The Beginning of Months
When the 215-year sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt had come to end in 2454, YHVH commissioned Mosheh at Mount Moriah to return to Egypt and lead the people to the Promised Land, because He remembered the Covenant with Avraham, Yitshaq, and Ya’akov. As Mosheh returned to Egypt, he and Aharon went in and said to Pharaoh, Thus said Yehovah Elohim of Israel, ‘Let My people go, so that they keep a festival to Me in the wilderness.’ (Exo_5:1-10). On that day, we are told, Mosheh was eighty years old and Aharon eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh (Exo_7:7). Later on in this study, we will see that Mosheh died on his 120th birthday, that is the first of the twelfth month, having lived 120 years (Deu_34:7), therefore that day, when he first met Pharaoh, was his 80th birthday in year 2453. Let us put in chronological order the events which took place from that moment he met Pharaoh on:
Day 1 of the 12th month of 2453: Mosheh and Aharon spoke to Pharaoh to let the people go three days’ journey into the wilderness and keep a festival to YHVH. Pharaoh refused and even increased the hard labor (Exo_5:1-10).
Day 2 to Day 7. The Israelites were trying hard to fulfill their tasks but failed. They cried before Mosheh because of the unbearable hardship (Exo_5:11-23).
Day 8. After YHVH reiterated the Covenant with the forefathers (Exo_6:1-8), He spoke to Mosheh to meet Pharaoh for a second time to let the people go (Exo_7:10-13). The good news is the “gospel of Exodus” that Mosheh is called to proclaim to the children of Israel in Exo 6:6-8. At the heart of this gospel are seven unconditional promises to the children of Israel:
Deliverance from the bondage in Egypt
1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exo_6:6)
2. I will deliver you from their bondage. (Exo_6:6)
The means of this deliverance
3. I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. (Exo_6:6)
4. I will take you to Me for My people. (Exo_6:7)
5. I will be Your Elohim. (Exo_6:7)
Deliverance into the land
6. I will bring you into the land sworn to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov. (Exo_6:8)
7. I will give it to you for an inheritance. (Exo_6:8).
However, a price shall surely be paid for their redemption. In this instance, the redemption price for an entire people will be another people: Egypt, Isa_43:3,
For I am Yehovah your Elohim, the Distinguished One of Israel your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Kush and Sebin your place.
Day 9. Mosheh and Aharon went to Pharaoh who was at the river bank and after he refused to heed the words of the Almighty, they released the first plague on the land of Egypt. First plague, blood, as it is written: And Mosheh and Aharon did so, as Yehovah commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood (Exo_7:20) … for seven full days (Exo_7:25).
Day 16 and Day 17. Second plague, frogs, as it is written: And Aharon stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt … for two days (Exo_8:6-10).
Day 18. Third plague, gnats, as it is written: And they did so; for Aharon stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became gnats in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt (Exo_8:17).
Day 19 and Day 20. Fourth plague, swarms, as it is written: And Yehovah did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies (Exo_8:24-29).
Day 21. Fifth plague, pestilence, as it is written: And Yehovah did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one (Exo_9:6-7).
Day 22 and Day 23. Sixth plague, boils, as it is written: And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Mosheh sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast (Exo_9:10-16).
Day 24. Seventh plague, hail and fire, as it is written: And Mosheh stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and Yehovah sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and Yehovah rained hail upon the land of Egypt (Exo_9:23-26). And the flax and the barley were smitten, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not smitten, for they were late crops. (Exo_9:31-32)
Day 25. YHVH spoke to Mosheh to bring locust on Egypt (Exo_10:1-4). The east wind was blowing on the land all that day and all that night and brought the locusts (Exo_10:13).
Day 26. Eighth plague, locusts, as it is written: And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and settled within all the borders of Egypt, very grievous. There had never been locusts like them before, nor would there again be like them. (Exo_10:14)
Day 27 to Day 29. Ninth plague, darkness, as it is written: And Mosheh stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, while all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. (Exo_10:22-23)
What did exactly happen during those three days of darkness in Egypt? Commonly, these two verses have been understood to mean that during those three days of darkness the Egyptians were punished but the Israelites were spared. However, is this what the text says? No. We are not told that Egypt was punished and the Israelites were spared, but that text simply says that there was darkness in the land of Egypt and light in the Israelites’ dwellings.
Although we are given no direct account in the Torah of the life of the Israelites in Egypt from the death of Yoseph until the beginning of the slavery, we can make some deductive reasoning.
From the revelation of Elohim which He gave to Ezekiel the prophet in the seventh year of his exile in Babylon (Eze_20:1), nine hundred years from the day He chose them in Egypt, we understand that the Israelites defiled themselves with the abominations and the idols of Egypt although YHVH had sworn before their father Ya’akov and to his seed and made Himself known to them in the land of Egypt to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey. But they rebelled against Him, and did not obey Him. So the Mighty One resolved to pour out His wrath on them to complete His displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt, as we read in Eze 20:5-8.
Therefore, we see that Israel was rebellious and disobedient over those years in Egypt and wrath was poured over them happened as a result of that.
Thus said the Master Yehovah, ‘On the day when I chose Israel and lifted My hand in an oath to the seed of the house of Ya’akov and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I lifted My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ On that day I lifted My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, flowing with milk and honey, the splendor of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Each one of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt! I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ But they rebelled against Me, and would not obey Me. All of them did not throw away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them to complete My displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. (Eze 20:5-8)
Read also Jos_24:14 and Eze_20:33-36. According to Rashi’s comments on Eze 20:8, those three days of darkness in the land of Egypt were days of wrath of Elohim to complete His displeasure against the rebellious Israelites:
They are the wicked, the majority of Israel, who died in the three days of darkness, as it is said (Exod. 13:18): “and the children of Israel went out of Egypt, (חֲמֻשִּׁים) ” one out of fifty, and some say, one out of five hundred.
Whether the children of Israel had been decimated in such proportions, we do not know, however, one thing is sure: a wrath of some measure had been poured out on them because of the abominations they had done in Egypt. But, what abominations had they possibly done in Egypt? We again may raise the question as to why the children of Israel stayed so long in the land of Egypt. The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives his comment on Gen 47:27 which says:
The Hebrew word vayei’achazu (“and they took possession of it”) literally means “and they took hold of it,” but also translates, “and they were held by it.” Both interpretations are cited by our sages: Rashi translates vayei’achazu as related to the word achuzah, “land holding” and “homestead”; the Midrash interprets it to imply that, “The land held them and grasped them… like a man who is forcefully held.”
So, according to the sages, the land of Egypt enslaved the Israelites and since a land could not have possibly enslaved anyone, this could only mean that they had chosen to stay comfortably in exile. And indeed they did. The Rebbe further expounds:
This duality defines the Jew’s attitude toward galut (exile). On the one hand, we know that no matter how hospitable our host-country may be, and no matter how we may flourish, materially and spiritually, on foreign soil, galut is a prison in that it dims our spiritual vision, hinders our national mission and compromises our connection with G-d. For only as a nation dwelling on our land with the Holy Temple as the Divine abode in our midst can we perceive the Divine presence in the world, fully realize our role as “a light unto the nations,” and fully implement all the mitzvot of the Torah-the lifeblood of our relationship with G-d.
But we also know that we are in galut for a purpose. We know that we have been dispersed throughout the world in order to reach and influence the whole of humanity. We know that it is only through the wanderings and tribulations of galut that we access and redeem the “sparks of holiness”, the pinpoints of Divine potential which lie scattered in the most forsaken corners of the globe.
So Galut is an achuzah in both senses of the word: a “holding” to develop and a “holding pen” we must perpetually seek to escape. Indeed, it can only be the one if it is also the other. If we relate to galut solely as a prison, we will fail to properly utilize the tremendous opportunities it holds. But if we grow comfortable in this alien environment, we risk becoming part of it; and if we become part of the galut reality, G-d forbid, we could no more succeed in our efforts to develop and elevate it than the person who tries to lift himself up by pulling upwards on the hairs atop his own head.
In the Passover Haggadah we say: “If G-d had not taken our forefathers out of Egypt, we, our children, and our children’s children, would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt…” Our sages explain that the Children of Israel had become so entrenched in the paganism and depravity of Egypt, that the Exodus came at the very last possible moment, as they approached the very brink of total indistinguishability from the Egyptians. Had they remained slaves in Egypt a moment longer, there would have been no “Children of Israel” to redeem. (Rebbe’s Haggadah)
The opinion of the present author is that those three days of darkness in the land of Egypt were days of wrath of Elohim to complete His displeasure against the rebellious Israelites, because they felt comfortable in the foreign land and began to assimilate in the pagan Egyptian culture. That was an abomination to YHVH Elohim and his displeasure burned against them. The darkness in the land of Egypt was not for a punishment for the Egyptians but its purpose was to blind them so they could not see the wrath of Elohim that came upon the Israelites.
Having said that, now we come to the understanding as to why the Covenant between YHVH and Avraham, in which YHVH made the unconditional promise to give him the land as a gift, was Royal Grant Treaty, but the Covenant between YHVH and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, on the other hand, is the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty in which Israel has the full responsibility by having taken the oath to stay in the conditional Covenant. If they were obedient to YHVH as their fathers Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov, there would have been no need for a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty. As Avraham’s Royal Grant Treaty was renewed with Yitzhak and Ya’akov, so had it to be renewed with their descendants, the children of Israel. But because of their rebellion, a conditional covenant was to be made: that of between a suzerain and a vassal. In it Israel still has the right of the land and to be called the chosen people, yet they lost their status of a privileged people in the Royal Grant Treaty. Let us remember that the Covenant between YHVH and Avraham was made with him and his seed (Gen_15:18) and if that covenant was unconditional, there would have been no reason to change the type of the covenant unless the seed, Israel, had broken the covenant. Because obedience was required from Israel to stay in the Royal Grant Treaty, which they lacked, they were brought under the conditional covenant: the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty.
It is very plausible that some time after the death of Yoseph YHVH Elohim called them to get out of Egypt, but as He says, they rebelled against Me, and would not obey Me. Therefore, the sojourning of the Hebrews in Egypt most likely was not meant to be 215 years, but much shorter. As Rebbe states “Had they remained slaves in Egypt a moment longer, there would have been no Children of Israel to redeem“. This can only mean that Israel was not meant to reside so long in Egypt. How long we do not know, but as the time approached, YHVH called Mosheh to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt once and for all with which we come to Day 30.
Day 30. After the wrath of Elohim, Mosheh announced before those people who were left to get prepared for the tenth plague: the death of the first born of Egypt (Exo_11:1-8). Elohim could not have punished the wicked Egyptians without first having poured His wrath on His own people to purge the abominations among them.
FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR
Day 1 of the first month of year 2454. The beginning of the months was given to the Israelites; the Law of Passover and the Unleavened breads. (Exo_12:2) He [God] showed him [Moses] the moon in its renewal and said to him, “When the moon renews itself, you will have a new month” (Mechilta). (Shab. 63a). This month (lit., this renewal) was first called by the Creator “the month of the Aviv” in Exo_13:4. Aviv is not a proper name for the first month, as Shabbat is not a proper name for the seventh day of the week, but a stage in the development of the barley crops when it is ripe.
Insert: There are three Biblical months found in the Scripture with strange names attached to them: (1) Ethanim, brooks, plural of ethan from an unused root meaning to continue, permanence, permanent. Ethanim is always used with the article the, or hence the permanent brooks, (2) Bul meaning “increase, produce” is used for the eighth month, corresponding to modern Nov/Dec (1Ki 6:38), (3) and Ziv, the second month of the year, corresponding to April-May found in 1Ki 6:1 and 1Ki 6:37. The word Ziv means bloom. It is called Ziv because in that month there is the bloom of the trees. And Targum Jonathan translated this similarly the bloom of the buds. Ethanim, Bul, and Ziv are not mentioned anywhere in the Torah, so these are not the Torah month names. They only appear four times and only in the the Book of Kings. All four references to these month names are in the account of Solomon’s relation with the Phoenicians and their assistance with the construction of the Temple (1Ki 6:1, 1Ki 6:37-38, 1Ki 8:2). Most likely, these words are foreign month names, possibly of Phoenician origin. In fact, in three of the four instances in which they appear, the Biblical text translates them into Torah month names with the formula: “in the month [Foreign name], which is the [Torah name] month.” That these are Phoenician month names is confirmed by the fact that the name Yerah Bul (Month of Bul) has been found in Phoenician inscriptions. Although the names Ziv and Ethanim have not been preserved in Phoenician inscriptions, from the Biblical text it is clear that all three names are part of the same calendar system and if we know that Bul is a Phoenician words it is likely that Ziv and Ethanim also are.
However, there is another possibility that these words might not have been of pagan origin and their finding in the Phoenician inscriptions can be explained with the fact that Phoenician and Hebrew languages are closely related. If so, then we can clearly see the seventh month, corresponding to modern Oct/Nov called Ethanim is called so because the permanent streams in Israel still flowed in that season of the year. Such relations can be found for the other two months. It is interesting to notice that these names cannot be found in the parallel accounts in 2Ch 5:3-7, for instance. Nor can they be found in the writings of Flavius Josephus, who, if they were in circulation at that time, would have mentioned them. His account of the same event in 1Ki 8 is recorded in Antiquities, Book 8, Ch 4:1, but Ethanim is not used. Also, it is worth mentioning that 1&2 Kings and their parallels 1&2 Chronicles are post-exilic writings of the history of Israel in pre-exilic period. It is very plausible that the writers having already adopted the pagan practice to name their months, have applied this practice to the Biblical months, as well. It is a fact that after Yehudah’s return from Babylon, the Jews brought not only foreign wives and the square Aramaic script, but also the months in the Jewish calendar named after the Babylonian deities. For instance, in the Hebrew Scriptures written during or after the Babylonian exile, five months appear with Babylonian names. Nisan was a name for Month 1 (Neh_2:1, Est_3:7). Sivan was a name for Month 3 (Est_8:9). Elul was a name for Month 6 (Neh_6:15). Kislev was a name for Month 9 (Neh_1:1-2, Zec_7:1-3). Adar was a name for Month 12 (Ezr_6:15, Est_3:7, 3:13, 8:11-12, 9:1, 9:15, 9:17, 9:19, 9:20-22). The name of the pagan deity Tammuz used for Month 4 is mentioned once in Eze_8:14.
The opinion of the present author is that the time between Day 1 and Day 9 of the first month of the year was used for circumcising and healing of the Israelites before the Passover had even begun. What would be the fact or assertion offered as evidence that this statement is true? The Book of Joshua Chapter 5 deals with Israel crossing the Yarden River and entering the Promised Land on the tenth of the first month (Jos_4:19) after which they were circumcised because they had been wandering in the desert and had not done so: Jos_5:1-12. In this passage of Joshua 5 there is a clue given which made the present author make this hypothesis. It states,
At that time Yehovah said to Yehoshua, “Make knives of flint for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” (Jos 5:2)
If the sons of Israel had to be circumcised again the second time, as Yehoshua was instructed, when was the first time and why? The answer is in the Law of Passover. The Law of Passover in Exo_12:43-49 clearly states that no uncircumcised (native and non-native alike) eat of the Passover lamb and Exo_12:50 further states that all Israelites did as YHVH commanded. If Jos_5:1-12 indicates that the new generation of Israelites were not circumcised during the thirty-eight years in the wilderness and the sons of Israel were circumcised again a second time, apparently, the first time was before the first Passover in Egypt, since one cannot be possibly circumcised twice. The reason being was that, as we studied in the previous chapter, the Israelites in Egypt had gone in idolatry and had not performed circumcision, after the generation of the twelve brothers which came down to Egypt died. Also, we may recall the story of the Mosheh’s encounter with YHVH on Mount Sinai. Mosheh asked the Creator what was His Name which can only mean that he did not know it. And if Mosheh did not know it, the Israelites in Egypt would not have possibly know it either. Therefore, some time after the generation that came down to Egypt died, the Israelites lost any connection with the Creator to the extend to lost His Name, the Name which Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov knew. From all these accounts we may say that they lived in idolatry in Egypt and not circumcising their children was part of their sin against YHVH.
And if the circumcision of the Israelites before the first Passover was a must, we can now better understand the peculiar passage in Exo 4:22-26,
And you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus said Yehovah, “Israel is My son, My first-born, so I say to you, let My son go to serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, see, I am killing your son, your first-born.” And it came to be on the way, in the lodging place, that Yehovah met him and sought to kill him. And Tsipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and threw it at Mosheh’s feet, and said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me!” So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.”
YHVH sought to kill whom? There are three possible cases of whom YHVH sought to kill. Some suggest that it was Mosheh. Others state that it is Mosheh’s newly born yet unnamed son Eliezer (Exo_18:4), while others state that it was Mosheh’s firstborn Gershon (Exo_2:21-22). The present author is in the opinion that it was Gershon whom YHVH sought to kill.
Until that moment, we are told that Mosheh had taken his sons and his wife and was on his way to Egypt (Exo_4:20), but we are not told when or where Eliezer was born. The context of the above passage is Israel as a firstborn of YHVH and the message to Pharaoh to let Israel go out of Egypt to serve YHVH and if he refuses to do so Pharaoh’s first born is to be killed. Therefore, we may notice here the redemption of the firstborn justice: whatever Pharaoh would do to the firstborn of YHVH, YHVH will do to the firstborn of Pharaoh. And a price should be paid for their redemption later. In this instance, the ransom price for an entire people will be another people: the Egyptians (Isa_43:3). Tsipporah being a descendant of Avraham through Midian, the son of Keturah, understood that the Hebrews were the covenant people through Yitshaq. At this point one thing is clear: Gershon and possibly the newly born Eliezer had not be yet circumcised.
When Mosheh returned to Egypt after forty years, he was eighty years old. Therefore, it is possible that he married Tsipporah upon his arrival in Midian at the age of forty and some time after this his son, Gershon was born. It seems unlikely that Mosheh had gotten married just before his departure from Midian and Gershon had been just born. If this is correct, Gershon must have been no older than forty years old at the time of his circumcision by his mother, but that would be very unlikely. The opinion of this author is that Gershon could have been just a boy and Tsipporah was pregnant with Eliezer, rather than Gershon was forty years old. Since Torah says nothing about the age of Gershon, the latter supposition has no more merits than the former and therefore it may have no significance in this story.
The lesson of this peculiar story is that if YHVH was to slay the first born of Pharaoh as a redemption of the firstborn of Israel, the first born of Mosheh must have been made right before YHVH. Mosheh could not have possibly command the Hebrews to circumcise and perform the Passover, if his own sons had not been circumcised in the first place. Tsipporah understood the cause for the threat that her son(s) had not been circumcised and acted immediately to make it right.
Also, Tsipporah in her strong rebuke called Mosheh a bridegroom of blood. As a Midianite she would have spoken the language used by the descendants of Avraham through Ishmael. The Hebrew word for bridegroom is chatan and can mean a relative by marriage (especially through the bride) and figuratively a circumcised child as a species of religious espousal (Strong Dictionary). In Arabic, Aramaic, and Akkadian which are close languages to Hebrew, however, the word means to circumcise or to protect according to Nahum M. Sarna in The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, Pg. 26:
However, it can hardly be coincidental that in Arabic the stem h-t-n denotes “to circumcise” as well as “protect.” The latter is also its meaning in Akkadian. Hence, the enigmatic phrase could convey, “You are now circumcised [and so] protected for me by means of the blood—the blood of circumcision.” Curiously, p-sh, the Hebrew stem behind the word Passover, can also mean “to protect.”
Therefore, what Tsipporah could have said in her own native language and perfectly understood by her husband when she threw the foreskin at Mosheh’s feet was this: “You are a circumcised child of blood, because of the circumcision” thus speaking to her son Gershon, rather than to her husband Mosheh. It would be odd for her to call her husband a bridegroom, would it not? It is very probable that Tsipporah circumcised Gershon, the firstborn, in hopes of protecting him from the wrath of YHVH against the uncircumcised firstborn children of Egypt. Thus, Gershon became a child of the covenant people of YHVH.
After this incident, the pregnant Tsipporah and her newly circumcised son returned to Midian, while Mosheh and Aharon went to Egypt (Exo_4:27). Torah never mentions Tsipporah and her children being in Egypt. To the contrary, Mosheh returned to Midian after the Red Sea crossing, and Yithro, his father-in-law with Tsipporah and her sons met Mosheh and the Hebrews (Exo_18:1-4). For more on the redemption of the firstborn read Redemption Plan of YHVH in Part I.
Day 10 to Day 14. On the tenth day of this month each one of them is to take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household … And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month … And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. (Exo_12:3-7)
That day, the tenth of the month, happened to be Sabbath when they were tested (see the chart below, also Tosafot to Talmud, Shabbat 87b). On the fourteenth they slaughtered the lambs and put the blood of the lambs on the door posts.
Day 15. Tenth plague, the death of the first-born, as it is written: And it came to pass, that at midnight Yehovah smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Mosheh and Aharon by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both you and the children of Israel; and go, serve Yehovah, as you have said. (Exo_12:29-32).
As the fifteenth day began with the setting of the sun, the lamb and unleavened breads were eaten in haste (Exo_12:8-11); at midnight the firstborn of Egypt were slaughtered (Exo_12:29). While yet dark, Pharaoh commanded the children of Israel to leave Egypt: Exo_12:31-39. That was the first day of the Unleavened Breads (Exo_12:17), which the Torah states is to be celebrated on the fifteenth day of the month of the Aviv (barley): Lev_23:5-6. The children of Israel left Egypt on the fifteenth day of the month, on the morrow (Num_33:3), four hundred and thirty years after Avraham came into Kana’an and two hundred and fifteen years after Ya’akov went down to Egypt. It was also the eightieth year of Mosheh and the eighty-third of Aharon (see Jubilees Table). The children of Israel came from Rameses to Succoth (Num_33:5) on the first day of their exodus where they carried out the bones of Yoseph and his brothers with them, as he had charged them so (Exo_13:19).
Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, generally known by the name of his work, “Chatam Sofer,” explains why a lamb or a goat were chosen for the Passover slaughter. He points out that both the Lamb and the Kid are constellations of the zodiac. We know them as Aries and Capricorn, but their names in Hebrew are taleh and gedi—the lamb and the kid.
There are twelve constellations, envisioned as a ring circling the earth every 24 hours, with a slight lag. Due to this lag, each month the sun travels across the sky in another constellation of the zodiac. In Hebrew, these constellations are called mazalot. Here is how they line up:
Hebrew English Month Latin
1 Taleh Lamb Nissan Aries
2 Shor Bull Iyar Taurus
3 Te’omim Twins Sivan Gemini
4 Sartan Crab Tammuz Cancer
5 Aryeh Lion Av Leo
6 Betulah Virgin Elul Virgo
7 Moznaim Scales Tishrei Libra
8 Akrav Scorpion Cheshvan Scorpio
9 Keshet Bow Kislev Sagittarius
10 Gedi Kid Goat Tevet Capricorn
11 D’li Pail Shvat Aquarius
12 Dagim Fish Adar Pisces
During the month of the Aviv, the month in which Passover occurs, the sun travels within mazal taleh, that is Constellation Lamb. That means that the Constellation Lamb would be in the midst of rising over the horizon at dawn (6 AM). At 8 AM, Constellation Bull would be rising, and at 10 AM, it is time for Twins. By midnight, Kid Goat would be on the rise. When a constellation is on the rise, it is considered to be dominant.
The Exodus from Egypt was triggered by the plague of the firstborn Egyptians. This happened at midnight, as Kid Goat was rising. Pharaoh immediately ran to release the Jews, but they did not actually start to leave until the morning, as Lamb was rising, that is about 6 AM. At that time, according to Avot D’Rabbi Natan, the firstborn actually died of the plague from which they had been suffering all night: between the Goat and the Lamb. Therefore, Israel left Egypt on the morrow of the fifteenth day of the first month early in the morning. However, Deu_16:1 states that Elohim brought them out of Egypt by night. How could that be? Since during the night Pharaoh gave them permission to leave, as it is said, ‘Rise up, go out from among my people…’ (Exo_12:31), therefore, here it says by night because the permission to leave was given by night. — [Ber. 9a]
There is something intriguing that happened that night. Yoseph gave the Hebrews the land of Goshen when Ya’akov and his family came down to Egypt. Yoseph being second in command only after Pharaoh settled them in Goshen where they would live and feed their flocks but also it was Yoseph intent to keep them separate from the pagan Egyptians. Why then would the Omnipotent One have passed through the land of Egypt to protect the Hebrews, while He was smiting the Egyptians, if they had lived separately in Goshen (Exo_12:12-13)? He would have simply passed only through the land where the Egyptians lived to kill the first born, while the Hebrews would have been safe in Goshen.
The only explanation that can answer these questions is that the Israelites might have mingled themselves among the Egyptians sometime after the twelve sons of Ya’akov died and most likely started to assimilate into the pagan culture of Egypt, as we already studied. Probably, that was the reason why Elohim brought the slavery upon them: to stop the assimilation and bring them out of Egypt, because the persecution by the Egyptians was the only way to prevent further assimilation. At any rate, the mingling of the Israelites into the paganism and the disobedience to the command to circumcise their children brought the wrath of YHVH and the slavery upon them as seen in Jos_24:14, Eze_20:5-9, and Eze_20:33-36.
On the day when I chose Israel and lifted My hand in an oath to the seed of the house of Ya’akov, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I lifted My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ On that day I lifted My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, flowing with milk and honey, the splendor of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Each one of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt! I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ But they rebelled against Me, and would not obey Me. All of them did not throw away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them to complete My displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. (Eze 20:5-8)
But, how large was Israel’s population at the time of the Exodus from Egypt? It is well established fact that they were seventy who went down to Egypt with Ya’akov, as it is written,
All the beings who went with Ya’akov to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Ya’akov’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six beings in all. And the sons of Yoseph who were born to him in Egypt were two beings. All the beings of the house of Ya’akov who went to Egypt were seventy*. (Gen 46:26-27)
*The Death Sea Scroll and Act_7:14 say seventy-five, while LXX agrees with the Masoretes: seventy.
These were all the offspring of Ya’akov besides his sons’ wives. If we take the most conservative approach and assume that each one of his sons had only one wife at that time and do not count the servants of Ya’akov, who later in Egypt would have intermarried and become part of Israel, then we would establish a good basis to estimate the number of Israelites at the time of the Exodus. An exponential equation will be used which allows for overlapping generations, and gives the minimum growth rate: P = 2e 0.046383 (91.6+y), where “e” (Euler’s number) is a mathematical constant equals 2.71828 and “y” is the number of years for a given period (numbers are approximate):
y = 0 (at the arrival of Ya’akov in Egypt): 140 people.
y = 17 (at the death of Ya’akov): 308 people.
y = 70 (at the death of Yoseph): 3,600 people.
y = 135 (at the birth of Mosheh): 73,400 people.
y = 175 (when Mosheh fled Egypt): 470,000 people.
y = 215 (at the Exodus): 3 million people.
Can this large number of people (three million or more) be supported from the Scripture? The rabbis believed that the four camps (see Num_2:9, Num_2:16, Num_2:24, Num_2:31) of Israel in the desert had banners each bearing one of the letters of YHVH starting with Judah and “Yud”, Ruben “Hey”, Ephraim, “Vav”, Dan, “Hey”. The camp itself was 12×12 miles = 144 square miles. Each tribal camp was 4×4 miles=16 square miles. The Tabernacle was in the center of the camp 4×4 miles with the camp of Levi thence 3×4 miles on each side. At the four corners were four areas (4×4 miles) for the cattle for each camp. The last camp of the forty-year journey in the desert extended from Bet HaYeshimot to Avel HaShittim (Num_33:49).
Rabbah bar Chana said: I have seen this place; it is three parasangs (approx. 12 miles) in extension. (Talmud, Yoma 75b; Rashi). A parasang is an ancient Persian unit of distance, usually estimated at 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers). So, the last camp before entering the Promised land was a territory of about 12 miles by 12 miles which was sufficient enough to accommodate three million people.
Another support from the Scripture for about three million Israelites who left Egypt can be found in Num_23:10 where the false prophet Bil’am apparently spoke of one-fourth part of Israel, i.e. each one of the four camps, into which the host of Israel was divided. Possibly Bil’am could only see one camp from that given hill which made Balaq the king of Moav say that the prophet could only see the extremity but not all of them to curse them (Num_23:13). Thus, Bil’am bears testimony in this verse to the fulfillment of the promises in Gen_13:16 and Gen_28:14 that Israel would be like the dust of the earth.
Therefore, about three million Israelites made the exodus from Egypt per the most conservative estimations, but the real number could have been larger. How can this increase of Israel’s population from 140 to three million people be explained but by the sustained wellbeing of YHVH’s children? During the years in Egypt they experienced few or no miscarriages, or barrenness, very low infant mortality,(with the exception of male children during the infanticide), coupled with low disease and no war or disaster, the birth to death ratio was sustained low for 215 years: the time Israel spent in Egypt. This hypothesis of a fast expansion and sustained growth of the Israelites in Egypt is supported by the narrative of the Biblical text:
And Yoseph died, and all his brothers, and all that generation. And the children of Israel bore fruit and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew strong very very, and the land was filled with them. Then a new sovereign arose over Egypt, who did not know Yoseph, and he said to his people, “See, the people of the children of Israel are more and stronger than we, come, let us act wisely towards them, lest they increase, and it shall be when fighting befalls us, that they shall join our enemies and fight against us, and shall go up out of the land.” … But the more they afflicted them, the more they increased and grew, and they were in dread of the children of Israel. (Exo 1:6-12)
When the sages see such a unusual wording as bore fruit and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew strong very very, they do not delay to find an interpretation. Midrash Tanchuma gives the interpretation of Exo 1:7 that each Hebrew family had six children. This is how they came to this conclusion: bore fruit stands for one child, increased abundantly for two, multiplied for three, grew strong for four, very for five, and very for six.
Later, at Mount Sinai, Mosheh himself recognized that the six-fold increase of the population, when he returned in Egypt, would have been explained with the promise which Elohim made to Ya’akov that He would watch over the Israelites,
I am the El, Elohim of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I shall make you there into a great nation. I Myself am going down with you to Egypt and I Myself shall certainly bring you up again and let Yoseph put his hand on your eyes. (Gen 46:3-4)
However, in contrast the rabbinical teaching maintained the view that only a quarter of all Israelites left Egypt. The rest, according to the rabbis, decided to stay in Egypt. This can only mean that either Mosheh led only 750 thousand, or there were merely 12 million Israelites in Egypt. Neither of these numbers can be supported by the Scripture: in the first census those who had been registered from twenty years old and older were more than 600 thousand male alone. Nor can the 12 million number be explained even taking into account the high birth rate they had while in Egypt. Moreover, we are given a hint in Psalm 105 that all His tribes left Egypt in tact (Psa 105:37 JPS):
And He brought them forth with silver and gold; and there was none that stumbled among His tribes.
Day 16. They traveled from Succoth and encamped in Etham, at the edge of the desert on the second day (Exo_13:20, Num_33:6).
Day 17. As Elohim lead them, they turned back to Pi Hahiroth and approached nearer to Egypt during the entire third day in order to mislead Pharaoh, so that he would say, “They are astray on the road” when he heard that the Israelites are turning back (Exo_14:2-3). For he thought that they were locked in the desert and did not know how to get out of it and where to go [from Mechilta]. Most likely Elohim’s tactics was to give Pharaoh a day more in order to strengthened his evil heart (Exo_14:4) and also to try Israelites. But they obeyed Mosheh and turned back towards Egypt and camped at Pi Hahiroth near Migdol (Num_33:7). That day happened to be Sabbath when they were tested.
Day 18. When the Israelites left Egypt, Pharaoh sent officers with them, and as soon as the three days the Israelites had set to go into the desert and return had elapsed, and the officers saw that they were not returning to Egypt, they came and informed Pharaoh on the fourth day, the 18th of the month which was the Day of the First Fruits (Exo_14:5). What was the significance of that day that it was called later the Day of the First Fruits, the present author does not know.
Day 19 and Day 20. After Pharaoh understood that the Israelites would not return, on the fifth and the sixth days after the Israelites’ departure, the Egyptians pursued them and overtook them camping at the shore of Yam Suph at Pi Hahiroth (Exo_14:9, Num_33:7).
Day 21. Eleventh plague, death of Pharaoh and his army: All the night of the seventh day after the children of Israel had fled Egypt the waters of Yam Suph were divided (Exo_14:21) and storms, thunder, lightning, and earthquakes came to be (Psa_77:16-18, Antiquities 2:15:3). And the children of Israel had all night to cross the sea on dry ground. At the break of the day Pharaoh and his army pursued them and went down into the sea (Exo_14:27-28), thus the Creator mocked the Egyptian gods (Pharaoh considered himself a god). The thunders and earthquakes made were heard even in Kana’an and all the inhabitants of the land trembled (Exo_15:14-15).
That was the seventh day of the Unleavened Breads. Israel saw the great works which YHVH had done in Egypt and believed in Him. In the morning of the seventh day, the Israelites recited the Song of the Sea (Exo_15:1-18, Rev_15:3-4).
It is interesting to notice that the Targum Yonatan renders Zech 14:3 which refers to the last-day events, “… He shall fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle” thus – “As on the day that he fought the battle at the Red Sea”, referring to the night of the seventh day of Matzot, when the Egyptian pursuers were drowned in the Red Sea (also Mic_7:14-16).
Insert: Yam Suph in the ancient Hebrew manuscripts is the sea whose waters Elohim divided. The name of this sea was changed to Red Sea in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanak. The name Red Sea was retained in all subsequent translations because they were all made from the Septuagint and as a result the original meaning and location of Yam Suph faded from memory, becoming one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible: where was the crossing of Israelites. In seeking of the real Yam Suph, most of the scholars have gravitated toward associating the Hebrew word suph with the Egyptian word twfy or tjuf, which means papyrus. This led them to the wrong conclusion that the meaning of Yam Suph was “sea of reeds” and since the Red Sea did not contain papyrus, they have proposed crossing points at various reed lakes and marshes in what is now the Suez Canal in of Egypt built by the British.
As a geographer, Dr. Fritz has pinpointed Yam Suph in a region far from the traditional sites. In his recent book, The Lost Sea of the Exodus, Dr. Fritz puts forward the idea of a crossing at Nuweiba Beach on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba and crossing over to ancient Midian located in present day northwest Saudi Arabia which puts Mount Sinai in Arabia, as Apostle Shaul clearly states in Gal_4:25 that Mount Sinai is in Arabia, not in the modern-day Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. If Israel were in the wilderness of Sinai Peninsula for forty years, as so many have wrongly believed, there had never been Exodus from Egypt.
Day 22. And on the next day the Israelites gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, so they might not be destitute of weapons, and Mosheh led them to Mount Sinai, in order to offer sacrifices to YHVH for the salvation of the multitude, as he was charged to do so beforehand (Antiquities 2:15:6). So, after they departed from Hahiroth and passed over through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, went three days’ journey in the Wilderness of Etham (the Wilderness of Shur) and camped at Marah (Num_33:8) where they found no water to drink (Exo_15:22).
Day 24. On the third day of their journey in the wilderness, they camped at Marah where they were tested with bitter waters (Exo_15:23-25). It was at Marah that the children of Israel were encouraged to give themselves wholly unto YHVH and to submit to His Word (Exo_15:26). That day happened to be Sabbath when they were tested (see the chart below).
Day 25. They departed from Marah and they came to Elim, where there were twelve fountains of water and seventy palm trees. And they camped there by the waters (Exo_15:27, Num_33:9). From Mechilta, Jonathan, we learn that the twelve water fountains correspond to the twelve tribes and the seventy palms: to the seventy elders which were prepared for them.
Day 26 of the first month to Day 14 of the second month. They travelled from Elim to the their camp by Yam Suph and from Yam Suph to the Wilderness of Sin (Num_33:10, Num_33:11).
SECOND MONTH OF THE YEAR
Day 15. Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the 15th day of the second month (Exo_16:1). This date is exactly one month to the day after Israel departed out of Egypt. The day of this encampment is stated because on that day the dough that they had taken with them out of Egypt was depleted after 30 days, and they needed bread. They grumbled and Elohim gave them meat to eat that evening (the close of the 15th, Exo_16:12-13). That day happened also to be Sabbath when they were tested (Exo_16:4).
Day 16. And in the morning, the 16th, the first day of the week [Shabbat (87b) from Mechilta], bread was given for six days (Exo_16:22) and none on the seventh (22nd day) because it was the Sabbath, as well (Exo_16:23-25).
Day 22. Through giving the manna Elohim tested them whether they would keep the commandments and that they would not go out on the Sabbath to gather the manna. So, the 15th and the 22nd of the second month were also Sabbaths. So far, we came to the understanding that YHVH tested Israel on the 10th, 17th, and 24th of the first month, and on the 15th and 22nd of the second month: all happened to be Sabbaths.
If we add up the days of the week and count backward all the way to the same first day of the first month of the beginning of months as given to Mosheh in Exo_12:2-3, (see the chart below), we will find that the first day of the calendar fell on the 5th day of the week (Thursday) and the tenth day was a Sabbath, given the first month had 30 days. And indeed, Rashi’s commentary on Exo_12:2 says that that was the first day of the month,
This month: Heb. הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶה, lit., this renewal. He [God] showed him [Moses] the moon in its renewal and said to him, “When the moon renews itself, you will have a new month” (Mechilta).” And on Exo_12:3, to the entire community of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of… month” – Speak today on Rosh Chodesh [the New Moon] that they should take it [the lamb] on the tenth of the month. — [From Mechilta]
and Tosafot to Talmud, Shabbat 87b, confirms that the tenth day was a Sabbath.
That year, the 10th of Nissan was a Shabbat; this is why the Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol (“The Great Shabbat”)
Day 23 to Day 29. And they departed from the Wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophqah. (Num_33:12); they departed from Dophqah and camped at Alush. (Num_33:13), and they departed from Alush and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink there (Num_33:14, Exo_17:1).
It seems reasonable to assume that if YHVH had tested Israel on the 10th, 17th, and 24th of the first month, and on the 15th and 22nd of the second month and all they happened on Sabbaths, the strife of the children of Israel at Rephidim on the 29th day of the month, when Israel tried YHVH for the lack of water, could have been the next test which might have also happened on Sabbath (see the chart) and that place was named Massah (trial) and Merivah (contention) because of it. Most likely, as a result of disbelief, the children of Israel were put to the next test when the Amalekites attacked them soon after the people grumbled against Mosheh (Exo_17:8-9).
Day 30. Yehoshua fought Amalek all day long and defeated him and his people (Exo_17:10-13).
Or, having said all that, we can conclude that the reckoning of time from the Creation to Mount Sinai is this:
1. It was 1,948 years from Adam to Avraham.
2. It was 75 years from Avraham’s birth to the Covenant.
3. It was 430 years from the Covenant to the Exodus.
Total: 2,453 years.
And this is an alternative count for the same period of time:
1. It was (130 + 105 + 90 + 70 + 65 + 162 + 65 + 187 + 182 = 1056) one thousand and fifty-six years from the creation of Adam to the birth of Noach (Gen_5:3-29).
2. It was (500 + 102 = 602) six hundred and two years from the birth of Noach to the birth of Arphaxad (Gen_5:32; Gen_7:6; Gen_11:10).
3. It was (35 + 30 + 34 + 30 + 32 + 30 + 29 = 220) two hundred and twenty years from the birth of Arphaxad to the birth of Terah (Gen_11:12-24).
4. It was (70) seventy years from the birth of Terah to the birth of Avram (Gen_11:26, Gen_11:32; Gen_12:1-5; Act_7:2-4). click here Gen_11:32.
5. It was (100) one hundred years from the birth of Avram to the birth of Yitzhak (Gen_21:5).
6. It was (60) sixty years from the birth of Yitzhak to the birth of Ya’akov (Gen_25:26).
7. It was (91) ninety-one years from the birth of Ya’akov to the birth of Yoseph (Gen_41:46, Gen_41:53-54; Gen_45:4-6; Gen_47:1-9).
8. It was (110) one hundred and ten years from the birth of Yoseph to his death (Gen_50:26).
9. It was (64) sixty-four years from the death of Yoseph to the birth of Mosheh (Gen_50:26; Exo_7:7; Exo_12:40-41; Gal_3:17).
10. It was (80) eighty years from the birth of Mosheh to the exodus (Exo_2:1-10; Exo_7:7; Exo_12:36-41).
11. It was (48) forty-eight days from the exodus to the encampment at Mount Sinai when the Covenant was made (Exo_12:37-41; Exo_16:1; Exo_19:1-11; Num_33:3).
Total: 2,453 and 48 days.
It was, therefore, 2,453 years and forty-eight days from Adam to the Exodus when Mosheh lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and brought them to the mountain of the Lord, with which we come to the Mount Sinai.