“Ex 15:25 And he cried to Yahweh, and Yahweh showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”
Ummm… ok. What’s the business with the log? If God wanted to make the water sweet, couldn’t he have just done it? Why the log? Meh, whatever.
The verse goes on to say that God tested them there to see if they would keep him commandments, promising that if they did he wouldn’t give them the diseases he’d given the Eqyptians. Afterwards they moved on to the springs at Elim. After watering there, they started traveling again in the direction of Sinai. But now that they had water, they had a new complaint: lack of food. Although they’re traveling with all their livestock, but I guess it isn’t enough to feed them.
So they complain to Moses that they’d have been better off in Egypt than starving to death in the wilderness. God then tells Moses that he’s going to provide them with meat that night, and bread thereafter. And there are specific rules about gathering the bread. They are to gather enough to eat for six days. On the sixth day they will be provided twice as much as on any other day so that on the seventh day they can eat without going out to gather. Because they’re supposed to rest on the seventh day as a Sabbath.
So Moses relays the instructions to the Israelites, and accompanies them with a statement that the Israelites shouldn’t complain about his and Aaron’s leadership, because complaining about them is the same as complaining about God. Again there’s extra stuff he says beyond what’s in the conversation with God, such as the instruction that they aren’t to try and save any food from one day to the next because God will always provide as much as they need every day.
So anyway, what actually happened is that God provided a flock of quail that evening, and every morning some fine flaky stuff from which the Israelites could make bread that they called manna. So every morning they go out and gather this stuff, which has some interesting properties. Such as the fact that everyone gets exactly as much as they need to eat that day – no matter how hard you worked at gathering tons of it you don’t end up with extra, and however little you gather you end up with enough. Divinely enforced communism! Also, if you try to save any for the next day, whatever you save will go rotten and be full of worms. Except on the sixth day, when the leftovers will remain fresh so you don’t have to gather on the seventh.
Of course, some Israelites try to save extra, and Moses gets pissed at them for not doing what God said. And some try to gather on the seventh day, and likewise God and Moses get pissed at them for that. But once that routine was settled in, Moses gave a new commandment about the manna.
“Ex 16:32 Moses said ‘This is what Yahweh has commanded: “Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.”’”
And Aaron then put some of it in a jar to be kept. So unless something happened to it later on, does that mean that somewhere out there is a physical example of the miraculous food? Would be interesting to know.
They travel on through the wilderness until they come to a place called Rephidim to set up camp. But they discover there’s no water there. So once more the people go to Moses.
“Ex 17:2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said ‘Give us water to drink,’ and Moses said to them ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test Yahweh?’”
For some reason, the Israelites failed to be assuaged by Moses treating a critical survival necessity as just some random complaint they had drummed up just to be a pain in his ass. So Moses turns to God and asks what to do about it. God tells him to take his staff, go over to mount Horeb, and strike a rock with it. He does, and water comes out of the rock for the people to drink.
After this the Amalekites came to attack the Israelites (which doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable when you realize that from their perspective their lands had just been essentially invaded by well over a million people). Moses chooses Joshua to lead the Israelites in the fight. But the real key to victory apparently isn’t who leads the fight, but whether or not Moses can stand on a hillside overlooking the fight all day holding his staff raised in the air. Whenever he holds up his staff the Israelites do well, but whenever he lowers it the Amalekites do well. So when his arms get too tired to hold up anymore, he sits on a stone while Aaron and Hur hold his hands up in the air for him. Thus magical thinking (and the Israelites) prevail. Then we see what I think may be one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines I’ve ever seen.
“Ex 17:14 Then Yahweh said to Moses ‘Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’”
He’s going to blot out the memory of them… and write it down in a fucking book? Books preserve memory! If you write it down, that’s the exact opposite of blotting out the memory of it! Did the author even think before writing some of this shit?
Sigh. So afterwards while they’re still encamped near Horeb (the so-called mountain of God), Moses’ father-in-law (still called Jethro) comes out to meet him. He brings along Moses’ wife and sons, whom the author mentions Moses had sent back home at some point while he was in Egypt. I don’t recall it being mentioned back when reading that story, but the author(s) of this book do have a tendency to leave out plot points at the time when they’re happening only to mention them later. Recall Joseph and the interpreter. Maybe that was the height of the literary form at the time, but it sure comes off as bad storytelling now.
So Moses tells Jethro all about what’s been happening, and Jethro makes a burnt offering to God while kissing the divine derriere a bit. Over the next few days, Jethro watches Moses spending most of his time moderating disputes between his followers. So he decides to intervene, telling Moses that he’s just gonna burn himself out like that. He suggests instead he should appoint “chiefs” for groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand people, and have them moderate all the minor disputes and only bring the really major stuff to Moses. Moses agrees this is a fine idea, and implements the plan.
After this Jethro and the Israelites part ways, and the Israelites proceed on to Sinai.
I know I said I’d try to get to the events at Sinai today, but there was just too much stuff leading up to that in this post to try and dive into it now. So until next time… take care and be well!