Dayeinu – It Would Have Been Enough

by Lois Tverberg

If He had rescued us from Egypt,
but not punished the Egyptians,
It would have been enough. (Dayeinu )

If He had punished the Egyptians,
but not divided the Red Sea before us,
It would have been enough.

If He had divided the Red Sea before us,
but not supplied us in the desert for 40 years,
It would have been enough.

If He had supplied us in the desert for 40 years,
but not brought us to the land of promise,
It would have been enough.

If He had brought us to the land of promise,
but not made us a holy people,
It would have been enough.

How much more, then, are we to be grateful to God for all of these good things which he has indeed done for all of us!

The verses above are from a much longer melody that is sung at Passover celebrations every year. It is a very ancient song, written about 1000 years ago. It is one of my favorite parts of the celebration, as a long list of God’s blessings are recounted, with the idea that if God would have stopped at any one, they would have been completely satisfied. What a wonderful attitude of gratefulness! How much longer would the list be if we as Christians added to them…

If He had redeemed me with His suffering and death,
but not filled me with His Spirit,
it would have been enough.

If He had filled me with His Spirit,
but did not guide my life daily as His disciple,
it would have been enough.

If He guided my life daily as His disciple,
but did not lovingly answer my prayers,
it would be enough.

If He lovingly answered my prayers
but did not give me His promise to spend eternity with Him,
it would be enough.

(Add your own verses here!)

How much more, then, are we to be grateful to God for all of these good things which he has indeed done for all of us!

An Attitude of ‘We’

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Group of Christians
A few years ago when I visited a synagogue as part of a group, we talked with some of the Orthodox Jewish boys who were studying there. They took out the Torah scrolls and we asked them what the reading was for this week. They said, “This week we are reading the story of how God brought us out of Egypt and saved us from the Egyptians.”

It struck me that the boys used the pronoun “us” as if they had been right there crossing the Red Sea. It is common in Jewish culture that when people discuss the Israelites in the Scriptures, they use the pronoun “us,” because their ancestors and they are one people.

We can learn from their example to put ourselves personally into the stories of the Bible as we read. Then when we read about the Israelites rebelling because they were tired of eating manna, we wouldn’t say, “I don’t know why God chose such a whiny people!” but rather, “My people got tired of eating manna – and I would have too because of my own sinful nature. How great of God to have showed such grace to us!”

As Paul said, we are “ingrafted branches” into God’s covenant people, and need to understand our indebtedness and connectedness to God’s people all the way back to 4000 years ago.

We should also remember to focus on our connection with other members of the body of Christ. A few years ago, when the news featured stories on the enormous amount of oppression Christians are facing all over the world, many woke up to the need to pray for our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church. Surprisingly the reporter who discovered this and worked up the story was actually Jewish! Because of his own sense of identity with his people, and his personal sense of woundedness from what was done to the Jews during the Holocaust, he wanted Christians to know what was happening to their “family”!

In modern Western culture, Christians are highly individualistic, and we find it difficult to live together when we focus so completely on our own needs. By thinking more about “we” and less about “I,” we can live out God’s command to love each other as we love ourselves.

Photo: ‘Inyan

For more on this topic, see the chapter, “Reading the Bible as a ‘We’” in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. (Baker, Grand Rapids, 2018) which is available in the En-Gedi bookstore.

Exodus Hints at its Great Implications

by Lois Tverberg

The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. -Exodus 1:5-7

Ancient storytellers often wove recurring motifs into stories to hint at connections between them. If we know this and read Exodus with an eye to its subtle themes and language, we will see that in several places the text is hinting that the story has far-reaching implications.

Sunrise over Nile
In several places the wording of Exodus alludes back to the story of creation. The passage above hints back to Genesis 1:28, where God tells the first humans to be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The word translated as “exceedingly numerous” is actually “swarmed” or “teemed,” like the fish that teemed in the sea in Genesis 1:21.

Another hint in this passage comes from the number of people in Jacob’s clan, which is seventy. In Genesis 10, all the descendants of Noah are listed who will give rise to the nations of the earth, and the number is seventy. It has been traditionally understood from this that the number seventy, a large, symbolically complete number, alludes to the nations in the world.

Later in Exodus, the story of Moses in the Nile in a basket will recall the story of Noah and the ark. The same rare word, tevah, is used to describe the basket as the ark that Noah built. Just as Noah was saved from destruction when others around them drowned in the flood, Moses will save his people when the Egyptians drown in the Red Sea. In both cases, they were being saved by God’s judgment while others perished.

By recognizing these hints in the text, we realize that the story of Israel’s redemption of Egypt is much greater than the history of one small nation. It is saying that through the redemption of this people, God was ultimately going to redeem the whole world.


Take Your Staff

by Bruce Okkema

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. Exodus 17:5–6

Notice that God says, “….take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile.” This staff had also recently been turned into a serpent before Pharaoh’s eyes, and it had been stretched out to part the waters of the Red Sea. So the people would have immediately known that God was about to do something big.

For years Moses had used his staff in the deserts of Midian, leading his sheep and finding water for them. He may have even used it at times to strike rocks for water, because we know that in this area of the desert porous, water-bearing limestone was present which, with the crack of a sharp blow, could release a large flow of ground water. (1)

It was here at Mt. Sinai forty years earlier that God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush, calling him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Remember the story from Exodus 4, in which he questioned God saying,

“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, `The LORD did not appear to you’? Then the LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ … ’A staff’ he replied … The Lord said, ‘… take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”

Is it a coincidence that in both cases, Moses was pleading with the Lord about what to do with the people? Is it a coincidence, that in these cases, God used this staff to work miracles relating to water and deliverance? Of course we know that the Lord can do any miracle by simply speaking a word if he chooses too, but in this case, he added to the impact by choosing a visible symbol which recurs throughout Scripture.

Ultimately, it points to his to his power and kingship in Jesus, the source of all living water!

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His.
Genesis 49:10

(1) JPS Torah Commentary on Exodus, N. Sarna, p 94.

Water Will Come Out

by Bruce Okkema

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. Exodus 17:5–6

En GediIn this story we find the Israelites “grumbling” to Moses and Aaron about their present circumstances. The Hebrew meaning behind this translation conveys a much stronger picture, that of a riotous mob wanting to kill their leaders. I find myself quickly judging the Israelites, thinking that since they had just been brought out of the land of slavery, how could they be complaining already? After all, they had seen the mighty hand of God on the night of Passover, they had experienced the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, manna appeared with the dawn, quail fell from the sky, and they had benefited from many other miracles. How could they be so ungrateful as to be complaining about thirst?

Yes, they were wrong in “grumbling.” Yet, if you have ever experienced the harshness of the desert in this part of the world, you know how vital it is to have drinking water there. A person can literally die within hours without it, so perhaps we would have been desperate too. Also, imagine poor Moses standing in a leadership position over more than six hundred thousand people without water! Can you relate to his grief as he cries out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

As you read the Bible, try to put yourself into the story and experience it as if you were there. The people in these stories are members of our covenant family, so in that sense, we really were. Also, learn to turn your eyes to the Lord in each situation to see how he will redeem it. You will see a God with amazing patience who loves us, walks with us, and provides water even when we complain!

Wind and Water

by Lois Tverberg

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. – Genesis 1:2

There is a really fascinating theme that runs through all of the Bible – the picture of God beginning a new creation. Genesis begins the story of creation with the Spirit of God “hovering over” the deep (Tehom), and one of God’s first acts of creation is the separation of water from water. This picture is a theme that recurs over and over in the scriptures, every time God starts something new.

There is a little of a poetic motif there, because the word for “the deep” is Tehom, which was symbolic of chaos. It is a picture of God conquering evil and chaos to bring order and a beautiful new thing into existence. The word for Spirit in Hebrew is ruach, which also means wind or breath, so when God parts the waters by a great wind it is a picture of God in the act of creating.

wind and waterWhere do we see this? First we see it in Genesis 1:1 of course, but only a few chapters later, after the flood destroyed all of life on earth, we read in Genesis 8:1-3 that God caused a wind (ruach) to pass over the earth, and restrained the waters of the deep (Tehom), and the flood waters receded, giving the world a new, clean beginning.

We next see this in the parting of the Red Sea, as the wind (ruach) blows to separate the waters so that the Israelites can pass through. This marks the beginning of God’s new nation of Israel, who now would have their own sovereignty and identity as the people of God. Later, as they pass through the river Jordan, once again God was parting the waters, and in a sense, re-creating them as his people and cleansing them of their sin in the desert. After their entrance into the land they took on the covenant again, just like they did at Sinai, and made a clean beginning as God’s people.

There is one more place significant scene in the Bible when we see this imagery of God at the waters – at the baptism of Jesus. Here the heavens are parted (reminiscent of the waters being parted) and we see the Spirit of God “hovering” over, in the form of a dove, just as it hovered over the first waters of creation. Here is God’s new creation, God on earth in the form of the Son of Man.

Photocred: Jacques Joseph Tissot

reading the bible

If you’d like to learn more about how Hebraic imagery is woven throughout the Scriptures, see pp. 210-212 in ch.11, “Reading in the Third Dimension” in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.