BIBLE STUDY SERIES #344, 345 and 346

28 June, 1998

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny to the scene at Mount Sinai, where the Tribes of these children of Israel were gathered before leaving the holy mountain under the direction of Moses.

In the last study, we saw how the Camp of Israel was to be organized for the move from one encampment to another, under the direction of The Almighty, and through the organizing leadership of Moses. We had a brief look at the suggestion which Moses made to Hobab the Midianite, the son of Reguel, and his brother-in-law, that this experienced dweller in the wilderness through which they were yet to pass might, if continuing with the Israelites, afford them valuable service, and later, on entry to Canaan, the blessings upon Israel would then be available also to him and to his family. The words of scripture found in Numbers 10: with which we closed the last study were these:

29. And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.
30. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.

Keil and Delitzsch explain that "Moses repeated the request":

31. And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.
32. And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the LORD shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.

They point out that the expression means "thou knowest where we can pitch our tents." The request was that Hobab would act as a leader and guide. Keil and Delitzsch continue: "Although Jehovah led the march of the Israelites in the pillar of cloud, not only giving the sign for them to break up and to encamp, but showing generally the direction they were to take; yet Hobab, who was well acquainted with the desert, would be able to render very important service to the Israelites, if he only pointed out, in those places where the sign to encamp was given by the cloud, the springs, oases, and plots of pasture which are often buried quite out of sight in the mountains and valleys that overspread the desert. What Hobab ultimately decided to do, we are not told." Mentioning that "He probably consented", they continue: "at the commencement of the period of the Judges, the sons of the brother-in-law of Moses went into the desert of Judah to the south of Arad along with the sons of Judah (Judg. i. 16), and therefore had entered Canaan with the Israelites, and ... they were still living in that neighbourhood in the time of Saul (I Sam. xv. 6, xxvii. 10, xxx. 29)." We continue at verse 33:

33. And they departed from the mount of the LORD three days' journey: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them.
34. And the cloud of the LORD was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.
35. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.
36. And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.

In comments concerning this Scripture, The New Bible Commentary, under the sub-heading "c. The ark and the blessing (x. 33-36)" states: "'The mount of the Lord (33).' This is the only time this exact phrase is used, but the same place (Mt. Horeb) is called 'the mount of God' in Ex. iii. 1, iv. 27, xviii. 5, xxiv. 13; 1 Ki. xix. 8. The latter part of verse 33 has been much discussed, most critics insisting that it means that the ark of the covenant went a three days' journey ahead of the people in order to search out a resting place for them. Some critics say that this means that the ark moved of itself. Others say that it was probably carried in a wagon by oxen. An excessive literalness can reduce any book to nonsense. The phrase 'the ark ... went' need not mean that it moved of itself, but can perfectly well refer to its being carried on the shoulders of priests and Levites in the normal way. Moreover there is no grammatical necessity of interpreting the phrase 'three days' journey' as some critics take it. The AV renders it 'in the three days' journey'. While this involves a measure of interpretation, it is consistent with the context, and entirely possible grammatically. The critical interpretation involves the conclusion that the clause is a bit of mythology inconsistent with the rest of the book of Numbers. Such a conclusion is entirely unnecessary. Yet there is an apparent contradiction between this statement and the previous instructions for transporting the tabernacle and its vessels in the midst of the host (ii. 17, iv. 15). There are two possible explanations. One is the result of close examination of the phrase 'before them' (33), [the Hebrew of] which may simply mean 'in the presence', as in Dt. iii. 28, x. 11, and xxxi. 3. In these passages Joshua or Moses is said to go before the people under circumstances which clearly indicate that they were not physically in front of them, but before them in the senses of being visible to them and in authority over them. In line with this use of the phrase some interpreters consider that the verse simply means that the ark was carried in its normal place in the midst of the tribes, but that the priests who travelled near it observed the movements of the pillar of cloud and of fire, received reports from the scouts, and indicated by trumpet signals the proper times for the host to move and to encamp. Another and possibly better interpretation of the statement results in the conclusion that during the first three days the ark was carried ahead of all the tribes. There would be nothing strange in thus departing from the prescribed travel order for the first three days. We have already noticed (x. 17, 21) that the original directions for movement of the parts of the tabernacle were somewhat altered, for increased convenience. These first three days were through rough wilderness country, devoid of human enemies, but presenting unusual difficulty in finding suitable camping spots. At this time the ark may have been carried at the very head of the people to typify the divine leadership and the interest of God in providing suitable places for encampment. Afterwards it was carried at its normal place, where it would be protected against enemies. Similarly, at the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, when the Jordan was crossed, the priests were ordered to carry the ark at the head of the people, and when their feet touched the river its waters receded before them (Jos. iii. 6)."

"At a later time people took the ark as a magical thing, rather than simply as a symbol of God's presence, and wicked men tried to use it to win a battle against the Philistines (I Sa. iv). The effort proved disastrous. God is not to be compelled by the manipulation of physical things, but uses physical things as symbols of His presence to assure His people of His interest in them. Verse 34 again stresses the divine leadership, as shown by the pillar of cloud. Verses 35 and 36 give the formula uttered by Moses at the beginning and end of the day's journey. The words of verse 35, uttered in the third instead of the second person, occur again in Ps. lxviii. 1. Thousands (36). Perhaps here and in i. 16 this word means families or divisions of the tribes, instead of literal thousands. However, this is obviously not applicable to the census, with its total of 603,550 (see i. 46n.)."

Here, Keil and Delitzsch take a specific meaning for the words regarding the ark going before the camp. They state "Jehovah still did as He had already done on the way to Sinai (Ex. xiii. 21, 22): He went before them in the pillar of cloud, according to His promise (Ex. xxxiii. 13), on their journey from Sinai to Canaan; with this simple difference, however, that henceforth the cloud that embodied the presence of Jehovah was connected with the ark of the covenant, as the visible throne of His gracious presence which had been appointed by Jehovah Himself. To this end the ark of the covenant was carried separately from the rest of the sacred things, in front of the whole army; so that the cloud which went before them floated above the ark, leading the procession, and regulating its movements and the direction it took in such a manner that the permanent connection between the cloud and the sanctuary might be visibly manifested even during their march. It is true that, in the order observed in the camp and on the march, no mention is made of the ark of the covenant going in front of the whole army; but this omission is no more a proof of any discrepancy between this verse and chap. ii. 17, or of a difference of authorship, than the separation of the different divisions of the Levites upon the march, which is also not mentioned in chap. ii. 17, although the Gershonites and Merarites actually marched between the banners of Judah and Reuben, and the Kohathites with the holy things between the banners of Reuben and Ephraim... ."

We will be picking up the Scripture portion at Numbers 11:1 on the next study. May you find, in what has been discussed in today's words some food for thought, in the fact that the reality of that march so long ago was that a visible manifestation of The Almighty was present with His people during all the times when they might have been endangered by any challenges both natural and of mankind.

We, of the British-Israel-World Federation, sustain the position, on good evidence, that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of our own generation form the main body of literal descent from those Israelites of Sinai. The signs which were established by The Almighty for those who are to be watching for His return are upon us now, and we would not be fulfilling our task if we did not make that clear to those who are willing to listen.

5 July, 1998

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny to the scene after they encamped at Mount Sinai. Here, they have begun those challenging experiences which have made for discontent within the camp, and we pick up the Scriptural account at Numbers 11:1.

1. And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
2. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
3. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.

Under the headings "VIII. Rebellion and Disaffection. xi. 1 - xii. 16" and "a. Disaffection in the outskirts of the camp (xi. 1-3)", The New Bible Commentary states: "After the ideal picture in previous chapters of the divine arrangements for the care and progress of Israel, and the beautiful narrative of the beginning of the journey in chapter x, it is a shock to find rebellion and disaffection in the camp itself. The Israelites have been rescued from Egypt and constantly see the pillar of cloud and fire, visible proof of God's presence with them; yet we find disaffection and rebellion breaking out, first in the outskirts of the camp, next in its midst, and finally among the top leaders themselves. Every Christian leader needs to be warned not to let his judgment be affected by the praise of those over whom God has placed him. Human nature is fickle, and a man's strongest supporters can suddenly become his worst enemies. even the best of human beings may fall into rebellion against the Lord. The Christian leader should learn to place his trust in God alone; then he will not be too disappointed if those who should support him prove unfaithful. The two chapters are also of great interest for the man of lesser prominence. He should realise the burdens and responsibilities which weigh upon those whom God has placed in positions of leadership. He should not rebel against them, but should support them faithfully, unless, of course, they themselves rebel against the Lord." We again pick up the Scripture reading at verse 4.

4. And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
5. We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
6. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
7. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
8. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
9. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
10. Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
11. And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
12. Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
13. Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
14. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
15. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

Under the heading " b. trouble in the midst of the camp (xi. 4-15)", The New Bible Commentary states: "It is easy to understand what happened when the people began to take their eyes away from God. In the journey through the wilderness, memory of deliverance from the harsh oppression of Egypt tended to become dim, while realization of the loss of the satisfaction of fleshly appetites enjoyed in Egypt became more vivid. The people began to be dissatisfied with the manna which God was providing and to long for the sensuous pleasures previously enjoyed. Verses 7-8 describe the appearance and use of the manna (cf. Ex. xvi. 31). The weeping of the people throughout the camp greatly distressed Moses (10). He felt himself to be almost at the end of his endurance. These verses show how he poured out his prayer to God for help. There are two elements in Moses' prayer. One is that the load he is carrying and the responsibility for all the people seem to be more than he can bear. The other is that the people are demanding flesh to eat and there is no possible way in which he can satisfy this desire. We continue at verse 16:

16. And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
17. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
18. And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
19. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days
20. But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
21. And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
22. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?
23. And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.
24. And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
25. And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
26. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
27. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
28. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
29. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!
30. And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

We shall only attempt to cover God's answer to the first part of Moses' prayer today, and leave the rest for the following study.

Here the New Bible Commentary, under the heading "c. God's twofold answer to Moses' prayer (xi. 16-35)" states "God took up each element of the prayer in turn. First, He dealt with Moses' need of help, telling him to gather seventy leaders of Israel, and promising that He would put His spirit upon them so that they might take over part of Moses' responsibility." After a reference to the people's request, The Commentary continues: "Moses went out and gathered the seventy men as God had directed (24). Evidently he was thoroughly familiar with the abilities of the various leaders of the people and had worked with them in many ways. This was not a sudden gathering of help, but a wonderful outpouring of God's power so as to enable these seventy elders to give Moses the assistance he needed. As they stood around the tabernacle, God's Spirit rested upon them. They prophesied, and did not cease (25). In verses 26-29 we have an interesting parenthetical event. Two of these selected assistants were detained in the camp for some reason, yet when the Spirit of God rested upon the others He came upon them also, and they prophesied in the camp. When the news of this reached Joshua, the servant of Moses, he felt envy for his master's reputation. What would the people think if they found these two men assuming such leadership as had previously been restricted to Moses? In Moses' answer we see the greatness of the man. He did not envy others who might rise to positions of supremacy. His whole desire was that the work of God should go forward. He said, 'Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!' (29). What an example for each of us, if God puts us in a position of leadership in Christian service! It is so easy to become jealous as a new man advances."

We shall continue this study next week.

12 July, 1998

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny to the scene after they encamped at Mount Sinai, where the Tribes of the children of Israel were gathered to become a formal tribal nation. Now they have left the holy mountain as, under the direction of Moses, they have been given the orders to break camp and proceed towards Canaan. All was done under the careful guidance of The Almighty God hidden within the pillar of cloud and fire which located His presence with the people.

As we said on the last study, Moses was greatly distressed by two things, and we took up the first of these, namely the matter of the heavy burden of leadership which had devolved upon the shoulders of the aged Moses alone, and the second was the demand from the people for a change in their daily diet. Wearying of the manna which God supplied, they had demanded flesh to eat. Numbers 10:18-23 records Moses' answer given from God:

18. And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
19. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days 20. But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
21. And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
22. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?
23. And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.

There were, then, two parts to Moses' prayer at this time, and we saw how The Almighty God had provided an answer to the first part of Moses' prayer in our last study, with God's direction to Moses that he make appointment of seventy elders to assist him. God had apportioned His Holy Spirit to these leaders among the tribes also, so that Moses would not have to bear the burdens imposed on him alone.

Part of the note on this Scripture passage of Numbers 10, which is found in The New Bible Commentary on this passage states: "Next, God dealt with the second element of Moses' request, promising that the desire of the people would be satisfied. In fact He declared it would be so fully satisfied that they would be utterly satiated with meat (18-20). Moses' faith was severely strained by this statement of God (21, 22). The nation contained 600,000 men. If God were to gather all the fish of the sea and to kill all the flocks and herds, how would even this suffice to fulfil such a promise? In verse 23 God answered this objection. He did not attempt to describe the means that He would use. He simply pointed to His own great power, and declared that Moses would see the promise fulfilled."

Numbers 10:31-35 describes the complete fulfilment of God's unbelievable promise to supply more meat than the people could possibly consume.

31. And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
32. And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
33. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.
34. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.
35. And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

As I read that passage, I was led to a meditative consideration of the numbers of times on which The Almighty God has used the natural elements of His creation for a specific purpose. We might just consider the natural forces which came into play as the Children of Israel were apparently caught between the hills, the Red Sea, and Pharaoh's chariots, or of the wind, earthquake and fire which contrasted with that still small voice of God which Elijah heard following those powerful displays of nature when, in I Kings 19, Elijah was feeling so downhearted at his lonely circumstance that he went all the way to Horeb to appeal to God for His release from the terrible responsibilities which had descended upon him. I think of the storm on the Sea of Galilee when the waves were about to capsize the small boat containing Christ's disciples, and how He made all nature bow to Himself by a word. I can think, in more recent history, of the storm which broke the Spanish Armada when the intended purpose of that menace was the subjugation of England, and also of the great rainstorm which mired Napoleon's artillery before the Battle of Waterloo. I am put in mind of the three days of great calm over the normally choppy channel which allowed so many of Britain's troops to come to Britain's shore from Dunkirk, during World War II. I further thought on the relationship of God's protection, through such events, to the conduct of His avowed nation which serves Him. However, the relationship can especially become most uneasy for a segment of the nation of God's espoused wife, Israel, that neglects her responsibility, defined in the great marriage contract of Sinai.

The New Bible Commentary makes the following notes on this scripture. It states: "The Lord sent a great wind which brought tremendous numbers of quails around the camp so that the people had only to go out and strike them down. This was very easy to do, as they flew about two cubits above the ground, almost blinded by the great wind that drove them inland. These quails are a type of partridge, about 7 1/2 inches long, generally brown in colour. They migrate twice a year, arriving in Palestine in great numbers in March, and coming southward again in the autumn. Occasionally, when the wind changes its course, or the birds become exhausted from the long flight, the entire flock will fall to the ground. Sometimes as a result they are captured in great quantities on the coasts or islands of the Mediterranean Sea. A similar event at an earlier time in the wilderness journey is described in Ex. xvi. The Israelites ate the birds uncooked. Those which they could not eat at once they spread around the camp, in order to dry them in the sun (32). Ps. lxxviii. 26-31 gives a poetic description of this event. Soon God's wrath was poured out upon the people for their lust (33). He gave them their desire to the full, but it was not what they needed. The result was plague and sickness and misery. sometimes, if we insist, God will give us our own way in life, but in the end we would be far better off if we sought God's will instead of our own. Cf. Ps. cvi. 13-15. The place where this occurred was given the appropriate name, Kibroth-hattaavah, 'graves of lust', because many died there as a result of their fleshly appetites (34). with verse 35 cf. xii. 16, where another stage in the progress of the journey is noted."

An important aspect of this episode which, I believe, may be passed over in the concentration upon Israel's sin, and the punishment aspect of God's answer to their cravings, is this: God knew what even Moses, the esteemed Prophet of The LORD did not know. He knew that the required fresh meat was available, and it only required the wind to deliver it on the wing, so to speak. One might almost call it "Special Delivery by Air Mail" in today's context!

We have now seen what happens when there is complaining initiated even in the outermost extremity of the camp of God's people. We have seen this spirit of complaint and with that, doubt, spread from the perimeter of the nation inward, towards the midst of God's people. Where do you suppose such a spirit of doubt, irritation and incipient rebellion may come next? It will, indeed, infect those who are ready to complain wherever the rumour circulates, and as the whole camp is under some strain due to the rather arid circumstances, things could become even more nasty than we have seen so far. What eventuates in our Scripture passage for the next study will give us further food for thought on such matters.

We, of the British-Israel-World Federation, sustain the position, on good evidence, that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of our own generation form the main body of literal descent from those Israelites of Sinai, and that the God of Sinai is also the Christ of the First Advent and of the prophesied Second Advent. He is a God Who fully accords to His promises in every respect fulfilling, against every natural expectation and projection of the secularly minded, the sum total of all that He has in answer to prayers of His people. The signs which were established by The Almighty for those who are to be watching for His return are upon us now, and we would not be fulfilling our task if we did not make that clear to those who are willing to listen.

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