In fact, theology in the traditional Christian Scholarship (Post the original Jewish Ecclesia: Messiah following Jews) sense, does not exist in the Messianic Hebrew faith, because to the Messianic Jew belief not acted on is unbelief.
1After (meta[G]) these (tauta[G]) words, essences, things (ha-devariym[H]) Yeshua[H, A] (Iesous[G], YHVH Saves, Jesus, Joshua) was walking (peripateo[G], halakh[H]) in the land (b’eretz[H]) of the Galilee (ha-Galiyl[H], a circuit), for He was unwilling to walk (halokh[H]) in Judea (Ioudaia[G], b’Yehudah[H]) because the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]) were seeking to kill Him (Yeshua[H, A]).
“After these things” Means after the making whole of the lame man on the Sabbath of Purim [John 5:5-16] (which will become poignant in verse 23), after the feeding of the 28,000 (5000 men) [John 6:1-15], after the sign of walking on water and calming the storm [John 6:16-21], after the profession of His identity as the true manna from the heavens [John 6:48-51] and the means of salvation for all who will believe…
The Hebrew text of the Ha-Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) says “Achar ha-devariym” After these words, essences, things…
“Yeshua was walking” The Hebrew “halakh” means more than just “physical walking”, it means to walk with spiritual, religious, moral integrity according to the perfect practice of God’s word. In Judaism our “halakhah” the way we practically walk our faith is inseparable from our theology. In fact, theology in the traditional Christian Scholarship (Post the original Jewish Ecclesia: Messiah following Jews) sense, does not exist in the Messianic Hebrew faith, because to the Messianic Jew belief not acted on is unbelief (ref. the book of Yaakov [James]). Therefore, one could understand the text by way of remez (hint) drash (comparative teaching), to say “Yeshua’s halakhah was among the common Jewish people of the Galilee, for He was unwilling to practice the halakhah of religious hypocrites.”
Regardless, the reason “Yeshua was not willing to walk in Judea” is clearly stated in the text, it was because the Judean religious leaders “wanted to kill Him”, and while it was His intention to go to the cross, He was determined that His death happen at the “opportune time.” We note that His life was not taken from Him by the authority of men but was given of Him by the authority of God (John 10:17-18).
The sign/miracle that became the catalyst for the Religious leaders’ plan to kill Yeshua was the making whole of the man at Beit Chasda (House of kindness/practical love), because Yeshua had performed a miracle on the Sabbath (John 5:5-16). This is affirmed as we read on, in the discussion over Yeshua’s sanity and the hypocrisy of those who claim Moses as their guide and yet do not keep the Torah that Moses gave to them, albeit from God via Moses. How sadly ironic that the miracle which ignited such hatred toward Yeshua was performed in the House of Kindness by the Kindest man Who ever lived.
“Because of this therefore the Judeans, religious Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Shabbat, but also was calling the God His own Father, making Himself equal with the God.” -John 5:18 Author’s translation
“for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Judeans, religious Jews, were seeking to kill Him.” We see here one of the many examples showing why it is foolish to translate the Greek Ioudaios as “Jews” in general. The context of this passage shows clearly that Yeshua was walking among Jews in the Galilee but did not walk among the Jews of the region of Judea because a group of religious Jews from Judea were intent on killing Him. Therefore, in the context of this passage all are Jews, some are Galileans, some Judeans, some religious, some secular, some of one sect, some of another, all Ioudaios but not all Ioudaios from the region of Ioudaia, though most made regular aliyah (going up) to Jerusalem in Judea for the three Regaliym (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot). It is the foolish general translational choice to equivocate all instances of Ioudaios, that has led to some of the most heinous anti-Semitic theology and action of the so called “Christian Church”. It shames the Name of Christ and has mislead countless people of genuine faith for millennia.
2 Now the feast (Chag[H]) of the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]), the Feast (Chag[H]) of Sukkot[H] (Shelters), was near.
“Now the feast of the Judeans, religious Jews” Because all observant Jews (from all over Israel and not just from Judea) went up to this feast, the “Feast of the Judeans” here refers to a feast all Jews participated in. Once again, context is key to translation, interpretation and understanding.
“The feast of Sukkot was near” Much time has passed since the end of chapter 6. The events of chapter seven begin some months later. The feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) has been skipped by the author and we now find ourselves nearing the end of the year at the time of the later harvest heading toward fall and winter. The author of the Gospel of John does not intend his Gospel to relay a blow by blow historical and chronologically detailed account like that of Luke. The theme of this Gospel regards the present deity of the Messiah and His redemptive purpose as the Lamb of God come to give Himself as a vicarious sacrifice for all who would receive Him. Thus, the next point in the revelation of the theme begins prior to Sukkot, that festival which prophecies the future dwelling of God with His redeemed creation.
A sound understanding of the festival of Sukkot (Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-16) and its customs 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 (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:
Apart from 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. 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, 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), and was poured along with wine upon the altar as a libation offering, which 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.
3 Therefore His brothers (achiym[H]) said to Him (Yeshua), “Leave here and go into the region of Judea (Ioudaia[G], b’Yehudah[H]), so that Your disciples (talmidim[H]) also may see Your works, deeds (ergon[G], ha-ma’asiym[H]) which You are doing, making (oseh[H]).
It seems clear that Yeshua had many disciples outside His intimate retinue and that many of them were not always with Him but were Judean Jews who often spent time in Judea among the religious community there. The suggestion of Yeshua’s biological brothers is a practical one, and in and of itself is not wrong.
4 For no one does anything, word (davar[H]) in secret (kruptos[G], seiter[H]) when he himself seeks to be known (l’hivodeia[H]) publicly, become famous. If You’re going to do these things, show Yourself to the world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]).”
“no one does anything in secret when, he himself seeks to be known publicly.” Initially the suggestion of Yeshua’s brothers may have been well meaning, a desire to see Yeshua succeed in His role as a great teacher of Israel. However, their disbelief alluded to in the following verse illuminates their true motivation. Like so many others of their generation and like so many human beings throughout the generations, the thought of failing to promote one’s gifts in order to form a mass following seemed ludicrous to them.
We are guilty of the same idolatrous sin today: Mega Churches, Media promotion of certain faith leaders, buildings, empires, mass followings, and all contrary to the ministry of Messiah Yeshua. Our motivation has been self-promoting idolatry, whereas Yeshua’s motivation was to walk according to the redemptive purposes of God and in full obedience to the Father regardless of what that meant for His own reputation and well-being.
“Secret, hidden” The use of the Greek kruptos, meaning “secret, hidden, concealed” is poignant, given that Yeshua had explained earlier (some months past, but directly precedent to this chapter) that He is the “true bread from the heavens”( John 6:48-51), the manna that had been hidden, kept secret, concealed from the eyes of the Jewish people up to this point in history. Yeshua is the hidden manna in that He can be seen only by those who receive Him. He has no need of popularity because His intent is not to please the public but to honour God His Father. Modern believers would do well to emulate Him.
“The one who has an ear, let that one hear what the Spirit says to the body of believers. To that one who overcomes, to that person I will give some of the hidden, secret, concealed (krupto) manna (bread from the heavens), and I will give that person a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but the one who receives it.’” -Yeshua’s Revelation to Yochanan 2:17
5 For not even His brothers (achiym[H]) were believing in Him, thought Him true, were persuaded of Him, had faith in Him, trusted Him (pisteuo[G], he’emiynu[H]).
Yeshua’s brothers are named in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark as: Yaakov, Yosef, Yehudah, and Shimon. These were sons of Miriyam (Mary) and Yosef (Joseph), Yeshua’s biological mother and earthly but not biological father (Matt.13:55-56; Mark. 6:3).
“A stranger I have become to my brothers and a foreigner to the children of My mother…” -Tehilim (Psalms) 69:8 Author’s translation
It’s important to note that the disbelief of Yeshua’s brothers did not persist after His death and resurrection. We know for certain that Yaakov became not only a believer in Yeshua but also a leader of the early Messianic Jewish sect (The Way) [Acts. 2:17, 15:13, 21:18, Galatians. 1:19, 2:9, 12]. He is also the most likely author of the book of Yaakov (James) included in the Ha-Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT). Another brother Yehudah is thought to be the author of the NT book of Yehudah (Jude).
6 So Yeshua[H] said to them, “The true measure, opportune time for Me (ho kairos[G]) is not yet here, but your true measure, opportune time (ho kairos[G]) is all the time, any time, always now (pantote[G]).
In other words, pursuing popularity, self-promotion and idolatry are always the go to for those who are spiritually blind. In and of itself fame is not wrong, the Scriptures tell us that because HaShem was “with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land” (Joshua 6:27), but when the pursuit of fame seeks to promote self rather than the Gospel, or worse, in place of the Gospel, it becomes idolatry.
7 The world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]) can’t hate you, but it hates Me because I testify (meiiyd[H]) of it, that its deeds are perpetual, intense, multiples of evil (raiym[H]).
The sin affected people of this world love those who tell them what they want to hear, but those who challenge sin and teach the need for sacrifice and repentance are hated by this world. Why? Because our evil actions are perpetual, so much so that evil has become the norm. Therefore, when our long held beliefs are challenged we do what all sin affected people do, we become defensive and attack the one who has exposed the lie of our existence.
8 Go up to the feast (Chag[H]) yourselves; I do not go up to this feast (Chag[H]) because the true measure, opportune time for Me (ho kairos[G]) has not yet (oupo[G]) fully come (pleroo[G]).” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in the Galilee (ba’Galiyl[H], b’Galeela[A]).
Notice that Yeshua’s brothers were religiously observant Jews who had clearly planned to make aliyah (going up) for the Regaliym Festival of Sukkot (Shelters).
Both the context and the grammar tell us that Yeshua was not saying that He wouldn’t go at all, rather He was saying that He would come at the appropriate time. The present tense of the Greek is better translated as “I’m not presently going up”.
10 But when His brothers (achiym[H]) had gone up to the festival (Chag[H]), then He Himself also made aliyah[H] (went up), not openly (b’gelya[A]), but in secret, hidden, concealed (kruptos[G]). 11 So the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]) were seeking Him at the feast (Chag[H]) and were saying, “Where is He?”
Yeshua had always intended to attend. It is likely that He followed soon after His brothers and arrived in time for the beginning of the feast so as to make His chagigah or sacrifice according to first century practice. The journey from the Galilee to Jerusalem was approximately 3 days by foot, with stops to rest each evening). However, the Mishnah allows for the sacrifice to be made at another point during the festival (Mishnah. Chagiga, c. 1. sect. 6. Maimon. Hilch. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 4, 5, 6, 7). Therefore, regardless of when He went up, He non the less kept the Torah requirement, as was His custom.
The anger of the Religious leaders was such that they were actively searching for Yeshua at the festival. However, we note that they at very least considered Yeshua an observant Jew, or else why were they looking for Him at the feast?
12 There was much murmuring, grumbling, secret displeasure (goggusmos[G]) among the crowds concerning Him (Yeshua[H]); some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He causes people to go astray (planao[G]).” 13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]).
The people of Israel were undecided as to whether Yeshua was a good, even truly prophetic figure or a heretic. Some spoke quietly against Him, others spoke quietly in His favour, but such was the power of the religious leaders that none spoke publicly concerning Him for fear of religious persecution or being “Put out of the synagogue”.
14 But when it was now the middle (alt. chol ha-moediym[H] intermediary days) of the feast (Chag[H]) Yeshua[H] (Jesus) went up into the Temple (hieron[G], ha-Mikdash[H]), and began to teach.
Some date this Sukkot festival to the year 29 CE, the definitive middle of the festival being at the convergence of yom shiyshiy and the beginning of the only weekly Shabbat of the festival. If this dating is correct the ministry years of Yeshua spanned 27-30 CE.
“…into 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.
15 the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]) marvelled, were astonished, admired His teaching (thaumazo[G]) saying, “How has this man become knowledgeable, learned in sacred things, having never been educated?”
“How has this man become knowledgeable, learned in sacred things, having never been educated?” In other words, “How is this hick from the Kinneret (Galilee) able to clearly articulate Jewish halakhic teaching without ever having attended a yeshivah or studied under a famous rabbi or scholar?”
Interestingly the Talmud acknowledges that Yeshua was taught by the great Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Peracyah, the chief teacher of his day (Sanhedrin 107b, Sotah 47a). However, that is utter nonsense, given that the rabbi in question lived a hundred years earlier. Still, the point is that Jewish tradition does not record Yeshua as being ignorant of religious training and knowledge.
16 So Yeshua[H] answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me (sholkhiy[H]). 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, that one will know of the teaching, whether it is of the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) or whether I speak (adabeir[H]) from Myself.
In reality Yeshua’s learning, knowledge, and application were in this world but not of it. His wisdom and practice are from above, the impartation of the Father God. His teaching, perpetual, sacred and transcendent.
“…whether it is of the God or whether I speak from Myself.” The beautiful irony here is that in either case the teaching is of God.
18 He who speaks from himself seeks, craves, demands (zeteo[G]) his own judgement, opinion, view, glory (doxa[G], k’vod[H]); but He who is seeking the judgement, opinion, view, glory (doxa[G], k’vod[H]) of the One who sent Him, He is true, faithful, trustworthy (alethes[G], ne’eman[H]), and there is no injustice, unrighteousness (adikia[G]) in Him.
Note the intrinsic connection between judgement (discernment, view) and glory (honour). This link between judgement and glory bears fruit in verse 24 where Yeshua challenges the false judgement/glory of His hearers.
19 “Didn’t Moshe[H] (drawn out) give (natan[H]) you the Instruction (Ha-Torah[H]), and yet none among you does, acts out (oseh[H]) the Instruction (Ha-Torah[H])? Why do you seek to kill Me?”
In fact Moses gave Israel the Instruction of God, the author and goal of that Instruction being Yeshua Himself. The religious Jewish community of the first century were proud of their connection to the Torah and Moses, and yet they did not do what the Torah required. This is true of so many people of faith today. We are aware of what we should do but non the less act in a contrary fashion. Yeshua is not exposing their inaction but their hypocrisy.
20 The crowd answered, “You have an evil spirit, demon, divinity, god (daimonion[G], sheid[H])! Who seeks to kill You?”
In modern terms, “You’re a demonized psycho, a sicko, crazy person…”
21 Yeshua[H] answered them, “I did (poieo[G]) one (echad[H]) deed, work (ergon[G]) and you all admire, marvel (thaumazo[G]).
The work Yeshua speaks of is recorded in John 5:5-16, and concerns the making whole of the lame man at the pool of Beit Chasda on the Shabbat of Purim now some months prior. John 5:18 quite literally says that the religious Jewish leaders “sought to kill” Yeshua because of this miraculous sign performed on the Shabbat. Thus, what follows concerns actions that are permissible by first century Jewish halakhah on the Shabbat, even when they contradict the Shabbat commandment.
22 For this reason Moshe[H] (drawn out) has given (natan[H]) you circumcision (ha-miylah[H]) [not because it’s from Moses, but from the fathers (ha-Avot[H], Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov)], and on the Sabbath (Ha-Shabbat[H]) you circumcise (tamulu[H]) a man.
“Moses has given you circumcision” Leviticus 12:3
“…not because it’s from Moses, but from the fathers” God originally gave the commandment of circumcision to Avraham in Genesis 17:1-27, which he carried out on Yitzchak in Genesis 21:4, and it was perpetuated by Yitzchak and Yaakov respectively. This occurred centuries prior to the command given through Moses, which was a reiteration of the original command.
"we do not circumcise because Abraham our father, on whom be peace, circumcised himself and his household, but because the holy blessed God commanded us by Moses, that we should be circumcised, as Abraham our father was circumcised.'' -Maimon. in Mishnah. Cholin, c. 7. sect. 6.
23 If a male receives circumcision (timol[H]) on the Sabbath (Ha-Shabbat[H]) so that the Instruction (Torah[H]) of Moshe[H] will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire human being (anthropos[G]) sound, whole, fully restored (hugies[G]) on the Sabbath (Ha-Shabbat[H])?
The Torah commands that a Jewish male be circumcised on the eight day (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3), however, it also prohibits work on the Shabbat (Exodus 20:9-10, 23:12, 31:14-15, 34:21; Lev. 23:3; Deut. 5:12-14 etc.) Therefore, if the eighth day of a new born male’s life falls on a Shabbat there is a practical conflict. It is clear from the text that the halakhah of the first century Judean Jews under these circumstances was to practice circumcision on the Shabbat. The Talmud tractate Shabbat 128b-137b records this halakhic practice for posterity. Therefore, that which Yeshua referred to was a well-known and accepted halakhic practice. Yeshua was not denying its validity, rather He was using it as an example so as to expose the hypocrisy of His accusers.
Yeshua is using a form of reasoning which in Judaism is called kal ve’chomer or a light and heavy argument. He is essentially saying, “You permit the breaking of the Shabbat in order to circumcise, how much more important is it to make a person whole on the Shabbat?”
Jewish tradition agrees with Yeshua’s reasoning. The Talmud Bavliy sites the principle that saving a life suspends the Shabbat:
“Rabbi El’azar answered, ‘If circumcision. Which involves only one of the 248 human body parts, suspends Shabbat, how much more must [healing] the whole body suspend Shabbat.” -Talmud Bavliy Yoma 85b
"…the preservation of the soul life, suspends the Shabbat…” -Talmud. Bavliy. Shabbat, fol. 132. 1.
Put simply, a suffering person cannot rest, therefore, in order for the suffering person to keep the Shabbat that person must first be made whole. After all, Shabbat means “Seventh, blessing, stop, rest, pause, completion, wholeness, sound construction and transcendent peace.”
24 Do not separate, select, prefer, determine, judge (krino[G], tish’petu[H]) according to sight, seeing, appearance (opsis[G], lemareih[H]), but, instead by righteous, innocent, faultless observation (dikaios[G], tzedek[H]) separate, distinguish, make just, right judgment, alt. conclude justly (krisis[G], mishpat[H]).”
This verse challenges the false sight of the religious Jewish leaders and those among the crowd who oppose Yeshua’s teaching. He brings to summation the idea seeded in verse 18 concerning the intrinsic connection between judgement and glory, as a means of challenging His hearers to choose a different way of looking at, perceiving, judging, accessing things. If they were to follow His advice they would receive Him and His teaching and find redemption.
Every modern believer is promptly challenged to do away with the foolish, decontextualized popular pseudo Christian phrase, “Don’t judge”. While it is true that Scripture indicates elsewhere that we are not in any position to condemn others or pass judgement on them, it is certainly not true that we should not judge. A lack of judgement results in sin. Rather, we are instructed to judge well, truly, rightly, based on Godly sight born of the righteousness purchased for us in Messiah. Therefore, “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a truly just judgement.”
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses lying around us, let us also get rid of every weight and entangling sin. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith.” –Hebrews 12:1-2a
1. What is your take on the cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12, can we engage with them?
The allusion to the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 is referring back to the list of those witnesses to God’s faithfulness who are listed in Hebrews 11, commonly known as the Faith Chapter. These witnesses, as can be seen from Hebrews 11, are the now deceased patriarchs and heroes of the Jewish faith. The writer of Hebrews, a Jew and a Cohen (Priest), knows that the witnesses he is referring to are deceased and that many of them are buried throughout the land of Israel, and that they are therefore uncontactable according to the teaching of Scripture regarding the dead (Hebrews 9:27).
In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16) Yeshua explains that while the dead are conscious, they are not able either to traverse the chasm between Gehinnom (torment) and Gan Eden (Paradise) nor (re: Lazarus etc. once they are finally deceased [Hebrews 9:27]) are they able to traverse the distance between Sheol and the present world. In my article on Saul, Samuel and the Witch of Eyndor, I explain why the events of 1 Samuel 28:3-21 are not describing the dead spirit of Samuel called up but rather an evil spirit that fools the witch and is used by God to condemn Saul. For further study please use the following link below:
The writer of the book of Hebrews is using the deceased Jewish witnesses of Hebrews 11 as a figurative example. When he says:
“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses lying around us, let us also get rid of every weight and entangling sin. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith.” –Hebrews 12:1-2a
He is making a Drash (inquiry/comparative teaching) regarding how we should act in light of the figurative (not literal) cloud of witnesses that are buried throughout the land of Israel. We must remember that the writer is probably writing from the perspective of a priest living in the Land of Israel prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (AD). He then qualifies this teaching by instructing us, not to focus on the cloud of witnesses, but on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of our faith (The faith that our Jewish forebears shared in the coming Messiah Yeshua).
We cannot engage with this cloud of witnesses because they are deceased and according to Scripture (Hebrews 9:27) they are uncontactable. Those who do seek to speak to the dead are in fact speaking with demonic forces rather than the spirits of dead people (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” –Deuteronomy 18:10-12
Therefore, not only are we unable to engage with the dead witnesses of Hebrews 11-12, we are also commanded by God not to attempt to speak with the dead.
2. When Yeshua (Jesus) went to Sheol (Holding place of the dead), did He preach to the dead or to a specific order of captives?
The text this question refers to is 1 Peter 3:14-21:
“If you suffer for righteousness' sake, be glad: and don’t be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify (Kiddush) HaShem (Merciful) Elohiym (Judge) in your core being (heart): and be ready always to give an answer to every human being that asks you the reason for the hope that is in you with humility and reverent awe: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conduct in Messiah. For it’s better if God’s will is that you suffer for doing well than for doing evil. For Messiah also at one time suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Ruach (Spirit). By Whom (The Spirit) He also went and made proclamation to the ruachiym (spirits) in prison (phulake: foo-lak-ay). Who were formerly disobedient, when at one time the longsuffering God waited in the days of Noach (Comfort), while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls (nefesh) were saved by water (mikveh: gathering of water). This figurative likeness being a representation of the immersion (baptism) that now also saves us (not the washing of the flesh but the earnest seeking of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) Messiah.”
–1 Peter 3:17-21
In the context of Peter’s letter, the community of believers is being encouraged to share their faith with anyone who asks, and not to shy away from suffering if that is what God’s will entails. Peter then offers Yeshua as an example of One Who suffered and shared His message in the Spirit of God. It is explained that Yeshua’s suffering puts to death the sinful practices of the flesh and resurrects each believer in the life giving Spirit of God. It is by this same Spirit that the resurrected Messiah (not in sheol) transcends time and space, and thus traverses time and space by the Spirit, to proclaim His saving work to those spirits of human beings who were still living in the flesh at the time of Noah prior to the flood. The text explains that during the time of Noah only eight imprisoned spirits received Yeshua’s message and were delivered through the figurative tevilah immersion (baptism) of the flood, which the author shows to be a prefigure of the same tevilah immersion (baptism) that believers in Messiah have received unto salvation.
From the p’shat (plain) meaning of the text and the subsequent, remez (hint), drash (comparative) and sod (mystery), we see that it does not place Yeshua in sheol in relation to His proclamation but shows that it is by the Spirit of God following His resurrection that He spoke to the imprisoned spirits of humanity past. This text is not teaching anything even remotely to do with communicating with imprisoned dead people or angelic spirits. To the contrary, it simply teaches that God is just and that all humanity from Adam to the end of days has and will have an opportunity to either reject or receive the message of Messiah. This text shows how in the Spirit (of God), the resurrected Messiah transcends time and space and manifests the supernatural reality that He was both literally and figuratively slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
3. It seems there is an emergence of tribal peoples throughout the world who are now claiming to be part of the 12 tribes of Israel. To date DNA testing has proven that these claims are erroneous. In addition, many Messianic believers who are Gentiles, and have no proven evidence of Jewish bloodline are wearing, Jewish Tallits, Tzit tzit etc. Do you see this as another enemy tactic to dilute the unique ethno-religious identity of the Jewish people?
Yes I do. Ethnic, empirical, religious Israel, the descendants of Yaakov (Jacob) have a unique role to play in history, past, present and future. The enemy Satan has consistently sought to either wipe out the ethnic identity of the Jewish people and or make her identity generic in a desperate attempt to resist the plans of God. Satan has done this through popular Christian theology, Supersessionism, Continuationism, British Israel, the Lost Tribes myth, to name a few, and is now doing it by utilizing well-meaning so called Messianic Gentiles who have come to believe the lie that their own culture is somehow less important than the Jewish culture.
Allow me to offer an example: I love the Maori people, the indigenous people of Aeotearoa (New Zealand), but I don’t have an ancestral Maori tattoo. I don’t have even an ounce of Maori blood in my body. I have Ashkenazi Jewish blood, Italian blood, South American blood, English blood, German blood, but not an ounce of Maori blood. Therefore I will not desecrate the Maori culture by getting a sacred Maori tattoo. The sacred elements of Maori culture belong to the Maori people and are an intrinsic part of their God given unique identity.
If you don’t have any Jewish blood, don’t attempt to steel our sacred God given identity. Those who are not Jewish but wear tzit tzit and kippot etc. or claim, erroneously that they are members of the house of Ephraim (their DNA proves otherwise), are doing the very thing they accuse the Replacement and Superssesionist theologians of doing. They are seeking to replace ethnic, empirical, religious Israel. It is sin, don’t become entangled in it! It not only defiles God’s chosen people, it also defiles you and your beautiful, unique ethnic identity.
4. I hear people talking about the 10 lost tribes. Are there lost tribes?
There are no lost tribes. In approximately 540 BCE after the return of the tribes of Israel from exile in Babylon, all the tribes became united under the remnant of Judah who had remained in the land. Thus all Hebrews regardless of tribe took on the common title Yehudi (Jew), which became a term synonymous with Israel. From this point in time the Jewish people, consisting of the 12 tribes experienced various dispersions, the greatest of which occurred following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
The biblical book of Yaakov (James) affirms this understanding when it refers to the “12 tribes scattered throughout the world.” In fact the Biblical book of Yaakov (James) was written specifically to the Jews (the twelve tribes of Israel).
There are specific DNA markers in the various groups of dispersed Jews throughout the world that offer irrefutable evidence of the various tribes within the Jewish nation. The terms Israelite and Jew have been synonymous since the sixth century BCE (BC).
5. I’ve heard it taught that Jewish women were uneducated in the first century CE (AD) And that this is why they weren’t allowed to teach in the early community of believers, is this true?
This is simply not true. This foolish teaching finds very limited supported in the singular works of Ben Sira a Hellenistic Jewish scribe, sage, and allegorist from Jerusalem. His works contradict the wealth of Jewish tradition and teaching regarding women, and are often interpreted out of context. Women have been teachers, prophets and leaders of Israel throughout history. These include, Miriyam the sister of Moses, Ruth, Esther, Miriyam the mother of the Messiah, Devorah the prophetess etc.
Many are unaware that the ancient synagogues of Israel had no partitions separating men and women. The 2nd century Synagogue in Capernaum by the Galilee is a replica of the Synagogue that stood beneath it. I’ve stood there and seen for myself the open seating. In fact men and women sat together to listened to the Torah in the synagogues of first century Israel. How then could they have been uneducated?
From ancient times the women of Israel have been tasked with the greatest of teaching roles. That of teaching our children the core doctrines and practices of the Jewish faith. I ask then, if they were uneducated, how did they teach the Torah to countless generations of young Jews? How did they pass on the prayer tradition and Halakhah of Israel to subsequent generations?
6. Could you explain the ancient Jewish betrothal and wedding practice?
There are many localized variations regarding minor themes concerning the ancient Jewish betrothal and marriage customs, however, the primary themes are consistent throughout Jewish history and practice, and continue to find a place of prominence in the modern Jewish wedding ceremony. I will answer this question by explaining the common primary themes of the ancient Jewish betrothal and marriage. They are themes that arise from both Scripture and tradition and have been perpetuated for thousands of years. They are a living allegory for the great mystery of God’s relationship to Israel (empirical, ethnic) and of the relationship between Messiah Yeshua and the Ecclesia (Messianic community of believers). As such, they transcend their temporal function and become a picture of our eternal hope as believers, in love relationship with God.
Much of the information that follows is taken from both Biblical and Talmudic sources. The information from Talmudic sources, while not codified until a much later date, does pass on an oral tradition dating back to a time long before the Messiah’s birth. Many of the Talmudic articles on the subject of marriage affirm the spiritual allegory attributed to Messiah and His bride and are therefore a valid commentary on the events that continue to transpire regarding the second coming of Yeshua our Mashiyach and Chatan (groom).
a.) SHIDUKHIN (ARRANGEMENT)—SELECTION OF THE BRIDE:
From ancient days it has always been the father of the groom who selects his son’s bride. In cases where it is not practical for the father to go to the home of the bride to arrange things, he sends a Shadkhan (arranger/matchmaker). This is exactly what happened in the case of Abraham’s selecting of a bride for his son Isaac:
“Avraham said to his servant (Eli-eytzer/My God is my helper, comforter), the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, ‘Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by HaShem, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Yitzchak.” –Genesis 24:2-4
The Scriptures remind us that we were chosen by The Father (God) from before the creation of the world:
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” –Ephesians 1:4
Yeshua reminds us that:
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.” –Yochanan/John 15:16
b.) THE BRIDE MUST ACCEPT THE PROPOSAL:
In Jewish culture no woman may be forced to marry. Without the prospective brides acceptance of the marriage proposal there can be no marriage.
In Rebekah’s case, she had not seen her husband to be (Yitzchak), but accepted his proposal based on the word of the servant (Eli-eytzer, My God is a helper). This is also true of each of us who have accepted Yeshua’s proposal having had it offered to us at the hands of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit/The Helper).
“The servant said to him, ‘Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?’” –Genesis 24:5
“Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’” –Genesis 24:58
We must remember that it is Yeshua as the Jewish bridegroom (Chatan) Who always initiates the love relationship and that it is God Who selects us and not the other way around:
“We love Him because He first loved us.” –1 John 4:19
c.) THE MOHAR—BRIDE PRICE:
rom ancient times brides in Israel were purchased, a bride price (mohar) was paid as a means of showing that the groom valued the woman he was to marry. The price varied depending on the circumstances of those involved. In Yaakov’s (Jacob) case, he worked seven years as the bride price for Leah and Rachel respectively. (Genesis 29:20)
To the modern reader this may seem to denigrate women, treating them as property rather than valued equals, however, in the context of the Biblical society the opposite was true. The pagan nations surrounding Israel were taking women to wife without ceremony or consideration of a woman’s value. When a wife displeased a husband in these communities she was tossed aside and replaced without consequence, often left to fend for herself and in many cases to die without provision because men were the providers of a family’s income and protection.
The value placed upon a Jewish bride was a means of protecting her and valuing her as a person rather than an object of property for men to abuse. The fact that a husband, “owned,” his wife was not demeaning in the least, it was a sign to other men and to the bride, that she was cared for and valued. The Hebrew word for wife, Be’ulah, means, “owned,” and the Hebrew word for husband, Ba’al, means, “master or owner”.
“When Avraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before HaShem. 53 The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.” –Genesis 24:52-53
Yeshua has paid the highest price as a mohar for His bride by dying on the tree:
“You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” –1 Corinthians 7:23
“(Yeshua) Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” –Ephesians 1:14
“Knowing that you were not purchased with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.” –1 Peter 1:18-19
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a mohar (price): therefore glorify God in your body.” –1 Corinthians 6:19-20
d.) KETUBAH (WRITTEN)/ EYRUSIN (BETROTHAL)/ KIDUSHIN (SANCTIFICATION):
Following the shidukhin (arrangement) by the father via his shadkhan (Matchmaker) the acceptance of the proposal by the bride and the offering of the gift by the groom; a binding covenant was entered into and a ketubah (written) document was signed. This process, known as both Eyrusin (betrothal) and kidushin (sanctification from Kadosh [Holy], meaning set apart), was conducted approximately one year prior to the actual marriage ceremony and was considered binding. So much so, that a divorce or get (Hebrew) must be obtained by the husband in order to dissolve the betrothal. It’s important to note that only a husband can initiate a get (divorce) [Deuteronomy 24:1-4].
This is an affirmation of eternal security for the believer. Our security is not dependent on us because we’re not able to break our engagement once we’ve entered into the agreement. Only the groom can break the betrothal and Yeshua has no intention of doing so:
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” –Yochanan/John 10:28-30
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot disown Himself.” –2 Timothy 2:15
e.) MIKVEH (Immersion/Baptism):
Prior to the Eyrusin (Betrothal) rite, both the groom and the bride tevilah totally immerse themselves in a ritual bath (Mayim chayim—living water) of purification called a mikveh (Gathering of water). Yeshua was immersed by the forerunner Yochanan in preparation for His Eyrusin (Betrothal). Likewise as believers we enter into the mikveh of tevilah immersion (baptism) as a sign of our new beginning, identifying with Messiah’s immersion, His death and resurrection.
The mikveh is a symbol of a fresh start, a new beginning, a new family unit which is to be born of the married couple.
Following their tevilah (immersion) in the mikveh (gathering of water) the Eyrusin (Betrothal) ceremony took place under a Chuppah (canopy). In ancient times the Chuppah was a separate room in the groom’s father’s home, later the tradition of a canopy developed.
The Chuppah is a symbol of a new household and of God’s protective covering over the couple and their future progeny. It is also a sukkah (booth) which promises that God will one day Mishkhan (tabernacle, dwell) in the midst of His people for all eternity:
“As a bridegroom coming out of his chamber (Chuppah); rejoicing as a strong man to run his course.” –Tehillim/Psalm 19:5
“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room (Chuppah) and the bride out of her bridal chamber (Chuppah).” –Yo’el/Joel 2:16
f.) THE CUP:
During the Eyrusin (Betrothal) ceremony gifts/rings are exchanged and a cup of wine is shared. The Kiddush (sanctification) cup used in this ceremony is kept to be used again at the wedding ceremony in a years’ time. In ancient times the cup was most likely made of hardened clay: today a thin wine glass is used.
On the night He was betrayed, Yeshua offered His bride to be (Israel—empirical, ethnic and the birthing Ecclesia), a new covenant in blood, a wine cup, a kiddush (sanctifying) cup. This cup, the third cup of the Pesach/Passover Seder, taken after the main meal, is called Kos Ge’ulah (cup of redemption):
“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” –Luke 22:20
“’For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’” –Luke 22:18
Following the Eyrusin (Betrothal) ceremony the couple is considered married in every way except for cohabitation and sexual relations. Both bride and groom live apart for approximately one year. Something similar is seen in the length of time between Rebekah’s acceptance of Isaac’s proposal and their marriage in Canaan sometime later.
The year was used by the groom as a time of preparation. It was traditional in the ancient Middle East for the groom to leave the bride’s home town and return to His father’s house where he would build a room onto his father’s dwelling that would serve as the couple’s chadar (wedding chamber) following their marriage ceremony. The parallels with Yeshua and His bride are obvious. Yeshua has gone to prepare a place for us:
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” –Yochanan/John 14:2-3
Likewise, the bride spends the year in preparation for her groom’s return. She is to be ready at any hour of the day as the year draws to a close. She prepares items for her future home and a pure white dress for the wedding day.
We are reminded in the Scriptures that we should invest our time in those things which are eternal:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” –Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:19
g.) THE RETURN OF THE GROOM:
Tradition dictates that only the father of the groom may decide on the time for the groom’s return, neither the groom nor the bride know at what hour the groom will return to carry the bride to the wedding feast.
“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” –Mark 13:32
In many cases, as the year of waiting drew to a close, the bride’s household would wait late into the night, keeping oil lamps lit in case of the groom’s return. This tradition became common among certain groups and is still practised in some communities today. The groom would often return at night.
“But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” –Mattitiyahu/Matthew 25:6
The implications for us as believers are clear, we are to prepare ourselves and be constantly ready for our groom’s return.
The groom would return, often late at night, with a procession of family and friends from his father’s household, shouting out, with torches burning and the shofar sounding to herald his coming.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar of G-d, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be carried away (nisuin, to carry) together with them in the cloud (of His presence) to meet the Lord in the fresh air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” –1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
The groom’s entourage would be carrying an aperion (a seated canopy, carried on the shoulders of men). He would pick up his bride and place her in the aperion thus carrying her away to her new home.
The bride would cover her face with a veil and intermittently along the way the groom would check under her veil to ensure he had carried away the right bride. This tradition is called bedeken and came about due to the problems experienced by Yaakov (Jacob) at the hands of Laban his father in law, when he deceived him on his wedding night by substituting Leah for Rachel.
There is a beautiful modern Hassidic practise among many Charediym (Orthodox/Pious) that combines both the night time arrival of the groom and the peeking behind the veil. It involves two men carrying Havdalah candles as they approach the bride walking arm in arm with the groom. They come with the groom at night and approach the betrothed woman’s home with the multi-wicked candles lit. The bride is veiled and awaiting the groom dressed in pure white. As the community chants traditional Hebrew songs, the groom is led by candle light to meet His bride, who is surrounded by her female attendants. Once the groom is standing before her, he unveils her face and leads her to the place where the wedding ceremony will take place.
h.) NISUIN (TO CARRY) THE CHUPPAH:
The Nisuin (Wedding) ceremony is the last stage of the betrothal and marriage. The Chuppah (canopy) was a specially made embroidered canopy or a tallit (prayer shawl) held up by four poles. It was representative of the bridal chamber.
The groom enters the proceedings first, as the rabbi calls out, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai,” blessed is he who comes in the name of the L-rd. The groom stands on the left hand side, then the bride enters to the call, “B’rukhah haba’ah b’shem Adonai,” blessed is she who comes in the name of the Lord.
“O HaShem, do save, we beseech You; O HaShem, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the HaShem; We have blessed you from the house of the HaShem. HaShem is Elohiym, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” –Tehillim/Psalm 118:25-27
The bride walks around the groom either three or seven (depending on the local tradition) times as a symbol of her willingness to consecrate herself to her groom. Three times is symbolic of God’s three-fold betrothal to Israel:
“’I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice (1), In loving kindness (chesed) and in compassion (2), And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness (3). Then you will know HaShem [YHVH] (Mercy).’” –Hosea 2:19-20
Seven is a symbolic promise of the bridal week and the completeness found in marriage. Mirroring the completeness of the creation week and the Shabbat rest of God.
The bride then stands to the right of her groom.
i.) SHE’VA BRACHOT (Seven blessings):
The She’va Brachot (seven blessings) are pronounced beginning with the blessing over the Kiddush cup (the same cup used during the Erusiyn betrothal rite), but the cup is not drunk until the blessings are completed. These blessings are also known as Birkat Nisuin (blessings of being carried away):
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, בורא פרי הגפן.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, bo'rei p'ri hagafen.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, שהכל ברא לכבודו.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam shehakol bara lichvodo.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who created everything for His Glory."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, יוצר האדם.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, yotzer haa’dam.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates man."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, אשר יצר את האדם בצלמו, בצלם דמות תבניתו, והתקין לו ממנו בניין עדי עד. ברוך אתה ה', יוצר האדם.
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, asher yatzar et ha-adam b’tzalmo, b’tzelem d’mut tavnito, v’hitkin lo mimenu binyan adei ad. Baruch atah Adonai, yotzeir ha-adam.
Translation: "Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates humanity in your image (likeness), fashioning perpetuated life. Blessed are You, HaShem, creator of humanity."
שוש תשיש ותגל העקרה, בקיבוץ בניה לתוכה בשמחה. ברוך אתה ה', משמח ציון בבניה.
Transliteration: Sos tasis v’tageil ha-akara b’kibutz baneha l’tocha b’simcha. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameach Tzion b’vaneha.
Translation: "May the barren one exult and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her. Blessed are You, Hashem, who gladden Zion with her Children."
שמח תשמח רעים האהובים, כשמחך יצירך בגן עדן מקדם. ברוך אתה ה', משמח חתן וכלה.
Transliteration: Sameiach tesamach reiim ha-ahuvim k’sameichacha y’tzircha b’gan eden mikedem. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan v’chalah.
Translation: "Grant perfect joy to these loving companions, as you did your creations in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, HaShem, who grants the joy of groom and bride."
ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם, אשר ברא ששון ושמחה, חתן וכלה, גילה רינה, דיצה וחדווה, אהבה ואחווה, ושלום ורעות, מהרה ה' אלקינו ישמע בערי יהודה ובחוצות ירושלים, קול ששון וקול שמחה, קול חתן וקול כלה, קול מצהלות חתנים מחופתם, ונערים ממשתה נגינתם. ברוך אתה ה', משמח חתן עם הכלה.
Transliteration: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher bara sason v’simcha chatan v’kallah, gilah rinah ditzah v’chedvah, ahavah v’achavah v’shalom v’reut. M’hera Adonai Eloheinu yishammah b’arei Yhudah uv-chutzot Y’rushalayim kol sason v’kol simcha, kol chatan v’kol kalah, kol mitzhalot chatanim meichupatam u-n'arim mimishte n’ginatam. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan im hakalah.
Translation: "Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, sovereign of the universe, who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, song, delight and rejoicing, love and harmony and peace and companionship. Soon, Hashem our God, may there ever be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem voices of joy and gladness, voices of groom and bride, the jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the bridal canopy, the voices of young people feasting and singing. Blessed are You, HaShem, who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride."
THE CUP #2:
Following the blessings the Kiddush cup (the same cup used in the Eyrusin ceremony of betrothal) is drunk by both groom and bride and is then wrapped in a napkin and shattered beneath the groom’s foot.
“For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” –Luke 22:18
The breaking of the cup is a more recent addition to the ceremony but it holds great significance. Originally the rabbis added the shattering of the cup in order to remind those present that even in joyous times we remember the destruction of the temple and Israel’s suffering. However the symbolism is also powerfully representative of the fact that no one else can ever drink from the cup that the married couple have shared. The covenant of marriage is sacred and sealed forever in the sight of God. This is also the case regarding our marriage to Yeshua.
The marriage is then consummated in the bridal chamber (chadar), following which the groom calls out to the shadkhan (matchmaker) or friend of the groom, letting him know that the marriage has been consummated.
“And Yeshua said unto them, ‘Can the attendants of the bride chamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.’” –Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:15
The couple then celebrates an elaborate wedding feast with their guests. The feast is followed by a seven day period together in seclusion, in order to complete the marriage week.
All of these events remind us of the Messianic community’s coming marriage to Yeshua. We will be carried away, and join with Him in spiritual marriage. He will finally drink again of the Kiddush cup with us and we will celebrate with Him at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God.
“’Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’” –Revelations 19:7-9
RENEWED COVENANT SCRIPTURES REGARDING BETROTHAL & MARRIAGE:
• Legally free to marry & purposed for fruit
“Therefore, my Jewish brothers and sisters, you also were made to die from the Torah’s perspective (regarding marriage to sin), through the body of Messiah, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” –Romans 7:4
We are dead to sin through the covenant blood of Messiah Yeshua and are therefore free to remarry. Yeshua is our groom and we marry for the purpose of bearing fruit.
• Shidukin (arrangement, match making)/ Eyrusin (betrothal)/ Ketubah (it is written)
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I have betrothed you to one husband, so that to Messiah I might present you as a pure virgin.” –2 Corinthians 11:2
In this text Shaul/Paul is the Shadkhan (match maker, arranger).
• Nisuin (to carry)/ Kidushin (Sanctification, from kadosh [Holy] set apart)—Marriage
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Messiah also is the head of the Messianic Community, He Himself being the Saviour of the body. But as the Messianic Community is subject to Messiah, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the Messianic Community and gave Himself up for her (bride price), so that He might sanctify (Kidushin) her, having cleansed her by the washing of water (Mikveh) with the word, that He might present to Himself the Messianic Community in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or blemish; but that she would be holy (Set apart) and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the Messianic Community, because we are members of His body. ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.’ (Gen. 2:24) This mystery (sod) is great; but I am speaking with reference to Messiah and the Messianic Community.” –Ephesians 5:22-32
In this text Shaul/Paul uses the example of the Jewish betrothal and marriage (P’shat) to touch (Remez) on a much deeper understanding (Sod) of our relationship (Drash) with Yeshua. This mystery is in part available to all who understand the process of Jewish marriage from betrothal to the wedding chamber.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
This Torah portion is titled, “Chaiyei Sarah” which translates to, “The Life of Sarah” rather than, “The Death of Sarah”. God is the God of the living.
The events of the Akeidah now concluded, Avraham returns to find that his beloved wife Sarah has passed away. Imagine the turmoil and anguish he must have suffered. The joy of receiving his son back from the dead, metaphorically speaking, is now met with the continuing reality, if temporary, of sin’s conclusion. The death of Sarah illuminates the truth that the promised resurrection is now (Yitzchak) and yet future (Yeshua).
The Targum Yonatan explains that Satan had told Sarah that Avraham had slaughtered Isaac and upon hearing this she cried out in grief and died. This would explain why Avraham and Isaac were not present at her death: “Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and bewail her” (Genesis 23:2.) The Rabbis suggest that this is the reason that the account of Sarah’s death follows directly after Ha-Akeidah (The Binding of Isaac). The sages remind us however, that Sarah’s appointed time had come regardless of Satan’s role in her demise, and that her last breathe came with the knowledge that she had raised a son who was willing to give up even his life in the service of HaShem.
We should also note that this Torah portion is titled, “Chaiyei Sarah” which translates to, “The Life of Sarah” rather than, “The Death of Sarah”. God is the God of the living.
“But concerning the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moses about the burning bush? How God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He’s not the God of the dead, but of the living.” –Mark 12:26-27
Gen 23:1 And the life of Sarah (Princess/Queen/Matriarch) was a hundred years and twenty years and seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.
The years of Sarah’s life are intentionally divided by the author of the Torah and His scribe. In Hebrew the text reads, “Vayi-h’yu chayeiy Sarah meiah (100) shanah (years) v’esriym (20) shanah (years) v’sheva (seven) shanah (years)...”
Rashi suggests that the division of years reflects the progression of Sarah’s spiritual innocence and natural beauty.
In both Hebrew thought and literature the number 100 reflects the tenfold completion of the number 10, signifying a fulfilled promise or purpose. The number 20, being twice the completion of 10, may convey the birth and resurrection of Yitzchak, or the first and second fulfilments of the ram’s sacrifice, and the number 7, known by even the Torah novice as a number reflecting the present and perfect manifest k’vod (glory) of God (Shekhinah), conveys a sense of the perfected purpose of God and His constant presence in Sarah’s life to this point in her story, with the promise of eternal life in the presence of HaShem in the Olam Haba (World to come).
By all accounts, this is the passing on of Israel’s first Queen, and prior to this we have already received news of Israel’s second Queen, Rivkah (Rebecca), the one in whom the purposes of God are tightly bound.
Gen 23:2 And Sarah died in Kiriat-arba (City of four) - the same is Chevron (Company, Shared, Magician) - in the land of C’naan (lowland); and Avraham (Father of many nations) came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
"And Avraham came from the mount of worship (Moriah), and found that she (Sarah) was dead, and he sat down to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.'' –Targum Yonatan
Hebron is situated in the hill country of Judah approximately 32 km south of Jerusalem. The Torah records it as the burial place of each of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel (Genesis 23:19; 35:27; 49:29-32; 50:13).
In laying their bones to rest at Hebron, the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel left a testimony of their faith in what God had promised would come. So too Joseph had instructed the sons of Israel with the prophetic words:
“And Joseph said to his brothers: 'I die; but God will surely remember you, and bring you up out of this land unto the land which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.' And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying: 'God will surely remember you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.'” –Genesis 50:24-25 TLV
“And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for he had demanded an oath from the children of Israel, saying: 'God will surely remember you; and you shall carry up my bones away from here with you.'” –Exodus 13:19 TLV
Hebron was also the first seat of David’s kingdom (2 Samuel 2:1-4; 5:1-5).
Sarah died in a city named for a hero (Arba) of the Anakim (Long necked, giants) much later in Israel’s history (Joshua 14:15). It is also considered by Rashi to be a prophetic name in honour of the four (arba) great couples who were buried there: Adam and Eve (Pirke Eliezer, c. 20. & 36), Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.
Gen 23:3 And Avraham rose up from before his dead, and spoke unto the children of Chet (Terror), saying:
We know from the latter verses that this was taking place at the city gate where business and legal matters were determined in the ancient eastern culture of Avraham’s time.
Sadly, today, Avraham’s children continue to rise up from before our dead in order to speak to the children of terror. Though the Historical Biblical record clearly testifies to Israel’s legal ownership of Sarah’s tomb and the surrounding land, Hebron remains in the hands (Palestinian Authority controlled land in the southern West Bank) of Israel’s enemies.
Chet was the son of C’naan, meaning lowland (Genesis 10:15). Thus we read, “The children of Terror from the lowland.”
Gen 23:4 'I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead from before my face.'
In modern terms we would equate Avraham’s words with a resident immigrant, one who has come from another land but has made his new home among us.
Avraham shows tremendous humility in pleading for a tomb for his wife. After all, the land he is asking for has already been promised to him by God.
The Midrash illuminates further both the promise of God and the humility of His servant Avraham:
“You humiliated yourself before them; by your life, I shall make you a lord and prince over them” -Midrash Ha-Gadol
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik notes that Avraham expresses the two roles a Jew must play. On one hand, a resident and advocate for his country, who prays for the wellbeing of the nation where he lives (Jeremiah 29:7). While on the other hand, a Jew in this world is always an alien, his allegiance is to God and his goal is set out in the Torah [The goal of the Torah being Messiah (Romans 10:4)]. Rav Yosef concludes that a Jew must always be ready to be a lonely alien, resisting the culture that surrounds him and maintaining his unique identity and responsibility.
The book of Leviticus describes the people of Israel as resident aliens living on land owned by God (Leviticus 25:23). These same words are also used to convey the transience of human life and the unworthiness of humanity in the face of God’s holiness and provision (2 Chronicles 29:15).
Gen 23:5 And the children of Chet answered Avraham, saying to him: Gen 23:6 'Hear us, my lord (Adoni): you are a mighty prince among us; choose from our tombs, bury your dead; none of us shall withhold from you his tomb, so that you may bury your dead.'
The answer given by the children of Chet is blatant flattery. In fact, the subsequent bartering and the exorbitant asking price shows how little respect they had for Avraham, whom they saw as an immigrant usurper rather than an assimilated member of their society. The social and legal structure of the time saw this first verbal interaction as the initiation of a bargaining protocol. The niceties are simply that, cultural etiquette rather than genuine sentiment.
Gen 23:7 And Avraham rose up, and bowed down to the people of the land, even to the children of Chet. Gen 23:8 And he spoke with them, saying: 'If it be your mind that I should bury my dead from before my face, hear me, and petition Ephron (Calf-like, dust man, stag diving) the son of Zochar (Tawny, reddish grey, whiteness, sheen) on my behalf,
Avraham bows down out of respect and in humility. Though Ephron was present (v.10), Avraham follows the local custom and seeks out the approval of the elders of the city gate in order to broker a negotiation with Ephron.
The phrase, “bury my dead from before my face” infers that Avraham is aware that his wife Sarah, while no longer before his face, is none the less in the presence of HaShem and before His face. That Avraham and Sarah believed in the Olam Haba (World to come) is affirmed by the Jewish writer of the book of Hebrews:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he was to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he migrated to the land of promise as if it were foreign, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob—fellow heirs of the same promise. 10 For he was waiting for the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be faithful. 12 So from one—and him as good as dead—were fathered offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and as uncountable as the sand on the seashore. 13 These all died in faith without receiving the things promised—but they saw them and welcomed them from afar, and they confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If indeed they had been thinking about where they had come from, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they yearn for a better land—that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” –Hebrews 11:8-16 TLV
Gen 23:9 that he may give me the cave of Machpeilah (Double, folding), which he has, which is within the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in the midst of you for a possession of a burying-place.'
The name Machpeilah (Double) infers that there may have been two caves in the location or that the place would one day be home to the bodies of both Sarah and Avraham.
The petition for gifting the cave is qualified by the offer to pay a fair price, thus, “give” should be understood as the literal act of giving something over, rather than as a present, or gift that is given entirely at the expense of the giver.
The phrase, “let him give it to me in the midst of you as a possession” seeks to establish a rhythm of testimony that sees this transaction firmly attested to by witnesses as a form of security for the future generations of Avraham’s family line.
Gen 23:10 Now Ephron (Calf-like, dust man, stag diving) was sitting in the midst of the children of Chet (Terror); and Ephron the Cheeti (Descendant of terror) answered Avraham (Father of many nations) in the hearing of the children of Chet (Terror), even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying: Gen 23:11 'No, my lord (Adoni), hear me: I give you the field, and the cave that is within it, I give it to you; in the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.'
Ephron’s use of the epilate, “My lord” is equally as disingenuous as the general response of his clansmen. Again, he is either offering to give over the field with a price in mind, or he intends to gift it without a legal transaction taking place so that Avraham would become his tenant and the land would remain in Ephron’s family following Avraham’s death. This is not a genuine offer.
Ephron, realizing Avraham is intent on purchasing the cave and fields, calls on the witness of his clansmen in order to seek compensation for the cave and adds the field in order to glean a greater price. Anyone who has experienced the Jerusalem, Carmel or the Old Jaffa markets will have come across similar types of bartering protocol, a culture of wheeling and dealing. Ironically, the proclaiming of this deal before the witnesses at the city gate strengthens Avraham’s descendants’ legal claim to the cave and its surrounding land.
We should keep in mind that Avraham is negotiating for his wife’s burial place, he is recently bereaved and is surely in great turmoil and under weighty emotional stress due to the loss of his life-long partner and friend.
Anyone who would take advantage of a man during a time of grief is the very personification of unrighteousness.
Gen 23:12 And Avraham bowed down before the people of the land. Gen 23:13 And he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying: 'But if you will, I plead with you, hear me: I will give the price of the field; take it from me, and I will bury my dead there.'
Yet again the phrase, “in the hearing of the people of the land” reinforces the legal status of the land and those who possess it. Avraham continues as he has intended from the beginning, offering a fair price for the field, which also contains the caves.
Gen 23:14 And Ephron answered Avraham, saying unto him: Gen 23:15 'My lord (Adoni), listen unto me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? Therefore, bury your dead.'
This is where the true character of Ephron is exposed. He offers a price that is at least 20 times the value of the land according to the standard shekel. Rashi notes that it was a price great enough to purchase a huge estate. There is no question that Ephron is using the urgency of Avraham’s situation against him, and that he is taking advantage of a grieving man and his retinue. By way of qualification, Jeremiah the prophet redeems an entire ancestral land plot several times greater than this one for 17 shekels (Jeremiah 32:9), and on Mt Moriah, David purchases the threshing floor and oxen for 50 shekels (2 Samuel 24:24).
Those who wish to contest this conclusion site the 600 shekels David paid for the entire Temple mount (1 Chronicles 21:25). However, the Temple mount is not comparable to the plot at Hebron, either in area or in significance. They also note that Omri paid 6000 shekels for the virgin hill of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24) but fail to take into account the context of this act and the evil intent and money flaunting of the wicked king Omri. Even if one were to concede the point of these two higher costings, it becomes redundant when the identification of the common trade currency (referred to in the next verse as, “current money”) is made.
Gen 23:16 And Abvraham listened to Ephron; and Avraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the hearing of the children of Chet, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
Avraham agreed to the amount, not out of desperation but with the knowledge that he was setting a legal precedent for his progeny. Though the price was exorbitant, Avraham considered this a physical representation of the greater future benefits that God had promised to his offspring.
The Hebrew, “oveir lasocheir” translated as, “current money” is a description of a larger trading silver shekel that became known later in history as a centenaria. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 87a) explains, each shekel used to pay for the plot was worth 2,500 standard shekels (Rashi). Thus, in the end, Avraham paid a total of one million standard shekels for the plot and caves. Further to my notes on the previous verse, this means that in reality the full price paid for Hebron is a least 166 times the amount of the highest price paid for land by a Jewish leader (of a different size and for different reasons) in the Torah (Omri). To put it into today’s terms, “Ephron ripped Avraham off in a big way!”
This transaction serves to illuminate the character of the Father of Trust (Avraham), while bringing into the light the true character of the Dust Man, a Child of Terror (Ephron of Chet). The former is a son of the heavens (God, life eternal), while the latter remains a son of the dust (death).
Gen 23:17 So the field of Ephron, which was in Machpeilah, which was before Mamre (Strength), the field, and the cave which was within it, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the border thereof round about, were secured (yakam: rose, elevated) Gen 23:18 unto Avraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Chet, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
Finally the land and its caves are secured legally before Ephron, the people of Chet and the elders of the gate and are recognized as belonging to Avraham and his offspring for a possession. No longer is it land upon which Avraham sojourns, it is now his lawful homeland. This historical record which is over 4000 years old is irrefutable proof of Israel’s ancestral claim to the caves and surrounding land in the city of Hebron.
This location is one of modern Judaism’s four holiest sites and is currently part of the Palestinian authority controlled land of the southern West Bank. The 400 Jewish settlers who live there have need of the constant protection of up to 3,000 IDF (Israeli Defence Force) soldiers and this holy place has two separate worship areas, one for Jews and one for Muslims, kept separated by a bullet proof glass wall. Access for the average Jew is difficult at best and at worst, life threatening. The irony of calling the Jews who live in Hebron “settlers” is not lost on this writer.
The Midrash states that the caves and surrounding land in Hebron are one of the three places that Scripture identifies as being testimony of the Jews’ irrefutable right to the possession of the land of Israel. The Midrash goes on to say that the cave of Machpeilah, the site of the Temple and the tomb of Joseph were all purchased without counter offers being made and with legal currency.
The phrase, “were confirmed/secured” uses the Hebrew, “yakam” literally, “rose”. Thus the Midrash interprets it to mean that through Avraham’s purchasing of the land it became elevated because it passed from the hands of the commoner Ephron into the hands of the king Avraham.
Gen 23:19 And after this, Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpeilah before Mamre - the same is Chevron - in the land of C’naan. Gen 23:20 And the field, and the cave that is within, were made secure (yakam: rose, elevated) unto Avraham for a possession as a burying-place by the children of Chet.
© Yaakov Brown 2016
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,