Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Is YHWH with us?

[T]he Massah and Meriba account finishes with the open-ended question הֲיֵ֧שׁ יְהוָ֛ה בְּקִרְבֵּ֖נוּ אִם־אָֽיִן and implicit judgment: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exod 17:7). Thus, when it says in the next verse that Amalek came and fought with Israel, the question becomes urgent. Will the Lord help Israel or not? We have seen that, with and through Moses’ intercessory help, God’s divine presence is secured (Exod 17:10–13). Interestingly, in the scout narrative, also in the wider context of Moses’ intercessory prayer, Amalek wins against disobedient Israel because YHWH is not with Israel (Num 14:43). In other words, Num 14:39–45 contains a remarkable contrasting parallel to Exod 17:8–16. This time, Amalek (not Moses) is on “the top of the mountain” (cf. Exod 17:9–13, Num 14:40, 44) and triumphs over Israel. The roles are reversed. The reason, according to Moses: “Because you have turned away from YHWH, and so YHWH is not with you” (כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֤ן שַׁבְתֶּם֙ מֵאַחֲרֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה וְלֹא־יִהְיֶ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה עִמָּכֶֽם)(Num 14:43). In the Exodus account, divine presence is visualized against the Amalekites through Moses’ staff, in the scout narrative through the ark of the covenant (cf. Num 14:44) .—Standing in the Breach, page 71

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