Crossing the Red Sea

Exodus 14-15:21 tells us that when the Israelites’ exodus is blocked by the Red Sea, Pharaoh changes his mind and ordered his army to pursue them.  And they complain.  God parts the sea, they cross, Pharaoh’s army follows them, and when the Israelites are safely across, the Lord releases the walls of the parted sea which collapses upon the Egyptian army, drowning them in the sea.  Miriam composes a song and the Israelites celebrate their deliverance.  At least, for a while.

The Crossing of the Red Sea ROSSELLI (1439 – 1507)

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/535.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting.  Again, we see the influence of Rosselli’s contemporary world.

Crossing of the Red Sea CHAGALL (1887-1985)

See http://www06.homepage.villanova.edu/christopher.j.wilson/crossing.jpg for the source of the above photograph of the lithograph.  See http://www06.homepage.villanova.edu/christopher.j.wilson/bible.htm for a description of it and of Chagall’s debt to other painters.  It appears to me that there is a crucifix in the upper right portion of the piece, which seems to be inconsistent with a Jewish rendition of the scene; but Chagall also painted several crucifixes.  For an excellent and accessible summary of Chagall’s life and work, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Chagall.  For reference to his later life when he adopted Christianity yet reflected Jewish themes, see http://www.chagallpaintings.org/article5-chagall-paintings.html.

Submerssion of Pharaoh in the Red Sea PREVITALI (c. 1470-1528)

See http://www.terminartors.com/artworkprofile/Previtali_Andrea-Submersion_of_Pharaoh_in_the_Red_Sea for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a very brief description.  Again, we see a rendition of the painting of an ancient biblical story cast in a high Renaissance setting – contemporary with the artist’s cultural and historical heritage.

The spiritual, O Mary, Don’t You Weep celebrates the safe crossing and Miriam’s song with great flair.

Miriam BURNE-JONES (1833 – 1893)

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/141.html for the source of the above photograph of the stained glass window in St. Michael and All Angels Church in England.

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Exodus from Egypt

The message Moses gets from the burning bush is to go back to Egypt and, with his brother Aaron, to take the children of Israel, the Jews, out of Egypt.  It takes ten plagues, the first nine of which “God causes” Pharaoh’s heart to harden (this is one place where one must be wary of too literal an interpretation – how fair would it be to punish one for matters which were beyond the control of that person?); but after the tenth, resulting in the death of the first born of all living things except those with the blood of the pascall lamb painted on the door posts of the dwelling, including the death of Pharaoh’s own child, his heart is broken, at least for a moment, and he wants the Jews out of Egypt.  Exodus chapters 4-13.

God Turns Moses’ Staff Into a Serpent CHAGALL (1887-1985)

See http://www.spaightwoodgalleries.com/Pages/Chagall_Exodus.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting.

The Fifth Plague of Egypt TURNER (1775 – 1851)

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/533.html for the above photograph of the painting and a brief description.  There aren’t a lot of art masterpieces of the various plagues, but Turner, who later developed into a well-known English “painter of light” and water color artist of landscapes in the Romantic period, finds the subject to be a wonderful opportunity to paint a dramatic, tumultuos landscape.

The Tenth Plague of Egypt TURNER

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/588.html for the above photograph of the painting and a brief description.

Exodus CHAGALL

See http://www.abcgallery.com/C/chagall/chagall121.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting.

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The Burning Bush

For some time, Moses was content to tend the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro.  One day, while doing so on “the mountain of God,” he saw a bush that was engulfed in fire but was not consumed.  Exodus 3.

Moses before the Burning Bush FETI (ca. 1613-14)

 See http://www.lib-art.com/artgallery/5513-moses-before-the-burning-bush-domenico-feti.html for the source of theabove photograph of the painting.

Moses at the Burning Bush REMBRANDT (1606 – 1669)

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/112.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a brief description.

Moses at the Burning Bush BLAKE (1757-1827)

See http://www.william-blake.org/Moses-and-the-Burning-Bush-large.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting; see  http://orth-transfiguration.org/library/scripture/exodus3.1_6/ for an excellent and in-depth analysis of it.

Exodus: Moses and the burning bush CHAGALL (1966)

See http://www.spaightwoodgalleries.com/Pages/Chagall_Exodus.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting.

The Burning Bush DALI (1904- 1989)

See http://www.artbible.net/1T/Exo0211_Escape_call/images/20%20DALI%2016%20A%20FLAME%20OF%20FIRE%20OF%20MIDST%20A%20BUSH.JPG.jpg for the source of the above photograph of the painting.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Dal%C3%AD for an entertaining biography.

One of the reasons I like so much the story of Moses and the burning bush is the depth of meaning that I have gained, beyond the identity of the Divine, as the message of God from the bush to Moses is represented by the King James Version: “I Am.”  That has led to a Christian notion that God is, was and will remain the same.   I am afraid that we have killed God so we can KNOW the God that we worship, “as revealed in the Bible.”

In his book, Ye Shall Be as Gods,  Eric Fromm introduced me in the late 60’s to the dynamic meaning and experience of the Hebrew word, Yahweh: rather than present, I Am, it is the imperfect form of the Hebrew verb “to be.”  More accurately it means that God lives: “I am becoming.”  From that notion came the Jews’ various descriptions of God, including the “Living God” and the “Nameless God.”  The story of the bush on that sacred mountain is inextricably bound with the Ten Commandments that, not much later, issued from “the hand of God” on that same “Mountain of God,” which, consistent with the notion of the Living God, unmistakably rejects idolatry.  God is neither a manmade object, as an idol of bronze, nor even a Golden Calf.  That is easy enough to understand insofar as material objects are made by human hands, yet worshipped as having trans-human powers.   Even more pernicious is the God of anthropomorphic proportions, as divined by the mind, yet the products of human minds and handwriting, resulting in the Bible, which has come to us after much collecting, editing, revising, rejecting, canonizing, un-canonizing and re-canonizing; and through that process, continuing to this very day, it continues to be translated, transliterated and interpreted.  But, Eric Fromm, and, indeed, the Bible, itself, makes it clear that God is not to be objectified.

God is not to be defined, nor, by necessary implication, to be contained in a book bounded, with two covers, one emblazoned with the title, Holy Bible.   Although one of its two creation stories tells us that mankind was created in the image of “us gods,” God is much more than our anthropomorphized Man-Writ-Large.  This revelation of Fromm has opened to me the wonder in this world of the sacred, of its becoming.  It is not static; it is evolving.  “When I consider the work of thy hand,” I am awe-struck that all of the world, all life with it, is infused with the sacred.”

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Moses Sees the Misery of His People

Exodus 2:11-15 tells us that when Moses was a young man he saw the misery of the Jews, his people.

Moses Sees the Misery of his People CHAGALL (1887–1985)

See http://spaightwoodgalleries.com/Pages/Chagall_Exodus.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a brief description.

Exodus 2:11-tells us that he killed an Egyptian who was striking a Jewish slave.  When word spread that he had done so, he fled into the desert to Midian, where he met and married Zipporah.

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Moses Found Among the Bulrushes

Exodus, named for the exit or deliverance of the Jews from Egypt, begins by telling how hard times came upon the Jews after many years in Egypt.  According to the account, the Pharaoh had become fearful of their growing power and had therefore ordered the Egyptian midwives to kill the male Hebrew children upon delivery.  A Hebrew woman gave birth to a son, and she devised a scheme to put him in a bulrush ark and float him on the Nile near where the Pharoah’s daughter bathed.  Exodus 1 & 2.

The Exposition of Moses POUSSIN (1594 – 1665)

See http://www.artfund.org/artwork/2904/the-exposition-of-moses for the source of the photograph of the above painting and a brief but interesting description.

The Finding of Moses BOURDON (1616-1671)

See http://www.safran-arts.com/42day/art/art4may/art0508.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a description.

I find it interesting that according to my readings there is no archaeological evidence of Jewish slavery in Egypt.  A few years ago I had occasion to visit with a young Christian archaeologist who was planning go to Egypt to study the archaeological evidence of the early Jews.  I inquired and he acknowledged that it had yet to be discovered.  Is that cause for concern?  Not for me.  There is much symbology in the Exodus story that is more interesting to me than the story-as-history.

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Israel Reunited With Joseph in Egypt

Genesis 46:29-30 tells us that Israel (Jacob) traveled to Egypt where he was reunited with Joseph.

Joseph Receives His Father and Brothers BRAY(1627-1697)

See http://www.themartman.com/stmartins/6joseph.jpg for the source of the above photograph of the painting.   I love the arches, soldiers’ accouterments and dog in the foregroound.  What do you see?

Genesis 48 tells us that Jacob blessed Joseph’s children before he died, when his eyesight was failing.  As he was born contending with Esau for the rights of the first born, Jacob lays his right hand upon the younger of Joseph’s sons to bless him, which displeases Joseph.  Joseph instructs his father to lay his hand upon the older child, but Jacob refused, saying, “I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.”  Thus ends Genesis as “captured” by Rembrandt:

Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph REMBRANDT (1606 – 1669)

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/421.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a brief description.  The commentary notes that Rembrandt (charitably) chose not to represent Joseph’s displeasure.

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Unexpected Reunion

Genesis 43-45 tells us that Israel ‘s country is also suffering famine.  He hears that there is plenty of grain for sale in Egypt; so, he sends his sons, all, that is, except Benjamin, his youngest son, of whom he cannot bear to risk loss.    Here is that story in  “pictures.”

The Story of Joseph GHIBERTI (1378-1455)

See http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/g/ghiberti/paradiso/2joseph.html for the source of the above photograph of the gilded bronze panel and a brief description.   You will notice, again, Ghiberti’s representation of several separate scenes in one panel, thereby representing at once the whole story.

The Search for the Cup BACCHIACCA (1494 – 1557)

See http://www.terminartors.com/artworkprofile/Bacchiacca_Francesco-Scenes_from_the_Story_of_Joseph_The_Search_for_the_Cup for the source of the above photograph of the painting.

The Discovery of the Stolen Cup BACCHIACCA

See http://www.backtoclassics.com/gallery/bacchiacca/scenesfromthestoryofjosephthediscoveryofthestolencup/ for the source of the above photoraph of the painting.

Discovery of the Golden Cup GHIBERTI

Recognition of Joseph by his Brothers CORNELIUS (1783-1867)

See http://www.terminartors.com/artworkprofile/Cornelius_Peter_von-The_Recognition_of_Joseph_by_his_Brothers for the source of the above photograph of the painting.

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