Friday, March 22, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 10-11 and The Epistle of Barnabas 8-9

Exodus 10 – The Lord says that the obstinacy of the Pharaoh and his servants is designed to make the signs and wonders of the Lord more glorious and memorable (10:1). The next plague, the eighth, is locusts. By now Pharaoh’s servants are begging him to let the Hebrews go. “’How long will you let this man hold us hostage? Let the men go to worship the Lord their God! Don’t you realize that Egypt lies in ruins?’” (10:7)

Pharaoh “caves” to his unhappy officials and lets Moses and Aaron know that he will let them go, but he tries to limit the number who go.  He especially does not want to let the children go, just the men.  This is not going to do it. So at dawn, the east wind brings locusts, covering the land “till it was black with them” (10:15). Again the Pharaoh seems to cave to God’s power. The locusts are swept away by a west wind, and blown into the Sea of Reeds. 

The next plague, the ninth, is a “darkness [so] intense. . .that one can feel it” (10:21), a darkness that lasts for three days.  This time Pharaoh says everyone may go, but cattle and other livestock must remain. Moses refuses these terms.  Pharaoh sends him away.

Exodus 11 – The final plague, the tenth, will cause Pharaoh to drive them out.  At midnight, the Lord will go forth through Egypt and every first-born will die—not only of man but of beast as well. A “loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again” (11:6). But again the Hebrews will not be touched.

The Epistle of Barnabas
8 – On Purification: He goes on to analyze other ancient texts. “Men whose sins had come to a head were to bring a heifer for an offering, and slay it and burn it. Then, after gathering up the ashes and putting them into vases, young children were to tie scarlet wool on branches of wood (here again, you see, we have the scarlet wool and the type of the Cross), together with sprigs of hyssop; and with these the people were to be sprinkled, man by man, by the youngsters, to cleanse them from their sins. See how clearly His is speaking to you here! The calf is Jesus, and the sinners who offer it are those who dragged Him to the slaughter” (168).

9 – On Circumcision: Those whose ears are not deaf to the voice of the Lord have hearts that have been circumcised. The form of circumcision his people have relied on is a form that has been “completely set aside, for He has declared that circumcision is not a physical thing. That is where they went wrong, because they had been misled by an evil angel. God’s actual words to them were, Thus says the Lord your God – and this is where I find His commandment – do not plant your seed among thorns, but be circumcised for the Lord [citing Isaiah40:3]. What is His meaning? Why, circumcise the hardness of your hearts, and do not be so stiff-necked” (169).

While the Jews presented physical circumcision as a sign of their covenant with the Lord, Barnabas points out that “every Syrian and every Arab is physically circumcised, and so are the idol-priesthoods; but does that make them members of the Jews’ Covenant? Even the very Egyptians practice physical circumcision” (170).

So this is Barnabas’ take on it all: “Circumcision was given to us in the first place by Abraham; but he, when he circumcised himself, did so in a spiritual prevision of Jesus” (170). He offers a numerological interpretation of the Septuagint text that apparently is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew text, and it all gets very complicated. We’ll leave it with the idea that Abraham had a “spiritual prevision of Jesus.”

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