Biblical Archaeology Review 45:4, July/August September/October 2019

Biblical Views: Multicultural Moses

Reexamining an Icon

By Amanda Mbuvi

The story of the burning bush is one of the most familiar biblical narratives, but it contains often-overlooked nuances. Certain assumptions on the part of readers lead them to flatten the character of Moses and obscure the way in which his hybrid identity shapes both his reluctant response to God’s call and his eventual leadership.

Stereotypes about those who perform great acts and a cultural bias elevating natural endowments over hard-won wisdom fuel the perception that figures like Moses were simply born heroes, possessed of qualities that made their accomplishments inevitable. However, foregrounding the layers of Moses’s identity leads to a different perspective on Moses and what makes him stand out in a crowd. In this view, he emerges not as an exemplar of rugged individualism rising to his destined greatness, but as someone shaped by multiple communities, one who sometimes struggled to navigate those layers of belonging—and who grew into leadership by embracing that struggle rather than by overcoming it.

In the burning bush dialogue, God says to Moses, “I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). This seemingly mundane introduction already emphasizes the complexity of Moses’s background: born to Hebrews but raised by an Egyptian princess.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.