Lim Chin Ming Stephen is a Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Hong Kong Sheng Kong Hui Ming Hua Theological College and an Adjunct Lecturer in Theology with the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University (Australia). His main research interests are in exploring how the Bible relates to the contemporary world especially in Asia through concepts of contextualism, interdisciplinary study of the Bible particularly using postcolonial approaches and decolonial thought, and Bible and tricontinentalism.
The rise of authoritarianism, especially in nationalist garb, in many parts of the world could be a story as old as the Exodus narrative itself. In this essay, I present a re-reading of this (over?)familiar passage of Exodus 1-18 in conversation with unfamiliar voices to foreground the importance of listening. I begin with what I have argued elsewhere as part of contextual hermeneutics for the need to listen to the Other in my context (Lim 2019). In this regard, I have chosen Fairoz Ahmad’s Interpreter of Winds (2019), particularly his own engagement with this Exodus narrative. What perhaps is fascinating is that he does not direct me to listen to him or the potentially marginalised Malay communities in my country of origin, Singapore but rather to an understated element as suggested by the title of his book in our environment that arguably permeates all publics – the wind.
More specifically, I focus on a story ‘The Palace of Glass’ that is located within the first story which goes by the title of the book where Fairoz Ahmad brilliantly weaves together many ancient stories including those from the Bible and the Koran to foreground the wind as an unlikely (and true) protagonist. Using the story as an entrypoint that intersects God, wind and empire in a highly imaginative manner, I read in between Exodus 1-18 in the Bible and Surah 41:15-16 in the Qur’an so as to expand the ways the Exodus narratives could be read beyond the shadow of the debate between traditional ethnic-national and socio-ethical liberative approaches. By building hermeneutical connections to the wind/ruach, I attempt to open up its eclectic nature as a means to demonstrate the profitability of listening to it. Ultimately, the hope is to understand how the wind/ruach can serve in seemingly helpless situations of powerlessness that would at the same time, resist attempts to reduce praxis to any single conception – nationalist, liberative or otherwise.