Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Chapter 2, “Exodus” pp. 241-322.
Part 5 “Wilderness Wanderings (15:22-18:27)” pp. 272-281.
As Israel moves into the wilderness east of Egypt they are unable to find fresh water. In Exodus 15 God shows that he will provide what his people need as they give heed to his words (Sailhamer 1992, 272). The discussion of obedience to God’s law brings Sailhamer to the question of when God revealed his law to Israel, at Sinai or also before and after. “An early Jewish tradition held that God already gave Israel ‘a few sections of the Torah’ at Marah - such commands as the keeping of the Sabbath and those necessary for the administration of justice” (Sailhamer 1992, 273). In Exodus 16 the people of Israel begin to experience supernatural provision of food.
Sailhamer discusses the texts which say, variously, that a jar of manna and Aaron’s rod were “before” the ark or “in” the ark. He suggests (Sailhamer 1992, 275) a difference in custom over many years.
Exodus 17 has God providing water from a rock for his people. The place is named Meribah, based on a word for “rebellion” (Sailhamer 1992, 277). There is a parallel event at a later time in Numbers 20. God is shown to be the mighty ruler again in Exodus 17 when Israel battles the Amalekites and defeats them as long as Moses holds his hands up.
Exodus 18 describes the community order established in the wilderness. Sailhamer (Sailhamer 1992, 280-281) sees Jethro as another version of Melchizedek, coming to bring peace. Jethro urges Moses to have others judge simple disputes. This, in Sailhamer’s opinion, is how Israel had some laws prior to Sinai.