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September 22 2013 1 22 /09 /September /2013 15:26

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July 11 2013 5 11 /07 /July /2013 21:55

 

This theological documentary, produced by the Restoration Fellowship, filmed by Mark Dockery, and edited by Paul Millunzi, tries to bring difficult theological understanding about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth down to earth.

The video has clips from world-recognized scholars, as well as some unknown skilled examiners of biblical theology and Christology.

The "man on the street" aspect of Dockery's documentary keeps the interest of those who view the presentation. Dockery includes significant ecumenical material, with a view to erasing lines of hostility that separate Christians from the Jewish and Islamic communities. While there is a long way to go to accomplish this, the presentation is a necessary first step in accomplishing that goal.

DVDs of The Human Jesus ($12) are available from Atlanta Bible College at 800-347-4261 or 678-833-1839.
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July 5 2013 6 05 /07 /July /2013 20:57

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The movement bearing this name is so called because it maintains the theory that the British people are the descendants of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel, commonly referred to as the Lost Ten Tribes. This theory has of late years increased the number of its adherents. At first sight it might be considered a waste of time to deal with the strange arguments on which it is based. But it is becoming plain that where they are accepted certain quite definite results follow. The British-Israelite believes that the Old Testament promises that Israel - that is, Britain - is to possess the earth. He therefore, as I shall show later by quotations from British Israel publications, opposes the League of Nations and other peace movements. What has been hitherto a comparatively harmless fad now threatens to become a minor heresy. It is therefore worthwhile to pay some attention to the allegations on which it rests. – C.T. DIMONT

 

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July 1 2013 2 01 /07 /July /2013 16:35

Torah Scroll

 

 

The Legend Of British-Israel 

 

C.T. Dimont, D.D.

 

Principal Of Salisbury Theological College

Chancellor And Canon Of Salisbury Cathedral

 

London: SPCK, 1933. Pbk.

 

 

British-Israel

 

The movement bearing this name is so called because it maintains the theory that the British people are the descendants of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel, commonly referred to as the Lost Ten Tribes. This theory has of late years increased the number of its adherents. At first sight it might be considered a waste of time to deal with the strange arguments on which it is based. But it is becoming plain that where they are accepted certain quite definite results follow. The British-Israelite believes that the Old Testament promises that Israel - that is, Britain - is to possess the earth. He therefore, as I shall show later by quotations from British Israel publications, opposes the League of Nations and other peace movements. What has been hitherto a comparatively harmless fad now threatens to become a minor heresy. It is therefore worth while to pay some attention to the allegations on which it rests.

 

History Of The Movement

 

The first hint of this movement occurred in 1649, when one John Sadler published a book called the Rights of the Kingdom, in which he traced resemblances between Hebrew and English law and custom. Britain as a name he derived from Berat Anak, the field of tin and lead, and he supposed that the Phoenician traders had originated this name. But the modern movement started with Richard Brothers (1757-1824), a half-pay officer of the Navy. He published fifteen volumes on the subject. He claimed to be descended from David, and to be the nephew of the Almighty. It is not surprising that he ended in a lunatic asylum.

 

In 1840 John Wilson adopted the theory and devoted himself to propagating it. Others followed. Among them was C. Piazzi Smyth, the Astronomer-Royal for Scotland, who introduced a novelty by measuring the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, and finding in the measurements prophecies of the future prosperity of the English. This suggestion has since given rise to astonishing and copious speculations (cp. Enc. Rel. Eth., art. Anglo-Israelism).

The British-Israelites - to give them their present name, which seems to have replaced the former title of Anglo-Israelites-are now sufficiently numerous to put out a great amount of literature, run a weekly magazine, and even to contemplate the founding of a new theological college, on the ground that no existing college is faithful in its interpretation of Scripture.

 

For material we turn to British-Israel writings the official handbook called British-Israel Truth, edited by the late Archdeacon Hanan and H. Aldersmith, The Case for British Israel by A. N. Denny, The National Messenger (the weekly organ of the movement), and various other publications and manifestos.

 

The Ten Tribes Were Never Lost

 

First, then, we may state a fact which if we were so disposed might dispense us from further troubling about the matter. The British cannot be the descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes, because no such body of lost tribes exists or ever has existed. The assertion that all the Ten Northern Tribes were carried away to Assyria is contrary to Scripture and to the testimony of the monuments. Sargon, the King of Assyria, says that he carried away from Israel 27,290 captives. It is quite obvious that this was but a fragment of the whole population of the Northern Kingdom (cp. 2 Sam. xxiv. 9, which puts the men of military age in North Israel at 800,000). From the account in 2 Kings xvii. 6 and xviii.11 they appear to have been deported in two groups, one of which was placed in Western Mesopotamia, and the other in the far eastern parts of the Assyrian Empire. And this, as Dr. McCurdy says in his book, History, Prophecy and the Monuments (sec. 363), "is the whole story of the famous 'Dispersion of the Ten Tribes.' " The number stated by Sargon is not likely to have been put too low. Assyrian kings were not in the habit of minimising their exploits. Yet it comes to no more than the present population of Salisbury. A few years later more than seven times this number were carried away from Judah without destroying the southern and smaller kingdom.

 

Those deported were doubtless the most influential men and their families. The rest of the mass of the population remained in Israel. The religion of Jehovah continued there, blended no doubt to some extent with the cults of the heathen settlers who came amongst the natives of the land. But the Samaritans retained the Pentateuch, and, in spite of the late hostility of the Jews, were not regarded as Gentiles.

 

Some time after the fall of Samaria Hezekiah held a great Passover at Jerusalem. According to 2 Chron. xxx. he sent invitations to Northern Israel as well as to Judah. A "multitude" from the North responded by attending. Five of the Northern Tribes are mentioned by name. It is quite clear from this passage that the greater part of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom had not been carried away to Assyria.

 

A century later another king of Judah, Josiah, when he repaired the Temple, received money for this purpose from "Manasseh and Ephraim, and all the remnant of Israel" (2 Chron. xxxiv. 9). This second passage strengthens the inference which we have drawn from the first, that there had been no wholesale deportation of the Ten Tribes.

 

This is now the generally accepted conclusion among Biblical scholars. It may be seen in such books as Israel in World History, by Dr. Blunt, Bishop of Bradford, or The Decline and Fall of the Hebrew Kingdoms in the Clarendon Bible.

 

In the New Testament it is assumed that the Twelve Tribes are still in existence and form one nation. St. Paul speaks of "our Twelve Tribes" (Acts xxvi. 7) as united in common worship. St. James addresses his letter to the Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion. Even if we give this address a figurative interpretation, it would have been singularly meaningless if Ten Tribes had been utterly lost.

 

Again in the Apocalypse the I44,000 are drawn from all the tribes of Israel. There is no consciousness of separation between Ten Elect Tribes and two others rejected by God, as British-Israel alleges. It may be noted that the same assumption underlies the Apocalyptic book called the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Dr. Box shows that the division into two groups of ten tribes and two tribes respectively was of gradual growth, and that only in later Jewish traditions do we come to the conception of a distant land in which the Ten Tribes remain, awaiting the moment of return to the Holy Land (Box, Ezra Apocalypse, p. 300).

 

Did Hebrews Turn Into Scythians And Kimmerians?

 

But let us waive the objection, vital as it is, that the Ten Tribes were never lost, and proceed to examine the supposed proofs that these tribes are today represented by the British. The first step is to get them into Europe. This is effected with the aid of a passage in 2 Esdras xiii. 40, in which it is declared that the Ten Tribes had separated from the heathen of the land to which they were carried, and had passed into a land called Arzareth. Scholars point out that this name is evidently a representation of erets achareth, "another land," and a manifest reference to Deut. xxix. 24-28 (vide R.V. marg.). But British Israel Truth (p. 115) divides the word by taking Ar as one component, meaning "a city or hill," and finding in zareth a concealed reference to the river Sereth. This is a tributary of the Danube. Hence it is argued that the Ten Tribes crossed from Assyria to the Danube region, and the date of their migration is fixed at 650 B.C. No proof is given for this date, and it involves the assumption that the Ten Tribes managed this exploit within seventy years after the fall of Samaria, and while Assyria was still in the plenitude of its power.

 

But the reason for this arbitrary dating soon appears. It was in 650 that the Scythians are said by Herodotus to have appeared in the region of the Black Sea. British-Israel at once declares that this is the date when the Ten Tribes arrived in Europe, being in fact no other than the Scythians. For this identification there is not a shred of evidence. The Scythians were not Semites. Formerly it was suggested that they were of Mongolian origin. But the present trend of opinion is towards regarding them as Aryans.

 

According to Herodotus they were not a pleasant people. In war they were scalp-hunters. In religion they were polytheists, but used neither temple nor altar. When their king died they celebrated his funeral by killing fifty youths and fifty horses, and setting up their stuffed bodies round his tomb. Could there be a greater contrast than between such people and the Hebrews?

 

If British-Israel does not believe this, it may yet perhaps consider the absurdity of its own theory in the light of Bible texts. The opening prophecies of Jeremiah refer to what is undoubtedly a threatened invasion of the Scythians into the Palestinian lands. Are we to understand the prophet to mean that the Ten Tribes are about to issue from Assyria to destroy Judah? Again, in the New Testament we hear St. Paul reciting the list of all the separated elements which shall be brought into one in Christ, Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondmen, freemen (Col. iii. 11). Who on reading this would ever suspect that the Apostle understood Scythians to be members of his own nation?

 

It is not surprising that Professor Tylor was moved to refer to this identification as "abject nonsense " (Chambs. Enc. art. Scythians). Nor is our surprise lessened when we note that it starts from a passage in 2 Esdras. The supporters of British-Israel are for the most part of Protestant leanings, and traditionally averse to allowing any credit at all to the books of the Apocrypha. But they do not on that account refuse here to pick a text out of one of the books of the Apocrypha, written eight hundred years after the fall of Samaria, mistranslate it, and make it the starting-point of an identification on which their whole case rests.

 

But we pass on to further identifications. When the Scythians arrived in what is now South Russia, they drove out another race called Kimmerians. British-Israel finds in these also some of the Lost Tribes, and proceeds to see in them the ancestors of the Welsh, Cymry. Welsh, it is alleged, is largely derived from Hebrew, and the Druids spoke Hebrew. This theory certainly presents us with a curious historical situation. Apparently one section of the Ten Tribes, the Kimmerians, had no sooner found a new home and settled down comfortably than they were thrust out by others of their brethren who followed them, and who for some strange reason preferred to be called Scythians. In its attempt to find a Hebrew origin for the Kimmerians British-Israel has contradicted the Bible. In the Old Testament the Kimmerians are referred to as Gotner. Now in I Chron. i. 24 Abraham and Israel are said to have been descendants of Shem. But in v. 5 of the same chapter Gomer is said to be descended from Japheth. Any attempt to make Kimmerians into Semites must ignore this passage.

 

Scythians Are Not Saxons, Nor Kimmerians Welsh

 

Those who are familiar with both Hebrew and Welsh assure us that the derivation of the second of these from the first is a vain imagination, and that there is no connection between the two languages. Equally unhappy is the suggestion that the name British is compounded of the Hebrew words berith and ish, meaning "man of the covenant." A glance at any philological dictionary will be enough to dispose of this absurdity. As regards the name Saxon we are given a choice in British-Israel manuals between finding the source of it either in Isaac, or in the Sacæ, an obscure race, who seem to have drifted about in Asia. It seems to be only necessary to find two words which have two letters alike to declare them to be cognate. Ordinary textbooks inform us that Saxon is derived from a word meaning a dagger.

 

It will be observed that in the present form of the British-Israel doctrine both Saxons and British are said to be descended from. the Ten Tribes. It might be supposed to be common knowledge that these two types do not belong to the same stock. But British-Israel is not dismayed by this difficulty, and boldly declares that the distinction between Celt and Teuton is altogether erroneous. What is quite certain is that neither Celt nor Teuton was a Semite. A little difficulty which attends British-Israel here is the kinship between the English and the German races. But as it would upset the whole case if Germans were admitted among the representatives of the tribes, it suffices to rake up a few hasty assertions made in the heat of wartime to the effect that there could be no kinship between England and Germany, and on the strength of these to exclude Germany from the blessings awaiting the descendants of Israel (B.I. Truth, p. 107).

 

In the light of modern knowledge it is evident that any attempt such as that of British-Israel to find all the ancestors of the British in one race is much too simple to be anywhere near the truth. The real state of the case is summed up by expert authority, thus: "As so many stocks have come into the country at various times, a general mingling of peoples must have taken place in this small island, which renders the task of disentangling them a peculiarly difficult one" (Haddon, The Races of Man, p. 77). But one thing can be affirmed with certainty. No men of Hebrew descent were to be found either among the Celts who came in successive waves of immigration in the last millennium B.C., or among the Nordic peoples who began to invade the land in the fifth century A.D.

 

Is Our Royal Family Descended From David?

 

Worked in with these fallacies about the nations is the collection of fables by which it is sought to prove that the present Royal Family of England is descended from King David. We begin with the prophecy of Jeremiah xxxiii. that David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel. Israel, says the handbook (p. 181), cannot mean Judah, because Jeremiah never uses the name so. A minute with a Concordance will show the futility of this allegation. Jeremiah ii., e.g., addresses a prophecy to Israel which is expressly applied to Jerusalem. But it appears that Jeremiah did not content himself with prophesying about this; he took steps to see that it should be fulfilled. The Bible tells us that he was carried down into Egypt after the murder of Gedaliah. That is all that Scripture has to say about the end of his life. But British-Israel knows more. Here it may be remarked that the Mediaeval Church, which is frequently charged with exaggerating the value of tradition as compared with Scripture, can be set down as a mere amateur in the light of the exploits of British-Israel in handling and garnishing traditions suitable for its use. There flourished then in Ireland about the year 580 B.C. a lawgiver with a prophetic reputation called Ollam Fola. Now Ollam, says B.I. Truth (p. 184), is clearly the Hebrew word for eternity. It is true that it has two "I's " where the Hebrew has one, but that is a small matter. The learned will note that Ollam's date is also that of Jeremiah, and as Ireland seems to retain reminiscences of Jeremiah (we are not favoured with any details about these), Ollam and Jeremiah must be the same. This is confirmed by the fact that Ollam lived at Tara, which is said to be a slightly altered form of the Hebrew word for the Law, Torah (p. 184). Jeremiah was not the first Israelite to arrive in Ireland. There was a settlement there some time earlier made by the Tuatha de Danann. Here is manifestly a trace of the tribe of Dan. The connection was not direct. It came through the Argive Danai, and some British-Israelites here introduce the story of the daughters of Danaus, so that profane, not to say pagan, history has its contribution to make to this narrative. In reality the name has nothing to do with either Dan or Danaus. It is derived iron. the name of the Irish goddess, Danu.

 

But to return to Jeremiah. The male issue of the royal line of Judah had failed with the death of the sons of Zedekiah. So Jeremiah set sail for Ireland with the daughter of Zedekiah. At any rate, the Irish tradition associated with Ollam a lady called Tephi, alleged to be of Eastern origin. Who else can this be but Zedekiah's daughter? The Irish legend says she had a tomb sixty feet long - which to any but a British-Israelite would suggest a descendant, not of David, but of Og the King of Bashan. Princess Tephi married an Irish prince whose descendants afterwards made their way to Scotland and so through James VI. and I. (was he not also known as "Solomon"?) became the ancestors of our Royal Family. Jeremiah carried with him the stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel, and this is now the stone in our Coronation chair. (Antiquaries who have not been enlightened by these revelations declare that this stone was quarried at Scone in Scotland.)

 

As if this collection of romances were not sufficiently ridiculous, a second line has been found to connect our King with David. The Tudor kings, it is alleged (B.I. Truth, p. 189), were descended through Welsh princes from Anna, cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and daughter of Joseph of Arimathea. The present King is assured by the purveyors of this rubbish that he is in the hundredth generation from King David. It should be noted that in these fantastic genealogies the Ten Tribes have been entirely forgotten, as it is the royal house of Judah which is in question.

 

To bring out the full value of these methods let us apply them locally and suggest to British-Israelites that Salisbury is so named as being the burial place of King Saul, who no doubt brought David with him when he came here, and that Harnham must be a shortened form of Har-Nahum, the Hill of Nahum: for that Nahum knew Salisbury is highly probable from his reference to a "City among the rivers," seeing that no other city so nearly answers this description, and it is further noteworthy that the R.V. margin here reads "canals," a manifest allusion to one of our chief streets called "The Canal." Hence we may conclude that at least one of the names of the local rivers is Hebrew - the Nadder, derived from Nadar, a vow, as it is well known that rivers were often invoked in ancient oaths. And what can Nunton be but the British residence of the family of Joshua, son of Nun? We can at least claim that these derivations are no more absurd than most of those invented by British-Israel.

 

It may be asked whether the tribe of Judah is to partake in the blessings promised to Israel. British-Israelites reply with an emphatic negative. The Jews are all under a curse (B.I. Truth, p. 150). That is to say, that portion of Israel which preserved the worship of God, kept alive the hope of Israel, and has bequeathed to us many of the most beautiful utterances in the Psalms, is to lie under a curse, while Northern Israel, which, according to the testimony of its own prophets, declined into a state hardly distinguishable from degraded paganism, is to inherit all the promises set forth in the Old Covenant. This is flatly contrary to Scripture. For St. Paul (Rom. ix.) refers to Israelites, "Whose are the promises," and immediately adds, "of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh." Even British-Israel will scarcely have the hardihood to deny that the reference here is to Judah. This attitude towards Judah has led some British-Israelites to express satisfaction at the persecution which has befallen the Jews, a piece of fanaticism which is justly denounced in the Jewish Encyclopædia (art. Anglo-Israel).

 

The tribe of Benjamin occasions some difficulty to British-Israel, being by rights one of the Ten Tribes, and at the same time connected with Jerusalem. However, on the strength of a gross perversion of I Kings xi. 36, which refers to Judah, not to Benjamin, the latter tribe is said to have been lent (by whom is not stated) to Judah for 800 years. It then cast off this undesirable connection and has since turned up as the Normans, thus assisting to form the British nation. Any old family claiming Norman descent may be expected to ravin as a wolf (Gen. xlix. 27). Manasseh, we learn, is the ancestor of the Americans. The eagle of the U.S.A. flag has arrows in its left claw, and the tribe of Manasseh was known as the bowmen of Israel (Steele, Bible Basis of British Israel Truth, p. 28). Certainly no one will deny the skill of the Yankee in using the long bow.

 

The Pyramid Superstition

 

The promises recorded in the Old Testament are then to be fulfilled in Britain. But when? In order to answer this question British-Israel turns not only to Scripture, but also to another authority, the Great Pyramid. In the National Message, the magazine of this movement, a series of articles appeared on this subject in 1932, and it is idle for British-Israelites to deny that it is part of their doctrine. God's plan, we read (National Message, June, 1932), is "clearly outlined in the prophetic Scriptures and the Great Pyramid," the two being apparently of equal authority. But even this profanity is outdone by the assertion of another writer (Mr. Morton Edgar) that "the real Architect" (of the Pyramid) "was God Himself." The erection of this was, according to Mr. Hew Colquhoun (Our Descent from Israel Proved, p. 59), a fulfilment of the prophecy that there shall be a pillar in the border of Egypt (Isa. xix. 19), although every student knows that the word there used, massebah, means a single stone pillar, and has nothing at all to do with pyramids. The Pyramid was built by Egyptians skilled in mathematical measurements, and was intended, according to Professor Breasted, to be not only a tomb but also the symbol of the Sun God. But British-Israel takes the number of inches in this and that part of the Pyramid to be mystical prophecies of the dates of events in the history of the British Empire, and finally of the Millennium. Whole books are filled with wild calculations on this basis, and we are asked to believe that the will of the All Holy God is revealed to us in the dimensions of a structure erected by pagan builders to honour the Sun God. Such a combination of the more outlandish forms of Apocalypse with the astrology of the Dark Ages must be unique. Well might our Reformers deliver themselves of the opinion that "they that go about to renew the fable of hereticks called Millenarii, be repugnant to Holy Scripture, and cast themselves headlong into a Jewish dotage" (Art. xli. of 1553). The wildest speculations of the Anabaptists cannot have surpassed these attempts to arrive at a revelation from God by stretching a measuring tape along the corridors of a pyramid. To seek it there is as profane as it would be to search for it in the number of square feet in the roof of the Crystal Palace.

 

Professor Flinders Petrie, the eminent Egyptologist, has shown that the methods used by British-Israelites in measuring the Pyramid are entirely erroneous. He adds that "it is useless to state the real truth of the matter, as it has no effect on those who are subject to this type of hallucination. They can but be left with the flat earth believers and other such people to whom a theory is dearer than a fact." He describes the amusement caused to himself and other experts by the sight of one of these theorists trying to file down a granite boss in the antechamber of the Pyramid to the size required for the theory (Seventy Years in Archaeology, pp. 26 and 35).

 

A detailed examination of the absurdities of these Pyramid doctrines, and an exposure of the extent to which those who proclaim them contradict one another, may be seen in the booklet published by S.P.C.K. called The Secret of the Great Pyramid, by M. D. R. Willink.

 

The Perversion Of Prophecy

 

We need not follow further the exposition of British-Israel doctrine. The specimens already given are typical of the whole. But let us conclude by pointing out in summary the evils which spring from it. It rests upon a method of interpreting prophecy which reduces the Scripture to the level of a cross-word puzzle. Texts are torn from their context, and misapplied without the slightest regard to their original meaning. British-Israel constantly boasts itself that it sticks to the plaid literal meaning of Scripture. But this is the one thing which it does not do. For example, the beautiful passage in Isa. xlix. is a message of comfort to the people returning from exile. The Lord has redeemed His people, and soon the wanderers will be together again in Zion. It is a word of immediate encouragement to strengthen them in the task of rebuilding Zion. But in the hands of British-Israel (B.I. Truth, pp. 91 ff.) it becomes nothing but a forecast of the glories of England, and a prediction that the British flag will fly in every port of the world. Thus God is made to mock His afflicted people by telling them that their only comfort is to know that in 2,000 years vast prosperity will be granted to the inhabitants of a land 2,000 miles away. It is as though some modern prophet were to seek to lighten our present economic depression by assuring us that in A.D. 3900 Hongkong will be the most prosperous city in the world. Such interpretations make the Word of God of none effect.

 

The Covenant And The Kingdom

 

Great play is made by British-Israelites with the word Covenant. They assert that the covenant which God made with Abraham was to be fulfilled in Israel, which on their view means the Ten Tribes. Since that fulfilment did not come owing to the disobedience of Israel to God's law, it is still to be expected, and will be granted to the British as representatives of the Ten Tribes. British-Israel stakes the whole truth of religion on this argument, alleging that if it is an error we cannot trust God to keep any of His promises. But what was the promise made to Abraham? It was simply that he should be the father of a multitude of nations, and that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. The multitude of nations included others besides Israel - for example, Midian - who were also descended from Abraham. In Gen. xv. 18 the promise is given in detail that Abraham's seed should inherit the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates. This was fulfilled in the reign of Solomon. The further promise that all nations should be blessed in Abraham (Gen. xxii. 18) has been fulfilled in Christ (St. John viii. 56). This is the plain teaching of the Bible (Acts iii. 25). St. Paul says expressly that the promise is accomplished in the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. iii. 8). The statement that the carrying out of the promise depends upon the continued existence somewhere of the Ten Tribes of Northern Israel is a fiction repugnant to Scripture and dangerous to faith. The British-Israel treatment of the New Testament conception of the Kingdom is equally erroneous.

 

A distinction is drawn between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Salvation. It is argued that while salvation is offered to all nations the Kingdom is not, but is confined to Israel-that is, the British (Waddington, Israel and Orthodoxy, chap. xiii.). Such a view empties the Gospel teaching about the Kingdom of all meaning. The Gospel begins with the declaration that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It promises entrance into it to all those who will become as little children. The "little flock" who were assured that it was the Father's good pleasure to give them the Kingdom (Luke xii. 42) were Jews, and the forerunners of all those from every nation who should believe in Jesus.

 

What Does The New Testament Mean By Israel?

 

According to British-Israel the name still refers to the Ten Tribes and excludes Judah. A phrase repeatedly cited in this sense is "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This text, it is asserted, refers in Matt. x. 6 and xv. 24 neither to Jews nor Gentiles, but only to members of the Ten Tribes (B.I. Truth, p. 70). On this interpretation our Lord commissioned His Apostles in Matt. x. 6 to go to Scythia, or to whatever remote spot the Ten Tribes are supposed by British-Israel to have then reached, and to preach there. The present writer has heard this explanation actually given at a meeting of British-Israelites. The same idea is read into Matt. xv. 24, where the Lord said that He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Were not such suggestions in print before us it would be difficult to believe that anyone could ever have made them. The correct meaning of "lost sheep" may be found in Matt. ix. 36, where the words refer to the Jewish multitude there described as moving the Lord to pity, because they were as sheep having no shepherd.

 

St. Paul, it is alleged by British-Israel, also means the Ten Tribes, and nothing else, when he speaks of Israel. This assertion is supported by such wild conjectures as that the Galatians were but disguised members of the Ten Tribes (B.I. Truth, p. 67). The failure of Bishop Lightfoot and other learned men to discover this remarkable fact has no weight with British-Israel, to whom here, as often, experts who differ from them are merely "deluded," or "careless," or "blind." But here British-Israel flatly contradicts St. Paul in some of the very essentials of his teaching. When St. Paul says Israel he means the whole nation, including Jews (Rom. ix. 4, 5). When he speaks of the Israel of God (Gal. vi. 16) he means all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who believe in God through Christ (cp. Rom. iv. I6). The doctrine of British-Israel that the enjoyment of God's promises is connected with physical descent from Abraham is precisely that which St. Paul most strenuously resisted, and for the denial of which he suffered bitter persecution.

 

A Narrow Nationalism

 

It must be said quite clearly that British-Israel turns the Bible into a handbook of national megalomania, and that it is a determined foe to the League of Nations and all efforts for world peace. The two great perils to the world today are Nationalism and Bolshevism. To the first of these British-Israel is a servant. This statement can be abundantly justified by quotations from recent literature of the movement. In B.I. Truth (p. 94) we are told that England is the Lord's battleaxe and weapons of war, as prophesied in Jer. li. 20, a statement repeated in a pamphlet called Disarmament, a Divine Condemnation. The blessings foretold by the prophets are "exclusive" to the British (B.I. Truth, p. 5). Consequently there must be no acceptance of any peace which will interfere with the aggrandisement of Britain. During the summer of 1932 the following assertions appeared in the National Message, the magazine of British-Israel: "The madness of supposing that the welter of races in India can carry on and administer for all India the balanced system of the Common Law is of a piece with those who set up the League of Nations." Ezekiel xxxiii. 3 is expounded thus: "No sick sentimentality here. No gushing assurance that war between Christian nations was unthinkable: that we were too civilised to fight." The British are to overrun the world, and if they accept the challenge of the Gospel of the Kingdom, another writer tells us," all the material things after which the Gentile nations so feverishly seek would be automatically added to us as a Race and People." One British-Israelite has the hardihood to distort some words of an eminent supporter of the League of Nations, Sir Oliver Lodge, into an advocacy of these claims (vide Our Descent from Israel Proved, p. 63). I have the authority of Sir Oliver himself for saying that the passage quoted contains no such meaning.

 

Thus from unscriptural theology we pass to unchristian politics, and find ourselves confronted by the spirit, not of the true prophet, but rather of Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, whose notion of revealing God's will was to fashion horns of iron, and proclaim that with them the enemy should be pushed until he was consumed. It is not surprising that militarists have been quick to see the opportunity offered them by British-Israel. But patriotism and nationalism are not the same things, nor is one compatible with the other. We believe wholeheartedly that God has commissioned the British race to per form certain definite tasks. But our belief in this does not depend upon fantastic myths providing us with Hebrew ancestors, nor does it imply that other nations are excluded from sharing with us the promises of God.

 

We are aware that many truly pious people have been persuaded to accept British-Israel doctrine. If they are impressed by its apparent learning we would ask them to consider the fact that its claims are entirely rejected by teachers of theology and ethnology in our Universities. It is one of those great delusions which appear from time to time and claim as their victims those who have a zeal which is not according to knowledge. It cannot stand against a careful study of the Bible and of history.

 

This document is Public Domain.

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June 29 2013 7 29 /06 /June /2013 20:19

Dead Sea Scrolls

 

Paul, “Works of the Law” and MMT

 

By Martin Abegg

 

MMT-Dead-Sea-Scrolls.png

 

Biblical Archaeology Society

 

“Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah” read the words highlighted in the Dead Sea Scroll fragment above. The phrase gives the document its shorthand name—MMT. But what does it mean? Scholars have varyingly translated it as “some precepts of Torah” or “some legal rulings of Torah.” Both translations miss the mark, writes Martin Abegg, who suggests the proper rendering is “pertinent works of the law.” If Abegg is right, MMT casts important new light on the thinking of Paul, who uses the expression “works of the law” in his letters to the Galatians and the Romans.

 

The usual translation of Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah—MMT—obscures its relationship to Paul’s letters. This Dead Sea Scroll and Paul use the very same phrase.

 

On March 15, 1988, as part of my duties as the new graduate research assistant to Professor Ben Zion Wacholder, I climbed the three flights of stairs of the Klau Library at Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College to pick up his mail. The large brown envelope at the bottom of the stack was not in itself strange, but the lack of a return address seemed odd. Back in his office I opened the envelope and found a 12-page photocopy of a handwritten Hebrew manuscript whose first line read “‘elleh miqsat debareynu” (these are some of the words).

 

This was all I had read before Professor Wacholder reasoned that this could only be a bootleg transcription of Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah, already well known in the scholarly world by its acronym MMT. Three years earlier John Strugnell and Elisha Qimron had described it in two preliminary articles.1 And indeed MMT it was. The following spring, Hebrew Union College listed in its graduate catalog a course entitled “Hellenistic Literature 25”; in fact, the course was devoted solely to studying MMT.2 From that time until now, MMT has never been far from my thinking.a


As of this writing, I have not seen the official publication of MMT (reviewed in “MMT as the Maltese Falcon,” in this issue), but I understand that it does not discuss the importance of MMT for New Testament studies. This short article will discuss one significant aspect of that subject. If I am correct, MMT enables us to understand in a new way what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, and perhaps to the Romans as well.

 

The connection lies in the very title given to this obscure Dead Sea Scroll. MMT, as noted earlier, stands for Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah, which Strugnell and Qimron translate “Some of the Precepts of the Torah.” This translation unfortunately obscures MMT’s relationship to Paul’s letters.

 

In this case, miqsat does not mean simply “some.” The same word is used in Genesis 47:2, where Joseph presents five of his brothers to Pharaoh. Here the word could be understood to mean the most important of the brothers or perhaps the choice or select. In other words, when the word is used in MMT, it does not refer just to some random laws; these laws are important to the writer. A similar understanding of the meaning of the word can be gleaned from its use in the Talmud.3 Thus we might translate the word more accurately as “some important” or “pertinent.”

 

More significant for our purposes, however, are the other two words, ma‘ase ha-torah. Strugnell and Qimron translate this phrase as “precepts of Torah,”4 while Lawrence Schiffman offers “legal rulings of Torah.”5 These translations are accurate enough, but they nonetheless cloud the Paul connection.

 

A few minutes with a concordance of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, leaves little doubt that the Greek equivalent of ma‘ase hatorah is likely ergon nomou.b Ergon nomou is commonly translated in English versions of the New Testament as “works of the law.” This well-known Pauline phrase is found in Romans 3:20, 28 and in Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10.

 

It is striking that when the British Bible Society translated the New Testament into modern Hebrew in 1976—at a time when the text of MMT was known only to half a dozen scholars—they consistently translated ergon nomou (works of the law) as ma‘ase ha-torah.

 

In short, ma‘ase ha-torah is equivalent to what we know in English from Paul’s letters as “works of the law.” This Dead Sea scroll and Paul use the very same phrase. The connection is emphasized by the fact that this phrase appears nowhere in rabbinic literature of the first and second centuries A.D.—only in Paul and in MMT.

 

The works of the law that the Qumran text refers to are obviously typified by the 20 or so religious precepts (halakhot) detailed in the body of the text. For the first time we can really understand what Paul is writing about. Here is a document detailing works of the law.

 

To appreciate what can be learned from this connection, let us probe a little more deeply into MMT. The remains of nearly two dozen legal issues are recorded in MMT. Perhaps there were as many as a dozen more precepts that perished; the aim of the work, however, as seen by its composer, was clearly to call attention to matters that trespass the boundaries between the pure and impure. The topic of the work is reflected in the phrase tohorat haqodesh, “the purity of the holy.” Stated simply: “Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is impure.”

 

The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the Temple, the presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha‘atnez), plowing with diverse animals (qilayyim) and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of priests with the common people.

 

Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against plowing with unlike animals in Deuteronomy 22:10). A few others are interpretations or amplifications of Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile offerings and dogs in the Temple). The list clearly reflects a conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts.

 

As Professor Schiffman has noted, the Qumran sect spurned the rabbinic extensions called Talmud, which effectively built a fence around the Torah, successive layers of which have become codified in the rabbinic works of the Mishnah and the two Talmuds.6 The Qumranites were the “Bible only” group of their day.

 

The fact that the phrase miqsat ma‘ase ha-torah (“pertinent works of the law”) appears nowhere in rabbinic literature suggests that the theology of the Qumran sect was not destined to become normative for Judaism. That of course was the case. We find no certain record of the Qumran sect after the Roman suppression of the first Jewish revolt (66–70 A.D.). But that was after Paul wrote.

 

Looking at Galatians and Romans in the light of MMT, it seems clear that Paul, using the same terminology, is rebutting the theology of documents such as MMT. I do not mean to suggest that Paul knew of MMT or of the zealous members of the Qumran community, but simply that Paul was reacting to the kind of theology espoused by MMT, perhaps even by some Christian converts who were committed to the kind of thinking reflected in MMT. Paul’s answer is that “No human being is justified by works of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).

 

Let us look more closely at MMT to see what Paul is reacting against.

 

Both Galatians and MMT are efforts to guide and correct compatriots; they are not addressed to enemies. MMT was written by one sectarian to another, much along the lines of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “I [we] exhort you [who have wandered from the truth] to stand firm against them [the trouble makers].”

 

In the past, Strugnell and Qimron, as well as some others, have argued that the oft-quoted MMT phrase, “and we separated ourselves from the majority of the people,” used toward the end of the document, denotes the sect’s departure from mainstream Judaism, its separation from Pharisaism. In part, this interpretation depends on the reconstruction of the word translated “the people.”  The Hebrew is ha‘a[m]; but, as the bracket indicates, the last letter has been reconstructed; it is not there. There are other possible reconstructions, however: ha‘etsah (the council) or, even more likely, ha‘edah (the congregation). These terms appear frequently in Qumran literature and are much more likely to be the correct reconstruction in MMT. That is, the separation is probably not from the people, but from the council or the congregation—in other words, their own crowd. This leads me to conclude that MMT concerns an intra-communal dispute that precipitated a schism among sectarians. And the tone, as in Galatians, is conciliatory. Near the end of MMT, the writer characterizes what he has written as “what we thought would be beneficial for you and your people, because we have seen [that] you possess insight and knowledge of the Torah [law].” This is hardly the tone one would expect if the Qumran sectarians were addressing their mortal enemies. The author of MMT seems to be trying to persuade his disciple or colleague to rethink the differences that have separated them.

 

The-People-or-The-Community.png

 

Biblical Archaeology Society

 

“The People” or “The Community”? The tinted area above highlights a partially preserved word in MMT. It occurs at the end of the phrase, “and we separated ourselves from the majority of … ” Scholars agree on the first two letters of the next word: a heh and an ayin (only the curved portion of the latter remains, on the very edge of the fragment). The letter that followed remains open to debate. Some have suggested that it was a mem, making the word “the people.” According to this interpretation, the author of MMT was explaining why his group had split from the wider community. Martin Abegg notes, however, that the word could just as well have been ha‘etsah (the council) or ha‘edah (the congregation). By this reading, MMT concerns a split among sectarians—an intra-communal dispute.

 

The author is clear about what will flow from adherence to the important precepts being espoused. Toward the end of the document, the reader is told to “consider all these things and pray to Him” with the positive result “that He might set your counsel/council straight.” In other words, meditation on the law and a calling out to God will result in His acting to mend your council. Secondly, the addressee is told to “keep yourself away from evil thought and the counsel/council of Belial” [i.e., Satan; perhaps a reference to the Pharisees]. In other words, separate yourself from those who have infected you with their evil thought and teaching. The addressee and his associates had evidently expressed willingness to compromise with Belial’s council/counsel. The addressee may have advocated a compromise with both group’s mutual opponents, the Pharisees. If you follow my advice and adhere to these precepts, MMT says, “you shall rejoice at the end of time when you find the essence[again the word miqsat] of our words true.” The messianic era, it is implied elsewhere, will arrive soon. And “you will be reckoned righteous, in that you have done what is right and good before Him.” This claim is “to your own benefit and to Israel’s.”

 

I have italicized the word “reckoned righteous” because of their special importance—both to the author of MMT and to Paul. Unlike Paul, however, the Qumran author does not offer righteousness on the basis of his reader’s belief, but rather “in that you have done what is right and good before Him.” For MMT’s author, it is the “works of the law” that fuel such a reckoning.

 

The provocative final statement in MMT, “you will be reckoned righteous,” is reminiscent of Genesis 15:6: “And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This Biblical quotation was of course used by Paul to support his understanding that faith, rather than works, leads to a reckoning of righteousness. But this is not the view of MMT’s author. How then did he arrive at his conclusion, despite the implication of Genesis 15:6? One possibility is that he relied on Genesis 22:16, where, following Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command, God blesses Abraham because of “what you have done.” I believe, however, that MMT relies on another text.

 

Psalm 106 commemorates an incident recounted in Numbers 25:1–8, in which the Israelites, on their trek to the Promised Land, fraternize with the Moabites, worship their gods and sleep with their daughters. As punishment, God sends a plague on the Israelites. When Phinehas the priest catches an Israelite in flagrante delicto with a foreign woman, he spears the couple through their bellies with a single spear. And the plague is lifted. For his deed, we are told in Psalm 106, Phinehas was regarded as eternally righteous:

 

“Then Phinehas stood up and interposed;

And so the plague was stayed.

And it was reckoned to him as righteousness,

from generation to generation forever.”

 

(Psalm 106:30–31)


Upon examination of the Hebrew text of MMT, it becomes clear that MMT echoes this passage from Psalm 106. The same passive verb—“it was reckoned” in Psalm 106 and “you shall be reckoned” in MMT—is one clear reflection of this dependence. The only difference is that the past tense of the verb in Psalm 106 is changed to the future tense in MMT to convert it into a promise for the addressee.c

 

Two other considerations point to this relationship between Psalm 106 and MMT. In the psalm, the poet celebrates what Phinehas did when there was an unholy mixture of an Israelite with a foreign woman. Similarly, the central theme of MMT is the call to turn from the sin of unholy mixture. Secondly, the Qumran covenanters refer to themselves as the Sons of Zadok. Zadok was the high priest during the reigns of David and Solomon. He was a direct descendant of Phinehas, both Zadok and Phinehas being of the priestly line of Eleazar the son of Aaron. For the Qumran sect, a priestly paradigm of righteousness would have been especially pleasing.

 

MMT is couched in the exact language of what Paul was rebutting in his letter to the Galatians. MMT claims that adherence to the works of the law “will be accounted to you as righteousness”; Paul’s answer is that “No human being is justified by works of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).7

 

MMT espouses works of the law as exemplified in Phinehas’s deed; those who perform works of the law will be reckoned righteous unto eternity. So says Psalm 106, recounting Numbers 25:1–8.

 

Like MMT, Paul too is addressing his wandering flock:

 

O foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you …? Did you

receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with

faith? … Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was

reckoned to him as righteousness.” So you see that it is

men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the

scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by

faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying,

“In thee shall all the nations be blessed.” … For all who rely

on works of the law are under a curse. (Galatians 3:1–10)

 

It is quite possible that some Essenes or other Jewish sectaries who were familiar with the phrase “works of the law” had become followers of Jesus the Nazarene. They would understandably have concerned Paul, lest his teaching that the Mosaic law played only a supporting role in God’s program—that of “tutor” or “schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24)—be undermined. Paul must have felt his missionary work threatened by those teaching that the law was the channel of God’s salvation.

 

Some scholars have suggested that Paul misunderstood the Jewish teaching of his day or, at the very least, that he created a straw man to bolster his own teaching regarding faith versus law. In the past, this view was supported by the fact that the phrase “works of the law” nowhere appears in the foundational books of rabbinic Judaism. MMT, however, provides the “smoking gun” for which students have been searching for generations, not from the pages of rabbinic literature, but from the sectarian teachings of Qumran. MMT demonstrates that Paul was not jousting with windmills, but was indeed squared off in a dramatic duel—not with mainstream Judaism but with a sectarian theology—that ultimately defined Christianity. If I have understood rightly, the importance of MMT for New Testament research is nothing short of revolutionary.

 

Endnotes (numbered)

1. Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell, “An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran,” Israel Museum Journal (1985), pp. 9–12, also in Biblical Archaeology Today: Proceedings of the International Congress on Biblical Archaeology, Jerusalem, Apr. 1984, ed. J. Amitai (Jerusalem; Israel Exploration Society, 1985), pp. 400–407.

2. I owe much of the content of this article to the other members of this class: Rabbi Shira Lander, Dr. James Bowley, Mr. Lee Fields, Dr. Wave Nunnally and Dr. Keri Wynn; we all are indebted to ProfessorWacholder for a unique experience.

3. Babylonian Talmud, Yebamot 47a-b.

4. Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell, “An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran,” p. 400.

5. Lawrence H. Schiffman, “The New Halakhic Letter (4QMMT) and the Origins of the Dead Sea Sect,” Biblical Archaeologist 53 (1990), p. 67.

6. Lawrence H. Schiffman, “New Light on the Pharisees,” in Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Hershel Shanks (New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 219–20.

7. I am in agreement with Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (Rockport, MA: Element, 1992), in connecting “works of the Law” with the Apostle Paul; and “reckoned as righteousness” with Phinehas and Psalm 106:31.

 

BAS/BAR and general notes (lettered)

a. In February 1993, after ProfessorWacholder and I had begun to publish fascicles of Dead Sea Scroll transcripts that had been reconstructed with the aid of a computer (see “BAS Publishes Dead Sea Scrolls,” BAR 17:05; “Computer-Generated Dead Sea Scrolls Texts 98% Accurate,” BAR 18:01; “BAS Reprints Facsimile Edition of Scroll Photographs,” BAR 18:04), we received a letter from Professor Qimron’s attorney warning us that we could not “make any use” of his and Strugnell’s reconstruction of MMT. Admittedly, we cannot expunge from our minds the results of our study of the handwritten transcript we anonymously received in 1988. We are continuing our work on MMT as well as on other scrolls. We have also brought suit against Professor Qimron in an American court, not for damages, but simply for a declaration that Professor Qimron does not own the copyright in MMT, so that we can proceed with our work (see “American Professors Seek to Block Qimron’s Control of MMT,” BAR 19:06).

b. The most common Greek word for ma‘ase is ergon. The Greek word nomos most commonly translates torah.

c. In addition, the MMT text echoes the Hebrew text of Psalm 106:31 by using the passive niphal stem of hashab, rather than the active qal. Also, the preposition lamed is used to indicate the “product” of the reckoning in both Psalm 106:31 and MMT (“as righteous”), whereas in Genesis 15:6 “righteous” is the direct object of the verb. Psalm 106:31 and Genesis 15:6 are the only Biblical verses that contain both the verb hashab, to reckon, and the noun sedaqah, righteousness. Jubilees 30:17 records this same statement (probably referring to Psalm 106 as well) made to Simeon and Levi concerning their zealous act against the Shechemites (Genesis 34:25), even though in the Biblical passage their father condemned them (Genesis 34:25, 49:5).

 

Martin Abegg is professor of religious studies and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He is coauthor of Preliminary Edition of the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991), a series of texts reconstructed with the aid of a computer.

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Le Baptême et Les trois naissances - En Éphésiens 4:5, nous lisons qu’il y a « un seul Seigneur, une seule foi, un seul baptême. » Le but de cette étude est de décrire avec précision quelle est la SEULE forme de baptême enseignée dans les Écritures, et ainsi de s’opposer aux opinions et aux traditions d’hommes ou d’Églises. Disponible en ligne au prix qu’il en coûte de l’imprimer (nul profit financier n’est fait sur cet ouvrage), considérez cela comme une offrande si vous l’acheter de cette manière. Sinon, si vous désirez une copie gratuite, veuillez envoyer un courriel avec votre adresse à   edd7jour@yahoo.com et nous vous enverrons un exemplaire de cette brochure.

 

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La loi du pur et de l’impur suivi de Alcool, tabac et autres drogues - Dieu nous a donné des instructions très spécifiques concernant les viandes pures et impures. Étant le Créateur de toutes choses, Dieu sait parfaitement ce qui est bon pour nous et ce qui ne l’est pas. En ce qui concerne l’alcool et le tabac, l’Église de Dieu croit que l’usage de spiritueux, de boissons stimulantes alcoolisées, de stupéfiants, de tabac et de toutes drogues provoquant une quelconque accoutumance est contraire à la nature de l'être humain. Disponible en ligne au prix qu’il en coûte de l’imprimer (nul profit financier n’est fait sur cet ouvrage), considérez cela comme une offrande si vous l’acheter de cette manière. Sinon, si vous désirez une copie gratuite, veuillez envoyer un courriel avec votre adresse à edd7jour@yahoo.com et nous vous enverrons un exemplaire de cette brochure.


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Daniel and The Book of Revelation by A.N. Dugger - Paperback, 148 Pages.

Andrew N. Dugger (1886-1975) was the most famous Church of God (7th Day) leader in the twentieth century. In the 1960s, he published his own commentary on the Books of Daniel and Revelation. Those two books, Daniel and Revelation, together explain much of Bible prophecies. The price for this book only covers the cost for printing. No benefits are done on it. If you are willing to buy this book, consider it as an offering. For free copies, please contact edd7jour@yahoo.com

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Shabbat Shalom

 

 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to set it apart. “Six days you labour, and shall do all your your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath ofYHVH your Elohim. You do not do any work – you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. “For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore YHVH blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart" (Exodus 20:8-11).

 

by Jonathan Sjordal

Part I: The Work

 

The fourth commandment is clear: we are to abstain from doing our labor on the seventh day of the week—the sabbath day. For those who wish to heed the words of our Father in heaven who gave us his Laws, the following discussion pertains to how to obey the seventh day sabbath command of our Creator, not how to replace or ignore it.

 

The sabbath day command is for the master as well as the servant. The master is commanded to cease from his labors, and not to compel his servants nor even his beasts to labor on the sabbath day. It is a day to devote to our Creator, the one day in seven that we give to our Father, as he commanded us.

 

Abstaining from work on the sabbath day can cause employment difficulties. You may lose your job, or not even get hired in the first place. But persistence will pay off, and in our modern society, you can find a way to make a living that allows you to not work on the seventh day. Yet this was not always so.

  

What about feeding the animals?

 

Most of the population of ancient Israel were farmers. They raised animals for meat and wool, for sacrifices, and also used animals to plow their fields. They had to feed and water the animals (which is real work!) on the sabbath day. Even the ultra-righteous-appearing Scribes & Pharisees were aware of this fact of life. When the ruler of the synagogue chastised Yahoshua (Hebrew name translated Jesus in English) for healing on the sabbath day, our Messiah put him in is proper place:

 

The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?  (Luke 13:15

 

Don’t fall into the ignorance of “city people” in thinking that the animals were all out in the fields grazing and finding their own water, so that there was no need to care for them on the sabbath day. That is true only for some animals, and not at all true in the winter. Animals must be fed, and cows and goats must be milked (twice daily), even on the sabbath day. And even those animals that are out in the far pastures grazing had a shepherd to protect them from the lions and bears. Did the shepherd simply take the day off on the sabbath day so that the lions and bears could dine in peace? As with the other elements of this issue, we must account for reality in order to make sense of the whole thing.

 

In our modern society, with most of us not having animals to care for, it is relatively easy to forget that there is some work that must be done on the sabbath day. We have become sheltered from reality in these days when we have so many specialized jobs. We might well live our whole lives without having a job that requires necessary work on the sabbath day.

 

What is the test for which work is necessary? The famous “ox in a ditch” passage sheds some light:

 

And Yahoshua answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?   (Luke 14:3-5

 

Q: Why could the ox be pulled out of the pit (a HUGE amount of work) on the sabbath day?

 

A: Because it was necessary. It was something that could NOT be done yesterday or tomorrow (the ox might be dead by then).

 

The scribes and Pharisees were constantly trying to find ways to trip up Yahoshua, to trap him in his words, or accuse him of some unlawful action:

 

At that time Yahoshua went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.  (Matthew 12:1-8)

 

The Pharisees’ accusation of breaking the fourth commandment was a false accusation. The disciples were NOT breaking the Law (Hebrew: Torah) of the sabbath day by feeding themselves. They were not doing harvesting labor, nor causing someone else to do it on their behalf. The Pharisees had created their own law (the traditions of men that our Messiah so roundly condemned) that prohibited far more than the Torah did. It appeared that the disciples were breaking the fourth commandment, but a closer look revealed that this was not so.

 

In a similar manner, our Messiah quoted two other examples from the Old Testament where it appeared that men of God had broken the sabbath day command. David appeared to have broken the law of the showbread that was to be before YHWH continually. Indeed, had David taken the showbread from before the altar, he would have transgressed the Torah. But the account in I Samuel 21 states that the bread had just been replaced that day (which was a sabbath day) by the fresh bread that replaced the old bread every sabbath day. So David’s action did not break the Torah of the showbread, for the new showbread had been placed before the altar that very day.

 

In the other example Yahoshua used, he reminded the Pharisees that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, which is to say that they do the temple work that was commanded of them. Again, though what the priests did was work, it was work that was commanded by YHWH himself, and therefore did not break the sabbath day commandment. Yahoshua continually reminded the Pharisees that he and his disciples kept the Torah, not the vain traditions of men.

  

Do you obey the fourth commandment? How do you feel about work on the sabbath day? You may surprise yourself. Take the sabbath day work test:

 

The command to cease from your labor on the sabbath day is not separated from the reality of the human condition. There are necessary functions that must be performed in order for people to live. As our Messiah said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Disobeying the sabbath day command is sin. But it is also sin to make an idol out of the sabbath day, putting the sabbath day before all else, including helping people by doing necessary work.

 

What defines “necessary”? Is a waitress performing necessary work when she serves food to patrons on the sabbath day? What would happen if waitresses didn’t work and restaurants were to shut down on the sabbath day? Would anyone be hurt? Even if the restaurant is one’s only source of food (an unlikely proposition), fasting won’t hurt you, and might even give you incentive to use the preparation day (the day before the sabbath day) for its intended purpose.

 

Examples of Necessary Workers

 

Farmers

Firefighters

Policemen

Doctors

Nurses

Paramedics

911 operators

Poison Control operators

Midwives

Military & Border Patrol agents


One measure of how necessary these functions are is to consider the behavior of devout sabbath day keepers. Such people would never shop, mow the lawn, go to the office to work, or even go out to eat on the sabbath day. But they would (and do!) depend upon and call upon the people who do these necessary functions when there is a need for them. How many Yes boxes did you check in the test above? How do you feel about your approval of other people working for you on the sabbath day?

 

We expect (and even demand!) that people who work in these professions to be on duty, even during the sabbath day. If we had a NEED for any of these people to help us on the sabbath day, would we not call upon them for help? Of course we would! If our house is on fire on the sabbath day, any of us would call the firefighters to help. We expect, and insist upon their help, because the fire can’t wait until tomorrow.

 

If you have a serious injury, you go to the Emergency Room at the hospital. You fully expect that there will be trained people there to help you. It would be folly to shut down the ER with a sign saying that injured people and mothers in labor should come back tomorrow for help. In some cases, waiting until tomorrow would mean greater injury or even death. And what about the gravely ill who are already lying in the hospital? Should the doctors and nurses self-righteously go home for the sabbath day, and not care for these people? As always, elitist thinking falls apart when confronted with reality.

 

While insisting that these functions be staffed on the sabbath day, do we then condemn the people who are there to help us by classifying their service to us as sabbath breaking? “My sincere thanks for coming to put out my house fire, you infidel!” In saying to these people that we insist that their kind of work be done on the sabbath day, but that they are wrong to do that work on the sabbath day, we demonstrate elitist behavior, and outright hypocrisy.

 

The Bible has a few things to say about hypocrites & hypocrisy: Job 8:13; 13:16; 15:34; 17:8; 20:5; 27:8; 34:30; 36:13; Psalms 35:16; Proverbs 11:9; Isaiah 9:17; 10:6; 32:6; 33:14; Matthew 6:2; 6:5; 6:16; 7:5; 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; 23:13; 23:14; 23:15; 23:23; 23:25; 23:27; 23:28; 23:29; 24:51; Mark 7:6; 12:15; Luke 6:42; 11:44; 12:1; 12:56; 13:15; I Timothy 4:2; James 3:17; I Peter 2:1


What kind of progress will we make witnessing to people and telling them about the blessing of the command from our Father in heaven to keep the fourth commandment if we are demonstrating this kind of hypocrisy? Our behavior nullifies our witness. If, however, we share the truth of the sabbath day command while recognizing the reality that necessary functions won’t wait and have to be done by someone, our witness is strengthened.

 

Does the need to perform necessary work on the sabbath day mean that we have license to ignore the seventh day sabbath and treat it like any other normal work day? Certainly not! We have the example of the priests in ancient Israel, who were not known as being disobedient to the sabbath day command. The priests worked hard, even on the sabbath day. They worked in 7 day shifts (courses), with 24 groups sharing the burden in rotation. In practice, this meant that each priest only had to work on the sabbath day twice a year, and on annual holy days (which were also sabbath days). This example, given by the Creator himself, demonstrates how necessary sabbath day work can be done properly, within the bounds of the commandment.

 

Just as the priests rotated their sabbath day work, so it is right and proper for us to rotate the sabbath day labor among those who do it so that no one person has an undue share of the burden. The sabbath day should be, as much as possible, a day to cease from your labor. But the reality is that it is not always possible to avoid all labor. Minimizing the work by rotating the absolutely necessary work among many people is a realistic solution that remains within the spirit of obeying the fourth commandment.

 

A frequently heard argument regarding performing necessary work on the sabbath day goes like this:

 

“Sabbath keepers should simply choose not to work in any of those professions where working on the sabbath would be necessary. Let unbelievers fill those functions.”

 

Because of the necessary nature of the work in such professions, the work involved is helping people in their time of need. As a sabbath keeper, do you really want to take the stand that the sabbath day command is absolution from helping people? Is that really the hill you want to die on? Such elitism demonstrates that commands of our Father are a burden, whereas we know that they are a blessing for our good. Worse yet, it demonstrates the hypocrisy of the one making such a claim. You would call a 911 operator on the sabbath day, but you would not carry your share of the burden by being a 911 operator on the sabbath day? The world that we are to carry a witness to will instantly see the duplicity, the arrogance, and the outright hypocrisy of such a stand.

 

We are told in Leviticus 19:18 that “...thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself...”  Look at it from the other side for a moment: How would you like it if others exhibited elite behavior that demonstrated disdain for you, even as you were serving them in their time of need? Where is the love in using people, and looking down on them as “unbelievers”? It is these “unbelievers” who are doing all the serving, and you are the one being served. People are highly sensitive to arrogance and hypocrisy. Demonstrating these behaviors is the fastest way to turn people off and completely nullify your witness.

 

Historical note: The Maccabees took a hard line on their sabbath day observance. In 168 b.c., they were being besieged by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his army. The Maccabees read the fourth commandment to say absolutely no work whatsoever, with no flexibility for necessary work—not even the work of defending their own lives from the enemy who was upon them. They refused to take up arms on the sabbath day, and as a result, over 1,000 men, women, and children were needlessly slaughtered.

 

The sabbath day is very important to our Creator. How we behave in the face of the fourth commandment demonstrates a great deal regarding our attitude toward our Father, and our willingness to obey him and acknowledge his authority. But obedience is not the antidote to reality. We can learn from the Maccabees. The fourth commandment is not a death pact. As with many things in life, it is not an either/or, all-or-nothing proposition. Our willingness to obey our Father’s commands can and should co-exist with a desire to help others, and a willingness to make that desire a reality by facing reality and doing our part. Achieving this balance is to keep—not to profane—the sabbath day.

  

Part II: The Money

               

As a sabbath day keeper, if your chosen profession involves necessary work and you work in rotation with others so that periodically you work on the sabbath day, what about the money you receive for working? Should you refuse to be paid for the work that you do on the sabbath day? Should you donate it to charity? What could you, should you, must you do with the money?

 

One possibility goes like this: “If you work on the sabbath day, you should give the money away. You’re not supposed to work on the sabbath day. After all, Jesus did not get paid to heal people on the sabbath day.”

 

There are not very many biblical examples on this particular subject. It appears that our Messiah indeed did not get paid to heal people on the sabbath day. But we do have a few examples from ancient Israel regarding those who worked on the sabbath day: Levitical priests, midwives, and the farmers.

 

When the inheritance land was being distributed among the tribe of Israel, the Levites were not given a portion of land for their inheritance. Instead, they were given the tithe of the increase from the other tribes. Their job was the work that they did in the service of the Temple and other priestly duties. Their compensation was a tenth (tithe) of the increase that was given by their brother tribes. It seems strange to our modern way of thinking, but the Levites were indeed paid for their work.

 

We know from the account in Exodus that the Israelites had midwives to assist women in giving birth. In Exodus 1 the midwives told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women were lively and delivered before the midwives could get there. But this was clearly a ruse to appease Pharaoh. If the midwives were indeed not needed, why would there have even been midwives? Midwives were indeed necessary to assist mother and baby to have a safe birth. Babies are born every day of the week. Over a long period of time, 1/7 of the babies are born on any given day of the week, including the sabbath day. Babies don’t wait. They come when they’re ready. We can safely conclude that the midwives in ancient Israel did about 1/7 of their work on the sabbath day. Such work was not an unexpected emergency, for they knew that babies were born on every day of the week. We have no record of their scheduling, but it would follow the pattern that YHWH set down for the priests if the midwives worked in rotation, so that someone was always on duty, but they took turns so that no one would have to work on the sabbath day all the time.

 

The other significant example of necessary work that was performed on the sabbath day in ancient Israel was the work done by farmers. In ancient Israel, this was just about everyone. Feeding and watering the livestock was not something you could do yesterday or tomorrow. And even the vegetable farmers raised livestock to plow their fields and carry the heavy burdens. Plowing the fields could wait until another day, but feeding and watering the stock was ongoing work—hard work!—that happened every day, including the sabbath day.

 

In considering the examples of the Levites, the midwives, and the farmers, we encompass nearly the whole nation of Israel. What did they do with the money that they earned for the work that they did on the sabbath day? That’s easy, right? “They didn’t get paid for working on the sabbath day.” Or did they…?

 

When you raise livestock, a good deal of the work concerns feeding and watering. When it is time to sell the stock, the money a farmer gets paid is compensation for the entire process of caring for that animal, from birth to sale. If the farmer were to distribute the proceeds over the life of the care, he could figure out just how much he was getting paid each day for his work. Did the farmer NOT get paid for the work of feeding and watering that he did on the sabbath day? Indeed, if this is so, did he also NOT get paid for the work of feeding and watering that he did on the third day of the week? The fifth day? The reality is, the farmer got paid for every day of work that he did, including the sabbath day. There is no place in the Bible that suggests that the farmer refused one-seventh of his compensation for raising animals because of the work of feeding and watering the animals on the seventh day. Did the entire nation of Israel sin in breaking the fourth commandment by performing such necessary work?

 

Did the midwives not get paid for their work? We know that they worked hard, just as the farmers did, and that their work likewise happened on any (and every) day of the week. If their rotation fell on a sabbath day, by what reasoning are they not worthy to be compensated for their work? The Bible is silent on what they did with their pay. There is no biblical evidence that the midwives had to or did refuse to be paid or that they divested themselves of any compensation they received on the sabbath day.

 

What about the Levites? Did they have to donate the tithes that they received for their work that they did on the sabbath day? Again, there is no record of such a donation or offering that they made for this reason. Where, in fact, do we get the notion that such a thing should be done?

 

The human conscience is a fascinating thing. When we think that we are doing something wrong, we have a deep need to fix the problem—to make amends and correct our wrong behavior. The alternative is guilt. Within the context of the discussion of what to do with compensation for work that is done on the sabbath day, we must examine whether guilt has a part to play.

 

If you think that you are doing wrong in working on the sabbath day, the natural impulse is to assuage your guilt by fixing the problem by giving away the money you earned in doing the work. After all, if you didn’t walk away with any money, then you clearly have no selfish motive for doing the work, and therefore cannot be blamed. This does, of course, prompt the question: “If you think that you are doing wrong, why are you still doing it?” After all, it is better to be innocent than to be repentant.

 

If the work you are performing on the sabbath day is necessary work, and you are doing it in rotation with others, with a proper attitude, are you doing anything wrong? Is there any need to salve your conscience by divesting yourself of any compensation that you received for doing it? Buried deep inside the reasoning that demands that we remain pure from the taint of money for necessary work done on the sabbath day is the notion that such work is wrong, and therefore is a problem that must be fixed. But where do we ever read about such a problem, or its solution? There is simply no record anywhere in the Bible of the necessity of refusing/donating your pay for necessary work done on the sabbath day.

 

If a person is engaged in necessary work, in rotation, etc. on the seventh day and wishes to donate his/her pay for the day, let it be with praise and glory to our Creator, with a glad heart. Let this also be true on the fourth day of the week, or the sixth as well, for he blesses us every day.  But beware the trap that says that only the sabbath day earnings must be donated—for conscience sake. This is guilt-based reasoning that has no biblical backing whatsoever. In fact, the biblical record says something quite the contrary. Our goal should be to do that which is right, not to guiltily do that which is wrong and then try to fix it: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

 

The fourth commandment is truly a blessing. We are instructed by our Creator to put aside the seventh day of the week to cease from our labor and keep a day holy unto him. It is a day of spiritual and physical renewal. It is a way of overtly honoring our God by giving up our own pursuits and seeking his instead. But in honoring our God on the day that he instructed, we must not lose ourselves in theoretical thinking. We live in the real world, with real people who need real help—even on the sabbath day. When done in rotation with others, with the proper attitude, necessary work does not profane the sabbath day, nor should it be a cause of guilt. We honor our Father best when we obey him and help those who are in need.

 

Jonathan Sjørdal

Charlottesville, VA  2006

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May 29 2013 4 29 /05 /May /2013 17:03

BibleStudy

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the American Standard Version.

 

I have been struck this year by the amount of tragic innocent death that we have had in our community let alone the senseless deaths we have seen in the media. Every year in this community we have aging grand parents or friends who live into their eighties who may die. We cry, and we feel sadness for their death, but we often feel secure knowing that at least these individuals lived a long and fulfilled life. As we are on this earth, we are told:

 

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

 

However, how does one understand the death of a baby or a 4 years old child? Is this something willed from God to test or to tempt us? Those who say “God is good” after a death of a loved one are applauded and often congratulated for their “strong faith.” [I am not sure if I completely understand this statement at a time of great tragedy, but I will give my reflection of how I believe to understand what God’s Word tells me about God.] What about the person who questions whether a “good god” would take innocent lives to be with Him just because He feels like it? Or what kind of “good god” would allow for a young boy to watch his mother suffer a slow death to cancer in order to proclaim His glory? Does death and suffering truly glorify God? I have something to say: I do not believe that a “good god” would ever take a loved one to be with Him. What would God gain by taking a child or a mother who deserves to remain on the earth with their loved ones? How do we understand the following passages about the dead and where they go after death?

 

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. As well their love, as their hatred and their envy, is perished long ago; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6).

 

For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; and man hath no preeminence above the beasts: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20).

 

What man is he that shall live and not see death, That shall deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah” (Psalms 89:48).

 

 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: In Sheol who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalms 6:5).

 

The dead praise not Jehovah, Neither any that go down into silence” (Psalms 115:17).

        

What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?” (Psalms 30:9)

 

For Sheol cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee” (Isaiah 38:18-19)

 

What has God to gain by smiting loved ones in order to be with Him? Does God tempt? If we read James it says:  Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man” (James 1:13). Therefore, no, God does not tempt us. However, is death from God? I am going to say no. Death is not from God nor was it ever God’s will in the beginning. God made our bodies (in the case of Adam and Eve) to live. Adam and Eve had eternal life in the Garden of Eden and their bodies were perfect without sin. Their bodies were made to not die. Nonetheless, God gave them instructions, which were to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). God asks for obedience. God did not tempt Adam and Eve and they made a choice. God could have made us as robots, but what kind of meaningful love or faith for God would that make. Meaningful love comes from the heart and even God desires this kind of love. Nonetheless, Adam and Eve did not die right away. Adam lived to be 930 years old (Genesis 5:5). If our bodies were poorly made, Adam would not have lived for as long as he did. This innate desire or force to live is in everyone of us no matter how old or young. This force comes from God’s breath of life (ruach) found in every creature on the earth that eventually lost its strength with each successive generation after Adam. And Jehovah said, My spirit shall not strive with man for ever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3). What do we see today? Mankind lives to at most 100 to maybe 110 years. Exactly as God’s Word says. That’s why Adam lived so long and much of his offspring lived a long time however, each successive generation after Adam lived fewer and fewer years. The consequence of Adam and Eve’s choice was nonetheless death. Eventually, even Adam after 930 years died and became just as the Bible says: “a breath.”

 

“Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow” (Psalms 144:4 - NKJV).

 

What sadness! We are now still living under the consequences of that choice that Adam and Eve made. For the wages of sin is death” [but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord] (Romans 6:23).  

 

Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned […] Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come […] For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous” (Romans 5:12, 14 and 19).

 

Through one Man’s obedience, (Jesus Christ) many will be made righteous. Christ was obedient to His Father until death and He was the only sacrifice to best make the atonement for Adam’s sin. Jesus Christ had to be sent in order to deliver mankind from the wages of sin, which is death: a plague that has haunted mankind since the Garden of Eden.

 

Jesus himself expresses strong emotions with regard to death. One of the shortest verses in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus saw the sorrow of his people and he had also lost his friend. But Jesus most likely also wept because he knew that in the beginning His Father never purposed death for man. Imagine if you knew what it could have been like to have no death and you see what death has done. Jesus could weep because he knew what life could have been like for mankind. Jesus through his groaning and (I imagine) tears prayed to His Father and raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days; long enough for the Gospel of John to describe that there was a “stench” coming from the tomb (John 11:39-44 - NKJV). Once Lazarus was resurrected, Jesus thanked the Father for hearing his prayers. What does Lazarus’ resurrection proclaim? It proclaims that God will resurrect our bodies from the grave even if our bodies have returned to the dust or have rotted.  God showed us this through Jesus Christ the power of the resurrection when Christ was dead in the tomb three days and three nights. But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For he will receive me. Selah” (Psalms 49:15).

 

How can we explain one reason for death and suffering the world? It is the consequence of sin and man’s disobedient nature that is in the world. Sin and man’s disobedient nature is not something from God. “Death reigns” because of Adam and Eve’s choice. Now how do we explain Job who was hit by tragedy after tragedy? Did God cause Job’s suffering? Remember we have another adversary in this world and that is the devil who lied to Eve about death saying: Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). In the case of Job, it is an example of how God allows suffering and allows Satan to roam the earth for a time. The story of Job is special in that it shows how a very righteous and faithful man of God loses all his wealth, and his family, in one day. He later loses his health and the support of his wife. God throughout Job’s entire ordeal of suffering remains silent. Job struggles to understand his suffering but he never rejects God. Job’s story sends an intriguing message: it sets out to establish the justice of God in His dealings with men, particularly God’s relation to human suffering. Does God manage this world well and what does our suffering say about God? These questions are answered in the end: God is there with us even in suffering and He is not unjust or unloving. Nor is He incapable of dealing with the problem. There are good explanations for God’s silence amidst adversity.

 

We know that Satan is in full rebellion against God and he hates anyone who wishes to serve God. The god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Job never thought that throughout all of his suffering that Satan was the true cause for his suffering. For often even we forget that “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We must not forget that humans are not alone; there are things taking place elsewhere that we cannot necessarily see.  Satan challenged God by saying that man was (is) no good and God took up Satan’s challenge. God allowed Satan to take control of all Job had, but Satan could not lay a hand on Job’s life (Job 1:12). And throughout Job’s suffering he never charged God for any wrong nor did he curse God (Job 1:22). God has faith in his creation (mankind) “who was made a little lower that the angels” (Psalm 8:5 - NKJV).  God believes that man is capable of doing good and capable of being obedient to God, so He wants to give everyone a chance. Through Job’s suffering, God showed Satan what man was capable of in order to shame Satan. God shamed Satan again through Christ’s obedience unto death on the cross. God’s silence towards Christ’s suffering on the cross is comparable to Job’s suffering. After Job’s suffering, God speaks and Job learned fully that he also had some misconceptions about God. God was not happy with Job’s three friends who tried to help Job, because they were saying things that were not true of God.  There is divine punishment in the Bible, however, throughout the Old Testament, when God does proclaim death/suffering as punishment, often the person or nation is fully warned ahead of time. God does not hit anyone with death without first clearly explaining why He is punishing. I also have reason to believe that Satan no longer has free access to go to heaven to visit God and His angels when he feels like because of what Revelations 12:9 says. This means, that Satan is running the show on earth and the only way he can get to God is through wrecking havoc on God’s creation.



Therefore, there is also another reason for death and suffering in this world. It is Satan who as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus also referred to Satan as the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30). Does this mean that God is not in control? In an “ultimate” sense of control, yes, God is in control. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (James 1:17) - this does not mean that bad things also come from God. However, God has allowed Satan on the earth for a time, but his time is short and he knows it (Revelations 12:12). God wants a good life for His people:  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end” (Jeremiah 29:11). God says: Behold, that which I have seen to be good and to be comely is for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy good in all his labor, wherein he laboreth under the sun, all the days of his life which God hath given him: for this is his portion” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). God wants good things for those who love Him, but He cannot promise that the road will be easy. He does promise us that we can trust Him and He will be there with us even when He is silent. We must trust God’s truth. We must trust God and not lean on our own understandings (Proverbs 3:5).

 

So, what is our hope? Our hope is in the resurrection of the dead. Job believed that his body would one day be resurrected:

 

But as for me I know that my Redeemer liveth, And at last he will stand up upon the earth: And after my skin, even this body, is destroyed, Then without my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26). 

 

Oh that thou wouldest hide me in Sheol, That thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, That thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my warfare would I wait, Till my release should come” (Job 14:13-14).

 

Job understood that one day he will live again and he will be changed. Thanks be to God through His Son Jesus Christ who destroyed the power of death in the grave: that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Through Christ’s sacrifice, a sacrifice equivalent to Adam’s sin, the free gift of salvation came to all men resulting in the justification of life (Romans 5:18). So, we now have hope in the resurrection where one day Christ will return and this earth will be renewed. Think of the beauty you see now and imagine how much more glorious eternal life on this earth will be: death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more” (Revelations 21:1-4). God is definitely good; only He is good. He created this earth, this universe, and He has given us life. He loves this world so much that He gave is only begotten Son (John 3:16). To the goodness and glory of God’s name, He is not the cause of suffering or death. The events that we see or experience in this world is the consequence of sin, man’s disobedience and Satan who is the ruler of this world for a time. May we continue to pray to God the Father through His Son, Jesus to give us strength in times of prosperity and in times of hardship.  

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