- Moses in the bullrushes (I salvaged a tiny woven basket from an ornament
- Moses calling Israel out of Egypt (a staff, which used once to be chopstick)
- Moses and the ten commandments (the grandchildren made these out of oven-bakable modelling clay).
Many trees have died in the cause of various theories about whether or not there is an historical core to the stories, and if so what and when. More (not to mention copious quantities of cellulose) retelling the stories. And more still about the meanings of various elements of the stories. For example, the name of the hero means variously ‘to be drawn out’ (because the Egyptian princess drew him out of the water), ‘to draw out’ (for the same reason, and also because he drew the people of Israel out of Egypt), and ‘child of’ – many Egyptian names end with the sound ‘…meses’. One writer suggests that Moses was originally named for an Egyptian god, like Thutmoses (son of Tut) or Rameses (son of Ra), but that he dropped the god name when he returned to his Hebrew roots.
Moses and whole Exodus cycle have had a powerful impact down through the ages on those who face overwhelming odds to find freedom. Believe, keep yourself pure, persist, and you will be free, the archetype says. The themes of escape from bondage, the wilderness journey, the covenant, the promised land – these form the language of revolution in Western history. Indeed, some have cogently argued that the whole notion of progress – the notion of change leading to a new place, rather than cyclical change that brings us back to the beginning – starts with the Exodus story.
“It figures prominently in medieval debates over the legitimacy of crusading warfare. It is important to the political argument of the radical monk Savonarola, who preached twenty-two sermons on the Book of Exodus in the months just before his fall and execution. It is cited in the pamphlets of the German peasants’ revolt. John Calvin and John Knox justified their most extreme political positions by quoting from Exodus. The text underpins the radical contractualism of the Huguenot Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos and then of the Scottish Presbyterians. It is crucial, as I have already suggested, to the self-understanding of the English Puritans during the 1640s, and of the Americans, too, on their ‘errand into the wilderness’. It is an important source of both argument and symbolism during the American Revolution and the establishment on these shores of ‘God’s new Israel.’ In 1776, Benjamin Franklin proposed that the Great Seal of the United States should show Moses with his rod lifted and the Egyptian army drowning in the sea; while Jefferson urged a more pacific design: the column of Israelites marching through the wilderness led by God’s pillars of cloud and fire. The Exodus story is important in the writings of that early socialist, Moses Hess, and it figures, though only occasionally and marginally, in the political writings of Karl Marx. And, of course, the Exodus has always stood at the very center of Jewish religious thought and has played a part in each of the reiterated attempts at a Jewish politics, from the Maccabean revolt to the Zionist movement. Zionism has sometimes been conceived in messianic terms, which both derive from and stand in tension with Exodus thinking; but it is also a call for a literal exodus—an escape from oppression and a journey to the promised land—and the biblical narrative has provided much of its imagery. Other nationalisms, too, have found hope in a promise that seems to include, whatever else it includes, the idea of political independence. The Book of Exodus came alive in the hands of Boer nationalists fighting the British, and it is alive in the hands of black nationalists in South Africa today [mid-1980s].” (Michael Walzer “Exodus and Revolution” pps. 5-6)