An Apologetic A knowledge of chronology becomes an important and vital apologetic for the historical accuracy of the Old Testament.
Many see Old Testament prophecy as history revisited in
retrospect. Many statements which we see as prophetic, the critics will say were written after the fact by a man who simply reported a previous event in its historical context. Many critics do not want to admit that God, in His sovereignty, omniscience, and omnipotence, has the power to make a prophetic statement regarding entire nations or individuals, and then bring it to pass at some time in the future. It is important to know what was said when, what occurred when, in order that we can recognize the time gap which is necessary to add credence to the prophecy and its fulfillment.
For an example of this, look at Isaiah 44:28:
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my
pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the
temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
Without a knowledge of chronology, we would simply read this statement, possibly understand it as prophetic, or possibly not. However, by understanding when Isaiah lived, when these other events took place, and the current situation in Jerusalem and Judah, we will better understand the prophetic impact of this statement in Isaiah 44:28.
Isaiah records, in Isaiah 6:1, that he began his official prophetic
office in the year of King Uzziah’s death. We know historically, and
from our chronology, that Uzziah died in the year 739 B.C. This means that Isaiah, a young man at that time, began his prophetic ministry in 739. Now, by the wildest stretch of our imaginations we cannot anticipate Isaiah having been on the scene for more than eighty years, at the most, after the year of King Uzziah’s death. So, acknowledging Uzziah’s death in 739 B.C., if we stretch the ministry of Isaiah to eighty years (and tradition has it that he was martyred during the reign of Manasseh) we would end with approximately 660 B.C. as the longest possible time Isaiah could have been on the scene as a prophet.
Using this maximum assumption of eighty years, we have to examine
the biblical record and see what the situation was in Jerusalem between the years 739 and 660 B.C. We know that Jerusalem was still intact; we know that the northern kingdom had been dispersed in 721 B.C.; we know that the worship system in the temple, although idolatrous at the time, was at least still in full vigor. So as Isaiah stood on the scene and made this statement contained in 44:28, the onlooker must have thought he was hallucinating because Isaiah was describing a scene that simply did not exist.
As his listeners looked around they saw a Jerusalem with a thriving economy, and they saw a temple with a full complement of worship systems and rituals.
What could Isaiah have been talking about when he said in 44:28, “Thou shalt be built” (referring to the city), and “thy foundation shall be laid” (referring to the temple). The city was already built and the foundations of the temple were very, very evident. Isaiah was looking with a spiritual, prophetic eye down through history to that time in 586 B.C., at least seventy to eighty years later, well beyond his death, when Nebuchadnezzar would breach the wall of Jerusalem during his third invasion, sack and destroy it, and burn the temple. With his spiritual eye, Isaiah saw a ravaged Jerusalem and a destroyed temple. Then he looked beyond that to the year 539 B.C., when Cyrus gave the command that the temple should be rebuilt and that the city should be restored.
In 539 B.C., this becomes a historic event which is confirmed by
Scripture. Second Chronicles 36:23: records:
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath
the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build
him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
As we study the Old Testament, we will see that when God makes
a prophecy and then brings it to pass, He always separates the prophecy and fulfillment with substantial time and includes a complexity of events so that we cannot misconstrue the fulfillment of the prophecy as coincidental. Yet, if we do not know when Isaiah lived, if we do not know the date for Isaiah 6:1, if we do not know the date in relation to the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and the later command of Cyrus to rebuild the temple, the prophetic message and the prophetic importance of Isaiah 44:28 are meaningless and lost because we have no awareness of the gaps of time or sequences of events.
I rest my case on the fact that to understand prophecy, to
understand fulfillment, and the relationship of the two, a knowledge of
chronology and sequences of events in the Old Testament is absolutely mandatory. Examine your current knowledge and imagine your answer to someone who asks: “When did Abraham leave Ur? When was Moses born? When did Isaac die? When did Jacob stand before Pharaoh? What is the date of the Exodus? When was Saul crowned king? When did David die? When did the kingdom divide? When did Nebuchadnezzar invade Judah? When did Nehemiah rebuild the wall?” People need sequences to comprehend and retain Old Testament events.
A Key Verse The most important verse for our study of Old Testament
chronology is found in I Kings 6:1. Believing that the Old
Testament is the inspired Word of God, and believing in the plenary
inspiration of the Word of God, and that it is absolutely without error in the original autographs, I Kings 6:1 stands as it is. The author of I Kings, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us an anchor point for our dating. Many critics believe that 480 years is simply a way of saying twelve generations of forty years. I do not believe this is the case. I believe that God has given us a specific number of years which we can use for an accurate dating system. Look at I Kings 6:1:
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year a f t e r
the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the
fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which
is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.
Several important facts are contained in this verse. (1) It is the
fourth year of Solomon’s reign. (2) It is the year in which he began to
build the temple. (3) It has been 480 years since the Exodus. We know from internal and external evidence, that this fourth year is 966 B.C.
Since it is 966 B.C., we know that Solomon was crowned king in 970
B.C. We also know that David reigned forty years. Since he was Solomon’s predecessor, he was crowned king over Judah in 1010 B.C. Since we also know that Saul reigned for forty years, (Acts 13:21), he was crowned king in 1050 B.C. So, I Kings 6:1 becomes a very important anchor point for our knowledge of Old Testament chronology. Not only does it help in the years which followed Solomon’s reign, it also helps in the years which preceded it.
During the last sixty years, archaeology has shed much light on
the period of time during which the patriarchs lived. We often use terms such as “patriarchal age” without really knowing when that age was. Now we know from discoveries such as the Ugaritic tablets, the Ebla tablets, the Mari tablets, and many others, what the social, spiritual, religious, military, economic situation was which existed during the time of the patriarchs.
A Dating Exercise I think it will be good if we go through an exercise
in dating which you can use with those who are interested in a deeper knowledge of the Word of God and the chronology of the Old Testament. Understanding that I Kings 6: 1, “in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign,” was 966 B.C., and that the verse tells us it has been 480 years since the Exodus, we can add 966 and 480 to get the number 1446. Now we have a firm date for the Exodus, 1446 B.C.
Now look at Exodus 12:40: “Now the sojourning of the children of
Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. “ By adding
430 years to our date of 1446 for the Exodus, we discover that the time when the children of Israel began their sojourn in Egypt was 1876 B.C. This was the date when Jacob moved to Egypt.
As we continue to move back in time, we turn next to Genesis 47:9:
And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage
are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the
years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the
years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
The sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt began when Jacob stood before Pharaoh. Jacob, you recall, was called to Egypt by his son Joseph so that he could escape with his family from the famine then present in Canaan. Jacob makes the statement to Pharaoh in Genesis 47:9, that he is 130 years of age at that time. This is an important piece of information for us. If we know that Jacob stood before Pharaoh in 1876 B.C., and that he was 130 years old, we know he was born in the year 2006 B.C. By using this piece of information, we next turn to Genesis 25:26, where we read:
And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on
Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was three-score
years old when she bare them.
So now we learn that when Jacob and this twin brother Esau were born, Isaac was sixty years old. Since Jacob’s birth took place in 2006 B.C., Isaac was born in 2066 B.C.
Still moving back to Genesis 21:5, we learn: “And Abraham was an
hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. “ Now we know
that Abram was born in the year 2166 B.C. This completely changes our opinion of the type of individual Abram was when he left Ur, because archaeologists now know that in the twenty-second century B.C. Ur was a thriving metropolis. Abram, living in Ur, was not an uncultured individual but was a highly cultured, sophisticated man, accustomed to urban dwelling in one of the largest civilizations of the twenty- second century B.C.
Let us add one more date to our search by turning to Genesis 12:4:
So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot
went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he
departed out of Haran.
Abram left Haran for Canaan in the year 2091 B.C.
There are many more things we can do with a chronological study
such as this. Through the balance of the book we will attempt to look at some of the various dates as they impact on the topic. Now, possibly for the first time, you have a little better knowledge about the duration of the patriarchal period. If we assume the patriarchal period to cover the interval from the time when Abram left Haran until the time when the children of Israel entered Egypt, the span is from 2091 B.C. to 1876 B.C. However, some see the patriarchal period as extending from the time when Abram left Haran in 2091 B.C. down to the death of Joseph in Genesis 50:26, in the year 1805 B.C. If we accept this latter span, we have a period of 286 years. Both observations are valid.
III THE CENTRAL THEME
Before taking up the Old Testament books in detail, it is necessary
to look a little further at the overall picture. We cannot rightly understand the Old Testament message until we have recognized its primary continuing theme. There is a crimson thread of redemption that runs throughout its pages and culminates in the presentation of the Messiah in the New Testament.
The beginning of the promise, and the beginning of the crimson
thread, occurs in Genesis 3:15 where, following Adam’s sin and resultant fall, God makes this statement:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between
thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise [or crush] thy head, and thou
shalt bruise his heel.
It was a declaration of war made to Satan, following the transgression
of Adam, and it set the stage for the conflict between God and Satan
that would follow throughout the Old Testament period. In fact, until
the culmination promised through John in the book of Revelation.
Because of this promised Redeemer (Messiah) the prophesied Seed
of the woman, which would crush the head of Satan, Satan used every means possible to see that the prediction made in Genesis 3:15 would not come to pass. The entire panorama of the Old Testament revolves around the conflict between God and Satan.
John Milton, in his book Paradise Lost, sums up Satan’s attitude after his fall from heaven.
What though the field be lost?
All is not lost, the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate
To wage by force or guile eternal war
Irreconcilable, to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.
With those words, fictitiously placed in the mouth of Satan, the stage is set for the battle and the conflict which will follow. God has no possibility of losing the battle, but Satan will do all in his power to try to defeat God and attempt to foil the promise made in Genesis 3:15. Throughout our study, we will see how over and over the sovereign God achieves victory and glory for Himself from every effort of Satan to destroy the Messianic line.
Human Failure A casual observation of the Old Testament will reveal that Adam’s responsibility was to pass on the truth of God to the succeeding generations. He failed at this, and as a result the world became so wicked that God had to destroy everything which had breath. However, had God destroyed the entire world, then the promise made in Genesis 3:15 could never have been fulfilled Scripture tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and through Noah and his descendents the promised line continued.
It became Noah’s responsibility to pass on, to his sons, the truth of God. Unfortunately, after several generations, the truth became clouded in obscurity, man became idolatrous and gathered around the Tower of Babel. At that time, God confused their language and they began to establish civilizations around the earth.
A New Beginning Every attempt at preserving a godly line through which to bring forth the Saviour and fulfill the plan of redemption, had so far apparently resulted in failure man’s failure, not God’s. But God will not be defeated regardless of what men do. He next reached down and selected Abram as the one through whom the promised Seed of Genesis 3:15 would continue. From a promise made worldwide, which Satan had attempted to thwart, through the death of Abel, through the corruption of all mankind prior to the flood, through the rebellion of all mankind at the tower of Babel, the promise now focused on one man: Abram.
The promise was renewed through Abraham’s son Isaac. It was
next reconfirmed, not through Esau but through Jacob. It did not pass
to Jacob’s first-born because Satan managed to corrupt him and cause him to commit incest with Jacob’s concubine. Nor did it pass to his second or third-born sons, Simeon and Levi, because Satan placed in them a spirit of murder and revenge. Through the fourth-born son, Judah, the promise continued, and down through his lineage. Finally it centered in David (II Sam. 7), and in David’s descendents, culminating in the birth of Christ.
We can trace, throughout the Old Testament, the crimson thread of
redemption as it weaves and winds its way through history. As we study we will see how God continually thwarted the plans, guile, overt and covert actions of Satan, to destroy the Seed, as he maneuvered to make it impossible for the promise of Genesis 3:15 to be realized. But, as we shall see throughout this book, Satan failed and God caused the wrath of Satan to bring honor to His name. It will be a glorious thing to see God constantly victorious in the plan of redemption, in the program of the Messiah, and in the continuation of the promised Seed, regardless of opposition, down to that day when, as Galatians 4:4 records: “ When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, “ Who completed His victory on the cross and in His resurrection, and Who is even now performing His current session in heaven making intercession for His own.
The Chosen Nation Along with watching this warfare being waged, we will have a subplot to follow as we see God continue His program through His chosen people, Israel, using them as the means through which the Messiah would come. Throughout the Old Testament, we will see God continually pleading with His stubborn people to return to Him. The Old Testament will be an on-going saga of the failure of the children of Israel to obey the ordinances of God, until at last God has no other alternative than to disperse the ten northern tribes in 722 B.C., and finally to send the inhabitants of Judah into Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C. Clearly, God’s victory is His alone. Human cooperationplayed no part in the success of the drama of redemption.
IV A CONSERVATIVE CHRONOLOGY
A chronology of the Old Testament books will complete our overall
picture. You may find it helpful to make a few notations in your Bible
as you study.
Many Bibles already contain the old Ussher dating system and, in
many instances, this is a good chronology. However, Bishop Ussher did not have the benefit of some of the archaeological discoveries which we have, or the Eponym List which is now available. The dating system I have given you is conservative, and is held by most conservative Bible scholars, especially in the textbooks which have been written during the last decade.
Dating Genesis 1:1 Evolutionary Systems Genesis begins in eternity past. There are several positions regarding Genesis 1:1, and we do not have space here to explain them all in complete detail. However, allow me to say that the most radical and unsatisfactory position is the evolutionary one. Its position is that God simply does not exist and that the elements came into existence through a long process of random chance and eventually evolved into what we see today.
Some Christians have sought to modify this position by postulating
a theory known as Theistic Evolution. This position says that God was involved in creating the first life cell, but then backed off and allowed the natural process of evolution to bring mankind to its present state. This is also an unsatisfactory position.
Day-age Theory Another alternative held by some in Christian colleges and seminaries today is called the day-age theory. Rather than have one day mean a twenty-four hour day, the proponents of this theory believe that the day could have been a million years. In other words, rather than having six literal twenty-four hour days, each “day” involved a period of time that could have been 6,000,000 or 60,000,000 years, or whatever seems necessary (by evolutionary standards) to complete the creation work, described in Genesis 1, for that day. This, in my opinion, is also an unacceptable response to the creation narrative.
Revelatory Day Another position, although not widely held, is that of the revelatory day theory. This teaching suggests that, rather
than a twenty-four hour day in which the actual creative
activity occurred, God gave Moses the events of creation in six days of revelation. So, on the first revelatory day, God would have said: “I am giving you this information, Moses.” On the second revelatory day He gave him the next information to write; on the third day the next
information, and so on. These days then were not creative days, but six successive days in which God spoke to Moses about the creation of the universe. This is an unacceptable position.
Gap Theory Another widely held position is the gap theory. According
to this theory (popularized in the old Scofield Reference
Bible), the earth was created (Gen. 1:1) and later judged (Gen. 1:2), so that what we have in Genesis 1:3 is the recreation of a previously created earth. This theory is primarily a response to the scientific position that says we are living on an earth which is millions or billions of years old. It is a way of acknowledging the possibility of the accuracy of the geologic
Young earth position Finally, the current position held by many Bible
Conservatives is that of the biblical model, in which the
earth is shown as being not more than eight to ten thousand
years old, created perfect (“very good”) in the beginning. Then,
following Adam’s sin, both he and the earth came under the curse.
According to this model, no major changes occurred in the surface
of the earth until the great flood. At that time, the fountains of the deep were broken up and the vapor canopy caved in, causing the upheavals which we can observe in the Grand Canyon and the mountain ranges. This “flood geology” explains fossils of fish that can be observed in the arctic regions and Antarctica because of the weight of the water which covered the earth.
Because of the nature of the creative processes, and because of
the vapor canopy which surrounded the earth prior to the flood, the
situation was so different from what we know today, that there is no
scientific device which can be used to accurately measure the age of
anything on the earth today that existed prior to the flood. Carbon 14
and strontium testing are invalid.
Using the Scripture principle that each of us must be convinced in
his own mind, you may place alongside Genesis 1:1 either the symbol × denoting eternity past, or a date of approximately 8000 B.C. if you adopt the biblical “young earth” model.
Reading from Genesis 1:1, to the final section of Genesis chapter
50, we go from eternity past (approximately 8000 B.C., depending on
your position), to the death of Joseph, which can be shown by tracing
the chronologies in Genesis, to be 1805 B.C.
Israel in the Wilderness Exodus The book of Exodus begins in 1876 B.C., in flash back, because Exodus 1: 1 refers to the names of those who came into Egypt with Jacob. Chapter 1 covers that time period from 1876 until the birth of Moses, recorded in chapter 2. We can read in Acts 7, that Moses was forty years old when he fled from Egypt. He spent forty years in Midian, because he was eighty years of age When he led the children of Israel out of bondage.
Knowing that the period of time in the wilderness lasted forty
years, we can look at Deuteronomy 34:7, and see that Moses died at the age of 120. This reveals that the life of Moses was divided into three periods of forty years each. Using our previous information about the date of the Exodus, we can date the birth of Moses at 1526 B.C. Between Exodus 2:1 and Exodus 3:2, eighty years transpired. Then, from the night of the Passover, until the tabernacle was set up at the end of the book of Exodus, only thirteen months elapsed.
Turning to Exodus 40:17, we see that by this time the children of
Israel have left Egypt and have gone down into Sinai; Moses made his two trips up on Mount Sinai; and the tabernacle was constructed. Verse 17 tells us that after all these events, it is only the first month of the second year. So, approximately thirteen months have elapsed between the exodus from Egypt and the end of the book. You can put a date of approximately 1445 alongside Exodus 40:17.
Wilderness Years Leviticus has no chronology. But, about a month transpires between the section we just examined in Exodus and the
movement indicated and initiated in the book of Numbers.
If you will look at Numbers 1 you will see that in verse 1, it is the first of the second month in the second year after they have come out of the land of Egypt. So, the book of Numbers begins in the second year after the exodus and covers a period of about thirty-nine years.
Since Exodus ended at 1445 B.C., the book of Numbers begins
with that year. Referring again to Deuteronomy 34:7, the death of Moses would have occurred in 1406 B.C. With this date, the wanderings were over, because Deuteronomy 1:3 tells us that forty years have elapsed. You can write alongside the book of Deuteronomy, and especially at 34:7, the date of 1406 B.C.
Israel in Canaan The book of Joshua began in 1406 B.C. when the responsibility of leadership passed to him from Moses. From internal evidence, it appears that the events of the book required about twenty-one years. Date the end of Joshua at 1385 B.C.
The book of Judges began immediately after the death of Joshua. Again from internal evidence, which we will see later when we examine the book in detail, the time period lasted approximately 335 years. Those years include the book of Ruth. Judges can be dated from approximately 1385 to 1050 B.C.
The book of I Samuel began in 1100 B.C. Although not obvious at a
casual reading, there is a fifty year overlap between the end of Judges and the beginning of I Samuel. First Samuel covers a time span from the birth of Samuel in 1100, to the death of Saul in 1010 B.C., for a total of ninety years of history.
Second Samuel began in 1010 and covers almost forty years of history until approximately 975 B.C. First Kings began in 970 B.C. As an easy way of remembering, it ends with the death of Ahab, 853 B.C. Actually, it does include a year or two following Ahab’s death, but approximately 117 years are contained in the book.
Using the death of Ahab as the pivotal point, II Kings takes up the history beginning in 853 and continues until 586 B.C., using the Babylonian Captivity as a memory aid for the termination of II Kings. Between these two historical events are contained 260 years of history.
The two books of Chronicles begin with a genealogical synopsis from
Adam to 539 B.C. So, II Chronicles includes forty-seven more years of history than is contained in II Kings.
Post-Exilic Years Following the Babylonian Captivity, Ezra takes up the history of Judah from 539 B.C. to 457 B.C. for an additional eighty-two years. We have no book which covers the history of Judah from 457 to 445, so there are twelve years unaccounted for. Nehemiah picks up the history in 445/444 B.C. By adding these years we have 962 total years of history. This number, when subtracted from 1406 B.C., the date of the entrance into Canaan as recorded in Joshua, provides us with 444 B.C. as the date for Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. The dates fit like a jigsaw puzzle !
Following this event, Malachi records the final bit of history regarding
Judah in his book which dates to approximately 400 B.C. So, the writing of the Old Testament took place beginning with Moses, as he wrote between 1446 to 1406, to approximately 400 B.C., with the book of Malachi.
Following Malachi, we know that the voice of the prophet was not heard in the land for four centuries until John the Baptist came on the scene to proclaim repentance and to announce the presence of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God.
The Old Testament presents 1400 years of history from the life and
writings of Moses, to the announcement of the King. The numbers tie together, and when the history of the Old Testament is presented is this way, when the prophets are interfaced in the historical periods to which they belong, the Old Testament is exciting and more easily understood.
V FOUNDING THE COVENANT NATION
The story of the covenant nation, through whom the promised Seed
would come began with Abraham. Originally, his name was Abram, and he was called by God out from Ur of the Chaldees. An examination of Genesis 11:26 reveals that Abram had two brothers named Nahor and Haran. Haran was the father of Lot, Abram’s nephew. Abram’s other brother, Nahor, was the father of Bethuel, who became the father of Rebekah and Rebekah’s brother Laban, the father of Leah and Rachel. This is the family relationship that included Abram, his son Isaac, grandson Jacob, and the offspring of his two brothers Nahor and Haran. (See fig. 3a)
Abrahamic Covenant Genesis, Chapters 13 through 15, contains the substance of the Abrahamic Covenant. This covenant constitutes the promise to Abram of a seed that would be too great to number and a land on which his seed would dwell. It is a promise almost too fantastic to believe, because when it was given, Abram was advanced in years and had no natural offspring through his wife Sarai. The Scripture tells us (Gen. 15:6) that Abram believe the Lord and He counted it to him for righteousness.
We must not lose sight of the fact that Abram was a Chaldean;
having been one for seventy-five years prior to the time he entered the land of Canaan. Granted, in the last few years before his entry into Canaan, God had begun to work through him and in him to condition him for service. But culturally Abram was a Chaldean.
When covenants were made in ancient Chaldea and throughout
that part of the civilized world, they were affirmed and validated by the death of an animal or, depending on the importance of the covenant, a number of animals. Abram’s question to God, when God presented the agreement and covenant to him regarding the seed and the land is phrased in 15:8 where Abram asked “Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” In response, beginning in verse 9, God condescended to make a Chaldean covenant with the Chaldean Abram. Isn’t it wonderful and marvelous how patient God is? The Creator of the universe is making a Chaldean covenant with His servant Abram, a covenant that Abram could understand and comprehend.
When God began to instruct Abram to gather the animals together,
Abram understood the sanctity and the importance of this covenant
because of the number of animals being gathered to ratify it. In those
days, when covenants were made, an animal was divided into two pieces and the two parties making the covenant walked between the divided portions of the animal. In this way, each party to the covenant was saying to the other, “If you fail to bring about your responsibility in the covenant that we have agreed on, may this very thing happen to you.” In chapter 15, God instructed Abram to divide the animals he had collected I believe that Abram expected to walk between these divided animals with God.
Had God and Abram walked through the divided sacrifice together, it would have been a bilateral agreement, a bilateral covenant. The fulfilling of the covenant would have been predicated on he fulfilling of the responsibility by both parties. But when it came time to walk through the covenant pieces, a deep sleep fell on Abram and
the symbol of God, in the form of a smoking oven and torch, passed
alone between the divided pieces. God passed through the divided
sacrifice by Himself. In this way, it became a unilateral covenant. The
fulfilling of the promise made to Abram to inhabit the land and to have
a seed too numerous to count, was not made dependent on Abram
fulfilling his responsibility to the covenant. By this unilateral covenant,
made by God passing alone through the divided pieces, the responsibility for its fulfillment would rest totally on God.
Ishmael and Isaac Abram awoke from his deep sleep with the knowledge that God had confirmed the promise made to him for a seed and a land. However, Abram was now eighty-six years old and evidently believed that he needed to help God fulfill the covenant. How tragic it is when we read the promises of God, and rather than depend on Him to bring them to pass, believe that through the energy of the flesh we need to give God a hand. This was the downfall of Abram.
Archaeologists have discovered that it was the custom, when a
wife was barren, for her to present her husband with a handmaiden,
servant girl, or concubine, through whom the husband could have a
male heir to carry on the name of the family. God’s promise to Abram,
in Genesis 15, was that he would have a seed and that he would have a land. But Abram, in a lapse of faith or possibly just in ignorance, became the father of Ishmael through Hagar the handmaiden.
Because Abram attempted to bring God’s covenant to pass through
the energy of the flesh, his communion with the Lord was broken by a
thirteen year silence. Genesis 16:16 states that Abram was eighty-six
years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, and Genesis 17:1 tells us that he was ninety-nine years old when the Lord spoke to him again. Thirteen years elapsed between the last verse of chapter 16 and the first verse of chapter 17. Thirteen years in which Abram had time to think over his disobedience and to wonder what the final outcome would be.
Finally, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, God reaffirmed to him
that He and He alone would bring about the birth of the one through
whom the promised seed would continue, and would generate the nation of Israel. God would accomplish it through Sarai, Abram’s barren wife. Chapter 17 describes how Abram’s name was changed to Abraham and Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah. Abram begged that Ishmael might be the one through whom God would bless him. God again reaffirmed that it would not be through Ishmael, and gave assurance again that from Sarah the son of promise would be born. Even his name was given in advance (vs. 21). The covenant that God had given to Abraham would be reaffirmed and established with Isaac. God answered Abraham’s prayer with a final no!
Esau and Jacob Genesis 23:1 tells us that Sarah lived to be 127 years of age. Abraham was 137 years old and Isaac was thirty-seven when she died. In chapter 24, when Abraham was approximately 140 years old and Isaac was forty, Abraham sent his servant to find a spouse for his son. The servant obediently traveled to visit the relatives of Abraham. As we discovered earlier, there were some relatives living in the distant country of Mesopotamia, in the city of Nahor (vs. 10.). When the servant arrived there, through a set of criteria that he had previously established, he became acquainted with Rebekah, and she returned with him to marry Isaac. Genesis 25:20 tells us that Isaac was forty years of age when he took Rebekah, the sister of Laban, to be his wife.
Genesis 25:21 says that Isaac prayed on behalf of his wife because
she was barren, and the Scripture simply says “the Lord answered him”
and Rebekah conceived. Only when we go down to verse 26, do we see that Rebekah gave birth to Esau and Jacob when Isaac was sixty years of age. Isaac prayed for twenty years. After twenty years, his consistency in prayer was rewarded and God brought His program to pass. God had previously tested the patience, stability, and faithfulness of Abraham for many years. Now in like manner, He tested the patience, stability, and faith of Isaac because he knew the promise. The covenant of the seed was confirmed through Isaac after he prayed consistently for twenty years.
Esau supplanted The balance of Chapter 25 tells us of the differing
personalities of Jacob and Esau. Esau became a very “macho” outdoorsman, a skillful hunter, and we read that Isaac loved him best because he (Isaac) had a taste for game. Jacob, on the other hand, was more domesticated. He was what we call a “homebody”. In the balance of chapter 25, we learn that Jacob used his cooking skills to entice the weary and hungry Esau. In so doing, he purchased the birthright which was promised to him before his birth.
In chapter 27, Isaac is old and his vision failed. In concern that he
would soon die, he took what he considered to be his final opportunity
to extend the formal blessing to Esau as the oldest son and to Jacob as the youngest, so that they might claim their respective positions in the family. Prior to doing this, he asked that Esau would fix a savory dish for him. Instead, Jacob very stealthily prepared a savory dish and covered the exposed portions of his body with skins so that when near-sighted old Isaac reached out to touch him, he thought he was feeling Esau because Esau was a very hairy man. So, through deception, Jacob received the blessing which Isaac had planned to give to Esau. This blessing placed him above Esau in respect to his relationship with the rest of the family.
Through this blessing, Jacob became the head of the family by
decree of his father Isaac. Through deception, Jacob prevented his father from sinning by giving the blessing to Esau.
When Esau arrived home, he was in despair because not only had
Jacob purchased his birthright earlier for the bowl of stew, but had
now obtained his blessing as well. Esau was extremely despondent and received only the blessing ordinarily reserved for the next in line. He planned to murder his brother Jacob when the “days of mourning”
were over. Rebekah heard of the plan and, because Jacob’s life was in danger, she encouraged him (in 27:43) to go and stay with her brother Laban until Esau’s anger subsided.
Jacob’s Age Ordinarily, we might think that all this happened when
Esau and Jacob were fairly young men. As an example of
the benefits of inquiry into the Word of God through our system of
chronology, let us look and see exactly how old these two were, using
various Scripture verses and our dating processes. Jacob was 130 years old when he went into Egypt (see Gen. 47:9). Remembering that Jacob went to Egypt at the request of Joseph, his eleventh son, we need to look and see how old Joseph was when his father Jacob stood before Pharaoh.
For this information, turn to Genesis 41:46 and note that Joseph
was thirty years old when he first stood before Pharaoh and was given the number two position in the kingdom. Going over to Genesis 45:6 we see that just prior to Joseph’s sending for his father Jacob, he addressed his brothers and explained that the famine had been in the land for two years and that five years of famine still remained. Seven good years and two bad years had gone by at the time of this statement. Since those years began when he was thirty, he was at that time, thirty-nine years old. Since he was thirty-nine when Jacob was 130, then he was born when Jacob was ninety-one years old.
Jacob and Laban To find out what happened surrounding the birth of Joseph, we need to examine the biblical record concerning Jacob’s flight to visit Laban. Immediately after avoiding the dangerous situation with Esau, at the urging of his mother Rebekah, Jacob had the experience at Bethel recorded in Genesis 28. There, God reconfirmed to Jacob the covenant He made with Abraham and Isaac.
The deceiver deceived Jacob traveled on to visit Laban and stayed with him (Gen.29). When he arrived in the land where Laban lived,
his eyes fell on Rachel, Laban’s daughter (his distant cousin).
He immediately wanted to marry her, so he and Laban struck a bargain (vs. 18). The agreement arrived at was that Jacob would serve Laban seven years to marry Rachel. The Bible says that even though he served seven years (vs.20), they seemed like just a few days because he loved her so dearly.
When the seven years were completed, he asked Laban for his
daughter Rachel. On the wedding night, the young lady was ushered
into his tent in full long gowns and veil. When Jacob awakened the next morning, he had been deceived by the master deceiver. Laban had given him Leah instead of Rachel. To receive Rachel as his wife, Jacob had to agree to serve another seven years. But, rather than wait seven more years, Laban gave him Rachel almost immediately following the celebration week that was part of Leah’s wedding.
Jacob’s family After seven years of working for Laban, Jacob had two wives: Laban’s daughters, Leah and Rachel and the handmaiden
of each. Immediately, Leah began to bear children. She gave birth to
Reuben (vs.32), to Simeon (vs.33), to Levi (vs.34), and to Judah (vs.35). So, although Rachel was barren (vs.29:31), Leah gave birth to four male children in rapid succession.
The important thing in chapters 29 and 30, is the fact that in only
seven calendar years, eleven male children and one daughter were born. It was a contest between Rachel and Leah, and their two handmaidens, to see who could give birth to the most children, and in doing so, please Jacob so that he would make the winner his favorite wife. In verse 20, Leah expressed the wish that now since she had given birth to six sons, hopefully, Jacob would live with her.
Unfortunately, throughout Leah’s lifetime, Rachel was always the
favorite of Jacob. Leah was a faithful wife, and although he had not
liked her as much as he did Rachel, she did give him six sons, one of
whom was Judah, the progenitor of the tribe of Judah through which
the Messiah would come.
Looking at Genesis 49:31, it is interesting to notice that although
Leah did not have the benefit of living with Jacob during her lifetime,
when she died, and when Jacob was prepared to die, we discover that Leah had been placed in the family tomb along with Abraham and Sarah. Jacob wanted to be placed with her in the family tomb as well. Rachel, the one whom Jacob had loved the most during life, was buried in the desert on the way to Bethlehem. Leah got her wish after her death.
Finally, when the eleventh son was born (named Joseph) (30:25),
Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away so that I may go to my own country. “ In other words he said, “My time is up. “ The seven additional years which he promised to Laban in return for Rachel were now expired and he wanted to go to his own land. If we look at Genesis 31:38, we see that he did not return to his own land after the fourteen years, but served with Laban an additional six years. During this time, he became wealthy through the multiplication of the original flocks that he was given by Laban as an inducement to stay.
We use this sequence to get back to the original point regarding
the ages of Esau and Jacob at the time of the blessing from Isaac. If Jacob was ninety-one years old at the time of the birth of Joseph, then we must subtract fourteen years, since Joseph was the last child born just prior to Jacob’s asking to be released from his bondage to Laban. Ninety-one minus fourteen is seventy-seven. These two men were seventy-seven years old when Isaac asked for the savory meal so the blessing could be pronounced. Jacob was not married, he was seventy-seven years of age, living at home with his mother, and it would be another seven years before his marriage to Leah at eighty-four years of age. This puts an accurate perspective on the chronology of these two men in our study of the book of Genesis.
Joseph in Egypt Chapter 37 begins the narrative of Joseph. We discover in verse 2, that when Joseph was seventeen years old he brought back a report about his brothers. We should observe here that Joseph was seventeen in the year 1898 B.C. The brothers he reported about were his ten older half-brothers, since Benjamin was just a baby, probably between two and seven years of age. The brothers disliked Joseph for broadcasting their sin and because he was the favorite son of Jacob. (Because of the fact Joseph was Rachel’s son and she died when Benjamin was born). In verse 18, we read that they plotted against him to put him to death, but because of the pleading of Reuben, they shed no blood. They threw him in a pit and later sold him to some nomads who sold him into slavery in Egypt.
Looking back for a moment to Genesis 35, beginning in verse 33,
we have a summation of the sons of Jacob. Leah had given birth to
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel, now deceased, were Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, were Dan and Naphtali; the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid, were Gad and Asher. These were the twelve sons born to Jacob. At this time (vs 29), Isaac died. Verse 38 says he died at 180 years of age, so, Esau and Jacob were 120 years old. Isaac’s death would have occurred about twelve years after Joseph disappeared. Isaac died without knowing the fate of his grandson Joseph.
Jacob was despondent. He had lost his father Isaac, and his
favorite son Joseph had been missing for over a decade. He still had
eleven sons at home, including the youngest, Benjamin. Little did he
know that during this time, Joseph was being severely tested in the
land of Egypt. He had spent time in prison, but God had given him
special wisdom. Because he was faithful in his obedience to God, and because of his personal virtue, he had risen above his circumstances and become second only to Pharaoh in the most powerful nation on the face of the earth.
Throughout these times of suffering, depression, and
imprisonment, I wonder if Joseph ever thought, “Is it worth it all?”
Later he could look back and see God’s hand bringing him through
each of these events that seemed so disastrous at the time, until
eventually he could say in Genesis 45:5: “God did send me before you to
preserve life.“ God had used Joseph’s mistreatment, suffering, and
exaltation to preserve the Hebrew nation and the Seed of promise.
What a tremendous opportunity for us to examine our lives and the
situations in which we find ourselves daily, so that we, like Joseph, can look at the circumstances that surround us and see God’s hand moving, shaping, and designing for our good.
Jacob and his family lived out their lives in Egypt under the
protection and blessing of the Pharaoh. The last chapter of Genesis tells us that Joseph died at 110 years of age. The year was approximately 1805 B.C. He was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
VI DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT
The book of Exodus begins with a synopsis of the activities which
took place during the time when the children of Israel were in bondage in the land of Egypt. Chapter one records the names of those who came out of the land of Canaan into Egypt with Jacob, climaxing with the attempt of Pharaoh to kill all of their male children at birth. Because of the faithfulness of the Israelite midwives, this attempt of Pharaoh the first of many historical efforts to annihilate the Jews did not meet with success.
The Chosen Deliverer's early life The narrative of the life of Moses and his activities as the founder of the theocratic state begins in chapter two. His father and mother were named Amram and Jochebed. Jochebed was the sister of Amram’s father, so Amram married his aunt. Of this union, Miriam, the older sister, was born; then Aaron, then Moses, whose birth date was 1526 B.C.
After escaping the murderous plan of Pharaoh, Moses was taken
into the household of the Egyptian princess, the daughter of Pharaoh
and reared as an Egyptian. We know from Acts 7:22, that Moses was
skilled in all of the knowledge of the Egyptians. His education, his military experience, his culture, his entire lifestyle, was totally oriented to Egypt. By the time he reached the age of forty, there was probably no greater leader, no greater potential Pharaoh in all the land than Moses.
Flight to Midian The narrative continues in Exodus 2:11. Moses went out one day and saw two people struggling together one an
Egyptian and one a Hebrew. As a result, Moses murdered
the Egyptian. Acts 7:23ff records the fact (little known from the book of Exodus) that in reality Moses, even at that relatively early age, believed himself to be the God-sent deliverer. However, this attempt was in the energy of the flesh and, although God had chosen him for this great task, he attempted through self-effort to bring it to pass. This never accomplishes what God has in mind. As a result Moses had to flee from Egypt. The balance of chapter two tells us that he settled in Midian and continued his life there as a shepherd.
The narrative continues in chapter three with the description of
how he met God at the burning bush. Again, Acts 7:30 provides added detail, telling us that Moses was eighty years old. Forty years of desert life passed by the time God met Moses at the burning bush. Moses began the great task which would take the remaining forty years of his life; the triple work of deliverer, lawgiver, and founder of the theocratic state. The time element is corroborated by Exodus 7:7, which tells us that Moses was eighty years old and Aaron was eighty-three when they stood before Pharaoh.
Called of God God’s choice of Moses is an interesting one. Forty years prior to the encounter at the burning bush, Moses was totally trained in the ways of the Egyptians. Acts 7:22 says he “was mighty in words and in deeds.
Forty years later we see a man without self-confidence, without
confidence in his abilities, a man who now claimed to be slow of speech and lacking any ability at all as a leader. I believe this follows the scriptural pattern. Forty years prior to this there was a no more logical man than Moses for God to choose to lead the children of Israel out of bondage. He was the only one, in fact, trained by the Egyptians in military strategy, philosophy, and architecture. When he met God at the burning bush, he was a broken man.
You will find this to be a continuing theme throughout the Old
Testament. When God acts, He reduces the numbers so that man cannot take credit. When God acts, He uses individuals least likely to succeed because “no flesh should glory in His presence” (I Cor. 1:29). When God gives the victory, He gets the honor.
It took forty years in the desert to crush Moses and to extract from
him that confidence he had in himself because of his Egyptian education. It was as a shepherd, crushed, without self-confidence, stumbling in speech, that he encountered God at the burning bush with nothing in his hand except a shepherd’s staff.
God said to him in Exodus 4:2, “What is that in thine hand?” He cast his
rod to the ground and it became the rod of God. With this shepherd’s staff he would bring the mightiest nation in the world to its knees. God also forewarned Moses in chapter 4 that He would harden the heart of Pharaoh. Moses knew in advance (vss. 21 and 23) that Pharaoh would release the people and that eventually God would have to kill the firstborn of Egypt.
Conflict in Egypt With this in mind, Moses left for Egypt. When he encountered his people the first time (4:30), and performed signs and miracles in their presence, they bowed low and worshiped (vs.31). This was a time of tremendous exaltation for Moses. I believe that his blood began to run faster, his adrenaline pumped, and the old feelings of success and conquest came back.
The people doubt In 5:21 we find the people accusing him of having made them a stench in the nostrils of Pharaoh. From the high
plateau of exaltation, Moses fell into pits of depression and
accused God (5:23), saying, “neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.”
By this time, Moses also began to doubt what God would do.
Following this expression of doubt by Moses, God spoke to him
again (6:2) and confirmed His existence: “I am the Lord. “ (You will note in the text, a series of “I will” promises). In chapter six, the sovereignty of God shines like a beacon. The doubts of Moses were dispelled; He was assured that God was going to do this because He would be faithful to the covenant He had established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After hearing these “I will” assurances from God, Moses again spoke to the people, but they still did not listen (vs. 9).
The Plagues The contest between Jehovah and the gods of Egypt is
recorded in chapters 7 through 11. Ten plagues were sent
on Pharaoh’s kingdom before he was induced to release the Hebrews, even though his servants had warned him, “Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” (10: 7)
Plague no. 1 (7:20): the Nile was turned to blood.
Plague no. 2 (8:7): frogs infested the land.
Plague no. 3 (8:17): gnats (lice) covered the land.
Plague no. 4 (8:24): swarms of insects
Plague no. 5 (9:5): pestilence destroying the cattle.
(With plague five, a distinction was made between the cattle of the
Egyptians and the cattle of the Hebrews so that Pharaoh knew it was
not coincidence. This distinction continued through the remainder of
Plague no. 6 (9:9): boils.
Plague no. 7 (9:23): thunder, rain, hail and fire covering the earth.
Plague no. 8 (10:4): locusts.
Plague no. 9 (10:21): darkness so thick no light can be seen except
from the dwellings of the Israelites.
Plague no. 10 is described in chapter 11, was the invasion of the
Death Angel who slew the firstborn of every family in Egypt, including
the slave girl behind the millstone and the firstborn of all the cattle.
The Flight Chapter 12 contains the story of the Passover when the people ate the sacrificed lambs while standing in readiness to depart. First, however, the blood of the slain lambs was placed on the doorposts and the lintels of the houses. As we stand back and see that blood in the shape of a cross: top, right and left sides, and bottom, we are reminded of those
who have put their trust in the crucified, buried and risen Saviour.
The Red Sea Chapter 13 appears geographically to be a journey to a
dead end; but verse 21 tells us that God was before His
people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by
night. As they came to a dead end at the Red Sea, the children of Israel began to grumble, saying (14:12), “It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. “ We will see that this grumbling which began so early in their journey continues throughout the years. On this occasion, Moses instructed them to stand back and watch God operate in sovereignty and majesty as He was honored on Pharaoh (vs. 18).
Many of you have seen the film, The Ten Commandments. Special
effects showed that the Red Sea was parted, at a very narrow distance, as the Israelites went through. Remember that 600,000 men on foot, plus women and children, came out of the land of Egypt (Exod. 12:37). This was a crowd of about two million people. If they had crossed in rows of only fifteen each, they would have had 133,333 rows. If those rows of people were three feet apart, there would have been 400,000 feet (75 miles) in the column proceeding through the Red Sea. This means that by the time the tail end of the column got out of the land of Egypt and through the Red Sea, the head of the column would have been in the land of Canaan.
This was a greater miracle than we sometimes imagine it to be. The
Red Sea was probably opened up a mile wide so that the people were able to go through in a very short period of time. It was not an earthquake or a tidal wave, it was a tremendous miracle, an east wind that blew throughout the night. The Scripture says that the ground was solid. It was not muddy; it was frozen. The children of Israel walked through on dry land. But, when the chariots of Pharaoh attempted to follow them, the waters rolled back together and the pride of the Egyptian army was crushed beneath the weight of the water in the Red Sea.
Miriam As a result of this miracle, the people feared the Lord (14:31). In Chapter 15, Moses expounds with a tremendous song of victory. Then in verse 21, Miriam begins to answer antiphonally. I think this must have been the high point of Miriam’s life. She had witnessed God’s majesty, His power, and His might. She sings and praises God, and she is thankful and grateful for what God has done through her brother. Yet, I am reminded of what jealousy did to Miriam only a short time later. Numbers 12 relates how she spoke out against Moses because of jealousy and God struck her with leprosy Because of the leprosy, she was placed outside the camp for seven days. What a change came into the life of Miriam because of the jealously that ate away at her because her brother Moses was greater in the eyes of the people than she was.
VII THE FIRST YEAR
Complaints and Miracles
Water After the great celebration of victory, the people of Israel
began their journey to Canaan. After three days they ran out of water
(15:22) and immediately began to grumble. God graciously provided an immediate source of water (15:25) and then led them (vs. 27) to an oasis where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms. They camped there and by the time they began their journey again, forty-five days had elapsed (16:1).
However, they soon began to grumble and mumble again. This time,
God declared that He was going to test them whether or not they will walk in His ordinances (16:2-4). The immediate cause of their complaint was the scarcity of food, but this was only the surface problem; a smokescreen behind which was a deep bitterness toward God.
Manna The balance of chapter 16 contains the details of the giving
of the manna and the instructions as to how it was to be gathered. Verse 35 says that the sons of Israel ate the manna for forty years.
Many have said that the manna was a natural product of the
tamarisk tree which is native to that part of the Sinai. The tamarisk does drop a small droplet of honey-like substance when it is pricked. However, there are only a few districts in the area that have this kind of tamarisk plant. Besides, it gives its honey-like substance only in small amounts, and only for about three months out of the year. The entire Sinai produces less than seven hundred pounds of it annually. Manna was not a natural product of the area, but was a God given provision. It was the means by which the children of Israel survived on “angels’ food,” as Psalm 78:25 described it.
Victory in battle Chapter 17 reports another miracle of water supply
a continuing need in a desert area and also recounts the
important battle between the Israelites and Amalakites.
Joshua was the military leader for the Israelites against Amalek.
Amalek and his army had chosen to come in from the flank and from the rear, attacking those people who were at the rear of the column; those who lagged behind due to age or infirmity. Because of this, God cursed the Amalekites, saying that He would blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven (vs. 14). Verse 16 adds that, “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Four hundred years later, He will commission an individual to exterminate them.
First Corinthians 10:4 states that the smitten Rock, from which the miraculous water flowed, was Jesus Christ.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that
spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
Organization In chapter 18, we are introduced to Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. He carried a double name, Reuel Jethro. He was a Kenite of the Reuel clan. He visited the Israelite encampment, taking Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and their two sons, with him.
Jethro was a skilled organizer. When he saw how the responsibility
for two million people rested on the shoulders of Moses, he advised him (vs. 21) to decentralize the organization, to delegate responsibility, and to place leaders over thousands and leaders over hundreds and leaders over fifties and leaders over tens. He also warned Moses that if he did not do so, “he would surely wear out.”
Revelation at Sinai In the third month (Exod. 19) Israel reached the area of Mount Sinai where God began to reveal Himself as thunder
and lightning came down (vs. 16). There, He manifested
Himself to the children of Israel, not as a physical presence, but as a
powerful, unseen, and eternal moral Being. We know He is a moral Being because He gave the ten commandments; because we are created in the image and likeness of God; and have to manifest these moral attributes in order to maintain that relationship with Him.
Since man by himself, with his fallen nature, cannot exhibit these
moral qualities, he is worthy of death. Once realizing this, we must
recognize that either we must die, or a substitute must die in our place. The Old Testament substitutionary system was established whereby God could have fellowship with His creation. It was also a symbol of the reality of the New Covenant when Jesus Christ would die as the one-time sacrifice for all. Chapter 20 lists the Ten Commandments. When the people began to hear God speak, they cried (vs. 19): “let not God speak with us, lest we die.“ In chapters 21 through 24, God gave further provisions necessary for fellowship. He invited Moses, Joshua, and the elders of the people up to the mountain (Exod. 24). Finally (24:18), Moses entered the cloud
and spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain with God. At
that time, the Lord gave him the instructions for building the tabernacle and all of its contents (Exod.25-31).
A corrupt people During that forty day period when Moses was away, the people began to sin. Chapter 32 contains the story of the
construction of the golden calf. When this happened, God
spoke to Moses and commanded him:
Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the
land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside
quickly out of the way which I commanded them.
I want you to particularly note in that passage of Scripture that
God did not say Satan had tempted them and they had fallen prey to
his devices. He said that the people had sinned. Think of the book of
James, where James says (1:15), “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
God was about to destroy the people for their great wickedness
(32:10) but Moses leaped into the breach to intercede for them. Verse 14 tells us that God listened to Moses and honored his prayer. He gave Moses the opportunity to express his feeling about God and his feeling and love for the nation of Israel. This was Moses’ testing time and he passed the test.
As Moses descended the mountain, he was confronted by Joshua
who told him of the activities in the camp below. They descended
together where they discovered a wild orgy was going on. People were dancing and worshiping a golden calf as the god who had brought them out of Egypt. When confronted by Moses, Aaron said that the people wanted the thing, and as they put their gold into the fire, the calf “just came out.” Moses instructed the Levites to fall on everyone who was involved with the wild orgy, and they went among them with their swords, killing the offenders.
Chapter 33:6 begins a period of national repentance as the people
stripped themselves of their ornaments and began to move out. God
instructed Moses to ascend the mountain once more (chapter 34). This time, since he had destroyed the two tablets that God had written on with His own finger (31:18), Moses had to cut his own tablets and carry them up the mountain. There God would repeat once again the Ten Commandments that had been shattered in anger by Moses.
A merciful God In all of this, we are introduced to a new set of God’s
attributes. Because the nation sinned, repented, and had
been shown mercy, the occasion was appropriate for the
revelation of this new dimension of God’s character. When Moses had again ascended the mountain, the Lord God descended and in some way met with him there. We read in (34:6-7):
And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed,
The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long
suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin, and that will by no means
clear the guilty.
When Moses heard these new attributes that God revealed, following His forgiveness for the sin of the people, he bowed down and worshiped Him. Exodus 34:28 tells us that Moses once again remained on the mountain for forty days. This time we are told that his face shone because of his contact with God. Because of the rays that literally shot out from his face, it was necessary that he put on a veil. (See II Cor. 3:13-18).
When he descended from the mountain, chapter 35 tells us that he
reassembled the congregation and they took up an offering to build the tabernacle, and its contents, according to God’s revealed blueprint. Chapter 40:17 records that the construction was completed in the first month in the second year on the first day of the month. This was thirteen months since the exodus from Egypt.
VIII ACCESS TO THE HOLIEST
LEVITICUS The book of Leviticus contains no time span. It details the means by which Israel could have access and fellowship with God.
Chapter 8 contains the record of the preparation for Aaron and
his sons to enter the office of high priest and the priestly offices. No
sooner had this taken place, the worship system established, and the
sacrifices performed, than a fire from the Lord consumed the burnt
offerings (9:24). When the people saw it, “they shouted, and fell on their
faces. “ They knew that God was pleased with their worship and that
the fire validated His acceptance of their offerings.
The fire also served as a preparatory step for their entry into the
land of Canaan. Once they were exposed to the Baal worship system
practiced there, they would be told by the inhabitants of the land that
Baal was the one responsible for fire. God had given them an advance demonstration that Jehovah-God is the one responsible for this physical element.
Disobedience Judged Immediately after this demonstration, we read the account in chapter 10 of Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron, who offered strange fire to the Lord. It would seem that after such an example of the power of God, and after very precise instruction from Moses as to how the priestly office was to be administered, that they would have refrained from so foolish an act. Nevertheless, they offered strange fire. Evidently in being strange, it was not in the prescribed fashion, and, Leviticus 10:2 says: “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.”
We do not know what kind of fire this was, but whatever its actual
nature, it was not a fire that would consume what they were wearing,
nor was it one that would burn them to ashes, for verse 5 says that men “carried them in their coats.“ Whether it was some kind of electrical or laser charge that would consume the life force within them and yet leave the physical body intact we do not know. But it certainly did not consume them completely.
When Aaron saw this judgment on his sons, he was moved with
grief. Evidently, he began to grab his high priestly garment at the neck to “rend his garment” as was customary at that time to demonstrate grief. Moses quickly stopped him, commanding: “Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die” (vs. 6).
It is important that we go back into Exodus 28:32 to see the significance of this prohibition. There it says, in describing how the garment should be constructed:
And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it
shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it
were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent.
The high priestly garment was not to be worn, even in mourning, and
Moses warned Aaron not to tear it “lest ye die.”
Turn to Matthew 26:64 where Matthew records for us the
encounter between Caiaphas who was high priest that year, and Christ at their kangaroo court. Jesus had just answered the question as to whether He was the Son of God by stating (vs. 64):
Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see
the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in
the clouds of heaven.
In response, verse 65 says, “Then the high priest rent his clothes.” I
submit to you that when Caiaphas rent the high priestly garment, he
ended the Jewish priesthood.
A very few hours later, (Matt. 27:51) we read that “the veil of the
temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.“ Between the time
when Caiaphas rent the high priestly garment and the veil of the temple was rent, Jesus Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and became our High Priest. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5).
Pictures of Christ The book of Leviticus continues with various ordinances and rituals necessary for cleansing and fellowship with God. The book of Hebrews should be studied in its relationship to Leviticus in order to understand the various typologies and to see Christ more fully in the Old estament in His role as the substitutionary sacrifice.