I’ve been sharing with you an emerging series of poems drawn from the first chapters of Exodus, in the Hebrew Scriptures. I am finding they help give me a way of thinking about our own difficult time. Sitting alongside those, I’m writing some posts which tell the story in prose, drawing on my book, The Bible Story Retold.
It’s a powerfully revealing fragment. It shows Moses, perhaps becoming aware of the injustice his people were facing, taking violent – indeed fatal – action to defend them. This character trait of rescuing, or establishing justice, is further revealed in his actions defending the young women at the well – but this time, the incident ends with being received into Jethro’s family, and marrying one of those young women. There seems to have been some progress in how Moses uses his impulse to defend and rescue. It’s so easy, in rising up to oppose injustice, to become a mirror – demostrating the same behaviour as that which we might oppose. Part of this narrative’s purpose is to show us different ways good ends can be accomplished. And they begin with a change in us, a change in how we see, and understand the world. This one will begin with a powerful encounter with the mysterious I Am of the burning bush.
I explore this a little more in the poem, Moses, and the Burning Bush, which you can read here.
Now, back to the prose narrative……
From Exodus 2-4
Moses never forgot his own people. He could not walk among the carved colonnades of the royal palace without shuddering, for they had been built by the slave laour of his brothers and sisters. Then, one day, at one of the great building sites, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, and anger rose in him. He came to the defence of the slave, but killed the Egyptian, and gave him a hurried burial in the sand.
“So this is how he repays our kindness to him!” roared Pharaoh when he heard the news. “We brought him up as one of our own, and now he’s fighting against us, on the side of those lazy slaves!” When Moses saw Pharaoh’s anger, he ran to the desert, the land of Midian, fearing for his life.
He came to a well and sat down, gasping and exhausted. Soon, seven young women arrived to water their sheep. But some shepherds tried to drive them away and take the water for themselves. Moses came to the girls’ rescue, and helped them water their flocks. The young women returned to their father Jethro, a wealthy herdsman, and told him what had happened. Jethro welcomed his daughers’ protector into his family. Moses married one of the girls and cared for Jethro’s flocks. He learned the ways of the wilderness: where to shelter from a sandstorm, the best paths through the high places.
Then, one day, as the sheep grazed on the slopes of Mount Sinai…….
This is where the story moves to the moment of the Burning Bush.
And from Prayers and Verses
How long must I call for help before you listen?
How can you let this wrongdoing go on…
all the fighting and the quarrelling?
Wicked people are getting the better of good people;
it is not right, it is not fair!
I will wait quietly for God to bring justice.
Even in the middle of disaster I will be joyful,
because God is my saviour.
based on the book of Habakkuk
This post draws on the Sunday Retoldseries.