The nation of Israel seems to go from one life-threatening situation to another in the Exodus scroll. From slavery in Egypt to being cornered between a hostile army and a vast body of water, Israel’s God has delivered them from everything so far. Now in the wilderness, they face a series of three tests. Will they trust Yahweh to deliver them again? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore Israel’s testing in the wilderness.
All three of these stories are about tests of trust. When Yahweh’s people don’t trust him, they get demanding and arrogant, and they take their salvation or deliverance for granted. They take their status as God’s chosen ones for granted, and they use it as a platform to accuse God of not delivering.
In part one (00:00-9:05), Tim and Jon review the theme of the test we’ve been tracing through the second movement of Exodus. In the last episode, we explored Exodus 13-15, where Yahweh tests Israel at the Sea of Reeds. When Yahweh tests people, he doesn’t place extra obstacles in front of them in some vindictive way. Rather, when Yahweh tests people, he invites them to trust him in the midst of circumstances that seem impossible.
Israel chooses to trust Yahweh at the Sea of Reeds. Safely on the other side, they face three tests in which they have to choose whether they will trust Yahweh when they lack water, food, and water again. Each story uses the word “test” specifically, and in each story they grumble against God and Moses.
In part two (9:05-25:45), Tim and Jon pick up Israel’s journey as they leave the Sea of Reeds in Exodus 15:22. After just three days in the wilderness, Israel has no water. In the Bible, “three days” almost always indicates a test and a confrontation with death.
Worried about the lack of water, the people complain to Moses, who intercedes on their behalf to Yahweh. Yahweh shows Moses a tree that he casts (all or part of) into undrinkable water, which then becomes good to drink. It’s a small story packed with Eden imagery. In Genesis 1-2, God plants a garden in the middle of the wilderness, and Adam and Eve have a choice to trust God’s word or not—a test, at a tree, involving food/nourishment. It’s like the nation of Israel is back at the tree of knowledge all over again. Moses is even wielding a staff that was once a snake. Here, each of these images is reversed as Moses uses the symbols of death to make life, guided by Yahweh the Creator.
Because of Moses’ intercession, Israel passes the first wilderness test.
In part three (25:45-44:10), Tim and Jon explore Israel’s second test in the wilderness, when they run out of food (Exod. 16).
Exodus 16:4 Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from the skies for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in my instruction.”
For the third time in the Torah, rain falls. First, rain falls and produces the flood. Later, fire rains from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Now the skies rain bread (manna) for Israel’s provision, but there’s a test—will Israel trust that when they rest instead of gathering bread, Yahweh will have given them enough? Only some of the Israelites trust Yahweh’s word, and on the seventh day, many go out to gather manna anyway, incurring both Moses’ and Yahweh’s anger.
In part four (44:10-55:30), Tim and Jon discuss Exodus 17, the third wilderness test, in which Israel once again finds themselves without water.
Exodus 17:2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”
Israel finds themselves once again in a life-or-death situation, where they immediately fail the test by not trusting Yahweh and then, in fact, put Yahweh to the test. The way they test Yahweh is all about their posture towards him because of who they believe him to be. The issue is not that they asked for water. The issue is they demanded it, as if Yahweh didn’t intend to provide for them.
Up to this point in the narrative, Yahweh has delivered them from slavery and saved their lives again and again. He calls Israel his “firstborn son” (Exod. 4:22), and he has shown himself to be a loving, present Father, not a vindictive or removed dictator. By grumbling and demanding that he provide, Israel is revealing that they don’t trust Yahweh at all.
In part five (55:30-1:11:21), the guys summarize the third portion of the second movement of Exodus (Exod. 17:8-18:27).
In this section of the narrative, two noteworthy events take place. First, Israel fights Amalek and wins. Then, in Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, a Midianite, pays them a visit.
Exodus 18:10-12 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh … Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods …” Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
These stories form a stark contrast to each other. In both stories, members of the surrounding people groups are polarized by Yahweh’s presence. In the case of the Amalekites, they’re intensely hostile. Jethro, on the other hand, ends up worshiping Yahweh. Jethro and the Amalekites both respond to what they know about the exodus event. The Amalekites respond out of fear. But in the case of Jethro and other members of the nations who want to be in Yahweh’s family, there’s a seat at the table ready for them.
Each of the tests Israel undergoes is designed to make them into a nation that trusts Yahweh’s words and lives by them in such a way that they usher other nations into Yahweh’s covenant blessings.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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Israel Tests Yahweh
Series: Exodus Scroll E5
Podcast Date: April 11, 2022, 71:41
Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie
Jon: In the scroll of Exodus, we find ancient Israel captive to the oppressive empire of ancient Egypt, but God delivers them. Here's the thing. God didn't ask Israel to do anything in order to qualify for being delivered. Liberation was a gift. Yet the story continues. God allows them to step foot into vulnerable situations, situations that are going to require that they trust him.
Tim: What does it mean when God tests his people in the Bible? What does it actually turn out to look like? It's an opportunity to deepen the relationship.
Jon: The story of the Bible is about how (00:01:00) humanity gave up our role to be God's image, his partners in ruling the world. So the Bible develops this pattern where God chooses someone to reclaim that relationship. And once they're chosen and saved, God's going to put them in a situation that requires bravery and trust. This is exactly what happens to Israel here. They leave the abundance of Egypt, they're hungry, and they're thirsty, and there's no water to be found. But God asks them to trust him, that he can provide water even out of a rock.
Tim: What we are told with that little scenario was that was a test. And they failed it. They came to the water, and they say, "What are we supposed to drink?" And they grumble. They don't trust.
Jon: We're also going to look at a famous story where God provides bread from heaven. This is the stuff called manna. God tells Israel, "There's going to be enough each day, so only collect what you need for that day." And on top of that, on the seventh day, God says, "Don't collect any bread. Just rest and trust that you have enough."
Tim: He wanted them to rest. (00:02:00) We are re-creating Israel here through a test of obedience.
Jon: I'm Jon Collins, this is BibleProject podcast. Today Tim Mackie and I continue reading the second movement of the Exodus scroll, Israel wandering through the sea into the wilderness, facing tests. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.
So we are walking through the scroll of Exodus. It is the second scroll in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis, and then Exodus. Scrolls are made up of movements, large literary sections, typically three or four. Genesis a set of four. Exodus has three large movements, collections of stories as a whole, kind of have a coherent structure. The thing that we're going to focus on is tracing a theme through each movement.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. So we are journeying through the Exodus scroll and we're in the very center literary movement of the Exodus scroll, which is the journey through the wilderness (00:03:00) after the exodus from Egypt.
Jon: The second of three movements. The first movement is Moses confronting Pharaoh and the 10 plagues.
Tim: Israel enslaved in Egypt and Yahweh confronting Pharaoh to let them go.
Jon: Second movement is leaving Egypt, which we just, in the last episode, went through that story. Them leaving Egypt, getting to the waters, being trapped. Pharaoh's armies are coming. 600 chariots.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: They're just staring death in the face.
Tim: Death on one side, and then a huge body of water on the other ... death on the other side. What are my choices here?
Jon: And we already learned that the reason why God sent them this way was because he didn't want them to be all scared of these people might attack them if they go the other route. So God knows that this is kind of a fragile people and he's going to have to fight on their behalf. But what it looks like it's just death. (00:04:00) And we talked about this in terms of a test. And this is the theme we're tracing through this movement of Exodus is the test. That God puts in front of us an opportunity to trust him and his wisdom. And he does this specifically for the ones that he has chosen and has rescued. And it's not a test to see if you're good enough to be rescued. It's a test to see if you can—what?
Tim: Well, it's an opportunity to deepen the relationship. It's an opportunity to deepen one's loyalty. And just to flag it, because I'm not sure you meant to say ... because you did say God puts it in front of them. What we saw in the last story was Pharaoh's evil is what puts the test in front of Israel.
Jon: It's true.
Tim: Because that's our question here is, what does it mean when God tests his people in the Bible? What does it actually turn out to look like in people's lives?
Jon: And you gave the metaphor of you have a hamster at home (00:05:00) and your kids create mazes with their toys. And they like to make the mazes complicated because they know your hamster, Opal, can handle it and enjoys the little challenge.
Jon: So those are kind of tests. But when I think of God creating mazes, I'm like, "Man, life is complicated enough. Can you keep it simple for me?"
Tim: That's right.
Jon: And what's interesting about this story of God splitting the sea and providing a way out isn't putting an extra bend in the maze, it's actually creating a secret passage through the maze.
Tim: Where it seemed like you reach a dead end—
Jon: God's like, "Okay, this way."
Tim: Yeah. Okay. Thanks. Good. I'm enjoying this parable. Yeah, that's right.
Jon: So this test isn't making it more complicated. Actually, it's a rescue. The test is a rescue.
Tim: But they had to walk into what looked like death. They had death on one side, 600 tanks, Egypt's chariots, and then (00:06:00) you have what seems like certain death on the other side, which is walking into a body of water. I don't care if it's really windy, and if it's exposed some of the coastline, but it's night. Remember it's all happening at night.
Jon: It's easy to picture this as this pleasant journey. But I've been at the coast when it's windy …
Tim: At night?
Jon: ... and it's at night, and then the waves are huge. It’s like, "I'm not going to—"
Tim: Walk in there?
Jon: If all of a sudden, a little bit of the ocean is separated, it's like, "I'll stay here. I'm not going to walk in."
Tim: It was literally a dead end of the maze, so to speak. Literally so to speak. So, yeah, the nature of the test. And you were drawing attention to the fact that that story of the deliverance through the waters isn't called a test in that story. It's a call to trust in the face of death. And that's totally right.
However, that story was put right alongside the stories we're about to read and shares vocabulary with them. The stories we're about to read all (00:07:00) use the word “test.” It's a good meditation literature technique of biblical authors where they put a story in front of you and then right after they'll put a bunch of stories that also give you retro illumination into the first story because you see the same things happening, but with new vocabulary. In this case, the vocabulary.
Jon: Retro illumination. And we learned in the poem that they sing after they're rescued that "we know where we're going. We're going through the wilderness to get to a mountain where we will be planted with God.” And this is speaking of Sinai. So here in the second movement of the Exodus scroll, we've gone through the waters and now we gotta go through the wilderness to the mountain.
Tim: And actually ... sorry, the I think ultimately the mountain is Mount Zion in the promised land.
Tim: Because they're going to be planted there to live forever and ever with Yahweh as their king.
Jon: Oh, it’s not Sinai.
Tim: And all the nations around are going to freak out when they arrive— (00:08:00)
Jon: Oh, that's when you meant when it was actually talking about all the way through the story of the Torah.
Tim: Yeah. Exodus 15 reaches forward to what you begin to see happening in the book of Joshua, beyond the bounds of the Torah.
Tim: So as far as you know, you're on your way to the promised land as you leave with a song on the sea.
Jon: Sinai is a little pit stop.
Tim: Long pit stop with 613 laws to ponder and enjoy. So yeah, that's the shape of the story. So where we're going to pick up is the next kind of little bundle of stories. It's a three-part bundle. It's a bundle of three stories.
Jon: The first part of the second movement was a bundle of three stories.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: So the second part of the second movement is also a bundle of three stories.
Tim: A bundle of three stories. It's three stories where Israel faces a crisis in the wilderness. First, no water. Second, a story about no food. And then third, no water again. In each story, they grumble. The word "grumble" is used, or “complain.” (00:09:00) Each story uses the word "test." And in each story, God is going to provide for them but only after letting them sit in a situation that forces them to trust. So that's the collection of stories we're going to look at right now.
Section break (00:09:20)
Tim: So Exodus 15:22. "And Moses made the people of Israel journey from the Sea of Reeds ..." They just arrived on the other side. "... and they went out into the wilderness of Shur. And they went three days into the wilderness, and they didn't find any water." Three days.
Jon: That's a significant number.
Tim: It's a formula usually for a short passage of time almost always used in narratives that indicate some test of trust.
Jon: And some sort of confrontation with death, right?
Tim: Often the test is a confrontation with death. The first narrative that uses the third day formula is Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. Actually, this is what Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh back when they were talking with him back in the 10 plagues stories where they said, "Yahweh said let us go three days into the wilderness." So here they are going three days into the wilderness—
Jon: Until they're thirsty enough.
Tim: Till they're thirsty. Let's just paint the scene. An escaped group of slaves, they just went through what they just went through. And now—
Jon: That'll make you thirsty. (00:11:00)
Tim: Now they're really in the middle of nowhere, three days out; there's no water.
Jon: I've never gone that long without any water.
Tim: Man, neither have I. Not a day in my life. Oh, not three days of my life.
Jon: I don't know if I've gone a full day.
Tim: I probably haven't either.
Jon: Why would I have? I mean, I depend on myself.
Tim: So once again, it's going to be tempting to be critical of the people. But you really have to read sympathetically here and just put yourself in this situation.
Jon: It must be miserable to be that thirsty. I have no idea.
Tim: Yeah, I don't know.
Jon: I've only been like I just took a hike and I forgot my water bottle. I gotta wait for an extra couple hours. That's miserable enough.
Tim: Three days they didn't find any water.
Jon: And they're hiking. They're moving through the wilderness.
Tim: So they came to a place called Marah, which is the Hebrew word for "bitter." “They came to Marah and they were (00:12:00) not able to drink the waters that Marah because they were marim (bitter). Therefore, they called the name of that place Marah (bitter).” Four times in one little bit here we're drawing attention to the fact that we have water here but it's not the kind of water you can drink. So the people grumbled. They complained.
Jon: That's the worst when you're like, "Oh, is that the water?" And then you can't drink it.
Tim: You know ... Yeah. I don't know. When I'm going on summer backpacking trips, I've run out of water. And then you get to water but I always have a filter along. So I filter it and then could drink it. So I have to imagine what if I didn't have a filter and you're like, "There is water but ...”
Jon: You just drink it.
Tim: I think I would.
Jon: What are you going to get?
Tim: Giardia or something.
Jon: Deer pee in your system?
Tim: Yeah. I think it's more of the deer poop you're concerned about.
Tim: “So the people grumble against Moses saying, ‘What are we supposed to drink?’ (00:13:00) And he,” that is Moses, “cried out to Yahweh. And Yahweh instructed him about a tree.” The verb here is the verb that's at the root of the noun "torah."
Jon: Oh, he taught him. He torahed him.
Tim: Yeah. Most of our translations say "pointed out" or "showed him." Actually, the word for "instruct" is spelled with two of the three letters as the word "to see." So it actually also sounds like what the verb would be is "and he showed him," "he made him see." But as we're going to see, there's a lot of plays on the word "torah" and "instruction" here in this section. So he made him see or instructed him about a tree.
Jon: A tree of knowing.
Tim: Hmm. Yeah, he's giving him knowledge about a tree. “And he (that is Moses) threw or tossed into the waters, and the waters became sweet.” (00:14:00) This happens in biblical narrative. There will often be put a very short, ambiguous story full of puzzles that is there as a riddle, that only will become clear as you continue to read the stories that come after.
Jon: This is a very dense riddled story.
Tim: Yes. And it goes on. "There he gave him a statute and an ordinance and there he tested him." In Hebrew, there's no explicit subjects or objects here. You just have to infer. I think our English translations maybe provide "And he said, ‘If y'all—'"
Jon: I'm lost.
Tim: What's that?
Jon: I'm kinda lost.
Tim: Okay, all right. Okay. Look at that. In one verse, everything ... right? Everything is—
Jon: It is disorienting.
Tim: Totally. Super disorienting. This is good. This is a riddle. This is what Proverbs 1 means when it says you read the Hebrew Bible and you will gain wisdom for understanding riddles and dark sayings. (00:15:00) It's referring to stories like this. You have to sit with it for a long time. So where did you lose track?
Jon: The hes. All the hes.
Tim: Okay. So let's go back to verse 25. “He (that is Moses) cried out to Yahweh, and he (Yahweh) instructed him (Moses) about a tree. And he tossed into the waters.”
Jon: Moses or Yahweh?
Tim: Moses tossed the tree into the waters. You think it makes sense that Yahweh would toss a tree?
Jon: Well, whenever Moses does something, it's kind of like his arm is Yahweh's arm.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. And he instructed him. We're not told like did he say, "Hey, Moses, throw into the trees and Moses did according to the word of the Lord."
Jon: Oh, by the way, you're calling it a tree. It's like in translation that's going to be “stick.”
Tim: Oh, yeah. Interesting.
Tim: It's the word "etz." It's just a standard word for—
Jon: For "wood."
Tim: In Hebrew, the word "etz" can refer to a tree, (00:16:00) a living thing coming out of the ground with a woody stock, or it can refer to a piece of wood that has been cut down and is now being used. You can call it etz. In Exodus 15, NAS has “a tree,” ESV has “log” with a footnote saying “tree.” “And the Lord showed him a log.” That's outstanding.
Jon: That's like a big stick.
Tim: And NIV says, "The Lord showed him a piece of wood."
Jon: Piece of wood.
Tim: Yeah. That's the word “tree.” Which can refer to a piece of wood. This is a good example of intentional double meaning. This is a test at a tree about ... We don't call water food. But this is like a food test by a tree.
Jon: A nourishment test.
Tim: A nourishment test.
Jon: So back to Genesis 2, God says, "Don't eat of the tree of knowing ..."
Tim: Well, first God plants a garden in the middle of a wilderness.
Jon: Oh, yeah. (00:17:00)
Tim: And there's a river.
Jon: And there's rivers. There's water and there's a tree of life. There's a tree of God's own life. That is eternal life. And then there's a tree of knowing …
Tim: Good and bad.
Jon: ... good and bad. Don't eat of that tree. The test is don't eat of that tree. Here we have another tree. And it's interesting that it's a tree of instruction. It's like a tree of knowing.
Tim: Yeah. It's a tree that's related to the knowledge of God, the instruction of God.
Jon: So it's obviously riffing off of this. And I'm jumping ahead, but I'm just thinking about how in the last story, Moses takes the staff which was the snake. So it's Moses controlling the snake, which was part of the temptation of the test of eating the tree of knowing. And here, Moses takes the tree of knowing. It's like Moses is wielding all these (00:18:00) things that were causing all the problems. And he can use it to actually rescue.
Tim: He takes the things. This is the role of Moses until he gets to his own failure narratives later in the book of Numbers. But yeah, he's this figure that by his trust can reverse the Adam and Eve-like failures in the stories that he's a character in. So this is one of them.
Jon: He's taking the tree of knowing which brought the worst of the curse that we've experienced—
Tim: Yeah. And he turns it into a source of life. The tree that brought death in Eden is given a narrative equivalent here, but Moses takes it and uses it to bring life to the people, under the instruction of Yahweh. In Eden, Yahweh gave a command, an instruction about the tree. So it's a great example of the same narrative images through parallelism and hyperlinking. But the role they play in the story is all (00:19:00) being flipped, inverted. Yeah, the tree brings life.
Jon: Which kind of shows that Moses is this one who will come to reverse the curse.
Tim: Yeah, he's an image of the snake crusher or the one with authority over the snake. Because he represents Yahweh. He's an image.
Jon: Because his arm is Yahweh's arm.
Tim: Yeah. So that's the idea. Moses is the intercessor, so he cries out to God. As a result of Moses’ intercession, Yahweh gives him instruction/wisdom about a tree. So Moses takes that tree and he uses it to turn death into life, the waters that were bitter, and death become life.
Jon: Which is also a cool thing that happens in Genesis where the chaos waters are turned into waters.
Tim: Yeah, the source of life. That's right. This is quintessential Yahweh as creator imagery where Yahweh takes death, turns it into life. He takes the wilderness, turns into a garden. He's able to take an infertile couple, a barren womb, (00:20:00) and turn it into a fruitfulness and a child. So Israel's ... This is like their own version of being re-created here.
Jon: So where I got lost was now the next part, the next instruction.
Tim: So this becomes the narrator. The narrator pushes pause, and he starts talking to you and I, the reader. He says, "Hey, dear reader, this was a story about Israel faced crisis. The intercessor cried out, and through the intercessor, God turned death into life. There Yahweh gave him, that is Israel, a statute and a command, and there in that place Yahweh tested Israel."
So this whole thing now, we're realizing, turns into an experience where they have a chance to trust. They have a chance to learn wisdom from this instruction. And what is it? Verse 26, "Yahweh said, "If you all listen to my voice—” (00:21:00)
Jon: Is it listen listen?
Tim: Yeah, listen listen. Sorry, I'm reading from a Hebrew Bible and subjects always come way after the verb. Okay, verse 26, "And he said ..." I think presumably Moses here because of what’s said. "If y'all listen listen ..." The Hebrew verb is repeated twice here. "If y'all listen listen to the voice of Yahweh your Elohim and if you do what is right in his eyes ..." That is the Eden vocabulary here: good in the eyes. "... and if you listen to his commands, and if you keep all of his statutes ..." So we're setting up the setting of a covenantal relationship here. And the covenantal relationship is listen. Do what he says. Do what he says. "If you listen to the voice of Yahweh, if you do what's right in his eyes, and listen to his commands and keep them, then every sickness and illness that I put on Egypt, (00:22:00) I won't put on you because I am Yahweh your healer."
“So they went to Elim. They went from Marah to Elim and there at Elim ...” The word "elim" means oak trees. So they go to another place with a bunch of trees, “and there they found 12 springs of water, 70 palm trees, and they camped out there.”
Jon: Twelve and seventy. Those are important numbers.
Tim: Yeah. So the number of the tribes, 12. 70 has a whole bunch of meanings attached to it from Genesis as you read through the Genesis scroll. But an image of completeness, often an image associated with the nations, the 70 nations, but also the 70 descendants of Israel that went down into Egypt. So 12 and 70 could mean a complete rest for all of Israel by the waters and by the trees, which is an Eden image. (00:23:00)
Jon: So when Yahweh says, "If you listen to my voice," is he referring back to Moses listening and throwing in the wood or is this now referring to ... He's saying, "Hey, just like Moses did that, you're going to have an opportunity to listen to my voice?" Kind of a future thing.
Tim: Yeah, it's kind of interesting. So the people grumble, and instead of saying, "Okay, people, listen to me, listen to my voice and trust me. And then if you do, I'll hook you up."
Jon: "I'll get you some sweet water."
Tim: And then they get the sweet water. But that's not how the story goes. The story goes they grumble, and because of the intercessor, Moses, then God works with Moses, and Moses brings about the deliverance and life.
Jon: And then the covenant relationship is given after that.
Tim: And then God says, "Okay, guys, listen—"
Jon: "This is how the covenant is going to go."
Tim: Yeah. First of all, that thing with the water is called a test there. He tested them. This was a test of trust, at the end of verse 25. And then—
Jon: So when it says (00:24:00) he made them a statute and a rule, what was the statute and rule?
Tim: This is great. The narrative doesn't say. But it then gives you to say, "Hey, everybody, if you listen to Yahweh's statutes and rules and do what's right in his eyes, then you'll have life and not death." So what are they? This is actually a long-standing question of a puzzle in this narrative because we're not to Mount Sinai yet.
Jon: It seems like it's foreshadowing Mount Sinai.
Tim: For sure. For sure.
Jon: So is the statute and rule the foreshadow and then test he's referred to the test to come?
Tim: But what it says is, "There at those waters he tested him." Past tense.
Jon: Well, "there he tested them" is the test "Are you going to trust me when we get there?" Is that the test? Or is the test the thing that happened at the waters?
Tim: It's as if the thing that just happened to the waters, this isn't the last time that you're going to face danger and death. This thing that just happened was people face danger, crisis. What are you going to do? Are you going to trust me (00:25:00) and do what's right in my eyes or are you going to grumble and rebel? There he tested him. This whole situation was a test.
Tim: And then verse 26 says, "Listen, guys, if you just listen to me, just do what I tell you to do, there will be life and not death." So in this case, Yahweh just provides life through Moses.
Jon: There's no explicit test there.
Tim: They didn't trust. But what we are told was that little scenario was that was a test.
Jon: That was a test.
Tim: That was a test. And they failed it.
Jon: Because they grumbled.
Tim: They came to the water, and they say, "What? What are we supposed to drink?" And they grumbled. So what's fascinating here is they fail the test, as it were. They don't trust. And it's only because of the intercession of Moses that you get life instead of death.
Jon: Here's another example of God not saying, "Hey, pass the test and then I'll rescue you." It's God saying, "Even if you fail the test, I'm going to rescue you, and then I'm going to give you an opportunity to be in a covenant relationship with me."
Tim: Yeah, that's right. Now, this is the first one. There's still two more to go. (00:26:00) And Yahweh is going to be a little more severe in the following ones.
Section break (00:26:04)
Jon: Now, you said, "I will bring life not death." It actually says, "I will put none of the diseases that I put on Egypt on you."
Tim: Sickness or healing, life and death. What it says is, "I will bring none of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I, Yahweh, I'm your healer."
Jon: Why bring up that? Why bring up the diseases?
Tim: Yeah, I know. I've pondered that. I've pondered that for a long time. I mean, if you think about it, it's a reference back to the plagues on Egypt, of which there were boils. I mean, what fits the category, what we would think of sickness from the 10 plagues would be like the boils and then the death of the firstborn, (00:27:00) which was like a plague, a sickness, a virus. What we would say of some kind.
But we're adding to the vocabulary of life and death here. So we have desert versus garden, the words “life” or “death” and here “sickness” or “healing.” My hunch is there's something about the literary design of this section, and that these words “sickness” and “healing” actually match some other set of terms in the matching narrative. And I need to work on the section more to figure that out.
But usually what happens is biblical authors will introduce you to very unique vocabulary, and you're like, "Ah, what?" And it's usually you need to wait to see the hyperlink somewhere later or earlier that you missed that explains why that unique vocabulary is used.
Here's what's going to happen right after this. There's going to be two more stories about a food crisis and a test and they're all going to be much longer. (00:28:00) So it's like you got the short, dense one first that's like a riddle, and then you get the two longer more clear ones second. And they all mutually match each other. And all three together are kind of like a little meditation. The second narrative is long. We won't read the whole thing. But this is the famous manna. This is where the manna comes in.
Jon: What is it?
Tim: What is what? You had such an earnest face. You got me. That's outstanding. What is it?
Jon: What is it?
Tim: That's what the Hebrew word “manna” means. Ma'n hu? What is it? So instead of a water crisis, they walk into what we call chapter 16. And we're told it's the 15th day of the second month. So we left Egypt. Passover was a month and a half ago. (00:29:00) No, excuse me, Passover was one month ago. Passover starts on the 14th day. So this is a month later.
And verse 2, "The people grumbled against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness. And they said,” the sons of Israel, “'Oh, we wish we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt. There we were sitting by pots of flesh when we ate bread to satisfaction.'"
Jon: We might have been slaves, but we had a meal.
Tim: We had meals. "You all have brought us out in this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." The word “famine.”
Jon: So same thing. Like, "You brought us out here to kill us."
Tim: Yeah, totally. And notice it's contrast between when he says, "We ate bread to the fullness," it's the Hebrew word "soba", which means "to be filled up" or "satisfied." This is that word spelled with the same (00:30:00) letters as the Hebrew word "seven," which is part of how the number seven is the image of completeness. Because it's a wordplay on the word "filled up." Brought full.
So fullness or famine. We had fullness as slaves. Now we're free, but we have famine under Yahweh. So life and death, fullness or famine, meat and bread versus nothing. Those are the images here. So what Yahweh says is ... Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Look, I am going to rain. I'm going to cause it to rain bread on you from the skies."
This is the fourth time it rains in the Torah. It rains in the flood story—rains water. It rains in the Sodom and Gomorrah story.
Jon: Rains fire.
Tim: It's fire. It rains in ... No, it doesn't rain in the 10 plagues. This is the third time it rains. And then right here. (00:31:00) So it's going to be a flood of bread.
Jon: Flood of bread.
Tim: Yeah, totally. But bread from heaven. Heavenly bread. Sky bread.
Jon: Sky bread flood.
Tim: Flood of sky bread. "And the people are supposed to go out and gather it just each day by each day so that I can test them, whether they are going to walk in my Torah or not." So the bread is going to be the test. Test of sky bread. Here's what the test is going to be. Verse 5, "It will come about on the sixth day, on the sixth day ..." So you're going to get bread from the skies for six days. But on the sixth day, they are to prepare what they bring in. And that will become double what they gathered up each day previously. So here's the test. The test is six days of work—
Jon: Don't go out.
Tim: And then on the seventh— (00:32:00)
Jon: Then harvest the sky bread.
Tim: ... on the seventh you just sit in your house, and you trust that what every day has only been enough for one day will just magically become two days’ worth of sky bread. That's the test. That's the test. I love the Hebrew Bible. Okay, so sixth day, and on the seventh day you rest. Clearly, we're working the Genesis 1—
Jon: The test is trust that there will be enough to rest.
Tim: Correct. Trust that when you stop working Yahweh will do the work for you to give you what you need.
Jon: But you will have already gotten enough on the sixth day to rest on the seventh day.
Tim: Correct. The whole point is each day you go out five days a week …
Jon: You just collect enough for that day.
Tim: ... and you collect enough. And each one you just collect manna ... Somehow that's just like enough of what you and your family needed that day. You don't get two days. You just get it day by day. This is certainly what Jesus is alluding to in the Lord's Prayer.
Jon: Our daily sky bread. (00:33:00)
Tim: "Give us each day our daily bread."
Jon: Wait. Okay, hold on. When they go out to collect, there's only a day's worth. They couldn't collect more than a day.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. You collect and—
Jon: God rains down enough for the day.
Tim: For the day.
Jon: The daily bread. Each day he provides what you need for that one day.
Jon: On the sixth day, he provides a double portion so they can rest on the seventh day. So what is the test? They have no choice.
Tim: Oh, the test is not to go out on the seventh day.
Jon: But there's not going to be any bread out there. Or is there? Is there seventh day sky bread?
Tim: Oh, yeah. Apparently, yes. Because the people are going to go out on the seventh day. They're going to fail the test and they're going to out—
Jon: So God rains down sky bread and is like, "Hey, you don't need this. I already gave you enough."
Tim: Yeah, that's interesting.
Jon: "I want you to rest."
Tim: I love reading the Bible with you, Jon. Yeah, because the people are going to go out on the seventh day and pick up the sky bread and Yahweh is going to get pretty angry about that.
Jon: Because he wanted them to rest.
Tim: He wanted them to rest. (00:34:00) Yeah.
Jon: Even out in the wilderness.
Tim: Yeah, totally. We are re-creating Israel here through a test of obedience, a test of trust. And it seems arbitrary in that because there is sky bread out there on the seventh day. “Why wouldn't I go get it?"
Jon: Why not harvest my fields?
Tim: That's the test. That's the test.
Jon: And very clearly for a covenant community, Israel, who is meant to rest on the seventh day every week, which is a weird thing in the ancient world ... This story would just be like this story of just like very clearly ... Yeah, it's hard, but it's what God asks of us.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. What's fascinating is we haven't gotten to Mount Sinai yet and we're talking about the Sabbath.
Tim: I mean, Moses is going to call this seventh day ... Later on in this story, he will call it a holy Sabbath to Yahweh.
Jon: But we've had Genesis 1.
Tim: Totally. That's right.
Jon: Now there are probably other things that I'm not aware of.
Tim: No, I'm with you. I'm just saying it's anticipating—
Jon: Yeah, yeah. This is how the Bible is (00:35:00) meditative literature.
Tim: That's right. Do you remember how we said, let's let these stories define for us what it means for Yahweh to test his people?
Tim: This one does feel like Yahweh is like my boys creating a little bit of an extra complication in the maze. Because—
Jon: Because he knows what your inclination is going to be to go. He could have kept the seventh day bread off the ground and then there's no choice.
Tim: And then there wouldn't be any test. I guess the test would be like at the sea—
Jon: There's no test at that point.
Tim: It's just, wow, I hope this is enough for two days. This is all I got. But here it's, no, you could go get more.
Jon: Are you going to go get more?
Tim: It's another food test.
Jon: It's an abundance test.
Tim: But what I'm saying is in this section, we get three stories that each in their own way echo the Eden test …
Jon: Oh, yeah.
Tim: ... of Genesis 1 and then the Eden story.
Jon: Do you trust me that I'll give you what you need when you need it or are you going to take it?
Tim: Remember the first testing story (00:36:00) says, "If you listen to my voice and do what is good in my eyes ..." So this is about—
Jon: Versus what Adam and Eve see the fruit of the tree of knowing good and bad is good in their eyes.
Tim: She saw that it was good and desirable for eating and desirable to make one wise. And she took and she ate. So here, this is now a test where there's food. It's right out there. I can see—
Jon: It's going to rot. It doesn't last more than a day, right?
Tim: It doesn't last more than a day. So I better go get it. Oh, yeah, Yahweh gave us a Torah instruction—
Jon: To rest.
Tim: To rest. Don't go work and get the sky bread. It doesn't make any sense because it's right there. And this is not going to last more than a day. It doesn't any other day of the week. It only lasts one day. That's the test. It's intense. And you're out in the middle of nowhere and this is your only source of food.
Tim: There you go.
Jon: Don't go chasing sky bread.
Tim: What you get is the story of Israel collecting the food on the six days. (00:37:00) They did it just like they're supposed to. Verse 17, "And so the sons of Israel did. The one who collected a whole bunch, or the one who collected a little bit, they measured it in their measuring, which is called the omer. The one who gathered a whole bunch, hoarders, they ended up not having more leftover. And the ones who gathered not quite enough, well, they ended up never running out. Each one had exactly what they needed to gather." It's like the bread is changing. You put it in the jar and like you gathered because you're like, "I don't know if there's going to be any tomorrow, so I'll get some more." And then you open up the jar later, and it's like, "What, there's only what we need for today."
Jon: You put bread in a jar?
Tim: Well, what you're told above is that it was this gummy, flake-like substance that would be there with the morning dew. The dew would evaporate. And it was this weird brown shining flake stuff.
Jon: Oh, and this is what they bake with?
Tim: Well, they just gather in jars, and then they eat it. That's it.
Tim: They just eat it. (00:38:00) So there were people who would get more, there were people who would get less, but somehow everybody's jar was the same level. But there were some that didn't listen to Moses. And so they left it over until the morning.
Jon: They didn't eat it all up.
Tim: Yeah, because they want to save it. And it was full of worms and rotten. And Moses got so mad. So there's the image that the people are like trying to create by their own wisdom what they think is enough. And Yahweh—
Jon: There won't be enough for tomorrow so I'll leave some of my sky bread gift.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. So verse 22, "It came out on the sixth day that other people gathered twice what they needed, two amounts. And they told Moses, and Moses said, "Yeah, everybody stop because tomorrow's going to be a Sabbath for everybody." (00:39:00) "Moses," verse 25, “said ‘Eat what you need today because today is the Sabbath to Yahweh. Don't go out looking in the fields today. Today is the Sabbath. Six days you gather, on the seventh day you rest."
Well, verse 27, "It came about on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they didn't find any. They didn't find any. And Yahweh said, 'How long will these people refuse to keep my commandments and my Torah?' Look, Yahweh has given you the Sabbath, therefore, he gave you bread on the sixth day that would last two days. So just sit each one of you in your place. Don't go out on the seventh day." And so that people rested on the seventh day.
And then the way the story ends is God tells Moses to pick up some manna, put it in a really special jar, and go (00:40:00) take it into the tabernacle and put it in the ark as a reminder of Yahweh’s provision and of Israel's failure. Inside the ark is this reminder of their failure of the test inside the ark. Isn’t that interesting?
Jon: It is interesting. Well, it's also a reminder of God's provision.
Tim: God's provision. The Eden bread goes into the Eden spot in the ark. But it also is a reminder of how they needed to learn to trust. So I think these two test stories are just sat next to each other and you got to sit there and ponder them. The first one, the people cried out.
Jon: They grumble.
Tim: Mm-hmm. But then Moses cries out. Because of Moses' intercession, God gives them water of life.
Jon: And that one the test ... It's hard for me.
Tim: It just says that somehow this—
Jon: God calls it a test.
Tim: He calls it a test. There he tested him. This whole thing was a moment where Israel's trust was tested. And they didn't succeed because they grumbled. It was only because of an intercessor that they got the water of life. (00:41:00)
Here it's a little different. Different setup in chapter 16. Here, God again, what's similar is that God provides, they grumble ... They're actually kind of angry. Like, "You brought us out here to die." And what God does is give them food. So it's similar.
Jon: Right. So in a way they failed the same kind of test already just by grumbling in the way they grumbled with the water.
Tim: Yeah. But now they're given another layer to the test, which is, "Now I'm going to provide you food, but you need to follow my instruction about what to do with the food." And this feels a lot like the garden of Eden. Because it's not clear to Eve why she shouldn't eat from that tree. It looks good for eating.
Jon: Right. All the other trees you can eat from. And it's a fruit that helps you know good from bad. I want to be God's image, I need to know good from bad.
Tim: Yeah, it seems like a good thing. So I better take that for myself and do what's good in my eyes.
Jon: And it seems prudent (00:42:00) to save a little sky bread goo for the next day.
Jon: Just keep a little extra in the jar. Because what if the next morning God forgot to rain down the sky bread?
Tim: Actually, they kind of fail in two ways. Because there's some people who gather too much on any given day and God just levels out the jar. But then on the seventh day, there are people who go out because they're like, "I don't know if what we saved from yesterday is enough for today." And that makes Yahweh really frustrated.
Jon: Do you think this is a more meta meditation on just work? Like, you know, don't overwork. You're not going to get more abundance?
Tim: Well, okay. I mean, here we're deep into the covenant narrative, which is about Yahweh choosing a people to give the Eden blessing to the nations through. They keep failing, they keep failing. Good thing we have an intercessor who's got some power over the snake. (00:43:00) Without that guy, these people would be—
Tim: Yeah. So we've got Moses. I think that's the main thrust of the story. However, yeah, I do think this is a narrative that gives us wisdom about the importance of Sabbath rest and the importance of not attributing to my own ingenuity and intellect. Not confusing that with the way I actually survive, which in reality, it's totally by the generosity of God, not by my own power or intellect. That kind of thing. For sure that's a takeaway here. I think so.
I think a narrative like this would be what inspired the teacher in Ecclesiastes to be like, you think you're sustaining your life but then you get sick and you die and you pass off everything you worked for to somebody who could care less, and it's chasing after wind, you discover. It would be a narrative like this that is kind of making a similar point. (00:44:00)
Jon: You eat some leftover, but worms destroy it.
Tim: Yeah, totally. Worms are associated with death. Like corpses, rotting corpses.
Jon: The worm will never die.
Tim: Worm will never die. Okay, I always think we're going to go faster through these stories than we are. I'm having a good time.
Section break (00:44:19)
Tim: Here's the third testing story. All the sons of Israel went out from the wilderness of Sin, on their journeys. And they came to Rephidim and guess what? No water. It's a nice little chiasm.
Jon: Yeah. No water. No bread. No water.
Tim: “So the people quarreled with Moses—"
Jon: Also, by the way, the manna, the bread, that's the dead center literarily speaking of the scroll of Exodus.
Tim: Oh, yes. It's the center of the center of the center.
Jon: It's the center of the center of the center.
Tim: And it's a long narrative all focusing on the seventh day. Seventh-day rest. Yeah, that's right.
Tim: And you have slavery on one side of the Exodus and the liberation into the wilderness. In the middle of the wilderness is a narrative about rest on the seventh day. And then the third movement will be about God giving the gift of the tabernacle to an idolatrous people. And around the two instructions are all about a focus on the rest of the seventh day. Slavery, rest with God on the tabernacle, and seventh day in the middle. Yeah, dude, the Exodus scroll. (00:46:00)
So here at Rephidim, the people say to Moses, "Give us water to drink." And Moses—
Jon: "We know your trick."
Tim: And Moses said to them, "What? Why are you quarreling with me? Why are y'all testing Yahweh?” Y'all are putting Yahweh to the test.
Tim: There you go. Think about it. Yahweh just tested you twice. Yahweh tested Israel two times about whether or not they're going to trust him to provide. Now they're putting Yahweh to the test. What has Yahweh been ... Go ahead. What were you going to say?
Jon: Well, it seems like this is what they're supposed to do. They are supposed to come to Moses and say, "Hey, we know you via Yahweh can get us water."
Tim: Ah, right. But what they do is they quarrel with him. They come to pick a fight.
Jon: I see. So they're not trusting. They're not coming in being like, "Here's an opportunity for us to trust God. Can you do the thing?" (00:47:00) This is them like, "What the heck?"
Tim: Yeah, they come to pick a fight. The vocabulary "terivun" is the word "reeb." And it's why this place is going to be called Meribah, which is the word "fight" or "contention" or "dispute." So these are going to be called the waters of Meribah. The waters of fighting.
Jon: So coming and beseeching God by faith is passing the test.
Jon: Yeah, that would be crying out to the Lord. "O Lord, help us. Provide water for us, O Lord. Have mercy upon us."
Jon: But the same request through fighting is now putting Yahweh to a test.
Tim: Yeah. What they say is, "Give us water so that we can drink."
Jon: They're demanding it.
Tim: Yeah, totally.
Jon: But it's the same request, right?
Tim: Yeah, that's interesting.
Jon: Just stated differently.
Tim: This happens with my sons in the morning with breakfast. I think it's just because they're waking up. So Jessica and I will be making breakfast, (00:48:00) but yeah, they're grumpy. They'll just be like, "I want the pancakes." So I'll just take a moment and just say, "How can you turn that into a request, buddy?" It's just that. "May I please have some pancakes, dad. Thanks for making those."
Jon: Why is it referred to as testing Yahweh?
Tim: Yeah, it's great. Let's meditate on that. Because it's flipping it. The previous two stories it was Yahweh testing Israel. About what? About trust.
Jon: Trust, yeah.
Tim: Trust. Here and in both those stories, Israel had a need, they responded inappropriately, and Yahweh led with generosity. Give them the water and give them the bread. "Even though they're going to be rude and unkind and not trust me about it, I'm going to give it to them anyway."
Jon: He begins with generosity.
Tim: Yeah. So here y'all are testing Yahweh. I think you're supposed to infer from that testing is patience. Testing is kindness. You're just assuming, (00:49:00) "Give us water." You're just assuming that Yahweh is at your behest to give you water whenever you want it. I think it's actually very similar to that situation in the morning with my boys. I already made the pancakes. It's not like—
Jon: Are they testing you? They're testing your patience?
Tim: Yeah, by being rude to me about it. "Give me the pancakes."
Jon: I see.
Tim: "Guys, come on. I'll always give you pancakes. Just be kind about it."
Jon: Moses saying, "You giving God an opportunity to be generous to you, to be patient with you, is not the thing you're supposed to be doing. The thing you're supposed to be doing is taking this as an opportunity to trust in his generosity and patience."
Tim: Yeah, putting Yahweh's generosity to the test. It's as if you're trying to make Yahweh show he's generous as opposed to just trusting that he will be generous.
Jon: It's such a subtle shift. It's all about your posture.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. That's right. (00:50:00)
Jon: It's the same request: "I need water." But it's a posture of am I going to demand it because I'm testing your character, how I know you to be. So I'm now kind of—
Tim: That's a phrase, "testing my patience." "You're testing my patience," the assumption is I'm patient and I like to be patient. I want to be patient. But the way you're behaving is …
Jon: Making me ...
Tim: ... testing me because I might fail this test if you keep being so rude. Okay, thank you. I appreciate us probing here. I think that's what he means. Yahweh rescued you. He's given you a water remedy. He's given you food. Why are you testing him with this quarreling and picking a fight with me and being so rude? I think that's what he means.
After that, he says, "Why are you testing Yahweh?" The narrative comes back. The people were thirsty and then they grumbled against Moses. (00:51:00) And they said, "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to kill us and our children with this thirst?"
Jon: We're here again.
Tim: Yeah, we're here again. So once again, Moses cries out, just like he did at the waters of Marah.
Jon: The intercessor.
Tim: And he says to Yahweh, "What am I supposed to do for these people? They're going to kill me." He said, "They're about to stone me with stones." Dude, this is so fascinating.
Jon: They are thirsty.
Tim: Yahweh said to Moses, "Go in front of all the people and take the elders of Israel and take that staff, that snake staff. The snake staff that you use to strike the Nile River, take that one, and go ... Stand and go and look” verse six. “I am going to stand in front of you there upon the rock …”
Jon: In front of you.
Tim: “… at chorev (Mount Horeb)." So you all are coming close to Horeb, you're in the wilderness of Horeb, and I'm going to stand (00:52:00) there in front of you on the rock by Horeb." This is what he says. "And you strike the rock, the rock that I am standing on." Yahweh just said, "I'm going to go stand on that rock over there and then you go hit the rock and water will come out." And you water the people. First of all, what does that mean that Yahweh is going to stand on the rock? That's a strange image.
Tim: "I'm going to go stand on the rock and you hit the rock that I'm standing on." It's such an evocative image. Was Yahweh going to go stand over there?
Jon: What's that going to look like?
Tim: Right. The only clue we have is the pillar of cloud and fire—
Jon: Which doesn't really have feet.
Tim: You're right, Jon. So strike it and then water will come out. So take the snake staff, hit the rock …
Jon: That I'm standing on.
Tim: … that I'm standing on and life will come out. Do you remember in the matching water test, (00:53:00) Yahweh showed him a tree and he tossed the tree in the water, and the water became drinkable?
Tim: Here he takes the staff made of wood, he strikes a rock, and the rock provides the water.
Jon: Oh, this isn't the striking the rock that gets him in trouble?
Tim: Mm-mm. No. That's the matching story later in Numbers.
Tim: And he does it.
Jon: He does it.
Tim: Moses did this in the eyes of Israel, in the eyes of the elders. “And so they called the name of that place testing and also fight, the quarrel because the sons of Israel fought with him there and because they tested Yahweh. And they said, ‘Listen, is Yahweh in the middle of us, or is he not?’”
Jon: That's kind of a cool turn of phrase.
Tim: Yeah. Is Yahweh in the middle? Just like the tree in the middle or the ark of the covenant is going to be in the middle of the people. So all three of these stories are about tests of trust. And then (00:54:00) when Yahweh's people don't trust and then they get demanding, arrogant, I guess they take their salvation or their deliverance so for granted, that they … Yeah, they take their status as God's chosen one so for granted that they use it as a platform to accuse God of not delivering. Isn't that interesting?
Jon: It is interesting. But it also like does feel so true to the human condition.
Tim: Yeah, totally.
Jon: It's just something we would do. Like you'd be shown grace, given all these chances, and then you would just acclimate to it to the point you're just like, "I deserve this."
Tim: Yeah, totally.
Jon: That is totally our style.
Tim: This happens in my house when the hot water runs out. We still have an older water heater that has a permanent little fire, perpetual fire that’s warming the water. But if we take more than two good hot showers in a row, you got to wait about 10, 15 minutes. (00:55:00) And dude, if the hot water runs out while you're in there … You know, it's a hard moment to reflect when you're like shivering. And you say, "You know what? It's a miracle that I even have hot water for five minutes. What's a little cold water going to do?" Instead, I get all like, "Ah, whoa, who did ... Who ...?"
Jon: "Who took too long in the shower?”
Tim: Totally. It's like that, at least in my house. And that's true. It's like you take the gifts that someone's given you and you so take them for granted that you begin to behave in ways like you deserve it and you are owed it. I think that's the portrait right here. That's putting Yahweh to the test.
Section break (00:55:45)
Jon: That was the end of the second part of the second movement. So there's three kind of testing narratives. We've kind of run out of time, but we want to finish off this second movement. So we're going to blitz through the third part of the second movement, which also has three parts.
Tim: Yeah, three little stories.
Jon: So we'll just go boom, boom, boom and we'll look at how it's a test.
Tim: Yeah, totally. The last three stories here ... I'll just kind of name them real quick. Right after the third water test at Meribah and Massah, there's a story about how the people of Amalek, which are descended from Jacob's brother Esau, who also married together with the Ishmaelites and the Midianites. (00:57:00) And these are all other non-chosen brothers from the generation of Abraham and Jacob, and so on. And they gather together, and they make war on Israel in the wilderness. This is where Moses—
Jon: Has to lift up his arms and Israel will win as long as his arms are raised.
Tim: Yeah, totally. So it's the story of Israel at war with the nations. The nations are attacking Israel in the wilderness. This is just like what Pharaoh went to do at the shoreline, as it were.
Jon: And God is the warrior.
Tim: So there it was Egypt attacking. Here it's Israel's estranged relatives attacking them in the wilderness. So what—
Jon: The Amalekites.
Tim: The Amalekites. That's right. So what God says is, "Go stand on a hill with the rod in your hand." The same rod that he split the waters with.
Jon: Yeah, this is important.
Tim: Yeah, the rod. "Joshua, you go make (00:58:00) war tomorrow, and I'm going to go stand up on this rock with two guys, Aaron my brother and Hur who's from the line of Judah." So he goes up with a priest, a Levite from the priestly line, and he goes up with Hur from the royal line of Judah. He goes up with the priest and the king. And holding the arms of Moses ... So Moses begins to raise up his arms. And whenever his arms are raised—
Jon: It's a long battle and he's tired.
Tim: Yeah. Israel is mighty. It's the same word as the “mighty warriors.”
Jon: From Genesis 6?
Tim: From Genesis 6. It's also the same word to describe the floodwaters.
Jon: The mighty flood?
Tim: The floodwaters that were mighty over all of the land. And they were mighty and covered the mountains, and they were mighty and so on. So the waters are like warriors in the flood. So here you have two warriors, Israel and Amalek. (00:59:00) Verse 12, But the hands of Moses, man, they were heavy. Really heavy. So they took a stone and they set the stone under him and he sat on it. And they held his hands, one on one side, the other on the other side.
Jon: The priest and the king holding up Moses' hands.
Tim: Yeah, totally. And so here's Moses, hands outstretched. And you've got Israel the mighty warrior on the side, Amalek the mighty warrior on that side, and they're fighting. But Moses' hands stayed faithful or trustworthy until sunset, and the Israelites were victorious over Amalek. And what Yahweh says after that is, "Hey, that was a punk move that the Amalekites just pulled." That's my paraphrase.
What he says is, "I'm going to wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the skies." Which is the precise vocabulary from the flood narrative. (01:00:00) It's the word “wipe off.” So Moses builds an altar and he called the name of Yahweh, or he called the name of the place Yahweh My Banner. And the word "banner" is spelled with the same letters as the word "test."
Tim: Yes. Nissi. Yahweh nissi.
Jon: Yahweh my tester.
Tim: My banner, yeah. And he, that is Moses, said, "A hand upon the throne of Yahweh, there will be war between Yahweh and Amalek forever.” So Amalek just pulled like a Cain move. He was trying to murder his brother in the wilderness, but the brother was Yahweh's chosen one that he just saved out. So Yahweh says, "Amalek's done for."
So you have these two stories. Amalek becomes like another Egypt that is set on destroying the chosen ones. And Yahweh defends his chosen ones. But it's through Moses. The specific detail here is (01:01:00) they're delivered through the hands of Moses again. Moses is kind of weak. He's fading. He's fading.
Jon: Yeah, he's getting old.
Tim: He's getting old.
Jon: He's tired.
Tim: His hands are heavy. He's going to need the priesthood and the kingship.
Jon: Yeah, he need backup.
Tim: It's the first sign of Moses being weak. Because up till now he's been like a superhero. So that's the story. So it's an interesting contrast with the deliverance of the waters of the sea with Pharaoh.
Jon: Yeah, because that's where he lifts out his staff and delivers them through the waters. Here he's lifting out the staff to deliver them through the floodwaters of the war. But he needs some help.
Tim: But he's weakening. He can't do this alone. And Moses not being able to do it alone is precisely the theme of the next story.
Jon: And this is Jethro his father-in-law.
Tim: Yeah, totally. To summarize here, Moses' father-in-law comes and visits, Moses tells him the whole story, everything that happened in Egypt, (01:02:00) what just happened with Amalek. And what Jethro does is he rejoices over all the good that Yahweh did, how he delivered Israel …
Jon: Yeah, what a great tale.
Tim: … from the hand of Egypt. And he said, "May Yahweh be blessed, he delivered you from the hand of Egypt. Now I know that Yahweh is great, more great than any other elohim because of this matter where your enemies were arrogant against you." So you have the beginning of the turning of the nations. God's deliverance was displayed in the eyes of the nations. And you have this image of the nations hearing and turning to Yahweh.
Jon: Because his father-in-law is not an Israelite.
Tim: His father-in-law is the Midianite. He's actually from the network of desert tribes that the Amalekites belong to. So you have these contrasting (01:03:00) portraits of how Israel's relatives respond.
Jon: And the reason why he's married to one of those people is because Moses had his own exile back in movement one where he went to where they're heading towards, the Sinai mountain, and met God.
Tim: Yeah. So these are two contrasting stories about for those among the nations who want to join the covenant and get in on the party of the Eden blessing, when they see the exodus, they see salvation and blessing and "I'm going to get in on that party." It's rejoicing. They eat a meal together in a tent in front of Yahweh at Mount Sinai. And you're like, "Yeah, that's awesome."
Jon: The nations at peace.
Tim: Totally. That's one way the nations respond. But you've got this other portrait of the nations can also do the Pharaoh or Amalek thing. And they will meet their doom. Pharaoh with the waters, Amalek here in the desert. (01:04:00) So that's that story.
Jon: "I will bless those who bless you and I'll curse those who curse you," was his promise to Abraham.
Tim: But it's not just about the blessing going through Israel to the nations. You know, the nations can become a blessing to Israel. And that's what this next story is about. It's the story about Moses not being able to lead the people well. He's working too long hours, too long days. There's lines of people lined up for him to get involved in their dispute and for him to be the adjudicator to judge the cases.
Jon: And there's too much. Too many disputes.
Tim: Too many disputes. So what his father-in-law sees is he sees, "Oh, you're sitting there alone trying to lead the people." And what Jethro says is, "This is not good. It is not good that you are alone."
Jon: Is that what he says?
Tim: It's exactly what he says.
Tim: "It is not good for you to be alone."
Jon: Which is what (01:05:00) God says of Adam.
Tim: Exactly. "It is not good for the human to be alone.” You need to multiply yourself. So he says, "You are not able to do this alone. Listen to my voice. Let me give you wisdom and counsel. And may God be with you. How about this? You become the representative who stands in front of God for the people. You bring all of their words to God, but then on the flip side, you warn the people about the commandments and the Torah of God, and show them the way that they should walk."
This is great. Later on he says, "If you do what I'm telling you, and God is commanding you to do what I'm telling you, then go appoint leaders of fifties, hundreds, and let them deal with the people. You just stand in the gap between God and people." So Moses does it.
Jon: So he learns wisdom from a nation.
Tim: Yeah, the nations. So you have these three stories. This is good meditation literature. Moses is weak, he needs help. (01:06:00) And with the help of the kingly and priestly lines, God will deliver his people from the nations. And then you have these contrasting portraits of the nations where they can respond in either acceptance or hostility, and that will determine their outcome. And then you go back to Moses being weak and frail and how he needs the help of others to lead the people. And how he learns that is actually from the nations, from his father-in-law.
These three stories come together. They actually match the deliverance through the waters on the other side, because God delivers them from hostile nations, from Pharaoh, and from the Amalekites.
Jon: Oh, I see. So those two parts of the movement match?
Tim: Yeah, as a frame around the food and water stories. But then in the middle were the stories about whether Israel would listen to the commands and the instructions of God. And now here's a story of whether Moses will listen to the commands and instructions of God being given through Jethro. (01:07:00) So he does and things go well.
So the 613 commands of Sinai are about to come. And you realize they're going to be the ultimate test of whether Israel will listen to the voice of Yahweh, it will be the ultimate act of trust to live in this strange way that will set them apart from the nations, but precisely so that they can become a priestly representative to mediate the Eden blessing to the nations. And that's already what these three stories right here are meditating on in their own way.
Jon: Yeah, in the same way that Jethro and the Midianites come, and they are at peace with Israel and there's a feast, that's the blessing that God wants to give all the nations through Israel. Israel needs to listen to God's commands and obey. Coming up is the big set of commands.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: The big 10 but then 613 more. Well, they are not all here, right? (01:08:00)
Tim: No. But it's going to begin the year at Mount Sinai and the getting of the 613 commands. But what's fascinating is right in front of the commands start flowing, the story is going to almost grind to a halt and just laws upon laws. Right in front of that is this story of Israel receiving God's commands through the wisdom of a pagan priest that's married into the chosen line.
Jon: Yeah. Because the rest of the commands are going to be from Yahweh.
Tim: Yeah. But these commands come from his father-in-law, who's from a non-chosen line but marries into the covenant family.
Jon: So as you meditate on that, what do you think that's all about?
Tim: I think we're foreshadowing a theme that will be explored in the prophets, especially Isaiah. That Israel was chosen to become the conduit of God's blessing to the nations. But the reason they were set apart, the nations, was always to rejoin them in the universal, multiethnic family of God so that the nations (01:09:00) actually become, in turn, a blessing back to Israel.
So all these images at the end of Isaiah about the nations coming back and helping rebuild and participate in the new Jerusalem, of bringing their gifts to the temple to make the city beautiful again, it's like once the blessing goes through Israel to the nations then the nations become a blessing to God's covenant family. I think that's how it works. Then this is like a little foreshadowing of that theme right here before Mount Sinai even begins. These stories are so rich, man.
All right. That was the second part of the second movement in Exodus. We're going to come to a third part, the second movement, which is Israel arriving at Mount Sinai, and they're going to receive the laws of the covenant. And this will put a choice before Israel. This becomes their greatest test of trust and that's what we're going to talk about next.
Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of BibleProject podcast. (01:10:00) Next week we continue in the second movement of Exodus. Israel arrives at Mount Sinai; they receive the 10 commandments. And this narrative is called a test.
Tim: I think the meaning of the story, which is called the test, Israel's test at Mount Sinai, the meaning of it is actually bound up with seeing its literary design. At least that's been my experience of trying to figure out the story.
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