This online institute is designed to give a brief analysis and discussion of all scientific disciplines through the lens of a biblical world view. +++ SDG +++

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lesson # 55

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #55
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a biblical worldview. Last month we covered the ten plagues of the Exodus, so this month let’s begin a journey back to the holy land through a very well-known sequence of events. Our trek begins on the 14th of Nisan (late March or early April), 1446 BC (aligning Jewish and Gregorian calendars is messy business).  So how many people left Egypt? These people descended from the 70 individuals who immigrated to the land of Goshen. They were very prolific; according to Exodus and Numbers, there were 600,000 men over the age of 20 on foot. If we figure all of these men were in households of at least 3 including themselves, then you have a population of over 2 million. While this is a very large number, many logistical studies have been done that verify that the biblical account (while difficult to manage) is entirely possible. While we accept miraculous events on faith, simple logistic calculations can also verify the feasibility of a historic narrative.

            For fear of infringing on copyrights, I will suggest you go to one of the following places to look at a map of the Sinai Peninsula as you continue to read my description: page 120 of your Lutheran Study Bible, page 106 of your NIV study bible, or one of the following links (good maps with possible exodus tracks on them).  (yes, the Mormons make good maps) or Or you can just google "Exodus Map" and get a lot of options, but always remember to check the source. anyway back to our journey.

            The next datable event is about one month later when they arrive in the Wilderness of Sin, which is believed to be somewhere on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula. Before they got there they must first have crossed the "Yam Suph" (Hebrew for "reed sea"). This event is often downplayed by those who seek to "demythologize" the Bible.  There are some key elements of the account and known geography that can help us to better understand this miraculous event. First let's talk about the reed sea, The geography between the Egyptian Delta and the Sinai Peninsula has changed greatly over the past 3400 years.  It is generally agreed based on archeological, biological, carbon 14, and dendrochronology information that this region was much more temperate in past millennia and has been becoming more and more arid as time progresses. Translation: it used to be greener, wetter, and milder than it is now.  Another major change came 145 years ago in 1869 when the French company that spent 10 years digging the Suez Canal, finished its work and thus drained more water from the delta area between Ancient Pithom and the modern day Bitter Lakes. There are a number of possible sites around Ismailia and the Bitter Lake region that could very well be the site of the miraculous crossing.  However, even if the area they crossed was in a place that was marshy grassland, there are a couple of important insights to draw from the account that are miraculous. First, the waters parted and they walked on dry ground, all two million plus of them. Second, the water separated and came back together at God’s command through Moses. And finally, when the water returned to its normal course, it completely covered Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen...not one remained. This was not just wheels getting stuck in the mud; this was complete inundation with water and drowning.

            So enough about the "reed sea"; let’s continue our trek. About two months after leaving Egypt they came to Mount Sinai. The traditional location for this mountain is at the southern tip of the peninsula, and is today called "Jebul Musa" Arabic for “Mountain of Moses”. There is a monastery there; St Catherine's, which claims to have inside its walls the burning bush through which God spoke to Moses. There are three other possible sites; Jebel Al-lawz, to the east across the Gulf of Aqaba, and to the north, Jebel Sin Bisher and Jebel Magharah. Each of these locations have legitimate claims that make them plausible sites for the Mount Sinai of the Exodus. Both the reed sea and Mt Sinai locations may be lost to history, but that is what you would expect because these were very transitory events according to their narratives that would have left no real evidence of having taken place. Untended trails will disappear in only months in wilderness areas, such as those where both of these events took place. They also built no permanent buildings, they were there for short periods of time, and these events took place thousands of years ago. Even thier food which was miraculiously provided, and thier trash dumps would have all degraded to basic elements by now.  It would be more amazing if we were to find any tangible evidence of these events happening. However, we have a reliable eyewitness account of them so there is no reason to question if they happened, while we can continue to explore where they happened. Next month...wondering in the wilderness, see you then.

In Christ,

Pastor Portier                

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lesson # 54

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #54
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a Biblical worldview. We have come to the infamous plagues on the land of Egypt
in 1446 BC. Let’s examine this turn of events.

            When did these plagues take place, and what is their significance? The answer to the first question would be during the first months of 1446 BC from Shebat to Nisan (which for us would start in late January / early February and end in late March / early April). The timing and significance of each of the plagues is interesting so let's look at each of them.

            1. Turning of the Nile to Blood. This would have taken place before the spring swelling of the Nile. According to Ancient Egyptian mythology, the Nile was supposed to be the life-blood of the god Osiris providing life to all other beings, but instead it brought bloody death, even to their god Hatmehyt, represented by a fish.

            2. Frogs. Every place the Egyptians went, there were frogs, even in their beds. Here, God embarrassed their goddess of fertility, Heqt (represented by a frog), showing that even she could not keep in check this severe over-production of frogs. After they had been chased out of the bloody Nile, and with not enough to eat or drink, these frogs would soon have been in large rotting piles of carcasses.

            3. Lice. The whole land of Egypt (which was supposed to be clean and holy because of the Egyptian gods) was crawling with insects associated with filth and dirtiness. Pharaoh’s holy men at this point acknowledge that this is the finger of God (a common Egyptian phrase when speaking of acts of their gods).

            4. Flies. The Hebrew word here could better be translated as swarming bugs. Included in such a broad definition could be beetles, which also represented their god Khepera. (Another of Egypt's gods shamed.)

            5. Deceased Livestock. Apis the bull god and Hathor the cow god, added to the list of shamed gods.

            6. Boils. The Egyptians prided themselves on cleanliness, but this plague had Pharaoh’s holy men in so much pain and shame that they could not appear in the throne room to support their king when he next spoke with Moses.

            7 & 8. Hail & Locusts. These two plagues were particularly destructive and shameful to their gods. The gods Reshpu and Ketesh were supposed to be in control of the elements, as was the sky goddess, Nut. The destructive hail would have destroyed all their winter crops, depleting food and linen sources. On top of that, locusts (which represented the god Senehem) would finish off anything left by the hail that was green and able to recover from the hail.

            9. Darkness. In this plague, the god Horus (symbolized by an eye) was blinded, and the sun god, Ra, was darkened. These were two of their most important gods. Interesting to note this darkness was over Egypt only the land of Goshen, where the people of the true God lived was bathed in light This lays the groundwork for the final plague.                        

            10. Death of the First-Born. As I mentioned in lesson #52, this Pharaoh must not have been a first-born son or he too would have died. However, his own first-born son did die, and this would have been the final slap in the face of all the Egyptian gods, as the Pharaohs were seen as gods on Earth.

            Last month we covered 80 years, and this month we covered 3 months! We will see what next month brings as we pick things up on 14 Nisan (March and April did not exist yet) 1446 BC.

Blessed Lent,

Pastor Portier