Literary OTGD #14: excerpt on Israel in the Wilderness from chapter 1 of The Millennium

March 23, 2014 | one comment
By
Parley P. Pratt

Parley P. Pratt

Are commandments also spiritual fare? When Moses received the law on Sinai, was he spiritually fed? Were the children of Israel? Lesson #14 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual discusses Israel’s trek across the Sinai, their partaking of manna from heaven, which we interpret today as a symbol of the spiritual feast that our Heavenly Father provides for us. But when we read or talk about the commandments, we sometimes don’t talk about them as spiritual food—instead seeing them as temporal duties to be performed.

But, the miracle of their delivery to Moses is a spiritual story, and I think the following poem describes what should be seen as a spiritual feast.

The following excerpt is from the title poem of Parley P. Pratt’s poetry collection, The Millennium, published in Boston in 1835, the year following his experience as a member of Zion’s Camp. In the first chapter of the poem, Pratt imagines these tribes in the “frozen north” and sees their way prepared by the hand of God and likens their return to the exodus of Israel from Egypt.

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From The Millennium, Chapter 1

by Parley P. Pratt

While Israel still pursued their joyous way,
Their God, in fire by night, in cloud by day,
Before them moved, majestic to behold!
Until on Sinai’s mount the thunder rolled,
And lightnings flaming in one general glare,
While clouds of smoke hung on the darkened air:
Jehovah spake! the trumpet, long and loud,
Earth’s whole foundation to the centre bowed.
Israel and Moses quaking stood around,
A sudden trembling seized the solid ground:
Moses, at length, drew near; the law was given,
Of justice, equal weights, and measure even;

Pratt, Parley P., The Millennium (1835)

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As I hinted in the post for the last lesson, in western countries today we are influenced by the portrayals of this story in movies like The Ten Commandments. But even without that influence, Parley P. Pratt still saw the events as dramatic. And perhaps that drama is evidence that he too saw these events as a spiritual feast.

We see this in how Pratt describes the events. The commandments aren’t just handed to Moses, instead “Jehovah spake! the trumpet, long and loud.” And the result is that:

Earth’s whole foundation to the centre bowed.
Israel and Moses quaking stood around,
A sudden trembling seized the solid ground:

I think it would be odd for the Earth itself to be bowing or trembling out of fear of its maker. Instead, it seems more likely that the Earth is reacting to the spiritual significance of the event. And while Israel and Moses do seem to be quacking in fear, I wonder from what? Is it fear of God? Or fear that they will not be able to keep those commandments. Perhaps they are afraid of the consequences of disobedience.

Regardless, I think it might be interesting to approach the commandments not as temporal duties, but as spiritual food.

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One Response to Literary OTGD #14: excerpt on Israel in the Wilderness from chapter 1 of The Millennium

  1. Travis on March 24, 2014 at 8:50 am

    It seems unlikely that Moses was quacking in fear. Maybe in the Duck Tales version of the story.

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