Our identity in Messiah informs our actions. When our actions contradict our identity they are not cause for changing our identity, rather they are a sign that we have forgotten who we are. The misuse of something does not define it. Our actions do not define us, we define our actions. In Messiah we have become children of God. Our identity is firmly established in eternal blood.
Psalm 51 is perhaps the most commonly known of the Tehillim (Psalms) of repentance is widely used, and forms a blueprint for the order of approach of a truly repentant believer. It is however, therefore, often decontextualised. It’s use as an order of repentance is admirable and should be encouraged, but without disregard for its context.
Certain phrases from Psalm 51 have become popular mantras among believers, and for the most part are employed to godly effect. However, the decontextualization of these phrases has in some cases led to false or at very least misleading theological conclusions. One such phrase “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” has been sorely abused by some Christian theologians who wrongly conclude that this phrase conveys the possibility that one can lose one’s salvation. Something Scripture utterly refutes. God our Deliverer, saves and makes eternally secure all who come to Him through Yeshua the King Messiah.
“27 My sheep hear, listen to, receive My voice (sound), and I know them intimately, and they follow Me; 28 and I give to them life without end, and they will never be destroyed into the unbroken age; and no one will seize them out of My hand. 29 The Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to seize out of the hand of the Father. 30 I and My Father we are one, a complex unity.” - John 10:27-30 (Author’s translation)
Those whom He has made secure He fills with His Spirit as a guarantee of their eternal security (Eph. 1:13-14).
“13 And you also were included in Messiah when you heard the message of truth, the good news of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is deposited as a guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1:13-14 (Author’s translation)
Therefore a contextual Hebraic understanding of this Psalm is much needed in order to clear up the misunderstandings which have resulted from the presumptive interpretation of certain mainstream Christian theologians.
Tehillim (Psalms) 51: Author’s Translation
(1) For the preeminent director. A Psalm, melody of David, (2) when came Natan the prophet to him, after he had gone in to Bat-sheva. 1 (3) Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, Elohim Judge, according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness; According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of Your womb (compassion); wipe out, obliterate, exterminate my rebellion (transgression). 2 (4) Wash (by treading) me numerous times (thoroughly) from my perversity (depravity), and from my habitual sinful condition (missing the mark) cleanse, purify me. 3 (5) For my rebellion I acknowledge, and my habitual sin is before me continually. 4 (6) Against You, You only, I have missed the mark, habitually sinned and what is evil in Your sight I have done, so that You are justified when You speak, blameless, pure, translucent when You judge. 5 (7) Behold, in perversity I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me. 6 (8) Behold, truth You desire in the innermost being, and in the secret (close to the chest) place, wisdom You make known to me. 7 (9) Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash (tread) me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 (10) Make me hear, listen, obey joy, and transcendent gladness; may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice. 9 (11) Hide, conceal Your face (gaze) from my habitual sins, missing the mark and all my depraved deeds, wipe out, exterminate, obliterate. 10 (12) A heart, core being, centre of purity create (from scratch) in me, Elohim, Judge, and renew a right, willing, free, steadfast spirit within me. 11 (13) Not, Never (won’t) cast me away from Your face (a position of intimacy face to face), and the Spirit of Your holiness not, never (won’t) snatch from me. 12 (14) The turning of me is the joy of Your salvation, and a spirit willing, noble and generous uphold in me. 13 (15) I will teach rebels (wrongdoers) Your way, and sinners (those who miss the mark set by Your holiness) toward You will turn. 14 (16) Deliver (snatch away) me from the guilt of bloodshed, Elohiym, Judge, Eloheiy, God, Judge of my salvation; My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found in Your righteousness. 15 (17) Adonay, open my lips, and my mouth will make known Your praise. 16 (18) For You don’t take pleasure in a sacrifice, and the giving of a whole burnt offering You do not take pleasure in. 17 (19) The sacrifices of Elohiym, Judge, are a broken spirit; a heart broken and contrite, Elohiym, Judge, You will not despise. 18 (20) Do good in Your favour to the Tziyon; build the walls of Yerushalayim. 19 (21) Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering; they will ascend, offering upon Your altar, calves.
A Summation of Tehillim (Psalms) 51:
Tehillim (Psalms) 51 Line Upon Line
(1) (Lamnatzeiach) For the preeminent director. (Mizmor) A Psalm, melody (ledavid) of David [beloved], (2) when came (Natan) Nathan [giver] (Hanaviy) the prophet to him, after he had (ba el) gone in to (Bat-sheva) Bathsheba (daughter of seven, blessing, covenant).
(1) For the preeminent director. A Psalm, melody of David, (2) when came Natan the prophet to him, after he had gone in to Bat-sheva.
It's unfortunate that the Christian tradition of numbering of the Psalms and the positioning of the introductory phrases prior to the main text (making them preamble, or a sort of supplementary title as is the case in many English translations) often detracts from the importance of the introduction.
The introductory phrasing of the Psalms has a unique role as part of the whole and is deserving of its own numbering. While the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, the writers and their stories also inform the text and give it context. We should not brush over the introductory verses.
The Jewish publications of English translations rightly number the introductory verses, giving them position within the Psalm’s whole and thus emphasising their unique role and importance. Therefore, I’ve added the Jewish numbering in brackets, knowing that the majority of our community are English speakers who are more familiar with the Gentile Christian system of numbering.
“For the preeminent director” That is, the director over the priests assigned to the music worship service. This intimate Psalm of desperate repentance concerning David’s private sin was intended for use in public worship as both an individual and corporate cry of penitence.
In repentance David exposes his sin and the grief he feels over his sinful state before the entire nation of Israel. A person of noble character is not only proved in right action but also in the way he repents of wrong action. For the disciple of Messiah there is no such thing as secret sin.
Our identity in Messiah informs our actions. When our actions contradict our identity they are not cause for changing our identity, rather they are a sign that we have forgotten who we are. The misuse of something does not define it. Our actions do not define us, we define our actions. In Messiah we have become children of God. Our identity is firmly established in eternal blood.
“A Psalm, melody of David” This Psalm was composed by David.
“when came Nathan the prophet to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” David composed this Psalm following the rebuke of God through Nathan the prophet concerning David’s adulterous act in going in to (having illicit sexual intercourse with) Bathsheba and his subsequent role in the murder of Uriyah [My light is YAH] Bathsheba’s husband, in an attempt to cover up his initial sexual sin (2 Samuel 12:1-25).
We note that by his adulterous and murderous actions David sinned against God (v.4 ), the nation of Israel over whom he ruled as king (v.18 ), his own soul (1 Cor. 6:18-20), Bat-sheva (daughter of blessing), and therefore, against the blessing of God over his life, and against Uri-yah (my light is YAH), and therefore, David blinded himself to God’s light. Thus, for some time following the act of adultery, David was numb to the conviction of God’s Spirit. As evidenced in his need to receive the rebuke for his sin directly from Nathan the prophet, who spoke by the Holy Spirit.
The composing of this Psalm is likely to have taken place while David besought the LORD regarding the life of the child that had been seeded by his adultery. A child that remains nameless in the text but is nonetheless a child of the daughter of blessing [Bat-sheva] (2 Samuel 12:16).
1 (3) (Choneiniy) Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, (Elohim) God, Judge, (kechasdekha) according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness; (kerov) According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of (rachameykha) Your womb, compassion, (mecheih) wipe [blot] out, obliterate, exterminate (fesha’ay) my rebellion, transgression.
1 (3) Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, Elohim Judge, according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness; According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of Your womb (compassion); wipe out, obliterate, exterminate my rebellion (transgression).
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning*):
*Hebrew poetry uses repetition rather than rhyme. Synonyms are used to emphasize key points.
“Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, (Elohim) God, Judge” David, being convicted of sin does not run from God but toward Him. David is familiar with God’s character and appeals to His grace and favour. It’s important to note that David does not call on God using the Holy unpronounceable Name YHVH, which denotes mercy, rather he calls on God as Elohim the Judge of all. This is because David has become aware of the injustice of his actions and the rightful punishment he deserves in accordance with the moral standard set by God’s holiness. When on trial a repentant criminal asks the Judge (Elohim) for Mercy (YHVH).
The repetition of Elohim (x5) in this Psalm points to the just nature of the Creator and inspires the necessary awe that must accompany repentance. The proper noun YHVH is not used even once in the entirety of this Psalm, while Adonay, the generic title meaning Lord, or Master, is used only once.
“according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness” Knowing that God is faithful, good, and kind, David does not appeal only to the common grace of God which allows “the rain to fall upon the wicked and righteous alike”, he also appeals to the saving grace of God for the eternal forgiveness of sin. This is evidenced in the specificity of the confession of David (it is also pointed to by the introduction which places the context firmly in the aftermath of a particularly heinous sin act).
“According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of Your womb, compassion,” In Hebrew this line is powerful. It’s a tragedy that English translations fail to convey it. The Hebrew “racham”, womb, is used metaphorically to denote mercy. Thus, both God’s womb (figuratively) and the mercy that it conveys, are the intended meaning.
The use of the word “racham”, womb, is of great importance because in relationship to God it is the counterpoint to the womb of the human mother which exists in a sin affected world (v.5).
“wipe [blot] out, obliterate, exterminate my rebellion, transgression.” By the Spirit of God David shows that he has come to understand that all sin is the result of the idolatrous root “pasha”, rebellion. Further, David does not only request “kaparah” covering alone, but seeks “machah”, a complete and everlasting blotting out of his rebellion.
Rebellion here is seen as the foundation for “chata”, missing the mark set by God’s holiness. Therefore, David is seeking salvation from his sin nature (a tendency toward the yetzer hara [evil inclination]), and not just forgiveness of the specific sin of adultery and the related sins that followed.
2 (4) (Herev kabeseiniy) Wash [by treading] me numerous times [thoroughly] (mei’avoniy) from my perversity, depravity (umechatatiy) and from my habitual sinful condition [missing the mark] (tahareniy) cleanse, purify me. 3 (5) For (fesha’ay) my rebellion (aniy eida) I acknowledge, (vechatatiy) and my habitual sin (negdiy tamiyd) is before me continually.
2 (4) Wash (by treading) me numerous times (thoroughly) from my perversity (depravity), and from my habitual sinful condition (missing the mark) cleanse, purify me. 3 (5) For my rebellion I acknowledge, and my habitual sin is before me continually.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Wash [by treading] me numerous times [thoroughly] from my perversity, depravity and from my habitual sinful condition [missing the mark] cleanse, purify me.” “Wash me” acknowledges that David cannot wash himself clean of his sin. “Treading” means that the process of cleansing is violent and “Numerous times” acknowledges the need for the purification process to be ongoing within time and space.
Three different Hebrew words are used to describe sin in these verses:
a. avon (depravity)
b. chata (habitual sin, missing the mark set by God’s holiness)
c. pasha (rebellion). The former two are fruit of the sin of rebellion which is the progeny of idolatry.
“For my rebellion I acknowledge,” Idolatry is the root of all sin (1 Tim. 6:10) and is manifest in rebellion. This is why in spite of the use of three different Hebrew words for sin within the first few verses, “pasha” meaning rebellion is mentioned as the primary cause and the root that must be acknowledged in order for it to be rooted out. Rebellion informs the habitual sin nature “yetzer hara”.
“and my habitual sin is before me continually.” Those whose hearts are soft toward God cannot continue to function in peace while carrying the weight of unrepented sin. The Spirit of God plagues the mind and heart of the believer unto repentance and freedom. The grief of the Holy Spirit purposes sanctification in the believer.
David is seeking freedom from what he knows to be fallen human nature, a tendency toward evil in spite of God’s goodness. He realises that as much as he loves God and desires right relationship in Him, he is unable to achieve reconciliation with God in his own strength.
4 (6) (Lecha) Against You, (levadecha) You only, (chatatiy) I have missed the mark, habitually sinned (vehara) and what is evil (be’eiyneycha) in Your sight (asiytiy) I have done, so that (titzdak) You are justified (bedavrecha) when You speak, (tizkeh) blameless, pure, translucent (ve’shafetecha) when You judge.
4 (6) Against You, You only, I have missed the mark, habitually sinned and what is evil in Your sight I have done, so that You are justified when You speak, blameless, pure, translucent when You judge.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Against You, You only, I have missed the mark, habitually sinned” In God all things exist and have their being, therefore, all sin is ultimately against God alone. This does not negate David’s obligation to make restitution to the specific human beings affected by his sin, and to the nation he rules over, rather it addresses sin at its root as a systemic problem within fallen creation.
“and what is evil in Your sight I have done,” In the same way that all sin is ultimately sin against God, all sin is seen by God. There is nowhere to hide from God’s just judgement.
“You are justified when You speak, blameless, pure, translucent when You judge.” God’s nature qualifies Him as Judge over His creation. His judgement is pure, blameless, so much so that in terms of comparison to the seen created things it is described as being translucent, so pure as to be clear, see through, undefiled (Rom. 3:4; 3:25).
5 (7) (Hein) Behold, (beavon) in perversity (cholaltiy) I was brought forth, (uvecheitiy) and in sin (imiy) my mother (yachematniy) conceived me. 6 (8) (Hein) Behold, (emet) truth (chafatzta) You desire (vatuchot) in the innermost being, (uvesatum) and in the secret [close to the chest] place, (chochmah) wisdom (todiyeniy) You make known to me.
5 (7) Behold, in perversity I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me. 6 (8) Behold, truth You desire in the innermost being, and in the secret (close to the chest) place, wisdom You make known to me.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Behold, in perversity I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me.” We note that both this verse and the following verse begin with the Hebrew “Hein”, pay attention, now, listen up!
None of the many and varied attempts to impugn the character of David’s parents hold up to critique, nor do any of the suppositions regarding practical reasons for any perceived prenatal sin of David.
David was born of legitimately married parents and in accordance with pure sexual conduct. We note that elsewhere David acknowledges “I sinned” (4 ), but here he speaks of being conceived and brought forth from the womb in a general environment of depravity (avon) and habitual sin (chata).
Therefore, this verse speaks of the sin affected creation, the world in which David was conceived and birthed. It is an acknowledgement that not only has “sin entered the world… and death through it” (Rom. 5:12) but also that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”(Rom. 3:23).
In short, David was not conceived in a sinful sex act, nor did his pre-conscious inception sin, but he was conceived and born into a sin affected world. Thus, “in perversity (a society prone to sin) I was brought forth, and in sin (a world where the habitual missing of the mark set by God’s holiness is the norm) my mother conceived me.”
“Behold, truth You desire in the innermost being, and in the secret [close to the chest] place, wisdom You make known to me.” Where the former verse says “Behold, all have sinned”, this verse says “Behold, God desires to reconcile all to himself”, making Himself known through the redeeming work of His son our King Messiah Yeshua. “The secret place close to the chest” denotes divine intimacy.
7 (9) (Techate’einiy) Purge me (ve’eizot) with hyssop, (ve’ethar) and I will be clean; (techabeseiniy) wash [tread] me, (umisheleg albiyn) and I will be whiter than snow. 8 (10) (Tashmiyeiniy) Make me hear, listen, obey (sason) joy (vesimshah) and transcendent gladness; (tageilenah atzamot dikita) may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice.
7 (9) Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash (tread) me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 (10) Make me hear, listen, obey joy, and transcendent gladness; may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean” Ancient tribes of the Levant are thought to have used Hyssop as a cure for digestive and intestinal problems, infection of the airways, poor circulation, skin problems, and other conditions. While its use in the healing of these conditions is not supported by empirical scientific data, it nonetheless gives context regarding the symbolism being employed by Scripture.
The Torah refers to hyssop three times in relation to cleansing:
In all three instances Messiah Yeshua and His substitutionary atoning blood sacrifice as Lamb of God is prefigured.
Messiah the Pesach Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7):
Exodus 12 details the redemption of life of the first born sons of Israel purchased by the blood of the Pesach lamb, which is painted on the door frames of Israel’s homes using a branch of hyssop. The meaning is clear, the blood of the lamb redeems the lives of Israel’s first born.
Messiah the Reconciler of Community (2 Cor. 5:18):
Leviticus 14 details the process of the ritual cleansing of a leper. The Torah infers that sin as a present entity which causes all disease, suffering and death, and is therefore, ultimately the cause of leprosy, though this does not mean that an individual’s personal sin is necessarily the cause of his leprosy, or any other disease for that matter.
We note that the inclusion of hyssop in these purification rites for leprosy, is just one aspect of the process. In addition to the hyssop, two birds are used, one sacrificed and one set free. After the rites are performed and the leper has shaved and washed, he may enter the camp of Israel but must remain outside his family tent for seven days, at which point a lamb is offered as a trespass offering and its blood placed on the right ear (hearing, understanding), the right thumb (actions, strength) and the big toe of the right foot (balance, direction, the way we walk). This is done as a symbolic gesture showing the desired restoration of the entire soul of the leper who has been cleansed.
The ultimate goal of these rites is to reconcile the leper, who has been an outcast (having been outside the camp of Israel), to the community of Israel and to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) where Israel worships God. Therefore, the goal is to reconcile the leper to God Himself (both symbolically and literally).
Messiah the Resurrection and the Life [Who Separates the Redeemed unto God] (John 11:25):
Numbers 19 details the cleansing rites of the ashes of the Red Heifer and the water of separation and purification. The combined ashes and water are used for the ritual separation and purification of one who has touched a dead body.
Death is the result of sin and the touching of the dead body a reminder of the fruit of all sin. Therefore the sacrificial ashes of the Red Heifer and the water of separation are symbolic of cleansing the living of the touch of death, a living metaphor of resurrection and eternal life.
In summation, David is calling on every cleansing, redemptive and life giving aspect of these three instances of the use of the hyssop and the atoning blood it carries, which is painted upon Israel, as a symbol of atonement (both individual Israelites and Israel as a community).
“wash [tread] me, and I will be whiter than snow” These words of David used in personal repentance and given for use in corporate repentance (v.0 ) are later employed by Isaiah as an admonishment to the people of Israel.
‘“Come now, and let us debate your case,”
Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet,
They shall become as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.”’ -Yishayahu (Isaiah) 1:18 NASB
“Make me hear, listen, obey joy and transcendent gladness” As a result of God’s redemptive work in Messiah Yeshua and through His substitutionary blood, David’s ears are opened to the transcendent joy of God. A joy and practice of gladness in God’s spirit that is applied through obedience through Salvation (Yeshua).
“may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice” In context the plain meaning here is that of transformation of the broken sin affected human soul into the transcendent rejoicing, redeemed person of eternity. God has brought David to a point of brokenness and repentance in order to redeem him and bring him into life everlasting, an outcome of great rejoicing.
“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart: a good report makes the bones healthy.” -Mishlei (Proverbs) 15:30
9 (11) (Hasteir) Hide, conceal (Paneycha) Your face [gaze] (mechata’ay) from my habitual sins, missing the mark (vechol-avontay) and all my depraved deeds (mecheh) wipe [blot] out, exterminate, obliterate. 10 (12) (Leiv tahor) A heart, core being, centre of purity (bera-liy) create [from scratch] in me, (Elohim) God, Judge, (veruach nachon chadeish) and a new, right, willing, free, steadfast spirit (bekirbiy) within me.
9 (11) Hide, conceal Your face (gaze) from my habitual sins, missing the mark and all my depraved deeds, wipe out, exterminate, obliterate. 10 (12) A heart, core being, centre of purity create (from scratch) in me, Elohim, Judge, and renew a right, willing, free, steadfast spirit within me.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Hide, conceal Your face [gaze] from my habitual sins, missing the mark” How is it possible for any deeds to be hidden from the all-knowing, all-seeing God of creation? The answer is in the following clause…
“all my depraved deeds wipe [blot] out, exterminate, obliterate.” God alone has the ability to blot out sin. He created the possibility of sin knowing that love could not exist without freewill. However, In Himself He manifested the obliteration of sin and death before the creation of the worlds. “The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8).
We note that in addition to the metanarrative of redemption, these verses also convey David’s desire for intimate connection with His Creator. David is aptly named “beloved”, a man after God’s own heart. God’s desire being to reconcile humanity to Himself.
“A heart, core being, centre of purity” The Hebrew “Lev”, Heart, is the convergent centre of being rather than the seat of emotion. The seat of emotion in Hebrew thought is the gut or lower abdomen.
It is not pure emotions David is asking for but a state of being that can only be received from God. Purity of the entire being, a purity created by God alone, at its convergent centre of human existence.
“create [from scratch] in me, Elohim, God, Judge,” The Hebrew “bera-liy” from the root “bara” refers to a type of creation that only God can enact. Ex Nihilo (from nothing). In this case it refers to a transforming work that changes the stony heart of sin affected man into the soft heart of an eternally redeemed new creation through Messiah Yeshua the King. David is requesting the saving work of Messiah 1000 years before Yeshua’s birth into time and space.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah that one is a new creation; the old has gone; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:27
“and a new, right, willing, free, steadfast spirit within me.” While the Hebrew can be rendered “renew”, and in one sense the believer is constantly being renewed of spirit, the better and more literal translation is “and a new spirit within me”. Once again David, speaking by the Spirit prophecies the work of Yeshua which will give every believer, past, present and future, unbroken access to the present filling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit being the “new Spirit” that transforms the fallen spirit of the sin affected human being.
11 (13) (Al-tashliycheiy) Not, never (won’t) cast me away (milefaneycha) from Your face (position of intimacy face to face), (veruach kadshecha) and the Spirit of Your holiness (al-tikach) not, never (won’t) snatch from me. 12 (14) (Hashivah) The turning (liy) of me is (seson) the joy (yishecha) of Your salvation, (v’ruach) and a spirit (nediyvah) willing, noble and generous (tismecheniy) uphold in me.
11 (13) Not, Never (won’t) cast me away from Your face (a position of intimacy face to face), and the Spirit of Your holiness not, never (won’t) snatch from me. 12 (14) The turning of me is the joy of Your salvation, and a spirit willing, noble and generous uphold in me.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Not, Never (won’t) cast me away from Your face (position of intimacy face to face), and the Spirit of Your holiness not, never (won’t) snatch from me.” The Hebrew can be translated “Don’t cast me away…” and “don’t take Your Holy Spirit”. However, it is just as accurate to render it “Won’t cast me away” and “won’t take Your Spirit of holiness”. The latter being more consistent with the context and goal of the Psalm.
David is describing what will happen following the transformation of his soul and not as some wrongly interpret, inferring that somehow the salvation established by God’s blood could ever be reversed by human weakness. A curse on that lie!
David is once again affirming prophetically that God our Deliverer, saves and makes eternally secure all who come to Him through Yeshua the King Messiah (John 10:27-30). Those whom He has made secure He fills with His Spirit as a guarantee of their eternal security (Eph. 1:13-14).
“The turning of me is the joy of Your salvation,” This is the literal reading of the Hebrew text and conveys the meaning that the receipt of God’s offer of salvation by a repentant human being is the joy of God’s Salvation (Yeshua). In short, the transcendent joy of salvation is the convergence of the joy of God and the joy of the soul transformed in God through Messiah Yeshua.
“a spirit willing, noble and generous uphold in me.” The continued security of David’s salvation and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit is upheld by God.
God upholds the redeemed. The redeemed do not uphold themselves.
13 (15) (Alamedah) I will teach (foshe’iym) rebels [wrongdoers] (Deracheycha) Your way, (vechataiym) and sinners [those who miss the mark] (eilecha) toward You (yashuvu) will turn. 14 (16) (Hatziyleiniy) Deliver [snatch away] me (midamiym) from the guilt of bloodshed, (Elohiym) God, [Judge] (Eloheiy) God [Judge] (teshuatiy) of my salvation; (teranein leshoniy) My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found (tzidkatecha) in Your righteousness.
13 (15) I will teach rebels (wrongdoers) Your way, and sinners (those who miss the mark set by Your holiness) toward You will turn. 14 (16) Deliver (snatch away) me from the guilt of bloodshed, Elohiym, Judge, Eloheiy, God, Judge of my salvation; My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found in Your righteousness.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“I will teach rebels [wrongdoers] Your way, and sinners [those who miss the mark] toward You will turn.” Because You have saved me, says David, I will share the Good News of how you offer salvation to all those willing to repent. As a result many will turn to God and enter eternal life through the King Messiah Yeshua.
“Deliver [snatch away] me from the guilt of bloodshed, Elohim, God, [Judge] Eloheiy God [Judge] of my salvation;” David acknowledges that his rightful punishment for the murder of Uriyah is death. Therefore, he asks of a repentant heart to be delivered from the temporal death that should be meted out in punishment (something God has already established for him in mercy). David has now also been delivered from eternal death through his acceptance of God’s redemptive work in Messiah (the resurrected and transcendent Messiah unbound by time and space).
David makes his request to Elohim the Judge and God of Yeshua (Salvation), Who is God with us.
“ My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found in Your righteousness.” The mourning of David’s repentant mouth will overcome in God’s redemptive provision and proclaim the joy found in God’s righteousness.
15 (17) (Adonay) Lord, (sefatay tiftach) open my lips, (upiy) and my mouth (yagid) will make known (tehilatecha) Your praise. 16 (18) For (lo-tachpotz) You don’t take pleasure in (zevach) a sacrifice, (ve’eteinah) and the giving (olah) of a whole burnt offering You (lo) do not (tirtzah) take pleasure in.
15 (17) Adonay, open my lips, and my mouth will make known Your praise. 16 (18) For You don’t take pleasure in a sacrifice, and the giving of a whole burnt offering You do not take pleasure in.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Adonay, open my lips, and my mouth will make known Your praise.” The more intimate title “Adonay” is used only here in Psalm 51. It follows David’s confession, genuine repentance, receipt of God’s judgement and mercy, and his commitment to being upheld in God’s Spirit. Having been transformed from a child of humanity (ben adam) into a child of God (ben Elohim) through Messiah, David now uses the intimate title “Lord”.
God accepts and takes pleasure in the praises of a truly repentant mouth.
“For You don’t take pleasure in a sacrifice, and the giving of a whole burnt offering You do not take pleasure in.” This must be understood contextually and weighed against the pleasure that God clearly takes in the sacrifices and offerings of verse 19 (21).
Some time had passed between David’s adulterous act with Bathsheba, his plotting to kill Uriyah, the death of Uriyah and the receipt of the prophet Nathan’s rebuke from God.
In the interim David likely offered sacrifices and whole burnt offerings in accordance with his custom of keeping Torah. However, they were the sacrifices and offerings of a man who was attempting to hide his sin and at one point even plotting to commit greater sin (Uriyah’s murder). Thus, they were the sacrifices and offerings of a hypocrite, sacrifices that God takes no pleasure in, nor do the unrepentant find merit in them.
17 (19) (Zevacheiy) The sacrifices of (Elohiym) God, Judge, (ruach nishbarah) are a broken spirit; (leiv) a heart (nishbar) broken (venidkeh) and contrite (Elohiym) God, Judge, (lo tivzeh) You will not despise. 18 (20) (Heiytiyvah) Do good (virtzoncha) in Your favor (et Tziyon) to the Zion [parched land]; (tivneh) build (chomot) the walls (yerushalayim) of Jerusalem.
17 (19) The sacrifices of Elohiym, Judge, are a broken spirit; a heart broken and contrite, Elohiym, Judge, You will not despise. 18 (20) Do good in Your favour to the Tziyon; build the walls of Yerushalayim.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“The sacrifices of Elohim, God, Judge, are a broken spirit; a heart broken and contrite Elohim, God, Judge, You will not despise.” David returns here to using Elohim (Judge) because in showing the difference between vain sacrifices and true sacrifices David is recalling his heinous sin in offering sacrifices while planning murder.
However, the Merciful (YHVH) Judge (Elohim) has shown David that He accepts the sacrifices of a broken (repentant) spirit, a broken (repentant) and contrite (mournfully grieved) heart (core being). These sacrifices offered by David have been accepted by God, Elohim has not despised them but has instead welcomed David as a son through the blood of His own Son the King Messiah Yeshua.
“Do good in Your favor to the Zion [parched land]; build the walls of Jerusalem.” David, as King over Israel, realises that his sin has not only affected him, Bathsheba, Uriyah, their households and neighbours, but also all of Israel, both in the hearing of it and by way of the practical and spiritual ramifications (repentance does not always negate the practical outcomes of sin in this temporary world). As head of the people David carries authority over the nation. Therefore, by defiling his own head (authority over his body) he has defiled the entire nation.
Thus, David asks God’s favour upon Israel, her land and her people (Tziyon denotes both), and asks that God build walls (both physical and spiritual) of Flooding Peace (Jerusalem). We note that through God’s grace and mercy Tziyon, parched land, receives Yerushalayim, floods of peace.
19 (21) Then (tachpotz) You will delight (zivcheiy-tzedek) in sacrifices of righteousness, (olah) burnt offering (vecholiyl) and whole burnt offering; (Ya’alu al mizbachacha) They will ascend, offering upon Your altar (pariym) calves.
19 (21) Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering; they will ascend, offering upon Your altar, calves.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering” A truly repentant people are able to offer sacrifices prescribed by Torah in righteousness. Sacrifices that will be accepted.
Iben Ezra and Kimkhi suggest that the “olah” sacrifice, burnt offering, refers to the daily sacrifice and the additional ones of various beasts and birds (Lev. 1), while the “choliyl”, whole burnt offering refers specifically to the meat offering of the priests which was to be completely consumed (Lev. 6:22). Therefore, both the people of Israel who in repentance brought their sacrifices to the priests, and the repentant priests who received their portion from the people as representatives of the people, and subsequently offered them before God, are represented here together in a corporate repentant practice of sacrifice and offering before HaShem (YHVH).
“They will ascend, offering upon Your altar calves.” 150 years after this psalm was composed this same imagery is employed by Hosea the prophet 14:2 (750-722 BCE)
“Take with you words, and turn to the YHVH (Mercy): say unto Him, ‘Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the (pariym) calves (sacrifices) of our lips.”
Therefore, Hosea connects the imagery of the Torah prescribed sacrificing of calves to the figurative application used by David in this Psalm, as being “the sacrifices of repentant lips”.
All of this points to the heavenly Mishkan (Tent of meeting) and the transcendent altar of God upon which no earthly animal may be sacrificed. The altar which has been sprinkled with Messiah’s eternal blood for the redemption of all who repent (Hebrews 13), always firstly and continually for the Jewish people and also continually for the nations (Rom. 1:16).
Applying the Principles of the Summation of Tehillim (Psalms) 51:
From the summation of this Psalm we can glean an order of repentance and reconciliation, and employ it in practice for working out our faith in Yeshua with fear, awe and trembling before God, Who has made us immutably secure.
“5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that Elohim the Judge is Light, and in Him there is no darkness. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 Yochanan (John) 1:5-10 (Author’s translation)
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
Sefer Yochanan (Gospel According to John) Chapter 6 Pt.1The Work of God is to Believe in the One Whom He Has Sent (John 6:1-33)
“For near to you all is Ha-Davar (The Word), meod, very much so, in your mouth, and in your inner being, so that you might accomplish, do, act accordingly.” -D’variym (Words) Deuteronomy 30:14
All that follows is pursuant to the rebuke that Yeshua has leveled toward His Judean religious accusers following the making whole of the lame man at the pool of Beit Chasda in Jerusalem on the weekly Shabbat during Purim celebrations.
6:1 After these things Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) went away over (peran[G]) the body of water, lake (thalassa[G], yam[H]) of the Galilee (Galilaias[G], ha-Galiyl[H]) the Tiberias (ho Tiberiados[G]). 2 A large (polus[G], ha-mon[H], rav[H]) crowd of common people (ochlos[G], am[H]) followed Him, because they saw the signs (semeion[G], otot[H]) which He was making, constructing, causing (poieo[G], asah[H]) on those being sick, weak (astheneo[G], ha-choliym[H]).
“These things” are the miraculous healing of the lame man at the pool of Beit Chasda in Jerusalem, and the rebuke that Yeshua had levelled at His religious opponents regarding the legitimacy of His identity, His teaching and His authority regarding the Shabbat.
Therefore, Yeshua and His talmidim (disciples), followed by a large number of common people, had made the journey from Jerusalem to the Galilee region following Purim (see my commentary on John 5). They had arrived in the Galilee region at least three days after the cessation of Purim celebrations and it was now close to the time of Pesach (Passover), which occurs just over a month after Purim. The text says that Yeshua went over the lake, probably to an area several kilometres south-east of Bethsaida (Philip’s home town), across the lake and east of Capernaum, north east of and a greater distance away from Tiberias, which is situated at approximately the half way point on the western shore of the lake of Galilee.
The Gospel writer’s allusion to “The Tiberias” is, contrary to popular opinion, not a concession to non-Jewish readers but rather an allusion to the illegitimate authority of the Emperor Tiberias after whom the location was named, and the subsequent illegitimate authority of Rome in general. To usurp the native name of this area (Rakkat “shore” - Joshua 19:35) is an act of occupation on the part of Rome. The Hebrew Galiyl means “circuit, perpetuity”. HaShem has promised this land to Israel (Ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) [Naphtali] in perpetuity.
“because they saw the signs” This means that those who followed Yeshua had either seen the signs He had previously performed in the Galilee region or had seen Him perform signs at the Regaliym (Going up festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot) or both. The crowd was a crowd of Jews, Israelis (Ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen), seeking the physical redemption of the people of Israel from Roman oppression. We note that the people were following Him “because they saw the signs” and not necessarily because they believed in Him. This is made evident in their request for a further sign in order to prove His identity as the delivering “Prophet” promised by God through Moses (John 6:30; Deut.18:15-19).
“Signs” Not just miracles but “otot” signs plural, of God’s manifest power designed to point Israel to repentance and reconciliation to God. The same Hebrew word is used to describe the signs performed by God in Egypt and through His prophets.
3 Then Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) went up on the mountain (ha-har[H]) , and there He sat down with His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]).
“The mountain” Whichever mountain this is it is a significant land mark of the Galilee. It is not called “a mountain” but “the mountain”. It is very likely one of the peeks on the upper eastern shore of the Galilee just below Bethsaida (Beiyt Tzaida: House of the hunt).
Mountains were places of solitude and introspection, and are connected to the expounding of God’s Word (Moses Exodus 19:3; Elijah 1 Kings 19:11). The sides of hills and mountains are also an ideal location to teach from. Situated on the side of a mountain or high hill, a first century Jewish teacher could speak at a moderate volume and be heard by a large crowd gathered at the foot of the mountain in a natural amphitheatre. This type of scenario can be seen as far back as the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The Galilee was an ideal location for this style of teaching given the mountain ranges on both sides of the lake and the natural amphitheatres that have formed in the terrain nearby.
It was Yeshua’s practice to draw aside with His core group of disciples for a period of solace and teaching prior to public speaking and sign working (Matt.5:1; Luke 9:10 etc). Yeshua shows concern for the whole health and well-being of His talmidim, knowing that public ministry takes its toll mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yeshua leads by example, often going away by Himself to commune with the Father in order to refuel and refocus His energies (Matt.14:23; Luke.6:12 etc). In this also He was not unlike Moses (Exodus 19:3-25).
A great deal can be learned by modern believers from this practice of Yeshua. We are fools to work tirelessly without rest when HaShem has commanded (not suggested) regular rest. God does not need our help but He allows us to participate in His work according to His guidelines. Failure to obey God’s rhythms of rest results in burn out and disillusionment.
Sitting was the preferred position from which the religious teachers of first century and later rabbinical Judaism taught their adherents.
“"The master sits at the head, or in the chief place, and the disciples before him in a circuit, like a crown; so that they all see the master, and hear his words; and the master may not sit upon a seat, and the scholars upon the ground; but either all upon the earth, or upon seats: indeed from the beginning, or formerly, היה הרב יושב "the master used to sit", and the disciples stand; but before the destruction of the second temple, all used to teach their disciples as they were sitting.'' -Maimonides, Hilch. Talmud Torah, c. 4. sect. 2.
4 Now the Passover (Pascha[G], ha-Pesach[H]), the festival (Chag[H]) of the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]), was coming near (lavo[H]).
Note that the observance of Pesach and its intrinsic connection to Yeshua is of utmost importance to the Gospel writer.
Why does the Gospel writer mention this? First, it is because of Yeshua’s intrinsic link to the Passover and His role as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world”. Second, it places the chronology in firm order, Purim having just passed and Pesach (Passover) being the next closest festival. Third, the pursuant event, the sign of the feeding of the five thousand men of Israel is premised by a perceived inability to purchase and provide bread. In the weeks prior to Passover Jewish homes would have been slowly reducing their bread supplies, using up excess yeast and setting aside grain to be used for matzot (unleavened bread). Subsequently only a small amount of bread would have been available at the time of these events, this in addition to the cost of feeding so many. All of this is pretext to the sign which Yeshua was about to perform.
Five Loaves, Two Small Fishes
(Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15)
To set the stage for this miraculous sign (the only miraculous sign that is recorded in all four Gospels) we must look at where it falls in relation to the surrounding text of each account.
Matthew’s version is preceded by the unbelief of Yeshua’s home town synagogue and the description of the beheading of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist, the cousin of Yeshua), then following the sign of the loaves and fishes Peter attempts to walk on water.
Mark’s account is preceded by the unbelief of Yeshua’s home town synagogue and the sending out of the twelve, two by two, after which the beheading of Yochanan (John) is described, then the twelve return; the miracle of the loaves and fishes is followed by the walking on water sign.
Luke’s narrative has the sending out of the twelve, the description of Yochanan’s (John’s) beheading, and the return of the twelve: then the loaves and fishes followed by the “Who do you say I am,” statement of Yeshua and later the transfiguration.
John’s version is unique in that it is preceded by Yeshua attending a feast (Purim) in Jerusalem and being rejected by those who opposed him there, Yeshua explains the Father God’s testimony of Messiah and that Moses will judge the people for their rejection of Him. The writer of the Gospel According to John then alerts the reader to the fact that Passover is at hand. The loaves and fishes event is still followed by the crossing to Capernaum and the walking on water, but is then proceeded by an extensive discussion concerning Moses and the manna from heaven which is to be understood as a metaphor in reference to Messiah Yeshua, “the bread of life.”
While we don’t know the exact time frames associated to the ordering of these events we can still deduce the writers’ intended theological and contextual meanings in relation to their accounts of the sign of the loaves and fishes. All the surrounding events and meanings give insight as to the reason for this important (even pivotal) event in Yeshua’s ministry.
Prior to looking at the specific details of John’s Gospel account I will address the chronological and thematic elements using the main themes from each of the four accounts as a combined whole. This of course presumes that this was a singularly unique event recorded by each of the Gospel writers.
Both Matthew and Mark record a second event that took place in the region of the Decapolis, a predominantly Gentile location. The feeding of the five thousand, the sign of the loaves and fishes took place near the city of Bethsaida (House of the hunt or House of fishing), a predominantly Jewish area, and close to Yeshua’s home in the Galilee region. The fact that the four Jewish writers of the Gospels (I am not alone in seeing Luke as a Jew) all saw fit to include this sign, indicates it’s importance: symbolically, historically, religiously, prophetically, nationally, spiritually and metaphorically.
The united themes of this event read chronologically as follows:
· Yeshua in Jerusalem for a Jewish feast (Purim)
· The testimony of the Father God (on behalf of the Son) Yeshua (a firstborn)
· Yeshua warns that Moses will judge the disbelief of the religious leaders
· Rejection of Yeshua by the people of His home town
· Yeshua sends out the twelve disciples, two by two
· Yeshua grieves over the loss of John the Immerser (Baptist) His cousin (a firstborn)
· The disciples return from their travels throughout Israel’s Jewish towns
· The time of Passover was at hand
· The sign of the loaves and fishes
· The sign of walking on water
· The discussion concerning manna, “the bread of life,” back in Capernaum (Links Yeshua to Moses)
· The transfiguration recorded in Luke’s account (Links Yeshua to Moses)
Overview of the chronology of events:
Yeshua in Jerusalem for a feast (Purim):
A number of scholars suggest that this was the Passover feast of the previous year, meaning that what follows took place at the beginning of the Passover of the following year. However, this is extremely unlikely given the consistent chronology of John’s Gospel and the language used. As I have shown in my commentary on John 4 and 5, the feast in question is almost certainly Purim.
Yeshua was affirmed by the Father’s testimony:
God the Father has testified throughout Scripture concerning His Son Yeshua. He had also poured out the Holy Spirit in a public show of glory over His Son and had testified saying, “this is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” Yeshua need not explain Himself to the people on the basis of the required Torah instruction concerning two or three human witnesses. His witnesses were God the Father and the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the signs He performed. God the Father had given comprehensive testimony to the validity of Yeshua’s ministry, authority and Kingship over Israel and all the earth. Following the sign of the loaves and fishes, Yeshua’s command over the raging waters was proof yet again to His disciples, of God’s testimony of Him.
Yeshua warns that Moses will be Israel’s judge regarding their disbelief in Him:
The centrality of the Jewish reliance on the Torah of Moses is key to understanding the sign of the loaves and fishes. The Jewish people of Yeshua’s time expected a prophet, a miracle worker and a Messiah who presented in accordance to their understanding of the words of Moses as taught to them by their religious leaders. The man they were looking for would perform miracles similar to those of Elijah and Elisha, he would show signs like those of Moses and He would reign in power as the son of David, over Israel and all the nations of the earth according to the prophecies of the Tanakh (OT). Many of these expectations were about to be manifested before their eyes. Therefore Moses would be their judge, for he had written clearly the prophetic words that would prove Yeshua’s rightful position as the one who would be like Moses (Deut.18:15-19).
Rejection of Yeshua in His home town:
His own friends and wider family/community rejected Him because they believed Him to be of common birth, they were jealous of Him. This is not an uncommon response to the prophets of Israel as testified to by the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and so on. Their treatment of Him later became a testimony to His identity.
Yeshua sends out His disciples, two by two:
This was a ministering of the twelve to Israel, hence twelve disciples. Later in Luke’s Gospel narrative (Luke 10:1-17; ) a new Sanhedrin of sorts is sent out to minister to the wider towns and spread the good news to other nationalities, thus seventy, the Hebrew number representing the nations. However the events surrounding the sign of the loaves and fishes pertain specifically to Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) and not to the Decapolis and other surrounding areas.
Two by two may be a correlation with the Ark: used as a metaphor here for the repopulating of the earth with immersed (baptized, a type for the flood) spiritual children. The news of God’s kingdom as taught by Messiah Yeshua was to be made known to the tribes of Israel prior to the sign of the loaves and fishes. When Israel was in slavery in Egypt, word of Moses actions needed time to spread to them prior to their coming out of Egypt into the wilderness.
Yeshua grieves over the loss of John the Immerser (Baptist):
When Yeshua heard of the death of John the Immerser (Baptist) we are told that He retreated to a deserted place by Himself. He was clearly greatly grieved by the death of His cousin and perhaps reminded of His own destiny. He shows us an example of turning to the only one who can truly comfort us in times of great sorrow. The Father is often beheld in deserted places of solitude (Exodus 3; 1 Kings 17:1-5). The disciples must have returned to the vicinity with Him because Mark’s version of events has them retreat with Him after the death of John. It is interesting to note that John’s disciples came and took his body away for burial, while Yeshua’s disciples fled after His death.
Passover is at Hand:
Barley is the first grain harvested in Israel at this time of the year. Leaven/yeast is removed from homes, and food without leaven is eaten. Leaven/yeast symbolizes sin in Judaism. Jews from all over the known world would head up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, which is one of the three Regaliym (Aliyot Moadim—going up festivals/Sabbaths).
The sign of the Loaves and Fishes:
The Passover was near, Jews from the known world were on their way to Jerusalem and had heard of this mysterious prophet of God. Perhaps some detoured to find Him? What is certain is that all had cleaned their homes and traveling gear of yeast (the Biblical symbol of sin) and were preparing their hearts to celebrate deliverance from slavery. They were also hoping for deliverance from Roman rule.
Luke tells us that following the sign the day was drawing to a close, so that it was toward the late afternoon.
Upon seeing the crowd Yeshua says to Philip (the obvious person to ask because he came from the nearby town of Bethsaida—John 1:44), “Where can we buy bread for all these people?” He said this to prove Philip. Does that mean Yeshua wasn’t sure of Philip’s loyalty and so had to test him? No, of course not. When God with us/Yeshua seeks to prove someone it is for that person’s benefit. We could say, “Yeshua sought to make Philip aware of the extent of his own faith in Yeshua/God with us.” Philip’s response sets up the sign, by his reasoning that the request is humanly impossible. Andrew adds to the confusion by saying, “Hey, there’s a young boy here with five (probably unleavened, because Passover is at hand) loaves and a couple of small fish (probably the local sardines), but that’s not going to feed all these people.”
Yeshua doesn’t miss a beat, “Have the people recline (Passover terminology) together in groups.” There was a large grass area there, probably at the base of the hill/mountain where the disciples had been with Yeshua (thus creating a natural amphitheatre for what would come next).
Yeshua took the loaves and said the b’rakha for bread (ha-motzi) and began to distribute them to the crowd. He then did the same with the fish. All accounts indicate that either Yeshua alone or both Yeshua and the disciples were involved in distributing the food directly to the people, this would dispel the foolish conjecture that suggests the people simply brought out their lunches and shared them. Most Jews attending an Aliyah festival like Passover would travel light, expecting to buy food on the way, hence Yeshua’s question to Philip prior to the miracle. In addition, the fact that Yeshua suggested the crowd go and buy food infers that they did not already have food.
This miraculous feeding of such a large group of Jewish men (5,000), plus women and children, a total of approx. 19-28,000 (Matt.14:21); is reminiscent of Moses’ (God’s) feeding of Israel with manna and quail in the desert. Manna being the miraculous bread of heaven and quail being the common bird of that area. Here the manna will be later explained figuratively as referring to Messiah Yeshua Himself. The small fish (probably sardines) is a common catch from the Lake.
Three types of fish were primarily sought by fishermen in antiquity in these waters. Sardines are the most likely candidates for the, “two small fish" that the young man brought to the feeding of the five thousand. Sardines and bread were the staple food and traded product of the locals. The second type of fish, Barbels receive their name from the barbs at the corners of their mouths. The third type is called Musht but is more popularly known today as "St. Peter's Fish." This fish has a long dorsal fin which looks like a comb and can be up to 45cm long and 1.5 kgs. in weight.
The barley bread (eaten predominantly by the poorer classes) brought by the young boy was most likely unleavened, given that Passover was at hand (the leaven is always cleaned from Jewish homes and meals prior to Passover), and that the miracle is followed by a discussion that relates manna (unleavened heavenly bread) to the body of Messiah Yeshua (who is without sin, remembering that in first century Judaism yeast is seen as a symbol of sin).
After the meal Yeshua says, “Gather up the fragments that are left over so that none of them may be lost.” Why is the gathering of the left overs so important to Yeshua? Perhaps the number of baskets is a clue, there are twelve, the number of disciples, but more importantly, the number of the tribes of Israel. It is possible that this was meant as a symbol or metaphor for the reconciliation of Israel to God at the end of time. Shaul/Paul the shaliach (apostle) tells us that when the allotted number of the members of the nations have come to faith, that the entire remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)
The Sign of Walking on Water:
This shows Messiah’s authority over creation (as the second Adam). This sign affirms Him again as the prophesied one. Elisha, in a somewhat lesser sense also exhibited the authority of God over the natural order of creation when he made the axe head float. (2 Kings 6:4-7) Similarities to the great prophets in the ministry of Yeshua were proofs of His authenticity.
The Discussion (back in Capernaum) Concerning Moses, Manna, and the Bread of Life:
The link between the sign of the manna in the desert and the feeding of the five thousand is unmistakable. The “Bread of life,” discourse was intended to be strengthened by the recently performed sign of the loaves and fishes. Yeshua was revealing Himself as the manna from heaven, the bread of life. The crowd asks for a sign, seemingly immune to the obvious sign that has just been performed. Yeshua points them away from Moses and toward the Father God saying, “It was not Moses that gave you the manna, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They respond, “Give us this bread from heaven.” Yeshua answers, “I am the bread of life!”
Yeshua reminds His people that their fathers ate manna and died (the death unto judgment). Yeshua was now offering Himself, the bread of life. Those who eat the life of Messiah will never die. Why did the forefathers die? Through disobedience. Therefore Yeshua is warning that failure to accept His manna will result in eternal death. This He had already pretexted prior to the miracle when He was in Jerusalem warning the people that Moses would be their judge. It was Moses who stood as a mediator regarding the manna in the desert. Now Messiah Yeshua is claiming to be the manifest manna and mediator of God, all wrapped up in one.
It is interesting to note the words of Rabbi Isaac who wrote:
“as the former redeemer caused manna to descend (referring to Moses)… so will the later Redeemer cause manna to descend.” Ecclesiastes Rabbah on Ec. 1:9
The bread of life discourse does not refer to pagan magic practice regarding the consummation of power through blood drinking as some have supposed. Yeshua is talking to Jews who despise their Roman rulers and abhor the pagan Roman worship practices however this discourse is offensive to them, not because of pagan links, but because of its seeming direct contradiction to the Torah. Yeshua, did not act outside of rabbinical practice when he used the metaphor of his flesh and blood as a teaching tool. What is clear is that Yeshua was miss understood, not only by the crowd but also by His own disciples.
Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36):
This event links Yeshua again to both Elijah and Moses, affirming the theme of the narrative surrounding the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This event may well have taken place months later, perhaps even during the feast of Sukkot (booths), given the offer of Peter to build shelters/Sukkot.
5 Therefore Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves), lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large (polus[G], rav[H]) crowd (ochlos[G], am[H]) of common people was coming to Him, said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]) to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread (artos[G], lechem[H]) so that these may eat?”
As stated previously, it is likely that Yeshua asked Philip this question in part because these events were taking place close to Philip’s home town of Bethsaida.
In the natural the question “Where are we to buy bread…” is reasonable given that Passover is approaching and bread supplies are diminished among those traveling to Jerusalem for the Aliyah Festival.
6 This He was saying to prove, raise a banner for, give a directive sign to (peirazo[G], nasot[H]) him (Philip), for He Himself knew (eido[G], yada[H]) what He was about to do (poieo[G], ya’asah[H]).
“Therefore” means, because it was close to Passover and the crowd was large in size. Why is the proximity of Passover important? Because it infers that many of those gathered were pilgrims heading toward Jerusalem for Passover and thus lacking yeast and keeping grain set aside for matzot (unleavened bread). As mentioned earlier Yeshua was not “testing” Philip, Yeshua already knew what the outcome would be, rather He was proving to Philip the nature of his faith and the reality of Yeshua’s identity. Philip would later ask Yeshua to reveal the Father God to him:
“7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? -John 14:7-9 (NASB)
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii (half a year’s wages) worth of bread (artos[G], lechem[H]) is not enough for them, not even for everyone to receive a small piece each.” 8 One (heis[G], echad[H]) of His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]), Andrew, Shimon Kefa (Simon: Hears God Peter’s: Rock) brother (achiy[H]), said to Him, 9 “Behold (hinei[H]) there is a young boy (paidarion[G], na’ar[H]) here who has five barley (krithinos[G]), loaves (artos[G]) and two small fish (opsarion[G]), dagiym[H]) but what are these for so many?”
Barley loaves indicate two things: first, the wheat harvest had not yet come and second, those present were predominantly lower class. The higher class had wheat grain remaining from the previous year’s harvest whereas the lower class lived from yield to yield and ate what was seasonally available.
The five loaves amounted to a loaf for each group of a thousand men.
10 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]), “Have the people (ha-am[H]) recline (anapipto[G], lashevet[H]).” Now there was much grass (chortos[G]) in the place. So the men (aner[G]) reclined (anapipto[G]), numbering about five thousand. 11 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) then took the loaves (artos[G]), and having said the b’rakha[H] blessing [given thanks] (eucharisteo[G]), He distributed to those who were reclining; He did the same with the small fish (opsarion[G], dagiym[H]) as much as they wanted.
Note that Yeshua says a blessing prior to the bread but that no mention is made of a blessing over the fish, this is in keeping with Jewish religious practice. The blessing for the bread is always said prior to eating it whereas the blessing for the meal (including the fish) is said following the meal in accordance with Deut. 8:10. Note further that in John’s account it is Yeshua Who personally distributes the bread and fish to the crowd, continuing to do so until they’d had “as much as they wanted”.
Five thousand Jewish men plus women and children, a total of approx. 19-28,000 (Matt.14:21).
Five loaves, one loaf for every thousand Jewish men. Two small fish,
12 When they were fully satisfied (empiplemi[G]), He said to His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]), “Gather together the leftover broken pieces (klasma[G]) so that nothing will perish, be destroyed, be lost, (apollumi[G]).” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (klasma[G]) from the five barley loaves which were left by those who had eaten.
Notice that all present were Jews (Israelites) and that 12 baskets of broken pieces representing the twelve tribes of Israel were collected after they had eaten by the twelve disciples of Yeshua. This is a figure for the redemption of all ethnic religious Israel at the end of the age, through Yeshua the King Messiah (Romans 11:25-26).
The collection of food remnants was a rabbinical practice, the destruction of food over a certain size being prohibited in Jewish Halakhic law (Talmud Bavliy Shabbat 50b, 147b). The principal being that nothing is to be wasted.
14 Therefore when the people (anthropos[G], ha-anashiym[H]) saw the sign (semeion[G], et-ha-ot[H]) which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet (prophetes[G], ha-navi[H]) who is to come into the world.”
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16 This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ 17 The Lord said to me, ‘they have spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.”
D’varim/Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (NASB)
15 So Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves), perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king (basileus[G], melekh[H]), withdrew again to the mountain (ha-har[H]) by Himself alone.
Yeshua could not allow His people to make Him King or force Him to lead a rebellion against Rome because He had come according to Isaiah 53 to be the suffering servant Who would take away their sin. Yeshua will one day come as the victorious King to rule over Israel and the nations on the throne of David according to the wealth of prophecy from the Tanakh. But this could not happen until He had made a way for the reconciliation of the souls of Israel. Why? Because God’s victorious King Messiah is to reign over Israel for all eternity, something that can only happen if Israel is made right with God and enabled to live forever.
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Judean religious leaders; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world.” -John 18:36
The view of the people was desperate and temporal, whereas Yeshua’s view was redemptive and everlasting. He ached because of the temporal suffering of His people but understood that if He were to submit to their plan, their eternal suffering would far outweigh their temporal suffering.
Yeshua’s withdrawal to the higher elevation of the mountain was common practice for Him. When faced with the plans of men He sought the counsel of God. When faced with the temptations of man He sought the righteousness of God. When faced with the weakness and exhaustion of man He sought the strength and comfort of God. All this as an example to us that we might practice the rhythms of God’s rest in our walk with the Messiah.
16 Now when evening came, His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]) went down to the sea, lake (yam[H]) 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea, lake (yam[H]) to Capernaum (K’far Nachum[H], village of comfort). It had already become dark, and Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) had not yet come to them.
The disciples had respected Yeshua’s need for private space and had trusted that He would return home to Capernaum when He was ready. Thus they headed for Capernaum a number of hours after sunset, knowing that it was a short journey across the lake of not more than 7 kilometres.
18 The sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) became stirred up because a strong (megas[G]) wind (anemos[G], ruach gedolah[H]) was blowing (pneo[G], hayatah[H]).
It is quite possible that the lake was perfectly calm when they set out. To this day lake Galilee experiences rapid shifts in countenance as a result of sudden changes in weather. On one of my many trips there I was seated by a perfectly calm Galilee at midday only to see the water turn into raging surf blown by a storm front a matter of hours later.
It is also worth noting that the Galilee is known for its unique seemly randomly forming whirlpools. These whirlpools have been the cause of many drowning deaths in the Lake over the years.
19 Then, when they had rowed about five or six kilometres, they saw Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) He was walking (peripateo[G], mehaleich[H]) on the sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) and coming near to the boat; and they were afraid, alarmed, in awe (phobeo[G], vayiyrau[H]).
“When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost’(Apparition or spirit is understood here from a Hebrew cultural perspective, it does not refer to the disembodied spirit of a human being—which is the common modern understanding of this English term) And they cried out in fear.” -Matthew 14:26
It is clear from the Matthew account that the disciples were afraid because they had presumed that this was a spirit or apparition, possibly (but not certainly) an omen of doom. They were not afraid because Yeshua was walking on water (at this point they weren’t even sure it was Yeshua). Of course it is natural for human beings to assume that when something defies the laws of the natural world or seems to be humanly impossible, it is an apparition or of supernatural origin. The lesson soon becomes, what is impossible for human beings is possible with God (perhaps even possible in God). The storm had caused them concern, but the appearance of the apparition had left them terrified.
At the five kilometre point they were still at least 2 kilometres away from their destination and it was approximately 4am (Matt.14:25). In the darkness and squall it would have been difficult to see clearly.
Yeshua was certainly aware of the storm much earlier in the night. So why did He wait? Perhaps He was proving the disciples? Not testing them to see if they were faithful, He was already aware of their character, rather He was taking this opportunity to show them that they were faithful. This is possibly one of the reasons for His gentle rebuke to Peter regarding his being small of faith (not saying that Peter’s faith lacked entirely, he had faith, he simply lacked it in greater volume).
God is pictured walking on the waters in Job 9:8 and Psalm 77:19, in the latter He is walking amidst a storm. Yeshua is Immanuel (God with us). Yeshua is revealing Himself here as God with us; firstly by doing what only God is recorded as having done and secondly by simply stating in Matthew’s account (14:27) “Take courage, I AM, don’t be afraid.” This results in the disciples worshipping Him at the conclusion of the episode.
The text states, “He was walking on the lake.” John clearly has no intention of dwelling on what to him was a natural progression: walking on water was just the next sign in the ordinal march toward the revealing of the King Messiah Yeshua.
Yeshua had now feed Israel (5,000 men 28,000 total) in the wilderness, delivered Israel (12 disciples) through the waters…
It was in the morning watch (3am to 6am) that God manifest His power to Israel at the Red Sea. Exodus 14:24
20 But He (Yeshua) said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]) to them, “I Am He (ego eimi[G], Aniy Hu[H]); do not be afraid (al-tiyrau[H]).”
“I Am” is an expression of divinity (Exodus 3:14; John 1:1-3; 6:35; 8:58). Therefore, “Because I Am God with you, you have no need to fear”. The fear of God is an end to all fear.
It is at this point in Matthew’s narrative that Peter asks Yeshua to call him out onto the water to meet Him.
“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’” -Matthew 14:28
Peter has plenty chutzpa (courage and tenacity)! Peter initially takes Yeshua at His word and exhibits great courage. Why does Peter appear to use a subjective question to determine whether this is truly Yeshua who is speaking to him? The answer comes in the question itself, it’s rhetorical, Peter calls Yeshua “Lord,” it’s as if he were saying “Yeshua, if you’re who I know you are, ask me to come out to You.”
“And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Yeshua.” -Matthew 14:29
Yeshua called, “Bo (Come),” and Peter didn’t think twice, you could say he responded to Yeshua immediately.
“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” - Matthew 14:30
Perhaps he said, “Adonai, Hoshanah!” Lord, save me now!
Like Peter we all take our eyes off Yeshua at times, focusing on our present circumstances instead of seeing the eternal nature of our Messiah, who is before us. There is no shame here, just an opportunity for a lesson. Faith the size of a mustard seed moves great obstacles. Small faith is the beginning of a journey, it is a stepping stone to great faith, born of Messiah.
“Immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of small faith, why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:31
Peter began to sink and immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him. Yeshua doesn’t wait until we’ve sunk, He sees us begin to sink and immediately He takes hold of us.
While it is true that Yeshua observed small faith in Peter, the emphasis is on the phrase, “why did you doubt?” Yeshua knows why Peter doubted. The question is one that Peter is meant to ask himself. We too need to question our doubt and find the motivation behind it. Faith is born in the heart (core being), doubt is manufactured in the mind. Many modern proponents of healthy mind teaching neglect to remember that the Hebrew Leiv (heart) refers to the core being, where heart, mind and spirit converge. It is to be understood in a similar way to nefesh (soul), which indicates the whole of our parts. So we understand that the soul encompasses the whole and the heart is where the parts of the whole converge. When the Scripture says that “the heart is wicked above all things,” it is also addressing the mind. It is not a case of the mind being superior to the heart, rather the heart and mind are both wicked above all things. Humanity is inclined toward evil, we will not overcome this inclination by controlling our own minds and thus our wicked hearts. We will overcome only when we submit all control to Yeshua. That is, when we realize that He is in control regardless.
21 So they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately, at once (eutheos[G]) the boat was at the land (ho ge[G], la-aretz[H]) at the part of the coastline they were going to.
“When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.”- Matthew 14:32
In the same instant the wind stops and the waters bring the boat instantaneously to its destination. All creation obeys the Master of the universe and is immediately quiet as a testimony to the deity of Yeshua (God with us).
This immediacy is not explainable in natural terms. This is a case of the unbound Kingdom of God seeding freedom in the midst of the sin affected creation. A sinless Adam walks the earth anew, and this Adam will set free that which the former Adam allowed to come under bondage.
“And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son—Ben Elohim!’” -Matthew 14:33
“Even the wind and waves obey Him.” (Matthew 8:27) The witness of this sign is the seed that births a greater faith in the Leiv (heart) of the disciples. If Peter, who had faith enough to begin to walk on water, is said to have “Small faith,” then the faith of those who wouldn’t even get out of the boat was smaller still. Now, having identified the Messiah as King of creation, their faith grew and they worshipped Him.
May the storms and failures of our own journey with God produce such great growth spurts as we witness the present acts of God in our lives and the lives of those around us.
22 The next day the crowd of common people (ochlos[G], am[H]) that stood on the other side of the sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) had not boarded with His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]) into the boat, but that His disciples had left alone.
This is the crowd that had witnessed the sign of the loaves and fishes and had camped the night in the region below Bethsaida. The record of their observation is testimony to the fact that Yeshua could not have crossed the Lake by natural means.
23 Other small boats (ploiarion[G]) came from Tiberias close to the place where they had eaten the bread (ho artos[G], ha lechem[H]) after the Lord, Master (ho Kurios[G], ha Adon[H]) had made the b’rakha[H] blessing (given thanks). 24 So when the crowd of common people (ho ochlos[G], ha am[H]) saw that Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) was not there, nor His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]), they themselves got into the small boats (ploiarion[G]), and came to Capernaum (K’far Nachum[H], village of comfort) seeking Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves).
Tiberias is approximately 10 km south-west of the location of the loaves and fishes sign. More people had come from Tiberias following the news of the sign and were seeking out Yeshua.
The Gospel writer explains that “the Lord” was not there. The use of the term Adon is more than a colloquial allusion to masterly status, the Gospel writer is saying that these signs are evidence of Yeshua’s divine nature.
Once the existing crowd and the newcomers determined that Yeshua had probably gone to His home town by some other way, they all took their boats to Capernaum seeking Him out.
It’s important to remember that many of these were pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for Pesach (Likewise, as was His custom, Yeshua too would have attended Pesach in Jerusalem following these events). These pilgrims were sufficiently awed by Yeshua’s sign so as to delay their journey to Jerusalem in order to find out more about Him.
We note once more that they were seeking Salvation (Yeshua) in the village of comfort (K’far Nachum).
25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) they said to Him, “Rabbi (lit. My Great One; Religious Teacher), when did You get here?” 26 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) answered them and said, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say (Aniy omeir[H]) to you all (lachem[H] PL), you seek Me, not because you saw the signs (semeion[G], ha otot[H]), but because you ate of the loaves (ho artos[G], ha lechem[H]) and were satisfied, filled (chortazo[G]).
The crowd found Yeshua in Capernaum (John 6:59). Calling Him “Rabbi” showed some degree of respect on the part of the crowd. The crowd ask “when” not “how”, the knowledge of “how” is at this time kept by the disciples.
Yeshua does not even bother to answer their question. As is His custom He gets to the heart of the matter, that being their lack of faith and their misinterpretation of the events unfolding.
Note that Yeshua refers to “signs” plural. Those seeking Him have witnessed numerous signs in addition to the most recent one.
Yeshua now makes a statement that is firmly established by the double “Amen”. He is essentially saying, “You’re interested in me for carnal (physical) earth born reasons, the satiating of physical hunger etc. You have misunderstood the signs that God has given through Me to point to His redemptive purpose and present coming Kingdom, and instead of seeking God you are seeking to fill the desires of your flesh (fallen humanity).”
27 Do not work for the food (ho brosis[G], achal[H], makultha[A]) which perishes, is destroyed, dies (apollumi[G]), but for the food (ho brosis[G], achal[H], makultha[A]) which endures, remains, abides (meno[G]) to life unending (zoe aionios[G], le’chayeiy olam[H]), which the Son of the Man (ho huios ho anthropos[G], ben ha-adam[H]) will give to you, for on/in Him the Father (ho Pater[G], ha Av[H]), the God (ho Theos[G], ha-Elohiym[H]), has set His seal (sphragizo[G]).”
This is pretext for the discussion regarding Moses and the Manna from the heavens.
It is likely that the Aramaic text uses the word “makultha” meaning food or nourishment, as a wordplay linking the Aramaic word for kingdom “malkutha” to the message of the text. In other words, as a drash (comparative teaching) we could read, “Do not work for the kingdom which perishes (olam hazeh: this present world), but for the Kingdom that endures forever (Olam haba: World to come)…”
The Hebrew “chotam” meaning seal, sign, endorse is consistent with the Greek “sphragizo” used in the past tense to mean “has sealed, set a seal upon, made a private signet mark, preserved etc”. A seal is set to keep something hidden until those it has been sent to are ready to receive it and open it. Therefore, Yeshua is the message and God’s Kingly seal is upon Him so that He alone can open Himself and give the salvation He carries to His people.
It is as if the people are beholding the sealed scroll but are unable to open it because in order to open it one must first be seeking God and His Kingdom rather than the fallen kingdom of humanity. In fact, Yeshua is the only One worthy to open the seal that God has placed upon Him (Rev. 5:1-6:2).
28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, make (poieo[G], ba’aseh[H]), so that we may be working, trading in, performing (ergazomai[G], lif’ol[H]) the works, tasks, deeds (ergon[G], p’ulot[H]) of the God (ho Theos[G], ha Elohiym[H])?” 29 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) answered and said to them, “This is the work, task, deed (ergon[G]), p’ulat[H]) of the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), that you continue to believe, trust, have faith (pisteuo[G], ta’amiynu[H]) in Him whom He has sent (apostello[G], shelachu[H]).”
“Therefore” Because Yeshua had offered eternal life above and beyond the miraculous sign they had witnessed of Him. And, because they had some sense of Yeshua’s authority based on His signs and words.
“What shall we do, make, so that we may be working, trading in, performing the works, tasks, deeds of the God?” The question shows that they have not understood Yeshua at all. Yeshua is offering redemption, relationship, eternal life, the strength of God at work in them, a gift to be received, but the people are looking for something they can build, accomplish, achieve in their own strength in order to make them right with God. Their focus is on “doing” rather than “being”. They say, “What shall we do, so that we can accomplish the works of God” and Yeshua completely reverses their question and defeats their paradigm with a very simple and eternally profound instruction:
“The works of God are this, that you continue to believe in Him Whom He has sent”. In short, “Be in Me, don’t do for Me. Your doing must come from Me.” Objects are for use, persons are for relationship. Many fall from the faith because they do not understand this simple truth. Many more retain faith but become burned out and unfruitful because they don’t understand this simple truth.
Yeshua is pointing His hearers back to the Torah and the Word (ha-Davar: John 1:1) of God spoken to their forebears through Moses:
“For near to you all is Ha-Davar (The Word), meod, very much so, in your mouth, and in your inner being, so that you might accomplish, do, act accordingly.” -D’variym (Words) Deuteronomy 30:14
Notice that The Word is offered to the inner person and that it is from the strength of The Word in each one that each one works, accomplishes, acts. Yeshua is Ha-Davar, the Word, Essence, Substance of God, with us.
It is interesting to note that by summing up the 613 commandments of the Torah with this one phrase “the just shall live by his faith” (Hab.2:4), the Talmud agrees with Yeshua’s assertion that to have faith is the work of God (Talmud Bavliy Makkot, fol. 23. 2. & 24. 1.).
30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do (poieo[G], ta’aseh[H]) for the sign (semeion[G], ha ot[H]), so that we may see, and believe (pisteuo[G], na’amiyn[H]) You? What work (tif’al[H], ergazomai[G]) do You perform? 31 Our fathers (ho pater[G], avoteiynu[H]), ate (achlu[H]) the manna (What is it? ha-man[H]) in the wilderness (bamidbar[H]); as it is written (kakatuv[H]), ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat (lechem min-hashamayim natan-lamo le’echol).’”
Almost as if they had not listened at all they demand that Yeshua “do” something to prove His identity. In spite of the fact that they have already witnessed Him perform many signs. The signs being directive and for their benefit. Yeshua need not prove His identity, to the contrary, it is they who need to consider their own identity and return to God.
As proof of their corporate tribal pride the people site the sign of the manna given to their forbears by the hand of Moses. As if to say, “Moses provided bread for hundreds of thousands, You provided bread for only five thousand men (28,000 people).
‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’ Exodus 16:4, 15; Num. 11:8; Psalm 78:24; 105:40 etc.
However, Yeshua disagrees with their exegesis. Ultimately, God is the “He” of the text.
32 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) then said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]) to them, ““Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say (Aniy omeir[H]) to you all (lachem[H] PL), it is not Moshe[H] (Moses, Drawn out) who has given (notein[H]) you the bread (ho artos[G], ha-lechem[H]), out of the heavens (ouranos[G], ha-shamayim[H]), but it is My Father (ho Pater ego[G], Aviy[H]), Who gives you the bread (ho artos[G], ha-lechem[H]) out of the heavens (ouranos[G], ha-shamayim[H]) that is true (alethinos[G], ha’amitiy[H]).
Once again the double “Amen” denotes established truth. Yeshua explains that Moses was the mediator but that the bread (manna) from the heavens was “From the heavens” from God and not from Moses. Nor did Moses merit it.
Yeshua’s teaching is in direct opposition to the teaching of our rabbis on this subject:
מן בזכות משה, "the manna, by the merits of Moses".'' -Talmud. Bavliy. Taanit, fol. 9. 1. Seder Olam Rabba, p. 28.
33 For the bread (lechem[H]) of God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) is Him (hu[H]) Who comes down (hayoreid[H]) out of the heavens (ouranos[G], ha-shamayim[H]), and gives (notein[H]) living (zoe[G], chayiym[H]) to the world (kosmos[G], laolam[H]).”
Yeshua identifies Himself as the “bread of God” Who has “come down from the heavens” and “gives living to the world”. Not the temporal bread for the physical body, bread that will perish fed to a body that will perish, but the living and everlasting bread of Yeshua’s transcendent resurrected body, His life essence, His nature, His character, the very substance of God. This He offers continually to a spiritually starving Israel and also subsequently to the nations.
The sign Yeshua gives them is the sign of the manna (bread of the heavens), that sign being Himself.
© 2020 Yaakov Brown
Yochanan writes as a common fisherman seeing the world through galaxy stained glasses.
The purpose of this introduction is not to debate the many theories as to authorship, dating, theological intent and historical record or lack thereof, but rather to offer a single collation of the most reasonable answers to these questions relative to spiritual guidance, textual evidence and current scholarship. In addition, I will seek to refute modern scholarship where it has either disregarded the Jewish mind (as in the case of some Modern Christian Scholarship) or has sought to label the text of Yochanan “Anti-Semitic” (as in the case of some Modern Jewish Commentators and a number of liberal Christian scholars).
Compilation of the complete manuscript and scribal transmission aside, the author of this scroll is almost certainly Yochanan (John) the Shaliach (Apostle, sent one) and Talmid (Disciple) of Yeshua (Jesus) the King Messiah. Yochanan was present and instrumental in the development of the early body of Jewish believers in Yeshua, “the disciple whom Yeshua loved” (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20, 24). He was the son of Zebedee (Mark 1:19-10), and is also the most likely choice for authorship of the 1st through 3rd letters of John and the Revelation of Yeshua given to John: making him a significant contributor to the collected works of the Brit HaChadashah (New Testament).
Yochanan (John) is not mentioned by name in this work (Nor in the 1st through 3rd Letters of John, where the author is simply referred to as “The Elder”), which would be natural if he were the author but entirely inexplicable were he not the author. This fact alone refutes all the other theoretical assumptions made to the contrary.
The author had an intimate knowledge of Jewish life, religious custom (7:22), and popular Messianic expectation (1:21; 7:40-42), and obviously had first-hand experience of the uneasy relationship between the Jews (Judeans) and Samaritans of the first century CE (AD) [Chap. 4]. In addition to this the author shows his familiarity with locations in first century Israel (Under Roman occupation), such as Bethany (11:18) and Cana (a village which is not referred to in any earlier historical documentation) [2:1; 21:2]). Specific details in the account of this Gospel are evidence of an eye witness (12:3 etc.), and early writers such as Irenaeus (140-203 AD) and Tertullian (150-222 AD) claim that Yochanan (John) is the author.
The author of the Gospel according to Yochanan (John) clearly sees the writings of the prophets Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel as significant, and seems to place some emphasis on the reunification of the Northern and Southern tribes under God’s chosen King (Ezekiel 37:16; John 10:16). Other themes from Ezekiel include the Good Shepherd delivering Israel from the neglectful shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-31; John 10:11), and the “Son of Man” instructing God’s Spirit to come and resurrect the people of Israel (Ezekiel 37:9-10; John 16:7). The frequent use of transliterated Aramaic and Hebrew terms is evidence of the Hebrew thought patterns and Jewish religious understanding of the author. While the text comes to us in Greek, the lingua franca, common tongue of the business world of the first century, it is none the less written by a Jew (an Israelite) who thinks as a Jew living under the oppression of Roman occupation and not as a Hellenized Jew of compromised alliances (as was the case with the historian Josephus). With this in mind, and although there is no physical evidence to date (no preserved Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts that date earlier than the Greek texts), it is possible that there were earlier manuscripts of Yochanan’s Gospel recorded in Hebrew and Aramaic. Regardless, the Greek text is inspired and trustworthy and does not work against Hebrew thought but rather illuminates it in the same way that the Greek Septuigant illuminates the Hebrew Tanakh. We trust in the infallibility of God with regard to Scripture and its codification and not in the fallibility of men or their subjective debates over the reliability of Scripture. Our text is reliable because God is reliable.
While the traditional view places the dating of this Gospel at the latter part of the first century (after 85 AD), I am inclined to disagree for a number of reasons. Clement of Alexandria who died approx. 216 AD, claimed that John wrote his Gospel to supplement the other Gospels (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6,14.7). It is suggested therefore, that John’s Gospel relied on the manuscripts of the other Gospels and was written at a later date. Some have also argued that the theology of John is more developed than that of the other three Gospels. It seems clear however from a reading of John’s Gospel, that he wrote quite independently from the other Gospel writers, while supplementing their accounts with his own unique eye witness account of the events of Yeshua’s life and ministry. This does not contradict the words of Clement, rather it simply concludes an earlier dating for the writing of John’s Gospel. To say that John’s developed theology is proof of a late writing is ridiculous, given that Paul the Apostle exhibits equally developed theology in his letter to the Roman body of believers, a work that is confidently dated 57 AD. Additionally, John 5:2 states that there “is (present tense) a pool near the sheep gate”, meaning that the Gospel must have been written prior to 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore, I conclude that the Gospel of John must have been written sometime between 50 and 70 CE (AD).
Many and varied original recipients for the Gospel of John have been suggested. Some say it was intended in part as a polemic against Gnosticism and those who put undue emphasis on the ministry of John the Baptist, others say that it was written in order to promote unity between the Jews and the Samaritans, still others that it was intended for a variety of Israelite groups within the Judean region. While some say that it was intended for Greek believers.
It seems probable that John’s Gospel, while intended for all believers (Jews, Samaritans, Greeks etc.) was originally written for John’s own Jewish people both in the land of Israel and throughout the Diaspora. The use of the very specific “Ho Ioudaioi” (Huy ee-u-dayo, the Judeans) as a supplement to the more general use of “Ioudaios” (ee-u-da-yos, Jews), seems to indicate that at least in part, John was seeking to make a distinction between those Jews that followed the teaching and ideology of the first century Religious leaders based in Jerusalem and representing Judea, and the wider body of Jews living under Roman occupation in the land of Israel. Additionally, John emphasizes the fact that Yeshua is an Ioudaios Judean, unlike Matthew, Mark and Luke, who all focus on the fact that Yeshua is a Galilean. We add to this the detailed typography and unique locations mentioned in John’s Gospel, which speak to a group of people well familiar with the land, rather than a wider audience of non-Jewish origin. He also uses numerous Aramaic and Hebrew terms in transliteration, which he explains by way of translation, almost as an afterthought. With these things in mind, much of the contention regarding accusations of anti-Semitism within this Gospel is resolved. After all, when speaking to one’s own people concerning one’s own people, one is obligated to call things as they are and not to hide the flaws which are apparent within the humanity of one’s tribe, culture and religion. Therefore, in the same way that it is wrong for an American of European descent to tell jokes at the expense of an African American, while entirely appropriate for an African American to tell a self-deprecating joke about African American’s, so it is with John’s Gospel, where he both praises his Jewish people and their intrinsic relationship to their own Messiah Yeshua (A Jew), while also rebuking their disbelief. The ancient prophets of Israel were tasked with the very same thing, to draw a line between the believing remnant and the apostate community. In this regard John is no different from any of the prophets of Israel, nor for that matter from Moses himself. Therefore, if John’s Gospel is anti-Semitic, so is the entire Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, OT).
Style, Purpose & Emphasis:
John’s Gospel is quite different from the other Gospels in a number of ways. He does not follow a literal chronology of events but uses a more transcendent Hebraic mode of writing that relies on cosmological ideas and emotive expression. There is something almost poetic about John’s account that makes it read like a divine romance set in a very tactile, physical dimension. He writes like a man seeing the world through galaxy stained glasses. The author seems to favour a connection between the ministry of Yeshua (The Word made flesh) and that of the prophets Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel. This is seen in both the actions of Yeshua and His fulfilling of certain elements of the prophecies of these three prophets of God. It is therefore wise to read John’s account with the prophecies of Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel in mind.
John bridges the perceived gap between spiritual and physical realities in a very Hebraic way. The consciousness of John’s Gospel is held in the tension between time and space and the God of the universe Who lives beyond time and space but in Whom all things exist. John has not bowed to the Greco-Roman need for a point a and point b directed by a beginning and a conclusion, rather he sees the “kingdom” and its opposition “the world (fallen)” as a story of beginning and goal, birth and re-birth, not in an eastern esoteric transient impersonal way but in a redemptive, permanent, perpetuity. In laymen’s terms, he does not promote the idea of multiple lives (reincarnation) but that of one life renewed (the rebirth of the present incarnation). This in fact means that John’s thinking begins and then, begins again in Messiah Yeshua the Son of God, God with us, the Word-Essence that holds the universe together.
Beginning with the divinity of Messiah as the Devar (Word, Essence, Matter, Thing), pre-existing, the author goes on to expound the mystery of the manifest human nature of that same divine essence and the convergence of heavenly power and earthly frailty. John introduces Yeshua as the “Son of God” and emphasizes the signs of Yeshua’s ministry (2:11) along with Yeshua’s professed goal of finishing His Father’s work of redemption (4:34). God’s Own kavod (Glory) is made manifest in the person of Yeshua (10:30; 14:9). The “I AM” statements of Yeshua in the book of John, echo God’s proclamation concerning Himself (Exodus 3:14; John 6:35; 8:12; 8:58; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). At the same time Yeshua is the Servant of God Who acts with absolute humility, coming as the substitutionary Lamb Who takes away the sins of the World.
Many have sought to posit extra-Biblical reasons for the writing of John’s Gospel, but the author himself expresses his motivation succinctly and clearly:
“But these things have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is Mashiach Ben-Elohim, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
-John 20:31 Tree of Life Version (TLV)
NB: My translation of the text seeks to combine the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic versions of John’s Gospel into one cohesive English translation. I have used the Greek text as the primary, the Hebrew as secondary, and have noted the Aramaic only where there is a discernible difference between it and the Hebrew text.
[G] = Greek
[H] = Hebrew
[A] = Aramaic
[TH] = Talmudic Hebrew
[RA] = Pre and Post 1st Century Rabbinical Aramaic
Joh 1:1 In the beginning (En arkhay[G] In the Origin, Be’reishit[H] In the head/front/Leader) was the Word, Essence, Substance, Utterance, Manifestation (Logos[G], Davar[H], Memra[RA], Miltha[A]) and the Word was with the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohim[H]), and God was that Word. Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with the God.
Yochanan firmly anchors his Gospel account in the Torah (Books of Moses) and the wider body of Hebrew Scripture the Tanakh (OT).
Both Genesis (Tanakh) and John (NT) begin (no pun intended) with the phrase “In the Beginning”. This is why the Hebrew title of the book of Genesis is Be’reishit, which is the first word of Genesis, a compound word made up of Ba (In the) and Reishit (From Rosh, meaning head, leader, front).
It is interesting to note that this theme of beginning influenced the Egyptian Coptic order of the New Testament, which places John at the beginning. The Egyptian Coptic New Testament Gospels book order being John, Matthew, Mark, Luke.
With regard to the Hebrew text of both Be’reishit (Genesis) and Yochanan (John), we may read Be’reishit as, “In the Head”, the “Head” of the Universe (All creation) being YHVH, God Himself. Therefore, as in the case of Genesis, John’s Gospel begins in God, the Creator and Head of all things. This is of significance to Messiah followers, who have accepted that Yeshua our King Messiah is the “Head” of the body of believers (Ephesians 5:23).
“In the beginning was the Word” (John. 1:1) is synonymous with “In the beginning… Elohim said (spoken Word)” (Gen. 1:1, 3). Thus, John establishes the uncreated, pre-existent nature of the Word. The Word being the manifest essence of God Himself, anthropomorphically issuing from God’s mouth.
The Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 reads:
“Be’reishit In the beginning (head) bara creating (from nothing), Elohim God (Judge) et (Aleph-Tav, the Alphabet, that which forms all words), ha-shamayim the heavens v’et (and Aleph-Tav) ha-aretz the earth (land).”
“I am the Aleph and the Tav, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the goal… I, Yeshua, have sent my messenger to give you this testimony for the believing communities. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:13, 16 (Author’s translation)
Therefore, the remez (hint) found in the “et” (Aleph-Tav) of Genesis 1:1, is a further illumination of the words of Yochanan (John) 1:1.
The alternative Orthodox Jewish English translation of Genesis 1:1, which reads, “When God began to create…” further establishes the existence of the Word prior to all of the created order.
God is seen throughout the Tanakh (OT) creating, calling, instructing and relating through His Word. Yishayahu (Isaiah) says:
“Kiy ka’asher yeireid For as the coming down of hageshem the rain vehasheleg and the snow min-hashamayim from the heavens ve’shamah and there lo yashuv do not return kiy until they hirvah satiate, satisfy the thirst of et-haaretz the earth (land), veholiydah and it brings forth vehitzmiychah and sprouts, venatan and gives zera seed lazoreia to the sower velechem and bread laocheil to the eater, Kein yihyeh So will it come to pass that Devariy My Word asher yeitzei which goes out mipiy from My mouth; lo-yashuv will not return eiliy to Me reiykam void, empty, vainly, kiy for im-asah rather, it will accomplish, make, fashion (asah, from something) that which chafatztiy I delight in, desire, am pleased with, take pleasure in, vehitzliyach and will rush, advance, prosper, succeed in asher that for which shelachtiyv I sent it.” -Isaiah 55:10-11 (Author’s translation)
“the Word was with the God, and God was that Word.” The writer is clear, the Word is both with God and at the same time God. Contrary to popular teaching, this was not an entirely alien concept in first century Judaism.
The idea of the Word (Logos[G], Davar[H] Memra[RA], Miltha[A]) being intrinsically linked to God was not a foreign concept to first century Judaism. Philo of Alexandria or Yedideyah Ha-Cohen (Jedidiah the priest), a Jewish philosopher who lived from 20 BCE (BC) to 50 CE (AD) wrote:
“The most universal of all things is God; and in second place, the word of God.” -Philo of Alexandria Allegorical Interpretation II, 86
The Aramaic Jerusalem Targum, codified in the second century CE (AD) renders the text of Genesis 3:8 as:
“…they heard the voice of the word of the Lord God walking in the garden… and Adam and his wife hid themselves from before the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” -Jerusalem Targum (Genesis 3:8)
Using the Rabbinical Aramaic word Memra in place of the Hebrew Davar in the same Aramaic Targum, the writer renders Genesis 19:24 as:
“And the Word (Memra) of the Lord Himself had made to descend upon the people of Sodom and Gomora… fire from before the Lord from the heavens.” -Jerusalem Targum 19:24
The Talmud also understands the Messiah as pre-existent, though not uncreated:
“It was taught that seven things were created before the world was created; they are the Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehinnom, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah… The name of the Messiah, as it is written: ‘May his name (Messiah) endure forever, may his name produce issue prior to the sun’ (Psalm 72:17).” -Pesachim 54a, N’darim 39a; and Midrash on Psalm 93:3
The Jewish convert and commentator Onkelos wrote the following paraphrase (110 CE/AD):
"if the word of the Lord will be my help, and will keep me, the word of the Lord shall be my God:” -Paraphrase Genesis 28:20 Onkelos (35-120 CE/AD)
The second century Targums of Yonatan and Yerushalayim paraphrase certain texts as referring to the Memra (Word):
"I will cause the glory of my Shekinah to dwell among you, and my word shall be your God, the Redeemer;” -Targum Yonatan Leviticus 26:12
"out of thee, before me, shall come forth the Messiah, that he may exercise dominion over Israel; whose name is said from eternity, from the days of old.” -Targum Yonatan Micah 5:2
"ye have made the word of the Lord king over you this day, that he may be your God:” -Targum Yerushalayim Deuteronomy 26:17
In stating that “the Word was with the God, and God was that Word” Yochanan is expressing the Hebrew understanding of “both and” rather than the limited Greco-Roman thinking of “either or”. In this respect Yochanan’s Gospel establishes itself in Biblical Hebrew thought from the outset. Therefore, failing to understand Yochanan’s words from a Hebraic mindset will lead to misinterpretation and limited understanding on the part of the student of this Gospel.
“He (Yeshua) is wrapped in a garment immersed in blood, and He is called by the name Ho-Logos[G] (Ha-Davar[H]) the Word, Ho-Theos[G] (Ha-Elohim[H]) the God.” -Revelation 19:13 (Author’s translation)
Yeshua (YHVH Saves), Ha-Davar (the Word, Essence) Ha-Elohim (the God, Judge, Ruler) Imanu (With us) El (God).
Joh 1:3 All things, individually, collectively (Pas[G]) the everything (Ha-col[H]) were made, came into existence (Ginomai[G]) through (Dia[G]) Him, upon His hand (Al-yadayv[H]); and without, apart from, separate from (Khoris[G]) Him not one thing was made, came into existence (Ginomai[G]) that has been made (exists).
The subject of this verse is the Word Himself, Whom we know to be Yeshua the King Messiah (John 1:14-18).
Once again. This idea was not entirely foreign to first century Judaism:
"and the word of the Lord created man in his likeness.” -Targum Yerushalayim Genesis 1:27
"and the word of the Lord God said, behold the man whom I have created, is the only one in the world.” -Targum Yerushalayim Genesis 3:22
"the eternal God is an habitation, by whose word the world was made.” -Onkelos
"yea, by my word I have founded the earth:” -Targum Yonatan Isaiah 48:13
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” -Hebrews 11:3 KJV
Joh 1:4 In Him was life, soul existence (Zoe[G]) living (Chayim[H]); and the life, living was the light (Ho-Phos[G], Ha-Or[H]) of the human being, humanity, mankind (Anthropos[G]). Alt. Hebrew trans. To the children of the Adam (Livneiy ha-adam[H]).
“In Him was life, soul existence, living”. Not just Chai “life” but Chayim “Living”
“and the life, living was the light to the children of Adam” Therefore, the last Adam (Yeshua) is also the Word which spoke the light that gives the first Adam and his progeny life.
“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” -1 Corinthians 15:45 NIV
Light is frequently employed in representing the manifest presence of God (Isa. 2:5; Ps. 257:1; 36:9).
Later in Yochanan’s Gospel account Yeshua says of Himself “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5).
Genesis 1:3 reads “And commanded (vayomeir), Elohim, ‘Be light (Or)’, and light (Or) was:”
This verse begins a literary rhythm that uses a trifold pattern to convey the process of creation and the way it continues to unfold in our daily lives.
1. God commands (Vayomeir)
2. God Sees/Observes (Vai’re: from ra’ah)
3. God Proclaims/Calls/Names (Vayikra)
God commands creation, He sees that it is good and He gives all created entities unique names and roles in the order of the universe. From the view of humanity, God has created us in love, observes us with pleasure and imparts to each of us a unique and fulfilling identity and purpose in Him.
The light which is commanded in Genesis 1:3 is essential to the remainder of creation. Yochanan understands this light (Or) to be the product of the Father through the Word (Davar, Yeshua), it illuminates the formless and empty elements and acts to ignite both the inanimate matter and the living souls which are to come.
Genesis goes on to say:
“And saw, Elohim, the light (Or), that it was good, and made a distinction, Elohim, between the light (Or) and the darkness (choshekh):” -Genesis 1:4 (Author’s translation)
Before distinguishing between light and darkness, God sees that the light is good. The light is a representation of all that is good.
Distinctions are made throughout the creative processes of God. In Hebrew thought the distinguishing of things is not the same as the separation of things. Darkness is not the absence of light, rather it is a creation of The Light of God:
“If I say, ‘surely the choshekh (darkness) shall cover me’; even the layla (night, spiralling darkness) shall be Or (light) surrounding me.” –Psalm 139:11 (Author’s translation)
Joh 1:5 And the light (Ho-Phos[G], Ha-Or[H]) shines in darkness (Bachoshekh[H]); and the darkness cannot comprehended, lay hold of, take possession of, overcome (Katalambano[G]) it.
In one sense the Light that emanates from the mouth of God in the Word of Yeshua at the beginning of creation, as it pertains to God with us (Yeshua), is the ignition present in the creation of darkness, making darkness subject to the Light of God. Therefore, the order of creation illuminates (no pun intended) the nature of light and darkness. Yochanan uses this imagery here to make a drash (comparative teaching) concerning good and evil, light representing good and the true knowledge of God, and darkness, representing evil and ignorance toward God.
The conclusion is that ignorance toward God can neither understand nor overcome the light (true knowledge) of God and His redemptive purposes for humanity and creation as a whole through the Light Bearer (Creator) and Redeemer, the King Messiah Yeshua.
Joh 1:6 It came to pass that there was a man sent (Apostello[G], Shaluach[H]) from God (Theos[G], Elohim[H]), whose name was Yochanan[H] (John the Baptist, YHVH gracious giver). Joh 1:7 The same man came to testify, to bear witness of the Light (Ho-Phos[G], Ha-Or[H]), in order that all, individually, collectively (Pas[G]) the whole (Ha-col[H]) through Him, by the means of Him, by His hand (Dia[G], N’haymen[A]), might believe, have faith, trust, have security, be made confident, be persuaded (Pisteuo[G], Ya’amiynu[H]).
The author of this Gospel, having begun at the beginning of all things, now presents the forerunner who will declare the coming of the King Messiah and the fulfilment of all things (as it were). Jews (Israelites) had been looking forward to the coming of Elijah as the one who would hail the coming King Messiah (Malachi 4:5). Seemingly unbeknownst to the Jews of Israel in John’s generation, Yochanan the Immerser had come in the spirit of Elijah (Mark 9:12-13; Luke 1:11-17) to do that very thing.
The man Yochanan (The Baptist) is “sent from God”. This is the premise for Yochanan’s later statement “but He (God) that sent me to immerse with water, the same (God) said to me, ‘Upon Whom you shall see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He Who immerses with the Holy Spirit.’”(John 1:33)
Yochanan is given the title “the Baptist” in order to distinguish him from the writer of John’s Gospel, Yochanan the talmid (disciple) of Yeshua. The term Baptist from the Greek baptizo is a reference to the Jewish mikveh (ritual pool or body of water) practice of tevilah (immersion), a full immersion in a ritual pool or body of water symbolizing purification. With regard to the theological baggage associated with baptism, sprinkling etc. It is better to understand Yochanan as Yochanan the Immerser. The baptisms he performed for those who came to him in repentance toward God would never have involved sprinkling, this is a Greco-Roman Gentile Church syncretistic practice that muddies the waters (pun intended) of true full immersion baptism, or in Hebrew tevilah.
Yochanan the Immerser is also known to secular history via the writings of Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 18:116-119).
“in order that all, individually, collectively, the whole, through Him (The Light), might believe” The nearest subject is “the Light” that John the Immerser had come to bear witness to. Therefore, it is through the Light of Yeshua that human beings will come to believe.
Verse 6-8 are pre-text for the historical/spiritual narrative concerning Yochanan the Immerser’s ministry described in verses 19-34.
Rabbinic literature calls the promised Messiah by the name “Light.”
"light is his name"; as it is said in Daniel 2:22 and the light dwelleth with him;” - Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 2.
Philo of Alexandria or Yedideyah Ha-Cohen (Jedidiah the priest), the Jewish philosopher who lived from 20 BCE (BC) to 50 CE (AD) describes the Logos, (Word), as light, and calls Him the “intelligible light; the universal light, the most perfect light;” Philo even goes so far as to depict Him as full of divine light; and says, “He (Logos) is called the sun.” Meaning that with regard to created light (metaphorically speaking), the Logos is the brightest of all light.
Joh 1:8 He (John the Baptist) was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light. Joh 1:9 That was the Light (Ho-Phos[G], Ha-Or[H]) by nature, true (Ho Alethinos[G], Ha-amitiy[H]), which gives light, illuminates (Photizo[G], Ha-mei’ir[H]) everyone individually, collectively (Pas[G]) the whole of (Ha-col[H]) humanity (Anthropos[G], l’col-adam[H]) that comes into the world (Kosmos[G], Ha-Olam[H]).
“He (John the Baptist) was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.” The author of John’s Gospel goes to great pains to be very specific about his subjects and their respective roles. The Light brings redemption but Yochanan is not the Light, rather he is the promised forerunner of Malachi 4:5, who is “sent to bear witness of (to) the Light.”
“That was the Light by nature, true, which gives light, illuminates everyone individually, collectively the whole of humanity, that comes into the world”. The Light, that by its very nature carries the truth that emanates from God, is the same light mentioned previously, being the giver of light and life to every human being that comes into the world (affected by sin and death), has also Himself, come into the world in order to illuminate the darkness of the ignorant sinful minds of human beings and deliver those who would receive Him from the darkness of perpetual death.
Joh 1:10 He was in the world (Kosmos[G], Ha-Olam[H]), and the world was made by, through (Dia[G]) Him, and the world did not know Him. Joh 1:11 He came to His own things (Idio[G] neuter), those things of Him (Shelo[H]) and His own (Idios[G] masc.), those which were for Him (Asher lo[H]) did not receive Him.
“the world (kosmos) was made through Him, and the world (kosmos) did not know Him.”
The word Kosmos is used in two ways. It is used of creation as a whole, and more specifically in regard to sin affected humanity and the fallen creation which has been in darkness (ignorant). The Light comes into the world He created but the world He created has been affected by sin and death as a result of the freewill decision of humanity, for freewill is that which makes a love relationship between Creator and creation possible.
"and the word of the Lord created man in his likeness.” -Targum Yerushalayim Genesis 1:27
"and the word of the Lord God said, behold the man whom I have created, is the only one in the world.” -Targum Yerushalayim Genesis 3:22
"the eternal God is an habitation, by whose word the world was made.” -Onkelos
"yea, by my word I have founded the earth:” -Targum Yonatan Isaiah 48:13
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” -Hebrews 11:3 KJV
“He came to His own things, those things of Him and His own, those which were for Him did not receive Him.” Firstly, verse 10 explains the need for the neuter use of Idio (own things) in the present verse by speaking of all creation, kosmos in general: Secondly, while it is true that Yeshua was rejected by some of His own tribe (The Jews), it is also true that every human being is “His own”, something that is made clear by John 1:4 “In Him was life, soul existence; and the life was the light To the children of the Adam”.
It is not true to say (as many Jewish Scholars and not a small number of Liberal Gentile Christian Scholars falsely assert) that this is an intentional plot tool for setting up the Jewish people in general as the enemies of Yeshua. Given the fact that Yeshua and His disciples were all Jews, and that thousands of Jews believed in and followed Him, it is ludicrous to say that the Gospel writers, or specifically the writer of the Gospel of John were anti-Semitic. As I stated previously, it is simply a case of context and proper qualification. Yochanan the disciple and author of John’s Gospel felt secure as a Jew in both honouring the Jewish people of his day while also rebuking those who acted in a manner contrary to the Torah and the good news of the King Messiah Yeshua. As I have already said, this makes Yochanan’s Gospel and ministry no different from that of Israel’s prophets, none of whom have ever been called anti-Semitic for making the same accusations and refutations that Yochanan makes in his Gospel account.
“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from Ho Ioudaios the Jews (Plural).” -Yeshua (John 4:22)
Joh 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave power (of choice), liberty (freedom) of doing, authority (Exousia[G]) to become offspring (children) of God (Teknon Theos[G], Baniym Leilohim[H]), even to them that believe, have faith, trust, have security, be made confident, be persuaded (Pisteuo[G], Ya’amiynu[H]) on (in) His name (Onoma[G] Proper Noun, B’shmo[H]):
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become offspring (children) of God.” Notice the counterpoint to John 1:4 “to the children of Adam”. All human beings are children of creation (Adam), but in a saving and eternal sense, only those who receive the light of the Creator, the King Messiah Yeshua, can become “B’nai Elohim” children of God. “B’nai Elohim” then is a spiritual designation. In fact we read from the beginning of the Torah of two distinct groups of people, “B’nai Elohim” the sons of God (God worshippers) and “Banot Ha-Adam” the daughters of men (those who rejected God) [Genesis 6:4].
Therefore, while it is true, as the Bible teaches, that we are all children of God with regard to creation (Acts 17:28; Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9), only those who receive Yeshua become children of God with regard to salvation and everlasting life.
“to them that believe on (in) His name” In the ancient world a person’s name was more than just a title, it was representative of character, nature, action, integrity, and honour, or the lack thereof. In the case of Yeshua (YHVH Saves), belief in His Name is continued trust in His person made evident in right action. Filling out a commitment card at an evangelistic rally, may be an indication of one’s desire to believe in His Name, but it does not, in and of itself constitute “belief in His Name”. The “Sinners prayer” mentality of the modern evangelical Church must change and come in line with the Biblical text!
Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the desire (Thelema[G]) of the flesh (Sarx[G]), nor of the desire, sex drive of man, but Fathered (Gennao[G]) of God (Theos[G], Elohim[H]).
Those who become children of God through Yeshua have been “born again” of God’s Spirit. Therefore, while they are born initially of the flesh, they are born again of the same life giving Spirit that created their flesh. Flesh which they had previously given over to death through sin.
Yeshua explains this very thing to Nicodemus:
“Yeshua replied, ‘Amen, amen, It’s certain, it’s certain I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of Elohim unless they are born again.’ ‘How can someone be born when they’re old?’ Nakdimon asked. ‘Surely they can’t enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’ Yeshua answered, ‘Amen, amen, It’s certain, it’s certain I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of Elohim unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’” -John 3:3-6 (Authors translation)
Joh 1:14 And (Kai[G]) the Word, Essence, Substance, Utterance, Manifestation (Logos[G], Davar[H], Miltha[A]) became flesh (Sarx[G]), and dwelt, made His home (Skenoo[G], Shakhan[H]) among us, and we beheld his glory, brightness, splendour, judgement, manifest presence, dwelling, settling (Doxa[G], Kevod[H], Shekhinah[TH]), the glory as of the One (Ekhadaya[A]) only begotten (Monogenes[G] Singular in kind, Yachiyd[H]) of the Father (Pater[G], Av[H]), full of grace (Charis[G], Chesed[H]) and truth (Aletheia[G] objective truth, Emet[H] absolute truth).
“the Word, Essence, Substance, became flesh, human, and dwelt among us” This is a paradox only to the Gnostics and their modern pseudo learned progeny. If the Word is the very substance that makes up all things, then His becoming flesh is simply His birth into that which exists of Him and in Him. It is not the case that spirit is good and matter is evil, rather, the Creator is good and the created chose evil, both the created spirits (Satan, demons etc.) and the created flesh (humanity). Therefore, nothing makes more sense than that the Creator of all things, Who loves His creation sacrificially, would give of His essence, enter the sin affected creation and lay down His life for her. After all, two foundational aspects of love are freewill and sacrifice.
We note that the Word “Shakhan” dwelt, tabernacled among us, is an allusion to the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting, Tabernacle [Exodus 25:9]) and the dwelling of the divine presence (Kavod HaShem, Shekhinah) with the Jewish people as they travelled from Egyptian bondage to freedom in the promised land.
“and we beheld his glory, manifest presence, dwelling, settling (Doxa[G], Kevod[H], Shekhinah[TH])” This is yet another allusion to the manifest presence of God seen on the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 16:10) in the desert and in the Temple of Solomon at its inauguration (1 Kings 8:10-12).
“the glory as of the One (Ekhadaya[A]) only begotten (Monogenes[G] Singular in kind, Yachiyd[H]) of the Father (Pater[G], Av[H]), full of grace (Charis[G], Chesed[H]) and truth (Aletheia[G] objective truth, Emet[H] absolute truth).” We note that Yeshua (The Word, the Light), is singular in kind. He is of the Father in that being God with us He carries the attributes and character of the Father in submission to the Father. Thus, Yeshua is full of grace and truth.
In order to become flesh, Yeshua had to give up the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). “He emptied himself, laid aside His privileges, taking the very nature of bond servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7, Author’s translation)
“For what the Torah couldn’t do, in that it was weakened through the flesh, Elohim did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,” -Romans 8:3 Author’s translation
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” -Hebrews 4:15 NASB
Therefore, it is God the Word Who became flesh and not Yeshua the man who became a god!
“For in Him (Yeshua) all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form,” Colossians 2:9
The Tanakh (OT) is full of instances of God appearing in human form, to Abraham (Gen. 18), Jacob (Gen. 32:24-33), Moses (Ex. 3), Joshua (Josh. 5:13-6:5), the people of Israel (Judges 2:1-5, Gideon (Judges 6:11-24), and to Manoah and his wife the parents of Samson (Judges 13:2-23). In all of these portions of Scripture, Elohim (God), YHVH (Adonai), and Ha-Malakh Elohim (The Messenger [Angel] of God) are used interchangeably and in some cases YHVH or Elohim is spoken of as a man (iysh). Therefore, the Tanakh (OT) teaches that the all-powerful, all knowing, all sufficient God of creation is able, if He chooses, to appear as a man. In other words, the idea that God might manifest Himself as a man to redeem His people is a very Jewish one.
Our rabbis have tried to exclude Jewish followers of Messiah Yeshua by adding theological statements to our traditions and prayers in order to make it difficult for Jews who follow Yeshua to remain in the Jewish community. One such example is the thirteenth statement of Rambam’s creed, the third article of which reads:
“I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is not a body, that He is free from all material properties, and has no form whatsoever.”
This statement contradicts the Tanakh, as I have just proven, however, in another sense, a Messiah following Jew can agree that God the Father can be seen in this statement without negating God the Son as a manifestation of the invisible immutable God YHVH.
Other rabbis, such as Meir Loeb Ben Yechiel Michael and Menachem Mendel Schneerson, have come extremely close to explicitly affirming the idea of incarnation. They have certainly agreed with the idea implicitly in their writings and teachings.
Joh 1:15 Yochanan (John the Baptist) bore witness of Him, and cried, saying, “This was He of Whom I spoke, He that comes after me is preferred, ranked before (Emprosthen[G]) me: He existed (Ginomai[G]) first (Protos[G] first in time or place in any succession of things) before I was (Liy Hayah[H]).”
“Him” The subject is the manifest Word become flesh. It is this person, Who is God with us to Whom Yochanan is referring.
The Word through Whom Yochanan was created is now entering creation following Yochanan. Thus, Yochanan is second to the first Who comes after him.
Joh 1:16 And of His fulness we have all received, and grace (Charis[G], Chesed[H]) in place of grace. Joh 1:17 For the Law, Torah[H] (Nomos[G]) was given through (Dia[G]) Moshe[H] (Moses), the grace (Charis[G], Chesed[H]) and the truth (Aletheia[G], Emet[H]) came through (Dia[G]) Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) the Messiah (Christos[G] Anointed One, Mashiach[H]).
“Grace in place of grace” means, common grace (the grace that allows the created order to continue for a time in spite of the fact that it is sin affected) is being both preceded and superseded by saving grace (the grace made possible through the substitutionary sacrifice and resurrection of the King Messiah Yeshua).
We note that in spite of the fact that the majority of English translations read “The Law was given by Moses BUT grace and truth…” The Greek word “dia” is better translated “through” rather than “by”, and more importantly, there is no “but” in the Greek text!
When read correctly the Torah given by God through Moses is the Instruction that directs the people of Israel toward the Chesed (grace) [Rom. 10:4] that comes through the promised King Messiah, the Living Word (Ha-Devar). Thus, it is Messiah Who writes the Torah on the hearts of believing Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen) [Jer. 31:33]. Therefore, it is not “Torah was but now grace is”, rather it is “Torah reveals the redemptive purpose and Messiah fills that purpose with grace”.
The Torah (Law) has never been the opposite of grace (as many Christian theologians claim), this is utter nonsense. The opposite of Law is lawlessness and the opposite of grace is the lack of grace. Therefore, The Author of the Torah (The Word, Yeshua) sent the Torah through Moses (Drawn out), so as to draw out the children of God from among the wicked and point them to the One Who provides salvation by grace through faith in Him.
From his treatment of the Torah, Moses and the patriarchs, it is clear that the author of the Gospel account of John is sufficiently comfortable (as a Jew) with the continued importance of Torah as it is illuminated in Yeshua the King Messiah.
Joh 1:18 No one has seen the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohim[H]) at any time; [Hebrew Alt. Et Ha-Elohim lo ra’ah iysh meiolam[H]: The definitive God, has not been seen by any human (man) from the world] the One (Yichiydaya[A]) only begotten (Monogenes[G] Singular in kind, Yachiyd[H]) Son [Hebrew Alt. Ha-Ben Ha-yachiyd[H]: the Son, the only one], God (Theos[G]) the Being (Ho Oan[G]) Who is in the bosom, chest, folds of the garment (kolpos[G]) of the Father (Ho-Pater[G], Ha-Av[H]), He has declared, gone before, unfolded, told (Exegeomai[G]) of Him [Hebrew Alt. Hu asher hodiyo[H]: He has made Him known] .
“No one has seen the God at any time;” Many have seen God in part [Exodus 33:19-23; Isaiah 6:1; Exodus 24:9-11], but none have ever seen Him in the fullness of His glory. The fullness of God’s person and glory is what Exodus 33:20 is speaking of:
“And (God) said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.”
Therefore, God reveals Himself through His Son Yeshua, the Word, Who is YHVH with us:
"the word of the Lord God said, ‘lo, the man whom I created, the only one in my world, even as I am, the only one, in the highest heavens.’” -Genesis 3:22 Targum Yerushalayim
"there is none that can declare the name of his Father, and that knows him; but this is hid from the eyes of the multitude, until he comes, ‘and he shall declare him’.” R. Moses Haddarsan in Psal. 85. 11. apud Galatin. de Arcan, Cathol. ver. l. 8. c. 2.
Philo speaks of the “Logos” saying “He (logos) has come and declared Him (God)” De nominum mutat. p. 1047.
“the Son, the only one], God (Theos[G]) the Being (Ho Oan[G]) Who is in the bosom, chest, folds of the garment (kolpos[G]) of the Father (Ho-Pater[G], Ha-Av[H]), He has declared, gone before, unfolded, told (Exegeomai[G]) of Him [Hebrew Alt. Hu asher hodiyo[H]: He has made Him known].”
There can be no doubt that the author of John’s Gospel is plainly stating that Yeshua is God with us. He writes “The only Son, God the Being, Who is in the bosom of the Father (God), He has declared, told of Him (The Father).”
We note the beautiful imagery of the only begotten Son Who has dwelt in the chest of God the Father, within the folds of the Father’s garment as it were, and now unfolds the garment of God and reveals the Father to creation.
It is worth noting that the title “Son of God” is sometimes applied to Israel’s kings in the Tanakh (OT), this is particularly evident in Psalm 2:6-9:
“I have set up My king
upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7 I will declare the decree of Adonai.
He said to me: “You are My Son--
today I have become Your Father.[a]
8 Ask Me,
and I will give the nations as Your inheritance,
and the far reaches of the earth as Your possession.
9 You shall break the nations with an iron scepter.[b]
You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s jar.”[c] -Psalm 2:6-9 TLV
Joh 1:19 And this is the testimony, evidence, record (Marturia[G], Eiduto[H] witness) of Yochanan[H] (John the Baptist), when the Judeans (Ho Ioudaios[G], Jews from the religious ruling class, Ha-Yehudiym[H]) sent priests (Hiereus[G],Kohaniym[H]) and Levites (Leuites[G], Levi’iym[H]) from Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace, Jerusalem) to ask him (John the Baptist), “Who are you?”
As stated in my introduction, the author of the Gospel according to John uses the Greek “ho Ioudaioi” (Huy ee-u-dayo, the Judeans) as a supplement to the more general use of “Ioudaios” (ee-u-da-yos, Jews), which seems to indicate that at least in part, John was seeking to make a distinction between those Jews that followed the teaching and ideology of the first century Religious leaders based in Jerusalem and representing Judea, and the wider body of Jews living under Roman occupation in the land of Israel.
In the present verse the use of the definite article “Ho” with “Ioudaiois” is further qualified by the distinct groups within the religious community of Jerusalem, who are directly connected to the Temple Cult and functioning at various levels in the hierarchy of the Levitical priesthood. The “Kohaniym” being priests who were directly involved in sacrificial practices, while the more general title “Levi’iym” refers to those appointed to mundane Temple service within the tribe of Levi. Given that the Sanhedrin (in particular the Pharisaic sect, but also the Sadducees) under the High Priest, had the authority to send these messengers (Priests, Levites), the author can only be using “Ho Ioudaios” to refer to the Leading Religious Authorities in Jerusalem and not to Judeans or Jews in general. Particularly because neither the priests nor the Levites were of the tribe of Judah, and yet those that govern them are referred to as Jews. The point is, everyone involved in this narrative is a Jew, John included. Therefore, the dialogue is between Jews over religious matters and not a record of some imagined conflict between Messiah followers and their Jewish brethren.
John the Baptist had an intrinsic connection to the Levitical priesthood through his father Zechariah who was of the clan of Abijah (Luke 1; 1 Chronicles 24). John’s father Zechariah was a descendent of the sons of Aaron and may well have been a rightful heir to the High Priesthood at a time in Israel’s history under Roman occupation when the priesthood of Israel had been bought and paid for by her oppressors, meaning that both Caiaphas and Annas were illegitimate High Priests. With this in mind it seems natural that the religious ruling class and priesthood in Jerusalem would be very interested in John’s ministry. They may well have heard of the miracle of John’s conception and the visions of his father. They came to enquire on behalf of those who feared that the rightful Shepherd of Israel may be coming to expose their apostasy. At the same time there were those among them who genuinely sought the reconciliation of Israel to God and eagerly awaited the prophet Elijah and the coming of the King Messiah. Therefore, John the Baptist was being questioned by both insidious and hopeful men alike.
Joh 1:20 And he (John the Baptist) conceded, professed, agreed (Homologeo[G], unified speech/word), and denied not; but conceded, professed, agreed “I am not the Messiah (Christ, Ho-Christos[G], Ha-Mashiach[H]).” Joh 1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Eliyahu[H] (Elijah, My God YHVH is He)?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you that prophet (Ho-Prophetes[G], Ha-Navi[H])?” And he answered, “No.”
“And he (John the Baptist) conceded, agreed and denied not; but conceded, agreed ‘I am not the Messiah’” Yochanan the Immerser knew what the Judean party had come to ask, this is why the text says that he conceded, agreed to speak to the contrary of their assumption. The author wants no confusion, Yochanan the Immerser is not the Messiah.
“Homologeo” is a compound word made up of the words homo (together) and logos (Word). Therefore John is in agreement with the Logos (Yeshua) in answering the priests and Levites.
“And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” According to Malachi 4:5, the Jewish people believed that Elijah (Who had not died) would come as a forerunner to declare the coming of the King Messiah and the great and fearful day of the Lord.
“‘Are you that prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” That is the “prophet like me” who Moses spoke of, Whom the people of Israel must listen to and obey (Deut. 18:15, 18).
Joh 1:22 Then they said to him (John the Baptist), “Who are you? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Joh 1:23 He (John the Baptist) said, “I am the voice (Phone[G], Kol[H]) of one crying (Boao[G], Korei[H]) in the wilderness (Eremos[G], Bamidbar[H] Ba-in and mi-from davar-the Word), Make straight the way (Hodos[G], Derech[H]) of the Lord (Kurios[G], YHVH[H]),” speaks Yishayahu[H] (Isaiah, YHVH He has saved) the prophet (Ho-Prophetes[G], Ha-Navi[H]) [Isaiah 40:3].
Yochanan the Immerser was certain of his role and calling and answered without fear using the words of the prophet Isaiah 40:3:
“A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
the way for the YHVH;
make straight in the desert
a way for our Elohim.’”
We note that Yochanan the Immerser saw himself as making way for YHVH Himself. This is yet another implicit acknowledgement of the deity of Yeshua.
Joh 1:24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees (Pharisaios[G], Perushiym[H], chaste, abstinent ones). Joh 1:25 And they asked him (John the Baptist), and said to him, “Why do you immerse (Baptizo[G], Tebiyl[H]) then, if you are not the Messiah [Christ] (Ho-Christos[G], Ha-Mashiach[H]), nor Eliyahu[H] (Elijah), neither that prophet (Prophetes[G], Ha-Navi[H])?
The Pharisees, like John and Yeshua, believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels and demons, healing and miracles, the coming Messiah and His Messianic Reign. They looked eagerly forward to salvation from their Roman oppressors and the glorious reign of Israel’s promised King. They also practised ritual immersion as part of their religious rites and clearly understood immersion as a practise which both Elijah and the King Messiah would emphasize as a symbol of purification and the sanctifying of the people of Israel in order that they might be made spiritually clean for the Messianic reign.
Josephus Flavius, a Jewish historian who played both sides of the first century conflict between Rome and the Jewish people, was hired by the Roman Emperor to write the history of Rome’s conquests in the occupied territory of Israel, Judea and Samaria. Josephus records an agreement made between Queen Alexandra of Jerusalem and the Leaders of the Pharisaic sect approximately 141 – 67 BCE:
“Under Queen Alexandra of Jerusalem the Pharisees became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit who they pleased, as well as to loose and bind.” -Josephus, Jewish Wars 1:5:2
Joh 1:26 Yochanan (John the Baptist) answered them, saying, “I immerse (Baptizo[G], Tebiyl[H]) with water: but there is one standing among you, Whom you don’t know; Joh 1:27 It is He, Who coming after me is preferred, ranked before me, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.
“Yochanan (John the Baptist) answered them, saying, ‘I immerse with water: but there is one standing among you, Whom you don’t know;’” Therefore, Yeshua was standing among them (the Pharisees). This is something that many overlook. If Yeshua was standing among the Pharisees, then it is very likely that He dressed as they did and was not noticeably different in appearance to them. As mentioned previously, much of His teaching corresponded to Pharisaic belief. For all intents and purposes, Yeshua was a Pharisee. However, although Yeshua stood among the group of Pharisees, and may even have walked with them from Yerushalayim to meet Yochanan the Immerser, they neither recognised Him as important nor knew Him as the King Messiah, Logos, Only begotten Son of God, and therefore, the words of Yochanan “Whom you don’t know”.
“It is He, Who coming after me is preferred, ranked before me, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.” Yochanan reiterates his previous statement in order to explain to them why it is that they don’t recognize or know Yeshua. It is because they don’t understand or know Him as the “Word Who was with God and Who was God”. In the true humility of a prophet of God, Yochanan boldly announces that he is not even worthy to remove the sandals of the One of Whom he speaks. In other words, “With regard to this One, I am not even worthy to perform the job of the lowliest household servant (that of removing sandals and washing the feet of guests).”
Joh 1:28 All (Kol[H]) These things were done in Beth-Anya[A] Bethany (House of Answering) beyond Yarden (Jordan, descender, the river) where Yochanan[H] (YHVH is gracious, John the Baptist) was immersing (Baptizo[G], Tebiyl[H]).
It is incredible to think that all the answers Yochanan had given the messengers of the Judeans, the Pharisees, were given to them in a village named “House of answering”, and that he was proclaiming One Who had descended from the heavens in a region named “descender”.
This Bethany was not the home town of Lazarus, which was situated near Jerusalem but was a different village beyond the Jordan under the rule of Phillip the Tetrarch.
Joh 1:29 The next day Yochanan[H] (John the Baptist) saw Yeshua[H] (Iesous[G], Jesus, Joshua) coming to him, and said, “Behold, see, perceive, pay attention to, examine (Eido[G], Hineih[H]) the Lamb (Amnos[G], Sheh[H]) of the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohim[H]) Who takes away, carries away, raises up, causes to cease (Airo[G]) the sin, missing the mark, error, violation, offence (Hamartia[G], Chata’t[H]) of the world (Ho-Kosmos[G], Ha-Olam[H]).”
Yochanan the Immerser likens Yeshua to the main sacrificial animal of the Temple sacrificial rites, and in particular the animal most associated to the substitutionary sin offering. At the same time Yochanan is alluding to the Pesach (Passover) lamb, and its blood covering over the houses of Israel during the plague of the death of the firstborn in Egypt (1 Cor. 5:7). Additionally the figure of the lamb connects Yeshua to the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:32), and in relation to His death on the tree He is like the “lamb without a defect or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19) as required by the Torah (Exodus 12:5; Lev. 1:3, 10; 9:3; 23:12). In the book of Revelation Yeshua is referred to as the Lamb 29 times. Finally, the Ram that took Isaac’s place on the altar of Mt Moriah was born a lamb, who would one day lay down his life for the people of Israel (Jacob being still in his father’s body [by way of seed] at the time that Isaac was saved from death).
It is worth noting that God had always intended to give of His person, His only Son, as the vicarious (substation) sacrifice for the sins of humanity (1 Cor. 15:3; Hebrews 7).
Joh 1:30 This is He of Whom I said, “After me comes a man Who is before, in front of (Emprosthen[G]) me: for He was before me. Joh 1:31 And I knew Him not: but in order (Hina[G]) that He should be made manifest, visible, known (Phaneru[G]) to Israel (Yisrael[H]), therefore I am come immersing (Baptizo[G], Tebiyl[H]) with water.
NB: Verses 30-34 record Yochanan’s account of those events detailed in Matt. 3:11-17; Mar. 1:7-11 and Luk. 3:15-17; 21-22.
“And I knew Him not”? Luke’s Gospel shows clearly that Yochanan (The Baptist) and Yeshua were second cousins (Luke 1:34-45). Therefore, when Yochanan (The Baptist) says “I knew Him not” he means, “I did not properly know or understand the divine character of my cousin, thus it was as if I didn’t know Him at all…”
“but in order that He should be made known to Israel, therefore I am come immersing with water.” We note that Yochanan the Immerser sees his role as one coming to immerse Jews with water as a symbolic precursor to them receiving and “knowing” the King Messiah Yeshua, Whom Yochanan would immerse, at which time the Holy Spirit would be manifest in a wondrous sign of Yeshua’s identity as God with us. Notice, that like Yeshua, Yochanan’s ministry was first and foremost for the ethnic, religious, chosen people of Israel, the Jews. Yeshua Himself said, “I have come only for the lost sheep of Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen).” And the Father had said, “The days are coming,” declares HaShem (YHVH), ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Yisrael and with the people of Yehudah.’” (Jeremiah 31:31)
Joh 1:32 And Yochanan[H] (John the Baptist) bore witness (Martureo[G]), saying (lego[G] from logos), “I saw the Spirit, Wind, Breathe (Pneuma[G], Ruach[H]) descending from the heavens like a dove, and it abode with, remained (Meno[G]) upon Him.”
John bears witness with his “lego” speech, of the “Logos” speech of God and His unity with the “Pneuma” Spirit, Wind, Breathe of God.
The symbolism of the dove as it reflects the Spirit of God and the institution of peace, is seen throughout the Tanakh (OT) [Gen.8; Psa. 68:13; SOS. 2:14; Isaiah 60:8]. In relationship to the Messiah’s immersion by Yochanan, the story of the deliverance of Noah and his family through the flood and the receipt of the dove at its conclusion is intrinsically connected (1 Peter 3:20). The Flood, the crossing of Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan river, are all immersions that deliver into that which is promised by God.
Joh 1:33 And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to immerse (Baptizo[G], Tebiyl[H]) with water, the same said to me, “Upon Whom you shall see the Spirit, Wind, Breathe (Pneuma[G], Ruach[H]) descending, and remaining, abiding with (on) Him, the same is He Who immerses (Baptizo[G], Tebiyl[H]) with the Holy Spirit, Wind, Breathe (Pneuma-Hagios[G], Ruach Ha-Kodesh[H]).
Yochanan the Immerser reiterates his lack of fullness of knowledge of Who Yeshua truly was in all His glory. It is essential to Yochanan’s testimony that he proclaims the Word of the One Who sent him, that is God Himself. “there was a man sent from God, whose name was Yochanan” -John 1:6
Joh 1:34 And I saw, and bear witness (Martureo[G]) that this is the Son of the God (Ho-Uihos Ho-Theos[G], Ben-Ha-Elohim[H]). Joh 1:35 Again the next day after that Yochanan[H] (John the Baptist) stood, alongside two of his disciples (Talmidim[H]); Joh 1:36 And looking upon Yeshua[H] (Iesous[G], Jesus, Joshua, YHVH Saves) as He (Yeshua[H]) walked, he (John the Baptist) said, “Behold, see, perceive, pay attention to, examine (Eido[G], Hineih[H]) the Lamb (Ho-Amnos[G], Ha-sheh[H]) of the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohim[H])!”
“The Son of God” is a Messianic title:
In Biblical Judaism a man is always identified as the son (ben) of his father. Thus, there is an intrinsic link between father and son. The Hebrew ben (son) can also mean “descendant” or “having the characteristics of.”
We note that Yeshua is not called “a son of God”, or “one of the sons of God” as the term is applied more generally in the Tanakh [OT] (Gen. 6:2, 4; Ex. 4:22-23; Psalms. 82:6; Hos. 11:1; ) and NT (Gal. 4:6): rather, He is called “The Son of God”. This makes the title unique and applicable to Him alone. It is also the reason the religious leaders considered the title blasphemous (John 10:33-36).
However, it is also apparent that the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day considered the title “The Son of God” to be a Messianic title:
“The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” -Matthew 26:63
As did Yeshua’s disciples:
“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”-Matthew 16:16
“the Lamb of the God” As is always the case in Hebrew literature, the doubling of this statement firmly establishes the identity of the Messiah as sacrificial Lamb.
Joh 1:37 And the two disciples (Talmidim[H]) heard him speak, and they Followed, joined, attended to, accompanied (Akoloutheo[G]) Yeshua[H][A] (Iesous[G], Jesus, Joshua, YHVH Saves). Joh 1:38 Then Yeshua[H] [A] turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What, which, Who (Tis[G]) do you seek?” They said to Him, Rabbi[H], [Rhabbi[G], Raban[A]] (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher,) where do you dwell, abide, remain (Meno[G])?”
Rabbi appears 15 times in its transliterated form in the Greek New testament and with the exception of Matthew 23:7-10 where Yeshua discusses the word, it is only used of Yeshua Himself. Rabbi comes from the Hebrew “Rav” meaning great, or great one. A literal translation of Rabbi would be “My Great One”. However, it seems that by the first century the title Rabbi had become synonymous in religious circles with Teacher, or Master. A title of respect.
Joh 1:39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour (16:00). Joh 1:40 One of the two who heard Yochanan[H] (John the Baptist) speak, and followed Him, was Andreas[G] (Andrew: manly) Simon Petros[G] (Simon Peter's, Shimon[H] [heard] Keefa[A] [Rock]) brother.
The unnamed disciple is thought to be Yochanan the disciple of Yeshua and likely author of this Gospel. This is consistent with his use of the phrase “disciple whom Yeshua loved” in reference to himself.
Joh 1:41 He (Andrew) first (immediately) found his own brother Simon (Shimon[H]), and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (Messias[G], Mashiach[H], Anointed) which is, being interpreted, the Christos[G] (Christ).
The Greek Messias transliterates the Aramaic Mashicha and or the Hebrew Mashiach. It is found in John 4:25 and 4:29 but nowhere else in the New Testament. This makes John’s Gospel the one most likely to have had a Hebrew or Aramaic original manuscript.
The fact that Andrew was so excited to tell Peter that they had found the Messiah denotes the popular Messianic expectation of the time.
Joh 1:42 And he (Andrew) brought him (Simon Peter) to Yeshua[H][A] (Iesous[G]). And when Yeshua[H][A] (Iesous[G]) saw him, He said, “You are Shimon[H] (Simon) the son of Yonah[H] (Ioannes[G], Jonah): You shall be called Kephas[G] (Keefa, [A] Stone, Rock), which is by interpretation, a stone, rock.
The poetic irony of Simon Peter’s identity is not lost on the Hebrew mind. He is Shimon (hears) Keefa (Rock) the son of Yonah (Dove). He is one who hears the Rock (HaShem) and is born of the Spirit (Dove).
Joh 1:43 The day following Yeshua[H][A] (Iesous[G]) would go forth into the Galilee (Ho-Galilaia[G] circuit, Yam Ha-Kineret[H] Lake harp, region) and found Philip (Philipos[G]) lover of horses), and said to him, “Follow, join, attend to, accompany (Akoloutheo[G]) Me (become My Talmid[H] disciple).”
Philip, like many other Jews born in Roman occupied Israel (first century AD) had a Hellenised (Greek) common name.
Joh 1:44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida (Beit Tzayda[H]), the city of Andrew and Peter. Joh 1:45 Philip found Nathanael (Netanel[H], Given of God) [Natanel[H] Bar[A] Talmay[A][H], Son of Talmay (ridge, accumulation)Mtt.10:3], and said to him, We have found him, of whom Moshe[H] (Drawn out, Moses) in the Torah[H] (Instruction, Nomos[G], law), and the prophets (Ho-Prophetes[G], Ha-Nevi’iym[H]) did write, Yeshua[H][A] (Iesous[G]) the son of Yosef[H] (YHVH Adds, Joseph) of Nazareth (Nazaret[G], Natzerat[H], netzer[H] [shoot] zara[H] [sown]).
Bethsaida was a small fishing village on the west shore of lake Galilee.
“of whom Moses in the Torah and the prophets did write,”
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” -Deuteronomy 18:15-18 NIV
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Yeshua. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’” -Acts 3:19-23
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.” -Daniel 7:13
Exodus 12:46 Deuteronomy 18:15-18 Isaiah 49:7; 50:6;53:5-7, 9-10, 12 Psalms 2:7; 16:10-11; 22:8-9, 16-17 41:9; 68:19 69:22 110:1; 118:22 Micah 4:14 Zechariah 11:12-13; 13:7Daniel 7:13; 9:24-26
Nazareth is interpreted a number of ways, but given Matthew’s assertion that Isaiah 11:1; 53:2 and Zechariah 3:8; 6:12 are prophetic of the promised shoot (netzer) coming from Jesse, being from Nazareth the first century village, it seems likely that the compound proper noun Nazareth is made up of the Hebrew words netzer (shoot) and zara (sown). It makes sense that the sower of the seed of the Gospel is the shoot of Jesse, the promised Servant King Messiah, Who, in sowing, will reap many shoots.
Joh 1:46 And Nathanael (Netanel[H], Given of God) said unto Him (Yeshua[H] [A]), “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth (Nazaret[G], Natzerat[H])? Philip said to Him, Come and see. Joh 1:47 Yeshua[H] [A] saw Nathanael (Netanel[H]) coming to Him, and said of him (Nathanael), “Behold, see, perceive, pay attention to, examine (Eido[G], Hineih[H]) a true (Alethos[G]), objective truth, Emet[H], absolute truth) Israelite (Israelites[G], descendant of Jacob, a Jew), in whom is no deceit, fraud (dolos[G], Mirmah[H])!
Nazareth was not known for Torah scholarship or religious devotion of the standard expected among the religious elite in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. It was considered a town of commoners and less than desirable uneducated people. It is in fact as filthy and uninviting today as it may have been in the first century. However, Yeshua was brought up in Nazareth, and being God with us, keeping in mind that “Only God is good”, the answer to Nathanael’s question is to be a resounding, “Good Himself comes out from Nazareth”.
“Behold, a true Israelite, in whom is no deceit!” Yeshua seems to be making a complex drash (comparative teaching), from the story of Jacob the patriarch and ultimate Israelite (Gen. 32:28-29; 27:35); who deceived his father in order to gain what was rightfully his. Nathanael is clearly a man of devotion to God and the study of Torah, a man of integrity and genuine faith.
We note that in describing Nathanael Yeshua did not use the term Yehudi or Ioudaioi (Judean, Jew) but Israelites, the Greek transliteration of Israelite (all the tribes, who are now known as Jews). Therefore, it is clear that Yeshua made a distinction between the ruling religious class and their followers, the Ioudaioi (often translated as Jews but better translated depending on context as “Judeans”, or “Jewish religious leaders”) and the wider body of Israel (12 tribes). Based on this fact there are many places in the New Testament and particularly in the Gospel of John where it is not correct to translate Ioudaioi into modern English as “Jew”, because today the term Jew refers to all Israelites, ethnic, religious, empirical and is therefore an inaccurate conveyance of the first century meaning of Ioudaioi.
Joh 1:48 Nathanael (Netanel[H]) said to Him (Yeshua[H] [A]). “From where do you know me?” Yeshua[H] [A] answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree (Suke[G]), I saw, perceived, inspected, examined (Eido[G]) you.”
The fig tree was a location for rabbinical study (In part due to the shade it provided). It was also a symbol of Israel’s spiritual fruitfulness, and is later cursed by Yeshua (Mark 11:12-25; Matthew 21:18–22). While it is true that Yeshua had allowed Himself to be limited with regard to His manifest divinity, it is also true that by the Holy Spirit He was able to function in time and space as if He were also beyond time and space. He saw Nathanael in a location and time that He (Yeshua) had not been physically present in. Therefore, while Yeshua was fully man, He clearly maintained certain aspects of deity that transcended the abilities of those born of humanity alone. We note that Yeshua not only saw Nathanael before meeting him, He also examined Nathanael’s heart (core being) and saw him devoid of guile.
Joh 1:49 Nathanael (Netanel[H]) answered and said to Him, “Rabbi[H], [Rhabbi[G], Raban[A]], You are the Son of God (Ho-Uihos ho-Theos[G], Ben Ha-Elohim[H]); You are the King (Ho-Basileus[G], Ha-Melekh[H]) of Israel (Yisrael[H]).”
Nathanael says “My Great One, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel!” On the back of having doubted Philip’s news, Nathanael now undone by the intimate majesty of Yeshua, boldly speaks all the Messianic titles that come to his mind. He has anticipated this great day for the entirety of his life of study and devotion. Nathanael is in awe.
Joh 1:50 Yeshua[H] [A] answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, I saw, perceived, inspected, examined (Eido[G]) you under the fig tree, you believe. You shall see perceive, inspect, examine (Eido[G]) greater things than these.”
This could be a statement or a question. “Now you believe?”, or “Now you believe!”, and “You shall see greater things…” In fact, you shall come to understand that I am the gateway into the Olam Haba world to come, the stairway that makes God accessible to fallen humanity.
Joh 1:51 And He (Yeshua[H] [A]) said to him (Nathanael), Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, from this point onward you shall see the heavens open, and the Malakhim[H] Messengers (angels) of the God (Ho-Theo[G]s, Ha-Elohim[H]) ascending and descending upon the Son of man (Ho-Uihos Ho-anthropos[G], Ha-Ben Ha-adam[H]).
The doubling of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew “Amein” denotes the Hebrew practice of affirmation used in the Tanakh (OT) and the firm establishment of what is about to be said.
The description relating to the Messengers (Angels) of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man is an allusion to the prophetic vision of Jacob when he lay sleeping on the stone/rock in Ha-Makum in the Place (Temple Mount) having made his way there via Beit El (Bethel)[Genesis 28:10-19]. This redemptive vision was a foreshadowing of the salvation that God would provide for all who would receive the King Messiah, Who is prefigured in the stairway/ladder of Jacob’s dream.
“Son of Man” as explained previously, “Son of man” is a Messianic title taken from the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel (Bar Enosh). Yeshua frequently uses this title of Himself (Matt. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; John 3:13-14; 4:50; 5:27; 6:27 etc.). He fully identifies as human, while also being the unique Messianic heavenly Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14, the ideal man, the last Adam, the Kinsmen Redeemer of the people of Israel and all humanity.
“So then, just as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, in the same way death spread to all men because all sinned. 13 For up until the Torah, sin was in the world; but sin does not count as sin when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in a manner similar to the violation of Adam, who is a pattern of the One to come.15 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if many died because of the transgression of one man, how much more did the grace of God overflow to many through the gift of one Man—Yeshua the Messiah. 16 Moreover, the gift is not like what happened through the one who sinned. For on the one hand, the judgment from one violation resulted in condemnation; but on the other hand, the gracious gift following many transgressions resulted in justification. [a] 17 For if by the one man’s transgression, death reigned through the one,[b] how much more shall those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Messiah Yeshua.18 So then, through the transgression of one, condemnation came to all men; likewise, through the righteousness of one came righteousness of life to all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man, many will be set right forever.[c]20 Now the Torah came in so that transgression might increase. But where sin increased, grace overflowed even more— 21 so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness, to eternal life through Messiah Yeshua our Lord.” -Romans 5:12-21 TLV
A definition of each of the two modes of predominant thought addressed by a Messianic theological discussion:
Mode a. Greco-Roman Thought
Greco-Roman thought is informed by Greco-Roman gods, which have been devised by men. Therefore, Greco-Roman thought is man teaching himself delusion. It is largely limited to a chronological view of the world Alpha (A) to Omega (Z), start (of both gods and humanity) and finish (of both gods and humanity). Greco-Roman thought inevitably points to man's deification and death.
Mode b. Biblical Hebrew Thought
Biblical Hebrew thought is informed by the God (all existing) of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen), this mode of thought having been adopted via Israel's receiving of God's written word (Torah, Prophets, Writings, New Testament) by the inspiration and revelation of His Spirit. It is perpetual in understanding, seeing a beginning for humanity at the hands of the pre-existing, everlasting Creator God of Israel. Thus the Biblical Hebrew view thinks in terms of Aleph [A] (The Word, Yeshua) creation's beginning, and the goal toward Whom humanity is directed, Tav [Z] (The Messiah, Yeshua), Who has presented to all, not an end but a new beginning. Thus Biblical Hebrew thought is God teaching man the truth about Himself and about humanity's purpose, nature and need of redemption. Therefore, Biblical Hebrew thought points to the Messiah (God with us), resulting in the worship of the One true God (The God of Israel) and in perpetual Living (eternal life).
MESSIANIC JEWISH THOUGHT DIFFERS FROM GRECO-ROMAN THOUGHT IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:
Lit. Word – HaShem (YHVH)
“The Word (Devar) HaShem (YHVH) came to him (Abram)…”
“The Word (Devar) HaShem (YHVH) came to Shemuel…”
1 Samuel 15:10
“In that night the Word (Devar) HaShem (YHVH) came to Natan…”
2 Samuel 7:4
“The Word (Devar) HaShem (YHVH) came to him (Eliyahu)…”
1 Kings 17:2
And so on, and so on…
The phrase, “The Word of The Lord” occurs some 347 times in the Bible (OT: 328 NT:19). The phrase, “The Word of the Lord came to…” occurs 132 times in the Bible (All in the Tanakh [OT]). It is most often written in Hebrew as pictured above. It reads literally as “Word YHVH”.
In the Tanakh (OT) the Word YHVH comes to Israel’s Prophets. He (The Word) comes and goes throughout the historical narrative of the Tanakh. John 1 explains that in the first century CE (AD), the Word YHVH came, not just to Miriam (Mary) and Yosef (Joseph), but to all the people of Israel, this time, in the flesh, born a Jew. The Word Himself says, “I have come only for the lost sheep of Israel”(Matt. 15:24).
“These twelve Yeshua sent forth, and commanded them, saying, ‘Don’t go into the way of the Gentiles, and don’t enter into any city of the Samaritans: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” -Matthew 19:5-6
This does not mean that the Gospel would not later be offered to the Gentiles. However, it does mean that the disciples, including John, the author of the Gospel of John, had a mandate to act first in sharing the Gospel with Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen, empirical). Based on this point alone, all the Gospels, written by the disciples of Yeshua must be considered to have been intended firstly for the Jewish audience and only secondarily for Gentiles.
© 2019 Yaakov Brown
“Behold, my servant the Messiah shall prosper. He shall be exalted and extolled, and He shall be very strong.” -Targum Yonatan 2nd Century C.E.
The last verse of the previous chapter sets the context for the opening verses of chapter 52. In fact, devoid of the imposition of chapter and verse markings, this section of the scroll of Isaiah has a fluid continuity.
In his commentary on the scroll of Isaiah Iben Ezra writes, “All agree that this prophecy has reference to the time yet to come…” This is an allusion to the time of the King Messiah and is consistent with the view of the majority of our ancient rabbis and commentators.
Isa 52:1 Uriy uriy, An awaking (a laying bare, an eye opening, a rousing, an exposing) of Me, an awaking of Me, livshiy put on uzeich your strength, Tziyon (Zion: parched land); livshiy put on bigdiy tifarteich the garments of your beauty, splendour, glory, Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Outpouring of Peace), iyr ha-kodesh the holy excited city; kiy for lo no more yosiyf will the increase yavo-vach come into you od perpetually (again) of the areil uncircumcised ve’tamei and the unclean.
“Reveal thyself, reveal thyself, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the city of holiness: for the uncircumcised and the polluted shall pass no more through thee.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The previous chapter concluded with Israel’s tormentors receiving the cup of God’s wrath, however, the last lines allude to the position Israel had been placed in by her tormentors: face down in the dust and trampled by her enemies. It is to captive Israel in torment that the opening words of chapter 52 are spoken.
The theme of awakening is carried over from the previous chapter, and added to it is God’s instruction for donning strength. The same call issued to HaShem (Isaiah 51:9) is now given to Jerusalem. HaShem was called upon to bear His strength in redemption of His people, now His people are called upon to don the strength of HaShem.
“Put on your strength Zion” Zion’s strength is her God, His Torah, and the redemptive promise for her future.
“Put on the garments of your beauty Jerusalem” Jerusalem is instructed to clothe herself with beauty. This is both an allusion to physical clothing donned after her release from captivity and to the restoring of her royal clothing under God’s promised Messianic King Who will reign on the throne of David. Additionally, the clothing that is most beautiful is the clothing of righteousness born of God. Thus, Jerusalem, the flood of peace, is called the holy city. She is purposed for holiness, for God has placed His Name upon her mount (Moriah, Zion, Ha-Makum, Har Beit etc.).
“Holy excited city” The Hebrew “iyr” (city) denotes excitement. Thus there is a sense of anticipation of the coming fulfilment of Jerusalem’s eternal holiness: though the context first points to the return of the exiles from Babylon.
“No more will the increase come into you perpetually of the uncircumcised and unclean” This does not mean that gentiles will never again enter Jerusalem. Rather it refers to the future end to the constant defilement of Jerusalem by invading gentile armies and the influence of pagan nations who pollute her with idolatrous worship and false practices. As is clear from the text, while in part these promises apply to the returning Babylonian exiles, they do not apply to Jerusalem’s ongoing historical condition. Until this day, many have continued to defile the holy city of God (Antiochus Epiphanes, Pompey, and the Romans, Ottomans etc.) At present the Temple mount is defiled by a pagan Temple to the false god Allah. Therefore, this prophecy applies in its fullness to a time yet future, that time when the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and the present Jerusalem will merge with the new and be transformed into the holy city it was always purposed to become.
“ Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of hosts; and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a merchant in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day.” -Zechariah 14:21
“Then you will know that I am the Lord your God,
Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy,
And strangers will pass through it no more.” -Joel 3:17 (NASB)
It is clear from the wider Scripture, that the uncircumcised of heart will not enter the eternal Jerusalem.
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary.’” -Ezekiel 44:9 (NASB)
Yochanan (John) writes concerning the New (eternal) Jerusalem:
“22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” -Revelation 21:22-27 (NASB)
Isa 52:2 Shake yourself from the dust, kumiy arise (of Me); sheviy sit, remain, dwell, abide, Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Outpouring of Peace); loose the bonds from your neck, sheviyah captive Bat-Tziyon daughter of Zion.
“Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit upon the throne of glory, O Jerusalem; the chains of thy neck are broken, O captive congregation of Zion.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“Shake yourself from the dust” Refers to the literal physical act of dusting oneself off after lying face down in the dust and being walked over. It also denotes the breaking of mourning (sitting shiva) and figuratively expresses freedom from that which defiles a person and from humility and oppression.
“Arise, sit” This apparent contradiction is in fact nothing of the sort. Captive Israel is to arise from her humiliation and oppression in the strength of HaShem (v.1) and having arisen in Him, to “remain (sit)” in Him, immersed in the flood of His peace (Jerusalem), both literal and figurative, physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal. The Targum links the former verse and the clothing of Jerusalem with glory (beauty) to the throne of Israel and Jerusalem’s central role in the ordination of the eternal King Messiah.
“Loose the bonds from your neck captive daughter of Zion” This, as Iben Ezra says, refers to Israel’s future:
“Thou wilt be no more under the dominion of another nation.” -Iben Ezra
Notice that Zion is to loose her own bonds. It is HaShem Who ultimately frees her from bondage (physical and spiritual), however, she must participate in her deliverance. Zion is to receive and practice the strength of HaShem. A bride does not become a wife unless she says “I betroth myself to you my husband.” Faith without works is dead.
The reference to the neck is important. The yoke that binds captives by the neck has significant figurative meaning to the Hebrew mind. A “yoke” is a figurative rabbinical term which denotes the teaching of a specific rabbi or instructor. This is why Yeshua said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. Therefore, in the present passage Zion is required to intentionally release herself from the false teachings of her captors (Babylonians). Why? Because, were she to fail to do so she would be carrying her spiritual captivity back to Jerusalem with her. She is not a daughter of Babylon but rather a daughter of Zion. One might suggest in some instances, that we should have left the syncretised ideas of our Babylonian Talmud behind, releasing ourselves from those influences of our captivity that contradict the teaching of Hashem (Torah etc.).
The word play between sheviy (sit) and sheviyah (captive) offers itself easily to a drash on the subtle difference between sitting and remaining of one’s own free will and sitting and remaining by force. Only one Hebrew character separates the two, the character “Heh”. The word sheviyah is also related to shabah (take captive). Through the prophet HaShem instructs Jerusalem to arise from the dust of her oppression and the daughter of Zion is instructed to loose the bonds of her captivity. The dust is an allusion to mourning, which connects another Hebrew word shiva (seven), which denotes the Jewish practice of sitting for seven days of mourning following the death of a loved one (sitting shiva). In other words, the days of Jerusalem’s mourning are over, the captivity (sheviyah: forced remaining) of the daughter of Zion is to be transformed into the comfort of dwelling (sheviy), remaining of her own freewill.
Isa 52:3 For thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy): “Chinam For nothing, nimcartem you sold yourselves ve’lo and without ve’kesef money tigaeilu you will be redeemed.”
The idea that Israel sold herself into discipline as a result of her own sin is supported by Isaiah 50:1
“Thus says the LORD: “Where is your mother's certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.”
Through a comparative irony, HaShem will redeem her without paying a cent to her captors. Why? Because the debt of her sin is not owed to her captors but to HaShem, Whom she has sinned against. This debt cannot be settled with money. Therefore, according to His promise HaShem will redeem Israel through His Servant King Messiah and a substitutionary atoning sacrifice. Debts can be paid and restitution made, but only blood has the power to bring about the remission (obliteration) of sin.
“‘I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward,’ says the LORD of hosts.” -Isaiah 45:13
“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Messiah, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” -1 Peter 1:18-19
HaShem gave Israel over to her own sin and she in turn gave herself over to a foreign power, in order that she might be disciplined and turn back to HaShem. In the interim no other people took Israel’s place as payment in kind. Consequently there would be no need of silver to purchase them from their captors, because their captors were not their legitimate owners, nor had they (or could they have) paid for that privilege.
Isa 52:4 For thus says Adonay the Lord (Master) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy): “Mitzrayim yarad amiy To the Egyptians (double distress) went down My people varishonah in the first(born) lagur to sojourn sham there, ve’ashur and the Assyrian (a step) be’efes for nothing ashako oppressed them (him).
The allusion to the first born of HaShem’s people can be applied both to Jacob and to Israel as a whole. It is Adonay the Master, YHVH the proper Noun and His mercy, that reminds Israel of her respite from famine. Jacob went down to Israel through the hand of God upon Joseph (a type for Messiah). Thus, HaShem reminds Israel that from before her captivity He had already made way for her deliverance. Subsequently, Pharaoh and the Assyrian ruler had made them captives: again without legitimate purchase, and again as a result of HaShem’s giving them over to discipline.
HaShem delivered Israel from the Assyrians (Pul, Tiglathpileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib) who were in turn defeated by the Babylonians (Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) and so on. History is saturated with the cycle of discipline and redemption, awaiting its final fulfilment in the future at the redemption of the entire nation of Israel (ethnic, religious) [Romans 11:24-26].
Isa 52:5 Now what have I poh here,” neum declares HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “Kiy for lukakh taken away amiy My people chinam for nothing? Their rulers wail,” neum declares HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “and continually kol-ha-yom all the day shemiy My name is minoatz despised, spurned.
There is some debate over where “poh” (here) is. However, the nearest previous subject is the oppression of Israel: thus, “here” is where Israel is. God is always with His people. This is further supported by the allusion to Jacob’s sojourn in Egypt.
“I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.” -Genesis 46:4
“Their rulers wail” Is in reference to the princes and prophets of Israel in her captivity. Iben Ezra notes that her wailing rulers are like those who speak in riddles and points to those who use proverbs (Numbers 21:27) in support of his assertion. Moshlayv (Rulers) and Ha-mishliym (The proverbs) being closely related Hebrew terms.
We note that the latter clause states that HaShem’s Name is blasphemed as a result of the oppression of His people. In other words, Israel’s captors are strutting about promoting their gods and proclaiming them victors over the God of Israel. Hashem will not allow this to stand.
‘“20 When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of His land.’ 21 But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. 22 ‘Therefore say to the house of Israel,’ Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.’” -Ezekiel 36:20-23 (NASB)
Speaking against Sennacherib the king of Assyria HaShem says:
“Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?
And against whom have you raised your voice
And haughtily lifted up your eyes?
Against the Holy One of Israel!” -Isaiah 37:23 (NASB)
Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) uses this verse to make a drash on Israel’s having boasted in the Torah while breaking the Torah (Romans 2:23-24). Thus, he makes the point that it is because of Israel’s sinful hypocrisy that she sold herself into oppression and as a result God’s Name was blasphemed among the gentiles. This doesn’t oppose the context and meaning of Isaiah 52:5, rather it expounds upon it in order to teach a comparative truth.
Isa 52:6 Lachein Therefore yeida amiy My people will know shemiy My name. Lachein Therefore ba-yom in the day ha-hu the he (will know), kiy because Aniy I hu am He ham’dabeir that speaks; Hineiniy Behold, pay attention, now, be prepared, receive.”
“Therefore” means, because of the blaspheming of My Name by gentiles as a result of the oppression of My people (Israel).
“My people will know My Name” HaShem (YHVH) will minister to His people the knowledge of His person, character, attributes and the present reality of His countenance. His Name (YHVH) denotes Mercy. His Name is the sum title of all that He is. Thus, He will make way for His people to be intimately related to Him.
“Therefore” means, because My people will know My Name (Sum representation of My Person: that is, Yeshua [Colossians 1:15-23])
“In the day he (Israel), because I am He that speaks” In the day that Israel is redeemed through Messiah, she will realise that she is speaking to God face to face, Imanu (with us) God (El). Thus, “Behold, pay attention, now, be prepared, receive.” Israel must prepare herself to receive her King.
Isa 52:7 Mah-navu What beauty al-hehariym upon the mountains ragleiy the feet of him who mevaseir brings news, mashmiya who publishes shalom peace, wholeness, wellbeing, who mevaseir tov brings good news of happiness, mashmiya who publishes yeshuah salvation, omeir saying le’tziyon to Zion, “Malakh Elohayich Your God reigns.”
“How beautiful upon the mountains of the land of Israel are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace, that publishes salvation, saying to the congregation of Zion, The kingdom of thy God is revealed.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“What beauty on the mountains, the feet of him who brings news” As interpreted by the Targum, the mountains are specifically the mountains of Judea (Israel). These words are addressed to Jerusalem, therefore, the mountains are those approaching Jerusalem, and specifically the mountains to the north of Jerusalem.
“Him” is applied generally to all who bring good news of Hashem to the people of Israel.
Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) applies this as a drash to all who are sent out to share the good news of the Gospel:
“And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!’” -Romans 10:15 (TLV)
However, ultimately “Him” refers to the King Messiah Yeshua, after all, the nearest subject is in the latter clause of the previous verse, that subject being God Himself:
“I am He that speaks; Behold, pay attention, now, be prepared, receive.”
“Who publishes peace, wholeness, wellbeing,” The Hebrew mashmiya is from the root shama (hear), and means that the messenger of good news will cause the hearing of it to result in peace, wholeness and well-being.
“Who brings good news of happiness” The good news is not only published, it is also brought near, and in the bringing of it there is true happiness, the fruit of true freedom.
“Who publishes salvation” The messenger also proclaims Salvation Himself (Yeshua the King Messiah). Thus, the messenger is both the forerunner (Elijah, John) and the Messiah Himself.
“Saying to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” God is King regardless of belief or appearances. God is King, God was King, God will be King everlasting. This proclamation made by many messengers will one day be made by The Messenger, the King Messiah Yeshua and will culminate in the ceasing of all appearances to the contrary. By far the majority of our ancient Rabbis and commentators agree that this verse speaks of the King Messiah and His reign (Vayikra Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 153. 2. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 11. 4. Yalkut Simeoni in Psal. xxix. 11. Menasseh Ben Israel, Nishmat Chayim, fol. 41. 2.).
Isa 52:8 Kol A voice tzofayich of your watchmen--naseu they lift up, bear up, carry, take up kol a voice yachdav together (as one) yeraneinu they overcome (cry out); kiy because ayin be-ayin eye to eye yiru they see be’shuv in the return of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) to Tziyon (Zion: parched land).
The watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls are the first to see and hear the news of the messenger. This is literally and historically true while at the same time being figuratively true of all who wait on and look for the coming of the forerunner Elijah and the heralding of the King Messiah. This was first fulfilled at the first coming of Yeshua through the forerunner John, who came in the spirit of Elijah. Subsequently it will be completed at the second coming of the King Messiah, who, according to Scripture (Malachi 3:23) will be heralded by Elijah himself (We note that Elijah did not die but was lifted up in a fiery chariot between realms).
“The voice of thy rulers! They are lifting up their voice, together they offer praise; because with their eyes they see the mighty works which the Lord shall do, when He shall return His Shekinah to Zion.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
It is therefore, the job of the watchmen to cry out together and lift up their collective voices as a sign and to overcome together. We note that the watchmen are a collective and can be seen as both the literal spiritual watchmen of Israel (ethnic, religious) and as a figurative allusion to the spiritual watchmen of the body of Messiah followers both Jew and gentile. We are therefore reminded of the words of Yeshua via John:
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” -Revelation 12:11 (NASB)
“because eye to eye they see in the return of HaShem to Zion” The watchmen see eye to eye in agreement, they also see God Himself eye to eye or face to face. It is in the sight they have received from the messenger that they are able to behold the return of HaShem Himself to Zion, the land and the people. This is also the reason they cry out in unity, hence “because” meaning because of the previous clause.
“The return of Hashem to Zion” does not mean He has ever truly left Zion, rather it refers to a manifest return of His presence. This is why the Targum renders the phrase “when He shall return His Shekinah to Zion.” Shekhinah being a post Biblical Hebrew word denoting the manifest feminine presence of God’s Spirit or the Kavod HaShem, the glorious tangible presence of God, usually seen in the physical as cloud and fire. Of course in addition to this God is returning to Zion as Imanuel (God with us) the King Messiah Yeshua.
“14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O Lord, are in the midst of this people, for You, O Lord, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.” -Numbers 14:14 (NASB)
Our ancient rabbis and commentators attribute this portion of Isaiah 52 to the time of the Messiah’s reign and the resurrection of the dead at the end of days (Pesikta in Kettoreth Hassammim in Targ. in Numb. fol. 25. 4. T. Bab. Sanhedrhin. fol. 91. 2.)
Isa 52:9 Pitzchu Break out ranenu overcoming (crying out) yachdav together (as one), you waste places of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Outpouring of Peace), for nicham HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has comforted amo His people; He has ga’al redeemed Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Outpouring of Peace).
“Break out overcoming (crying out) together (as one), you waste places of Jerusalem” Once again in light of the strength afforded them by Hashem and of the return of the captives and of the presence of HaShem to the city, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are instructed to exercise their new found strength and freedom by breaking free from their bonds both physical and spiritual. They are to do this yachad, as one, together, for part of their strength is in their unity under Hashem and through His Messiah.
“HaShem has comforted… He has redeemed” past tense. We note that HaShem has comforted His people Israel, and that He has redeemed the people of Jerusalem. This can be understood in terms of God’s eternal perspective and the Messiah sacrificed before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Thus, Hashem sees complete outside of time and space what is yet to be completed within time and space. Alternatively we can understand it to mean that HaShem has worked in and through Israel’s suffering, oppression and discipline, and has been a comfort to her, redeeming her in the midst of her humiliation and fallenness.
Isa 52:10 Chasaf HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has made bare et-zeroa kadesho His holy arm le’eiyneiy before the eyes col-hagoyim of all the nations, verau col-afseiy aretz and all the ends of the earth (land) will see et yeshuat the salvation Eloheiynu of our God.
“As a warrior is accustomed to make bare his right arm up to the shoulder, that he may fight without encumbrance (exsertare humeros nudamque lacessere pugnan, as Statius says in Theb. i. 413).” -Commentary on Isaiah by Kiel & Delitzsch
The figure of the hero who slays the enemy with his arm made bare is here applied to Hashem and His redemptive work on Israel’s behalf. We note that His arm is “holy” that is, set apart. The arm and in particular the right arm is one of the Hebrew representations of ultimate strength in action. This arm of Hashem can also be applied as a metaphor for the work of the Messiah and is seen as being “holy” set apart before the eyes of the nations, particularly those who have come against His people Israel (ethnic, religious). The redemption and salvation of Israel (ethnic, religious) is to be a sign for all the nations of the earth. The Salvation the nations see is that of Eloheiynu our (Israel’s) God (YHVH). Make no mistake, the Gospel message is a universal message of Salvation, but the God of the Gospel is a tribal God, El Eloheiy Yisrael (God the God of Israel).
Isa 52:11 Suru suru Depart, depart, tzeu go out misham from there; tamei al-tigau touch (reach out for) no unclean (impure) thing; tzeu go out from the midst of her; hibaru purify yourselves, nose’ei you who bear, lift up, carry keleiy the vessels, implements, utensils of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
“Separate yourselves, separate yourselves, go ye out from thence, do not come near the unclean; come forth from the midst of her: those that carry the vessels of the house of the sanctuary of the Lord have been chosen.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The Targum renders the text in a familiar way, reminiscent of the Revelation of Yeshua to John.
“I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues…’” -Revelation 18:4 (NASB)
According to R Moses Hakkohen these words are addressed to the exiles in Babylon, while Iben Ezra believes they are addressed to all those Jews who remain dispersed throughout the nations. Both perspectives are valid. The historical context allows for R Moses Hakkohen’s view and the yet future fulfilment of the Messianic aspects of the prophecy allow for the view of Iben Ezra.
“Depart, depart, go out from there” The repetition of “Depart” denotes immediacy and the established nature of the freedom to come. We also note that the prophet says “there”, meaning that Isaiah is writing from within the land of Israel, probably from Jerusalem concerning exiles that are elsewhere in Babylon, thus, “there”.
This escape is in part concerning the liberation of the Babylonian exiles:
“Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, ‘The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!’” -Isaiah 48:20
When they go out from Babylon (or any future captivity that has resulted from their sin), they are instructed not to touch anything unclean, be it literal or figuratively unclean. They are to keep the ritual purity of the Torah and leave behind them those idolatrous possessions of their captors that they might have kept from their stay in captivity. They were to leave their captivity as a holy procession, morally as well as corporeally pure. Those who bear the vessels of HaShem, (the vessels of the temple), are to purify themselves according to the requirements of the Torah.
This prophecy, was fulfilled in part when Cyrus ordered the temple vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought to Babylon, to be restored to the returning exiles.
“ 7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 10 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11 all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.” -Ezra 1:7-11
The Jewish commentator Yarchi sees the present text as referring to the priests and Levites that bore the vessels of the Lord in the wilderness. Kimchi interprets it of the mercies and kindnesses of the Lord.
Iben Ezra names “The Israelites who are the bearers of the Torah” as those “who bear the vessels of the LORD.”
The Zohar understands the vessels of the Lord figuratively as representing the righteous, brought as a gift to the King Messiah (Zohar, In Exod. fol. 87. 4.)
Isa 52:12 For you will not go out ve’chipazon in haste, trepidation and you will not go in flight, for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) lifneiychem will go before your faces, and guarding your rear will be Eloheiy Yisrael the God (Judge) of Israel.
“For you will not go out in haste and you will not go in flight” Unlike her escape from Egypt which was undertaken in haste, Israel’s escape from Babylon will be conducted with calm assurance and preordained order.
“HaShem (YHVH) will go before your faces, and guarding your rear will be Eloheiy Yisrael the God (Judge) of Israel.” Like the escape from Egypt, HaShem will be present in a manifest and tangible way as the guide going before them and as the rear guard protecting their rear. This is an allusion to the Malakh HaShem (Angel of the Lord) Who was manifest in the cloud and fire that lead and guarded Israel on her journey out of Egyptian bondage. This relates to the sight that is seen by the watchmen as they behold first the messenger and then HaShem Himself coming on the mountains of Judea before the returning captives (52:7-8).
Isa 52:13 Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, My servant will yaskiyl act wisely (with understanding); he will yarum be high ve’nisa and lifted up (like a banner), vegavah meod and will be exceedingly high.
Most commentators agree that this verse begins a new prophetic address that continues through 53:12. The present chapter markers do a disservice to the modern English reader.
In the present verse and the portion of Isaiah that follows the prophetic work reaches the crescendo of its Messianic vision. The Servant King Messiah (much to the chagrin of many modern Jewish and liberal Christian theologians) is clearly illuminated in the precise descriptions of His life and His ministry of suffering and resurrection.
This portion of Isaiah has been contested for almost two thousand years by Jewish and Christian scholars over the question of whether this passage refers to the Servant King Messiah or to Israel who suffer innocently for the sin of the nations.
The Ethiopian eunuch asks Philip (Disciple of Messiah) ‘“Please tell me, who is the prophet talking about—himself or someone else?’ 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he proclaimed the Good News about Yeshua.” -Acts 8:34-35 (TLV)
Prior to the 11th Century CE the majority of Jewish commentators and rabbis interpreted Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as referring to the suffering Servant of God, the King Messiah, a view still held to this day by many Orthodox Jews (they simply disagree as to Who Messiah is). However, beginning at the end of the 11th Century CE Jewish commentators began to assert that Isaiah was referring to Israel who suffers innocently for the sins of the nations. This divergent view is largely due to the increased persecution of Jews by so called Christians (Crusaders etc.). As a result of this persecution and the zealous proselytizing of some, the Jewish community began to seek polemic arguments against the interpreting of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as referring to Yeshua as the King Messiah of Israel.
The 2nd Century CE Targum Yonatan (an Aramaic Jewish paraphrase) understands Isaiah 52:13 to be referring to the promised King Messiah:
“Behold, my servant the Messiah shall prosper. He shall be exalted and extolled, and He shall be very strong.” -Targum Yonatan 2nd Century CE
The Babylonian Talmud (codified in the 6th Century CE) also interprets this portion of Isaiah Messianically:
“The Messiah—what is his name? …The Rabbis say, ‘the Leprous one’: Those of the house of Rabbi say, ‘the sick one’, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our sickness.’” -Sanhedrin 98b, Babylonian Talmud
The Midrash Rabbah on Ruth 2:14:
“He is speaking of the King Messiah: ‘Come hither draw near to the Throne; and eat the bread,’ that is the bread of the kingdom: ‘and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.’ This refers to his chastisements, as it is said, ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.’”
A later Midrash Yalkut Shimoni says:
“‘Who are you, O great mountain?’ (Zech. 4:7). This refers to the King Messiah, and why does he call him ‘the great mountain’? Because he is greater than the patriarchs. As it is said, ‘My servant shall be high and lifted up and lofty exceedingly’ (ref. Isa.52:13) He will be higher than Abraham, who says, ‘I raise high my hand unto the Lord’ (Gen. 14:22). Lifted up above Moses, to whom it is said, ‘Lift it up unto thy bosom’ (Num. 11:12): Loftier than the ministering angels, of whom it is written: ‘Their wheels were lofty and terrible’ (Ezk. 1:18).” -Midrash Yalkut Shimoni
In spite of the modern Jewish and liberal Christian opposition to the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the ancient Jewish tradition has been preserved even to the present day in the liturgy for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in a prayer attributed to Eliezer Ha-Kallir (8th Century CE).
“The Messiah our righteousness has turned from us. We are alarmed, we have no one to justify us. Our sins and the yoke of our transgressions He bore. He was bruised for our iniquities. He carried on His shoulders our sin. With His stripes we are healed. Almighty God, hasten the day that He might come to us anew; that we might hear from Mt. Lebanon (Mt Whiteness, purity: The Temple Mount) a second time through the Messiah.”
–Oz M’lifnai B’reshit, Services for the Day of Atonement, Hebrew Publishing Co., 1928
Some of our ancient Rabbis struggled to understand the divergent elements of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. As a result the two Messiah theory developed. Mashiach Ben Yosef, the suffering Messiah (Isaiah 50:5-7 & 53). Mashiach Ben David, the triumphant King Messiah who subdues the nations and establishes his Messianic kingdom (Psalm 2 & 110). Messiah Ben Yosef is said to die in the battle against Edom (figuratively Rome): he is followed by Messiah Ben David, who establishes His kingdom of righteousness after defeating the gentile nations. The irony of this interpretation is that the two Messiah figures accurately divide the ministry of the living Messiah Yeshua, Who came first as the suffering Servant (Ben Yosef) and will come again as the victorious King (Ben David).
The Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) solves the question of divergent themes by revealing the advent of the King Messiah and subsequently describing His second coming (Mt. 23:29; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:14-17 etc.)
Rabbi Moshe Kohen Iben Crispin (13th Century) complained that those who interpret Isaiah 53 as referring to Israel were doing violence to the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text:
“Having inclined after the stubbornness of their own hearts and their own opinion. I’m pleased to interpret the Parasha (portion) in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah…and adhere to the literal sense. Thus I shall be free from forced and far-fetched interpretations of which others are guilty.”
None the less, sadly the dominant modern Jewish scholarship view is that of the collective Servant, Israel. Regardless, those who follow Yeshua the King Messiah are given the clear direction of the Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT), which not only supports but also illuminates and affirms the Messianic view of Isaiah 53.
While there is an intrinsic connection between the Messiah and the people of Israel (ethnic, religious), it is entirely dishonest to interpret Isaiah 53 of Israel the people. In my commentary on Isaiah 53 I will further expound on this. For the follower of Messiah Yeshua, the only possible interpretation of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is that it describes the Servant King Messiah Yeshua. Those liberal Christian Theologians who interpret the text of the people of Israel as a whole defile their own misguided faith and at the same time prevent their Jewish hearers from receiving the King Messiah Yeshua. This in my opinion is vindictive of the most heinous form of antisemitism.
In Isaiah 52:13-15 HaShem introduces His faithful Servant and proclaims that the Servant will accomplish the purposes of God and in the future will be highly exalted.
This section is a prelude to the prophecy of Isaiah 53. It opens with the Hebrew “Hineih” which is regularly used by Isaiah to draw attention to something of great importance. In this case, the illumination of the identity and function of the Servant.
As mentioned previously, the question of the Servant’s identity is foremost in the mind of interpreters. It is clear from the Hebrew text that an individual is being referred to, and that this is a literal individual and not a figurative or poetic individual. In accordance with Rabbinical interpretive method a remez (hint), drash (comparative) or sod (mystery) must submit to the p’shat (plain) meaning. Any interpretation of the present text that sees a corporate entity as the servant is in violation of the rabbinic interpretive method.
“Behold, now, pay attention, My servant will act wisely (with understanding);” The wise actions of the Servant denote rule, dominion.
“he will be high and lifted up (like a banner), and He will be exceedingly high.” The three references to elevation show a progression of ministry. Messiah will be lifted above all powers and authorities.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,” -Philippians 2:9
“Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” -Acts 2:33
“He worked in Messiah when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” -Ephesians 1:20-23
The first two Hebrew verbs used “high and lifted up”, are the same as those previously used by Isaiah in reference to HaShem (YHVH), Who he saw “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1).
Isa 52:14 When many were shamemu astonished, appalled at you— thus mishchat he was so marred (disfigured) mei’iysh more than any man, mareihu his appearance (the sight of him), (beyond human semblance), ve’to’aro and his form (figure, shape) mibeneiy beyond that of the children of adam mankind (a man)--
Here HaShem addresses the Servant directly in the second person. This is said in the past tense, the Hebrew shameu expresses a sort of devastated awe at the transformation of the Servant from a marred and disfigured human being to the high, lifted up and exalted Servant of the previous verse. This in itself is an allusion to the death and resurrection of the King Messiah Yeshua.
“Thus he was so marred (disfigured) more than any man, his appearance (the sight of him), (beyond human semblance), and his form (figure, shape) beyond that of the children of mankind.” This second clause is a parenthetical sentence that describes the reason for the devastated awe of those who look upon the Servant.
Isa 52:15 Thus yazeh he sprinkles, spatters (startles) goyim rabiym many nations. On account of him melachiym Kings will shut their piyhem mouths, for that which has not been supar recounted, related, told lahem to them they see, va’asher and that which they have not shameu heard hitbonanu they will discern, consider, understand.
“Thus he sprinkles, spatters (startles) many nations.” The verb yazeh from nizeh (to sprinkle) is used in the Tanakh (OT) to describe the ritual cleansing of a leper by the means of sprinkling of the blood of a sacrifice over water (Lev. 14:7), and the sprinkling of the veil of the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) [Lev. 4:6]. It is therefore interesting to note the Talmudic assertion that one of the names of the King Messiah is “Nagua”-Leprous one (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b). This is based on Isaiah 53:4, 8. The idea being that the Servant of HaShem, who was once shunned by Israel and the nations as a leper, now brings cleansing to Israel and the nations through His own substitutionary sacrificial blood.
“On account of him Kings will shut their mouths, for that which has not been recounted, related, told to them they see, and that which they have not heard they will discern, consider, understand.” The shutting of the mouth is an involuntary response of the body to an outside expressions of power that results in a person being overcome by intense and immediate awe.
The Servant’s transformation from disfigured man to Ruler above the angels will inspire silent awe, both at His first coming and resurrection and at His return. Additionally, many kings throughout history to date having heard the news of the Gospel and the King Messiah Yeshua, have responded in silent awe and repentance. Sadly, the shut mouths of those kings who remain in power at the end of the age will be mouths silenced by the terror of knowing that they have resisted God’s Servant King Messiah and have been found wanting.
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” -Zephaniah 3:17
Copyright 2019 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,