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

 

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/

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

Moses and the King who Hides

Having briefly touched on this week’s Torah Portion and how I suspect that Moses would have been heartbroken, I also want to raise an interesting issue around the concept of the Almighty, the King of the Universe ‘hiding’ himself.

Moshe Kempinski in his Torah Portion Podcast points out that the Hebrew in Duet 31:17 literally reads ‘I will hide that I will hide’, where we read in English: “and I will abandon them and hide my face from them.”

Apparently, the Jewish sages understand this to mean that God will hide or turn His face away even when people don’t know that He has!

That is, they may think they are walking in Truth, and with God, when they are NOT!

What a profound and challenging thought!

In a related story that Moshe Kempinski shared in his Torah Podcast, he relates the story of the Rabbi grandson of the great mystical Rabbi Baal Shem Tov. He is sitting outside studying Torah when one of his grandchildren comes crying to him. His grandchild has been playing hide and seek and found the perfect hiding place. The only problem was no-one found him! After the child had been soothed and went off to play, the Rabbi pondered on this. When his wife came out to the verandah where he was sitting, the Rabbi was crying. She asked why. He said, God hides so well, that few try hard enough to find Him!

God WANTS us to find him! We WILL find him when we seek Him with all our heart, mind and soul!”

I had written a blog post (at luke443.blogspot.com.au) some 18 months ago on this concept of ‘The King Who Hides’. It is reposted below:

The King who hides:

I recently heard a good analogy.

A young King saw a beautiful but poor peasant girl and was taken by her grace, her beauty and her joy. He desired to get to know her better and perhaps win her heart. He did not want to command her obedience or to intimidate her, but wanted her to love him for himself.

Yet if he faced her in all his finery and authority and with all his royal assembly and displayed the great breadth and majesty of his Kingdom, he would have little hope of getting to know her on level terms, of getting to develop a mutual and balanced relationship.

He must therefore disguise himself. Not in any dishonest or devious manner, but simply to find a way to let her see the man behind the Kingdom, in the hope that she might connect with his true self, his values, his character and natural beauty.

This is perhaps an analogy for how God interacts with us.

He hides Himself to some degree, He sets a distance between himself and us. Without such disguise, such ‘hiding’, we would be overwhelmed, and our relationship with the Almighty could not develop with the simplicity and normalcy that successful courtship requires.

The Almighty has ‘hidden’ Himself from us to such a degree that he calls on us to seek him and that only by seeking him with all our hearts, minds, strength and soul will we find him.

Consider Proverbs 2:1-5

1. My son, if you will receive my words, and store up my commandments within you;

2 So as to turn your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding;

3 Yes, if you call out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding;

4 If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures:

5 then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God.

We can see here that the Almighty calls us to receive his words and by meditating of his words and commandments we will be obedient to them. We see here that we need to seek with great diligence as God’s treasures are hidden.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Also Jeremiah 29:13

And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.

This verse in itself is extremely powerful and I believe sums up the truth that, while God may be hidden, He can be found and we can enter into a relationship with the Creator and King of the Universe. Our King calls for our whole heart.

Are you listening? Are you willing to search for Him and His hidden treasures?

To give a little more of the context of Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart”, we see Jeremiah prophesying about the return from exile in Babylon:

Jeremiah 29:

10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

13 You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart,

14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

The context then was that the Almighty himself would lead some of the Jewish people to turn back to Him and He would hear them.

The last king of Babylon was Belshazzar. Belshazzar was aware of what the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied at the time when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel:

“And this whole land [of Israel] shall be a ruin, and a waste, and these nations [the tribes of Israel] shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when the seventy years are fulfilled, that I will punish the king of Babylon …” (Jeremiah 25:1112)

Naturally, this is something Belshazzar was worried about and so he kept count. Unfortunately for him he miscalculated by one year. The year 371 BCE arrived, and Belshazzar assuming that the prophecy had not come true, decided that God must have abandoned His people, the Jews and that he will not therefore restore them to Israel as promised in the Jeremiah prophecy. He also, therefore thinks he won’t be punished.

So to celebrate, Belshazzar throws a huge feast and brings out for all to see the Temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from Jerusalem. He orders his consorts and concubines to drink from Temple cups and to praise “the gods of gold and silver, copper, iron, wood and stone.” (Daniel 5:1-5)

At that moment, a large unattached hand appears and starts to write on the wall  – ‘The writing is on the wall’!

You probably know the rest of the story.

What you may not realize though, is that when given the opportunity to return to Israel, most reject the dream. There were estimated to be around a million Jews living in the Babylonian empire, yet only 42,000 go back ― only about 5% of those that went into exile 70 years earlier go back and the remaining 95% stays put.

The same thing happened in 1948 when the state of Israel was declared. There were about 12 million Jews in the world at that time and only 600,000 or 5% settled the land. The rest, some 95% preferred to stay in exile. This story is, of course, far from complete.

The recent and even more miraculous return (see my article ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’ – at www.circumcisedheart.info ), is a more complete, but still on-going, fulfillment of all of Jeremiah’s ‘return’ prophecies.

So now think of the implications! In seeing the fulfillment of these prophecies, can we now identify, who has sought God with all their heart, and who has found, or at least is finding Him?

Super-Heroes: Heartbreak for Moses!

In this weeks Torah Portion (Vayelech – Deut 31:1-30), we read about Moses last day and how the Almighty tells Moses that he is about to die, after the last 40 years leading the Nation of Israel in the desert.

God calls both Moses and Joshua into the Tent of Meeting (where His presence was most revealed; most real and ‘physical’ or felt). Along with ‘passing the baton’ to Joshua and encouraging Joshua as the new leader of His People, God informs Moses that the people will fail God (for a time) and God will hide His face from them!

Here is what He shared:

Deut 31:

“15 ADONAI appeared in the tent in a column of cloud; the column of cloud stood above the entrance to the tent.

16 ADONAI said to Moshe,

“You are about to sleep with your ancestors. But this people will get up and offer themselves as prostitutes to the foreign gods of the land where they are going. When they are with those gods, they will abandon me and break my covenant which I have made with them.

17 Then my anger will flare up, and I will abandon them and hide my face from them. They will be devoured, and many calamities and troubles will come upon them. Then they will ask, ‘Haven’t these calamities come upon us because our God isn’t here with us?’

18 But I will be hiding my face from them because of all the evil they will have done in turning to other gods.

19 “Therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the people of Isra’el. Have them learn it by heart, so that this song can be a witness for me against the people of Isra’el.

20 For when I have brought them into the land I swore to their ancestors, flowing with milk and honey; and they have eaten their fill, grown fat and turned to other gods, serving them and despising me, and broken my covenant;

21 then, after many calamities and troubles have come upon them, this song will testify before them as a witness, because their descendants will still be reciting it and will not have forgotten it. For I know how they think even now, even before I have brought them into the land about which I swore.”

The song that Moses writes for the people ends in hope (see Deuteronomy 32), with

“43 Sing out, you nations, about his people! For he will avenge the blood of his servants. He will render vengeance to his adversaries and make atonement for the land of his people.”

The Tanakh of course, shares in many places that despite all their wrongs and their turning away, HaShem will bring His People back into the Land of Israel, for His Name’s sake! See my article ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’ (at www.circumcisedheart.info) for some of the evidence for this.

What I wanted to touch on though was Moses heartache!

Imagine, he has led the Jewish people out of Egypt; they have seen many miracles on a daily basis; they, this 2 million people, have ‘seen’ the Almighty in a way that no-one else has, and yet, after his forty years of leading them, Moses is told that they will turn their back on the Almighty!

And Moses can’t do anything about it; he is about to die; to ‘sleep’ with his ancestors!

How heart-broken must he have been; how despairing! He had been like a father to his brethren; he had devoted everything to them; he had rejected a royal life for them; he had sacrificed much and here he is being told in a sense that he has failed! Yes, he knew that at the great Day of Judgment; the People of Israel would be restored and all the prophecies to Abraham fulfilled, but what comfort now; in this his final moments.

Moses was a super-hero! And yet, in a sense HaShem tells him he has failed! Was it worth it?

Do you feel for Moses; do you empathize with him; when you have given your all and it appears you have failed? Evil still abounds! Man still hates his brother! What can we do?!

Let us turn to the Almighty, the King of the Universe and acknowledge we need Him; we need His strength; His comfort; His mercy and justice! His Messiah! His great Day; the Day of Judgment; the Day of Atonement; the Day of cleansing!