Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Exodus 33 - 40

If you paid close attention to the scripture reading yesterday, in chapter 32, verse 1, when people gathered around Aaron and Hur, they referred to Moses as 'this fellow Moses' as if they don't know him anymore. Even though God told Moses about what was going on, at the foot of the mountain, Moses had to see the extend of their revelry firsthand - which made him rage with anger.

When Moses asked Aaron for an explanation, he blamed the people. We see Moses asking Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” For which Aaron responds, “Do not be angry, my lord, you know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Some of you who are on the tour are very bright and intelligent, and I can almost hear you asking, "What was Aaron's punishment for building the Golden Calf?"

Aaron had just returned from Mount Sinai after seeing the the footstool of God and eating and drinking with Him. He and Hur were supposed to take the place of Moses to resolve any dispute among them. When the mob approached and even killed Hur, Aaron was bit shocked. He did his best by delaying the building of the calf by asking people for gold - which he thought will take some time, especially since convincing women to part with their gold is not an easy task. He further postponed the party to the following morning, hoping Moses would arrive any moment. Typically in every culture, the banquet is held right after an event on the very same day - not the following day.

There is a story of a mischievous boy who wanted to destroy his father's house while his parents were away. At this time, he was under the guidance and care of his teacher. When he shared his thoughts with his teacher, the wise teacher said, "Let me join you in destroying the house." The two started chalking out elaborate plans. The teacher convinced the boy that the compound wall was the one that was guarding the house and they should begin their work with the perimeter of the compound wall. By now, the parents arrived and the teacher was asked for an explanation. When the father heard their objective, why the teacher sided with his son on such a mission, and how they began destroying the compound wall first, he did not punish the teacher - rather rewarded him.

Same logic here - God knew Aaron's intentions and helplessness and hence did not punish him. Aaron was made the high priest of Israelites.

Levites were the only tribe who did not partake in this calf worship. They have been staying loyal to God from their days at Egypt, without mixing with the Egyptian culture.

Idols and other gods
Let's pause for a moment before getting into today's tour, and talk about idol worship.

Ancient people worshiped many gods and goddesses, who were believed to oversee various aspects of their life such as weather, agriculture, warfare, etc. These divine beings were represented by statues, called idols. Their worship was closely related to the King of the land. Kings and queens were seen as intermediate persons between the people and gods. Their significance was so strong that people actually started worshiping the earthly rulers as gods themselves.

Here are some (of the many) gods of the ancient people:


An excavated idol of Baal

It means "master" or "lord". It can refer to any god or human official. In Canaan, it was the storm god - a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, which was of prime importance. Baal himself was killed later by Mot, who personified death. Baal's sister and consort, Anat, resurrected him. Anat was a warrior-goddess who went on to avenge Baal's murder by cleaving Mot with her sword, throwing his body into a fire, then grinding his bones and feeding the remains to the birds and animals of the fields. Baal and Anat were also said to have mated while in the guise of a bull and a cow. Baal was an important god to the Canaanites and was seen as a competitor with God for the affection of the Israelites.

Baal Zebub

An image of Beelzebub

It means "lord of flies". This was the name of a Philistine god. A variation of Baal Zebub is known as Beelzebub. In Christianity, he is referred to as another name for Devil - or Lucifer. Most of us are familiar with the passage in In Mark 3:22, where the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub, prince of demons.


Asherah figurine

An Asherah pole in Alexandria

Canaanites believed Asherah to be the mother of earth - the highest ranking female diety. She was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven. A pole known as 'Asherah pole' which was considered sacred, was placed next to altars of Baal. Those Israelites with Egyptian and Canaanite influence had these poles in their houses. When we get to 1 Kings, we will see Elijah challenging 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Further, when we get to Judges, we will see God asking Gideon to cut down the Asherah pole.


The half man half fish Dagon

A top god of the Philistines, depicted as half man and half fish. Similar to Baal, Dagon was the god of grain (symbol of fertility) and fish (symbol of multiplying). When we get to 1 Samuel, we will see the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant and placing it in the temple of Dagon.


Child sacrifice to Molech

A god worshiped by Canaanites, depicted as a man with the head of a bull. The followers of Molech practiced human sacrifice. They offered their first born children to be burned on an altar. In 1 Kings, we will see King Solomon building an altar for Molech.


Osiris being worshiped

The Egyptian god of underworld. Dead humans were taken in by Osiris. Apart from being a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, Osiris served as the underworld agency who granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River.


Apis, the sacred bull

In Egyptian mythology, Apis is a cow deity. Just how dead humans were assimilated to Osiris, a bull represented a king who became a deity after death. This was the image in which the Golden Calf was built while Moses was gone.

Idol worshipers built altars to their gods atop mountains or other high places to give an elevated status to gods. Since this was the practice, God instructed Moses not to build an altar on high places. Hence God gave all these specific details in building a Tabernacle and those instruments of worship - which differed from idol worshipers.

Now let us start today's portion of the guided tour at Exodus 33 - Just to be on track and to give you all a bit of breather, I am wrapping up the book of Exodus today.

Today’s passage opens up by God saying to Moses, to tell the people that they are on their way to the promised Land - a land flowing with milk and honey (see additional info). He would gradually drive out those people currently residing there. Next, He is sending an angel before them. The covenant made earlier with the Israelites has already been broken. Hence, God is not going with them. God says if He is with them He may destroy all of them out of anger, on the way itself. He calls them ‘stiff necked’, referring to them as stubbornly adhering to an attitude, opinion, and course of action. Further, He asks them to take off their jewelry and mourn for what they have done, until He decides what to do with them.

The Tent of Meeting
Here the tent of meeting refers to Tabernacle. It was pitched at a distance, away from the camp, just to show reverence to God. The passage describes how people reacted while Moses went to the tabernacle. Whenever he went in, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD talked with Moses. Notice that Joshua never left the tent - he was allowed to stay inside along with Moses - just like how he was allowed to stay on top of Mount Sinai. See more about Joshua in additional info 2.

One of the loveliest passages of the Bible is verse 11 - The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

Almost everyone has heard about God, but not everyone is in speaking terms with Him. Similar to the American president – we all have heard about him, but not every one of us is on talking terms with him.  God speaking as a friend – if anyone can crack that code on how to make God speak to you as a friend I would say, you are all set!

While speaking to God, during such a conversation, not a word is uttered – everything is done by the mind, which perceives the thought. The conversation between best friends is something one has to experience – it cannot be explained in words, as it envelopes feelings, intimacy, love, care, tenderness, delight, openness and revealing each other, attention, admiration, counsel, plus a multitude of other positive emotions.

Moses and the Glory of the Lord
Moses then approached the LORD, and asked Him to remember that the Israelites are His people. Moses wanted the LORD to teach Moses His ways, so that Moses can know God and continue to find favor with Him. Moses is also worried because God has told that He won't go with them. Moses wants to know who will, instead. God tells Moses that His “Presence” will go with them, and He will give them rest. Moses requests God to go with them. Finally, God tells Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Moses asked LORD to show him His Glory.

The glory of the Lord lies in his goodness - it appears in the works of his hands, and particularly in His pardoning grace and mercy. In other words, God is not just good - very very good. Rather, super duper good, that we call Holy.

However, as mortals, we cannot bear the goodness of God in our present form. One cannot see His face in it's entire glory and be alive because He is so bright. The full discovery of LORD is therefore reserved for a later state.

Like two best friends, LORD agreed to reveal part of Him to His best friend. LORD will pass His goodness in front of Moses, but He is going to hide Moses in a hole in a rock and cover the eyes of Moses with His hands, while passing by. The hole in the rock is believed to be a cave and a cloud covering the cave would act as God's Hands. Next, the glory of all His perfections, Wisdom, Holiness, Justice, Power, and Faithfulness, and especially His Grace, Mercy, and Goodness would pass outside the cave. Moses can only feel it's presence by being near it.

The New Stone Tablets
God asked Moses to hew (prepare) two stone tablets, similar to the one he received the first time. Moses was supposed to go up Mount Sinai once again to receive the commandments which he broke earlier.

When LORD came down in the cloud, Moses fell on the ground and he requests God to forgive their sins and take them as an inheritance.

“I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Pay attention to cutting down Asherah pole in verse 13.

When God says He is jealous, there is no other competitor in worship with Him. He will not give His glory to any other god. He wants to have our full attention.

Next He says not to have any marriage relationships with people of that land. Once in marriage their sons would follow the Canaanite gods since their lustful practices will arouse extreme interest among the Israeli male members. There was a connection between the worship of the Canaanite gods and sexual immorality. Many of the Canaanite gods were fertility gods and they were worshiped with ritual prostitutes in group sex settings. We will look at these acts of religious or sacred prostitution in the next few books.

Next, God re-iterated what was mentioned earlier:
- Not to make idols
- They are to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to remember God saving them from the Egyptians
- Every firstborn creature, from every womb, belongs to God.
- Donkeys are to be redeemed with lambs, and first-born sons are also to be redeemed.
- Nobody should appear before the LORD empty-handed.
- Observe the Sabbath day - even during the plowing and harvest seasons.
- They are to celebrate the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of In-gathering.
- Three times a year all of the Israeli men were to appear before the LORD. He would enlarge their territory, and nobody would covet their territory.
- Sacrifices were to be made without yeast.
- Sacrifices from the Passover Feast were not to be left to remain until the next morning.
- The best of the first fruits from their soil were to be brought to the house of the LORD.
- Not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Moses wrote down all of this as a covenant is being made with Israel. Then, the LORD wrote on the tablets - the Ten Commandments.

The radiant face of Moses

When Moses came down with the second set of Ten Commandments and having seen the glory of the LORD, his face was radiant - so majestic and splendor, rays of light darted out from his face and a glory surrounded it. The elders were afraid to approach Moses and he had to cover his face with a veil. Whenever he went to meet God in the tabernacle, he would take off the veil, and put it back once conversation was complete.

In chapter 35 we notice that Moses begins the work of the Tabernacle

Before any work begins, Moses reminds the Israelites about the rules for the Sabbath - not to even light a fire in the dwelling.

With that done, he asks the Israelites to bring an offering to the LORD - to build the Tabernacle, consisting of “gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece.

One interesting thing to notice here is that the offerings are optional and not mandatory - "anyone who is willing" and no exertion of force.

Moses announces that Bezalel is filled with Holy Spirit to lead the construction project and Oholiab serving as an assistant is now skilled to teach others

All of the skilled craftsmen started putting together those materials that have been donated towards the Tabernacle. As work began, materials were still coming in as donation.

Soon, they have a problem, a problem any project leader would love to have - too much resources than required. Materials more than sufficient have been gathered and Moses sent out word not to donate anything anymore towards the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle and everything that goes in, was built according to LORD's specifications, as explained in chapters earlier.

To give an idea, the usage of metals were as follows:
Gold: about 1 metric ton
Silver: about 3.4 metric tons
Bronze: about 2.4 metric tons

In chapter 39, the clothes required by the priests are mentioned, and how they were constructed - the Ephod, the Breastpiece, and other priestly garments.

Once all the construction is complete, the tabernacle is brought towards Moses. Note - Moses is not going towards the Tabernacle, instead, it it brought towards him for 'inspection' or 'testing' as you may want to call it. Everything from the Arc of the Covenant to the ropes and tent peg was brought towards Moses. The Israelites had done all the work under the leadership of Bezalel and Oholiab as per Lord's command. Moses inspected the work and found it matching to God's specifications. He then blessed them.

Once all the work is complete, now it was time to erect it. The Lord instructed Moses on how to erect them all - the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Covenant, the table and lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Burnt Offering, and the basin. The tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year.

Moses takes the anointing oil and anoints all those articles. All of them are to be consecrated so that they become Holy.

Aaron and his sons, who will be serving as priests, are brought to the entrance, their feet and hands washed and put on those priestly garments tailored for them. They are to be consecrated as priests.

Once Moses finished his work, the glory of Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out - until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

After all those problems encountered by those Israelites, once when they started listening and following the instructions of the LORD, all their problems seem to melt away. The Glory of the Lord is with the Israelites and it is such a nice feeling to wrap up the Book of Exodus on such a high note.

Reading Assignment
Exodus 33
Exodus 34
Exodus 35
Exodus 36
Exodus 37
Exodus 38
Exodus 39
Exodus 40

You all seem to be very tired after all the hard-work. If required, you can call tomorrow a day of relaxation. Let's start with the book of Leviticus on Tuesday.

--------------------------Additional Info 1------------------------
Land flowing with milk and honey
Those on the tour must have heard the phrase, "Land flowing with milk and honey" numerous times by now. The first time we heard this was when God talked to Moses from the burning bush. The honey referred here is not bee's honey, rather fruit nectar. In Israel, the land is abundantly fertile and trees well nourished, producing various kinds of fruits and nectar. The livestock overflow with milk in those fertile pastures. The land flowing with milk and honey indicates agricultural abundance on a fertile land. Again, it is the Promised 'Land'.

------------------------Additional Info 2------------------------
We recently met a new character – Joshua,  who happens to be Moses’ assistant. He served as a commander in the battle against Amalekites (Easu’s sons). Joshua is the only person permitted to stay upon Mount Sinai while God is speaking to Moses. Born in the tribe of Ephraim, his original name was Hoshea, but Moses called him Yehoshua (Joshua).

"Jesus" is the English of the Greek transliteration of "Yehoshua" via Latin.
“Joshua” is the English translation via Hebrew.
So, in Greek, Joshua is the same as Jesus.
If you remember watching the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” you may recall, the name of Jesus in Aramaic being “Yeshua” – pretty close to Joshua.

We will be covering the life of Joshua pretty soon. Right now, Joshua is just following the footsteps of Moses. He does not have any heavy responsibilities - Moses is taking up all the heat, being the mediator between God and Israelites. Joshua is getting trained under the leadership of Moses, and learning the ways of Moses.
LORD vs Lord
I have not been using uppercase LORD in earlier posts (not sure if I should have been - but did so in this post, and will do going forward in Old Testament). The Bible seems to be using LORD everywhere and hence decided to follow the same standard. 

Error on my part
I realized that I make numerous typo, grammar mistakes and even sentence constructs - have no excuses whatsoever. Some of it is due to my own confusion - whether to include a particular matter now or to say it later. At times I feel like sharing all the information that I learned, but due to time constraints, I tend to omit few. Some of the error is because I am in a hurry to publish the material while racing against the clock. Some other because my corrections have not been published/updated. If you come across any errors, kindly let me know and I am willing to correct it at the earliest.

Oh, by the way, about my spellchecker:

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Corrected some errors from yesterday's post!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Exodus 29 - 32

The Adoration of the Golden Calf - Nicolas Poussin

We are at the base of Mount Sinai and will be here for almost an entire year. The main purpose of our stay here is to establish a constitution and a sanctuary of Tabernacle and other equipment.

While reading the laws given by God, we will come across the word 'atonement'. In Old Testament, atonement refers to the forgiving or pardoning of sin. An atonement was required for everything ranging from heinous crimes of idolatry to petty lies. There are various types of atonement which we will see soon. The way an atonement was performed was by means of a solemn fast, a Sabbath on which no food or drink could be consumed, and on that day all work was forbidden. Sacrifices would be offered by the high priest as a penance for himself and for the people. Jewish people continue to observe this as Yom Kippur.

Chapter 29 talks about the law concerning the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priest's office, which was to be done with a great deal of ceremony and solemnity. The word “consecrate” means to dedicate for a particular purpose. The priests were not allowed to serve the Lord in the capacity of priests until these steps were taken. We will go over this procedure again in Leviticus 1 - 7. For now, just read your Bible.

Moving on to chapter 30, we continue with those instructions related to the construction of Tabernacle such as altar of incense, atonement money, basin for washing, anointing oil, and incense.

The Altar of Incense
Dimensions - half meter long, a half meter wide, one meter tall, with horns built into it, made of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold.
To be carried with poles—made out of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, as with other equipment.
To be placed in front of the curtain, which was before the ark of the Covenant, where God met with the High Priest.
The High Priest (Aaron in this case) was to burn fragrant incense on this altar every morning, and every day at twilight.
They were not to offer any other offerings, nor any other incense, on this altar, other than this specific burning of incense.
Once a year, the High Priest was to make an atonement on the horns of this altar, made with “the blood of the atoning sin offering.”

Atonement Money
God instructed Moses to start taking census, and during the process of census, every Israelite twenty years old or more was to pay a half shekel as an offering to the LORD. A “half shekel” is about six grams of silver. This offering was to be given by everyone; the rich were not to give more, and the poor were not to give less. The money collected from this offering was to be used for the service of the Tent of Meeting. A plague would come over those who did not pay this. 

When we read these pages, one can notice specific mention made between the rich and the poor. When it came to atonement money, both the rich and the poor were to give a “half shekel”, no more, no less. Seems like it was a lesson both for the rich and the poor - i.e., both were alike in the eyes of God. Unlike how we can get things done in the world by influence or bribe, there is no way we we can buy our way into righteousness - simply because God doesn't really need our money - all of it is His anyway. 

Basin for Washing
There was to be a bronze basin, filled with water, where the priests were to wash their hands and feet - no specifications here. Prior to the priest entering the tent of the meeting or presented offerings to Lord, they were to wash their hands and feet - failure to do so would result in death.

In Old Testament, cleanliness was often associated with righteousness, and in both the Old and the New Testaments, uncleanliness is associated with sinfulness. Notice the failure to wash hands and feet prior to entering the altar would result in death. We will soon see an example of this.

Hence, the difference between that which was “clean” and that which was “unclean” was vital to the devout Jew.

Anointing Oil
It was to be made to be used for anointing the Tent of Meeting, the ark, and numerous other implements used in worship.

The oil was to be made out of:
- six kilograms of liquid myrrh
- three kilograms of fragrant cinnamon
- three kilograms of fragrant cane
- six kilograms of cassia
- four liters of olive oil

Once consecrated, they would be “most holy”, and anything that touched them would become holy. Aaron and his sons were also to be anointed with this oil, so that they could serve God as priests. This oil and even this recipe for oil was to be considered sacred by the Israelites.

They were not to use it for any other purpose, and were not to make any other oil using this formula. Anyone who made a perfume like it, or put it on anyone other than a priest, was to be “cut off” from the Israelites.

Cut off means isolated and driven out of the community. The Israelites due to their large number even had people with leprosy, who were not allowed to mingle with others and were instead asked to stay outside the camp. Those cut off would not be allowed even to stay in these camps, rather expelled from the society and driven away. However they would not carry a death penalty.

The incense for burning on the altar of incense was to be the work of a perfumer using fragrant spices. It was to be a fragrant blend of gum resin, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense, all in equal amounts, ground into powder.

As with the anointing oil, this recipe for incense was to be considered holy to the LORD. No other incense was to be made with this formula, and anyone who made incense for his own enjoyment was to be "cut off" from the Israelites.

Bezalel and Oholiab
After the elaborate design, God also provided people for the task. God chose Bezalel, the son of Hur, who was Moses' nephew. He was filled with the Spirit of God, wisdom, understanding, knowledge and all kinds of skills, to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship required for the Tabernacle.

Oholiab was selected to assist Bezalel. Further, the ability to build all those were given to all skilled workers.

The Sabbath
God told them to observe the Sabbath for generations to come - in a serious manner. Anyone who treated it with disrespect was to be put to death. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day was to be put to death.

The Golden Calf
While God was speaking to Moses, people felt his absence and became anxious and nervous. There were numerous Egyptians who had joined the children of Israel during their Exodus. A small group of such Egyptians created a rumor saying Moses was not returning from the mountain. This rumor caught up like wildfire and they demanded another leader - to be an intermediate between God and them.

They approached Aaron and Hur (Miriam's son), who were put in charge by Moses as temporary leaders. They now demanded to make an idol for them in place of Moses - they were afraid to face God directly. Hur resisted their idea and had heated arguments with them. In the end, the angry mob put Hur to death.

Aaron was in a state of confusion. He knew that Moses would arrive soon and at the same time was responsible for this entire 2.5 million people and wanted to buy time. In a desperate attempt to buy some time from them, asked everyone to bring their gold to him - he thought they would not part with it very easily. The women showed some resistance, but in general the men parted with it quite easily.

He took the gold jewelry they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

Aaron, under pressure, built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. This was followed by a huge party - Bible calls it revelry.

On Mount Sinai, Lord had finished speaking to Moses, and He gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. God also told Moses about what was going on with the people - God was about to destroy them due to His anger. Moses pleaded with God not to destroy them, and finally God agreed.

Now Moses took up this anger upon him and climbed the mountain down, to meet up with Joshua, and together they approached the camp. In despair, he threw the Tables of Commandments to the ground, shattering them into small pieces - for he thought these people do not deserve this treasure from God. He then took the golden calf, ground it to dust and spread the dust over the water, which he made the people drink.

Moses then stood at the entrance of the camp and called out for whoever was with God. The entire tribe of Levi came towards him. He then asked them to go kill all those worshipers of the golden calf, regardless of their relationship with them. Three thousand men were killed on that day as punishment towards idolatry.

Moses then went up to God and asked for forgiveness on behalf of his people. This time around, he stayed there for another forty days and forty nights. During this time, people mourned for their dead and atoned for their sin.

Let's wrap up our tour for today here.

Reading Assignment
Exodus 29
Exodus 30
Exodus 31
Exodus 32

This is believed to be the remains of the altar Moses built at the foot of Mount Sinai. 

Remains of the 12 stones representing 12 tribes

The rock on top of the mountain appears to be scorched. In Exodus 24 we read that the mountain burned with fire when the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai. 

Remains of calf altar with calf petroglyphs. 

Calf Petroglyphs on Rock Altar near Mt. Sinai

Moses with the Ten Commandments - Champaigne Philippe de

The Ten Commandments - Lucas Elder

The Adoration of the Golden Calf - Antonio Molinari

The Golden Calf - Bezerro de-Ouro

Moses and the Golden Calf - Domenico Beccafumi

The worship of the Golden Calf - Jan Steen

Moses Destroying the Golden Calf by Andrea Celesti

Moses with the Tablet - Ferdinand Bol

Moses with the Ten Commandments - Tissot

The Adoration of the Golden Calf - Gerrit de Wet 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Exodus 24 - 28

Some of you on the tour may 'zone out' with all these details provided in these chapter and may wonder, "What happened to the Israelite next, while we are reading about the laws of God?" They are stationed at the bottom of Mount Sinai and cannot proceed till these laws are established. We will not be grounded in these details for long. Let's have little patience and proceed as the story unfolds. When it comes to the part of Tabernacle, watch the accompanying video.

These are really part of Exodus 23, which I did not get into much detail yesterday. For the sake of many readers, I am including it along with today's tour. I also updated yesterday's posting with the same information.

Laws of Justice and Mercy
- Don't slander people, and don't lie to help somebody do something they shouldn't be doing.
- Don't do something you shouldn't, just because everybody else is - in the exact words, "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong."
- Don't tell lies in order to make yourself popular while testifying in a lawsuit.
- While serving on the jury of a lawsuit, don't side with the poorer party just because they're poor. Many tend to think it is okay to have sympathy towards the poor during a lawsuit, but not in God's eyes.
- If you find your enemy's livestock wandering off, take it back to him. The normal tendency is to think, "Good - let his cattle wander."
- If you see your enemy's donkey collapsed under its load, help out and get donkey and cargo where they need to be.
- If you are on the jury of a lawsuit, don't side with the richer party just because they're rich. People seem to be attracted towards those who are rich, and will do almost anything to be alongside them, making merry and finding favor in their eyes. While we serve on the jury, we are to tip the scales in favor of truth, regardless of a person's richness.
- Never frame someone.
- Make sure you never execute an innocent person.
- Don't accept bribes. On the contrary, won't the ones who pay bribe be guilty as well? In certain parts of the world, it is almost impossible to get things done, without paying bribes to officials.

Sabbath Laws
- Every seventh year, let your field or lay unused, so that poor people can use it and wild animals can hang out on it. Sounds like an environment preservation act.
- Take rest on every seventh day.
- Never invoke the name of other gods.

Three Annual Festivals
- During the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread', no one is to eat yeast for a week.
- When the first crops of the year are ready, celebrate the 'Feast of Harvest.'
- When the last crops of the year are in, celebrate the 'Feast of In-gathering.'

Another law is, "Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk." We will see this verse again in Deuteronomy 14:21. Cooking a young goat in it's mother's milk was a superstitious custom connected with the harvest. During this procedure, the baby goat was boiled using its mother’s milk. Next, this 'magical milk' was sprinkled on all their fruit trees, fields and gardens, as a charm that would make them fruitful, and bring an abundant harvest the following year.

Now, let's come to the part where we were supposed to be today, starting at Exodus 24.

We've been following Moses who is leading us through the Sinai wilderness The life of Moses can be divided into three parts of forty years each. During the first 40 years, he lived as a prince at the Pharaoh's palace. After the murder of an Egyptian, to escape punishment, he fled to Midian. For the next forty years, he lived in Midian as a shepherd attending Jethro's sheep and married his daughter Zipporah. The final forty years, he was commissioned to shepherd a new breed of flock - 2.5 million people, leading them to the promised land.

While building up this new nation, Israel, the first thing God initiated was the set of laws or the constitution. From the time of creation, for 2448 years, people were living in a state of lawless, immorality and violence. It was now time to change this behavior. People pledged they would live by these rules, while assembling at the foot of Mount Sinai.

On Mount Sinai, God spoke numerous commandments to Moses as we saw yesterday. In all, there were 613 commandments. Out of these, 248 were do's - regarded as positive commands and  365 of were 'do not's' - regarded as negative commands.

Again, these 613 commandments can be divided into two major groups:
(a) man's duties towards God and
(b) man's duties towards his fellow human beings.

By following these commandments towards God, man would attain the highest form of spirituality. The ones towards fellow human beings would make him a perfect human being.

In today's tour, we will see God providing the minute details required to set up a sanctuary for Him and the accessories within.

The Covenant Confirmed
God invited Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. The seventy elders represent those 70 people who went along with Jacob (Israel) to Egypt. They were supposed to worship at a distance, by only Moses was allowed to approach God. Moses shared the laws God with the people and they confirmed in unison, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Next Moses wrote these down.

Next morning Moses woke up early and built an altar with 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Jacob and offered burnt offerings. Then he read out the covenant to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Per God's invitation, the selected leaders went up the mountain and saw where God stood. It was blue as sapphire, and as bright as the cloudless sky. The glorious appearance of the Divine above Mount Sinai, and the whole body of heaven in its clearness were shining upon them. Their sous had eyes, which opened to see this majestic view. Next they eat and drink with God. The food they ate were the sacrifices of offerings.

God then called Moses to go up the mountain so that He would give him the commandments. Joshua went up a little to help Moses. Joshua was supposed to be the successor of Moses and trusted aid. Moses asked Aaron and Hur to take care of any dispute among people. As Moses went up, along with Joshua, a thick cloud covered the mountain. The cloud covered the mountain for six days. Then God called Moses to climb up, and Moses went up alone.

Moses stayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. The glory of God atop the mountain looks like a consuming fire. One may wonder how Moses survived there without food or water. One has to remember that, while in the presence of God, food and drink is not required - the body is in a state of well being. Let's see what Hippocrates, the 'Father of Modern Medicine' has to say about such fasting (see Additional Info).

This number forty is of crucial importance in the Bible. We will see this at many places (see Additional Info).

Offerings for the Tabernacle
Everyone whose heart prompted to give, they were supposed to give offerings. It was not mandatory. Then, a sanctuary was to be built where God would provide the details. Just imagine, the architect of the universe is providing specific details on how to build a sanctuary. We just have to follow those instructions.

The Ark of the Covenant

To be made of acacia wood, overlayed in gold, with a gold molding
Nobody is allowed to touch the ark, after it’s been built. Therefore, they are to build poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold, for carrying it.
There are to be rings built into the side of the ark, where the poles will be inserted.
They are to put into the ark those stone tablets which God is going to give Moses, along with a jar of Manna and Aaron's staff.
The cover for the ark is to be of pure gold, 1.1 meters long and 0.7 meters wide.
Built onto the cover will be two cherubim, facing each other, with their wings spread out upward, overshadowing the cover.
The ark is where God is going to meet with Moses, and give him His commands for the Israelites.
He will meet with Moses “above the cover, between the two cherubim”.
Symbolically, the ark was where God dwelled with the Israelites. They were to treat the ark as if God Himself was inside it - hence, nobody was allowed to touch it!

The Table

To be made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, with a gold molding.
It is also to have a rim, about 8 centimeters wide, with a gold molding.
It is to be 0.9 meters long, 0.5 meters wide, and 0.7 meters high.
The table was also to have poles, for carrying it, made out of acacia wood and overlayid with gold.
Four rings were to built into the table for the poles, made out of gold.
There are also to be made plates, dishes, pitchers, and bowls, all out of gold.
When put into service, the table was where the Israelites were to put “the bread of the Presence”, and it was to be there “at all times.”

The Lampstand

They were to make a lampstand, out of gold.
It was to have “flower-like” cups, buds, and blossoms, which are all to be of one piece with the lampstand.
It should have six “branches”, three on each side.
Each branch was to have three cups, shaped like almond flowers (with buds and blossoms).
There were to be four cups on the lampstand itself—meaning not on the branches - also to be of one piece with the lampstand, and they’re to be shaped like almond flowers (with buds and blossoms).
One cup placed under each place where the branches meet at the trunk, which would be three cups. The fourth cup would go at the top of the lampstand
They were to make seven lamps for the lampstand. The wick trimmers and trays for the lamps were also to be pure gold.
All in all, they were to use about 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of gold, for the lampstand and its implements.

The Tabernacle

The tabernacle was erected exactly one year after the passover. It was erected in such a way that it was portable through out their journey. We will see soon that God appointing particular families with the job of carrying the tabernacle.

Without getting into the details, here is an overview of the Tabernacle:
The tabernacle curtains consisted of ten of them joined together.
The outer tent curtains consisted of a set of eleven curtains.
Frames for the tabernacle were to be made of acacia wood, overlaid in gold.
There were to be twenty frames for the North side, twenty for the South side, six for the West side, and two for the East side. Special instructions are given for the last two frames.
The East and West ends were different because the West end was the entrance, and the East end housed the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. This is how most of our churches are made as well.
The Most Holy Place - where the ark was to be placed, separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a curtain, of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and cherubim worked into the design by a skilled craftsman.
Beside the Most Holy Place, on the North side, is where the table was to be placed. On the other side, the South side, the lampstand was to be placed.
At the entrance to the tent, they were to embroider a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and finely twisted linen.

Each tribe was told where they were supposed to camp and the priestly Levites were to set up their tents around the tabernacle. The pillar of cloud and fire was over the tabernacle, day and night, providing a visible presence of God.

Watch this youtube video to help you visualize the tabernacle and the furniture that went into it. It is a 10 minute video, which will help.

The Altar of Burnt Offering

The altar dimensions were to be 1.3 meters high, 2.3 meters long, and 2.3 meters wide, made of acacia wood, overlaid with bronze.
All altar utensils were also to be made of bronze.
Four horns were to be made on each of the four corners.
The Israelites were to build poles for carrying the altar, out of acacia wood overlayed with bronze—and rings were to be built into the altar.
The altar was to be hollow, not solid wood and bronze - for the sake of carrying around easily.

The Courtyard

The courtyard was to be 46 metres long on the South and North sides, and 23 metres long on the West and East sides.
Curtains were to be made for each side, out of finely twisted linen, with posts, bronze bases for the posts, and silver hooks and bands on the posts, for hanging the curtains.
The entrance was to have an embroidered curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and finely twisted linen. It was to have four posts and bases.

Oil for the Lampstand
Pressed olive oil was to be used for the lampstand.
Aaron and his descendents were to keep the lampstand burning from evening until morning. It’s specified that this is to be “a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come”

The Priestly Garments

Aaron and his sons were appointed to serve as priests. Their garments were made of gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.

The Ephod
A vest made of gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. Two onyx stones on the shoulders engraved with names of sons of Jacob (Israel).

The Breastpiece
Made of gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. They were to mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row should contain carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; the second row consisting of turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; the third row with jacinth, agate and amethyst; the fourth row consisting of topaz, onyx and jasper. They were to be mounted in gold filigree settings. Twelve stones each representing the names of the sons of Israel - or twelve tribes of Israel.

Other Priestly Garments
The Robe: The priest’s robe was to be made of blue cloth. It was to be all one piece, with an opening in its centre.

A “plate” was to be made, of pure gold, which would be attached to the High Priest’s turban with a blue cord, engraved with the phrase 'HOLY TO THE LORD.'

Let us conclude our tour for the day.

Reading Assignment:
This part is filled with lots of details, but we are still going to read it.
Exodus 24
Exodus 25
Exodus 26
Exodus 27
Exodus 28

---------------------------------------Additional Info 1-----------------------------------------------
Hippocrates, known as the 'Father of (Modern) Medicine' was the great physician of ancient Greece (460 BC-370 BC).  He taught us about 'The Physician Within'. According to him, "Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work.  The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.  Our food should be our medicine.  Our medicine should be our food.  But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness."

He also said about extended fasting which wrinkles the intestine. According to him, "Living without food so long must be ascribed to a miracle; Those who remain without food seven days, hence forward, if they would, cannot receive any support from food, because then the belly will not admit of any."

Benjamin Franklin said, "The best of all medicines is resting and fasting."

Certain christian denominations such as Eastern Orthodox and Jacobite churches have extended service on Good Friday. Many devotees do not even drink a drop of water on that day while attending the service and are fully immersed in the spiritual realm. On such occasions, they do not feel the need for either food or water - spiritual energy will suffice to sustain life.

Please consult with your physician before you begin any long term fasting regime.

---------------------------------------Additional Info 2-----------------------------------------------
The number 40
The Bible definitely seems to use the number 40 to emphasize a spiritual truth.
Here are few 40's.
During the time of Great Flood, God caused it to rain 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12).
Moses spent 40 years in the Midian desert tending flocks (Acts 7:30).
Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18).
Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf for 40 days and 40 nights (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25).
The maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime was set to a limit of 40 (Deuteronomy 25:3).
The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out Canaan (Numbers 13:25).
The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
Israel served the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1).
Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him (1 Samuel 17:16).
When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).
Both Ezekiel and Jonah use the number 40 in their prophecies Ezekiel (4:6; 29:11-13) & Jonah (3:4).
Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:2).
There are 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).

---------------------------------------Additional Info 3-----------------------------------------------
Raiders of the Lost Ark

The 1981 American fantasy-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas, and starring Harrison Ford is an adventure about this Ark of the Covenant. The story is about Indiana Jones (Ford) racing against a group of Nazis who are searching for the Ark of the Covenant which Adolf Hitler believes will make their army invincible.

Tabernacle in the wilderness

The Tabernacle Tent

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Exodus 19 - 23

What we saw yesterday was the climax of the entire Old Testament. People throughout history treat the 'Red Sea Crossing' as the most significant sign of God's love for Israel. The sea is called Red Sea because of the red algae growing in it.

At Mount Sinai
After the exodus from Egypt on the first day of the third month, the children of Israel reached Sinai and camped there. After witnessing the series of miracles - deliverance, Red Sea Crossing, winning the war, manna and quail, the pillar of cloud and fire, etc., their faith grew stronger.

God called Moses upon Mount Sinai and asked him to say the following to the people of Israel, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."

Moses went and told them and they all agreed. Then God asked for a meeting after three days. Preparations were to be made in lieu of this meeting. Nobody was supposed to approach the mountain, or even touch it.

On the third day there was a thick cloud over the mountain followed by thunder, lightning and a very loud trumpet blast. The mountain was fuming as if it were a volcano. Moses led his people to meet God. Everyone stood at the foot of the mountain in a disciplined manner and set it apart as holy. Then God called Moses and Aaron to go up the mountain.

The sounds of the trumpets grew louder and then there was pin drop silence. God had presented the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments
Let's take a moment and understand the significance of Ten Commandments. Once a particular product is developed, the manufacturer puts together a list of warnings which could severely affect and damage the product. For instance, a hair dryer manufacturer may say one of the instructions as, "Do not use in the shower."  Similarly, the Ten Commandments is a set of 10 instructions put together by the Creator of humans as He alone knows His creation quite intimately, and for the betterment and longevity of His creation. Failure to follow those instructions will undoubtedly result in malfunction and shorter life span.

God spoke these words to Moses (in short)

1  You shall have no other gods before me
2  You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
3  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
4  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
5  Honor your father and your mother
6  You shall not murder
7  You shall not commit adultery
8  You shall not steal
9  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
10 You shall not covet

People did not want to face God as they were afraid, and they let Moses be the intermediate person.

Pay attention here - at this point, all these were words of God spoken to Moses. He went to his people and shared what he learned from God.

The Ten Commandments were just the first 10. Next we see the set of instructions Moses received from God, for the people-moral and general instructions - relating their well being.

Idols and Altars
God warned people not to make any gods of gold or silver alongside Him. Next they were to build an altar and offer burnt offerings. The altar was to be constructed without using any tools. The reason was to keep it simple. God did not want them to erect costly and time consuming altars for Him. Besides, He did not want to lavish skill or expense on the construction of an altar. According to him, altar was just a place for an offering. God was more interested in the minds of those offering the sacrifice to be fixed on Him.

Hebrew Servants
The laws listed here differ from our times and customs, and they are not binding upon us. They still explain the moral law, and the rules of natural justice. The message is not to take advantage of servants and consider them as humans. Piercing the ear of a slave with an awl (listed in verses 5 - 6) existed here in the United States when slavery was prevailing.

If a man sells his daughter as a servant... this will raise brows. Well, Jews did not allow any man to sell his daughter. But when in extreme financial distress - when he had no goods, either movable or immovable left, even no clothes, he could sell his daughter as a servant for a period of six years, while she was not yet married.

Personal Injuries
The law concerning protection and maintenance of life. This is an extension of the sixth commandment - You shall not murder. Accidental damage is forgiven. However damage caused by one's cattle is the owner's responsibility. The owner is supposed to take good care of it by disciplining it.

- Murder is punishable by death.
- Manslaughter is punishable by exile.
- Attacking your parents is punishable by death.
- Kidnapping and human trafficking is punishable by death.

Notice how detailed these are in the Bible - Read it once.

Protection of Property
This part consists of judicial laws in the good sense and is well-marked attention towards the welfare of the community and the moral improvement of each individual.

- If you steal an ox and kill it or sell it, you have to pay back five cattle. If you steal a sheep, you have to pay back four sheep.
- If somebody steals an animal and doesn't sell it or kill it, they only have to pay back double.
- If your animal grazes on my land, you have to let me graze my animal on your land.
- If a fire damages crops, the person responsible for the fire must make restitution.
- When property is stolen, the thief must pay back double. When property is disputed, judges will determine a rightful owner, and the other party must pay double the item's value.
- If an animal dies or is eaten by wild beast while being taken care of by a neighbor, it's owner has to absorb the cost.

Social Responsibility
It talks about seducing young women and has some wise and humane laws. A person who maybe inclined to take advantage of a young girl knew that he must marry her, and give her a dowry, if her parents consented; and if they did not consent that their daughter should wed her seducer, in this case he was obliged to give her the full dowry which could have been demanded had she been still a virgin.

Any woman using unnatural powers or secret arts was to put to death. If there were no witches, such a law would not have been made. Many Israelites had learned this form of art during their long residence and associating with the Egyptians. The demand and interest for such art was so high we find various practices of this kind prevailed throughout Jewish history.

Those having sexual relationship with animals were to be killed. Divine wisdom saw this as a crime so detestable and abominable, so shocking and dishonorable to human nature. Hence such individuals were not allowed to live. This practice existed in the Egyptian culture and many travelers have documented the existence. An approximate 2-3% of Americans have tried out this adventure.

Foreigners were to be treated with respect, not to take advantage of widows or fatherless, lend money to those in needy, and submit firstborns. Not to eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts.

Anyone sacrificing to a god other than God must be put to death.

Keeping a person's clothing as collateral on a loan is forbidden, since he needs it to keep himself warm.

Please read this part in the Bible, along with Laws of Justice and Mercy, Sabbath Laws, The Three Annual Festivals etc. It is an easy read. This is where all our laws came from. Pay attention to what God is asking us to do - to be righteous.

Laws of Justice and Mercy
- Don't slander people, and don't lie to help somebody do something they shouldn't be doing.
- Don't do something you shouldn't, just because everybody else is - in the exact words, "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong."
- Don't tell lies in order to make yourself popular while testifying in a lawsuit.
- While serving on the jury of a lawsuit, don't side with the poorer party just because they're poor. Many tend to think it is okay to have sympathy towards the poor during a lawsuit, but not in God's eyes.
- If you find your enemy's livestock wandering off, take it back to him. The normal tendency is to think, "Good - let his cattle wander."
- If you see your enemy's donkey collapsed under its load, help out and get donkey and cargo where they need to be.
- If you are on the jury of a lawsuit, don't side with the richer party just because they're rich. People seem to be attracted towards those who are rich, and will do almost anything to be alongside them, making merry and finding favor in their eyes. While we serve on the jury, we are to tip the scales in favor of truth, regardless of a person's richness.
- Never frame someone.
- Make sure you never execute an innocent person.
- Don't accept bribes. On the contrary, won't the ones who pay bribe be guilty as well? In certain parts of the world, it is almost impossible to get things done, without paying bribes to officials.

Sabbath Laws
- Every seventh year, let your field or lay unused, so that poor people can use it and wild animals can hang out on it. Sounds like an environment preservation act.
- Take rest on every seventh day.
- Never invoke the name of other gods.

Three Annual Festivals
- During the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread', no one is to eat yeast for a week.
- When the first crops of the year are ready, celebrate the 'Feast of Harvest.'
- When the last crops of the year are in, celebrate the 'Feast of In-gathering.'

Another law is, "Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk." We will see this verse again in Deuteronomy 14:21. Cooking a young goat in it's mother's milk was a superstitious custom connected with the harvest. During this procedure, the baby goat was boiled using its mother’s milk. Next, this magical milk was sprinkled on all their fruit trees, fields and gardens, as a charm that would make them fruitful, and bring an abundant harvest the following year.

God’s Angel to Prepare the Way
Next, God proclaims that He is sending an angel ahead of him to prepare their way to Canaan. He assures them the angel will take complete care of them. All they have to do is worship God and not to bow in front of other gods.

If you are wondering what happened to those tablets containing the Ten Commandments - please wait. God has not yet given them to Moses. It is coming up in tomorrow's tour.

Reading Assignment
Please read the Bible as I did not explain each and every law that was given out. I even abbreviated the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 19
Exodus 20
Exodus 21
Exodus 22
Exodus 23

---------------------------------------Additional Info 1-----------------------------------------------
Location of Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia

Here is a video that explains the location of Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia

--------------------------------------- Paintings -----------------------------------------------

Moses on Mount Sinai Jean-Léon Gérôme -1895-1900

Israelites at Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Exodus 14 - 18

We have just received word about freedom from slavery and everybody is in an upbeat. There are celebrations and cheers everywhere. Almost everyone is busy collecting valuables such as gold and silver from Egyptians. The Egyptians at this point are willing to give anything for the Israelites just to leave. People have packed all their belongings and for those children, it is sort of a party.

Moses is regarded as the supreme leader and along with Aaron, they are the ones giving people instructions.

Today on our tour, we will see an the extraordinary supernatural phenomenon in human history - parting of the Red sea. Try to visualize about 2.5 million people crossing through the sea.

We are in Exodus 14
Crossing the Sea (continued...) 
God is giving clear directions to Moses where to go and they are being led by a huge pillar of cloud and fire.

Three days after their departure, Pharaoh got word that they are going in a different direction - he was expecting them to go to Canaan through the land of Philistine. It's always been a challenge with the sheer number of Israelites - if they were teaming up with other kings to fight and destroy Egypt for all the slavery and hardships they endured. He further changed his mind, about their departure and now wants them back.

An army of 600 + chariots was soon mobilized and the Pharaoh took personal lead in this effort. The cavalry marched towards the Read Sea with hot pursuit of the 'Hebrews'.

Hearing the arrival of Pharaoh, the Israelites started murmuring. The biggest outcry to Moses was, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses tried to calm the people saying God will deliver them.

The sun has set and it is night time. The Israelites are trapped between the Red Sea and the mountains. The pillar of fire and cloud separated the Israelites and the Egyptians.

This is one of the most difficult moments in the life of Moses. He reached out to God, and in return, God asked Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground."

What a statement, God is making here. God is saying, "Moses, you have the authority to break the laws of Physics and do supernatural wonders with your staff. Just do what you deem is necessary."

Moses held his staff out over the water, and throughout the night a strong east wind divided the sea, and the Israelites passed through with a wall of water on either side. The Egyptians pursued the Israelites, but God clogged their chariot-wheels and threw them into a panic. After the Israelites crossed the sea, waters were brought back over them. With this return of water the pharaoh and his entire army was destroyed. The Israelites reached the other side safely and happily.

When the Israelites saw God's power, they put their faith in God and in Moses. A song was sung to praise the Lord for the safe crossing of the sea and destruction of their enemies. This song, is called the Song of the Sea and is given in Exodus Chapter 15.

The Waters of Marah and Elim
Walking through the desert of Shur, for three days, they have trouble finding drinkable water for 2.5 million people and their animals. The people were so used to drinking the delicious Nile water. They now came across and oasis that contained bitter water and started grumbling. Moses threw a piece of wood into it and the water became fit to drink. They later arrived at a place called Elim, where they found another 12 springs and 70 palm trees.

Manna and Quail
Continuing their journey, the Israelites started complaining, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

They wanted to eat meat in the desert!  Guess what - God obliged.

God rained down heavenly food from the skies. The children of Israel would collect it every morning an amount sufficient for a full day's needs. On Friday they were to gather a two days' supply, to avoid going out and gathering on Saturday - the Sabbath. God told Moses and Aaron that they would have meat in the evening and bread in the morning - and also let them know that He was their God. It happened so.

In the evening, Quail came in large numbers and in the morning, ground was covered with fine grains like dew - the heavenly food which they called "Manna." As always, there were few who would not follow God's instructions by storing more amount of Manna than sufficient for a day - they found it to be rotten, inedible and useless the next day. However on Friday, their storage stayed intact and no Manna was found on the ground as well.

God provided Manna and Quail for the Israelites for the next 40 years while they were in the wilderness. God told Moses to preserve some Manna in a jar for future generations to see.

Water From the Rock
The grumbling continued at every opportunity, especially for leading them through the wilderness. Now, it was for water again. Moses reached out to God, and God ordered Moses to take the Israelite elders towards a rock and then hit it with his staff. Moses did so, and from the dry stone, water started flowing, quenching the thirst of people and animals.

The Amalekites Defeated
The descendants of Easu, after clashing with sons of Jacob during the burial of Jacob maintained the grudge in their hearts. They buried the head of Easu at the cave of Machpelah and his body at Seir. Now a mighty and fierce army, trained in war suddenly attacked the weary and tired Israelites.

Joshua, a disciple of Moses was put in charge to fight this war. Moses, along with his brother Aaron and nephew Hur, went to a nearby hill and prayed to God. As long as Moses was stretching out both his hands, Joshua was winning. After a whole day's fight, the Israelites defeated the descendants of Esau.

Jethro Visits Moses
The father in law of Moses visited Moses and brought his wife and sons. After seeing an extremely busy Moses, handling every aspect of the crowd, he criticized (in a positive manner) and advised Moses on how to set up the Court of Justice and distribute his load. This was the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law, Moses, to distribute his load by being God's representative.

"You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

This was a simple and effective principle - which every large scale institution follows to this day.

Just how Jesus Christ is the central figure in the New Testament, Moses is regarded as the prominent central figure in the entire Old Testament. Until the arrival of Jesus Christ, Moses was the Superstar. Moses authored these books, and packed with details - especially communication with God. Reading between the lines, we get an idea on how God laid out instructions and guidance during Old Testament times - and finally what He wanted. One can also see how closely and lovingly God was leading the sons of Jacob (Israel) - even though the sons of Jacob and their generations were not those 'perfect children.'

Let's conclude our tour for today, and continue tomorrow.

Reading Assignments:
Exodus 14
Exodus 15
Exodus 16
Exodus 17
Exodus 18

------------------------Related Humor

 Jewish International Film Festival in Mexico (2007)

------------------Additional Info 1
Recent Exodus in the US
Just to give you an idea about the scale of Exodus led by Moses, let's compare few recent exodus' here in the US. Moses had approximately 2.5 million people plus cattle and herd. Also, consider the fact that they did not have the advantage of motor vehicles or paved multi-lane highways.

August 2005 – A mass evacuation of city of New Orleans, Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina. Records indicate that a good percentage of the city's population of approximately 500,000 evacuated before the storm struck.

September 2005 – After experiencing the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, more than 3 million evacuated in Texas and Louisiana including 2.4 million from Houston, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Rita. This is recorded as the largest evacuation in U.S. history.

October 2007 – In Southern California, wildfires forced more than 900,000 to evacuate, making it the largest evacuation in California history. This is also recorded as the largest evacuation due to fire, in US history.

August 2008 – Again, from those lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, at least 1.9 million people evacuated coastal Louisiana, including New Orleans, at the arrival of Hurricane Gustav.

August 2011 – A mass evacuation from the coast of North Carolina to New York was ordered due to Hurricane Irene. Numbers were not readily available.

------------------Additional Info 2
Location of the Red Sea Crossing
There are at least 4 locations thought to be the actual location of the Red Sea Crossing. See map below with white arrows indicating those locations.
1. Bitter Lakes
2. Port of Suez
3. Straits of Tiran
4. Nuweiba Beach Crossing

Since this event took place few thousand years ago, records are scarce to pin down the actual location.

However, based on the little research I did, I am convinced Nuweiba Beach is the location of actual crossing. The video below starts at 2:30 and takes us through some discoveries made in the 1970's. This crossing would lead us into Gulf of Aqaba within the Saudi Arabian territory.

The Nuweiba beach where 2.5 million people could camp prior to the crossing. This also has the mountains in the backdrop with a narrow opening.

 This contour shows perfect for walking across when those waters parted. On either side of this half-mile lane, the sea floor drops steeply to depths of thousands of feet.

 A chariot wheel embedded in the sea floor off Nuweiba Beach.

Metal of a chariot wheel resting on the sea floor off Nuweiba Beach

Mineralized horse bones found at the sea floor off Nuweiba Beach. 

A Phoenician style column found at Nuweiba in 1978. An identical second granite column was found on the Saudi coastline on the opposite side which contained the words: Mizraim (Egypt); Solomon; Edom; death; Pharaoh; Moses; and Yahweh, indicating that King Solomon had set up these columns as a memorial to the miracle of the crossing of the sea. Saudi Arabia does not admit tourists, and perhaps fearing unauthorized visitors, the Saudi Authorities have since removed this column, and replaced it with a flag marker where it once stood. 

Gulf of Aqaba has a similar large sized beach which could hold the 2.5 million population after crossing. 

Yesterday we saw images of the traditional Mount Sinai - which Queen Helena had identified.
As mentioned yesterday, there are claims of the actual Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabian mountains. In light of the Red Sea Crossing at Nuweiba beach, one should also consider the actual location of Mount Sinai to be in Saudi Arabia. We will talk more about it when we observe Moses obtaining the Ten Commandments. 

Interpreting above findings, this would be the path till Red Sea Crossing


----------------Additional Info 3
Split Rock

 The rock believed to be hit by Moses to bring water

------------------Related Paintings

Prayer of Moses Before Israelites Passed Through the Red Sea Ivan Kramskoi (1861)

Crossing of the red sea, Nicolas Poussin 1634

The Delivery of Israel out of Egypt - Samuel Coleman (1830)

Parting of the Red Sea - Arnold Friberg

Crossing the Red Sea - Bernardino Luini (1515)

Moses striking the rock, Nicolas Poussin

Moses Holding Up His Arms During the Battle - John Everett Millais