If anyone ever tells you that the Bible is outdated and has no application for modern life, just point them to Exodus 25 through 29. You’ll find these chapters immediately relevant whenever you have to build a furnished replica of the tabernacle and outfit the priests to offer sacrifices in it. All sarcasm aside, though, you may come away from these chapters wondering not only what they have to do with your life, but also what they even describe. They don’t have any helpful illustrations, and they’ve been translated for us English speakers from a several-thousand-years-old instance of a foreign language, so don’t be surprised if they’re less clear than Ikea instructions.
The low-hanging fruit in this chapter is a lesson about delegation. Moses is running himself ragged adjudicating on behalf of every single Israelite with an issue, so his father-in-law Jethro advises him: get other folks to handle the little cases. There’s also a bit of “if you teach a man to fish,” as Jethro also has Moses start teaching God’s statutes and laws to the people in order to curb the case-overload problem. So: delegation is good, instilling independence is good, but far be it from us to take the low-hanging fruit, right? Let’s hit up some weird spots.
Happy Magic Bread Day! This is the chapter with the manna, and so many things about it seem foreign to me in so many different ways. I have no clue what it’s like to travel in the desert or to travel long distances on foot. I don’t know a whole lot about what’s normal for storing food without refrigeration or sealed packaging. And I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it said that someone “grumbled against” someone else outside of the Bible. But there’s one thing here that I’ve got half a clue on, and that’s people being people.
So, I was googling around for information on the song in Exodus 15, trying to think up an introduction for today’s post, when I happened to play the song “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt. I suddenly found myself crying over the song’s duet and its picture of faith. Twenty years ago, I loved the song, but considered its contrast between faith and rationality overwrought; now, I’ve kind of come around to it. Trust in God doesn’t always make sense to us, yet here I am, like Miriam and Zipporah, seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I’d say. And as I listened to the song and read the Hebrew lyrics of the bridge, taken from Exodus 15, I laughed out loud through my tears. Of course they didn’t include lines like “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea” (15:4) and “You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff!” (15:7) Can you imagine a DreamWorks movie with such a celebration of–to put it as tactfully as possible–retributive justice? Now that would be a real miracle.
Here we are at the end of Genesis. It’s also, in a sense, the end of Jacob and the end of Joseph, as we have two deaths in this final chapter. On the other hand, though, it’s not the end of Jacob and Joseph; the end is not the end. But in between these two deaths we have a scene between Joseph and his brothers that I think bears consideration.
Here we have Jacob’s final message to his sons: an individual blessing for each son. According to the NASB’s subject heading, it’s also a prophecy. Jacob himself describes his message as “what will befall you in the days to come,” literally “the end of the days” (1). I sense that there’s a lot going on underneath the surface here, but here’s what I’ve got.
Some people think the Bible isn’t a funny book. They’re right. We’re not reading The Big Christian Joke Book here. The Bible is, however, a book with funny parts. Perhaps none of it strikes you as particularly amusing, and I certainly can’t fault you for such a reading of it, but there are certain passages that can be humorous when viewed in a certain light. Take, for example, a scene from today’s chapter.
If I had to sum up today’s chapter in one word, it would be “economics.” But that’s not the best summary, which is why I will use more than one word. The chapter picks up where the previous one left off, with Jacob and Pharaoh working out a place where Jacob’s family can keep their flocks. Then, as the famine continues, the Egyptians have to give up more and more of their possessions in order to purchase food, eventually having to sell themselves to Pharaoh just to keep eating. Finally, as Jacob nears the end of his life, he makes sure that Joseph will have him buried in the plot that Abraham purchased in Canaan. See? Economics! I’ll admit it’s kind of a stretch on that last one, but like I said: more than one word.
Today’s chapter has a genealogy in the middle of it. After listing the children of each of Jacob’s sons, grouped by mother, it gives the final count of family members as 70. At this time, I don’t think it would be a particularly good use of my time to check the narrator’s math. His point is that these are the people who ended up living in Egypt. After all, this is the chapter that reunites the family and gathers them all in Egypt; this is the home stretch of the story of the patriarchs.
Joseph lets the cat out of the bag in today’s chapter. And it’s this chapter that gave me those impressions of his increased maturity, because he has a lot to say about God.