Section 3: Moses -- Exodus through Deuteronomy
In Origins and Patriarchs, we have looked at the foundational racial teachings of the Bible: the absence of racial criteria in Creation, God's covenant with all mankind (Noah), His selection of Abraham as the one man through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, the narrowing of the Bible's focus onto Abraham's descendants.
The next section of the Bible, which is the third segment of this study, is the life of Moses, the foremost prophet of the Jewish faith. His life is recounted in the last four books of the Pentateuch, or the Torah: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We will consider each of them separately, yet they are all part of the same work of God: His deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and the formation of His covenant people. These books are fundamental in understanding the racial teachings of the Old Testament.
What God promised in Genesis began to be fulfilled in Exodus through Moses. Over 400 years passed from the initial covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:13, Ex 12:40-41). During all the years since Joseph's death, there was no recorded word of God and no known spiritual leader of the people of Israel. This is a remarkable silence, considering the frequent manifestations of God in the patriarchal period.
It is clear that the tribal affiliations of each Israelite were maintained during this long period of servitude: Ex 6:16-20 gives part of the genealogy of Moses. Were there any other surviving memories of the ancient faith? Not many -- oppression drove from them any belief in help from the God of their ancestors (Ex 6:9). This was a community in great distress, physical and mental.
Exodus marks the unexpected intervention of God in human affairs. From the Egyptian point of view, this interference was unwelcome. And this is generally the case when God does something public: He upsets the status quo, and shakes the powers that be. But Israel also found God's nature and acts alien to their understanding, uninterested in their comfort. They found themselves unwilling recruits in the army of the Lord, and resisted His efforts to mold them in His image.
Therefore we cannot let ourselves be distracted by the external drama of these books -- all the signs, wonders and judgments performed. The purpose of all this revelation was to form relationship. God was drawing men to Himself in order to use them to accomplish His purposes on earth. But while Israel appreciated the miracles, they resisted obeying the God who acted on their behalf. Thus in Exodus, and throughout the remainder of these four books, there is a strong undercurrent of frustration and miscommunication between God and His newly adopted people.
Going into Exodus, the Bible is focused on a single family. In Exodus, it makes the transition to an entire nation. The work of God has expanded many times in scope. Yet even though it is a new revelation, God identifies Himself with all that has gone before: He refers to the God of their fathers. There is continuity within salvation history. What appears chaotic to the individuals at any given point in time is given a context of meaning by God Himself. It is as if He is saying to them and to us: "You only see the smallest fragment of My plan, and what you see may not make much sense to you. But the plan is a lot bigger than your view of it. I hold all its cords in My hands. It is I who give history its purpose and make sense out of it, both the span of centuries as well as each event and each life. And even the parts that look spoiled or tragic, the times of suffering and oppression, will be redeemed by the salvation that is coming to you."
As Isaiah put it centuries later:
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa 55:9).