AFTER THE INCIDENT of the golden calf the people of Israel were deeply repentant. When Moses, their aged leader, toiled to the top of Mount Sinai to beg the Lord to forgive their great sin, He graciously agreed (Exodus 32:14). But He sent Moses down with a task for the people which would test their sincerity. On an earlier occasion God had spoken to Moses about building for Him a mobile temple, to be called ‘the Tabernacle’. ‘Let them build me a sanctuary’, He had said, ‘that I may dwell in their midst’ (Exodus 25:8). He had described the building carefully and shown Moses a model which he was to follow. Now the time had come to put the plan into action. The whole construction was to be made from gifts of timber, cloth, and precious metals donated by the people, and it would be put together by volunteer labour.
WITH AN OMINOUS clonk the tablets struck the rock. Young Joshua watched in horror. Only that morning they had collected them pristine from the angel of God. The fine inscriptions in economical Hebrew covered both sides of each gleaming stone. Now Moses had deliberately smashed them together on the ground, his face twisted with rage (Exodus 32:19). Six weeks before, the two men had toiled higher and higher into the cloud-covered mountain, leaving behind the Israelite camp and their families and friends. The days passed quickly. As Moses received each new commandment from God, Joshua probably helped him write it down in a book. Afterwards they were given a detailed plan of the new Tent of Meeting that God wanted the Israelites to build, and instruction in the system of worship to be set up around it. It was thrilling and absorbing, and Joshua would feel elated to be so
DO YOU KNOW what the Ten Commandments are? You may well have heard of them, but do you know where they came from, and how many of them could you name? It’s worth a Iittle Bible research to find the answers to these questions. The people of Israel had escaped Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and survived three months in the desert. They were on their way to the Promised Land. They now came to a mountain range well known to Moses from his shepherding days in the Sinai Peninsula. However, the hills would be awe-inspiring to the rest of the people, who had grown up in the pancake-flat, green triangle of the Nile delta. Moses knew that this particular mountain before which they were now pitched was a special place. There, only months before, he had removed his shoes in the presence of the angel of God. He had
IN THE Northamptonshire village where we live there are some very unusual walls. Some are garden walls, surrounding flower beds and lawns. Others form the sides of houses. All of them are centuries old. When you look at them closely, you see they are made of mud and chopped straw. In fact, our village walls have a strange connection with the life of the Israelites in Egypt in the time of Moses. They are made of just the same ingredients as the bricks the Israelites were forced to make for Pharaoh. There are examples of Egyptian bricks in the British Museum in London, complete with the official stamp of the Rameses brickworks—bricks which date back to the time of the Exodus and could easily be the very ones handled by Moses’ brothers as they bowed under the lash of the overseers. The composition is clearly visible. You may be puzzled
Moses was keeping the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian. He led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, which the Bible calls the mountain of God (Exodus 3:1). And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed (v.2). At the Burning Bush Critics of the Bible have tried to explain away the burning bush. There is a type of wilderness thorn whose leaves turn red once a year, and it must have been one of these which caught Moses’ eye. The snag with such a suggestion is that it does not fit the context. Moses fled from Egypt when he was 40 years old. He returned to deliver his people at the age of 80.
MOSES STARED AGHAST at the bright blood seeping into the sand. He had killed a man. For a moment he stood still, paralysed by the enormity of his deed, and then, panicking, fell to his knees and began to scrabble a shallow grave. Soon the Egyptian taskmaster’s body was covered from sight, and only the footmarks showed where they had fought in the hot sun. It had been a fateful day for Moses. He was 40 years old, in his prime, strong, resourceful and self-confident. Brought up as the foster child of Pharaoh’s daughter, he had enjoyed the privileges of his station, and a real taste for luxury and power. Lately, however, a change had come over him. Although the crowds cheered as enthusiastically as ever when he drove out in his splendid chariot, he hardly seemed to hear them. He found himself drawn repeatedly to the new cities his
ONE NIGHT EVERY YEAR, close to Easter, Jews all over the world observe the feast of Passover. It’s a ceremony which dates back three and a half thousand years to the nation’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, which is recorded in Exodus chapter 12. For a week beforehand they sweep their houses clean of every crumb of bread, for no food made with yeast may be left in the home on Passover night. At the appointed time, the whole family gathers round the supper table, and the ancient ceremony begins. Before them on a clean white cloth are spread wafers of dry, unleavened bread, just like their ancestors ate on the first Passover night. There is also a bowl of salt water to stand for the tears they shed In Egypt. Bitter herbs represent their cruel bondage, and a dish of fruity paste recalls the clay from which they once