Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Exodus’

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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.

 

Read Full Post »