“While the King sits at His table my spikenard gives its fragrance.” -Song of Songs 1:12
“Therefore” means according to what had gone before (Chapter 11, the raising of Lazarus etc.), the events of chapter 12 follow.
“six days before the Pesach” Due to the need for purification explained in the previous chapter the allusion here to the six days prior is intended to convey the fact that Yeshua had returned to Bethany after only a brief interlude in Ephraim, and was at the home of Elazar (Lazarus), Miriyam and Marta, only a few kilometres from Jerusalem at the time that Jews from all over Israel and the known world were entering Yehudah (Judea) in preparation for the aliyah (going up) festival of Pesach (Passover).
As I will explain again in my commentary to verse 12: on the next day after the sixth day before Passover, that being the fifth day before Passover which at sundown would become the 10th day of Nisan (4th day before Passover) Yeshua entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt. Meaning that Yeshua entered into Jerusalem in time to be welcomed into a local home after sundown at the beginning of the 10th day of Nisan according to the Torah requirement for the Pesach Lamb (Exodus 12:3). Having been set apart unto the household of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen), Yeshua is subsequently sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan (4 days later) as the protection and redemption of the doors and homes of Israel’s spiritual being (according to the prefigure of the Pesach Lamb).
“Exo 12:3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. Exo 12:4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Exo 12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, Exo 12:6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Exo 12:7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. Exo 12:8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.” -Shemot (Exodus) 12:3-8 ESV
“Beit Anya” The name of the town has varied meanings due to the convergence of Aramaic and Hebrew roots. Therefore, one of the meanings of the name of this town is “House of figs”. It’s worth noting that the three other Gospel accounts relate these events very closely to discourse and events regarding the symbolism of the fig tree as a seat of first century scholarship, and or as representing the Sanhedrin (made up of some P’rushiym but predominantly populated by Sadduciym). Thus, there is also a possible correlation between the cursing of the fig tree and the accursed one (Yehudah/Judas), who is a focus of the accounts of both Mark and John but specifically connected to theft only by John. We recall Yeshua making the connection between the thief (of satanic origin) and the sheep in His discourse regarding the sheep fold at the Temple (John 10). Here it seems that the exposing of Yehudah by the author of John’s Gospel is intended to pretext what follows and retroactively applies the curse over the fig tree to, among others, Yehudah/Judas.
“Formal meal” Refers to the fact that this was an organised celebration of the great sign that Yeshua had performed. Thus, Miriyam, Marta and Elazar had likely invited friends from the religious Jewish community to attend. Some of whom would have come the short distance from Jerusalem.
3 Miriyam[H] (from rebellion, Mary) then took 340 grams of very valuable (polutimos[G]) pure spikenard oil (muron nardos pistikos[G], nirdiy[H]), and anointed the feet of Yeshua[H A] and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.
“anointed the feet” The washing and anointing of the feet of guests was the job of the lowliest house servant of the first century eastern household. Therefore, Miriyam’s actions denote extreme humility. It seems that being humbly teachable at the feet of the King Messiah was the modus operandi of Miriyam. As I have noted many times, if one wants to participate in the redemptive work of God in any generation, one should look to the women and seek out those who act in humble abandon.
Perfumed Spikenard was made by crushing the stems of the Nardostachys jatamansi plant (commonly found in the Himalayas, Nepal, China, India).
This perfumed oil was valuable due to the cost of importing it. Spikenard did not grow in Israel and was therefore acquired from other far off places at great expense.
Spikenard is mentioned in the Tanakh (OT) only three times, all occurrences are in the Shir Ha-Shiriym (Song of Songs) written by Ha-Melekh Shlomo (King Solomon: King of His perpetual Peace).
“While the King sits at His table my spikenard gives its fragrance.” -Song of Songs 1:12
The connection between this event and the love song of King Solomon (King of His Perpetual Peace) is of great significance. The Song of Songs, while in its plain meaning is an illumination of the love between a man and a woman, is also widely understood among Jewish scholars as an allegory of God’s love relationship with Israel His chosen people. Thus, when the Shulamiyt woman speaks of giving her spikenard to the King at His table she is figuratively representing Israel as bride to God her King. In the present text Miriyam represents Israel and offers her spikenard to the King Yeshua while He dines at the table. We note that the Song of Songs goes on to say:
“A bag of myrrh is my deeply beloved one to me…” -Song of Songs 1:13a
Myrrh is associated with burial, as one of the fragrances applied to the body after death. Yeshua says in verse 7 that Miriyam has kept this expensive perfumed oil as a forth giving memorial in leu of His coming death and burial.
“My deeply beloved one is to me as a cluster of kopher (henna)…” -Song of Songs 1:14a
Henna from which a red pigment is produced is figurative of blood and the Hebrew noun kopher can also meaning “pitch, asphalt, bitumen” and “ransom”. The blood of the Messiah covers and ransoms.
Therefore, Miriyam’s humble act fulfils the prophetic word of Song of Songs, prophetically acknowledges Yeshua’s coming death and resurrection and is an act of accepting the betrothal offer of God through Yeshua the King of His Perpetual Peace.
4 But Yehudah[H] (Judah: praise) Ish Kariot[H] (a man of Keriot[H], A town in the south of Judah (Joshua 15:25) one of His (Yeshua’s) disciples (talmidim[H]), who was intending to give Him (Yeshua) over (betray Him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii (silver coin weighing 3.898 grams: a denarii = a day’s wage [x 300 would be close to 80,000 NZD in 2020]) and given to the poor?” 6 Now he (Yehudah) said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was an embezzler (kleptes[G]), and as the keeper of the money box (glossokomon[G]), he used to take away (bastazo[G]) what was put into it (ballo[G]).
We learn here that Yehudah (Judas) was truly Jewish in the tribal sense being from the tribe of Yehudah and from one of the cities of Yehudah. We also learn that at the time of these events he was already planning to betray Yeshua.
Added to this is the knowledge that the perfume in question is of great value. A denarii was equivalent to a labour’s daily wage, making the sum of 300 denarii equivalent to approximately $60,000 NZD (a year’s wages). Although it’s difficult to make a precise equivocation, it is none the less true that the perfume would have been extremely costly and treasured, intended for a once in a life time event, like a wedding or funeral. Such is the case here. Perhaps the perfume was to be used to anoint the body of Elazar (Lazarus) at the end of the seven day mourning period (shivah) and was not needed due to Elazar’s resurrection? If so, Yeshua has taken the place of Elazar as substitute (like the ram for Isaac), and is being anointed for the sacrifice that He will soon make.
“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” What unfolds is a prime example of something appearing to be good and moral, even godly, but is in fact wicked, immoral, ungodly, anti-Messiah. We would do well to pay attention here and learn discernment of God for application in today’s world. Many times I have seen believers delighting in and promoting “Social Justice” causes that are smoke screens for evil agendas: organisations like Amnesty International (openly anti-Semitic), World Vision (proven to have funded Hamas via a proxy in Gaza), Compassion International (openly hostile toward the modern state of Israel), and the list goes on and on. On the surface all seem to be advocating for the poor and oppressed, while beneath the surface they proliferate a satanic agenda.
We note that like the false shepherds of Israel Yehudah (Judas) was a thief, one who climbed over the wall to enter the sheep fold rather than coming through the gate (John 10:1).
“the keeper of the money box (glossokomon[G])” The Greek word “glossokomon” is used by the rabbis who translated the Tanakh (OT) into Greek (the Septuagint) to translate the Hebrew word “aron” (box, chest, ark etc.) In 2 Chronicles 24:8, it refers to a box for the collection of the rightful offerings required by the Law of Moses. In the context of 2 Chronicles 24:7-14, the people are returning to God that which the sons of the wicked woman Athaliah had stolen from the House of God (the Temple). It is therefore, interesting to note that the present text alludes to a theft of that which belonged to the outworking of the redemptive things of God and is at least in part prefigured by the wicked actions of the sons of Athaliah.
7 Therefore, Yeshua[H A] said, “Don’t hinder her (aphiemi[G]), for she has kept it toward the day, the preparing of My body (entaphiasmos[G]) for burial.
“She has kept it” means she has kept it up until this point in time, and not that she is keeping any remaining perfume for the preparation of Yeshua’s body after death. The actual anointing of Yeshua’s body for burial is described in John 19:39-40, where it is Nakdiymon (Nicodemus) who anoints Yeshua’s body with myrrh and aloes according first century Jewish practice. We know that this did not include spikenard, the perfume used by Miriyam. Therefore, Miriyam’s act, as I have alluded to earlier is an act of figurative desire on the part of Israel to be united to her God through His Son our King Messiah Yeshua, Who like His ancestor King Solomon (Whose name means His Peace Perpetual), is the Prince of Peace, Wholeness, and Wellbeing.
Notice the beautiful figurative meaning here. The woman Miriyam, whose name means “from rebellion” has come humbly before the Yeshua (Salvation) and God Himself, and has lowered herself as the lowliest of servants and gifted her costly perfume in hope of betrothal to the King of Peace. Therefore, it was through the woman from rebellion Chaya (Eve) that sin and death entered the world and through a woman of rebellion (Miriyam the mother of Yeshua) that God seeded His Son (the last Adam) into time and space to redeem the world, and it is at the symbolically catalytic act of a woman of rebellion (Miriyam the sister of Lazarus) that we enter the final stage in Yeshua’s journey toward the ultimate manifestation of sacrificial and vicarious love, His unlawful execution on a Roman cross. Thus, the “woman of rebellion” (Israel) is reconciled to God through the repentant receipt of the death and resurrection of the King Messiah Yeshua, and is therefore betrothed for the yet future Wedding of God and Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen).
8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me to hold (echo[G]).”
Yeshua is quoting the Torah and therefore, as is rabbinical custom, intending its context and application:
“Deu 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Deu 15:12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.
Deu 15:13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed.
Deu 15:14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him.” -D’varim (Deuteronomy) 15:11-14 ESV
We note, “You shall let him go free…” refers to a Hebrew who has been made poor and has become an indentured servant to Israel. Yeshua was born into servitude by His own choosing and had lived His life in service of God and of Israel (ethnic, chosen, religious), and by extension as a servant of humanity in the service of God’s redemptive purpose (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17).
We further see, “And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed.” And, “You shall furnish him liberally… As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him”. Yeshua is soon to leave (crucifixion, and by extension, resurrection and ascension). Therefore, Israel is obligated by Torah to make sure He does not leave empty handed. Israel must give to Him a liberal (that is expensive) farewell gift in honour of His service.
Therefore, Miriyam, in obeying the Torah has purchased honour and blessing on Israel’s behalf, and ironically, has in fact sought mercy for the one who has criticised her (Yehudah/Judas).
9 The large crowd of the Judeans, Jewish religious leaders (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]), then learned that He was there; and they came, not only because of Yeshua[H A], but also that they might see Elazar[H] (Heb. “one whom God helps” Aram. Lazar “to help”, Lazarus), whom He (Yeshua) raised from the dead. 10 And the chief priests (rosheiy hakoheniym[H]) planned to put Elazar[H] (Lazarus) to death also;
Notice that a large crowd of Judeans, religious Jews, Pharisees, and commoners had come to see both Yeshua and the man He had resurrected.
Contrary to popular belief, it was not the Pharisees who were Yeshua’s primary opposition but the Head Priests (predominantly Sadducees). We note that religious Judeans, some of whom were Pharisees, were attending the formal meal held to celebrate the resurrection of Elazar and the Rabbi who had performed it (Yeshua). They had come to see the evidence of the resurrected Elazar (Lazarus). This is because of the many first century Jewish sects it was the Pharisees believed in the resurrection, miracles, angels etc. On the other hand and for obvious reasons, the resurrection of Elazar (Lazarus) was damaging not only to Sadducaical rule (Head Priests, Sadducees) but also to their inherently flawed theological perspective. Therefore, “the Head Priest were planning to put Elazar (Lazarus) to death”.
11 because on account of him (Lazarus) many of the Judeans, Jewish religious leaders (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) were going away and were believing in Yeshua[H A].
This tells us that it was the manifest reality of resurrection that had caused many, including some of the Pharisees to walk away from their ruling pairs the Sadducees and Head Priests (who are the next closest subject of leadership in the text). In short, the Head Priests were fast losing power and saw murdering Yeshua and Elazar (Lazarus) as their only way out of the predicament.
12 On the next day the large crowd who had come for the festival (heorte[G], chag[H]), when they heard that Yeshua[H A] was coming to Yerushalayim[H] (down pour of peace, Jerusalem), 13 took the branches (baion[G]) of the date palm (phoinix[G]) and went out to meet Him (Yeshua), and shouted, “Hoshia-na Barukh haba b’sheim Adonay (YHVH) Melekh Yisrael[H]: Save please! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, King of Israel.[Psalm 118:25-26]”
On the next day after the sixth day before Passover, that being the fifth day before Passover which at sundown would become the 10th day of Nisan (4th day before Passover). Meaning that Yeshua entered into Jerusalem in time to be welcomed into a local home at the beginning of the 10th day of Nisan according to the Torah requirement for the Pesach Lamb (Exodus 12:3). Yochanan the author of this Gospel has been pointing to this very thing from the beginning… “Behold, pay attention, now, listen up, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29).
“Hoshia-na! Please, Adonai, save now!
We beseech You, Adonai, prosper us!
26 Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai--
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Adonai.
We bless you from the House of Adonai.” -Psalm 118:25-26 (TLV)
The Hebrew text of the psalmist “Hoshia-na” literally means “Save Please!” It is a phrase most strongly associated to the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost).
Those who were a part of the large crowd of Jews shouting the phrase, “Hoshia-na Barukh haba b’sheim Adonay (YHVH) Melekh Yisrael” knew with absolute certainty that they were invoking the prophetic words speaking of the promised King Messiah of God. These tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers who had come up to Jerusalem from all over Israel and the known world, believed that Yeshua was the promised King Messiah of Israel.
With regard to the waving of palm branches and the laying of cloaks before rulers and generals as they entered ancient cities, it is common knowledge among historians and theologians alike that this signified honour, victory, glory, coronation and so on.
“Mat 21:7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Mat 21:8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Mat 21:9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”” -Matthew 21:7-9 ESV
“Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” -2 Kings 9:13 ESV
Our own rabbis associate the transliterated Greek for “palm branches” used in the text of John with victory.
"if a man takes באיין, (the very Greek word here used,) palm tree branches in his hands, we know that he is victorious.'' - Vajikra Rabba, sect. 30. fol. 170. 3.
This is of great spiritual significance given that Yeshua is about to win the victory of all victories, that is the victory over death and the one who had up to that point had temporal reign over it [Hebrews 2:14-15] (that reign having been allowed by God the Father Who had always been the ultimate sovereign over all things) [Revelation 1:18].
14 Yeshua[H A], finding a young donkey (onarion[G], ayir[H]), sat on it; as it is written (grapho[G], katuv[H]), 15 “Don’t be put to flight in fear (phobeo[G]) daughter (thugater[G]) Tziyon[H] (Zion, parched place)… Behold, now, listen up (idou[G]) the King (basileus[G]) of you comes seated upon a colt (polos[G]) of a donkey (onos[G]).[Zephaniah 3:14-16 & Zechariah 9:9]” 16 These things His (Yeshua) disciples (talmidim[H]) did not understand at the first; but when Yeshua[H A] was glorified, magnified, adorned with splendour (doxazo[G]), then they remembered that these things were written (grapho[G], katuv[H]) of Him, and also that they had made (gam-asou[H]) these things to Him (lo[H]).
Many ask, “Why is the quote in John 12:15 different from Zechariah 9:9”?
The answer is quite simple: the author of the Gospel according to John is not quoting one passage but is combining two passages from the Tanakh (Zephaniah 3:14-16 & Zechariah 9:9) and presenting a convergent Messianic prophecy as a concise representation of what the Tanakh says concerning the coming King Messiah. Therefore, showing that he believes that Yeshua is the fulfilment of God’s redemptive purposes for Israel, the promised King Messiah of the line of David. This is affirmed by the phrase “they remembered that these things (plural) were written” meaning that after Yeshua’s resurrection the disciples retrospectively understood multiple Tanakh references to be applicable to Yeshua on this specific occasion.
“Zep 3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! Zep 3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. Zep 3:16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.” -Zephaniah 3:14-16 ESV
“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you,
a righteous one bringing salvation.
He is lowly, riding on a donkey--
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” -Zechariah 9:9 (TLV)
By merging these two passages the writer of John’s Gospel alludes to the unity of God, His Salvation and His Messianic King. Thus, once again, Yeshua as God with us is inferred by the Gospel writer.
17 The crowd (okhlos[G]) therefore, who were with Him and witnessed (martureo[G]) Him calling Elazar[H] (Lazarus) out of the tomb/grave (kever[H]) and raising him (Lazarus) from the dead, continued to testify. 18 For this reason also the crowd (okhlos[G]) went and met Him (Yeshua), because they heard that He had performed this miraculous sign (ot).
While all this was taking place the crowd who had already been drawn to Yeshua because of the resurrection of Lazarus were running round like excitable evangelical street witnessing zealots telling everyone they could find about Yeshua and what He had done. As a result thousands more came to meet Yeshua at the festival in Jerusalem.
19 So some of the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees, chaste ones) said to one another, “You see this is not to our advantage (opheleo[G]); look, the whole (kol[H]) world (kosmos, ha olam[H]) has gone after Him (Yeshua).”
Yeshua’s popularity was never going to be to the advantage of the select few religious leaders who, under Roman authority were in control of the people of Israel at the time.
“Look, the whole world has gone after Him…” means that there were non-proselyte Greeks in Jerusalem for the festival in addition to the devote Jewish worshippers. These Greek “God Fearers” often attended Jewish festivals due to their genuine devotion to the God of Israel. However, they were not all proselytes (converts to Judaism). This is why the next verse specifies “Hellen” without a qualifying allusion to proselytization. “Hellen” literally means “Greek” (or, “non-Jew”).
20 Now there were some Greeks (Hellen[G]: non-Jews) among those who were going up to worship at the festival (heorte[G], chag[H] [Pesach[H]]);
As I have stated, “Hellen” in this context, refers to Greek God Fearers and not to Greek proselytes.
21 these then came to Philippos[G] (lover of horses, Philip, a Jew), who was from Beit tzaiydah[A H] (House of fish/hunting) of Galiyl[H] (Galilee, circuit), and began to ask him, saying, “Adon (kurios[G] Sir, lord), we wish to see Yeshua[H A].” 22 Philippos[G] came and told Andreas[G] (manly, Andrew, a Jew); Andreas[G] and Philippos[G] came and told Yeshua[H A].
The Greeks probably came to Philip because although he was a Jew he had a Greek name and likely spoke Greek. Additionally, Philip conferred with Andrew for the same reason on behalf of the Goyim (Greeks “God Fearers”) who were seeking Yeshua.
23 And Yeshua[H A] answered them, saying, “The certain definite time (hora[G] hour) has come for the Son of Man (ho uihos anthropos[G], ben ha-adam[H]) to be glorified, magnified, adorned with splendour (doxazo[G]).
Yeshua’s answer is not a snubbing of Greeks, Gentiles, but is a poignant reminder that He has come for a specific purpose and will not step to the left or right for even a moment. The definite time for His final journey to the cross has come and He must be entirely focused on His work. Additionally, in His earthly ministry He had come “only for the lost sheep of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen)” [Matthew 15:24].
24 “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone without companions (monos[G]); but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit (karpos[G]).
Yeshua speaks an established reality to those listening. Unless He dies to make eternal life possible for those bound by sin, He will not produce the fruit that is born of His sacrifice. He is the seed from which everlasting life bears the fruit of salvation in the lives of others.
“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” -Romans 8:29
There is an interesting paragraph in the Talmud Bavliy that further clarifies ancient Jewish use of mashaliym (parables, figures, examples, symbols etc.) and the Kal v’chomer (light & heavy) method of drash (comparative teaching):
“The Samaritan Patriarch asked Rabbi Meir, ‘I know that the dead will come back to life… but when they do arise, will they be naked or clothed?’ He replied, ‘You may deduce the answer from a kal v’chomer (light & heavy) argument based on a wheat grain – if a grain of wheat, which is buried naked, sprouts forth in many robes, then how much more so the righteous, who are buried in their clothing!’” -Sanhedrin 90b
NB: The “clothing” of the righteous is their righteous actions/deeds (Isaiah 61:10; Rev. 19:8).
25 He who loves (phileo[G], oheiv[H]) his breath/soul (psuche[G], nafsho[H] [as a dear friend]) destroys it (apollumi[G]), and he who detests (miseo[G]) his breath (psuche[G], nafsho[H]) in this world (kosmos[G], baolam[H]) will guard (phulasso[G]) it to life/living (zoe[G], l’chayeiy[H]) eternal (aionios[G], netzakh[H]).
The Greek text refers to transient breath (psuche) and the Hebrew to the soul (nafsho) practice of life in the temporal world, but the one who does not regard his life in this world above His love for God will walk as Messiah does, giving up his temporal life in this world in order that he might enter the perpetual living of the everlasting world (Olam Haba). Therefore, the temporal “psuche[G], nafsho[H]” (breath, soul) gives way to the eternal “chayeiy” (living).
© Yaakov Brown 2020