I think the story of the Exodus is, hands down, one of the most exciting in the Bible. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most familiar – so much so, that we often lose sight of the drama when we come back to it. But there’s a reason it is the archetype that is invoked over and over again in Scripture to tell us about the kind of God we worship. From Moses in the bulrushes, to Sinai, to the people of Israel laying Moses in his grave, it is God’s massive, dramatic, salvific action for his people. Of course the events of Holy Week coincide with Passover. Of course Jesus is identified as the lamb of God. Of course he teaches like Moses on the mountaintop. If we want to understand who God is in Jesus – and to appreciate the drama of the Incarnation – we have to allow ourselves to get swept up in the excitement of the Exodus.
Thank heaven for Brian Wildsmith’s gorgeous retelling. The story is simply told, from the discovery of Moses in the rush basket all the way to Joshua’s assumption of leadership. Rather than simply focusing (as so many children’s books do) on the “exciting parts” — the plagues, crossing the Red Sea — Wildsmith wisely follows the Scriptural narrative. The killing of the Egyptian guard, the waters of Meribah, the golden calf, manna and quail and pillars of fire and smoke: they’re all there. The happy result is that we feel the weight of the entire drama as it plays out over Moses’ lifetime.
And the illustrations. Oh, the illustrations. This is a book you can pore over. It is beautiful. The pictures are detailed and sweeping all at once, so that you can stare at the hieroglyphs in Pharoah’s palace and be stunned by the massive wave of Hebrews crossing the Red Sea. If you’re familiar with Brian Wildsmith’s work, you know what I mean. If not, you owe it to yourself to check it out. He has also managed to create my favorite-ever depiction of God in the burning bush and on Sinai. How does one draw the God who has no image, you might ask? Turn to page 8 and find out.
This is the sort of book that is lovely to give as a gift. The jacket and printing are handsome, and would look just right in an Easter basket. That said, I plan on reading it with my daughter during Holy Week, and talking about the connections between Passover and Easter. Though there is no explicit mention of Jesus -obviously – this is nevertheless an excellent Lenten book. The God of the Exodus is Jesus’ God (my daughter pointed to the pillar of smoke and said, “Jesus is hiding in there!”), and this book offers a beautiful way to explore the resonances between God’s action in the Sinai desert and his action in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.