A New Nation Through Moses? Deuteronomy 9

I’ve been reading through the books of Moses again, and mot recently, Deuteronomy. I was reading through chapter 9 this morning and noticed something that has never really clicked in my mind before. In Deuteronomy 9:13-14, after the Israelites make the golden calf while Moses has been on the mountain talking to God, God is so angry that he wants to destroy the Israelites, but still keep his promise to Abraham by making Moses into a nation stronger and more numerous than Israel:

13 And the LORD said to me, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.” (NIV)

For the whole context, read Deuteronomy 9:7-29.

I just find it amazing how every time I read the Bible for a little while, I come across something that I’ve read before but that I’ve never really comprehended before. I mean, this seems like a pretty vital tipping point to both Biblical history and history in general. What if the Israelites were destroyed and God made Moses into a new nation?

Would the new nation still be headed to Canaan? Would they have suffered the same destruction later on at the hands of Assyria and Babylon? I think it says a lot about Moses character though that despite how much the Israelites drove him crazy, he loved them and he begged God not to destroy them, even though it would have made his life a whole lot easier and potentially made him a patriarch comparable to Abraham.

Deuteronomy Chapter 2

Deuteronomy I found to be an extremely emotional and moving book, looking at how far the Israelites have come since leaving Horeb, reiterating and reinforcing the law, and ending with Moses’ death.

It consists of a number of heartfelt speeches given to the Israelites by Moses, and it gives some insight into some things I found quite interesting.

In Deuteronomy 2, Moses explains why the Israelites were not to attack people of many of the lands they passed through and why they were to pay for everything they were provided with while they were in those lands.

In 2:4-6, the Israelites are not to provoke the people living in Seir, the Edomites as they pass through, because they are the descendants of Esau, the brother of Israel, and God provided them with that country as their own.

Further on in 2:9 as the Israelites passed Moab, the Lord told them not to harass or provoke the moabites as he had given the land their to the descendants of Lot. Again in verse 19, the Israelites are told not to harass or provoke the Ammonites as they are also descendants of Lot and God provided them with that land.

I find it quite interesting, to note where the locations of these people are and how, at this point their behaviour towards each other is still as relatives, yet later on, after the Israelites reach Canaan, they are constantly fighting with each other. Under David, the Israelites conquer Edom, Moab and Ammon, but after the split in rule between the North and South kingdoms of Israel, control is lost over these countries, resulting in numerous problems for both the Northern and Southern kingdoms with wars breaking out frequently. I’m going off on a tangent now though, but I really find looking at all these things quite interesting and joining together pieces of history.

Exodus Chapters 1 to 17

Exodus is an interesting book to read. As it’s name suggests, the main focus of the first half is on the oppression and the Israelites exodus of Egypt. It then covers the ten commandments, and then almost all of the second half is focused entirely on the development of the tabernacle.

I didn’t end up writing up the interesting points I didn’t know before that I came across as I was reading it this week, so I’m going to do that now. I might end up breaking this up into a few posts.

Aaron, Moses and Miriam were Levites – Exodus Chapter 2:1 “Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman”. That would be their mum and dad, since the story of Moses birth and adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter goes on from there.

I know most of the first section of Exodus fairly well, it goes through Moses’ struggles with God before returning to Egypt and with the help of his brother Aaron and God, he approaches Pharaoh time and time again to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refuses, and so God sends down plagues on the Egyptians, ten of them. Water to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, the plague on the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the plague on the first born. Despite how many times I’ve read or heard this part of the Bible, I never remember just what all the plagues were. The ones that stand out to me are the first, turning the water in the Nile River to blood, and the last three. Locusts, darkness and death. I don’t really know why those are the ones that I think of first when I think about the plagues on the Egyptians.

Something that particularly jumped out to me further on, is after the final plague, after the passover, when the Israelites left Egypt, before the Israelites did anything to warrant their wandering in the desert for many years, in Exodus 13:17-18, we are told God intentionally took them the long way:

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

So God, intentionally took them the long way to Canaan to avoid any war with the Philistines. Of course, that way ended up taking a lot longer than it needed to anyway, but for different reasons entirely.

I commented when I finished reading Genesis that I was interested to see if the Israelites did remember to take Joseph’s bones from Egypt when they left as he requested. In Exodus 13:19, Moses upheld the oath.

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”

I find the next section of Exodus quite interesting. I know the story of God parting the water of the Red (Dead) Sea, that’s a fairly well known excerpt. From chapter 14 of Exodus though, it becomes pretty clear that God had their escape route well planned out ahead of time. Chapter 14:1-3

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’

Now, when the Egyptians catch up with them, the Israelites cry out to God and to Moses and fear for their lives, wishing they were back in Egypt enslaved rather than about to die in the desert. I love God’s response to them:

15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

God knew what would happen, He had it all planned out already. He promised to take His people out of Egypt, and here they are complaining, the response “Why are you crying out to me?” seems quite appropriate!

As I came back to write this, I realised that while the first mention of Aaron and Moses’ sister Miriam is in Exodus 2:5, we aren’t told her name until Exodus 15:20 when she, and the other women take up their tambourines and praise God with the rest of Israel for their deliverance and for what has been promised.

As I was reading through the next section, I started to realise something. As the Israelites travelled through the numerous deserts, having all their needs provided for by God, drinkable water where previously there was none (chapter 17:1-7) or what was there was not drinkable (chapter 15:22-27). Food was provided as well, manna and quail, always just what they needed. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites (chapter 17:8-15), even going back to the division of the waters in the sea, Moses has been gradually changing. When God first sent him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses needed Aaron to speak for him. Moses had “faltering lips” Exodus 6:30, or as I understand it, he lacked confidence in speaking out, and possibly had a bit of a stutter. However, Moses has grown with the task God set before him. His confidence has increased significantly, both in himself and more importantly, in God. This is something that I’ve noticed happening not just in my life, but in the lives of most of the youth I go to church with.

The youth I know at church, are in general more confident in themselves and God, they have far less self-esteem issues than many others, they are generally all round happier people, and generally healthier too. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but of the ones that I have grown up with, or known while I was growing up, it has been something that’s happened as they, we, have gotten more involved with God. That’s just the effect a close relationship with God has. Reading through the growth of Moses as a person as well, has just helped to emphasise this in my mind and life as it makes it even more clear to me the effect that God has had and is having on many of the people I know, including myself.

I don’t mean that everyone I know that goes to church is like this, but the ones that are developing a relationship with God are growing not only spiritually, but their lives are improving in every way.

I’m really enjoying getting into the Bible every morning. I’m reading for about an hour each morning, sometimes I’m up at 5:30am, sometimes 6am, but I’m getting into it for around an hour. It really is great to do, both interesting and uplifting, and every morning, I find something new and relevant to my life that I didn’t know before or that I didn’t connect the dots with. I encourage you to try it too, even if you aren’t a Christian, give it a read for an hour or so each day and just keep at it.

Genesis Chapters 48 to 50

Chapter’s 48 to 50 of Genesis are where we get to the end of the recount of Joseph’s life and the end of the book of Genesis.
The life of Joseph is quite well known, but this is where it gets a bit less known.

In chapter 48, we get the second mention of Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob (Israel) considers them to be his own sons (Chapter 48:5), and shows his continued favouritism of Joseph, the first son of his wife Rachel by effectively giving Joseph’s family a double share in the inheritence.

Interestingly as well, Jacob gave his blessing to the younger son, Ephraim first, and the older second (48:14-18) which is unusual, however it does follow the precedent set by Abraham, who blessed Isaac over Ishmael, Isaac who blessed Jacob over Esau, and even Jacob’s own, earlier blessing of Joseph over Reuben.
In chapter 49, we see Jacob on his death bed and he blesses all of his 12 sons, with some very interesting things. The blessings all reflect the sons well, and their transgressions.

Reuben, the eldest who all through his life is seen as honourable and is the only one that does not want to kill Joseph when they were plotting early in his life. However, one of his earlier transgressions caught up to him here (Chapter 49:3-4).

Similarly, Simeon and Levi are caught up with as well and their blessing reflects their earlier slaughter of the town where their sister Dinah was raped by Shechem.

Judah gets the first blessing that is entirely positive, and it is pretty clear here why Judah ultimately separates itself from the other tribes of Israel (Chapter 48:8-12):

8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.

9 You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness-who dares to rouse him?

10 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.

11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.

12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.

The remaining blessings are fairly straight forward and are largely neither bad or extremely good.
For example, in verse 19, “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.”, similarly in verse 20, “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king”.

When we get to Joseph though it is a very long blessing that reflects Joseph’s past as well as Jacob’s favouritism of him, blessing him as the prince among his brothers (verse 26).

I find the blessing that Benjamin receives to be an interesting one as there is not much mention of Benjamin and his behaviour at all up to this point, in verse 27:

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”

It’s an interesting one isn’t it? Especially considering how little we really know about him.
After his blessings are given, Jacob explains that he wants to be buried in the same field and cave that was bought from the Hittites to bury Sarah, and subsequently, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah and Leah were also buried there, then Jacob died (Chapter 49:29-33).

Now in chapter 50, we get an insight into how influential and high up Joseph really was. It’s mentioned earlier that Joseph was the second to only Pharaoh, but it doesn’t really go into it any more than that.
In chapter 50 verse 2, Joseph has his father embalmed in the same way as the Pharaoh’s, taking the full 40 days as well for the embalming process. Now, in verse 3, not only did Joseph and the rest of the family of Israel mourn, but the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. Seventy days!

To my understanding, the mourning period of a dead Pharaoh was seventy two days, which means the Egyptians themselves afforded Jacob near Pharaoh status in his death, which is appropriate considering his position as the immediate patriarch of Israel.

If the period of mourning for his father was not enough to solidify just how important Joseph had become in Egypt, look at what happens next in 50:5-11:

5 ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’ “

6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him-the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt– 8 besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.

10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

So, not only did Jacob’s family attend his funeral back in Canaan, but all of the Egyptian dignitaries, both from the court of Pharaoh and the rest of Egypt went as well as numerous chariots and horsemen! Getting from Egypt to the burial site would have been a bit of a hike, so for that many of Egypts high ranking people to be attending, the importance of Joseph to Egypt, must have been absolutely enormous. Then, after already having a seventy day mourning period in Egypt, another seven days of mourning are spent at the burial site! So, the period of mourning actually in total, exceeded that of a Pharaoh!

The rest of chapter 50, the rest of Genesis, summarises the remainder of Joseph’s life after the burial of Jacob. This is where the forgiveness of his brothers for their evil acts becomes evident, in verse 20 “…you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

From verse 23 to 26, Joseph meets his grand children and, interesting it sounds like he dies before his older brothers as in verse 24 he speaks to his brothers. There is no mention of whether he only speaks to some of them or all. In verse 26, Joseph died at one hundred and ten and was embalmed and buried in Egypt, however, before he died he made his brothers swear an oath to take his bones from Egypt when God took them back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I’m curious to find out whether or not the oath was upheld. I’ve started reading Exodus now, and it was a good four hundred years before they left Egypt, so his brothers would not have been around to uphold it, but did their descendents?

I quite like reading all of the little other things like this and picking up more of the surrounding story than is widely known!

Genesis Chapters 38 to 47

This section of Genesis largely goes over Joseph’s time in Egypt. Chapter 38 is the recount of Judah, his wife, sons and daughter in law. 39 to 47 are then the majority of Joseph’s time in Egypt, starting with Potiphar in chapter 39 and going from there.

There was one thing in this section that particularly jumped out at me.

In chapter 47, after the famine becomes more severe and the people of Egypt and the surrounding areas start to come to Joseph for the food he had collected over the 7 years leading up to the famine.

Something I think we often don’t realise is just how much forward planning went into this, there wasn’t just 7 years worth of food stored up, there was provision to maintain the food store in the event of future famines.

Let’s look at it, Genesis 47:13-15:

13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is used up.”

So, Joseph not only required the outsiders to pay for grain as shown when his brothers come to buy food over the previous chapters, but Egyptians are made to pay as well. What happens after they can no longer afford to pay though as in verse 15? Lets go on to verses 16 and 17:

16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.

So, Joseph got them through another year of the famine by requiring livestock as payment. He did not handout the grain for free. In verse 18 is where it starts to get really interesting:

18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.”

In verse 18 and continued in 19, we see the Egyptian people becoming desperate for food, and with nothing left but their land and themselves, the exchange them both for food and, did you notice that last bit? For seed, an indication that they want the grain not just for food production now, so that the land may not become desolate.

20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other.

We are nearing the end of the famine here, and this is where the plan now comes into effect in verse 23:

23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”

25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”

26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

So, in effect, God through Joseph ensured that Egypt would never starve, as long as the land remained the property of Pharaoh and the laws remained intact. The people allowed to maintain and plant the fields and keep four fifths of the grain for replanting and food, but one fifth had to go to Pharaoh. There is no direct mention of it, but this much grain would ensure that in any time of famine for Egypt, there would always be grain for food and seed to replant the fields.

I skipped over verse 22, but it in effect explains the end of verse 26. The priests did not need to sell their land to Pharaoh as Pharaoh provided them with a regular allotment which was sufficient for their needs.