Thursday, August 17, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse: Apocalypse?

Aug 21, 2017, people in the United States (and only the United States) will be able to see a total solar eclipse, coast to coast. Is this just an ordinary astronomical event? Or is it a sign from God Himself? Big deal or no?

According to NASA(Eclipse2017) [1], "This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun's tenuous atmosphere - the corona - can be seen, will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina." And according to Wikipedia(Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017) [2], "The last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States was during the June 8, 1918 eclipse." A big deal in the sense that it's been 99 years since the last eclipse like it.

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 X Marks The Spot

There will also be a total solar eclipse seven years later, April 8, 2024 to be exact. Its path will travel from southwest to northeast, intersecting the 2017 eclipse path like a giant X.

Intersection of 2017 and 2024 Eclipses
The path of this eclipse will cross the path of the prior total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, with the intersection of the two paths being in southern Illinois, in Makanda, just south of Carbondale. A small land area, including the cities of Carbondale, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Paducah, Kentucky, will thus experience two total solar eclipses within a span of seven years. Wikipedia(Solar eclipse of April 8, 2024) [3]

And this area of Illinois is known as "Little Egypt" - Wikipedia(Southern Illinois) [4].

After 99 years, two total solar eclipses visible from the US appear seven years apart, and Little Egypt sees them both. One cannot miss parallels with the Bible. Let the speculation begin.

Why do people think an eclipse would be a sign of the end of the world? Historically, people feared eclipses. "So it’s perhaps not surprising that there’s a long history of cultures thinking of eclipses as omens that portend significant, usually bad happenings." - Smithsonian Magazine [5]. Now that we understand what causes them, and can predict them far into the future, we don't fear them, even if viewing one may cause some unease. Some folks will blame an eclipse for bad events, but there are always eclipses, and always bad events. There are about two eclipses every three years.

How about the Bible? If you read certain verses in isolation, ignoring context, you could get a sense that the sky is falling. Consider these.
  • Acts 2:19 I will show wonders in the heavens above 
  • Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars
  • Amos 8:9 It will come about in that day, declares the Lord God, that I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight.

Doesn't that sound like an eclipse is a big deal? Not really. The heavenly signs or "wonders" in the Bible are much more dramatic than a total solar eclipse. Matthew 24:29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (text in uppercase is a quote from Joel 3:15). Note these heavenly signs are severe, and come after the Tribulation. Or how about the rest of Acts 2:19 quoted above "and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and vapor of smoke." That sounds more serious than an eclipse. The point is that they are describing supernatural heavenly events, not natural heavenly events.


Still, it is hard to miss the parallels with the Bible. Two total solar eclipses, seven years apart, pointing to Little Egypt. One interpretation might be that something bad is going to happen in southern Illinois. But it seems more plausible to me we are being directed to look at the time when ancient Israel was in Egypt. Pharaoh had a dream, interpreted by Joseph of seven fat years followed by seven lean years. Problem is, if it is a sign, is 2017 the beginning or the ending of seven fat years?

What Others Are Saying

Ancient Egypt suffered ten plagues before letting Israel go. The ninth plague was a plague of darkness, see Exodus 10:21-29. One of the reasons for the darkness was to show God is in charge, even of the Sun, and not Ra the so called Sun God. The plague of darkness lasted three days, so it was not an eclipse, which only last a few minutes. But it was the final warning to Pharaoh before the death of the firstborn. Rabbi Solar Eclipse Recalling Egyptian Plague [6].
Just as the original plague of darkness was meant as a warning to Egypt, Rabbi Lazar Brody, an American-born Hasidic rabbi and teacher, understands this present-day manifestation to be a divine message.
“In Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), the sun represents the nations of the world, and the moon represents Israel,” Rabbi Brody told Breaking Israel News. “This eclipse is only over the United States. That is a shout from above, saying,  ‘America, get your act together, Come back to the Almighty and cast away all your legalization of what the Torah calls abominations’.”
One problem I have with this interpretation is the identity of Israel. The modern nation of Israel is Predominantly Jewish, that is, descendants of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. America is also an Israelite nation, descendants of another son, Joseph. Regardless, it appears like a warning to America.

Rabbi Berkowitz points out that there is unusual timing in the 2017 eclipse because it occurs 40 days before Yom Kippur  -  Eclipse 40 Days Repentance [7]. This is considered to be the time when both Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days. It is meant to be a time for repentance.

However, Rabbi Berkowitz also believes the eclipse is a warning to North Korea, based on a 100 year old Jewish prophecy about an eclipse "where kings of the East will suffer great loss, and kings of the East clearly refers to the despotic leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un" - Eclipse Portends Destruction of North Korea [8]. I find that a stretch.

I'm Not A Prophet

It is easy to get caught up in signs, heavenly or otherwise. The 20th century has seen significant world events that coincide with Shemitah years - The Mystery of the Shemitah [9].  In recent years, we have seen the "Tetrad of Blood Moons" surrounding the latest Shemitah year. I wrote this in July 2015 - Shemitah, She WHAT? [10].
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.
But nothing happened.

Blood Moons Around Shemitah Year

Some people predicted financial collapse in 2015, a Shemitah year, based on events in 2001 and 2008, the two previous Shemitah years.

But it didn't happen.

Some expect something major to happen in Israel because 2017 is 100 years since the Balfour Declaration where Britain declared support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine  - Wikipedia(Balfour Declaration) [11], and 50 years since the Six Day War when the Jewish people regained control of Jerusalem, and possibly a Jubilee year . The year is not over, but nothing yet. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn [12] has written extensively about the warning prophecies fulfilled by 9/11 and events in years since.

But no apocalypse (TEOTWAWKI) yet.

Apocalypse used to mean "a disclosure of knowledge or revelation. In religious contexts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden, a vision of heavenly secrets that can make sense of earthly realities. ... Today, the term is commonly used in reference to any prophetic revelation or so-called end time scenario, or to the end of the world in general." - Wikipedia(Apocalypse) [13].

Repent Early, Repent Often  

That doesn't mean these heavenly signs don't matter. It may mean we read too much into them. It may mean we don't understand God's plan as much as we thought. It may be that God is patient, giving warning after warning. The real heavenly signs will be unmistakable, supernatural signs, not natural predictable events. But I can't help thinking the timing and location of these natural events, however predictable they may be, are still signs, specifically warning signs, gentle warning signs if you will. And the point is to get right with God sooner rather than later.




Monday, August 7, 2017

The Story About Dinah Is Not About Dinah

The story of Dinah is told in chapter 34 of Genesis. You can read it in just a few minutes. Except for the first verse of the chapter, everything happens to Dinah or around Dinah, but not by Dinah, her only action in the story is to go out to see the daughters of the land. She is raped by Shechem, the prince's son, who offers to marry her. Dinah's father Jacob lets his sons handle the matter. They deceive Shechem and his father. Two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, kill all the inhabitants of the village and plunder it. At this, Jacob is angry.

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No words of Dinah are recorded. No thoughts or feelings of Dinah are recorded. Indeed, she is silent throughout. This maelstrom of deceit and violence and plunder and anger swirls around Dinah, but it appears no one ever thought to ask her how she felt, or what she thought.

So I submit that the story about Dinah is not about Dinah.

The story of  Dinah has many facets however. As Grant Luton of Beth Tikkun [1] says, if a Bible verse can be taken two ways, do it. Dinah's name means Judged or Vindicated - Abarim Publications [2]. One facet of the story then involves justice for Dinah.


Many articles I've read focus on blame. Who is responsible for Dinah being raped? Some suggest that it was Dinah's own fault being where she shouldn't be. "That Dinah was responsible for the whole sorry affair is a common take on this event by many Bible commentators, scholars, and preachers. Many people believe that she was a hussy, a disobedient young woman with a taste for the things of the world" - Rape of Dinah [3]. This is called blaming the victim. It still happens. After multiple rapes and assaults New Years Eve 2015 in Cologne Germany, "Mayor Henriette Reker enraged people by focusing on women’s actions instead of the men who carried out the assault" - Women Need Code of Conduct To Prevent Assault [4]. As for Dinah, some blame everyone, Jacob, his sons, Leah, Dinah, Shechem, etc.

Some say it was consensual, and not rape, it is even the plot line of a book called The Red Tent - [5]. Many excuse Shechem because he wanted to marry Dinah, believing it is not the behavior of a rapist, like King David's son Amnon who raped his half sister then hated her after the fact - 2 Samuel 13. The translators of the Bible may have played into this notion by the language they used in Genesis 34:3.
New International Version - His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her.
New Living Translation - But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words.
New American Standard - He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.
King James - And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.
But Susanne Scholz [6] makes an argument that verse 3 means something quite different than these translators would have us believe. Here is how she might translate it.

He kept Dinah the daughter of Jacob close (captive), he desired (lusted after) the girl, and he tried to soothe her (hurt feelings).
I didn't find any English translation that spoke ill of Shechem, and I don't know Hebrew well enough to know the intent here. My point is that as far as the text goes, no one asked Dinah what she wanted (she was at Shechem's house till Simeon and Levi killed the men, but we don't know if it was her choice), but they all acted on her behalf. Apparently, no one asked God what He thought either. And lest anyone wishes to blame Dinah, remember her name means Vindicated.

Neither would I argue that murdering the village of Shechem is justice. It goes way beyond "life for life, eye for eye" -  Deut 19:21. They decided themselves what was justice for Dinah. In fact, they did the very same thing, after the men of the village were killed, they plundered the village and took their wives for themselves.
Gen 34:27 Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses.

Promises, Promises

In some ways, Dinah's story seems out of place in the Bible. The chapters before and after chapter 34 detail a history of Jacob. In the middle of Jacob's history is Dinah's story. Why is it there? Why is it important enough to be in the Bible? Another facet is revealed through Dinah's story by linking it to Genesis 17 and Genesis 49. Genesis 17 shows promises made to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants (See all the promises made to Abraham at Abraham's Legacy [7]). Genesis 49 shows the promises being split between Judah and Joseph, specifically the blessings known as the birthright (national blessings) and the scepter (royalty). Note the term birthright in 1 Chronicles, and the term scepter in Gen 49.

1 Chr 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. 2 Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph)
Gen 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, 
In plainer English.
God made these two promises, the birthright and the scepter, unconditionally to Abraham and re-promised to Isaac and Jacob. After Jacob, these two promises became separated. The scepter promise of the kingly line culminating in Christ and of grace through Him was handed on to Jacob's son, Judah, father of the Jews. ... The birthright was handed down through the tribes of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, while the scepter promise descended through Judah. - Sceptre Of The Kingdom [8].

But why Judah? The birthright is meant to pass to the firstborn, which was Reuben. But Reuben disqualified himself by sleeping with his father's concubine Bilhah - Gen 35:22, some describe it as rape of Bilhah. The second and third born sons were Simeon and Levi, disqualifying themselves by killing the men of Shechem and taking their wives. Without the story of Dinah, we would not understand why Simeon and Levi were skipped over. The birthright (scepter) then falls to Judah, the next son in line. Judah showed some flaws in his early life, but redeemed himself in the matter of Joseph - Genesis 44. After Jacob took the birthright and blessing that Isaac had intended for his brother Esau, he seemed to take care that he pass them to worthwhile sons. Here is what Jacob said about his first four sons in Genesis 49.
2 Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 “Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence.
6 “Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
7 “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel.  I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up.  He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Here is Joseph's blessing, also Gen 49.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.
23 “The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him;
24 But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 “The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
Judah's scepter and Joseph's birthright is a huge subject, involving the lost ten tribes of Israel. For more information see 

Family Feuds

Mom Always Liked You Best
Another facet is revealed when we look at Jacob's family history. Jacob's reaction when he learns of Dinah's rape is silence, no thoughts or feelings recorded. Instead, he waits till his sons come in from the field. Dinah's brothers are clearly angry, but no reading on Jacob. The brothers deal deceitfully with Shechem and Hamor. Sadly, they learned this behavior from their father Jacob, who deceived Isaac for the blessing. Jacob and his mother Rebecca took matters into their own hands because Esau was Isaac's favorite, and Jacob was Rebecca's favorite. Jacob may have learned his lesson about deceit during the 20 years he worked for his uncle Laban, but he never got over playing favorites. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, which shows up several times in their history, with every son Leah named in Genesis 29:31-35, she hoped it would make Jacob love her. Some suggest that since Jacob didn't love Leah, he didn't love Dinah, and was indifferent to her plight. "Moses could be hinting that she was not one of Jacob's favorites, since her mother was Leah, not Rachel. After all, favoritism was a great sin Jacob dealt with much of his adult life." - Rape of Dinah [3]. The sons of Leah however felt the unfairness of favoritism, and they overcompensated. Contrast Jacob's reaction a few years later when his sons deceive him into thinking Joseph, his favorite son, was killed by a wild animal. Jacob is utterly inconsolable - Gen 37.

See how often the "wrong" son got the birthright.
  • Abraham - the promises went to Isaac, not Ishmael the firstborn.
  • Isaac - the blessings went to Jacob, not Esau the firstborn.
  • Jacob - the birthright went to Joseph the eleventh born, and the scepter went to Judah the fourth born.
  • Joseph - Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh, crossing his hands so the younger gets the larger blessing, also adopting them as his own sons, making them full fledged tribes of Israel.

These missed birthrights have led to family feuds between nations. Many Arabs are descended from Ishmael, their hatred of Jews is obvious. Muslims claim that Ishmael was the rightful heir of Abraham - Wikipedia(Ishmael) [13]. Some scholars believe Esau's descendants are the nation of Turkey - Studies In the Word [14], nation-level feuding with Israel. Again, see the material on Judah's scepter and Joseph's birthright.

Dinah was born to the unloved wife. All Leah's offspring would have felt the unfairness of favoritism. Unfairness is universally understood, even by animals. In experiments, researchers gave chimps a cucumber or a grape as a reward for a task. A chimp who received the cuke, after seeing his fellow chimp get a grape, became upset and flung the cuke at the researcher - Monkey Fairness [15], see footage of the experiment at Frans de Waal, TED talk [16] starting around 12:30. This and similar experiments have shown other animals have a sense of fairness as well - Animals Can Tell Right From Wrong [17], even crows - No Fair Crows Say [18] . It doesn't take a sophisticated system of right and wrong to recognize unfairness. If animals can feel the sting of unfairness, Leah and her sons would have been acutely sensitive to it.

Lessons From the Story of Dinah

The Bible doesn't tell us what happened later to Dinah, there is speculation she had a daughter, and it seems she went to Egypt with the family - Gen 46:15, but nothing about Dinah herself. We see many lessons, big themes, in the story of Dinah, like deceit,  justice, birthright, favoritism, and fairness. In one sense it is a part of Jacob's history, in another sense it is a microcosm of that history. We see these many facets to the story, but we know very little about Dinah herself. The story of Dinah is not about Dinah.

Discussion Questions

Shechem means ‘shoulder’ or ‘saddle’, the shape of mountains encircling ancient Shechem. How does the meaning of his name affect Dinah's story?

What would have been justice for Dinah?
How should justice have been done?
Could Jacob have prevented the bloodshed? How?

How have you handled unfairness in your life?