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).

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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

A Guide to Picking the Right Tanakh

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

Many of us are struggling to find the most accurate interpretation of God’s Word.  One of the many concerns about English interpretations of the Tanakh, is that translations are often passionate in their efforts to anglicize the text and to make it friendly to the contemporary English readers. Although this may allow a smoother flow, it can stifle or minimize God’s Word.  Still others will chose a Tanakh because of their blind obedience to a religious sect verse seeking the purity of God’s word (Proverbs 8:13, 11:2, 16:18). Here we will discuss the differences between Tanakhs and strategies that will help us to be a better student of His Holy Scriptures.

JPS vs Artscroll

The age-old debate regarding which Tanakh to read, usually become an argument between either the JPS or the Artscroll.  The JPS is a favorite of Jewish non-denominations and more liberal groups, whereas, the Artscroll is usually used by Orthodox and more conservative types of Judaism. Sadly, many people will use a religious sect like a divining rod to help them determine which version of the Tanakh they should use.  Christianity, also possesses this same bad habit, i.e. Catholic use the Latin Vulgate Bible and certain denominations stick exclusively to the KJB.  Instead of validating the Tanakh through a religious sect, we should determine what makes each interpretation unique, and then, as individuals, make an educated decision.

JPS:

The JPS Tanakh (New Jewish Translation 1985), is the most sold Jewish Bible.  It was rewritten in 1985, making it easier to read and comprehend than its original, which was written in 1917 based off the KJB. The JPS uses many resources such as Masoretic Text, Rabbinical literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint (Greek OT), and lexicographical insights, in developing its interpretation1. However, like many Christian translations of the bible, the JPS is a theologically-protected document and not a free rendering of the original.  So, what does it mean to be “theologically-protected document”.  Let’s use Christianity to prove our point.  For example, in Christianity’s need to make God into someone more merciful and less of a disciplinarian the word “fear” (mora) has been replaced with the word “awe”.  Let us look at Psalm 76:12:

Vow and pay to the Lord your God; all those around Him will bring a gift to Him Who is to be feared.”

Thus with certain Christian Bibles, awe is used instead of fear, which makes no sense since the Hebrew word for awe is “pachad”. Nonetheless, it does fit the doctrine of certain religions that want a gentler kinder god.  Likewise, almost all Christian bible have renumber Psalms 76 so verse 12 is 11.  The Jewish bibles will also do this on occasion to create a better flow.

Artscroll:

The Artscroll is more literal than the JPS and although it may re-order words, it will never re-order whole verses like the JPS.  What is concerning about the Artscroll is that it is often translated based on Rashi’s commentary.  This is fine for those that make Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (Rashi) a priority of their faith, but many of us do not choose to have God’s Word filtered through another man.

Compare:

The best way to compare apples is to bite into them, so let’s bite into each by comparing verses.

If we look at Proverbs 20:1 both versions state that wine is a scoffer but the Art Scroll says “strong drink makes one cry our” whereas the JPS says “strong drink makes a roisterer”.  By the way the word “roisterer” means loudmouth, carouser or boaster.  So, who is right, the Art Scroll or the JPS?  This is why, you should always have access to a lexicon. When we look at the lexicon we see the phrase in question drawn from this one word “hō·meh”, which means either brawler, rage or making noise.  At this point you decide who is correct and ask yourself why add all that extra information when the word brawler would not only fit but be more accurate. Sadly, many Christian bibles do a better job of interpreting this verse.

Now let us go into one that is more extreme.  At the beginning of verse 16 Malachi 2 it says;

“For I detest divorce – said the Lord…. (JPS)

“For he who hates (his wife) should divorce (her), says HASHEM… (Artscroll)

Wow, two opposite messages out of the same verse, kind of scary.  If we look at the verse prior (Malachi 2:15) it tells us to not betray the wife of our youth.  So, if we are to put this in context the JPS would be right.  Yes, on the surface I would rather have a literal word by word interpretation like the Artscroll but sometimes a bible that has a more phrase by phrase interpretation like the JPS can be more accurate.  From the perspective of those that have left Christianity, the Artscroll would be likened to the KJB, wheras the JPS is comparable to the NLT.

Everett Fox:

Now, to offer up a third solution, we have Everett Fox’s “The Five Books of Moses” and The Early Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings).  Although this is not the entire Tanakh, it is a good start. Everett Foxe’s books are very popular among bible scholars because of the unbiased literal approach towards the original Hebrew.  Also, his books have been endorsed by Robert Alter2.  You might say to yourself “who is Robert Alter?”.  He was the winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish for his book “Art of Biblical Narrative”.   Also as an accomplished author, with degrees from Harvard and Yale, he has written twenty-three books, and served as a scholar for the Library of Congress.  Mr. Alter supports Dr. Foxe’s use of the Hebrew, but also criticizes Fox being so loyal to the Hebrew, that the English suffers3. For those of us trying to find the most literal interpretation, this is not a bad criticism. This 55-minute interview will give you a better understanding of how Dr. Fox interprets God’s Holy Word.

An Interview with Doctor Everett Fox, PHD

Conclusion:

When our group does a Torah Portion or a deep study we read out of several Tanakhs. Often you will find different versions of the Tanakh in contention with each other, so what is the tie breaker?  Actual two things; context and a lexicon.  As we did with Malachi 2:16, we read the verse before it to get the true meaning.  Sometimes we will need to read the whole chapter to get the right perspective, sometimes more.  The lexicon is also a valuable tool.  Take the verse apart word by word and using the lexicon to get the true meaning will settle most arguments.  Here are some popular links the will help you to interpreted His word:

  1. Bible Hub
  2. Blue Letter Bible
  3. Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon

Just remember,

“The Torah was purposefully written in a cryptic style so as to engage the mind in this most prized activity of analysis, induction, deduction and thought – our true purpose whose rewards are unmatched, both here, and in the next world.” – Moshe Ben-Chaim

References

  1. Paul Sumner; Rev. 02-10-2011; 7-3-11; 10-01-12; 04-05-14. “Hebrew Streams: Recommended Translations.” Hebrew Streams: Recommended Translations. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
  2. “Robert Alter”. Washington University in St. Louis. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008.
  3. Steinberg, Avi. “Tinkering With the Word of God.” The New Yorker. N.p., 18 May 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

 

Who is the Suffering Servant?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By:  William Jackson

Who is Isaiah’s suffering servant?  Dependent on your audience your answers will vary.  In the case of Christianity, Jesus is the resounding response.  You see, for Christianity the “suffering servant” prophecy serves as their cotter pin in connecting the Testaments.  Ironically, although Christianity doesn’t focus a lot on the Tanakh (the Old Testament), it does enjoy the validation of their messiah through Israel’s prophets. Isaiah is chuck for of them.  Even when you read Isaiah 53 alone it does seem to speak to Jesus;

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…” (verses 4)

“…he was pierced for our transgressions… “(verse 5)

“…the Lord makes his life an offering for sin…” (verse 10)

suffering_servant

To further solidify this, the New Testament quotes Isaiah when referring to Jesus – a lot.  One example is Matthew 8:16-17 which tells us “He (being Christ) took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”.  This is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:4. Actually, Isaiah 53 is quoted a resounding 851 times in the New Testament. As if that was not enough, there are many more supposed foreshadowing’s of the Christian messiah found in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14, 6:9,10, 9:1,2, 29:13, 40:3-5, 42:1-4). The great crescendo is Luke 4:17-22 when Christ is reading the Torah portion in the synagogue and he reads aloud Isaiah 58:6, 61:1-2.  Here it affirms that he has been sent as God’s servant.  Yes, all of this is very convincing, if we keep these verses isolated.

When it comes to scripture, regardless of where we stand on the issue, anyone who is sharp enough is going to insist you read it in context.  As painful as it is, we are to read the sentences before and after each verse, sometimes the whole chapter, sometimes even the whole book to get the complete meaning. No short cuts, or holding onto pieces that just advance our cause.  It is His entire Holy Word, not our covenant soundbites.

Isaiah is sometimes called “Shakespeare of the Tanakh”1. In his beautiful literary style his book uses four “Servant poems” to communicate his message.  These Servant Poems, otherwise known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant, are written about a certain “servant of YHWH.”.  They can be found in Isaiah chapters 42, 49, 50 and 53. So begs the question, who is the suffering servant in these songs? Christian liturgy would have us to believe it is Christ, but let’s read it in context.  As we begin in chapter 41 we see the suffering servant identified as the Jewish nation2:

“You are My servant, O Israel” (41:8)

“You are My servant, Israel” (49:3)

see also Isaiah 44:1, 44:2, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20.

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Let’s take it a step further and scour the entire Tanakh.  The Bible is filled with other references to the Jewish people as God’s “servant”; see Jeremiah 30:10, 46:27-28; Psalms 136:22.  In fact, no one, other than Israel, is identified as the “servant” in Tanakh (Old Testament).

Conclusion:

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We are not to add or subtract from God’s Word (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Joshua 1:7, Proverbs 30:6).  This would imply that we are to spend the time and research His Word so it does not become misinterpreted.  Passion is good, but when passion leads to bias it becomes a hindrance. Christian liturgy in the need to validate itself seized onto some pretty powerful verses from Isaiah, but since they were not grounded in truth, they could be pushed away by anyone sincere enough to study His Word.   “Fools inherit folly, but the cunning make knowledge a crown” (Provers 14:18).

References:

  1. Wilmington, Harold L. “Isaiah: Shakespeare of the Prophets.” Liberty University (1985): 60. Web.

 

  1. Roth, Marshall. “Isaiah 53: The Suffering Servant.” Aishcom. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2016.

 

Why Isaiah Is Out Of Order?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

As we read from Isaiah, he has us hitting the ground running.  We are stirred in Chapters 1 through 5 with his very fiery messages of judgment, punishment, and restoration. Then we hit Chapter 6 and this juggernaut of a journey gives us an abrupt turn. All at once, Isaiah goes from delivering fierce prophecies, to being in the presence of the Lord. In this fascinating realm, his writings are filled with the mystical and the supernatural. Here Isaiah’s tongue is touched with a red-hot coal by a seraph (Isaiah 6:6-7), then God asks for a volunteer to deliver His message (Isaiah 6:8) and as we could have guessed, Isaiah volunteers for the job (Isaiah 6:9).  “But wait!”, if God is commissioning Isaiah to be a prophet here, what about all the prophecies Isaiah was giving before chapter 6? To find our answer, we will address the purpose behind Isaiah’s mixed up chronology.

Biblical Scene

In truth, Isaiah starts in chapter 6, not 1. So why not start in order? There is a good reason for this; it is called “in medias res”1 which means in Latin, “in or into the middle of a narrative or plot”. This is when you put a story’s end or middle at the story’s beginning. Sounds kind of like a weird idea, but in practice, it gives weight to the rest of the story by causing us to deduce how the story will fit what we saw at the beginning. This technique is very popular with many renown movies such as ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Kill Bill: Volume 2’… etc.  As an example, remember the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, at the beginning when the old man is going through the cemetery and stops at a grave marker. We are left asking ourselves, “Who is this old man?” “Why is he crying?” “Whose grave is he at?” and of course, “what is the real story behind the story?” At this point, Steven Spielberg has his hook into us, so we will gladly give him our full attention for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes. Isaiah is doing the same thing.

One would say this is progressive for an 8th century BCE prophet, but it is not. The Iliad and the Odyssey, written by Homer, were ancient Greek books also written with the “in medias res” approach. Like the Book of Isaiah, they were also written in the 8th Century BCE. Talking about classics, much later, Shakespeare’s plays, “Hamlet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” would incorporate this technique. As a side note, Isaiah is sometimes is referred to as the “Shakespeare of the prophets”2.

 

Like Isaiah, Jeremiah was not written in chronological order. Many scholars have been left baffled trying to put Jeremiah in its linear order. However, Jeremiah was not trying to create the same story interest Isaiah was, he was motivated by different goals.  Some say that Jeremiah is broken into pieces to address different audiences. These individual units were originally created to target people to whom Jeremiah ministered at different stages throughout his ministry 3. A good example of this is when I tell people about my wartime experiences. I was deployed in the US Army in 2003, I helped revitalize the Iraqi government, I was in combat and I was in a leadership position.  When I talk to people about my deployment, depending on their interest, I expound on any of those three areas, I would not cover my deployment in chronological order to elaborate on a certain topic. So, although Jeremiah’s technique is not common, it is one he used, and it does take things out of order.

Conclusion:

Isaiah was not written to confuse the reader; it was written under the premise that the message is more important than the messenger. So it starts off with the most important part, the message, and then Isaiah gives us his credential. As for the message, we can divide these first five chapters into four categories4; The problems in the nation (Isaiah 1:2-9), The problems in the religion (Isaiah 1:10-20, 2:6-21), The problems in society (Isaiah 1:21-31, 2:22-4:1), and Punishment from God (Isaiah 5:1-30) 4. The message of Isaiah is timeless. However, in that time, it applied to the Assyrian Captivity. As with many massages from the Tanakh (Old Testament), they are repeated and so is Isaiah. We would see Isaiah’s message repeated later towards the Babylonian Captivity, then later with the Maccabean Revolt, then the Jewish-Roman War (one then two) and so forth. Isaiah’s message is applied to all eras of time to include our own.

Reference:

 

  1. Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.

 

  1. Wilmington, Harold L. “Isaiah: Shakespeare of the Prophets.” Liberty University13 (1985): 60. Web. 5 Nov. 2016.

 

  1. Murphy, S. Jonathan. “Bibliotheca Sacra.” THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH (2009): 306-18. Web.

 

  1. Churchyard, Gordon. “Isaiah: New *Heavens and a New Earth.” Isaiah Chapters 1-6. Wycliffe Associates (UK), Sept. 2009. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.

 

The Torah Inspires America’s Laws

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

With us entering November, Americans face two unrelated calendar events; Thanksgiving and what has been called our “civic sacrament”, election day. Interestingly, these two happenings, both civic duty and historical holiday, can easily fall under the one umbrella of the Torah. As you will see, we owe much of our history and government to God’s Holy Word.

When we go back to the early puritans, like the Israelites, we find that they were motivated to leave their hoist countries out of persecution.  For Israel, this was Egypt, and in the case of the puritans, it was Europe.  Also, like with Israel, much of this persecution stemmed from their religious beliefs.  Interestingly, one of the many things that made the puritans outcasts was their reverence towards the Tanakh1(Old Testament).  So, as Israel had Canaan, the Puritans had America as their promise land2.  Additionally, as evidence to this Exodus parallel, our first legal and guiding document was the Mayflower Compact (1620).  This document acknowledged  the sovereign authority of God, not the sovereignty of man (Exodus 18:16, 20:3, Deuteronomy 10:20, 2 Chronicle 7:14, Psalm 83:19, 91:2, Daniel 4:29).  This document was signed on board the Mayflower before our ancesters  disembarked into the promise land.  This event must have been reminiscent of Joshua’s speech to Israel before entering Canaan (Joshua 1:1-18).

After our predecessors, the pilgrims landed, and before we began as a nation, many of our forefathers had an affinity to God’s word.  We see this through many examples of the Torah being infused in our early legislation.  For instance, over a hundred years before the US Constitution was written, the New Haven Code of 1665 was created. Nearly half of this legal document consisted of statutes that were taken from the Torah. Likewise, many Old Testament texts were copied directly into early New England law books3.

Additionally, we see in early American colleges, such as Yale and Harvard, the need to study the Law of the Torah and understand the Hebrew language.  Harvard President Samuel Langdon is quoted for saying ‘the Jewish government, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic.’ He also stated to Congress days before the American Revolution “The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model.”4. With the study of the Torah within our institutions of higher learning and its amalgamation into local laws, there is no doubt as to it inspiring the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as other crucial documents.

We see this with John Adams, who was our Second President and First Vice President.  Adams was instrumental in the influence and drafting of the Declaration of Independence.  He is quoted for saying “The Jews have done more to civilize men than any other nation….”4.  Adam’s was, of course, talking about their implementation of God’s law given at Mount Sinai.  As we see here, much of our guiding documents are influenced by the Tanakh5:

Declaration of Independence:

PRINCIPLE

TANAKH

Existence of objective moral values, Fixed standards, Absolute truth, Sanctity of life Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 119:142-152, Proverbs 14:34, Isaiah 5:20-21
Rule of law rather than authority of man Exodus 18:24-27, Deuteronomy 17:20, Isaiah 8:19-20
All men created equal Genesis 1:26
Establish justice Exodus 23:1-9, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 1:17, 16:19-20, 24:17-19, 1 Samuel 8:3, 2 Samuel 8:15, 1 Kings 3:28, 10:9, Micah 6:8
Biblical liberty, Free enterprise Leviticus 25:10
Creation not evolution Genesis 1:1

 

US Constitution:

PRINCIPLE

TANAKH

Rule of law rather than authority of man Exodus 18:24-27, Deuteronomy 17:20, Isaiah 8:19-20
Judicial, legislative, and executive branches Exodus 18:22, 26, Deuteronomy 1:17-18, Isaiah 33:22
Republican form of government and warnings against kings but in favor of Godly rulers Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 1:13, Judges 8:22-23, 1 Samuel 8, Proverbs 11:14, 24:6

 

Constitutional Amendment:

PRINCIPLE

TANAKH

1st Amendment: Church protected from state control (& taxation), but church to influence the state Deuteronomy 17:18-20, 1 Kings 3:28, Ezra 7:24, Nehemiah 8:2, 1 Samuel 7:15-10:27, 15:10-31, 2 Samuel 12:1-18
5th Amendment: Private property rights Exodus 20:15-17
6th Amendment: Fair trial, witnesses Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 19:15, Proverbs 24:28, 25:18

 

It is amazing how much of God’s Word is a part of our everyday laws. Yet, if we read and study Exodus chapter 21 through 24, we see God’s complex and just intellect at work*. The idea that a great people would latch onto this concepts would not only make sense but likewise this could bring on the blessings of the Almighty.  As for those Christians that say we are not under the law (Acts 15:10, Romans 4:15,6:14, 2 Corinthians 3:11, Galatians 3:10), ask if they are law abiding citizens.  If their answer is “yes”, you may want to break it to them that they are still under the law.

Note:

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 1, Intentional Crimes

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 2, Neglect Crimes

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 3, Unintentional Crimes

 

References:

 

  1. Isakson, Cory W. “The Puritans’ “Christian” Agenda?” The Puritans’ “Christian” Agenda? June 1998. Accessed October 30, 2016. https://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/amr/puritan.htm.

 

  1. Sivan, Gabriel. The Bible and Civilization. New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book, 1974, Page 236

 

  1. Noll, Mark A., Nathan O. Hatch, and George M. Marsden. The Search for Christian America. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1983. Page 33-34

 

  1. Eidelberg, Paul, Prof. “Jewish Roots of the American Constitution.” -Arutz Sheva Israel National News. November 30, 2005. Accessed October 29, 2016.

 

  1. The Bible and Government, Biblical Principles: Basis for America’s Laws, Faith Facts