PETERSON: Exodus — Tyranny, Slavery, And The Journey To Freedom


The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Peterson on the opening chapter of Exodus. You can watch “Exodus: Episode 1” on DailyWire+. 

Episode time: 10:56 

One of the things that has really fascinated me about Exodus – apart from the fundamental structure of the narrative, which is escape from tyranny, sojourn through the desert, and then reemergence hypothetically into the Promised Land (it is a very classic narrative structure: descent and reascent) – is the manner in which God is represented as the primary spirit in the text. I have been toying with this idea that part of what the Bible is doing is describing a manner in which perceptions and actions might be prioritized. A structure of priority is a pyramidal structure, and something has to be at the top. I learned from Carl Jung that whatever is at the top of your hierarchy of assumptions functions as God for you, whether or not you are religious. Maybe you have multiple things at the top, which just means that you are confused.

If Jung is correct – and I believe he is – then the question of what should be at the top really exists as the paramount question, and part of the way the biblical narrative represents that, or addresses that, is by describing God in some sense as a literary character, as Northrop Frye, a Canadian critic, pointed out. One of the things that is remarkable about the Exodus text is that the highest ethical spirit to which we are beholden is presented precisely as that spirit that allies itself with the cause of freedom against tyranny. That is put forward as a prime ethical dictum. So if it is the voice of God speaking to you, then it is going to call you out of slavery: maybe the slavery of your own mind, the slavery of external conditions, the slavery of the tyranny. It is going to call you out of that slavery into freedom, even if that pulls you into the desert. That is really something – really something – to know, and I think something that is deeply true.

So having said that and introduced everybody, we are going to start with the text. I will read it and make comments when they strike me, and we will have everyone jump in and away we will go.

So, Exodus 1:

Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,

Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,

Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.

And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.

And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.

And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Jacob and the Israelites are presented as sojourners into Egypt, so they are foreigners. They are strangers in a strange land, you might say, and they came in under the guidance and patrimony of Jacob, who had a good relationship with the power structure in Egypt. But he dies and the generation after him dies, and relationships between the Israelites and the Egyptians become strained.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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