From Nature to Culture

God established a pattern and rhythm for His creation from the very beginning. The earth began formless, empty, and dark but the heavens* served as a pattern after which man was to continue to shape and fill and light the earth. God established the rhythm of the day, of evening and morning, darkness and light as a bass line on which He built the great central theme of death and resurrection. He immediately plunged His creation down into darkness so He could bring it back up into greater light and glory. On the very day He created man, He plunged him down into darkness to raise him back up with the glory of his bride. He gave man the week as the rhythm for work, building His creation in six days and taking His rest on the seventh. The week, month, and year marked time for man as the festival seasons of the old creation.

Adam was to begin in the garden sanctuary, serving as priest for his week and then moving out to the surrounding lands to fill the earth and take dominion as king, glorifying and cultivating the whole earth according to the pattern of heaven. We see God bringing this to pass in stages. With the construction of the tabernacle, Moses was expressly told to make it according to the pattern that was shown to him on the mountain. It is not a replica of the garden sanctuary, it is a progression, a cultivation and glorification of the creation after the pattern of heaven. At the time the tabernacle was established, Aaron was also ordained. His ordination was seven days, to cover or sanctify the week of man, the week that Adam failed to fulfill. When he completed his week, he became a new Adam, the Head priest of a nation of priests.

A similar pattern is seen with Solomon’s temple, the restoration temple, and the church – the living temple of the Spirit. The arc of scripture is from garden to city, from nature to culture. When man brings the creation to its fulness according to the pattern of heaven, he will have completed his week and he will enter his rest. The rhythm of the week shows that man doesn’t do this on his own. The rhythm of work and rest is a rhythm of cultivation and thanksgiving. Man is enabled to work by eating of the Tree of Life, which is Christ, and of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is His Word.

The writer of Hebrews points out that man has not yet reached that rest. Individually, our work is complete and we enter into God’s rest when we die, if we are joined to him in faith. There is a great sense of the already and the not yet. Christ the Man has completed His “week” as High Priest. His work is finished in that sense. But now He sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling as king until He makes all His enemies His footstool and gives the kingdom and all things to the Father. We who are in Him rule with Him as His body and Bride. The kingdom of heaven pervades the earth in small fits and starts, pushing slowly toward the completion, the consummation, the Sabbath rest, and then beyond the Sabbath to the eighth day, the dawn of the new week, the resurrection.

*that is, the heavens of verse 1; the firmament heavens of v 6 and following, which house the sun, moon, and stars, were originally part of and were separated from the earth on day 2

Psalm 118

Psalm 118 opens and closes with “Oh give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” The three divisions of the Old World – Israel, the Priests, and Gentile God-fearers – each in turn take up that refrain. Though the psalmist is distressed by what is going on around him, he consistently looks to God as his only sure help. There is no security, no sure refuge in even the greatest men. He declares that in the name of Yahweh, he will cut off all the nations that surround him. This word “cut off” is not the usual Hebrew word karath which means literally cutting something off or figuratively putting someone to death or excommunicating. The word here is the word used for circumcision. “The nations surrounded me; in the name of Yahweh I circumcised them!” This seems to have close ties with the great commission – go disciple the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

Though sometimes it appears that the wicked are gaining, or that the righteous are falling, it is the hand of God that is behind it all. He says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Just as in the Exodus, when it becomes clear that the attack of the wicked is specifically against God and His people, God lifts His right hand and crushes them so that the world will know that He is God. At the center of the Psalm is the threefold song of the saints. While we sing, God vindicates His name against His enemies.

The fall of the righteous or the reign of the wicked is often discipline from the Lord. The saints are disciplined, but not given over to complete destruction. Though it is never pleasant, it is for our good. It calls us out of sleep and into repentance. It brings us to the gates of righteousness and we give thanks to God for what He has done. We find rest in His city and a solid foundation on the chief cornerstone.

Triumph of the King

Paul contends that through the cross, Christ disarmed and overcame all rulers and authorities, the principalities and powers of the world. This isn’t limited to demonic or evil human forces. He triumphed over the state, the family, the tribe and clan and nation so that he can say “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

In Philippians 2, he shows the depth and height of that victory. Though He is the creator of all things, he became a man, a new Adam. Though He is God, He doesn’t count that as fruit to be grasped. He doesn’t blame the woman, but takes death on Himself. He takes the lowest place, the place of a servant, and shows that it is actually the highest place by turning everything right-side-up. It is interesting that Paul says that Christ emptied Himself in taking on the likeness of man. He became the dust, the grass of the field that is here today and tomorrow is burned, the vapor that passes away. In John 10, Jesus says that He lays down His life so that He may take it up again. He’s not just talking about His crucifixion and resurrection, though those are very much included. He is talking about setting aside the overflowing, abundant life that He shared with the Father so that he could become the nothing from which His creation was made. He became vapor and wrapped all of creation up in Himself so that He could bring it into His life, His fullness. This is the mind of Christ. This is the heart of the servant. This is the triumph of the King.



A Time for Every Matter

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven

The list that Solomon presents in Ecclesiastes 3 is all normal, everyday human activity. And the things listed here are often taken to be things that we arrange, as if the poem were telling us to make sure we do things in good time, or in proper order. But that is not the point of the poem at all. It uses these human activities to show that it is God who sovereignly arranges even these things. God set up the cycle of seasons at creation and established the appointed feast times. He opens and closes the womb as He sees fit, and returns man to the dust from which he came.

Martin Luther put it this way:

All human works and efforts have a certain and definite time of acting, of beginning, and of ending, beyond human control… It is not up to us to prescribe the time, the manner, or the effect of the things that are to be done; and so it is obvious that here our strivings and efforts are unreliable. Everything comes and goes at the time that God has appointed. He proves this on the basis of examples of human works whose times lie outside the choice of man. From this he draws the conclusion that it is useless for men to be tormented by their strivings and that they do not accomplish anything, even though they were to burst, unless the proper time and the hour appointed by God has come… So the power of God comprehends all things in definite hours, so that they cannot be hindered by anyone.

And this is indeed how Solomon follows this up. “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with…whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” We find ourselves thrust into this world that we can’t control, and the more we try, the more frustrated we get. Our toil doesn’t get us any gain or advantage – no leverage – over the way things are. But this is in no way a reason to throw up our hands and quit. He has given us the work that we have to do. He also gives us the gift of enjoying our work, of enjoying our spouse, our children, of eating and drinking. We can’t see the end, or really anything that comes after us, but we trust God when he says that He works all things together for good, according to His will.

Song of Songs

The Song of Songs is both a mystery and a beauty. It is elusive, dancing lightly from image to image, and as such is difficult to get a solid hold of in any sort of narrative-historical or allegorical way.  Even so, it has been counted by Jews and Christians throughout history as the height of wisdom literature and the height of poetry. In Martin Luther’s translation, he calls it Das Hohelied, the High Song. It is the Song of Songs – a verbal construction that parallels King of Kings or Holy of Holies. It is multi-layered and heavily allusive, reaching out and pulling in imagery and ideas from all over the rest of scripture.

First, it is helpful to consider the Song’s position in the canon as part of the wisdom literature. In Proverbs, the king exhorts his son to seek wisdom, and throughout the book wisdom is personified as a great and righteous lady. She is contrasted with Harlot Folly, the strange or foreign woman who tempts the simple to turn aside to their ruin. “In the final chapter, we find that the prince has chosen well: He has made Lady Wisdom his bride. As King Lemuel’s mother urged, he has renounced the women who destroy kings (31:3) and embraces the woman who enables him to rule well” (Leithart 2011).

Ecclesiastes follows on this theme and shows the limit of wisdom. Wisdom is rightly prized and sought, but it is not ultimate. This life, this creation, is good and is meant to be enjoyed, but, to borrow a phrase from Doug Wilson, that joy is on a tether.

The Song of Songs displays the King’s desire for his Bride, the one in whom he delights. This is the joy of finding the excellent wife, one who is far more precious than jewels. The language strains the tether as Solomon plunders the store of biblical imagery to show the desire of the lovers and their praise for one another.

The beauty of the Bride is often expressed in geographic or agricultural terms. Her body is like a rolling landscape, her breasts like spiced mountains, her hair like goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. Her neck is like the Tower of David, set with warriors’ shields. She is beautiful as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem. Her eyes are pools in Heshbon, her nose like the tower of Lebanon, her head crowns her like Mount Carmel. This is the love of the King for his country, his people.

The great praise song of the maidens for the Bride, “Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?” alludes to the gathered host of Israel encamped under the tribal banners around the tabernacle (Num 2). The people surround the King as the Bridal City, the New Jerusalem, which is decked out in royal splendor and surrounds Christ, the Husband, and which outshines the sun and moon with the reflected glory of God (Rev 21).

“The Song is full of the imagery of Eden. Solomon uses the word ‘garden’ eight times (4:12, 15, 16 [2x], 5:1; 6:2 [2x]; 8:13), and the poem frequently refers to trees, fruits, flowers, springs” (Leithart 2009).  Each of the uses of ‘garden’ (with the exception of 8:13) is a reference to the Bride, conflating garden and bridal imagery together. The Song implies that it is in the Bride that “Yahweh God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen 2:9). Solomon-Adam comes to his garden to enjoy its choicest fruits, to climb the tree of his Eve and gather her clusters. Eve invites him in and feeds him, giving him spiced wine and the juice of her pomegranates. She is wheat and wine, honey and milk. From her fountains come streams of living water, like the river that flowed from Eden through the garden and into the outlying lands.

“Eden’s garden was Adam’s original sanctuary, and the imagery of the garden in the Song shades over into imagery of the sanctuary. The house where the lovers meet is made from temple materials – cedar and cypress (1:17), and like the temple the garden of love is a place of feasting (2:4; 5:1). Solomon frequently mentions the fragrances that waft from the garden, reminding us of the pacifying smoke from Israel’s sacrifices” (Leithart 2009). Both the Bride and the Beloved are described in terms of this edenic-temple imagery. She is pictured as a lily, with cheeks like halves of pomegranates, like the lily-topped and pomegranate-encircled pillars in the temple court (1 Kg 7:21ff). She is a pillar that the Beloved climbs, a palm tree like the palm groves carved into the walls of the temple (1 Kg 6:29). Her aroma is that of frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon and spices, like the perfumed anointing oil used in the sanctuary (Ex 30:23ff). He is described like a statue of a man with a head like gold – the Holy of Holies; eyes like doves – the seven branched lampstand*; cheeks of spices – the altar of incense; lips of lilies – the flowers carved into the walls of the temple and the lily-topped pillars; body of ivory, legs of alabaster and gold, appearance like cedar – the foundation and structure of the temple.

“The interweaving of imagery in the Song hints at the double reference of the poem: It is a poem of ideal human love, the lovers like unfallen Adam and Eve, but it is also a poem about Yahweh’s trysts with Israel in the love-garden of the temple” (Leithart 2009). As a love poem, it expresses in very passionate terms the desire of the Bride for the Beloved, and that of the Beloved for his Bride. In Ephesians 5, Paul points out that the fundamental meaning of the sexual relationship between a husband and wife is that it is an image, a type, of the relationship of Christ and the Church. “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Scripture, especially in the prophets, frequently refers to Yahweh as Husband and Israel as Wife (cf. Is 54:5, Jer 3:20, 31:32, Hsa 2) Ezekiel 16 is a retelling of the history of Israel in Husband/Wife imagery:

When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord Yahweh, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.

Yahweh brought His people out of wallowing in the blood of Egypt to bring them to His mountain and establish His covenant with them. He washed them by baptism in the Red Sea (1Cor 10:2) and by the sprinkling of blood at Sinai (Ex 24:8). He anointed Aaron and the whole tabernacle with oil, setting them apart for holy use. He adorned them with the glory of the tabernacle: gold, silver, embroidered cloth and leather – plunder from the Egyptians. The rendering of the story in Ezekiel highlights the covenant of Sinai as His marriage covenant with His people. Despite all of this, Israel turned away and whored after other lovers, lusting after the gods of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and anyone else who happened to pass by.

The Song shows desire set over against lust. The desire of the two lovers for one another is full, passionate, mature. Each is fully longing for and seeking after the other and will not turn aside to any substitute. “As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women” (2:2). He is captivated by her beauty. “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes… Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me” (4:9, 6:5).

Four times Solomon calls her “my sister, my bride” which brings to mind Adam’s statement of Eve, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:23). Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh is a statement of kinship, a statement of brother-brother (or sister) relationship. It is nearly the same greeting Laban gives Jacob (Gen 29:14), and different groups claim kinship in similar terms (cf. Jud 9:2, 2 Sam 5:1, 19:12, 13). The Man-Woman relationship is that of the husband and wife. The Hebrew behind the ‘Woman’ and ‘Man’ is Ishah and Ish. Up until this point the man had been called adam because he was formed from the dust of the ground, adamah. Now he is Ish, and as Jim Jordan has pointed out, this is much more closely associated with fire, esh. The dirt-man becomes fire-man in union with his bride. The woman transforms her husband as fire on an altar of earth, lighting and glorifying him (cf. 1 Cor 11:7). By the end of the Song, the Bride has taken on the name of the Beloved. She is the Shulamite, a feminine form of Solomon’s name. She has become the radiant, glorious, spotless Bride – a Bride fit for the King.

If what Paul says is true – that marriage is a picture of God with His people, Christ with the Church – then here we see the complete devotion and passionate desire of Christ for His Bride and of the Church for Christ. This has implications for how the Church should be viewed. How often was Israel led astray? How often is today’s Church led astray by lovers less wild than Jesus? The Song shows an idyllic relationship, one that has not been born out in the Church (at least with our limited perspective on history), but Paul says it will and that Christ will “present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

The Song of Songs is a love poem, to be sure, but through its use of allusive imagery it reaches beyond individual human relationships. It draws us into the dance of the lovers and robustly expresses the love and glory, the mystery and beauty of God with His creation. It has been rightly prized by the church throughout history as the height of wisdom and poetry.

*the Spirit who descends as a dove at the baptism of Christ and as flames of fire on Pentecost is the same ‘seven Spirits (or seven-fold Spirit) of God’ in Revelation 4:5, and the seven flaming eyes of Christ in Revelation 5:6.

I am indebted to Dr. Peter Leithart for his writings and lectures on the Song of Songs. For further reading, you can visit his website.

Salvation Before Law

In Deuteronomy 6, God says, “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” God is establishing a pattern for life, a rhythm crafted by the Word. Just as we see in the beginning  the Word creating and forming all things, so are our lives formed by hearing the Word. And this life is a very generational life. It reaches back and is founded on the Word spoken to our fathers and it very intentionally lays down the groundwork for our children’s children.

This law that God establishes, these commandments and statutes and rules that He gives are founded on the fact that He has already saved His people. He says, when your son asks you what all this means, you tell him, we were slaves in Egypt and God saved us. We were slaves in a foreign land and God brought us here and gave us our own land. And then he gave us His Word for our good. He breathed into us His breath of life so that we might live.

We see the same thing in the giving of the law on Sinai. “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” The gospel comes first, then the law. Why? It’s not so God can say, “I saved you and now you owe me” or ” I brought you out of Egypt so I can keep my thumb on you.” It’s God saying, “I’ve set you free from this bondage, this slavery to sin – go and sin no more. Go and live in the freedom of the life I’ve given you.”

Our worship service follows this same pattern. We are called by God to come in. We receive assurance of pardon, reminder of our salvation in Christ, when we confess our sin and then we are prepared to hear the Word. Then He sends us out to live according to all that He has given us. The worship service is a stylized and symbolic life pattern. It is designed to get this rhythm in your bones. And then it spreads.

The last five chapters of Romans are packed with a very practical picture of what this looks like. It shows the outworking of the Word as it transforms our lives and renews our minds. It is by hearing and reading the scriptures that we learn the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Bonhoeffer goes so far as to say, “one who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.” And he’s right. How can someone say the Bible has authority if he doesn’t read it or know it? How could he possibly apply it? How can we live in the freedom that the gospel brings if we don’t know the Word? God doesn’t give the law as merely a checklist of Things You Must Do. He fills us with His Word and His Spirit and then it comes out and gets all over everything.


Jews and God-fearers

The structure of the people of Israel – the careful arrangement of the camp, the clear delineation of the land among the tribes, the laws of uncleanness, food restrictions, and circumcision – all serve to set Israel apart as a priestly nation. The Jews were not exclusively the people of God; there were still Noahic gentile believers, those who worshipped God under the covenant given to Noah – God-fearers. More prominent examples include Melchizedek, priest-king of [Jeru]Salem; Jethro, the priest-king of Midian and Moses’ father-in-law; Hiram, king of Tyre who helped David and Solomon with materials for the temple; and Nebuchadnezzar, who wrote his own confession of faith to Yahweh in the book of Daniel. The gentiles were not required to become Jews – that is, to be circumcised – to worship Yahweh, nor were they even really encouraged to do so. A gentile God-fearer could do just about everything a Jew could do, except own land in Israel or attend Passover. They could live in the cities and attend all the other feasts. They could bring an animal to the tabernacle or temple for sacrifice.
By Jesus’ day, this was almost completely overturned. The Jews were not acting as priests to the nations. They viewed themselves as the exclusive people of God, and gentiles as second-class. This is the main issue Paul is talking about and wrestling with in almost all of his letters – the weaving together of believing Jews and God-fearing gentiles – two separated people of God – into one new body, the church. Compare the book of Acts – there are not many pagan converts (the Philippian jailer seems to be one). Peter (with Cornelius) and Paul mostly just “convert” already-believing gentiles.

At War Within You

David’s sin with Bathsheba is a prime example of the interconnectedness of whole body of the law. Though David had his own wives, he coveted another woman. He laid his hand on that which was forbidden and took her for himself, knowingly stealing another man’s wife. Of course, this is also adultery, and it leads him to murder Uriah, one of David’s thirty mighty men.

There are some additional things going on here that are not immediately apparent. Uriah is not a native Israelite, he is a Hittite. He is a Gentile brought into the covenant community, and very likely converted by David himself. Eliam, Bathsheba’s father, was another of David’s mighty men and his father Ahithophel was one of David’s closest advisers. “Bathsheba grew up in awe of David, the man after God’s own heart, the author of the psalms, God’s anointed leader. All her life she had viewed him as one of Israel’s preeminent spiritual leaders. She had heard him speak of the Lord many times. She had heard her father and grandfather praise him. So, when David called for her, she came. (Jordan)”

David’s primary sin isn’t murder or adultery, as bad as those are. Nor has he merely followed Adam’s sin of taking what has been forbidden. He has led one of God’s little ones astray. “This story is that of David’s fall. David, unlike Adam, was a king, a leader, a guide, a teacher (psalmist). He was like the angel of Yahweh (2 Samuel 14:17, 20; 19:27). The analogy is to Lucifer in the Garden of Eden. Lucifer was chief of the angelic tutors to humanity during our childhood, and he led Adam and Eve into death by abusing his position (Galatians 3:19, 4:1-3). David did the same.” He “advanced” beyond Adam’s sin and became the serpent. (Jordan)

James says all of this stems from coveting. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

Paul addresses two Philippian women by name who are having some sort of conflict with one another. This is fighting between two women who are otherwise faithful servants in the church and it comes, as James says, from desiring something over and against the person and well-being of the other brother or sister. The answer to this covetousness-seeded bickering, Paul says, is to rejoice in the Lord. “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These two things are really foundational to our lives. You cannot sin and rejoice in the Lord. You cannot covet and be thankful. Paul’s contentment comes from knowing that he has received all things from God. Everything we have comes from Him – our bodies, our lives, our families, our homes, our jobs, our trials, our wrestlings. He knows how to give good gifts and blessings and He knows how to discipline us to grow us up. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” When we cease to recognize that all things come from Him and we start to think that we deserve it or that we’ve earned it, we are spitting in the face of God.

God daily gives Himself to us as gift, pouring Himself into His creation. We are made in His image and so we are made as gifts. We receive His good gifts with thankfulness and we give our lives to each other, rejoicing in the Lord.

Out of the Heart

In James 3, he speaks about the use of the tongue. It is such a small thing but has the power to create or destroy worlds. An abuse of the tongue is a direct affront against God, who created the world through His Son, the Word. A corrupt tongue opposes the pure tongues of fire given to the church at Pentecost. It is ultimately not the tongue itself, but the heart that is corrupt, as Jesus says, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”


Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25 covers a few different stipulations.

The first is a prohibition against excessive beating as punishment. The limit is set at forty stripes. This calls to mind the forty days of rain at the flood and the forty years wandering in the wilderness. These were the maximum punishment and an effective cleansing of the sins of the former generation, that is, it wiped them out entirely. The forty lashes as a maximum are a sign of putting to death the body of sin so the man himself might be saved.

A man who refuses to raise up a son for his dead brother is cutting off his brother’s name from the land. It is an attempt to take his brother’s land inheritance for himself. He receives spit in the face as a sign of shame for his refusal to provide seed, and his sandal is pulled off which removes his protection against the curse of the ground. So for grasping for what is his brother’s, he stands to lose his own as well.

The next section is also an attack on the seed. If a woman grabs a man’s parts in a fight, she is attacking his ability to have children, thus cutting off his inheritance in the land. She is also cutting him off from entering the worship assembly, as expressed 23:1. This law is paralleled in Exodus 21 where men fighting cause a woman to give birth prematurely. If the baby is unharmed, the man would just pay a fine. But if there is any harm done, the man would pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

Unequal weights and measures are just pure theft. This is despising the other person and their right to their property, grasping for what is theirs. It is hatred of man and God and is a refusal to acknowledge that all things come from Him. It is an abomination, a detestable thing, like spoiled food that you spit out of your mouth.

The Amalekites had thought to pounce on the spoil of Israel as they fled from Egypt. Again, the punishment is life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. They had tried to cut off Israel, so they themselves would be cut of from under heaven.