Some responses, from my new best friend, Robert Alter:
Bradley, Of Exodus 4:24-26, Robert Alter says this:
“This elliptic story is the most enigmatic episode in all of Exodus. It seems unlikely that we will ever resolve the enigmas it poses.” He then goes on to present a number of potential ‘readings,’ which are themselves enigmatic.
The story (and the deity represented) might even be from a premonotheistic stratum of Hebrew culture. Alter continues, “What seems more plausible is that Zipporah’s act reflects an older raionale for circumcision among the West Semitic peoples than the covenantal one enunciated in Genesis 17. Here circumcision serves as an apotropaic device, to ward off the hostility of a dangerous deity by offering him a bloody scrap of the son’s flesh, a kind of symbolic synecdoche of human sacrifice. The circumciser, moreover, is the mother, and not the father, as enjoined in Genesis.”
And Anna, for you:
In Exodus 12:8, Alter translates the word as ‘flatbread’: “The etymology of the Hebrew matsot remains uncertain. In Genesis 19, Lot serves matsot to the two anonymous guests who were to his house at nightfall, and the implication is that this is a kind of bread that can be baked hastily, with no need to wait for the dough to rise before putting it in the oven.”
In Exodus 12:15 & 17: “Here the term matsot is the name of the festival, which is also called pesach. Some have plausibly conjectured that there were originally two different holidays- matsot agricultural and pesach pastoral- that were drawn together in the literary formulation of this text and hence in Israelite practice.”
Is this helpful?