Welcome to Exodus! I’ve been sharing videos from The Bible Project to help you see where we are in the overall story of the Bible; this video will give you a sense of the larger project that they’re tackling. The Bible Project folks think that the Bible can be read as a unified book. Not everyone on this list agrees with that assessment, I know, which might itself make for a good topic for discussion.

I think these videos are great for introducing the various books of the Bible, though, regardless of what you think about the question of the Bible’s unity. Here’s the Bible Project video for the first half of Exodus:

The end of the first book of Genesis leaves us with the death of Joseph the Dreamer. Genesis 50:26 reads, “So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” 110 was the Egyptian standard for a fully lived life, and embalming was an Egyptian way of dealing with a corpse, so we see in Joseph’s death how fully his character is identified with Egypt.

But what happens when a dream is deferred? A few generations later, relations between the Hebrew people and the Egyptians are not so cozy, to say the least- the new Pharaoh sees the Hebrews as a threat, and forces them into slave labor. Little did Pharaoh know that enslaving people always produces creative resistance.

The Passover story places God on the side of the resistors. God hears the cries of God’s people, who are enslaved, and works with power to set them free. This story sits at the heart of our faith as a reminder that God is deeply committed to freeing people.

As you prepare for worship on Sunday, consider reflecting on these queries from Wilmington Yearly Meeting:

Do we recognize that we speak through our inaction as well as through our action?
Do I work toward creative, life-affirming ways of resolving conflict and avoiding violence and destruction?
How do we prepare our children for responding to the moral and social issues in their lives?

Here are a few more Youtube clips that you might appreciate:

A short introduction to the Seder meal, a Jewish tradition that evolved out of the Passover story.
An incredible Rube Goldberg machine that tells the whole story of the Exodus.
And a little something for the fans of Justin Bieber and/or choral music.
For those of you looking for inspiration from a Quaker perspective, check out Douglas Steere’s description of his experience of unprogrammed worship. We have five to ten minutes of waiting worship, rather than the full hour that he describes, in order to make room for music and preaching and so forth- we share in worship together in many ways. I think the experience of the silence, though, is much the same, and Steere is vulnerable and straightforward in telling the story of how he finds God in silent worship.

Grace and peace,

PS: Check this link to learn how to recognize the signs of contemporary human trafficking! You could be the way another human being finds freedom.

PPS: Ahem…

If I might stand on my feminist soapbox for a moment… Pharaoh commands that all of the male Hebrew children be thrown into the Nile River- a slow method of genocide. Most of us know the story of Jochebed avoiding this decree by placing Moses in the reed basket and putting him in the river, where he floats down the Nile and is found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the palace.

Shiphrah and Puah are not so well known, and I think that’s a shame. They’re two brave midwives who saved many lives. Here’s verses 15 and 16 from the first chapter of Exodus: “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.””

Shiprah and Puah resisted the evil demands of Pharaoh and saved the boys instead. When questioned by Pharaoh, they claimed that “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

Humans have a tendency to assume that anyone beneath them in the hierarchy of the day is physically tougher, and therefore suited to the more menial labor that they are assigned. You can see this in our own culture when doctors consistently underestimate the amount of pain that Black people are in.

Shiprah and Puah played on that racist assumption. They knew that Pharaoh would assume that the Hebrew women were tougher than Egyptian women. They invoked Pharaoh’s own racism in order to explain why they couldn’t throw Hebrew babies into the Nile, turning the entire violent system of dehumanization on its head.

Shiprah and Puah took a huge risk. They put their lives on the line in order to resist the forces of death. They are excellent examples of the kind of death-defying Gospel love to which each of us are called. They’re women, though, so their bravery is tucked away in a prologue and rarely told.

Jewish men bless their sons, on the eve of the Sabbath, with a reference to Genesis 48 where Jacob blesses the sons of Joseph: “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” In a like spirit, may we bless our daughters and our sons with bravery, saying “May God make you like Shiprah and Puah.”

Since you’ve made it all the way through to the end, here’s a cartoon!