Non-Jewish Prayer

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By William Jackson

Many of us who are trying to live a Tanakh based life measure everything we do against His word.  We have adhered to erroneous teachings from our past religions.  In an effort to purify our current journey, we have chosen to refine our walk with the Tanakh, burning away anything tainted (Zechariah 13:9 and Malachi 3:3). As we get rid of the New Testament, crosses, and Messianic tzitzits, we must also flush out the old tenets from our mind and adopt those precepts that are only acceptable by the Father. Prayer is one of the cornerstones of our faith, but it needs to be refined.  We will address here how non-Jews can pray while remaining loyal exclusively to Tanakh, His written word.

tefilah

Where does the word prayer come from? The English root word for prayer means to beg or plead.   Conversely, the Hebrew word for prayer is Tefilah. This is derived from the Hebrew root word Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l’hitpalel, meaning to judge oneself 1. Since the original language of God’s written word is Hebrew, we should gravitate back to those original meanings before they became Anglicized in thought.  Just remember, God wants our repented heart (Psalm 34:19 and Psalm 51:19), so we should first go to Him in prayer of repentance, asking Him to help make us righteous before asking for supplications.

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In reading the Tanakh, it feels like the predominance of those who prayed to God and received His blessing were Jewish.  Interestingly, there were many non-Jews that spoke to the Master.  In the millennium before the first Jewish Patriarch (Abraham) there are several recorded relationships with God and humanity: Adam (Genesis 3:10), Eve (Genesis 3:13), Cain (Genesis 4:6-15), Enoch (Genesis 5:24), and Noah (Genesis 6:9). Even after Abraham, one of the more significant prayers came from Abraham’s servant, and the prayer was for a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:12-15).   After Judaism was established through Jacob, we see strong Jewish and non-Jewish affiliation with prayer.  For example, did you know that Moses prayed for Pharaoh (Exodus 8:4-26) or that the King of Persia prayed for a Jewish Prophet (Nehemiah 2:4)? Of course, then we have Jonah, who God sent to Nineveh and told him to tell the people to pray and repent (Jonah 3:8).  Consequently, Nineveh’s prayers saved 120,000 non-Jewish souls (Genesis 3:10).  As we can see, speaking prayers in the life of non-Jews is laced throughout scripture, historically speaking.

The-dedication-of-the-temple

It wasn’t just a historical matter – non-Jews’ act of praying to Israel’s God was mandated. King David’s Psalm 65 states twice that “all people should pray to God” (Verses 3 and 6).  These Psalms were probably written before the first Temple in 966 BCE.  That being said, with the first Temple dedication comes further confirmation that the non-Jews were supposed to pray to the God of Israel. In his dedication of the Temple, King Solomon addresses that foreign nations will be welcomed to pray to God by praying at or towards the Temple (2 Chronicles 6:32-33 and 1 Kings 8:41-43).  God responded to this idea in 2 Chronicles 7:15 with: “My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.” Over 200 years later, Isaiah 56:7 serves as an affirmation, confirming the previous statement. Here God says about the Temple “…My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” This is yet again echoed about another 200 years after Isaiah in Zechariah 8:20-22.  So now we have it from four separate sources within the Tanakh that the Temple is for all God’s people, Jews and non-Jews alike. God hears everyone’s prayers as long as that person is righteous Proverbs 15:8, 15:29, 28:9, Isaiah 1:15.

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So how are we to pray?  Well, the Tanakh gives numerous examples of prayers.  We should, however, first look towards the Psalms. The word Psalm is derived from the Greek translation psalmoi, meaning “instrumental music”2. The actual Hebrew word for this is “tehillim,” which is plural. The singular is “tehillah” = “song of praise.”3. A majority of the biblical Psalms or Tehillim are devoted to expressing praise or thanksgiving to God.  There are also other prayers in Tanakh. Here are some examples:

Anxiety: Psalm 34:5, 46:2-3, 91:9-11

Guidance: Genesis 24:12-15, Jeremiah 42:3, 1 Samuel 14:41, 23:10-11

Happiness: Psalm 86:4

Mercy: Isaiah 63:15, Jeremiah 10:23-24, Daniel 9:17-19

Praying for others: Genesis 18:23-25, Numbers 21:7, Deuteronomy 9:20, 26, 1 Samuel 7:5, 12:19, Isaiah 37:4, Jeremiah 29:7, 42:2, Lamentations 2:19, Daniel 9:20, Joel 2:17

Pregnancy: Genesis 20:17, 25:21, 30:17, 30:22, 1 Samuel 1:10-20

Repentance: Psalm 41:5, 65:3-4, Daniel 9:20

Rescue: Genesis 32:12, Psalm 54:3, 61:2-5, 69:14-19, 86:1-3, 88:2-4, 91:1-16, 118:5, 25, Isaiah 37:20, Joel 2:17

Sickness: Psalm 41:4, Isaiah 38:2-8, Jonah 2:8

Strength: Judges 16:28, Isaiah 41:10–11

Thanksgiving and Praise: Genesis 32:0-11, 1 Samuel 2:1, 2 Samuel 7:18-29, Psalm 42:9, Psalm 63:1-7, Psalm 66:17, Psalm 72:15, Psalm 118:21, Jeremiah 32:17-22, Daniel 9:4, Jonah 2:10, Habakkuk 3, Jude 1:24-25

Troubles: Psalm 4:2, Psalm 5:2 Psalm 18:6, Psalm 28, Psalm 39:13, Psalm 55:2-3, Psalm 91:1-16

Trouble with people gossiping about you: Psalm 41:5-10, Psalm 69, Psalm 109:4

Understanding: Daniel 10:12

Rabbi-praying-at-the-Western-Wall.preview

A hot topic is non-Jews who will turn to Jewish prayer (Siddur) to supplement what they have lost from their previous walk.  We should first ask ourselves where these Jewish prayers come from. It happened after the establishment of the first temple during the Babylonian captivity. Jewish leaders in Babylon codified a system of prayer that substituted the Temple service. They based this on the prophetic verse, “Our lips will substitute for sacrifices” (Hosea 14:3)4.  Jewish prayers are uniquely for the Jewish people.  Rabbi Eric Kotkin, an orthodox Rabbi, sums it up nicely by saying,

“Prayer is speaking to G-d.  So when speaking to G-d, one should be speaking the truth.  If a non-Jew were to use a prayer that represents themselves as Jewish, when they are not, it will not be a communication with G-d that is based in truth5

If God explains everything through King David and other figures in the Tanakh provided prayers, do we really need to turn to other sources?

Conclusion

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There is a lot to unlearn and learn with regards to all aspects of this journey.  As you might have noticed, the theme of anything when we are to commit ourselves further to our walk with the Master is to simply listen to Him.  For more understandings of prayer through the lens of God’s word, please look at these other articles:

Components of Our Prayers

Prayer, the Spiritual Aspect

Prayer, The Physical Aspect

 

References:

  1. Tracey R Rich, Prayers and Blessings, Tefilah: Prayer, Judaism 101, n.d.

 

  1. Murphy, Roland E. “Psalms”. In Coogan, Michael D.; Metzger, Bruce. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press (Page 626), 1993

 

  1. Emil G. Hirsch, PSALMS, Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d.

 

  1. Berel Wein, Prayer, Jewish History.org, February 21, 2011

 

  1. Rabbi Eric Kotkin, Can a non-Jew pray using specifically Jewish prayers like the Shema and the Amidah if they are sincere in believing what the prayer states? Jewish Values On-Line, n.d.
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The Reasons Egypt Turned On Israel

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By William Jackson

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams on God’s behalf paid off like the lottery as he interpreted Pharaoh’s (Genesis 41:15-32).  The dream represented seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. So Pharaoh came up with a strategy to weather this impending famine prophesied by Joseph interpretations (Genesis 41:33-37).  All Pharaoh needed now was a worthy man to implement his plan.  He was quick to claim “Can we find anyone else like him (Joseph)? The Spirit of God lives in him!” (Genesis 41:38).  Thus, Joseph was made Pharaoh’s second in charge. As predicted the famine hit and as planned Joseph was able to provide sorely needed resources to the desperate people of the region (Genesis 41:47-57).

 Israel-comes-to-Egypt

Now we turn to Genesis Chapters 42 to 46,  and through a string of dramatic and staged events, Joseph and his family become reunited.  The family then relocate to Egypt (Genesis 46:26). Interestingly enough, when this small band of Hebrews finally arrived in Egypt, they are treated with prominence.  They had a private meeting with “The Pharaoh”, and then they were given some of the choicest lands to live.  They were even given the position of watching over Egypt’s royal livestock (Genesis 47:1-10).  All these privileges obviously had to do with Joseph, who was probably viewed as a national hero for bringing Egypt through this crisis.

 famine

So why in the next book of the Torah, Exodus, does it start out with the new Egyptian Pharaoh turning on the Israelites in verses 8 and 9.  I am sure some of this had to do with the measure of time.  Joseph’s time during the famine was about 1875 BCE whereas the new Egyptian ruler makes his statements against the Israelites in about 1600 BCE.  Equals period is about three centuries.  A lot can happen and be forgotten in the span of 275 years. Yehuda Shurpin, who rights for Chabad.org, says, “It is not surprising that they stirred the jealousy of the native Egyptians who felt outshone by the foreigners.”1 Yes, I do think that is some of it, but if we review chapter 47 of Genesis, we will find that the famine caused two polarized societies within Egypt; Capitalism and Socialism.

Socioeconomic:

joseph-of-egypt-receiving-cattle-in-exchange-for-bread-during-a-famine

Let’s turn back to Genesis 47.  To quote the former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”, this could have applied to Egypt over 3,000 years ago. Yes, Pharaoh did capitalize on a crisis, the famine. We do not know if this was intentionally or unintentionally, but we do know the extended famine created a chain of events that lead to Egyptian Socialism:

And who did they give all this to? Pharaoh who was the Egyptian Government

Joseph then turned the people of Egypt into sharecroppers, (Genesis 47:23-24). A sharecropper2 is “a tenant farmer who pays as rent a share of the crop”.  Although this is an American post-Civil War term (1865+), conceptually we see it employed here in Egypt over three millenniums earlier.

Joseph gave them seed, and they grew the crops with the condition of giving 20% of the proceeds to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:23-24). It’s not a bad deal to keep 80% of your crop and get free seed but; remember their land still belonged to the Egyptian Government (Pharaoh).

I mentioned earlier that this marked the beginning of Egyptian socialism, but the term Socialism would be coined until 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  If we view the definition of “socialism” this would fit the template:

“Socialism: Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”

As we understand Socialism, the Egyptians because of the famine became wards (property) of the Egyptian Government (Pharaoh) and thus becoming Socialist, but what about the Israelites?  Let’s look at verse Genesis 47:27 “…They acquired possessions in it and were productive, and their numbers multiplied greatly.” So as we can see from here, it was quite the opposite, the Israelites flourished and gained property.

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Land of Goshen

So, why didn’t the Egyptians immediately get upset with this contrast between the Egyptian and Israelite citizens instead of waiting almost 300 years for an upheaval? Well in 1875 BCE as the Egyptian government was grabbing all this money, property, land and forcing servitude onto it’s people, the Egyptian responded with… “You have saved our lives! So if it pleases my lord, we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” (Genesis 47:25). The Egyptian were more focused during the famine on physical survival and were happy just not to be starved to death.

Strategic Disposition

Goshen

So three centuries later, the new Pharaoh, that opposed to the Israelites, makes a profound but accurate point when talking about these Israelites “…in the event of war they might ally themselves with our enemies, fight against us and leave the land altogether.” (Exodus 1:10). So think about it, the Egyptians are forced into a socialistic society and just miles away you have capitalist Israelites living in freedom.  Also Goshen, where the Israelites lived, strategically covered the northern flank of the Egyptian Empire and bordered the Mediterranean Sea.  This was an excellent access point for any enemy invasion.

Conclusion:

To grab a modern day analogy let us look at Korea.  North Korea is communist (socialist), and South Korea is a democratic society (capitalist).  South Korea, over the last four decades, has demonstrated incredible economic growth, whereas North Korea faces chronic economic problems3. Both serve as access points to each other and understandably have a heavily guarded border, the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).  Imagine if we allowed North Korea to control all of Korea.  It would be devastating, and these people are from the same ethnic group. When we look at ancient Egypt, it is assumed that regardless of economic differences the Egyptians probably possessed a prejudice towards the Israelites.  Even if we advance the clock from the Exodus to Nazi Germany, it was Adolf Hitler who blamed the Jews for losing the First World War4.  Yes, garden-variety prejudice had something to do with Egypt oppressing the Israelites, but the major motivators were socioeconomics and military strategy.

Kahmunrah

Reference

  1. Yehuda Shurpin, Israel’s Enslavement, Beginning of Oppression, Chabad.org, November 3, 2014
  2. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, November 1, 1994
  3. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), South Korea vs. North Korea, Index Mundi
  4. Allan Hall, Adolf Hitler’s hatred of Jews ‘stemmed from First World War, The Telegraph, Berlin, Germany, 20 Dec 2009