This was the first piece that I wrote for the Book of Voices (not counting Moses, since I hadn’t considered his piece as part of the book until later). The random number table found Moab’s name elsewhere in the Bible, and immediately confronted me with one of the key challenges in writing these texts.
I had known of Moab as a tribe, but had to look within the text to find the story of Moab as a person. And while I had known the general story of Lot and his daughters, I had forgotten that their sons were Moab and Ben-Ammi.
The Moabites (descended from Moab) and Ammonites (descended from Ben-Ammi) were often derided, and were considered enemies of the people of Israel. Indeed, this story of the Moabites’ and Ammonites’ parentage may have come about to cast them as the bastard descendants of Terah, in opposition to the direct and more valid genealogy of Abraham‘s children.
But here I was challenged to view the story through Moab’s own eyes. Looking into the text, I found Moab as a child. His parentage may have been kept as a secret, even from him, but he may have been treated as a cursed mistake. As Lot lost his wife in the destruction of his city, I picture him as remaining lost, alone with this most dysfunctional of families, embracing with them what remains of his past and of the love now gone.
Thus, rather than seeing Moab as a father to an enemy tribe, I kept coming back to the image of this child sitting alone, confused, frightened, and ashamed on the side of the mountain.
I have a moral hunch, which is reflected in many of these stories: almost no one views himself or herself as a bad person. Indeed, the only people whom I have ever heard say “I’m a bad person” were very good people who held themselves up to impossible standards. It was key here, as it is in so much of life, to try to see this person as he would see himself, not as a figure of evil, but as a person trying to live up to some standard of good, often in a world and circumstances that he could not understand.
Do you know someone, in real life or in history, who is viewed as an enemy or as evil? How does this person see him or herself? Would there be a way in which people’s sense of themselves as good could connect with your sense of yourself as good and lead to a meeting of the ways?
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