Tag Archives: Abraham

David’s Wives: Hearts Devoted to a King {Part 2}

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Wise Abigail

In the meantime, David enters the wilderness of Paran and goes into the town of Maon (Maw-own) (near the region of Judah), with hopes to refresh himself and his men. 1 Samuel 25

Here’s a map showing Maon at the southern-most tip of Dead Sea.

David ot_israel-flat (Maon)

David and his men come to the home of a man named Nabal. 25:3 says,

Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.”

Discerning, beautiful Abigail! Her name meant “my father’s joy” or “my father is joy”. And she sure is a joy to read about!! How did she end up with foolish, boorish, Nabal?

A footnote in my ESV said “Sheepshearing was a time of festivity (v. 8) as well as work.” There would have been LOTS of food, and because this man was clearly wealthy, he would have been able to afford the food David and his men needed. In addition, David and his men had helped Nabal’s shepherds, so he was asking for a simple “thank you” for their protection.

This should have been a simple exchange of hospitality.

At this point in the narrative, David had at least 600 men with him (1 Sam 23:13). He started out with 400 men who had come to him at the Cave of Adullam (Ah-doo-lum), the location he escaped to after fleeing from the Philistine lord at Gath.

Cave of Adullam

Cave of Adullam

1 Sam 22:1-2 says,

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of  Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soulgathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”

I love the image of David with all these people in their desperation flocking to him. God presented him with a ministry to the distressed and bitter because he was a man on the run, distressed and fearing for his life. And God worked through his circumstances, providing David with a group of people who eventually become more-or-less his bodyguard! A mutually beneficial arrangement. More evidence of God’s presence in his life.

Needless to say, feeding 600 men would have been a huge task! But he doesn’t ask for anything but what he has “at hand” (v. 8). You read Nabal’s response, it was littered with disrespect and anything BUT hospitality. It’s no wonder one of the young men go to Abigail:

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them.” (v. 14)

He goes on to affirm that David and his men were good to them and that they were kept safe at their hands (v. 15-16).

Abigail got to work immediately, grabbing as much as she could, most likely from the feast tables. (v. 18) It says in v. 19 “But she did not tell her husband Nabal.”

She acted wisely to save the life of her husband whom everyone, including herself, believed was a “worthless” man (v. 17). He was not deserving of her gracious act, yet she does it anyway. What a loyal and honorable woman she was!

She sends the young men on ahead of her with all the food (a peace offering!) and as she comes to him, we see her get down off of her donkey very quickly to assume that position of humility, falling at his feet, bowing to the ground (v. 23). These are two distinct actions. The falling indicates the prostrating of oneself, but the bowing to the ground indicates that she would have gotten as low as she could, pressing her face into the ground. This would have been the most humble, most vulnerable position one could put herself into. How brave this woman must have been to approach the hopping mad David, surrounded by his 400 fighting men, all with swords strapped on their belts. YIKES!

As I thought about her response, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s the quickest way to dissolve someone’s anger? As you read Abigail’s response, you’re reading about the master of diffusing anger. What is more startling though is her opening dialogue in 1 Sam 25:24-25,

On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

This seems rather like how a person would approach a king, begging for mercy to even be allowed to speak to him. And SHE takes the blame for what happened!

What she says next is so remarkable to me as she seems to prophesy over him. For she says (1 Sam 25:28-31):

Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause…”

She then asks him to remember her, your servant.

She has predicted his coronation as king, yet the covenant that God makes with David DOES NOT HAPPEN until 2 Samuel 7:8-16!! It appears as though she is foretelling what is to come! And David being anointed as king (after God had rejected Saul) seemed to be a very private matter, something that took place at his home in front of his father, Jesse and his 7 older brothers! (1 Sam 16:1-13). Had David spread the word about his anointing? It doesn’t appear that he ever said anything about that first anointing, and besides he continues to refer to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed”. So how could she have known any of this?

God has surely revealed this privileged information to her. She was a woman with a heart first devoted to the King of Heaven. She had a heart of gold. She tells him that the Lord will make him a “sure house” which we see later that God promised to “make [David] a house.” She mentions that God will do good to him and has appointed him as a “prince of Israel”, and later God tells David he will be “prince over [His] people Israel”.

Not only does she make this prophecy, but she cunningly or rather diplomatically presents David with reasons why he WILL NOT shed blood. I can just imagine David standing there just nodding his head, “yes, you’re right. I’m not going to do that!” like she’d hypnotized him!

She tells him, look, you’re not going to do this thing because God has already promised you the kingship! God is with you, there’s no need to harm anyone. You will have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience because you’re not going to kill anyone today.

Abigail saves not only her worthless husband, but she saves David from bloodguilt that day!

David’s response is, of course, thanksgiving to God for Abigail and for keeping him from doing evil. Then v. 35 “David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, ‘Go up in peace to your house…”

Abigail, after all that hurrying and rushing and making haste, waits until morning to tell her husband and he has a heart attack or a stroke, but v. 38 tells us “the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.”

David hears the news and acknowledges God’s justice over the death of Nabal. Then v. 39 says, “David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife.” It’s like he thought, “man, I’ve got to have this woman!” I love how he goes and speaks to her himself – it’s the same word used in Ruth when she said Boaz “spoke kindly” to her (Ruth 2:13). The tone of voice is gentle!

Her response, though, is classic. She bows to the ground and replies, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of the lord.” (v. 41)

Do you remember what the text said about Nabal? He was a very wealthy man (v. 2 with 3,000 sheep, 1,000 goats), portrayed as a king (v. 36), so Abigail most certainly would have been a prominent woman, not a servant. She carries herself as one with great strength, virtue, and power. She takes FIVE handmaidens with her. This shows she is a woman of high social class or rank. She would have been nothing like a “servant”. But she goes humbly, and THIS is the type of woman David marries! A heart of gold!

Every woman in Israel would have wanted to be the WIFE of the king! What a privilege! And to possibly carry his child, giving him an heir to the throne, would have been seen as the highest honor. Did Abigail have to pinch herself as she mounted her donkey and set off with her new husband, the soon-to-be king?

What humility she has though! Not once in the text do you ever get a sense that she seems like an entitled bridezilla. She’s not whiny, like we’ll see about Michal later on, and she never tries to place herself in higher places of honor. She must have been a major blessing in his life from the moment he met her until the moment she passed.

(*Jews esteem Abigail as one of the most righteous women of Israel, a wise and practical woman, and one of the 4 most beautiful women who ever lived. They also count her among the 7 women prophets of Israel.) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/abigail-midrash-and-aggadah

Interestingly David picks up another wife while he’s out, named Ahinoam of Jezreel. (1 Sam 25:43) The chapter ends with the information about Michal being given to another man. 1 Sam 25:44

Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti (Paul-tee) the son of Laish (Lay-sh), who was of Gallim (Gal-im).”

She who loved David has been given to another man. I wonder how that sat in her now stormy heart.

But David was still a hunted man! Saul continued to pursue him, and so what does that mean for Abigail? She’s on this dangerous journey with him! It really makes me wonder if it was Abigail’s influence in his life that helps him to restrain himself against Saul.

He had already spared Saul’s life once right before meeting Abigail.

1 Sam 26:10-11 David finds Saul and has the opportunity to strike him again, but he tells his man

Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?…As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die…The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD’s anointed…”

Interesting that he now says with confidence, I don’t need to kill him, the Lord will take care of him. But I can remain guiltless. Those words from Abigail ringing in his ear:

evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause…”

After this, however, David actually flees to be with the Philistines because of his fear of Saul, and it says in 1 Sam 27:3

“David lived with Achish (pronounced Aw-keesh) at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow.”

David, his 600 men, all of their families, and all of David’s family! IN THE LAND OF THE ENEMY! Talk about a test of God’s promise. It’s as crazy as Abram going to sacrifice the Son of Promise! However, God is with David and gives him favor with this king of Gath.

David asks for favor from king Achish who grants his request by giving him the city of Ziklag. He ends up staying here for 1 year and 4 months (v. 7). What does he do to pass his time? He makes raids on the enemies of Israel but tells the Philistine king that he’s been raiding his own people (Judah, Jerahmeelites, and Kenites). He’s secretly getting rid of the enemy even as he’s in the enemy territory!

This Philistine king trusted him so much that he actually asks David and his men to go to war WITH HIM against ISRAEL (1 Sam 28:1-2). HOWEVER, the other kings of the Philistines would have nothing to do with David (1 Sam 29:3-5)! (I wonder if they remembered another Israelite who brought trouble on their people?! *cough* Samson *cough*)

Achish had to tell David he must leave at the urging of the other lords, so he goes.

But while David was away (fighting with Philistines), the Amalekites had made a raid against David’s city, Ziklag, and had burned it with fire, taking captive all the people, including David’s 2 wives! (1 Sam 30:1-5)

What horror this must have been for Abigail! But based on what we know of her, I can just picture her staying level-headed, perhaps working her diplomatic magic on these men too. It says that the Amalekites took everyone captive and didn’t kill anyone. It makes me wonder if Abigail told them, “look, you don’t need to kill anyone today…there’s no need to shed blood…just take us with you.” Perhaps she also knew that because God was with David, that he would come to their rescue. (That heart of gold devoted to the King of Heaven!)

1 Sam 30:6 tells us

David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul…But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

For him to be “greatly distressed” literally meant he was “in a very tight place” (sar). The same language is used of Saul in 28:15 when he went to consult a spiritist. Unlike Saul, David’s response was to “strengthen himself in the LORD.” (Brueggeman, p. 201)

What did it mean for David to strengthen himself in the Lord?

The word is chazaq (khaw-zak) and means to strengthen, prevail, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, be resolute. (Strong’s Concordance at biblestudytools.com) The word is used in other places in Scripture: (295 times!)

  • Deut 3:28 ‘But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’
  • Judges 16:28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
  • Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; / be strong, and let your heart take courage; / wait for the Lord!
  • Nehemiah 6:9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

We know exactly how David strengthened himself because verses 7-10 tell us he inquired of the Lord with the ephod. He trusts God, knowing God will tell him what to do, and we can assume he is willing to listen and obey God.

Isn’t he refreshing?? Rather than acting brashly like Samson, he asks God what God would want him to do! Even though probably every fiber in his bones was aching to rescue his brides, he waits patiently to seek God.

When I am weak, then I am strong. How do I strengthen myself? By admitting my utter weakness and asking for God’s strength to take over!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We also have a clue what he was thinking because he writes Psalm 56 in response to what the Philistines did and what happened upon his return. 56:8-11:

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Again it sounds an awful lot like Abigail had become his inner voice. David, you know that God is for you! He has made you a sure house! If men rise up to pursue you, God will take care of you. He will make you prince of Israel. Do not be afraid.

Do you see why he was a man after God’s own heart? And do you also see how Abigail was the godly wife he needed??! GOLD!

But then we don’t sit around doing nothing, we act, just like David acted! (well not just like David. We aren’t going to kill a band of pagan enemies.) His actions reveal that he is aware God is acting on his behalf and will give him the victory. (Brueggeman, p. 202) This is faith and works working together.

Arnold writes, “The verb translated by the NIV as ‘found strength’ involves a reflexive element – ‘David strengthened himself. This expression emphasizes David’s personal faith…a faith that requires human response, though it is enabled by God (Eph. 2:8). Even though God graciously makes faith possible, it is up to us to respond to His grace.” (p. 389)

God did indeed strengthen David’s hand for it says in 1 Sam 30:17-18,

17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.”

He truly was their knight in shining armor!

This narrative serves to contrast David the kingly hero with Saul, the defeated king, who dies in the battle against the Philistines. It also underscores God’s presence and power displayed in David’s obedient life.

But there is no rest for the weary, because only 3 days pass before David gets news that both Saul and his dear friend Jonathan have been killed by the Philistines (the same band whom he was going to fight with earlier). (2 Sam 1)

Instead of celebrating, David laments the passing of the king and of his friend. The kingship is his for the taking! He could have ridden out in all of his glory, but he doesn’t do that. He could have taken the throne because it certainly belonged to him!

Instead, he inquires of the Lord again in 2 Sam 2:1. And God tells him to go to HEBRON. 2 Sam 2:2-4 says,

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David  king over the house of Judah.”

This is the second anointing of David, this time a public one. I wonder if Abigail watched with tears in her eyes as her prophecy began to unfold!

30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel”

He’s not king over all Israel yet, but it’s a start!

Now anointing in the Hebrew culture was a major cause for celebration. It was a solemn and sacred event. In Exodus 30:22-25 God gave them a specific blend of oils and spices for anointing the priests and tabernacle. The idea was that “the recipe is unique, so that everything and everyone belonging to Yahweh [would] share the same distinctive scent.” When the kings were anointed, the oil they used was a “pungent and durable perfume.” The fragrance would have persisted long after the anointing and would have stained the garments worn. The anointing “marked [the kings] for the divine service [to God].” And it was bound to the idea of holiness. We learn that David was anointed 3 times (first with his family, then here at Judah, and finally when he becomes king over all of Israel). (All from Dict. of the OT Historical Books)

David was the anointed one of God, chosen by God to be the prince over Israel. The term Messiah literally means “anointed one”. David was anointed to signify that he belonged to God. He would be a fragrant aroma to God.

When the people offered appropriate sacrifices, they were said to be a “pleasing aroma” to God. The aroma was pleasing in that it satisfied God’s wrath over their sins.

Likewise, the Messiah was the Anointed One who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, making Himself a pleasing aroma to God. Even now Christ makes us a fragrant aroma of God for others to breathe in and receive the knowledge of God (2 Cor 2:14-16).

 

Now, here’s a map of Hebron’s location, just south of Jerusalem.

David Hebron

This map shows David’s “flight” from Saul:

David flight from Saul

Hebron actually has some history behind it. The city of Hebron is actually associated with Abraham, the patriarch with the promise. In Genesis 13:18 it says,

18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre (pronounced Mam-ray), which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.”

Hebron is also a Levitical city of refuge! Joshua 21:13

13 And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands,”

After the loss of their homes in Ziklag, David moves his wives to the city of refuge where God had promised Abram he would allow him to settle and make his descendants as numerous as the dust! Oh if Abraham could have seen his promise coming true in his great great great great grandson David!

{Stay tuned for Part 2 about Wise Abigail}

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Zipporah (A Heart of Sacrifice) Part 1

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Exodus 2:15-22

What’s in a name? If I were to say certain names, they would conjure up very specific images.

Al Capone – mobster.

Mother Teresa – saint.

J.J. Watt – Texans hero!

Moses – greatest Israelite prophet

Now what about Zipporah?  *crickets*

We don’t know much about her, and what we do know is puzzling.

In the ancient near-East, to give your name to a person was to tell them the essence of who you are. This is why the naming of your children was so important and why God changed Abram’s and Jacob’s names, revealing how He was working in their lives, changing their character and purpose.

So what’s in a name?

Yahweh – God

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Exodus 3:13-15

Talk about a name! I Am! It was so powerful that the Pharisees in Jesus’ time fell down at the very name. In this passage, God identifies Himself with the Patriarchs yet reveals that He is the God who stands alone. He sets Himself apart from all people and all gods. And yet, He invites people into His story and gives them a name and a purpose.

So I asked you, what’s in a name? Zipporah – Midianite, Daughter, Sister, Shepherdess, Wife, Mom, Israelite?

Zipporah actually comes from the Hebrew root word tzipor meaning bird to be exact. The Midrash Shemot Rabbah (1:32) locates the root in Zipporah’s name. When Jethro asks his daughters to invite Moses to dine at his home, she flies off like a bird to bring him back. (Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions)

After Moses had murdered the Egyptian, we read:

15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” Exodus 2:15-22

IDENTITY: Midianite:  (v. 15)

As we form a picture of Zipporah in our minds, the first identity marker we find is Midianite. What did it mean to be a Midianite? Bible footnote (FN) for verse 15: The Midianites were descendants of Abraham by another wife, Keturah, whom he married after Sarah died (Gen 25:1, 2).

We first hear of this people group in Genesis 37:25-36 when Midianite merchants purchased Joseph from his brothers then led him to slavery in Egypt. Later we hear of the Kenites, probably from the Midianite clan to which Reuel belonged, who joined the Israelites, integrating seamlessly into their society (Nu 10:29-33; Judges 1:16; 4:11).

Hamilton’s Commentary also notes that Midian consisted of a confederation of peoples, one of which are the Kenites. Their name meant “smiths” or metalworkers at the mines in the mountains of Sinai/Midian. They may also be a clan of priests, of whom Reuel belonged to.

Finally we hear of the problems Israel has with the Midianites after they settled the Promised Land in Numbers 22:1-7 and after the Midianite women entice the Israelite men into idolatry and sexual immorality in Numbers 25:1-6. God orders Moses to declare war on the Midianites for their sins in causing Israel to sin and all 5 Midian kings are killed (Num 25:16-18; 31:1-18). Later we read of the judges, particularly Gideon, delivering the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites who had been raiding Israel during their harvest seasons (Jdg 6:3-6, 7). (From Archaelogical Study Bible article on Midian p. 92)

map-egypt-midian-900x709x300

The land of Midian was most likely located south of Canaan and southeast of Egypt and east of the Sinai Peninsula. It is best to think of Midian as a region rather than a specific location, however, because of the belief that they were a collection or confederation of people groups. This area is present day Saudi Arabia.

Zipporah Midian land

Google maps photo credit. A view of the terrain of Midian.

IDENTITY: Daughter of Midianite Priest

In order to fully understand Zipporah, we need to think about what it meant to be the Daughter of a priest. We can ask the question: What was Reuel’s job as a priest in Midian and how did this affect Zipporah? (v. 16) The only evidence we find in the Bible about his role as priest is that he performed the sacrifice when meeting up with Moses after the Exodus in chapter 18.

Reuel’s name meant “Friend of God/El” or “God/El is a Friend” (From Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary by Victor Hamilton). This name likely came to him after he expressed his belief in God in Exodus 18, becoming the “friend of God”, although many believe he had always been a worshipper of God/Yahweh.

The Midianite culture was said to be a polytheistic one. Fred Blumenthal writes: “the concept of one universal God was unknown in the world at large. The overriding belief was that gods… were ruling over a distinct locality or a specific nation. Once a god’s adherents no longer lived in his domain, or if his nation no longer could serve him (and according to Egyptian belief, slaves had no god) he had lost his potency. He either disappeared or died.” (in the Jewish Bible Quarterly)

So as we picture Zipporah, you can imagine with me the kinds of sacrifices she had to make, being the daughter of a “religious leader” in her culture. I don’t know if we can truly compare her to that of a present day preacher’s kid, but I can imagine that the people held them in high regard which means they also had high expectations of her and her family. And while we don’t know exactly what their religious practices were, she would likely have been expected to participate in all their religious rites and rituals.

Zipporah Midianite tented shrine

Another reason scholars believe the Midianites were polytheistic is because of what was found from excavations done in the region. Here is a tented shrine found at Timna in northern Midian territory (tent holes in ground for poles; naos or “most holy place” in the middle right against the wall).

Zipporah Midianite gods Zipporah Midianite gods2 Zipporah Midianite gods3

Here are pictures of the Egyptian goddess “Hathor” who was a cow deity found in Midianite territory. It appears as though they often adopted Egyptian gods as their own. The middle picture shows her “cow” ears. The last picture is a defaced Hathor. The archaeologists believe that the Midianites recaptured this Egyptian land and defaced all the Egyptian god and goddess statues.

Zipporah Midianite gods5      Zipporah Midianite gods4

Lastly we have a figurine of the Midianite god-man and a bronze snake. Egyptians worshipped snakes and Midianites appeared to as well.

While it may be possible that, being Abraham’s descendants, they had heard of Yahweh, the Midianites most likely served other gods. This means, Zipporah served other gods under the direction of her father because women worshipped whatever gods their fathers served since this was a patriarchal society.

IDENTITY: Midianite Shepherdess (v. 16)

Next we see Zipporah in the role of Shepherdess. The role of a shepherd went to either servants or women. In other words, it was not the ideal job. No, Zipporah had her choices made for her. Her life of sacrifice would have been forced on her whether she liked it or not.

Being a shepherd couldn’t have been an easy task for them either based on what we know from other stories about shepherds in the Bible.

First of all, Midian has a very arid climate and rocky terrain as you see in this picture:

Zipporah Midian terrain

Secondly there were dangers of wild animals and robbers. For example David had to fight off bears and lions (1 Sam 13)! Not only that, but to water an entire flock took some time and effort (a thirsty camel could drink 30 gallons in just 15 minutes!). This explains why Reuel was surprised to find them back home so early.

Then it sounds like these ladies had to contend with other shepherds that weren’t as chivalrous as this outsider, Moses.

Zipporah well

Modern day site of Well at Midian

So back to the text:

There are so many examples of irony and foreshadowing in Exodus. Consider verse 17. The phrase “drove them away” can be seen as a parallel to Moses being driven away from Egypt by Pharaoh. And the phrase “saved them” as a foreshadowing of God saving Israel from Egypt.

The day this Midianite shepherdess took her flock to the well turned out to be the most life-changing event in all of her life up to that point. Talk about an interruption of the heart! And can’t you just see the sovereignty of God being displayed here.

Out of all the peoples of the earth, God chose the Israelites to be His special possession and for Him to be their God. To be included in this promise was a privilege that only an Israelite could enjoy. Here we see Zipporah, a Midianite shepherdess, becoming part of this grand story. And even though we may become frustrated with how little is written about her encounter with the God of Israel, we can know that it was through His sovereignty and love that He brings this shepherdess into the fold.

IDENTITY: Wife of Moses (v. 21)

The next identity marker for Zipporah is as a Wife. This part of the story actually makes me laugh every time I read it. We read about Moses rescuing these ladies, and they just leave him there at the well! Reuel seems astounded at their lack of hospitality, and wanting to thank the man who helped his daughters, he orders that he be brought to his home, feeds him, and gives him a wife from among his daughters!

Zipporah was the lucky one. This Midianite woman became the wife of the greatest prophet of Israel. And yet we have so little written about her that you get the sense that she is completely overshadowed by her husband and sometimes even by her father.

In fact when you see Reuel mentioned, he’s referred to first as priest and then almost solely as “father-in-law”. This passage establishes the important relationship being between Moses and his father-in-law when it says in v. 21: Moses was content to dwell with the man.

This gives us pause because of our current culture and the importance of the husband-wife relationship stressed in our modern times. George W. Coats writes about this in Moses in Midian:It was common in The marriage tradition, as in Genesis 29 (Jacob/Laban), to emphasize the relationship between the bridegroom and his father-in-law, not the relationship between the bridegroom and his wife. (From Moses in Midian)

We have to keep in mind that their patriarchal society resulted in different customs from our own. Arranged marriages are also something of an anomaly to us since we don’t live that way in our culture. Though it seems like a huge sacrifice to us when we read of a woman being given to a man she hardly knows, it probably seemed as natural to them as performing their daily sacrifices. Oh the irony of what sacrifices would await Zipporah as she lived her life with this man of God.

IDENTITY: Mother (v. 22)

To wrap up our passage we get a nice little bow wound neatly around a baby boy as we see Zipporah in the role of MOTHER. The very last verse rushes right into information about their offspring! In my dictionary of the Pentateuch, I read that the marriage contract was not finalized until the consummation of the marriage took place. So even though this one verse seems out of place or even like it jumped too far ahead in our timeline, I believe it was to show that Moses and Zipporah did indeed become husband and wife legally. Verse 22 tells us they had a son named Gershom which meant sojourner in Hebrew. FN: This name suggests a foreigner who was banished into exile. Because Moses had become a sojourner or stranger in a foreign land.

Because we will read more about her in the role of mother, I won’t go into further detail at this point.

{Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. Exodus 3-4}

Introducing: Theology Thursdays

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One of my favorite things to talk about is the Bible. Related to this, I also LOVE theology. I took three systematic theology graduate courses about five years ago, and I have been hooked ever since. I’m hoping you’ll be hooked too after enjoying some of my posts related to theology. I’m definitely no expert, but I certainly love to think about these things (and you should too).

The reason that theology is so interesting to me is not just for the benefit of knowing something that sounds intelligent, but it has more to do with what we do with the theology behind the passage. It’s the famous, “so what?” question. Sure, it’s nice to know things that scholars love to dig into and research, but what will we do with it for our lives? If we have knowledge but are completely unchanged by what we know, is it really worth knowing? That’s why I’m writing Theology Thursdays (although it remains to be seen if I will actually stick with Thursdays…we shall see).

One of my favorite topics in the theology course had to do with covenants. There are varying views concerning this topic alone, but for my post, I’ll be looking at covenant theology (rather than dispensationalism…if you don’t even know what that is, great, neither do I, really! haha). Also please note that this is going to be very brief so you don’t get bored 😉

You are wondering what is meant by covenantal theology (right? please say yes). To boil it down: God did it all. We reap the benefits. Seriously! That’s it. But for those who aren’t really satisfied with that answer. I’ll give the main points from one of my lectures (Systematic Theology III with Douglas Kelly at RTS).

1. God sovereignly establishes the covenant.

I can almost hear you saying, “ok, and?” Well, it means that God is the one who initiated the covenant. What covenant, you ask? The covenant of grace. It is every covenant (or promise) that God makes with every human in the Bible (starting with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, David, and finding its fulfillment in Jesus). I’m not talking about the promises like Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you…), but about true covenantal promises that have to do with God initiating the promise and expecting the individual to agree to the terms. In other words both God and the individual are committed to the covenant. (Something else that can get confusing is the issue of multiple covenants. The way covenantal theology sees it is, God makes one covenant – the covenant of grace – and each of the successive covenants are just a part of the greater covenant. I believe this is one point that differs from the dispensational view.) It is important to note that a covenant is an agreement between two parties. This comes in handy later, trust me.

2. God sovereignly administers the covenant.

Establish. Administer. Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to. No, it’s actually not the same thing just said in a different way. In this point, God determines the nature of the relationship to the covenant and the obligations for the individuals agreeing to the covenant. In other words, man doesn’t get to bargain with God about the terms. God sets it up.

3. God sovereignly fulfills the conditions of the covenant.

EEEeeeeEE! This may be my favorite part. 🙂 You see, when two individuals enter into a covenant, both are required to fulfill their side of the bargain. If one party does not keep his end of the covenant, it means death for him (there is a great video by Ray VanDerlaan on this very topic). Do you remember when God makes the covenant with Abraham (then Abram) and has him cut up several animals, then God (the smoking firepot and flaming torch) “walks” through the blood? (You’ll find that in Genesis 15.) It was a very sobering moment for Abram because when God did this, He essentially said, “may this happen to Me if I do not hold up My side of the covenant.” But what about Abram? He didn’t walk through the blood! This is because God elects to fulfill the conditions of the covenant for both Him and Abram (we’ll see an even greater picture of this in Christ). The main point here is that none of us could possibly hold true to the covenant with God, and He knows it.

4. God sovereignly sustains the covenant.

If this doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will (especially since the last point was pretty awesome too). God by His will empowers believers to fulfill the requirements of the covenant. In other words, it is Him at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He gives us faith, leads us to repentance, softens our hearts for obedience (all important requirements in keeping the covenant). It’s absolutely beautiful. Take it in. He gives us everything we need to be faithful in covenant to Him. Only my God would think of doing something like that.

So there it is! Four points about covenants. Sorry it ended up being a little longer than I originally thought! There’s so much more I wanted to say…maybe another day. 🙂 Stay tuned for the “so what” discussion (since that is, after all, why I wanted to write about theology in the first place!).