Friday, December 4, 2015

Ten Little Known Facts About the Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are famous. Many Christians will know them by heart, at least the short form of each. Non Christians will even know some of them, or at least be aware they exist. Jewish people certainly know them. But how well do we know them? Can you recite them in their short form? In their long form? Is there more to them than just memorizing the list? See how many of these "little known facts" about the Ten Commandments you already knew.

1. They Aren't Called The Ten Commandments in the Bible

That's right. The Hebrew scriptures don't call the Ten Commandments the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew word for commandment is mitzvah, plural is mitzvot. But when it refers to these it calls them the Ten Words (Aseret ha Devarim), not Aseret ha Mitzvot. Of course, Devarim means words in the broader context, not literally ten words. We might say, "what's the good word?" not expecting a one word answer. Or we might say "spread the word", meaning a thought or saying, not just one word.

The Ten Words are listed in their entirety twice in the Bible, Ex 20 and Dt 5. Neither passage breaks them into a numbered list. In fact, if you read it without knowing there were ten sayings, you might find more like 13 or 14. Numbering them is discussed below. So how do we know there are ten? The Bible tells us so in three places, let's look at one. Moses is rehearsing the events from Egypt to the Promised Land for the people of Israel, he says this.

Dt 10:4 And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments[a] that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me.
[a] Deuteronomy 10:4 Hebrew words 

So we know there are ten, we know the text doesn't number them, and we know they are not called commandments but rather words. Then there must be at least one word that is not a commandment, a devar that is not a mitzvah.

2. God Introduces Himself

Consider the first thing God said to the whole nation of Israel, not to Moses alone.

Ex 20:1 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

 After centuries of slavery, it is unlikely many if any knew God. There is some indication they knew His name, which He actually used in verse one, saying "I am Yehovah". [insert your own argument about spelling and pronunciation of YHVH here]. In many of the numbering schemes, this Word is tacked on as an introduction to the first Commandment. While this may be logical, in the Hebrew reckoning, verse one stands alone as the first Word. And you can see, it is not a commandment. It is an introduction to the entire Ten Words, not the first actual commandment.

The New Testament does refer to commandments. In Mt 19, a man comes to him and asks "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?"  Christ tells him to keep the commandments (Greek entole). By Hebrew reckoning, there are 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah, so it is understandable that the man asked "which ones?" And Christ answers by listing five of the Ten Words plus the famous line "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself", which may be implied in the Ten Words, but is not explicitly in the text of Ex 20.

According to Jeff Benner, writing for the Ancient Hebrew Research Center [1], a more accurate meaning of entole is the same as Hebrew mitzvah, which is precept, or principle, but is usually translated as commandment.

3. How the Ten Words Are Numbered

Well, it depends on who you ask. As I showed above, there is disagreement right from the first Word. Some include it in the numbering, some do not. The disagreements continue with the second and third words. Some split "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" and "Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image" into two Commandments, while others make it into one. Apparently the Lutherans omit graven images altogether. Then there is fair agreement till the Word about coveting - is it one or two commands? Here is a chart from Sunday Software showing the major variants [2]. Wikipedia [3] has an even more comprehensive chart on the numbering.

4. How Are the Ten Words Divided?

Many churches teach that the first four Commandments show how to love God, and the last six show how to love your neighbor. That's not a bad way to look at them, but it's not the only way. The parchment at left depicts the two tablets as having five on the left, five on the right. The Word in question, the fifth Word, is "Honor thy father and mother".  How does honoring parents fit with the first four Words more than the last five? The first five Words make us look up, the second five make us look eye to eye. It's like two hands, one with fingers pointing vertically, one with fingers pointing horizontally. Writing in Mosaic Magazine [4], Leon Kass has a lot to say about the fourth and fifth Words, Keep the Sabbath, and Honor your Parents. He likens the upward focus on parents as the "embodiment of, and our first encounter with, the gracious beneficence of the world— and of its bountiful Source", that parents "embody and model the Lord God of Israel". In other words, to a child, parents are like gods. Another quote from Kass:
The experience of awe before parents is the germ of the religious disposition; for within God’s covenant, parents stand as representatives of divine authority and care, and the honor and reverence they are owed has purposes beyond family integrity and stability. Indeed, as I pointed out, honoring and fearing/ revering mother and father are, at once, paths toward and manifestations of the holiness to which the children of Israel are called, in imitation of God Himself.

In other words, authority begins with parents.

5. The Words are Second Person Male

What do I mean by that? I have been quoting the King James here because King James English expresses something modern English can't, specifically, there is a difference between Ye and Thou. In modern English we use the word You to speak to a man, a woman, or a group of people. But in Old  English, you could differentiate your audience a little. "Thou shalt not kill" means something different from "Ye shalt not kill". Thou is singular, Ye is plural. When Jesus said "Drink ye all of it", he meant for everybody present to drink.

But it is even more precise than that in the Old Testament. Hebrew distinguishes when addressing single male (atah), single female (at), group of males (atem), and group of females  (aten). That is, the single word You in English may be translated from one of four Hebrew words. Old English can at least distinguish between single and plural, modern English not at all. Unless you're from the South, where y'all is singular and all y'all is plural.

The Ten Words use second person male (atah). That's right, they are addressed to the men. No that doesn't mean women are exempt - consider adultery, both the man and the woman were stoned to death. I think it may have more to do with the patriarchal structure of ancient Israel.

But it also means that God spoke these Words to each individual. Millions of people were on Mt. Sinai that day, and God effectively spoke to each one personally. And He is speaking to each one of us today. And that personal message still comes through in the King James "Thou shalt not ..."

6. Synesthesia

There's a puzzling verse in Exodus immediately after God spoke the Ten Words. It says (Ex 20:18)
And all the people saw the thunder, and the lightning, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

Usually, we focus on the fact that the people were afraid and removed themselves. But look at what it says "the people saw the thunder". How can this be? According to Rabbi Rashi [5], a medieval French rabbi, it is not a mistranslation. It was an intense revelation from God. Rabbi Akiba [6] "They saw what was audible and heard what was visible". It was mass synesthesia Seeing the Sounds [7]. Synesthesia means "union of the senses" Wikipedia [8]. Carol Steen, co-founder of the American Synesthesia Association sees sounds as color. She said simply "We see it in our mind's eye." Pitchfork [9] ,

Extra-Biblical sources add some other details on this mass synesthesia event. 

Rabbi Akiba again
They saw the fiery word coming out of the mouth of the Almighty as it was struck upon the tablets. Torah Class [10]

Rabbi Johanan [11] 

every nation heard the voice in its own tongue and was amazed Coming Home Network [12]

Words of fire. In their own tongue. That sounds exactly like the New Testament Day of Pentecost, sometimes referred to as Second Sinai. Indeed, most agree that the Giving of the Ten Words happened on the Day of Pentecost.  Note that on the OT Pentecost (Shavuot), the Words were written on tablets of stone, but in the new covenant, the Words will be written on our hearts and minds [Jer 31:33]. To be clear, it is the same Ten Words that will be written on our hearts and minds that ancient Israel received on Sinai on that day of Pentecost.

We accept the old adage "seeing is believing", but the Bible also says that "faith comes by hearing". Many, like Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman [13] liken seeing to the physical and hearing to the spiritual. God's voice, His words, were so powerful, the experience so transcendent, that it crossed from spiritual to physical. By being visible, the Words became all the more real to the hearers.

7. The Ten Words Are The Old Covenant

Let's look at one of the other places Moses uses the phrase "Aseret ha Devarim", the Ten Words, in Ex 34:28 "And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments." Actually there is more to the covenant than just the Ten Words, read all of Exodus 21-24. The Ten Words are the only part that God spoke to all the people. In Ex 24 the people said "All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!"

This was the first time God made a covenant with a nation. Before this, he had made covenants with individuals, like Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But now He made a nation of Jacob's descendants and made a covenant with them. The children of Israel had to obey the voice of God, in return, God promised them this:

Ex 19:5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'
But it was more personal than that. It was also a marriage covenant.

Jer 31:32 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.

Treasured possession, kingdom of priests, holy nation, and wife. Today, we understand that the church is to be the bride of Christ, but that idea is very old. Many more blessings are promised elsewhere like Lev 26 and Dt 28, but Ex 19:5 shows what the people were promised less than two months after deliverance from Egypt and slavery. And they said YES. But we know it didn't last even the forty days while Moses was on the mountain receiving the tablets of stone, which brings us to:

8. The Meaning of the Broken Tablets

Now that we understand that the Ten Words are a covenant, the symbolism of Moses breaking the tablets is easy to see. The tablets represented the covenant which Israel broke while Moses was on the mountain. They broke the covenant, Moses broke the tablets.

9. What Was Written on the Stone Tablets?

Above I showed a graphic of the Ten Words with five Words on each tablet, but the Bible says 

Ex 32:15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.

The Ten Commandments (shortened version)
 written in 10th century BC characters,
like on Cecil B. DeMille's tablets in the movie.
Wikipedia "The Ten Commandments (1956 film)"
 Some Jewish writers claim that the text went all the way through from both sides, including letters with holes in them. I'm skeptical. But why writing on both sides? Maybe the Words are written out in long form, not just the summaries, and it required that much space. We don't know exactly how big the tablets were, other than the fact that they fit in the ark of the covenant, and were carried by an 80 year old man. Another plausible explanation is that there were two copies. Since the Ten Words formed a covenant (similar to a contract), two copies were required. It is standard practice for each party to a contract to receive a copy for proof of what each agreed to. No cheating. But why would God give both copies to Israel? The first set of tablets were broken, the second set lost to history, so we can't just look and see. Someday...

10. Sign of the Covenant

God made a covenant with Noah to not destroy the earth by flood. He gave the rainbow as a sign of His word. God made a covenant with Abraham to make his descendants a great nation. He gave circumcision as a sign. The covenant with Noah (and his descendants) was unconditional - there was nothing Noah could do to "set the bow in the cloud", but the covenant with Abraham (and his descendants) was conditional, in that Abraham  (and his descendants) had to do something - circumcision. 

What is the sign of the Old Covenant? The consensus is that the Sabbath is the sign of the Old Covenant, even by people who believe it was done away in the New Covenant. Everyone cites Ex 31:12-17

16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

Some (like me) view Sabbath keeping as essential, as John G. Reisinger wrote "To break the sign is to despise the entire covenant"  Sabatismos [14], and Sabbath breaking is one reason the Israelites who left Egypt died in the wilderness without entering the promised land. Ezek 20:

15. Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;
16 Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
17 Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.

Others (not me) argue it is no longer in force. Others argue that the Sabbath command in Ex 31 was a separate covenant apart from the Ten Words, ie Old Covenant  Forerunner Commentary [15]. As proof, they argue that the Old Covenant had already been ratified and therefore could not be modified, so the Sabbath covenant is a separate one. However that leaves the original question "what is the sign of the Old Covenant?" All roads lead to the conclusion that the Sabbath IS the sign of the Old Covenant, separate covenant notwithstanding. It is part of the New Covenant as well. The Sabbath is an identifying mark, "a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever." But don't let anyone tell you it was only for Israel - Christ said the Sabbath was made for mankind. If you wish to be under the Old or the New Covenant, you must keep the Sabbath.

The Ten Words and the Covenants are very important in the Bible. These aren't the only little known facts about them. There are many other facts about the Ten Words. Perhaps you have some you would like to share in the comments.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Model of the Golden Altar [A]
In the 70's, we used incense to cover other smells, not as an odor to enjoy on its own. But in the tabernacle of ancient Israel, incense, often referred to as fragrant incense, was burned twice daily for God's enjoyment,. Since we are made in the image of God, let us assume that smells that please us also please Him and vice versa. 

Why Smell?

Olfactory - Brain Connection [B]
Smell is unique among human senses. Smells can trigger deeply hidden memories [1]. "Why is smell so sentimental? One possibility, which is supported by this recent experiment, is that the olfactory cortex has a direct neural link to the hippocampus." [2] That is, smells go straight to the brain, triggering memories and emotions. Who hasn't experienced a smell that took them back to a specific time in their life?

One theory why smell is so powerful goes back to the garden of Eden.
After Eating the Forbidden Fruit [C]
Why incense? the Bnei Yissakhar explains that when man sinned in Eden all the senses were corrupted, save one: Eve listened to the words of the Serpent, she saw the tree, touched the tree, ate from the tree; the only sense not corrupted was the sense of smell. Therefore when the kohen gadol (high priest) enters the Holy of Holies to seek forgiveness for the transgressions of the nation, he arms himself with incense, falling back on the one remaining oasis of purity. (Echoes of Eden: Sefer Shmot, By Ari D. Kahn) [3]

One could argue that smell is involved in taste, which would invalidate Mr Kahn's assertion, but smell is not mentioned in the text of Gen 3. And note that incense is put on the golden altar twice a day, not just on Yom Kippur.

What does incense have to do with the birth of Christ?

The priests that served at the temple in Jerusalem gathered every morning to cast lots for their service that day. 

The first lot was for cleansing the altar and preparing it; the second, for those who were to offer the sacrifice, and for those who were to cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense in the Holy Place. The third lot was the most important. It determined who was to offer the incense. If possible, none was to take part in it who had at any previous time officiated in the same capacity. The fourth lot, which followed close on the third, fixed those who were to burn the pieces of the sacrifice on the altar, and to perform the concluding portions of the service. [4]
Then something miraculous happened concerning Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
Zacharias Sees Gabriel [D]
It is this burning of incense which in the Gospel is alluded to in connection with the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:9). Zacharias had come up from the hill country of Judea, from the neighbourhood of priestly Hebron, to minister in the Temple. His course--that of Abia--was on duty for the week, and the house of his fathers' for that special day. More than that, the lot had fallen on Zacharias for the most honourable service in the daily ministry--that of burning the incense on the golden altar within the Holy Place. For the first time in his life, and for the last, would this service devolve on him. As the pious old priest ministered within the Holy Place, he saw with such distinctness that he could afterwards describe the very spot, Gabriel standing, as if he had just come out from the Most Holy Place, between the altar and the table of shewbread, on the right side of the altar.' So far as we know, this was the first and only angelic appearance in the Temple. [5]

Luke's account is more modest, not mentioning the fact that being the "incensing priest" was a big honor, once in a lifetime. But that big honor was dwarfed by meeting angel Gabriel and receiving news that he and Elizabeth would have a son, who would be great in the sight of the Lord. What a day for Zacharias. Then he was struck dumb until John was named.
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. 8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; 

Edersheim fills in details. Note the expectation of silence
Slowly the incensing priest and his assistants ascended the steps to the Holy Place, preceded by the two priests who had formerly dressed the altar and the candlestick, and who now removed the vessels they had left behind, and, worshipping, withdrew. Next, one of the assistants reverently spread the coals on the golden altar; the other arranged the incense; and then the chief officiating priest was left alone within the Holy Place, to await the signal of the president before burning the incense. It was probably while thus expectant that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias. As the president gave the word of command, which marked that the time of incense had come,' the whole multitude of the people without' withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. [6]

But if it had been the duty of Zacharias, as incensing priest for the day, to lead in the priestly blessing, we can all the better understand the wonder of the people as he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless' (Luke 1:22) while they waited for his benediction. [7]

Zacharias was alone in the Holy Place, and all the people outside waited in silent prayer till he lit the incense and came out to do the blessing. In other  words, they expected silence, but not that long. 

Zacharias' wife Elizabeth became pregnant in her old age, her son was John the Baptist - he would have been a priest. Elizabeth was a cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus. John the Baptist would be six months older than Jesus.

Bible scholars use these events to date the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, they don't all agree.

Silence In Heaven For Half An Hour

One piece of foreshadowing occurs in this story as well. Just as silence is expected from the worshipers before the lighting of the incense, there is silence in heaven "for about a half hour" right after opening the seventh seal, right before lighting the incense.

Scroll With Seven Seals [E]
Rev 8;1And when he opened the seventh seal, there followed a silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2And I saw the seven angels that stand before God; and there were given unto them seven trumpets. 3And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5And the angel taketh the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth: and there followed thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
My take is it's like a parent who is really mad doesn't say anything at all. Or maybe the divine silent treatment.

Bitter Makes It Better

Ferula gummosa, from which galbanum comes. [F]
Tabernacle incense was made from sweet spices plus frankincense, stacte, onycha, and galbanum. The problem is that galbanum smells bad. According to Wikipedia, it "has a disagreeable, bitter taste, a peculiar, somewhat musky odour, an intense green scent". [8] But when combined with the other ingredients, the sum is greater than the parts, that is, the incense smells better with galbanum. Some liken this to the unrepentant sinner among the righteous, bringing out the best of the righteous. I think there might be other interpretations. Incense represents prayer, not people, so maybe galbanum represents a certain type of prayer, like prayers of bitter anguish. I would welcome comments on the symbolism of galbanum.

One More Thing

In Heb 9:3-4 we read "Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant." But in Exodus, it clearly says the golden altar is in front of the veil. Is God rearranging furniture in the tabernacle? Does the author of Hebrews not know where the golden altar is? Not at all. The confusion is in the word translated as golden altar. The commentaries agree that it also means golden censer, the pan used to burn the incense. Many translations in fact say golden censer. Beware of theology based on the altar inside the Holy of Holies. By tradition, the golden censer was only used on Yom Kippur  - every other day it was silver. That is, the subject of Hebrews 9 is Christ entering the Holy of Holies in heaven itself pictured by the High Priest on Yom Kippur.


3., p228
4. Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple- Its Ministry and Services (Kindle Locations 1486-1489).
5. Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple- Its Ministry and Services (Kindle Locations 1581-1587).
6. Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple- Its Ministry and Services (Kindle Locations 1678-1681).
7. Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple- Its Ministry and Services (Kindle Locations 1713-1715).



Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Unpublished Bible

There are lots of Bible translations published these days. According to Wikipedia [1], the Bible has been translated fully into 531 languages and paritally into 2883. There are 450 versions in English alone (Wikipedia) [2]. And of course, the Old Testament is readily available in Hebrew, the New Testament available in Greek. But one combination does not exist.

What if you want the OT Hebrew and the NT Greek in one volume? Granted most people wouldn't be interested, perhaps only Biblical scholars, but as far as I know, this particular combination is not published*. And it would require NO translation, how easy is that? I suspect the reason this hasn't been done is political, not technical. The keepers of the Hebrew** (Masoretic) text would have to work with the keepers of the Greek (Stephens) text.

Having No Beginning and No End

Let's look at one technical problem to publishing Hebrew plus Greek -- where is the beginning? Hebrew reads right to left, and Greek read left to right. Pages are also numbered right to left in Hebrew and left to right in Greek. So no matter how one arranges the Testaments, you can't turn the page from the end of the OT to the beginning of the NT. We have two choices where each language would read in its native direction.

Begin at the outsides
Begin at the center

Imagine a Bible bound this way, where the Hebrew book of Genesis is on the right, and the Greek book of Matthew is on the left. The end of each Testament would be in the middle.

Now imagine a Bible bound this way, where the Hebrew book of Genesis and the Greek book of Matthew are next to each other in the middle of the Bible, but the end of each Testament would be at the outside of the volume.

Old Testament Hebrew [3]
New Testament Greek [4]

Each arrangement makes sense. Personally I prefer the first because when you look at either cover of the book, it is meaningful. That is, whichever way you pick the Bible up, it will be correct, each direction would begin with page 1.

There are 531 different languages you can get the whole Bible (Old plus New Testaments), but not in the original languages.That includes Greek Old Testament translations dating back to the Septuagint, and Hebrew New Testaments dating back to the 1300s ( [10].  Why has no one published the Hebrew/Greek Bible? The Christian churches are anti-Semitic, thanks to Constantine, and the Jews deny Jesus as Messiah. That is changing, as shown by the Messianic movement among Jews and Christians. But for now, ironically, the best way to get the whole Bible is in a translation. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Into the Holy Of Holies

Cutaway view of the Tabernacle [1]
The Holy of Holies was a cube shaped room in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the Temples in Jerusalem. It was the inner room of the Holy Place. To get into it, one would have to enter the Tabernacle courtyard, pass the bronze altar, the bronze laver, enter the holy place, pass the showbread and lampstand and altar of incense, enter a special curtain on one side and walk to the other side to finally enter the Holy of Holies. It was a big deal. But only the High Priest (Cohen Ha Gadol) could make that trip, and he could only make it once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

A nation of millions of people, and only one person could enter the Most Holy Place once a year. This is the room that God Himself (YHVH) would speak from. Ex 25:22 "There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel." His earthly throne, the mercy seat over the ark of the covenant, was the only furniture in the room. (By the way, the word for ark used here is Aron, not the same word as Noah's ark, Tibah.) And the High Priest couldn't just stroll in there on Yom Kippur, he had very detailed instructions on clothing, bathing, sacrifices, and other rituals he had to perform just so in order to enter.

It suggests how far from God we are, how difficult it is to approach Him with our own righteousness. Indeed, Israel couldn't even approach Him directly, they needed a High Priest to intervene for them. Is there no other way in? How do we enter that curtain?

There Is Another Way In 

2D Diagram Of The Tabernacle [2]

The Holy Place is a tent within a tent, covered on all sides. But look at what is next to the Holy of Holies, right outside the curtain - the Table of Incense.

The smoke from the incense makes its way past the veil. The formula for this incense is given right in the Bible.

Ex 30:And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight
These ingredients, stacte [3], onycha [4], galbanum [5], and frankincense [6] make "sweet incense" to be burned twice daily in the Tabernacle. The High Priest was responsible for making sure this happened every day.
Ex 30:7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
Incense is an aroma that God enjoys and wants every day. It bypasses the veil, and the High Priest, and drifts into the Holy of Holies.

Why would anyone care?

Because incense is prayer -- Our prayers. 

Our prayers go straight to God's throne. Directly. It is our way in!
Ps 141:2 May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering
Rev 8:4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand
In other words, "The fragrance of our words wafts through the throne room" John Paul Jackson [7].

Our Prayers Are Like Incense

We have access to the Holy of Holies in heaven because of Christ's death on the cross. This was pictured in a very real sense when He died.
Mk 15:37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.
Mk 15:38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
The Ark visible through the torn veil [8]
Looking out through the torn veil [9]

Heb 10:19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus
But we aren't in heaven, we are here. Christ is the High Priest, not any of us. Our way into the Holy of Holies is by our prayers like incense coming before God the Father as a sweet aroma. That's how we enter.

Effective Prayers

Well, effective prayer is a whole topic unto itself. But from the point of view of the Tabernacle of Moses, consider that the incense was a specific formula. And the one who offers the incense must first be clean. And the incense must be offered daily. In terms of our everyday life, here is what Maria Merola [10] said, "Praying the effectual fervent prayer is a lifestyle that is lived out daily...he is after a sincere heart of worship and humility." That's a good place to start.

I never thought of my prayers as being sweet incense, and many days, they aren't sweet incense, more like whining in the Holy Place, but our heavenly Father sees them as sweet incense. Lighting the incense twice a day? Still working on it.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Shemitah -- She WHAT?

The Shemitah, known in English as the land sabbath occurs every seven years. What has that got to do with the world today? More than I ever thought possible. Can a little known law given to ancient Israel affect world events now? Let's look at Shemitah years of the last century to see that the Shemitah is still in effect.

But first, some explanation of the Shemitah. It is a year when the land was fallow, no sowing or harvesting. What grew voluntarily could be picked for consumption. All debts were cancelled. And all slaves set free. Quite a year. We can't imagine a world or a country operating that way. Read the Wikipedia article on the Shemitah [1] for lots more detail. [2]

Shemitah means release or falling. When ancient Israel would not observe the Shemitah voluntarily, they were taken captive until the land had its sabbaths. There is a powerful element of judgment in the Shemitah.

2 Chr 36:21 This fulfilled the word of the LORD through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled

Everyone Knows Something Bad Is Coming

It's not just me saying it. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, author of "The Harbinger" [3] and "The Mystery of the Shemitah" [4] is the one who brought this to America's attention, but now Christian, governmental, and even secular sources are predicting calamity in the fall of 2015. Here are some links to other sources.

The Shemitah: Four Months Until Financial Ruin? [5] --

When Shemitah, Blood Moons and the Messiah Meet [6] --


Events of the Blood Moons and This Shemitah [8] --

Ron Paul's Message to America [9] --

Signs That The Elite Are Feverishly Preparing For Something BIG [11] --

Many people just have the sense that something is wrong with the world. Here is what vlogger Lisa Haven ([12] says about it:
Have you ever had a gut feeling that something big and possible (sic) bad is right around the corner? If you have, you’re not the only one! The feeling seems to be in the air. We know it, the elite know it, the pentagon knows it, and even our military knows it.
I believe a great evil is about to befall not only our nation, by (sic) the entire world. Something major is unfolding and everyone knows it. The economy is unstable, the world is on the brink of war, the elite are running to their bunkers, and governments are planning for mass civil breakdown. Far too many things are on the forefront and one must ask themselves, “What the heck is going on?”

Too Many Coincidences

Look at this list of major events in the history of Israel and America over the last century and ask yourself if this could possibly be coincidence.  Originally from Cahn's book, I found this summary at [13].

Shemitah Year Events of the Twentieth Century:  The rising up and the falling of empires. 

1917- America rises to power ending World War I.  The rising of the Communist State of the Soviet Union.
1917- The defeat of Germany. The fall of the Czar of Russia.  The fall the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  The fall of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire.
1938- German Nazis attack Jewish businesses and burn Jewish Synagogues on Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass.)
1945- Nazi Germany is defeated.  The Atomic bomb is dropped on Japan thus ending World War II.  Japan signs peace treaty the same week of the end of the Shemitah year.
1945- The United States becomes a military super power. The U.S. dollar becomes the world standard currency. The United States is the richest country in the world, and the world's largest lender nation.
1973- The United States Supreme Court declares that America's can kill their unborn babies.
1973- The World Trade Center is completed which is a symbol of Americas economic strength.
1973- America loses its first war to Vietnam.  Nixon takes America off the Gold standard.  This sets in motion the decline of the U.S. dollar.
1980- The U.S. Supreme Court bans the posting of the Ten Commandments in Public Schools.  Thus God is now completely banned from our public schools in America.
2001- The World Trade Center buildings (the symbols of Americas economic strength) are destroyed by an Islamic terrorist attack.  One week later Wall Street has one of its greatest collapses on the last day of the Jewish Shemitah Year.
2008- Exactly seven years later, Wall Street suffers its largest decline.  America is now the world's largest debtor nation.
2014-2015-  In Sept of 2014 we start a new Shemitah Year.  This happens in connection with a Tetrad of 4 Blood Moons which all occur on Jewish feast days.  As the United States has turn away from God and endorsed many sins, it is very possible that God's judgment will fall on America during this year of the Shemitah.
*Above list from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn's book The Mystery of the Shemitah.

Why America?

Some will argue the Shemitah applies only to Jews, or only to the nation of Israel. But this list shows major events in America and Jewish history happen according to the year of the Shemitah, and often to the day of the Shemitah when debts are released. The largest economic collapses in America occured in 2001 and 2008, exactly on the day of the Shemitah. God is quite in charge and has left his handprint on world affairs.

Why is God so concerned with America? Isn't this law really for the nation of Israel? The law was given to the ancient nation of Israel, which consisted of 13 tribes. Judah, father of the Jews, was only one son of Jacob, aka Israel.  The northern tribes of Israel dominated by Ephraim became known as Israel, while the southern tribes became known as Judah.  First, Israel was taken captive, then Judah.  Judah returned to the land, but the ten tribes of Israel were apparently lost to history.

But they aren't lost. The tribes of Ephraim and Mannaseh became Great Britain and the United States, while the other tribes settled in Europe.  The current country of Israel could not be the sole focus of so many prophecies.  When Israel, Jacob, or Ephraim are mentioned in prophecy, those prophecies apply to America and Great Britain. Read more at The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy [14] or Two Nations That Changed the World – America & Britain [15]. Most Americans, especially the nation's founders, are the direct descendants of Israel, and if that weren't enough, our founding fathers dedicated this nation to God, even thinking of the country as new Israel The New England Soul [16], Ha Eretz [17].

Signs In the Heavens and on Earth

Signs in the Heavens [18]

So the signs keep piling up on the Shemitah year of 2014-2015. As it says in Luke 21:25 "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars". Four back to back lunar eclipses, also called Blood Moons, all four known as a Tetrad, occur in 2014-2015, three of them during the Shemitah year, all of them on Biblical holy days. The removal of the dead Ground Zero Tree of Hope happened on the first Blood Moon of the Tetrad, Passover 2014. A blood moon is considered a sign to Israel. March 20, 2015 saw a total solar eclipse, the middle of the Shemitah year. Solar eclipses are considered a sign to the world.

And the completion of the new World Trade Center.

And the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage.

And the first death from Ebola on American soil.

And China surpassed America as the largest economy in the world.

Calves "Benjamin" and "Shemitah" born in Shemitah year

And the birth of the two cows with the number 7 on their foreheads, born at the beginning of the Shemitah year, The "7" Cows [19]. Could this hearken back to Pharoah's dream of seven fat cows swallowed up by seven skinny cows?

How to Prepare for the Shemitah

The Shemitah day, the last day of the Shemitah year when debts are cancelled, is Sept 13, 2015 according to the Hebrew calendar.  I am not a prophet, and I don't play one on TV, and God is not bound by anything I write, but so many signs point to that day as a day of judgment on America that one can't ignore it.

What should be our reaction to all this? How should we observe the Shemitah? Not plant or harvest your crops? Forgive all personal debts owed to you? Tear up your mortgage? Let your slaves go free? In a world that doesn't keep the Shemitah, it's kind of late in the cycle to do anything to prepare for this Shemitah which ends in less than two months. The sixth year was meant to prepare for the seventh, and I can imagine stockpiling produce to survive the seventh and part of the eighth year. In a developed world, stockpiling might be done on a large scale so there is produce for sale in the seventh year. It's also late to plan on forgiving debts, but not impossible. The world runs too much on credit, and everyone would make different decisions if they knew debts would be erased in the seventh year. No, you can't tear up your mortgage. Yes, you have to let your slaves go free. I don't really know how an individual or a family, much less a community or a country would begin keeping the Shemitah, but I would welcome discussion on it. We do have the example of Israel - "According to the laws of shmita, land owned by Jews in the Land of Israel is left unfarmed. The law does not apply to land in the Diaspora." Wikipedia (Shmita) [20] Personally, I think the law does apply to America as Israel's descendants.

How should we prepare for the judgment of the Shemitah? First and foremost, as Jonathan Cahn says "get right with God". Another way to say it "turn away from evil". Or simply "repent". Sadly, America is increasingly Bible illiterate, and people don't know good from evil, or what to repent of. It may be too late now, but there are verses that say God is willing to forgive upon repentance.
Jer 18:7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
2 Chr 7:14 If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Again, I don't know if anything will happen or when, but  "a prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself" (Pr 27:12). But how? That would depend on the kind of calamity, be it a currency crisis, a stock market crash, or crop failure, or epidemic, or war, or drought, or famine, or terrorism, or hurricanes, or earthquakes, or more than one. Do your best to prepare, but hide in the Lord.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Tale Of Two Sighs

There are many kinds of sighs, a contented sigh say at the end of a productive day, an anguished sigh of frustration when your computer crashes again. and many more shades of sighing. You can read about some of the science of sighing at Scientific American blog [1]. But I know what you're thinking, "what's that got to do with Noah's flood?" Noah's father Lamech said this when he named baby Noah.
Gen 5;29 And he called his name Noah, saying: 'This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh from the ground which the LORD hath cursed.' 
Birth of Noah []
"Shall comfort" is translated from y'nachámënû יְנַחֲמֵנוּ. See the nacham? That's the root of the word, and it originally meant "to sigh". It also means comfort.
Strong's #5162: nacham (pronounced naw-kham') a primitive root; properly, to sigh, i.e. breathe strongly; by implication, to be sorry, i.e. (in a favorable sense) to pity, console or (reflexively) rue; or (unfavorably) to avenge (oneself):--comfort (self), ease (one's self), repent(-er,-ing, self).
A little speculation here. We know that Noah didn't give them comfort - after all, they all died in the flood, and Lamech himself died five years before the flood. Lamech's statement was prophetic, but perhaps it was more of a question than a statement. I can picture Lamech (and all mankind) scrabbling out an existence due to the curse of thorns and thistles (Gen 3:17), heaving a sigh saying "May this one bring us comfort". Was it hope or frustration?


Lamech wanted relief from "our work and in the toil of our hands". I know what you're thinking, "What's this got to do with Adam and Eve?" There is the obvious connection that the curse of thorns and thistles was Adam's punishment. But there is a linguistic connection as well, the Hebrew for toil (some translations say labor) is itzavon עִצָּבוֹן, the same word used in Gen 3:17. 

Gen 3:17 cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life
Gen 3:18 Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee
Some translations say toil, some say labor or even painful labor, some say sorrow.  So it would appear that the curse on the ground was still in force in Lamech's day, but was lifted after the flood. While gardens and fields today produce some weeds and some thorns and thistles, it is not the hard labor described by Lamech. But today's harvest does not compare to the prophecies, for example Amos 9:13. While Adam's curse may have been partially lifted by Noah so to speak, the ultimate fulfillment of that is still to come, and will be lifted by Christ at His return.

But that's not all. Eve's punishment involved pain too.
Gen 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children." 
In fact, it's the same word for pain as in Adam's curse - itzabon. It's the same in English too, women suffer labor pains in childbirth, and men labor making a living from the earth. Since woman still suffer greatly in childbirth, it appears Eve's curse has not been lifted yet, not even a little. If Lamech's wife had made the prayer, perhaps it would have been...


Noah's name also means rest. The New American Standard Bible translates it this way.
Gen 5:29 Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work"
It seems even easier to imagine Lamech sighing and saying "Perhaps this one will give us rest".  Rest fits nicely with the Sabbath day of rest, six days of labor, a day of rest, 6000 years of strife, 1000 years of peace, all foreshadowed by Noah. It also fits nicely with Christ's words.
Mt 11:28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Heb 4:9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

Sigh Two

Now let's see the other sigh of the story. When God saw that all mankind was wicked, it records this.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Gen 6:7 The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."
Gen 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
Model of Noah'sArk [2]
The phrase "was sorry" is translated from YiNächem, the same word nacham used earlier when Lamech sighed and named Noah. I picture God sighing in frustration and saying he was sorry he made man. How sorry was He? "Grieved Him to His heart" translated from Yit'aTZëv el-liBô יִּתְעַצֵּב אֶל־לִבּ.  Atsav, the root word of Yit'aTZëv, means to carve. Taking some license in translation, it carved His heart out. (By the way, Gen 6:8 is the first time grace is used in the Bible.)

God Suffers With Us

We can think of God as unfeeling, as the Prime Mover, not subject to pain like humans. "Classic theism teaches that God is impassible—not subject to suffering, pain, or the ebb and flow of involuntary passions." God Without Mood Swings  [3]. This notion came from the Greeks, not the Bible, The God Who Suffers, Christianity Today  [4]. The articles quoted here show that God suffers with us, arguably suffers more than us. 
As John Austin Baker says, "The crucified Jesus is the only accurate picture of God the world has ever seen." The sight of Jesus on the cross disclosed God as one who suffers with humanity. [4]
 the God who suffered for us also suffers with us The God Who Suffers With Us [5]
This isn't some literary device so we humans can comprehend that God is "feeling our pain", this was real pain that carved His heart out. It is not just the pain a parent feels when their child is ill or hurts themselves, worse than the pain I caused my mother in my misspent youth. He suffers right along with us. I have felt abandoned by God even though I knew the scripture that He will never forsake us (Heb 13:5), but that is nothing compared to how Christ must have felt on the cross.

And Hope

These two sighs seem to be born of frustration, but they also reveal insights into the gospel of God, one foreseeing mankind's salvation through Noah, and one speaking of mankind's destruction. 

Lamech: Perhaps he will give us rest.
God: I'm sorry I made man.

Notice that the salvation was arranged before the destruction. The fix was in. The same is true of Christ's second coming, rescue planned long before the end time destruction on the earth.