Monthly Archives: April 2013

04-30-2013 Exodus 19-20 (21)

This was Pastor Pries’ last session with us until late August because he will be on his sabbatical until then. Today was a session on the Israelites’ relationship with God at Mount Sinai. Chapter 19 talks about God not wanting the people to actually see him because they can’t stand it, they will die if they see God’s face. We are reminded here of Peter’s reference to the chosen people in I Peter  2:9 referring to them as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. Recall that Peter like all of the disciples was a Jew and still thought of Christ’s followers as being the Jewish people. Chapter 20 is the first statement of the 10 commandments. We start out with a discussion of God’s place with the people. The people actually heard from God. He spoke to them and said they should have no other gods before Him. If you honor your parents your children will have learned how they should honor and respect you and care for you in your old age. Hopefully that will happen!!  Some commandments were straightforward and could be stated simply, while others needed explanations.  Commandments were attempts to civilize the people. They continue on in the next chapter. The ten commandments are restated in chapter 34 in the other voice of the OT> Then they are restated again in Deuteronomy 5. I have been interested in the relationship between the code of Hammurabi which was written on clay tablets in 1700-1800 BCE in Babylonia. Since Moses was supposedly of the time frame 1400-1500 BCE or so, it would appear that Moses or God copied the code of Hammurabi since the two are so similar. However, there are several earlier references to God’s commandments and laws. In Genesis 26:4, God gives the covenant to Abraham and in Genesis 26:5, God says he is making the covenant with Abraham because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My Statutes, and My Laws. This was a good 400 years before Moses and at least 100 years before Hammurabi’s code. In Exodus 16:28, the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?” This indicates again before Mt. Sinai that God had commandments and laws that the people knew about and didn’t always keep. One distinction between the two is that God’s commandments recognized that the intent of a crime made a difference in the punishment. This was not the case with Hammurabi’s laws. So God recognized the difference between Murder and manslaughter. Here is a link that compares Mosaic law with that of Hammurabi on a commandment by commandment basis. I wouldn’t put much stock in the discussion of when they were written down, but it is interesting to see the comparison. It is interesting that people of that time thought it was important to have specified laws to deal with problems between people.

04-23-13 Exodus 17-18 (22)

The chapters we read today focused on Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, who gave advice to Moses about delegating authority over the judging that he was doing for the Israelites. It was getting to be a sizeable task as the number of people grew and along with that the disputes among themselves and their desire to find out the will of this God who insisted that they wander around this wilderness, the Desert of Sinai, for 40 years. Jethro was a Midianite priest and also a sheepherder. Moses had worked for him a sheepherder and had married his daughter, Zephania.

The Israelites were complaining as they wandered in the wilderness. As usual, the good old days looked very good. Chaos breeds complaining, so now they complained about the lack of water. So God thru Moses gave them water. Moses also gave them an external foe, the Amaleks who were waging little battles against the stragglers. Who were the Amaleks? The Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that the Amaleks were a nomadic nation south of Palestine. They were a stock related to the Edomites. Amalek is a son of Esau’s first-born son Eliphaz and of the concubine Timna. So they were linked in this way to the Hebrews. The link to this reference is They were referred to even in Abraham’s time. See Genesis 14:7. At this time they are indigenous tribesmen and God said that Moses should direct Joshua to annihilate them. Obviously they didn’t do that because they were still around during the time of David and Saul. The Wikipedia reference is

A timely article brought up by Steve was an opinion piece in the Press Citizen suggested that from Pharoah’s perspective, Moses was a terrorist. That doesn’t fit very well with our perception because Moses was working for God and was freeing the people, but I suppose a lot of innocent people suffered and even died in Egypt might dispute that as well.

04-16-13 Exodus 15-16 (20)

Here we talk about getting established in the Wilderness, and here is a map of the wanderings in the Sinai desert.


Miriam is credited with both verses 1 and 21 as songs of praise to God. Miriam was listed as Aaron’s sister not Moses’. She probably included here as the voice of the people. Then God through Moses made the water sweet so they could drink it. At this point, God laid down the law for them and said that if they obeyed him, they would not fall prey to the fate of the Egyptians. Then the people were introduced to manna. It might have been a sort of flour. Here we have the first mention of the Arc of the Covenant in that it is used to store a sample of manna for their future remembrance.

I asked what the Muslims say about Moses. According to Islam, Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual and his life is mentioned more that that of any other prophet. They believe that there are many parallels between the life of Moses and that of Muhammad. Moses is also seen as receiving the revelation of the Torah which is regarded as one of the true revealed scriptures in Muslim theology. The story of Moses is very similar to that which we have been reading in Genesis.

This may have been the first mention of the Sabbath in the instructions about Manna since Adam in the Garden of Edom. The Catholic church appears to be somewhat like the tribal model that Moses followed in his time. Did the Israelites think about heaven? When did heaven come about? some evidence suggests it was available in the time of Job.

The description of the natural cause of the plagues in Exodus

Bill provided the article that he found that discussed this and discussed them briefly in our 4/5/13 session.

There are numerous sources of these natural causes, but many of them seem to refer to the Santorini volcano and its effect on Egypt. One source is at: Here is an argument that the Santorini volcano didn’t have the effect that was indicated. .

The Trigger: Right around the time of the Ten Plagues, the volcano Santorini erupted multiple times, effecting Egypt differently from eruption to eruption depending weather patterns.

Historians have suggested that the plagues are passed-down accounts of several natural disasters, some disconnected, others playing part of a chain reaction. Natural explanations have been suggested for most of the phenomena:

  • (plague 1—water turned into blood, fish died)
    • The redness in the Nile could have actually been pollution caused by volcanic activity, specifically that of Santorini, which erupted around 1600 B.C. and whose ash is found in the Nile region. The silt could make the Nile turn blood red, and would also render it undrinkable. Heavy rains in the red-soiled area of Lake Victoria could have caused reddened water to wash downstream. Also the algae of the red tide could have been responsible for the redness of the Nile, the algae is harmful to drink and kills the animal life in the water it is present in.
    • Alternatively, a red toxic algal bloom (red tide) could have produced large quantities of toxins that would kill fish. (Also, an environmental change, such as a drought, might have turned the water red, following the death of fish.[36])
  • (plague 2—frogs) Any blight on the water that killed fish also would have caused frogs to leave the river and probably die.
  • (plagues 3 and 4—biting insects and flies) The lack of frogs in the river would have let insect populations, normally kept in check by the frogs, increase massively. The rotting corpses of fish and frogs would have attracted significantly more insects to the areas near the Nile.
  • (plagues 5 and 6—livestock disease and boils) There are biting flies in the region which transmit livestock diseases; a sudden increase in their number could spark epidemics.
  • (plague 7—fiery hail) Volcanic activity not only brings with it ash, but brimstone, and also alters the weather system, occasionally producing hail. Hail could also have occurred as a completely independent natural weather event, with accompanying lightning as the “fire”.
  • (plague 8—locusts) The weight of hail will destroy most crops, leaving several insects and other animals without a normal food source. The remaining crops therefore would become targeted heavily, and thus be destroyed by swarms of locusts which would otherwise be distributed rather thinly. Or the locusts could have increased because of a lack of predators. Also, locusts breed when the ground is wet, and if there had been a massive amount of hail, the ground would have been soaked. Even without these explanations, swarms of locusts are not uncommon today.
  • (plague 9—darkness) There could be several causes for unusual darkness: the very hail storm described in plague 8, a solar eclipse, a sandstorm, volcanic ash, or simply swarms of locusts large enough to block out the sun.
  • (plague 10—death of the firstborn)
    • If the last plague indeed selectively tended to affect the firstborn, it could be due to food polluted during the time of darkness, either by locusts or by the black mold Cladosporium. When people emerged after the darkness, the firstborn would be given priority, as was usual, and would consequently be more likely to be affected by any toxin or disease carried by the food. Meanwhile, the Israelites ate food prepared and eaten very quickly which would have made it less likely to be infected.
    • In the 2006 documentary Exodus Decoded, filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici hypothesised the selectiveness of the tenth plague was under the circumstances similar to the 1986 disaster of Lake Nyos that is related to geological activities that caused the previous plagues in a related chain of events. The hypothesis was that the plagues took place shortly after the eruption of Thera (now known as Santorini), which happened some time between 1550 BCE and 1650 BCE, and recently narrowed to between 1627–1600 BCE, with a 95% probability of accuracy. Jacobovici however places the eruption in 1500 BCE. According to the documentary, the eruption sets off a chain of events resulting in the plagues and eventually the killing of the first born. Jacobovici suggests that the first borns in ancient Egypt had the privilege to sleep close to the floor while other children slept on higher ground or even on roofs. This view, however, is not supported by any archaeological or historical evidence. As in Lake Nyos, when carbon dioxide or other toxic gases escape the surface tension of a nearby waterbody because of either geological activity or over-saturation, the gas, being heavier than air, “flooded” the nearby area displacing oxygen and killing those who were in its path.

A volcanic eruption which happened in antiquity and could have caused some of the plagues if it occurred at the right time is the eruption of the Thera volcano 1,050 kilometres (650 mi) to the northwest of Egypt. Controversially dated to about 1628 BC, this eruption is one of the largest on record, rivaling that of Tambora, which resulted in 1816’s Year Without a Summer. The enormous global impact of this eruption has been recorded in an ash layer deposit found in the Nile delta, tree ring frost scars in the bristlecone pines of the western United States, and a coating of ash in the Greenland ice caps, all dated to the same time and with the same chemical fingerprint as the ash from Thera. This transcript is from Wikipedia,

4-9-2013 Exodus 13 (21)

This chapter describes the feast of unleavened bread. The question was raised as to why it would be important to eat bread that didn’t rise. I have drawn on the web site for this discussion. One explanation of why they would be told to use unleavened bread is that they were going to have to leave Egypt quickly when the word came and that there would be no time to wait for bread to rise before being baked. There is some confusion about some of the words used here. In the Hebrew the word being used is Chametz which got translated into Greek as Hametz and then to English and other languages as leaven or yeast. The Jews were to avoid eating Chametz which is anything that contains barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt (a kind of wheat) and is cooked within 18 minutes after contact with water. No leavening is allowed. Thus the bread is done very quickly in line with having to leave their homes in haste.

In Jesus’ time, he talked about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees as a bad thing. It meant that they dawdled about and worried about the exact wording of their prayers and the laws they lived under and weren’t so interested in the reality of what God wanted of them.

How did yeast come about. Some speculate that it came about in ancient Egypt where wine making and brewing occurred alongside baking and its possible that some fermenting brew, a kind of liquid yeast known as barm, could have ended up in the bread dough that caused the dough to rise. And the people probably liked it. But this is probably not what Chametz was. The way it probably came about is similar to the making of sourdough bread dough. This is created by mixing flour and water and then letting it sit until it starts to sour and ferment. After awhile, it starts to have bubbles in the surface and if you let it go and stir it regularly, it will become sourdough starter and if you keep this around, you can use it as yeast in new bread and allow it to make your new bread dough rise. So it is a continual process. Here again we turn to Jesus’ words from Matthew 16:5-6 On their way to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring along bread. In the meantime, Jesus said to them, “Keep a sharp eye out for Pharisee-Sadducee yeast.” And this whole discussion about yeast is supposed to mean that we should not be led astray by man’s ideas, no matter how erudite they may seem, but to pray that YHWH will reveal those words that cause misunderstanding and ask YHWH to give you the desire to seek the true meaning.

This is all confusing and I am not sure that some of it isn’t just the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees that make it all confusing.

04-02-13 Exodus 8-10 (21)

Today we read and discussed the plagues from the Frogs to the institution of the Passover and the deaths of the first born sons of every family in Egypt.

Why did God say to use unleavened bread. One writer says it is because there wouldn’t be time for the bread to rise as the Israelites were going to have to leave in a hurry. The Jews are not supposed to possess any leavened product during Passover, so they have come up with an interesting solution. They sell it all to a Muslim who is willing to help them out. See the reference:

There is another reference that gives quite a detailed explanation of this prohibition on using leaven. It is at the following web site: This author says that many of the new translations are inaccurate. That what we are really talking about is something called chametz and this is created by letting flour and wat