I pray that you are blessed and encouraged in your walk with Christ as you work through these lessons and read the insightful comments made by other ministers doing the course. That your love for Christ Jesus will deepen and your commitment strengthen. That your faith will prove genuine and endure to the end with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as we receive the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
Each lesson is linked below, to make it easier to work through the whole course…
This course is focused on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach. We begin by developing an understanding of the world He was born into, and how it had been shaped in preparation for His coming – looking at the developments in Judaism from the Babylonian exile until the rule of Rome, and how the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophesies elicited strong expectations of Messiah’s coming.
In SECTION 2 we take an in-depth look at Jesus’ life in the context of this culture which we have seen develop in the centuries leading up to His birth. As language is an essential part of culture, names in this course are often written in their original Hebrew (along with the English translations that most of us are more familiar with).
Spring is approaching. It is the last months of Yeshua’s ministry. He is still in, or around, Jerusalem in His homeland of Judea (forHe was born in Bethlehem), right under the noses of the religious leaders who were feeling so threatened by Him, and the masses kept gathering and gathering to follow Him. Των μυριαδων του οχλου = myriads of people. A μυριάδων (myriad) is literally ten thousand, so myriads would literally mean more than twenty thousand, but the word is often used figuratively to signify a crowd or multitude too numerable to be counted. There had been no waning in Yeshua’s popularity, indeed it kept increasing, thereby increasing the threat felt by the Jewish leaders. Their sense of threat was not just envy that He was more popular than they, there was a genuine fear of what the Romans would do if this growing movement aroused their attention, and this was the largest group of people to gather around Yeshua thus far. Everyone was jostling to get closer to Him, to hear His words, to touch His garment, to make contact with this Son of Man who brought hope.
In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:1-3 NKJV
Fear leads to hypocrisy as people seek to hide what is in their hearts. These religious leaders who made such a show of building lavish tombs for the prophets of old were, behind closed doors, rejecting the One those prophets had foretold and plotting to kill the Son of God. Notice that this warning against hypocrisy was directed firstly to our Lord’s talmidim (disciples), those who would in time become the leaders of the early church. They would face the same temptations to hypocrisy that had ensnared the Pharisees and Torah experts. They needed to be diligent in guarding themselves against such. Likewise, all who would follow them into leadership in the body of Christ need to guard against hypocrisy in our own lives. It is a warning for us as much as it was for them. Yeshua promises to make the hypocrites fail – to unmask for all to see what they are hiding. He loves us too much to allow any evil to remain hidden where it can continue and grow. We see the fulfilment of this promise in every church scandal that is exposed.
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell (Gehenna); yes, I say to you, fear Him! Luke 12:4-5 NKJV
Yeshua encouraged His followers that there’s no need to fear the Romans, nor even their own religious leaders, but let the fear of God banish all these other fears. Gehenna (גי הנםGê Hinnom, Valley of Hinnom) was a Hebrew word, and corresponded primarily to Hebrew conceptions. The Valley of Hinnom, was originally a pleasant valley outside Jerusalem, which had first been rendered infamous by the child sacrifices of Molech worship; then defiled by Josiah with corpses; and lastly kept from putrefaction by large fires to consume the corpses and prevent pestilence. This once fair valley, thus successively defiled with hideous corrupting rites, by putrefying corpses, and then with blazing fires lit to consume what would otherwise have occasioned pestilence, was taken by rabbinical writers as a symbol for the place of torment.
Notice that Yeshua addresses this warning to His friends. It was not so much a rebuke as an encouragement to look beyond their current circumstances and lay aside the fear of man for the fear of God. We can respond poorly when it feels like our life has been ripped from our control and placed in the hand of others with evil intent. Yeshua here reminds us that we are not really in the hands of those who may be seeking to do us harm, rather we remain for all eternity in God’s hands – don’t focus on how much control ungodly men have over our temporal destiny, instead focus on how much control God has over our eternal destiny. Be a God-fearer, not a man-fearer.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
The One who has control over our eternal destiny greatly loves us, and cares about every detail of our lives, to the extent of keeping a count of the number of hairs on our head. Yes, He cares more about us than we care about ourselves.
Our creator cares deeply for all of His creation, even tiny sparrows that we place so little value on. So do not fear, even if your life is threatened, even if your enemy seems to be succeeding against you, even when you are unjustly treated, do not fear because God loves you and He is greater than all.
“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.
Yeshua is continuing on the theme of the fear of God overcoming the fear of man. He is preparing His followers to face the false accusations and judgments of those leaders in their community whose hearts are hardened against Messiah. When men try to judge and sentence you for following Yeshua, remember that God Himself will judge and sentence them. Better to be condemned by man than condemned by God – for God can surely rescue you from man’s judgment, but none can rescue from His judgment.
Yeshua warned here that those who deny Him before men (as Peter would later do – three times) will be denied before the angels of God. Yet, Peter’s example shows us that this sin is completely forgivable, we can be totally restored after such even as Peter was. To deny Christ is an act of weakness, an act of fear. All such can be repented of and forgiven, restoring us to fullness in Christ Jesus.
Then Yeshua moves from an act of weak fear to an act of pride – from denying Him to attempting to denounce Him by blaspheming the Holy Spirit, declaring that the works which testify to Yeshua’s union with the Father (John 3:2, John 5:36, John 10:25, 32 & 38, Matthew 11:4-6) are displays of demonic power.
To equate the Holy Spirit of the Most High God with the work of other gods is to undercut the fundamental thesis of the biblical text; namely, that the God of Israel is infinitely superior to all other gods. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in three of the gospels, Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:22-30; and here in Luke 12:10. It is prideful judgment and slander willing to go to any lengths to denounce the son of God being attacked; a willful, wide-eyed slandering of the work of the Spirit, attributing to the devil what was undeniably divine. The miracles Yeshua performed were credentials of heaven, they were “the works of My Father” (John 10:38) that gave evidence that “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.“. The religious leaders pridefully declared these good works to be the credentials of hell. They could not deny that many real, significant miracles which benefited their recipients were performed by Yeshua, so the only way they could discredit Him was to discredit the source of His power – the Holy Spirit.
Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:8-12 NKJV
This exhortation to the multitude now following Yeshua reflected His instructions to the twelve when He sent them out in Matthew 10:18-19. The same Holy Spirit that was evident in all the good works of the Father that Yeshua was doing will teach them, and us, what to say when we need it. Not only do we have no need to fear the outcome of any persecution or trial, we need have no fear of the process or of our own inadequacy to handle that process well, for the Holy Spirit will teach us in the moment what we need for that moment. The book of Acts later recorded several instances of this – both with the apostles and with other followers of Christ.
And someone from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Watch out and be on your guard against every form of greed, for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you prepared?’ So is the one who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21 LSB
And someone from the crowd.—Better, one of the multitude. The request implied a recognition of Yeshua’s stature as a scribe or Rabbi, but it was for the purpose of asking Him to assume the legal stature of that office on this man’s behalf. Yeshua had been teaching them of things pertaining to eternal life and this man’s only thought concerned things pertaining to this world. As interpreters of the Law, the scribes were appealed to as advocates and arbitrators in questions of property or marriage. The precise nature of the case is not stated here because it is irrelevant. Although the time will come when He judges all the world, Messiah had come this time not to judge but to save mankind from our sin. Skillfully, He redirected attention back to eternal things.
And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his life span? Therefore, if you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek, but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom.Sell your possessions and give it as charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:22-34 LSB
Yeshua’s focus shifts from the man who wanted Him to judge on his behalf, to His disciples as He continues on the theme of seeking God’s kingdom instead of worrying about the things of this world – reminding them once again of His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34.)
“Gird up your loins, and keep your lamps lit. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find awake when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” Now Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many beatings, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a beating, will receive but a few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Luke 12:35-48 LSB
Yeshua encourages us to be awake, alert, prepared for service and meeting the needs of others. Those who serve faithfully will be served by the very King of kings.
In response to Peter’s question as to whether this was just for them or for everyone Yeshua responded affirming the blessings for those who have been put in charge and faithfully serve their charges while warning that their punishment will be much more severe if they start satisfying their own lusts. Even those who have been given the privilege of leadership will be assigned a place with the unbelievers if they serve themselves instead of those they are called to lead.
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:49-53 NIV
Yeshua reminded His disciples of exhortations He had given them when He first apostello‘d them in Matthew 10:34-36 (Sent Out – Renewal Blog). Although He brought a message of peace with God, the uncompromising nature of that peace would bring much conflict with all who refused to repent and submit to it.
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Luke 12:54-56 NIV
“This present time” was the day of their visitation with invitation to salvation through repentance and faith.
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Luke 12:57-59 NIV
It was not that they did not know what was right, but that they did not act on their knowledge. The call to repentance had been sounded loud and clear through both John the Baptizer and Yeshua the Son of God “try hard to be reconciled on the way“. There was an urgency in the hour, the time was now to repent and follow their Messiah but instead many were passing unrighteous judgment on the preachers of repentance and it was this unrighteous judgment that would lead to the conflict even within families that Yeshua was warning them of.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. 4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020. 5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online] https://lsbible.org/. 6. Bible Commentaries. Luke 12:5. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: December 27th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/12-5.htm. 7. Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary. Luke 12:1. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: December 28th, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentary/luke/12-1.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What were the important things Jesus wanted His disciples to learn in the midst of this huge crowd? * Why was Jesus unwilling to act as judge between the man and his brother? * What is it about Jesus’ message that leads to conflict between people?
Yeshua had one last interaction with the Jewish religious leaders during the winter festival of Hanukkah. There, in the Temple, in the sheltered area of Solomon’s porch, the Light of the World taught the people as the religious leaders surrounded Him, attempting to intimidate Him, ensuring He had no means of escape when they questioned His divinity claims:
The Jews surrounded him. They asked him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” John 10:24ESV
Yeshua’s answer finished with the declaration: “The Father and I are One” and in response…
31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.
32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
Yeshua’s reply in quoting from Psalm 82 basically declared “I am not only a man.” As in so many other times in scripture, Yeshua did not restrict Himself to answering their question, but stuck to His agenda of teaching the people why they could have complete confidence in Him and His mission.
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If He called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of Him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. John 10:31-39 ESV
Remember, Yeshua was speaking to men who had the scriptures memorized and spent their days debating their meaning and applications. So, He would say part of a verse and expect them to instantly think of the whole passage and all other related passages. This time He quoted from Psalm 82, letting them know that He belongs to the divine realm and the Father had sent Him down from the divine council to inherit all the nations.
God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall inherit all the nations! Psalm 82:1-8 ESV
Yeshua’s answer in quoting from Psalm 82 implied a rabbinic style kal v’chomer (light and heavy) argument: if A is true then B must all the more so be true. If it is hard to lift a big rock it is so much harder to lift a huge boulder. If even these members of the divine council who were doing evil works as they judged unjustly are “elohim” (gods), how much more is Yeshua who does good works; and if these spirits which do evil works are “sons of the Most High“, how much more does the description “Son of God” apply to Yeshua who does the good works of His Father!
WHAT IS THE DIVINE COUNCIL? The scriptures often use imagery of the natural in order to describe the supernatural. Thus, God’s throne room is described in terms of a king’s court, with the king’s sons (who would inherit the throne after he was gone) being the second tier of leadership and whomever the king called for each session being present to witness, discuss and receive orders to carry out his decrees. In this imagery, the term “divine council” refers to the heavenly host, the administrative body of divine beings (elohim) in the heavenly realm who manage the affairs of the cosmos under God’s authority. Yahweh is the Most High, the king of the universe and head of the divine council. He has created spiritual children in His likeness (elohim) and earthly children in His likeness (mankind). While Yahweh has no need of either, He is totally self-sufficient, yet He delights to have His creation work with Him on His projects. So, He has chosen to delegate some of His authority to elohim in the heavenly realm, and to humans in the earthly realm in order to carry out His will.
ELOHIM: The word (יםלהֹא / elohim), which is translated as God or gods in English, refers to a divine being or beings, that is, residents of the heavenly (spiritual) realm. In Hebrew, plurals of masculine nouns end with -im. While the word elohim is plural in form, its meaning can be either plural or singular just like the word “sheep” in English can be either plural or singular depending on the surrounding grammar. Most often (over 2,000 times) in the Hebrew Bible elohim is singular, referring to the unique Most High God of Israel, Yahweh. However, elohim is also used in the plural to refer to any other inhabitants of the spiritual realm – members of Yahweh‘s heavenly council (Psalm 82:1,6), gods and goddesses of other nations (Judges 11:24, 1 Kings 11:33), angels (Psalm 8:5) and demons (Hebrew: shedim Deuteronomy 32:17).
Yahweh stands above all the other elohim, there is none like Him! “Who is like you among the gods [elim], Yahweh?” (Exod. 15:11) “‘What god [el] is there in the heaven or on the earth who can do according to Your works and according to Your mighty deeds?’ ” (Deut. 3:24) “O Yahweh, God of Israel, there is no god [elohim] like You in the heavens above or on the earth beneath” (1 Kgs. 8:23). “For You, O Yahweh, are Most High over all the earth. You are highly exalted above all gods [elohim]” (Psalm 97:9). Yahweh alone is all-powerful (Jer. 32:17, 27; Pss. 72:18; 115:3); sovereign king over the other elohim (Psa. 95:3; Dan. 4:35; 1 Kgs. 22:19); creator of all, including the other members of the divine council (Psa. 148:1–5; Neh. 9:6; cf. Job 38:7; Deut. 4:19–20; 17:3; 29:25–26; 32:17; Jas. 1:17); and the only Elohim who deserves worship from the other elohim (Psa. 29:1).
SONS OF GOD: The scriptures depict the spiritual realm as having a hierarchical structure. Yahweh is God and supreme authority over all. A second tier of lesser elohim in the divine council are also called sons of God (beney ha’elohim, or beney elohim) or sons of the Most High (beney elyon). In the Tanakh the term sons of God always refers to elohim (spirit beings). Genesis 6:2,4 describes some of these sons of God sinning. Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-7 describes Satan (the adversary) coming among the sons of God to stand before Yahweh and discuss the deeds of men. Job 38:7 describes the sons of God shouting with joy when Yahweh laid the foundation of the earth. Deuteronomy 32:8 describes God’s judgment involving dividing up the peoples and allocating them to the sons of God when He confused their languages at the Tower of Babel. In Psalm 82:6 Yahweh calls the elohim He is addressing sons of the Most High when rebuking them for unrighteous rule over man.
In the New Testament sons of God always refers to Yeshua‘s followers (Matthew 5:9, Luke 20:36 and Romans 8:14 & 19) – in Christ we have been elevated to this exalted position in the Kingdom of Heaven (Do you not know that we will judge angels? 1 Corinthians 6:3).
ANGELS: Although angel strictly means messenger, the word is often used more generically in referring to spiritual beings, including the sons of God. The Septuagint, first translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek (dated around the middle of the third century BC), translated the Hebrew terms מלאך אלהים (mal’āk̠ ‘ĕlōhîm; “messenger of God“), מלאך יהוה (mal’āk̠ Yahweh; “messenger of the LORD“), בני אלהים (bənē ‘ĕlōhîm; “sons of God“) and הקודשים (haqqôd̠əšîm; “the holy ones“) to the Greek ángelos, which is translated as angels in English. This rendering was generally carried through into the New Testament.
WATCHERS: The term for “watcher” is from Aramaic, one of the few times in the Tanakh that Aramaic is used instead of Hebrew. It is only used in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4. ‘I was looking in the visions in my head as I lay on my bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven. … “This edict is by the resolution of the watchers, and the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know that the Most High is the powerful ruler over the kingdom of mankind and gives it to whom He wishes and sets up over it the lowliest of men.” Daniel 4:13, 17 LSB. Noncanonical second temple Jewish literature such as Enoch and Jubilees elaborate in detail regarding the watchers and equate them with the sons of God who produced children with the daughters of men in Genesis 6.
ARCHANGEL: There is only one archangel named in Scripture: Michael. He is mentioned in Jude 1:9. The voice of the archangel is heard in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, with no mention of his name. In Daniel 10:13, 21 and 12:1, Michael is described as an angelic prince. Revelation 12:7 describes war between Michael and his angels and the devil and angels, suggesting that Michael’s role included leading other angels in warfare.
SERAPHIM: (singular seraph) means “fiery” or “bright.” We see them in Isaiah 6:1–4: “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”
CHERUBIM: (singular cherub) are mentioned numerous times in Scripture, often in relation to guarding the place of God’s presence. After Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, cherubim were placed there to guard the entrance (Genesis 3:24). The likeness of two cherubim adorned the cover of the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18 –20; 37:7 –9; 1 Samuel 4:4) and there were many representations of cherubim in the temple (Exodus 25:17-22; 26:1, 31; 36:8; 1 Kings 6:23-35; 7:29-36; 8:6-7; 1 Chronicles 28:18; 2 Chronicles 3:7-14; 2 Chronicles 3:10-13; 5:7-8; Hebrews 9:5). David sings a song of praise to God in which he says that God “mounted the cherubim and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11). When Ezekiel sees the glory of God leaving the temple, he also sees cherubim carrying the throne of God (Ezekiel 10). In verse 14, the cherubim are described as having four faces, those of a cherub, a human being, a lion, and an eagle. Prior to his rebellion, Satan was a guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-15).
We see evidence of the divine council‘s operation in Job 1:6-12 (Now it was the day that the sons of God came to stand before Yahweh, and Satan also came among them. And Yahweh said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” Then Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you set your heart upon My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” And Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Does Job fear God without cause? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But send forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then Yahweh said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand, only do not send forth your hand toward him.” So Satan went out from the presence of Yahweh.), Job 2:1-7 (Again it was the day that the sons of God came to stand before Yahweh, and Satan also came among them to stand himself before Yahweh. And Yahweh said to Satan, “Where do you come from?” Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” And Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you set your heart upon My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity. So you incited Me against him to swallow him up in vain.” Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, send forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You in Your face.” So Yahweh said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life.”Then Satan went out from the presence of Yahweh…), 1 Kings 22:19-22 (Then Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of Yahweh. I saw Yahweh sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. And Yahweh said, ‘Who will entice Ahab so that he will go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before Yahweh and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You shall entice him and also prevail. Go out and do so.’), Nehemiah 9:6 (You alone are Yahweh. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down to You.), Daniel 7:9-10 & 13-14 (“I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His clothing was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with fire, its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.… “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and came near before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every tongue might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not be taken away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”)and in Psalm 82, which begins: “God (יםלהֹא / elohim) stands in the council of El/the divine council (לת־אדע ); among the gods (יםלהֹא / elohim) He passes judgment.” Psalm 89:5-7, places the God of Israel “in the assembly of the holy ones” (להקב יםשֹדק) and then asks “For who in the clouds (קחשב) can be compared to Yahweh? Who is like Yahweh among the sons of God (יםלא יֵנב), a God (יםלהֹא / elohim) greatly feared in the council of the holy ones (יםשֹדוד־קֹסב).”
SATAN, DEMONS AND FALLEN ANGELS: To understand who and what these are and where they came from, we need to go back to Genesis. This book of beginnings describes three rebellions against God that included both spiritual and earthly actors and affected all humanity before God entered into covenant with Abraham. Through inciting such rebellion, Satan sort to destroy God’s plans of having people display His splendor and rule the earth with Him, gradually extending the Garden of Eden out to cover all the earth. From the third of these rebellions came the situation addressed in Psalm 82, where elohim who had been set over the nations were being rebuked for ruling the people unjustly.
FIRST REBELLION – THE FALL Genesis 3 God created Heavenly beings, elohim, before He laid the foundations of the earth. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7 Like man, they were given free will but, unlike man, they are eternal beings that cannot pro-create with one another (Matt. 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:35-36), each is God’s direct creation. The first of these elohim to rebel was an anointed guardian cherub manifested as a serpent in the Garden of Eden and tempted Eve, and through her, Adam, to likewise rebel against their creator. All of us are descended from these rebels.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. Genesis 1:26-29 ESV
… the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. … The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:7-10, 15-17 ESV
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:1-24 ESV
The Garden of Eden was the center of God’s governance over the earth, it was the place where the divine and earthly realms joined. It was God’s temple (dwelling place) on earth and God had assigned Adam and Eve to tend and care for His earthly habitation and to multiply so they could extend this garden, and their representation of His reign, over all the earth.
Before God created everything on earth, He created spiritual beings (elohim) in heaven (the spiritual realm). One of these chose to rebel against God and seek to rule over this new creation of His. Through deception this serpent accused God of lying and enticed Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil. Ezekiel alludes to this rebellion in his diatribe against the prince of Tyre:“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God […] you were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones” (28:12–14). In the temple God had these guardian cherubs depicted as part of the ark of the covenant, being made of beaten gold, and therefore were with it anointed, and were very large, and covered the mercy-seat with their wings. Later in the oracle, Ezekiel tells us of this guardian cherub developing a pride problem and being punished and cast to the earth: “So I drove you in disgrace from the mountain of God and I banished you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart grew proud of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor; so I cast you to the earth; I made you a spectacle before kings“ (28:16-17). He who had been so beautiful, important and close to God was now cast out of the Divine Council and banished from God’s glorious presence. Isaiah likewise compared the arrogant king of Babylon to a particularly ambitious divine being who attempted a coup in the Divine Council: How you have fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O destroyer of nations. You said in your heart: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the far reaches of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you will be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit (14:12-15 ESV). Genesis 3 describes this punishment as: “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life”. The nachash [Hebrew word translated “serpent” in our Bible], who wanted to be ‘most high,’ was cast to ʾerets, a Hebrew term that can refer literally to the dirt and metaphorically to the underworld. This rebel was cast away from God and His Divine Council, down to earth, and even under the earth. His domain is death and thus he reigns over all who are destined to die. This fallen guardian cherub became the arch enemy of life, love and truth. Although Satan had won a temporary victory over the woman, God declared that her seed (offspring) will crush his head in utter victory.
SECOND REBELLION – UNHOLY UNIONS Genesis 6 So it was that the second rebellion involved an attack on “the seed of the woman” as some of the “sons of God” (angels) left their holy abode, clothed themselves in flesh, took “daughters of men” and produced hybrid offspring with them.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in (or My Spirit shall not contend with) man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” (warning 120 yrs until all would be destroyed by the flood) The Nephilim (giants) were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:1-8 ESV
So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” Numbers 13: 32-33 ESV
And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. … “Then we turned and went up the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people and his land into your hand. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’ So the Lord our God gave into our hand Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people, and we struck him down until he had no survivor left. And we took all his cities at that time—there was not a city that we did not take from them—sixty cities, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides very many unwalled villages. And we devoted them to destruction, as we did to Sihon the king of Heshbon, devoting to destruction every city, men, women, and children. But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as our plunder. So we took the land at that time out of the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon(the Sidonians call Hermon Sirion, while the Amorites call it Senir),all the cities of the tableland and all Gilead and all Bashan, as far as Salecah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. (For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits (A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters) was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit.) Deuteronomy 2:19-22, 3:1-11 ESV
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but held them captive in Tartarus with chains of darkness and handed them over to be kept for judgment, and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a proclaimer of righteousness, and seven others when He brought a flood on the world of the ungodly… 2 Peter 2:4-10 …And the angels who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling place, He has kept in eternal bonds under deep gloom for the judgment of the great day… Jude 5-7
Not only were the hybrid offspring born of these unions’ violent giants (Genesis 6:2-4, Enoch 6:1-4 & 7:2-6), but what men learnt from the “sons of God” led to “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The Torah doesn’t say anything specific about this wickedness, but early Jewish interpretation fills in the gaps with an entire cycle of stories regarding these angels and their sinful behavior, stories that both Peter and Jude alluded to in their epistles. The earliest work addressing pre-flood angelic sin is the Book of the Watchers (250-200 BCE), which now makes up chapters 1-36 of the book of 1 Enoch. 1 Enoch 7:1 has the angels teaching humans charms and spells to facilitate disloyalty to Yahweh, then Enoch 8:1-2 describes an angel teaching men how to make weapons of war, thus facilitating human’s self-destruction, and lustful adornment thus facilitating impiety, fornication and corruption. Whereas the surrounding nations viewed such knowledge as the cornerstone of their civilization, the Jews recognized it’s destructive nature.
Genesis 6:4 pointedly informs readers that the Nephilim were on earth before the Flood “and also afterward.” Although the flood wiped out the Nephilim and devastating evil of the peoples at that time, it appears that a smaller number of angels came down and produced offspring at some time after the flood and these continued to pro-create. Numbers 13:32-33, states that the oversized descendants of Anak “came from theNephilim.” The sons of Anak, the Anakim, were one of the giant clans described in the conquest narratives (e.g., Deuteronomy 2:10–11, 320-21, 3:1-11; Joshua 11:21–22; 14:12, 15). It is worth noting that the only peoples the Israelites were commanded to destroy were those who contained descendants of the Nephilim, Moses and Joshua destroyed all of these except for those who went and hid among the Philistines, and David killed the last of these, cleansing the earth.
ORIGIN OF DEMONS According to the Jewish interpretation prominent in the second temple period, the Nephilim and their descendants had all been killed but their spirits, deriving from immortal heavenly beings (the angels), could not be destroyed, nor return to heaven. They remain connected to earth as evil spirits, wreaking havoc among humankind and causing both physical evil (such as disease) and moral evil (sin): And now the giants who were born from spirits and flesh will be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth will be their dwelling. And evil spirits came out from their flesh because from above they were created; from the holy Watchers was their origin and first foundation. Evil spirits they will be on the earth, and spirits of the evil ones they will be called. And the dwelling of the spirits of heaven is in heaven, but the dwelling of the spirits of earth, who were born on the earth, [is] on earth. And the spirits of the giants . . . which do wrong and are corrupt, and attack and fight and break on the earth, and cause sorrow; and they eat no food and do not thirst, and are not observed. And these spirits will rise against the sons of men and against the women because they came out [from them]. (1 Enoch 7:8-12) This story is developed further in the Book of Jubilees, and is reflected in Qumran prayer and incantations that deride the “bastards,” that is, the evil spirits who are the result of the illicit union of angels and human women (as in 4Q510-511, 4Q444, and 11Q11 V.5-11).
GENESIS 6Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark … 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. …22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him. GENESIS 7Then Yahweh said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this generation.2 You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean, two, a male and his female;3 also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep their seed alive on the face of all the earth.4 For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.”5 And Noah did according to all that Yahweh had commanded him.6 Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth.7 Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood.8 Of clean animals and animals that are not clean and birds and everything that creeps on the ground,9 by twos they came to Noah into the ark, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.10 Now it happened after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth.11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on this day all the fountains of the great deep split open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.12 Then the rain came upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.13 On this very day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark,14 they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind—every fowl, every winged creature.15 So they came to Noah into the ark, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life.16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and Yahweh closed it behind him.17 Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water multiplied and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.18 And the water prevailed and multiplied greatly upon the earth, and the ark went on the surface of the water.19 And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains under all the heavens were covered.20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.21 And all flesh that moved on the earth breathed its last, that is birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, as well as all mankind.22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life—of all that was on the dry land—died.23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah remained, and those that were with him in the ark.24 And the water prevailed upon the earth 150 days.
GENESIS 8Then God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark… and at the end of 150 days the water decreased.4 In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. ….13 Now it happened in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up.14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying,16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you…. 20 Then Noah built an altar to Yahweh and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.21 And Yahweh smelled the soothing aroma; and Yahweh said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done… GENESIS 9And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth… Then God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am giving to be between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations;13 I put My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.14 And it will be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.16 So the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
THIRD REBELLION – TOWER OF BABEL Genesis 11 In the days of Noah’s great, great, great grandson, Peleg, while Noah and his three sons who had been through the flood with him, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, were still alive, the people were multiplying quickly and the whole extended family migrated east, down from the mountains and into the fertile valley of Shinar (the southern region of Mesopotamia.) There they rebelled against God’s command to disperse and fill the earth and sort instead to congregate in one large city built around a massive tower in defiance of God, resulting in God disinheriting them and giving them over to what they desired – the rule of other gods.
Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
Genesis 10:6-25 6The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. … 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. … 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel… 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. …. 24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. 25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided.
Genesis 11:1-9 “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to each other, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone and they had tar for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top reaches to the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ Then Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower that humankind was building. And Yahweh said, ‘Behold, they are one people with one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. So now nothing that they intend to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand each other’s language.’ So Yahweh scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, for there Yahweh confused the language of the whole earth, and there Yahweh scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
Deuteronomy 32:8-9 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He divided mankind, He fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
Romans 1:18-25, 28 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, both His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the likeness of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. … And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to an unfit mind, to do those things which are not proper.
Deuteronomy 4:19-20 “And do this so that you do not lift your eyes toward heaven and observe the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of the heaven, and be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that Yahweh your God has allotted to all of the peoples under all of the heaven. But Yahweh has taken you and brought you out from the furnace of iron, from Egypt, to be a people of inheritance to Him, as it is this day.”
Genesis 12:1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Psalm 82 God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men (Adam) you shall die, and fall like any prince (OR: fall like one of the shining ones),” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall inherit all the nations!
Isaiah 24: 21-22 In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days.
Psalm 86:9 O Lord, there is none like You among the gods, nor any works like Yours
Psalm 95:3 For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods.
Exodus 15:11 Who among the gods is like You, O Lord? Who is like You – majestic in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders?
Man’s punishment for the first rebellion was death – expulsion from the Garden of Eden – and the serpent was cursed, brought low and set at enmity with the woman and her offspring, who would crush his head. The second rebellion brought such violent, destructive depravity to man that all but Noah and his family were killed by flood, but God gave the rainbow as a promise that He would never again wipe out everything through flood. While Noah and his sons were still alive, the population of earth grew rapidly and once again rebelled against God – He told them to multiply and fill the earth and they decided instead to build a massive city and tower to keep from being scattered over the earth and reach the heavens to connect once again with the sons of God as before the flood so as to make a name for themselves. There is evidence in the scripture, and it’s interpreted as such in the Talmud, that one of Noah’s great grandsons, Nimrod, whose name is related to the Hebrew word for rebel, had risen to leadership over all the people at this time “he was the first on earth to be a mighty man” – ie king / emperor.
What was put to death in response to this third rebellion of mankind was the first empire. You can control people who speak the same language – institute a system of encouraging everyone to spy on everyone else and report any conversations that are considered “unacceptable”. All that falls apart the moment each group of people has their own language and can neither be understood by, nor understand, anyone in any other group. But that’s not all God did, split them into 70 different language groups (the number 70 comes from the Table of Nations in Genesis 10), He also disinherited them and gave all the resultant nations over to the guardianship of sons of God. In Deuteronomy 32:8-9, as in Romans 1:21-32, God gave humankind over to their persistent rebellion and that which they were lusting after – they had persistently shown a distain for living as His people under His rule, so He disinherited them and allotted them to the lordship of lesser elohim. Genesis 10 gives us the Table of Nations – 70 descendants of Noah whom the peoples were divided into to spread out and form all the nations of the world. Each extended family group now freely discussed things privately between themselves and decided to travel on to where they could worship their god and live as they chose. Hence the world is not only filled with different languages, but the worship of different gods as well. But Yahweh still had a plan for the redemption of all peoples in all nations.
This disinheriting of humankind was not to be a permanent state of affairs – God was about to call Abram (who was of the last generation born during Peleg’s lifetime) to father a new nation as God’s own possession and cause all peoples on earth to be blessed by this nation belonging exclusively to Yahweh. Israel was to bless all the nations and peoples by showing them what blessings and healthy society they could have if they chose to come back under the lordship of the Most High. Israel was also to become the conduit through which Messiah would come to crush the serpent’s head, defeat death and bring all peoples back into direct relationship with Yahweh. In Psalm 82, which Yeshua quotes from in John 10:34, God rebukes the elohim (gods) for unrighteous rule over the peoples and declares that ALL the nations will be returned to Him- this was part of Yeshua’s mission as messiah. After His death and resurrection Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. The gods that had been in charge of all the different people groups no longer had that authority – Yeshua had defeated death and earned authority over all the nations and so commanded His disciples: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Yeshua was surrounded by His enemies who were angered by His declaration of being in the Father, “theFather is in Me and I am in the Father“, as head of the Divine Council, yet He escaped from their hands because His time was not yet. They had convinced themselves that they were being faithful to God as they sort to kill His beloved Son. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?“ Jeremiah 17:9.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. 4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020. 5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online] https://lsbible.org/. 6. Heiser, Michael S. Who Are the Elohim? The Answer Might Rattle Your Theology. Logos. [Online] July 20th, 2021. https://www.logos.com/grow/who-are-elohim/. 7. Staff, Logos. Satan in the Bible: 14 Sobering Facts about the Devil. Logos. [Online] August 17th, 2021. https://www.logos.com/grow/satan-in-the-bible/. 8. Linscomb, Dennis. Sons of God and the Divine Council in the Bible. Academia. [Online] January 21st, 2020. https://www.academia.edu/41667327/Sons_of_God_and_the_Divine_Council_in_the_Bible. 9. Heiser, Michael S. Who Are the Nephilim and What Is Their Origin? Logos Biblical Studies. [Online] May 28th, 2021. https://www.logos.com/grow/who-or-what-were-the-nephilim/. 10. Levenson, Jon D. Did Jews Really Believe There Were Two Gods in Heaven? Mosaic Magazine – Advanced Jewish Thought. [Online] Auguat 4th, 2020. https://mosaicmagazine.com/observation/religion-holidays/2020/08/did-jews-really-believe-there-were-two-gods-in-heaven/. 11. Stern, David H.Jewish New Testament Commentary. Maryland : Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992. ISBN 13 978-965-359-008-3. 12. Heiser, Michael S.Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers & The Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ. Bellingham, WA : Lexham Press, 2017. 13. The Origin of Sin in Irenaeus and Jewish Pseudepigraphical Literature. Schultz, D. R. 3, s.l. : Vigiliae Christianae, 1978, Sept, Vol. 32. 14. Levenson, Jon D. Did Jews Really Believe There Were Two Gods in Heaven? Mosaic Magazine – Advanced Jewish Thought. [Online] August 4th, 2020. https://mosaicmagazine.com/observation/religion-holidays/2020/08/did-jews-really-believe-there-were-two-gods-in-heaven/. 15. Doedens, Jaap. Those Elusive Sons of God: Genesis 6:1–4 Revisited. The Bible and Interpretation. [Online] April 2019. [Cited: September 2nd, 2023.] https://bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/those-elusive-sons-god-genesis-61-4-revisited. 16. Brand, Dr.Miryam. The Benei Elohim, the Watchers, and the Origins of Evil. The Torah. [Online] [Cited: September 2nd, 2023.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/the-benei-elohim-the-watchers-and-the-origins-of-evil. 17. Wolf, Shaul. Nimrod, the Biblical Hunter. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: September 9th, 2023.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3162874/jewish/Nimrod-the-Biblical-Hunter.htm. 18. Posner, Menachem. The Tower of Babel: What Was Up With lt? Chabad. [Online] [Cited: September 3rd, 2023.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1013006/jewish/The-Tower-of-Babel-What-Was-Up-With-lt.htm. 19. Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of God. Heiser, Michael S. January-March, s.l. : Biblotheca Sacra, 2001, Vol. 158, pp. 52-74. 20. Heiser, Michael S. The Tower of Babel Story: What Really Happened? Word by Word. [Online] May 18th, 2022. https://www.logos.com/grow/really-happened-tower-babel/. 21. Blum, Julia. The Book Of Enoch (2): The Sin Of The Watchers. Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. [Online] June 21st, 2018. https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/the-book-of-enoch-2-the-sin-of-the-watchers/. 22. Heiser, Michael S. Who Are the Elohim? The Answer Might Rattle Your Theology. Word by Word. [Online] July 20th, 2021. https://www.logos.com/grow/who-are-elohim/. 23. —. The Stones of Fire in Ezekiel 28. Dr Michael S. Heiser. [Online] January 25th, 2009. https://drmsh.com/the-stones-of-fire-in-ezekiel-28/. 24. Heiser, Michael S. Jesus’ Quotation of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34: . The Divine Council. [Online] 2012. [Cited: September 3rd, 2023.] https://thedivinecouncil.com/Heiser%20Psa82inJohn10%20RegSBL2011.pdf. 25. Shurpin, Rabbi Yehuda. Where Did the 70 Nations Come From. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: September 3rd, 2023.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5258600/jewish/Where-Did-the-70-Nations-Come-From.htm. 26. Heiser, Michael S. Who are the Elohim – The Answer Might Rattle Your Theology. Biblical Studies. [Online] July 20th, 2021. https://www.logos.com/grow/who-are-elohim/. 27. Markos, Louis. The Truth About Angels and Demons Is Staring Us in the Face. Christianity Today. [Online] June 12th, 2020. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/michael-heiser-angels-demons-unseen-realm.html. 28. Heiser, Michael S. The Divine Council in the Book of Daniel. The Divine Council. [Online] [Cited: September 13th, 2023.] https://www.thedivinecouncil.com/daniel7.pdf. 29. —. Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God. drmsh. [Online] January – March 2001. https://drmsh.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Heiser-Deuteronomy-32-8-and-the-sons-of-God.pdf.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* Why were the Jewish religious leaders in the temple threatening to stone Jesus? * How did He respond to their threat and what can we learn from this in how to respond to threats? * What is your understanding of spiritual beings – who are they, what are the functions of the good ones, when did the evil ones rebel against God and how do they influence things on earth? * Describe the effects of the three rebellions before God called Abraham and established the Jewish nation. * What were God’s purposes in establishing the Jewish people? * What reasons do the evil spiritual beings have for trying to prevent the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
As Yeshua spoke, a Parush asked him to eat dinner with him; so He went in and took His place at the table; and the Parush was surprised that he didn’t begin by doing netilat yadayim before the meal.Luke 11:37-38 CJB
The meal Yeshua was invited to partake in was Gk: ariston – not the principal meal of the day, but rather a noon-breakfast / luncheon. It was not a banquet or elaborate meal.
נטילת ידיים (netilat yadayim) was the Pharisee’s practice of ritual handwashing, which they expected every religious Jew to follow. Netilah can mean “washing” or “lifting up“, depending on context. By the time of Yeshua, the Parush (Pharisees) had instituted several ritual handwashing Mitzvot (commandments) that are still practiced today by religious Jews. The Mishnah (first work of rabbinic law) includes descriptions of how they required this ritual be done, what source of water had to be used, and when it was required.
Like many of the Pharisee’s Laws, this one had distant origins in Torah. Their ritual handwashing before meals drew its authority from God’s instructions for the priests in preparation for presenting a food offering to the Lord.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the Altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.” Exodus 30:17-21 NIV
From this had come the belief that failing to perform the ritual handwashing before a meal was a significant transgression. A rabbi who once failed to do this was considered excommunicated. One rabbi is recorded in the Talmud (collection of writings that covers the full gamut of rabbinical Jewish law and tradition – their Oral Torah) as saying that eating bread without ritually washing is tantamount to having sex with a prostitute, while another declared that acting contemptuously toward this ritual causes one to be uprooted from the world. In Eruvin 21b of the Talmud, Rabbi Akiba is honoured because he refused to eat anything until he was given sufficient water to ritually wash his hands when confined in a prison-house [by the Romans], declaring: “for [neglecting] the words of the Rabbis one deserves death. It is better that I myself should die than that I should transgress against the opinion of my colleagues.”Yeshua was not so interested in the opinion of His colleagues as He was in the will of His Father.
Here are the requirements for this ritual that Yeshua chose not to follow in this Pharisee’s house:
It was to be done before eating any meal that included bread or matzah.
Hands had to be clean and free of anything that could obstruct water from reaching their entire surface before the ritual washing began.
A cup is picked up with the non-dominant hand and filled with water, then poured twice (or three times) on the dominant hand, with fingers separated slightly so water can go between them. Repeat with the other hand, ensuring that water covers the entire hand to the wrist with each pour.
After washing, hands are lifted chest-high and the following blessing said: Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְווֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם (Baruch atah A-donay, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al netilat yadayim.)
Hands are then rubbed together and dried.
Care had to be taken not to speak or get involved in anything else until the blessing on their bread had been recited and some of it swallowed: Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ (Baruch atah A-donay, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Hamotzi lechem min haaretz).
Each time Yeshua refused to comply with the rules and traditions that the Pharisees adhered to, they considered Him to be a sinner breaking G-d’s Torah and deserving of the harshest punishment. When this Pharisee saw that Yeshua had reclined at his table without first doing netilat yadayim he was surprised (Gk: thaumazo – wondered at this and was speculating within himself about what should happen next). Before he could act, Yeshua responded to his thoughts.
In His discourse here, and then in the temple after His Triumphal Entry (Matthew 23), Yeshua was fulfilling Isaiah 58 in crying loudly and not holding back, declaring to God’s people their wrongdoing in a call to repentance and restoration:
“Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their wrongdoing, And to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast for contention and strife, and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you have done today to make your voice heard on high! Is it a fast like this that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? Is this not the fast that I choose: To release the bonds of wickedness, To undo the ropes of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? Is it not to break your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:1-7
Yeshua was always calling people to repentance, by whatever means was most appropriate to that person. Such was His motive in refusing to participate in this ritual which the Pharisees and Torah teachers were relying on to demonstrate their righteousness and purity before God. Every eye was upon Him as the Pharisees gathered in this house inwardly judged Him.
While His host was speculating within himself about what should happen in response to Yeshua’s failure to follow their cherished ritual, he received an unexpected divine rebuke:
But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish; but your inside is full of greed and wickedness. You foolish ones, did He who made the outside not make the inside also? But give that which is within as a charitable gift, and then all things are clean for you. Luke 11:39-41 NASB
But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. Luke 11:41 NIV
Notice that in this passage Luke refers to Yeshua as “Lord”, the one to be obeyed. In His response Yeshua acknowledged that these Pharisees were very diligent in the externals of religious rituals yet reproved them for focusing on external observances which fall under the eye of man while neglecting, even expunging, more important matters of the soul which fall under the eye of God. Yeshua’s words: “be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” are a plain allusion to the law of Moses, by which it was provided that certain portions of the increase of their land should be given to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; and, when that was done, what was reserved for their own use was clean to them, and they could in faith pray for a blessing upon it, Deut. 26:12-15.
Now, these Pharisees were very diligent in their tithing, having developed laws concerning it that were as meticulous as their laws concerning the ritual washing of hands – even more so. They thought that the diligent keeping of all the intricacies of these laws was the fulfilment of God’s Torah, but Yeshua exposed it as a poor substitute for true heart obedience as He cried out six woes to them.
Woes to the Pharisees and Torah Experts
So it was, that Yeshua boldly declared to these religious leaders their wrongdoing even while sitting at their table.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”
One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
“Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in His wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:42-52 NIV
Woe – Οὐαί (Greek) is an expression of grief or denunciation, it warns of danger and the nearness of judgment with an expression of sorrowful pity towards those about to be judged. The Greek Οὐαί was used to translate two Hebrew interjections, Oy and Hoy, which are used as a cry of despair and/or a call for one’s attention because of impending divine judgment (cf Isa 5:8, Amos 6:1, Hab 2:9). God desires to bless us, but our sin and rebellion against Him and His ways necessitates judgment, so Yeshua cries out “woe“.
The first woe contrasts the pharisees’ meticulous focus on minute details of what should be tithed and when, against their laxity in obeying God’s moral law. The arguments put forward as “Oral Torah” by the different pharisaic schools at this time would later be recorded in theMishnah, the first major work of rabbinic literature. The Mishnah is divided into six different sections (Seder): Seder Zeraim(Agriculture / “Order of Seeds”), Seder Moed (Holidays), Seder Nashim (Family law), Seder Nezikin (Damages), Seder Kodashim (Sacrifices) and Seder Tahorot (Purity). Maasrot (“Tithes”) is a tractate in Seder Zeraim that discusses tithes separated from agricultural produce and given to priests, Levites, the poor, or consumed in Jerusalem, depending on the circumstances. It devotes five chapters to focusing on the conditions that make produce liable to be tithed, like the types of crops that are included and the point at which produce cannot be consumed without tithing. Maasrot also discusses conditions under which one can assume produce was tithed. All of this was hotly debated and considered of utmost importance by the prevailing theological schools at that time, and there were even arguments over which parts of garden herbs had to be tithed (Mishna – Mas. Ma’aseroth). Micah 6:7-8 had long before given them God’s perspective on all this, yet still they were focused on the smallest of details of offerings to Him more than the bigger issues of love, mercy and justice for the poor, so Messiah cried out “woe”.
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7-8
Throughout the Hebrew scriptures God kept impressing the need to provide justice for the poor and powerless. Justice that favours the wealthy and/or powerful is no justice at all in God’s sight. In their efforts to become strong and powerful, the dominant leaders of Jewish culture, these Pharisees had lost sight of God’s command to ensure justice for the weak and powerless.
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” Psalm 82:3 “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17 “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” Leviticus 25:35-36 There need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. … If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deuteronomy 15:4-11 “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” Psalm 33:5 “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Psalm 140:12 “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 17:5 “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13 “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.” Proverbs 22:22-23 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Proverbs 29:7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? … If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 85:6-10 “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice and wait for your God always.” Hosea 12:6 “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Zechariah 7:9
Notice that Yeshua was not in any way suggesting that Jews should stop tithing but, like so many of the Jewish prophets before Him, decrying their substituting detailed, or even extravagant, observance of lesser things for the most important commandments: love of God and neighbour. Ensuring that those who could not provide for themselves received the correct number of mint leaves was not nearly as important as ensuring they received justice out of love for God. “Lord, break my heart with what breaks Yours!“
The most important seats were placed in the synagogue in a conspicuous semicircle facing the congregation, and round the bema of the reader. The Pharisee’s identity had become rooted in the deference others paid to them. They had thus unwittingly become slaves to the need to impress others and be held in the highest regard by their community. In so doing they’d lost the freedom to hear and obey God.
The Pharisees were judging Yeshua to be ritually unclean because He did not undertake their ritual handwashing before eating bread. Here He turns the tables on them, declaring that they make unsuspecting others unclean. According to the Torah, anyone who touches a grave (such as walking over it) is unclean for seven days thereafter.
Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. Numbers 19:16 ESV
The tax collectors and prostitutes were ‘marked graves’, everyone knew they would be contaminated by sin in joining with such. But the Pharisees were ‘unmarked graves’, they had the appearance of righteousness with all their meticulous adherence to ritual and their man-made laws, but the sin hidden in their hearts had not been dealt with and this would defile others just as surely as anything the tax collector or prostitute did. Those who claimed to be the pillars of righteousness in the community were, in fact, sources of defilement, ‘unmarked graves.’
All the pontificating and cleaver reasoning of the Torah scholars just added to the demands placed on everyday people, demands that had nothing to do with true love of God or service of others. These burdens of the Oral Law became yearly more and more grievous, till this excessive concern with minor details and rules and boundless ceremonies was later enshrined in the Talmud. But even during this period they were an intolerable yoke that failed to bring people any closer to God. What all the arguments over exact details of ceremonial washings and tithings and every other law failed to do was enable the people to walk humbly with God and fulfil His Torah.
There are still four tombs at the foot of Olivet, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, that appear to have been built during this time. These conspicuous objects in the landscape, seen from the temple platform, and possibly others like them, which have since perished, were the tombs and sepulchres especially in our Lord’s mind when he was speaking to this Torah scholar. It was a speech of awful and cutting irony, suggesting that their attempts to make amends for the crimes of past generations by this show of ostentatious piety in building fancy tombs for the prophets failed to hide the true condition of their hearts. Truly honouring slain prophets consists not in building spectacular tombs for them, but in keeping their words alive through obedience to God’s heart in what He had these prophets declare. If they were really differed to their wicked fathers, if they indeed honoured, as they professed to do by this gorgeous tomb-building, the holy men of God whom their forefathers slew, they would not be plotting to take the life of the One to whom the prophets of old pointed – Yeshua.
The Greeks had two words for knowing, oida and ginosko (the noun form of which is gnosis). Oida, related to the Greek word for “seeing,” denotes “perception” and “absolute knowledge.” Once something is known, it is known for good—nothing can be added to it. Ginosko (gnosis) denotes “inceptive and ongoing knowledge.” It designates ongoing, personal knowledge, which implies a relationship between the person who knows and the person who is known. It is an “experiential” knowledge). (Gnosis) knowledge can grow and mature. By way of illustration, we can “know” (oida) someone’s name immediately, but it will take a lifetime to really “know” (ginosko/gnosis) that person. (Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained). These Torah experts had taken away the key to knowing God through relationship.
A key was the regular symbol of the function of a scribe, which was to open the meaning of the Holy Scriptures to the people. These Torah experts perpetuated the idea that ordinary people were incapable of properly understanding the Torah and had to rely on them to explain its meaning. Instead of teaching the plain meaning of scripture so the people could recognise Messiah when He came, they shifted the focus to the “correct” practice of traditions and ceremonies. The Torah, for example, commands: “Observe the Sabbath day” (Deut. 6:12). These “Torah experts” (as later written in the Mishnah) specified 39 categories of forbidden labour which are prohibited by this commandment, adding dozens of other kinds of labour under these 39 headings. The Torah commands: “When you eat and are satisfied, give thanks to your God for the good land which He has given you” (Deut. 8:10). These “Torah experts” spelled out specific blessings to be recited before and after each kind of food, and what to do if the wrong blessing is recited by mistake. They rejected the long-awaited Messiah and Lord of Glory because His perfect fulfilment of Torah was not focused on conforming to all their added traditions and intricate laws. They rejected the door to the kingdom (Yeshua) and thus failed to enter, and with their teaching hindered those who were coming to Yeshua in order to enter.
As Yeshua left that place, the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim began to oppose Him bitterly and to provoke Him to express His views on all sorts of subjects,laying traps to catch Him in something He might say. Luke 11:53-54 CJB
After uttering the last “woe,” Yeshua appears abruptly to have risen and left the house of His Pharisee entertainers. A crowd of angry men, composed of scribes and lawyers and Pharisees, appear to have followed the Rabbi, whose words just spoken had shown the estimation in which He held the great schools of religious thought which sort to guide public Jewish opinion. From henceforth they could countenance only one end to the unequal combat. The bold outspoken Teacher must, at all hazards, be put out of the way. These religious theologians and leaders were enraged against Him as they pressed upon Him; harassed Him with questions seeking to entrap Him, that they might accuse Him. They angrily proposed questions as fast as possible, and about as many things as possible, that they might get Him, in the hurry, to say something that would be wrong, that they might thus accuse Him and be done with Him.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. 4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020. 5. The Pulpit Commentaries. Luke 11. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: December 9th, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/luke-11.html. 6. Jerusalem Talmud Maasrot. Jerusalem Talmud Maasrot. Sefaria. [Online] [Cited: December 9th, 2022.] https://www.sefaria.org/Jerusalem_Talmud_Maasrot?tab=contents. 7. Seder Zeraim (Agriculture). Mishnah. Sefaria. [Online] [Cited: December 9th, 2022.] https://www.sefaria.org/texts/Mishnah. 8. Mishnah Maasrot. Sefaria. [Online] [Cited: December 9th, 2022.] https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Maasrot?tab=contents. 9. Lang, Yehuda. Meal Hand-Washing – Beyond Pasteur! Chabad. [Online] [Cited: December 20th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/607403/jewish/Meal-Hand-Washing.htm. 10. Raskin, Rabbi Aaron L. Ritual Hand-Washing. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: December 20th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/multimedia/video_cdo/aid/5572512/jewish/Ritual-Hand-Washing.htm. 11. YANKLOWITZ, Rabbi Shmuly. Netilat Yadayim: Sanctifying Our Primary Moral Instrument. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: December 21st, 2022.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/netilat-yadayim-washing-hands-to-sanctify-our-primary-moral-instrument/. 12. Pulpit Commentary. Luke 11:47.Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: December 24th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/11-47.htm. 13. Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Knowledge (1108) gnosis. Sermon Index. [Online] [Cites: December 27th, 2022.] https://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=article&aid=34336
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*Why do you think Jesus chose not to participate in the netilat yadayim (hand washing ritual) before eating? * How was Jesus’ response to the Pharisee‘s unspoken concerns an act of love? * In what ways have some religious leaders in your nation followed in the footsteps of the Pharisees andexperts in the law? * As leaders of God’s people how do we avoid the pitfalls Jesus exposed in the Pharisees and Torah experts here?
“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 NASB
This had been part of Yeshua’s instructions to the seventy He sent out ahead of Him to declare “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9b). In Matthew 10:40 part of the instructions that Yeshua gave the twelve as He sent them out was: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” The same theme is continued in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to be sharing our own opinion but faithfully representing the One who sent us and the position of the Kingdom of God on the issue, calling all to be reconciled to Him. Those who are sent by Messiah with His message will be treated as the One who sent them, who in turn is being treated as they treat the Father. No one can say they love God while despising those He sends with His message of reconciliation. People’s real attitudes towards God are revealed by how they treat Yeshua in those He sends.
Just as the twelve had witnessed God’s mighty power moving through them when Yeshua sent them to minister, now also with the seventy.
Now the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” And He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions, and authority over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
Miracles were not limited to Yeshua, or to the twelve. Every one of the seventy (some versions say seventy-two) also experienced the power of the name of Yeshua. He had sent them with one simple message, that Jesus was coming to town “the kingdom of God has come near to you“. With that message came the power to do as Yeshua did in His name. Indeed, Yeshua had told them (Vs 16) that dealing with them would be dealing with Him, which is dealing with the Father (The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.).
Yeshua’s kingdom is in direct opposition to Satan’s kingdom. The more Yeshua’s kingdom advances the more Satan’s is forced to retreat. The more Yeshua is exalted the more Satan is cast down. The impact of these seventy going out in obedience, declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God manifest in the name of Yeshua, was that Satan fell from heaven like lightening! Yet, it is not the power we can exercise that we are to rejoice over, but the love which records our names in heaven to be with Him forever.
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for doing so was well pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son determines to reveal Him.” Luke 10:17-22 NASB
Here we have a glimpse into Yeshua’s private prayer life. Notice that these seventy had not been chosen for their deep theological understanding, or their level of education or skills but simply because they were willing to trust and obey Yeshua like a little child, an infant.
Having spoken to His Father, Yeshua then turns to His talmidim (disciples) to encourage them. In Him is the fulfilment of all the prophets of Israel had longed for.
Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see;for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things that you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things that you hear, and did not hear them.” Luke 10:23-24 NASB
Who Is My Neighbour?
An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap Him by asking, “Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?” But Yeshua said to him, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?” He answered, “You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself.” “That’s the right answer,” Yeshua said. “Do this, and you will have life.” Luke 10:25-28 CJB
God is the same in Old Testament and New – this Torah expert knew what God desires of us – LOVE – but preferred the pride that exalted him over others to love which serves others. His attempt to trap Yeshua demonstrates that he was one of the “the wise and intelligent” from whom the kingdom of God was hidden. Yeshua used the opportunity to show this man the true state of his heart.
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Yeshua, “And who is my ‘neighbor’?” Taking up the question, Yeshua said: “A man was going down from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) to Yericho (Jericho) when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him naked and beat him up, then went off, leaving him half dead. By coincidence, a cohen (priest) was going down on that road; but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levi who reached the place and saw him also passed by on the other side. But a man from Shomron (Samaria) who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. So he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’ Of these three, which one seems to you to have become the ‘neighbor’ of the man who fell among robbers?” He answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Yeshua said to him, “You go and do as he did.” Luke 10:29-37 CJB
In this one parable Yeshua demolished the typical in-group morality, coupled with out-group hostility, so common to human nature and He extended the definition of “neighbour to be loved” from ‘those in my group‘ to ‘all people of all races and religions‘. Samaritans were not welcome in Judah to be walking on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Notice that in answering which man was the neighbour, this expert in Torah avoided saying “the Samaritan”. Yeshua had even admonished us to love our enemies during His sermon on the mount. There is no one to whom we do not owe a debt of love if we are to live as citizens of His kingdom. As Paul wrote in Romans 13:8 “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Yeshua was not talking about love as being a warm, fuzzy feeling, but as an action of doing the best for the other: “You go and do as he did.”
Listening to His Teaching
Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 AMP
Mary took the place of a talmid (disciple), sitting at their Rabbi’s feet listening to Him. In Jewish culture this was a position reserved for men. Martha was fulfilling the role of a good Jewish woman, busy with service providing the hospitality to her house full of guests, and she expected her sister to do likewise. Yeshua honoured and protected Mary’s desire to learn from Him as a disciple.
Pray and Keep on Praying
They continued travelling to all the villages that Yeshua had sent the Seventy to in preparation for His arrival. Often, they saw their Rabbi praying.
One time Yeshua was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of the talmidim said to Him, “Sir, teach us to pray, just as Yochanan taught his talmidim.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, May your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come. Give us each day the food we need. Forgive us our sins, for we too forgive everyone who has wronged us. And do not lead us to hard testing.’” Luke 11:1-4 CJB
Yeshua had taught them to pray near the beginning of His ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 6:5-18). There was something more they needed to learn as the time of His departing from them approached. So, Yeshua began with a brief recap of what He had previously taught them and then moved on to teach the need for persistence in prayer.
Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread]; for a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to visit me, and I have nothing to serve him’; and from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything just because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence and boldness he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. Luke 11:5-10 AMP
Pray and keep on praying, don’t give up until you receive God’s answer.
Asking for the Holy Spirit
Those who had been at Yeshua’s baptism had witnessed the Holy Spirit coming upon Him like a dove and heard that He would baptise them in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-33). They had heard, during Yeshua’s conflicts with the Pharisees, His statements about the Holy Spirit being on Him (Matthew 12:18) and that it was by the Spirit of God that He cast out demons (Matthew 12:28, 31-32). Now He began teaching them about receiving the Holy Spirit themselves, in the context of His exhortations to be persistent in asking God for their needs.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13 AMP
We need not be afraid that we will receive some unclean spirit if we are asking the Father for the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is in the goodness of God.
A Wicked Generation Demands a Sign
Now as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it demands a sign, and so no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:29-32 NASB
Yeshua Himself was going to be their sign – a sign of the horror of our sinfulness and of the greatness of God’s love and mercy. They were looking for a sign that He would conquer the Romans for them, but His was to be a sign that He conquered sin for us. Earlier, Yeshua had taught: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days and three nights, the Son of Man will also be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40.
The ultimate insult to a Jew was to suggest that any Gentiles responded better to G-d than they. Here, Yeshua gave two examples of Gentiles whose responses had been better than this generation of Jews. The men of Nineveh were known as an evil lot, fully deserving of God’s judgment, yet they had repented at the preaching of Jonah, but this generation of Jews were not repenting despite all the miracles Yeshua had done in their midst and His clear preaching to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. Instead of repenting, they were arguing over whether He had really given them enough signs to prove that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Interestingly, Jonah’s preaching was that the city of Nineveh would be overthrown in 40 days (Jonah 3:4) but their repentance led to them being spared judgment for over 140 years, until after they had returned to the full extent of their evil ways and failed to repent at the preaching of the prophet Nahum, and Jerusalem was overthrown about 40 years after Yeshua’s preaching and sign to them of their need for repentance.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. 4. Holy Bible. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020. 5. Zalmanov, Eliezer. Meal Hand-Washing – Beyond Pasteur! Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/607403/jewish/Meal-Hand-Washing.htm. 6. Chabad Editors. 6: Ritual Washing of the Hands. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/257763/jewish/6-Ritual-Washing-of-the-Hands.htm. 7. My Jewish Learning. Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals – The Netilat Yadayim practice and blessing. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hand-washing/. 8. Gagliardi, Gary. Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs,. Christ’s Words. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://christswords.com/main/content/luke-1142%C2%A0-woe-unto-you-pharisees-ye-tithe-mint-and-rue-and-all-manner-herbs.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What was Jesus’ message? * Are there sins your nation needs to repent of? * What does it mean to be an ambassador of Christ? * Are there people who are despised by your community like the Jews despised Samaritans? What are you doing to love these people as your neighbours? * What did Jesus teach his disciples about prayer and receiving the Holy Spirit?
Then came Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade (Solomon’s porch). John 10:22-23 CJB
Hanukkah is not a “biblical” holiday. That is, it is not one of the seven feasts which Moses instructed the Israelites to keep in the Torah, the first five books of the Holy Scriptures. Nor is it mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew scriptures (like Purim is described in the book of Ruth). Yet Yeshua made a special trip to Jerusalem for this festival that commemorated the re-dedication of the Second Temple in which He now stood and taught.
Hanukkah celebrates God’s deliverance from the hand of Israel’s enemies and the re-dedication of the Temple after its defilement under the evil Antiochus IV. 1 Maccabees 4:59 tells us:
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislov.
Thus, Hanukkah is a winter festival, in 2022 Hanukkah was from the evening of Sunday, 18th December until the evening of Monday, 26th December.
Hanukkah originally resembled Sukkot (Festival of Booths / Tabernacles), partly because the Maccabees had been unable to properly celebrate Sukkot while in fierce battle against the much larger army of Antichus IV’s men who were occupying Jerusalem and desecrating the Temple. 2 Maccabees 10:6 tells us:
They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the Festival of Booths, remembering how not long before, during the Festival of Booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals.
Hanukkah was thus established to echo Sukkot and to commemorate the triumphs of this band of brave Jews who fought against overwhelming odds for their right to worship the one true God as He had commanded them – and won. There is no fasting or mourning in this festival, it is a celebration of victory and joy.
According to later rabbinical tradition:
When the rule of the Hasmoneans prevailed and they defeated the Hellenes, they searched and finally found a tiny pitcher of oil which bore the seal of the High Priest. In it was enough oil to last no more than one day. And a miracle occurred—it endured for eight days! For this reason, a period of eight days was marked off for thanksgiving and praise.
A traditional saying arose from this Hanukkah story: “nes gadol haya sham,” which means, “a great miracle happened there.” The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of God’s preserving power over the evil Antiochus IV and his mighty army, and God’s miraculous provision of oil for lighting the Menorah during the eight days of dedication until more sanctified oil could be made.
In the late First Century AD, Josephus recorded some detail about how Hanukkah was celebrated from the time of the Maccabees up to when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70:
Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival.
Hanukkah was initially focused on the Temple, with joyous celebration of it being the place where God’s presence dwelt (2 Chronicles 20:9) and of their regained freedom to worship and offer the daily sacrifices there. While not an official Pilgrimage Festival, as were Passover, Shavuot (feast of weeks/Pentecost) and Sukkot (festival of tabernacles), Hanukkah centered on the Temple and Yeshua travelled there to celebrate it with His countrymen and teach them through it.
The miracle of eight days’ oil for the Menorah has led to celebrating this festival with a nine-candlestick menorah—one for each day the oil burned, plus the shammos“servant candle” used to light the other eight. The “servant candle” sits in the middle of the others and its candleholder places it above them.
Every day for eight days the candles are lit by the servant candle: one on the first day, two on the second, etc., until on the last day all eight candles are lit by the servant.
With this focus on the light of the candlesticks Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. God spoke through His prophet Isaiah: “My servant shall bring light to the Gentiles.” (Isa. 42:1) John’s Gospel states, “Jesus is the true Light that lights everyone who comes into the world” (John 1:9). Yeshua Himself declared two months earlier, at the close of the Feast of Tabernacles, “I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12), just like the servant candle lights each of the other candles.
Many Hanukkah celebrations begin in full darkness, then the light of a candle – the first Hanukkah candle, the servant – pierces the darkness, and then – more candles and more lights! It’s very beautiful and very impressive! One of the central songs sung during Hanukkah is called BANU CHOSHECH LEGARESH – “WE CAME TO DRIVE AWAY THE DARKNESS” – and this is indeed the overwhelming feeling one gets during these celebrations: The light came to overcome the darkness!
In the world’s darkest hour, the light comes! This reminds us of the words of John’s Gospel about Yeshua: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Light of Yeshua also came at a time of the darkness and foreign oppression; the hand of Rome was heavy upon Israel, the nation could hardly bear this oppressive yoke. That was not the only darkness, there was corruption in the priesthood, prideful arrogance in religious leaders, and violent conflict between different Jewish sects. The Light of the world stepped into this darkness and it could not overcome Him.
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS?
The word “Christmas” literally means Christ’s Mass. “Christ” comes from Greek Χριστός (Christós), meaning anointed, which is a translation of Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ māšîaḥ (anointed) that has been incorporated into the English language as “messiah”. “Mass” is from Latin missa, which refers to the remembrance of Messiah through eating bread and drinking wine as His body and blood. (Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20 & 1 Cor.11:23-26). Thus Christmas is a festival that commemorates the incarnation of Messiah – Emmanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25) – who suffered and died to give us new life.
The birth of Jesus was celebrated by a large army of angels: Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night. An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them. The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city. This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly, a large army of angels appeared with the angel. They were praising God by saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have His good will!” Luke 2:8-14 GW
The birth of Jesus was celebrated by shepherds. The angels left them and went back to heaven. The shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they saw the child, they repeated what they had been told about him. Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was amazed. Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them. As the shepherds returned to their flock, they glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard. Everything happened the way the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20 GW
Some time later… The birth of Jesus was celebrated by ‘wise men’ from the East. After Jesus’ birth wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the one who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star rising and have come to worship him.” … The star they had seen rising led them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They were overwhelmed with joy to see the star. When they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. So they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1b-2, 9b-11 GW
The birth of Jesus was not celebrated by the apostles. Whereas all the Jewish leaders at the time of the temple rededication had been deeply involved in the events commemorated in Hanukkah and thus made it a law for the Jewish people to celebrate it annually, none of the apostles was present to witness the birth of Yeshua so it was not something that they testified to or celebrated – their commission was to be witnesses to what they had seen and heard (Acts 1:20-22, John 21:24), preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching them to do everything He had commanded. (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-49)
How the 25th December was Chosen The first church figure recorded discussing the date of Jesus’ birth was Clement (c. 200), an Egyptian preacher from Alexandria. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”
Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. Following a very Jewish idea – that the beginning and the end of important redemptive events often happen on the same date (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 10b-11a) Tertullian concluded that March 25 was therefor also the date of Jesus’ conception (it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation). Exactly nine months later, he reasoned, Jesus was born – on December 25.
Sextus Julius Africanus, (born c. AD 180, Jerusalem—died c. 250), was the first Christian historian to produce a universal chronology, Chronographiai (221) – a five-volume treatise relying on the Bible as the basis of his calculations, on the history of the world from Creation (which he placed at 5499 BC) to AD 221. In this work Sextus also proposed that Jesus’ birth was on December 25th.
In the beginning of the third century, Tertullian reported that since he knew precisely when Jesus died (14th of Nissan or March 25), he also knew exactly when he was conceived. If Jesus was conceived on March 25, then counting forward to the 9 months of Mary’s pregnancy would place His birth on December 25. This is especially intriguing because January 1st used to be celebrated as the Day of Christ’s circumcision (8 days from the evening of Dec. 24). It wasn’t until some 70 years after western Christians had settled on December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth, in 274 CE, a Roman Emperor declared December 25 to be, “The Day of the Unconquered Sun,” (Sol Invictus).
This reasoning appears to have been fairly widely accepted in the church. An anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa, states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.” And Augustine writes in On the Trinity (c. 399–419): “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”
In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.” However, instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas and the Epiphany (celebration of Jesus’ baptism).
When was Christmas first Celebrated? There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time. It is reported that Telesphorus, who was martyred in 136AD, declared that Church services should be held to celebrate “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.”
About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. Clement also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January).
During the persecution under Emperor Diocletian in 312 C.E. an Egyptian Christian group called the Donatists emerged, and they remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time. In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions the Donatists kept Christmas festivals on December 25 but refused to celebrate the Epiphany (celebration of Jesus’ baptism) on January 6, regarding it as an innovation.
In an old list of Roman bishops, compiled in A. D. 354 these words appear for A.D. 336: “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.” December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea. This day, December 25, 336 (during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine), is the first recorded celebration of Christmas, although the practice may have existed in various Christian congregations well before it was officially recorded in a document that survived the years.
At this time of celebrating God’s deliverance from the hand of Israel’s enemies there was strong messianic fervor as the people cried out for Messiah to come and deliver them from Roman occupation and oppression. The popular picture of the Messiah in Yeshua’s time was that he would be a “super-Maccabee,” a warrior priest who would destroy Israel’s enemies and bring in everlasting peace. It was easy to ‘forget’ that the Maccabees brought only a very fleeting peace. After 67 years the conflict between brothers for power over God’s people had descended into a 6 yearlong bloody civil war that killed over 50,000 Jews. Only 25 yrs after that civil war ended, they had descended into self-destruction of the nation once more, to the extent that soon each side was asking the Romans to come and assist them in dethroning the other. (For details see: The Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Period 166-40BC and Second Temple Period Under Roman Rule). Just 101 yrs after the Maccabee’s victory and cleansing of the temple, in 64 BC, Roman armies marched into Jerusalem at the behest of all the leaders of the Jewish people and their oppression under Roman rule began. What was needed was so much more than just a mighty warrior, Jewish history had proven that they needed someone to conquer their sinfulness before any peace could be lasting.
It was with this expectation of a “super-Maccabee”messiah that the Jews gathered around Yeshua as He taught in Solomon’s porch, a roofed and column-lined walkway, or portico. Winter is the wet season in Israel, so He may have been in the portico to keep out of the rain. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide (15 cubits), and the columns were about 40 feet tall (25 cubits). Josephus described them as white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling (Antiq. 15.11.3-5, §391-420; JW 5.5.1 §184-185). This was on the east side of the temple. The walkway itself was elevated from the surrounding land, and partly walled in. Because of the layout, a person walking along this portico had the temple on one side, and either a solid wall or a sheer drop on the other. A large portion of the outer edge was walled off. This meant Yeshua was in an area with only one reasonable means of exit: through the temple. The men who approach Him here were clearly intending to block off His escape route.
The Jews surrounded him. They asked him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I’ve told you, but you don’t believe me. The things that I do in my Father’s name testify on my behalf. However, you don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from me. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than everyone else, and no one can tear them away from my Father. The Father and I are one.” John 10:24-30 GW
In the gospel of John, the phrase “the Jews” is most often a reference to the religious leaders in Jerusalem and their followers. These are the Pharisees, scribes, and other officials. It is with these men that Yeshua has His most cutting and divisive conflicts. Yeshua is “surrounded” by religious leaders. The Greek term used is ekyklōsan, which literally means “to surround, encircle, or encompass.” It’s a term often used to describe the act of siege. In other words, hostile religious leaders are ensuring Yeshua has no means of escape from where He has been teaching in the temple.
Later verses will describe them lifting stones to attack Yeshua (John 10:31)—but this is inside the grounds of the temple, where suitable stones are not simply laying around. Those who later sort to stone Him had brought rocks in advance, and with murderous intent. In this incident, Yeshua is not simply being challenged, He’s being threatened as they dare Him to repeat His former claims to give them an excuse to launch their rocks upon Him. The phrase “keep us in suspense” is tēn psychēn hēmōn aireis, which literally implies “holding our souls” or “restraining our spirits.”
Yeshua’s response brought both comfort to His followers, and condemnation to those determined to reject Him. For those of us who have responded to His voice and are following Him there’s the sweet assurance that He gives us eternal life, we will never be lost, and no one will tear us away from Him. Our lives are kept safely in our Father’s all-powerful hands.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Hershey, Doug. Hanukkah: Why Did Jesus Celebrate the Feast of Dedication? Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries. [Online] December 10th, 2020. https://firmisrael.org/learn/hanukkah-why-jesus-celebrated-feast-of-dedication/. 4. Bloom, Julia. Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah! Preach It Teach It. [Online] [Cited: October 10th, 2022.] https://preachitteachit.org/articles/detail/jesus-celebrated-hanukkah/. 5. Brickner, David. Jesus’ Celebration of Hanukkah. Jews for Jesus. [Online] December 1st, 1998. https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-dec-1998/jesus-celebration-of-hanukkah. 6. Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. John 10. Bible Gateway. [Online] God’s Word Mission society, 1995. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2010&version=GW. 7. Bible Ref. John 10:24 Parallel Verses. Bible Ref.com. [Online] Got Questions Ministries. [Cited: October 21st, 2022.] https://www.bibleref.com/John/10/John-10-24.html. 8. Long, Philip J. Acts 5:12 – Solomon’s Portico. Reading Acts. [Online] February 3rd, 2019. https://readingacts.com/2019/02/03/acts-512-solomons-portico/. 9. Marian, Jakub. Origin of the Words Christmas and Xmas . Jakub Marian Language Learning, Science & Arts. [Online] [Cited: October 21st, 2022.] https://jakubmarian.com/etymology-of-the-words-christmas-and-xmas/#:~:text=The%20word%20Christmas%20comes%20from,word%2C%20is%20not%20entirely%20clear.. 10. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Sextus Julius Africanus”. Britannica. [Online] July 20th, 1998. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sextus-Julius-Africanus.. 11. Hillerbrand, Hans J. Christmas. Britannica. [Online] Encyclopedia Britannica, October 25th, 2021. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas. 12. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Dr. Eli. Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? The Times of Israel. [Online] May 8th, 2021. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-christmas-a-pagan-holiday/. 13. Rickard, Stanley Edgar. Thesis. THE MOORINGS. [Online] Bible Studies at THE MOORINGS. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.themoorings.org/Jesus/birth/date.html. 14. McGowan, Andrew. How December 25 Became Christmas. Biblical Archaeology. [Online] July 23rd, 2022. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/how-december-25-became-christmas/.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*How would you describe the Jewish feasts? * What do you think God’s attitude is towards their celebrating additional feasts to those He commanded Moses? * What celebrations does your church have and how do you celebrate? * Why would a “super-Maccabee” be an inadequate Messiah? * Have you had, or witnessed, false expectations about God and how is what He did better than what people were asking or expecting Him to do? *What protection did Jesus have when they tried to arrest him during the Hanukkah celebrations?
And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; Luke 9:51 NIV
Yeshua’s focus was on the joy set before Him in His ascension (Hebrews 12:2) as He fulfilled Isaiah 50:4-7:
The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
…and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was proceeding toward Jerusalem. Luke 9:52-53 NASB
On the way to Judaea from Capernaum, Yeshua’s road probably lay over Mount Tabor, past Little Hermon (see Luke 7:11), past Nain, Enaor, and Shunem. The first Samaritan village at which He would arrive would be En Gannim (Fountain of Gardens), now Jenin, a pleasant village at the first pass into the Samaritan hills.
The Samaritans were a very religious people. Like the Jews, they were looking for Messiah, but their expectations were different.
These Samaritan Israelites kept the Hebrew Torah and cultic practices. They called themselves “the sons of Israel” or “Shomrim” (the keepers), considering themselves the be the keepers of the old ways, the ancient faith, the covenant promise. The Samaritans followed in the footsteps of the northern kingdom of Israel before them in opposing the worship of God in Jerusalem, convinced that the centre of Israel’s worship should be the mount of YHWH’s covenant blessing (Deuteronomy 27:12), Mount Gerizim, where they had built their own temple to Yahweh. They had a fourfold creed:
1. One God – YHWH 2. One Prophet – Moses 3. One Book – Torah 4. One Place – Mt Gerizim
The Jews (Judean Israelites) and Samaritans (Samaritan Israelites) each believed that they were the true worshippers of God and that the others were heretics and imposters who had taken the wrong path when the kingdom had separated into two after Solomon’s death.
Samaritans in the city of Sychar had been the first to believe that Yeshua is “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” (John 4) Yeshua now sent messengers ahead of Him into a smaller Samaritan village but the message they gave did not result in the same acceptance of Messiah. The reason Luke gives was Yeshua’s determination to go to Jerusalem. It is not clear whether their lack of receptiveness was due to the conflict between Jews and Samaritans over where the proper place to worship God is or, like the talmidim, was lack of acceptance of His purpose in pursuing the path to His death in Jerusalem. Now Yeshua had not only religious Jews, but also religious Samaritans rejecting Him.
If Anyone Will Not Welcome You
When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
And they went on to another village. Luke 9:54-56 NASB
The Sons of Thunder were living up to their nickname. Possibly stirred up by Yeshua’s continued insistence that He was going to be rejected and killed and by seeing Elijah during Christ’s transfiguration and remembering how he had called down fire. Such a demonstration of divine power would make them feel a whole lot more secure. It was not Messiah’s calling and He immediately rebuked them for such a destructive suggestion. Yeshua had previously given them instructions for when a town did not receive them: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 NIV His Word does not change – they left that town and went on to another Samaritan village that would gladly receive them.
Demands of Discipleship
As they continued into Judea this crowd attracted attention and many came out to see Yeshua. They wanted the rewards of discipleship but were not prepared to pay the price.
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 NASB
Apostello 70 Others
After this, the Lord appointed seventy other talmidim and sent (apostello) them … Luke 10:1a CJB
Although many were not willing to pay the price of discipleship, there were still many who did, enough for Yeshua to appoint another 70 and apostello them into the harvest.
There was much significance in Yeshua appointing seventy others. (1) In Judaism the natural order is represented by the number 7. G‑d chose to create the world in 7 days, resulting in a week that consists of 7 days. Any number times 10 represents the completeness of that number. Thus, 7 times 10 (seventy) represents the completion of the natural order – each aspect of nature is complete. (2) Torah (Genesis 10) lists seventy descendants of Noah after the Great Flood, and tells us, “These are the families of the sons of Noah . . . the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32) (3) 70 Seventy members of Jacob’s family moved down to Egypt (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5), where they would become the nation of Israel. (4) After God delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery 70 seventy elders were appointed by Moses to help him in his work of teaching and judging the people (Numbers 11:16), and to these the spirit of prophecy had been given that they might bear the burden with him. (5) In the Feast of Tabernacles a great sacrifice of seventy oxen was offered as on behalf of all the non-Israelite members of the great family of mankind (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in Joann. 7). (6) The Sanhedrin or great Council of scribes and priests and elders consisted of seventy members besides the president, the number having been fixed on the assumption that they were the successors of those whom Moses had appointed. (7) Israel has seventy holy daysevery year – 52 Shabbatot, the 7 days of Pesach, the 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shmini Atzeret, 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, 1 day Yom Kippur. (8) Israel suffered seventy years of exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10). (9)“Seventy ‘sevens’(weeks) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” Daniel 9:24 (10) LXXSeptuagint (from the Latin for “seventy“) is the name of the Greek translation of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) commissioned by the Egyptian king, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned from 285-246 BC). The full title (Ancient Greek: Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα, lit. ‘The Translation of the Seventy‘) derives from the story that it was translated into Greek by 70 Jewish scholars or, according to later tradition, 72: six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who independently produced identical translations.
These Seventy were ‘others’ Gk hetros = another who is different, a different group with a different mission. The mission of the Seventy is clearly distinguished from and contrasted with that of the Twelve by the word ‘others’ hetros. The Twelve were prohibited from going beyond Jews; the Seventy were under no such restriction. The number 12 had reference to the number of the Israeli tribes; that of 70 was representative of all the nations. None the less, much of the charge given to either is given to both – they had the same message, and both were sent to prepare for Christ’s personal ministry.
As the 12 had been, these 70 were apostello – commissioned, sent on a defined mission. Apostello focuses back on the source (the one sending) to strongly connect the sender the one sent, so this verb is used to emphasise the close connection of Yeshua (as the sender) to believers that He commissions. This is in contrast to the more general Greek term for ‘to send’, pempo.
…and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He said to them, “To be sure, there is a large harvest. But there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the Harvest that he speed workers out to gather in his harvest.” Luke 10:1b-2 CJB
Yeshua had said this before apostello the twelve, now we have a further fulfilment in the apostello of the seventy others. It was a lesson for the twelve as much as for the seventy – they were not to try to “own” the ministry and forbid others to partake in it, as indeed they had recently done. All disciples are called to minister, all saints are called to minister – to know Jesus and make Him known, to introduce others to Him.
“Get going now, but pay attention! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a money-belt or a pack, and don’t stop to shmoose with people on the road (but make haste to tell as many as possible about me, for the time is short).
“Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘Shalom!’ to the household. If a seeker of shalom is there, your ‘Shalom!’ will find its rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you. Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for a worker deserves his wages — don’t move about from house to house.
“Whenever you come into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is put in front of you. Heal the sick there, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you.’
“But whenever you enter a town and they don’t make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off as a sign against you! But understand this: the Kingdom of God is near!’ I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for S’dom than for that town.” Luke 10:3-12 CJB
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24 ESV
“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Beit-Tzaidah! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tzor and Tzidon, they would long ago have put on sackcloth and ashes as evidence that they had changed their ways. But at the Judgment it will be more bearable for Tzor and Tzidon than for you! And you, K’far-Nachum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Sh’ol! Luke 10:13-15 CJB
Yeshua did miracles out of compassion for the people, but it was not just compassion for their physical state. They were sheep without a shepherd and He was calling them to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Yet they received the miracles but did not repent, did not recognise their need to come under the Good Shepherd’s care. The Greek word translated “repented” in Vs 13 is metanoeo = “to think differently afterwards“; it focuses on the change of behaviour proceeding from a change in thinking; it starts seeing the thing from God’s point of view after being liberated from one’s own carnal perspective. Experiencing miracles did not cause the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, or Yeshua’s ministry capital of Capernaum, to start thinking differently – they continued on as they had done before.
1. HELPS Ministries.The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H.Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. 1995, 2020. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 4. The Holy Bible: The Amplified Bible. 1987. 2015. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 5. Yehuda Shurpin: Why is 70 Special? And ten instances in Jewish tradition where 70 is significant. Chabad.com [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/940857/jewish/Why-Is-70-Special.htm 6. Rev. E. H. Plumptre, D.D. Edited by: Charles John Ellicott. Luke 10:1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Bible Hub. [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/10-1.htm 7. Dr. Elana Yael Heideman. ISRAEL AND THE MEANING OF 70. The Israel Forever Foundation. [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://israelforever.org/interact/blog/israel_and_the_meaning_of_70/
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*Jesus knew the Father’s will and determined to follow it even when it led to suffering and death – does the gospel we preach include such willingness? * Jesus’ disciples sent to this Samaritan village appeared to fail as the villagers rejected Him instead of welcoming Him as Messiah from their message. What can we learn from Jesus’ response of sending out 70 others to prepare the way? * Have you heard ministers “call down fire”, or to speak curses over those who reject them or their message, or proclaim that God will punish them for “touching the Lord’s anointed”? How does Jesus respond to such? * What do we learn about how to respond to those who reject our message? * Some like to boast as if the miracles they received prove their spiritual superiority – but the miracles just place a greater burden of responsibility on us to repent, to think and act differently in response to such a display of God’s grace and power. What are some of the miracles that God has done in your life? * What evidence of repentance is in your life?
“What’s your opinion? What will somebody do who has a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go off to find the stray? And if he happens to find it? Yes! I tell you he is happier over it than over the ninety-nine that never strayed! Thus your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 CJB
Having reminded His talmidim of the horrific consequences of sin, Yeshua brings comfort once again. For those who have been ensnared and strayed He is the good shepherd searching for the lost sheep. The Father does not want any to be lost and there is joy in heaven over one who repents.
Love Looks Like Confronting Sin to Bring Reconciliation
“Now if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:15-20 NASB
Yeshua had been warning them about the dangers of getting entrapped in sin, suggesting that it would be better even to cut off their own hand or foot, or gauge out their own eye than let such lead them into sin because sin will take them straight to hell. Then He had brought the comfort of knowing that if they go astray the Good Shepherd will leave the ninety-nine to seek them out and rejoice greatly in bringing them back home. Now, He’s addressing His talmidim in their part of this process of seeking out the one who has gone astray in order to restore them to the fold.
“Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to be lost.” So, ” if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private“. When we become aware that our brother has sinned and is in danger of becoming entrapped and taken to hell we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to go to him and implore him to repent, be set free, and return to the Father’s arms.
It may be a sin against us, or a sin against others, or just a sin against his own soul – all sin is against God. As David wrote in prayer to God after Nathan the prophet went to him to convict him of his sin: “Against You, and You only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Your sight; that You may be proved right when You speak, and justified when You judge.” Even if our brother’s sin was against us, it was above all against God and we are tasked with laying aside our own hurts and agenda for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20) to implore them, on Christ’s behalf, to be reconciled to God. Moses wrote: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.“ (Leviticus 19:17) Paul wrote it thus in Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.“ We are to love one another enough to have the difficult conversations in order to draw our brother or sister back to the Father’s love.
Notice that this conversation is to be in private. It’s not something we post on Facebook, Instagram, twitter or other social media. It’s not something to be gossiped about with others. It is to be an act of love, not an opportunity to grandstand. We go to them privately to implore them to leave the sin behind and be reconciled to God. If they heed our pleading we have regained our brother and fulfilled our Father’s will – there’s joy in heaven.
But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. Don’t give up on him if he refuses to listen to you. Instead seek out one or two respected, mature saints who can both speak wisdom into the situation and bear witness to his response. This testimony of two or three witnesses is needed first to establish that the particular deed is sinful and in need of being turned from. We are very good at justifying our own actions, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Proverbs 17:9). Repentance involves changing our mind, stop justifying our sin and recognise it for the death-producing horror that God says it is. We won’t stop sinning until we go from loving our sin to hating it, from depending on it to despising it. The first task of the witnesses is to help the person see their actions from God’s perspective – to witness to what God says about such in His Word. Their second task is to witness the person’s response – that of repentance and reconciliation to God, or of stubborn rebellion against Him.
“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” If this small group of two or three cannot make the man see his true position then, and only then, are they to bring the matter before the ekklesia – people called out from the world and into the Kingdom of Heaven – so the whole community can reach out to him in love and concern for his spiritual welfare. Again, the purpose is to have him reconciled back to God who is, through His people, seeking this one who has strayed. If the community’s pleading cannot turn him then he can no longer remain part of that community. Instead of the sweet fellowship of the reconciled he is to be expelled and now loved as those outside the community of the saints are loved, like a Gentile or tax collector is loved. All this is in the hope that it will impress upon him the nature of what he’s doing and lead him to repentance and reconciliation. We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and then the resolution in 2 Corinthians 2:3-8 where we see this action led to repentance and Paul’s urging that the man be forgiven and comforted and fully embraced once more as part of the ekklesia.
We each have a simple choice – who do we want to be married to, sin or Jesus? We can’t have both. Jesus died as a result of our sin and to set us free from our bondage of sin so we could be given full citizenship in His Kingdom.
“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:18 NASB
Binding and loosing were Rabbinical terms for forbidding and permitting various activities and people in the community of the Jews. They believed that the power and authority to do such was established in the heavenly court and vested in the rabbinical body of each age and in the Sanhedrin. Yeshua was establishing a new body to carry this responsibility in His Kingdom – His ekklesia. They were not to establish their own law but administer His law, the Torah of the Kingdom of God, of which they were now citizens and priests.
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9 NASB
The pharisees had added many of their own rules and regulations and called these God’s Torah when they were not. Disciples of the King were to learn of Him and decree only that which He decreed.
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 AMP
Yeshua was directing His followers to establish His halakhah הֲלָכָה (the Way / the path that one walks) in His ekklesia (community of called out ones) “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of blindly following the Jewish religious laws that they had grown up with which had been established by the Pharisees whose teachings He had warned them to guard themselves against (Matthew 16:12). Notice that this was not to be established or administered by a single man but by the gathered group of called out ones under the leading of the Holy Spirit, as reflected in Acts 15:28 after much prayer and discussion led them to the point of agreement and unity in the Spirit: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…” As they had gathered in Yeshua’s name, He had been in their midst (Matthew 18:20) and made His will know to them through the Holy Spirit.
Love Sounds Like A Symphony – Coming into One Accord
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19-20 NASB
Prayer is essential to all the above exercise of God’s authority in the ekklesia. We are to come together in prayer and seek His will until we come into that place of sweet agreement (Gk: symphoneo), of harmony, in one accord – acting in spirit-led unity with the same divinely produced opinion. Even if there are only two or three of us, as we gather in Yeshua’s name, united with Him for the purpose of establishing His will, He is in our midst and that which He brings us into agreement with shall be done for us by our heavenly Father.
Love Looks Like Limitless Forgiveness
Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven). Matthew 18:21-22 NASB
The Rabbinical rule, derived from Amos 1:3, 2:1 and 2:6, was that no one should ask forgiveness of his neighbour more than thrice. Peter had recognised in Yeshua a more forgiving spirit than this, but was still caught up in the pharisees’ notion of quantifying everything to create fool-safe rules and regulations for keeping the people obedient to Torah. Once again Yeshua insisted that this was not His way, not the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. The difficulties of interpretation have some translations giving a number of seventy seven times, and others of seventy times seven. It matters not which one because the point Yeshua was making was that it was more than we could keep a track of. There is to be no end to our forgiving of the one who seeks it, because there is no end of God’s willingness to forgive us no matter how many times we sin against Him. As citizens of God’s Kingdom we are to forgive as out King forgives, for we are to express His character.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the master of that slave felt compassion, and he released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling, and went and threw him in prison until he would pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened. Then summoning him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart. Matthew 18:23-35 NASB
Forgive as we have been forgiven. No one owes us as much as we owe our King, and He has freely forgiven us of it all. The debt was calculated and no excuses allowed. But mercy was applied out of compassion and the full amount forgiven – the King carried our debt upon Himself.
The first step to forgiveness is acknowledging the debt owed. The second is recognising the total inability of the debtor to repay or make things right. The third is compassion for this one who cannot repay and is thus deserving of punishment. The fourth is mercy that relinquishes the right to demand what the debtor cannot give.
When we remember how much our King has forgiven us we are in no position to withhold such forgiveness from others.
1. HELPS Ministries.The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H.Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. 1995, 2020. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 4. The Holy Bible: The Amplified Bible. 1987. 2015. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What is God’s attitude towards those who have strayed and been ensnared by sin? * What did Jesus instruct us to do if we become aware that our brother has been ensnared in sin? * What should we do if that sin was a wrong against us? * What if our brother did or said something that we don’t like but scripture doesn’t call it sin? * Explain the severity and mercy of God. * What is the attitude towards forgiveness in your culture and how does that compare with what Jesus taught His disciples?
Please read Matthew 17:14-27, Mark 9:14-32 & Luke 9:37-45
At the Base of the Mountain
When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, “Because of your meager faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:14-20 NASB
In the shadow of Mount Hermon, by far the largest mountain in all of Israel, Yeshua stated that faith as tiny as a mustard seed could move such a mountain.
When they got back to the talmidim, they saw a large crowd around them and some Torah-teachers arguing with them. As soon as the crowd saw him, they were surprised and ran out to greet him. He asked them, “What’s the discussion about?” One of the crowd gave him the answer: “Rabbi, I brought my son to you because he has an evil spirit in him that makes him unable to talk. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground — he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked your talmidim to drive the spirit out, but they couldn’t do it.” “People without any trust!” he responded. “How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” They brought the boy to Him; and as soon as the spirit saw Him, it threw the boy into a convulsion. Yeshua asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been happening to him?” “Ever since childhood,” he said; “and it often tries to kill him by throwing him into the fire or into the water. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!” Yeshua said to him, “What do you mean, ‘if you can’? Everything is possible to someone who has trust!” Instantly the father of the child exclaimed, “I do trust — help my lack of trust!” When Yeshua saw that the crowd was closing in on them, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit! I command you: come out of him, and never go back into him again!” Shrieking and throwing the boy into a violent fit, it came out. The boy lay there like a corpse, so that most of the people said he was dead. But Yeshua took him by the hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. After Yeshua had gone indoors, his talmidim asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He said to them “This is the kind of spirit that can be driven out only by prayer.” (Some manuscripts add “and fasting.”) Mark 9:14-29 CJB
Yeshua and His three talmidim had stayed on the mountain all night. Which could explain why Peter, James and John had been sound asleep when Yeshua was transfigured and had awoken with such surprise (Luke 9:32).
This was not the first time Yeshua had spent the night in prayer. Such private communion with the Father was essential to His walk of only doing what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19). It was also, we have just read, essential for walking in the faith needed to drive out this type of unclean spirit (Mark 9:29). Such times of prayer (and some manuscripts add fasting) are needed for faith the size of a mustard seed.
On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. And a man from the crowd shouted for help, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, because he is my only child; and a spirit seizes him, and suddenly he cries out, and it throws him into a convulsion so that he foams at the mouth; and only with [great] difficulty does it leave him, mauling and bruising him as it leaves. I begged Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here [to Me].” Even while the boy was coming, the demon slammed him down and threw him into a [violent] convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father. They were all amazed [practically overwhelmed] at the [evidence of the] greatness of God and His majesty and His wondrous work. Luke 9:37-43 AMP
Walking back through Galilee by Themselves
And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be handed over to men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. Matthew 17:22-23 NASB
After leaving that place, they went on through the Galil. Yeshua didn’t want anyone to know, because He was teaching His talmidim. He told them, “The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men who will put Him to death; but after He has been killed, three days later He will rise.” But they didn’t understand what He meant, and they were afraid to ask Him. Mark 9:30-32 CJB
But while they were still awed by everything Jesus was doing, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: the Son of Man is going to be betrayed and handed over to men [who are His enemies].” However, they did not understand this statement. Its meaning was kept hidden from them so that they would not grasp it; and they were afraid to ask Him about it. Luke 9:43b-45
Teaching in Capernaum
It takes 10-11 hours to walk from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum, probably a bit longer for them to walk the back routs from the base of Mount Hermon to avoid the crowds. It had been a few months since Yeshua and His talmidim were at their home base in Capernaum, on the shores of the sea of Galilee. As Peter went about his business, possibly purchasing food for them all or returning to his house to spend some time with his wife, he was met by the honoured religious tax collectors.
Now when they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” Matthew 17:24-27 NASB
Every Jewish man, 20 years and older, was required by the law of Moses to contribute two drachmas, or half a shekel, to the tent of meeting each time a census of the people was taken (Exodus 30:11–16). This later became a yearly tax for the upkeep of the temple. The Greek word behind “tax” (NKJV) or “tribute” (KJV) in verse 24 is didrachma, equivalent to the Jewish “half-shekel,” the Temple rate paid by every male Israelite above age twenty. It was not hated like the Roman taxes, and was not collected by the sort of tax collectors that Matthew had been, but by religious leaders of the Jewish people. Notice that Yeshua only organised for the temple tax to be paid for himself and Peter, not any of the other apostles. This has led some to suggest that Peter was the only one of the apostles who was over 20 years of age and thereby subject to this tax.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives.” Exodus 30:11-16 NIV
The two-drachma temple tax was meant to be given to God, who is the king over all. Yeshua is God’s Son. The temple tax is not required of the Son of God any more than a regular tax is intended for the son of the king. Therefor Yeshua should not have been be required to pay this tax. He did not, however, demand this right, for His time had not yet come and this was not a fight His Father had called Him to. Instead, God paid the tax through this miracle of the exact amount for both Yeshua and Peter being in the mouth of the fish. What could have been a cause for conflict became instead an opportunity for miracle.
Then an argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, had a little child stand beside Him. And He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. For whoever is the least among all of you, he is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48 BSB
They arrived at K’far-Nachum (Capernaum). When Yeshua was inside the house, he asked them, “What were you discussing as we were traveling?” But they kept quiet; because on the way, they had been arguing with each other about who was the greatest. He sat down, summoned the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” He took a child and stood him among them. Then he put his arms around him and said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the One who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37 CJB
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:1-6 NASB
We need to be careful how we treat and teach children. They are of utmost importance to our heavenly Father, and they are dependent on us for nurture and protection. We are to humble ourselves like a small, helpless child, and we are to treat all such children in the same manner that we would treat Jesus Himself if He came into our midst. God’s wrath rests on those who abuse children or lead them astray into sin.
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10 NASB
“Woe to the world because of snares! For there must be snares, but woe to the person who sets the snare! Matthew 18:7 CJB
“Woe to the world because of snares! — That is, unspeakable misery will be in the world through them. The Greek word translated here as “snares” (or “offences” in the KJV) is skandalon which literally means the trigger of a trap – the mechanism which closes a trap on the unsuspecting victim. It refers to the means of stumbling or entrapment. Our most common snare is self-government, i.e. living outside of God’s inbirthings of faith (“divine persuasion”). For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
For there must be snares — Such is the nature of things, and such the weakness, folly, and wickedness of mankind, that it cannot be but they will come. It is inevitable that we are surrounded by means of stumbling or entrapment.
but woe to the person who sets the snare! — That is, miserable is that man; who sets the snare – the enticement that hinders themselves or another from walking in faith with God as Yeshua did.
So if your hand or foot becomes a snare for you, cut it off and throw it away! Better that you should be maimed or crippled and obtain eternal life than keep both hands or both feet and be thrown into everlasting fire! And if your eye is a snare for you, gouge it out and fling it away! Better that you should be one-eyed and obtain eternal life than keep both eyes and be thrown into the fire of Gei-Hinnom.” Matthew 18:8-9 CJB
And if your hand puts a stumbling block before you and causes you to sin, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to go into life that is really worthwhile maimed than with two hands to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot is a cause of stumbling and sin to you, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter into life [that is really worthwhile] crippled than, having two feet, to be cast into hell (Gehenna). And if your eye causes you to stumble and sin, pluck it out! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell (Gehenna), where their worm which preys on the inhabitants and is a symbol of the wounds inflicted on the man himself by his sins] does not die, and the fire is not put out. Mark 9:43-48 AMP
Yeshua was compassionate with sinners, but told the brutal truth about sin – it ensnares and destroys and will have you cast into hell. Gehenna (hell) is described in scripture as suffering in perpetual fire (Matthew 5:22, 18:9 & Mark 9:45), and it is contrasted as the opposite to the eternal life that Yeshua paid for us to receive. Yeshua is warning His talmidim that they are in danger of this if they do not cut off from themselves anything that leads them into sin, that is, anything that is not of faith. If they were in such danger what makes us think that we can play with sin and avoid like condemnation?
For everyone shall be salted with fire. Salt is good (beneficial), but if salt has lost its saltness, how will you restore [the saltness to] it? Have salt within yourselves, and be at peace and live in harmony with one another. Mark 9:49-50 AMP
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50 BSB
Yochanan said to him, “Rabbi, we saw a man expelling demons in your name; and because he wasn’t one of us, we told him to stop.” But Yeshua said, “Don’t stop him, because no one who works a miracle in my name will soon after be able to say something bad about me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Indeed, whoever gives you even a cup of water to drink because you come in the name of the Messiah — yes! I tell you that he will certainly not lose his reward. Mark 9:38-41 CJB
How often have ministers acted like the apostle Yochanan (John) here: “because he wasn’t one of us, we told him to stop“? Yeshua had already taught them: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Here was an additional labourer for the harvest and the apostles had tried to stop him working because “he’s not one of us“. Notice that this man was apparently successful in his casting out demons through Yeshua’s name, unlike the failure the disciples had endured at the base of Mount Hermon. This man who was “not one of us” was acting in faith as Yeshua had been teaching them to do. All who are doing the works of the Kingdom of God should be encouraged. Do not restrict any because they are not part of your group, or not ordained the way you were, or not from your tribe, or not from the same Bible college, or in any other way not like you. All men and woman, boys and girls are needed for the mighty job of bringing in the harvest – pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest and do not try to stop any of them stepping out in faith and ministering in His name.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Benson. Matthew 18:7. Bible Hub. [Online] Benson’s Comentary. [Cited: September 18th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/18-7.htm. 4. Multiple. Luke 9:38 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: September 18th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/9-38.htm. 5. Got Questions. What is the Temple Tax? Got Questions.org. [Online] [Cited: September 18th, 2022.] https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-tax.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* While His disciples were sleeping, Jesus was praying. What impacts did Jesus’ prayer life have? * What have you experienced in your life that has show that “all things are possible for the one believing?” * Why do you think it was so difficult for the disciples to grasp what Jesus was saying when He told them He was going to be killed and raised again on the third day? * Has God ever spoken anything to you that you did not understand until after it had happened? * How should we treat children if Jesus said: “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me“? * Proverbs 9:10 begins with: “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom...” How does that relate to what Jesus taught about removing anything from our life that becomes a snare or stumbling block that leads us into sin? * How do your people treat sin? Do they think they can get away with it or recognise the peril that Jesus said it puts them in? * Have you experienced trying to stop you from ministering, or know of others this has happened to?
Please read Matthew 16:19-17:13, Mark 8:31-9:13 & Luke 9:22-36
Yeshua’s new community, the ecclesia, was to be built on Him as the chief cornerstone and on people such as Simon bar Jonah who put their trust in Him. The Jewish community had also been built on people: the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whom God re-named Israel), and Israel’s 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes. It was built on the covenant God made with Abraham. After setting them free from Egyptian slavery God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and the Jewish community was built on the one God used to deliver them, Moses, and his God inspired writings: the Torah.
Before the Babylonian exile, Torah (Jewish Law) was interpreted and administered by the priests and Levites (Deut. 17:9, 18; 31:9; 33:10; Jer. 18:18; Mal. 2:7; II Chron. 19:8, 11; 31:4). By the time of Messiah, the rabbis – who were Pharisees and Sadducees had taken over this role. The pharisees claimed to have received the true interpretation of Torah as “the traditions of the Elders” in direct line from Moses. They formed the courts of justice in every town as well as the high court of justice, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem. They decreed how the people were to carry out Torah and what punishments were issued for failing to obey their edicts.
The power of these rabbis was threefold: (1) to amplify the Torah by prohibitory statutes for the prevention of transgressions (“gezerot“) or by mandatory statutes for the improvement of the moral or religious life of the people (“taḳḳanot“), and by the introduction of new rites and customs (“minhagim“); (2) to expound the Torah according to certain rules of hermeneutics, and thereby evolve new statutes as implied in the letter of the Law; and, finally, (3) to impart additional instruction based upon tradition.
So, it was significant that on their way to this place Yeshua had warned His disciples to beware of (guard themselves against) the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11-12), many of their interpretations on how God’s people should live were not what He intended when giving Torah to Moses.
Now a new community was to be built, Yeshua’sekklesia. In referring to building His ekklesia on “this rock“, Yeshua was also alluding to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24) “Everyone therefore who hears these words of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock“. “Hears these words and does them” is a good description of “Shema” and relates to Yeshua‘s words to Simon : “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17).
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Then He warned the talmidim (disciples) not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. Matthew 16: 19-20 CJB
Continuing to speak to the apostle Simon Bar Jonah, Yeshua stated: “I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven...” Notice the future tense of this verse. For now, Yeshua was with them to continue to teach and guide them, but the time was getting closer when He would no longer be physically with them and they would need to disciple others as He had been discipling them. He was preparing them for this. At that time, when He was risen and seated at the right hand of the Father, He was going to give Simon Bar Jonah the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (we will see later that these were not going to be given exclusively to Simon but would also be given to the other apostles).
This resonated with Isaiah 22:21b-22 “I will hand your authority over to him, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder; When he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.”
Keys were symbolic of authority. When a Jewish man was admitted to the esteemed office of scribe he was given a key to symbolise having the authority to “open the treasury of the divine oracles“. Scribes were the official scholars of the oral and written Torah and the instructors and interpreters of it (Mark 1:22). During the second temple period most scribes were from the sect of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:38). In their rejection of Yeshua as messiah and Son of God, Israel’s scribes had proven themselves unfit for this role in the Kingdom of Heaven (“Woe to you experts in the law! For you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.“ Luke 11:52; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.“ Matthew 23:13) They used their keys (their spiritual authority in the community) to shut people out, rather than to open the doors of the Kingdom. Simon Bar Jonah was thus in preparation for being “admitted to the office of scribe” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeshua was going to give him (and the other disciples) authority to teach the truths of the Kingdom to all peoples:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20
With the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven came the authority to bind and release. This is a Rabbinical term for “forbidding and permitting.” Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2) wrote: “The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit who they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.” The various schools of Pharisees claimed the authority to bind (forbid) and to loose (permit) – Talmud: Ta’anit 12a. The Jews believed that this power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age and in the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the heavenly court as confirmed by the divine voice (Sifra, Emor, ix; Talmud: Makkot 23b).
Notice that the binding and loosing that Yeshua authorised here was dependent on Shema (listening, hearing, understanding and responding appropriately to what the Father is saying – just like Simon Bar Jonah had done in his declaration that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of the living God). Yeshua addresses all His talmidim in Matthew 18:18:
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 AMP
By these words Yeshua invested His talmidim with the same authority as that which was claimed by the Scribes and Pharisees who were misusing it to “bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:2-4). In these commissioning passages (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18), the context is church discipline. The apostles are given the authority to both restrict and permit anything as led by the Holy Spirit in agreement with the Scriptures. Yeshua was directing His followers to establish His halakhah הֲלָכָה (the Way / the path that one walks) in His ekklesia (community of called out ones) “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of blindly following the Jewish religious laws established by the Pharisees whose teachings He had warned them to guard themselves against (Matthew 16:12).
What you shema has been bound (forbidden) in heaven you bind (forbid) on earth. What you shema has been released (permitted) in heaven you release (permit) on earth. Live and govern as Yeshua did on earth:
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19 NASB.
In the book of Acts we see the practical outworking of this – first in Peter’s actions and then in the actions of other leaders in the early church.
Peter set in motion the permitting of another to join the ranks of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26).
Peter loosed the crowd to receive salvation through his preaching (Acts 2:14-39).
Peter loosed the lame man from his infirmity (Acts 3).
Peter and John refused to be bound by the ruling of the Sanhedrin that they not speak or teach in the name of Jesus and instead declared their judgment (as heard from God) that they had to continue to testify about Jesus (Acts 4).
Peter forbade lying to the Holy Spirit and the power of God executed the Father’s judgment on such (Acts 5:1-11).
The twelve loosed seven men, chosen by the people, to take charge of meeting the needs of the widows (Acts 6:1-6).
Philip loosed the Samaritans to receive salvation, Peter bound (forbade) offering money for the power of God, and Philip loosed (allowed) the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptised (Acts 8).
Peter, in response to a vision from heaven, loosed the gentiles of Cornelius’ household to be baptised (Acts 10).
The Jerusalem Council, consisting of both apostles and elders, jointly considered what to bind (forbid) and loose (allow) for the gentiles who had come to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 15). While Peter played an important part in this meeting he did not dictate the outcome, nor have the final say, rather it was James who articulated the growing consensus in the room which was reflected in the letter they wrote “… being assembled with one accord… it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things (ie to only bind you in)”.
Then he warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:20 CJB
He commanded them that they should tell no one about Him. Mark 8:30 AMP
But He warned them, and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, ad the third day be raised up.” Luke 9:21-22 AMP
With this simple command Yeshua brought them back to the present. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and binding and loosing, were all to come, although they had tasted something of this authority when Yeshua had sent them out to preach the Kingdom. He had promised them, but for now He was with them and would have to suffer and die before the fulfilment of these future promises. Yeshua was increasingly preparing His apostles for the time when they would lead His community of called out ones, but that time was not yet.
From that time on, Yeshua began making it clear to his talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim (chief-priest) and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life. Kefa (Peter) took Him aside and began rebuking Him, “Heaven be merciful, Lord! By no means will this happen to you!” But Yeshua turned His back on Kefa, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path, because your thinking is from a human perspective, not from God’s perspective!” Matthew 16:21-23 CJB
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must [of necessity] suffer many things and be rejected [as the Messiah] by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and must be put to death, and after three days rise [from death to life]. He was stating the matter plainly [not holding anything back]. Then Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him. But turning around [with His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for your mind is not set on God’s will or His values and purposes, but on what pleases man.” Mark 8:31-33 AMP
And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Luke 9:21-22 NKJV
Yeshua’s second year of ministry was coming to a close. “From that time on“, now that they were well grounded in the reality that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God, He was telling them plainly what was going to take place in just a few months’ time. This revelation of His impending suffering and death, however, sounded so strange and horrible to them that their minds could not shema this.
Just as Simon Peter had been first to respond to “who do you say that I am“, so he was first to respond to these hated words “the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed“. His response demonstrated why Yeshua had spoken in the future tense when talking about giving him the authority to bind and loose, to forbid and permit. What Peter was trying to do in forbidding Yeshua’s suffering and death was an illegitimate use of that authority which he had not yet received, it was contrary to the Father’s will and contrary to what was being revealed from heaven through Yeshua’s words. The authority that Yeshua had been talking about giving Peter was not to be used to exert his own will, but the Father’s will on earth. It was a poignant lesson.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessedlife in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory (majesty, splendour) of His Father with His angels, and then He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27 AMP
Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34 – 38 NIV
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-27 NIV
“Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in (into) His kingdom.“ And six days after this, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. Matthew 16:28-17:1 AMP
And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. Mark 9:1-2 NIV
“But I tell you truthfully, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” About eight days after Jesus had said these things, He took with Him Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. Luke 9:27-28 BSB
Yeshua promised that some of His talmidim there with Him in Caesarea Philippi would see the Kingdom of God in this life. After this He took them away from the crowds for 6 days of spiritual preparation. On the seventh day Yeshua took some of them, three of them as chosen by His Father, up into the hill country and ascended a high mountain to witness a fulfilment of His promise that they would see.
This “high mountain” that we call the Mount of Transfiguration is never identified in Scripture. Yeshua came from Caesarea Philippi and would be going to Capernaum, but we don’t know if He took His talmidim to a mountain north-east or south-west from those places. There are two sites that have most often been proposed as the mountain that Yeshua ascended with Peter, James and John – the nearby Mount Hermon, tallest mountain in Israel, and the distant Mount Tabor. Both are mentioned in Psalm 89:12, which is part of the liturgy for the Orthodox celebration of the transfiguration: “You have created the north and the south. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.“
Mount Tabor, a prominent hill at the eastern end of the Jezreel valley, not far from Nazareth, is where the oldest recorded traditions place Christ’s transfiguration. The earliest recorded pronouncement that we have of Tabor being the Mount of Transfiguration was from Origen in the third century (A.D. 231-54): “Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured” (Comm. in Ps. lxxxviii, 13). The next are in the fourth century, from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech., II, 16) and St. Jerome (Ep. xlvi, ad Marcel.; Ep. viii, ad Paulin.; Ep. cviii, ad Eust.).
Mount Tabor appears loftier than it actually is in the otherwise flat Jezreel Valley and so commands a place of prominence. Visible all the way to Jerusalem, Mount Tabor was a familiar landmark to Yeshua and the disciples, who would have seen it often during their travels around Galilee. Jeremiah links Tabor’s prominence with that of Mount Carmel (see map above): “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty, ‘one will come who is like Tabor among the mountains, like Carmel by the sea’” (Jeremiah 46:18). In Judges, Deborah summoned Barak to gather an army at Mount Tabor to battle against and defeat Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army from Hazor (Judges 4:1–24).
Mount Tabor was settled during the First Temple Period (the city of Tabor was given to the Levites). Hosea also identifies Mount Tabor as one of the high places where Israel’s rulers had set up altars for the worship of false gods (Hosea 5:1). Antiochus the Great built a fortress on Mount Tabor in 219 BC, which may have continued to be utilised by the Romans throughout the time of Christ. The New Moon, signalling the beginning of each new Jewish month, was proclaimed by the Sanhedrin after at least two witnesses came to them with the news of the very first sighting of the New Moon. Using a long torch on top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a representative of the Sanhedrin would then light a fire whose flames people watching on nearby hills would see and light their own fires. Mount Tabor was one of the mountain peaks on which the Jews lit a signal fire announcing each new month.
The likely presence of others living on the summit of Mount Tabor, together with the distances that would need to be travelled have led some to believe that it is an unlikely place for the transfiguration.
Mount Hermon is called Jebel al-Sheikh (“the chieftain mountain“) by the Arabs. This imposing mountain, whose impressive peak is visible from a distance of more than 100km away, was considered to have deep spiritual significance to the various peoples who inhabited the area. The Sidonians called the mountain “Sirion”, and the Amorites called it “Senir” (Deuteronomy 3:9). It was considered to be the sacred mountain on which the council of the gods dwelt, presided over for much of the history of its usage by the Canaanite deity Baal and so called “Baal-Hermon” (compare Judges 3:3, 1 Chronicles 5:23). The name “Hermon” means “sacred, consecrated, dedicated”.
The Israelites saw Mount Hermon as a place where heaven touched earth. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch (Enoch 6), Mount Hermon is the place where the Grigori (“Watcher“) spirit beings descended to Earth and took an oath to commit the transgression described in Genesis 6:1–4 “... the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them” – the Nephilim. While the Book of Enoch is not in our Bible (it was considered for canonization by the early church and some second temple Jewish groups, but ultimately rejected by all but the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Ethiopian Beta-Israel community of Haimanot Jews), it does give us some insight into beliefs held by the Jewish people around the time of Christ to the extent that early theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, Hilary, Epiphanius and Augustine, referred to and used the book of Enoch, and the book of Jude quotes from Enoch 1:9 in verse 6. What happened in Genesis 6:1–4 had to be reversed as part of restoring God’s original Edenic vision. That reversal was, is, and will be accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
MountHermon is a cluster of mountains with three distinct summits, each about the same height. This is an interesting illustration of God’s nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Psalm 133 connects the “dew of Hermon” with the anointing oil and with the blessing of brethren dwelling together in unity. In John 17 Jesus prays that we will be one as He and the Father are one.
Some scholars believe that the six days between Yeshua’s promise that some of them would see the Kingdom of God and the day of His transfiguration refer to a six-day period of spiritual preparation, fasting, and ritual purification before being invited up on the seventh day to behold God’s glory in Christ Jesus. When God gave the Torah, He invited Moses to ascend Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud of glory covered Mount Sinai. On the seventh day, the voice of the LORD called from within the cloud, and Moses went higher up the mountain to enter the cloud and stand in the presence of God.
Moses spoke these words to all Israel: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to Him you shall listen. This is in accordance with everything that you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Do not let me hear the voice of the Lord my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them everything that I command Him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which He speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him.’” Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Now God had sent that Prophet. After six days, Yeshua (the prophet like Moses), and three talmidim, three witnesses for any Jewish court, like the three peaks of Mount Hermon, climbed the high mountain. Like Moses, Yeshua and His talmidim were enveloped in a cloud of glory. Like Moses, they heard the voice of God speaking out of the cloud. Like Moses, Yeshua began to radiate the glory of God. He indeed was the promised Messiah and Son of God.
“After six days” is the seventh day. The seventh day was when God rested from creating heaven and earth, it was the day Jews were to keep holy, it also had end-times implications. The words “after six days” may offer an additional hint about Yeshua’s cryptic promise at the end of the previous chapter, “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels …” (Matthew 16:27). For Matthew and his readers, the term “after six days” might have alluded to the seventh millennium – the one-thousand-year rest of creation. The transfiguration allowed the disciples a glimpse of the Son of Man coming in His Father’s glory—the Messiah in the Messianic Age.
And His appearance underwent a change in their presence; and His face shone clear and bright like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, who kept talking with Him. Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if You approve, I will put up three booths here—one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a shining cloud [composed of light] overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, My Beloved, with Whom I am [and have always been] delighted. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were seized with alarm and struck with fear. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And when they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:2-8 AMP
There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. Mark 9:2-8 NIV
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed; and his clothing became gleaming white. Suddenly there were two men talking with him — Moshe and Eliyahu! They appeared in glorious splendour and spoke of His exodus, which He was soon to accomplish in Yerushalayim. Kefa and those with Him had been sound asleep; but on becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Yeshua, Kefa said to him, not knowing what he was saying, “It’s good that we’re here, Rabbi! Let’s put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” As he spoke, a cloud came and enveloped them. They were frightened as they entered the cloud;and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!” When the voice spoke, Yeshua was alone once more. Luke 9:28-35 CJB
Just as Yeshua had redeemed Caesarea Philippi, with His declaration there of “upon this rock“, so now – as He was praying – He redeemed Mount Hermon with heavenly visitation. These three talmidim had indeed seen the Kingdom of God come in glorious splendour. Peter would later write about their experience:
For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 2 Peter 1:16-17 BSB
The mountain on which Yahweh dwells in the Hebrew scriptures is known as ‘the mountain of assembly’ because it is not only His dwelling but also the place at which the divine council convenes. It is the place at which He is enthroned among the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the sons of God, and the rest of the angelic hosts. This dwelling and the meeting place of the divine council were depicted in the Ancient Near East as taking place in tents. The tabernacle built by Moses was seen to be an earthly copy of the heavenly sanctuary into which he entered atop Mt. Sinai (Acts 7:38-44; Heb 8:5). In addition to the uncreated glory of Christ which shines forth, Moses and Elijah, two humans who have joined the divine council, appear and take counsel with Christ on the mountain (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31). It is this understanding that triggers Simon Peter’s offer to put up three tents, for Christ, Moses and Elijah.
Luke tells us the topic of Moses’ and Elijah’s conversation with Yeshua: “they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” Luke 9:31 NLT. It was to the disciples a most horrible and incomprehensible subject. It was the very subject that Peter had chastised Yeshua for teaching them, which had earnt him the rebuke “get thee behind me Satan...” Yet, here it was in the midst of such a glorious display of the Kingdom of God and with the affirmation of God the father’s voice: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Then Moses and Elijah (representing the Torah and the Nevi’im – Law and Prophets) also appeared on the mountain with Yeshua. Elijah’s coming back has a deep eschatological meaning (both in the Hebrew and in the Christian Bibles) on its own, as his presence precedes that of the Messiah, and his “departure” prefigures Yeshua’s: the book of the prophet Malachi says Elijah will be sent back to earth “before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” The presence of Elijah in the Transfiguration reinforces the fulfilling of Malachi’s prophecy that had already been fulfilled with Yohannan the Immerser (John the Baptist), as if sealing it. The presence of these two also brings assurance that we do not cease to exist at death but there is indeed a resurrection of the dead.
The transfiguration functioned as a heavenly witness to confirm Simon Peter’s declaration, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” It also offered a partial fulfilment to the Yeshua’s promise that some would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God, i.e., the King in His glory. The transfiguration was an experience shared by “some” – three witnesses- of those who had stood with Him in Caesarea Philippi when Yeshua declared: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:28 “And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”“ Mark 9:1 NIV.
Having three witnesses is significant because the Torah states: “On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed“ (Deuteronomy 19:15). The disciple Peter later recalled, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty … when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16).
And as they were going down the mountain, Jesus cautioned and commanded them, “Do not mention to anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The disciples asked Him, “Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah does come and will get everything restored and ready. But I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know or recognize him, but did to him as they liked. So also the Son of Man is going to be treated and suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:9-13 AMP
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Mark 9:9-13 NIV
They kept quiet – at that time they told no one anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:36 CJB
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Turnage, Marc. Biblical Israel: Mount Tabor. CBN Israel. [Online] July 13th, 2021. https://cbnisrael.org/2021/07/13/biblical-israel-mount-tabor/. 4. Wheadon, Martin. Mount Tabor: The Importance of Mountains in the Bible. Gants Hill URC. [Online] October 25th, 2019. https://www.gantshillurc.co.uk/ministers-blog/mount-tabor-the-importance-of-mountains-in-the-bible. 5. McCoy, Glan. The Mount of Transfiguration. Forcey Bible Church. [Online] August 7th, 2020. https://www.forcey.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/07_bi_mount_of_transfiguration.pdf. 6. Stiles, Wayne. Mount Tabor – A Panorama of Beauty And Praise. Wayne Stiles. [Online] [Cited: August 29th, 2022.] https://waynestiles.com/blog/mount-tabor-a-panorama-of-beauty-and-praise?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+waynestiles+(Wayne+Stiles+Blog). 7. Young, Dr Stephen De. Tabor and Hermon. An Introduction to Your Bible2019. [Online] August, 5th. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/wholecounsel/2019/08/05/tabor-and-hermon/. 8. [Online] https://biblehub.com/topical/t/tabor.htm. 9. What is the significance of Mount Tabor in the Bible?Got Questions Ministries. [Online] [Cited: September 3rd, 2022.] https://www.gotquestions.org/Mount-Tabor.html. 10. Miller, Dr. Yvette Alt. The Moon:7 Jewish Facts. Aish. [Online] July 16th, 2019. https://aish.com/the-moon-7-jewish-facts/. 11. After Six Days. Torah Portions. [Online] First Fruits of Zion. [Cited: September 4th, 2022.] https://torahportions.ffoz.org/disciples/matthew/after-six-days.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What is the importance of our “shema” ? * Why do you think Jesus said “I will give you the keys” instead of “I have given you the keys of the Kingdom“? * What do the “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” represent and how are they to be used? * Can you think of any examples of when you have exercised the authority of having the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? * Why did Jesus react so strongly when Peter rebuked Him? * Has there been a time in your life when Christian friends or family have tried to save you from obeying God because they were looking at things from a human perspective? * What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus? * Do you have any mountains near you, and do they have any spiritual significance? * What impact do you think it had on Peter, James and John to see Jesus transfigured?
1.WINTER – Yeshua (Jesus) returned to Nazareth and taught in their synagogue – Lesson 1 2. Yeshua sent out the twelve two by two with power (dynamis) and authority (eksousia) – Lesson 1 3. Yeshua taught in nearby towns – Lesson 1 4. SPRING – Yochanan the Immerser was beheaded by Herod – Yeshua and the twelve regroup and sail to to a secluded place near Bethsaida Lesson 1 5. Yeshua fed 5,000 – Lesson 2 6. Yeshua walked on water – Lesson 2 7. Yeshua taught in Capernaum – Lesson 3 & Lesson 4 8. SUMMER – Yeshua took disciples to the district of Tyre & Sidon and delivered daughter of Syrophoenician woman – Lesson 5 9. Yeshua took disciples down to region of the Decapolis and healed deaf dumb man – Lesson 5 10. Yeshua fed the 4,000 – Lesson 5 11. Yeshua returns to Galilee – Lesson 6 12. AUTUMN (FALL)Yeshua goes to Jerusalem for Sukkot (the Festival of Tabernacles) – Lesson 6 – Woman caught in adultery – Lesson 7 – Teaching in the Temple –Lesson 8 & Lesson 9 – Giving sight to man born blind – Lesson 10 – and more Teaching in Jerusalem – Lesson 11 13. Yeshua returned to Bethsaida and healed a blind man – Lesson 12 14. Yeshua took His talmidim north to Caesarea Philippi (the Gates of Hell) to prepare them for leadership- Lesson 12 15. Yeshua took Kefa, Yochanan and Ya‘akov up a high mountain and was transfigured –Lesson 13 16. Yeshua delivered boy, father “help me in my unbelief” – Lesson 14 17. Walking to Capernaum, teaching on death and resurrection – Lesson 14 18. Temple tax fish, Teaching – avoid snares, reconcile brother, authority – Lesson 14 & Lesson 15 WINTER