The history of the events from Abraham to Moses constitute a probable story of how G-d succeeded in revealing himself to millions of people and in establishing an enduring record of that revelation
If you were G-d, how would you have revealed yourself credibly to the world over 3 000 years ago? You would have needed a large number of witnesses to your revelation and to other related miracles – witnesses who would support the enduring credibility of it all. How would you have assembled millions of these witnesses? How would you have got them in such large numbers to leave their homes and their land in order to congregate in one place to be able to bear credible witness to your revelation? How would you have presented them with credible and convincing evidence?
The Torah recounts that all of this was achieved by a process lasting a few hundred years and spanning the generations from Abraham to Moses. First, Abraham is told to leave his country and his family and go to Canaan, where he will be a stranger. He does so, and there he and Sarah have a son, Isaac. Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, comes not from Canaan, but from Abraham’s family and the place where he was born. And so Isaac and Rebecca became a small unit of strangers in Canaan, and are not assimilated into the people around them. Their son, Jacob, is forced to flee and he goes to Rebecca’s ancestral home, where he works for his uncle, Laban, whose daughters, Leah and Rachel, become his wives, and then designate further wives for him. He and his wives produce a total of 11 sons and a daughter, and they all leave Laban and return to Canaan where a 12th son is born.
Here they are, for the most part, apparently still separate and not assimilated into Canaanite society. Joseph is sent to Egypt, a famine occurs, and he brings his father and all his siblings and their families to Egypt. They are not Egyptians, and so remain strangers. They live in Goshen where this status continues. They are enslaved and multiply, and become a separate and identifiable nation of slaves. A mass revelation begins when the plagues start to occur. They all witness the plagues, except, perhaps the 10th, but are certainly well aware of it. They leave Egypt after the 10th plague, because it is in their interest to be physically liberated from slavery.
They witness the splitting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army. They are now in the desert and have to remain together for their sustenance and survival. They witness the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, which guide them by day and by night. They witness the daily miracle of manna, which sustains them. They witness the miraculous arrival of quails, which provide them with the meat they long for. They witness the miraculous production of water.
Most important of all, they witness G-d’s revelation at Mount Sinai and hear His voice. There are 600 000 men present at the mountain, along with their wives and children. It follows that about 3 million people witness G-d’s most important act of revelation. And so, by this means, a large number of people are brought together and became witnesses to dramatic and significant events – a probable story, supported by evidence of their own experiences, and the recorded truth of which, in the Torah, is so palpable that more than half of all humankind become convinced, with the passage of time, to embrace it as true.
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