They came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there by the water.
Our reading in Exodus today comes after the amazing story of how God brought his people through the Red Sea and then defeated their enemies by having them swallowed by the sea (Exodus 14:1-15:21).
The Israelites were now delivered from slavery in Egypt, and God was leading them through a dry desert. The first water they discovered wasn’t drinkable until God used a piece of wood, thrown in by Moses, to take away the bitterness.
Then eventually they came to Elim, which means “large trees”—a place of 70 palm trees growing by 12 springs of water. These palms and springs represented the fullness of God’s blessing for all his people after a long, hard journey. In the Bible, the numbers 7 and 10 often signify fullness and completion, and we can see that 70 = 7 x 10. Further, the number 12 represents all of God’s people, because Israel was made up of 12 tribes, all descended from the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel).
Elim was therefore a place indicating the reliability of God’s promises. In the water that refreshed and sustained them, the people could literally taste the sweetness of God’s promised care. And in the cooling shade of the palm trees the people found rest and soothing protection from the harsh, desert sun. All of this pointed ahead to abundant blessings still to come in the great unfolding story of God’s faithfulness.
Lord God, you are our deliverer and provider, our strength and song. You are our God, and we praise and exalt you. In your name we pray. Amen.