Understanding The Bible
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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
I. THE PERIOD OF THE
OPPRESSION IN EGYPT, THE EXODUS, AND THE WILDERNESS WANDERINGS:
To the Arrival on the Plains of Moab (1580-1400 B.C.). Exodus I - Deuteronomy 34
A. ISRAEL IN EGYPT, Ex. 1-12
1. Israel oppressed, Ex. 1
(See ADDENDUM II, C, 7, on Egypt for background.)
The "new king who knew not Joseph" is thought by many to have been Amosis I (c. 1570 B.C.), the native Egyptian king who threw out the hated Hyksos and reasserted Egyptian strength. Such is the picture the Bible gives of this oppressor. It is not surprising that he should oppress a Semitic group (Israel) still within his borders, particularly since Joseph had "collaborated" with the Hyksos rulers. (This was a great time of building. For data about the pyramids, see I.E.S. Edwards's The Pyramids of Egypt. Harmondsworth, England: 1949. (Pelican Books)
2. Moses' years of preparation, Ex. 2
Both "ark" and "bulrushes" (v.3) are Egyptian words ("ark" means box), a striking evidence of the genuine Egyptian influence here. In these preparation years Moses learned the wisdom of the Egyptians, and in addition obtained a knowledge of the Sinai wilderness which would be invaluable when he began his work.
3. Moses' call, Ex. 3-4
Horeb is another name for Sinai. There Moses was called; there God later gave the law to Israel through him.
It is important to examine the available information on the pharaohs of the oppression and the exodus:
Pharaoh is not the name of a king, but a title meaning "Great House" (cp. Americans saying "The White House says...") The names of the pharaohs of the oppression (Ex. 2:25) and exodus (Ex. 5:lff.), if the chronological scheme followed in these lessons is correct, were Thothmes III and Amunhotep II.
Thothmes 111 (1501-1447 B.C.) was a strong ruler, especially interested in his empire in Palestine and Syria. He made 17 annual expeditions into this area to collect tribute and keep it in subjection. He fought a great battle at Megiddo (Armageddon) and brought back much plunder. The great obelisk which stands behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (in Central Park) was made during Thothmes III’s reign. From what we know of him from history, he could well have been the pharaoh whose oppression is recorded in Exodus 2.
Amunhotep II (1447-1423 B.C,), son of Thothmes III, was a man of great strength and valor. Inscriptions have been found celebrating his skill In rowing, horsemanship, and archery, even as a youth. When the great warrior's mummy was found in 1898 in the valley of the kings in Thebes, his famous bow, which he had boasted no other could draw, was still beside him. It bore the inscription, "Smiter of cave dwellers, overthrower of Kush, hacking up their cities, the great wall of Egypt, protector of his soldiers." Probably soon after he became king the exodus occurred. The Bible does not say that he was killed at the Red Sea.
There is no mention of the exodus to be found on the Egyptian monuments. This is not strange; for ancient peoples (like modern propagandists) made much of victories, but conveniently forgot defeats.
4. The contest with Pharaoh, Ex. 5-12
God had to break the proud will of the Egyptians before they would let the people go. The ten plagues were for this purpose (3:19-20), and also to discredit the gods of Egypt (7:5, 17; 12:12), for each plague seems to have discredited an Egyptian divinity. For example, Hapi, the Nile god, would be proved impotent when the river was turned to blood and rendered unfit for use. A third purpose of the plagues was to strengthen Israel's faith (6:7). Note also the increasing severity of each new plague, and the element of distinction between Egyptians and Israelites, beginning with the fourth. On the hardening of pharaoh's heart, see SRB, p.75, n.2.
a. Preliminary overtures, 5:1-7:13
b. The ten plagues and institution of the Passover, 7:14-12:36
Note especially the institution of the Passover, the feast celebrating the deliverance from Egypt. It begins Israel's religious year, and is celebrated at about the same time Christians celebrate Easter. Its observation throughout all Jewish history has done much to shape the national consciousness. See SRB, p.84, n. 1 for the typical significance of the Passover. Mso see Orr-Kyle on the Passover in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: 1946. Vol. IV, pp.2256-2258. (Hereafter, ISBE.)
B. THE EXODUS: From Egypt to Sinai, Ex. 13-13
1. The Red Sea crossing, Ex. 13:1-15:21
God directed Moses to lead Israel into a place where they were surrounded by sea and mountains, with their only escape cut off by Pharaoh, so that He might defeat Pharaoh's army, get glory to Himself alone, and lead Israel to believe in Him. Cp. 1 Cor. 10:1-2.
2. From the Red Sea to Sinai, Ex. 15:22-18:27
See SRB, p.91. n. 1 for typical meaning of the manna. The Amalekites were a tribe living in southern Palestine whose hatred of Israel prompted them to oppose their march. The sequel to this story can be seen later on (note 17:14.16).
Two things should be added here in connection with the Exodus:
a. The ROUTE of the Exodus (see WHA, pp.38-39)
b. The DATE of the Exodus
(1) Early date, period of 18th dynasty, 1446 (c. 1440) Thotbines III, pharaoh of oppression (1501-1447) Amunbotep U, pharaoh of exodus (1447-1423)
(see Marston's New Bible Evidence. New York: 1934, pp.151-173, 224-226.)
(2) late date, period of 19th dynasty; variant views:
(a) 1290 Seti I, pharaoh of oppression (1318-1299) Rameses II, pharaoh of exodus (1299-1232)
(b) 1220 Rameses II, pharaoh of oppression Mernaptah, pharaoh of exodus (1232-1222) 1934.
Adams, J. McKee. Ancient Records and the Bible. 1947. Pp.207-238.
Wright, G. E. “Epic of Conquest," Biblical Archaeologist. September, 1940, III, 3, 26-40. Nashville:
C. THE SOJOURN OF ISRAEL AT SINAI, Ex. 19:1 - Num. 10:10
Introductory remarks on the Law
I. Definition of law: A manifestation of the character and will of God, Lev. 19:2.
II. Theocratic character of law – referred all thoughts and actions directly and immediately to the will of God, "I am the Lord."
III. Law summarized:
a. "Moral law (ten commandments) was the expression of the Divine will in reference to duties which arise from the unchangeable distinctions of right and wrong. All through the Bible, to its very close, this law is repeated as the fundamental rule for human life.”
b. "Ceremonial law was the part that prescribed the types and symbols by which the great truths of the gospel were now to be prefigured.”
c. Civil law related the administration of justice, the rights of property, the punishment of criminals, the care of the poor, the education of the young, the numbering and registration of the people, and other matters commonly regulated by civil law." (Blaikie, pp.129-130)
IV. The giving of the law reminds us of the Scripture pattern of a gradually unfolding revelation of God.
V. Giving of the law brings a transition from the tribe to the nation, Dt. 4:7-8.
VI. Laws before the law: Gen. 6:9; 8:20; 38:8, 24; Ex. 16:23,27-29.
VII. Why the law was given to Israel.
a. To show man's sinfulness, Rom. 7:7.
b. To restrain sin and condemn the sinner, Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 3:22-23.
c. To instruct the redeemed, Ex. 20:2-3; Lev. 18:5 ("Live in the sphere of them"); PS. 19:7-8.
d. To typify and lead to Christ, Heb. 9:8-9; 10:1; Gal. 3:24.
VIII. The Christian's relation to the law.
a. Its formal authority dissolved, Rom. 6:14-15; 7:4-6; Gal. 3:25; 5:18.
b. Yet every revelation of God's will imposes moral obligation, and so all of the ten commandments (except Sabbath) are repeated in the N. T. beseechings of grace and raised to sublimer heights.
1. The Law given, Ex. 19 - Lev. 27
a. Sinai covenant proposed and ratified, Ex. 19; 24
God now enters into a new relationship with Israel. The law, which Israel could not keep, showed them their need of a Messiah. It was also the means of making a great nation of the heretofore loosely-knit tribes (Dt. 4:7-8). See SRB, p.93, n.2.
b. Ten Commandments, Ex. 20:1-21
See SRB, p.95, n.1. The Code of Hammurabi, the law of the city of Babylon during the reign of its famous king Hammurabi, who lived during the patriarchal period, bears resemblance to Moses' law. There is no reason, however, to believe that either law was borrowed from the other. For Code of Hammurabi, see Finegan, pp.47-SO, and Pritchard, pp.163-180, as well as WBD, p.224.
c. Book of the Covenant, Ex. 20:22-23:33 Many laws governing the social and religious life of Israel. (Note: For Slavery in the Law, see I. Mendelsohn's “Slavery in the Ancient Near East," Bib. Arch. December, 1946, IX, 4, 74-88. Also see by the same author the article on "The Family in the Near East," Bib. Arch. May, 1948, XI, 2, 24-40.)
d. Plan of the Tabernacle, Ex. 25-31, See SRB, p.101, n. 1.and notes on Typology
e. Golden Calf, Ex. 32-34, The young bull was a prominent object of worship in Egypt. Moses here becomes a mediator-intercessor for his people.
f. Construction of the Tabernacle, Ex. 35-40
g. Laws of sacrifice, Lev. 1-7
(1) Various kinds of sacrifices, Lev. 1:1-6:7
(2) Rights and duties of the priests in sacrificing, Lev. 6:8-7:38
h. Aaron and his sons ordained to the priesthood, Lev. 8-9, Aaron was the high (chief) priest; his sons, his assistants. The office was hereditary. The priests throughout Hebrew history were the descendants of Aaron. Even today there are in Jewry the Kohenim priests who are given a special place in the synagogue service.
i. Strange fire of Nadab and Abihu, Lev. 10. Probably they were intoxicated (10:8-11).
j. Laws of cleanness, Lev. 11-16. Ceremonial cleanness consisted in keeping from defilement in any number of things and situations which God called unclean. Many of these things and situations were not wrong in themselves, but are types of sin. "Be ye holy, for I am holy," is the theme. Physical and ceremonial cleanness were not always the same, but medical knowledge today shows that good reason underlay the laws of cleanness.
(1) Distinction between clean and unclean animals, 11.
(2) Laws of childbirth, 12.
(3) Laws of leprosy, 13-14.
(4) Laws of sexual cleanness, 15.
(5) Law of observance of Day of Atonement, 16.
k. Laws of holiness, Lev. 17-26. Statutes concerning holiness of life.
(1) Laws of slaying, sacrificing and eating animals, 17.
(2) Laws of incest and unchastity, 18.
(3) Religious and moral duties, 19.
(4) Penalties for offences in (2) and (3) above, 20.
(5) Holiness law concerning priests and offerings, 21-22.
(6) Calendar of holy days, 23. See David Baron's Types, Psalms and Prophecies. New York:, 1948. Pp.1-74.
(7) Various laws: lamps in sanctuary, showbread, blasphemy, murder, 24.
(8) Laws concerning sabbatical year and year of jubilee, 25:1-26:2.
(9) Conclusion: blessings for obedience and curses for violation of these laws, 26:3-45.
l. Laws of vows and tithes, Lev. 27
Raven's summary and application of Leviticus:
a. The way to approach God, culminating in the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, 1-16.
b. The way to maintain fellowship with God, 17-27.
Purpose Of Leviticus
Leviticus is a manual for the priests, to instruct them as to the carrying out of their priestly duties. It regulates access to God, and so presupposed the existence of the Tabernacle. "We have in Leviticus, not the Lawgiver speaking in awful tones or writing on tablets of stone, but the Portion of Israel, dwelling in the midst of His people and teaching them how they might draw near to His presence and abide in communion with Him." (Daniel Frasier, in Raven's O.T. Introduction. New York: 1910. Pp.143-144.) Keyword, "holiness"; key verse, 17:11. "Leviticus has its inspired commentary in Hebrews, which describes the true method of approach to God in the dispensation of Grace, as Leviticus had shown it in the dispensation of Law." (Raven, p.144)
2. Preparation for departure from Mount Sinai, Num. 1:1-10:10
Purpose of Numbers
Numbers is a book of history, and connects the history of Exodus with that of Joshua. It covers the period from the departure from Sinai (time of the first numbering) to the arrival at Plains of Moab (on the eastern edge of Canaan) nearly 40 years later, at which place there was a second numbering (hence, the name of the book). Actually, most of the 40 year period is passed over in silence (chapters 15-21 cover nearly the whole period, the rest of the book introducing and concluding it) – a significant commentary on God's attitude toward those wasted years. Israel spent nearly a year at Sinai.
D. THE WILDERNESS WANDERINGS, Num. 10:11 - Dt. 34:12
1. From Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, Num. 10:11-14:45
It was only an eleven day journey from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea (Dt. 1:2), which is on the southern edge of Palestine. From this point the Israelites were to enter the land. However, because of unbelief in God's promises (Heb. 3-4)) the people refused to go in. Numbers 13-14 are pivotal chapters, and should be studied thoroughly. The penalty for their unbelief and refusal was the wandering in the wilderness until that disobedient generation was dead. See SRB, p.185, n.1.
2. The years of wandering, Num. 15-21
The Levites mentioned in chapter 18 consist of the whole tribe descended from Levi; Aaron's was one family within this tribe. The whole tribe was dedicated to the Lord to assist in the religious life of the nation. Aaron's family had the unique privilege of the priesthood.
(The ordinance of the red heifer provides a beautiful type of the finished work of Christ, chapter 19; see SRB, p.192, n.1.)
In chapters 20-21 the forty years are almost at an end, and the Israelites move toward the Transjordan area, east of Palestine proper, from which point they were to enter the land. The battles mentioned in these chapters are really the preliminary campaign for the taking of Palestine. (Note the death of Aaron, 20:23-29.)
3. Events in the Plains of Moab, as recorded in Numbers 22-36
These events take place at the close of the years of wandering, and are preparatory to the entering of Canaan. The "Plains of Moab" is that part of the Transjordan highland just across the Jordan River from Jericho.
a. God turns Balaam's curse into a blessing, Num. 22-24.
b. Other instructions and events, Num. 26-36. Outstanding among these were:
(1) The renumbering of the new generation (601, 730), Num. 26:51. This is 1820 less than the 603,550 in the first numbering nearly 40 years before, Num. 1:46.
(2) Joshua is appointed by God to succeed Moses, Num. 27:15-23.
(3) Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh choose to stay on the east of Jordan, Num. 32.
Transjordan has an uncertain and never adequate rainfall, insufficient to support farming. However, many areas are good for grazing, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, wishing to engage in shepherding, settle there. They were always a little "left out of things" because of this, and their life was often endangered by raids of desert nomads.
(4) The Levites' 48 cities, Num. 35.
4. Events In the Plains of Moab, as recorded in Deuteronomy 1-34. Deuteronomy is a resume of legislation already given (in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers) with special emphasis on the near entry into the land, and with exhortations and warnings added. In form it is the closing addresses of Moses, just prior to his death, when the Israelites were poised on the edge of Canaan. Love as a motive for obedience (6:4) and emphasis on the central sanctuary (chapter 12) are new themes. The book of Deuteronomy records this series of sermons as follows:
a. First discourse, recalling past experiences, Dt. 1:1-4:43.
b. Second discourse, rehearsing the Decalogue and other laws, Dt. 4:44-26:19.
c. Third discourse, the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, Dt. 27-30.
d. Historical appendices, Dt. 31-34.
Last words of Moses (31-33); Moses dies and Joshua takes over (34).
The account of Moses' death was probably written by Joshua, although God could have revealed it to him before his death, if He had desired to.
NOTES OF IMPORTANCE
For higher criticism of the Pentateuch today, see the following:
Mlis, O.T. The Five Books of Moses. Philadelphia: 1943. (excellent detailed treatment, embodying some recent findings)
Steinmueller, John E. A Companion to Scripture Studies. Vol.11, Special Introduction to the Old Testament. New York: 1942. Pp.14-69. (an excellent outline, covering a wide range of material, by a Roman Catholic)
Young, Edward. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: 1949. Pp. 109-153.
All of these books are conservative.
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