Crucible of Exodus

imagesWe could find the wandering nature in the lives of Isaac and Jacob.[1] In fact, Jacob’s story is a series of journeys narratives.[2] First in the Negeb desert (Gen 26), then to Padan-Aram, (High Mesopotamia) where he worked for fourteen years as a migrant labourer with his uncle Laban (Gen 27,46–31,8), then in Transjordan where he manipulated his large family so as to divide the risks involved on the occasion of the dangerous meeting with Esau (Gen 32–33) and at the end in the transhumance between Shechem and Hebron (Gen 34–35). At this point the saga of Jacob merges with the story of Joseph, the lost child found as first vizier in Egypt where he settled his own people until a political upheaval which turned them into slaves deprived of any right.

Such are the vicissitudes of a clan in constant migration, which could not manage to take root in a definitive soil. This nomadic pattern, which characterized the saga of the patriarchs, can be found again in the narratives about Moses, drifting in his cradle carried by the river flow, fugitive in Midian, giving to his first-born son the symbolic name of Ger-shom (migrant there) (Ex 2,22) and meeting his God in the desert of Horeb (Ex 3). The mission he received was to bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, the essential rite to which was the celebration of Pesah, of a Passover,[3] so that the remembrance may remain forever (Ex 12,43; 13,9). Accordingly, the fundamental experience that gave these people an identity was situated in the desert, the place of nomadic life. The foundational events of the Israel are those of the Passover: exodus from Egypt and entry into the transhumance of the desert.

These constitutive events marked the conscience and the faith of the people of Israel.[4] Israel became aware of being a people on the move and the God they encountered was the God of the desert, unique, transcending any image or place. These people who were on the move, marching towards a promised land intended to settle there at the end of their migrations. But all their collective imagination, their religious schemes, and the driving force of their faith bore the mark of their origins, the Passover, the Exodus, the Covenant in the desert and the encounter with the God of the Sinai desert.[5] Through their myths and rites, their laws and their faith, the Israelites were to view themselves as a society on the move.


[1] J. Barton and J. Muddiman (eds.), The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, New York, (2007), 49.

[2] Cf. R. Rendtorff, ““Covenant” as a Structuring Concept in Genesis and Exodus,” JBL, Vol. 108, no. 3, The Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, (1989), 385-393, 391.

[3] Cf. R. Rendtorff, ““Covenant” as a Structuring Concept in Genesis and Exodus,” JBL, Vol. 108, no. 3, The Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, (1989), 385-393, 392.

[4] Cf. A. Mullor, “Exodus: The Unexhausted Theme?,” The Living Word: Philosophico-Theological Journal of the Pontifical Institute, Vol. 101, no. 3, J. M. Press, Alwaye, (1995), 161-172, 166-167.

[5] Cf. M. C. Thomas, “Mission of the Exodus Israelites: A Socio-Analytical Perspective,” BB, Vol. XXI, no. 2, Bible Bhashyam Trust, Kottayam, (1995), 89-104, 95-103.

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