The Bible: an overarching motif

The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (1830 ...

The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (1830 painting by David Roberts) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We talked about the use of a motif a few weeks ago, looking at the motif of the barren woman.

Today we’ll look at a bigger motif that affected not only imagery in the Old Testament but in the New Testament as well. And this motif is commonly used in Christian terminology today.

The exodus of the people of Israel, as described in the book of Exodus through Deuteronomy, involved a people in slavery to the Egyptian empire. God sent Moses to rescue the people and, after a series of miracles, the Egyptian pharaoh allowed the Israelites to go free.

Included in the story was the passover, the final event that finally secured the people’s freedom. In that story, God sent the angel of death to kill the first-born of each household. However, the Israelites were instructed to select a lamb and sacrifice it, painting the doorposts with the lamb’s blood so that the angel of death would pass over those houses.

That Exodus motif affected many Old Testament narratives, including the Exile when the Israelites were taken from their land to another empire and placed in bondage there. Would those people in exile – in bondage – experience another rescue to be brought out of slavery and back to their promised land?

The gospel narratives of Jesus’ life also reference the Exodus motif. For example, Jesus died at the time the lamb was slain in the Passover observation. Passover, of course, reminded the people of the original passover during the Exodus from Egypt.

In Jesus’ day, the empire was Rome and the people were in bondage again. The same questions as came during Exodus and Exile times would have been asked: would God send someone to rescue them from bondage and restore them to their promised land?

The Exodus motif features people in bondage to a great empire who are then rescued and restored to what God had planned for them. It’s a motif referred to many times throughout the Bible, a powerful overarching theme that offers hope to those in bondage.


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