The Bible’s More Than Three-Dimensional Pharaoh

You can hear the man’s voice as he keeps changing his mind. What’s the point of such a Shakespearean portrayal?

From Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People, 1902, by James Tissot. Via the Jewish Museum.

From Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People, 1902, by James Tissot. Via the Jewish Museum.

Atar Hadari
Observation
March 19 2015
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


The Sabbath service this week marks the imminent onset of the month of Nisan, in which Passover occurs. Appropriately enough, a special reading from the Torah, harking back to the portion of Bo in the book of Exodus, is added to the week’s regular portion of Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26). Here I want to concentrate not on the specific verses (Exodus 12:1-20) from Bo that are read, or rather reread, on this Sabbath but on its overall narrative of the unfolding relationship between Pharaoh and the Lord as mediated by the Lord’s instrument Moses.

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More about: Bo, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Moses, Pharaoh, The Monthly Portion, Torah, Vayikra