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Lutherans/desert wandering for 40 years


Was it the general sinfulness of the Israelites that caused them to wander in the desert for 40 years before reaching the promised land or a specific act (i.e. the making of the golden calf)?  This has troubled me for a while & different bible scholars cite different reasons.  I would really appreciate your clarification on this matter.  thank you, Judy


Thank you for your question.  I will begin by saying that we are straying into an area (Old Testament interpretation) that I am not fully expert in, so I am not aware of the complete arguments of various OT scholars.  I do, however, have a working knowledge of some of the issues and themes of the Exodus.

I would say that the generally sinfulness and stubbornness of the Adult generation that left Egypt is the primary reason for the wandering.  They consistently disobey, complain, and fail to trust in God's providing.  They chafe against God's direction and take it out on Moses.  God finally realizes that there is too much "Egypt" in these people, that they cannot shake the hierarchical power structures of Master/Slave, so they rebel against God's more egalitarian society (The issue over Manna and hording is one example).  In a human way, I suppose, these are slaves who have never experienced the freedom they are now called into, they've never had a real society -- only one with masters and bosses.  Trusting in a God they cannot see is a big leap.

"They shall never enter into my rest." Might be one way in which God determines that this generation is not really equipped to create a new nation on the Promised Land.  The older generation sends spies into the Promised Land and they come back with tales of giants.  They are too afraid to take the next step.  Instead, the children - -raised in the desert, learning to trust God for all their needs for all of their lives -- they are the ones that will adequately understand a life of faith in God's salvation and guiding.  They next generation see the Promised Land as a place "flowing with milk and honey."  They can trust in God enough to enter and conquer.

I hope that this is helpful.

Martin Eldred  


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Martin W. Eldred


I have been a Lutheran Christian for 56 years and a Lutheran pastor for almost 28. I can answer most general questions about Luther, Lutheran History, Lutheran Theology, and a Lutheran approach to Biblical Interpretation. I am ELCA, for those who know what that means, and I tend to be moderate theologically. I hope that I can converse with those that are either more conservative or liberal than I, and especially with those who are really just seeking.


Pastors are "generalists" and generally have a working knowledge on many subjects. We are also used to working with a variety of answers from a variety of people. I teach a great deal, especially in the area of the New Testament. I particularly enjoy the Pauline literature. I have a PhD in New Testament and my dissertation was on II Corinthians.

I have been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, an international gathering of biblical scholars and teachers, since the late 1980s.

I have written a few book reviews for the journal, "Lutheran Quarterly."

I have a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion (Biblical Studies)and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary. I also have PhD in New Testament.

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