If a hand chooses to leave the body it will no longer be governed by the brain through the nervous system and will fail to receive blood from the heart to maintain its muscles, sinews, and operation. In a short time it will become a rotting piece of dead and decaying flesh. Sadly, this is what becomes of “believers” who refuse to gather regularly with other believers. What’s more the body is now short of a hand. The believer that wilfully refuses to meet regularly with other believers robs both himself and the body of Messiah.
The second half of chapter 10 uses the former establishment of eternal atonement and the eternal security of those who receive Yeshua as a foundation for confidence in relationship to God.
Yeshua has not only made all believers, regardless of tribe or ethnicity, priests (1 Peter 2:9), He has also given every believer access to the Holiest place (the heavenly holy of holies) in the eternal present, not locationally in the same sense that Yeshua is seated at the right hand of God, but spiritually, in the sense that God dwells in and with us through Yeshua and by His Spirit. To understand this locationally is error, it leads to many heretical teachings, whereas to understand it transcendently (trans-locationally) is righteousness, a faith that accepts the future descent of the heavenly glory and the manifest dwelling of God on the new earth. We do not bring heaven down, God does. We do not affect the second coming, God does. To say otherwise if abhorrent blasphemy, idolatry of the worst kind.
Because we are secure in God through Messiah we are to hold on to and proliferate the profession of our faith, and intentionally look for ways that we can inspire and spur one another on to good works. We are not to cease meeting together in the flesh, but are instead admonished to continue to encourage one another in our faith as the day of judgement approaches. We are to turn from willful sin relying on Messiah’s strength in us because there is no further sacrifice, His sacrifice is it. We are admonished to remember our free obligation to be faithful to Yeshua and not become guilty of perpetual lawlessness, given that the rejection of the perfect Messiah and His covenant is far worse than the failure to keep the Torah of Moses.
The writer then reminds his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah of the former days (prior to 60 C.E.) when they first came to faith in Yeshua and were persecuted alongside others who professed faith in the King Messiah. The early Jewish believers are encouraged to continue to endure with joy (transcendent), just as they did in the beginning, and to disregard earthly possessions and temporary accomplishments, instead keeping their eyes on the eternal possession, their inheritance, that which Yeshua has purchased for them. Their confidence in Messiah comes with a great reward.
Finally, the writer quotes Isaiah 26:20 and Hab. 2:3 as both a warning and an encouragement. The latter clause concerning “drawing back” (turning away from God) is redeemed by the words, “But we do not belong to those who shrink back to destruction, but are of those who have faith and are saved.”
Previous verses (Heb. 10:16-18):
16 “This is the covenant which I will make with them After those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws upon their hearts, And write them on their mind,” He then says, 17 “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will no longer remember.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, an offering for sin is no longer required.
BOOK TO THE HEBREWS Chapter 10:19-39 (Author’s translation)
19 Therefore, fellow Jewish brothers and sisters, since we have free, plain, confidence, boldness, security to enter into the holiest place by the blood of the Messiah Yeshua 20 by a new, recently slaughtered, freshly killed and living way which He inaugurated, renewed, consecrated, dedicated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh, body, 21 also a great high priest over, on, in, among the house of God, 22 let’s approach with/in a true, whole, well-constructed heart, inner person, centre of being in full assurance of faith, trust, belief that is innocent having our hearts, inner persons, centre of our being sprinkled, washed, purified from a wicked, delusional, spiritually evil conscience, consciousness, moral perception and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let’s hold firmly, keep, possess the profession [projected testimony], in the knowledge of our faith, hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let’s consider how to provoke, incite, irritate, rouse one another, brothers and sisters in all-encompassing love and good deeds, 25 not abandoning, forsaking assembling ourselves together as is the habit, manner, way, moral practice, modus operandi, custom, perpetual intention of some people, but comforting, encouraging, exhorting, desiring one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 26 For if we continue to sin, wilfully, in malice after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there remains no further blood sacrifice upon sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation, a constant phobia of judgment and “the fiery zealous indignation which will consume the adversaries/oppressors” [Num. 16:35 LXX “kai puros zelos”]. 28 Anyone who has despised, rejected, violated the Torah[H] of Moshe[H] died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severe a punishment do you think that one will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded, makes as unclean, unholy, common the blood of the covenant by which that one was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace, kindness, charity, practical love? 30 For we see, perceive, understand, know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” [Deut. 32:35] And again, “The Lord (YHVH) will judge His people.” [Deut. 32:36; Psalms 135:14] 31 It is a terrifying, fearful thing [a constant phobia] to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 But remember the former, first days, when, after being enlightened, you endured, your eyes have seen a great fight, struggle, contest of sufferings, tortures, 33 partly by your being made a public spectacle through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions, fellow participants with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to me in my bonds [alt. to the prisoners] and accepted joyfully the seizure, spoiling, extorting of your possessions, knowing, having learned in your souls that you have for yourselves [alt. have in heaven] a better and lasting substance. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your free, plain, bold, confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of patient endurance, so that when you have done the will, desire of God, you may receive what was promised. 37 “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. [Isaiah 26:20; Hab. 2:3 LXX] [Hebrew text Habakkuk 2:3: “For yet a vision to an appointed time and it shall speak, blow, to the end/goal and it will not lie though it waits, wait for it, coming it has come, it will not hesitate.”] 38 But My righteous one will live by faith; [Hab. 2:4] And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” [LXX and a summation of Hab. 2:5-20] [Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:4: “Behold, now, pay attention, he is lifted up (has drawn back through pride) and is not upright in his soul, behold, and the just/righteous, by his faith shall he live.”] 39 But we are not among those who draw back [through pride per Heb. Hab. 2:4] to destruction, damnation, but of those who have faith, trust, belief for obtaining the salvation, preservation of our souls.
HEBREWS 10:19-39 (line upon line)
19 Therefore, fellow Jewish brothers and sisters (adelphos[G], echay/achiym[H]), since we have free, plain, confidence, boldness, security (parrhesia[G], bihyot[H]) to enter into the holiest place (ho hagion[G], haKodesh[H]) by the blood (aima[G], bedam[H]) of the Messiah Yeshua[H] (Ho Christos[G], Ha-Mashiach[H], Iesous[G], YHVH [Mercy] Saves) 20 by a new, recently slaughtered, freshly killed (prosphatos[G], chadash[H]) and living (zao[G], chay[H]) way (hodos[G], derekh[H]) which He inaugurated, renewed, consecrated, dedicated (egkainizo[G], chideish[H]) for us through the veil (ho katapetasma[G], baparochet[H]), that is, through His (hautou[G]) flesh, body (sarx[G], vesaro[H]),
19 Therefore, fellow Jewish brothers and sisters, since we have free, plain, confidence, boldness, security to enter into the holiest place by the blood of the Messiah Yeshua[H]
“Therefore, fellow Jewish brothers and sisters,” With few exceptions, when a Jewish New Covenant writer uses the Greek “adelphos” (brother, or the pl. brothers, by implication brothers and sisters), equivalent to the Hebrew “echay” or “achiym”, the writer intends it to be understood to refer to his ethnic Jewish brothers and sisters. While the teaching (spiritual principles) pursuant to the familial noun can be received and applied by all believers, this is nonetheless a secondary application.
“since we have free, confidence, security to enter into the holiest place by the blood of the Messiah Yeshua” Our confidence, security, freedom as believers is in Messiah through His eternal blood atonement. Therefore, we have been given continuing access to enter into the holiest place of intimacy with God. The holy of holies of the earthly hamishkan (Tent of meeting) and hamikdash (temple) are a sign that point to the holiest place in the heavens where Messiah is now seated in the right hand of the Father, while we remain on earth. However, Messiah in us as the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, has brought the yet future manifestation of the holiest place (re. residing in the new Jerusalem that descends Rev. 21:22-23) to us according to His transcendent nature as resurrected King. He is both locationally seated in the right hand of God and trans-locationally present in us. The resurrected Messiah is not bound by matter, time, space or location.
We do not ascend to the heavens in order to access the holiest place, to the contrary, the message of Scripture is that God’s manifest presence and person descend to dwell with and in us. Those who seek to ascend have failed to understand the access that believers have been given in Messiah to a holiest place that is unbound by the locational limitations set by the human mind as it perceives this sin affected temporal world. Neither matter, nor time, nor space, nor any other created thing can impede the access of the believer to the holiest place through the blood of Messiah.
This is why Yeshua said, “But the hour comes and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeks such to worship Him.” -Yochanan (John) 4:23
Therefore, locational worship, while significant as a sign pointing to the holiest place of intimacy with God, is nonetheless preceded and succeeded, or proceeded from, in the trans-locational worship found in God through Messiah Yeshua.
Put simply, we don’t need to ascend to the “holiest place” because our great High Priest Yeshua Who resides there also resides in us by the Holy Spirit (Spirit of the Father and the Son).
It is foolish then, to claim (as some do) that we can ascend into the heavenly holy of holies through certain practices, prayers, invocations and processes. This is the modus operandi of witchcraft. To the contrary, in Messiah the trans-locational manifest presence of God is eternally present with us. We await the fullness of that manifestation at the return of the King Messiah and following the judgement (haDin-the Day of Judgement), when the new Jerusalem will descend from the heavens and God will dwell with humanity, the city being devoid of a temple because God Himself and the Lamb Yeshua will be its temple and its perpetual light (Rev. 21:22-23).
Those who practice locational faith (a companion to emotional faith) will find to their detriment that there are locations that offer no inspiration. Whereas those who practice transcendent faith in Messiah Yeshua will find that their faith is trans-locational.
***FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY*** or skip to next verse…
For further study the following commentary on Hebrews 9:27 refutes the false teaching that believers can travel trans-dimensionally into the heavens (an occult teaching akin to astral travel) that misunderstands the words of Rav Shaul (Paul) recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5:
“And just as it is appointed for people to die once, and after this, the judgment,” -Hebrews 9:27
This verse puts death to the false claims of those who say they have died and literally been to heaven and have come back to shared their experiences. While according to Scripture (2 Cor. 12:2-4) one can claim to have experienced a vision of paradise (Gan Eden, Bosom of Abraham ref. Luke 16:19-31) as convergent with the third heaven (not heaven but a part of Sheol), one cannot legitimately claim to have actually, physically or metaphysically entered the heaven of heavens (John 3:13; Heb. 9:27; Luke 23:43)[note that Elijah was taken into “hashamayim” the heavens pl. and not into the heaven of heavens in particular (2 Kings 2). Also in the case of Enoch who “was not”, heaven is not mentioned (Gen 5:24).
The Scripture does not say “it is appointed to human beings to die and spend time in heaven and then come back for a while and die again etc…” But, “It is appointed to human beings to die once and then the judgement”, not “and then some other things and then the judgement”, but “and then the judgement” which by necessity precedes what Christians mistakenly call “heaven”, but is actually the Olam haba (world to come). Only following the judgement do we dwell forever in the Olam Haba (World to come), prior to that the redeemed await the judgement in Paradise (Bosom of Abraham, Gan Eden). Those Scriptures used to support the counterfeit experiences of those who have “passed” and been revived, when examined closely, affirm the present text rather than being divergent in their meaning.
This verse also puts to death the false idea of the ghosts of human souls, which in reality are demonic spirits (false elohim [gods]) masquerading as departed human souls. This is extremely important in light of the many foolish misinterpretations of Hebrews 12:1 and 1 Samuel 28:3-21.
According to this verse there are two steps between the present temporal life and the Olam Haba (world to come) [mis referred to by Christians as “heaven”]:
1. The death of the human being as a result of the sin affected world
There are no intermediary stages mentioned, nor does the wealth of Scripture support such stages. Those who teach otherwise teach apostasy.
An explanation of the verses commonly used in an attempt to circumvent the truth of Hebrews 9:27.
My commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3-21
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 Kohen (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 both the witch and Saul, and is subsequently used by God to condemn Saul (ref. see link above).
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 C.E (A.D). 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.
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 heard Yeshua’s message received it 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).
2 Corinthians 12:1-5
Boasting is necessary, though it is not beneficial; but I will go on to visions and revelations [a]of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. -2 Corinthians 12:1-4 NASB
V.1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not beneficial; but I will go on to visions and revelations [a]of the Lord.
What Rav Shaul (Paul) is about to speak of is a “vision”, a “revelation” and not a physical or metaphysical event. Therefore, based on the very nature of either a vision or a revelation, the events described are already presumed unreal, not actual, neither physical nor metaphysical, but instead, something seen in the imagination, mind’s eye or spirit.
V2. I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
Rav Shaul is possibly speaking of himself in the guise of apologetic self-promoting rhetoric like that employed elsewhere in his works. Alternatively he is relaying the vision experience of a trusted fellow believer, perhaps one of his brothers among the Jewish Church fathers.
He states clearly “whether in the body I don’t know, or out of the body I don’t know, God knows…” He is describing the experience of a vision. Those who experience visions have all kinds of feelings and sensory adventures but are not literally in the places they are visioning. Rav Shaul is not espousing “out of body experience”, which is an occult practice connected with Gnosticism, transcendental meditation and other false religious beliefs. To the contrary, Biblical Judaism abhors this idea viewing it as a form of witchcraft. Instead, Rav Shaul is alluding to the difference between experiencing a vision as if it were inside us verses experiencing a vision as if we are looking outwardly at it (both occurring within the mind’s eye or consciousness but neither occurring outside the body). In neither case does the spirit leave the body. Biblical Judaism teaches that the human soul (Body, mind, spirit etc.) is a unity unseparated until death when the spirit leaves and goes to Sheol.
The Greek harpaso is poorly translated here by the NASB. In the context of this vision it means “caught away” and not caught up.
Rav Shaul is right to give the interpretation to God, saying “God Knows”. Yes, God does know, in fact, so as to avoid confusion God has authored His word to say, “No one has ascended into heaven, except He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” (John 3:13), and “it is appointed for people to die once, and after this, the judgment…” (Heb. 9:27).
V.3 And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows..”
He repeats, “whether in the body I don’t know, or out of the body I don’t know, God knows…” because he is bewildered by the vision experience he is referring to and rightly understands that it was not a tangible, literal experience. Neither a physical or metaphysical reality. In Biblical Hebrew thought and interpretation something repeated is firmly established. Therefore, Rav Shaul has firmly established that he doesn’t know where the “man” was. As explained, the Scripture tells us where he was not.
V.4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
The Greek harpaso is again poorly translated here by the NASB. In the context of this vision it means “caught away” and not caught up. We know this because the Jewish writer refers to paradise (Gan Eden, the Bosom of Abraham), which is a part of Sheol, meaning that the qualification of heaven, written as “third heaven” refers to the convergent presence of the Messiah in both the heavens and paradise simultaneously, following His resurrection. Following His resurrection the King Messiah being unbound by time, space, situational and locational being etc. In short, regardless of the issue of traversing the heavens as believers, this text is referring to a convergent form of paradise (in Sheol) and not to the heaven of heavens.
Therefore, the text of 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 does not teach that a person (perhaps Paul) ascended to the heaven of heavens, something that would contradict the words of Yeshua and the teaching of Hebrews 9:27.
Regarding the Resurrections of Lazarus, the Son of the widow of Nain etc.
All (those temporally resurrected) had not yet passed into Sheol but were in transition sleep. Meaning unconscious but the spirit had not left the body according to ancient Jewish tradition (3 to 4 day period of unconscious sleep, the first stage of death/passing). This means that the person cannot communicate with the living, nor are they yet in Sheol (When Yeshua says "Today you will be with me in paradise" to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) I believe the word "today" is used in an eternally present sense. Alternatively, some pass over more quickly than others, although with regard to time and space how could we even begin to determine the measure by which we could access such a process?)
In all these cases of temporal resurrections (they are exceptions, and include Elijah raising the woman's son) the resurrected are resurrected within four days of death, and their spirits have not entered death finally with regard to entering Sheol.
"Appointed unto man once to die" regards the spirit's entry into Sheol and not the transition period of soul sleep (a euphemism used by Yeshua [John 11:11]). No one in transition sleep (first stage of separation) can communicate to the living. Therefore, the point I made regarding ghosts being demons remains the same, ghosts are not wandering human spirits.
HEBREWS 10 COMMENTARY CONTINUES HERE:
20 by a new, recently slaughtered, freshly killed and living way which He inaugurated, renewed, consecrated, dedicated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh, body,
“recently slaughtered” For the first century Jewish recipients of this scroll the death and resurrection of Yeshua had occurred less than 30 years prior to the writing of this work. Yeshua’s recent sacrifice is being called to mind in order to inspire those who have already become weary in the faith. The writer reminds his believing Jewish brothers and sisters that they have been witness to the sacrificial death of Yeshua that has inaugurated a new way of living strengthened by the Spirit of God, purchased by the body of Messiah.
“through the veil, that is, through His flesh, body” The torn body of Messiah Yeshua is here compared to the torn parochet veil which guarded access to the holy of holies of the temple (tent of meeting). Just as the physical veil was torn allowing the priests to see past it into the holy of holies and by extension giving them access to that place, so the body of Messiah was torn in order to give access to the holiest place of intimacy with God to the priesthood of believers over whom He is the Great High Priest.
21 also (kai[G]) a great high (megas[G]) priest (hiereus[G], Kohen Gadol[H]) over, on, in, among (epi[G], al[H]) the house (ho oikos[G], habeiyt[H]) of God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), 22 let’s approach (proserchomai[G]) with/in a true, whole, well-constructed (alethinos[G], shaleim[H]) heart, inner person, centre of being (kardia[G], beleivav[H]) in full assurance (plerophoris[G]) of faith, trust, belief that is innocent (pistis[G], uve’emunah temiymah[H]) having our hearts, inner persons, centre of our being (kardia[G], levaveinu[H]) sprinkled, washed, purified (rhantizo[G], urechutzeiy[H]) from a wicked, delusional, spiritually evil (poneros[G], metohariym behazayat levaveinu meiruach ra’ah[H]) conscience, consciousness, moral perception (suneidesis[G]) and our bodies (soma[G], habasar[H]) washed (louo[G]) with pure (katharos[G]) water (hudor[G], bemayim tehoriym[H]).
21 also a great high priest over, on, in, among the house of God, 22 let’s approach with/in a true, whole, well-constructed heart, inner person, centre of being in full assurance of faith, trust, belief that is innocent having our hearts, inner persons, centre of our being sprinkled, washed, purified from a wicked, delusional, spiritually evil conscience, consciousness, moral perception and our bodies washed with pure water.
“among the house of God” Both ha-beiyt (the house) and har-beiyt (mountain house) are euphemistic Hebrew names for the Temple in Jerusalem. The idea is being used here to point to the house of God that is built of living stones (1 Peter 2:5).
“let’s approach with/in a true, whole, well-constructed heart, inner person” As the phrasing explains, we approach in a true, transformed, well-constructed centre of being. This is a spiritual approach which is symbolised by the physical signs of the temple and its processes. We are not physically ascending into the holiest place in the heavens.
“in full assurance of faith” We need not concern ourselves with personal doubts and failures because it is the faith imparted by God that indwells us. In a very real sense we have faith because He first gave us faith. Therefore, having received Him, our faith is reliant on Him and is not subject to our doubts, without which faith cannot exist.
“purified from a wicked, delusional, spiritually evil conscience” Note that the conscience of a fallen human being is by nature “poneros” (wicked), in and of itself unable to discern properly between right and wrong because its inclination is to call right that which is wrong.
“our bodies washed with pure water.” With regard to ritual washing, tevilah bamikveh (immersion in the waters): mayim chayim (living waters) from a fresh living source are used (underground spring, mountain water, pool etc.). However, with regard to the purification through which the believer enters the holiest place in Yeshua, the living waters of the sin affected creation cannot cleanse the inner person. This is why the writer uses the Greek “katharos hudor” (pure water) and why the Hebrew translation reads “bemayim tehoriym” (waters that purify). The water spoken of here is not the physical waters of immersion but the transcendent water of the Holy Spirit, the same prophetic outpouring of water Israel eagerly anticipated each Sukkot in the kinetic prayer of the water libation right (Isaiah 12:3-5).
In approximately 32 C.E. (A.D.) Israel celebrated Sukkot the feast of Shelters. For seven days they watched the High Priest pour out water upon the altar inside the Temple grounds. They prayed for rain and that God will send the promised Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression. On the final day of the feast called Hoshanah Rabbah – ‘The Great Salvation’, a Rabbi stands up among them and yells out at the top of His voice…
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me,
as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
–Yochanan (John) 7:37
The water that had just been poured on the altar had been taken from the pool of Shiloach (Sent), where Yeshua had healed a blind man only days before. (John 5)
The priests of Israel were required to wash themselves completely before entering the temple (Exodus 30:19-21; Leviticus 8:6; Mishnah Yoma c. 3. sect. 3.). This too was a sign pointing to the need for those who become priests in Messiah to be purified with a better purification, one that is of everlasting effect.
“Then will I sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you.” -Ezekiel 36:25
23 Let’s hold firmly, keep, possess (katecho[G], nachaziykah[H]) the profession [projected testimony], in the knowledge (homologia[G], behoda’at[H]) of our faith, hope (elpis[G], Hatikvah[H]) without wavering (aklines[G]), for He who promised (epaggello[G]) is faithful (pistos[G], ne’eman hamavtiyach[H]); 24 and let’s consider (katanoeo[G]) how to provoke, incite, irritate, rouse (paroxsusmos[G], leoreir[H]) one another, brothers and sisters (allelon[G], iysh al-achiyn[H]) in all-encompassing love (agape[G], ahavah[H]) and good deeds (kalos ergon[G], ulma’asiym toviym[H]), 25 not abandoning, forsaking (egkataleipo[G], al-na’azov[H]) assembling ourselves together (episunagoge heautou[G], et-keneisyateinu[H]) as is the habit, manner, way, moral practice, modus operandi, custom, perpetual intention (ethos[G], kederekh[H]) of some people, but comforting, encouraging, exhorting, desiring (parakaleo[G]) one another; and all the more as you see (blepo[G], birotechem[H]) the day (ho hemera[G], hayom[H]) drawing near (eggizo[G]).
23 Let’s hold firmly, keep, possess the profession [projected testimony], in the knowledge of our faith, hope, without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
Both the first century Jewish believers and all subsequent believers are admonished to hold firmly to profession (continued pronouncement) of the Good News of Yeshua based on the faith we have due to His immutable faithfulness.
In practical terms believers are being warned not to allow their grip on the foundational doctrines of faith to be loosened through weariness, disillusionment, or by the secular and false religious worldviews that surround all human beings. We are to guard the projected testimony of the Gospel of Yeshua in us, individually and corporately.
As we have previously discussed the first century Jewish believers living in approximately 60 C.E. were under tremendous pressure from their families and the wider body of ethnic-religious Jews, many of whom had come to despise the Jewish sect HaDerekh (the Way). Therefore, the writer of Hebrews is tasked with prodding them and waking them from the slumber of disillusionment, reminding them that the One Who called them is faithful.
24 and let’s consider how to provoke, incite, irritate, rouse one another, brothers and sisters in all-encompassing love and good deeds,
Notice the depth of meaning in the text of the original languages. Our provocation of one another toward good deeds is to be multifaceted. Notice that the word “encourage” is not employed yet, certainly not in the modern sense of the word. Rather at times inspiring good deeds in fellow believers will require us to incite, provoke, even irritate other believers in all-encompassing love, both through our good deeds and in order to prompt good deeds in them. This is not the trite “encouragement” of the secular world or of modern emotionalism born of a pervasive victim mentality, rather it is the raw provocation of a loving God. We are to provoke others through and unto good deeds in the same way the prophets of old did. If you choose to walk in this, as Messiah did, expect to upset people. This is not an instruction for the faint hearted. Thank God He is the strength of our hearts.
25 not abandoning, forsaking assembling ourselves together as is the habit, manner, way, moral practice, modus operandi, custom, perpetual intention of some people, but comforting, encouraging, exhorting, desiring one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
The Greek text literally reads “not neglecting to synagogue (assemble in a specified place) ourselves together.”
The great rabbi Hillel says:
“Do not separate yourself from the community.” -Avot 2:4
“assembling ourselves together” While it is true that meeting online via various media platforms and interactive computer software is in some way beneficial, it is not what is meant here. Not in context, not in principle. “assembling ourselves together” means in physical proximity, engaged in all aspects of godly relationship. Online meetings alone are not a sufficient example of obedience to this instruction. We may submit to governing bodies in this regard for a time, however, if the meeting together of believers were to become illegal as a general and ongoing point of secular law, the writer of the Scroll to the Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, affords us the mandate to refuse that law. Any secular law that contradicts the Law of God is by nature a law of rebellion and should be refused.
Re. covid-19 protocols. While the separation of infectious members of the community is mandated by Scripture (Torah) for a period of time, in order to protect the wider community, there is no Scriptural mandate for “locking down” or imprisoning the entire community in their separate households or otherwise, for any length of time.
In short, Scripture teaches a reasoned approach to combating infectious illness that does not shut down the necessary interactions of societal life. The current overreach of world governments in an attempt to control the covid-9 outbreak is in direct opposition to the instruction of Hebrews 10:25. A godly response to a health crisis like the one we are currently faced with is to act discerningly, holistically, intentionally but not through fear mongering and the suppression of Biblically moral human rights. We are admonished to meet together in person. And so at some point in the near future we will.
“The day” refers to Yom HaDin (the day of judgement) [Isaiah 2:12; Joel 1:15, 3:14; Zechariah 14:1; Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:12; Rev 16:14].
“not abandoning, forsaking assembling ourselves together as is the habit, manner, way, moral practice, modus operandi, custom, perpetual intention of some people,” It has become fashionable among many believers today to criticise those leaders and members of our communities who speak rebuke to those who are failing to meet the godly standards set for the believing community. If a community leader dares to decry the actions of those who are disobeying God’s Word, that leader immediately receives criticism from self-righteous Christians, who, having been convicted by the word spoken, choose to respond by challenging the “negative” attitude of the speaker. And yet, here in this verse we have a father of the faith rebuking those who have ceased meeting with other believers, and who have made it their habit not to meet with other believers.
Jewish tradition states that among those that go down to Gehenna and perish, and have no part in the world to come, are those "who separate from the ways of the congregation (community of faith)" -Talmud Bavliy Rosh Hashanah, 17. 1.
Why? Because outside of the faith community, individuals lose sight of sound doctrine, being without fellow believers to correct their errors (something every human being needs), they descend into disbelief. The Proverb “Bad company corrupts good character” applies both corporately and individually. If I am outside of the community of faith I have already disobeyed the command of God to remain in the community. I myself have therefore become the bad company that corrupts my character.
I am weary of hearing believers say “I’m a Messiah follower but I don’t like the Church”, and “I’m a Christian but modern Churches are all off the rails, so I don’t go”. There are two errors in this thinking: first, ecclesia (body of believers, Church) is the gathering “assembling together” of believers, therefore, a person cannot go to Church, so saying “I don’t” or “I won’t go to Church” is redundant, we are Church; second, in order to remain a healthy member of the body of Messiah one must gather, assemble together with other believers.
If a hand chooses to leave the body it will no longer be governed by the brain through the nervous system and will fail to receive blood from the heart to maintain its muscles, sinews, and operation. In a short time it will become a rotting piece of dead and decaying flesh. Sadly, this is what becomes of “believers” who refuse to gather regularly with other believers. What’s more the body is now short of a hand. The believer that wilfully refuses to meet regularly with other believers robs both himself and the body of Messiah.
Additionally, the context of Hebrews 10:25 denotes a local, even specific kehilah (community). It is an admonishment to remain committed in an ongoing way to a specific community and is therefore also a rebuke against those who go from community to community to serve their own spiritual needs rather than committing to and serving a specific community. In this context failing to meet together with other believers on a regular basis is synonymous with failing to commit to a specific kehilah (congregation). “Living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) are not put in place so as to remove themselves whenever they feel like it and seek out another building. This is an act of sabotage. The removal of even one stone can weaken and eventually topple a building.
Refusing to meet with other believers not only robs the community, it also robs those unbelievers outside the community of faith of the opportunity to witness the Gospel through the love we have for one another:
“A new commandment I give to you all collectively and individually, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you all collectively and individually also love one another. By this all people will know, come to understand that you all collectively and individually are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” -Yeshua recorded in Yochanan (John) 13:34-35
Scripture for further study: 1 John 3:10-11, 14, 18; 4:7-8
Some may have genuinely experienced harm in the community of faith and have deep hurts, but the answer is not to shun the family of Messiah. If and uncle molests a child unbeknownst to the family, does that make the entire wider family guilty? Of course not. But healing and restoration is needed, something that cannot take place outside the family. The answer is in the following clause.
“but comforting, encouraging, exhorting, desiring one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
We are to comfort one another. In hurts, in conflict, in loss, in repentance, in holiness, love justice, reconciliation. And this we must do more and more, because with every breath the day of judgement draws nearer. We are admonished with love and awe to remember God’s holiness and work out our faith in fear and trembling. If we do so we will see the death of the false teachings of hyper-grace and hyper-law, and will be participants in a community of faith that goes from strength to strength in Messiah Yeshua.
26 For if we continue to sin, [sin perpetually] (hamartano[G], im-necheta[H]) wilfully, in malice (hekousios[G], vezadon[H]) after receiving (lambano[G]) the knowledge (ho epignosis[G], yediyat[H]) of the truth (ho aletheia[G], haemet[H]), there remains no further (ouketi[G], lo-yisaeir od[H]) blood sacrifice (thusia[G], zevach[H]) upon sins (hamartano[G], al-hachataiym[H]), 27 but a terrifying expectation, a constant phobia (tis phoberos echdoche[G]) of judgment (krisis[G], hadiyn[H]) and “the fiery (puros[G], eish[H]) zealous indignation (zelos[G], kinah[H]) which will consume (esthio[G], tochul[H])” the adversaries/oppressors (hupenantios[G], et hatzorariym[H]) [Num. 16:35 LXX “kai puros zelos”].
26 For if we continue to sin, wilfully, in malice after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there remains no further blood sacrifice upon sins,
“For if we continue to sin wilfully* after receiving the knowledge of the truth” This refers to a lifestyle of intentional sin lived according to the evil inclination or fallen nature. It does not refer to individual sins that believers commit from time to time as they continue to undergo sanctification in this world. It should be understood as “For if we continue to intentionally live a lifestyle of sin…”
*The Torah distinguishes between wilful and unwitting sins (Leviticus 4:1-5:13; Numbers 15:22-31
“there remains no further blood sacrifice upon sins” In short, the sacrifice of Yeshua is the only means of redemption from sin and salvation from eternal punishment. There is “no further sacrifice” other than the sacrifice of Messiah. The text does not say “there is no sacrifice” but, “there is no further sacrifice”.
This text is not saying that those who receive Messiah and then turn their back on Him cannot be saved, rather it is saying that Messiah’s sacrifice is their only means of salvation. Nor does it teach that those who genuinely receive Yeshua can lose their salvation. Fools and heretics teach this verse as proof that a believer can lose salvation, and that a believer who continues to sin is doomed to damnation. We should ask, “Is there any believer who does not sin?” The answer is of course “No!” But we are being sanctified.
If it is true that a person can lose salvation then Messiah’s ability to save is weak and our receipt of it relies on our efforts to perpetuate it and not His. This is blasphemous idolatry, it is anti-Christ, anti-Biblical, anti-Gospel, anti-metanarrative of Scripture. Without fail and consistently Scripture teaches that there is always an opportunity for salvation up until death and judgement. What’s more, Yeshua teaches that those who genuinely receive Him have already passed from death into life everlasting (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14), and that our salvation is entirely reliant on Yeshua, our role in it being to receive Him, and His work in us being to sanctify us unto the judgement and the world to come.
“For through one sacrifice He (Yeshua) has made perfect forever (not temporally) those who are being sanctified (made holy within time and space)…” -Hebrews 10:14 Author’s translation and explanation
“Therefore there is now no condemnation to them who are in Messiah Yeshua, who walk not after the flesh (sinful nature), but after the Spirit (of God). For the Torah of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has constructed me free from the Torah of sin and death (indictment).” -Romans 8:1-2 Author’s translation and explanation
27 but a terrifying expectation, a constant phobia of judgment and “the fiery zealous indignation which will consume the adversaries/oppressors” [Num. 16:35 LXX “kai puros zelos”].
“The fiery zealous indignation” (kai puros zelos) The writer is quoting the Septuagint version of Numbers 16:35. The adversaries in the account of Numbers 16 are Korah and his rebellious retinue, who had questioned both Moses and the Lord regarding the appointment of Moses and Aaron as spiritual leaders of Israel.
The writer of Hebrews is warning the Jewish recipients of his work that rebellion against Yeshua, God’s ultimate anointed One (appointed leader over all Israel and the nations) will be met with a fiery wrath like (but not the same as) the punishment that consumed those who rebelled against God’s appointed leaders following the escape from Egypt. The escape from Egypt symbolic of escape from bondage to sin and therefore a poignant reminder concerning the redemptive work of Yeshua in God. Thus, aside from Yeshua’s sacrifice “there is no further sacrifice”. Those who rebel against Yeshua must repent before Yeshua in order to return to right relationship with God.
28 Anyone who despised, rejected, violated (atheteo[G], yafeir[H]) the Torah[H] (nomos[G]) of Moshe[H] (Moses, drawn out, resurrected) died (apothnesko[G], mot[H]) without mercy (oiktirmos[G], yamut beliy chemlah[H]) on the testimony of two or three witnesses (martus[G], eidiym[H]). 29 How much more severe (cherion[G]) a punishment (timoria[G], haonesh[H]) do you think that one will deserve who has trampled underfoot (katapateo[G], sheromeis beragelo[H]) the Son (Ho Uihos[G], et-Ben[H]) of God (Theos[G], Ha-Elohiym[H]), and has regarded, makes (hegeomai[G], veoseh[H]) as unclean, unholy, common (koinos[G]) the blood (ho aima[G], et-dam[H]) of the covenant (ho diatheke[G], ha-briyt[H]) by which that one was sanctified (hagiazo[G], mekudash[H]), and has insulted the Spirit (Pneuma[G], Ruach[H]) of grace, kindness, charity, practical love (charis[G], ha-chesed[H])?
28 Anyone who despised, rejected, violated the Torah[H] of Moshe[H] died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Nomos[G] & Torah[H] here refer specifically to the five books of Moses.
“Rejected the Torah” This does not mean “refused it once or twice” but is in reference to wilful and ongoing law breaking. In short, an intentional and perpetual lifestyle of sin. Hence, “without mercy” because mercy is offered to all alongside forgiveness, but only the repentant receive it. This corresponds to the reference to “wilful sin” in verse 26.
“died without mercy” In the case of the rebellion of Korah this concerns a corporeal death. This is a physical sign pointing to the second death of those who reject the King Messiah Yeshua (Rev. 20:14).
It is interesting by way of prophetic symbolism, to note that given the meaning of Moses name (Moshe - drawn out/resurrected one), we could read, “Anyone who rejected the instruction of the drawn out/resurrected one, died on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” This too is a prophetic sign pointing to Yeshua.
“two or three witnesses” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:6, 19:15.
29 How much more severe a punishment do you think that one will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded, makes as unclean, unholy, common the blood of the covenant by which that one was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace, kindness, charity, practical love?
“How much more” is the second clause of a rabbinical form of argument called “kal v’chomer” (lit. easy and substantial). Some call this method “light and heavy”, and it is close in practice to fortiori, a Latin phrase which literally means "from the stronger (argument)", a technique employed in legal arguments.
We know that the Torah of Moses and its sacrificial system cannot atone for sin:
“For whosoever shall keep the whole Torah, and yet breaks it in one point, that one is guilty of breaking it all.” -Yaakov (James) 2:10
If then one who despised the Torah that could not atone eternally was put to death (corporeal), how much more will the one who despises the eternally effective sacrificial blood of Messiah Yeshua, suffer a death that is incorporeal, eternal. The blood of Yeshua atones eternally, and the refusal of it denotes eternal condemnation for the refuser.
“who has trampled underfoot the Son of God” This is the stronger descriptor (portion) that completes a kal v’chomer argument begun in Hebrews 6:4-6, where we read:
“4 For it is impotent, weak in the case of those who have once been enlightened, illuminated, seen the light [alt. have already lifted up their eyes to the light: alt. #2 have descended to immersion[A]], and have tasted, eaten of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers, partners of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted, eaten the good breathed word of God and the powers, miracles of the world to come, 6 If they also then fall away, to renew them again to repentance, returning, because they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to public shame.
Rejection of Messiah Yeshua’s sacrificial blood shed during His death on the cross is worse than crucifying Him again (metaphorically speaking) [Heb.6:4-6], because it denies even the effectiveness of the crucifixion.
“the blood of the covenant” refers specifically to the blood of the new (better) covenant in Messiah Yeshua’s blood (ref. Heb. 9:20, 13:20; Ex. 24:8;Matt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24).
30 For we see, perceive, understand, know (eido[G], yada’enu[H]) Him who said (ha-omeir[H]), “Vengeance is Mine (Liy nakam[H]), I will repay (ashaleim[H]).” [Deut. 32:35] And again, “The Lord (YHVH) will judge (yadiyn[H]) His people (amo[H]).” [Deut. 32:36; Psalms 135:14] 31 It is a terrifying, fearful (phoberos[G], mah-nora[H]) thing [a constant phobia] to fall into the hands (cheir[G], beyad[H]) of the living God (zao Theos[G], Elohiym chayiym[H]). 32 But remember (anamimnesko[G], zichru na[H]) the former, first (proteron[G], harishoniym[H]) days (hemera[G], et hayamiym[H]), when, after being enlightened (photizo[G], oru[H]), you endured, your eyes have seen (hupomeno[G], eiyneiychem[H]) a great (polus[G], rabiym[H]) fight, struggle, contest (athlesis[G], neshatem[H]) of sufferings, tortures (pathema[G], inuyim[H]),
30 For we see, perceive, understand, know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” [Deut. 32:35] And again, “The Lord (YHVH) will judge His people.” [Deut. 32:36; Psalms 135:14] 31 It is a terrifying, fearful thing [a constant phobia] to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 But remember the former, first days, when, after being enlightened, you endured, your eyes have seen a great fight, struggle, contest of sufferings, tortures,
“It is a terrifying, fearful thing [a constant phobia] to fall into the hands of the living God.” For the faithful follower of Yeshua, having become a child of God it is an awesome and secure thing to fall into the hands of the Father, but for the one who rejects God’s loving sacrificial offer of redemption, reconciliation and life in relationship with Him (v.29), it is a constant phobia, a terrifying reality, to fall into the hands of the Judge of the universe without blood atonement to speak in his defence.
“remember the former, first days” Both the writer and many of his recipients are first century Levites, priests, many of whom came to faith very early in the development of the body of Messiah.
“And the Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” -Acts 6:7 KJV
“you endured, your eyes have seen a great fight, struggle, contest of sufferings, tortures,” Sadly the persecution and suffering being referred to here was that of their own Jewish brothers and sisters. The early persecutions suffered by Messiah following Jews were perpetrated by the illegitimate religious leaders of the first century C.E. and are highlighted in the early accounts of Shaul’s (Paul the apostle’s) actions against his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters who were Messiah believing and therefore considered apostate by many of the first century C.E. Jewish religious ruling class.
We know that Jewish persecution of Messianic Jews is being addressed here because the scroll was written no later than 70 C.E. and while the persecution of both Jewish and Gentile Messiah followers did begin to increase at that time, empire-wide persecution of all Messiah followers regardless of ethnic or religious associations did not occur on mass until 250-51 C.E. (A.D.)
33 partly (pa’am[H]) by your being made a public spectacle (theatrizo[G]) through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions, fellow participants (koinonos[G]) with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy (sumpatheo[G], hitzta’aretem[H]) to me in my bonds (desmon[G]) [alt. to the prisoners] and accepted joyfully (meta chara[G], besimchah[H]) the seizure, spoiling, extorting (harpage[G]) of your possessions (huparchonta[G]), knowing, having learned (ginosko[G], midatechem[H]) in your souls (benafshechem[H]) that you have for yourselves [alt. have in heaven] a better (kreitton[G], kinyan tov[H]) and lasting (meno[G], vekayam[H]), substance (huparxis[G]).
33 partly by your being made a public spectacle through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions, fellow participants with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to me in my bonds [alt. to the prisoners] and accepted joyfully the seizure, spoiling, extorting of your possessions, knowing, having learned in your souls that you have for yourselves [alt. have in heaven] a better and lasting substance.
“you showed sympathy to me in my bonds [alt. to the prisoners]” In the case of the singular reading the writer (probably Barnabas, almost certainly a Levite) was imprisoned because of his faith. In the case of the plural reading it refers to numerous Jewish believers imprisoned for their faith in the early days of the growth of the body of Messiah.
“accepted joyfully the seizure, spoiling, extorting of your possessions, knowing, having learned in your souls that you have for yourselves [alt. have in heaven] a better and lasting substance.” All believers have a better substance an eternal possession that transcends the temporal possessions of this world (11:10, 13-16, 26, 35; 13:14; Matt. 5:11-12; 6:19-21; Rom. 8:18).
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” -Romans 8:18 NIV
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-21 NIV
35 Therefore, do not throw away your free, plain, bold, confidence (parrhesia[G]), which has a great (megas[G]) reward (misthapodosia[G], sachar rav[H]). 36 For you have need of patient endurance (hupomone[G], lesavlanut[H]), so that when you have done the will, desire (thelema[G], retzon[H]) of God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), you may receive (kolumbao[G]) what was promised (epaggelia[G], et-hahavtachah[H]).
35 Therefore, do not throw away your free, plain, bold, confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of patient endurance, so that when you have done the will, desire of God, you may receive what was promised.
The first century Jewish believers are admonished not to give up on their faith in Yeshua the King Messiah, but to instead endure by keeping their eyes on Him and remembering the promise given to them by God, that of an everlasting inheritance.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:11-12 NIV
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV
37 “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. [Isaiah 26:20; Hab. 2:3 LXX] [Hebrew text Habakkuk 2:3: Kiy od chazon lamoeid veyafeiach lakeitz velo yechazeiv im-yitmahemah chakeih-lo kiy-bo yavo lo yeachar “For yet a vision to an appointed time and it shall speak, blow, to the end/goal and it will not lie though it waits, wait for it, coming it has come, it will not hesitate.”] 38 But My righteous one will live by faith; [Hab. 2:4] And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” [LXX and a summation of Hab. 2:5-20] [Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:4: Hineih upelah lo-yasherah nafsho bo vetzadiyk be’emunato yichyah “Behold, now, pay attention, he is lifted up (has drawn back through pride) and is not upright in his soul, behold, and the just/righteous, by his faith shall he live.”]
37 “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. [Isaiah 26:20; Hab. 2:3 LXX] [Hebrew text Habakkuk 2:3: “For yet a vision to an appointed time and it shall speak, blow, to the end/goal and it will not lie though it waits, wait for it, coming it has come, it will not hesitate.”]
The sense of the Hebrew texts of both Habakkuk and Isaiah is that of an urgent coming. The language is conveying the eternally present, now and yet fully aspect of the redemptive work of God (“coming it has come”).
Messiah and judgement will speedily come upon all. Therefore, to become focussed on this temporary existence to the degree that we lose sight of the urgent expectancy of Yeshua’s return and the coming judgement and world to come, is one of the greatest threats to the spiritual condition of a believer in any generation.
We often hear of people desperate to predict the second coming, the judgement etc. They ask, “Do you believe the day is near? When do you believe He will return?” For all intents and purposes the response of the Scripture to every believer in every generation is “He will return now, He will return in a thousand years, do not ask when He will come but rather, ask ‘When He comes, will He find me faithful’?”
38 But My righteous one will live by faith; [Hab. 2:4] And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” [LXX and a summation of Hab. 2:5-20] [Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:4: “Behold, now, pay attention, he is lifted up (has drawn back through pride) and is not upright in his soul, behold, and the just/righteous, by his faith shall he live.”]
“See, the enemy (Babylonians, spec. the king of Babylon) is puffed up;
his desires are not upright--
but the righteous person will live by his faith, trust.” -Habakkuk 2:4
The writer reminds the Jewish recipients of his work that their ancestors were once faced with a seemingly insurmountable enemy, the Babylonian Empire of ancient times, yet God eventually reduced that empire to nothing as punishment for its pride and idolatry. He further reminds them that throughout the oppression of Israel by the Babylonians there were a righteous remnant of Jews who lived by faith in God and were kept set apart for deliverance.
Thus, the difficulties faced by the early Messiah following Jewish recipients of the Scroll to the Hebrews (approx. 60 C.E.) are being likened to Israel’s past sufferings in order to encourage the first century Messiah followers toward the certain promise of the glory (deliverance from their enemies) to come.
“Be patient therefore, Jewish brothers and sisters, regarding the coming of the Lord. Behold, the vine dresser waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has longsuffering patience for it, until He receives the early and latter rain. So also you be patient; establish, brace your hearts, inner being, centre: for the coming of the Lord draws near.” -Yaakov (James) 5:7-8
“And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” This is a paraphrase based on the Septuagint. However, it is also a summation that pretexts the woes to the wicked recorded in Habakkuk 2:5-20. This phrasing is not included in the Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:4 and should be understood as an added warning against “Shrinking back”, which means “denying the faith”(v.39).
39 But we are not among those who draw back [through pride per Heb. Hab. 2:4] (hupostole[G], min-hansogiym[H]) to destruction, damnation (apoleia[G]), but of those who have faith, trust, belief (pistis[G], hama’amiyniym[H]) for obtaining the preservation, salvation (peripoiesis[G], lehatziyl[H]) of our souls (psuche[G], nafsheinu[H]).
39 But we are not among those who draw back [through pride per Heb. Hab. 2:4] to destruction, damnation, but of those who have faith, trust, belief for obtaining the salvation, preservation of our souls.
“Draw back and be destroyed” is the counterpoint to “Repent (turn toward), Believe and be saved”.
The writer is aware that he is by and large addressing true followers of Messiah who need to be encouraged through the use of both warnings and affirmations.
“We are not among those who turn their backs on God and suffer the torment they have chosen over relationship with Him, but we are those who trust, believe, have faith in His holy and pure character, and in Messiah obtain the salvation of our entire being, the preservation and perpetuation of life everlasting.”
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Messiah has appeared within time and space to Israel as the transcendent High Priest of a more perfect Sanctuary (the heavenly original Mishkan) and of the good things having already come that are yet to be fully arrived.
There are numerous doctrinal ideas and spiritual principals alluded to in this chapter that apply to all believers regardless of ethnicity. However, it is important to continue to remember that the recipients of this work are first century Jewish believers and not Gentile believers. Therefore, words and phrases like “covenant, called, elect, eternal land” etc. are ethno-religious phrases that have a certain meaning to Torah observant Jews and in particular first century Jews.
For both the ancient and modern Gentile reader there are fewer obstacles in the way of understanding the eternal atonement of Yeshua because for the most part the Gentile audience does not understand the temporal (present age) sacrificial system of Torah as a primary, even intrinsic part of cultural religious practice (of course this is now also true of rabbinical Judaism to some extent). The first century C.E. Messiah following Jew on the other hand is wrestling with how the then functional temple cult converges with a belief that Yeshua is the singular ultimate sacrifice Who fulfills and is the goal of all the sacrificial requirements of Torah, to the point of revealing the heavenly Tent of Meeting (Mishkan) and the origin of the redemptive work of God.
To view this text only through the revisionist lens of universal application is to misunderstand it. With this in mind we must be intentional in seeking to understand how the Jewish recipients of this work in the first century C.E. are viewing this teaching and what it might have meant for them by way of application (halakhah).
The Book to the Hebrews 9:1-10:18 explains that the new covenant is of eternal effect and is better than the former covenant of the Mosaic Torah because Yeshua the Great High Priest offers His eternal Spirit infused blood before the face of God in the original Holy of holies of the heavenly realm, thus, He atones once for all who will receive Him and need not offer sacrifices for Himself and others daily because He remains without sin, having died to secure the covenant and having been raised to life everlasting in order to apply it to all who believe. Therefore, Yeshua gives access to the heavenly Holy of holies to all who believe.
NB: The section of the Talmud Bavliy called Seder Kodashiym (Order of Holies) addresses the many aspects of the Mosaic sacrificial system and the daily Temple practices of the first century C.E. as a reflection of Mishnaic Law.
As is the case with all Scripture (scrolls of the original texts), there are no chapter breaks or verse markers (or punctuation for that matter) in the scroll of the Book to the Hebrews. It’s important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter, the last verses of chapter 8 being:
12 For I will be merciful, forgiving toward their unrighteousness, iniquity, perversion, And their sins [missing the mark set by God’s holiness], and their iniquities, perversions I will no longer bring to mind, perpetually.” [Jeremiah 31:31-34 LXX] 13 When He said, “new covenant,” He has indicated that the first is old, decaying. Now whatever is decaying and growing old is about to disappear, be destroyed.
BOOK TO THE HEBREWS Chapter 9:1-14 (Author’s translation)
1Now truly, indeed, the first covenant had regulations, judgements, righteousness for divine service and the earthly sanctuary, [a holy place in the land]. 2 For the first tent of meeting was prepared, built, ordained in which was the menorah[H] and, the table, and the exposed bread, bread before the face; this is called the Holy Place. 3 And after the second curtain there was a habitation which is called the Holy of holies alt. The Hebrew text reads, “and from the house to behind the second parochet (curtain) of the mishkan, is called holy of the holies [umibeiyt laparochet hasheiniyt mishkan hanikra kodesh hakadoshiym]. 4 having a golden censer of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden pot holding the mãn[H] [What is it?], Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and over it the cherubiym of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, atoning cover; but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail. 6 Now when these things are (present tense) prepared, built, ordained the priests are (present tense) continually entering the first section of the sanctuary, performing the divine service, 7 but into the second [behind the parochet into the holy of holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood which he offers for his soul and for the errors of the people committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit in this is showing, that the way into the holiest place of all was not yet revealed, appeared, manifest while the first sanctuary was still standing [referring to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) constructed by Moses in the desert.], 9 which is a figure, parable, symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole the moral condition, conscience, heart, core being, inner person of those serving, worshipping, 10 since they are only food, drink, and various washings/immersions, and carnal, flesh, bodily regulations, judgements, ordinances imposed, laid out until a time of reforming.11 But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect, full, excellent Sanctuary, not made by human hands, because it is not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through the blood of His own soul, He entered the holiest place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have become defiled, unclean, sanctify as a means of purifying, cleansing the carnal form, flesh, body, 14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered, presented, sacrificed His soul without blemish, mark, spot to God; purge, cleanse, purify your conscience, moral consciousness, heart, core being, inner person from dead, necrotic works, deeds, doing, in order to serve the living God?
HEBREWS 9:1-14 (line upon line)
1Now truly, indeed, (men[G], b’emet[H]) the first (protos[G], harishonah[H]) covenant (habriyt[H]) had regulations, judgements, righteousness (dikaiōma[G], hayu diyneiy[H]) for divine service (avodah[H], latreia[G]) and the earthly sanctuary, [a holy place in the land] (kosmikos hagion[G], umikdash ba’aretz[H]). 2 For the first (protos[G]) tent of meeting (skēnē[G], Mishkan[H]) was prepared, built, ordained (kataskeuazō[G]) in which was the menorah[H] (luchnia[G]) and, the table (trapeza[G], shulkhan[H]), and the exposed bread, bread before the face (prothesis artos[G], lechem hapaniym[H] alt. uma’arechet halechem[H]); this is called the Holy Place (hagion[G], kodesh[H]). 3 And after (meta[G]) the second (deuteros[G]) curtain (katapetasma[G]) there was a habitation (skēnē[G]) which is called the Holy of holies (hagion hagion[G]) alt. The Hebrew text reads, “and from the house to behind the second parochet (curtain) of the mishkan, is called holy of the holies [umibeiyt laparochet hasheiniyt mishkan hanikra kodesh hakadoshiym].
1Now truly, indeed, the first covenant had regulations, judgements, righteousness for divine service and the earthly sanctuary, [a holy place in the land].
Having already been told that the earthly sanctuary was a copy of the original heavenly Sanctuary, it is now pointed out that the covenant connected to that same earthly replica had certain regulations that were carefully followed out of holy awe for the God Who commanded them through Moses His servant. We are also told that the purpose of these regulations was to direct Israel, through her priests, in “Divine service”.
2 For the first tent of meeting was prepared, built, ordained in which was the menorah[H] and, the table, and the exposed bread, bread before the face; this is called the Holy Place.
By way of pretext, both the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) and the Mikdash/Heiykhal (Temple) consisted of an outer court (which is not mentioned in this passage), a holy place, and the Holy of holies (Exodus 25-31, 35-40).
Mishkan (Tent of meeting) being related to both shakhen (neighbour) and Sh'khinah (Talmudic Hebrew describing the manifest feminine presence of God [related to Hak’vod HaShem, the manifest Glory of God)]).
Mikdash (Temple) is used in Exodus 25:8 to describe the Mishkan and is therefore synonymous with both the Mishkan and the later temples. Etymologically it is a composite word made up of “mi” (from) and “kadash” (sanctify), thus, from God comes the means of sanctification through blood atonement which makes reconciliation to and permanent dwelling (right relationship) with God possible.
Heiykhal (Temple) is the most commonly used noun for the temple and can mean, “temple, palace, hall, sanctuary” etc. It is thought to be derived from the root yakol meaning, “to prevail, overcome, endure, have strength”. Thus, we overcome in God (the meaning of the ethnic noun Israel).
The Holy Place:
The articles described here were all situated in the holy place of the Tent of Meeting and were still in use in the holy place of the second temple at the time of the writing of this Book to the Hebrews (though at the time of the second temple they were replicas of the original articles).
Menorah – (7 branched golden lampstand) The Menorah is described in detail in Exodus 25:31-40. It stood on the south side of the holy place (Exodus 40:24), and was kept burning day and night. The Talmud Bavliy Menachot 28b, a tractate of Seder Kadoshiym states that the menorah stood 18 handbreadths/palm widths (three common cubits) high, or approximately 1.62 metres (5.3 ft).
Menorah is probably derived from the words nir (flame, light), nahar (stream, river), nahara (light, daylight), thus, the composite form minhara meaning “Place of light river” becomes menorah.
The symbolism of the menorah is almost uncontainable, and considering the God it points to, not surprisingly so. Being a complex unity of seven connected branches, seven flames fed by pure olive oil and kept perpetually lit, the menorah (place of light river) is a representation of the manifest light presence of God, Hak’vod HaShem (Biblical Hebrew) or Shekhinah (Talmudic Hebrew).
The oil used to fuel it is representative of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Therefore, it is a symbol of the sevenfold attributes of God (Isaiah 6:1-5) and is also connected to the seven days of creation through the all existing light from which creation begins (Genesis 1). There are many other figurative meanings that are too prolific to note here.
Shulkhan – (Table) The Table of the exposed bread stood on the north side of the holy place (Exodus 40:22) [approx. 0.8m H x 1m W x 0.5m D]. Shulkhan is from the root shalakh meaning “send, extend, direct, spread out” and with regard to shulkhan by implication, means to spread out a meal.
The symbolism of the table is also rich. The essential meaning relating to its firm construction of Acacia wood is connected to the shoot of human offspring. Acacia wood is hardy and grows in the Sinai desert among other places. The gold covering symbolizing royalty, and ultimately deity. Thus, the table on which the bread before the face is placed can represent the King Messiah Yeshua, the root out of dry ground (Isa. 53:2) crowned in glory as Divine King (John 1:1; 10:30-33; 20:28, Rev. 1:8, Matt. 28:20; John 2:24-25; Phil. 2:6-11; 3:21). Messiah carries on His shoulders the hope and redemption of the twelve tribes of Israel, which are ever before the face of God.
Lechem Hapaniym – (The Bread before the Face) The recipe and presentation of the showbread and its use is detailed in Leviticus 24:5-9. Two rows of six unleavened loaves (matzot) were placed side by side representing the twelve tribes of Israel. These loaves were to be eaten by the high priest Aaron and his sons. The loaves were made from ingredients offered to God by the tribes of Israel and were to sit exposed on the north side of the holy place and before the curtain of entry to the holy of holies. The loaves were placed at the beginning of each Shabbat. The incense censer was used to sprinkle incense on top of the bread before the face. The same incense was burned on the incense altar (Lev. 24:7; Num. 7:14).
3 And after the second curtain there was a habitation which is called the Holy of holies alt. The Hebrew text reads, “and from the house to behind the second parochet (curtain) of the mishkan, is called holy of the holies [umibeiyt laparochet hasheiniyt mishkan hanikra kodesh hakadoshiym].
The writer makes a clear distinction here between the holy place (v.2) and the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant once resided (v.3).
The “second curtain” may refer to the Tent of Meeting having an entry curtain (first) and the second curtain parochet to the holy of holies. Alternatively, it may refer to the dual curtains before the holy of holies during the second temple period as attested to by the Mishnah and Talmud (Mishnah Shekaliym, c. 8. sect. 5. Maimonides on Hamikdash, c. 7. sect. 16: Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 54. 1. & Ketubot, fol. 106. 1. Vid. Philo de Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 667.)
“he walked in the temple till he came between sh’neiy haparochot (the two vails), which divide between the holy, and holy of holies, and there was the space of a cubit between them.” - Mishnah Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1.
4 having a golden (chruseos[G], hazahav[H]) censer of incense (thumiastērion[G], mizbach[H]) and the ark (kibōtos[G], aron[H]) of the covenant (ho diathēkē[G], habriyt[H]) covered on all sides with gold (chruseos[G], zahav[H]), in which was a golden (chrusion[G], zahav[H]) pot (stamnos[G]) holding the mãn[H] [What is it?] (manna[G], haman[H]), Aaron’s (Aharon[H], mountainous, light bringer) rod (rhabdos[G], mateih[H]) which budded (blastanō[G], parach[H]), and the tablets (plax[G], veluchot[H]) of the covenant (ho diathēkē[G], habriyt[H]); 5 and over (huperanō[G]) it the cherubiym (cheroubim[G], cheruveiy[H] guardian, mighty-approacher, blessing bringer) of glory (doxa[G], hakavod[H]) overshadowing (kataskiazō[G]) the mercy seat, atoning cover (hilastērion[G], hakaporet[H]); but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail (kata meros[G]).
4 having a golden censer of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden pot holding the mãn[H] [What is it?], Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
The items mentioned here all relate to the holy of holies, and all but the censer reside within the holy of holies.
“Golden Censer of incense” The word “altar” is not in the Greek (oldest) text. There is good reason for this, the writer is about to thematically connect the offering of the incense on Yom Kippur when the incense is taken beyond the parochet (curtain) and into the holy of holies, to the fragrant path of Yeshua’s entry into the Holiest place in the heavenlies.
Therefore, because the writer is describing items that have their place inside the holy of holies (the incense altar being outside the holy of holies in the holy place) he thus speaks of the censer that carries the incense from the incense altar into the holy of holies once a year and for that reason does not name the incense altar itself. Once again the gold of the incense censer denotes royalty and glory.
While the Torah does not stipulate that this censer be golden (Lev. 16:12-14), the first century Jewish historian Josephus does (Antiquities. l. 3. c. 8. sect. 3.) and the Mishnah (Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4.) tells us that there were various censers used by the priests in the daily service, but the one being described here was unique and was used by the high priest on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). The high priest used a silver censer on other occasions, but on the Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) he used this specific golden one, and with it he entered into the holy of holies. Revelation 8:3 affirms that the heavenly censer replicated in the earthly temple service is in fact golden.
“The Ark of the covenant” The ark is so named because it contains the two tablets of the covenant [ten commandments] (Exodus 16:33-34; 25:10-16; Num. 10:33; 17:8-10). It was housed inside the holy of holies (Exodus 40:21).
NB: Exodus 25 says “It is to be 21⁄2 cubits in length, 1 1⁄2 in breadth, and 1 1⁄2 in height (approximately 131×79×79 cm or 52×31×31 in).” A relatively small rectangular box.
The ark was symbolic of the throne and manifest presence of God and is therefore the holiest of the articles of the service within the Tent of Meeting/Temple. The Mishkan was erected to house the ark and not the other way around. The ark was the first article constructed after God instructed Moses to build the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 25:8-10). The manifest glory of God dwelt between the cherubiym atop the mercy seat in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the cloud being the daylight expression of the fire’s effect and the fire being more visible at night (Exodus 40:34-38; Psalm 80:1).
The ark was known by several names:
a. Numbers 10:33 calls it Aron Habriyt (Ark of the covenant) due to the tablets of the covenant residing within as a warning against sin.
b. Exodus 25:22 calls it Aron Edut (Ark of the testimony), edut being from the root ed (witness). In other words, the ark of the testimony of the witness.
c. 1 Samuel 3:3 calls it Aron Elohiym (Ark of God), denoting God as Judge and the contents of the Ark as an indictment against sin.
d. 1 Kings 2:26 calls it Aron Adonay YHVH (Ark of the Lord YHVH Mercy), denoting its symbolic representation of God’s Kingship and His mercy.
e. 2 Chronicles 35:3 calls it Aron HaKodesh (The Holy Ark), denoting God’s holiness and invoking awe. It is this name that our rabbis adopted in reference to the ark that houses the Torah situated behind a parochet (curtain) at the front or centre of the modern synagogue beneath the nir tamid (perpetual flame/light) which symbolises the ancient menorah.
f. Psalms 132:8 calls it Aron uzachei (Ark of Your Strength), denoting the redemptive immutable strength of God. Our rabbis made this phrase part of the Torah service. As we return the Torah to the ark we say, “When the ark rested Moshe would say ‘Return O Lord to the host of Israel’s families. Arise O Lord to Your resting place, you and Aron uzachei the ark of Your strength…’”
When the Mishkan was erected in the desert the Aron Habriyt ark of the covenant was housed in the holy of holies which was beyond the parochet (curtain) of entry seen from the holy place. It is worth noting that following the inauguration of Solomon’s temple the ark of the covenant is not heard of again in Scripture. Numerous Jewish commentators and sources affirm this (Talmud Bavliy Menachot, fol. 27. 2. & Yoma, fol. 21. 2. Menasseh ben Israel Koncil. in Gen. qu. 41. Kimkhi in Hagg. i. 8.).
The location of the ark of the covenant is unknown, and there is little agreement among Jewish commentators on who took it, when, and where it now resides. some say, it was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon, as one of the beautiful vessels of the house of the Lord, 2 Chronicles 36:10 (Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 53. 2. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 25. T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 49. 3.) others, that Jeremiah the prophet took it and hid it in a cave on Mount Nebo (Joseph ben Gorion, l. 1. c. 17. 2 Maccabees. ii. 4, 5. ). The most common supposition is that it was hidden by King Josiah in some unknown deep place, which king Solomon had built for that purpose underground, knowing, that the temple would be destroyed (T. Hieros. Sota, fol. 22. 3. T. Bab. Ceritot, fol. 5. 2. Maimon. Beth Habbechira, c. 4. sect. 1.); numerous Jewish commentators claim that it was hidden under the pavement of a room in the temple, called "the wood room" (Mishnah Shekaliym, c. 6. sect. 1, 2. T. Hieros. Shekaliym, fol. 49. 3. Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 54. 1.).
Many have proposed theories on where the ark now resides. From Jerusalem beneath the temple mount, or under mount Nebo, to Rome, Egypt, Scotland, Ethiopia and the list goes on. Many continue to search it out and develop new theories, allowing their lives to be enveloped by the need to discover it, and it may well be discovered or will at least be recreated for use in the third temple, regardless, as Messiah followers we must have a different focus, not earthbound but heavenly.
In Messiah Yeshua we have come to understand that the ark of the covenant being an earthly replica of its heavenly counterpart, is no longer necessary. Therefore, foolishly chasing after the hidden location of the ark on earth is not only a waste of time but has also become a practice of idolatry among many, both Jewish and Christian.
As followers of Messiah and readers of the inspired Scriptures we know where the true, original ark of the covenant resides:
“Then the Temple of God in heaven was opened, and the Ark of His Covenant appeared in His Temple. And there were flashes of lightning and rumblings and clashes of thunder and an earthquake and heavy hail.” -Revelation 11:19 TLV
In fact, at the time of Yeshua’s earthly ministry and therefore, prior to the destruction of the second temple during the time of the writing of the Book to the Hebrews, the holy of holies was empty. Ha-even (the foundation stone) exposed at the centre of floor of the holy of holies. Therefore, the blood sprinkled yearly by the high priests of Israel on Yom Kippur, was being sprinkled on “The Stone that the builders rejected” (Yeshua the King Messiah).
The ark of the covenant, like the table of the bread before the face, was made of acacia wood signifying Messiah’s humanity and was covered inside and out with gold representing His sinless nature, eternal deity and Kingship.
It is worth noting that just as the ark of the covenant was on earth (Exodus 16:33-34; 25:10-16), so too was Yeshua “the root from dry ground” (Isa. 53:2), and just as the ark of the covenant is now depicted in the heavens (Rev. 11:19), so too Yeshua is seated in the right hand of the Father God in the heavens.
The contents of the Ark of the covenant:
Some suggest a contradiction between Hebrews 9:4 and 1 Kings 8:9, but this is nonsense. Hebrews 9:4 records the original contents of the ark, while 1 Kings 8:9 records the contents of the ark at the time of Solomon’s temple, meaning that by that time the staff of Aaron had been removed, possibly during the time that the ark spent outside of Israel’s possession (1 Samuel 4 – 2 Samuel 7).
“The golden pot containing manna” The manna contained in the pot was miraculous in the sense that it was a portion of the manna that if left for a day would be maggot ridden (except on the Shabbat) [Exodus 16:19-20, 22]. Therefore, this portion of manna which God commanded to be put inside the ark (Ex. 16:33) as a remembrance of His provision of food for the wandering Israelites, was like the manna that deteriorated, but not the same. This is just one of many figures pointing to the nature of Yeshua, Who said of Himself, “I am the manna from the heavens” (John 6:41-51).
The Hebrew man (Exodus 16:15) transliterated into English as manna, is a contracted form of the phrase “Mah zeh?” (What is it)? This is because when the Israelites first saw it they were dumbfounded as to its nature and exclaimed “What is it?” For approximately a thousand years we Jews asked this question, and when the King Messiah Yeshua entered time and space born of a virgin, and came of age to teach, He spoke to us a teaching that effectively said, “You’ve been asking the wrong question, instead of asking ‘Mah zeh?’ (What is it)? you should be asking ‘Miy Hu’? (Who is He)?” Manna is also known by three other names: “lechem min-hashamayim (bread from the heavens)” (Ex. 16:4), “lechem abiyriym (bread of mighty ones/angels)” (Psalms. 78:25), and as described by the complaining Israelites “balechem hakelokel (bread that is light, swift, a trifle)” (Num. 21:5).
The Manna prefigured Messiah in many ways:
Rav Shaul (Paul) called it “spiritual food” (1 Cor. 10:3) because of its supernatural origin (Ex. 16:4). The whiteness of the manna denotes the purity of Messiah (Ex. 16:31; 1 Peter 1:19). The manna was placed inside the ark (Ex. 16:33) as a symbol of Messiah’s tomb and His coming before the throne of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:23-24). Messiah through His messenger announces that He has “hidden manna” to give to those who overcome in the community of first century Pergamum (Rev. 2:17) etc.
“The rod of Aaron that had budded” The historical record of the budding of Aaron’s staff is found in Numbers 16-17. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram gathered 250 leaders from the twelve tribes in order to challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God caused the ground to open up and swallow Korah and all who stood with him in rebellion against Moses and Aaron (leaders appointed by God) [Num. 16:32]. The 250 leaders who rebelled against Moses and Aaron were destroyed by God with fire/lightening from the heavens (Num. 16:35). The following day the people of Israel accused Moses of killing his fellow Israelites. God provided further proof of Aaron’s right to be high priest when He instructed Moses to gather a representative from each tribe to bring an almond rod with the his name engraved on the rod representing his tribe, Aaron’s name being engraved on the rod for the tribe of Leviy (Num. 17:3). The rod of the man God had chosen as high priest would blossom. All twelve rods were placed in the Mishkan before the “testimony” (ark of the covenant), the next morning Aaron’s rod had not only budded, it had blossomed and yielded almonds (Num. 17:8). Aaron’s rod was placed in the ark as a warning against rebellion and as evidence that God alone appoints the true high priests of Israel.
The budding, blossoming, and fruiting of the rod of Aaron was a figure for the resurrection of the King Messiah and Great High Priest Yeshua.
“The tablets of the covenant” These were the second set of two tablets of the covenant engraved by God on stone that Moses had hewn (Exodus 34:1). The first set had been hewn by God and engraved by His finger (Exodus 24:12), but had been broken by Moses upon his witnessing Israel’s idolatrous worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). The second set of tablets were placed into the ark as a witness, a testimony (Deut. 10:2). When Moses had finished writing the Torah (not just the tablets but the 5 books of Moses) it was placed beside the ark as a witness (an indictment) against the rebellious children of Israel (Deut. 31:25-27).
Talmudic scholars claim that the book/scroll of the Torah (the five books of Moses) was placed inside the ark (Baba Batra 14), but the Targum Yonatan states that it was placed in a box and kept at the right side of the ark. The Targum is consistent with Scripture, the Talmudic claim is not.
The tablets too are figurative. Messiah the Living Word sent by God was broken for us. Like the second set of tablets Messiah is of the earth by his human lineage according to the line of David, and is seeded of the Holy Spirit as God with us, just as the tablets hewn from the earth were made a unity by the written word of the finger of God.
Messiah was made under the Torah (Gal. 4:4). The Torah was within His inner being (heart) and He fulfilled the letter of the Torah concerning what was written about Him (Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7-9). He did not come to destroy the Torah but to fully fill it (Matt. 5:17). He bore the curse of the Torah by being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).
“For Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes, trusts.” -Romans 10:4 (Author’s translation)
5 and over it the cherubiym of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, atoning cover; but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail.
NB: Of the four cherubiym of Solomon’s Temple, two are fashioned into the lid of the ark of the covenant as guardians of the mercy seat and two are made to stand as guardians of the Inner Sanctuary [Holy of holies] (Exodus 25:18-22; 37:7-9; 1 Kings 6:23-28; 1 Chronicles 3:10-14).
The Hebrew word cherub has no known root, however etymologists link its meaning to an Assyrian word used to name similar creatures, and theorize that the ancient Hebrew root probably had similar meaning. The best guess at its meaning is: mighty-approacher, or blessing bringer. Unlike certain other messengers of HaShem who sometimes appear in humanoid form, the cherubiym are always winged and have an appearance that mirrors specific animals, such as eagles and lions.
It was between the two cherubiym atop the ark that the manifest glory of God appeared (Exodus 25:17-22; Lev. 16:2; Num. 7:89; Psalm 80:1).
Several ancient Jewish commentators say that the two cherubiym atop the ark reflect the two cherubiym placed by God in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24) [Targum Yonatan &. Hieros. in Gen. iii. 24.).
“the atoning cover” Kaporet (Num. 7:89) This was a slab of solid gold that fit precisely over the top of the ark (box). It was on this cover that the blood of the Yom Kippur sacrifice was sprinkled each year by the high priest (Lev. 16:14-15).
“but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail.” The intricate details are not needed in order for the writer to properly convey the teaching of the Holy Spirit on the subject of Yeshua’s superiority to the earthly things. What’s more, the first century Jewish audience, at very least the devote among them, already knew the details concerning the temple service and the great significance of each article used in the practice of the priesthood.
6 Now when these things are (present tense) prepared, built, ordained (kataskeuazō[G]) the priests (ho hiereus[G], hakoheniym[H]) are (present tense) continually (diapantos[G]) entering the first section of the (protos[G]) sanctuary (skēnē[G], mishkan[H]), performing the divine service (avodah[H], latreia[G]), 7 but into the second (deuteros[G]) [behind the parochet into the holy of holies], only the high priest (archiereus[G], kohen hagadol[H]) enters once a year, not without taking blood (aima[G], dam[H]) which he offers (prospherō[G]) for his soul (nafsho[H]) and for the errors (agnoēma[G]) of the people (ho laos[G], ha’am[H]) committed in ignorance.
6 Now when these things are (present tense) prepared, built, ordained the priests are (present tense) continually entering the first section of the sanctuary, performing the divine service,
The items mentioned in verse 2 already indicate the service associated with them. The duties of the kohaniym included keeping the menorah lit continually (Ex. 27:20-22; Lev. 24:1-4), placing fresh loaves before the face on the table of showbread (Lev. 24:5-9) and burning incense on the incense altar (Ex. 30:7-9), which is something Zechariah the father of Yochanan (John the Immerser) performed during his period of priestly service (Luke 1:9-11). These acts of priestly service “are” being performed at the time of the writing of this work. Therefore, the work was written prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.
The writer makes a point of distinguishing the holy place (first section of the sanctuary/temple). He is combining the figures of Mishkan (tent of meeting) and Mikdash/Heiykhal (temple), and is making a clear distinction between the holy place and the holy of holies, both of which are part of the tent/temple.
7 but into the second [behind the parochet into the holy of holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood which he offers for his soul and for the errors of the people committed in ignorance.
The holy of holies is now referred to and the need for the Levitical high priest to offer the blood of animals, in particular, with regard to Yom Kippur (tenth day of the seventh [shabbat] month Tishrei), a bull and subsequently a goat (the goat for HaShem), thus offering blood for both himself and his household and then for the people of Israel (Lev. 16). This blood, like all atonement, covers sin repented of, therefore, committed in ignorance. Covering is not affected for the wilfully unrepentant.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” -Leviticus 17:11 NASB
The writer confirms the ineffective service of the Levitical priesthood pertaining to its inability to provide eternal atonement, given that the high priest of the Levitical priesthood himself needs to be regularly atoned for.
8 The Holy Spirit (Hagios Pneuma[G], Ruach Hakodesh[H]) in this is showing (dēloō[G]), that the way (hodos[G], haderekh[H]) into the holiest place of all (ho hagion[G], el-hakodesh kol[H]) was not yet revealed, appeared, manifest (phaneroō[G]) while the first (protos[G]) sanctuary (skēnē[G], mishkan[H]) was still standing [referring to the then standing second Temple approx.. 60 C.E.], 9 which is a figure, parable, symbol (parabolē[G], mashal[H]) for the present time (lazman[H]). Accordingly both gifts (dōron[G], minatot[H]) and sacrifices (thusia[H], uzvachiym[H]) are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole (teleioō[G], lehashliym[H]) the moral consciousness, conscience, heart, core being, inner person (suneidēsis[G], levav[H]) of those serving, worshipping (latreuō[G], haoveid[H]),
8 The Holy Spirit in this is showing, that the way into the holiest place of all was not yet revealed, appeared, manifest while the first sanctuary was still standing [referring to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) constructed by Moses in the desert.],
The Holy Spirit is linked to the spoken and written word of God as the wind of God’s voice, or the wind of His davar[H] (logos[G]), essence, word (Yeshua). The writer of the Book to the Hebrews refers to the Holy Spirit in a similar way in 3:7.
“The holiest place of all” does not refer to the earthly holy of holies but alludes to the heavenly holy of holies yet to be manifest, as qualified by what follows (the Greek text does not repeat hagion [the Greek way of saying holy of holies] but reads ho hagion “the Holiest”, and the literal translation of the Hebrew reads “the holiest place of all”). In short the Holy Spirit is showing through the symbolism of the earthly Tent of Meeting/Temple system, that the holiest place of all in the heavens is yet to be fully manifest on earth, yet to be understood properly in relation to Messiah’s sacrificial death and the sprinkling of His blood on the heavenly mercy seat as an eternal atonement for all who receive Him, continually first for the Jew and also for the nations.
The Holy Spirit is showing that while the Tent of Meeting was standing (and by inference the second temple) the way to the holiest place in the heavens had not yet been revealed but was symbolised in the earthly replica. The writer is building up to and explanation of the fullness of the revelation of Yeshua’s redemptive work in entering into the heavenly holiest (holy of holies). Something the writer has already alluded to (Heb. 4:14).
This is also an allusion to the fact that it was only ever the high priest who could enter the earthly holy of holies and then once a year, but in Yeshua God would manifest the means by which all who believe are able to enter beyond the parochet (veil), not of the earthly holy of holies but that of the heavens, that holiest place that will come down with the new Jerusalem (a city which has no temple because God Himself and the Lamb are its temple [Rev. 21:22]).
The way to the holiest place in the heavens has been revealed in Yeshua to those who believe by faith through grace, but the fullness of this revelation will come at the end of the age
9 which is a figure, parable, symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole the moral condition, conscience, heart, core being, inner person of those serving, worshipping,
“which is a figure, parable, symbol for the present time” The temple (extension of the Mishkan) is (in approx. 60 C.E.) a present parable teaching the deeper truth of the original Mishkan in the heavens and the service of the King Messiah as the Great High Priest in redeeming all who will believe and giving them access to God in right relationship.
It is again emphasised that the then functioning temple cult and its offerings and sacrifices were not able to purge and purify the inner person, in particular those priests (including the Levitical high priest, albeit at that time an apostate appointee) who were performing the rites.
10 since they are only food (brōma[G], habasar[H]), drink (poma[G], hama’acholot[H]), and various washings/immersions (baptismos[G], hateviylot[H]), and carnal, flesh, bodily (sarx[G]) regulations, judgements, ordinances (dikaiōma[G]) imposed, laid out (epikeimai[G]) until a time (kairos[G], ad-et[H]) of reforming (diorthōsis[G], hatikon[H]).11 But when Messiah (Christos[G], Mashiyach[H]) appeared as a high priest (archiereus[G], kohen gadol[H]) of the good things (agathos[G], latovah ha’atiydot[H]) having come, He entered through the greater (meizōn[G], bigdulah[H]) and more perfect, full, excellent (teleios[G], hameulleh[H]) Sanctuary (skene[G], hamishkan[H]), not made by human hands (cheiropoiētos[G], b’yad adam[H]), because it is not of this creation (ktisis[G], meihabriyah hazot[H]);
10 since they are only food, drink, and various washings/immersions, and carnal, flesh, bodily regulations, judgements, ordinances imposed, laid out until a time of reforming.
The food and drink offered in various rites was just that, temporal fuel offered as part of a system that was passing away. With regard to immersions, washings etc. see my commentary on Hebrews 6:2.
“bodily regulations, judgements, ordinances imposed, laid out until a time of reforming.” The writer explains according to the Holy Spirit, that all these regulations concerning the flesh, that is the decaying body of human beings and its outward ritual cleansing, are all symbols pointing to a time of reformation. That time having come in Messiah Yeshua and yet to be fully revealed in the world to come. The new covenant is the reforming of the first covenant. Notice “reform” and not “disregard”. The first covenant is to be regarded as a parable teaching the new covenant which is the original and transcendent perfection of that which the first covenant points to.
11 But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect, full, excellent Sanctuary, not made by human hands, because it is not of this creation;
The writer has spoken extensively of the practicalities of the Mosaic covenant and sacrificial system and has exposed its inability to affect a purging of the soul. It is likely that his Jewish brothers and sisters, the recipients of this work, were still allowing the temple cult to occupy the larger portion of their faith focus, something that, if left unaddressed could lead to their turning away from true faith in the King Messiah Yeshua. Therefore, the writer shifts focus to Yeshua the Great High Priest of the original, transcendent, and eternal Sanctuary of God.
Now Messiah is come and the way into the holiest place (heavenly holy of holies) is manifest, revealed (v.8). The Mishkan of the desert was at the time of this revelation, no longer functioning while the temple was functioning but soon to be destroyed.
Messiah has appeared within time and space to Israel as the transcendent High Priest of a more perfect Sanctuary (the heavenly original Mishkan) and of the good things having already come that are yet to be fully arrived. He has opened to Israel and the nations the way to right relationship in God’s intimate person, an opportunity to dwell in Him eternally. This He did by sprinkling His everlasting blood upon the heavenly mercy seat of the heavenly Sanctuary, which is neither made by human hands nor subject to this creation, but exists perpetually within the all existing God of Israel YHVH.
“48 However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And the earth is the footstool of My feet;
What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord,
‘Or what place is there for My rest?
50 Was it not My hand that made all these things?’” -Acts 7:48-50 (Isaiah 66:1,2) NASB [Ref. Acts 17:24]
12 and not through the blood (aima[G], bedam[H]) of goats (tragos[G], se’iyriym[H]) and calves (moschos[G], va’agaliym[H]), but through the blood of His own soul (aima[G], bedam-nafsho[H]), He entered the holiest place (ho hagion[G], el-hakodesh[H]) once for all time, having obtained (heuriskō[G]) eternal redemption (geulat olam[H]). 13 For if the blood (aima[G], im-dam[H]) of goats (tragos[G], se’iyriym[H]) and bulls (tauros[G], hapariym[H]), and the ashes (spodos[G], eifer[H]) of a heifer (damalis[G], haparah[H]) sprinkled (rhantizō[G]) on those who have become defiled, unclean (koinoō[G], al-hatmei’iym[H]), sanctify (hagiazō[G], yekadoshiym[H]) as a means of purifying, cleansing (katharotēs[G], letaheir[H]) the carnal form, flesh, body (sarx[G], besa’ar[H]),
12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through the blood of His own soul, He entered the holiest place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption.
As has already been explained “both gifts and sacrifices are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole the moral condition, conscience, heart, core being, inner person of those serving, worshipping,” (v.9).
In particular the reference to “the blood of goats and calves” regards Yom Kippur (Lev. 16), when the Levitical high priest would enter behind the parochet into the holy of holies.
Therefore, Yeshua offered the blood of His own soul. Yeshua’s blood (life) being that substance which is a convergence of deity and sinless human physiology. Put simply, His blood, like the covenant it inaugurated, is everlasting, and as a result its atonement is of eternal effect.
The writer uses ho hagion[G] “the holiest place” for good reason. While he is likening the heavenly place Messiah entered to the earthly replica, he is none the less distinguishing the heavenly holy of holies as the “holiest”, so as not to confuse the two. Messiah did not enter the earthly holy of holies, he need not, the earthly holy of holies (first century C.E.) did not contain the ark or the mercy seat. Therefore, Yeshua entered the heavenly holy of holies, the original, the holiest place, and made atonement upon the heavenly mercy seat which is upon the heavenly ark in the heavenly Mishkan. Thus, as I have stated, the redemption He obtained for all who would receive Him is of eternal effect.
The Targum Yonatan points us toward the redemptive work of God in Yeshua, saying:
“Jacob said, when he saw Gideon the son of Joash, and Samson the son of Manoah, who should be redeemers; ‘not for the redemption of Gideon am I waiting, nor for the redemption of Samson am I looking, for their redemption is a temporal redemption; but for thy redemption am I waiting and looking, O Lord, because thy redemption is an everlasting redemption.’'' -Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Century C.E.) Genesis 49:18
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have become defiled, unclean, sanctify as a means of purifying, cleansing the carnal form, flesh, body,
Once again the reference to “the blood of goats and bulls” regards Yom Kippur (Lev. 16), when the Levitical high priest would enter behind the parochet into the holy of holies. Only this time the use of the word “bull” specifically refers to the Levitical high priest’s need to sacrifice a bull for himself and his family, something Yeshua being sinless did not need to do.
“and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have become defiled” The ashes of the heifer were used as a ritual cleansing of those who had become ceremonially unclean through contact with a dead body (Num. 19). As this verse rightly acknowledges, the sacrificial practices and the sprinkling of the water made from heifer ashes were not more than ritual cleansing of the physical body. None of these practices affected purity of the entire being.
14 how much more will the blood (aima[G], hadam[H]) of the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]) Who through the eternal (aiōnios[G], olam[H]) Spirit (pneuma[G], beruach[H]) offered, presented, sacrificed (prospherō[G], hikriyv[H]) His soul (nafsho[H]) without blemish, mark, spot (amōmos[G], bivliy-mum[H]) to God (Theos[G], l’Elohiym[H]); purge, cleanse, purify (katharizō[G], yetaheir[H]) your conscience, moral consciousness, heart, core being, inner person (suneidēsis[G], et libchem[H]) from dead, necrotic (nekros[G], mavet[H]) works, deeds, doing (ergon[G], asiym[H]) in order to serve (latreuō[G], la’avod[H]) the living God (zaō Theos[G], et Elohiym chayiym[H])? 15 And through this (dia touto[G], zot[H]) He is the mediator, reconciler, go between, messenger advocate (mesitēs[G], malakh meiliytz[H]) of a new covenant (kainos diathēkē[G], labriyt hachadashah[H]), so that, by means of His death (Thanatos[G], umoto[H]) we are (nimtza[H]) found redeemed, atoned, purged (apolutrōsis[G], lechaparat[H]) of the violations (parabasis[G], haposhiym tachat[H]) that were committed under the first covenant (protos diathēkē[G], habriyt harishonah[H]), those who have been called (kaleō[G]) may receive (lambanō[G]) the promise (epaggelia[G], et-havtachat[H]) of the eternal (aiōnios[G], olam[H]) inheritance (klēronomia[G], nachalat[H]). [alt. Hebrew text translates as, “that the elect might receive the promised eternal land.”]
14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered, presented, sacrificed His soul without blemish, mark, spot to God, purge, cleanse, purify your conscience, moral consciousness, heart, core being, inner person from dead, necrotic works, deeds, doing in order to serve the living God?
“How much more” is a kal vachomer (lenient and strict/lesser and greater) rabbinical form of teaching common to Talmudic literature and practiced for many centuries prior to the codification of the Talmud. This type of argument is similar but not the same as fortiori (a Latin word meaning “from the stronger”). Essentially the writer is saying, “if the temporary blood of the copy is able to ritually cleanse the body, how much more so the eternal blood of the Creator in Whom the original exists and from Whom the temporary signpost pointing to the original was gifted”.
“without blemish” Sacrificial animals were required to be without blemish. In the case of Messiah this refers to His sinless life (Heb. 4:15).
“the blood of the Messiah” As previously stated, Yeshua’s blood (life) being that substance which is a convergence of deity and sinless human physiology. Put simply, His blood, like the covenant it inaugurated, is everlasting, and as a result its atonement is of eternal effect.
Therefore, He alone is able to purge us of “necrotic works/deeds”. We note the stark contrast between the delusional life of necrotic deeds and the authentic eternal life in Messiah. The wording is poignant. To live according to the sinful nature is like a man living with necrotizing fasciitis, a form of bacteria resistant to human medicine. Yeshua comes to that same man and offers to cleanse his entire being inside and out, and as a result the cause and the symptoms of the infection are removed entirely. What the human doctors (a poor replica of healing) cannot do, the Creator of humanity has already done.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
"At that time they shall declare to the Messiah the troubles of Israel in captivity, and the wicked which are among them, that do not mind to know the Lord; he shall lift up his voice, and weep over the wicked among them; as it is said, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions’.'' - Zohar in Exod. fol. 85. 2.
This chapter continues the prophet’s illumination of the Servant of God Whom he introduces afresh in Isaiah 52:13. Thus, as explained in my previous commentary on that chapter, the entirety of this portion from 52:13-53:12 is one cohesive prophetic message within the meta-narrative of the scroll of Isaiah.
I also explained in the previous commentary on chapter 52, that the modern Jewish and Liberal Christian theological assertion that the Servant is representative of Israel the people is untenable when weighed against the plain meaning of the text and the relevant historical and Biblical evidence to the contrary. While I acknowledge that The Servant is intrinsically connected to Israel and a representative of the people of Israel (a Jew, born of her), He cannot be both Israel (the ethnic/religious people) and the one Who is “struck, stricken” for the sake of Israel’s transgressions, at the same time (53:8). For this and many other reasons which will become clear as we follow the plain meaning of the text of Isaiah 53 to its logical goal, it is impossible to conclude, as the majority of our modern Rabbis have, that this portion of Isaiah applies to the people of Israel.
The Suffering Servant Prophesied and Fulfilled
This portion of Isaiah’s scroll (52:13-53:12) has 5 distinct sections that act together fluidly in order to provide a clear and concise prophetic picture of the Servant of HaShem.
The text speaks of an individual Who offers Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice for the atoning of Israel’s sins and subsequently, for the atoning of the sins of all who will accept God’s redemptive gift.
Isa 53:1 Miy Who he’emiyn has believed (found faith in) lishmoateinu the message which we have heard? And to whom has the arm of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) been revealed?
The prophet himself cannot be the sole speaker of these words (his prophesying of them not withstanding), which are spoken by a group, thus, “our message”. The reference to this passage in Rav Shaul’s (Paul’s) letter to the Roman believers appears to apply the “our” of Isaiah 53:1 to the remnant among Israel who had believed. Thus, in one sense Rav Shaul is implying that Israel’s faithful were saying, “Lord, who has believed our message?” While this might include the prophets (Isaiah not withstanding), it doesn’t appear to refer to them alone.
“But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’” -Romans 10:16
The better translation of the phrase “Who has believed our message?” is in fact, “Who has believed the message we have heard?”
Therefore, message itself is the cumulative testimony of the forebears and prophets of Israel which had been imparted to Israel from her inception, prophetically speaking of the coming of the Deliverer appointed to redeem and completely save Israel from her sins. Thus, the first verse of Isaiah 53 is spoken by those among Israel’s remnant at the time of the Babylonian captivity and from that point (in a prophetic sense) throughout Israel’s future existence until the return of the Messiah (Servant).
Iben Ezra attributes this verse to the nations, however, due to the fact that according to Isaiah 52:15 the nations receive with faith the good news of things which they had not heard before; the present verse cannot apply to them. On the other hand Israel is mourning the fact that she had failed to put her faith in the good news which she had been hearing through her prophets from time immemorial.
Thus, having concluded that it is Israel who is speaking, it makes sense that she speaks from a position of incredulity with regard to her failure to believe. The remnant of Israel (ethnic/religious) speaks to both herself and the nations saying, “And to whom has the arm of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) been revealed?” We know from Isaiah 52:10 that the Arm of HaShem has been made bare “in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
Therefore, in one sense Israel’s confession of her own disbelief makes it possible for her to become the light to the nations she was always meant to be through the redeeming work of the Servant Messiah Who has been sent to take upon Himself all her transgressions, and indeed, the transgressions of all who would receive Him. So it is that from the beginning of Isaiah 53 there is a clear distinction being made between Israel (ethnic/religious/corporate) and the Servant Redeemer of Israel (a unique individual, albeit a Jew [Israelite]). This, as we have seen in my commentary on Isaiah 52, and as we will yet see in the present commentary, is the view most common to our ancient Rabbis and commentators.
“The arm of the Lord” is a figure for the strength and wisdom of HaShem made manifest in His redemptive acts throughout history. This strength is of course yet another figure for the work of the Servant King Messiah. Therefore, it’s spoken of here to the people of Israel 700 years before the birth of the Servant, as an allusion to the redemptive work of the Servant as described in the subsequent verses.
Isa 53:2 Vaya’al For he grew up kayoneik like a sapling (a young plant) lefanayv before his face, vechashoresh and as a root mei-eretz tziyah from dry ground; he had no toar form ve’lo and no hadar splendour, honour, majesty that we should look at him, and no mareh spectacular appearance venechmedeihu that we should desire, take pleasure in, delight in him.
The humble beginnings of the Servant are described here. He is said to have no royal splendour about His visage. This is important because almost all of Israel was looking only for a triumphant King Messiah in the line of David (Israel was not wrong in this, just lacking a full understanding of the greater work of the coming Messiah). Therefore, she did not expect a humble seemingly unroyal Messiah.
The Hebrew “yoneik” refers to a plant that has just burst through the soil. A vulnerable young suckling. The Hebrew “sheresh” (from sharash) refers to a root and thus connects the present verse to Isaiah 11:1 where the prophet says:
“And then will come out a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a green branch misharashayhu from his root will bear fruit.”
Note that the same root “sharash” is used here to describe the “root” that comes from Jesse. This is an allusion to the fact that the Messiah will be born of the line of David, and thus, will be the King Messiah Who reigns on the throne of David. Therefore, Isaiah 53:2 connects the Kingly nature of the Messiah in juxtaposition against the humble lack of royal visage of the Servant. In a beautiful irony of practice the Servant, although He is royalty, choses to come without pomp or ceremony, royal clothing or position. In fact, such will be the lowliness of his station that His people will not recognise Him as being special or honourable: nor will they desire Him to rule over them.
“And it has come to pass in that day that the shoresh root of Jesse will stand to be a sign, banner, miracle for the peoples. The nations will seek for Him, and His resting place will be glory.” -Isaiah 11:10
There can be little doubt that the King Messiah (Who is to reign on David’s throne re: Jesse) of the early part of Isaiah’s scroll is also the Servant of the latter part of Isaiah’s scroll.
“mei-eretz tziyah” (from earth that is dry), can be understood in multiple ways. The condition of Israel in the first century CE at the time when Messiah Yeshua was born into this world, was truly dry in both a physical and spiritual sense. God had not spoken through a prophet to Israel for approximately 400 years prior to the birth of Yochanan (John). In addition to this Israel had been under Roman occupation for some time and prior to that had suffered under the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes (Syrophoenician) among others. Under Roman occupation the illegitimate king Herod had usurped the throne of Judah, which when added to the rarity of the “Bat Kol” (Audible voice of the Holy Spirit: lit. daughters voice), the lack of true prophetic voices and the political subjugation of the Jewish people, made for a truly dry land from which the Servant would come forth.
“Eretz Tziyah” (Dry/Parched ground) is also literally the meaning of the proper noun Tziyon (Parched land). Thus, quite literally, the Servant will be born of Zion, of a daughter of Zion, of the tribe of Judah, in the line of David. Furthermore, the Servant comes to offer living waters (John 4:14) that will saturate refresh and rejuvenate the dry land.
Isa 53:3 Nivzeh He was despised (held in contempt) vachadal and rejected by iyshiym men (human beings), iysh a man machovot of sorrows (afflictions) vidua and a deep knowing (acquainted) concerning sickness, weakness, affliction, grief; uchemasteir and as one from whom people hide their paniym faces nivzeh He was despised (held in contempt), ve’lo and we did not chashavnuhu esteem him.
It’s clear that the afflictions suffered by the Servant are both physical and spiritual. There are of course no words to truly describe the weight of the affliction suffered for the sins of humanity.
The opening word “Nivzeh” (despised, held in contempt), links the Servant to the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 49:7:
“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despises (holds in contempt), to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of Adonai that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Early rabbinic literature recognizes that part of the Messiah’s ministry includes suffering:
“The Messiah—what is his name? …The Rabbis say, ‘the Leprous one’: Those of the house of Rabbi say, ‘the sick one’, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our sickness.’” -Sanhedrin 98b, Babylonian Talmud
Some of our ancient Rabbis struggled to understand the divergent elements of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. As a result the two Messiah theory developed. Mashiach Ben Yosef, the suffering Messiah (Isaiah 50:5-7 & 53). Mashiach Ben David, the triumphant King Messiah who subdues the nations and establishes his Messianic kingdom (Psalm 2 & 110). Messiah Ben Yosef is said to die in the battle against Edom (figuratively Rome): he is followed by Messiah Ben David, who establishes His kingdom of righteousness after defeating the gentile nations. The irony of this interpretation is that the two Messiah figures accurately divide the ministry of the living Messiah Yeshua, Who came first as the suffering Servant (Ben Yosef) and will come again as the victorious King (Ben David).
The Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) solves the question of divergent themes by revealing the advent of the King Messiah and subsequently describing His second coming (Mt. 23:29; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:14-17 etc.)
“He was despised (held in contempt) and rejected by men (human beings),” Note the past tense. HaShem speaks into time and space through His prophet Isaiah, that which has already been made complete outside of time and space. The Hebrew plural “iyshim” (men) is the poetic form of “anashiym”. “Iyshiym” refers specifically to men of stature (Prov.8:4; Psalm 141:4). Thus, the Servant is shunned by leading men: kings, political leaders, spiritual leaders etc. Yeshua’s contemporaries struggled to come to terms with his humble birth and the town of His upbringing, which is not even mentioned in rabbinic literature.
“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.” -John 1:46a (NIV)
“Still others asked, ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee’”? -John 1:41b (NIV)
“A man of afflictions and of a deep knowing (acquainted) concerning sickness, weakness, affliction, grief…” Although it is true that the Messiah was familiar with grief (it is likely that His earthly father Joseph died prior to the beginning of Messiah’s ministry, and He is seen grieving deeply at the tomb of Lazarus), the meaning of the text appears to convey that the Servant was familiar with the cause of disease and sickness and was knowledgeable in a transcendent way concerning the healing of such disease and afflictions. Additionally, the Messiah Himself suffered great affliction both physical and spiritual prior to and during His crucifixion.
“And as one from whom people hide their faces” As a result of His affliction the people of Israel turned away from Him, the disfigurement resulting from His beating, whipping and crucifixion making Him a hideous sight to behold.
He was despised (held in contempt), and we did not esteem him.” The Hebrew “nivzeh” (despised) is repeated here as affirmation of the fullness of His people’s rejection of Him. In particular He was despised by many of Israel’s first century religious leaders. To this day as a result of the modern rabbinic polemic against Yeshua, His name is rendered in modern Hebrew as Yeshu which is an acronym for the curse “Ye’mach Sh’mo” meaning, “May His name be blotted out!” This disgusting curse is further evidence of the ongoing rejection of the Servant King Messiah by our people.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God.” -John 1:10-12 (TLV)
Isa 53:4 Achein Certainly cholayeinu our sicknesses, weaknesses, diseases he has nasa borne, carried, lifted up (a sign) umachoveiynu and our sorrows, pain sevalam he has dragged along, bared as a load; yet we esteemed him nagua struck (diseased) mukeih beaten, killed, slain by Elohiym (God: Judge), umeuneh and afflicted, oppressed, humbled.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” -John 19:34 (TLV)
“Look, He is coming with the clouds,
and every eye shall see Him,
even those who pierced Him.
And all the tribes of the earth
shall mourn because of Him.
Yes, amen!” -Revelation 1:7 (TLV)
“Certainly our sicknesses, weaknesses, diseases he has nasa borne, carried, lifted up (a sign)” The sickness described here is the result of sin’s entry into the world (and death with it). Or else, why does the Hebrew employ the word “nasa”, which is used in connection with the Torah sacrifices of expiation (Lev.5:1, 17; 10:17; 16:22; 17:16; 20:19-20; 24:15).
“Who His own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.” -1 Peter 2:24 (ASV)
“Nasa” is also a sign (nisi) that points to a mighty work of Hashem. Yeshua quite literally bore (healed) our (The people of Israel) sicknesses and diseases during His earthly ministry:
“And when Yeshua was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother lying sick of a fever. And He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and ministered unto him. And when even was come, they brought unto Him many possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘He took our infirmities, and bare our diseases.’” -Matthew 8:14-17
“Our sorrows, pain he has dragged along, bared as a load” I’m surprised that few if any comment on the descriptive Hebrew language here in regard to the last hours of the Messiah’s life. After all, He quite literally dragged the cross (means of His death) along until He was relieved by Shimon of Cyrene.
“Yet we esteemed him nagua struck mukeih beaten, killed, slain by Elohiym (God: Judge), umeuneh and afflicted, oppressed, humbled.” The Hebrew “nagua” is associated to terrible diseases such as leprosy (Gen. 12:17; Lev. 13:5; 1 Sam. 6:9; 2 Kings 15:5), and “mukeih” to divine retribution for heinous sin (Though the servant is not suffering for His own sin re: next verse).
The Talmud says of the Messiah that he is "a leper of the house of Rabbi is his name'' - T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.
Sadly, the Talmud calls Yeshua a “transgressor”, ironic, given that Yeshua died for the transgressions of those who penned and codified the Talmud. Maimonides states that Yeshua deserved the violent death which He suffered. Once again ironic, given that it is in fact Maimonides who deserved the rightful punishment for his sins, and yet Yeshua was willing to die also for Maimonides. So much for the human wisdom of our rabbis. I have visited the tomb of Maimonides, it is dead and lifeless. The tomb of Yeshua however is empty, He is alive and living by His Spirit within me. He is transcendent and seated at the right hand of the Father.
Isa 53:5 Vehu And he mecholal was pierced (defiled, polluted) mipeshaeinu for our transgressions (rebellions); meduka he was crushed (broken, became contrite) meiavonoteiynu for our iniquities (perversity, depravity, guilt); Musar The chastisement (discipline) shelomeinu of our peace, wholeness, wellbeing alayv was placed upon him, uvachavurato and by his wounds (stripes, bruises, blows) nirpa-lanu we are healed, made healthy (whole).
As I have previously shown, the Servant cannot be Israel the people. Why? Because the entire history and character of the people of Israel as a whole is contrary to the description of God’s faithful Servant, Who takes upon Himself the sins of His people (inferring that He is not guilty of their sins) and redeems all willing human beings. Israel the collective people on the other hand are repeatedly denounced by the prophet Isaiah as being deaf and blind to the will of God (42:19-20; 43:24). The prophet’s words state that the people do not even deserve the name Israel (Overcome in God), and that their allegiance to YHVH is insincere (48:1). Further, Isaiah speaking from God pronounces his nation “an obstinate people with a neck like iron sinew and their forehead like brass” (48:4). Thus, Israel the people, like all people, are sinners in need of salvation. Fortunately for Israel, the Servant King Messiah was pierced for our transgressions.
We are reminded again that our ancient Rabbis understood these words to be referring to the King Messiah:
“Chastisements are divided into three parts, one to David and the fathers, one to our generation, and one to the King Messiah; as it is written, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions; and bruised for our iniquities’:'' - Mechilta apud Yalkut, par. 2. fol 90.
“Messiah Son of David who loves Jerusalem… Elijah takes Him by the head…and says, ‘You must bear the sufferings and wounds by which the Almighty chastises you for Israel’s sins’ and so it is written, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.’” -Midrash Konen; 11 Century CE
“The children of the world are members one of another. When the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, He smites one just man amongst them, and for his sake heals all the rest. From where do we learn this? From the saying, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions; and bruised for our iniquities’”. -Zohar, Numbers, Phinchus 218a
Furthermore, our Rabbis also testify to the wickedness of Israel and her need for the Messiah:
"At that time they shall declare to the Messiah the troubles of Israel in captivity, and the wicked which are among them, that do not mind to know the Lord; he shall lift up his voice, and weep over the wicked among them; as it is said, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions’, &c.'' - Zohar in Exod. fol. 85. 2. See also Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2. and Zohar in Deut. fol. 117. 3. and R. Moses Hadarsan apud Galatia de Arcan. Cath. Ver. I. 8. c. 15 p. 586. and in I. 6. c. 2. p. 436.
“And he was pierced (defiled, polluted) for our transgressions (rebellions);” The Hebrew “mecholal” meaning pierced, could only have been written by a divinely inspired prophet of God. These words, spoken and recorded some 700 years before the birth (into this world) of Messiah Yeshua, describe exactly what happened to Him, both physically and spiritually.
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgota). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Yeshua in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Yeshua of nazareth, the king of the jews.” -John 19:17-19
Crucifixion involved the nailing of hands and feet to a cross beam position equal to or slightly below the top of a firmly established upright post. Thus, Yeshua had is hands and feet pierced quite literally. The Psalmist, writing over 500 years before the birth (into this world) of Yeshua the Servant of God, wrote:
“Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.” -Psalm 22:11-18 (NIV)
“But when they came to Yeshua and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Yeshua in the side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” -John 19:33-35
“He was crushed (broken, became contrite) for our iniquities (perversity, depravity, guilt); The chastisement (discipline) of our peace, wholeness, wellbeing was placed upon him, and by his wounds (stripes, bruises, blows) we are healed, made healthy (whole).” The entire sacrificial system of the Torah is symbolic of substitution.
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” -Leviticus 17:11 (NIV)
One of the primary stories of the Torah “Ha-Akeidah” The Binding of Isaac, binds Israel to the faith of Abraham and frees her from bondage to sin through the substitution of the Ram, who is a figure for the promised Messiah, and highlights the fact that the Messiah will be a substitutionary sacrifice for Israel (Jacob). While Jacob was still in the loins of Isaac, the Ram took his place on the altar (of Moriah) [Genesis 22].
“He was crushed (broken, became contrite) for our iniquities (perversity, depravity, guilt);” We note that the Servant takes a punishment upon Himself that was meant for us (Israel, ethnic, religious). Not only was He crushed on our behalf, He took the suffering willingly, the Hebrew “meduka” denotes contrite acceptance.
“The chastisement (discipline) of our peace, wholeness, wellbeing was placed upon him, and by his wounds (stripes, bruises, blows) we are healed, made healthy (whole).” As a result of the Servant’s substitutionary sacrifice and because our sin has not just been covered but has been atoned for, annihilated by His blood shed for us, we are made whole, given peace, physical and spiritual, temporal and transcendent. Those who receive the Servant King Messiah enter the eternal present. Though we die, yet will we live. The Hebrew “Musar shelomeinu” reads, “The chastisement that secures our peace”. There is everlasting security in the receipt of the sacrificial love of the Servant King Messiah.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” -Hebrews 19:22 (NIV)
“The next day Yochanan saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” -John 1:29
At a time yet future, all ethnic/religious Israel will look upon the Servant King Messiah and repent in mourning, acknowledging that for our sake He has been pierced (Zech. 12:10). Thus the redemption of the entire remnant of ethnic/religious Israel will take place through Messiah Yeshua at His second coming following the coming in of the fullness of the nations (Romans 11:25-26).
“Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” -Zechariah 12:10 (TLV)
“For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion.
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” -Romans 11:25-26 (TLV)
Isa 53:6 Kulanu All we katzon like sheep taiynu we have wandered, erred, staggered, gone astray; iysh each human being (man) ledarko to his own way paniynu we have turned; and HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) hifgiya has laid on him (caused him to encounter, make intercession for) et avon the perversity, depravity, guilt, iniquity of kulanu us all.
In reference to Genesis 49:11, the Jewish commentator R. Kahana writes:
"As the ass bears burdens, and the garments of travellers, so the King Messiah will bear upon him the sins of the whole world; as it is said, ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’”
- Apud Galatin. de Cathol. Ver. I. 10. c. 6. p. 663, and Siphre in ib. l. 8. c. 20. p. 599.
The righteous remnant of the people of Israel speak here of the nature of human beings, themselves included. This is a confession of the sin nature and its fruit. As is so often the case in the TaNakh (OT), Israel are figuratively referred to as sheep. However, what’s different here is that Israel self-identify as sheep who have strayed from the Shepherd’s (YHVH) instruction, guidance and the safe pasture of His kingdom. It is also literally true that the sin of Israel had been the reason for their being led into captivity. Thus, they physically strayed into Babylon, leaving the promised land of Israel behind them.
“For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” -1 Peter 2:25
“Each human being to his own way we have turned” Both as individuals and corporately human beings (iysh used in an iconic way) have fallen short of the holiness of God. Israel includes herself in this and acknowledges that she has turned to her “own way” rather than continuing in the “way of the Lord”.
“And Adonai has laid on him (caused him to encounter, make intercession for) the perversity, depravity, guilt, iniquity of us all.” The problem of sin is addressed here. Sin must be atoned for. A substitution must be made (Lev.17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Thus, the Servant becomes the vicarious sacrifice for Israel and all humanity. It is Adonai Himself that has laid the utter depravity of human sin on the Servant. Once again, Israel cannot be both those who have gone astray and the one on whom the sins of those who have gone astray are laid upon. Israel corporate is not the Servant. The Servant is an individual born of her on whom Adonai will lay the sins of Israel and of all humanity.
The core doctrine of the fallen nature of humanity is supported throughout Scripture:
“No one living is righteous before you.” -Psalm 143:2b
“Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning.” -Ecclesiastes 7:19
“For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.’” -Romans 3:9b-12 (Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” -Romans 3:23
“God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed (tormented), and he was afflicted, and did not open his mouth; kaseh like a lamb latevach led to the slaughter, ucheracheil and like a ewe lifneiy before the face of its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
“He was oppressed (tormented), and he was afflicted,” The Servant King Messiah suffered both physical and spiritual affliction.
“and did not open his mouth” This is repeated in the last clause. The firmly established humility and silence of the falsely accused Messiah is evident in the Brit HaChadashah (NT) account (Matt. 26:62-63, 27:12).
“Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a ewe before the face of its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” The NT references to Yeshua as the “Lamb of God” are born of the story of the Passover and Israel’s exodus from Egyptian bondage (Ex.12:3, 4, 7). The blood of the Pesach Lamb was painted on the door posts of Jewish homes as a symbol of God’s protection and deliverance of the family who lived within. Additionally, vicarious animal sacrifice is well established in the TaNakh (OT).
The extreme submissive behaviour of the Servant cannot be attributed to Israel as a nation. The nation of Israel has many virtues but suffering silently is not among them. Throughout our history we have resisted our oppressors. Even in the most heinous case of our persecution (the Shoah) the Holocaust, we resisted wherever possible. Therefore, as a nation Israel does not qualify for the position of Servant as described in Isaiah 53.
Isa 53:8 Meiotzer From restraint (prison, oppression) umishpat and judgment lukach he was seized, taken away; ve’et-doro and as for his generation, miy who yesocheicha has considered it? Kiy For nigzar he was cut off mei’eretz from the land chayiym of the living, mipesha for the transgression, rebellion amiy of My people nega lamo he was stricken (diseased, marked, plagued).
“From restraint (prison, oppression) and judgment he was seized, taken away”
He was not treated fairly with a proper trial. He was taken out of prison and summarily judged and sentenced to death contrary to both Jewish and Roman law.
“And as for his generation, who has considered it? For he was cut off from the land of the living” His generation refers to any for whom he might have been a progenitor. The Servant will have no physical children born of His natural seed. Why? Because He was cut off (murdered, killed) from the land (Israel, the earth) of living (the present world).
“He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression, rebellion of My people he was stricken (diseased, marked, plagued).” These words are prophesied spoken through Isaiah by the Spirit of God. Thus, Israel is called “My people” by both God Himself and the prophet. If the Servant is to be killed as a vicarious sacrifice for Isaiah’s people (Israel), He cannot be corporate Israel. The same is true of the ethnic/religious people of God. Israel (ethnic/religious) are God’s people. This latter clause shows clearly that the Servant is killed (cut off) as a substitutionary sacrifice (because of transgression) for Israel (My people).
Those who claim that the Hebrew “lamo” is solely plural are incorrect, it is used here to refer to the singular Servant in the same way it is used in the singular in Job 20:23, 22:2 and Isaiah 44:15.
“Philip ran up and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture that he was reading was this:
‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so He opens not His Mouth.
33 In His humiliation justice was denied Him.
Who shall recount His generation?
For His life is taken away from the earth.’
34 The eunuch replied to Philip, ‘Please tell me, who is the prophet talking about—himself or someone else?’ 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he proclaimed the Good News about Yeshua.” -Acts 8:30-35 (TLV)
“Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.” -John 10:17
Isa 53:9 And they made kivro his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no mirmah deceit in his mouth.
The Hebrew “kever” grave, is here used to describe the physical status of a dead body. Thus, the Servant’s physical death was like that of the wicked (albeit undeserved). This is why the subsequent phrase “and with a rich man in his death” is added in describing the nature of the Servant’s tomb.
“Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had also become a disciple of Yeshua. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for Yeshua’s body. Then Pilate ordered it to be given up. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. 60 And he laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a large stone up to the door of the tomb and went away.” -Matthew 27:57-60
Isa 53:10 Yet HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) chafeitz desired to bruise (crush) him; hecheliy He has put him to grief; im-tasiym with his appointment as an offering for guilt nafsho by his soul (life, being), yireh he will see his zera offspring; ya’ariych he will prolong his yamiym days; ve’cheifetz and the desire of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) beyado in his hand yitzlach will advance, rush, succeed, progress, prosper.
Iben Ezra says these words are spoken of the generation that shall return to God, and to the true religion, at the coming of the Messiah.
An old midrash says:
“The Messiah, in order to atone for them both (Adam & David), will make his soul a trespass offering; as it is written next to [prior to] this parashah [Isa.53:10], “Behold My Servamt” [Isa.52:13]. -Midrash Aseret Memrot
We note that the desire or will of Hashem begins and completes the verse. In order for the will of Hashem to bring redemption and the advancement of His kingdom, He must also will the means of that redemption, suffering in and with the Servant King Messiah for the sin of His people, and indeed, for all people.
“Yet HaShem desired to bruise (crush) him” This connects the present passage to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, where the Serpent Satan is said to bruise the heel of the Messiah. In the present text the bruising is ascribed to HaShem. Thus we understand that Satan is subject to HaShem and is allowed to act only according to God’s purposes for the redemption of His chosen.
“He has put him to grief; with his appointment as an offering for guilt by his soul (life, being)” The text could not be more clear. The Servant is to be a guilt offering, that is a substitutionary offering for the sins of others. He is to complete His atoning work by giving His very soul (life). “Asham” is a trespass offering that is distinct from every other sacrifice. It was made by an individual as a substitutionary compensation for any wrong doing committed by that person. It removed the person’s guilt and set them free (Lev. 5:15). The central tenant of this and many other sacrifices was the need to satisfy the justice demanded by the Holy God of Israel, Creator of the universe and God over all things.
“How much more shall the blood of Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” -Hebrews9:14
“Him who knew no sin He made to be a sin offering on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
“and walk in love, even as Messiah also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odour of a sweet smell.” -Ephesians 5:2
“He will see his offspring; he will prolong his days” The “seed” (offspring) in question are spiritual seed (Psalm 22:30; Isa. 65:25; Malachi 2:15): those who receive Him. We know this because Yeshua Himself explained that the resurrected do not procreate (Luke 20:34-36). “He will prolong His days” is a figurative way of describing the Olam Haba (World to come).
“Certainly, certainly, I say to you, except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abides by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” -John 12:24
“His seed also will I make to endure for ever, And his throne as the days of heaven.” -Psalm 89:29
“The desire of HaShem in his hand will advance” In the hand (actions) of the resurrected Servant King Messiah the desire of HaShem will advance. The Servant, a son of Israel, will thus make it possible for Israel to fulfil her calling to be a light to the nations (Isa.49:6). The Spirit will be poured out and the kingdom of God will grow and await the Messiah’s return, the final resurrection and the Olam Haba (World to come).
Isa 53:11 Meiamal From the anguish of nafsho his soul yireh he will see and be satisfied; bedato by the knowledge (perception, skill, understanding, wisdom, discernment) of Him yatzdiyk tzadiyk avdiy the righteous one, My servant, larabiym will justify many, va’avonotam and their iniquities (depravity, perversity, guilt) hu he yisbil shall bear.
“From the anguish of his soul he will see and be satisfied” The Servant King Messiah will look back on His suffering and death, and resurrected He will see the resulting fruit of His anguish and be satisfied.
“looking to Yeshua the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2
“By the knowledge of Him the righteous one, My servant, will justify many, and their iniquities he shall bear.” The Servant King Messiah will justify “many”, not only Israelites (ethnic/religious) but also people from the nations. They will be justified through the knowledge of Him. Not just mental assent but true knowledge learned in relationship through practiced faith placed in Him.
“Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.” -Daniel 9:24
The Servant King Messiah’s ministry of bearing the sin of many goes beyond the finished work of His death and resurrection to His continued work as the Great High Priest Mediator for all who believe (Hebrews 8:6).
“As through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” -Romans 5:19
Isa 53:12 Lachein Therefore, achalek I will divide him barabiym among the many, ve’et and from the atzumiym strong (mighty, numerous) he shall divide the spoil, tachat asher for the sake of (beneath) which he’erah he poured out lamavet to death, nafsho his soul ve’et-posheiym and with the transgressors was numbered; vehu and he cheit-rabiym nasa bore the sin of many, velaposheiym and for the transgressors yafgiya made intercession.
“Therefore, I will divide him among the many” This opening phrase uses the Hebrew “rabiym” which can be understood as “great ones” or “many”. The same word is used at the end of the verse and refers to the many believers who will receive the forgiveness of sin through the Messiah’s finished work. Therefore, it seems unlikely that “rabiym” refers to “men of stature, kings, politicians, religious leaders” as some suggest. The more consistent understanding is that the body of the Servant King Messiah’s is divided among the “many” in Israel and among the nations, who, later in the verse are interceded for by the Servant. That is, those who receive Him.
“And from the strong (mighty, numerous) he shall divide the spoil” Here, the “mighty” may refer to the men of stature of 52:15. The Servant Messiah will one day yet future divide the spoils of all the mighty rulers of the earth.
“for the sake of (beneath) which he poured out to death, his soul” For the sake of the many and the strong, the Servant will pour out His life unto death.
“And with the transgressors was numbered” The Servant was crucified as a criminal in spite of the fact that He was innocent and there were no legitimate legal reasons for His execution (Matt. 27:38).
“And he bore the sin of many, and for the transgressors made intercession.” Even as He was dying on the cross the Servant King Messiah Yeshua spoke words, not of vengeance or hatred but of intercession:
“But Yeshua was saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots, dividing up His clothing.” -Luke 23:34 (TLV)
The Servant King Messiah Yeshua continues to make intercession today for all who put their trust in Him:
“But now Yeshua has obtained a more excellent ministry, insofar as He is the mediator of a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises.” -Hebrews 8:6 (TLV)
© 2019 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.