Torah Portion: Miketz “at the end,”

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Torah Portion 10, Mikeitz (at the end)

Genesis 41:1-44:17

 

Last Week’s Torah Portion: Vayeshev

 

  • Joseph’s brothers sold him to Midianites because they were jealous of him
  • Genesis 38 presents a side story about how Judah’s widowed daughter in- law         (Tamar) slept with him securing her place in the family
  • Tamar had twins
  • In Genesis 39 we return to the story of Joseph
  • Joseph is bought by Potiphar and everything Joseph does for his new master is blessed
  • Potiphar’s wife wrongfully accuses Joseph of making advances towards her, Joseph is sent to Jail
  • Joseph is entrusted at the jail, everything he handles becomes blessed.
  • Joseph interpreted the dreams of two prisoners, the baker and the cup bearer. One will live, one will die.
  • He tells the cup bearer to remember him to Pharaoh.

Audio Lecture:

Talking Torah Weekly: Miketz, Posted by Jeff Gilbert on Dec 19, 2014

Great G-dcast Video for Kids and Adults (under 5 minutes):

G-dcast: Parshat Miketz: Joseph interprets dreams:

These Notes are used n conjunction with the readings

 

First reading — Genesis 41:1–14

V1-7 Pharaoh had a dream about 7 healthy cows eaten by 7 lean cows and a dream of 7 health ears of grain swallowed by 7 thin ears of grain.

V8 Nobody could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams

V9-13 The cup bearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about his ability to interpreter dreams

V14 Joseph was made presentable to Pharaoh

Second reading — Genesis 41:15–38

V15-16 Pharaoh addresses Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, Joseph gives all credit to G-d

Jacob always gives credit to G-d: Gen 41:25, 28, 32

In everything Joseph advised Pharaoh in, G-d was given the glory. And because Joseph gave God the glory, so did Pharaoh see Gen 41:39

V17-24 Pharaoh tells Joseph his dreams

V25-31 Joseph intercepts the dreams: Egypt will have seven good years followed by seven years of famine

V32 the reason the dream was repeated (cows then ear of grain) was because G-d was ready to execute

V34-37 Pharaoh directs that food will be stored in preparation for the seven years of famine

V33 & 38 Pharaoh desires a wise and godly man to manage this program

V39 Pharaoh chooses Joseph

Third reading — Genesis 41:39–52

V40-41&44 Pharaoh made Joseph the second in charge of Egypt

V42-43 & 45 Pharaoh give Joseph:

  1. Ring
  2. Gold Necklace
  3. Fine clothes
  4. He was given a wife
  5. and had him ride in the chariot of second rank

V45 Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath Pa’neach.  There are many interpretations of this Egyptian name Rashi says it means “He who explains hidden things”

Note: V40-45 With all these things and complete immersion people wouldn’t be able to doubt Joseph’s authority

V46 Joseph was only 30 years’ old

V47 – 49 Joseph had resources gathered and stored over the seven years

V50-52 Joseph had two sons:

  1. Manasseh = “God caused me to forget all my toil and all my father’s                       house.”
  2. Ephraim = “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Fourth reading — Genesis 41:53–42:18

V53 – 57 The famine starts and people came to Joseph for food

Genesis 42: 1-5 Jacob sends all his son except Benjamin to Egypt to get food.

V6-8 Joseph’s brothers reported to him for food.  They did not know it was Joseph but Joseph knew it was them

V9- Here Joseph remembers his dream of his brothers in Genesis 37:7 & 9.

V9-14 Joseph accused his brothers of being spies.

V16 – 20 Joseph had them imprisoned for three days and demanded their little brother to be brought back to corroborate their story of not being spies

Fifth reading — Genesis 42:19–43:15

V21-24 The brothers talked openly blaming their troubles because they betrayed Joseph.  They did not know that Joseph understood their conversation.  Joseph turned from them and wept.

V24 Joseph imprisoned Simeon until they got back

V25 – 26 They paid for grain and left to go back home.  Joseph took the money they paid and hid it in one of their sacks

V27 – 28 They discovered the money on their return home and became worried.

V29 – 35 The brothers related their story to Jacob

V36 Jacob becomes distressed over his son’s Simeon and Benjamin.  He also reflects of Joseph’s fate.

37 Reuben tells his father to give him Benjamin to bring to Egypt and if he doesn’t bring him back Jacob can take the lives of Ruben’s two sons.

38 Jacob turns down the offer

So why didn’t Jacob allow Benjamin to go to Egypt? His other son Simeon was still captive wouldn’t not going back compromise things?  The best way to look at this thing is a hostage negotiation with terrorist.  If Jacob brought his other son (Benjamin) there was a possibility, he would lose both sons and maybe more.

Genesis 43: 1 – 2 After finishing the food Jacob wanted to go back to Egypt and get more

V3 – 5 Judah reminds his father that they will not be able to get more food unless they bring Benjamin.

V6 Israel (Jacob) asked why they said they had a little brother (Benjamin)

V7 They said they had no idea of knowing that “the man” (Joseph) wanted them to bring their brother Benjamin.

V8-9 Judah guarantees his father Benjamin will be brought back.

V11-12 Jacob tells his sons to bring the following things to the man

  1. double the required money (perhaps the price has risen)
  2. the money they found in their sack (maybe it was a mistake)
  3. balm (gift)
  4. honey (gift)
  5. wax (gift)
  6. lotus (gift)
  7. pistachios (gift)
  8. almonds (gift)

We know it is within Jacob’s nature to approach things diplomatically, look at his and Esau’s meeting

V13-15 Jacob tells his sons he will pray for them

V16 the sons see Joseph and Joseph has a lunch prepared for them.

Sixth reading — Genesis 43:16–29

V18-22 To the man that oversaw Joseph’s house they returned the money that was found in their sack explaining that they didn’t know how it got there.

V23 Joseph’s man except it and returns Simeon to them.

V24 He welcomed them into Joseph’s house giving them water, washing their feet and feeding their donkeys

V26 Joseph returns home and they give him the gifts

V27-28 Joseph asks about their father and they say he is doing well.

V29 Joseph meet Benjamin but not wanting to cry in front of his brothers he went into another room and wept.

Seventh reading — Genesis 43:30–44:17

V30 Joseph then washed his face, returned and had lunch served.

V32 Joseph eat by himself, his brothers eat by themselves and the Egyptians eat by themselves because in Egypt it is an abomination that Egyptians eat with Hebrews.

So why didn’t Joseph eat with the other Egyptians or his brothers?  Because he was not allowed to eat with the other Egyptians and if he eat with his brothers they would have known he wasn’t an Egyptian but eating by himself would give no reason that he was an Egyptian. 

V33 He had his brothers sit in the order of their age, this amazed them.

V34 Joseph gave Benjamin five times his portion.  They all became drunk together.

Genesis 44:1-2 Joseph told his servants to give his brothers as much food as they could carry, return their money in their sacks and put his silver cup in Benjamin sack.

V3 the next morning the brothers left.

V4 Joseph ordered his servants to return his brothers

V5-6 Joseph instructed his servant to accuse his brothers of stealing his cup, the servant did catch them and accused them as instructed.

V7-8 The brothers said they did not steal and if they found any stolen positions that person will die and the others will be his slaves.

V9 – 12 They searched their sacks and found Joseph’s cup in Benjamin sack

V13-16 They returned to Joseph’s house and threw themselves at his mercy.

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Hanukkah Trivia Game (PG-13)

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Created by: William J Jackson

Test your knowledge of Hanukkah and the Maccabean Revolt with this  Hanukkah Trivia  Game.  The contents were taken from both ancient history and the 1st book of the Maccabees’. Play this as an individual or play it on the big screen at your next Hanukkah Party.

If you play this game in a group have a piece of paper available to keep score. There are ten narrated multiple choice questions (a through d).  After the question is asked and the multiple choice are presented a black side with a white question mark will appear. At this point pause the video and record participant’s answers, then push play and grade.

 

The Journey

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Camel Caravan Travelling Through Desert

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

After the Israelites left Egypt, they were sentenced to wander the desert for 40 years.  This was a verdict handed to them for their disobedience.  Still, one could consider it a pretty hefty fine, especially after they’d just been freed from secular Egypt.   Yet, it is possible that there was a subversive design behind their punishment.  If we delve into the Tanakh and study the six centuries before the Exodus, we might discover the benefits that paralleled Israel’s penalty.

As an additional benefit through this study, we will also answer why many of us wandered a while before we entered a destination befitting God’s Word.  If we really examine it, we might see that it’s not the destination but the journey that prepares us for service. We should note that over half of the Patriarchs were placed on a life altering journey after they were chosen but before they received God’s blessings.  These pathways possessed obstacles that challenged and humbled them, preparing them for the promised blessings.  Let’s tear apart these journeys in chronological to better understand their benefits.    

Abraham:

In Genesis 12:1-3 Abram (Abraham) is chosen by God to receive His covenant.  At this point, Abram was an accomplished man.  At 75, he had wealth, servants and cattle. Nonetheless, God put him on a 24-year journey filled with challenges that would stretch this senior citizen.  During his trek, Abram found himself confronted by several challenges, such as parleying with a King over his wife’s safety and defeating foreign enemies to save his nephew.  Some say that Abram was considered righteous and therefore God chose him. Yet, Abraham wasn’t labeled righteous until halfway through his journey (Genesis 15:6). At the journey’s end, in chapter 17, Abram becomes Abraham and the covenant was sealed.  This should have been enough but even after God had vetted and grown Abraham, he would continue to be tested, i.e. the sacrifice of Isaac.

Jacob:

Then we have Jacob, a man whose start is quite different than his Grandfather’s.  Whereas Abraham comes onto the scene an accomplished gentleman, Jacob gains his advantage by swindling his brother’s birthright.  Nonetheless, while on the lamb from an understandably irate brother, Jacob becomes blessed from God (Genesis 28:13-15).  Unlike the obedient Abraham, Jacob appears to establish conditions by saying;

“If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; And if I return in peace to my father’s house, and the Lord will be my God”

Wow, what arrogance, it is almost surprising that God wanted a relationship with this immature lad.  Yet, many of us, like Jacob, on our faith walk started off with this Bob Barker “let’s make a deal” attitude with God. I am glad he did not give up on us, and he didn’t give up on Jacob. So, Jacob starts his journey. Jacob, the swindler, would become swindled time and time again by the great deceiver, Laban.  Jacob would also find himself at hard labor earning everything he had. AThis was a humbling existence for one who had such a charmed life. Finally, he would go before the brother he betrayed and make amends.  So, there we have it, Jacob like Abraham gets a name change and the blessing 23 years later. Yet, this great crescendo was not enough, Jacob would have plenty of heartaches and challenges ahead of him.

Joseph:

Then we have Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. Unlike his Dad, he didn’t start off life deceitful, but he did have an arrogant innocence that got him into a lot of trouble.  Actually, his brothers wanted to murder him but settled for selling him into slavery.  From here, he was wrongly accused of rape and did a stretch in prison.  Finally, after 23 years and interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams correctly, he was promoted to the second in charge of Egypt.  Like his Dad, he made restitution with his brother/s (Genesis 45).  Conversely, Joseph unlike his Father (Jacob)and Great Grandfather (Abraham), did not get a name change or did he get a blessing from God directly, but he did receive God’s blessing indirectly.  In Genesis 45:7 he tells his brother the adventure he was on was God’s design for the betterment of the family.  This gives great testimony to Joseph, that in spite of is hardships, he saw the value of the lessons taught.    

Israel / Us

Now we have the Israelites.  As Numbers 14:33-35, 32:13 tells us they were sentenced to 40 years in the desert waiting for the disobedient generation to dissipate, all but two (Caleb and Joshua).  If we see this figuratively, maybe we can say a portion of us need to die before moving into our promise. Another point of order is that even after Abraham, Israel, Joseph, Caleb and Joshua made it to their destination there was still more demanded of them. Many of us wandered through the desert of pagan religions changing denominations the same way these great men segued from one trial to another. Likewise, some of us are frustrated with our past trial and tribulations from Christianity.  Yet, maybe we had to go on our journeys before we could be considered worthy of the blessings. Remember, like the Patriarchs and the Israelites, the pursuit is always God.  The important thing to consider now is to be thankful for what the journey taught us, and to be prepared for the rest of it.  .  

“To Deny or Not to Deny”

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

When I started leaving Christianity, I felt the powerful grip from a New Testament verse, causing me a lot of anguish. The verse was, Matthew 10:33, where Jesus says “…whoever denies me, I will deny them before my Father in heaven.” This verse is communicated again differently in Luke “…he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:9). Said, either way, it can make you feel very condemned to deny Jesus. Getting to the truth of things, when we study and gain perspective we will find many gaping holes with both of those verses.

Matthew 10 is at a point in which Jesus is sending out his Apostles to preach the message. Some call this the “Little Commission”  the Apostles will be trying to evangelize just the Jews. Later under the “Great Commission,” the Apostles will be sent out to evangelize the nations. Jesus, in Matthew 10, is giving a pep talk to his Apostles before they start hitting the street to convert. At the end of Jesus’ speech, he targets those who will not accept his gospel by threatening their salvation.

Interestingly, Jesus does not refer to himself as God in this thread. He makes himself out to be a spokesman for God. If Jesus was God, he would have said,

“…whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him” Matthew 10:33

Instead; Jesus comes across as a mediator by adding a disclaimer onto the end of his statement:

“…whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before my father in heaven”

Luke 12:9 is even more distinct;

But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God”

Here, Jesus is not even advocating to God; but he is rather reporting to God’s messengers, the angels.

Fist Point:

 First, we see that Jesus and God are NOT one. This is not shattering because the New Testament confirms this on several occasions1: Mark 10:18, 16:19, Matthew 3:16-17, 20:23, 27:46, John 11:41, 14:1, 28, Luke 3:21-22, 22:42.

Second Point

A question surfaces, “Can one advocate to God on behalf of another person?” Let us consult God’s Word, the Torah, for the right answer.  In Exodus 32:31-32.  Moses is interceding for Israel by trying to atone for their sins of the golden calf, with his own life, which is what Jesus is supposedly noted doing for humanity in general. God’s answer to Moses’ intercession was pretty straightforward, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book…” (Exodus 32:33-35). So, there is no way we can advocate for another person’s sins. This theme of personal accountability is repeated throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament). In the Christian Bible, being accountable for your actions becomes reversed when one segues into the New Testament (Romans 3:21-31, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 2:24)

Third Point

The verse after Luke 12:9 states “… everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him…” (Luke 12:10). Jesus seems to be contradicting himself by forgiving people that deny him. The truth is, he is making a point, “you may speak against me, but you better not speak against the Holy Spirit.” For those of us that follow the Torah, we honor God and His Ruach (Holy Spirit). However; unlike Christians, we don’t separate God and His Ruach. Verse ten of Luke 12 is an escape clause to the whole “denying” statement.

Final Point

 At the top of his speech, Jesus goes into a rant about how his mission is to bring violence and division to the world (Matthew 10:34-39 and Luke 12:49-53). This contradicts God’s Word because the Messiah will usher in a time of peace (Micah 4:3, Isaiah 2:4, 11:6-9, 65:25, Hosea 2:18). Many Christians state that during Jesus’ second coming he will usher in this time of peace. When looking at Revelations 1:16, 19:11-21 we see a wrathful Jesus after blood. Many feel that this is a Christian “do over” because their messiah did not fulfill the prophecies.

In Conclusion

The good news for me is, that the fear of the threat, “if you deny me, I will deny you” has lost all of its power on me; because of the truths that I have learned from my Makers written word in Torah. The bad news is, that the verse “to be denied for denying” is still a threatening message that keeps many Christians in fear of seeking real truth found in Torah (we should pray for their release from these lies, so they can know the same freedoms as we do). Remember, we have clearly allowed scripture to prove that we cannot advocate for another person’s sins, so none of us have to live in the fear of the empty threats that the new testament weaves any longer; because what they’re pushing doesn’t come into alignment with Gods written word, “Torah” so it’s NOT truth. Least but not last, and just for memories sake, the new testament has Peter denying Jesus three times (Mark 14:66-72) – think on that for a second – it may even give you a little chuckle.

As for denying the ONE true God, just remember “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ “(Psalm 14:1).

Reference:

  1. Jackson, William J. Are Jesus and G-d One?, Center for Tanakh Based Studies, March 4, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

The Consequences of God’s Fire

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

Last week in “Fire: A Crucial Component of God,” we discussed how God uses adversity like fire to refine us. We also addressed that when we repented and performed teshuva we are cleansing ourselves (Isaiah 1:16-18, 43:24-26, Micah 7:18-19). In pursuit for righteousness we have two factors: the fire of external challenges and the cleansing through internal drives. As effective as scripture tells us these processes are, there will be those that resist change. We know in Jeremiah 2:22 that sometimes cleansing doesn’t work and in Amos 4:11 sometimes fire does not always refine. What happens to those that cannot be purified?

The Hellish Myth of Fire

Some religions such as Islam, Christianity and certain Jewish sects1 would say for the truly evil there is Hell. Paradoxically, the Tanakh does not talk about a Hell yet the Talmud, New Testament and Quran do. This is peculiar because all three believe in the Tanakh (Christianity calls it the Old Testament whereas Islam calls the Torah the Tawrat). Hell actually came from the Greeks. Next question, how did this Greek mythology find its way into our modern culture? Answer: Hellenization. A method that the Greeks used to integrate occupied countries into their fold, combining their Greek culture with aspects of other culture. This homogenizes their beliefs with the beliefs of the occupied territories, therefore uniting both societies. The concept of Hell was written about in Plato’s Republic in about 380 BCE (three centuries before Christianity, and nine centuries before Islam). After Israel was occupied by Greece in about 330 BCE is when we start to see the concept of Hell in Jewish writings. Adding to the evil recipe is Gehenna, a place south of Jerusalem that children were sacrificed by fire to a pagan god (Jeremiah 7:31, 19:2-6). Because of the evil of Gehenna 2,3, it supposedly became cursed therefore becoming the figurative equivalency for Hell. These notions (Gehenna and Plato) found their way into the Talmud then later into the New Testament and finally the Quran.

God Destroys with Fire

The Tanakh tells us that there will be a judgement by fire (Amos 5:6, 7:4, Isaiah 66:15-16, Jeremiah 21:12, Nahum 1:6). In that day Malachi 3:2 explains to us that God will be like a cleansing soap or a refining fire. Malachi goes on to say that those who fear God are His and will be written in His book (Malachi 3:16) and these people will be spared (Malachi 3:20). Some might say that the spared people would be the Jewish people but Zechariah 13:7-9 tells us that only a third of the people in the land (Israel) will be spared. Tanakh also tells us that there will be other people besides the Jews that will exist in the end times (Isaiah 11:10, Zephaniah 3:9, Zechariah 8:22-23, 14:16). These survivors, God’s people, will be purified like how fire purifies gold.

What about the remaining two thirds and those non-Jews that are not spared? History of the Tanakh does show us that God destroys evil people with fire (Genesis 19:24, Leviticus 10:2, Numbers 11:1-3, 2 Kings 1:10-14). Jeremiah 6:27-30 is very graphic in telling us that these people are like rejected silver. As we know, God does destroy evil with fire (Isaiah 1:31, 66:24, Malachi 3:19), possible because of where the concept of Hell’s fire comes from. As Isaiah 29:6 tells us God is a consuming fire and appears to consume wickedness conclusively, whereas Islam and Christianity possess a Hell fire that is everlasting (The New Testament Matthew 25:46, Mark 9:43, Revelation 14:11 and the Quran AYAT al-Baqarah 2:167, AL-MA’IDAH 5:37).

The concept of a tormenting fire might have to do with the Greek writings that talk about Tartarus4, a place of imprisonment for the wicked beneath the earth. The Greeks influenced some Jews (i.e. Hellenistic Jews) and their concepts filtered down into the Talmud, New Testament and finally the Quran. However, when we look at the Psalms, it appears that the wicked will simply be destroyed (Psalm 1:4-6, 37:38, 112:10).

The Remnant

Those that are considered God’s will be purified as if by fire or water (Deuteronomy 32:43, Isaiah 4:4, Ezekiel 22:17-22, Zechariah 13:1, 9, Daniel 11:35, 12:10). Then they will rebuild God’s Holy Temple (Zechariah 8:11-13). The Levitical priesthood will become refined as with fire (Malachi 3:3) and reinstituted. Those that will survive God’s judgement (Ezekiel 36:25-27) will be worthy enough to participate in His reestablished Temple. As we read the last nine chapters of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40-48) we will see that in the end days all has been separated, refined and put back in place. Then we will go back to the sacrifice system, as it was originally established.

References

  1. Rabbi Brawer, Naftali. “Should I Believe in a Jewish Hell?” Should I Believe in a Jewish Hell? | The Jewish Chronicle. THE JEWISH CHRONICLE ONLINE, 25 Aug. 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

 

  1. Dennis, Geoffrey. “Sheol, Gehinnom, Gehenna: Hell in Judaism.” Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism. N.p., 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.

 

  1. Ludwig Blau, Kaufmann Kohler. “GEHENNA (Hebr. ; Greek, Γέεννα):.” Jewish Encyclopedia (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.

 

  1. Georg Autenrieth. “Τάρταρος”. A Homeric Dictionary. Retrieved 7 April 2012.

 

 

 

Fire: A Crucial Component of God

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

There is nothing better on a bitter winter’s day than to seek the comfort of a roaring camp fire. Conversely this same fire on a balmy August afternoon is not only unwelcoming, it can be a downright hazard. Like many things, fire shares a sharp contrasting duality. Even in the spiritual realm, it can be considered good or evil, depending on your religion. Yet because the Tanakh tells us God is responsible for all things (Amos 3:6, Isaiah 45:7, Ecclesiastes 7:13-14), we cannot easily dismiss this primeval resource by making it the companion of the devil. Let’s explore how God uses fire for His and our spiritual benefit.

God is fire

Of the many things that could symbolize God, fire is one of them. The first time God appeared before Moses, it was in the form of fire, a burning bush (Exodus 3:2-6). Later God appeared before His chosen people at Mount Sinai “in fire” (Exodus 19:18, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, 15, 33, 36). At the Mount Sinai debut, God’s people stated “the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17, Leviticus 9:23-24, Deuteronomy 5:24). But this comparison to fire did not end in the Torah, throughout the Tanakh God is consistently associated with fire (Ezekiel 1:27, Nahum 1:6, Micah 1:4).

God uses fire

God uses fire to connect with man. Let us remember God made His covenant with Abraham while using fire to symbolically close the deal (Genesis 15:17). We also see His fire in the desert when He guided Israel with a pillar of flames (Exodus 13:21). Likewise, in our earliest worship of Him, he used fire as His means of interacting with the Israelites (Leviticus 9:24, 1 Chronicles 21:26, 2 Kings 1:12, 38, 1 Kings 18:24, 38, 2 Chronicles 7:1). Then in a more authoritative way, God inspired both Egypt and the Israelites with a plague of fire and hail (Exodus 9:13-35). Through this fiery destruction, Egypt suffered the consequences of its disobedience, while Israel was spared (V. 26). God even used fire to help challenge Job (Job 1:16). For God, fire seems to be a conduit to man.

 God refines man with fire

 God instructed the Israelites to purify anything contaminated in two ways: have it pass through fire (if it could stand the heat) or have it washed (Numbers 31:21-24). God figuratively does the same thing to us, by either having us cleanse ourselves or by refining us. Firstly, as Isaiah 1:16-17 and Jeremiah 4:14 tell us, we must wash ourselves of our sin. Secondly, as with fire, Jeremiah 6:27-29 tells us that God refines his people by testing removing the corrupted materials. Additionally, Isaiah 48:10 echoes that God will refine us through the furnace of suffering. Life’s external stressors are our fire which will help us to become purer, thus becoming better versions of ourselves. Equally, washing ourselves is us electing to turn from sin and towards God. Some methods God gives us to purify ourselves:

Note that we cannot purify ourselves without God (Job 9:30-31, Jeremiah 2:22). Remember, it is God who will test and refine us (Psalm 66:10, Proverbs 17:3, 27:21, Isaiah 48:10, Jeremiah 9:6, 17:10, Daniel 11:35). It is us who is empowered to change our own behavior. So, “…Even if your sins are like scarlet…” when we turn to Him and do these things, “…they (our sins) will be white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18).

Although all of this is a positive recipe to become more righteous, it must be shared some may not succeed. It states that in Jeremiah 2:22 lye doesn’t always work and in Amos 4:11 it implies fire may not always work either. What are the consequences for those that cannot be refined? Some religions like Christianity, Islam and certain Jewish sects might answer that those that choose not to be redeemed will end up in Hell. A pretty straight forward answer that even the agnostic can get behind. Hell, however, is not the answer when it comes to God’s Word the Tanakh.

Next Tuesday’s installment will answer these lingering questions and talk about the great refinement process during the eschatology (the final days).

Personal Sanctification: The Ritual and The Spiritual

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

When reading the Tanakh about being unclean or being cleansed, God seems to be speaking to us on two different but united plains.  Firstly, He speaks to us in the literal sense of being unclean by being exposed to the defiled (Leviticus 15:31).  In a physical way, He is talking about being contaminated by carcasses (Leviticus 11:35), corpses (Numbers 19:11) and the diseases (Leviticus 13). On the spiritual side, He talks about being contaminated, but not by the influences of germ, more like the impact of wrong things like idols (Joshua 7:13), evil influences (Ezra 6:21, 9:1) and the spirit of impurity (Zechariah 13:2).

This approach of intertwining the spiritual with the literal as a method of embracing change is very effective.  We can look towards “Tashlick” for a better understanding.  This is when people at the beginning of Rosh Hashanah (Nehemiah 8:1) go to a body of water and throw breadcrumbs to the ducks.  Symbolically, this is casting out our sins.  Usually, Micah 7:18-19 is pronounced as we perform this deed.  Tashlick by itself, is not enough for teshuva (repentance), it only ceremonially commemorates our actions.  As we metaphorically carry out this work, we also need to perform it in our heart.

In Genesis 35, we see this metaphoric approach with Jacob before he entered Beit-El (Bethel).  God told him to get ready before he received his blessing, the promised land. If we study verse 2, Jacob has his family do two things that deal with cleansing; one physical, one spiritual.  He has them get rid of their idols and dawn clean clothes.  This a very common theme later in the Torah.  Every time God tells Israel to consecrate themselves, He also wants them to bath and dawn clean clothes (Exodus 19:10, 14,  Numbers 19:7).

Another example of this would have been the sacrifice system.  In the mid-14th century BCE, the Levitical priest was directed by God to remove the sins of Israel.  This introduced a system of animal sacrifice that was a part of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple (Exodus 30:10, Leviticus 1:4,4:20, 26, 31, 35, 5:6, 10, 13, 16, 18, 6:7, 7:7, 8:15, 9:7, 10:17, 12:8, 14:17-31, Numbers 6:11, 8:12, 19, 21, 15:25, 28, 28:22, 30, 29:5). We also see Job performing this same function 700 years earlier1. So, it appears that for a time, people could be purified through another person in conjunction with the sacrifice practices. Nonetheless, this system was not successful by itself; the people also had to renounce these sins in their hearts.

So, how do we know that the sacrifice system was meaningless unless it was performed sincerity?  Well, about 300 years after the Tabernacle was established, God called out a Levitical Priest named Eli about performing his duties as a hypocrite. As a result, Eli and his family were cursed and then killed (1 Samuel 2:22-25).  Also about 700 years after the directive for sacrifices were established (Leviticus 1 – 7), Isaiah (Isaiah 1:11-15) and Amos (Amos 5:21-22), talked about how God no longer honored this system.  These prophets spoke about how Israel, regardless of sacrifices, was still guilty of sinful behavior.  Thus, performing the physical is irrelevant if one does not perform what is deep in their soul. In both Amos and Isaiah, God says that He would rather us do good, as opposed to performing ceremonial duties (Isaiah 1:16-19, Amos 5:24).

Around the sixth century BCE, God had the Babylonians destroy the Temple as a result of Israel’s disobedience (Lamentations 1:5; Ezekiel 39:21-24; Nehemiah 9:29-31)2. Likewise, the corruption of the Levitical priesthood made the sacrifice system defunct (Ezekiel 22:26, Jeremiah 2:8, Nehemiah 13:29, Malachi 2:8).

So, God separated us from the ritual.  King David probably said it best when he penned;

                      “O Lord, You shall open my lips, and my mouth will recite Your praise.  For You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering.  My sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart.”                                                                                                                                                                                                             Psalm 51:16-19

This is also repeated in Isaiah 1:18, 66:2, Psalm 34:18.  God seems to make a priority of substance over the superficial.  Nonetheless, we will eventual earn the right to belong to His original plan.

In our future, there will be a Prince providing our sin offering.  This is stated in Ezekiel 45:17. Some might think this is the Messiah, but it is not, the Messiah is mentioned earlier in Ezekiel 43:7 as being seated on the throne.  Others say that this may be the head priest. This is a possibility, but since we have people like Melchizedek God’s most high priest (Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:4) and a Commander of God’s Army (Joshua 5:13-15), out there, there may be some end times personalities still unknown to us.

So, from the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 605 BCE, until an unknown future date, we are without the Temple sacrifice system to forgive our sins. Some say this is why we have the Christian messiah, but Malachi 2:1-9 makes it clear that the Levitical priesthood was suspended. Thus, the sacrifice system would be held in suspense.  We need to remember; Malachi was written in 445 BCE four centuries before Christianity and the Christine concept of human sacrifice through Jesus.  Also, almost 200 years before Malachi the Temple was destroyed.  Thus, Israel didn’t not practice a sacrifice system up to 600 years before the arrival of Jesus, so Jesus could not have been the sin sacrifice. But, don’t be discouraged, the prophets already gave us the solution for salvation.  As for our day and age, we are to turn to God with a repentant heart and He will make our crimson sins as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

References

  1. Lyons, Eric. “When Did Job Live?” Apologetics Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.
  1. Bradshaw, Robert I. The Babylonian Exile of Israel, Bible Study.org, N.p., n.d. Web 19 Nov. 2016