Yeshua and His disciples observed, at least in part, significant portions of the Oral Torah, which was later codified as the Mishnah (2nd Century CE).
The first half of this chapter concerned the clear redemptive messianic mandate of Yeshua and His unwillingness to abide the plans of fallen human beings. It continued with His faithful observance of the instruction to go up for the festival of Sukkot, and alludes to His public teaching in the Temple proper (an area Gentiles were excluded from) among His fellow Jews in the middle of the festival.
As I previously stated, a sound understanding of the festival of Sukkot (Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-16) and its first century customs (some of which are described in the Mishnah and Talmud) is key to a correct interpretation of John 7:37-39 and 8:12. The festival of Sukkot is the backdrop for John chapters 7 and 8.
Sukkot begins 5 days after Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on the 15th of Tishri (the Shabbat or seventh month of the Biblical lunar calendar). It is highly likely given Yeshua’s strict observance of the Torah, that He had gone up to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur and had returned to the Galilee for the 5 day interim period between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. He had every intention of going up for Sukkot, in His own timing (according to God’s timing).
Sukkot is the festival of the later harvest and is full of completions: seven days, seventy sacrificial bulls etc. It has a long standing connection to the nations, from the time of the giving of the Torah in the presence of seventy elders, to the time of the prophet Zechariyah, and in the Talmud of rabbinical Judaism, and beyond.
“16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.17 And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the
Concerning the seventy bulls required by Numbers 29:12-34, which were to be sacrificed over the seven days of the festival of Sukkot, the Talmud Bavliy says:
“Rabbi El’azar said, ‘To what do these seventy bulls correspond? To the seventy nations…” (Sukkah 55b)
Based on the many correlations between the number seventy and the nations in the Torah, rabbinic tradition teaches that seventy is a number for the nations and that the seventy bulls sacrificed during Sukkot are meant as an atonement for the nations.
Jewish Tradition and Practice During First Century CE Sukkot Celebrations at the Temple in Jerusalem:
In addition to the continued Torah instructed practice of dwelling, sleeping, eating and drinking, in temporary shelters, first century Jews practiced various other rites during Sukkot in Jerusalem each year.
The waving of the four species or Lulav (still practiced today) made up of branches of palm tree, myrtle, and willow, bound up together in a bundle (Lev.23:40). These were carried in the right hand, with an etrog (citron native to Israel) in the left. The lulav is waved three times first toward the east, then south, east, north, toward the heavens and then toward the lower regions and brought back to rest over the heart of the worshipper. This signifies that God is Creator and sustains of all things.
In the first century the priests walked around the altar once for each of the first six days of Sukkot, with the lulav in their hands, saying the words "Hoshana Save now, I plead to You, O Lord, O Lord I plead to You, send now prosperity" (Psalm 118:25): and on the seventh day, they went around the altar seven times (Mishnah. ib. c. 4. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Maimon. Hilch. Lulab, c. 7. sect. 5, 6, 9, 23).
There were great Menorah-like four branched candles stands in the Temple precinct. At sundown on the first day of the feast, they went down to the court of the women where golden candlesticks had been erected, and at the head of them four golden basins, and four ladders to every candlestick, and four young priests had four pitchers of oil, that held a hundred and twenty logs (an ancient measure of oil), which they put into each basin. Wicks were made from the old breeches and girdles of the priests, and it was these oil soaked wicks that the priests would light. There was not a court in Jerusalem which was not lit up with that light, and religious men, and men of good works, danced before them, with lighted torches in their hands, singing songs and hymns of praise, which continued for the following six nights (Mishnah. Succah, c. 5. sect 2, 3, 4; Maimon. ib. c. 8. sect. 12.).
On every day of the festival water was drawn from the pool of Siloach (sent) [Situated approximately 2km south of the Temple Mount], and was poured along with wine at the base of the altar as a libation offering. This was celebrated with great rejoicing (simchateinu). During the illumination in the court of the women, many instruments were employed such as harps, psalteries, cymbals, and two priests with trumpets, who sounded them when they were given the signal, and on every day, as they brought water from the pool of Siloach to the altar, they sounded with trumpets, and shouted; the great "Hallel" (Psalms 136), was sung all the eight days (Mishnah. ib. c. 4. sect. 8, 9. & c. 5. 1, 4, 5. & Eracin, c. 2. sect. 3). The whole festival was one of great rejoicing, according to Leviticus 23:40.
With all this and more in mind, and ultimately, guided by the Ruach Ha-Kodesh Who imparts the teaching of Yeshua to all believers, we attempt to humbly, and contextually understand the text that follows.
25 So some of the people of Yerushalayim[H] (Jerusalem: Downpour of Peace) were saying, “Is this not the one whom they’re seeking to kill?
“Is this not the one whom they’re seeking to kill?” This is a reference to those religious leaders among the Judean sect that were moved to hatred by Yeshua’s making whole of the man at Beit Chasda (House of Kindness and practical love). As mentioned previously, John 5:18 says “they sought to kill Him…”
The fact that “some of the people of Jerusalem” (Jews who had made aliyah for the festival of Sukkot) use the determiner “they” to refer to the small group of leaders who wanted to kill Yeshua, shows a social distancing between the speakers and the group who hated Yeshua. To say “they” is to exclude self and or, the collective “we”.
26 See, behold, pay attention (eido[G], Hinei[H]), He is speaking unreservedly, frankly, without ambiguity (parrhesia[G], doveir[H]), publicly, among the masses (barabiym[H]), and they’re not saying anything to Him.
The same “they” of the previous verse have been witnessed by the crowd watching Yeshua and listening to His teaching without making a move to prevent Him or interrupt Him, even though He is doing all this publicly and with dynamic, articulate, awe inspiring success.
The rulers, leaders, magistrates, heads (archon[G], rasheiynu[H]) haven’t truly concluded, come to the knowledge, come to have faith, trust (ginosko[G], um’nam[H]), because (kiy[H]) in truth (be’emet[H]) this one (zeh[H]) He (Hu[H]) is the Messiah (ho Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]), have they?
“The rulers, leaders, magistrates, heads” Refers to the Spiritual leaders, certain adjudicators of Torah and early rabbinic Halakhah, and possibly to some of the leaders of various smaller synagogues from throughout the region who practiced a pharisaic form of Judean Jewish faith. It does not refer to the Pharisees or Priests who are named separately in verse 32.
“haven’t truly concluded, come to the knowledge, come to have faith, trust… have they?” This statement reads as either incredulity or sarcasm, possibly even as a rhetorical question. It is certainly not a genuine attempt to discern the thinking or faith of the religious Jewish leaders.
The Greek “ginosko”[G] which alludes to mental assent or knowledge gleaned from persuasion, is equivalent but not the same as the more holistic Hebrew concept of emunah[H], faith, trust, knowledge of the inner being. The Greek concept of consciousness requires the seat of consciousness to reside in the brain/mind, the Hebrew idea of consciousness does not, rather, for the Hebrew the seat of consciousness is at the centre of being where the mind, emotion, soul, spirit, intellect, action etc. converge. Thus the Hebrew concept of consciousness allows for a continued conscious state following the physical death of the brain, and finds a greater continuity with the meta-narrative of Scripture.
In the next verse the Greek “ginosko”[G] is juxtaposed against the idea of belief based on various forms of sight “eido”[G]. This is yet further evidence of the Hebraic thought of the author, who appropriates Greek language as a vehicle for relaying a more holistic Hebrew understanding of the redemptive work of God.
27 In addition (alla[G]), we see, perceive (eido[G]) this man’s place of origin (pothen[G]); but whenever the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach) comes, no one (oudeis[G]) knows (ginosko[G], yeida[H]) His place of origin (pothen[G]).”
“we see, perceive this man’s place of origin” This tells us that by far the majority of those who were listening to Yeshua were aware that He had been residing in K’far Nachum (Capernaum) in the Galilee and as testified to in John 6:42, others were aware of His parents Yosef and Miriyam and His connection to Nazareth. However, based on what follows it seems clear that few if any (other than His immediate family and close retinue) were aware that He had been born in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem, the house of bread), the town of King David.
Note the Greek “eido” does not mean “to know”, as is translated in so many English versions. In fact the text makes a clear distinction between perception based on knowledge “ginosko” and perception based on the various forms of sight “eido”. Yeshua’s listeners claim to be speaking of “knowing” where Messiah will come from, but Yeshua rebukes them by saying (to paraphrase), “You see Me and see where I have come from, I haven’t separated Myself from God Who is Truth and sent Me, Him you don’t see or perceive of, in spite of the fact that you can most certainly see Me!”
“…but whenever the Messiah comes, no one knows His place of origin;” Among the many strands of thought regarding Jewish messianic expectation in the first century CE, was the tradition of the “Hidden Messiah”, which some associate with the apocryphal (Not Inspired) book of Chanoch (1 Enoch 46:1-3).
“Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was; and why he accompanied the Ancient of days.” -1 Enoch 46:1b
The point is that contrary to Scripture (Micah 5:1), the “Hidden Messiah” tradition of the first century CE was prevalent among observant Jews.
The reality is that Scripture makes clear that the King Messiah will be born in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem):
“But as for you, Beit Lechem (Bethlehem, house of bread) Efratah (Ephrathah, fruitful place). Insignificant among the clans of Y’hudah (Judah, Praise), from you One will go forth for Me to be Ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago,
from the days of eternity.” -Micah 5:1  Author’s translation
Note that our rabbis rightly conclude that this refers to the King Messiah the Greater Son of David, due to the fact that according to this text the individual being referred to is both of the lineage of Judah and of eternity past.
One might conclude that this belief in the “Hidden Messiah” tradition was one held by Am Ha-aretz (Commoners) unlearned in the Torah, Prophets and Writings. If this is the case the latter reference to these unlearned commoners and their ignorance by the religious rulers (v.49), denotes that the religious leaders, being aware of the prophet Micah and knowing the birthplace of the Messiah, were all the more accountable and therefore in a much worse position than that of the ignorant masses, whom were supposedly under God’s curse. This brings to mind the writing of Yeshua’s brother Yaakov (James):
“Not many of you should aspire to become teachers, my Jewish brothers and sisters, knowing that as such we teachers will incur a stricter judgment.” -Yaakov (James) 3:1 Author’s translation
28 Then Yeshua (YHVH Saves, Jesus) cried out like a raven, like a prayer for vengeance (krazo[G], kara[H]) in the Temple (hieron[G], ha-Mikdash[H]), teaching (didasko[G], vay’lameid[H]) and saying (lego[G], vayomer[H]), “You both see, perceive (eido[G]) Me and see, perceive (eido[G]) My place of origin (pothen[G]); and of separation (apo[G]) I have not come, but He Who is true, faithful, trustworthy (ne’eman[H]) did the sending, sent Me (ho pempo me[G], she’lachaniy[H]), Whom all of you don’t see, perceive (eido[G]).
The Greek “krazo” denotes a cry like that of a raven or a man screaming a prayer of vengeance. Such was the power of His voice, that the sound of it carried over the heads and into the ears of the thousands of worshippers gathered in the Temple complex.
As stated in my previous article “…in the Mikdash (Temple)” means inside the Temple area itself, and does not refer to the outer court of the Gentiles which is not considered part of the Temple proper. In other words, at the time of these events Yeshua’s teaching was made available only to Jews.
“You both see, perceive Me and see, perceive My place of origin;” Yeshua acknowledges that with their physical sight and human intellect they have observed and heard of His then current physical place of origin. However, what follows is a rebuke regarding their inability to see His ultimate origin in God the Father and His manifest identity as the visible substance of the invisible God. We should be slow to judge these first century Jewish worshippers, after all, we who have seen Yeshua spiritually are prone to the same lack of discernment but are, unlike them, without an excuse.
“and of separation I have not come,” Yeshua’s physical and spiritual being are inseparable. Likewise He and the Father are inseparable. He has not come from just one physical location, nor has He ever been separate from His origin in the Father, rather, He has come in unity with the Father and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and in unity with the Father’s will.
Therefore, Yeshua’s identity can only be fully understood in the unity of the Godhead and the Person of Yeshua as Imanu El “With us God”. Ironically, to see Him in any other way is to practice the compartmentalization of the Greco-Roman world, and yet, Yeshua’s listeners were doing that very thing. Sadly, many believers also misperceive Yeshua in the same way today.
“…but He Who is true, faithful, trustworthy did the sending, sent Me, Whom all of you don’t see, perceive.” Simply put, you don’t perceive of the true nature of God, Who sent me.
29 I (Aniy[H]) see, perceive (eido[G]) Him, because from Him likewise existing, present (eimi[G]), I am sent (apostello[G], she’lachaniy[H]).”
Yeshua is essential saying, “I am God with You, In Him and of Him, Sent from Him to dwell within Him in the created order…”
30 As a result they were seeking (zeteo[G]) to lay hold of (piazo[G]) Him; and no one could lay a hand (epiballo[G]) on Him, because the certain, definite, time, hour (hora[G]) for Him had not yet come (lo bai to[H]).
“As a result they were seeking to lay hold of Him” In almost every instance when the religious authorities sought to lay hold of, stone, throw of a cliff or kill Yeshua, it was because He was either directly or indirectly claiming to be Imanu El God with us. Not “A son of God” but “The Son of God”.
“…and no one could lay a hand on Him, because the certain, definite, time, hour for Him had not yet come…” Notice the repetition of this phrase which is used to illuminate the reason that Yeshua would not acquiesce to His brothers’ suggestion earlier in this chapter. It is Yeshua, within God’s will, Who both knows and decides when He will give up His life as a vicarious sacrifice for all who will believe.
“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” -John 10:17-19 (NASB)
31 From the crowd many (polus[G], rabiym[H]) believed, trusted, had faith, were persuaded, placed their confidence (pisteuo[G], he’emiynu[H]) in Him; and they were saying, “When the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]) comes, He will not perform more, superior or greater (pleion[G], har’beih[H]) signs, marks, wonders (semeion[G], otot[H]) than those which this man has, will He?”
Notice that “many” of the Jewish worshippers who heard Yeshua were “persuaded” (pisteuo[G]) and “trusted, chose faith in Him” (he’emiynu[H]). This is not, as some suggest, a limited or superficial faith. To the contrary, like the disciples of Yeshua’s inner circle many thousands of Jews of the first century began to have faith in Yeshua during His ministry and found a greater fullness in the progression of that same faith following His death and resurrection.
Long before the body of believers became predominantly Gentile, it was wholly Jewish. In fact, at the convergence of the Jewish and Gentile progression of faith in Yeshua, the body of believers (Ecclesia[G]) was called Ha-Derech (The Way), a “Jewish Sect”. Interestingly, today in modern rabbinical Judaism we have a prayer dedicated to God’s protection and blessing as we journey, called Tefiylat HaDerech, Prayer of the way.
32 Some of the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees) heard the crowd murmuring these things about Him (Yeshua), and the chief priests (archiereus[G], ha-kohaniym[H]) and some of the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees) sent servants (huperetes[G]) to apprehend (piazo[G]) Him.
I have added the words “some of” for clarification because it is clear from Scripture that Nakdiymon (Nicodemus) and other Pharisees like Him, along with many of Yeshua’s own disciples, who were clearly of the Pharisaic sect, were not among the Pharisees who were seeking to seize Yeshua. For all intents and purposes Yeshua Himself was a Pharisee.
It is worth noting the P’rush means “Separate, distinct, set apart”. Therefore, the P’rushiym (ancient forerunners to rabbinical Judaism) were “Distinct, set apart ones”. In respect to God’s call on His people this is a wonderful name to carry, however, God’s Son our King Messiah comes to remind us that we are to be set apart unto God and not separated from Him by our fallen sense of self-righteousness.
At this juncture we need to be reminded once again that for all intents and purposes and with regard to theology and faith Yeshua was a Pharisee. Likewise Nakdiymon, Rav Shaul (Paul the sent one) and many others who chose faith in Yeshua. The Chief Priests and Pharisees mentioned here are a subgroup among those groups and do not represent the whole.
It’s important to clarify the distinction between the Pharisees and the Chief Priest, the majority of whom were Sadducees (forerunners of the modern Karaite Jews). Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees accepted the Torah alone as authoritive Scripture and would therefore have rejected Yeshua’s claims to Messiahship, a majority of which were based on the writings of the prophets, which the Sadducees considered uninspired. In addition, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection (imagine their chagrin concerning the resurrection of Lazarus), angels, demons, miraculous healing (Oiy Vey) and so on. The Sadduciym were essentially moralists, making ethics out of sacred writings and seeing death as the absolute end of life. Not unlike numerous ethics lecturers in our modern western universities.
Therefore, the fact that Sadducees and Pharisees could have united in their dislike of Yeshua means that at least part of the reason was political rather than spiritual. Roman occupation hung on their minds and the repercussions they foresaw regarding a messianic uprising terrified them.
Pilate, the Roman Governor of the time is recorded in extra Biblical history as an insidious man who used provocations and tyranny to incite and murder Jews in Roman occupied Israel. Thus, the Pharisees and Sadducees had good reason to be fearful of what might result if Yeshua was allowed to be hailed as the King Messiah of Israel, a land known in the first century by the Roman names of occupation, Roman province of Judea, Roman province of Samaria, Roman province of Idumea. Later following the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132 CE Emperor Hadrian changed the name of the land to Syria Palaestina, thus the present day illegitimate name of occupation “Palestine” used by Israel’s oppressors and those who would take God’s Name “El” out of the land of Yisra-El. To hear the name “Palestine” on the tongue of one who claims to be a follower of Yeshua (Jesus) is an appalling oxymoronic disgrace!
33 Therefore the Yeshua said, “Yet for a short time I am with you, then I withdraw Myself (hupago[G]) to Him Who sent (pempo[G], she’lachaniy[H]) Me. 34 Seeking (zeteo[G],) Me, you will not come upon (heurisko[G]) Me; and where I am, exist (eimi[G], aniy sham[H]) you’re not able, nor do you have the power (dunamai[G]) to come.”
“the Yeshua” The Greek says “ho Iesous”. Not just any Joshua of the time but “the Joshua”. Remembering that Joshua was a very common name in the Jewish community of the first century CE and indeed continues to be popular today among Jewish families both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
In hindsight it is easy to see that Yeshua was referring to His death and resurrection and possibly to His subsequent ascension. However, given the theological dialogue and the first century worship environment, along with the messianic expectation and the physical need for deliverance from the Roman occupation: it seems reasonable that His hearers might conclude a literal interpretation of His words rather than a euphemistic one.
“…and where I am, exist you’re not able, nor do you have the power to come.” The use and tense of the language is illuminating. In one sense Yeshua is saying He is already where He is going to be (slain before the creation of the world [Rev.13:8]). Furthermore, He explains that where He is going (Gan Eden, the Bosom of Abraham, Paradise), they are presently unable to enter because they do not (in their present state of disbelief) qualify among the righteous of Israel’s departed. Nor have they yet received Yeshua and the means of redemption by which they might follow Him to Gan Eden, as the thief on the cross did (Luke 23:39-43). Therefore, even if they wanted to locate Yeshua, following this dialogue, they could not. Not yet. Keep in mind that it is highly likely that many of His opponents were among those who would soon come to faith at Shavuot (Pentecost) [Acts 2] following His resurrection.
35 Some of the the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]) then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to travel to the Diaspora (Jewish dispersion throughout the Greco-Roman world) among the Greeks (Hellen[G]), and teach (didasko[G]) the Greeks (Hellen[G]), is He? 36 What is this word, speech (logos[G]) that He said, ‘Seeking (zeteo[G],) Me, you will not come upon (heurisko[G]) Me; and where I am, exist (eimi[G], aniy sham[H]) you’re not able, nor do you have the power (dunamai[G]) to come’?”
They ask if Yeshua will go into the Diaspora or where Jews are dispersed throughout the Greco-Roman world. While the text says specifically will He “teach the Greeks”, it may denote Jews living in the diaspora, who were looked down upon by the Jews of the land, in much the same way as Jews living outside of Israel today are looked down upon by some ultra-observant religious Jews in the land of Israel. It is worth noting that by far the majority of secular and less observant Israeli Jews are extremely friendly toward Jews from outside of the land and are welcoming and supportive of all new comers to Israel.
37 Now on the last day, Hoshanah Rabah[H] (the Great Save Now) the great day of the festival of Sukkot[H] (hagadol chag[H]), Yeshua stood and cried out like a raven, like a prayer for vengeance (krazo[G]), saying (lego[G]), “If anyone is suffering thirst (dipsao[G]) let that one come (erchomai[G]) to Me and drink (pino[G]). 38 He who believes, has faith, trusts, is persuaded (pisteuo[G]) in Me, according to the speech of the Writing (ho graphe[G], hakatuv[H]), ‘A river (potamos[G]) coming out of the entire cavity of his inner being (koilia autos[G], leiv[H]) will flow (rheo[G]) with waters that are living (mayim chayiym[H]).’”
The last or seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshanah Rabah, which literally translates as “the save now that is great”. It is the climax of the seven-day festival during which the water libation offering of the first century period was conducted.
For seven days the people had watched the Cohen Hagadol (High Priest) pour out water at the base of the altar inside the Temple grounds. This water was collected from the pool of shiloach (Siloam, meaning “sent”), situated approximately 2km south of the Temple Mount not far from the place where the Hinnom and Kidron valleys converge. A specially selected priest collected the water each day and brought it up the hill and through the water gate into the Temple with singing, a variety of instruments and great rejoicing (the festival of Sukkot is closely associated to the word simchateinu “Our great rejoicing”). This was a kinetic form of ritual prayer petitioning God for rain. It also figuratively represents the out pouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) on the people of Israel. Our rabbis make the connection between this first century practice and Isaiah 12:3:
“Collectively you will draw water in joy you will draw water
from the springs of the salvation” -Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 12:3 Authors Translation
Therefore, the Jewish worshippers of the first century have prayed for rain and that God would send the promised King Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression. And now, on the final day of the feast called Hoshanah Rabbah (The Great Save Now), the water is carried to the Temple accompanied by Cohaniym (priests) blowing gold trumpets and L’vi’iym (Levites) singing songs of praise and worship, surrounded by common Israelis waving lulaviym of the four species prescribed by Scripture (Lev.23:40), including the palm branch, and chanting the Hallel (Psalms 113-118), which include in their final verses:
“I plead with You HaShem, Hoshana, save us!
I plead with You HaShem, send prosperity, I plead!
Barukh Haba b’sheim Adonai, Blessing is He who comes in the Name of HaShem!
We have blessed from the House of Hashem!
God HaShem and uncreated light to us!
Bind a festival sacrifice with cords against the horns of the altar.
My God, You I throw praise to You My God, exalting You!
Give thanks to HaShem for Good, forever, for His kindness, faithfulness, practical and transcendent love!” -Psalm 118:25-29 Author’s translation
This prayer is employed as a heralding of the Messiah during Yeshua’s later entry into Jerusalem (Matt.21:9; Mk.11:9-10). It was also a petition for salvation from sin.
The Encyclopedia Judaica notes:
“A connection between the possession of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh and ecstasy, or religious joy, is found in the ceremony of water drawing, Simchat Beit-HaSho’evah [“feast of water drawing”], on the festival of Sukkot. The Mishnah said that he who had never seen this ceremony, which was accompanied by dancing, singing and music (Sukkot 5:4), had never seen true joy (Sukkot 5:1). Yet this was also considered a ceremony in which the participants, as it were, drew inspiration from the Holy Spirit itself, which can only be possessed by those whose hearts are full of religious joy (Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkot 5:1, 55a).” - Encyclopedia Judaica 14:365
Given the historical context of these events and Yeshua’s participation in and veneration of the practices associated with the festival, and the fact that these rites are extrabiblical, being recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud; we can determine that Yeshua and His disciples observed, at least in part, significant portions of the Oral Torah, which was later codified as the Mishnah (2nd Century CE). Therefore, it is foolish to discount the Mishnah in its entirety as “the traditions of men” (Mark 7:5-13), in light of the fact that Yeshua considered its traditions to be valid expressions of Jewish worship and further still, used these practices as a platform for revealing His identity and purpose.
Now, in the midst of the cacophony of rejoicing and spiritual ecstasy the Cohen Hagadol (High priest) pours the water out at the base of the altar for the final time and the energy of the crowd builds to a crescendo; a young rabbi from the Kinneret (Galilee) shouts out above the crowd who have gathered in great anticipation, and says:
“If anyone is suffering thirst let that one come to Me and drink, He who believes, has faith in Me, according to the speech of the Holy Writings, ‘A river coming out of the entire cavity of his inner being, will flow with waters that are living.’”
Yeshua was unifying the message of several passages from the prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah):
“‘For I will pour out water on him who is thirsty
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;” – Isaiah 44:3 (NASB)
“Ho, take notice, be awe struck! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.” -Isaiah 55:1 Author’s translation
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” -Isaiah 58:11 (NASB)
“The words of the mouth are deep waters,
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.” -Proverbs 18:4 (NASB)
Of course, the ultimate and everlasting fulfilment of these kinetic prayers is recorded in Yeshua’s Revelation to Yochanan:
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” -Revelation 22:17 (NASB)
39 But this He (Yeshua) spoke of the Spirit (Pneuma[G], Ha Ruach[H]), Whom those who believed (ha-ma’amiyniym[H]) in Him were to receive; for the Spirit (Pneuma[G], Ha Ruach[H]) was not yet given (nitan[H]), because Yeshua was not yet glorified.
“But this He spoke of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were to receive;” Yeshua speaks of the outpouring of water as a metaphor for the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh. This was something that all Israel was anticipating in association with the festival of Sukkot and its many spiritual implications. However, the author of John’s Gospel explains that the Ruach HaKodesh will be given in full measure at a later date and only to those who believe.
“…for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified.” Yeshua did breathe the Holy Spirit upon His disciples prior to His ascension (John 20:22), however, the Spirit was not given in full measure, that is, did not indwell the disciples and others who believed until the Shavuot (Pentecost) that occurred 50 days after His resurrection (Acts 2).
“Yeshua was not yet glorified” This refers to His resurrected glory. The Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son (Rom.8:9; Heb.9:14; Phil.1:19; 2 Pet.1:20-21; Gal.4:6), could not be poured out into the hearts of human beings until the death and resurrection of Yeshua had made possible the perpetual atonement that brings salvation and right standing before God. Therefore, it was after Yeshua’s ascension and from His position seated in and with the Father, that the Father and the Son began to pour out their unified Spirit into the hearts, the inner being, of every believer.
40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet (zeh hu ha-naviy[H]).”
“This is the prophet” God spoke to Moses of, “I will raise up a prophet like you…” (Deut.18:15-18; Acts 7:37).
41 Others were saying, “This is the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]).” Still others were saying, “Surely the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]) is not going to come from the Galilee (ha-galiyl[H]), is He? 42 Has not the Writing (ho graphe[G], hakatuv[H]) said that the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]) comes from the descendants of David (Beloved), and from Beit Lechem[H] (House of Bread) Bethlehem, the village David came from?”
“Others were saying, ‘This is the Messiah’” As attested to in verse 31, many already believed Yeshua was the promised King Messiah.
“Surely the Messiah is not going to come from the Galilee, is He? 42 Has not the Writing said that comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village David came from?” Sadly human beings are prone to both proposing and making false choices. The Scriptures show that Messiah is from both Bethlehem and the Galilee. In fact, He is from Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth and the Galilee.
Ref. Matt. 2; 2 Sam. 7:12-13; Jer. 23:5-6; Micah 5:1 ; Psalm. 89:36-38 [35-37]; 132:11; 1 Chron. 7:11, 14).
The people were right to say that the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem. Those who were in confusion and disbelief were clearly not aware that Yeshua had been born in Bethlehem. If they had been, many more may well have believed, but, this would not have allowed for the purposes of God to come about because they would have made of Yeshua a temporal King, and devoid of the sacrificial means of eternal redemption, would have died in their sin without the eternal Kingdom promised by God.
43 As a result a division, split, gap (schisma[G]) occurred in the crowd because of Him (Yeshua[H]).
There have and until His return will always be only two responses to the work of Yeshua: acceptance and life, rejection and death.
“For we are a fragrance of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;to the one an aroma from death leading to death, to the other an aroma from life leading to life. And who is adequate for these things?” -2 Corinthians 2:15-16 Author’s translation
44 Some of them intended to apprehend (piazo[G]) Him, but no one laid hands on Him. 45 The servants (huperetes[G]) then came to the chief priests (archiereus[G], ha-kohaniym[H]) and some of the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees), and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?”
“No one laid hands on Him” because His time had not yet come.
46 The servants (huperetes[G]) answered, “Never has a human being (anthropos[G]) spoken in the manner this man speaks.”
In saying this the servants insulted the P’rushiym, who considered themselves well versed and well spoken in the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. The servants were testifying to witnessing the reality of Yeshua’s own words: “My teaching is not Mine but His Who sent Me!” (v.16).
47 The P’rushiym[H] then answered them, “You haven’t also been led astray, have you?
The hubris of this small group of P’rushiym is palpable. They conclude that no one could speak in a manner that is superior their own ability, therefore, those who witnessed it must be deluded, lead astray.
48 No one among the leaders, magistrates, rulers, princes (archon[G], ha-sariym[H]) or P’rushiym[H] have believed, trusted, been persuaded (pisteuo[G]) in Him, have they?
In fact Nakdiymon is likely to have already become a disciple of Yeshua, and his subsequent rebuttal of the religious party’s unlawful judgement is further evidence of this (v.50-52). In addition to Nakdiymon, many others among the P’rushiym who had been among the crowd had also become followers of Yeshua (v.31).
49 But this crowd which does not know (yod’iym[H]) the Torah[H] (Instruction, ho nomos[G]) is under God’s curse (epikataratos[G]).”
Once again the pride of the learned religious leaders raises its ugly head. They’re essentially saying that all the common Israelis who have come up to attend the festival of Sukkot in obedience to the Torah, are ignorant of the Torah. Worse still, because many in the crowd have concluded that Yeshua speaks the truth, the religious leaders consider them under God’s curse. What a sad and ironic situation the religious leaders find themselves in, for, as the Scripture says “an undeserved curse cannot land”, in fact, it returns to rest upon the one who uttered it.
50 Nakdiymon[H] (Nikodemos[G], nikos: vanquish, victory; demos: the people, assembled mass of people) [the one who had come to Yeshua before, being one of the P’rushiym[H]) said to them, 51 “Our Torah[H] (Instruction, ho nomos[G]) does not separate, judge, access (krino[G]) a man unless it first hears (akouo[G]) from him and knows (ginosko[G]) what he is doing (poieo[G]), does it?”
Many among them knew and were thinking this but it was Nakdiymon alone who had the courage to speak up. A courage born of the Spirit of God. He is correct in his assertion. Deuteronomy 19:15-21 demands that a lawful gathering be held in order to hear from all parties involved in a matter of Torah law.
52 They answered him (Nakdiymon), “You’re not also from the Galilee (ha-galiyl[H]), are you? Search, and see that prophets aren’t raised out of the Galilee (ha-galiyl[H]).” 53 Each man journeyed to his house.
“You’re not also from the Galilee, are you?” Personal attacks are often the domain of those who have lost an argument or are found wanting in their ability to refute the truth. Therefore, knowing they’re in the wrong the religious leaders cover up their inadequacy with bigotry. They were essentially saying, “You’re not also one of those ignorant hicks from the Galilee are you?” This they said to a man honoured by the Talmud as a tzadik (righteous saint), well learned in the Torah and well-practiced in Halakhah, righteous living (see my article on John 3).
“Search, and see that prophets aren’t raised out of the Galilee” Usually, when one relies on emotion to further a point of disagreement, the result is untenable. Not only was Nakdiymon right concerning the Torah, he was also vindicated by the response of the religious leaders which proved them to be guilty of the ignorance they had presumed upon others. One need not look far to find that the prophet Yonah came from Gat-Hefer in the Galilee. What’s more, our own rabbis, men who are the progeny of Pharisaic Judaism, testify against the false information of the religious leaders:
“Rabbi Eli’ezer… said… ‘There was not a tribe in Israel which did not produce prophets…” (Sukkah 27b).
However, because the tense of the Greek text allows for the meaning “no future prophet comes from the Galilee”, we must give the religious leaders the benefit of the doubt on this matter.
“Each man journeyed to his house.” This does not mean that the people returned from the festival to their home villages but that those involved with the private meeting of the religious leaders and their servants returned to their homes in the city of Jerusalem. We know this because the eighth day Sh’mini Atzeret of Sukkot was yet to occur and the seventh day would not conclude until the following sundown according to the Biblical lunar calendar. Therefore, thousands remained in Jerusalem for the conclusion of the festival.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Like so many of the psalms, the weighty distant steps of the coming Messiah can be heard ringing through the hallways of history, approaching with glory, and “commanding the blessing!”
Regardless of when this psalm was penned in its final form, it is attributed to King David. Psalm 133 is one of the fifteen Songs of Ascents (Shir Ha-ma'alot), and one of the three Songs of Ascents consisting of only three verses (131; 134). It’s not known when David wrote this psalm, however, some suggest it was written on the occasion of his anointing as king in celebration of the people’s unification under his reign (2 Sam. 5:1), while others suggest it was written following the quelling of Absalom’s rebellion, when the tribes of Israel jostled for the honor of bringing David back to his rightful place in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 19:9). Still others make a more general and much more likely suggestion that he wrote it while observing Israel gathered together for one of the Regaliym/Aliyot (Pesach, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) festivals. In addition to these suppositions some scholars suggest that this psalm was added to the collection of psalms nearing the end of David’s life in approximately 1015 BCE.
The Jewish commentators Kimchi and Ben Melekh see this psalm as being prophetic of the times of the Messiah (yet future), and take it to be a prediction of the peace that will exist between the King Messiah and the High Priest of Israel. This is in keeping with the figurative typing of Joshua (Zechariah 6:11-13). In fact, Yeshua united the Kingship and Priesthood of Israel through His immersion (baptism), His death and resurrection, and sanctified these roles with the pre-existing priesthood likened to the order of Malkiy-Tzedek (My King of Righteousness): a perfect priesthood (Hebrews 7) that functions to reconcile all who believe to the Father, causing both Jew and Gentile to truly abide together in a union that is everlasting, purchased through the blood of the Messiah’s perfect substitutionary sacrifice.
The two figures of the oil running down Aaron’s beard and the dew upon Mt Hermon convey a sense of extravagant blessing and the empowering of God’s chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious). These Hebraic poetic couplets denote a firmly established future for the Jewish people, in fact, in the context of this psalm they reveal and established eternity. The imagery is more than simile, it is “ki” because of these similitudes that brothers and sisters dwell together in union.
There are many side rooms in this psalm that lead us to greater depths of understanding: each symbol and figure brings to life the intricate workings of God as He weaves together a picture of unity that surpasses even our greatest attempts at manufacturing oneness. The Hebrew poetic couplets further enforce the strength and certainty of these richly prophetic words, and remind us again of the everlasting value of the promises seeded into time and space by God through the mouth of His servant David, king of Israel, beloved of God.
Like so many of the psalms, the weighty distant steps of the coming Messiah can be heard ringing through the hallways of history, approaching with glory, and “commanding the blessing!”
133:1 Shir A Song ha-ma’alot of that which goes up, that which comes to mind, degrees, stairs, ascents; le’David attributed to David (Beloved of God). Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, mah how (what) tov good umah-nayim and how (what) delightful, pleasant(ness), lovely(ness) it is, shevet sitting, dwelling, remaining, abiding achiym brothers and sisters gam-yachad again, also, united, in union, alike, as one!
Another way to read this would be:
A song of the ascending of David: Look, now, what is this good, and what is this loveliness; it is brothers and sisters sitting together also in union.
Notice that the brothers and sisters are not merely sitting in close proximity but are sitting and are in union.
The Jewish sage Iben Ezra interprets “achiym” to refer specifically to priests (which is similar to the teaching of 1 Peter 2:9); the Jewish commentator Kimchi interprets “achiym” as the King Messiah and the priest together (which is similar to the teaching of Hebrews 7); and the Jewish commentator Yarchi, interprets “achiym” of the Israelites (which is consistent with the remainder of the psalm).
The 2nd century Aramaic Targum reads:
“1. A song that was uttered on the ascents of the abyss. Behold, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of Zion and Jerusalem, together indeed like two brothers.”
The Targum understands well the locational aspect of this psalm by merging the latter similes of the Hebrew text with the opening clause. Where others have focused only on the unity aspect, and have thus, misunderstood the whole. The idea of ascending from the abyss is one of transcendent quality that alludes to the redemptive priestly work required in order for Godly union to be made manifest.
“Shir A Song ha-ma’alot of that which goes up, that which comes to mind, degrees, stairs, ascents; le’David attributed to David.” (133:1a.)
The opening clause can be understood in multiple ways, both spiritual (esoteric) and literal:
One may also paraphrase the opening clause as a spiritual drash for all who believe:
“We each have a song that we offer up to the Father, a song that comes to mind as we ascend through the redemptive work of the King Messiah, a song that testifies of His love, sung by the beloved of God.”
However, the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text is locational, situational, and refers specifically to the ascent of the Temple mount in Jerusalem, in the land of Israel and as it relates to the Jewish (ethnic, religious, empirical) people, the elect (chosen) of God, through the priesthood and the redemptive, substitutionary sacrificial system. These words being, “of king David”, one of the most influential and prophetic kings of Israel’s history, and the one from whom the Messiah would come forth (with regard to His humanity).
“Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, mah how (what) tov good umah-nayim and how (what) delightful, pleasant(ness), lovely(ness) it is, shevet sitting, dwelling, remaining, abiding achiym brothers and sisters gam-yachad again, also - united, in union, alike, as one!” (133:1b.)
While the majority of English translations render “mah” as “how”, it seems equally likely and more colloquially intuitive to translate “mah” with regard to its common use as “what”.
Therefore, I prefer to read:
“Wow, look, pay attention, what goodness and what delight is this? Sitting, dwelling, even remaining, brothers and sisters, also, in union (or: also as one).”
In other words, “What is this incredibly beautiful and truly impossible thing I’m seeing? True Godly union between brothers and sisters.”
Notice that the text does not say simply that brothers and sisters dwelling is good and pleasant, rather it says that both dwelling and also union (oneness), is good and pleasant. Nor does the entirety of this psalm promote unity alone. Rather, it shows Godly unity to be the fruit of a priestly order via a sacrificial system of atoning substitution. Empowered by the Spirit (oil), which produces the fruit of unity.
Unity is not the goal. Messiah is the goal and unity is the fruit of Messiah at work in us through the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual principal which can be applied to all believers, is none the less first and foremost (in its plainest sense) specifically prophetic of Israel’s (ethnic, religious) future. As we will see from the latter verses, the blessing that results is locational, yet future, and for a specific people (Jews) in a specific land (Israel).
Good and Pleasant:
“Tov”, is good in the purest sense. Yeshua, revealing His own deity, said, “Why do you call me good, only God is good” (Mark 10:18). For something to be good in all its fullness is for it to be “On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
“Nayim”, is pleasant to the olfactory sense (sense of smell). In other words, this will be pleasing not only based on sight but also on smell. This is why the psalmist goes on to use the fragrant anointing oil as a simile.
We note that the observing of this form of unity brings a sense of “tov” goodness, wellness, pleasure, and of “nayim” pleasing experience, delight etc. The unity described is in fact not truly achievable in a perpetual sense within a sin affected world, not even by the community of believers. Therefore, the unity described is intentionally and specifically prophetic. It is a unity that will be experienced at the coming of the King Messiah at the end of the age, and will be evidenced in the redeemed ethnic religious nation of Israel (and subsequently in all of redeemed humanity).
“Yachad” means union, unitedness, unity (noun masculine), together, all together, alike (adverb). It occurs 147 times in the Tanakh (OT) and is most often (124 times) used to denote togetherness, that is, individual persons, entities, or objects, together in close proximity. It is related to the Hebrew word “echad” meaning “one” which is used to describe the intimate union of man and wife “the two shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). However, “yachad” specifically refers to separate entities in proximity rather than denoting an intimate conjoined union. Thus, when a husband and wife are walking together they are yachad, but when they are joined in the sex act they are echad.
When we consider the weighty emotion brought to this psalm by David, who had many wives, concubines, sons and daughters, we must grapple with the turmoil he must have felt as he considered the disarray and division caused by his sin choices and looked forward in hope to a time when, through the Messiah, all of his family would live as one (unified) in the presence of God in the New Jerusalem, in the land of Israel.
This union that is being spoken of is not possibly except through the Messiah.
“Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the one born of Him. 2 We know that we love God’s children by this—when we love God and obey His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God—that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. And the victory that has overcome the world is this—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world, if not the one who believes that Yeshua is Ben-Elohim?” -1 John 5:1-5 (TLV)
133:2 Ka-shemen Because, like, as oil (fatness) ha-tov the good, the best, al ha-rosh on the head, yareid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al ha-zakan on the beard, zekan-Aharon beard of Aaron (Bright, Many Mountains, Light bearer, Ark bearer, latter days), shereid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al piy on the collar, outer edges (mouth) midotayv of his robes, stature, measure, extent!
David now proceeds to explain not only what the union of brothers and sisters who dwell together is like, but also the mechanism and process required in order for the fruit of unity to be seen in Israel.
The Hebrew “Ka-shemen” is most often translated “Like oil”, however, the Hebrew “kiy” which begins the composite “Ka-shemen”, can be understood to mean, “because, as, like etc.” Therefore, we may read:
“Because the precious oil upon the head of Aaron runs down the beard, Aarons beard…”
In other words, the imagery is associated to the mechanism which perpetuates the peaceful dwelling together of brothers and sisters in unity. The images of oil on Aaron’s beard and dew on Mt Hermon are more than simile, they are the outworking of the blessing that brings about the unity observed by David in the first verse of this psalm, and in turn becomes witness to the locational blessing commanded by God in the last verse.
The poetic imagery used here is of great importance. The oil is not just oil but “The good oil” or “The precious oil”, and refers specifically to the mixture of oil assigned by God for use in anointing the Cohen Ha-gadol (The High Priest) and sprinkling on the priests. It was not to be used for any common purpose or by any common Israelite (Exodus 30:22-23).
The oil was to be poured upon the head of Aaron subsequent to the donning of the priestly garments, including the head covering (Lev. 21:10) and was to overflow to the very ends of the garments. It is interesting to note that Aaron was never to uncover his head or rend his garments (Lev. 21:10).
The specific event described here occurred only once. That is, it is specifically Aaron’s anointing that is described and likened to a time when brothers and sisters will dwell together in union. Aaron was the first Levitical High Priest and father of Israel’s subsequent Levitical priesthood. Therefore, this figure is not intended as a general image to be likened to every act of anointing ever performed, rather it specifically alludes to the anointing of Israel’s first Levitical High Priest Aaron, and to the mixture of oil used to anoint him. Therefore, failing to understand the context means misinterpreting the text and misunderstanding its application and future fulfilment.
Ka-shemen Because, like, as oil ha-tov the good, the best, al ha-rosh on the head, yareid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al ha-zakan on the beard, zekan-Aharon beard of Aaron (Bright, Many Mountains, Light bearer, Ark bearer, latter days)… (133:2a.)
“shemen ha-tov”, the precious oil, is described as follows:
“23.“Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24.and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25.And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26.With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27.and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28.and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29.You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30.You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31.And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32.It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33.Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’” -Shemot (Exodus) 30:23-33 (ESV)
The fine fresh olive oil smelled strongly of cinnamon (cassia being of the same family, a bark), myrrh, and an uncertain sweet aromatic cane, possibly from Sheba or some part of Arabia. It is perhaps for our own protection that the exact blend is impossible to fabricate today.
The perfumed anointing oil (being a symbol of the Holy Spirit), offers an opportunity for us to experience at very least in part the fragrant nature of the experience of Aaron. The Ruach (Spirit) of God is illuminated in the components of the perfumed oil. He is the fragrance of sweet salvation to those who are being redeemed.
We note that the oil of anointing was not poured over Aaron’s sons, though it was sprinkled on them. Thus, Aaron is “Ha-Cohein Ha-Mashiyah” (The Priest The Anointed), whereas subsequent priests experience “Meshuchiym” (Anointings) [Numbers 3:3]. Additionally, it was never to be used on the common Israelite. Therefore, the anointing in question is for priests alone, and more importantly, the fullness of that anointing is upon the head of the High Priest.
Therefore, in keeping with this imagery we are able to properly interpret the life of Messiah Yeshua, His unification of the Kingship and High Priesthood of Israel and His perfect Priesthood in the order of Melki-Tzedek. Ultimately, it is from the anointing of Messiah and through Him that all who believe become participants in the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) that is offered to all according to the type or order of Melki-Tzedek (My King of Righteousness) [Hebrews 7]. This is not to say that anointing others with oil is in and of itself inappropriate, but simply that the anointing in question is intentionally specific and refers to a prefigure that illuminates the Messiah.
The text of Exodus details the dressing of Aaron in his High Priestly garments prior to his anointing. Further still, contrary to the depictions of this event in popular Christian art, we are not told that Aaron’s head dress was removed prior to anointing. Therefore, he must have been wearing the head covering (which symbolised the need for blood atonement) and the gold plate engraved with the words “Kadosh le’YHVH” Holy Unto The Lord.
The anointing oil runs down Aaron’s beard and over his shoulders, down his breast and to the very edges of his priestly garments:
“shereid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al piy on the collar, outer edges (mouth) midotayv of his robes, stature, measure, extent!” (133:2b)
In order for the oil to reach the outer edges of Aaron’s robes, it must have been poured in copious quantity, and would have flowed over the stones on his shoulders engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, over the breastplate and each of the precious stones engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, down behind the breast plate over the uriym (lights) and tumiym (completions) which were tucked into a pocket behind the breastplate, over the blue outer garment, over the pure white linen garment, soaking through to his skin and symbolically covering every aspect of his priesthood and headship as the spiritual shepherd of Israel (Exodus 28). The obvious correlation to the ministry of the Messiah is to say the least, mind-blowing.
We must not cheapen our understanding of this imagery by seeing only a few drops of oil being applied to the head of a petitioner. The text denotes a flood of specifically composed fragrant anointing oil.
The oil is poured forth from a horn (Ram’s horn), thus signifying the One through Whom all believers would one day receive the promised Ruach Ha-Kodesh Holy Spirit (Yeshua being the substitutionary Ram of God and the horn being a symbol of His strength in redeeming Israel [Isaac]). The oil is poured over the head in order to convey the spiritual headship of the High Priest, and is therefore a prefigure of the Perfect Great High Priest Yeshua, the King Priest of the Perfect Priesthood (Hebrews 7).
What is more, all of this is preceded by Aaron and his sons participating in the offering of substitutionary sacrifice for the atonement of sin and a meal of matzot (unleavened bread) [Exodus 29]. Therefore, the anointing with the precious oil was not performed until right relationship with God had been established (at least symbolically). This of course is a prefigure of the body of Messiah broken for us (matzot) and the blood atonement purchased for us through Messiah’s blood poured out on the cross (rams).
The Holy Spirit (oil) was not poured out on the believing Jewish community until after Messiah’s return to the Father following His death and resurrection (Acts 2), nor is the Holy Spirit given to anyone who has not understood and received the saving work and Person of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).
In one sense the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first century Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua (Acts 2), is a foretaste of the ultimate manifestation of the unity of Israel (ethnic, religious) at the return of the Messiah. Both events are the literal outworking of the similes in the present psalm.
It’s important to note that while David alludes to the imagery of Aaron’s anointing, which occurred outside of the land of Israel following Israel’s escape from Egypt, he is none the less writing this psalm from his purview within the land of Israel and is therefore uniting the imagery of Aaron’s anointing with the anointing of the land from Hermon (in the north) to the mountains of Zion in the centre. David writes this psalm as a psalm of ascent (Aliyah: going up [to Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem]), not just localised ascent to the Temple mount but also as an Aliyah psalm for all those who ascend three times a year to observe the Regaliym/Aliyot (Pesach, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) festivals. Thus, the fragrances of the festival foods and the offerings, both sacrificial and celebratory (freewill) is presupposed by the union of the two similes of the anointed High Priest and the anointed mountains of the land of Israel. The former having occurred immediately post bondage (in Egypt) and the latter being the hope of Israel’s future redemption through Messiah.
Aside from the depth of symbolism in the process of anointing Aaron, there is also the simple grandeur of the oil flowing over his head, stinging his eyes and soaking into his skin, beard, and garments.
In order to better understand the kinetic reality of the anointing of Aaron, I had myself anointed in a similar way and was stunned by the stinging sensation in my eyes as the oil made its way down my face. The pain was great, “What’s going on” I thought, “Shouldn’t this be an enjoyable pain free experience. Isn’t this supposed to represent the Holy Spirit being poured out on me? It’s killing my eyes, I can’t see… Wait a minute… I can’t see…”
It occurred to me that the Holy Spirit does not always make me feel comfortable, in fact, He often makes me feel uncomfortable. God is present in my discomfort, just as He is in my comfort. The eyes I use for seeing this world are stung by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but when I become accustomed to the oil I am able to see things that are not of this world, pure, eternal, unseen things.
There are those who claim that the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are evidence of His abiding with a believer, however, Yeshua reminds us that “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:22-23 TLV)
I think (or should I say “Scripture teaches”), that the Holy Spirit is more often evidenced in the way we respond to suffering than He is in the ecstatic gifts that are often counterfeited by so many. In one sense, God is saying to Aaron the High Priest and to we who follow the High Priest Yeshua (The Suffering Messiah), “If you want to be a priest, you best get used to both the healing balm and the stinging pain of the present, overflowing Spirit of God.”
133:3 Ketal Because, like, as the dew, night mist of Chermon (Hermon, Sanctuary, devoted, dedicated for destruction) shereid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al-Har-reiy on the mountains of Tziyon (Zion, Parched land)! Keey Because sham there tzivah commands, orders, charges, HaShem (YHVH, Mercy, The LORD) et (the) certain ha-berachah the blessing, prosperity, gift, treaty of peaceful Chayyim living, perpetual life, ad ha-olam going round, perpetually, as far as forever in the world (to come).
The Mt Hermon/mountains of Zion simile (literal and figurative mechanism) works perfectly alongside the imagery of the anointing oil running from Aaron’s head to the edges of his garments. In like fashion the dew of Hermon runs from the top of Israel’s northern border and down to the place where Israel collectively goes up to worship God during the Regaliym/Aliyot festivals. Thus, all Israel (the people) and all of her land, is covered by the dew of Hermon both literally and figuratively.
“There” is a locational term indicating the mountains of Zion, where the brothers and sisters of Israel (ethnic, religious) dwell together in unity.
“HaShem commands the blessing”. The blessing is commanded upon the mountains of Zion when Jews dwell there together as one (yachad). This is a prophetic statement. God is speaking into time and space an observation of the future redemption of the entire remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious), when, following the fullness of the nations, all of Israel (ethnic, religious) will be saved (Romans 11).
We note that the Hebrew text does not say, “There the Lord commands a blessing” but rather, “There the Lord commands the blessing.” The “berachah”, blessing, prosperity, gift, treaty of peace, is one that brings “chayim”, not life but living (plural, perpetual). Living that will be “ad ha-olam” going round in the world perpetually forever. The world being the Olam Haba (World to come).
Therefore, the text is not saying that wherever believers in general dwell together in unity that God will command a blessing, rather, it is saying that when Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) dwell together through redemption and the anointing supplied by the King Priest Messiah, in the land (literal) of Israel (at the return of the Messiah), then and only then, there and only there, will God command and establish the blessing of everlasting life on the New Earth.
“Chermon” (Hermon), from charam, to dedicate someone or something to the afterlife or to death.
The Law of charam is expounded in Leviticus 27:28-29, and states that whatever is labelled as charam cannot be redeemed (bought back or ransomed out). In the Tanakh (OT) there are no instances of human beings designated as charam who aren't subsequently executed, however, there are a number of people who have names that are derived from this verb. Which may indicate that the verb once denoted salvation.
Not everything designated charam was automatically destroyed. In Numbers 18:14 HaShem declares “Every devoted thing (charam) in Israel is yours (Aaron and his sons) [see also Lev. 27:21 and Eze. 44:29]. When Joshua sacked Jericho, the whole city and all it contained (apart from Rahab and her house) was designated charam, yet the gold, silver, bronze and iron objects went into the tabernacle's treasury (Joshua 6:19).
Mt Hermon therefore, carries the symbolic meaning of being charam dedicated to the Lord unto the afterlife and is equally representative of salvation.
“Hareiy Tziyon”, the mountains of Zion (the parched land), also have significant figurative value and show Israel’s need for the mayim waters of chayim living. Waters that she receives through the dew that results from the charam (dedication) of her Messiah, and the salvation that results from His substitutionary sacrificial death and resurrection.
In addition to the profound poetic value of this simile there is the practical reality of the geography and climate of Israel:
Van de Velde writes in regard to his Travels (Bd. i. S. 97):
“What we read in the 133rd Psalm of the dew of Hermon descending upon the mountains of Zion, is now become quite clear to me. Here, as I sat at the foot of Hermon, I understood how the water-drops which rose from its forest-mantled heights, and out of the highest ravines, which are filled the whole year round with snow, after the sun's rays have attenuated them and moistened the atmosphere with them, descend at evening-time as a heavy dew upon the lower mountains which lie round about as its spurs. One ought to have seen Hermon with its white-golden crown glistening aloft in the blue sky, in order to be able rightly to understand the figure. Nowhere in the whole country is so heavy a dew perceptible as in the districts near to Hermon.”
Therefore, the simile is both powerfully figurative and practically literal.
Psalm 133, has been misused to claim an illegitimate unity over certain groups within the body of Messiah, devoid of respect for the plain meaning of the text as it applies to the brothers and sisters of Israel (ethnic, religious) and the contextual and locational elements in the text. In addition, and with great fervour it has been misused as an excuse for believers in general to demand a blessing from God based on their dwelling together, despite the fact that the blessing is for a specific people (The Jews), time, and in a specific location (The mountains of Zion in the land of Israel).
While it’s true that in some sense there is a principal here regarding unity and blessing for all believers, it is only the case in a secondary sense and must be made subject to the plain meaning of the text.
This psalm observes the ultimate union of the brothers and sisters of Israel (ethnic, religious) in the land of Israel, through an anointing that flows from the head of her priesthood (both literal and transcendent), and shows through the use of simile, those things that must take place in order for this union to be fully filled at the end of the age.
Therefore, David, by the Holy Spirit, employs the poetic imagery and occasion of the anointing of Aaron the High Priest alongside the majestic beauty and natural precipitation of Mt Hermon, in order to show both literally and figuratively, where and when God (YHVH: Mercy, the God of Israel [ethnic, religious]) will command the blessing of life everlasting upon the union made possible by His Son and empowered by His Holy Spirit poured out on Israel (and the nations).
Let us therefore, show due respect for the plain contextual meaning of this psalm by appropriately applying the principal of unity and ceasing to demand a temporal blessing where a locational (place, time, space) blessing upon a specific people (Jews) with an eternal purpose, is intended.
133:1 A Song of that which goes up, that which comes to mind, degrees, stairs, ascents; attributed to David, (the beloved of God). Behold, now, pay attention, how good and how delightful, pleasant, lovely it is, sitting, dwelling, remaining, abiding brothers and sisters again, also, united, in union, alike, as one! 133:2 Like oil the good, the best, on the head, running down, sinking down, marching down, descending on the beard, beard of Aaron (the bright one, of many mountains, a light bearer, an ark bearer, in the latter days), running down, sinking down, marching down, descending on the collar (mouth) of his robes, stature, measure, extent! 133:3 It is like the dew, night mist of Hermon, (a sanctuary, devoted, dedicated for destruction) running down, sinking down, marching down, descending on the mountains of Zion (Parched land)! Because there (the mountains of Zion) commands, orders, charges, HaShem (YHVH, Mercy, The LORD) (the) certain blessing, prosperity, gift, treaty of peaceful living, perpetual life, going round, perpetually, as far as forever in the world (to come).
2nd Century CE Aramaic Targum of Psalm 133:
“1. A song that was uttered on the ascents of the abyss. Behold, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of Zion and Jerusalem, together indeed like two brothers. 2.Like the fine oil that is poured on the head, coming down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, that comes down to the hem of his garments. 3.Like the dew of Hermon that comes down on the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2019
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.