I love it when I’m reading the Bible and something strikes me as just crazy cool, revealing just a little more of God’s heart for us.
I’ve been reading through Exodus lately, and just yesterday came to the part where God parted the Red Sea before the Israelites so that they could walk across on dry land. Moses had just listened to the direction of the LORD, and by God’s hand made the bitter waters of Marah sweet. There’s a whole sermon right there of course. The years of bitter slavery in Egypt relieved and replaced by the sweet mercy found in a dry passage through the Red Sea. But it was the verse just after this that caught my attention.
Exodus 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.
Of course the number 12 crops up over and over throughout scripture and isn’t difficult to correlate to the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. But what struck me here was the pairing of the 12 springs and the 70 palm trees. I remembered that combination from a passage not too much earlier when Jacob and his 12 sons and their offspring came to Egypt to escape the famine in the land.
Genesis 46:27…All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.
12 sons. 70 people altogether. That was all that Israel amounted to when they were saved out of Canaan into Egypt.
Exodus 12:37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.
A multitude. Not only did the Israelites alone number well over a million, a mixed multitude of those who had bound themselves to the people of Israel and their God, taking the sign of the covenant and worshiping the LORD, joined with them in their freedom march.
By having them come to Elim where these 12 springs and 70 palm trees were, could God have been showing the people, “You see? I saved you out of Canaan to Egypt. You came out of Canaan ever so small and now you are a multitude. And I have saved you out of Egypt and will lead you back to the Promised Land of Canaan… Wait until you see all that I have prepared for you!”
In the New Testament we see Jesus sending out the 12…
Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Then we see him send out 70 (or 72)….
Luke 10:1Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.
Whether the number was actually 70 or 72 matters little. He sent them out small and they would grow into a multitude, outnumbering even the stars in heaven and the sand on the shores.
The Israelites that came out of Egypt surely recognized the numbers 12 and 70 as being their number upon arrival in Egypt. What I love most is God’s kindness in showing them a living illustration of how faithful he had been to transform them from a family group of 70 into a great nation in Egypt, and then to bring them out just as He had promised to Jacob.
Genesis 46:1-4So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again…”