“And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of YHWH, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.” (Exodus 17:1)
There’s a great lesson tucked away here in the opening verse of our current scriptural campsite. Whenever you see a phrase like “as the prophets had said”, or “as it was written”, or in this case “according to the commandment of YHWH”, it’s a best-practice of bible study to find the original context that is being quoted. This particular quote is early in the Torah, so there are few “commandments” to refer to That immediately made me wonder what call-back was being employed. It turns out it’s a hidden a little in the English. When they are trapped with the Red Sea ahead but death-by-Pharaoh behind, the Israelites have their first panic attack, immediately producing fruits of rebellion. Here it is YHWH’s answer:
“YHWH said unto Moses, why do you cry out to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they GO FORWARD.” (Exodus 14:15)
“GO FORWARD!” is a command that applies to all Hebrews throughout time, just as much as resting on the Seventh day. Here’s how the next generation of Hebrews handled their need to cross water to reach their goal:
“…as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water…the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.” (Joshua 3:15-16)
I could go on (and on, and on) about the Hebrew verb abar (to cross over, to pass through, to pass on) because it is the root of the word “HEBREW”. The very meaning of the name of our entire people is consistent with MOVE FORWARD. Both concepts are right here, in the solution to Israel’s current thirst problem:
“And YHWH said to Moses, “PASS ON before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and GO.”” (Exodus 17:5)
“Pass on” and “Go”. Whether this simply means to ‘stop procrastinating’ or more profoundly to ‘forgive your enemies’ either way it’s a foundational fruit-bearing command, defining what it means to be a redeemed Hebrew.
Some would argue that “repent” means to turn around—agreed. The two concepts are not inconsistent with one another. MOVE FORWARD means constant movement in the direction of the promises of YHWH. Here in Exodus, that means moving forward toward Sinai. Later in Numbers, it means moving forward toward The Promised Land. Fear of anything besides YHWH has a paralyzing effect. Trusting in his promises however motivates us to MOVE FORWARD. When we wander off the path of trusting faithfulness, the only way back is to repent (turn around), get back onto the the Way, and move forward.
There is a separate series on the root of ‘abar’, ‘bar’, here. In my humble opinion, reading these two back-to-back would be worth a quick jump ahead, even if you are reading the rest of these studies in order.