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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:1, Spring 2023

Epistles: Clip Art

Biblical Archaeology Review

Do you recognize this biblical scene?

1. Let My People Go
Aaron Douglas

2. Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

3. Saul Frightened by the Shadow of Samuel
François Gérard

4. Christ at the Mount of Olives
El Greco

5. The Burning Bush
James Lesesne Wells

Answer: (1)

Let My People Go, painted on masonite—a type of hardboard—by the American artist Aaron Douglas (1899–1979), was originally created as one of eight illustrations for James Weldon Johnson’s 1926 book God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Douglas subsequently enlarged and revised these illustrations into separate paintings, including Let My People Go.

The painting depicts a submissive Moses, kneeling in response to God’s command to lead his people out of Egypt (Exodus 3). It is filled with symbolism: The rays of light depict God’s command, the three pyramids of Giza (behind Moses) represent the masses of enslaved Israelites, and stylized waves evoke the parting of the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army, brandishing spears and riding in chariots, can be seen on the left.

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