Thursday, April 29, 2010

Exodus 15

The song of Moses (vs. 1-19)—It must have been a tremendous relief and joy for the children of Israel finally to be out from under the oppression of Egypt and its tyrannical Pharaoh. Moses’ song is an expression of that rejoicing. It is largely a poetic rendition of what God did to the Egyptians. It starts out, as it should, with a recognition that it was Jehovah Who threw “the horse and its rider…into the sea” (v. 1). He thus is worthy of praise and exaltation (v. 2). Verse 3, “The Lord is a man of war” must be understood in poetic framework in which it is written; He makes war on His enemies when He needs to.

Pharaoh and “his chosen captains” certainly learned that and were “drowned in the Red Sea” (v. 4). Verse 5’s ”they sank to the bottom like a stone” is picturesque. The Lord “dashed the enemy in pieces” (v. 6), and overthrew “those who rose against You” by “the greatness of Your excellence” (v. 7). “With the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together” (v. 8). The Egyptians pursued in vain (v. 9) because “You blew with Your wind” and “they sand like lead in the mighty waters” (v. 10). There is no god like Jehovah, “glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders” (v. 11). By His mercy He led His people forth (v. 13). The nations around “will hear and be afraid”—Philistia, Edom, Moah, Canaan—“trembling will take hold of them” and they “will melt away” (vs. 14-15). “Fear and dread will fall on them” until the Lord brings His people into the land He promised them (vs. 16-17). “The LORD shall reign forever and ever" (v. 18). A victory song of beauty and power.

Miriam’s dance and song (vs. 20-21)—Moses’ and Aaron’s sister adds her elation to the celebration, “and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (v. 21). Another short song sung by Miriam is recorded in verse 21.

Getting water in the wilderness (vs. 22-27)—Providing enough water in a desert wilderness for the tremendous host of people and livestock that left Egypt was going to be a continual problem, and the Lord will have to work miraculously more than once to solve it. In this case, after leaving the Red Sea, “they went three days in the wilderness and found no water” (v. 22). Storing and carrying water would not be easy, so they would depend upon natural sources. They came to a place called Marah—or perhaps they gave it that name, which means “bitter” because that’s how the water there tasted. The people complained “against Moses” (v. 24)—blaming him—asking what they would drink. A fair question, but not the complaining. Why could they not simply ask, in faith, trusting that the Lord would provide? These people would never do that. Moses took the issue before the Lord, Who “showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet” (v. 25). He then put a test before the people: “"If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (v. 26). Unfortunately, the children of Israel miserably failed the exam.

They traveled on to a place called Elim, where they found “twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees.” Sounds like a lovely place, and they camped there for awhile (v. 27).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exodus 14

God’s instructions on where to camp (vs. 1-4)—Jehovah told Moses that He wanted them to camp “before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea” (v. 1). The exact location of many of these ancient places has been lost to us. The Lord had one last mighty act of power He wanted to show the Israelites concerning Pharaoh, and that would take place at this location.

Pharaoh’s change of heart (vs. 5-9)—The man never learned. After all he had seen and all that had happened, “the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, ‘Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’” (v. 5). So he took ”six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them” (v. 7), and took out after the children of Israel.

The frightened people (vs. 10-14)—When the Israelites saw the Egyptians approaching, they were no doubt frightened, but as they often did, showed no faith in God. They complained to Moses and said they would rather had stayed in Egypt: “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness" (v. 12). Most told them not to be afraid, that they would “see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today” (v. 13). This would be the last time they would see the Egyptians.

The crossing of the Red Sea (vs. 15-31)—The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me?” (v. 15), probably as a rebuke to the people—“Why are you complaining?”, again, an evidence of their lack of faith. He told Moses to stretch his hand over the sea and it would be divided (v. 16). And then the Israelites could cross. The Egyptians would foolishly try to follow but the Lord would “gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen” (v. 17), one last evidence to both peoples of the power and might of Jehovah. Until the Israelites could cross, an “Angel of God” came between the two camps, and gave darkness to one and light to the other, “so that the one did not come near the other all that night” (v. 20). The Lord again protects His people.

The waters of the Red Sea were parted, which must have been an incredible sight. The Lord used a powerful east wind to keep them in place all night (v. 21). And “the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (v. 22). The Lord then allowed the Egyptians to pursue (v. 23), to their own doom. He initially discomfited them by removing their chariot wheels, which made movement extremely difficult (v. 25), and then, once all Israel was safely on the eastern side of the sea, He returned the waters to their “full depth” (v. 27), and the army of Pharaoh was destroyed. “Not so much as one of them remained” (v. 28). “So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (v. 30). For the moment—and only for the moment, “the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses” (v. 31). This group that left Egypt was one of the most fickle, aggravating body of people who ever lived, as we shall sea. And only two of them would receive God’s promise to enter the Promised Land.

A note about the Red Sea. The Hebrew name for it is yam suph, which actually is better translated “Sea of Reeds,” and a lot of modern Bible scholars are using that translation. Where it got the name “Red Sea” is unknown, because the waters certainly aren’t that color. The name perhaps came from its banks, or from a nearby tribe who was called “the red people.” The sea is about 1400 miles and, at its greatest width, 210 miles. It stretches all the way down to the Gulf of Suez. Actually, today, the Suez canal connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Suez. Until the canal was built, the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Suez did not fully connect by water, so ships had to circumnavigate Africa to get from Europe to the Far East. The Suez Canal cuts that journey down by thousands of miles.

Exodus 13

Consecration of the firstborn (vs. 1-2, 11-16)—The Lord told Moses to “consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine” (v. 2). Jehovah, demands, and deserves, the first and the best. How often do we give Him whatever is leftover or convenient for us? Verse 11 says it is the males who are to be consecrated. Donkeys—which weren’t as numerous and were more valuable—could be redeemed with a lamb; in others words, substituted. This also may have to do with the donkey being unclean, for Numbers 18:15 reads “the firstling of an unclean beast shalt thou redeem.” How the son is to be redeemed will be explained later in the law. In this section, the Lord simply explains why He wants this done: “So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' that you shall say to him, 'By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (v. 14). The Lord killed the firstborn of Egypt, thus He wants the firstborn of Israel (v. 15). It was to be a perpetual reminder of their deliverance from bondage (v. 16).

The Passover to be kept (vs. 3-10)—This feast was the most important established for the Israelites, so the Lord will emphasize it more than once. Again the command that “no leavened bread shall be eaten” is reiterated (v. 3). There is not a detailed account of the feast here; as with the instructions concerning the firstborn, the Lord here tells the people why He wants this feast kept: “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.' It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD'S law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt” (vs. 8-9). Just as, for the Christian, the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper is to be a reminder of what Christ did for us on the cross (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:23-26)—i.e., deliverance from the bondage of sin--even so the Passover was to remind Israel of its deliverance from the bondage of slavery. Indeed, Christ is “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7). For Israel, the Passover feast was to be kept every year (v. 10).

Israel’s initial travels (vs. 17-22)—The most direct route from Egypt to the land of Canaan would be along the Mediterranean coast (see any map of the region). But that would lead the people through the land of the Philistines, a tough, warrior people whom Israel would fight for centuries. So “lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt” (v. 17), the Lord led the people across the Red Sea and into the wilderness of Sinai (v. 18). There was another rationale for this—He would give them the law on Mt. Sinai. Moses mentions (v. 19) that he took the bones of Joseph with him, something the reader might recall was requested by the great patriarch in Genesis 50:25). He wanted to be buried in the land of Canaan, which indeed did happen (Joshua 24:32). On their travels, God led the Israelites with a “pillar of cloud” by day and a “pillar of fire” by night (vs. 21-22).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Exodus 12, Part Two

The death of the firstborn (vs. 29-30)—As He had said He would do, the Lord that night struck the firstborn of every house of Egypt “from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock”—even the animals were not spared (v. 29). “There was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (v. 30). It was truly a sad night in the land, but the consequences of rebellion, paganism, and oppression are serious indeed. Note that it was the Lord Who did the killing, not some “death angel” as has sometimes been suggested.

Pharaoh lets the people go (vs. 31-36)—That very night, Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and told them to go. There was no attempt to compromise this time; all could be taken, little ones, flocks, and herds. Pharaoh even asked for a blessing himself (v. 32). The Egyptians were happy to see the Israelites depart (v. 33). The exodus was so rapid that the children of Israel “took their dough before it was leavened, having their kneading bowls bound up in their clothes on their shoulders” (v. 34). Well, they weren’t supposed to eat leavened bread anyway. The Egyptians were so anxious for the Hebrews to go that, when God’s people asked them for “articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing,” the Egyptians were happy to comply. “Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (vs. 35-36). The Egyptians had been “plundering” the Israelites for over 200 years, so this was simply a fair payment in return.

The beginnings of travel (vs. 35-39)—This huge mass of people, “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children” began their journey, going from “Rameses to Succoth” (v. 37). There is a question about the number of people who left Egypt, and I’ll deal with that in due course. Who the “mixed multitude” was (v. 38) is unknown, perhaps some refugees from other countries who had fled to Egypt during times of local famine or distress. The rapidity of the departure is again mentioned in verse 39.

The sojourn in Canaan and Egypt (vs. 40-42)—Verse 40 says “the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.” The apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:17, “that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later,” that is, after promise to Abraham. So actually, the children of Israel did not spend 430 in Egypt proper; it was about half that. The time from Abraham to the giving of the law was 430 years. Thus, this verse is intended as a summary of that period. The copy of the Pentateuch (as the first five books of Moses are known) used by the Samaritan peoples clarifies the verse by saying “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was 430 years.”

Repetitive summary of the Passover feast (vs. 43-50)—The Passover was of such importance that the Lord emphasizes here its observance. I again remind the reader that most of these ancient peoples were illiterate and would need these books read to them. Thus, repetition of many of the important details is found frequently. The last two verses of the chapter tell us that “all the children of Israel did; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did,” (v. 50), something they didn’t do very often, and that the Lord, “on that very same day”—the day after eating the Passover lamb—“brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies” (v. 51). He kept His promise to them, and He did it quickly. All of this is part of the great scheme of redemption promised by the Lord in Genesis 3:15—thousands of years before.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Exodus 12, Part One

The Passover instituted (vs. 1-20)—This is a very important chapter because it details the inauguration of perhaps the most important Jewish feast, Passover, or also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The whole point of it was to remind the children of Israel, in perpetuity, of their divine deliverance from Egypt. The feast would be held in the first month of the year, Abib (v. 2; the name of that month was changed to Nisan during the captivity period). On the tenth day of that month, every house was to take a lamb (v. 3), “without blemish, a male of the first year,” either a sheep or a goat (v. 5). If a household was not large enough to consume the lamb, then more than one house could be joined together (v. 4). The lamb was to be set aside until the 14th day of the month, when it was then to be killed (v. 6). Some of the blood was to be put on the doorposts and lintel of the house where the lamb was to be eaten (v. 7). Then the roasted lamb—roasted (v. 8), not raw and not boiled (v. 9)—was to be eaten that night, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (v. 8). The whole animal was to be cooked—“its head with its legs and its entrails” (v. 9). Any of it that was left over was to be completely burned before the next morning (v. 10). To symbolize their rapid exodus from Egypt, the people were to eat the meal “with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD'S Passover” (v. 11). That was the night the Lord would pass through the land of Egypt and slay the firstborn of each house; those with blood on their doorposts would be spared (vs. 12-13). As noted, “this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (v. 14).

More instructions are given in verses 15-20, because the feast was to last for a week, not just one night. For seven days, the children of Israel were to eat unleavened bread; all leaven was to be removed from the house on the first day of the feast. Anyone who did not do this “shall be cut off from Israel” (v. 15). The “cutting off” from Israel is mentioned many times in the Law of Moses. It’s not exactly sure what is meant by it. Some believe it meant death. Others that is simply referred to the separation from certain privileges of the Jewish commonwealth. There is no way to know for sure. On the first day and the seventh day of the feast, there was to be a “holy convocation,” or assembly, no doubt for worship. No work was to be done on those days, except that which was necessary for food preparation (v. 16). So this Feast of Unleavened Bread was to be kept every year, in the first month, beginning on the 14th day of the month, eating unleavened bread “until the twenty-first day of the month at evening” (v. 18). Verses 19 and 20 basically repeat verse 15: only unleavened bread was to be eaten and anyone disobeying this command was to be “cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land” (v. 19).

Moses passes the command on to the children of Israel (vs. 21-28)—This is pretty much a summary of Moses to the people to do what Jehovah had just commanded. Take the Passover lamb “according to your families” and kill it (v. 21). Take a “bunch of hyssop,” dip it in blood, and spread it on the doorpost (v. 22; see the note at the end on what “hyssop” was). The people were not to leave their houses all night (v. 22), for the Lord was going to move against the Egyptians that evening (v. 23). The Passover was to be kept “forever” (v. 25), or for as long as the Lord intended, which would be till the end of the Jewish system at the cross. They were to teach their children what the Passover meant (vs. 26-27). And “the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did” (v. 28).

I have never heard a skeptic, who believes this whole chapter to be mythological, explain the Passover. When did it begin? There had to have been a first occasion; one year it happened, the previous year it hadn’t. How did the priests convince the people that the exodus story was true? All of a sudden, they start holding this feast, convinced it commemorated an event they had never previously heard of, a feast that was supposed to have been kept every year since the exodus! It would be like the Congress of the United States announcing that America is going to start celebrating August 17th every year because on that date, long ago, our forefathers held a feast as a memorial to their victory over the Spanish in the Battle of Long Noses—a memorial which, at the time, was intended to be held every year. Congress has made all of this up, of course; there was no victory of the Spanish, no Battle of Long Noses, no memorial feast. It’s all a myth. And yet the American people are to be convinced that it all happened, though there is not a shred of historical evidence for any of it? We simply accept Congress’s word on the matter, and a celebration that had never been held before begins out of the blue? That’s what the skeptic would have us believe about the Passover.

That’s how desperate these people are to disprove the Bible.

A note on hyssop: “The common hyssop is ‘a shrub with low, bushy stalks 1 1/2 feet high, small pear shaped, close-setting opposite leaves all the stalks and branches terminated by erect whorled spikes of flowers of different colors in the varieties. It is a hardy plant, with an aromatic smell and a warm, pungent taste; a native of the south of Europe and the East.’——Smith's Bible Dictionary

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Exodus 11

The final plague announced (vs. 1-10)—God informs Moses and Aaron that there will be one more plague, and after that, Pharaoh would let the people go (v. 1). The children of Israel were to ask “from his neighbor and every woman from her neighbor, articles of silver and articles of gold” (v. 2); the Egyptians had plundered the Israelites for over 200 years, now payment was due. The people of the land were willing to do this, as Moses was gaining quite a reputation as the representative of an almighty God (v. 3). No doubt the Egyptians were impressed with this God who had defeated their Pharaoh (god) at every turn.

The plague would be the death of the firstborn of Egypt, “from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals” (v. 5). This is not very appealing to us, but Jehovah is the Judge. The Bible speaks of and illustrates often temporal judgment upon a wicked nation. The Egyptians had enslaved God’s children for over two centuries; they were a pagan, polytheistic society who rejected the one true God to follow the unrighteous ways of man. Hence, they were ripe for sore punishment. Think of all the ancient peoples the Israelites came into contact with—Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites, Jebusites, Jericho, Ai, Assyrian, Babylon, etc. etc.—the list of city-states, empires, and cultures in the ancient world is almost endless. How many of them still exist today? Whether we like it or not, in God’s eyes, there are some people who simply aren’t fit to live on this earth, not only because of their own wickedness, but because of the influence for evil that they have upon others. Students of the Old Testament are well aware of the negative sway the Canaanites had on the Israelites once the latter arrived in the Promised Land. That was no excuse for Israel, but it there was no excuse for the Canaanites to be so wicked and barbaric. God’s justice is fair; we may not always see it on this earth, but then, His ways are not our ways, either (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Moses goes to Pharaoh with the pronouncement from God (v. 4). The plague would come that night (vs. 4-5). The children of Israel would be spared the catastrophe that God was sending upon the Egyptians—“against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue” (v. 7), an interesting proverb, of which we do not know the source. Part of the reason God did not send the plague upon the Israelites was so “that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (v. 7). The people of Egypt would then, in effect, beg Israel to leave (v. 8). Pharaoh wasn’t ready yet to heed God’s warning (vs. 9-10), but he would be after the plague came.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Exodus 10

The promised locust plague (vs. 1-11)—The Lord sends Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh to warn him that the next plague would be locusts: “they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians--which neither your fathers nor your fathers' fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day” (vs. 5-6). As I noted before, these great plagues were not just for Pharaoh’s learning; the Lord intended for His own people to remember them: “that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD” (v. 2). Never forget that the Israelites were surrounded by a pagan, polytheistic people, and that describes all the peoples of the ancient Near East. For them to break away from that to serve only one God was going to take, literally, almost 1,000 years. Such makes the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so remarkable, that they indeed believed in only god, when everyone around them was worshipping multiple deities.

Pharaoh’s advisers counseled him to heed Moses and “Let the men go” (v. 7)—only the men—for “do you not yet know the Egypt is destroyed?” Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron back to him, and relented, “Go, serve the Lord your God,” but with the hesitation, “Who are the ones that are going?” (v. 8). When Moses told him that everybody and everything (flocks and herds) would go, Pharaoh balked. “The LORD had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go!” (v. 10). He was, in effect, going to hold the children hostage to make sure his slave laborers returned. So, no deal.

The eighth plague—locusts (vs. 12-20)—The plague hit. Locusts plagues were devastating in the ancient Near East. The insects would come literally by the millions and eat almost everything. A famine nearly always ensued. This horde would “eat every herb of the land--all that the hail has left” (v. 13). That did not mean that the Egyptians had absolutely no food at all remaining; there would be some in storage that the locusts could not get to. But they pretty much wiped out everything that was left in the field. “They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them” (v. 14). The locusts were so thorough that “there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt” (v. 15). And Egypt was a pretty big country, folks—hundreds of miles in length. Think of the massive numbers of locusts it would take to devour everything in that large a geographical space.

Pharaoh then called for Moses and Aaron “in haste” (v. 16), confessed his sin (again), and besought them that they would “entreat the LORD your God” (he wasn’t Pharaoh’s god) “that He may take away from me this death only” (v. 17). Moses honored his request and the Lord honored Moses’ (vs. 18-19). But not surprisingly, Pharaoh ended up with a hard heart again and he didn’t let the children of Israel go (v. 20).

The ninth plague—darkness (vs. 21-29)—With no announced warning, the ninth plague was sent—“darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt” (v. 21). Perhaps the reader has been inside a tourist cavern and the lights have been turned off. Utter blackness. That seems to be the case here. The darkness lasted for three days. The Egyptians “did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place” (v. 23). What can one do in that kind of darkness? Why they did not use some form of artificial illumination is unstated; such was available in ancient Egypt. Be that as it may, the land of Goshen had light (v. 23).

Pharaoh relented—but again, not totally: “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you" (v. 24). This time they could take the children, but not the flocks and herds. Give the guy credit for ingenuity; like most politicians, he’s trying to negotiate. But Moses said there would be no compromise: “not a hoof shall be left behind” (v. 26). The people needed animals to sacrifice (v. 25). Thus, Pharaoh’s heart was again hardened (v. 27) and he wouldn’t let Israel depart. He became angry and told Moses and Aaron never to appear before him again. “’For in the day you see my face you shall die!’ And Moses said, ‘You have spoken well. I will never see your face again" (vs. 28-29). Of course, they did see each other again. Moses is not speaking by inspiration here. It is possible that he was as angry as Pharaoh and responded, in effect, “You’re right, buddy, I’m never coming back here again.” Moses was simply speaking his mind at the moment and did not yet know what the future held or what God’s plan entailed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Exodus 9

The fifth plague—the murrain on cattle (vs. 1-7)—The KJV and ASV use the word “murrain” to describe the disease. The Hebrew word is indefinite, so the NKJV calls the disease a “pestilence.” Interestingly, the Septuagint, which is the 200 B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, translates the word “death.” Whatever it was, the Lord made “a difference between the livestock of Israel and livestock of Egypt. So nothing shall die of all that belong to the children of Israel” (v. 4). The disease struck all kinds of Egyptian livestock—“cattle in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep” (v. 3). And indeed, “all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died” (v. 6). “All” is hyperbolic; a huge number is meant, not every single animal. The next two plagues mention animals as well, so it’s important to understand the various figures of speech used in the Bible. Oriental peoples frequently spoke in such broad, generic terms. Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, however, and would not let God’s people go.

The sixth plague--boils (vs. 8-12)—The Lord then commanded Moses and Aaron to “take for yourselves handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and let Moses scatter it toward the heavens in the sight of Pharaoh” (v. 8). Boils broke out “on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt” (v. 9). “Blains” (KJV, ASV) are just “sores” (NKJV). Moses makes a point to say that “the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils” (v. 11). But this didn’t persuade Pharaoh, either (v. 12).

The seventh plague—rain and hail (vs. 13-35)—Jehovah sends Moses to Pharaoh to announce the next plague. When the Lord told Pharaoh “indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (v. 16), that must have really grated on the Egyptian king, who claimed to be a god as well. That another god “raised him up” and, in effect, put him on his throne would be extremely galling. The Lord proclaimed the next plague: “tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now” (v. 18). He gave them a day so that the people of Egypt could “gather [their] livestock and all that [they] have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die” (v. 19). All of the Egyptians “who feared the word of the Lord” did as He said and they and their livestock were protected. There were, of course, those who did not listen (v. 21).

The hail, “and fire mingled with the hail” came the next day, “so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation” (v. 24). Whether this “fire” was caused by lightening, or whether it was miraculous, is unknown; it appears to have been the latter. But regardless, anything--man, beast, and herb--that were in the field were struck (v. 25). “Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail” (v. 26).

Pharaoh called for Moses and admitted his sin: “The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked” (v. 27). He asked for Moses’ intercession with Jehovah, an appeal which was granted, but Moses wasn’t fooled: “I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God” (v. 30). Verses 31 and 32 gives us another interesting historical vision of ancient Egypt: “Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops.” But, in spite of his promise, when Pharaoh saw that the rain had ceased, “he sinned yet more” (v. 34), and he did not “let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses” (v. 35). The war between Jehovah and Pharaoh is not over yet.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Exodus 8

The second plague—frogs (vs. 1-15)—The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to return to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites (v. 1). If the king refused, “I will smite all your territory with frogs. So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls” (vs. 2-3). Not a very pleasant prospect, but then, none of the plagues were amusing. The conversation between God’s men and the Pharaoh is not recorded, but obviously he refused to free the Hebrews for in verse 5 the Lord told Aaron to stretch out his rod over all the waters of Egypt and “cause frogs to come up on the land.” Aaron did so, and the frogs “came up and covered the land of Egypt” (v. 6). Interestingly, the magicians of Egypt were once again able to duplicate the feat and bring forth frogs as well (v. 7). How they did so is unknown, but a little dexterity and trickery, perhaps the knowledge of some breeding grounds, enabled them to bring frogs onto the land as well.

But regardless of what his sorcerers could do, Pharaoh recognized that the actions of Moses and Aaron were far advanced of what the Egyptian tricksters could accomplish. So the king asked Moses and Aaron, “Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD” (v. 8). Moses agreed, a time was set for the removal of the frogs (v. 10), and the man of God made his request. And “the LORD did according to the word of Moses. And the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courtyards, and out of the fields” (v. 13). The unpleasantry wasn’t over yet: “They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank” (v. 14). And, not unexpectedly, when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, “he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said” (v. 15). Notice that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened after the plague was removed; he was “tender” hearted during the pestilence.

The third plague—lice (vs. 16-19)—God then commanded Aaron (through Moses) to “strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (v. 16). Aaron did so, and “all the dust of the land became land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (v. 17). “So there were lice on man and beast” (v. 18). This plague the Egyptian magicians could not copy, and they told Pharaoh, “’This is the finger of God’” (v. 19). But Pharaoh still declined to let the Israelites go.

The fourth plague—flies (vs. 20-32)—If you’ll notice, in the most accurate translations (KJV, ASV, and NKJV) the word “flies” is in always in italics. That’s because the Hebrew word here is a little obscure; flies are possibly meant, but it could have been some other kind of insect. The New American Standard uses the “insects.” I’ll stick with flies, “swarms” of them. The Lord “set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land” (v. 22). And such is what happened; not even Pharaoh’s house escaped (v. 24).

Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses and Aaron: “’Go, sacrifice to your God in the land’” (v. 25). Moses rejected the idea. “It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us?” (v. 26). The Israelites would be sacrificing animals that were sacred to the Egyptians, something that Moses argues would not be tolerated by the locals. He said that the Israelites would go “three days’ journey into the wilderness” (v. 27) and sacrifice there. That, of course, was not God’s ultimate plan, but the Lord wasn’t finished showing His power and glory to His people and the Egyptians. Pharaoh agreed to the deal (v. 28) and asked Moses to “intercede for me” (v. 28). Moses petitioned Jehovah to remove the flies, which He did (vs. 30-31). The chapter ends with the not surprising statement, “But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go” (v. 32). Always keep in mind that Pharaoh was a “god,” too, and was very reluctant to admit defeat to the god of his slaves.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Exodus 7

God’s instructions to Moses and Aaron (vs. 1-7)—They were to go and speak to Pharaoh “all that I command you” (v. 2). Because of Moses’ repeated complaint that he could not speak well (4:10; 6:30), Aaron would be his “prophet” (v. 1). The Lord would give Moses His word, who would then tell Aaron what to say. As He had already told them, Pharaoh’s heart would be hard and the Lord would bring the children of Israel out of Egypt through His power (v. 4). The repetition of this message by Jehovah to Moses indicates the latter’s still-weak faith. But he would grow. And he was obedient (v. 6). The section ends by giving us Aaron and Moses’ ages—Aaron was 83 and Moses was 80.

The first miracle (vs. 8-13)—Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh. Their conversation was not recorded, but in obedience to the Lord’s command, Aaron cast down his rod and it became a serpent (v. 10). Yet Pharaoh’s “magicians” (v. 11) were able, by some sleight of hand, to duplicate the feat. Aaron’s “rod” swallowed up the magicians’ rods, but Pharaoh wasn’t convinced; his “heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said” (v. 13).

The first plague--water into blood (vs. 14-25)—The Lord then commanded Aaron to stretch out his rod “over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.” (v. 19). Aaron did so, and the Lord’s word was fulfilled: “All the waters that were in the river turned to blood” (v. 20). The fish died, the river stank, and the Egyptians couldn’t drink the water (v. 21). But once again, the Egyptian magicians were able to replicate what Aaron had done, no doubt through some trickery or enchantment. Those guys were good, folks, don’t think they weren’t. A relevant question is, if Aaron turned all the water of Egypt into blood, where did the magicians get water to do the same thing? Verse 24 probably provides the answer: “All the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river.” Aaron’s miracle obviously did not include subterranean water. And almost surely the magicians did not produce real blood as God had done through Aaron. But if they came up with some red, fetid, stinking liquid it would accomplish the same purpose. Because his magicians were largely able to do the same thing that Aaron had done, Pharaoh once again “did not heed them” (v. 22). He could not see the difference yet between a true miracle and an operational counterfeit. The condition of Egypt’s waters lasted seven days (v. 25).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Exodus 6

The Lord answers Moses (vs. 1-14)—After the multiple complaints that ended chapter 5, the Lord speaks again. In verse 1, He repeats His promise to bring the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage “with a strong hand.” In verses 2-5, He identifies Himself again, specifically mentioning that He had appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them” (v. 3). They did know the name Jehovah, but they did not understand the significance of it. As I discussed in chapter 3, the name “Jehovah” has reference to His covenant nature; He did, of course, make a covenant with Abraham, but the full extent of it, through Moses, was not revealed to the earlier patriarchs. The Lord reiterates the land promise in verse 4, thus the necessity of bringing Israel out of Egypt. Moses was to go back to the children of Israel and tell them of God’s promise (v. 6). Moses does so, “but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit of cruel bondage” (v. 9).

The Lord then commanded Moses to go into Pharaoh and tell him “to let the children of Israel go out of his land” (vs. 10-11). Moses, weakening in faith, replies “The children of Israel have not heeded me. How then shall Pharaoh heed me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?" (v. 12). But the Lord told him to do it anyway (v. 13); in this verse, exactly what He said to Moses is not revealed. It wouldn’t be surprising if He was a little peeved at his continued lack of faith and excuse-making. Well, as noted earlier in these chapter summaries, even the great men of God had weaknesses and weren’t always exemplary in their relationship to Him.

The descendents of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (vs. 14-25)—We have here recorded the children of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, with special emphasis on the latter because he was the ancestor of Moses and Aaron. These three sons were the oldest of Jacob. Even though Reuben and Simeon really aren’t important in this section, Moses mentions them probably in deference to the custom of that time of “primogeniture” and respect for the oldest sons. The three sons of Levi are emphasized: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. They will be important later on, as we shall see. Amram, the father of Aaron and Moses, was a descendent of Kohath. The genealogy of the other sons of Kohath are also listed, but only because such details were very important to the Jews, and they do give more solid historical support to the Biblical record. The important person here is Eleazar, the son of Aaron, who will play a role in subsequent Israelite history. His son, Phinehas, will also come up for mention in a rather significant event in Numbers 25:7-13.

The Lord again speaks to Moses and Aaron (vs. 26-30)—Actually, verses 26 and 27 identify Moses and Aaron. These two are the sons of Amram and Levi, as just noted, and “These are the same Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said, ‘Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies’" (v. 26). Tribes, clans, and families are extremely important in ancient societies, so exact identification was expected and virtually a cultural necessity. The fact is emphasized even further in verse 27. The chapter closes with what appears to be a repetition of the conversation between God and Moses as recorded in verses 10-12.