Monday, January 30, 2006
The Israelites at first were very sorry for having so displeased God. But they soon forgot it and the next time that they were without water in their camp, they complained against Moses and Aaron.
God commanded Moses to take the rod with which he had struck the rock in Horeb, and before all the people to speak to a certain rock, which He pointed out, and it should give water for them and their cattle.
Both Moses, and Aaron, who was to go with him, did wrong. They thought that speaking to the rock, as God had said, would not be sufficient. Moses struck it twice with his rod, angrily asking the multitude whether he and Aaron must fetch them water out of the rock.
The water, when the rock was struck, flowed out in such abundance that all had enough to drink. God told Moses and Aaron that because they had not obeyed Him when He told them speak to it only, neither of them would enter into the Promised Land.
Aaron, whom God had appointed chief priest, died very soon afterward, on Mount Hor, and Eleazar, his son, was chosen by God as priest in his place.
The land of Edom, which God had given to Esau, now lay between the Israelites and the way by which they were to go to Canaan. Moses sent messengers to the King of Edom, asking leave to pass through.
The king not only refused to let them pass through, but threatened to lead out his army against the Israelites. So they had to go round Edom. There they met with so many difficulties that they got quite dispirited and as before, complained against God.
God punished them. He sent among them fiery serpents, which stung many of the people and many of them died. The fear of death made the Israelites repent, and confess their sin in speaking against God.
They asked Moses to pray for them, that God would take away those dreadful serpents. Moses prayed and God told him to make an image in brass in the likeness of one of the serpents, and to set it up on a pole, and He promised that every one who was stung should be cured when he looked up to it.
Moses did as he was commanded. And every one who looked upon the brazen serpent was healed.
The Israelites camped in the wilderness of Paran, Moses, by God's command, sent twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, or families into which they were divided, into the land of Canaan, that they might bring him word what sort of country it was, and what kind of people lived in it. He also told the men to bring back with them some of it's fruits.
The twelve men were called “spies” because they went to see the country were gone for forty days. When they returned, as it was the time when grapes were ripening, they brought with them a bunch of grapes, so large and ripe that two of them carried it between them.
This, and other fruits that they had gathered, they showed to the Israelites, and told them that the country they came from was very fertile, but the people in it were powerful and warlike it would be impossible to drive them out, as God had said they should.
They were giants, and lived in large cities, defended by walls. And though Caleb, a brave man, wished that the people should at once march forward and take it, the other men said that it was impossible.
The people began to blame Moses and Aaron for bringing them into the wilderness to be slain by their enemies and they threatened to put Moses away from them, and choose, in this place, a captain who might lead them back into Egypt.
Caleb, and Joshua, another of the spies, told them not to rebel against God for, if they obeyed Him, He would certainly, as He had promised, give them that rich country. But they only complained more, and wanted to stone Moses and those with him.
The glory of the Lord was seen in the Tabernacle and God Himself, in His displeasure, declared that as the people would not believe him, they should no longer be His people, nor have the good land He had promised them.
Moses again prayed earnestly for the rebellious Israelites, begging God to pardon them. And God heard his prayer, and said that He would not entirely cast them off. He said that none of those men, for whom He had done such great things, in delivering them out of Egypt, and feeding them in the wilderness, and who had constantly rebelled against Him, would enter into the Promised Land. They would all die in the wilderness and only their children, together with Joshua and Caleb, would be brought into Canaan.
The Ten Commandments that God gave on Mount Sinai were written by Himself on stone tablets. Moses came down from the mount, and saw the people worshiping the gold calf, in his anger he threw them down, and they were broken.
But after God, at Moses' prayer, had so far forgiven the sin of the Israelites as not to destroy them all, He told Moses to bring two tables of stone, like the first, to Him on Mount Sinai, that He might again give them His commandments.
Moses did so, and went up early in the morning to the mount. He was in the mount with God forty days and nights, neither eating nor drinking; and when he came down with the stone tables, on which the commandments had been again written, his face was so bright that the people could not look at him. He had to cover himself with a veil while he talked to them.
God had told him to tell the people of Israel that if they kept His commandments, He would bless them, and make them prosperous but if they did not keep them, He would give them into the power of their enemies, and afflict them with all kinds of troubles. God also had them prepare a place in which He might be worshiped. As they continued onward to the Promised Land, He told them make it like a tent, which might be carried along with them, and set up when they rested on their journey.
The tent was called the Tabernacle and God gave exact directions how it was to be made, and also how they were to make the altar on which sacrifice was to be offered, and the ark, which was a chest, to hold the tables of stone.
The people were glad to do what God desired them in this matter, and brought such large quantities of precious materials to construct the Tabernacle, and those other things that were to be in it, that at last Moses was obliged to bid them bring no more.
When it was completed, God commanded that the Tabernacle should be set up in the wilderness of Sinai. When it was set up. His glory filled it, a cloud also rested upon it by day, and at night it was a light like fire.
As long as God would have the children of Israel remain in their camp in the wilderness, this cloud remained on the Tabernacle. When He would have them go on their journey, the cloud was taken up from it, and went before them. In this way the people knew whether God would have them travel on, or stay where they were.
The children of Israel camped in the wilderness. Moses' wife and his two sons, together with Jethro, his father-in-law, came to see him there. Jethro, seeing how Moses was overburdened with the care of so many people, advised him to appoint officers over them, under himself, who might attend to all their smaller concerns.
God Himself had the chief government of the people and on Mount Sinai, where Moses spoke to Him and saw His great glory, He gave to them, not only the Ten Commandments, but many other laws and directions, for all they should do in worshiping Him.
It was a sight when God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai! There was thunder and lightening, and a thick cloud, like the smoke of a furnace, about the mountain. There was a great voice of a trumpet, sounding louder and louder so Moses went up and spoke with the Lord God.
Moses spent forty days in the mount, and the people began to wonder what had become of him. They asked Aaron to make them some images which they might worship, and that might guide them out of the wilderness. Aaron knew there was only one God, yet he did as the people desired.
He told them to bring their golden ornaments to him. He then melted them, shaped the metal into the form of a calf (one of the false gods of the Egyptians), built an altar before it, on which the people might lay their offerings, and told them that was their god that had brought them out of the land of Egypt.
The next day the people offered sacrifice to this calf, just as the heathens, who did not know God, worshiped their idols, or false gods. God saw this and He was so displeased at their wickedness that He would have destroyed them all, had not Moses interceded for them. Moses returned from the mount to the camp, and asked Aaron how it was that he and the people had committed so great a sin.
Aaron tried to excuse himself by laying the blame on the unruly Israelites. But there was no excuse for him. Moses burnt the calf, ground it to a powder, and threw it into the water that supplied the camp.
God also, though he had granted Moses' prayer, commanded that great numbers of the people should be put to death for their sin.
After the Egyptians had been all destroyed, the Israelites went forward into the wilderness. They had been traveling three days, when they were in want of water.
They did find some at a place called Marah, but it was so bitter they could not drink it. So again they blamed Moses, as they had done when the Egyptians pursued them to the Red Sea, asking him what they were to do for drink.
God told Moses to throw a certain tree which He showed to him into the water. When Moses had done this, it became quite good to drink. A few days after, the people wanted food and again they were angry with Moses and his brother Aaron, who was with him taking care of the Israelites.
They said they wished they had stayed in Egypt, where they had enough to eat, for they had been brought into the wilderness only that they might die of hunger. Then Moses asked them why they murmured against him and Aaron, when it was God Himself who had brought them out of Egypt; their murmuring was really against God.
And though He was displeased at their conduct, God would supply them with food, that they might know that he was indeed their God. So, in the evening, great flocks of quail came about the camp for the Israelites to eat and in the morning, when the dew was dried up from the ground, there lay upon it a small round thing, like little seeds.
The people did not know what it was. Moses told them that it was bread that God had sent them. There it was, fresh every morning, except on the seventh day, which God had in the beginning made a day of rest. On that day He would not have them gather it, giving them twice as much on the sixth day, so that they might have enough for the seventh.
They called it "manna"; and when it was ground, like grain, they made bread of it. God gave it them for forty years, till they came to the land of Canaan. God had done so much for them but the children of Israel were a very ungrateful people. The very next time they wanted water, they were so angry with Moses that they were ready to kill him.
Moses prayed to God to tell him what to do. God told him to take some of the chiefs of the people, and go to a certain rock in Horeb, and strike it with his rod, and water would come out of it. So he took the men with him, and struck the rock, and water flowed abundantly.
Moses and Aaron went many times to Pharaoh to ask him to let the people go. Pharaoh would not! God sent many strange and terrible plagues upon him and his people to punish them for their wickedness, and make them obey Him.
Pharaoh had commanded that all the sons of the Hebrews would be killed. God in one night destroyed all the first-born in Egypt. Fearing for their own lives, the Egyptians hastily drove out the Israelites, men, women, children, and cattle.
There were six hundred thousand men, not counting women and children. God caused a pillar of cloud to go before them in the daytime, to show them the way they were to take, and at night He led them by a pillar of fire.
When the children of Israel had left Egypt, Pharaoh, though his kingdom had been nearly destroyed for his disobedience to God, was angry with himself for having let them go. So he gathered together a great army, and pursued them to where they were encamped, in the wilderness by the Red Sea.
The Israelites saw they were being pursued and were very afraid. The once again blamed Moses for bringing them there because they thought it would have been better to be slaves in Egypt, than to be killed in the wilderness. Moses told them not to be afraid, God would deliver them.
The pillar of cloud and of fire, that had gone before to guide them moved and went behind the camp, so that it stood between the Egyptians and the children of Israel. To the Egyptians it was cloudy and dark, they could not continue their pursuit, but to the Israelites it gave light.
Moses, as God had commanded him, stretched out his rod over the sea and the waters divided, standing like a wall on the right and on the left, leaving dry land between them, so that the Israelites could pass through the very middle of the sea to the opposite shore. The Egyptians, seeing this, hastened to follow but God sent a violent storm, which threw them all into confusion.
When they were in the middle of the sea, where the Israelites had gone safely, God made Moses again stretch out his hand over it. When he did so, the waters came back again to their place, and drowned and all the Egyptians, there was not one of them left alive.
So God delivered the children of Israel, as He had said.
Moses lived in the court of Egypt until he was about forty years old. He then returned to his own people, the Hebrews, and was grieved to find how they were oppressed by the Egyptians.
Once he saw an Egyptian treating a Hebrew woman very badly so he killed the man, and buried his body in the sand. The king would have put him to death for this so Moses escaped into the land of Midian, and lived there.
One day when he was feeding his flock near Horeb, God called to him out of a bush that had flames yet was not burned! And He told Moses that He had seen the sufferings of the people of Israel, and would deliver them, and bring them into the good land of Canaan, as He had promised to Abraham. He commanded Moses to go and tell Pharaoh to let the people go, that they might serve God in the wilderness.
Many miracles had to happen before Pharaoh would believe and know that He who had sent him this command was the true God, whom he and his people should worship.
Moses was very unwilling to go to Pharaoh for he thought the king would not listen to what he said. But God would have him do it, and told him to take his brother Aaron with him. So he went and when he came before the king, Pharaoh asked who the Lord was that he should obey Him. He told Moses and Aaron that they hindered the people in their work by telling them about their God wanting them to go and sacrifice to him in the wilderness. It was only because they were idle that they wished to go. Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews go! Instead he ordered that they be given more work.
The Hebrews had been making bricks of clay mixed with straw. So Pharaoh ordered that no more straw would be given to them and they would have to get the straw for themselves where they could. They had to make the same amount of bricks in the same time as when straw was found for them.
Instead of making bricks, their time was now spent looking for straw and they were beaten because the usual quantity of work was not done. The poor Hebrews were very sad, and bitterly blamed Moses and Aaron for making their condition so much worse than it had been.
God assured them through Moses, that He would certainly deliver them out of Egypt but they were so unhappy and doubtful that they would not believe.
Joseph died in Egypt when he was a hundred and ten years old. A long time passed and the descendants of Jacob had become very numerous. There was a king of Egypt who treated them very badly. He tried to make slaves of them, setting them to all kinds of hard labor. The more he oppressed them, the more they increased in number. The Egyptians were afraid because the Israelites might turn against them, and make their escape out of the land of Egypt.
So the Pharaoh, the king, commanded that all the sons of the children of Israel, Hebrews as they were called, would be put to death as soon as they were born! But the Hebrews did not obey him. The king was so angry that he ordered his own people to throw all these poor little children into the river.
A Hebrew named Amram had a son, he was a beautiful child, and for three months his mother, Jochebed, succeeded in saving him from the Egyptians. The time came when she could no longer hide him so she made a sort of cradle, laid him in it, and then placed it among the bushes that grew by the riverside. His sister stood watching in the distance to see what would become of him.
The king's daughter and her servants went down to the river. She saw the basket among the bushes and sent one of her servants to bring it to her. When she saw that it was a poor little child crying, she was sorry for the child. She knew it must be one of the Hebrew children whom the king had commanded to be killed, and whose mother had laid it there, hoping that someone would have compassion on the child.
The child's sister, saw how the princess pitied him, approached the princess and asked if she should fetch a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for her. The princess told her do so. She returned with their own mother, and the princess told her to take the child away and nurse it for her. How happy she was to return home with her little child !
When he was old enough to be taken to Pharaoh's daughter, she called him her son and named him Moses, which means "drawn out of the water." Moses was taught all that was known to the Egyptians for they were a very learned people.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Canaan, where Joseph's father and brothers were living, was one of the countries affected by the famine. They heard that there was corn in Egypt so Jacob sent his sons there to buy some.
They did not recognize the man that they were bowing down to was their brother whom they had sold for a slave. Joseph knew it was them, and treated them roughly, telling them they were spies. They answered him that they were no spies, but honest men, twelve brothers, one of whom, Benjamin, the youngest, was with their father in Canaan and another, Joseph, was dead. But he said that the only way of proving themselves honest men was for one of them to go and fetch their youngest brother, while he kept the others in Egypt. He put them all in prison for three days.
On the third day they were brought before Joseph again he told them that one of them must be left in prison, while the others carried corn to their father, and brought back their youngest brother. When they heard this they were afraid and said to each other that now punishment was coming upon them for their cruelty, a long time ago, to their brother Joseph.
Joseph wept when he heard his brothers speaking in this way, for he understood what they said, though they did not know it, as he spoke in different language from theirs. Then he sent them away with corn, keeping Simeon till they returned with Benjamin. Jacob was very unwilling to let him go but their corn was soon finished and there was none to be found anywhere but in Egypt. Joseph said they would not have any more unless Benjamin were with them. So he was obliged to send him.
When his brothers came again, Joseph entertained them very kindly at first, but presently he made as though he would keep Benjamin for his slave. Upon this, Judah, who had promised to take care of Benjamin, pleaded so earnestly, offering to be a slave in his place, that Joseph told them he was their own brother whom they had sold into Egypt.
The merchant who bought Joseph sold him to an officer Potiphar. Potiphar worked for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Joseph was treated very favorably, he put all his affairs in Joseph's care. After Joseph served his master faithfully.
Joseph was falsely accused of doing something wrong. His master, without inquiring into the matter, shut him up in prison. God was with Joseph in the prison, as He had been while Joseph was ruling over Potiphar's household. He caused the keeper of the prison to put trust in him, so that he had the whole care of the other prisoners, and of all that was done there.
Two of these prisoners, chief servants of Pharaoh, dreamed strange dreams, and God gave Joseph wisdom to interpret them. He told one of them that his dream signified that in three days he should be taken out of prison and hanged, the other prisoner's dream signified that in three days he should be released and restored to favor. And he begged this one, after he should be set at liberty, to try to get him also out of prison. But when the man got out of prison, he thought no more about Joseph for two whole years.
The man now worked Pharaoh. The king had two dreams that made him unhappy. None of his wise men could tell him the meaning of his dreams. He dreamed that seven fat cattle were feeding in a meadow and that seven lean ones came and ate them up. Again he dreamed of seven ears of good corn on one stalk, and that seven bad ones sprang up and ate them. So when no one could tell him what these dreams meant, the chief servant remembered how Joseph had explained to him his dream while in prison.
He told the king, who immediately sent for Joseph out of prison. He told his dreams to Joseph and asked him what they meant. Joseph told the king that in his dreams God had showed him what He was about to do. He was going to give Egypt seven years of plenty, and after them seven years of famine. He advised Pharaoh to find an honest person who would rule over the land of Egypt, with officers under him, to store up enough corn during the years of plenty to supply them in the years of famine.
Pharaoh the king thought the advice was good, and that no one was so fit as Joseph to do all this so he made him ruler. Joseph stored up the corn, so that, when the famine came, other countries went to Egypt to buy food.
Jacob returned to the land of Canaan with his eleven sons. He had another son, the second child of his wife Rachel, whom Jacob loved very much. Rachel died shortly after the child was born. Jacob named the child whom Rachel left, Benjamin. He now had twelve sons. Most of them were grown-up men but Joseph was a boy seventeen years old, and his brother Benjamin was a baby.
Jacob loved Joseph the best, because he was Rachel's child and also because he was so much younger than most of his brothers. Joseph was good, and faithful, obedient and thoughtful. Jacob gave Joseph a robe or coat of bright colors, like a long cloak with wide sleeves. This was a special mark of Jacob's favor to Joseph, and it made his older brothers jealous of him.
Joseph did what was right, while his older brothers often did very wrong acts. They hated him because of two strange dreams he had and told them about. He said one day: "Listen to this dream that I have dreamed. I dreamed that we were out in the field binding sheaves, when suddenly my sheaf stood up, and all your sheaves came around it and bowed down to my sheaf!"
His brothers said scornfully, "Do you suppose that the dream means that you will some time rule over us, and that we shall bow down to you?" A few days after Joseph said, "I have dreamed again. This time, I saw in my dream the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars, all come and bow to me!"
Jacob, his father said to him, "I do not like you to dream such dreams. Shall I, and your mother, and your brothers, come and bow down before you as if you were a king?" His brothers hated Joseph, and would not speak kindly to him but his father thought much of what Joseph had said.
Joseph's ten brothers were taking care of the flock in the fields where Jacob's tents were spread. Jacob wanted to send a message to his sons so he called Joseph, and said to him "Your brothers are with the flock. I want you to go to them and find if they are well and if the flocks are doing well."
This was quite an errand, for a boy to go alone over the country, and find his way, for fifty miles, and then walk home again. But Joseph was a boy who could take care of himself, and could be trusted. He started on his journey, walking northward over the mountains. Joseph reached the fields where his brothers were supposed to be but he could not find his brothers. They had taken their flocks to another place. A man met Joseph wandering in the field, and asked him, "Whom are you seeking?"
Joseph said, "I am looking for my brothers, the sons of Jacob. Can you tell me where I will find them?" The man said, "They are further ahead.” Joseph continued on. His brothers saw him in the distance coming toward them. They knew it was him because he was wearing his bright cloak. They said to one another: "Look, that dreamer is coming! Come, let us kill him, and throw his body into a pit, and tell father that some wild beast has eaten him. We will see what becomes of his dreams.”
One of his brothers, whose name was Reuben, felt more kindly toward Joseph than the others. He said "Let us not kill him, but let us throw him into this pit, in the wilderness, and leave him there to die." Reuben intended, after they had gone away, to lift Joseph out of the pit, and take him home. The brothers did as Reuben told them, they threw Joseph into the pit, which was empty. He cried, and begged them to save him but they would not. They calmly sat down to eat their dinner on the grass, while their brother was calling to them from the pit.
After the dinner, Reuben went to another part of the field. He was not there when some men passed by with their camels, going to Egypt, to sell spices and fragrant gum from trees to the Egyptians. Judah, another of Joseph's brothers, said, "What good will it do us to kill our brother? Would it not be better for us to sell him to these men, and let them carry him away? After all, he is our brother, and we would better not kill him." His brothers agreed with him so they stopped the men who were passing, and took Joseph from the pit and removed his cloak. They sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver.
Reuben returned to the pit, where they had left Joseph. He was not there! Reuben went to his brothers, saying: "The boy is not there! What shall I do?" His brothers told him what they had done. They all agreed together to deceive their father. They killed one of the goats, and dipped Joseph's coat in its blood and they brought it to their father, and they said to him "We found this coat out in the wilderness. Look at it, father, and tell us if you think it was the coat of your son."
Jacob knew it was Joseph’s coat. He said: "It is my son's coat. Some wild beast has eaten him. There is no doubt that Joseph has been torn in pieces!" His heart was broken over the loss of Joseph because he had sent Joseph alone on the journey through the wilderness. They tried to comfort him, but he would not be comforted. He said: "I will go down to the grave mourning for son."
Jacob grieved for his son Joseph. His wicked brothers knew that Joseph was not dead but they would not tell their father what they had done to their brother. They had sold him as a slave.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Jacob remainded twenty years with Laban, whose daughter Rachel he had married. In those days men's chief riches consisted in flocks and herds. Jacob had to care the sheep belonging to Laban. His uncle tried to deprive him of the wages which he had promised to give him, but Jacob himself grew rich in cattle, and beasts servants.
At the end of the twenty years that Jacob had been with Laban, God told him to return to his own land. He gathered all his possessions, and set out.
Jacob still feared the anger of his brother Esau, whom he had cruelly treated, he sent messengers before him into Edom, where Esau lived, to say that he, and all his family with him, were coming, and that he hoped his brother would be friendly with him. But when his messengers returned, bringing word that Esau, with four hundred men, was advancing to meet him, he was afraid, thinking now his brother was going to kill him.
He divided his people and his flocks into two so if one were attacked, the other might escape away. He prayed to God that Esau might not kill him, with his children and servants.
Jacob took a great number of his cattle, his sheep and camels, and sent them on before him in separate droves and told the men who were with them to tell Esau, when they met him, that they were a present from his servant Jacob.
It was not long before Esau and his four hundred men came in sight and Jacob, putting his children in a place of safety, went forward to meet him, bowing himself down to the ground to do honor to his brother.
Esau, who had forgiven his brother's ill deeds, ran to him in the most loving manner, kissing him, and weeping for joy that they had at last met. He asked him kindly about all the people with him and what was the meaning of the droves of cattle he had seen on the road.
Jacob told him that the people were his family, and that the cattle were for a present to himself. And when Esau refused to take it, he urged him, that he might be sure his brother had forgiven him. Esau returned to his own country, and Jacob, in time, came back to the land of Canaan, as God had promised that he should do.
He removed the flat stone that was over the mouth of the well, and drew water and gave it to the sheep. He found out that this young woman was his own cousin Rachel, the daughter of Laban, he was so glad that he wept for joy. And at that moment he began to love Rachel, and longed to have her for his wife.
Rachel's father, Laban, Jacob's uncle, welcomed Jacob, and took him into his home. Jacob asked Laban if he would give his daughter, Rachel, to him as his wife. He said, "If you give me Rachel, I will work for you seven years." Laban said, "It is better that you should have her, than that a stranger should marry her."
So Jacob lived seven years in Laban's house, caring for his sheep and oxen and camels; but his love for Rachel made the time seem short. The day came for the marriage and they brought in the bride, who, after the manner of that land, was covered with a thick veil, so that her face could not be seen. And she was married to Jacob, and when Jacob lifted up her veil he found that he had married, not Rachel, but her older sister, Leah, who was not beautiful, and whom Jacob did not love at all.
Jacob was very angry that he had been deceived, though that was just the way in which Jacob himself had deceived his father and cheated his brother Esau. But his uncle Laban said, "In our land we never allow the younger daughter to be married before the older daughter. Keep Leah for your wife, and work for me seven years longer, and you shall have Rachel also."
When Rebekah heard this, she said to Jacob, "Before it is too late, leave here and get out of Esau's sight. Perhaps when Esau sees you no longer, he will forget his anger, and then you can come home again. Go and visit my brother Laban, your uncle, in Haran, and stay with him for a little while."
Rebekah came from the family of Nahor, Abraham's younger brother, who lived in Haran, a long distance to the northeast of Canaan, and that Laban was Rebekah's brother.
Jacob left carrying his staff in his hand. One evening, just about sunset, he came to a place among the mountains, more than sixty miles from his home. He had no bed to lie down upon, so he took a stone and rested his head upon it for a pillow, and lay down to sleep.
He had a wonderful dream. In his dream he saw stairs leading from the earth where he lay up to heaven. Angels were going up and coming down upon the stairs.
Above the stairs, he saw the Lord God standing. God said to Jacob, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac your father; and I will be your God, too. The land where you are lying all alone shall belong to you and to your children after you; and your children shall spread abroad over the lands, east and west, and north and south, like the dust of the earth, and in your family all the world shall receive a blessing. And I am with you in your journey, and I will keep you where you are going, and will bring you back to this land. I will never leave you, and I will surely keep my promise to you."
In the morning Jacob awakened from his sleep, and said, "Surely, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it! I thought that I was all alone, but God has been with me. This place is the house of God, it is the gate of heaven!"
Jacob took the stone on which his head had rested, and he set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on it as an offering to God. He named that place Bethel, which in the language that Jacob spoke means "The House of God."
Jacob made a promise to God at that time, and said, "If God really will go with me and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and will bring me to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God: and this stone shall be the house of God, and of all that God gives me I will give back to God one-tenth as an offering."
Friday, January 13, 2006
Jacob was quiet and thoughtful, staying at home, dwelling in a tent, and caring for the flocks of his father. Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob, because Esau brought to his father that which he had killed in his hunting; but Rebekah liked Jacob, because she saw that he was wise and careful in his work.
Among the people in those lands, when a man dies, his older son receives twice as much as the younger of their father’s possessions. This was called his "birthright," for it was his right as the oldest born. So Esau, as the older, had a “birthright” to more of Isaac’s possession than Jacob. And besides this, there was the privilege of the promise of God that the family of Isaac should receive great blessings.
The Sale Of A Birthright
Esau, when he grew up, did not care for his birthright or the blessing which God had promised. Jacob, who was a wise man, wished greatly to have the birthright which would come to Esau when his father died.
Once, when Esau came home, hungry and tired from hunting in the fields, he saw that Jacob had a bowl of something that he had just cooked for dinner. And Esau said, "Give me some of that soup in the dish. Will you not give me some? I am hungry." And Jacob answered, "I will give it to you, if you will first of all sell to me your birthright." Esau said, "What is the use of the birth-right to me now, when I am almost starving to death? You can have my birthright if you will give me something to eat."
Esau made Jacob a solemn promise to give to Jacob his birthright, all for a bowl of soup. It was not right for Jacob to deal so selfishly with his brother but it was very wrong in Esau to care so little for his birthright and God's blessing.
Some time after this, when Esau was forty years old, he married two wives. Though this would be very wicked in our times, it was not supposed to be wrong then; for even good men then had more than one wife. But Esau's two wives were women from the people of Canaan, who worshipped idols, and not the true God. And they taught their children also to pray to idols, so that those who came from Esau, the people who were his descendants, lost all knowledge of God, and became very wicked.
Isaac and Rebekah were very sorry to have their son Esau marry women who prayed to idols and not to God; but still Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob. Isaac became very old and feeble, and so blind that he could see scarcely anything. One day he said to Esau, "My son, I am very old, and do not know how soon I must die. But before I die, I wish to give to you, as my older son, God's blessing upon you, and your children, and your descendants. Go out into the fields, and with your bow and arrows shoot some animal that is good for food, and make for me a dish of cooked meat such as you know I love and after I have eaten it I will give you the blessing."
Esau should have told his father that the blessing did not belong to him, for he had sold it to his brother Jacob. But he did not tell his father. He went out into the fields hunting, to find the kind of meat which his father liked the most.
Rebekah was listening, and heard all that Isaac had said to Esau. She knew that it would be better for Jacob to have the blessing than for Esau. So she called to Jacob and told him what Isaac had said to Esau, and she said, "Now, my son, do what I tell you, and you will get the blessing instead of your brother. Go to the flocks and bring to me two little kids from the goats, and I will cook them just like the meat which Esau cooks for your father. And you will bring it to your father, and he will think that you are Esau, and will give you the blessing and it really belongs to you."
Jacob said, "You know that Esau and I are not alike, His neck and arms are covered with hairs, while mine are smooth. My father will feel of me, and he will find that I am not Esau and then, instead of giving me a blessing, I am afraid that he will curse me."
Rebekah answered her son, "Never mind, you do as I have told you, and I will take care of you. If any harm comes it will come to me, so do not be afraid, but go and bring the meat."
Jacob went and brought a pair of baby goats from the flocks. His mother made a dish of food, so that it would be to the taste just as Isaac liked it. Then Rebekah found some of Esau's clothes, and dressed Jacob in them and she placed on his neck and hands some of the skins of the goats, so that his neck and his hands would feel rough and hairy to the touch.
Jacob went into his father's tent with the dinner, and speaking as much like Esau as he could, he said: "Here I am, my father." And Isaac said, "Who are you, my son?" Jacob answered, "I am Esau, your oldest son; I have done as you told me, now sit up and eat the dinner that I have made, and then give me your blessing as you promised me." Isaac said, "How is it that you found it so quickly?" Jacob answered, "Because the Lord your God showed me where to go and gave me good success."
Isaac did not feel certain that it was his son Esau, and he said, "Come near and let me feel you, so that I may know that you are really my son Esau. Jacob went up close to Isaac's bed, and a Isaac felt of his face, and his neck, and his hands, and he said, "The voice sounds like Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau. Are you really my son Esau?"
Jacob told a lie to his father, and said, "I am." Isaac ate the food that Jacob had brought to him; and he kissed Jacob, believing him to be Esau; and he gave him the blessing, Saying to him, "May God give you the dew of heaven, and the richness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. May nations bow down to you and peoples become your servants. May you be the master over your brother, and may your family and descendants that shall come from you rule over his family and his descendants. Blessed be those that bless you, and cursed be those that curse you."
When Jacob had received the blessing he rose up and hastened away. He had scarcely gone out, when Esau came in from hunting, with the dish of food that he had cooked. And he said: "Let my father sit up and eat the food that I have brought, and give me the blessing."
Isaac said, "Why, who are you?” Esau answered, "I am your son; your oldest son, Esau." Isaac trembled, and said, "Who then is the one that came in and brought to me food? and I have eaten his food and have blessed him, yes, and he shall be blessed."
When Esau heard this, he knew that he had been cheated, and he cried aloud, with a bitter cry, "O, my father, my brother has taken away my blessing, just as he took away my birthright! But cannot you give me another blessing, too? Have you given everything to my brother?"
So Isaac told him all that he had said to Jacob, making him the ruler over his brother. But Esau begged for another blessing. Isaac said: "My son, your dwelling shall be of the riches of the earth and of the dew of heaven. You shall live by your sword and your descendants shall serve his descendants. But in time to come they shall break loose and shall shake off the yoke of your brother's rule and shall be free."
All this came to pass many years afterward. The people who came from Esau lived in a land called Edom, on the south of the land of Israel, where Jacob's descendants lived. And after a time the Israelites became rulers over the Edomites and later the Edomites made themselves free from the Israelites. This took place hundreds of years afterward.
It was better that Jacob's descendants, those who came after him, should have the blessing, than that Esau's people should have it, for Jacob's people worshipped God, and Esau's people walked in the way of the idols and became wicked.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Abraham always listened to God's voice and obeyed. He left his own people and his homeland to journey into a country that he did not know, because God called him. Even when it did not seem easy to obey, Abraham was always ready to do God's bidding.
When Isaac came into Abraham's life, God saw that Abraham's love for the little boy was very strong. And the passing years increased this love, because Abraham knew that Isaac was the child God had promised, and he loved Isaac as a gift from God. He looked forward to the time when Isaac should become a man and should have children also, and he knew that these children should grow up and become the fathers of more people, because God had told him these things. And so whenever he looked upon Isaac and thought about these things, he knew that in this child were bound up all the promises of God for the coming years.
Abraham taught Isaac to know about God and to worship him. Isaac loved his father Abraham, and was obedient to him.
God saw how dearly Abraham loved his son, and how obedient and loving Isaac was toward his father, he thought, "I must prove Abraham this once more, and see whether he loves me better than he loves the child I have given him." So he called to Abraham one day, and Abraham answered, "Here am I." Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go into the land of Moriah. There give him back to me as an offering upon an altar, which you must build at the place I will show."
Abraham did not know the reason why God should ask him to give Isaac back as an offering. He could not understand how the promises concerning Isaac would be fulfilled if now he must offer Isaac upon an altar, just like the lambs which he had given to God at other times. But Abraham believed that God understood why, and so he was not afraid to obey.
The land of Moriah was some distance from Abraham's tent, and the journey there would require a few days. He called two young men servants and Isaac,and then saddled his donkey, and they started on their journey. They took wood and fire with which to burn the offering, and traveled on and on for two days, sleeping at night under the trees. On the third day Abraham saw the mountain where God wanted him to build the altar and offer his gift. He left the servants with the donkey to wait by the roadside, while he and Isaac would go on alone. Isaac carried the wood upon his shoulder, and Abraham took the vessel containing the fire.
As they climbed the mountain, Isaac began to wonder why his father had forgotten to bring a lamb for an offering. He did not know what God had asked Abraham to give. He did not understand why they were going so far from home to build the altar. So he said, "Father, see, here is wood and fire for the altar, but where is the lamb for an offering?" Abraham replied, "God will provide himself a lamb."
When they reached the place God had appointed, Abraham built an altar, laid the wood upon it, and then bound Isaac's hands and feet and placed him upon the wood. Next he took his knife, and was about to kill Isaac when a loud voice called to him out of the sky, "Abraham! Abraham!" The old man stopped to listen, and the angel of God said to him, "Do not harm Isaac. Now I know that you love God even better than you love your child. Untie his hands and his feet, and let him go." At this Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket near by. He took this animal and offered it instead of his son Isaac.
Afterward the Angel called to Abraham from the sky again, and said, "Because you have not withheld your dearly loved child from me, I will surely bless you and will cause your descendants to be as many as the stars in the heavens and as the sands upon the seashore. And I will bless all the nations of the earth through your descendants, because you have obeyed my voice."
Abraham knew that he had surely pleased God, and Isaac knew that his life was precious in God's sight. He called the name of the place where he built the altar, Jehovah Jireh, which means in his language, "The Lord will provide." Then they returned to the young men servants who were waiting by the roadside, and then returned home.
After the destruction of Sodom and the other cities of the plain, Abraham moved away from Hebron. He journeyed south and west, into the land of the Philistines, near the Great Sea, and made his home in a place called Gerar. Here he lived only a short when God gave to him and Sarah the child of promise. Abraham named the child Isaac (a word meaning, in his language, "laughing") because both he and Sarah had laughed when God told them that they should have a son in their old age.
Ishmael, the son of Hagar, Sarah's maid, also lived in Abraham's tent. Ismael was very unkind to Issac. When Sarah heard how unkindly Ishmael had treated her little boy she became angry, and called Abraham. "You must send Ishmael and his mother away," she told him, "for I do not want our little boy to grow up with such a rude companion." Now, Abraham loved Ishmael too, and he felt sad to hear that the boy had mistreated his son. He thought that Ishmael might learn to be kind; but God told him to send the boy and his mother away, just as Sarah had said.
So the next morning Abraham called Hagar and told her that she must take Ishmael and go away. He gave her food for the journey and placed upon her shoulder a bottle filled with water.The road to Egypt led through the same desert where the angel spoke to Hagar when she had run away from Sarah's tent. On this second journey Hagar missed the road and wandered off into the trackless wilderness. She did not know which way to take; and after a while there was no more food in her basket nor water in the bottle which Abraham had given her. The hot sun beamed down upon the dry, burning sand all day, until Hagar and Ishmael grew so thirsty, faint, and weak that they could go no farther. Then Hagar laid her suffering boy beneath the shade of a little bush, and went away. "I can not bear to see him suffer and die," she said, and then she wept.
But God had not forgotten about Hagar and her boy. Just as He had seen her on her first journey into the wilderness, so He could see her now as she sat weeping all alone. She heard a voice calling to her out of heaven, "What is the cause of your sorrow, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard Ishmael's cry of pain, and he will save his life and make of him a great nation. Go, now, and lift him up." Then Hagar saw a spring of water which God caused to bubble out of the dry ground near by, and she quickly filled her empty bottle and gave Ishmael a drink.
After this Hagar and Ishmael did not journey on to Egypt, but made their home in the wilderness, far from other people. God cared for them, and Ishmael grew to be a strong, wild man. He became a hunter, and used a bow and arrow. His children also grew up in the wilderness, and were wild and strong like their father. They were called Arabians, and even today their descendants live in the desert and wander about, just as Ishmael, their forefather, did long ago.
Among the wise men who sat in Sodom's gate was Lot. He saw two strangers approaching, and he greeted them with a low bow, just as Abraham had greeted these same men earlier in day. They were no other than the angels who had dined with the Lord at Abraham's tent. Lot invited them to his home to spend the night, but they said they would stay out in the streets. Now, Lot knew the wicked men of Sodom would try to harm them if they remained in the streets, so he urged them to come with him. Finally they agreed to go with Lot.
Here again the angels were treated with great kindness. Lot brought water to wash their dusty feet and prepared good things for them to eat.
Soon the news spread all over Sodom that Lot had two strange visitors at his home, and men came hurrying from every part of the city to see them. They planned to hurt them. Lot refused to let them see his guests. They pushed him aside and tried to break open the door. At this the angels drew Lot quickly inside and made the men blind.
Lot knew that his visitors were angels, and that they had come to destroy Sodom because it was such a wicked place. He went out to the homes of his sons-in-law, two men of Sodom, and told them that the Lord was going to destroy their city. But they would not believe his words. They would not listen when he told them to hurry and escape for their lives. The angels urged Lot and his wife and their two daughters to make haste and flee out of the city lest they also be destroyed. God was merciful to him, and the angels seized him and his family and dragged them outside the city. They told them to go the mountains and not to look back at their old home, because God would soon destroy the cities of that rich valley.
But Lot's wife did not obey the angel's words. She looked back, and her body became changed into a pillar of salt.Lot was sad! fear now tormented him from every direction. He thought his life would not be safe even in the mountains, for wild animals might devour him there. So he prayed to God to spare a small city near by and allow him and his daughters to enter that place. God heard his prayer and granted his request, so they fled into that city. That place was called Zoar, which means little.
Just as the sun rose, Lot and his daughters entered the gate of. Zoar. At that time God sent a great rain of fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah and all the neighboring cities.
The fire was so terrible that it completely destroyed the cities and all the wicked people near by. Lot and his daughters feared that their lives were not safe in Zoar, so they hurried to the mountains, where God had first told them to go. There they lived in a cave, far away from other people.
Abraham was sitting in the cool shade of his tent , beneath a tree. Three strange men drew near. They did not look like other men, and Abraham knew they were from a far country. He hurried to meet them, and, bowing low toward the ground just as he always did when greeting a friend or a visitor.
He urged them to rest for a while in the cool shade. This they were quite ready to do.He got water to wash their feet. This was not unusual because people wore sandals in that time and it was customary for them to remove their sandals and wash their feet whenever they sat down to rest and visit. Next, Abraham told his wife to make ready and bake some barley cakes while he prepared some meat, for his guests. He ran out to his herd and selected a young calf, which he gave to a servant to dress and cook. When all was ready, he brought the food to his guests, and they ate while he stood under a tree near by. Abraham was glad to serve these strangers because he was kind to every one.
When the meal was ended, the men got up to continue on their journey. Abraham walked with them for a little way. By this time he knew they were not like other men, but they were heavenly beings. Two of them were angels. The other one was the Lord. And Abraham felt that he was unworthy to entertain such wonderful visitors.
"Shall I hide from Abraham this thing which I do"? the Lord asked his companions. "I know that he will teach his children to keep my ways and to do right."
Then, turning toward Abraham the Lord said, "I am going to visit Sodom and Gomorrah to see if these cities are as wicked as they seem, for the cry of their sins has reached me."
The two men hurried on; but Abraham kept the Lord a while longer, because he wanted to talk to him. He knew the Lord would destroy the cities if he found them to be as wicked as they seemed, and he thought of Lot. Abraham knew that Lot too might perish if the cities would be destroyed and he loved Lot. He wished once more to try to save him, so he said, "Will you destroy the righteous persons in the city, will you not spare the lives of all for their sake'?" And the Lord promised to spare Sodom if he could find fifty righteous persons in it.
Abraham feared that there might be less than fifty. So he spoke again. "I know that I am but a common man, made of dust," said he, "yet I speak to the Lord. If there should be only forty-five righteous persons living in Sodom, will you spare the city?" And the Lord said he would spare the city for the sake of only forty-five righteous persons.
Still Abraham felt troubled. He feared there might not be even forty-five. So he asked if the city might be spared for the sake of forty. The Lord knew it was Abraham's love for the people which to plead so earnestly for Sodom, and he promised to spare the city for the sake of forty.
"What," thought poor, distressed Abraham, "if there should not be even forty righteous persons found in Sodom?" And once more he spoke. "O Lord, be not angry with me," he said, "but if there are only thirty righteous persons, will you spare the city for their sakes. And the Lord promised to spare the entire city if only thirty people could be found in it. Abraham continued to plead until he had asked the Lord if he would spare the city if only ten righteous persons were found, and the Lord promised to spare Sodom if he could find only ten. Then the Lord continued on, and Abraham returned to his tent.
"What will you give me for a reward ?" Abram asked. And God answered that some day Abram should have a son. Then, at God's bidding, Abram rose up and went outside his tent door and looked up at the starlit heavens. "The children of your family," God told Abram, "shall one day be as many as the stars-so many that no one can count them." Abram understood by this that God was speaking of the people who should some day possess Canaan's land, for they should be Abram's descendants. And he believed in the Lord.
God also caused Abram to understand that there would be a time when the children of his family would become slaves in a strange land, and should dwell there for four hundred years. After that they would again return to Canaan, and possess the land for their own.
One time Abram and his household journeyed into Egypt, during a famine in the land of Canaan. When they returned, they brought with them an Egyptian servant-girl named Hagar. They taught Hagar about the true God and to listen if He should speak to her. They expected her to work faith-fully for them.
One day Hagar did not please her mistress, Sarai. and Sarai punished her severely. Hagar became very unhappy, until she decided to run away.
Now, running away is never an easy thing to do, and as Hagar hastened along the sandy, desert road she grew very tired. She stopped to rest by a fountain of water along the roadside. In this lonely place, in the deep wilderness, some one found her. It was an angel of the Lord.
"Hagar, Sarai's maid, where did you come from? and where are you going?" the angel inquired.
"I am fleeing from my mistress," Hagar replied, "because I am unhappy."
"Return again," the angel said, "and try to please Sarai. After a while God will give you a little son. He shall grow up to be a strong man, and he shall be called Ishmael."
Hagar knew it was a messenger from God who spoke to her. And she knew now that she could never run away from God. So she obeyed the angel's word and returned again to her mistress. The fountain of water in the wilderness where the angel found her was called Beerlahairoi, a word that means, "A well of the Living One who sees me."
So after Hagar returned to Sarai's tent, God gave her the child he had promised. Abram named him Ishmael, which means, "God hears." And Hagar remembered that this was the name by which the angel had said the child should be called. Abram loved Ishmael; but Ishmael was not the child that God had promised to give to him..
The years passed on until Abram was nearly one hundred years old. Then God spoke to him again. Abram fell on his face and listened. God said, "I will make a covenant with you." A covenant is a promise between two persons, each one agreeing to do something for the other. In this covenant God promised to give Abram a son and Abram promised to serve God faithfully. Then God said, "Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, which means, 'The father of many,' and your wife, Sarai, shall be called 'Sarah,' which means, 'Princess.'"
When Lot chose the fertile plains of Jordan for his share of Canaan's land, he thought he was making a wise choice. He saw in the distance the large cities of the plain, called Sodom and Gomorrah. He knew that in those cities he could sell sheep and cattle from his flocks and herds, and soon have much silver and gold. So he moved toward Sodom. He pitched his tents still nearer the city walls, and eventually moved his family inside the gate.
Sodom was not a nice place for good people to live. The people of Sodom cared nothing about God. Some of them were very rich but they had bad hearts. The men of Sodom were wicked and great sinners in God's sight. But in Lot's sight they were rich men, and clever, and so he brought his family to live among them. This was a sad mistake.
Trouble soon came to Sodom. There had been war in the land and the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, and three other cities had gone out to battle. The army that they fought against defeated them. The conquering soldiers entered the gates of Sodom and of Gomorrah, crowded through the streets, and pushed their way into rich men's houses, taking everything that they could find to carry away. They even took people and led them away to become slaves. Lot with his wife and children were taken with the others.
One of the captured men escaped and fled across the country to the place near Hebron where Abram lived. He told him about the battle and what had happened to Lot. When Abram heard of Lot's trouble, he took three hundred and eighteen of his men servants and, with some friends, hurried in pursuit of the captives. After a long, hard march across the country they came upon the enemy's camp at a place in the north of Canaan, called Dan. It was night, and the unsuspecting enemies lay asleep. Abram and his men rushed upon them and frightened them. They thought a great army had come to fight against them, and they were not prepared for a battle. So they rose up in haste and ran away, leaving behind their tents and all the goods and the people which they had taken away from Sodom and Gomorrah.
This was a great victory for Abram. The people of Canaan honored him for his courage, and the king of Sodom went out to meet him. He offered Abram all the gold and silver and food and clothing that he had taken away from the enemy's camp, and asked only that the people be returned again to Sodom. But Abram would not accept any reward from the king, because he had promised God that he would not keep anything for himself.
Another king also came out to meet Abram. His name was Melchizedek, and he was king of Salem, a place which was later called Jerusalem. Melchizedek was different from the other people of Canaan because he loved the true God and worshiped him. He was a priest of God. When this king met Abram he brought food for him, and then he asked God to bless Abram. He also thanked God for giving Abram such a great victory.
Because Melchizedek was a priest of the true God, Abram gave him a tenth of all the goods he had taken from the enemy's camp.
After this experience, Lot took his wife and children and went back again to live in wicked Sodom; Abram returned to his quiet tent-home under the oak trees near Hebron.
After Abram returned from Egypt, he and Lot journeyed to the place where they had first pitched their tents in Canaan. There Abram had built an altar to worship God. At the very same place he now sacrificed another offering, and again talked to God.
Abram was now a very rich man. Not only did he possess many servants, flocks, and herds, but he also possessed much silver and gold. And we find that his nephew Lot owned many servants and sheep and cattle too.
After some time there was trouble between the servants of Abram and Lot. Some of Abram's servants were caretakers of his cattle and sheep. They and the servants who cared for Lot's flocks quarreled. Abram's servants wanted the best pasture-land for Abram's flocks, and Lot's servants wanted that same land for their master's flocks. And so the trouble grew.
He looked out over the crowded country and saw how hard it must be for the servants. How could they always find places near by where tender grasses grew and where water was plentiful' He saw, too, the villages of the Canaanites not far away, and he knew there was not room enough in that part of the country for everyone to live together in peace.
Abram called Lot and said, "Let there be no quarrel between us or between our servants. There is not enough room for both of us to live together with our flocks and herds. But see, the whole land lies before us. Let us separate. If you choose to go to the west country, then I shall journey east; but if you desire the east country, then I shall go west."
From the height upon which Abram and Lot stood to view the country they could see far to the east and to the west. Abram was the one to whom God had promised all this land. He could have chosen the better part, or he could have sent Lot and his servants away out of the land altogether. But Abram was not selfish.
He kindly offered Lot the first choice. Lot, forgetting the kindness of his uncle, thought only of his own interests and chose the east country, through which the Jordan River flowed. "I can always find plenty of grass and water there," he reasoned, "and my flocks and herds will grow in number until soon I shall become very rich, too."
After Lot departed with his possessions, God spoke again to Abram. So he comforted him by reminding him of the promise that the whole of Canaan's land would belong to him and to his children.
Abram and Sarai had no children, but God told them that one day the children of their grandsons and great-grandsons would be many. Abram believed God. God also told Abram to journey through the length and breadth of Canaan's land to see how large a country it was.
So Abram moved away from the place where he and Lot had lived together for the last time, and came to a plain called Mamre. Here he pitched his tents under the oak-trees near the city of Hebron, and then built another altar to worship God.