|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #107, 108 and 109|
5 December, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
On this series of Bible Studies, we are following the unfolding course of events as Almighty God brings forward His Plan for the regeneration of His Creation. The Scriptural account has led us through the call of Abram and the birth of Isaac, the miracle child of his old age. Isaac's son, Jacob, had followed, and his large family, thus founding whole tribes of descendants; indeed, a people to act as God's instrument in the fulfilling of that purpose.
Those who descended from Jacob, the man whose name was changed to Israel, were thus called the children of Israel and as we have followed the Biblical account, we have seen how they were led into Egypt to undergo the bondage experience in that land of which The Almighty had spoken to Abraham.
One apparent reason for this experience can be found in a law which we shall examine shortly. In Exodus 23:9, we read "Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." Exodus 22:21 states "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." Today, we, of the British-Israel-World Federation believe that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples are modern descendants of those tribes; a belief which is evidenced in the fact that King Alfred the Great, when translating and adapting the Mosaic laws to be instituted for use by his Saxon subjects, included those explanatory words concerning Egypt which would otherwise form a most inappropriate extension to his Saxon law.
Incidentally, I recall that many years ago I photographed two gold buttons in a British museum which were labelled as having been found at a Saxon archaeological site. The thing which interested me at the time was that the design occupying the surface of each button was a six-pointed star.
Before God could use Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses himself had to enter that wilderness, there to receive the lessons which life in those harsh circumstances would provide. Presently we are following the account of Moses leading the children of Israel as they, in their turn, emerge into the wilderness of Sinai. At this point in the Scriptures, they are learning some of those lessons which Moses, himself, had to learn years before.
These Israelites had short memories, it seems, for having expressed jubilation at the drowning of the enemy army in the Red Sea, they had soon afterwards grown angry at Marah where the water supply was bitter. They had seen that water made sweet by a tree which God told Moses to cast into it. Upon removing from Elim, they had complained of a lack of food, and God had, in response to their cry, sent quails and manna. Having received God's mercy, one might think that they would have at least begun to learn to trust Him, but that had not happened. Let us pick up today's Bible passage at Exodus 17:1. I shall insert comments as we read.
1. And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.
A later review of this experience is found in Numbers 33:12-14 and it gives a more complete account of the encampments at this period. From that listing we can see that the Exodus account before us has been slightly abbreviated. When we consult the later account in Numbers, we find the more complete itinerary of Israel thus:
12. And took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah.
13. And they departed from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush.
14. And they removed from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink."
The Companion Bible notes the meaning of the name Rephidim as "reclining places", while Young's Concordance gives the translation as "plains". We continue at verse 2:
2. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?
3. And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
4. And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.
The lack of trust, which we see here, may be slightly better understood if we admit that, were we a part of that company, commencing a journey out from the fruitful deltaic land of Goshen and into an unfamiliar parched rocky desert land, without knowing of a certainty the end of the story, so to speak, we also might yet, at this stage, have tended to distrust the leadership ability of an eighty-year-old shepherd, in spite of the evident presence of his God among us. Let us see how the God of their fathers met their present complaint.
5. And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.
6. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
7. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?
According to Young's Concordance, The meaning of the word "Massah" is "trial, temptation", and Meribah is "strife, contention." For those who may be interested, the Jewish historian, Josephus, gives his account of this same experience at Rephidim in his "Antiquities Of The Jews", Book III, Chapter 1, Item 7.
Although I don't find a great deal of time to pursue it these days, one of my many interests, as my friends will tell you, is that of painting in oils and watercolours. I have a particular interest in rendering my impressions of Biblical scenes, and I find that the practice of preparing such paintings can enhance one's understanding of Biblical accounts because it pushes one to seek out those little archaeological details which the written word leaves to be filled in by the imagination of a reader, but which the canvass must somehow represent or remain blank!
One of my oil paintings, titled "The Smitten Rock", records my artistic impression of the scene described in today's Scripture passage, and it, along with a few others, is included in a booklet about the history of Jacob's Pillow Stone, written by Mrs. Eleanor Russell, and entitled "That Rock Was Christ". That booklet, incidentally, is handled by our British-Israel bookrooms in Toronto and Vancouver.
The Rock which was smitten by Moses was, indeed, in all probability, Jacob's Pillow Stone, for had not Jacob, in Genesis 49:24, left that very Stone of Bethel in the care of his favourite son, Joseph and his descendants? The blessing upon Joseph in that verse includes the words "from thence is the shepherd, the Stone of Israel." Thus, the Bethel Stone, in spite of its weight, must have been carried down to Egypt with Jacob, and now, generations later, it must be accompanying the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings as they are led towards the Promised Land.
Psalm 105:41 says "He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river." Assuming the translators of the AV did their work carefully, the "rock" in this verse is singular, the "places", plural. There is reason to believe that the smitten rock, from which water issued forth "in dry places", travelled with the Israelites. It symbolised Christ who was to die only once for the sins of the people and thus it was not supposed to be smitten twice. Doing so again, later at Kadesh, (Numbers 20:11) formed the sin of breaking the symbolic "type" to "antitype", and for this, Moses was refused permission to enter the Promised Land. The rock had to be transported from one locality to the other, or there would exist no such symbolic "type".
Before we close, there are some very significant New Testament passages which bear upon this subject. St. Paul makes reference to this event in I Corinthians 10:4, where he writes of "that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." We should remember that the word, "Christ" means "anointed", and Jacob had indeed anointed the Bethel Stone as we read in Genesis 28:18. The God of Israel had stood upon that Rock, identifying Himself with it in symbol as it was struck by Moses. Jesus had claimed the same name as that of this God called Yahweh (Jehovah) at Horeb and Sinai, in using the name I AM (John 8:58). Thus we may see the connection intended herein.
There is a most fascinating sequel in John 4:4-30; the account of Jesus sitting on Jacob's Well in Samaria, and stating that He is the source of the water of life. Although we cannot read the whole passage, some verses will give the sense of this connection.
4. And he (Jesus) must needs go through Samaria.
5. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
7. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
If we have correctly identified the Rock in Horeb, we might note that in both cases, the water supply would be from a stone source connected with Jacob. Just as the God of Israel stood upon the Rock in Horeb, so Christ sits upon Jacob's well. In both cases, then, this same Deity provides water to quench the thirst of the needy; the one physical, the other, spiritual. (Even the cattle received water in the desert.)
May this same "living water" quench our thirst as we continue to look for the soon-coming of Our Lord. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
12 December, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In our recent Bible Studies, we have been following the course of events recorded in the earlier chapters of the Book of Exodus. The children of Israel have been led forth, out of their Egyptian bondage into the harsh independence of life in their wilderness journey, on their way towards the Promised Land. Moses had, under the providential guidance of The Almighty, been given years of training and experience in preparation for his responsibility, for the task of ordering a mass exodus of this size would be immense, and lives would be endangered should things not go according to directions.
Still unsure in their trust towards God, and towards Moses despite their miraculous preservation through the recent apparent impasses, the Israelites are all too ready to complain at any appearance of difficulty, and to allow highly selective memories of their past life in Egypt to make most favourable comparison with their present lot. What they had left behind in Egypt was bondage of a most cruel oppression. What they remembered was the simple foods which came to hand there. How quickly they forgot the oppression of a former day when confronted by the present challenges!
However, I feel sure that if we are honest, we may well call to mind some events in our own past lives which were terribly stress-filled when we were living through them, but of which the harshest aspects are now viewed with more tranquil mind. Fading memory casts a golden glow over a time which contained difficulties no longer actively imparting stress to us. Perhaps it is better that way.
In any event, we have arrived at Exodus 17:8-16. The Israelites have complained about lack of water to drink, and of food to eat. Now, having received water in full supply (Psalm 105:41 says "the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river"), they must face their first test of war against a cruel enemy. Indeed, the Companion Bible suggests in a note that Amalek came to fight for the water which Israel had just now miraculously received! What thoughts would Moses have as this new challenge arose? Let us read our Scripture passage. As usual, I propose to interject some comments as we go.
8. Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
9. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
To the name "Amalek", Young's Concordance assigns the meaning of "warlike, dweller in the vale." According to the New Bible Dictionary, "Amalek... was the son of Eliphaz and the grandson of Esau... The name is used as a collective noun for his descendants, Amalekites... Some writers distinguish the nomadic Amalekites normally found in the Negeb and Sinai area, from the descendants of Esau, because Gn. xiv.7, which pre-dates Esau, refers to `the country of the Amalekites'... The distinction is unnecessary if we regard the phrase as a later editorial description." That reference goes on to detail an account of some clashes between Amalek and Israel; Amalek frequently being in alliance with some other enemy. We shall have future cause to trace these encounters at appropriate points in our studies.
With regard to the strength of the forces under the leadership of Amalek, Keil and Delitzsch suggest that these descendants of Edom "had grown into a powerful nation through the subjugation and incorporation of the earlier population of Mount Seir." They continue their comments, noting that a relatively better watered upland at certain times of year near Sinai, might attract such nomadic peoples.
The New Bible Commentary contains the suggestion that this war occurred "Probably as a divine punishment upon their murmurings." That reference points out that Amalek was "a nomadic tribe living mainly in the desert south-west of Palestine and especially hostile to Israel. They first attacked the stragglers at the rear of the host..." Of Joshua, it adds that "His original name was Hoshea (salvation) and was called Jehoshua (Jehovah is salvation) by Moses (Nu. xiii.16)." Of the words "Choose us out men", the Commentary continues by pointing out that picked soldiers fought better than an unwieldy host.
10. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Hur, according to both Young's Concordance and The New Bible Dictionary, means "`free', `noble'". He was "A prominent Israelite... who helped Aaron to judge the people while Moses went up into Mt. Sinai." The Concordance adds "The Jewish tradition is that he was the husband of Miriam and the grandfather of Bezaleel." The New Bible Commentary explains that Hur was "A descendant of Judah through Pharez and Hezron and the grandfather of the craftsman, Bezaleel."
11. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
12. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
13. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
14. And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
15. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:
16. For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
The parallel account in the non-Biblical Book of Jasher yields scarcely more than what we find in our Scriptural account, while Josephus uses two pages to cover the event, giving much attention to the motives and instructions which drew each of the contending forces to the battle. Josephus' appraisal of Joshua's qualities is set forth in these words: "one that was of great courage, and patient to undergo labours; of great abilities to understand, and to speak what was proper; and very serious in the worship of God; and indeed made like another Moses, a teacher of piety towards God."
Josephus continues with some explanation of the various exhortations given and the course of the battle which appears to have ended, after some precarious occasions, in a total defeat of Amalek, and the reaping of much booty and weaponry by the Israelites who also gained the benefit of self confidence in battle, and of renown among other potential enemies by this encounter.
All the commentaries have something to add concerning the meaning to be attached to Moses' upraised hands. Some have suggested that the stone upon which Moses sat to rest during his prayers at this time of extreme emergency in the nation was the same Bethel Stone which held such a prominent place all through the history of God's promises and their outworking among His people. In Aaron and Hur we see the representatives of Sanctuary and State, uniting with the Prophet to plead the national cause before The Almighty.
Of Moses' upraised hands, Keil and Delitzsch explain: "To understand the meaning of this sign, it must be borne in mind that, although ver. 11 merely speaks of the raising and dropping of the hand (in the singular), yet, according to ver. 12, both hands were supported by Aaron and Hur, who stood one on either side, so that Moses did not hold up his hands alternately, but grasped the staff with both his hands, and held it up with the two." They continue by adding that "The lifting up of the hands has been regarded almost with unvarying unanimity... as the sign or attitude of prayer." It was a sign towards God, not to the Israelites in the battle below.
The victory was recorded in "the book" for a memorial for God would continue this battle "from generation to generation", and an altar which thus marked the event by that memorial with the name "Jehovah-nissi", which means "Jehovah my banner."
The New Bible Commentary suggests of this name that "Probably there is no reference to the `rod of God' as a banner in the hand of Moses. The Lord Himself, as their captain and deliverer, was their banner."
May that banner be ours as we continue our service to Him in the days ahead. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
19 December, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In this present series of Bible Studies, we have been tracing the Scriptural record of The Great Plan which Almighty God has instituted for the re-generation of His Creation, in order to counter the deadly effects which were emanating from the Adamic Fall.
This study has now brought us through the selection of a line of Patriarchs, the birth and development of the tribal families of Israel in Egypt, and the emergence of the whole people in the Exodus.
Upon Moses, now eighty years of age, has fallen the responsibility for ordering the emergence of the whole nation of Israelites into a new life under Yahweh (Jehovah), their God. This will consist, not only in their physical removal from one land to another, but also, and of far greater importance, in their empowerment as free people, independently taking decisions and incurring the responsibility for those decisions and for their actions in ways which their previous life of bondage would have totally inhibited.
Moses has seen the court of Egypt wherein he had received his training during his first forty years of life, and later, another forty years had been occupied learning the hard existence of wilderness life as a shepherd. As Luke, the Gospel writer, would later explain of this matter, when recording the spoken testimony of Stephen in Acts 7:22: "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." Thus Moses is now equipped as no other person of his time would have been for the great task to which he has now been called.
All those years of toil, of success, of mistakes and of humility in isolation and the development of new relationships which together had formed his life to this point were now being put to excellent use in the service of The Almighty. Moses would not likely have seen, or even imagined it all at the time, but even his apparent failures were necessary parts of God's Plan. The defence of a fellow Hebrew which had caused his flight from the delights of Egypt would no doubt have seemed quite a disaster at the time. Perhaps we might even suggest that such failures may form irritants to one with the heart to serve God, and thus they actually motivate one in the advancement of God's ultimate purposes.
God does not make mistakes, and Moses has been selected and prepared to accomplish God's will. He has led the nation through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and interceded for them in obtaining water and food. He has, though weary, sustained them in that first battle against Amalek, his hands held up by Aaron and Hur in the physical attitude of supplication to God while the battle continued in the plain below.
Now we find that, at eighty years of age, his frame is being driven to exhaustion by the steady demands of organization and the rendering of judgments before the people. How will God move to sustain His servant at this point?
Let us pick up today's Bible reading at Exodus 18:1.
1. When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt;
2. Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back,
3. And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:
4. And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:
5. And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:
The Companion Bible notes of Jethro that he was "Probably a descendant of Abraham by Keturah, and not, therefore, an idolator." Here, we find that Moses' family, Zipporah, Gershom and Eliezer, whom he had left to return to Jethro's camp when he passed on into Egypt to bring God's signs and wonders to that land and force Pharaoh to let the people go, is brought to him again by his father-in-law. No doubt the sustenance of these members of his own household will have been of comfort to him. Sometimes we need the particular strength of someone close, who will assist us to maintain our course of activity when we are tiring. The physical weariness of our life's journey may cry out for some changes to be made. Moses had previously the presence of his brother, Aaron, and his sister, Miriam, but now Moses' wife and sons, by their companionship, would have added a measure of new energy to his existence. There is now recorded one of those small touching human-interest insertions in the Scriptural account which so endearingly draw the reader into the story.
6. And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.
7. And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.
I find it worthy of comment that, with all the great promises and mighty deeds which had to be recorded in our Holy Scriptures, God does not omit finding place for some of those touching reminders of close family intimacy in sentences such as that which we have just read. It reminds me of Rebekah's first sight of her future husband, Isaac (Genesis 24:64-67), of Jacob's first sight of Rachel in Genesis 29:11, and of Joseph's emotion at seeing his brother, Benjamin in Genesis 43:29-30. I think of the young widow, Ruth caring enough for her mother-in-law to devote herself to a whole new life, and of so many such incidents in the life of Jesus and, indeed, throughout the entirety of God's Word. Truly, our Bible records many seemingly common-place, personal events which are eventually seen to have mighty historic consequences.
8. And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them.
9. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.
10. And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.
12. And Jethro, Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God.
What is the outcome of this small incident in the confluence of a few lives so seemingly transient in time, so long ago, so far away from our present world? Well, for one thing, we find the incident explained in the non-Biblical Book of Jasher thus in Chapter LXXXII:2-5:
2. At that time came Reuel the Midianite, the father in law of Moses, with Zipporah his daughter and her two sons, for he had heard of the wonders of the Lord which he had done to Israel, that he had delivered them from the hand of Egypt.
3. And Reuel came to Moses to the wilderness where he was encamped, where was the mountain of God.
4. And Moses went forth to meet his father in law with great honor, and all Israel was with him.
5. And Reuel and his children remained amongst the Israelites for many days, and Reuel knew the Lord from that day forward.
So this small encounter marked the beginning of Reuel's acceptance of the God of Israel as his own personal God also, and that of his people. Let us continue.
13. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.
14. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?
15. And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:
16. When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
17. And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
18. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Jethro was a prince among his own people, and knew the requirements of a leader from personal experience. Sometimes we need someone else who has wisdom and experience to give us a fresh look at our circumstance from another perspective. The advice now rendered contains words of great value to our own national existence today. How much trouble we might have avoided had we continued in the wisdom herein put forward to Moses by his father-in-law! Jethro continues:
19. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:
20. And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
21. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
22. And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.
23. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.
24. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.
25. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
26. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
27. And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.
There we have the problem of leadership revealed. We are to choose "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" alone to become rulers of the nation. Here is wisdom. The leaders of our nations today must be judged against that very same standard. How do they measure up, do you think, in the estimation of The Almighty God? Is this the missing ingredient in our national life today? Perhaps the old Bible has some worthwhile answers to current problems after all! Think it over. We shall continue our studies on future broadcasts.
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