The ‘Sceptre’ Will Not Depart – Genesis 49:10

In this Torah Portion,  Vayechi we find the  famous verse of Genesis 49:10:

“The sceptre (שֵׁבֶט = shevet) shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.”http://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0149.htm

Or: The staff shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet  until Shiloh arrives, and his will be an  assembly of nations.” – Genesis 49:10

Note: Google Translate translates שֵׁבֶט as ‘tribe’, not stick, staff, rod or sceptre.

I caught up with some very dear old friends, Gordon and Kathy during the week and Kathy pointed out to me that ‘sceptre’ was not really a good translation of   שֵׁבֶט  (pronounced ‘shevet’) which originally meant branch or staff.

Some support for her insight:

“Citing an explanation from Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Luzzatto (1800-1865), Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) … explains that the word shevet originally referred to the leader of a tribe… The leader of a tribe is similar to a mast upon which a flag is mounted because all of the members of the tribe rally around the leader. In this way the word for a leader of a tribe is homonymous with the word for stick. Since all the members of a tribe are united behind their leader, references to them can be subsumed under the word used for the leader. Thus, the word shevet also came to mean members of a tribe because the leader of the tribe embodies the entire tribe itself. In terms of sticks, he argues that shevet and mateh can both refer to the exact same type of stick, but they refer to different parts of the stick. The word shevet refers to the top of the stick (just as the leader sits atop the hierarchal structure of a tribe), …

Malbim (to Gen. 49:28) writes that the word shevet does not literally mean “stick”, rather it means “branch,” which was the most common item used as a stick. Based on this, he explains that shevet means branch and tribe because each of the Tribes of Israel is simply a branch of the greater family tree of Jacob’s descendants.”
What’s in a Word?, “Tribesmen Stick Together” by Reb Chaim Haqoton

This verse is very often used as a prophecy about the Messiah given the interesting allusions to Shiloh and the fact that the eschatological Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah.

However, most Bible students who are critical thinkers will have recognized that this verse can not be used as a prophecy for Yeshua as Messiah or for any other Messianic figure for that matter.

But what Kathy pointed out is that when we see this word ‘shevet’ as staff or if you like as ‘flag-bearer’ for the Tribe of Judah and its allegiance to Yehovah, we can see that this prophecy was and is still true.

The Jewish people and in particular the Tribe of Judah (including of course Yeshua ben Yosef) have indeed been the flag-bearers for the ‘oracles of God’.

Romans 3:1-2  Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.”

This was clearly true when the Apostle Paul made this statement and it has been true in the almost 2000 years since. However, unless Mashiach/Messiah returns soon, it may not remain true for many more years.

As Tal Keinan points out in his excellent book God Is in the Crowd: Twenty-First-Century Judaism (https://www.amazon.com/God-Crowd-Twenty-First-Century-Tal-Keinan/dp/0525511164/) the very survival of Israel and of Judaism is in serious jeopardy. I think his analysis is excellent and most disconcerting though I don’t see his solution, while perhaps of great merit, being implemented to any effective degree (see some comments in a footnote below).

Rabbi Mendel Kessin in his talk from just a few days ago ‘21st Century #61 | The Turmoil that Surrounds the Coming of Mashiach’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mHtGW_Q5Ds&feature=youtu.be) argues that of the world-wide 14 million Jews at most only 3 million are still in any way Torah observant. Clearly the remaining Jews place a much lower emphasis on the centrality and foundational importance of the Hebrew Bible and hence are not as likely to maintain and pass on the ‘Oracles of God’ that are really the very foundation of morality and and the successes and freedoms of the Western World.

So what hope the future?

I would recommend Tal Keinan’s book for some great background to this growing concern with respect to the end of Judaism and Israel, and Rabbi Kessin’s talk for some insights into the possible future.

God’s testimony to mankind is of key importance as testified repeatedly by the prophets.   From my observation all our attention has been focused on the Messiah rather than God’s message of “the Way” to us.

May Mashiach come soon!!

PS: When I was writing this short reflection on Gen 49:10 I also emailed Kathy and asked if she had any supporting evidence for her insight with respect to this verse. Today I was blessed and thrilled to receive her comprehensive and most insightful reply. With her permission I have posted it below:

Quote:


“Further to your question re Genesis – it’s simply my own study – from what I can see everyone assumes this verse applies to the Messiah.  Anyway my reasoning is below and would welcome criticism as I certainly don’t place myself as some great authority here but this scripture has perplexed me for a long time.

Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. NKJ

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah not a scholar from among his descendants until Shiloh comes and his will be the assemblage of nations.   Artscroll

Of all the brothers, Judah’s prediction is unique in that it lasts through perpetuity.  In retrospect we know that the messianic line was be through Judah so translators conclude it describes kingship.  There is also the enigma that no one seems to know what the term “Shiloh” means.  In the Hebrew it could be “Shiloh coming” or “Coming to Shiloh” it is unclear.  However, we understand “the gathering of nations” will occur in what we believe at the “end times”. 

However, this has always been a troubling verse and nagging contradictions persisted at the back of my mind. 

  1. Historically perpetuity of kingship was not the case as Judah only had a king for 538 years.  It was probably around 500 years after Judah’s death that David become king.   During the Babylonian exile there was no king right through to the 2nd Temple period. 
  2. What has always been poignant is Israel’s rejection of God as their King.  God expresses sadness and betrayal in this verse.  If God preordained a messianic line there is no hint here.
    1 Samuel 8.7      And YHVH said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.  
  3. Jacob’s message is somewhat enigmatic.  From my research scholars seems to agree that Jacob was prevented from telling his sons what would happen at the “end times”.  He goes on to describe the attributes of his sons and how these would influence them.  Certainly, we do not have solid evidence of most of these tribal predictions manifested today or in the last 2500 years. 
    In checking the definition of “latter days” can mean: “end, posterity or remainder”.  It implies stating an outcome, as in Moses giving his last admonitions to Israel in Deuteronomy.  Today, prophetically we do not know the identity of the scattered lost tribes since their dispersal.  We do know through Ancestry.com that most of us are a great mixture across Europe Scandinavia, the Steppes, the Baltic, UK.   We recognise some of those prophecies in reading the history of Israel. 
  4. Despite Israel’s rejection, God still claims to be King over Israel.  Isaiah 43.15
    I am YHVH, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.
    And YHVH shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His Name One.
  5. In future:  Ezekiel 34: 23-24  I will establish over them a single shepherd and he will tend them – My servant David; he will tend them and he will be a shepherd unto them.  And I, YHVH, I will be a God to them, and My servant David a prince among them, I YHVH have spoken it.

What exactly was Jacob wanting to communicate to Judah?  What was Judah to understand?  Biblical accounts record Judah’s life.  Despite his errors of judgement eg. with Tamar he responded honourably when tested and the tribe of Judah became the national standard bearer to this day after the reign of Solomon and the dispersal of the northern kingdom by Assyria. 

SCEPTRE
We naturally make the connection of “kingship” when we read “sceptre”.  In Hebrew the word is shevet.  Virtually every translation of Genesis 49.10 translates the word as sceptre.  The concept of Messiah became a dominant theme due to the oppression by Greeks and Romans during the 2nd Temple period and the subsequent birth of Christianity.

LAWGIVER
The word “mchkek” (Mem Chet Kuf Kuf) comes from the Hebrew word “chok” – it means “statute”.  So, it seems Judah was to be the statute bearer/administrator.  “Lawgiver” is outside Judah’s prerogative therefore this term is not strictly correct.

What is special about Judah and that claim of perpetuity? 

Out of all the tribes, it is only Judah and part of Levi that remains to this day. 

Therefore, felt I needed to more closely examine what indeed could be meant by the 2 biblical terms of “sceptre not departing from between Judah’s feet” (feet possibly indicating halacha or “the way”) and “lawgiver” in this verse.

Sceptre (Hebrew):
The only way we can define a word is to observe its scriptural use.  According to Strong’s “8275” there is a specific Hebrew word for sceptre “shavrit” and it is only found in 4 places in the book of Esther and the sceptre is carried by a Gentile king.  There is no record of an Israelite or Jewish king  having such a sceptre.

Hebrew “Shevet” SHIN BET TET  (Strongs 7626) –can mean: rod, staff, power, correction, tribe.

In scripture the principal use of this word is “tribe” we find that use around 140 times.

The other uses of “shevet” are found below: a total 41.

Based on the King James “shevet” is interpreted as “sceptre” in six other places:

For example, Artscroll and other translations we see sceptre can be used interchangeably and I have bracketed other translations of this word.

Numbers 24:17  A star has issued from Jacob and a sceptre bearer from Israel and he shall pierce the nobles of Moab.  (Balaam’s prophecy when Balaak feared Israel could conquer Moab)
Psalms 45.6  Your throne is from God it is forever and ever, for the sceptre of fairness is the sceptre of your kingdom.  (Psalm written by sons of Korah)
Isaiah 14.5  YHVH has broken the staff of the wicked and the rod (power)of rulers
Amos 1:5,8  the one who holds the sceptre from Beth Eden…I will turn My hand and the one who holds the sceptre (rules/ symbol of power/leader) from Ashkelon
Zechariah 10.11  the pride of Assyria will be brought down and the staff  (power/taskmasters/dominion/ruler) of Egypt will depart
Ezekiel 19.11  It has strong rods for sceptres of sovereigns

In the remaining scriptures we see “shevet” used as “rod” “staff” “tribe” “stick”

Exodus 21.20 If a man strike his slave with the rod….
Leviticus 27.32  Any tithe of cattle…that passes under the rod
2 Samuel 7.14 I will chastise him with the rod of men
Job 9.34  Were he to remove the rod from me and his terror not frighten me
Job 21.9 the rod of God is not against them
Psalms 2.9  You  will smash them with an iron rod
Psalms 23.4  I will fear no evil for your rod and staff they comfort me
Psalms 74.2  You redeemed the tribe of your heritage
Psalms 89.32  I will punish their transgressions with a rod and their iniquity with plagues
Psalms 125.3  For the rod of wickedness shall not rest on the righteous
Proverbs 10.13 In the lips of an understanding one will be found wisdom but a rod on the one who lacks an understanding heart
Proverbs 13.24 One who spares his rod hates his child
Proverbs 22.8  One who sows injustice will reap iniquity and the rod of His fury will destroy it
Proverbs 22.15  Foolishness is bound in the heart of a youth, the rod of discipline will distance it from him
Proverbs 23.13 If you strike him with a rod he will not die
Proverbs 23.14  You should strike him with a rod and you will rescue him from the grave
Proverbs 26.3  A rod for the back of fools
Proverbs 29.15  The rod and rebuke bring wisdom
Isaiah 9.4  For the yoke of the burden and the staff on its shoulder, the rod that oppressed them
Isaiah 10.5  Woe to Assyria rod of My anger, My wrath is a staff in their hand,
Isaiah 10.15  It is as if a rod could shake those who lift it as if a stick could lift one who is not wood.
Isaiah 10.24 though he will strike you with a staff raise his rod over you in the manner of Egypt
Isaiah 11.4  He will strike the wicked with the rod of his mouth
Isaiah 14.29  Do not rejoice Philistia because the staff that beat you has been broken
Isaiah 28.27  It is with a staff that caraway is beaten
Isaiah 30.31  For Assyria will become devasted by the voice of YHVH as if He struck with a rod
Jeremiah 10.16  Unlike these is the portion of Jacob, for He is the Molder of everything and Israel is the (rod) tribe that is His heritage,
Jeremiah 51.19  Unlike these is the portion of Jacob, for He is the Molder of everything and Israel is the (rod) tribe that is His heritage,
Lamentations 3.1  I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His anger
Ezekiel 20.37  I will make you pass under the rod and bring you into the bond of the covenant
Ezekiel 21.10,13  The staff that beats my son scorns every wood
Because it is testing what will be if this sword scorns even this rod
Micah 5.1  He has laid siege against us with a stick they strike on the cheek the judges of Israel.
Micah 7.14  Shepherd Your (YHVH) people with your staff, the flock of Your heritage

From the above references we see the use of shevet as: a tool of power, punishment, rebuke, measurement, judgment, comfort as well as tribe.

So, what is it that Judah has given us in perpetuity?  God told Israel they were the “priesthood nation” – “a light to the nations” – through preserving and observing the word of God. 

As they say, more than the Jews kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Jews.  Today the covenant is being enacted – a nation scattered amongst the nations is now a growing nation in its own homeland.  Throughout the ages the remnant of Jews has safe guarded scripture with their lives.  They endured conquests, exile, persecution yet scripture has been preserved to the highest of quality standards.  There is no book like it in the world and it forms the basis of both Judaism and Christianity.

At our fingertips we can access the Torah, Niviim (prophets) and the Ketivim (writings)  which contain God’s laws (torah) statutes (Hookim) judgements (mishpatim), commandments (mitzvot). 

Primarily, it is the revelation of the enduring word of God that Judah has faithfully performed the task of administrator and as well as the historic active participant in this legacy.  It is the “shevet” between his feet – (feet imply to walk – ie to walk in His way – halacha)

Seems it is God’s message to us of “His way” that feet should follow until “Shiloh comes” or vice versa. 

Even into the future this role remains with Judah where Zechariah 8:23 tells us
Thus said YHVH, Master of Legions ; In those days it will happen that ten men of all languages of the nations, will take hold of the corner of the garment of him a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

My conclusion is that the tribe of Judah has carried out its mission throughout the ages even when faced with destruction and exile.  God predicts this role will indeed be the case in the future. 

Therefore, the Messiah (described as a shepherd/prince/king) plays a vital part in administering that testimony God had given to the tribes of Jacob as their heritage.  The application of the word “shevet” beautifully embraces all those definitions discussed above.  We can only conclude that the tribe of Judah or its issue cannot be the lawgiver though in this age the Jews are responsible for holding and applying those “source documents”.  Even though mankind has been given dominion over the earth as expressed in Genesis and Psalms 8 says all of creation has been put under his feet. However, I cannot find any reference where God would delegate the role of “lawgiver” to anyone but Himself.

Isaiah 33.22 For YHVH is our judge, for YHVH is our Lawgiver, YHVH is our King, He will save us
Isaiah 32.8  I am YHVH: that is My Name: and My glory will I not give to another
Micah 4.7 and YHVH will reign over them in Mount Zion from now and forever.

God has always been and remains “the lawgiver”  The key is that it will be this very same testimony/revelation of YHVH contained in the Torah, Prophets and the Writings that the “holy nation” and Messiah will administer in YHVH’s Kingdom. 

The “shevet” shall not depart from Judah, nor “an administrator” from between his feet  until the time when God actively returns to rule from Zion and establish His kingdom and gather the nations.”

End Quote…

Some thoughts on God Is in the Crowd – Twenty-First-Century Judaism By: Tal Keinan

Having finished this book I feel rather despondent with respect to the future of Israel, of Judaism and of the world.

Tal has such insights into the state of Jewry in the Diaspora as well as Israel and the state of Israel’s continued ability to prevent it’s own demise. He very powerfully sums up the serious complexity and granularity of the people and the State and the increasing and very sobering signs of their demise.

This book makes it ever more clear that both Israel and the world need to hold their breath for Mashiach. There is no other long term solution it would seem.

Tal explains that their are really 4 significant and very distinct groups of people in Israel and with the Diaspora which is very much concentrated in the USA, and also increasingly distinct and separate, a total of 5 groups that will ultimately determine the long term fate of Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel.

In summary, these groups are the

  1. The theocrats (the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel who have significant political power but do next to nothing to defend Eretz Israel which is surrounded by enemies intent on her demise). Theough their rabbinic rulings they are also increasingly rejecting, separating and isolating the other groups;
  2. The Territorialists, those Jews who have populated Judea and Samaria and the other Territories that are ‘disputed’ and that require a very significant budget to defend. This group at least is very supportive of Israel (as most are the true Zionists and therefore have a strong sense of loyalty to the State of Israel and are willing to defend it). So while they are over-represented in the Israeli Defence Forces, as a group they are a net drain on the economy of the State.
  3. The Secularists (who mainly live in Tel Aviv) are the true backbone of the economic and defensive support of Israel, though their loyalty is being increasingly questioned as the Theocrats continue to disenfranchise them.
  4. The Fourth Israel are those Israelis, Jews, Arabs and others who are struggling for economic survival and who are not therefore able to support to significantly support the State of Israel and who may not even share the visions of any of the other three groups.
  5. The Diaspora Jews (mostly American Jews) are increasingly off-side with all of these groups in Israel, even the Securalists and are in rapid decline as well because of factors such as inter-marriage so that their financial, logistic and even physical support  of Israel continues to decline.

Tal is able to paint a clear picture of the diverse nature of the Jewish people today and of the complex and deterioating nature of Judaism as well.

It is a bleak and scary picture – for a country and people chosen to be a light to the nations, the future extinction of the State of Israel would clearly appear to be antithetical to HaShems plans for humanity. Yet it could also demonstrate unequivocally that we need Mashiach to step into this bleak portent and finally bring into full bloom the Great Day of Redemption.

PPS:

The scenes of Jerusalem in this Priestly Blessing song by Joshua Aaron bring back so many wonderful memories – my heart longs to return! See – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzqrWae5lK4   

Yevarechecha Adonai, VeYishmerecha
The LORD bless you and keep you
 יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ⁠

Ya’er Adonai Panav Eleycha ViChuneka
Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you
 יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ⁠

Yisa Adonai Panav Eleycha, VeYasem Lecha Shalom
The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace
יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

 Yehi chasdo aleicha le’alfei dorot
May His favor be upon you to a thousand generations
 יהי חסדו עליך לאלפי דורות

Mishpachtecha viladecha
Your family and your children
 משפחתך וילדיך

Dorotecha achareicha
Your generations after you
 דורותיך אחריך

Rucho telech lefaneicha
May His presence go before you
 רוחו תלך לפניך

Letsidecha achareicha
Beside you and behind you
 לצידך, אחריך

Misvivecha belibecha
All around you and within you
 מסביבך, בליבך

Hu itcha
He is with you
 הוא איתך

Baboker uvaerev
In the morning in the evening
 בבוקר ובערב

Betzetecha uvoecha
In your going and your coming
 בצאתך ובואך

B’sivlotecha beoshrecha
In your weeping and rejoicing
 בסבלותיך ואושרך

Hu itcha
He is for you
 הוא איתך

Hu itanu im kulanu
He is for us, He is with us
 הוא איתנו עם כולנו

Hu itcha
He is for you
 הוא איתך

Shalom
Peace
 שָׁלוֹם

 

Hosea on Israel’s relationship with the Almighty

In an article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks posted this week (April 16th 2015), he makes some references to the prophet Hosea. In reading this article I was again reminded of the many references in the Tanakh that declare that HaShem never really left His Chosen People, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but rather separated Himself from them at times, arguably as part of His loving discipline.

Hosea makes it very clear that the the ‘betrothal’, the marriage relationship between YHVH and Israel is an eternal one, that YHVH is and will always be the Husband of Israel.

Here are some excerpts from the article that help clarify this point:

“The inner history of humanity is in part the history of the idea of love. And at some stage a new idea makes its appearance in biblical Israel. We can trace it best in a highly suggestive passage in the book of one of the great prophets of the Bible, Hosea.

Hosea lived in the eighth century BCE. The kingdom had been divided since the death of Solomon.  The northern kingdom in particular, where Hosea lived, had lapsed after a period of peace and prosperity into lawlessness, idolatry and chaos. Between 747 and 732 BCE there were no less than five kings, the result of a series of intrigues and bloody struggles for power. The people, too, had become lax:
“There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder” (Hos. 4: 1-2).

Like other prophets, Hosea knew that Israel’s destiny depended on its sense of mission. Faithful to God, it was able to do extraordinary things: survive in the face of empires, and generate a society unique in the ancient world, of the equal dignity of all as fellow citizens under the sovereignty of the Creator of heaven and earth. Faithless, however, it was just one more minor power in the ancient Near East, whose chances of survival against larger political predators were minimal.

What makes the book of Hosea remarkable is the episode with which it begins.  God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute, and see what it feels like to have a love betrayed. Only then will Hosea have a glimpse into God’s sense of betrayal by the people of Israel.

Having liberated them from slavery and brought them into their land, God saw them forget the past, forsake the covenant, and worship strange gods.

Yet He cannot abandon them despite the fact that they have abandoned Him.

It is a powerful passage, conveying the astonishing assertion that more than the Jewish people love God, God loves the Jewish people.

The history of Israel is a love story between the faithful God and his often faithless people. Though God is sometimes angry, He cannot but forgive.

He will take them on a kind of second honeymoon, and they will renew their marriage vows:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her . . .
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will know the Lord.” (Hosea 2: 16-22)”

It is possible that that reference to ‘leading her (Israel) into the desert’ is a reference to the exiles that Israel has experienced. Yet, all these exiles were only temporary for those who were found faithful. The faithful returned from Assyria, they returned from Babylon, and they have in the last 60+ years returned, and are returning, from the final exile to the ‘four corners’ of the earth[1].

Rabbi Sacks goes on to say:

“… One verse in the midst of this prophecy deserves the closest scrutiny. It contains two complex metaphors that must be unraveled strand by strand:

“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call Me ‘my husband’ [ishi];
you will no longer call Me ‘my master’ [
baali]. (Hosea 2: 18)

This is a double pun. Baal, in biblical Hebrew, meant ‘a husband’, but in a highly specific sense – namely, ‘master, owner, possessor, controller.’ It signalled physical, legal and economic dominance.

It was also the name of the Canaanite god – whose prophets Elijah challenged in the famous confrontation at Mount Carmel. Baal (often portrayed as a bull) was the god of the storm, who defeated Mot, the god of sterility and death. Baal was the rain that impregnated the earth and made it fertile. The religion of Baal is the worship of god-as-power.

Hosea contrasts this kind of relationship with the other Hebrew word for husband, ish. Here he is recalling the words of the first man to the first woman:

“This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman [ishah], Because she was taken from Man [ish].” (Gen. 2: 23)

Here the male-female relationship is predicated on something quite other than power and dominance, ownership and control.

Man and woman confront one another in sameness and difference. Each is an image of the other, yet each is separate and distinct.

The only relationship able to bind them together without the use of force is marriage-as-covenant – a bond of mutual loyalty and love in which each makes a pledge to the other to serve one another.

Not only is this a radical way of reconceptualizing the relationship between man and woman. It is also, implies Hosea, the way we should think of the relationship between human beings and God.

God reaches out to humanity not as power – the storm, the thunder, the rain – but as love, and not an abstract, philosophical love but a deep and abiding passion that survives all the disappointments and betrayals.

Israel may not always behave lovingly toward God, says Hosea, but God loves Israel and will never cease to do so.”[2]

The Tanakh repeatedly states that Israel shall be restored to the Land, to Eretz Israel, not because they necessarily deserve to be, but because this return, and re-establishment of their ‘betrothal’ to their Husband, is for His Name’s sake. 

The Almighty declares His sovereignty and His eternal love by returning His People to the Land of Israel.

Today this understanding carries little favour in the Hellenistic Christian world which embraces Replacement Theology. I have a chapter on this issue in my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellensim’ – see http://www.amazon.com/Doctrinal-Pitfalls-Hellenism-Studies-Greek-ebook/dp/B00DO17CK8/

 

 

 

[1] see my article ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’ – http://goo.gl/hwBeoO

[2] – quoted from “http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16788#.VTGfkGSqqkp

A re-translation and reconsideration of some of Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 is a much loved passage in the Tanakh, both for Judaism and for Christianity. Yet, there is much debate over it’s true and full meaning.

This debate has gone on for at least 1800 years with some famous commentaries such as the intriguing commentary of Rabbi Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, who lived from 1194 to 1270 CE), which I discuss briefly in my article ‘The Messiah from an Hebraic Perspective’ – http://goo.gl/0Z5AHc

I even have a book entitled ‘The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters’ (first published in 1896) which has over 50 leading Rabbi’s and Jewish scholars who give their take on this amazing chapter and prophecy.

So what more could be added to the mix? How could anyone give some added value or new insight, with possibly greater validity, to the many books and articles already written on this great portion of Isaiah (correctly transliterated as Yishaiyahu)?

Before I answer that question, consider that Yishaiyahu was first written for and to the Jewish people, at least some 2,600 years ago and possibly even as early as 2,780 odd years ago. Until the Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries the oldest versions of Yishaiyahu in the original language was the Masoretic Text of the Codex Leningrad, (dated at 1000 CE), but first complied around 700 CE.

The DSS discovery of the Great Isaiah Scroll (dated at the latest to be around 100 BCE with some carbon dating giving an age of 350 BCE) changed all this. While this text has been in public circulation for some decades now, to the best of my knowledge no Jewish Hebrew translator had compiled a re-translation with commentary until now. Very recently this task has been undertaken.

Note that I stated a ‘Jewish Hebrew translator’, meaning someone not only Jewish but a native Hebrew speaker and also a skilled translator. Why is this important?

The Jewish people, if you take the time to ask them, will argue that the Gentile/Hellenistic Christian church has taken their Bible, which they paid for in their own blood, translated it without properly understanding it, and then, handed back to the Jewish people a corrupted version, which has effectively striped the Torah from the Apostolic Writings (the NT).

These same ‘translators’ and Christian leaders then have the check to call the Jewish people ‘blind’, when they refuse to accept the re-worked and corrupted Bible that has had its very core and essence (Torah) seriously diminished and sidelined in its pages.

What really amazes me is that Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) foresaw all this and more over 2,500 years ago when he composed his book of the Tanakh!

The translation below is by a Jewish translator living in Jerusalem. In undertaking to translate the Great Isaiah Scroll, Uriel ben Mordechai took careful notice of every Hebrew letter difference between the Aleppo and Leningrad texts versus the Great Isaiah Scroll. While DSS scholars such as the great Frank Moore Cross inform us that the differences between the MT and the Great Isaiah Scroll are minimal, Uriel found that there were some significant differences.

To help with readability in translating a Hebrew document, whose original composition was over 2500 years ago, and with which the extant copy is at least 2100 years old, Uriel added some clarifications in square brackets. These are not part of the original text, but add a lot of clarity and explanation for today’s English readership (note also, AM Israel means ‘the people of Israel’).

Yishaiyahu 52:15 – 53:5:

“Concerning him [AM Israel, the Servant of HaShem], leaders shall jump into formation to open their mouths [in a panic], because that which was not told to them, they will grasp, and that which they would not hear, they will discover.

[These leaders will say,] “Who [now] will believe our version of the story, and [what we once claimed with reference] to whom the arm of HaShem had [in actual fact] been revealed,…

who also grew up as a nursing child, before Him [i.e. HaShem], and like a root in the desert, without him having had title [or rank], and without any honor, that we might have noticed him; Unimpressive, that we would have found him attractive?”

“He [the Servant of HaShem, AM Israel] was [considered by us to be] revolting, lacking personality [or repugnant], like a grief-stricken man, known [by us] to be ill [or deficient]. And in that he distanced himself from our company, [all the more] we found him despicable, and we handed him [only] our contempt.

Undeniably, he shouldered [the brunt of] our insanities. Our regrets [i.e. our sad stories, or shameful acts] — he tolerated them. We deemed him contaminated; [having been] defeated by G-d [Himself]; and [utterly] humiliated!

And he was dishonored [or desanctified] on account of our misconduct [or crimes]; [he was] downtrodden [i.e. tyrannized, or persecuted] from our improprieties. Moral values [i.e. our own ethical standard] with which we were comfortable, were thrust upon him. And yet [only] in the company of his people, shall we be restored to health.” <end quote>

For those of you seeking a prophecy here about Yeshua, remember that ‘the Servant of HaShem’ describes the people of Israel, and Yeshua is a member of this Servant Nation. Therefore, this text can also refer to him, both as a part of AM Israel and also individually as the Mashiach (Messiah) of Israel.

I strongly recommend you re-read this short section of Uriel’s translation and contrast the prophecies with the events of today. What can you see?

How much does this scream anti-Semitism? Can you see the pogroms and mistreatment of the Jewish people as a result of the Gentile ignorance and arrogance with respect to Israel?

And yet, can you also see that the time will dawn when we Gentiles will recognize that our restoration, our return to full health and lasting vitality will only come when we embrace HaShem’s Servant Nation (and of course, His Mashiach)! But we can’t have one without the other. We can’t have Mashiach without first accepting AM Israel!

AM Israel Chai!

What does it mean to be God’s witness?

“Do not desecrate My holy name. I must be sanctified among the Israelites. I am YHWH, who made you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am YHWH’ – Leviticus 22:32
[
Two great commands[1]: – from this weeks Torah Portion – Emor – Leviticus 21-24]

In this sentence are two really important instructions from the Almighty – they are firstly a prohibition against desecrating God’s name, and secondly the positive corollary, to sanctify God’s name.

What are these commands and what do they mean?

First we have to understand the concept of “name” as it applies to God.

A name is how we are known to others. God’s “name” is therefore His standing in the world.

Do people acknowledge Him, respect Him, honour Him?

We read in Isaiah: “You are my witnesses, says God, that I am God” (Isaiah 43:10)

Witness2

So here we see that HaShem, through the great prophet Isaiah informs the Jewish people that they are the witnesses to God Himself and to the reality that He is God. His standing; the degree to which the Almighty is held in respect and honoured is through the degree to which the Jewish people have been powerful and effective witnesses.

Yet, the God of Israel is the God of all humanity. He created the universe and life itself. He made all of us – Jew and Gentile – in His image. He cares for all: “His tender mercies are on all his works (Psalm 145:9).

Because He is Spirit, because He created the Universe, He transcends it; HE is beyond it. So how can He be known?

Science can only measure and ‘know’ the material universe. Yet there is no question that Nature does declare the Almighty and His works. Science continues to further reveal the amazing design of the Universe and the powerful and undeniable inference of an Intelligent Designer[2].

Science is increasingly revealing to us that this mind-bogglingly vast Universe was created over an incredibly long period of time for the central purpose of creating mankind! Science is also demonstrating that the truths of the Universe have been revealed to us in a tutorial like fashion, in a similar way to the unpeeling of an onion of increasing complexity as we reach toward its core.

But such revelations of Science tell us little about the nature and ‘personality’ of this Designer or Creator.

So incredibly the Creator decided to reveal Himself to the world through a ‘Chosen People’, the nature sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Jewish people.

Yet, because He is the God of the Gentile as well as the Jew, he also eventually opened a doorway for gentiles to not only learn of Him through the witness of the Jewish people, but also to be adopted into the family of Abraham.

To reiterate then, the Creator of the Universe has made Himself and His nature known primarily (not exclusively), through Jewish history and the Jewish impact, influence and witness to the world.

At the end of his life Moses stated:

Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other.

Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?

Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?

Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things YHWH your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?  -Deut. 4:32-34

Some 3,300 years ago Moses already knew that Jewish history was and would continue to be unique. No other nation has survived such trials. The revelation of God to Israel was unique.

No other religion is built on a direct revelation of God to an entire people as happened at Mount Sinai.

Therefore God – the God of revelation (nature & Mt Sinai) and redemption (the Exodus & the Resurrection) – is known to the world through Israel.

Thus the Jewish people (and all who have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel) are testimony to something beyond ourselves.

They (we) are God’s ambassadors to the world.

Therefore when the Jewish people, or the ‘Grafted Ones’, behave in such a way as to evoke admiration for their faith and way of life, that is a sanctification of God’s name.

When the opposite occurs – when they/we betray that faith and way of life, causing people to have contempt for the God of Israel – that is a desecration of God’s name.

That is what the prophet Amos means when he says:

“They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground, and deny justice to the oppressed … (in doing) so (they) desecrate My holy name.” – Amos 2:7

When Jews or ‘grafted ones’ behave badly, unethically, unjustly, they create a desecration of God’s good name.

People then say, ‘I cannot respect a religion, or a God, that inspires people to behave in such a poor manner’.

The same applies on a larger, more international scale. Ezekiel made this clear:

I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, “These are YHWH’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.”  – Ezekiel 36:19

Rabbi Sacks writes:

“When Jews are defeated and sent into exile, it is not only a tragedy for them. It is a tragedy for God. He feels like a parent would feel when he sees a child of his disgraced and sent to prison. He feels a sense of shame and worse than that, of inexplicable failure.

“How is it that, despite all I did for him, I could not save my child from himself?”

When Jews are faithful to their mission, when they live and lead and inspire as Jews, then God’s name is exalted. That is what Isaiah means when he says, “”You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:3).”[3]

The fate of God’s “name” in the world is dependent on us (Jews and ‘grafted ones’) and how we behave.

No nation has ever been given a greater or more fateful responsibility than Israel.

When we gather to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6) and share in the support of her people, we ‘grafted ones’ also have a share in this task.

BUT, when we, especially the more religious and zealous amongst us, behave badly; that is when we act unethically in business, or are guilty of sexual abuse, or utter a racist remark, or act with contempt for others, etc. – such failure; such desecration of He who we represent; who we are witnesses of;  reflects badly on all Jews and righteous Gentiles, and on the faith of Abraham itself[4].

And when we act well – when we develop a reputation for acting honourably in business, or caring for victims of abuse, or showing conspicuous generosity of spirit – not only does this reflect well on our community, and on the commonwealth of Israel, it naturally increases the respect people have for religion in general, and thus for the One True God, YHWH.

This is how Maimonides puts it in his law code:

If a person has been scrupulous in his conduct, gentle in his conversation, pleasant toward his fellow creatures, affable in manner when receiving, not retorting even when affronted, but showing courtesy to all, even to those who treat him with disdain, conducting his business affairs with integrity …
And doing more than his duty in all things, while avoiding extremes and exaggerations – such a person has sanctified God.”[5]

Throughout history the Jewish people have been trust into the limelight so that their witness, both good and bad, has really been unavoidable. Despite their very small numerical size, their witness has been undeniably huge.

 

The Jew, Milton Himmelfarb wrote: The number of Jews in the world is smaller than a small statistical error in the Chinese census. Yet we remain bigger than our numbers. Big things seem to happen around us and to us.‘[6]

God trusted the Jewish people enough to make them His ambassadors to an often faithless, brutal world.

Yet, individually, tribally and corporately the choice is always theirs.

They each daily need to decide ‘Will my life be a sanctification of God , or a desecration? Will my life further enhance the good reputation of God, or will my choices today bring dishonour on Him and further denigrate the reputation of good standing of the Almighty in the eyes of the world?”

If you are Jewish or a ‘grafted one’, you too need to make this choice every day. I think all who seek God; all who are truth seekers, will eventually learn that they are, or can become part of the family of Abraham.

Yet this choice, this freedom to follow our ‘fleshly hearts’, our ‘Yetzer HaRa’ and in turn potentially desecrate the name and reputation of the Almighty, or instead to heed the call of our ‘spiritual heart’, our ‘Yetzer HaTov’ and act in ways that sanctify His Name, is always in front of us.

Perhaps when we reflect that an act of good that we participate in has in turn sanctified the honour, and reputation of God, and in doing so has been a faithful and effective witness of the true reality of our Father in Heaven, our joy should increase!

We can then also take comfort in having inspired others to believe and have faith, and in turn, seek Him whose mercies are new every morning!

May it be so! Amen!

[1] Most of the article is a paraphrasing of a great Parsha from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks is one of the most amazing theologians and authors of our time. I am deeply indebted to his scholarship.

[2] See my article ‘Does God Exist’ – https://goo.gl/dfZ7aE

[3] I have written at length on Isaiah 49, an amazing and prophetic chapter – see Isaiah 49 – a commentary

[4] For more on the ‘family of Abraham’ see ‘The Tripartite Salvation Paradigm’

[5] Maimonides, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, 5:11

[6] Milton Himmelfarb, Jews and Gentiles, Encounter Books, 2007, 141

Fighting Fair: Bringing Balance to the Table Regarding Israel’s Place in the Plans of God

I see so much false thinking amongst almost every Gentile people group throughout the entire world, and even amongst many liberal/non-religious Jews (especially in the Diaspora) regarding the reality of the State of Israel today.

The mass media has been hugely successful in falsely portraying Israel as a demonic bully in its relationship with its Arab neighbours, and as a usurper of the affections of God. The mass media and the great majority of advocacy groups from almost every political and religious persuasion has done a brilliant job is painting Israel as an aggressive ‘occupier’ and serious blight on world’s hopes and dreams for peace in the Middle East and around the globe.

What perhaps most saddens me is that this evil propaganda campaign has been so successful that even many ‘Christian’ Messianic groups and individuals have been duped into believing these false reports.

There are a number of great organisations such as Honest Reporting (www.honestreporting.com) that work tirelessly to try to counteract the incredibly false message about Israel that dominates the mass media and social media networks around the world.

However, I think that some serious factual background information about the historical, political, theological and social events that have brought us to the present reality of the State of Israel are needed before such Israel advocacy voices such as Honest Reporting can be properly appreciated.

In this regard I believe that there are two vital books that give such background evidence. They are ‘Should Israel Exist’ by Prof. Michael Curtis, and ‘A History of the Jews’ by the historian Paul Johnson.

Both of these books are brilliant and very powerful narratives that document so much of the relevant information to give the open minded ‘truth seeker’ the comprehensive grounding needed to make proper sense of the events of the present time.

In ‘Should Israel Exist’ Prof. Michael Curtis addresses the recent political and historical events that lead to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent wars and political events that have been waged to try to reverse the miracle of 1948. He very clearly and effectively analyses the legal, ethical and moral perspectives surrounding these events and the existence of the State of Israel in the historic Land of Israel.

Historian Prof. Paul Johnson’s book is a lot more detailed and comprehensive as it traces the complete history of the Jewish people. While Johnson is not Jewish (he is a Roman Catholic), his ability to faithfully and accurately portray the Jewish people through their long chequered history is amazing, both in its detail, and in its real empathy and appreciation for this miraculous people of God.

For a very short but inspirational video that starts down this path to proper enlightenment I strongly recommend Inside Israel – How A Small Nation Makes A Big Difference’ – see http://www.israelinsidethemovie.com/

‘Inside Israel’ looks at why Israelites have been so amazingly successful in so many areas of human endeavour and why the Nation of Israel continues it’s miraculous development as one of the greatest and most successful countries on the planet.

In this movie Dr Tal Ben-Shahar outlines the 6 main principles that he sees as foundational to this success. These principles are  all derived from the Sh’ma (Shema – Deut 6:4-9; 11:12-22 & Num 15:37-42), which is perhaps the most important foundational portion of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) for the Jewish people.

I have travelled to Israel twice and on my second trip spent three weeks travelling the whole country. I have seen first hand both the daily miracles that the Almighty blesses Israel with, as well as the amazing way that the Jewish people go overboard (in fact, perhaps to an unhelpful extreme) to be more than equitable, to be more than fair to all within their borders and without. I believe that the Israeli people are the greatest example in the world of a people who heed Yeshua’s call to ‘turn the other cheek’.

I would most strongly encourage everyone, whatever your current understanding and persuasion regarding the State of Israel to read the two books by Prof Curtis and Prof Johnson that I have listed above.

After reading these books; even after reading only Prof Curtis’ book, I am convinced that most will then see the falsehood of the message that is painted by the great majority of news outlets and social media posts.

Fighting Evil with Grace: We are called to put out the fire!

After a recent presentation, the former Chief Rabbi of London, Lord Jonathan Sacks responded to a question with these comments (excerpts only[1]):

“Abraham sees a palace. That means that he sees the world has order. Therefore, it has a Creator. But the palace is in flames! – which means the world is full of disorder. It is full of evil, violence, injustice. Now nobody builds a building and then goes away and deserts it. Therefore, if there is a fire there must be somebody in charge to put it out. The building must have an owner. Where is he? And that is Abraham’s question. Where is God in this world?

That is the question that gives Abraham no peace. Here, if I am right, that is the starting point of Jewish faith.

In Judaism, faith does not begin with an answer. It begins with a question. It doesn’t begin in harmony. It begins in dissonance.

Here it is: if God created the world then God created man. Why then does God allow man to destroy the world? How can we reconcile the order of the world with the disorder of human society? Can God have made the world only to desert it? That is Abraham’s question. Can it be the world has no-one in charge, no owner? That is his question. …”

Rabbi Sacks goes on to explain that there are only two logical possibilities here and what they are and imply, but that Abraham rejects both of them[2]!

“ … Either God exists, in which case there is no evil. Or evil exists, in which case there is no God. But supposing both exist? Supposing there are both God and evil? Supposing there are both the palace and the flames?

Now if that is so, if my interpretation is right, then Judaism begins not in the conventional place where faith is thought to begin, namely in wonder that the world is. Judaism[3] begins in the opposite, in the protest against a world that is not as it ought to be.

At the very heart of reality, by which I mean reality as we see it, from our point of view, there is a contradiction between order and chaos: the order of creation and the chaos we make.

Now the question is: how we do we resolve that contradiction?

And the answer is that that contradiction between the palace and the flames, between the world that is and the world that ought to be, cannot be resolved at the level of thought. It doesn’t exist! You cannot resolve it! Logically, philosophically, in terms of theology or theodicy, you cannot do it!

The only way you can resolve that tension is by action; by making the world better than it is.
That is the only way you can lessen the tension between the palace and the flames. When things are as they ought to be, when there is only a palace and no flames – then we have resolved the tension. Then we have reached our destination. But that is not yet.

It was not yet for Abraham and it is not yet for us. And from this initial contradiction, from this cognitive dissonance, are born the following … fundamental features (of Judaism):

Firstly, the primary thing (in Judaism) is ‘doing’, is action, is deed, is mitzvah. Because only the mitzvah makes the world a little less dissonant between what it is and what it ought to be.

Secondly: the whole programme of Judaism, the project of the Torah, is ‘tikkun olam’ in the precise sense ‘mending a fragmented, fractured, world’. …” <end quote>

This is, I believe, the perfect definition of the ‘grace’ we are called to exhibit, if we desire to receive the Grace of YHVH!

We are to act with grace, with overflowing love’ toward our neighbour, and our fractured, hurting world.

The Christian world is big on grace, but perhaps they are a little confused about it. I discuss this in my article ‘Amazing Grace’ – see here


[2] Part of the answer is a sense in which evil is not evil after all – confused? Read Rabbi Sacks article and book.

[3] Or we could say, the message of the Tanakh, the message of YHVH and His Son, begins here

Deeds matter more than creeds

Prof Paul Johnson:
“… another characteristic of Judaism: the relative absence of dogmatic theology. … Their view of God is very simple and clear (he’s comparing it with the huge problems of dogmas and innumerable heresies within Hellenistic Christianity). Some Jewish scholars argue that there is (also) in fact, a lot of dogma in Judaism.

That is true in the sense that there are many negative prohibitions – chiefly against idolatry. But the Jews usually avoided the positive dogmas which the vanity of theologians tends to create and which are the source of so much trouble.  They never adopted, for instance , the idea of Original Sin. Of all the ancient peoples, the Jews were perhaps the least interested in death, and this saved them from a host of problems. It is true that belief in the resurrection ansd the afterlife was the main distinguishing mark of Pharisaism, and thus a fundament of rabbinic Judaism. Indeed the first definite statement of dogma in the whole of Judaism, in the Mishnah, deals with this: ‘All Israel share in the world to come except the one who says resurrection has no origin in the Law’. But the Jews had a way of concentrating on life and pushing death – and its dogmas – intro the background.”

The first creed of Judaism (Gaon around 900 CE) did not come into acceptance until Judaism was some 2500 years old! Even Maimonides 13 articles of faith, which have given ‘little rise to controversy’ have not been ‘endorsed by any authoritative body’.

“Judaism is not so much about doctrine – that is taken for granted – as behaviour; the code matters more than the creed.”

Quote from Johnson, ‘A History of the Jews’, p 161 

Or as put in the Mishnah: “Deeds matter more than Creeds”.

While Prof. Paul Johnson is a Roman Catholic, I doubt that few, even Jewish historians (and I love the work of Rabbi Ken Spiro), have given as good a history of the Jewish people as Prof. Johnson – he clearly loves the Jewish people; he explains the rise of both anti-Semitism and Jewish self-hatred so well, and he shows how dependent the entire world really has been on the wisdom and endeavours of the Jewish people.

His book should be read by all Jews (to encourage and uplift them) and by all Gentiles to enlighten them!

It is a big book – it took me awhile to digest but it was so worth it. 

The only time he goes a little wrong in my opinion, is when he tries to explain certain Christian perspectives rather than any Jewish ones!

His personal website is: http://pauljohnsonarchives.org/

Are You Rich?

Do you have riches that will last? What do you really own? Are the material riches you have really yours?

A famous Rabbi(1) once said: “If you were to give me all the silver, gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere but in a place of Torah.”

In this statement he was to some degree echoing the words of King David who stated in Psalm 119:72 The Torah you have spoken means more to me than a fortune in gold and silver.”

King David recognized that the Torah was worth far more to man than material riches. But perhaps he recognized even more, and that is that the riches of the world, the gold and silver is really the Almighty’s anyway, to do with as He sees fit. In fact, the Almighty, has promised that one day he will repeat on a bigger scale, the giving of gold and silver from the Gentiles to the Jewish people that he orchestrated for the Exodus.

Just as the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is a bigger miracle and a more incredible act of the Almighty than the Exodus, so too it appears, will be this latter day gift of Gentile gold and silver.

Jeremiah declared that a greater miracle was to come in Jeremiah 16:14-15

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.”

We have witnessed this greater miracle in our lifetime!

Similarly, the Almighty speaks of a rebuilding of His ‘Tent of Meeting’, His Temple in the last days:

“4 Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: 

6 Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 

9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give shalom, declares the LORD of hosts.” – Haggai 2

So not only are the material riches of the world really in the control of the Almighty and thus, these are not the riches that we should seek to keep for ourselves, there are many passages in Scripture that speak of the great treasure that is Torah and obedience to Torah.

Another common one is:

20 My son, obey your father’s command (i.e. Torah), and don’t abandon your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart, tie them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you wake up, they will talk with you.
23 For the mitzvah (commandment) is a lamp, Torah is light, and reproofs that discipline are the way to life.
” 
–      Proverbs 6

Some of the Rabbi’s have an interesting take on verse 22. They argue that it speaks of the eternal nature of Torah and its role in our death and resurrection.

They understand this verse as stating:

‘When you walk, they (Torah or the commandments of Torah) will lead you’ – that is, in this life you should be lead by the divine instructions that are Torah;

‘when you lie down, they will watch over you’ – meaning that when you are in the grave Torah will protect you even there; and

‘when you wake up, they will talk with you (or ‘they will be your speech’).’ – meaning that when you awaken to the World to Come, Torah will be what you speak.

As the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 will, at last be fully instituted, all will know Torah in their hearts,  – ‘… says Adonai: “I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts … – Jeremiah 31:32.

May you discover that true treasure that is the Torah!

May you be abundantly wealthy in the only treasure that you can take with you when you die!

(1) Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma- see Pirkei Avot, ch. 6

Mt Sinai & the Messiah: Miracles precede Revelation

This weeks Torah Portion is about the 10 Words. At Mt Sinai “God’s self-disclosure was not to an individual (a prophet) or a group (the elders) but to an entire nation, young and old, men, women and children, the righteous and not yet righteous alike.” (quoting Sacks – see below)

This revelation is unique in the history of man. It was preceded by some of the greatest miracles as well. And yet, the Almighty declares, through Jeremiah, that a greater miracle will occur:

Jeremiah 16:14-15: “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”

In the last 65 years since 1948 we had been most privileged to witness this greater miracle. Could this greater miracle be the fore-runner to a greater revelation!?

Scholars estimate that some 2 million witnessed the revelation at Mt Sinai – how many more will witness the coming revelation of the Messiah?

One strange aspect of this miracle(s) though is that the world at large has not recognized it. With the miracles of the Exodus, while many Egyptians may initially have denied that the Creator of the Universe, the mighty YHVH was behind the plagues, surely no-one who witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, whether Israelite of Egyptian soldier, could have denied the miracle before them.

In comparison, many through a lack of knowledge and the deliberate deluding influence of today’s mainstream media, can not see the awesome miraculous nature of the creation of the State of Israel in one day. Israel today is a place of daily miracles. Perhaps these miracles will soon extend throughout the earth and perhaps some event or events may occur which will be as undeniable as the parting of the Red Sea.

Then the world may be a little more ready for the greater revelation. I believe this greater revelation will occur on Yom Teruah – may this year’s Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting)  be THE day when the shouting will overwhelm everything else; when the glory of YHVH will shine brighter than the – see The Day of Trumpets & the Return of the King  for more on this.

Rabbi Sacks writes a great Torah portion about this revelation – see http://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/188580691.html

From Joseph, through Judah: Foretelling Messiah

The ability to recognize our sin, to take responsibility for it and to repent is at the core of what is meant by the idea of a Messiah.” 

 “… the courage to admit guilt, to take responsibility, to change. This is the lesson that the Messiah will one day teach the world. Man controls his destiny. No matter what mistakes he has made, man can fix them.” –  Rabbi Ari Kahn [1]

The Messiah is a prophet, a prophet who has/will declare perfectly the will of the Almighty and teach us of His Ways, as per Psalm 119.

Therefore, the Messiah will show us

  • what true repentance is;
  • what it means to be truly and fully obedient to the Almighty;
  • to truly ‘forgive those who trespass against us’’;
  • to speak into the world in an attempt to heal it (Tikkun HaOlam); and
  • to demonstrate to the point of accepting death that ‘no greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his friends’.

For more on the Messiah from a Hebraic Perspective listen to our Podcasts – Part 1 and Part 2

This weeks Torah Portion (Genesis 37-40) contains so much wisdom and is so heavy with prophetic vision and typology.

There is a well known Jewish saying: ““the actions of the forefathers serve as a portent (a sign or warning) for their descendants.” That is, we can learn so much about both how to live today and about what is coming tomorrow, from studying the narratives of the Hebrew/Jewish patriarchs.

This Torah portion begins with: And Jacob settled in the land in which his father dwelled.” – Gen 37:1

Today, Jacob’s children have again settled in the land in which his father dwelled.

The next verse reads:These are the generations of Jacob; Joseph was seventeen years old ...” – Gen 37:2

Note how immediately Joseph is brought into the picture. Joseph’s whole life is such a strong ‘type’ of Messiah. That is, there is so much of his life that acts as a sign to the future coming of Messiah [2].

Notice also in the very next verse that Jacob is now referred to by his name Israel.

“Israel loved Joseph more than any of his sons …– Gen 37:3

Perhaps this indicates that the love that Jacob/Israel has for his son Joseph is a national love, a love that all Israel should share, a yearning not just for the leadership and wisdom of Joseph to return to lead the people, through Messiah, but a love for their brother, for their neighbour and for their God, so powerfully declared through the example of Joseph [3].

But much goes wrong first!

Much time and heartache and loss occurs between the birth and exile of Joseph, and the redemption of Israel’s family through this same Joseph.

The favourite son is scorned by his brothers. He is handed over to the pagans and endures much suffering. But ultimately he rises up to stand at the right hand of the highest authority in the land.

Ultimately, his position of great authority, acting as the principal agent of the King (the Pharaoh of Egypt) will bring redemption and salvation to his brothers who rejected him, and to his entire family (as well as to many Gentiles – Egyptians).

Note that there is an intriguing break in the narrative though.

The last verse of Genesis 37 informs us that Joseph has been sold into slavery in Egypt.

 “Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.” – Gen 37:36

Then in the first verse of Genesis 39 (NOT 38), the story of Joseph in Egypt and his rise to great authority and ultimate redemption is begun.

“Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” – Gen 39:1[4]

So what is ‘in the gap’? The story of Judah and his illicit union with Tamar, which produces the line of King David and the King Messiah.

Why is this story placed here as an insert, as a pause in the narrative of Joseph, the great ‘type of Messiah’?

Perhaps as a ‘portent’, as a sign for the future, so that we may consider what it may be telling us.

The son of Israel, chosen by HaShem as a Messiah (an ‘anointed one’) to bring the redemption and shalom is rejected by his brothers and ‘disappears’ from view for a time. While he is ‘away’ in a ‘far land’, Jacob grieves for his loss and much tension and conflict arises between the brothers, especially against Judah. Ultimately they all leave the Land of Israel to ‘find’ their Messiah, their savior Joseph dressed and disguised as an Egyptian (Gentile), and through his efforts they find salvation from the famine and are ultimately returned to the Land.

At the end of the Genesis 38 and the story of Judah we read of his repentance.

It is then that the story returns to focus of Joseph and we read of the redemption of the people of Israel; the restoration of Jacob/Israel with his son Joseph, the restoration of Joseph’s brothers with Joseph and finally the  return of all Israel to the Land of Israel.

We also see during this time that Joseph is involved in the Gentile world, that the Gentile world is greatly blessed by his involvement, his leadership and example.

Could this narrative be a further ‘sign’ that after the last great exile and dispersion from the Land of Israel (a direct result of the prophetic fiat of God through Moses on the plains of Moab – see Deut 29-30), the Jewish people will return and their Messiah will be revealed to them. Jacob/Israel will learn that he was not dead, that he has been given great authority and that when the time is right he will bring full restoration and real shalom to Israel and all the nations of the earth!

May Messiah come speedily!

For more on the return to israel in these present/last days see my article: ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’.

Paul Herring
December 2012

[3] And of course through the example of Yeshua (Jesus), who a number of famous Rabbi’s and Professors have called the greatest ethical teacher ever. This was certainly the view of Prof. Joseph Klausner, of Hebrew University (retired in 1949) who was an historian of the Second Temple period.

[4] For a great article of this fascinating story I strongly recommend the article ‘The Light of Messiah’ by Rabbi Ari Kahn at Aish.com – see http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48914512.html