|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #83, 84 and 85|
20 June, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
On our recent programmes we have been following the course of God's Great Plan as God prepared His people of Israel, then existing in bondage under Pharaoh in the land of Egypt, for an Exodus out of their predicament. On our last programme, I closed with Exodus 6:13, pointing out as I did so that the succeeding passage of scripture, Exodus 6:14-27, relates to a single topic, and thus the whole of this passage ought to be kept together for treatment in today's study.
As the Scripture now moves to considers certain genealogical records a few words of explanation may assist us to understand what is being presented. From time to time through the Biblical record, at points where it becomes significant to consider the racial background, or the tribal kinship or status of some person or group, the Bible inserts a listing of that person's, or that group's ancestry and relationships to others of the line which God chose to use in the preparation of His Kingdom.
To people who do not realise how important God considered these matters and how they relate to His Great Plan, such genealogical passages often seem to be quite meaningless and dry; useless ancient history of no consequence to today's world. Consequently, many superficial Bible studies skip such passages as if they were digressions, significant only to the ancient families concerned. This is not so. God did not place meaningless segments in His holy word. All of the Biblical record can yield insights for those who are intelligent and perceptive.
As usual, I shall read the Biblical passage and, where I believe it may be useful, I shall pause to interject my own comments or those of recognized commentaries. We begin at Exodus 6:14.
14. These be the heads of their fathers' houses: The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel; Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi: these be the families of Reuben.
15. And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman: these are the families of Simeon.
As noted by Keil and Delitzsch, those "father's-houses" were "the larger divisions into which the families (mishpachoth), the largest subdivisions of the tribes of Israel, were grouped. To show clearly the genealogical position of Levi, the tribe-father of Moses and Aaron, among the sons of Jacob, the genealogy commences with Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, and gives the names of such of his sons and those of Simeon as were the founders of families... ."
We ought to note that Shaul, one of the sons of Simeon, is specifically identified in the record as the son of a Canaanitish woman, (as was Judah's son, Shelah in Genesis 38:2-4). Though the religious observances of Shaul's descendants might well appear to be the same as those of the rest of the descendants of Israel, such notations demonstrate that if one's Israelitish ancestry was thus adulterated, the dilution by such infusion was considered significant. Such mixed racial descent must have been considered a source of tribal vulnerability, and consequently it would be viewed as a blemish which would later become significant where appointments to stations of tribal leadership were made.
Possibly such early fragments of tribal miscegenation were, indeed, the "thin edge of the enemy's wedge", laying the groundwork for subsequent religious corruption. To this inter-racial source we can assign the blame for a tendency, on the part of the descendants of such unions, to sympathise with the corrupted Canaanitish occupants of Palestine. This would, in turn, account for the subsequent failure to drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land, and, in later centuries, the consequent almost total diversion of Israel's own former religious commitment to Yahweh, the God of Israel, and thus the loss of the benefits of God's perfect Law to the nation.
Perhaps, then, we may the better appreciate God's stern directives against such apparently harmless crossing of racial lines if we try to view this matter as The Almighty God must do it, relating such apparently harmless racial crossing as the first step which pre-disposes the descendants of such unions to the long term result of religious mergers with God's enemies. Clear and explicit warning against that result is, indeed, specifically stated in God's word by Moses in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and again by Joshua in Joshua 23:12-13.
Now let us continue our reading, picking up at verse 16 as Moses' ancestry is traced. Levi's three sons are named, and the descendants of each of these three sons are given in three following verses.
16. And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years.
17. The sons of Gershon; Libni, and Shimi, according to their families.
18. And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years.
19. And the sons of Merari; Mahali and Mushi: these are the families of Levi according to their generations.
20. And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.
As a descendant of Kohath, the Amram named in verse 20 who took Jochebed to wife, is one of particular interest because he is a progenitor of Aaron and Moses, so Kohath's sons are listed. However, I must insert here a note of explanation. As shown by Keil and Delitzsch, this Amram cannot be of the same generation as the Amram of the previous verses although bearing the name of that forefather.
They explain that a comparison with Numbers 3:27-28 will show that the Kohathites of Moses' time were divided into four branches and totalled some 8600 men and boys, not including women and girls. Thus the branch belonging to the earlier Amram would have about one quarter, or 2150 men by that generation.
They further reason that, according to Exodus 18:3-4, Moses himself had only two sons. Thus, "if Amram the son of Kohath, and tribe-father of the Amramites, was the same person as Amram the father of Moses, Moses must have had 2147 brothers and brothers' sons (the brothers' daughters, the sisters, and their daughters not being reckoned at all). But as this is absolutely impossible, it must be granted that Amram the son of Kohath was not the father of Moses, and that an indefinitely long list of generations has been omitted between the former and his descendant of the same name." We return to Kohath's sons, picking up the account again at verse 21.
21. And the sons of Izhar; Korah, and Nepheg, and Zichri.
22. And the sons of Uzziel; Mishael, and Elzaphan, and Zithri.
Aaron's descendants are detailed next, and as they will include the priestly divisions of Israel, we may later have reason to review some of them:
23. And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
Keil and Delitzsch note that "Aaron's wife Elisheba was of the princely tribe of Judah, and her brother Naashon was a tribe-prince of Judah (cf. Num. ii.3)." Thus we see here an early connection of the Levitical priesthood with the Royal Tribe which later provided the Monarchy. The record next adds the remaining genealogical connection of near relatives descended from Korah for later, in the wilderness, they were to lead a serious revolt against Moses and Aaron as explained in Numbers 16, 17 and 26:10-11.
24. And the sons of Korah; Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph: these are the families of the Korhites.
Now a prominent descendant of Aaron is mentioned.
25. And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him Phinehas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families.
Phinehas was a priest noted for zeal in cleansing the nation of corruption, and his outstanding service to God is mentioned in Numbers, Joshua, Judges, I Chronicles, Ezra and also one of the Psalms. Our passage concludes with the assurance of verses 26-27 in which the concluding line of genealogy lists Aaron first by age, but the summary verse lists Moses first as God's chosen leader of Israel:
26. These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom the LORD said, Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.
27. These are they which spake to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron.
Moses' own sons are not mentioned as they do not figure very prominently in subsequent affairs. However, the genealogy of the Patriarchal families is diagrammed in the Companion Bible Appendix 29, and a note appended to the name of Moses' son, Gershom refers us to a descendant called Jonathan, mentioned in Judges 18:30. He, as priest, shamefully officiated at a graven image set up at Laish and worshipped by the Tribe of Dan. The Companion Bible note at Judges 18:30 explains that where the record reads "Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh" the latter name is probably a reference to Moses because the "nun" in the name is half above the line, and the R.V. follows early codices which have "Moses" where others have "Manasseh".
This leads me to ask if the circumcision of Gershom was done according to God's direction. Zipporah did it when Moses was accosted by Yahweh on the road back to Egypt. I wonder if she was sent back to her father's tribe with Gershom at the time when Moses continued on into Egypt. If so, Gershom did not pass through the Exodus experience. Exodus 18:1-5 and the non-Biblical Book of Jasher, Chapter LXXXII:2-5 both state that Reuel, Zipporah and Moses' two sons rejoined him in the wilderness. Jasher adds that Reuel knew the Lord from that day forward, a comment which parallels the meaning of Exodus 18:11.
As our time is about up, let me leave some meditations with you. The prominence of Genealogies in the Scriptural account of the history of ancient Israel shows us that God considered these to be important to His people of subsequent generations who would need to trace the roots of their tribes. We should not overlook them in our own studies.
In Malachi 4:4-6 we read the final words of the Old Testament Scriptures: "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Turning of the parents to the children and the children to the parents as was Elijah's task at his second appearance surely means the turning of the descendants of Israel to their racial roots in Abraham and Sarah, and also the readiness of parents to convey knowledge of these roots to their children in our own time. We believe that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples today are the main body of that Israel. We of the British-Israel-World Federation therefore seek thus to inform our own folk of their Israelitish ancestry and obligations.
27 June, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
On our recent programmes we have been following the course of God's Great Plan as He made preparation to lead His people of Israel, then existing in bondage under Pharaoh in the land of Egypt, through an Exodus experience out of their predicament. On our last programme, I closed with Exodus 6:27, pointing out as I did so that the importance of scriptural genealogies should not be missed by Bible students.
I am well aware that Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 3:9, the words: "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." However, this verse should be set in context. As he led into the start of that chapter, Paul was advising Titus concerning situations described in the following words: "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men..."
Paul proceeds to explain that we are saved by grace, not works, but that good works should be cultivated. It is in this context that contentions are to be avoided. He says "A man that is an heritick after the first and second admonition reject..." In other words, Paul is telling Titus to speak with authority, and not to allow contentious objectors to interfere with his message.
As The New Bible Commentary explains concerning this passage: "A `heretical' man...is primarily one who causes divisions, i.e. `factious'... This he does by `choosing on his own' (the root idea) to depart from the truth and to follow and propagate different teaching. So `heretical' comes to mean `holding false doctrine'. But note the fundamental references of the word, first to the moral cause, self-will, and then to the evil consequence, division. Such a man needs not argument but admonition."
Thus, we see that it is not the genealogies themselves which are "foolish", but the contentious arguments which sometimes arose concerning them. The New Bible Dictionary, under the item "Genealogy", in reference to these words of Paul, says "It is possible that in speaking of these Paul had in mind either the sort of mythical histories based on the Old Testament which are found in Jewish apocryphal books such as the Book of Jubilees, or else the family-trees of aeons found in gnostic literature. They obviously do not refer to the genealogies of the Old Testament."
In our last study, we were examining those genealogical records of Exodus 6:14-27 which outline the descent of the Levitical and priestly families in Israel. At that time I was not able to address one matter which I think important, in light of much that is carelessly put about concerning it.
Indeed, it may even surprise some who have never carefully examined the Scriptural record of the genealogies of ancient Israel, when I point out that none of these Israelites in the time of Moses is called a "Jew". The term "Jew" does not appear in the Scriptures until its first appearances in II Kings 16:6 where the Jews are at war against Israel, Jeremiah 34:9 as Jeremiah conveyed God's word to King Zedekiah and Isaiah 36:11 and 13 where the Assyrians are besetting Jerusalem.
Even those early Scriptural appearances of the term may be questionable translations in light of the words of Josephus, the Jewish historian who wrote in the first century, A.D., concerning the return of tribesmen (essentially of Judah, Benjamin and Levi) from the Babylonian Captivity to build the Wall of Jerusalem and to finish the Second Temple. Josephus says, in Book XI, Ch. V, Sec. 7 "So the Jews prepared for the work: that is the name they are called by from the day that they came up from Babylon, which is taken from the tribe of Judah, which came first to these places, and thence both they and the country gained that appellation." Young's Concordance notes of the term "Jew" that "Strictly speaking, the name is appropriate only to the subjects of the kingdom of the two tribes after the separation of the ten tribes, B.C. 975."
The problem is that the term "Jew" has through time developed into a term expressing more than one meaning. It has, in various times and circumstances, been applied widely or narrowly to matters pertaining to several distinct social areas. It may be seen as applying:
1. Genealogically to descent from a remnant (Babylonian returnees) of a remnant (Jerusalem escapees from Sennacherib's Assyrians whom Nebuchadnezzar later deported to Babylon) of the Tribe of Judah,
2. Nationally to a citizen of the two-tribed Southern Kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam after the Northern Tribes, under Jeroboam, revolted. That Southern Kingdom thus encompassed also most of Benjamin and a portion of Levi with perhaps a few families of other tribes in Israel which were moved to worship in Jerusalem,
3. Religiously to an adherent to Babylonian Talmudism, now termed Judaism,
4. Culturally to a widely distributed people holding a sense of identity as Jews through some partial amalgam of the above with further outside cultural inputs and mainly of totally alien genealogical derivation.
As the term "Jew" derives from the name of Judah, (one tribal Patriarch among thirteen), strictly speaking, it should not be applied genealogically to a descendant of any other tribe in Israel, even to those of the light-bearing tribe of Benjamin which joined Judah to form the Southern Kingdom of that name.
Moreover, as the term "Jew" was not applied generally until it was used of the remnant of Judah which returned from Babylon with some mixed marriages, it should not even be applied to all of the descendants of Judah. It actually only applied to those who were descendants of the families of Judahites preserved within the walls of Jerusalem in the days of King Hezekiah when Sennacherib the Assyrian swept all the rest of Israel as well as the rest of Judah into deportation. Isaiah 36:1 states "Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them."
Those of the fenced cities of Judah who were deported numbered 200,150 as shown by Sennacherib's Prism, now in the British Museum, and this happened about 713 B.C., over a hundred years before the remainder were taken to Babylon in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and later, of that remnant, a further remnant came back under Ezra and Nehemiah.
So although by genealogy true Jews descend from a very small portion of Judah, which was itself only one tribe in Israel, and nationally true Jews are essentially descendants of just the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, it is as incorrect to apply the term "Jews" where the term rightly is "Israelites", as to apply the term "Scots" where we mean "British", "Ontarian" for "Canadian", or "Californian" for "American". In spite of mis-informed preaching to the contrary, many of Israel were never Jews!
I feel it is important to point this out, because in our last Bible Study we have just finished examining the genealogical record of Levi, who was not a descendant of Judah, and hence not a Jew. Moses and Aaron were not Jews. As Aaron's wife was sister to a prince of Judah, some of the Levitical priesthood could claim a connection with the tribe whose name was later to find its way into the word "Jew" but for many generations afterwards, a Judahite was not necessarily, indeed statistically unlikely to become, a progenitor of Jews of a later time.
I realise that by so stating the facts, I shall possibly receive some communications from irate Christian Bible teachers who, having little regard for the precise distinctions, will berate me for my "ignorance." Before they do so, however, they ought to examine the facts of the case, for only a descendant of Judah whose personal genealogy traces through the return from Babylon can rightly lay claim to the name by reason of descent. The people of Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah, to whom the Assyrians unsuccessfully laid siege were the tribal stocks from whom the true Jews descend. That stock included only that remnant of Judah, Benjamin, some of Levi and perhaps a few families of other tribes that had filtered into the capital like the one from which descended Anna, the prophetess of the tribe of Asser, mentioned in Luke 2:36. Well known exchanges of correspondence from the Office of the Chief Rabbi in London, England in 1918 and again in 1950 confirm our position in this regard.
All the rest of Israel were deported Israelites, or in some cases Judahites, but certainly NOT JEWS. A certain ambiguity is thought by some to exist concerning the status of Jesus the Christ. Our Lord descended in the flesh through Mary from King David, who was a Judahite, and was born in David's City, Bethlehem. David's descendants were a portion of Judah which was separated from Judah as a separate entity called "House of David" before the term "Jew" was applied to the remainder. Thus He is not, strictly speaking, a "Jew" by genealogical lineage.
Nationally, He and His family were Galilaean, of the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, (Luke 23:5-7). John 7:1 distinguishes Galilee from "Jewry" (Greek "Ioudaia"). However, He is prophesied to be King of all Israel when He receives "the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:32), to "reign over the house of Jacob", which means all Israel, in conformity with which He is described as "King of the Jews" in Pilate's inscription.
Christ's doctrine was that of the Old Testament prophets, not that of the encrusted traditions of the elders (Mark 7:6-13) held by Scribes and Pharisees, which developed into Talmudism so He cannot be called a Jew by present religious definition.
I trust that these comments will have clarified certain of the terms which are used in Scripture. We shall leave the remainder of Exodus 6 for our next Bible Study.
4 July, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In this series of Bible Studies, we have been following the Biblical account of the Great Plan of Almighty God for the restoration of the Creation. This account has taken us from the Call of Abram through the subsequent portion of the Book of Genesis and on into the early chapters of Exodus. We have seen how first Abraham, then Isaac and Jacob have, in succession, received marvellous promises from God on behalf of their progeny as it subsequently developed into the Tribes of Israel.
We had followed their course as they came to Egypt under the care of Joseph, and later suffered the bondage of slavery under a new Pharaoh who "knew not Joseph." Now, Moses has been raised up by The Almighty, and by Yahweh's design received eighty years of training for the task of demanding that the King of Egypt release God's people and to provide them human leadership as the Sinai experience proceeded. Thus far, Pharaoh's heart has been unmoved, and we find the situation of those Israelites who are labouring to build Pharaoh's treasure cities apparently worse than before.
The title of today's talk is inspired by Psalm 105:27. Speaking of Moses and Aaron, the Psalmist says: "They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham." Today we take up the first of several studies which, as a group, are devoted to an analysis of those great signs and wonders which God is about to display in order to set His people free. I am initiating this series by a general commentary regarding the whole sequence of increasing pressure which leads to the Exodus. Then in the forthcoming studies I propose to follow this by an examination of each sign or plague in turn, and to point out some interesting possibilities connecting these to Israel's own tribal symbols. Finally we shall also consider the possible parallel pattern for that large body of the descendants of Israel, which we of the British-Israel-World Federation believe to be represented in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of our own time.
It has sometimes been suggested that the Biblical account of the Exodus was a later re-working from several sources. In reply we should observe, as does the British-Israel Bible Research Handbook, that "Careful examination of the miraculous manifestations which so frequently wrought deliverance for Israel, and of the known settings in which they took place, often shows that they were in detailed accordance with those settings and thus not impossible in themselves. Details supplied by the Bible account are sometimes so perfect and true to their background as almost to prove by this circumstance alone not only that the events recorded did indeed happen, but at what time they occurred. If the Old Testament miracles were merely fraudulent literary inventions compiled at a late date, as at times has been contended, it is inconceivable that their alleged forgers could have adhered so faithfully to the factual background. In this case of the miraculous plagues of Egypt, leading scholars in the realms of Biblical and archaeological study have expressed the view that the first nine of these recorded catastrophic events are in harmony with known occurrences."
Many commentaries and other references supply us with copious notes and insights on the subject of the Exodus, but, upon reviewing the subject in each of about ten or twelve such references, I have found that the main themes which emerge generally present a consistent account. Most frequently, these commentaries unite in presenting the concept that natural forces familiar to the Egyptian populace were taken in hand, so to speak, and used by Almighty God for all except the final in this sequence of plagues.
Thus, except for the last, each of the plagues in the ascending series could, according to these commentaries, have formed the basis for the development of the next, so natural processes might be construed as lying at the base of all but the final steps in the process of extracting Israel from the grip of Egyptian bondage.
The plagues by which pressure was increasingly exerted upon the reluctant Pharaoh might have arisen in the normal round of the year and in the normal sequence of nature. However, as these erstwhile familiar events were designed to pressure Pharaoh to have a change of heart, they must gradually increase to unfamiliar intensity and become more and more obviously supernatural in that their timing and un-natural severity must exactly accord to Moses' predictions and they must increasingly centre upon the Egyptian portion of the population alone as the months pass into the round of the year.
I might start with a brief overview, listing the outstanding sequence of events we are to examine. As Moses and Aaron approach their task we might mention that they gave warnings for some, but not for others of these events. The first nine generally recognized plagues fall, as Keil and Delitzsch point out, into three groups of three, in each triplet of which warnings were given in advance of the first two, but not the third. In each group, the first is announced in the morning, and as the first and fourth apply to the Nile, these are given at the bank of that river.
First there is the incident wherein Moses' rod becomes a snake, which devours those of Pharaoh's priests. This is followed in turn by the Nile waters turning to blood, the emergence of frogs, lice, flies, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and in a final mighty crisis, the transfer of wealth, the deaths of the firstborn in Egypt, the Passover meal and the Red Sea through which Israel passes but in which the pursuing Egyptians are drowned.
The New Bible Dictionary, under the entry "Plagues of Egypt" states: "After the sign of the rod that became a serpent and swallowed up those of the Egyptian magicians, which left Pharaoh unmoved, God's power was demonstrated to him and his people in a series of ten judgments. They were so applied as to portray clearly the reality and power of Israel's God, and thus by contrast the impotence of Egypt's gods. The first nine of these plagues bear a direct relation to natural Phenomena in the Nile valley, but the tenth, the death of the firstborn, belongs wholly to the realm of the supernatural.
These first nine plagues demonstrate the divine use of the created order to achieve His ends, and recent studies tend to confirm both the reality of what is described in Ex. vii-xii and the powers of accurate, first-hand observation of the narrator of this part of Exodus. The element of miracle in these plagues is usually bound up with their intensity, timing, and duration."
I ought to mention that in meditating upon this theme, I believe that we should also include the signs along with the plagues which are generally accepted, and we should not stop counting until Israel emerges into the relative safety of the Wilderness on the far shore of the Red Sea. Thus, I believe that we may discern, in fact, not just nine or ten, but actually thirteen steps in the process. My reasons will be given as we proceed. Let us begin by reading a portion of scripture taken from Exodus 6:28-30:
28. And it came to pass on the day when the LORD spake unto Moses in the land of Egypt,
29. That the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I am the LORD: speak thou unto Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say unto thee.
30. And Moses said before the LORD, Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?
Moses has already experienced rejection of God's order by Pharaoh, and he has returned to appeal to Yahweh, the God of Israel. However, on the first occasion, he did not perform any miraculous sign. Now, in Exodus 7, God replies.
1. And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
2. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.
3. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
4. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.
5. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
I should at this point interject some of the comments made by Keil and Delitzsch, who state: "According to chap. iv. 16, Moses was to be a god to Aaron; and in harmony with that, Aaron is here called the prophet of Moses, as being the person who would announce to Pharaoh the revelations of Moses. At the same time Moses was also made a god to Pharaoh; i.e. he was promised divine authority and power over Pharaoh, so that henceforth there was no more necessity for him to be afraid of the king of Egypt, but the latter, notwithstanding all resistance, would eventually bow before him. Moses was a god to Aaron as the revealer of the divine will, and to Pharaoh as the executor of that will."
God is not only about to release His people, but to reveal for all time His mighty power to break the strength of Pharaoh as an example of what He will do in future. Moreover, in verse 4, we see that Israel will emerge by armies; that is, according to their tribes, organized for defence, and, as Keil and Delitzsch proceed to explain, "to contend for the cause of the Lord, and fight the battles of Jehovah." We are about out of time, so we will just refer to the account of the first step in the miracle sequence, with a brief comment.
The first confrontation involves that sign of Moses' Rod being turned to become a snake when cast to the ground, which God first gave to Moses at the Burning Bush. The purpose of this miraculous sign was two-fold. One was to impress the Israelites, confirming that Yahweh, Israel's God, was indeed with Moses. The second, of course, was to establish the relative power of Yahweh against all the might that Pharaoh could muster. As it is classified as a sign, and not a plague, most commentaries ignore it when listing the plagues. However, God lists His mighty acts together as "signs and wonders", uniting these in one series, and I believe the reason for this will emerge as our studies continue.
On our next programme, we shall return to the Biblical account of the sign of the snake in order to examine the significance of this first sign in greater detail, and to pursue the sequence of events which follow it in the subsequent account.
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