THE BIBLE STORY …….Volume I 1982

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 "IN THE BEGINNING"
  • Chapter 2 "THOU SHALT SURELY DIE!"
  • Chapter 3 NOAH BUILDS THE ARK!
  • Chapter 4 "AND THE FLOOD CAME"
  • Chapter 5 THE TOWER OF BABEL
  • Chapter 6 ABRAM JOURNEYS TO CANAAN
  • Chapter 7 ABRAHAM GIVES UP HIS SON
  • Chapter 8 ESAU SELLS JACOB HIS BIRTHRIGHT
  • Chapter 9 JACOB MEETS RACHEL
  • Chapter 10 JOSEPH’S ADVENTURES IN EGYPT
  • Chapter 11 JOSEPH BECOMES RULER OF EGYPT Chapter 12 "I AM JOSEPH"
  • Chapter 13 SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE
  • Chapter 14 MOSES FLEES EGYPT
  • Chapter 15 GOD CHOOSES MOSES
  • Chapter 16 MOSES AND AARON MEET PHARAOH Chapter 17 THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT
  • Chapter 18 THE PLAGUES CONTINUE
  • Chapter 19 THE WORST WEATHER EVER!
  • Chapter 20 TWO MORE PLAGUES ON EGYPT
  • Chapter 21 THE EXODUS BEGINS
  • Chapter 22 AT THE RED SEA
  • Chapter 23 CROSSING THE RED SEA
  • Chapter 24 SAFE AT LAST!
  • Chapter 25 WAR WITH AMALEK
  • Chapter 26 ON TO SINAI
  • Chapter 27 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
  • Chapter 28 THE GOLDEN CALF
  • Chapter 29 MOSES BREAKS THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
  • Chapter 30 MOSES RETURNS

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INTRODUCTION by Herbert W. Armstrong

NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A BIBLE STORY BOOK LIKE THIS. THAT IS NOT A RASH STATEMENT INDULGING IN SUPERLATIVES. IT IS THE TRUTH. I WOULD LIKE TO EXPLAIN THE REASON. For years, in my ministry, I felt an overpowering sense of responsibility, mingled with a feeling of inadequacy, for getting the proper teaching to children. It was a frustrating consciousness, for my time was so completely filled in the ministry to adults. I picked up many of the run-of-the-mill type of Bible stories for children. They failed utterly to solve the problem. I could not endorse or press into use any one of them. They seemed to have only one objective — to compete with exciting fiction or violence that youngsters heard on radio, later on television and read in cheap novels or comic books. They consisted of dramatized blood-and-thunder stories of certain biblical incidents. The murder of Abel by his brother, Cain; the cataclysm of the Flood; young David killing the giant Goliath; the seducing of strong-man Samson; Daniel in the lions’ den; all these disconnected stories, shorn of their real meaning, degraded the Bible in plastic young minds to the level of nursery myths. Bible stories up to now, it would seem, have had no mission but that of providing exciting entertainment. Biblical incidents are taken out of context, their real connection with the very PURPOSE of life ignored. I knew that all these incidents commonly seized upon as exciting child-fiction material actually have deep MEANING, contain vital lessons, are directly connected with the revelation of God’s purpose and the true Gospel. But if the true Gospel of Jesus Christ has been hidden from adults by perversion, deception and injection of pagan superstitions, how could blinded adults write interestingly for children the vital truths they themselves do not comprehend?

There was an even more important reason for this sense of responsibility toward children. In my research into the history of education, the truth emerged of the diabolical master conspiracy for deceiving the whole world. This world deception has been accomplished through the system of education. It begins with infants and children of elementary school age. Long before Christ brought the Gospel, the pagan teacher Plato introduced the first school of organized curriculum, called the Academy. The system developed with passing generations. In the era of Christianity’s earliest appearance, the Roman Empire was dotted with these pagan schools. These schools taught pagan philosophies and ways of life diametrically opposite to Christ’s teachings. Participation in pagan holiday exercises, and pagan customs, was a required part of the curriculum. During first-century apostolic evangelism, many converts received into their very hearts the eye-opening Gospel TRUTH and rejected the pagan heresies. They were truly converted — CHANGED in mind and belief and ways of living. But their children were victims of the established system of education. A second generation became nominal Christians only. A third, reared in basic paganism, accepted the addition of certain Christian beliefs and the NAME of Christ. It was impossible for church leaders, during the second, third and fourth centuries, to set up real Christian schools. The printing press had not been invented. There were no textbooks except the pagan texts. And by that time even the church leaders themselves were largely the victims of the secular paganized education. One crux factor dominates this entire educational process — always has. The child is not graded on ability to prove whether the teaching is true or false. He is graded on willingness to accept without question, memorize and absorb whatever is taught. Educators have, as Paul wrote, been reluctant to retain God in the knowledge they disseminated (Romans 1:28). The newborn infant knows nothing at birth. Humans must learn and be taught. Born in a predominately paganized world, the infant is taught from birth in the customs and ways of society. It would never occur to him to question them. They are simply absorbed — taken for granted — accepted. This educational system produced the natural and inevitable falling away from original TRUTH, as instituted by Christ. This "mystery of iniquity" was already working to undermine the faith once delivered, even in the apostle Paul’s day (II Thessalonians 2:7). By the time Jude wrote, he was inspired to exhort sincere people to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered (Jude 3). Already the apostasy had set in. Today’s children are born into a confused, mixed-up, divided religious babylon. The hundreds of organized religious denominations and sects cannot agree on WHAT the Gospel is; on who or what God is; on whether Christ was human, divine, or both; whether there is a devil; what salvation is; what or where the reward of the "saved" shall be; or how one may obtain it. Each one seems to take for granted whatever brand of religious belief has been taught him from childhood. It is ten times more difficult to UNLEARN error than to learn TRUTH. This, then, is the dilemma that challenged me: children, still today, are being reared in the same old secular pagan philosophies and customs, with the addition of the so-called scientific approach that has arrived with the acceptance of the theory of evolution. This atheists’ attempt to explain the presence of a creation without the existence of a Creator has become the basic concept by which all causes, origins and purposes are explained. By the time these innocent children have been inoculated with this anti-God poison and reached maturity, most of them have too much to unlearn before their minds can accept original truth. An inborn prejudice has been set up. And prejudice is an absolute barrier to the entrance of TRUTH into the mind. But what could I do about it? Children need, as they need life itself, an awareness of the basic TRUTHS of the Bible AS THEY ARE GROWING UP! If only we could get to them the knowledge of God — of the Creator and His vast creation — of His authority and rulership over the creation He brought into being and now sustains — of the invisible yet inexorable spiritual laws He set in motion to regulate relationships and produce happiness, peace and everything good — of the knowledge that the Bible definition of sin is simply the transgression of these laws operating for our good — of the basic knowledge of God’s purpose being worked out here below, and of His plan for working it out — of the biblical revelation of Christ and what He means to us today — of the vital connection of case histories, incidents, experiences — so often seized upon as material for the blood-and-thunder type Bible stories — with God’s overall purpose, and with the Gospel — if only growing children could be possessed of this knowledge, they would not be deceived and misled by the teaching of the secular school systems. But none of the children’s Bible story books I could find even remotely filled this purpose. In His own due time God supplied the man for the job — a man equipped by natural talent, training, experience and profession for this all-important mission. was a nationally known artist. Three times "Life" magazine devoted multiple-page sections, editorially, to him and his work. The news magazine "Time" wrote him up a number of times. His work appeared in more than 70 national magazines. He also was a trained writer, experienced through long years in writing for children. He became an elder in the Worldwide Church of God. He was a student of the Bible and taught a Bible class. He accepted this very important commission. "The Bible Story" is definitely NOT a series of disconnected stories of excitement and violence with no special meaning. Our purpose is to tell simply, in language children can read and understand, plainly, yet interestingly, the plain story of the Bible itself. It begins at the beginning. A continuous story thread runs through the entire Bible. Not many have ever grasped this amazing yet important fact. Most people read a verse here or a Chapter there, failing to properly connect them, or understand the true continuity of the Bible story. This book is not merely written for children. Adults by multiple thousands followed the installments avidly when they first appeared in "The Plain Truth". Adults will gain an understanding of the WHOLE BIBLE — of its continuous story thread — from this book. Mr. Wolverton has written in language of about the nine-to twelve year level. This makes it interesting reading also for adults. As written it is a little advanced for younger children when read by themselves, but parents may read it to children as young as four or five, and, with a little simplified explanation of portions they would not comprehend clearly by themselves, it will become quite understandable, interesting and profitable. Mr. Wolverton stuck tenaciously to the literal biblical account. He took, where it was felt necessary, AUTHOR’S LICENSE to portray certain portions or sequences in conversational style — but he was zealously careful not in any way to "add to or detract from" the real meaning and truth of the sacred Scriptures. It is our fervent hope that this volume of "The Bible Story" in book form, now published in memory of who died in December 1978, and presented to you as a ministry of love, without money and without price, will bring you and your children abundant blessings.

Chapter 1 "IN THE BEGINNING"

HAVE YOU ever looked down on the Earth from a high hill or a mountain or an airplane? From such high places the planet we live on looks very huge, even though we can see only a small part of it. Perhaps it is difficult for you to imagine how something so big could be built. But someone planned and built it, just as someone planned and built the home you live in. Wouldn’t you like to be whisked back into the long ago and see some of the amazing things that happened before the Earth came to be the way it is now? And wouldn’t you like to learn about who lived on this planet long before men lived here? And how and why YOU came to be here?

A Time Machine Then let’s suppose we have a wonderful machine by which we can tune into the Stream of Time. This machine would be able to show on its screen things that happened long before now and things that will happen in years to come! Suppose that you live in a small town or city in North America and that you would like to know what that town or city was like in the year 1800. You press a button on the time machine and say into its microphone what you want to see. The screen lights up with a picture you don’t recognize. It shows mostly a deep forest. The scene changes, and now you see familiar things. There is the big hill south of your town and the river that flows by it! But there are no buildings, no streets and no cars. Instead, there is heavy forest. But what are those things in the little clearing at the river’s edge? Indian teepees! As the screen picture zooms in for a close-up of Indians moving about, you realize that your town hadn’t even started to be built back in 1800. Just as there was a time when your town and your parents didn’t exist, there was also a time when the planet we live on didn’t exist. And just as there was a reason for the Earth coming into being, there was a reason for YOU coming into being. Do you know what it was? If you know the exciting answer to that question, then you have a wonderful bit of wisdom most people don’t have. Even most men who are thought of as being very wise can’t give you the truth about why man exists. To learn what really did happen a long time ago, let us ask the time machine to show us how things looked before there was anything in the vast space where our universe is now. It’s difficult for our minds to imagine back over such a long period of time when there was nothing to see. But there was something else there in place of stars and planets. The time machine screen is inky black. You are gazing into cold, empty, dark space! At first the screen appears dead, but as it begins to pick up something that is more than of a material nature, a strange, hazy glow comes in sight. (I John 1:5; John 1:4.) It emanates from an invisible Personage, and gradually spreads out to become so big and bright that it entirely fills what at first appeared to be an expanse of nothingness. Now something that isn’t material is brilliantly clear. WHO could it be? It is GOD.

"In the Beginning — God" God had to be there first because He made everything that ever was. (Genesis 1:1.) Probably one of the first things you wonder about God is where He came from. He didn’t come from anywhere. He has always existed right here in space because there never has been any place outside of space. God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15.) He had no beginning (Hebrews 7:3.) Because we are physical, these things are hard for us to understand. We have to realize that there are matters that God keeps secret from us. Many other things He reveals to us, especially if we are obedient. (Deuteronomy 29:29.) God always was and always will be. (Revelation 1:8.) What is God like? We know what people are like because we can see them. Your parents and brothers and sisters — if you have brothers and sisters — are a family of human beings made of flesh and blood in the image or shape of God. (Gen. 1:26.) God is not just one person, but is really a Family (Ephesians 3:15) of very special Spirit Beings. (John 4:24.) Spirit is eternal. It never dies. (II Corinthians 4:18.) It is not subject to the laws of time and space. Spirit is something human beings can’t usually see or feel or hear. That’s why you can’t see God by looking into the space of millions of years ago, even though God was all that existed then. However, we can sometimes see some of the things that God produces. There are two Spirit Beings now in the God Family. One is God the Father. The other is Jesus the Son. Each Person in the God Family is called God, just as each human person in your family is called by your last name. God the Father and Jesus are both composed of spirit, and they are holy and perfect. Their Spirit, like their light that radiates from them, goes out from them everywhere, and is called the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 139:7.) Now we know that we have gone back in time as far as we can go and still learn something. Next we should ask the time machine to show us something of what happened when God later created the great universe in the vast expanse of space. We don’t know just when the universe was made nor how long it took to make it, so we’ll simply ask for a view of it after it was created.

Now Look! The black curtain of depthless space becomes jeweled by millions of specks and patches of light of various hues. Each of those brighter specks of light is a gigantic, flaming sun, some of which are millions of times larger than the one that gives us our light. And though the distant suns, or stars appear to be grouped together like clusters of diamonds, they are many billions of miles apart! (Isa. 54:2.) The universe is so big that we can see only part way through it. Our minds can’t even begin to realize its tremendous size, but this should give us some idea of how much wiser and more powerful our Creator is than we are. (Job 22:12 and 38:4-6.) In those clusters of beautiful stars our Earth was created. Men have thought up various theories of how it came to be there. Many foolishly believe and teach that all the stars and planets just "happened" without God having anything to do with their creation. This idea is the subject of much study in most schools throughout the world. (PS. 53:1.) WHY the Earth was created should be more important than HOW it came into being. If we were to ask our time machine to show how it looked after it was made, we would see a huge blue-green globe of great beauty hanging against the star-studded backdrop of space. You wouldn’t recognize any of our planet’s continents or markings, because when it was first formed it was quite different. To create all objects in the universe, God had to provide material just as carpenters needed material to build the place where you live. (Heb. 11:3.) As you already know, God is composed of Spirit. As light shines from a lamp throughout a room, God’s Holy Spirit emanates from Him to all the universe. This mysterious and wonderful power is the very essence of God. By its power the universe was created and by it every physical force and celestial body is controlled.

Angels! God didn’t make the universe just so He could admire His work. He also created millions of spirit beings, or angels, to live in it. Many of them served Him in the third heaven, the place of His throne. (II Cor. 12:2.) We are not told where the third heaven is, but possibly it’s somewhere in the northern sky. (Isa. 14:13.) We do know that it is invisible to human eyes, just as spirit beings can’t be seen by us (II Cor. 4:18). A long time ago there was a chief angel in heaven. His Latin name "Lucifer" meant "Light Bringer", or "Shining Star of the Dawn". God created Lucifer to be very wise, good and capable. He was perfect in his ways when he was brought into being, and brilliant in knowledge and appearance. Therefore God made Lucifer ruler over the newly created Earth, where millions of angels were sent to dwell. Lucifer was to govern the angels of the Earth by carrying out all of God’s orders and laws. Because God created and owns the universe, He is the supreme ruler over it. Lucifer at first was subject to Him. He did all that God commanded. There were years and years of happiness and contentment among the angels while they and Lucifer obeyed every one of God’s laws. This was because God’s laws are given to make beings happy. Matters went very well as long as Lucifer obeyed every rule and instruction. (Ezekiel 28:13-15.) But in time he permitted wrong thoughts to come into his mind. "I am king over millions of angels," he thought. "From them I could form a great army powerful enough to attack God’s angels. If I could seize God’s throne in heaven and depose God, I could become supreme ruler of the whole universe!" (Isa. 14:12-14.) The mere thought of conquering and replacing God caused great pride and ambition to grow. With it grew greed and a burning desire to carry out his desires. At last Lucifer made his plans known to those who were most likely to succumb to his tempting promises to make them rulers, under him, of other worlds, and to give high offices even in heaven to those who would rebel with him. He was elated to learn that a third of all the angels were foolishly willing to risk their happiness by joining his evil cause. (Rev. 12:4 and Job 4:18.) The other two thirds remained loyal to their Creator. The pride, lust and greed that had grown from an evil idea caused Lucifer’s great wisdom to become perverted. Otherwise, he would have know that successful war against his Creator would be impossible. His thinking was so distorted that from then on his reasoning became false. Filled with the belief that he could actually conquer his Creator, Lucifer moved to carry out his rebellious plan. With millions of angels willing to obey him, instead of God, he swept up to heaven with them for the attack. The war that resulted between vast numbers of spirit beings was an incredible, awful thing. Human beings know nothing of the strange and cataclysmic forces that were used. Even hydrogen or cobalt bombs are puny compared to the powers at God’s command. God has always been the most powerful Being to exist. No armies of human beings or spirits are strong enough to dethrone Him. Lucifer ran into dreadful defeat. The terrible power of the Creator was unleashed with such frightful force that the attackers were blasted out of heaven and back down to Earth. (II Peter 2:4 ,and Isa. 14:15.) God wasn’t done with the rebellious angels, however. Lucifer’s sin of rebellion against the rule of God turned him into a devil. His name was changed to Satan, which means ENEMY in Hebrew. (Rev. 12:9.) Those angels who had followed him were from then on known as demons. Demons are hateful, bitter, unhappy spirit beings whose pure spirit light has gone out forever, and who have only a miserable, hopeless future (Jude 13).

Awful Penalty of Sin Whenever God’s laws are broken, suffering, trouble and destruction are bound to follow. During the great battle when Satan and his demons tried to conquer God, an awesome change came over the Earth. (Gen. 1:2.) What had long been a beautiful planet had been turned into a cosmic wreck because Lucifer rebelled against his maker. The atmosphere was filled with smoke and poison gases so thick that nothing could live in it. The raging elements pounded the Earth. Little or no physical life could survive through that terrible time. (Ps. 104:29.) The only living beings left on the planet were the evil, restless demons whose lawbreaking had broken the perfect balance, harmony and beauty of a world God had lovingly created for His creatures. For a time our world stayed buried in a deep blanket of gases, smoke and water. Oceans covered the whole Earth. There was no longer any dry land. The atmosphere was so clogged with clouds of tiny bits of matter that no light could reach the seas. We don’t know how long this condition lasted, but later came the time when God started preparing for a very important event in His great plan. That was the bringing of human beings into existence. There are several other planets besides Earth swinging around our sun, and probably there are more here and there in the universe. As far as we know, Earth was the only planet God chose and prepared to be the home of human beings patterned after His image.

How God Creates For five days God worked at making Earth over into a place that would be just right to support human life. (Gen. 1:23.) It took mighty power and awesome forces to alter the whole surface of the planet in less than a week. Remember that God isn’t just one Person, but the Divine Family. The Father does the supreme planning. He decided what to do. Then He told the second Person of the God Family to do it. The second Person is called the Word of God because He is the Spokesman who does the speaking as the Father commands Him. This second Person is the one who later was born as a human, and became Jesus Christ. So this second Person, or the Word, commanded what God the Father decided to do. Instantly the mighty and all-powerful Holy Spirit produced whatever the Word commanded. That is how God created and formed everything by Jesus Christ. (John 1:3.) On the first day of reforming Earth’s surface, God prepared periods of night and day by clearing away much of the smoke, gases and matter that filled the skies. Thus a little light came through to Earth for the first time since Satan and his demons were cast back from heaven. (Gen. 1:3-5.) On the second day God produced a vast layer of fresh air over the Earth. Through it much of the water vapors seeped upward to form massive, clean clouds high in the sky, and healthy air that could be safely breathed. This combination of healthy gases (Gen. 1:6-8) was necessary to keep man alive. God called this atmosphere heaven. (Gen. 1:8.) He also spoke of two other heavens: one is the space beyond our atmosphere (Gen. 1:14), and the other, called the third heaven, is where His throne is. (Acts 7:49 and II Cor. 12:2.) He doesn’t tell us where it is, and astronomers have never seen it because it’s invisible. On the third day, the Creator molded Earth’s crust so that some of it was high and some of it was low. The great layer of water surrounding the planet drained into the low areas, causing various shapes of seas. Large areas of land were left above water, forming continents. (Gen. 1:9-10.) On the continents God caused vegetation — trees, bushes, flowers, grass — to grow out of the ground. In that same day the lands began to be green with plants of all kinds springing up from the soil. (Gen. 1:11-13.) On the fourth day the Creator swept the last of the dust and harmful gases from the skies, thus letting the sun, moon and stars shine in their full brilliance on the lands and seas. (Gen. 1:14-19.) On the fifth day he planted whales and many kinds of water creatures in the sea. On that day He also formed various types of birds to fly through the air. Soon the skies and the waters were swarming with living things. The Creator had renewed the face of the Earth and had bedecked it with numerous kinds of life in five days. At last He was almost ready to bring man into being. But before creating man on the sixth day, there were special land creatures to be brought on the scene. Those included elephants, cattle, horses, rodents, worms, insects and every kind of thing that walks, creeps or crawls. (Gen. 1:24-25.)

Man Created! Finally God performed the most important task of physical work. Using the material from which He formed the Earth, He made a human being! (Gen. 1:26-28.) The first human being was fashioned in such a way that he looked very much like God. It was as if God were a sculptor, making a statue of Himself in flesh and blood and bone. Actually, He made this first man out of the dust of the ground and then caused him to breathe air and become alive, so that he became the first living soul of his kind. (Gen. 2:7.) God named this first human being Adam. He was the first living mortal man on this planet. (I Cor. 15:45.) The Creator had already prepared a beautiful park for Adam to live and work in. This was in Eden, a land on the other side of the world from North America. God knew that Adam would become lonely if he were the only human being. He took one of Adam’s ribs, while he was sleeping, and formed it into a woman. She was given to Adam for a companion. Adam named the woman Eve. (Gen. 2:18-22.) Thus ended the first week in the history of the refashioned planet on which human beings have lived for almost six thousand years. On the seventh day God rested from His six days of tremendous labor. He called that seventh day the Sabbath (Exodus 16:26), thus creating a special day of rest and setting it apart as a twenty-four hour period as His particular day. He made a law that man should observe that same day every week by resting and assembling for worship. God made that day holy time, and commanded all people to always keep it holy. The first six days were for man to work and play, but the last day of the week God kept for Himself. (Ex. 20:8-11.)

God’s Sense of Beauty Let us turn to the time machine again to get a view of part of the beautiful garden of Eden, the park where Adam and Eve lived. The screen shows a deep green, grassy slope leading down to a stream of sparkling, blue water. The slope is decked with graceful shade trees, fruit trees and colorful clusters of plants and flowers. Beyond the fern-banked stream is a towering cliff of red and yellow agate, over which falls a foamy ribbon of glistening water. At one side, in the distance, are rolling hills covered with green groves of leafy trees and flowering bushes. In the distance on the other side is a lush jungle of amazingly beautiful vines trailing thickly between tall, graceful palms. (Gen. 1:31.) Close-ups on the time machine screen show birds of bright hues flying from tree to tree. Their songs fill the air with soothing music that tells that here is real peace and happiness. Another view shows Adam and Eve beside the stream. They are amusedly watching the antics of fish, turtles and other water creatures playing in the clear, cool water. Still another view later shows Adam contentedly pruning some lush shrubs. Eve is close by happily choosing and plucking fruit for their next meal. The ability to talk and sing has been instilled in them. They spend much of their time singing together, even while they work. In their leisure time they enjoy walking in the park. Then there is the greater pleasure of often communing with their Creator. You will notice that Adam and Eve have perfectly formed bodies. Adam is muscular and handsome. Eve is beautiful and graceful. This is very evident because they are unclothed. No clothes are needed to keep them comfortably warm, and there are no thistles or thorns to scratch them. Being naked is a natural condition that gives them no discomfort of mind or body. (Gen. 2:25.) The screen shows a huge lion moving quietly out from the deep shadows of the thick trees, and creeping slowly up behind Adam and Eve! The two human beings are so occupied with the water creatures that they are unaware of the nearness of the great beast. Then Adam’s keen sense of hearing causes him to turn and look. He swings a strong right arm out to seize the lion’s heavy mane — and fondly scratches the head of this beast that has come for a friendly visit! Before Eve was created, God asked Adam to name all creatures. (Gen. 2:19-29.) In that time of perfect peace, all creatures were friendly and harmless. They will be that way again in another time of peace to come to the world in just a few years. (Isa. 11:6-9.) In looking at these scenes from the distant past, probably you have paid little attention to what the time machine looks like. Observe it closely. It’s the Bible! Perhaps for the first time you realize that it is shaped much like an open book. Still closer examination will reveal that what you thought was the machine’s viewing screen is actually the open pages of the most important of all books — the Bible!

Chapter 2 "THOU SHALT SURELY DIE!"

LONG AGO God put true facts into the minds of a few men whom He chose. These men wrote out those facts in words God put into their minds. It was like God writing by using human minds. God does not lie. (Titus 1:2.) He does not make mistakes. Therefore every word written by those men is true. Since then the Bible has been put into many other languages, and the meanings of a few of its words have changed a little in time. But the Bible as it was originally written is entirely true and without mistakes. Many men who thought they had great wisdom have tried to point out mistakes to prove that the Bible is not true, but all of them have failed. If they had been truly wise, they would have recognized that the Bible is the ONLY true book that has ever been written. If we study the Bible with the idea of gaining wisdom for a better way of life, it can tell us a great deal about what happened long ago, what is happening now in the world and a lot about what is going to happen.

Animal Brain Versus Human Mind Although the Bible wasn’t written until long after the garden of Eden, something happened there that caused all the unhappiness and suffering in the world. God made animals each after its own kind. He made cattle after the cattle kind, dogs after the dog kind. But He made humans after His own kind — after the God kind. He made man in the form and shape of God. God has hands and feet. But animals have hooves and paws and birds have claws. Animals have brains and animal brains have instinct. A dog has an instinct to bark when someone is coming. The dog doesn’t have to think, "Shall I bark?" and then decide whether to bark. The dog just barks automatically by instinct. But a boy or girl or man or woman has to think and decide what to do and whether to do it. Humans have brains, too, but instead of natural instinct humans have to know and think and decide what to do. God made man out of matter from the dust of the ground, just as animals were made of matter out of the earth. Just like animals, man was made with only temporary physical existence. This existence comes only from breathing air, and a heart constantly pumping blood through the veins. And even this breath and blood circulation must be refueled by food and water from the ground. Man does not have real self-containing LIFE within himself any more than animals. Some babies die soon after birth. Some live eight or ten years. Some seventy to ninety years, but then all people die. God is different. God is composed of Spirit and has self-containing LIFE eternally, that never dies. God is immortal. Man has only a temporary existence like animals, but man was made in the image and likeness, or in form and shape like God. God made the first man, Adam, with a mind that could learn to work with matter or things that grow from the ground. But in order to have a relationship with God and get along with and work with other people, man was made to need to have the Holy Spirit of God added to his mind. Through it God would reveal to man’s mind the knowledge to get along with other people as well as with God in peace and good companionship.

The Two Trees So God tested the first man, Adam. He put the first man and woman in the beautiful park God had made, called Eden. In the midst of this beautiful park God had put two very special trees which had very special meaning. One was the tree of LIFE. Although God had not created man out of Spirit with self-containing immortal life, in this test God offered to give Adam and Eve the Holy Spirit and make them immortal just as God is immortal, if they would receive it by eating of the fruit of this tree of LIFE. And they had to reject the fruit of the other special tree, called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But in this test if they took to themselves the right to determine what is good and what is wrong and harmful, while rejecting the tree of LIFE, they would surely die. You see, they were going to die anyway, unless they received the LIFE-giving Spirit from God. The Holy Spirit is LIFE imparted from God — God’s very own immortal LIFE. Now this tree of LIFE meant first receiving the Spirit of God which would impart into their minds the spiritual KNOWLEDGE from God of right and wrong in a close relationship with God and with other people. This was SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE — the way of LOVE to God and LOVE to man. God had made man so that he could learn by himself how to work with matter, but without this spiritual knowledge revealed through God’s Spirit direct from the mind of God, man could not learn by himself how to get along with other people in peace and cooperation and contentment and happiness. Neither could he have a close loving relationship with God. So you see the tree God offered Adam and Eve was not only a tree of LIFE, but also a tree of spiritual KNOWLEDGE from God. And the other tree was that of carnal self-produced knowledge which led to DEATH. These trees represented two kinds of knowledge. One, human self-thought-out knowledge resulting in death, and the other, God-given spiritual knowledge leading to eternal LIFE. Now WHY did God give them this test? The only kind of knowledge a human person can come to know by himself is knowledge that comes into his mind through his eyes, ears, or senses of smell, taste or feel. Unless God specially reveals it by His Spirit you cannot know anything except what you see, or hear, or smell, taste or feel. Try it on yourself. Now God loved Adam, just as He loves you and all people. God wanted him and all people to be happy, to enjoy living and to live forever. But Satan deceived Eve, and she led Adam to make the wrong choice. So he disobeyed God, rejected the tree of LIFE — which meant receiving spiritual knowledge from God’s Spirit, and he decided to make up his own mind and decide by himself how to live. Now when Adam had sinned, GOD CLOSED UP THE TREE OF LIFE. That is, God shut off His Holy Spirit from Adam and all his children — the whole world — UNTIL Jesus Christ, the "second Adam," should come and pay the penalty of every person’s sins so humans could be forgiven and then have the Holy Spirit offered to them. Otherwise, God would have been obliged to allow people to take the tree of LIFE, gain immortal life in discontent, unhappiness, sorrow, and suffering which would last forever! So God planned how all Adam’s children, dying meanwhile, would one day be resurrected back to life AFTER Jesus Christ had paid the death penalty for their sins in their stead, and then, in that Judgment Day, all Adam’s children will have the tree of LIFE opened to them. God is a very loving and merciful God.

A Closer Look Satan and his fallen angels were still roaming the Earth in the form of evil spirits. God allowed Satan to still be the demon ruler of Earth. Satan was enviously angry when human beings were put on Earth to have power over all physical creatures. He looked for some way of turning Adam and Eve against their Creator, so that he could become their master. His opportunity came one day when Eve walked off by herself in the park. Suddenly she came upon a snake, which was formed quite differently then than the snakes that now exist. There was nothing unusual about meeting a snake, because all the animals were friendly with and obedient to Adam and Eve. What surprised Eve was that the snake, now under the power of Satan, spoke to her! "Did God tell you that you would die if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?" asked the snake. "He did," Eve answered. "We don’t want to die, so we haven’t touched the tree." "But human beings have immortal souls, and therefore they can never die," lied the snake. (Gen. 3:4.) "If you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will receive great wisdom instead of death. You will probably even become as wise as God." The more Eve thought about what the snake said, the more eager she became to eat some of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Finally she could resist no longer. She went to the tree and plucked the first bit of fruit she could reach. It was pleasant to taste, so she took some to Adam, who also ate of it even though Eve told him what it was. By taking the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve took to themselves the right to decide what is good, and what is evil. In so doing, they rejected the God-centered way of God’s spiritual Law. They chose the way that transgresses it! They pioneered in deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong — what is righteousness and what is sin! And humanity has been doing what seems right in its own eyes ever since. In so doing, they rejected the fact that God’s living, inexorable spiritual Law is the way of good — the cause of all good — and its transgression the way of evil — the cause of all evil. Since they and humanity in general after them have taken to themselves the determination of what is good, they of necessity have followed the way contrary to God’s Law. They have followed the way that has produced all the vast mountain of evils that has descended on this sick world!

They Made Themselves Competitors of the Living God Even though Adam and Eve rejected the voice of God, He did bequeath to mankind His revelation of basic knowledge. We have it in writing! The Holy Bible is that revelation. It contains history, instruction, revelation of basic knowledge and prophecy. It does not contain all knowledge. It contains that basic knowledge we could not otherwise find out. After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve for the first time experienced the unpleasant feeling of gnawing guilt. They knew they had disobeyed God. They also had a discomforting awareness of being naked, and they felt ashamed. They wanted to cover themselves, so they laced fig leaves together to fashion aprons to put around themselves. Because they had disobeyed God by doing just one of the things He had told them not to do, Adam and Eve committed the very first human sin. That simple wrong act changed the life of every human being who has been born since then. Just as the super-angel Lucifer ran into trouble when he went against God’s rules, human beings also fall into trouble when they break the rules they should live by for their own good. The laws we obey come from those over us in power. The act of causing people to obey rules is called government. God’s laws and His government are LOVE. (Romans 13:10.) His rules are that people must first of all love God by obeying Him, worshiping Him, praying to Him, trusting Him and keeping His Sabbath holy. Next to those most important laws are the laws that people should love other people. Children should respect and obey their parents. (Ephesians 6:1-3.) They must never hate or kill or try to harm others. Instead, they should love everyone, including even their enemies. They must be loyal and honest to others. They must not want to take anything away from others. They should remember that it is better to give than to take. (Ex. 20:12-17.)

Why the World Is Unhappy After Satan began having rebellious thoughts, he soon came to believe just the opposite of God’s laws. His way of life has come to mean doing just the opposite of what was mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs. (John 8:44; I John 3:8.) God allowed Satan to rule over the Earth only until MAN should be created and prove that he was worthy to rule by obeying God. A continuance of Satan’s rule would have brought on only increasing unhappiness and suffering. Because Adam was the first man, God gave him the chance to rule the Earth. (Gen. 1:28.) The condition was that he had to remain obedient to God and have nothing to do with Satan’s ways. Satan knew that if Adam failed m obedience, God would take away his chance to rule. Satan’s scheme, because he hated Adam, was to trick him into believing that the wrong ways were the right ways. If Adam could be made to fall for that, he would be in trouble. God had made the man to be the head of his wife and children. (Eph. 5:23, 25.) Just as God rules with love over angels and human beings, so must the man rule with love over his own house. A man who fails to do this will also fail in becoming a ruler in the Kingdom of God that is coming to Earth very soon. Satan knew that God expected Adam to be the head over Eve. That is why he waited to catch her alone. After he had tempted her to pick the fruit she wasn’t to touch, Eve tempted Adam. (Gen. 3:6.) Adam wasn’t strong enough to keep from disobeying along with Eve. This proved that he couldn’t be strong enough to obey God in all things, and therefore wasn’t worthy to be ruler of the Earth.

Satan Still the Unseen Ruler The way it turned out, Satan got to continue as the unseen ruler of the world until one should come who would conquer him by obeying God and never sinning. That man, Jesus Christ, finally did come and qualify to be that ruler. (Luke 4:5-8.) He has not yet returned to the Earth as its chief ruler. God let Satan stay on Earth, but he wasn’t given the power to force anyone to sin. Satan has power only to try to lead or tempt people. As for human beings, God gave them minds capable of thinking for themselves and deciding whether to obey God or Satan. (James 4:7.) Ashamed that they had believed the things spoken through the snake, Adam and Eve tried to hide in the park. But God knew where they were hiding. (Gen. 3:8.) "Have you disobeyed me by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge?" God startled them by asking very near them. "Eve gave me the fruit," Adam finally answered, trying to shift the guilt to his wife. (Gen. 3:12.) God was disappointed. He had allowed the man and woman to make their choice of whom to obey. They had chosen the way that would bring only unhappiness. It was too late now for anything except painful regret, and that wouldn’t do them any good. All they could look forward to was punishment. (Deut. 30:15-19.) They were given leather clothing to wear and were banished from the beautiful park that had been lovingly made just for them. God knew that if they were to stay there, they might also eat of the Tree of Life. That would have meant that they would have lived forever in unhappiness and shame. (Gen. 3:21-23.) To prevent their returning to the Garden of Eden, a huge flaming sword in constant motion guarded the only entrance. (Gen. 3:24.) "Because you have sinned and tempted Adam to sin, you will suffer pain any time you give birth to a child," God told Eve. "So also shall it be with human mothers in the future." (Gen. 3:16.) Thus the first human beings, because of believing Satan instead of their Creator, lost the right to live on in peace, happiness and good health. How different it could have been if they had obeyed God and then have eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life. They would have lived happily forever! As another result of their sin, God put a curse on the ground outside the park. For the first time since the Earth was remade, weeds and thistles and thorns sprang out of the soil. (Gen. 3:17.) This was a hardship for Adam, who had to rely on difficult farming for their food. After a time a son was born to Adam and Eve. This first baby in the world was named Cain. Another son was soon born whose name was Abel. (Gen. 4:1-2.) Cain became a farmer, and raised fruit, vegetables and grain. Abel was a shepherd, and took care of sheep, which Adam and Eve found were also good to eat when cooked. (Gen. 4:2.) Cain and Abel learned to make sacrifices to God on stone altars. This was their way of contacting God and asking forgiveness for things they did that were wrong. Today we don’t make sacrifices because Jesus Christ the Creator came almost two thousand years ago to die for all of us. Now, if people are truly sorry because of disobeying God, they can show it by repenting and being baptized. (Acts. 2:38.) Then God puts the power of His Holy Spirit into their minds so that they can understand and obey the Creator’s laws. Thus they can be close to God and know that He hears them when they pray and that He speaks to them when they read the Bible. It was different with Cain and Abel. One day when they brought their sacrifices to the altar (Gen. 4:34) their attitudes turned out to be quite unalike. Abel picked from his flock the best lamb he could find. It was a little animal he had grown fond of, but he was willing to give it up. Although Cain raised mostly fruit and vegetables, he had a few animals. Among them was a lamb he prized very highly because he knew it would grow into an especially fine sheep — if he didn’t kill it while it was a lamb. "Why should I give up this special lamb?" Cain thought. "Surely God should be satisfied with some of the best vegetables I have grown." Cain’s heart wasn’t right. He felt that God’s way wasn’t the best way for him, so he did what seemed right in his own mind. That is the very thing most people have been doing ever since. The Bible states that the way that seems right to a man is nearly always wrong, and can bring death. (Prov. 14:12.) God’s way is always right, whether or not it seems right in human minds. That is a lesson not yet learned by most highly-educated people. If you can learn it now, you will be a very wise person.

The First Human Murderer! God could not accept Cain’s sacrifice, which wasn’t the kind God said it should be. (Gen. 4:5.) When Cain learned that his sacrifice wasn’t pleasing to God, he became very envious of his brother, who had done the right thing. The envy turned to anger and then to hatred. Later, when the two brothers were out in a field alone, Cain furiously turned on Abel and struck him with such force that he killed him. (Gen. 4:8.) The first baby born in the world thus became the first murderer! When Cain realized what he had done, he foolishly tried to hide. Of course God knew where he was, and confronted him. "Where is your brother?" asked the Eternal. (Gen. 4:9.) "I don’t know," lied Cain, hoping that God wouldn’t come across Abel’s lifeless body. "How should I know my brother’s whereabouts?" (Read Prov. 28:13.) Here was more unhappiness for Adam and Eve. Besides losing their second son, they learned that their first one was a murderer and a liar. As punishment for Cain, God put a curse on him. He had to leave his family and become a lone wanderer in the world. Furthermore, God made Cain a marked man because he had murdered Abel, but he made it plain that Cain should not be murdered by anyone. Instead, he was to live on with the miserable memory of killing his brother. (Gen. 4:11-15.) Adam and Eve had more children. They grew up and had children. Cain had married one of his sisters, and they had children. (Gen. 4:16-17.) Another son born to Adam and Eve was named Seth. He, too, took a sister for his wife, and they had children and many grandchildren. Many people came into the world as the years passed. The more humans increased, the more they fell away from their Creator. It wasn’t a very happy throng. Men were naturally mean and greedy. Instead of working for things they needed and wanted, many of them cheated and robbed and killed for them. Adam lived a long time to see some of the results of his disobedience. He was nine hundred and thirty years old when he died. That’s only thirty years short of a thousand. He was able to live so long because of being created with a perfect physical body. But he did die — just as God said he would if he ate of the Tree of Knowledge. (Gen. 2:17.)

Wars Begin By the time of Adam’s death there were thousands of human beings on the Earth. Even with unlimited space to live in, they banded together in towns instead of spreading out as God intended. (Gen. 4:17.) Huddled together by adjoining dwellings led only to more strife and misery. Men were so much against God’s ways that it wasn’t possible for them to love one another. Living too closely together made matters much worse. The more they gathered in towns, the greater the need for one group to protect itself against another group. Other bands of men formed to attack towns and seize their wealth. Nothing was safe from the cruel and greedy. So it was that wars started on the Earth. Men became so evil that killing other men became one of their greatest sports. (Gen. 6:5.)

Chapter 3 NOAH BUILDS THE ARK!

GOD LOOKED with sorrow on these human creatures He loved. He was so displeased at their refusal to abide by His rules for happy living that He decided to do an awesome thing. He would blot them out of existence by a worldwide Flood! (Gen. 6:7). God knew that if human beings were to continue in their evil ways, they would destroy themselves more painfully. His way would be more merciful. Then He would bring them back to life thousands of years later when Jesus Christ would be ruling Earth. They would then realize how much wiser it would be to obey their Creator. At that time God saw only one man who was willing to live according to His laws. His name was Noah. (Gen. 6:8.) He warned the people who lived around him that their lives depended on their turning from their evil ways and obeying God. His warnings were ignored. One day he was startled to hear the Eternal speaking to him. Said God: "Because men have disobeyed me and become so evil, I am going to take away their lives. But because you have obeyed me, I am going to spare your life and the lives of your family. All other people will be drowned in a great flood that will cover the whole planet.,’ "But how can my family and I escape such a flood?" Noah asked. "I will instruct you in building a large ship," God answered. "It will be of such size that it will hold at least one pair of every kind of creature on Earth." (Gen. 6:14-16.)

Noah Builds an Ark Although Noah was four hundred and eighty years old when he and his three sons later started the task of ship-building, old age wasn’t a drawback in very early times when human bodies were probably closer to being as perfect as the bodies of Adam and Eve. When people heard what Noah and his sons were doing, they came for many miles to stare and laugh at what was going on. "Noah must be crazy!" they jeered. "Who ever heard of building a ship that size? There isn’t even any water around here to float it in!" "He thinks there will be a sudden big flood!" others scoffed. "He’s going to have all that work and expense for nothing!" Years passed. The ship, or ark, grew larger. The closer it came to being finished, the more onlookers ridiculed the patient Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, who carefully carried on for nearly a hundred years, probably with many other men helping them, to work by the ship plans through which God directed them. Meanwhile, Noah continued reminding his scoffers that the Flood would come in due time because of their disobedience, but that those who would repent and obey could be spared. No one outside Noah’s family believed what he said. "You’ve been saying that for a hundred years, and there still isn’t the slightest sign of a flood!" people sneered. "You are only a religious crackpot!,’

The Ark Is Finished Twenty more years passed (Gen. 6:3) while onlookers jeered at the sight of a mammoth ship sitting far from any place where it could float. God had patiently given them one hundred and twenty years to think about their sins and decide to live differently. (II Pet. 2:5.) People must have admired Noah and his sons, however, for their ability to build such a craft. It was higher than a four-story building, and ten times as long as it was high! It was designed to be a huge, floating zoo. The interior was divided into stables and cages for the many creatures that were to be loaded into it. There were runways, ventilator shafts, feeding troughs and everything that would be needed for the strange, live cargo. By the time the ship was finished and smeared with waterproof pitch, Noah was almost six hundred years old! His sons were then far older than most people are today when they die of old age. But more work had to be done. There was the task of gathering and storing in the ark the many tons of food that would be needed by the animals. Hay, grain, dried fruit and dried meat were hauled from the surrounding country and stowed aboard along with huge tanks of fresh water. People continued to laugh at this activity. They wouldn’t believe that worldwide disaster was at hand. Instead, they felt that there was a glorious future for man as he spread out to conquer the whole Earth. It was much as it is today, when a few men chosen by God are warning all nations of a great calamity that will sweep the world within the lifetime of most people living today. Instead of heeding these warnings, people are looking forward to an increasingly easier life with more money and less work. And just as foolish hopes were shattered in Noah’s time, so will they be shattered again. Even a little child who will heed the warnings is wiser than the so-called educated man who shakes his head at them. "Where are all the animals you plan to take for a boat ride?" was the question jeeringly put to Noah so often. Then the scoffers would add, "It will take you another hundred and twenty years to round up enough creatures to fill that thing you’ve built!"

The Animals Seek Shelter! It wasn’t easy for Noah to listen to these taunts decade after decade. But he believed God. He was so sure that his live cargo would somehow soon be on hand that he built a ramp up to a large door in the side of the ark, so that the animals could walk in. This was just another act of faith in the hundred and twenty years of trusting God while the ark was being built and the people warned. One day those who came to scoff stood and wordlessly stared at what they saw. All kinds of animals and birds were gathering around the ark! (Gen. 7:8-9.) If the amazed onlookers expected Noah and his men to have trouble getting the creatures into the ship, they were wrong. God had given the creatures an impulse to seek shelter here. They entered the ark in an orderly manner, even though many were ferocious by nature! Of animals and birds clean enough to be eaten by man, seven pairs went into the ship. Of unclean creatures, only one male and one female entered. Soon they were in the stables and cages that would be their homes for many months. Then Noah and his wife and Noah’s three sons and their wives entered the ark. The growing throng of onlookers was still jeering, but some of the people were so amazed at having seen the animals entering the ark that they began to wonder if Noah’s predictions from God were true. But most of them simply refused to take Noah’s warnings seriously. Then, as now, people couldn’t recognize the truth because they didn’t want to obey God. A day passed. Then another and another. Still there was no sign of a flood. Almost a week went by. (Gen. 7:4.) Many of the onlookers went away laughing. Others joined the crowd for the first time. News of this great ship on dry land had spread everywhere, and there was growing curiosity. Noah and his sons had built a door to shut up the opening in the side of the ark. God caused it to be closed and sealed. (Gen. 7:16.) If onlookers saw this happen, they must have been quite startled.

Chapter 4 "AND THE FLOOD CAME"

PERHAPS few noticed on that morning the wind was a little stronger than usual. By noon there were violent gusts that grew into gales. People were forced to shelter. Strong winds weren’t very unusual, but when swift-moving masses of unusually dark clouds boiled up over the horizon, residents began to worry. To add to the growing concern, there were strange rumblings within the ground. The darkness grew worse. The rumblings became so strong that the Earth quivered. Then, just seven days after God had told Noah to go into the ark, Earth’s crust broke open here and there, and giant streams of water shot out of the ground. (Gen. 7:11.) At the same time, huge waves roared in from the seas and spread over the coastal areas. Lightning flashed and cracked, followed by deafening roars of thunder. Torrents of water burst from the darkened skies. This, at last, was just the start of the terrible thing Noah had warned would come upon the world! It was the most awesome thing that had happened to the planet since Satan’s sin had resulted in all of Earth’s surface being torn up so that nothing could live on it. By now most people were becoming crazed with fear. No matter what they did or where they went, water came at them. No one could survive without shelter, but there was no lasting shelter. Rivers flooded the valleys where most people lived. Because of the constant cloudbursts, climbing to higher elevations was almost impossible. Swift torrents of water from the hills and mountains swept brush, trees, rocks, mud and people into the rising waters below. Only the strongest were able to battle their way to higher ground, and then only eventually to lose their lives by drowning or violent injury or murder. Meanwhile, water had swirled up around the ark and slowly lifted it free of the ground. Many who had jeered at Noah had realized that the inside of the ship was the only safe, dry place left. (Gen. 7:18.) A few who hadn’t been able to flee elsewhere had waded up to the ark and screamed to be let in. With rain pounding loudly on the ship, no one inside could hear the frantic shrieks. Hands clawed feebly at the pitch-smeared siding, and then disappeared in the rapidly rising and turbulent water.

God’s Mercy In His great mercy, God had given the people one hundred and twenty years to heed His warnings through Noah., The people had ignored Noah, which was the same as ignoring their Creator. Now it was too late to change or to pray for help. It is often too late to expect God to help us if we postpone asking for help beyond the long periods of mercy God extends to us. Day after day the water kept rumbling out of the sky and up from the ground. It swelled to the tops of the highest mountains. Any people or animals who were strong enough to fight their way that far must have battled among themselves for the last gasps of air before they were swallowed up. Within a few weeks the water was so deep that the peaks of the highest mountains were well below the surface of the water. (Gen. 7:20.) By then every person on Earth had been drowned except the eight in the ark. For forty days and nights water gushed supernaturally from the heavy, gloomy cloud layer. Then the rain stopped. By this time the blanket of water covering the planet was a few miles deep above the land and normal sea surfaces. But Noah and his family and cargo floated safely as high as some of our passenger planes now fly above the clouds! For a hundred and fifty days the water stayed at its deepest. (Gen. 7:24.) During this time, the people in the ark weren’t idle. Whatever the tasks, they must have been hard to perform in the weeks in which the ark pitched and rolled through massive waves pushed up by the wind. God caused this strong wind to blow so that it would evaporate the water as fast as possible.

The Waters Lower One day soon the tops of the highest mountains began to appear above the water. The ark drifted up against one of the mountains. (Gen. 8:5.) The water level kept lowering, leaving the ark stranded high on the side of the mountain. Noah waited more than two months while the water kept going down. After that he sent out birds to see if the distant land below was still flooded. At last one of the birds returned with a green leaf in its beak, after which it flew away and failed to return. This proved to Noah that the water had drained off to where plant life had started redeveloping, and that the valleys were ready to live in again. (Gen. 8:11.) The men opened the top of the ark, then the only eight people left on Earth excitedly came out on the top deck to view land for the first time in more than a year. (Verse 13.) After being cooped up for so many months, the sight of dry ground was a wonderful welcome sight to Noah and his family, but it was strange to look down on a silent world where there was nobody to scoff at them.

A New Life Begins "Come out of the ark," God told Noah. "Bring the creatures with you. I want all living beings to spread out over the Earth and produce families.’, (Verse 17.) The large door in the side of the ark was broken open, and a wide ramp type of gangplank was built from the door to the ground. Then all the creatures were freed from their stables and cages to return to a new life amid the new greenery of the Earth. But Noah didn’t set all of the animals and birds free. He was so thankful to his Creator for sparing him and his family that he built an altar on the mountain, and sacrificed some of the clean creatures as an offering to God. (Verse 20.) God was pleased with Noah. He blessed him and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. They were told to rebuild homes and raise children, so that many people would again live in the world from which the disobedient had been purged. "I shall never again bring a flood over the whole planet", God told Noah and his sons. (Gen. 9:11.) "As a promise to you that it will not happen again, look at this sign that will sometimes be seen in the sky." (Verses 12-17.) Thereupon the Eternal caused a beautiful arc of many colors to appear from horizon to horizon. Whenever people see this colorful arc, called a rainbow, they are seeing the sign of the promise God made to man more than four thousand, three hundred years ago!

Chapter 5 THE TOWER OF BABEL

FROM then on, all the people who came into the world descended from Noah’s three sons and their wives. (Gen. 9:19.) After some years had gone by, there developed many inhabitants in the plains area south of where the ark had landed. Some of them moved farther down into the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, the two main rivers of what later became known as the land of Assyria. As the years passed and people increased in numbers, many of them moved southeast over the lower plains to what is now known as the Persian Gulf. There the soil was rich, and wonderful crops sprang out of it. The ground was best in the region where the Tigris and Euphrates flowed closest together in a land called Shinar. (Gen. 11:2.) More and more families chose that area in which to live. There were very few rocks or trees there. Probably no great city would have been built there if it hadn’t been discovered that much of the soil was just right for making excellent bricks. These were made by pressing moist clay into block shapes and baking them in the sun or around fires. Furthermore, there were places where a thick, pitchy liquid oozed from the ground. This liquid, called bitumen, was the very thing needed to hold the bricks together. (Gen. 11:3.)

Human Beings Huddle Together Men began putting up homes, barns, warehouses and all kinds of buildings. Before long towns were sprawling over the plain of Shinar. People were massing together again just as they had done before the Flood. This did not please God. He knew that when human beings huddled together in crowded buildings, they failed to get the best out of the good things He had created for men to find in the fields, the forests, the mountains, the streams and even in the seas and deserts. Besides, men were more likely to break God’s rules of happy living when they existed in masses. God had told Noah and his family that people should spread out over the Earth. Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years after the Flood. (Gen. 9:28.) During that time he publicly proclaimed God’s wishes whenever he had the opportunity. Through him, many people understood something about God’s plans and laws. Unhappily, most people were living further and further from the ways they should have been living, and had little interest in bettering themselves by obedience to their Creator.

Nimrod Becomes a Hero At this time in human history there was a man who came down from one of Noah’s sons, Ham. The man’s name was Nimrod. Most of Earth’s inhabitants today wouldn’t have any idea who this man was, although in one way or another he has had a powerful effect on the life of most every one who has lived in the past four thousand years. Nimrod was a very large, strong, fierce man with dark skin. Because of his power and skill as a successful hunter of wild beasts that attacked people, he became a hero and a leader among his tribesmen. (Gen. 10:8-9.) Like most others of his time, he knew of his Creator’s laws, but he hated those laws. Just as many people today have been led to believe, Nimrod believed that if he lived by God’s rules he wouldn’t enjoy life. He lived by his own laws, and tried to prove to others that they would be happier if they would live the same way. Nimrod became chief over the people who grouped together in the main sprawling town in the land of Shinar. Probably there were many families who didn’t like the way he ordered them about, but whenever wild animals attacked, Nimrod and his warriors fought to protect the townspeople. Nimrod later built a wall around the growing town. Deeds like these helped make him a strong leader, and caused more families to move in and settle under his rule. Before many more years had passed, the town had grown into a city. It was the first large one to be built on the Earth after the Flood. It was such a wonder that people came from afar to gaze on the vast mass of buildings and high walls. That country later came to be known as Babylonia, and the name of the city was Babel or Babylon. (Gen. 10:10.)

Nimrod Begins Idol Worship Nimrod was not only ruler of Babylon, but he became the most feared man in the land. His power and wealth grew as Babylon grew. He made the laws, and those laws decreed that Babylonians should not look to the God of Noah as their ruler, but should be ruled by human governments. One of Nimrod’s schemes to hold people together under his rule was to build a tower so gigantic that it would excite everyone’s awe and wonder. It was to be the highest temple ever built, and a monument to the sun god in the center of a world-ruling government. (Gen. 11:4.) Men slaved for a long time just to erect the base of the tower. Then little by little the temple took shape toward the sky. Nimrod’s plan for a brick monster to loom up over the plain was working out well. Then God stepped in. He saw that Babel was only the beginning of far-fetched things men would try to do, and that they had to be stopped. (Gen. 11:6.) Imagine what it would have been like if men such as Nimrod had been able to develop weapons such as we have today!

Many Languages Begin Since the Flood there had been only one language. Men hadn’t moved apart in different tribes long enough to start speaking in different ways as do the people of today in various sections of the Earth. (Gen. 11:1.) Then something happened to the men working on the tower. They began to accuse each other of not talking plainly. Some talked one way, while others talked other ways. The less they understood one another, the more they argued. Arguments grew into fights. Work came to a halt. (Gen. 11:7-8.) Not every workman necessarily spoke a different language, but God caused them to speak in so many different ways that the lack of communication made it impossible to continue working on the temple. The tower was thereafter called "Babel" because "Babel" meant "confusion" in Noah’s language. Not understanding their neighbors, many of the families living in or near the city of Babylon moved away to seek a living in distant parts of the land. This was what God intended for them to do. (Gen. 10:25 and Deut. 32:7-8.) His way of scattering them by confusing their language was a great blow to Nimrod’s scheme for quick growth of his kingdom and greater control over man’s religious habits. But during the next few years, while people were scattering out over the land, those who stayed at Babylon were increasing in numbers. Besides, many who had never been there stopped there in their travels. In time, there were so many in or near the city of Babylon that Nimrod again put men to work on the tower. Nevertheless, it wasn’t God’s will that the tower should be finished. It never was.

Noah Dies of Old Age At the time Nimrod’s kingdom had spread, Noah was still living! He was about seven hundred years old when God scattered men from Babylon. Still he was not feeble, and because he remained faithful to God, God gave him many more years of abundant life. He became a successful farmer who was nine hundred and fifty years old when he died! That is a long time to live, especially when we consider how short a time we live today. Yet those who are wise enough to turn from the wrong kind of living and seek God’s ways will enjoy even longer lives. They will get to live forever as spirit beings (I Cor. 15:44-45, 53), and many of them will start that long life by ruling the Earth soon with Jesus Christ for a thousand years! (Rev. 2:26-27 and 5:9-10.) Later, they will dwell in a beautiful, jeweled city God will send down from Heaven to Earth. (Rev. 21:2.) This is one of the many wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him.

Chapter 6 ABRAM JOURNEYS TO CANAAN

TWO YEARS after the Flood, when Noah’s son Shem was a hundred years old, Shem had a son called Arphaxad. (Gen. 11:10.) When Arphaxad was thirty-five years old, he had a son named Salah. (Gen. 11:12.) Several generations went by in this manner. When about three hundred years had passed, a man by the name of Abram was born. (Gen. 11:26.) Abram was brought up in a city in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2) called Ur, not very far from the spot where Nimrod began to build Babel. (Gen. 11:28.) Like Noah, Abram learned to obey God’s laws, while again the people of that world were worshiping idols and living further from God’s ways. Abram was one of the few who didn’t take part in pagan ways. When he was about seventy-five years old God told him to move with his family to another country.

Abram Obeys God … God promised him that if he would obey all His instructions, Abram would become the father of the most famous nation on the earth, and that in time this nation would enjoy some very special blessings. Abram didn’t know what the land he would go to would be like, and he didn’t know what the blessings to his people would be, but he trusted God and obeyed. Besides his wife, Sarai, Abram took along a nephew named Lot, Lot’s wife, shepherds to take care of flocks of sheep and herdsmen to handle herds of cattle. It was no small task for Abram to move his family and their possessions to a distant land. (Gen. 12:4.) After many weeks of travel, they arrived in the land of Canaan, where God had said Abram should go. (Gen. 12:5.) Canaan was a very fertile land where there was good soil and plenty of growing things. But the people of the land were evil. Therefore God caused a famine to come on that area. This famine occurred just after Abram reached Canaan. (Gen. 12:10.) Lack of rain caused the fruit trees, vegetable plants and grass to dry up. There was little food for the animals Abram and Lot had brought to Canaan. And without cattle or sheep, there wouldn’t be enough food for Abram and those with him.

Abram Goes to Egypt Reports came to the travelers that down in the land of Egypt there was no lack of rain, so Abram and his family went down into Egypt to save their flocks. In the land of Egypt a great civilization had grown up since the flood. The Egyptian kings, or pharaohs, had become wealthy and powerful in spite of their worshiping of idols. They enjoyed all the good things that came from the ground. Whatever they lacked they took from others. Because Sarai was a beautiful woman, and that the king of Egypt might want her for one of his many wives, Abram asked Sarai to pose as his sister instead of his wife. (Gen. 12:12-13.) Sarai was actually only Abram’s half-sister, because her father was Abram’s father, but her mother wasn’t Abram’s mother. Abram wanted to convey this half truth because he feared that if it were known that he was Sarai’s husband, the Egyptians might kill him so that Sarai would be free to be married. The thing that Abram feared soon happened. Although about sixty-five years of age, Sarai still appeared as a young and beautiful woman. She was of lighter skin than Egyptian women. Before long it was reported that this unusual woman might find special favor with Pharaoh, who commanded that she be brought to his palace. Believing that she was unmarried, he had her lodged in a place where his future brides were prepared for marriage. Pharaoh was so pleased at the prospect of Sarai becoming his wife, that he gave Abram costly gifts that included livestock, servants and a fine residence. But God didn’t want Sarai to become Pharaoh’s wife. To prevent it, He sent plagues on Pharaoh’s house. This misery and discomfort to the king and his family was rightly guessed to be because of Sarai when it was learned that she was Abram’s wife. Pharaoh was angry at Abram because of not telling him all the truth at first, but God was pleased that Abram finally disclosed to Pharaoh that Sarai was Abram’s wife. Pharaoh sent Sarai back to her husband, and gave orders to his men to see that Abram and his family and property were safely escorted out of Egypt. (Gen. 12:14-20.)

Lot and their wives and servants then moved their livestock back to Canaan. Abram went to a spot where he had built an altar to God when he first came to Canaan. There he asked for forgiveness and strengthening. (Gen. 13:1-4.) By this time the famine in Canaan was over. The flocks and herds belonging to Abram and Lot had become much greater in number. They could feed well on the new, lush grass. But because the animals were so numerous, Abram’s men and Lot’s men began quarreling over the places where there was the most grass and water. Abram didn’t want to have any trouble with Lot, so he suggested that they choose separate regions in which to dwell. God had promised this land to Abram. It was Abram’s right to have first choice where he wanted his animals to graze, but he unselfishly told Lot to take the first choice. Lot looked down on the rich soil in the Jordan River valley, and said he wanted that. That left the upper lands to Abram, but Abram was satisfied because Lot was satisfied. (Gen. 13:5-12.) After Abram and Lot separated, there was a day when Abram was on a high mountain. There God spoke to him again, telling him that all the land he could see in all directions would forever be his and his descendants" whose number would be equal that of the number of specks of dust on the earth. (Gen. 13:16.) This was a wonderful promise to Abram, who was nearly eighty years old and without children. Meanwhile, Lot and his family pitched their tents near the city of Sodom in the rich Jordan valley. Lot thought he had made a wise choice in going there. He didn’t realize what trouble he would have with the people who lived there. They were exceptionally vile. As a godly man, Lot should never have come near them.

War Breaks Out in Canaan Shortly after he moved close to Sodom, war broke out between the kings of the five cities of the Jordan valley and four kings of the land where Nimrod began his kingdom. The four distant kings won the battle. The people of the two main valley cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, were pursued to the mountains, where some of them escaped. Most of them were captured to become slaves of the victors. Among the prisoners were Lot, his family and his servants. Lot’s possessions were taken from him. Evidently it had been unwise to choose to live in the valley. When word reached Abram about what had happened, Abram set out in pursuit of the victorious kings with only his three hundred and eighteen men. (Gen. 14:14.) It took courage to face an army with many more men than Abram had. Abram looked to God for help, and God helped him by giving him a chance to quietly encircle the camp of the four invading kings by night. Their men were taken by surprise. In the darkness they couldn’t tell how much of a force was attacking them. Fearing that it could be a huge one, they fled to the mountains near Damascus to the north, leaving behind all the prisoners and loot seized in the Jordan valley. (Gen. 14:13-16.) The king of Sodom came with his remaining men to honor Abram for what he had done to the enemy, though he wasn’t aware that Abram had done it because of Lot and his family. This meeting took place at a spot near the city of Salem, which later was called Jerusalem. Melchizedek, king of Salem, also came out to meet Abram. Melchizedek’s servants brought out bread and wine to Abram and his weary men. (Gen. 14:13-16.) There’s nothing unusual about a king providing nourishment to tired soldiers, but this was an unusual king. The Bible refers to him as "King of Righteousness." (Heb. 7:1-3.) There are no completely righteous beings except those in the God Family. Therefore Melchizedek must have been Jesus in human form! Melchizedek blessed Abram for rescuing the people who had been taken captive. Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods that had been left behind by the attackers who had fled, even though Abram kept none of it for himself. (Gen. 14:20-24.) This was according to God’s tithing law, which states that anyone who fails to give a tenth of his earnings to God’s priests, or ministers, is robbing God. (Mal. 3:8-11.) All possessions are God’s. Giving back a tenth is one of the right ways to honor Him. The king of Sodom offered to reward Abram for all he had done, but Abram refused to accept anything. He preferred God’s blessings to the wealth an earthly king could provide.

The Lord Makes a Promise to Abram Some years later, when Abram was living peacefully in his tents in the hills above the Jordan valley, the Lord spoke to him in a vision. He told him again that because of his obedience he would become the father of a great nation. Inasmuch as Abram and his wife were becoming too elderly to have children, Abram was puzzled by God’s promise. He reminded God that he was childless and had no heir. (Gen. 15:1-3.) God replied that Abram’s heir would be a son of his, and that if he could count the stars on a dark night, he would know the great numbers of people who would descend from that one son! Abram believed God and God blessed him for his belief. (Gen. 15:6 and Rom. 4:20-22.) Nevertheless, God intended to show Abram a sign that the promise would be kept. The Creator told him to slaughter some clean animals and birds and lay them out as for an offering. Abram obeyed. A little later a deep sleep fell on Abram. He dreamed that he was in intense darkness, and that God’s voice came to him out of that darkness, telling him things that would happen many years after Abram would die. (Gen. 15:8-12.) "The people who live after you shall continue to be as strangers in the land", the Voice said. "Later they shall become slaves to a foreign nation for four generations, but in about four hundred years they shall return to this land with great possessions." (Gen. 15:13-16.) Abram awoke to see a very hot flame passing over and between the carcasses he had laid out. When he saw this amazing sight, his faith in God became even stronger. (Gen. 15:17.) God has always promised good things to those who obey Him. His promise to Abram is one that has had a great effect on the whole world for thousands of years. We who are Abram’s descendants today are being affected by it now. We are enjoying greater wealth and material blessings than most of the other nations.

Abram’s First Son Sarai, Abram’s wife, was about seventy-five years old at that time. She believed she was too old to bear a child, and couldn’t understand how it was possible for her and Abram to become the parents of a child from whom would descend millions of people. Sarai had an Egyptian maid, Hagar, who was a much younger woman. Sarai told Abram that he should take Hagar as a second wife, with the hope that Hagar would have a child for Abram and Sarai. In those times a man often married more than one wife. Abram did as Sarai suggested, and in time Hagar had a son named Ishmael. (Gen. 16.) Thirteen years passed. Abram came to be ninety-nine years of age. One day a figure appeared before him and said: "I am God Almighty! Live according to my laws!" (Gen. 17:1.) Trembling, Abram bowed with his face to the ground while God told him that because he was learning to obey His laws, He would keep the promises He had made years before. He informed Abram that his name would be changed to Abraham, which meant "father of many people". (Gen. 17:3-6.) Sarai’s name, God said, would be changed to Sarah, which meant "princess". God then promised Abraham that Sarah would surely have a son, although she was already eighty-nine years old. The son was to be named Isaac. (Gen. 17:15-16, 19.)

Abraham Learns that Sodom Is to Be Destroyed Not long after that, three strange men came to Abraham’s tent. Two of these men were angels, and one was Jesus appearing in the form of a man. (Gen. 18:1-2.) In those days, because travel was more difficult and tiring, hospitality was greater. Abraham invited the three to rest and eat. A meal was prepared for them, including bread, butter, milk and meat. (Gen. 18:3-8.) After they had eaten, Abraham was informed that within the year Sarah would have a son. This was wonderful news to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, especially, could hardly believe it. (Gen. 18:9-15.) Two of the men went on to Sodom. The third, Jesus appearing as a man, stayed and told the astonished Abraham that His two angels were going to Sodom to find out just how evil the people were there. "If they find that most of the residents are vile and perverted, I shall destroy the whole city!" Jesus declared. (Gen. 18:16-22.) "If you find fifty good people there, wouldn’t you spare the city so that those fifty wont die?" Abraham asked. "If I find fifty good people in Sodom I will not destroy it", Jesus replied. Abraham then asked if Sodom would be spared if only forty-five good people could be found there. The answer was that if that many good people could be found there, the city would be spared. Abraham kept on asking about the matter, each time lessening the number of people. Finally he was told that if only ten good people could be found in Sodom, it would be spared. (Gen. 18:23-33.) Lot, the nephew whom Abraham had rescued from the kings who had attacked Sodom, had unwisely returned there to live. That evening, the two angels, appearing as men, arrived at Sodom and met Lot, seated by one of the city’s gates. (Gen. 19:1.) Lot saw that they were strangers, and graciously asked them to his home for food and rest. He didn’t know they were God’s messengers. At first they declined, but when they saw that Lot was different from the other people, they agreed to go. Lot had a special meal prepared for his guests. Later, as they were about to go to bed, a noisy crowd surrounded Lot’s house. These people knew that there were two strangers in the house. They yelled to Lot to put the two out into the street, where they intended to treat the strangers shamefully. (Gen. 19:4-5.) Lot went outside and pleaded with the crowd to go away. He was so concerned about his guests that he even offered to turn over his two daughters to them if they would leave. The shrieking, evil mob wouldn’t listen to Lot. Some of the men rushed at him, pinning him against the door. The two angels inside reached out, pulled Lot in, and slammed the door shut. (Gen. 19:6-10.) The angry crowd rushed against the house to break into it. Then a strange thing happened. The attackers began to stagger and grope aimlessly about. Their angry yells turned to moans. God’s messengers had struck them with sudden blindness! (Gen. 19:11.) When the rest of the mob saw that something awesome was happening, it drew back from the house. But something still worse was about to happen. All the men in the city had joined the crowd. (Gen. 19:4.) Inasmuch as all had the same base desires, that meant that there weren’t as many as ten good men in Sodom. There was no reason for God to spare it. "If you have relatives in Sodom you want saved, tell them to leave the city at once!" the angels told Lot. "Sodom and its people are about to be burned up!" Lot hurried out to find the young men who had married others of his daughters. When he told them what was about to happen, they refused to believe him. (Gen. 19:14.) He was so disappointed that he decided to stay at his house until they decided to join him. The angels warned him that he must leave at once, but Lot lingered. Even after they seized him, his wife and two unmarried daughters and forced them outside the city, Lot still hoped the rest of his family would show up. (Gen. 19:15-16.) "Hurry to the mountains!" the angels insisted. "Don’t stop or even look behind you at what is about to happen!" "It’s too far to the mountains", Lot argued. "There’s a town over there in the valley we can reach sooner. Let’s go there!" (Gen. 19:17-22.) The angels, patience was almost at an end with Lot, who was still hopeful that his married daughters and their husbands would somehow follow him. The party hurried on. The sun was just coming up as they reached the town of Zoar, several miles from Sodom. Back in Sodom and in Gomorrah, the other main city on the plain, there was a sudden ground tremor. In the nearby area of the flammable bitumen pits, the earth cracked open to loudly spew out oil, salt and sulphur high into the sky. In an instant these mingled and exploded with a deafening roar, blowing glowing chunks of matter even higher. Seconds later the chunks rained back, hundreds of them plummeting on Sodom and Gomorrah like so many blazing meteorites. There was no way for the people in or nearby the cities to escape. Even much of the plain near the two cities withered under the terrible heat. Nothing was left alive in that region. The greenest bushes and grass ignited and burned. Other asphalt deposits were set on fire, causing a chain reaction that made devastation there complete. (Gen. 9:24-25.) God thus dealt with the people there because they were harming themselves by living in their evil ways instead of by His laws. At the beginning of the fire storm, just as Lot and part of his family were about to enter Zoar, Lot’s wife was so curious to see what was happening that she turned and looked back on the scene of destruction. Lot and his daughters hurried on to Zoar, but Lot’s wife never arrived with them. She had been turned into a piece of rock salt the shape and size of a human being! (Gen. 19:26 and Luke 17:29-32.) Thus Lot lost his wife because he chose to live in an area of sinful people. God was merciful to him in sparing him and his two daughters.

Abraham Views the Frightful Scene Safe in his peaceful home in the mountains, Abraham got up early to look down in the direction of Sodom. He was startled to see clouds of smoke rising above the blackened plain and its cities. (Gen. 19:27-29.) It was clear to him that God had failed to find as many as ten good men in Sodom. At first Abraham must have thought that his prayers for Lot had been in vain. Later he learned, to his great joy, that God had answered his prayers. The town of Zoar, even though it was on the plain area with Sodom and Gomorrah, had been spared so that Lot would have refuge. Realizing that by staying in Zoar he would still be dwelling among people who had no respect for God, Lot and his daughters fled to the mountains. (Gen. 19:30.) He would have been richer and much more trouble-free if he had chosen not to live among the wicked people of Canaan.

Chapter 7 ABRAHAM GIVES UP HIS SON

AFTER the destruction of the cities on the plain of Jordan, Abraham moved southwestward to a land called Gerar. As God promised, a son was born to Abraham and Sarah. An angel had already told them to name the baby Isaac. Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. Sarah was ninety. (Gen. 21:1-3.) In those days it was a custom to hold a feast in honor of a child between two and three years old. When Isaac was that age, Abraham held such a feast because his son had grown out of babyhood and into a little boy. Having become a greatly respected man in that region, Abraham invited important men to the feast, probably even the king of Gerar. When Hagar and her son Ishmael saw what special attention Isaac was receiving from so many people, they became envious. Ishmael was Abraham’s first son, and Hagar was bitter because Ishmael hadn’t been so honored when he was that age. (Gen. 21:8-9.) During the dinner, Hagar and Ishmael made some unkind remarks about little Isaac. His mother became very angry when she overhead them.

Ishmael Leaves Even though Sarah had suggested that Abraham have a child through her maid Hagar, Sarah had disliked having Hagar and Ishmael living in the same tents with Abraham and her. She went at once to Abraham to ask him to send Hagar and Ishmael away. This was a problem to Abraham, who knew that there could be little happiness in a household where there were two jealous mothers. "Do as Sarah wishes and send them away," God told Abraham. "But don’t feel sorrowful about it, because I shall take care of them. Isaac, not Ishmael, will be your heir, but from Ishmael I will make a whole nation!" (Gen. 21:10-13.) This promise greatly relieved Abraham. He obeyed God. Early the next morning he prepared provisions for the immediate departure of Hagar and Ishmael, whom he hoped could reach a place where they could rest out of the hot afternoon sun. Probably he also hoped that they would not go too many miles distant to live. While it was yet cool in the morning, Hagar and Ishmael took food and water and started out afoot from Abraham’s tent. Hagar, who was an Egyptian, set out with her son across the desert to the south, probably intending to go back to her native land. (Gen. 21:14.) She believed that if they could reach the main caravan trail to Egypt, they might meet a caravan that would take them along to the southwest. It didn’t happen that way. Hagar failed to find the caravan trail. By the middle of the hot day they had drunk all their water. The shadeless desert became so warm that by the middle of the afternoon Ishmael fell to the burning sand, and was unable to get back on his feet. Because he was a growing teenager, he required more refreshment than did his mother, who realized that if she didn’t find water soon, her son would surely die of thirst within hours! Hagar became frantic. There seemed no possibility of finding water in that great expanse of hot sand and rocks. By the middle of the afternoon, when the heat was at its worst, Ishmael was only partly conscious. Hagar struggled to roll him into the weak shade of a wizened desert shrub. There she left him and walked far enough away to be unable to hear his groans. That and her bitter sobs were the only two sounds in the painful heat of the wilderness.

Ishmael Rescued After a while there came a startlingly different sound. It was the voice of an angel speaking to Hagar! "Don’t worry about your son, Hagar", the angel said. "Go help him. God will cause a great nation to come from Ishmael!" (Gen. 21:17-18.) Hagar looked up. She didn’t see the speaker, but she saw something she hadn’t noticed before. It was a spring of clear, cool water bubbling out of the sand only a few feet away! Hagar lunged for the spring, filled her empty leather bottle, and thankfully hurried to pour some of the water between Ishmael’s parched lips. God had promised Abraham that He would look out for Ishmael and his mother. He began by saving their lives in the desert. After Ishmael recovered, he and Hagar were still unable to find the caravan trail. They traveled to the southeast to a desert area where Ishmael became so skillful at archery that he was able to shoot plenty of birds and animals for food for the two. They kept on living in the desert for so many years that he became almost like a wild man. (Gen. 16:12.) Hagar managed to bring him an Egyptian woman for a wife. (Gen. 21:21.) Ishmael and his wife had children, and those children grew up and had children. In time, a whole nation sprang from Ishmael, just as God had foretold. Today we know those people as Arabs.

Abraham Put Through His Greatest Test Down through the years Abraham had shown by his obedience that he was truly God’s servant. God planned to put him to one more test that would be the hardest of all. At that time he was living at a place called Beer-sheba, north of where Hagar and Ishmael had gone into the desert. There Isaac grew up. Abraham was thankful that God had given him this fine, young man. He was shocked one day when he heard God say: "Take Isaac to the land of Moriah and offer him for a burnt offering!" (Gen. 22:2.) Abraham could hardly believe what he had heard, but he obediently began to plan carrying out the instructions because he knew they were from the Creator God. He had his servants prepare to start on the journey early next morning. He was almost overcome with sadness when he saw them chopping the wood on which he was to offer the son for whom he had waited so many years. The provisions for the trip were loaded on a burro. Then Abraham, Isaac, two servants and the loaded burro set out for Mount Moriah, a high hill to the east. Abraham had told the others that he was going to make a sacrifice to God, but he didn’t say what that sacrifice would be. For more than two days they walked toward where the sacrifice was to take place. (Gen. 22:4.) Meanwhile, many thoughts went through Abraham’s troubled mind. God had promised him that through Isaac there would become nations whose people would number as many as the stars in the sky. But if Isaac weren’t to live, how could this be? Would God bring Isaac back to life? And why should God ask him to sacrifice his son? This was a terrible ceremony begun by Nimrod and practiced by certain idol worshipers in those days. Could it be that God wanted His followers to do the same? The more Abraham thought about these things, the more depressed he became. Nevertheless, he refrained from trying to argue with God or give excuses for not sacrificing his son. He knew that God was far wiser and more merciful than any human being. He simply obeyed, no matter how he felt about what he was asked to do. After Abraham had sighted the mountain on which the sacrifice was to be made, and the group had reached a point close to its base, Abraham told his two servants to stay with the burro while he and Isaac went up alone to worship. (Gen. 22:5.) Abraham Obeys God Without Question Carrying a knife, a torch, some rope and the wood for the fire, father and son set off for the top of the hill. Not knowing what part he would have in the sacrifice, Isaac began to wonder what was to be offered. "We have the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" he asked his father. (Verse 7.) "God will provide the lamb, my son," Abraham replied. (Verse 8.) When they reached the top of the hill, Abraham chose a brushy spot where the servants below couldn’t see what would take place. "Bring stones for the altar," Abraham said, and together they built up a flat pile of rocks large enough for a person to lie on. Abraham then arranged the wood on the stone altar. At this point the Bible doesn’t state in detail what happened next. It simply tells that Abraham bound Isaac and put him on the altar. (Verse 9.) Very likely Abraham told Isaac at the last moment that he, Isaac, was to be the sacrifice. With his son lying helpless on the altar, Abraham picked up the sharp knife with which to slay his son. Isaac stared in sudden, shocking alarm at the white knuckles of his father’s hand as it lifted the knife. Then he tore his gaze from the point of the knife to the sad face of a father who felt that within seconds the son he loved so much would be dead. Abraham would have chosen to take his own life, but that wasn’t what God had told him to do. Abraham knew that one cannot do better than obey the Creator, no matter how difficult it may be.

Isaac Rescued Abraham tensed his arm for the blow. At that instant a strong, clear voice called out his name. He crouched motionless and listened. "Do not harm Isaac", the voice spoke. "Because you have been willing to give up your son, I know that you fear me!" (Gen. 22:10-12.) Abraham knew that God was speaking to him through an angel. He tearfully fell to his knees, overcome with joy and thankfulness because God hadn’t required him to take his son’s life. When at last he looked up, he saw a ram thrashing about in nearby brush. The ram’s horns were locked so tightly in a bush that it was trapped. Abraham realized that here was an animal for the sacrifice in place of Isaac. (Verse 13.) Isaac, too, was very thankful as his father slashed the ropes that bound him. They then prepared the ram and offered it to God. Perhaps one might think that it was cruel of God to cause Abraham to almost slay Isaac. God is never cruel. He is always loving and merciful. Sometimes He gives some very hard tests to those who choose to obey Him. This is to prove obedience or wisdom, just as sometimes school teachers or parents give tests to find out how much is being learned. In Abraham’s case it proved that Abraham loved his Creator more than any other thing or person, including his son. The proof was good for Abraham and a good example for millions who would later read of this event. It also pointed to a time two thousand years later when God Himself would be willing to give His only son, Jesus, to be killed because of all the evil things done by man. But there’s more to the story.

Abraham’s Descendants Promised Prosperity Before Abraham and Isaac started back down the hill, the angel spoke again to Abraham. "Because you have been willing to give up your son for me," promised God, speaking through an angel, "I will indeed bless you. Your descendants will be AS MANY AS THE STARS OF THE HEAVENS and as the sands of the seashore. They shall be able to conquer their enemies. All the nations of the world shall seek to be as prosperous as those who descend from you. All this will happen because you have obeyed me!" Those who have come down from Abraham are today numbered in the hundreds of millions, but most of them have no knowledge of who they are and the real reason why they are so prosperous. After Abraham and Isaac had returned to where the two servants were waiting, they set out to go back to Beersheba. Later, Abraham moved to Hebron in the southern part of the land of Canaan. There Sarah died at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven years. This mother of many millions of people now living around the world was buried in a cave in a field belonging to Abraham.

Chapter 8 ESAU SELLS JACOB HIS BIRTHRIGHT

ABOUT three years after his wife Sarah had died, Abraham began to think about Isaac getting married. By then Isaac was forty years old. Abraham was concerned lest his son pick a wife from among the Canaanites, who were idol worshipers. Abraham instructed his chief servant to take men, camels and provisions on a trip to Mesopotamia, Abraham’s native land, and bring back a wife for Isaac from among his own people. (Gen. 24:3-4.) It was the custom then, as it still is in some countries, for parents to choose whom their sons and daughters would marry. Abraham felt certain that there were many people still in Mesopotamia who worshiped God. He had a brother, Nahor, who still lived there and had a large family. (Gen. 22:20-24.) He knew that it would be more pleasing to God for Isaac to marry within his own family than take an idol-worshiping wife.

Abraham’s Servant Finds Rebekah After days of journeying to the northeast, Abraham’s servant and his caravan arrived one evening at a well just outside the city of Nahor. (Gen. 24:10.) In those days the women were generally the ones who went to the wells to draw water. Abraham’s servant prayed that among them would be one that would turn out to be a good wife for his master’s son. He also prayed that God would point out such a woman by causing her to volunteer to draw up water for him and the camels. That would seem to be asking a lot of God. What woman would be willing to draw water for ten thirsty camels? But even before the servant’s prayer was finished, a beautiful young woman approached the well. As she drew up water, Abraham’s servant came up to her and asked her for water to drink. At once the woman held out her water jar. (Gen. 24:11-15.) "Drink, my lord," she said. "This could almost be an answer to my prayer," thought the servant. "She is willing to give me a drink, but surely she won’t want to go to more trouble than that." Abraham’s servant was surprised, therefore, when he heard the young woman say, "I will be glad to draw water for your camels, too! I’ll give them as much as they can drink!" This was a direct answer to the prayer made only minutes before. Abraham’s servant was sure that this was the woman for Isaac. To pay her for her trouble, he gave her a gold ring and gold bracelets of great value. (Gen. 24:22.) When he asked her name, he received another surprise. "I am Rebekah", she told him. "I am the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son." Nahor was Abraham’s brother, so this young woman was a second cousin to Isaac! It was good news to the servant to learn that he had found a woman who was of Abraham’s people, and one who knew about God. Abraham’s servant immediately thanked God for helping him.

Laban Invites Him In Rebekah ran to her home to excitedly tell her family what had happened, and show the ring and bracelets. When her brother, Laban, saw the costly jewelry and heard Rebekah’s story, he hurried to the well to invite Abraham’s servant in. (Gen. 24:29-31.) The servant was thankful for the invitation, but before accepting it, he made sure that the men with him unloaded, fed and made straw beds for the camels. He and his men were then brought water with which to wash their feet. This was a custom that was very helpful in arid lands where travelers’ feet became dusty and weary. Food was then set before them, but the servant wouldn’t eat until he had told his hosts why he had come. (Verse 33.) He related to Rebekah’s family what had happened to Abraham since he had left Haran many years before. He told how Abraham had obeyed God in the lands where other people would have nothing to do with God, and how Abraham had become wealthy and the happy father of an obedient son, Isaac. When the servant told them about his prayer for a good wife for Isaac, and how Rebekah had fitted in with what he had asked for, Rebekah’s family were convinced that God had led him to Rebekah. "We believe that it’s God’s will that Rebekah become Isaac’s wife," they told the servant. (Verse 50.) The servant was so pleased to hear this that he again thanked God. Then he had gold and silver and beautiful clothing brought to Rebekah, and costly gifts for her family. (Verse 53.) Then, at last, all enjoyed a happy feast. If the reader believes that it was unfair to Rebekah because she had little or nothing to say about all these plans, it must be remembered that in those times wives were picked in a different manner. In this case, Rebekah was undoubtedly pleased and excited, even though she hadn’t met Isaac. What matters more is that God had a hand in the matter, which would insure the happiness of the people involved. Next morning, Rebekah’s family asked if she could stay a few more days at home. Abraham’s servant reminded them that because God had so quickly led him to Rebekah, no part of the matter should be postponed. Rebekah stated that she was quite willing to leave at once, so the caravan set out on the way back. On the return trip it was enlarged by the addition of camels carrying Rebekah, her nurse and her maids. Rebekah’s family was sad to see her go, but its members were happy that she would obviously have a good man for a husband. (Verses 55-61.)

Isaac Meets His Bride Days afterward, as Isaac was out walking in a field, he saw a caravan approaching. He went to meet it, hopeful that it was the one his father had sent to Nahor. When Rebekah saw a man hurrying toward them, she asked who he was. On being told that he was the man she had been brought to marry, she was pleased. She quickly and modestly attired herself in a long veil before stepping down off her camel to meet her future husband. (Verse 65.) Isaac and Rebekah were married shortly after their meeting. Because they had God’s blessing, they were very happy. (Verse 67.) Through them, the Creator moved a step nearer starting the nation that would do important work in the world through succeeding generations. By that time Abraham was one hundred and forty years old, and quite content to leave matters to Isaac, who managed his father’s business well. Thirty-five years later, at the age of one hundred and seventy-five years, Abraham died. (Gen. 25:7-8.) The Bible refers to eight children Abraham had. All were sons. If there were others, the Bible doesn’t mention them. (Gen. 25:1-4.) Most of those sons were born to Abraham’s second wife. The first two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, buried their father in the same cave where Abraham’s first wife, Sarah, was buried. (Gen. 25:9-10.) Thus ended the life of one of the most obedient of men. Because of that obedience to his Creator, Abraham became wealthy and lived a long time. There was one thing God promised him that he didn’t receive then, however, even though God always keeps His promises. It is everlasting life in God’s Kingdom, which will come to Earth only a few years from now. Then Abraham will become, along with others who obey God, one of Earth’s mightiest rulers. (Heb. 11:8-14.) At that coming time, strange as it may seem, many of you who read these words will get to meet Abraham and talk with him. Although Isaac and Rebekah were happy in their marriage, the years passed without their having any children. They became so disappointed that at last Isaac asked God to send them a child. (Gen. 25:21.) God answered the prayer. After twenty years of marriage, Isaac and Rebekah realized that at last they would soon become parents. At the same time, Rebekah suffered unusual pains that were so severe that she prayed for relief. God told her, probably in a dream or a vision, that she would give birth to the beginnings of two nations. One nation would turn out to be stronger than the other, she was told, and that the first one born would serve the other. God gave her strength to continue in her condition until she became the mother of twin boys. The first one born was called Esau. The second was named Jacob. (Gen. 25:22-26.) As the boys grew, it was plain to their parents that they were very different in manners and characteristics. Esau loved to hunt and roam about, as did his uncle, Ishmael. Jacob wanted to follow his father’s kind of life by raising animals and crops. But Isaac liked the delicious meat that Esau brought home, so Esau became his favorite son. Rebekah’s favorite was Jacob because he chose to do the things that kept him close to home. (Verses 27 and 28.)

Esau Sells His Birthright One day Esau went on a long hunting trip. He went so far that by the time he returned he was staggering with weariness. As he arrived home, he saw that Jacob had prepared a savory lentil soup. Esau was so weak and the soup smelled so good that he begged Jacob to give him some at once lest he faint from lack of nourishment. It was a custom then that the first son born in a family would receive more gifts and rights than any brothers born later. Because Esau was the first born, he naturally had what was called the birthright. This meant that if the father died, the birthright owner would inherit a larger share of the father’s property than would any other children in the family. In this case, it also meant that the descendants of the oldest son would receive the greatest share of the promises God made to Abraham and those who came after him. The birthright was of great value. Jacob realized that, and he selfishly desired it. He knew that here was an opportunity to get it. "I will give you all you want to eat if you will turn over your birthright to me", Jacob smiled shrewdly. Esau was so hungry that he feared he would faint any minute from lack of strength. In that condition, his birthright didn’t seem very valuable to him. Food was mostly what counted at the moment. The delicious aroma of the steaming lentils bubbling in garlic and butter was enough to sway Esau into deciding what to do. "I promise you my birthright for those lentils!" Esau eagerly exclaimed. (Verses 29-33.) Jacob shoved the bowl of soup toward Esau, who cooled it a little by dipping chunks of bread into it. After Esau had bolted it down and his strength started to return, he strode away with his game, not seemingly caring about the great price he had paid for something to eat. (Verse 34.) Isaac and Rebekah didn’t know about this matter at the time. Otherwise, Isaac especially would have been greatly displeased because of Esau being his favorite son. Years later, Esau brought grief to his parents by marrying two wives. In those days it wasn’t unusual to have more than one wife. The worst part of the matter was that both of Esau’s wives were Canaanites. The Canaanites worshiped idols, and had little knowledge of God. (Gen. 26:34-35.)

Jacob Steals the Blessing One day when Isaac was well past a hundred years of age, and had become blind, he sent for Esau to come and listen to what he had to say. "At my age, death could come to me at any time"’ he explained to Esau. "I want to ask God to bless you before that happens. Take your bow and go out after a deer. Then cook the meat as I like it. After I have eaten, I shall ask God to give you the blessing that should be on the son who has the birthright." If Esau had been honest, he would have told his father that he had promised his birthright to Jacob. Instead, he said nothing about it, and set out to hunt for venison. (Gen. 27:1-4.) Rebekah had heard Isaac talking to Esau. She wanted Jacob, her favorite son, to receive the blessing Isaac would ask from God. She believed that Jacob was better fitted to be Isaac’s heir. A plan came into her mind. She hurried to Jacob to tell him about it. "Do as I say, and you will receive the blessing your father is about to ask for Esau", she told Jacob. "Go out to the flocks and get two young goats. I’ll cook them just the way your father likes them cooked. After you take some of it to him and he eats it, he’ll give you the blessing before Esau returns!" (Gen. 27:5-10.) Jacob believed he should have the birthright advantages because Esau had promised them to him years before, but he couldn’t understand why his mother thought it could be accomplished so easily. There was too much difference between him and his brother. For one thing, Esau was a very hairy man. In fact, hair all over him was so thick that his skin felt almost like that of an animal. "I can’t pass for Esau", Jacob argued. "When my father puts his hands on me and feels my smooth skin, he’ll know I’m not Esau. Then I’ll probably receive a curse instead of a blessing." "Don’t worry about that," his mother said. "I’ll take care of matters. Hurry and get those kids. If there’s a curse, let it be on me instead of you. Jacob didn’t know what Rebekah intended to do, but he reasoned that if she were willing to take the blame for anything wrong, he should be willing to do as she asked. He brought her the two kids. Rebekah hastily made from them a meat dish cooked and seasoned just the way Isaac liked it. Next, she had Jacob put on one of Esau’s coats. Over his hands, forearms and his neck she carefully wound strips of the hides from the young goats that had just been slaughtered. "Now take this meat and bread to your father," she said to Jacob. (Verses 11-17.) Jacob must have felt that this was a wild scheme for getting what he and his mother wanted. Nevertheless, he went to Isaac’s tent and tried to sound like Esau by calling "Here I am, father!" "Who is it?" asked Isaac. "This is Esau", Jacob answered. "Sit up and eat this meat I’ve brought for you. Then give me the blessing you promised." "How can it be that you’ve brought back a deer so quickly?" Isaac asked. "God led me where to find one", Jacob lied. (Verses 18-20.) Isaac was puzzled. This wasn’t Esau’s manner of talking. He asked Jacob to come near so that he could put his hands on him. Jacob stepped close to the bed and almost held his breath as his father reached out and moved his aged hands over the hairy strips of goat hide on his son. "Your voice is like Jacob’s, but your skin feels like Esau’s", Isaac said. "Are you really Esau?" Again Jacob lied by saying that he was his brother. "Give me the food, and I shall eat it and then bless you", Isaac promised. Jacob suddenly felt great relief, though at the same time he felt guilty because of lying and tricking his father with the goat hide. Quickly he put the steaming meat before Isaac, and brought bread and wine. (Verse 25.) When Isaac had finished eating, he asked Jacob to come close and kiss him. When Jacob did so, Isaac smelled the grasses and aromatic herbs of the fields on his coat. It deceived Jacob into believing that Esau was beside him. This was because Esau spent so much time hunting. It didn’t occur to him that another could be wearing Esau’s coat. (Verses 26-27.) Isaac then asked a blessing on his son. "God, give to this young man, who smells of a field you have blessed, many well-watered fields," Isaac prayed. "Give him plenty of grain and fruit of the vines. Cause people to serve him and nations to bow down to him. Give him power to rule over his brothers. May a curse be upon any who will try to put a curse on him, and may a blessing be upon any who would bless him." (Verses 28-29.)

In from the Field Having received the blessing, Jacob left at once. He went just in time to avoid Esau, who had meanwhile shot a deer and cooked part of it for his father. "I have returned with the venison you asked for!" Esau called out as he came near Isaac’s tent. "Sit up, father, and eat it!" (Gen. 27:30-31.) Blind Isaac was just leaning back on his pillow, content in thinking that he had just performed an important duty. The sound of Esau’s voice brought him back up suddenly. In that moment he knew something wasn’t as it should be. He found himself trembling as he spoke. "Who are you?" he asked. "I’m Esau, your firstborn son," Esau replied. (Verse 32.) "Then where is the one who brought food to me and left just now?" Isaac inquired. "He said he was Esau. I asked God’s blessing on him. And God will bless him!" (Verse 33.) Esau was so puzzled and surprised that he almost dropped the food he was holding. "Then ask a blessing on me, too, father!" Esau excitedly begged. "But your blessing has obviously been stolen by your brother Jacob", Isaac explained, recalling how much the voice had sounded like Jacob’s. "I should have known it was Jacob who did this thing!" Esau exclaimed bitterly. "He has cheated me twice. First he took my birthright. Now he has stolen my blessing. Can’t you ask God for anything for me?" (Verse 36.) "I have asked for special things for Jacob", Isaac replied. "I can’t ask for the very same things for you." "But surely there is something you can ask for me, your firstborn son!" Esau cried out in a shaking voice. Even though he was a strong man physically, he broke down and wept aloud. (Verse 38.) Isaac felt great pity for his favorite son. He meditated prayerfully for a few moments. "Here is what shall be for you, Esau my son," Isaac finally said. "God shall give you and those who live after you a land far away from the best things this Earth has to offer. You will have to hunt and fight for what you will get. You and your people will serve your brother and his people, come a time when you will be free of them." (Verses 39-40.) Esau wasn’t thankful for anything his father asked for him. Instead, he was very angry because Jacob had received the greater blessing.
Esau Plots to Murder Jacob "My father will soon die", Esau thought. "Then I will do away with Jacob because of what he has done to me." (Verse 41.) In his anger, Esau must have told someone what he planned to do. His mother heard about it, and was afraid for Jacob. She warned him of what might happen, and begged him to go stay with her brother back in the city in Mesopotamia where she had been born. (Verses 42-43.) Rebekah became so worried about his safety that she thought up a plan to get Jacob to leave. She knew that he would probably do anything his father told him to do, so she went to Isaac. "If Jacob lives here much longer, he is likely to marry a Canaanite woman", Rebekah told Isaac. "I think you should send him to Haran to choose a wife from our own people before he is trapped by some woman from among the idol worshipers around us." Isaac had been greatly disappointed before because his favorite son, Esau, had taken pagan wives from among nearby nations. He didn’t want Jacob to do the same thing. Probably Jacob didn’t intend to, but Rebekah had fostered concern in Isaac’s mind. After a time he had a talk with Jacob. "If you’re considering marriage, don’t choose a wife from any except your own people", Isaac told Jacob. "Perhaps you will find a wife in Haran, where your mother was born. If you make the trip, God will surely bless you. May He cause you to have many children and much good land when you return." Jacob welcomed this good reason to escape from his brother. He started off for Haran by himself with few provisions. He wanted to travel light and fairly fast, and off the direct route east in case Esau decided to pursue him. Taking side trails, however, made parts of his trip more difficult.

Chapter 9

JACOB’S efforts to escape his angry brother, Esau, were in vain. Esau didn’t pursue him after all. Instead, he tried to please his parents, after leaving his first two wives, by marrying a third who wasn’t a Canaanite. Unfortunately, she was from Ishmael’s family. That still wasn’t very pleasing to Isaac and Rebekah. (Gen. 28:6-9.)

Jacob Stops at Bethel After Jacob had left for Haran, one of his first stops was on a lonely, rock-covered mountain slope. There he slept on the ground with his head resting against one of the stones. He was very weary because of the long walk during the day, but instead of sleeping deeply, he had a strange dream. He dreamed of a huge stairway leading from the Earth to very high into the sky. Many angels moved up and down the stairway, at the top of which stood a powerful looking being. "I am the God of Abraham and Isaac", came a voice from the Figure at the top of the stairway. "I will go with you on your trip, and I will protect you. The land on which you lie will become yours, and those who come after you will own it. They will spread out over the Earth, and through them all nations will receive a blessing. I will bring you safely back to this land again. I will keep all the promises I am making to you now." (Gen. 28:13-15.) When Jacob awakened from the dream, he was filled with a strange fear. He realized that God had spoken to him for the first time. The unusual experience left him weak and trembling. (Verses 16 and 17.) He felt that this was such an important event in his life that he should mark the spot where the dream occurred. He anointed the stone against which he had rested, and set it up like a pillar as a special landmark. He was so thankful for God’s promises to protect and provide for him that he promised to give God a tenth of all that came to him. (Gen. 28:18-22.) Jacob knew that the first tenth of what anyone earns should be returned to God. After all, God owns all things. Whatever man has comes to him as gifts from his Creator. Even the air he breathes is a wonderful gift, because it keeps him alive. In asking man to give back only a tenth of what he earns, God is being very generous. Besides, He promises that He will provide well for those who are faithful in giving back a tithe, or tenth. (Mal. 3:8-11.)

Jacob Falls in Love With the pleasant knowledge that from there on God would protect him, Jacob proceeded eastward. After days of trudging over stony mountain trails and hot desert sands, wading through creeks and crossing the great Euphrates River, he came to the land of Mesopotamia. One day when he was approaching a city, he noticed some shepherds and their flocks of sheep gathered about a well that was protected by a large, flat rock. Jacob went up to the men and asked them where they were from. "We’re from Haran"’ they answered, pointing to the city in the distance. (Gen. 29:1-4.) Jacob was happy to learn that his long, wearying trip was about at an end. Then, on inquiring about his mother’s brother, Laban, he was surprised to learn that Laban lived nearby, and that his daughter, Rachel, was at the moment approaching the well with some of Laban’s sheep. (Verses 4-6.) Jacob was anxious to meet one of his own family alone. It was such a special event that he didn’t want strangers around. He politely inquired of the shepherds why their flocks weren’t out in the pastures grazing. When told that all the animals had to be watered at one time, Jacob started helping the men move the stone cover from the well. By this time Rachel had arrived. Jacob couldn’t help noticing how beautiful she was. After he had drawn up water for her sheep, he stepped up to her and kissed her. (Verses 9-11.) "I am Jacob, your cousin", he informed the startled young woman. "My mother is Rebekah, your aunt." Rachel was so surprised and pleased that she took her sheep and hurried to tell her father about Jacob. This gave Jacob a chance to shed some tears of thankfulness and joy because of God leading him to his people. When Rachel’s father heard about Jacob, he hurried out to meet him and welcome him to Laban’s home. Jacob visited with his uncle’s family for a month.

During that time he did his part in the work that had to be done around Laban’s home and in the fields. The more he saw of Rachel, the more he cared for her. She had an older sister, Leah, who was closer to Jacob’s age, but Jacob was interested only in Rachel. Laban could see that Jacob could be a profitable addition to the family. He couldn’t expect Jacob to keep on working, however, for only food and lodging. (Verses 12-14.) "If you wish to keep on working here, I would like to pay you fair wages", Laban told Jacob. "Tell me what you think would be fair pay." "I shall work for the next seven years for you if you will then give me Rachel for my wife", was Jacob’s surprising answer. (Verse 18.) Laban was of course pleased. Seven whole years of service from a good worker was like an offer of much money. Laban agreed, but only after purposely hesitating. He didn’t want it obvious that he was elated at this bargain.

Jacob Marries Someone Else! Seven years can be a long time. For Jacob, who was happy in seeing Rachel every day, the months went by quickly. When at last it was time for the marriage, Laban gave a feast that lasted a week. It was a time of great celebration by many people in that area. At the time of the ceremony, Jacob’s bride wore a long, heavy veil that hid her almost from view. Jacob was very happy. He felt that it was well worth seven years of labor to finally have Rachel for his wife. Later, when the veil was removed so that he could look on the woman he had married, his happiness suddenly left him. His bride wasn’t Rachel. She was Leah! (Gen. 29:20-25.) Filled with anger, Jacob went at once to Laban. "Why have you cheated me this way?" he demanded. "You know I didn’t ask to marry Leah! I asked for Rachel!" "I’m sorry, my nephew", Laban explained, "but in this land it’s a custom that the older daughter must marry first. I can’t change the custom. I had to give you Leah." If Laban had been fair, he would have told Jacob about the custom. What he really wanted was to get Leah married, and he chose a dishonest way to do it. Jacob was disappointed and bitter. This trick by his uncle reminded him of the way he had tricked his brother and his father in order to obtain the birthright and a special blessing. Perhaps he then realized that it was just that he should be the victim of a dishonest act. Later, he was surprised at what Laban had to say. "If you feel that only Rachel should be your wife, I will give her to you if you will do two things", Laban told Jacob. "But Leah is my wife" Jacob said. "What two things could change that?" "If you will be a good husband to Leah for the rest of the marriage feast this week, then I shall see that you will be married to Rachel at the end of the week", Laban replied. "I am willing to be a good husband to whomever is my wife", Jacob said. "That is the answer to one thing you ask. What is the other thing?" "You must work for me seven years more for Rachel," Laban replied. Jacob was stunned by Laban’s words. For a while he said nothing, leaving Laban to wonder if he had asked too much of Jacob. "I agree to those terms"’ Jacob finally replied. "Rachel is worth more to me than fourteen years of work." (Verses 27-28.) Perhaps the remainder of the seven days of feasting seemed almost as long to Jacob as were the first seven years of service to his uncle. At the end of the week, he and Rachel were married. Thus he had two wives, which was a common thing in those times. Rachel was the one he loved, however. Jacob carried out his promise to work seven more years for Laban whose scheme to marry off both his daughters later brought grief to this deceitful man.

Six More Years of Work By the time his fourteen years of labor for Laban were finished, Jacob had little more than a large family and tents to live in. As it happened, only one son of his eleven boys was born through Rachel. Meanwhile, because of Jacob’s careful planning and willingness to work hard, Laban became wealthy in sheep and cattle. Jacob couldn’t see a very profitable future for himself in keeping this up. He told Laban that he wished to take his family and go back to Canaan to visit his elderly father. This worried Laban, who didn’t want to lose such a valuable man. "If you will continue working for me" Laban told Jacob, "I shall pay you any wage you ask." "I don’t want wages," Jacob said. "I’ll look after your animals for a while longer if you will give me those with spots or ring marks on their hides." Jacob was surprised that Laban agreed at once on this arrangement. (Gen. 30:25-32.) Next day he found out why. Laban had his workmen and sons quickly remove and take away most of the animals Jacob had asked for. (Verses 35-36.) Jacob had counted on taking sizeable flocks and herds with him back to Canaan. Now he would have to wait for more of those kinds of animals to be born. God had promised Jacob that He would look out for him. God had kept that promise. During the next six years that Jacob continued to take care of Laban’s animals, God miraculously increased the animals with spots or rings. So many of the cattle, sheep and goats became Jacob’s, having come mostly from the small number Laban had allowed him to have, that Jacob became a wealthy stockman in those last few years with Laban. By careful trading and buying, he also acquired many camels, burros, tents and other expensive equipment. At the same time, Laban’s animals weren’t increasing as he wanted them to. It had long been plain to Jacob’s uncle that he had become prosperous because a man who relied on God was managing his business. But now that Jacob was prospering, Laban wasn’t pleased. He feared that Jacob would leave him at any time.

Jacob Leaves Laban Secretly As Laban became less friendly, Jacob’s desire to leave grew. One day God made it plain to Jacob that he should go back to Canaan. (Gen. 31:13.) Fearing that Laban might forcibly try to prevent his leaving, Jacob waited until a time when his father-in-law had gone several miles away to oversee the shearing of his sheep. Then Jacob had his workmen take down his tents and pack them and his belongings on his camels and burros. Jacob was careful not to take anything that belonged to Laban. With all his family, flocks and herds, it was a big moving job. Cattle, sheep and goats had to be herded. The caravan couldn’t move very fast. (Verses 17-18.) Leah and Rachel were glad of the chance to leave. They felt that their father hadn’t been fair to them or to Jacob. Laban didn’t find out what had happened until the caravan had been gone for three days. (Verse 22.) Of course he was very angry. His anger was even greater when he found that some small idols he prized highly, and which Rachel had stolen, were missing. He was certain that Jacob had taken them. "Saddle my fastest camels for a trip to the west!" Laban roared at his foreman. "I will overtake Jacob if we have to go all the way to Canaan!" After seven days of hard travel, during which the camels were forced to move at top speed, Laban and his men came within sight of Jacob’s caravan encamped for the night beside the main east-west trail. (Verse 23.) "We’ll stay back here tonight out of their sight", Laban told his men. "Early tomorrow morning we’ll overtake them. Then Jacob will regret leaving me as he did!" By next morning, however, Laban wasn’t very intent on revenge. That night God spoke to him in a dream (verse 24) warning him that if he harmed Jacob, God would deal with him harshly. Laban was so disturbed by the dream that he dared not carry out his intent to cause Jacob any trouble. By the time his caravan overtook Jacob’s, his anger had subsided. "Why did you sneak away as you did?" he demanded of Jacob. "If you had told me, I would have prepared a great feast. I didn’t even get to tell my daughters and grandchildren good-bye." (Verses 25-29.) "I left while you were away so that there wouldn’t be any arguments," Jacob answered. "I would more than argue with you," Laban said, "if God hadn’t warned me in a dream last night not to oppose you." "You’re wise to obey that warning", Jacob said. "Probably so", Laban agreed. "I respect your belief, but you obviously don’t respect mine. Otherwise you wouldn’t have taken my little idols. I demand them back!" "If you think I have them, search my belongings", Jacob replied." If you find them with the property of any person in this caravan, let that person die!" Jacob didn’t know that Rachel had the images, or he wouldn’t have made such a promise. While Laban and his men searched for the images, Rachel rested in her tent on a camel saddle in which she had hidden the idols. Soon the search brought Laban to Rachel’s tent. "Get up from that saddle so that I may search there", he gruffly muttered to his daughter. Rachel stopped further inspection of her things by telling Laban that she didn’t feel well and didn’t want to be disturbed. Laban irritably left to go tell Jacob that the images couldn’t be found. Jacob was angry because of the search. He asked Laban why Laban had been unfair to him through twenty years of devoted service, and why he now treated him as an enemy. Laban knew that Jacob deserved better treatment. Because he wanted the reputation of a fair man, Laban suggested that they make an agreement that there wouldn’t be any more unfriendliness toward each other. As a monument to this agreement, they had their men erect a large pile of stones where they were. Then they dined together as a further sign of friendship. Next morning Laban said good-bye to his daughters and their children, and set back toward Haran. (Gen. 31:35.) Jacob’s caravan moved on westward.

Jacob Tested by God The closer Jacob moved to Canaan, the more concerned he became about meeting his brother, Esau. For a long time Esau had lived in the rough, wild country of Seir, through which Jacob’s caravan would almost travel on the way to Canaan. Jacob feared that there would be trouble if Esau heard that he was coming that way. Jacob was certain that Esau hadn’t forgotten how he had been tricked many years previously. Esau had threatened to kill Jacob, and it could be that he was still awaiting Jacob’s return. In an attempt to find out how Esau felt about him, Jacob sent messengers ahead to try to contact his brother. They were instructed to tell him that Jacob was about to pass through the land with much wealth from Haran, and that Jacob hoped they could meet as friends. Not long afterward the messengers returned to report that they had met Esau, and that he was not far behind them with four hundred men! (Gen. 32:3-6.) The report shocked Jacob. He knew that all the people in his caravan couldn’t stand against four hundred men led by a man who had promised to kill him. He gave orders for the caravan to divide into two groups and to separate. He reasoned that if one group suffered an attack by Esau’s men, the other group might escape. (Verses 7 and 8.) Jacob then did the thing that would be more helpful to him than anything else he could do. He asked for God’s protection. He admitted to God that he wasn’t worthy of it, at the same time reminding God, though that wasn’t necessary, that God had promised him protection. God wants us to look to Him for Him for help, but if there is anything we can do to help or protect ourselves, He expects us to do it instead of being lazy. Jacob didn’t stand idly by and wait for his Creator to do what man could do. Probably God inspired him to act as he did. Out of his animals he picked five hundred and fifty of the choicest cattle, goats, sheep, burros and camels. Then he divided each kind of stock into groups, and each group was sent out at a different time to approach Esau as one of several gifts. "Tell my brother that I hope he will accept my presents", Jacob instructed the men who departed with the stock in the direction from which Esau had been reported to be approaching. (Verses 13-21.) Thus Jacob hoped to make Esau feel friendly toward him. After the animals intended for Esau had gone on, Jacob moved the two sections of his caravan on ahead a short distance to camp for the night. (Verses 22 and 23.) He remained behind to be alone and pray. That night a strange thing happened. Suddenly somebody seized him and held him down as though trying to prevent his completing his trip to Canaan. Before long Jacob and his attacker were engaged in a furious wrestling match! Soon Jacob realized that his opponent wasn’t an ordinary man. Instead, he was an angel sent from God. (Verses 24-25.) Years later the prophet Hosea was inspired to write that the angel with whom Jacob wrestled was actually the One who later became Jesus! (Hosea 12:3-5.) That was a trying night for Jacob. When he realized that he was dealing with more than a human being, he struggled to be able to get the blessing of this Superior Entity. (Verse 26.) Before dawn, Jacob was blessed and praised for determination greater than that of his brother Esau. Jacob was determined to strive with all his might to not lose God’s blessings and eternal promises. He proved by his physical wrestling that he had the strength of character to overcome his spiritual problems. The wrestling match was a test of character! Before Jacob’s wrestling partner left, he informed Jacob that his name should be changed from Jacob to Israel, which meant one who overcomes, or proves to be a champion. (Verse 28.) God wouldn’t give His blessing and a birthright to a man who had taken them from a weaker brother unfairly. Therefore He appeared as a man to give Jacob the chance to prove himself with one who appeared as his equal. When dawn came, Jacob found that he was very sore in one hip, showing that God’s blessings don’t come without hardship and suffering. (Verse 31.) Later, when he joined his caravan, he was troubled to see a growing cloud of dust in the distance. There was no doubt that it was Esau and his four hundred men swiftly riding toward Jacob’s caravan.

Chapter 10 JOSEPH’S ADVENTURES IN EGYPT

TRUSTING that there would be little trouble, Jacob nevertheless arranged for Rachel and her son Joseph to stay behind the other people in his caravan. That was because Rachel was the wife he especially loved and Joseph was his favorite son. Then he moved up past his family and servants on his way to meet Esau. (Gen. 33:1-2.) Esau and his four hundred men came to a halt a short distance from the front of Jacob’s caravan. Jacob, ahead of the others, was so close that he could see his brother staring at him. He bowed seven times toward his brother, as was the custom then when one party wished to show respect for another party. After each bow, he moved a few paces closer to Esau. After the seventh bow, he straightened up to look squarely at his brother for the first time in twenty years. (Verse 3.)

Jacob Meets Esau Face to Face For a few moments there was a strained silence. Then Esau, who had dismounted from his camel, rushed forward to seize Jacob — and hug him! The two brothers were so happy to see each other that they wept. Thus God answered Jacob’s prayer. When Jacob’s family saw that the two brothers had met as close friends, the wives, children and servants came near and bowed. Jacob explained that they were his two wives, his twelve children and his servants. Esau was pleased at sight of the courteous people. Then, looking behind him, he saw an approaching crowd of sheep, goats, cattle, camels and donkeys. "What’s this?" Esau asked. "I passed it on the way to meet you." "You passed it too swiftly," Jacob smiled. "These are gifts I sent out ahead for you!" "But I have no need for stock," Esau said. "I have plenty. Keep them for yourself." "I am so thankful that God has spared you and caused you to be friendly with me that I want to give you these things"’ Jacob said. Esau could see that Jacob would be disappointed if the stock were refused, so he gladly accepted. (Gen. 33:8-11.) Then he suggested that their caravans go together back to Seir, where Esau lived. Jacob knew that with their children and greater numbers of animals, they would tiresomely hold back his brother and their men, who would naturally move much faster. The two agreed that Esau’s group should go on ahead, and that Jacob’s caravan would follow at a slower pace until turning off to the north into Canaan, where Jacob later bought land for his many animals. (Verse 17.) After Jacob and Rachel had arrived in their new land, there was a twelfth son, Benjamin. Unhappily, Rachel died at the time. (Gen. 35:1620.) Before this sorrowful event, Jacob’s daughter Dinah attended a pagan festival of the Canaanites and got into trouble. Some of Dinah’s brothers were so enraged that they acted in a brutal manner that was distressing to their father. (Gen. 34:25-31.)

Joseph’s Adventures As time passed, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, grew into a young man. At age seventeen he was helping take care of his father’s livestock. His brothers did the same kind of work, but they disliked Joseph because their father favored him. (Gen. 37:3.) To make matters worse, Joseph told his brothers that he had dreamed about becoming an important person. (Gen. 37:5-11.) Later, when the ten older sons had moved their animals about sixty miles away, and had been gone for several days, Jacob began to worry. He feared that they might have been attacked by men who had reason to dislike them. He sent Joseph to find them and return with any news. It was a difficult task for young Joseph, but after many inquiries and much travel, he came upon his brothers herding their animals. When they saw him coming, they decided that the opportunity had come to handle him as they had long wanted to without interference from their father. Excited at having found his brothers, Joseph hurried happily toward them, shouting their names. He halted when he came close enough to notice deep scowls on most of their faces. "Well!" one of the brothers sneered. "If it isn’t Joseph the dreamer!" Suddenly Joseph felt his arms pinned painfully behind him by those who had stepped up to seize him. "Rip his coat off!" someone yelled. The coat Joseph was wearing was a bright, many-colored one his father had given him. Because it was special, it was one of the reasons why his brothers were envious. After they jerked off the wanted coat, they dropped Joseph into a nearby deep but narrow pit. The lad landed on loose, dry gravel at the bottom of what had been a well, and so was unhurt. He got to his feet and tried to scramble out, but the loose rock fell in when he touched it. He could see that it was useless to try to climb out. Joseph at first thought that his brothers were playing a trick on him. He repeatedly called up to them to help him. The only response was an Occasional laugh as they started eating their noon meal. One of the brothers, Reuben, wasn’t cruel enough to laugh at his young brother’s plight. He had gone to watch the flocks while the others ate together, and planned to return and rescue Joseph after the others returned to their animals. (Gen. 37:22.) He didn’t see the caravan of Midianites approaching that area. They were traveling southwest to Egypt to sell spices. When the other brothers saw the Midianites, and that they were going to pass by very closely, an idea came to one of Jacob’s sons. "These Midianites buy and sell almost everything, including slaves," Joseph’s brother Judah observed. "Why not sell Joseph to them? They could resell him at a profit in Egypt as a slave!" There was instant agreement among the brothers. They waved down the approaching caravan, and told the caravan captain that they had a young man they wanted to sell as a servant. The captain was urged to dismount and look at Joseph. After he saw the lad, there was much arguing and bargaining. Finally it was agreed that Joseph would be sold for a small sum. It was a ridiculous price for a human being, but the Midianites felt they had out-bargained Joseph’s brothers, who were relieved to get rid of their young brother for any amount. With ropes the Midianites pulled their purchase out of the hole. Not knowing exactly what was happening at the time, Joseph struggled to get free and shouted to his brothers for help. They only watched idly as he was dragged away, and divided up the twenty pieces of silver the Midianites had paid them.

Reuben Returns to the Well A little later Reuben came back to the well pit. On finding that Joseph wasn’t there, he rushed back to his brothers, who had gone back to their flocks, and excitedly informed them that Joseph was missing. "He must have escaped!" some of them said, and all pretended to be concerned. Reuben was so disturbed that he ripped some of his clothing apart. His brothers dared not tell him what happened lest he tell their father, to whom they knew they would have to make some kind of explanation. Later, they took Joseph’s coat and smeared it in the blood of a goat they killed. A few days later, when they returned home, they acted very sad. "Is this Joseph’s coat?" asked one of the sons, holding out the blood-stained garment. "It is!" exclaimed Jacob, staring fearfully at it. "I had it made for him. Where did you find it?" "We found it out in the desert", was the reply. "I didn’t know about that!" Reuben spoke up. "We kept it from you because we didn’t want you to worry," was the explanation to Reuben. "My son must have been killed by some wild beast!" Jacob moaned. He was so sad at the thought of losing his favorite son that he was close to illness for many days. His sons tried to comfort him during that time. Jacob would have been better off to have known the truth but his sons were fearful of his anger.

Joseph Reaches Egypt While Jacob was feeling depressed about what he thought was his son’s death, Joseph was taken down into Egypt by the Midianite traders. There, in a slave market, he was put up for sale to anyone who would pay the best price. He was bought by Potiphar, the captain of the guard for the king of Egypt. His rank was that of a powerful and important man. (Gen. 37:36.) Potiphar put Joseph to work in his household doing all kinds of tasks. It wasn’t long before he noticed that this new servant was more capable and trustworthy than others. That was because Joseph followed God’s laws. Honest, energetic and anxious to do his best, he was soon put in charge of all the servants in Potiphar’s household. God’s blessing had been on Laban’s household because Jacob served God. Now there was a blessing on Potiphar’s household because of Joseph’s obedience to his Creator. Joseph wasn’t aware of it, but he was beginning to be used in God’s plan that would affect the whole world for thousands of years. Matters went well until Potiphar’s wife began to like Joseph as much as she did her husband. Joseph knew that shouldn’t be, and told her so. (Gen. 39:7-8.) This so displeased her that she snatched off Joseph’s jacket as he was leaving the house. She called for other servants. When they hurried in, she held up Joseph’s jacket, and told them that Joseph had been very insulting to her, but had fled when she had cried out. Her husband later was told the same untrue story. He angrily ordered soldiers to find Joseph and put him in the king’s prison. (Verses 12-20.) Time passed, during which the man in charge of the prison noticed that Joseph was unusually obedient to the rules, and that he was an intelligent person who helped keep order there. (Verses 21-23.) God caused Joseph to find such favor with those in charge that before long he was next in authority under the head jail keeper. However, he had to go on living in the dungeon, even though he enjoyed a fairly high office.

Chapter 11 JOSEPH BECOMES RULER OF EGYPT

AT THAT time a plot was discovered to poison Pharaoh, king of Egypt. As a result, two high-ranking men of the king’s court were put in prison. One was the chief butler, in charge of wine production and serving. The other was the chief baker, or chef. He had charge of preparing and serving food for the king’s table. There was no proof that either of these men was guilty. Potiphar, who by that time had probably begun to doubt that Joseph was guilty of his wife’s accusation, came to Joseph and asked him to look after the two new prisoners. (Gen. 40:1-4.) One day Joseph noticed that both appeared especially worried. When he asked them why, they told him that they had had disturbing dreams the night before. Joseph observed that the dreams could have important meanings, and that the two men should tell them to him. "I dreamed of a vine with three branches that blossomed and produced ripe grapes," the butler told Joseph. "I pressed the juice from the grapes into a cup, and gave it to the king." The strange dream was impossible for Joseph to understand through only his own thinking. Later, by himself, he asked God for wisdom, and God revealed that the dream had a meaning, and what it was. "Your dream means that within three days you will be freed from prison and will be given back your office as head butler to the king," Joseph told the butler. (Verses 12-13.) On hearing this, the chief baker became anxious also to tell Joseph his dream, hoping that it would also have a pleasant meaning. So he told Joseph that he dreamed that he was carrying three baskets of food to Pharaoh on his head, and that suddenly birds swooped down and snatched up all the food from the baskets. When Joseph realized the awful meaning of this dream, he knew who had schemed to poison the king. He didn’t relish telling the chief baker what his fate would be, but he knew God would expect him to reveal the truth he had been given the wisdom to know. "Within three days Pharaoh will have you hanged, and birds will pick the flesh from your bones," he said to the startled chief baker. (Verses 16-19.) Three days later was Pharaoh’s birthday. It was a day of feasting and great celebration, and on which certain prisoners would be brought from the king’s jail and pardoned. On that day the chief butler was given a pardon and restored to his former office, just as Joseph had foretold. At the same time the chief baker was publicly hanged out where vultures came to eat his flesh, just as Joseph had said would happen. "When the opportunity comes, please tell your king that I am an innocent Hebrew prisoner who has been held here unfairly for a long time," Joseph told the chief butler just before that happy man left to be pardoned. "Perhaps he will free me, too." (Verse 14.) In his elation at being freed, the chief butler forgot about speaking to the king for Joseph. (Verse 23.)

Joseph Leaves Prison Two years passed. One night Pharaoh dreamed two dreams which troubled him. He believed they held some meaning he should know, and therefore sent for men who were supposed to have magic powers to understand unusual dreams. Pharaoh related them to these men, but none was able to say what they meant. It happened that the chief butler was serving the king when this took place. Suddenly he remembered Joseph. Realizing that he would find special favor with the king if he could direct one to Pharaoh who could interpret the dreams, he told the king about Joseph’s ability. (Gen. 41:1-13.) A little later guards came to escort Joseph to the king. This was the opportunity for which Joseph had prayed so long. (Verse 14.) "I have been told that you have the power to tell the meanings of dreams," the Egyptian ruler said to Joseph. "I don’t have that power, but the God of Israel does," Joseph answered. "He will give you an answer through me." Probably that answer made Pharaoh think that an overly-religious foreigner had been brought to him, but he was anxious to try any method of getting what he wanted. "I dreamed that I stood by the Nile River and saw seven fat cows come out of the water," said Pharaoh to Joseph. "As these cows fed on the thick grass at the river’s edge, seven thin cows came out of the water and ate up the seven fat cows. Even so, the thin cows remained just as thin as before eating the fat cows. "I dreamed again, and saw seven plump heads of grain growing out of one stalk. Seven thin heads of grain, appearing withered by a hot wind, came out of the stalk and ate the seven plump heads. Are there important meanings to these dreams?" "There are," Joseph replied. "Both dreams have the same meaning. God wants to make doubly sure that a warning will be heeded. The seven fat cows and seven plump heads of grain mean that the next seven years will bring a record number of stock animals and grain harvests to Egypt. There will be far more food than people can eat. The thin cows and withered heads of grain mean that right after the seven years of plenty there will come seven years of famine. Your herds will die because little will grow out of the ground. There will be so much misery that people will fail to remember the seven good years." Pharaoh and those around him stared in silence at the young foreign prisoner who had told what would happen to their nation in the next fourteen years. His earnest manner caused them to believe him, though they didn’t want to believe what he had said about a famine. "If you can foretell the future," Pharaoh finally said, "I trust you also have the wisdom to advise what my people should do to prepare for the famine." "They should use the seven good years to store up food," Joseph answered. "It would be wise to first choose a man capable of taking care of such gigantic preparations. Then, when the lean years come, there will be enough food, if it is distributed properly, to see Egypt through them." (Gen. 41:33-36.) "I believe this young Hebrew is being guided by his God," Pharaoh told his advisors. "If he speaks the truth, it would be foolish not to take his advice." There was a chorus of agreement. Those who had heard Joseph looked on him with awe and respect.

Joseph Appointed Ruler "If I should choose a man to take care of storing food, what wiser man could I pick than this Joseph?" Pharaoh asked. Again there was a chorus of agreeing voices. Even if the advisors hadn’t agreed, the king probably would have decided on Joseph. The man who was the ruler at the time was more intent on doing what was best for his people than some who ruled before and after him. Next time Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh, he received a great surprise for one who had spent so much time in prison. "Because your God has given you great ability, from now on you will be the ruler over my house and all Egypt," Pharaoh told Joseph. "Though I will be over you, your word will be the law in all my realm." (Gen. 41:39-41.) That was how God answered the prayers of Joseph, one who was living by His laws. Not only was he freed from prison, but he was made second in rank to the powerful king of Egypt. He was given the authority to sign important national documents, a special gold neck chain to show his high position, fine clothing, a costly carriage second only to Pharaoh’s, beautifully furnished rooms to live in and servants to take care of his needs. From the time Joseph was sold as a slave at the age of seventeen, he had advanced, in thirteen years, at the age of thirty, to be the real ruler of Egypt, the foremost nation on Earth at that time! To further show his royal esteem for Joseph, Pharaoh arranged for him to meet Asenath, the daughter of a high official in Egypt. Joseph quickly grew fond of Asenath, and soon married her. (Gen. 41:45.) For a long time after that, while Joseph traveled around Egypt, he saw wonderful crops and many fat herds. It was clear that God was carrying out His intention to bless the nation for a time with a great abundance from the ground. Most of Egypt was usually dry, sandy desert. Without water from the great Nile River, that land never would have produced very much. But during those seven years of plenty, there was so much rain that areas far from the Nile gave unusual crops.

Joseph Orders Granaries Built Before the grain began to pile up, Joseph gave orders for granaries to be built in various regions of Egypt. Later, he started a system by which a fifth of the crops was stored in the granaries. So much grain was stored in seven years that all record was lost of how much was taken in. (Verse 48.) Meanwhile, Joseph became the father of two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. His life was so full that he almost forgot the years he had spent in prison.(Verse 50.) Seven good years passed. The next year there was a change in the weather. Showers almost ceased. Streams dwindled. Hot winds blew more often. Green fields turned yellow. Within a few months it was plain that the crops were going to fail. The second half of Joseph’s prophecy was beginning to happen. The time of famine had arrived. Before long farmers in some regions began to run out of food for their animals and grain for bread. It was then that Joseph ordered the storehouses opened. As demands for grain grew, it was plain that if the crops hadn’t been stored, thousands of Egyptians would have starved in the first year or two of the famine period. (Verse 54.) The famine wasn’t only in Egypt. Lack of rain affected many nations. Before long other peoples were begging the Egyptians to sell them grain and meat. Joseph gave orders that provisions should be sold to all outsiders who were in dire need. (Verses 55-57.)

Jacob Sends His Sons for Food Back in Canaan, Joseph’s father, Jacob, was one of many worried by conditions. There was hardly any grass for his animals. Continued dry weather would mean they would die. There would soon be neither grain nor meat to eat. Jacob had heard that Egypt had grain to sell, so he sent ten of his sons there to buy some. Because he had lost young Joseph years before by sending him on a trip, Jacob kept Benjamin, his youngest son, with him. (Gen. 42:1-4.) Taking camels and donkeys to carry back the loads they hoped to buy, the ten sons went down into Egypt to find that they would have to bring their request for grain to the governor, who was next in power to Pharaoh. When they came before the governor, they had no idea that he was the brother they had sold for a slave many years before. Joseph knew them as soon as they came before him. When they bowed, he remembered having dreamed as a lad that his brothers were bowing to him. At last that prophetic dream had come true. (Verse 6.) Joseph wanted to welcome them and tell them who he was. Instead, he decided to be harsh with them for their own good. "You say you have come from Canaan to buy food. Why should I believe that?" he asked harshly. "I think you are spies! Probably you think that Egypt is weakening because of the famine, and you are here to check on our military strength!" "We aren’t spies, sir!" they quickly replied. "We are the sons of an elderly man who needs food. Our father had twelve sons. The youngest is with him. One is dead." (Verses 9-13.) Joseph wanted to ask about Benjamin, but he had to remain stern. "It might be wise to keep nine of you in prison and send one of you to bring back the brother and father you claim you have," he continued. "Then I might be convinced you aren’t spies." The ten brothers stood uncomfortably before Joseph while he kept frowning at them. "On second thought," added Joseph, "I believe it would be better to put you all in prison to give you a chance to think matters over and decide to tell the truth." "But we’re telling the truth!" they called to Joseph as guards led them away. (Verse 17.)

Three Days Later After three days Joseph had his brothers brought before him. They still insisted that they had come only to buy needed grain. "You will get your grain," Joseph surprised them by saying. "However, one of you will stay here in prison until the young brother you speak of is brought to me!" The brothers’ faces fell. Each feared he would be the one to be jailed. "This trouble has come on us because of what we did to Joseph," they murmured fearfully among themselves. "I told you it was wrong to treat him the way you did!" Reuben spoke up. "Now we may pay for it." All this talk between Joseph, who spoke in Egyptian, and his brothers, who spoke only in Hebrew, had been through an interpreter. (Verse 23.) Joseph still remembered his native tongue, and when he heard his brothers talking excitedly among themselves, he understood every word. He felt so sorry for them that he turned his head away and wept, even though they had treated him brutally in the past. "The guards will take one of you back to prison," he said, controlling himself. He looked slowly over the tense faces before him. His eyes settled on Simeon, the brother who had suggested killing him when he, Joseph, was only seventeen years old. "Take that man to the dungeon!" Joseph snapped, pointing to Simeon.

Guards swiftly bound the protesting Simeon and dragged him away. It was becoming plainer to the brothers that God was having a hand in their affairs. "Leave now," Joseph told the remaining nine. "You will be told where to pick up your grain and how much to pay."

The Brothers Hurriedly Leave Egypt Later, after the brothers had bought the grain and loaded it on their animals, they were relieved to depart. At dusk they stopped where the animals could be fed and sheltered for the night. When one of the brothers opened his grain sack to feed his animal, he discovered a bag of coins that contained the exact amount he had paid for the sack of grain. "It must be the money I paid for my part of the grain!" he exclaimed. "How did that get there?" "This is not good," one of the brothers said. "It could be a scheme to arrest you for not paying for the grain." "They could arrest all of us if they could prove that one of us is a thief," said another. "God is dealing with us because of the wrong things we have done." (Verses 25-28.) During the rest of the trip the brothers feared that Egyptian soldiers would overtake them, but they safely reached home in Canaan. Jacob was happy at their return with the grain, but he was most unhappy to learn that Simeon was being held prisoner and that the governor of Egypt had demanded to see Benjamin.

Chapter 12 "I AM JOSEPH"

WHEN Jacob’s sons began taking the grain out of their sacks, each was shocked to find a bag of money there. It was the same amount each had paid the Egyptians. When Jacob learned about this, he was worried lest his sons be considered thieves and taken back to Egypt. "I have already lost Joseph and Simeon," Jacob said. "Now you say I should send Benjamin to Egypt. I won’t do that because I don’t trust you to return him to me." "Let me take Benjamin so that we may prove ourselves and rescue Simeon from prison," Reuben suggested. "If I don’t return, you may have the lives of my two sons." "Don’t make foolish promises," said Jacob. "I don’t intend to part with Benjamin. If anything should happen to him, I would die of sorrow."

The Famine Grows Worse As months passed, famine conditions worsened. Like most others, Jacob didn’t know that there would be seven years without enough rain to make crops possible. Every day he prayed for rain, and each day he looked for a weather change. God had a plan He intended to carry out in spite of prayers from His followers. The food supply brought from Egypt became so low that Jacob had to tell his sons to go back to Egypt for more. (Gen. 43:1-2.) "There is no use returning for more grain unless we take along Benjamin," Judah respectfully told his father. "We were told by the governor that he wouldn’t see us again unless we would bring our youngest brother to him." (Verse 3.) "If you want grain, Benjamin will have to go along. If anything happens to him, I’ll be responsible." (Verses 8-9.) "Then take him," Jacob finally agreed. "Take also some gifts for the Egyptian governor. My servants will prepare packages of honey, spices, ointments, perfumes and choice dates and nuts. Also take back the money that was returned to you in your sacks. Offer all these things to the governor. I pray that God will be with you, and that all of you will return safely with Simeon." Once again Jacob’s sons went to Egypt, and once again they stood before the governor, who was their brother. When Joseph saw that they had returned with Benjamin, he was very pleased. However, he had to keep from showing his feelings. "Take these men to my house and have a very special meal prepared for them," he told his chief servant. (Verse 16.) The servant escorted the ten sons to Joseph’s quarters. They weren’t sure why they had been brought to such a fine place. They began to wonder if they were there to receive some sort of punishment. Therefore they told Joseph’s chief servant about their first trip to Egypt for grain, and how their money had mysteriously been returned to them. They explained to him that they wanted to give the money back, and that they had more money for buying more grain. (Verses 20-22.) "Don’t worry about these things," the chief servant told them. "Make yourselves comfortable until my master comes."

Simeon Released from Prison While the brothers waited, they were given the chance to bathe, and their animals were fed. Then, to their surprise, their brother Simeon, who had been a prisoner for about a year, was brought in to them. (Verse 23.) At noon Joseph arrived at his home with some high-ranking Egyptians. The brothers bowed low to the governor, and humbly presented the gifts they had brought from Canaan. Joseph thanked them and asked about their father. "Is this the brother you told me about?" Joseph asked, looking at Benjamin. "It is," was the reply. "This is Benjamin. He should help prove that we didn’t come to Egypt last year as spies." Joseph was so glad to get a good look at Benjamin that he almost wept. He had to excuse himself and go to another room, where he broke into tears. He returned shortly. No one could know how he felt in standing before eleven brothers who weren’t aware that he was their brother. (Verses 29-31.) Food was brought in for all present. With so many good things to eat and drink before them, the brothers quickly forgot their fears and worries. Benjamin enjoyed the meal more than anyone. For one thing, he was served far more of everything. Besides, he received special dishes not served to the others, inasmuch as Joseph quietly had instructed his servants to give him special treatment. (Verse 34.) Of course Benjamin didn’t try to consume all that was set before him, but it increased his awe for the governor. He would have been more awed if he could have known that the governor was his brother!

Brothers Prepare to Return to Canaan Early next morning Jacob’s sons set out for home with as much grain as their animals could carry. They were happy with the way matters had turned out. They couldn’t know that something unpleasant was about to occur. Toward noon they noticed a cloud of dust off to the southwest. As the cloud grew larger, they could make out that a band of men on horses was swiftly coming toward them. They were surprised when the leader of the band turned out to be the chief servant of Egypt’s governor. "Why have you treated your host, the governor, so badly?" the chief servant asked the brothers. "What do you mean?" they asked. "The governor’s special silver cup is missing," was the answer. "That’s the one he was using yesterday when you ate with him. He thinks one of you stole it!’.’ "We aren’t thieves," the brothers exclaimed. "We brought back the money that was returned to us on our first trip to Egypt. Why should we steal now? Search us. If you find the cup in our belongings, we will become your servants. If one of us is hiding the cup, he shall die!" (Gen. 44:4-9.) They felt that it would be impossible for the cup to be found with them. None would have dared take such a valuable article from the powerful governor of Egypt. "Let it be as you have said," agreed the chief servant, motioning his men to search the brothers’ belongings. To the unpleasant surprise of Jacob’s sons, money for the grain was again found in the sacks. And the silver cup was found in Benjamin’s sack! (Verse 12.) In miserable silence the brothers packed their belongings back on their animals. Surrounded by their pursuers, they rode back to face the governor. When Joseph appeared, they fell down before him. "What have you been trying to do?" Joseph sternly asked. "Obviously you don’t know that I sometimes have the power to recognize evil intentions." "What can we say?" asked Judah, the brother who told his father that he would surely look out for Benjamin. "There’s no way of proving we aren’t guilty, and we aren’t. We’ve done some wicked things in our time, and if God wants to punish us by becoming your slaves, so be it." (Verse 16.) "It needn’t be that way," Joseph said. "I ask that only Benjamin become my servant. The rest of you may return to your father." Perhaps some of the brothers thought that this was a fair way of settling matters. Judah didn’t. He wanted to get the governor to set Benjamin free. He pointed out that his father had almost died of sorrow when he had lost a young son by the name of Joseph, and that his father was certain to die of sorrow if his youngest son, Benjamin, failed to return home. Joseph was so moved by Judah’s plea that he could no longer keep his feelings under control. Joseph had treated most of his brothers harshly because he wanted them to be painfully aware of their evil deeds. He had returned their grain money twice to keep them in a sober state of mind. He had servants put the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack so that Benjamin would have to stay with him for at least a while. (Gen. 44:1-2.)

Joseph Reveals Who He Is Joseph was unable to continue acting the part of a stern ruler. He dismissed the Egyptian officials from his home so that he could be alone with his brothers (Gen. 45:1.) "I am Joseph, your brother," he tearfully told them. Instead of saying anything, his brothers only moved backward, staring in surprise and unbelief. "Come near me," Joseph said. "Look at me closely, and you should recognize the young brother you sold to Arabian slave traders years ago." (Verse 4.) His brothers continued staring in silence. Perhaps some of them remembered Joseph telling them of his dream of their bowing down to him. "Don’t be unhappy because of my reminding you of things you have done," Joseph said. "God caused these events. He opened the way for me to be taken to Egypt and gave me ability to see a part of the future. It was for the good of many people, including you and your father, that God directed me to prepare for a famine. Five years without harvest are yet to come, so I want you to return to our father and tell him what has happened and what is going to happen. Tell him that as governor of Egypt under Pharaoh, I want him and his family and his animals and all of you and your possessions to come down to Egypt to live while the famine lasts. If you don’t, you will probably lose all that you have." Joseph then embraced Benjamin and his other brothers. This caused them to lose their fear of this man they had regarded only as a stern governor of Egypt. They began to talk as only brothers talk among themselves. It turned out to be a happy time, especially because Joseph wanted to forgive them for wrong things most of them had done to him. When Pharaoh heard about Joseph’s brothers, he was anxious to be of some help because of his high regard for Joseph. He supplied carriages and animals to take back to Canaan for the more comfortable trip to Egypt by the women and children that would come from Canaan. He felt that those who weren’t up to the discomfort of travel by swaying camels and jolting donkeys would be helped. To this Joseph added new clothing. To Benjamin he was particularly liberal by including money. To his father he sent ten donkeys loaded with food (Verses 22-23.) Besides these things, Joseph’s brothers took the grain they had been sent for. "Have a safe trip back home," Joseph said. "Go straight to Canaan and return as soon as you can with our father." With this advice, the governor of Egypt sent his brothers away.

Chapter 13 SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE

SEVERAL years later Joseph’s brothers arrived safely at their home in Canaan. When Jacob their father saw that eleven of them had returned safely, he was very happy. "I thank God that you are back!" he exclaimed as he hurried to embrace them. "Now if only I could see your brother Joseph again!"

Joseph Is Alive "You will!" one of the sons shouted excitedly. "Joseph is alive! We found him in Egypt!" This remark startled Jacob, but it also saddened him more because he thought that the speaker was unwisely trying to cheer him up. When the other sons loudly echoed the news, and that Joseph had become the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh, Jacob had to believe them. He was so moved that he fainted with relief and joy. Later, when he was shown the gifts and bags of grain from Egypt, and the carriages for his trip there, he was overjoyed at the prospect of going to see Joseph.

Jacob Journeys to Egypt Before long Jacob, his sons, their families, servants and animals were moving southwestward. The carriages Pharaoh had sent made travel less difficult for small children and the elderly. Being one hundred and thirty years old, Jacob appreciated journeying in such awesome comfort. At the same time he began to be concerned at remembering that God had forbidden his grandfather, Abraham, to go into Egypt. His worries about this ended when God told him in a vision that He meant Jacob to go there, and promised him a return to Canaan. (Gen. 46:1-4.) As soon as Joseph heard that his father’s caravan had reached Egypt, he drove out in his chariot with some of his cavalrymen to meet the visitors. The reunion of a fond father and long-lost son was a joyous one. Joseph felt that his life was so full that he didn’t mind if it ended then. Happily, he was to live for several more eventful years.

Joseph Tells Pharaoh "Pharaoh will want you to appear before him," Joseph told his father and brothers after informing the king that his family had arrived. "When he asks you what you do for a living, truthfully tell him that you tend cattle and sheep, even though most Egyptians regard animals as sacred, and don’t like shepherds and drovers because they seldom think of animals as sacred." Pharaoh at first asked five of Joseph’s brothers to come before him. As Joseph had predicted, the king inquired about their occupations. When he learned that they dealt in cattle and sheep, he suggested to Joseph that they settle in the Egyptian area of Goshen. Joseph had hoped that Pharaoh would do that. The best nearby pastures were in Goshen. Besides, there were fewer Egyptians there who would trouble outsiders who lacked the belief that animals should be worshiped. Jacob later was brought to Pharaoh, who treated him with honor because of respect for Joseph. The king saw that all of Jacob’s family were settled in the rich Nile River delta land, the section of Egypt nearest Canaan. " Weeks passed, during which Joseph had the opportunity to occasionally visit his father and his brothers and their families. Meanwhile, the famine grew worse. Those who had lived too luxuriously during the seven good years were first to feel the shortage of food. Joseph sent word to all the nation that farm animals would be accepted by Pharaoh as payment for grain. After the animals had been turned in, there was a period of less complaint. Before long, though, people were again begging for grain. The only way they could pay this time was to turn their land over to Pharaoh, who soon became the nation’s wealthiest landlord. Most of the land that didn’t belong to him was retained by priests of Egyptian pagan religions. The food problem increased with each passing day, but Joseph believed that the end of the famine was near. When seven years of it were almost up, he started moving the people back to the farms they had left. "Pharaoh now owns your land," he told them, "but he will give you seed for starting new crops. In return, you must give him a fifth of your harvest." The people considered this fair, though not many felt certain that the famine was about to end. After the end of the seventh year, when rain returned and crops began to spring up in abundance, the Egyptians had even higher regard for Joseph. Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt. His children’s families increased greatly in numbers. Because God had given Jacob the name of Israel, Jacob’s descendants were called Israelites, a nation that developed inside Egypt. Believing that his life was about over, Jacob sent for Joseph and his two young sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Jacob Adopts Joseph’s Children As His Own "God told me years ago that I would be the father of a great nation, and that those who live after me will be given the land of Canaan," Jacob told Joseph. "I want to adopt your sons as mine to make sure they remain part of our family instead of mixing with the Egyptians." Joseph agreed. He brought his sons to where his father, who had become weak and partly blind, rested on his bed. He fondly hugged his grandsons, observing that it was a great blessing from God to live to see them. He sat up to pray for them, placing his left hand on Manasseh’s head and his right hand on Ephraim’s. Thinking that his father was too blind to see which boy was which, Joseph gently removed Jacob’s left hand from Manasseh’s head. "It is the custom that the RIGHT hand be on the first-born," Joseph said. "Manasseh is the older." "I realize I put my right hand on the head of the younger one," Jacob explained. "The greatest nation of the earth will come from Manasseh, but a commonwealth of nations will come from Ephraim." Jacob then asked God to cause mighty nations to come from each of the boys. (Gen. 48:19.) Then, knowing that his death was near, he asked to see all his sons.

A Prophecy for Today! Jacob was inspired by God in what he said, for he told each son a little of what each vast tribe would be like in the far future. He had the most to say about Joseph, whom ~ said would spread out into the wealthiest nations in the world. Now, thousands of years later, we learn through the Bible that Joseph was the father of the English-speaking nations. When we read what is foretold to happen to Ephraim, we know that it means Great Britain. And when we read what is to happen to Manasseh, we know it means the United States of America. Only in recent years, just as He said He would do, has God let us understand these things. Jacob died right after speaking to his sons. Joseph ordered Egyptian physicians to prepare his father’s body for burial by an Egyptian method known as embalming. This took many days. Then followed a long period of mourning by the Egyptians. At last Joseph and his brothers and their families, except their very young children, along with a great number of Egyptian officials, soldiers and servants, started off with Jacob’s body for Canaan. It was a trip of three hundred miles, and therefore this must have been one of the greatest funeral processions in history. (Gen. 50:7-13.) This great ceremony for Jacob wasn’t just because the Egyptians held Jacob in such high regard. It was mostly because they thought of his son, Joseph, as a national hero because he had saved their nation from starvation. Jacob lived one hundred and forty-seven years. Some might have thought of him as a very plain, unimportant man. But he had a very necessary part in God’s plan to bring into being the great nation of Israel, the nation God chose to help Him in a wonderful plan.

Chapter 14 MOSES FLEES EGYPT

AFTER Jacob’s eleven sons returned to their homes in Goshen, some of them began to worry that Joseph might yet deal harshly with them because of the way they had treated him when he was younger. They sent a message to him asking for his forgiveness. Joseph was moved by the message, but even more when they came to ask for his pardon. He assured them that he wanted only to help them, and that God had used them to get him into Egypt to help many people. (Gen. 50:15-21.)

Joseph Dies After governing Egypt for many years, Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten. Before his death he told his brothers that God would some day take the Israelites back to Canaan. He asked that his body be taken back there. However, he remained in a coffin in Egypt for many years. (Verses 22-26.) For the next two centuries, the Israelites in Egypt increased to two million, most of whom continued to live in the Nile delta area. (Exodus 1:6-7.) Several pharaohs ruled and died meanwhile. The next one mentioned in the Bible after Joseph’s time hardly knew who Joseph was. (Verse 8.) He disliked the Israelites. He planned to prevent them from increasing by turning them to hard labor.

The Israelites Are Enslaved By being promised good wages, the Israelites were drawn from their farms and pastures to construction jobs. Soon they realized that they were being maneuvered into forced labor. The Egyptians supposed that in these miserable circumstances the Israelites would decrease. Surprisingly, they increased even more. "Work them harder!" Pharaoh ordered his taskmasters. "Work them till they drop! Use whips and sticks on them!" Under increasingly harsh treatment, and divided into gangs to keep them under control, the Israelites became hopeless slaves to the Egyptians. They were herded over the land to dig long canal beds, line the banks of the Nile with stone and build fortresses and pyramids. Most of them slaved long hours making huge bricks from clay and straw. (Ex. 1:9-14.) All this failed to decrease them. The cruel Pharaoh therefore decreed that all Hebrew midwives would be expected to kill baby boys born to the Israelites. Failure to obey was punishable by death. (Verses 15-16.) The midwives had no intention of committing murder. On hearing that they refused, Pharaoh angrily called them to come to him to explain why. "Israelite women are stronger than Egyptian ones," they said. "They so seldom need our help that we never know about many births." Pharaoh had intended to punish the midwives for their disobedience toward him, but because the midwives obeyed God, God caused him to change his mind. (Verses 17-21.) Pharaoh then moved in another direction. He instructed his police and soldiers to watch for and seize newlyborn male babies and throw them in the Nile. (Verse 22.) There probably were babies who escaped this inhuman fate. Unhappily, most were drowned. The Israelites were filled with dismay. They longed to flee from Egypt, but they were too well guarded. They could see only a dismal future of servitude. There was no way of knowing that through one of those babies God was going to bring about a great change.

The Birth of Moses At that time a boy was born to an Israelite couple living north of Pharaoh’s palace near the Nile. They managed to hide the child from the police for three months. Then, because they knew the authorities were suspicious, they put the baby in a pitch-smeared basket and set him afloat in the river, trusting that God would cause someone to find him who would keep him safe. This was risky, they realized, but they reasoned that God had inspired their decision. As God willed it, Pharaoh’s daughter came to the river to bathe, and found the basket and its live cargo. (Ex. 2:5-6.) She was so impressed by the appearance of the infant, which she recognized as an Israelite, that she decided to try to keep it in her protection. At that point a little girl surprisingly appeared and courteously told the Egyptian princess that she knew of an Israelite nurse who could help. (Verse 7.) Pharaoh’s daughter approved, whereupon the girl raced off to the nearby home of her mother, who was also the Israelite boy’s mother, to tell her what had happened. She was relieved at the turn of events, having sent her little daughter to try to find out what would happen to her floating baby. She quickly joined the princess, who asked her to take care of the baby for her for an indefinite time. "While you have this child, don’t worry about my father’s police bothering you," she was told. "When I’m ready to keep the boy safely, I’ll send for him." Pharaoh’s daughter sent servants to learn where the overjoyed woman lived. Her husband was suspicious of their presence, but when he later learned what had happened, he and his wife were thankful for God’s intervention. Several years passed. The beautiful baby grew into a handsome little boy. When at last Pharaoh’s daughter’s servants came for him, his parents grudgingly but promptly gave him up, admonishing him to carefully remember the laws of God he had been taught.

Moses Adopted by Pharaoh’s Daughter The Egyptian princess adopted the little lad and called him Moses. (Ex. 2:10.) Educated by the best instructors in the nation, he grew up to attain prominence and high rank in outstanding Egyptian pursuits. By the time he was forty years old, he became less interested in Egyptian matters and more concerned about the welfare of his mistreated Israelite kinsmen. Brutality by the Egyptians angered him increasingly. In one case he intervened to try to save the life of an Israelite who was being beaten to death. As a result, the cruel Egyptian guard died, too. (Verses 11-12.) Moses later learned that the fight had been seen by at least one Egyptian, and that Pharaoh’s police would seek to arrest him for murder. (Verse 15.) He managed to flee Egypt and escape to a mountainous region of the land of Midian to the east. The first people he had anything to do with were some young shepherdesses he befriended by helping them obtain water for their sheep. To show their appreciation to a person who obviously was a poor, wandering stranger, the young women took him to their father, an important man in that area.

Chapter 15 GOD CHOOSES MOSES

Reuel father of the shepherdesses Moses had befriended, asked why his daughters were back home so early from their work. He was told that a stranger, an Egyptian, had drawn water for their flocks in return for something to drink. "I would like to meet this man," Reuel said. "Invite him to eat with us." It didn’t take Reuel long to find that the stranger was intelligent and educated. He offered Moses work as a shepherd. He didn’t expect him to accept, but Moses did, feeling that it was safer to stay there than continue traveling on roads where he might be recognized. In Reuel’s out-the-way pastures, he would have the opportunity to think and put his thoughts into words. He liked the solitude, and he had long wanted to be a writer. He couldn’t even imagine that his writings would become part of the world’s most famous book, the Bible. As time passed, Moses became very fond of Zipporah, one of Reuel’s daughters. They were married and had two sons. Meanwhile, back in Egypt, conditions were becoming worse for the Israelites. The pharaoh had died whose daughter had adopted Moses. The kings who succeeded him were even crueler. Suffering Israelites begged God to free them from the Egyptians. Soon God was to help them.

God Calls Moses … Moses had been in Midian about forty years when one day on a mountain he saw a strange sight. A bush was afire, and though it continued to burn like a torch, no part of it was burned up. As he approached the spectacle, Moses was startled by a strong voice from the bush. "Don’t come any closer, Moses!" he was told. "You are standing on holy ground. Remove your shoes and listen to what I, your God, have to say!" (Ex. 3:5-6.) Moses was so awed that he hid his face with his jacket. When he heard what God had to say, he cringed and wanted to hide completely. "I am going to deliver the suffering Israelites from the Egyptians," the voice continued. "I want you to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let your people leave his country!" "Why do you choose ME to do that?" Moses finally stammered. "Why would Pharaoh listen to a stranger like myself?" Although God told him, through the voice of an angel, that he should contact the king of Egypt and the leaders of Israel in a move to lead the Israelites to freedom, Moses couldn’t believe that a sheep herder would be chosen for such a task. He was on the verge of arguing with God, who patiently repeated His request. "Don’t worry about your people leaving where they are in a state of poverty," God added. "I will cause the Egyptians to contribute liberally to them at their departure." (Exodus 3:21-22.)

God Shows His Power When Moses asked how he could prove that he had been sent to help his people gain their freedom, God patiently, to Moses’ horror, displayed how Moses could appear to perform startlingly gruesome miracles. Despite this, Moses felt that he shouldn’t be sent because he didn’t speak Egyptian very well. Furthermore, he was far from an expert with his native language, Hebrew. When God reminded him that his Creator could give him the ability to speak well, Moses still thought that the task was too much for him.

Moses Tries to Run Away from God’s Calling "Please find someone else for such responsible work," he begged God. God was still patient. He told Moses that He would send Aaron, his brother, to do most of the speaking for him. This was pleasing to Moses, who knew that Aaron was much more articulate. Nevertheless, Moses wanted to bring up a last excuse by reminding God that he, Moses, was wanted in Egypt for murder. God spoiled that final effort by informing him that the Egyptian authorities who had sought him had all died. Moses returned home with his flocks to surprise his father-in-law with the news that he planned to return to Egypt to visit his relatives. Just before he left with his family, he was warned by a message from God that Pharaoh would at first refuse to free the Israelites. He was told that if Pharaoh continued to refuse, God would bring some terrible things on the Egyptians, including taking the life of the Egyptian king’s first-born son. (Ex. 4:23.) On burros, Moses and his family set out for Egypt northward along the east side of the Red Sea. Before they had gone very far, Zipporah became angry with Moses because of a family matter. Moses sent his wife and sons back home. Quite likely God caused this to happen so that Moses could better apply himself to what he was to do in Egypt. About the same time, in Egypt, Moses’ brother, Aaron, was told by an angel to go down the east side of the Red Sea, and that he would meet the brother who had been missing for forty years. The brothers were thus brought together for a happy reunion. Moses told Aaron what God expected them to do. Together they went to Goshen, where most of the Israelite leaders lived. There Aaron gathered them together to explain what God, through Moses, intended to do. Most of the leaders were excited and pleased. A few started to cause trouble.

Chapter 16 MOSES AND AARON MEET PHARAOH

"WHAT proof do you have that God sent you to lead us out of Egypt?" some of the chief Israelites demanded of Moses and Aaron. "We want to get out of here!" one spoke out loudly. "But we want to choose a leader instead of accepting just anyone who claims he has been sent by God!" Encouraged by this kind of talk, other skeptics added their opinions. Aaron held up his hands for silence.

God Performs Miracles Through Moses "God expects some to fail to recognize His servants," Aaron told them. "He has given my brother the ability to do unusual things so that you can see for yourselves God working through him." Aaron motioned to Moses, who stepped up and held out his shepherd’s rod and tossed it to the ground before all. The instant it touched the soil, gasps of alarm came from the onlookers. They fell back, staring. The rod had turned into a long, coiling, hissing snake! To the astonishment of all except Aaron, Moses walked up to the snake and seized it by its tail. It wiggled furiously, then became rigid as it turned back into the lifeless shepherd’s rod. The Israelite chiefs murmured among themselves in a tone that suddenly was different. In the silence that followed, Moses held up his right hand for all to see that it was a normal hand. After thrusting it inside his jacket, he withdrew it to display a white, leprous, decayed hand. There were expressions of horror, especially from those uncomfortably close at hand. Moses then again concealed his hand, and pulled it into sight to show that it had instantly returned to normal. "No one could do these things without the power of God," some muttered. "Not necessarily," said one. "Haven’t you heard about the powers of Pharaoh’s magicians?" Ignoring the remark, Aaron called men to bring in a large jar of water. He announced that it was from the Nile, and invited onlookers to examine and taste it. A few did.

The Doubters Convinced When the examination was over, Moses motioned for the helpers to tip the huge jar over. Many gallons of clear water surged across the ground, wetting the sandals of those who were nearby. At the same time Moses waved his shepherd’s rod over it. The onlookers were startled to see the sparkling liquid curdling into a red mass. "Blood!" someone shouted, trying to leap out of the thickening puddle. "It’s turned to blood!" After the expressions of horror had died down, someone began to speak out to thank God for sending men to help lead their people out of their misery. The others bowed their heads and silently joined in the prayer. (Ex. 4:31.) Moses and Aaron were thankful that these men accepted them. Later, they and some of the leaders went to the Egyptian city of Memphis to appeal before the king. "If these Israelites are here to ask a favor," Pharaoh told his aides, "they will receive none from me." "We come in the name of the God of Israel," Aaron declared to Pharaoh when the Israelites were admitted. "Our God has told us to tell you to let our people go to the desert to worship Him." There was a cold silence in the court, broken at first by faint giggling from Egyptian women who were the king’s guests for the day. Pharaoh leaned forward from his elevated chair and frowned curiously down on Aaron. "I don’t know your God," he muttered. "Whoever He is, He isn’t going to cause me to let the Israelites leave!" (Ex. 5:2.) "We must obey our God," Aaron patiently went on. "All He wants is that we be given three days in the desert. If we don’t go, we might be punished." (Verse 3.) "I’m aware that you two are scheming to sneak your people out of Egypt!" Pharaoh snapped, glancing darkly at Moses and Aaron. "Go back and warn them not to let up on their work!" Guards herded the Israelites out of the room while amused guests laughed. Pushed along with Aaron, Moses was discouraged because he was so helpless.

Pharaoh Oppresses the People The more the king thought about the Israelite leaders coming to him for a favor, the angrier he became. He sent orders to his labor gang officers to work the Israelites even longer hours. (Ex. 5:6-9.) The Israelites were slaving on many projects, but probably the brick makers were most seriously affected by the new orders, which required them to walk long distances to widely-scattered fields to gather the straw that was necessary in making bricks. (Verses 10-13.) Production became so difficult that the laborers fell behind in their tasks. Egyptian officers, fearing Pharaoh’s wrath, began to beat the Israelite foremen, whom they expected to beat the workers into greater production. (Verse 14.) Instead, the Israelite officers sent men to Pharaoh to complain about matters. They managed to be heard, but Pharaoh took the opportunity to express himself. "You Israelites are lazy!" he stormed. "You beg for time off to worship your God! That’s a ridiculous excuse! Get back to work! And remember my new orders!" (Verses 15-19.) The Israelite officers glumly left the palace. Moses and Aaron were outside, anxious to learn what had happened. The officers regarded them without friendliness, muttering as they strode past that it had been a grave mistake to anger Pharaoh by telling him that God required their presence in the desert.

Moses Prays for Help Moses was discouraged again, and unhappy that God had expected him and Aaron to ask a favor of Pharaoh. As soon as he was alone, he complained to God for allowing the Israelites to fall into greater misery. (Verses 20-23.) "You will see that after I deal with the king, he will be ANXIOUS to get rid of Israel," God assured Moses. "Remember that I am your Creator the One Who made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Tell your people that I haven’t forgotten my promises to them. I will cause great things to occur, and will bring them into the land I told them I would give them." (Ex. 6:6-7.) Heartened by these words, Moses and Aaron went to encourage their people. Unfortunately, the laborers were so miserable that they weren’t inclined to listen. (Verse 9.) Not long afterward, while Moses was trying to weather this repeated stress, God again told him to return to Pharaoh to ask for the release of his countrymen. Moses’ reaction was to tell God that it would be futile to try to help people who didn’t seem to be interested. God firmly reminded him that he and Aaron had the responsibility, and that it had to be done. (Verse 13.)

Pharaoh Again! "You claim that your God has sent you to demand your countrymen’s release," Pharaoh smugly repeated when the two Israelites came to him. "How can you prove that? What powers can your God show?" Intending to amuse his court guests, the king settled back in his chair to enjoy the discomfort he expected Moses and Aaron to show. Moses glanced around at the grinning faces. Then he tossed his shepherd’s rod to Aaron, who threw it on the thickly-carpeted floor in front of the king. There were sudden expressions of alarm. Grins faded. Pharaoh’s bearded chin sagged. His narrowed eyes widened as he stared down. As it had done before, the rod had turned to a large, wriggling serpent! (Ex. 7:8-10.) Pharaoh straightened up and stared at the creature. He gestured impatiently to an aide, who approached nervously to listen to the king’s hasty instructions and quickly leave. Minutes dragged as people gazed uneasily at the coiling, tongue-darting snake. Finally the aide returned to whisper something to Pharaoh.

Egyptian Magicians Appear "Your display was clever," the king said to Moses and Aaron, "but now you will learn that I have men who are cleverer and can display more power." From behind curtains several richly-robed men appeared, each carrying what appeared to be a shepherd’s rod. They lined up a little way from the king, dramatically brandishing the sticks, then throwing them in unison to the floor. Every stick, to the surprise of Moses and Aaron, turned into a live snake! "My magicians have just sure passed the power of your God!" Pharaoh boasted, leering triumphantly at the Israelites. Applause and shouts of praise came from the court audience. Under the king’s amused stare, Moses bent down to pick up his snake so that it would turn back into his rod. But the snake wouldn’t hold still to be picked up. It slithered away toward the other snakes. It was then that the applause abruptly ceased. Pharaoh’s smirk dissolved to an expression of disbelief. Moses’ snake was hastily gulping down the magicians’ snakes! (Verse 12.) This was too much for the onlookers, especially the magicians. As Moses snatched up his gorged snake, which turned back into a shepherd’s rod, they scrambled out of sight. Even Pharaoh tried to exit nonchalantly. "We have showed you the proof you wanted!" Aaron called out. "Now will you let our people go?" Pharaoh whirled and glowered coldly at the two Israelites, whom he had suddenly come to dislike more than ever. For a moment it appeared that he was about to give in. "I will," he muttered, "do no such thing!" and strode away. (Verse 13.)

Chapter 17 THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT ALTHOUGH

Moses and Aaron were again disappointed, they felt that Pharaoh was beginning to take them seriously. Fearing that they would have no success in getting into the king’s palace soon, they welcomed God’s information that Pharaoh could be reached at his bathing pool, and how they should get there and what they should say. One morning when Pharaoh was slipping into his tiled pool built in a bank of the Nile, he was startled to hear a familiar voice from the foliage bordering his pool. He looked up with curious dismay to see Moses and Aaron. Guards moved swiftly toward the two Israelites, but the king held up a restraining hand. "Wait!" he commanded. "I want to know what kind of show this couple has in mind for me this time." Aaron leaped at the opportunity, relating what God had told Moses. "We have come to warn you that because you have refused to let our people go," Aaron said, "our God will turn this river into blood! The water creatures in it will die. It will be undrinkable. People will turn ill because of the horrible stench." (Ex. 7:15-18.) "I would have been disappointed if you fellows had come with less exciting news," Pharaoh quipped, idly splashing water over himself. "The Nile is a mighty stream. It worries me to think of what to do with that much blood." As the Egyptian guards and servants roared with laughter, Aaron lifted Moses’ rod at arm’s length. This gesture sobered the Egyptians. They were sobered further at a shout of alarm from Pharaoh’s robe bearer. "The water is turning red!" he yelled. Standing waist deep in the pool, Pharaoh glanced down to see that the water had lost its clarity and was growing redder by the second. He had a sudden desire to leap out of it, which he did in an undignified manner. The perturbed robe bearer thrust the robe over his master to hide the ugly crimson streaks, but there was no concealing the thick, red puddle in which the king uncomfortably wiggled his toes. (Ex. 7:20.) "Call my magicians!" the king commanded. "Tell them what has happened!" There was a wait for them to arrive and prove that they had power equal to what the Israelite God had shown through His followers. From his bathhouse Pharaoh gazed apprehensively across the reddened Nile flowing to the north, spotted with the white bellies of dead fish. The results of the power of the Israelites’ God showed plainly, but the king didn’t want to allow himself to believe what he saw. At last the magicians appeared with servants bearing huge casks. These were opened in front of all to reveal many gallons of clear water. This was poured out on the ground while the magicians waved their arms and uttered strange words. Before it could soak into the soil, it turned blood red! (Ex. 7:22.) "There is no miracle your God can perform that my magicians can’t perform," Pharaoh said to Moses and Aaron. "Of course you had the advantage. My men could hardly turn the river into blood when it already appeared that way!" Hoping that Moses and Aaron had been impressed by this comparatively weak display, the king walked away as he struggled to maintain his dignity. (Verse 23.)

Seven Days Without Water The whole nation of Egypt soon was in misery. Water was the life of that arid land. Even the canals, pools and ponds had become blood, which wasn’t good even for fertilizer because it was too stenchy to use. There was a frantic struggle for drinking water for people and livestock. Only in Goshen, where most of the Israelites lived, were there some wells with clear water. Getting it from there or sources outside Egypt was too great a task to serve the whole country. Even many Israelite slaves suffered, though they had the advantage of work stoppages. Pharaoh and his family were supplied with fresh water at the cost of increased suffering by many servants. What mattered most was the welfare and lives of most of the Egyptians. Realizing that he could lose a nation to rule, Pharaoh decided less than a week later that he would have to contact Moses and Aaron. The discomfort, the shortage of water and the complaining of people were too much for him. On the eighth day after the Nile had turned to blood, excited servants informed the king that the river and other bodies of water had miraculously returned to normal. There was great rejoicing in Egypt. Pharaoh was relieved that he would be spared asking Moses and Aaron for help, or even to see them. He was quite angry when he learned they had come to see HIM.

Moses and Aaron Return Hoping the two Israelites had come to tell him they had given up their desire to take their people into the desert, Pharaoh nodded for his guards to admit the visitors. "Spare me your old story of asking three days off work for your countrymen!" the king almost shouted as Moses and Aaron walked toward him. "We have come to warn you that if you refuse to let our people go, God will bring millions of frogs into this country!" Aaron answered. "They will swarm into your kitchens, your beds and wherever you stand, sit or lie!" (Ex. 8:1-4.) "Go tell your God that He can’t do more than my magicians can do!" Pharaoh scowled. "I’m not frightened by your tiresome threats!" The king was worried. He knew his magicians had failed miserably in trying to outperform Israel’s God. He would have been much more concerned if he could have foreseen what would happen next morning, when he was awakened very early by the screams of women servants. As he turned over for more sleep, he felt something crawling on his face. He jerked to a sitting position to see in the dim light of early dawn many small frogs hopping and crawling over his bed covers! (Verses 5-6.) Angered because his servants would allow such desecration of his quarters, he leaped out of bed to plant his warm feet on a slithery carpet of cold frogs swarming on the floor. He slipped and slid to the door just in time to collide with embarrassed servants struggling to sweep piles of frogs away from his bedroom door. "Forgive us, sire!" they stuttered. "These creatures are coming from the river in great hordes!" The king shuddered. He remembered Aaron’s prediction, uttered only the day before. He stared almost unbelievingly down on the masses of frogs, alive and dead, that matted the costly carpet of his sleeping chambers.

Pharaoh’s Breakfast Later, when trays of food were brought to the royal dining table, the king resolved he wouldn’t let the irksome state of affairs spoil his appetite, and dived into a bowl of food. Suddenly he stopped eating. Tiny green frogs were mixed in with what he had been contentedly chewing! His dining had suddenly ended. During the next days, the discomfort of the Egyptians increased with the frogs. Again, in a weak attempt to prove that the God of Israel wasn’t the only deity who could perform miracles, Pharaoh called on his magicians to display their pagan god-given powers. When they produced frogs, seemingly out of nothing, Pharaoh suddenly decided he had seen enough of such creatures, and that he would be more pleased in seeing them disappear. He called for Moses and Aaron. "I am weary of gazing at frogs," he admitted to the two Israelites. "If your God will stop them coming out of the river, your countrymen will be free to go to the desert to worship Him!" (Ex. 8:8.) Elated and thankful, Moses and Aaron promised the invasion of the reptiles would cease next day. Moses at once went to entreat God to stop the plague. Next day the frogs ceased coming out of the river. Then began the massive task of burning or burying the tons of dried and rotted flesh. Days passed. Moses expected the foremen of the Israelite workers would be instructed to tell the laborers the time had come finally to leave, but this didn’t happen. Moses and Aaron went to ask the king why he hadn’t done as he had said he would. "I intended to let the workers off," Pharaoh casually and callously explained. "Then I realized that I needed so many of them to help get rid of the dead frogs."

Chapter 18 THE PLAGUES CONTINUE

GOD later contacted an angry Moses to tell him to tell Aaron to strike the ground with the shepherd’s rod. Even the Israelites, who realized God’s power was limitless, were awed at what happened. The dust particles of the soil began to move about as though alive, which they had become, having turned into tiny lice-like insects that flew away to afflict the Egyptians and their animals with painful bites and stings! While many of the Egyptians were still occupied with getting rid of the frogs, they were attacked by this new plague of blood-sucking creatures. The air was so full of them that it was almost impossible to breathe without inhaling them. Human and animal hair became matted with the crawling masses. Servants tried almost vainly to protect the king and his family, while requests poured in to the palace begging Pharaoh to yield to the requests of Moses and Aaron. By now the Egyptians were becoming aware of what was going on. They were increasingly fearful of the power that was causing so much woe. "They are only tricks of the Israelites," Pharaoh kept saying hopefully. "My magicians have as much power through greater gods. Our patience will win." But this time the magicians utterly failed to produce the horrible little insects. The head magician could only grovel before the king and admit he considered the Israelites’ God too powerful to admit of any competition. (Ex. 8:19) Pharaoh’s anger was exceeded only by his desire to be free of the insects. He tried to do that by a dip in his Nile pool, where he was dismayed to find Moses and Aaron. He wanted to have the two arrested, but he feared what their God might do. "We have come to tell you that if you refuse to let our people go right away, tomorrow your country will be overrun by swarms of larger insects!" Aaron told him. "Only Goshen, where most of the Israelites live, will be spared." "Then I should simply move to Goshen!" Pharaoh sneered through his insect netting, and strode on toward the river. Next day the Egyptians noticed the insects were dying. They brushed the creatures from their hair and clothing as much as they could. Hoping the trouble was almost over, Pharaoh was scornfully jubilant. "I knew this pagan evil would end!" he boasted. "Only I had the wisdom of our gods to see how it would turn out!" There were moments of reverential silence in the royal court as the king disdainfully brushed some dead insects from his beard. The quiet was broken by servants rushing in to loudly announce that clouds of larger insects were settling over the city. (Verse 24.) Before long the Egyptians were victims of deep-biting flies giving more misery than the lice. Normal activities came to a halt in l he struggle to try to avoid this new plague. It brought such misery that Pharaoh’s advisors entreated him to take any action to try to spare the people.

Pharaoh Weakens "Send for Moses and Aaron," Pharaoh finally said resignedly. When Moses and Aaron showed up, the king was quite fretful because of the course of matters. He became even more so when he noted the two Israelites showed no signs of insect bites. "Why does your God allow these cruel things to come on my people?" he demanded to know. "If He is an intelligent God, He should know I am willing to let your countrymen make their sacrifices to Him. I’ve never denied them that favor." "Our rites require that we get away from your people," Aaron pointed out. "They would be so offended by our ways of worship they would probably shower us with stones." "Then go!" Pharaoh snapped. "Just don’t go too far or stay too long, or you could die in the hot, dry desert! But first ask your God to take away these flies!" "We’ll do that," Moses said. "But remember your promise to let the Israelites go. Don’t deceive us as you did before." (Verse 29.) Moses asked God to remove the flies. That night a strong wind scoured the land. By morning the insects had been swept away, but they had been so voracious they had brought much death, sickness and destruction. Pharaoh realized Egypt couldn’t afford another such catastrophe, but he regretted having promised to let the Israelites go.

Pharaoh Breaks His Promise Again As might be expected, he sent a message to Moses reminding him his promise to let the Israelites go was made during a time of great mental and physical stress, and shouldn’t be considered binding. (Verse 32.) Moses was very upset by such perfidy, and therefore welcomed God’s instructions to him and Aaron to warn the king of an even worse plague to come to Egypt the next day. (Ex. 9:1-3.) "You keep on relaying threats from your God," Pharaoh loftily observed. "He has yet to bring any woes unendurable to me!" The fifth plague struck before most of the Egyptians knew what was happening. Within hours the land was strewn with dead cattle, horses, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys. A sudden, fatal sickness to animals wiped out Egyptian livestock. Meanwhile, animals belonging to the Israelites were untouched. (Verse 6.) This was also a serious religious blow to the Egyptians, to whom many kinds of animals were sacred. It was difficult for them to understand why their idols would allow death to come to the animals from which the idols had been copied. Even through this tremendous loss to his people, Pharaoh remained stubbornly unbending. Perhaps he was less moved by this last plague because personal suffering wasn’t as intense as it had been in former ones. Furthermore, he seemed even more intent on keeping the Israelites as a powerful working force to build Egypt up to the world’s top nation in construction of public works and wonders. He had visions of a super glorious country, but if he could have foreseen what his stubbornness would bring, he would have had a much humbler attitude.

 

Chapter 19 THE WORST WEATHER EVER!

PHARAOH had just started on a tour to view the livestock damage outside the city, when he was advised to turn back because an especially strong wind was driving the sand. At the same time the king saw two unwelcome but familiar figures carrying a large leather bag, standing on the palace steps.

Moses and Aaron Reappear "What do you have there?" the curious and unfriendly king called out to the Israelites. Moses and Aaron came closer to reveal the contents of the bag. "Ashes!" Pharaoh snorted. "How ridiculous!" "Are they?" Aaron queried. "Would it mean anything to you that they are from the brick-drying kilns where our people have slaved so long?" Without more words, Moses and Aaron dipped their hands into the bag and flung the tiny particles into the rising wind.

Boils! Almost at once people living around Memphis, Egypt, broke out with painful boil-like blisters and sores. Minutes later those in more distant areas were overtaken with the same thing. Within hours all Egyptians became victims of the painful skin eruptions. The Israelites were the only ones in Egypt not afflicted. Even Pharaoh’s magicians weren’t spared, though the king futilely hoped they could help. The Bible account of this plague was the last time the magicians were mentioned. (Ex. 9-11.) When Pharaoh, who was among the first victims, recalled how the two Israelites had tossed the fine ashes into the wind, he realized that each ash particle touching skin obviously produced a skin eruption, of which he had his share. To worsen matters, much of the livestock rushed into Egypt to help replace some of the losses of animals during the last plague was downed by the skin affliction. Because this was the kind of plague that pained the king both physically and appearance-wise, Pharaoh didn’t delay for long an appeal for help to Moses and Aaron. He sent a messenger — obviously one who didn’t have boils on his feet — to ask the two Israelites to come to the palace. Pharaoh didn’t want to see them, but he needed relief. Besides, he was curious to learn what was going to happen after his next refusal to let the Israelites go. He didn’t have to wait long, though the wait was painful. "I know! I know! You are about to warn me of a new plague!" he growled as Moses and Aaron appeared. "But first get rid of this one!" "Instead of mocking, you should be giving thanks that you’re not dead," Aaron advised him as Moses nodded in agreement. "Our God has spared you only to continue letting you witness His great power. If you still refuse to let our people go, a terrible hailstorm will come on Egypt tomorrow, making your boils even more agonizing!" (Ex. 9-19.) "Hailstorms have occurred in Egypt before," the king observed, trying to appear painless as he tormentedly shifted his weight in his chair. "Small ice particles falling, surely will be endurable. Meanwhile, no Israelite has my permission to leave!" Moses and Aaron weren’t the only ones to hastily leave Pharaoh’s court. Some of the Egyptians who had heard of the hailstorms to come were fearful of them, and hurried to try to get their property under cover. They warned friends to do likewise, and to seek shelter for themselves.

Hailstorm and Lightning Later, on God’s orders, Moses pointed his shepherd’s rod toward a sky already darkening. Strong drafts of wind set the clouds boiling. Lightning flashed and shimmered through them. The roar and rumble of thunder threw the Egyptians into panic. Those in the open began to race for shelter from the expected downpouring of heavy rain. But instead of rain came awesome bolts of fire. It cracked against the ground and hissed and sizzled off in all directions, scorching people, animals, shrubs, crops (except those still in the seed stage) and buildings. This was followed by huge hailstones smashing down on everything and snuffing out the lives of the unprotected. Only in the Goshen area of Egypt was there no lightning and hail.

In the smoking, rattling shelter of his palace Pharaoh shakily turned from a window to confront pale-faced Egyptian officials and servants. The accusing stares, the roaring bombardment, the vivid flashes of fire, the hideous rumble of thunder and the cries of people and animals in pain finally prevailed over the king’s stubborn desire to hold the Israelites. "Somebody must go after Moses and Aaron!" he shouted above the din, though he knew that anyone he sent probably couldn’t survive the storm. Almost miraculously the two Israelites shortly appeared, obviously protected by God from the frightful forces on their way to the palace. Pharaoh eagerly strode forward to meet them.

Pharaoh Weakens "I and my people have been wrong!" the king exclaimed, generously sharing the blame. "Beg your God to stop this horrible storm! Your people will be free to leave Egypt at once!" This was a far different Pharaoh from the one who had defied God a few hours before. Moses and Aaron could hardly believe that he had changed that much, but they were encouraged. Moses assured the king that the storm would cease after God had been asked to stop it, which Moses knew should be done without the presence of an Egyptian audience. Pharaoh and his people were greatly relieved when the roar of fire and hail came to a halt. But as usual, as soon as matters improved, the king’s stubbornness and hostility began to revive. Even while the dead were being carried away for burial, Pharaoh was deciding to do nothing to help the Israelites leave — which was according to God’s plan.

Hours and days passed. Because of no word from the king, Moses and Aaron went to him to give him another warning from God. "You have broken your word again," he was reminded as he sourly regarded the two Israelites. "Unless you give the word for our people to leave right away, another misery will come to your land tomorrow." As soon as Moses and Aaron had gone, Pharaoh’s advisers crowded in to complain that the nation couldn’t survive another plague. They were surprised to hear Pharaoh say that if they felt so strongly about the matter, they should see that Moses and Aaron would be brought back. Moses and Aaron were also surprised to be escorted back. Pharaoh then asked them how many of their people were expected to leave. He hoped only the women and children would have to go, so that he could keep the men working. "All of us and our animals are to go," Moses answered. "Then go!" Pharaoh exploded, angered by the reply. "But you’ll regret leaving! You’ll soon wish you had stayed in Egypt!" Pharaoh was so enraged he had the two hustled out of his presence. Once they were in private, Moses pointed his shepherd’s rod to the sky and asked God to bring another plague to Egypt. Immediately a wind sprang up. It increased in intensity as the night progressed.

Chapter 20 TWO MORE PLAGUES ON EGYPT

NEXT morning the troubled king of Egypt arose early to observe a strangely murky sky. When he parted the curtains to get a better look, he knew that another woe had started. Huge black and red locusts were streaming by. Many of them were attaching themselves to the outside of the window and crawling inside!

Locust Plague Descends Pharaoh backed away from the window, staring wildly as the huge insects pounced on the flower plants in a long planter box in the open side of the room. Within seconds they gnawed the plants down to the soil, then hopped, fluttered and buzzed desperately about searching for something else to devour. Suddenly the palace was in a furor. Servants and guards swatted and pounded frantically at the invaders, which by their awesomely increasing numbers were impossible to overcome. They crawled over each other in a horrid, squirming blanket several inches deep in places. They didn’t bite people or animals, but it was a ghastly feeling to be crawled on and almost smothered by the sea of squirming, buzzing insects, which were well on their way to destroy the grass, trees, shrubs and plants of the country except in Goshen. (Ex. 10:15.) Meanwhile, advisers rushed to Pharaoh to beg him to try to put a quick end to the terrible destruction of vital growing things. They claimed he had gone too far in opposing the Israelite God, and there would soon be no worthwhile country for him to rule. Pharaoh knew they were right. Besides, he was becoming nauseated from mashing so many locusts. "Send for the two Israelites!" he muttered sickly. When Moses and Aaron arrived, Pharaoh again expressed his regret for acting as he had, and humbly asked them to entreat God for deliverance from this unnerving situation. (Verses 16 and 17.) The two Israelites silently regarded the unhappy ruler and left, leaving him and his advisers and servants swatting at locusts in uncertain despair. Shortly after Moses had asked I God to stop the plague, a strong I west wind came up over Egypt. It grew so intense people began to fear it would be almost as damaging as the insects. However, it did no more than blow the locusts eastward into the Red Sea, where they were drowned. (Verse 19.) After the locusts had disappeared and the wind had died down, Pharaoh went to his outer court gardens to view the damage. The shrubless sight of what had been his horticultural pride caused him such anger he decided he would hold the Israelites after all. He sent a courier to Moses with the defiant statement that the Israelites had to continue with their work. When Moses received the message, he knew the Egyptians were in for more misery.

Plague of Darkness That same day the distressed Egyptians were puzzled to note a strange gloom filling the sky. It increased alarmingly until the darkness of night prevailed in the middle of the day. That was frightening enough, but the darkness turned to utter blackness of such a strange quality that only the strongest torches could partly penetrate it. (Verse 22.) Almost all usual activity came to a stop. People stayed in their homes and beds as much as possible to avoid accidents in the intense blackness. As time for dawn approached, there were hopes that light would come, but the depressing dark continued. There was daylight in Egypt only in the land of Goshen. (Verse 23.) Three days of these maddening conditions were three days too many, especially to Pharaoh, who had to keep surrounded by air-polluting clusters of torches to maintain his sanity. He managed to contact Moses and Aaron, whom he anxiously assured the Israelites could leave if daylight were restored. However, he forbade them to take any of their flocks of sheep and goats or herds of cattle. (Verse 24.) Moses pointed out that all the animals would have to be taken because such had to be used in sacrifices to God. This angered Pharaoh. He and the Egyptians were badly in need of meat. Besides, he believed that the Israelites couldn’t survive without animals to eat, and would be forced to return to slavery in Egypt. "Unless you leave the livestock, you won’t get to leave!" Pharaoh stormed. "I am weary of your demands! Get out of my palace! If I see you two here again, I’ll have you killed!" "You won’t see us again!" Moses agreed. "This is the last time we’ll be around to listen to you ask us to call off a plague!" As the two Israelites departed, Pharaoh was elated to see daylight beginning to show in the sky. The ninth plague was ending! It was a wonderful relief to have light from the sun again, but at the same time the king was miserably uneasy at the thought of any new plague that would come. He had just cut himself off from the opportunity of asking Moses and Aaron for any help from God.

Chapter 21 THE EXODUS BEGINS

THE ruler of Egypt would have been much more troubled if he could have known about the woes to come shortly. God instructed His people through Moses to ask their Egyptian neighbors to pay for the many services the friendly Israelites had provided them over the years. Most Egyptians were generous in this matter. They freely gave of their jewels, gold and silver. Their liberality reflected the esteem with which they regarded Moses, who was remembered for his former days as a high-ranking Egyptian officer and later respected for his sensible dealings in behalf of his people.

Israel Observes the Passover Gathering some wealth was only a small part of preparations to leave. Pharaoh yet had to be in favor of it. Moses relayed God’s remarks about what to do. On the tenth day of that first month, named Abib (Ex. 12:3), every family was to pick a healthy lamb to be roasted so that it could be eaten on the fourteenth day. When it was killed, its blood was to be smeared on the doors of the Israelites’ residences to protect the firstborn males from the death angel God would send to take the lives of all Egyptian firstborn males. This was to be the tenth plague. "Henceforth the fourteenth day of this month will be known as the Passover," God told Moses. "It will show My mercy toward the people I have chosen to carry out a plan I have for people on Earth. It will prove to the Egyptians that I am the all-powerful God." God explained further that Passover would become a memorial to be observed forever. On the fifteenth day they were to observe an annual Sabbath. Also, no leavening was to be in their homes for a week. "The last day of that week shall be another holy day for you," God continued. "On that twenty-first day you shall do no work. except prepare food." (Verses 15-20.) God went on to explain that leavening symbolized sin, and abstaining from it was like being free of idol-worshiping Egypt. (Ex. 13:3-10.) He made it plain that anyone, Israelite or not, who used leavening during the time of unleavened bread, would not be allowed to go with the chosen people to freedom in a land prepared for them. On learning these things, the Israelites prepared for the holy days to come. Thousands of families prepared the lambs. If they didn’t have lambs, they were allowed to use young goats. Their homes were marked with blood for the Passover. As the fourteenth day of the month began, they were dressed for sudden travel, as instructed, and then hastily ate their dinners of meat and vegetables.

What the Passover Represents God’s Son, often spoken of as the Lamb of God, was also slain as a sacrifice on the Passover many hundreds of years later. And as God had made the weekly Sabbath a holy day, He did the same now for the annual Sabbaths. These holy times were and are signs between God and the people chosen to carry out His plans. For centuries there have been disobedient kings, priests, ministers, politicians, dictators and other leaders who have sought to change or blot out the days made special by their Creator. Many have succeeded in misleading people by convincing them that it isn’t necessary to obey God in these matters. Most people today don’t know what the Passover is. Some think it is some kind of Jewish custom that developed into an Easter service. What these people don’t know is that the Jews, as a separate nation, didn’t come on the scene in the Bible until long after the Passover started. The first scriptural reference to the Jews speaks of them being at war with their brother nation Israel. (II Kings 16:6.) The word Easter was never written in the original text of the Bible, but is incorrectly found in some old English translations. Translators felt or were told long ago that Passover should be connected with pagan worship of the ancient Germanic goddess of spring, Oester.

Jesus’ Example Obedient Christians follow Christ’s example by observing the date of the first Passover on that same date Christ was killed. They eat broken, unleavened bread, which stands for the sinless body of Christ, broken by whipping. Wine is used as a symbol of His blood, spilled so our sins would be blotted out. God gives understanding to those who seek to please Him. Gradually He opens their minds to grasp special knowledge and wisdom. They learn how important and rewarding it is to observe God’s sacred times and customs. His plan for a wonderful future will then be more plainly revealed to them. One would think that that plan would be taught in most churches that claim they are Christian, but it isn’t. The fact that it isn’t fits into God’s way of working. Of the more than four billion people in this world, only a few score thousand know how God is using them to help prepare much of humanity for glorious things to come.

God Again Punishes Egypt During the night of the Passover, the Israelites stayed in their homes behind blood-marked doors. (Ex. 12:23.) The night passed with nothing unusual happening to them. But there was great misery among the Egyptians. All their first-born dropped dead. (Verse 29.) There was soon loud mourning in the land. This awakened other people, who got out of their beds to find their firstborn males dead. The custom was to wail when there was a death. The wailing spread everywhere, making Egypt the most mournful nation in the world. As for Pharaoh, he was stunned when he found his oldest son lifeless in bed. If he could have considered Moses and Aaron responsible, he would have demanded their lives, but he fearfully realized this was God’s doing. At last he was ready to act sincerely.

Israel Ordered Out of Egypt "Send my swiftest messenger to Moses and Aaron with my command for all Israelites to leave Egypt at once with their animals!" Pharaoh barked at an aide, who wheeled and hurried out. "Wait!" Pharaoh called after the man. "Tell the messenger to tell Moses and Aaron to pray to their God to have mercy on me!" (Verses 31-32.) A mounted messenger rode swiftly up to Moses’ home, who was waiting to see what would develop. Moses’ face brightened as the messenger spoke to him. "This is it!" Moses called to a gathering of elders. "Get word to our people to assemble as we have planned! We should be on our way out of Egypt as soon as possible!" The departure wasn’t made with hasty disorder. Moses, Aaron and many leading Israelites, at God’s direction, had worked out details of the start of the Exodus. Because of being dressed for travel, they were almost ready to leave. This tenth and last plague was too much for the Egyptians, many of whom had previously asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Even the firstborn of their animals fell dead. This further troubled an animal worshiping nation. Many Egyptians urged the Israelites to leave hurriedly before another woe developed. This the Israelites were already starting to do. They loaded their animals with what they could hold, and the people carried what they could. This included the treasures the Egyptians had furnished as well as unleavened bread dough. They moved promptly toward the Goshen city of Ramses. By nightfall of the fifteenth of Abib they arrived at points east of the city. That night they held a joyous festival, as God told them they should. It was a tremendous encampment. There were about six hundred thousand men plus their families and the people of other nationalities who wished to join them. All these added up to at least two and a half million persons. It had been a great day for the weary Israelites. They were at last on their way to being free. It was four hundred and thirty years since God had made His covenant with Abraham, their ancestor, that his descendants would inherit a land of their own. They had much to thank God for on that eventful night of the fifteenth day of Abib, the first annual Sabbath that was long to be remembered. God told them that they should tell their descendants about it down through their generations, so that the Israelites wouldn’t forget how He had miraculously freed them. (Ex. 13:3-10.) Centuries later, the people of God’s Church around the world still observe that evening. The Israelites divided themselves into their twelve tribes, formed rough ranks, and started on their way. With them were taken the bones of Jacob and his twelve sons, according to Jacob’s wish many years previously.

Toward the Red Sea Instead of taking the most direct route northeastward to Canaan, the travelers went on eastward. God directed them toward a longer route because He didn’t want His people troubled by unfriendly Philistines who lived close to the shorter route. (Verse 17.) That morning a miraculous thing occurred. A small, vertical cloud moved from the eastern sky to grow larger and descend toward the Israelites. It could plainly be seen by all at both ends of their ranks, which were several miles apart from front to rear. The people were awed to learn that this cloud was to be their guide! When it moved, they were to move. When it halted, they were to do the same. (Verses 21-22.) Never before or since has there been the sight of over two million people led by a cloud that seemed to stand on one end. It didn’t move faster than the small children, flocks, herds and loaded animals could travel. By the end of the day the vast column had moved past the area of green vegetation and into a more arid region. There, near sundown, the cloud ceased moving. This was the signal to halt and encamp. Thus ended the first day of a journey that was going to last much longer and be more eventful than the people imagined.

Chapter 22 AT THE RED SEA

As NIGHT came, another miracle took place. The cloud glowed! The darker the sky became, the brighter the cloud turned, until it was like a giant flame overhead. To add to the astonishment of the Israelites, a lesser glow extended back from the flame to spread a soft radiance for the campers!

Next Morning’s Events At dawn the extended light gradually turned into a cooling vapor just heavy enough to shield the marchers from the sunlight that later in the day would otherwise produce misery and even injury. Their next camp was on the border of Egypt in Etham. A little while after the column left Etham, people were surprised to see the cloud swerve directly southward. Knowing this wasn’t the direction of Canaan, some of the leading men contacted Moses to concernedly remind him that they were going the wrong way. Moses patiently explained that God was leading the way, and that any who failed to follow the cloud were risking being lost. "But following that cloud south will put us on the west shore of the Red Sea!" the concerned ones argued. "We’ll be cut off from ever getting to Canaan!" Moses knew that it looked that way, but he trusted God. Man has always, apart from some exceptions, struggled against God’s directions. He has generally chosen to go in the ways that appear best to him. Many sincere leaders throughout history have taken others in wrong directions by relying on their limited, unreliable, human reasoning. The beginning of wisdom and knowledge is fear of God. (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7, 9:10.) Fear and respect can be shown by obedience and reliance. The Israelites who complained didn’t agree with Moses, but they didn’t want to turn back by themselves. The column moved on past the town of Migdol and was then lead to the southwest. A few miles ahead loomed a range of barren, arid mountains. Off to the left was the Red Sea, fifteen miles across. It appeared the column was marching into an impassable spot in Egypt.

Pharaoh Again! Back in his palace at Memphis, the disturbed Pharaoh’s mind was on the Israelites. Already he was beginning to regret letting them go. He had heard of how his people had given liberally of their wealth to the Israelites. This irritated him as much as did Israel’s taking all their livestock with them. He considered pursuing them to retrieve these losses, but he was fearful that his chariots would become stuck in the sands of the Etham desert, just east of Egypt, where he imagined they were at the time. His reverie was interrupted by the entrance of one of the spies he had sent previously to see what the Israelites would do. "They didn’t go into the Etham desert," the spy disclosed to the surprised king. "Their trail led east for a few miles and then turned south along the west shore of the Red Sea!" "If this isn’t true, you’ll die!" Pharaoh snapped, jumping excitedly to his feet. A short while later hundreds of war chariots and cavalrymen thundered out of Memphis, headed by Pharaoh and his top officers. The excited king wanted desperately to take advantage of direction change by the Israelites to overtake them as soon as possible.

At the Red Sea Meanwhile, the Israelites arrived at a point near the Red Sea where ominous mountain peaks jutted up like a giant, unfriendly wall. In spite of this, the cloud continued to move as though beckoning them to come into the narrow spaces between the mountains. Again some of the elders came to warn Moses not to go on. "This is madness!" they declared. "Even if we manage to get through the mountains, the wider the Red Sea will be between us and Canaan!" With Aaron’s help Moses calmly assured the protesters that as long as the people obediently looked to God, matters would turn out in their favor. While heads shook in doubt, a mounted Israelite swiftly rode up, gesturing excitedly to the north. "The Egyptians are coming!" he yelled. "How do you know?" Aaron asked. "I saw a huge dust cloud off to the north as I was rounding up some of my stray animals far behind the column!" the man panted as agitated men swarmed around. "I rode as fast as I could to tell you!" "Do others know about this?" Moses inquired. "Of course!" was the answer. "I shouted the alarm all the way down the column! People were naturally upset!" The babble of voices around grew greater. Moses and Aaron were the only ones to remain calm. They had learned from God hours before that Pharaoh and his army would pursue. "On your way back to the rear, spread the word to the people that God has told me He will take care of us," Moses told the man. (Ex. 14:13-14.) The dismayed crowd dispersed. Just as the sun slid behind the peaks, the cloud halted. As the troubled people prepared to camp, a messenger from Moses rode back along the column to tell the people to move forward as far as possible without crowding. Several miles to the north the Egyptians were excited to see the rear of the Israelite column. Pharaoh was jubilant. He was anxious to close in on his intended victims, but darkness was rapidly coming on. "We’ll have to stay here for the night," an officer told the king. "No need to worry about the Israelites getting away from us. They’re trapped between the mountains and the sea!" Pharaoh couldn’t have been more pleased. The frantic, jostling, wearing dash by chariots for over fifty miles was worth it to know the Israelites couldn’t escape. He eagerly looked forward to next morning, when he could seize their property and avenge his son’s death by slaughtering the Israelites, most of whom at that moment were in a state of terror while trying to settle down to a rest for the night. A great part of them believed Moses was to blame for their being endangered. These made the early part of the night miserable by wailing and loudly voicing their emotions. "We never wanted to leave Egypt!" they yelled. "We would be better off there than murdered here!" (Ex. 14:10-12.)

Moses Stills the People Those who didn’t have this attitude prayed as the bitter shouting increased. Among them was Moses. After asking God for help, he climbed to an elevation from where many could hear him. "This display of fear, complaint and confusion is displeasing to God!" he called out. "The only voices He wants to hear now are those asking for His protection! Don’t be afraid! Be patient and see how your Creator will rescue you! Those of you who have looked back to see the Egyptians approaching have seen them for the last time!" (Verse 13.)

Chapter 23 CROSSING THE RED SEA

THOSE who heard Moses speak wondered exactly what he meant by saying the Egyptians wouldn’t appear again. Then they were surprised to see the cloud move low to a point between the Egyptians and Israelites. (Ex. 14:19-20.)

The Long Night Begins Most of the Israelites felt safer when they saw what was happening, but the Egyptians were perturbed. While the Israelites saw light from the cloud, Pharaoh and his men found themselves in a heavy fog. Even if they had chosen to attack, it would have been impossible. Not being able to see the campfires of the Israelites was very irritating to Pharaoh. "More dramatic tactics of Moses and his God!" the king snarled. "This is intended to discourage us so that we’ll go back to Memphis. But we won’t!" Not much later, in his last conscious moments, Pharaoh was to wish that he had returned to Memphis. While he tossed and turned, anxious to see daylight end, something awesome was happening only a few miles away. Moses was stretching his shepherd’s rod out toward the sea. A dry, warming, east wind immediately sprang up. It grew in intensity as the night wore on. It was a peculiar kind of wind that moved in such a way that it bored into the waters with a force that divided the narrow sea in two, exposing a wide path of mud, sand and rocks!

Everyone Ready! Before dawn Moses sent men along the column of Israelites to tell the people to pack up and be ready to follow the cloud when it moved. To the consternation of most, the cloud moved overhead to the east and floated out over the sea! Complaints filled the air. Those who obediently walked to the beach were amazed to see, by the light of the cloud, an unbelievable water-walled corridor leading eastward across the sea! Though puzzled by this phenomenon and troubled by the howling winds, they forged on in their strong desire to get away from the Egyptians. For close to fifteen miles they doggedly plodded on between the two walls of water along a path that had been rendered dry by the arid wind.

Crossing the Red Sea Making this descent into a sea bed wasn’t simple. It wasn’t easy to herd shying livestock past walls of water surging up and down and appearing to momentarily give way and come thundering down from its pile-up of up to three hundred feet. People and animals here increased their pace to make the crossing as short as possible over the rough, exposed ground strewn with all kinds of sea life. These objects would have been much more interesting to people who weren’t fleeing for their lives. Back at the Egyptian camp, men were puzzled by the sound of the strong wind. As day dawned, the fog lifted. Free to move, the chariots and cavalry rushed to the area where the Israelites had camped. Pharaoh was furious when he saw no signs of his quarry except burned-out campfires and innumerable tracks. It was evident that the Israelites had gone toward the sea, but there weren’t any of them in sight along the shore. Not until then did the Egyptians notice the startling path into the sea. They stared in disbelief. Then someone spotted the rear of the Israelites’ column retreating several miles distant in the mammoth water ditch. Pharaoh’s desire to have his army overtake Israel was so intense that it exceeded his wonder and caution.

Egyptians Plunge Ahead "After them!" he bellowed. "If they can do it, so can you, only faster!" His men were fearful of nearing the walls of water, now kept erect by a mysterious force other than the wind, but none dared hesitate. Pounding hoofs and rattling wheels set up a din again as the army charged down the beach and into the yawning space in the water. (Ex. 14:23.) Though the exposed sea bed was dry enough on the surface for safe walking, there was soft below-surface mud. This, along with dips and ridges, forced the chariots and horses to quickly slow down. Even so, they gained steadily on the Israelites. It appeared that in only a matter of minutes the Egyptians would be able to attack. Several miles to the east the front of the Israelites’ column emerged from the trough in the sea and moved southward along the east shore. It was a great relief to reach higher ground, although the people were aware that the Egyptians were approaching. Those in the rear of the column were almost frantic with fear when the Egyptians were almost on them. Miraculously the cloud moved back over the would-be attackers, there to dump tons of water on them in a cloudburst. Almost immediately the exposed sea bed turned to mud. Chariots, horses and men smashed together in a helpless mass. Pharaoh’s shouted orders to move on were lost in the noisy melee. What had been a powerful fighting force quickly became an impotent, directionless clutter of men and animals. (Verses 24-25.) There were frenzied shouts from frightened Egyptian officers ordering their men to retreat on foot regardless of Pharaoh’s mad shrieks to continue after the Israelites.

Chapter 24 SAFE AT LAST!

WHILE the Egyptians struggled in the mud, the rear of the Israelite column emerged from the trough in the sea. A mounted messenger took word to Moses that the last of the people had crossed over. Moses thereupon obeyed God’s order to hold his hands out toward the sea.

The Army of Egypt Perishes At that moment the long walls of water collapsed and rushed together with the monstrous force of two gigantic jaws. They snapped together on the Egyptians, destroying all of them at once. (Verse 28.) Thus was the sudden end of the army of the man who had schemed to wipe out a people God had chosen for a special task in His plan for the future. Pharaoh’s role in those events meant that he and his men had also been a part of that plan, but in a much different and limited way. Moving to the south along the east shore of the sea, the Israelites were startled to see the water abruptly recede from the shore. At the same time there was a thunderous roar. A giant curtain of foam spewed skyward all along the area where they had crossed the gulf. They were too far away to notice the men, horses and chariots in that gushing water. They didn’t know how their pursuers had died until later when they found carcasses strewn along the shore. When they realized, in part, what had happened, they were thankful that God had performed mighty miracles for their protection. Then they regretted doubting God’s power and complaining so bitterly to Moses. For their benefit, they were glad to see more than corpses come out of the sea. Chariots were washed up equipped with arms, leather and metal, all of which would prove to be of great resource on a trip that was to last much longer than they expected.

Moses Assembles the People Before going farther, the Israelites gathered together, at Moses’ direction, to thank God for bringing them out of Egypt. A special hymn of gratitude and praise was sung and played. This was undoubtedly the greatest and most volumed expression of thanks ever to be given to God from a crowd. (Ex. 15:1-19.) Even appropriate dancing, led by Miriam, a sister of Moses and Aaron, was used as a part of the worship. (Verses 20-21.)

Moving into the Desert Water was plentiful where the people had assembled. They watered their animals well and filled all empty containers because they were headed toward arid territory on the west edge of the Sinai peninsula. On the first night on the east side of the Red Sea they camped on uncomfortably warm sand and rock where there was no sign of water. Next day the water supply dwindled rapidly during the march through even more arid territory. When they camped for the second night, it appeared that getting through a third day without finding water would be at the risk of illness and the loss of many animals. The next afternoon was even more miserable than the one before. Just when many were becoming too thirsty and discouraged to force themselves or their animals on, a grove of palm trees was sighted in the distance. It turned out to be, to the encouragement of those foremost in the column, an old oasis called Marah. As the people moved closer, they were overjoyed to see a pool of water in the midst of the trees. Some of them rushed forward to fall down at the pool and wildly scoop water into their mouths. The avid gulping stopped as abruptly as it had started. The water was too bitter to keep on swallowing! The crowd around the well grew swiftly. Everyone had to test the water for himself and spit it out. This disappointment brought loud complaints, and the complainers accused Moses of being to blame. (Verse 24.) Moses was so dismayed that he pleaded with God to intervene in the matter.

The Water Becomes Sweet "There is an unusual tree you will find growing by the pool," God told Moses. "Cut it down and toss it into the water." On seeing their leader hack down a tree and throw it into the pool, many in the growing crowd must have wondered at such peculiar behavior. But from that moment on, those who tasted the water could be seen obviously to be enjoying it. "This water is as good as that of the Nile!" someone exclaimed. "Why are so many people saying it’s bitter?" This remark led to a rush of people to the pool. In spite of the heavy demand for water for hours, the springs under the pool continued the supply. This additional miracle strengthened Moses’ faith in God. One would suppose it would have done the same for all the Israelites, but there were those who felt that matters were going too roughly for them. "Tell the people that as long as they obey Me I will be their healer and keep them in good health," God instructed Moses. (Verse 26.) Since that time only a small part of the world’s people have observed God’s laws, although millions claim to be Christians. The relatively small number of obedient ones have enjoyed the protection and healing God back then promised His followers. In the near future, when vast throngs will be keeping God’s laws, good health and prosperity will spread over the Earth. God always keeps His promises.

On to Sinai Refreshed with water and rest, the Israelites and their animals continued south. At Elim, about twenty miles from Marah, they found twelve water wells, one for each of the tribes. That and a grove of seventy (the number of Israelite elders) palm trees made the place pleasant for camping. A few miles south of Elim they were guided a little more to the east to go deeper into the desert. At this stage of the journey many of the people started much complaining again. Moses and Aaron were blamed for a lack of food. More than a few contended it would be better to be dead back in Egypt. (Ex. 16:3.) As before, Moses had to look to God for a miracle to calm the grumblers.

God Acts for Moses "I have heard the complaints of the people," God told Moses. "Remind them that I am aware of their needs. I shall supply them with bread in the morning and flesh in the evening. The bread they must gather for themselves every day except on My holy Sabbath. To take care of that day, they must gather twice as much on the sixth day." (Ex. 16:4-5.) God gave Moses instructions for helping keep the people under control. This information was passed on to Aaron, who reminded the Israelites how merciful, generous and patient God had been to them even after their impatience and grumbling. As Aaron spoke, eyes were drawn to the guiding cloud, which had come to a halt. In the month it had been above and ahead of the column, it had become as commonplace to the people as was the sun, which should at any time cause awe. They watched in wonder as the cloud pulsated and glowed in vivid colors. When it became so brilliant that it began to hurt their eyes, they became apprehensive. A booming sound like the voice of a mighty giant burst out of the brilliance. It lasted just long enough for the listeners to know that they had heard a syllable of sound from the throat of their Creator or one of His angels. The cloud ceased glowing and moved on, leaving the fear filled millions sobered and regretful because of their disrespectful attitudes.

Chapter 25 WAR WITH AMALEK

THAT evening the Israelites were surprised to see the sky darkened by vast flocks of birds. This appeared to be an unusual migration of fowl to a more satisfactory climate. Suddenly the birds swooped groundward, alighting right among the people! Because the birds were weary from what had obviously been a long flight, they were very easy to catch. Within minutes uncounted thousands of these plump quail, excellent for eating, were being prepared for dinner. Next day there was another miracle. During the night dew had settled on the plants around the camps. Instead of being covered with moisture next morning, the plants were decked with small, flaky white particles. This was puzzling until Moses made the surprising announcement that it was the bread God had promised. "Early every morning three quarts of this food should be gathered for every person," Moses disclosed. "If it isn’t taken in early, it will melt on the plants under the hot sun. And don’t try to keep it overnight, or it will spoil." The people swarmed out around their camps to easily gather the food, which they later named "manna". To their enjoyment, they found it tasted like fresh bread and honey. Those who were late in gathering it found little. Most of it had melted. In spite of Moses’ warning about keeping it overnight, some did just that, only to find that it became disgustingly odorous and worm-infected. (Verse 20.)

The Sabbath Commanded One day not long after the manna first showed up, Moses told the people to gather twice as much the next morning. Two days later no manna appeared. That day was the weekly Sabbath. Furthermore, the extra manna gathered for the seventh day miraculously remained fresh and pure as it was when collected. (Verses 24-26.) Observing the Sabbath day properly was important to God and man. Nevertheless, some spent much of the morning hours of the Sabbath searching for manna that wasn’t there. This was so displeasing to God that He instructed Moses to tell the people to stay close to their tents on the Sabbath and refrain from working. After that, for a time, there was more obedience in this matter. The cloud continued to lead southeast and into a mountain range. A hot, upgrade march faced the people just at a time when their water supply was dangerously low. The next time the Israelites camped, a noisy crowd of them surrounded Moses’ tent to loudly accuse their leader of purposely taking them into the desert to meet death. (Ex. 17:1-3.)

Water from a Rock! Again Moses asked God to calm the complainers, who were only causing others to be troubled. God told Moses, who feared some of the angrier people would try to stone him to death, that he should take some of the elders and go on ahead to a certain large rock, which he was to strike with the shepherd’s rod he had used in Egypt. Moses did as he was told. Out gushed streams of clear water which coursed down toward the Israelites’ camps! (Ex. 17:5-6.) The sight of water flowing past their tents and on down toward the rear of the column brought joyful surprise to the excited people. At first the stream was murky from picking up dirt from the ground, but with each passing minute of the flow it became clearer and more drinkable. When the people learned from the elders who had accompanied Moses that the water was gushing from a boulder of granite where there had previously been no sign of it, they marveled at the miracle. Those who had threatened Moses regretted doing so. They wouldn’t have acted so childishly if they had relied on God. (Verse 7.) Because of the wonderful supply of water, the Israelites hoped they could stay a few days in that area, which was close to where Moses had shepherded flocks a few years previously. Days passed. The cloud continued to remain motionless, which was a sign to stay.

An Enemy Arrives However, the Israelites would have been troubled greatly and might have wanted to move on if they could have known that from some nearby foothills, many pairs of crafty eyes were watching from time to time to determine their numbers and their possessions. The attack on the Israelites came at night. Moses wasn’t very surprised. He was aware that the region was roamed by bands of hostile desert bandits who used darkness and surprise to further trouble their victims. He also knew these men were Amalekites, descendants of Esau, twin brother of their forefather Jacob. Their attackers were therefore their distant cousins.

Joshua Comes on the Scene After the Amalekites attacked and fled, one of Moses’ officers, a young man named Joshua, was given the responsibility of mustering an army of defense from among the Israelites. The Amalekites were expected to attack in greater force next day. Joshua had little time to assemble the men. (Ex. 17:9.) The Israelites’ first battle with an enemy was an unusual one. Hordes of fierce, wily desert swordsmen charged in among thousands of untrained men armed mainly with ordinary knives, clubs and weapons taken from drowned Egyptians. Moses was up on a high ridge where he could view the fray. With him was Aaron and a brother-in-law, Hurl It appeared that the Israelites were facing certain defeat. Moses called to God for help, holding his shepherd’s rod above him as he had done to signal divine power at the time of the plagues. It was difficult to determine, in the first few minutes of fighting, which side was gaining the upper hand. Then it began to be obvious the Amalekites were falling into retreat. When Moses was certain of it, he relievedly lowered his arms, which were becoming weary. Almost immediately the situation changed. With renewed energy the Amalekites charged back, causing the Israelites to retreat. Realizing his relaxed attitude affected the fighting, Moses again held the rod up. The startling result was that the tide of battle swung back in favor of his men. However, he was becoming too tired in his arms to maintain that prayerful position. Again he lowered the rod and again the Amalekites pushed the Israelites back!

Chapter 26 ON TO SINAI

FROM that moment the Amalekites put such fury into their fighting that the Israelites lost more ground than they had gained. (Ex. 17:11.) "I can see what’s happening," Moses dismayedly muttered, "but I’m too tired to stand up here and hold out this rod any longer!" Aaron and Hur quickly rolled a bench-height rock up behind Moses, who sank to a sitting posture. Each of them seized a sagging arm and jerked them upward. Thus helped, Moses continued his supplication while still grasping the shepherd’s rod in an upright position. The three men carried on like this until sundown. (Ex. 17:12.) By that time matters had changed back greatly in favor of the Israelites. The enemy was completely routed with little loss or injuries to the hastily-mustered army. God reminded Moses to record the day’s events in the book he was writing about the Israelites, and to instruct Joshua to also write of the happenings. Moses later had an altar built to honor God for His protection.

On into the Mountains After hovering for several weeks in the same place, the guiding cloud one morning began to move. The Israelites packed up, got their animals together and were ready to move when the cloud floated to the southeast. The mountains were even higher in that direction. There were those who complained at heading into such rugged terrain. To Moses it was like returning home because he had spent many peaceful years in that region tending flocks of sheep. After two or three days of travel, the cloud came to a halt right over the highest peak. That was rocky Mount Sinai, a mountain of more than seven thousand feet. Even the complainers had to admit that the numerous water springs, level areas for pitching tents and nearby patches of grass for grazing left little to be unhappy about. Moses advised the people that it would be wise to set up their camps for a long stay, inasmuch as he had more than just a feeling that they were at this particular place for more than just resting for two or three nights. (Ex. 19:1-2.) Not long after the Israelites were settled in their new location, Moses received a divine request to come up Mount Sinai alone to receive instructions directly from the Creator. It wasn’t an easy hike up the rock-strewn shoulders, but Moses was spry for his eighty years. God wouldn’t have asked him to do something impossible. He had to go up the mountain only far enough to be removed from the people.

God Speaks Suddenly a clear, booming voice came from somewhere above on Mount Sinai: "Moses, you will deliver a message to the Israelites in the valley below!" the Voice spoke out. "Remind them that I, the Creator of all, have freed them from the Egyptians and have brought them safely here. Tell them that if they obey My laws, they will become a special people I will treasure above others. They shall become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation!" (Verses 3-6.) Trembling with fear and awe, Moses remained prostrate for a time where he had fallen when he had first heard the voice. When he felt that nothing more was going to be said, he stood up and hurried back down the mountain. Immediately he called the elders to repeat God’s words to them and tell them to tell the people. The awed elders complied. The excited people solemnly agreed to obey whatever God asked of them. Later, after learning of their unanimous agreement to obey God (verse 8), Moses went back up to report what had taken place. Of course God already was aware of it, but He had further instructions for the people He wanted to convey through Moses, who was told that God would come down unusually close to the people in three days, and that they should be clean physically at that time, and that even their clothing should be washed and unsoiled. Barricades would have to be set up to prevent people or their animals from straying too far up the mountain. Otherwise they would be subject to death because of coming too near God’s holy presence on sacred ground. After three days had passed, the more than two million people on the valley floor out from and below the mountain nervously wondered what would happen. The first thing unusual was that thick, dark clouds formed to obscure all but the base slopes of Mount Sinai. The clouds weren’t merely masses of water vapor. There was much smoke mixed in, causing growing alarm to the onlookers. Flashes of lightning, followed by stunning peals of thunder, caused every man, woman and child to tremble. The trembling was greater at the startlingly clear blast of what sounded like a giant trumpet announcing that God was descending to Mount Sinai! (Verse 19.) As the thunder and lightning subsided, the clouds lifted, exposing most of the mountain to the searching gazes of millions of eyes. Abruptly the peak broke out into towering flames. The top of the mountain appeared to be consumed in a giant holocaust! Pillars of lighted smoke spiraled skyward. The higher elevations seemed about to explode in an awesome burst of eye-paining light! People shielded their faces. Many of them fell to the ground, which was beginning to quiver from a rumbling earth tremor. The quake loosened huge boulders that crashed down into the ravines. Clouds of dust and smoke floated up from the ground as tons of smaller rock cascaded down to blanket the mountain’s base. Like the others, Moses trembled at this display of divine power, though he had some awareness that it was far from what God was capable of doing, such as causing giant planets to collide or fusing whole suns in celestial cataclysms penetrating billions of miles of space. The ground stopped shaking and the blasting trumpet sound faded to a silence that was more terrible than the noise, because it caused people to be more fearfully expectant of what would happen next. Suddenly a thunderous voice cracked down from above the mountain, echoing terrifyingly across the valley. It spoke in Hebrew, the mother tongue of the Israelites, though its booming quality might have purposely made it difficult to be understood by anyone except Moses. "Come up the mountain, Moses!" the Voice thundered. "Come alone! Don’t allow anyone to follow you!"

Chapter 27 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

SEEING their leader walk out of sight up smoking Mount Sinai had a strange effect on many of the people. Even though quaking with awe, their curiosity was so strong that they wanted to follow Moses. Before he could get very far up the mountain, God ordered him back.

Moses Rushes Down "People are trying to follow you," God informed him. "Return at once and warn them against trespassing on holy ground. If they come too close, they will die. You may bring Aaron when you come back, but no one else." (Ex. 19:24.) On his way down, Moses loudly warned those approaching the barricades to turn back. "We don’t mind you reprimanding us," some of them said, "but we don’t want a reprimand from God. We might not live through it." (Ex. 20:19.) The people having been warned, there were more terrifying sights and sounds, followed by dramatic silence again. Then out of the silence broke the most awesome of sounds.

The Voice of the Eternal Booms Out the Ten Commandments "I am the Eternal, your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt!" This pronouncement from the One known as Jesus Christ was followed by more disturbing silence. An ear-splitting trumpet blast then preceded God’s thundering out His ten great laws — THE TEN COMMANDMENTS! "YOU SHALL HAVE NO GODS BUT ME!" boomed the thunderous voice after the echoes of the trumpet had died away. This wasn’t the Father in Heaven speaking. It was the Spokesman who became Jesus Christ, speaking in the name of the Supremely Divine God Family. (Eph. 3:15 and John 1:18.) Moses, Aaron and the seventy elders, huddled back from the barricades, hardly dared glance up at the brilliant light above them. After a short silence a second Commandment rumbled from the sky: "YOU SHALL NOT CARVE IMAGES OF THINGS IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH FOR THE PURPOSE OF BOWING DOWN TO THEM IN WORSHIP! I AM A JEALOUS GOD! I PUNISH THOSE WHO HATE ME DOWN TO THEIR THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATIONS, BUT I SHOW CONSTANT LOVE TO THOUSANDS WHO LOVE ME AND OBEY MY LAWS!" Again there was a short period of utter silence. Then: "YOU SHALL NOT USE THE NAME OF THE ETERNAL YOUR GOD IN ANY WRONG OR USELESS MANNER! I WILL PUNISH THOSE WHO UTTER MY NAME WITHOUT RESPECT AND REVERENCE!" Intense silence prevailed shortly, to be broken by the tremendous Voice giving a fourth Commandment: "REMEMBER TO OBSERVE THE HOLY SABBATH! YOU SHALL LABOR AND DO ALL YOUR BUSINESS ONLY ON THE FIRST SIX DAYS OF THE WEEK! THE SEVENTH IS A HOLY DAY IN HONOR TO YOUR GOD. ON THAT DAY YOU SHALL DO NO SERVILE WORK! NEITHER SHALL ANY OF YOUR FAMILY, YOUR SERVANTS, YOUR ANIMALS NOR ANY PERSON LIVING WITH YOU! YOUR GOD REBUILT THE EARTH IN SIX DAYS AND RESTED ON THE SEVENTH! HE THEREFORE MADE THE SEVENTH DAY HOLY TIME!" The next silence was longer than the others because it was the division between the four Commandments that have to do with man’s duty to his Creator and the six that show his duty toward his fellow man. All ten add up to perfect love for God and man. The last six were separated by short spans of silence. "GIVE SPECIAL RESPECT TO YOUR PARENTS, THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG IN THE LAND YOUR GOD GIVES YOU AS A GIFT!" "YOU SHALL NOT MURDER!" "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY!" "YOU SHALL NOT STEAL!" "YOU SHALL NOT LIE ABOUT ANYONE!" "YOU SHALL NOT DESIRE TO WRONGFULLY OWN THE HOME OF ANOTHER PERSON! YOU SHALL NOT COVET HIS WIFE, SERVANTS OR ANY OF HIS POSSESSIONS!"(Ex. 20:1-17.) The trumpet sounded again, signaling the conclusion to the uttering of the Ten Commandments. These were and are the vital laws through which an all-wise and all-loving God reveals to mankind the way to find happiness, good health, protection and prosperity.

In Force from the Beginning The ten holy laws had been in effect long before then. Adam and Eve knew about them, and bitterly regretted breaking several. Men of ancient times, including Abraham, were aware of and obeyed them. (Gen. 26:5.) Down through the centuries pagan ways had become so mixed in with God’s laws that God chose this time at Mount Sinai to distinctly set forth His rules for living in a clear way to His people. They were meant for all human beings. Obedience to them results in the best of everything. If all people kept the Commandments, there would be no war, poverty, sickness, misery, jails, asylums or unhappiness! Down through time most people have chosen not to follow God’s laws. They have foolishly believed man’s ways are easier and better. However, man isn’t capable of successfully leading a long and happy life without obeying God’s spiritual and physical laws. Millions of people have never so much as heard of God, mostly because their ancestors chose to ignore their Creator. The result has been six thousand years of suffering, poverty and unhappiness for a lot of people. Today the opportunities to find out about God are greater in some nations than they were in the past, though pagan beliefs are again increasingly mixed with so-called Christianity. One of the most harmful, taught even by respected church leaders, is that keeping the Ten Commandments isn’t necessary. The Bible states that "false shepherds" will spring up to try to hide the truth. (Acts 20:29, 30 and II Peter 2:1.)

Moses Returns Atop Sinai When finally Moses and Aaron got up from where they had been kneeling, the strong light above them had dimmed and the guiding cloud still obscured the mountain’s peak. The seventy elders walked away to tell the people that Moses would go up the mountain to hear more from God. This relieved the crowd, which had become increasingly fearful of God’s closeness and His voice. When he was well up Mount Sinai and obscured by the cloud, Moses was informed of many things he was to tell the elders to pass on to the people. "They need further rules to spare them from trouble," God said to Moses. "Remember these judgments I will give you." Thereupon Moses was given rules covering many circumstances and situations requiring God’s wisdom. They included how to deal with murderers, thieves, sorcerers and the disorderly, how to settle various charges and claims, how to observe God’s yearly Sabbaths and even how to handle vicious animals. (Ex. 21, 22 and 23.) It was pointed out that rebellion was a serious sin, but that willing obedience would result in helpful miracles. "You will be confronted with nations of idol-worshipers when you near Canaan," God continued. "I shall weaken their armies with swarms of hornets, so that you will take the land bounded by the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the deserts of Arabia and the Euphrates River. I shall free you from sickness and disease, cause your women to bear many children and your flocks and herds to multiply greatly. I will not allow other peoples to remain in your land, lest you mingle with them and serve their gods." (Ex. 23:28-33.) Moses returned to the valley to tell the elders what he had been told. The elders passed the information on to the people, who readily agreed to abide by it. Moses recorded the rules and conditions of this agreement between the Israelites and their Creator.

The Making of the Covenant at Sinai Next morning Moses directed the building of an altar on a slope of Mount Sinai. Around it were placed twelve large stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Young men prepared animals for peace offerings placed on wood on the altar. Moses took half of the blood from the animals and sprinkled it over the wood fuel. As flames crackled through the wood, he read aloud the newly-written agreement before the people. "So be it!" the elders exclaimed after the reading. "We will be obedient to whatever God asks!" "So be it!" the people chorused. "We will obey God!" "Then witness this blood of agreement with our Creator!" Moses proclaimed as he sprinkled the other half of the blood on the elders who represented the people. (Ex. 24:4-8.) Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Hur, Aaron’s two oldest sons and several elders, later went up Mount Sinai. Part way up, as they paused to rest, the guiding cloud lowered to envelop the upper part of the mountain. An alarming darkness resulted, out of which grew a strange light. The climbers looked above to take in an awesome sight. The cloud had vanished, leaving a sapphire-like expanse flecked with beautiful beams of light. (Ex. 24:10.) The men fell on their faces when they realized they were staring up at a radiant Being in that blue translucency! "God has come down to us!" Moses declared to the astonished onlookers, who could scarcely believe they were seeing one of the God Family who later appeared as Jesus Christ. (I John 4:12.) At first the men were afraid, but gradually such a relaxing exhilaration came on them they were able to rest and even eat in the presence of the One who had created the universe! (Verse 11.) This was a very special privilege few men have experienced. Most people fail to realize it is also a special privilege to talk to the Creator, something that can be done simply by a proper attitude and prayer. After a while the view faded and the cloud reappeared to cover the peak of the mountain. God’s voice rumbled out of the cloud, telling Moses to come on up to receive tablets of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments to take to the people. Realizing he might be gone quite a while, Moses told the men to wait until a certain time and then go back down if he hadn’t returned. He chose Joshua to continue upward with him. Farther up, their progress was stopped by the increasing density of the cloud, through which strange, flickering beams of light could be seen.

What Was the Covenant? The covenant or agreement made at Mount Sinai between God and Israel was nothing to be taken lightly. It was later referred to in the Bible as a sacred marriage contract between God, as the husband, and Israel as the wife. It was a binding promise God would always take care of His wife, Israel, who would always be faithful and never have anything to do with the false gods of other nations. The rules of the marriage covenant were the Ten Commandments and the civil laws later given on Mount Sinai. The terms were that Israel was to remain faithful by obeying God’s laws to insure happiness, good health, many children and prosperity. Unfaithfulness would mean misery, disease, poverty and possible DIVORCE. To better understand about the old covenant, it’s necessary to jump ahead in the chain of events and divulge that Israel failed to live up to its terms. The covenant was broken. Israel was punished and divorced and sent out of the Promised Land. (Jer. 3:6-10.) Centuries later, when Jesus Christ came to Earth, He drew up terms for a new marriage agreement with Israel. He became the mediator or agent of a proposed new covenant, much as Moses was the agent or go-between of the old covenant. The new covenant won’t be completed until Jesus returns to rule the world. (Heb. 8:8.) After proposing the new covenant, Jesus died, thus freeing Israel from the first marriage contract. Even though God (Jesus Christ) divorced Israel, that nation was still bound to Him until His death. Many religious denominations teach that because the old covenant is broken and dead, the Ten Commandments are dead and not to be obeyed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Belief in that lie has caused much misery to mankind. The Ten Commandments were the basis of the old covenant. They are living, unchanged spiritual laws, staying in effect as does God’s physical law of gravity, regardless of what anyone has to say about it. Those ten spiritual laws are meant for all men in all nations down through time. The breaking of the covenant didn’t lessen their effect. They existed before the old covenant was made. They are the main spiritual laws of the new covenant. Jesus had to die because they were broken. The ceremonial and ritual laws after the old covenant agreement to remind the Israelites of their sins were no part of the Ten Commandments. (Jer. 7:22 and Gal. 3:19.) For six days Moses and Joshua waited in the heavy vapor. There were times when they had the urge to try to return to the valley, but they patiently waited for whatever God expected of them. On the seventh day a voice called for Moses to proceed upward. Moses asked Joshua to wait for him, and disappeared into the mist, which opened just enough to show the way.

Chapter 28 THE GOLDEN CALF

THOUSANDS of Israelites had watched up Mount Sinai from the time Moses had gone up with a few men. They had seen the cloud come down to cover the summit, and had stared in awe at the long, multi-colored flames shooting up from the mountain and through the cloud as though from a belching volcano. Some were still watching when some of the men returned. Then there was growing concern. People wondered how the two men could remain on a mountain that was afire. Many decided they had become lost or had fallen into some deep ravine. "God will protect them," was Aaron’s assurance. Days passed into weeks. Probably the most concerned person was Joshua, who didn’t dare try going up to look for Moses nor groping his way down through the mist. During the first days he felt almost like a prisoner, but there was something about being so close to the Creator that soon imparted to him a feeling of warm satisfaction. As for his physical needs, there was a small brook close by and a fresh supply of manna six days a week.

Rebellion Against God’s Law Regardless of the miracles God had performed for Israel in the time of adversity, some of the people desired to cling to the habits of idol worship they had acquired in Egypt. Even while fire and smoke on Mount Sinai proclaimed God’s presence, these people complained that Moses’ absence showed God had forgotten them. "We need a leader to take us to a better place!" the rebellious ones declared. "And we need a god we can see and who will do more for us!" This outbreak of feeling was quickly taken up by those who were critical and disorderly. Within only a few days the complainers had created such confusion in the camps that thousands were stirred into an angry pitch. Aaron and Hur sent officers to seek out the offenders, but too late. A sullen crowd surrounded the tents of the Israelite leaders. Aaron and Hur could scarcely believe so many men were so anxious to cause unrest and trouble. "I’ll try to calm them down until Moses and Joshua return," Aaron told Hur. Silently praying that he could talk the unruly crowd into returning home, Aaron strode in among the men and held up his hands for quiet. "I hear you are dissatisfied with matters!" he declared. "Why are you unthankful for the protection you have received?" A loud babble erupted from the crowd as everyone tried to voice his opinion. One man managed to out-shout the others, who quieted a little. "When we were back in Egypt, both the Egyptians and the Israelites had all kinds of food and drink!" the man yelled. "Yet the Egyptians didn’t worship the invisible God you keep talking about! We want a god like one of theirs! We want one we can see and that doesn’t have a lot of laws!" "But the Egyptian gods are powerless!" Aaron exclaimed. "They are anything from oxen to lifeless pebbles! Why would you want such things to worship?" "Because we want something we understand and don’t fear!" someone shouted, and the crowd sounded loud approval. Aaron was dismayed. It was obvious these demanding people didn’t intend to give up until they were at least promised something, no matter how ridiculous. "Would you be satisfied with some kind of animal image made of gold?" Aaron queried. Silence followed. Aaron was about to suggest something else equally absurd when shouts of agreement started ringing out. This was small relief to Aaron, who realized those around him were actually expecting him to build an idol for them! "Make it now!" someone bellowed, followed by a loud chorus of accord.

Aaron Makes a Golden Statue "Then bring me all the gold earrings you can find," Aaron uneasily told the noisy crowd. "I will have the gold fused together to make you the false god you insist you want making for you. But I won’t do this willingly. Only a few days ago you promised to obey the one real God. Going back on that promise could be most unwise!" A volley of angry shouts swelled up from the crowd. The people moved in even closer, glowering menacingly at Aaron and the officers who stood with him. Aaron held up his hands and nodded his head in consent. "I shall arrange for your idol to be made," he told them in a faltering voice. "But you will have to help. Every man, woman and child wearing golden earrings must take them off and bring them here. We will fashion them into one piece, and from that gold will come the metal calf you desire for your god." Aaron hoped that the Israelites would refuse to give up their ear jewelry, thereby sparing him from his promise to create a golden calf. But his hope faded when he later witnessed the long lines of people filing up to give their earrings. He sent for carpenters, metal workers, designers and sculptors to come from the multitude, who took only a few days, to completely build the large mold in which to pour the hot, melted gold to make a molten gold calf. (Exodus 32:1-4.) Aaron then ordered a large altar built in front of the tent in which the calf image stood. When it was finished, he sent out messengers to all the people to proclaim that the next day would be a feast day to God. He hoped that the people would change their minds and make their offerings to God instead of the golden calf. But it was a rather futile wish, what with an altar built so close to the idol. Early next morning people started thronging toward the calf idol, bringing animals for burnt offerings and peace offerings. The creatures were slaughtered not far from the altar that had just been built, and before long the idol was loaded with their carcasses. When Aaron saw men about to set fire to the altar wood under the intended offerings, he hurried out before the altar and raised his hands in protest. "This is a feast to the God of Israel!" he shouted to the crowd. "These carcasses belong on the other altar — the one over there by the twelve stone pillars!" "If you don’t want us to sacrifice here, then why did you make this golden idol and the altar before it?" some of the rebellious leaders demanded in loud voices. "Because I knew that so many of you wanted it so badly that you would get it one way or another," Aaron replied. "I had hoped that Moses would return before the idol could be finished, or that you would realize how wrong it was and would give up the mad idea of serving and worshipping an idol!" "We know what we want!" the men shouted back, pointing to the idol. "THIS represents the god who brought us out of Egypt!" (Exodus 32:4.) Aaron walked slowly back to his tent, where he turned to watch a plume of smoke billow upward from the crackling fire. Looking out over the crowd, he shuddered to witness thousands bowing before the calf image, which now appeared to him as something very ugly and evil.

The People Declare a Holiday A short time later many of the people were consuming meat from the altar. As many more people arrived and more carcasses were placed on the altar, a spirit of revelry was developing. It was obvious that the altar before the calf image would be busy all day roasting animals and birds for the hungry crowd. The careless mood caught on with most of the people standing in line waiting to sacrifice. Large groups, moved by the music of musicians banding together, began to dance. Contagious laughter broke out. Profanity from lower characters erupted. By the middle of the afternoon there was such misconduct that thousands of other Israelites stood back to avoid being embroiled. (Ex. 32:6.) One might wonder how those people would dare conduct themselves so carelessly with God so close. One might wonder also how professed Christians today often allow themselves to live carelessly. As back at Mount Sinai, it’s still a matter of lack of fear of, and respect for, God, who is present everywhere.

Moses Talks with God To go back a few weeks to when Moses left Joshua to go on up Mount Sinai, Moses found that the higher he climbed, the less tired and more exhilarated he became. As he neared the summit, he could sense the powerful presence of the Almighty Creator of the universe. "Stay where you are, Moses!" a strong Voice called out. Startled, Moses halted and looked around. He was on a fairly flat area out of which jutted massive rock pinnacles. Although the shining aura from above wiped out shadows, visibility extended only a few yards. "You will remain here while I tell you more to speak to the Israelites and other things you are to do," the Voice continued. Moses fearfully bowed his head to the ground until God told him to seat himself. During the next forty days Moses spent many hours listening closely to God’s instructions. Every word and vision was etched sharply into his mind, made especially alert by God’s presence, without which he would have at times been miserably cold, thirsty and hungry. An unusual energy from the Creator supplanted the need for heat, food and water. (Deuteronomy 9:9.) Among the things Moses learned he must do was remember the instruction for building a portable tabernacle in which contact with God could be made during the trip to Canaan. He learned that Aaron and Aaron’s sons were to be the chief priests, whose duties and equipment were explained. (Ex. 25-31.)

Sabbath Command Repeated God stressed the importance of Sabbath observance, referring to both weekly and annual Sabbaths. "My Sabbaths are holy," God reminded Moses. "They are a sign forever between Me and you who observe them that I am your God and you are My church, a people chosen for a very special task. It shall remain a sign throughout every generation forever. It is an everlasting agreement that your people will be blessed as long as they obey Me in respect to My holy days. Those who refuse to obey will die!" (Ex. 31:12-17.) On the fortieth day near the top of the mountain, God ended the meeting by producing two slabs of elegant stone, on both sides of which were beautifully engraved the Ten Commandments. (Ex. 31:18 and 32:15-16.) "Leave here now!" God commanded Moses. "Hurry back to your camps!" Puzzled that God would request such a hasty departure, Moses firmly gripped the stone slabs and strode swiftly down the trail. As he hurried on, God’s voice followed him with the startling information that the Israelites below were at that moment breaking the covenant by indulging in riotous deportment around a metal idol. Moses was so dismayed that he dropped to his knees to beg God to be merciful to the people. "I know your people!" God thundered. "They are unruly and stubborn! From you, who have been a faithful servant, I can still produce a great nation. As for most of the Israelites, I should wipe them out with a shower of fire in the valley!" (Ex. 32:7-10.) "In your mercy you have brought them this far. Please don’t give the Egyptians reason to say that you used your power to deliver them from Egypt only to slay them at Mount Sinai!" Moses pleaded. "Remember your promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! You told them their offspring would number as the stars! You promised Canaan to their children! How can they receive it if you destroy them?" (Verses 11-13.) There was a short, awful silence. To Moses’ relief, God then spoke in a less wrathful tone. "You deal with those who have committed idolatry today!" God told Moses. "Seek them out and punish them! If you fail, I will destroy them!" Moses hesitated only long enough to express his gratitude. In a short while he reached the spot where he had left Joshua forty days previously. He hardly expected Joshua to still be there, but Joshua was still waiting, and naturally happy to see him. When Joshua asked what had happened and what he was carrying, Moses hardly heard him. "I’ll explain matters later," Moses told Joshua. "We must hurry down to the valley to stop a terrible thing happening there!"

The Return to Camp At that moment the loud voices of the reveling people reached Moses’ and Joshua’s ears. Assuming that only a state of war would produce such loud yelling, Joshua observed that the Amalekites must be attacking again. "Unfortunately, that’s not the situation," Moses answered gravely. "Hear that singing?" Without further talk the two continued down the trail. A few hundred feet below they emerged from the cloud. They could see a large throng grouped together, but they were too distant to make out what the people were doing. In a tent down there, Aaron and his family sat in glum silence while celebrants laughed and chanted wildly. Suddenly an officer outside the tent called to Aaron. "There is a report that Moses and Joshua have been seen coming down the mountain!"

Chapter 29 MOSES BREAKS TEN COMMANDMENTS

As MOSES and Joshua walked up to the edge of the crowd, people who saw them quieted down and stared in silence. Moses was shocked and angry when he saw and heard so many, bowing, parading, dancing and singing around the gold-covered calf statue. Still carrying the stone tablets, he grimly elbowed his way through surprised onlookers to a spot in front of the pagan altar. "Engraved here is the agreement we made with the Creator only a few weeks ago!" he shouted, holding the tablets aloft. "You promised to keep it, but you are already breaking it!" Because there was so much noise, only those who were closest looked for the source of the new voice. When they recognized Moses, they quickly directed the attention of others to him. Within seconds silence ensued. Thousands of pairs of eyes stared with unbelief. A murmur of awe rumbled up from the people. Moses was too filled with fury to say more. For the moment he lost control of his temper.

Tables of Stone Broken He hurled the stone tablets down with such force they shattered on the altar, the fragments flying in all directions. (Ex. 32:19.) Even before the rash act was finished, he realized how impetuous he was acting by breaking something holy that had come from God. Onlookers stared soberly and began to slink back toward their camps. Before long the throng had dissolved. The few who remained, being mostly of those who had prevailed on Aaron to produce the idol, gathered in sullen groups. Aaron, Hur and the officers and elders had little to say, and stood uncomfortably by. It was obvious to Moses that they deeply regretted having handled matters poorly. "Build a roaring fire around the statue!" Moses suddenly commanded. "Melt down all the gold in it! As soon as it cools, pick every bit of it out of the ashes and grind it into fine powder! Then dump that powder into every source of water the people use!" Most of the Israelites were relieved to see the image melt to the ground, though there were many who bitterly resented seeing their idol come to such a swift end. Hours later, it was impossible to draw water from any natural sources without including much gold dust. Those who had to drink it who weren’t guilty were warned by the pollution of the folly of idolatry. Those who were guilty were reminded of their sin. (Ex. 32:20.)

Aaron Repents "How did the people manage to talk you into this terrible situation?" Moses asked Aaron after matters were in hand. "You know how the people are," Aaron answered. "They so often want to do the wrong thing." Moses considered that a poor answer, and Aaron wasn’t anxious to explain all about how he had tried to stall for time. Moses was far from happy with Aaron’s eventual account. "If I could have delayed the idol’s construction one more day," Aaron weakly pointed out, "you would have arrived in time to prevent most of the trouble." Feeling that further words to the shame-faced Aaron would be of little value at a time when other things needed accomplishing quickly, Moses sent officers through the camps to find the men who had staunchly refused to have anything to do with worship of the golden calf. Later, a crowd of men was brought to the camp where Moses’ tent was pitched. "These are the ones who claim loyalty to God," Moses was informed. "They are of the tribe of Levi, and are anxious to do anything to please God." (Ex. 32:26.) "Good!" Moses said. "I have great need of them. God expects the covenant breakers to be punished. He will do it through the swords of these dedicated Levites!" The Levites stared in uncomfortable silence. "I know how you men must feel," Moses went on. "Some of you may be friends of the guilty, but God intends for them to die by your weapons. No blood will be on your heads, because you will be carrying out divine justice." This was a difficult and grisly task for the Levites to carry out, but they were determined to be obedient. By the end of the day about three thousand men had been arrested and executed. (Verses 27-28.) Next day, during mourning for the dead, Moses called the elders. "Go remind your people what a great crime has taken place here," he instructed them. "Though the guiltiest have died, God is angry with all the people for allowing it. I will climb back up the mountain to plead with Him not to bring punishment that will be too severe." By this time, Aaron had become so conscious of his weak role in things that he was busy doing his own praying.

Moses Returns Atop Sinai "My people have sinned more than I realized at first," Moses told God when he was again up the mountain. "I beg you to forgive them. If you don’t intend to, I pray that you will take my life instead of dealing harshly with them!" "I shall not cause the innocent to suffer," God answered. "Neither shall the guilty escape my anger. Go back and tell the people that because of breaking my covenant, I will no longer remain close to them, lest I blot them out if again they so carelessly break my laws. I shall send an angel to do the leading to Canaan, and will decide how to deal with them after I find out how much they regret their sins." (Ex. 33:1 -3.) The people were unhappy at learning God was going to remove Himself from them somewhat. To show their regret for the idolatry that had taken place, they denied themselves the use of their jewelry and ornate clothing, having been instructed by Moses that they should show humility. (Ex. 33:4-6.) God was so moved by this spirit of repentance that He withheld the punishment He had in mind. In past weeks, Moses had gone to a special tent outside the camp when he needed to talk to God. People would know when he was doing this, because the guiding cloud would descend over the tent. But after God decided not to be so close to the Israelites, Moses had to have the tent moved away quite a distance before God would meet him in the cloud. The people noticed this, and were perturbed, but they were thankful that Moses and God didn’t leave entirely.

Plans for the Future In one of his visits with God, Moses boldly inquired how he should go about getting the Israelites started again toward Canaan. God was pleased by Moses’ concern for the people. He rewarded him by the welcome news that He would continue helping guide the Israelites. Moses had a sudden strong desire to see what this merciful Creator looked like, but God informed him that it wouldn’t be possible to see His face. "I want you to bring two stone tables up Mount Sinai for Me to write the Ten Commandments on again," God said. "When you do, I shall pass very near to you, and you shall see My presence." Next day Moses forcefully warned Aaron, Joshua and Hur he would be gone for a time, and that it would be up to them to preserve order in the camps or risk the lives of all the Israelites. Taking the expertly-cut tablets, he went up Mount Sinai early next morning. At the same time the cloud floated down to cover the peak of the mountain. "Conceal yourself in the small cave here on the ledge," a voice instructed. "Do not emerge until your God has passed by the cave." Moses stepped into the opening in the solid rock and waited. Suddenly he found himself shaking nervously. There was a dazzling light. The Creator of the universe — the One who later became Jesus — was approaching! "I am the Eternal God!" The tremendous voice, seeming to come from all directions, cracked like lightning without being unduly loud. The growing brilliance became so strong it stabbed through Moses’ closed eyelids. In another instant it became so dazzling Moses could make out a rather indefinite figure standing back to him. It lasted only for a moment, and was gone before he could clap his hands over his closed eyes to protect them. (Ex. 34:5-6.) "I am merciful and gracious," the Voice continued. "I am slow to anger, loving and faithful. My love for thousands is not to be swayed. I forgive men of their sins, but I will punish those who continue in their guilt. I will bring punishment on their children, their grandchildren and even their great grandchildren." Trembling and almost blinded temporarily, Moses stumbled out of the little cave and dropped face downward. "If I have found favor with you, forgive the sins of my stubborn people!" Moses exclaimed. "Dwell with us! Don’t cut us off from your protection and blessings!" (Verses 7-9.) "I will renew the covenant!" God said after a short period of silence. "I will do great and marvelous things for your people that have never been done before!" God went on to repeat many of the plans He had already disclosed during Moses’ previous forty days and nights on the mountain. Moses stayed again for the same time, fasting and being sustained by divine power. For the second time God engraved the Ten Commandments on stone. When at last Moses returned to camp, he was happy to find no trouble there and pleased to bring the new tablets and the promise of a renewed covenant. (Verses 27-28; Deut. 10:1-5.) On reaching the slopes of the mountain, he was startled because the first people to meet him stared and backed away in fright. "Look at his face!" they muttered fearfully.

Chapter 30 MOSES RETURNS

WHY ARE you people staring?" Moses asked. "Don’t you recognize me?" No one answered. The wide-eyed onlookers silently kept backing away from him. As Moses increased his pace, the crowd retreated faster. Suddenly Moses spotted Aaron, and beckoned to him. Even Aaron seemed hesitant to approach. "Why is everyone backing off?" Moses asked Aaron. Soon it was evident to both men that closeness to God had caused Moses’ skin to shine with such a divine radiance that his facial features were hardly discernible. It was necessary for him to cover his head to prevent onlookers from becoming alarmed.

Moses Summons the Elders Next morning he gathered the elders to tell them what had happened. Because his skin still glowed brightly, he kept a veil over his face. This was necessary, especially later when he addressed crowds, to keep children from becoming upset. When he talked to all the people, he reminded them they should faithfully and carefully observe the Sabbaths. "They are eternal signs that God is our God and we are His people," Moses pointed out. "I have news of a special work we must carry out right away. Some of you will feel so ambitious about it you will be tempted to work on it on the Sabbath. God knows this. He has instructed me no fire shall be kindled on a Sabbath for the purpose of sharpening tools, melting metals or anything having to do with unnecessary work. God is aware of your needs. He doesn’t forbid the use of fires on the Sabbath for light, heat or other necessities." (Ex. 35:1-3.) Moses had been discouraged by the way many Israelites had failed to obey the Fourth Commandment. Probably he would have been dismayed if he could have foreseen how so-called spiritual leaders of the future would distort and even ignore that law.

How Men Misrepresent God’s Law Posing as ministers of God, such men proclaim that it isn’t possible to obey these eternal spiritual laws, and that those who try to are placing themselves under a curse. One of the arguments is that it isn’t possible to observe the Fourth Commandment because people can’t live without kindling a fire every day. "Jesus nailed the Ten Commandments to the cross," they claim. The Ten Commandments weren’t nailed to the cross. Christ was nailed there to pay for people’s sins by dying instead. Because He was the supreme sacrifice, the temporary laws having to do with the sacrifices are no longer necessary. They were given in Moses’ day to remind man of his sin and of his coming Saviour. Since Christ has already come, we don’t need them today. (Gal. 3:19 and Heb. 10:3-4.) But the Ten Commandments are everlasting. They’re spiritual, not ceremonial. Eternal life, a gift from God, can’t be earned, and God won’t give it without obedience to Him. There must be repentance of sins, which is a deep regret for wrong things done. Every human being has sinned. That is failing to obey God’s sacred laws, the foremost being the Ten Commandments. On repentance, God is pleased to forgive and remove sin by blotting out all past mistakes, but to gain everlasting life, one must live from then on by the Creator’s rules, which are for happiness, good health and success. Often they are difficult to obey, but God gives ability to overcome and a growing hope of becoming a spirit being. (Matthew 10:22.) When one considers that most so-called Christian churches teach the opposite of many things God shows through the Bible, one begins to realize how carefully the remarks of self-styled spiritual leaders must be regarded. The matter of "kindling fire" may not at first appear of great importance, but it’s just one example of how some will vainly try to eliminate the Ten Commandments. Having warned the people of the importance of observing the Sabbath, Moses outlined for them the wonderful plan for a place in which God could be with them as they moved toward Canaan. "Even though we have sinned greatly, our God has promised to stay in our midst as long as we obey Him," Moses told the Israelites. . . .

 

Volume II 1983

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 31 THE TABERNACLE BUILT
  • Chapter 32 THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD
  • Chapter 33 LAWS OF HEALTH
  • Chapter 34 THE PLAN OF SALVATION
  • Chapter 35 "CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY …"
  • Chapter 36 ISRAEL BREAKS CAMP
  • Chapter 37 QUAIL FOR TWO MILLION
  • Chapter 38 TWELVE SCOUTS SEARCH CANAAN Chapter 39 SCOUTS REPORT SEEING GIANTS!
  • Chapter 40 MOB ATTACKS MOSES
  • Chapter 41 REBELS CHALLENGE GOD’S GOVERNMENT
  • Chapter 42 "THE EARTH OPENED ITS MOUTH"
  • Chapter 43 ON TO CANAAN AGAIN!
  • Chapter 44 THE TROUBLESOME ROAD TO CANAAN
  • Chapter 45 WAR WITH THE AMORITES
  • Chapter 46 KING’S RANSOM TEMPTS A PROPHET Chapter 47 BALAAM’S FOUR PROPHECIES
  • Chapter 48 VICTORY EAST OF THE JORDAN
  • Chapter 49 THE CONSTITUTION OF ISRAEL
  • Chapter 50 JOSHUA NOW LEADS ISRAEL
  • Chapter 51 THE PROMISED LAND
  • Chapter 52 WALLS OF JERICHO FALL
  • Chapter 53 ONE MAN’S SIN
  • Chapter 54 CONQUEST OF BETHEL AND AI
  • Chapter 55 "AND THE SUN STOOD STILL"

INTRODUCTION by Herbert W. Armstrong

In response to overwhelming demand this second and revised volume of "The Bible Story" is published. We are thrilled, and overjoyed, because of the enthusiastic acceptance of Volume I. Those who have read the first volume know that there has never been a Bible story book like this. There have, of course, been many Bible story books — too many, of a kind. But candidly they seemed, to me, to have no mission, except to entertain children. They seemed to try to compete with the exciting fiction of violence of which youngsters see entirely too much on television — or read in cheap novels or comic books. These children’s Bible story books were a series of disconnected blood-and-thunder stories drawn from certain Biblical incidents. There was no connection between one and another, or with the Gospel. They were shorn of their real meaning. They seemed to me to degrade the Bible in children’s minds. The real connection of these Biblically recorded incidents with the MEANING and PURPOSE of life — of God’s message to mankind — was ignored. Yet all these incidents are recorded in the Bible BECAUSE they have real and deep MEANING. They teach vital lessons that ought to be made plain to children — and to adults as well! For years, in my ministry, I felt an overpowering sense of responsibility, mingled with a feeling of inadequacy, for getting the proper teaching to children. It was a frustrating consciousness, for my time was so completely filled in the ministry to adults. I early had come to realize that the newborn infant knows nothing at birth. Humans must learn and be taught. Born in a predominately paganized world, the infant is taught from birth in the customs and ways of society. It would never occur to him to question them. They are simply absorbed — taken for granted — accepted. In school the child is not graded on ability to prove whether the teaching is true or false. He is graded on willingness to accept without question, memorize and absorb whatever is taught. Educators have, as Paul wrote, been reluctant to retain God in the knowledge they disseminate (Romans 1:28). Today’s children are born into a confused, mixed-up, divided religious babylon.

The hundreds of organized religious denominations and sects cannot agree on WHAT the Gospel is; on who or what God is; on whether Christ was human, divine, or both; whether there is a devil; what salvation is; what or where the reward of the "saved" shall be; or how one may obtain it. Each one seems to take for granted whatever brand of religious belief has been taught him from childhood. It is ten times more difficult to UNLEARN error than to learn TRUTH. This, then, is the dilemma that challenged me: children, still today, are being reared in the same old secular pagan philosophies and customs, with the addition of the so-called scientific approach that has arrived with the acceptance of the theory of evolution. This atheists’ attempt to explain the presence of a creation without the existence of a Creator has become the basic concept by which all causes, origins and purposes are explained. By the time these innocent children have been inoculated with this anti-God poison and reached maturity, most of them have too much to unlearn before their minds can accept original truth. An inborn prejudice has been set up. And prejudice is an absolute barrier to the entrance of TRUTH into the mind. But what could I do about it? Children need, as they need life itself, an awareness of the basic TRUTHS of the Bible WHILE THEY ARE GROWING UP! If only we could get to them the knowledge of God — of the Creator and His vast creation — of His authority and rulership over the creation He brought into being and now sustains — of the invisible yet inexorable spiritual laws He set in motion to regulate relationships and produce happiness, peace and everything good — of the knowledge that the Bible definition of sin is simply the transgression of these laws operating for our good — of the basic knowledge of God’s purpose being worked out here below, and of His plan for working it out — of the biblical revelation of Christ and what He means to us today — of the vital connection of case histories, incidents, experiences — so often seized upon as material for the blood-and-thunder type Bible stories — with God’s overall purpose, and with the Gospel — if only growing children could be possessed of this knowledge, they would not be deceived and misled by the teaching of the secular school systems. Years ago this realization plagued me. God had called me to an important ministry which He was blessing with rapid and constant growth. But the children were being neglected in this ministry. How could I supply this lack? For years it was a frustrating dilemma. HOW could I get to growing children a real knowledge of God — of the Creator and His vast creation — of His power, authority, and rulership over all He created — of the very PURPOSE in having put humans on this earth — of the vital CONNECTION between these Biblical incidents and the meaning of life? In due time God supplied the man for this important undertaking. was a nationally known artist in the United States. His work appeared in more than fifty nationally circulated magazines. He was both an artist and a trained writer. He was converted through The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast many years ago. He was a student and teacher of the Bible. In November, 1958, "The Bible Story" started, serially, in "The PLAIN TRUTH." But it is NOT written ONLY for children! We like to say it is written for children from 5 to 105! Mr. Wolverton wrote in simple, understandable language, easily read by children at the nine- to twelve-year-old level, yet INTERESTING to adults as well! With professional expertness, Mr. Wolverton makes this story-flow gripping and thrilling in plain and simple words. Parents can read this book to four- and five-year-olds, and, with a little explaining, make it understandable and also absorbing and interesting. "The Bible Story" is definitely NOT a series of disconnected stories of excitement and violence with no special meaning. Our purpose is to tell simply, in language children can read and understand, plainly, yet interestingly the story of the Bible itself, beginning at the beginning. A continuous story thread runs through the entire Bible. Not many have ever grasped this amazing yet important fact. Most people read a verse here or a chapter there, failing to properly connect them, or understand the true continuity of the Bible story. Mr. Wolverton stuck to the literal Biblical account. He has taken author’s license to portray certain incidents in conversational style, or to fill in, for purposes of clarity and realism, a few "tomatoes on the window sill." Yet he was zealously careful to avoid adding to, or detracting from, the real and intended meaning of the sacred Scriptures. The first volume contained thirty chapters. The present volume picks up the story from there. It is a continuing memorial of , who died in December 1978, and is presented to you as a ministry of love, without money and without price. It is our fervent hope that it will bring to you and your children enlightenment, interesting reading, understanding, and abundant blessings from its original and TRUE AUTHOR, Jesus Christ.

Chapter 31 THE TABERNACLE BUILT

MOSES had now returned from atop Sinai. God had given him plans for a tabernacle. "Every detail of how the tabernacle should be built, I have with me," Moses explained.

Why the Tabernacle? "God has ordered us to build this tabernacle as a temporary dwelling for Him to be present with us. God has not yet promised to dwell in you by His Spirit. He has promised to be among you and with you in every crisis so long as you obey Him," Moses said to the crowd. "For now He will be pleased with us if we give generously and willingly of our materials, wealth, skills and labor. Every one can have a part in doing something for our Creator." Shouts of "What can we do?" and "Just how can we help?" came from all parts of the vast congregation. Moses answered by telling them that all who were willing and able should bring in gold, silver, brass, cloth dyes, fine linen, goats’ hair, red rams’ skins, seals’ skins, acacia wood, oil, spices, incense and precious stones. "There is also a need for willing workers who are skilled in carpentry, metal work, weaving, carving and all the crafts and arts necessary to build and decorate the tabernacle and everything connected with it." (Exodus 35:4-19.) Moses didn’t beg the people for anything. He simply told them what was required. The huge crowd broke up, and the Israelites returned to their tents. Before many hours, much of the necessary material was brought. Laborers, craftsmen, artisans and maidservants volunteered their services so readily that a crowd grew close to Moses’ tent. (Exodus 36:1-3.)

Israelites Bring Many Valuable Offerings "These people say they have come to give gifts for the tabernacle," an officer explained to Moses and Aaron. "What shall we do?" (Verses 20-29.) "Assign men of good character to receive the gifts at once," Moses answered. "Summon skilled men to immediately set up tents and enclosures in which to store these things." For the next several days thousands of people came to give the things for which Moses had asked. Because the camps were spread out for a few miles, it was far into the night when some of the gift-bearers arrived. They also wove diligently on their looms to produce the beautiful fabrics that were needed, and they brought daily that which had been finished. So generous were the people that more than enough was brought for the building of the tabernacle. Moses was pleased at this great display of zeal, unselfishness and ambition by so many of the people. It was plain to him that thousands of them were anxious to make up for their past sins. Still too fresh in their minds were the unpleasant memories of their wanton prancing before the golden calf. But most of the people who came to give simply had a sincere desire to help because they realized that this was a wonderful opportunity to be of service to God. God had already told Moses on Mt. Sinai whom to choose to head this task of making the tabernacle, so Moses proclaimed to the people that Bezaleel, a grandson of Hur from the tribe of Judah, would be in charge. Bezaleel’s assistant was to be Aholiab of the tribe of Dan.

Israelites Work Industriously These two men were of good character, highly skilled in all the crafts of building and decoration, in teaching their helpers, and possessing good Judgment and wisdom in the arts of material design and production. Moses had passed on to them the detailed instructions for building the tabernacle. (Exodus 35:30-35.) Knowing how much material was necessary, through figures Moses had given him, Bezaleel realized that more than enough had been brought in. Even so, the people kept on coming with more. Bezaleel spoke to Moses, who quickly made it known that nothing more should be given. But there were some who had put off giving their share, and who rushed their offerings in too late to be accepted. Bezaleel and Aholiab lost no time in teaching those who needed instructions and assigning craftsmen and laborers to their various tasks. Soon everyone was busily and happily working. Carpenters started hewing boards out of the acacia logs and planks that had been brought in. Metal workers melted down or pounded out the metals. Weavers and seamstresses worked on cloth. Gem-cutters planned how to use the precious stones. Work on the tabernacle was something that couldn’t be rushed. It required great care and skill, for everything that went into this project was to be made as close to perfection as human hands could make it. The men and women were very careful to perform superior workmanship in making God’s tabernacle and its furnishings. Bezaleel and Aholiab did much of the work themselves — especially on such objects as the chest that was to contain the two tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments are written, the altar on which sacrifices were to be made and the priests’ garments. (Exodus 37, 38, 39.) Even though the workers applied themselves ambitiously, it required about six months to build the tabernacle. That was because there was a need for so much intricate and detailed workmanship.

Tabernacle Richly Decorated Nearly fifteen tons of gold, silver and brass were used. This represented only a small part of the wealth of the Israelites, much of which had come from their former Egyptian neighbors or from being washed up on the east shore of the Red Sea after Pharaoh’s army had been engulfed in water. Among the things made last was the special clothing for the priests As the items were finished, they were brought to Moses for inspection Nothing was approved until he was satisfied that it was made strictly according to God’s instructions. Finally Moses called all the workers together to commend them for tasks done well, and to ask God’s blessing on them. (Exodus 39:43.) He reminded them that God, who is perfect, is pleased when men strive toward perfection in anything worthwhile, whether it is material physical or spiritual. That’s worth remembering when something needs doing. Too many people try to get more and give less, which is the opposite of God’s way. Quality pleases Him, and quality requires one’s best efforts. The Israelites had been gone a year from Egypt by the time the tabernacle was finished. It was set up and ready for use on the first day of the second year of the journey to Canaan. (Exodus 40:1-4, 17) Just to the west of Moses’ tent was an open area centering the twelve camps. There workmen erected God’s tabernacle that was to be taken down and moved whenever the people moved. (Numbers 1:50-54; 3:38.)

An Enclosure for the Tabernacle To give privacy to the priests who would preside there, a long curtain of fine linen was strung on braced posts of brass about ten feet high. This fence enclosed an area about two hundred feet long and half as wide. The space between the tabernacle and the fence was called the court of the tabernacle. (Exodus 27:9-19 and 38:9-20.) The only entrance into the court was an opening left in the east fence. The altar, about six feet high and ten feet square, was just beyond the opening. Its boards, hewn from acacia trees grown in the Mt. Sinai area, were covered with brass. It was hollow inside (Exodus 27:8), but filled with earth to prevent the wood from burning. (Exodus 20:24.) Wood and offerings were to be placed on the dirt part, from which ashes could be removed daily (Leviticus 6:8-13) with shovels and pans made for that purpose. Like everything of the tabernacle, the altar was made to be carried. There were heavy brass rings on the corners of the brass grate encircling the lower half of the altar. The boards of the altar rested on a narrow rim of the grate. (Exodus 27:4-5.) Through the rings long poles were to be inserted for lifting the altar from the dirt filling for conveyance whenever the Israelites were directed to move their camps. (Exodus 38:1-7.) Between the tabernacle and the altar was a large brass bowl called the laver, always to be full of water. In it the priests were to wash their hands and feet before going about their duties. (Exodus 30:18-21.) The tabernacle was put up in the west section of the court. It was about sixty feet long. Its width and its walls were a third of the length. The walls were built of gold-covered acacia boards set on bases of silver. The front end was open except for a curtain. Another heavier, larger curtain of sealskin was stretched over lighter ones of rams’ skins, goat hair and linen. Only the colorful, figured linen curtain could be seen inside the tabernacle, which needed no floor because it was always to be set on level ground. (Exodus 26:1-25; 36:8-34.) There were two rooms. The first one, covered with gold, was about forty feet long and half as wide. This was known as the holy place. It contained a gold-covered table that was to hold twelve loaves of bread to represent the food offerings of the twelve tribes of Israel, a gold lamp stand with places for seven oil lamps and a gold altar for burning incense. The second room was half the size of the first. This very sacred area was to be entered only by the high priest and only on the Day of Atonement, once a year. Here was a gold-covered wooden chest called the ark of the covenant, about the size of a large trunk. It had a solid gold lid called the mercy seat, on which were mounted two gold figures facing each other. Inside the chest were the two stone tablets on which God had engraved the Ten Commandments. Aaron’s shepherd’s rod was there. There was also a special container for manna, holy anointing oil and other objects of unusual meaning. (Exodus 37:1-9; Hebrews 9:3-8.) This holy of holies, as the inner room was called, was the place God designed for His glorious Presence while leading the Israelites on the journey to Canaan. A huge crowd formed to see how the tabernacle would appear when its many parts were put together. It was colorful and majestic, but only the upper part of the outside could be seen. The curtained fence prevented the people from witnessing even the sacred rites of ordaining the equipment in the court. Moses was the first to enter the court. After he anointed the articles and utensils there and in the tabernacle, they were to be regarded as holy. He then brought Aaron and Aaron’s sons into the court. They washed at the laver and dressed in their priestly attire. Moses anointed them with oil, and they were ordained by God’s power to be priests. This meant that their following generations were also to be priests. Everything was put in order. Bread was placed on the table in the holy place. The seven lamps were lighted. Sweet incense was burned on the golden altar. A burnt offering and a meat offering were made at the large altar. (Exodus 40:17-33.) The Israelites were accustomed to seeing the cloud move down from above Mt. Sinai and hover over the tent where Moses went to talk to God. This time it moved down toward the middle of their camps, appearing so close and large that some of the people fled to their tents. Those who stayed to watch noticed that the cloud had a beautiful, sparkling quality that exuded the feeling of vibrant life. While awed millions watched, it floated down over the tabernacle. Moses, Aaron and his sons were still inside when the luminous vapor settled down to impart a sensation of peace and energy Moses had experienced before. Rays of multicolored light moved through the vapor, becoming so intense the humans had to back out of the tabernacle to leave it to God to occupy.

Chapter 32 THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD

GOD Will allow you to enter completely into His tabernacle service only after you have spent seven days and nights in your duties at the door," Moses told Aaron and his sons. "Do exactly as you have been told, or you may have to pay with your lives." (Leviticus 8:1-4, 31-36.) A week later the elders were told to bring offerings for the first services in use of the altar. All the people were also told to be present. After the first carcasses were placed on the altar, Moses, Aaron and his sons went out to stand before the people while Moses informed the crowd that God was pleased with the offerings.

A Fire from Israel’s God Suddenly a hissing bolt of fire shot out of the tabernacle, arched upward enough to be seen from outside the curtained fence, and struck the altar! The offering there was quickly consumed by an energy more like lightning than ordinary flames. This close display of God’s power so startled the people that they fell forward in awe. (Leviticus 9:22-24.) "This is God’s holy fire," Moses told Aaron. "Your sons should never allow it to die." (Leviticus 6:13.) "Twice a day live coals should be taken from the altar and carried in a censer to the holy place to be sprinkled with incense at the golden altar." (Exodus 30:1-9.) From then on the tabernacle was in constant use. Early each morning Aaron’s sons came to carry out their preparation duties. Then animals were slaughtered, dressed and offered for all Israel. This was done again in the afternoon, so that an offering was always on the altar. (Leviticus 6:9, 12-13.) The unblemished animals used for burnt offerings typified the Messiah who would later come to die for the sins of the people instead of the people having to die.

Why Animal Sacrifices? Aaron and his sons had to carry out their duties properly. There were several kinds of offerings planned by God to distinctly remind the Israelites of their sins, and to give them an opportunity to worship Him with a feeling of close contact. THESE OFFERINGS WERE TO TEACH ISRAEL THE HABIT OF OBEYING THEIR GOD. (Galatians 3:24.) THEY ALSO TAUGHT THE NEED FOR THEIR GOD TO COME AS A SAVIOUR TO PAY FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD. The offerings were not to pay for sin. Salvation never came through animal sacrifices. They were given to Israel until the coming of the Saviour (Galatians 3:19), and were to remind the people that One would come to shed His blood for their sins. (Hebrews 10:3, 4, 18.) There were burnt offerings, food offerings, peace offerings, offerings for sins of ignorance, trespass offerings and others. For each there was a special ceremony outlined by God. (Leviticus 1-5.) For example, if a man wished to make a personal burnt offering as a gift to God or in recognition of the coming Messiah, he was to bring one of three things. It had to be a healthy, unblemished male from his cattle, sheep or goats, or turtledoves or pigeons. There was a ceremony for each kind of creature, some of which were more involved than others, but each ending with the animal’s flesh being burned. Most of the people didn’t realize their sacrifices pointed to a time when the Being in the cloud would come in human form and would be sacrificed for the sins of all the world’s inhabitants. Sacrificial ceremonies included more than animals. Olive oil, flour from grains and incense were used. Some, if to be burned, were used in combinations, such as unleavened breads not sweetened by honey. Whatever the ritual or its necessities, all had to be done exactly according to how God had instructed Moses. Nothing was to be changed, added or omitted.

Two Priests Rebel Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, arrived for work one morning to find the altar fire barely alive. In their eagerness to get the flames going, they piled on wood that was moist from the morning dew, burying the last of the live coals. "Our father, Aaron, will be here any minute to get live coals for the altar in the holy place, and now they’re under this wet wood," Nadab observed worriedly. "We’ll have to pile some of it off." "Why go to that trouble?" Abihu asked, snatching up a censer. "There’s a campfire outside the gate where we can get live coals right away!" Knowing that only fire from the large altar was to be used in the holy place, Nadab was about to protest, but said nothing when he thought how much easier it would be to obtain coals at the campfire. Silently he picked up another censer and hurriedly joined his brother. Then the two rushed back with the glowing coals, relieved to find that Aaron still hadn’t showed up. After a few minutes they realized the campfire coals were becoming ash-covered. If they weren’t used right away, coals would have to be dug out from under the new fuel on the altar after all. Unwisely, they decided to make the delivery of live coals to the holy place, something only Aaron was to do. After leaving the fire in the holy place, a strong uneasiness seized them. They made a frantic rush for the door, but too late. Fingers of fire hissed out of the inner room and struck them lifeless under the curtains of the tabernacle entrance. (Leviticus 10:1-2.) A little later, when Aaron arrived, he was concerned to find nobody in sight, although fire was now beginning to burn vigorously on the altar. Across the court, in the doorway of the tabernacle, he then saw his sons lying motionless. He hurried to reach down to them. "Don’t touch them!"

Lesson in Obedience Aaron glanced up to see Moses approaching and motioning him away from the dead men. "They died because they disobeyed God by bringing strange fire before Him and trying to take over duties that were yours," Moses explained. "God warned them, and He means His warnings." Aaron stood in silent misery, gazing at the flame-blackened bodies. Finally he turned away, realizing that disobedience had to bring punishment. In spite of the shock of his nephews’ deaths, Moses lost no time in arranging for burials, and for replacements by Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s two other sons. "Don’t mourn because of Nadab and Abihu," Moses warned Aaron and the two other sons. "If you do, it would show that you feel God has dealt unjustly with them." (Leviticus 10:6-7.) People were sobered when they heard Nadab and Abihu had died by the direct hand of God. Even a funeral wasn’t to interfere with tabernacle ceremonies. Aaron had to carry on with his duties, and Eleazar and Ithamar had to start with theirs. Their period of service began with a new ruling that priests on duty would have to abstain from wine and strong drink, the excessive use of which could dull one’s best judgment. It was possible that such had happened with Nadab and Abihu. Serious events didn’t necessarily steer matters smoothly. In one case of a goat being used as a sin offering for the people, Moses happened to go to the holy place to find nobody there. Neither was the goat that was to be eaten (at least in part). Moses then discovered that the goat had been completely burned on the altar. He quickly found Eleazar and Ithamar. "Why was the offering left to burn?" he angrily asked. "Why wasn’t it eaten in the holy place, as holy meat to bear the sins of the people?" (Verses 16-18.) Embarrassed and feeling guilty, the brothers were trying to think of reasonable answers when Aaron walked up to explain that he had told his sons not to bring him any meat to eat because his recent losses had left him with little appetite. "Would forcing down food under such circumstances be acceptable to God?" Aaron asked. Moses felt sudden compassion. He realized Aaron had done well to continue his duties under his emotional strain. He knew that God pardons human errors not willfully committed. He put a comforting hand on Aaron’s shoulder and said nothing more about the matter. Inasmuch as God gave no indication of displeasure, Aaron obviously was forgiven for breaking a ceremonial rule.

Chapter 33 LAWS OF HEALTH

EVERYBODY should be healthy. God intended that His own people should not only know the truth about food but live radiant, healthy lives.

What "Clean Food" Means Food that is clean doesn’t always mean that it is free of every kind of dirt. It can be pure in that respect, but at the same time it can be unfit to eat. God made animals, birds and fish in a class good for human food and in another class unfit for humans to eat. The Bible calls one kind "clean" and the other kind "unclean." This was known before the Flood. Noah knew what to do when he was told to take seven pairs of each kind of clean animals and birds into the ark along with one pair of each unclean kind. (Genesis 7:2-3.) The detailed knowledge of such things had been lost over the centuries that the Israelites had mingled with the heathen Egyptians, who had no interest in obeying God. The same was true of the Ten Commandments. Adam knew what they were. So did Noah, Abraham and many others. At Mt. Sinai they were brought to the Israelites so they could know again what was God’s will. To Israel went the responsibility of preserving the laws in writing and keeping pagan beliefs and rules from becoming mixed with them. God gave a simple rule by which clean animals could be known from the unclean. If an animal chewed a cud and had parted hoofs, it was made to be eaten. (Leviticus 11:3-4 and Deuteronomy 14:6-8.) Cattle, as well as several other kinds of animals, take in their food without spending time to chew it enough. They later bring mouthfuls back up from their stomachs for more careful chewing. These rechewed bits are called cuds. The Bible also gives examples of animals not fit for food. The camel chews the cud, but doesn’t have divided hoofs. They are slightly indented on the front, and with grooves on top, but not divided. The rabbit has paws with toes instead of hoofs. Cats, dogs and horses don’t chew cuds. Raccoons, squirrels and opossums are also unclean to eat. Pigs have divided hoofs, but don’t chew cuds. "You shall not eat swine or any other animals that do not part the hoof and chew the cud," God warned. (Leviticus 11:7-8; Deuteronomy 14:8.)

God Always Has Good Reasons The Creator never does anything without a good reason. His mind is far superior to human minds, which are rarely able to understand divine decisions and actions. Nevertheless, man tries to figure out why God tells him to do certain things. And when he can’t discover God’s reasons, he generally decides obedience is unnecessary. Man should obey for his own good, regardless of how little he understands. Only then is he blessed. Unhappily, millions have decided that such animals as pigs and rabbits are proper to eat, especially if God is thanked for them. Now that more is known about animal anatomy, it is evident that certain animals have digestive systems that don’t carry off as many poisons as do others. A hog digests its food in about three and a half hours. A cow requires twenty-four hours to do the same thing through two digestive processes screening out impurities that would otherwise pass into its flesh and milk. The main reason any animal is unclean is that it wasn’t made to be eaten by man. God made some animals for human food. Others were for work, for pets, for consuming waste products and for controlling the numbers of creatures. If man could have discerned which animals were unclean, there would have been no need for the Bible to inform him.

Water Creatures Fit for Food God also gave a similar way of knowing what water creatures were to be used as food. To be clean, they must have two features — fins and overlapping scales (which sometimes drop off with age). (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9-10.) Wide varieties of creatures are ordinarily considered great delicacies. Crabs and lobsters are acclaimed around the world as succulent delights, though they are nothing more than flavorful but unclean, spider-like crustaceans that feed mainly on decaying carcasses. Other unclean denizens of the water include the frog, turtle, abalone, scallop, shrimp, shark, whale, eel, squid, various catfish, European turbot, sturgeon, lobster, octopus, clam and oyster. Most of these are thought of as wholesome and nutritious food by millions of people, including most of those who descend from the ten tribes of the House of Israel. Whale oil is also used in foods by many who do not know it is unfit for food. Almost all other common fish on the market are clean. The human body has degenerated since Adam. Should man be surprised if he found that much of that degeneration has been due to centuries of consuming unclean creatures? The Bible doesn’t directly give a rule by which clean birds can be recognized. It simply lists all different kinds of those that are unclean. Outside of mentioning the quail, the dove, the pigeon and the sparrow, God doesn’t specifically name the clean ones. (Leviticus 11:13-20; Deuteronomy 14:11-18.) It is easy to learn which fowl are clean simply by noticing the characteristics of birds which are named as clean or unclean. Studies of fowl have revealed some striking differences between the two kinds. Clean fowl have six unusual characteristics. One or more of these characteristics is lacking in unclean birds. A clean bird has a craw or crop AND, second, a gizzard with a double lining which can easily be separated. Two such digestive organs are doubly helpful in changing its food into meat that is good for humans and insuring against poisonous waste matter going into its flesh. Third, a clean bird does not prey upon other birds. Fourth, it does not devour food while flying. Fifth, its hind toe and middle front toe are both long. Sixth, when it stands on a perch, it spreads its toes so that three front ones are on one side of the perch and the hind toe on the opposite side. All unclean birds lack at least one of these characteristics. Clean birds have all these characteristics. Clean fowl include the chicken, pheasant, peafowl, ptarmigan, guinea fowl, prairie chicken, pigeon, dove, partridge, grouse, quail, turkey, duck, goose, all song birds and the teal and swan. (The swan is named in the King James or Authorized Version as being unclean, but this is a mistranslation. The water hen should be mentioned instead.) Unclean birds include the eagle, vulture, kite, buzzard, osprey, raven, crow, magpie, ostrich, owl, hawk, cormorant, sea gull, water hen, sandpiper, plover, pelican, stork, coot, heron, bittern, crane, grebe, rail, roadrunner, woodpecker, penguin, parrot, albatross and bat. God also named other creatures that are to be regarded as unclean and detestable. (Leviticus 11:20-23.) They are the weasel, mouse, lizard, snail, mole, snake and worm. Such were to be considered so detestable that anything their dead bodies touched, such as food or dishes was to be regarded as unfit for use until thoroughly washed. (Verses 24-43.) "Do not defile yourself with these unclean creatures," God warned. "Keep yourselves clean and sacred, so that you will be more acceptable to your holy God." (Verses 44-47.) Regardless of what God said, millions who claim to be faithful, obedient Christians feel anything with a high vitamin content must be good for them. They argue mistakenly that the laws of clean and unclean food, inspired by God for all people for all time, were merely "old Jewish laws" "nailed to the cross" at Christ’s death.

Some People Lust for Forbidden Food To justify their eating unclean foods, many of these people turn to the fourth chapter of I Timothy, and point with triumph to the fourth and fifth verses, wherein Paul said: "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer" (RSV). Taken out of its context, this statement would probably cause the reader to conclude that either Paul didn’t agree with God or that God has changed His mind and favors the eating of the filthiest of fare as long as God’s blessing is asked on it. But Paul didn’t disagree with God, who never changes. (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8.) Neither do His laws. (Matthew 5:17-18.) To understand I Timothy 4:4-5, one must read from the beginning of the chapter. Paul was referring to religious extremists who fall away from the truth or never quite get to it. They are the kind such as are against marriage and certain clean foods. The word EVERYTHING in the fourth verse refers to every creature "consecrated by the word of God." Only clean creatures were consecrated or approved as fit for human food. Picking certain words and phrases out of the Bible and adding them together to try to prove untruths is an ancient trick. Such deceit can generally be uncovered by comparing scriptures and by carefully reading whole chapters to find exact meanings of certain words, phrases and sentences.

God Did Not Cleanse the Unclean Creatures Another example of misunderstanding is based on Acts 10:9-16. If one reads only those verses the impression is conveyed that Peter was told that God had cleansed unclean creatures, and that Peter should not hesitate to eat them. But verse 17 shows that Peter knew God did not mean for him to eat unclean meat. Peter noticed that no animal’s nature had been changed; they were still unclean! So he began to wonder what the vision did mean! He did not jump to a hasty conclusion. Verses 28 and 29 show that the vision was for pointing out that Peter should not regard any MAN, regardless of nationality, as common or unclean if he seeks to live rightly. No matter what is believed about clean and unclean creatures, the two kinds still exist. The nature of unclean animals has not changed. They are the same today as they were before the Flood, in Moses’ day and in Peter’s time. Those who obey the Creator in these matters receive definite blessings.

Chapter 34 THE PLAN OF SALVATION

GOD’S great plan for man’s future has to do with salvation — being spared from sin and death and being given the gift of eternal life. Moses wanted to know about this. God explained it to him so that he could pass on the vital information to the Israelites.

Why Man Needs Salvation If there were no sin, man wouldn’t have to be saved from it. People who say they don’t need salvation don’t know what sin is or what eternal life means. Man should know he is mortal, subject to death, and needs the Spirit of God as a gift to make it possible to live forever. God made this plain to Moses about the time the tabernacle was erected. Most of the book of Leviticus, written by Moses, has to do with the rules meant to keep Israel the wisest and cleanest nation on Earth. God also made known the rituals required to teach the Israelites the need of a Saviour and the habit of obedience. These temporary ceremonies are called "the works of the law" in the New Testament. They ceased to be needed at Jesus’ death. The book of Leviticus makes it obvious that God’s laws, which explain right from wrong, are helpful in making all people much happier. But down through time many religions have sprung up who ignore those rules by labeling them "Jewish laws," and referring to Leviticus as an account of the ancient "laws of Moses." Many people regard the words LAW, JEW, MOSES and ISRAELITE with contempt. Their religious leaders unknowingly have either failed to teach them the truth or have deliberately withheld the truth from them. Those who have brought the truth, including Jesus Christ — the Creator of men and all things — have been slain or ridiculed because the truth they announced conflicted with the beliefs of many religious sects. Men have always hated those with God’s truth. (Mat. 23:29-35.) Those who sneer at the Commandments given to Israel are inviting on themselves the miserable results of sin.

What’s Wrong with God’s Laws? There is nothing wrong with the laws given to the Israelites through Moses. Here are some of them. Because they were broken, Jesus had to die. Having anything to do with idols or foreign gods is forbidden. (Leviticus 19:4.) No marking, such as tattooing, is to be done on the body. (Leviticus 19:28.) There are to be no evil sexual practices. (Leviticus 18.) No one is to marry anyone to whom he or she is closely related. (Leviticus 18:6.) Pagan holidays are not be observed. (Leviticus 20:1-5.) No interest is to be charged in giving financial help to an Israelite or anyone journeying with the Israelites. (Leviticus 25:35-37.) No one is to go to a fortune teller or medium for advice. No one is to have anything to do with a wizard or sorcerer or anyone in contact with demons. (Leviticus 20:6.) God reminded Moses that the Israelites, who had been influenced for centuries by the Egyptians, should refrain from consuming blood in their meat. (Leviticus 17:12-13.) He made it plain that the life of all flesh is in the blood. "Anyone who kills or catches any beast or fowl for food must thoroughly bleed the creature and bury the blood. No one is to eat any creature that dies of itself or is killed by other beasts." (Verse 15, first part.) The only use of blood was as an atonement, by sacrifice, to remind Israel of their human sins and of the death of Jesus Christ as Saviour.

Plan of Salvation Revealed Israel’s God told Moses the Plan of Salvation for mankind was so important He would require the people to observe certain annual holy days as reminders. He had already given in Egypt a time to keep Passover, which foreshadowed the death of the Messiah to pay for sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed, symbolized putting away sin out of one’s life. Another special time, celebrated when Israel’s God spoke the Law at Sinai, was the Feast of Firstfruits or Pentecost. This feast signified that only a few are being called to salvation now. They are the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest. Then came the Feast of Trumpets, foretelling God’s intervention in world affairs. The Day of Atonement, or harmony, followed. It was ordained by the Creator to fall on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishri. That is in September or October of the man-made Roman calendar, which will soon be replaced by God’s correct calendar. God reckons days from sundown to sundown, so this whole day was to start at sundown on the ninth of Tishri and end at sundown of the tenth. During those twenty-four hours the people weren’t to work or consume food in solid or liquid form, although very young children could nurse. (Leviticus 23:26-32.) It was the only day of the year on which the high priest was to enter the inner room of the tabernacle on ceremonial business. God told Moses to warn Aaron that if Aaron otherwise came into the room without God’s permission, he would lose his life in the way his sons had lost theirs. In performing his duties as high priest, Aaron ordinarily dressed in the elegant garments designed by the Creator. But on the Day of Atonement he was to be especially clean bodily and dressed in spotless linen clothing designating simplicity and humility rather than high office. Only then could he approach God in the inner room where the ark and mercy seat were placed. (Leviticus 16.) The special ceremonies that day were to make it clear to the people that sinners must come to God through His high priest. The human high priests of the family of Aaron typified the coming Saviour who would die to forgive sins. Today, our high priest and Saviour is Christ. Aaron was first to sacrifice a bullock or young ox for himself and his family as a sin offering. He was to sprinkle some live coals from the altar with incense. Then they were to be taken to the Holy of Holies so that the sweetened smoke would waft over the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. If he failed to carry this out properly, he would be subject to death. (Leviticus 16:12-13.) He also was to take some of the bullock’s blood into the inner room to sprinkle it on and before the mercy seat as an act of atonement for himself, his family and the other priests. Having his sins forgiven, he would qualify to ask God to forgive the sins of all Israel. The priests and all the Israelites were to be in a repentant state of mind, not only this day but all year, even if they were not promised the Holy Spirit and eternal life. The high priest was then to be presented with two goats. One was to be placed on his right and the other on his left. He was to take a bowl in which there were two identical coin-like emblems called lots. One was marked "FOR GOD" and the other "for AZAZEL," one of Satan’s names. In many Bibles the word Azazel is mistranslated SCAPEGOAT. Being guilty of sin, Satan is no scapegoat. After the bowl was shaken, Aaron was to put each of the lots on a goat. The goat on which the "FOR GOD" lot happened (by God’s choosing) to be placed was the one to be used for a sin offering for the people. It represented Christ’s sacrifice to reconcile the world to God. The goat’s blood was to be sprinkled before and upon the mercy seat as atonement for all the sins Israel had committed. (Leviticus 16:15-19.) On returning to the court, Aaron was to confess the sins of Israel over the goat marked "FOR AZAZEL." Thus the wrongdoings of the Israelites that were motivated by Satan were to be heaped on the animal representing Satan, the author of sin. The goat representing Satan was to be led into the desert to portray the banishment of Satan, who will be removed from mankind when Christ returns to make the world at one with God. (Revelation 20:1-3.) The person who took the goat was to wash his clothing and bathe before returning to camp. (Leviticus 16:20-22, 26.) After these ceremonies Aaron was to exchange his special linen clothing for his ornate priestly garments, and give a personal burnt offering of a ram and another for the people. (Verses 23 and 24.) All went well in carrying out these things. In spite of their weaknesses, the Israelites became aware that they were the only people to whom God was revealing His plan pictured by the holy days. In choosing them to preserve His truth, He was mercifully willing to forgive their sins even though He did not promise them eternal life at that time. The Day of Atonement became an annual Sabbath to be observed forever by all people (Leviticus 23:31), but the sacrificial acts of the priests were required only until Christ came to die for the sins of the world.

No More Need of Sacrifices The sacrificing of animals on that day was no longer necessary after Jesus Christ was sacrificed, many centuries later, as the Lamb of God to die for the sins of this world. (Hebrews 10:4, 10-12, 18.) When Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself there ceased to be any need to sacrifice animals as a reminder of sin. (Hebrews 10:3.) The Day of Atonement remains, however, a holy period of resting and fasting, but most church authorities ignore it. They claim that it is an ancient Jewish day. If one asks who the Jews were, one would ordinarily be told that they were a people known as Israelites who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership. That answer wouldn’t be very factual. Most people have never thought about who the "lost" ten tribes of Israel might be or where they went after their nation was taken captive into the ancient land of Assyria, or where they are now. God purposely hid their identity until these latter days. Yet it was to these people, as well as to the Jews, that God commanded the keeping of the seven annual festivals! These ten tribes can at last be identified! The matter is crystal-clear to millions who have found the truth in their Bibles. However, religious groups in general refuse to recognize this discovery because it doesn’t fit with what they have taught for so long. For centuries there has been an erroneous belief that the Earth has two kinds of people — Jews and Gentiles. They are actually ISRAELITES and Gentiles. The Jews are of Judah, only one of Israel’s twelve tribes. Israelites of today, which include peoples of Northwestern Europe and their descendants in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, should be doing the things God commanded them to do, and converted Gentiles should be obedient in the same way. For the genuine Christian, the Day of Atonement pictures a better era not far away, when sin will be placed on the one who originated it. That is Satan. Not until then will man come into true accord with his Creator. That time is only a few years away. Meanwhile, many things must occur. Even now false prophets are proclaiming Christ has already arrived or is about to arrive at any moment. They don’t know God’s timetable and His Plan of Salvation because these don’t keep the holy days.

Seven Steps to Plan of Salvation In summary, the seven steps in God’s Plan are pictured by seven special holy periods of time. These special days are Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Festival of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Festival of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day. People who have forgotten these days have forgotten the TRUE PLAN of Salvation which these days picture. They have come to believe in a COUNTERFEIT plan! We have already learned the meaning of Passover when we read about the Exodus. The Days of Unleavened Bread picture putting sin out of our lives. (I Corinthians 5:7-8.) Leaven is a type of sin. A wave sheaf offering was made during the Days of Unleavened Bread after the Israelites reached the land God had promised them. (Leviticus 23:10-11.) This sheaf of grain pictured the ascended Christ being accepted by God the Father as the perfect sacrifice and as the very first of the firstfruits from the dead. (Compare John 20:17 with Matthew 28:9.) Very few people know that Christ ascended to Heaven and returned that same day. On the fiftieth day after the resurrection, always on a Sunday in May or June on the calendar in use by today’s world, Pentecost is to be observed. Even the Apostles were keeping it after the law of Moses ceased to be needful. (Acts 2:1.) This day points to the time when the Holy Spirit was first made available to mankind since Eden. It could not come until after Christ’s death, except for those few prophets, judges, priests and kings whom God specially called. This festival also points to the time of the FIRST HARVEST of souls — to be reaped at the return of Christ. Those who have forgotten this day have forgotten that this is only the time of the first harvest. The Festival of Trumpets, another day of rest, is to be observed on the first day of the seventh month, Tishri, in the fall. (Leviticus 23:2325.) It pictures the time mentioned in the book of Revelation when the last of seven trumpets will sound, and when Christ will come to meet in the air those who will be resurrected to rule with Him on Earth. (Revelation 11:15-17; I Corinthians 15:52.) Not every nation will give in at the very hour Christ arrives, but every nation and government will soon be made aware that there is no choice but to accept Christ’s perfect, loving rule. (Zechariah 14:16-19.) Next is the Day of Atonement. It pictures Satan imprisoned, no longer deceiving the world, for 1,000 years. Then comes the final time of harvest of souls pictured by the Festival of Tabernacles. The Festival of Tabernacles, beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (sometime in September or October), is ordained to last for seven days. It is a time God’s people come together to worship Him after the summer crops are harvested. The first day was (and still is) a holy day of rest. This festival foreshadows the thousand-year period when Christ and the resurrected Christians will rule the Earth. (Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6.) People such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, dead and with no knowledge of anything over many centuries, will be among those resurrected in the first resurrection to eternal life. They will rule with Christ in the Millennium. (Acts 2:34-35; Hebrews 11.) Millions not yet born will be saved in the great spiritual harvest during the Millennium when Satan isn’t around to deceive them. After the seven days, there follows another special holy day of rest. Today most people never think of observing the eighth, or Last Great Day, as a time of rest, not realizing that it is to commemorate the period after the Millennium when millions who have died in the past who have not had any opportunity to understand the truth, will be brought to physical life in the second resurrection and be given their first opportunity to come to the knowledge of salvation. Just think of the joy to be experienced by those who never before heard or knew the truth. Those who do overcome will eventually join the joyous ranks of the immortal saints who will have met Christ at His Second Coming more than a thousand years before! (Revelation 20:11-15; Matthew 12:42; Isaiah 65:19-25.) Every human being who has ever lived or ever will live must have the opportunity of learning of God’s great Plan. (II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:4.) God will deal justly with everyone. Each person (Romans 2:11) will have a full understanding of the right way and must make his own decision as to whether he will obey God. (Hebrews 8:11.) Some have already had their one and only opportunity today. There is no second chance. Finally, the Earth will be enveloped in a fire that will consume everything on its surface. Even the seas will be completely evaporated by the intense heat. (II Peter 3:10-12; Revelation 21:1.) Then God will come down from heaven in His gigantic holy city, which will descend to Earth. Many doubt Bible statements about this jewel-like city. From then on this mammoth city will be the headquarters and dwelling place of God and His children — now spirit beings — who will help Him rule the universe forever. (Revelation 21:2-8.)

Chapter 35 "CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY"

MAN was put on earth with the power to choose between good and evil. No mere animal has such power — or such a great responsibility to make the right choice. But Man has to be told what is good and what is evil. God has to reveal it. That is why, again and again, God told Israel, generally through Moses, that the people must observe all the laws He had given them if they are to do good. He promised them many wonderful things if they would faithfully keep the rules given to them for their own happiness and security.

What God Has Promised "If you will do as I have directed," God said, "many worthwhile rewards shall come to you. You shall receive plenty of rain. The land you are coming to shall yield such large crops that your grain harvest shall last till the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last till it’s time again to plant grain. "You shall have plenty to eat. I will drive all evil beasts out of your land. You shall be safe from your enemies. If a hundred of them try to attack you, it will require only five of you to chase them away. If ten thousand soldiers come at you, it will take only a hundred of you to cause them to turn and flee for their lives! "I will respect you. I will cause you to have many healthy children and grow into a great nation. I will be pleased to continue dwelling among you." (Leviticus 26:3-9.) What else could any people ask for? Good health, plenty of good food, safety from enemies, safety from any evil creatures, good weather and peace of mind for obeying God — all these could be theirs on and on into the future. What would any nation give right now in these troubled times to have all these good things? Then God went on to relate the terrible things that would come on the Israelites if they disobeyed.

Why Wrong Living Brings Hardship "If you ignore my rules," God told them, "and if you refuse to live by them and break the agreement we have made, then your future shall be one of misery, hardship and despair. "You shall become full of fears and constant worries. Your enemies shall kill you in great numbers. They shall win many battles and take over your homes and the crops you have sown. Your feeling of dread and danger shall be so great that you shall flee in fright even when no one is after you. "If you still refuse to listen to me after all this punishment, then I will bring many other awful things upon you. I will send severe famines and horrible plagues. At the same time, your enemies will trouble you more and more. "I will send ferocious wild beasts to destroy your livestock and eat up your children. So great shall be your fear of evil things to come on you that you shall even be afraid to venture out on the nearest roads or trails." (Leviticus 26:14-22.) Then God continued: "If these things fail to convince you that I mean what I say, and if you continue to refuse to live by the laws that are best for you, then I will punish you even more severely! "Your enemies shall completely conquer you. I will send terrible diseases on you. They shall spread among you when you gather together in your cities. Your supply of food shall dwindle down and down until you become aware that you are facing starvation! "If you still feel that your ways are better than mine, your food shall become so scarce that some of you shall roast and eat your own children!" (Verses 23-29.) Such a prediction probably seemed absurd to the Israelites, but it came true in Samaria and in Jerusalem many years later when their enemies cut them off from their food supplies.

What Idolatry Is God also foretold what would happen if the people insisted on secretly worshipping ridiculous objects regarded as having miraculous powers. The foolish respect and adoration of certain lifeless objects isn’t something done only by people considered primitive and ignorant. Even in civilized nations today there are many who prize such articles as coins, rabbits’ feet, crosses, statues, images, insignia and such which are believed to bring "good luck" or harbor some unusual influence. This is a form of silly idolatry in which the first two Commandments are being broken. Having undue regard and desire for wealth, prestige, influence and pleasure — that is, they mean more than respect for the Creator — is also idolatry in God’s sight. God had this to say to the Israelites concerning idols: "I will destroy them and the places in which you worship them. I will wipe out your cities and make your fields barren. Your families, tribes and nations shall be scattered as slaves to heathen nations." (Leviticus 26:30-33.) "But to those who realize they have sinned, and become humble and wise enough to admit it, I will be merciful." One would think that these wonderful promises and stern warnings would have caused the Israelites to make the right decisions for the future. Some were inspired to better living, but what most of them did afterward is an unhappy story that will come later, proving that God means what He says He will do.

Resentment Leads to Anger There was a man living among the Israelites whose father was an Egyptian, and whose mother was an Israelite of the tribe of Dan. Because he was half Egyptian, he was regarded by some as an unwelcome outsider. One day this man started to pitch his tent in a desirable spot amid the tents of the tribe of Dan. An Israelite saw what he was doing, and angrily strode up to him. "Who told you to take the best tent site?" the Israelite indignantly asked. The Egyptian-Israelite was greatly upset by those remarks. He stopped what he was doing and in loud tones told the critical Israelite what he thought of him. In his mounting rage he went on to yell out some terrible things about God. He cursed his Creator and called Him vile and awful names. Some of the Israelites who witnessed the scene were hardened men to whom profane language was commonplace. But such foul profanity aroused them to seize the offender and bring him before Moses. Witnesses went with the officers to tell what had happened, and to ask what punishment should be given to one who had so loudly mocked and reviled the Creator. "Hold the man for now," Moses instructed them, "I must find out from God what should be done with him." (Leviticus 24:10-12.)

Why God Required Capital Punishment "This man who has cursed his Creator and others so spitefully is unfit to live," God told Moses. "If he continues to live he will cause others to sin and make themselves and their neighbors miserable. Take him to a place far outside the camps where witnesses to his profanity and hatred must cast heavy stones on the curser until he is dead!" Moses passed on these instructions to the people, who did as God commanded. The Egyptian-Israelite died soon afterward. (Verses 13-23.) The penalty of death imposed swiftly after a crime probably seems harsh and unjust treatment to some readers. Some might even think of God as a stern monster, eager to see people suffer for even the slightest reason. A careful reading of the whole Bible will bring out the fact that, rather than being cruel, God is far more merciful, just, patient and forgiving than any human being. If He were like you or me, He would have become so disgusted with mankind that He would have blasted every one out of existence many centuries ago. One of the judgments given to Israel was that anyone who cursed his parents should be subject to death. If breaking the Fifth Commandment is thus punishable, the punishment could be no less for one who curses God, the Creator of all parents. God’s judgments are just, but humans try to substitute lesser ones. A person guilty in God’s sight isn’t overlooked. The only hope of escaping punishment is through Jesus Christ, who came to Earth for several reasons, including dying for man’s sins. Sinners who feel very sorry for their wrong deeds, call on God for forgiveness and strive to live according to God’s laws, can look forward to a bright future. Those who see others doing wrong and seemingly avoiding punishment should never feel envious. Why feel envious of those who will eventually be punished? Punishment is certain unless there is repentance. (Ps. 37.)

Moses Has Visitors Perhaps you will recall that Moses was raised and educated in the palaces of Egypt, but that he later fled from there and went eastward to the land of Midian, where he became a herder of sheep. While he lived there he started writing the first book of the Bible. There, too, he was married to Zipporah, daughter of a priest named Jethro, the man for whom he worked. Two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, were born to Moses and Zipporah. (Exodus 2:21-22; 3:1;18:1-4.) When Moses, at God’s command, set out to return to Egypt, he took his family with him. (Exodus 4:20.) However, Moses later decided there were good reasons not to take his family, and he sent the three back to stay with Jethro. Months had passed since Moses had seen his family. One day a stranger rode into camp — this was shortly before all the events at Mt. Sinai we have been reading about. He told alert guards who quickly surrounded him that he had a message for Moses. He was escorted to Moses’ tent after the guards made certain he wasn’t armed. Moses was so pleased to hear of the approaching caravan of his father-in-law that he decided to go back with the messenger. Some of his officers went along. They found Jethro’s tents pitched only a few miles from the camps of the Israelites. Moses was happy to again be with his wife and two young sons. He greatly enjoyed a visit with them inside Jethro’s tents. (Exodus 18:1-7.) Afterward, he had a long talk with Jethro, who was aware of the flight of the Israelites from Egypt but who was surprised to learn that his son-in-law had taken such a prominent part in the matter. Jethro was highly interested to hear from Moses all about the plagues, the miracles, the parting of the Red Sea, and the manner in which God had provided for the people. Jethro was of a priesthood family that served God among the Midianites who descended from Abraham. Assured by Moses that he would be welcome, Jethro gave orders for the tents to be taken down and packed. Accompanied by Moses and the Israelite aides, the caravan moved on and into the camps of Israel. Later, Jethro made a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. As a priest, he had an important part in the ceremonies. Afterward, Aaron and Moses and the elders joined him in a feast. (Exodus 18:12.)

Jethro Sees Moses in Trouble Early next morning, when Jethro came out of his tent, he was puzzled to see a crowd in the middle of which Moses sat, listening to some of the people talking intently to him. "Moses often sits there till sundown judging those who are having trouble with their neighbors," an officer explained to Jethro. Jethro slowly shook his head, but said nothing about the matter until that evening when he could again visit the weary Moses. "I am surprised," Jethro told Moses, "that you try just by yourself to hear all the cases of the people. See how tired you are now! If you continue in this manner, you will wear yourself down till you will be far from the healthy person you should be in God’s service. Besides, the long lines of people become weary waiting for you to get around to them. "Let me suggest something," Jethro continued, moving his tent cushion closer to Moses. "Surely there are many hundreds of capable men among the tribes — men who have the eagerness and time to help you in this thing. Why not try to seek out a number of honest, unselfish, fair-minded men of good judgment? Place the best of these men as judges over groups of a thousand. Place men of lesser ability over groups of a hundred, and still others over groups of fifty and groups of ten. "If a judge over ten people doesn’t have the wisdom to decide a case, let him go to the judge of fifty who is over him. If the judge over fifty fails, let him go to the judge over a hundred. If even the judge over a thousand can’t decide a case, let it be brought to you. Thus a great part of your task of judging could be on the shoulders of others, because surely most of the lesser problems could be judged or solved by other men whom you have instructed in God’s ways of justice and fair conduct." Coming from a wise and devoted priest of God, this advice seemed to have much weight. It occurred then and there to Moses that God was suggesting this through his father-in-law, using human agencies as God has always done to such a great extent. (Exodus 18:13-23.) "I believe God would have me do as you say," Moses declared. "Tomorrow morning I shall send out officers to summon the best leaders, from whom I can choose the kind of men who can help me!" To them God imparted His Spirit even though it was not the time for the Israelites in general to receive the Holy Spirit and be converted. In the days that followed, Jethro’s suggestion worked out well. It was a great relief to Moses, who couldn’t have carried on and on with such a heavy load unless God had imbued him with tremendous, superhuman vitality. (Verses 24-26.) Although Moses wanted Jethro to go on with the Israelites, Jethro felt that he could be of greater service by returning to his people. Moses was sad when Jethro’s caravan departed, but he was thankful for the advice and the joy that had come to him. (Verse 27.)

Chapter 36
A month had passed from the time Moses had the tabernacle built and put into operation. It was a year since the Exodus. God informed Moses that that it was time to find out how many males of twenty years and older were among the Israelites. (Exodus 40:17; Numbers 1:1-3.)

The First Census
It was necessary to have accurate record of the people so that order could be maintained, especially when the people broke camp. Accordingly, all males of twenty years and older were required to register at certain points, and to give information about themselves and their families. (Numbers 1:17-19.) This census wasn’t to include strangers, men of the tribe of Levi, or any who were too old to go into battle in case the Israelites had to wage war against attacking armies. (Numbers 1:45, 47.)
When all were registered and their numbers added, the able-bodied male Israelites amounted to 603,550. (Numbers 1:45-46.) This was quite an increase over the seventy males who had gone down into Egypt when Joseph was ruler. Together with women, children, strangers and the tribe of Levi, there were at least two million people compactly camped near Mt. Sinai! Besides, there were many tens of thousands of animals to feed. So much food and water were required that there had to be special order and control by God’s leadership through Moses.
Of the twelve tribes, Judah was the largest with 74,600 men. (Numbers 1:26-27.) It is today one of the smaller. The smallest tribe numbered at that time was Manasseh, with 32,200 men, but the tribe multiplied rapidly in later years and is today one of the largest! In these last days, Manasseh — whose descendants
are the stock that founded the United States of America — has become the most powerful nation on Earth. Yet it is just one of the ten tribes of the "lost" House of Israel, which can no longer be considered as "lost." Nevertheless, there are many self-styled authorities who are struggling to keep the knowledge about the ten tribes hidden forever because true knowledge of them doesn’t fit in with their narrow, erroneous doctrines. God said that the identity of the ten tribes would be made clear near the time of the end. It has long since been made clear to those who study the evidence with a desire to understand. Without that
knowledge, one can’t understand very much of the Bible or of God’s great plan of salvation for the nations.

God Requires Order
The census having been completed, Moses and Aaron were instructed by God concerning the lay-out of the camps of the various tribes. Up to that time there was fair order, but God wanted precise order and arrangement so that from that time on there would be proper system and control whenever the people camped. (Numbers 2.) Although the tribe of Levi wasn’t included in the census that had just been taken, it was numbered later by God’s order. Males were counted from a month old and upward, and were found to number exactly 22,000. (Numbers 3:39.) Specific and definite duties were assigned to the various families of the Levites. Everyone learned what he was to do. God had planned all of it so that there wouldn’t be any confusion. (Numbers 3:5-38; 4:4-33.) God dislikes confusion. (I Corinthians 14:33.) That means that everything our Creator does is carefully thought out, systematic, orderly, true and perfect. He
doesn’t like half-truths, disorder, conflict, theories, guesswork, false doctrines, lies or propaganda. God has nothing to do with today’s religious confusion except to draw out from this confused world the individuals who are zealously seeking the truth.
Before Israel left Sinai, God also gave them the order in which the various tribes were to break camp and spread out in their vast caravan on the move toward Canaan. (Numbers 10:11-28.)
Meanwhile, there were other necessary instructions for that day from God. All unclean people — those with leprosy and other contagious diseases and those exposed to dead bodies — were to be separated within the camp or put far outside the camp to stay for various periods. (Numbers 5:1-4; Leviticus 13:1-8; 15:1-13; 21:1-3.) This was not only a health measure for the good of the people. God didn’t want unclean persons existing so close to the holy area in which He was to dwell with the Israelites. These measures were necessary before the coming of the Holy Spirit. Cleanliness outside was to teach the people the need of God’s power to clean the human being from within through the Holy Spirit. At this same time God also made plain certain rules for those who were not Levites, but who wished to be set apart for a time of special service to God. Israelites who wanted to do this were called Nazarites. They are not to be confused with the Levites. God honored the intentions of those individuals who wished to take nazarite vows and blessed them for their zeal. During the time people were Nazarites they (men or women) weren’t to shave nor cut their hair. They weren’t to touch any dead body. They weren’t to consume any wine. Neither were they to drink grape juice. Grapes, either fresh or dried, weren’t to be eaten. (Numbers 6:1-8.) This was a SIGN of their special service.

Christ Was No Nazarite
Many people have believed that Jesus Christ was a nazarite because he was raised
in Nazareth, a town in the district of Galilee about seventy miles north of
Jerusalem. This is not true. People who come from or who are in Nazareth are
called Nazarenes. They aren’t Nazarites unless they have taken the nazarite vow.
Christ was not a nazarite. He drank wine. (Matthew 11:19.) If He had been a
nazarite He could not have drunk wine without sinning and losing His place as
our Saviour.
Some who believe Jesus was a nazarite mistakenly claim that the wine Jesus drank
was grape juice — but even grape juice was forbidden to Nazarites!
Because of assuming that Christ was a nazarite, many people have believed that
He had long hair flowing down to his shoulders. Christ didn’t have long hair!
By-gone half-pagan artists, trying to make Jesus look pious, gave him a sick,
sad, effeminate appearance, and even went so far as to add long hair in their
vain imagination. No man knows how Jesus looked.
Inasmuch as Christ was a hard-working carpenter who ate only clean foods and
observed the laws of good health, we know he was a very masculine fellow with
physical strength and endurance. Because he loved all people, he was a sociable,
friendly, cheerful person who was thoughtful of others and courteous at all
times. What matters most, however, is what Christ is like now. Hebrews 1:2-4 and
Revelation 1:12-16 tell us of Christ’s present power and appearance.

Transporting the Tabernacle
One morning Moses was called out of his tent to see an unusually large crowd
slowly approaching the tabernacle from a distance. But it wasn’t the crowd that
commanded his attention.
Six covered wagons, each drawn by two oxen, stood between the crowd and the
tabernacle! "These are gifts from the heads of the twelve tribes," an officer
explained. "They’re being offered to help carry the equipment of the
tabernacle." (Numbers 7:1-3.)
Moses was a little puzzled as to whether or not he should accept the wagons for
that purpose. He knew that the ark, for one thing, was to be carried on the
shoulders of men, but God hadn’t yet made it known how most of the heavy
equipment would be moved.
Later, back inside his tent, Moses quickly knelt in prayer to ask God what
should be done.
"Accept the gifts they have offered," God answered. "Give the wagons to the
Levites to use. This is as I have planned it to be." (Numbers 7:4-5.)
Moses was relieved to hear this from God, and he was happy to realize that the
gifts from the Israelite princes were of their own idea and free will. –
After donning his best attire, Moses went out to the waiting princes of the
twelve tribes. He happily accepted the wagons and the oxen, and turned them over
to Aaron so that they could be put into special use by the Levites. (Verses
6-8.)
The wagons and the oxen weren’t the only gifts from the heads of the Israelite
tribes. So many other things were brought in that the prince of each tribe was
assigned a particular day in which to present his gifts and make his offerings.
(Verses 10-11.)
The total from all the tribes amounted to twelve large silver dishes in which to
knead dough for the shewbread, twelve deep silver bowls (all of them filled with
fine flour mixed with oil) for receiving blood for sacrifices, twelve golden
spoons filled with incense, twelve kids, thirty-six bullocks, seventy-two rams,
sixty male goats and seventy-two lambs. (Numbers 7:12-23, 84-88.)
After the tribes had finished giving these things, Moses went into the
tabernacle to thank God for what so many people had contributed. Thereupon a
voice spoke out of the mercy seat. It was God’s voice directing Moses to tell
Aaron concerning matters having to do with the tabernacle and the Levites.
(Numbers 7:89; 8:1-2.)
The instructions included those touching on the Passover. The Passover is always
to be observed on the fourteenth day of the first month, Nisan. But for those
away on a journey, those who for any reason are unable to keep it on that date,
the Passover is to be observed on the fourteenth day of the SECOND month, Iyar.
(Numbers 9:9-12.)
This also applies to the New Testament Passover memorial to be observed by
Christians today, as recorded in Matthew 26:26-28. Those who for some special
reason can’t observe the New Testament Passover (with unleavened bread and wine
as a memorial of Christ’s d<eath) on the original date, should make every effort
to observe it exactly a month later according to God’s sacred calendar.
The need for the sacrifice of the paschal lamb ceased at Christ’s death for He
was the Lamb of God offered for the sins of the world.
God also instructed that two long trumpets of solid silver should be made for
use in contacting the people. The blowing of only one trumpet was to summon the
heads of the tribes for a meeting. The blowing of both trumpets was either to
call for a solemn assembly of all the people or was the signal to move out of
camp. They were also to be blown in such varying manners that the hearers would
instantly recognize an alarm to prepare for war, happy occasions, solemn days,
beginnings of months and times of offerings. (Numbers 10:1-10.)
One might doubt that two trumpets, even large and long, could be heard by two
million scattered over miles. But a horn of the type God wanted made, blown by a
strong person of good lung capacity, could easily be heard for miles in the
clear desert air in the vicinity of Mt. Sinai.
One morning shortly after the trumpets had been made and put into use, the
Israelites came out of their tents to see that the cloud had moved away from the
tabernacle during the night and was high in the sky!
It wasn’t long afterward that the two silver trumpets, lustily blown by Aaron’s
two sons, blasted out the signal for the breaking of camp.

Israelites Resume the March
There was great excitement among the people. They had been encamped before Mt.
Sinai for almost a year, and the signal had arrived to move on. The cloud had
moved upward from the tabernacle. Men hurried to get their livestock and tents
ready to move. Woodsmen and hunters rushed back from the mountains. Women worked
feverishly to get the family belongings together. Excited at the thought of
going somewhere, children ran happily about, but not to become lost or get in
the way.
Meanwhile, men took down the tabernacle. They had been so well trained in this
task that it was done in a remarkably short time. It was rather astonishing that
two million people were ready to move so quickly on such short notice.
In accordance with God’s orders, the first tribe to move out of camp was Judah.
Others followed in the order given them. The Levites, carrying the tabernacle
equipment, were spaced in two different areas among the other tribes. The tribe
of Naphtali was the last to leave. (Numbers 10:11-28.)
A few hours later the mammoth caravan had disappeared through the mountain
passes to the northeast, leaving the Sinai valley silent and lonely.
Among the strangers who had stayed with the Israelites at Sinai was Hobab,
Jethro’s son. This brother-in-law of Moses, along with a clan he headed, had
joined them when he came with his father to visit Moses and bring Zipporah,
Moses’ wife. As a native of the desert, he had a keen knowledge of the desert.
Moses therefore hoped that Hobab and his people would go along with the
Israelites.
Hobab, who loved God and saw that God’s people needed him, joined his clan to
the tribe of Judah, which always led the way when the Israelite caravan moved
through the wilderness. In this way his men could use their knowledge of the
desert in choosing the best pathway for the Israelites to use in following the
cloud and the pillar of fire. After the Israelites entered Palestine, Hobab and
his relatives, the Kenites, settled down with the tribe of Judah, choosing for
themselves a wilderness area that was similar to their old homeland. (Judges
1:16.)
In any event, probably Moses wouldn’t have pressed him to go with them if Moses
could have foreseen that they weren’t going to reach Canaan until 39 years
later!
For three days the vast line of humanity and animals slowly struggled across the
rocky plains and hillsides characteristic of that region. Moses uttered a public
prayer for protection each time they started out and each time they camped.
(Numbers 10:33-36.)

Complaining IS Rebellion
As usual, there were those who began to complain. By the end of the third day
from Sinai, there were many who were loudly voicing their grievances to those
about them.
"This is worse than slaving for the Egyptians!" they yelled. "We all should join
together and demand less travel and more rest! If we try to keep this up, we
shall all die!"
Before Israelite officers could organize to quell the shouting, a peculiar thing
happened. The pillar of fire, blazing in the sky above the ark, flared upward.
The evening air felt as though it were suddenly charged with some tremendous
force about to explode.
That is exactly what happened. Throughout the whole camp, as though they had
come out of nowhere, were strange, sizzling bolts of fire. They hissed and
streaked in all directions — many of them ploughing into the people who had
just been shouting so loudly. (Numbers 11:1.) It happened so suddenly that most
of the people hardly had time to be frightened. But now they froze in alarm as
they found themselves staring at the lifeless bodies of those who had
complained!
God meant business!
Complaining about how God directs His servants IS rebellion against the
Government of God!

Chapter 37
QUAIL FOR TWO MILLION
A CRY of horror and grief went up from the people of Israel. God’s sudden, awful
punishment reminded them of the manner in which the Creator had struck during
the time of the Passover one year previously. Then the victims had been
Egyptians. This time there also were Egyptians, because Egyptians who had come
in the mixed multitude with the Israelites were in part to blame. But a large
number of the offenders were now Israelites.

Israel Cries for Mercy
Because the shooting, exploding bolts of flame struck offenders in every part of
all the camps, Moses was quickly aware of what was going on. Immediately,
however, there was a rush of officers from all the camps to tell Moses what was
taking place, and to inform him that the people were screaming for mercy and
asking for Moses to pray to God to stop the fiery explosions. (Numbers 11:2).
When Moses learned that so many people had already been slain by the fire from
God, he immediately went into his tent, fell on his knees before the Creator.
The deadly spurts of flame gradually disappeared after Moses’ diligent prayer.
Terrified people who had raced wildly about the camps eventually returned to
their tents to count their dead.
Next day was a bitter one for the Israelites. Many bodies were buried in the
shifting sands of the high desert country. God’s wrath had such a deep effect on
many of the people that they named the area Taberah, which meant "a burning."
But in spite of this terrible warning to complainers, many of the people
continued to murmur about their conditions. Most of them were the strangers who
were among the Israelites, but their bitterness spread throughout the camps like
some awful, contagious diseases.
The main food of the people was still manna, a wonderful, energizing food direct
from God. At Sinai, the gathering of manna wasn’t much of a task, inasmuch as
the people had plenty of time for doing it. But since leaving the Sinai valley,
some felt that it was a burden to have to get up very early to gather the manna,
and then start to travel. This, therefore, was one of the things the complainers
began to be bitter about. Although those slain by God had been buried only a
short time, manna became a subject loudly and sarcastically discussed by
increasing thousands. The poisonous thought promoted by these complainers was
that manna was a poor substitute for the food they had enjoyed in Egypt.
"Manna doesn’t give enough strength for this tiring journey," was the unhappy
comment from the grumblers. "What we need is meat!" (Numbers 11:4.)
Mankind then, as now, was very prone to the power of suggestion. More and more
Israelites who had the best of intentions fell victims to the influence of the
lustful, untruthful remarks circulating about the camps. "Manna can’t take the
place of the food we had in Egypt," the whiners kept saying.
Such foolish remarks caused an increasing number of Israelites to doubt that
manna was anything more than what was required to barely keep people alive. At
the same time, the complainers kept reminding others of the wonderful foods they
had enjoyed in the past.
"Remember the crisp, succulent cucumbers and the sweet, mellow, mouth-watering
melons we liked so well in Egypt?" they asked of all who would listen. "If God
can give us so much of this tiresome manna, why can’t He also produce foods like
those? Why are we denied simple, delicious vegetables like garlic and onions? Or
even leeks, those plants with the unusually luscious flavor? We need such things
to build our morale, and we need meat to build our strength!" (Numbers 11:5-6.)

Bitterness Grows
When reminded by his officers of the ill feeling that prevailed, Moses was
distressed. He knew that some of the people would always complain, regardless of
what the conditions were. But so much complaint, right on the heels of the mass
slaying by God, pointed to nothing but growing trouble.
The bitter attitude grew by the hour. Officers came to Moses more frequently
with reports that there was even wailing and crying by Israelites who felt that
God was being unmerciful to them by denying them the foods they craved —
especially meat. A wave of self-pity and semi-hysteria seemed to be passing over
all the camps.
Moses was sick with discouragement. He told his aides that he didn’t wish to be
disturbed for a while, and went into the inner part of his tent to pray.
"What have I done," he asked God, "to cause this trouble to come on me? How can
I be a father to all these thousands of unruly people? Must I try to carry them,
like babies, to the land You have promised them? How can I stop their growing
demand for other kinds of food?"
"Do you feel," God asked Moses, "that this task I have given you is too great?"
"I only know," Moses replied, "that the wild demands of thousands of people are
too much for me. I can’t see any way of taking care of what they ask for, or of
handling them while they are in such an extreme state of mind. If I fail to give
them the foods they are demanding, they are likely to get entirely out of
control. If You allow that to happen, then please take my life now. I don’t want
to be here to witness such a rebellion." (Numbers 11:10-15.)
"The people are overcome with false pity for themselves," God told Moses. "You
must not be likewise. If you feel that your responsibility is too great, then
choose seventy of the strongest leaders and most honorable men among the older
men of Israel and have them come to the tabernacle. There I shall meet you, and
shall give them the special understanding I have given you. They will then
realize how you are being troubled by the people. They will help you by pointing
out to the people that you are right in what you require of them, even though
those requirements may at times seem harsh." (Verses 16-17.)
"Will this cause the people to cease their complaining?" Moses asked God.
"No," God answered. "But from then on none of them can honestly say that I
haven’t given them fair warning for anything that may come because of their
disobedience. Warn them to stop their complaining and prepare for a feast of
flesh. Tell them that this feast won’t last just one day, two days, five days
nor twenty days. Tell them it will last a whole month, and that they shall have
so much flesh to eat that it will become sickening to them. Tell them that as
they have complained so much because of not having anything but manna, they
won’t be able to hold the flesh on their stomachs."
"But how can you provide meat for over two million people for a whole month?"
Moses inquired. "Must all our flocks and herds be slaughtered to take care of
the appetites of the people for flesh? Or do You have some way of bringing a
huge amount of fish from the Red Sea?"
"Why do you seem to doubt that I have power to take care of these matters?" God
inquired. "Go do as I have commanded, and you shall soon witness what I have
planned." (Numbers 11:18-23.)
Moses at once told his officers to tell the people that God had been greatly
moved by their complaints, and would send them so much flesh that they would
wish they had never asked for it.
The news brought great excitement to nearly every camp. Many people ran from
tent to tent, loudly and joyfully repeating what Moses’ officers had told them.
This, they imagined, was something to celebrate. Before long, musicians had
gathered here and there, and there was singing and dancing in many areas.
Most of the celebrants were interested only in God’s promising them meat for a
whole month. Very few seemed to be concerned by His remark that they would
regret asking for it.

Seventy Elders Chosen
Meanwhile, Moses chose the seventy elders who were the most capable, and called
for them to meet before the tabernacle. After the group of carefully picked men
had arrived, Moses went into the tabernacle and fell on his knees to await God’s
presence. It wasn’t long before the cloud settled down over the tabernacle.
"From this moment on," God said to Moses, "the seventy men you have picked will
have a special gift of understanding. They will have greater respect for Me.
They will realize without any doubt that you are My chosen servant, and they
will have greater respect for you. They will have a better attitude and more
correct outlook on matters having to do with the people’s reaching Canaan. They
will have the ability to show at least some of the Israelites how wrong they are
in complaining against you. Thus you won’t feel that you are so alone in your
struggle to keep the people obedient. They will receive the same spirit from Me
that you have, Moses."
It happened just as God had foretold. The elders began to talk among themselves
with great harmony and understanding. When Moses came out of the tabernacle to
join them in hours of brotherly conversation, there was a most unusual spirit of
harmony and wisdom. Later, when the elders went back to their various camps,
their special understanding greatly enabled them to help the people in many
matters. (Numbers 11:24-25.)
Two of the seventy elders chosen by Moses, Eldad and Medad, weren’t able to get
to the tabernacle. But they, as well as the others, were at the same time imbued
with the special understanding that was a gift from God. Fired with inspiration,
these two men walked out among the people and made moving remarks proving God’s
and Moses’ authority.
"Why do you complain and why do you listen to those who complain?" they asked
the people. "God is very displeased by what has been going on. Unless there is a
great change of attitude soon among the people, many of you will die within a
short time!"
A large crowd gathered around Eldad and Medad. Bystanders regarded the two with
anything from mild interest to amazement as the two elders prophesied of things
that had to do with God’s future plan for the Israelites, and in such a manner
that very few listeners failed to show the greatest respect for them. (Verse
26.)
Months previously, when Moses had earnestly prayed for the Israelites to win in
a long battle with attacking Amalekites, a young man by the name of Joshua had
led the Israelites’ army to battle while Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands as
Moses prayed. (Exodus 17:8-13.) This same young man happened to be present when
another young man ran and told Moses that Eldad and Medad were speaking to the
people. Joshua realized at once that the two couldn’t have spoken so well and in
such an informed manner without inspiration from some source.
This troubled Joshua. He felt that two men making such an impression on the
people might cause the Israelites to seek a new leader.
"You should send men to stop them, sir!" Joshua warned. "Otherwise, they could
cause many people to regard them as leaders, and this could cause trouble for
you at this time when the people are showing so much disobedience."
Moses wasn’t worried, however. He realized that this was a case of God having
given Eldad and Medad special understanding along with the sixty-eight other
elders who had been chosen to help bear a part of Moses’ responsibility.
"Don’t be concerned that they’ll be any trouble to me," Moses told Joshua. "In
fact, I wish every Israelite could be inspired with their God-given
understanding of what it means to all of us to obey." (Numbers 11:27-30.)

The Quail Arrive
After the elders had returned to their camps and Moses had gone to his tent, a
strong southwest wind came up. It increased to such velocity that the people
began to be concerned about their tents being blown down. Most of them forgot
about their tents, however, when they noticed a peculiar dark streak gradually
growing larger on the southwest horizon. This strange sight caused great concern
among the people. Some thought it was merely a low cloud or a bank of fog,
though fog in that desert area would have been quite unusual.
Even Moses was puzzled when his attention was brought to it. But when he noticed
an increasing number of birds flying swiftly to the northeast, he abruptly
realized how God was about to supply the meat the Israelites had been demanding.
He remembered how God had sent flocks of quails (Exodus 16:11-13) when the
people had first complained about having to steadily eat manna.
"Have it announced to all the camps at once that God is now providing all the
flesh for which the people have been begging." Moses instructed an aide. "Tell
them that God isn’t giving it to them to supply any need, but that He’s giving
it to them as a lesson of obedience they’ll soon understand."
The dark cloud grew more swiftly. It was only a little while later that the sky
became blackened with a tremendous flock of quails. Many of them flew only three
or four feet above the ground. Many fell to the ground exhausted and ran about
the ground, trying to get their tired bodies into the air again.
When the amazed Israelites realized that they were being set upon by such tasty
fowl, they seized the nearest useful objects, such as sticks and spears and
boards, and started beating low-flying birds to the ground, and striking those
exhausted birds which scampered in all directions.
While some excitedly slaughtered birds, others hastily plucked them. In spite of
the strong winds, the camps soon became alive with an unusually large number of
fires over which quails were hastily roasted.
After months of existing mostly on manna, the Israelites were so excited because
of receiving meat that they tore and bit and chewed at the flesh of the birds as
through they had been starved. They took turns catching, roasting and eating,
but it required many hours for all of them to get their fill of the roasted
quail.
All that day the strong wind persisted, and flocks of quails passed over the
camps continuously. The excited people flailed away at them, knocking the birds
to the ground, snatching them up to swiftly prepare them for roasting or to
pluck and salt them for eating later.
As sundown approached, it was expected that the wind would die down and that the
birds — if they continued to pass over — would manage to fly at higher
altitudes. But the strong wind continued all night. And all night, by the light
of bright campfires, the Israelites went on batting down all birds within reach.
Next morning the wind still hadn’t abated. Flock after flock of quails skimmed
over the camps. There were so many fowl that they were seen fifteen to twenty
miles on both sides of the camp areas. The wind continued all that day, and
hordes of birds with it. There seemed to be no end to them. By this time many
people were still downing them, but not with the eagerness of the preceding day.
Near sundown the wind finally started to subside. The flocks of quails became
smaller and smaller, until no more, even single stragglers, were seen to pass
over.
Thousands of weary quail-catchers slumped upon their beds. Regardless of their
obvious desire to get even more fowl than they could use, they were relieved
when there were no more to try to get. After two days and one night of
bird-bagging, the camps were full of thousands and thousands of tons of fowl.
Besides the millions of quails already eaten, there were piles of them between
tents, countless numbers strung up to dry and huge amounts being roasted,
boiled, fried or barbecued.
Not everyone had tried his hand at bagging the quails because not all of the
Israelites had lusted for meat. But there were more than a half-million
able-bodied men in the camps, and few of them refrained from the sport of
quail-catching. One can get some idea of the amount of fowl brought out of the
sky by using the figure 500,000 — the number of men who probably gathered the
birds — and multiplying it by the SMALLEST amount of birds bagged by anyone
during the time the quails passed over the camps.
The taste of roasted, succulent quail flesh was a welcome treat to the
Israelites. But perhaps it wasn’t quite as wonderful as many had expected. When
one builds up a lustful, consuming desire for something, it often turns out to
be more desirable in one’s imagination than it does as a reality. Thus it was
with so many of the lustful ones of Israel and their quails.
As for God’s promise to supply the Israelites with meat for a whole month, the
Creator more than kept his word. The huge amounts of birds bagged by the
Israelites, if properly preserved, would have lasted more than a month — even
if eaten greedily by the more ravenous Israelites.

The Punishment Comes
But something began to happen to cause the Israelites to suddenly lose interest
in quails.
People began to get sick.
From all points in the camps came the increasing moans and groans of those who
had gorged themselves. Their digestive systems, used to the mild manna month
after month, were heavily over taxed by the great amounts of half-chewed flesh
that had been swallowed hour after hour.
To the horror of friends and relatives who helplessly watched them, the agonized
victims rolled convulsively, then lapsed into unconsciousness that was soon
followed by death.
More and more died this horrible death as the hours wore on. By the time the
self-inflicted plague had come to a halt, an area not far from the camps had
become a vast graveyard!

Chapter 38
TWELVE SCOUTS SEARCH CANAAN
PERHAPS you will remember the time when the Israelites who complained were
suddenly, supernaturally electrocuted by bolts of lightning. At that time the
people begged Moses to exhort God to have mercy on them. (Numbers 11:1-3.)
Later, when many died because of eating too much quail flesh, no screaming
groups of people came to beg or demand of Moses that he again plead with God for
them. Many were too ill to come to Moses, and those who weren’t ill realized
that the dead and the sick had brought these conditions on themselves.
Nevertheless, there were some here and there who even later persisted in eating
quail flesh that was beginning to spoil. The result was more illness and a few
more deaths.

Moses Causes Criticism
On the route to the promised land Moses met an Ethiopian woman — apparently one
whom he had known and lived with over forty years before in Egypt. Without
consulting God, and even though he was now married to Jethro’s daughter, Moses
now married the Ethiopian. The historian and priest Josephus gives us what may
be special details about her background.
Because of this event there developed a strong feeling of envy by Miriam, the
sister of Moses and of Aaron. Instead of privately taking up the matter with
Moses as she should have done, Miriam made a public issue of it.
"Moses had no business doing that. He is just upsetting everybody," Miriam
complained to Aaron. "Moses should have consulted me."
Although he realized that Miriam was wrong in being envious and critical, and
that she was attempting to exert far too much authority, Aaron was inclined to
agree that Moses shouldn’t have made any great decisions without taking at least
some of the matters up with him and his sister. But he was for letting the
matter drop right there and discussing it in private with Moses. Miriam had no
intention of doing that, however.
"I think we should take this matter to the people," Miriam went on, "Surely God
is inspiring you and me as to what should be done. But Moses acts as though he
is the only one in touch with God. Unless he’s stopped, he’ll take all authority
to himself and do just as he pleases with the people."
"Perhaps you’re right," Aaron mused. "The feeling of too much authority could
have a bad effect on any man — even our brother Moses."
Nothing in this world has ever been done or thought or spoken without God
knowing about it. Although Aaron and Miriam were chosen servants of their
Creator, they displeased Him by their critical, envious and unkind remarks about
another chosen servant who was above them in authority.
Alone in Aaron’s tent, the two felt a peculiar sensation, as though someone were
very close and watching them.

God Summons Miriam and Aaron
"Miriam! Aaron!" a stern voice startled them. "Go to the tabernacle!"
Fearfully they looked quickly about, but they saw no one, though the voice
seemed to be right beside them.
"Could — could it have been God or an angel of God speaking?" Miriam stuttered
nervously.
"It must have been one or the other," Aaron murmured, swallowing with
difficulty. "We had better go to the tabernacle right away."
Outside the tabernacle they met Moses, who also had been summoned there. Aaron
and Miriam — especially Miriam — were uncomfortable in Moses’ presence because
of talking about him as they had done. The three of them stood in uneasy
silence, waiting for something to happen. (Numbers 12:4.)
Slowly the cloud of God descended over the tabernacle. There was a blinding
blaze of light from within the curtained inner room. The three Israelites
shielded their eyes with their arms and backed away from the unusual brilliance.
Then, a voice:
"Now listen to Me! Lest there be any doubt as to the one through whom I choose
to speak and direct in these times, be assured that Moses is the servant who is
to bear the greatest responsibility. Let it be known that I, the Eternal, speak
to him directly as one being to another, and not in some mysterious manner, or
in dreams and visions, as I speak to ordinary prophets. You, Miriam, and you,
Aaron, it is time you know that these things are so. Why, then, were you so
foolish as to speak against Moses, my chosen servant?" (Numbers 12:5-8.)
Aaron’s face was the color of ashes as God concluded His rebuke. Miriam cringed
in fear. Moses was both embarrassed and angry to learn that he had been the
object of wrong remarks by his brother and sister. Nevertheless, he felt a
little sorry for them because he knew that God often acted with terrible
swiftness when it was His intention to punish anyone.
Miriam and Aaron were relieved when they saw the blinding light in the
tabernacle disappear. They were even more relieved when they saw the cloud float
up from the tabernacle.
"God is departing," Miriam whispered to Aaron. "Surely He wasn’t too displeased
with us, or He would have done more than just talk." (Verse 9.)
"Don’t speak like that!" Aaron warned, glancing uneasily at the departing cloud.
"God doesn’t forget. We should get back to our tents and pray for mercy!"
Irked by his sister’s senseless statement, Aaron turned to look searchingly at
Miriam. That searching look caused him to draw back in horror.
The flesh on his sister’s face, neck, arms and hands had suddenly taken on a
sickly white hue! Aaron shuddered as he tore his eyes from her ghastly face.
He knew that she had suddenly become a leper! (Verse 10.)
"Moses!" Aaron called in a quavering voice.

Why God Rebuked Miriam and Aaron
Moses was slowly walking away at the moment. He turned and came back because he
sensed the despair in Aaron’s tone. When he saw Miriam’s condition, he was very
upset. Miriam for the first time noticed her hands. She gave a shriek and
collapsed on the ground. Aaron quickly knelt down beside her and looked
pleadingly up at Moses.
"Don’t let God take her by this terrible disease!" he begged. "Ask Him to
forgive our foolish sin and heal her." (Numbers 12:11-12.)
Moses knelt down, leaned over with his face to the ground and called out to God.
"Make her well now, God!" he cried out. "Be merciful and forgive her and Aaron
of their sins! Remove this awful disease from my sister now!" (Verse 13.)
Then God suddenly answered Moses: "Because of her disrespect for authority,
Miriam must be shut out of the camp and My presence for seven days."
To her horror and disgrace, Miriam was led to a distant spot far outside the
camp, there to sit and loathe herself in utter misery.
Meanwhile, the Israelites were prepared to start out again. But the cloud didn’t
move forward, and this obviously meant that God was delaying the march until
Miriam would be brought back into camp healed. (Verses 14-15.)
After a week had passed, she was brought back into her tent. God had answered
Moses’ prayers and had healed her. She and Moses and Aaron were very thankful.
At the same time, Miriam was sorry for having spoken out so boldly and wrongly
against Moses. If she had failed to repent, God would have refused to take away
her terrible leprosy, and it would soon have caused her death.
Miriam learned the lesson that all should learn — that speaking evil of the
servants God has chosen to work for or represent Him is indirectly speaking evil
of the One who created the whole universe and every one of us. God tells us that
wisdom begins with respect for Him. (Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10.)

Journey to the Promised Land
After Miriam had been brought back into the camp at Hazeroth, the people moved
northward for several days. Although it was late summer, they journeyed on
through the hot desert country to Paran, eventually coming to a secluded oasis
area called Kadesh or Kadesh-barnea. (Numbers 12:16 and 13:26.)
It was on the border of the promised land of Canaan. At Kadesh the cloud came to
a halt far more than a night. The people found several wells and springs in that
region, and there was enough grass for their animals. It was evident that God
meant the Israelites to camp at that place for at least several days. The
tabernacle was erected just as it had been at Sinai, and the various tribes set
up their camps in the same positions.
"Choose twelve capable men — one who is ruler from each of the twelve tribes —
for a scouting expedition up into Canaan," God instructed Moses. "They are to
bring back a full report on the land. Then the people will learn from their own
respected leaders that it is a good land they are approaching." (Numbers
13:1-2.)
Moses picked twelve outstanding men from the twelve tribes. These included
Joshua, a young man who had previously been very helpful to Moses, and a man
named Caleb of the tribe of Judah. Joshua and Caleb were chosen as leaders of
the expedition. (Verses 3-16.)
"You twelve are to go up into Canaan as scouts," Moses told them when they were
brought together. "It’s up to you to find the best and easiest route there.
Carefully observe everything. Notice whether the land is flat or hilly and what
kind of crops it bears. Note the people, to find out how numerous they are,
whether they are warlike, peaceful, strong or weak. Find out what their villages
and cities are like, and what strongholds they have. Be sure to see where the
best forests are located, as well as the best grazing and farming areas. Bring
back some produce of the land. And don’t fear for your lives, because you can
rely on God to protect you as long as you obey Him." (Numbers 13:17-20.)

The Scouting Expedition Begins
Going to Canaan wasn’t simply a matter of packing a few things and leaving. The
scouts needed some idea of the general lay-out of the land.
This knowledge came from the Kenites — Moses’ father-in-law’s family — and
from traveled strangers at Kadesh who had joined the Israelites. From them Moses
obtained information concerning the boundaries, mountain ranges, lakes, streams,
forests and desert areas of Canaan. This was carefully studied by the twelve
picked men, and maps were made for them to follow.
When at last the picked scouts had said good-bye to their families and friends,
they set out northward from Kadesh across the narrow Zin desert. After plodding
wearily in the heat over many miles, they topped a rise to gaze down on a vast
expanse of water more than 4,000 feet below them!
Today this body of salty water is known as the Dead Sea. It is almost 1,300 feet
below sea level — the deepest chasm on the land surface. It is forty-seven
miles long from north to south, and is nine and a half miles across at the
widest spot. It is 1,300 feet deep at its greatest depth. The dimensions were
slightly different back when the Israelite scouts suddenly came upon it.
"This must be what is known as the Salt Sea or the Sea of the Plain!" one of the
men exclaimed, pointing to the whitish shoreline far below. "You know what that
means!"
"It means we have reached Canaan!" Joshua shouted triumphantly. "We know from
what we have heard that this large lake is part of the eastern boundary of the
promised land!"
There was happy excitement among the twelve men. Having some idea of where they
were, they felt successful and more secure. That night they camped on the
towering area overlooking the water, and next morning started down from the
mountains to skirt the west shore of the long lake.
For the next few days their progress was fairly easy. However, the midday heat
was quite intense, and they found that it was wise to travel only in the
mornings and evenings.

The Jordan Valley Visited
At the north end of the Dead Sea they turned eastward to come to the Jordan
River, the main stream emptying into the Dead Sea. There in the river bottom
region they saw that there were many beautiful farms and that the crops were
excellent.
The scouts continued northward, sometimes following the Jordan River and
sometimes veering off toward the mountain range to the west. They had purposely
avoided the country east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea because the
promised land was then from the Jordan River westward. (Numbers 33:51-53;
34:1-2, 12 and Deuteronomy 12:10.) The people they met stared suspiciously at
them, probably regarding them either as wandering traders, bandits, or vagrants.
A few days later they arrived at another body of water known today as the Sea of
Galilee. It was known also as the Sea of Chinnereth. This lake, seven miles wide
at the north end and thirteen miles long, was the one near which Jesus Christ
would spend much of His life. It is about 200 feet to the bottom at the deepest
point. The hills back from its east shores jutted up to 2,000 feet. Its surface
was about 700 feet below that of the Mediterranean Sea.
The scouts traveled on northward far past the Sea of Galilee to a town called
Rehob, on the northern border of the promised land, in the land of Aram, known
today as Syria. Having knowledge of where they were, the Israelites recognized
that they were very close to the northern boundaries of the promised land, and
so they turned back southward. (Numbers 13:21.)
Moving down through the fertile regions between the Jordan River and the Great
Sea (the Mediterranean), the scouts saw even more people than they had seen near
the river. Crops looked even better, trees bore more fruit and there were more
signs of prosperity.
The scouting Israelites had been coming to more and more great cities teeming
with people and bristling with fortifications. The people continued to stare at
the twelve strangers as they trudged along the road. The Israelites made no
effort to visit with them. It was wiser to keep to themselves than run the risk
of getting mixed up with robbers or violent men. The scouts were well-armed for
purposes of hunting, and their rugged, bearded appearance undoubtedly warded off
more than one group of bandits who might otherwise have attacked them for
whatever was in the Israelites’ packsacks.
The scouts decided to journey to the east shores of the Mediterranean Sea. They
had heard awesome tales of how warlike the people were in that region. These,
the Philistines, were the ones through whose land God had kept Israel from
traveling when they had first left Egypt, even though it would have meant a much
shorter trip.

The Scouts Meet the Philistines
There the scouts were especially cautious. They moved around the towns and
villages instead of going through them. Here and there they noticed armed
Philistine men who obviously were soldiers or civil officers. Once they spotted
a whole platoon of such men at a distance, but the scouts weren’t set upon,
stopped or even questioned.
Crossing back to the southeast, they came to Hebron, one of the oldest cities in
the world. It had been founded seven years before the founding of Zion, the
first city founded in post-Flood Egypt. (Numbers 13:22.)
At Hebron the scouts were so curious to get a good look at the people and
buildings and bazaars that they considered traveling right through the streets.
"I should like to go through the town as much as any of you," Joshua frowned
thoughtfully, "but I think it’s too much of a risk. If we all go together, we
could be looked on as a band of renegades, and officers might stop us."
"How about splitting up into two pairs?" Caleb suggested.
"That should help!" Joshua nodded. "But we can’t become too separated. Each
couple must be far enough apart that we won’t be regarded as a group, but close
enough to be within sight of each other at all times."
Accordingly, the twelves divided into six pairs and joined a straggling line of
all kinds of people approaching Hebron from the north.
Hebron wasn’t a large city teeming with great crowds, but its narrow, stony
streets were lined with shops where knots of rather drab humanity bobbed and
shuffled in and out. Mixing in with the hodgepodge of people and pack-animals,
the scouts saw and heard many interesting things. Shopkeepers called out their
wares to them. Small, ragged boys begged them for hand-outs. Grinning,
beady-eyed men, spotting them as strangers, slipped up beside them and offered
to guide them to various places of amusement.
Intent on getting through Hebron, the Israelites weren’t halted by salesmen,
beggars or men who had more than guide service to sell. They moved through the
bazaar area and into the southern fringe of town. Joshua and Caleb, who were
ahead, saw several armed helmeted men pour out of a nearby building and station
themselves menacingly in the street.
"We can’t go this way!" Caleb whispered. "Those soldiers mean to block our
path!"
It was obvious that the scouts had at last run into serious trouble, and just
when they had almost completed their trip!

Chapter 39
SCOUTS REPORT SEEING GIANTS!
THE ISRAELITE scouts sent out by Moses had traveled by foot over much of Canaan.
They had looped around to arrive at Hebron, a city not too far from Kadesh.
Kadesh was the scouts’ starting point, where the twelve tribes were encamped and
awaiting reports from the twelve-man expedition.
On leaving Hebron, the Israelites suddenly found themselves confronted by
several soldiers blocking the narrow street. "We can’t turn back now," Joshua
said in a low voice to Caleb. "If we turn back, they’ll probably take after us!"

Giants!
As the scouts neared the soldiers, they were amazed to realize that some of them
were almost twice as tall as ordinary men! The towering soldiers saw the
expressions of growing unbelief on the faces of the scouts, who now were close
enough to notice the hostility on the faces of the soldiers. Suddenly the scouts
realized that it was only mock hostility. The giant men broke into loud, hoarse
laughter and stepped aside to let the six pairs of Israelites continue down the
street. It was evident that a favorite pastime of the soldiers — the giant
descendants of Anak — was to playfully startle strangers who had never before
seen such tall men. (Numbers 13:22.)
The scouts breathed sighs of relief and thankfulness as they left the laughing
soldiers behind them. They kept on to the south — where they saw numerous other
giant tribes — until they arrived at a fertile valley known as Eshcol, through
which ran a small stream. This was grape country and time for harvesting grapes.
The Israelites were astounded at the great size of the grape clusters.
"We were instructed to bring back samples of the produce of Canaan," Joshua
reminded the men. "So far we have gathered only a few things, and our trip is
nearly over. This is perhaps our last opportunity to take some of the unusual
fruit growing here."
Not wanting to invade a private vineyard, the men cut down a large cluster of
grapes apparently growing wild. They hung the cluster on a pole for two men to
carry it between them back to Kadesh. The grapes weren’t so heavy that two men
were required to lift them. It was a matter of letting the massive cluster hang
free so that it wouldn’t be crushed. However, the bunch of grapes was all of two
feet long, and each grape was as large as a plum!
The scouts also plucked healthy fruits and luscious figs from the area. Burdened
with their increased loads, they turned south toward Kadesh.
They arrived at Kadesh just forty days from the time they had set out. Although
many people went out to meet them and to ply them with questions, the scouts
reported at once to Moses. Knowing that the people were anxious to learn what
their spies had seen in Canaan, Moses later called for the people to assemble
close to the tabernacle. (Numbers 13:23-25.)
As a leader of the expedition, Joshua was asked first to give a public account
of what had taken place. He came out on a high platform, so that the crowd could
see him, and sketchily related what the men had seen and done.

Joshua’s Report
"It is a good land," he concluded. "Large areas of it are very fertile, as many
of you can see by this display of unusual produce. There is plenty of grazing
country for our flocks and herds. We should thank God that all these good things
are there for the taking when we move northward."
Meanwhile, all the other scouts except Caleb had gathered in a group and were
earnestly talking. When Joshua had finished speaking, he asked any one of them
to add to what had already been said. One scout, obviously chosen as a
spokesman, came up to face Moses, Aaron and the throng of people.
"The land of Canaan is indeed fertile in some regions, just as Joshua has
stated," the speaker said in a strong clear voice. "However, when he spoke of
our seeing a few very tall men, he failed to mention that all the people are
very large and tall. He also left out the facts that all the cities have high,
thick walls behind which are large, well-trained, powerful armies. It is foolish
to even think of trying to enter Canaan. We would all be slaughtered!"
There was an awkward silence. Moses and Aaron, as well as most others, were
greatly startled by what they had heard. Then the silence suddenly gave way to a
growing murmur from the crowd. Joshua and Caleb exchanged anxious glances. Caleb
leaped on the platform and raised his arms for silence. The murmuring gradually
subsided, but not completely.
"I ask you to hear me on this matter!" Caleb spoke out loudly. "This man whom
you have just heard doesn’t speak for all twelve of us. For some reason he has
lied about the cities all having high walls, all the people being giants and all
the armies being large and powerful. The truth is that God can surely overcome
the inhabitants of Canaan for us!" (Numbers 13:26-33.)
The ten scouts quickly crowded onto the platform, shouting and gesturing.
"No! No!" they chorused. "This fellow is the one who isn’t telling the truth!"
There was much confusion, both around the platform and throughout the crowd.
After a few minutes Moses and his officers were fairly successful in restoring
order. God does not like confusion.
"This has been a disgraceful exhibition, especially by men of your past good
reputations," Moses said sternly to the ten scouts. "If you actually believe it
would be a mistake to go into Canaan, then you must give more reasons than you
have already stated, and with proof!"
There was a quick consultation among the ten men, and again their spokesmen
stepped up to address the people.
"I’ll admit that I didn’t tell you exactly what conditions are in Canaan," the
speaker shouted, "but neither did Joshua or Caleb. The real truth is something
none of us wanted to bring to you because it seemed cruel to fill you with
complete dismay and disappointment. However, probably many of you won’t believe
what I am about to tell you."
Here the speaker paused, at the risk of being interrupted, so that the audience
would be even more eager to hear his words. He was counting on Moses giving him
a full chance to say what he had to say.
"Now here are the terrifying facts," he continued. "For some reason these two
leaders probably won’t back me up on these things. But nine other scouts will.
In the first place, the climate of most of the land north of here is very bad.
It has produced mostly desert territory. Water is scarce. Disease and pestilence
have taken the lives of ordinary people like ourselves. The survivors — and
they must number into many thousands — are all giants who are actually so
tremendous that we were only as grasshoppers in their sight. They didn’t pay any
attention to us because they looked down on us as only insects. These people
have descended from fierce Hamitic tribes. They are so mountainous and powerful
that it would take only a few of them to stamp all of us into the ground!" A
great sound of discontent welled up from the crowd. At a command from Moses,
Joshua stood up to speak, but the growing noise from the people drowned out his
words even to the nearest listeners.
"His lies have frightened the people!" Joshua said to Moses after leaving the
platform. "They don’t even want to listen to me."
"Most of them know that they have listened to lies," Moses said. "They prefer to
believe what isn’t the truth so that they will have excuses to return to Egypt."
"Ten of my fellow scouts must be working with those who are trying to get the
Israelites to turn back," Joshua remarked bitterly.
"It is very plain," Moses agreed. "This growing movement to try to return to
Egypt is getting out of hand."

The Crowd Breaks Up
Moses soberly watched the yelling Israelites milling excitedly about, and shook
his head in disappointment. In recent weeks, in spite of the trouble these
people had given him, his hope had grown that his task of leading them to the
promised land was about to end. An end to the Journey now appeared about as
possible as single-handedly herding mile lions of wild burros into a corral.
For a few moments he considered trying to address the people, to remind them how
futile it would be to start back without God’s help. But already the huge throng
was breaking up. Officers were faithfully working to keep the crowd in order,
but the people were too noisy and excited to listen to any more speeches.
Wailing, weeping and murmuring, the people milled around between camps and
tents, loudly complaining that it would mean death to all if they were to set
foot in what they referred to as a disease-ridden land of giants to the north.
All night this noisy and childish exhibition went on.
Meanwhile, however, many thousands of the Israelites had no part in the
demonstration.
By early morning many of the complainers were worked up into such a highly
emotional state that they again formed into a crowd that advanced angrily toward
the tabernacle. Some of the demonstrators went so far as to carry sticks and
stones.
"We wish we had died in Egypt!" thousands of them yelled.
"We wish we had died in the desert!" other thousands chorused. "God has dragged
us out to this miserable place only for the purpose of having us slain by
giants! Our wives and our children will all die if we follow Moses any further!"
"We want to go back to Egypt!" was a common cry. "Let us choose a leader who
knows what is best for us — one who knows the shortest and fastest route back
to Egypt!" (Numbers 14:1-4.)
"We have already picked out those who can lead us!" some of the Israelites
screamed. "Let us put down Moses and his officers so that our leaders can take
over!"
Only the most rebellious and rabble-rousing dared suggest ousting Moses, and not
a great part of the Israelites fell in with such a suggestion of violence.
However, it was plain to Moses that this unhappy situation could explode into a
worse one within minutes. There was only one wise thing to do. Moses motioned to
Aaron. The two of them mounted the platform. For a few seconds they silently
regarded the clamoring crowd. Then they knelt down and bent over with their
foreheads touching the floor of the platform. In this abject position they
called on God to step in and take control of the people.
When the demonstrators saw their leaders bowing quieted down to a low murmur.
Angered and shocked at the manner in which their fellow scouts had spoken and
acted, Joshua and Caleb decided to take advantage of this quieter period to try
once more to bring the truth to the people. Joshua once more went to the
platform and walked out in front of Moses and Aaron.
"Fellow Israelites!" Joshua cried out. "I’m here again to assure you of what all
twelve of us have witnessed — that Canaan is a good, productive land. There are
no giants such as have been described to you, though there are some men who are
several feet taller than our men. There is a good supply of water. We saw no
unusual signs of disease or pestilence. Canaan is so much better than any land
we have come through so far that it would be very foolish not to claim it. Let
us not rebel against our Creator. Otherwise He might decide to withhold this
promised land from us!"
People looked on with stony faces as Joshua stepped back and Caleb came forward
to stand in front of the two men who were still prostrate. "What Joshua has just
told you is true!" Caleb shouted to the people.
"God is offering us a wonderful future if only we obey Him. Surely He is already
displeased by your attitude of refusal to go into Canaan and take what our
Creator wants us to have for our own happiness. As for fearing the Canaanites,
there is no reason for that. As long as God is with us, no people — even if
they were all giants — can overcome us!"
As soon as Caleb ceased speaking, the murmuring from the crowd grew louder and
louder. In spite of a number of alert guards surrounding the platform, the
bolder and more excited ones in the crowd moved menacingly close. Out of the
hubbub of shrieks and yells two chilling words became more and more distinct.
"Stone them! Stone them! Stone them!" (Numbers 14:5-10.)
Very soon the phrase became a monstrous chant from the lungs of the frenzied
thousands. Still Caleb and Joshua stood on the platform with the kneeling Moses
and Aaron.

Chapter 40
MOB ATTACKS MOSES
SUDDENLY the mob closed in, pressing the guards against the underpinning of the
platform. A few small stones shot out of the crowd and bounced off the platform,
where Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb stood.
Those who attempted to hurl heavier stones were hampered by the surging mass of
human beings. A few men managed to squirm past the guards and climb onto the
platform. They crouched around the four figures who were already there, eyeing
them threateningly. It was evident that these intruders were waiting for more to
join them for the purpose of seizing Caleb, Joshua, Moses and Aaron.
At that instant a blinding flash came from inside the tabernacle. Even though
the curtains of the structure veiled its full brilliance, the brightness was so
intense that people were temporarily blinded. A moment later an ear-splitting
roar rumbled out of the tabernacle. The ground quaked as though a whole mountain
had been dropped from the sky!
The intruders staggered off the platform and into the struggling mass
surrounding it. The words "Stone them!" abruptly ceased from the crowd. The only
sounds now were those of alarm in the frantic scramble to draw back from the
platform and the tabernacle.
Realizing that God had intervened, Moses and Aaron gave thanks and got to their
feet.
"Have the ten traitorous scouts arrested and brought to my tent," Moses
instructed Joshua and Caleb. "I must go now to the tabernacle to talk with God."
At the tabernacle God asked Moses after he had knelt inside the tabernacle, "How
much longer will these people vex me with their evil ways? How many more signs
must I give them to prove that I mean what I say? Now I should have nothing more
to do with them except to blot them out of my sight forever. Then, starting with
you, I should build up a greater and a mightier nation!"
Here is where the course of history would have been greatly changed if Moses had
let his vanity get the best of him. With Israel wiped out, Moses would have
claimed Abraham’s place as the "father of nations."
"But if you destroy all Israel," Moses replied, "the Egyptians shall hear of it.
In fact, every nation on Earth will sooner or later know of it. Word has spread
that you are the kind of God who dwells with His people, and Who leads them with
a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When news goes abroad that Your
people died in the desert, the nations will believe that You lacked the power to
bring them safely into the land You promised to them. I beg you, God, to forgive
these people of their sins, but I’m not asking You to let go unpunished those
who have stirred the people into wanting to return to Egypt instead of going on
into Canaan."
There was a silence. It was painful to Moses, who couldn’t be certain how God
would respond. He realized that his mentioning the preserving of God’s
reputation in the eyes of other nations — especially Egypt — wasn’t
necessarily a strong point. God, with His perfect memory and awareness, wasn’t
in need of being reminded. Finally the Creator replied.
"Because you have prayed as you have for the Israelites, I shall forgive their
sins as a nation. I shall not make a complete end of them. My reputation for
mercy and power and glory will one day be known in every nation of the world."
(Numbers 14:11-21.)
Moses was greatly relieved and heartened to hear these words from the Creator.
He remained for a little while with his forehead to the ground. But just as he
raised his head and was about to utter his deep thanks, God’s voice boomed out
at him again.
"I have just told you that I am willing to forgive the sins of the Israelites.
At the same time, however, I will refuse them entrance into the promised land
because they have broken their covenant with me. This means that those who have
rebelled against me shall never come into Canaan! They shall die in the desert!
This curse doesn’t apply to those who are under twenty years of age — the very
ones whose fathers complained that they would surely die in the desert because I
couldn’t protect them. Neither does it apply to obedient people such as Joshua
and Caleb. But it does mean that most of Israel shall wander forty years in the
mountains and deserts before reaching the land they have refused and hated. That
is one year for every day required for the scouts to search Canaan!"
"But we have already spent about a year and a half coming to Canaan," Moses
said. "Do you mean that we are to spend forty years going to a place that is
only a few hours distant?"
"Inasmuch as you have already been nearly two years on the way," God replied,
"it will require full thirty-eight more. That is My judgment on Israel because
of their rebellion." (Numbers 14:22-35.)
Just a few minutes previously Moses had felt as though a great weight had been
lifted from him when he was assured that the people would not be suddenly
blotted out. Now the dismal outlook of thirty-eight years of leading the
Israelites was something he could scarcely face.
"Where must we go from here?" Moses inquired wearily.
"You must leave tomorrow and start southward."
Told by God to carry this depressing information to the people, Moses and Aaron
returned to the platform. A vast, murmuring throng was still present. Joshua and
Caleb hurried to join Moses and Aaron.

The Ten Scouts Slain
"We didn’t have to arrest the ten scouts," Joshua reported, pointing to a knot
of people crowded around something on the ground. "They’re all dead!"
"Dead?" Moses repeated in surprise. "How could it be that all of them would die
at the same time?"
"We couldn’t find out," Caleb explained. "Just a little while ago they were seen
talking together over there. An instant later they were lifeless on the ground."
Moses quickly realized that God had taken their lives because of their false
reports, but there wasn’t time just then to be concerned about the scouts and
their families. Moses had to tell the people at once what was in store for them.
(Numbers 14:36-38.)
When he passed on to them what God had spoken, the people received the startling
news with mixed emotions. Some were speechless. Others moaned and loudly
complained. A small part of them were jubilant because of hoping to return all
the way to Egypt. Most of them, sobered by the strange, sudden death of the ten
scouts, were quite shaken by the outlook for the future. Many thought God wasn’t
fair. Only a fraction of them were willing to admit to themselves that by their
bad conduct they had spoiled a wonderful future and had brought hardship down on
their children.
"Remember," Moses concluded, "that from now on we no longer have the priceless
blessing of God’s guidance and protection. We are like a flock without a
shepherd. Only yesterday God wanted us to go into Canaan. If we had obeyed, God
would have scattered any Canaanites who might have tried to prevent us. But now
we don’t even dare stay here lest the people over the mountains to the north
come down and slaughter us! Be ready at dawn, therefore, to move south."

Rebels Plot by Night
That night was a restless one for Israel. The more the people thought about
God’s ruling to turn back, the more they wondered how they could make up for
their sins. In fact, certain ones secretly met to plan what to do and how to
organize the people into doing it.
Meanwhile, the Israelites were not the only ones aware of their blazing,
all-night campfires. Alert and unfriendly eyes were peering down from mountain
heights to the north, watching to see what the horde of people in the desert
valley would do next.
Moses, too, was restless. He spent much of the night in thought and prayer. Very
early in the morning he dropped asleep from exhaustion, only to be awakened by
Joshua.
"People are breaking camp already," Joshua exclaimed. "It isn’t even daybreak,
but there are rumors that thousands are leaving."
Moses stepped out of his tent. Most of the campfires were burning low at this
hour, and it wasn’t possible, in the dense pre-dawn darkness, to see what was
taking place. But in the still, cool air came the faint jangle of metal and the
voices of men shouting commands to their shepherd dogs. Moses knew the sound
well, and he sensed that a huge caravan was moving out. But why? And where was
it headed?
"Should we call every available officer to try to stop them?" Joshua asked.
"No," Moses answered, shaking his head solemnly. "We’re already in enough
trouble without shedding blood among ourselves. Just try to find out where these
early risers think they are going."
Aaron joined Moses before Joshua could report back. The light of dawn streamed
in rapidly from the east, making plain to Moses and Aaron a long column of
thousands, with their flocks and herds, slowly moving out of the camps. Moses
was hopeful that he would discover the column moving through a defile to the
south — the direction in which God had said they should go.
To Moses’ dismay the light of dawn showed that the wide line of people was
moving north. This was the road to Canaan! This was the way these people had
refused to take only hours before. Having been warned not to go in that
direction, thousands of the Israelites were disobeying by sneaking off that way.
(Verses 40-43.)
"The Amalekites and Canaanites are just beyond that mountain!" Moses exclaimed,
clapping his hands to his head. "Probably they’re armed and waiting! This could
mean a terrible slaughter for all those people!"
Mosses and those with him watched in discouragement as the thousands of
Israelites and their flocks dwindled from sight in the distant pass.
"Even if all the rest of our armed men went after them," Moses said, shaking his
head, "it wouldn’t make much difference. God will not protect those who have
departed nor those who would go to their rescue." (Numbers 14:40-43.)
Moses then instructed his officers to see that the tabernacle was packed and
ready to move, and that the people should start breaking camp at once. He knew
there was a possibility that their enemies, undoubtedly hidden in the mountains,
would stage an attack on the camp.
Before the sun was very high, the remaining greater part of the Israelites was
moving through the defiles to the south. Many a person left Kadesh before he
wanted to, however. Thousands had hoped to remain long enough to receive some
word of what had happened to friends and relatives who had departed toward
Canaan.
Meanwhile, the Canaan-bound | Israelites and their plodding flocks and herds
were close to the top of the pass that led northward from Kadesh.

Rebels Are Ambushed
Suddenly hundreds of armed men leaped out from behind the trailside boulders!
Shouting as though demented, they came running at the startled Israelites with
spears and swords. Hundreds of Israelites died even before they could get their
weapons ready for action. Shrieking women and children turned and tried to run
back down the trail, only to trip helplessly over one another. To add to the
confusion, the herds stampeded and the flocks swarmed wildly in all directions.
The main body of Israelites gradually began to move backward. But by now a great
number of the enemy — Canaanites and Amalekites — had almost sealed off their
retreat by thronging behind the agitated column of Israelites. The Israelites
had walked squarely into a vast death trap! (Verses 44-45.)
The slaughter that resulted was frightful! Even animals fell by sword and spear,
though most of them escaped into the mountains. The people were not so
fortunate. Within only minutes the pass was littered with the bodies of men and
women. But because their numbers were so much greater than those of their
attackers, part of them escaped and fled back toward Kadesh. The Amalekites and
Canaanites took after them, pursuing some of them quite a distance to the south.
Most of those who escaped hid among the rocks until the enemy was gone. Then
they set out to try to catch up with the main body of Israelites that had
departed to the south from Kadesh.
About sundown the Israelites made camp a few miles southwest of Kadesh. Hours
later, when most campfires were either out or very low, there was great
excitement from the north side of the camp. Weary, footsore escapees were
beginning to arrive. Many who returned needed their wounds dressed. Some died.
Others gave horrifying accounts of the bloody affair.

Chapter 41
REBELS CHALLENGE GOD’S GOVERNMENT
THE REBELS who had escaped the Amalekite ambush were a pitiful sight indeed.
"You who have been spared," Moses told them, "should thank God that He chose
some to be able to return here so that the rest of us can be reminded what can
happen to people who don’t have God’s protection. Otherwise, you would now be
captives or dead."
As was common with the Egyptians and not uncommon with the Israelites, there was
much weeping and wailing and loud expressions of sorrow and regret the rest of
the night. A part of the people seemed to be getting a picture of how bleak and
uncertain their lives would be without

God’s guidance and protection.
The cloud and the pillar of fire were not removed, because it wasn’t God’s
intention to entirely forsake Israel. (Deuteronomy 1:3133; Nehemiah 9:19-21.)
It was a case of the Israelites breaking their agreement with God, which meant
that God was no longer bound to give them the help, guidance and protection that
He had promised to give if they would obey Him.
From then on for nearly forty years God decided the movements of Israel by such
things as the lack of abundance of water, the presence or absence of grass for
their animals, the state of health of the people and many other factors.
They camped only long enough to lick their wounds and then continued southward
through several more stopping places. From there they moved into the desert area
west of the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba and northeast of Mt. Sinai. This
was the area where, on their way northeast from Mt. Sinai, so many of them had
complained so harshly against God. (Numbers 11:1-3.) They had said that they
would rather die there than go on. This was the place where a great part of them
would eventually die.

Sabbath Broken Again
Fall had arrived, and the nights in the desert were becoming colder. Campfire
material was rather scarce. For some, the collecting of fuel was fast becoming a
full-time job. The people had to go farther and farther out from the camps to
obtain it if they stayed in one spot very many days.
One Sabbath a man was seen spending the day busily gathering dried sticks and
branches far outside the camps. Most Israelites respected the Fourth Commandment
and feared to labor on the Sabbath. Thinking that perhaps the man wasn’t aware
that it was the seventh day of the week, a few people went out to warn him.
"I don’t care what day it is!" the man growled, hardly looking at them. "I
worked all week getting food for my family and animals. There wasn’t time to
gather fuel, and so I have to do it now. If God wants me to get all my work done
before the end of the week, He’ll have to add more days to it. Meanwhile, I’m
not going to just sit in my tent and twiddle my thumbs just because some
fancifully robed priest says it’s wrong to support my family on the Sabbath!"
This matter was reported back to camp. Before long two officers went out to talk
to the man. "You are an evil example to others," the officers told him. "People
who see you laboring all Sabbath without instant punishment might try to do
likewise. Then they would receive the punishment you will eventually receive."
The fuel-gatherer glowered at the officers and swung his load of sticks from one
shoulder to the other.
"Why should I be punished for trying to keep my family warm?" he snapped. "I can
decide what is best for me and mine without any meddling from you or God!"
This arrogant display of rebellion brought on a hasty arrest by the officers,
but it was no small task to take the man back to camp. He struggled and fought
and cursed all the way.
When Moses was told of the matter, he wasn’t certain just what should be done.
Many Israelites had secretly wished the Sabbath were just another workday. But
none of them so far had outwardly shown such strong feeling against God and
authority as this man had shown.
Moses knew that this matter would quickly become known by all the people. He
also realized that if they found that one could succeed in being so defiant
about breaking the Sabbath without quick and heavy punishment, numberless
Israelites might attempt the same thing.
This was a problem Moses had to take to God. As usual, God quickly made clear to
Moses what was to be done.
Next morning, acting on orders from Moses, officers led the offender back into
the desert. A huge crowd silently followed, constantly enlarged by a flow of
grim-faced people who had heard what was going on. Acting on instructions from
Moses, they stripped the offender of his outer clothes, then stoned him to
death. (Numbers 15:32-36.)
The apostle Paul explains in Romans 13:1-7 that God ordained that criminals be
punished. God takes no pleasure in seeing wicked men die (Ezekiel 33:11), but He
knows that law-breakers are better dead — to await the second resurrection —
than left around to harm others or lead others to do evil. God in His mercy sees
that evil men are better off punished than left alive making themselves and
others miserable and unhappy.

Discontentment Grows Again
Not long after the Israelites left Kadesh, another wretched event took place
that resulted in another great disaster. The situation developed because a state
of envy existed in the minds of some of the people who wanted to be priests or
who wanted certain of their friends to be priests and leaders instead of Levi’s
family.
Foremost among such men was a man named Korah, one of Levi’s great grandsons and
a first cousin to Moses and Aaron. He strongly felt that he should have been
chosen for a high office. In fact, he had the idea that he should be in Moses’
position as head of Israel. He was joined in this ill attitude by three
Reubenites, Dathan, Abiram and On. They were of the opinion that Moses was
favoring his family too much, and was not properly distributing the offices of
authority. These men thought all the congregation should have a voice in
government. (Numbers 16:1-3.)
For a long time these men had been seething with discontent and planning how
they could move in to take over the priesthood for themselves. This scheme
against Moses was the same as scheming against God (Numbers 26:9), but these men
were desperate for power. Gradually they managed to persuade high-ranking
Israelites that their cause was right. Eventually two hundred and fifty
Israelite leaders agreed to join these influential, smooth-talking schemers in
the hope that all would move into higher rank with greater power and more
income.
One morning when Israel was camping at a stopping place on the way southward,
all these ambitious men gathered before Moses’ tent. With Korah, their best
speaker and worst schemer leading them, they came to demand of Moses that some
changes be made in the priesthood. When Moses was told that a crowd of high
ranking men had come to demand some changes in government, he wasn’t surprised.
He had sensed for weeks that this kind of trouble was brewing. Now, as he came
out of his tent, he expected to see only a handful of men. He was rather
startled to see more than two hundred and fifty, and he was considerably upset
to recognize so many trusted men of high rank among those who now stood before
him with unfriendly expressions. (Numbers 16:2.)
"Why are you here?" Moses asked.

Korah Wants More Authority
"We are here because we believe you are taking on too much power for one man,"
Korah answered. "You and your priests act as though you are holier than any of
the rest of us. If we are God’s chosen people, then ALL of us are holy. That
means that all of us have equal rights in matters of government. However, you
use your authority to put men who are your friends in the best positions in
government. (Verse 3.) We demand that you yield some of those offices to the
congregation so we can choose our own officials." Korah, being a good speaker,
knew he could be elected to a high office if the people were allowed to choose
their own leaders. What Korah really was after was complete control of all
Israel. Leaders of nations have always been the objects of envy by greedy men.
Seizing leadership has always been a selfish, bloody game, with the greatest
losers generally turning out to be the citizens. Even Israel, God’s chosen
nation, wasn’t free of this kind of ambitious trouble makers.
Moses was shocked by this blunt demand from Korah. He could see that the men
weren’t just bluffing. It was plain that they were willing to go to extremes to
gain what they had set out to do. Setting armed soldiers on them would only mean
bloodshed. Besides, most of the Israelites would sympathize with the victims of
the soldiers, since they were popular, well-known leaders, and the situation
would become worse.
Without even going back into the privacy of his tent, Moses knelt forward with
his head to the ground and asked God for help. A few of those assembled became
uncomfortable as they stood in the presence of a humble man calling on his
Creator for aid. They included On, one of the Reubenites. He wanted no more of
the matter, and slipped out of the scene. Other onlookers merely smiled at what
they considered an attempt by Moses to gain their sympathy by appearing
pitifully pious.
"This is no time for a show, Moses!" Korah called out. "Stand up and explain why
at least some of us shouldn’t be priests in place of some of those who are now
in service merely because it was your whim to put them there." Korah, a Levite,
already had a high office, but he wanted an even higher office — the priesthood
that was given to Aaron. (Verses 8-11.)
Moses slowly came to his feet. Those who watched him couldn’t know that God had
just inspired him to know what to say. Ignoring Korah, Moses addressed Dathan
and Abiram.

Moses Tries to Save Rebels
"Before you carry this matter further, let us discuss it in my tent," Moses
said, thus giving them an opportunity to separate from Korah.
"There is no reason to talk with you," Dathan and Abiram replied. "We refuse to
listen to your excuses for leading us from the good land of Egypt and into a
desert where we are to die. Your only aim has plainly been to control the
people, no matter what becomes of them." (Verses 12-14.)
These untruthful charges upset Moses. He was tempted to summon soldiers to slay
every rebel before him. But he knew this was not according to God’s plan of
dealing with them, and he controlled himself.
"You have started something you will have trouble finishing," Moses declared to
Korah in a voice that reached the whole crowd. "Your belief that just anyone can
be in the priesthood without being ordained by God is not a true one. However,
if all of you insist on trying to force your way into such offices, every one of
you should be here tomorrow morning with incense and with a censer filled with
hot coals. Aaron and his sons will also be here with their censers. God will
make it known which ones he will choose as priests and their helpers." (Verses
4-7.)
Korah smiled when he heard this. He lacked respect for God, and he felt that he
had bluffed Moses into giving in to the extent that he and his followers could
gain a foothold in wresting power from Moses.

Rebels Challenge Moses
Next morning the crowd of two hundred and fifty, plus Korah, Dathan and Abiram,
appeared before the tabernacle. Every man carried a censer filled with hot coals
to show his readiness to go at once into priestly service. Korah had spread the
word throughout the camps that he was going to challenge Moses, and that there
would be a showdown to free the people from what was wrongfully referred to as
Moses’ unfair leadership. As a result, a growing crowd of curious people built
up behind Korah’s men.
Moses came out to face Korah. With him were Aaron and Aaron’s sons, all of whom
held censers with hot coals. The elders of Israel were also present.
There were minutes of strained silence. God hadn’t told Moses what to do beyond
asking the men to show up with censers. Moses didn’t know what would happen
next, but he was certain that God would somehow make it very clear which group
would be in power from then on.
Suddenly there was a brilliant flash from the tabernacle, followed by a second
and a third. It was plain to most that God was in the tabernacle. (Verse 19.)
Some of them drew back, fearful of what might happen. Even a part of Korah’s
followers appeared to be ready to leave, but Korah told them to stand firm.
Korah had become so rebellious that he actually doubted that God could hinder
him and his men from gaining leadership of Israel, and the blinding display of
light from within the tabernacle didn’t move him from his ambition.
Realizing that God wanted to give them some message, Moses and Aaron stepped
away from the others and approached the tabernacle.
"Remove yourselves and the priests and elders from these people who face you,"
God commanded in a voice that only the two men could hear. "I want you at a safe
distance because I intend to wipe all the others out of existence!" (Verses
20-21.)
Moses shuddered at this alarming remark from God. The Creator had threatened to
do the same thing before, but Moses had begged him not to, and God answered
Moses’ prayer. There was nothing to do now but again ask God to spare the
people. Moses and Aaron bowed down in fervent prayer.
"Look at him!" Korah exclaimed to those about him. "He’s trying again to gain
the sympathy of the people by appearing pious!"
On the contrary, Moses wasn’t concerned at that moment what the people thought.
He was concerned for their lives, and he pleaded with God not to be angry with
many people because of the evil deeds of a few. (Verse 22.)

God Spares the People
"I shall do this much," God said. "I shall spare the congregation if you can
succeed in getting the people back to their homes and away from the tents where
Korah, Dathan and Abiram live. Any who go near the homes of those three men will
risk losing their lives."
Encouraged by this merciful statement from God, Moses sent his officers out to
warn the crowd to break up and return to their tents, and not to go near the
tents of Korah, Abiram and Dathan. Slowly and a bit unwillingly the people
sauntered away.
"You said that God would choose His priests if we would assemble with censers,"
Korah called out to Moses. "You have only proved to the people that you are not
a man of your word, because nothing has happened. Tomorrow we shall return. The
people will think the matter over, and tomorrow they will be ready to back us up
in what should be done about your authority."
"You should remember this in the meantime," Moses replied. "If you live till
tomorrow, then you can know that I will not continue to be the leader of the
Israelites."
This strange remark was ignored by Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who returned to
their respective homes, which were close together on the south side of the
Tabernacle. (Numbers 2:10 and 3:29.) Korah felt that he had made another
successful step, and that it would be only a matter of a day or two before the
mass of Israelites would swing over to his side. As for his two hundred and
fifty followers, they also left and went back to their various camps.
Later, Moses and Aaron and the elders went to make certain that the people were
not congregated around the homes of the three main offenders. They found their
residence free of visitors, which was as God wanted it to be. Moses then warned
them that because they persisted in a scheme to take over the government, God
would cause the ground to open up and swallow them. (Verses 23-30.)
Dathan and Abiram came out of their tents, along with their wives and children,
to hear what more Moses had to say.
"Now he’s trying to threaten us with an earthquake," Dathan scornfully shouted
to Abiram. "Can you think of anything more fantastic?"
"I’ll believe it only when it happens — and maybe not even then," Abiram
shouted back with a grin.

Too Late to Repent!
"We have given these men fair warning," Moses said to those with him. "Perhaps
God would spare them if they would repent, but since they refuse to repent, it’s
obviously too late now. Let us leave here before something dreadful happens."
Almost as soon as their backs were turned there was a growing rumble from within
the Earth. The ground trembled, then heaved upward directly between the tents of
Abiram and Dathan and the tent of Korah, which was close by in another camp!

Chapter 42
"THE EARTH OPENED ITS MOUTH!"
SCREAMING terrorized people of all three families — Korah, Dathan and Abiram —
rushed wildly and aimlessly in all directions. Then the quivering mound of
ground suddenly collapsed and fell back into a deep, yawning chasm! Tons of soil
and rock slipped off the vertical sides of this horrifying hole and thundered
down into dark oblivion, taking people, tents, animals and most everything that
belonged to Korah, Dathan and Abiram. (Numbers 16:31-33 and 26:10.) It was as
though a gigantic mouth had opened in the Earth’s crust for the one purpose of
swallowing the rebellious men and their possessions!

Children Miraculously Escape
The only ones spared in this unusual catastrophe were the children. (Numbers
26:11.) God miraculously saved their lives by causing them to run in the
directions in which they could escape. That way God could keep His promise to
take all the children safely into the Promised Land. (Numbers 14:31 and
Deuteronomy 1:39.)
For a few seconds the ground thrashed and rolled, churning the victims into the
black depths. Then the sides of the pit crashed together with a mighty roar,
dirt and sand spewing high into the sky in a dusty cloud. The pit closed so
firmly and so evenly that there was little evidence left to show that three
homes, their families and all their flocks had peacefully existed there only a
few seconds previously. God had struck with such quick punishment that the
victims were both slain and buried in one devastating event!
This calamity was witnessed by a horde of inquisitive Israelites who madly
scattered in horror from the scene of destruction, fearful that the ground would
open up again and swallow all of them. (Numbers 16:34.) People and tents were
trampled in the chaotic mass stampede to flee from where the Earth had opened
and closed so suddenly.
Among those who fled were the two hundred and fifty men who had followed Korah
and who had brought their censers to see if God would choose them as priests.
There were many among them who had begun to regret going along with Korah. But
when they witnessed the dreadful end of their champion, they were filled with
terror. Most of them fell in with the shocked people streaming away from the
scene of destruction.
Even though they were soon scattered among thousands of others, all two hundred
and fifty men suddenly met death by bolts of fire, shooting down from the sky.
(Verse 35.)
Later, God told Moses that one of Aaron’s sons, Eleazar, should gather up all
the censers carried by those destroyed men because the censers had been
consecrated for priestly service.
"The metals in those censers have been hallowed for service to Me," God
explained. "Save them so that they will be used in forming special plates with
which to cover the altar of burnt offerings. Then let those plates be a reminder
to the people that no one except the descendants of Aaron is to offer incense
before Me. Anyone who does otherwise will be subject to the fate of Korah and
those who followed him with their foolish ambitions." (Verses 36-40; II
Chronicles 26:14-21; and Hebrews 5:4.)
Many of the Israelites who had fled from the scene of terror didn’t stop until
they had reached the bases of the mountains that were not far distant. Most of
them gradually returned to their tents that same night, however, after it seemed
evident that there probably wouldn’t be another horrible opening of the ground.
Nevertheless, there was little sleep that night for many who vividly remembered
the terrible events of that day.

Next Morning …
Next morning, however, the general attitude of the people began to swing back to
that of their usual rebellion. There were still many who wanted to see Moses and
Aaron lose leadership. They spread tales that the earthquake and the sky fire of
the day before were brought about by some kind of terrible magic. They blamed
Moses and Aaron for using the magic to kill all those who had died.
This foolish gossip caught on like fire in a windy field of dry grass. By
afternoon a sullen and growing crowd was milling around close to Moses’ tent.
Moses was dismayed when he came out of his tent and the crowd began to shout.
"You have murdered the people who should have been put in God’s service!" they
chanted. (Numbers 16:41.)
The attitude of the people in the crowd showed that at least part of them
actually doubted that the events of the day before were entirely God’s doing.
Otherwise, they should have feared to make such a strong, untrue accusation. At
first Moses thought that- only those gathered before his tent were blaming him
for what had happened. He was more distressed when his officers began bringing
in reports of people talking accusingly from all parts of the camps.
Moses went back into his tent to confer with Aaron, leaving the shouting crowd
to be handled, if it were possible, by loyal Israelite officers. As soon as
Moses entered his tent the crowd quickly became silent.
"The cloud is covering the tabernacle!" someone outside shouted excitedly. "A
bright light is glowing from inside the tabernacle!" (Verse 42.)
Moses and Aaron knew that this meant that God wanted to talk to them. They
hurried out of the tent, strode swiftly to the tabernacle and prostrated
themselves before the piercing light.
"Get out of this vicinity at once!" God spoke to them. "I intend to snuff out
the lives of all these people because of their sinful attitudes, their ugly
disrespect!"
Moses and Aaron were very fearful for all Israel when they heard these words
from God. On their knees, with their foreheads bowed all the way to the ground,
they begged Him to be merciful and spare the people.
But even while they prayed, an officer rode in from an outlying part of one of
the camps to announce that people were falling dead by the hundreds where he had
just been. The news spread throughout the crowd, which then began to break up.
Those who didn’t hurriedly leave started to moan and groan so loudly that Moses
and Aaron were roused from their praying.
When Moses heard what was happening, he was more fearful than ever. "God has
already started to wipe out Israel with some kind of terrible plague!" he
exclaimed to Aaron. "Perhaps God’s wrath will subside if we humble ourselves by
making a special atonement for the people. Take a censer, get hot coals from the
altar and some incense and hurry out among the stricken people with it!"
Aaron quickly did as Moses commanded. He ran all the way to the camp where the
deaths were taking place, and elbowed his way through knots of excited,
shouting, moaning people who were hurrying in all directions.
"Don’t go near them!" Aaron heard someone shout, and saw a man pointing a
trembling hand at some figures gasping on the ground. "They have some awful
disease that is causing them to suddenly choke to death! It’s spreading to other
people!" (Verses 43-46.)
Aaron quickly scanned the scene of horror before him. People were strewn
everywhere. Some were motionless. Others were tossing and struggling, clawing
feverishly at their own throats. Most of those attempting to flee from the dying
masses were stumbling to the ground, only minutes later to fall victims to the
mysterious force that was causing people’s throats to tighten shut.

Aaron’s Prayer of Faith
Realizing that God was dealing with these people, Aaron stepped into the area
between the dead and those who fled. He held his censer up and sprinkled incense
on the glowing coals. As the perfumed smoke drifted upward, he uttered in deep
sincerity a prayer for God to forgive the Israelites and stop the plague.
All around him people were stumbling down, overcome by the throat-clutching
plague. But when Aaron finished praying and looked about, he saw that none of
those fleeing were falling to the ground. They were leaving the dead far behind.
It was plain to Aaron that God was allowing the people to escape, and that meant
that the plague was stopped! (Verses 47-48.)
As a result of the faith of Moses and Aaron, God had decided at the last moment
to spare the people. If Moses and Aaron hadn’t earnestly prayed to Him, the
whole history of Israel and the world would have been altered!
This is one of the outstanding examples of all time of how answered prayer can
change the course of history. There have been many other times — more than most
people realize. God is always ready to listen to the appeals of those who
faithfully obey Him.
However, God is not what some might term a soft-hearted push-over. There is more
love and mercy in His character than human beings can understand, but that mercy
is tempered by judgment and justice. God’s mercy extends in much greater measure
than we can imagine to those who are willing to let God rule them. But He does
punish the wicked for their own ultimate good.
Once again a great number of Israelites were sobered by their close brush with
death, though far from all of them realized just how near they had come to being
completely wiped out.
It was no small task to remove the victims of the short-lived plague. 14,700
bodies were taken from the camp and buried at a distance in the wilderness sand.
This figure did not include any who were taken because of the rebellion of Korah
and his supporters. (Verses 49-50.)
All this loss of life had come about mostly because of the greedy desire of
ambitious men to take over the high offices of the nation. Although God had
performed astounding miracles to show that the wrong people wouldn’t be allowed
in the priesthood, there were still men who coveted those high positions, and
many more who were yet to be convinced that the Levites weren’t to be replaced
by others outside their tribe.

One More Miracle
God wanted to settle this issue once and for all, by performing one more miracle
in which a few leaders would have a part. He was now going to convince the last
of the doubters.
Carrying out instructions from God, Moses commanded each of the twelve tribal
princes to bring him the official staff or rod of his respective tribe. These
rods had been in the various families a long time. They had been fashioned from
straight tree limbs that had become hard, seasoned and polished. The rod for the
tribe of Levi was the one used by Moses in Egypt to perform miracles. It was
later presented to Aaron.
On each of the rods was inscribed the name of the prince of the tribe to which
it belonged. Aaron’s name was inscribed on his staff for the tribe of Levi. In
the presence of the princes Moses took all the rods and placed them in the
tabernacle close to the ark. (Numbers 17:1-7.)
"Tomorrow I shall go back after the rods," Moses told the leaders and the crowd
behind them. "One of those rods, even though they are actually nothing but hard,
dry sticks, will tomorrow be budded out as though it were a green branch. The
rod that is budded will indicate in which tribe the priesthood will exist from
now on!"
There were smiles and expressions of doubt on all the faces except Aaron’s. The
tabernacle was guarded all that night. Next morning when Moses brought the rods
out of the tabernacle for inspection, those expressions of doubt turned to that
of amazement.
All the rods were the same as when they had been put in the tabernacle the day
before; that is, except the staff with Aaron’s name on it representing the tribe
of Levi. It was studded with live limbs ending in tender buds, green leaves,
reddish blossoms and even a few almonds ready to pick! (Verses 8-9.)
"Now deny the evidence that God wants the priesthood to remain only in the tribe
of Levi!" Moses told the astonished leaders. Heads nodded in silent agreement as
the crowd broke up. At God’s command, Moses put Aaron’s rod back in the ark of
the covenant as a stern reminder to would-be rebels. From that time on there
were no more great efforts to take over the priesthood. (Verses 10-11 and
Hebrews 9:4.)
The people were so impressed by this latest miracle that they told Moses they
finally realized that they didn’t dare go anywhere near the tabernacle in an
effort to get the priesthood because God would slay them all if they did.
(Numbers 17:12-13.)

 

Chapter 43

GOD SPOKE to Aaron once again during those trying thirty-eight years of wandering. This time it was to remind him of several very important matters. One was the subject of tithing.

God Explains Tithing A tithe is a tenth part of anything, especially the tenth of one’s increase, whether it be in wage income, livestock or crops. A tenth part of anyone’s increase belongs to God. God uses it for His work. In Old Testament times the Levites did His physical work. So God paid them for their work by His tithes. This tithe, which is actually God’s, became the only inheritance of the Levites, inasmuch as they were not to own farming land on which to earn an income. They were to live and carry on God’s work with this tenth, and in turn were to tithe what they received from God by paying a tenth to Aaron’s family, which held the high priesthood. (Numbers 18:8-32.) This was the simple but effective system God gave to the Israelites for financing God’s physical work and all things that had to do with the tabernacle. Today the tithe still belongs to God and He uses it for His work today — the preaching of the gospel. This doesn’t mean that present-day organizations falsely calling themselves Christian are to receive God’s tithes. They are not connected with God or the true Church. God’s spiritual work of preaching the gospel has replaced the physical duties of the Levites and tithes are to go only to those who represent it. Ordinarily it would be a simple matter to figure what a tenth of money wages would be. But some might wonder how one whose increase was only a sheep would give a tenth of a sheep, or how one who had only a small garden would give a tenth of his crop. The answer is that today the value of the sheep is determined and a tithe or tenth of the value of the sheep is paid to God.

Tithing Is for Our Good So often, when the subject of tithing is brought up in these times, the same remark is heard: "If I gave a tenth of my income, my family would starve!" People who carelessly make this remark do not realize that just the opposite is true. Perhaps most people don’t realize or appreciate that everything they think they possess is not really theirs. It is God’s. God merely allows them to use or enjoy it for a while. When we stop to consider this fact, isn’t it plain that the Creator is quite generous in requiring that we turn back only a tenth for financing His work? The tithing law was not instituted for God’s benefit. He owns the world and everything in it. (Psalms 24:1 and 50:10.) God gave the tithing law for our good. Our responsibility for handling some of God’s money as His stewards helps us to learn to love others and enjoy GIVING. This develops in us God’s type of character and trains us for eternal life’s true riches. (Luke 16:1-11.) To add to His generosity, God has made a sacred promise that He will increase our material wealth if only we are faithful in paying Him what we owe. (Malachi 3:10-11.) Can you imagine one person telling another that if he will pay what he owes that the creditor will see to it that the debtor will receive a large financial reward? That’s what God has told us, in so many words. Where can one find a better deal than that? What it all amounts to is that NO ONE CAN AFFORD NOT TO TITHE! God has told us that if we don’t tithe we are robbing Him. If we are robbing God — and millions of people are doing just that today — we can have no part in the financial blessing that God has decreed for those who are faithful in tithes. This doesn’t mean that others may not temporarily prosper who want to have no part of God and His laws. God is allowing many of them to have the good things only in this life — the only life some of them will ever have. Surely no wise person would want to be in the position of such people. It is far better to prosper in this life by God’s special blessing — PLUS living forever by the gift of eternal life in surroundings and circumstances that would show worldly millionaires’ lives to be dull and miserable!

Have you ever noticed that some religious organizations that don’t believe in obeying God are often in such desperate need that they are forced to promote the principle of tithing? They use all sorts of arguments and ideas as to why people should tithe’ but why they don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments. In most cases these arguments carefully avoid any mention of tithe as referred to in the Old Testament. There is seldom any reference to the reason why God established the tithe and when. That is because there is an increasing disbelief in the Old Testament. Yet they need money — and that is why they claim to teach tithing. God is the Author of tithing. It began long before the time of Moses. Abraham and Jacob paid tithes long before Moses’ time. (Genesis 14:1820; Hebrews 7:4-10; Genesis 28:20-22.) Many people who believe in giving a tenth of their increase make a practice of giving it to their favorite charities or needy families. Giving to those in need is good, but that first tenth is to go to no one except God. (Malachi 3:10.) The only way that is possible is to give it to the true representatives of God — those who are in God’s service in His work.

On to Canaan The next thirty-eight years after the Exodus were spent by the Israelites in wandering aimlessly and often miserably from place to place in the desert regions of the Sinai peninsula west of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Gulf of Aqaba is a finger of the Red Sea bordering the east side of the peninsula. There is little record in the Bible pertaining to where they camped and what they did throughout most of this time until more than a generation later — when they started back to the northeast on the same route they had taken right after they left Egypt. During those thirty-eight years people died by thousands and thousands. A whole new nation had grown up. During these thirty-eight years God was causing the deaths of all those men who complained when the scouts returned from searching Canaan. Only their children would be permitted to cross over Jordan into the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 1:35-39.) Several generations of livestock had long since died. Not all the older people had died since the Israelites had set out in their aimless wanderings, however. Some still living were Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Caleb and Joshua. Once more, after a lapse of nearly four decades, the tremendous caravan of millions moved up to the city of Kadesh from which the twelve scouts had been sent north to get a good look at Canaan. It must have been a sobering thought to the people that they were still no nearer Canaan after plodding about for over thirty-eight years and looping around and around over the same country for thousands of miles. But they couldn’t rightly blame God for their misfortune. If they and those who had gone before had obeyed Him, they would have arrived in safety and prosperity in Canaan almost four decades sooner. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, died right after Israel encamped at Kadesh the second time. (Numbers 20:1.) She was about one hundred and thirty years of age at her death. When Israel had stayed at Kadesh the first time, there was plenty of water. Conditions changed in thirty-eight years, however. Some of the springs had dried up. Others couldn’t produce enough water to continue to provide for the vast needs of the Israelites and their livestock.

Israelites Complain Again! Shortly after Miriam’s death the water shortage became so serious that a loud, complaining crowd gathered around the tents of Moses and Aaron. "We want water! We want water! We want water!" they chanted over and over for hours. (Numbers 20:2.) Moses and Aaron were accustomed to this sort of childish mob treatment. They hoped that the noisy crowd would tire and break up, but the situation grew worse. Fearing that violence might result, Moses asked Aaron to appear with him before the crowd. When the people saw the two leaders standing before Moses’ tent, they broke into such a loud roar of discontent that Moses couldn’t make himself heard when he tried to address them. The roar finally died down, only to give way to loud accusations from leaders of the mob. "Why have you dragged us here to die along with our livestock?" one man screamed. "We would have been spared great misery if we had died with our brethren who died in God’s plagues years ago!" "What is your reason," someone else yelled, "for stopping in this rocky, sandy waste where no grass nor vines nor trees grow, and where there is only enough water to make death more painful and lingering?" (Verses 3-5.) The crowd was angrier than Moses had realized. Officers hovered around to quell any outbreak of violence, but it was plain that the officers wouldn’t have been capable of managing the crowd if it were to break out in a rampage. There was only one thing to do. Moses seized Aaron’s arm and accompanied by loud jeers and hoots from the crowd, the two of them hurried to the tabernacle. As soon as they entered the sacred tent, a light came from the inner room. It became brighter and brighter as -Moses and Aaron bowed with their faces to the ground and made their problem known to God. (Verse 6.) "Take the rod from here in the tabernacle and go with Aaron out to that high rock that is close to the camps," God told Moses. "Call for the people to gather there to witness what will happen. Then SPEAK to the rock, commanding it in My Name to give forth water. After you have done this, plenty of water will come out of the rock. There will be more than enough to take care of the needs of all the people and their animals." (Verses 7-8.) Moses took the rod — the one that had budded out to show that Aaron’s family should retain the priesthood — and set out with Aaron. It wasn’t difficult to attract a crowd. The murmuring mob was still milling about. It noisily followed Moses and Aaron, who were surrounded by a number of officers as they strode off to a certain tall rock that jutted up out of the sand close to the Israelites’ camp. "I have become weary of this mob foolishness over the years," Moses remarked to Aaron. "Again the people have gone too far with their threats and demonstrations. It is time we show them again what great power can come through us!" "I agree," Aaron answered, glancing uneasily at the mob that was closing clamorously in on them. "It would be wise to use the power through the rod more often to cause these troublemakers to have more respect for us." This was a wrong attitude on the part of Moses and Aaron. They should have been more concerned with showing GOD’S power and causing the crowd to respect HIM. Both men had been under more strain than usual because of the death of their sister and more complaints than usual from the people. As leaders, however, they were expected by God to exercise great control and wisdom under all circumstances. This wrong attitude continued when Moses, standing with Aaron atop the rock God had indicated, looked down with disgust on the shouting crowd. He hoisted the famous rod as high as he could hold it until the people’s shouting and shrieking died down.

Moses Loses His Temper "Listen to me, you rebels!" Moses shouted. "You have been whining and complaining about a shortage of water. Why do you complain when you know we have the power to give you water? Don’t you know that we can cause this rock to open up and spew out all the water you need?" (Verse 10.) The crowd became completely silent. Thousands upon thousands of eyes were focused on Moses as he stood there on the rock, plainly etched against the bright sky. The Israelite leader was in an increasingly bad mood as he thought of all the insolence and disobedience he had struggled with through the years. Now he harbored a strong desire to once and for all stop their complaining by proving to them that he could, with the rod, perform any kind of miracle. God had told Moses this time to speak to the rock, commanding it, through the power of the Creator, to give forth water. But instead of speaking to the rock, Moses spoke unadvisedly and in anger to the people. (Psalm 106:32-33.) "You are only a howling mob undeserving of water!" Moses cried out. "Nevertheless, you shall receive it, if only to remind you that your demonstrations are childish!" God had not instructed Moses to use the rod to strike the rock. It was to be carried by Moses and Aaron as a symbol of their Levitical authority in using God’s tremendous power. But Moses drew the rod back over his head and brought it down sharply on the rock. The crowd gazed in expectant silence as long moments passed. No water came out of the rock.

Chapter 44 THE TROUBLESOME ROAD TO CANAAN

WHEN Moses struck the rock at Kadesh and no water came out, painful moments passed. Some of the people began to hoot and jeer. Moses and Aaron glanced nervously at each other. Vexed and impatient, Moses did the very next thing that came to his mind. He lifted the rod and again whacked it down on the rock with even greater force. The crowd went silent, waiting for something to happen. Moses was almost crushed by a heavy feeling of embarrassment because no water was forthcoming from the rock. In-his strong feeling against the mob, he had either forgotten or ignored the instructions God had given him. He had chosen his own way, and now he seemed to be unable to make good his boast that he had power to supply water to all those Israelites.

God Brings Water "If water doesn’t come out of this rock after what you’ve promised," Aaron shakily remarked to Moses, "the people will be so angry that they’ll probably go completely out of control. If a miracle doesn’t occur within the next minute or two, there’ll be plenty of trouble!" Moses knew Aaron was right. In his unhappy situation all he could think to do was strike the rock a third time. Before, he could do so, however, the boulder shook as though an explosion had taken place within it. Moses, Aaron and the few officers standing farther back on the rock were all but thrown off their feet. When they recovered their balance, they realized that a strong stream of clear water was noisily gushing from the base of the boulder below them! (Numbers 20:7-11.) A tremendous shout came from the crowd. People rushed toward the rock to dip into the cool water, but were forced back as it surged speedily forth to spread into a swift stream that coursed toward the camps of the Israelites. Even before the stream had flowed into a definite course and had- lost its muddiness, people and livestock thronged to it to get their fill. Then started the task of filling millions of pots, jars and goatskin bags with the precious fluid. Moses and Aaron were greatly relieved to see the life-giving water flowing from the rock. Another crisis had passed. One more rough spot had been smoothed out. Nevertheless, Moses knew that all was far from right. Now that water had come to the people, he had a gnawing feeling of guilt. "We should return to the tabernacle to thank God," Moses muttered uneasily to Aaron. At the tabernacle God’s voice spoke out in such an angry tone that Moses and Aaron trembled as they bowed their heads to the ground.

God’s Just Punishment "You have failed to act with wisdom," God told them. "You, Moses, let your temper get the better of you in front of the people. Then, instead of SPEAKING to the rock as you were instructed, you struck it. In fact, you struck it TWICE, as though it were necessary to keep on flogging it in order for something to happen. You also gave the people the impression that it was through your power and not Mine, that a miracle would produce water. And you, Aaron, spoke and acted in agreement with your brother’s wrong attitude. "Because you have acted with such independence, and have tried to take credit for a miracle that only your Creator could perform, you have failed to honor Me before the people. Therefore neither of you shall be permitted to reach Canaan with your people!" (Numbers 20:12-13, 23-24 and Numbers 27:12-14.) Moses and Aaron remained kneeling in stunned, painful silence. This pronouncement from God felt like a sudden death sentence! It meant that they would not be allowed to enter the promised land for which they had been striving for so many years. Moses and Aaron repented of what they had done. God forgave them. But that did not mean God would remove the penalty in this life. Some sins we still must suffer from even though God has forgiven us. A few minutes later, when they were certain that God had nothing more to say on the matter, they got up and trudged off to their tents. It was plain to them that God had no favorites, and that He would punish the disobedient in high offices no less than He would punish the disobedient of the lowest rank. A fact worth remembering is that the more one is educated and trained in God’s service, the more God requires of that person.

Moses and Aaron Repent Even though Moses and Aaron were denied the privilege of entering Canaan with their people, they repented and will undoubtedly reach a much richer promised land — that of the future. When Christ comes to rule the world only a few years from the time this is written, those resurrected for service under Christ will surely include Moses and Aaron. Whatever Moses and Aaron thought about their future, their duties still existed. Aaron faithfully continued as high priest. Moses had to make daily decisions as usual. The greatest decision while the people were in Kadesh was how the Israelites should proceed toward Canaan from that point. There was more than one route to Canaan from Kadesh. One way had been attempted almost four decades earlier by many of the Israelites when they had been set upon by Amalekites and Canaanites, and when so many Israelites had lost their lives. Another way was to cross eastward over the Mt. Seir range of mountains and then proceed north. Or the traveler could proceed north or south around Edom to the king’s highway. This great highway was a major road leading up east of the Dead Sea. It had been constructed across swamps and deserts and mountains hundred of years previously by local governments, and had since been used and kept in fair condition as a route for armies and merchant caravans. Moses already knew God would not lead Israel by the way where so many had been slaughtered years before, even though it was the most direct route. Even though it was a longer route, Moses recognized it would be to the advantage of the Israelites to travel on the king’s highway through the land of Edom. Once they were through Edom and Moab, they could enter Canaan by turning westward.

Opposition from Edom Realizing that it was necessary to receive permission to pass through the nation, Moses sent messengers to the ruler of Edom. The letter carried by the messengers pointed out that the Israelites, as cousins of the people of the Arabian desert, had struggled through many years of hardships in their efforts to come out of Egypt, and that they would like to be regarded as friendly relatives passing through the territory of the Edomites. "Please let us pass through your country," Moses continued in the letter. "We promise not to tramp through your fields nor through your vineyards. We won’t use even your water. Our desire is simply to reach the king’s highway and proceed northward." (Numbers 20:14-17.) The Israelite messengers returned only a few hours later with word from the ruler of Edom. "The Edomite king told us to tell you," the messengers reported to Moses, "that if we go through his land his army will attack!" (Verse 18.) Moses was disappointed. He certainly hadn’t expected such a hostile reply. "Perhaps the Edomites don’t believe that we won’t use their water," Aaron suggested. "They might agree to our moving through their land if we would offer to pay for any water we should use." "The idea is worth trying," Moses remarked after pondering a few moments. Later, another set of Israelite messengers returned from Edom with an answer to Moses’ second request. "The king wants you to know," the men reported to Moses, "that our people can’t come through his land under any circumstances. He said that while he is king two million strange people and their animals won’t go stamping across Edom." Moses was again disappointed. He had hoped that his second appeal to the ruler of Edom would result in success. Before he could express his thoughts, however, an officer arrived to excitedly announce that Edomite troops were approaching from the north. (Verses 19-20.) Right after the messengers returned, one of Moses’ officers shouted to look back to the northeast. Moses and those about him turned to see a vast line of figures silhouetted against the sky atop the ridge in the area where the pass trail led into Edom and toward the king’s highway. Sunlight reflected in strong glints from those distant figures indicated that they had swords, spears and armor. The Edomite army had arrived!

A Narrow Escape "Sound the signal to break camp!" Moses ordered. "Tell the people to be ready to leave in order within the hour. Warn the men to prepare themselves for a possible attack!" There was sudden action among the Israelites. The same scene, strangely, had been enacted by them or their ancestors almost two generations before when a part of them had tried to get into Canaan against God’s will. Now, however, they were not divided, and they worked faster than before to get ready to leave. Once again the more than two millions of people and their flocks and herds moved on the trail that led into the desert valley called the Arabah. Whether the Edomites planned to attack or whether they intended only to protect their borders is something we probably won’t learn until God makes it known in the future when He will undoubtedly reveal all the facts of the past history of man. In any event, the tribes of Israel managed to leave the border in time to avoid any trouble with the army of the king of Edom. The first stopping point was at Mt. Hor, a high peak of the Seir range. There God gave a special message to Moses and Aaron. He instructed them to come up to the top of the mountain. Aaron was to dress in his priestly robes and was to bring one of his sons, Eleazar. (Numbers 20:22-25.) The people quickly sensed that some special event was to take place on the mountain, and many of them watched the three men ascend the sandstone mountain to its height of six thousand feet.

Aaron Dies on Mount Hor After the three arrived atop Mt. Hor, Aaron gazed silently down on the Israelite camp he knew he would never join again. Looking upward, he could see to the west a part of the mountains and deserts through which the people had struggled. He turned his gaze to the northwest, but could not quite see the promised land just over a range of mountains. Regretfully he remembered God’s pronouncement that he and Moses would not go into that promised land because of their wrong attitude when they sought to bring water to the people out of a rock. He realized that he had come to the end of his life. According to God’s instructions, Moses removed the priestly attire from Aaron and put it on Aaron’s son Eleazar. As soon as this was done and Eleazar was anointed into Aaron’s office, Aaron sat down, leaned back on a ledge and closed his eyes. It was at that moment that he drew his last breath. There was nothing to be done to prevent him from the peaceful and painless death that came to one of God’s servants at the age of one hundred and twenty-three years. (Verses 2728; Numbers 33:37-39.) There was great mourning among the Israelites when they learned of Aaron’s death and burial. The mourning continued for thirty days — the length of time spent in expressing grief in those days — because of the passing of a person of high rank. (Numbers 20:29.)

Under Attack Again Meanwhile, a Canaanite king whose small domain included an area of south Canaan heard that the Israelites were about to invade his territory to the northwest of the Mt. Hor region. This king felt that it was wiser to attack than to be attacked. Not to be outdone, he sent mounted troops to the south to rush in on the camps of the Israelites. So swift was the attack that some of the Israelites were whisked away as prisoners before anything could be done. The Israelites were so upset by what had taken place that they made vows to God that they would wipe out the towns from which the attackers had come if only God would help them. God quickly answered their pleas and Israel proceeded safely northward in the Arabah. (Numbers 21:1-3.) After leaving the Mt. Hor area and defeating the Canaanites, the Israelites continued through the valley of the Arabah. This route was called the way of the Red Sea because it led to the gulf of Aqaba. Traveling through this huge desert cradle was difficult because of the heat and the arid conditions. A number of people began to complain, especially because of the manna, which they disliked because of their bad attitude. Their state of mind was like a contagious disease. It spread so swiftly that it was only a matter of hours before a pounding wave of discontent disrupted the camps. (Verses 4-5.) As usual, the head complainers organized throngs to gather before Moses’ tent with their loud and childish demonstrations. Their remarks were so profane against Moses and against God that God was angrily moved at once to punish the offenders. Even as noisy crowds shouted against their Creator, screams of pain and terror began to rise from all parts of the camp. Thousands of snakes were suddenly wriggling into the tents, angrily biting the people on the feet and legs, injecting a death-dealing poison that would quickly mean the end of life for their victims! (Verse 6.)

Chapter 45 WAR WITH THE AMORITES

IT WAS at Punon in the Arabah, south of the Dead Sea, that the invasion of snakes into the camps of the Israelites occurred. At first they caused more terror than pain. It wasn’t long, however, before those who were bitten became very feverish and ill. Their bodies became inflamed and swollen. Agonizing death soon followed. The number of victims grew swiftly as the hours passed, and Israel began to understand that it was possible that all the people could be wiped out by a horde of poisonous snakes! (Numbers 21:4-6.)

Israelites Repent Frantic, worried Israelites gathered in a sombre crowd before Moses’ tent. This time they didn’t yell and chant and scream insults at their leader. This time they came to humbly plead with Moses for his help. "We are sorry about the wrong things we said about you and the complaints we made against manna," a spokesman from the crowd anxiously told Moses. "Would you please ask God to forgive us and take away these terrible snakes?" Even as Moses was being addressed there was a loud and violent commotion in the crowd. Snakes had slithered in among the assembled people, and many of them were bitten. Moses was convinced that most of those who had complained and had made spiteful remarks against God and against him were truly regretful of what they had done. He went at once to the tabernacle to entreat God to have mercy on the people and spare them from the poisonous bites of the serpents. (Verse 7.) "Instruct your best craftsmen to mold a brass serpent that looks like the type of serpent that is plaguing the people," God told Moses. "Have them mount it on a long pole, and erect the pole in the center of the camps as a sign of My healing power. Then tell the people that any who have been bitten will be healed and spared from death simply by gazing on the brazen serpent." (Verses 8-9.) Moses hastily obeyed, and very soon the metal snake was raised on a pole close to the tabernacle and the people told what it was for. Throngs of suffering victims gathered to peer at the brass serpent. Before God’s orders could be carried out, however, thousands more had been bitten by snakes in the surrounding dry, rocky areas. This resulted in an increasing crowd of frantic, sick and groaning people to gather within sight of the brass snake. Thousands had died before it was made, but all those who lived long enough to view the snake on the pole were healed. God caused the poisonous serpents to depart from the area in which the Israelites were camped. The plague was ended because the offenders regretted what they had done and because of Moses’ prayer to God. The removal of the serpent plague was entirely a matter of repentance, prayer, obedience, and faith. The serpent on the pole represented the penalty of sin being taken away. It reminded the Israelites of a coming Savior who would be beaten and then crucified on a pole to pay for the sins of the world. (John 3:14-15.) However, in later times the people of Judah began to worship that serpent until righteous King Hezekiah destroyed it, reminding the people it was only a piece of brass with no power. (II Kings 18:4-5.) After the serpent plague, the Israelites continued to move by the route called the Way of the Red Sea, finally passing around Mt. Seir to the northeast of Edom. They then proceeded along a small river called Zared or Zered. Here was plenty of fresh, clear water supplied by spring rains in the mountains to the east in Edom. The stream flowed westward into the south end of the Dead Sea. Here Israel was at the northern border of Edom and the southern border of Moab, a nation extending about halfway up the east side of the Dead Sea. After crossing the Zared River, the Israelites had no more to fear from the Edomites. Their next important campsite was just beyond another mountain stream about thirty miles to the north. Arnon River, like Zared River, was a small stream in the dry season. In fact, it was possible in extremely dry seasons for it to dry up almost entirely where it flowed into the Dead Sea, but in the area where Israel passed over, there was sufficient water, fresh from the mountain springs that fed it, to take care of the Israelites’ needs. The Arnon River was the north border of the land of the Moabites and the south border of people to the north called Amorites. (Numbers 21:10-13.) From there the Israelites continued northward. At one area, where they were short of water, God told Moses where the people could find water. They dug down a few feet and found plenty of water for the millions of people and their vast herds and flocks. The people were so thankful for this needed supply of clear, cool water that they expressed their thanks to God through a great concert of voices and musical instruments. (Verses 14-18.) Moses felt that Israel shouldn’t progress very far into Amorite country without permission. Already the caravan was headed along the edge of the high plain country just east of the Abarim mountains, and was running the risk of encountering Amorite soldiers. Moses knew who the Amorite ruler was, and which city was the capital. He sent messengers to the king, whose name was Sihon, to ask for passage through his country. Moses assured him that no wells nor fields nor orchards would be touched by the Israelites, but that if the Amorites wished to sell them food or water, Israel would be pleased to pay whatever price was asked. (Verses 21-22; Deuteronomy 2:26-29.)

An Enemy Appears When king Sihon learned that millions of people and animals were intending to pass through his little nation, he became quite excited. He sent the Israelite messengers back at once with the blunt reply that Israel would not be allowed to pass through the land under any circumstances. (Numbers 21:23; Deuteronomy 2:30.) Moses was discouraged when he received the message. If the Amorite king could successfully block Israel from going farther north, it would mean that the giant caravan would almost certainly have to turn westward and somehow cross the Jordan River. Moses realized that the Amorite king probably wouldn’t be satisfied by merely refusing passage to Israel. It was more likely that he would take advantage of this opportunity to attack the Israelites for the purpose of taking their possessions. "I shall help you win the battles to come in this land," God told Moses. "Furthermore, I shall wipe out the wicked nations occupying this territory, and Israel shall be the sword by which it will be done!" (Deuteronomy 2:24-25, 31-32.) Within only a few hours after the Israelite messengers had returned from king Sihon, a heavy force of armed men appeared on the north. The hidden Israelite soldiers waited until the oncoming enemy was well up on the ridges behind which the Israelites waited. Then they leaped out and fell on the Amorites in wave after wave of men with such sudden and surprising force that all the attackers, including king Sihon, were either slaughtered or put to flight. After this encounter, Moses was certain that the best of Sihon’s army had been wiped out. Nevertheless, he directed the Israelites to quickly break camp and move swiftly toward the cities of the Amorites before their occupants could group themselves for defense. The Israelite soldiers reached the main Amorite city of Heshbon, only a few miles distant, to find that it was almost defenseless. They moved quickly in to slaughter all the people, including the family of king Sihon.

God Renders Justice From then on the Israelites moved swiftly over the land to take over every city and town, slay the people and seize the animals and any other valuable things that could be taken with them. Within only a few days they became the conquerors and destroyers of this small nation. (Numbers 21:24-26; Deuteronomy 2:33-36.) Many wonder why God had Israel to wipe out certain nations. The reason is that they were so miserably sinful that they would be better off dead. In Abraham’s time, their iniquity had not reached such a peak. (Genesis 15:16.) By the time the Israelites arrived, however, God said the Amorites should no longer live. This does not mean they are eternally lost. They, like the people of Nineveh, Sodom, Gomorrah, and all the world, will come up in a judgment period, at the second resurrection, after the 1,000 years, and will have an opportunity for salvation. (Matthew 12:41-42; Mark 6:11; Revelation 20:11-13.) For a while, after conquering the Amorites, the Israelites rested in the conquered land, then continued to move northward. In spite of the fact that they had gained a quick reputation for tremendous strength in battle, a king of the region northeast of the Dead Sea came out with his army to attack them. His name was Og, and he was a man of gigantic stature — probably nearly twelve feet in height. The Bible mentions that the bed in his palace was about eighteen feet long and eight feet wide. (Deuteronomy 3:11.) Og was one of the last of the strain of giants of eastern Canaan. Some of his soldiers were also very large, and they presented a frightening sight as they charged against Israel. "Tell your soldiers not to be afraid of these fierce-looking men," God had told Moses. "Remind them that the soldiers of Israel cannot fail because I am with them to help destroy their enemies." (Numbers 21:3334; Deuteronomy 3:1-2.)

Victory Given by God Og’s forces were vicious, brutal, bloodthirsty men lusting for the opportunity to kill. The Israelite soldiers were almost the opposite, but when they closed with the enemy, a strange thing happened. The attacking giants suddenly seemed to lose their desire for battle. They cringed, ducked, dodged and attempted to turn and run. They suddenly seemed to sense that they were in for certain defeat. This abrupt cowardice by the enemy made it possible for the Israelite soldiers to swarm over Og’s soldiers in a crushing tide of death. Only minutes later Og and his blustering military men were things of the past. Again Moses directed his soldiers to move swiftly about the nation to try to take Og’s cities in the manner of taking the cities of the Amorites. It turned out that most of Og’s forces had gone into the attack. Every city was lightly guarded by small numbers of soldiers, but many of these cities were surrounded by high walls in which there were strong, heavily barred gates. Using knotted ropes thrown up and looped over the wall spikes, the Israelite soldiers swarmed over the walls and overcame the few fighting men who resisted. Then they unbarred the gates and flooded into the cities to slay all the people that were there. Only flocks and herds were spared, and these were taken, along with food, gold, silver, jewelry and whatever wealth the Israelites found and wanted. Sixty cities were taken. These centers of habitation weren’t mere villages surrounded by thin, short walls. They were fairly large centers of population whose well-built stone buildings and streets were large and wide. Solid stone walls were as much as eighteen inches thick, and were constructed of rock of that region almost as hard as iron. (Numbers 21:35; Deuteronomy 3:3-11.) So many well-equipped, strongly constructed places of living wouldn’t ordinarily be found in a small country — much of it semi-arid, though fertile — so far from rivers or oceans or major highways. Some scholars used to think the Bible account of these cities was a work of some writer’s imagination. Nevertheless, those cities did exist. Many of their ruins still clutter the plains of Moab and Ammon (ancient Moab and Ammon extended far to the north of what was Moab at that time) and the land east of the Jordan River up to the Mt. Hermon range. Besides these sixty solidly fortified cities,-Israel also took over many centers of habitation that weren’t protected by walls. That region was far more populated than the Israelites had expected. Unless God had willed that Israel should have His aid in the task of taking over these lands and their spoils, the Israelites would have been utterly wiped out by the military-minded occupants. With God as their champion, it required only a few days for the Israelites to sweep over the land east of the Jordan. The soldiers of Israel were even more surprised at what they had done than were those who were their victims. Armed forces of the past had never dealt such swift and deadly destruction against such strong armies and so many well-fortified cities. It was a miracle that impressed at least a part of Israel more than certain miracles God had brought about at other times. At this point a question will probably come up in the minds of some readers when they read of the Israelite soldiers slaying the women and children of enemy nations. It would be natural to conclude that all this slaughtering of human beings was nothing less than a mass disregard for the Sixth Commandment, which plainly states that we should not kill. God is neither fiendish nor unjust. He has referred to Himself as the potter and human beings as the clay. The potter decides how to use the clay and what part of it is to be discarded. God chose to get rid of the wicked, idol-worshipping nations east of the Jordan because they were so awfully sinful that they could not possibly live normal, happy lives. Besides, the land was not theirs anyway. He could have wiped them out with plagues or earthquakes. But since Israelites, too, had sinned, God chose to let Israel experience the consequence of sin. So He chose to do it through Israel as His instruments. Who should question why the One with infinite wisdom chooses to do something? God has told us that we shouldn’t murder. Many centuries after Israel entered Canaan, Christ explained that law in more detail by explaining that even the desire to murder meant breaking the intent of the Sixth Commandment. In the case of the destruction of Israel’s enemies, God told Israel to slay them. It was a matter of obedience, just as it was when the Levites slew worshippers of the golden calf. As Author of all spiritual and physical laws, God is the only One who has wisdom to decide when a person or nation is sinful enough that death is a blessing. After conquering the Amorites, Israel’s tribes gathered together and encamped for several weeks of peace in an area a few miles northwest of Heshbon, the former Amorite capital.

Moab Plots Against Israelites Meanwhile, news of what had happened swiftly spread to the surrounding nations, whose rulers were somewhat shaken to learn that such a powerful army had suddenly emerged from the south. Probably the most worried ruler was Balak, king of Moab. He hadn’t realized, when Israel had quietly passed along his nation’s east border, that these people possessed such a great military force. Balak feared that Israel would turn back southward and swallow up Moab as it had done to the land of the Amorites. After much meditation and scheming, he decided that there was only one way of certain security. That was to hire some professional wizard to pronounce a curse on Israel!

Chapter 46 KING’S RANSOM TEMPTS A PROPHET

TOWARD the ancient land of Mesopotamia, by the upper Euphrates valley, lived a prophet named Balaam. This man was known in many areas as one who had such a special gift of prophecy that he could pronounce wonderful blessings and great curses on people — pronouncements that seemed to be amazingly inspired. He knew about God, but was a tool of the devil. He was a high priest of the pagan religion of that land. Balaam always wanted to see how far God would let him have his own way.

A King’s Evil Design Balak, the heathen king of Moab, had heard that Balaam had the power, through God, to bless people, and to curse them. Such a power, he thought, might be much greater than that of any wizard or enchanter who worked through spells and magic and strange mixtures. "If this man Balaam could be hired to pronounce a curse on all of this upstart nation of Israel," Balak told his officers, "those trespassing people might be so crippled that we could drive them out or even destroy them. We must try every possible means to keep those Israelites away, and therefore I want Balaam to be brought here." (Numbers 22:1-6.) The king immediately sent several of his princes eastward into Midian, where they were joined by Midianite princes. The caravan then moved on northward to the city of Pethor where Balaam lived. When Balaam was told by these men of high rank why they had come to him, he felt very honored but quite uneasy. "I am a prophet of the most high God," Balaam slyly said. "If it pleases God to inspire me to pronounce curses and blessings, so be it. But I cannot curse whom He would bless." "Perhaps you should make certain what you are allowed to do before you give us a final answer," one of the Moabite officers said. "We haven’t come here to ask you to do something without a proper reward." The officer clapped his hands, and in came two servants almost staggering under the weight of a metal-strapped box. The lid was lifted, disclosing a huge amount of pieces of silver and gold. Balaam’s eyes widened at sight of this unexpected display of wealth. Nothing more was said, but Balaam knew that this fortune would be his if he would accompany the princes back to Moab and pronounce a curse on Israel. He began to hope that God would allow him to reap those riches. In his heart this wicked man began to covet the reward passionately. "I certainly must consult God about this matter, " Balaam finally spoke up after an awkward silence. "I should like to talk to you more about it tomorrow if you would be pleased to lodge here overnight in the spacious inn just down the street." The Moabite and Midianite officers took this to mean that the sight of such a rich reward had speedily caused Balaam to give in to their wishes, and they departed with satisfaction for the inn which was one of Pethor’s best. (Verses 7-8.) That night God spoke to Balaam, asking him the identity of the men who had come to visit him. God already knew, but He wanted to test Balaam’s wicked heart. Balaam was afraid not to tell the truth. "You must not go with these men to curse the Israelites, for they are blessed," God told him. Next morning Balaam met with the princes, whose faces fell when they heard what he had to say.

Balaam Speaks Deceitfully "God has refused to let me go with you to do what you ask," Balaam announced. "There is nothing more to be said or done about the matter except for you to return to your countries." As Balaam later watched the caravan depart from Pethor, he couldn’t help but regret that a fortune in precious metals was slipping through his fingers. He wasn’t exactly certain that he had been wise in turning down this opportunity to become wealthy overnight, and he hoped Balak would send more messengers and persuade him so forcefully that he would have to go with them. After the caravan departed, Balaam’s mind often dwelled on that chest of gleaming gold and silver. Balaam felt that if only his fear of God wasn’t so great, he could have become possessor of the chest. Instead of desiring a king’s ransom, Balaam should have repented. A few weeks passed. Then another caravan suddenly showed up at Pethor. It was made up of Moabite and Midianite princes of even higher rank than those who had come before. (Numbers 22:15.) There were more servants and more animals. The people of Pethor were excited and honored to welcome another assemblage of men of high rank, and were proud that a resident of their city was famous enough to attract such a group of officers from other nations. Balaam’s sudden increase in popularity made him even more desirous of the offered wealth. He was quite impressed with the visitors, especially when some in the caravan turned out to be musicians and dancing girls who performed in the street in front of the prophet’s home. He began to realize that if Balak made him rich, he could afford to have his own private musicians and dancing girls. Balaam’s love of money was leading him into all sorts of evil desires. (I Timothy 6:10.) Following the street performance, the head princes met with Balaam to inform him that the king of Moab had been greatly disappointed because his offer had been turned down, but that he was so needful of Balaam’s services that he would give him great rank besides anything he asked if only he would come to Moab and call down a curse on Israel.

Playing With Temptation This was a severe temptation to Balaam. All that he had to do to be wealthy the rest of his life was to go to Moab and utter a few words against Israel in the name of God. What bothered him was the question of just how long his life would last if he continued to disobey God’s will. He hoped circumstances would work out so that he could please Balak without directly disobeying God. "I can’t do anything God tells me not to do," Balaam told the princes. "Even if your king were to give me a whole house full of gold and silver, I cannot do any more or less than God allows. However, I will contact God tonight to see just how far He will allow me to go in having my own way. If it pleases you to stay overnight in our city, there is good lodging in the adjoining place down the street. I shall be in touch with you tomorrow to report what I am allowed to do." (Numbers 2:16-19.) It was plain to see by the expression of the princes, as they filed out, that they were gravely disappointed in the answer they received. Balaam wondered later if they would ever return. Then God again spoke to Balaam. "If these men from Moab and Midian come to you in the morning, I won’t stop you from leaving with them," God said. "If it turns out that you do go with them, remember that I am warning you not to say anything to them except what I tell you to say." (Verse 20.)

Balaam Disobeys Balaam got up very early next morning to prepare for the possible return of the princes. When a little time dragged on, and no one showed up, it seemed like hours. Balaam was worried. He desperately wanted to go to Moab because of the rich reward that could be his, but he feared to displease God. Finally he reasoned around God’s command by saying to himself, "God said if they came for me I should go with them; and they came for me yesterday." So he decided to go with the princes without waiting longer for them to come for him. After all, the princes may have given up the idea of hearing from him, and started preparing to return to their native lands. Balaam’s decision was direct disobedience, because he was commanded originally not to go unless the princes came for him that next morning. "Go quickly to the lodging place of the princes," Balaam instructed a servant. "If they are yet there, tell them that they need wait no longer for word from me. If they have already gone, overtake them and tell them that I shall join them." A little while later the servant returned to report that the caravan was about to leave Pethor, and that the princes were surprised, but looking forward eagerly to Balaam joining them on the trail. Balaam instructed his servants to prepare a burro for him and provisions for a long journey for three people — himself and two servants. (Verse 21.) A short time later Balaam’s group joined the caravan on its way to Moab and Midian. Suddenly Balaam’s burro lunged off the trail and into a field, almost throwing its rider. Angered by the animal’s unusual action, Balaam lifted the rod he was carrying, and violently struck the burro on one of its flanks to force it back onto the trail. The animal, however, kept on heading out into the field. Balaam was furious. His fury would have swiftly melted away if he could have been aware of what had startled the burro. An angel bearing a sharp sword was standing in the road! He had made himself visible only to the burro, which finally, because of Balaam’s angry shouts and gouging heels, started back toward the road. The angel swiftly moved and stationed himself before the donkey between two vineyard walls bordering a pathway leading back to the road. (Verses 22-24.) To bypass the angel, the burro lunged to the side, this time painfully jamming her master’s foot and crushing it against the wall. Balaam vengefully struck the burro on the neck with his staff, as the animal staggered fearfully forward. The angel again stationed himself further down the narrowing path. When the burro saw it could not get by the angel, it collapsed with fright and nervousness at being so close to the ominous figure of an angel of God. What little patience Balaam had left came to an abrupt end. He leaped up and brought the staff down on the animal’s back with all his strength.

The Burro Speaks! With God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27.) The burro opened her mouth and spoke her thoughts as though with a human voice! "What harm have I done to you to cause you to strike me so violently these three times?" the animal asked Balaam. Balaam stepped back, his mouth falling open in astonishment. It was too much for him to I believe that this animal had actually spoken, yet he somehow felt obliged to reply. "I — I struck you because — because you have made me look ridiculous by tossing me around and shoving me against that wall. Besides, you are delaying me in an important trip," Balaam nervously but angrily answered. "If this staff of mine were a sword, I would jab it through you!" (Numbers 22:25-29.) Balaam stared at the burro, wondering if he had been wrong in thinking that she had spoken in the first place. Then the animal’s mouth quivered again. and Balaam was unhappily certain that it was actually the burro that was talking. "Years ago you chose me as your favorite animal for riding," the burro said. "I have served you faithfully all this time. Have I ever treated you so badly as you have treated me just now?" Balaam was still a little stunned because of the human voice that came from the mouth of his burro. " — uh — no!" he finally managed to mutter. (Verse 30.) God gave Balaam the ability to suddenly see the angel. The prophet staggered back, his eyes popping in amazement. In dreams and visions he had heard and seen angels, but this was the first time he had ever seen one while awake. Because of his feeling of guilt, he fell forward to prostrate himself before the powerful being from God. "What good did it do to beat your donkey?" the angel asked Balaam. "I was standing in your path, and when the animal saw me there, she tried three times to dodge around me. Were it not so, I would have used this sword to kill you — though not your donkey — because of your disobeying God by joining the caravan returning to Moab!" (Verses 31-33.) Groveling with his face in the soil, Balaam realized how wrong he had been in coveting the fortune offered him to curse Israel. How unwise he had been in not fearing God enough to refuse to disobey. He realized he should have stayed at home, since the princes did not come for him in the morning after God instructed him. "I have sinned!" he cried out. "I didn’t know that God would go so far as to send one of His angels to slay me. Please spare me! If you don’t want me to continue, allow me to return to my home!" "I shall spare you," the angel told Balaam, "but not to return to your home. Now that you have begun this journey, God permits you to rejoin Balak’s caravan. However, when you arrive in Moab, you are to declare only the things I tell you to speak." God was giving Balaam another opportunity to refuse wealth and choose to obey Him. If God had sent him back home, Balaam would not have had another such test of character. Balaam was greatly relieved not to be punished. He gladly agreed to God’s terms, remembering the wealth of Balak. Accompanied by his two servants, who had excitedly watched and heard his strange experience from only a short distance, he hastily rejoined the caravan of princes headed back toward Moab. (Verses 34-35.) After the caravan was well under way, a messenger using the swiftest beast in the caravan was sent ahead to inform king Balak that Balaam was already on the way with the caravan.

Balaam Continues Lusting "Why didn’t you come to Moab the first time I sent for you?" king Balak asked a little impatiently, on meeting Balaam. "Didn’t you realize that I am able to give you a high and honorable position in my government, as well as the treasure my men offered you?" Balaam was happy to hear the treasure mentioned again. He had again begun to think more about it and less about the warning God gave through His angel. "It was difficult for me to leave Pethor when your first caravan arrived," Balaam replied. "Here I am at last, but I want you to know what I have no power to curse or to bless any nation unless God gives me that power. I can speak only what I am told to speak." (Verses 37-38.) Balaam was careful to speak in such a way that king Balak would not give up, but would keep trying harder to buy his services. He had become greedy for the reward Balak promised. (II Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11.) As Balaam hoped, his statement didn’t discourage Balak. The king was convinced that the prophet somehow could manage to bring down God’s wrath on Israel. He correctly believed that Balaam’s statement perhaps meant that the price would be higher than anything Balak had already offered. Whatever the price, the king was willing to pay and was pleased to take Balaam with him farther into Moab, to the town of "Kirjath-huzoth", which means "a city of streets." Because the king and princes of Moab and Midian were present, there was a great celebration that night. Pleasure-seeking sheepherders and cattle drivers whooped and yelled as they moved in and out of the various establishments of the town. The festive feeling was further promoted when the king ordered his musicians, entertainers and dancing girls to perform their best and loudest in the streets and market place. Although Balaam realized that this festivity was at least partly in his honor, he was uncomfortable. He reasoned he was better than those boisterous Moabites. He was even less at ease when he noticed a huge fire being built at a street intersection, and was told that the Moabites were about to sacrifice oxen and sheep to their gods, and that generous portions were being brought to him and the Midianite princes with him. (Verse 40.) "We seek protection from our enemies by pleasing our gods with sacrifices," Balak explained to Balaam. "If you wish to offer sacrifices to yours at the same time on this altar, I shall see that you are supplied with any kinds of carcasses you need. Of course I hope that you will at the same time implore God to curse Israel." "I am sorry to disappoint you," Balaam answered, "but God has forbidden me to do what I would like to. So I can’t join you in this ceremony." So Balak was again disappointed.

Chapter 47 BALAAM’S FOUR PROPHECIES

NEXT morning after the feast king Balak of Moab sent his entertainers back to their homes. But he continued onward to the west with Balaam, Balaam’s two servants and the Moabite officers and servants. The caravan journeyed on to a mountain overlooking the site where the hosts of Israel were camped. (Numbers 22:39-41.)

Balak Is Jealous "There you see all those powerful people who have swept up from the south to swallow up our nations," Balak said to Balaam. "Camped there as they are, they appear peaceful. When they move, however, they seem to sweep up and devour everything in their path like locusts. They must be stopped. Otherwise every nation including mine, could fall before them." Balak knew that what he said was not true. God had forbade Israel to attack Moab. (Deuteronomy 2:5, 9, 19.) Balak was jealous of Israel. Balaam knew of this strange nation that had come out of Egypt, and he knew that the God of the Israelites was the only true God — the One he was afraid of. He realized that he had run into a very serious situation. If he were to ask God to curse Israel, he would be asking God to crush the nation the Creator had chosen for a very definite reason. Balaam didn’t completely understand why God was with Israel, but before he went any further for Balak, he decided to try to get in touch with God. "Have your men build seven altars on this mountain," Balaam told Balak. "Have them bring seven oxen and seven rams to sacrifice as burnt offerings." King Balak was willing to do whatever Balaam asked. The altars were quickly set up and the sacrifices were made. While ceremonies were in progress, Balaam slipped away to a higher part of the mountain, hoping that he could get in touch with God. Because God was using Balaam for a purpose — and not because of the sacrifices Balaam had asked Balak to make — God spoke to Balaam from the rocks of the highest part of the mountain, instructing him just what to say to Balak when he returned. When Balaam finally arrived back at the site of the seven altars, Balak and the high officers of Moab stood by the sacrifices and anxiously awaited what he would have to say. They hoped that he would at last utter a curse on Israel. Balaam hesitated a little before saying anything, because he suddenly realized that what he was about to speak would startle the Moabites. (Numbers 23:1-6.)

Balaam Prophesies "As all of you before me are aware," Balaam began, "I was summoned all the way from my home in Aram in the mountains of the East by king Balak. The king’s wish has been that I call down the wrath of God on Israel, the nation that has recently come up out of Egypt to destroy the Amorites. If God’s wrath would suddenly come on Israel for sin, then how much more would it fall on the nation of Moab? God is the God of Israel. It would be impossible for me to bring a curse by God on a nation that He has already blessed. It would be most foolish, in fact, for any one or any nation to try to go against any nation that God is not against and is protecting. "Even now we are able to look out and see these people God has chosen for some great purpose. Israel shall always stand out above other nations, and it shall be one whose numbers can be compared to the numbers of specks of dust in the ground. I trust that when I die, my death shall be as honorable as that of those people we see below who have been chosen for some high purpose!" (Verses 7-10.) Balak was surprised and irritated by the unexpected speech from Balaam. He had hoped for a curse, but Balaam’s words, which God required him to speak, amounted to a magnificent blessing rather than a curse. Balak strode up to Balaam, planted his fists on his hips, and frowningly regarded the prophet. "Why have you spoken these good things about Israel instead of what I expected?" the king angrily asked. "I didn’t bring you here for this sort of thing. How could you do the opposite of what I have counted on your doing — especially when you consider the rich rewards that could be yours?" (Verse 11.)

Balaam Speaks Dishonestly "Don’t I have to say what God told me to say?" Balaam asked. "What else could I do?" (Verse 12.) Balaam intended these words to soften the blow of God’s prophecy and encourage Balak to keep trying to bribe Balaam with bigger sums of money. Balak was discouraged by this answer, but, as Balaam hoped, he didn’t intend to give up. He reasoned that Balaam had been so awed by the vast spread of Israelites that he feared to utter a curse on them. The Moabite king quickly decided to take Balaam to another mountain from where only a part of Israel could be viewed. Balak was well aware of how the camping Israelites appeared from all directions, what with his spies having carefully watched them ever since they had come out of the south. Regardless of God’s instructions that Balaam should speak only good things concerning Israel, the prophet went with Balak to a flat section of a high ridge known as Mt. Pisgah. (Verses 13-14.) "There you again see those intruders," Balak said to Balaam. "Why not implore your powerful God to punish them?" "I still must obey what God tells me to do," Balaam answered. "To approach Him again, we must once more build seven altars and offer a ram and a bullock on each altar. Then I’ll seek another meeting with God to inquire if He will allow me to curse Israel." At a command from Balak, seven altars were set up on Mt. Pisgah, and a bullock and a ram were sacrificed on each of the altars. Meanwhile, Balaam again went into a remote section of the mountain to try to contact God. Once more he was successful, but only because God purposed to contact him. Even though Balaam was still greedy for Balak’s reward, God was very patiently waiting to see if Balaam would finally repent and quit serving himself and the devil. Though he was afraid of God he did not repent. "Tell Balak what I am about to tell you," God said to Balaam, and Balaam, out of dread of punishment, memorized what God had to say. For the second time Balaam returned from a mountain visit with God to report to king Balak. "I have been in touch with God," Balaam called to Balak, "and He has told me more things to tell you." "What has God spoken?" Balak calmly asked, though anxiously hoping that either God or Balaam had undergone a change of mind. (Verses 15-17.)

More Inspired Prophecy "He has said that you, Balak, should listen to Him," Balaam replied. "He has said that you should learn that He does not lie, as does a mortal man, and that He will surely carry out any purpose or promise He had made. God has blessed Israel, and I have been instructed to carry on according to that blessing. It would be impossible for me to change God’s blessing into a curse. "You should know that God has not regarded the shortcomings of Jacob, the forefather of Israel, as something so evil that all of Jacob’s descendants should be cursed into oblivion. God brought Israel out of Egypt, and gave that nation the strength of the giant wild bull. No prayer, no art, no craft nor enchantment from outsiders can affect Israel. In time to come people will marvel at how this nation was kept alive under God’s protection. In fact, Israel shall become known as a strong young lion that doesn’t rest until he has eaten well of his prey, and that prey will be nations that can be compared to gazelles, deer and other animals much weaker than the lion." (Verses 18-24.) Balak stared in shock at the prophet. Balaam was wearing the king’s patience to an end. If he hadn’t been so desperate for help against Israel, he would have ordered the prophet out of his presence. "If you won’t curse the Israelites now," Balak muttered wearily, "then at least you can refrain from pronouncing a blessing on them!" "Didn’t I tell you," Balaam replied, "that I would have to speak whatever God would tell me to say?" Balaam should have flatly refused to help Balak, but he didn’t. He still hoped he could please Balak, without being punished by God. If Balaam hadn’t been afraid of God’s great power, he never would have spoken or acted in such a manner. But he still had a desire for the reward that Balak was willing to give him, if he could only influence God to change His mind. Balak refused to give up what he had set out to do through the prophet. Immediately he suggested that they go to Mt. Peor, which was a high point of the Abarim range. From there all of the camp of Israel could be seen. Balak hoped that there was a chance that Balaam might break down and pronounce a curse on Israel if he could be convinced that such a large and powerful nation might well move eastward and destroy Balaam’s home town. Later, when the Moabite caravan and those with it viewed the Israelites from Mt. Peor, Balak was dismayed to hear Balaam ask for the third time that seven altars should be built for sacrificing animals. Balaam was fearfully aware that invisible angels were listening to all his words and watching everything he did. But he again thought he could influence God to let him curse Israel so he could obtain Balak’s reward. Balak gave orders to carry out Balaam’s wish. The Moabite king didn’t want to do it, but he was still interested in getting Balaam to curse Israel. (Verses 25-30.) In spite of his hopes to earn favor and fortune from the Moabite king, Balaam realized it would be useless to continue hoping God might curse Israel for Balak. His recent contacts with God made it quite clear that it was impossible to tempt God to change His mind. For this reason, Balaam did not even go to seek another vision as he had previously done. As the prophet looked down from Mt. Peor on the Israelites camped in their orderly manner on the plains of Moab, he was suddenly required by God to speak another clear and vivid prophecy to Balak and those about him. Moabites, Midianites and even Balaam’s two servants gathered around in curiosity as the prophet’s voice rang out from the mountain top to tell them marvelous things they hadn’t expected to hear. "I, Balaam, the son of Beor, have been given understanding by God in matters I am about to relate," Balaam declared. He then went on, to the growing discomfort of most of his audience, to speak of Israel and what would happen to that nation.

Israel’s Future Unfolded "How fine is the array of colorful tents and tabernacles of Israel on the plain below!" Balaam exclaimed. "They are spread out as watercourses from the mountains, as gardens by a river, as sandal trees and cedars of Lebanon growing naturally in rows beside the streams. "Israel shall have plenty of prosperity. His descendants shall be uncountable. His king shall have more power than any other king, and the kingdom of Israel shall become the strongest one in the world. God brought this nation out of Egypt and gave it the strength of the giant wild bull. This people will swallow up its enemies after breaking their bones and piercing them with deadly weapons! "Israel is like a great lion that people fear to bother. Those who bless Israel shall be blessed. Those who curse Israel shall be cursed!" (Numbers 24:1 -9.) This was exactly the opposite of what the king of Moab hoped to hear. He felt that Balaam had betrayed him, and he violently struck his hands together, an action in those times that indicated great anger. "I offered you handsome rewards to come here to curse my enemies!" Balak shouted as he strode up to Balaam. "Instead, you blessed them! Now take your servants and get out of here without the reward God has prevented you from receiving!" (Verses 10-11.) "Perhaps you have forgotten," Balaam calmly reminded the king, "that when your messengers first came to me I told them that a whole house full of gold from you would not cause me to do anything in this matter but what God allows me to do. Didn’t I say then that I had to say exactly what God requires me to say?" (Verses 12-13.) Then God ordered Balaam to utter another astonishing prophecy: "Now, before I leave, I should tell you what God says Israel will do to your people in the future. An Israelite king will come into power who will strike your nation with such force that it will be smashed at once. Those Moabites who remain alive will be taken as servants of Israel!" The king of Moab sensed that Balaam spoke the truth, and his haughty expression quickly turned to one of uneasiness. "When — when is this supposed to happen?" Balak asked, forcing a tone of command into his voice. "You will not live to see that day," Balaam answered. "But it will happen as surely as the sun is in the sky. As for Edom and Seir, those countries shall also fall to Israel. Even the powerful Amalekites shall go down before Israel, and shall disappear forever as a nation. The Kenites shall also be taken captive, though they live in the rocky strongholds of the mountains. "The climax will bring frightening changes in many parts of the world. Nations from across the seas will attack and be attacked. There will be great trouble in time to come. Israel, the nation God has chosen for carrying on His purpose in the world, will end the most glorious nation!" There were only low murmurs from the Moabites and Midianites as Balaam and his two servants mounted their animals and rode away on the trail that led down Mt. Peor. (Verses 14-25.) Balak was sobered by what Balaam had said, but, lest those about him should notice his fear, he shrugged his shoulders and man aged a smirk of derision that would have faded quickly if he could have foreseen his nation being overcome by a future Israelite king by the name of David. (II Samuel 8:1-2.) Most of the prophecies made by Balaam were for Old Testament times. Some are yet to come true in these latter days because God always does what He promises to do! Balak returned to the city from which he ruled Moab, but Balaam never got back to his home town. He continued to lust after the reward he tad missed. He began to devise a plan he thought might get him a part of it. So he stopped in the land of Midian. Knowing that the Midianites as well as the Moabites wished to see Israel destroyed, Balaam sold to their leaders an evil scheme. His plan was to promote sin between Israelite men and the pagan women of Midian and Moab. He reasoned that this sin would bring down God’s curse on all Israel. The Israelites continued to stay on the verdant plain that was partly shaded by many acacia trees. It was a pleasant, fruitful area in which to camp and the Israelites were in the midst of plenty. But an exceedingly unpleasant matter soon began to develop. Some of the men of Israel were attracted to some of the Moabite, Ammonite, and Midianite women. This situation swiftly grew into a mountainous problem. More and more Israelite men married these pagan women, something forbidden by God. Israel was not to intermarry with outsiders — especially those who were heathen. Besides, due to Balaam’s teaching, many Moabite women and Israelite men were taking the physical privileges of married persons, although unmarried. This meant they were breaking the seventh and tenth commandments. (Revelation 2:14.) What was more, the Moabite women were leading their Israelite husbands and lovers into Sabbath-breaking and worshiping pagan gods. (Numbers 25:1-6.) These gods included Astarte or Ishtar, a deity giving her name to "Easter" eggs. This idolatry was later brought into so-called Christian churches, by the modern successors of Balaam, and came to be known as Easter. One sin led to another then just as it does today. God’s fierce anger was aroused when He noticed these things continuing and growing. He was angry because so many Israelite men were mixing with Moabite and Midianite women. The men were allowing themselves to be drawn by these foreign women into taking part in worshiping pagan gods and into mixed marriages. Today, the same sins are being repeated. "Seek out and punish by death the individuals who have committed these sins before it spreads further," God told Moses. "If you don’t, I will curse the whole nation of Israel!" (Numbers 25:1-4.) Balaam’s wicked project was beginning to pay off for Midian and Moab. "This is the kind of sin that can destroy a whole nation if allowed to continue. Tell the heads of the twelve tribes to seize the lesser tribal leaders and the better-known men who have so heedlessly gone against My warnings not to mingle with strange nations," God told Moses. "The leading tribal chiefs must themselves stone the law-breakers and have them hung on poles for a whole day to show what can happen to those who follow evil leaders and ignore My rules! This matter, however, isn’t going to end with merely a warning. I am going to bring a plague on all the other offenders," said the Eternal to Moses, "and unless this taking of foreign women stops at once, the plague will spread to all of Israel!" (Verses 4-5.)

Instantly Moses acted. The order was carried out, and within only a few hours the corpses were hanging on poles erected close to the center of the Israelite camps. These gruesome reminders and Moses’ stern rebuke shocked the people. There was much loud wailing and moaning, a habit acquired from the Egyptians. Most of the Israelites truly regretted what had happened, and from them there were genuine groans and weeping of shame and repentance. (Verse 6.)

Last Wilderness Plague At the same time an amazingly dreadful thing began to happen to thousands of Israelite men who were guilty of being involved with Moabite and Midianite women and their pagan sacrifices. In all the camps offenders were abruptly overcome by terrible pains in their chests. They thudded to the ground as though they had been stoned with invisible stones. It was as though angels had stoned the offenders that the tribal chiefs of Israel had failed to stone. The victims were able to gasp only a few tormented breaths before dying. When news of this reached the mourners near the tabernacle, the groaning and shrieking reached higher peaks, and there was growing sorrow and shame in the homes of the men who were stricken, because everyone knew they died for their shameful conduct. Some of these men were sons of respectable parents and tribal leaders. Others were fathers whose wives and children had no idea — until their sudden deaths — that foreign women had drawn these men into trouble. All this heartache and grief came because Balak was jealous of Israel and because Balaam lusted so much after the wages promised by Balak that he taught the pagans how to lead rebellious Israelite men into sin. (II Peter 2:16; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14.) Even in the face of these abrupt and terrible developments there were those who were so scornful of God that they refused to put aside the women of these pagan nations.

A Rebel Prince Such a one was Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Simeon. Even at the height of the time of mourning and repentance, Zimri came into the tabernacle area with a Midianite princess named Cozbi. The couple brazenly passed through the mourning Israelites and on to a private tent in the camp of Simeon. Zimri was plainly recognized by many, including Moses, who assumed that officers would quickly go to Zimri and find out from him the identity of the strange woman. Because of Zimri’s high rank, however, officers who should have detained him allowed him and his Midianite princess to go their way without bothering them. (Numbers 25:6.) Phinehas, one of Aaron’s grandsons, took particular notice of where Zimri and Cozbi went and noticed the officers’ hesitancy in punishing them. Acting according to God’s special order that offenders in this matter should be slain, Phinehas seized a spear that had been put down by an Israelite soldier, and followed the couple to the tent they had entered. Phinehas jerked the tent flap open, then hurled the spear with such force that it pierced the bodies of both Zimri and Cozbi. From that moment on no one else died of the mysterious lung crushing plague that had come on Israel. Till that time, however, twenty-four thousand Israelite men lost their lives — twenty-three thousand in one day — including about a thousand who were stoned as examples to warn Israel of the heavy penalty of mixing with foreign nations. (Verses 7-9, 14-15.) God had this shameful and tragic episode recorded to teach us that we should not lust after dishonest money and should not marry or follow the practices of evil women, and that we should worship only God. (I Corinthians 10:6-11.) "Phinehas, by his loyal action, has proved that there are those who stand for justice," God told Moses. "Because of his zeal to punish offenders and atone for the sins of his people, others will now fear to disobey. Therefore, My wrath against Israel has been stopped. Furthermore, I extend to this man an agreement of peace. I assure him that I shall spare him from any Midianites who would try to avenge the Midianite princess, and that those after him shall remain in the priesthood forever!" (Numbers 25:10-13.) The next few days were ones of misery, shame and sorrow in Israel. At the same time, though most people weren’t aware of it to the full extent, they had reason to rejoice and be thankful because of God’s anger having been turned from them. This didn’t mean that God was satisfied with the way matters turned out. He was well aware that the Midianites and Moabites — especially the Midianites — had plotted to use their women to wrongly influence men of Israel. He planned to punish Midian, but not until He had accomplished some other things. (Verses 16-18.) One of those things was the taking of a census. It had been over thirty-eight years since the people had been numbered. During that time there had been changes in the tribes. Now that Israel was obviously about to take over Canaan, it was necessary to know the number of people in every tribe so that the leaders would know the size of the army and so the land could be divided in a manner that would be fair to all. (Numbers 26:52-54.) Only the males from twenty years of age and up were numbered. The men of the tribe of Levi were counted separately and in a different way because they were not in the army and they had no inheritance as did the men of the other tribes. (Numbers 1:47-49; Numbers 2:33.) At the time of this second census, not one man remained to enter the Promised Land who was numbered in the first numbering, except Caleb and Joshua, who were faithful to God. (Numbers 14:29-30; Deuteronomy 1:34-35.) However, Moses, Eleazar and Ithamar (Aaron’s sons) and some other Levites who were alive at the time of the-first census remained alive because the Levites were not condemned to die in the wilderness with the over 600,000 soldiers who complained when God told them to go in and occupy the Promised Land. The Levites had remained faithful to God even when all the rest of Israel worshipped the golden calf. (Exodus 32:25-29.) Because of their faithfulness, the Levites were given special blessings. (Deuteronomy 33:8-11.) This miracle of destroying the older generation of murmurers was one of the many great wonders and miracles by which God proved His power to Israel while they wandered forty years in the wilderness. (Acts 7:35-36.) But God had been faithful to the other half of His promise and had saved alive those who had been under twenty years of age when Israel murmured against Him. (Numbers 14:31; Numbers 26:11.) The Promised Land was now in sight as God finished wiping out the older generation of condemned rebels, leaving a new generation of men who were under sixty years old. When the figures of the second census had been totalled, they showed that some of the tribes had increased and some had decreased. Not including the Levites, who had increased by only a thousand, there were 1,820 less men (over twenty years of age) than the first census showed. If Israel had been obedient in the past, the census would have shown an increase of thousands and thousands in all the tribes. Besides, they would have been dwelling safely and in good health in Canaan.

Inheritance Law Explained Right after the census was taken, five sisters brought a problem to Moses and Eleazar. They explained that because their father was dead and because they had no brothers, their father’s inheritance and name would be lost if they were not permitted to inherit in the place of sons. (Numbers 27:1-5.) This was due to the fact that property that was passed on to following generations could be claimed only by those registered in the census. Those didn’t include women. Moses and Eleazar realized that there could be many such cases among the millions of Israelites. They felt that the matter was important enough to bring to God, especially at this time when Canaan was obviously about to be divided up as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. When Moses brought the cause before God, the Creator told him that the five daughters had done well in speaking out, and that His law concerning this situation should be made known to the people. "Let it be recorded," God informed Moses, "that if a man dies who has no sons, his property shall pass on to his daughters. If he has no daughters, what he owns shall go to his brothers. If he has no brothers, his estate shall go to his father’s brothers. If his father has no brothers, his property shall go to those who are of the closest relationship." (Verses 6-11.) Shortly after this new law was established, God told Moses that he should climb to the top of one of the nearby Abarim mountains so that he could view the land the Israelites were to possess. "After you have seen Canaan from afar, your life shall end on that mountain," God said. "You are not to enter into the Promised Land because of your disobedient attitude in getting water out of the rock at Kadesh." (Verses 12-14.) This decree was no surprise to Moses, since God had refused his request to enter Canaan just after conquering Gilead and Bashan. (Deuteronomy 3:4, 10, 23-27.) Although Moses had expected this, it shocked him to learn that he would die so soon. He realized that God meant what He said, and that it would be futile to beg to have his life spared. What mattered most was how Moses would be replaced. When Moses finally spoke, that was foremost in his mind.

Joshua to Take Moses’ Place "Your will be done," Moses said. "But before I come to the end of my days, I should like to know that you have set a man in my place so that your people will not be as sheep without a shepherd." (Numbers 27:16-17.) By this request Moses didn’t mean that he felt that God couldn’t get along without him or someone to take his place. But Moses understood that God had always worked to a great extent through human beings. It was only natural that he would want to know through whom God would next lead Israel, and to have that man established in office. "Joshua shall succeed you," God told Moses. "Call the congregation together to witness the transferring of some of your honor on Joshua before Eleazar the priest. From the time that Joshua takes your place, he must consult Eleazar, who will come to me in the tabernacle. I have spoken to you directly, but this is the way in which Joshua shall receive instruction on how to lead Israel." (Verses 18-21.) Later, before Eleazar and a huge crowd of Israelites, Moses put his hands on Joshua’s head and lifted his voice to God. "As a chosen servant of You, the God of Israel," Moses prayed, "I am willing to give up the power and honor of my office whenever I am taken from this life. I pray that even greater power and honor will go to Joshua, the man You have chosen to follow me. Thank You for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be of service. Now I ask your very special blessing on this man, that he would be inspired with the strength and character and wisdom to rightly lead your people. By your authority I now charge him with the responsibility of the office that has been mine." (Numbers 27:22-23; Deuteronomy 3:21-22, 28; Deuteronomy 31:14-15, 23.) Although Moses’ office had in a sense been transferred to Joshua, full authority was not to go to Joshua as long as Moses lived. Moses was busy for some time afterward receiving instruction from God having to do with offerings, holy days and civil laws. All these things were recorded and passed on to the people to preserve for us today. (Numbers 28, 29, 30.) It was during these trying times that the first four books of the Bible were completed by Moses.

Chapter 48 VICTORY EAST OF THE JORDAN

THIRTY-NINE years had passed since two million Israelites had fled from Egypt to escape their oppressors. (Numbers 1:1; Numbers 13:1-3, 26; Deuteronomy 2:14.) Because they usually chose the way of sin, thousands upon thousands had died of war and sickness. Only a few of the many adult men who had started from Egypt were still alive after wandering for so many years through the deserts and mountains. (Numbers 26:63-65.) But death and misery hadn’t prevailed all the time. Whenever the people chose to repent of their wrong ways and had the good sense to live as God had instructed them to live, they enjoyed good health, a happy state of mind and God’s protection. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Deuteronomy 30:15-20.) And through all the years God gave them nourishing manna and miraculously prevented their clothes and shoes from wearing out. (Deuteronomy 8:4.) Knowing only the rigors of desert living, they greatly enjoyed a few months of camping on a verdant, spring-fed, tree-studded plain a few miles east of the Jordan River. (Numbers 22:1.) About this time Moses was called to the tabernacle to receive special instruction.

"Do The Impossible!" "The time has come for my people to strike against the Midianites," the Creator said to Moses. "They must be punished because of their evil plan to influence Israelite men to go over to pagan ways through the wiles of the Midianite women. The Midianite leaders hoped that if enough Israelites fell in with worshipping their gods, I would be displeased and withdraw my protection from Israel. Then they intended to attack. I was indeed displeased, but I did not abandon Israel. "Now follow my orders and avenge your God as well as yourselves because of the harm idolatrous Midian has brought to the people. Although the Midianites hoped to destroy all Israel, I will use one-fiftieth of the Israelite army to destroy the army of Midian. I will prove that mortal men cannot hinder my plans or destroy the nation I protect." (Numbers 25:16-18; Numbers 31:1-2.) Moses spoke at once to his officers, instructing them to choose a thousand fighting men from each tribe. (Verses 3-5.) This total of twelve thousand trained and armed men was only a small part of the total Israelite army. Moses felt certain that the Midianites had many more soldiers than twelve thousand, but he knew better than to add to the number God had chosen. The Israelites would have feared to go against the Midianite army with such a small force if God had not promised this new generation that they would live to cross over Jordan into the Promised Land. They had at last learned to trust God and they knew that through His power this task would be possible. Led by Joshua, the twelve thousand set out bravely across the plains to the southeast to do what they knew was humanly impossible. The high priest’s son, Phinehas, was in charge of the few Levites who accompanied the army. These men were to preside at sacred services and to carry the two silver trumpets that were to be blown by the priest, at God’s command, as battle alarms. (Numbers 10:1-3, 8-9; Numbers 31:6.) The movement of Israelite troops didn’t go unnoticed. When Midianite spies noted what direction was taken by the twelve thousand troops, swift-riding Midianite messengers carried the news to all five rulers of Midian. The five kings preferred to meet their attackers in the desert, what with the Midianites having specialized in desert fighting for centuries. They agreed that their full forces should go against the Israelite army, which, from the reports, was only a fraction as large as it was imagined to be. The Midianites realized that more Israelite troops could follow, but their spies reported seeing no further preparation in the camps of the Israelites. This convinced the Midianites that their women had succeeded in demoralizing the Israelite men to such an extent that they were no longer a strongly united fighting force. They believed they could easily defeat Israel. Almost two days after he had started out with the soldiers, Joshua received a discouraging report from a scout who had hurriedly returned from observation duty far ahead.

Numbers Meant Nothing to Joshua! "The desert is dark with approaching thousands of soldiers!" the scout panted. "If we hold our present course, we will meet that army head-on! From what I could see, it’s much larger than our army, and could surround us!" Joshua had no intention of trying to evade the enemy, which then might march right on to the camps of the Israelites. He knew that since God had sent the Israelites on this mission as His executioners, He would supply them with enough skill and power to wipe out these idolaters. The troops continued their rather slow tramping across the sands and rocks, and it wasn’t long before they were able to make out the Midianites in the distance. When the miles between the two armies had shrunk to only a few hundred yards, it was plain to the Midianites that their numbers were indeed much superior to those of the Israelites. Suddenly the Midianites split into three sections! The middle portion came directly at the Israelites! The other two parts swung out to right and left to surround the Israelite troops in a gigantic vise-like movement!

The battle was set in array. When the twelve thousand soldiers of Israel realized that they were marching into the vast jaws of superior numbers of oncoming Midianites, many of them momentarily may have felt like wheeling about and fleeing in the opposite direction. In those first frightful moments they felt what it would mean never to return to their camps and families.

The Signal to Attack Then came the shrill, piercing sounds of the silver trumpets of the Israelites. It was an instant and powerful reminder to the soldiers that their God was with them, and that He would protect and strengthen them — and take them all safely into Canaan as He had promised. (Numbers 14:29-31.) Spurred to action and confidence, it was the Israelites’ turn to make a surprise move. At a signal passed backward from Joshua, the rear flanks of the Israelites suddenly divided and curved out in opposite directions to swiftly get outside the flanking troops of the Midianites, even though many of them were mounted! Thus the enemy soldiers, attempting to surround the Israelites, found themselves bottled up except for their rear troops. But even those, within minutes, were hemmed in by the nimble Israelites. Then the fighting broke out in fierce, bloody fury. Considering the many thousands of soldiers involved, the battle could have been expected to last for hours. However, it went on only for a very short time, and then the awful sounds of slaughter suddenly died down. Weary men grouped together to stare in silence at the thousands of corpses strewn over the rocky ground. It was hard to believe at first, but the Israelites soon realized that they had slain every soldier who had come out to war against them, and that included all five kings of the Midianites! They also found Balaam the prophet, who had taught the Midianites how to lead Israel astray, and killed him because of his evil deeds. (Numbers 31:1-8.) Because Balaam had set his affections on the gold Balak offered instead of eternal life which God offered, everything went wrong for him. He got neither gold nor eternal life, but was executed by God’s servants. What was even more amazing was that not even one dead or critically wounded Israelite could be found. True to His word, God had protected all of them. Through Moses, God had instructed Joshua to proceed to the Midianite cities and capture everything of value. After stripping the dead Midianites of their possessions, the Israelites marched on to the nearby Midianite centers of civilization. Having wiped out the Midianite army, the Israelite forces split into small groups and took over the Midianite towns and unprotected strongholds as soon as the soldiers could reach them. All Midianite men were slain, and the towns and strongholds burned. Women and children were captured. Flocks, herds and valuables were seized. (Numbers 31:9-12.) Mounted messengers raced back to the Israelite camp to excitedly inform Moses of the overwhelming victory. Moses was not surprised, but he was pleased and thankful. He called the tribal heads together, and with them and Eleazar, rode out east of the camp to meet and welcome the returning victors. (Verse 13.)

Don’t Give Idolatry a Foothold After congratulating Joshua and other officers, Moses noticed that the prisoners consisted of many thousands of boys, girls and women. "Why have you brought back these boys?" Moses asked Joshua. "And why have you spared these many thousands of women? Have you forgotten that these Midianite women recently drew our men into idolatry? God put a plague on us because of them, and also decreed that they should not live! Besides, they would have slain all our women and children had they won the battle." "Our soldiers didn’t have the heart to kill the youngsters," Joshua replied. "As for the women, we couldn’t know which were the offenders. Therefore we brought back all except those who fell before us by accident." "God sent us to destroy the Midianites," Moses told Joshua. "Tell your officers to instruct their men to slay all the male youngsters you have brought with you. Then determine as far as possible, which females have never had personal relations with men. Set them aside to spare, and slay all the other women!" (Verses 14:18.) Within a few hours thousands of Midianite women and male children lost their lives. The only Midianites who were spared were girl babies, young girls and any females who could prove to the Israelite officers that they had not taken part in the evil practices by which other Midianite women had led many Israelite men astray. These young Midianite women and girls could live among the Israelites as servants without any danger of their leading the Israelites into idolatry. Some who read this account will wag their heads in doubt, believing that God would never allow such slaughter, regardless of what the inspired scriptures tell us. However, the slaying of the Midianite women and children was an act of mercy. The Israelites who carried out the task of executing these idolaters had no appetite for such grisly business. They acted under orders from God, who had good reasons for using the Israelites to wipe out an idolatrous nation. These people were so evil, warlike, and lewd that they and their children were better off dead. When they are resurrected in the judgment, along with other evil nations of past ages, they will live under God’s government, not their own. And they will be taught how to live in righteousness and happiness. (Matthew 12:41-42; 11:20-24; Isaiah 65:19-25.) Is it sensible that people should consider God harsh for what He ordered done to the Midianites, while at the same time they want to believe the pagan lie (still voiced from so-called Christian pulpits all around the world) that God has allowed billions of souls to be dumped into everlasting, blistering torment in some fiery place — some suppose in the center of the Earth — just because they never heard of God? Contrary to this unscriptural teaching, God justly gives every human being, at one time or another, the opportunity to learn right from wrong and choose to serve God. For most people, that opportunity doesn’t come in this life. If it doesn’t it will come when all those Midianites and others who have died without an opportunity for salvation will be resurrected after the Millennium. At that time people will live together in peace and prosperity while they are privileged to learn the way that leads to salvation. (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Isaiah 65:19-25.)

Quarantine Enforced Because of being well outside the camps of the Israelites, it was an appropriate place for Moses to advise the soldiers who had any part in killing the Midianites or touching their bodies. "All of you who have touched a dead body must stay outside of camp for seven days. On the third and the seventh days you and your captives must bathe yourselves, and wash your clothes and anything you have that has touched a corpse if those things are made of skins, goats’ hair or wood." (Numbers 31:19-20.) Eleazar, the priest, added to these directions by telling the soldiers that while they were waiting out those seven days, they should purify all battle equipment and booty made of gold, silver, brass, iron, tin or lead. This meant that objects made of these metals were to pass through flames of a hot fire to kill vermin and germs, and in some cases even to be melted down. Also they were to be washed in a specially prepared purifying water. Nothing could be taken back to the camps of the Israelites unless it was purified. (Verses 21:24.) If all people today would obey such strict rules of sanitation and quarantine, contagious diseases would not spread as they do. There was great celebration in the Israelite camps when at last the victorious soldiers were prepared to return to their homes and families. But now there was the problem of how to fairly distribute the captured property. Happily, it didn’t remain a problem, because God spoke to Moses of this matter. The people did not use their own human reason.

Dividing the Spoils "Divide what has been taken into two equal parts," God told Moses. "One part shall go to the soldiers who brought it back. The other half shall be distributed among the people. From the first part, for the soldiers, one part in five hundred shall go to Eleazar the high priest for offerings and to supply household needs. From the second half, for the people, one part in fifty shall go to the Levites." Joshua and his officers made an immediate count of the captives and livestock that had come from the campaign against Midian. It turned out that the soldiers had brought in 32,000 female Midianites, 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 cattle and 61,000 donkeys. Of the female Midianites, 32 (one out of every 500 of the soldiers’ half) went to Eleazar and his assistants. They were to be used as household servants and helpers to the wives of Eleazar and of the priests. At the same time, 320 Midianites (one out of every 50 in the congregation’s half) went to the Levites to be household servants for their families. As for the sheep and goats, 675 of them went to the priests, and 6,750 went to the Levites. In the matter of cattle, 72 went to the priests, and 720 went to the Levites. Of the donkeys, 61 of them went to the priests, and 610 went to the Levites for service as beasts of burden. (Numbers 31:25-47.) As soon as these matters were worked out, officers in charge of soldiers in the campaign against Midian came to Moses to remind him that a careful check of their men had proved what seemed evident right after the battle — that not a one of them had been lost! God had proved that He was able to protect every individual of those whom He had promised to take over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. (Verses 48-49.) "We took much spoil that wasn’t included in the count of prisoners and livestock," a spokesman explained. "Among the things was jewelry of all kinds fashioned from precious stones, gold and silver. To show our thanks to God for sparing us, we now bring you a part of these valuables." Moses and Eleazar gratefully accepted the offering — the gold alone of which was worth hundreds of thousands of our dollars or pounds — and they had it taken to the tabernacle as a memorial before God. (Verses 50-54.) Having conquered the nations bordering Canaan on the east side of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, the Israelites were well aware of the condition of all parts of that territory. Much of the land to the east was arid, but there were regions like Jazer and Gilead where the grass grew thick and green, and where there were many shade trees, especially oaks.

A Shocking Request! The tribes of Reuben and Gad, having long specialized in raising sheep and cattle, were greatly impressed by these fine grazing lands. They felt that there couldn’t be greener and broader pastures on the west side of the Jordan. Therefore their chieftains came to Moses and Eleazar to ask if they could remain east of the Jordan to raise their flocks and herds. (Numbers 32:1-5.) Moses was upset at this request. He believed that these two tribes could be using this as an excuse to get out of going with the other tribes to drive their enemies out of the land west of the Jordan. And he wondered if they weren’t showing a lack of gratitude to God for the land He promised them on the west side of the Jordan River. "Your wanting to stay here reminds me of what your fathers said forty years ago," Moses answered, "when they refused to go into Canaan because they feared that the inhabitants might slay them. Then God sent them into the desert to wander and die! This request of yours is a bad example to the other tribes and might make them fear to cross the Jordan. If they, too, should choose not to cross the river, God might again be so angered that He might destroy all of us!" (Verses 6-15.) The leaders of Reuben and Gad recognized the wisdom of Moses’ statements, but since this was such fine pasture land, they had more to say before giving up. After a hasty meeting among themselves, they again approached Moses and Eleazar. "We aren’t being rebellious," they explained, "and we would not want to discourage our brethren or bring disunity to Israel. We can quickly take over the vacant cities from which we recently drove the Amorites, then build them into fortresses for our women and children, and build folds for our livestock. Knowing that our people and livestock would be safe, our soldiers could then return here and cross Jordan at the front of the other tribes to spearhead the attack and help overcome our enemies. We will not return to our homes until the other tribes are safely settled on the other side of Jordan. We will not ask for land on the other side, but will be satisfied with the grazing land here." (Verses 16-19.) This explanation put a different light on the matter in Moses’ thinking. After all, if these tribes preferred this land God had given to Israel, Moses could think of no good reason not to give it to them as long as the whole Israelite army went westward to take Canaan. "If you will do as you say," Moses told them, "then these regions you desire shall become your inheritances. But be warned that if you fail to go with the rest of the people and fight until the inhabitants of Canaan are entirely driven out, then you will have to pay for such a great sin!" (Numbers 32:20-24; Deuteronomy 3:18-20.) "We will not fail to go," the chieftains promised Moses. "Do we have your permission to leave for Jazer and Gilead?" "Whenever you wish," Moses replied. Because he realized that he wouldn’t live to cross the Jordan, Moses instructed Eleazar, Joshua and the chiefs of the other tribes to make certain that when the time came, they should see to it that these tribes who had taken eastern territory should live up to their promises. Otherwise, they were to give up the land they desired, and would have to get their inheritance west of the Jordan. (Numbers 32:25-30.) Thus Reuben and Gad were the first families of Israel to be allotted their possession from God, though half the tribe of Manasseh also promptly received permission to settle north of the area taken by Gad. The two and a half tribes were so anxious to get to their lands that they set out as soon as possible. The people of Reuben turned to the east and south. The people of Gad and Manasseh went northward. (Numbers 32:31-33; Deuteronomy 3:1-17.) They worked hard to rebuild swiftly the broken buildings of the ravaged towns and turn them back into walled strongholds. And as they had promised, they set up shelters and corrals for their vast numbers of stock. (Numbers 32:34-42.) With their families and livestock in secure strongholds, the two and one-half tribes would not need to leave many men behind to care for them. Meanwhile, back on the plains of Moab, God was in the process of giving more instructions to Israel through Moses, whose life was soon to be taken. (Numbers 33:50-56.)

Chapter 49 THE CONSTITUTION OF ISRAEL

THE Israelites continued to camp on the plains east of the Jordan River for many days. Water was plentiful. There was an abundance of grass for the animals. Living was also a little more pleasant for the people because of the shade trees in that area. Meanwhile, the people didn’t sit around doing nothing. Besides their regular duties, it was somewhat of a task to adjust to the thousands of Midianite captives, take care of the added livestock, purify the booty of war and re-fashion much of it, sharpen and repair the worn or broken tools of war. Time was required to do all this, but God’s main purpose in allowing the people to stay so long in that place was to give them many instructions, through Moses, for their guidance and benefit. It was made known to them that when they crossed over the Jordan into Canaan on the west, it was their duty to execute the inhabitants there and to destroy all their idols, pagan altars, towers and groves where they burned some of their children in the fire and otherwise worshipped their heathen gods. (Numbers 33:50-53. Leviticus 18:21, 24-29; Deuteronomy 7:1-5; 9:4; 12:29-32; 18:9-14.) Then the land was to be divided fairly among the nine and a half tribes, according to their numbers. However, if the Israelites failed to overcome the inhabitants of Canaan, God warned that Israel would suffer. "If you spare any Canaanites," God said, "they will give you much trouble as long as they remain. Furthermore, I shall deal with you as I plan to deal with them. That means that you could lose your lives as well as the land!" (Numbers 33:54-56.) God then defined the boundaries of the Promised Land and appointed a committee to supervise the distribution of the land. (Numbers 34.) God also instructed Moses to tell the people that they should give 48 towns to the Levites, who were not to receive any land by inheritance. These were not necessarily to be large towns, but each one was to be surrounded by an area over a mile across, reaching out 1000 cubits (about 2000 feet) from the wall in all directions. In these suburbs the Levites could plant gardens, orchards and vineyards and have room to keep their flocks and herds. (Numbers 35:15.) Six of these towns — three on each side of the Jordan — were soon to be appointed as "cities of refuge." As well as being centers of Levite habitation, these six towns were to be for the protection of anyone who accidentally killed a person. This was necessary because angered relatives or close friends of the dead man might try to kill the man who caused his death. For example, if two men were building a shed, and one man unexpectedly moved a heavy beam so that it fell and killed the other man, the man who moved the beam was to flee at once to the closest of the six towns, where he would be protected from anyone who might seek his life as a matter of vengeance. On the other hand, if the man maliciously moved the beam with the purpose of killing his working partner, he was still entitled to the temporary protection of any of the six towns so that he could be assured a fair trial.

Violence Condemned Whatever the case, the man would be tried by authorities. If he were found guilty, he was either slain or allowed to fall into the hands of those who had set out to avenge the dead person. If he were found innocent, he still was to stay in the town for his own protection, until the death of the high priest. Meanwhile, if he ventured out of his protective town, and was found by any avenger, that was the end of his protection. There were to be no jails in Israel. Moses now assigned three towns for refuge purposes east of the Jordan River. They included Bezer in the plain country of the Reubenites. Then there was the town of Ramoth for the Gadites and Golan for the Manassites. The other three cities of refuge were to be set aside later by Joshua. (Numbers 35:6-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:113; Joshua 20.) At this time Moses received many instructions and rules and reminders from God. He faithfully passed them on to the people as they came to him. So that they would better understand matters, Moses gave them a detailed account of what had happened since they had left Mt. Sinai four decades previously. The book of Deuteronomy is a record of those proceedings. During the lengthy account, Moses revealed to the people that God wouldn’t allow him to go over into Canaan with them because of Moses’ wrong conduct when he had struck the rock to obtain water. "Later," Moses told them, "I asked God to forgive me and let me go into Canaan. He refused to allow me to go, but told me I could view much of the land from a high mountain, and that there I would die!" (Deuteronomy 3:23-28.) The people were saddened to hear this. At the same time, they felt a greater fear of God. Many of them reasoned that if God would take the life of their leader, then their lives could be taken at any time because of their disobedience.

Sabbaths Must Be Observed Moses added to their serious thinking by warning them that God would never tolerate law-breaking without punishment. He reminded them also that God was more merciful than they could imagine, and that He would never forsake them or destroy them as long as they kept their agreement to observe His laws. (Deuteronomy 4:30-31.) Among the matters mentioned through Moses for Israel’s benefit was the strict reminder to observe the yearly Sabbaths. These holy days began in Egypt with the Passover. They were later more fully explained to the people at Mt. Sinai. The keeping of these holy days was to be a perpetual sign between God and Israel, just as the observance of the weekly Sabbath was to be an everlasting agreement. (Deuteronomy 12:114; 16:1-17; Exodus 31:17.) Today more than 700 church denominations claim to be Christian, but almost all of them refuse to have anything to do with God’s Sabbaths. Many weak excuses are given for not observing them, including the old, standard, groundless line that the days instituted by God were only Jewish days, and that they were done away with at Christ’s death. The fact that most churches fail to observe them simply proves that most churches are not God’s churches. This can be a shocking and perhaps unbelievable statement to many people, but it is a true one, completely backed up by the Bible. Scoffing at this Bible truth is the same as scoffing at God, the author of it. The Apostle Paul taught Christians to keep the weekly and yearly Sabbaths many years after Christ ascended to heaven. (Acts 16:13; 17:2; 18:21; 20:16; 24:14.) God also made it clear that besides the first tithe (that tenth of one’s increase that is to pay the expense of the work of God) the Israelites should save a second tithe to be used in observing the holy days. This was mostly for the Festival of Tabernacles, which was to be held apart from the usual habitations of the people at a place chosen by God. (Deuteronomy 12:17-19; 14:22-27.) Today, as then, the people of God’s church use this second tenth of their income for observing the holy days — especially the fall festival — at the place or places God indicates. Jerusalem was the main place in ancient Israel, and will be again when Christ returns not very many years from now. (Zechariah 14:16-19.) God ordained the Festival of Tabernacles as a time when His people should worship Him with special joy, reverence, mirth and thankfulness. It was not to be a noisy "camp meeting" or what is so often referred to as a "revival" at some date set by man. Instead, it was and still is a time of joyfully worshipping God while taking in spiritual food (preaching) that is corrective, inspiring and character-building. It was and still is a time of dining, visiting, dancing, and enjoying sports that stimulate the body and knit the people of God together in spiritual harmony. (Jeremiah 31:12-13.) Faithful saving of the second tithe makes it possible for God’s people to enjoy this autumn vacation and return to-their homes and to their work better prepared to live happier and closer to their Creator. At this same time God also commanded that the people should rest their crop land every seventh year so the physical laws in nature can improve the soil’s health-giving natural balance. (Leviticus 25:1-7, 20-22; Leviticus 26:14-16, 32-35.) Then God commanded that a third tenth should be saved for a very special use. This was to be taken out only every third and sixth year in a seven-year cycle. It was to go to the poor among the Levites, widows, fatherless children and poor strangers. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12.) In these days the obedient Christian puts aside his tithes plus what is required in taxes and such. God makes it possible. Many are the families that have enjoyed better incomes and other financial benefits since beginning to tithe.

Good Civil Government Many other matters were brought to the people at that time, among which were these: When the seventh-year land rest came to a conclusion, any debt should be canceled unless the debtor happened to be a foreigner. (Deuteronomy 15:1-11.) A servant should be freed after seven years of service. (Deuteronomy 15:12-15.) Israel was to make no agreements of any kind with the nations that were to be driven out. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5; 20:16-18.) No more than forty lashes of a whip were to be applied in punishment. (Deuteronomy 25:1-3.) No fruit trees were to be cut down in times of war in the land Israel invaded. (Deuteronomy 20:19-20.) The food they produced was worth more than timber. The Israelites should consider themselves a holy nation, not because of their righteousness, but because God chose them as His people. (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:1-2.) Any prophet or priest who falsely led the people into any wrong kind of worship was to be put to death. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22.) Toward the end of the period of instruction, Moses repeated these solemn words from God: "You, Israel, must choose between blessings and cursings from your Creator. Obedience to my laws shall bring wonderful blessings of prosperity, freedom from diseases, success in all you undertake, an abundance of healthy children and livestock, plenty of rain and water, good crops without blemish or pestilence, comfortable homes and protection from accident and from your enemies. I shall make you the head of all nations, and they shall fear and respect you. You shall lead long, happy lives, and so shall your offspring also be happy, healthy and prosperous into the far future! "On the other hand, if you refuse to live according to the laws I have made plain to you, I shall heap grievous curses on you. You shall cease to prosper. All kinds of diseases shall come on you, and you shall fail in all you set out to do. Your children shall be sickly, but famine shall drive you to eat them. Your livestock shall sicken and die of disease or for lack of water and grass. The soil shall turn hard, and your crops shall be consumed by blight and pestilence. You shall be sick, frightened and miserable wherever you go. You shall become as depraved as animals and lunatics, and fatal accidents shall overtake you wherever you are. Your homes shall become filthy, miserable hovels. You shall become the least and weakest of all nations, and cruel enemies shall slay you. Those of you who aren’t slain shall be taken captive and scattered among the nations as wretched slaves!" (Deuteronomy 28 and 30:15-20.)

God’s Laws Must Be Preserved All the laws God had recently given to Moses to pass on to the people were written down at another time by Moses and presented to the priests to place beside the Ark of the Covenant. Copies also were given to the elders. Moses commanded them to read the whole book of the law to the people every seven years when Israel assembled at the Festival of Tabernacles during the year of release. (Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-29.) The priests and Levites were also commanded to teach the people portions of the law yearly at the festivals and throughout the year in all their cities. (Deuteronomy 33:8-10; II Chronicles 17:7-9; 35:1-3; Nehemiah 8:1-8; Acts 15:21.) God then called Moses and Joshua to the tabernacle. As soon as they entered, the Creator descended to the tabernacle inside a glorious, radiant cloud. (Deuteronomy 31:14-15.) "Before your life ends," God told Moses, "there are more things for you to do. One is to write a song to teach to the people. I know they shall go after other gods and shall forget my laws. They shall break my covenant. Then evil days shall fall on them, and though they shall seek my help, I shall let them suffer. The verses I give you must become a national song to be taught from generation to generation. The people shall remember it, and it shall become a witness against them because of their sins." (Verses 16-21.)

Chapter 50

As SOON as Moses and Joshua left the tabernacle, where God had instructed them concerning things to come, Moses hurried to his tent. He was to write down the matters that were to be made into a song to teach to Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:22.)

The Way to Happiness Later, Moses went before the people to give them the verses that were to become a sort of national anthem to remind the Israelites of their faults, their obligations and the matters that would come up in the future. The verses mentioned God’s perfect justice, mercy and great works, and showed how sinful Israel had become in spite of God’s wonderful ways. The people were reminded of how patiently God had dealt with them during their travels in the desert, and of the terrible warnings that had repeatedly been given them. The verses pointed out that if Israel were wise enough to obey, all enemies would be overcome, but that lack of wisdom would result in great calamity for Israel. It was shown that Israel would have great reason to rejoice in the far future, but only after the people would have undergone a time of terrible tribulation and finally would have repented. (Deuteronomy 32:1-43.) "Don’t do what is right in your own eyes," Moses told the people. "Your conscience will deceive you. Let it be your ambition, above all things, to observe God’s laws and teach your children to do the same. If you fail in this, your lives will become miserable and come to an untimely end. On the other hand, obedience will mean long, happy lives with prosperity, and wonderful futures for your children!" (Deuteronomy 12:8; 6:1-12; 4:30-31; 11:8-9; 31:6.) Moses then pronounced a lengthy blessing on the various tribes of Israel, at the same time telling some of the things they would accomplish in the far future. (Deuteronomy 33.)

Moses’ Departure Moses ruefully ended talking to the people. He realized that the time had come for him to go to Mt. Pisgah to look across the Jordan and view the land of Canaan, which he would never enter. Accompanied probably by Eleazar, Joshua, the elders of Israel and some aides, Moses started out for the mountain, which was not far distant. When the congregation became aware that he was leaving forever, the people gradually broke into tearful moans and wailing. Moses was greatly moved by the loud demonstration, but there was nothing for him to do but go on. A little later he noted that the great mass of people, still wailing, was following him toward the mountain. Moses knew that if the people weren’t stopped, many of them would follow him right up the mountain. He hastily took advantage of a small rise, from which he could more easily be seen and heard, to firmly tell as many as could hear him that they should not follow any farther. The wailing people obeyed. Moses and those who accompanied him continued on toward Mt. Pisgah, a point from which Balak, king of Moab, had asked the since-destroyed prophet Balaam to pronounce a curse on Israel. Silently the group progressed up the mountain, while the sad wailing of the people drifted up strongly from the plains below. It was a strange fact that while the people were feeling sorry for Moses, Moses was feeling sorry for the people. The people were sorry to see Moses depart from them, and at the same time Moses felt concern for Israel because his close contact with God had resulted in his knowing Israel’s fate even into the far future. He knew the people still had many bitter lessons to learn. When at last Moses and the elders and officers arrived close to the peak of Mt. Pisgah, Moses turned to the people who had come with him and said a few last words of farewell. There were no dry eyes, even among those who were hardened soldiers and officers who had long served Moses. Moses said good-bye to them, and then walked alone up to the highest point of the mountain. >From there, through the clear atmosphere of that high mountain country, Moses looked across the Jordan and into nearby territory to clearly view the land where most of the tribes of Israel would settle.

Moses Views the Promised Land From that elevation of several thousand feet, one of the highest points in the land, Moses carefully drank in the magnificent sight. He looked southwest and west across the area where the tribes of Simeon, Judah, Dan and Benjamin were to settle from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean. To the northwest he could see the region that was to be occupied by Ephraim, Issachar and half of Manasseh. To the north he viewed the lands to be taken over by Zebulon, Asher and Naphtali. Swinging his gaze to the east side of the Jordan, Moses saw the land already allotted to the other half of Manasseh, to Gad and Reuben. Below him, stretching from the Dead Sea far to the north, was the beautiful Jordan valley with its lush bottom lands filled with fields, vineyards, groves of palm trees and other fruit. "This is the land," the voice of God came to Moses, "that I promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Here it is for you to see, but it is not for you to enter. However, you will enter a better land in the resurrection to come. Now walk down the side of the mountain opposite the way you came up!" (Deuteronomy 34:1-4; Hebrews 11:1-15, 24-29, 39-40.)

A Final Farewell Having feasted his eyes on the scene around him, Moses switched his gaze back on the mourning elders and officers who sadly gazed up at him. He waved, then turned and strode slowly out of their sight. This was the last that was seen of Moses by human beings. He started down the other side of the mountain, but just how far he went, no one knows. Possibly God caused him to fall into a deep sleep, and then took his life. God then buried him in a nearby mountain valley in Moab. (Deuteronomy 34:5-6.) Satan attempted to obtain possession of Moses’ body (Jude 9), probably with the purpose of bringing it to the attention of the Israelites so that they would make it an object of worship. However, God carefully hid the burial place from man, so that no one would ever be tempted to regard the body as something sacred that should be worshipped. Some readers might think that it would be a very extreme thing to worship a dead body. But even today, when we are supposed to be enlightened and intelligent, millions of people in the professing Christian world regard the relics — dried bones and shriveled flesh — of certain long-dead individuals as something to be revered and considered holy. Thus Moses’ death ended, at one hundred and twenty years, the life of one of God’s most outstanding servants of all time. Just before he died, Moses was as healthy and strong as when he was eighty years of age. Even his eyes were as keen as they had been in his youth. (Deuteronomy 34:7.) No other leader of Israel accomplished such great deeds as did Moses. (Verses 10-12.) Because he was so close to God, he enjoyed the great privilege of leading millions of his people out of slavery, bringing God’s wonderful laws to them, and leading them to the entrance of a bountiful garden spot that was to be their home. Although there were too many times when they ignored God by ignoring Moses, all Israel was very sad to lose such a wonderful leader. For the next thirty days matters came almost to a standstill in the camps while the people mourned Moses’ death. (Verse 8.) In these days many people, including a host of outstanding religious leaders, consider the vitally important times and events of ancient Israel only as an old tale having to do with the Jews. They think of Moses simply as one who, not too successfully, may have led a few Jews out of Egypt and into Canaan, and who started the present Jewish religion. Such shallow beliefs are spawned by the refusal to completely believe Jesus and the Old Testament, and the inability to understand who Israel is today. Moses didn’t start the Jewish religion. The word "Jews" is not even mentioned in the Bible until long after Moses’ time. Then the Jews were referred to (II Kings 16:6) as being at war with Israel! Those who assume that the words "Jew" and "Israelite" always mean the same thing find it impossible to understand some of the most important parts of the Bible — especially prophecy. It is tragic that innumerable people who sincerely want to learn how best to live are taught by such blinded or stubborn leaders that the sacred, living laws of God, brought to Israel through Moses, were only "Jewish" rules blotted out by Christ’s death. They are misled to believe we are now "freed" to do as our conscience pleases. Happily, according to prophecy for these last days, God is gradually opening the understanding of more and more people to the startling fact that those who defiantly teach that God’s laws are no longer in force are as guilty in God’s sight as the most villainous men mentioned throughout the scriptures. Unless they repent, the fate of such people, referred to as false shepherds, will be most horrible — because of their deceitful posing as true ministers of God. (Ezekiel 34:2, 7-10; II Peter 2:12.)

God Speaks to Joshua After Moses’ death, God contacted Joshua to remind him that now that he was Israel’s leader he should direct himself and the nation to live by all the book of the law of God. He was reminded that trust in the Eternal and obedience and courage, would mean success in battle over Israel’s enemies and in taking over the land from the Great Sea (Mediterranean) east to the Euphrates River, and from the desert south of the Dead Sea to Mt. Lebanon on the north. (Deuteronomy 34:9; Joshua 1:1-4. "I will not fail you nor forsake you as long as you carry on in accord with the laws that came to you through my servant Moses," God instructed Joshua. (Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Joshua 1:5-7.) "Meditate on those laws so that they will become so familiar to you that you can’t forget them. Be strong in this office that has been given to you. Be of great courage. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed. Remember that your God is with you wherever you go." (Verses 8-9; Deuteronomy 31:6.) This was one of the greatest "pep" talks ever given to one of the most responsible leaders in all history. If Joshua hadn’t previously realized how much he should rely on God, he surely was completely reminded at that time.

"Prepare to Break Camp!" As soon as the mourning period of thirty days for Moses was over, Joshua gave orders to his officers to make an announcement to the people. "Be prepared on notice to break camp within three days," the officers told the surprised people. "Prepare extra food and supplies for a sudden trip over the Jordan and into the land promised to us by God." (Verses 10-11.) Although manna was still the main food of the Israelites, it wasn’t something that could be gathered during a sudden movement of the people or a food that could be kept overnight except over the Sabbath. At this time when Israel was going to be on the move for a few days, it was necessary to prepare meat, fruit and grains, taken in their conquests, that could be carried and consumed at any time. Joshua then spoke to the heads of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh — who had by this time returned from settling their families east of the Jordan — to remind them of their obligation to their brethren in the other tribes. "I want to remind you of your promise to send the best soldiers of your tribes to help take over all of Canaan," Joshua told them. "We’ll be moving across the Jordan very soon, and your picked soldiers should lead the way, since they will not have their families with them. After we’ve taken the land, your warriors shall be free to return to their towns and families on this side of the river." (Joshua 1:12-15.) "We are sending the best of our soldiers to fight in God’s battles," the leaders replied. "We shall carry out our promise. Our soldiers will go wherever you send them and obey every command. Every soldier that we send will know that if he fails to obey you, he will be put to death!" (Verses 16-18.) Just west of Israel’s camp was the Jordan River. It was exceedingly deep, as the flood season had begun. Only about six miles farther to the west was a walled and fortified city called Jericho. Joshua knew that it would be necessary to attack that city before progressing further into Canaan, because it was situated by the pass that led through the mountains. It was also one of the Canaanite cities God had commanded Israel to destroy because of its extremely evil practices.

Scouts Sent to Jericho! Joshua realized that God wasn’t necessarily going to protect Israel if any foolish moves were made. He knew that he was to use sound judgment and strategy. Because of this, he had already sent two men to Jericho to try to find out how well the city was armed, the condition of the walls and the gates, what forces were close to Jericho and the morale of the people within the city. These two men quickly found how difficult it was to cross the Jordan at that time of year. It was spring, and showers had swollen the stream into a muddy torrent. Very few swimmers could cross a raging, turbulent river in flood stage. But these men had been chosen for their many outstanding abilities, including great skill in swimming, and they managed to struggle across the violent current to the west bank. After drying their clothes, which were chosen to appear as those of roving Canaanites, they trudged the several miles from the river to the city. Jericho was surrounded by groves of palm trees, and well-traveled roads led to its several gates. The Israelites met several people on the first road they came to. No one seemed particularly friendly; some were even a little suspicious of their identity. There was no problem in getting into Jericho. Its huge gates were open to traffic till sunset. The Israelites mixed in with a caravan that was entering the nearest gate, and boldly walked about to view the life and activity of this habitation of their enemies. Jericho wasn’t a tremendous city; it covered only about seven acres. But it was compact and had room for thousands of people. Within its four strong walls were many busy streets crammed with stables, shops, public buildings, homes and inns. Many shops, homes and inns were built on top of the double walls. People milled about everywhere. From their expressions and actions, it wasn’t difficult to see that most of them were in a state of excited anxiety. A few soldiers huddled in groups in the streets, but most of them were on the walls. The Israelite scouts noted that they were gazing mostly to the east toward the camp of Israel.

Trapped! Hoping to get on the wall, the Israelites walked up a long flight of steps to one of the inns built there. The proprietress greeted them cordially and saw to it that they were well fed. While eating, they were startled by a loud clanging. The proprietress — her name was Rahab — explained that it was sundown, and that the huge gates of the city were being closed for the night to keep anyone from going out or coming in. The two Israelites suddenly realized that they were trapped — at least until sunrise. A little later officers sent by the king arrived at the inn and demanded of the servant to speak with the proprietress. The Israelites were just finishing their meal in another room, and didn’t see the officers. However, they could hear all that was said. So could Rahab, the proprietress. (Joshua 2:1-3.) "We have been sent here by the ruler of Jericho," the officers announced to a servant at the door. "He has received information that two Israelite spies were seen entering this inn. We are here to arrest them!"

Chapter 51 THE PROMISED LAND

THE TWO Israelite scouts sent to the city of Jericho were eating at Rahab’s inn when officers banged loudly on the door. "Two officers have come from the king of Jericho to arrest you!" Rahab whispered to them. "They’re impatient and I must go to the door at once. I know who you are, and I have my reasons to help you. Hurry up this back stairway and hide yourselves under the flax you’ll find drying on the roof!" (Joshua 2:1-4.) The Israelites didn’t waste time asking questions or waiting for more explanation. They dashed for the stairway, and Rahab turned to go to the officers.

Rahab Outwits the Soldiers "If you’re stalling us, woman, we’ll have to take you along, too!" one of them snapped. "I hurried back there to the dining booth to find out if any of my lodgers noticed which way the two men went," Rahab explained. "They were here, but they left just before the wall gates of the city were closed for the night. If they are Israelites, probably they’re on their way back to their camp, and the soldiers could overtake them before they reach the river." Rahab lied about these things, but God makes use of all kinds of people to bring about His purposes. In this matter He was using a Canaanite woman, who had never been taught God’s Commandments. The king’s officers didn’t spend any more time talking. They strode out of the inn and barked orders to nearby soldiers. Within a very few minutes, the gates swung open, and a searching party of soldiers scurried off into the darkness in the direction of the river. (Verses 5-7.) As soon as the soldiers had left, Rahab went up to the flat roof of the inn to talk to the Israelites. She expected to find them well hidden under the flax on the roof. Instead, she found they were not yet fully covered. "You’re safe for now," Rahab whispered. "They won’t be back for awhile. We Canaanites are well aware of your intention of taking over our country. I know that your powerful God will give you this land. Our whole city is frightened because you have so swiftly overcome nations to the east and southeast. We have been dreading the day when your soldiers come over the Jordan. Our terror is so great that no one has any courage left." "If you believe that Israel is going to take over your land, why are you trying to protect us?" one of the Israelites asked.

Rahab Trusts in God "Because I believe your God is the true God. Long ago we heard of the great miracles He performed, especially in causing the Red Sea to part so that your people could pass through it. (Verses 8-11.) "I want to be spared by your soldiers," Rahab continued. "I have showed you kindness. Now promise me that your people will spare me and my close relatives — the households of my father and all my brothers and sisters — when this city is attacked." "We promise to do as you ask," the Israelites told her, "if you will agree not to mention to anyone what has taken place here tonight." Rahab solemnly assured them that she would keep the matter to herself. The Israelites then instructed her that she should tie a red cord, which one of the men gave her, in the window of her establishment, and that all her relatives should take refuge there when the soldiers of Israel would reach Jericho. "Our soldiers will be told to spare the place where the red cord is," Rahab was told, "but if any of your family is outside your doors when we attack, we won’t be responsible for them. On the other hand, if any of your family within your inn is harmed, we shall be responsible before God for that harm." "So be it," the other Israelite muttered, "but these promises can’t mean much if we don’t get out of here tonight. We don’t dare wait until daylight, and the gates will be barred all night." For answer, Rahab motioned for them to follow her. They went downstairs to an open window facing outward from the wall. Rahab gave the men a bag of food and a long rope, and the scouts knew what to do. They tied one end of the rope to a ceiling beam and let the rest of it drop out the window. "Don’t try to return to your camp now," Rahab warned. "The area between here and the river will be swarming with our soldiers for many hours. Hurry to the hills west of here and hide there for three days. By that time it should be much safer for you to go back." One at a time the Israelites slid down the rope, which more than reached all the way down the high wall. Rahab pulled the rope back up and waved to the men as they melted into the darkness. (Verses 12-21.) It wasn’t easy to travel over strange terrain at night, but the darkness wasn’t intense enough to prevent the scouts from keeping on the move. The two fleeing men shortly reached the white limestone hills, where they found a number of caves. They chose one next to a small water spring, and for the next three days it was their hideout home.

The Scouts Report to Joshua At the end of three days the two men set out eastward during darkness to successfully reach the Jordan. There they waited for daylight, and again managed to swim the river. From there it was only a short distance to the Israelite camp and safety. Joshua was pleased at the report of the scouts, especially because it showed the shattered morale of the Canaanites. As for Rahab and her family, Joshua readily agreed to the promise that this one Canaanite family would be spared. (Verses 2224.) Joshua knew that God’s death sentence upon Canaanites did not apply to those who willingly forsook their heathen gods and put their faith in God. After all, the reason God had condemned the Canaanites was because they were the worst sort of idolaters. (Deuteronomy 9:4; 12:29-32.) Those few who repented, as Rahab did, were to be shown mercy. (Genesis 12:3.) As soon as Joshua had finished hearing the report, he told his officers to take word to the people that they should prepare to break camp next day. Great activity followed. Flocks and herds grazing outside the camp had to be rounded up. Families packed their possessions except what was needed for meals and a night’s rest. Early next morning the Israelites finished breaking camp. The tabernacle tent, fence and all that went with the tabernacle were packed for moving, and the Israelites set out on a march toward the river. The trip took almost all day, and took them away from the acacia groves near Mt. Nebo, but into more groves of palm trees. They stopped just before arriving at the river, and set up camp again on the east slopes leading down to the Jordan. Although the Jordan wasn’t a large river such as the Nile, those Israelites who were curious enough to go on down to it were greatly impressed by it because it was the largest river the new generation had ever seen. At that time of year, due to spring rains and the melting of the snow in the high mountains to the north, the Jordan was swift and swollen to overflowing by the silty waters. Those who saw the river returned to tell their neighbors what it was like. Only the very strong swimmers could hone to make it across the Jordan, and building rafts or a bridge would require so much time that all the armies of Canaan could concentrate at the spot and easily ruin such a project! However, this was to be no problem for Israel, because God had already given private instructions to Joshua so the people would realize God was with Joshua as He had been with Moses.

A Miracle Needed! Next morning Joshua told the priests they should personally take up the ark of the covenant and bear it to the river ahead of the Israelites. (Joshua 3:1-7.) Ordinarily the ark was carried in the center of the mass of people, and was borne by Levites who were the sons of Kohath. (Numbers 2:1-31; Numbers 4:15.) As God commanded, Joshua then told the priests that they should wade into the edge of the overflow water only a foot or so with the ark, and then stand still while God intervened in the flow of the river. Meanwhile, the evening before, Joshua asked the people to gather together to listen to what he had to say. "All of you should make yourselves and your garments clean for what will happen tomorrow," he told them. "Before us there is a swift and swollen river to cross. I have already heard that some of you may not think that it’s possible to cross it. Have some of you lost faith in your God, who brought you out of many situations far worse than this one? Now be assured that God will again prove to us His power by taking us safely over the river. The ark of the covenant will be carried to the river before you by almost a mile. When those who carry the ark walk into the Jordan, the stream shall cease to flow past the ark! That part of the water to the south shall drain away, leaving a waterless river bed over which we shall cross to the west bank! This should show you that God possesses all the strength and means to get us safely over the river, to drive out our enemies before us and deliver Canaan into our hands!" God made sure that no one entered the promised land with doubts and misgivings. Joshua then instructed the twelve tribal leaders that each should select a husky man from his tribe and send him to Joshua for a special task. Every man selected, when he passed over the river bed, was to pick up a good-sized stone from the rocky river bottom and carry it to the west bank for building a monument. (Joshua 3:8-13.)

The Jordan Flows Backward! Early that morning the priests started out with the ark. None of the Israelites followed until the priests were almost a mile away, which put them at the edge of the river. They probably hesitated for a minute or so on the east bank, then walked boldly into the swift, muddy water. Every man realized that unless God acted within seconds, men and ark would be swept away downstream. Before they could wade in up to their knees, the water flowed away to their left. At the same time the water to their right abruptly ceased flowing. In fact, its direction of movement was actually reversed! As the priests continued to march into the midst of the Jordan, it gradually grew higher and spread farther out on its flooded banks to the north. Thus, with water receding in both directions, a growing expanse of empty river bed was exposed to the view of the marveling priests and those of the waiting Israelites who could see the miracle from a distance. The bearers of the ark went in to the middle of the river bed and then obediently stood where they were. They felt deep gratitude for being allowed to have a part in such a great miracle. When Joshua had made certain that all was ready, he signaled the Israelites to move on to the river. It required a long time for close to two million people and their tremendous flocks to pass any given point, the specific number of hours depending on how wide their ranks were. In this event, even though the river bed was emptied for such a great distance, and gave the people plenty of room to spread out, probably the people were pouring over the Jordan for several hours. (Verses 14-17.) Whatever the time needed, the priests, who were rugged outdoor men, patiently remained standing where they had walked into the water. They didn’t move out of the river bed until the last of the Israelites had passed over, including the lead group of 40,000 soldiers sent by the two and a half tribes already settled east of the Jordan to help take Canaan. One probably would wonder how men could remain standing so long, especially while holding the ark. Perhaps God gave them special strength to stand for such a long period while bearing a weight. Except for the priests, the last to pass over the river bed were Joshua, his aides and the twelve men who had been picked to obtain stones from the middle of the river bed for a monument on the west side of the river. Before they picked the stones for that purpose, Joshua had them erect a twelve-stone memorial in the Jordan where the priests had stood so long with the ark. To make this possible, the priests naturally had to move forward a short distance while the men worked. After the monument in the river was finished (it was still visible in the river many years later when the Bible account was written), each of the twelve men took up from the river bed a stone as large as he could carry and walked out to the west bank.

Promise Miraculously Fulfilled Behind them came the priests, and as soon as they had carried the ark well up on the west bank, a peculiar murmuring sound came from the north. Within seconds the murmur grew into an alarming roar. The waters that had been held back for so long had abruptly been freed, and came rushing and boiling down the river channel with a thunderous swishing noise! (Joshua 4:1-18.) This mighty miracle of God, plainly foretold by Joshua, had a deep effect on the Israelites. They realized now that Joshua, like Moses, had been chosen by the Creator as an outstanding leader. Their respect for him was very great from that day on. (Verse 14.) The Israelites also realized that God had now completely fulfilled His promise to take all of this new generation over the Jordan into the promised land. Again the congregation fell into moving order, this time with the ark carried by Levites in the center of the column. The people traveled straight west a few miles and stopped to make camp. It was there that the twelve stones carried from the Jordan were stacked up into a monument. Joshua then came before the crowd to speak to as many as could hear him. "This heap of stones is to be a reminder of God’s great miracle in bringing us across the river," he announced. "Tell your children in time to come what it means. Remind them that God also brought Israel across a much greater body of water — the Red Sea. This monument is also to remind all peoples who see it or learn of it that our God is to be greatly feared and respected." Regardless of Joshua’s reference to God’s strength, there were some people who stared fearfully toward the west as night came on. They felt uneasy because the west edge of Israel’s camp was only a little over a mile away from the forbidding walls of the strongly fortified city of Jericho!

Chapter 52 WALLS OF JERICHO FALL

IT was on the tenth day of the first month (Nisan in the spring — not January in the winter) that Israel crossed the Jordan River and made camp in Canaan at a spot called Gilgal. The west border of the camp wasn’t much more than a mile from Jericho, a thick-walled city swarming with enemy soldiers. (Joshua 4:19-24.)

Israel’s First Passover in Canaan It had been just forty years before — minus five days — that Israel had fled from Egypt. (Exodus 12:18, 29-34, 51; Numbers 14:26-35; Deuteronomy 1:3; Joshua 5:6.) The Exodus had started after the first observance of Passover. Now again it was almost time to prepare for another Passover. But before it should be observed, God told Joshua that most of the males of Israel should undergo a physical rite that had been required as a sign and seal of the covenant between the Creator and Israel. After the Passover, which fell on the seventh day of the week that year, the people observed the Days of Unleavened Bread by eating no bread with leavening in it. One of their main dishes was roasted grain that had been taken from the fields of their enemies. This was only one item of food that had been acquired since entering the region of the Jordan. In fact, so many edible things had been taken in recent days that Israel’s food supply was sufficient to keep them without gathering manna. As a result, manna, which had been the main food for forty years, ceased to appear on the day after the Passover. (Joshua 5:2-12.) Meanwhile, there was no sign of Canaanite soldiers except those who could be seen in the distance on the walls of Jericho. Nevertheless, enemy spies kept a close watch on Israel. Their reports on the parting of the river spread quickly to every ruler in that section of the world. These leaders were greatly concerned by this amazing event. They had felt temporarily secure from Israel because they had considered the Jordan practically impossible to cross during its swollen condition. The king of Jericho was especially worried. Even though his fighting force was composed of many fierce men skilled in battle, the very numbers of Israelites camped so close to his city were enough to make his nights sleepless. (Joshua 5:1.) To make certain that no more Israelite spies could get into Jericho, he gave orders that the gates of the city should close and remain closed twenty-four hours a day. No one was to be allowed in or out — except, if necessary, a few special spies of his, and they were let down the walls on rope ladders and brought up the same way. This was a costly precaution, because it meant turning away caravans arriving from other lands with valuables and food. The king reasoned that it was wiser to remain bottled up with what food was on hand rather than take the slightest risk of allowing any Israelites to enter Jericho in disguise. (Joshua 6:1.)

Joshua Meets the Lord A few days after Israel had arrived in Gilgal, Joshua went alone, despite the protests of some of his officers, toward Jericho. He wished to see for himself what the place was like at closer range. He suddenly found himself face to face with a sturdy man holding a gleaming sword and gazing intently at him. Joshua strode boldly up to him. "Are you a friend of Israel or an enemy?" Joshua bluntly inquired of the stranger. (Joshua 5:13.) "I am not an enemy," the man replied in a firm voice. "I am here as the commander of the army of God!" It required several seconds for Joshua to realize that he was actually gazing at the Lord, the very One who later also came to this world in human form to be known as Jesus Christ, and who also appeared to Abraham as Melchizedek, king of Salem! This was Joshua’s closest contact with God. He fearfully fell forward and placed his forehead on the ground. "What would you ask of me, my Lord?" Joshua humbly inquired. We know this man was the Lord — a member of the Godhead — because he allowed Joshua to worship Him. Angels never allow God’s servants to worship them. (Revelation 22:8-9.) "Your feet are on holy ground," was the answer. "Remove your shoes and I shall tell you how to take Jericho." Joshua lost no time in obeying. Then he carefully listened to the instructions from God. (Joshua 5:14-15.) "Return to your camp and carry out the orders I have given you," he was told. "If you do just as I have told you to do, it won’t be necessary for you to storm the walls or gates of Jericho in order to conquer it, even though many fierce fighting men are garrisoned within that fortress." Inspired and encouraged in what he should do, Joshua returned to camp. Once he turned to gaze back to where he had been encountered, but there was no one there! As soon as he arrived back in camp, to the relief of his officers, Joshua told them and the priests of his unusual experience and of God’s plan to take Jericho. (Joshua 6:2-7.)

Siege of Jericho Begins Next day the king of that city was startled by the dreadful news he had been expecting. "Sentries have just reported seeing many persons on foot approaching from the Israelite camp!" an officer announced. Surrounded by anxious aides and officers, the king hurried to the east wall. When he saw the growing columns of people marching toward his city, he nervously barked out orders for all soldiers to take their battle stations, and for all civilians to get off the walls and streets and out of the shops and into their homes or shelters. As the Canaanites continued watching, they became discouraged, confused and relieved in turns. The foremost of their approaching enemies marched just close enough for discerning that they were soldiers. Then they veered to the left and moved along to the south of the city. "Why should they give us such a wide berth if they intend to attack?" one officer asked. "Perhaps they don’t intend to attack," another observed. "Possibly they’re just moving on to the west." "That hardly seems possible," the king muttered. "They’ve taken every city from the Arnon River to Mt. Hermon!" Rising hope that Israel was moving out and by-passing Jericho was abruptly downed when the foremost Israelite soldiers turned north to parallel the west wall of the city. A little later they turned back eastward to distantly flank Jericho’s north wall. The city was being surrounded by thousands upon thousands of Israelites! Why they remained at such a distance baffled the Canaanites. Another mystery was the presence of seven long-robed horn blowers marching behind the first large segment of the moving column. As they marched, they held up carved trumpets called "shopharim" which were made of rams’ horns, and emitted shrill blasts that echoed from the hills to the west. Behind the horn blowers marched four more robed men carrying what appeared to be a large box. The Canaanites had no way of knowing that this object was the ark of the covenant, and that the other seven robed men were priests who had been instructed to blow special horns. This was the only sound that came from the Israelites. It was frightfully puzzling to their watchers, because it was the usual habit of soldiers on the march to shout or sing. In this case, the Israelites had been told not to utter a word during the marching around Jericho. For well over an hour the Canaanites uneasily watched the enemy parade. It required somewhat more than that for any part of the marchers to pass around Jericho and return to the Israelite camp. Jericho’s ruler remained on the wall, gravely puzzled as to the meaning of such a weird demonstration. (Joshua 6:8-11.) "Didn’t anyone here think to try counting them?" he impatiently asked.

Canaanites’ Fear Mounts "We have estimated that about one hundred thousand passed around the city, sir," an officer spoke out. "As you know, our spies have reported that Israel has at least five or six times that many soldiers." "Spies are not always right," the king murmured. "This performance today seems to me to be only an effort to display manpower that isn’t necessarily there. How do we know that all of them were men? Most of them could have been women and children dressed as soldiers. Why did they parade at such a distance unless they fear our spears, arrows and catapults? If they don’t come closer, they can’t harm us. Even as besiegers, they would have to hold out many days before our supplies are exhausted, and that isn’t the pattern of their operation." These weakly optimistic remarks from the king did little to generate hope or enthusiasm in those about him. The next day, however, brought a little relief to the Canaanites from their fears when dawn showed no evidence of further siege preparations. Before long, however, it was observed that Israelites were again approaching Jericho. Renewed excitement and fear reigned in the city for awhile. Then, as they had done the day before, the Israelites swerved southward, later continuing westward to march at a distance from the south wall, swinging north around the west wall, going eastward past the north wall and back to their camp. Meanwhile, there was no chant, shout or song from the Israelites. The only sound was that from the seven horns, whose continuous piercing tones carried loudly to the Canaanites in an irritating, suspenseful and nerve-wracking manner. "This is obviously some kind of enchantment by which Israel is trying to overcome us without attacking us," the king of Jericho proclaimed to his people after the Israelites had finished their second day of marching around the city. "Why should we allow enchantments from these foreigners to bother us? I have heard that they have only one God. We have many gods to protect us." Next day the Israelites appeared for the third time to march around Jericho in the same manner and at the same distance. As usual there was the strange box-like object and the seven men going before it while blowing their horns. On the fourth day the same thing happened. By now many of the Canaanites were becoming increasingly fearful because they didn’t know just what to expect. Some believed that a great, consuming fire might fall from the sky. Others were afraid of all kinds of calamities. Some, in an effort to hide their growing fears, began to joke about the Israelites. Next day the Israelites came around again. This time, although the ruler of Jericho wasn’t completely in favor of it, the soldiers lining the tops of the walls lifted their voices in loud taunts to the Israelites to come closer. The ruler didn’t wish to do anything to rouse the ire of the enemy, but at the same time he felt that his soldiers’ morale could be sparked up if they were allowed to deride Israel. The marchers could plainly hear the challenges, but they remained silent except for the blaring of their seven horns. For six days the Israelites marched once around the city in the early morning of each day. (Joshua 6:12-14.) On the sixth day the Canaanites shouted even louder at the Israelites as they passed around the city, though they actually believed that if the whole Israelite fighting force should accept their dares and attack, losses by the Canaanites would be much greater than any harm they could inflict upon Israel. "This is a silly, time-consuming, childish game these people are playing," Jericho’s ruler announced to the people and soldiers in an effort to boost morale. "Their intended enchantment failed to work the first time, and now they are merely repeating it again and again in the hope that it will finally take effect. It should be plain by now that these people cannot harm us by such means." The city’s king just couldn’t understand God’s plan of battle.

Israelite Tactics Change Inasmuch as the Israelites had been encircling Jericho a little after sunrise each day, Canaanite sentries were surprised when they saw the marching column approaching at early dawn on the seventh day. High officers feared that this might indicate some drastic change in Israel’s plans, and the king was immediately notified of what was happening outside the wall. The Israelites went around the city in the same manner as usual, but the more interesting fact was that instead of returning to camp, they began to encircle the city again. In fact, they spent almost the whole day marching around Jericho. By mid-afternoon they had made six rounds and were starting on the seventh. (Joshua 6:15.) At this point another unusual thing happened. Hundreds of thousands more soldiers had strode out from Israel’s camp and now joined the marchers. The bright, palm-studded plains around Jericho gradually grew dark with the growing immensity of armed forces. The challenging hoots and shouts that had been coming from the Canaanites gradually died away when Israel’s military strength was displayed. Many people within the city fell into a state of panic when they realized how many fighting men were confronting them. This fear and panic spread like a contagious disease, only much more rapidly. Even the ruler and his officers were grim-faced and nervously silent. No jeering taunts or attempts to belittle Israel’s might could boost the Canaanites’ morale now that they were faced by the stark cold fact of Israel’s true strength. The people in Jericho felt doomed. It was late afternoon when the Israelites finally finished marching around the city for the seventh time. At this juncture the ark and the trumpet blowers were just east of Jericho. There they stopped, and all the other marchers came to a halt. Greater tension gripped the Canaanites. Jericho’s ruler, who had been squirming in anxiety in a chair inside one of the wall towers, came slowly to his feet. He stared unblinkingly out at Israel’s silently threatening throng. At that moment the seven horn blowers, who had not sounded for several minutes, blew an unusually long, high blast. This was followed by a chilling surge of shouts from the people surrounding Jericho, those in Israel’s camp and the many who were spread out between, as Joshua had commanded them to do. (Joshua 6:16-19.) The noise that resulted from the millions of throats was like the thunder and hiss of a tidal wave crashing against a rocky cliff.

Divine Overthrow Within seconds, however, the vast din of voices was drowned in another noise — an ominous, deep rumble approaching like the growing reverberation of the hoofs of millions of swiftly approaching horses! Those on the walls felt a sickening sway. Those inside the city were aghast to see widening cracks appear in the cobbled and bricked streets. Screaming people began to pour out of the buildings. Those on the walls began to race down steps and ladders to a firmer footing. But it was too late to find safety. The walls, as well as the streets, were already cleaving. In the midst of the ear-splitting clatter, the king and his officers were among the first to realize, in their last moments of life, that the mighty God of Israel didn’t even recognize the puny, powerless gods and idols of this world. (Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 45:5; I Corinthians 8:5-6; Isaiah 2:20-21.) Then the walls of Jericho reeled violently outward and crashed down with a deafening roar. (Joshua 6:20.) Skeptics used to ridicule this miracle. But the skeptics were wrong. Jericho’s wall did fall down flat. Archaeologists have found the ruins of Jericho just where God said the city was. And after carefully excavating the site for several years, world-famous archaeologists found that the earth had preserved an amazing record of God’s miraculous destruction of Jericho. The walls of the city that fell in Joshua’s day could clearly be seen to have fallen OUTWARD and FLAT, as the Bible stated in Joshua 6:20. This record has been described in many books dealing with Jericho though the date assigned for the collapse of the wall is not usually correct. In only one place was the wall left partially standing. That must have been where Rahab’s house was built, because God had promised to protect her and her family because of her faith. (Hebrews 11:30-31.)

Chapter 53 ONE MAN’S SIN

THE THUNDERING collapse of the walls of Jericho was no great surprise to the Israelites. They had been told by God, through Joshua, what to do and what would happen. Even so, it was a chilling experience to witness the death of thousands as they tumbled with the walls. (Joshua 6:16-20.) The Israelite soldiers knew what to do at that point. They broke from their ranks and rushed into the spreading clouds of dust, scrambling over the rubble in a tightening circle to hem in all the Canaanites who hadn’t died in the collapse of the walls. The Israelites swiftly obeyed the strict order to slay every human being and animal in the city.

Only One Family Spared The only people spared were Rahab, the inn proprietress, and her close relatives. Because Rahab had determined to quit serving pagan gods and learn to obey the true God, and had acted on her new faith, God listed her in the faith chapter of the New Testament among those who trusted in God and are promised a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:31, 35.) Rahab and her relatives were in the inn at the time of Jericho’s fall, and though the inn was built on the wall, that particular portion of the wall was miraculously spared. A group of soldiers, led by the two scouts who had promised protection to Rahab, went up the inside of the piece of wall and brought Rahab, those related to her and their possessions to a safe place outside Israel’s camp. (Verses 20-23.) The account of the perishing of the idolatrous inhabitants of Jericho by God’s command is an episode, among many others, that various religious leaders in high offices declare should be removed from the Bible. They feel that God used poor judgment in allowing such accounts to be written into the Scriptures. But in reality, when God had these wretched idolaters destroyed, He was actually showing them mercy. In the judgment they and other ignorant idolaters will be resurrected and given an opportunity to learn God’s way to peace and happiness. (Matthew 12:41, 42; Revelation 20:11-12; Isaiah 65:19-25.) The Israelites had already been warned not to take any booty of any kind from Jericho except articles of gold, silver, brass and iron, which were to go into God’s treasury. Everything else and everyone in Jericho was accursed, but items made of these metals could later be purified by fire. These things were carefully sought out and set aside to later go into the treasury of God’s sanctuary. No one was to keep any of these things for himself, nor was anyone to take for himself things such as clothes, food, precious stones, animals and so forth. Any person who took any personal booty was to become accursed by God, and would bring such a curse on Israel that all would suffer. (Joshua 6:17-19.) After the metals had been removed, the Israelites set fire to Jericho. Although most of the walls and many of the buildings had been built of stone and bricks, a great part of the city was made up of heavy beams, poles, planks and boards. There were other flammable materials, but the wood alone was enough to produce a tremendous fire in which dead Canaanites were at least partly cremated. (Verses 24-25.) As for that standing portion of the wall on which Rahab’s inn was located, it came crashing down when the wooden beams supporting her house were burned. By now darkness had come on. Carrying their booty, the Israelites turned from the blazing ruins and returned to camp. Next morning Joshua called a meeting of the elders and officers.

Jericho’s Desolation a Memorial "Pass on the word to all the people," Joshua informed them, "that no man should ever rebuild Jericho. It could present a strong temptation, what with the great wall stones and wells remaining there. Anyone who reconstructs the city will fall under a curse from the Creator, and he shall become childless. His oldest child shall die when he lays the foundation and his youngest shall die when he sets up the city gates. Let the ashes and stones of Jericho be a monument to the destruction that will come to all idol-worshippers." This prophecy was fulfilled about 500 years later when a very foolish Israelite rebuilt Jericho. (I Kings 16:34.) News of the fall of Jericho spread swiftly over the land, and Joshua became famous in that part of the world because of his leading Israel to take the city. Consequently, fear of Israel mounted in the surrounding nations. (Joshua 6:27.) The next city Joshua intended to conquer was called Ai. It was about twelve miles from Jericho in a westerly direction, and though it was considerably smaller than the destroyed city, Joshua had no intention to by-pass any fortress that might later prove a source of trouble. Again scouts were used to obtain information. When they returned from Ai, they reported that this Amorite fortress wasn’t very large or strong, and that it would be no great problem for Israel to attack and destroy it. "It won’t be necessary for all or even a great part of our army to attack this place," the scouts told Joshua. "The walls aren’t very high, and it is too small to contain very many fighting men. Two or three thousand of our soldiers should be able to conquer it." (Joshua 7:2-3.) At first it seemed to Joshua that it would be risky to send such a small number of soldiers, but then he began to wonder if he would be showing a lack of faith in what God could do for Israel by sending ten or twenty times as many men as the scouts suggested. After all, the scouts he sent were chosen from among his best officers and were men of good judgment. Joshua concluded that it wouldn’t be necessary to send more than three thousand men. A few hours later the Israelite soldiers emerged from the caravan road leading up from the Jordan valley, and saw the city of Ai atop a ridge. It was evident that they could be plainly seen by the Amorites, and that a surprise attack would be impossible. Nevertheless, the Israelite soldiers were confident because of what God had done for them at Jericho, and they marched boldly up to Ai. Their leader was certain that the Amorites would surrender when they were told to give up without a fight or be set upon by the whole Israelite army.

Tragedy at Ai Suddenly the gate of Ai swung open, and thousands of screaming Amorite soldiers rushed out at their would-be attackers! The Israelites had supposed that the inhabitants of Ai would be quaking with fear, and this abrupt turn of events so surprised them that they momentarily froze in their tracks. By the time they got into action, spears and arrows from the onrushing Amorites were raining into the ranks of the Israelites, and some of these weapons were finding fatal marks. On top of that, rock catapults atop the wall had gone into operation, and huge stones were thudding among the Israelites. "Where is the help and defense God promised us?" was the question that crossed the minds of most of the Israelite soldiers. It was being made shamefully obvious to the Israelites that God’s protection, since the crossing of the Jordan, hinged upon their obedience. Faith in their Creator swiftly fled, and so did the Israelites. Instead of fighting back, they turned and raced away through a hail of stones, arrows and spears. This cowardly move spurred the screaming Amorites to greater boldness, and they pursued their enemies all the way back through the defile which contained the road by which the Israelites had come. When at last the routed and panic-stricken Israelites were clear of their pursuers and could group safely together, they found that the Amorites had slain thirty-six of their number and had wounded many more. It was a dejected and disgraced piece of army that returned to camp. When the people heard what had happened, their confidence in God tumbled to a new low. They couldn’t understand why God would promise them swift victory over all their enemies, and then allow about three thousand of their soldiers to be disorganized, chased and crippled by the idol-worshipping Amorites. (Joshua 7:4-5.) In those days it was the custom to show regret, self-reproach or humiliation by tearing one’s clothes and tossing dust upon his head. That was what Joshua did when he heard what had happened. He was so upset and discouraged that he called the elders together before the tabernacle to join him until sundown in prostration and an attitude of repentance. "Why have you brought us over Jordan to let us fall into the hands of the Amorites?" Joshua inquired of God as he lay with his face to the ground inside the tabernacle. "It would have been better for us to stay on the east side of the river than try to attack our enemies here and end up fleeing in terror from them. When all the Canaanites and other nations hear of this, they shall decide we are really weak, and shall come with their combined forces to surround us. We shall be destroyed, and the great name of our God shall be disgraced!" (Verses 6-9.) "These things haven’t happened because of any unfaithfulness on my part," God replied. "My orders were that no booty should be taken from Jericho for personal gain. I warned Israel that anyone who did so would become as accursed as Jericho’s people, and that a curse would fall on all Israel as a result. Someone has gone against my will in this matter, and a curse has fallen on this nation. That is why the attempt to conquer Ai was a failure. My help and strength was not with the soldiers, nor will my help be with Israel again in any attempt to overcome your enemies until you remove and destroy the guilty one." Joshua was surprised and shocked when he heard this. It hadn’t occurred to him that the defeat of his soldiers could be due to someone obtaining booty from Jericho and hiding it. "Get up and tell the people what has happened," God continued. "Tell them that they cannot successfully face their enemies until the guilty one is removed, and that they should wash themselves and be ready to appear before you tomorrow while the guilty one is found." (Verses 10-15.) Joshua obeyed, and next morning the heads of the tribes gathered before the tabernacle and drew lots to learn what tribe had the guilty person. The tribe of Judah drew the telling lot. Then it was up to the heads of the families of Judah to draw lots. The head of the family of the Zarhites drew the unwanted lot, and next it was the turn of the household heads of the Zarhites to draw lots. According to the manner in which God caused the lots to be drawn, the household turned out to be that of Zabdi. The men of the household of Zabdi solemnly gathered together to do their part. The vast crowd of silent onlookers knew that one of these men was responsible for the death of thirty-six men, the injury of many others and the swift and humiliating retreat of the Israelites from Ai. (Verses 16-18.)

The Guilty Man Found The lot indicating guilt was drawn by a man by the name of Achan, referred to in other scriptures as Achar. (I Chronicles 2:7.) Long before the lot was drawn, it was evident to many bystanders that this man was the one being sought. His face grew more drawn and his expression more frightened as matters proceeded. The pale and shaking Achan was brought before Joshua. "Don’t try to hide your evil deed," Joshua advised him. "Honor your God by confessing what you have done." "I — I didn’t realize at the time how much I was sinning against the God of Israel!" Achan tearfully burst out as he fell to his knees and bowed his head. "I was tramping through the rubble of Jericho with other soldiers when I stumbled by myself into the remains of what surely had been the dwelling quarters of a wealthy Canaanite family. When I looked around and saw many valuable things that could increase my family’s living standard, I didn’t think it would greatly matter to take some of them, especially because most of them would be burned and wasted. One of the things that caught my eye was a beautiful Babylonian robe that shone as though it were woven of golden threads from a rainbow. I stuffed the robe under my jacket, scooped up a handful of silver coins from a chest, grabbed some small object that looked as though it were solid gold, jammed these things into my pouch and then climbed out of the place to join the other soldiers." (Joshua 7:19-21.) "Where are these things now?" Joshua queried. "I buried them in the ground inside my tent," was the painful reply. Joshua immediately rushed officers to Achan’s tent. They returned within a few minutes to show Joshua a costly Babylonish type garment, a number of silver coins and a small, wedge shaped bar of gold. Joshua was aware of the unpleasant event that had to follow. According to God’s orders, Achan and his family, his livestock and his possessions — including the things he had stolen — were taken to a spot well outside the camp of Israel. There Joshua again confronted Achan to ask him why he had been so thoughtless and disobedient as to bring so much trouble on his people. "I didn’t mean to bring on what happened," Achan murmured. "I just didn’t take God’s warning seriously concerning how much one person’s sin can affect others!" Those were Achan’s last words. He was led away to be stoned to death in the sight of his family and thousands of others. Then he and all his possessions were burned and a great heap of stones was piled over his body. Since he had tried to enrich his family by rebellion, his family had to stand by and watch all their livestock and other property destroyed as a warning to all. (Joshua 7:22-26.) Joshua returned to the tabernacle to humbly ask God to be merciful to the Israelites and strengthen them against their enemies. "Don’t be discouraged," God told him. "Now that the accursed man has been removed, I have removed my curse and my anger. Now take the army and go to the city of Ai. Use some of your men to bait the Amorites into coming out. Hide the greater part of the army so that they can surprise the enemy. Then you will see how I shall deliver Ai and all its people to you!" (Joshua 8:1-2.)

Chapter 54 CONQUEST OF BETHEL AND AI

GOD’S promise to Joshua to help in a second attempt to conquer the Canaanite city of Ai swiftly brought Israel’s leader out of his state of discouragement. Joshua immediately chose thirty thousand soldiers for the strategy he had in mind.

Well-planned Strategy "I’m not sending you to directly attack Ai," Joshua informed the officers who were to be in command. "Late tonight you are to take your soldiers toward Ai. Guides will show you the way. Do not go far from the city. Go around it to the west side and conceal yourselves in the rugged country behind Ai toward Bethel, which is a few miles west of Ai. I shall send others before dawn. Be very careful that no one can be seen from Ai or from the city of Bethel to the west. I shall go with a few thousand to be in the valley just north of Ai when the sun comes up. When the people of Ai discover us, they will rush out to attack and we will flee from them. When you who are hiding west of Ai see me waving a bright banner from the end of my spear, you will know that it is time to rush into Ai and set the city on fire. The huge fire will attract the attention of our pursuers. The 5,000 soldiers on the west and the troops on the north side of the valley are then to move swiftly in on the confused enemy." (Josh. 8:1-13.) It was well after dark when the thirty thousand fully equipped foot soldiers set out to the northwest. Guides led them to a safe hiding place just west of Ai. Every effort was made to muffle the stomp, clank and jingle of marching men as they moved into the heights between Ai and the adjoining city of Bethel. When at last the soldiers reached an area where they could hide, they rested for the remainder of the night. The only fires allowed were small ones hidden under overhanging rocks that would eclipse any show of light. Joshua remained at the Israelite camp at Gilgal until after midnight. Then he set out with the elders of Israel and officers and the remainder of the soldiers. In the early morning hours they arrived on the north side of Ai. By the time he arrived, it was not far from dawn. There wasn’t any time to be lost in preparing for what had to be done. "Take five thousand soldiers and move in between Ai and Bethel before sun-up," Joshua instructed some of his officers. "Make sure no one from Bethel hinders our conquest of Ai." Joshua and his "bait" forces moved down into the valley north of Ai just before dawn.

Ai Caught Off Guard When light came over the area, guards on the wall of Ai were startled to see that military forces were approaching the city from the north side of the valley. Word was sent to the king of Ai who was still feeling victorious because his soldiers had previously routed what was considered an invincible army. When the king witnessed the Israelites approaching on the plain, he became very excited. Here, he thought, was a golden opportunity to twice vanquish the dreaded enemy that had invaded Canaan. Any city or nation that could put Israel on the run two times would be regarded as gloriously heroic and powerful. Flushed with the thought of a second victory, the king lost no time in ordering most of his men out to clash with the Israelites before they could reach Ai. The north gate of the city swung open, and out rushed the howling troops of Ai to head swiftly down into the valley and directly toward the Israelites. Intending to make a great name for himself as the leader of the forces that would overcome the feared Israelites, the king of the city rode out with his men. When the two forces were only a few hundred feet apart, the king noticed that the Israelites suddenly came to a halt. It seemed that they were getting ready to make a stand, but when they turned and ran off eastward in the direction of the Jordan River, the ruler of Ai could scarcely believe his eyes. "We’ve got them on the run already!" one of the king’s officers shouted. "Send a man back to the city!" the king shouted back excitedly. "Tell him that I order every man there, and also the soldiers from Bethel, to join us at once and wipe out the Israelites even if we have to drive them all the way to the Jordan!" Still at a safe distance away in the valley, Joshua and the soldiers with him continued to move away in feigned flight. When Joshua saw a second regiment pouring out of Ai, he was certain that there couldn’t be many more men, if any, remaining in the city. (Joshua 8:14-17.) The time had come for Joshua to wave a bright banner attached to his spear. The signal was seen by sharp-eyed lookouts west of Ai. They motioned to the 30,000 men hiding about and below them. Within minutes the thirty thousand Israelite soldiers were racing into the unmanned city. Already the men of Ai and Bethel were too far away to hear the loud screams of the women and children whom they had left undefended. They were shortening the distance between themselves and the Israelites, and contact and victory appeared to be only minutes away when one of the officers moved close to the excited king and gestured frantically toward the rear.

Idolatrous Canaanites Trapped The king looked around, and his expression of almost gleeful anticipation faded from his face. He gave a signal to halt. The bewildered soldiers came to a stop and looked about to see why they had been ordered to stop. Then all of them saw the smoke and flames belching up from inside the walls of Ai! "We’ve been tricked!" the king roared. "Get back to the city!" When Joshua saw the Canaanite soldiers stop and set off in the opposite direction, and saw smoke billowing up from Ai, he again waved the banner he had been holding. The men with him suddenly turned on the Canaanites. The thousands of Israelite soldiers hiding at the north rim of the valley opposite Ai leaped out of hiding and stormed down the slopes at a right angle to the path of the enemy troops racing back toward the cities of Ai and Bethel. The 5,000 in hiding on the west plunged toward Bethel. Then out of Ai rushed the thirty thousand Israelites who had set the fires in the streets of the city to lure the enemy soldiers back. Joining the other troops they set off directly toward the oncoming troops of Ai and Bethel. At the same time Joshua and the men with him began pursuing the Canaanites westward. Boxed in on three sides by rapidly approaching troops, the Canaanites had to stand and fight or race madly about trying to find a way of escape to the south. Those who tried to fight were quickly wiped out. Those who tried to flee up the south slope of the valley were overtaken and slaughtered. The only man to be captured alive was the king. (Joshua 8:18-23.) Leaving thousands of dead bodies littering the valley, the Israelites converged on Ai and destroyed the rest of the pagans who remained there. Not until then did Joshua lower the banner that waved from his spear. Things of value were removed from the city, and then it was burned. As for the king of Ai, he was hanged on a tree as a punishment for his gross idolatry. At sunset his body was cut down, tossed on the ground before one of the gates of Ai and covered with a large heap of stones. News of the king’s disgraceful end was certain to swiftly reach other rulers of nearby cities, communities and nations, and thus add to the fear and terror growing in that region of paganism. What was more likely to impress the other nations, however, was that twelve thousand Canaanite men and women perished that day. (Verses 24-29.)

A Blessing and a Curse After the victors had returned to Gilgal with their booty and had rested a few days, Joshua declared that a special ceremony would be held in an area several miles north of Ai. All Israel made the journey over rough country, the ark being carried along as usual. The only ones who didn’t go along were a few soldiers to watch over the camp and take care of the animals. The people congregated on the slopes of two neighboring high points, Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, as Moses had commanded them (Deuteronomy 11:29-30.) They watched and listened as the sacred ceremonies took place. An altar was erected on Mt. Ebal, of unhewn stones as God had commanded. (Exodus 20:25.) Burnt offerings and peace offerings were made there. Joshua read to the people the many blessings that would come to them through obedience, and the cursings that would come to them through disobedience. These things were written on the stones of the altar. The laws from God, given through Moses, were also read to the people in this solemn assembly. The voices of the readers on the mountains rang out with miraculous, far-reaching volume to the more than two million scattered over the area, to remind them of how God wanted them to live, and of the tremendous importance of being obedient. (Joshua 8:30-35.) At the end of the reading of the laws, six tribes on Mt. Gerizim summarized God’s blessings for obedience. Then the other six tribes on Mt. Ebal echoed the curses that would surely befall Israel if they broke the law. (Deuteronomy 27:1-19.) After the ceremonies the people camped and then started the return trip to Gilgal. Israel made this journey into enemy territory and back without encountering so much as one enemy soldier. However, the movements of the people weren’t unnoticed, and the rulers of the land became more distressed when they heard of this greater penetration into Canaan. For centuries the small nations of the region of Canaan had warred among themselves and slain one another. Now that a foreign enemy had entered the land, the rulers put aside their differences and decided to pool their fighting forces and put up a united front against Israel. Israel had no knowledge of these particular plans, though Joshua and his officers were aware that such a thing could happen. (Joshua 9:1-2.) While this threat to Israel was being organized, several dusty travelers one day approached Gilgal with their burros. Alert Israelite guards went out to stop them, but brought them into the camp to meet Joshua after they requested to visit with the leader of the Israelites. "We are ambassadors from a distant nation," a spokesman for the strangers declared. "We have heard how your people have come up from the south to conquer the nations in this part of the world. We have come a long way to meet you and to ask you to promise our nation, because we are peaceful people, that you will not carry on war with us if ever you reach our borders." (Verses 3-6.) "You men could be from any of the enemy nations close around us," Joshua told them. "We need proof that you are from this distant nation you have mentioned. Otherwise, it would be foolish to make a promise to you that we would refrain from attacking your nation." "We assure you, sir," the spokesman replied, "that we are not from any enemy nation. We will be your servants. We have been sent here by the leaders and people of our country — a distant one — to tell you that they have heard of the fame of your great God. They are aware of how He dealt with the ruler of Egypt, and how He helped you become victorious over the Amorites and the kings of Heshbon and Bashan. When our people realized how your God helped you in these battles, they knew that it would be foolish to try to stand against you, so they sent us to ask you to promise not to attack a country so respectful of your power and your God." "It could be as you say," Joshua said, "but as genuine ambassadors you should have some credentials or proof of whom you are."

Logical Sounding Lies "We were purposely not given any," was the reply. "Our superiors knew that if we were stopped by soldiers of any of our neighboring nations, and if it were found that we were ambassadors on a secret peaceful mission to Israel, the neighboring nations would then consider our nation as an enemy. In fact, for the sake of our country’s safety, we were told not to even mention the name of our people. Our superiors hope that this matter can be worked out with our remaining completely nameless for the sake of safety, extreme as it seems. Then, if ever Israel arrives at our borders, we shall make ourselves known." "I’ve never heard of anything like this," Joshua murmured to his officers as he shook his head. "I think it’s time to end this conversation and send these men away." "Something occurs to me, sir," the spokesman for the strangers suddenly remarked. "Perhaps we can at least prove that we are from a distant nation if you will examine our clothes and the few things we have with us!" "Here is something worth considering," an officer whispered to Joshua. "A careful examination of these men’s possessions might give us some valuable clues as to how far they have come." After a minute of thought Joshua nodded his approval. The strangers were taken out to where their burros were tied, and all that these men had was carefully examined by competent officers. A few minutes later the officers reported to Joshua. "Obviously they actually have come a long way," Joshua was told. "Their clothes are dusty and stained with days of travel. Their shoes are well worn as from many miles of walking. Even the sacks on their burros are old-looking as from many hours of exposure to wind, sun and dew. Their empty leather wine bottles are dried out and cracked. They brought out what food they had left. It was hard, moldy bread they claimed was freshly baked the day they started out for here." (Joshua 9:7-13.) To Joshua and his officers this seemed fair evidence that these men had come a great distance from a foreign land.

Chapter 55 "AND THE SUN STOOD STILL"

JOSHUA and the elders had just received men who claimed to be ambassadors from a far away land. They came to seek peace. If so, reasoned the elders, then there would be no particular harm in promising not to attack a nation that wasn’t included among the enemy nations of Canaan. Although these men looked like swarthy Canaanites, Joshua knew that some similar tribes had gone to other lands, especially north Africa, to live. The elders of Israel were told of these things, and it was decided that it would be well to do what the strangers asked, and promise no harm to their nation. This was carried out in a solemn ceremony with Joshua, the strangers, priests and elders present. However, though there was an element of doubt present in this matter, God wasn’t consulted. (Joshua 9:3-15.) God’s warning against making peace with Canaanites was temporarily neglected, and Israel’s leaders paid more attention to these strangers than to God. New clothes and provisions were supplied the strange ambassadors. After they were given food and overnight lodging with the Israelites, they thankfully and smilingly set off to the north to their mysterious nation. "Send several armed scouts to follow them without being seen," Joshua ordered. "I am curious to know just where they came from." It wasn’t expected that the scouts would return for many days, and it was a surprise when they returned early on the third day. "It wasn’t necessary to be gone any longer," they reported. "The men we followed went north for a few miles, then turned west and went directly to the Hivite city of Gibeon about twenty miles to the west. If that is their home, then Israel has promised to spare a city or nation well within the promised land!" (Verse 16.) "We have been tricked!" Joshua muttered. "Get fifty thousand troops ready to move, and we’ll go straighten this matter out!"

Treachery Discovered Having been informed that the strange men claiming to have come from a distant nation had gone to a city only about twenty miles from Gilgal, Joshua was quite perturbed. These men had exacted a promise from Joshua that Israel would not attack their country. Now it was quite evident that their "country" was an area well within the bounds of Canaan, and God had instructed Israel to destroy all nations, cities and people within those bounds. Obviously these men had tricked Israel into a sacred promise to spare their people, which was against God’s will. The many thousands of Israel’s soldiers quickly assembled at Joshua’s command. Led by scouts who had followed the men responsible for tricking Israel into a peace pact, Joshua and his soldiers spent three days in arriving at their destination. It was the walled city of Gibeon, the capital of a district of swarthy people called Hivites. Four Hivite cities, including Gibeon, had joined in this strategy in seeking peace with Israel. (Joshua 9:16-17.) The Israelite soldiers moved boldly within the shadows of the walls of Gibeon, but there was no sign of soldiers on the walls to protect the city. "Send men to the gate with this message," Joshua told his officers. "Have our men tell them that those men who came to see us in Gilgal must be sent out to speak with us right away." A group of soldiers went to the nearest gate and loudly repeated Joshua’s request. There was a response only a few minutes later. The gate swung open, and out walked the men who had come to Gilgal posing as strangers from a distant nation. A few Hivites of high rank accompanied them. Behind them was a crowd of Hivites silently watching to see what would happen. The "ambassadors" sheepishly walked up to Joshua and his officers. "Why did you go to all the trouble of trying to fool us into believing that your native land was quite distant instead of within our land only a few miles from our camp?" Joshua asked them. (Verse 22.)

The Hivites’ Excuse "We have heard about how you have wiped out your enemies," a Gibeonite officer explained. "We didn’t want to be counted among them. The city of Gibeon here, and three other Hivite cities to the south — Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjathjearim — formed a secret alliance to seek a promise from Israel’s leaders that you would not attack us. We heard that you are a fair and honest people, and would keep any vow you might make. "We became aware that your God commanded you to destroy all the people of this region, and we were so alarmed that we tried to carry out the only plan we thought might save us. But we aren’t begging for freedom now. You have us in your power to deal with as you wish." (Verses 24-25.) Joshua was in no hurry to make any decision. Yet he knew if he wiped out their cities, he would be breaking the pledge that the leaders of Israel had made before God as a witness. There was no other choice. Israel had made a binding agreement and would have to pay the price of letting these Hivites remain in their land. Joshua dismissed the Gibeonites, set up camp near Gibeon and held a conference with the princes of Israel. When the main body of Israel heard the decision of the elders and Joshua, many of them were disappointed. Some were even angered, and sent spokesmen to the elders to voice their feelings. (Joshua 9:18.) "It is not right to allow these pagan Hivites any mercy!" shouted one of the spokesmen. "God has commanded us to destroy them!" "God will punish us if we fail to attack those four Hivite cities at once!" another yelled heatedly. "Why are our leaders defying the Creator in this matter?" There was much murmuring among the assembled thousands after these remarks, which were not necessarily made because the speakers desired obedience. So much wealth had already been taken from their enemies that a part of Israel had become greedy, and those were the ones whose ire was roused because of being deprived of the booty of the Hivite cities.

Hivites Made Perpetual Laborers Ignoring the loud protests, the elders told the people that Israel should stick to the agreement not to attack the Hivites, but that Israel should make the inhabitants of the four cities bond-servants of Israel to serve in the physical needs of the Levites. This would keep them in close contact with God so that they would never return to idolatry. (Verses 19-21.) When the troops who had accompanied him heard what Joshua was about to do, even some of them muttered in disappointment at being deprived of the excitingly profitable opportunity of plundering the Hivite cities. Joshua called the rulers and chief officers of the Hivites before him and made this proclamation: "Though you have sought peace and have recognized our God as great, you tricked us. Therefore you are cursed. No longer shall your mighty men of war bear arms. Instead, they shall become wood choppers and water bearers for us. When our people take over this area, your people shall join us and work as bond servants. Your tasks will be especially for those in service for our God wherever He shall have us build His altar. You have no choice but to accept these conditions." (Verses 22-27.) "These are bitter terms for our warriors and the people of all four cities," the leader of Gibeon spoke out. "However, we feel it is better than being destroyed because of our sins. We know your greater forces and your great God are too powerful for us to face, and we must humbly bow to your will." (Verse 25.) The Hivites should have considered themselves quite fortunate to remain alive under the circumstances, but it is generally human nature to hope for more than is received, and there was a tone of bitterness in the voice of the Gibeonite leader. Having ended these matters with the Hivites for the time being, Joshua and his many soldiers headed back toward Gilgal. They little guessed that they would very soon be racing back toward Gibeon. We shall now see why. For many centuries there had been a city in the land of Canaan known as Salem. During the days of Abraham a King was there whose name was Melchizedek, Who visited Abraham and blessed him after he rescued Lot and other captives from a group of marauding kings. (Genesis 14:17-20.) Melchizedek — Who was later to become Jesus Christ in human form — ruled from Salem as long as the patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — dwelt in Canaan. Later He ceased to rule from there when the children of Israel were in Egypt. In the days of David, Melchizedek again chose Jerusalem (another name for Salem) as the city from which to rule His people. The name Melchizedek means King of Righteousness. (Hebrews 7:1-3.) At the time the Israelites entered Canaan, the ruler of Salem — then called Jerusalem — was a Canaanite, Adoni-zedek, a sinful king who pretended to be "Lord of Righteousness" — a king who put himself in place of the true King of Righteousness — Jesus Christ or Melchizedek.

A Plot Against the Hivites News of the fall of Jericho and Ai brought fear to the ruler of Jerusalem, especially when he learned of the pact between Israel and the four Hivite cities just a few miles from Jerusalem, because Gibeon was one of the stronger cities of the area — even stronger than Ai. (Joshua 10:1-2.) Adoni-zedek realized that other cities of Canaan must immediately band together to stand against the Israelites, or be defeated. The proud king of Jerusalem sent messengers to the rulers of four neighboring Amorite cities. These were Hebron (where the Israelite scouts went on their return trip through Canaan about forty years before), Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon, and were located in an area only a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. Adoni-zedek suggested they all join forces and invade the Hivite cities to punish them for making peace with the Israelites. (Verses 3-4.) When the kings of these cities received Adoni-zedek’s plea for their armies to join his in an attack on Gibeon, they agreed at once to send all their soldiers northward. Their forces were united on the way to Jerusalem, where Adoni-zedek’s troops were added. Together these thousands of well-trained warriors marched onward to a spot just south of Gibeon, where they camped and readied their equipment for an attack on Gibeon, because the Hivites were now their enemies along with Israel. When the Gibeonites saw these combined armies streaming up from the south, they sent swift messengers to race to Gilgal to ask for help from Israel. While the messengers sped toward the Israelite camp, the armies from the south set up powerful catapults and ramming devices with which to assault Gibeon, and prepared long ladders and ropes for scaling the walls. Night was not far away, however, and the Gibeonites felt certain that no attack would be made until dawn. The messengers from Gibeon arrived at Gilgal before nightfall, and were given an immediate audience with Joshua. "Thousands upon thousands of Canaanite troops of the Amorite tribe were approaching Gibeon when we left!" they excitedly told Joshua. "Perhaps by now they have already attacked our city. As your servants, we beg you to send up at least a part of your great army to save us!" (Joshua 10:5-6.)

Joshua Had Learned His Lesson Joshua wasn’t inclined to give the messengers a quick answer. He wondered if the presence of so many fighting men could mean that Israel might run into deep trouble as punishment for not consulting God in the matter of making an agreement with the Gibeonites, or if God had forgiven him and the elders when they repented. Not wishing another unpleasant situation, Joshua this time went into the tabernacle and prayed to God to give him a clear picture of what should be done. "Don’t be concerned about that army preparing to attack Gibeon," came God’s answer. "Not one man of those many thousands will come out alive after I punish them!" (Verse 8.) Now Joshua knew God had forgiven him and the elders. Thus encouraged, he was convinced that he should go at once to the aid of the Gibeonites. He gave orders to his officers to assemble the army of Israel for immediate action. By nightfall the troops were assembled and ready to march. Gibeon was about twenty miles west of Gilgal, and though they had a rough, uphill road between the two places, the Israelite army picked its way to the hill country through the night, and arrived within sight of Gibeon at dawn. (Verses 7, 9.) Coming over a rise at the head of Israel’s troops, Joshua and his officers saw that the Canaanite troops from the south were just starting to move closer to Gibeon for their assault on the walls. Catapults were being pushed forward, scores of men were carrying metal-nosed logs with which to batter the gates, and thousands of archers, swordsmen and spear-bearers were marching within striking range of the walls. "Draw up our troops to attack the invaders of Gibeon at once!" Joshua told his officers. "Keep the troops out of sight behind this rise, move north of Gibeon so that we can’t be seen, and then divide up and swing around the east and west walls to surprise them!" Minutes later hordes of Israelite soldiers raced around the walls of Gibeon to rush in among the troops moving against the Hivite city. The attackers were so surprised by this sudden onslaught by the Israelites that they halted in their tracks, then turned and fled in the opposite direction. The Israelites pressed in against them. So great was the slaughter that bodies were strewn for miles along paths that led northwestward, southward and southwestward from Gibeon. All this didn’t happen in just a short while. Many of the enemy soldiers tried to hide in ravines and among the rocks, and time was required in searching them out. The Israelites had orders to let no enemy fighters escape, regardless of how far they had to be pursued. In fact, the main part of the enemy troops to escape the first attack had to be pursued as much as thirty miles to the southwest. (Joshua 10:10-11.) Part of the way was through a long, deep ravine. Then there was a steep ridge to go over, and next a rocky, rugged road so precipitous in places that steps had already been cut in the rocks. By the time the enemy had been pursued even part of that distance, however, the morning was half spent. Joshua became concerned about being successful in destroying all the enemy troops before dark, after which any who were left would surely succeed in escaping. Already exceptionally heavy clouds were moving over the sky, which meant that darkness would come on even sooner than usual.

A Mighty Miracle "Cause the sun and moon to stand still so that the day here will be made long enough for us to overcome our enemies," Joshua prayed to God. (Verse 12.) The battle continued. It was no small matter to flush out enemy troops from their hiding places as the area of fighting moved steadily southward. Meanwhile, the sky became darker, and it appeared that an unusually strong storm was likely to break in the region just south of Gibeon. Between thick. Scudding clouds the pale sun showed through at times. There was nothing unusual about that, but two or three hours after Joshua’s unusual request of God the Israelites began to be aware that the sun was still in a morning position! As the afternoon wore on while Israel kept up the bloody pursuit, it was noted with increasing awe that the sun still had not moved. In fact, it stayed in the midst of the sky for so long that daylight was extended by about twelve hours! (Verse 13.) Did God actually stop the Earth from rotating for twelve hours? We are not told. With God all things are possible. If this planet in a few minutes ceased turning, God must have performed a miracle much like the braking of a modern jet airplane upon landing. Remember, the Earth’s surface is turning at a speed of one thousand miles an hour at the equator and more slowly as one approaches the poles. There was never another day like this one. Many religious leaders have argued that time was lost back at the battle near Gibeon, and that as a result the Sabbath was moved from Saturday to Sunday. Not so. THAT day did not become another day. It was merely an extra-long day of 36 hours. The lengthened day was a reason for wonderment and fear among both Israelites and Canaanites. Even Joshua was awed by what happened. God honored an outstanding prayer in an outstanding way because He was fighting Israel’s battles. (Verse 14.) Even so, Joshua was concerned about conquering all the enemy troops, many thousands of whom were well ahead of the Israelites. It appeared that they would escape while Israel was being delayed in sending out small groups in every direction to overtake enemy soldiers who had fled to the sides of the retreat paths to the south. Then came another miracle from God. The sky grew increasingly darker. Lightning flashed above the Canaanite retreaters. Ear-splitting thunder reverberated between the mountains and through the deep ravines. From the black clouds came a strange, hissing sound. The fleeing Canaanites looked up in inquisitive terror, and it was then that the power of God descended from the sky on them with deadly force!

Few Escape The hissing sound from the sky was short warning to the Canaanites as to what was about to happen. Suddenly there was stinging pain from sharp blows on their heads and shoulders. Many were killed outright by falling objects. Others were beaten to the ground to quickly die as their prone bodies were exposed to more blows. Some were able to reach the shelter of protruding rock ledges, and from there witness that they had been caught in a terrible shower of giant hailstones! Within a few minutes almost all the Canaanite soldiers and their animals were battered to death. Then the tremendous shower of heavy hailstones miraculously stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Some of those who had been spared managed to escape and take refuge in nearby cities, but most of them either died of their wounds or were later caught and slain by Israelite soldiers. (Joshua 10:8-11.) Shortly before this event produced by God, the five kings of the five Canaanite cities, fleeing southward near Makkedah with their troops, held a hasty conference. "There is no hope of holding out against the Israelites," the king of Jerusalem remarked fearfully. "Our men have no more desire to fight. They’re frightened because it is still daylight, whereas the sun should have gone down hours ago. Israel’s God has something to do with this awesome thing. I propose that the five of us hide in one of the caves in this area, and let Israel pursue our troops. Then perhaps we can return later to safety." The other four leaders quickly agreed. They gave orders to their officers to proceed without them. Taking scant provisions, they hurried away from their men and sought out an insignificant cave some distance up the side of the ravine through which they had been moving. (Verses 16-17.) They had been in hiding only a short while when the storm of giant hailstones struck. They realized that their remaining troops would hardly survive such an onslaught from the sky, but they were more concerned about themselves than about their men. What they didn’t realize was that God had no intention of allowing them to escape. When the pursuing Israelites arrived to find dead Canaanites scattered throughout the ravine, a search was made for possible survivors in the rocks, defiles and caves. One soldier was as startled as were the five kings when he walked into the cave where they were hiding. He ran to notify Joshua at once, who gave orders to deal with them immediately. (Verse 18.)

Trapped! A short while later, as the occupants of the cave peered out at the main body of Israelite soldiers moving on to the south, they were surprised by large stones rumbling down from above and thudding in a growing heap on the ledge at the mouth of the cave. Almost before they realized that many men must be rolling the rocks from overhead, they found themselves trapped by a solid bank of stones much too great to be removed from the inside! Meanwhile, at Joshua’s command, the Israelites moved southward to seek out and slay most of the few enemy troops not killed by the storm of gigantic hailstones. They pursued them as far south as the city of Makkedah, where they temporarily camped. Then Joshua sent men to the cave where the five kings were trapped. The men removed the stones piled there, seized the prisoners and took them to a spot part way between the cave and the city of Makkedah. There were a number of trees there, and five of them were chosen for a grisly purpose. The five kings were killed and their bodies hanged on the trees till sundown. Then they were cut down and taken back into the cave where they had tried to conceal themselves. For the second time great stones were piled against the mouth of the cave, this time to form an infamous burial crypt for the five men who had tried to lead their armies against Israel. (Verses 19-27.) While the five kings were still hanging on the five trees, Joshua and his troops rushed into Makkedah and slew all the people and disposed of the king of that city in the same manner accorded to the ruler of Jericho. (Verse 28; 6:21.) In the days that followed, Joshua and his troops stormed over the southern region of Canaan to attack and overthrow a number of cities. The idol-worshipping inhabitants were slain and the leaders killed and hanged — all according to God’s instructions. God wanted idolatry and child-sacrifice completely eliminated throughout Israel’s land. Included in these cities was Hebron, the place Israelite scouts had passed through four decades previously. The campaign that had started out as a move to defend the Gibeonites turned into a tremendous victory for Israel. Successful because of God’s help, the soldiers returned to Gilgal with a great wealth of the spoils of war — household goods, tools, implements, livestock and farm produce. (Joshua 10:29-43; Joshua 11:14,16.) The defeat of the armies of these cities didn’t mean that all of the southern part of Canaan was conquered. There were still more cities and tribes to take over in that region. Even after many more military operations by Israel’s army during the next year or two there were still a few fortresses and armed areas to subdue. . . .

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