Category Archives: Background

Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Jews and Gentiles in the Land

While it is common for Gentile Christians to refer to it as the Holy Land, this term (“Adama HaKodesh”) appears only once in the Tanakh (the Hebrew “Old Testament”), in Zechariah 2:12 (Zechariah 2:16 in the Hebrew original):

טז  וְנָחַל יְהוָה אֶת-יְהוּדָה חֶלְקוֹ, עַל אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ; וּבָחַר עוֹד, בִּירוּשָׁלִָם.

16 :2 זְכַרְיָה / Zechariah 2:16

To the people of the day, it was simply “the Land” — and all other countries were “outside the Land”.  It didn’t need the addition of the term “holy”.

The Rabbis of the time believed that there were ten degrees of sanctity from the bare soil of the Land, up to the Most Holy Place (“Holy of Holies”) in the Temple.  In  their eyes, “outside the Land” represented darkness and death – in fact, the very dust of a heathen country was viewed as unclean, and was considered to defile by contact. It was regarded like the grave, or the rotting of death. They even said that if a spot of heathen dust so much as touched an offering, it must at once be burnt. This, of course is not in Torah, but was the teaching of the Rabbis. They taught that all contact with pagans (non-Jews) must be avoided, and all trace of it shaken off.  

It was into this cultural context, that Yeshua (Jesus)  spoke to His Disciples about those that will not accept the news of the coming of the Kingdom, in Matthew 10:14;

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town.”

It is also in this context that He spoke about restoration of a brother – that if he refuses to listen to us and to the Community that “he should be to us as a pagan and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).

Although the way the Rabbis of various eras classified the Land vary, the earliest Rabbinic source, the Mishnah, describes different areas of the Land primarily based on religious obligation or privilege. For example, it would specify which Omer offering needed to be taken from the Land, and which did not.

The North-East border of the Land, which is now the modern country of Syria, was loosely defined by the Rabbinic institutions of the day under the term Soria. Unlike other borders of the Land, which had more clear definition of where Israel ended and the Gentile world began, the border region of Soria was less explicitly defined. It was a ‘soft border’: a strip of land in between Israel and the Gentile world, but not considered part of either.  The Mishnah states that if a man buys a field in Soria that lies close to the Land of Israel, he can treat its soil as of it were part of the Land.

The only clear geographical point in Soria where one would know that they had entered the Gentile world was the Syrian city of Antioch. The city and everything Northward was considered the Gentile World. It was in this city where the first Gentile Church was formed (Acts 11:20-21) and also where the Gentile disciples were first called “Christians“.

The Jews who lived in the Land were surrounded by many foreign nationalities, religions and cultural customsthe majority of which were favored and privileged by the Romans, who occupied the area.

Edersheim describes it as follows;

“If anyone had expected to find within the boundaries of the Land itself, one nationality, one language, the same interests, or even one religion publicly professed, he would have been bitterly disappointed.”

Among the Jews of the Land at the time, two main factors divided them; geography and religious sect.  In a nutshell, geography was an influencing factor in that the local culture, Aramaic dialect and political inclinations of the North and the South developed differently.

Galilee in the North was influenced more by the large Roman trading routes that went through it while Judea in the South, with Temple at Jerusalem became the center of religious scholarship and debate. The region of Samaria which was in between the two, served to keep them separate, because the Samaritans were despised by both. As found in the Gospels, Jews from both Galilee or Judea did not associate with Samaritans.

These differences will be expanded on in later articles – suffice to say that the main differences between the Jews in the North and the Jews in the South, in general are that the Galileans of the North tended to be more socially warm and welcoming to both Jews and non-Jews. Language-wise, their dialect of Galilean Aramaic did not have what was considered at the time to be ‘proper’ pronunciation of guttural letters. This not only made them an object of ridicule by the Judeans of the South, it also made them easily identifiable as being from the North. This sheds light on the passage in the Gospels where Peter is confronted by a little girl and denies knowing Messiah and then some bystanders are able to easily identify him as being from Galilee, by how he spoke;

“A little while later, some of the bystanders approached Peter and said to him, “Surely you’re one of them, too—your accent gives you away.

Matthew 26:73

Politically, the North, although being warm and welcoming of Jews and non-Jews, had a more violent attitude towards the Roman occupation. Chronologically, Galilee was annexed by the Romans in 6 CE, which was before Judea was annexed.  This may explain why most of the violent rebel leaders during the first of the Jewish-Roman Wars, also called “the Great Revolt” (66-73 CD) were from Galilee. Even the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, who participated in the Revolt, was from Galilee.

On the other hand, the culture of the Jews in the South in Judea had a profound intellectual and religious ‘snobbery’.  Religious education was prioritized above everything else, and treatment as an individual drastically differed depending on whether the person was taught, and by whom they were taught.  Among “learned men”, there was a contempt for those they regarded as ‘the country people“; who was anyone untaught. The “country people” were viewed with contempt because of their lack of understanding of the rigorous traditionalism of the dominant sect of the day, the Pharisees. 

Language-wise, the Judeans were considered to have better pronunciation of gutterals in their distinct Judean Aramaic dialect. In their institutions, the Judean Jews who studied, also learned Hebrew and could read Biblical texts in their original language. This fueled their sense of elitism and superiority over the Galilean Jews.

Politically, despite their arrogance, the Judean Jews tended to be more willing to cooperate with the Romans in matters of business and governance. Some even got rich in their dealings with the Romans, and the Jewish Sanhedrin, because of its willingness to cooperate with the Romans, was given an ‘ear’ before the Roman officials. This is why members of the Sanhedrin, when seeking to kill Yeshua, were able to go before Pontius Pilate and be heard.

Religiously, there were four major sects or movements. The dominant sect were the Pharisees, who controlled the local institutions of learning (e.g. synagogues).  There were the Sadducees who were almost exclusively made up of Priests – both inside and outside of the Temple, the Essenes who former scribes who became a separate sect primarily as isolationists, and based in Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were later found.  The last sect, which wasn’t an official sect, was what would later be called the Zealots.  They only developed the title “Zealots” during the Great Revolt.

All of these sects disagreed vehemently with each other on almost every theological and political issue. The idea that the term “the Jews” could be applied to members of all four of these groups is a generalization that can contribute to significant misunderstanding. When the term “the Jews” is used in Scripture, it is essential to “read up” in the passage, to determine who is being referred to.

Despite the Judaism of the day being so bitterly divided, there was one thing that united all Jews, and even Samaritans, from North to South and that was observance of some kind, to the Five Books of Moses.

To the Romans, these deep differences between sects of Jews were not appreciated. We were all Galileans or Judeans, to them.  To say they did not have an appreciation for the profound complexities of our culture and religion, would be an understatement.

Edersheim described it like this;

“Circumcision, the Sabbath-rest, the worship of an invisible God and Jewish abstinence from pork formed a never-ending theme of merriment to the heathen.”

The Company Dinner – another modern parable

by Daniel ben Avraham

There once was a wealthy man who decided to enter into the news printing business. He gathered up a sum of money and purchased a factory, early in the business year. He then hired some workers and had them trained on brand new printing presses.

As the year progressed, business started to pick up. He expanded the factory floor, added more specialized presses, hired new workers to operate them and even purchased his own fleet of trucks for delivery.

Towards the end of the year, the owner thought to himself:

“My company is doing so well and the men have worked so hard.  I shall host a company dinner for them to celebrate the end of the first year”.

Mid year, the owner went to his accountant and had the funds set aside for the end-of-the-year dinner and told his accountant to prepare bonuses for each of his employees, starting with those hired last to those hired first.

Two weeks before the dinner, the owner was on his way home from work. He came across some men on a street corner, begging for money.  Feeling moved over their situation, he went and asked them their story. They told him that they couldn’t find work anywhere, as no one would hire the homeless. The owner decided that instead of offering them money, he offered each of them jobs in his factory – whatever they could do. He had uniforms made for them with priority – each with their names on them, so they could start training and orientation as soon as possible.

The date of the company dinner had arrived and all the employees were gathered together – from the most skilled of the printing press operators and truck drivers, to the shop hands who swept the floor. When they had finished eating, the owner called each of them over, one by one, starting with those who were hired last to those who were hired first, to give them their bonuses.

Each person received the same bonus.

The workers who had been with him from the beginning, along with those who operated the more skilled machines and drove the trucks, had expected to receive more. When they saw that their bonuses were the same as everyone else received, they became irate and decided to confront the owner. They went over to him together and said:

“Why did those bums you hired the other week get the same bonus as us? They barely know how the factory runs.  Yet, you gave them the same as us, your best workers?!”

The owner looked at them for a moment, and then replied:

“How have I cheated any of you?

Were any of your bonuses specified in the contracts you signed at your hiring?”

They said nothing.

The owner continued:

“Did I owe any of you a bonus?

Take them and enjoy them, but know that I gave them to you because I wanted to.

I also wanted to give them to those co-workers of yours, so I did.

Can I not give bonuses out of my own pocket, as I see fit? Or are you angry because I am generous with how I give them?”

With that, he dismissed them, and concluded the dinner.

 

 

The Talmud – now available in English, free and online

For centuries, studying Talmud first-hand was virtually impossible for most people, due to multiple barriers. Written mostly in Aramaic, with unpunctuated text, without vowels, in a column in the middle of the page, with its commentaries wrapping around it, accessibility was further complicated by the fact that its foremost commentary by Rashi was printed in an obscure Hebrew typeface read almost exclusively by religious, learned Jews. Add to that the Talmud’s size and cost — 37 full volumes (called “tractates”) that would take up an entire shelf in a library.  While digital versions do exist, such as the one published for decades by Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, it lacks English translation and a digital version of an English Talmud translation which is available, costs $600.

For the first time ever, the Talmud is available to anyone in English for free — and it’s online.

This past Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Sefaria released 22 of the 37 tractates (volumes) online, with the remaining to be released in 2017.  Sefaria’s format links between the Talmud’s text and the myriad of Jewish sources it references, from the Bible to rabbinic literature. Click on a verse in the Bible and you will see where it’s quoted in the Talmud and be able to read it in full, with explanatory notes in relatively plain language.

Of interest to both the Jewish believers and Gentile Christian students of Scripture is what the Rabbis of old had to say about passages we understand to be Messianic prophecy. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s Orthodox rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah!

Not only that, the Jewish sages understanding of the suffering Messiah (Messiah ben Yosef) and the reigning Messiah (Messiah ben David) is remarkably similar to what we believe. No wonder Sefaria’s release of the Talmud in English and Hebrew (the two languages spoken by most Jews the world over) is so very controversial.

Available at www.sefaria.org and as a free app for iPhone and Android (that can be used offline, too).

New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins

For the first time in many, many years, Chanukah fell late enough to coincide with both Christmas and New Years.

oil-chanukiah-bright-sun-angled-24-12-2016
oil burning Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah)

 

This year, we decided to celebrate the holiday commemorating the ‘miracle of the oil’ with an oil lamp Chanukiah…

 

 

 

 

8th night of Chanukah - Dec 23 2014
candle-burning Chanukiah – Chanukah menorah

…instead of the candle-style Chanukiah, typically used by Jews in the Diaspora.

 

 

 

This caused us to learn a thing or two about oil-burning lamps.

A comment of a friend on social media regarding the distinct rise in antisemitism seen around the world this past year, brought to mind a Parable that suddenly took on new meaning — the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

Here is a paraphrase of the comment;

“It seems that there is no limit to the abyss of antisemitism, but there WILL be an end to it when the Jewish Messiah rules the world! And we are a year closer!”

…and the reply went something :

“there is no limit to that abyss – but it gets worse, before it gets better [spoiler alert: a read of Zechariah Ch. 12-14]. The question is, where will the Church be this time, compared to WWII? Hopefully, she is trimming her wicks and making sure to have plenty of oil.”

The Parable of the Ten Virgins goes like this;

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.  Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.  When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them.  But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.  Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

 “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

 “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

 “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

 “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”

Where WILL the Church to be when the coming persecution of the Jews comes at the end of the age? How do we know that there will be this persecution? The beginning of Zechariah 12 (from the “spoiler alert” referred to above) says;

The word of the Lord concerning Israel.
A declaration of the Lord,
who stretched out the heavens,
laid the foundation of the earth,
and formed the spirit of man within him.

 Look, I will make Jerusalem a cup that causes staggering for the peoples who surround the city. The siege against Jerusalem will also involve Judah.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her.

Zechariah 12:1-3

We don’t have to look far to see Jerusalem becoming that “cup of staggering“.  We don’t have to look far to see the “peoples [synonym for ‘nations’] who surround her. It is certainly not hard to imagine a coming day when Jerusalem will be “a heavy stone for all the nations” — nations who will “gather against her”.

The story begins here, but doesn’t end here.

Read all of Zechariah Chapters 12-14 for the details!

Here is how it ends;

A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence.  I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city.

Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south.

You will flee by My mountain valley, for the valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come and all the holy ones with Him.

Zechariah 14:1-5

On that day, the Lord Himself will go out to fight against those nations that come against Jerusalem. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.

This SHOULD sound very familiar!

Remember Yeshua’s (Jesus’) ascension from the Mount of Olives?

What does the Angel say?

After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.  While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away.

Acts 1: 9-12

He is returning to the Mount of Olives in the same way that He was seen going into heaven!

Do you remember what they asked Yeshua just before He ascended?

“Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”

He said to them:

“It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.”

Zechariah 14:6-7

They asked Him if this was the time that He would be restoring the kingdom to Israel. He didn’t reply “ I’m not going to be restoring the kingdom to Israel.” He said that it was not for the disciples to know the times that the Father has set by His own authority.

Zechariah 14:7 says that it will be a day known only to God.

We don’t know the day, but in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, He exhorts us to be ready.

Church, are you prepared? Before the Groom comes for His Bride — both Jew and grafted in Gentile, when the nations come against Jerusalem at the end of the age. . .where will you be?

Will you have your wicks trimmed and enough oil for your lamps, or will you be caught unprepared? Will He invite you in, or say “‘I assure you: I do not know you!”?


We’d like to leave you with this;

A young Christian was in Israel and he visited Jerusalem’s Yad V’Shem Holocaust Museum.

“I viewed the exhibits with a young history major from the Institute [of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem]. the history student remarked “no people on earth have been persecuted like the Jewish people”.  I quickly corrected him saying, “Except for the Christians.”  He laughed — a sound not often heard in Yad V’Shem.

27b6f35800000578-3045115-image-a-24_1429390998361

The eyes of the victims stared at me across the photographically reproduced barbed-wire fences.  I suddenly realized that I stood on the wrong side of the fence.  If we Christians were the real people of God, then why did the world still target and hate the Jews? Shouldn’t we be the ones on whom the forces of evil bend their energy? Instead, too often, we were the ones dispensing the evil.”

-D. Thomas Lancaster, Restoration


This brings us full circle to the reply to the comment above on social media;

“there is no limit to that abyss [of antisemitism] – but it gets worse, before it gets better [spoiler alert: a read of Zechariah Ch. 12-14]. The question is, where will the Church be this time, compared to WWII? Hopefully, she is trimming her wicks and making sure to have plenty of oil.

Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God

INTRODUCTION: UN Security Council’s Resolution #2334 which passed Friday, December 23, 2016 separates the God of Israel from the people of Israel and the Land of Israel and Christians need to be clear what the word of God says concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel. This is not a “some-day” eschatological issue — but a very real for the truth of God that is playing itself out in our day and our time.


UN Security Council’s Resolution #2334 (December 23, 2016) declared, among other things, that the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple (the Kotel) and all of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is “illegally occupied Palestinian territory”. 

This resolution Hebron — where Abraham buried Sarah and where David was first crowned king not Israel.

According to this resolution, Bethlehem of Judea (Matthew 2:1), the place of Jesus’ birth is not Israel. That is, the place of the birth of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews.

This is not a political matter — one that can be determined by the UN. It is a battle for truth for what God has said in Scripture concerning the Land of Israel, and the people of Israel.


The Covenant Ratified by God Alone

 A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties, where the terms of the agreement are set out and both parties accept them. The killing of an animal in making a covenant signified that those that entered into the covenant could expect the same fate if he violated his oath. The slaughtered animal(s) was both a ratifying sacrifice and symbolic of the curse for violating the covenant. This enactment of the oath made any verbal declaration unnecessary.

When God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21), God asks Abram to bring Him three specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. He told Abram that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt but would be delivered after 400 years, would leave with many possessions and then return to this land that God had given them. Then God alone ratified the covenant. Abraham did not have to walk through the cut pieces of animals, as is normally the case with “cutting a covenant” — God alone did. God alone ratified the covenant and by doing so, God was saying, that if He broke this covenant with Abraham, He Himself would die!


The Land – eternal possession of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants

This is what God has said concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel:

At the very beginning of Genesis 17, God appears to Abraham when he was 99 years old and reiterates the everlasting covenant He made with him when He passed through the animal parts including the certainly of the Land as an eternal possession that He was giving to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac (and then through Jacob, Isaac’s son).

“I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell face-down and God spoke with him: “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:1-8

Later, God reaffirms the covenant He made with Abraham to Isaac, himself;

“There was another famine in the land in addition to the one that had occurred in Abraham’s time. And Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, at Gerar. The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land that I tell you about; stay in this land as a foreigner, and I will be with you and bless you. For I will give all these lands to you and your offspring, and I will confirm the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions.”

Genesis 26:1-5

God also reconfirmed the covenant He made with Abraham to Jacob, Isaac’s heir;

I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 28 13-15

God also reconfirmed the covenant to Jacob as second time, when He renamed him “Israel“, saying He will give the land to Jacob and his future descendants.

“God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him:

Your name is Jacob;
you will no longer be named Jacob,
but your name will be Israel.
So He named him Israel. God also said to him:

I am God Almighty.
Be fruitful and multiply.
A nation, indeed an assembly of nations,
will come from you,
and kings will descend from you.
I will give to you the land
that I gave to Abraham and Isaac.
And I will give the land
to your future descendants.

Genesis 35:9-12

This is what God has said concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel.


The Boundaries of the Land of Israel — according to God

To be clear, the Land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants (the Jews) as an eternal possession and illustrated on the map below includes;
  •  all the land on the west bank of the Jordan River (including Judea and Samaria (what is  referred to as “the West Bank” as it is on the west bank of the Jordan River)
  • an area on the east bank of the Jordan River (where southern Jordan now stands)
  • the southern tip of Lebanon
  • part of Southern Syria

 

  • 12 Tribes with current country names

 

The boundaries of the land of Israel is specified in Numbers 34:1-12;

The Lord spoke to Moses, “Command the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan, it will be allotted to you as an inheritance with these borders:

Your southern side will be from the Wilderness of Zin along the boundary of Edom. Your southern border on the east will begin at the east end of the Dead Sea. Your border will turn south of the Ascent of Akrabbim, proceed to Zin, and end south of Kadesh-barnea. It will go to Hazar-addar and proceed to Azmon. The border will turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, where it will end at the Mediterranean Sea.

Your western border will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea; this will be your western border.

This will be your northern border: From the Mediterranean Sea draw a line to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor draw a line to the entrance of Hamath, and the border will reach Zedad.  Then the border will go to Ziphron and end at Hazar-enan. This will be your northern border.

For your eastern border, draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham. The border will go down from Shepham to Riblah east of Ain. It will continue down and reach the eastern slope of the Sea of Chinnereth. Then the border will go down to the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea. This will be your land defined by its borders on all sides.”

So Moses commanded the Israelites, “This is the land you are to receive by lot as an inheritance, which the Lord commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes.  For the tribe of the Reubenites and the tribe of the Gadites have received their inheritance according to their ancestral houses, and half the tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance across the Jordan from Jericho, eastward toward the sunrise.”

Numbers 34:1-12

The land on the west side of the Jordan is allocated to nine and half tribes with the other two and a half tribes inheriting land on the east side of the Jordan (half the tribe of Manasseh, Reuben, Gad).

“So Moses commanded the Israelites, “This is the land you are to receive by lot as an inheritance, which the Lord commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes.  For the tribe of the Reubenites and the tribe of the Gadites have received their inheritance according to their ancestral houses, and half the tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance across the Jordan from Jericho, eastward toward the sunrise.”

Numbers 34:13-15

That is, the land God gave to half the tribe of Manasseh (East Manasseh), Gad and Reuben lies where southern Jordan is now.

Future Boundaries

In Ezekiel 47, God reveals the future boundaries of the 12 tribes of Israel — believed this will be the boundaries of the land during the earthly rule of Messiah from Jerusalem.

Current Israel Biblical borders

This is what God has said concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel.

Final thoughts…

These words are worth reflecting on:

“The U.N. has placed itself in flagrant violation of God’s word and its rulings here have no divine validity. The Resolution separates the God of Israel from the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. The stage is set for a showdown between the nations and the God of Jacob.”

Avner Boskey

God has said that the land  with the boundaries that He has set is the eternal possession of the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

May Christians be prepared to take a stand according to what God has said His word, concerning the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

INTRODUCTION: Knowing what the Scriptures teach about Gehenna is key to understanding what Jesus was referring to when He taught on it, and whether this is a place which awaits “those that do not believe” or a place for those with “detestable practices”.


Gehenna / Gehenom in Hebrew (גהנום) is a term derived from one of two valleys just outside of Jerusalem called Gai Ben-Hinnom (גֵיבֶן־הִנֹּם ) in Hebrew and Valley of the Son of Hinnom in English, which was a place of horrible idolatry.  Gehenna appears in the Rabbinic texts of the Mishna and Talmud (3rd century CE) and plays an important role as a place where unrighteous souls are punished.

Rabbinic literature describes Gehenna as a place of fire, brimstone and darkness:

“Ordinary fire is a sixtieth of the fire of Gehenna”

Berakhot 57b


“Why does a man’s soul shrink from the odor of brimstone? Because it knows it will be judged in the world to come”

Genesis Rabbah 51:3


“The wicked are darkness, Gehenna is darkness, the depths are darkness. I lead the wicked to Gehenna and cover them with the depths.”

Genesis Rabbah 33:1

In the Scriptures, Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom was the place where apostate Israelites and followers of various Ba’als and false gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:2, Jeremiah 7:31 ,  Jeremiah 19:2-6).

God’s Judgement Against Detestable Practices

In these passages (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:2, Jeremiah 7:31 ,  Jeremiah 19:2-6), God’s judgement was against the people for what they did, not for unbelief in Him.
God judged Ahaz for burning incense and having burned his children in the fire, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the had dispossessed before the Israelites.
Speaking of Ahaz, who “did not do what was right in the Lord’s sight” (2 Chronicles 28:1) it says;

“He burned incense in the Valley of Hinnomand burned his children in the fire imitating the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.”

2 Chronicles 28:3

God judged Manasseh,  for practicing witchcraft, divination, sorcery, and for consulting mediums and spiritists — for doing a great deal of evil in His sight, provoking Him — one who did evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites (2 Chronicles 33:2).

Speaking of Manasseh Scripture says;

“He passed his sons through the fire in the Valley of Hinnom. He practiced witchcraft, divination, and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a great deal of evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking Him“.

2 Chronicles 33:6

 God judged the Judeans for doing what is evil in His sight — setting up their detestable things in the house that is called by His name and defiling it, building the high places of Topheth in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire — a thing He did not command.

In Jeremiah 7, God says;

“For the Judeans have done what is evil in My sight.”
This is the Lord’s declaration. “They have set up their detestable things in the house that is called by My name and defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire a thing I did not command; I never entertained the thought. “

Jeremiah 7:31-32

He judged the kings of Judah and the people of Judah for abandoning Him,  burning incense to other gods, and  filling the place with the blood of the innocent and offering their children as burnt offerings to Baal — something He never commanded;

 “This is what the Lord says: “Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests go out to the Valley of Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. Say: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder because they have abandoned Me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods that they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah have never known. They have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built high places to Baal on which to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, something I have never commanded or mentioned; I never entertained the thought.”

Jeremiah 19:1-5

Finally, God says through the prophet Isaiah that that Topheth is a place of judgement that has been ready for a long time now, and that God’s breath will kindle it  — that it is a funeral pyre, deep and wide, with plenty of fire and wood and it will be like a torrent of brimstone:
 “Assyria will be shattered by the voice of the Lord.
He will strike with a rod.
And every stroke of the appointed staff
that the Lord brings down on him
will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres;
He will fight against him with brandished weapons.
Indeed! Topheth has been ready 
for the king for a long time now.

Its funeral pyre is deep and wide,
with plenty of fire and wood.
The breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone,
kindles it.”

 Isaiah 30:33

In all of these passages, God’s judgement was against the people for what their detestable practice — what they did, not for unbelief in Him.


Isaiah 66 –  The Final Judgement

Chapter 66 of Isaiah mentions the corpses of a battle like the one Lord fought against the Assyrian army in Topheth, in the Valley of Hinnon (Isaiah 30)  but this is the final battle against those who have rebelled against Him — and Jesus said that the bodies of those who rebelled against God will be in this place (see below). This battle  follows His final gathering of all nations and all languages (Gentiles) and His final gathering of the nation of Israel, to Himself, and the outcome of this battle will be that those who worship Him from all the nations — both Jews and Gentiles will come to worship Him from “one New Moon to another” and “from one Sabbath to another” in the “new heavens and new earth“.

We are going to look at this passage from the beginning, as Jesus refers to it.


At the beginning of the Isaiah 66, God says that He will “look favorably on the kind of person who is humble, submissive in spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2) and that He will judge those with detestable practices (Isaiah 66:3);

“So I will choose their punishment,
and I will bring on them what they dread
because I called and no one answered;
I spoke and they didn’t hear;
they did what was evil in My sight
and chose what I didn’t delight in.”

Isaiah 66:4

Verse 5-6 speaks of “the voice of the Lord coming from the Temple” speaking judgement to those who ‘hate and exclude those who tremble at His Word”;
 “You who tremble at His word,
hear the word of the Lord:
Your brothers who hate and exclude you
because of Me have said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified
so that we can see your joy! ’
But they will be put to shame.”
A sound of uproar from the city!
A voice from the Temple —
the voice of the Lord,
paying back His enemies what they deserve!
In verses 10-13, God says of Jerusalem and her people ;
“Be glad for Jerusalem and rejoice over her,
all who love her.
Rejoice greatly with her,
all who mourn over her —
so that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her comforting breast
and drink deeply and delight yourselves
from her glorious breasts.
For this is what the Lord says:
I will make peace flow to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flood;
you will nurse and be carried on her hip
and bounced on her lap.
As a mother comforts her son,
so I will comfort you,
and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

…and in verse 14-17, God speaks of His judgement against His enemies as the Lord coming “with fire“, and that His rebuke comes with “flames of fire” and His judgement with His “fiery sword“;

“You will see, you will rejoice,
and you will flourish like grass;
then the Lord’s power will be revealed to His servants,
but He will show His wrath against His enemies.
Look, the Lord will come with fire
His chariots are like the whirlwind —
to execute His anger with fury
and His rebuke with flames of fire.
For the Lord will execute judgment
on all flesh with His fiery sword,
and many will be slain by the Lord.
Those who dedicate and purify themselves to enter the groves following their leader, eating meat from pigs, vermin, and rats, will perish together.”

God says that He will gather all nations and all languages (Gentiles) and that they will come and see His glory;

“This is the Lord’s declaration.
Knowing their works and their thoughts, I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory.”

Isaiah 66:18

Then God says that He will ‘send the survivors to the nations who have not heard of His fame or seen His glory, and they will proclaim His glory among the nations, and they will bring back His People from all the nations as a gift to the Lord, to His holy mountain, Jerusalem’ ;

” I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations — to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away — who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations. They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. I will also take some of them as priests and Levites,” says the Lord.”

Isaiah 66:19-21

Clearly, this is before the final judgement, as God's glory is still being proclaimed among the nations and there are still those of His People who He is gathering back from the nations, and bringing them back to Jerusalem. 

This is confirmed in the next verse, which speaks of the "new heavens and new earth" that God will make (future tense).

God says “just as this new heavens and new earth” will endure before Him, so will the descendants of Israel and their name endure — and all mankind (Jews and Gentiles, both) will come to worship Him;

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
will endure before Me” —
this is the Lord’s declaration
so your offspring and your name will endure.
All mankind will come to worship Me
from one New Moon to another
and from one Sabbath to another,”
says the Lord.”

Isaiah 66:22-23

The last verse of Isaiah 66:24 says that as they leave, they will see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against God; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.

It is these same words which Jesus said refer to Gehenna (Mark 9:42-48).

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

Jesus picks up the last verse of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:24) and refers to Gehenna the same way that the Tanakh (Old Testament) does — as the place destined for those who have rebelled against God;

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me — it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell — the unquenchable fire, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.
And if your foot causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell — the unquenchable fire, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.
And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.

Mark 9:42-48

Jesus is referring to judgement against sins that a person does — what they touch (hand), where they go (foot), what they see (eye). Such sins are wide and vast — and include adultery, fornication, idolatry (even in the modern sense, of worshiping our money, prestige or position), and pornography.

Hell is destined for people who will not turn from these sins.

How many Christians flippantly sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend (fornication), thinking ‘it’s no big deal’?

How many Christian men — from teenagers, young adults, to older men continue to look at pornography?

Do we not know that we will be judged for what we do?

This is not an “Old Testament” concept that is no longer applicable. Jesus taught this to the unbelievers, the believers and the religious authorities.

I – Jesus Teaching on Hell to Unbelievers

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus speaking to the Jews that had followed Him there from “from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan” (Matthew 4:25) says:

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool! ’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron! ’ will be subject to hellfire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

Are there people you just “can’t forgive”?  Jesus said we will be judged for this and that Hell is the place for those who rebel against God and His word.

Unforgiveness is a deadly sin.

“Hellfire” is confirmed as Gehenna a few verses down in Matthew 5:29-30, which is a cross reference to the passage in Mark 9: 42-48, above;

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!”

Matthew 5:29-30

II – Jesus teaching on Hell to Believers

Jesus repeats this very same teaching that He gave to the Jewish believers in Matthew 5 — this time to the Disciples;

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.  If your hand or your foot causes your downfall, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, rather than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire

Matthew 18:6-9

Jesus warn the Disciples, who were clearly believers, against God’s judgement that will come against those that continue to practice sins of the hand, foot or eye — saying that what they touch (hand), where they go (foot), what they see (eye) matters.

He reminds them from the teachings of Scripture,  from the Tanakh, that God will judge them for what they DO and that the destiny of those that continue to practice “detestable things” is hell.

Speaking of the end of days, Jesus said to His Disciples, who were clearly already believers in Him;

Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:26-28

III – Jesus Teaching on Hell to the Religious Authorities

In Matthew 23, after Jesus address the crowds and His Disciples (verse 1) admonishing them to

“do whatever they (the Scribes and Pharisees) tell you, and observe it”

…when they are “seated in the chair of Moses” (i.e. teaching the Law of Moses with the authority given them) and adds;

“But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach”

Matthew 23:3

Then Jesus goes in the many “woes” addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees (Mathew 23:13-23) and in the midst of those says;

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

Matthew 23:15

Jesus is saying that religious leaders who KNOW what God’s Word teaches yet do not DO it are “fit for hell“.

Concluding all these “woes” Jesus says;

“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 23:1

Jesus has very strong words to those who know His word and do not DO it — for not practicing what they teach.  He says to them “how can you escape being condemned to hell?”

They are, as He says, “fit for hell“.


FINAL THOUGHTS…

Hell is the place created for those who will not turn from their detestable practices (Isaiah 66:3).

Hell is the place where those who have rebelled against God go (whether they once believed in Him or not) — where their worm will never die, their fire will never go out.

Hell is the place where someday those who will say to Him, Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?” (Matthew 7:21) and to whom He will answer

“I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!”

That is why He says;

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Matthew 7:13

God cares greatly about what we DO and what we PRACTICE, about us observing His Law — both written in His word and written on our hearts.

Hell was not created for “those that do not believe in Him”.  It was created for those with detestable practices, for those that know of Him and do not do the things He commands.

God says He will “look favorably on a person who is humble, submissive in spirit, and who trembles at His word” (Isaiah 66:2), to the repentant and contrite who do whatever it takes to forsake their sins.

What He will not do is wink at sin.

Hell (Gehenna) is the place where those who have rebelled against God go; where their worm will never die, their fire will never go out.

The Last Day of the Great Feast

In a sense, Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” (John 7:37) is Hashanah Rabbah (also translated ‘the last day of the Great Feast ‘, mentioned in John 7:37.

During the Temple service, it was customary to make one procession around the altar on each day of Sukkot, and seven on the seventh day”. The priests would carry palm or willow branches in their hands — two of the four  ‘species’ used to celebrate Sukkot, and contained in the “lulav”. The Temple ceremony was one of rejoicing and gratitude for a blessed and fruitful year.

Jesus and the “last day of the Great Feast”

Another ceremony, called the water libation ceremony also took place during Sukkot.

“On the last and greatest day of Feast [of Sukkot], Yeshua stood and cried out loudly ‘if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his belly will flow streams of living water. “

John 7:37-38

Just below, is an excellent article , written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz , about this ceremony .

” The Eighth Day”

The day after Hoshanah Rabbah is the so-called “8th day” of the 7-day Feast of Sukkot called Shiminei Atzaret.

After commemorating so many significant occasions, including Yom Teruah (referred to currently as Rosh Hashanah), the ten days of Awe followed by the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, then the seven day Feast of Tabernacles called Sukkot,  G-d asked for one more day as a sabbath.  There are no special activities – no shofar, no fasting, no sukkah, no lulav. Just one more today together – just Him and us.

Tonight at sundown (Sunday October 23, 2016)  until tomorrow at sundown, is this ‘last day’ of the great feast, which we take for- and with Him.

 

PHOTOS: Reenactment of Ancient Water Libation Ritual Revives Part of Temple Service

God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant

This article is Part 3 of 3 where we look at what God promised the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) in the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Calling of Abraham

The first mention of Abraham is in Genesis Chapter 11 where we learn that Abram (his name at first) is from Ur of the Chaldees, and is the son of Terah, has two brothers named Nahor and Haran and that Haran’s son (Abram’s nephew) is Lot and that Abram’s wife is Sarai (later changed to “Sarah“). It seems apparent that Abram knew God’s voice because when He spoke to him at the beginning of Chapter 12, Abram knew it was God. In verse 1 of Chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abram for the first time recorded in Scripture of two specific promises;

(1) that He will make him and his descendants into “a great nation” — a people

(2) that he will give this people a very specific land. 

As we will demonstrate below, God specifies throughout the book of Genesis that the “great nation” is a people of physical descendants of Abraham  — and not just any physical descendants of Abraham! God is very specific who can and cannot be Abraham’s “heir” and thus, who Abraham’s descendants will be.  For example, as we outline below, God specifies that Abraham’s heir cannot be through his servant Eliezer and cannot be through Hagar’s son Ishmael, even though Abraham is his father. Furthermore, God foretells in advance that Isaac’s heir will be though Jacob, and not Esau (Isaac’s firstborn son).

God is very particular that Abraham’s descendants i.e. “seed” (plural) are a very specific nation who are descended from very particular Patriarchs.

A Land and a People

The very first time God speaks to Abraham as recorded in Scripture, it is of of the two promises concerning a people and a land, in Genesis 12;

“The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.

Genesis 12:1

Then God spoke to Abraham of His promises, God says;

I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

In Genesis 12: 1-3, God is contrasting the promises made to Abraham pertaining to two groups of people 

(1) to the “great nation” (singular) — a specific physical people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the “great nation” (singular) with whom He makes an “everlasting covenant”. This group is a physical nation, the people  of Israelthat is derived from Abraham’s “seed” (plural).

and 

(2) “all the nations (literally families) of the earth” (plural— The word for “nations” is the word in Hebrew מִשְׁפְּחֹת meaning “families” refers to the Gentiles that will be blessed through a specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — a Jew, the Messiah.

 

God leaves no room for doubt that the “great nation” He will make of Abraham is a physical nation that would come through very specific physical offspring or “seed” (plural) of Abraham (i.e. through Issac and Jacob and in Genesis 22:15-18, He repeats the exact SAME promises  to the exact  SAME two groups of people as in Genesis 12:1-3! After Isaac was born and after Jacob became Isaac’s heir, God reaffirmed His covenant with  BOTH the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the ‘great nation’) as well as His covenant with “all the families / nations of the earth”;

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By Myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies.

And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”

Genesis 22:15-18

Furthermore, God also reaffirmed the covenant He made with Abraham concerning his physical descendants to Isaac in Genesis 26:1-5 and to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15 and in Genesis 35:9-12.


God’s Promises to Abraham were “a people” and “a land”

God made two specific promises to the physical descendants of Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12:1-3; that He will make of Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and that He will give this great nation a specific the land (verses 5-7) ;

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people he had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, I will give this land to your offspring.”

Genesis 12:5-7

The term “offspring” is also translated “seed” (Hebrew זֶרַע), and is used here in its plural form and as we will demonstrate, refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacobthe Jews. In this verse, God is speaking of a specific land (the land of Israel) that He will give to the Jewish people.

When Abram leaves Ur of the Chaldees, he takes Lot, his brother’s son, with him.  Things get tense between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s herdsmen, so Abram gives Lot his choice to go one way and he goes the other.

After Lot  separated from Abram, God said to Abram to look as far as he could see, looking north, south, east and west for He was going to give Abram and his offspring (“seed”, Hebrew זֶרַע)  all the land that he sees, forever. In this case too, the word “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob;

“After Lot had separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you are. Look north and south, east and west, for I will give you and your offspring forever all the land that you see. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, then your offspring could be counted. Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 13: 14-17

The beginning of Chapter 15 of Genesis reads

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision“.

God says to Abram;

Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield;
your reward will be very great.”

Genesis 15:

Abram was frustrated because anything that God would give him would only be for his lifetime, because Abram didn’t have an heir and everything he had at that point, or would receive from God in the future, would become the property of his head servant, Eliezer.

Abram complains to God (:3);

“But Abram said, “Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.”

Genesis 15: 2-3

The Lord answered Abram clearly and said that Eliezer will not be his heir but one who comes from his own body will be his heir.

God knew that He was going to bring Abram’s heir through his wife Sarai and that He would make His covenant with his physical descendants:

“This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.

Genesis 15:4

Then God took Abram outside and said to him (:5);

“Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.”

Genesis 15:5

In this case, the Hebrew word for “offspring” or “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham — and as we shall see, specifically through Isaac and Jacob.

In Genesis 15:6-8, when it came to having physical descendants, Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (:6) but when God spoke to him about the physical land they would inherit, Abraham wanted proof (:7)!

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.

”But he said, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?

Genesis 15:6-8

God’s asks Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This act is how covenants were made.


God’s Covenant with Abraham

God’s responds to Abram’s request for proof that his physical descendants would inherit the land by asking Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This is how covenants were made, and the term in Hebrew for making a covenant is literally “to cut a covenant” (וַיִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית).

A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties where the terms of the agreement are set out and both parties accept them. In this case the covenant is made between YHVH and Abram but looking at another example of the covenant cut between Zedekiah and the people of Judah (Jeremiah 34:8–22) — in both cases at least one animal was killed, cut into two pieces and someone passed between the divided pieces.

The killing of an animal in making a covenant signified that those that entered into the covenant could expect the same fate as the animals if he violated his oath. The slaughtered animal(s) was both a ratifying sacrifice and symbolic of the curse for violating the covenant.

It is important to note that God alone ratified the covenant with Abram – and Hebrews 6:13 refers to this saying, He swore by Himself and furthermore, says why God swore by Himself;

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself:

I will indeed bless you,
and I will greatly multiply you.

And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 6:13-15

God swore by Himself to demonstrate that His promises were unchangeable, and these are His promises were to both the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and to the “nations”, the Gentiles;

(a) to the Gentiles that the “seed of the woman” and the “seed” (singular) of Abraham (Jesus) would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth”

and

(b) to the Jews that He would have an “everlasting covenant” with them and that the land was their “eternal possession”.

God alone ratifying the covenant (i.e. Abram did not have to walk through the cut pieces of animals as is normally the case) signified that if either side broke the covenant, God Himself would die! 

We all know the story of what happened next…

Abraham was getting old and his wife Sarai was resolved she was not going to conceive, so she tells Abram to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar so that he would have an heir to the promise of ‘the land’ and to bring forth ‘a great nation’. Abram obliges and Hagar conceives Ishmael.  After Ishmael’s birth, at the very beginning of Genesis 17, God appears to Abram and reiterates the covenant he made with him when He passed through the animal part— including the certainly of the Land as an eternal possession that He was giving to Abram’s descendants through a son that Sarai, Abram’s wife will bear;

“I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell face-down and God spoke with him: “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:1-8


Abraham Through Isaac – not Ishmael

Abraham was hoping God would simply recognize Ishmael as the heir to the covenant and the son of promise, saying to God “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you”(Genesis 17:18) but after Ishmael’s birth (Genesis 17:1-8), God appears to Abram and reiterates the promises He made with him when He passed through the animal parts — including the promise of the Land and in verse 15, God tells Abraham that his wife Sarai, whose name He will change to Sarah, will bear a son and that nations will come through her.

 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah[e] will be her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.

Who are these “nations” (plural) that will come through Sarah?

Sarah bore only one son, Isaac and the “nations” that God foretold come through him.

God specified that Abraham’s physical offspring or “seed” (plural) would be through Isaac and NOT Ishmael (Genesis 17:19) and that it was through Isaac that God would confirm His covenant with Abraham;

“But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation.  But I will confirm My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.”

Genesis 17:19-21


Abraham through Isaac and Jacob – not Esau

God was very specific that Abraham’s physical offspring / “seed” (plural) would be through Jacob and not Esau (Genesis 25:23) and foretold this;

“These are the family records of Isaac son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac. 20 Isaac was 40 years old when he took as his wife Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.  Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?”So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her:

Two nations are in your womb;
two people will come from you and be separated.
One people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Genesis 25: 19-23

Isaac’s wife Rebekah had twin sons; Esau and Jacob and God said (Genesis 25:23) that “two nations” were in her womb and that the “older shall serve the younger“. The first born son was Esau, who under ordinary circumstances would have been the heir to Isaac, but God foretold that he would serve his second born twin brother, Jacob. As God said would happen, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, effectively making Jacob as if he were the “first born son” — fulfilling the promise that the “older would serve the younger.

The “two nations” that Isaac’s wife Rebekah bore were:

(1) Jacob’s descendants, the 12 Tribes of Israel. This is the nation of “Israel”. 

and

(2) the descendants of Esau. The descendants of Esau are listed in Genesis 36 and verse 6 says that Esau moved some distance away from his brother Jacob to another land called Se’ir, also known as Edom (or Idumea). The nation which came from Esau are the Edomites.

The Physical Descendants of Abraham – a “people” forever

 

God promised through the prophet Jeremiah that Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would always exist before Him.  In Jeremiah Chapter 31, immediately after promising to give the Jews the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33) because they broke the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) that He gave them at Sinai, God promised in Jeremiah 31:35-37 that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him.  He promised that only if the heavens above and the foundations of the earth below can be measured, will He reject Israel’s descendants because of all they have done;

This is what the Lord says:

The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the Lord says:

If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done
this is the Lord’s declaration.”

Jeremiah 31:35-37

We know that both of these promises still exist because “it is impossible for God to lie”;  

“Is God a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind? Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”

Numbers 23:19


Final thoughts…

It is our belief that only reason that the Jews still exist and that they are back in the land is because of His faithfulness to His word — to keep the covenant that He made and swore by Himself to uphold, even if the Jews broke it, which they did.

God was clear in Scripture, that the penalty for the Jew’s disobedience (even the rejection of His Messiah) was exile from the land (Leviticus 26: 30-33).

[see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/]

The Jews were exiled in 70 CE after the death of Jesus and for more than 2000 years were in exile from the land He gave them as an “eternal possession”, but as He promised, the Jews would never cease to be a people before Him.  Even though in WWII 2/3 of the Jewish people were wiped out), God promised (Jeremiah 31:35-37) that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him and He has been faithful to His word. He returned the Jews to the land He gave them because He is faithful to His word and said that it was their “everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:7-8).

Israel is still Israel.  

God's eternal promises to Israel


Part 2 on God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

Part 1 on Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in the book of Romans can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/

God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant

Introduction – There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people.

This article is Part 2 of 3 in a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles.

The first article in the series can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/


Beginning at the Beginning

The first two chapters of Genesis recount the creation of the earth and man and the beginning of Chapter 3 recounts the fall.  In response, God doesn’t waste time,  He does not leave the situation hopeless but immediately after the man and woman eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God speaks of the solution that He will someday bring and in speaking to the serpent, God says:

“I will put hostility (enmity) between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Immediately, God speaks of His solution; that someday, He will put an end to the hatred and hostility that Satan (the serpent) has for man by sending “the seed of the woman” who will strike the serpent’s head.  He promises here that He will send the Messiah, the “seed of the woman” who will incapacitate the enemy — signified by striking his head, even though it will not be without a minor wounding to God’s Messiah — signified by the enemy striking His heel.

Paul, in the New Testament, relates back to this promise of “the seed of the woman” in Galatians 3:16 when he speaks of “the seed” in the singular and that “seed” being Messiah;

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”

Galatians 3:16

Paul makes the differentiation because readers of his letter (who were predominately Gentiles) would know that he was referring to the singular form of the word “seed” in Greek, because”seed” in Greek as well as Hebrew, could be used in two ways; in the singular and in the plural.

Understanding the word “seed”

The word “seed” in Hebrew (Strong’s H2233) and in Greek (Strong’s 4690) is a collective singular noun and can be used in two ways;  to  refer to (a) one person or (b) numerous, related people.

In Genesis 3:15, (“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”), the collective singular noun “seed” (Hebrew זֶרַע ), refers to one person, the Messiah.

In Gen 12:7, the collective singular noun “seed” (same Strong’s word H2233) is used to refer to the land that God promised to Abraham’s “seed” and applies to numerous, related descendants, the physical descendants of Abraham, the Jews.

What were God’s promises to the Gentiles?

Speaking to Abraham of His promises, God says;

“I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3

As we’ll develop in the next article, God lays out in detail who this “great nation” is and His “everlasting covenant” with them as a people, and the land He promises to give them as an “eternal possession”. He leaves no doubt that He is speaking of the physical descendants of Abraham, because He later repeats the same promises He gave Abraham to his son, Isaac and then repeats the same promises He gave Abraham to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (whose God later changes his name to Israel — and from whom the 12 tribes of Israel, the Jews, come).

But before God goes into all that detail, He speaks of His promise of the inclusion of the Gentiles!

The “all nations clause”

The book of Genesis from Chapter 12 to Chapter 50 pertains to the physical nation of Israel, the Jews — yet from the first time God begins to speak His promise to Abraham’s physical descendants, God speaks of His promise to the Gentiles!

The inclusion of the Gentiles is no afterthought – but is spoken of from Genesis Chapter 12, in the “all nations clause” ;

“…and all the peoples (nations) on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:3

From the very first time that God promises Abraham that he will be the father of “a great nation” — a specific nation (Hebrew: לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל) though Isaac and Jacob, He promises (Genesis 12:3) that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, “all the peoples (nations) of the earth will be blessed“!

The word for “peoples” (sometimes translated “nations”) in Hebrew is the word “families” (Hebrew מִשְׁפְּחֹת) — so there is a contrast being made between (1) the promises being made to this “great nation” (singular) and (2) the promises begin made to “all the families of the earth” (plural) (Hebrew: מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה).

Paraphrasing, God is saying;

‘while there is the great nation that I will bless, and I make Abraham’s name great as a result of this nation, and that this nation will be a blessing, and I will bless the nations that blesses them and curse the nation that curse them — everybody, all the families of the earth will be blessed through a physical descendant of Abraham — a Jew, the Messiah.

This is how the “blessings of Abraham” come to the Gentiles in Jesus (Galatians 3:14)!

That One is the “seed of the woman” that God also spoke of in Genesis 3:15 — the One that will crush Satan’s head. He is the “seed” that all nations of the world are blessed though — the “great nation” and “all nations“.

Paul speaks of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Galatians 3:6-9, when he says;

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

…and Paul continues with the theme of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Galatians 3:14-16, when he refers to the “seed” singular, meaning the Messiah — in contrast to “the seeds” (plural) which are the Jews.

The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.  Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.

Galatians 3:16

Since “seed” can be used to refer to a single person or a group of related people, Paul in this passage is quite specific that he is suing the singular of “seed”, because he is referring back to the promise given to Abraham regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles — the “all nations clause” in Genesis 12:2-3; “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” which points to the original promise of the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15 (“I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”).

Paul specifies that he is using the singular form of the term “seed” because he is referring to the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15)  — which is One person, the Messiah. In Galatians 3:16, Paul is saying “this is that“!

This Jesus is that “seed”.

He is the descendant of Abraham, through which all the nations of the world are blessed!

Inclusions of the Gentiles is anything but an afterthought to God. He spoke of His promises to “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3) when He first spoke about His promises to the “great nation” (Genesis 12:1-2). He then repeats the exact same promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob i.e. the “great nation” in Genesis 25:16-7 and to “all the families of the earth” in Genesis 25:18!


It should not be missed, that just before Paul refers to Jesus being that one “seed“, in Galatians 3:15, he emphasizes in Galatians 3:15 that he is using a human illustration and that “No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified“.

What Paul is saying here is that even when people make a covenant with other people, no one sets aside or makes addition to a covenant after it has been ratified. The implication is ‘how much more will God not set aside or make addition to a covenant He makes, after it had been ratified?

Paul is saying is that inclusion of the Gentiles in no way alters God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham (the Jews) and that likewise, God’s promise to the Gentiles, in no way supersedes God’s promises to the Jews.

God made promises to both the Jews and the Gentiles and He will keep His promises to both;

“Is God a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind? Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”

Numbers 23:19

God said to Moses (Deuteronomy 32:16-21) that because the Jews made Him jealous and angered Him by serving worthless idols, that He would make them envious and angry by choosing the Gentiles. (Deuteronomy 32:16-21, esp. verse 21)

“They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

God did exactly as He said He would by calling those from the Gentiles;

And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory—on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As He also says in Hosea:

I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.
And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not My people,
there they will be called sons of the living God.

Romans 9:23-25


Note: There are other related in articles in this current series, including;

God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant 

and

Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans

 

A Jewish Roots Update

Who would have thought…

Here it is, just 10 months into the unplanned adventure of writing this blog, and Jewish Roots of Christianity has reached a significant milestone, of sorts.  having had more than 11,000 individual visitors to our page!

That is pretty cool considering we never intended to ever do this in the first place!

Here is a brief update and look back.

11 000 visitors in 10 months circled
Count per Day – April 20 2016 – 11 AM

 

These 11 000+ visitors came from well over a 100 different countries or territories! 

112 countries 20.04.2016
The 212 countries and territories our visitors are from

For those who haven’t heard the story behind how the Jewish Roots of Christianity web site was created, it came about because people who were not on Facebook (where the first of these articles were posted as “Notes”), wanted to be able to read them. These were Gentile Christians wanting to understand the roots of their faith better.  Okay, that seemed pretty easy; we could just put them on a free WordPress site which is what we did.

JrofC header
The Header from Jewish Roots of Christianity’s first WordPress site

The problem was, the url was cumbersome and the template inflexible.  When we had over 1500 visitors in just 5 weeks, we realized there was an interest in what we were writing.

JRofC - 5 weeks - 1500 visitors

So we uploaded it to its current server, and Jewish Roots of Christianity, the blog, began.  That was June 11, 2015.

People were asking if we had ‘cards’ with the website url on it, which we didn’t, so we printed those.

JRofC1 business card design
Jewish Roots of Christianity website cards

And so it began…

More than 11, 000 people from 112 countries later, here we are; writing about Jewish Sabbaths and holy days, life in the first century and current events in the Land in light of Scripture.

We are glad that you have been visiting and returning and hope our articles continue to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to you.

Shalom!