Era 4: Desert Wanderings
This era covers Numbers (Primary Narrative Book) and Deuteronomy (Supplemental Book)
15th Century B.C.
It begins with Israel’s departure from Mt. Sinai a little over a year after the Exodus
It continues with their wandering in the desert for forty years on their way to the Promised Land
There will be repeated rebellions against God and Moses
Numbers is so named because of the CENSUS taken at the beginning and at the end of the book
Numbers and Deuteronomy overlap a little, but are also quite different
Deuteronomy means SECOND LAW
Because of the hardness of Israel’s heart at this time, it was necessary for SECOND LAW after we finished Leviticus
These books answer the question of “How do you live your life if you enter a country that is diametrically opposed to the Message of God?”
This period lasts about 40 YEARS
Deuteronomy has so many powerful words of ENCOURAGEMENT, LAW, AND DIRECTION FROM THE LORD that can be applied to our lives
Numbers has a lot of parts where there are lists of names, counting things, etc. (YAY!)
These parts may seem boring
These parts are STILL CRITICAL
Particularly for those of you who want to go deeper into the story of the Bible
For example, remember TOLEDOT? Well, TOLEDOT makes a reappearance in NUMBERS
What is TOLEDOT? Do you remember? We talked about it way back on the ERA 2: Patriarchs episode
TOLEDOT is a literary device where we go from the BIG PICTURE down to ONE MAN (Can you guess who that man is?)
When Numbers starts, the Israelites are still at Mt. Sinai
They were at Mt. Sinai for 1 year and they received the Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the Law
Now, they break camp but before that, we have a recap of the Exodus story (Kind of like recapping a season of some show on Netflix)
The major launching point of Numbers is Chapter 10
The Israelites were prepared as God’s People to go and take the Promised Land
The last time they were there, Abraham was alive
Now, there will be a test
All along during Salvation History, there are tests
Well, there are tests in each of our lives today
The Israelites will send 12 spies up into the land
They stop in Kadesh Barnea (from Hebrew KADOSH which means Holy, separated ones)
This is the launching point for realizing if the Israelites are really the HOLY, SEPARATED ONES, or if they tuck their tails and run (just like Brave Brave Sir Robin ;) )
They come back to Moses and give their report
Joshua and Caleb are confident they can take the Promised Land
The rest chicken out
For this, God tells them that for EVERY DAY they spied on the land, they will spend ONE YEAR wandering in the desert
Can you guess how many days they spent spying on the people in the Promised Land?
The number 40 is a number of TESTING
Ever heard of Lent?
We see the number 40 over and over in The Bible
We will then see how the story unfolds as they head out into the wilderness to wander about
God’s PLAN was that the Israelites would TRUST HIM and go to the Promised Land and TAKE IT, not by their own power, but BY GOD’S POWER
And yet, the people still don’t trust God, or they don’t know HOW TO TRUST GOD
They lack FAITH
God sends them to wander for 40 years in the desert TO TRAIN THEM YET AGAIN
God shows that MAN DOES NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD. (Where have you heard that before?)
That is the real lesson for us today
It’s one thing to read through The Bible in a year
It’s a whole other thing to TRUST GOD
All that you’ve read up to this point in time, how are you putting it into practice?
Or are you just reading it?
Are you making a mental assent to all that you’ve read?
Are you trusting God with what you’ve read?
In this 40 years of wandering, the older generations (> 20 years old) are going to die out in the wilderness and will not enter The Promised Land
The younger generation will end up being close to 60 years old by the time they get into The Promised Land
Their fearless leader, Moses, isn’t going to get into The Promised Land (do you know why? Pop Quiz!!)
Moses ends up dying on Mt. Nebo and it will actually be JOSHUA who leads the Israelites into The Promised Land
This younger generation will end up being important later on in the narrative and ESPECIALLY WHEN WE GET TO THE GOSPELS
In Numbers, God wants the Israelites to be people who are FOCUSED ON HIS WORD
He brought them out into the wilderness to remember this
He even makes them DRESS in such a way that there is a SACRAMENTAL that will remind them of His Word in the desert
This Sacramental has 4 tassels called TZITZIT tied on the four corners of their garment in such a way as to remind them of the 613 commandments of THE TORAH from GOD
When you see this TZITZI, you are REMINDED that you are a son or daughter of the commandments of God
This is one way to learn to TRUST GOD
Remember, the commandments were NOT GIVEN FIRST
What came first? COVENANT RELATIONSHIP
The TZITZI is also a REMINDER OF THE COVENANT RELATIONSHIP
This is also similar to wearing a SCAPULAR or a CRUCIFIX
TO REMIND YOU THAT YOU HAVE BEEN CLAIMED BY GOD (It’s why I wear my Rosary)
So many interesting things happen in Numbers
The Nazarite Vow
The number 70
The Bronze Serpent
The Desert Wanderings foreshadowing something in the future (Any idea what that could be?)
The priestly blessing
THIS IS IN THE MASS Numbers Ch 6: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace (or Shalom)”
This blessing becomes a major theme in the narrative
The last thing the priest says at Mass is, “Bow your head and receive God’s Blessing”
Too bad a good number of people are already in their cars by this point
Numbers Ch 33 is a very cool reminder of everything that has happened so far
It is a MINI Story of the entire story so far from Egypt to Now
Moses’ last speech is in Deuteronomy
This is an amazing book that is structured in such a way that the first part of it LOOKS BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME FROM
The middle part is WHERE THEY ARE RIGHT NOW
And the last part is to LOOK FORWARD TO WHERE THEY ARE GOING
God is going to show the Israelites the secret to living in a country that worships foreign gods where they sacrifice children
The Israelites are about to take The Promised Land when Moses gives them THE KEY
The first KEY is the most famous verse in the ENTIRE BIBLE for the Jewish people
They say it every day
Jesus said it every day
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Here, O, Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and all of your might”
If the Israelites are going to take the Promised Land, they HAVE TO LIVE THEIR LIVES AS IF THERE IS ONE GOD and that is their message, their testimony, and their witness
This is true for us today
Some of us may serve other gods like money, sports, etc.
This is IDOLATRY
The Israelites left one land of idols (EGYPT) and are going to enter another land of idols (CANAAN) but they STILL MUST REMEMBER THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD
The Second Key is the Israelites MUST DILIGENTLY TEACH THEIR CHILDREN
This is the PRESCRIBED FORMULA for success in a foreign land that is OPPOSED TO GOD
Moses tells the Israelites to teach their children diligently
Is it because we have not listened to these two keys that our current culture, especially in the western world, is all sorts of messed up?
Belong fully to the Lord yourself, and pass it on to your children, to the people who are living in your house
In the New Covenant, people know they are made sons and daughters of God through the Holy Spirit
These people can share what they have received with others
In the future, Israel will ask for a king
This foreshadows SAUL, DAVID, AND SOLOMON
God says the Israelites can have a King, but He will choose the king with three stipulations
The King cannot have MULTIPLE HORSES AND CHARIOTS
The King cannot have MULTIPLE WIVES
The King cannot GREATLY MULTIPLY SILVER AND GOLD
These conditions are mostly related to foreign alliances
We will see later in the story how this becomes THE DOWNFALL for Israel
Here are some important things to look out for in this era
Deuteronomy 24: Moses makes a provision for divorce because of the hardness of the Israelites hearts and in the future the Pharisees will call this out on Jesus but Jesus will remind them that this wasn’t the way in the beginning
Deuteronomy 16: three times a year the Israelites are to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Once David arrives on the scene, they are going to sing psalms and read psalms on the way to Jerusalem to get their hearts right before God
This is what we experience when we go to Mass every week, think of it as a MINI-PILGRIMAGE where we prepare our hearts to GO UP AND MEET THE LORD IN HIS REAL PRESENCE IN THE EUCHARIST
In the future, Jesus will remove some of the Laws of Deuteronomy because of His fulfillment of the Law, but it’s still important to know these laws
Moses has been with the Israelites like a father and he knows their hearts, what has happened in the past, and their weaknesses
Moses desperately loves his people, but also desperately loves the Lord and he knows they will fail
He reminds them to remember that God will fulfill everything He promised
Numbers 24:17 “I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel”
This is the prophecy of the line of Judah
Remember, ALL OF THE OLD TESTAMENT is CHRISTOCENTRIC
IT ALL POINTS TO JESUS, even the parts that are less obvious
LISTEN TO WHAT THE LORD IS SAYING TO YOU IN A TIME OF SILENCE, IN A TIME OF BEING QUARANTINED, AND A TIME OF BEING FORMED
DON’T WASTE IT
Prayer by Fr Mike: “Father in Heaven, we thank you for this opportunity. We thank you for this conversation. We thank you for Jeff and his ability to teach. His wisdom and knowledge of your word that he has a heart for you and a heart for people to be able to share this, we thank you for all your good gifts. We ask that you please, as Jeff noted, help us to never forget that you are with us whether we are in the Promised Land, or in the wilderness. Whether we are in times of plenty, or times of scarcity. Father in Heaven, help us to always remember that you are faithful to your promises, and in our weakness help us to be faithful to me. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen”
The Fourth Book of Moses Commonly Called Numbers
AUTHOR AND DATE:
Numbers, like all the books of the Pentateuch, was compiled from various sources by unknown editors in the 6th Century B.C.
It largely reflects the Priestly tradition infused by many rich oral traditions and narratives passed down for many generations.
The books of the Pentateuch were promulgated for the people of Israel as they repopulated Judah during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.
Numbers uses a range of subject matter and styles, including legal texts, census counts, and narrative passages.
Its narrative coincides in part with the time frame of EXODUS as it recounts details of the Israelites’ entrance into the desert.
In fact, a couple of passages repeat stories from Exodus almost verbatim.
In Numbers we see that it was GOD who guided the Israelites through the desert, showing them his JUSTICE, FORGIVENESS, and MERCY
God provided for their needs
God reaffirmed His commitment to them
We also see that the entire desert experience served as a period of preparation for God’s people to enter the Promised Land as he melded the tribes into a unified nation.
During their pilgrimage they endured many hardships as well as victories.
Throughout these trials the people were gradually purified, and God showed them through his appointed representatives, Moses and Aaron, how they were to live and how they were to serve Him.
The Fifth Book of Moses Commonly Called Deuteronomy
AUTHOR AND DATE:
Deuteronomy and the other four books of the Pentateuch were edited by several anonymous sacred writers and achieved their final form around the sixth century B.C.
All five books of the Pentateuch, including this fifth and final book, were promulgated for the people of Israel as they repopulated Judah during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The fusion of traditions and narratives from the Northern and Southern Kingdoms suggests that Deuteronomy was meant for all of Israel, a united Israel, undifferentiated according to tribal distinctions.
Deuteronomy and several of the books that derive from the Deuteronomic tradition (Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings) provide great theological reflection on the history of Israel from the time of the settlement in Canaan to the time of the Babylonian Exile (thirteenth to sixth century B.C.)
The Shema provides the primary theme of the book: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”
Not only is God singular-in contradistinction to the pagan notion of multiple gods-but also he is undivided in himself; therefore, his people must be one and undivided in their harmony and worship of him. There is one God, and he has one covenant with one people. God has one people, whom he has given one land and one Law, and who worship in one Temple in Jerusalem. God’s people, like God himself, MUST BE ONE.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE, Ignatius Edition 2006)