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Season 1: The Burning Bush & the Bridegroom of Blood (Adapting Exodus)

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Who is Moses? You might think think that's a pretty simple question to answer, and, indeed, among modern Christians and Jews there is little disagreement; Moses is the central human hero who helped save the Israelites from slavery. But the identity of Moses was clearly more contested among the early Israelites who received the book of Exodus. With all of his Egyptian education and refinement, it's understandable that many would question whether he was a real Israelite. But it's even more complicated - Moses also spent a considerable amount of time living abroad and married into a Midianite clan and had children who were raised in Midian.

It's true: Moses isn't the savior of the Israelites, as he once imagined himself to be; rather, Moses is a servant of the true Savior, the one whose identity he will discover and in doing so discover himself.

Within the scope of season 1, the question of Moses' identity comes into focus in the episodes I am outlining today. It's not coincidental that these episodes also serve as the central hinge for the season. Thematically, the events leading up until this episode have called Moses' identity into question. On the one hand, his existential crisis in the preceding episodes led him to reject his Egyptian identity. But his attempt to violently establish himself as the savior of the Israelites also failed, calling into question his status as a Hebrew. As Moses arrives in Midian, he has the opportunity to start over. It's a bit like how Freshmen arriving at college have the chance to redefine themselves, freed from the baggage of whatever history they might have had back in high school. But try as he might, Moses' attempts to distance himself from the plight of Israel fail. It's true: Moses isn't the savior of the Israelites, as he once imagined himself to be; rather, Moses is a servant of the true Savior, the one whose identity he will discover and in doing so discover himself.

Sébastien Bourdon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sébastien Bourdon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you scrutinize the outline, you may notice that the adaptation adjust some of the sequencing and chronology of Exodus. For example, the Exodus narrative does not intend for us to believe that Gershom was born immediately prior to the Burning Bush revelation. However, by overlapping these two events & also drawing in the whole Bridegroom of Blood incident the episode really hones in on the question of Moses' identity.

Gershom's name means "I have been a stranger in a strange land." When Moses names Gershom, it's a recognition that he himself has been a sojourner throughout his life, both in Egypt and Midian, because Israel is his true home. The issue of Moses' identity is also tied to the whole problem of Gershom having not been circumcised. The reason God is willing to kill Moses for not circumcising his son is that it indicates a reticence to embrace fully who he is as an Israelite and a member of the people of God. All of this serves as a perfect complement to the dialogue between Moses & God, which hinges on who each of them is. Ultimately, the glory of who God declares himself to be overrides the weakness that Moses associates with himself. And in doing so, this episode also unveils to us what lies in store for us for the rest of the season, as we turn from build up toward final climactic acts ahead of us.

Dramatis Personae

  • Pharaoh (Pharaoh-1) - King of Egypt, oppressor of Israel

  • The Magician - The wiseman advisor of both Pharaohs; an Egyptian sorcerer

  • The Student - The apprentice of the Magician; helps him spy on the Israelites

  • The Task Master - The Egyptian in charge of the slave force

  • The Prince (Pharaoh-2) - Pharaoh's son; rises to replace his father as King of Egypt

  • Aaron & Miriam - Moses' siblings; Aaron is a member of the Council of Israelite Elders

  • The Appeaser-2 - son of the former Appeaser; like his father, he has become chief of the Council of Israelite Elders; collaborates with Egypt in order to maintain his own power

  • The Rebel - an Israelite leader who wants to join the Foreign Nation & lead a rebellion against Egypt

  • Hur - a young Israelite preacher & friend of Aaron in the Council.

  • Zipporah - a young Midianite woman who marries Moses; daughter of Jethro

  • Jethro - priest of Midian; marries Moses into his clan

  • Gershom - son of Moses and Zipporah

Notes on the Outline

  • The three main columns correspond to the primary storylines. This shifts around a bit throughout these episodes. In Episode 7, we follow the Egyptian Court, the Midianite tribe, and Moses. In Episode 8 we only follow 2 arcs, Moses and Zipporah. In Episode 9, we return to our typical structure and follow the Egyptian Court, the Israelite Elders, and Moses' family.

  • The three main rows correspond to a general division of the episode into three acts. The precise order of events is indicated by how each event in the act is numbered. This order does not always proceed from left to right.


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