Theology vs Chronology

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I want to take our time today to talk about something that I think is hugely important with respect to not only how we read our bibles. But also how we think about what we read in out Bibles. I want to talk around roughly 3 areas. And use Exodus 16 as a case study for these 3 areas. These areas are Inspiration, Theology & Chronology. More importantly how both theology and Chronology relate to inspiration. What I am going to show you today is not new information. It is also not my information. This information is from the works of several scholars, like Michael Heiser, John Durham, Nahum Sarna and others. All who are experts in their fields. You can also get the references for this material in the show notes. But the point here is that this not my thoughts of what I think the bible says about a particular set of verses. This is researched scholarship. And if there is one thing the church needs today. It is a heavy dose of good scholarship. Not more shoot from the hip monologues. But I will save more of that rant until the end of the episode today.
So, as evangelicals we place a lot of emphasis on the chronology of the Bible. Why is that? Obviously because we believe it to be true. And to be true it must be historical. And to be historical is must be chronologically consistent…right? But let me ask you a another question. Can God (in His Word) suspend or create a disconnect from chronology for His own purposes. You would probably say...”well he’s God, He can do whatever He wants!” He’s God. And you'd be correct! But now let me ask you this. Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it it mess with your view of inspiration? I want you to think about those questions as we work through parts of Exodus 16 today.
So let’s start by reading the entire chapter of Exodus 16 before we dive in!
Exodus 16:1–36 ESV
1 They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’ ” 10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” 13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’ ” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. 22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’ ” 24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” 27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. 31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’ ” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. 35 The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.)
So we want to focus on 3 main areas of this section.


Verse 4 says...
Exodus 16:4 ESV
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.
Question.....When was Israel given the Law? At mount Sinai. They have’t been given the law yet. So how should we think about this. We could say this is the law in general. Like general rules. This could refer back to Exodus 15:25 in the preceding chapter where it says,
Exodus 15:25 ESV
25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them,
So this could be instruction before being given the Law.
Sarna in his commentary on the Torah writes this.

Exodus 15:25 leads us to assume a tradition about laws given before the Sinaitic revelation.

So that’s a fairly easy things to work though. But what about what comes next?


In verse 22-30 we have reference to the Sabbath. But again. When was the Sabbath instituted? Was it just part of their thinking? But how would they know about the Sabbath if it hadn’t been told to them yet?
But it’s in Genesis! Right. But Genesis hadn’t been written yet. So here there is reference to the Sabbath BEFORE anyone even knows what it is.
There are only two times that this word is used prior to the giving of the Law in Exodus 20. Once is here in Exodus 16:23. The other is Genesis 2:2-3. Where God’s rests during creation. But this is the first use of it as a noun in Exodus 16:23. Shabbat in the entire Torah. As we read through this. It looks like they should’ve know what this is. But how would they?
So what are some of the options for the way we could look at this?
You could argue that Moses didn’t write this. You could argue that Moses wrote it later in his life and added the stiff about the Law and the Sabbath in at that time. This may sound plausible. But then you have to ask what did he say at the time it actually happened. Then you have the added issue of him adding details that weren’t actually true at the time they really happened. So this approach becomes problematic.
We cannot say they should’ve know from Genesis. Because again they do not have it yet.
Now you could say that Moses and God had a conversation. God told Moses to do it. And he complied. But we have no evidence for that conversation.
We could say oral tradition. But that again is an argument from silence.
From my own perspective. I think God told Moses to do this. Maybe Moses not knowing why. The Why comes later. As a test. The Bible pretty much tells us that God wanted to see if they would follow. God of course knowing. But for Moses benefit of seeing the people follow. The instruction in keeping the Sabbath as a sort of precouror to the form instuctions gioven later in the giving of the Law at mount Siani in Expodus 20.
But the point here is that we don’t know. But just because we cannot know exactly it is no excuse not to reason our way through the text. And most of us have just breezed roight over this,. But the next thing requires even more thought .


So lets read verse 33-34 again.
Exodus 16:33–34 ESV
33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept.
There are two phrases that occur here that are of speacial interst to us.

“before the Lord” and “ before the testimony”

It is common knowldge umong scholars that “the testimony refers to the Ark of the covenant. Do you see the problem? The Ark hasn’t been built yet. You cannot say well it just means before the Lord. Beacus ethey didn’t have a tabernacle yet eaither.
Sarna writes again.

The appendix stems from a time later than the events just narrated. It presupposes the erection of the Tabernacle, the appointment of a priesthood, the termination of the fall of manna…

Durham in the Word Biblical Commentry writes this...

These references are set here however for an important theological purpose which overrides considerations of logical and chronological sequence. Yahweh has proved his Presence in his provision for a complaining and disobedient people. That proof, miraculously wrought, must be made plain to the descendants of Israel who have yet to face the struggle of belief. They should share the story of their fathers and also the important evidences of their faith. Thus is the manna to be kept, one omer of it, one day’s supply for one person. It is to be put into a jar and located in a spot before an object anyone reading this passage would know full well. The redactor who made the compilation of Exod 16 was aware of this and was more interested in the proof and its transmission to the generations than in preserving a chronological and consistent sequence.

What Durham is saying is, whoever is responsible for the final form of Exodus 16 wants his readers (living centuries later than these events) to mentally connect this jar with the presence of God who preserved their people during the wilderness period. So he does that by associating the jar with the place where the presence of the Lord dwelled (which is the ark of the covenant). So it’s a device designed to teach them a theological point. It may or may not actually correspond to an event in real time at the manna episode.
So what he is saying is that this is an editorial decision. Designed to connect two this together in different times that belong together. Two things taht were to be associated with each other to provide evidence of their existence literarily.
So as we look at these things. Are we going to cry foul and say it was an error. This is a literary technique. A means of communication. But this isn;’t they way modern people document history. Well good for us! We have video and audio recording devices. They did not!
So why bring this type of thing up? For one so that when a professor in college (or other non believer) try to tell you that Scripture is full of errors. Then you will not be fooled.
The next is about how we a Christians view inspiration. If we think of it only as an event. These types of things that are in the text will bother you. But if we learn to see the bible for what it is. And see inspiration as a process that has many hands. The types of things we have discussed are more easily resolved and harmonized.
We need to learn to think better about the text.
Lastly, for those who teach or are in leadership and pastoral positions. We owe it to the people under our charge to do some studying , gather good resource material and to think well about the text. If we don’t. Where are they going to get their theology? Youtube?…Goggle? Who knows what they are going to find there.
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