Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Omer - Make Mine A Double

The time between the Wave Sheaf Day (during the Days of Unleavened Bread) and Pentecost (which means count fifty) is called the counting of the omer by the Jews. Their tradition is to recite a specific blessing every day during this time and name exactly how many more days are left before the "seven weeks of days" are complete - Sefirat HaOmer [1]. The Churches of God have no specific term for the 50 day period between Wave Sheaf Day and Pentecost.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

The Old Testament calls Pentecost the Feast of Weeks six times and the Feast of Firstfruits twice. Only in the NT is it referred to as Pentecost. The Jewish custom is to call it by its Hebrew name of Shavuot, which simply mean Weeks. What the Church of God calls the Wave Sheaf Day, they call Firstfruits, so it can be confusing. Some call Wave Sheaf Day Early Firstfuits, and Pentecost Latter Firstfruits – Heart Of Wisdom [2]. I like that terminology, even if it's not strictly found in the Bible. We will see that the Wave Sheaf day is linked to Pentecost in at least three ways. Let's first look at how the days are described.
Lev 23: 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf (omer) of the first fruits* of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf (omer) before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
14 Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
15 ‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf (omer) of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath+; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits* to the LORD.

* This is why both Wave Sheaf Day and Pentecost can be called Firstfruits.

+ Some use verse 15 to say the Wave Sheaf Day is the second day of Unleavened Bread, the day after the holyday Sabbath, the First Day of Unleavened Bread. But verse 16 says the count ends the day after the Sabbath. Verse 16 has to mean the weekly Sabbath, so the count has to start the day after the weekly Sabbath during Unleavened Bread.

An omer of barley
Every place the text says sheaf, the Hebrew word is omer, a word we are already familiar with from the manna story. Omer sometimes does mean "sheaf" like a bundle of grain still on the stalk (as in Deuteronomy 24:19, Job 24:10, and Ruth 2:15) - that is, in the context of harvesting or gleaning. BTW, a different word (alumah) is translated as sheaf in the story of Joseph’s dream. And sometimes omer does not mean sheaf, a bundle of grain, it is simply a unit of measure, about two quarts. The Bible actually defines an omer as 1/10 of an ephah in Ex 16:36, making an ephah about six gallons, roughly the size of a paper grocery bag (in America). In Lev 23, all of the English language translations on [3] chose to translate omer as sheaf. In the Torah, the five books of Moses, the word omer is only used in Ex 16 and Lev 23, hinting that there is a connection between the two.

Historically, the omer referred to in Lev 23 meant a measure of grain, specifically barley flour. Here’s what Alfred Edersheim wrote in his book The Temple - Its Ministry and Service [4].

This Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered, … The corn (barley) thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. … Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple. The omer of flour was mixed with a "log", or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of oil, and a handful of frankincense put upon it, then waved before the Lord.

Edersheim references Antiquities of the Jews [5] by Flavius Josephus who lived approx 37-100 AD as the source of this info. So you could say they harvested ten omers of grain from the field to present one omer of flour in the Temple. Why is the use of the word omer important in Lev 23? Because omer connects the Wave Sheaf offering, Pentecost offering, AND the gathering of manna. Let’s see how. You may have noticed that the word omer is NOT used in Lev 23 describing the Pentecost ceremony, Lev 23:17 "You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah”. Two loaves, two tenths of an ephah. That is two omers. The Pentecost offering is double the Wave Sheaf offering. Two omers used for two loaves. And let’s read what happened when the Israelites first received manna.

Ex 16 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded, “Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.”

And on the sixth day?
 Ex 16 22 Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 then he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD."

In other words, God revealed the Sabbath by doubling the manna collected on the sixth day. The laws concerning manna are interesting, unique in that they are unbreakable  - Counting The Omer [6]. Consider the three laws of manna. 

1. Gather an omer per person.
2. Don’t keep it overnight. 
3. Don’t collect it on the Sabbath. 

 What makes these laws unbreakable? 

1. One omer – those that gathered more than an omer had no excess, he who gathered less had no lack. When they measured the day’s manna everyone had an omer. Except on the sixth day, when somehow they had two omers per person. 

2. Overnight – while some tried to keep it overnight, it bred worms and stank, so they couldn’t really keep it overnight, except for the sixth day. 

3. Sabbath – some TRIED to collect it Sabbath morning, but it wasn’t to be found. God was testing the Israelites with unbreakable laws.

Soon, laws were coming that could and would be broken. One lesson is that God revealed the Sabbath by doubling the omer. Note that this is separate from the Ten Commandments. A double portion is one of God’s ways of saying something important is happening. In Ex 16, Moses makes it clear what God meant by the double omer of manna, but the meaning of the double omer of bread on Pentecost is not made clear in Lev 23. Ex 16 and the New Testament can help us understand the Pentecost double omer.

Remember that the Wave Sheaf Day AND Pentecost are both called Firstfruits. Jesus ascended to heaven on the Wave Sheaf Day to become the First of the Firstfruits – 1 Co 15:20 “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming”. The Early Firstfruits pictures Christ, Pentecost pictures the Latter Firstfuits, that is His resurrected saints at His coming - Significance of the Wave Sheaf [7]. In a sense, WE are the double omer, the Latter Firstfruits. Not that we are somehow greater than Christ. We are under Him, and will carry out His will to bring healing and peace to this earth. He did a great work while He was here on earth the first time, and through us will do an even greater work when He comes the second time  - John 14:12 "Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! Indeed, he will do greater ones, because I am going to the Father". In other words, we get to be part of His great work!


· The Wave Sheaf Day, Pentecost, and manna are connected to one another.
· Wave Sheaf Day and Pentecost are both called Firstfruits.
· The count to Pentecost starts on Wave Sheaf Day
· One omer for Wave Sheaf Offering, two omers for Pentecost offering
· One omer of manna daily, two omers on the sixth day to reveal the Sabbath
· Double omer signifies the importance of the Sabbath and Pentecost
· Christ is the Early Firstfruits, we are the Latter Firstfruits
. Together we will do an even greater work

 That greater work lies ahead, soon.



Thursday, June 6, 2019

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger have repeatedly shown that people who aren't good at something often overestimate their performance - PubMed(Unskilled and Unaware of It) [1]. And people who ARE good at something underestimate their performance. This seems counter-intuitive, but we all know examples of this already. For example, more than 80% of drivers think they are above average - Modern Driver [2]. Or maybe you have seen contestants on American Idol who think they are really good singers, but they aren't.

This phenomenon is now known as the Dunning Kruger effect (D-K), but it has long been recognized, just lacking the research and the catchy name. Consider this quote from Alexander Pope in 1709. The Wiki page even references Dunning Kruger.

A little learning (knowledge) is a dangerous thing - Wikipedia(Essay_on_Criticism) [3]. 
Or this observation from Charles Darwin. Some may find irony here.
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge -  BrainyQuote [4].

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

D-K happens because our brain is hiding its own blind spots from us. When people don't get it, they don't realize they don't get it, that is you don't know what you don't know. The skill you need to evaluate your performance is the very skill you lack to actually perform well.

The maddening part is that D-K happens to all of us. We can't be expert in everything. "Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition" - Vox(D-K_Explained) [5]. When we learn something new, we underestimate how much there is to know about a subject, so we assume we have nearly mastered it, and overestimate our performance. When we study something deeply, we realize how much we don't know, so we underestimate our performance.

Hold My Ladder
Let me share one of  my own D-K experiences, involving painting (walls, not portraits). I know a few tricks about painting, things like keeping a wet edge, cutting in, how to quickly spread paint, etc. I thought I was pretty good at it. After my stroke, when I could no longer work over my head, we wanted our living room (which has high ceilings) painted. We hired a guy. I watched him paint. I realized my mediocrity. He painted that ceiling in a couple hours. It would have taken me two days. He had the right tools, knew the right techniques, and painted faster and better than I ever could, pre-stroke that is.

I think the ultimate example of D-K is Mother Eve in the Garden of Eden. She got a tiny bit of (mis)information, and made a decision to overrule God Himself. Did she think that she knew better than her Creator?

The poor performers fall victim to thinking "how hard can it be?" As in "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated".

Hypothetical Dunning Kruger Effect - Independent(William Poundstone) [6]

The graph above depicts the hypothetical Dunning-Kruger effect, plotting confidence against competence. It shows that absolute beginners more accurately evaluate themselves, that is they recognize that they are incompetent. Then, at a certain skill level, people begin to overestimate their competence. This graph was published by William Poundstone, not by Dunning and Kruger however. The D-K paper included four graphs, all of them similar to the one at right, which plots perception versus ability to recognize humor. Note the graph does not go to zero, so it really says nothing about absolute beginners, though a recent study by Dunning shows "beginners don’t start out falling prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect, but they get there real quick" - Vox(D-K_Explained) [7], PubMed [8]. Visit Graph Paper Diaries [9] to see the original D-K graphs for logic and grammar comprehension.

I think one has to distinguish between the D-K effect and arrogance. The D-K effect can be attributed to ignorance. Beginners are simply unaware of how much there is to know about a topic consequently overestimate how much they know about it. But there are people who offer opinions about things they know little about; often wrong, but never in doubt. Everyone falls prey to D-K, but the arrogant more so.

Enter Politics

Whether you're a voter or a politician, the Dunning Kruger effect is in play. Ill informed voters appear to be extremely overconfident in their political knowledge, but also strong in their opinions - Science Trends [10],  PsyPost(Study) [11].  In short, beware the loudest and most confident voices on social media. Politicians propose solutions that can't possibly work, but they are unaware of the costs and consequences of their solutions. I think this is especially true of campaign promises. Some politicians are sadly uninformed about science, technology, economics, history, etc., but make laws about these  very subjects that they don't understand, and be very vocal about it.

One problem for voters is that a truly knowledgeable candidate will likely underestimate his own solutions or his ability to govern. He may even appear to doubt himself. Who is going to vote for that person? People want confident leaders, and D-K says that those people are often the least qualified.

Enter Religion

In a sense, religion deals with "what we don't know", the very realm of the unknown.  We look to religion to give us the answers to life's biggest questions. There are things we simply cannot know from human physical experience, and we expect religion to know the "unknowable". But that leaves huge opportunities for not only D-K, but fraud as well. But to reuse an old joke, "never attribute to fraud what can adequately be explained by D-K" - Hanlon's Razor [12].

How are we supposed to approach it? Who do we believe?  If you don't know what you don't know, can you know what you do know? Personally, I believe the Bible, though I recognize that leaves out atheists and a lot of people who believe in other "sacred texts". I will confine my remarks to Bible believers. But still, Bible believers are split into about 40,000 denominations, they can't all be right. While some may be frauds, I think most are displaying D-K. Consider the D-K preacher, one who can take take a small part of the Bible, make a compelling sermon out of it, yet actually misunderstand the passage. The preacher has the added challenge of wanting to appear confident about the unknowable. Consider the D-K member, one who hasn't read much of the Bible, yet has great confidence they know the truth, or at least their church leaders do. The tendency is to look down on everyone outside one's own faith. Atheists apply D-K to Christians Atheist Forum [13], and Christians apply D-K to atheists  Phillip Jensen [14]. And I would guess that each denomination applies D-K to other denominations as well.

Message Of Hope

Contrary to what Mulder always said, the truth is not "out there" - Wikipedia(X_Files) [15]. And contrary to what Darth Vader said, the truth is not "in here", that is, you can't search your feelings for the truth - Wikiquote(The Empire Strikes Back) [16]. Our feelings are not the arbiters of truth. Truth is in the pages of the Bible, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth" - John 17:17. But with all the misinformation and disinformation about the Bible "out there", one needs a guide - like the Ethiopian eunuch said to Philip.
Acts 8:30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”
That guide is available. I invite you to read some of these publications from the United Church of God [17]. This is only a sampling of what is available.

 Does God Exist?

Why are we here? What is our place in the universe? What is the purpose of life? The questions have been asked for centuries. But they all revolve around what is perhaps the most fundamental question of all: Does God exist?

 Why Were You Born?

What is your destiny? Why do you exist? Why were you born? Is there a reason, a purpose, for human life? These questions have baffled the greatest thinkers and philosophers down through the ages.  We ponder the meaning of life.  In the pages that follow, we will explore this, one of the greatest of all mysteries.

 How To Understand the Bible
The Bible is the world's most popular book, but at the same time the most misunderstood! The Bible continues to be printed more than any other book and is available in more than 2,000 languages. It has helped form the basis for Western society and has shaped much of its religious, economic and social outlook.

The Bible itself reveals ways to better grasp its message to mankind. Throughout its pages are principles that, when applied, can help your comprehension. Let’s now explore a number of important keys that will help open up this Book of books to your understanding.


Why should there be such confusion about one of the Ten Commandments that God gave to mankind? Why is there such controversy and confusion over this one commandment when most people, including religious leaders and their churches, have little quarrel with the other nine? You don’t have to look far to discover the answers to these questions. They can be found in the pages of the Bible and history. And we address these basic questions in this booklet.


Prophecy is an integral part of the Bible, God’s inspired revelation to mankind. Through it God reveals Himself, His plan for humanity and why we are here. When properly understood, the Bible speaks with a clear, consistent and reliable message that is just as appropriate for us as it was for the people of ancient Israel.

Why should you believe me? I don't have a degree from a seminary. I'm not an evangelist, and I don't play one on TV. Maybe I'm exhibiting Dunning-Kruger. Well, I'm not a beginner, I've been studying the Bible for over 40 years. God helped me make big changes in my life long ago. I'm not saying I am perfect, but I'm not the man I was in my 20's. People who knew me then would probably be surprised that I write a blog about Bible topics. You can read my blog for yourself, (65 articles as of June 2019), see the INDEX or the list on the right - you can see much of what I believe.

As far as beliefs go, I'm pretty certain about some, less so about others. For examples, I'm certain God exists; the Bible is the word of God; that He expects us to keep the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath; that Jesus is the Messiah, and He is coming back, soon; Jesus started His church and it is still here (this is not meant to be an exhaustive  list of beliefs I am certain about, just a few examples). If a church teaches the Ten Commandments are done away, or the Sabbath has been changed to Sunday, or keeps Christmas and Easter, that church contradicts the Bible. On the other hand, there are things that I don't fully understand, despite my best efforts, things I may have opinions about, even strong opinions, but can't claim certainty, things like the exact nature of God, God's name, when exactly will Christ return, God of the Old Testament, Nephilim, church government, voting, and more. On the other hand, there are parts of the Bible that are not entirely clear, that people legitimately debate and argue about. Sometimes I think there isn't a verse that people don't argue about. Then I remember what Mark Twain said "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand" - Brainy Quote [18]. At least I have reached the point where I realize I have SO much more to learn.

Overcoming the Dunning Kruger Effect

Is it possible to avoid D-K effect? The research says no because there are always subjects we are not experts at, which means areas we are ignorant and can't accurately assess our performance. But one key is humility - Vox(Intellectual_Humility) [19]. At least, one doesn't have to cross the line from ignorance to arrogance. "everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think" - Rom 12:3. Life Lessons [20] offers more tips on how to overcome D-K.

Discussion questions

Can you think of "Christian" teachings that contradict the Bible?
Do you have a D-K story?



Sunday, May 5, 2019

Lessons From UN-Leavened Bread

Unleavened Bread
I keep Passover and the Days Of Unleavened Bread, because they are commanded in the Bible, with references throughout the Old and New Testaments. Christ died on Passover, not Good Friday; and ascended on the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering during Unleavened Bread, not Easter. We are commanded to put leaven out of our houses by the First Day Of Unleavened Bread and then to eat unleavened bread for seven days, hence the name of the Feast. Many churches who observe the Days of Unleavened Bread teach that leaven symbolizes sin. Jewish rabbis also view leaven as symbolizing sin - Jews For Jesus [1], CBN [2]. Leaven pictures more than just sin, Christ told His disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which meant either doctrine or hypocrisy. He also told his disciples to beware the leaven of Herod, meaning politics - Is Leaven Sin? [3]. So leaven could symbolize sin or specific types of sin.

After one has removed leaven from the house, the focus has to shift from de-leavening. The leaven is already gone, are you going to look for it again? For seven days? Yes, we do stumble across overlooked leaven during the week, but that is the exception. If you find it, you get rid of it, but you don't spend seven days continuing to put leaven out. The command is to eat unleavened bread (Lev 23:6) which pictures putting Christ in - that's the new focus. We don't spend our lives looking for more sin to put out, we put in the "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" - 1Cor 5:8. "Give us this day our daily bread" (Mt 6:11) doesn't mean just for these seven days, it means for a lifetime.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

When I retired, I began a tradition of making some kind of unleavened bread every day during the Days Of Unleavened Bread (except Sabbaths). I make some old favorites, and I make a point of trying some new recipes every year. What follows are some observations from doing this for four years - Your Mileage May Vary.

There are different kinds of unleavened bread

Not the only option

People may assume unleavened bread means the square crackers made by Manishewitz called matzohs, but these are a recent invention - The Evolution Of Matzoh [4] . The word matzoh is a Hebrew word which simply means unleavened bread. This may be stating the obvious, but unleavened bread comes in many forms from sweet to savory - pies, cookies, crackers, noodles, soft and hard flatbread, even unleavened cakes.

This reminds me of all the different ways one can "ingest" the Bible.
  • Simply read it. There are methods to read the Bible cover to cover in a year's time. You can listen to an audio Bible, about 75 hours. An average reader will take about 50 hours to read the whole Bible - Quora(How Many Hours) [5].
  • Study a single book. Some people like to read and reread a single book to glean more out of it.
  • Follow all the center references. Study Bibles will link scriptures to related scriptures.
  • Study a single word. A Concordance like Strong's [6] lists every occurrence of every word in the Bible.
  • Study a topic. Use Nave's Topical Bible [7] to research a topic.
  • Read church literature to know your doctrines, like UCG booklets [8].
  • Listen/read sermons.

It takes time

Not only does it take time to make the bread, cookies, pies, noodles, flatbread, etc. it takes time to do the recipe research. Churches that keep the Days Of Unleavened Bread often publish unleavened bread cookbooks, or have websites of recipes, for examples United Church Of God [9], Nazarene Israel [10], and a mysterious blogger named Sarah UB Recipes [11]. I like looking at cookbooks, so I don't consider this a hardship. I get lots of ideas, and make lists. Baking does take time, almost all of it standing on your feet, assembling something.

Simply reading the Bible takes time. Digging into it will take more time. At least you don't have to stand while studying. Consider an audio Bible or downloaded sermons to listen to while commuting. The point is to plan your study (like a recipe), and make time for it every day, it is our true daily bread, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" - Dt 8:3, Mt 4:4. Looking for blog article topics helps me to do study.

It's easier to avoid leaven if you're making your own bread

You're more likely to encounter leaven when eating in restaurants than at home. Usually we want the complementary dinner rolls, bread sticks, and croutons, but for this one week... The grocery store can be a leaven hazard too, leaven is in so many foods. Be on guard.

Likewise, someone who is reading the Bible regularly is more likely to avoid problem situations.

I never get to all the recipes I want to try

By the time I make some necessities, and yes, lefse is a necessity, and make a few other old favorites, I don't always have time to make all the new things I want to try.

This reminds me of visiting with people after church services. I don't get around to all my old friends, much less new people. I see this as an area I could improve.

I don't like all the recipes I try

This too may be stating the obvious. Some recipes look good in pictures, or the description sounds good, but the end product doesn't meet expectations. 

Some forms of Bible study that work well for one person may not work well for another. And it's hard to find a Bible study "recipe" for the "begat" chapters.

Some recipes don't always work right.

Maybe it doesn't come out the same every time. I have spent a lot of time trying to diagnose why a recipe works well one time, but not another.

It's like reading scriptures that are tricky to understand. Maybe you just studied into a subject, but some time later you can't quite recall it any more. Sometimes you have to treat it like a musical instrument, practice till you get it right.

Sometimes you have to get personal with your bread

We use different tools and machines to make bread - mixers, measuring cups, rolling pins, cookie cutters, ovens, and so on. But some dough you just have to mix and knead by hand. 

Listening to sermons or reading articles about the Bible is a great way to learn. Other people think of things that I wouldn't. But that is not quite the same as actually reading and studying the Bible itself. You have to handle the Word yourself. "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" - 1Tim 2:15.

I end up with too much, so I have something to share

Baking every day for two people, there will be extra, no matter how tasty.

Putting Christ in is important for developing the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc. - Gal 5:22) which gives us something to share with others.  " Freely you have received, freely give." - Mt 10:8.


It seems that every year I think of new lessons or new analogies, or I see the symbolism a new way. These few that I've listed are some that have occurred to me over the years. Like I said above, your mileage may vary. I would like to hear what lessons you may have realized by keeping the Days Of Unleavened Bread.



Friday, March 22, 2019

It's All About The Benjamins

A Short History of Israel's Smallest Tribe

As Rachel was dying after the birth of her second son (Jacob's twelfth son), she named him Benoni, "son of my sorrow", but his father Jacob named him Benjamin, "son of my right (hand)". Benjamin is the name he is known by in the Bible. Because Joseph and Benjamin were born to Rachel, they were Jacob's favorite sons, which caused some serious sibling rivalry, at least towards Joseph. Jacob was clearly protective of Benjamin after he thought he had lost Joseph, and the other ten sons of Jacob apparently felt bad about the way they treated Joseph, selling him into slavery, so they became protective of Benjamin as well. 

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

Judah Saves Benjamin

Benjamin and the Goblet
Joseph became powerful in Egypt, and his brothers came to him to buy food, but didn't recognize him. Joseph planted his goblet in Benjamin's pack so Benjamin would look guilty of theft. Judah steps up and offers to trade himself as a slave in Benjamin's place. In spite of Leah and her children (including Judah) being second class citizens in Jacob's eyes, Judah's plea was based on how much sorrow it would cause his father to lose Benjamin. Note in Genesis 44:27 that Judah quotes Jacob who only refers to the two sons of Rachel. The phrase "your servant my father" refers to Jacob. History turned on this speech by Judah, not because he changed Joseph's mind, but because he showed God his own character, willing to sacrifice for Benjamin.

Genesis 44:27 “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since. 29 ‘If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30 “Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. 

The next thing we read about Benjamin is that he had sons while in Egypt - Gen 46:21.

"Blessings" Of the Twelve Tribes

The next thing we read about Benjamin is in a prophecy about the twelve sons of Jacob. Jacob introduces the prophecy by saying it is for the last days - "And Jacob called his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, and I will tell you what will befall you at the end of days." Gen 49:1, Darby Bible Translation. "End of days" is also translated as latter days, last days, days to come, in the future, etc. Historians use these prophecies to locate Israel's tribes throughout history and at the end time. Here is what Jacob said about Benjamin.

Gen 49:27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he devours the prey,
And in the evening he divides the spoil.

I find that cryptic. In fact, most of the sons receive a cryptic saying. Some refer to this chapter as the "blessing of the twelve tribes" - Ellicott's Commentary [1], but most of them don't read like blessings to me. Commentaries agree that Benjamin's "blessing" means he would have a warlike character at some point in the future.


Benjamin is between
Ephraim and Judah
Time passes, Israel leaves Egypt, and a census is taken by Moses. The tribe of Benjamin is neither the largest nor the smallest tribe, for examples, Simeon 22,200, Benjamin 45,600, Judah 76,500 - Num 26. More time passes, and the Promised Land is divided among the tribes (except Levi the priestly tribe). Benjamin's territory is just north of Judah, and contains the city of Jerusalem - Josh 18:11-27.

After the land is divided, many of the tribes of Israel (Zebulun, Issachar, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Dan, Rueben, Simeon) fade from the pages of the Bible. Israel's history is mostly told through Ephraim, Manasseh, Judah, Levi, and Benjamin.

Benjamin Becomes the Smallest Tribe

Judges 19-21 tells a very dark story in Benjamin's history. The men of Gibeah, a Benjamite town, acted like the men of Sodom, wanting to have sex with a man who was spending the night in Gibeah. The man, a Levite, gave them his concubine instead, and they raped her to death. The Levite cut her body in twelve pieces and sent the pieces to each tribe. All Israel banded together for justice against the rapists, but Benjamin wouldn't give them up. Civil war ensued, and Benjamin was reduced to 600 men. Since then, Benjamin has been the smallest tribe. The Bible is silent about whether the rapists lived or died in the civil war. Twice the Bible records incidents of men demanding sex with strangers. Each ended in death and destruction. It may have been God's way or purging that evil from Israel.

Despite their few numbers, surprisingly a Benjamite, Saul, is chosen as king over all Israel. Unfortunately, Saul wasn't a righteous king, and the kingdom was taken from him and given to David, a Jew. While David too had his problems, his dynasty was established forever. But alas, the kingdom of Israel was split in two in the days of David's grandson Rehoboam, the northern ten tribes known as the kingdom of Israel ruled by Jeroboam, the southern three tribes known as the kingdom of Judah ruled by Rehoboam. Consider this verse suggesting that Benjamin would side with Rehoboam and the Jews.
(The prophet Ahijah is talking to Jeroboam about Solomon's son Rehoboam)
1 K 11:35 but I will take the kingdom from his son’s (Rehoboam's) hand and give it to you (Jeroboam), even ten tribes. 36 But to his son (Rehoboam) I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.
Since Benjamin was so small, and already considered part of Judah, the "one tribe" could be talking about the tribe of Judah; OR Benjamin could be the "one tribe" added to Judah - Gill's Exposition [2].

However, this obscure prophecy in Jeremiah could mean that Benjamin is to split off from Judah at some point. Some teach that Benjamin did just that after the destruction of the second Temple - The Tribe of Benjamin are the Normans [3].
Jer 6:1 Flee for safety, O sons of Benjamin,
From the midst of Jerusalem!
For evil looks down from the north,
And a great destruction.
But that's getting ahead of the story.

Benjamin Saves Judah

Esther appears before the king
The northern ten tribes (known as Israel or Ephraim) are taken captive, and eventually the southern tribes (known as Judah, but includes Benjamin) are also taken captive. During this captivity (478BC) - Introduction to Esther [4], the book of Esther takes place, where Esther, a Benjamite, offers herself to save Judah, that is the ethnic Jews in Persia, repaying what Judah did for Benjamin back in Egypt - Esther Pays An Old Debt [5]. Note that Mordecai and Esther are identified as Jews AND Benjamites - Esther 2:5.

Return To the Land

Meanwhile, King Cyrus agreed to let the Jews rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Notice who responded to the call. One might say that Judah saved Benjamin again.
Ezra 1:2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah'.
5 Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.
Josephus confirms that only Judah and Benjamin came back, but he also refers to the "immense multitude" of the ten tribes that stayed beyond the Euphrates - Antiquities of the Jews  [6].

Benjamin IS Galilee

Judah and Galilee
in Jesus's day

Centuries pass, Judah has taken over Jerusalem, and Benjamin lives north of Judah, in a region called Galilee. This is where Jesus grew up, and where the disciples came from, some teach that 11 of the 12 original disciples were Benjamites, the exception was Judas Iscariot, a Jew, who was replaced by a Benjamite.
"In this land nearly the whole life of Jesus was spent; and it is worthy of note that 11 of His 12 chosen were Galileans" - The Temple Dictionary of the Bible(Galilee) [7]. 

And the Apostle Paul self identified as both a Jew AND a Benjamite.
Acts 21:39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew of Tarsus
Romans 11:1 For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of  Benjamin.
If the Apostles were indeed Benjamites, then nearly all the books in the New Testament were written by Benjamites, the exceptions being Jude (Jesus's brother), Luke and Acts written by Luke (a Gentile companion of Paul), and maybe Hebrews (people argue about the authorship of Hebrews). According to some, Benjamin is fulfilling the prophecy of being a "lamp always before Me in Jerusalem" - 1 K 11:35. Through the Apostolic writings (the lamp), Benjamin will again save Judah, save them from the partial blindness that happened to Israel, including Judah - Rom 11:25.

Benjamin Separates From Judah

After the New Testament era, we follow the story of Benjamin through historical sources. Adam Rutherford [11] wrote that Benjamin did indeed split from Judah at the time of the destruction of the Temple 70AD. Eusebius, an early church historian claims that Christians in Jerusalem were supernaturally warned before the siege to flee - Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History , book 3:5:2 , written in 264 A.D [8]. They fled to Pella, a city in northwest Jordan - Did All the Christians Flee to Pella? [9]. From there, they spread into Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. And these early Christians in Pella and Asia Minor were primarily Benjamites - Israel’s Wanderings [10], and many remained there for two centuries - Iceland's Great Inheritance [11].

The Bible can be confusing in its use of the word Jew, as in the case of Esther and Paul, and the rest of the tribe of Benjamin. Since Benjamin was part of Judah, they were also called Jews, but they were aware of their ancestry. Some even refer to Abraham as a Jew, but that is impossible since Judah was Abraham's great-grandson.
During the time that the people of Benjamin were attached to Judah they were often classified as Jews too, but they were not really Jews, because the term "Jews" is simply a contraction of "Judahites", i.e., descendants of Judah, whereas the Benjamites were not descended from Judah at all, but from Benjamin. The Tribe of Benjamin were never called Jews before they were joined to the Tribe of Judah, and they were never so called again after their separation from Judah. And the other ten tribes of Israel were never called Jews at any period of their history, but they were often called Israelites. So, although every Jew was also an Israelite, every Israelite was not a Jew, just as every Scotsman is a Briton, but every Briton is not a Scotsman - Iceland's Great Inheritance [11].

Go West (And North) Young Man

Dacia is Romain, Bulgaria
From Asia Minor, Benjamin traveled north and west to an area called Dacia, Romania and Bulgaria today - British Israel(Benjamin) [3]. Benjamin kept migrating north and west, and today can be found in Norway (Vikings), Normandy, Britain via the Norman Conquest, Iceland, and Quebec. Different authors have different opinions about the whereabouts of modern day Benjamin.  Steve Collins, author of Lost Ten Tribes Found [12] favors Norway - Benjamin: A Wolfpack From the North [13],  Adam Rutherford argues for Iceland - Iceland's Great Inheritance [11], and Peter Salemi includes all the places listed above - British Israel(Benjamin) [3]. All of these authors agree on the Asia Minor, Dacia, and Viking connections. Tracing Benjamin through history is done by looking for Benjamin's identifying characteristics. The historical details can be found in the links above.
  • A small tribe
  • A protected tribe
  • Associated with a wolf
  • Left handed warriors (ironically Benjamin means "Son of my Right Hand")
  • Associated with Judah

I know that some do not believe that the ten tribes of Israel survived to this day. But consider the "blessings" Jacob spoke over his sons in Gen 49. They can't all refer to the Jews in the modern nation of Israel. They refer to nations in the world at the time of the end.

Some say that the lives of the Patriarchs foreshadow events to happen at the end time. So there may be future fulfillments of Judah saving Benjamin, and Benjamin saving Judah. I don’t have any insights into what they may be, but I look forward to watching the future of Benjamin and Judah unfold.


2. http://gill%27s%20exposition/

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wrestling With Strangers

Another Tale Of Two Brothers

I've been puzzling over the story of Jacob wrestling God for a while.  It's a short story, a few verses in Genesis 32.  But it's the way it starts that puzzles me.

Gen 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Jacob wrestles a "man"

How exactly does one start a wrestling match with a stranger?  Who started it? If this were a fight for survival with a stranger, why would Jacob choose wrestling as the best form of combat? The next verses don't help clarify the story

Gen 32:25  When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.Gen 32:26  Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

One theory to explain this is that Jacob wrestled with himself, which fits with "Jacob was left alone". It could be seen as symbolic for when we wrestle with ourselves. That is, we each have a good side and an evil side, and Christians are supposed to wrestle with our evil thoughts and bring them into subjection. This battle takes place "Between The Ears". As much as I like the symbolism, the problem I see with that theory is that no one can dislocate their own thigh.

Another theory is that Jacob thought the man was Esau, and didn't know otherwise until the sun came up. That explains certain facts too, like why Jacob didn't use weapons. If a stranger came on you at night in the desert, you would be inclined to defend yourself in whatever way necessary. If you thought it was your brother, you would exercise restraint.

The Name Change

Focusing on how the wrestling match got started kept me from writing about a more important point in the story, perhaps the main point of the story. So I shelved this for a while because I didn't have a good explanation of how to start a wrestling match with a stranger. When I came back to it recently, I came up with a theory, but I'll get back to that.

Consider that someone gave Jacob the new name Israel.  If someone in a schizophrenic wrestling match renamed himself, would he choose a name that means "prevailed with God" or "prince of God"?  Note that afterwards, Jacob seems convinced he wrestled with God.

Why was it important for Jacob to get a new name?  That has a clearer answer.  It goes back to his birth with his twin brother Esau. The boys struggled [wrestled] so much in the womb that their mother Rebecca inquired of God.

Sibling Rivalry
Gen 25:23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.
26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

Rebekah with Esau and Jacob
It's not apparent in translation, but notice that "THEY called his name Esau", then "his name was called Jacob". Hebrew scholars say that should be translated "HE called his name Jacob". In other words, Isaac AND Rebecca named Esau, but only Isaac named Jacob. Rebecca apparently didn't approve.

Jacob was named Heel Catcher, and he probably didn't like his name, though he fulfilled it.  Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright, and later tricked his father Isaac out of the blessing meant for Esau. Esau's response:

Gen 27:36  And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing.
Jacob tricks Isaac
There are interesting connections with English here.  We use the word heel as a derogatory term, usually male.  Also, a heel is crooked, we use the word crooked to describe a dishonest person.  Jacob was crooked in his dealings with his brother.  One might say Jacob "heeled" Esau these two times.  But Jacob learned his lesson at the hand of his father in law Laban, who tricked him like he tricked Isaac.  And Jacob wasn't crooked any more.  So he needed his name reset to reflect his new nature.

The Blessing

Right before his name change, Jacob insists on a blessing.  Did he receive some blessing other than the name change?  If he did, it's not in the text, here's all it says.
Gen 32:29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there.
But look at the major events in the rest of Jacob's life.
  • Jacob lost his wife Rachel and his father Isaac a short time later.
  • Jacob's daughter Dinah was raped, and his sons took vengeance.
  • Jacob's son Rueben slept with Jacob's concubine Bilhah.
  • He lost Joseph for 14 years, he thought Joseph was dead.
  • He almost lost Benjamin in Egypt.
  • He spends his last years in Egypt, a foreign land.
Indeed, Jacob himself characterized his life like this.
Gen 42:9 So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and evil have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.”

Few and evil.

The Name Change Is the Blessing

My assertion is the name change IS the blessing.  It is the central point of the wrestling story.  The wrestling story is a chiasm*, that is, verses arranged in a mirror image like a menorah.  One's attention is drawn to the central verse, meaning, it is the point of the story.  In this story, the central verse, which has no mirror image, is the name change.  No other blessings are mentioned.  Note the highlighted words mirrored around verse 28.

24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him,
he touched the socket of his thigh;
so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

    26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.”
    But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

         27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
         28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, 

              but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

        29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.”
        But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”

    And he blessed him there.

    30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said,
    “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel,
and he was limping on his thigh.

32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip
which is on the socket of the thigh,
because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.

I ❤ Chiasms ❤ I

Just to make it more obvious, this chiasm is arranged like this.

A. thigh
      B. bless
           C. name     
                 Jacob becomes Israel
           C'. name
      B'. bless
A'. thigh

Jacob's name change was confirmed in Gen 35:9-16, which is also a chiasm, this time unambiguously by God Himself. Some say Jacob's name was changed twice, but my theory is that chapter 35 is a retelling of chapter 32. Esau  (which means doer - Abarim(Esau)) also had another name, which was Edom (which means red).

Jacob became Israel, he reconciled with Esau, and the story should end there, but strife continued between Esau's descendants and Jacob's descendants, and continues to this day. Apparently, Esau's descendants didn't get the memo about reconciliation.  Relations Of Edom And Israel [1]

Back To Wrestling

Jacob wrestled with God (or an angelic representative), not Esau. I find it plausible that he thought he was wrestling with Esau at first. But why wrestling? I got hung up because I had been thinking of wrestling in modern terms, like Olympic wrestling with very specific rules. Biting and gouging the eyes are forbidden in nearly all types of wrestling, modern and ancient. Many styles don't  allow hitting, some don't even allow holds below the waist wiki(Greco-Roman_wrestling) [2], but it was not always so. In ancient times, wrestling was training for soldiers, and in combat, wrestling would have been a fight to the death. In ancient sport wrestling, submission was the goal. Submission wrestling still exists, one match in the 1912 Olympics lasted six hours without a decision - Britannica(Wrestling) [3]. Ancient wrestling was more akin to what we would call hand to hand combat, or mixed martial arts, where anything goes wiki(Pankration) [4].

The notion that Jacob thought it was Esau explains why he didn't use a knife or a rock to win. God (or angel) matched him move for move. The Hebrew word abaq translated here as wrestle Lexicon-Concordance [5] appears nowhere else in the Bible. It's root means dust.  They got dusty.  They wrestled in the dirt. We have an expression 'dust up', meaning a fight. Jacob's wrestling match appears to be more like submission wrestling, but less than a fight to the death.

I still don't know who started it.

The following is from Gotquestions(chiasm) [6]

*A chiasm (also called a chiasmus) is a literary device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. The result is a “mirror” effect as the ideas are “reflected” back in a passage. Each idea is connected to its “reflection” by a repeated word, often in a related form. The term chiasm comes from the Greek letter chi, which looks like our letter X. Chiastic pattern is also called “ring structure.”

The structure of a chiasm is usually expressed through a series of letters, each letter representing a new idea. For example, the structure ABBA refers to two ideas (A and B) repeated in reverse order (B and A). Often, a chiasm includes another idea in the middle of the repetition: ABXBA. In this structure, the two ideas (A and B) are repeated in reverse order, but a third idea is inserted before the repetition (X). By virtue of its position, the insertion is emphasized.

Is this a real chiasm?
Chiasmus Exchange [7] lists all known chiasms in the Bible. The list keeps growing, as of Jan 7 2019, they list 1929 chiasms! There are chiasms in every book of the Bible, Old and New Testament. Genesis for example has 92 chiasms. Some are small, some span several chapters. Chiasms are used as a literary device to focus attention on the center verse or phrase. They also can serve as a memory aid. Feel free to read my blog article Rhythm And Rhyme [8] where I discuss the chiastic structure of Psalm 67. The Bible has fantastic depth of structure that we are not always aware of. Chiasms are a surprisingly common type of structure to help us gain meaning beyond the words written. Nearly all the Biblical chiasms are visible in English too, occasionally a chiasm word will be translated two different ways, but rarely, and Chiasmus Exchange has found those as well.