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Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

Matthias Henze- The Bible & Second Temple Judaism

In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Pete and Jared talk with Matthias Henze about ancient texts that didn’t make it into the Bible and how those texts help us better understand biblical context as they explore the following questions:

  • Why is Jesus’ practice of Judaism different from the practices we find in the Old Testament?
  • What sparked Matthias’ interest in Judaism?
  • What is Second Temple Judaism?
  • Are there messiahs in the Old Testament?
  • Why is the study of Second Temple Judaism important to the study of the New Testament?
  • How has anti-semitism affected the study of Second Temple Judaism?
  • How have the Dead Sea Scrolls impacted the study of Second Temple Judaism?
  • What is the apocrypha? 
  • Did Jesus read texts that didn’t make it into our Bibles?
  • Why is it important to study more Second Temple period texts?
  • What was the significance of “messiah” in Second Temple Judaism?
  • How does Daniel 7 help us understand what it means to be a messiah?

Tweetables

Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Matthias Henze you can share. 

  • “The Bible only gives us a slim excerpt of the books that were in circulation in the time of Jesus.” -Matthias Henze
  • “To get a better understanding… of this Jewish world of Jesus, we need to read beyond the Bible. We need to turn to other Jewish texts of the time of the New Testament in order to get a fuller understanding of this world that the New Testament authors just take for granted.” -Matthias Henze
  • “Once we read the New Testament in the context of the Jewish literature of its time, it becomes even more impressive and more marvelous.” -Matthias Henze
  • “The writers of our gospels, the evangelists, they deliberately use [Son of Man], as well as other titles, because they know that their audiences will exactly know that they’re really talking about the Messiah.” -Matthias Henze
  • “There was not just one set of messianic expectations, there was not one clearly formed idea of who the Messiah would be and what would happen, but there were a great variety of different ways of thinking of the Messiah [in the Second Temple Period].” -Matthias Henze

Mentioned in This Episode

Read the transcript

[Introduction]

0:00

Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People. The only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.

Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.

[Jaunty Intro Music]

Jared: Welcome everyone to this episode of The Bible for Normal People. You have a real treat coming your way today. We have Matthias Henze who is professor of Hebrew Bible and early Judaism at Rice University, and we’re here to talk about Messiah.

Pete: Yeah. And, you know, even the thing is titled Hebrew Bible and early Judaism. That’s, we’ll get to that, why that’s sort of an important way of thinking about all this time period that’s relevant for Jesus in the New Testament, but yeah. I’m particularly excited to have Matthias on because I’ve known him for, I guess, maybe twenty-five years now. We were classmates together in graduate school and he came a couple years after I did. He’s just such a breath of fresh air. You’ll see this, he’s such a nice guy and pretty darn smart too. He’s said an awful lot about Jesus in the context of the Judaism that he lived in, which is rather obvious thing to say now that it’s coming out of my mouth, like, why wouldn’t you do that, right? But again, we’re not always trained to do that, and bringing out the Jewishness of Jesus and we talked about a specific issue, we’ll get to that. It’s just very enlightening and it’s fun to hear and you see, my goodness gracious, this stuff is really deep.

Jared: Yeah, yeah.

Pete: Really deep.

Jared: Well, let’s get into this conversation then.

Pete: Yup.

[Music begins]

Matthias: So, my point is for us to get a better understanding of Jesus’ world, of this Jewish world of Jesus. We need to read beyond the Bible. We need to turn to other Jewish texts of the time of the New Testament in order to get a fuller understanding of this world that the New Testament authors just take for granted.

[Music ends]

Jared: Well, welcome Matthias, to this episode of The Bible for Normal People. It’s great to have you.

Matthias: Thank you for having me, I’m excited to be here.

Jared: Absolutely. Well, before we get started in some of the heavy hitting, we hope to cover on this episode, maybe you can give us a little bit of your background and maybe a little spiritual bio. How did you come to study what you study and why was it, why were you drawn to it?

Matthias: Sure, I’d be happy to. So, I spent the first half of my life in Germany. I was born there, grew up there, and my father, of blessed memory, was born in 1923 and was a soldier in World War II. He tried to avoid it, but everybody was drafted. Fortunately, he survived, and so I was born twenty years after the war and, but the war was always in our house growing up. It was always present and certainly when we traveled, we were always the Germans. So, even from a very young age on, I developed an interest in World War II, especially Germany’s role, and the history of the Jews in Germany. And so, contacted the synagogue, got in touch with them, and so I always had an interest in Judaism. Initially, Judaism in Germany, but then also beyond. And then I studied theology in Germany, wanted to become a Lutheran pastor. I liked the critical studies so much and liked the university so much that I decided to become an academic, and then came to the United States to do my Ph.D. here in the states. It was really at that time that I was introduced to what we call Second Temple Judaism, that is to say, Judaism puts the latter half of the historical period we associate with the Old Testament. And that helped me in a very meaningful way to combine my interests in Judaism and theology and Christian origins and how to bring all of that together.

Pete: So, were you raised Lutheran?

Matthias: Yes, I was. My parents were not religious, but I grew up in northern Germany where you are either Catholic or Lutheran. So, I was raised Lutheran and I still am a Lutheran. My wife is a Lutheran pastor.

Jared: Wow. So, can you, you mentioned a phrase that might be newer to some of our listeners, Second Temple Judaism. You mentioned a little bit, but can you say more about what it is and why is it significant in Christian faith, in Judaism, in the history of Israel? Can you say a little bit more?

4:30

Matthias: Sure. So, just in historical terms, what Christians call the Old Testament is a collection of books that was written over a very long period of time, roughly speaking, a thousand years or so. And we develop, we distinguish, we divide this period into two larger periods called the First Temple period, that is the temple that was built by King Solomon and then destroyed in the sixth century by the Babylonians that led to the Babylonian exile. And then after the Israelites returned from exile, the temple was rebuilt, and the Second Temple was erected in Jerusalem. So, the Second Temple period, historically speaking then, begins in the sixth century before the Common Era, and runs all the way into first century of the Common Era, when the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Now, for the longest time, Christian theologians have really neglected the Second Temple period, and have argued that the First Temple was much more important. That’s when the great prophets lived, they thought that much of the Torah, the five books of Moses, were written at that time. Whereas the Second Temple period was sort of the later period of the biblical period that didn’t really have much value in and of itself, and that perception sort of pejorative or negative view of the later centuries that we associate with the Old Testament changed dramatically in the twentieth century. There are several reasons for it, but perhaps the most important was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are ancient Jewish fragments that were discovered in the Judean desert and that really open up a fabulous window into this period in the history of ancient Israel. The Dead Sea Scrolls attracted a lot of interest both among scholars and lay people. They brought a lot of new material to the table and all of a sudden, there was this energy around the Second Temple period, and people started to pay much more attention to these texts.

Pete: And you mentioned, Matthias, the looking down on the Second Temple period and being neglected. I even recall it being referred to as the post-biblical period, like, after the return from exile, nothing much is happening. People are just twiddling their thumbs waiting for Jesus to show up, and like, Judaism is sort of dying and on the way out, but the Dead Sea scrolls, among other things, right, have helped us gain a very, very different perspective on that period.

Matthias: It’s all true what you’re saying, it’s quite fascinating. If you look at the large textbooks, the history of ancient Israel textbooks that were written in the middle of the twentieth century, you will see that these authors, the modern authors, Christian authors, only spend a few pages on the Second Temple period. They think that this is a late form of ancient Israel, it’s increasingly deteriorating, and you can almost smell the anti-Judaism that plagued Christian theology for such a long time, right? This is forebearers of rabbinic Judaism, it’s a obsession with keeping the Torah, the free spirit of the prophets, sort of left Israel, and so we’re waiting until Jesus comes and then reignites religion, infuses it with a fresh spirit. This, of course, a caricature, this is not informed by any texts, but reflects the prejudices of the people who studied this period. And so the Dead Sea Scrolls, and really other texts from this period, not only the Dead Sea Scrolls, have helped us to study this period on its own grounds, to read these texts without a bias, without a Christian anti-Jewish prejudice, and to be much more realistic and better informed about the Judaism, really, of Jesus.

Pete: And calling it the Second Temple period is an example of making this more neutral and not biased against Judaism, as opposed to what I grew up saying, was the Intertestamental Period.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

Pete: The period between the testaments, but this gives this period its own integrity and of course, the New Testament was maybe not entirely, but largely written during the Second Temple period, so –

Matthias: Yes.

Pete: The New Testament is a Second Temple text, right?

9:25

Matthias: Terminology is revealing here, isn’t it? I agree with you that calling it Second Temple is helpful in that it is descriptive, but it’s also not helpful because not many people know what that means, so you have to explain it. So, some of my colleagues also like the term early Judaism. That’s a term that is, again, coined in response to a tendency among, again, Christian theologians, to speak of German theologians to speak of spätes Judentum or late Judaism, which was also a way to refer to this period, which is strongly pejorative. Late Judaism, meaning, Judaism is almost run its course, right?

Pete: It’s dying.

Matthias: It’s dying. Exactly.

Pete: It’s coming to an end.

Matthias: Exactly.

Pete: Christianity is here, and it’s done, right? So…

Matthias: So, speaking of early Judaism as a response to that.

Pete: Right. And it’s really, which is interesting, because it’s the birth of Judaism. I mean, that’s really what we’re talking about.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

Pete: We can’t speak of Judaism before the exile, that’s Israelite religion –

Matthias: Exactly right.

Pete: I mean, in various forms, but it’s afterwards that we have what comes to be called Judaism, so, yeah.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

Pete: It’s all connected historically, and that brings us to the New Testament then.

Matthias: Very much so.

Jared: I want to go back to what you said that the New Testament is a Second Temple period, so is, like, what’s the significance of this time period and I would it gives us a robust context now, whereby we might have interjected or put onto the New Testament for years and probably centuries, our own interpretations of these texts based on our own assumptions, but then this rediscovery of these texts situate the New Testament in a whole new light where there’s some, as you were studying, where there’s some insights that you were gaining about how your study of this text really brings to light the New Testament.

Matthias: Yes, there are many, and I like to talk about these examples when I give talks both in churches and synagogues. And often what I do is I start out like this, I say, in the New Testament we all know that Jesus goes into the synagogue regularly as Luke tells us, right? And then I say, in the Old Testament there are no synagogues where Jesus is called a rabbi by his followers. In the Old Testament, there are no rabbis. Jesus spends much of his time discussing legal issues with the pharisees. There are no pharisees in the Old Testament. According to the gospel of Mark, Jesus expels demons. There are really no demons, at least not of the kind we meet in the New Testament in the Old Testament.

Pete: No exorcisms.

Matthias: Right, exactly. Exorcisms, exactly.

Pete: Yeah.

Matthias: So, that raises all kinds of questions. If in the New Testament, the authors assume an entire Jewish world which we cannot find in the Old Testament, where is it coming from? And so typically, what I find in churches is that people read through the New Testament, and they see these Jewish elements, they don’t quite know what it means. What was a synagogue? What did people do? What was a rabbi? What was the responsibility of a rabbi? And then they look around, and they want to find other Jewish texts that help them understand the New Testament, and of course, many Christians will turn to the Old Testament. The assumption being that the Old Testament is the Jewish part of the Bible, western Bible, and the New Testament is the Christian part of the Bible, only to find that there really are no texts that help them understand the Jewish world of Jesus. And so, my point is for us to get a better understanding of Jesus’ world, of this Jewish world of Jesus, we need to read beyond the Bible. We need to turn to other Jewish texts of the time of the New Testament, perhaps slightly before, but not very much, in order to get a fuller understanding of this world that the New Testament authors just take for granted, right? They don’t stop. They never tell us. Oh, by the way, a rabbi is this and that responsibilities.

Pete: [Laughter]

Matthias: They don’t. They just assume that we know these things.

Jared: What would be some examples of those books from the Second Temple that were written, that people could turn to?

14:03

Matthias: So, there are the so-called Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are extra books included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, but not in the Hebrew text. So, when you go to Barnes & Noble and you buy a Bible and you pay a little extra dollars, the cover of your Bible will read the Holy Scripture, Old Testament, New Testament, with the Apocrypha. So, there’s some extra books included. All of the Apocrypha were written in the late Second Temple period. So, these are books like Tobit or Judith or I and II Maccabees or Ben Sira. And then beyond the Apocrypha, there are other books that at the time of Jesus, were rather influential, but we have sort of forgotten about. For example, there’s a book called the Book of Jubilees of the second century, before the Common Era, which is a beautiful retelling or interpretation of the book of Genesis and the first half of the book of Exodus. Or another book that recently has gotten enormous attention from scholars is a book we know as 1 Enoch. It’s an apocalypse, not unlike the book of Revelation in the New Testament, only that this book is attributed to this character, called Enoch, who is briefly mentioned in the book of Genesis in chapter five, and it’s basically a story about the fallen angels, the watchers who came to earth and introduced all kind of knowledge that humans were not supposed to have.

Pete: And those characters came up in the Noah movie that came out several years ago –

Matthias: [Laughter]

Pete: Because that, no seriously, that –

Matthias: I know. Of course, yes.

Pete: They incorporated 1 Enoch into the telling of that story.

Matthias: Yes, yes, yes. Yes. So, sometimes I tell my students if we could time travel and have coffee with Jesus, or speak at the synagogue, say with Hillel, right, a rabbi a generation or so before Jesus, and you would ask Jesus, what did you read last night before you fell asleep? What is the book that you find most gripping? Or the scroll, or whatever. Chances are Jesus would give you a name of a book that we’ve never heard of before.

Pete: Hmm.

Matthias: Which is another way of saying the Bible only gives us a slim excerpt of the books that were in circulation at the time of Jesus. There were many, many other books that were read, and in some communities, at least, were quite influential, that didn’t make it into the Bible. And what that means, they didn’t make it into the Bible is that they were no longer copied and forgotten until they were rediscovered at a much later time.

Pete: Hmm.


Mattias: So what I’m trying to do and what my colleagues who work in this field are trying to do is to reintroduce these forgotten texts of the Second Temple library, of the early Jewish library, into our discourse in order to complement the biblical writings with these extra biblical books.

Pete: Mm hmm. And in doing so, help us understand Jesus and the New Testament, maybe more deeply in a more well-rounded fashion than maybe entertaining some false assumptions that we sometimes have when we engage these texts.

Matthias: Absolutely. Yes, I have no interest in taking away the cannon or relativizing the significance of the cannon or saying that the New Testament is really only derivative of other Jewish texts. Much to the contrary, I think. Once we read the New Testament in the context of the Jewish literature of its time, it becomes even more impressive and more marvelous.

Pete: Okay, well let’s focus on one issue concerning Jesus, and that is the notion of Jesus as Messiah.

Matthias: Mm hmm.

Pete: And I want to pick on that one, because again, I teach college students at a Christian college, and we talk about this a lot. Like, what that term even means, where it comes from, and a lot may have happened to the significance of that term between, let’s say, the First Temple and Second Temple period.

Matthias: Yeah, yeah.

Pete: So, let’s, can we like, take this idea apart a little bit, maybe even starting with some soundings within the Hebrew Bible itself, and then moving forward?

Matthias: Mm hmm. Let’s start with the word itself.

Pete: Yes.

18:25

Matthias: The English word Messiah derives from the Hebrew word mashiach, or in Aramaic, meshicha’, it’s the same word. And it simply means the anointed one, of the Hebrew root, mashach, meaning to anoint. And so, when we turn to the Old Testament, I guess the first question to ask is are there any anointed ones or messiahs in the Old Testament? And the answer is yes, there are plenty, but not the kind of messiah that we associate with Jesus, that is to say, there are people in the Old Testament who are anointed, but there are not end time agents of God who usher in a new world, but they’re rather of a different kind. Specifically, there are kings, there are priests, and there are prophets. Most important group here are the kings, so when King David, for example, becomes king in Samuel, in I Samuel 16, who anoints him into office, he becomes a king through the act of anointing. That’s our root mashach, he becomes the mashi’ahh, if you will, and spirit possessed when Samuel anoints him.

Pete: And Matthias, this is anointed by oil. Is that right?

Matthias: This is anointed by a special kind of oil, exactly, right, yeah.

Pete: Okay, okay.

Matthias: There are other people who are called messiahs as well, but again, it’s important to emphasize that these are not end time figures. These are not people who come to put an end to history as we know it. That idea only gradually evolved out of lots of different strands in the Old Testament, but I’ll come back to David and say other kings of the line of David who were anointed into office were described in increasingly fabulous, almost utopian fashion. So, I’m thinking of texts like Isaiah 11. Isaiah 11, at the very beginning, is this famous prophesy of a new king who is ascending the throne. He is said to be possessed by the spirit of the Lord, he will judge the world with righteousness, and then there are these very famous lines, “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid.” So, there is an almost utopian description of what this king will accomplish that is not, it’s not very difficult for me to understand how early readers of this text, which originally may simply have been a celebration of a new king on the throne, was soon read to be more than that. That early interpreters of this text couldn’t help but think that the person who was being described here is none other than a messianic figure.

Pete: Messianic in a different sense of the word.

Matthias: Exactly. Messianic in the sense of an end time figure.

Pete: Like, apocalyptic kind of figure. So, yeah.

Matthias: Yes, exactly.

Pete: So, originally, like, a past, like you just read Isaiah 11, made perfect sense within the context of the time, right?

Matthias: Yes, exactly.

Pete: But it was open to, maybe, creative interpretations as time went on.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

Pete: Because it’s such exaggerated language, which, you know, the writer there may simply be claiming for a king and exalted status and you use, I mean, is it fair to say there’s like, hyperbolic language, exaggerated language, right? Okay, all right.

Matthias: It just was meant to express the significance of the Davidic line, right, the significance of the inauguration of a king.

[Music begins]

[Producers group endorsement]

[Music ends]

Pete: Yes. Can we work in, maybe another passage here that I know that comes up a lot is Psalm 2?

Matthias: Yes. That’s a great one.

Pete: And how that adds to this sort of idea of maybe the exaggerated language of messiahship.

23:28

Matthias: Yes, yes. I think that’s a great text. So, Psalm 2 is really a good text to look at in order to understand these exaggerated hopes that were associated with the king in Jerusalem. So right at the beginning, the first three verses of Psalm 2, we learn that there were nations who conspire and attack against Jerusalem. They are forming together this coalition to attack Jerusalem. The king in Israel who speaks a little later in the Psalm is confident that they cannot do anything. And in his response, he remembers the time when he was consecrated. He remembers the time when he ascended the throne, and he speaks there of what he calls the decree of the Lord, and what it is that he was promised when he became king is that God adopted him, that God said to him, “you are my son, today I have begotten you.” So, there we have father and son language. The king in Israel is not exactly divine. Right, an Israelite author would not do what we find in ancient Egypt for example, Mesopotamia, namely declare the king divine. That’s not what’s going on here, but nonetheless, the king enjoys a certain proximity to God that normal people simply don’t have. What that means is that God adopted him, says you are my son, and has strengthened him. This king will be able to defeat all nations of the world who would ever attack Jerusalem. And so, the Psalm is significant because it tells us that the king was the son of God, in a certain way, and that he has this ability to defeat the nations. This is exactly a motif that will be picked up in later apocalyptic texts where the Messiah is said to come to Jerusalem, the holy mountain, or the holy hill as is it called in Psalm 2, to defend Israel and to defeat Israel’s enemies.

Pete: Okay. So, we have in the Hebrew scriptures themselves, and in other places too, I’m thinking like II Samuel 7 –

Matthias: Right, right.

Pete: Where the reign of David, his descendants will never cease being on the throne. It seems like a perpetual covenant that doesn’t come to an end. And of course, it does, but that’s another story with the exile, and that prompts some of the thinking that Jews and Christians have later on.

Matthias: Yes.

Pete: But the point is that there is a, in the exaggerated language of kingship in the Hebrew scriptures, we have the impetus for, let’s say, later development. Let’s get to that.

Matthias: Yes.

Pete: Let’s talk about how these things and maybe why they were taken the way they were during, at some point, during the Second Temple, maybe the late Second Temple period. Like, what’s happening? Walk us through that.

Matthias: Yeah, so I think what’s happening is that early first, early Jewish, and then later on early Christian interpreters read these texts and found it difficult to just read them as descriptions of ordinary human beings. But they said this promise is so magnificent, this new reality that’s being described for example, in Isaiah 11, or for example in Psalm 2, is so marvelous that it is inconceivable for us to think that this would be just another period in the history of ancient Israel. There must be a promise of something larger. There must be a promise here of something we’ve never seen before: Israel finally living in peace, being victorious over all of her enemies, and ushering in this new era of total peace.

Pete: Yeah. So, does Daniel fit into this at all? Because this is a late Second Temple text.

Matthias: Right! Yes. Daniel, right. So, Daniel 7 is another really important text to understand the origins of the belief in a Messiah. It is a text that was written in the second century before the Common Era, at a time when the temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by a Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. And what Daniel 7 is all about, it’s an oracle, it’s a prophetic text that predicts the defeat of Antiochus who is here portrayed in the form of a little horn that speaks arrogantly. So, he is brought before a court in heaven, he is condemned and killed on the spot. And then, in Daniel 7:13-14, we read that the kingdom of Antiochus is now being replaced by someone who is called someone like a human being or a son of man.

28:50

Pete: Yeah, that’s the more common way that Christians understand it, “someone like a son of man.”

Matthias: Exactly. One like a son of man who comes on the clouds of heaven, he appears before God and is given dominion and rulership that was taken away from Antiochus and is now given to the son of man.

Pete: Just before you, I want to make sure we’re clear on something, that the translation you’re reading said “one like a human being,” and many Christians, I know, are used to “son of man.” The issue is that they mean the same thing.

Matthias:  They mean exactly the same thing.

Pete: Son of man is not a divine title; son of man means human.

Matthias: Well –

Pete: Right? Or does it mean more than that in Daniel?

Matthias: Yes, we don’t know, right?

Jared: Exactly.

Pete: [Laughter]

Matthias: We need to be honest here. We don’t know.

Pete: Yes.

Matthias: What we have is the text and the text says, the text was originally written in Aramaic, right, and it says so, in no uncertain terms that there is a person identified as the son of man coming on the clouds and this person is then given dominion and an everlasting kingdom. So, now the big question is who is this figure?

Pete: Yes.

Matthias: And the answer varies depending on who it is who asks, right? So, if you ask a scholar who works, a biblical scholar who works in the book of Daniel, the biblical scholar will probably tell you that this is an angelic figure, it’s an angel like Michael or Gabriel, both of whom are mentioned in the book of Daniel. So, this is simply a transferal of power from an earthly ruler to an angelic ruler. If you read the chapter all the way to the end, this is a vision that Daniel has, right? In the latter half of the chapter, there is in fact an angel who interprets this for Daniel. And the angel says this is not an individual at all, but it is in fact the people of Israel. It is to say the son of man is identified by this interpreting angel as the people of Israel, meaning, the story is really all about a turning of the table at the end of times. Right now, it is the Greeks that rule over the Israelites, but at the end of time, Israel will be victorious. If you ask an early Jewish or early Christian reader of the text, they will agree with neither of these interpretations. They will say, no, no, no, no, no. It’s not an angel. No, no, no, no, no. It’s not the people of Israel, but it is really the Messiah. That son of man is in fact a messianic title, it’s a title for the Messiah and the everlasting kingdom that is introduced here in verse fourteen is none other than the messianic kingdom, the kingdom of the Messiah.

Pete: Okay, yeah. So, unfortunately, it’s not clear.

Matthias: It’s not clear?

Pete: [Laughter]

Matthias: I don’t know whether, that’s unfortunate.

Pete: No, I agree with you. I’m being sarcastic.

Matthias: [Laughter]

Pete: You know, sometimes the clarity is imposed when it’s not really there.

Jared: Well, the only thing I wanted to clarify is because maybe we can now tie a lot of this Messiah talk into the New Testament, and maybe how it was influenced by things like Daniel 7, because Jesus self-designates as the son of man, and is that, again, a generic term, or is that a specific reference to this Daniel 7 son of man?

Matthias: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I think the answer is that by the time we get to the New Testament, right, the late first century, right, this title or the designation son of man has become a messianic title. So, by this time, there is no doubt that when you talk about the son of man, you really are not talking about an ordinary human being. You really are talking about the Messiah. And so, the writers of our gospels, the evangelists, they deliberately use this title, as well as other titles, because they know that their audiences will exactly know that they’re really talking about the Messiah.

Pete: But clarify, just clarify, if we can clarify, it’s becoming messianic title, but what does messianic mean? Does it mean, for example, I mean, speaking as someone who has been around Christians and is one, I know what people think. They said, well, Messiah really means a god/man hybrid of some sort, right? The incarnation.

Matthias: Right, yes.

Pete: So, Messiah means, what it didn’t mean in Psalm 2, which is a divine human figure of some sort. Is that a common notion, is that what was meant, or is this more an end time ruler king, let’s say, who is especially endowed with the spirit of God and the presence of God to rule the people? Or is it something else? I mean, that’s part of the, I think, the stumbling that people have over the term, because it’s just so hard to define.

33:50

Matthias: Yes, yeah. And I think what makes it so hard to define is the fact that at this time, you have a great variety of different expectations of who the Messiah would be and what exactly would happen when the Messiah shows up. So, some groups emphasize the royal aspect, right, he would come victorious and rule over Israel. Others emphasize more the priestly aspect, he would be a high priest, so he sees us for example, in the epistle to the Hebrews. Others emphasize more the prophetic aspect. So, there was not just one set of messianic expectations, there was not one clearly formed idea of who the Messiah would be and what would happen, but there were a great variety of different ways of thinking of the Messiah. And I think these different titles that we talk about reflect that. Let me briefly throw out another marvelous text in the gospel of Luke, in the first chapter, the famous enunciation, right, where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and greets her and announces to her that she will give birth to the Messiah. And in this very short passage there in Luke 1, the angel does in fact use several messianic titles. So, he says to her, he will be great and he will be called son of the most high. There you have another messianic title and he calls him son of God. And so, there already there is an understanding that Mary and the readers of the gospel of Luke will understand that these are titles that are meant to say, look, this Messiah for whom you are waiting and who you are giving many different names, that is really Jesus.

Pete: Yeah. And, I’m reading here too in Luke 1, I don’t have Luke 1 memorized, but “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom, there will be no end.”

Matthias: Yeah.

Pete: So, is it safe, at least at this point, to think, well, their notions of Messiah, there was a royal dimension to it, at least here.

Matthias: Yes, absolutely.

Pete: You mentioned Hebrews, which is a great example of a priestly kind of notion of the Messiah.

Matthias: Very much so, yeah. So, in Luke, there is a strong emphasis on the royal part. So, what’s happening in the New Testament is that different New Testament authors were trying to make sense of the Jesus event, right? What just happened, why is this significant, how does it apply to us, to our community? And what they’re doing is they’re describing, they’re remembering Jesus in light of their own needs, but also trying to answer the different messianic expectations that were around at the time. So, they’re using, and Luke is the prime example, Matthew would be another example, they’re using familiar ways to describe Jesus, ways that were really shaped by different messianic expectations in Judaism at the time. Because if there were just to make up their own language, if they were to make up their own motifs, their own ways of talking about Jesus, they could never bring across the message that this really is the Messiah for whom Israel has waited.

Pete: So, they’re using familiar language, but are they infusing it with, let’s say, additional meaning, or a different meaning, or… because I mean, maybe I’m not in my own mind clear about this, but one thing that sort of has struck me is how the biblical writers, as you say, they’re working through.

Matthias: Yes, exactly.

Pete: They’re working out how to talk about this Jesus.

Matthias: Exactly.

Pete: And I’m thinking in light of the Messiah who was, who lost to the Romans, who was crucified, and whom they believe was raised from the dead. And it seems like they were trying to, the language at their disposal was the language of the tradition.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

Pete: But –

Jared: But it wasn’t a great fit.

Pete: Yeah, maybe it wasn’t’ a great fit. Yeah, I’m trying to –

Jared: It was what they had, but it didn’t all fit.

Pete: I guess what I’m trying to get at, and tell me if you think I’m wrong, but, and I’m perfectly happy to hear that. That the language comes from the tradition and the tradition itself is diverse –

Matthias: Mm hmm, yes. Very diverse.

Pete: Developed over time, right?

Matthias: That’s exactly right, yes.

Pete: And the New Testament writers are picking up on certain threads of those traditions.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

38:47

Pete: And maybe adopting them, and then applying it in their own way to their faith in a crucified and risen Messiah.

Matthias: Yeah. I think it actually was a pretty good fit. I think it worked really, really well, that the tradition was so diverse and so rich that it really provided them with language, with texts in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, to describe very well who Jesus was. Can I throw out another text for us to think about?

Pete: Absolutely, yes.

Matthias: So, this is in, it’s still in the gospel of Luke, in the fourth chapter, there’s this great story where Jesus is in Nazareth, and he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and Luke throws in that little phrase “as was his custom.” Right there in the synagogue, he is handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and so, he reads a few lines of that scroll and then hands the scroll back to the attendant, and then Luke throw in this marvelous phase there, “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him,” right?

Pete: Mm hmm.

Matthias: They were all, like, mesmerized by this passage. And then he began to say to them, “today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” I always joke that that’s the most popular sermon, because it’s the shortest sermon that any Christian or Jew has ever preached, right?

Pete: [Laughter]

Matthias: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” “All spoke well of him” is the next phrase. Of course! So, what’s really going on? If we read this text out of context, if we think that this is something that the story only as attested in the gospel of Luke, if we read these as a Lukan creation, then it seems rather arbitrary. Luke could have picked any passage in the Old Testament and Jesus would just have said, “today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” and everybody says yes, okay. But now we are in the very fortunate position that there is a Dead Sea Scroll known as the Messianic Apocalypse, which predates Luke by at least 100 years that is a description of what, according to this author who we don’t know, this is text we only know from the Dead Sea Scrolls, of what would happen when the Messiah comes. It’s a short description. Okay, the Messiah will come, everybody will obey him, and this is what happens. And that author is going back to the same text in the prophet Isaiah, namely from Isaiah 61. Now, all of a sudden, we know for a fact from the Dead Sea Scrolls that Isaiah 61 prior to the time of Jesus, and certainly at the time of Jesus, was read as a prediction of the Messiah. And so now all of a sudden, the story in Luke takes on a very different meaning. So, when Luke has Jesus read Isaiah 61, he is very deliberately reading the text that comes with Messianic expectations. Right, the people at the time just knew what this text was all about. And when Luke tells us the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him, what he’s really saying is they knew what this text was all about and they want to know Jesus, what do you have to say? And this is why, for Jesus, it is enough to say “today, the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” by which Luke has Jesus say, I am this person. I am the Messiah.

Pete: Yeah.

Matthias: My point here is, that if we were to read Luke only, it would be just any passage of the Old Testament. But once we read this story in the context of Second Temple literature, more specifically in the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we understand that there is a deeper meaning here, that Luke knows exactly what he’s doing, right? He’s picking a passage from the Old Testament that has a well-established history of interpretation. The audience of the time would’ve certainly appreciated and known why Jesus is reading this particular text.

Pete: And to me, that example crystallizes very nicely the entire issue. It’s not, it is inaccurate to say Luke’s portrayal of Jesus, or Jesus, whoever is doing this, is citing the Old Testament. Look how wonderful it is that he’s citing the Old Testament. He’s citing the Hebrew scriptures already within a known and shared understanding of what that passage meant for them.

Matthias: Exactly.

Pete: In other words, you can’t, here’s the thing, you can’t understand Luke 4 apart from understanding something of that development.

Matthias: Yes, yes.

43:45

Pete: So that you understand the gravitas of what is happening there in that moment in the synagogue. And that, to me, that illustrates the beautiful importance of, as you say in your book, minding the gap, right? The gap in between the testaments and all that literature and traditions that developed.

Matthias: And I think it makes Luke and his gospel so much richer, even, because we now understand that it’s not just a nice story, but it is a story that constantly alludes to certain expectations and he is bending over backwards to say in this Jesus, these expectations are fulfilled.

Pete: Yes.

Jared: Well, unfortunately we’re coming to the end of our time, but I think that’s a great place to wrap up the conversation. I do think that really put a pin on what we’ve been talking about in terms of these expectations and the importance of the Second Temple in understanding who Jesus was and what Jesus was about and what the New Testament is about. So, as we wrap up, is there anything, Matthias, that you would want to promote other than the book that Pete just mentioned, Mind the Gap, other projects that you’ve worked on that might help other listeners and readers catch up on some of the Second Temple stuff?

Matthias: Yes. I think I would just keep it with Mind the Gap at this point, where I’m trying to really underscore the significance of Jesus’ Judaism. I would like to add, perhaps, one comment. When I talk to my readers who’ve read Mind the Gap, often they tell me that they find it liberating to learn about the Judaism of Jesus and to move beyond this just being a phrase which, and it’s just a phrase, it’s sort of meaningless, but once we fill it with content, then all of a sudden, there emerges this entire world. I think they find it liberating because it helps them live a true life as Christians without any anti-Judaism, without this incessant appetite to pitch Jesus against the pharisees and the Jews at the time, but rather to be okay with reading the New Testament in its Jewish context, to read beyond the Bible, to appreciate that other early Jewish texts at the time can also be a vehicle of truth and theology and enriching. I think that’s a very important message for Christians in the 21st century.

Jared: Wonderful, well thank you so much for coming on with us Matthias, we really appreciated the conversation. I learned a lot.

Matthias: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Pete: Absolutely. Wonderful time Matthias, thanks so much.

Matthias: Thank you, Pete.

Jared: Bye bye.

Matthias: Bye.

[Music begins]

Pete: Hey, thanks for listening everyone, to this episode. We had so much fun talking with Matthias, and if you want to find out more about him, you can go to his website, http://www.matthiashenze.org/, and by all means, check out his book. This came out in 2017. I use it in my classes, it’s so readable and so full of information and just walks you through things in a beautiful way just like he did here in the episode, but the name of the book is Mind the Gap: How the Jewish Writings between the Old and New Testament Help Us Understand Jesus, and this is put out by the good people at Fortress Press.

Jared: And as always, we want to make sure and thank our team. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do. So, thanks to Shay, our creative director; Reed, our community champion: Dave, our audio engineer; and Megan, producer of this podcast.

Pete: Actually Jared, we could do it, it would just take us ten years to put out one episode.

Jared: Thank you, thank you.

Pete: Just to be clear.

Jared: Very factual, I appreciate that.

Pete: [Laughter]

Jared: All right, thanks everyone, we’ll see you next time.

Pete: See ya.

[End music]

[Outtakes]

[Beep]

Jared: Welcome everyone, to this episode of The Bible for Normal People!

Pete: Yeah? I’m sorry, you just woke me up. I was…

[Laughter]

Jared: I gotta start over.

Pete: I’m sorry, I’m like, what’s happening?

Jared: I’ve got to start over. I got stuck, all right. All right.

Pete: That’s obvious. Can you handle this today, you all right? You want to talk about it?

Jared: I do like, fog out the last few days  –

Pete: [Sighs]

Jared: In the middle of sentences.

[Beep]

Jared: Oh, [beep], I was supposed to do all that. All right, let me try it one more time.

Pete: Oh geez, Jared.

Jared: It’s all right, let me do it one more time.

Pete: Okay fine, you want all the glory for yourself.

Jared: I also get really tired of saying really. I say really a lot.

Pete: That’s okay. That’s your thing.

Jared: Yeah.

[End of recorded material]

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Pete Ruins Exodus Part 4

Pete Ruins Exodus: Part 4

September 2, 2019

In this episode, Pete continues his deep dive into the book of Exodus covering chapters 14-19 and the following topics:

  • The Red Sea
  • Mount Sinai
  • Manna and the Sabbath
  • Genesis (who knew the books of the Bible were connected!?)

Mentioned in this episode:

Read the transcript

00:00

Pete:  You’re listening to the Bible for Normal People, the only God-ordained podcast on the internet.  Serious talk about the sacred book.  I’m Pete Enns.

Jared:  And I’m Jared Byas.

MUSIC

00:11

Hey everybody.  Welcome to Part 4 of the Pete Ruins Exodus series.  Before we begin, a couple of very quick announcements because I’m afraid I’m going to forget.  First of all, October 4 and 5, I’m going to be at Evolving Faith which is in Denver, CO this year.  That should be fun.  Also, on September 23, we’re offering a one-time only, one evening, one-hour class on Genesis.  Here’s the good news.  You pay what you want.  Just have to reserve your seat.  You can get information about that on the website, like exactly when and where.  Hope you can make it to that.  It should be fun.  It’s a one-hour only class.  I’m just talking about what I think are highlights of the book of Genesis and why I think is really important and what I think is really cool about the book that doesn’t always get picked up in casual readings of the book itself. 

Commercial’s over.  Let’s get into Part 4 of Pete Ruins Exodus.

This is going to take us from the departure from Egypt over the Red Sea through Chapter 19, and that is specifically beginning in Chapter 13, verse 17.  The middle of Chapter 13 through to the end of Chapter 19.  That’s the departure from Egypt and the journey to Sinai.

Just to review where we’ve been up to this point in this series as a whole.  We started with Moses and he gets this call from God to be the agent through which the Israelites will be delivered.  He has early struggles.  He really doesn’t want to do it.  But he finally gives in and goes ahead and he confronts Pharaoh.  Pharaoh doesn’t care what Moses says or what their no-name God says.  He never heard of Him. 

Of course, that results in the plagues which wind up convincing Pharaoh that, “Yeah, I’m no match for Israel’s god.”  Especially the plague of death, which is the tit-for-tat, payback for what Pharaoh did drowning the male infants in the Nile way back in Chapter 1.  Now they’re dead as well.  The firstborn of Egypt are dead.  That’s how the story goes. 

So now they depart.  All that’s over.  Now, they’re leaving Egypt never to go back again.  Remember, Mount Sinai, also called Horeb—we talked about that in several places in Exodus—Sinai is the goal of the rescue.  Aaron and Moses say, “Let my people go so that they might worship Me in the wilderness.”  The wilderness is where Sinai is. 

They have no clue at this point about where they are going afterward, namely into the land of Israel to take over for the Canaanites and to eradicate them and exterminate them and take their land.  They don’t know where that’s going.  All they know is that they’re going to Mount Sinai.  Even though the land and entrance to the land, and I’m going to say, just frankly, the monarchy, is really the true end goal of Israel in the Hebrew scriptures. 

I’ve written about this elsewhere, but the Pentateuch as a whole is really an entrance ramp onto that central, important period of time when the Israelites are in the land.  That’s where I think all this is going. 

We’ve got six plus chapters.  They can be divided into two parts.  The one is the actual departure from Egypt itself.  That starts in 13:17. It goes to the end of Chapter 15, 15:21.  Then the journey to Sinai, which picks up at 15:22 and goes to the end of Chapter 19.

These six chapters have some pretty well-known stories in them.

First, let’s look at some highlights from part one, the departure from Egypt across the Red Sea.  One thing to note is that we have two versions of the same event.  We have a prose version, which is 13:17 through Chapter 14.   Then the poetic version, which is in 15:1-21.

This is similar, if you’re familiar with the book of Judges, in Chapters 4 and 5, we also have a prose version and a poetic version of the exploits of the judge Deborah.  The poetry, the poetic version, is, according to biblical scholars who study Hebrew, it is certainly older.  At least, the core of it is older, if not the whole thing.  There are reasons for saying that.  That becomes important in a minute when we get into Chapter 15 because of the kinds of things that it says.

This is just a reminder to us that we have, here again, as we have so often in the Bible, evidence of different traditions that are probably written or originated orally in different times and places, and here we have editors at a later time putting them together, just back-to-back.

It’s like Genesis 1 and 2.  You have two creation stories and they are back-to-back, edited together and left there, even they don’t say exactly the same thing.

Let’s look at that prose, the narrative version first.  That’s the first one that pops up in 13 and 14.  They depart from Egypt and Yahweh makes them look lost in order to pick a fight with Pharaoh.  The people freak out (Israelites) and God drives back the Red Sea to open an escape route.  The Israelites pass through safely, but the Egyptians drown and they wash up on the shore.  That’s how the story goes.  Very famous story.

One thing to note is that Pharaoh was all ready to let them go.  He had been convinced after the last plague.  He said finally, “Just go.  I don’t want to see you again.  Just get out of here.”  He was ready to let them go, and he did.  But God wants Pharaoh to follow the Israelites.  God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.  You see it in Chapter 14, verse 8 and 17, and especially 17 is explicit that the purpose of the hardening is so that the Egyptians will follow the Israelites.  It’s hard to pass over the fact that God wants them dead.

As harsh as that is, and I think it is harsh, we can offer a contextual, theological explanation.  By contextual, I mean the groove of the story itself up to this point.  We can read this drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea as tit-for-tat, payback for another Pharaoh drowning the Israelite male infants in the Nile way back in Chapter 1.  Also, “You’ve been treating my people harshly,” says Yahweh, “so I’m going to treat your people harshly.”  Although, I still wonder if this is necessary to drown them.  How about just letting the sea close up so they can’t cross.  But they drowned.  That’s how the story goes.


This is an example of violence in the Bible and it raises some eyebrows, not just for today, but this is a story that has made people think for quite a while.  It’s caused a lot of consternation for one of my own children.  When she was very young, she came home from Sunday School and this was the story and she came home just very, very upset, asking, “What kind of a god is this?  Aren’t these God’s children too?  Why does God do stuff like this?” 

This is not the Bible’s best moment, in my opinion.  But this is how the might and power of God is expressed in an ancient tribal context.  Your god is great because your enemies are destroyed before you.

Some of you know how I handle this sort of divine violence, not as a depiction of what really happened, or not as a depiction of what God is really like, but as a depiction of ancient people of faith, true ancient people of faith, albeit in a tribalistic, Iron Age society—the Iron Age started in 1200 BCE and goes well into the first millennium BCE.  That’s the basic time of Israel’s existence as a people is during the Iron Age.  This is how people in the Iron Age expressed their faith, expressed their understanding of the gods or of God.  This is what gods did.  They go to battle.

Remember, way back in the first episode, along with most biblical scholars, I said that I don’t think Exodus is a historical account, even if it preserves an ancient, historical memory, as biblical scholars like to call it.  I don’t think we would see this if someone had been videotaping, so to speak.  This reflects an ancient understanding of ancient Israelites about what their god is like.  That’s my opinion.  That’s how I “get out of it.”  But I’m not trying to get out of anything.  I’m trying to understand it.

If you’re interested, you can see some blog posts that I’ve written on violence.  You can just type, “violence” in the search bar or in an earlier chapter in The Bible Tells Me So, I deal with biblical violence as I understand it.  It’s the number one question I get from young people today.  That and human sexuality.  Those are the things that they really want to talk about.

09:30

Another thing about this prose narrative section.  The Israelites see the Egyptians coming and they grumble and they complain.  Basically, “we could have died just as easily in Egypt, Moses.  Why bring us all the way out here to just trap us at the sea?” 

Then Moses says something interesting that I think is often misunderstood, which is why I want to bring it up.  He basically says, “Don’t be afraid.  After today, you’ll never see these Egyptians again.”  I’m quoting verse 14 of Chapter 14.  “The Lord will fight for you.  You only have to keep still.”  That’s not a soothing word.  It’s typically interpreted, “There, there.  Just calm your hearts.  God will take care of everything.  Just be still and know that I am God,” as we read in the Psalms.  “The Lord will fight for you, but just chill.”

I don’t think that’s at all what Moses is saying in this story.  This is a rebuke.  “The Lord will fight for you.  You need to keep your mouth shut.  You need to stop complaining.”  This is the first of many rebukes of Moses that we’re going to see toward the Israelites in Moses’ lifetime.  This is the real beginning of this grumbling theme that we’re going to see a lot of. 

He’s not making them feel calmed about this.  He’s just saying, “Just shut up.  You’ve seen plagues, the Red Sea open, for heaven’s sake, and you’re still complaining.  Come on.” 

Another thing.  This concerns the actual parting of the Red Sea.  This is in verse 21.  The Red Sea is really the Sea of Reeds.  That’s what it says in Hebrew.  Where the Sea of Reeds is a topic of a lot of discussion among people who look for these sorts of things.  Is it a lake?  Is it a marsh or something like that?  But the reason why we say Red Sea in our English translations is that this has to do with influence of Greek translators of the Bible before the time of Jesus.

There was a little bit of confusion about what body of water was actually represented by this term “red sea.”  If you look at a map today of the modern Middle East and where it says “Red Sea,” it’s this massive body of water, that’s not what anybody meant.  It’s hard to know exactly what they meant, when they said “Red Sea” back in this Greek period.

In the biblical text, the Hebrew text, it says, “Sea of Reeds,” but again, we don’t know where that is either.  All that to the side.  The parting of the Red Sea echoes the creation story.  This is the theological point I want to make.  Moses stretched out his hand with the staff, and an East wind divided the waters of the Red Sea and they parted.

Now wind—the Hebrew word is “ruach,” which means “spirit” or “wind” and that’s the same “ruach” of Genesis 1 that is hovering over the “deep.”  What’s the “deep?”  The deep is the primordial sea at the dawn of creation that God has to tame, that God has to put in its place to allow for life to appear.  The wind drives back water giving life.  That’s the same in both the Genesis creation story of Genesis Chapter 1 and this parting of the sea here in Exodus. 

The wind, “it turned the sea to dry land”—I’m quoting here.  “And the waters were divided.”  It’s better to think of the waters as not maybe divided, although that’s fine, but as pushed back, pushed out of the way, revealing the dry land beneath, which is also the language in Genesis Chapter 1.  The third day of creation, it’s the same thing.  The waters were divided, revealing the dry land beneath.

In both stories, waters are separated, pushed aside, revealing what was there all the time: dry land.  In other words—this is getting into Genesis 1 a little bit more than you’re paying for here—in Genesis 1, this is why it’s not creation out of nothing.  What you have is a “deep,” a massive chaotic water that God divides and splits, revealing the dry land, i.e., the earth beneath it.  Those things were already there in Genesis Chapter 1.

Actually, Genesis Chapter 1 makes no sense unless we understand the ideology of the ancient Israelites here and how they thought about what a creator god does.  It’s not out of nothing.  That comes later.  It’s in the Bible.  It’s just not here.

Think of taking a leaf blower to a big puddle on a sidewalk after a heavy rain.  The water is pushed aside by the wind, by the force of the leaf blower, and the sidewalk is revealed, that’s always been there underneath.  That’s what’s happening in Genesis 1 and in Exodus 14 in the parting of the sea. 

Now the point—we touched about this is a couple of earlier episodes—the point is that God’s act of redemption, here crossing the Red Sea, is a replay of God’s act of creation, which is to say, redemption (saving, delivering, redeeming) is an act of re-creation.  Hang with me.

As with the plagues, parting the sea is getting creation involved in saving God’s people and destroying the enemies of God’s people.  In the flood, you have the waters of the upper atmosphere above the vault, above that dome, those waters are let go and they come crashing down to defeat the bad guys, which is basically everybody but Noah and his family.

That’s what’s happening too, here in the Exodus story in Chapter 14.  These waters are again separated and just like the flood story, they come crashing back down again.  But Israel, or Noah, are not affected negatively.  They’re actually delivered through that.  To save is to create again.  We here echoes of that in the New Testament.  I know I’ve mentioned this, but just very briefly I want to mention it again, because I think it’s so important theologically, in the New Testament we see echoes of this.  For example, where Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” 

To be saved means to start anew and to use the language of John’s gospel, that you’re “born again.”  You’re starting over.  You have a new start.  Which is certainly what is happening here at the Red Sea.  Israel is being transformed, re-created from a group of slaves and now beginning to be formed into what it’s going to become, namely a nation.

Having said all that, it’s still a really violent story.  Let’s not cover over that.  But there are theological things happening there as well.  Speaking of violence, let’s turn to Chapter 15 here, the poetic version of the Red Sea crossing.

For one thing—I alluded to this before—this may be one of the oldest pieces of Israelite literature we have, because of the Hebrew style.  Scholars can tell where we are in stages of the evolution of biblical Hebrew.

17:05

Biblical scholars—this is routine.  This is very early.  This is not written during the monarchy, but probably going back to before the time of David.  It could be that old, which is very old.  Here’s the thing:  this very, very old piece of ancient Hebrew literature depicts God as a fierce warrior.  It’s not uncommon to hear scholars muse that Israel’s view of God began as one of being a warrior, understandably due to the cultural influences and then the view of God grew to include other metaphors like gardener, planter, potter, law-giver, things like that.

Warrior might become less prominent, less harsh, perhaps.  God’s depiction might become less harsh.  I don’t want to paint that in too simplistic a way, like there’s an evolution where God starts off as a warrior and ends as a tree-hugger.  But we do have the earliest reflections of Israelite religion in these poetic sections.  There, God is a fierce, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners warrior.

You come later to the book of Jonah, where God says, “I actually have compassion on Israel’s enemies.  I don’t want to kill them.”

Something is going on in this trajectory within the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament itself. 

So this song praises Yahweh for destroying his enemies by drowning them in the sea.  For that reason, Yahweh is praised as a god who has no equal, as we read in verse 11.  “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?” 

Catch that there.  “Among the gods.”  We have here one of many examples, and you’ve heard this before, in the Old Testament of Israel’s belief that their god, Yahweh, was not the only god, but was the best god, the one truly worthy of worship. 

In fact, as I said before, that might be the point of the whole Pentateuch, to make the case that Yahweh alone is worthy of Israel’s worship.  Israel does not practice—I have a whole blog post series probably and a podcast from way back in Season 1 talking about this—but Israel did not practice monotheism, at least through most of its history that we see in the Old Testament, but monolatry. 

The difference is this:  monotheism means there’s only one god.  Monolatry means you only worship one, but you acknowledge the existence of others. 

We saw this is the plague story.  God is passing judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  Exodus 12:12. What does that mean?  Passing judgment on all the gods of Egypt?  It means—there’s an assumption there that there are other gods that Yahweh is passing judgment on.  If we miss this dynamic that Yahweh is better or the best by far of all the other gods or if we try to step around it because the theology bothers us a bit, we’re gonna miss the theology of the book. 

Making the Israelites into monotheists here is premature.  That happens later on in Israel’s history.  I would say certainly by the time you get to Jesus and well before that, we can call the Israelites monotheists.  Only one god exists.

The heavens might be active places, but they’re not gods.  But here, that’s not the case.  Making these Israelites here of Exodus into monotheists just creates confusion in the story.   You can’t make sense of things like Exodus 12:12, where Yahweh says he’s passing judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I’ve beaten that dead horse enough.

20:57

Next point.  This song that’s sung at the sea mentions something.  It’s subtle.  It mentions something that doesn’t happen until much later in the biblical story.  Namely, I’m talking about verses 17 and 18.

Here’s how it begins: “You (Yahweh) brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your possession, the place, O Lord, that you made your abode.”  What is this mountain of your possession?  What is this about?  Maybe, it’s talking about Mount Sinai, because that’s where they’re going.  They’re not there yet, but nearly so.  Give it a couple chapters.  They’ll be there.  Still in the past tense, though. 

This raises another question.  Could it be referring to another mountain and another abode all together?  Hang in there.  Keep reading.  “The sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.”  The sanctuary.  The holy place.  What is that sanctuary?  Could it be Sinai?  Perhaps.  It could be Mount Sinai.  Or perhaps another sanctuary entirely.

Keep reading.  Verse 18 says this: “The Lord will reign forever and ever.”  From where?  From the mountain?  From the abode?  From Mount Sinai?  Probably not, since Yahweh will leave forever Sinai when he goes with the Israelites into the Promised Land.  He doesn’t go back.  Yahweh doesn’t show up on Mount Sinai again and say, “I live here really.”  He’s going to live with Israel.  Where is he going to live with Israel?  In the temple. 

In Old Testament theology, the language we see here fits very nicely with the ideology of the temple in Jerusalem as the sanctuary, the abode, the mountain.  Mount Zion.  The temple is on a mountain.  Theology, Mount Zion takes the place of Mount Sinai in Israelite theology.  It’s from there that Yahweh will rule.  Through the kings, but forever and ever. 

We see this language in various places in the Old Testament, including the Psalms and II Samuel 7.  So what?  Well, for one thing, this illusion to the temple suggests that this ancient poem, as in pre-David, may have been added to as time went on to reflect Israel’s growing theology.  It’s developing theology.  In other words, this ancient poem, Chapter 15, may have gotten its final shape after the Israelites were settled in the land with their own king and temple. 

Note that (and I hope that your English translations get this because some don’t) the entire poem, all the stuff that talks about the Exodus and all the stuff that seems to be talking about the conquest of the land and entering it and building a temple where Yahweh’s going to be worshipped, all that stuff is in the past tense.

For this writer, both the Exodus and the establishment of the monarchy and the religious life of the people, those things are past events.  I think that’s interesting because it suggests something, once again, of the dating or at least the general time frame of when this stuff was written or when this poem, when this song got its final form.  Probably well into the monarchy, if not later.

Again, it’s interesting.  Some translations put the second half of this poem that talks about the land and the temple as future to avoid this kind of conclusion, but I think that they’re wrong.  I think the Hebrew really lends itself very naturally to just keep reading everything in the past tense.  There is no indication that you should switch to future in Hebrew when you get to this part.

Another so what.   Why am I dragging this out?  I’m not dragging it out.  I think it’s really interesting.  Another so what.

This is a huge issue because scholars routinely, and I think correctly, see the temple on Mount Zion as a replacement for Mount Sinai.  The temple mount replaces Mount Sinai.  Or perhaps, as is more commonly thought among biblical scholars, maybe it’s the other way around.  Maybe Sinai is the later Israelite temple brought back into ancient mythic time.  How is that for a mouthful?

Which came first?  The depiction of Mount Sinai as a sanctuary, as an abode, as a holy mountain and then the temple is modeled after that?  Or is the temple there first and then the stories of Sinai are written in such a way to reflect that later glory of the temple?  Which came first? 

That’s a lot to wrap our arms around.  That’s actually a few podcast episodes all by itself.  I only bring it up here because it might help to explain the ambiguity of verses 17 and 18.  You’re reading it, and what are we talking about?  Sinai?  Or Zion?  That’s a good question.  Maybe that ambiguity is intentional.  Maybe they are both the same.

If you’re really motivated, I highly recommend a book by one of my professors, John Levinson, called Sinai and Zion.  The book is those two mountains, comparing them and how they’re analogous to each other.  It’s a fascinating book.

I should plug my own books, not somebody else’s.  What’s wrong with me?

26:45

Okay, a lot more to this.  Let’s move on to the second part, the journey to Sinai itself that begins at the end of 15 and goes through 19. 

Here’s the big picture.  After Moses’ song that we just went through, his sister Miriam and the women, they sing what looks like the same song and then they all head out to the dessert where they are immediately thirsty and wonder why no one thought ahead that this might be a problem.  They are in the wilderness, for heaven’s sake. 

They take a couple of drinks in a couple of special places.  Then they receive the manna from heaven, the bread from heaven.  Manna is the Hebrew word, “manna,” which means “what is it?”  Because that’s what the Israelites said.  I might say, “What the heck is this?” but I don’t think there is a Hebrew word for that.  “What is this stuff that lands like dew on the ground?  We’re supposed to eat it?  Come again.  What is this stuff?”

27:42 BREAK

29:10

Next, after that, they get a miraculous supply of water from a rock just in time to ward off an attack from the Amalekites.  Where did they come from?  This is the first battle.  Things are moving rather quickly here in this story.

Next, they keep moving.  They’re going toward Mount Sinai.  Next, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, shows up and he advises Moses to get help “herding the cats,” so to speak, judging the people, adjudicating differences, things like that. 

You might be asking what Jethro’s doing there.  Remember, he is where?  He is from Midian.  On the way to Sinai, we are close to Midian, it seems.  That is—I touched on this in the first episode—Mount Sinai, in the logic of the story, seems to be in Midian, not in the Sinai Peninsula way south at Saint Catherine’s Monastery.  Look on a study Bible map.  It seems to be some place in Midian.  That’s the logic of the story.

Finally, after three months, they reach Sinai and the people are consecrated by going through a cleansing ritual, because they’re going to need this powerful god who defeated the Egyptian pantheon and the army by all these signs and wonders.


That’s the gist of what’s happening in the end of 15 through 19. 

Just a few highlights:

First, water and food are going to be a problem because we are in the wilderness.  We actually see two miraculous supplies of water.  The first is turning the bitter waters in Mara into sweet water.  It happens to be that “Mara” in Hebrew means “bitterness.”  This story is often seen by scholars as a story written to explain some phenomenon, in this case, why this location is called “bitterness,” of all the things to call a town.  Why call it “bitterness?” 

The story is written to explain that.  We know of stories like this too.  Where do things like sickness, death and evil come from?  Pandora opened the box.  Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit.  These are stories that are called etiological stories that seem to be written to explain why things are the way they are.

Why is the Grand Canyon so deep?  Because Paul Bunyan and his ox had a wrestling match.  It’s a story written, told to explain a phenomenon.  That might be what’s happening with this site, “Mara,” calling it “bitterness.”  This story of making the bitter water sweet by throwing a branch in there.

The second miraculous supply of water happens at a place called Rephidim.  This is in chapter 17.  The people grumble again, which makes sense, because they had gotten a drink at Mara and at another place called Elim, which is an oasis.  But now, they left those places and they still need water.  So they complain.  Again, “Moses, what are you trying to do?  Kill us?” 

Moses is told by God to strike the rock to let water flow out of it which he does.  Moses promptly gives the place two names:  Massa and Meribah, which mean “test”—they’re testing God—and “quarrel.”  Again, possibly stories to explain how locations got their names.  Possibly.

Here’s the thing:  water, for the Israelites, presented more of problem for them than food because in between these two water stories, the waters of Mara and the waters of Rephidim, in between these two stories, God gives them bread from heaven, the manna to eat.  That manna is promised by God to come every morning dew, except on the Sabbath, so gather twice as much the day before. 

Side issue:  gathering bread on the Sabbath would be work and you don’t do work on the Sabbath even though there’s no Sabbath command given until Chapter 20.  I just wonder, in the logic of the story, were the people thinking, “What’s a—what do you mean Sabbath?  Where did that come from?”  Or are we seeing, again, the story written from a later point of view where Sabbath-keeping was already a thing.

Questions that are really hard to answer definitively, but I’m intrigued enough to ask them because they let us in a little bit on the nature of this literature.

The manna is a daily gift from God for the entire 40 years they wandered in the wilderness.  It doesn’t cease until they come to the borders of Canaan.  We read that in 16:35. It’s also stated in Joshua Chapter 5.  In other words, it ceases after they’ve entered the land.  They have bread to eat for 40 years.  Great!

34:19

No such permanent supply of water is given in this story.  They’re left to wander, maybe stress out about all that.  Not to get off the track, but again, this is so intriguing again to me.  This is the kind of stuff that reading Exodus jumps out at me as I read it. 

We see a close version of this very same story of getting water from a rock in Numbers Chapter 20.  That’s toward the end of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness.  There, too, water comes from a rock.  Ancient Jewish interpreters—this is before the time of the New Testament—perhaps also wondering why there was no daily provision of water, came up with a rather ingenious solution.  The rock of Exodus 17 that gave water and the rock of Numbers 20 that gave water, though they’re separated by 40 years and located in completely different places, were one in the same rock, which had apparently rolled around the wilderness for 40 years supplying water, like a portable water fountain.

One reason I find that so fascinating is because Paul, our very own Paul, in I Corinthians, seems to be aware of this rather creative explanation and even drops it into Chapter 10, verse 4 of I Corinthians.  He recalls this episode of the Israelites in the wilderness and he talks about how the rock back in Moses’ day was Christ.  Paul is trying to say that Christ’s presence was with them too.  A very Paul thing to say.  A very New Testament thing to say.

Note that Paul doesn’t just say the rock was Christ making a Christological connection.  He says “the rock that followed them,” followed the Israelites was Christ.  Followed.  He got that idea from somewhere.  He got it from his Jewish tradition.

I know we’re just biting off a big chunk off to the side here.  If you’re interested, I talk more about this in the Bible Tells Me So.  Sorry for the deviation, but I just love looking at how Jewish the New Testament writers were when they used their Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament.  It’s actually this story, specifically, that started me down a different path over 30 years ago, about thinking about how the Bible actually works and what it is and how we read it.

One more comment on the manna.  Let’s pause there for one more second.  We’re told that they’re to gather an omer of manna per day, two omers on the day before the Sabbath so you can eat for two days. 

An omer is a unit of measurement.  It’s about one to two liters.  Frankly, that’s no help to me because I’m American and my phone app says that a cubic liter is about a half dry gallon.  My point is that Exodus 16:36 seems like it needs to explain what an omer is.  Because this is what Exodus 16:36 says.  It says, “An omer is a tenth of an ephah.”  An ephah is about 23 liters or somewhere between five to six gallons. 

Could I pick a more boring verse to mention?  I don’t think so.  Not for me anyway.  An omer is a measurement known to us only from this story.  The ephah is the more common measurement in the Old Testament used over 30 times.  We’re seeing here, again, a clue about when this story was written.  It seems the story of omers of manna being gathered preserves something of the past, maybe the deep past from the point of view of the later biblical writer. 

He needed to explain what that was to his readers, who lived at a time when ephah was the measurement used.  In other words, we’re seeing here in this little editorial comment a hint of how these biblical stories have a history.  Maybe they’ve developed and they’ve evolved and things needed to be added as things were handed down.  It’s like us reading in the New Testament—maybe you’ve come across this—we have footnotes that explain a denarius, a unit of coinage.  A denarius is about a day’s wage.  That’s what my study Bible says.

Today, a day’s wage—I actually Googled this—an average laborer’s day’s wage today is $14.57 an hour which is $116.56 cents a day.  It actually helps to know that a little bit.  A denarius is about a day’s wage.  What was a day’s wage?  What would it be for us?  It helps us to put it into context.  Because simply to say denarius—what do I care?  I don’t even know what that means.  Oh, it’s about what a worker makes in a day.  $15 an hour.  $120.  Okay.  I get it.

So much for food and water.

39:45

Another point.  This Israelites right away find themselves in a battle against the Amalekites.  This is in Chapter 17, verses 8 to 16.  For one thing, it’s worth asking whence the Israelites got their weapons.  Exodus does say earlier in the story that they left Egypt with plunder, likes clothes and valuables.  It’s really unlikely that the Egyptians would have decked them out in military gear.  I don’t think I’m crazy for suggesting that.

One explanation for where they got their armor and their swords and their shields from—one explanation that ancient Jewish interpreters came up with is that the Israelites stripped the armor and the weapons off of the Egyptian soldiers whose dead bodies washed up on the shore of the Sea of Reeds.

That actually makes some sense if you think about it.  It’s worth noting that the story itself doesn’t seem at all concerned about with filling in this logical gap.  I don’t think the writer actually cared very much.

I also think that a story about an Amalekite battle here might be for the purpose of giving the later reader something to chew on seeing that the Amalekites were enemies during the times of David and Saul, in their attempts to unify Israel around a monarchy.

I’m willing to think more about that, to entertain that possibility.  I have a feeling that this may be more complicated than what we’ve seen before, reading Israel’s later history back into an earlier time.  The Amalekites have been around for a long time.  I don’t think this is a made-up thing.  But there may be something more to it than what I’m seeing.  Again, we do see this sort of thing elsewhere, where a writer places something of his present back in the past.  In other words, I don’t know, but it is curious that the first thing that happens when they come into the land is that they have a battle with the Amalekites.  It’s not just that they have a battle, however we explain that, the story also serves a purpose of a couple things:  1) introducing Joshua as Moses’ general and he plays a huge role later on in the conquest of Canaan.  I see this as a bridge between the Egypt experience and then the later experience in Canaan.  We have here Joshua teaming up with Moses, so-to-speak, bringing an end to an enemy.  Joshua is going to be that bridge for the people between the Egypt experience and then later, the conquest of Canaan.

Let me elaborate on that a little bit more.  Again, I think it’s important.  We have to look at how they win the battle at all, this whole deal of how they win the battle.  Moses climbs a hill and he stands there with his arms raised.  You know this story.  I’ve heard many sermons on this.  As long as his arms are up, the Israelites are winning.  When they drop down, they begin to lose.  So brother Aaron and some guy named Hur, who will appear later in this story, they see what’s happening.  They rush over to help Moses.  They have him sit down on a rock and they prop up his arms with rocks.  By sunset, the Amalekites were defeated.

Frankly, folks, that’s a little bit weird.  Some commentaries say that this seems somewhat magical almost.  One way of looking at this is that Moses was holding his staff in his raised arms.  It’s not mentioned, so I want to be very cautious about that.  When we’re thinking about that, he’s holding his staff in his raised arms.  That’s why his arms are raised.  He has a staff.

In other words, this is another Egypt-like miracle which makes some sense since the Amalekites are playing an Egypt-like role in trying to squash the Israelites, even when their god was with them and had other plans. 

The power that delivered them from Pharaoh will also now deliver them from the Amalekites, who would also be the god who delivers them from the Canaanites.  Joshua and Moses are in this Amalekite episode.  It’s just Moses in Egypt.  It’s just Joshua in Canaan.  But here, the two are together.  It’s like a continuation of the promise that the warrior god will continue being with them in fighting battles. 

“Moses isn’t here.  That’s okay.  Joshua is.  He was with Moses before.  They’re tight.  So it will be good.”

It’s still weird.  This whole battle depends on Moses not getting tired.  The best explanation that I come up with is what I just said.  I think this is an extended Egypt-like experience where the staff comes into play and as a result, the sign and the wonder is done.  It’s a better explanation.  It’s the one that I go with.  It’s better, in any case, than some more common explanations like Moses’ arms were raised in prayer to God.  There’s nothing in the context that hints at that at all.  Or a popular Christian explanation is that Moses’ arms were raised like Jesus’ arms were raised on the cross.

On one level, I think that’s fine.  It’s well-attested in church history.  It’s fine for Christians to bring these stories and Jesus together like this.  But that doesn’t really help me what the writer here is trying to communicate.  I don’t think he’s saying, “Let’s slip something in here about Jesus.”  It means something to them.  Again, as I said, perhaps this is an extension or continuation of Exodus power at this moment.

45:45

But it’s still one of the weirder episodes in Exodus, along with God almost killing Moses right after he had told him to go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites, back in Chapter 4.  These are just weird things that happen in Exodus.

Another point here in this second big section on the way to Sinai, just a quick comment on Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law.  Moses and the Israelites are close to Sinai in Midian.  Jethro comes out to meet them with Moses’ wife and two sons.  This is in 18:6. They had been staying apparently with Joseph (I THINK YOU MEAN JETHRO) while Moses was busy at work. 

Early in Chapter 4, we hear of just one son, Gershom.  Now, we see he has a second son, Eliezer.  Fine.  Not a big deal.  Just didn’t mention Eliezer.  Who cares?  But there is actually a bigger problem here.

According to Exodus 4:20 in that story where God almost kills Moses, we read there that Moses’ wife, Zipporah, and their one son were with Moses on his way to Egypt.  That’s when the angel of the Lord almost attacks them and kills Moses.  They weren’t with Jethro in Midian.  They were with Moses on the way to Egypt.

It seems here in this boring little detail that we’re seeing evidence of multiple traditions of the Exodus story that were respected enough to be woven together in the making of this book we have before us today.  As is usually the case, the fact that the traditions don’t line up with each other doesn’t seem to bother the editor at all.  I want to suggest it shouldn’t bother us.  It should be a window to helping us understand the nature of this literature. 

Here’s Moses.  He tells Jethro all that had happened in Egypt, which is a nice development in their relationship.  You remember when he left Jethro, Moses couldn’t quite bring himself to tell Jethro the truth of why he was leaving, which is to say, “God told me to leave to deliver the Israelites.” 

Moses just mumbled something about needing to see how his kindred were doing.  “I’ve got to check in on my family” (4:18).  Now Moses puts it out there.  He’s just got this feeling of confidence.  He puts it out there like a son-in-law who earned his stripes and now, his father-in-law can be proud of him.  By the way, I have a son-in-law and was a son-in-law myself.  I get this.  Anybody who’s lived this can understand.

It’s like they’ve reached a new stage in their relationship where shy and unconfident Moses feels like, “Sure.  I stared down Pharaoh.  I stood there and watched the sea split in half.  I think I can handle Jethro.”  “Hey Jethro.  Let me tell you what’s been going on.” 

How does Jethro react?  He’s blown away enough to confess Yahweh as greater than all the gods.  Again, another monolatry thing.

Not so fast Moses.  Right after that, Moses, we read, is burned out from judging disputes between the Israelites who apparently form a line outside his door from morning to night.  Jethro sees what’s going on.  Maybe this is actually too much for Moses.  He tells him, “Well, looks like you could use some help there, Pal?  You should get some able men to help you divide the tasks and leave you to handle only the most important ones.  Not feeling so big now, are you Moses?” 

I’m not sure if that family dynamic is central to this episode.  I know some friends of mine who think this story is a prooftext for how God ordained Presbyterian church government.  You have a head pastor surrounded by his male elders.  Maybe. 

Maybe the biggest point of this story is that this bureaucracy of Israel is the brainchild of a non-Israelite, a priest of Midian, Jethro.  Israel seems to owe a lot to Midian.  After all, that’s where God’s mountain is.  There’s something about Midian that’s important for the origin of the Israelites religion.

Scholars have long wondered whether the origin of Israel’s religion, which historically is a very complicated thing and very mysterious thing, might owe something to Midian in the deep south, with respect to where Israel is, alongside of other stories that the Israelites preserved.  Liked our ancestor Jacob was a wondering Aramean.  This is more in the north.  You can see this in Deuteronomy 26:6. Or if they were from the far east in the land of Babylon.  That’s where Abraham is from.  Or as we read here in this story, some connection historically, some rootage in the land of Egypt.

This story of Israel in the Old Testament seems to suggest that Israelites have various points of ancestry and that were later united under Yahweh’s banner.  Maybe.  I think that’s true.  To me, that explanation makes the most sense. 

In this story, the only point is that Midian is very prominent in this ancient telling of the story of the departure from Egypt.

Moving toward the end here.

They all reach Sinai three months to the day after they left Egypt.  Two things strike me.  First, even those God rules all the earth, as we read, Israel is God’s special possession and their role will be to be a—this is in verse 6 of Chapter 19—their role will be to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  I think this is huge.

This means that Israel’s purpose, already here in the story, is to be priestly, to mediate between God and who?  The nations.  Feel free to think back to the story of Abraham in Chapter 12 where Abraham is called.  Abraham will have an influence on the nations themselves. 

Here you have it.  You’re to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  That’s why you’re here.  That was the plan anyway.  They were rescued from Egypt, not to go free, but to become holy, which means “set apart for special purposes.”  It’s not about moral perfection.  To act as priests mediating God to the nations around them.  A priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  Those aren’t two separate things.  They’re actually two parts of one role.

That’s why it’s so tragic in Israel’s story as we read on in the Old Testament.  Rather than mediating God to the nations, Israel, through its kings, winds up becoming a problem that God needs to solve somehow.  In some cases, He doesn’t solve it at all.  The northern tribes, the northern kingdom go to Assyria and never come back.  The southern tribe of Judah goes into exile in Babylon and comes back and has to rebuild, but never really does.

This plan to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation doesn’t work out very well.   But that was the plan.

53:50

Another point here.  It seems that no one is to touch the mountain itself.  “Keep your distance.”  In fact, they’re to wash their clothes and to abstain from sex to prepare to meet God.  At a distance.

Now Moses, of course, may go up the mountain.  He can go to the top, but only he.  The holiness of the mountain must be protected.  I only mention this here because a little later in the story, in fact, I mention it in the next episode of this podcast series, we will see more clearly how the holy mountain is marked off in segments, three to be specific, which reminds us of the Tabernacle, which is also the model for the temple later on during the time of the monarchy.

Hanging around the outside of the sanctuary at a distance is fine.  Say the temple.  Only priests can enter the next stage, the holy place.  But into the holy of holies, the third stage, only one may enter: the high priest. 

Moses here on Mount Sinai is like a high priest entering God’s most sacred presence.  You may remember that Chapter 6 which is sort of a boring chapter because there is a genealogy in it, but it makes a big deal of letting you know that Moses and Aaron are from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.  Here, we’re beginning to see why.

We also see here what is glimpsed earlier in the song of Moses in Chapter 15, that the temple and Sinai are closely connected.  To speak of one is to speak virtually of the other.  Both are marked off in segments of approachability. 

In Chapter 19, Moses is spending some time hearing from God on the top of Mount Sinai.  He is about to come down and tell the people what he heard and what God wants from them and what God is going to do for them.  But that is the topic of the next episode, where we look at the section of law in the book of Exodus.

55:57  MUSIC

All right folks, thanks again for listening to another episode here of the Exodus series.  I appreciate you listening and pressing download and all that stuff again.  Just a quick reminder, the “pay what you want class” discussing Genesis is September 23.  Also, I’ll be at Evolving Faith October 4 and 5 in Denver, CO.  Tickets are still available.  I hope you can make it. 

All right folks, thanks so much for listening.  See you next time.