The Decalogue in Exodus was composed and strategically embedded in its literary context in order to reflect the discourse of Northwest Semitic monumental inscriptions. Monument making in the ancient Near East involved primarily the materialization and perpetuation of ideologies as well as the proposition of collective identities, and these functions were easily carried out by text objects. Accordingly, the Decalogue’s commandments reveal a YHWH-centered ideology expressed in terms familiar to Northwest Semitic monumental discourse. These commandments were strategically structured to provoke collective interaction with the text that would persuade its users to accept its proposed perspective as their new collective identity. Finally, the Decalogue is inserted at a point in the narrative where the ancient audience could reasonably expect an account of monument erection—immediately following the account of YHWH’s defeat of Egypt, which makes up the first half of the book of Exodus. The Decalogue thus acts as the text of an imagined victory monument to YHWH, which materialized YHWH’s newly established kingship over Israel and the divine proposition of the people’s collective identity. The Decalogue thereby fulfills the primary function of royal Northwest Semitic monuments by materializing an imagined encounter between a king and his people and establishing a relationship between them. The text’s monumentality thus provides a new means of conceptualizing its composition and authority.

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