Red Moses

90-Day Bible Challenge
Day 5
Exodus 1:1-Exodus 15:18

Of all the stories I remember devoting a great chunk of time on in Sunday School as a kid, the story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt is one of the biggest standouts. As I remember, this narrative was one of my favorites for many reasons. Reading this as an adult, I'm wondering how this was appropriate for my younger self.

Exodus opens with another of those Hebrew family trees similar to those that we come to know and "love" in Genesis. Names we can't pronounce and numbers that would take a statistician to keep proper track. We get the genealogy of Jacob and Joseph, and I guess that's important.

And then things start to turn dark. A king (pharaoh?) decides he wants to control the population and genocide follows. Then, the reader is provided with at least a little reprieve with the beautiful story of the abandoned baby in the basket who grows up and kills an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. God calls to Moses from a fiery bush, and Moses protests. He kicks and screams until God finally says, "Ok...I'll let you bring your brother along to speak for you in front of Pharaoh." 

Sticks turn into snakes. Water turns to blood. More unpronounceable names and lineages that are hard to follow. Plagues of frogs, dead animals, skin sores, locusts, darkness...a good time was had by all. And did I mention the death of the first born males? And the fun continues as the entire Egyptian army and all their horses meet a watery grave. How do the Israelites show God gratitude? Why, by dedicating (sacrificing?) their own first-born males and livestock, of course.

Let's not miss the main themes here: trusting in God, God calls us in spite of ourselves, God does amazing things, to name three. But there's  a lot in the opening chapters of Exodus that is much bloodier than what I remember from my Sunday School days. Maybe looking at the story through rose-colored glasses is telling me that the deeper meaning of this story is that the "just" suffer right along with the "unjust" (insert Hebrew groaning here).

Questions for discussion: What are your thoughts on the shift in genre in 15:1-18? What are your childhood memories of this narrative and how is your adult understanding different?


  1. I remember the "burning bush" and watching the movie on tv every year. I was pretty naive then and didn't really understand what was really going on. Now that I reread it there is so much more. Much of Israel's beginnings were very bloody and violent.
    I think the shift comes because they Israelite's are now on the exodus and a new beginning. The old life of slavery is over and they are given a new story to write as they move out into the desert going towards the new goal. Of course, nothing goes right and the people grumble, complain and still don't get it.

    1. Angela, thank you for your perspective. I like what you point out, "much of Israel's beginnings were bloody and violent." To this I would add that a lot of this is depicted within the pages of sacred scripture, both in the Old and the New Testament.
      I also like that you refer to the "shift" in chapter 15. SPOILER ALERT: The Israelites do a good bit of complaining! I'm wondering if the writing style is a hymn or poetry. In either case, I think it demonstrates a reverence to God and the elevated language of least at THIS point in the story.
      Thank you for commenting and walking with me on this journey.


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