• Moses Married a Black Woman: Modern American Receptions of the Cushite Wife of Moses

    Author(s):
    Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (view group) , Katherine Low
    Date:
    2022
    Group(s):
    Biblical Studies, Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies
    Subject(s):
    Bible, Moses (Biblical leader), Marriage, Race
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Reception History, Numbers 12
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/xhgz-er18
    Abstract:
    Americans overwhelmingly assume that Moses married a Black woman. Using sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this article highlights interpretations of Moses’s marriage to the Cushite woman in Numbers 12. Utilising cultural-critical reception history—that biblical interpretation is culturally conditioned—readers in the United States contrast a Black wife with an assumedly white Moses and Miriam and therefore display an assumption of a racial binary at work in their contemporary societies. In some cases, the name Tharbis is utilised as part of a post-biblical tradition that Moses acquired a war-bride in his early days as an Egyptian military leader. In three parts, the article first discusses nineteenth century associations between a Black wife and a white Miriam, followed by several examples of readers using “Moses Married a Black Woman,” or, as I call it, “Mosaic miscegenation” in their social and intellectual spaces. Readers call upon Moses’s marriage to a Black woman to address their contemporary social issues. Tharbis makes a come-back with twentieth-century novels that lead up to the 1956 Hollywood film The Ten Commandments. Whether named or not, the wife of Moses, mentioned briefly in Numbers, serves as a touchstone on which Americans project their anxieties about abolition and inter-racial marriage.
    Notes:
    Katherine Low, 'Moses Married a Black Woman: Modern American Receptions of the Cushite Wife of Moses,' JIBS 4.2 (2022): 66-88.
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    Published
    Last Updated:
    5 months ago
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