Bible Studies from the Original Context
Category

Uncategorized

U

Hearing God’s Voice in the Desert

H

“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is. His name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” – Exodus 3:13-14

God’s appearance to Moses in the ‘burning bush’ is a timeless story. I have written Nuggets in the past about God’s name that He revealed to Moses on this day, but in this Nugget I am going to focus on the geographical aspect of the story – where it happened (ie, the Desert!) A few years ago I took a very interesting class on Bible Geography and the teacher, Dr. Jonathan Lipnick, said to us, “The physical setting of the Bible plays a major role the theology of the Bible.  To understand the God of the Hebrew Bible, you must understand the place where He has that relationship with His people. The Bible would not be the book we know if it were situated anywhere else.”  This is a favorite quote of mine and is so very true!

The scene of Moses and the ‘burning bush’ occurred in the desert of Midian according to Exodus 2:15. This is where Moses had lived as a shepherd for forty years since fleeing Egypt. Even then God was preparing Moses to lead Israel as his intimate knowledge of the land would be extremelly important when he led the children of Israel back to this very spot!  (Exodus 3:12)

The Hebrew word for desert is מִדבָר– midbar. It is often translated as ‘wilderness’ in the KJV, but it is a desert wilderness, not one with trees.  Scripture indicates that the desert is the setting for many Biblical narratives and often God’s choice place to speak to His servants and to give them a greater vision – either of Himself or of the work He has for them to do. In general, the desert is a still and quiet place.  The desert of Israel is certainly my favorite place!  Its sweeping and majestic landscapes are a great place to reflect on God. Many prophets, Moses being one, received revelations from God while in the desert. David and Paul also spent much time there and their writings are integral to the Scriptures.


The Hebrew word for ‘speak’ in the present tense is  מְדַבֵּ֛ר (pronounced m’dah-bear) and has the same consonants as the Hebrew word midbar (מ-ד-ב-ר), but the vowel marks are different and hence, it sounds different.  I think that it is most amazing that the same Hebrew letters are used for two words that at first seem so different – the desert being a place where we normally do not hear people speaking. But from the Bible narratives, it seems that God speaks the MOST in the desert!  It is not that God is more real in the desert than in other places.  God is everywhere present.  It is just that we are so easily distracted from knowing God due to the many distractions of life.  In the desert, we detach from the noisiness of everyday life that demands our attention and can focus on God.  It is then that God can speak to our heart.  

Moses is one of the greatest servants of God. God’s calling to Him was very special. I think it is amazing that God spent 40 years quieting Moses’ heart in the desert before He spoke to Him.  Bruce Feiler in his amazing book, “Walking the Bible”, speaks of the children of Israel as being for the most part, ‘desert people’. It makes sense that the land of Israel is almost 1/2 a desert area.  Perhaps God has caused the Jewish people to be ‘desert people’ as Feiler states, because they were also the people who heard God’s voice and wrote it down since both the T’nakh and the New Testament were penned by Jewish hands.

We have been speaking of literal deserts in the land of Israel, but maybe we today feel like we are in a desert of sorts in the circumstances of our personal life. If we find ourselves in a desert of God’s making, let us not fret, but rather rejoice that God is wanting to speak to us!  Perhaps He has a new path for our life to take.  Our perhaps He wants to confirm our current path.  Regardless, if we maintain a quiet heart like Moses did, I am sure we will hear God’s Word to us. 

Needed: Spiritual Vision Check

N
Needed: A Spiritual Vision Check Reading Numbers 22 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). These verses contain the famous story of Balaam’s talking donkey.  Balak, the king of Moab, had 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.”  At first Balaam said ‘no’ to the Moabites, but when they returned a second time, God permitted Balaam to go with them.  Balaam had entered God’s permissive will which is evident by God’s admonition in verse 32, “I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.”  This verse sums up this passage about the way of Balaam – it was perverse or contrary to God’s way because he was intent to curse Israel.  If one’s intent is to harm or curse Israel, then their way is contrary to God’s way!   As we continue reading ch. 22 and then esp. through ch. 24, the second ‘theme’ 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 root for ‘see’ is ראה (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 פתח (pah-tach) which literally means ‘open’.  Then God ‘opens’ Balaam’s eyes in vs. 31.  Here the word translated as ‘open’ is גלה (gah-lah – Strong’s #1540).  The Theological Workbook 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)  There are least 24 occurrences of the word ‘see’ (in various forms) in this chapter!  So it is all about spiritual vision!    God’s will was clear.  Israel was NOT to be cursed.  However Balak had offered Balaam great riches if he would curse Israel.  Also, we have further insight from Deut. 23:5 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.” Balaam blessed Israel four times when he really wanted to curse them because God overruled and turned the curses into blessings! 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 ..”  I personally think this prophecy guided the ‘wise men from the east’ to travel to Jerusalem and worship the newborn king of the Jews many thousands of years later (as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew). Those wise men would have been of the same area as Balaam.   Despite all that God did to help Balaam find the right way, in the New Testament [2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14], he is used as an example NOT to follow. Primarily these verses refer to Balaam’s doctrine, but we could make a secondary application that Balaam’s way was to curse Israel.  God is against anyone who is “cursing” Israel, but of all people, Christians should know better!!  The modern “BDS movement” is clearly against the Scriptures!     I want to end on a positive note because God works out all things to our good and His glory! (Romans 8:28)  One good thing we can glean from this story is that God would NOT let Balaam curse Israel!  God overruled each time and caused Israel’s enemies to bless her with great blessings!  God is still on the throne and looking out for His ancient people, and although many ‘Balaks’ and many ‘Balaams’ have come on the scene down through the centuries, no one is able to curse or destroy Israel. God is still telling these peoples the same words he told Balaam, “thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]; for they are blessed!” – Numbers 22:12  Every single person or nation who have gone ‘against God’ concerning Israel has met with destruction.  I do not want to be like Balaam whose way was perverse before God.  I want to be on the same page with God and I want to be a blessing to those He has blessed!  

Needed: Friends of Zion

N
The Hebrew word for friend is חֲבֵר (chaver).  The root:  ח ב ר means to ‘join, connect’.  Friends are people who are joined together around a similar interest or cause.  A written composition is a חיבור (chi-vur) because words are joined together.  An author, writer or composer is a מחבר  (m’cha-ber) because they join together words, ideas and music.  A society, or association is called חברה (chev-rah). Societies and clubs are composed of people whose interests join them together.  Nations who have similar interest are called allies.    One of my favorite verses is from Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  The Bible defines friendship as a commitment based on a relationship, not a convenience.  In Bible times, friends often made a covenant to help each other. (A good example is David and Jonathan)  The modern view of a friend is far from the Biblical model. Friends are viewed as the people they ‘use’ to help them advance or provide themselves some benefit.  It is a very “consumer view” – ie, what can this person do for me.  There is no thought of loyalty and sacrifice in such friendships.   The Bible, however, declares the crucible of friendship to be commitment during adverse or trying times.  The way a society views friends will also affect other organizations, employer to employee, and even at a national level.  Two Nations who are “friends” are said to be allies.  A nation should also be committed to seeking the BEST for their ally.  Not to using their allies.   Traditionally Israel has been the ally of the USA – the ONLY true ally in the Middle East!  Terrorists are NOT allies and are NOT friends!   Nations that support terrorists are NOT allies.  And the enemy of my ally should be my enemy too!!  However it seems the modern “consumer view” of friends has now infected the relationship between the USA and Israel.  The proposed “deal” with Iran is surely NOT something that a true ally or a true Friend of Israel would agree to – much less propose.  Iran is NOT a friend of Israel, but is the sworn enemy.  Consistently their leaders vow to “wipe the Jews off the map”.  Iran is also NOT a friend of the USA either!  Contrary to what the leaders of the USA think, Iran is NOT a friend nor ally of the USA.  Iran sponsors international terrorist groups!  Since when do we negotiate with terrorists?  The proposed “deal” with Iran that the USA is proposing is not only bad for Israel, but it is bad for America too. It is bad for me and bad for YOU!   What can we do?  Well, just ONE PERSON can actually do alot if that ONE PERSON really believes in something.  First of all, we can all pray.  Also, we can all call, write or email our congressional representative.  The one “saving point” is that the “deal” must pass the US Congress.  So we who love Israel and who love America need to let our voice be heard.  The prophet Isaiah was such a patriot and he loved Israel!  I will close with his words: “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.”  -Isaiah 62:1   “The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” – Psalm 87:2

A Hearing Heart

A

A Hearing Heart

In 1 Kings 3:3, God appeared to King Solomon in a dream as he offered sacrifices in Gibeon and said, “Ask what I shall give thee.”  Solomon’s request is recorded in verse 9: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart.”  God told Solomon that his prayer was answered and hence Solomon became the wisest man. God also gave Solomon many things he did not ask for as well.  Re-read 1 Kings 3 for the full story.  The English phrase ‘understanding heart’ in verse 9 is translated from the Hebrew phrase 

– לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֙ע  – lev sh’ma – which literally means ‘a hearing heart’.  As stated already, the word sh’ma means ‘hear’, but since effective hearing means that one must also understand what is being heard, hence the KJV translators use of “understanding heart”.  Sh’ma also carries the idea of obeying what one  hears so that if you don’t obey, you don’t really hear.  I think a ‘hearing heart’ is exactly what God wanted not just Solomon, but all the children of Israel to have and hence, His constant use of the word ‘lev‘ (heart) in Deuteronomy. 

The word ‘heart’ (Hebrew – לְבָבְ –le-vav) occurs 43 times in the book of Deuteronomy – more than any of the other books of the Torah!  The other books of the Torah tell the ‘story’ of the Jewish people, from God’s promise to Abraham until they are standing on the shores of Jordan ready to cross over to the land God gave them.  However, Deuteronomy retells the story somewhat, but it adds one important factor – the emphasis on the heart.  God wanted the children of Israel to know that the motives of the heart were more important than their actions.  

The sh’ma is found Deut. 6:4-6 and is part of this week’s Torah portion. 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  

 שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃ 

 וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ  

This passage is known as the sh’ma (שְׁמַ֖ע) because this is the first Hebrew word of the passage. Sh’ma (Strong’s #8085) which means ‘hear’ and the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines it as listening in order to obey.  

On the second line of Hebrew text note the word   לְבָבְ – le-vav (‘heart’ – Strong’s #3824) which occurs 47 times in the book of Deuteronomy – more than any other book of the T’nakh!  The other books of the Torah give us the history of the Jewish people from God’s promise to Abraham until they are standing on the shores of Jordan ready to cross over to the land God gave to them.  However, in Deuteronomy, Moses retells the story somewhat and adds one very important factor – the emphasis on the heart.  Although our actions are important, the motives of the heart that underlies our actions are the most important. 

In the New Testament gospel of Matthew, a lawyer (meaning an expert in the ‘law of Moses’) asked Jesus a very important question. Matthew 22:36: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus’ reply is most important because He quoted to the lawyer the sh’ma: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Mat. 22:38-40 Perhaps the lawyer was thinking of which of the 613 commandments in the law should he most concentrate on ‘doing’.  Jesus helped him to understand the same lesson that Moses taught in Deuteronomy – that our motive for our acts must be love for God and for others.  Without love, our actions are no good and become meaningless rituals.

Nugget #236: Teachers and their Students

N
Teachers and Their Students
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!

Nugget #235: Shavu’ot and Pentecost

N
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:
English Name Transliteration
Hebrew Name <-
The Law of Moses Torah
תּוֹרָה
The Prophets Nevi’im
נְבִיאִים
The Writings Ketuvim
כְּתוּבִים
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:
English Title Meaning Transliteration
Hebrew Title  <-
Genesis “in the beginning” B’reshit בְּרֵאשִׁית
Exodus “names” Sh’mot שִמוֹת
Leviticus “and he called” Vayikra וְיִקרָא
Numbers “in the desert” B’midbar בְמִדבָר
Deuteronomy “words” Devarim דְבָרִים
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:
English Title Transliteration

Hebrew Title  

<-
Joshua Yĕhôshúa’ יְהוֹשֻעַ
Judges Shophtim  שוֹפטִים
Samuel * Shmû’ēl שְׁמוּאֵל
Kings * M’lakhim
מְּלָכִים
* Note that Samuel and Kings are counted as one book each.
The Latter Prophets also contains four books:
English Title Transliteration
Hebrew Title <-
Isaiah Yĕsha’ăyāhû יְשַׁעְיָהוּ
Jeremiah Yirmyāhû
יִרְמְיָהוּ
Ezekiel Yĕkhezqiēl יְחֶזְקֵיאל
The Twelve * Trei Asar תרי עשר
* Note that “The Twelve” (Minor prophets) are counted as one book
The Twelve are the Minor Prophets:
English Title Transliteration
Hebrew Title <-
Hosea Hôshēa’
הוֹשֵׁעַ
Joel Yô’ēl
יוֹאֵל
Amos Āmôs
עָמוֹס
Obadiah Ōvadhyāh
עֹבַדְיָה
Jonah Yônāh
יוֹנָה
Micah Mîkhāh
מִיכָה
Nahum Nakḥûm
נַחוּם
Habakkuk Khăvhakûk
חֲבַקּוּק
Zephaniah Tsĕphanyāh
צְפַנְיָה
Haggai Khaggai
חַגַּי
Zechariah Zkharyāh
זְכַרְיָה
Malachi Mal’ākhî
מַלְאָכִי
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:
English Title Transliteration
Hebrew Title <-
Psalms Tehillim תְהִלִּים
Proverbs Mishlei  מִשְלֵי
Job Eeyov אִיּוֹב
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.
English Title Meaning Transliteration
Hebrew Title <-
Song of Solomon Song of Songs Shir Hashirim שִׁיר הַשִׁירִים
Ruth Ruth Rut רוּת
Lamentations “how” Ey-chah
 אֵיכָה
Ecclesiastes “the preacher” Kohelet
קֹהֶלֶת
Esther Esther Esther אֶסְתֵר
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
English Name Meaning Transliteration
Hebrew Name <-
Daniel Daniel Daniel
דָּנִיֵּאל
Ezra Ezra Ezra
עֶזְרָה
Nehemiah Nehemiah Na-chem-ya
נְחֶמְיָה
Chronicles * “words of the days” Divrei HaYamim דברי הימים
* Note that Chronicles is counted as one book.

Nugget #233: The Miracle Nation

N
The Most Crowded Hours in History

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.

Nugget #232: Remember the Six Million

N
Remember the Six Million
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:
וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחוֹמֹתַי יָד וָשֵׁם טוֹב מִבָּנִים וּמִבָּנוֹת שֵׁם עוֹלָם אֶתֶּן־לוֹ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִכָּרֵת
‘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.
Torchlighters
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.

Nugget #231: L’Chaim! To Life!

N
L’Chaim! To Life!
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!!

Nugget #230: When God Leads Along a Desert Way

N
When God Leads Along a Desert Way
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!
Bible Studies from the Original Context

Social Media:

Categories