How to Understand the New Testament-Part 19

We are going to continue with bringing out certain concepts related to verses in the book of John to show that there are certain things that need to be understood if you are going to interpret the New Testament. So, passages from the book of John are going to be discussed so that certain concepts can be illustrated. Many of these concepts can be used for other New Testament books as well. In John 7.20-39 we have certain scenes from the festival Sukkot that Yeshua will use to teach the people about his role, his coming and certain eschatological concepts. In verse 20 we see that the multitude said Yeshua had a demon after his statements in verses 1-19. Now, this multitude were from the nations who came up to Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot and were unaware of any plot to kill Yeshua (7.19). In 7.21-24 he is talking to Pharisees from the School of Shammai who believed that it was not lawful to heal on the Sabbath, referring back to the man healed at the pool of Bethesda in John 5.1-16. Pharisees from the School of Hillel believed it was allowable on the Sabbath, so we need to have an understanding of exactly who Yeshua is talking to when you read his statements. People have painted all the Pharisees with the same brush, and that is not accurate. The School of Hillel believed that the body had 248 parts, and if circumcision was allowed on the Sabbath involving just one part, then how much more when saving the whole body of one sick. Now, the members of the Sanhedrin was made up like this. The Nasi, or president, was a man from the School of Hillel. The Av Beit Din, or vice president, was from the School of Shammai. The majority of members in the Sanhedrin were from Shammai and the Sadducees, the rest were from the School of Hillel, totaling 71 members. Not all Pharisees were against Yeshua, and that is an important point when trying to interpret the New Testament. In John 7.25-39 we have Yeshua at the festival of Sukkot, and standing up on the seventh day called “Hoshannah Rabbah” (7.37) and making a statement about believing in him and rivers of living water. This was said during the ceremony in the Court of the Priests called the Beit Ha Shoevah, or “house of the water pouring.” This was done in the morning (Shacharit) service. In the afternoon, another ceremony was done called the Simchat Beit Ha Shoevah, or the “rejoicing in the house of the water pouring.” This second ceremony took place in the Court of the Women. These ceremonies were done for seven days. In the morning service, when Yeshua made the statements found in 7.37-38, willows were cut down from the Valley of Motza (meaning “sent”) and placed around the altar (which was as big as a house). They were about 20 feet high. Water and wine was poured out on the altar about the same time and it was at this time Yeshua stood and cried out verses 37-38. The water that was poured out came from the Pool of Shiloach (which also means “sent”), another mikvah (immersion bath) south of the Temple. Priests would depart out of the Water Gate (Sha’ar Ha Mayim) to Shiloach, then back through the Water Gate to the altar. Yeshua has said in verses 7.28,29 and 33 and in many other places in John that he was “sent” and notice the willows and the water both come from a place meaning “sent.” This is no coincidence, it all had meaning. But, if you were unaware of the festival of Sukkot and the ceremonies, the setting for Yeshua’s statements would go unnoticed. On the first six days of the festival, the priests would make one circuit around the altar, then placed the willows. On the seventh day of the festival, the day that Yeshua stood and said v 37-38, they went around seven times. At night, for the Simchat Beit Ha Shoevah ceremony, the people were in the Court of the Women. The priests “descend” (like Yeshua did when he descended from heaven) down the 15 steps at the Nicanor Gate. In the morning, the people “ascended” (like Yeshua “ascended” to the Father) these steps to the inner courts and at night the priests “descend” to the Court of the Women. This is an allusion to Jacob’s Ladder in Gen 28.12 and Yeshua’s allusion to it in John 1.51. Now, there were four poles set up in the Court of the Women, and each had four pots filled with oil, for a total of 16. Discarded clothing and undergarments of the priests were used as wicks for these oil filled pots. These were lit, and these huge lights were called “the light of the world” (John 8.12 and 9.5 where Yeshua actually refers to himself as the “light of the world” using the terminology of this festival). They lit up the whole area and could be seen for miles till sunrise. At that time, the people gathered, facing west, for a small ceremony, remembering Ezek 8.16, and said, “Our fathers who were in this place stood with their backs toward the Temple of the Lord and their faces towards the east, and they worshipped the sun towards the east. But as for us, our eyes are turned toward the Lord.” The “rivers of living water” Yeshua refers to is a Sukkot theme and it is called “mayim chaim” (Jer 17.13; Isa 12.3). It was a picture of the Ruach Ha Kodesh, or Holy Spirit. In John 7.39 where it says that “the Spirit was not yet” means the Shekinah and the Ruach would not be given yet until Yeshua was “glorified” or resurrected. In John 20.21-22 details of this event is given. Remember, when the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, they used the word “pneuma” for the Shekinah (indwelling presence) and the Ruach (Holy Spirit), but they were two different manifestations. When Yeshua “breathed on them” they received the Shekinah, the indwelling presence of God, which all believers have. In Acts 2, they received the Ruach Ha Kodesh in power (Holy Spirit) according to Yeshua’s promise in Acts 1.4-8. But in Greek, the Shekinah and the Ruach were translated with the word “pneuma” giving the impression that they received the Holy Spirit twice. In reality, this was a Hebraic concept called “The return of the Shekinah.” This return of the Shekinah and the Ruach could not happen until Yeshua was resurrected. Adam was clothed by the Kivod (glory, radiance of God), the Shekinah (the indwelling presence of God) and the Ruach Ha Kodesh (the power of God). He lost these when he sinned, and Yeshua, the second Adam, is restoring them after his resurrection. So, the setting for John 7.1 through at least 9.41 is the festival of Sukkot, and you will see some of these same concepts brought out in further statements found there. In Part 20, we will pick up here and begin discussing some concepts associated with Yeshua and the Seed of David which will relate to our understanding of the New Testament.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Understanding the New Testament

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