Monthly Archives: March 2013

03-19-13 Exodus 5-6 (13)

Jason led our discussion today as we read and discussed the beginning of the story of how Moses and Aaron began to negotiate with the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the desert. The Pharaoh was nervous about the size of the Israelite contingent, and so he had made them slaves who made bricks for his buildings. Upon Moses asking if the people couldn’t go into the desert for a retreat, the Pharaoh said no and then just to make sure the people didn’t get any ideas of any sort of slacking off their work, he said they had to gather their own straw to use in their bricks. (straw was a binder to keep the bricks from disintegrating.) The people, probably rightly so, said to Moses, “What are you doing to us, quit negotiating with Pharaoh because God is telling you what to do.” But Moses kept trying anyway!

The King James version used the term uncircumcised lips to mean poor speaker as Moses explained why he shouldn’t be the spokesperson for God. this is strange terminology. There is a retelling here of the story similarily to many other stories in Genesis and Exodus. This is attributed to another writer giving a different take on the same thing.

This all happened about 1500 years ago and was written about 900 years later. Gene gave a useful timeline where things happen roughly every 500 years. The first part came from a book written by David Beckham, entitled Exodus from Hunger. We as a group sort of added onto that timeline as follows:
Abraham 2000 BCE;
Moses 1500 BCE;
King David 1000 BCE;
Babylonian captivity and Jews being sinful 500 BCE;
Jesus 0 AD:
Constantine established Christianity 500 AD;
Crusades 1000 AD;
Luther 1500 AD.
Reestablished Israel in Canaan 2000 AD.

It is an interesting chronology, maybe a little too creative on our part and certainly approximate.

Why had they forgotten about Canaan? Maybe the genealogy was meant to remind them of this as well as their ancestors.  It reminds them of the history of the people. It is also interesting in the genealogy that they indicated how long the major leader lived. They were all in the range of 130 plus years. Despite the fact that other evidence indicates that people at that time were living only 35-40 years by and large. Maybe this is the historical era of the leader’s influence or the time until the leader was forgotten.

It is interesting that Joseph why wasn’t part if God’s continuing plan even though he had saved the people from starvation. I found an interesting commentary about Joseph at the following link: http://bible.cc/genesis/50-26.htm They say that Joseph’s body was embalmed when he died and put in a coffin and when Moses departed for Canaan, he dug up the body and carried it with them as they left Egypt. Possibly since he married an Egyptian, there were no Israelite offspring to carry on after him. Joseph’s sons were Ephraim and Manasseh who were promised to be the beginning of a great people. Here is another interesting reference about Joseph. http://www.angelfire.com/ok/bibleteaching/genesis11.html

03/12/2013 Exodus 4 (19)

We started out this morning with a goal to read chapters 4-6:14, but only got through chapter 4. The reading opened up lots of discussion topics. This is the story of Moses being chosen by God to lead the people from Egypt to the promised land. It is the story of a man reluctant to be the leader of the people. In some sense, it is interesting that Moses was not in Egypt at this time having gone to Midian to seek a wife. He had married Zipporah, the daughter of the Midianite priest Jethro and had continued to live there and they had two sons by the time God called Moses. So here we have a man who is not living with the people, had experienced growing up as the pharaoh’s daughter’s son, and who had not experienced the hardships that the people were now facing in Egypt and yet was called by God to lead the people from Egypt. One wonders if the miracles that God gave to Moses weren’t intended to convince the Israelites that God had anointed Moses as their leader as much as to convince the Pharaoh to let them depart from Egypt. Perhaps that is why God was going to harden the heart of the Pharaoh so that Moses would be separated from the ruling Egyptians and made to suffer the hardship of the Israelites and thus enhance his leadership potential among them. Another thing Moses had to overcome was his marriage to a Cushite woman. Both Aaron and Miriam discussed this and confronted Moses about it.

A second thing happens on the way back to Egypt and it is rather strange. The story goes that God tried to kill Moses and that Zipporah fights back by using a flint knife to circumcise their first born son. There is an interesting discussion of this in the Wikipedia reference  Here is another reference I found interesting: http://www.crivoice.org/biblestudy/exodus/bbex7.html In this reference, Steve Rodeheaver from The Christian Resource Institutes’ The Voice Website, says that the circumcision practiced by the Jews has been replace by baptism at the time of Jesus and continued in our time. He says, “God seeks to kill us in this narrow sense, [Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”] to bring about this baptismal death, in order that we might have the life of Christ within us.” and then follows this by saying about Moses’ struggle with God: “Could it be that this was the kind of killing that God had in mind for Moses?  That the battle was not just physical, but that it was deep within Moses’ heart and affecting his whole being?  Could it be that Zipporah saw/felt Moses tossing and turning all night, wrestling with God, even oppressed by God to the point of death, if he did not surrender himself utterly to God?  Was God after Moses’ life, heart, soul, will, body, identity, his very being, in the same way God is after ours in the call of Christ?  Was the vicarious circumcision of Moses really (what we Christians now understand as) the “baptism” of Moses, in which he “died to self” and finally fully accepted a new life/identity in Yahweh?  Or to put in in the opposite terms, is our death to self in Christ really the circumcision of Moses in which we surrender our very life to God?” Another interesting reference about this is from the Jewish encyclopedia: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/zipporah-midrash-and-aggadah and here is another discussion form the web site Let us Reason that gives an explanation for the whole event: http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp81.htm

We discussed Luther’s commentary about this topic. Luther was not big on using metaphors or allegories, but he made his commentary to help the people understand what was being written. It is interesting to muse about the role of commentaries in the life of the church. Rabbi Portman indicated that the Torah was important, but even more so are the Rabbis’ discussions and commentaries on the Torah. The Catholic church thought that the Pope’s interpretation along with that of the priests was more important than the scriptures for the people in the middle ages. Luther thought otherwise, yet he provided extensive commentaries to help people understand God’s will for them. In some sense, the New Testament is made up of the stories about Jesus in the gospels followed by commentaries in the epistles that follow which explain what the story of Jesus is all about. Was this story carelessly written. Luther didn’t think so and he preached on this and didn’t think it was just a story.

God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and tells Moses that He, God, created Moses’ ability to speak. This opens up the concept of whether god causes the car wreck and then takes the soul of the person home. Free will allows us to make bad choices and does this violate god as creator of all.  Do we understand the concept of God as a changing and evolving concept? The Greek mind would have god and our understanding of Him remain the same but the Hebrew thought would have god changing.

Is god of children same as god of ours today. In conclusion,  Moses was empowered by God to make a difference and lead the people to the promised land. This is how God chose to free the people from the yoke of the Israelites.

03/05/2013 Exodus 1-3 (11)

Well it was a snowy day today with about 5 inches of new snow. But 11 hearty souls showed up to begin the reading and discussion of Exodus. The story is about the Israelites in Egypt and the beginning of the movement towards leaving Egypt. It is the story of the birth and early life of Moses. A new king of Egypt had forgotten about what Joseph had done for Egypt over 400 years before. Joseph had been dead for many years and the king worried about the increasing number of Israelites in their midst, as the Israelites appeared to be very prolific. They had grown from a group of 70 people who had come in the time of Joseph to a multitude. This is about 20 generations of people. The king decided to crack down and make them slaves to do the menial work of Egypt building. There is a historical record of a group of people who did much of the menial building work at that time in Egypt. But our task is not necessarily to look at the historical accuracy of the book of Exodus, but rather to try to interpret the story and decide how it helps us know God today.

We have all known the story of Moses from our Sunday School days. It is interesting that there is little written about Moses from the time his mother weaned him and handed him over to the Egyptian princess to the time he married Zipporah, a daughter of a Midianite priest and he got into trouble because he killed an Egyptian overseer who had been abusing the Hebrew workers. Then it continues with his encounter with God in the episode of the burning bush. This is where God gives his name as I AM, or Yehweh, where the letters for Lord are YHWH.

One wonders how much the Israelites had integrated with the Egyptians in the 400 some years they had lived there. It is interesting that the edict from the King was to kill the boys whereas it might have been more effective to kill the girls. However, it was mentioned that the girls became concubines and served other useful purposes. It doesn’t appear that the edict was terribly  effective as Aaron also was not killed although he might have been born before the edict went out.

The encounter that Moses had with God was interesting. The phrasing was something like God remembered the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and saw that the people were suffering under the yoke of Egyptian slavery. So he decided to renew the covenant with Moses. He had to introduce himself to Moses so it seems that the people had sort of forgotten about God as well. There was a lot of pressure among the people to conform with their neighbors and worship multiple gods. God then promised Moses the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey and populated at the moment by Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. However, there is no problem moving in on these people, as God will just give the Israelites the power to destroy them. What a God!!! Moses said to God, “indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The god of your fathers has sent me you’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God says I AM WHO I AM. and I AM has sent me to you. This is kind of strange to our ears, but I guess Moses was alright with it. Then he repeated the covenant of a promised land to Moses again. Then in a kind of interesting sidelight, God said that every women should ask of her Egyptian neighbor for articles of silver, gold, or clothing so that you can put them on your sons and daughters and thus plunder Egypt. I guess they were going to use this plunder to trade with the nomads in the wilderness for the next 40 years, because there probably wasn’t going to be a place to look lovely for the next 40 years.

So how do we understand all this. It was a story showing how God continually cares for this people and makes them special. Again, there are hints of the need to be obedient to Him, but again there is the promise of a people being set aside and being established in a land of their own. How did we inherit this title of a people set aside for the purpose of serving God? It must be through the grace provided by Jesus Christ through His ministry.

Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of a priest who is referred to either as Reuel or Jethro. The midianites were descendents of Abraham. After Sarah died, Abraham took a wife named Keturah. Genesis 25:1-2. They had a son named Midian. Midian was located on the East shore of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. The Midianites had a religio-political connection with the Moabites and are thought to have worshipped a multitude of Gods, including Baal-peor and the Queen of Heavon, Ashteroth. This info is from Wikipedia searched on Midian. Some people believe that Yehweh was first worshipped bin pre Israelite times in the Levant region of Midian. Other information about Midian. Joseph was sold by his brothers to the Midianites. Moses spent 40 years with the Midianites. God instructs Moses to collect an army and destroy Midian. Israel is oppressed by Midian during the time of the Judges. Gideon is called by God to deliver Israel from Midian’s armies. The Quoran talks of Midian as one of the cities destroyed by God while Lot was fleeing from them. The Quoran suggests that Lot was preaching repentance to them.