ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB
As the Bible story continues, a number of chapters are
devoted to events in the lives of the three patriarchs, Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob. For years, Jacob believed his son Joseph had
died, only to find out later he was alive and had obtained a
prominent position in Egypt. A famine swept the land of Canaan
and Jacob had to make a decision about moving down into Egypt. At
this point he was given a promise: :Fear not to go down into
Egypt...Joseph shall put his hands upon thine EYES" (Gen.46:4),
or as some versions have it: "And Joseph will close your eyes in
To put one's hands upon the eyes was a custom in which the
nearest of kin would close the eyes of a loved one at death.
Thus Jacob was as given the assurance that his son Joseph would
be with him when he died. In view of this promise, he did not
hesitate to journey to where Joseph was. He then lived in Egypt
for seventeen years (Gen.47:28). And, even as the prediction had
revealed many years before, Joseph was there with Jacob when he
died. "And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him,
and kissed him" (Gen.50:1).
In the course of time, "there arose up a new king over
Egypt, which knew not Joseph" and the children of Israel were
forced into slavery (Exodus 1:8-12). Conditions grew worse for
them until finally under the leadership of Moses, the "exodus"
became a reality. It is from this fact that we have the name of
the second book of the Bible, having the meaning of the people
going forth. We can see in the word "exodus" similarities to some
present day words. Notice the o-d in Exodus. In the car we have
an oedometer which measures the going forth of the car (mileage).
The letters e-x in Exodus are clearly visible in words we used
such as export and exit.
MOSES AND THE ETHIOPIAN WOMAN
Moses, who was used of God to bring the Israelites forth
from Egypt, was married to an Ethiopian woman. Many have been
puzzled about this. We recall that Miriam and Aaron - the sister
and brother of Moses - had some differences with him "because of
the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an
Ethiopian woman" (Num.12:1). The details of this dispute are not
given. What they did not like about this Ethiopian woman is not
explained in the Bible.
Steven tells us that Moses, being raised in Pharaoh's
household, was well-educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians and
was mighty in deeds (Acts 7:22). Again, the Bible does not
explain what these deeds were. But Josephus, the noted Jewish
historian of the first century, fills in the details about the
deeds of Moses and also the Ethiopian woman!
Egypt had become involved in a war with the Ethiopians.
Moses was appointed general of the Egyptian army. He was very
successful in this position, which explains how he was mighty in
deeds. "He came upon the Ethiopians before they expected him;
and, joining battle with them, he beat them, and deprived them of
the hopes they had of success against the Egyptians, and went on
in overthrowing their cities, and indeed made a great slaughter
of these Ethiopians" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, 10:2).
Finally Moses and the Egyptian armies beseiged the royal
city of Ethiopia called Saba. It was well fortified and difficult
to take. This is where "the Ethiopian woman" comes into the
picture. According to Josephus, her name was Tharbis, the
daughter of the king. "She happened to see Moses as he led the
army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring
the subtility of his undertakings, and believing him to be the
author of the Egyptians' success... she fell deeply in love with
him; and upon the prevalency of that passion, sent to him the
most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about
their marriage. He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she
would procure the delivering up of the city ... and that when he
had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his
oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect
immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave
thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the
Egyptians back to their own land" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book
Irenaeus, an early church father, summed it up in these
words: "When Moses was nourished in the king's palace, he was
appointed general of the army against the Ethiopians, and
conquered them, when he married that king's daughter; because,
of her affection for him, she delivered the city up to him."
MOSES KILLED AN EGYPTIAN - WHY?
Though he was raised up in Pharoah's house, Moses knew his
roots were with the Hebrews. When he was forty, he went to visit
his own people. Seeing one of them oppressed by an Egyptian
taskmaster, he became angry, killed the Egyptian, and buried him
in the sand. But why this particular Egyptian? All slaves were
apparently oppressed, why was this one situation notable above
others? Why did this one case inflame Moses into killing a man?
There must have been some special reason. According to the book
of Jasher, the Egyptian had raped the slave's wife:
"And when the man who was beaten saw Moses he ran to him for
help ... and he said to him ... This Egyptian came to my
house in the night, bound me, and came to my wife in my
presence, and now he seeks to take my life away. And when
Moses heard this wicked thing, his anger was kindled against
the Egyptian, and he turned this way and the other, and when
he saw there was no man there he smote the Egyptian and hid
him in the sand" (Jasher 71:2,3).
Something else that is not well-known - and this point is
explained in the Bible itself - is the reason why Moses came to
visit his brethren at the age of forty. Having been "mighty in
deeds" as an Egyptian military leader, Moses now wanted to help
his own people. He wanted to help them escape from slavery, then
and there, and this was forty years before the actual exodus
came! He thought the Hebrews would understand that he would be
used by God to bring about their deliverance, but they did not
understand this. Let me give you the scripture that spells this
mt. "For he supposed is brethren would have understood how that
God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not"
(Acts 7:25). Having killed a man, his efforts were rejected by
the people, and he fled to the backside of the desert.
Forty years passed and Moses returned to Egypt, having
received a divine directive at the burning bush. Moses was eighty
years old now. But it was not time to retire; it was time to
re-fire. Through mighty signs and wonders in Egypt, the
deliverance of the people was secured and they escaped from
GIANTS IN THE LAND
Having escaped from Egypt, the journey in the wilderness was
not without its problems. Twelve spies were set into the promised
land. Upon approaching Canaan, they found the wooded mountain
infested with giants. "And all the people that we saw in it are
men of great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of
Anak, which came of the giants: and we were in our own sight as
grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight" (Numbers 13:32,33).
The Bible mentions "the valley of the giants" (Joshua 15:8)
and another reference says: "That also was accounted a land of
giants: giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call
them Zamzummims; a people great, and many, and tall" (Deut.2:20,
21). In Second Samuel 21:20 we read about "a man of great
stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot
six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the
giant." It is a rare situation, but a number of such cases have
been recorded in history.
One giant mentioned in the Bible, King Og, had a real "king
size" bed. Figuring a cubit at 18 inches, his bed was thirteen
and a half feet in length and six feet wide (Dent.3:11). Goliath,
the most famous giant mentioned in the Bible, was about nine
feet, nine inches tall. His armor weighed 156 pounds and his
spearhead almost 19 pounds (1 Sam.17.4-7).
RITUAL PROSTITUTION AT MOAB
What created a bigger problem for the Israelites in the
wilderness than giants was their involvement with the women of
Moab. "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to
commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the
people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat,
and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto
Baal-peor" (Numbers 25:1,2).
Today we think of prostitution only in a secular sense. But
at that time, it should be understood that prostitution was a
part of the religion of Moab. It was ritual prostitution. Sexual
acts were a part of their worship in honor of Baal-pear. So when
the Israelites engaged in these acts, it was not only an
involvement in immorality, but an immorality which was a part of
the worship of other gods.
The reader will recall that Balaam was repeatedly shown that
as long as the Israelites obeyed God, they would be blessed and
no enemy could defeat them (Numbers 22-24). Realizing this,
Balaam figured if the Israelites would disobey God, God himself
would judge them. The details of this are given in the Biblical
Antiquities of Philo:
"Then Balaam said unto him [Balac]: Come and let us advise
what thou shalt do to them. Choose out the most comely women
that are among you and that are in Midian and set them
before them naked, and adorned with gold and jewels, and it
shall be when they shall see them and lie with them, they
will sin against their Lord and fall into your hands, for
otherwise thou canst not subdue them. And so saying Balaam
turned away and returned to his place. And thereafter the
people were led astray after the daughters of Moab, for
Balac did all that Balsam had showed him" (Philo 18:13,14).
With this background information, we can better understand
Numbers 31:16: "Behold, these [women of Moab] caused the children
of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass
against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague
among the congregation."
The story of Balaam is given in three chapters of Numbers
(22-24). The involvement of Israel with the daughters of Moab is
given in chapter 25. Balaam's part in this is not mentioned in
these chapters and there is only a brief mention, as we have
given, in Numbers 31:1. This point, recorded here and in Philo,
however, is undisputed. The writer of Revelation 2:14 was
familiar with this, for there we read of "Balaam, who taught
Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to
eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."
The Old Testament seems to picture Balaam as being, at
times, in actual communication with God. The New Testament verses
which mention Balaam point out the error of his way. Some think
he never was a true prophet of God, even though he said some good
things, and others feel he started out good and went bad.
Whatever, Balaam clearly knew that the Israelites would be
blessed by God and would defeat their enemies. Yet Balaam's death
came when he was on the side which he, himself, had said would be
defeated! When the battle was over, among those slain was found
the body of Balaam. "Balaam also, the son of Beor, the
soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among
them that were slain" (Josh.13:22).
QUOTATIONS FROM BALAAM
Two well-known Bible quotations are based on the words of
Balaam. "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of
man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it?
or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers
23:19). These words are true - they provide a great preaching
text - yet these were not the words of a recognized prophet of
God, but of Balaam.
The other quotation from Balaam, "What hath God wrought!"
was made famous because it famed the first message sent over the
electric telegraph which was perfected and built by Samuel F. B.
Morse. The first telegraph line, constructed with $30,000
appropriated by Congress in 1834, was completed in the spring of
1844 and ran between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.
The quotation, "What hath God wrought!" was chosen by Annie
Ellsworth, daughter of the commissioner of patents, the complete
text of which says: "Surely there is no enchantment against
Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according
to this time it shall be said to Jacob and of Israel, What hath
God wrought!" (Num.23:23).
For the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the
wilderness, we are told that their clothes did not get old upon
their bodies and their shoes did not get old on their feet. The
three following verses are the ones which mention this:
"Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot
swell, these forty years" Deut.8:41.
"Your clothes are, not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is
not waxen old upon they foot" (Deut.29:5).
"Forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so
that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and
their feet swelled not" (Neh.9:1).
In other words, during the forty years in the wilderness,
they did not have to wear old clothes or old shoes. Does this
necessarily imply that their clothing and shoes never wore out?
Are we to assume from this that their clothing and shoes were
miraculously preserved, so that after forty years they were still
wearing the same clothes and shoes?
On this point, Adam Clarke has stated in his now commentary
(Vol.1 p.760) the following:
"The plain meaning of this much-tortured text appears to me
to be this: God so amply provided for them all the
necessaries of life, that they never were obliged to wear
tattered garments, nor were their feet injured for lack of
shoes or sandals."
He goes on to mention that there were various workers,
carvers, jewellers, weavers, etc., among the Israelites at this
period. He says there is no reason to believe they did not have
shoe cobblers and tailors also.
That they had the ability, materials, and did in fact make
clothes during this time can be seen in the case of the priestly
garments: "And these are the garments which they shall make; a
breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a
mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron.
... shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine
linen" (Exodus 28:1-5).
Instead of the idea that the Israelites wore the same
clothes for forty years and such were miraculously preserved, the
Barnes Commentary (p.287) states:
"They had clothes, it would seem, in abundance (Exodus
12:34,35) at the beginning of the forty years; and during
those years they had many sheep and oxen; and so must have
had much material for clothing always at command. No doubt
also they carried on a traffic in these, as in other
commodities, with the Moabites and the nomadic tribes of the
desert. Such ordinary supplies must not be shut out of
consideration, even if they were on occasions supplemented
by extraordinary providences of God, as was undoubtedly the
case with their food."
If, as some have assumed, the Israelites wore the same
clothes for forty years, what about the clothing of babies? With
the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all who entered the promised
land were under twenty years of age when leaving Egypt or were
born during the forty years. This means that the vast majority of
people who entered the promised land would have had clothes that
miraculously stretched - according to the belief. No less than
600,000 males born during this period would have had garments
that were not only miraculously preserved, but which also
miraculously stretched as they grew from infancy to adulthood.
Picture, if you will, a baby that was born just before the
Israelites left Egypt. Its mother makes a tiny garment for it.
Are we to believe that ten years later this child is wearing the
same garment, only now it has stretched to fit a ten-year-old? At
forty years of age, when entering the promised land, was he still
wearing the same garment? We do not doubt that with God all
things are possible, but is this really the meaning here? Would
this even be desirable - no change, just the same garment all
those years? If the clothing miraculously stretched, why, we
question, is this not mentioned, since this would be a greater
Here is what Clarke says in summary:
"It is generally supposed that God, by a miracle, preserved
their clothes from wearing out: but if this sense be
admitted, it well require, not one miracle, but a chain of
the most successive and astonishing miracles ever wrought...
It would imply, that the clothes of the infant grew up with
the increase of his body to manhood, which would require a
miracle to be continually wrought on every thread, and on
every particle of matter of which that thread was
composed.... No such miraculous interference was necessary."
The Bible says their clothes did not wear out upon them;
that is, they did not have to wear old clothing. Their shoes did
not wear out upon their feet; that is, they did not have to wear
worn-out shoes. Their fat did not swell - from cuts and bruises -
which would have happened had they not had proper shoes. The
miraculous element is in the fact that they were supplied with
the necessary things - even in the wilderness. God took care of
I have given here what I feel is the best explanation. I do
not present it as dogma and have no quarrel with any who may feel
TO BE CONTINUED