Sunday, August 05, 2007

Exodus 15:22-27 - Marah and Elim

Contextual Notes:
The Israelites have been liberated from slavery, delivered through the Red Sea from Egypt’s army, and celebrated with a great song of praise. Now the party’s over, and life gets daily. This is the first of three times the children of Israel run out of water and food (Exodus 15:25-27; 16:1-36; 17:1-7). Each time, instead of turning to God, they turn on Moses their leader. Here they come to Marah, a place of undrinkable water, and the same people who were just celebrating and praising God are now griping and complaining.
Pray and Read: Exodus 15:22-27

15:22 וַיַּסַּ֨ע מֹשֶׁ֤ה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מִיַּם־ס֔וּף וַיֵּצְא֖וּ אֶל־מִדְבַּר־שׁ֑וּר וַיֵּלְכ֧וּ שְׁלֹֽשֶׁת־יָמִ֛ים בַּמִּדְבָּ֖ר וְלֹא־מָ֥צְאוּ מָֽיִם׃
Now Moses caused Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the Wilderness of the Wall. And they walked three days in the wilderness and they did not find water.
15:23 וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ מָרָ֔תָה וְלֹ֣א יָֽכְל֗וּ לִשְׁתֹּ֥ת מַ֙יִם֙ מִמָּרָ֔ה כִּ֥י מָרִ֖ים הֵ֑ם עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָרָֽא־שְׁמָ֖הּ מָרָֽה׃
When they came to Marah they were not able to drink the water for [it was] bitter. Therefore one calls [it] by the name Marah.
15:24 וַיִּלֹּ֧נוּ הָעָ֛ם עַל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹ֖ר מַה־נִּשְׁתֶּֽה׃
So the people grumbled against Moses saying, “What do we drink?”
15:25 וַיִּצְעַ֣ק אֶל־יְהוָ֗ה וַיּוֹרֵ֤הוּ יְהוָה֙ עֵ֔ץ וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ֙ אֶל־הַמַּ֔יִם וַֽיִּמְתְּק֖וּ הַמָּ֑יִם שָׁ֣ם שָׂ֥ם ל֛וֹ חֹ֥ק וּמִשְׁפָּ֖ט וְשָׁ֥ם נִסָּֽהוּ׃
So he cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree. And he threw it into the water, and the water sweetened. There He made a statute, an ordinance, and there He tested them.
15:26 וַיֹּאמֶר֩ אִם־שָׁמ֨וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַ֜ע לְק֣וֹל ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ וְהַיָּשָׁ֤ר בְּעֵינָיו֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֔ה וְהַֽאֲזַנְתָּ֙ לְמִצְוֹתָ֔יו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֖ כָּל־חֻקָּ֑יו כָּֽל־הַמַּֽחֲלָ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֤מְתִּי בְמִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לֹא־אָשִׂ֣ים עָלֶ֔יךָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה רֹפְאֶֽךָ׃ ס
And He said, “If you really listen to the voice of YHWH your God and do right in His eyes and pay attention to do His commands and keep all His commands and all His decrees, all the sicknesses which I put upon Egypt I will not at all put upon you because I myself YHWH am healing you.
15:27 וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ אֵילִ֔מָה וְשָׁ֗ם שְׁתֵּ֥ים עֶשְׂרֵ֛ה עֵינֹ֥ת מַ֖יִם וְשִׁבְעִ֣ים תְּמָרִ֑ים וַיַּחֲנוּ־שָׁ֖ם עַל־הַמָּֽיִם׃
And they came to Elim, and there [were] twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees; and they rested there by the waters.

Exposition: Note well,
God’s timing for Marah (15:22-23):
Immediately after a great victory of deliverance in the Red Sea.

They went straight into a wall. Israel is now headed into the northwestern section of the Sinai Peninsula. In the distance, they can see the “shur,” the rocky mountain wall that gave its name to the desert. Also, this area had a line of Egyptian fortresses for defense. Numbers 33:8 calls this area the wilderness of Etham (fort). Here are also stark mountain peaks up to 9000 feet and wadis, or washes, dry riverbeds. These wadis are the highways in the wilderness, and in them is the chance to find water.[1] Where a spring or well is found, the cultivated patches are green, shady, fruitful, and beautiful. Today the Bedouin tribesmen still use these same places. And still today, the spring at Hawwarah (Bir Marah) or Marah, is considered the worst on the whole road to Sinai, the water being bitter from salinity and nitre.[2]

Jesus left His Baptism and Divine endorsement to head into 40 days of temptation in the wilderness.

The reaction to Marah (15:24)
People – grumbling (v. 24). One moment they are singing God’s praises. The next they are grumbling about him.
James 3:10-11
Moses – prayer (v. 25)

God’s lesson at Marah (15:25-26)
Bitter – perhaps a reminder of the bitter herbs of sin and slavery in the Passover meal (12:8)
[3] Elisha performs a similar miracle with salt (2 Kings 2:19-22). And the opposite can be done, making water bitter. Moses’ wooden staff made the Nile undrinkable[4], and the angel in Revelation spoiled the water with wormword. (Revelation 8:10-11).

Naomi - Marah is what Naomi (“pleasant”) called herself when she came back to Bethlehem having lost her husband and two sons. Ruth 1:20. Here we see also the bitter and the pleasant, Marah and Elim.

Tree or Wood turning the water sweet: Local bedouin tales of a native thorn bush used and known to absorb salinity are just that – old tales. This was a miracle and misses the point.
The Branch of Healing: The point is that our Lord died on a Tree to make life sweet. Only He could do that. The wood of the cross brought healing to everyone who would have it.

Statute (Principle) and Ordinance (Privilege): In every time of need or impossibility, the Lord would always provide whatever is needed. The statute is for all times, a principle of God’s guidance and character. The ordinance is a privilege of heavenly citizenship.
Matthew 6:25-34; 1 Peter 5:7

Test. But He always “proves” us through faith to grow us.
Revelation: “I, YHWH thy God am healing you,” indicating a continual exercise of His healing love and power. YHWH Rophe. The Lord who healeth thee. Water has healed their thirst. Now he promises to take care of their health. The Psalmist tells us that He was faithful to His promise, “And from among their tribes no one faltered (Psalm 105:37).
Obedience. All he asks is obedience, abiding in Him, responding to His voice, maintaining unbroken communication of His life in our being, and he will take care of the rest, signified by Elim.

Elim (15:27)
Elim is a sign of the abundance the Lord will supply Israel if they will only obey. Wadi Gharandel, an oasis 60mi down coast of Gulf of Suez is usually identified as Elim, but another and perhaps better possibility is Ayun Musa, closer to Marah and a few miles south of the tip of the Gulf of Suez. Ayun Musa today still boasts 12 springs of water and numerous palm-trees. Israel would camp here for a month. (Exodus 16:1)

Notice there are twelve wells, one for each tribe. There was only one at Marah. There are 70 palms, one for each elder in Israel. Psalm 23:2-4: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

There are types of refreshing and rest that come to the children of God after trial. Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may remain for a night;/ but joy comes in the morning.” There is the land of Beulah and the valley of Baca, and He knows best when to lead us among the springs and when to test our faith in the wilderness.[5]

Trial is part of the Lord’s preparation in our lives. We learn to trust Him in the trial.

The Lord sometimes brings a trial for our benefit, and He transforms bitterness into blessing. Paul and Silas sang in the dungeon. Joseph’s prison became his doorway to the office of Egyptian prime minister. Jesus’ baptism led him into the wilderness.

Trials are meant to lead you to prayer, not grumbling. Israel murmured in the trial. Moses called out to the Lord. Grumbling focuses on self, poor me. Prayer focuses on the Lord and His resources. Grumbling is based in fear. Prayer is based in faith. Grumbling doesn’t heal anything. Prayer always shows the way to healing and victory.

The Cross of Christ turns bitterness to sweet water of life. His trial means our Elim. The tree on which he hanged has become the wood which makes life not only sweet, but sustains us and gives us eternal life.

The Lord will take care of our needs. All we have to do is obey Him, have a relationship with Him, submit to Him as Lord and Savior, and walk with Him. He expects you to depend on Him completely, to supply all your needs, present and future.

Today I want to invite you to respond to the Lord as He calls you. I want you to give up your personal pride that people will see you walk down the aisle and respond to Him.

Perhaps you have realized over the last few weeks that you don’t really have a relationship with Jesus though you’ve been faithful in church for years. You’re not the first one. John Wesley was a missionary in Georgia before he was saved. Respond to Him.

Perhaps you need physical or inner healing in your body, mind, or spirit. YHWH Rapha, The LORD who is healing you, is present today. Let us take the trial to Him in prayer and not grumble.

ISBE, “Marah”
Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament, 191-4.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Exodus, “Marah.”
Abel Ndjerareou, Africa Bible Commentary, 105-6.
A.B. Simpson, Christ in the Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 120-3.
John H. Walton, et. al., eds., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 91.

[1] Edersheim, 191-3.
[2] Edersheim, 193; Walton, 91.
[3] Abel Ndjerareou, Africa Bible Commentary, 105-6.
[4] Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Exodus, “Marah.”
[5] A.B. Simpson, Christ in the Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 120-3.