The Exodus Revolution

Nearly 3,500 years ago, Moses was called to lead a revolution in Egypt. Being unique in comparison to most other revolutions throughout history, the Egyptian Exodus was not defined by public protest or civil unrest; neither was it executed by angry peasants rising up with torches and pitchforks.  Instead, the Exodus event came about by means of divine intervention and deliverance through supernatural plagues.  However, the Exodus revolution did begin with what has perhaps become the most popular revolutionary phrase ever coined, as Moses was told to tell Pharaoh to “let my people go”.

Seldom is it ever considered, however, that “let my people go” was not the totality of the divinely inspired and revolutionary message. In addition to freedom from bondage, there were special reasons behind the ancient revolution of Exodus. More specifically, and in conjunction with the “let my people go” mandate, the intended reason for Israel’s liberation was identified by a divine clause, “so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1). Thus, the ten plagues that would follow might be literally understood as “God’s fight for their right to party”. The plagues of the Egyptian Exodus would be God’s way of making a difference—as well as an improvement—in the lives of his enslaved people, who were in need of some serious rest and relaxation after eighty years of harsh Egyptian rule.

God's Dwelling Place Discarded

Despite Israel’s covenant with God and their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, the nation of Israel would backslide and repeatedly violate God’s law, which God himself had described as “everlasting”. As such, nearly four centuries later, the Israelites once again found themselves oppressed by their enemies, and rather than being obedient to the terms of the covenant and looking to God for their deliverance, the people told the Prophet Samuel that they wanted a king instead of God’s system of government, which was comprised of priests (who were sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses), Levites (who were appointed on behalf of Israelite firstborns after the people said to Moses, “do not have God speak to us again or we will die”), and regional tribal judges.  

As Israel aspired to replace God and his system of government, the people also came to disregard and replace the dwelling place that God himself had established for worship. After King David came to power and amassed large quantities of wealth by plundering or taxing neighboring nations, David built a palace where he came to lament the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was merely sitting in a tent. From a position of wealth and affluence, David expressed his interest in building a new temple of cedar and stone to replace the tent; however God responded in a way that was completely contrary to David’s expectations. Through the prophet Nathan, God replied to David, saying, “Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, why build ye not me an house of cedar?” 2 Samuel 7:5-7 (KJV)

Despite the Tabernacle serving as God’s house in the land of Israel for four centuries following the Exodus wanderings, David did not fully receive Nathan’s prophetic words and proceeded with his plans to replace God’s tent with a temple that he deemed to be greater. With the massive amount of gold and silver that David had acquired through regional military conquest, David commissioned his son Solomon to build the house that he wanted to have built. 

As Solomon commissioned the Temple, he also decommissioned the Tabernacle, in effect severing it from Israel’s national heritage, and perhaps nearly wiping it from Israel’s memory or consciousness as well. Although the glory of God did fall upon Solomon’s magnificent stone and cedar edifice after the Temple building was dedicated, it is quite reasonable to deduce that Solomon’s luxurious building (costing in excess of 2000 times more than what was required for the Tabernacle) is best understood to be God’s permissive will—as opposed to his preferred will. After all, the Temple was not God’s idea—it was David’s idea—and God clearly made that point known through the prophet Nathan. But Nathan’s revelation to David did little to dissuade either king from having their dreams realized.

Ironic as it may sound, the “permanent” stone and cedar Temple that Solomon built (believed to have fallen to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.) did not remain in service as long as the “temporary” Tent of Meeting, which endured 480 years. The same can be said of the second Temple, which was constructed per the Persian king Cyrus’s mandate, specifications, and funding as he returned the nation of Judah from exile. After falling to the Romans in 70 A.D., the two splintered nations of Judah (the southern kingdom) and Israel (the northern kingdom) have largely remained in exile, and have consequentially lacked the strength, unity, and/or sense of priority to restore God’s house. To this day, a portion of the nation of Judah has returned to Israel and Jerusalem, but it would seem that the number of hours dedicated to publicly lamenting the Temple’s destruction and its absence far outweighs the amount of effort dedicated towards construction and restoration of God’s dwelling place.