Saturday, March 21, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17
Summary:At God's command, the people of Israel left the Sihn desert, going by easy stages to Rephidim. When they got there, however, there was no water. Once more the people complained to Moses, begging him to give them water. Moses told them to be quiet and warned them not to test God's patience, but the people continued to complain until Moses once again pleaded to God on their behalf.

Moses appears before God to plead with him on the people's behalf, noting that they're almost ready to take him out and stone him due to the lack of water. God tells Moses to take the elders of Israel with him and to lead the people to Mount Horeb, where God will meet him there at the rock. He tells Moses to strike the rock with his magic rod and water will come forth from it - enough for all 600,000+ Israelis.

Moses does he was told and water came gushing out of the rock. He names this place Massah (meaning "tempting God to kill us all"), although the place was also referred to as Meribah (meaning "argument" and "strife").

Suddenly, warriors from Amalek came to battle the Israelis at Rephidim. Moses instructed Joshua to issue a call to arms to fight the Amalek army. Moses tells Joshua that tomorrow he will stand upon the hill with the "Rod of God" in his hands.

As Joshua and his men went out to battle the army of Amalek, Moses along with Aaron and Hur (a man of the tribe of Judah, family of Hezron, house of Caleb) ascended the top of the hill. As long as Moses held the rod high above his head, the Israelis were winning the battle. However, as Moses' arms grew tired and he lowered the staff, the Amalek soldiers gained the upper hand. When Moses could no longer hold the rod up any longer, Aaron and Hur rolled up a stone for him to sit on while they stood on either side of Moses helping him hold up his hands until sunset. As a result, Joshua's men crushed the army of Amalek, putting them to the sword.

God then instructed Moses to write this into permanent record to be remembered forever. He further tells Moses to tell Joshua that he will utterly blot out every trace of the Amalek. Moses built an altar there and called it "Yahweh-nissi" (meaning "Yahweh is my flag"). For Moses had said that God will be at war with the Amalek generation after generation.
Thoughts:Moses finds himself once again facing mutiny as the Israelis can't find any water. Moses tries to hush them up thinking that God probably is getting tired of their whining and might just kill them all out of sheer annoyance, but is pressured to go speak to the Big Man when the people start murmuring about having him stoned.

God tells Moses to go out to Mount Horeb and smack his magic wand against the rock he'd find out there. Sure enough the rock starts producing water - enough for all of the 600,000+ Israelis - and Moses names the place "thanks a lot for not killing us all God!"

Before anybody can thank Moses and his pal in the sky however, some Amalek warriors arrive ready for battle. Moses tells Joshua to get his armies ready for battle, and that he'll be watching everything from the top of the hill.

Moses brings along his magic staff and raises it in the air, which somehow gives the Israelis the upper hand in battle. However, when Moses tries to take a break and rest his arms, thereby lowering his magic staff, the Israelis start losing the fight. Moses' brother Aaron, along with their pal Hur, get on either side of Moses and hold his arms up until the sun sets and the battle is won.

The silliness of this story is trying to state that the outcome of a military battle is dependent upon Moses' ability to keep his arms, and thereby his magic wand, in the air for several hours. If we are to consider that it is God's will to make the Israelis prevail in battle, and that God has the power to ensure this on his own, what purpose does having Moses stand around with his arms in the air serve other than to possibly imply that Moses really doesn't need much of God's help as long as he's got his magic staff handy? This whole story seems to be more inspired by other mythological lore than to coincide with God's typical attributes, and furthermore places a separation of God's intervention by means of simply using the independent magic contained in the magic staff.
Chapter 18
Summary:Word soon reached Jethro, Moses' father-in-law and the priest of Midian, about all the things God had done for his people, and about God bringing them all out of Egypt.

He brings Moses' wife Zipporah to him* along with Moses' two sons Gershom and Eliezer (meaning "God is my help"). Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and greeted him warmly and went into Moses' tent to talk further. Moses told Jethro about all of the adventures him and God had been through, which Jethro was happy to hear about.

Jethro offered an animal sacrifice to God and afterward was met by Aaron and the leaders of Israel, who all shared in the sacrificial meal.

The next day Moses sat as usual hearing the people's complaints against each other, from morning to evening. When Jethro saw how long this was taking he asked Moses why he was doing this all alone by himself. Moses explains to Jethro that the people come to him to ask for God's decisions and that he applies the laws of God to their disputes.

Jethro tells Moses that he's going to wear himself out doing this all by himself and suggests to Moses some advice. He tells Moses to find some capable, godly, honest men and to appoint them as judges for each 1,000 people; and he in turn will have ten judges under him, each in charge of a hundred people; and under them will be two judges each responsible for fifty people; each of them having five judges beneath them to counsel ten people. He tells Moses that anything of dire importance can be brought to him, but that the smaller matters they can take care of themselves.

Moses took his father-in-law's advice and chose able men from all over Israel, making them judges over the people - thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They were constantly available to administer justice, and brought the more complex cases to Moses while solving the simplest themselves.

Soon after, Moses let his father-in-law return to his own land.
Notes:1.) It's not stated or clear as to when, how, or why Zipphorah and her sons ended up back at her father's home in Midian, as she had traveled along with Moses to Egypt in Chapter 4, and hasn't been mentioned since.
Thoughts:The first thing of note in this chapter is how and why Zipporah - Moses' wife - wound back at her father's household back in Midian, along with Moses' children. It seems to serve as a convenient reasoning to bring Jethro (or Reuel as he was referred to in Chapter 2) back in to the midst of the story.

After Jethro greets Moses and partakes in a bit of animal sacrifice, he sees that Moses spends the greater amount of his days simply listening to the people of Israel's problems. He basically tells Moses to get some helping hands and divides the division of responsibility amongst many people to be appointed judges to take care of the minor squabbles, while leaving Moses to tackle the bigger matter at hand.

After putting this to practice, Jethro's job is done and he returns to his homeland of Midian.

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