The Lamb, the Throne, and the Desert: VI. Guardians of the Promise; VII. The Name and the Lamb; VIII. The Sinai Covenant

VI. Guardians of the promise.

i

The continuity of the covenant through the progression of generations

As we have seen, God made a covenant with a man, Abraham, and the purpose of that covenant was that over time God would foster a people for himself which would be a blessing to all other peoples on earth:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you….and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”                                                                Genesis 12.2,3

 And

Walk before me and be blameless….I will make nations of you and kings will come from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God….As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.  Genesis 17.1,6-9

 Rebellion had overrun the world, but God made a stand with his creation, counting on the expectation that a minority, a remnant of men, could stand true to their God.   Thus began the winnowing of mankind.  The universal message of the majesty and goodness of God was manifest in the created world.  All men were informed of his care for them, and all men were without excuse in failing to turn their hearts toward him.

Now, in a moment of history, began the nurturing of one man into a remnant and a kingdom.  The nation of Israel would become the setting, the amphitheater, into which would walk the messiah, the king who stands in for all people, the One in whom all may see the explicit in-historical presence of God, the One to whom they may give their hearts in fealty.

The covenant was now a bond between God and the living members of his people. The covenant did not die with Abraham.  It endured with Isaac and Jacob.  It endures with all of us who are given in fealty to our God.  It is our job to “keep the covenant,” to maintain our relationship to him as our God.[1] We share responsibility for each other, for our people.   And we are equally inheritors of the great promise that there remains for us a day when, in company with Abraham, we shall share the land of promise.

When God said that his covenant would be with Isaac, not Ishmael, he was not removing Ishmael from his love.  He was establishing the core continuity of purpose and accomplishment in Isaac.  In his time, Isaac held the honor and the responsibility of being for his God the prime guardian and vehicle of a particular historic undertaking.  He carried broad responsibility for the preservation of the content of the covenant and its history, for the care of his own relationship with God, and for the care of the relationship of his children with their God.

Isaac, in his old age, gave his blessing to Jacob, including the blessings which were part of God’s covenant with Abraham.  [This “blessing” is an excess of the goodness of God, by which generations of God’s people bless their children.  In other words, to a great extent, the very repository of this fund of blessing for the children of Abraham is the very excess of goodness contained in the original covenant promise given to Abraham.]

In Jacob’s dream at Bethel, God confirmed with him that now the promise and the blessings of the covenant were to be with him.  Jacob had to be bound to God in total devotion, no different from Abraham and Isaac.  In all things God’s purposes were to be his purposes.  He would obediently depart from Laban at God’s command.  By the river he would battle with God for the power to live this life that God had set out for him.

Near his death, Jacob gave a blessing to each of his twelve sons.  Some of the blessings were shadowy.  Two were bright.  Joseph was promised huge success and fruitfulness. Judahwas promised the royal line of rule over the people of God:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his.                                                                                             Genesis 49.10

We foresee that Jacob had to become a people, and their territory had to be occupied and established, and then out of Judah would come a line of kings, and from that line of kings would come the great king to whom belongs the fealty of all nations.

When God made his covenant with Abraham he presented him with a “brief” on the events of the coming centuries:

Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out… In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here.                  Genesis 15.13,14,16

Jacob and his sons would come to Egypt, and the history which followed would lead to the establishment of a people and their achievement of a territory in the land of promise.

ii

Sarah lived to be one hundred and twenty-seven years old.  She died in Hebron in the land of Canaan.  From Hittite residents, Abraham bought land, Ephron’s field and cave in Machpelah near Mamre, for four hundred shekels of silver, land for a family burial place.  The burial ground was another sign that Abraham and family now belonged to this land.

Abraham sent his chief servant back to the ancestral territory to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham assured him that God would “send his angel before you” to guide in the choice. The servant returned with Rebekah, a grand-daughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother.  Isaac married her and loved her.

Abraham lived to be one hundred and seventy-five years old. Isaac and Ishmael together buried him in the cave of Machpelah alongside Sarah.

Rebekah became pregnant.   Two babies “jostled each other within her.”  She asked God, “Why is this happening to me?”

“The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are within your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’”

The older was born Esau, the younger Jacob.  The boys grew.  Isaac, in blindness and old age, prepared to give his blessing to the older son. Rebekah conspired with Jacob, dressed him in hairy goat skins, and sent him in to receive the blessing designed for Esau.  Father Isaac did not discover the deception and he bestowed on Jacob the extension of the blessing which began with Abraham:

“May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you.  Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.  May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

Isaac soon discovered the truth of what he had done.  It could not be undone.  Esau wept and conjured thoughts of killing his brother.  Rebekah prepared to send her son Jacob away to escape the anger of Esau, and to find a wife in the ancestral territory.  Isaac knew that Jacob was now privy to much more than an older brother’s blessing.  He knew that the covenant was in the hands of Jacob.  As Jacob prepared to leave, Isaac carefully confirmed the blessing on Jacob in the full dimensions of the covenant promise:

“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.   May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham.”                          Genesis 28.3,4

Jacob left home.  En route from Beersheba to Haran, Jacob made his bed in the open, in a place which he would name “Bethel,” house of God.  Here he had the dream of the stairway to heaven:

“…and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the Lord.”                                                                                       Genesis 28.12,13

 In the vision God then spoke from heaven and bound Jacob directly to the blessing which Isaac had set him to inherit:

“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.                                              Genesis 28.13-15

We see here the continuation of the hedge of defense and sustenance, and God’s direct presence provided to Jacob.  From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob the rule begins to take form:  God lives with his people. His people are never cut off from him.  Though our feet walk on earth, we are the people of the transcendent heavenly kingdom and we are at all times in the presence of our God, in the consciousness of our God, surrounded by our God, bound into the life and purposes of our God.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.                                          II Chronicles 16.9

Jacob resumed his journey and arrived in the household of Laban, his mother’s brother.  Jacob quickly fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel.  Jacob promised the crafty Laban that he would work seven years for the right to her hand.  Laban contrived at the last moment that Leah, the as yet unmarried older sister, would be added to the bargain – for yet another seven years of Jacob’s labor.

With two wives, and with the arranged contributions of their handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob became the father of eleven sons and one daughter.  [Benjamin, son twelve, would be born later in Canaan.]  Jacob’s favorite son was Joseph, the youngest, born to his beloved Rachel.

Jacob’s herds and wealth increased over and above the wealth of his uncle.  After many years with Laban Jacob heard the command of God to return toCanaan:

“Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives [father Isaac and brother Esau], and I will be with you.”                                       Genesis 30.3

Jacob assembled family and herds and set out forCanaan.  God was noticeably faithful to his promise to watch over Jacob.  As they were leavingHaran, Jacob witnessed the presence of angels of God watching over his encampment.  Over the course of the journey, however, Jacob became increasingly anxious about what lay ahead of him.  He feared for the encounter with Esau.  He prayed for protection.

He also developed a defensive strategy, dividing his entourage into two parts, just in case Esau should decide to attack.  He sent ahead servants with generous gifts for Esau.  At one of the final barriers, a river crossing called the ford of Jabbok, Jacob carefully saw to the crossing of wives, handmaidens, and children, then remained one night alone beside the water.  He was not rushing forward.

Jacob knew that he had received God’s blessing in the vision at Bethel.  He knew that the lives of himself and his family were the vehicle of God’s in-historical plan to create a holy people.  He also knew that his brother had wanted to kill him for his deceit.  What if the blessing should have belonged to Esau?  What if God was only acquiescing to the circumstance of the deceit?  God was good to him, but what if it was only a flirtation?  Would it last in the face of the claims of his older brother?

That night beside the water, God was present with him.  But it was not just the consciousness of God attending to the voice of Jacob.  A powerful “man,” well attested to be the angel of God, appeared beside Jacob.  Whether or not Jacob first perceived this man to be the presence of God, he did perceive that the hand of God’s blessing was also the hand of this man.  In labor for his very life, he fought with the man, proving, whether deliberately or inadvertently, that God’s relationship with him was no flirtation.

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is you name?’  Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.’  Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’  But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’  Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’                                        Genesis 32.24-30

Here again we have someone loved by God who attests that our God violates his infinite and inaccessible perfection to make himself known to our finitude in the actual space and moments of our history.[2]

With Jacob, as with Abraham, God’s vision of the content of his life was so great that his original name was rendered insufficient and he had to “occupy” a new name:Israel, “he who struggles with God.”  Furthermore the name of this patriarch of our people was to become the name of our people: we who struggle with God. And in this name God honors eager desire and the willingness to do battle for the knowledge of God, encouraging us to be wary of the passive calm which borders on indifference.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”                                                                                     Matthew 5.6

“So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”                                                                           Revelation 3.16 

The next morning after the struggle Jacob found himself in the brotherly embrace of Esau.  All was well.  God instructed Jacob to settle inBethel.  He told his family:

“Come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”    Gen. 35.3

Rachel gave birth to Benjamin and died in childbirth.  Isaac lived to be 180 years old.  Esau and Jacob together buried him.

Benjamin’s closest sibling, Joseph, still held the title of favorite son and this inspired jealousy in his brothers.  They conspired to kill him but ultimately sold him to traders in a caravan bound forEgypt.  His misfortunes would lay the groundwork for the enslavement which would become redemption and exodus.

Joseph became a household slave of Potiphar, a high official of the Pharaoh.  He won favor and became head of the household service.  Potiphar’s wife found Joseph attractive and tried to seduce him.  In Joseph’s refusal she covered her own actions by accusing him of attempted rape.  Joseph went to prison.

In prison, Joseph earned the trust of the warden and was put in charge of all in the prison.  The hedge of God remained with Joseph:

“The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”     Gen. 39.23

A former prisoner in service to the Pharaoh, learning of the Pharaoh’s struggle with a dream, remembered that Joseph had accurately interpreted a dream of his own.  Joseph was brought before Pharaoh.  Pharaoh said to Joseph,

“I had a dream, and no one can interpret it.  But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

“I can not do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”                                                             Genesis 41.16

Pharaoh had dreamt parallel dreams, one concerning seven healthy cows being devoured by seven gaunt cows, the other of seven thin and scorched heads of grain swallowing up seven healthy heads of grain.  Joseph understood from God that the dreams were a portent of seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of devastating famine.  Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt to exercise his wisdom in preparation for the famine.

The famine ultimately brought Joseph’s father and brothers from Canaan toEgypt.  The family was healed and reunited.  Joseph successfully brought rescue to the people of Egyptand brought salvation and reconciliation to his family.  As savior to both, he was symbol and type of the messiah to come, who would bring healing to mankind both within and without the original family of blessing.

Just before his death, Jacob blessed his sons, especially Joseph and Judah.  To Joseph great fruitfulness and success, but to Judah and his heirs the responsibility and the honor of the great transcendent promise:

“The scepter will not depart from Judah…until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his.”                                    Genesis 49.10

In the next few centuries a family of seventy became a people nearly a million strong.  The twelve sons of Jacob became the patriarchs of twelve tribes of people. Egypt considered them a threat, enslaved them and put them in forced labor building cities.  Their culture and intercourse with the outside world were limited.  The rituals by which families share pride and understanding of their origins were now distorted by the demands of slavery.  In these conditions, memory of the covenant and the great promise pregnant within the people of God were strained.  But God was at work among them.  He was taking a family and turning it into a people.  His hedge remained around them.  In spite of suffering they flourished and remained strong, a terror to the Egyptians.  They grew to hunger for their lost freedom.  They cried out to God and God honored their cry to him.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”        Psalm 50.15

                                                      *   *   *   *   *   *   *

VII.  The Name and the Lamb         

                                                                        i

Who is Yahveh that I should obey him?

The success of the Exodus hinged upon God’s revelation of the truth of his being and the nature of his character to two individuals, Moses and the Egyptian king.  God established the condition that he would illustrate in Egypt his power above every petty idol until the pharaoh, of his own will, would respect God’s demand that the children of Abraham be set free.

But Moses also had to learn who God is before he could actually serve God in the project which was assigned to him. His individual purchase upon the being and person of God was his profound starting point, above every point of skill or courage or education.

Moses was leading his father-in-law’s sheep across Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt.Sinai and “the mountain of God.”  Here on this mountain God came before Moses to tell him of his concern for Moses and his people, and to explain to him that he, Moses, should become the central figure in a plan to free his people fromEgypt.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of God [Malach Yahveh] appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.  Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.     When Yahveh saw that he had gone over to look, God [Elohim] called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said.  “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”  At this Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The being and character of God began to unfold before Moses.  God had now appeared before him as the angel of God.  He had announced himself to be Eternal God, and he had introduced himself in terms of his role in Moses’ roots and personal history.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have           heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about      their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the  Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into  a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…So now, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Moses now presented to God a long line of excuses, questioning his own being, wondering whether he was really of a nature to lead a people out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I          should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 

And God said, “I will be with you…”  [Ehyeh imach]

This response was spoken in the Hebrew imperfect tense, expressing action which is both present and continuous into the future.  We also consider that the verb “to be” has a more active meaning [“the act of being”] in Hebrew than in English.  It would be more accurate to translate the response of God to Moses as,

Now and on into the future, I am and shall be being with you.”

Moses now ventured to ask another question, ostensibly for the sake of his presentation to the people back inEgypt, but undoubtedly also for his own assurance:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?”                                                                Exodus 3.13

In the drama of a visual and audible encounter with God, it was reasonable, if one had the courage, to ask God his name.  And it was clever to ask it obliquely, as Moses did here.

The “God of his fathers” had been known to his fathers as “Master” and “Almighty God”, names which speak generically of omnipotence and lordship over the earth.  God had also revealed himself to them in daily events in the persona of the angel of God, but in those moments he had spoken of himself as “God” [ELOHIM], again not so much a name as a title marking his being at the pinnacle of all things.  Furthermore, when Jacob, struggling with God at the river, asked the angel of God his name, the reply was “Why do you ask after my name?”

Now God was going to present to Moses a Name which, like other ancient names, was meant to be an insight into the essential character of the one who is named.  This name was about to play a very important role in the events of the Exodus.

God said to Moses, “EHYEH ASHER EHYEH.”  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “EHYEH  has sent me to you.”   

God also said to Moses,

“Say to the Israelites, “YAHVEH, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.”  This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”                Exodus 3.14,15

Now the content of the phrase-name EHYEH ASHER EHYEH [to which YAHVEH corresponds] must be seen in the context 1.] that it is given by God as his Name, as an  appellation which is intended to be a mark of his essential character, and 2.] that to the giving of the name God appends the remark that it is his name forever.

The relevance of this name to the progress of the Exodus history must be seen in another context: God was about to instruct Moses to go, with associates, before Pharaoh and present to him the historical expectations of “YAHVEH”:

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel… The elders of Israel will listen to you.  Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘YAHVEH, the God [ELOHIM ] of the Hebrews, has met with us.  Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to YAHVEH our ELOHIM.’”  Exodus 3.18

When Pharaoh was ultimately presented with this message, his reply was as follows:

“Who is YAHVEH that I should obey him and let Israel go?  I do not know YAHVEH and I will not let Israel go.”

By Egyptian standards, Pharaoh himself was like a god, and lord over a great nation.  Why should he listen to the God of a clan of slaves?  In the coming sequence of signs and plagues which were presented to Pharaoh, he would learn the deepest significance of the name “YAHVEH.”

ii

He is and shall be in his historical acts all that he is, now and for all times, in his essential being

For our own understanding we can look into the form of the Hebrew words being used, because there is no simple translation into English of the Name as it was given in Hebrew.

First we note that YAHVEH, loosely translated “he is”, is the third person singular form of EHYEH, in the first person, which loosely translates as “I am.”  God says of himself, “I am” and we say of him, “He is.” They both have as root the Hebrew verb “to be.”  As God refers to himself as “Ehyeh” and we refer to him as “Yahveh,” then we may also conclude that the name of God transcends the form of most names: the vehicle of a given recognizable sound.  Rather the vehicle of his Name is a recognizable verb: past, present, and future being.[3]

Next we consider that ancient Hebrew, unlike modern Hebrew and unlike English or the Romance languages, has only two tenses, and they are not so much statements of time as much as they indicate stages of completion or realization.

The perfect tense is used to communicate action which is complete, as in “He has eaten,” or, “He left.”  The imperfect tense communicates action which is ongoing and not yet completed.  In some cases it is used to denote actions which, it may be assumed, will soon be over, such as “He is leaving,” or, “He is eating.”   We may take the meaning to be “He is and, for a short time, will be eating.”

In other cases the imperfect form of the verb is used to denote actions which are incomplete because they have no foreseeable end, such as “He is and shall be ruling.”  Or “The earth is and will be turning.”  It is also used to denote habitual action, such as “The sun [past, present, and on into the future] {habitually} sets in the West.”

EHYEH is the first person imperfect of the verb “to be”, so it can be translated as

“I am and shall be,” or “I am and shall be being”. 

This explains why some translations translate the word in the present tense, while others translate it in the future tense.  None of them try to enter into the mysteries of the Hebrew verb, I suppose because they would have to do it for the entire text of the Bible.

As God first gives his name to Moses, he says, EHYEH ASHER EHYEH.   ASHER means primarily “that which” and can also mean “where” or “who.”  So we come to the moment of God speaking to Moses and making this statement about himself:

“Ehyeh asher ehyeh:” I am and shall be being that which I am and shall be. [and this is my Name, my essential character, and it will be so not just into the simple future but forever.]

Then he gives Moses a shortened form of this phrase, saying

“Tell the Israelites that Ehyeh [I am and shall be being] has sent you.

If we look at the verb “to be” we see that it commonly expresses meaning on two levels.  It can refer to the possession of an essential nature or it can refer to our act of living out that essential nature. In reference to our possession of our essential nature, we might say “I am unfettered” or “I am free.”  In referring to the action of living out our nature, we might say, “I am present,” or, “I am a participant.”  I would be using both levels of meaning in the statement “I am what I am.”  I would be asserting that I am in my actual living that which I am in my essential being, or conversely, that I am in my essential being the same as what I manifest myself to be in my actual living.

These last statements are close to what God is presenting to Moses as his name, EHYEH, but God is speaking in the Hebrew imperfect tense.  Therefore we must augment the meaning to include unlimited continuity into the future:

I am and shall be being actually and historically that which I am, now and for eternity, in my essential nature.

Then, if we consider what we are saying when we say YAHVEH, we interpret it to be

He is and shall be actually and historically that which he is, now and forever, in his essential nature.

God is presenting here his absolute and constant faithfulness to his own being.  He is also presenting to us his commitment to actual space and time and human history.  It was this quality which Jesus exhibited to us on earth, and which God hopes to reveal to us in the unfolding of history and in our lives.

When Moses came before Pharaoh with the demand of YAHVEH that the Hebrew people be released in order to worship Him in the desert, Pharaoh claimed to be ignorant of either the person or the authority of YAHVEH.  Of course, if he was ignorant of the activity of the God of Creation in all of human history, including Creation, then Pharaoh was ignorant of the fact that, as Creator, God is the ground of all being, and that in his faithfulness to his own being God will act faithfully toward his creation and ultimately will not allow anything to take his creation from him.  God’s faithfulness and his commitment to human history are both encoded in his name.  And this means that no matter how much he allows rebellion to have its day, ultimately the rebellion of the world will not be allowed to subvert his plans for his creation.

Moses and company went before Pharaoh and presented him with Yahveh’s demand that his people be released for three days of worship in the desert.  Pharaoh said,

“Who is Yahveh that I should obey him and let Israel go?  I do not know Yahveh and I will not let Israel go.”

In Egypt the pharaoh himself was at the center of popular religion. Old Kingdom pyramid texts [ca. 2780-2250] portray the order of nature and society, in this world and in the next, as aspects of the being of a goddess named Maat.  Pharaoh was considered by his people to be human, but a descendant of the gods.  As such he stood as intermediary between the people and Maat, between chaos and order.

Egyptians believed that the phenomena of nature were divine forces in and of themselves, therefore proper objects of true religion, expected to be of interest to their gods.

At the heart of the order of the universe people looked to the regular activity of cyclical movements in time: the cycle of the sun god Ra through the sky, the Nile and its yearly flood cycle, and the regular succession of kings.

Earth, water, sky, air, underworld, each elemental part had a personified being in a demigod or demigoddess with a name.  In everything, pharaoh was the bridge and the powerful consort of the gods.  He was identified with Horus.  He was seen as the son of Ra.  He was also associated with Osiris, father of Horus and god of death and rebirth.  He presumed to occupy the role of mediator between his people and a pantheon of presumably efficacious gods.  As such he was the exact counterfeit of the Word who comes to us in human flesh to be true mediator between his people and the living God.  To challenge the pharaoh’s influence and the power of his idols, it was only necessary to disrupt the order of things beyond what his priests and magicians could redress.  The Egyptian vision of the divine order, in all aspects, would be challenged by the coming events.

Moses told the Pharaoh that Yahveh demanded that the people be set free to worship him for three days in the desert.  In relaying this message, Moses was suggesting to Pharaoh that the people of Abraham were held by a claim of an order higher than the claim ofEgypt’s royal and divinely appointed lord.  This did not set well with Pharaoh. He indignantly began to make life harder for the Hebrews.  They in turn complained to Moses.  Moses immediately returned to God with his own complaint:

“O Yahveh, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”  Exodus 5.22,23

Yahveh replied that he was going to act so forcefully in Pharaoh’s world that he would ultimately recognize the person and authority of Yahveh as the the God of all creation, and Pharaoh would willingly end their slavery and even drive them from Egypt:

Then Yahveh said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh:  Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”  God [Elohim] also said to Moses, “I am Yahveh.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty [El Shaddai] but by my name, Yahveh, I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.  Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

Therefore say to the Israelites: “I [am] Yahveh, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God [Elohim].  Then you will know that I am Yahveh your Elohim, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession.  I am Yahveh.”

 

                                                                        iii

Thutmose I and the collapse of Egypt

I Kings 6.1 places the Exodus at four hundred and eighty years before the foundation of the temple by Solomon.  There is a lot of support for the date of the founding of the temple within a few years of 966 B.C.  This means that the exodus occurred within a few years of 1446 B.C.

According to modern studies in Egyptian chronology, this places the arrival of Joseph in Egypt somewhere in the 12th Dynasty and positions most of the years of slavery, up to the time of Moses, in the 13th Dynasty.

In the Brooklyn Museum there is a papyrus scroll numbered 35:1446 which comes from the reign of the 13th Dynasty pharaoh Soberkhotep III, predecessor of Neferhotep I.  It is a decree of that pharaoh detailing a transfer of slaves.  Of the 95 names mentioned in the letter, 50% are Semitic in origin, including such names as Asher, Menahem, and Issachar.[4]

Eusebius, in the 4th c. A.D., records excerpts from the writings of a historian named Artapanus[5] [3rd c. B.C.], in which it is claimed that Moses’ surrogate mother was a royal daughter named Merris who married Pharaoh Khenephres, also called Soberkhotep IV.  This makes Pharaoh Khenephres the “step father” of Moses.  It also makes Khenephres the pharaoh from whom Moses fled in 1487 B.C. Consequently, forty years later, the royal heir of Khenefres, Thutmose I / Dudimose I, would have been the pharaoh of the exodus.[6] And Thutmose might have been the “step brother” of Moses.

The Egyptian historian Manetho [ 3rd c. B.C., Ptolemaic] supports the claim that in the reign of Dudimose I [Tutimaios], “a blast of God smote us….” and he tells how Egypt collapsed during his reign….following which the country was overrun by the Hyksos/Amalekites.[7]

The Ipuwer Papyrus may be a description of the plagues sent through Moses.  It may also describe the land under the Amalekite invasion which came upon the heels of the Exodus. It is a long narrative in the tone of these excerpts:

Plague is throughout the land….Blood is everywhere….The river is blood, yet men drink of it….a foreign tribe from abroad has come to Egypt… the children of princes are dashed against the walls.[8]

Archaeology of the city of Avaris in Goshen reveals extraordinary numbers of infant deaths, which accords with the decree of pharaoh to kill the infant males.  It also reveals a moment of sudden mass burial followed by the abandonment of the site and later visitation by another Asiatic group without knowledge of Egyptian customs.[9]

iv

The testament of Yahveh that his people are bought back from death through the blood of the Lamb

The Bible explains that through the hand of Moses God brought into Egypt ten plagues, each an increment in the demonstration that the being of all creation is the domain of Yahveh.

The water of the Nile was turned to blood, whether within the banks of the river or in jars.  An invasion of frogs followed, covering the country and the cities.  Then the dust of Egypt became gnats, and swarms of flies filled the houses and covered the ground.  Pharaoh remained unwilling to release the people from slavery.

A fifth plague brought death to all the livestock of Egypt, and God demanded of pharaoh through Moses, “Let my people go that they may worship me.”

Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.”

Boils broke out on both men and animals.  Hail destroyed every living thing that was not inside shelter, stripping fields and trees except inside Goshen.  Locusts filled the houses and covered the ground, devouring what was left of the vegetation.  Prior to the plague of locusts, pharaoh’s officials had said to him,

“Let the people go so that they may worship their God Yahveh.  Do you not see that Egypt is destroyed?”

After the plague of locusts, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said,

“I have sinned against Yahveh your God and against you.  Now forgive my sin once more and pray to Yahveh your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”

But once the locusts were gone, his stubbornness returned.  Then a total darkness “that could be felt” came over all ofEgyptfor three days.  This was a complete refutation of the pretension to worship Ra and a direct rebuke to Pharaoh, the “son” of Ra.  Now pharaoh vowed to Moses that he would destroy him if he ever saw him again.

Pharaoh knew that divine power was real in the world.  But he pursued a worship of demigods as it was served up to him by the conventional wisdom, cultivated their honor in ways that pleased the imagination of Egyptian society.  As we see in the present time, the urgency to bestow Tolerance liberally and equally on a world of diverse gods, leads to a condition in which all things are made equally without value.  For pharaoh it was imperative that all people, Israelites included, should know themselves to be without difference from other men.

But Yahveh was expressly interested in demonstrating that his people were called out from the world of rebellion, therefore under restraints greater than those placed upon other men.

And so there came one final plague, the death of the first-born children of the houses of Egypt.  It was not a simple division along racial lines.  It was the promise of death to all the land, except for those houses marked with a sign of God’s mercy: the blood of sacrifice.  And on this night when so many would die, Jesus, the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world, was encoding into history his promise to die for mankind.

Moses carried the message to the people:

“This is what Yahveh says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt.  Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is behind the mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.

…Each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…The animals you choose must be year old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats…and all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.  That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast….  Eat it in haste. It is the Passover of Yahveh….On this same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am Yahveh.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt….

Pharaoh discovered in heartbreak the truth of the name of Yahveh.  Through faith and obedience, Moses guided his people a little farther, to the discovery of the mercy of God as portrayed in the figure of their actual release from death inEgypt.  In that moment, under peril of the angel of death, God granted efficacy to blood shed by animals.   But that is not yet the sacrifice which frees a man from the weight of rebellion and carries him into eternity.  The blood of the lamb over a doorway in Egypt is an insight into a greater mystery.  Inside the mystery of Yahveh we discover the mercy of the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world:  He who now is risen.  He is the Lamb within the throne of heaven, our redeemer and our king.  It is he, Yeshua, who wins us for himself, who keeps us intimately for himself, who makes it possible for us to place ourselves in the presence of Yahveh.

 

VIII.  The Sinai Covenant

             

i

He who is with God and who is God

Those who had the faith to paint the blood of sacrifice above their doorways rose the next morning to discover that they did not share in the feast of death which surrounded them.

They set out in hope from Egypt, putting behind them the former richness of the Nile valley, the smooth confidence of Egyptian dominion now in ruins.  For the coming months they traveled east into the arid Sinai.  They came frequently to Moses in tears.

In all this, Yahveh took care for their need of reassurance, beyond the present evidence of his hand in their escape…the assault of the plagues, the crossing of the parted sea, the demise of Pharaoh and his army beneath its waters.

In the progress of the exodus and in the formative encounters between God and his people, our God who lives in ineffable light took upon himself a finite presence in the midst of his people: angel of God visible in human form, angel of God towering within a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night, and then, at Sinai, clothed in fire and smoke, he appeared in great power, until the people begged Moses to shield them from his presence and intervene on their behalf.  All these events were early witness to the rule which would become increasingly evident over time:  Yahveh makes himself known to those who seek him, and he lives among his people.  

ii

 Liberty vs. purpose

Exhausted but free, the people of the exodus arrived at the foot of Mt.Sinai.  Moses went up onto the mountain at the call of Yahveh to meet with him.  The people were about to come face to face with the as yet loosely defined purpose for which they had been brought out of Egypt.  Into what sort of future were they headed?  Should they be expecting that God who had rescued them from their well heeled tormentors should also bring them all that they had envied in the homes of their masters?  Or were they in the desert on a carefully crafted road to the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, the fulfillment of a vast historical project, which just might be as demanding as the life they had left behind inEgypt?  After all, the message of Yahveh to Pharaoh had been,

“Let my people go so that they may serve me.”  Exodus 10.3

The people could feel the draw of the poles: on the one hand easy freedom which turns into liberty, on the other hand a leaner freedom which is rendered to the giver in the pursuit of exalted purpose and rarefied rewards.

iii

True purpose

In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt – on the very day – they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.  Then Moses went up to God, and Yahveh called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”                                      Exodus 19.1-6

With these words we are looking at the centerline of Scripture and of history.  Yahveh did not come to these people with an offer of broad liberty, which, very possibly, was what they were hoping for.  Instead he issued to them a call to bind themselves to him by covenant as a people set apart for God.  He called them to the excellence and burden of purpose written in creation.

From the first book of the old covenant Scriptures to the last book of the new covenant there is one unifying theme, one continuously ongoing purpose running through all history:  that God shall bind his creation to himself.  This is expressed in Scripture by repeated declarations of the unshakable purpose in the heart and will of our God: that He shall be our God and that we shall be his people.[10]

In the penultimate chapter of the last book of Scripture the transition from this age to the next and the final accomplishment of God’s purpose are celebrated in these words:

And I saw the holy City, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of heaven, all ready like a bride arrayed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice out of  the throne, crying, “Lo, God’s dwelling place is with men, with men will he dwell; they shall be his people, and God will himself be with them:…Then he said…,”I will let the thirsty drink of the fountain of the water of Life without price.  The conqueror shall obtain this, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son….And the City needs no sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God illumines it, and its radiance is the Lamb.              Revelation 21.2,3,6,7,8,23

In the first book of Scripture God had made the initial statement of his plan to Abraham:

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and     your descendants after you…to be your God and the God of your descendants          after you.                                                                     Genesis 17.7

This theme became an anthem carried forward through every major progression of the Scriptural narrative.[11]

The Revelation of John speaks of the culmination of this great purpose:

“In the days of the seventh angel’s voice, when he now blows his blast, then shall the secret purpose of God be fulfilled, as he assured his servants the prophets.”             Revelation 10.

In the Letter to the  Ephesians we find the elucidation of “the secret purpose of God” which reveals Yeshua at the center of Yahveh’s plan for his people:

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.                                                                                      Ephesians 1.9,10

Now at Sinai, as Moses comes before God, Yahveh is presenting the covenant conditions which will define his people and his relationship to them.  Inside the terms of the covenant our people will begin to take form.  They will have the privilege and the purpose[12] to know God, to be bound to him, to serve him and to suffer for him in this age, and then to see him and know him unhindered in the age to come.

iv

The range and gravity of covenants

A covenant is a bond conceived in the imagination of persons, declared openly, and affirmed by gesture of the participants.  A bond is an established community of interest between persons, as a result of which they are able to identify themselves with the aggregate of participants in the covenant and are able to sacrifice for the sake of the life of the covenant community as for their own lives.

Birth and kinship are a source of natural bonds between persons.  A covenant, by contrast, is crafted and confirmed by personal imagination and will.

Marriage is a covenant traditionally tendered by a would-be groom and then entered into or adopted by the ritual affirmations of both bride and groom.

A covenant can be between parties which are equals, in marriage, or, say, in the oath of friendship and loyalty between David and Jonathan.  In such a case the two parties might jointly create the content of the covenant.

More often, especially in covenants which bind large numbers of people, the parties are unequal: Lord and vassal, subject and king.  In such a case, where the lordship is real, the authority of lordship is apparent in the development of the covenant.  The true lord or king witnesses the hopes and expectations and limitations of the vassal or subject, while the faithful subject honors the rightful power of his lord. In the formation of the covenant, the Lord sovereignly presents the terms of the covenant to his subjects.

A covenant is an oath of deep allegiance, subject to Lord, Lord to subject.  By its terms, each may be called upon to give all his substance to defend the welfare of the other.  Assent to the terms of the covenant is often recognized in a ritual meal shared between subject and Lord.  The animal slain for the covenant meal may serve as icon of the “to the death” nature of the adopted commitments.

In some instances a separate and unique ceremony involving the death of iconic animals is undertaken in order to indicate to all parties the gravity of the covenant oath.  An example of this would be God’s covenant with Abraham during which Abraham fell into a swoon and God gave him a vision of a blazing firepot, symbolic of God himself, passing between halves of slaughtered animals.

We see then that while natural bonds, such as relation by birth, often inspire deep loyalty, a covenant may become a bond of much greater gravity, with very specific obligations and specific rewards.  As we will explore later, by our faith in Yeshua we are called to a response to the sovereign will of God, a response to his sovereign crafting of a covenant, his call to total devotion and loyalty, in response to which we become “children of God,” a new state of being, a spiritual birth above and beyond the circumstances of physical birth:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.                                                           John 1.10-13  

 

v                   

Covenant terms as law and social code

A covenant must establish the identity of the parties and the nature of the relationship between them.  Parameters of identity and behavior are codified in the terms or laws of the covenant.  The covenant is a means for the covenant Lord to call his subjects to a certain depth of loyalty and excellence of behavior.  It can also be a means to assure his subjects of his devotion to their welfare.  Most essentially it establishes union where, otherwise, union might not exist.

A law is a code with parameters defining continuity of action and change in terms of binding relationships between parties or objects as they endure in time.  The terms of a covenant can be considered to be its laws.  We are familiar with the laws which define our responsibilities as citizens of a republic.  Physical law can describe the parameters by which a body travels in a straight line through space, or the parameters by which the moon remains in orbit around the earth.

Coded relationships are of great interest to human beings, whether in nature or in personal affairs.  Every enduring relationship, mechanical or personal, demands that the involved parties have enduring or defined character, and that the relationship have definition…either through the influence of regular forces or, in the sphere of human action, through the adoption of codes, even unspoken codes, defining behavior.  Student to teacher, parent to child, lover to beloved, these are examples of coded relationships between individuals having roles of specific character.

People live in a coded relationship with their society and its governing authority, a relationship defined by laws.  Just as there are good and bad relationships between individuals, there are various levels of promise in the bonds between individuals and the authority over the society in which they live.  Promising or not, each type of government has a characteristic code defining the manner in which it and its people interact.

As citizens in a democracy, we see ourselves as ruled by people who are elected by us from among ourselves.  We tend to see ourselves as equals with the “public servants” of our government.  With our government, like traders, we make an exchange: fulfilled obligations in return for enjoyment of rights and privileges.  In exchange for the obligations of obedience to civil law, payment of taxes, jury duty, and military service, we expect certain rights: the right to vote, the right to run for office, the protection of our life and liberty and property, freedom of speech, of press, of religion, of assembly, trial by peers, and more.  For us, citizenship is a role dressed in rights.

As citizens in a democratic republic it is not intuitively clear to us what it might mean to live in one of the historic monarchies where a native of the realm finds himself to be a “subject” of the king.  The relatively modern ideas of James VI ofScotlanddescribe a monarchy in which most citizens of democracies would find themselves confused and uncomfortable.

At the end of the sixteenth century James VI wrote a textbook on the right of kings for his young son.  In it he wrote that a good king,

“acknowledgeth himself ordained for his people, having received from the god a   burden of government, whereof he must be countable.”

So he begins with the king in an external covenant with “the god” compelling him to be bound to his people as their governor, for which he is accountable to the god, but only secondarily to his people.  As for the “subjects” of James VI, they were considered as his children and as inalienable property.  Here, unlike the people of the exodus, the will of the individual subject is not active in the covenant.  Subjects, by circumstance of birth find themselves participants in the web of a covenant crafted between the king and “the god:”

“Just as no misconduct on the part of a father can free his children from obedience to the fifth commandment [honor of parents], so no misgovernment on the part of a king can release his subjects from their allegiance,” and “…a good king will frame all his actions to be according to the law, yet is he not bound thereto but of his good will…”

The idea of belonging to the monarch as child to father is not explicit in modern monarchies.  Hints of it do remain, however.  The English pride themselves in being subjects of the queen, not citizens, and seem to take pride in belonging to the monarch.

I present these scattered observations in order to illustrate the fact that in a republic or a democracy we may not have any immediate intuitive access to understanding the relationship of subject to king or of the God of Israel to us as his people.  We impair our understanding if we try to approach our God as “citizens” of his kingdom, equals with God, expecting that we are involved in a fair exchange with God: that we come by our free will to our God with our faith and in return he owes us our salvation.  My perception is that this is an extremely prevalent idea and that very few people are aware of it in themselves.  We will see that this sort of fair trade exchange has little to do with anything in the Scriptures.  Yahveh’s purpose is a kingdom, and the Scriptural environment is monarchical; to form that kingdom our God, as sovereign Lord, comes to us with the terms of a covenant, then and now.

In that covenant, his gifts of life and salvation were established for us since the foundations of the world.  The death of the Lamb, sufficient to redeem all mankind, is already accomplished.  He comes to us with love which is actual, both in the present and in history.  He comes to us with a claim upon us, for we are in every sense his rightful possession.

vi      

Preparation at Mt. Sinai for the delivery of the covenant to Moses

So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words Yahveh had commanded him to speak.  The people all responded together, “We will do everything Yahveh has said.”  So Moses brought their answer back to Yahveh.

Yahveh said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.”…And Yahveh said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow.  Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day Yahveh will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.  Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it….,”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled.  Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because Yahveh descended on it in fire.  The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder.  Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

Yahveh descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain.  So Moses went up and Yahveh said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see Yahveh and many of them perish.  Even the priests, who approach Yahveh, must consecrate themselves, or Yahveh will break out against them….Go down and bring Aaron up with you.  But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to Yahveh, or he will break out against them.”  So Moses went down to the people and told them.

vii

Yahveh speaks out of the fire and smoke enshrouding the mountain, the delivery of the terms of the covenant:

And God spoke all these words: 

 I am Yahveh your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

* You shall have no other gods before me.

*You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above  or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, Yahveh your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

*You shall not misuse the name of Yahveh your God, for Yahveh will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

*Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahveh your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days Yahveh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore Yahveh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

*Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land Yahveh your God is giving you.

*You shall not murder.

*You shall not commit adultery.

*You shall not steal.

*You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

*You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.   You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

 

viii

Specification of the person of God, the people of God, and the bond between them, according to the code of the covenant.

Prologue:

I am Yahveh your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Approximately a million refugees were gathered in the plain at the foot of Mount Sinai, and our eternal God was crafting history for their sake and for our sake.  He opened the covenant by identifying himself in a prologue declaration of his being.  First he proclaimed that he is God.  Second, he gave his specific name, the name which is an indication of his nature, Yahveh.  Third, he identified himself with his recent act of redemption, affirming that he who was speaking to them from within fire and smoke was the one who had delivered them from Egypt.

In all this Yahveh stands out in color against the entire black and white field of pretenders to deity.  Only Yahveh is God above all worlds and at the same time intensely devoted to mankind through his in-historical action.  Idols are attached to “spheres of influence” within the created world — death, birth, moon, sun, sea, air – and all that happens there is claimed to be affected by their “dominion,” but only Yahveh moves through and above every aspect of the created world, wielding the power to enter into the life of persons and the activities of nations.

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods before me.

The first commandment is our call to reality through recognition of the actual hierarchy of the universe, without which an intelligent response to the covenant is impossible.  The enshrinement of Yahveh in the heart is the beginning of true intelligence, engendered in our individual experience of knowing and being known by the person of God.

To hold our God above every icon or idol or personal ambition means to own within our hearts the historic purposes of God, and to own them above every other prize or purpose.  Our Lord is a warrior.  We are his people and we can not just watch.  He is calling to us and we must respond.  We must place his being and his voice above every other voice.

“Hear , O Israel, Yahveh our God, Yahveh is one.  You shall love Yahveh  your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”       Deuteronomy 6.4,5

These are the words of the “shema”, the words coupled with the commandments by Moses forty years later when he called the people to confirm the covenant just prior to crossing from Sinai into the land of promise.  These are also the words quoted by Jesus when he was asked by the Pharisees [who like many modern Christians questioned the devotion of Jesus to the Mosaic law] to tell them, What is the greatest commandment?

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”                                                                                                  Matthew 22.37,38

The converse of “You shall have no other gods before me,” is that “I shall be your God before all else.”  It is a call to absolute worship and devotion to his person and to his will.

The Second Commandment

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above  or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, Yahveh your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

This is a call to single-mindedness, refinement of devotion, and a call for us to distinguish absolutely between the Creator and the things of creation.  Neither the creation at large nor any created thing is to be worshipped by us.  No ancestor, no angel, no prophet.  Not even ourselves: our fulfillment, our enlightenment, our knowledge, our power, our accomplishment … none of these can come ahead of our devotion to the person of God.

Yahveh knows that we live in a world where content and appearance are easily confused.  He knows that we must be on guard for the danger of externalizing the truths of God into lovely but potentially superficial forms, turning worship into majestic but potentially empty theatrical ritual.  He is determined that his people must never substitute the worship of exterior form in place of being bonded within his living person.

Forty years from this day at Sinai, Moses, confirming the people in the covenant prior to their entry into Canaan, would recall to them the importance of the fact that on the day when the covenant was first delivered our of the smoke and fire no form of God was seen.

“And you came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the heart of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness.  And Yahveh spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; the speaking of words you heard, but a form you did not see; only a voice.  And he declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even the ten words; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone…Take you therefore good heed unto yourselves—for you saw no manner of form on the day that Yahveh spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire— lest you deal corruptly, and make you a graven image, even the form of any figure…            Deuteronomy 4.11-13,15,16

In the second commandment we also see Yahveh’s confession of bias toward the children of his people.  We conclude that we are to understand that we are to expand our vision of ourselves to our parents and our children.  We are a people.  Yahveh is pleased to act in the lives of those who have been raised to seek him, and he is grieved when we have been raised to scorn him.  There never has been a neutral environment where men are free to “take or leave” God, and now inside the claims of the covenant this is especially true.

The faith of the individual is injured by the stubbornness of parents.  The failure of the individual to raise his children in faith leads to a wound in the community and grief.  We are responsible to bring ourselves before God.  We are also responsible to bring our brother, our father, our child before God.

This linkage between faith and its “heirs” is the core premise of God’s love for the genetic descendants of the patriarchs. Nevertheless, as Yahveh loves the descendant, so he expects of the descendant everything that he expects of the patriarch…that he come in freedom and that he voluntarily assign his heart to his God.  Short of this there is no participation in the Israel of God.  God’s love of our children is not a promise of a free lunch to the genetically connected.

The Third Commandment

*You shall not misuse the name of Yahveh your God, for Yahveh will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

As first inscribed in Hebrew, this commandment focuses on the name, Yahveh, and yet, as rules of usage have evolved, most translations of the  Hebrew Scriptures “protect” the holiness of the name of God by substituting a title, “the Lord,” for the name “Yahveh.”  So most versions of the third commandment read as, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” This is a valid injunction, that we not misuse the word “God” or “Lord”, but in this form the commandment overlooks the core issue of honoring the eternal name given to Moses, the name Yahveh. 

We should consider that to avoid misuse of the name Yahveh might require more of us than reserving it for the most holy settings.  Rabbis have come together to protect the name by insisting that it not be spoken, only referred to symbolically by the use of other names such as Hashem [the Name] or Adonai [Lord].  In this line of thought the NIV replaces Yahveh with “Lord,” all letters in upper case.  [Analogously, how much honor would I do to anyone of importance to me should I refuse to refer to them by name and only address them by official or descriptive titles?]

Yahveh is a name which needs to be known to us.  His name says to us, “I am a God who is in-historical:  I am in my actions what I am in my being.”  The name Yahveh is part of God’s in-historical particularity, his being far above the abstractions and the pantheistic spirits and mists.  It is this very particularity which God insisted upon in his dealings with Pharaoh.

I believe it honors God for us his children to speak of him and with him in loving usage of his wonderful name, whether we pronounce it Yahveh or Yahweh or even Jehovah.  He delights in our consciousness that “He is in actual time and history all that he is in his essential being.”  He never has asked us to refrain from speaking his name.  He can only cherish the sound of it on the lips of those who love him.

Now, in this time, we also address him as Jesus and Yeshua.  In this time the being and agency of Yahveh is inseparable from the being and person of Yeshua our Messiah.  As the author of the book of Hebrews has written:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he        appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe.  The Son is          the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.                              Hebrews 1.1-4

In Hebrew the name of Jesus our king is Yeshua…”Salvation.”  His name is deeply rooted in the conversation of the Old Covenant writings, as in Psalm 25.4,5

Show me your ways O Yahveh, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior. [Elohei yish’iy]

And in the ending of Psalm 3:

by Yahveh is salvation upon your people [laYahveh ha’Yeshua al am’cha]

And in Psalm 55:

As for me, unto God will I call, and Yahveh will save me [Yahveh yoshiyeini].

And in Genesis 49.18:

I look for your salvation, O Yahveh. [LiY’shoat’cha qiviyti Yahveh.]

Very often the “salvation” which is sought in the words of the old covenant writers is ultimately the very salvation which Yeshua is to provide.  Whether pronouncing his name “Jesus” or “Yeshua,” he is the mighty prince upon the throne of heaven and the tender spirit ruling in our hearts, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”  How much we must cherish the name Jesus and Yeshua in this time.

The Fourth Commandment

*Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahveh your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days Yahveh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore Yahveh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

In six days the work of creation was complete, but the primary cycle of time was not yet complete.  Following the work of creation in six units of time, there followed one more full unit of time in which God performed no creative work.  From this we know that God’s judgment of creation is that it is in every way complete.  The Sabbath is founded in the total sufficiency of God.

We often find fault with the world and our own lives.  If we know deprivation or war or poverty or injustice, we also know that our God permits it.  It is the cauldron through which we are drawn, in which we are refined, on the way to his peace and riches and justice.

Yahveh described the time in Egypt to Moses in these terms:

But as for you, Yahveh took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.          Deuteronomy 4.20

Even of Jesus it is said:

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should          lead the author of their salvation to perfection of accomplishment through     sufferings.                                                                                Hebrews 2.10

The suffering of rebellion is the tragic and inevitable consequence of sin.  The suffering of the people of God is a sharing in the sufferings of our king who leads us in this world toward his ultimate redemption, as in our initial redemption from Egypt.  Our suffering has a purpose, a goal, a glorious end.

We are the seeds of the future, the living stones of his spiritual house, and it is within his allowances that we suffer in this time, knowing in our suffering that the world is not breaking apart at the edges, but that we, like Jesus himself, will suffer and in the end live inside his rest, the great Sabbath of history.

And God finished on the seventh day his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.  And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God in creating had made.   Genesis 2.2-4

Curiously it says here that God’s rest in the seventh day is in itself the actual completion or capstone of his process of creation.  It says that God blessed that day because it was a day of rest and completion.  Now in the covenant we are called to share in honoring that completion…and to share in that rest.  Jesus said,

The Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath.

In the garden we were admonished not to touch the things of God.  In the covenant we are called to become the people of God.  The Sabbath, the seventh day, is the time of God, time that is holy, time that is set apart for him.  We are called to enter into his holy time, to discover it as holy time.  In the process we are to discover ourselves as set apart for God, his holy people.

The fact that the Sabbath is the seventh and not the first day of the week is something which has been obscured inside the vicissitudes of church history, a history of its leaders wresting the truth of our kingdom from its origins in Israel and perverting it to the purposes of the status quo and the powers of the nations.  Recognition of this fact is no condition of salvation.  However, we know that God loves the truth and loves the fabric of history.  It is his will that we refine our understanding of our world until we are able to differentiate between the fabric of his provision and the distortion and damage of rebellion. Constantineput his hand to changing the times and the seasons.  This was not in the Spirit of God and it opposes every indication of Scripture.  For all of us who can see the Sabbath as the seventh day, I believe it honors our God and our kingdom to hold to the ancient Sabbath, for there is no reason to believe that when our king returns the Sabbath will be anything other than the seventh day.

The Fifth Commandment

*Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land Yahveh your God is giving you.

The remaining commandments are God’s assertion that the honor which we give to him must also find its expression in the love which we show to all children of his creation and here specifically to our parents who are the vehicle of our own creation.

Jesus went to the words of the shema to declare “the most important commandment,” to love Yahveh with all our heart.  As those words lie implicit in the first four commandments, so in the remaining commandments we hear the addendum of Jesus, “and the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

In the fifth commandment we are called to honor our parents without qualification, simply in virtue of the fact that they are our parents.  Without our covenant bond of loyalty to them, without the bond of our children to ourselves, we see damage to our continuity as a people.  For this reason the command carries the explanation “so that you may live long in the land Yahveh your God is giving you.”

God brings life to our souls individually so that we may become his people.  It is as a people that we become the vehicle of God’s victory in the world.  This is made clear in the great prophesy which God brought to Nebuchadnezzar and which was interpreted by Daniel:

In the time of those kings [i.e. in present historic time], the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.  This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human        hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.”                                                           Daniel 2.44,45

Again here, as in all the commandments, lies implicit the truth that the provision of Yahveh is absolutely sufficient for our every need.  Whatever we might imagine to be lacking in the provision or education which we have received from our parents, our honor of them alone has meaning.  They are given to us by God, and in everything we must acknowledge the total care of our God.

The Sixth Commandment

*You shall not murder.

This brief covenant command echoes the broad command which God gave to Noah:

And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.       Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.                                                            Genesis 9.5,6         

The command to Noah promised that for a man to take the life of another man would merit the judgment that he should lose his own life.  The covenant command brings the explicit reward for murder to a new level.  Not only may it cost us our life, as under Noah, but it will cost us our place inside the covenant.  To lose our place inside the covenant is to lose our place inside the eternal kingdom, to lose God’s provision for the life of our eternal soul.

The seventh commandment.

*You shall not commit adultery.

Marriage between man and woman had been established as God’s first paradigm since Adam and Eve were created as the completion of each other.  Now it became part of God’s covenant with his people that nothing is to violate the integrity of that union.  Conversely the unmarried person must do nothing to violate another man’s union, nor is the independent person to be intimate with someone “as if” he were committed to that person inside a covenant of marriage.

Our Messiah will later clarify that mere external fidelity is not enough, that he seeks in us complete fidelity of the heart:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that          anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.                                                                             Matthew 5.27,28

Lust is a compelling urge to satisfy the appetite of our eyes and our own sensuality for the physical beauty of another person…a compelling urge which ignores the spiritual essence of the other person.  Pursuit of such lust is a betrayal of the divinity of the other person, the truth that he or she is made in the image of God.

It is to be our prayer that God will teach us to see our brother and sister with his eyes, caring for them with God’s own heart.  In other words, we are bound to truly love our brother and sister as ourselves.

The eighth commandment.

*You shall not steal.

Again, the total sufficiency of God and his conscious provision for our individual lives makes an end to the need to satisfy our own desire by theft from another.  We are called to live in reliance upon the care and goodness of Yahveh.

The ninth commandment:

*You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

There is always the possibility that our neighbor’s good fortune or his choice of associates or his success in spreading his point of view is offensive to us or to our peers or to the government which rules over us.  His habits and priorities might be a burden to us.  Our peers or some government authority might ask us to oppose him.  We are to seek justice only by telling the truth.  We are not, for any reason, excused in opposing him by any slight of hand or any “slight of speech.”  His offense is in the hands of God.  He is the neighbor whom we must love as our own selves.

The tenth commandment:

*You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.   You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Here it is clear that inside the covenant we are standing in the presence of God, inside the consciousness of the One who looks into the depths of the heart.  It is not only our actions which matter.  He asks that our desires be true.  He asks us to know in our hearts that he is faithful to bring us every good thing.  We are not like the world, ignorant of Yahveh our father.  We live in trust in Yahveh.  We are his people, his children, his subjects.  As we trust him for all our needs, he brings to us what is good for us, whether it be riches or limitation, wife, children, opportunity, austerity, restraint…all for his great purpose, for our refinement, for our highest individual capacity, all for the glory of our great kingdom, and for the restoration of the earth.

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Confirmation of the Covenant by oath of the people, by the covenant meal and by the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to Yahveh, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,    and seventy of the elders of Israel.  You are to worship at a distance, but Moses   alone is to approach Yahveh; the others must not come near.  And the people may not come up with him.

When Moses went and told the people all Yahveh’s words and laws, they     responded with one voice, “Everything Yahveh has said we will do.”  Moses     then wrote down everything Yahveh had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes f Israel.  Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to Yahveh.  Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar.

This blood, applied to the altar, calls out for God’s mercy through the coming sacrifice of the Lamb, Yeshua our king and redeemer.  In this moment at Sinai we notice something curious.  The people have just received Moses’ account of what God expects of them, and they have just responded that they would do everything that Yahveh has asked of them.  If such obedience were in fact to be the outcome, then there would be no need of sacrifice, for the sacrifice is the offering which calls out for the life blood given for forgiveness of sin.  Moses knew well that they could not possibly make themselves secure within the covenant by virtue of their acts of fealty.  He knew that only the life and blood of the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world can make the fealty of a man acceptable to the heart of God.

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.  [Their second hearing of the terms of the covenant.]  They responded, “We will do everything Yahveh has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood [the half set aside in bowls], sprinkled it on the people    and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that Yahveh has made with you in        accordance with all these words.”

Half the blood had already been sprinkled on the altar, evoking the blood of Yeshua which will be layed upon the heavenly altar.[13]  This other half set aside in bowls is now sprinkled on the people, evoking the blood shed and sprinkled over the doorways to protect the people in Egypt from the Passover of the angel of death…a figure for the condition that we, covered by the blood of Yeshua, are saved from death and given immortality.  Moses also says that this is “the blood of the covenant,” evoking the words of Jesus at the Passover dinner when he lifts the cup of blessing and asserts, by another figure, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”[14]

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.  [We assume that  they saw the presence of God upon his throne without seeing the form of  God.]

Yahveh said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their     instruction.”  Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the       mountain of God.  …When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of Yahveh settled on Mount Sinai.  For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day Yahveh called to Moses from within the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of Yahveh looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.  Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.[15]

In Yahveh’s covenant expectations for ourselves it is not incidental that we see a portrait of our God, for we were created in his image, created to exercise the dignity of freedom and righteousness.   Rebellion distorted us, but the covenant call is a call to the restoration of our being, a call to excellence, and to the intimate hope that we will be his people and he will be our God.  We find in the code of our covenant with Yahveh the conditions of life in the presence of Yahveh.

By this code a people was established, bound to Yahveh with a bond deeper than genetics, sealed in the blood of sacrifice.  This is the landmark event in the formation of the people of God.  Alfred Edersheim, in The Temple, writes beautifully of the significance of this moment and this sacrifice which underpins all others:

At the very threshold of the Mosaic dispensation stands the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb connected with the redemption of Israel, and which in many respects must be regarded as typical, or rather anticipatory, of all the others.  But there was one sacrifice which, even under the Old Testament, required no renewal.  It was when God had entered into covenant relationship with Israel, and Israel became “the people of God.”  Then Moses sprinkled “the blood of the covenant” on the altar and on the people [Exodus 24].  On the ground of this covenant-sacrifice all others rested [Psalm 50.5]. These were, then, either sacrifices of communion with God, or else intended to restore that communion when it had been disturbed or dimmed through sin and trespass: sacrifices in communion, or for communion with God; to the former class belong the burnt- and the peace-offerings; to the latter, the sin- and the trespass-offerings.  But, as without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin, every service and every worshiper had, so to speak, to be purified by blood, and the mediatorial agency of the priesthood called in to bring near unto God, and to convey the assurance of acceptance.][16]

x

 

The Lamb and the coming perfection of the covenant

Historically things did not play out smoothly.  No sooner had Moses come down off the mountain with the covenant inscribed on slates of stone but he found the entire population in a state of revelry, celebrating as “god” the icon of a golden calf.  Impatient to give definition to their new independence, they had chosen liberty over service and devotion.

In practice, the population ofIsraelhad great difficulty molding their lives to the terms of the covenant.  If we look at each item, it seems so little to ask, to honor God, to honor parents, to honor our neighbor.  But the spirit of rebellion endured from ancient times and the hope of the covenant was not enough to quell the lust for self-indulgence.  The events of the exodus, which should have given them confidence that Yahveh would care for them as father for child, had failed to adequately inspire them.  They were not able to achieve the kind of trust in the sufficiency of God which the covenant prescribed.

Knowing our weaknesses, Yahveh already had been preparing for the advent of a new covenant, even as he had alluded to the coming Messiah in the day on which he ushered Adam and Eve out of the garden.  The eventual messianic covenant would effect in the hearts of men a place for the Spirit of Jahveh, to quicken them and create in them a capacity to live spontaneously in the manner which the covenant terms hoped to achieve.

In time Jeremiah and Ezekiel would express clearly the complement of Yahveh’s plan by which the Sinai covenant finally would be realized in the hearts of men.  The blood of animals spilled on the altar and on the people provided, by God’s own fiat, ritual cleanliness, but in themselves they had no transformative efficacy.  The significance of sacrifice was that it looked forward to the enabling moment when, both in terms of debt owed and in terms of dynamism, the Savior and Redeemer would give his life for the sake of his people and the transformative power of his Spirit would come to men.

Jeremiah recorded God’s words:

“The time is coming,” declares Yahveh, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares Yahveh. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares Yahveh. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people….For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.                                                  Jeremiah 31.31-34

And Ezekiel recorded this similar projection:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”                                 Ezekiel 36. 25-28

King David also spoke repeatedly of the coming of his Lord in Psalm after Psalm:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Yahveh; O Yahveh, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.  If you, O Yahveh, kept a record of sins, O Yahveh, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.  I wait for Yahveh, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for Yahveh more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel put your hope in Yahveh, for with Yahveh is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.  He himself will redeem Israel fom all their sins.             Psalm 130

The goal of the old covenant, to bind a nation of priests[17] to God, could not be completed by code alone.  It required that men be covered with God’s grace and brought to life by his Spirit.  It required the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

The old covenant is not complete without the new covenant.  It was the great vision of Abel and Abraham and Moses and Job and others that new covenant redemption is implicit in the architecture of the world.  In just a matter of weeks following the giving of the covenant at Mt.Sinai, Jahveh will teach to Moses the architectural parameters of a tabernacle modeled after the heavenly temple and throne room of God.  This tabernacle, as portrait of the heavenly architecture, will be Jahveh’s affirmation that the possibility of men to live in the presence of God is conditioned upon the being of Yeshua our king.

We see that God’s eternal goal throughout history is that we honor the importance of a coded relationship between ourselves and himself.  Such is the path to the discovery of our deepest excellence as it is contained in the plan of our creation.  That excellence is not a mere excellence of precision.  It is an excellence which has as its source and goal the presence of the Spirit of God within us, so binding ourselves to God in union of design, of purpose, and of actual being.  As Jesus prayed to the Father in his great high priestly prayer:

Nor do I pray for them alone, but for all who believe in me by their spoken word; may they all be one!  As thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, so may they be in us – that the world may believe thou hast sent me.  Yea, I have given them the glory thou gavest me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and thou in me – that they may be made perfectly one, so that the world may recognize that thou hast sent me and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.  Father, it is my will that these, thy gift to me, may be beside me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me, because thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.         John 17.20-24


[1] i.e. to maintain obedience of the heart to the will of God, that circumcision of the heart, of which the physical circumcision is only a crude sign.

[2] The tradition which followed affirmed that Jacob in fact encountered God in the form of a man, the angel of God.  Hosea wrote of Jacob: “In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God.  He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there – the Lord God Almighty, the Lord is his name of renown!” Hosea 12.3-5

[3] So it is that in the book of Revelation our God is repeatedly referred to as, “He who is and was and shall be.”

[4]  “Before Moses, the Bible records that the Israelites were enslaved by their Egyptian hosts (Exodus 1:8-14). In theBrooklynMuseum resides a papyrus scroll numberedBrooklyn 35:1446 which was acquired in the late 19th century by Charles Wilbour. This dates to the reign of Sobekhotep III, the predecessor of Neferhotep I and so the pharaoh who reigned one generation before Moses. This papyrus is a decree by the pharaoh for a transfer of slaves. Of the 95 names of slaves mentioned in the letter, 50% are Semitic in origin. What is more, it lists the names of these slaves in the original Semitic language and then adds the Egyptian name that each had been assigned, which is something the Bible records the Egyptians as doing, cf. Joseph’s name given to him by pharaoh (Genesis 41:45). Some of the Semitic names are biblical and include:

[5]  Clemens’ Stromata summarizes the writings of Artapanus, a Jewish historian who wrote Peri Iodaion (About the Jews). Artapanus is named by Eusebius in his Evangelicae Preparationis and his detailed account of the life of Moses is reported in his Pamphilis, Book 9, Ch. 27, 1-37.

[6]  “Artapanus writes that a pharaoh named Palmanothes was persecuting the Israelites. His daughter Merris adopted a Hebrew child who grew up to be called prince Mousos. Merris married a pharaoh Khenephrês. Prince Mousos grew up to administer the land on behalf of this pharaoh. He led a military campaign against the Ethiopians who were invading Egypt; however, upon his return, Khenephrês grew jealous of his popularity. Mousos then fled to Arabia to return when Khenephrês died and lead the Israelites to freedom.”
– John Fulton, “A New Chronology – Synopsis of David Rohl’s book ‘A Test of Time’

[7]  “Tutimaos [the pharaoh Dudimose, one of the later rulers of the 13th Dynasty]. In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthless, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others. Finally, they appointed as king one of their number who name was Salitis…”
– Josephus, quoting Manetho in Against Apion, Book1:14

[8] Ipuwer Papyrus, Papyrus Leiden  334, a hard to date papyrus copied by 19th Dynasty scribes.

[9]  “The only period in Egyptian history with incontrovertible archaeological evidence for a large Asiatic population in the eastern delta (i.e. Goshen/Kessan) is the Second Intermediate Period…”
“The Israelite Sojourn inEgypt began in the late 12th Dynasty and continued throughout most of the 13th Dynasty. It is represented inEgypt’s archaeological record by the Asiatic culture known as Middle Bronze IIA. The main settlement of the Israelites inEgypt was located at the city ofAvaris in the region ofGoshen. Their archaeological remains are represented by the dwellings and tombs of Tell ed-Daba stata H to G/1.”

“…An analysis of the graves at Tell ed-Daba has shown that there were more females than males in the burial population of Avaris.”
In addition, “sixty-five per cent of all the burials were those of children under the age of eighteen months. Based on modern statistical evidence obtained from pre-modern societies we would expect the infant mortality rate to be around twenty to thirty percent.”
– David M. Rohl, A Test of Time: The Bible from Myth to History (1995), p. 273, 277, 271

“At the end of stratum G/1 at Tell ed-Daba, which is roughly dated to the middle of the 13th Dynasty, Bietak and his archaeological team began to uncover a gruesome scene. All over the city of Avaristhey found shallow burial pits into which the victims of some terrible disaster had been hurriedly cast. There were no careful interments of the deceased. The bodies were not arranged in the proper burial fashion but rather thrown into the mass graves, one on top of the other. There were no grave goods placed with the corpses as was usually the custom.”
“…Analysis of the site archaeology suggests that a large part of the remaining population of the town abandoned their homes and departed from Avaris en masse. The site was then reoccupied after an interval of unknown duration by Asiatics who were not ‘Egyptianised’ like the previous population of stratum G.”
– David M. Rohl, A Test of Time: The Bible from Myth to History (1995), p. 279

[10] Ref Genesis 17.7,8; Exodus 6.7; Exodus 19.5,6; Leviticus 26.12; Jeremiah 7.23; Jeremiah 24.7; Jeremiah 30.22; Jeremiah 32.38; Ezekiel 37.27;  Ezekiel 34.23,24,30; Ezekiel 36.28; Ezekiel 37.27; II Corinthians 6.16;  Isaiah 43.19-21;  Ezekiel 11.19,20

[11] Ibid.

[12] “I John your brother and your companion in the distress and realm and patient endurance which Jesus brings,….”    Revelation 1.9

[13] Hebrews 9.11-14

[14] Mattthew 26.28

[15] Exodus 24.1-18

[16] Edersheim, The Temple, p. 80

[17] A priest, in its fundamental meaning, is someone who has been made free to come into the immediate presence of God.

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