When Moses first goes before Pharaoh his request is that Israel might go three days journey into the wilderness in order to hold a feast/festival to Yahweh (Ex. 5:1-3). The general request for the freedom to go out of the land is resubmitted a number of times, but this specific request (to feast) is made again at the onset of the eighth plague when Pharaoh asks who will go. Moses insists that it will be young and old, sons and daughters, and flocks and herds that will go to hold the “feast to Yahweh” (Ex. 10:9).
Interestingly, the next “feast” we witness in Exodus is the feast of unleavened bread and the Passover. In the narrative, it seems that since Pharaoh has not allowed Israel to go into the wilderness for the feast, Yahweh has commanded his people to hold the feast in Egypt. This was of course one of Pharaoh’s early compromise suggestions (8:25-27), but Moses insisted on leaving the land of Egypt because the sacrifice/feast would be an “abomination” to the Egyptians.
As it turns out, to hold the feast to Yahweh in the land of Egypt is not merely an abomination to the Egyptians but it results in the destruction of the first born of Egypt. It was not merely an extraneous nicety for Israel to worship a “three days journey into the wilderness”; it was for the safety of Egypt. For Israel to feast/sacrifice/worship Yahweh was for Yahweh to draw near, and the very presence of Yahweh is life and freedom and blessing for his people but judgment and death and destruction for those who do not know Him. An abomination is something “devoted for destruction” (hb. “herem”) (e.g. Dt. 7:26), and thus in a great twist of irony, Israel does hold their “abominable” feast in the land and then the land is utterly destroyed.
Of course all of this has important ramifications for Christian worship. For Christians to be worshipping in any land, to be keeping the feast (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1), and to celebrate the Eucharist is to endanger the native inhabitants. In fact, “herem” is itself the term used for Israelite holy war which resulted in the “utter destruction” of many cities in the land of Canaan during the conquest (e.g. Josh. 6:17). But the archetype of this holy war was the Exodus, the conquest of Egypt, in which Yahweh fought for Israel while she held a feast and worshipped Yahweh. Christian worship is holy war; it is the feast to which the Triune God promises to drawn near. Therefore all who are not of God’s people are in danger. This means that there must be conflict; and worship is the center of this struggle.
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