I’ve seen two adaptations of Moses’ story, The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt. I’m fond of both of them in different ways, even the extreme corniness of the former. But both of them get Moses’ story wrong in one significant detail.
Both feature a dramatic moment where the adult Moses discovers he’s been Hebrew this whole time. In The Ten Commandments, he learns it from his bride-to-be Nefertiri, who killed a servant to hide the secret. In The Prince of Egypt, he meets his older siblings when he wanders into a Hebrew neighborhood.
But in the actual text, Moses knew as a child that he was Hebrew. He was actually raised in his early years by his birth-mother, who volunteered to be his wet-nurse. It doesn’t say exactly how old he was when he left his mother’s care, but the tension in the Biblical account is that he’s always known he’s technically a Hebrew, a non-Egyptian, a member of an enslaved people.
While I know there’s a lot of Hollywood drama to come out of the big reveal, there’s also a lot of potential dramatic tension in Moses growing up with his Big Secret. How does he resolve his own internal conflict? Does he accept his identity, or does he try to hide it up by being as Egyptian as he can be?
Moses seems to finally decide to side with his Hebrew heritage when he kills an Egyptian who he sees abusing a Hebrew slave. But then he flees, and winds up living as a Midianite for years, marrying a Midianite woman and fathering a son with her. Both the movie adaptations, drawing from the idea that the people of Midian supposedly descend from Ishmael, portray them as monotheists, and that this was Moses induction into monotheism. But again, there’s nothing in the Bible itself to indicate this – and what’s more, Moses may have already taken the LORD as his personal deity while still engaging in the various civil duties the royal family had.
Either way, I’m not completely knocking the two movies. They’re both good, and you should go check them out. Just don’t let them inform your reading of Exodus.
The Japanese: bousui “waterproof,: kahan “riverside” (v 3), fubin “pitiful (as in, evokes pity) (v 6), douhou “fellow countrymen” (v 11), yokujitsu “the next day,” naguru “to strike, to beat” (v 13), koshi wo orosu “to sit down” (v 15).
Not many for this chapter, but in deciphering the katakana for the names, I noticed something that I missed when I read it in English – namely, that Moses’ fahter-in-law isn’t called Jethro here, but rather Reuel. It’s easy to see a potential contradiction here, but apparently throughout history people have noted that the name Jethro literally means “His Excellency,” and that it may have been his title, not his given name.