The Wilderness


....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb
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up to my arse in alligators
A rather important part of the Bible story that relates to Christians, but relates more to Judaism, is the story of the Wilderness and the cusp where Israel came out of the desert into the Promised Land.

Anybody with American TV has seen the old Charleton Heston movie, which for the medium is a good telling of the story. There is more nuance in the Book.

Ark of the Covenant


Moses never left the desert, he walked up a mountain and was not seen again as I recall the story. I want to say there is oral tradition his body was retrieved and proper ceremony rendered.


My movie is coming on in 5 minutes, back later...

Taking a break from some other duties, figured I would get a start here.

Someone, I think it was @wil, recently asked about the 12 brothers, and someone else, I think it was @Thomas, started a thread about esoteric teachings hidden in the texts. I think this could be a place to explore a lot of these as they come up.

The condensed version of the "begats" goes from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) and then the 12 sons:
Jacob's wife Leah bore: Reuben (the firstborn), Simeon, Judah, Levi, Issachar and Zebulun.
Leah's handmaid Zilpah bore: Gad and Asher
Jacob's wife Rachel bore: Joseph and Benjamin
Rachel's handmaid Bilhah bore: Dan and Naphtali

This is not the order the sons were born. Benjamin was the last son born.

At least stateside I think most Christians are at least vaguely familiar with the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors - resulting in Joseph being sold into slavery and ending up in Egypt. Through some turns of events, Joseph ends up in Pharaoh's court, and saves his brothers during a time of famine by bringing everybody into Egypt - which at the time was friendly towards Israel and had plenty of food to share.

Joseph made everybody promise to carry his bones back to be buried with his father Jacob when he died, which didn't happen until the tribes left Egypt 400 or so years later and wandered the desert Wilderness for another 40 years after that. (There is a brief scene, like "blink and you miss it," in the Heston movie noting this.)

Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, by his Egyptian wife Asenath. Ephraim and Manasseh were initially counted as half-tribes, but after Reuben lost his birthright Ephraim and Manasseh were bumped up in stature.

I mentioned elsewhere recently about the tribe of Benjamin, and why by Jesus' time they were referred to as "the remnant of." Per Wiki (my being lazy) -
The Book of Judges recounts that the rape of the concubine of a member of the tribe of Levi, by a gang from the tribe of Benjamin resulted in a battle at Gibeah, in which the other tribes of Israel sought vengeance, and after which members of Benjamin were killed, including women and children. Almost the entire tribe of Benjamin was wiped out by the other Israelite tribes. Six hundred of the men from the tribe of Benjamin survived by hiding in a cave for four months. The text refers several times to the Benjaminite warriors as "men of valour"[2] despite their defeat.

The other Israelite tribes were grieved at the near loss of the tribe of Benjamin. They decided to allow these 600 men to carry on the tribe of Benjamin, but no one was willing to give their daughter in marriage to them because they had vowed not to. To get around this, they provided wives for the men by killing the men from Jabesh-Gilead who had not shown concern for the almost lost tribe of Benjamin as they did not come to grieve with the rest of Israel. 400 virgin women from Jabesh-Gilead were found and given in marriage to the Benjaminite men. There were still 200 men remaining who were without a wife, so it was agreed that they could go to an Israelite festival and hide in the vineyards, and wait for the young unmarried women to come out and dance. They then grabbed a wife each and took her back to their land and rebuilt their houses (Judges 19–21).

This occurrence would have taken place after the tribes of Israel had settled the Promised Land.

As with any family there are squabbles and differences of opinion and some dirty dealing. Though the Wiki doesn't mention it I seem to recall the tribe of Dan specifically got into a row with the other tribes though the details are lost to my memory, but Dan was already long gone by the time the Assyrians moved in to carry the "10 tribes" of Israel away.
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So, here we have these tens of thousands of people released by Pharaoh into the desert Wilderness. These people knew nothing else but slavery, suddenly they were free. Once out of the reach of Pharaoh's army after crossing the Reed Sea, the first thing some of these people start doing is complain about how good it was back where they had just come from!

People will be people, I guess.

So Moses goes up the mountain, and he's gone a while, long enough for the grumbling to get even louder, and someone gets the wild idea to make a golden calf. So by the time Moses finally does come back down with the Tablets, some (most?) of the people are pretty well caught up in this golden calf thing, which causes Moses to lose his cool and destroy the Tablets...and G!d destroys the people who refuse to repent of the golden calf. The mutiny was put down, supernaturally.

And Moses trudges on back up the mountain to get a new set of Tablets. He will pay for his indiscretion later.

I've seen a few suggestions regarding Manna, none of which fully lines up with the Biblical story. For so many thousands of people wandering in a desert, as you might imagine food was pretty scarce. At one point G!d summons up some birds, I forget now what kind but something like a pheasant or grouse. But for the most part the wandering Jews ate Manna.

Funny thing about did not keep overnight. Those who tried early on were disappointed, and found what they stashed spoiled. Lesson learned. However...only just before the Sabbath, and just before every Sabbath after, they collected a double portion and miraculously it kept overnight to the next day. This went on for 40 years.

Why 40 years? 40 is a significant number in the Bible. I'm not deep into numerology, but I seem to recall the number 40 associated with repentance and forgiveness. Because the people did the golden calf thing, G!d would not allow that generation to enter the Promised Land. I don't know if that proscription covered children under the age of accountability or not, but few adults that left Egypt entered the Promised Land. Joshua led them (and he has a book in the Bible too!), and I think Aaron as the High Priest - but I'm not sure on this one. As far as I recall, all of the others that left Egypt died in the Wilderness, it was an entirely new generation that received the Promise.

And as I mentioned earlier, Moses never entered the Promised Land. He walked up the mountain and never came back down under his own power.
G!d promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations.

Abraham was Israel / Jacob's grandfather.

I believe Isaac, Abraham's son, had a half-brother, Ismael, by Sarah's handmaid Hagar. Islam was a long time yet to come.
It is my understanding that God told Moses he would not enter the promised land In Deuteronomy 32:51–52 “This is because . . . you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

I've mentioned Numbers before as difficult for me but in Numbers 20 is when the incident at the waters of Meribah Kadesh happened. God told Moses to speak water out of the rock but Moses in his anger struck the rock twice. God could not let it go unpunished and expect the Israelites to understand His holiness.

I've also mentioned that in the Christian faith we seek Christ in the books of the OT.

The water-giving rock is used as a symbol of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:4. The rock was struck in Exodus 17:6, just like Christ was crucified once (Hebrews 7:27). Moses’ speaking to the rock in Numbers 20 could have been meant as a picture of prayer. Jesus was “struck” once, and He continues to provide living water to those who pray in faith to Him. When Moses angrily struck the rock, he destroyed the biblical typology and, in effect, crucified Christ again

Yet we do not see Moses complain about his punishment. He continues to faithfully lead the people and honor God. And God continued to love Moses with tenderness and allowed him to see the promised land with compassion.

Another interesting teaching we have in Jude 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Christians teach that it's believed the battle was so that Moses's body would not be set up as an idol for worship.
G!d promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations.

Abraham was Israel / Jacob's grandfather.

I believe Isaac, Abraham's son, had a half-brother, Ismael, by Sarah's handmaid Hagar. Islam was a long time yet to come.
Just for clarification it was Jacob who was named Israel.

Genesis 35 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel. " So he named him Israel. And God said to him, "I am God Almighty ; be fruitful and increase in number.

The prophesy over Ishmael "The angel of the Lord found Hagar in the desert and told her to return to Sarah. He then told her about her yet unborn son: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. [Ishmael means “God hears.”] He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers”

There was also a blessing . And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But His covenant was with Isaac.

Also to note Joseph was sold to Ishmaelite traders by his brothers.
the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. Moses lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions receiving God's laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites. Numbers again!!

Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil many times during the 40 complete days He fasted just before his ministry began. He also appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after His resurrection from the dead

The number 40 seems synonymous with the wilderness.dont you agree?
I believe Isaac, Abraham's son, had a half-brother, Ismael, by Sarah's handmaid Hagar. Islam was a long time yet to come.
Following on this, Moses many years later married Zipporah, a daughter of Jethro - a Priest of Midian...and distant cousin through Ismael.
Do we not all walk our own wilderness at times?

(Fully prepared for the 'no, that's just you' response. :D )
Would it surprise you more if I said I do? I went so far as the Thoreau bit, living in a tiny house on 100 acres.

Very impractical in a modern, first world country to achieve.
I remember reading Thomas Merton's psychiatrist(?)/counsellor saying "You problem is you want to be a hermit, living in a hut in Times Square"
But not so unattainable? If someone can afford a studio apartment in NYC and works from home, to go out occasionally... 🤔