Remembering the GarlicFebruary 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
Tags: commentary on Exodus, Exodus 12, gratitude, ingratitude, memory, mixed multitude, Numbers 11, outside influence, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
Exodus 12:38 contains a seemingly minor detail at the climax of the plagues account that would have larger repercussions later on. In order to get the context, though, we will start here:
And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
This is the final plague/sign, commonly known as “the death of the firstborn.”
And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
The rules for observing the Passover feast would require the use of unleavened bread.
And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
These jewels and clothing were “borrowed” in the sense that the Egyptians gave them freely, not in the sense that they expected to get them back. God had arranged this “civilized plunder” of the Egyptians in order to make it clear that it was not the might of the Israelites that accomplished their deliverance; it was purely and completely the work of the Lord.
And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
These things were “lent” from the perspective of the Egyptians, again meaning that they did it freely and voluntarily, although, from God’s perspective, these were the “spoils” of the war He had waged (and won) against Pharaoh and the false Egyptian gods. If the Israelites were more mystified than victorious in their demeanor when they received these spoils, it was because God had done all the fighting, not them.
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
Exodus 12:37-38 (emphasis added)
This “mixed multitude” consisted of non-Jewish people who decided to leave Egypt along with the children of Israel for whatever reason. The term connotes the idea that these were some of the “rabble” or “riffraff” of Egyptian society. In other words, they were not the best and the brightest of Egypt. They may have included some escaping slaves or criminals – or maybe even people who were hoping to get back some of the stuff they had just given to the Israelites. They may have also been scared that the plagues would continue, and wanted to get out while the getting was good.
When you have a group of people who are truly following and fearing God, and another group of people mixed in who have an ulterior motive for being there, we might predict that a recipe for trouble is forming. Let’s see what happens when they turn up again in Scripture.
The Israelites didn’t have enough faith to go straight into the promised land, so they wound up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. God was feeding them with manna, which was “heavenly bread” that fell from the sky.
And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
A great number of Israelites had just been burned up for complaining and being ungrateful and blaspheming God. Now they are being influenced by these hangers-on – the mixed multitude.
We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
Discontentment and a lack of faith can really play havoc with the memory. Cucumbers? What about the forced slave labor? Melons? What about the lack of freedom to worship? The onions? What about the beatings and torture and abuse? The garlic? What about when Pharaoh wanted to kill all the firstborn sons? Instead of rational analysis, and instead of looking on the bright side, they expressed ingratitude:
But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it. Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
Here’s three simple lessons we can take from this account:
1. We need to be careful about who we allow to influence us.
The mixed multitude were in the Israelite crowd, but they were not really God’s people. Not everybody who claims to be a Christian really is. Not everybody who comes to church comes to worship God. Jesus taught about the difference between wheat and tares.
2. Don’t fall for the lie that the world tastes better.
Our flesh has a short memory. The Word of God tells us what is truly good for us.
3. God provides what is best for us whether we recognize it or not.