Monday, October 24, 2011

Moses and the Egyptians: hearing the other side of Bible stories

Every now and again I read a story in the Bible about how the Israelites conquered such and such a people and destroyed everything. I wonder sometimes about the other side, the people who were wiped out by a group of people who claimed they were doing God's will. I think about the children, innocent and clueless as to what was happening and seemingly suffering because of something their parents did or did not do.

As modern readers of the Bible it is important that we try to hear both sides of the story, even in the Bible. We need to be careful that we don't use the Bible in ways that brings harm to others. This means that while I understand that the Bible has a theological message, we don't necessarily want to encourage things like genocide as happens in Joshua. Just because it is in the Bible doesn't mean it is something we want to replicate. It is good to pause when reading and interpreting and to think about about the situation of the "other side."

The below video does this. It is an imaginary interview with an Israelite and an Egyptian speaking for their people about the plagues against Egypt that lead up to the exodus. The creators have done a good job of portraying what Egyptians might have thought about the situation as well as emphasizing the challenges faced by Israel.

I wonder what it would be like to hear from someone in one of the cities destroyed by Joshua. From someone who had never done anything other than be born in the wrong city at the wrong time.


  1. Excellent post, John. I took a similar approach when discussing Joshua in the undergrad Bible class I'm teaching. I was surprised and encouraged by how receptive they were to this perspective. It's important when we read these biblical accounts to remember that they are written from a particular perspective, and that one of the most important voices to hear is the one that is suppressed--the voice of the victim. Good word, thank you.

  2. John, GREAT post! Often, I mention this when preaching or working with small groups at church. For the most part people are open to consider this. Some already have and some have not. Every now and then I get a response from someone about the implications of this who has no clue and does not want to have a clue. I guess we'll keep pressing this issue.

  3. This view is taking root in several places. I appreciated Dan Hawk's treatment in his Joshua in 3D.
    We so often want to think that we are always on the right side of issues when there are always at least 2 sides to consider. To follow Jesus is to see the "other" as being a person of value to Yahweh.
    Thanx for posting this.

  4. My 8 year old is always asking if we can find the biblical story equivalents in the ancient writings of other groups telling their side of the story. Can anyone point this homeschooling mom in a great direction for my wise littles?