Understanding the Old Testament

The Journey to Mount Sinai

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

After being delivered from Egypt through miracle after miracle, culminating with the parting of the Sea of Reeds and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, the Israelites ought to have had supreme faith in their God and in their leader, Moses. And perhaps they did—until they got thirsty.

The Israelites traveled for three days along the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula, but found no water to drink. Their three-days journey brought them to Marah, where they found water—but the water there was undrinkable. So the people complained to Moses. Then God showed Moses how to make the water drinkable, and the journey continued to the oasis of Elim, where water was plentiful. So the people’s faith was renewed—until they got hungry.

Moving on from Elim, the people came to the Wilderness of Sin, where they complained about the lack of food. They even reminisced about the “good old days” in Egypt, where they had plenty to eat—apparently already forgetting about the oppressive conditions there. So God gave them food: quails in the evening and manna in the mornings. (The Sinai Peninsula is along the migration route for quails, which overfly the Red Sea and land on the peninsula to rest.)

Exodus 16:31 tells us that the manna tasted like “wafers with honey.” This manna was another test of faith, for Moses told the people not to save it until the next day, and that God would provide more each day. But once again they failed a test of faith, and learned that the manna became rotten overnight. The one exception to both rules revolved around the Sabbath, for they could gather enough manna for two days on the day before the Sabbath and it would stay good for both days. Thus, no one needed to gather manna on the Sabbath. Now well fed, the faith of the Israelites was renewed—until they got thirsty again.

God led the people on to Rephidim, where there was no water, and they again complained. So God instructed Moses to strike a rock, which produced abundant water.

Rephidim was apparently at or near Mount Sinai, for the rock which Moses struck was “at Horeb” (Exodus 17:6), which seems to be another name for Mount Sinai. (Compare Exodus 19:16-20:20 with Deuteronomy 4:10-14.

Question to ponder or discuss: The Israelites were immature spiritually, so their faith was weak. How do we nourish our faith so that it will grow?

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

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