Bible Review 19:1, February 2003


From vigilante to lawgiver

By William H.C. Propp

Moses’ brief and violent encounter with the Egyptian taskmaster in Exodus reads like a crime report or movie script:

Moses … went out to his brothers and saw their labors. He saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, one of his brothers. He turned this way and that. He saw that there was no man. He struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

(Exodus 2:11b–12)

We hear the sound of the scuffle, catch a glimpse of an Egyptian beating a Hebrew with a stick. The camera focuses on Moses’ sun-weathered face. You can just picture Clint Eastwood playing him. He squints, spits and saunters over to the altercation.

Scarcely seeming to move, Moses relieves the astonished Egyptian of his rod. But then, recklessly, the taskmaster draws a knife!

“Go ahead, punk, make my day.” Moses effortlessly and nonchalantly gains control of this weapon, too, and stabs the taskmaster. Then he drops the bloody blade on the sand. He stalks away, not awaiting the rescued slave’s professions of gratitude.

He never even said his name.

In the theater, the audience cheers. Their thirst for just vengeance has been slaked by the swift action of a man’s man.

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