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Sunday, March 11 2012
What Did The Elders Of Israel Do?
The English word "elder" originated from an Anglo-Saxon word which meant having lived a longer time, as in older, although not necessarily "old" e.g. the "older" of two siblings, aged 10 and 14, is the "elder" of the two. From the Biblical perspective, it does nevertheless commonly refer to those who have lived a greater number of years and are therefore regarded, by those who are younger, as a source of experience, and hopefully, wisdom (there is no guaranteed correlation between intelligence and wisdom - intelligent people can do very foolish things).
"Elder" is used to translate two Hebrew words of the Scriptures. The first, pronounced gaw-dawl, simply means greater, in any way. The other (usually rendered in the plural "elders"), pronounced zaw-kane, specifically means aged, whether male or female. In ancient Israel, there were two kinds of "elders" to be respected, one kind for their wisdom and/or accomplishments, the other for their greater age alone. While the two kinds were often found in the same person, a younger person could be regarded as an "elder" for some specific reason e.g. Joshua would have been regarded as an elder even when he was a relatively young man, but was later also regarded as an elder when he had lived for many years.
In the New Testament. the English word "elder" (or "elders") is used to translate the single Greek word, pronounced pre-boo-ter-os, which means old. While the principle should have been the same as the meaning of the Hebrew words, as explained above, it seems to have been blended into one by the use of that particular Greek word (and the English word presbyter that was created from it). In effect, the New Testament literal definition of the word used for "elder" didn't allow for a "Joshua" sort of elder. Whether intended or not, the "church" thereby created the basis for later becoming ruled by "an old boys club."
When did the "elders of Israel" begin?
The people of Israel entered Egypt as a family of only about seventy people (Exodus 1:1-5 KJV), with no "elders" other than the namesake patriarch Jacob, who the LORD renamed as "Israel." Four centuries later however, at the time of the Exodus, the people of Israel had grown very numerous (the reason that the Pharaoh at that time came to fear them; see The River Of Moses), with "elders" then in existence. In the Holy Scriptures, the LORD (see The First Christian Church) was the first to speak of them, when He appeared to Moses at the time of the famous "burning bush" incident on Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:1-3), months before the Israelites returned there after the Exodus.
"3:13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
Prior to the establishment of the Levitical priesthood (see The Origin Of The Levite Priesthood) and the Exodus, Aaron met with Moses out in the Sinai. According to the command of the LORD, they returned to Egypt where they "gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel." After the miraculous signs were given to them, "they bowed their heads and worshipped."
"4:27 And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God [see also Paul's Geography Lesson], and kissed him. 4:28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
While there was yet no Levitical priesthood, it was the elders of Israel who applied the blood of the Passover ("Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover"), including at Aaron's house; Aaron was the firstborn son of his family, who would have died that night without it.
"12:21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. 12:22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel [see Lintels] and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 12:23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
"Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left"
The Israelites of the Exodus had known only the lush, well-watered land of Goshen (see Why Did They Go To Goshen?). The Sinai was a very different dry world for them. Rather than placing their faith and trust in the LORD, Who had just delivered them from their "paradise" of slavery, they began to whine and complain, so Moses was given to miraculously bring forth water "in the sight of the elders of Israel."
"17:1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 17:2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink.
Moses had spent about 40 years out in the Sinai wilderness prior to the Exodus (see Moses Of Midian). During that time, Moses became part of the family of Jethro the Midianite. The Midianites were a non-Israelite branch of descendants of Abraham, though his wife Keturah (i.e. their son Midian: "25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 25:2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah" Genesis 25:1-2 KJV). Moses married Jethro's daughter Zipporah, who because the mother of Moses' two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
Although Jethro was not an Israelite, he knew the LORD as well as the elders of Israel ("Jethro, Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God").
"18:9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 18:10 And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 18:11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. 18:12 And Jethro, Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God." (Exodus 18:9-12 KJV)
Upon their arrival at Mount Sinai, the elders of Israel were the first to receive the Word of God from Moses.
"19:1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 19:2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.
The Levitical priesthood was then beginning to bud into existence, according to the instructions of the LORD, however the elders of Israel continued their service that began at Passover. Seventy of the elders were chosen to accompany Moses part of the way upon Mount Sinai, where they saw "the LORD God" (see The Rock Of The Church) i.e. "24:9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 24:10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness."
"24:1 And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 24:2 And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.
Even after the priesthood was established, the elders of Israel continued to serve as functionaries of the priests. Two examples of the service of "Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel":
"4:13 And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty; 4:14 When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. 4:15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD. 4:16 And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation: 4:17 And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the veil. 4:18 And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 4:19 And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar. 4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. 4:21 And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation." (Leviticus 4:13-21 KJV)
The elders also served in the "civil" government (although there was no "separation of Church and State" because God's Law was the "Constitution" - there was no rejection of the Ten Commandments in God's Courts or Government, just as there will not be in the Kingdom of God: "4:1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" Micah 4:1-3 KJV; see also A History Of Jerusalem: Zionism and A History Of Jerusalem: War And Peace).
"11:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 11:17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone." (Numbers 11:16-17 KJV)
The elders of Israel served the LORD and His Kingdom in the time of Joshua just as they had served the LORD and His Kingdom in the time of Moses.
"7:6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads." (Joshua 7:6 KJV)
At the end of his life, when the Israelites had reached their promised land, Joshua warned the elders to remain faithful and obedient as they had been, or they would "perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you." They did not heed the warning.
"23:1 And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. 23:2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age: 23:3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you. 23:4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. 23:5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.
Fact Finder: What does faith make possible?
This Day In History, March 11
222: Roman Emperor Elagabalus was assassinated, along with his mother, Julia Soaemias, by the Praetorian Guard (their palace guards) during a revolt. Their mutilated bodies are dragged through the streets of Rome before being thrown into the Tiber River.
537: The Goths besieged Rome. The Goths were one of the tribes of Teutonic/Germanic people who invaded the Roman Empire in the 3rd to 5th centuries, eventually conquering and succeeding it. Thereafter, the Roman Empire became officially known as Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanica i.e. the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" (see The Holy Roman Empire and Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Euro!).
1702: The first British daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, appeared.
1810: Napoleon was married by proxy to Archduchess Marie Louise.
1812: An edict emancipated the Jews in Prussia (not to be confused with Russia; Prussia is in Germany). In reality however, the edict was evaded e.g. Jews could study law but not practice it.
1900: British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury rejected the peace overtures offered from Boer leader Paul Kruger.
1917: General Maude with 50,000 British and Indian troops marched into Baghdad, capturing 9,000 Ottoman/Turkish prisoners (listen to our Sermon The Ottoman Empire).
1931: The communist Soviet Union banned the sale or importation of The Holy Bible.
1935: Hermann Goering established the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe.
1949: Israel's application for membership in the United Nations was approved by the Security Council (membership itself came the following May).
1953: A U.S. bomber accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb on South Carolina, however the weapon of mass destruction did not explode due to 6 "safety" catches.
1985: Mikhail Gorbachev became head of the Soviet Union following the death of Konstantin Chernenko. At 54, he was the youngest member of the ruling Politburo.
1990: The Lithuanian Parliament proclaimed the restoration of the Baltic Republic's pre-World War Two independence from the Soviet Union. Lithuania was the first Soviet Republic to break away from Communist control.
2011: A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck 130 kiliometers east of Sendai, Japan, triggering a tsunami that killed thousands of people. The event also caused the second-worst nuclear power plant disaster in history.