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,
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
"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
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
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
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.
2000 by Ed Salden