Walking Against God’s Will. As we saw last week, Israel had begun the final leg of the journey to Canaan land. Traveling northward along the King’s highway, they would pass directly through the land of Moab. Balak, the king of Moab, felt threatened by Israel so he sent an emissary to Balaam in Mesopotamia asking him to come to Moab and to curse Israel. In Numbers 22:12, God clearly commanded Balaam, “Thou shalt not go with them [Moabites]; thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]: for they are blessed.” Notice in verse 13, Balaam did not give the whole story to the Midianites. He only said, “the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.” He did not tell them the most important thing – that God had absolutely forbidden him to curse Israel because they were blessed! You will note that the Hebrew word דֶּ֖רֶךְ (deh-rech – meaning ‘way’ – Strong’s #1870) is used 8 times [verses 22, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 34]. Often it has the Hebrew letter bet ( ב) as the prefix to indicate ‘the way’ or ‘in the way’ – בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ (b-derech). Verse 32 clearly shows us that God’s way and Balaam’s way were at odds: “I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.”
Spiritual Vision Check. A secondary ‘theme’ in this Torah portion becomes apparent as we count the number of times the word ‘see’ appears in the text. First, the donkey ‘sees’ the angel of the Lord in verses 23, 25 and 27. The Hebrew word for ‘see’ is רָאָה (rah-ah – Strong’s #7200). Then God ‘opens’ the
donkey’s mouth so that she speaks to Balaam. Here the Hebrew word for ‘open’ is פָתָח (pah-tach) which literally means ‘open’. Then God ‘opens’ Balaam’s eyes in Num. 22:31. Here the word translated as ‘open’ is גָלָה (gah-lah – Strong’s #1540). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says, “When God revealed himself to Balaam it is said that Balaam’s eyes were “uncovered,” “opened”. (Num 24:4, 6) It appears that in this manner Balaam saw something which he otherwise could not see.” From this point forward, Balaam refers to himself as “the man whose eyes are open” (cf. Num. 24:3, 15) Spiritual vision is a key theme with at least 24 occurrences of the word ‘see’ (in various forms) in Numbers 22.
Curses Become Blessings. God’s will was clear. Israel was NOT to be cursed. However, Balak had offered Balaam great riches if he would curse Israel. Further insight from Deut. 23:5 shows that Balaam truly did WANT to curse Israel: “Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.” This verse explains why Balaam blessed Israel when he really wanted to curse them because God overruled and turned each curse into a blessing! Balak was furious! Balaam’s four prophecies about Israel are true because God gave them. One of the greatest prophecies in the T’nakh about the Messiah was given by Balaam in Numbers 24:17: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Seceptre shall rise out of Israel ..” This prophecy probably guided the wise men from the east (the same area that Balaam was from) thousands of years later that Matthew speaks about in his Gospel, to worship the newborn king of the Jews.
Etymology of the word ‘Prophet’. According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), the word for prophet, נָבִ֣יא (navi), is derived from the Hebrew root, נבע, “meaning to bubble up, “boil forth,” hence, “to pour forth words, like those who speak with fervour of mind or under divine inspiration, as prophets and poets.” It occurs 277 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. The plural is נְבִיאִ֔ים (n’vi’im) and is also the second division of the T’nakh. 1 Samuel 9:9 gives some etymology about the word ‘prophet’: “Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.” The Hebrew word translated as ‘seer’ in this verse is רֹאֶֽה – ro-eh, from the root for the word ‘to see’. The seer or the prophet was the one who could see the way to go during hard times. He could see God’s vision when no one else could. Because He saw God’s vision, he often also saw God’s coming judgments.
The Seer Who Could Not See. Matthew Henry says that Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707) and also many Jewish scholars of his time, thought that Balaam had been a great prophet referring to Balak’s accolade in Num. 22:6, “he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.” Although God gave him many chances, and showed him a great miracle in letting his donkey speak, Balaam never repented. He never aligned his way with God’s way and died trying to help the Midianites to destroy Israel when God clearly told him that Israel was blessed. Numbers 31 speaks of the children of Israel’s destruction of both the Midianites and of Balaam. This event is also recorded in Joshua 13:21-22, “Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword.” Sadly note that at the end of his life, Balaam was not called a prophet or seer, but a soothsayer. There are several Hebrew words translated as ‘soothsayer’ in the T’nakh, but the one used here is קּוֹסֵ֑ם (ko-sem). TWOT says that ko-sem referred to one who practiced divination and, “The major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and the minor prophets Micah and Zechariah all mention קָסַם [ko-sem] in a derogatory sense.” In the New Testament, Balaam is used as an example NOT to follow: 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14.
Don’t Ignore God’s Word! All of Balaam’s problems started when he ignored God’s Word concerning Israel in Gen. 12:3: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” By attempting to curse Israel, Balaam actually put himself under God’s curse! Although God showed him the truth, he did not repent and his life spiraled downwards. God is still on the throne and looking out for His ancient people, the Jewish people. And although many ‘Balaks’ and ‘Balaams’ have come on the scene down through the centuries, none have been able to destroy Israel, but rather, eventually they have met with destruction. I do not want to be like Balaam whose way was perverse before God. Just this week I have been praying through Psalm 119 which has 176 wonderful verses about God’s Word. I want my way to align with God’s way: “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (Psalm 119:5)
Esau’s Inheritance. The book of Numbers is partly a narrative of Israel’s desert wanderings interspersed with the laws and requirements of the offerings and also, rules for dividing the land of Canaan. Deuteronomy recounts (and summarizes) the events of the desert years and here we find God’s command to Moses to begin the final leg of the journey home to Canaan: “Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness [desert]by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed [circled] mount Seir [Edom] many days. And the LORD spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward. And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.” (Deut. 2:1-5) We have to go to Genesis for the backstory to Esau’s possession. When Jacob returned to Canaan to live, Esau, “went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob.” (Gen. 36:6) Two verses later, we learn the location of the land where Esau fled: “Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.” (Gen. 36:8) The Lord warned Israel that He had given Edom to Esau and He would not give any of this land to them.
Numbers 20, where we are studying this week, gives some extra details that Edom denied Moses’ request for passage: “Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.” (Num. 20:17-18) Note that Moses said Israel would use, “the king’s high way” to pass through Edom. The Hebrew says: דֶּרֶךְ הַמֶּלֶךְ – “derech ha-melech”. The word הַמֶּלֶךְ (ha-melech) means “the king” while דֶּרֶךְ (derech) means ‘way’ or ‘path’ hence the phrase, “king’s high way” in the AV.
Two Major Trade Routes. Two vitally important trade routes criss-crossed the land of Canaan joining three major continents: Africa, Europe and Asia. The King’s Highway extended from Egypt (in Africa) across the Sinai Peninsula, northward across Transjordan, past Damascus and onwards to Mesopotamia (in Asia) and the Euphrates River. The Via Maris (Latin for “way of the sea”) is the modern name for an ancient trade route linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria and Mesopotamia. Its earlier name was “Way of the Philistines“, a reference to a passageway through the Philistine Plain (which today consists of Israel’s southern coastal plain and the Gaza Strip). It was the most important route from Egypt to Syria in the Fertile Crescent and followed the Israeli Mediterranean coastal plain before crossing over into the plain of Jezreel and the Jordan valley. Together with the King’s Highway, the Via Maris was one of the major trade routes connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia on the western edge of the Fertile Crescent.
The Via Maris (purple), King’s Highway (red), and other ancient Levantine trade routes, c. 1300 BCE (Wikipedia)
The Long Road Home. According to the Biblical record, during the Exodus from Egypt, God instructed Moses to purposefully avoid the Via Maris route:“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.” Exodus 13:17-18 The Lord knew that by following the shorter Via Maris route, Israel would encounter the Philistines. Instead, He led them into the desert so that He could save them from Egypt at the Red Sea.
After the 40 years of the desert wanderings, Moses would now finally lead Israel up the King’s Highway until they crossed over the Jordan river into Canaan. In modern Jordan, Highway 35 and Highway 15 follow The King’s Highway, connecting Irbid in the north with Aqaba in the south. The southern part of the route crosses several deep wadis, making it a highly scenic if curvy and rather low-speed road. (see photo at the top) The Lord picked the King’s Highway as Israel’s long road to their new home – Canaan. He knew it was in the desert, far from water; but He was the water of life. It was far from food – but He supplied their food. It was steep and hard to climb; but He would give them strength. It was curvy and one could become easily lost; but He was their guide. Yes, the Lord choose the King’s Highway on purpose to teach Israel that He would supply all they needed on the long walk home. The Lord wanted to develop in the children of Israel the faith in Him that they at first lacked (hence wandering in the desert for 40 years). The desert is always the best school for developing faith because it is a place where we truly must trust the Lord for even basic needs. Is your life path hard and steep? Confusing? Lacking in even basic resources? Don’t despair! The Lord may be sending you this direction on purpose to increase your faith. Remember if you only walk on the flatlands of the Via Marias, yes you will reach your destination faster and easier, but you won’t arrive with as much faith!
When God gave the Ten Commandments, He was establishing the foundation for society and truly “western civilization” and esp. the laws of the United States are built upon them. Their importance cannot be denied (although many people try to do so in this day). The Ten Commandments are generally divided into two lists of five commandments each. This bodes well with the “two tables of stone” (Heb: שְׁנֵ֖י לֻח֥וֹת אֲבָנִֽים -snei luchot avahnim) that they were originally written on. The fact that the Ten Commandments were contained on two stone tablets is also conveyed in the term: ‘two tables of testimony’ – שְׁנֵ֨י לֻחֹ֤ת הָֽעֵדֻת֙ (snei luchot habrit) mentioned in Exodus 34:29 and in the Passover song, “Echad Mi Yodea”.
The traditional Jewish division is to divide the ten into two lists of five to be paired with the two tablets of stone. According to the Jewish sage, the Ramban, the two lists of five commands are two sides of the religion and divides into themes – five laws dealing with our relationship to God and five social laws. But why is the command to honor parents located in the section that deals with belief and God? The Ramban writes: “for as I [speaking of God] have commanded you in My honor, (referring to the first four commands), so I command you in the honor of My partners in creation (ie, our parents).” He adds, “It is correct for a person to recognize and repay, in some measure, the good which has been offered to him … A person should realize that his father and mother are the cause of his existence in this world; therefore it is appropriate that he render them all the honor and do them all the service he can. For they brought him into the world and labored greatly on his behalf.” The phrase “our fathers” is only one word in Hebrew: אֲבֹתֵ֔ינוּ – ah-vo-tei-nu. It occurs 80 times in the Bible. The direct reference is to the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but it also refers to all the forefathers of the Jewish people – ie, the preceding generations.
The fifth commandment begins with the word ‘Honor’ (Hebrew: כַּבֵּ֥ד – kabed). The Hebrew root is kaf-bet-dalet (כבד) and means ‘honor, respect, glorify’. It also means ‘to be weighty or heavy’. The fifth commandment is also the only one with a promise of long days. On this Father’s Day weekend, let us be sure to honor and thank our father’s! They gave us life and made us what we are!
There is a strong logical connection between teaching and learning. We cannot
teach without learning and the best teachers are those who are lifelong students. Also, we can learn a new subject better if we also simultaneously teach someone else what we are learning. Both learning and teaching have always been very important Hebraic concepts and literacy and education are hallmarks of the Jewish people.
However, there is also a Hebrew etymological connection between teaching and learning because both ideas are derived from the same Hebrew root: lamed, mem, dalet: ( למד ). If you look up this root in the book, “501 Hebrew Verbs”, you will find that two important verbs come from this same root with the only difference being the vowels. You do not see the connection between ‘teach’ and ‘study’ in English, but in Hebrew it is crystal clear:
לָמַד – (la-mad) – meaning ‘he studied’ in the past tense, masculine, singluar, 3rd person and in the P’al binyan, the most common.
לִימֵד – (li-med) – meaning ‘he taught’ in the past tense, masculine, singular, 3rd person and in the Piel binyan, the 2nd most common.
תָלמִיד – (tal-mid) – a noun meaning ‘student’ or ‘disciple’
When reading the Biblical Hebrew text, you will soon come across a very tall letter, the only one that extends above the line; the letter lamed ( ל ). In order to analyze the significance of lamed in both biblical and post-biblical contexts, we must first understand some important concepts concerning the history of the Hebrew alphabet.
The original Hebrew letters looked very different from the block script of
today. [Modern Hebrew letters take their look from the Aramaic alphabet.] The original Hebrew letters, often called paleo-Hebrew, were all pictographs meaning they represented a picture of a concrete object. In order to understand the meaning of pictographs, we will look at the example of the letter lamed (ל) that Dr. Jeff Benner gives in the appendix of his book, “The Ancient Hebrew Language and Alphabet”, (which I highly recommend). The original pictograph for lamed looked like a shepherd’s staff. A shepherd’s staff had a curved end so that the shepherd could use it to capture or direct individual sheep who may be straying, etc. From this you can see how the pictograph of the shepherd’s staff eventually became the letter lamed. The shape of the letter evolved from the shape of a shepherd’s crooked staff, to the shape of the letter lamed. Going back to our root for both teaching and studying, למד, we note that lamed (ל ) is the first letter of the root. As the shepherd used his staff to direct the sheep, so our teachers direct our thinking so that we may learn the subject at hand.
Finally we will look at the noun, talmid ( תלמיד ) which means ‘student’ or ‘disciple’. It first appears in the Hebrew Bible in 1 Chronicles 25:8 and is translated in this verse as ‘scholar’ (from the Latin scola which means ‘school’ or ‘student’). In the New Testament the word ‘disciple’ occurs 270 times and Jesus’ followers are always referred to as disciples. It is important to note that in the New Testament era, discipleship was expressed by the teacher-student relationship. The learning process was not a matter of the disciple gaining knowledge, but it was more like an apprenticeship where the disciple learned how to “do” as the teacher “did”.
The Mishnah has a quote from Yose ben Yoezer, one of the earliest members of the rabbinic movement, who lived about two centuries before Jesus. The English translation roughly reads:
“Let thy house be a meeting-house for the wise;
and powder thyself in the dust of their feet;
and drink their words with thirstiness.”
Yose ben Yoezer was teaching people to make their homes places of Bible study, and to welcome itinerant teachers to learn from them. Before 70 AD, these teachers were called “sages” and afterwards, the title “rabbi” was used. The middle line of the quote above is sometimes translated as “sit amid the dust of their feet,” which referred to the custom of students honoring their teacher by sitting on the floor (at his feet) while he taught seated in a chair. From this custom arose the popular idiom used by students who studied under a teacher, of saying you “sat at his feet”. Paul used this idiom in Acts 22:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” And of course, it is used to describe Mary in Luke 10:39, “
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.”
Dr. Howard had a sermon that he often preached from Luke 10 titled, “Sitting at the feet of Jesus”. He taught us that ultimately, Christians are to be like Mary and to be a disciple of Jesus Himself rather than of other believers regardless of how learned they are or what position they hold. We are to learn from Christ’s example, and then we are to teach others through our example and our words. The greatest teacher is the one who teaches us to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and I am so thankful that Dr. Howard did just that. May his memory be a blessing!
The Hebrew word שָׁבֻעֹת֙ – Shavuot (sha-vu-ote) literally means ‘weeks’. The word ‘week’ in Modern Hebrew is שבוע – shavuah. Exodus 34:22 says, “And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest.” The phrase ‘feast of weeks’ is from the Hebrew – חַ֤ג שָׁבֻעֹת֙ – chag shavu’ot. In Modern Hebrew, the word חג – means ‘holiday’. The time of shavuot is given in Leviticus 23:15-16: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” The phrase ‘seven sabbaths’ is from the Hebrew – שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת – sheva shabatot (plural of Shabbat). Therefore Shavuot occurs 7 weeks and one day or 50 days, after Passover. In the New Testament, Shavuot is called Pentecost – which is a Greek word derived from the root for ‘five’ – referring to the 50 days.
According to Jewish tradition, Shavuot marks the giving of the Law, Matan Torah ( מתן תורה ) to the children of Israel on Mt. Sinai, therefore, much emphasis is placed on the Word of God at Shavuot. In 1533, a Rabbi named Joseph Caro invited many of his colleagues to study Torah all night on Shavuot and so began the tradition of the “all night Torah study” on Shavuot and many people study until the morning light.
It has been said, “Reading the Bible without meditating on it is like trying to eat without swallowing.” We must read it. We must meditate on it, but most of all, we must obey it! For only if we obey it do we really believe it.
A Primer on the T’nakh
Since the Word of God is studied at Shavuot, I thought a simple “primer” on the layout of the Hebrew T’nakh would be helpful and interesting to all Bible students. The Hebrew Scriptures were originally called the Mikra (מִקרָא ) from the root (קרא ) meaning ‘reading’ or ‘that which is read’ because Bible texts were always read publically. The “Jewish Canon” (the order of the books of the T’nakh), was compiled by the men of the Great Assembly, lead by Ezra, and completed in 450 BC. It has remained unchanged ever since. I am teaching you the Jewish Canon so that you can be somewhat familiar with the Mikra or T’nakh (both words are still used). The word “T’nakh” came into use during the Rabbinic period as it reflects the three-part division of the Hebrew Scriptures as shown in the below table:
Hebrew Name <-
The Law of Moses
Taking the first Hebrew letter from each division (the letters in read above), we have the Hebrew acronym – תנ״ך which is transliterated as T’nakh (also Tanakh). In the tables below, we study the Hebrew names of the books of the Bible which is often very different from the English name The Hebrew names of the books is either the name of the writer or, the first word (or sometimes a prominent word in the first verse) from the Hebrew text.
The first section of the T’nakh, the Torah, contains the five books of Moses:
Hebrew Title <-
“in the beginning”
“and he called”
“in the desert”
The second section of the T’nakh, the Prophets, is divided into two groups:
the Former Prophets (Nevi’im Rishonim – נביאים ראשונים)
the Latter Prophets (Nevi’im Aharonim – נביאים אחרונים)
The Former Prophets contains four books:
* Note that Samuel and Kings are counted as one book each.
The Latter Prophets also contains four books:
Hebrew Title <-
The Twelve *
* Note that “The Twelve” (Minor prophets) are counted as one book
The Twelve are the Minor Prophets:
Hebrew Title <-
The third and final section of the T’nakh, the Writings, has three divisions:
The Poetic Books
The Five Megillot (Scrolls)
The other books
It is important to note that the Poetic books are written in Hebrew poetry. In masoretic manuscripts and some printed editions, they appear in a special two-column form emphasizing the parallel rows in the verses. They are also the only books in the T’nakh with special cantillation notes that emphasizes these parallel rows. The Poetic books are:
Hebrew Title <-
The Hebrew word for ‘scroll’ is מְגִילָה (megillah) with the plural, ‘scrolls’ being מְגִילוֹת (megillot). The Five Megillot are traditionally read in many Jewish communities in the synagogue on the holidays as follows: Passover – Song of Songs; Shavu’ot – Ruth; Tisha B’av – Lamentations; Sukkot – Ecclesiastes; Purim – Esther.
Hebrew Title <-
Song of Solomon
Song of Songs
The last group of the writings have in common that they describe late events (i.e. the Babylonian captivity and subsequent restoration of Zion). Two of these books, Daniel and Ezra, are the only books in the Tanakh with portions written in Aramaic. Aramaic is also a semitic language and became the lingua franca for much of the Semitic world. Aramaic portions of Scripture include: Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:4-7:28; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26
Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967. When Israel declared its independence in 1948, it was attacked en masse by its Arab neighbors. Jordan took over east Jerusalem and the Old City and the Jewish residents who had lived there all their lives were forced out. This Jordanian occupation continued for 19 years until 1967. In
Jerusalem: 4000 Years History in 5 Minutes
May 1967, tensions were again at an all time high between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel knew an attack was imminent and that they may lose unless they had the element of surprise. So on June 5th, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive strike thus beginning the Six-Day war. On June 7th, 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israeli paratroopers captured the Old City of Jerusalem. Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared what is often quoted on Yom Yerushalayim: This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, [the Western Wall] never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour … our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other people’s holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.”
On May 12, 1968, the Israeli government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date
Contrary to what the UN organization, UNESCO, voted recently (that Jewish people have no ties to Jerusalem) the FACTS state that Jewish people have had a presence in Jerusalem for almost FOUR millennia and both the Bible and archaeology prove this fact. A careful student of the Word of God will realize that God considers Jerusalem both the geographical focus of the earth and the spiritual focus of His plan. The word ‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned 764 times in the Hebrew T’nakh with the first mention being in Joshua 10:1. It is the city mentioned the most in the Bible. The place of Jerusalem, however, is first mentioned in Genesis 14:18 as the meeting place of Abram and Melchizedek, “king of Salem”. The word, ‘Salem’ is also mentioned in Psalm 76:2 and refers to Jerusalem. ‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned 50 more times in the New Testament for a total of 814 times in the entire Bible. (More than any other place!) For the almost 2,000 years of the Diaspora, all Passover Seders have concluded with participants saying, “Next year in Jerusalem” indicating their desire to be back in their home to celebrate Passover.
Edith Samuel in her book, “Your Jewish Lexicon” says, “Peace runs like a golden thread throughout our [referring to the Jewish people] dreams and prayers.” The reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 did not bring peace to the city and today Jerusalem is not at peace. However, the Bible pattern has always been that God gives names according to the the final destiny of the person or place. I think of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel. God’s Word teaches that the final destiny of Jerusalem will be the city of peace when the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), sits on the throne of His father David as the rightful King! However in the meantime, the Bible also commands us to pray for this end in Psalm 122:6: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.”
The Hebrew root, שלמ according to the book 501 Hebrew Verbs, means literally: “to pay wages, pay for goods, pay back (a debt)”. For a fuller meaning, you must realize that to repay a debt means to “complete” the payment process. So the underlying meaning is “completeness and wholeness”. This helps us to understand the most famous word that is derived from this root: שָלוֹם (shalom) which means ‘peace‘ and is also used as a greeting – both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. In modern Hebrew, the
term מה שלומך (mah sh’lom-chah) literally means, ‘what is your peace’, but the ‘street meaning’ is “how are you?”. The root is in the word
יְרוּשָׁלִַם – Yerushalim or Jerusalem and hence it being the ‘city of Peace‘. The most famous king that ever sat on Jerusalem’s throne was שְׁלֹמֹה (Sh-lo-mo) or Solomon who brought unprecedented peace to the city. Solomon’s wife from the Song of Solomon was Shulamit – שּׁוּלַמִּית (see Song. 6:13) Amazingly, all of these words, shalom, Solomon, Shulamit and Jerusalem all contain this same Hebrew root – שלמ meaning they all have a common etymology and a common basic meaning.
At 4:00 pm on Friday, Iyar 5th, 5708 (May 15th, 1948), David Ben Gurion
Listen to David Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence (English Subtitles)
(who would be the first Prime Minister of the new state) stood in the Tel Aviv Museum (today known as Independence Hall) and opened the ceremony to which about 250 guests were in attendance – by invitation only. The group spontaneously sang Hatikvah – which soon became Israel’s national anthem. Behind Ben Gurion hung a large picture of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, flanked by Israeli flags – which were soon adopted as official.
Please take the time to click on the above link and listen to the very historic proceedings. (Hebrew students can follow Ben Gurion as he reads the Hebrew text of the Declaration .) First, Ben Gurion announced to the crowd, “I shall now read to you the scroll of the Establishment of the State…”. The full reading took about 16 minutes and ends with the words, PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE “ROCK OF ISRAEL”, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION. Ben Gurion concluded by saying, “Let us accept the Foundation Scroll of the Jewish State by rising” and calling on Rabbi Fishman to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing which is traditionally recited at special occasions or when one does something for the first time (like establishing a nation!) After the last of the signatories of the Declaration had signed, the audience again stood and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra played Hatikvah, ( הַתִּקְוָה ) which literally means ‘the Hope’. Ben-Gurion concluded the event with the words “The State of Israel is established! This meeting is adjourned!”
Etymology of Yom HaAtzma’ut
Israeli Independence Day is called Yom HaAtzma’ut ( יום העצמאות ). First, we have the word יום (yom) which of course is ‘day’. The 2nd word, הַעַצְמַאוֻת (HaAtzma’ut) means ‘independence’. So Yom HaAtzma’ut is literally ‘Independence Day’. The root of the Hebrew word, העצמאות, is עצמ and means: “bone, substance, matter, essence or core of something or someone.” The word (עצמאות) means ‘independence’ and is derived from עצמי (atsmi) which means one’s own personal being and bones.
Perhaps this gives new meaning to the Ezekiel 37 passage on ‘the valley of dry bones’ which was written about the rebirth of Israel since the Hebrew root etsem is part of both the word ‘bone’ and the word for ‘independence’!
The prophet Ezekiel prophesied the rebirth of Israel in chapter 37:1-5
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
When I Think of Israel …
I think of the HERITAGE of the Jewish people. They have the most ancient ties to the land of Israel – going back over 3,500 years (the Exodus from Egypt occurred approximately in 1,400 B.C.) God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people as their eternal inheritance and He said so MANY time in the Bible! (See Gen. 12:5-7; Gen. 13:14-16; Gen. 15:7; 18-21; Gen. 17:8)
I also think of the HOPE of the Jewish people. The national anthem of Israel, Hatikvah (הַתִּקְוָה ) means ‘The Hope’. All during the diaspora, for almost 2,000 years, the Jewish people had the hope that God would eventually return them to their land as the prophets had written in the T’nakh. Every year the Passover seder concludes, “Next Year in Jerusalem” – a vivid expression of this hope.
I also think of HARD FOUGHT! The nation of Israel has been in 7 major wars in the past 69 years. They did not start any of them, but they sure finished all of them. Israel is the last place of freedom for the Jewish people. Golda Meir, who was the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969-1974, said, “We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon – no alternative. The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that we might as well fight.” [LIFE magazine, 3 Oct. 1969, p. 32]
Finally, I think of HOME. Israel is the eternal Home of the Jewish people. During the years of the Diaspora, the land lay desolate. Mark Twain described it in his book, “Innocents Abroad” (1869) as, “… A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds … a silent mournful expanse….”. The land of Israel would only yield her increase and become fruitful again when the original owners returned. And now, as the Isaiah prophesied long ago, the desert certainly does bloom with flowers: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Is. 35:1)
The Rebirth of Hebrew and Rebirth of Israel
The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “For then will I turn to the people a
pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph 3:9) Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is known as the “Father of Modern Hebrew”. He regarded Hebrew and Zionism as symbiotic saying, “The Hebrew language can live only if we revive the nation and return it to the fatherland.” An upcoming Nugget will be devoted to this topic.
May is Jewish American Heritage Month
The American Jewish population was estimated at 5.7 million (as of 2015) – the largest in the world outside of Israel. By Presidential proclamation in 2006, May became Jewish American Heritage Month – a time to reflect on the many contributions to American society by Jewish Americans. Listen to the full news clip on the Museum of the Bible’s soundcloud.
Yom HaShoah (Heb: יום השואה ) begins tonite at sundown. The official name is [Heb: יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה ] – Yom HaZikaron laShoah v’laG’vurah. Let us examine these words etymologically. The Hebrew word Yom (יום) means ‘day’ and Shō’āh Heb: (שאוה ) means ‘catastrophe’. It is found once in the T’nakh in Proverbs 1:27 and is translated as ‘destruction’ in the KJV. The Hebrew word Zikaron ( זיכרון) means ‘memory’. The root is (ז כ ר ) and many important words develop from it. The word G’vurah (Heb: גבורה ) which means ‘heroism’. The Hebrew root is (ג ב ר ) from which comes the important word ‘gibor’ (Heb: גיבור ) meaning ‘hero’. This word is found in 1 Samuel 17:51 describing Goliath and is translated as ‘champion’. David used it to describe both Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 23:1 when he lamented their deaths.
Yom HaShoah is a solemn day in Israel, always beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan and ending the following evening. Places of entertainment are closed throughout the country. The central ceremonies, in the evening and the following morning, are held at Yad Vashem ( יד ושם ), the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel. On the evening of the 27th of Nisan at sundown, the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister along with dignitaries, Holocaust survivors, children of survivors and their families, gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem in which six torches, representing the six million Jews who perished, are lit. The following morning at 10:00 AM, a siren sounds throughout the entire country for two minutes. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in respect for the victims of the Holocaust.
Israel Pauses on Holocaust Memorial Day
The Hebrew phrase ‘Yad VaShem‘ (Heb: יָ֣ד וָשֵׁ֔ם ) is taken from the Bible from Isaiah 56:5:
‘Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.’ The Hebrew phrase is translated into English as ‘a place and a name’.
Yad VaShem has the world’s largest digital collection of photos and names of those who perished in the holocaust. Many people are able to use this massive collection to find information about family members. You can access this collection here.
Each year, six Holocaust survivors are chosen to light torches in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. Their wartime experiences reflect the central theme chosen by Yad Vashemfor Holocaust Remembrance Day. The torches are lit during the central memorial ceremony held at Yad Vashem on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Click here to read about the six Torchlighters chosen for this year.
Righteous Among the Nations
There is a garden at Yad VaShem dedicated to the “Righteous Among the Nations” – the non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. Each tree there is dedicated to one of these people. Last year at the AIPAC conference we heard Pastor Chris Edmonds tell the story of his father, Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds, who was the first American soldier honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
First American Soldier Honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations
The Hebrew calendar contains many holidays of remembrance: Passover, remembering the Exodus from Egypt (Nisan 14-21); Yom HaShoah one week later on Nisan 27; Yom HaZikaron – Memorial day for all fallen soldier – which will be next week on Iyar 5th. Edith Samuel in her book, “Your Jewish Lexicon” says, “We are a people with a long history and an equally long memory. The importance of remembering is stressed over and over again in our Torah.” Let us stand in solidarity with our Jewish friends in remembering the Six Million.
God is a God of order and He does everything in an orderly fashion. To maintain order in the universe, He built into it a timekeeping system when He created the sun ( שמש) she-mesh, moon (ירח ) ye-rey-ach and stars ( כוכבים) ko-kah-vim: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” (Gen. 1:14) In this verse, the English word “seasons” is translated from the Hebrew mo’edim – ( מועדים). (Strongs #4150) In Leviticus 23:1, the word mo’edim appears again however, this time it is translated as “feasts” – referring to the seven feasts or appointments of the Lord. Leviticus 23:1-2: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.” The Hebrew word mo’ed is defined in the Brown/Driver/Briggs (BDB) Hebrew Lexicon as “appointed time, place, meeting”. This helps us to see that the seven feasts listed in Leviticus 23 are seven appointments that the children of Israel were to keep with God. However in a broader view, Leviticus 23 lays out God’s plan for the redemption of the world. He has a plan and the plan will go by a specific order. There are seven mo’edim. Seven is the number of completion. God put seven days into the week in Genesis 1 and seven mo’edim in the Hebrew calendar in Leviticus 23.
In last week’s Nugget, we studied the first feast, Passover, discussed in Leviticus 23:4-5. It occurs on the 14th of Nisan (the first month of the Hebrew religious calendar). The second feast is discussed in verses 2-8. On the next day after Passover, the 15th of Nisan, is the ‘feast of unleavened bread’ – Heb: חַ֥ג הַמַּצּ֖וֹת , Hag HaMatzot, which lasted seven days. Matzah as we know is unleavened bread. [Matzot is the plural form in Hebrew. For students, feminine nouns create a plural by adding the ‘ot’ ending.] Together, the feast of unleavened bread and Passover are celebrated for 8 days. The third feast of Leviticus 23:9-14, is the feast of firstfruits – Hebrew: יום הבכורים- Yom HaBikurim. On Passover, a marked sheaf of grain was bundled and left standing in the field. Leviticus 23:11 says the priest, “shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath…”. Note the date for this 3rd mo’ed – the day after the Sabbath after Passover, or, Sunday.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” He literally fulfilled the first three feasts, or appointments, of Leviticus 23 when He was on this earth! His death on the cross occurred on Passover according to all four of the Gospels. This was not an accident, but was God’s plan from the beginning of time that Jesus Christ was the “lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” – as the prophet, John the Baptizer pointed out the first time he saw him (John 1:29). Jesus told His disciples over and over that He was from Heaven – the incarnation of God Himself so that He could live with us, walk among us, experience our pain and sorrows. In John 6, Jesus said that He was the “Bread from heaven.” The unleavened bread since He lived a sinless life.
Finally, the Lord Jesus also fulfilled the 3rd mo’ed – the feast of Firstfruits, when He resurrected three days after His death on Passover. The apostle Paul wrote, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 Jesus Himself prophesied His resurrection after three days and three nights (72 hours) comparing it to Jonah’s deliverance from the whale: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40) Since all of the mo’edim of Leviticus 23 are based on the Hebrew, Lunar calendar, they occur on different days of the week which are based on the Gregorian solar calendar that we use. In the year of Christ’s death and resurrection, Passover Eve would have fallen on Tue. evening with Jesus death and burial on Wed. and thus three days and three nights until the first day, Sunday (which began at sundown on Shabbat). The Gospels are full of references to the resurrection and there were many witnesses. One of the requirements of the Apostles was that they had to have seen the resurrected Lord. The resurrection of Christ is the heart of the New Testament and the Gospel message! (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) However every doctrine in the New Testament had it’s start in the T’nakh. Without the T’nakh, the NewTestament has no foundation. And without the New Testament, the T’nakh is unfulfilled.
The Hebrew word, לחַיִּים֙, l’chayim, means ‘to life’. In Hebrew, the noun ‘life’, חיים (chayim), is always in the plural. [Note: in Hebrew transliteration, pronounce the ‘ch’ sound as in ‘Bach’.] When you read the Bible, you notice that God is all about LIFE! He is the Creator and giver of life. In Genesis 2:9, He placed the tree of life, ( עֵ֤ץ הַֽחַיִּים֙), etz chayim, in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2:7, God breathed into Adam the ‘breath of life’ (Heb: נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים – nish-maht chayim) and Adam became a living soul. In the New Testament Gospel of John, Jesus explained that He had this same power to give life: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” (John 5:26)
The apostle John relates in his New Testament Gospel (John chapter 11) the amazing incident concerning Jesus and his three friends (all siblings) – Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick, but when Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Both Mary and Martha were grief stricken and told Jesus if He had only come sooner, He could have healed Lazarus. However, Jesus had a greater miracle in mind than healing Lazarus. He instructed them to roll the stone from the tomb cave, but Martha protested saying the body was already decomposing. Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would live again. Martha thought Jesus referred to the future resurrection at the end of the age. Jesus then said to Martha (what is one of my favorite verses), “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25) Year later, the now aged apostle John had been exiled by the Romans to the island of Patmos and had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ. I am sure John remembered Lazarus resurrection when Jesus identified Himself by saying, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.”(Rev. 1:18a) In His resurrection, Jesus defeated our greatest enemy, which was death. L’Chaim! To Life!!
This is Passover week and so we are considering the original Exodus from Egypt as recorded in Exodus chapter 13.
“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.” Exodus 13:17-18
The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt and their life there was bitter. They cried to the Lord (see Exodus 2:23-24) and God raised up Moses to deliver them. God sent nine plagues upon the land of Egypt and still Pharaoh would not let Israel go. God promised Moses that after the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, then Pharaoh would let them go. Note the phrase that I underlined in the verse above. The original Hebrew says:
וַיַּסֵּב אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָעָם דֶּרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר
This Hebrew phrase simply means, “And God circled the people along a desert path.” After all this time of waiting, God did not lead them in a direct route out of Egypt, but rather, He seemingly led them “in circles” into the desert area surrounding the Red Sea. The Hebrew word מִּדְבָּ֖ר (mid-bar), which means ‘desert’, is often translated as ‘wilderness’ in the Authorized Version of the Bible. Why did God lead the children of Israel to the desert? Scripture indicates that the desert is God’s top school of learning to trust Him. God had also sent Moses to the same desert 40 years prior to learn of His ways. When the time was right, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush in this same desert and told him that he would lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and would return and worship God “upon this mountain” (Ex. 3:12). Just as it took Moses 40 years to learn to trust God in the desert, it also took the children of Israel 40 years to learn the same lesson.
Since the desert is a place of limited physical resources, it is God’s choice place to put His children in order to develop a dependence upon Himself and hence to develop their faith in Him as their all sufficient provider. The Bible is full of examples of how God patiently time and again met the needs of the children of Israel in the desert. Due to the limited resources of the desert, it is also a place of great miracles! The very Exodus of Israel from Egypt has the greatest miracle in the entire T’nakh – the parting of the Red sea. If God had lead Israel directly into Canaan, there would be no Red Sea miracle! This great miracle occurred in response to the children of Israel’s inability to fight the Egyptians. They had no weapons. God Himself fought for them! Think of the other miracles that Israel experienced – The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The manna. God provided miracle after miracle for the children of Israel in the desert. Note also that the desert, the place of limited resources, was also the place of God’s greatest victories! The same Red Sea that became a miraculous path of escape for Israel became a tomb for Egypt! God used a seemingly circuitous delay at Red Sea to win the greatest victory for Israel!
Today God can (and does!) put His servants into ‘desert situations’ to teach them the same principles of faith that He taught Moses, and the children of Israel. So if we find ourselves in a desert of God’s making, let us not fret, but rather rejoice that God is wanting to increase our faith and lead us to victory. And watch out for the miracles! They will appear!