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(Ex 13:17 - 17:16)

Shemot/Exodus 15:17   You will bring them and You will plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, a place for You to dwell that You made, O L-rd


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In what appears to be the last section of the Song at the Sea, sung by "Moshe and the Israelites to the L-rd" (Shemot 15:1), the character of the song alters. The first section (vv. 1-12) is made up of verses of praise to The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem, recounting His amazing defeat of the Egyptian armies in the waters of the Sea of Suf. Suddenly, in verse 13, both the tense and the focus change: vv. 1-12 are mainly present/past tense and deal with HaShem and the Egyptians; vv. 13-18 become present/future and concern HaShem and His people, Israel. While the surrounding nations are aghast at what HaShem did to the Egyptians, that commentary is the filling in the sandwich formed by the two claims that HaShem is (now, already, in real-time) leading and guiding His people (v. 13) and that He will bring them into His own land (v. 17). Thomas Dozeman comments that "the shepherding of Yahweh (begun in v. 13) will terminate when Yahweh brings the Israelites into the domain of the divine rule and plants them there. Yahweh's domain is the divine temple described as the 'mountain of inheritance', the 'place of dwelling'."1

It is the switch of tense and focus that cause many contemporary scholars to propose a late composition date for this text, despite the morphology and style of the whole passage suggesting a very early date. Despite Frank Cross and David Freedman classifying the text as 'archaic' and it being both clearly older than the prose narratives that surround it and of a single unified composition, suggesting that "the poem in its present form was in circulation as early as the twelfth century BCE",2 others try to argue either that vv. 13-17 are a late addition, or that the whole passage was composed in the fourth century BCE. Brevard Childs, for example, although such a position seems to deny the possibility of prophecy, says that "the conquest of the land is presupposed."3

Looking more closely at the language of our text shows some of its unusual features. The first two verbs - , the Hif'il 3ms prefix form of the root , to come or enter; , the Qal 3ms prefix form of the root , to plant or settle - both have the unusual 3mp object pronoun ending rather than the more normal as James Kugel observes.4 What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos changes the second of these verbs to the Aramaic , "and You will settle", to clarify the meaning. Our text uses the earlier word for 'place', from the root , rather than the later from the root (Onkelos changes this too), and uses the verb - the Qal 3ms affix form of the root - "you made", rather than , the Qal 3ms affix form of the root , to do or make. This last is characteristic of early texts speaking of HaShem.

What else is unusual about the text? Whether old or new endings, talking of 'them' attracts attention. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi suggests that the use of the 'them' ending by Moshe suggests that he was unknowingly prophesying that he would not enter the Land because he doesn't say "You will bring us" as we would have expected. The What Is ...

The Mekhilta: The earliest known halakhic midrash or commentary on (parts of) the book of Exodus; formally named for Rabbi Ishmael and therefore set around 100-135CE, it was redacted some years after his time; quoted many times in the Bavli Talmud as "Rabbi Ishmael taught ..."
Mekhilta goes further, claiming that "the fathers prophesied without realising what they prophesied. It is not written here, 'You will bring us in and plant us,' but, 'You will bring them in and plant them.' They thus predicted that the children would enter the land and the fathers would not." Focusing on "You will bring them and You will plant them", Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra suggests that this should be taken as "may You bring them and plant them. It is a prayer that they stay there a long time without being exiled." The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno agrees: a prayer that they should not be exiled, interpreted by Rabbi Pelkovitz as "a prayer uttered by Moshe that Israel become firmly planted in the land; similar to a tree or plant which takes root and cannot easily be uprooted, so may Israel not be exiled from its land." The Mekhilta quotes Scripture: "A planting, not to be followed by a plucking up, as it is said: 'And I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up' (Jeremiah 24:6). And it also says: 'And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up" (Amos 9:15).

Taking a strategic view, Terence Fretheim sees that "the enthronement of G-d in the promised land is an accomplished fact already at the sea. G-d from this victory onwards 'reigns forever and ever' (Shemot 15:18)."5 Although there will be ups and downs along the way, G-d's victory is not in doubt. By this time, He has demonstrated to the Israelites, the Egyptians and the surrounding nations that not only can He do this, but He is going to do this. This will later provide the foundation for Moshe's prayers on behalf of the people when they have sinned; he appeals to HaShem on the basis of His reputation: "Let not the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that He delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and annihilate them from the face of the earth'" (Shemot 32:12, NJPS).

Michael Fishbane offers an important overview of the whole Exodus process: "The mythic configuration of divine combat and victory provides the symbolic prism for disclosing the primordial dynamics latent in certain historical events (like the Exodus) and so generates the hope for their imminent recurrence."6 Put another way, he is saying that the narratives of HaShem fighting and defeating His foes provide a lens for looking at past events and seeing in them a precedent and expectation for Him to act on behalf of His people again. While the idea of a militant G-d, who is prepared to inflict violence and destruction upon His enemies, is usually thought to be entirely contrary to the gospel and is often played down or hushed up, it is in fact important to recognise that spiritual battles - that can often overspill into the physical world - are actually an essential and foundational part of the gospel and are reflected in the New Covenant texts.

When Yeshua started His ministry, He read from the scroll of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the L-rd" (Luke 4:18-19, NASB). This mission was to culminate at the cross where Yeshua fought and defeated sin and death in order to provide the means of forgiveness for all who would believe in Him. On the way, demons were expelled, sickness was healed, blindness was cured, impurity was made pure and sins were forgiven, setting captives free from debilitating and wasting years. The kingdom of G-d broke through into this world, tearing down strongholds and defeating the enemy, releasing G-d's people, acts of spiritual force and violence as G-d, through Yeshua, demonstrated His power over the enemy, the powers and principalities in the heavens. At the cross, Yeshua "disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through the cross" (Colossians 2:15, Bible*NASB)).

Rav Sha'ul reminds us that the battle is still ongoing: "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of G-d, and take every thought captive to obey Messiah, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete" (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, ESV). Using the same strong military language, he instructs us to "Put on the full armor of G-d, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of G-d, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:11-13, NASB). We must notice that Sha'ul makes it clear that we are not to fight or offer any level of violence against people. We fight a spiritual battle and must not be used by the enemy as a bridge for violence to spill over into the physical realm.

Just as HaShem demonstrated His power over the Egyptians and their false gods, but will now bring the Israelites to the Promised Land, so we can be sure that having defeated sin and death in Yeshua at the cross, He will bring us to our promised land: His kingdom, both now in this life and the next. As Rav Sha'ul writes, "But thanks be to G-d, who always leads us in His triumph in Messiah, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:14, ESV). He will bring us and plant us in His place in His presence, the place that He has prepared for us before the beginning of time.

1. - Thomas B. Dozeman, Exodus, Eerdmans Critical Commentaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns, 2009), page 339.

2. - Frank Moore Cross Jr. and David Noel Friedman, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), pages 32-33.

3. - Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, The Old Testament Library, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 244.

4. - James L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), page 249.

5. - Terence E. Fretheim, Exodus, Interpretation, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), page 168.

6. - Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988), page 356.

Further Study: Isaiah 2:11-17; 2 Corinthians 3:6-10

Application: Do you find yourself engaged in the warfare of the kingdom, embattled by the forces of the enemy bearing down upon you? Know that you are not alone and that this is a consequence of having answered the call to follow Yeshua. Be patient and graceful, showing His love to all, for in due time you will persevere and receive "the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

Comment - 07:54 24Jan21 Kate: Thank you for this great encouragement and exhortation - a defeated enemy, full armor and spiritual weapons - now to just aim in the right direction!

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© Jonathan Allen, 2021



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