A curriculum for mixed-age elementary grades by Dan Harper
Copyright (c) 2015 Dan Harper
Contrary to what is often stated, not all ancient Jews banned representational art, and there were some painters in the ancient world who painted Jewish themes. The main example is the synagogue at the ancient city of Dura-Europos, in modern-day Syria, dated to about 200 C.E., which had frescoes on its walls depicting scenes and persons from the Hebrew Bible.
In this Judean Village activity, the “apprentices” get to make copies of some of the frescoes from the synagogue at Dura-Europos; making copies of the master’s works is a time-honored way of teaching apprentice artists. We have chosen three paintings from Dura-Europos that depict events from Moses’s life. This provides a great opportunity to briefly retell the stories behind these events, and to reinforce that the people in this Judean Village were Jews who would have known Moses’s life story.
The activity is simple:
— print out the images in color
— provide watercolor paints, pencils (for sketching outlines), paper, smocks
— briefly retell the stories
— help the “apprentices” to draw and paint the images on their own
For younger children, it might be advisable to create coloring pages — outline drawings of each of these paintings that a younger child can simply color in.
1. Moses found by Pharaoh’s daughter in the bulrushes
The story is in the Torah, Exodus 2.1-10:
“Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
“The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.'”
2. Moses and the burning bush
The story is in the Torah, Exodus 3.1-15, and tells how Yahweh, the god of the Israelites, called Moses to become a leader of his people and lead them out of bondage:
“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’
“When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’
“And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’
“Then the Lord said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ The Lord said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
“And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
“Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’
“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’
“The Lord said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’
“But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.”‘ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.'”
3. Moses and the parting of the Read Sea
The story is in the Torah, Exodus 13.17-14.31. Pharaoh has finally allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt. But then he changes his mind, and pursues them into the desert. Moses appeals to Yahweh, the god of the Israelites, who tells Moses to lead the Israelites across the Red Sea:
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.
“At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.’
“So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”