By Nelly Favis Villafuerte
In the Biblical account (see Part I) narrating the covenant made by God with Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people, God gave to the Jewish people the so-called Promised Land. God being God – the title deed to the Promised Land still exists, still is valid, still stands today, up to the end of time. Because God, the Creator of the earth and the universe, does not lie or bluff or break a covenant. The Old Testament states that: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19, King James Version)
The Jews lived in the land we now know as Israel from the time Joshua (Moses’ successor) conquered the place more than 3,200 years ago until today, although the Jews have not always been in control of the place. At the time of Joshua’s conquest of the land, it was known as Canaan. The Holy Bible called it the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This land known as Canaan was later renamed by God as Israel. The word Canaanites is a loose term used to describe the people living in Canaan before the Israelites led by Joshua invaded the place. Thus, Canaanite refers to the Phoenicians, Philistines, Ammonites, Hittites, Jobusites, Amorites, and Hivites.
How did the Jewish people go to the Promised Land? In the Biblical account, God’s promise to bequeath land to the Jewish people was confirmed to Abraham’s son Isaac (see Genesis 26:1-2) and to Jacob, son of Isaac (see Genesis 28:10-15). Jacob had 12 sons and, together with their descendants, they were called the children of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons Joseph (Jacob’s favorite) was sold by his brothers into slavery to a caravan heading for Egypt due to jealousy. Through an incredible chain of circumstances, Joseph became the vizier of Egypt – equivalent to the Egyptian Pharaoh’s prime minister. (See Genesis 37-41 and Genesis 41:45). I encourage you to read the awesome story of Joseph in the Bible, especially the touching reconciliation of the brothers who were later convinced by Joseph to settle in Egypt. Life proposed for the brothers for years until they died, including Joseph and their descendants. A new Egyptian Pharaoh who did not know about Joseph succeeded to the throne when Joseph was still living. This new Pharaoh, fearful of the rapid population growth of the Jewish people, decided to submit them to forced labor and enslaved them for more than 400 years. Until God raised up a deliverer – a man by the name of Moses.
And so the 40-year exodus from Egypt to Canaan, the Promised Land, begins. In the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, we see Moses leading his co-Israelites, slaves of Egypt for 430 years. It was a spectacular exodus of an entire race of people who for generations had been under servitude to the Egyptians. This was a mighty task for Moses.
The spectacular sight of 600,000 Israelite men on foot not counting the women and children as well as their blocks and herds – journeying from Egypt to the Promised Land is hard to imagine. The Holy Bible, however, records this event. All went well for the next two years until the Israelites were camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, an area between the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez, and Gulf of Agaba. After two years of journeying, the Israelites were now at the gate of Canaan, the Promised Land. It was also at this time that the Israelites started complaining, grumbling, and rebelling against God. Discontent spread like a virus. What happened next is the wandering of the Israelites for the next 38 years. On the 38th year, the Israelites found themselves in the same spot they were in at the start of their journey from Egypt. What is ironic is the fact that the Israelites were already very near the Promised Land but they did not know it. The 40 years of wandering should have taken only 11 days (Deuteronomy 1:2) What happened? Simply, that the Israelites lost faith in God.
God’s judgment against the rebellious Israelites wandering in the desert is found in Numbers 14:33-35. Thus: “Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years – one year for each of the forty days you explored the land, you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community which has banded together against me. They will meet their ends in this desert; here they will die.”
(To be continued)
This column continues to give out copies of the Holy Bible for free to those who cannot afford to buy their own copies. If interested, please send your letter-request to Ms. Nelly Favis Villafuerte, 5233 LRV Building, Fahrenheit St., Palanan, Makati City. Kindly mention if it is the Tagalog, English, Cebuano, or Ilocano Bible that is preferred.
Be joyful and forgiving! (Comments may be sent to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected])