Dating in Antiquity

I‘m in the middle of a study on the book of Exodus for a teaching I hope to give at a kids camp in July. I discovered this fascinating book called The Pentateuch As Narrative. Although my roommate informs me that it’s not a universally intriguing title, I was drawn in by it. Here’s why- I love stories. I love stories of all kinds: true, fiction, short, long, funny, disturbing or serious. I came to discover, last year while doing the School of Biblical Studies, that the Bible is chalked FULL of true and interesting stories.

I see that yawn/eye roll. But don’t give up yet. In studying about Moses, I found a treasure that I want to investigate with you. All throughout the Bible (from cover to cover) are themes and connections. The connections are sometimes too big picture for us to catch and certainly too subtle for a cursory reading.

Here’s what jumped out today: this book about the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses) points out that Moses met his wife by a well (Ex. 2:15-22). Not only that, but she was not a Hebrew (not so shocking for us, but for the original reader, this would have been noteworthy). This is a pattern with many of God’s chosen men preceding Moses. Isaac (Gen. 24), Jacob (Gen. 29) and Judah (Gen. 38) also met the mother of their children (all foreigners) at a well. These are not just men, these men are the ones through whom God promised to get the whole world blessed (ancestors of Jesus).¬† Although Moses is not an ancestor of Jesus, he is a foreshadow of Jesus in that he delivers God’s people from slavery into the land of promise (The book of Matthew shows the parallels between Moses/Israel and Jesus in detail)….

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For Freedom

I have found an important clue to my life in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.

Let’s just ponder the Israelites. They spend 430 years in slavery in Egypt. They multiply while being oppressed. We’re not talking a little light name calling, we’re talking horrible physical labor with guards who have weapons to keep people in line. Then they are delivered from slavery by God through Moses and Aaron. The Hebrews at this time have all grown up in slavery in Egypt. They had likely heard stories about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but they may have been like distant fairy tales that meant nothing in the reality of daily toil.

So here God is through Moses with PLAGUES. Pharaoh finds it easy enough to not believe, but this guy is king and thinks himself to be a god.
The Hebrews, on the other hand are just watching while all this crazy stuff happens. Then they are ejected from Egypt and on the road. THEN God parts the Red Sea in front of them (not a puddle), while simultaneously keeping the Egyptian army (who was chasing them by this time) from reaching them. Then He destroys their enemies by allowing the Sea to fold in on them.

All that, plus a lot more, and what do the people do? They complain….

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Know Mo

We’re on the last book in what is known as the Pentateuch. The five books of Moses.

The main character of all of these books is, of course, God. The second main character would really be the people of Israel, from their beginnings with the pagan Abraham to pious Joseph. At the end of Genesis, 70 Israelites go into Egypt to live and when we see them again in Exodus (430 years later), they are so numerous that they frighten the Egyptians who respond by oppressing them.
I have so many questions for God, just within the last sentence of one book and the first sentence of the next.

What I really want to talk about, though, is Moses. Do you know about this guy? You could probably look him up on Wikepedia and read the facts. Yes. Brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter, educated, maybe in line to be Pharaoh one day. Then at the age of 40 he decides to act upon this feeling that’s been growing inside of him. He sees that his people, the Hebrews, are being treated horribly and maybe he realizes that his position makes him a good candidate for emancipating them. Maybe there are whispers in his heart of the call that God will give through him (“Let my people go!”).

Whatever his motives, his actions are rash and he has to run for his life. ¬†Suddenly the man who would be king is an obscure shepherd in Midian. He marries, has kids, settles in. Maybe he thinks of his days in the palace as a dream that he never deserved. Maybe he’s just grateful to be alive and lives daily with a guilt over killing that Egyptian dude.
At the age of 80 he meets God….

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