Select Page

Interpreting Interpreter
Birthing Israel

This post is a summary of the article “Moses as Midwife: What the Exodus Birth Story Teaches about Motherhood and Christ” by Becky Holderness Tilton in Volume 57 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at


The Takeaway

Tilton explores the Exodus narrative as a metaphor for the birth of Israel and that metaphor’s implications for our view of spiritual rebirth through Christ.


The Summary

In this article, Becky Holderness Tilton views the narrative of the Exodus through the lens of childbirth, a metaphor that’s been applied to the Exodus story since the medieval era. In this metaphor, Egypt represents the womb from which Israel is delivered, with the Hebrew word for Egypt potentially referencing a birth canal, its amniotic waters parting as the Red Sea. The early development of Israel can be framed by its plagues, the first (transforming Egypt’s water to blood) potentially linked to female maturation through menstruation, and the last (painting doorposts to prevent death) involving blood-delineated places of safety from which Israel emerges. Once born and cleansed from the influence of Egypt, Israel becomes a nation conceived by God, a thought made explicit by Numbers 11:12.

This physical deliverance parallels our spiritual deliverance through Christ, with the former “enforc[ing] and enshrin[ing] the eternal act of redemption”. All must come through Christ to return to the father, and in doing so we emerge as new creatures, born again through baptism. As Tilton concludes:

“The Exodus narrative is a powerful place to discover the salvific elements inherent in the feminine, from the actions of the women in the story to the rebirth practices it evokes…As we seek a more complete knowledge of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we do well to faithfully examine the salvific contributions made by women and encourage female perspectives to be part of the dialogue, for all are alike unto God.”


The Reflection

The metaphors employed in scripture work best when they implicate highly relatable human universals, and there are few as universal as the experience of childbirth. Once seen, the metaphor of Israel’s birth from Egypt can’t be unseen, and it connects us to Israel in a visceral way, and one that encourages us to care for the newborn Kingdom of God as one would tend to a newborn. We can watch its every struggling breath with an appreciation for the miracle of its continued life, and we can love it as a mother would, loyal in the face of opposition, and, importantly, patient with its inevitable imperfections.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This