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seventy palm trees 

12-12-2011 - Posted by Marlijne

We read in Exodus 15 that the people of Israel, at the beginning of their journey through the wilderness, came to an oasis known by the name, Elim:

Then they came to Elim; there were twelve springs of water and seventy palms there. So they encamped there by the waters.

Why are these numbers mentioned? Does it matter for the historiography of it? Superficially considered, no, not at all. But this entry, very significantly, points to what lies beneath the surface, to the water wells. In accord with Biblical symbolism, it is a hint to the words of God which are entrusted to Israel. As the psalmist says: “He is telling His words to Jacob” (Ps.147:19). Jacob stands for the twelve tribes, hence, “twelve water sources”.

Around these twelve springs were, grouped together, seventy palm trees. Seventy refers to the seventy nations of the world’s ancestors, listed in Genesis 10. The nations of the world are fed and watered at the wells of Jacob. Not for nothing is Israel called, elsewhere, “the navel of the earth” (Eze.38:12), which also refers to the supply line.

The word “seven” in Hebrew (of which seventy is a multiple), is derived from a word, meaning “fullness”, “saturation” (see, e.g., Ruth 2:14). That the Bible has seventy books, demonstrates its completeness. This number is God’s signature on “the holy Scriptures”.