In Matt 22.1-14, we have a wedding supper aggadah and this will be in relationship to the festivals of Rosh Ha Shannah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot because we will have judgment, a wedding, wedding feast and the Feast of Leviathan, which we will touch on later. In Yeshua’s aggadot, he will use the Temple and the geography of Jerusalem to make his points. It will help to know where he is talking about or alluding to,and to have these pictures in your mind. In this aggadah, the palace of the king is the Temple, the setting for the feast. In Matt 22.12-14 we have the unbelievers taken to the “outer darkness” which in the mind of the first century hearer is Tophet, just south of the city of Jerusalem. That will be the setting of another feast called the “Feast of Leviathan.” This setting will repeat over and over again, for example in the aggadah about Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16.19-31.
The setting for this story in the mind of the people is Tophet, south of the city where the Hinnom Valley meets the Kidron Valley. This was seen as the most cursed place on earth, and called Gehenna (from “Gay (valley) Hinnom”). The Rich Man was in Tophet. Then looking up from Topeht you have the Pool of Shiloach and further up you have the Temple, the most blessed place on earth, where Lazarus was. The area that is being referred to here is also spoken about in Isa 66.24-25; Joel 3.9-13; Isa 63.1-6; Matt 25.31-46 and Rev 14.14-20 and Rev 19.17-21.
There was a court that could be convened that was not the Sanhedrin according to Josephus. This court was made up of prominent citizens and they could hear criminal cases, acting as a “consilium” (advisory board) of the High Priest. This court was used by the Zealots to get rid of one of their opponents in 68 AD. This was not the Sanhedrin. More information on this can be found in the book “The Ruling Class of Judea: Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome-66 AD to &0 AD” by Martin Goodman. The parents of Josephus were imprisoned by this “court.” This is basically the same situation with Yeshua. A court is convened containing members of the Zealots, Sadducees and Beit Shammai against Yeshua, but it was not the Sanhedrin.
Here is another important concept to remember, the Talmud and the Mishnah tell us there was a distinct difference in how Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel operated. Beit Hillel would take the back seat where Beit Shammai was confrontational and known to be aggressive. Beit Hillel insisted that an opponents view in the Sanhedrin should be stated first, and let them have the first say about the topic. We never see Beit Hillel publically challenging a talmid (disciple) of Beit Shammai, or challenge them first, as we see in Matt 21.23. However, Beit Shammai would do this frequently, publicly challenging anyone who disagreed with the,. In fact, Hillel himself was “attacked” in the Temple for bringing a korban (offering) at a time when Beit Shammai said it should not have been offered. Yeshua repeats some of the same themes in different aggadot. Now, then members of Beit Shammai and the house of Caiaphas that are hearing all this realize and understand that Yeshua is applying these pictures to them (Matt 21.45). Why? Because they are not true believers in the Lord, they go through the motions and they realize they will be in this judgment and that is why they plotted to get rid of him. Remember, you can go through the motions of being “on fire for God”, but if your heart is not turned towards God and the righteous way to walk in the Torah, then you are not in the Kingdom of God (Matt 7.21-23).
In Matt 22.15-22, we see the Pharisee’s from Beit Shammai actually trying to trap him. They even try to “sweeten” him up first, to “disarm him” before the trap. Of course it doesn’t work, so on another day in Matt 23-46 the Sadducees try to trap him. Remember, they are linked to Beit Shammai (v 34). Yeshua confronts the Pharisees from Shammai on who they think the Messiah is the son of. Yehua then quotes Psalm 110. If Messiah is just a man descended from David, how can David, under the inspiration of the Ruach Ha Kodesh, call him “Lord?” He is obviously greater than David and superior to him.
Now we are going to Matt 23.1-39. As we have seen in previous chapters he is referencing Beit Shammai. They were on the Sanhedrin and controlled it, so they sat in “Moses seat.” Shammai was the Nasi of the Sanhedrin and he doesn’t die till 30 AD, and then Gamaliel the Elder, grandson of Hillel, becomes the Nasi. So, when Yeshua “unloads” on the Scribes and the Pharisees in Matt 23, he is talking to Beit Shammai. In Matt 23.29-33, Yeshua makes a direct reference to the time when Beit Shammai met with Beit Hillel in 20 BC at the house of Hananiah Ben Hezekiah Ben Gurion. Members of Beit Hillel were murdered right before a vote on the 18 Edicts of Shammai, and they wanted it passed, and they did pass. Those killed from Beit Hillel were called “prophets” even by Beit Shammai (Talmud). When Yeshua quotes them as saying “If we had been living in the days of our fathers we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets (those from Beit Hillel)” he is literally saying it was their fathers, of Beit Shammai, who killed the men from Beit Hillel in 20 BC, and they were just like their fathers, and truly their sons, because they are doing the same things they did, including plotting to kill Yeshua himself (v 34).
Now, let’s move to Luke 14.1-35. Yeshua is entering into the house of a Pharisee from Beit Shammai to eat, and the was a sick man there. Yeshua asks a question as to whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not. Beit Shammai said “no”, but Beit Hillel said “yes.” Yeshua heals the man, and says “Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well and will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath?” They had no reply to that. In Luke 14.4-11 we read about how Yeshua was noticing how those from Beit Shammai were picking out the places of honor at the meal in order to sit there. Yeshua already had said they do this in Matt 23.6. The stand of Beit Hillel was to take the back seat and then be called up front if they want you there. Even in a confrontation they would always let the other go first. In Luke 14.12-24, we see that Yeshua had an underlying message in his teachings. Beit Shammai was totally against the the Kingdom of God going out to the non-Jews, but Beit Hillel and the Essenes favored it. Yeshua makes reference to going out to the non-Jews when he says in v 13 to invite the poor, crippled lame and blind to your reception, a type of wedding feast. He goes on to give an aggadah about a big dinner (the wedding feast and the Kingdom of God) and he says in v 23 to “Go out into the highways and along the bridges” and this symbolizes those “outside” or the non-Jews. They were also welcome, and this did not sit well with those from Beit Shammai who heard this. In Luke 14.25-35, Yeshua then talks about being a true talmid and says “Let him who has an ear (to perceive doctrinal truth) let him hear (be instructed and obey).”
One of the things that should be coming out in all of this is the depth of the hatred between Beit Hillel and Shammai, with Beit Shammai being involved in physical violence against Beit Hillel and even plotting murder again with Yeshua. Yeshua was not from either one, but the teachings of Beit Hillel were closer to Yeshua’s and the truth than Beit Shammai, especially on the non-Jews. That is why they plotted to kill him, along with their allies the Sadducee’s of the house of Annas and Caiaphas. We have already given one example out of the Mishnah, Berakot 1.3, where Rabbi Tarfon was on a journey and followed the halakah of Shammai on saying the Shema. He got off his horse to say it and was robbed. Beit Hillel said you could say the Shema each in their own way. When his friends found out he was robbed and was following the halakah of Shammai, they said he deserved to be beaten and robbed.
Beit Shammai did not have much to do with anyone outside of their group, like non-Jews. They also did not associate with the Am Ha Eretz (people of the land; common folk), Publicans, the lame, blind and the rest of society. By contrast, Gamaliel had a servant named Tavi, who he called a “learned scholar” and he was a non-Jew and he loved him. When Tavi died, Gamaliel received condolences from many.
In Part 11, we will pick up here and learn more about the relationship between the Pharisees, the Sadducees and Yeshua and then try to apply this as we read the Gospels and Epistles. We will also develop how the ungodly alliance between Beit Shammai, the Zealots and the Sadducees actually led to the Jewish revolt in 70 AD and the demise of the nation.