Saturday, March 21, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 15 & 16

Chapter 15
Summary:Moses and the people of Israel were ready for song and dance and apparently sang this "song" to God:
15:2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.
15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
15:4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
15:5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
15:6 Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
15:7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.
15:8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
15:9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
15:10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
15:11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 15:12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
15:13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
15:14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
15:15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
15:16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.
15:17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O LORD, which thy hands have established.
15:18 The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
15:19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
Then Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aaron, took a timbrel and led the women in dances.

Miriam sang this (thankfully) much shorter "song":
Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Moses then led the people of Israel from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the wilderness of Shur. They were there for three days, without water. Arriving at Marah, the water was too bitter to drink (the name "Marah" meaning bitter).

The people then turned against Moses demanding that him and God do something before they all died of thirst. Moses pleaded with God, and God in turn shows Moses a tree, explaining that if Moses throws this tree into the water, it will sweeten it and make the water drinkable.

It was there at Marah that God laid down a threat stating, that if they will obey and listen to God, then he won't make them suffer the diseases he's sent on the Egyptians.

They finally came to Elim where they camped. There were twelve springs and seventy palm trees there that they camped next to.
Thoughts:After a rousing rendition of "Ding! Dong! The Pharaoh's Dead!", and Aaron's sister Miriam leading the gals in a chorus line, the folks find themselves in the land of Marah, where the water is too bitter to drink.

After three days without water the people start revolting again, and Moses begs for God's help. God shows Moses a tree and tells him to throw that into the water. When Moses does this, somehow the tree sweetens the water enough to make it drinkable. God then threatens the Israelis with suffering the same diseases he had inflicted on the Egyptian people if they don't do what they're told and obey him.

When they arrive at Elim to camp for the night, we're treated to another example of numerology in the bible - where there are twelve springs, and seventy (7 again, and also 70 being the same number of Jacob's/Israel's descendants who arrived in Egypt 430 years ago) palm trees.

The number twelve has mystical connotations similar to that of the number 7, the most common theory being that it is derived from the method in which people counted on their fingers - they counted all ten fingers, and then once for each foot, thus the number 13 became unlucky. The number twelve appears many times throughout the bible, most notably as the number of Apostles of Jesus, and is clearly a significant number tied in with superstition of the day.

It is highly unlikely that these numbers are here by coincidence, but more likely were purposely chosen for their superstitious numerological significance.
Chapter 16
Summary:The people left Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sihn, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt, and there too the people began to speak harshly against Moses and Aaron.

They began wondering if they'd have been better off if God had killed them in Egypt, where they at least had food to eat, complaining that now they were starving in the wilderness.

God then tells Moses that he's going to rain down food from heaven, but as a test towards the people sets a bunch of restrictions upon how they are to gather and eat the food. He instructs Moses to tell the people to gather as much food as they want, but that on the sixth day of the week, they are gather twice as much food.

Moses and Aaron called a meeting of all the people of Israel (all 600,000+ of them?) and told them that this evening they will realize that it was God who had brought them out of Egypt. Moses and Aaron continue to tell them that in the morning, they will see his glory, and that God will provide them with meat in the evening and bread in the morning. As Aaron gathered them together, out from the wilderness within the guiding cloud, there appeared the awesome glory of God.

In the evening vast numbers of quail arrived and covered the camp, while in the morning the desert around the camp became covered with dew. When the dew disappeared (evaporated) later in the morning, it left tiny flakes of a peculiar substance behind.

Moses explained to the puzzled people that this was the "bread" that God had given them to eat. He tells the people to gather an omer (a container used as a unit of measurement, believed to be approximately 3 quarts) of the food for each person. As the people gathered the strange food and measured their take, they found that everyone had an exact omer of food - no more, no less - regardless of how much they had gathered.

Moses told them not to leave any of this food overnight, and whatever they didn't finish they were to dispose of. However, when some of them tried to store the food overnight they found it sour and full of maggots in the morning, and this greatly angered Moses.

So they gathered the food each morning before the sun became hot upon the ground and melted the food away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much - two omers - to which the leaders of the people questioned Moses as to why they had to do as such. Moses explained that the following day was to be a holy sabbath - explaining that no work from their daily tasks was to be done on this day. He told them to store the remaining food this night as God would not leave any food on the ground on the day of the sabbath.

The following day, the sabbath, the people found that the food was fresh and wholesome and not spoiled and filled with maggots as it was when stored during the week. When some of the people went out to gather food - against Moses' instructions to refrain from doing so - they couldn't find any. God questioned Moses rhetorically about how long it would take the people to obey his word when this happened.

The food became known as "manna" (meaning "What is it?"), and was white, like coriander seed, flat, and tasted like honey bread. Moses, on instruction from God, had Aaron gather an extra omer of the food to be kept as a museum piece, so that later generations could see the food that God had provided them with in the wilderness. Aaron did as he was instructed, putting the food in a container that he kept in a sacred place - which would eventually be kept in the Ark of the Covenant.

The people of Israel ate this food for forty years until they arrived in the land of Canaan.
Thoughts:The grumpy and hungry Israelis complain about their food situation and God decides to both present them with a magical food source while testing their obedience.

He creates a magical bit of food that is left behind from when the morning dew evaporates. It has the magical properties of spoiling and becoming infested with maggots if it is kept overnight - except on the sabbath day, when it remains fresh overnight for one night each week. Of course, not all the people obey the instructions of not storing the food, and hence they found it rotten the next day; as well as some of the people trying to go out and gather food on the sabbath - when they were commanded not to - and of course, they found no food. Apparently the specimen of magic food that they keep for a museum piece is also apparently not affected by spoilage and maggots for some reason.

The point of this chapter obviously, is more about testing the people of Israel's obedience, but its just very difficult to take seriously when we have a magical food source that doesn't grow or spoil on a specific day of the week only.

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