Tag Archives: Children of Israel

Who Were The Mixed Multitude of the Exodus?

Long-time reader ProclaimLiberty (PL) commented yesterday some of his thoughts on the ultimate fate of the so-called “mixed multitude” who left in the Exodus from Egypt with the Children of Israel as lead by Moses (and ultimately Hashem).

He’s made such statements before, but I’ve written so many blog posts (well over 1,500) and people have made so many comments (16,658 as of this writing), that it’s hard to keep track. So I thought I’d take PL’s statements and use them as my next “meditation” so I can keep track of what he said.

I’m also doing this for the edification of my readers and anyone who happens to “surf in”.

We are typically taught that the mixed multitude were a group of non-Israelites who left Egypt with the Children of Israel to escape slavery and/or because they witnessed the awesome plagues of Hashem and wanted to follow the God of the Hebrews.

However, according to PL, and I think he’s on the right track, it’s a little more complicated than that.

The following text in italics is what PL wrote. I did some very minor editing, but otherwise the words below are his.

Any of the Mixed Multitude who actually had survived the forty-year desert trek while remaining with the tribes of Israel would have to have assimilated over the course of generations via intermarriage into one tribe or another. However, a significant number of them were responsible for the murmuring to go back to Egypt and against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. Recall how many folks died when the earth opened up and when various plagues decimated the ranks of those at fault. That would certainly have reduced the numbers among that “mixed multitude”.

Further, that phrase in Hebrew is rather like the English phrase “motley crew”, so that it did not refer solely or even primarily to a non-Jewish rabble. It would have included a lot of Jewish rabble as well, who were perhaps not sure about their specific ancestral tribal affiliation due to conditions of Egyptian slavery that would have separated children from their families of origin.

Finally, non-Jews who used the Jewish departure from Egypt as an excuse to get out along with them did not necessarily remain among the Jews as they headed out into the desert. One would have to expect that they might have attached themselves to the next passing caravan as long as it was not headed toward Egypt, and thus set off for parts unknown to make a new life for themselves, or even tried to return to some remembered ancestral homeland in Midian, Moab, Syria, Chaldea, Babylon, Sumer, or elsewhere. Of course there is no specific hint in the Exodus account regarding this last possibility; and there is no reason to expect to see one because it would be meaningless to the primary story line of the trek toward Midian where Moshe had been following sheep and encountering a burning bush on Mount Sinai, whence HaShem had commanded him to return with the people.

All in all, upon close examination, there is very little in the notion of that ancient mixed multitude for modern non-Jews to identify with or use as an excuse to justify their desire to affiliate with modern Jews. They’re much better off identifying with the Isaiah 56 foreigner or the ten Zechariah 8:23 Gentiles who are envisioned by example as grasping a single Jew’s tzitzit to request permission to come along because HaShem is with the Jewish people. Note that grasping a Jew’s tzitzit is not any sort of authorization or encouragement for non-Jews to wear them or anything like them; and that there is a subtle distinction between how the Isaiah 56 foreigners honor the Shabbat by not profaning it and how Jews were commanded actually to sanctify it.

The Blossoming Staff

Speak to the Children of Israel and take from them one staff for each father’s house…twelve staffs; each man’s name you shall inscribe on his staff. And the name of Aharon you shall inscribe on the staff of Levi…It shall be that man whom I shall choose — his staff will blossom.

Bamidbar/Numbers 17:17-18;20

Ramban (earlier, 17:6) explains that although the Jews were convinced that Aharon was chosen by Hashem to be the Kohen Gadol, they still questioned and protested the removal of the rights of the firstborn to do the avodah, which was given over to the entire tribe of Levi. Levi was split into two branches — Kohenim and Leviim, who together performed all the services of the Mikdash. The rest of the Jews wanted all the tribes to have at least some representation in the Beis HaMikdash. In answer to this request, Hashem showed them the miracle of Aharon’s staff. The staff belonged to the entire tribe of Levi, and its blossoming indicated that specifically the tribe of Levi had been chosen by Hashem to displace the firstborn of His servants.

There is possibly Rashi’s intent as well in verse 18, when he comments “for there shall be one staff.” That is, Hashem was saying: Although I divided them into two families — the family of Kohanim and the family of Leviim, nonetheless it is a single tribe.

-from “A Torah Thought for the Day,” p.32
Thursday’s commentary on Parashas Korach
A Daily Dose of Torah

This is sort of a part 2 of my blog post Are Messianic Gentiles Korach in that it addresses a similar theme: how roles can be different among diverse populations and yet all of the different groups are contained in a single body.

I wish there was an “almond staff test” for Jews and non-Jews in Messianic Judaism or the wider world of Hebrew Roots. I wish there was a visible, physical way to demonstrate to anyone who may doubt, that there is a fundamental difference between the duties and responsibilities of the Jewish people and those assigned to what I call “Messianic Gentiles,” or those non-Jews somehow associated with Messianic Judaism within the much wider body of the ekklesia of Messiah.

aaron's staffIt would make things so simple. See! There’s the Jewish staff sprouting blossoms. None of the Gentile staffs blossomed. So God is showing us all the He has assigned specific duties and responsibilities to the Jews that we Gentiles cannot share.

If you’re at all egalitarian, that may rub you the wrong way. After all, doesn’t this mean God isn’t playing fair with most of the human race? Isn’t He giving all the “cool stuff” to the Jews and saying the Gentiles can’t have any of it?

According to the midrash I quoted above, most of the Children of Israel, or at least the firstborn of the tribes, may have felt the same way. Why should the Kohanim and the Leviim have all the fun in the services in the Mikdash? Aren’t the firstborn of all the tribes just as worthy, just as much children of Hashem?

God settled the matter. God doesn’t have to be egalitarian. God is God. Deal with it.

Although we mentioned a difference between the gifts that the Kohanim receive and those of the Leviim (see “A Torah Thought for the Day”), there is a common denominator when it comes to their obligation to feel and express gratitude and appreciation to Hashem, Who graciously gave them these appointments and rewards.

-from “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” p.45
Friday’s commentary on Parashas Korach
A Daily Dose of Torah

But even as God differentiates, He also unites, providing a common denominator, so to speak, between the two diverse groups within the ekklesia of Messiah.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3:28-28 (NASB)

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace…

Ephesians 2:14-15

diversityJust as the Children of Israel are one people, they were also twelve different and unique tribes. Just as the tribe of Levi was one tribe, they were comprised of two different families, the Kohanim and the Leviim, and both of these groups had different rights and responsibilities in their service in the Mikdash. Even among the Leviim, there were clans that each had separate and non-transferable responsibilities and duties in the Mikdash.

Just as the ekkelesia of Messiah is one in faith and devotion, it is composed of two peoples, the Jewish people or Israel, and the Gentiles who have come to faith in Messiah, representing the nations.

Each group, although having a common denominator of being a “new man” metaphorically speaking, retains specific duties and responsibilities that cannot be transferred to the other group.

I know, it doesn’t follow the spirit of egalitarianism. It’s not “fair”.

But it is the Word of God.

The Mussar Thought for Friday states that we must respect those who have been privileged to achieve something special in their avodas Hashem that the rest of us have not, for this isn’t just an honor bestowed upon them, but a responsibility…one with consequences.

Someone who does not add to his service of Hashem when he is blessed with unique blessings, says Chovos HaLevavos, will eventually fail to fulfill even the basic obligations that are required of all [Jewish] people. In the end, he will throw off the yoke of Torah from himself completely.

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts why I think it’s important to encourage greater Torah observance among the Jewish people, but here we see one of those reasons is that if the Jewish people do not perform the mitzvot, they are dismissing God’s blessings upon them and falling away from God and the Torah.

There are so many secular people who are ethnically and culturally Jewish but that’s about it.

jewish-assimilationEven among those Jews who are observant, that observance may only be partial. There are Jews who only attend Shabbat services sometimes and who, on other Sabbaths, will work. There are Jews who keep only “Leviticus 11 kosher” but who do not separate diary and meat. There are Jews who daven with a minyan on Shabbos but not during the rest of the week.

Their staff has blossomed indicating that Hashem has something special for them. But only they can pick up their own staff and walk on the path it illuminates for the Jews. It’s their staff, not ours. Even if some don’t pick it up, that doesn’t mean we Gentiles get to.

The firstborns among the Israelites do not serve in the Mikdash. The Leviim and even the other Kohanim do not enter the most Holy of Holy places on Yom Kippur, only the Kohen Gadol.

And the Gentiles do not observe the Torah mitzvot in the manner assigned only to the Jewish people.

That staff belongs to them, not us.

What I Learned in Church Today: Christians Approaching Sinai

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Exodus 19:1-6 (NASB)

I probably talked a little too much (or a lot too much) in Sunday school class today. I may have even gotten on a few nerves. It was difficult not to. The sermon was on Exodus 19:1-25 which is Pastor Randy’s introduction to a sermon series on the Ten Commandments and how they apply to the Church today.

Before even getting to the Ten Commandments, he’s going to spend separate sermons on Deuteronomy 5:1-5; 22-23, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, and Galatians 3:1-14. After that, he’ll spend one sermon on each of the Ten Words (Aseret ha-Dibrot).

I had the opportunity to speak with Pastor before service began. He knew I’d be particularly interested in these sermons and also knows the points where I’m likely to disagree. That’s OK since there are other areas where I do agree, one of which is that most Christians really need to hear more about “the Law” and how not only was it valuable in ancient days, but that it is valuable and relevant for not only present day Jews, but all modern believers in Jesus Christ.

I won’t spend a lot of time on his sermon, but he did reference a Christian children’s song that goes Every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line. Happily he said that these lyrics are not true and that the Bible must be studied carefully to determine which of the promises can be applied to the Gentile Christian. He also said “we (the Church) are not Israel,” to which I wholeheartedly agree.

I actually ran out of room on the sheet of paper given out before services to take notes on the sermon. What Randy explained was worth a lot of ink to preserve his thoughts. Pastor got into such detail that he ran out of time, only getting to verse nine out of twenty-five, so we’ll pick it up starting with verse ten next Sunday.

I told Randy that I didn’t feel sorry for him (in the sense that we don’t always see eye-to-eye) since he is a careful, honest, and thorough researcher and instructor. My Sunday school teacher on the other hand, I do feel sorry for.

I didn’t get a chance to talk with teacher before class began but given the topic and the fact that he knows my areas of emphasis, he should have expected my “active participation.” It didn’t help that not a lot of other people in class were speaking up much. Again, like last week, we had new people in class, so I also felt a little sorry for them since I’m not a typical Sunday school student.

In his notes, teacher quoted from one of Walt Kaiser’s books:

The “sign” given to Moses in Ex. 3:12 is fulfilled here: he has returned to the “mountain of God.” The presence of the “if” in Ex. 19:5 did not pave the way for Israel’s decline from grace into the law.

“Decline from grace into the law?” Since when did the two become mutually exclusive?

Torah at Sinai

I’m not sure that’s what Kaiser was saying and teacher did try hard to emphasize that the grace shown Abraham (Genesis 15) ran parallel to the giving of the Law at Sinai.

I tried hard to demonstrate the relationship between the Abrahamic, Mosaic (Sinai), and New Covenants bit by bit as I responded to questions in the teacher’s notes, but had to disagree with Pastor and teacher that all of the laws of the Torah constitute the Sinai Covenant. Actually, the Covenant is stated in just two verses:

Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Exodus 19:5-6 (NASB)

That’s the Covenant. The Torah, all of the commandments, statues, and ordinances, are the conditions of the Covenant, the things the Israelites agreed to obey to uphold their end of the Covenant.

But both Pastor and teacher introduced an interesting parallel:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB)

These are just about the same words we see in Exodus 19 where God describes who the Children of Israel are to Him in the Covenant, but Peter is addressing a non-Jewish audience. Pastor said that in the body of Christ, it is not the peoples but the people of God, singular. But since he also said that the Church is not Israel and recognizes Jews in the Church (presumably) as “Israel,” then there are distinctions, though I recognize more distinctiveness between believing Jews and Gentiles than he does.

And yet, it is the ekklesia (assembly) who are “chosen,” “a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” a possession” (Am Segulah — a treasured, splendorous people) according to Peter. Israel became a people and a nation before God at Sinai (and according to Jeremiah 31:35-37 they will never stop being a people before God) and when the people of the nations become disciples of the Jewish Messiah through faith, we too become “chosen” and “treasured” as grafted into the root.

Teacher filtered the Exodus 19 experience through Romans 7, 8, and Galatians 3. I used some of the information from my Reflections on Romans series to head off the idea that the Torah in any sense could be “bad” or cause sin. This was surprisingly acceptable to teacher but I have no idea what anyone else was thinking. Pastor Bill was in class, so if I’d said something too far out of line, you’d think he’d have brought it up.

Like I said last week, it’s like they’re shooting all round the target and are just short of a bullseye as far as “getting it” in regards to the continuation of the Torah in Jewish lives.

Teacher even mentioned Psalm 19 which is one of David’s strongest endorsements of the beauty of the Torah. And yet in past classes, teacher has also said how relieved he was that we Christians aren’t under the law, so some dissonance is happening somewhere.

I brought way more notes to class than I needed (or had time for), but one I did bring up, though I didn’t have time to quote it, is this:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (NASB)

Obviously God expected that when Israel said “All that you have said we will do,” they would and actually could do it. The Torah is a delight. It always has been. Only human weakness and frailty make it difficult if not impossible for the Jewish people to be able to fulfill their vow before God. But while perfection in the performance of the mitzvot isn’t something that can reasonably be achieved, God’s plan of redemption through the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36) will make it possible.

Since we people of the nations, through a portion of the Abrahamic Covenant (Abraham 12:1-3, Galatians 3:15-16) solve the mystery of the Gospel (Ephesians 3:1-13) on how Gentiles can receive New Covenant blessings and yet not be of the House of Judah and the House of Israel, we also benefit from that redemptive plan. But if not for Israel and God’s promises to her, there would be no hope for us.

I managed to get all that out in class but I don’t know if it made the impact I wanted it to. I think Pastor’s goal and mine for his sermon series are pretty much alike. I think we both want the people at church to see the Bible as one, big, unified book, and not a document that describes a “before” and “after” picture, or a bunch of different plans God had, trying out one after the other until he found one that would work.

Rolling the Torah ScrollPastor’s going to teach a class this Fall called “God’s Big Picture” where he presents the Bible as the single, overarching Word of God. I’d attend but I’ve spent over a year having almost weekly private conversations with him about these topics, so we both know where the other stands. I’d just serve as a speed bump to the other people who want to listen to Randy, but then again, maybe that’s what I’m doing in Sunday school, too.

I came away from class feeling pretty flat and regretting that I spoke up so much. I was still holding myself back but there was so much I felt needed to be said. I realized that when I was responding to questions, I wasn’t really answering them, but then, I think that was because I didn’t agree with how the teacher organized his entire lesson. His “vision” of how to teach the material and mine are more than a little different.

I guess I’ll have more than one shot at this, so next week when we delve into Deuteronomy, I’ll try again. Hopefully, God will help me become a more effective participant unless He doesn’t want me to speak up at all. But then again, what would be the point of going if I couldn’t participate because, and I’m sorry to put it this way, I believe I have a better handle on topics related to the Torah than my Sunday school teacher.

Yeah, that sounds incredibly arrogant, even to me. So much for the month of Elul.

Addendum: Monday, September 1st: If you read the comments below, you’ll see that several people pointed out my mistake regarding 1 Peter 2. The intended audience of the epistle is not a non-Jewish but rather a Jewish audience, thus we Gentile disciples of the Master cannot consider ourselves “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” In retrospect, this actually strengthens my prior statements that the people of the nations called by our Master’s name cannot be Israel, since only they are referred to by the language from the Sinai Covenant.