The second book of Moses continues the story of God’s chosen nation. We can still see the style set forth in Genesis, but Exodus adds a certain degree of difficulty as it contains a lot of law. How does Moses hold the attention of the reader?
Holding Reader’s Attention
1) Peak their interest before the long discourse.
The writer does a magnificent job at building the story to a point, he peaks the reader’s interest before diving into the lengthy explanation of laws. He could have compiled a book of only laws & ordinances, but few people would ever read that. So instead he brings us up to the mountain top with Moses where no other man could go lest he be slain; a mountain shaking with thunder and billowing smoke. The readers fear for Moses’ life as he ascends the mount to face a holy God. And only after we understand the great power of God do we hear His voice giving Moses the Ten Commandments and laws for the people.
2) Intermingling Laws with Stories
After the Lord finishes giving His commands to Moses, we are instantly taken back to the story and the rebellious children of Israel. Another enthralling story is the reader’s reward for hearing the commands of the Lord. This is the first time that we are really aware of the righteousness that God requires of His people. And we see the Israelites fail again and again as God passes judgment on them, and then offers grace when they humble themselves and call upon the Lord.
This is the best kind of story. A story that is not only interesting, filled with action, adventure, good vs. evil; but it also shows us that God is holy and requires the same of us, yet not neglecting to leave the Jews a roadmap of how to get there. This should serve as a model to all Christian Authors as to what a good story really is.
Every writer has a unique way of expressing themselves. This is called their ‘style’ or ‘voice’. In Genesis & Exodus we hear a masterful storyteller who gives us many brief stories that are really just overviews, yet are descriptive and fascinating.
I love the way the personalities of the characters shine through as the story unfolds! For example, in chapter 19 verses 17-19, Lot is being led away from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by two angels of the Lord. They have told him to flee to the mountains, but here Lot begins negotiating with them.
18 And Lot said unto them, “Oh, not so, my LORD”
19 “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:”
20 “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”
“Is it not a little one?” Lot mentions for the second time. You can see that Lot is afraid of the wilderness (which probably contributed to his staying so close to the wicked cities) and he is pleading and persuading the angels of the Lord. This brings Lot alive in our minds, makes him truly ‘human’ and interesting.
2) Use of Dialog
Genesis is mainly composed of dialog between characters with as little narration as possible. I prefer this style as I think it is more interesting and gives more of a feel for the characters. Here is an example from Genesis 22:1-8.
1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, “Abraham” and he said, “Behold, here I am.”
2 And he said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, “My father” and he said, “Here am I, my son.” And he said, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” so they went both of them together.
3) Use of Dialog to convey emotions.
Also in the verses above, notice that Isaac calls Abraham “My Father” to which Abraham replies “Here am I, my son.” With phrases like this we can see how close Abraham and Isaac are. These types of terms of endearment and emotion tug at the heart strings as Abraham is about to sacrifice his only, beloved son. It makes for a beautiful story.
My favorite thing about the Bible is that it holds great stories that are absolutely true. Not just “based on a true story” but the real thing put together in a fascinating, beautiful narrative.
Genesis holds some of the greatest stories in all of history, from the beginning of time, to the beloved story of Joseph and his Brothers. There is much we can learn from the studying of God’s Word.
I hope that this has encouraged you, to look at the Bible in a new light. It’s so much more than just a story, history or even spiritual guidance.
Next week we’ll talk about Exodus, also a book of Moses.
The Bible is the best piece of literature ever written. 40 authors writing down the mind and words of God without a single contradiction. It has had a resounding impact throughout all cultures, in thousands of different languages, and over thousands of years. So in my study of writing, English and story-telling, I figured this would be a great place to start.
At least 21 of the 39 books of the Old Testament are stories. That's more than 50%! And the first 5 books of the New Testament are stories as well and there are many more mixed in with the epistles.
During the course of this study, I'll be outlining the different books of the Bible, one by one, and bringing to light the things I'm learning about writing, story-telling etc. I'm hoping to have a post every week, but forgive me if I miss a few, I do lead a very busy lifestyle. :)
Stay Tuned for more!
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Amber Schamel was born in Littleton, CO and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. She was raised in a family of 11 children, home-schooled through education and currently works with their 10 family businesses. Amber is a multi-published author and currently lives with her family outside of Colorado Springs, CO..
(c) 2013 Amber Schamel