Friday, June 28, 2013

Which Way Did They Go?

Over the years I have heard all kinds of instructions and teaching given on the crossing of the sea by the Israelites. Some have taught that they crossed a marshy stretch not far from where they started. Others teach that they went as far as a large lake down from the border of the country. While still others show the border of Egypt being farther into the Sinai peninsula with the crossing taking place further over a larger body of water.

I did see a video once (I'm sorry I don't remember the name of it) that showed an underwater ledge running from the tip of the Sinai over to the coastline of Saudi Arabia. Not only that, it showed evidence of a mountain that fits the description of Mount Sinai with smoke markings still exhibited around the top of it. And, there was a rock at the mouth of a good size river bed. Interestingly enough, the area they went to is guarded and when they asked to see it through regular channels they were denied.

Whether by heaven's design or man's, the exact location of all the Exodus happenings seems to be elusive. We may never know exactly where until we get to heaven. In any case, there are some things to keep in mind when listening to any presentation on the subject.

One thing I somehow pushed to the back of my mind was the number of people we're talking about. Check out Exodus 12:37. Hello. That's 600,000 men not counting children or women or animals or even the mixed multitude that went with them. Keep reading and you see they also had silver and gold items, clothing, and flocks and herds - a very large number at that.

So, we're not talking about a large family reunion kind of crowd when we speak about the escape from Egypt. We're talking moving the populace of the state of Hawaii.

So wherever they crossed had to have enough water to make walls on either side of them as they crossed over. The dry path had to be wide enough to take the Israelites only a few hours to escape. Not to mention there had to be enough water to drown the entire Egyptian army and horses when the walls of water came tumbling back down. And, wherever it happened, was big enough to impress the people sufficiently to know they had been saved from death by God.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Begat? TMI?

Is there anyone else out there who falls asleep, or has their mind wander, whenever family names are read during a passage reading from the Bible? Why are the names there anyway? What does it matter? Do I need to know who begat who? Is it TMI?

Up until I read Listening to the Language of the Bible, I thought the only reason to give such long lists was to inform the reader of the first born male. After all, the 'firstborn' got the majority of the 'goods' since he would become the next head of the family. What I didn't know was that even while a child that first born was given respect by his siblings. Hhmm . . . hard to picture that.

Of course, there are exceptions to the first born being called the 'firstborn.' Look at King David.  As the youngest son in his family, he was appointed to be firstborn by God. (Check out Psalm 89.) That's because firstborn can also mean 'closest in relationship.' I did not know this.

Putting this aside, I felt pretty self-centered when I read the explanation in Lois Tverberg's book. Apparently, many cultures pretty much need to know the family history of a person to know you're talking about a real live person. Not a character from a book or film, or made-up just for the sake of an argument. Having a family name in the Bible makes lessons plausible and real. It's what gives substance to a story, rather than it being all fluff.

Who would have thought that names could hold significance beyond the firstborn details? Now I know. So the next time I come across a passage that lists names, I will praise God that his story is becoming real to someone else because those names are there.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

That's How They Knew

In studying Abraham I noticed yet another verse I have skimmed over. Genesis 15:13. Hello, Abraham was told before he went into Egypt that his great, great, great, great grandchildren and so on would be slaves. (He knew?) For four hundred years. I can't even fathom how long that is.

Knowing this Jacob still obeyed and took his family into Egypt. Hunger can do that; putting yourself and your loved ones in harm's way. And even though there was a famine when they first went there,  Egypt offered them so much more when the famine passed that they decided to stay on. (Even though they knew what it would entail.) The abundance of water could have been a real draw . . . the Nile River is huge in season. The weather is more conducive to growing crops. And they were less likely to be attacked or have their lands invaded because of the Egyptian army protecting the land.

Now, here's some food for thought. Once they started making babies nothing stopped them. They went from being in charge of land to being the slaves working that land overnight. Still Exodus 1:12 tells us they kept growing. Nothing stood in the way of God making his people a huge nation. Even in spite of the fact that they probably lost large numbers of people to beatings and such.

I have often wondered why God took so long to come rescue his people. Why hadn't he come sooner? Why did it take four hundred years to hear them crying for help?

But since the father of their nation had been told how long they would be in Egypt, I guess after four hundred years they started crying out to God to come save them. Because it was time to leave this place and return to the land Abraham once wandered. That's why God finally heard their cry and came to rescue them and return them to the promised land filled with milk and honey.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Great Beginning

Have you ever wondered what happened before Genesis 1? Like you've missed the first part of the story?

In reading Lois Tverberg's book, Listening to the Language of the Bible, I learned something oh so interesting. "In the beginning" is the phrase that is translated from the Hebrew word "B'reisheet." The letter B that begins that word is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, not the first letter.

Symbolism fills the Hebrew alphabet and the letter B is no different. It's structured so that when read right-to-left, as is done in Hebrew, it has a closure on the right but an open end on the left. Lois wrote that many think this directs the reader toward the text to be read.

Lois also points out that the rabbis say that what comes before the second letter is for God to know and not for man to know.  So in military terms, on a need to know basis, man only needs to know what comes after the second letter of the alphabet. That's our part of the mission here on earth. John 16 and 1 Corinthians 2 and 13 all speak of this need to know level and when we'll know fully.

As a person who likes to find out the background of people, places, and things, I find this an interesting concept. One I gladly sit back and accept. I do, however, look forward to that day when Jesus pulls me away from the pages of history and tells me. . .here's the rest of the story.