from Chapter 2
Exodus as a "Text of Terror" for Children
Claire R. Mathews McGinnis
Here are some of the basic ideas that Ms. McGinnis explores:
" . . . children are portrayed not so much as a distinct demographic as an integral element of a larger social and liturgical community whose fortunes are tied to the fate and faith of that community" without ignoring "the particular vulnerability and needs of children." (TCITB p. 42)
I smiled when I read, "Children are particularly prominent in the first half of the book: in the geneology..." (TCITB p, 26-28) Our tendency is to gloss over this, but Ms McGinnis says it "is suggestive of how children are viewed by biblical writers: while a son or daughter remains a child for only a short time, the child's place in the nexus of extended familial relations - being a son or daughter of...particular parents . . . from this particular household, clan, and tribe - situates one within the larger community . . . " (TCITB p, 26) Then think about how long this place lasts.
She says, ". . .the writer in Ex 1:7 reminds readers that the gift of children in general and of the Israelite children in particular, is a distinguishing, tangible manifestation of God's ongoing blessing of humankind." (TCITB p, 28)
Women and children have central roles in the story of Moses as a baby, and in much of Exodus. The author says that the fact that they are named in scripture gives them distinct identity. (TCITB p, 28-34) Not just a woman spoke, but Edith spoke. Whoever Edith is. Whoever she is, she isn't just a woman - she has a name.
Ms. McGinnis includes a lengthy discussion of "first-born." (TCITB p, 34-8) Someone I knew years ago, was rather offended that the first-born son was held in such high regard in scripture. The author's discussion of this is interesting.
We see "the difficult but neccessary truth that the same God who gives life also has the prerogative to take life away." (TCITB p. 43)
She notes that the midwives in Egypt sided with YHWH to resist Pharoah "and doing so meant being a protector and nurturer of children, even at great risk to themselves"(TCITB p. 44) They were evidence of God keeping his covenant and his continued blessing. Her observations about the role of these midwives in the greater scheme of things were quite interesting.
She discusses the Passover observance saying, "the ongoing religious life of that covenant community depends on parents' obligations to instruct the next generation so that they may understand and observe the obligations of the covenant in their own lives . . .[this instruction] not only concerns what YHWH has done 'for our fathers and for us' but also instructs children that 'in every generation they [our enemies] stand up against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand." (TCITB p. 43-44)
We forget that so many (including children) have always lived in terror and still live in terror. God doesn't forget. The book of Exodus comes to us from that place.