THE EXODUS: THE DISRUPTIVE TRUTH OF ISREAL’S SEPARATION FROM EGYPT
The pagan agenda of the Tower of Babel had insisted upon a definite design for pagan society: man would save himself by ascending the Scale of Being until he became like God. The underlying presupposition, of course, was that man already was his own absolute authority, possessing the knowledge of good and evil along with all other gods and goddesses (Gen. 2:9; 3:6). With the new tool of civil authority placed in his hands, man could now compel everyone to fit into this scheme like the bricks fit into the Tower of Babel.
Not all the bricks, however, were set because God disrupted the would-be Kingdom of Man with linguistic confusion. The dream of a one-world pagan society would never be realized. Five centuries later, God formally rejected the paganized Noahic civilization with His call to Abraham. He upset fallen humanity’s modus operandi of autonomy by revealing election, justification, and faith. God, not man, had the plan. God, not man, defined righteousness and insisted upon absolute conformity to it. The new modus operandi was humble submission to the gracious invitation of man’s offended Creator by faith.
To understand the next step in God’s historic redemptive plan, we need to get background on the Exodus event. In this chapter, I will discuss the immediate problem of Abraham’s family, the structure of Egyptian society, the meaning of the Exodus event, and the expanded revelation of God’s judgment/salvation.
Abraham’s Family Problem. The call of Abraham appeared after a while to flounder. The patriarch’s family showed more and more signs of what we moderns call “dysfunctionality”:
(1) Whereas Abraham valued family unity (Gen. 13:7-12), later generations promoted discord. Joseph was nearly killed by his brothers (Gen. 37); Onan refused to help his sister-in-law (Gen. 38:8-10); and Judah deceitfully withheld his son from Tamar, his daughter-in-law (Gen. 38:11-15).
(2) Abraham knew he must separate from Canaanite culture; thus he sought a bride for Isaac from non-Canaanite society (Gen. 24). In direct contrast Judah saw nothing wrong in having sex with a Canaanite sacred prostitute which he thought the disguised Tamar was, referring to her as a kedeshah (Gen. 38:15,21).
(3) Abraham built altars and publicly worshipped Yahweh (Gen. 12:8; 13:18; 21:33), but by Judah’s generation no mention whatever is made of such a testimony.
It is no great surprise, then, to see God withdraw Himself from direct revelation to this rebellious family. Whereas Abraham enjoyed many theophanies, in the fourth generation Joseph as a young man is guided solely by a silent providence. Nevertheless, God also had bound Himself to the Abrahamic Covenant so He could not let this family self-destruct.
To keep this family from being absorbed into pagan society, God sent them into an Egyptian “ghetto” where they would be discriminated against (Gen. 43:32) and abused as slaves (Gen. 15:13). Unable to assimilate in Egyptian society, the first Jewish family in history would be forced to maintain its unique identity. In this hostile womb, the family would grow into a full nation ready to be born. Clearly Israel would be a work of God, not of men!
The Structure of Egyptian Society. Egypt was chosen by God as the womb for “out of Egypt” would God “call His son” (Hos. 11:1). Why? From its founding by Ham’s son Mizraiim until the Exodus a thousand years later, Egypt functioned like a “Gentile Millennium” featuring the most artistic and highest level of paganism in the world. As the most prominent remnant of the Hamitic Tower of Babel scheme, Egypt is referred to throughout Scripture by Satan symbols: “Leviathan”, “Rahab”, and the “Dragon” (Pss. 74:12-14; 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; 51:9-10; Ezk. 29:3; 32:2). Nonetheless, Egypt is never treated in the Bible as fit for total destruction as Canaan and Babylon are, apparently because she never so completely rejected God’s revelation as those nations.
Egypt placed great stress on the changeless and static elements of life as opposed to Mesopotamia. The University of Chicago Egyptologist, Dr. Henri Frankfort wrote: The Egyptian belief [was] that the universe is changeless and that all apparent opposites must, therefore, hold each other in equilibrium. Such a belief has definite consequences in the field of moral philosophy. It puts a premium on whatever exists with a semblance of permanence. It excludes ideals of progress, utopias of any kind, revolutions, and any other radical changes in existing conditions. . . .In this way the belief in a static universe enhances, for instance, the significance of established authority.”
The individual was so submerged in the state and the state in nature that apart from the Exodus there was a total absence of popular uprisings and revolutionary movements in Egyptian history. This scheme of things centering on the Pharaoh shows through Egyptian art like the four examples in Figure 3.1..45 Drawing “A” is a design found on an ivory comb of the First Dynasty (pre-Abrahamic). Even at this early period the classical Egyptian art symbols appeared. The god Horus, whose symbol was the falcon, is represented on the comb in three ways. At the top he is the son in the boat sailing across the sky. In the middle he is the outstretched wings that depict the sky. At the bottom he is represented by Pharaoh as he stands on a box containing a serpent and the name of King Djet. The two vertical symbols are scepters denoting “welfare”. The sign ( ) refers to life. The interpretation of the art on this comb, then, is that the nature of the god Horus, manifested in the sun and in the sky, is also manifested among men in the person of Pharaoh. Because Horus is in Pharaoh, life and welfare come from Pharaoh.
Drawing “B” in Figure 3.1 shows a temple column also from early Egypt. Again there are two vertical welfare scepters, but in this example they are capped above by the sky symbol and below by the earth symbol. Between them is written the name of King Sahure. The implication is that Pharaoh acts within the harmony of nature and was himself a vital part of it, a sort of mediator between heaven and earth.
Drawing “C” shows how closely the sun and serpent appear in Egyptian art. Apparently to the Egyptian mind the sun and snake shared certain characteristics: both move without normal means of propulsion. The sun illuminated the physical world; and if pieces of primitive revelation were remembered in distorted form (cf. Gen. 3:1ff), the snake “illuminated” the spiritual world, giving “knowledge of good and evil”. Pharaoh was known as the “son of Re” (“Re” being the sun god), and on his headgear he often wore the serpent.
In drawing “D” the deity of Pharaoh is clearly proclaimed by the Egyptian artist who drew Ramses II the same size as the gods Horus (left) and Khum (right) with whom he keeps company (rather than with mortal man). This type of picture prompted Frankfort to write:
“[Pharaoh] was the fountainhead of all authority, all power, and all wealth. The famous saying of Louis XIV, l’etat c’est moi, was levity and presumption when it
was uttered, but could have been offered by Pharaoh as a statement of fact in which his subjects concurred. It would have summed up adequately [Egyptian] political philosophy.”
The structure of Egyptian society, therefore, had in a peculiar fashion perverted the Noahic Covenant and the divine institution of civil authority. The universe and man and government should be united--but in dependence upon the Word of God. They do not belong to the same level of existence as the Creator. Civil authority, moreover, is a restraint upon sin and not the means to salvation..46
Israel, like Abraham’s elect son, Isaac, was born miraculously. No nation ever had an origin like Israel. With surgical precision God separated His elect nation from its historic womb in a mighty demonstration of His power and wisdom. In the historic progression of events since creation, the Exodus expanded upon the judgment/salvation theme of the previous global flood catastrophe. The Exodus event, in fact, is to the Old Testament what the birth and death of Jesus Christ is to the New Testament. It provides one of the great pictures of what God means when He speaks of redemption.
The Catastrophic Disruption of the Exodus. To a reader not under the influence of modern theories of historical reconstruction, the Scriptural account leaves little doubt that the Exodus event was a catastrophic disruption in ancient Near Eastern history. A series of gradually escalating ecological crises struck the most advanced civilization then existing. All Egypt was affected--the people, the cattle, and the fields; and its agricultural economy was devastated (Exod. 7:14-10:29).
Great numbers of the general population were killed (Exod. 11-12), and economy looted of its gold and silver (11:2). Egypt’s formidable army was completely destroyed (14-15) and Pharaoh himself along with his military staff killed (14:8,10,17- 18,27-28; cf. Ps. 136:15). Egypt virtually disappeared from history according to Scripture with no mention of Egypt as a contemporary power from Moses until the time of Solomon five centuries later (cf. Deut. 11:4). News of this catastrophe spread terror throughout neighboring countries (Jos. 2:9-11)
Unfortunately what appears so clear to a naive reader of the Exodus story “can’t be true” according to modern scholarly consensus. Having established a chronology of ancient history upon the “assured” results of a series of inferences from alleged astronomical observations and evolutionary theory, modern historical reconstruction of this period insists that Egypt was in her zenith of political power in the so-called New Kingdom period. The New Kingdom candidates for “Pharaoh of the Exodus” did not die, nor was there any disruption in Egyptian control of neighboring Palestine. No evidence can be found, it is claimed, of the ecological disturbances recorded in the Scripture. Similar conflict continues with the later Conquest (see next chapter).
Even the best evangelical scholars accept wholesale this background chronology as an assured fact. They strain mightily to fit the Exodus event into the New Kingdom era, somehow explaining away why no mention is made of Egypt as a contemporary power between Moses and Solomon, why the Pharaoh really did not die, why no evidence of Egypt’s economic.47 destruction appears at this time in Egyptian history, and why Israel fought numerous nations for control of Palestine but never once encountered Egyptian armies.
Pagan scholars, of course, forthrightly mock the Scriptural narrative as mostly mythological with a few possible historical reports thrown in. The fancy footwork, however, of godly scholars reminds us of the debates over creation, fall, and flood in Genesis. In Part II of this series I explained the false reasoning and pagan presuppositions involved in trying to reconstruct natural history. Very similar logic applies here. Again there are the Capitulation, Accommodationist, and Counter-attack strategies involved. I give a more detailed analysis of the chronological problems of ancient history in Appendix B.
If, like the creationists in the creation controversy, we dare to rethink the so-called assured results of historical research, possible solutions to this dilemma appear. If Egyptian history is re-interpreted according to Scriptural data, then the Exodus event coincided with the end of what is called the Middle Kingdom period, not with the middle of the New Kingdom period. Precisely during the collapse of the so-called Middle Kingdom, a papyri records events remarkably similar to those of Exodus 7-12:
Papyrus Ref. Text Exod. Ref.
2:5-6 “Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere” 7:21
2:10 “The river is blood. . .Men shrink from tasting it” 7:20,24
2:10 “Gates, columns, and walls are consumed by fire” 9:23-24
2:13 “He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere” 12:30
3:14 “It is groaning that is throughout the land, mingled with lamentations” 12:30
4:14 “Trees are destroyed” 9:25
5:5 “All animals, their hearts weep.” 9:3
6:3 “Grain has perished on every side.” 10:15
7:1 “The fire has mounted up on high.” 13:21
9:3 “Each man fetches for himself those that are branded with his name.” 9:19,21
9:11 “The land is not light.” 10:22
Fig. 3.2 Comparison of the Lamentation of Ipuwer (Gardiner’s translation given in Velikovsky, Ages In Chaos, with Exodus..48 As I explain in Appendix B, radically re-interpreting Egyptian history not only resolves the Exodus problem, it resolves and illuminates Joseph’s role in Egyptian history, the Conquest era, and later interaction between Egypt and Israel in the period of the kings. It resolves the report by the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, Bk II, Chap 9, Para 1) that Jewish slaves built pyramids. Since the standard chronology insists that pyramids were no longer built when the Jews were in Egypt, this report is seen as a figment of Josephus’ imagination.
Notice that to do this re-interpreation, we have had to challenge completely modern reconstruction of Ancient Near Eastern history just as earlier we “offended” the modern historical sciences. This is just more evidence of what I mentioned in Part I of this series that the world suffers from global deception and lies in profound darkness. The Exodus event was a public judgment that revealed God’s holiness and omnipotence to the world, not a minor hiccup barely noticeable in Egyptian history!
The Reluctant Israelites. There has always been the tendency to regard Israel as more righteous than Egypt. The Bible, however, denies that Israel had any superior righteousness of her own. Ezekiel records that the Israelites were thoroughly integrated into Egyptian idolatry and even rebelled against God’s call for separation (Ezk. 20:6-10). Joshua, too, mentioned this Hebrew apostasy in Egypt (Josh. 24:14; cf. Lev. 17:7). When Moses first preached, Israel was no more responsive than Egypt (Exod. 6:9,12). Later, Moses told Israel clearly: “Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Deut. 9:24).
The Israelites had to be persuaded by the miraculous series of events to trust the God of Moses their leader. Although they cried to Him over their servitude to the Egyptian taskmasters (Exod. 3:7), they had a strange sense of security in Egypt that was threatened by the Exodus disruption (Num. 11:5; 14:22; 20:3-5). Thus the Exodus event involved two mighty works: a terrible judgment upon Egypt and salvation of a reluctant people.
The Meaning of the Exodus. What, then, is the big picture of the Exodus? Egypt was one of the most advanced versions of the pagan Kingdom of Man. It offered rebellious man a “home” of his own making in God’s creation. Man appeared to have freedom to live in perfect security. Had not Joseph years before provided food relief against nature’s worst famine? The state in the person of Pharaoh had become a savior and redeemer to bring man upward along the scale of being. Egypt offered unbelieving mankind an apparently secure cocoon of order in an otherwise chaotic, threatening world.
In reality the apparent freedom pagan man enjoys is slavery—slavery to his counterfeit of the Kingdom of God. As Rushdoony observes:
Slaves, true slaves, don’t want to be rescued from freedom; their greatest fear is liberty. . . .Even as a timid and fearful child dreads the dark, so does the slave mind fear liberty: it is full of the terrors of the unknown. As a result, the slave mind clings to statist or state slavery, cradle-to-grave welfare care, as a fearful child clings to his mother. The advantage of slavery is precisely this, security in the master or in the state.
The Kingdom of God, in stark contrast, collides with this pagan modus operandi. As God demonstrated in Abraham’s day, the basis of His redeeming interference is given in election and justification. Plans of family life require economic support; and economic support, as well as all other requirements, comes from God’s sovereign, incomprehensible, partially-revealed plan. God electively initiates; man can only respond.
Thus God brought a series of plagues against Pharaoh, increasing the pressure with each one. At first his magicians were able to counterfeit the miracles with their demonic powers, but finally they could not (Exod. 8:18). The crescendo of plagues eventually revealed a physical and miraculous separation between the Israelites as the Lord’s people and the Egyptians as Pharaoh’s people (8:21-23). God’s election was becoming clearer. The crisis centered on the pagan worldview and its conception of society. Egyptian paganism insisted that Pharaoh was the saving mediator between the gods and man. It was a completely worked-out scheme in which society could flourish as long as Pharaoh preserved order. Against this view Moses came as God and Aaron as his prophet (7:1). Moses spoke of the Creator God separate from and over all creatures Who had His own scheme of how mankind should live. The conflict was set: either Pharaoh had to submit to God’s Word through Moses and give up his role and the entire pagan scheme that went with it; or Pharaoh could resist and hold on to the pagan agenda.
We all know what happened. He “hardened his heart” (Exod. 5:15ff; 8:15,19,32; 9:34-35; 10:27-29), yet even this action was not ultimately of Pharaoh. The electing God is said to have hardened his heart (Exod. 4:21; 9:12; 10:20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17). As we learned in the last chapter, when God elects, He intervenes in a situation already evil. Pharaoh as a fallen creature was already in rebellion before the hardening process began. What God did was to present him repeatedly with further revelation which only served to strengthen his rebellion. The judgment was ultimately caused by God but immediately caused by Pharaoh. The separating work required by election began. The intrusion of the Kingdom of God into the fallen world in the exodus demonstrated a modus operandi of election. It overwhelmed all opposition and separated Israel from Egypt. Instead of the orderly society of Egyptian paganism based upon man’s autonomous organizing powers, God created Israel based upon His incomprehensible plan only pieces of which are revealed to man. God made it clear that whatever future followed the exodus event, the event itself followed logically and directly from His covenant with Abraham (Exod. 2:24; 3:15-17; 4:5; 6:2-5; 13:5; 32:13; 33:1; Lev. 26:42,45; Num. 10:29; 14:23; 32:11). It was planned, alright, but not by man!
Rather than enslavement for security sake, God provided real liberty with a security that depended exclusively upon a relationship with Him. By shattering the pagan plan for society, God relieved mankind of unappreciated danger: For a man with all the limitations of man to claim to be as God is to indulge in a dangerous fantasy; for a state, with all the limitations of man compounded, but the power of the sword added to it, to claim to be as God is desperately dangerous and suicidal as well.
The other part of God’s modus operandi is the justification shown in Abraham’s day. Pagan society morally is grounded upon a demand to assuage the deep guilt of the sinful heart. The politics of the anti-Christian will thus inescapably be the politics of guilt. In the politics of guilt, man is perpetually drained in his social energy and cultural activity by his overriding sense of guilt and his masochistic activity. He will progressively demand of the state a redemptive role. What he cannot do personally, i.e., to save himself, he demands that the state do for him, so that the state, as man enlarged, becomes the human savior of man.
Paganism, in other words, designs a social order that functions as a corporate version of the fig leaves used by Adam and his wife to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:7). It has numerous good works and human welfare movements. Most importantly, it takes unto itself the job of defining right and wrong so that man’s autonomous ideas are the moral norm. Divine institutions, for example, become mere arbitrary conventions to be modified as society dictates. Everything is subservient to the perceived needs of man.
For the holy God to have fellowship with His own special nation, that nation must somehow be “justified”. It must be compatible with His holiness and righteousness. It must be a society where His Presence is welcomed and not seen as a threat to flee from. During the exodus event Israel’s acceptance with God is dramatically shown in the new revelation of God’s most.51 intimate name--Yahweh (which is translated in English texts as “Jehovah” or “LORD”). When God spoke with Moses, He said that by His name Yahweh He was not known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod. 6:3). The old liberal critics (and ill-informed present ones who are often found teaching high school and college religions courses) understood that, in spite of the Genesis text, the name was never used in pre-Mosaic times. Recently, however, OT critical scholarship has tended to agree with the historic, orthodox interpretation that the exact meaning of “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” was not appreciated until the Exodus. Dr. Payne comments:
“As to the meaning of Yahweh, etymological speculation is rather fruitless. It is the Biblical definition found in Exodus 3:14 and in the surrounding context that must be determinative. These verses indicate that the root of “Yahweh” is the verb “to be”, used in its simple, rather than its causative stem: “God spoke in the first person and said to Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM’ (Exod. 3:14; cf. Hos. 1:9). Then, when someone would speak about God in the third person, the form became,
‘He is,’ or, in the Hebrew, in the archaic spelling, ‘Yahweh.’“
This revelation of “I AM” occurred as Moses watched the bush that burned but was not consumed (Exod. 3:). Apparently the bush represented Israel under the fires of persecution in Egypt. God spoke from the midst of the bush, thereby identifying Himself in the midst of Israel in her affliction. He is present in all of His holiness in a nation of sinners. He is there, not because of their human accomplishments, but because of His election of them in Abraham (3:6,15-16). For Him to be in their midst, however, they must share a national “justification”, credited with His righteousness. Moses must take off his shoes; it is holy ground.
Payne continues: God’s immediately preceding promise to Moses had been, ‘Certainly I will be with thee’ (v. 12). The best translation for Exodus 3:14 seems, therefore, to be this: ‘I am present is what I am.’ This description is, in fact, the fundamental inheritance promise of the testament, ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ ‘Yahweh’ (‘faithful presence’) is God’s testamental nature or name (Exod. 6:2.4; Deut 7:9; Isa. 26:4).
[It is noteworthy that Jesus used this “I AM” name as a sort of code-word to reveal His deity (cf. John 8:58; 18:5-6). Observe how He announces His presence in the Church in the same language and imagery used here in Exodus (Matt. 28:20; John 14:23; Rev. 1:12-2:1).]
The new social order of Israel, therefore, is designed not.52 around some Continuity of Being scheme to promote human good and order but around the Presence of the Holy God. It is a society not looking to be redeemed (future tense) but one which has been redeemed (past tense). Man, in this first visible form of the
Kingdom of God since the fall, is not the planner, the doer, or the definer of right and wrong. Instead, he is the receiver of God’s plan, the receiver of God’s gracious redemption to bring him into relationship with Him, and the responder to God’s holy presence.
The meaning of the Exodus comes from the disruptive separation of God’s elect people out from the old pagan status quo--the highest level fallen society could ever achieve. Noahic civilization had achieved a grandeur in Egypt that anticipated the best of the arts, technology, and science of modern civilization. All such effort, while noble and good and revelatory of man’s dominion nature under God, is spiritually perverted and limited. Civilization cannot undo the fall. It cannot restore man to God. It cannot ultimately satisfy man in the depths of his heart. It cannot serve as a substitute for the Creator God.
God’s people must be separated from the world. We march to a different drummer--a new modus operandi of election and justification that compels us to walk by faith, not by sight. We can’t understand the whole of our Creator’s plan for us, nor can we work up the necessary righteousness to enter into His presence. Since we were created as social beings, we must have our own society patterned after God’s will. God’s presence cannot be limited to a subjective condition of the individual heart. Ultimately we must enjoy His presence publicly and corporately on earth, our created homeland, in a holy Kingdom, a new civilization that replaces completely fallen civilization.
Paganism, of course, tries to have its “exodus’s”—attempts at starting new and better societies. However because paganism casts aside the truths of creation and fall, it has no hope of separating good from evil. Therefore pagan counterparts to the exodus event--revolutions, ethnic cleansings, etc.—always wind up as disasters. On its own faith, existence of human and natural evil is “normal” and irremovable. One evil simply replaces another.
Separation of good from evil can come only from the Creator Who established spiritual and moral cause-effect in the first place: “in the day that you eat from [the tree of good and evil] you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). The first great example of how He intervenes in human history we saw when we looked at the global flood of Noah’s day. I noted then that such divine interventions require two inseparable acts—judgment and salvation. These themes are repeated in the Exodus.
Whereas the great flood revealed judgment and salvation, the Exodus showed more details of these works of God. In the progress of revelation, the Exodus sets forth principles of blood atonement that are crucial to interpret properly the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. In the following paragraphs I review the five parts of judgment/salvation using the Exodus material.
1. Grace Before Judgment. Before the final judgment upon Egypt, God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to repent. Although at first Pharaoh’s magicians could counterfeit God’s miracles, eventually they failed and told him that the miracles of Moses “were the finger of God” (Exod. 8:19). Later God mercifully allowed Egyptians who “feared the word of the LORD” to shelter themselves against losses in the plagues (9:20-21).
Just as Noah preached to his generation for over a century before the final hour, Moses again and again warned Egypt of coming doom. Grace, however, is only the temporary extension of God’s love, not an eternal extension. Grace is as “abnormal” as evil is. God’s permission of evil is limited. Eventually, the limit is reached. When that day comes, the day of grace is over.
No further opportunity to repent and believe is left (II Pet. 3:9; cf. Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27; Rev. 22:11). In that day God’s justice will be acknowledged (Rev. 16:5), and the “problem” of evil will go away because evil will go away. The exodus event finally was finished. The Egyptian economy lay in ruins. Pharaoh and his leaders were dead. The army lay drowned in the Red Sea. Grace to them had ended.
2. Perfect Discrimination. When God judges and saves, He perfectly discriminates between the two groups of people. There are no accidents or victims of the statistics of chance. Judgment/salvation proceeds from the God Who has the archetypical (Q)ualities of what we call among men, conscience and knowledge, i.e., perfect holiness and omniscience. His righteous standards correlate with His complete knowledge regarding every creature judged or saved. During the exodus event, God’s perfect discriminatory power was demonstrated by the way the plagues were limited to Egyptians and did not affect the Israelites. Note the careful design of the plague of insects (Exod. 8:21-22), of the pestilence (9:4,6), of the hail (9:26), of darkness (10:22-23), and of the death of the firstborn (11:5-7). The principle of divine discrimination is stated boldly in Exodus 11:7: “the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
3. Appropriation by Faith. As I explained in the case of the global flood judgment, “if and only if there is the Creator-creature distinction so that He is ‘outside’. . . ; if and only if the creature originated evil in a fall that has spread everywhere. . . ; if and only if God’s intervention involved His divine attributes at every point. . .then faith is the only means a creature has of appropriating His saving work.”
Faith was exercised throughout the exodus event in response to God’s electing and justifying work toward Israel and Moses her leader. Moses had to believe God would deliver the nation safely in spite of Pharaoh’s resistance and the Israelite reluctance. The people had to believe that blood on their doors would deliver their firstborn from death (Exod. 12:21-23). At the Red Sea each person had to rest in faith: in the face of Pharaoh’s advancing chariot force, with no weapons in his hand, his wife and children by his side, and the Red Sea at his back, he had to “stand still and see the salvation of the LORD” (Exod. 14:13; cf. vss. 14-31).
The deliverance had to be wholly the work of God in order for God to be glorified in history. The exodus event was not to be a human, armed rebellion or a brilliantly negotiated maneuver; it was to be clearly supernatural. Salvation always must be by faith.
4. Man and Nature Involved. Biblical salvation involves the physical environment around man as well as the psychological environment within him. So it was in the great flood; so it was in the exodus event. The Exodus narrative reports on the judgments affecting all surface water of Egyptian lakes, the Nile, and the Red Sea (7:19-25; 14:21-29); animal life (8:2- 10:20); meteorological and extraterrestrial elements (9:18-34; 10:13,19,21-23; 14:21); and, of course, death itself (12:29-30).
You must keep this aspect of salvation in mind to be reminded that God’s work is objectively true and independent of man’s opinions. Evil permeates nature as well as man so to eradicate it, God’s saving work must deal with both nature and man together.
5. Only One Way of Salvation. The offensive element of biblical salvation is that it is unique. There is only one way to be saved whether or not this feature seems “fair” to the pagan mind. Paganism insists that there be a variety of ways of salvation rather than only one way. Such thinking never notices that it is as dogmatic about the proposition of multiplicity as the Bible is about the proposition of unicity. Both the Bible and paganism each make their own presuppositional assertions..55
The Exodus expands the revelation about the one way of salvation beyond that seen in the global flood. The only way of avoiding the death of one’s firstborn was to sacrifice a lamb and apply its blood to the top and both sides of one’s door (Exod. 12:21-23). The introduction of blood so prominently into the judgment/salvation theme demands the further study given below under the general heading, atonement.
5. a. Atonement per Se. Atonement is related to the general curse, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23; cf. Gen. 2:17). Since death is the destruction of life, only that which first lives can die. Biblically, “life” refers to possession of “soul” (Hebrew = nephesh), not just organic reproduction. In the biblical worldview animals and man are said to have life; plants do not. A creationist biologist after studying this issue suggested that nephesh is a property only of vertebrates: “‘The life (nephesh=‘soul’) of all flesh is the blood of it’ (Lev. 17:11,14; Deut. 12:23; Gen. 9:4). In the biblical and everyday sense, invertebrates do not have blood (Hebrew=dam).”
Only vertebrates have a developed central nervous system and so seem capable of having an indwelling spirit like man (Gen. 7:22; Matt. 8:28-34). Death, therefore, comes upon both animals and man, not plants, due to sin. The idea of atonement involves halting this death-curse after sin has occurred. Atonement, in order to be effective, must involve substituting another life--not under the death curse--for that of the sinner and transferring the sinner’s guilt to the credit (imputation) of the sinless substitute. Thus completely useless is the pagan notion of atoning for one’s own sin by one’s own good works or punishment. The sinner has no life to offer in his own behalf!
Why does blood play such a prominent role in salvation? Here is yet another instance where if you do not start and end with biblical thought, you wind up in a lot of religious mumbo-jumbo. Blood atonement is directly related to a literal creation and fall (soul = spirit + body). Blood, according to the Bible, is a necessary agent of life (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11). Although blood remains in the body after life departs and so is not a sufficient agent of life, in present mortal flesh it is a necessary agent. The future immortal resurrection body, though possessing material flesh and bones, will have no blood (Luke 24:39; I Cor. 15:50). In the present period of history before man’s body obtains immortality, however, blood is a key feature of both the human and animal body. In contexts where atonement is prominent “blood” can substitute for “life” pars pro toto. Terms like “shed blood” refer to physical death, and usually a particular sort of physical death--a violent death.
One the night of the Exodus Passover the blood of the sacrificed lambs was applied to the doors, testifying to the principle that substitutionary life had already been taken for those homes. Of course the lambs used were from the fallen creation and strictly could not substitute for sinful man (Heb. 9:12). In the economy of God’s workings, however, He authorized this procedure to teach mankind His ways in preparation for His Son to come. Three major salvation terms arise from atonement and to these we now turn.
5. b. Redemption. In speaking of salvation whenever sin’s destructive work is foremost, substitutionary atonement is described by the term redemption. The basic idea of redemption can be seen in the OT law. In it if one had lost his inheritance through debt or had sold himself into slavery, he and his property could be redeemed whenever one of near kin, called a redeemer kinsman, came forward with the funds to redeem him (Lev. 25:25-27,47-54; cf. Ruth 4:1-12). This is an economic picture; the sinner has become of negative value and suffers restriction of freedom.
The common everyday experience of suffering due to indebtedness, therefore, is by divine design a picture of the larger issue of being cursed due to indebtedness to God. The notion of freedom, biblically, is intimately tied into this term redemption. The Exodus redemption (Exod. 6:6; 15:13) with the historic freedom for the death judgment and, ultimately, from Pharaoh’s rule is a partial picture of the work of Christ. The shed blood of Christ is the price of man’s redemption (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12-15; I Pet. 1:18-20). The term shed blood refers to Christ’s whole life given in substitution for man’s life (Mark 10:45; cf. Rom. 5:8-11).
5. c. Propitiation. Whenever the issue of God’s nature, particularly His (Q)uality of holiness--righteousness and justice--is foremost, substitutionary atonement is described by the term propitiation. The basic idea of propitiation can be seen in the Passover portion of the Exodus: God’s wrath and judgment were turned away; God was satisfied. This is an ethical picture; the sinner has violated God’s standards and suffers rejection.
The common everyday experience of suffering due to rejection by someone or of “not measuring up”, therefore, is by divine design a picture of the larger issue of being considered unacceptable by God. The notion of acceptance, biblically, is intimately tied into this term propitiation. Liberal theology tries desperately to attain acceptability with God by relaxing His holy standards revealed in Scripture. Forgiveness to them is a forsaking of absolute just standards as hopelessly “archaic”, a sort of divine indifference to wrongdoing. Said another way,.57 they try to force God to accept sinners on man’s terms rather than on His terms.
The Bible insists that the issue of man’s acceptance is subordinate to the issue of God’s holiness. First, God’s holiness is upheld; then man is accepted. This is authentic acceptance because it recognizes God’s character for what it is. Christ’s atoning work propitiates God’s offended holiness (Rom. 3:25-26; Heb. 2:17).
5. d. Reconciliation. Whenever the conflict between God and man is in view, the work of atonement is described by the term reconciliation. The basic idea of reconciliation is cessation of antagonism and hostilities. It can be seen in how Paul describes Christ’s atonement as a “peace initiative” from God (Rom. 5:10) while we were still in a state of war against Him.
Because of sin man is a total enemy of God; his autonomous attitude totally rebels against God’s authority. Man’s sins are treasonous acts against his Creator. Reconciliation emphasizes the active, willful rebellion of man against God rather than his passive state as merely rejected. It answers to the everyday experience of personal conflict whether individual or national.
It also reveals that God, not man, initiates the reconciliation. The Exodus advanced man’s knowledge of God. It was the first historic revelation that the Kingdom of God would come through a catastrophic disruption of the Kingdom of Man on earth. Like the global flood previously, it showed that evil would one day be separated from good and put away. The Exodus thus begins the story of God’s “pioneer” kingdom on earth.
As the Scriptures proclaim:
“Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods?
“Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises
doing wonders?” (Exod. 15:11)
“Know therefore this day, and lay it to thy heart,
that Jehovah, he is God in heaven above, and
upon earth beneath; there is none else.” (Deut. 4:39)
END NOTES FOR CHAPTER 3
1. The fulfillment of Hosea 11:1 is obviously Jesus (Matt.
2:15), but his life tended to parallel the experience of Israel.
2. Henri Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion (Torchback ed., New York: Harper & Row, 1961 ), p. 64..58
3. One must keep in mind that these designs were probably pictograms corresponding to our political cartoons in imagery. See analysis of Figure 3 in Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), Book I, pp. 3-212.
4. The ancient Phoenician writer, Sunchuniathon, explained that the serpent was esteemed “to be the most spiritual of the reptiles. . . , moving by its spirit, without either hands or feet. . .” cited in Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons (2nd American edition; Neptune, NJ: Leozeaux Brothers, 1959), p. 227.
5. To see this idea persisting today one need only read about the famous four visions of Jeane Dixon. In the first she gaxed into the eyes of a snake and saw in them “the all-knowing wisdom of the ages.” In her fourth vision she saw the future man of peace as a descendant of a pharaoh (Akhnaton). Ruth Montgomery, A Gift of Prophecy (Bantom ed., New York: Bantom Books, 1966 ), pp. 173-183.
6. ANE, p. 31.
7. See for example, Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), p. 26, n12.
8. Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1970), pp. 28, 29f.
9. Ibid., p. 63.
10. Ibid., p. 9.
11. J. Barton Payne, Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), p. 147f.
12. Ibid., p. 148.
13. See discussion in Part II of this series.
14. See discussion in Part II of this series, chapter on Flood.
15. Arthur J. Jones, “How Many Animals in the Ark?”, Creation Research Society Quarterly, X, (Sept. 1973), 103.
16. See Part V of this series on the Death of Christ..59