During the 40 Years


About 600,000 men escaped Egypt. They only counted the men, but if you assume a like number of women and children, that makes group of 1,800,000 people out in the desert. God gave them manna, quail, and water.

They came to Mount Sinai. God tried to speak to the people directly, from the mountain there. God's voice terrified them; the people thought He was going to kill them, so they asked Moses to be their middleman.

God told Moses to build Him an altar, but not to climb it on steps, because then the people would be able to see his nakedness up his skirt. Moses went up the mountain to be alone with God, and God gave Moses laws for the Chosen People to obey, regulating every aspect of their lives. Scholars have counted 613 of them.

God made laws about what animals were OK or not OK for the people to eat. OK were cloven-footed animals that chewed their cud, like sheep. Not OK were animals with paws, like cat. OK were water animals that had fins and scales. Not OK were lobster, oyster or clam. OK were insects that had legs above their feet with which to leap, like locust, or grasshopper. Nothing else. OK were all clean birds. Unclean birds were eagle, vulture, falcon, raven, ostrich, nighthawk, sea gull, owl, ibis, pelican, stork, heron, and bat. Bat?

God made rules for sacrifice. The rules varied somewhat according to the situation, but usually the priest must disembowel the animal and splatter its blood around the altar. Then he must burn up the fat and the guts, for God, and barbeque the rest, for the priests and/or the people.

God said with whom you could not have sex. Specifically excluded were: your mother, any other of dad's wives, your sister, your granddaughter, your half-sister, your aunt, your daughter-in-law, your sister-in-law, any woman and her daughter, or any woman and her granddaughter. No marriage and sex with your wife's sister while your wife is still alive. No sex with any woman during her period. Leave your neighbor's wife alone, too. Don't let your kids be offered as human sacrifice, don't have sex with another man, and neither men nor women should have sex with animals. If you do any of these things, you are no better than a Canaanite, and you would deserve the same miserable fate.

God said,

"Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants… And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you."

God and Moses were up the mountain alone together for 40 days. Meanwhile, down below, the people suddenly changed religion. Only a few months after leaving Egypt, every day eating the manna from heaven, they seemed to forget God completely. They went to the chief priest Aaron, and told him to make some gods for them. He collected their gold, and cast a gold calf. Right away the people started worshiping it, making sacrifices to it, calling it god, and thanking it for getting them out of Egypt. Aaron saw that the people were worshiping the gold calf, so he built an altar for it and scheduled some services.

When God saw what the Israelites were doing, He decided to obliterate them and start over with just Moses. Moses was able to talk Him out of it, however, by speculating on what the Egyptians might have to say about Him.

Then Moses went down to the people. He smashed the stone tablets he carried that were etched with the law. He burned the gold calf, and ground it into a powder. He mixed the powder with water, and made the Israelites drink it. He called together the Levites, the priests, and they put to death about three thousand.

Moses went back up the mountain for a second copy of the laws. He stayed up there alone together with God for another 40 days. During this time, their relationship became even more intimate.

Moses asked to see God's "Glory." That's what he called It.

God said no, to see that would kill him.

Instead, God positioned Moses between some rocks, and He put His Hand over Moses' eyes as He swept past, pronouncing a little homily in praise of Himself. Moses didn't see God's Glory, but he did get a peek at His Behind. Moses bowed low, and from then on his face was so radiant that he took to wearing a veil, when he wasn't with God all alone.

The people came close to Canaan, the Promised Land. Moses sent out scouts. They came back with some huge grapes and reports of a population of giants who made them feel like grasshoppers. Maybe some Nephilim survived the flood. This report demoralized everyone. They all said they'd been better off in Egypt. They made plans to go back.

Of course, God didn't like hearing that. He was all set to zap the people and start over with just Moses, but again Moses talked Him out of that with a mixture of praise and reference to what the Egyptians might say. God relented on the mass execution, but he commuted the sentence on them to life. As punishment for their lack of faith in Him, all the people there would die in the desert. Only their children would see the Promised Land. The people were right next to the Promised Land, yet God made them wander for forty years, to punish them for whining.

Once some people found a man picking up sticks on the Sabbath. They brought him to Moses and Aaron, who asked God what to do with him. God said that the whole community should take him out and kill him, and that's what they did.

Another time Korah, Dathan, and Abiram went to see Moses. With them were 250 other Israelites, community leaders and council members. They thought that Moses and Aaron were setting themselves up above the rest of the chosen people. Moses told them to be satisfied with what they had, but they weren't.

The next day, when all the people came together for a meeting, God opened up the ground and swallowed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with their wives, their children, their dogs, and all their stuff. They went down alive; their screams could be heard. Then a flame shot out of God and He burned up the other 250 people who were making trouble.

The day after, the whole Israelite community was grumbling about the deaths. God heard this, and as before, He was set to obliterate them all. This time He actually sent out the fatal plague, but Aaron was able to get out among the people and burn some incense that stopped it after 14,700 more were killed.

One time, when Moses was getting water from a stone, he struck the stone twice when God said just to strike the stone. Because of this, Moses was allowed only to get a look at Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. God ended Moses' life just before the people crossed the Jordan River.

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© 2000 by Ed Salden