And now we’re in Exodus. The Bible jumps around a lot so let me help you to put Exodus into a context. First, let’s talk a bit about time. We can broadly date the setting of the Book of Exodus in the Late Bronze Age (1600 to 1300 B.C.), but we really can’t be more specific than that. To put the time into context, the Great Pyramid of Giza would have been about 1,000 years old when Moses was born. The nile delta region (“Egypt” in the Exodus narrative) was something of a crossroads where various people groups came from Africa to the south or the Middle East to the north and exerted political power. What it meant to be “Egyptian” varied from time to time depending on which group of people was in power. There are other stories from the ancient world that are similar to the Exodus narrative. We think those narratives are really about the interplay between the people settled in the region and people coming from outside and exerting influence.
We often overlook the geographic sweep of the Old Testament. Way back in Genesis 11, Abraham’s father Tarah started out in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. That would be as far to the east and north as was known in ancient Mesopotamia. The nile delta is as far to the south and west as the ancient non-european world knew. What strikes us as a narrative that is contained in a small geographic region is really an epic sweep. The story of Abraham and his descendants went from one end of the known world to the other. They were the original citizens of the world.
As a kid growing up, I looked forward to the annual showing of The Ten Commandments every Easter. I remember how grand and sweeping the movie seemed; the great contrast between Yul Brenner and Charlton Heston and the cutting-edge-for-its-time special effects. I think that’s how the story originally struck its audience, a group of people moving from one end of the known world to the other, the settled Egyptians and the nomadic Hebrews locked in a profound struggle. It is an epic story so enjoy it.