Christianity--Church History/Eldad and Medad

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Question
Was Eldad and Medad of the original 70 that merely got left behind in the camp of Israel or where they not of the 70 but of the rank and file?

Answer
Hi Ric,

You asked whether Eldad and Medad were of the 70 chosen or whether they were in addition to the 70.

Nu. 11:24 says, Moses gathered the seventy and set them round about the tabernacle.

Verse 25 says the spirit rested on the seventy and they prophesied.

Verse 26 says "But there remained two of the men in the camp . . . and the spirit rested on them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp".

If we stop after verse 25, it would appear that the two were not of the seventy.  However, if we read the whole account, it appears that they were of the seventy and that verses 24-25 are incorrect or misleading generalizations.

As you may know, one of the basic Bible study principles is given in Isa. 28:9-10, "line upon line, . . . here a little, there a little", instructing us to use the whole Bible and not just selected parts. Those who are looking for contradictions can easily find them (Isa. 28: 11-13).

For example, in Gen. 6, verse 5 says that "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was evil", which would seem to include Noah, but does not (v. 8-9).
In verse 12, "all flesh had corrupted his way", verse 13, "the end of all flesh is come before me . . . I will destroy them with the earth", verse 17 "to destroy all flesh  . . . every thing that is in the earth shall die".  Chapter 7, verse 4, "every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth," verse 21, "all flesh died . . . and every man", verse 22 "all who breathed", verse 23, "every living substance was destroyed, man and cattle".
However, the last part of verse 23, "Noah only remained alive  . . . and they that were with him in the ark."

On a human level this would appear to be sloppy composition.  On a spiritual level we understand that Noah was spiritually minded (as opposed to fleshly minded) to find acceptance in God's sight.  On a spiritual level, we understand that one man's righteousness can save the lives of others.  Noah's righteousness saved the physical lives of his family from physical death in the Flood.  Christ's righteousness saves the lives of all who accept his sacrifice, from eternal death.  On a spiritual level, we understand that the parallel between the ark of Noah and the ark of the Covenant is about more than just a boat and a box.


Regarding Eldad and Medad, the JFB Commentary speculates that perhaps they were too modest to go out with the others.  It is possible that they were reluctant to accept a leadership position, just as Moses was reluctant when God first commanded him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3-4).
Another possibility (per JFB) is that they were ceremonially defiled and could not go near the tabernacle (ref. Num. 9:6-7).

However, it appears that Moses was unaware that these two had stayed behind, which would explain the wording of verses 24-25, and that would show that it is not sloppy journalism.  It appears that Moses and "the people" thought all seventy were present at the tabernacle.  In a crowd of 2 to 3 million or more (Ex. 12:37-38), it would not be difficult to "get lost".

Just as God did not accept Moses' excuses of ignominy, of no visible authority, or of a language problem (Ex. 3-4), God did not accept the reluctance of Eldad and Medad, but gave them the gift of prophecy anyway (Nu. 11:26).

This brings us to the more likely possibility, that of fear or a reluctance from humility.  When Saul was chosen to become king, he hid himself  "among the stuff" (1Sam. 10:17-24).  [stuff-- Heb. keliy, most often used for "vessels"]  In other words, he was hiding among the jugs and pots.  Later events showed that his fear was due to a lack of faith.

While Eldad and Medad were not described as hiding, they had managed to stay in the camp, undiscovered, until the spirit of God made them to begin prophesying.  Since no sin was imputed by Moses or by God, it would seem that their reluctance was out of humility, and not the fear that comes from a lack of faith.

In short, the wording of verse 26 shows they were of the 70, "but went not out" with the others.

We hope this helps.  If you have other questions, feel free to ask anytime.

Sincerely,
Mel and Guyna

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Mel and Guyna Horne

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We can help with any questions about the history of God's working with mankind from Creation to the Apostles, most questions about the period from the Apostles to "modern Christianity" (90 to 325 AD) and most questions about the confusion within "world Christianity" from 325 AD to the present 33,830 documented denominations. We can discuss major doctrinal differences and their origins but we will not engage in debates over doctrines. We try to avoid trivia unless it had a non-trivial effect or is just really interesting, IOHO. Please do not submit homework questions.

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Over 50 years of independent study and over 20 years experience in working with teens, young adults and singles groups. Over two years experience with a prison ministry. Author of three books with two more in development. Published many articles regarding Bible studies and Christian Living.

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While we have each, previously attended various denominational and non-denominational organizations, including house churches, we are not affiliated with any denominational organization.

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B.A. in Theology with emphasis on Church history and comparative theology. Over 40 years of independent, post-grad study and research at Baylor, Univ. of Houston, Rice, Texas A&M College Station, Univ. of Texas Austin, .

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