Exodus Day Thirteen
July 17, 2020, 4:00 AM

The Land

“I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians
and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land,
a land flowing with milk and honey.”

This is the first mention of a land flowing with milk and honey” in the Bible. It will be referenced in full 18 more times throughout the Pentateuch, Joshua, Jeremiah and Ezekiel — Alluded to much more! This description of the Land is ironic, because at no time was Canaan ever referred to in this manner with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The closest we come is when Abram first arrives in the Land, recorded in Genesis 12:5-7. He stands on a hillside at the oak of Moreh (pictured below), overlooking Shechem in the valley between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. He sees the endless rolling hills of Samaria to the south, and God says, “I’m going to give this to you!” So, Abram builds his first altar on this overlook. That’s as close as we get to a real estate loaded with cow liquid and bee sweetness in the Patriarchs.

In fact, the Land is anything but sweet and fruitful. There always seems to be famine in the Land, and their journeys always seem to find Egypt to the south. In fact, they end up in Egypt for a good long time during one of those frequent famines. Joseph brought the family down to the Delta wonderland of Goshen. Land of Goshen!

The language God uses to describe “the Promised Land” to Moses – that particular expression used only once in all of Scripture in Hebrews 11:9 – seems to be introduced to whet the heart appetites of the Hebrews. To plant a longing in their hearts. The way is going to be long and treacherous and they will need every ounce of incentive to persevere towards the destination of destinations.

But the good description of the good Land of Canaan is not without textual affirmation. There is a tale of a certain Sinuhe. He was an Egyptian official in the court of Pharaoh. For political reasons, he had to flee into Canaan exile. Nahum Sarna notes, “One celebrated excerpt reads as follows: ‘It was a good land… Figs were in it, and grapes. It had more wine than water. Plentiful was its honey, abundant its olives. Every [kind of] fruit was on its trees. Barley was there, and emmer [wheat]. There was no limit to any [kind of] cattle.’” Sarna adds, “A half a millennium later, the annals of the military campaigns in Asia of Thutmosis III (ca. 1490-1436 B.C.), carved on the walls of the Temple of Karnak, mention the spoils of ‘grain, wine, and large and small cattle’ that he brought home. From the town of Megiddo this king to 1,929 cows, 2,000 goats, 20,000 sheep, and over 207,300 sacks of wheat, which amount to about 450,000 bushels. Concerning the Phoenician coast, he reports that ‘every port town which his majesty gas reached was supplied with good bread and with various [kinds of] bread, with olive oil, incense, wine, honey, fruit… They were more abundant than anything, beyond the experience of his majesty’s army, without equivocation.” (Exploring Exodus, p.47).

It all sounds like it fits the picture of abundance. When Moses and the People make their first pass at the Land, the twelve spies certainly bring back a good, confirming picture of the Land: “They came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs… ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.’” (Numbers 13:23-24, 27). However, we know the rest of the sad story. They didn’t think God could deliver on the goods. They were consigned to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

Before I move into the take home value of this lesson, I feel I must burst a popular conception about this iconic description of the Land of Canaan. When we think of the expression, we think of cows and bees. Milk and honey. However, my understanding is that the bee honey in the land was wild honey. The kind that Samson gorged on (Judges 14:8) and Jonathan, the son of Saul, got himself into trouble with (1 Samuel 14:26-27). But no mention of bees domesticated. The honey referred to (Hebrew = devash) is most likely the sweet nectar of grapes, dates and figs. I know that I will probably still retain the imagery of bee honey here.

The Exodus towards the Land flowing with milk and honey becomes for us our own journey to the place that Jesus has gone to prepare for us (John 14). We are given a picture of how God intends to re-create Eden at the Second Coming of Jesus, but we know that the territory between here and there is fraught with challenges. Disease, broken relationships, struggles, ups and downs, etc. etc. etc. The way through the “wilderness” seems unending, and yet, God says, “Keep going, it’s worth it.” We read Exodus, we know God is always faithful, even as the way isn’t always so easy. However, we know God in Christ. We have the incentive to continue on the Journey.

Have a great weekend.

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