I didn’t find much in these chapters to inspire me. More genealogies, and the beginning of the killing of other nations – including poor old Balaam from yesterday. (It doesn’t say whether the donkey survived).
There are a couple of sections about the inheritance rights and the legal responsiblity of women. I suspect that they were quite radical for the time in giving any real rights and status to women, but of course that’s not how they read now – and the danger of looking at the detail rather than the broad thrust would be that we might be affected more by the detail appropriate for that culture than by the direction and priorities which are as appropriate for now and here as for then and there.
The one thing which does strike me as a positive, though, is the passing on of Israel’s story and calling to a new generation. What must it have been like to grow up in the wilderness, hearing the stories of a land called Egypt but without the memories of it? How would it feel never to have had a settled homeland?
And how would it feel to the generation who’d left Egypt, as they saw the next generation stepping forward?
I don’t think it’s any easier now than it was then for one generation to let go of the story and pass it on to the next. We tend to think that our part in the story has covered the crucial chapters, and that our memories and learned experience should continue to shape the future. So we forget that there was a generation before us, who handed the story over to us – and that they’d received it from a generation before them, and so on.
Perhaps our contribution to the story is only part of the whole, and not necessarily the most important. Perhaps our memories and our part of the story should not shape the unfolding chapter of the next generation any more than we were squeezed into the mould of our parents’ memories and narrative. In church life, and in the rest of life, perhaps the memory of Egypt is not the best possible resource for entering into the Promised Land.