Monday, February 27, 2012

Exodus 15:22-27 Marah and Elim

"Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea
and they went into the desert of Shur.
For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.
When they came to Marah,
they could not drink its water because it was bitter.
(That is why the place is called Marah.)
So the people grumbled against Moses, saying,
'What are we to drink?'

Then Moses cried out to the LORD,
and the LORD showed him a piece of wood.
He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the LORD made a decree and a law for them,
and there he tested them.
He said, 'If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God
and do what is right in his eyes,
if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, 
I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians,
for I am the LORD who heals you.'

Then they came to Elim,
where there were twelve springs
and seventy palm trees,
and they camped there near the water."

Exodus 15:22-27 (NIV)

Some observations:
  • After the victory at the Red Sea came the waterless travel in the desert of Shur.   Often times of great victory are followed by times of hardship or testing.  So watch out.
  • However, after the testing at Marah, there was the time of rest at the oasis of Elim.  Often times of trial are followed by a moment of rest and refreshment.  So rejoice.
  • Three days without water while traveling through the desert would not have been a lot of fun, especially when you consider that they had to deal with not only a large number of thirsty humans, which can get downright ugly, but also a lot of thirsty animals as well.  If you have a pet, you probably know how vociferous they can get if they don't have water.  Our otherwise mostly happy dog (see these posts on The Labrapithound) gets visibly cranky if his water dish is empty. He will step into it and fling it around until I notice, and believe me, it is hard to ignore a steel bowl clanging around on the slate tiles of the kitchen floor.  He will also glare as though he can't believe he has to suffer this injustice.  Mind you, I refill it twice a day, so he really should not have many complaints.  When I refill it, he is instantly restored to his amiable self and all is forgiven.  In fact, sometimes he doesn't even bother to take a drink.  But I wonder, what would he be like after three days?  Then I think, what would about two million people be like after three days without water? Yikes.
  • Why did the people not call upon God instead of grumbling against Moses?  They had just seen Him do miracles with the water of the Red Sea, so surely a drink wouldn't be beyond His capabilities.
  • Marah means 'bitter'.  This reminds me of  the incident in the book of Ruth (1:19-20) where Naomi (whose name means 'pleasant', told people to call her 'Mara' (bitter), because she felt that the Almighty had made her life very bitter.  (She had lost her husband and two sons.)  Little did she know that God had great plans for her descendants through her daughter-in-law Ruth and her godly relative Boaz who later marries Ruth.
  • I wonder what Moses thought at first when he cried out to the LORD for help and God showed him a piece of wood.  I guess God told him what to do, though, because he knew to throw it into the bitter waters.
  • I used to wonder what kind of wood could Moses have been given which would have made the waters drinkable.  Now I think, 'what kind of God was able to make bitter waters sweet?', knowing that the wood was incidental.
  • It seemed strange to to me that the LORD makes a decree/law for the Israelites at this point.  However, I guess it makes sense in that they were beginning the journey through the desert so He would have to set some ground rules.  If they listened carefully to God's voice and kept his commands and decrees, they would not have to suffer from any of the diseases which He had brought upon the Egyptians.  I suppose He is referring to the diseases brought upon the Egyptians during the plagues which preceded the Israelites' escape from Egypt.  It also probably has to do with the covenant which He had made with their forefathers.  They were His people, and He wanted them to know that one part of his identity was as 'the LORD who heals you'.  However, they would have to be obedient in order to reap the benefits.  After seeing what Pharaoh's rebellious ways brought him, you'd think that they would get the picture:  obedience = life, rebellion = death. 
  • At Elim (which the NIV Study Bible says means 'large trees', there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees.  I just read an article about Elim recently, and it said that this oasis place is still there.  Some of its springs have become blocked up and otherwise unused, but the palm trees now number around 2000.  I though that this was cool -- to know that it is a place which could still be seen today.

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