Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 27

    Exodus 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Use acacia wood to build an altar seven and a half feet square and four and a half feet high,
  2. and make each of the four top corners stick up like the horn of a bull. Then cover the whole altar with bronze, including the four horns.
  3. All the equipment for the altar must also be made of bronze--the pans for the hot ashes, the shovels, the sprinkling bowls, the meat forks, and the fire pans.
  4. Midway up the altar build a ledge around it, and cover the bottom half of the altar with a decorative bronze grating. Then attach a bronze ring beneath the ledge at the four corners of the altar.
  5. (SEE 27:4)
  6. Cover two acacia wood poles with bronze and put them through the rings for carrying the altar.
  7. (SEE 27:6)
  8. Construct the altar in the shape of an open box, just as you were shown on the mountain.
  9. Surround the sacred tent with a courtyard one hundred fifty feet long on the south and north and seventy-five feet wide on the east and west. Use twenty bronze posts on bronze stands for the south and north and ten for the west. Then hang a curtain of fine linen on the posts along each of these three sides by using silver hooks and rods. Place three bronze posts on each side of the entrance at the east and hang a curtain seven and a half yards wide on each set of posts.
  10. (SEE 27:9)
  11. (SEE 27:9)
  12. (SEE 27:9)
  13. (SEE 27:9)
  14. (SEE 27:9)
  15. (SEE 27:9)
  16. Use four more of these posts for the entrance way, then hang on them an embroidered curtain of fine linen ten yards long and woven with blue, purple, and red wool.
  17. The curtains that surround the courtyard must be two and a half yards high and are to be hung from the bronze posts with silver hooks and rods.
  18. (SEE 27:17)
  19. The rest of the equipment for the sacred tent must be made of bronze, including the pegs for the tent and for the curtain surrounding the courtyard.
  20. Command the people of Israel to supply you with the purest olive oil. Do this so the lamp will keep burning
  21. in front of the curtain that separates the holy place from the most holy place, where the sacred chest is kept. Aaron and his sons are responsible for keeping the lamp burning every night in the sacred tent. The Israelites must always obey this command.

Moses had gone back up the mountain, following the acceptance of the covenant with God, for God to give the design for the tabernacle and everything related to it. To this point God had given the design of the furniture to go in the tabernacle and of the tabernacle structure. In this chapter the design instructions move outside the tabernacle. They include the altar, located just outside the tabernacle, and the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle. Moses is also given instructions concerning a perpetual supply of olive oil for the lampstand.

The altar, used for the burnt offerings to the Lord, illustrated that one can approach God only through sacrifice to atone for sin. It was the first object in the courtyard one saw when going to the tabernacle to worship God, serving as a reminder of this need for atonement. It both pictured Christ's death as the ultimate sacrifice and demonstrated the need for His sacrifice which would end all sacrifices. Those sacrifices on the altar of the tabernacle had to be offered over and over, never fully atoning for man's sin. But Christ's sacrifice was sufficient once and for all.

A courtyard surrounded the tabernacle enclosed by a wall made of linen curtains. Its dimensions were 75 feet by 150 feet. With just one entrance to the courtyard, located on the east side, one could enter the tabernacle only by first approaching the altar.

The final instructions given in this chapter concerned oil for the lampstand. It was to be kept burning continuously requiring a constant supply of olive oil. The Israelites were to supply this oil. Once they were established in their new land and had vineyards, it would not have been difficult to supply the needed oil, but during their wilderness journey it may have been no easy task.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 26

    Exodus 26 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Furnish the sacred tent with curtains made from ten pieces of the finest linen. They must be woven with blue, purple, and red wool and embroidered with figures of winged creatures.
  2. Make each piece fourteen yards long and two yards wide
  3. and sew them together into two curtains with five sections each.
  4. Put fifty loops of blue cloth along one of the wider sides of each curtain, then fasten the two curtains at the loops with fifty gold hooks.
  5. (SEE 26:4)
  6. (SEE 26:4)
  7. As the material for the tent, use goat hair to weave eleven sections fifteen yards by two yards each.
  8. (SEE 26:7)
  9. Sew five of the sections together to make one panel. Then sew the other six together to make a second panel, and fold the sixth section double over the front of the tent.
  10. Put fifty loops along one of the wider sides of each panel
  11. and fasten the two panels at the loops with fifty bronze hooks.
  12. The panel of goat hair will be a yard longer than the tent itself, so fold half a yard of the material behind the tent and on each side as a protective covering.
  13. (SEE 26:12)
  14. Make two more coverings--one with ram skins dyed red and the other with fine leather.
  15. Build a framework of acacia wood for the walls of the sacred tent.
  16. Each frame is to be fifteen feet high and twenty-seven inches wide
  17. with two wooden pegs near the bottom.
  18. Place two silver stands under each frame with sockets for the pegs, so the frames can be joined together. Twenty of these frames are to be used along the south side and twenty more along the north.
  19. (SEE 26:18)
  20. (SEE 26:18)
  21. For the back wall along the west side use six frames
  22. with two more at the southwest and northwest corners. Make certain that these corner frames are joined from top to bottom.
  23. (SEE 26:23)
  24. Altogether, this back wall will have eight frames with two silver stands under each one.
  25. Make five crossbars for each of the wooden frames,
  26. (SEE 26:26)
  27. with the center crossbar running the full length of the wall.
  28. Cover the frames and the crossbars with gold and attach gold rings to the frames to run the crossbars through.
  29. Then set up the tent in the way I showed you on the mountain.
  30. Make a curtain to separate the holy place from the most holy place. Use fine linen woven with blue, purple, and red wool, and embroidered with figures of winged creatures. Cover four acacia wood posts with gold and set them each on a silver stand. Then fasten gold hooks to the posts and hang the curtain there.
  31. (SEE 26:31)
  32. (SEE 26:31)
  33. Inside the most holy place, you must put the sacred chest that has the place of mercy on its lid.
  34. Outside the curtain put the table for the sacred bread on the right side and the gold lampstand on the left.
  35. For the entrance to the tent, use a piece of fine linen woven with blue, purple, and red wool and embroidered with fancy needlework.
  36. Cover five acacia wood posts with gold and set them each on a bronze stand. Then put gold hooks on the posts and hang the curtain there.

Instructions for the tabernacle furniture were given in chapter 25. Chapter 26 addresses the design of the tabernacle that was to house the furniture. The structure was 15 feet by 45 feet, overlayed with two layers of curtains. The inner layer was colorful with cherubim embroidered on it, and the outer layer was made of a weatherproof goat hair. These were held up on a wooden frame in a trellis design so the colorful inner curtain could be seen between the wooden slats from inside.

Two curtains hung inside the tabernacle, one covering the opening into it and the other dividing the main area known as the holy place from the most holy place. Inside the most holy place resided the ark of the covenant on which was the mercy seat and the cherubim. The holy place contained the lampstand on one side and the table of showbread on the other.

The design for the tabernacle was given in detail and Moses was told to "set up the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you have been shown on the mountain." (26:30) There was to be no deviation or creative license. God had a specific purpose in each part of the tabernacle and its furniture. But I suspect that it was as much about obedience to His instructions as to the purpose of the design.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 25

    Exodus 25 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said to Moses:
  2. Tell everyone in Israel who wants to give gifts that they must bring them to you.
  3. Here is a list of what you are to collect: Gold, silver, and bronze,
  4. blue, purple, and red wool, fine linen, goat hair,
  5. tanned ram skins, fine leather, acacia wood,
  6. olive oil for the lamp, sweet-smelling spices to mix with the oil for dedicating the tent and ordaining the priests,
  7. and onyx stones for the sacred vest and the breastpiece.
  8. I also want them to build a special place where I can live among my people.
  9. Make it and its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
  10. Tell the people to build a chest of acacia wood forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high.
  11. Cover it inside and out with pure gold and put a gold edging around the lid.
  12. Make four gold rings and fasten one of them to each of the four legs of the chest.
  13. Make two poles of acacia wood. Cover them with gold
  14. and put them through the rings, so the chest can be carried by the poles.
  15. Don't ever remove the poles from the rings.
  16. When I give you the Ten Commandments written on two flat stones, put them inside the chest.
  17. Cover the lid of the chest with pure gold.
  18. Then hammer out two winged creatures of pure gold and fasten them to the lid at the ends of the chest.
  19. (SEE 25:18)
  20. The creatures must face each other with their wings spread over the chest.
  21. Inside it place the two flat stones with the Ten Commandments and put the gold lid on top of the chest.
  22. I will meet you there between the two creatures and tell you what my people must do and what they must not do.
  23. Make a table of acacia wood thirty-six inches long, eighteen inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high.
  24. Cover it with pure gold and put a gold edging around it with a border three inches wide.
  25. (SEE 25:24)
  26. Make four gold rings and attach one to each of the legs
  27. near the edging. The poles for carrying the table are to be placed through these rings and are to be made of acacia wood covered with gold.
  28. (SEE 25:27)
  29. The table is to be kept in the holy place, and the sacred loaves of bread must always be put on it. All bowls, plates, jars, and cups for wine offerings are to be made of pure gold and set on this table.
  30. (SEE 25:29)
  31. Make a lampstand of pure gold. The whole lampstand, including its decorative flowers, must be made from a single piece of hammered gold
  32. with three branches on each of its two sides.
  33. There are to be three decorative almond blossoms on each branch
  34. and four on the stem.
  35. There must also be a blossom where each pair of branches comes out from the stem.
  36. The lampstand, including its branches and decorative flowers, must be made from a single piece of hammered pure gold.
  37. The lamp on the top and those at the end of each of its six branches must be made so as to shine toward the front of the lampstand.
  38. The tongs and trays for taking care of the lamps are to be made of pure gold.
  39. The lampstand and its equipment will require seventy-five pounds of pure gold,
  40. and they must be made according to the pattern I showed you on the mountain.

In the previous chapter the Israelites had a ceremony dedicating themselves to the Lord and commemorating their acceptance of God's covenant with them as His special people and as a new nation. With the completion of this ceremony, God summoned Moses back up the mountain to begin another round of instructions. This time God was instructing Moses on how the people would worship Him. The instructions began in chapter 25 with construction of the tabernacle, the place of worship.

God's instructions began with the offering of materials that were to come from the people for the building of the tabernacle. This offering of materials for the tabernacle was to be an offering to the Lord, "take an offering for Me. You are to take My offering from everyone whose heart stirs him to give." (25:2) The materials God desired for this offering included gold, silver, bronze, fabrics, skins, acacia wood, oils, incense, and gemstones. Where did these materials come from since the people left Egypt with very little? No doubt much, if not all, came from the spoils the Israelites were given by the Egyptians when they left Egypt, as described in 12:35-36. They were to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold, silver, and clothing, and God gave them "favor in the Egyptians' sight" and they were given what they requested. This does not account for items such as the skins and wood unless the Egyptians also gave them these and they are not mentioned. Or, they may have acquired them on their journey after leaving Egypt.

The offering of materials for the tabernacle was to be given voluntarily. God never forces our relationship with Him. It is always voluntary. However, the existence of that relationship and the quality and depth of it are contingent on our responses to Him. In this case, a voluntary offering of materials for the tabernacle was a response of devotion to this new relationship with God. Evidently some, feeling a greater devotion, gave and offering while others didn't.

Following instructions concerning the offering of materials came instructions for the objects and furniture that was to go in the tabernacle. These objects are mentioned in this chapter:
  • Ark of the covenant -  It was to contain the tablets of the testimony, that is the tablets of stone with the ten commandments on them. The ark, along with several items in the tabernacle were to include rings on the sides through which poles were placed for carrying the ark. Thus they were to be portable for the journey.
  • Mercy Seat -  A platform of solid gold that supported two angel-like figures and was positioned on top of the ark. It was above the mercy seat and around the two figures that God made known His presence in the "glory cloud."
  • Table of Showbread -  A wooden table covered with gold and made with rings and poles for carrying. On the table were placed twelve loaves of bread representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The bread pictured the communion of God with His people. 
  • Lampstand -  It had seven arms at the top, each holding a small lamp. It was made of solid gold. The lamps were to burn continually lighting the activities of the priests in the tabernacle.
God's final instruction in this section was to "Be careful to make everything according to the model of them you have been shown on the mountain." (25:40)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 24

    Exodus 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on this mountain. Bring along Aaron, as well as his two sons Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of Israel's leaders. They must worship me at a distance,
  2. but you are to come near. Don't let anyone else come up."
  3. Moses gave the LORD's instructions to the people, and they promised, "We will do everything the LORD has commanded!"
  4. Then Moses wrote down what the LORD had said. The next morning Moses got up early. He built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up a large stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  5. He also sent some young men to burn offerings and to sacrifice bulls as special offerings to the LORD.
  6. Moses put half of the blood from the animals into bowls and sprinkled the rest on the altar.
  7. Then he read aloud the LORD's commands and promises, and the people shouted, "We will obey the LORD and do everything he has commanded!"
  8. Moses took the blood from the bowls and sprinkled it on the people. Next, he told them, "With this blood the LORD makes his agreement with you."
  9. Moses and Aaron, together with Nadab and Abihu and the seventy leaders, went up the mountain
  10. and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something that looked like a pavement made out of sapphire, and it was as bright as the sky.
  11. Even though these leaders of Israel saw God, he did not punish them. So they ate and drank.
  12. The LORD said to Moses, "Come up on the mountain and stay here for a while. I will give you the two flat stones on which I have written the laws that my people must obey."
  13. Moses and Joshua his assistant got ready, then Moses started up the mountain to meet with God.
  14. Moses had told the leaders, "Wait here until we come back. Aaron and Hur will be with you, and they can settle any arguments while we are away."
  15. When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, a cloud covered it,
  16. and the bright glory of the LORD came down and stayed there. The cloud covered the mountain for six days, and on the seventh day the LORD told Moses to come into the cloud.
  17. Moses did so and stayed there forty days and nights. To the people, the LORD's glory looked like a blazing fire on top of the mountain.
  18. (SEE 24:17)

Moses had been given the ordinances on which His covenant with Israel was to be based, including the ten commandments. Now it was time for the people to agree to the covenant. God described how the agreement ceremony was to take place which Moses delivered to the people and to which they agreed.

After Moses wrote everything the Lord said to him on scrolls, the ceremony began. An altar was built with 12 pillars representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Fellowship offerings were made to the Lord on the altar and blood sprinkled on the altar. Then the covenant scroll was read to the people and they responded by saying, "We will do and obey everything that the LORD has commanded." Following their verbal agreement to the covenant, the people were sprinkled with blood.

The concluding event in the agreement ceremony involved Moses ascending the mountain, taking with him Aaron, Aaron's two sons, and 70 of Israel's elders. There they all "saw the God of Israel," a very privileged occurance, one people do not normally survive. But "God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank." (24:11) This meal in the presence of God was the final act of the agreement ceremony.

Having agreed to the covenant, the Israelite nation was born. But God wasn't finished instructing this new nation. He again summoned Moses to go up the mountain to meet with Him. This time God would give Moses the ten commandments on stone tablets and would give instructions for the proper way in which to worship Him. Moses would spend 40 day and nights on the mountain on this occasion which called for the appointment of a temporary leader of the people. Aaron became the appointed temporary leader and was left behind to fulfill this role. Moses then took with him his new assistant, Joshua, and went up the mountain.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 23

    Exodus 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Don't spread harmful rumors or help a criminal by giving false evidence.
  2. Always tell the truth in court, even if everyone else is dishonest and stands in the way of justice.
  3. And don't favor the poor, simply because they are poor.
  4. If you find an ox or a donkey that has wandered off, take it back where it belongs, even if the owner is your enemy.
  5. If a donkey is overloaded and falls down, you must do what you can to help, even if it belongs to someone who doesn't like you.
  6. Make sure that the poor are given equal justice in court.
  7. Don't bring false charges against anyone or sentence an innocent person to death. I won't forgive you if you do.
  8. Don't accept bribes. Judges are blinded and justice is twisted by bribes.
  9. Don't mistreat foreigners. You were foreigners in Egypt, and you know what it is like.
  10. Plant and harvest your crops for six years,
  11. but let the land rest during the seventh year. The poor are to eat what they want from your fields, vineyards, and olive trees during that year, and when they have all they want from your fields, leave the rest for wild animals.
  12. Work the first six days of the week, but rest and relax on the seventh day. This law is not only for you, but for your oxen, donkeys, and slaves, as well as for any foreigners among you.
  13. Make certain that you obey everything I have said. Don't pray to other gods or even mention their names.
  14. Celebrate three festivals each year in my honor.
  15. Celebrate the Festival of Thin Bread by eating bread made without yeast, just as I have commanded. Do this at the proper time during the month of Abib, because it is the month when you left Egypt. And make certain that everyone brings the proper offerings.
  16. Celebrate the Harvest Festival each spring when you start harvesting your wheat, and celebrate the Festival of Shelters each autumn when you pick your fruit.
  17. Your men must come to these three festivals each year to worship me.
  18. Do not offer bread made with yeast when you sacrifice an animal to me. And make sure that the fat of the animal is burned that same day.
  19. Each year bring the best part of your first harvest to the place of worship. Don't boil a young goat in its mother's milk.
  20. I am sending an angel to protect you and to lead you into the land I have ready for you.
  21. Carefully obey everything the angel says, because I am giving him complete authority, and he won't tolerate rebellion.
  22. If you faithfully obey him, I will be a fierce enemy of your enemies.
  23. My angel will lead you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.
  24. Don't worship their gods or follow their customs. Instead, destroy their idols and shatter their stone images.
  25. Worship only me, the LORD your God! I will bless you with plenty of food and water and keep you strong.
  26. Your women will give birth to healthy children, and everyone will live a long life.
  27. I will terrify those nations and make your enemies so confused that they will run from you.
  28. I will make the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites panic as you approach.
  29. But I won't do all this in the first year, because the land would become poor, and wild animals would be everywhere.
  30. Instead, I will force out your enemies little by little and give your nation time to grow strong enough to take over the land.
  31. I will see that your borders reach from the Red Sea to the Euphrates River and from the Mediterranean Sea to the desert. I will let you defeat the people who live there, and you will force them out of the land.
  32. Don't let them stay in your land. They will trap you into sinning against me and worshiping their gods.illnesses, to keep the women from miscarrying, and to drive out their enemies ahead of them.

In this chapter the legal regulations are completed, regulations are established regarding sabbath practices and festivals to remember God's provisions for them, and God promises a safe journey to the land He had promised them if they follow His instructions. God's promises throughout scripture are conditioned on obedience. We cannot follow our own path while expecting that God will bless us. His blessings are found along the path along which He directs us. Often people blame God for circumstances in their lives when those circumstances are actually a result of their own choices, and their blame of God a result of thinking they can follow their own path and still receive God's blessings and protection. God told the Israelites, "I am going to send an Angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to Him and listen to His voice. Do not defy Him, because He will not forgive your acts of rebellion." (23:20-21)

Prior instructions had been given regarding action against those who harmed others, whether intentionally or accidentally. However, justice is a result not only of taking proper action against wrongdoers, but includes just determination of guilt. It is the determination of guilt that is addressed in this chapter. The Israelites were warned here against unjust actions in court. They included bearing false witness against a defendant, favoring a poor person in his lawsuit, denying justice to the poor, and taking bribes. A strong warning is given not to "kill the innocent and the just" by falsely accusing them in court. (23:7)

Following instructions concerning justice in the courts is a section on sabbath and festival observances. The Israelites were to observe two types of sabbaths. One was a sabbath of the land in which they were to let the land lie uncultivated every seventh year. Besides giving the land a rest it also allowed the poor to glean grains that grew voluntarily during that year. Though not mentioned here, they were to also allow the poor to glean grain from their fields that was left behind by the harvesters. Provision was made for the poor but not for the lazy. Work was involved in gleaning the fields. In addition to the sabbaths of the land, they were to observe a weekly sabbath by resting from their labor every seventh day. This allowed their bodies to refresh and was good for their wellbeing. Three annual festivals were to be observed that reminded them of God's provision in freeing them from Egyptian bondage and of God's provision in their harvests.

The last portion of the chapter tells of God's provision for their safe journey to Canaan by means of a guardian angel God would send "before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared." Furthermore, God told them, "My Angel will go before you and bring you to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out." (23:20, 23) However, they were cautioned not to imitate the religious practices of the people who lived in the land by bowing down or worshipping their gods. They were to "Worship the LORD your God." (23:25) In so doing God promised to bless their bread and water, to take away their

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 22

    Exodus 22 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. If you steal an ox and slaughter or sell it, you must replace it with five oxen, if you steal a sheep and slaughter it or sell it, you must replace it with four sheep.
  2. But if you cannot afford to replace the animals, you must be sold as a slave to pay for what you have stolen. If you steal an ox, donkey, or sheep, and are caught with it still alive, you must pay the owner double. If you happen to kill a burglar who breaks into your home after dark, you are not guilty. But if you kill someone who breaks in during the day, you are guilty of murder.
  3. (SEE 22:2)
  4. (SEE 22:2)
  5. If you allow any of your animals to stray from your property and graze in someone else's field or vineyard, you must repay the damage from the best part of your own harvest of grapes and grain.
  6. If you carelessly let a fire spread from your property to someone else's, you must pay the owner for any crops or fields destroyed by the fire.
  7. Suppose a neighbor asks you to keep some silver or other valuables, and they are stolen from your house. If the thief is caught, the thief must repay double.
  8. But if the thief isn't caught, some judges will decide if you are the guilty one.
  9. Suppose two people claim to own the same ox or donkey or sheep or piece of clothing. Then the judges must decide the case, and the guilty person will pay the owner double.
  10. Suppose a neighbor who is going to be away asks you to keep a donkey or an ox or a sheep or some other animal, and it dies or gets injured or is stolen while no one is looking.
  11. If you swear with me as your witness that you did not harm the animal, you do not have to replace it. Your word is enough.
  12. But if the animal was stolen while in your care, you must replace it.
  13. If the animal was attacked and killed by a wild animal, and you can show the remains of the dead animal to its owner, you do not have to replace it.
  14. Suppose you borrow an animal from a neighbor, and it gets injured or dies while the neighbor isn't around. Then you must replace it.
  15. But if something happens to the animal while the owner is present, you do not have to replace it. If you had leased the animal, the money you paid the owner will cover any harm done to it.
  16. Suppose a young woman has never been married and isn't engaged. If a man talks her into having sex, he must pay the bride price and marry her.
  17. But if her father refuses to let her marry the man, the bride price must still be paid.
  18. Death is the punishment for witchcraft.
  19. Death is the punishment for having sex with an animal.
  20. Death is the punishment for offering sacrifices to any god except me.
  21. Do not mistreat or abuse foreigners who live among you. Remember, you were foreigners in Egypt.
  22. Do not mistreat widows or orphans.
  23. If you do, they will beg for my help, and I will come to their rescue.
  24. In fact, I will get so angry that I will kill your men and make widows of their wives and orphans of their children.
  25. Don't charge interest when you lend money to any of my people who are in need.
  26. Before sunset you must return any coat taken as security for a loan,
  27. because that is the only cover the poor have when they sleep at night. I am a merciful God, and when they call out to me, I will come to help them.
  28. Don't speak evil of me or of the ruler of your people.
  29. Don't fail to give me the offerings of grain and wine that belong to me. Dedicate to me your first-born sons
  30. and the first-born of your cattle and sheep. Let the animals stay with their mothers for seven days, then on the eighth day give them to me, your God.
  31. You are my chosen people, so don't eat the meat of any of your livestock that was killed by a wild animal. I

Laws covered in chapter 22 go into some detail regarding loss of property at the hands of another. The penalty in such cases, whether it is by stealing, carelessness, accident, or whatever, is restitution at equal or greater value depending on the circumstances. In the case of theft, if the guilty party is unable to make restitution the person is to be sold. No such stipulation is mentioned regarding one who causes loss through accident or carelessness. In any case there is no mention of incarceration which has no benefit for the victim.

Further laws address pagan religious practices, exploitation of those who are defenseless, blasphemy of God and cursing of leaders, and dedication to the Lord of the firstborn. Instructions are given regarding the penalty for everything in this list except for the exploitation of those who are defenseless. In these cases, God, Himself, will deal with the guilty parties. Those included among the defenseless are foreign residents, widows and fatherless children, and the poor. God typically provides through human resources, such as through a husband or father to defend women or children. But when this resource is not available He comes directly to their defense.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 21

    Exodus 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD gave Moses the following laws for his people:
  2. If you buy a Hebrew slave, he must remain your slave for six years. But in the seventh year you must set him free, without cost to him.
  3. If he was single at the time you bought him, he alone must be set free. But if he was married at the time, both he and his wife must be given their freedom.
  4. If you give him a wife, and they have children, only the man himself must be set free, his wife and children remain the property of his owner.
  5. But suppose the slave loves his wife and children so much that he won't leave without them.
  6. Then he must stand beside either the door or the doorpost at the place of worship, while his owner punches a small hole through one of his ears with a sharp metal rod. This makes him a slave for life.
  7. A young woman who was sold by her father doesn't gain her freedom in the same way that a man does.
  8. If she doesn't please the man who bought her to be his wife, he must let her be bought back. He cannot sell her to foreigners, this would break the contract he made with her.
  9. If he selects her as a wife for his son, he must treat her as his own daughter.
  10. If the man later marries another woman, he must continue to provide food and clothing for the one he bought and to treat her as a wife.
  11. If he fails to do any of these things, she must be given her freedom without cost.
  12. Death is the punishment for murder.
  13. But if you did not intend to kill someone, and I, the LORD, let it happen anyway, you may run for safety to a place that I have set aside.
  14. If you plan in advance to murder someone, there's no escape, not even by holding on to my altar. You will be dragged off and killed.
  15. Death is the punishment for attacking your father or mother.
  16. Death is the punishment for kidnapping. If you sell the person you kidnapped, or if you are caught with that person, the penalty is death.
  17. Death is the punishment for cursing your father or mother.
  18. Suppose two of you are arguing, and you hit the other with either a rock or your fist, without causing a fatal injury. If the victim has to stay in bed,
  19. and later has to use a stick when walking outside, you must pay for the loss of time and do what you can to help until the injury is completely healed. That's your only responsibility.
  20. Death is the punishment for beating to death any of your slaves.
  21. However, if the slave lives a few days after the beating, you are not to be punished. After all, you have already lost the services of that slave who was your property.
  22. Suppose a pregnant woman suffers a miscarriage as the result of an injury caused by someone who is fighting. If she isn't badly hurt, the one who injured her must pay whatever fine her husband demands and the judges approve.
  23. But if she is seriously injured, the payment will be life for life,
  24. eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
  25. burn for burn, cut for cut, and bruise for bruise.
  26. If you hit one of your slaves and cause the loss of an eye, the slave must be set free.
  27. The same law applies if you knock out a slave's tooth--the slave goes free.
  28. A bull that kills someone with its horns must be killed and its meat destroyed, but the owner of the bull isn't responsible for the death.
  29. Suppose you own a bull that has been in the habit of attacking people, but you have refused to keep it fenced in. If that bull kills someone, both you and the bull must be put to death by stoning.
  30. However, you may save your own life by paying whatever fine is demanded.
  31. This same law applies if the bull gores someone's son or daughter.
  32. If the bull kills a slave, you must pay the slave owner thirty pieces of silver for the loss of the slave, and the bull must be killed by stoning.
  33. Suppose someone's ox or donkey is killed by falling into an open pit that you dug or left uncovered on your property.
  34. You must pay for the dead animal, and it becomes yours.
  35. If your bull kills someone else's, yours must be sold. Then the money from your bull and the meat from the dead bull must be divided equally between you and the other owner.
  36. If you refuse to fence in a bull that is known to attack others, you must pay for any animal it kills, but the dead animal will belong to you.

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) were no longer simply a collection of people with a common heritage. They were becoming a nation with its own laws and ordinances, and would have its own country when they arrived at the land God was giving them. This new nation would be a theocracy with God as its sovereign ruler, and as such, God was ordaining the laws that would govern the nation. As long as the nation of Israel lived by these laws God ordained for it, the people would have a just and safe society in which to live.

Already, from the laws outlined in this chapter, we can see that justice favored those who were victims of crime or irresponsible conduct. We also see from these initial laws that punishment was not meted out in terms of imprisonment. Punishment was a matter of either compensation, which benefitted the victim, or of a death sentence. Though many view capital punishment as devaluing human life, does it not actually place higher value on life, valuing the life taken unjustly enough to require the life of the one who caused the death? As already mentioned, justice is weighted on the side of the victim rather than the side of the perpetrator. While it is true that any system of justice must be administered by imperfect people whose motives are not always pure, did not God know this when He gave these laws? This was as true for the Israelites as for any other people.  Should not this tell us something?

The first set of laws were related to slavery. Did God condone slavery? Whether He condoned it or not, He regulated it. And it would appear that in this setting, at least, He condoned it. But we must realize that this was much different from slavery that has occurred often throughout history, such as in America in its early history. For instance, slavery in this setting was voluntary. There was a law against kidnapping which was punishable by death. It was kidnapping and forced slavery on which early American slavery was based. This legal system would have required the lives of those kidnapping slaves.

Furthermore, slavery in this early Israelite setting offered a third alternative for a person to provide for themselves. If a person did not have the means to provide for themselves or employment was not available, they could sell themselves as a person's slave in compensation for food, clothing, and housing. The law required that slaves be set free every seventh year, so it was not a permanent arrangement unless the slave so chose. By means of this third alternative for providing for oneself no one need go homeless or starve.
These laws give us a view of God's sense of justice. They are foreign to most current justice systems and may not have even been intended as a model for all systems and cultures, but might the principles on which these laws are based serve as models?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 20

    Exodus 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. God said to the people of Israel:
  2. I am the LORD your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.
  3. Do not worship any god except me.
  4. Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth.
  5. Don't bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.
  6. But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.
  7. Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
  8. Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me.
  9. You have six days when you can do your work,
  10. but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day--not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns.
  11. In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That's why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.
  12. Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.
  13. Do not murder.
  14. Be faithful in marriage.
  15. Do not steal.
  16. Do not tell lies about others.
  17. Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don't want anyone's house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.
  18. The people trembled with fear when they heard the thunder and the trumpet and saw the lightning and the smoke coming from the mountain. They stood a long way off
  19. and said to Moses, "If you speak to us, we will listen. But don't let God speak to us, or we will die!"
  20. "Don't be afraid!" Moses replied. "God has come only to test you, so that by obeying him you won't sin."
  21. But when Moses went near the thick cloud where God was, the people stayed a long way off.
  22. The LORD told Moses to say to the people of Israel: With your own eyes, you saw me speak to you from heaven.
  23. So you must never make idols of silver or gold to worship in place of me.
  24. Build an altar out of earth, and offer on it your sacrifices of sheep, goats, and cattle. Wherever I choose to be worshiped, I will come down to bless you.
  25. If you ever build an altar for me out of stones, do not use any tools to chisel the stones, because that would make the altar unfit.
  26. And don't build an altar that requires steps, you might expose yourself when you climb up.

  27. The scene that was set in chapter 19 continues in chapter 20. The people were gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai while Moses went up and down the mountain going between God and the people. He would go up the mountain for God to speak to him or to relay a message from the people and then down the mountain to relay God's message to the people. At the end of chapter 19 God sent Moses down the mountain to get Aaron and to warn the people not to "break through to come up to the LORD." (19:24) In verse 20:1, the scene is back on the mountain and God was giving Moses the ten commandments. Though Aaron was not mentioned we assume he was with Moses since God had instructed him to return with Aaron. The people were gathered at the foot of the mountain trembling in fear as God spoke to Moses through thunder and lightning and the sound of the trumpet. These terrifying sounds were coming to them out of the smoke that surrounded the mountain.

    The people were so terrified by the presence of the Lord on the mountain that they didn't want to hear from Him directly but rather through Moses. They feared they would die if God spoke to them directly. When the people told Moses this, he told them: "Don't be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin." (20:20) It sounds a little like double talk, "don't be afraid, but do fear the Lord." What he was saying, however, was, "Don't be frightened, but revere the Lord." God was testing them through this awesome scene to see if they would revere Him. If they did not reverence Him, neither would they respect the commandments He was giving them through Moses.

    The ten commandments, given to Moses on this occasion, are widely misunderstood. They were not given as a means for the people to attain righteousness but rather for the purpose of showing them their sinfulness. It was a teacher to hold up to them and to us God's standards of holiness in contrast to our own sinfulness. The Christian is no more made righteous by keeping these commandments than were the Israelites to whom they were originally given. However, the true follower of Jesus Christ strives to adhere to a standard that goes beyond these commandments as outlined by Jesus in His sermon on the mount. Jesus summarized these commandments, and indeed all of scripture, in what is often referred to as the great commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 19

    Exodus 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Israelites left Rephidim. Then two months after leaving Egypt, they arrived at the desert near Mount Sinai, where they set up camp at the foot of the mountain.
  2. (SEE 19:1)
  3. Moses went up the mountain to meet with the LORD God, who told him to say to the people:
  4. You saw what I did in Egypt, and you know how I brought you here to me, just as a mighty eagle carries its young.
  5. Now if you will faithfully obey me, you will be my very own people. The whole world is mine,
  6. but you will be my holy nation and serve me as priests. Moses, that is what you must tell the Israelites.
  7. After Moses went back, he reported to the leaders what the LORD had said,
  8. and they promised, "We will do everything the LORD has commanded." So Moses told the LORD about this.
  9. The LORD said to Moses, "I will come to you in a thick cloud and let the people hear me speak to you. Then they will always trust you." Again Moses reported to the people what the LORD had told him.
  10. Once more the LORD spoke to Moses: Go back and tell the people that today and tomorrow they must get themselves ready to meet me. They must wash their clothes
  11. and be ready by the day after tomorrow, when I will come down to Mount Sinai, where all of them can see me.
  12. Warn the people that they are forbidden to touch any part of the mountain. Anyone who does will be put to death,
  13. either with stones or arrows, and no one must touch the body of a person killed in this way. Even an animal that touches this mountain must be put to death. You may go up the mountain only after a signal is given on the trumpet.
  14. After Moses went down the mountain, he gave orders for the people to wash their clothes and make themselves acceptable to worship God.
  15. He told them to be ready in three days and not to have sex in the meantime.
  16. On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning. A thick cloud covered the mountain, a loud trumpet blast was heard, and everyone in camp trembled with fear.
  17. Moses led them out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
  18. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had come down in a flaming fire. Smoke poured out of the mountain just like a furnace, and the whole mountain shook.
  19. The trumpet blew louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder.
  20. The LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai and told Moses to meet him there.
  21. Then he said, "Moses, go and warn the people not to cross the boundary that you set at the foot of the mountain. They must not cross it to come and look at me, because if they do, many of them will die.
  22. Only the priests may come near me, and they must obey strict rules before I let them. If they don't, they will be punished."
  23. Moses replied, "The people cannot come up the mountain. You warned us to stay away because it is holy."
  24. Then the LORD told Moses, "Go down and bring Aaron back here with you. But the priests and people must not try to push their way through, or I will rush at them like a flood!"
  25. After Moses had gone back down, he told the people what the LORD had said.

  26. Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai after two months of travel, or "In the third month, on the same day of the month that the Israelites had left the land of Egypt." (19:1) They were to spend nearly a year camped at the foot of the mountain. During this time, the Lord would give the Israelites His covenant with them which was to serve as the constitution for a newly formed nation operating as a theocracy.

    In the accounts of chapter 19 Moses made three trips up the mountain. First he went up to receive his initial instructions upon arriving at Mt. Sinai.  On this first trip up, God told Moses He wanted Israel to be "My own possession out of all the peoples . . . and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation." (19:5) Moses was to deliver this message to the people. He went back down the mountain, summoned the elders of the people and "put before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him." (19:7) In unison the people responded saying, "We will do all that the LORD has spoken." (19:8)

    Making his second trip up the mountain, Moses brought "the people's words back to the LORD." (19:8) Having agreed to become God's "own possession," God planned to demonstrate to the people His direct revelation to Moses. God wanted them to know without a doubt that the words Moses reported to them as coming from the Lord did, indeed, come from the Lord. In preparation for this demonstration the people were to purify themselves over a two day period. This involved washing their clothes, staying away from the mountain, and abstaining from sexual intercourse. Obedience is the mark of being God's own possession and Israel must learn from the beginning the seriousness of obedience. Thus, failure to stay away from the mountain was punishable by death. There were two levels of obedience attached to such instructions. First there was obedience to the restriction to stay away from the mountain. And, second, there was obedience by the community to carry out the punishment. God didn't strike down the disobedient person. That was the responsibility of the community.

    Moses went back down the mountain and delivered the Lord's instructions regarding their purification for God's visit and the people began their two-day purification. When the people awoke on the morning of the third day the mountain was enshrouded in a thick cloud and there was thunder and lightning. Then the ram's horn sounded signaling for the people to approach the mountain. The smoke that enveloped the mountain represented the Lord's presence along with the long, loud blast of the trumpet which grew in intensity. As the trumpet grew louder, Moses spoke to the Lord, and the Lord answered him in the thunder. Then the Lord summoned Moses for his third assent of the mountain. Once at the top, the Lord instructed Moses to go back down and warn the people not "to break through to see the LORD; otherwise many of them will die." (19:21) Once Moses had warned the people, he was to ascend the mountain a fourth time, bringing Aaron back up with him.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 18

    Exodus 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jethro was the priest of Midian and the father-in-law of Moses. And he heard what the LORD God had done for Moses and his people, after rescuing them from Egypt.
  2. In the meantime, Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and her two sons to stay with Jethro, and he had welcomed them. Moses was still a foreigner in Midian when his first son was born, and so Moses said, "I'll name him Gershom." When his second son was born, Moses said, "I'll name him Eliezer, because the God my father worshiped has saved me from the king of Egypt."
  3. (SEE 18:2)
  4. (SEE 18:2)
  5. While Israel was camped in the desert near Mount Sinai, Jethro sent Moses this message: "I am coming to visit you, and I am bringing your wife and two sons."
  6. (SEE 18:5)
  7. When they arrived, Moses went out and bowed down in front of Jethro, then kissed him. After they had greeted each other, they went into the tent,
  8. where Moses told him everything the LORD had done to protect Israel against the Egyptians and their king. He also told him how the LORD had helped them in all of their troubles.
  9. Jethro was so pleased to hear this good news about what the LORD had done,
  10. that he shouted, "Praise the LORD! He rescued you and the Israelites from the Egyptians and their king.
  11. Now I know that the LORD is the greatest God, because he has rescued Israel from their arrogant enemies."
  12. Jethro offered sacrifices to God. Then Aaron and Israel's leaders came to eat with Jethro there at the place of worship.
  13. The next morning Moses sat down at the place where he decided legal cases for the people, and everyone crowded around him until evening.
  14. Jethro saw how much Moses had to do for the people, and he asked, "Why are you the only judge? Why do you let these people crowd around you from morning till evening?"
  15. Moses answered, "Because they come here to find out what God wants them to do.
  16. They bring their complaints to me, and I make decisions on the basis of God's laws."
  17. Jethro replied: That isn't the best way to do it.
  18. You and the people who come to you will soon be worn out. The job is too much for one person, you can't do it alone.
  19. God will help you if you follow my advice. You should be the one to speak to God for the people,
  20. and you should teach them God's laws and show them what they must do to live right.
  21. You will need to appoint some competent leaders who respect God and are trustworthy and honest. Then put them over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand.
  22. These judges can handle the ordinary cases and bring the more difficult ones to you. Having them to share the load will make your work easier.
  23. This is the way God wants it done. You won't be under nearly as much stress, and everyone else will return home feeling satisfied.
  24. This is the way God wants it done. You won't be under nearly as much stress, and everyone else will return home feeling satisfied.
  25. Moses followed Jethro's advice.
  26. Moses followed Jethro's advice.
  27. He chose some competent leaders from every tribe in Israel and put them over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand.
  28. They served as judges, deciding the easy cases themselves, but bringing the more difficult ones to Moses.
  29. After Moses and his father-in-law Jethro had said good-by to each other, Jethro returned home.

The latter portion of this account in chapter 18, if not all of it, would appear to be out of chronological order. The reference in verse 5 of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, coming to Moses "where he was camped at the mountain of God," is a reference to Mt. Sinai. But Israel had not yet arrived at Mt. Sinai. When the narrative picks back up in chapter 19 where it left off in chapter 17, the Israelites were entering the Wilderness of Sinai. Also, the implementation by Moses of a judicial system did not take place until after the Law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai.

Chapter 18 opens with the report that Moses' father-in-law was bringing his wife and children to him. The last word given in this Exodus account concerning Moses' family was in chapter 4 with Moses headed to Egypt along with his family. Moses was confronted by the Lord who "sought to put him to death." But Zipporah circumcised his two sons and the Lord "let him alone." (4:24-26) We are left at that point assuming Moses continued on to Egypt with his family. But with this account in chapter 18 of Jethro bringing Moses' family to him from Midian, we must assume that he sent his family back to Midian, possibly after the circumcision of his sons.

Jethro was a "priest of Midian" which most likely meant he was a priest in the idolatrous Midianite religion. However, after hearing Moses' report of all the Lord had done for the Israelites in bringing them out of Egypt, he said, "I know that the LORD is greater than all gods," and offered "a burnt offering and sacrificies to God." (18:11, 12) We are given the impression that Jethro returned home a believer in the God of Israel. In addition to Moses' account of God's mighty works in delivering Israel from Egypt, Jethro also had his daughter's account of Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush, of God sending him to Egypt, and of the incident which led to the circumcision of her sons.

The next day after Jethro's arrival at Moses' camp, he observed Moses as he listened all day to the people's disputes. This, he told Moses, was not good. Moses could not endure this work load for long. He needed to delegate the responsibility of judging the people's disputes. Jethro outlined to Moses a system of delegation, and we are told "Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said." (18:24) As mentioned earlier, though, this implementation of a judicial system did not occur until after Moses received the law on Mt. Sinai.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 17

    Exodus 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Israelites left the desert and moved from one place to another each time the LORD ordered them to. Once they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them to drink.
  2. The people started complaining to Moses, "Give us some water!" Moses replied, "Why are you complaining to me and trying to put the LORD to the test?"
  3. But the people were thirsty and kept on complaining, "Moses, did you bring us out of Egypt just to let us and our families and our animals die of thirst?"
  4. Then Moses prayed to the LORD, "What am I going to do with these people? They are about to stone me to death!"
  5. The LORD answered, "Take some of the leaders with you and go ahead of the rest of the people. Also take along the walking stick you used to strike the Nile River,
  6. and when you get to the rock at Mount Sinai, I will be there with you. Strike the rock with the stick, and water will pour out for the people to drink." Moses did this while the leaders watched.
  7. The people had complained and tested the LORD by asking, "Is the LORD really with us?" So Moses named that place Massah, which means "testing" and Meribah, which means "complaining."
  8. When the Israelites were at Rephidim, they were attacked by the Amalekites.
  9. So Moses told Joshua, "Have some men ready to attack the Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on a hilltop, holding this walking stick that has the power of God."
  10. Joshua led the attack as Moses had commanded, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood on the hilltop.
  11. The Israelites out-fought the Amalekites as long as Moses held up his arms, but they started losing whenever he had to lower them.
  12. Finally, Moses was so tired that Aaron and Hur got a rock for him to sit on. Then they stood beside him and supported his arms in the same position until sunset.
  13. That's how Joshua defeated the Amalekites.
  14. Afterwards, the LORD said to Moses, "Write an account of this victory and read it to Joshua. I want the Amalekites to be forgotten forever."
  15. Moses built an altar and named it "The LORD Gives Me Victory."
  16. Then Moses explained, "This is because I depended on the LORD. But in future generations, the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again."

    The Israelites moved on, leaving the Wilderness of Sin and eventually coming to Rephidim where they made camp. They are said to have moved "from one place to the next according to the LORD's command," implying that they covered quite a bit of ground, and possibly a considerable amount of time, though no time period is given for their travel from the Wilderness of Sin to Rephidim. God established a means to provide them daily food when they were in the Wilderness of Sin, so food was no longer an issue, but water was a continual problem. Whether they had carried water with them from their last source or had found it along the way we don't know, but they arrived at Rephidim without water and there was none at this location.

    Despite God's provision for them in many ways previously and His daily provision of food, the people still chose to respond to their circumstances in the same way as before - to complain rather than trust. This time their complaints were more intense than any previously. So much so that Moses feared they would stone him. In reality, though, it was not Moses against whom they were complaining, but God. And Moses asked "Why are you testing the LORD?" (17:2) No hint is given that God was losing patience with the people's complaining. He simply gave Moses instructions for providing water. Moses gave the place two names, one meaning "testing" and the other "quarreling" to designate their testing of the Lord.

    While still at Rephidim, Israel encountered her first enemy since leaving Egypt. Amalekites, a nomadic people who were descendants of Esau, came to Rephidim to fight against Israel. No indication is given that Israel complained about this threat. Moses simply charged Joshua with forming an army and going to battle with these people. To signify the Lord's hand in giving Israel victory in the battle, Moses held up his hands. While he held them up Israel prevailed in battle and when he put them down Amalek prevailed. When Moses' arms grew tired he sat down on a rock and Aaron and Hur support his arms, one on either side. In this way, the Israelites defeated Amalek.

    Israel needed ways of remembering God's provision for them. On this occasion God had Moses write on a scroll and recite to Joshua, "I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven." (17:14) This message served not only as a reminder of the victory God gave Joshua in this battle but recorded for all Israel to know that when King David finally destroyed the Amalekites that it was God who did it. Also as a commemoration on this occasion of God giving them victory, Moses built and altar and named it "The LORD Is My Banner." (17:15)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 16

    Exodus 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. On the fifteenth day of the second month after the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, they left Elim and started through the western edge of the Sinai Desert in the direction of Mount Sinai.
  2. There in the desert they started complaining to Moses and Aaron,
  3. "We wish the LORD had killed us in Egypt. When we lived there, we could at least sit down and eat all the bread and meat we wanted. But you have brought us out here into this desert, where we are going to starve."
  4. The LORD said to Moses, "I will send bread down from heaven like rain. Each day the people can go out and gather only enough for that day. That's how I will see if they obey me.
  5. But on the sixth day of each week they must gather and cook twice as much."
  6. Moses and Aaron told the people, "This evening you will know that the LORD was the one who rescued you from Egypt.
  7. And in the morning you will see his glorious power, because he has heard your complaints against him. Why should you grumble to us? Who are we?"
  8. Then Moses continued, "You will know it is the LORD when he gives you meat each evening and more than enough bread each morning. He is really the one you are complaining about, not us--we are nobodies--but the LORD has heard your complaints."
  9. Moses turned to Aaron and said, "Bring the people together, because the LORD has heard their complaints."
  10. Aaron was speaking to them, when everyone looked out toward the desert and saw the bright glory of the LORD in a cloud.
  11. The LORD said to Moses,
  12. "I have heard my people complain. Now tell them that each evening they will have meat and each morning they will have more than enough bread. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."
  13. That evening a lot of quails came and landed everywhere in the camp, and the next morning dew covered the ground.
  14. After the dew had gone, the desert was covered with thin flakes that looked like frost.
  15. The people had never seen anything like this, and they started asking each other, "What is it?" Moses answered, "This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.
  16. And he orders you to gather about two quarts for each person in your family--that should be more than enough."
  17. They did as they were told. Some gathered more and some gathered less,
  18. according to their needs, and none was left over.
  19. Moses told them not to keep any overnight.
  20. Some of them disobeyed, but the next morning what they kept was stinking and full of worms, and Moses was angry.
  21. Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and in the heat of the day the rest melted.
  22. However, on the sixth day of the week, everyone gathered enough to have four quarts, instead of two. When the leaders reported this to Moses,
  23. he told them that the LORD had said, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath, a sacred day of rest in honor of me. So gather all you want to bake or boil, and make sure you save enough for tomorrow."
  24. The people obeyed, and the next morning the food smelled fine and had no worms.
  25. "You may eat the food," Moses said. "Today is the Sabbath in honor of the LORD, and there won't be any of this food on the ground today.
  26. You will find it there for the first six days of the week, but not on the Sabbath."
  27. A few of the Israelites did go out to look for some, but there was none.
  28. Then the LORD said, "Moses, how long will you people keep disobeying my laws and teachings?
  29. Remember that I was the one who gave you the Sabbath. That's why on the sixth day I provide enough bread for two days. Everyone is to stay home and rest on the Sabbath."
  30. And so they rested on the Sabbath.
  31. The Israelites called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and delicious as wafers made with honey.
  32. Moses told the people that the LORD had said, "Store up two quarts of this manna, because I want future generations to see the food I gave you during the time you were in the desert after I rescued you from Egypt."
  33. Then Moses told Aaron, "Put some manna in a jar and store it in the place of worship for future generations to see."
  34. Aaron followed the LORD's instructions and put the manna in front of the sacred chest for safekeeping.
  35. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, before they came to the border of Canaan that was a settled land.
  36. (SEE 16:35)

    The pattern of grumbling was quickly becoming established by the Israelites. Just three days into their journey away from Egypt, having witnessed God's mighty works on their behalf, they grumbled because of the lack of water. The God who made the waters of the Red Sea divide so they could cross would have no problem providing water for them to drink, but that was not the thought in their minds. Instead of thinking about what God had done for them and would likely do for them again, they thought about what they didn't have and for which they could see no provision. Their years in slavery had deeply engrained the victim mentality. Instead of thinking of themselves as a privileged people of God for whom God was doing things He had done for no other people, they were thinking of themselves as victims of God's whims. "He drug them from their homes and took them into this god-forsaken desert in which they now found themselves", seems to be their thinking. Never mind the hard and oppressed lives they lived in Egypt and that now they were free from all that and headed to a land that God was giving them to be their own. A land "flowing with milk and honey."

    After a month at Elim where they had water and vegetation, they resumed their journey toward Sinai. A short time later they came to the Wilderness of Sin, by which time their food supplies were running short. Having seen God's provision for them already, did they look to Him as their provider, asking for Him to provide once again? No. Instead, they went to Moses and Aaron and grumbled. It was not just the few that are found in most any crowd who are prone to be complainers who grumbled. It was the "entire Israelite community." And it was not just a mild complaint. They said, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!" (16:3)

    Graciously God made provision for them to have food the remainder of their journey to Canaan. In His provision, however, He built in a test of their willingness to follow His instructions. God would provide bread for them every morning and meat every evening, but they could gather only what they needed for each day. None could be kept into the next day. The test would be to see if they would trust God to provide for them daily rather than placing their confidence in what they could see by trying to stockpile the food. More than a test of their obedience, it was also a provision that would develop the habit of dependence on God. They were given explicit instructions about gathering a quart of bread and of meat for each individual. Enough for one day. And they were not to try to keep any into the next day. Also, on the sixth day of each week they were to gather enough food for two days. On the seventh day, the Sabbath, no food would be provided. They would eat from what was gathered on the sixth day. There should be no doubt of the source of the food. It came to them exactly as God instructed through Moses, and it stopped on the seventh day and started again on the first day of each week just as He said.  Daily dependence on God for what we need is not only a principle the Israelites were to learn, but a principle by which God wants all of His people to live. We see it reflected in the model prayer Jesus taught His disciples, "Give us each day our daily bread." (Luke 11:3)

    Not all the Israelites passed the test in following God's instructions. Some tried to keep food into the next day. But they found that the next day the food had "bred worms and smelled." (16:20) A picture of what happens with our efforts of disobedience. Thus, they had no choice but to abide by God's instructions. No choice but to depend on Him daily for their food. God was not pleased with this disobedience, saying to them, "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'How long will you refuse to keep My commands and instructions?'" (16:28) Obedience is the mark of being God's people. We cannot call ourselves His people and expect the blessings of such a status without obedience. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 15

    Exodus 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Moses and the Israelites sang this song in praise of the LORD: I sing praises to the LORD for his great victory! He has thrown the horses and their riders into the sea.
  2. The LORD is my strength, the reason for my song, because he has saved me. I praise and honor the LORD-- he is my God and the God of my ancestors.
  3. The LORD is his name, and he is a warrior!
  4. He threw the chariots and army of Egypt's king into the Red Sea, and he drowned the best of the king's officers.
  5. They sank to the bottom just like stones.
  6. With the tremendous force of your right arm, our LORD, you crushed your enemies.
  7. What a great victory was yours, as you defeated everyone who opposed you. Your fiery anger wiped them out, as though they were straw.
  8. You were so furious that the sea piled up like a wall, and the ocean depths curdled like cheese.
  9. Your enemies boasted that they would pursue and capture us, divide up our possessions, treat us as they wished, then take out their swords and kill us right there.
  10. But when you got furious, they sank like lead, swallowed by ocean waves.
  11. Our LORD, no other gods compare with you-- Majestic and holy! Fearsome and glorious! Miracle worker!
  12. When you signaled with your right hand, your enemies were swallowed deep into the earth.
  13. The people you rescued were led by your powerful love to your holy place.
  14. Nations learned of this and trembled-- Philistines shook with horror.
  15. The leaders of Edom and of Moab were terrified. Everyone in Canaan fainted,
  16. struck down by fear. Our LORD, your powerful arm kept them still as a rock until the people you rescued for your very own had marched by.
  17. You will let your people settle on your chosen mountain, where you built your home and your temple.
  18. Our LORD, you will rule forever!
  19. The LORD covered the royal Egyptian cavalry and chariots with the sea, after the Israelites had walked safely through on dry ground.
  20. Miriam the sister of Aaron was a prophet. So she took her tambourine and led the other women out to play their tambourines and to dance.
  21. Then she sang to them: "Sing praises to the LORD for his great victory! He has thrown the horses and their riders into the sea."
  22. After the Israelites left the Red Sea, Moses led them through the Shur Desert for three days, before finding water.
  23. They did find water at Marah, but it was bitter, which is how that place got its name.
  24. The people complained and said, "Moses, what are we going to drink?"
  25. Moses asked the LORD for help, and the LORD told him to throw a piece of wood into the water. Moses did so, and the water became fit to drink. At Marah the LORD tested his people and also gave them some laws and teachings.
  26. Then he said, "I am the LORD your God, and I cure your diseases. If you obey me by doing right and by following my laws and teachings, I won't punish you with the diseases I sent on the Egyptians."
  27. Later the Israelites came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees. So they camped there.

    A pattern begins to unfold in chapter 15 that becomes prevalent throughout the remainder of the exodus. God rescues the people and they celebrate His greatness, followed soon thereafter with difficulty and complaining and disobedience. They become a people with a short memory of God's mighty works and deliverance.

    The first 21 verses of this chapter comprise a song of praise to the Lord who "has become my salvation." (15:2) On the heels of God's full deliverance from the Egyptian oppression, Moses and his sister Miriam led the people in this song of praise for God's deliverance. It began with praise to God for His deliverance saying, "This is my God, and I will praise Him." (15:2) Whether or not they retained much identity with the God of their forefathers throughout their stay in Egypt, that identity was now being restored. What God did for Israel in this deliverance from Egypt had not been done for any other people. Next, the song praised God's power in controlling the waters of the Red Sea that drowned Pharaoh's army. God "unleashed Your burning wrath;" it says, and "it consumed them like stubble." (15:7) In its third section, the song praises God for what He will do in the future: "You will lead the people You have redeemed with Your faithful love; You will guide them to Your holy dwelling with Your strength." (15:13) Because of what God did in destroying the Egyptian army, the people that Israel will encounter on its way to God's "holy dwelling" for them will "be terrified." (15:15) This act of destroying the Egyptian army not only gave them deliverance from the Egyptians, it prepared the way for future deliverance.

    Israel's elation was short-lived, however. Just three days later it turned to grumbling. After a three day journey without water they found water only to discover that it was undrinkable. Did they remember God's deliverance just three days earlier and anticipate that He would again provide for them? No, that was not the pattern they chose to follow. Instead, they chose to complain to Moses asking what they were going to drink. God graciously delivered them once again, making the water drinkable. He also gave them a principle by which to live: "If you will carefully obey the LORD your God, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His commands, and keep all His statutes, I will not inflict any illness on you I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you." (15:26) Obedience brings blessing. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 14

    Exodus 14 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. At Etham the LORD said to Moses:
  2. Tell the people of Israel to turn back and camp across from Pi-Hahiroth near Baal-Zephon, between Migdol and the Red Sea.
  3. The king will think they were afraid to cross the desert and that they are wandering around, trying to find another way to leave the country.
  4. I will make the king stubborn again, and he will try to catch you. Then I will destroy him and his army. People everywhere will praise me for my victory, and the Egyptians will know that I really am the LORD. The Israelites obeyed the LORD and camped where he told them.
  5. When the king of Egypt heard that the Israelites had finally left, he and his officials changed their minds and said, "Look what we have done! We let them get away, and they will no longer be our slaves."
  6. The king got his war chariot and army ready.
  7. He commanded his officers in charge of his six hundred best chariots and all his other chariots to start after the Israelites.
  8. The LORD made the king so stubborn that he went after them, even though the Israelites proudly went on their way.
  9. But the king's horses and chariots and soldiers caught up with them while they were camping by the Red Sea near Pi-Hahiroth and Baal-Zephon.
  10. When the Israelites saw the king coming with his army, they were frightened and begged the LORD for help.
  11. They also complained to Moses, "Wasn't there enough room in Egypt to bury us? Is that why you brought us out here to die in the desert? Why did you bring us out of Egypt anyway?
  12. While we were there, didn't we tell you to leave us alone? We had rather be slaves in Egypt than die in this desert!"
  13. But Moses answered, "Don't be afraid! Be brave, and you will see the LORD save you today. These Egyptians will never bother you again.
  14. The LORD will fight for you, and you won't have to do a thing."
  15. The LORD said to Moses, "Why do you keep calling out to me for help? Tell the Israelites to move forward.
  16. Then hold your walking stick over the sea. The water will open up and make a road where they can walk through on dry ground.
  17. I will make the Egyptians so stubborn that they will go after you. Then I will be praised because of what happens to the king and his chariots and cavalry.
  18. The Egyptians will know for sure that I am the LORD."
  19. All this time God's angel had gone ahead of Israel's army, but now he moved behind them. A large cloud had also gone ahead of them,
  20. but now it moved between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The cloud gave light to the Israelites, but made it dark for the Egyptians, and during the night they could not come any closer.
  21. Moses stretched his arm over the sea, and the LORD sent a strong east wind that blew all night until there was dry land where the water had been. The sea opened up,
  22. and the Israelites walked through on dry land with a wall of water on each side.
  23. The Egyptian chariots and cavalry went after them.
  24. But before daylight the LORD looked down at the Egyptian army from the fiery cloud and made them panic.
  25. Their chariot wheels got stuck, and it was hard for them to move. So the Egyptians said to one another, "Let's leave these people alone! The LORD is on their side and is fighting against us."
  26. The LORD told Moses, "Stretch your arm toward the sea--the water will cover the Egyptians and their cavalry and chariots."
  27. Moses stretched out his arm, and at daybreak the water rushed toward the Egyptians. They tried to run away, but the LORD drowned them in the sea.
  28. The water came and covered the chariots, the cavalry, and the whole Egyptian army that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them was left alive.
  29. But the sea had made a wall of water on each side of the Israelites, so they walked through on dry land.
  30. On that day, when the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the shore, they knew that the LORD had saved them.
  31. Because of the mighty power he had used against the Egyptians, the Israelites worshiped him and trusted him and his servant Moses.

    God was not through with Pharaoh even though he had finally capitulated and let the Israelites leave the country. What He was about to do in the crossing of the Red Sea served not only as a judgment on Pharaoh but to finally get the attention of the Israelites. They sorely needed this demonstration of God's power on their behalf for their crossing of the wilderness. Not only was it important in building their faith in God, but was important in striking fear into the nations of the area who they would encounter. When the Israelites saw what God had done to the Egyptians, they are said to have "believed in Him and in His servant Moses." Despite God's miraculous working through the plagues, they had not come to this belief until God's intervention in their crossing of the sea.

    It seems rather amazing that after all God did through the plagues that the Israelites and the Egyptians were equally ignorant or unbelieving of God's intervention coming into this event. In addition to the plagues did not the movement of the "pillar of cloud . . . from in front of them" to stand "behind them" clue them in that God's hand was orchestrating events? When both camps, Egyptian and Israelite, awoke the next morning and saw the waters of the sea parted, did it not occur to them that God was at work? From the narrative, it would seem that the first clue the Egyptians had that God was involved in this event was when they found themselves in the midst of the parted waters and began having difficulty going forward.

    According to Psalms 77:17-18, there was more involved in the confusion that came upon the Egyptians as they attempted to cross the Red Sea than what this passage in Exodus reveals. Exodus tells us that God "threw them into confusion" by causing "their chariot wheels to swerve and made them drive with difficulty." (14:24, 25) Psalms adds that "The clouds poured down water. The storm clouds thundered; Your arrows flashed back and forth. The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; lightning lit up the world. The earth shook and quaked."

    As for the Israelites, the first clue from the narrative that they recognized God's hand was when "Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore" they recognized "the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians." Then we are told, "the people feared the LORD and believed in Him and in His servant Moses." (14:30, 31)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 13

    Exodus 13 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said to Moses,
  2. "Dedicate to me the first-born son of every family and the first-born males of your flocks and herds. These belong to me."
  3. Moses said to the people: Remember this day in the month of Abib. It is the day when the LORD's mighty power rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. Do not eat anything made with yeast.
  4. (SEE 13:3)
  5. The LORD promised your ancestors that he would bring you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites. It is a land rich with milk and honey. Each year during the month of Abib, celebrate these events in the following way:
  6. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast, and on the seventh day you are to celebrate a festival in honor of the LORD.
  7. During those seven days, you must not eat anything made with yeast or even have yeast anywhere near your homes.
  8. Then on the seventh day you must explain to your children that you do this because the LORD brought you out of Egypt.
  9. This celebration will be like wearing a sign on your hand or on your forehead, because then you will pass on to others the teaching of the LORD, whose mighty power brought you out of Egypt.
  10. Celebrate this festival each year at the same time.
  11. The LORD will give you the land of the Canaanites, just as he promised you and your ancestors.
  12. From then on, you must give him every first-born son from your families and every first-born male from your animals, because these belong to him.
  13. You can save the life of a first-born donkey by sacrificing a lamb, if you don't, you must break the donkey's neck. You must save every first-born son.
  14. In the future your children will ask what this ceremony means. Explain it to them by saying, "The LORD used his mighty power to rescue us from slavery in Egypt.
  15. The king stubbornly refused to set us free, so the LORD killed the first-born male of every animal and the first-born son of every Egyptian family. This is why we sacrifice to the LORD every first-born male of every animal and save every first-born son."
  16. This ceremony will serve the same purpose as a sign on your hand or on your forehead to tell how the LORD's mighty power rescued us from Egypt.
  17. After the king had finally let the people go, the LORD did not lead them through Philistine territory, though that was the shortest way. God had said, "If they are attacked, they may decide to return to Egypt."
  18. So he led them around through the desert and toward the Red Sea. The Israelites left Egypt, prepared for battle.
  19. Moses had them take along the bones of Joseph, whose dying words had been, "God will come to your rescue, and when he does, be sure to take along my bones."
  20. The people of Israel left Succoth and camped at Etham at the border of Egypt near the desert.
  21. During the day the LORD went ahead of his people in a thick cloud, and during the night he went ahead of them in a flaming fire. That way the LORD could lead them at all times, whether day or night.
  22. (SEE 13:21)

    Once freed from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites began their journey to the land God promised to their forefathers. But this journey was much more than traveling from one place to get to another. It was a time of preparation as well. Preparation, first of all, to be God's people. That was the purpose God had in mind in giving them their own land. So we read in these accounts of the instructions God gave the people for consecrating themselves to Him. Secondly, the people had to be prepared to take the land of promise. They couldn't just walk into it and make it theirs. Other people were living there who had to be evicted before it was theirs. But it was not military preparation that would be required for this task. Rather it was spiritual preparation. The Lord would do the evicting but the Israelites would have to obediently and courageously follow His instructions.

    All of this is a picture of our own journeys with God. He wants us to be His people. Everything He does in our lives is aimed at this purpose. This is not a selfish purpose for it is the means of us living fulfilled and meaningful lives. As His people, God intended for the whole world to be pointed to Him as it viewed His mightly works through the Israelites. This also applies to us. Through God's work in our lives as His people the rest of the world can be pointed to God. Therefore, when God moves us from one place to another, whether it be a change of geography or a change in our situation, it is accompanied with a time of preparation. This may happen through a circuitous route in getting to the new destination, as with the Israelites, or it may simply be a time of waiting when it seems nothing is happening in our lives. Either way, God uses these occasions to prepare us for the purpose to which He is taking us.

    The Israelite's journey out of Egypt did not take them on the most direct route to Canaan. This would take them through territory that would require them to go to war with other nations to gain passage through the territory. They were not ready for this. In the face of such a challenge, God said they would "change their minds and return to Egypt." (13:17) We must remember that they had been slaves for centuries. Mental they most likely saw themselves as victims of their circumstances rather than masters of them with God's help. Their first stop out of Egypt was Succoth where God gave them further instructions about ongoing observances they were to keep so they would remember and teach to their children what God did for them when He led them out of Egypt.

    Instructions recorded in chapter 13 concern the festival of Unleavened Bread which was to follow Passover each year. For this festival they were not to have leavened bread or yeast even in their midst. They were to explain to their children that "This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt." (13:8) In addition God instructed them to dedicate to the Lord the firstborn males of their families and of their livestock. When they dedicated their firstborn they were to explain to them: "By the strength of His hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of man to the firstborn of livestock. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD all the firstborn of the womb that are males, but I redeem all the firstborn of my sons." (13:14-15) 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 12

    Exodus 12 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Some time later the LORD said to Moses and Aaron:
  2. This month is to be the first month of the year for you.
  3. Tell the people of Israel that on the tenth day of this month the head of each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for his family to eat.
  4. If any family is too small to eat the whole animal, they must share it with their next-door neighbors. Choose either a sheep or a goat, but it must be a one-year-old male that has nothing wrong with it. And it must be large enough for everyone to have some of the meat.
  5. (SEE 12:4)
  6. Each family must take care of its animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, when the animals are to be killed.
  7. Some of the blood must be put on the two doorposts and above the door of each house where the animals are to be eaten.
  8. That night the animals are to be roasted and eaten, together with bitter herbs and thin bread made without yeast.
  9. Don't eat the meat raw or boiled. The entire animal, including its head, legs, and insides, must be roasted.
  10. Eat what you want that night, and the next morning burn whatever is left.
  11. When you eat the meal, be dressed and ready to travel. Have your sandals on, carry your walking stick in your hand, and eat quickly. This is the Passover Festival in honor of me, your LORD.
  12. That same night I will pass through Egypt and kill the first-born son in every family and the first-born male of all animals. I am the LORD, and I will punish the gods of Egypt.
  13. The blood on the houses will show me where you live, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. Then you won't be bothered by the terrible disasters I will bring on Egypt.
  14. Remember this day and celebrate it each year as a festival in my honor.
  15. For seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. And on the first of these seven days, you must remove all yeast from your homes. If you eat anything made with yeast during this festival, you will no longer be part of Israel.
  16. Meet together for worship on the first and seventh days of the festival. The only work you are allowed to do on either of these two days is that of preparing the bread.
  17. Celebrate this Festival of Thin Bread as a way of remembering the day that I brought your families and tribes out of Egypt. And do this each year.
  18. Begin on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month by eating bread made without yeast. Then continue this celebration until the evening of the twenty-first day.
  19. During these seven days no yeast is allowed in anyone's home, whether they are native Israelites or not. If you are caught eating anything made with yeast, you will no longer be part of Israel.
  20. Stay away from yeast, no matter where you live. No one is allowed to eat anything made with yeast!
  21. Moses called the leaders of Israel together and said: Each family is to pick out a sheep and kill it for Passover.
  22. Make a brush from a few small branches of a hyssop plant and dip the brush in the bowl that has the blood of the animal in it. Then brush some of the blood above the door and on the posts at each side of the door of your house. After this, everyone is to stay inside.
  23. During that night the LORD will go through the country of Egypt and kill the first-born son in every Egyptian family. He will see where you have put the blood, and he will not come into your house. His angel that brings death will pass over and not kill your first-born sons.
  24. After you have entered the country promised to you by the LORD, you and your children must continue to celebrate Passover each year.
  25. (SEE 12:24)
  26. Your children will ask you, "What are we celebrating?"
  27. And you will answer, "The Passover animal is killed to honor the LORD. We do these things because on that night long ago the LORD passed over the homes of our people in Egypt. He killed the first-born sons of the Egyptians, but he saved our children from death." After Moses finished speaking, the people of Israel knelt down and worshiped the LORD.
  28. Then they left and did what Moses and Aaron had told them to do.
  29. At midnight the LORD killed the first-born son of every Egyptian family, from the son of the king to the son of every prisoner in jail. He also killed the first-born male of every animal that belonged to the Egyptians.
  30. That night the king, his officials, and everyone else in Egypt got up and started crying bitterly. In every Egyptian home, someone was dead.
  31. During the night the king sent for Moses and Aaron and told them, "Get your people out of my country and leave us alone! Go and worship the LORD, as you have asked.
  32. Take your sheep, goats, and cattle, and get out. But ask your God to be kind to me."
  33. The Egyptians did everything they could to get the Israelites to leave their country fast. They said, "Please hurry and leave. If you don't, we will all be dead."
  34. So the Israelites quickly made some bread dough and put it in pans. But they did not mix any yeast in the dough to make it rise. They wrapped cloth around the pans and carried them on their shoulders.
  35. The Israelites had already done what Moses had told them to do. They had gone to their Egyptian neighbors and asked for gold and silver and for clothes.
  36. The LORD had made the Egyptians friendly toward the people of Israel, and they gave them whatever they asked for. In this way they carried away the wealth of the Egyptians when they left Egypt.
  37. The Israelites walked from the city of Rameses to the city of Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand of them, not counting women and children.
  38. Many other people went with them as well, and there were also a lot of sheep, goats, and cattle.
  39. They left Egypt in such a hurry that they did not have time to prepare any food except the bread dough made without yeast. So they baked it and made thin bread.
  40. The LORD's people left Egypt exactly four hundred thirty years after they had arrived.
  41. (SEE 12:40)
  42. On that night the LORD kept watch for them, and on this same night each year Israel will always keep watch in honor of the LORD.
  43. The LORD gave Moses and Aaron the following instructions for celebrating Passover: No one except Israelites may eat the Passover meal.
  44. Your slaves may eat the meal if they have been circumcised,
  45. but no foreigners who work for you are allowed to have any.
  46. The entire meal must be eaten inside, and no one may leave the house during the celebration. No bones of the Passover lamb may be broken.
  47. And all Israelites must take part in the meal.
  48. If anyone who isn't an Israelite wants to celebrate Passover with you, every man and boy in that family must first be circumcised. Then they may join in the meal, just like native Israelites. No uncircumcised man or boy may eat the Passover meal!
  49. This law applies both to native Israelites and to those foreigners who live among you.
  50. The Israelites obeyed everything the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron to tell them.
  51. And on that same day the LORD brought Israel's families and tribes out of Egypt.

    Many dynamics were involved in the tenth and final plague. It was much more than an escape from bondage. Suddenly, in this chapter, the focus has turned away from what they were leaving to what they were going to. It was the beginning of a new life as God's people and God didn't wait until they had left Egypt or had arrived at a certain destination to begin shaping this new life for them. As bad as a situation may be, if one does not have in mind a better situation to which to go, they may not improve their situation. So, even before the last plague struck, God began giving the people instructions through Moses for events they were to celebrate from that time forward. They were events important to their escape from Egypt but also important to their new life with God.

    We are given here a picture of what must occur for every individual who turns to God. If we are to escape the judgment of the death angel we must look to the blood of Christ as the Israelites looked to the blood of the slain lamb that they put on their door frames. When the death angel saw this blood on the door frames he passed over that home, sparing it from the judgment of death. Instructions were given the people for the observance of this "Passover" feast that would save them. Once they had escaped the death angel they faced a new life and they were given instructions for the festival of unleavened bread which pictured this new life as God's people. Yeast represented sin, and the unleavened bread represented a life free from sin. Christ is the lamb slain for our sins. When we look to His blood as our salvation we are "passed over" as the Israelites were passed over by the judgement of the death angel. Then we are to lead a life separated from sin and joined with God.

    Had the Israelites not experienced God's work through the plagues it is doubtful they would have readily accepted these observances and accompanying regulations and made preparation to follow God into the wilderness and to a new life. This, too, pictures our own experiences. It is often through crises and even suffering in life that God gets our attention and we consider leaving a life of sin to build a new and better life with God. Choosing to do so isn't possible by turning over a new leaf and trying hard to change. It is only possible by looking to the blood of Christ and accepting that as our salvation from the judgment of death. With the judgment of sin removed, our lives can become as unleavened bread, living for God free from the power of sin.

    When the final plague came to Egypt, every firstborn male in every family, regardless of social standing, was killed. With this loss, Egypt's most powerful god was defeated, as was Egypt. Pharaoh was ready for Israel to go, even requesting that they go. The Egyptian people begged them to go so they would not all die. They had become predisposed to give their valuable jewelry to the Israelites who asked for it. It was Israel's way of plundering Egypt for the years of bondage. A payment for their labors.