Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Leviticus-Part 4

We have seen that the Temple was a place where the covenantal relationship was seen, and there is no place in the Sanctuary that brings out this concept more than the Shulchan Ha Lechem Ha Pannim, or “The Table of the Bread of the Faces.” Lev 24.8 refers to this bread as “an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel.” This bread on display is a covenant forever.

We have gone over the furniture in the Heichal and that is where the table of bread was located. This bread was replaced every Sabbath and this gives us the idea that this is an ongoing series of meals in the Temple. This bread symbolizes the covenant at Sinai and it is to be seen as a meal and celebration where the covenant is constantly renewed. The idea of feasting in the Temple as a avenue of worship will seem strange to many who are not familiar with the Temple, the korbanot or the zevachim, but it fits in nicely with what the Lord is trying to teach us.

We would think that the highest form of worship would center around what man could do, like prayer, music and meditation. We would think that speech would be be at the core of the avodah (worship), but it isn’t. The idea of feasting and the consumption of the korbanot is actually the highlight. Eating is an everyday thing and we think that it is removed from the “majesty” of worship. So, just how does feasting become such a highly regarded form of worship activity in the Temple? To stand before God in the Temple is to feel and know God’s “closeness” to us. It is his house and his shekinah was experienced everywhere. When a person is happy he celebrates with a feast. These meals, symbolized by the korbanot, were an expression of man’s joy at being close to the Lord in his Temple.

The next logical thing we are going to look at is the blood connection to Mount Sinai. The primary focus of the korbanot in the Temple was the blood of the animal. It had to be collected and sprinkled in the prescribed way and place or it was not valid. We have already listed the eleven steps when offering a korban in an earlier teaching. The sprinkling represented the life blood and the rededication of the nephesh (soul). Blood symbolizes man’s soul, his essence. As a result, blood symbolizes commitment. There is a saying about breakfast. When you eat eggs it shows that a hen was involved, but eating the bacon shows that the pig was committed.

When a person commits to someone, they are not only agreeing to do certain things, they are committing to give entirely of himself. His “soul” (nephesh) is defined by the object of their devotion. This transforms the nephesh, or soul, and there is no other symbol that more dramatically illustrates this transformation than the blood, which symbolizes the soul. A covenant between two parties represents such commitment. In the Bible, it is the blood that signifies the level of commitment. The Torah given at Mount Sinai was ratified in blood (Exo 24.3-8) and Yeshua ratified the Brit Chadasha (the Renewed Covenant) with his own blood.(Luke 22.20).

The Temple avodah (service) gives us greater insight when we see it in relation to the events that happened at Mount Sinai. Sprinkling the blood was very important and it was symbolic of the commitment between God and his people. In our verses in Exo 24.3-8, we see that the blood was first sprinkled on the altar (v 6) and then it was sprinkled on the people (v 8), showing their commitment. The term “zerika ha dam” (sprinkling of the blood) at Sinai is the only time this term is used outside of a Temple avodah (service) context. So, the sprinkling of the blood in the Temple has the same symbolism as the sprinkling of the blood at Sinai. When the blood of a korban, no matter what kind, is sprinkled on the altar it represents the owner. This applies if it is an individual or an entire people. It is a renewal of the covenantal relationship between God and the one offering the korban.

We have mentioned before that the korbanot give us two interpretations of the Temple avodah. First we talked about expiation, or the removal of guilt, and secondly, they illustrate the action of parties who have entered into a covenant. These are are related in the fact that the Temple is a place of expiation and it is a function of a covenantal center. Sin not only causes the status of the sinner to decline, but it affects the covenantal relationship. God equates disobedience with the breaking of the covenant in Lev 26.14-15). If sin damages the covenant, then the rituals associated with the korbanot help heal that breach to the covenantal relationship.

The relationship between expiation and the covenant will help us understand a strange theology associated with the Temple. This is the idea of “tum’at mikdash” or the idea that the Temple becomes defiled because of the sins of the people. We see this when we look at the the Torah in Lev 20.3 which tells us that God is against a person who gives his offspring to Moloch. This idea is also seen in Lev 16.15-16 where the High Priest on Yom Kippur slaughters the goat of the korban chatat (sin offering). By doing this he “shall make atonement for the holy place because of the impurities of the sons of Israel, and because of their transgressions, in regard to all their sins.” Jeremiah refers to the idols and sins of Judah as bringing ritual impurity into the Temple (Jer 7.30).

The concept of defiling the Temple sounds a little strange when we think that the Beit ha Mikdash was the “house of kedusha.” How does sin defile the Temple and the vessels? The answer to that question is in the question. The Temple is God’s house, but that is not the only concept associated with the Temple. It is also the central point point of the covenant between God and his people. As a result, any breach in that covenant has consequences in the Temple. When sin stains the covenant, its symbol (the Temple) becomes stained along with it.

In Part 5 we will continue with the idea of “tum’ot mikdash” (defiling the Temple) and then we will enter into a discussion about the morality of animal sacrifice.

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Leviticus-Part 3

The Bible is full of imagery on a variety of topics. It is our “tavnit” or blueprint. With that said, it is not surprising that we see the idea of a zevach as a covenantal meal there in Exo 24.3-11. We see that the Lord has given the commandments and the people have agreed to them by saying, “All the things that the Lord has commanded we will do!” After that came the the covenantal meal. We now know why the elders ate and drank after this. They have agreed to enter into this brit and so there was a celebration.

We see the idea that this meal at Sinai was seen as a zevach in Psa 50.5 where it says, “Gather my godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice (zevach).” This shows the concept of intimacy which existed at the time between the Lord and the Jewish people at this time. We also see that two types of korbanot were offered as this covenantal bond was made. Exo 24.5 says that olot and shelemim (peace offerings) were offered. We have touched on the olah previously and we will talk about the shelemim later.

Remember, the olah is offered on the altar and it is totally consumed. This shows complete dedication to God. Israel was showing their total commitment to God when offering the olah, as does a person when he offers an olah. The Korban Shelemim (plural) that were offered is the first mention in the Torah of this particular category. The laws of the shelemim are different from the others in this particular fashion. It is the only korban where the owner of the animal partakes of the meat. In the case of a korban olah the meat is entirely “burnt” on the altar. When a korban chatat (sin) or a korban asham (guilt) is given, sections are reserved for the officiating priest but none of it is left over for the offerer. We will look at the chatat and the asham later in this teaching.

The words used in relation to the korban shelem gives us some interesting things. While the word zevach can refer to any korban, it is used the most in regards to the korban shelem. In our passage in Exo 24, the Torah says that the olah offerings were brought, and then it says they slaughtered the zevachim as korban shelemim. In other words, the korban shelemim were zevachim (a feast of meat) and the korban olah were not. Sharing and coming together are essential elements of the korban shelemim.

In conjunction with the korbanot we will see that salt was used, but what did it symbolize? How many times have we seen salt on the dinner table, especially in a Jewish home? When a meal started, some will sprinkle salt on the bread. Lev 2.13 says that salt was added to every animal offering on the altar. Why does it say “the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering?” The term “salt covenant” appears in several other places. When God tells the priests they will receive certain portions of the offerings in place of land (Num 18.19), he says that the covenant of salt is an “everlasting covenant of salt.” In other words, the covenant at Sinai is going to be preserved before the Lord forever. That rules out the false teaching in Christianity and other religions that the Torah has been done away with. The reason that this teaching keeps going is because most people who say they believe in the God of Israel don’t really know what this God has said.

In another example of the usage of salt covenant, we see in 2 Chr 13.4-5 that Abijah stood and said in verse 5, “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” This verse is saying that God promised David a dynasty with a covenant of salt. Just like salt preserves, God will preserve the line of David.

When the Torah says that salt was to be sprinkled on every korban it tells us the same thing as these verses we have mentioned. Salt symbolized God’s everlasting promise to the priests and the line of David. When salt is placed on the korbanot, it also says that the bond between Israel and the Lord is forever. So much for another false teaching of Christianity and others that says the Lord has rejected Israel and has replaced it by the “church.” The korbanot, therefore, is a vehicle used by God to symbolize this covenant of salt because they (korbanot) are an ongoing rededication to God through the zevachim as celebratory feasts. This celebration takes place in the “house of God” which is the Temple. In a simple sense, when an offerer went to the Temple, they were going to God’s house to have a celebratory and covenantal feast with him and to get right with their Father.

We have talked about the Tamid offerings before. These offerings are offered two times daily and they are an olah. Num 28.1-6 tells us that a korban olah is offered on behalf of the entire kehilat (congregation). These offerings signify the total dedication of Israel to God. Why does it say in verse 6, “It is a continual burnt offering which was ordained on Mount Sinai as a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord?” The simple answer is, olot were offered on Sinai and the Lord does not want it ever to be discontinued. The idea of a covenant meal is seen. The olah of Sinai, which gave the idea that Israel wanted to enter into the covenant, is seen in the Temple as a picture of that commitment. When it says in Num 28.6 that the olah is a “soothing aroma” to God the Torah gives sensual abilities to God, but this is what is called an “anthropomorphism” which is a word that gives us the idea that God participates in the covenantal feasts and that is one reason they are called a “Lord’s Supper.”

The korbanot teach us about two things. They have expiatory aspects to it and they are symbols of a covenantal feast. One korban may have aspects that teach the expiation (to put an end to the guilt) of sin, while another carries the idea of a feast. The main symbolism of a korban chatat and a korban asham is to help the sinner recover and to move the person to be repentant. They are not referred to as the “food of God” nor does the owner eat any of it. On the other hand, they do have some similar characteristics of a covenantal feast, like bread and wine, and they do have salt.

The korban olah has other aspects to it that speak of a covenantal feast. The offerer does not partake of the korban olah because it is to symbolize a total dedication to God. But, it is a figurative feast for the Lord because it is often described as a “soothing aroma” to God, and God described it as “My food” in Num 28.2. But Berman says, “Of all the animal offerings, however, the shared meal par excellence is the korban whose very name is mentioned in conjunction with the word zevach-the korban shelemim. When a korban shelemim is offered, the owner partakes of the meat and shares it with others, while God considers it ‘food’ or ‘sustenance’ (Lev 3.10) and a pleasing odor.”

In Part 4, we will pick up with the concept of the Lord’s Supper and the eating of bread with the Lord, symbolized by the Shulchan ha Lechem ha Pannim or “the Table of the Bread of the Faces.”

Posted in All Teachings, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Leviticus-Part 2

What we are going to describe with the korbanot is what God calls “worship.” Abraham is going to Mount Moriah to offer a korban and says it is worship (Gen 22.5). Israel was to go three days into the wilderness to offer kornanot and “worship” the Lord (Exo 12.31). Israel will worship God with sacrifice and offering (Isa 19.21). Paul came to Jerusalem to offer korbanot and to worship (Acts 21.17-26, 24.11,17). How was a korban offered? Which animals were acceptable? Let’s look at the eleven steps needed in bringing a korban. The first step is called “Hava’a” and it means to bring a korban. Next comes the “Semicha” or the “laying on of hands.” Now, this is not a magical gesture establishing a “point of contact” between God and man. This is what is taught in Christianity and how man thinks. Semicha is not meant to symbolically imply that the korban is a substitute for the individual either. Instead, it is a solemn attestation that the korban has come from that particular individual who is performing the semicha on the korban.

Third, we have the “Vidui” or “confession.” After that we have the Shechita” or the slaughtering. Then the “Kabalaaah ha Dam” or the “receiving” of the blood. The the “Holacha” which means the “walking” of the blood. Next, the Shefichat Sherayim” which means the “pouring out” of the leftover blood. After that comes the “Hafsdhata Venituach” which is the “skinning and severing.” Then comes “Hadacha” or the “rinsing” and lastly the “Melicha Vehaktara” which is the “salting and burning.”

The animals that are acceptable as a korban are the ox or bull, the sheep, the goat and birds called “Torim” which are the mature turtledoves and “B’nai Yonah” or young turtledoves. There will be five steps to offering a bird. First we have “Melika” which is the “severing” of the head from the torso of the bird with the thumbnail. The priest that did this had to be very skilled, and had a long thumbnail. Then comes the Mitzvi ha Dam” which is the “pressing” of the blood. Then came the “Haktorat ha Rosh” which is the “burning of the head.” Then came the “Hashachal Beit ha Deshem” or the “disposal of the extra parts” and lastly came the “Haktarat Ha’of” which is the “burning” off the korban.

We will be using as a source the “Summary of the Laws of Korbanot” from the book “Vayikra” from Mesorah Publications, p. 326-334 in discussing the korbanot. This is one of the best sources you can have if you want a concise overview of these korbanot. There will be five main categories of korbanot listed in Leviticus. The Korban Olah is the burnt offering (Lev 1, 6.8-13, 8.18-21, 16.24). This can be a bull, ram or a male pigeon for the poor. This korban was consumed totally in the fire on the altar and had to be without defect. It is a voluntary act of worship and used for atonement for an unintentional sin in general. It can also be an expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God.

The next korban is called the Korban Mincha which is the grain (bread) offering. It is raw flour, deep mold or shallow mold, challah or wafers. There will be thirteen types of “bread offerings.” They are the Mincha Solet, Mincha Challah, Mincha Rekikin, Mincha Machvat, Mincha Marcheshet, Mincha Choteh, Mincha Chavitin, Mincha Chinnuch, Mincah Ha Omer, the Shtai Ha Lechem, Mincha Sotah, the Lechem Ha Pannim and the Mincha Nesachim.

The bread offerings will have certain elements. We have grain, fine flour, olive oil, incense, baked bread (cakes or wafers), salt and no leaven or honey in most cases. These offerings will accompany the Olah and the Shelem (peace) offering, along with a drink offering These were voluntary acts of worship and the recognition of God’s goodness and provisions. Now, this sounds like a meal doesn’t it?

Next we have the Korban Shelem or peace offerings (Lev 3, 7.11-34). This can be any animal without defect from the herd or the flock, with a variety of breads. It is a voluntary act of worship involving thanksgiving and fellowship. It was the only korban eaten by the offeror and it is associated with a covenantal meal between the Lord and the offeror. Another name for this covenantal meal is a “Lord’s Supper.” The next korban is called the Korban Chatat or “sin offering” (Lev 4.1 to 5.13, 6.24-30, 8.14-17, 16.3-22). This was a young bull for the High Priest and the congregation. It was a male goat for a leader, a female goat or lamb for the common person. If poor, they could use a dove or a pigeon, If one was very poor, they could offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour (bloodless) It was a mandatory offering for an unintentional sin requiring restitution. It was also for cleansing from defilement and making restitution with a twenty percent fine. The last category of korbanot is called the Korban Asham or “guilt offering” (Lev 5.14 to 6.7, 7.1-6). It was a ram or a lamb and it was mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution and cleansing from defilement.

Now, before we move on any further, we want to take the time and discuss a little known aspect of the korbanot and how they were related to the concept of a “covenantal feast” called a “Zevach” and how these korbanot will relate to the concept and application of the celebration of the covenantal bond between Yehovah and his people accomplished at Mount Sinai, called a Lord’s Supper. We will be using as a source a book called “The Temple-Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now” by Joshua Berman, p. 128-145. Understanding what we are going to present will be crucial in our understanding of the Temple and the korbanot. You will soon see how an understanding of this concept will help us understand why the believers in the first century continued to offer korbanot and why they regarded them so highly, even after the death and resurrection of Yeshua. You will also have a better understanding as to why the korbanot and the Temple will be reinstated after Yeshua returns.

One of the main words in Hebrew that you will see when looking at the portions of Scripture dealing with the korbanot will be the word “zevach.” It is a synonym for korban. In a general, non-sacrificial sense, this word means a feast that is centered around the consumption of meat. Adonijah tried to take the throne from from his father. He slaughtered (va-yizbach) sheep and oxen and made a feast for is supporters in 1 Kings 1.9. Elisha took twelve oxen and slaugthered them (va-yizbachehu) to make a feast (1 Kings 19.21). A woman at Ein-Dor slaughtered a veal calf (va-tizbachehu) to give a feast to Saul (1 Sam 28.24). Now, if the word zevach in a general sense means a feast, then how does this word in a sacrificial sense relate to korban? Who is it that is feasting when a zevach is offered in the Temple?

One of the most ancient acts practiced between entities who are entering into a covenant is the shared meal. In the modern day political world, this can be what is called “state dinner.” After all the diplomatic haggling is done and negotiated, the parties will mark the newly agreed on “covenant” or agreement with a huge and very expensive meal. In the Bible, a covenant between two parties was according to a certain ritual and observed like this. When Abimelech proposed to Isaac that they enter into a “brit” (covenant), Isaac affirmed it by preparing a feast (gen 26.28-30). Laban wanted to part ways with Jacob on friendly terms so they made a covenant. They erected a stone monument and had a meal (Gen 31.44-46). After coming to terms, Jacob had a larger feast (Gen 31.54). The Hebrew used in this verse is very interesting and helpful in our understanding. It says, Jacob then slaughtered an animal” but it reads “va-yizbach Ya’akov zevach.” The verb “slaughtered” and the object “animal” are both derivatives of the root “Z, V, Ch.”

Remember, the central sanctuary, either the Mishkan or the Temple, was the covenantal center of the people of God, both Jew and non-Jew. We have now seen where the word zevach and korban have a relation around the concept of a brit, or covenant. The Temple was the place to remember the covenant at Sinai. This covenant was renewed and made alive on an ongoing basis. Israel rededicates themselves as partners in this covenant when they go there for worship, so we can see how the word zevach and korban are conceptually related. The korbanot express a connection between partners to a brit. As Israel rededicated themselves to the covenantal partner in Yehovah, they bring zevachim to the covenant center (the central sanctuary). These are celebratory feasts that makes anew the covenantal bond. Now, a real feast included wine. Berman says, “With this in mind, the analogy of korban as feast is further buttressed by the requirement that the offering of every korban include the presentation of loaves and wine (Exo 29.40; Lev 23.13; Numbers 15.1-14).”

The zevach, therefore, is a covenantal and celebratory feast in the Temple service. This idea is supported by other things as well. One aspect of the Temple service that bothers some people is that the korbanot are referred to as “God’s bread” or they were a “pleasing odor to God.” Some say that this is only figurative because God doesn’t smell or eat, so why say it? The solution is in our understanding of the word zevach as a covenantal feast. God isn’t physical and when the Scriptures talk about any sensual reaction or attribute of Yehovah in a korban, it is to bring out the idea that the zevach is an experience that is shared by Yehovah with his people. Berman writes, “Man, literally, and God, figuratively, partake in the same feast.”

The word zevach also helps us understand the site where the covenantal feast is brought, the altar. If the expiation of sin was the only purpose of the altar, we would see it referred to as the “mekhaper” which means “that which brings atonement.” But the Bible uses the word “mizbe’ach” which means the “site where the zevach is brought.” It has the same root in Hebrew. The name of the altar (mizbe’ach) teaches us the central concept or idea that the korbanot are zevachim, celebratory feasts.

In Part 3 we will pick up with more on the concept of the korbanot, zevachim and the Temple and begin with the feasting on Mount Sinai.

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Leviticus-Part 1

We are going to look at the Book of Leviticus and we are going to break down the study into the various Torah readings. We are going to go over many of the concepts in this book and we are going to bring out the ones that will help us understand this book. They will also give us a good Tanak foundation. We will not be going over this book verse by verse, but we will go over it trying to bring out some of the concepts, idioms and phrases that will give further understanding of the Tanak as a whole. In a chiastic structure of the first five books of the Tanak, called the Torah, Leviticus is the central theme.

The Book of Leviticus is called “Vayikra” in Hebrew meaning “Called.” This is a book of kedusha, which is the Hebrew word for “holiness.” It is defined as the “the designation and the setting apart of something or someone for the service of God by formal and legal restrictions and limitations. The kedusha of time is marked by formal and legal limits on man’s activities of work and construction.”

Another definition we will need to know if the definition of “keep and observe.” These terms play a pivotal role in Leviticus. This is defined as the “incorporation of the things of God into our lives. It is staying true to the tavnit (pattern) God has given for a specific thing to be done, at a specific time, at a specific place, by specific people.” To understand Leviticus and to have a proper Tanak foundation, these two definitions must be understood and utilized.

Leviticus describes a living, working system in which the ritual purity of the central sanctuary is maintained, whether it was the Mishkan or the Temple. One of the things we need to remember when we talk about the korbanot (offerings), the altar, the priesthood and the functions of the Temple is that all of it came from God. It is where God does business with man. This system is separate and apart from the work of Yeshua. In fact, they compliment each other (John 1.17). The Temple system and the korbanot only dealt with the flesh (Heb 9.13) and Yeshua’s work dealt with the heart.

The word korban does not mean “sacrifice” as so many use the term. It means “to draw near” to God. The korbanot were seen as a restoration of the covenant relationship and a continuation of the covenant meal shared when the Torah was given. The korbanot were like “near death experiences” and they speak of mortality.

There were three elements to a korban. We have the person, the korban itself and the priest. All three allude to Yeshua. The korbanot revealed God’s love for his children. Only the name of God (Yehovah) is used in relation and connection with the korbanot, never “Elohim.” Yehovah is associated with the mercy of God and Elohim (a title) is associated with judgment. So, let’s begin our look into this book and the concepts found there.

In Lev 1.1, we start off with several things. The five books of Moses are chiastic in structure. That means that Leviticus is the focal point of this structure. In the word “Vayikra” there is a small Hebrew letter “aleph” at the end of the word. The next word in Hebrew is “el” (to) and it is written with an enlarged aleph. The small aleph alludes to Moses, and the enlarged aleph alludes to Messiah Yeshua, based on Deut 18.18.

We see right away that this book is about kedusha (holiness). It is a book about priests, and people will ask, “Why learn about that? All that has been done away with anyway.” It is a book about kedusha and they will ask, “Why learn about that? God gives me that.” However, they do not understand what kedusha means.

This book has two strikes against it with most Christians, and most people, for that matter. It deals with the central sanctuary (Mishkan, Temple) and it deals with korbanot (offerings). Lev 1.2 says, “When any man (adam) of you brings an offering (korban) to the Lord.” It then goes on to describe the “who, what, where, when and why” of the korbanot. The word “adam” means “anyone”, even a heathen could send a korban to the central sanctuary. Yet, despite our inability to fully comprehend, the message is clear. The absolution of sin was not complete without the korbanot, from the “adam” to the priest.

We need to get rid of the misconception that the korbanot was a barbaric practice where someone slaughtered an animal. The Hebrew word used is not “sacrifice” as in “giving something up.” It is not an offering, as in bringing a gift or a bribe to appease a god, like we have discussed in Exodus with our comparison of monotheism and polytheism. The word the Lord used is “korban” in Hebrew and it means to “draw near.” The root for this word is “karav” and it means to have intimate contact (Isa 8.3). The korbanot is a means to come closer to God. It is for the spiritual benefit of the person doing the korban that they do this. If we eat hamburger, chicken and use leather for shoes for our physical benefit, how much more for the spiritual?

God doesn’t “need” the korbanot, they aren’t for him, they were for us. The korbanot will allude to several things. The korbanot alludes to the fact that our “animal” or base instincts took over and we sinned. That animal should be us. The blood is real and seeing it shed because of something we did should upset us. We should offer ourselves to God and it expresses gratitude and thanks. Our service to the Lord is to do his will (Torah). They also show us that we can “walk away from death” and this should touch our attitude overall.

Now, when we say “closeness” or “nearness” we are not necessarily talking about something that can be measured in feet and inches physically. A person can be “close” to someone but are many miles apart. There is a concept of space, light, mass, time and energy in the physical world, and these concepts can also be applied spiritually. Spiritual space is like the Temple, spiritual time are the festivals, the sabbath, the Yovel (fiftieth year) and the Shemittah (seventh year). Spiritual light is God’s word, spiritual mass is any entity whose function is to carry out God’s will, like the angels, good or bad. Spiritual energy is the result of that work. Spiritual movement is moving towards God or away from him (Jer 7.24). The Torah wants us to internalize its values and to make it a part of our lives. The korbanot will help us “remember” what we did.

Why does the Torah use “adam” and not “ish” when talking about mankind in Lev 1.2? It alludes to Adam, the father of all of us, and sin. The secret of the korbanot is found in Adam, and we are all related. The name Adam also alludes to the Messiah. It is spelled with an aleph, dalet, vav and mem in Hebrew. The aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and it means, “ox, power, strength, first and beginning.” It is symbolic of God. The word for blood is “dam.” Putting this together, the name “Adam” means “blood of God” or “first blood.”

In Part 2 we will begin with the steps involved when offering a korban in the central sanctuary (Mishkan/Temple).

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Conclusion

The Passover in Egypt will be the first time Israel as a nation “served” God. And, this last plague involved them, too. They were not going to be exempted this time. The Lord is going to require Israel to take a sheep or a goat and to bring it into their homes for four days. Sheep and goats were Egyptian deities. Then the Lord said they were to slaughter the lamb or goat and to put the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. If they failed to do that, the first-born of that household would die.

Now, to the Egyptians, this was an act of defiance against polytheism and false gods. Fohrman says it was like saying, “Egypt stops at this door. Withing this house, monotheism reigns.” Israel was choosing Yehovah over Pharaoh by doing this. This was putting monotheism right out there in the midst of polytheism. Israel would leave Egypt that night and would begin a long journey. They were going to Sinai first to be given the Torah and the Mishkan. This would enable the kedusha on Mount Sinai to travel with them as they went into the land.

Being first-born is a life of service to the family. In Israel’s case, the family of all mankind. When this status becomes about them, like saying, “I am better than you because I have this special status and relationship and you don’t,” then the first-born has failed. Israel, at times, has done just that. They looked down on the non-Jews and said they could not be saved unless they became Jewish. They would not associate with the non-Jews, nor were allowed to enter the house of the non-Jews. Not all Jews believed this way, but the ruling class, especially the Pharisees of the House of Shammai, gained legislative power in the Sanhedrin and passed what is known as the 18 Edicts of Shammai in 20 BC. The House of Hillel, another group of Pharisees, opposed these edicts but to no avail. They became Jewish law for about 80 years.

When the first-born does not recognize the other children and proudly exalts their status, they are undermining the Father’s plan. Israel’s relationship to the Lord only makes sense when they realize that God is the God of all mankind and he is interested in a relationship with not only the sons of Israel, but the non-Jews as well. When Israel neglects that fact it goes against why they were the first-born to begin with. The killing of the first-born is not the end of the story. There will be one more event that will show the world that there is a creator God who has total control of all things. That is the event we call the the Crossing of the Red Sea.

If the center of the Exodus is the revelation of Yehovah to the world, then this event, though tragic, will shout that message out for all time. We still talk about it and whenever this story is told, it is always included. After the killing of the first-born plague, Pharaoh sends Israel out “as you have said” (Exo 12.31), which means for three days. However, in less than three days he is after them in full pursuit.

Israel is backed up to the Gulf of Suez and 600 chariots are in front of them. Then another miracle happens. The pillar of fire holds the Egyptians back and the sea opens up and it forms walls on both sides. Israel passes through to the other side but Pharaoh and his chariots come after them. They are caught in the sea when the walls collapse and the water comes down on top of them. That is the story everyone knows, but there is so much more to this story.

Where have you heard this before? Are the events at the sea similar to another scene in the Scriptures? Now, we know a great east wind came and blew over the waters all night (Exo 14.21). Where have we heard about another wind of God blowing over the water in the dark? Gen 1.2 says, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God (ruach/wind) was moving over the surface of the waters.” This describes the world before God created “light.” The world was shrouded in darkness and a “wind” of God was “blowing” over the waters.

Gen 1.2 gives us the same three things we have at the parting of the sea: darkness, wind and water. Then the Lord brought forth light and it separated between the light and the darkness (Gen 1.3-4). At the sea, a pillar of light separated Israel from the Egyptians and it would not allow the Egyptians to get any closer (Exo 14.19-20). There was a cloud and darkness, and it lit up the night (v 20). Rashi, a famous rabbi, says that the pillar separated Egypt from Israel and it was darkness to the Egyptians and darkened the already black night, but Israel had light on the other side. God separated light and darkness, just like he did in creation.

On the second day of creation, God said in Gen 1.6-7, “Let there be an expanse (sky) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters (above) from the waters (below). And God made the expanse and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.” In other words, the waters were parted. Now, there was an expanse (sky) of breathable air between the waters in heaven and the earth. The word for “heaven” in Hebrew is “shamayim” which means “sham” (there is) and “mayim” (water), or “there is water.”

At the sea, God separated the waters from the waters to make a path of breathable air for Israel to pass through. Exo 14.22 says, “And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” There are more similarities between the creation story and the crossing of the sea. Genesis 1.9 says, “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so.” This happened at the sea also. The waters go back and dry land appears.

The word for dry land is “yabashah” and it is only used here in Gen 1, in references to the Exodus story, and the story of Jonah. The dry land in Genesis was where human and animal life would be. At the sea, it served to give life to human and animal life. As we have said, we have been using the book called “The Exodus You Almost Passed Over” by Rabbi David Fohrman as a source and on outline for this study of the Exodus. We highly recommend that you get not only this book, but all of his books.

This ends our study of the Concepts in Exodus. Now we move on to Concepts in Leviticus. It is customary to end a section of study with the saying, “Chazak, Chazak, v’nitchazek” which means “Be strong, be strong, let us be strengthened.” We include it here because it includes one of the words we have studied with Pharaoh, “chazak.” Then we say, “You have received instruction from the Book of Exodus. Be strong, apply what you have learned, and rise up to the next level.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 92

The next plague is darkness. After that, Pharaoh wants to talk to Moses as usual and he says in Exo 10.24, “Go and serve Yehovah; only let your flocks and your herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you.” Now, this is surprising. Everyone is allowed to go except their livestock and herds. Pharaoh isn’t even trying to hide his intentions here, he wants to cooperate and he isn’t looking for something to make himself look good in the sight of the people. What does Moses do? He makes further demands!

Exo 10.25-26 says that he told Pharaoh that they must take all of the animals because they must make sacrifices and offerings and they don’t know which type of animal they will need to worship the Lord. So, nothing will be hind if Pharaoh wants to avoid future issues. Needless to say, Pharaoh isn’t very happy about with rejection, and he makes a counter demand to Moses in Exo 10.28. He tells Moses to go away and to not look upon his face again, If he does, he will die. Moses answers in Exo 10.29, ” You are right, I shall never see your face again.”

As Moses walks away, Yehovah tells him to go back and to give Pharaoh one last message. On this very night, about midnight, the first-born in the land Egypt will die (Exo 11.1-8). Now, this plague will be different. Israel will not be exempted unless they do something. They must bring a Korban Shelem, a lamb, and place the blood of this lamb on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. Now, why were the Hebrew first-born at risk?

It involves the concept of the “Bekor” or first-born, so we are going to take some time to teach this concept. Remember, earlier in this story, Israel was referred to as his “first-born” (Exo 4.22). Pharaoh is told he must release his first-born even before the plagues started. If Pharaoh failed to let them go, then the Lord will strike the first-born of Pharaoh. How and when did the Hebrews gain the status of first-born? Exo 4.22 is the first time Israel is referred to in those terms? Was this the status they had before Exo 4 or was it saying that would come after Exo 4?

Rabbi Fohrman says that this was a “hope for Israel’s destiny” and “something Israel had to earn.” But, when would they earn it? How would they earn it? Could it be that when the Lord threatened the first-born of Phar oh if he did not let the first-born of Israel go he was referring to this tenth plague? Is that when the Lord took Israel as his own first-born?

What Yehovah is telling Pharaoh was that there will come a time when I will kill your first-born, and my first-born will live. That would happen if Pharaoh rejected his demand. But how would Israel gain that status? It was through the Korban Shelem, the Passover lamb according to Fohrman. It was a change of status. It actually was a vehicle for a change from slave to first-born of Yehovah. But what does that mean?

The events of the Exodus as we have said before were to accomplish two things. They were to free the Hebrews and to show that Yehovah is the one, true creator God of all. If God set us free from bondage, wouldn’t you want to give that freedom back to God? But how? That is where the Korban Shelem, the “pesach” lamb comes in.

They were willing to do something totally unique for Yehovah because he wanted them to. They wanted to be first-born and that meant that this God, Yehovah, was their Father in heaven. He was not some “power” but a loving being who wanted to have a relationship. Now the Lord is the creator of all and in a sense everyone is related in a heavenly “family.” But, this is where one member of this family took a step to announce to everyone else that they were the first-born. The nation of Israel was created by God and they were the first and only nation to be declared by the Lord to be his first-born.

This declaration related to the Exodus. Was this the plan of God from the beginning? In Gen 1.1 we have the word “Bereshit.” The “B” in that word is “beit” and it means “House.” It is also written very big in a Torah scroll. God was building a “house” from the beginning. The Lord knew what he was doing, but the fathers that built that house didn’t. Things were revealed to them over the years as God’s plan moved forward, the this Passover lamb was part of that p[lan. The world needed a first-born who would go out and teach them about their creator God called Yehovah. They needed to be taught the things of God, and how they (the world) had a heavenly Father, too.

God wanted his values to be passed down to his children. The first-born can serve as a conduit between God and the other nations. That is the heart of what Yeshua said in Matt 28.19-20 when he said, “Go, therefore, and make talmudim (disciples) of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit); teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Moses told Pharaoh the first time they met that Israel was God’s first-born (Exo 4.22-23). God wanted his children to serve him, as any father would. They would be taught and given instructions (Torah) on how to function as first-born in this world. They would be taken to the family land holdings in Canaan, and from there, they would teach what their Father taught them to the world (Deut 4.1-8). If Pharaoh denied God the ability to pass on his values to his children, then Pharaoh/Egypt would be denied the ability to pass on his values to his children.

The Passover was the first time Israel as a nation “served” Yehovah. This plague, as we have said before, involved them, too. They were not going to be exempted so they needed to make a decision. The Lord is going to require that Israel take a sheep or goat, and to bring it into their house. Sheep and goats were Egyptian deities by the way. Then the Lord said they were to slaughter the animal after four days, then put the blood from that animal on the lintel and doorposts of their houses.

In the conclusion, we will pick up here with the concept of the first-born and a comparison between the creation and the crossing of the sea.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 91

God says in Exo 10.1-2, “And Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart (kavedti ha lev) and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I made a mockery of the Egyptians, and How I performed my signs among them, that you may know that I am Yehovah.'”

The focus of the plagues has now changed. They will no longer be done to show Egypt and Pharaoh who the Lord is, that ship has sailed now. Now the plagues are to show Israel who he is (v 2). Israel is the focus now. This has not been the case so far. Israel is going to see the Lord’s total and absolute dominion over the most powerful nation in the world. Egypt will be the conduit for the world to know who he is. The total defeat of Egypt for the benefit of an enslaved people will forever be a testimony to the world that there is a God who exists, and this will not be an even match.

The Lord informs Moses that “you will be able to tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I made a mockery of the Egyptians.” The Lord is going to “toy” with Egypt. This powerful nation will be reduced to nothing by the hand of the Lord. Pharaoh’s resistance to God’s plan has now come to an end and Egypt and Pharaoh will do exactly what the Lord wants them to do, yet it will seem like Pharaoh is still resisting and going after what he desires.

The evidence that God has presented can and will be ignored. Reality can be circumvented because of stubbornness. Being wrong about all of this will be like a crown that Pharaoh will wear. He will be proud of it and this stubbornness will be where Pharaoh will hide, even in light of all the events that he has gone through. His hard heart will be his fortress, his hiding place, but in reality, he will be imprisoned in it. That is what happens to anyone who will not respond to the truth he knows to be true. Pride gets in the way, whatever it is. Pharaoh was a god in Egypt, he didn’t submit to anyone. Now he must acknowledge that he is not a god, humble himself before the Lord and all the people, and that would be unthinkable. So, he just ignores the whole thing and buries his head. We have all done this, but hopefully, we have also learned to respond to the truth when confronted with it.

Exo 10.1 seems to indicate that the Lord is the one who is responsible for what is going on in Pharaoh’s heart, but in the Torah it says it was Pharaoh’s decision to be stubborn and it was Pharaoh who encouraged (strengthened) his own heart after the hail, but the Lord was behind it. Pharaoh was going to do what the Lord wanted him to do. God’s sovereignty over Pharaoh is dealt with in Rom 9.1-18. God chooses who he wants to do what he wants, and the Lord is not being unjust here. He says in Rom 9.15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So, at the heart of the matter, it says that all of this does not depend on the will of a man but on God who has mercy. It says that it was for this purpose that God raised Pharaoh up. It was to demonstrate his power in him and that his name might be proclaimed throughout the earth. So, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.

Exo 10.3 says, “And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Thus says Yehovah, the God of the Hebrews. How Long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.'” Now, first of all, who talks to a king that way, especially the most powerful king in the world. A king bowing before God? How could the Pharaoh submit to God? It is not like a Pharaoh hasn’t ever submitted to the Lord, Joseph’s Pharaoh did. But this Pharaoh was not like the Pharaoh of Joseph.

Rabbi Fohrman says this is very ironic. It was like saying, “You have brutally subjugated my people, stripping them of their dignity, and now you will pay for that by subjugating yourself to me, and being stripped of your own dignity.” Talking to a ruler like that isn’t easy, it takes some “chutzpah.” Why make Pharaoh angrier than he already is. His kingdom is being destroyed, piece by piece. What makes the Lord think that Pharaoh is going to go along with this after saying this to him in verse 3.

But when you really look at it, maybe that is the heart of the matter. God said he was going harden Pharaoh’s heart and this was how he was going to accomplish that. The Lord was going to use Pharaoh’s pride against him, which was at the heart of his resistance. Many have wondered why Pharaoh didn’t just let Israel go. It was only for three days. The movies make it look like the Lord was telling Pharaoh to let the people go for good, completely free, but that is not the case. It was only for a period of three days, and that three days is very prophetic by the way.

Pharaoh has already admitted that Yehovah was God and he had sinned (Exo 9.27). Why be all stubborn about it now? The answer is pride. We all suffer from this, and like Pharaoh, Yehovah will target this in us also. Yehovah will put us into “corners” to move us into where he wants us. With Pharaoh, the Lord was not going to let him give up. Pharaoh’s own attitude won’t let him give in, and that will ultimately destroy him.

Mosses and Aaron tell Pharaoh in Exo 10.4-5, “For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the land , so that no one shall be able to see the land. They shall also eat the rest of what has escaped-what is left to you from the hail-and they shall eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field.” The hail destroyed the produce and the locusts will finish the job.

The problem now wasn’t the locusts, the problem now was starvation. They avoided it with the Pharaoh of Joseph, but this Pharaoh was going to bring it on again. After delivering the words of God to Pharaoh, Moses departed. Pharaoh doesn’t blink, he resists. In Exo 10.7 the servants tell him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God . Do you realize that Egypt is destroyed?”

The servants of Pharaoh think Moses is a trap. They think Moses is laying another snare for Pharaoh to fall into. These servants speak very plainly to Pharaoh, as if on the same “level” with the god-king. This shows that Pharaoh is losing his grip over the people. Exo 10.8 says, “So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, serve the Lord your God! Who are the ones who are going?'”

The Torah doesn’t tell us whom brought Moses and Aaron back, but it was probably the servants of verse 7. They want something done and they have a voice that Pharaoh must deal with. As these servants shrink into the background, Pharaoh is ready to deal and says they can go. In response to Pharaoh’s question in verse 8, Moses tells him that everyone is going, plus all the livestock. Pharaoh probably looked shocked when he heard this. That was not going to happen and he refuses to even consider what Moses has said.

The next plague of locusts comes and they eat everything left over by the hail, just as Moses said. And like before, Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron and tells them in Exo 10.16-17 that he has sinned against Yehovah and Moses. He wants forgiveness and for them to make supplication to the Lord to remove this death from him. So, Moses goes out and asks the Lord to remove the locusts, and a strong west wind came and took the locusts out to sea (the Gulf of Suez). But the Lord hardened (chazek ha lev) Pharaoh’s heart and would not let Israel go (Exo 10.20).

In Part 92 we will pick up here with the next plague of darkness.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 90

Pharaoh was going to be a part of this revelation of Yehovah to the world from the beginning. Pharaoh isn’t really the center of all this, and Rabbi Fohrman implies that the Lord had an underlying message for Pharaoh here. He says that it was like the Lord was saying to him, “Despite your evil oppression of the Israelites, you can still play a constructive role here. But if you choose not to play it, there will be other ways my ends can be achieved.”

We don’t believe God had a Plan A, a Plan B or a Plan C here in the Exodus story. We believe that all of this, as it played out, was his original plan to begin with. The Lord was going to make his name known to the world and certain people, like Pharaoh, were going to do what the Lord wanted them to do. It would be a good thing if the Pharaoh of Moses was like the Pharaoh of Joseph. It would have been nice for him to let the Hebrews go for the three days into the wilderness to worship Yehovah, but he didn’t. They will go anyway because Pharaoh and Egypt will be destroyed and the whole world will know there is a God in heaven. The one, true God, whose name is Yehovah, will be manifested to all of mankind for ages to come through Pharaoh and Egypt. Egypt is the stage and Pharaoh the Egyptians, Moses, Aaron and the Hebrews are the actors. With that said, let’s look at the plague of hail.

This plague was not like the other plagues in that it was very unique. Like the other plagues, it had a precise time of arrival (“tomorrow”) and that is not unique, but other things are. This plague comes with a warning from Yehovah. He tells them how they can save their livestock and the people who are outside. The other thing that is unique about this plague is that fire will be encased in the ice.

Exo 9.24 says, “And there was hail-and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land Egypt since it became a nation.” The KJV version says the fire “mingled” with the hail. In other words, the fire was encased in the hail.

God warning to Egypt shows he was not at “war” with Egypt. This was not a battle of “equals.” God had compassion on those who made him an enemy. A creator God will have mercy on a child gone astray, but not a pagan god. That brings us to the fire encased in the hail. In a polytheistic society like Egypt, these two powers are in conflict. Fire and hail are opposite powers who are at war with each other. They extinguish one another. However, when there is a creator God who created both, then this shows he has the power to control both and he has authority over both of these forces.

What does Pharaoh say after this? Exo 9.27 says, “And Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time; Yehovah is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones.” This is the first time Pharaoh talks about sin, righteousness and wickedness. This is spiritual language, not the language of paganism. You appease a pagan god and power because it is the best thing to do for you. You don’t “sin” against a pagan god, but you can sin against a creator god.

Does this indicate that Pharaoh finally understands? Rabbi Fohrman puts it this way, “YHVH, the creator God, has been in the right this whole time and my people and I, who have been enslaving the Hebrews in defiance of our creator’s will, we have been the wicked ones.” Has Pharaoh come to grips with his creator? Has he finally come to the realization that his polytheistic society is false? If that is the case, then the story would have ended right then and there. Israel would have been able to go for those three days into the wilderness to worship Yehovah, and Egypt would have helped them accomplish that, just like Egypt did when Jacob died. But, we all know that is not what happened.

There will be three more plagues coming, so what is going on here in verse 27? Exo 9.34 says, “But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants.” The same old cycle begins again. The plague is predicted and comes, Pharaoh calls for Moses and makes promises. When the plague stops, Pharaoh goes back on his word and the cycle repeats. But, this time it is different. This plague and Pharaoh’s change of heart is called “sin.” What makes Pharaoh’s change of heart sin? What is different here? Pharaoh has never made a confession that he was a sinner to a pagan power before. You don’t do that, you appease a pagan power and deity.

However, after the hail, he makes the confession that Yehovah is real and that he has sinned against him, and that he has a responsibility to makes some changes in his life, especially with the Hebrews. To stand against Yehovah is sin. Pharaoh can’t go back now. He can’t undo everything he has seen and said. He knows there is a creator God because of the uniqueness of the hail and so he knows this Yehovah is a creator God and he has been in conflict with him. When Pharaoh goes back on his word here he is taking the truth he now knows and throws it away. It is the work of sin and evil. But Pharaoh also does something else here.

The Torah says he “hardened his heart” (Kaved ha Lev) and his “heart was strengthened” (Chazek ha Lev). This is the first time the Torah uses both terms at one time. Pharaoh “strengthened” himself mentally for what was coming. He is resisting Yehovah on purpose now and that means he will never give in to what the Lord wants on his own volition. He will not do it in obedience to Yehovah, ever.

Pharaoh will later confess he has sinned but it won’t mean anything. There is a difference between “remorse” and “repentance.” Remorse is self-centered. We are remorseful when the consequences of our actions come upon us. A criminal is remorseful when when he is caught and has to go to jail, or receive the death penalty, but that doesn’t mean he has changed. He just regrets what he did because of what is going to happen to him. But repentance is different. This is when he knows his sin has saddened the Lord and his actions have had an affect on others in a negative way. It is like the alcoholic who goes to jail for a DWI and his family visits him in jail. He looks at his family and sees the pain and anguish in their faces and realizes he ha done this to them. He then says that he will never make them feel that way again and gives up the alcohol for good. Remorse is self-centered, repentance has a concern for others and not the self.

Pharaoh is remorseful because he is self-centered, and he will never see the truth as clear as he does after the plague of the hail. Now he is not a player in the drama but a tool in the hands of Yehovah. He rejects Yehovah as creator God, so now Yehovah will use him for his purposes. The focus of the plagues will now change, and they will no longer be done to show Pharaoh and Egypt who Yehovah is, but they will be done to show Israel who he is. The Hebrews will be the focus now, and we will pick up with that concept in Part 91.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 89

Now we are going to take a look at the next plague of lice. Pharaoh’s magicians will try to mimic this plague but they will be unsuccessful. They could copy the others, but not this one. Exo 8.19 says, “And the magicians told Pharaoh: ‘This is the finger of God.'” The magicians know now that this is not the work of another magician. They conclude that this is the finger and work of God. In a polytheistic society of many gods, to say something is the work of a divine being is not the same thing as saying something is the work of a “creator God.”

When dealing with Pharaoh, the magicians used “elohim” which we have discussed before as a generic term for a “power.” These magicians are not endorsing the Hebraic idea of a creator God, but that a “god” has come against them. What they are really saying is when they talk to Pharaoh is this. We have seen in the plague of lice is that this is not magic. Moses is not a magician nor is he doing magic tricks. This is the work of a god (elohim/power). We advise you to not get too excited here and throw out our polytheistic ideas over a few bugs. Exo 8.32 goes on to say that after listening to the magicians “Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened (Chazek ha Lev), and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.”

Pharaoh is going against a power that is stronger than he thought, so he digs in in his heart. The plagues are going along in two areas. These two areas are power and precision. God is going to make a distinction between the land of Goshen and the rest of Egypt. This act of precision will now involve space not just time. This God is king over both space and time, but Pharaoh will ignore and disregard both of these areas (Exo 8.32).

We have another plague coming that will come against the cattle of Egypt. Precision will come into play here in a bigger way. The Lord will predict this plague at a certain time (Exo 9.5) but precision will also play a role in the realm of space as well. Exo 9.4 says, “But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.” So, the Lord will not only make a difference between Egypt and Israel, but he will do it a the most basic level.

This increased precision will not get past the notice of Pharaoh because Exo 9.7 says, “And Pharaoh sent, and behold there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead.” What pagan god can do that? Why is Pharaoh even fighting this God called Yehovah? The only control he has to continue is to ignore reality and the obvious, and that is what he does in Exo 9.7. Kaved ha Lev is used to describe the hardening of his heart in order to compartmentalize what is happening. His real enemy is reality as we have mentioned before.

The next plague are boils. The magicians, who duplicated some of the earlier plagues, can’t keep up anymore and they get caught up in the pain of these boils. This plague is so bad, they can’t even function anymore (Exo 9.11). Up till now, it was Pharaoh who hardened his own heart. Now, the Lord enters into the picture and Exo 9.12 says, ” And the Lord hardened (Kabed ha Lev) Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.” Why does God intervene now?

We know that the plagues were very severe. Pharaoh could have quit because he wanted to survive, but that doesn’t mean he had changed his mind about anything. He still would have thought he was a “god” and keep going ahead, making up his own rules. The Lord was not going to let Pharaoh get off that easy, and so he comes in to “strengthen” his heart to continue. That is what Exo 9.12 is saying. The plague of boils broke Pharaoh and his courage departed, so the Lord stepped in because the Lord was not ready for Pharaoh to quit. If Pharaoh needed strength to keep going, God was going to give it to him. The Lord wanted Pharaoh’s surrender based on who he was, the one, true creator God. If not, the Lord was going to make sure Pharaoh got what he needed to keep going till the end.

We are at a pivotal moment in this drama. The hail is coming and when one just reads the account in most bibles, the hail just seems like the next plague, but this was no ordinary plague. Moses says in Exo 9.13-14, “Yehovah said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says Yehovah, God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know there is no one like me in all the earth.'”

What does “send all my plagues on you” mean? Does this one plague equal all the others? Is it a unique plague? Will it show Yehovah as the one, true creator God of the Hebrews? This one plague will carry a message about the Lord that equals all the other plagues. God is going to create this plague in such a way that it gets to the heart of Pharaoh because that is the battleground.

Things cannot remain the same after this plague. The Lord says in Exo 9.16, “But, indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you my power, and in order to proclaim my name through all the earth.” This goes back to what we said earlier. Why did God strengthen Pharaoh? Why did he have Pharaoh play the role he did in all of this? The Lord is answering all those questions right here. Fohrman says it is as if the Lord pauses right before these plagues get really bad and seems to be telling Pharaoh to get real. Haven’t you wondered why you are still here after all the previous destruction?

There is a concept that says, “The answer to every problem is in the problem.” God gives Pharaoh the answer to all of this when he says that he has allowed Pharaoh to stand. God was going to show Pharaoh what power really is, not like the lame gods that he worships. Why? So that the name of the Lord can be proclaimed through the whole earth. The reason Pharaoh is still here is because there is something bigger than Pharaoh here. Pharaoh was going to be part of the revelation of God to all mankind.

We will pick up here in Part 90.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 88

Moses puts the truth out there in Exo 5.1. The creator God Yehovah is telling Pharaoh to let his people go because he wants to celebrate with them. Yehovah is God’s name and he is the creator. He expects Egypt and Pharaoh to comply and let them go. The idea of a “celebration” means that this God has a relationship with the Hebrews, which Pharaoh does not understand in his polytheistic view.

Pharaoh, as we know, rejects this command by saying in Exo 5.2, “Who is Yehovah that I should listen to his voice to let Israel go. I do not know Yehovah, and what’s more, I will not let Israel go.” This God Yehovah wants a relationship with his people and Pharaoh has no concept of this. In his mind, you appease or sacrifice to a god, but you don’t have a celebration with them.

Pharaoh has never heard of Yehovah in his pantheon of gods, so he dismisses Moses. However, now he has heard of Yehovah and his theological education has begun. As a result, Moses now teaches Pharaoh with a little more information, in ways Pharaoh will understand. Moses says in Exo 5.3, “The God (El/power) of the Hebrews happened upon us. Let us go, please, for three days in the wilderness and sacrifice to our God, otherwise, he might hurt us with pestilence or with the sword.”

Rabbi Fohrman makes a point by saying this speech was like telling Pharaoh that Moses wants to make things easier for him to understand. In other words, it is like saying, “Forget about the name Yehovah for a second because it was confusing. Let’s agree that this God who sent me to you is an El (power). You know about “powers.” And for a moment, forget what I said about a relationship between this God and the Hebrews, who he also calls Israel. Let’s stick with the name Hebrews for a second. And forget about this idea of a celebration. Let’s just say we are really concerned about our El, our power. Our El might get angry with us if we don’t go into the wilderness for three days to sacrifice to it. You can understand that, can’t you? This El might strike us if we don’t obey. You know what that is like, right? Like if your sun god got angry. All we are asking for, Pharaoh, is a little religious freedom to appease our God in the same way you would appease your gods.”

Now Pharaoh can understand this request. The God of the Hebrews isn’t so different after all. So, Pharaoh says in Exo 5.4-5, “But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors.'” He goes on to say that the people are many and Moses wants to have the people to cease from their labors? Pharaoh understands exactly what Moses is saying now.

Everyone serves a god, and Israel is afraid of their God and they must appease him, and Pharaoh understands that concept. But he rejects the second statement because the people are being told that they might get a few days off. So, Pharaoh is going to make them work harder. He thinks they fear their God more than they fear him, a god on earth. So far, Pharaoh and Egypt is not coming to the realization that the God of the Hebrews called Yehovah was the creator God, the one true God. That would have been the easy way. His education will have to continue the hard way.

Pharaoh will contend with a God he has never heard of, nor does he even think he is real, but that truth is coming down the track right at Pharaoh. Egypt and the wealth of that nation was obtained, in part, because they had slaves. Egypt will now taste some of the bitterness it has inflicted on Israel. Pharaoh will be educated in the knowledge that there is a one, true creator God and he will also learn that he is a Father who cares for his children.

We have gone over the palace scene with the staff of Aaron and the serpents, so we will not go over that again now. However, when Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated this sign, “the heart of Pharaoh was strengthened and he did not listen to Moses and Aaron” (Exo 7.13). This is the phrase “Chazak ha Lev.” He encouraged himself into thinking his people can counter whatever Moses does. Exo 7.14 says, “And Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn (heavy); he refused to let the people go.'” This verse tells us the phrase “Kaved ha Lev” means that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or made his heart stubborn. Pharaoh may think of himself as a man of courage and strength, but God sees it as being stubborn.

Exo 7.12 says, “And the staff of Aaron swallowed all the other staffs.” What a palace scene that must have been! But, what does it mean? Pharaoh could have deduced that his polytheistic views are vain. This could have shown Pharaoh that there is one God, Yehovah, who rules and is the creator. But Pharaoh misses the point, and that is why God tells Moses what he did in Exo 7.14.

He is not strengthening himself for a battle between “powers.” He is being stubborn. He does not want to see the truth, he is hardening himself to it. The phrases “Chazak ha Lev” and “Kaved ha Lev” are going to be all through these passages dealing with Pharaoh and Moses.

We know that the Nile will turn to blood, and the Egyptian are forced to dig wells for drinking water. What does Pharaoh do? His magicians tell him they can do that, too. Using their magical arts, they turn water into blood. Then Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened (Chazak ha Lev) and he did not listen to Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh looked for courage to stay in the fight with this God. Pharaoh thinks his magicians are better than the tricks Moses is pulling, so he thinks if he just holds out all of this will end. This brings us to the plague of frogs. This is the plague where Moses got into it with Pharaoh about when Pharaoh would like Moses to stop the frogs.

Exo 8.9 says, “And Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘The honor is yours to tell me when I shall entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile.'” This is letting Pharaoh control the time. So, Pharaoh says, “Tomorrow.” Now, this is a strange answer. Why put up with the frogs for another 24 hours? It is because he wants to see if Moses can turn off the frogs on Pharaoh’s precise schedule. So, Moses goes along with it, but then he says, “May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like Yehovah God.” Why was it important to test the ability of Moses to stop a plague according to a precise time? Moses is making a statement here.

He is showing Pharaoh that precision is God’s trademark. Everything is under his power and control. His plagues are all linked and he does what he wants, when he wants. And, he is even letting Pharaoh pick the time. This is the first time Pharaoh thinks he is up against something, or someone, he has not seen before. This is no magic trick. he begins to think that there might be a power that can be that precise in this world. That is something he doesn’t see in his polytheistic pantheon of Egyptian gods.

Of course, Pharaoh will go back on his word to let Israel go after this plague. Its says in Exo 8.15, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart his heart” (Chazak ha Lev). He looked for courage to continue. Pharaoh is beginning to see with the frogs that he is dealing with more than a “power.” He begins to see that this God is in control. Had Pharaoh not been so stubborn, he could have abandoned this whole “war” right then and there. But, he won’t do it and keeps on “fighting” despite the evidence. He is no longer fighting Moses or his God, but reality has become his enemy now.

This is what happens when we talk with people and show them exactly what the Word of God says about Yeshua and Torah observance, and they get stubborn about it. We need to remember that at that moment, we stop being the enemy, and their real enemy is now reality itself.

We will pick up here with the next plague in Part 89.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 87

If the leader of the most powerful nation in the world at the time could come to the conclusion that there is one God, it would be a moment in history that confirmed the truth of monotheism. And, the name of that God is Yehovah, the God of the Hebrews. That would have been a game changer. The only impediment to this was Pharaoh. This will not be the time to get into the concept of free will versus election, but here is the problem and some questions.

For those who believe in free will, how can God morally justify the taking away of the free will of Pharaoh? Why would the Lord want the sanction of Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go into the wilderness, then harden his heart to make him say “No” once he decides to say “Yes.” We are going to look into these questions and see how Pharaoh could have ruined God’s plans.

Egypt cannot be forced into accepting the fact that there is one God, it must be a genuine move on their part. God does not have to “cheat” to get what he wants. If Pharaoh has free choice, could anyone predict what he is going to do? What if Pharaoh doesn’t go along with what God wants? Pharaoh could use his free will to thwart his plan. Humans are weak and this could influence Pharaoh to give in, not because he recognizes the Lord, but because of fear and stress.

The Exodus story could have ended by a Pharaoh that added Yehovah to his pantheon of Gods. If Pharaoh wants to give up because he is beaten and lacks the courage to go on, the Lord could choose to give Pharaoh the courage to keep going, to keep fighting. If Pharaoh ever gave up, it would not be because he thought he was wrong, but because he was beaten. There are some teachers and commentators who believe this is a possible scenario here.

If the Lord “strengthens” Pharaoh’s heart to continue as the Hebrew word suggests, does that mean God has violated Pharaoh’s free will? Is it advancing his free will? Did Pharaoh have free will to begin with? All of these questions come up as one studies the Exodus story. If anyone has played sports, they know that there are times when players give up because it is too tough to play on. They want to quit. But then a coach comes along, or another player, and gives a “pep talk” and this talk encourages the players to play on. In some cases, this talk resulted in a victory. One of the most famous pep talks was by Knute Rockne, the football coach of Notre Dame from 1918 to 1930, called “Win one for the Gipper.”

Rabbi Fohrman brings up God’s stance towards Pharaoh in giving him strength to keep going through the plagues that were devastating. The Lord stance is he would tell Pharaoh to “not let expediency decide this conflict between us. Let’s decide this on principle. If throughout this struggle you ever want to quit and give in to principle, if you ever lose confidence in your position, if you ever come to the conclusion that I am in fact the creator of the universe and that you are just a man who is duty bound to release my people, I will gladly accept your surrender and call off this conflict. However, if you have not changed your mind about any of this and you will to keep going with this conflict between us, then we will. But if you want to quit merely because you are afraid, don’t worry, I will give you the strength to keep going and see your vision through to the end. You be the one to decide.”

Pharaoh is going to change his mind many times during this ordeal. The Torah does not use the same word for this change of mind. There will be several words that will be used in the Hebrew that one will not pick up on when reading this in any other language. One of the words comes from the Hebrew root “KVD (kof, beit, dalet) and the other from the Hebrew root ChZK (chet, zayin, kof). These would be understood as “Kabed ha Lev” (heavy heart) and “Chazek ha Lev” (strengthen the heart). Strength of heart sounds like something good because a person sees his vision through to the end. It is the acquisition of courage. This term will be used when the Lord changes the mind of Pharaoh to give him courage to continue in what he believes in deep in his heart (Exo 4.21, 7.13, 8.17, 9.12, 10.20, 10.27, 11.10, 14.4). We will go over the plagues and see where the Lord strengthens the heart of Pharaoh. But, we also know that Pharaoh will be stubborn and does things without thinking. The phrase for that is “Kaved ha Lev” and it means “heavy or stubborn heart.”

Pharaoh will get so stubborn that no matter what God does to show him the evidence of his error, he will not budge and will go headlong into situations that will not be good. He will not admit the truth. Pharaoh wasn’t going to admit that there was ever another god who was the creator of all things and also all powerful. Pharaoh doesn’t want to change his theology, he wants it to remain the same. He was a god to his people and whatever he said or wanted was the last word on the subject. We know that gods fought other gods for supremacy, so as a god, he will fight this other god named Yehovah and he intends to win.

Pharaoh did not hold on to Israel just because of the economy, it was a battle to hold on to what he thought of himself, a god. He wasn’t going to admit that there was a one, true creator God who opposed him. He would have to humble himself and realize who he really was, a mere man. The Lord’s plan doesn’t rest entirely on showing a sign that proves he is the one, true God. This can fail and go bad very quickly. The Lord must do something else and we will deal with this as we move through the plagues.

The story of the Ten Plagues is one of the most well known stories of the Torah, but it is also a negotiation. Pharaoh will change his mind, illustrated by the phrase “Chazek ha Lev” and “Kaved ha Lev.” These terms means the “strengthening and the hardening of the heart.” In Exo 7.5 it says, “And Egypt shall come to know that I am the Yehovah, when I stretch out my hand upon Egypt.” Now, when did Egypt begin to “know” who Yehovah was?

It started when Moses gave his two statements to Pharaoh in Exo 5.1 and 5.3, which we have touched on previously. Yehovah wants Pharaoh to let the people go out into the wilderness for three days so that they can celebrate. Pharaoh rejects that request, then Moses says, “The God of the Hebrews happened upon us. Please let us go a three days journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or the sword.” Moses uses language in 5.3 that sounds like he is fearful.

These two statements show two different ideas of God. Looking at what we have gone over about monotheism and polytheism, the first statement of Moses in 5.1 reveals who the Lord really is. In his second statement, he presents the Lord on the polytheistic view relating to “power.” So, Pharaoh and Egypt have just started their theological training and “going to school” right away to learn who Yehovah really is. Moses puts the truth right out there in 5.1. The creator God Yehovah is telling you to let his people go because he has a relationship with them and wants to celebrate with them. Pharaoh will not understand this kind of thing because of his polytheistic views. So, in Exo 5.3, Moses gives Pharaoh information in ways he could understand, according to his polytheistic view of the “gods.”

In Part 88 we will pick up here.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 86

If we were the Lord, what would we do to set the captive Hebrews free? In addition, how would we reveal ourselves as the true creator of the universe? Well, first of all, we would fight an idea with another idea. If the Lord can show the Egyptians that there is a real creator, a real God, and he is the same God of the Hebrews, good things should begin to follow. God has introduced himself and if he can show the Egyptians and Pharaoh that he doesn’t like what they are doing to his people, then there is a moral decision that needs to be made. Israel is smaller, weaker and helpless. Egypt is a bully. Pharaoh needs to recognize that the God of the Hebrews is not happy with what he is doing and that he has all-power and the creator of the things that the Egyptians can only worship out of fear. If Pharaoh could recognize that fact, it would put a stop to the slavery.

Rabbi Fohrman says this sounds easy but will this tactic work? What will God do to reveal himself. The Egyptians were not “godless” because they recognized many gods and powers, but they thought there were many powers not just one. For the Lord to have a demonstration of his power to the Egyptians would not have been that unusual to them.

How does the Lord convince the Egyptians and Pharaoh that there is just one creator God, not many. Would we give Moses some “miracle working power” to show them? But Egypt had “magicians” and they have seen their gods do “tricks” before. What if we told Pharaoh (remember we are in the Lord’s place here) that a large city would be destroyed if he refuses to comply, would that be proof? No, they would just say the sun god or some other god did it. How about any other cataclysm? No, they would just say some other god did it because that god or gods was upset with them. So, if we were the Lord, how could we reveal ourselves? How could we control events in such a way as to convince Pharaoh and the people that we were the one, true creator God?

There must be some things we could do. We could come right out and say who we are, and that Moses was our messenger. If Pharaoh doesn’t believe, then we could give him a sign that he can’t explain way. This sign would prove that we are the one, true God. This sign would have to be one that the magicians could not duplicate. If Pharaoh was honest, he would have to come to the conclusion that the God of the Hebrews was God.
Well, in fact, this is what the Lord tried to do but Pharaoh and Egypt were not being honest. Had things been acknowledged, everything would have gone much easier on the the land, the people and the animals.

Another thing we could do is to teach Pharaoh and the nation some other way. This brings us to the plagues. One plague would not do it, but ten should. One plague leading to another, then another. This would show dominion over the various “powers” that the Egyptians worshiped, including Pharaoh. The creator God having dominion over the natural order of things and the powers could show everyone that the God of the Hebrews was the one, true God.

So, we know that the Nile turned to blood. At first, the Egyptians don’t think the creator God struck them, they think the river god was angry. But, the next plague comes and now you have frogs everywhere. Now they think the river god has gone in with the frog god, but then another plague hits and now there is a conspiracy of many gods against them. Insects are everywhere and they have teamed up against them. At some point an intelligent person will realize there is something else going on here. As the plagues hit, wave after wave, the evidence begins to mount up that this is not a conspiracy of many gods, but there is one God, the God of the Hebrews, controlling this. His spokesman Moses has predicted every one of these plagues.

The reality is, it is not the amount of plagues, or how different they were, that gets the attention. It is how these plagues came about. There is an intelligent being and design behind all this. There was a precision to it, not just a “power.” We have touched on the fact that this precision impressed Pharaoh, not the power. He has seen floods, catastrophes, plagues and storms before. It is the precision of all this that stands out to him. Could Moses really “turn off” a catastrophe at the exact time and show “control?”

Did the plagues distinguish between the Hebrews and the Egyptians? The question of precision versus power is one of the most overlooked concepts in any comparison between paganism and monotheism. Paganism, as far as the gods are concerned, is like ten people fighting over control of a jet plane. There is a lot of power but no control or precision. Everything is unpredictable at best. Paganism shows lots of power, but no control. Nobody knows when something will start, how bad it will be, where it will go and for how long. Nobody who believes in polytheism could predict with precision what will happen.

It was for this reason that Pharaoh was impressed. It was the precision of the whole thing. Very uncharacteristic of his gods. No pagan god turned off his power at the precise moment of your choosing, but Moses could. Pharaoh didn’t know this God. This God had control over nature, and he could control it any way he wanted to, with precision. This God didn’t share his power with any god Pharaoh knew of. He had absolute power and there was no other God that could be compared to him. It was like all the other “powers” and “gods” were powerless over this God, so why even bother with these lesser powers? This included the belief that Pharaoh was a god. This God was making Pharaoh look bad in front of the whole nation, and that was the biggest shock of all to Pharaoh. His very status as a god-king in Egypt was being confronted by the God of the Hebrews, and Pharaoh was embarrassed. He would need to make some changes, but the question is, would he? Could he be intellectually honest enough to realize he wasn’t a god? That is a pretty big role to give up.

There is another way God could introduced himself to a pagan nation. Have two “opposing” powers working in conjunction with each other at the same time. We not only have a series of plagues coming on the land, but they have been predicted exactly by God, whose name is Yehovah, through prophets named Moses and Aaron. Now, what could be done to convince a skeptic to turn away from his polytheistic beliefs? The Lord comes up with a good one with the plague of the hail. This will really confuse the pagan beliefs of the Egyptians. This hail was not like any hail that the Egyptians have ever seen. Exo 9.24 says, “And there was hail, and fire encased inside the hail.” The other plagues were unique on their own, but this one was completely opposed to each other, fire and ice. What would a skeptic think of that?

Are these plagues really the work of an alliance of gods? Was the fire god joining forces with the ice god? In paganism, this was unheard of because these gods destroy each other by contact. This would not make any sense in the mind of a polytheist. This only makes sense when another God controls fire and ice, and that God was the God of the Hebrews. So, it can be clearly seen that there are ways in these plagues that Yehovah could introduce himself to everyone.

Fohrman brings out the the fact that the Exodus story had two goals. It was to free the Hebrews so they could worship Yehovah and serve him. BUt, the Lord wanted to do that in a way that educates Pharaoh of the nature of the force he is opposing. This God is not one God among many, he is the one, true creator God among no other gods. If the leader of the most powerful nation in the world could come to the conclusion that there is one God, and his name is Yehovah, it would be a moment in history that would show that monotheism is the truth, and polytheism is false. The only problem to this was Pharaoh, and we will pick up here in Part 87.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 85

We are going to take a look at the difference between Monotheism and Polytheism and this will give us some insight into why Pharaoh acted the way he did. Monotheism is believed to be a belief in one God by many, and Polytheism is the belief in many gods. That seems to be the biggest difference between the two systems. However, numbers are only part of the equation.

The difference between the two systems are not how many gods, but the quality. How does each system answer the spiritual questions of life? Each system has a “logic” to it. We will start with polytheism and this belief system goes back to ancient history and the basis for this system is “fear.” This belief states that man is alone in the universe and he has seen some very powerful forces at work. Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, snowstorms and the like can destroy a house in seconds. Too much rain can ruin crops and heat can dry up the crops and vineyards. The land can be devastated after such storms. Earthquakes can not only shake the ground, but your confidence.

Nature is all around and they didn’t know what was going to happen, so man must have some control over all this, but how? Today, we can turn on the Weather Channel or look on our phones to find out about the weather. It is somewhat predictable. Technology has taken the guess work out of what the weather is doing, but anciently that was not the case. How could man understand what was happening? They had to come up with an answer to these “powers” so they could “deal” with them. So, Paganism was the answer. In the pagan mind, there is no creator of the universe. Heaven was made up of competing powers who interacted with humans, and not always to their benefit. These “powers” would send tragedies to torment people because they didn’t care about mankind. But, that didn’t stop mankind in trying to cut some deal with the powers.

None of the powers were “all powerful” and they often “competed” with each other. Rain was powerful, but it could not control the heat of the sun. Weather was always changing and that was evidence in the pagan mind that there was a constant battle going on between these powers. One day would win, the next day wind would win, then heat and so on. Every one of these so called “powers” had their own realm. What mankind needed to do was to look over the environment and decide who they were going to worship. If they lived on the coast and they fished for a living, they would worship the fish god. If they lived in a desert, they worshiped the rain god. If they lived by a river, they worshiped the sun god, not a rain god. So, the first thing a pagan would do was “pick a god.”

The second thing they would do is try to appease that god. These gods were not all powerful and they had “needs.” They could be manipulated and “bought off.” Give the god something it needs. They had to “get the attention” of the god about the dry crops. So, this brings up “sacrifices.” The better the sacrifice, the more the god would see that the person was serious. The more outrageous the sacrifice, the more they would get the attention of a god that didn’t really care. This eventually led to child sacrifice. Now the Torah forbids such things because offerings in the Torah has nothing to do with “bribing” or getting the Lord’s attention. To explain this, we need to look at Monotheism.

Monotheism obviously rejects the idea of multiple gods. It says that there is one God who created everything. Mankind still lived in a world with rain, snow, wind, drought and all the other weather. There was no need to “bribe” this God because there was only one. He is the one to see because there was nobody else. What could you possibly him because he has no needs. How does one worship this God? Belief in a creator God does open up other reasons to worship him.

If the universe just “happened” in a “big bang” and everything is just a random grouping of matter that came together by chance, then that means nothing around us has any meaning. There was no “intent” of a creator and we just go through life the best we can, enjoying what we can and taking what we can. We do not have a relationship with a creator if it is all random.

However, if the universe is not something that is random and just “happened” then that changes everything. There is a logic and a well thought out structure to everything. The universe exists because there was a being that created it. Every person in that creation has a purpose and is part of that plan. Humans have life because there is a creator who desired it to be that way. Some may “fear” this being and be concerned with themselves, but that also means there are many other reasons why a human might want to have a relationship with this being. Some may even reach out to this being because thankfulness, even if that being has no need for that thankfulness.

So, that brings us up to the situation in Exodus. Why was it so important for the Lord that the world know that he was Yehovah, the creator God? Why was it important for Pharaoh to know that? It was about bringing into the world the awareness of what being “spiritual” was. It wasn’t about God’s ego, or getting rid of all the false “powers” or gods in Egypt. It was about being thankful and showing love, mercy and morality to a world that had not seen that before. It was about showing man that there was a one, true creator God that existed, and a God who cared for his people.

There had to be a transition from understanding God as all powerful to a loving Father who cared about his children. He wanted to show his children who he really was, not what they thought he was (El Shaddai). He wanted them to know him. That is what is going on in the Exodus story. This was how God was going to introduce himself to all mankind. The truth is, there is only one God. How was he going to accomplish this? What he did was so awesome that a whole nation would still be taking about it 3500 years later.

The Lord was not only going to set a whole captive nation free, but he was also going to establish the fact that he was the one, true creator God for all mankind. The Lord alludes to this in Exo 7.5 where he says that he is going to show the Egyptians who he was, not just Israel, and that his name was Yehovah.

There was a television show about a drug manufacturer who could make a 99.9 % pure drug, and it was very popular. The people knew he went by the name “Heisenberg.” Nobody ever saw him, but one time he came to negotiate a distribution deal with some new clients. They knew the reputation, but didn’t know who the guy was that was negotiating with them. But Heisenberg said, “You know who I am. Now, say my name.” It was important for him for the people he was negotiating with to connect that name with the product he was producing. It is basically the same thing in the Exodus story. It was important for the Lord for the people to connect what he was going to do in Egypt with his name. It was Yehovah that was bringing all this about. Yehovah was going to teach them to “Say my name.”

Egypt and Pharaoh were the ones God chose to reveal himself to, but why? Egypt was the dominant power at the time and they had numerous gods. If the Lord was going to introduce himself as the creator God, Egypt was a good place to start. If Egypt ever accepted the one, true God it would have reverberated throughout the known world. But, God had to convince Pharaoh he was not a “god” just like all the other gods.

The Exodus had two purposes. First, the Lord wanted to set Israel free from bondage because they were his children. Second, he wanted everyone to know that the power behind it all was the true creator God of the universe. This brings us to Pharaoh. The above two reasons were related, but why did Pharaoh do the things he did?

At one time, Israel prospered and even became numerous in Egypt, and Egypt was even saved through this people. But eventually, a Pharaoh came along and believed they were doing “too well.” They began to think about a scenario that said “What if one of our enemies came along? Who would Israel side with? What if they decided to take over?” So, Egypt decided to enslave Israel, and began killing their male children. Pharaoh was king and he could do whatever he wanted. The civil rights of an enslaved people was of no interest to him. He had the power to do whatever he wanted. He was a true pagan leader. In polytheism, the gods don’t tell others to act morally. Their relationship is based on power. In paganism, the gods constantly fight and the stronger one wins. For a pagan, this was an example of how the world should function. For Pharaoh to enslave Israel, it was no different than a pagan god getting what it wants, using his power to get it.

Now, if we were the Lord, what would we do to release the Israelites, and at the same time reveal yourself as the one, true creator God of the universe? In Part 86, we will pick up here and see how the Lord was going to do just that.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 84

God wants to deliver Israel and Moses wants to know God’s name. He tells Moses he is using a “new” name that reveals a new aspect of who he is, and it hasn’t been revealed until now. That name is Yehovah (YHVH). So, let’s look at what the Lord is trying to get across here. He said he appeared to the ancestors of Moses as El Shaddai, but now he will be known as Yehovah. So, the question is, what does El Shaddai and Yehovah mean? Let’s look at these names as just words first of all.

El is a shortened form of the word “Elohim.” God told Moses this is how he revealed himself previously to people. So, what does “El” or “Elohim” mean? In Gen 31.29 it says, “I have it within my power to do harm to you.” That is what Lavan told Jacob. In this verse, “el” is the word for “power.” That is what “El” or “Elohim” basically means when it is used as a divine name or title. This gives us something to go on when we look at the first commandment where it says, “You shall not have allegiance to any other gods before me.” That seems like it is saying that we should not believe in polytheism and that we are to look to “one” God. This implies that there are other gods, but what other gods are there?

This contradiction goes away when we go back and look at the Hebrew where it says we are not to have an allegiance to “any other Elohim before me.” We have seen that the definition for “elohim” is “powers” so this commandment means that we are not to have any other “powers” before the Lord. There are great “powers” in the universe that people worship. The sun is “powerful” and without it life would not exist on earth but we cannot worship the sun. El relates to God as powerful, and so God is the power (El) of the Jewish people (and all believers), and they are to have allegiance only to him. Moses tells Pharaoh in Exo 5.3 that he is the one that the Hebrews give power to, but other “powers” can exist.

El or Elohim can describe God but it does describe God as having no rivals. It is more of a general description than a name. God has told Moses that he was known as El Shaddai in the past, but what does that mean? Shaddai is not used in Hebrew except for a name of God. In reality, “shaddai” isn’t even a word but it is a contraction of several words. It basically means “enough.” The rabbis saw the name from “mi she’amar le’ olamo dai” or “the one who said to his world ‘enough.'” God has shown himself to be a very significant “power” in the past as “El Shaddai” and he showed “great power” at the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. But what does that have to do with Moses right now?

Power is an attribute of God but it is not who he is. What he is getting ready to tell Moses here is who he really is. The Lord is going to let his absolute power loose on Egypt in the coming ten plagues, but that kind of power is not who he is (El Shaddai). God makes use of power but that is not the essence of who he is. Yehovah is who he is.

Yehovah consists of the Hebrew letters “Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey” (Y-H-V-H) and if those letters were a word, what would it mean? In order to see what it means, we must look at certain words using combinations of these letters Rabbi Fohrman makes some interesting points here. If you look at the last three letters (H-V-H) it is the Hebrew word meaning “to exist.” Three out of the four letters (H-Y-H) spells the word for “was.” The entire Y-H-V-H is very close to the word “will be” (Y-H-Y-H). So, the name of God (Y-H-V-H) is almost the same as the Hebrew words for “was, present, future.”

Take those words for existing in the past, present and the future and overlay them. For example, in Hebrew, take the H-Y-H and lay H-V-H on top of that and the Y disappears into the V. Take that unified word and overlay Y-H-Y-H on top and you will have Y-H-V-H. This name denotes more than just “I was, I am and I will be.” It tells us something totally different. That concept doesn’t exist in the physical world. Rabbi Fohrman says, “who experiences time like that. You would have to be outside our world.”

Humans experience time like a tunnel, or like a linear line. We go through it on a path. The only way to experience time simultaneously is to be outside our “tunnel.” That is what the name Yehovah is telling us. He can do that because he created time. He exists outside of the physical aspects of creation that he created. Rabbi Fohrman gives another example on how to understand this concept.

People have always asked the question “Where is God?” In other words, if God exists, why don’t we see more of him? This is similar to the “little hat” and the “little shoe” wondering where “Parker” is. Everybody knows about the game of Monopoly. The “little hat” and the “little shoe” are tokens in that game, made by Parker Brothers. As the little hat passes a hotel on the game board, he asks the little shoe, “Do you believe in Parker?” The little shoe looks at the little hat with a confused look. The little hat says, “Look over there. It says ‘Made by Parker Brothers.’ So, do you believe in Parker?” The little shoe says, “Well, I guess I do. What about you?” The little hat says, “Well, I have been around here for a long time. I pass “Go” and I get two hundred dollars. I have been on every avenue and I have seen it all. I have even been to jail, but I have never seen Parker. So, I don’t believe in Parker, I am a Parker atheist.”

Now, if we overheard this conversation, what would you say to little hat? Would we say, “Little Hat, you have been looking for Parker in all the wrong places. Parker doesn’t live on the board, he created the board. The maker of a system doesn’t live inside that system. As a creator, you can interact with the system you made and you can even make the rules on how it functions. The creator can dictate how each piece will function. A creator can do all that, but he doesn’t live on the board. It is not his natural habitat. The board is the system he created on which the created pieces function, not the creator.” Is that what we would have told Little Hat?

Of course this is a metaphor. The board is the universe and when we look around we don’t see God the creator. We are looking in the wrong place. He is not human and the universe was made for humans, not God. The concepts of space, time, light, mass and energy is for man. God is not “aloof” or cut off from his creation. He can and has many times come in and interacted with it. That is what he is about to do in Egypt with the plagues. There are rules for mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology. The earth is not the natural habitat for God and that is why Israel is commanded to make a “Mikdash” for him in Exo 25.8-9. That is why the Lord is called “Ha Makom” or “The Place.”

The Lord says in the past he revealed himself as a powerful force (El), and sometimes as a a most powerful force (El Shaddai). But now he is going to tell everyone who he really is” Yehovah, the one who is “out of this world.” At the burning bush, God revealed himself as “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” as we have discussed (Exo 3.14). But he is outside of the physical universe so how can we understand him. We can’t touch or see him.

The Lord said that we can’t define him but he did say he was the God of Israel’s forefathers. He had a relationship with others, so he can have other relationships. As the Egyptian Redemption was about to begin, there was something that was about to be revealed. They would come to know God as Yehovah (Y-H-V-H), the creator of the universe who lives outside of it.

Now, God has always been the creator but this was going to be demonstrated in ways that had never been seen or done before. When God got done, there would be no doubt as to who he was. Why is it important to the Lord to be known this way? He had no competition. To answer this question we will need to look at the difference between Monotheism and Polytheism. Knowing this difference will have a major impact on our understanding of what the Lord was trying to accomplish in Egypt, with Pharaoh, and the Exodus.

We will pick up here in Part 85.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 83

Did Moses have a plan? Let’s look at what Moses said in Exo 5.1 and Exo 5.3. Exo 5.1 says, “And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Yehovah, the God of Israel, let my people go, that they may celebrate a feast to me in the wilderness.'” In Exo 5.3 it says, “Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.'”

The first thing Moses said seems confident, and the second seems weak. The responses differ in many ways. From the name used to describe the Israelites (Israel; Hebrews), to the consequences that could happen if Israel doesn’t go into the desert.

Moses shows the Lord as talking directly to Egypt when he tells them to let them go. Then Moses shows the Lord as not speaking directly to Egypt, or anyone. Instead, Moses tells Pharaoh that God “appeared upon us” which is a phrase that something unplanned happened. By what Moses said, it doesn’t seem that the Lord spoke directly to Israel. The request to “go” comes from the people, not the Lord. The KJV and the NASB use “met us” and this makes better sense.

Then we have a “celebration” in 5.1 and a “sacrifice” in 5.3. In 5.1 there aren’t any consequences for not going, and in 5.3 there are some consequences. How do these differences come into meaning? Is there a “tavnit” (blueprint, pattern) that could give us some insight? The two statements of Moses give us two pictures of God. The God of 5.1 is a God who wants to be with his people, to celebrate. He talks directly to his people and tells them what he wants. He calls them “my people” showing closeness.

The God of 5.3 seems very different. The people are called “Hebrews” which seems distant. It is not very clear what he wants but they better go and give korbanot or this God will make them pay. The word “celebrate” is not used. Why does Moses present God like that? Why does he show a God that seems close, and then a God who is rather vindictive? There is one other difference between 5.1 and 5.3 and this is a mystery. In 5.1, Moses spoke of God using the name Yehovah. In 5.3 he does not use that name. Moses says, “the God of the Hebrews.” Is this on purpose? Does Moses really think this will work? Moses thinks it will because 5.3 is how Pharaoh and the believers in polytheism relate to their gods in Egypt. Maybe he can reach Pharaoh by relating to how he thinks of his gods. But we will have more on this later, and the difference between monotheism and polytheism.

Pharaoh has another agenda in this fight with God, and it wasn’t over the slaves. The Lord is using ten plagues rather than just working a great miracle on the Egyptians. He wants Pharaoh to say yes (only to change it to no later). Does the Lord have another agenda? Then we come to Moses, and we have to ask whether or not he had another agenda. Do these three characters know something that we haven’t seen yet?

The key to all this can be found in the names Moses uses in 5.1 and 5.3. God appeared to Moses and remember he discussed his name. Anyone who has read the Scriptures knows that there are many names by which the Lord is called. There is one, then another, and after awhile you don’t even notice the name changes. God doesn’t make a big deal about all these name changes. Where does God correct anyone about what name or title they use? Never! But, a it turns out, God does care about his names. It matters to him as we shall soon see. It may be the only place in the Scriptures where he wants to make sure everyone is using the right name. There are several things in Exodus that the Lord makes sure we know his name. One time is at the burning bush. He went into this topic with Moses at length. Another time is right before the ten plagues begin.

So, Moses has made two requests to Pharaoh, and they seem to be opposite of each other in tone and content. Pharaoh has ignored the first request, and Israel must work harder than before. The Lord tells Moses that he has not done anything yet, but he is now. The next thing he tells Moses is about his names. Exo 6.2-3 says, “And God spoke to Moses and said to him; I am Yehovah. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but my name Yehovah I did not make known to them.”

At first, this seems like a strange statement. This is a critical moment because everything has gone wrong as far as Moses was concerned. The Lord assures Moses he hasn’t seen anything yet. What he is going to do to Egypt has never been seen before. Moses could not even imagine it. But before he does anything, the Lord goes into a theological discussion about names! It is like God says, “Oh, by the way, have I ever talked with you about these names? I happen to have one that has never been revealed before, not to anyone. Not even Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.” It seems this conversation is a bit out of place.

We are on the verge of a whole nation being judged, devastated and destroyed and the Lord wants to talk about his name. The Lord seems to be revealing a new name here, but this name is not new at all. It is used with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, in what way is it new? Why tells Moses now? God had an opportunity to discuss all this at the burning bush when they were talking about his name (Exo 3.13-15).

You would think this would have been the perfect time to discuss his name, but that is not what happened. He tells Moses, “I will be what I will be. Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: I will be has sent me to you.” What kind of answer is that? What kind of name is “ehyeh asher ehyeh” (I will be what I will be)? Then the conversation gets even stranger. After saying he wants to be known as “I will be” the Lord says something different. In Exo 3.15 he says, “And God further said to Moses, ‘Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: Yehovah, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and God of Jacob-sent me to you. That is my name forever, and this is my remembrance from generation to generation.'” This seems confusing, we wonder how Moses felt at this point.

First God says “My name is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.” Then he says in the next verse it is “Yehovah.” Back in 3.13, Moses wants to understand God’s name before he accepts his role as shaliach. Then just before the ten plagues begin, the Lord wants to introduce himself through his name Yehovah. This was not only to Moses, but to Egypt and the whole world. These names really are important because of what is going to happen. The Lord wants everyone to know his name, his memorial name. To give someone or something a name gives it identity.

In Part 84 we will pick up here.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 82

Let’s go back to see where we are so far. God decides that he is going to play the long game to release Israel by using ten plagues over several months instead of a simple miracle. The Lord seems to be interested in obtaining Pharaoh’s consent to letting Israel go for three days into the wilderness, but then he isn’t interested in his consent and makes him say “No.” This is not the way most of us would have done this. If God’s actions are hard to explain, Pharaoh’s actions are hard to explain also. So, let’s take a look at Pharaoh and his position and see what he did.

Pharaoh’s actions through this narrative gives us some understanding about what he was doing. Pharaoh has been studied for centuries and many people have seen some of his behaviors as contrary to what they would have expected. Just before the last plague, Moses tells Pharaoh what was going to happen. He says, “Thus says the Lord: At about midnight, I shall go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the first born in Egypt shall die” (Exo 11.4-5).

In the Talmud (Berekot 4a) it says that scholars and rabbis were interested in this verse. Why does it say “about midnight?” Why not say the exact time? In Exo 12.29 it says “it happened at midnight.” The question that came up was, “Why wasn’t Moses exact, but later it says at midnight?” The rabbis taught that God knew when it was going to happen but Pharaoh didn’t. They discussed the fact that what if the “timekeepers” in Pharaoh’s court were a little “off.” Pharaoh would have called Moses a “liar” saying, “You said midnight and that didn’t happen.” Maybe Moses was vague for a reason. Could that happen? Sure it could, just look at what happens today. You have a politician the press doesn’t like, and he says something that doesn’t happen exactly like he said, they will say he was lying.

It is the same thing here, and the rabbis really believe that is why Moses said “about midnight.” They had good reason to believe that Pharaoh would have reacted that way. Pharaoh reacted to the second plague of frogs by asking Moses to take them away (Exo 8.4). Moses then lets Pharaoh pick the time (Exo 8.5) and Pharaoh says “Tomorrow.” Now, the frogs were everywhere so why would Pharaoh wait that long to get rid of them? Rabbi Fohrman says he was waiting to see of Moses really can stop the plague of frogs so he says “tomorrow.” As a result, Moses says “Whatever you want” but you are going to realize that there is no other like the Lord, our God” (Exo 8.6).

Thinking about this, it would seem that Moses and Pharaoh are on the same page here. Moses lets Pharaoh pick the time and Pharaoh accepts, and then Moses tells Pharaoh that this will show Pharaoh that there is none like the Lord. Now, you may be asking, “Why would the timing of frogs according to what Pharaoh said prove the power of Yehovah?” It’s like stopping the plague is more impressive than the plague itself. However, Moses knows how Pharaoh will see it. The power of the plague is less impressive to Pharaoh than whether Moses can turn off the frogs. Timing seems to be an issue with Pharaoh.

This is just one example of some of the strange behavior by Pharaoh. This isn’t how we would have reacted if we were in his place. Let’s look at another example in the fifth plague where the cattle and livestock are struck. Pharaoh has another reaction that is hard to understand.

If we were a king and we have been fighting a guy like Moses over this issue of the slaves being set free for three days to go into the wilderness to worship their God, how would we have reacted? We are sitting on our throne when we hear that there is a plague that has struck the livestock in our kingdom. We don’t know why at first, and nobody else knows why either. If we are prudent and have a coherent thought process, we would want an immediate damage report. We would want to know just how bad it is, who was hurt, how many animals were hurt or killed. But this Pharaoh doesn’t do any of that. Exo 9.7 says that Pharaoh sent some people to check out the animals belonging to Israel, and finds out that none of them died.

He doesn’t even bother to assess the damage to Egypt’s animals, and doesn’t want a damage report. But he does do an assessment on Israel and their livestock. With the frogs, Moses and Pharaoh argue about the exact time, but now, Pharaoh’s concern is not about his dying animals, but how certain areas were affected and how others were not. He is interested in how “surgical” this strike was. That’s why the rabbis saw that Moses preferred to say “about midnight.” Pharaoh was an exacting man and any discrepancy in what Moses said would catch the focus of Pharaoh. Pharaoh is one of those guys who obsesses about things. He doesn’t seem to be impressed with the sheer power of a plague, he is interested in the timing and how precise everything is. That is what impresses Pharaoh.

What we have in this story is a battle of wills. Maybe he is not going against God over the release of the slaves alone, but he was going to battle with God over something for which timing and precision counts for more than power, but what could that be? We have seen in the Exodus story how God and Pharaoh do things that we might not expect. But what about the third character in our story, Moses? Did he act in ways that are hard for us to explain, or in ways that we would not have acted?

Let’s go back to the very beginning. Pharaoh is sitting on his throne conducting everyday Pharaoh business. He has ambassadors coming to him, questions to answer, papers to sign and other things. All of a sudden two guys show up to see him and they look like shepherds. They come before him and make a demand on Pharaoh and they say, “Thus says Yehovah, the God of Israel, send my people out and let them rejoice before me in the desert” (Exo 5.1). Moses is standing there looking at Pharaoh and he must be wondering what Pharaoh is going to say next. Then Pharaoh says, “Who is Yehovah that I should listen to his voice to let Israel go. I do not know Yehovah, and what’s more, I will not let Israel go” (Exo 5.2). Pharaoh is being very clear here. If we were Moses, what would we have said?

Pharaoh really doesn’t know the God of Moses and Israel, and he isn’t interested in letting Israel go. Moses has two things that he could do. He could accept what Pharaoh has said, turn around, go home and ask the Lord what to do. He is the one who sent him anyway, and Moses did what he was asked to do, so to check with him would be appropriate. He could say, “I came, I told him, and that’s that.” Now it was up to the Lord to respond. Moses could have done that. But he didn’t.

The other thing he could do is the exact opposite. Instead of leaving, he could tell Pharaoh he doesn’t understand who Yehovah is. This God is not one you want to anger. If Pharaoh doesn’t let Israel go, he may devastate Egypt, the people and the land. But that is not what Moses said. He says, “The God of the Hebrews happened upon us. Let us go, please, for three days in the desert and sacrifice to our God; otherwise, he might hurt us with pestilence and the sword” (Exo 5.3).

Does Moses think that by telling Pharaoh that they were “scared” of what God might do to them if they don’t go out to worship him was really going to motivate Pharaoh to change his mind here? Why would anyone react in their favor to this approach? Pharaoh didn’t know Yehovah and why would he care what he did?

Well, as it turns out, Pharaoh doesn’t care about what Yehovah might do to them and Pharaoh accuses Moses and Aaron of distracting the people with all this talk about going into the wilderness (Exo 5.4-5). He tells them both to get out of his court and he immediately doubles the workload of the Israelites (Exo 5.6-9). Pharaoh accuses the people of being lazy and they must have too much time on their hands to think about getting a few days off (Exo 5.17-18). Why would Moses say what he said to Pharaoh in the first place? Pharaoh said “No” very clearly. Now, if Moses had gone to God and God told him to say what he said in v.3, then that’s fine. But why say it when you had no chance of succeeding?

In Part 83 we will pick up here to see whether Moses had a plan here by examining Exo 5.1 and Exo 5.3.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 81

Now we are going to go back and look at the story of the Exodus from a different perspective, one that many have not really gone into. This different look will not only tell us what really happened but it will also tell us about the future. We are going to use concepts from a book by Rabbi David Fohrman called “The Exodus You Almost Passed Over.” That is a great title because we almost passed over what was really going on in the Torah. This portion of study will not only help us understand more concepts in Exodus, but it will help us in our understanding of the Messiah and the Second Redemption.

There are three important figures in the Exodus story and we are going to look at all three. They are the Lord, Moses and Pharaoh. We are going to look at what they did, how they interacted and see what we may have done different if we were in their place. Fohrman takes these three characters and plays a “What if” game. What if we were in the same position these characters were? What decisions would we have made compared to what they decided? So, first, let’s start with the Lord.

What would we have done if we were the Lotd and we had to take a whole nation out of a land of very mean slave holders, and take them to a land they have never seen before? How would we do that? We have ultimate power to do anything we want. Would we have used ten plagues? How about something quicker? Why go through all those plagues and just start at number ten (First Born)? That may have worked right away and all the other suffering could have been avoided. We might be able to do it without any plagues at all, after all, we have all power.

Why not just blind the Egyptians and then Israel could have just walked out, taking what they needed as they left. Why not just transport them all to Canaan in the “twinkling of an eye?” It’s not like we can’t do it, we can do anything. We could “freeze” the Egyptians and make it to where they couldn’t move. If we look at the ninth plague (darkness) it was an unnatural black darkness that only affected the Egyptians. The Jewish people could see and they had plenty of light. They had an opportunity to go right there. They had a chance to make a run for the border.

Why didn’t they go? The Egyptians may have tried to stop them but God could have put up a protective shield like on Star Trek and nothing could have harmed them. Arrows and spears would have bounced off, chariots couldn’t even get close. In a way, that was done in the real Exodus story. The Torah tells us that God used a pillar of cloud and fire as a barrier between the Egyptians and the Israelites. In reality, all of these were used to some extent in this story.

God decided to use a longer process with ten different plagues. But why do it that way? Was the Lord trying to be dramatic? Why didn’t the Lord use different alternatives to remove the people quickly? Because the Lord didn’t do that tells us he had a different agenda that we have not really seen yet. We believe that the Lord had a larger plan in mind because there are other issues related to this story, not just the release of Israel.

For example, why did the Lord tell Moses to make a request to Pharaoh to have a religious holiday? Why did he only ask for three days? Why did the Lord tell Moses to tell the elders they were going to Canaan? When Moses first came to Pharaoh he says “please” when asking him to send the Israelites out of Egypt (Exo 5.3). Saying it that way makes us look weak and on the inside, you knew that you were really going to Canaan. Would we have felt dishonest? God has all power so why go through this little word game. Remember, Moses is a shaliach who must speak the exact words of the one who sent him (God). Did Moses think to himself, “Why are we going through all this? Why not just blast the Egyptians and get us out of here?” But Moses had to say exactly what the Lord told him to say, even if he didn’t understand why.

Now, in the movies, Moses deals with Pharaoh in a very different way than what the Scriptures portray. Moses is tough, stern and very demanding in the movies. The word “please” never comes out of his mouth, and here is why. It is because it is not the way we would expect Almighty God to act to an earthly ruler in the movies. But Moses says, “The God of the Hebrews has called to us; let us go, please, for three days in the wilderness to sacrifice to him, lest he strike us with the sword or with pestilence” (Exo 5.3).

We will find out later that Moses had to ask for a three day holiday because these three days will play a major role in this story. That brings us to a another question. Why was Moses asking Pharaoh for permission to do anything? God is all-powerful and Pharaoh is just a man who was very, very limited. Moses is going to negotiate with Pharaoh for permission. Why was it so important to get Pharaoh’s permission to begin with? Moses must show patience as Pharaoh says “Yes” and then he says “No.” Then Pharaoh gives up some things the next time. It is a long, drawn out negotiation. These plagues probably took months to play out.

For an example of this negotiation, we know that wild animals are unleashed on the land. They go everywhere and Pharaoh tells Moses that he will let them go for three days, but can they stay local instead of going out into the wilderness (Exo 8.21). Moses rejects that counter offer because he tells them that when the Egyptians see what Israel would sacrifice, it would offend them (8.22). Pharaoh says he understands and says he thinks it would better of them to leave for three days. But, he says they are to make sure they don’t go too far away (8.24).

All these negotiations seem unnecessary because Moses represents the God who created the universe. Why would the Lord have to negotiate at all with a man whose life is in his hands to begin with? God didn’t need Pharaohs’s approval but for some reason Israel isn’t going anywhere until Pharaoh gives his permission. Why is that necessary? Why is God asking for a three day holiday? Why not seven, or ten, or four? And then why is he telling Moses to tell the elders of Israel that they were headed for Canaan? That sounds like the Lord is being dishonest here, but is he? Whatever is going on here, the Lord has another agenda than just freeing the slaves. Did he really need Pharaoh to agree with his demands?

Whenever we read the story of the Exodus story, we will notice a “tavnit” or pattern. A plague will hit Egypt and Pharaoh will call for Moses. Pharaoh wants Moses to withdraw the plague. Moses will counter and say if Pharaoh agrees to let the people go, the plague will stop. Pharaoh agrees, the plague stops, and then Pharaoh goes back to his old ways and will not let them go. Then this whole cycle begins again.

We will notice something else that happens during these plagues. Sometimes Pharaoh changes his own mind, and sometimes God gets involved and changes his mind for him. The English word used in these instances is the word “hardened” (Exo 9.12) We will look at the words used in these verses that have been translated as “hardened” and we will see something very interesting. Some say that there is an issue with the Lord “violating” the “free will” of Pharaoh. If he did, how can God hold Pharaoh at fault for not letting the people go? Did God deprive Pharaoh of his “free will” in the plagues? If he did, how could the Lord bring other plagues?

Many Bible scholars, both Hebrew and Christian, have seen this and have debated about it. Can God “change” Pharaoh’s mind and still hold him accountable for what happens? God is sending Moses to Pharaoh repeatedly to negotiate. We are going to see that Pharaoh says yes to the three days and he isn’t going to change his mind, then God gets involved and leads Pharaoh to say “No.” He wants Pharaoh to say “Yes” at the beginning of the plagues, then later when Pharaoh has had enough and wants to let them go, God won’t let him but encourages him to keep going. God’s decision to “harden” Pharaoh’s heart doesn’t make sense when we look at this as mere men. Instead of releasing Israel, he hardens Pharaoh’s heart to not let them go just yet. When we look at the words for “harden” in Hebrew we will see this process.

If the Lord wanted this all along (to turn Pharaoh’s “yes” into a “no”) then why bother asking Pharaoh to begin with? He was already saying “no” at the beginning. Why have him say “no” then send plagues to get him to say “yes”, then harden his heart to say “no” again in order to strengthen him to keep going? Does the Lord really care about Pharaoh’s “free will” or not. If he does, why change his mind and his answers while all along asking for his consent?

In Part 82 we will pick up here.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 80

In Exo 38.21-31 we an accounting of the the materials used to build the Mishkan. Why is this here? Moses was a “non-profit” prophet. People will say if someone was in charge of all that gold, silver and materials that Moses was rich. From these verses we learn the extent to which he accounted for everything he was given. This is a lesson for any public official or minister. We should avoid any appearance of greed, coveting, and accumulation of wealth off of the gifts that were given by the people. This anticipates accusations and it also speaks of taking a spiritual inventory. It is sad to see that many so-called “ministers” don’t follow the example of Moses here.

Exo 40.1-16 is the last chapter in Exodus and it tells us how the Mishkan was set up after everything was built. It starts with the Ark (40.2-3) and it ends with the priest (40.31). But coming to the Lord is just the opposite. Many commands in the Torah are not written in detail (work, kosher, etc). But the Torah does list in detail the construction of the Mishkan (16 chapters).

There are things we must know and this is a pattern for a believer. God assembled us as his “body” or Mishkan. We are the individual threads of the Mishkan and the stones of the Temple. God assembled the Mishkan from the inside out in Exo 40. The first thing we encounter is the Kohen (priest) at the paroket (veil) in front. Then we encounter the Mizbe’ach Olah (Altar of Burnt Offering). From there we have the Shulchan Lechem Ha Pannin (Table of the bread of the Faces alludes to provision and the Word)), the Menorah (light and understanding, and the Mizbe’ach Shell Zahav (Golden Altar of Incense or prayer). Then we have another paroket (veil) and then the Aron Brit (Ark of the Covenant) with God’s commandments.

However, coming to the Lord is the opposite. We come from the outside in. However, many stop at the Golden Altar of Incense. They do not go beyond the veil to the Ark of the Covenant and the commandments. They have a problem with what is down there in that “box.” They have a problem with that “bond servant” business because they are “free.” They say, “All I need is Jesus (the priest).” Or they say, “All I need is out there at the door, or on the altar.” They want the mercy but they don’t want what is down there in that box.

But, the “new covenant” of Jer 31.31-34 says that the Lord is going to write his Torah on our hearts What is in that box is going to be written on the “ark” of our heart. Are we following the blueprint (tavnit) he appointed to approach him? How does a believer today react when he encounters the symbols of the Mishkan or Temple? Will we follow God’s blueprint given to Moses? Many Christians say that following the the blueprint is “legalism” but God calls it obedience.

If we do follow God’s pattern, and when things don’t go right, here is what we can do. Ask yourself how your Mishkan/Temple is set up. We need to make sure things are set up according to the the blueprint. Is everything in place and functioning? We should ask, “Have I got a fire on my altar? Is there bread on the table (studying the word)? In my Menorah (light and understanding) trimmed to make sure all the lamps are burning and giving the proper light? Does my Golden Altar have incense (prayer)? Are the commandments in my heart (Ark)?” This is the pattern we should be following. Like the kohanim did daily, we need to check all these things out to make sure they are functioning correctly. If they are, then we can move into spiritual warfare.

Many people have problems because they have not set up their faith according to the blueprint God gave to Moses. Many just stop at the Bronze Altar which is a type of the cross. They are still clinging to the “old rugged cross” and have not moved forward to what the Lord has for them. They have no light and understanding (Menorah), they do not study the Word of God daily (Table of the Bread of the faces) and they do not pray (Altar of Incense). And most of all, they do not have the commandments of God in their heart (Ark). This makes them very vulnerable to false teaching and deception.

We are not to be in darkness and we are shown here in these verses how to set up the Mishkan/Temple of God. Then like threads and stones that have been properly made, we fit right in with our brothers and sisters to make a habitation of God and a “House of Kedusha.” But when we are not constructed properly there is a problem. We will not fit in with those who are following the the blueprint the Lord gave. That is why there are so many different denominations. They aren’t following the blueprint and they have made up one of their own. They construct a god after their own image. The next denomination doesn’t like the god of the other denomination, so they construct another god in their image, and on and on it goes. The basic reason for all of this is they are not constructed according to the pattern God gave in the Torah, especially when it comes down to what is down in that Ark, the commandments.

If we profess to be a believer, go back and ask yourself if all these things are in place. Are they present in your life. Have we encountered the true priest (Yeshua? Have we come to the altar (cross)? Do we have bread on our table (the Word of God understood correctly)? Is our Menorah properly lit and functioning (do we have light, understanding, discernment, knowledge and insight)? Are we praying at the Altar of Incense? Another thing to remember is these things were checked two times a day during the morning and afternoon Tamid. Are we coming before Yehovah and praying during the hours of prayer two times a day? Check these things out everyday even if everything is going well in our life, and especially when it isn’t. Maybe there is no light on your Menorah, or no bread on the table. Maybe you stopped praying and laying incense on your Golden Altar. If you have, then make the adjustments and get going again.

We are going to go back to the first few chapters in Exodus again and we are going to look at the story of the Exodus from a different perspective. We are going to go over things that we have not seen or gone over before and it will give us deeper insight into what really happened in the First Redemption (Egyptian). We are going to look at the dynamics between Pharaoh and Moses in a deeper way. By understanding this, we will also get insight into the future Second Redemption (Messianic).

We are going to use the book by David Fohrman called “The Exodus You Almost Passed Over” as a source and we think it is a book that everyone should have in their library. This book is a great help because we almost did “pass over” what was really happening in the Torah. We are going to look at the three most important figures in this story: God, Moses and Pharaoh. So we will pick up here in Part 81.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 79

We have said before that this altar was where the Lord does business. There is an outer altar and an inner altar, and a third altar called the Miphkad altar (more on that later). But, we are going to deal with the two main altars where we do business with God. The outer altar deals with the things of the world, sin, service to others and so on. The inner altar is where we deal with the inner things of God and service to God.

Israel has said the Shema so many times that they have lost the meaning of “Echad” which is a composite unity, not “absolute one.” If Israel and the non-Jews are ever going to understand the person of God, they need to understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We must follow the “tavnit” (blueprint) and it will explain it all. Yeshua came to set up the Mishkan in the hearts of the people so that he could take his place with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We can enter into that sanctuary and have the Advocate and the Comforter working with us. We all want to get beyond the veil and it is real simple.

Once beyond the veil, what is in the box? What is in there? We have the two tablets, the Word of God, the Torah. We say, “If only God would speak to me, then everything will be alright.” But he does speak to us through the Tanak, the Gospels and Epistles. That is why the Messiah is called the Word of God and the Mediator. He brings us to the “Kipporet” or “Mercy Seat.” But what does that mean? It means we didn’t get what we deserved and we got what we didn’t deserve. We got unmerited favor. So, let’s get back to looking at the Mishkan and all that went into it. Remember, the Mishkan and the Temple were seen as a miniature Eden and an extension of Mount Sinai.

In Exo 28.1-3 we learn that God has given the Spirit of Wisdom to certain “skillful” or “wise hearted” individuals. The Torah implies that the work must be done with the heart. Having “skill” or “wisdom” was not enough. The priestly garments have been discussed before in Exo 28, but here are a few points. Clothes are associated with sin and its aftermath. God finished his exposition of the consequences of sin and he clothed Adam and Chava (Gen 3.21).

In Rev 7.3 we will be clothes with white garments associated with righteousness. In Hebrew thought, the garments of the High Priest teach us about sin. The Tunic alludes to the shedding of human blood (Gen 37; Isa 63). The Trousers allude to the sexual sins (Exo 28.42). The Turban alludes to the sin of pride (Psa 83.2). The belt alludes to the heart of impure thoughts. It wrapped around the High Priest from just under his arms to his mid-section. The Breastplate alludes to the sin of injustice (Exo 28.15) and the Ephod alludes to the sin of idolatry (Hos 3.4). The Robe alluded to the evil tongue. It had bells that tinkled when he walked. The Head Plate alludes to the sin of shamelessness (Jer 3.3; Rev 13). Garments can force us to focus on who we really are, and with whom we identify.

As the fear of heaven changes, so will our garments. The word for clothing in “beged.” The word for “traitor” has the same letters. Clothes have a dual concept. They can disguise a traitor or they can trace the wearer back to God. The “garments of God” metaphorically is a concept that says God wears the world like a garment, just as a garment covers (“olam” means world and it has the same root as “elim” meaning hidden).

In Exo 29.38-46 we have the “Tamid” (continual) service, and this will also be mentioned later in Num 28. The purpose for the Mishkan and the priesthood was this service in particular. The people brought their korbanot between the morning tamid (9 am) and the afternoon tamid (3 pm). The morning tamid started the daily worship.

In Exo 29.39 we read “the one lamb” and this lamb was different that all the others. Beginnings are important. The Tamid was fundamentally independent. The failure to bring one of them would in no way reduce the obligation or ability to bring the other one. However, there was one exception, the first Korban Tamid. If the priest failed to bring “the” lamb, he would not be allowed to bring an offering. This lamb was different. How is it like Yeshua? The first tamid lamb had to be perfect and done in the correct manner.

In Exo 30.1 we come to the Golden Altar of Incense. It was not mentioned earlier, but it is now. It is mentioned now because Aaron is High Priest. Smells can be powerful and can come on a person against his will. Smells can warn us, so we need to be alert and perceptive. So, is there a connection between the Golden Altar of Incense and Aaron as a leader? Any leader must have certain qualities. First, they must be able to influence people far away. Their reach should be powerful enough to motivate. Then they must be alert, perceptive and knowing which direction to go.

As we have seen, everything in the Mishkan had to be beautiful. It was the “House of Kedusha” and people are imperfect and those with a bad nature would have less respect and be distracted by imperfection. They would be annoyed by blemished kohanim (priests). The beauty of the Mishkan, and later the Temple, reminds us of the Architect.

In Exo 30.12 the Lord wants them to take a census of those who can go to war, for a “ransom” or covering as a potential life taker. This census was for the army. It wasn’t to see how big the army was, God already knew that and he doesn’t need an army anyway. This was to show life had value, even the life of an enemy. In Israel, when a suicide bomber kills himself there are volunteers that will gather the body for burial, with respect. They are in God’s hands and there is no point in disrespecting the dead.

In Exo 35, Moses assembles the congregation, the material for the Mishkan and the hearts of those who would contribute (v 21). We meet Oholiab and Bezalel in Exo 35.30-35. Bezalel (shadow of God) was from Judah, the most honored tribe. Oholiab (Father is my tent) was from Dan, the tribe that brought dishonor. These two taught that our pedigree means nothing to God for him to use us. He accepts our gifts, talents and contributions no matter where we come from. A good leader can see all the parts and see how they can be used. But it is the Lord who comes in and fills them with his gifts so they can perform his work.

Now, what was the purpose of the Exodus? It was so that we may know God as redeemer and savior. God gave the Torah because he is God and we are mere men. He needed to each and guide us once we have been delivered. Notice a very important point in the Exodus story that is applicable in our spiritual exodus. Notice he saved them first, then he takes them to Sinai for the Torah. He saves us first, then he takes us to Sinai for the Torah. The Torah was never for salvation, or it would have been the Torah first, then they would have been delivered.

The question is this, “Is there a God of Israel?” If there is, then his commandments stand. And if they stand they should be obeyed. But if you can “reshape” God’s identity, then you can “reshape” his commands. It all comes down to “Whose commands do we follow?” It is not a question of whether a person believes, it is what they believe. It is not a question of whether a person obeys, it is what they obey. People don’t like certain commandments so they reshape God into one who doesn’t like those certain commandments. People will make God into their own image and eventually he does not resemble what he has said about himself. So in reality, they have a different God. God hasn’t changed (Mal 3.6), but the people in Rabbinic Judaism, Replacement Theology Christianity or in many other religions have changed him into what they want. We need to see the Lord for who he really is and for what he has said about himself, his commandments and his will. We have already said that God gave a command to build the Mishkan for him (Exo 25.8-9). But that also means in our lives. Yeshua is not in conflict with the Torah.

We will pick up here in Part 80.

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Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 78

We have talked about the Mishkan extensively in other teachings, but we are going to touch on a few other things found in Exo 25 through 27. These chapters will be telling us about the Mishkan and we have mentioned before that the Mishkan was seen as a miniature Garden of Eden. In addition, the Mishkan, and later the Temple, was seen as an extension of Mount Sinai (more on that later). It was where God taught the people about the concept of Kedusha.

When Adam was created he had a kedusha, but after he sinned he lost it. Eventually this concept was lost among men. At Mount Sinai, this concept was reintroduced to Moses and then transferred to the Mishkan once it was built. Anything pertaining to man’s fall is excluded at Sinai and in the Mishkan/Temple.

Exo 25.1-9 talks about a contribution (“Terumah”) that the people were to give for the building of the Mishkan. Where did the gold, silver and materials come from? It came from the Egyptians when they left (Exo 3.22; 12.35-36). The Lord said, “Take a contribution” not “give an offering.” The Sanctuary was where the spiritual and the physical met, God and man. But, we should not focus on the external.

If you take the Hebrew letter “mem” out of the word “terumah” you have the word “Torah” in Hebrew. The numerical value is 40, alluding to the 40 days and nights Moses was on Sinai. 40 is the number of testing. Studying and obeying the Torah is a “terumah” or an elevated contribution to the Lord, and we can contribute to the construction of our Mishkan (the body of Messiah) where the Shekinah can dwell (1 Cor 619-20; 1 Cor 12.27; Jer 7.4; Mal 3.1; 1 Pet 2.4-10). When the Lord spoke from a mountain, it was so powerful that it went right to the heart. There will be no need for a Mishkan or a Temple eventually (Jer 31.31-34; Rev 21.22). But, Israel went into idolatry very soon after this instruction about the Mishkan at the incident of the Golden Calf.

The word “Mishkan” is an interesting word. In Exo 25.8-9 God said they were to make a “sanctuary.” The word in Hebrew is “Mikdash” which means “kedusha.” They were to make a “tabernacle” or a Mishkan so that “I may dwell within them.” In Hebrew, it is “Asooli mikdash v’shkanti b’tawcham.” You can see the relationship in Hebrew between the word “shkanti” (I will dwell), “mishkan” (tabernacle) and “shekinah” (dwelling presence). All come from the same Hebrew root “shkn.”

The Lord was not only going to build a sanctuary, he was going to build a sanctuary within the people. It was more important for the Lord to make his presence in our hearts as a body than it was to make a sanctuary of cloth, metal and stone. Yeshua came to raise up the tabernacle in all of us. We have gone over this before in earlier teachings.

The Mishkan was made to be a “house of Kedusha.” When the people traveled, they could not take Mount Sinai with them, so the Mishkan was built so they could take the kedusha that was on Mount Sinai with them. The Mishkan had symbols that tell us what God is doing for us. What is deep inside us? What does God find? Would he find the Torah/commandments in our Ark/heart?

Adam had a kedusha about him. This kedusha involved the Shekinah (presence of God), the Kivod (glory of God) and the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit-the power of God). Yeshua is the second Adam and he came to restore all of this back to mankind. There was that moment when the Shekinah, Kivod and Ruach Ha Kodesh came into the Mishkan or the Temple. The altar was “fired up” and the other manifestations were sensed and known. It is the same with the body of Messiah.

The Lord came to the Mishkan because it was a benefit to Israel, and it is the same with his body. Why would the Lord want to be with any of us? Why does he persist with us? These manifestations appeared at Mount Sinai, and later the Mishkan and the Temple. In Acts 2 they came upon the body of Messiah gathered at the Temple on Shavuot. That is because the Lord wants to be with us. What would happen if the richest person in the world came to stay with us? He would probably see we needed something and would meet that need. It is to our own benefit that he came to be with us.

Since we are talking about a contribution to the Lord, how do we give? Well, there is tithing but we can’t do biblical tithing today because there is no Temple, priesthood, holy things and we don’t live in the land. Tithing cannot be done today. Tithing involved agriculture, not money. They tithed if they lived off the land of Israel, and the tithe was given to the Levites or taken to the Temple. So, tithing cannot be done, but biblical giving can be, so let’s talk about that.

There is a concept called “secret giving.” There was a special room in the Temple where people came in and either gave or took money. Nobody knew what the person did but they believed God would reward the person in his own way. So, we can vive secretly. There is another level of giving and that is when you give all you have. We see this in the story of the “Widow’s Mite” (Mark 12.43). She gave everything, the rich young ruler didn’t (Mark 10.21).

There were other levels of giving like the “corners of the field.” A person that left extra on the corners was considered as having a “good eye” (generous) and it was giving. The person that left very little at the corners was said to have an “evil eye” (stingy). Then there was the “gleanings” like Boaz did for Ruth, and alms and so on.

This terumah is given from their abundance. It was not a secret, not a command and not all they had. The word terumah is similar to “Teruah” if you remove the Hebrew letter “mem.” The teruah is a trumpet blast. Yeshua makes a play on words in Matt 6.2 by saying, “Do not sound a trumpet (teruah) when you give alms.” There were receptacles in the Temple shaped like trumpets. How does that apply? Some people give and expect “special consideration” from the speaker, or minister. Maybe they expect that minister to spend more time with them due to his gift, or they would have a plaque or brick laid somewhere with their name on it. But our response should be to let the Lord do what he is going to do and to give graciously and be content.

God built the Mishkan from the inside out. He started with the Ark, then the Table of Bread, Menorah and the sanctuary to house them. Then came the veil, the bronze altar and the partitions, tents and courts. These things we would expect to find in a Temple. However, some things are missing on the list. We don’t see the Golden Altar.

The Golden Altar of Incense relates to our prayers, so the Father sees us flanked by the Menorah (light/understanding) and the Table of Bread (provision, the Word). When we pray, we know that a thing can be established with two witnesses. Each one aids us in what we pray. We pray with light and understanding and with what is in line with the Word of God. The greatest day in the life of a priest was to be chosen to go into the Heichal and put incense on the Golden Altar. The whole nation waited for this moment in the daily Temple service. To do this, you had to be chosen by lot (Luke 1.9), and you could only do this one time in your life. It was as close as they would come to the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim and the Ark.

Spiritually, we get to put incense (prayer) on our Golden Altar. The veil (paroket) teaches us that there is a partition to and a mystery to our faith. It is to teach us we need to know the Lord more and to not get to the point that we have the Lord all figured out. There is that part in our walk that says we must do things his way. There are hidden things he knows about and we don’t, so we need to follow him. We can never be snug about this. The veil being torn tells us that there is a deeper revelation coming.

We will pick up here in Part 79.

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