There has been a lot said about the Bible Miniseries on the History Channel. While there is much left to be desired (specifically the way the show depicts men and women acting in the name of God rather than God acting powerfully in history), one aspect of the depiction of Moses caught my attention. I have read and heard and studied the Exodus multiple times, but I never wondered about Moses’ thoughts on the Egyptians.
Who are Moses’ People?
When I read the Exodus, I am caught up in the story of the Israelites. They suffer, they groan, they are oppressed, they are remembered. I am swept up in the mighty works of God. He judges, he overwhelms Pharoah, he saves his people. I rejoice with the Israelites when the death of the firstborn Egyptians results in their freedom. I feel their pain and bewilderment when they are trapped at the Red Sea. And I celebrate and worship with them as God destroys their enemies.
But what about Moses? Unlike the other Israelites, his experience with the Egyptians is not simply one of pain and oppression, but also of love and family. The Bible miniseries showed me a portrait of Moses I had not considered before. In fact, in the miniseries, when the Angel of Death is drawing near to the Egyptian homes, Moses is not excited at the hope of freedom. He declares of the now dying Egyptian children “I used to call them my people.” He is a man torn. He is working with God to free his people, the Israelites. But in order to do so he must wreak havoc and destruction on his people, the Egyptians.
Then, as the Egyptians drown in the Red Sea, Moses appears downcast while the Israelites rejoice around him. He has accomplished his mission, but at what cost? The choices of his people, the Egyptians, have led to their own demise. If they had allowed the Israelites to go there would have been no plagues. If they had not chased them to the Red Sea there would be no drowning. They have made their own bed, so to speak. But still the people he grew up with have now drowned. Sorrow mixed with Joy.
In short, the Bible miniseries depicts a Moses who loves his enemies because they are his people. The book of Exodus does not give us any indication that Moses felt this way, but it does not give us any reason to think otherwise either. Moses is an Israelite who grew up an Egyptian and so it is likely that he was both joyful at the rescue of the Israelites and saddened by the death of so many Egyptians.
Who are God’s People?
God was in the same position as Moses. Who are his people? The Israelites, obviously. He has chosen them and rescued them from oppression. But also the Egyptians. In fact, in Isaiah 19:25, the Lord declares “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” He worked mightily to free his people from oppression, but at the expense of his people who were oppressing them. All people are God’s people. He has made them, he sustains them, he loves them, and he is waiting for them to turn to him. When they sin, he judges, but they remain his people.
Why have I taken so long to see that God does not delight in destroying the Egyptians? And that he does not delight in seeing any perish, but desires that all might be saved?
What enemies do you need to love? What people are you forgetting are God’s people?