Monday, August 20, 2012

XLIII - Exodus Chapters 17 and 18

Exodus Chapters 17 and 18

Chapter 17

Vss 1-7  -  Water From the Rock

The Israelites travelled through the Desert of Sin and headed mainly south, but went from place to place, as God lead them.  They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them there, and they contended with Moses.  And they pushed the same old button:  "Why did you bring us out of Egypt just so we could die of thirst?  We would have been better off to have stayed in Egypt."  So Moses goes to the Lord and tells Him that the people are so upset with the situation, they are ready to stone him.  God performs another miracle in the sight of Israel.  He has Moses gather all the elders of the tribes.  In front of all these elders Moses (per God's instructions) strikes a rock with his staff and water pours out, providing more than enough water for the Israelites and their livestock.  It says Moses named that place Massah and Meribah, which mean "testing" and "quarreling" because the people quarreled and tested God when they said, "Is the Lord among us or not?".  {God exercises a great deal of patience with these people.  We're just now getting a tiny sampling of it.  Notice that Moses is frequently frustrated with the actions and the complaints he must deal with.  We can plainly see Moses's level of frustration by the names he used for that place.  Note he did not just use one name, which is custom, but two names.}

Vss 8-16 - War

With God's help, the Hebrews had overcome hunger and thirst in the desert.  Now they were faced with a third threat:  War.  The Amalekites attacked these farmers and herdsmen in the desert.  The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Remember him?  Jacob's twin brother.  A mighty warrior.  Amalek was Esau's grandson (Gen. 36:12).  These things always tie together in God's Holy Scripture.  In verse nine we are introduced to another character:  Joshua.  {Joshua was a man of valor.  A mighty warrior like Esau, but God fearing.  Joshua and Caleb show much courage in the name of God.  The stories about Joshua are always good reading and spiritually educational.  We're going to be seeing a lot of Joshua for a while.  God likes Joshua and soon we'll see God give him a great honor, one which God withholds from Moses.}  Moses assigns Joshua quite a task in vs 9.  Remember, these Hebrews are not trained for battle.  But Joshua puts together a small army.  Moses told them he would stand at the top of a hill where they could see him and hold up his staff.  So, (vs 10) Joshua fought the Amalekites and was victorious as long as Moses held up the staff.  But when Moses got tired and lowered his staff, Joshua and the Israelites started losing the battle.  So, to help
Moses keep his hands up, Aaron and Hur held them up for him, giving Israel victory over the Amalekites.  {I cannot tell you much about Hur, but we know he was dependable and a confidant of Moses and Aaron.  We also know Hur was wise as Moses assigned him and Aaron judgeship in his absence (24:14).  I believe these are the only two references on Hur.}  This was Israel's first battle as a nation.  Remember, they did not war against Pharaoh.  The simply escaped from him with no blood being shed by the sword.  So Moses built an altar and called it "The Lord is my Banner".  Banners were used to identify groups of warriors.  From a distance, it could be impossible to tell who was the enemy and who were on your side.  The banners were large enough to see from a distance, and easily identifiable by colors and symbols.

Chapter 18  -  Jethro visits Moses

Then there came somewhat of an interlude between the wilderness crises and the meeting of Moses and God on Mt. Sinai.  Jethro meets with Moses.  Apparently Moses had sent his wife and children to Jethro to care for them and to keep them away from all the plagues and dangers Moses knew was going to take place.  This turned out to be a fruitful meeting, as a standard for judging was set which would be the accepted pattern for generations to come.  Vss 1-6 - Jethro has heard all about what has been going on with Moses and the nation Israel.  Jethro has been keeping Zapporah and their sons Gershom and Eliezer, while Moses has been doing God's work.  Jethro went and found Moses in the desert where they were camped.  It wouldn't be too difficult to find a crowd that big.  It so happened
that the Israelites were camped near Mt. Sinai, near the location Moses first encountered God at the burning bush.  Vss 7-12 - Moses runs to meet Jethro.  This was a happy day for Moses.  He sees his family for the first time in a very long time.  Moses and Jethro exchange information on each other's well being, then Moses tells Jethro all about everything God has done.  {Earlier Jethro was refered to as "the priest of Midian".  So, Jethro was certainly considered a devout man and could glory in all that Moses was telling him.  However, I'm unsure of the religious beliefs and practices of the Midianites.}  It goes on to say that there was a feast in Jethro's honor with all the elders from all the
tribes of Israel.
Vss 13-18  -  Jethro Sees A Major Problem

The next day after the feast, Moses sat to serve as judge for the people when there were disputes, which he regularly did.  The people stood around, waiting for their turn to speak with Moses from morning till night, and the job was never finished.  Jethro observed this and asked Moses, "Why are you doing this alone?".  Moses said, "because the people come to me to seek God's will".  {At the risk of being redundant, I must mention again that this was like the beginning of time.  There was no constitution to serve as a reference for Moses when making decisions.  So, when you think about it, what was Moses using as a guide when making and explaining his decisions?  Moses had not yet received the Commandments or the Law.  So, I submit that there were several ways Moses could have accomplished this without serious accusations of bias, etc. from the people.  First, in prayer of course he received revelation from God.  Second, God had already given him and the people a number of commands, ie. tithe, circumcision, manna, the sabboth, and there could have been some others.  Third, there must have been laws common to the world of that day and some common to the Hebrew society.  Moses would have been familiar with all of them.  And finally, common sense settles most disputes, and God-given wisdom even more.}  Jethro gives Moses some very wise advice.  He advises Moses to select qualified men, the qualifications of which are 1) men capable of handling responsibility, 2) men who fear and respected God, 3) men if truth, honest, trustworthy, and impartial, and 4) they had to hate covetousness, and above taking a bribe.  Jethro then tells Moses to take the time to teach all of these men all about the law and the customs. Then, there were to be appointed officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  These officials were to serve as
judges at all times.  {Moses could only judge at limited times due to his awesome responsibilities as Israel's leader.}  Jethro continues to tell Moses that these men could handle all the simple and/or minor cases, and bring to Moses the more difficult ones.  Moses was a wise man.  And wise men recognize wisdom when they hear it.  Moses respectfully accepted Jethro's advice and immediately began the process, setting the standard for every decent justice system to this day.  Jethro made an indescribably valuable contribution to the world that day.  {This whole process of selection and teaching must have taken a very long time because of shear numbers.  But it was well worth it.  This new organized system of justice would have naturally spread to a more organized group of people in other ways.  It always does.  Up to this point Moses had been leading a massive group of runaway slaves, who would of course be charting their own agendas by this time, making unity nearly impossible.}

Next Post  -  Moses Meets God on Mt. Sinai

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