As we proceed with our Bible study, it should be noted that when the Greek and Latin Fathers of the Christian church read the Old Testament in the 4th Century, they read it in translation. The Greek translation is called Septuagint (LXX) because 70 Hebrew elders translated the Torah from Hebrew into Greek about 300 years before Jesus was born! To explain, the Hebrew elders realized that the Israelites that lived in the area that had been Hellenized by Alexander the Great no longer read the Torah and other sacred writings in the Hebrew language. The Israelites residing in those areas only understood ancient Greek because Alexander the Great had implemented a common language for the people in the areas of his conquests which was ancient Greek at that time. That area would later become the eastern reach of the Roman Empire by 6 BC. Although Latin was the primary language in Rome, in order to govern the Roman provinces in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the Romans had to learn ancient Greek as well. So ancient Greek became a universal language both in the eastern part and the western part of the Roman Empire. As a result, the Holy Fathers of the christian church read the Old Testament in translations similar to the way we do now for those of us who read the Old Testament in other languages throughout the world. With this clarification, we will proceed with the study for the Exodus unit.
The title of the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, refers to Israel being led out of bondage in Egypt. But, that is really only the first half of the book of Exodus. The later portion, Exodus 19-40, deals with giving of the Law, legislation, and the design and building of the Lord’s residence among his people – that is God’s new temple, and temple worship, among His people. God’s residence at this point is actually not a building but in fact a tent which biblical scholars equate to an living space in the wilderness (EX24-27; 35-40).
Further, God’s title, the Lord, (also, Yahweh ( I am Who I Am) or Jehovah depending on the translation you are reading) is derived directly from the Exodus story. Although God was involved in the lives of His people in Genesis, it wasn’t until the book of Exodus that God is realized as the God of an event leading toward the salvation of His people rather than a place. Biblical scholars believe that the ancient mindset was to link a deity to a place, so even the Lord came to be linked with the mountain Horeb/Sinai, and later the holy mountain or hill of Zion-Jerusalem in ancient writings. However, He is not the God of a place, He is the God of an event which is realized more clearly in Exodus where the Lord refers to Himself in an extended way, I am Yahweh (Jehovah) your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and I will bring you into the land which I swore to give the Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am Yahweh.” (Ex6:2-8).
The primary characters and situations are:
- Jacob’s descendants in Egypt
- Moses and Aaron are brothers born from the house of Levi (the Priest Tribe) who together with God’s help led the Israelites out of bondage into the wilderness.
- Water plays a part in the book of Exodus. Some biblical scholars equate this to the Sacrament of Baptism. Thoughts? Discuss in the question area below.
- Food and water were not available in the wilderness and the people were afraid they would die of thirst and/or starvation and the Lord provided for their needs with manna and water. This can be thought of as being related to Holy communion in the Christian Church – spiritual food for the salvation of mankind. Thoughts? Discuss in the question area below.
- The ancient Holy Fathers of Christianity see many prefiguring events in the Old Testament that occurred in the New Testament. For example: Genesis 15:27, Israel camped by 12 fountains of water and 70 palm trees. They liken this to the 12 Apostles who went forth to provide the life giving water of salvation and the 70 who were sent forth by Christ in the New Testament to further spread the word of Christianity.
- In Exodus 18, Jethro (Moses’ wife’s father) visits the Israelites. Moses tells Jethro all that had happened to them as they left Egypt and how God had helped them. Jethro was a priest from Median and he realized that the multitude of people who had followed Moses were believers as well as non-believers and they needed to have a structure and guidelines for living together as a group. It was upon Jethro’s observation of the way the people clung to Moses for direction and judgement, that he said Moses should not only teach them God’s ordinances but should also appoint God fearing men to be judges over the people in various groupings. These judges would only bring big matters to Moses’ attention, the smaller matters the judges would handle within the group they were leading.
- In the 3rd month after the departing from Egypt, the Israelites and those who traveled with them arrived at the Sinai Desert and camped before Mount Sinai. It is at this point that God has words with Moses about the people and tells Moses to tell the people about preparing themselves. The Holy Fathers view this conversation as a conversation between Moses and Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity. God also asks for Aaron to accompany Moses back up the mountain to speak to Him.
- It is in Exodus 20 that God gives Moses the 10 Commandments for the people.
- Rules for governing a peaceful society were given for various societal situations such as dealing with slaves, violence, animals and also for dealing with the other pagan groups that were living in and around them. The Israelites were to be segregated from these pagan groups.
- In Exodus 24, God told Moses to bring to Him Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and the 70 elders of Israel to him and worship from afar – that is because only Moses was allowed to be near to God. In Genesis 24:13, Joshua, Moses assistant goes with Him to be with God for the writing of the 10 Commandments on the stone tablets. Aaron and the others were left behind to be with the people. Moses with with God on Mt. Sinai 40 days and 40 nights.
- In Exodus 25, the Lord tells Moses to gather items from the Israelites to make a sanctuary for the Lord with specific direction as to how all items should be made – the Ark of the Covenant, Holy Tabernacle, for housing the Word, Who is the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.
- In the 4th century AD, hymnographers used the Old Testament temple terminology to describe the Mother of God. The Theotokos is called in hymns for her feast days (among other analogous terminology) the Ark and the Tabernacle because the Virgin Mary carried all mighty God, she carried and gave birth to He Who could not be contained – the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos in the Greek Orthodox tradition is filled with this analogous terminology. Thoughts? Comments?
- Further instructions were given Moses for making all the areas of the temple including Priest Vestments.
- In Exodus 29, Aaron and his sons were consecrated to God as those who would minister to God. The Old Testament Priesthood was one of progeny. Click the following and read the post on the Old Testament Priesthood as compared to the New Testament Priesthood in the blog Orthodox Christianity Today for more discussion in this area. Post questions for discussion.
- In Exodus 33, Moses keeps the tabernacle far from the camp.
- In Exodus 34, the tablets are rewritten and the Covenant is renewed with Moses and the Israelites. Thoughts? Post questions in the area below.
- The work is finally finished in Exodus 40. Aaron and his sons are bathed and Aaron is vested in priestly garments, anointed and consecrated as Priest. The sons of Aaron were also vested and anointed and consecrated as Priests. Then the tabernacle was filled with the glory of God as a cloud. Whenever the cloud ascended, the Israelites prepared to leave. The cloud stayed over the tabernacle by day and fire was over it by night. Thoughts? Post discussion questions below.
The Old Testament: an Introduction, Historical Traditions, Paul Tarazi – St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press – 2003
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament I,II,III. General Editor: Thomas C Oden, Intervarsity Press -2001
Josephus, The Complete Works, Translated by William Whiston, A.M., Thomas Nelson Publishers – 1998
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha Expanded Edition, RSV, Ecumenical Study Bible, Oxford University Press 1977
The Ministry of the Church, Image of Pastoral Care, Joseph J. Allen, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press 1986
The Orthodox Study Bible, St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Thomas Nelson Publishers 2008