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Exodus 20:1

Is the text specifically linking Egypt to the house of bondage or can it be read as two separate places?

What I mean is does the text imply:

  1. "out of the land of Egypt AND/OR out of the house of bondage"

or does it read more like:

  1. "out of the land of Egypt AKA the house of bondage"
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    Great question. Can you clarify what "the house of bondage" would be if it is read according to your first option (it obviously cannot be Egypt)? – Bach Apr 5 '19 at 16:48
  • I wondered if it could mean 'Egypt' for Israel and 'bondage' or sin for gentile believers - if read the first way – Tzephanyahu Apr 6 '19 at 10:01
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The second reading is the correct one. 'Out of the house of bondage' is an appositive to 'out of Egypt'.

Notice that the roughly same grammatical feature occcurs again in the commandment concerning the Sabbath (Shabbat/Shabbos). 'Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. . . . the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.' (New International Version) Sabbath day=the seventh day . . . the seventh day=the Sabbath day. (By the way, this commandment is not observed by most Christians, the Seventh-Day Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists being exceptions.)

An even better parallel is Psalm 106:21b-22a:

They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt,

miracles in the land of Ham . . . .

Egypt=the land of Ham.

Note: The New International Version translates 'the house of bondage' as 'the land of slavery'.

  • You are using technical terms that many on the list don't understand. You need more explanation about Hebrew poetry and explain appositive. Hebrew poetic form is important in interpretation even in the New Testament. – Perry Webb Apr 5 '19 at 20:32
  • I countered the down vote. While your explanation as it stands is too brief for a normal up vote, it doesn't deserve a down vote. – Perry Webb Apr 5 '19 at 20:36
  • @Perry Webb Your support is appreciated. The Decalogue is not poetry. And the meaning of the word 'appositive' can be easily found online if it is not understood. I have amplified my answer in response to your critique and that of Bach 14. – Clifford Durousseau Apr 6 '19 at 9:25
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In reading Hebrew one must be hyper-sensitive to its parallelisms. Here is a classic example from Psalm 24:

Verse 1:

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

Verse 2:

for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

Verse 3:

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

I do not intend to treat this important subject exhaustively but will simply say here that such Hebrew parallelisms come in several forms such as synonymous (saying the same thing in different words), antithetical (saying the opposite), synthetic (adding things), and can be bicola, tricola and sometimes arranged in more complex forms called chiasms and other constructions. For some extra information about this see https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/Major-Characteristics-Hebrew

The statement in Ex 20:2 is a simple synonymous bicolon as follows:

A: who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

A': out of the house of slavery.

Thus, "land of Egypt" and "house of slavery" are being used as synonyms.

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