“And they departed from Mara, and came to Elim; and there were in Elim twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees; and they camped there. Numbers 33:9 KJV
There is a world of information in this little sentence. The Israelites had traveled for three days when they arrived at Marah with no water in sight the whole time. They were so relieved to see a big pool of water! They were hot, thirsty and miserable. They rushed to find that the waters were so bitter that they were undrinkable.
As a result, they turned against Moses. It might be hard to blame them. Their skins were empty, in some cases for several days. They were scared and then faced this literal bitter disappointment. Moses did the only thing he could do, he turned to God. “You brought us here”, I imagine him pleading “what should I do?” Moses was instructed to throw a tree into the water. He probably shrugged and lashed out. He had to be seen by people to do something! And it worked. Things usually get done when God tells us to do them. It was to Mara that God made them a promise:
Exo 15:26 “…If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments, and keep all laws, I will put none of these diseases on you, which I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD who heals you.
It is important to note before proceeding that many of the plagues of Revelation are identical or very similar to those experienced by the Egyptians in the book of Exodus. They had just relived the first, no drinking water. And again, Moses provided water with the help of Hashem. God then makes a covenant with them. This is an if/then statement. IF you do this, I promise to do it. Did you notice that? What should they do to avoid punishing the plagues? Keep his commandments. My friends, according to John’s vision in Revelation, the plagues are coming back and the Most High has just clearly told us how to avoid them! Keep his commandments! -After this experience and water loading, they moved on to Elim.
Elim was an oasis of beauty in the desert. It was described as having 12 springs and seventy palm trees. Those familiar with Bible numbers may be picking up right now. These numbers are quite significant! But let’s stop for a moment and review a promise made to Abraham in
Gen 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
This verse is important for what I am about to point out to you. Exodus 15:27 and Numbers 33:9 are worded almost the same.
Exo 15:27 And they came to Elim, where were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and encamped there by the waters.
Num 33:9 And they departed from Marah, and came to Elim; and there were in Elim twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees; and they planted there.
When something is said more than once with almost identical wording in the scriptures, it is very significant.
“From the mouth of two or three witnesses, a case will be established. ” 2 Cor 13:1
Can you imagine their relief when they arrived in Elim and saw all that water flowing after so long in the arid desert? I imagine it may have felt like a vacation. They set about erecting their huge city of tents and tending their flocks. For the first time in a long time, glad to stay and rest for a while. But consider for a moment my main point on this passage. Why were the numbers at Elim so important? There were twelve springs and seventy palm trees. Springs produce living waters. And they watered the palm trees.
There are twelve tribes of Israel encamped around these twelve springs. Over the centuries, Israel has been given the task of writing and sending the Word of God to the world, to the nations. Genesis chapter 10 tells us that there were 70 nations created at the tower of Babel to confuse the tongues. Seventy has always been associated with nations. Twelve springs supply 70 palm trees.
I posit that the twelve palms represent the twelve tribes to whom God has entrusted the work of recording and disseminating the scriptures, and the palms fed by the living waters represent the 70 nations (now more of course) who are nourished by the word of God. And we are told that if we keep His commandments as recorded in this holy word, we will be spared from the plagues of Revelation, as the Israelites were spared from the plagues in Egypt. Are you ready to drink from the springs of Elim? If you visit us on Shabbat at Congregation Chaim B’ Derech! You would be welcome!