The study of the use, influence and impact of the Bible is called reception history. It is a great way of relating the Bible to politics, art, culture, society and many other areas.
The book of Exodus has been extremely influential in American history and culture. The book tells the story of the Israelites and their suffering as Egyptian slaves, Moses, gaining their freedom and their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan. Exodus has produced many phrases that have found their way into American speech, for example, “Let my people go,” and “Thou shalt not . . .” American politicians, visual artists, writers, and filmmakers have found the book of Exodus to be a gold mine.
Americans have used the Exodus story for a variety of causes but three important historical events relate parallel to the journey of the Israelites. The American Revolution, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, illustrate similarities to the book.
Shortly after the declaration of independence for Great Britain, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams proposed a design for a national seal. It portrayed the Egyptian Pharaoh leading his troops through a divided Red Sea in pursuit of the fleeing Israelites.
Although Congress didn’t approve their suggestion, it shows a common use of Exodus: “to validate and rally groups that are confronting a stronger foe.”(Scott M. Langston 1) Rebelling against the, much stronger, British Empire would have been impossible if it were not for the support of the American people. Franklin, Jefferson and Adams used Exodus to justify the rebellion as an act of obedience to God.
This is just one example of the many uses of the journey to the Promised Land in our history. In my essay, I plan on discussing many more parallel events and comparing/contrasting them. I will discuss depictions of Exodus in ancient and modern American art. I would also like to compare the plots of a number of movies and books to the infamous book.