Riddle 55

“Sword-rack.” ? (possibly “gallows”)

Exodus, lines 477-590 [end]

The poet describes again the destruction wrought by the sea, crediting God. Every single person in the Egyptian army is killed for contending against God. There is then a homiletic passage / prayer in which the poet urges people to follow God’s law. He then links the events of Exodus to Judgment Day. Moses then speaks, saying that God has given them victory and a new land in Canaan. The people celebrate. The seas are still bloody. The people sing. Then they begin to loot the corpses of the Egyptians that have washed up on the shore. The Israelites divide up the treasure. There were many dead bodies on the edge of the sea.

Exodus, lines 389-476

The digression on Abraham continues, with a more detailed rendering of the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac. The angel, after telling Abraham not to kill his son, continues with the promise of God’s favor for the descendants of Abraham.

At this point in the manuscript there are two blank leaves, which were probably intended to hold illustrations. There is also a break in the narrative, indicating the loss of an additional leaf. The story picks up with the Israelites on the other side of the Red Sea.

The poem then describes the water rushing back on the Egyptians, destroying the army. The poet seems to revel in the scenes of destruction and terror: the sea is filled with blood, and soon the air is, also.

Exodus, lines 299-388

The host arises and begins to sing. Then the fourth tribe begins to travel the path through the sea, following the banner of a golden lion. Then follow the sons of Reuben [who are called “saewikingas”(sea-vikings, i.e., sea-raiders) by the poet]. The people of Simeon follow them while the sun rises, and the rest of the tribes of Israel continue through the sea. Then there is a digression that begins with a brief treatment of the story of Noah and then continues with a more detailed treatment of the story of Abraham.

Exodus, lines 200-298

An angel blocks the view of the pursuing army and the Israelites are able to rest for the night. In the morning Moses commands the warriors to summon the people with their trumpets. The soldiers prepare for battle, putting on their armor. [The poet calls the Israelites “flotan” (seafarers)]. We learn of the members of the army, their numbers and bravery. The army is ready and the standard is raised. The leader then exhorts his men, telling them not to fear because the Lord will kill the Egyptians and protect the Israelites. Moses says that he has brandished a “grene tacen” [a “green token”; Tolkien would emend to “tane.” The Latin in Exodus xiv.16 in the Vulgate uses “virga” here, and the poet may have thought it important to convey the specific meaning of “virga” as a freshly cut branch (hence “green”)] and that the sea is now opening up a wondrous pathway through the waves.

Exodus, 98-199

In the morning the men lift up their voices and march to the shore of the sea, where they make their fourth encampment. But now they begin to hear tidings of fear: the Egyptians are pursuing them.

At this point there is a lacuna, a gap in the sense of the manuscript indicating that something is missing from the poem.
The poem now gives history, telling how Pharoah became the ruler of the Egyptians and how they forgot their promises to the Israelites and set out to put down the rebellion. The Israelites see the Egyptian troops approaching. The “Beasts of Battle” (birds, wolves) make an appearance as the Egyptian army comes closer and the battle is about to be joined.

Exodus, lines 1-97

The poem opens very much like Beowulf, with a proem that sets up the basic outline of the story (not that the proem outline is followed throughout Beowulf). In this case, the poem says it will be about how Moses declared the law to mankind.

The story begins with God speaking to Moses and giving him power for the march from Egypt. God aids Moses’ people as they march through the land, covering them with a protecting cloud by day and leading them with a pillar of fire by night.