Why The Second Temple Did Not Work

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 we hear about the possibilities of both blessings and curses for Israel.  As for the curses, the condition was to obey God, or suffer the consequences.  Like most people, Israel was prone to disobedience. So, in 605 BCE Israel would receive the curses promised by God in the form of the Babylonian captivity.  God’s Prophet Jeremiah gives conformation to this in; Jeremiah 25:11, and 2 Chronicles 36:21-22.  On the up side, God also promised that these curses would reversed on a future date (Deuteronomy 4:31, Leviticus 26:42). Understandably many people believe that the curses were ended after the Babylonian captivity, when the Second Temple was built.  Using the Tanakh, we will determine if the curses did end and did God recognize the Second Temple.

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First, to understand if the Second Temple was successful, we need to understand God’s sovereignty through the Temple system. First God established the Tabernacle for Him to commune with Israel.  Undoubtedly the most crucial piece was the Ark of the Covenant where God met with Israel (Exodus 25:22).  After the Tabernacle was completed, God filled it with His glory (Exodus 40:34).   About 500 years later the Ark was moved into the Temple which King Solomon built for Him.  Again, as before, immediately God filled it with His glory (1 Kings 8:10-11, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, 7:13).  So, if God honored the Second Temple, He would have filled it with His glory at its dedication.  He did not.  Nowhere in the Tanakh or even in Jewish literature does it say that God’s divine presence entered the Second Temple.  One of the major reasons for this might have been that the Ark of the Covenant was not a part of the Second Temple.  As it would be the Ark was missing, probably plundered by the Babylonians or hid1 from them.  Another reason may have been that Israel was still suffering the punishment of her disobedience.

Israel Scattered

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Admittedly, the Second Temple period must have felt like the curse was lifted when the Israelites returned home.  This is our assumption, yet only 5%2 of the Jews returned home, over 95% chose to stay in Babylon.  Also, many Jews never even went to Babylon at the beginning of the captivity.  They fled to Egypt instead (Jeremiah 43).  Additionally, the Babylonian captivity was not the only time large portions of Israelites were brought into internment.  Over a century earlier Northern Israel was brought into captivity.  Here Assyria took a large portion of the Israelite population in 720 BCE (2 Kings 15:29, 16:9).  This exile is where the phrase “the Ten Lost Tribes” was coined. We must remember part of the curse was that Israel would be dispersed among the nations (Leviticus 26:33, Deuteronomy 28:64-66).  This still appears to be true.

Corruption with the Second Temple Priesthood:

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The First Temple existed for 410 years, during that time there was 18 High Priest.  Conversely, the Second Temple existed 420 years and had an astounding 300 High Priests.  Thus, the second temple High Priest were in power, on the average, for about a year and a half, whereas the original Temple’s High Priest spent over 20 years in position.  The short terms for the Second Temple High Priests, no doubt, interrupted continuity in Temple practices.  Also, we need to ask ourselves, “why was there such a turn over with the Second Temple High Priests?” One theory is that during Yom Kippur, if the High Priest was not pure enough, he would have died3 when he entered the Holy of Holies.  It could have been this or the fact that the priestly positions were sold to the highest bidder4 or possibly both.  What we do know is that historically it is well established that the Priest within the Temple during the Second Temple period were corrupt5, 6.  Malachi makes this painfully clear in Malachi 2:1-9.

The Prophets

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Being a Prophet didn’t just mean predicting future events (Jeremiah 30:3), it meant having a relationship where God communicates with you and you influence your people, Israel (Exodus 3:2, 2 Chronicles 24:19, Jeremiah 26:5, Isaiah 51:4). As for the Prophet influencing Israel, this was usually done through the King. Interestingly, there were very few prophets around after the Babylonian captivity.  Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were around before and after the destruction of the Temple and Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi where around with Israel’s return home.  But with Malachi being the last Prophet in about 400 BCE and the Temple being completed in 350 BC7, God did not provide any Prophets after the Second Temple was completed.  Likewise, Israel did not really receive her freedom from Babylon in 539 BCE.  She would be controlled by Persia (539 – 334 BCE), Greece (334 – 197 BCE), Rome (197 – 636 CE) and so on.  In truth, Israel’s leadership from the destruction of the first Temple until 1948 has been token, with no true King.  Let us remember another aspect of the curse which is “you will be defeated and occupied by your enemy armies” (Leviticus 26:17, and Deuteronomy 28:25). This did not end after the Babylonian captivity in 539 BCE, it has gone on for over two and a half millenniums.

The Future Temple

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Many assume the future Temple spoken of in Tanakh is the Second Temple. Ezekiel talks about this Future Temple in Chapters 40 through 48 in his book. The Second Temple is much smaller, and less elaborate, than the one Ezekiel describes.  Ezekiel’s Temple appears to be one that Israel will earn through true her repentance (Ezekiel 43:9-11).  Also, we have Zechariah 6:12-13 talking about a future Temple being built by “The Branch” which is probably a metaphor for the future Messiah (Zechariah 3:8, Isaiah 11:1-16, Jeremiah 33:15).  Finally, we have Malachi 3:1-4 which states that God will “come to His Temple” while purify and re-establishing His Priesthood.  The Second Temple Priesthood was not purified, it was lacking.  These Temple references are depicting a future Temple earned through repentance which has not happened yet.

Conclusion

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The history of Israel is having the blessings of God, being punished for disobedience and eventually being redeemed.  Many feel that Israel was redeemed after the Babylonian captivity when the Second Temple was built.  The Second Temple does not seem to have been honored by God.  Yes, some of the curses appear to have been lifted recently; Israel being its own nation and the land being productive. However, Israel is still dispersed among the nations (Leviticus 26:33, Deuteronomy 28:64-66).  Fortunately, God does promise a future day they He will gathered His dispersed; Isaiah 11:11-12, 27:12-13, Ezekiel 20:34.

 

Reference:

  1. Milikowsky, Chaim. “Where Is the Lost Ark of the Covenant? The True History (of the Ancient Traditions).” Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity: 208-29. doi:10.1163/9789004299139_010.

 

  1. Spiro, Ken, Rabbi. “History Crash Course #43: The Jews of Babylon.” Ken Spiro. September 1, 2001. Accessed April 26, 2016. http://kenspiro.com/article/history-crash-course-43-the-jews-of-babylon/.

 

  1. “Priest on a Rope: High Holidays – Yom Kippur Response on Ask the Rabbi.” Aishcom. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.aish.com/atr/Priest_on_a_Rope.html.

 

  1. Kahane, Rabbi Daniel. Kabbalah of Time: Revelation of Hidden Light through the Jewish Calendar. Place of Publication Not Identified: IUniverse Com, 2013, Page 195

 

  1. Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 57, 1, Tosefta, Minhot 13, 21

 

  1. Spiro, Ken. “The Second Temple.” The Second Temple. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/the_second_temple/.were

 

  1. Goldwurm, Hersh. History of the Jewish people: the Second Temple era, Mesorah Publications, 1982. Appendix: Year of the Destruction, pg. 213. ISBN 0-89906-454-X

Righteousness – Straight from Tanakh

By William Jackson

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

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I was sitting in the Doctor’s office and the results were in.  The Doctor says, “Mr. Jackson, if you don’t have this surgery immediately you will become a quadriplegic”.  “Wow!” I thought. This seems pretty extreme, especially since my only symptom was numbness in my extremities .  I kept thinking that if it weren’t for these tests (x-rays, MRIs… etc.) and specialists (Doctors, Nurses… etc.), this silent killer would have blissfully taken away my life, or at least the quality of my life.  Coming to the conclusion that I needed a laminectomy on my own would have be impossible.  Imagine me trying to self-diagnose myself without the benefits of a MRI and the medical personnel who reads the images?  There is no way that I could have done all of that on my own.  The same thing holds true when it comes to assessing our own righteousness.  Without a comprehensive understanding of the standards and proper assistance, you would end up floundering. For instance, there are many people who perceive themselves as righteous when they are not. Likewise there are those who are righteous, but don’t think that they are. How does one know where they stand?

Why?

We should first start with an elementary question: “Why pursue righteousness?”  If you are reading this, you are probably somebody who takes your relationship with God pretty seriously.  Righteousness is a very important part of that relationship.  The definition of righteousness is “an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been ‘judged’ or ‘reckoned’ as leading a life that is pleasing to God.” Therefore it is implied anyone desiring a relationship with God would also desire to be righteous.  In addition, there are other benefits, which include:

  1. Receiving the love of God: Psalm 146:8, Proverbs 15:9
  2. Being protected and rescued by God:  Psalm 5:13, 34:16, 20, Proverbs 11:8, 21, 13:6, 18:10
  3. Receiving God’s rewards: Ezekiel 18:19, Psalm 58:12, 75:11, Proverbs 3:33, 11:18, 28, 12:21, 13:21, 25, 21:21 We also have all of Proverbs 10, which talks about the curse of the wicked and blessings for the righteous.
  4. Life: Ezekiel 18:9, 17, 19, 21, 27, 28, 32, Proverbs 10:2, 11:4, 19, 30, 12:28, 14:32, 21:21

Evaluating:

Now that we know the benefits of living righteously, how is can we go about being righteous? As stated earlier we need a reference to evaluate ourselves.  The Tanakh serves as this gauge.  Each of the following verses are linked to the Hebrew word “tsaddiq,” which means righteous.  These are statutes in the Tanakh one must meet to be considered righteous:

 

  1. Honor God:

 

  1. Behaving appropriately in our community and homes:

 

  1. Do not be deceitful:

 

  1. Be Charitable:

 

  1. Behavior in our marriages:

God is referred to as righteous over 50 times throughout the Tanakh (see note). No wonder King David in Psalm 143:2 tells God that compared to Him, no one is righteous.  Nevertheless, the Tanakh does establish that there were those who are considered righteous:  Noah (Genesis 6:9, 7:1, Ezekiel 14:14,20), Abraham (Genesis 15:6), Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14,20) and Job (Ezekiel 14:14,20).  We of course know these men were less than perfect, unlike God.  We must understand being righteous is not a permanent status.  As Psalms 11:5 tells us, God will test us.  This implies we could fail the test and sometimes lose our righteousness or even be considered wicked (Ezekiel 18:24).  Many fall short – even Job communicated his frustration with measuring up to God’s righteousness (Job 4:17, 15:14, 25:4). For that reason, we need to remember that if we are righteous today, maintaining that place is a challenge.  Righteousness is a vulnerable position, and we must guard it by adhering to His word.  Just remember as King Solomon said, if we fail His test the good news is we can recover:

Proverbs 24:16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there isn’t a righteous person on earth who does [only] good and never sins.

Accountability:

We spent a considerable amount of time determining the elements required for an individual to be considered righteous.  In the first paragraph we spoke about tests and machines used in the medical field that can assess our health, but we have not addressed a critical component.  That, of course, is the Doctor or Nurse.  Yes, we need an external source to help us confirm where we stand.  Think about it – if we went through life determining the scores of our own report cards we would all pass with “flying colors!”  As such, we need somebody who is at the same place in our faith walk or preferably further ahead.  This person has to know us well, and he or she can’t be afraid to “tell us like it is.”  This person is often a spouse but it can be somebody that you have chosen as an accountability partner. So why do we have to bother with accountability to a third party? Okay, let’s take charity as an example (since it appears to be very significant on the list of factors that comprise righteousness).  Many people consider themselves charitable but upon closer examination, you might see they have been stingy with a tip or that they do not donate time and/or money to the less fortunate.  An accountability partner or spouse might be capable of giving constructive criticism or possibly generating dialogue that would allow you to be more objective, and in doing so, you would be able to achieve an accurate self-appraisal.  When we are held accountable, our performance improves.

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Conclusion:

The pursuit of righteousness is an ongoing struggle.  In spite of there being promises, King Solomon was all too eager to tell us in Ecclesiastes that sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people (Ecclesiastes 7:15, 8:14, 9:2).  The frustration that comes from this downside can be a way of determining the sincerity of our quest.  If we are doing it for the reward and not the relationship with our Maker, then we will be subject to resentment. Remember, when we do something without desiring something more, our sincerity has become genuine.

DANIEL-IN-PRAYER

Note: Verses where God is considered righteous; Deuteronomy 32:4, Judges 5:11, 1 Samuel 12:7, Isaiah 5:16, 24:16, 26:7, 42:21, Jeremiah 11:20, 23:6, 33:16, Zephaniah 3:5, Psalm 7:12, 18, 9:5, 11:7, 22:32, 35:28, 36:7, 11, 48:11, 50:6, 51:16, 71:15, 19, 24, 72:1, 88:13, 89:15, 17, 97:2, 6, 12, 103:17, 106:31, 111:3, 112:3, 4, 116:5, 119:7, 40, 62, 75, 106, 123, 137, 138, 142, 144, 164, 172, 129:4, 143:1, 143:11, 145:7, 17, Job 36:3, 37:23, and Daniel 9:7

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).

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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.

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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:

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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

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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

 

Jesus Could Not Have Atoned for Our Sins

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies?fref=ts
By: William J Jackson

Jesus Could Not Have Atoned for Our Sins.

Easter blots out Passover in our culture. It’s sad because YHVH said to remember His Passover from generation to generation (Exodus 12:14, 17, 24, 13:9-10, 2 Kings 23:21). However, in Christianity Easter is very important because the Christian messiah is credited for removing the sins of his followers( 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Romans 6:18, 8:2 ). In short, Jesus, has taken the place of the Israelites sacrificial lamb. Ironically, the lamb in Exodus 12 was slaughtered for it’s blood to put on the doorframe so the angel of death would “Passover” (Pesach) the homes of believers. Call it a mark of faith. It seems, this lamb, has been tangled up with the lamb sacrificed for atonement. This sacrificial lamb would be talked about a year after the Passover and some 450 miles away (1) in the book of Leviticus chapter 4. The piece that makes Jesus important is the atoning for the sins of those who believe in him. What does the Tanakh (Old Testament) say about somebody paying your sins?

The Tanakh is pretty clear that everyone shall die of there own sins (Deuteronomy 24:16, Jeremiah 31:28-29, 2 Chronicles 25:4, 2 Kings 14:5-6), meaning no one can take that responsibility from us. The first time we see someone trying to interceded with their own life for somebody else’s sins is Moses. This happened right after the golden calf incident (Exodus 32:1-20). Moses went to YHVH to exchange his life for the Israelites who sinned (Exodus 32:31-32). YHVH was quick to turn him down by saying “…I will punish them for their sin” (Exodus 32:34). So not even Moses can blot out somebody else’s sin.

You see, us dealing with our sins is part of the growing process. Lets go back to the beginning when Adonai accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. If you remember, Cain became pretty angry (Genesis 4:4-5). So, Adonai counseled Cain on his attitude problem (Genesis 4:6). Adonai didn’t tell Cain that he would take his sin from him, He didn’t even tell Cain just to surrender his anger. Adonai told Cain to master over his sin (Genesis 4:7). Part of dealing with our sin is growing and maturing, so hopeful through our true repentance (teshuvah, 2), we move on. HaShem’s word tells us that the righteous man will fail again and again; but through YHVH’s word, he will prevail (Proverbs 24:16, Psalm 34:20, 37:24, Job 5:19). Life is a learning curve, we don’t just change we evolve. It’s not about handing over our responsibilities, it’s about battling and succeeding over sin.

Ezekiel 18 goes into pain staking detail explaining how each person is accountable for their own walk, and how we cannot assume anyone’s punishment or how they cannot assume ours. Life is not about the finish line, it’s about the journey. And we certainly cannot hand over the challenge of sin to a deity (Matthew 6:13, John 17:15, 1 John 3:8, Galatians 1:4). We, instead, look towards YHVH and His word for reassurance. As Rabbi Stuart Federow has said “The Bible is clear, and it is consistent: one person cannot die for the sins of another. In other words, the sins committed by one person cannot be wiped out by the punishment given to another” (3).

References:

(1) Google Maps, Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt to Jabal Mousa

(2) TESHUVAH (Repentance) Handout, Biblical Heritage Center

(3) Rabbi Stuart Federow, Jews believe that one person’s death
cannot atone for the sins of another, What Jews believe

4 Weeks Past the Cross (On Being Delivered)

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4 Weeks Past the Cross (On Being Delivered)
BY: TCLeach at
http://throughanewlens.blogspot.com/ 

Those of you who are following this blog take a peek each week at what it looks like and feels like to walk past the cross for me. This week, things are a little different. This week, The Father’s commanded observance of the Passover Feast, along with The Week of Unleavened Bread, is paramount to anything about this girl’s life. The Passover (Pesach in the original language of Scriptures, Hebrew) is the act that Our God attributes to His Name in the very first commandment!

  • “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬ KJV)
  • In the translations that are closer to the actual Hebrew writings, it looks like this: “I am יהוה your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, out of the house of slavery. You have no other mighty ones against My face.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬ ISR98)

And so, the only thing I will say about myself this week is that I have repented. Never again will I take His mighty Holy Day and tape a picture of Jesus (Yeshua) over it. The Passover always was, and always will be, about The Father showing Himself as the One True God by delivering His people from Egypt!

~Forgive me, Father, for ever making it about something other than you. I believe that obedience to You saved Your own, and not blood from a lamb. You alone are my Redeemer!~

This week, instead of a peek inside my life, I offer you a peek into my imagination. I was captivated this weekend by thinking about what it may have been like to be a young girl on that original Pass Over night. How glorious, how frightening, how awesome to see the Hand of the God of her fathers move through her life it must have been! Can you imagine?…?…

Terzah tucked her bony elbows and knees under her Grandmother’s shawl and pressed against the old woman’s chest until the soothing sounds of heart-beat masked the hushed whispers of the other adults in the room. At nine, Terzah wasn’t privy to the particulars of the strange events surrounding her life at that time, but she knew from overhearing clips of her parents’ conversations that the God her people prayed to had promised through Moses that He was about to free His people. So far, all the girl had witnessed didn’t offer her heart much hope. Bloody water, frogs and lice, darkness…these were just a few of the things she’d seen recently. It seemed to her that the only thing she could count on those days was the steady rhythm of that heartbeat. She couldn’t imagine how that God would ever accomplish His plan at the rate things were going!

As Terzah snuggled closer to the heartbeat, her Grandmother began to pray and praise to the invisible God. There was something different in the air of that tiny home that night, something almost tangible. Terzah imagined she could see the prayers take on shape and color. She was imagining the most beautiful colors dancing like prism’s when her mother called her to help with dinner. She had to fight to not giggle as the dinner commenced. Never had they taken a meal in such a manner! All stood with their sandals strapped on, and the men in the room held staffs. Why, they hadn’t even allowed the bread to rise! It was flat and tasteless, eaten only with bitter herbs and fresh roasted lamb. The urge to giggle rose again, but was immediately stifled as her father’s deep voice filled the hushed chamber with his prayer.  When the prayer was finished, Terzah listened as he explained that God commanded that they eat that meal ready to leave in haste. As her brothers questioned her father, Terzah concentrated on all the words intently. As she listened, any further urges to giggle disappeared. Something big was about to happen, she just knew it!

The blood above their door post fascinated Terzah. The prayers being said that night were above her understanding, and she certainly couldn’t fathom how smears of blood would keep anyone out! When she was able to get her mother’s attention and ask about it, she was told it was not for them to understand or question, but only to obey. Obedience she understood. No one seemed to notice that bedtime had come and gone, so the drowsy girl curled up on her Grandmother’s lap once again and pulled the shawl tighter around the two of them. Grandmother’s gnarled fingers made gentle circles on Terzah’s back in rhythm to a song the old woman was humming. Terzah dozed, tucked in her safe haven, only to be pulled out of her slumber every so often by the sounds of the adults standing vigil, praying and singing songs of praise. Her dreams of skipping freely across the lands were interrupted deep into the night by the sounds of mournful wails coming from outside. At the same time, the rush of footsteps down the alley and men shouting broke the grip of her slumber. Terzah was frightened out of her wits, and confused when she only saw joy radiating from the faces all around her. She watched in fascination as all the men in the room put their faces on the floor in prayer, and the women lifted their hand in praise. Unable to reconcile the wails she had heard with the joyful sounds coming from within her home, Terzah allowed slumber to take her captive once again.

Whether minutes had passed or hours, Terzah couldn’t say. She wasn’t even fully awake when her father lifted her high and spun her in the air, laughing. He hadn’t done that since she was little! Although light hadn’t even overtaken the dark sky yet, there was a flutter of activity in her home. Her mother began issuing instructions for Terzah to help gather their few possessions. “We’re free!” her brother cried as he went about helping her father strap parcels onto their animal’s backs. Terzah turned wide eyes to her Grandmother, who at that moment seemed as young as Terzah herself, the way her face was lit with joy. “Terzah” Grandmother said, “He has done it! The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has liberated us! We are freed to go and serve Him, young one!” For emphasis, Grandmother took Terzah’s face lovingly into her aged hands, “You must never forget! Promise me!” Terzah gazed upon her favorite person in the world, whose eyes were ablaze with seriousness. “I won’t forget, Grandmother, I promise!” Terzah knew in her spirit that she was no longer just a child. She was a child loved by the One Who Is and Who Will Be. She was a daughter of God!

Comfortable and content in her new role, she straightened her shoulders and went about being helpful. It wasn’t long before she was walking along with her people, right through the biggest gates she had ever seen in her life! Her legs didn’t hurt and her feet were steady, even though she spent the day carrying various little ones who needed a snooze, even in the midst of all the joyful shouting and prayers. As night fell, she was still full of energy and excitement. A hush fell across the crowd as news spread from the back of the group that Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching. With nothing but the Sea in front of them, many began accusing Moses of leading the people out for slaughter. But not Terzah! If her Grandmother had assured her they’d been liberated, then liberated she believed they were! For the first time in her nine years, Terzah knelt on skinned, bony knees and prayed to The One who set them free. At first she tried to use words like she’d overheard her father and brothers using, but a wave of something she’d never felt before rushed through her, and she resorted to her own vocabulary to express her awe and wonder of the God who’d brought them this far. After her prayer, she found herself without fear. She stood through the night and watched as little by little, a path formed through the center of the water in front of them. As the sun rose, she followed as Moses led the Children of Israel onto the path, and safely to dry ground on the other side.

Terzah turned to look back at the waters they had just walked through. As she stood transfixed, her Grandmother joined her on the shore and took her tiny hand. They watched together as the path closed back up, even while hundreds of Pharaoh’s chariots were crossing the same way they just had. Terzah watched her Grandmother’s face as her old hands raised in the air in praise. The young girl followed suit, knowing she had just been delivered twice in as many days by this God who was suddenly more real to her than her favorite sweet cakes. Even if she couldn’t see Him, she knew she could see Him moving! As they rejoined the group with a skip in their step, Terzah turned to the old woman, who no longer seemed to be old, and said, “Grandmother, I will never forget this day! And I will teach my children to teach their children to teach their children about the God of our Fathers!” With the expression of love on her face that is exclusive to Grandmothers, the old woman hugged Terzah and said, “I know you won’t child, I know you won’t!”

~The End

I know that my characters were fiction, but it warms my heart to know that some of us are related to a little girl that experienced that deliverance! Some of us nibbled bitter herbs, ate unleavened bread with roasted meat, and drank the sweet fruit of the vine this year because one little girl kept a promise to teach her kids to teach their kids to teach their kids about HaShem, who brought His people up out of Egypt!

“See” you next week, friends! Until then, you will be in my prayers. Have a most blessed Holy Week!

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

stoning

Center for Tanakh Based Studies
By: William J Jackson

We all know about G-d’s Ten Commandments brought down by Moses from Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:3-14).  Some people argue their application in today’s time but those of us that walk the straight and narrow can readily admit that all 10 will never be outdated.  The next question is “what about the detailed civil laws covered right after the 10 Commandments?” (Exodus 21:12-23:19).  They appear to be the bylaws of a primitive society consisting of farmers and shepherds.  Most of us write them off as ancient rulings that governed a former Israel.  But HaShem’s laws are timeless.  If we study these ordinances we will have a better understanding of the spirit of G-d’s laws and G-d Himself.

Many of these laws appear to fall into three categories:

1. Intentional Crimes (Part 1)
2. Crimes Committed through Neglect  (Part 2)
3. Unintentional Crimes (Part 3)

1. Intentional.

A. Who gets the death Sentence:

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At least nine of these laws are punishable by death  (Exodus 21:12, 14, 15-17, 23, 29-30, 22:1, 17-19).  They cover a large spectrum ranging from intentional killing to cursing your parents.  Regardless of the lists diversity they all have one thing in common – they all are intentional.

1. Premeditated murder (Exodus 21:12 & 14)

2. Cursing your parent (Exodus 21:15)

3. Attack your parent (Exodus 21:17)

4. Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16)

5. Killing a pregnant woman and/or her child in a fight (Exodus 21:23)

6. Ox kills somebody after you have been told to control it (Exodus 21:29-30) The ox’s owner would be put to death but he could pay a fine.

7. A sorceress will be put to death. (Exodus 22:17)

8. You will be destroyed for sacrificing to other gods. (Exodus 22:19)

9. You will be put to death for sleeping with animals (Exodus 22:18)

B. But why death?

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Granted capitol punishment serves as a great deterrent; but there was another motive.  If we look in Exodus 22:17 it states “You shall not allow a sorceress to live.” This is restated in Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:10-11 where in these passages the purpose is stated.  It is to remove the negative influence from the community. For example; we don’t want ourselves or our loved ones to live in a world where calculating killers are released back into society, do we?

C. This is HaShem’s standard not ours.

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Another point of order is that many of us feel that some of these offenses do not warrant the death sentence.  That’s because we are using our standard, a human standard or humanism (1). These laws actually reveal to us G-d’s standard and what He views as extreme behavior.
With some of these intentional crimes if the perpetrator is not brought to justice HaShem will intervene.  We see this with Exodus 21:15, 17.  Here, if one strikes or curses their parents they will be put to death. What if a parent wouldn’t actually turn their children into the authorities knowing that it will result in a death sentence, doesn’t Hashem  intervene here by the adding of the fifth of the Ten Commandments “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12), and as we see in the same verse “…in order that your days be lengthened.”

D. So what about thieves?

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There are four of the ordinances that deal with theft (Exodus 21:37, 22:2-3, 6).  Theft is obviously an intentional crime; but thieves are not sentenced to death.  They are to pay back in a worth beyond what they stole.  This probably resulted in their indentured servitude (slavery).  It’s possible HaShem felt this group of people were more capable of being rehabilitated as opposed to those sentence to death.  There is however one exception.  If a thief breaks into your home at night you can kill him (Exodus 22:1).  But this is not a court sentencing of death, I feel this has more to do with the self preservation of the innocent verses the punishment of the guilty.

E. For those of us that have commited any of the above mentioned crimes:

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Some of us have committed these intentional crimes, whether practicing the wrong religion or slandering a parent etc. etc. Granted, most of us don’t live in a country that these consequences lead to being put to death (2); but how do we make ourselves accountable to HaShem.  It’s easy, He has provided the answer in His word.  Lets refer to Ezekiel 18:31-32 here it states “Cast away from yourselves all your transgressions; whereby you have transgressed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit, and why should you die, O house of Israel! For I do not desire the death of him who dies, says the Lord God: so turn away and live!”.  If this is not convincing enough please refer to Isaiah 1;18, 43:25, Micah 7:18-19, Psalm 50:23, 51:1.

To be continued:

Stoning of Stephen 3

Neglect Crimes (Part 2)

Unintentional Crimes (Part 3)

References

(1) Definition humanism, Merriam-Webster, Incorporated (2015)

(2) Complete Jewish Bible Exodus 21:17 Rashi’s Commentary