levite priests to slaughter them. The swallowed-up-by-earth event happened later, in an unrelated incident.
  • Consummation Counterfeit: If a woman's new husband (or in-laws) accuse her of not being a virgin on her wedding night, and she is able to produce a bloodstained sheet or garment, then the accuser is to be publicly flogged (and if it is the groom or his family making the accusation, he loses the right to divorce her.) However, if the bride and her parents are not able to produce "evidence" that she was a virgin, she is to be stoned to death by the men of her community right on her father's doorstep (or at least her body was to be left on his doorstep after the fact). This is the same punishment she'd face if she had an affair after the wedding, although in this case it only applied to her. (In theory, if she had an affair after the wedding, her lover(s) could face execution as well...though in practice, it wasn't always enforced equally.) She would be considered to have cheated on her husband before they'd even met, and her family would be forever shamed.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The laws of Moses. Covers civil law, criminal law, public sanitation, religious rituals... It even gives some case studies for unusual events.
  • Deus ex Machina: Whenever the people of Israel are in need, God provides.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: God's punishments for those who have broken one of His laws seem like this, probably to illustrate that His standards of morality are utterly unlike any human being's. (On the other hand, reparations for sins committed against other people are not to be more severe than the harm done.)
  • Does Not Like Shoes: God in the burning bush. "Remove your sandals, for the place where you are standing is Holy Ground."
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Pharaoh and those unfortunate Egyptian soldiers caught in the Red Sea at the wrong time.
  • Don't Say Such Stupid Things: This is how God sharply tells Moses to accept his assignment in leading His people out of Egypt, since Moses was still recalcitrant despite God performing miracles to show what He can do/use them to convince Pharaoh.
  • Epic Fail: It takes 40 years to walk to Judea, less than 200 miles away. On the way they manage to switch back several times, kill a large percentage of their own group in infighting of various kinds, and start fights with practically everyone in the region.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Pharaoh in sharp contrast to two Hebrew midwives identified by name. Some speculate that there were several different Pharaoh's during Moses time in Egypt (it's clear there are at least two different Pharaoh's; the one reigning when Moses was taken in and the new one who did not know him when he first approached the throne regarding freeing his people). Unfortunate (or very suspicious) given that this information would finally establish a base time to anchor all of these events to.
    • There is some speculation as to his/their identity, with Thutmose II being the best candidate for the Pharaoh Moses contended with, especially since his successor [1], or someone connected to her, went out of their way to deface his monuments and erase records of his reign. Perhaps this is why there is scant evidence of the events outside the Scriptures.
  • Fatal Flaw
    • Moses' anger.
    • Pharaoh's arrogance.
    • Aaron's weak leadership.
    • Miriam's jealousy of Moses.
    • Joshua's overconfidence.
    • Balaam continuing to antagonize the Israelites even after experiencing God's power.
  • Faux Flame: An angel of the Lord speaks to Moses from a bush that burns but is not consumed.
  • Fidelity Test: If a man suspects that his wife is cheating on him, but can't absolutely prove it, he is to take her to the Temple, remove her head covering note , make an offering of coarse flour, and have her drink bitter, cursed water. If she's been faithful, the water will have no ill effect on her note ...but if she hasn't, "her belly will swell and her thighs will waste away." note , and she would be either killed or ostracized from her community. There was no test for a man accused of cheating, because a) for a man, it was only considered adultery if the woman he slept with was married or engaged to someone else, even if he was married and b) it functioned as a way to keep the jealous husband from acting rashly and having his wife executed in a case where she was only Mistaken for Cheating.
    • The woman could confess if she had been cheating, or find a way to produce evidence that she hadn't, rendering the test moot. (If she had cheated, however, she could face the death penalty if her husband so chose.) And, of course, if her husband were to just divorce her, she wouldn't have to undergo the test, even if she had cheated. Whether she was tested in this way or not was up to him.
  • Foreshadowing: Deut. 17:14 was about how to choose a good king, centuries before any Israelite even thought this was a good idea.
  • Geo Effects: Taken advantage of by the Israelite army (and occasionally it also gets the better of them because they weren't right with God).
  • God Was My Copilot: God (or a messenger thereof) shows up to help Joshua take down the city of Jericho.
  • Good Is Not Nice: God didn't have any qualms in killing Egypt's firstborn in order for Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery, and he doesn't have any compunctions in being heavy with His severe punishments on the Israelites if they sinned against Him. However, the Plague of Death of the Firstborn happened after Pharaoh disregarded the previous Plagues.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: After Joshua's failed attack on Ai.
  • Hero of Another Story: While these books focus on the history of Israel, in one passage from Deuteronomy, the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites and Caphtorim (Philistines) could qualify. In Deuteronomy 2, Moses mentions in passing these nations driving out the Emims, Zamzummims, Horims, and Avims, other tribes or names for giants that were found in Caanan.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Pharaoh, it is possible that there were multiple Pharaohs ruling Egypt over the course of the Exodus, which would also explain why he/they are never named.
  • Holy Backlight: Moses became glowy from spending so much time in God's direct presence and actually looking upon God Himself.
  • Holy Ground: Trope Namer.
    • Moses sees a burning bush, which tells him to remove his shoes, because he is standing on Holy Ground.
    • Prior to the attack on Jericho, Joshua is visited by the Captain of the Lord's Host, and is also told to remove his shoes because he is standing on holy ground.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: Exodus 33:20 provides the page quote. Moses asks to see God's face, but He replies that seeing it would kill Moses. God arranges for Moses to see His back instead.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: Pretty much what the law requires against sexual misconduct of a woman (Leviticus 21:9 and Deuteronomy 22:13-21) and disobedient children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rahab. She sheltered the Israeli Spies in her home, helping them to take the city of Jericho.
  • Ignored Expert: The Egyptian magicians can replicate the first few tricks and plagues, but when it gets to the gnats they are unable to replicate them and tell Pharoah that it's genuine divine power after all. He ignores them.
  • Illegal Religion: The various pagan religions of the Promised Land. In theory, they were to be not only not practiced by the Israelites, but wiped out by them as well (the reasons for this include the pagan religions recurring practices of Human Sacrifice by fire, said sacrifices included children, and ritual prostitution). This wasn't so much the case in practice.
  • Jewish Complaining: The Israelites, but this didn't please God whatsoever.
  • Jews Love to Argue: Especially in numbers, the Jews have to keep sending the new laws back to God via Moses for revision. For example, one story (which appears three times: Numbers 27, Numbers 36, and Joshua 17) has a group of five sisters (including the other biblical Noah) point out that the current way land division is planned cuts their family out on a technicality. Moses takes this to God who declares those plans be revised and the patriarchal tradition be amended.
  • "Just So" Story - These books explain the origins of the names of places known only to Middle Easterners.
  • Kill 'em All: Well, all the first-born unprotected by lamb's blood. Also Pharaoh's (or one of the Pharaoh's) plan for the male Hebrew babies.
  • Kill It with Water: Drowning Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea.
  • Logic Bomb: Like Genesis, Jewish tradition holds that Moses wrote the rest of the Pentateuch. However, even the most orthodox of scholars admit that he hardly could have written the last 8 verses of Deuteronomy which report his own death. Thus, those verses were attributed to Joshua instead.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The song of Moses (Deut. 32:1-43) which was sung as the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land. In the passages beforehand, God had flat out told Moses that his people were going to mess up badly in the end, and gave the song to Moses as a reminder of what they needed to do once that day came to repent. Nevertheless, it's about as uplifting as a kick in the balls.
  • Meaningful Echo: The generation after Moses crosses the Jordan river in a manner similar to how their parents crossed the Red Sea.
  • Merciful Minion: Pharaoh orders the midwives of Egypt to kill any male Hebrews that are born. They refuse to do so, and get away with it by lying to Pharaoh that, in Hebrew culture, they don't wait for midwives to show up to give birth, or that they go through the labor-and-delivery process long before the midwife shows up.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: The Trope Namer.
  • Only Fatal to Adults: Only those Israelites under the age of 20 make it to the Promised Land, the rest being wiped out by various means as a result of their complaining...and the fact that they were a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits wandering a vast expanse of desert for 40 years.
  • Pals with Jesus: Moses talks to God all the time and spends a lot of time in His presence. He also got to see God's back.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The Hebrew newborn males.
  • Punished for Sympathy:
    • Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were burned to death by God because they were offering "strange fire". After this, God invokes this trope by warning Aaron not to mourn their deaths or He will kill him along with the rest of the Israelites.
    • The Israelites complained to Moses about God burning 250 of the other Israelites for burning incense. As a result, God becomes enraged and kills 14,700 more of the Israelites.
  • Rain of Something Unusual:
    • In (Exodus 16) the Hebrews subsisted on a bread-like substance that rained from the heavens while they wandered the desert. They called it manna (literally "what is it?") so it must have been pretty nondescript as a foodstuff.
    • One of the Ten Plagues of Egypt was a rain of frogs.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: What would happen to the Israelites if they didn't keep God's commands.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Moses sees an overseer whipping a Jew and is overcome with rage, killing him. Rather than immediately viewing him as an ally and savior, this makes the other Jews view him as a dangerous murderer — the next day, when he confronts one of the Jews about fighting with some other Jew, he asks if Moses is going to kill him, too.
    • The Pharaoh let the Israelites go after the 10th plague killed his son. However, once the people are gone, Pharaoh and other officials realized that they just let go all their workers and now they're economically screwed.
  • Refusal of the Call: Moses tries to talk his way out of having to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but God won't take no for an answer.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Various clans get cursed for not extending it, Israel gets in trouble for being stupid about it (they made a promise they shouldn't have because they didn't consult God), and the laws of the new nation codify being kind to strangers, extending sanctuary for escaped slaves, etc.
  • Shotgun Wedding: If a man slept with a woman who was not betrothed to someone else note , and someone found out, he was to pay her father the bride price he would have received if she were a virgin and marry her...and he was never allowed to divorce her. (Note that this also applied to some cases of rape, not just instances of consensual sex.) This was to provide for any child they may have conceived (a very real possibility in an era with no reliable birth control), and to protect the reputation of the woman's family. It also ensured that the woman (who would be considered Defiled Forever) would have someone to provide for her. (Women in this time and place were typically not educated, and were economically dependent on their husbands.) It was also designed to help curb temptation: if the man was caught, he was stuck with this woman for life, whether he wanted to be or not; he'd have to decide if it was really worth it. It may have also helped (via Loophole Abuse) women have some say in who their marriage partners were: have sex, tell Daddy what you did, and marry someone of your own choosing (instead of whoever your parents picked out for you).
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Deuteronomy 24:16 says that sons must not be executed by sins of their fathers nor viceversa.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: In Numbers 11:15, Moses tells God to just kill him if he has to deal with the people of Israel complaining about eating only manna in the desert.
  • Stubborn Mule: The prophet Balaam being hired out to curse the Israelites struggles with a stubborn mule, until the mule is granted the ability to speak and reveals that she was trying to protect her master from a vengeful angel.
  • Take a Third Option: Joshua meets a stranger after prayer. He demands to know whether the stranger is an enemy or an ally. The stranger replies: "Neither, I'm here to command you." Joshua realizes Who he's talking to.
  • Take That: The Plagues were this to the Egyptian Pantheon.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Well, forty years for Moses, but to God it might as well have been 10 minutes.
  • Title Drop: The Jewish names for the various books (except Joshua) are simply a word that appears in the first line of each book. The book Exodus for example in Jewish is called שמת (pronounced sh'moth), which translated simply means "[the] names". The first line of Exodus is "And these are the names of the sons of Yitzra'el."
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The crowds have a tendency to get a little volatile whenever things don't go exactly their way.
  • To the Pain: Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 has a list of unpleasant things that God will do to His people if they don't obey His commandments.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Deuteronomy 22:5 abhors this trope:
    "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."
  • Would Hurt a Child: God's killing of the firstborn of Egypt. Also the laws in which children are to be stoned to death for being disobedient to their parents. Also the Pharoah who ordered the male babies of Hebrew slaves killed; the reason Moses' parents to had to hide him in the basket of reeds in the first place.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": The conquest of Canaan. The book more or less explicitly states that with a few exceptions the Israelites systematically exterminated the population (including civilians, children and even livestock) of the country and did so righteously. Of course, pretty much every tribe behaved back then like that.
  • Yo Yo Plot Point: The people anger God, He decides to exterminate them, Moses convinces Him to be merciful. The Israelites soon sin again...

Alternative Title(s): Exodus, Book Of Exodus

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/BookOfExodus