The Prophetic Imagination Notes, part 3

After a long time, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor; and they cried out; and their cry for help because of the difficult labor ascended to God. 24 And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; 25 and God saw the Israelites; and God knew.
-Exodus 2:23-25

Quotes and notes from chapter 1, part 3 of The Prophetic Imagination, by Walter Brueggeman.

Prophetic Criticism
  • The alternative consciousness wrought by Moses is characterized by criticizing and energizing.
  • (my notes) The Exodus story illustrates the radical criticism and delegitimizing of the Egyptian empire.
  • (my notes) The story begins with the Egyptians is full flower and power, "wheeling and dealing", subject to none.
  • (my notes) That power is corrupt in that it is unjust, cruel, and oppressive.  The system and its minions are resented.  By the end of the story, these people are defeated, by God.
  • ...the religious claims of Egyptian gods are nullified by this Lord of Freedom.
  • ...the politics of oppression is overcome by the practice of justice and compassion.
  • Criticism is not carping and denouncing.  It is asserting that false claims to authority and power cannot keep their promises, which they could not in the face of the free God.  It is only a matter of time before they are dead on the seashore.
  • ...the narrative of liberation begins with the grieving complaint of Israel (Exod. 2:23-25).
  • ...real criticism begins with the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right.
  • Only in the empire are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend things are all right... And as long as the empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no serious criticism.
  • ...the history of Israel begins on the day when its people no longer address the Egyptian gods who will not listen and cannot answer.
  • The life of freedom and justice comes when they risk the freedom of the free God against the regime.
  • The grieving of Israel- perhaps self-pity and surely complaint but never resignation- is the beginning of criticism.
  • Bringing hurt to public expression is perhaps the first step in the dismantling criticism that permits a new reality, theological and social, to emerge.
  • That cry which begins history is acknowledged by Yahweh as history gathers power (Exod. 3:9-10).
  • In the narrative, criticism moves and builds. The grieving cry learns to turn away from the false listeners and run toward the one who can help.
  • And if the task of prophecy is to empower people to engage in history, then it means evoking cried that expect answers, learning to address them where they will be taken seriously, and ceasing to look to the numbed and dull empire that never intended to answer in the first place.
  • Curiously, the criticism of cry is intensified as the narrative develops... the empire cries out (Exod. 11:6 & 12:30).
  • The cry of Israel becomes and empowering cry; the cry of Egypt is one of dismantling helplessness.
  • History has begun, and the initiative has been taken by the new God for the new community.
  • The empire is left to grieve over its days of not caring and its gods of order and its politics of injustice, which are all now ended,  Criticism has reached its goal.