‘But we escaped Pharoah and Egypt so that we could go to a better place, where we could serve God.’
‘It is true,’ said Jesse, slowly fingering his beard . . . ‘But Egypt is also within us, Jennat. Whatever we become in Canaan will depend on our choices.'”
Egypt within us. We want to serve God, but we must still, as long as we live here on earth, contend with Egypt within us. The World, the Flesh, and the Devil:
One of those is outside of me, and I can leave the devil-fighting to God.
One is part of me, and I must train my flesh to serve God instead of evil.
The other I allow to become part of who I am, and then as I strive to become more Christ-like, I must allow the Holy Spirit to bring out all those worldly/slavery habits and desires and transform them into something that honors Him.
I’ve sort of strayed from the basic plot and themes of Sonia Levitin’s Escape from Egypt, but all that philosophical and spiritual meandering is there, buried in the story of Jesse, a Hebrew slave, and Jennat, an Egyptian servant girl, both of whom follow Moses out of Egypt. It’s a book about choices, about escape from slavery, and about the transfroming power of a true encounter with the Living God. Not preachy, I’m not even sure whether Ms. Levitin is a Christian or a Jew or agnostic. (I looked it up; she’s Jewish.) Still, the description of Jesse’s and Jennat’s reaction to the experience of hearing the voice of God speaking from Mount Sinai is worth the reading time and price of the entire book.
Not everyone reacts the same way in the book; not everyone believes that Moses is God’s spokesman. Even Jesse doesn’t believe all the time. The characters in the book deal with hard stuff: the death of a beloved child, relatives and family members who disobey the law of God and are punished, confusion, doubt, idolatry, prejudice, and the old question of why do the evil (seemingly) prosper. The answers are not trite and easy; ultimately Jesse and others who escape from Egypt decide to follow God’s law, but the daily living of that commitment isn’t easy. Nor is it something that they can do for their children; each person must decide for himself.
I would recommend this one for young adults because the theological and ethical questions dealt with in the book are difficult and made for mature questioners. I would recommend it, though, because I think Ms. Levitin writes honestly about the struggles that the Israelites must have had and about the “Egyptian” temptations we all have. And it’s a good story.
This book is another in my ancient history historical fiction project. I will probably give this book to my twelve year old to read or read it aloud and discuss it with her.