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November 16, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

The holy days of Israel often come at the time of a full moon.  That is they fall on the fourteenth day of the month, which in the lunar calendar is always full moon.  Passover falls on the full moon, as does Tabernacles.  Purim also falls on the full moon, on Adar 14.

The occasion that brought this to my mind is the International Sunday School lesson for this week.  The text comes from Exodus 14 and records the passing of Israel through what the Bible calls the “Yom Suph,” or the Sea of Reeds.  The King James Bible left out an “e” and it came out the “Red Sea.”  I admit to my readers that there are times when a current topic on which to base this column simply eludes me, and at least today I reached for the Sunday School quarterly and came face to face with the Moses at the Yom Suph.

I had never realized that Israel crossed the sea at night.  But, there it was.  “YAHWAH (The Lord) drove the sea back by a strong wind all night (Exodus 14:21).”  The rolling back of the sea and the drowning of the Egyptian army took place at dawn.  “So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared (Exodus 14:27).

My mind flashed back to 1977 when I was digging with an archeological team in the Negev desert.  The conditions were sanitary but primitive and I contracted amebic dysentery.  I won’t inflict the details upon you but I found myself moving often from the tent to the sanitary facilities with considerable frequency during the first night.  The thing I remember most vividly all these years later was the moon.  It was so bright that I never feared the night.  It was like the path was lit by modern street lights.

It is fascinating to me that the Bible records for us details in the stories it tells.  There is never the sense that this is a “once upon a time” fairy tale or myth.  The text reads as history.  In the story of the crossing of the Sea of Reeds we have the exact time of day in which these events took place.

Of course we are not quite sure how much time had elapsed between the Passover event, which took place in the full moon, and Israel’s arrival at the edge of the Sea of Reeds.  We are also told that the pillar of cloud moved from before them to behind them and separated the Egyptians from Israel.  Then there is this sentence.  “And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.”  The Hebrew here is difficult.  The reader is not sure what lit up the night for Israel.  Was it the cloud or was it the moon?

We are living in troublesome times.  The biblical outlook on history is that God is intimately involved.  That is to say he is personally involved.  The earth is belongs to YAHWAH (the Lord) and he made it (Psalm 24).  No matter how dark the night the Lord has the means to light it up.

I am well aware that there are other ways to look at history.   Some see the earth as spinning its way to oblivion with no purpose and at the mercy of the laws of chance.  Israel saw it differently.  Jesus of Nazareth saw it differently.  He taught that a sparrow does not fall without his Father’s knowledge, to say nothing of nations.  I listen to the evening news and read the news from Israel on my computer and I know God knows, and cares.  I’m not sure where the light will come from, but I am sure it will come.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs