Moses: A Stranger Among Us

from the Introduction:

This is a book about the Moses we don’t usually hear about – not in religious school or from the pulpit. And that’s a shame, because more people would relate to Moses and find him a compelling figure if, more often, our religious teachers would go beyond the familiar caricatures of him. By shining light on aspects of his story and character that are rarely discussed, we meet the Moses who speaks to a wide range of people’s circumstances today. We get to bring Moses down from his exalted pedestal, where he was never very comfortable anyway. We meet Moses the adopted child. Moses the ex-con. Moses the failure. Moses the intermarrier.

And by turning the spotlight on several of the often overlooked people whose courage and cleverness made his extraordinary life possible, we get to see how much his greatest achievements depended upon others. Rather than being the result of God working mainly through one man’s bold actions, the Exodus from Egypt and the transformation of the Hebrews from slaves to a free nation took place because of many individuals’ brave and creative resistance to an immense oppressive power structure. We get to see the Divinely inspired women and men, Israelites and non-Israelites who made Moses’s leadership possible.

Finally, by stepping outside the limits of traditional religious interpretations of biblical texts, we get to see Moses in fresh new ways that teach us about our values as well as our ancestors’. Modern academic biblical scholarship lets us study the historical development of the literary character of Moses and glimpse the workings of “mythopeosis, ‘the making of myth,’ [the] means by which [humankind] discerns and conveys truths otherwise inexpressible.” Each of the ten chapters that follows focuses on one aspect of Moses that is either generally overlooked or not thought of at all in mainstream religious presentations of Moses. My hope is that the Moses who may be unfamiliar to us is a figure who can renew our interest in essential spiritual and ethical questions facing humanity today.

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