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Passover: The Exodus That Could Have Been
Video 4 of 5
In both cases, it’s not just the Israelites who go on a journey away from Egypt; Pharaoh sends his chariots and archers as well.
The babysitting arrangements and the animal care logistics – these show up in Jacob’s funeral, and they again become an issue in the Exodus.
The circuitous route taken by the burial party ends up being the same route taken by the Israelites in the Exodus.
And, in both stories, the Canaanites observe what’s happening with Egypt and are astonished.
These connections, as we saw before, they don’t seem to be coincidental, but what are we to make of them all? Seemingly, they only make sense if, in some essential way, the burial story and the Exodus stories are about the same thing. But how would that be the case? How do these stories converge?
[MUSICAL INTERLUDE HERE]
Well, how about this? The burial story was about a procession setting out from Egypt that was designed to honor a father. What if we started thinking about the Exodus story in precisely that same way? It too was a procession setting out from Egypt – a procession designed to honor a father. It’s just that the identity of the father changes. It’s no longer an earthly father that’s being honored, but a heavenly one.
In other words, maybe we need to make a slight adjustment in how you and I view the Exodus process as a whole. If someone stopped you in the street and asked you: so, what was the Exodus about, like in a sentence or less? How did the Exodus change the status quo? So, the most obvious answer that would come to mind is: The Exodus freed the Israelites from slavery, it set them on a path of becoming a new nation. And that’s true. It’s just not the whole truth.
There was another agenda in the Exodus as well. Now, we talk about this at length in another Aleph Beta course, the link is below. But that agenda jumps out at you from a number of different elements in the story. Take, for example, the Ten Plagues themselves. If you think about it, that was really the long way of doing things, wasn’t it? I mean, God could just have avoided all the plagues and simply whisked the Israelites out of Egypt on magic carpets. Why bother with the plagues? Or maybe, if you are going to use harsh measures like plagues, just use a single overwhelming one – like the Smiting of the Firstborn – just do that at the very beginning and get things over with.
Why did God choose to do it the long way, ten plagues? Clearly, there was another agenda, besides just freeing the nation. God was interested in showing something through those plagues. As God Himself tells Moses more than once, the plagues are there so that:
וְיָדְעוּ מִצְרַיִם כִּי אֲנִי ה'
And Egypt will know that I am God
The Egyptians, they weren’t atheists. They believed in gods. They just believed in lots of them. One of the goals of the Exodus, seemingly, was to demonstrate that polytheistic faith was mistaken. There is a single God in control of all of nature. That God is the Creator, the author of every aspect of nature – humans included. The basic idea of monotheism is that human beings don’t just have earthly parents, we have a Heavenly Parent, too.
Ten Plagues would demonstrate that. It would demonstrate control over every single aspect of nature. Only the Author of nature could marshall that total control. If Egypt looked at what was happening in the Exodus objectively, they could have come to understand who this God of the Hebrews was. They could have understood that this Being is the Parent of all.
That realization, had Egypt made it, would have had repercussions. In the long term, it would have stood the test of time as a historic testament to the truth of monotheism. Egypt was the ancient world’s greatest power. If the king of that nation, who regarded himself as a god, would come to profess belief in a God to whom he was subject, a Creator of All, that would be impressive indeed. Any future people could look upon those events of the Exodus, and if they ever doubted there was a Creator, could see in those events evidence of this.
But it wasn’t just in the long term that there would be repercussions to Egypt’s recognition of a creator. There would be repercussions in the short term, also. Because if Egypt understood that there was a Creator of All, and that this Creator viewed the subjugation of one of his children to be a moral travesty, then Pharaoh would be bound, morally, to realize that he really has to let the Israelites go. If God, the Creator, condemned the brutal enslavement of the Israelites, Pharaoh, a subject of the Creator, couldn’t really ignore that. As a matter of fact, this would be the fastest and quickest way to engineer the Exodus. IF Egypt could only be brought to this recognition…it could all be over very quickly.
If you look at the Exodus carefully, you will find that, very early on, there was hope of bringing Pharaoh to the brink of this recognition. Before all the plagues, in the very first audience that Moses ever has with Pharaoh, he tells him, very straightforwardly, who this God of the Hebrews really is. He tells him that He’s not just a god among gods, but that he is the Creator – the father of all – and then he tells him what this God wants Pharaoh to do:
א כֹּה-אָמַר יְ', אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שַׁלַּח אֶת-עַמִּי, וְיָחֹגּוּ לִי בַּמִּדְבָּר.
'Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.'
The request was just to celebrate in the desert. And Moses, in conversation with Pharaoh just a verse or two later, clarifies that he’s really only asking for the Hebrews to leave for three days:
נֵלְכָה נָּא דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים בַּמִּדְבָּר
Let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the wilderness
Now let me ask you: I mean, why did God ask only for this? God would have had the power to compel Pharaoh to agree to the real plan, the freeing of the slaves. Why bother lying and saying you plan on coming back, when really, you plan on leaving forever?
Unless...maybe it wasn’t a lie. Now, this is something we talk about in another series of videos and I referenced them before, you can find them linked below. But maybe, had Pharaoh agreed to the three day work holiday request, the Hebrews really would have come back. It would have been a first step. You, Pharaoh, you’ve just agreed to allow some religious freedom for your slaves. Excellent. And slowly, Pharaoh could be brought around to a key realization: that it wasn’t just a local, provincial God that these Hebrews were celebrating with. It was the Creator Himself. And if the God of the Hebrews was really the Creator of All – well, then, Pharaoh and Egypt would be obliged to serve Him as well.
Okay, but how, you might ask, could Pharaoh have possibly been brought around to recognize the existence of a Creator, in the absence of plagues that would demonstrate that manifestly? How could he have been brought to see this truth in a peaceful kind of way?
I’m speculating here – but I think it’s interesting that, in the text of the Torah, we do find that God, way back at the beginning of the Exodus, before any plagues, God gave Moses a single sign by which he could prove his authenticity to Pharaoh. And the strange thing is, the sign doesn’t even really seem all that impressive:
וַיֹּאמֶר יְ', אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר. ט כִּי יְדַבֵּר אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה לֵאמֹר, תְּנוּ לָכֶם מוֹפֵת; וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, קַח אֶת-מַטְּךָ וְהַשְׁלֵךְ לִפְנֵי-פַרְעֹה--יְהִי לְתַנִּין.
And God spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, 'When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying: Show a wonder for you; then thou shalt say unto Aaron: Take thy rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it become a serpent.’
So you might say, what’s so incredibly special about that sign? I mean, especially in the fact that when Moses and Aaron actually do it, all of Pharaoh’s sorcerers go and cast down their own staffs and those become serpents as well. So that, you know, really takes the wind out of the sails of this sign, wouldn’t you say?
Except that maybe we haven’t actually seen the sign yet. You gotta keep looking:
וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אִישׁ מַטֵּהוּ, וַיִּהְיוּ לְתַנִּינִם; וַיִּבְלַע מַטֵּה-אַהֲרֹן, אֶת-מַטֹּתָם.
For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
Maybe that was the sign. Aaron’s staff goes and swallows all the other serpents in the room! That was it! Think of the message to Pharaoh here: Yes, there are many powers out there – but there is one Power to rule them all.
Imagine that Pharaoh had fearlessly drawn the evident, logical conclusion from that sign – the only sign that God had ever given Moses to establish His veracity in Pharaoh’s presence: One serpent swallows all the other serpents. One power rules all the other powers! Had Pharaoh come to understand that, it would all be over before it even began! He would have seen that the world contains a God who was the Creator of All – and he would have understood that he, no less than Moses and Aaron and the Hebrews, was a subject of that God, and must obey His Will.
In the Exodus that actually transpired, of course, Pharaoh rejected Moses’ words out of hand and didn’t pay any heed to this sign. And so, the process of education would need to continue, but now it would continue the hard way. The plagues would come.
And so now, let’s return to the connection between the Jacob’s burial story and the Exodus story. As we said before, the burial procession was about a son making a journey to honor his father. And the Exodus story is really about the same thing. The Exodus had started with one request: A request for a journey, a procession, in which a son would honor a father – the way that Father said He wanted to be honored. The son, this time, was Israel, and the Father was God, the Creator. Remember how God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his firstborn child go, so that his child can serve Him… This was a Father coming for His child.
The theory I’m suggesting to you is that the Jacob’s burial story really serves as a kind of blueprint for the way the Exodus was supposed to turn out. By comparing the blueprint version of the story, back in the Book of Genesis, with the actual realization of the Passover story in Exodus, we can learn something about what, in the largest of pictures, the Exodus story had been designed to achieve, and what the nation birthed through that story – Israel – is meant to achieve, even today. Let’s go to our last video, and I’ll explore that with you now.
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