“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses lying around us, let us also get rid of every weight and entangling sin. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith.” –Hebrews 12:1-2a
1. What is your take on the cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12, can we engage with them?
The allusion to the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 is referring back to the list of those witnesses to God’s faithfulness who are listed in Hebrews 11, commonly known as the Faith Chapter. These witnesses, as can be seen from Hebrews 11, are the now deceased patriarchs and heroes of the Jewish faith. The writer of Hebrews, a Jew and a Cohen (Priest), knows that the witnesses he is referring to are deceased and that many of them are buried throughout the land of Israel, and that they are therefore uncontactable according to the teaching of Scripture regarding the dead (Hebrews 9:27).
In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16) Yeshua explains that while the dead are conscious, they are not able either to traverse the chasm between Gehinnom (torment) and Gan Eden (Paradise) nor (re: Lazarus etc. once they are finally deceased [Hebrews 9:27]) are they able to traverse the distance between Sheol and the present world. In my article on Saul, Samuel and the Witch of Eyndor, I explain why the events of 1 Samuel 28:3-21 are not describing the dead spirit of Samuel called up but rather an evil spirit that fools the witch and is used by God to condemn Saul. For further study please use the following link below:
The writer of the book of Hebrews is using the deceased Jewish witnesses of Hebrews 11 as a figurative example. When he says:
“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses lying around us, let us also get rid of every weight and entangling sin. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith.” –Hebrews 12:1-2a
He is making a Drash (inquiry/comparative teaching) regarding how we should act in light of the figurative (not literal) cloud of witnesses that are buried throughout the land of Israel. We must remember that the writer is probably writing from the perspective of a priest living in the Land of Israel prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (AD). He then qualifies this teaching by instructing us, not to focus on the cloud of witnesses, but on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of our faith (The faith that our Jewish forebears shared in the coming Messiah Yeshua).
We cannot engage with this cloud of witnesses because they are deceased and according to Scripture (Hebrews 9:27) they are uncontactable. Those who do seek to speak to the dead are in fact speaking with demonic forces rather than the spirits of dead people (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” –Deuteronomy 18:10-12
Therefore, not only are we unable to engage with the dead witnesses of Hebrews 11-12, we are also commanded by God not to attempt to speak with the dead.
2. When Yeshua (Jesus) went to Sheol (Holding place of the dead), did He preach to the dead or to a specific order of captives?
The text this question refers to is 1 Peter 3:14-21:
“If you suffer for righteousness' sake, be glad: and don’t be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify (Kiddush) HaShem (Merciful) Elohiym (Judge) in your core being (heart): and be ready always to give an answer to every human being that asks you the reason for the hope that is in you with humility and reverent awe: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conduct in Messiah. For it’s better if God’s will is that you suffer for doing well than for doing evil. For Messiah also at one time suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Ruach (Spirit). By Whom (The Spirit) He also went and made proclamation to the ruachiym (spirits) in prison (phulake: foo-lak-ay). Who were formerly disobedient, when at one time the longsuffering God waited in the days of Noach (Comfort), while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls (nefesh) were saved by water (mikveh: gathering of water). This figurative likeness being a representation of the immersion (baptism) that now also saves us (not the washing of the flesh but the earnest seeking of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) Messiah.”
–1 Peter 3:17-21
In the context of Peter’s letter, the community of believers is being encouraged to share their faith with anyone who asks, and not to shy away from suffering if that is what God’s will entails. Peter then offers Yeshua as an example of One Who suffered and shared His message in the Spirit of God. It is explained that Yeshua’s suffering puts to death the sinful practices of the flesh and resurrects each believer in the life giving Spirit of God. It is by this same Spirit that the resurrected Messiah (not in sheol) transcends time and space, and thus traverses time and space by the Spirit, to proclaim His saving work to those spirits of human beings who were still living in the flesh at the time of Noah prior to the flood. The text explains that during the time of Noah only eight imprisoned spirits received Yeshua’s message and were delivered through the figurative tevilah immersion (baptism) of the flood, which the author shows to be a prefigure of the same tevilah immersion (baptism) that believers in Messiah have received unto salvation.
From the p’shat (plain) meaning of the text and the subsequent, remez (hint), drash (comparative) and sod (mystery), we see that it does not place Yeshua in sheol in relation to His proclamation but shows that it is by the Spirit of God following His resurrection that He spoke to the imprisoned spirits of humanity past. This text is not teaching anything even remotely to do with communicating with imprisoned dead people or angelic spirits. To the contrary, it simply teaches that God is just and that all humanity from Adam to the end of days has and will have an opportunity to either reject or receive the message of Messiah. This text shows how in the Spirit (of God), the resurrected Messiah transcends time and space and manifests the supernatural reality that He was both literally and figuratively slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
3. It seems there is an emergence of tribal peoples throughout the world who are now claiming to be part of the 12 tribes of Israel. To date DNA testing has proven that these claims are erroneous. In addition, many Messianic believers who are Gentiles, and have no proven evidence of Jewish bloodline are wearing, Jewish Tallits, Tzit tzit etc. Do you see this as another enemy tactic to dilute the unique ethno-religious identity of the Jewish people?
Yes I do. Ethnic, empirical, religious Israel, the descendants of Yaakov (Jacob) have a unique role to play in history, past, present and future. The enemy Satan has consistently sought to either wipe out the ethnic identity of the Jewish people and or make her identity generic in a desperate attempt to resist the plans of God. Satan has done this through popular Christian theology, Supersessionism, Continuationism, British Israel, the Lost Tribes myth, to name a few, and is now doing it by utilizing well-meaning so called Messianic Gentiles who have come to believe the lie that their own culture is somehow less important than the Jewish culture.
Allow me to offer an example: I love the Maori people, the indigenous people of Aeotearoa (New Zealand), but I don’t have an ancestral Maori tattoo. I don’t have even an ounce of Maori blood in my body. I have Ashkenazi Jewish blood, Italian blood, South American blood, English blood, German blood, but not an ounce of Maori blood. Therefore I will not desecrate the Maori culture by getting a sacred Maori tattoo. The sacred elements of Maori culture belong to the Maori people and are an intrinsic part of their God given unique identity.
If you don’t have any Jewish blood, don’t attempt to steel our sacred God given identity. Those who are not Jewish but wear tzit tzit and kippot etc. or claim, erroneously that they are members of the house of Ephraim (their DNA proves otherwise), are doing the very thing they accuse the Replacement and Superssesionist theologians of doing. They are seeking to replace ethnic, empirical, religious Israel. It is sin, don’t become entangled in it! It not only defiles God’s chosen people, it also defiles you and your beautiful, unique ethnic identity.
4. I hear people talking about the 10 lost tribes. Are there lost tribes?
There are no lost tribes. In approximately 540 BCE after the return of the tribes of Israel from exile in Babylon, all the tribes became united under the remnant of Judah who had remained in the land. Thus all Hebrews regardless of tribe took on the common title Yehudi (Jew), which became a term synonymous with Israel. From this point in time the Jewish people, consisting of the 12 tribes experienced various dispersions, the greatest of which occurred following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
The biblical book of Yaakov (James) affirms this understanding when it refers to the “12 tribes scattered throughout the world.” In fact the Biblical book of Yaakov (James) was written specifically to the Jews (the twelve tribes of Israel).
There are specific DNA markers in the various groups of dispersed Jews throughout the world that offer irrefutable evidence of the various tribes within the Jewish nation. The terms Israelite and Jew have been synonymous since the sixth century BCE (BC).
5. I’ve heard it taught that Jewish women were uneducated in the first century CE (AD) And that this is why they weren’t allowed to teach in the early community of believers, is this true?
This is simply not true. This foolish teaching finds very limited supported in the singular works of Ben Sira a Hellenistic Jewish scribe, sage, and allegorist from Jerusalem. His works contradict the wealth of Jewish tradition and teaching regarding women, and are often interpreted out of context. Women have been teachers, prophets and leaders of Israel throughout history. These include, Miriyam the sister of Moses, Ruth, Esther, Miriyam the mother of the Messiah, Devorah the prophetess etc.
Many are unaware that the ancient synagogues of Israel had no partitions separating men and women. The 2nd century Synagogue in Capernaum by the Galilee is a replica of the Synagogue that stood beneath it. I’ve stood there and seen for myself the open seating. In fact men and women sat together to listened to the Torah in the synagogues of first century Israel. How then could they have been uneducated?
From ancient times the women of Israel have been tasked with the greatest of teaching roles. That of teaching our children the core doctrines and practices of the Jewish faith. I ask then, if they were uneducated, how did they teach the Torah to countless generations of young Jews? How did they pass on the prayer tradition and Halakhah of Israel to subsequent generations?
6. Could you explain the ancient Jewish betrothal and wedding practice?
There are many localized variations regarding minor themes concerning the ancient Jewish betrothal and marriage customs, however, the primary themes are consistent throughout Jewish history and practice, and continue to find a place of prominence in the modern Jewish wedding ceremony. I will answer this question by explaining the common primary themes of the ancient Jewish betrothal and marriage. They are themes that arise from both Scripture and tradition and have been perpetuated for thousands of years. They are a living allegory for the great mystery of God’s relationship to Israel (empirical, ethnic) and of the relationship between Messiah Yeshua and the Ecclesia (Messianic community of believers). As such, they transcend their temporal function and become a picture of our eternal hope as believers, in love relationship with God.
Much of the information that follows is taken from both Biblical and Talmudic sources. The information from Talmudic sources, while not codified until a much later date, does pass on an oral tradition dating back to a time long before the Messiah’s birth. Many of the Talmudic articles on the subject of marriage affirm the spiritual allegory attributed to Messiah and His bride and are therefore a valid commentary on the events that continue to transpire regarding the second coming of Yeshua our Mashiyach and Chatan (groom).
a.) SHIDUKHIN (ARRANGEMENT)—SELECTION OF THE BRIDE:
From ancient days it has always been the father of the groom who selects his son’s bride. In cases where it is not practical for the father to go to the home of the bride to arrange things, he sends a Shadkhan (arranger/matchmaker). This is exactly what happened in the case of Abraham’s selecting of a bride for his son Isaac:
“Avraham said to his servant (Eli-eytzer/My God is my helper, comforter), the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, ‘Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by HaShem, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Yitzchak.” –Genesis 24:2-4
The Scriptures remind us that we were chosen by The Father (God) from before the creation of the world:
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” –Ephesians 1:4
Yeshua reminds us that:
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.” –Yochanan/John 15:16
b.) THE BRIDE MUST ACCEPT THE PROPOSAL:
In Jewish culture no woman may be forced to marry. Without the prospective brides acceptance of the marriage proposal there can be no marriage.
In Rebekah’s case, she had not seen her husband to be (Yitzchak), but accepted his proposal based on the word of the servant (Eli-eytzer, My God is a helper). This is also true of each of us who have accepted Yeshua’s proposal having had it offered to us at the hands of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit/The Helper).
“The servant said to him, ‘Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?’” –Genesis 24:5
“Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’” –Genesis 24:58
We must remember that it is Yeshua as the Jewish bridegroom (Chatan) Who always initiates the love relationship and that it is God Who selects us and not the other way around:
“We love Him because He first loved us.” –1 John 4:19
c.) THE MOHAR—BRIDE PRICE:
rom ancient times brides in Israel were purchased, a bride price (mohar) was paid as a means of showing that the groom valued the woman he was to marry. The price varied depending on the circumstances of those involved. In Yaakov’s (Jacob) case, he worked seven years as the bride price for Leah and Rachel respectively. (Genesis 29:20)
To the modern reader this may seem to denigrate women, treating them as property rather than valued equals, however, in the context of the Biblical society the opposite was true. The pagan nations surrounding Israel were taking women to wife without ceremony or consideration of a woman’s value. When a wife displeased a husband in these communities she was tossed aside and replaced without consequence, often left to fend for herself and in many cases to die without provision because men were the providers of a family’s income and protection.
The value placed upon a Jewish bride was a means of protecting her and valuing her as a person rather than an object of property for men to abuse. The fact that a husband, “owned,” his wife was not demeaning in the least, it was a sign to other men and to the bride, that she was cared for and valued. The Hebrew word for wife, Be’ulah, means, “owned,” and the Hebrew word for husband, Ba’al, means, “master or owner”.
“When Avraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before HaShem. 53 The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.” –Genesis 24:52-53
Yeshua has paid the highest price as a mohar for His bride by dying on the tree:
“You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” –1 Corinthians 7:23
“(Yeshua) Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” –Ephesians 1:14
“Knowing that you were not purchased with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.” –1 Peter 1:18-19
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a mohar (price): therefore glorify God in your body.” –1 Corinthians 6:19-20
d.) KETUBAH (WRITTEN)/ EYRUSIN (BETROTHAL)/ KIDUSHIN (SANCTIFICATION):
Following the shidukhin (arrangement) by the father via his shadkhan (Matchmaker) the acceptance of the proposal by the bride and the offering of the gift by the groom; a binding covenant was entered into and a ketubah (written) document was signed. This process, known as both Eyrusin (betrothal) and kidushin (sanctification from Kadosh [Holy], meaning set apart), was conducted approximately one year prior to the actual marriage ceremony and was considered binding. So much so, that a divorce or get (Hebrew) must be obtained by the husband in order to dissolve the betrothal. It’s important to note that only a husband can initiate a get (divorce) [Deuteronomy 24:1-4].
This is an affirmation of eternal security for the believer. Our security is not dependent on us because we’re not able to break our engagement once we’ve entered into the agreement. Only the groom can break the betrothal and Yeshua has no intention of doing so:
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” –Yochanan/John 10:28-30
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot disown Himself.” –2 Timothy 2:15
e.) MIKVEH (Immersion/Baptism):
Prior to the Eyrusin (Betrothal) rite, both the groom and the bride tevilah totally immerse themselves in a ritual bath (Mayim chayim—living water) of purification called a mikveh (Gathering of water). Yeshua was immersed by the forerunner Yochanan in preparation for His Eyrusin (Betrothal). Likewise as believers we enter into the mikveh of tevilah immersion (baptism) as a sign of our new beginning, identifying with Messiah’s immersion, His death and resurrection.
The mikveh is a symbol of a fresh start, a new beginning, a new family unit which is to be born of the married couple.
Following their tevilah (immersion) in the mikveh (gathering of water) the Eyrusin (Betrothal) ceremony took place under a Chuppah (canopy). In ancient times the Chuppah was a separate room in the groom’s father’s home, later the tradition of a canopy developed.
The Chuppah is a symbol of a new household and of God’s protective covering over the couple and their future progeny. It is also a sukkah (booth) which promises that God will one day Mishkhan (tabernacle, dwell) in the midst of His people for all eternity:
“As a bridegroom coming out of his chamber (Chuppah); rejoicing as a strong man to run his course.” –Tehillim/Psalm 19:5
“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room (Chuppah) and the bride out of her bridal chamber (Chuppah).” –Yo’el/Joel 2:16
f.) THE CUP:
During the Eyrusin (Betrothal) ceremony gifts/rings are exchanged and a cup of wine is shared. The Kiddush (sanctification) cup used in this ceremony is kept to be used again at the wedding ceremony in a years’ time. In ancient times the cup was most likely made of hardened clay: today a thin wine glass is used.
On the night He was betrayed, Yeshua offered His bride to be (Israel—empirical, ethnic and the birthing Ecclesia), a new covenant in blood, a wine cup, a kiddush (sanctifying) cup. This cup, the third cup of the Pesach/Passover Seder, taken after the main meal, is called Kos Ge’ulah (cup of redemption):
“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” –Luke 22:20
“’For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’” –Luke 22:18
Following the Eyrusin (Betrothal) ceremony the couple is considered married in every way except for cohabitation and sexual relations. Both bride and groom live apart for approximately one year. Something similar is seen in the length of time between Rebekah’s acceptance of Isaac’s proposal and their marriage in Canaan sometime later.
The year was used by the groom as a time of preparation. It was traditional in the ancient Middle East for the groom to leave the bride’s home town and return to His father’s house where he would build a room onto his father’s dwelling that would serve as the couple’s chadar (wedding chamber) following their marriage ceremony. The parallels with Yeshua and His bride are obvious. Yeshua has gone to prepare a place for us:
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” –Yochanan/John 14:2-3
Likewise, the bride spends the year in preparation for her groom’s return. She is to be ready at any hour of the day as the year draws to a close. She prepares items for her future home and a pure white dress for the wedding day.
We are reminded in the Scriptures that we should invest our time in those things which are eternal:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” –Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:19
g.) THE RETURN OF THE GROOM:
Tradition dictates that only the father of the groom may decide on the time for the groom’s return, neither the groom nor the bride know at what hour the groom will return to carry the bride to the wedding feast.
“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” –Mark 13:32
In many cases, as the year of waiting drew to a close, the bride’s household would wait late into the night, keeping oil lamps lit in case of the groom’s return. This tradition became common among certain groups and is still practised in some communities today. The groom would often return at night.
“But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” –Mattitiyahu/Matthew 25:6
The implications for us as believers are clear, we are to prepare ourselves and be constantly ready for our groom’s return.
The groom would return, often late at night, with a procession of family and friends from his father’s household, shouting out, with torches burning and the shofar sounding to herald his coming.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar of G-d, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be carried away (nisuin, to carry) together with them in the cloud (of His presence) to meet the Lord in the fresh air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” –1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
The groom’s entourage would be carrying an aperion (a seated canopy, carried on the shoulders of men). He would pick up his bride and place her in the aperion thus carrying her away to her new home.
The bride would cover her face with a veil and intermittently along the way the groom would check under her veil to ensure he had carried away the right bride. This tradition is called bedeken and came about due to the problems experienced by Yaakov (Jacob) at the hands of Laban his father in law, when he deceived him on his wedding night by substituting Leah for Rachel.
There is a beautiful modern Hassidic practise among many Charediym (Orthodox/Pious) that combines both the night time arrival of the groom and the peeking behind the veil. It involves two men carrying Havdalah candles as they approach the bride walking arm in arm with the groom. They come with the groom at night and approach the betrothed woman’s home with the multi-wicked candles lit. The bride is veiled and awaiting the groom dressed in pure white. As the community chants traditional Hebrew songs, the groom is led by candle light to meet His bride, who is surrounded by her female attendants. Once the groom is standing before her, he unveils her face and leads her to the place where the wedding ceremony will take place.
h.) NISUIN (TO CARRY) THE CHUPPAH:
The Nisuin (Wedding) ceremony is the last stage of the betrothal and marriage. The Chuppah (canopy) was a specially made embroidered canopy or a tallit (prayer shawl) held up by four poles. It was representative of the bridal chamber.
The groom enters the proceedings first, as the rabbi calls out, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai,” blessed is he who comes in the name of the L-rd. The groom stands on the left hand side, then the bride enters to the call, “B’rukhah haba’ah b’shem Adonai,” blessed is she who comes in the name of the Lord.
“O HaShem, do save, we beseech You; O HaShem, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the HaShem; We have blessed you from the house of the HaShem. HaShem is Elohiym, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” –Tehillim/Psalm 118:25-27
The bride walks around the groom either three or seven (depending on the local tradition) times as a symbol of her willingness to consecrate herself to her groom. Three times is symbolic of God’s three-fold betrothal to Israel:
“’I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice (1), In loving kindness (chesed) and in compassion (2), And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness (3). Then you will know HaShem [YHVH] (Mercy).’” –Hosea 2:19-20
Seven is a symbolic promise of the bridal week and the completeness found in marriage. Mirroring the completeness of the creation week and the Shabbat rest of God.
The bride then stands to the right of her groom.
i.) SHE’VA BRACHOT (Seven blessings):
The She’va Brachot (seven blessings) are pronounced beginning with the blessing over the Kiddush cup (the same cup used during the Erusiyn betrothal rite), but the cup is not drunk until the blessings are completed. These blessings are also known as Birkat Nisuin (blessings of being carried away):
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, בורא פרי הגפן.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, bo'rei p'ri hagafen.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, שהכל ברא לכבודו.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam shehakol bara lichvodo.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who created everything for His Glory."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, יוצר האדם.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, yotzer haa’dam.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates man."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, אשר יצר את האדם בצלמו, בצלם דמות תבניתו, והתקין לו ממנו בניין עדי עד. ברוך אתה ה', יוצר האדם.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, asher yatzar et ha-adam b’tzalmo, b’tzelem d’mut tavnito, v’hitkin lo mimenu binyan adei ad. Baruch atah Adonai, yotzeir ha-adam.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates humanity in your image (likeness), fashioning perpetuated life. Blessed are You, HaShem, creator of humanity."
שוש תשיש ותגל העקרה, בקיבוץ בניה לתוכה בשמחה. ברוך אתה ה', משמח ציון בבניה.
Transliteration: Sos tasis v’tageil ha-akara b’kibutz baneha l’tocha b’simcha. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameach Tzion b’vaneha.
Translation: "May the barren one exult and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her. Blessed are You, Hashem, who gladden Zion with her Children."
שמח תשמח רעים האהובים, כשמחך יצירך בגן עדן מקדם. ברוך אתה ה', משמח חתן וכלה.
Transliteration: Sameiach tesamach reiim ha-ahuvim k’sameichacha y’tzircha b’gan eden mikedem. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan v’chalah.
Translation: "Grant perfect joy to these loving companions, as you did your creations in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, HaShem, who grants the joy of groom and bride."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, אשר ברא ששון ושמחה, חתן וכלה, גילה רינה, דיצה וחדווה, אהבה ואחווה, ושלום ורעות, מהרה ה' אלקינו ישמע בערי יהודה ובחוצות ירושלים, קול ששון וקול שמחה, קול חתן וקול כלה, קול מצהלות חתנים מחופתם, ונערים ממשתה נגינתם. ברוך אתה ה', משמח חתן עם הכלה.
Transliteration: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher bara sason v’simcha chatan v’kallah, gilah rinah ditzah v’chedvah, ahavah v’achavah v’shalom v’reut. M’hera Adonai Eloheinu yishammah b’arei Yhudah uv-chutzot Y’rushalayim kol sason v’kol simcha, kol chatan v’kol kalah, kol mitzhalot chatanim meichupatam u-n'arim mimishte n’ginatam. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan im hakalah.
Translation: "Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, song, delight and rejoicing, love and harmony and peace and companionship. Soon, Hashem our God, may there ever be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem voices of joy and gladness, voices of groom and bride, the jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the bridal canopy, the voices of young people feasting and singing. Blessed are You, HaShem, who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride."
THE CUP #2:
Following the blessings the Kiddush cup (the same cup used in the Eyrusin ceremony of betrothal) is drunk by both groom and bride and is then wrapped in a napkin and shattered beneath the groom’s foot.
“For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” –Luke 22:18
The breaking of the cup is a more recent addition to the ceremony but it holds great significance. Originally the rabbis added the shattering of the cup in order to remind those present that even in joyous times we remember the destruction of the temple and Israel’s suffering. However the symbolism is also powerfully representative of the fact that no one else can ever drink from the cup that the married couple have shared. The covenant of marriage is sacred and sealed forever in the sight of God. This is also the case regarding our marriage to Yeshua.
The marriage is then consummated in the bridal chamber (chadar), following which the groom calls out to the shadkhan (matchmaker) or friend of the groom, letting him know that the marriage has been consummated.
“And Yeshua said unto them, ‘Can the attendants of the bride chamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.’” –Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:15
The couple then celebrates an elaborate wedding feast with their guests. The feast is followed by a seven day period together in seclusion, in order to complete the marriage week.
All of these events remind us of the Messianic community’s coming marriage to Yeshua. We will be carried away, and join with Him in spiritual marriage. He will finally drink again of the Kiddush cup with us and we will celebrate with Him at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God.
“’Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’” –Revelations 19:7-9
RENEWED COVENANT SCRIPTURES REGARDING BETROTHAL & MARRIAGE:
• Legally free to marry & purposed for fruit
“Therefore, my Jewish brothers and sisters, you also were made to die from the Torah’s perspective (regarding marriage to sin), through the body of Messiah, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” –Romans 7:4
We are dead to sin through the covenant blood of Messiah Yeshua and are therefore free to remarry. Yeshua is our groom and we marry for the purpose of bearing fruit.
• Shidukin (arrangement, match making)/ Eyrusin (betrothal)/ Ketubah (it is written)
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I have betrothed you to one husband, so that to Messiah I might present you as a pure virgin.” –2 Corinthians 11:2
In this text Shaul/Paul is the Shadkhan (match maker, arranger).
• Nisuin (to carry)/ Kidushin (Sanctification, from kadosh [Holy] set apart)—Marriage
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Messiah also is the head of the Messianic Community, He Himself being the Saviour of the body. But as the Messianic Community is subject to Messiah, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the Messianic Community and gave Himself up for her (bride price), so that He might sanctify (Kidushin) her, having cleansed her by the washing of water (Mikveh) with the word, that He might present to Himself the Messianic Community in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or blemish; but that she would be holy (Set apart) and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the Messianic Community, because we are members of His body. ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.’ (Gen. 2:24) This mystery (sod) is great; but I am speaking with reference to Messiah and the Messianic Community.” –Ephesians 5:22-32
In this text Shaul/Paul uses the example of the Jewish betrothal and marriage (P’shat) to touch (Remez) on a much deeper understanding (Sod) of our relationship (Drash) with Yeshua. This mystery is in part available to all who understand the process of Jewish marriage from betrothal to the wedding chamber.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
The misuse of a symbol does not define it. It simply illuminates the motivation of the user.
Questions for consideration:
1. What is the origin of the Star of David?
Firstly it is important to understand that Jews do not call the symbol in question the Star of David. This is a name given to it because of its association with the Jewish people. Jews call this symbol “Magen David”, literally, “Shield of David”.
Secondly, many Christian conspiracy theorists use this symbol to support their theory that Jews as a whole practice witchcraft and are the enemies of God. They say that because the Mekubbalim (Practitioners of Kabbalah) and Freemason movements use this symbol, that it is therefore a symbol of Satan, and that those who use it are subject to him. Hitler was able to use this same underlying anti-Semitic bias to vilify and literally label the Jewish people with the so called Star of David during the Second World War.
If you were to search the internet, you would find numerous results alluding to the Star of David as being an occult symbol. Those who lack discernment, consider these articles to convey the truth, they fail to understand that the internet, like the library and the universal visual media, is a place of information and that truth and information are not synonymous.
Thirdly, those who see the Star of David as being an occult symbol often attach power to it. Making it a type of occult talisman. This is the result of poor theology that attaches spiritual power to inanimate objects. In both Biblical Judaism and Christianity this is known as witchcraft.
Each of these perspectives form a firm foundation for anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (synonymous terms).
So what is the origin of this symbol?
The short answer is, “Nobody can be certain”. A number of ancient eastern cultures used this symbol, all for different reasons and all understanding it in different ways. There is no explicit evidence showing why, how or what this symbol was used for within ancient Judaism. There are in fact only positive and negative explanations based on legend and these are propagated by conjecture alone.
The earliest piece of archaeological evidence to date, linking the Magen David to the Jewish people, is a carving on an ancient 6th Century BCE (approx. 550 years prior to the birth of Messiah) Synagogue in northern Israel. The carving depicts a victorious Babylonian ruler and a defeated king of Judah with a Magen David above his head. We can only guess at its meaning, however, it is clearly not representing an amulet that holds spiritual power to defeat Israel’s enemies and is therefore unlikely to have been used as a means of practicing witchcraft or as a symbol representing occult belief. What is more likely is that in keeping with some of the rabbinical explanations, it is a symbol of God’s relationship to Israel and His present protection over Israel’s continued existence, even in the face of defeat and subjugation.
While it is true that practitioners of Kabbalah used this symbol, this was not until the teaching of Kabbalah emerged in the 12th century CE, some seventeen hundred and fifty years after the earliest Jewish connection to the symbol. It is also true that the symbol was subsequently used by Christian sects and Freemasons. However, the misuse of a symbol does not determine its meaning. For example, candles are used in a séance, should we not use candles? The cross was used for hundreds of years in relation to ancient idolatrous worship practices, long before the birth of Messiah, does that mean the cross is an occult symbol? The Freemasons misuse the Holy Name YHVH in their pictograms and symbolism, are we therefore not to continue to write God’s Holy name in our Torah scrolls? A curse on the idea! When we think this way we are allowing ourselves to come under bondage. We become superstitious and ironically, practitioners of the same witchcraft we accuse others of.
There are a wide range of rabbinical explanations regarding the Magen David and its meaning:
Some say that it was the symbol that adorned the shields of David’s army, others that it represents God’s relationship to humanity, one triangle pointing up representing man’s desire to connect with God and the other triangle pointing down showing God’s desire to connect with humanity. There are those who see the twelve tribes represented in the twelve lines that make up the border of the shape and those who see the six points as representing the six flames of the menorah with the centre space representing the seventh central flame. Still others, the Mekubbalim (Followers of Kabbalah) attribute mystical power to the symbol, however there is no explicit historical or archaeological support for this claim.
So what do we know for certain about the so called “Star of David”?
2. Is there Biblical support for the rabbinical method of Bible interpretation known as PaRDeS?
Firstly, PaRDeS is an acronym that describes the traditional rabbinical method of interpretation. P = P’shat (Surface: Plain meaning), R = Remez (Hint), D = Drash (Inquire: Comparative), S = Sod (Secret: Mystery). All subsequent interpretations are subject to the plain meaning. The word Pardes means Orchard or Garden and is a reference to paradise.
Secondly, there is no explicit Biblical instruction that gives a schematic for Bible interpretation. Those who claim therefore that Christianity’s Greco-Roman Schematic detailing exegesis, hermeneutics etc., is divinely appointed but that the rabbinical schematic of PaRDeS is not, are being intellectually dishonest. It is equally foolish to claim that textual criticism is more trustworthy than the traditional rabbinical method. It is the Torah that critiques us and not the other way around.
So, is there any implicit support for the rabbinical method within the texts of the Bible?
The P’shat or plain meaning is self-explanatory. There is no need to explain to a reader that the book means what it says. Therefore, there is no need to show evidence from the Bible that God intends for us to take it at face value relative to context, figurative, poetic and metaphorical language.
The first mention of the practice of examining the Scriptures in an exegetical way is in the book of Ezra the scribe.
The root “Darash (Drash)” is used specifically in relation to the Torah and therefore describes a practice of interpretation and an intention to walk according to that interpretation and teach it to others. This is the perfect example of what it means to make a Drash, or comparative teaching.
As Jews who follow Yeshua, we should look to Him and His disciples for evidence of the use of rabbinical interpretive method. If He doesn’t teach using the PaRDeS method, then why would we?
Let’s take a look at just a few of the many New Testament examples of PaRDeS found in the book of Matthew.
As stated earlier, every part of Scripture has a plain meaning, therefore P’shat is the basis for the subsequent methods of interpretation.
Matthew 2:15 - "Out of Egypt I called my son." This is a quote from Hosea 11:1 and is being applied to Yeshua by Matthew. If we read it to refer to the p’shat (plain meaning) of Hosea 11:1, we must interpret it to refer to Israel. However, Matthew, the disciple of Yeshua, divinely inspired by God, interprets it as a remez (hint) which is alluding to the Messiah King as God’s Son. This is just one of many examples of Matthew’s use of remez.
Matthew 18:18 - "... Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." This verse taken literally and out of context is often used by Christians to demand that spiritual powers submit to them. However, within the context of Matthew 18:14-18 the p’shat (plain meaning) refers to the practical application of principals concerning those who are sinning within the body of believers. Thus the plain meaning indicates a d'rash (comparative teaching) concerning the binding and loosing of our own actions according to Halakhah the way we walk (Yet another rabbinical teaching that Yeshua and His disciples applied to daily life).
Matthew 26:28 - "Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, Drink from it all of you, This is my blood ..." If the figurative language here were taken literally it would not only violate the Torah commandment against consuming blood, but along with other verses concerning the eating of Yeshua's flesh (John 6:51-56), could be understood as teaching cannibalism. Yeshua explains to His disciples that it is the Spirit that produces the deeper understanding (John 6:63), and that His words are spirit and life. This is evidence of a sod (mystery) that cannot be gleaned from the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text. A concept that is illuminated through spiritual revelation alone and by no other means. This particular sod (Mystery) would be fully revealed following His death and resurrection.
So what can we conclude?
3. Can a Jewish person determine their tribe based on the month of their birth?
Firstly, no human being can determine their ethnicity or blood lineage based on the date of their birth. This idea is in fact an occult concept attached to Astrology.
In order for this to be viable, every member of a certain tribe would have to be born in the same month. My brothers and I are born in March, July and August respectively and yet are all descended from the same tribe of Israel. Likewise our children are all born in different months and yet are descended from the same tribe within Israel.
What can be determined by our birth date is the Torah portion read on the Shabbat closest to our birth. My Torah portion is Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1). As is customary, I chanted this portion at my bar-mitzvah in honour of its relationship to my birth. This method of assigning Torah portions is related to the modern annual Torah cycle, however the Torah cycle of the first century CE was triannual and therefore divided differently and assigned accordingly. Thus there is no connection here to tribal affiliation.
4. I have heard the name Yahashua used, what does it mean?
Firstly, this name and names like it are prolifically used, by ill-informed Messianic Gentile Bible teachers. They are a vain attempt to unite the Holy Name with the Name of Yeshua. However, in doing so they are in fact desecrating both names.
Linguistically speaking the combining of the names YHVH and YeSHuA is equivalent to the combining of the English names JaCoB and JuLia, and concluding that the name for the unified couple must be JauLCoBia.
A number of modern bible teachers and Christian/Messianic/Hebrew Roots leaders claim that the name Yahshua/Yahashuah is the correct pronunciation of the Holy Name and or the name of the Messiah and the Holy Name combined. This name is said to combine the names YHVH and Yeshua/Yehoshua (Jesus). I can only surmise that these individuals have no real understanding of the Hebrew language.
Each of the Hebrew proper nouns in question has an entirely different 3 Character Hebrew root form: YHH verses YSA. They are therefore incompatible linguistically speaking. Add to this that the vav in Yeshua is a vowel marker and the vav in YHVH is a consonant and we are even further from any possibility of a legitimate argument for combining the two names. The Hebrew language does not allow for the contraction of these names, it is linguistically incorrect to join them and it makes a mockery of both names to do so.
In fact, the real root of this teaching regarding the so called divine name Yahashua is not the Holy Spirit but the spirit of occult. It is an attempt by the enemy Ha-Satan to defile the minds and mouths of followers of Messiah.
The blasphemous name, “Yahshuah,” was originally found in the works of Athanasius Kirchner, Johann Baptist Grossschedel (1619), a Jesuit Christian Occultist. It is also found in subsequent esoteric/occult sources from the Renaissance period.
The blasphemous name, “Yahshua,” is the progeny of the more recent Sacred Name movement. The English spelling Yahshua originates at least as early as 1950 from associated teachings dated as early as the 1930’s.
This is a misguided attempt to unify the names Yeshua and YHVH, without due consideration being given to the linguistic nature of this contraction. The irony is that in attempting to show Yeshua as divine by uniting His name with YHVH, they have in fact impugned His nature as the fully G-d and fully man Messiah of Israel.
As I have said previously, Hebrew linguistics do not allow for the combining of the unrelated Hebrew nouns “YeSuA” and “YHVH”, therefore, "Yahshua" is a nonsense. Furthermore, this name is not attested to in antiquity or Scripture, unlike the names “Elohiym”, “YHVH”, "Yehoshua" (Joshua) and Yeshua (Jesus).
The Sacred name cult teaches that the use of the name, “Yahshua,”—which is in fact a nonsense and not a name at all—will aid a person’s salvation. This is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Scripture and makes the use of this blasphemous name a form of witchcraft.
A secret knowledge of a sacred name used as a tool for our salvation can only be motivated by our own efforts to save ourselves, it spits in the face of grace and denies the power of Yeshua’s saving sacrificial death. Worse still, those who use it often consider themselves, “The true Church,” thus denying the salvation of numerous other Christians throughout the world. Any effort we view as being necessary on our part for earning salvation is a deception which teaches works based salvation and therefore contradicts the Gospel of Messiah.
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any human being should boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9
In conclusion I give this warning to those who are using these names and teaching others to do the same:
”You shalt not take the name (Ha-Shem) of the L-rd (יהוה) your G-d in vain; for the L-rd (יהוה)will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.” –Shemot/Exodus 20:7
© Yaakov Brown 2017
The goal of both the beginning and the Torah (Instruction), is the Comforter (Menachim: Messiah), and the Comforter introduces us to a new beginning in HaShem our Merciful King.
When we come to what we consider the “end” of a book of the Bible we are wise to adjust our modern western understanding of the word “end”. We are better to understand Biblical texts as having reached a “goal” rather than being “finished, ended”. The last chapter of Genesis is no different. While it reaches its climax with the death and embalming of both Jacob and Joseph, it retains a strong sense of comfort and hope for the future. Jacob is embalmed and taken to the Promised Land, a promise yet to be fulfilled and in Israel’s case a promise of the resurrection of the dead at the end of days. The brothers of Joseph go up to Eretz (Land) Israel together in a type of trial run for the coming Exodus. Following the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers begin to feel vulnerable and plead for forgiveness yet again. It is now that Joseph the comforter (Menachim: a name for the Messiah) arises. And with grace and prophetic vision he acknowledges the greater plan of the God for Israel.
Gen 50:1 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him.
In Jacob’s final moments the promise God had made to him in Genesis 46:4 was fulfilled:
“I will go down with you into Egypt; and I will also surely bring you up and Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) shall put his hand upon your eyes.”
Gen 50:2 And Yosef commanded his servants the physicians lacha’not to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Yisrael (Overcome in God).
Embalming was an Egyptian custom and was based on idolatrous beliefs. The Torah and subsequent rabbinical halakhah concerning interment do not allow for embalming because it is considered a desecration of the body. Unlike pagan religions, Biblical Hebrew faith sees an intrinsic connection between the body and spirit, considering all parts of human existence to be encompassed by the nefesh (soul). Thus the complete physical body is returned to the earth according to the observation of God, “For you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) and awaits the physical resurrection of the dead at the last day.
It is therefore likely that Joseph oversaw the embalming process and had the idolatrous elements removed from the practise as it was applied to Jacob. His motivation being to keep Jacob’s body from decaying rapidly so that he could avoid having to bury Jacob outside of Hebron, as was the case with Rachel (buried near Bethlehem).
In this context the Hebrew lacha’not is correctly translated as “embalm” (The full meaning of the root “chanat” is: embalm, spicy, make spicy, blossom, ripen). However, Rashbam explains that Menachem compares this text with that of Song of Songs 2:13, where the same root “chanat” is translated “In blossom”, meaning that the fig tree is about to give forth it’s fruit. There is a beautiful metaphysical correlation in this idea. Jacob, while dead to this world, is about to blossom in Gan Eden (Paradise).
With regard to the process of Egyptian embalming Herodotus (A Greek historian from the 5 BCE, writes:
"first with a crooked iron instrument they extracted the brain through the nostrils, which they got out partly by this means, and partly by the infusion of medicines; then with a sharp Ethiopian stone they cut about the flank, and from thence took out all the bowels, which, when they had cleansed, they washed with palm wine (or wine of dates), and after that again with odours, bruised; then they filled the bowels (or hollow place out of which they were taken) with pure myrrh beaten, and with cassia and other odours, frankincense excepted, and sewed them up; after which they seasoned (the corpse) with nitre, hiding (or covering it therewith) seventy days, and more than that they might not season it; the seventy days being ended, they washed the corpse, and wrapped the whole body in bands of fine linen, besmearing it with gum, which gum the Egyptians use generally instead of glue.''
Gen 50:3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those who are ha’chanutiym embalmed: and the Mitzraiym Egyptians (Double distress) mourned for him seventy days.
The forty days refers to the length of time that the body lay immersed in the embalming fluid, a mixture of cedar, myrrh and cinnamon, etc. This was done so that the agents present to preserve the body could soak into it and penetrate it thoroughly. Thus keeping the body from rapid decay.
Various sources site different lengths of time for the Egyptian embalming process. Thus there is symbolic significance to the number 40 in regard to the Hebrew understanding. Forty is a number of completion and beginning. It is the point where any given thing is both reaching a goal and beginning a new journey. It is a number representing fulfilment, transition and renewal.
The 70 full days of mourning are also significant. 70 being a multiple of two of the Hebrew numbers of fullness, fruitfulness and completion, 10 x 7. It is also the number representing the nations (Genesis 10).
In essence the 70 days foreshadow the seven day mourning period recorded in verse 10. Seven days multiplied by intense/full (10) mourning.
Gen 50:4 And when the days of his mourning were past, Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) spoke to the beit house of Pharaoh (Great house), saying, “If now I have found favour in your eyes, speak, I plead with you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying,
Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for Joseph asking Pharaoh’s officials to speak for him is that the Egyptian Pharaoh’s, like the latter Persian rulers (Esther 4:2), would not allow those in mourning to appear before them.
Another possible reason for Joseph’s request may be his need to stay with the family during their time of grief. They had lost not only a father, grandfather and great grandfather, but also a priest and spiritual leader. Moreover, Jacob was the last of the three patriarchs and had left a daunting task in the unification of the tribes. Thus Joseph’s presence as leader of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt may well have kept him from approaching Pharaoh himself.
Additionally, these events took place in Goshen, some distance from the palace of Pharaoh and therefore necessitated a messenger who would follow the chain of command in order to make the request known to Pharaoh.
‘Gen 50:5 My father made me swear, saying, “Hinei Now, I die: in my kever grave which I have carah purchased by trade for myself in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility), there shall you inter me. Now therefore let me e’eleh go up, I plead with you, and inter my father, v’ashuvah and I will return.”’”
The traditional translation, “Grave I dug” while acceptable, does not help the reader understand the burial practises of Israel at this time, nor does it properly connect Jacob to the trade made by his father (Grandfather) Abraham. The body of Jacob would be interred in the cave at Machpelah rather than buried beneath the ground. Thus the more likely translation, and the better representation of the Hebrew “carah” would be, “in my kever grave which I have carah purchased by trade for myself”. Hosea 3:2 translates the root “carah” in the same way. Note that contrary to popular misrepresentation, the Hebrew word for grave is kever and not sheol, which refers to the spiritual holding place that is metaphorically beneath the ground.
It was of course Abraham who purchased the field and cave of Machpelah in Hebron. However, Jacob is right to say that he purchased it because in the Hebraic sense the legal acquisitions of the forebears are passed on to their heirs and considered as if they had been undertaken personally by the living relative.
Additionally we must remember that Joseph is speaking to Pharaoh via an emissary and through Pharaoh’s elders and is therefore attempting to show legal grounds for Jacob’s interment in the cave at Machpelah. Yet again the Torah is setting legal precedent for future generations by showing that God considers Jacob and his progeny to be the deed holders to the field and cave of Machpelah in Hebron.
Joseph’s final words are intended to allay any fears Pharaoh may have of losing Joseph to the land of K’naan.
Gen 50:6 And Pharaoh (Great house) said, “Aleh Go up, and inter your father, according to the oath he made you swear.”
Pharaoh holds oaths to be sacred and respects Jacob’s need to keep his oath.
Gen 50:7 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) vay’alu went up to inter his father: and with him all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders (Old ones) of his house, and all the elders (Old ones) of the land of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress),
Such is the Egyptian respect for Joseph that the elders of Egypt went up with him and his brothers. Pharaoh is not mentioned and rightly so. While the second in command of the land (Joseph) was gone the Pharaoh must remain to maintain secure rule.
Gen 50:8 And all the house of Yosef, and his brothers, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (Draw near). Gen 50:9 Vay’al And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.
The consistent use of the Hebrew root “alah” carries a sense of holiness in its relationship to the regalim, aliyot, going up festivals (Moedim) of Israel (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot).
Jewish tradition says that Esau came out with a large army and met Joseph at the cave of Machpelah, where he attempted to hinder the interment of Jacob. Subsequently Esau is said to have lost his life to Cushim, the son of Dan, who struck him with a club so that he died. Other sources say it was Zepho, the grandson of Esau, with the sons of Esau, that made the disturbance at Machpelah, and that a battle ensued, in which Joseph was the conqueror, and Zepho was taken captive (T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 13.a 1. Targum Jon. in ver. 13. Pirke Eliezer, c. 39. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 1.).
Jewish tradition also gives us an order of the procession of the great company:
“First Joseph, next the servants of Pharaoh, or the princes, then the elders of the court of Pharaoh, then all the elders of the land of Egypt, then the whole house of Joseph, next to them the brethren of Joseph, who were followed by their eldest sons, and after them were the chariots, and last of all the horses.” -R. Bechai apud Hottinger. Smegma, c. 8. p. 381.
Gen 50:10 And they came to the Goren threshing-floor of Atad (Thorn), which is in the region of the Yarden (descender) Jordan, and there they wailed, greatly, heavily and exceedingly: and he made a mourning for his father seven days.
Goren HaAtad literally means “The field or threshing floor of thorns”. According to Jewish tradition it was common practice at the time to make a hedge of thorns round about a threshing-floor (T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 13. 1. & Gloss. in ib. Aruch in voc. גרן fol. 39. 4.).
The Sages say that the name is derived from events that transpired as the interment of Jacob approached. The legend says that the kings of Canaan and the princes of Ishmael amassed to prevent the interment of Jacob, but when they saw Joseph’s crown hanging on Jacob’s coffin, they relented and hung their own crowns on the coffin in tribute to the Patriarch. It is said that there were 36 crowns in total hanging from the coffin and that it looked like a field surrounded by thorns. Thus the name “Goren HaAtad” (Sotah 13a; Rashi)
It’s from this passage that the Talmud derives the sitting of Shiv’ah, an intense seven day period of mourning that follows the interment of a close relative (y. Moed Kat. 3.5).
Ibn Ezra notes this as the seven day mourning period of Shiv’ah which begins after the interment. However, in order to understand the text according to Ibn Ezra’s assertion we must see the phrase, “he made a mourning for his father seven days” as something Joseph was instituting to happen following the actual event of the interment which doesn’t occur until verse 13.
Gen 50:11 And when the inhabitants of the land, the K’naani (Lowland, zealous) saw the mourning in the floor of Atad (Thorn), they said, “This is a heavy mourning to the Mitzrayim Egyptians: upon it therefore they called the name Avel-Mitzraiym (Mourning Egyptians), which is in the region of the Yarden (descender) Jordan.
Or Ha-Torah suggests that the residents of the land were unwittingly prophesying the mourning that would come to Egypt because of her mistreatment of the children of Israel.
Gen 50:12 Thus his sons did unto him (Jacob) according to that which he commanded them: Gen 50:13 For his sons carried him into the land of K’naan (Lowland), and interred him in the cave of the field of Machpelah (Double portion), which Avraham (Father of many peoples) bought with the field for a possession of a kever tomb of Ephron (fawn-like) the Chitti (Terrorist), before Mamre (Strength, fatness, abundance).
According to tradition Jacob had commanded that his sons be arranged around his coffin in the order that they would later surround the Mishkhan (Tent of Meeting) [Numbers 2].
Once again the Torah repeats the information regarding the legal purchase of the field and cave of Machpelah in Hebron.
Gen 50:14 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) returned to Mitzrayim (Double distress) Egypt, he, and his brothers, and ha’oliym all that went up with him to inter his father, after he had interred his father.
Oliym is used in the modern Ivrit vernacular to describe new immigrants to Israel, that is, those who have come up to the land from throughout the world in order to become citizens of the modern state.
Gen 50:15 And when Yosef’s (YHVH: Mercy adds) brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Given the circumstances Yosef will hate us, and will certainly repay us for all the evil which we did to him.”
Joseph had done nothing to show he had even an inclining of hatred toward his brothers. In fact he had cared for and encouraged them ever since their reconciliation to him. The fear of the brothers is to do with their own sense of guilt and their inability to understand the kind of forgiveness that Joseph had imparted. Like so many followers of Yeshua (Jesus) today, the brothers began to trust in condemnation rather than resting in forgiveness. This is why Rav Shaul (Paul) writes “There is no longer condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 8:1).
Gen 50:16 And they sent a messenger to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), saying, “Your father left instructions before he died, saying,
There is no record of Jacob leaving such instructions. This is probably a lie intended to placate Joseph, who the brothers believed was harbouring resentment toward them.
Gen 50:17 ‘Say this to Yosef, “Forgive, I plead with you now, the transgression/rebellion of your brothers, and their sin; for they did evil to you’: and now, we plead with you, forgive the transgression/rebellion of the servants of Eloheiy God of your father. And Yosef wept when they spoke to him.
The brothers name their sin as both an act of rebellion (against God) and a sin of ignorance (against Joseph). They also acknowledge that their actions were ra’ah (evil) that is contrary to the wellbeing of Joseph. Perhaps, like Yeshua, Joseph wept at the inability of his brothers (fellow Jews) to understand the extent of his forgiveness. Joseph clearly loved them deeply.
“There is therefore now no condemnation toward those who are in Messiah Yeshua, who walk not after the flesh (fallen nature), but after the Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh). For the law (the established consequences) of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has made me free from the law (the established consequences) of sin and death.” –Romans 8:1-2
Gen 50:18 And his brothers also went and fell down before his face; and they said, “Hineinu Now, behold, we are your servants.” Gen 50:19 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) said to them, “Fear not: for am I in the place of Elohiym (Judge) God?
Joseph is saying, “I’m not your Judge”. From a position of hindsight Joseph sees the perfect weaving (chashavah) together of God’s plan for Israel and the role both he and his brothers have played in it.
Gen 50:20 But as for you, you thought evil against me; but Elohiym God chashavah wove it into good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, l’hachaiyot to give life to a am rav great people.
While some English translations give the impression that the life given here is given to “many people” (a valid translation), I believe the Hebrew is better read as “A people, great”. Meaning the singular people Israel. This makes more sense in relation to the context.
Gen 50:21 Now therefore you, fear not: I will feed you, and your little ones.” Vay’nacheim And he comforted them, and spoke kindly to them.
Joseph shows yet again why his life and character are such a wonderful type or foreshadowing of the Messiah. Here Joseph, in spite of the fact that he has every right to hold a grudge, acts as a gracious and loving comforter “Menachim” (a name for the Messiah, and in Messiah, a descriptive name for the Ruach Ha-Kodesh [Holy Spirit]).
Gen 50:22 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) dwelt in Mitzrayim (Double distress) Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Yosef lived one hundred and ten years. Gen 50:23 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) saw Ephraim's (Double fruitfulness) children to the third generation: the children also of Machir (sold) the son of M’nasheh (Forget) were brought up upon the knee of Yosef.
The age 110 years appears in Egyptian sources as the ideal lifespan. This is perhaps a sign to the Egyptians of the blessing of HaShem upon Joseph and Israel.
“Brought up on Joseph’s knee” infers adoption (Gen. 30:3; 48:12). Thus in Judges 5:14 Machir appears as a tribe of Israel.
It’s interesting to note that Machir’s sons were contemporaries of Moses (Numbers 26:29) and were among the fourth generation that God had promised to set free from Egypt (Gen. 15:16). They had seen Joseph as children and would live to see Moses and the Exodus.
Gen 50:24 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) said to his brothers, “I die: and Elohiym (Judge) God will pakod yiph’kod will attend, number, appoint, care for and visit you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which He swore to Avraham (Father of many people), to Yitzchaak (He laughs), and to Yaakov (Follower).”
The phrase “pakod yiph’kod” is said to refer to the redeemer whom God will send to Israel to lead them out of Egypt (Mizrachi). Tradition attributes this to Moses, however, it is here referring to God Himself and the same phrasing is used in Exodus 3:16 in reference to God “veilohiym pakod yiph-kod”. In fact, it seems to be directly connected to the Malakh HaShem (Messenger of YHVH), the Angel Who in both Cloud and Fire leads and protects Israel on her journey of escape toward the Promised Land.
“Bring you up” refers to Israel’s Exodus but according to Sechel Tov, it also means that the bones of Joseph’s brothers were literally brought up to the Promised Land along with his own bones.
Gen 50:25 And Yosef required an oath of the children of Yisrael (Overcome in God) saying, “Elohiym (Judge) God pakod yiph’kod will attend, number, appoint, care for and visit you, and you shall ha-alitem carry up my bones from here.
It is in fact none other than Moses himself who carries the bones of Joseph up out of Egypt (Exodus 13:19). It is therefore interesting to note the meaning of the name Moses, “Drawn out”.
Joseph was eventually interred in Shekhem (Joshua 24:32) according to the gifting of that region to him by Jacob (Gen. 48:22). The very city that Jacob had sent Joseph to on an errand to find his brothers all those years before. As is so often the case, HaShem brings His servant in full circle. Why? In order to begin again.
Gen 50:26 So Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) died, being one hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Mitzrayim (Double distress) Egypt.
Of all the Jewish traditions concerning the location of Joseph’s coffin when it was entombed in Egypt, the Babylonian Talmudic assertion that he was interred in the sepulchre of the Egyptian kings, is the most likely [T. Bab. Sotah, ut supra. (c. 1. fol. 13.1.)].
The Stone Chumash puts it well, “The end of the Patriarchal epoch was not a conclusion, but a beginning”.
Joseph dies and is embalmed but is not taken up directly to the Promised Land. Why? Because his physical remains remain a physical symbol of Israel’s coming deliverance from Egypt. Joseph’s body is also left awaiting its journey to the Promised Land and the resurrection at the last day. The goal of the book of beginning (Bereishit [Genesis]) is an everlasting beginning that will swallow up this sin affected world in victory. Thus, like a tantalizing television series, Genesis leaves us with, “Tune in next week when…”
The goal of both the beginning and the Torah (Instruction), is the Comforter (Menachim: Messiah), and the Comforter introduces us to a new beginning in HaShem our Merciful King.
“For Messiah is the goal of the Torah making righteous everyone who believes.” –Romans 10:4
Salvation Himself is the goal of the beginning.
“Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!” (Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!)
© Yaakov Brown 2017
“That which God knows to be a future certainty He reveals to we who are uncertain of the future through repetition.”
The blessings or prophetic words Jacob pronounces over his sons while on his death bed are probably best defined as future character descriptions of the tribes that will bear their names. While the sons are addressed according to their own actions, they are not to be the recipients of the outworking of those actions. The closest parallel to this in the Tanakh (OT) is Deuteronomy 33, where Moses blesses most of the tribes of Israel prior to his death and before Israel enters the Promised Land.
The word play and phrasings of Jacob’s prophetic blessing are difficult to convey in English. Some of the Hebrew is cryptic and rare in places and includes some unusual and ancient divine names.
The sayings are ordered according to the tribal mothers Leah, Zilpah, Bilhah, Rachel. The first four tribes of Leah appear in birth order, as do the sons of Rachel. However, the sons of the Handmaidens, who are previously listed in chronology through the Genesis narrative, are here listed in the alternate order of Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher and Naphtali. In fact each of the twelve sons of Jacob are listed according to the roles they will play in the strengthening of the nation of Israel.
Gen 49:1 And Yaakov (Follower) called to his sons, and said, “Gather yourselves together, so that I may tell you asher-yik’ra etchem what you will encounter in the latter ha-yamiym days (years).
Yaakov, the follower of HaShem, musters the last of his energy and calls his sons. He asks them to gather together because although he will pronounce prophetic words specific to each of them, he wants the brothers to understand that their futures are intrinsically linked. The suffering of one will be the suffering of another, and the success of one will be the prosperity of another. Israel’s tribes are to be echad (a complex and indivisible unity).
The phrase “asher-yik’ra etchem” translates literally as, “what will call to you”. There is a subtle difference between the root קרה and the root קרא which is used here. The former means “befall”, the latter, “call”. In one sense, the words that Jacob is about to pronounce are the respective callings of each tribe.
The phrase “b’chariyt ha-mayim” speaks of days/years far beyond the brothers’ own lifespans. With the benefit of hindsight we’re able to see that the words of Jacob reach beyond the land of Egypt, and while partially fulfilled in Israel’s future history within the land of Israel, they reach still further, even beyond our own years.
Concerning the phrase “b’chariyt ha-mayim” the orthodox commentator Sforno writes:
“At the end of the period allocated to life on earth as we know it. Yaakov speaks of the arrival of the Messiah which will signify the end of existence of the nations that oppose God and the kingdom of God on earth… Yaakov speaks of the time frame he has in mind as the one when Shiloh will arrive, the one to whom nations will pay homage.”
Sforno understands “Shiloh”, which means “Tranquillity, rest, belonging”, to be a name for the future King Messiah.
Rashi agrees, and explains that “the End Days” refers to the Messianic age. He goes on to say, in accordance with the Midrash, that “Jacob wished to tell his children when Messiah would come”.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, v’shemu and hear, receive, obey, you sons of Yaakov (Follower); v’shemu and hear, receive, and be in obedience to Yisrael (Overcomes in God) your father.
Akeidat Yitzchak asks, “Why does Jacob seem to commence with the blessing twice…?”
We know that a thing is repeated in the Torah in order to show the reader that the matter is firmly established. That which God knows to be a future certainty He reveals to we who are uncertain of the future through repetition. Thus the repetition of Jacob’s call to gather and the use of the names Yaakov and Yisrael are informing us that what is to follow is firmly established.
Specifically, the gathering of Israel is firmly established, both at the time of Jacob’s blessing and in the last days. Israel’s ability to hear from God and act in obedience to Him is also firmly established with the repetition of the Hebrew “v’shemu”: which is first used in implicit reference to hearing from God and subsequently used in explicit reference to obeying the words of the patriarch Jacob. The sons of Jacob are sons of a follower: that is, one who was once a follower who wrestled in relationship with HaShem and as a result of yielding to Hashem has now become one who overcomes in God. Thus the sons will also become those who overcome in God through Mashiyach (Messiah). Therefore, they are being called as obedient followers and as victorious overcomers in God’s redemptive plan for Israel and for humanity.
Jacob’s words are prophetic blessing. But he is not a fortune teller. Prophecy has more to do with relationship than it does with power, and it has nothing to do with men manipulating spiritual forces. God has not imbued Jacob with some metaphysical gift for the purpose of conjuring up futures, to the contrary, Jacob is relaying the observations of God. God, in intimate relationship with Jacob, has shared with Jacob that which has already happened outside of time and space. Jacob is not making predictions, he is making what he knows to be statements of future fact.
Gen 49:3 Reuven (Behold/Now a son), you are my firstborn, my strength, and beginning of my substance, excellent, exalted, and superior, fierce: Gen 49:4 Unstable as water, not to remain; because you aliyat went up, lying on your father's bed; then you cholal’ta defiled, profaned, desecrated: to my bed, you alah went up.
“Reuben, my son, I did not rebuke you all these years so that you should not leave me and stay with my brother Esau” –Sifre Devarim
Jacob begins his words over Reuben by stating that which once belonged to him: 1.) The blessing and portion of the firstborn 2.) The role of priest [Passed from Patriarch to Patriarch, an obligation of the firstborn which was first despised by Esau] 3.) The kingship [Strong, exalted, superior]. Each of these would now be given to the sons Whom God had chosen: The rights of the firstborn would go to Joseph and his sons, the priesthood would go to Levi (because his tribe would not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf), and Judah would become the tribe from whom Israel would receive her kings, and ultimately, the King Messiah.
“But because you sinned my son, the birth right is given to Joseph, the kingship to Judah and the priesthood to Levi” –Targum Yonatan
The idiom “Unstable as water” seems to imply fast-flowing water and or the waters of the body. In other words, Reuben lacked self-control, rushing to sin sexually with Bilhah (Gen. 35:22), his father’s wife.
Though once the firstborn head, the tribe of Reuben has left little mark in Israel’s Biblical history. Moses later calls Reuben “Small and in danger of extinction” (Deut. 33:6), and the song of Deborah the prophetess rebukes Reuben for their indecision (Judges 5:15-16; ref. Gen 42:36-38).
While the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text refers to the act of sexual sin committed by Reuben, the rabbis interpret a remez (hint) alluding to spiritual defilement. This is in part due to the repetition of the Hebrew Aliyah, to ascend which is often used in connection with Israel’s ascent to Jerusalem for the regalim, aliyot festivals (moadim).
“You did defile Him (Holy spirit) Who used to ascend my bed.” –Daat Zkenim
Sforno writes, “Alternatively, Yaakov may have referred to Reuven’s act being a desecration of God’s honour.”
“The sons of Reuven the firstborn of Yisrael—he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his birth right was given to the sons of Yosef son of Yisrael—so he is not reckoned as the firstborn in the genealogical record.” -1 Chronicles 5:1
Gen 49:5 Shimon (Heard) and Levi (Joined) are brothers; instruments of chamas cruelty, injustice: m’ceirotei’hem swords stabbing (habitation).
Having explained why Reuben failed to inherit the birth right Jacob now makes it clear that the sons who would otherwise have been next in line are also unworthy of inheriting positions of leadership in Israel. The Levites would of course become priests and servants of God but they would not have authority over the nation. In fact they depended on the rest of the tribes for their livelihood.
Simeon and Levi are coupled together because they had heard (Shimon) of what had been done to their sister and had joined (Levi) together in violent vengeance rather than awaiting just recompense (Gen. 34). They were also instigators of the sale of Joseph.
The meaning of the Hebrew “mekerah” is debated. However, its literal meaning is “swords, weapons”. Thus it’s likely that the Torah intends to convey the idea of the use of swords and violence as a way of life. Yeshua uses this same idiom when He says, “Those who make the sword their way of life will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This should not be confused with self-defence or just warfare, which the Bible clearly teaches are acceptable expressions of violence.
The Stone Chumash translates the last phrase as, “their weaponry is a stolen craft”.
Rashi explains that violence was a trait they had stolen from Esau because it was he who lived by the sword and not his brother Jacob (Genesis 27:40).
Gen 49:6 Don’t enter into their secret council my nefesh (Soul, life); or into their assembly, to join my honour to them: because in their b’afam flaring nostrils (anger) they killed a man, and in their delight they cut an ox.
Wicked actions are often planned in secret. A righteous man should not associate with men who live a lifestyle of uncontrolled violence.
The last phrase is interpreted literally by Rambam to mean that they slaughtered the cattle of Shekhem. Rashi interprets it figuratively of Joseph (Simeon and Levi being instrumental in harming him), who he likens to a strong ox.
“Do not enter the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil people.” –Proverbs 4:14
Gen 49:7 Cursed be their nostrils (anger), because it was fierce; and their wrath was excessive: I will divide them in Yaakov, and scatter them in Yisrael.
We note that Jacob does not curse his sons, rather he curses their sin.
The curse is against a lifestyle of perpetual and unjust violence. Yaakov cannot abide cruelty, nor does he want Israel to be infected with it.
The division and scattering probably refers to Simeon’s absorption into Judah and Levi’s being redefined as a priestly tribe, without land of its own (Deut. 18:1-2).
Gen 49:8 Yehudah (Praise), you who your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children will bow down before you.
With regard to the kingly tribe of Judah the Midrash says that all his brothers will chose to call themselves Yehudi (Jews) rather than by their own tribal names. One Biblical example of this is the book of Esther, where Mordechai is known as a Yehudi (Jew) even though he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Of course with regard to the modern Jewish people, all the tribes have become known as Jews. This came about after the return from the second exile when all the tribes merged under the remnant of Judah who had remained in the land. Thus all the tribes of Israel call themselves Yehudi (Jews) to this day.
Chiddushei HaRim says that the reason for Judah being honoured was the motivation of Leah when naming him. She had given Judah his name as a way of expressing her gratitude to God for having received more than her share of children (Gen. 29:35).
Gen 49:9 A lion’s cub Yehudah (Praise): from the prey, my son, you are aliyat gone up: he bent down and stretched himself out as a lion, and as a mature lion; who shall rouse him up?
We note that whereas Reuben went up aliyat to sin, Judah will go up aliyat in victory over his enemies.
The phrase concerning Judah’s victory over his prey is interpreted by Tur to refer prophetically to David’s killing of a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34).
Ultimately Judah’s victory refers to the King Messiah Who, having been born of Judah, will defeat ha-Satan and take hold of the keys of mot (death) sheol (holding place of the dead), triumphing in resurrected glory and redeeming Israel and the nations.
Gen 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Yehudah (Praise), nor a lawgiver (Scribe, governor) from between his feet (euphemism for reproduction), until Shiloh (Messiah, rest, tranquillity) comes; and to Him (Shiloh) the yik’hat gathering, cleansing, purging of the peoples.
“The rule of Israel shall not depart from Judah nor will one depart who will challenge Israel to keep God’s Instruction/Law (Such as Moses, the prophets, being literally present) and stay close to her kings, until the Messiah (Shiloh: rest, tranquillity) comes. And to Him (Shiloh, the Messiah), shall be the purging, cleansing, gathering of the peoples.” –Paraphrase by author
“Until the Messiah comes to Whom the kingdom belongs”-Onkelos
The Hebrew “Shiloh” is explained by the Midrash as a composite of Shai (Gift) and Lo (him), a reference to the King Messiah to Whom all nations will bring gifts.
There can be no doubt that this passage is saying that in the future, when the Messiah (Shiloh) will come, Israel’s kings, descended from Judah, will cease to reign. Therefore, the Messiah had to have come in the first century CE. And if there are those among our people who are awaiting Him still, they await His second coming.
Gen 49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: Gen 49:12 His eyes made dull with wine, and his teeth (sharpness) white (pale) from milk.
Shiloh (The Messiah: rest, tranquillity) is the subject of these verses.
The vine of Israel is HaShem. Meaning that it is from HaShem that Israel receives her fruitfulness. Likewise, Shiloh (The Messiah) will tether His humble ministry (ass’s colt) to the vine of HaShem, completely reliant on God and echad (one) with His Father’s purpose.
The eyes are the window to the inner man, they offer insight to the one who views them and they make observations and give vision to the one who possesses them. The eyes of Shiloh will be burdened and made dull with the weight of the sins of humanity.
“He appointed Him sin, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” –2 Corinthians 5:21
Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (16th century) says that the King Messiah rides an ass rather than a horse because it is God Who wages the wars by which He (King Messiah) comes to reign, “And He will become King in peace”.
“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Tziyon (Parched Land)!
Shout, daughter of Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace)!
Now, 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
“Go into the village before you. Right away, you’ll find a donkey tied up and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.” –Yeshua [Matthew 21:2] (TLV)
Wine is a symbol of prosperity and sweetness. And there is certainly some sense of the prosperity and fruitfulness of the vines of Israel, Judah and specifically Shiloh (The Messiah) in the abundance of wine mentioned here. However, the fruit of the vine is also a representation of the life blood. During the Passover Seder we drop that life blood on our plates and in the Yemenite tradition we shout “Blood, blood, blood, I am saved by the blood of the (Pesach) Lamb!”
The juice of the grape is called blood by the Apocryphal writings of Sirach:
"The principal things for the whole use of man's life are water, fire, iron, and salt, flour of wheat, honey, milk, and the blood of the grape, and oil, and clothing.'' –Sirach 39:26
"He stretched out his hand to the cup, and poured of the blood of the grape, he poured out at the foot of the altar a sweet smelling savour unto the most high King of all.'' –Sirach 50:15
When blood remains in the body it is the life of a man, for “the life is in the blood”(Leviticus 17:11). But when that blood is poured out, it is loss of like, death, sacrifice, atonement. In these verses we read that the Messiah will attach His donkey colt to the choice vine of Israel, meaning He will be born of God and of the Jewish people and His life blood is intrinsically linked to both God and the nation of Israel. Yeshua is the vine, we are the branches (John 15:5). He washes His garment in the blood of His own sacrificial death, His eyes made bloodshot (dull) with the cup (wine) of His suffering, for the sake of His people’s spiritual prosperity, His teeth milk white, the white washed colour of the tomb where He would lie, albeit temporarily.
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” –Luke 22:42
“His teeth white from milk” infers strong bones from childhood, and in particular, a pure voice, both seen and heard: the Hebrew chalav (milk, dairy) being figuratively linked to sucking, like the nursing child. However, it’s also possible that this phrase is a metaphor regarding the pallor of a dying man’s skin.
White is also a symbol of purity and holiness. Thus the words of Messiah’s (Shiloh’s) mouth are to be white, without sin, pure, holy, and faultless.
Gen 49:13 Zebulun (Exalted) at the coastline of the sea will dwell; and he shall be a coastal shelter for ships; and his border upon Zidon (Hunting/fishing).
Having established the position of Judah and Israel’s kings, Jacob now gives Zebulun precedence over Issachar, despite the fact that Issachar is the older of the two. It seems that Jacob abandons the birth order for a progression of blessing that addresses the need to provision Israel. Therefore, following the appointing of the kingly tribe (Judah) he now assigns blessing to the hunter (Zebulun), the labourer (Issachar) and so on.
Zebulun’s role as sea fearing merchant would see his territory reach from Yam Kinneret (Galilee) to the Mediterranean and as far north as Zidon near the border of Northern Israel and Lebanon (Joshua 19:10-15).
Gen 49:14 Yissaschar (Wages, recompense: figuratively: labourer) is a strong boned ass, he lies down between two boundaries: Gen 49:15 And he saw that comfort was good, and the land pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became an indentured labourer.
The name Issachar seems to be a play on words “Ish sakhar”, literally “man hired”.
The indentured servant portion of this pronouncement may refer to Issachar’s subjugation under the Canaanites in the northern regions (Judges 1:3), although the text seems to infer that Issachar will willingly serve as a labourer for the sake of Israel.
Gen 49:16 Dan (Judge) shall yadin judge his people, as one of the tribes of Yisrael (Overcomes in God). Gen 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
Jacob having finished blessing the six sons of Leah, now goes on to the oldest son born to Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant. The sons of Rachel are left for last because they are favoured by Jacob above his other sons.
Rabbinical commentary interprets Samson as the judge of Dan who will be like a viper. The use of the serpent metaphor denotes wisdom or cunning rather than opposition to God e.g. “Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
“An adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” is said by both Rashi and Rambam, to be an allegory of Samson’s last act, the destruction of the Philistine temple and the subsequent deaths of 3000 of Israel’s enemies (Judges 16:29).
Gen 49:18 I have waited for Your salvation (Yeshua), O HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
This verse is the only verse in Genesis 49 that uses the Holy Name YHVH. It seems unattached to both the preceding blessing and the blessing that follows. It may be a sort of intermission, where Jacob himself is calling on the Name of the Lord and as he approaches death is acknowledging the mercy and salvation he has received. This phrase is replicated almost word for word in Psalm 119:166.
However, it’s possible that this line is a phrase attributed to Samson (Like the sun). In his last moments, through true repentance (not selfish vengeance), Samson calls on God for Salvation and the strength to overcome the enemies of HaShem and of his people Israel. In a very real sense Samson is redeemed through Yeshua long before Yeshua’s birth into time and space.
Gen 49:19 Gad (Troop), g’dud a troop that will be y’gudenu overcome: but he shall yagid invade and overcome in the end.
The root from which Gad derives his name is used repeatedly in this verse to show that the tribe will journey from armed conflict to armed conflict until the final day when they will overcome in Messiah.
Gad is the oldest son of Zilpah and his tribal allotment was on the east of the Jordan. Gad vowed to support the other tribes in conquering the land of Israel and fought the Canaanites valiantly, not ceasing until the land was overcome, at which time they returned to their own allotment on the east of the Jordan. Thus the tribe of Gad is known for its warrior spirit and loyalty to the people of Israel.
Gen 49:20 From Asher (Happy) comes sh’meinah rich/fat lechem food/bread, and he shall give royal delicacies.
“Asher’s land will be so rich in olive groves that it will flow with oil like a fountain” –Rashi
The plain meaning is that kings of both Israel and foreign lands will desire the delicacies grown in the tribal land of Asher.
Gen 49:21 Naphtali (Wrestling) is a deer let loose: he gives sayings of beauty.
Naphtali is the last of the sons of the maidservants, he is Bilhah’s youngest son.
“A deer let loose” denotes swiftness. Naphtali is said to have been swift in battle during the time of Deborah the judge (Judges 4).
The sayings of beauty attributed to Naphtali are said to be given in praise of God for the swiftly growing vegetation of his territory, and in praise of the Lord for His hand in enabling Naphtali to be swift in battle.
Gen 49:22 Son of fruitfulness Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) a son fruitful upon the ground near an eye/fountain; daughters run over a wall:
It is here that the rabbis fall short, offering only trite analogies and desperate explanations. The plain meaning is full of remez (hints) that reveal a sod (mystery) of great consequence.
The plain meaning likens Joseph to a fruitful vine growing by an eye of the earth, that is a natural well or fountain of mayim chayim (waters living). This links Joseph (a figure for the coming Messiah) to Shiloh (A name for the Messiah), Who tethers His donkey colt to the vine. The living waters strengthen the fruitful vine of HaShem and Mercy adds (Joseph) redemption through blood (garments washed in wine), the offering of the innocent life of Shiloh and gifting the people with tranquillity and rest (Shiloh), a gift to him (Israel).
Gen 49:23 Now embittering him greatly and hating him my ba’alei husband/lord, they shot him with arrows:
Again, the rabbis fall short, arguing over who is more righteous or worthy to be king, Judah or Joseph. They miss the obvious, that the description, while in its plain sense refers to the mistreatment of Joseph, is none the less prophetic of the Messiah (Shiloh), to Whom the previous verse attaches itself.
“Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” –Zechariah 12:10 (cf. John 19:34, 37; Rev. 1:7) [TLV]
Gen 49:24 But his bow dwells in strength, and supple arms, hands made strong from the hand of the Mighty One of Yaakov (Follower); from there the Shepherd, the e’ven Stone of Yisrael (Overcomes in God):
The unusual and prophetic names of God in this passage prompt the question, “If these names have not been prolifically used prior to this, why are they now employed?” God is called 1.) Mighty One of Jacob (Follower) 2.) The Shepherd 3.) The Stone. In fact The Stone can only refer to the stone of the altar of Isaac, the stone of the Temple Mount, of Zion, of the Hill, the foundation stone through which Jewish tradition says all things were created, the stone and foundation of the Temple, of Har-Beit (Mountain House). Again, this is not in reference to Joseph but in reference to the One for Whom Joseph is a pre-figure. That is, Shiloh, the Messiah.
In the plain sense this verse is speaking of the deliverance of Joseph and the subsequent deliverance of Israel. It speaks of the Shepherd of Israel, HaShem and the firm foundation that He has provided for the sons of Jacob through Joseph. At the same time it continues the story of the coming Messiah (Shiloh), Who, after being pierced, will be strengthened again by the hand of God and will become the foundation stone of Israel’s eternal security, shepherding her throughout the ages.
“Therefore thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Elohim (God: Judge):
‘Now, I am laying in Tziyon a stone,
a tested stone,
a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation--
whoever trusts will not flee in haste.” –Isaiah 28:16 (ref. 1 Corinthians 3)
The Hebrew “e’ven” translated “stone” can be seen as a contraction of the words “Av” (Father) and “Ben” (Son). In the plain sense the father is Jacob and the son is Joseph, but in the metaphysical sense the Father is HaShem and the Son is the coming Messiah Shiloh (Yeshua).
Gen 49:25 From El God (Judge) of your father (Jacob), and your helper; and the Shaddai All Sufficient Protector (Almighty), Who will bless you, from the heavens will come blessings, blessings of the deep that lie under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: Gen 49:26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of those who conceived me, to the boundary limit of the hill everlasting: they shall be on the head of Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
Once again the blessing is filled with descriptive names of God: 1.) The Judge 2.) The Helper 3.) All Sufficient Protector, the Almighty 4.) The One Who blesses [In fact, all blessing comes from God].
Once again Zion’s hill is spoken of. In fact it can be no other hill because the hill in question is called “Olam” meaning “eternal, everlasting”.
It is not Jacob who blesses, it is God, the Judge, the Helper, the All Sufficient Protector. He is bringing blessing upon Joseph that alludes to Shiloh, the Messiah. Eternal blessing that could not apply to Joseph alone. A form of blessing which is over Jacob and will prevail as an over those blessings given to his parents. Greater blessing means the greater outworking of the blessings placed upon Abraham and Isaac. Blessing from the heavens, meaning God will come down (Messiah). Blessing from below, meaning that the Messiah will rise from sheol (Holding place of the dead). Blessing from the breast and womb, which refers to disciples feeding at the breast of Messiah, who will be born at Israel’s breast Miriam (Mary: rebellion).
Of the plain meaning we read that Joseph, who was separated from his family temporarily will be crowned with blessing. Of the remez (hint) we read that Shiloh (The Messiah) will be separate from His brothers temporarily (Dead for three days and three nights like Jonah), He will be unique in all Israel, crowned before He descends from God and crowned with blessing and with the k’vod HaShem glory of God (Mercy) when He ascends to be seated at God’s right hand. Speaking of the right hand…
Gen 49:27 Benyamin (Son of my right hand) shall ravage as a wolf: in the morning he will devour the prey, and at night he will divide the spoil.”
It is true that the descendants of Benjamin became known for their fierce wolf like warrior nature, as recorded in the affair of the concubine at Gibeah (Judges 19-20). King Saul of Benjamin was also like a wolf, defeating Moab, Edom and Philistia.
The morning is said to refer to the rise of Saul as Israel’s first human king, and the night is said to refer to the overcoming of Mordechai and Esther (Both of Benjamin) and the dividing of the spoils of their enemies (Israel’s enemies)[Esther 8:7].
Gen 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Yisrael: and this is what their father spoke to them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
“Everyone according to his blessing” again affirms the core doctrine that teaches all blessing comes from God and is the speaking into time of that which God has already seen fulfilled outside of time and space.
Gen 49:29 And he charged them, and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people: inter me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron (Fawn like) the Chiti (Descendant of Chet [terror]), Gen 49:30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah (Double portion), which is before Mamre (Strength, fatness, abundance), in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility), which Avraham (Father of many peoples) purchased along with the field of Ephron the Chiti (terrorist) for a possession of a place for interment. Gen 49:31 There they interred Avraham and Sarah (Princess, queen) his wife; there they interred Yitzchaak (He laughs) and Rivkah (Fetching beauty) his wife; and there I interred Leah (weary). Gen 49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is there was from the children of Chet (Terror).
The Torah affirms yet again the legal purchase of the land surrounding Hebron and the cave therein. Despite the revisionist history of the enemies of Israel, there can be no argument, Hebron was, is and will always be a Jewish holy site.
This is Jacob’s final request. He has already obligated Joseph through an oath, now he also commands Joseph’s brothers. Jacob’s interment at Hebron is not merely a dying man’s selfish demand, to the contrary, Jacob knows that his interment there will become a physical manifestation of the divine promise to bring all Israel into that Promised Land. By instructing all his sons to honour his wish, he is laying a foundation of hope, not only in the physical promises of God relating to the land of Israel, but also in the eternal hope of the resurrection and the Olam haba (World to come).
Gen 49:33 And when Yaakov (Follower) had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and died, and was gathered to his people.
The phrase “He gathered his feet into the bed” concludes Jacob’s last earthly journey, he has entered death well: something he had begun in 48:2. This action is a symbolic representation of the gathering to his people. Just as the feet are drawn from the open air and beneath the covers, so too Jacob will be drawn from this life and beneath the earth into that part of Sheol (Gan Eden) where the righteous dwell.
As I have explained in previous commentary, those who die in Messiah are dead to this temporary world but alive to Messiah in Gan Eden (Paradise). Jacob was gathered to his people. One cannot be gathered to a people who have ceased to exist. Both Judaism and Christianity teach the eternal nature of the human Spirit/Soul. This teaching originates here in the first book of the Torah and not (As so many foolish Christian scholars suggest) post Hellenism.
“But concerning the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moses about the burning bush? How God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He’s not the God of the dead, but of the living. You have gone far astray!” –Yeshua Mark 12:26-27 (TLV)
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.