• Linda Stargel

Student thesis: Phd


In response to the scarcity of biblical scholarship analysing the function of the Hebrew Bible's exodus stories as persuasive communication, this dissertation investigates how these mnemonically dense stories were capable of creating and maintaining a long-term collective identity for ancient Israel. A narrative approach is selected in keeping with this intent, and the primary exodus story (Exod 1:1-15:21) and the 18 retold exodus stories found in the Hebrew Bible are identified as the focus of research. Since the tools used for analysing the narratives of non-fictional peoples need not be limited to those used for analysing literary fiction, a methodological tool-based on the principles of the social identity approach (SIA)-is developed and outlined to assist in exposing identity construction at a rhetorical level. Using the SIA heuristic tool, rhetorical formulations of identity-cognitive, evaluative, emotional, behavioural and temporal-like those occurring in face-to-face relationships, are identified in the exodus stories. These formulations make certain identity claims upon their hearers. A shared experience of oppression and deliverance is represented as the significant feature defining group membership in Israel. The literary portrayal of nine of the eighteen retold exodus stories in a setting just after the death of the adult exodus generation, asserts the importance of the appropriation of the story by a purportedly new generation. Likewise, exodus narratives with a literary setting in every major socio-cultural transition in Israel's larger story portray Israel's rehearsal of and participation in exodus as central and essential to her ongoing collective identity. Possible social identities offered to Israel include the temporal expansion of this ingroup based on the retelling and reappropriation of exodus and the "othering" of Israel based on non-compliance. Pre-exodus narratives are noted to have been shaped so as to include the patriarchs in "the people whom God brought out of Egypt." Plurivocal retold exodus stories also reflects the recasting of narratives to fit identities so that, anachronistically, post-exodus members may also be included in "the people whom God brought out of Egypt." This points to the revision and reuse of exodus narratives rather than to their unilinear development. Apart from any speculation on the historical motives of their producers, the identity-forming potential of exodus narratives characterized by the well-established, recognizable language of social identity is identified. The newly developed heuristic tool used in this analysis is its most significant contribution. It makes visible the nascent social identity language and concepts implicitly noted by prior scholarship, places them within the larger validating theoretical framework of the SIA and systematically identifies the specific persuasive elements and integrating qualities of exodus narratives.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDwight Swanson (Supervisor) & Kent Brower (Supervisor)


  • Israel's identity
  • exodus identity
  • exodus narrative
  • exodus tradition
  • exodus motif
  • exodus
  • collective identity
  • social identity

Cite this