“We’re never going to get there, anyway.” Amminadab spit on the ground and looked Ahiezer in the eye. “I wander around for forty years, or go where I want to go. I’m my own man, and I’ll do what I like.”
Ten-year-old Eliab looked at the two men, squatting by the tents. He waited for his father to answer.
“We’ve kept safe and healthy so far,” Ahiezer said firmly. “I think as long as we listen to Moses, we’ll do alright.”
“Ach!” Amminadab spit again. “You listen to Moses, you die in the desert! He said so! None of us in this generation will see the Promised Land. Why die? Come with me and my family. There is a small group of us going back to Egypt. At least there we had a house and a garden. We ate the leeks and garlic, the figs and the pomegranates – we could live off the fat of that land, instead of this manna every day.”
Ahiezer rocked on his heels. “I hear of other men gathering a group to try to go into the land beyond Jordan, to try again, on their own, to go in and settle there. They want the Promised Land on their own terms.”
Amminadab waved him off. “No. We tried that when we were there the first time. Yah set it up so that they died trying. He would do that again.”
“So,” Ahiezer stroked his chin. “You believe some of Yah’s promises, but not all of them?”
“Oh, bah! I’ll do what I want, you do what you want. I only thought I’d give you a chance at a better life. You want it, you take it. You don’t want it, you stay here. It is nothing to me.” Amminadab struggled to his feet, straightened his robe, and walked away.
Ahiezer looked at his son. “So, Eliab, what do you think of all this?”
Eliab went to squat in Amminadab’s place. “Will I get to see the Promised Land, Abba?”
“You will. It was my generation who were the unbelievers. I don’t know why we were so stiff-necked.” Ahiezer shook his head. “You were only three when we left Egypt. You were too little to remember the hard life we had, the struggles, the terrifying miracles Yah worked to set us free.”
Eliab traced the scars along his father’s arm. “But I am old enough now to remember the stories of how you got these scars, and the ones on your back. And I remember the stories of the locusts, the boils, the darkness, and the death.”
Ahiezer laid his hand on top of Eliab’s head. “And how we put the lamb’s blood on our doorstops, and the Angel of Death passed over us. We did not lose you, my son, my firstborn.”
Eliab jumped up. “And the Red Sea! We walked through the Red Sea on dry ground, and LORD God Almighty swallowed up Pharaoh and his army dead.” He swished his arm so hard, he twirled around.
Ahiezer smiled. “Yes, you know. You must remember. When you grow up, you must tell your children and your grandchildren all of this.”
Eliab wandered over to his home, their tent. His mother was inside, as always, cleaning or preparing food, watching the younger ones, or putting things away. He greeted her. “Hello, my em. Is it almost eating time? I’m hungry.”
“You are always hungry. You are growing so fast!” Em smiled and handed him a robe. Here, it is your sister’s. Please put it away for me.”
Eliab brought the robe to another, far corner of the tent and lifted some things. He jumped back. What was this little golden thing? He picked it up. It was in the shape of a bull, very finely made. Eliab knew right away that this was an idol, forbidden by Elohim. Why had his mother kept it here? Where did it come from? Had her friend made it? Was it one of the golden baubles the Egyptian women had pushed at the Israelites as they fled? Again, why would his mother have such a blasphemous thing in their home?
He put the object back just as he found it, and covered it, just as it was. Did Abba know about this? Should he say anything?
* * * * *
Eliab stood straight and tall, shoulder-to-shoulder with his kin and his Israelite brothers, before Moses. The forty years of wilderness, training, chastening, and sharpening had passed; and it was time to enter the Promised Land.
Moses was old now, and ready to give his final admonitions to his beloved people. He would soon go home to sleep with his fathers and be with his cherished Jehovah. Eliab knew Joshua would be their new leader, and that he was faithful and true. But Moses loved them with his whole being, and had led them through so much. He had always been there for them all. It was time for everything to change.
Eliab looked around him, at the sea of men. Far behind him, he spotted his wife, Milcah, with their three little ones among the other women and children. Ahead of him, rows and rows of men, and Moses before them. They were more in number than ever, even though the older generation had all died.
Some had died in the desert, refusing the simple act of healing by only looking upon the fiery bronze snake that Moses made. God had sent those snakes when everyone spoke against Him and complained against the manna. Eliab himself had been bitten; he went immediately to look upon the fiery bronze snake that God commanded Moses to make, for healing. Eliab was saved by looking upon it; the pain and sickness left him immediately – it was a miracle! Then he remembered his own Em, so sick from the bite. Eliab had begged her to look upon the fiery bronze snake and be healed, as he had, just as God had promised: so many had already been healed! But, after Abba died, Em had clutched even more tightly to her little golden calf. Sick and dying, she had whispered to it. Of course, it could not save her.
Some had died in battle. Eliab dropped his head in shame as he remembered how the Moabite women had seduced the men of Israel, how they had bowed down to their gods; many had died then.
He thought of Amminadab, so many years ago, and wondered whatever happened to him and the others who had gone off to seek their own futures. Eliab looked up. He was glad he’d stayed with his people. This was where Yah had put him, and He had great plans for His people. Moses said so.
He and his brothers-in-arms, tens of thousands of them, had been in training since their youth. They were armed, they knew how to use their weapons, they were strong and virile, and they were with Jehovah, under His protection and guidance. They were trained not only in fighting, but also in The Law. They knew how to trust their El Shaddai. Had not his own brother been captured by the Canaanites; and had not all the Israelites vowed a vow unto the LORD? The LORD God had delivered up the Canaanites, and the Israelites utterly destroyed them and their cities at Hormah; they rescued their fellow Israelites.
Eliab and his brothers fought against Sihon king of the Amorites, taking all the cities from Arnon unto Jabbok. Eliab was there, sword in hand, with his people, to the battle at Edrei, against Og, king of Bashan. Moses heard from God, Himself, “Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.” El Shaddai fought for them. And they smote them, and all those people until there was none left alive, and they possessed his land.
Yah’s chosen people had made great spoil in the many battles, especially the battle against the Midianites. They would enter the Promised Land a rich nation; Yah Yireh (The LORD will Provide) had been very good to them.
Eliab turned away from his thoughts as he noticed the crowd silencing. Moses was going to speak. Eliab quieted his mind, and prayed Elohim Shama (God Who Hears) to give him ears to hear.
Moses began: “The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates. Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.”
Eliab well remembered the stories of this journey, told around many a meal, told by the elders, told by his own abba, most of which he had experienced, himself. He remembered shaking in his sandals at the sight of Moses, shining so bright he could not be looked upon. Even his Abba and his Em shook with him at the fire on the mount at Horeb.
Moses continued: “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”
“El Shaddai!” Eliab almost physically fell to his knees with his thoughts. “Look what You have done for us! Look Who You are to us! You are our Wisdom; You are our Understanding! You have set us high above all other nations! Blessed be Your Most High name!”
And Moses continued with these words: “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.”
Eliab’s knees gave out at that, and he fell on his face. “and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image!” The men around him helped him up and gave him water, thinking he was faint.
Moses spoke a few more words, and dismissed the people for that day. Eliab made haste to his tent, to his satchel of few belongings. There. He felt it. Em’s little golden calf. He had kept it as a memento of her, a small treasure to remember her. How foolish! Of course it had not saved her, and now he had in his hands a forbidden thing, forbidden by the LORD God Most High, a jealous God.
Eliab quickly stoked the fire, made it hot, and threw the golden calf into it. He watched as it melted, then turned to ash. He threw himself down with his face to the ground, as he had seen Moses and Aaron do so often. His family returned home and he stood. They all stared into the fire with him. His questioning eyes met those of his wife. Did she know? She smiled through her tears and nodded. Their hands met and squeezed.
Eliab scooped the ashes out of the fire and put them in a small gourd. Milcah poured in some water, and his children watched, mouths agape, as he drank the ashes.
“Eeew!” they cried. “Why do you drink that?” “What are you doing, Abba?” “Abba, no!”
As they sat together over their meal, Eliab told the story again of Moses on the mountain, of Aaron and the people and the golden calf. Of Moses and the Ten Commandments. His three little ones could recite the story, and all the commandments, and they spoke them together.
“My children,” Eliab explained, “we must always, in all our little ways, obey the LORD God Almighty. My mother treasured her little golden calf, and she died with it. I do not wish for us to die with it, as well. We will live! As Moses said today, God will bless us and give us long lives as we obey Him. I want a long life with you, and with my grandchildren.
“And now, I must find a lamb unspotted and perfect.” He called his eldest son to accompany him to the sacrifice. “We go forward with a clear conscience.”
The next day, Moses took up to continue. “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?”
Eliab was glad his wife and children were there, listening. Moses’ words would mean more to them after last night.
As Moses recited the Ten Commandments, the voices of the thousands grew to a roar as they joined him. Eliab turned to look at his family. They were all but shouting the words in their joy. “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth... …Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
The masses continued through all the LORD’s commandments. And then spoke Moses these words: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Moses paused. The elders took up the chant first, and as more and more of the Israelites joined in, the very ground shook with their voices raised to Heaven: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!!!”
Then Moses continued, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
“Yes, El Shaddai, yes! We will do all You command us!” Eliab felt the tears streaming down his face.
Moses spoke of entering the Promised Land: “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”
Eliab thought of his own sons. They were young yet. Would they have conquered the Hittites and Canaanites and all Yah’s enemies, before his boys would be of age to fight? Would his children live in peace, or would they, too, have to fight against the enemy? He wanted his little ones to grow up and live in all the promises Yah had given them. He would teach them, as Moses commanded, to obey the LORD in all things, to not turn aside from Him in any matter. To make sure who they married, within the tribes of Israel. Then they would reap all Yah’s blessings.
Then he thought of the generation before him. They had sent the spies into the promised land, and they came back scared. There were giants in the land. What if, when Eliab went in with all his host, they came against the giants?
But then Moses. But then God: “If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.”
Eliab was immensely comforted. Yah had seen them through everything. Had brought them through everything. As long as they trusted in Him, they had peace: if not peace with their enemies at least peace in their hearts because they knew He was with them, that He took exquisite care of them.
The people stood before Moses for a number of days, listening to his last words. Eliab wanted to commit every word to memory. He was grateful for the scribes and the Levites, who were given the responsibilities to record and keep all the laws.
Then Moses came to the blessings and curses. Eliab was overwhelmed with the many blessings Yah promised His people. He was so giving! So protective! But then Moses had a long discourse on the curses. Moses even told his people that they would receive these curses because he knew they would turn away from their God.
“Oh,” Eliab’s heart cried, “Adonai forbid! Do not let us ever turn away from You! Bind our hearts to You, that we may not want to go anywhere else. You are so good to us; may we ever want Your goodness.”
Eliab lay on his mat that night, eyes wide open, next to his wife. They were ready to go into the Promised Land. Joshua was their leader now; but it was Yahweh Nissi Who held them in the palm of His hand.
* * * * *
Yah (respectful abbreviation of Yahweh) (The LORD) Genesis 2.4
El Shaddai (God Almighty) Genesis 17.1
Yah Yireh (The Lord will Provide) Genesis 22.13, 14
Elohim Shama (God Who Hears) Exodus 2.24
Qedosh Yisrael: (The Holy One of Israel) Leviticus 19.1
Adonai (Lord) Deut 6.4
Yahweh Nissi (The LORD My Banner) Exodus 17.15-16