MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED|
CHAPTER V THE WILDERNESS WANDERINGS
IN THE preceding chapter we have seen the marvelous deliverance which the Lord
wrought for Israel at the Red Sea. Only Omnipotence could have intervened and
saved the Chosen People at that time. Let all Israel remember that this and
all other deliverances are due, not to her own goodness, merit, or work, but
to God's covenant which he made with Abraham and his descendants. Therefore
all glorying and human pride are excluded. God has a plan for Israel. He has
preserved her in order that she might carry out that prearranged program.
The itinerary of Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan is given in Numbers 33.
This chapter might properly be called "Moses' diary," which he, according to
verse 2, wrote at the time. Later he incorporated it in the book as this
I. THE JOURNEY TO SINAI
According to verse 3 the Israelites left Egypt on the 15th day of the first
month-after eating the Passover. By reading Exodus 12 and 13 one sees the
historic circumstances connected with their departure. According to Exodus
13:17-14:9, Moses led them from Rameses to Succoth and then to Etham where
they encamped. This place was on the edge of the desert. From Etham they could
have gone northeastward through the plains of the Philistines and entered
Canaan, which route would have been the nearest. The Lord knew that the people
who had been in serfdom for more than eighty years could not plunge into open
conflict with a people like the Philistines, who were accustomed to all the
arts of war.
Therefore He caused them to turn back from Etham, retracing their steps, and
to encamp, as we have already learned, before Pihahiroth "between Migdal and
the sea, before Baal-zephon." From this place they crossed the Red Sea and
entered the wilderness of Etham, going down the east coast of the Gulf of
Suez. En route they came to Marah where the people murmured because of a lack
of water. God met the need. From there they journeyed to Elim where were
twelve springs of water and three score and ten palm trees. Thence they
journeyed southward entering the Wilderness
of Sin on the 15th day of the second month after their departure from Egypt.
Here they murmured against God, desiring to return to Egypt to enjoy its
fleshpots. At this time the Lord miraculously provided both manna and quail as
their diet. They pushed forward in their flight southward from Elim and
encamped by the sea. Continuing their journey they entered the Wilderness of
Sin. This information is given in Numbers 33, but is omitted from the
historical narrative giving the epochal events of the trek. Since the journey
was uneventful from here to Rephidim, nothing in the narration of Exodus 16-19
is recorded. At this place, however, they were confronted by the Amalekites
who opposed their passing through the country. A battle was fought and won. At
this time the Lord commanded Moses saying, "Write this for a memorial in a
book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: that I will utterly blot out the
remembrance of Amalek from under heaven" (Exodus 17:14).
Jethro, the priest of Midian and Moses' father-in-law, heard of the wonderful
things which God had wrought in behalf of Israel. Hence he came to meet them
and to learn first-hand how everything was. On the following day, realizing
the great burden that was imposed on Moses by the multitudinous routine
duties, Jethro suggested the appointment of subordinate judges to manage the
minor affairs, whereas Moses was to give his attention to the major problems.
This is the last incident recorded concerning events of this stage of the
II. THE GIVING OF THE LAW
"In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the
land of Egypt, the same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai." Here they
pitched their camp.
It is to be presumed that they arrived at Sinai on the first of the third
month, since no day is mentioned. Upon this reasonable hypothesis the journey
from Rameses in Egypt to Sinai consumed forty-five days.
At the invitation of the Almighty, Moses went up into the mountain and the
Lord conversed with him. From a reading of the first paragraph of Exodus 19,
one understands that he went up from the plains where the children of Israel
were encamped to a higher elevation in the range. From the peaks, however, the
Lord spoke, instructing him what he should say to the people. (See Exodus
In this statement Jehovah promised to be the God of Israel and to bless her if
she would be obedient to His voice.
Moses reported to the people all that the Lord had said. Immediately they
accepted His offer and declared that they would observe all that He might
command. Thereupon Moses instructed them to prepare themselves and on the
third day to come near the mountain in order that the Lord might speak to
them. At the appointed time everything was in readiness. Immediately there
were "thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the
voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp
trembled" (Ex. 19: 16). As the people stood before the mount, the Lord, in the
midst of a flame of fire and smoke, descended upon the towering peak, which
smoked as a furnace while the entire range quaked. After Moses' interview with
the Lord in the mount, the Almighty spoke the Ten Commandments in the form set
forth in Exodus 20:1-17. Moses, however, returned to the people at that time.
According to verses 18-21 the scene, in the midst of which the voice spoke,
was terrifying and the people were affrighted. Hence when Moses returned they
requested that he deliver to them the messages from God instead of the
latter's speaking to them. In answer to their plea the Lord informed Moses
that he should warn them not to make any type of god to worship. In addition
to this prohibition He gave full instructions as to the kind of altar upon
which they should make their sacrifices. At this time the Lord gave Moses "the
book of the covenant," which constitutes Exodus 21-23, and which he at the
time wrote (Ex. 24: 4). At the ratification of this pact a special ceremony
consisting of sacrifices and an offering was observed. Following these divine
services Moses with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu and seventy elders of the people
went up into the mountain and beheld the presence of the God of Israel as He
was seated upon His majestic throne (Ex. 24: 9-11). From this position Moses
and Joshua were summoned to ascend to a higher point in the range. Leaving the
elders they went yet farther to greater heights. For six days the glory of God
remained upon the mountain. On the seventh day, out of the midst of the
clouds, God called Moses. Entering this cloud of glory surrounding the
Almighty he remained with Him for forty days and nights. At this time the Lord
gave the complete instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle with all
of its service (Ex. 25-31).
At the conclusion of this period Moses returned with the tables of stone. As
he approached the camp, he heard a tumult, the boisterous worship of the
golden calf, which, Israel in the meantime had made. Thereupon he cast the
tables of the law upon the ground, breaking them. This act was symbolic of the
fact that Israel had violated the covenant into which she had just entered.
Again Moses was invited to return into the mountain for further revelations.
At this time the Lord gave him the words which had been engraven on the first
tablets. Thereupon Moses wrote them as duplicate forms of the first tablets
and returned to the camp with these precious oracles (Ex. 32-34). In Exodus
35-39 appears an account of the construction of the Tabernacle, or tent of
meeting, which was set up, according to Ex. 40: 17, on the first day of the
first month of the second year of the Exodus, that is, New Year's Day 2514
A.H. When it was erected, the cloud of glory of the God of Israel descended
and covered it. This act symbolized His dwelling in the midst of Israel.
It appears that, as soon as God took up His abode in the Tabernacle, He spoke
from its door the legislation that is found in the book of Leviticus. This
truly is "the book of the law." There is but one item of chronological
interest found in the book. It appears as Leviticus 16:1: "And Jehovah spake
unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near
before Jehovah," etc. This incident occurred sometime during the first month
of the year 2514. The full account of the death of Nadab and Abihu is in
Was Moses the first to deliver the law of God to the people? Frequently we
hear this question answered in the affirmative. Upon further investigation we
see that this is not true, for in Genesis 26:5 appears this amazing utterance:
"because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my
statutes, and my laws." This statement was made to Isaac concerning his father
Abraham, who obeyed the call of God to leave his native country, the Ur of the
Chaldees, for a land which God would show him. Being obedient to the heavenly
vision he went forth and entered Canaan, which God afterward vouchsafed to
him. Not only did he obey the voice of the Almighty, but he also kept His
charge, commandments, statutes, and laws. From this statement we learn that
there were commandments, statutes, and laws which God designated as His, and
which Abraham literally obeyed. In this connection we must remember that
Abraham obeyed the call of God
in the year 2083 A.H., when he was 75 years of age. This instance was 430
years prior to the giving of the law at Sinai. It was impossible for Abraham
to obey God's laws if there had been none at the time. Since he kept them, we
therefore must conclude that God, at least 430 years before the giving the law
at Sinai, had delivered laws, statutes and ordinances to His servants.
Light is thrown upon this subject by a careful study of Genesis 14, in which
passage we read of Melchizedek king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of God
most high, to whom Abraham paid tithes. Melchizedek was the priest-king
reigning over a small kingdom with Jerusalem as his royal city. He was also
the high priest of God Most High. The Lord brought him out of a heathen
environment and placed him in the kingdom of Melchizedek in order that he
might have an opportunity of worshiping in deed and in truth and of observing
His commandments, statutes, and laws.
Throughout the book of Genesis we read of certain ones who offered burnt
offerings and sacrifices. One scholar has also called our attention to the
fact that there are forty-one laws referred to in Genesis which were later
incorporated in the Mosaic code, All of these facts lead us to believe that
the Lord originally and at subsequent times delivered His revelation to the
people who were thirsting after Him, and who wanted to do His will. Those of
this attitude were, of course, in the minority as is evidenced from the fact
that the Lord had to call Abraham out of the heathen environment of Chaldea
and lead him into the kingdom of Melchizedek, his servant. When one studies
the sacrifices and the ritual in Genesis and compares them with those found in
the Mosaic code, he will see that they are indeed very similar. From these
facts one draws this conclusion: God gave a primitive revelation and a system
of worship, which was observed by the minority through the early centuries of
the race. Finally, when Israel developed into nationhood, He made a further
disclosure of His will, incorporating into it certain moral and legal elements
from the primitive revelation and the ritualism which were essential to the
further unfolding of the scheme of redemption and His eternal plan.
Confirmation of this position is seen by a glance at Psalm 40: 6-8:6
Sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight in;
Mine ears hast thou opened:
Burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required.
7 Then said I, Lo, I am come;
In the roll of the book it is written of me :
8 I delight to do thy will, 0 my God;
Yea, thy law is within my heart.
Note that David quotes from "the roll of the book." An examination of our
Scriptures shows that there is no passage to this effect. Nevertheless, he
quoted it from the "Roll of the Book." Evidently there was a primitive
revelation given originally by the Lord for a definite and specific purpose,
from which he quoted. When God had accomplished His plan in giving it He
selected those elements from it which were of an enduring nature and led Moses
to incorporate them into his ritual and legal codes. When it had served its
purpose, the Lord caused it to pass out of circulation.
A comparison of the Mosaic legislation with the code of Hammurabi reveals the
fact that in many instances there is almost verbal agreement. Many scholars
are convinced that Moses borrowed these elements common to both codes, since
he lived something like 400 years after this noted Babylonian king. This
hypothesis is not necessary and, in fact, is unsupported. I am bold to say
that there was copying done. It is true that Hammurabi could not copy from
Moses, because he was dead long before Moses was born. Hammurabi is the one
who did the borrowing. Without doubt he copied the statutes common to his code
and the Mosaic from the original primitive revelation which God made. The
elements common to both codes are the ones which Hammurabi copied from the
primitive revelation, and which Moses by inspiration brought over and embodied
in his legislation. This is an adequate, sane, and rational explanation of the
literary phenomena which we observe. It meets all the historical demands and
satisfies the intellect and heart of those who desire the truth.
III. THE JOURNEY TO KADESH
The second lap of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness was the journey from
Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, the southernmost outpost of the land of Canaan.
On the first day of the second month of the second year of the Exodus (2514
A.H.), Moses took a census of the people preparatory to their departure for
Canaan. The account is found in Numbers 1 and 2. There were certain ones who
had been unable to observe the Passover at the appointed time, the 14th day of
the first month. For such, a second opportunity was given on the 14th day of
the second month. This is called "The Little Passover" (Numbers 9:1-14).
Further preparation for the journey was the making of two silver trumpets
which played a most important part in the early life of Israel. They
were used for both giving the signals to march and also for the ceremony in
connection with certain sacrifices (Num. 10:1-10).
On the twentieth day of the second month the hosts of Israel set forward from
Sinai on their journey towards Canaan. The route which they took is accurately
described in. Numbers 33. The account is found in Numbers 10:11-12:16.
According to Deuteronomy 1:3 the journey from Mount Sinai to Kadesh was eleven
The outstanding occurrence during this stage of their march was the
appointment of the seventy elders who assisted Moses in the civil
administration. This special court proved to be, according to certain
authorities, the pattern after which the Jewish Sanhedrin of later days was
IV. THE TRAGEDY AT KADESH-BARNEA
We are told in Numbers 12:16 that the hosts of Israel camped in the wilderness
of Paran. At that time the Lord commanded Moses to send men in order to spy
out the land of Canaan. A prince was selected from each of the tribes.
According to N umbers 13:26, Kadesh is the point from which they entered the
Land. They went northward as far as the entrance of Hamath, which is now in
Syria. Upon their return ten brought back an evil report, whereas two, Joshua
and Caleb, stated the situation as it was and affirmed that by God's help they
could enter the land and possess their possession. Unfortunately the people
believed the ten and rejected the minority report submitted by Joshua and
Caleb. In doing so they disbelieved God and feared their enemies. When they
took this attitude, God forbade their going any farther. Then, like
disobedient children, who, when they are forbidden to do a thing, are
determined to disobey instruction, they took the positive stand that, although
the Lord had forbidden their going forward, nevertheless they would do it.
Hence they made an unsuccessful attempt and were thrown back in utter defeat
at Hormah. No one can disobey God without being punished. Man has the power of
choice and the freedom of the will. The Lord, however, overrules all things
and brings retribution for every transgression and disobedience.
When Jehovah announced to Moses that Israel could not enter the land, he
disclosed the fact that they must wander in the wilderness for forty years as
punishment for their disobedience. They were to continue in their wanderings a
year for each day that the
spies were in the land. The object of their remaining in the wilderness for
such a time was that those who rebelled against the Lord and His Word might
die off, and that there might arise a new generation with a different spirit.
This instance and the one in Ezekiel 4 are used as proof of what is popularly
known as the year-day theory. This hypothesis affirms that a day in prophecy
foreshadows a year in history. In these two instances this statement is true,
for in no other cases found in the Scriptures can we apply this principle
without reducing the passages to an absurdity. But this question will be
reviewed in chapter XXI, which discusses speculation and date-setting.
Israel's experience at Kadesh-barnea proved to be an epoch in the life of the
Chosen People.. It never pays to disobey the Lord.
V. THE AIMLESS WANDERINGS OF THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS
Since the journey from Sinai to Kadesh took eleven days, and since Israel
began this journey on the twentieth day of the second month of the second year
of the Exodus, we may conclude that they arrived at Kadesh-barnea in a very
short time. It is true that they were detained for several days at different
places en route. We have little information concerning what they did during
this period of thirty-eight years. It is covered in Numbers 15-19; for in
chapter 20, verse 1, we read of their being in the Wilderness of Sin in the
first month. One cannot be dogmatic and say that this was the first month of
the fortieth year; nevertheless everything points in that direction. During
the interval between their visits to Kadesh we know little of the history.
VI. THE THIRD STAGE OF THE JOURNEY
About this time the people again murmured against God and Moses because of
lack of water and food. Moses in exasperation, contrary to the command of God,
smote the rock and by so doing misrepresented God. For this disobedience he
was punished and denied the privilege of entering the land (Psalm 107:32, 33).
From Kadesh he sent messages to the king of Edom requesting permission to pass
through his territory, but was denied. Nevertheless Israel set out to Mount
Hor on Edom's western border. Here Aaron died in the fifth month of the
fortieth year. In the vicinity they fought against the Canaanite king of Arad.
In answer to their cry to God they were enabled to destroy all their enemies
in this section.
From this place they journeyed southward, going to the gulf of Akabah. They
again murmured against God and Moses because of a lack of bread and water. The
punishment on this occasion was the Lord's sending the fiery serpents, which
destroyed many of them. From the gulf of Akabah they went northward, skirting
the land of Edom on the east. They crossed over the Brook Zered and finally
came to the Arnon. This stream formed the boundary between Moab and Edom.
VII. THE CONQUEST OF TRANS]ORDAN
Upon reaching the Arnon Moses sent messengers to the king of Heshbon
requesting permission to pass through the land. He answered by drawing up his
forces on the border. War broke out in which Israel was victorious.
At this time Og, king of Bashan, became involved in the conflict, and Joshua
with the forces of Israel conquered all Transjordan and the Hauran district,
which territory was divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the
half-tribe of Manasseh.
VIII. THE PROPHECIES OF BALAAM
When Balak, king of Moab, saw that Joshua had conquered the kingdoms of Sihon
and Og, he immediately dispatched messengers to Syria to engage the services
of Balaam, a soothsayer and false prophet, in an attempt to curse the children
of Israel. Balak offered large rewards for his services. The Lord, on the
other hand, warned him not to go. Balak, however, knew Balaam's weaknesses, a
love for money and popularity. Hence he increased his offers. Finally, Balaam
came and attempted four times to pronounce a curse upon Israel. Each time,
however, the Lord turned his curse into a blessing. (See Neh. 13:1, 2.)
In the four oracles which God permitted Balaam to utter, he pronounced a
special blessing upon Israel. Looking out into the distant future, he foretold
the glorious kingdom era, when she will be so very numerous that it will be
impossible for an individual to number the fourth part of the nation (Num.
23:10) ; when she will be free from all sin and perverseness (vs. 21); when
the topography of Palestine will have been changed, becoming like the garden
of God, and their King will be higher than the highest (24: 5-7) ; and when He
will have conquered all of her enemies (vss. 17-19). In these predictions are
found the germinal thoughts that are expanded in the utterances of the later
When Balaam was not permitted to curse Israel, he decided that by seduction he
would cripple her. He did this by influencing the people of Moab to invite the
Israelites to join them in a religious festival. This thing they did. Thus the
nation was ensnared to depart from God and to engage in idolatrous practices
When one reads Balaam's prophecies, he sees the invisible guiding hand of God
overruling among the nations and working out His plans and purposes for
Israel. In His covenant with Abraham He promised that He would bless those who
bless Israel and curse those who curse her. No weapon that is formed against
her shall prosper. Haman endeavored to destroy the Jewish people, but was
prevented. The gallows on which he determined to have Mordecai the Jew hanged
proved to be the one upon which he forfeited his life.
Although the Lord will curse those who curse Israel, He will punish every
transgression and disobedience on the part of any Hebrew. Therefore, let no
Jewish man or woman think that, because he is one of the Chosen People, he can
sin with immunity. God deals with everyone upon the merits of his conduct.
IX. THE FINAL ORATIONS OF MOSES
When Israel was encamped on the plains of Moab, Moses delivered his final
orations which constitute the book of Deuteronomy, the repetition of the law.
He began his lectures by recounting the wonderful things which God had wrought
for His people in bringing them out of Egypt and taking care of them through
their forty years of disobedience. Naturally he reviewed the circumstances of
the giving of the law at Sinai and reiterated the instructions concerning the
various statutes and ordinances together with the ritualism of the Tabernacle
It is needless to say that he delivered these wonderful messages by the
absolute inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This section of Scripture, like all
others, has the same ring of truth and inerrancy.
In this section of the Word are to be found some new legislation and
instructions which were not delivered at Sinai. God gave His revelation as
there was a need. Naturally, therefore, we would expect some further
disclosures of the truth in these final messages. Deuteronomy covers the last
two months of the fortieth year of the wanderings.
X. THE DEATH OF MOSES
The murmurings of the children of Israel and their ingratitude, humanly
speaking, were enough to provoke any man. Moses, however, lost his balance
once. Since he stood as a representative of God to the people, it ill became
him to fly into a rage at the outcropping of their rebellious nature. Hence he
had to be punished for his failure and sin. This chastisement came in the form
of his being denied entrance into the Land. He was, however, graciously
permitted to go to the heights of Pisgah in the land of Moab and to view the
country flowing with milk and honey, promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and
their descendants forever.
After outlining in both prose and poetical forms the checkered, meandering
course which Israel's history would take through the centuries, Moses
pronounced his blessings upon his brethren. Shortly he passed out of this life
into the presence of his Maker. God buried him. No man knows where the grave
is until this day.
As to who wrote his obituary no one can be positive. By inspiration he may
have written it, or some other servant of God may have done it. The human
author is immaterial. Our studies have brought us up to the close of the
fortieth year of the Exodus, which was 2552. This period of national sorrow
for her beloved leader brought Israel up to a new milestone in her march
through the centuries.
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