Intro to the Bible
Professor Mark Leuchter
March 1, 2010.
The Exodus: Creating a nation’s identity
Throughout history, and in three of the world’s monotheistic religions,
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the exodus of the Hebrew people out of Egypt was a
momentous memory that has been passed down through thousands of years. The
account of an Egyptian pharaoh who enslaved a people, whom were eventually delivered
from Egypt by their God, and through their mediator Moses, is a well-known and shared
one. This collective memory, of oppression by the Egyptian pharaohs and deliverance by
their omnipotent, sovereign and powerful god, through his loyal mediator, and the
additives from other accounts, has allowed the nation of Israel to form an identity that
communes them as a people.
The exodus tradition functions in two ways, symbolically, and as a “myth”,
defining Israel’s national identity. The great exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt
symbolized a people; that were left deprived, tortured and abused by the Egyptians, and
who were liberated by an immense being through one of his servants. It symbolized the
oppression of the Hebrew people, to become the Israelites, and how their god, through
his sovereignty and capability, caused them to be liberated out of the evil clutches of the
Egyptian pharaoh, to be a free people and to serve him. The exodus symbolized Israel’s
struggle under Egyptian authority and their ultimate emancipation by their eminent god,
and intercessor, which completes a portion of their mutual memory and identity.