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Archive for the ‘Tellit On The Mountain’ Category

In Second Samuel we find that King David bought from the Jebusite king Araunah a threshing floor that later became the site of King Solomon’s temple. Most people who have any interest in Bible history will tell you that. And after that they will tell you that site is located on the Temple Mount. They don’t have Bible proof of that, but they do have tradition.

We are going to look at the Temple Mount and some other historical prominences, piece by piece, beginning with the threshing floor. We have Bible evidence there was a threshing floor in the Jebusite city King David captured, and that David bought bought the threshing floor  from the Jebusite king.

Old Image of the Destroying Angel Hovering Over Jerusalem, Author Unknown

The story begins in 2 Samuel 24. The Bible says God inspired David to take a census and that it was the wrong thing to do, and that his closest people advised against it, to none avail. I do not understand why God would provoke David to do something wrong. But I am not going to explain it away somehow. Someone suggested David did wrong by not taking an offering from the people as they were numbered. There is a place in Exodus where God instructed Moses to take an offering from each individual when he took a census. See Exodus Chapter 30. Verse 12 says that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.  For some reason Moses had to take this offering to forestall a plague among the people. However, in David’s instance, even from the outset we see his  advisors counseling him against numbering the people. We do not know why, and for us to make guesses and invent explanations for what the word of God says is foolishness, or worse. Let us just know that David took a census and he should not have done so.

When the census was finished God sent the prophet Gad to David and gave him a choice of punishments: seven years of famine in the land, three months flight from his enemies while they pursued him, or three days pestilence in the land. David chose the deadly pestilence as opposed to the three months fleeing from his enemies because he figured the hand of God would be easier to bear than the hand of man.

The historian Josephus, who did not live at the time of this event, but worked from sources available to him said of the pestilence: “Now, the miserable disease was one indeed, but it carried them off by ten thousand causes and occasions, which those that were afflicted could not understand; for one died upon the neck of another, and the terrible malady seized them before they were aware, and bought them to their end suddenly, some giving up the ghost immediately with very great pains and bitter grief; and some were worn away by their distempers, and had nothing remaining to be buried, but as soon as ever they fell, were entirely macerated; some were choked, and greatly lamented their case, as being also stricken with a sudden darkness, some there were who, as they were burying a relation, fell down dead….” Seventy thousand people died of this pestilence. (Chapter 13, The Antiquities of the Jews)

The Bible records the ending of the plague in this way: And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan (same as Araunah) the Jebusite.

And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Jerusalem, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.

And David said unto God, is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house, but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.  (1 Chronicles 21:15-17)

Then the prophet Gad instructed David to build an altar to the Lord at the threshing floor of King Araunah.  This David did, purchasing from the Jebusite king the threshing place and the oxen that were there. Then David offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings the plague was stayed from the land.

The first verse of the next Chapter records a statement made by David: This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel. (1 Chronicles 22:1) After this we read how David began to gather materials for the construction of the temple that his son Solomon would build later on.

What a tumultuous beginning! Nor is it over yet, nor will it be until the King of Kings returns. But let us continue. Just what is a threshing floor? What is its function and how does it work? Where modern machinery is lacking threshing floors are still in use today.  The purpose of the threshing floor is to facilitate the work of separating grain from the stems whereon it grows. This is accomplished by thrashing or beating the stalks of grain, causing the grain to dislodge from the stalk. Then the grain is further cleaned by winnowing to rid it of chaff, the inedible plant matter that still clings to the grain. Winnowing can be accomplished by hand, by tossing the grain in the air and allowing the wind to blow away the chaff. Threshing floors were level sites, where the threshing could be done more easily. They were typically located on a hill or rise to take advantage of an unhindered breeze or wind.

by Stan Zurek, Wikimedia Commons

Here is a photo of a threshing floor in Greece. You will see that it is level and in an open area. If you care you can find a number of photos of threshing floors, ancient and current, on the internet. They are typically round, and slope a little to one direction to let the rain run off. They often have a border of stones and are paved in some fashion. Some are paved with flat stones. This one appears to be paved with concrete. Animals were often used to facilitate the task of threshing. King Araunah was using oxen, which he sold to David along with the threshing floor. King David then sacrificed the oxen as an offering to the Lord.

The photo below from Conservapedia shows the interior of the Dome of the Rock. Here is the sacred stone of Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Muslims believe their prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from this site. Early Christians believed that this is the stone upon which Jesus stood prior to his crucifixion when he was interrogated by Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.  The early Christians perhaps are correct, for the large enclosure surrounding the Dome of the Rock was the camp of the Tenth Roman Legion at the time of Christ. Then, both Jews and Christians hold the stone to be the place of Abraham’s testing, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to him.

The rays of the sun coming in illuminate the large rock quite clearly. This rock hardly qualifies as a threshing floor, now does it? This is the highest point of this large outcropping. The rest of the rock lies beneath the fill dirt that makes the surface of the Temple Mount level.  The ancient report from Josephus in The Jewish Wars says that this rock was 75 feet high from the bottom up and that it was covered with “smooth stone flags”. This would be the retaining wall that encloses the Temple Mount. This wall was built mostly by Herod the Roman king of Judea just prior to the time of Christ. However, there is a section on the eastern side that is of older construction.

Of course in an area as large as the temple mount a threshing floor could have been there somewhere. True, but if the temple were in close proximity to a large rock outcropping, would there be no mention of that anywhere in the descriptions of the temple?? Read the Bible, or any other historical document you like; you will not find any mention of such a prominent feature as a 75 foot rock near the temple.

Another argument you often encounter is that the historian Josephus, upon whom we must rely for much recorded history of the time of Christ and the temple, exaggerates. On subjects other than the temple Josephus is deemed an expert, but he is accused of bias when it comes to the temple. The fact is his work is most accurate. He lived in the era he writes about. He saw the temple and its destruction with his own eyes. Further, the Romans furnished him access to all their documents. His work was not guesswork, but factual.  It is tradition that exaggerates.

Next time we will explore another facet of the truth pertaining to Jerusalem, the place where God chose to put His name.

Old Greek threshing floor, by ZDE Wikimedia Commons

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The Dome of the Rock/Wikipedia

Tradition. When you start poking at someone’s traditions you are asking for a fight now aren’t you.  Lots of folks have an open mind, until you question something they have always been told. And then they begin to raise their voices as the lava starts boiling. Tradition is way stronger than truth. If they have heard it all their life or if it is something they want to believe, then it is a fact and there’s no argument that will make a dent in their perception. This is too bad. Truth is something you can build on and add to. It is a foundation that’s not going to crumble or give way. Conversely, an untruth is flawed in its essence and can not stand. It might last, a while, sometimes a long while. But in the end, the facts are going to show themselves. The Bible says there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed. See Luke 8:17.

The Rock Under the Dome

Today a conflict rages in Israel over the acreage that comprises the Temple Mount. Muslims hold that their prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from that site; Christians claim not only is it the place God tested Abraham’s obedience to him by asking him to sacrifice his son, but that it is also the location of Solomon’s temple. Actual proof of any of this is non-existent. It is all based on tradition. Now, some tradition is true; some is not. Most truth can be supported by evidence. Where is the evidence to verify either of these claims?

I had a Christian tell me the evidence was in the Bible. She said King David bought the threshing floor on Mt. Moriah and his son Solomon built the temple there. Well, I am one of those die hard Christians that believe every word of the Bible. At one time I didn’t, but by now I have seen the evidence. I am convinced it is all true, every word.

But, I am not convinced the Temple Mount is the location of the threshing floor King David bought from the Jesusite King Araunuah. I have examined some evidence that speaks contrary to this tradition. The facts do not support the popular beliefs that hold the Temple Mount sacred.

As far as the name “Moriah” is concerned, let me say that in my own lifetime and experience I have more than once seen a prominent place name moved from one site to another. People do it every day.  See my article entitled Whatever Happened To Whetstone Gap? The Whetstone Ridge and its attendant gap was so called for the numerous small, smooth, rectangular stones scattered upon its surface and dug up from its soils. But never mind that. A land developer liked the picturesque sound of the name and so he lifted it from its rightful location and moved it some miles up the road where he was building houses. And there it is to this day. You see it emblazoned on a long green sign: Whetstone Gap Road. It’s on the map, the GPS. Now the little whetstones on the Whetstone Ridge have no recognition, having been relegated to obscurity. Their identity lost, they lie scattered and unappreciated on a mountain called Quebec, in a community also called Quebec, which mountain and community by the way, have nothing to do with the original Quebec, which is more than a thousand miles away, in Canada. Do you get my drift?

Rembrandt Painting: Abraham and Isaac

This is precisely what has happened at Moriah. God said to Abraham: Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:2) The mountain was in the land of Moriah. In the same way Quebec Mountain is one of several mountains in the community of Quebec. The Bible does not give a name of a particular mountain. It is simply a mountain in the land of Moriah. Today the Temple Mount is named Moriah. But it has not always been so. Nor is there a shred of evidence that Abraham ever set foot upon it.  We don’t even know for sure the land of Moriah is the land at Jerusalem. The Samaritans believed Mt. Gerizim at Shechem was the the mountain of Abraham’s testing.

And where are the ruins of the temple? They have never been found. And rightly so. Think about it. Did not Jesus say of the temple and its attendant buildings that there would not be one stone left upon another? Most of the massive wall that surrounds the Temple Mount was built by Herod, who also rebuilt the Jewish temple. Only small sections of this wall were damaged during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The wall is intact, including that portion known today as the Wailing Wall, which is held to be the only extant remains of the temple. I can understand how Jews can believe the Wailing Wall to be a true remnant of their temple, for most Jews doubt the divinity of Jesus and would give no credence to his prophecies. But how many Christian preachers, not to mention lay people, have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the privilege of praying at the Wailing Wall, never mind the explicit words of our Lord as recorded in the first three books of the New Testament? Here it is from Matthew: As Jesus left the temple and was walking away, His disciples came up to him to point out its buildings. “Do you see all these things,” He replied.  “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be toppled.”…(Matthew 24:1-2) Did Jesus miss it? Or what?

When we get to heaven and we still want to know, we can find out for sure. Meanwhile, we need to let the evidence speak, and silence the voice of tradition, or at least take it with a grain of salt until we can be sure.

This time we have been discussing what is not. Next time we will look at some exciting and fascinating facts: things that are, that almost shout for recognition.

 

 

 

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Hills of Gilead, territory east of Jordan chosen by tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh

As the Hebrews continued toward the border of their promised land they fought and subdued the people who occupied the land where they were traveling. As a result a large part of what is now Jordan became the territory of the tribes of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh. Moses allowed those tribes to have their inheritance there in exchange for their promise to assist the other tribes in subduing the occupants of the land on the other side (west) of the Jordan river.

Prior to their entering into the promised land Moses spent time teaching the people and giving the law. He wanted them to thrive in the land of their inheritance, and to do so they would have to obey God and adhere to his instructions. For, as they had seen, strict adherence to the Ten Commandments was the only thing that satisfied God. In Deuteronomy is recorded the word of God given to the Israelites before their entry into their land. Basically he told them they would be blessed if they obeyed God and they would be cursed if they didn’t. The word is quite extensive and specific. Here is some of it:

….if thou shalt hearken…. to do all his commandments….God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:…Blessed shalt thou be in the city and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body…the fruit of thy ground;;;;the fruit of thy cattle…Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies…to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways……And the Lord shall make thee the head and not the tail….But it shall come to pass, if thou shall not hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shall thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke….The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land….The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far…..And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates…..and thou shalt eat the….. flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters…in the siege. (from Deuteronomy 28:1-53)

Friends, if you think this is gross, you need to know that it really came to pass eventually, for the Hebrews, the Israelites, the chosen people of God turned their backs on him. Their blessings went away and the curses came upon them, exactly as said.  Jeremiah records: They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger:….the hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. (Lamentations 4:9-10)

Further, the Lord told them: And ye shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven for multitude….And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people…And among these nations shalt thou find no ease….(Deuteronomy 28: 62,64-65) And so it has been. The Jews have been scattered over the face of the planet, and continue to be persecuted. Anti Semitism is everywhere, even in the U.S.

But, God is not finished with his people the Hebrews: And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him…When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God…he will not forsake, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. (Deuteronomy 4:27,29-31)

Repentance was the key to restoring the Israelites to right relationship with God. It still is, not only for Israel, but for us who are not Israel. God is not mean, but his laws can not be set aside or ignored, for there are consequences for sin. He has provided the way for us all, through Jesus, to be forgiven and set on the right path, toward heaven, and not toward hell.

As the people drew near to Canaan, the promised land, the time came for Moses to die. The Bible tells us his eye was not dim, nor his strength abated. But God had already told him he would not go in, due to an incident in the wilderness where he had struck a rock for water instead of speaking to it as God had told him to do. Just one example of the immutability of the laws of God.

View From Mt. Nebo/Wikimedia Commons/Vyacheslav Argenberg

Moses’ brother Aaron and sister Miriam had already died. Joshua, one of the twelve original scouts who spied out the land of Canaan 40 years earlier had been named leader in Moses’ place. As God had said, only Joshua and Caleb remained of those twelve. God led Moses to the top of a high mountain (Nebo, Pisgah) where he could see the promised land stretched out before him, all the way to the Mediterranean sea. There he died and the Bible says God buried him in a nearby valley, but no one knows where.

After that God told Joshua to proceed into the promised land. They were encamped on the east side of the Jordan River. Just across the river lay the  Canaanite city of Jericho and their land. At this point you need to know that although God had promised to give the Hebrews the promised land, He did not mean it was to be handed to them on a silver platter. Indeed, they were to go in and take possession of it, by force.

Right away Joshua sent two spies into Jericho. Immediately they encountered Rahab, a harlot, who made them a bargain. She hid them from the officers of Jericho who, having discovered the two spies were in town, came seeking them. In exchange she extracted from the spies a promise that when the Hebrews attacked Jericho, she and her household would be saved. Rahab’s house was built into the city wall, and from a window of her house she let the spies down to the outside with a scarlet rope. She bound the scarlet rope in the window as a signal to the Israelites that her household was to be saved.

In a few days the children of Israel made ready to cross over Jordan. The Ark of the Covenant, borne by the priests, went before. As soon as the priests’ feet touched the waters of the river, the waters congealed into a heap and flowed no more until the last person had crossed over on dry ground. The first order of business after that was the circumcision of all the males who had not been circumcised. Those who had come out of Egypt were circumcised already, but those who were born after that had not been circumcised. Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with his people.

They celebrated Passover while camped at Gilgal in the plains of Jericho. The day after the Passover they ate corn from the promised land. Then, after forty years, the manna ceased and after that they ate the produce of the land of Canaan.

Next on the agenda was Jericho, their first battle in Canaan land. The city of Jericho was pretty impregnable. The walls were around six feet thick and somewhere between twelve and seventeen feet high. and at this point the gates are barred; no one is going in or out. What to do? The Angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua and gave him the strategy for defeating Jericho.

Once a day for six days the army of Israel in complete silence, with no one speaking a word, walked in a circle around Jericho, the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant. The only sound to be heard was the fall of their feet and the wail of seven ram’s horns, blown by seven priests. Don’t you know the people in Jericho crouched in fear at the sound of those trumpets, and wondered what was going to happen next?

Old image in primitive style showing Jericho compassed by soldiers blowing horns, while Rahab lets the spies down from her window/Wikimedia Commons

On the seventh day they marched around the walls of Jericho, again in silence, not once, but six times and then one more. The people had been instructed that on the seventh go around they were to break their silence and shout when the priests began to blow the trumpets. And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:20)

Rahab the harlot, who bound the scarlet rope in her window, was saved, along with her entire family. You will find her in the lineage of King David and Jesus our Lord. Bible Gateway.com has an interesting article about her.

We have only scratched the surface of the marvelous story of God’s interactions with his people, the  descendants of Abraham. It is a never ending supernatural saga that will capture your heart and your interest once you begin to delve into the rich treasures so readily available to us today–the ages old scriptures, historical references, and current events. What God began with Abraham is coming to fruition right before our eyes. Pay attention.

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1641 map of the wanderings in the wilderness/Educ. Center, National Library of Israel

Hardly anything is known about the 40 years the Hebrews (Israelites) were wandering in the wilderness. Recent archaeogical finds give some idea of where they were for part of that time, but there are few writings that tell us yes, so and so happened right here. Only toward the end of their 40 years of wandering do we get much detail about places and connected events. Here is a wonderful old map that you can click on and enlarge. Unfortunately it is not in English, and it might or might not be accurate. But it is very beautiful, and you probably can identify some of the places.

Last time we looked at the disaster instigated by Korah.  Somewhat south of the Red Sea crossing there was actually a place named Korah. Admittedly Korah is a fairly common name in the middle east. However, besides Korah, other Jewish place names were recently found on an ancient map of Saudi Arabia. These Jewish place names appear outside the boundaries of what we thought was the route of the Hebrews’ wanderings. I believe the Bible gives us a hint. When God was discussing with Moses the 40 year penalty he said to Moses: Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea. (Numbers 14:25) He was sending them back in the direction they had come, toward the Red Sea and the country of Arabia. A couple of chapters later the Korah incident is recorded. Were the children of Israel that far into Arabia when this took place? We can only guess for real information is scarce. An American couple, Jim and Penny Caldwell, did a lot of exploring in Saudi Arabia some years ago and their findings shed some light on the Hebrews and their experiences in the Arabian desert. You can find them on You Tube.  Forty years, during which Moses and the Hebrew children had to be somewhere…. Some folks would have us think they walked round and round Mt. Seir for 40 years………that is really difficult for me to believe.

There is an interesting incident recorded in Numbers very soon after the command to go by way of the Red Sea and that is the attack by the fiery serpents. Again, the group was complaining of hardship and wishing they had never come to this land. The text says God sent fiery serpents among them and the serpents bit them and they died. Moses prayed for the people and God gave him the remedy: make a serpent of brass and put it on a pole. Whoever is bitten will be healed upon looking at the brazen serpent on the pole. Here is an illustration of the Greek rod of Asclepius,  the god of medicine and healing. Where do you think the Greeks got their symbol? Where were the fiery serpents? Probably near the head of the Gulf of Acaba (the Red Sea). Poisonous snakes bearing red spots have been found there.

Rembrant painting of Balaam and his donkey/Wikipedia

Toward the end of their 40 year exile the record becomes clearer and we find Moses in the land of Moab. Balak the king of Moab had heard of the Israelites (Hebrews) and feared them so he sent his friends the Midianites, with a goodly amount of money, to fetch the prophet Balaam to prophesy (the modern equivalent of casting a spell) against the Hebrews. (Besides the Midian in Saudi Arabia, there was  a territory of Midian east of the Jordan river.)

Balaam bid the Midianites to stay overnight, saying he would let them know in the morning what he would do. That night the Lord spoke to Balaam and told him not to go and not to curse Israel because he (God) had blessed them. The next morning Balaam told his visitors he would not go with them so they went back alone.

But King Balak was undaunted. Soon he sent men more honorable than the first to persuade Balaam to come and curse the Hebrews. Balaam told these that if the king gave his house full of silver and gold he could not say more than the Lord allowed him to say. That night the Lord told Balaam that if the men came for him to rise up and go with them. Nevertheless, he was to prophesy only that which the Lord gave him.

The next thing we know is that Balaam has saddled his donkey as is on his way. Did Balaam set out before the men came for him? We don’t know, but we do know the Lord was angry about something because he sent an angel (the Angel of the Lord) to stop Balaam in the way. The little donkey saw the angel and began behaving strangely and finally refused to go another step, though Balaam beat her. Then the donkey spoke to Balaam and asked him why he had beaten her and had she not always been obedient before. When she said this Balaam realized something was amis. His eyes were then opened to see the Angel of the Lord, with a great sword drawn, who said to him, “If your donkey hadn’t turned from me three times, by now I would have killed you!” (Numbers 22:33 paraphrase) Balaam was about to go back home, but the Angel told him to go, but to speak only what he Lord told him to say.

When Balaam arrived in Moab King Balak was ready for him. He took him to one of the high places of Baal (a false god) where the camp of the Hebrews could be seen below. There Balak the king offered seven sacrifices to God, after which Balaam withdrew to see what God would speak to him. When Balaam returned he gave the word that God had given him:

Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him……. Who can count the dust of Jacob? and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! (Numbers 23:7-10)

King Balak was not very pleased of course, for Balaam had only spoken favorably concerning the Hebrews, but he did not give up. He wanted Balaam to go to another place, where only a small portion of the Hebrews could be seen. There, he reasoned to himself, Balaam might be more amenable to cursing them. There he offered his seven sacrifices, and the Lord gave Balaam another word of blessing upon the Israelites.

The king was very frustrated by now, but he figured it was worth another try, so they did it again at another place, with the same results. King Balak was quite angry by this time, but Balaam stood his ground, explaining that from the beginning he had told him that he could say only what the Lord allowed him to say, and “furthermore,” he said, “let me tell you what the Lord says these people (the Hebrews/Israelites) will do to your people in the latter days.” (Numbers 24:14 paraphrase)

Balaam the son of Beor……which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him but not now: I shall behold him but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth…. (Numbers 24:15-17)

The Star and the Sceptre pertain to Jesus, the Messiah, and events in connection with his return in the latter days (which days we are in presently.)

After this Balaam went back home and the Hebrews continued their encampment. Balaam had done what the Lord told him. He had given the word exactly as it was given to him. But, Balaam goes down in history as a false prophet. Why? if he was obedient to do what God told him? The best answer is given in Revelation 2 where is recorded the letter that Jesus dictated to John to be sent to the church at Pergamos.

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. (Revelation 2:14)

Balaam was not able to curse Israel, but he was aware that their blessings stemmed from their obedience to God. Though from time to time there had been much disobedience, Moses had always reined in the troublemakers and meted out discipline. The thing that Balaam did was to suggest to King Balak that if he could get Israel to sin and become disobedient to God, then Israel’s blessings would cease and trouble would come upon them.

Stele of the god Baal. Note the horns/Wikipedia

Soon enough this very thing happened. The people of Israel began to join the people of Moab in the worship of Baal and began commiting  whoredoms with the daughters of Moab. No doubt King Balak was behind this. We already know the Hebrews could be drawn into sin with very little provocation. It probably wasn’t too hard for the Moabite women to entice the men of Israel to participate in their heathen rituals in honor of their god Baal. In retaliation for this God sent a plague on the Hebrew people. Then one of the Hebrew men had the nerve to bring a Midianite (Moabite) woman into the camp. The two were promptly killed and that ended the plague. Altogether 24,000 people died as a result of this disobedience.

There is too much left of the story of the Hebrews’ journey to the promised land to finish here.  We are up into the region of present day Jordan now. One more post and we will be into the promised land!

 

 

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Wilderness of Paran

In the second year after their exodus from Egypt the Lord lifted the pillar of cloud from Sinai where the Hebrews (Israelites) had long been encamped and led them north toward the wilderness of Paran. Paran was the area where Ishmael the son of Abraham by the servant woman had settled about four hundred years earlier. Their journey was in a very orderly fashion, tribe by tribe in their procession, with those whose duty it was carrying the ark of the covenant with staves thrust through rings attached to the ark. Photo credit http://BiblePlaces.com

The people began to complain as they had done before and God sent a fire among them and consumed some of them until Moses interceded for them. But before long the complaining began again, instigated to some extent it appears by the strangers (non-Jewish people) who were traveling with them. Some of the Egyptians, having witnessed the miracles that God worked through Moses left town when the Hebrews did and were accepted by the Hebrews. These people were called the “mixed multitude.” The Bible says the mixed multitude fell a lusting and the Hebrews joined them complaining that they missed the fare of Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, onions, garlic, and that they had nothing to eat but manna. God sent a passel of quails, so many that they were in great piles, enough to eat for a whole month. But at the same time His wrath was kindled against them and he smote them with a great plague so that a number died. The Bible says they buried the people that lusted.  (Numbers 11:34)

Kadesh “I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land.” Numbers 32:8. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

As they drew near the promised land of Canaan the Lord spoke to Moses to send out a secret scouting expedition to spy out the land, to determine what sort of country it was and what people lived there. Twelve spies were sent and were gone for 40 days, and when they returned they brought back a cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried by two people on a pole between them. The land was indeed a good land they said, but there was no way they could take it for the inhabitants of it were men of great stature, and not only that, there were fierce giants among them before whom the Hebrews were as grasshoppers. Only two of the twelve spies (Joshua and Caleb) offered any hope for overcoming the inhabitants and taking the land. Caleb wanted to go up at once and possess the land, for we are well able to overcome it. (Numbers 13:30)

But the people believed the word of the majority and wept and blamed God for bringing them into the wilderness only to send them out to be defeated in battle with the Canaanites. They didn’t believe God would help them take the land so they decided to appoint themselves a captain and return to Egypt and slavery, a plan which came to naught. Joshua did his best to assure them that God would fight their battles for them, but the people did not believe him and were about to stone him to death. Meanwhile God got mad and told Moses he was going to disinherit the Hebrews and start over with Moses. Moses told God that wouldn’t be a good idea, for the Egyptians would hear of it and say that God was not able to fulfill his promise of bringing the Hebrews into their promised land. So God backed off from that plan and settled on another:

Instead of enjoying all the benefits of Canaan that God intended to give them, the Hebrews would be destined to wander in the wilderness (deserts) one year for every day the spies were inspecting Canaan. As for the ten spies who had returned with the evil report concerning the inhabitants of Canaan, and who could not be convinced that God would give them victory in battle, they died immediately of a plague from the Lord. During the ensuing 40 years of wandering those who murmured in unbelief would die, for they had said, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us into this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? (Numbers 14:2-3)

God spoke to Moses and Aaron and told them I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel…say unto them…your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, from 20 years old and upward which have murmured against me. Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh  and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. (Numbers 14:27, 29-31)

Oh, oh, oh, what a pronouncement. What a price to pay! They would get what they said, they would die in the wilderness, never to see the promised land.  Watch what comes out of your mouth. The spoken word has power.

The morning after these disastrous events the pillar of cloud lifted and God led the Hebrews back into the wilderness by the way of the Red. Sea. It would be 40 years before they would be back to the promised land.

People read these stories in the Old Testament and they see this strict and judgmental side of God and think he is unfair, or cruel. You have heard about folks who have a method in their madness. They do something that looks stupid or wrong, but when it is all said and done you can see those actions that did not make sense accomplished a purpose in the end. God is like that. First of all, God is just. It is his justice that holds the universe in place. We don’t understand what he does because we do not see what he sees, or know what he knows.

You might think it is unfair of God to give the land of Canaan to the Hebrews, when it was already owned by another people. But, who were the inhabitants of Canaan? How did they happen to be there? Why did God intend to destroy them?  He had a reason. As a matter of fact he had more than one reason. I am not going to tell you the reasons, for that is another subject altogether. But, you can find out if you want to. And then you will begin to appreciate the God of the Old Testament.

An illustration of the garments of the high priest, from Leviticus chapter 8/Wikimedia Commons

Not all the adventures of Moses and the Hebrew children can be covered in this short space. Already it has drawn into three sections and will go to four, but now there is one more important incident to know about. Some of the people  began to resent Moses’ leadership, and led by Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On they began to declare presumptuously that they were just as important as Moses and Aaron. Moses fell on his face before God when he heard this, and when he got up he put the dissenters, 250 people, to a test. Korah, the leader of this faction was of the lineage of Levi, as was Moses and Aaron, and already was in a high position of ministry. Moses asked Korah if he was not satisfied being chosen as a minister of God, and accused him of seeking the priesthood also.

Then Dathan and Abiram accused Moses of trying to be a prince over them and blamed him because they did not get to enter the promised land, when in fact it was their own fault because they would not join Joshua and Caleb and fight the inhabitants of Canaan for the land. Moses told Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their whole company to each bring a censer and incense and fire tomorrow. The next day the whole congregation of the Hebrews was there to watch as all 250 dissenters lit their censers at the door of the tabernacle. The glory of God appeared, but God was very angry and told Moses and Aaron to step aside, he was going to kill the whole bunch including the spectators. Again Moses interceded for the people and God relented somewhat.

In the end the entire households of Korah, Dathan and Abiram were called out and the ground opened up beneath them and swallowed them alive. In another location we are told Korah’s children did not die; presumably the other children involved did not. And then a fire from the Lord consumed the 250 dissenters.

All you people out there who think God is a wimp because you are getting by, don’t be fooled. He is not a wimp, but he is not willing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9) The Hebrews exhausted his patience. Don’t let that be you.

 

 

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The Hebrews and the Pillar of Cloud by Phillip De Vere/Wikimedia Commons

The Bible is the greatest book ever written, thousands of years old, yet fresh and alive as the morning news. Indeed some of it is the morning news right now. The land of the Hebrews (Israel) is always a hot topic any day. When God called Abraham he made him a promise that his offspring would be innumerable, and that all nations through him would be blessed. Well, what is that blessing that God promised? Jesus, God in the flesh, and the things that pertain to Jesus. The innumerable offspring: the Jews. And in the future? Food – Israel is right now producing some of the best citrus to be had anywhere. Oil – a deposit of oil estimated at seven million barrels near the Dead Sea and within the boundaries of Israel was in the news in 2016. There is also oil in the Golan Heights. Who knows what may yet be discovered. God said it was a good land, flowing with milk and honey was the way it was described. His word is true, right down to the last jot and tittle.

Nowadays almost everyone believes in the supernatural – spirits, ghosts, extra-terrestrials, bigfoot, angels, demons, fairies – the list could get to be quite long. But those same people have difficulty believing that the father of Jesus was not Joseph, but God himself. And that Mary was a virgin until she gave birth to the son of God. The Gospel of Matthew gives two geneaologies for Jesus. One comes down to Joseph, who was the legal father; the other comes down to Mary, the mother. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham. He is the redeemer promised to fallen man, exiles from the garden of Eden, and to their posterity. Jesus is/was a Jew, a Hebrew.

When God announced the tenth plague – the death of the firstborn – the Hebrews were instructed to kill an unblemished lamb and to apply its blood to the doors of their houses. By so doing they were to be spared and none of their firstborn would die when God passed through the land on that fateful night. The lamb was to be eaten that evening and its remains burned in the fire. Here is the origin of the Jewish Passover. Here also is a picture of Christ, bleeding on the cross, the sinless lamb, sacrificed that we might live and not die.

But, like the Hebrews, we must eat the lamb. People get offended when they hear that. Some of Jesus’ disciples left him when he said they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Of course, he did not mean that literally. Just goes to show you how shallow their thinking was. Jesus meant they must commune with him, stay with him long enough to learn something, become educated in the ways of God. If you love him you will want to do that.

Moses was their leader, but it was God who led the Hebrews on their journey to the promised land. They followed a supernatural pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire by night. When these moved the people followed; and when they stayed, the people stayed. Their first camp was at Succoth. From there God led them through the wilderness to the Red Sea. Meanwhile, Pharoah had changed his mind again, and the Egyptians set out in pursuit of the Hebrews. They hemmed them in at the edge of the Red Sea, but then God moved the supernatural cloud between the Hebrews and their pursuers while he opened the Red Sea with a strong wind. Through a trough between the waters the Hebrews passed to the other side. And just in time, for the Egyptians followed close on them in the trough of dry ground. When the last of the Hebrews had crossed God quickly closed the waters and drowned the entire army of the Egyptians.

These posts would be way too long if we covered all the things that the Bible tells us about what happened to the Hebrews and what they did and how they lived. It is a fascinating story recorded in the first five books of the Bible. Basically, God paved the way for these his chosen people. He provided food for their journey which he spread upon the ground every day but the Sabbath for forty years. He provided water in the desert, first by cleansing the bitter waters at Marah and soon afterwards by bringing forth water from a rock at Horeb when there was no water for the people at their camp at Rephidim. When the Amalekites attacked them at Rephidim they were defeated with supernatural help from God. Moses stood on a mountain overlooking the battle and as long as he held up his hands the Hebrews prevailed, but when he let them down the Amalekites prevailed. When Moses grew too tired to hold up his hands, Aaron and Hur held them up and at the end of the day the Amalekites were defeated. The Biblical record shows that during the entirety of their journey their clothes and shoes did wear out. In short, God provided for their needs. Their wants got them into trouble with God, as we shall see.

Sinai

Three months into their journey, the Hebrews were encamped on the east side of Mt. Sinai, the place where the ten commandments were given. God told Moses to tell the people to keep away and to keep their cattle away from the mountain. Then God came down upon the top of Mt. Sinai in a fire and smoke, lightning and thunder. The sound of a trumpet was heard and the mountain shook and trembled. The people were very fearful and said to Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die. (Exodus 20:19) Moses calmed their fears, then he left them and went up on the mountain with God. The top of this mountain (Jabel el Laws in Saudi Arabia) is blackened from burning to this day.

Regarding Mt. Sinai, the traditional site at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Egyptian peninsula (also named Sinai)  looses all credibility, when compared to recent historic and archaelogical findings at Jabel el laws in Saudi Arabia.

The Hebrew people were slow learners, so much so that today we just shake our heads at the things they did and wonder how they could be so dumb, and how they underestimated God. This is still happening today, and not just among the Jews. While Moses was up on the mountain with God he left Aaron, his brother and second in command, in charge of things. Days drew into weeks, and the Hebrews got restless. They decided Moses wasn’t coming back and they could do as they pleased. In short order they had enlisted Aaron’s help in making unto themselves a golden calf which they worshipped and frolicked around naked. The Bible doesn’t say what else they did, as they addressed the golden calf saying, These be the gods that brought us up from Egypt. (Exodus 32: 8 paraphrased)  They picked the wrong time for their party, because as they were singing and dancing around the image of the calf, Moses returned from 40 days of communing with God. Uh oh!

In his great anger Moses cast down and broke two stone tablets he was carrying whereon God had written the ten commandments. His people had already broken the first commandment worshiping an image! When Moses confronted Aaron about it, Aaron gave the lamest excuse possible saying, Now, don’t get mad. You know these people are always into mischief. You were gone so long they didn’t think you were ever coming back so they asked me to make gods to lead them. They gave me their gold jewelry and I threw it into the fire and out came this calf. (Exodus 32:22-24 paraphrased) At Moses’ commandment, more than 3,000 men were killed that day for the sin of idol worship. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Aaron’s punishment was, or if he was punished separately at that time, or at all. Moses said later on that he prayed for Aaron at that time. So, lest we presume to read the Almighty’s thoughts and to know his motives let us forebear to criticize him. For he is just to the nth degree. He simply doesn’t tell us everything. The Bible says the Lord plagued the people for this sin. He threatened to “consume” them, but Moses interceded for them and God relented in his judgement.

Model of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness in Timna Valley Park, Israel/Wikipedia

The Hebrews camped in Sinai about a year before continuing on to the promised land. At Sinai God gave Moses laws and regulations covering almost every aspect of living, right down to cleanliness and food preparation. He also gave him detailed plans for a portable temple, including all the furnishings and instruments for sacrifice and worship, including the ark of the covenant, which was a large box overlaid and decorated with gold. This portable temple is spoken of today as the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. This was not a simple tent; it was a work of art and craftsmanship, as anyone who has read the book of Exodus can tell you. When it was completed and set up the pillar of cloud and fire came and rested upon it thereafter.

Eventually the pillar of cloud lifted and the Hebrews continued their journey toward the promised land. One might wonder why it was taking so long for this trip. Going the short way one could get from Egypt to Canaan in about eleven days. God gave one of his reasons: he didn’t want the Hebrews to travel the short route because it led through the land of the Philistines. He believed they would become discouraged and return to Egypt since they would have to fight the Philistines. (Exodus 13:17) Well, many times, especially at the first when they were hungry or thirsty, they murmured and complained and wished out loud that they were back in Egypt. So, God was right in his assessment of them.

Next time we will travel to Kadesh, on the border of the promised land and find out what happened after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Excavated ruins at Ur (in modern Iraq) believed to be the birthplace of Abraham

Moses is given credit for authoring the first five books of the Old Testament. These books cover the history of the Hebrew people, spanning from their earliest ancestor Adam, down through their experiences as slaves in Egypt, their exodus from Goshen, and their wanderings during the 40 years before they entered Canaan, the promised land. In actuality, the Hebrews as a people originate with Abraham. God called Abraham who was living in Ur of the Chaldees and told him to leave his home and to go where he (God) would send him. Abraham obeyed, taking his household and leaving his father and relatives behind. God led him from place to place, and during his wanderings Abraham received the promise from God that his posterity would become a great nation, and that through him all families of the earth would be blessed.

Abraham and his wife had no children and the wife was past the age of childbearing, so this was surely hard to believe, but Abraham had faith. He trusted God implicitly. His wife lacked the faith that her husband had. She knew she couldn’t have a child at her age, so she thought, “Well, I’ll just give my servant woman to my husband to have a son, and I’ll take her son for my own, and that way the plan of God can proceed.” This type of polygamous arrangement was common in those times; Abraham agreed; the servant woman did indeed bear a child, a son named Ishmael. The Muslims are descendants of Abraham and this servant woman. If that is shocking to you, look it up. It is a fact that Muslims claim descent from Abraham through Ishmael.

Eventually an entourage from heaven visited Abraham and Sara, and told them God’s promise was about to be fulfilled; they were going to have the son God had promised long ago. Sara, ever the skeptic, laughed at the idea. However, within a year Sara herself bore Isaac. Fast forward, and Isaac has two sons, twins: Esau, the firstborn and Jacob, the usurper.

Though Esau, being first, would normally have inherited at his father’s death the best of his father’s goods and his deathbed blessings, which carried tremendous import for good, Esau obtained neither. This was partly his fault, for in a rash moment he had earlier granted his birthright to his brother Jacob. It was partly Jacob’s doing since shortly before his father’s death, he disguised himself as Esau and tricked his blind and aged father into pronouncing upon him the blessing reserved for the firstborn.

Jacob eventually got it right, and God prospered him. He had twelve sons. One of these was Joseph whose eleven brothers for jealousy sold into slavery and then led their father to believe a wild animal had killed him. Joseph rose from slavery to become prime minister of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. During a time of famine, when there was no food in the land, Jacob sent some of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. There to their surprise they found Joseph and were reunited with him, who had already forgiven them. Due to the famine, Jacob and his entire household, flocks, goods, and everything relocated to the land of Goshen in Egypt. Because of Joseph’s high position they were treated very well by the Egyptians.

For four hundred years the sons of Jacob lived in Egypt. The favor they had known gradually eroded away as new rulers took their places. Time came when Joseph was forgotten, and the Hebrews began to be hated. They eventually became slaves and were treated very harshly by the Egyptians who apparently believed subjugation was the preventive for insurrection. The Egyptians felt threatened by the Hebrews, for they had multiplied to be a vast horde of individuals.

Moses and the Burning Bush–by Gebhard Fugel

 

The plight of the Hebrews did not go unnoticed by God. He brought up one of their own, Moses, to be their deliverer. Moses had been adopted by the Egyptians as an infant and raised in Pharaoh’s palace.  But he knew who he was, and eventually he took the side of his people. He killed an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew, and for that was forced to flee Egypt. He ended up in the land of Midian where he lived until he was eighty years old. He was out on the mountain tending sheep when God appeared to him by fire, in a bush that blazed but was not consumed.  There God commissioned the aging Moses to go down to Egypt and to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”

Moses and his brother Aaron went to Egypt as God directed and petitioned Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go free, but Pharaoh was not of a mind to do so. Over a period of time Moses continued to press Pharaoh for his people’s freedom, but repeatedly Pharaoh stubbornly rejected his pleas. In retaliation God struck the Egyptians with plagues ten times. The afflictions, increasing in intensity from first to tenth,  began when God had Aaron to raise his staff over the Nile River, turning it to blood for a week. The next was a plague of frogs which came up out of the river and overran the country. The women even found them in their bread bowls! Pharaoh was so distressed by the frogs that he begged Moses to send them away and promised to let the Hebrews go. The frogs had no sooner gone than Pharaoh changed his mind, as he was to do in several succeeding instances.

Lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, all were endured by the Egyptians while their Hebrew neighbors in Goshen were not affected. After the ninth plague, which consisted of three days of intense darkness in Egypt Pharaoh told Moses that if the Hebrews left behind their cattle, they could go. Moses refused to negotiate. It was now that God purposed to deal with the Egyptians with a heavy hand. The tenth and final plague would be the death of the firstborn of both people and cattle. This time the Hebrews had to do something to prevent the Lord from killing the firstborn in their households. An unblemished lamb was to be killed and its blood applied to the doorpost and lintel of each house, its flesh roasted and eaten and its bones and any uneaten portions burned in the fire. The blood on the doorposts was the sign for the Lord to pass over that house so the firstborn within would be spared. Here is the origin of the Jewish Passover.

The night of the tenth plague a great wailing was heard in Egypt as the firstborn in every Egyptian family had died. It has been suggested that perhaps some of the Egyptians escaped the tenth and final plague by following the instructions God had given the Hebrews. They certainly had seen the hand of God move nine times already and had noticed the Hebrews had not suffered from the plagues. Just a thought, someone else’s, that I am repeating.

During the night of the Lord’s pass over Pharaoh sent for Moses and told him to take his people and “Go!” This time he meant it, for the Egyptians now feared for their lives. Before the Hebrews departed the Egyptians gave them valuable articles of silver, gold, and clothing.

Route of the Exodus

The route of the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt has been a controversial subject in the past because the route suggested by many scholars just did not match up with the Biblical narrative. Today, more than ever before, we are finding that the Biblical narrative, not just in the case of the exodus, but in every case, is accurate, and it is our perception that needs to be adjusted. We need just a bit more information, a little archaeological discovery, and the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. For an accurate description of the route the Hebrews took to the Red Sea crossing check out the fairly recent discoveries of Ron Wyatt. The evidence uncovered by Mr. Wyatt is astonishing and proves the Biblical narrative beyond doubt. Here is a map from the website: arkdiscovery.com where you can get additional information. This is Part One of what I expect will be a two part article.

 

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