Posts Tagged ‘circumcision’

Parashah 13: Sh’mot (Names) – EXODUS

Exodus 1:1-6:1

“These are the names of the sons of Isra’el who came into Egypt with Ya’akov; each man came with his household…” (Exodus 1:1).

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Nafatli, Gad, and Asher entered into Egypt as a nation of 70 Hebrews. They joined Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Their descendants increased and they grew very powerful. Centuries later, a Pharaoh came to power who knew nothing about Joseph and his family. The fear of Isra’el –– anti-semitism –– begins.

This Pharaoh spoke to his people, “Look, the descendants of Isra’el  have become a people too numerous and powerful for us.  Come, let’s use wisdom in dealing with them.  Otherwise, they’ll continue to multiply; and in the event of war they might ally themselves with our enemies, fight against us and leave the land altogether” (Exodus 1:8-10).

These verses state that Pharaoh is using ‘wisdom’ or chokmah. Wisdom judges wisely and then follows the right course of action. Wisdom is the ability to see Elohim’s perspective in a situation. On the surface, Pharaoh’s wisdom seems foolish. He does not fear Elohim, which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7); and, true wisdom comes only from Elohim, from His mouth comes understanding (Proverbs 2:10). From the very start of this parashah, Elohim uses Pharaoh to begin to complete His plan of deliverance for the Hebrew people. Though concealed by Elohim, Pharaoh prophesies a blessing over the descendants of Jacob.  They will multiply and leave his land, but before that happens, Elohim will make war against him, his people, his land, and his gods.

Pharaoh’s prophetic words are grounded in fear. Fear is self-prophesying. Consider the words of Job: “For the thing I feared has overwhelmed me, what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25). This will be the very same outcome for Pharaoh. His fears will become his worst nightmare.

“But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they multiplied and expanded, until the Egyptians came to dread the people of Isra’el” (Exodus 1:12).

Pithom (House of Turn) and Ra’amses (Begotten by Ra) were two cities built by the Hebrews who had become Egypt’s slaves; the Septuagint mentions Heliopolis (Sun City) as well.  These cities were known as Pharaoh’s ‘treasure cities.’

In 1863, excavators found the location for Pithom along the canal route connecting the Nile River to the Red Sea.  Its Arabian name was Patumos (Egyptian, Memphis) and its capital was Goshen where Isra’el had first settled. A group of granite statues representing Ra’amses II was found standing between two gods. A ruined temple and the remains of brick buildings with very thick walls and rectangular chambers with openings at the top, believed to have been granaries, were also uncovered. These discoveries confirm the Biblical account and point to Ra’amses II as the Pharaoh who oppressed Isra’el.

Ra’amses is a general name given to 11 Egyptian Pharaohs. It derives from the sun god Ra and means ‘the one who gave birth to him.’  Ra’amses II is also known as Ra’amses the Great and reigned during the 19th dynasty (650-600 BCE).  The early part of his reign focused on building cities, temples, and monuments.

The Midwives

It wasn’t enough to increase the oppression of the Hebrew people as slaves. Ra’amses tells the Hebrew midwives to kill every boy born to a Hebrew family; girls were allowed to live. The midwives fear Elohim and do not obey Pharaoh’s instructions and allow the boys to live. When Pharaoh demands a reason for their disobedience, they reply that Hebrew women are vigorous in childbirth and give birth before they arrive. Because of their willingness to disobey the death order and give every baby the right to life, Elohim prosper the midwives, and the Hebrews continue to multiply. This frustrates Pharaoh even more and he commands that every infant boy born be thrown into the Nile River –– not only by soldiers, but by the Hebrews’ friends and neighbors.

The midwives were commanded to perform post-birth abortions, killing a baby after it was born. Because Shifra and Pu’ah were God-fearing women, they became founders of their own families. 

Hebrew Word Pictures
Shiphrah or Shifrah – שפרה – shin, peh, resh, hey
– consume the source of the highest authority, behold

Puah or Pu’ah – פועה – peh, vav, ayin, hey
– the source of the binding, understand and behold
 

A Levite Family

About 320 years after Elohim tells Abraham that his descendants would be oppressed and enslaved in a foreign land for 400 years, a Levite family has a son. His mother hides him for three months.  After three months, she makes a papyrus basket, coats it with clay and tar, and puts the baby boy inside. She floats the basket in the Nile River among the reeds of the shoreline. His sister, Miryam, watches from a distance to make sure he is safe.

Pharaoh’s daughter comes to the river to bathe and spots the basket.  She has her slave girl retrieve it. She looks inside and finds the baby boy and is moved with pity, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children” (Exodus 2:6).

All male babies who descended from Abraham were to be circumcised when they were eight days old. This ‘sign’ in the flesh was evidence of their heritage in Abraham. In the movie, The Ten Commandments, a piece of cloth was placed in the basket to reveal the heritage of the baby, but in the Scriptures, Pharaoh’s daughter looks inside the basket and immediately knows, from his circumcision, the baby is Hebrew.

Miryam comes out of hiding and asks the Pharaoh’s daughter if she should find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  Pharaoh’s daughter tells her “Yes, Go.” Miryam brings her mother, Jochebed, who nurses her son until he is weaned.  The Scriptures say that Pharaoh’s daughter paid Jochebed for her services (Genesis 1:9). Once the boy is weaned, he is brought back to Pharaoh’s daughter. She names him Moshe meaning ‘pulled out’ because she had pulled him out of the river.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Moses (Drawn from the Water) or Moshe – משה – mem, shin, hey
– chaos consumed, behold

Moshe was nursed by his birth mother until he was weaned. According to most historical accounts, weaning took place anytime between 18 months and 5 years. Within this time period, Jochebed had sufficient time to teach her son about the Elohim of Isra’el and Moshe’s Hebrew heritage. These spiritual seeds take root in his soul and, 40 years later, they begin to sprout (Acts 7).

In Exodus 2:11, Moshe goes to visit his kinsmen.  The use of the word kinsmen means that he understood his heritage to be Hebrew. Even though he was raised in an Egyptian palace, he feels the need to be with his people. He watches them struggle as slaves. He watches the overseers treat his relatives with cruelty. When he witnesses an Egyptian overseer strike one of his Hebrew brothers, he can no longer handle the injustice. When no one is looking, he kills the Egyptian and hides the body in the sand.

The next day he witnesses two Hebrews fighting with each other.  He asks the one, “Why are you hitting your kinsman?”  The man responds, “Who appointed you ruler and judge over us?  Do you intend to kill me the way you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14)

Though the words, “Who appointed you ruler and judge over us” frightens Moshe and brings a death sentence to his life in Egypt, his kinsman spoke prophetic words. They became the driving force for Moshe to leave Egypt, wander to Midian where he would meet the Elohim of the Hebrews face to face.

“This Moshe, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge?’ is the very one whom God sent as both ruler and ransomer by means of the angel that appeared to him in the thorn bush. This man led them out, performing miracles and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years” (Acts 7:35-36).

In Midian, Moshe meets the seven daughters of the priest of Midian while sitting by a well.  They come to draw water for their father’s sheep, but other shepherds try to keep them away.  Moshe defends the women and then waters their sheep. He is invited into Reu’el’s (Friend of God) home and shares a meal with him in his tent. Reu’el gives his daughter Zipporah (Bird) to Moshe for a wife. She gives birth to a son named Gershom for Moshe said, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land” (Exodus 2:22).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Zipporah (ָ A Little Bird) or Tzipporah – צפורה – tzade, peh, vav, resh, hey
– draw near to the source of the binding, the highest authority, behold

Gershom (I had been a foreigner) or Gershom – גרשם – gimel, resh, shin, mem
– lift up the highest authority consuming chaos

Reu’el is also called Yitro or Jethro meaning ‘His Excellency’ and is not the name of Moshe’s father-in-law, but his title as a priest of Midian.  The meaning of a baby’s name, Yitro, defines the character and leadership of Yitro when Moshe brings Isra’el into the wilderness:

“People with this name [Yitro] tend to be orderly and dedicated to building their lives on a solid foundation of order and service. They value truth, justice, and discipline, and may be quick-tempered with those who do not. Their practical nature makes them good at managing and saving money, and at building things in the material world. Because of their focus on order and practicality, they may seem overly cautious and conservative at times.”

Hebrew Word Pictures
Jethro (His Excellence) or Yitro – יתרו – yod, tav, resh, vav
– finished work of the covenant, the highest authority binding

Reuel (Friend of God) or Re’u’el – רעואל – resh, ayin, vav, alef, lamed
– the highest authority understands the binding, the first strength of the shepherd

Holy Ground

“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Avraham, Yitz’ak and Ya‘akov” (Exodus 2:24).

While Moshe is tending sheep in the desert, he comes to the mountain of Elohim known as Horeb. The ‘angel of Adonai’ appears to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.  Moshe looks up and sees that though the bush was flaming with fire, it did not burn. He becomes curious and walks over to see why the bush has not burned up. He hears Elohim call his name from inside the bush, “Moshe, Moshe.”

Moshe answers, “Here I am” or “Hineni,” just like his forefather Abraham. Hineni means that Moshe is ready in the physical present to receive what will be spiritually imparted to him. Moshe is allowing himself to be prepared as the vessel that Elohim will use to judge the Egyptians.

“Don’t come any closer!  Take your sandals off, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.  I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz’ak and the God of Ya’akov. Moshe covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:5-6).

Elohim speaks to Moshe.  The voice of Elohim from the beginning of Creation, has always been Yeshua (John 1:1-14). As a flaming fire within a bush that doesn’t burn, Elohim speaks with Moshe.  He tells him to take off his sandals because the ground on which he is standing is holy. Moshe obeys. He doesn’t question the voice. He doesn’t make excuses. He removes his sandals.

Because of the contemporary view that Jesus is our friend and we can treat him as we would any of our friends, most who worship Elohim would never consider taking off their shoes when standing in a holy place. Though some may have a concept of the holiness of Elohim, there is generally little behavior that gives evidence to that concept. Holiness and being set-apart for Elohim has been diluted in a cultural religiosity with a loss of reverence for the Creator. Most in the modern church setting no longer think of Elohim as a devouring fire who commands us to “be holy as I am holy” and to worship Him with fear and awe (Hebrews 12:28, 2 Peter 1:16).

Moshe covers his face because he is afraid to look at Elohim.  He is completely humbled. Elohim continues to speak and tells Moshe that He has seen His people in slavery and has “come down to bring them up out of Egypt to a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’” (Exodus 3:8). Elohim reveals that Moshe is the one He is choosing to go to Egypt to lead the descendants of Isra’el out of their oppression.

Selah
Elohim says that like Yeshua has come down,
He will bring Isra’el up out of Egypt (Proverbs 30:4).

Moshe isn’t quite so sure about this calling on his life.   He wonders who he is that Elohim would call him.  Elohim reassures him that He will be with him and gives Moshe a ‘sign.’ Elohim will bring Isra’el back to the very mountain on which Moshe is standing, and they will worship Him on that mountain.

Moshe asks what to tell the people if they want to know who sent him to deliver them. It seems to Moshe that the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or the Elohim of Isra’el will not be enough to convince the Hebrews of the conversation he’s having on the mountain. Moshe wants something more finite.

My Memorial Name, Forever

“God said to Moshe, ‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be],’ and added ‘Here is what to say to the people of Isra’el: Ehyeh [I Will Be] has sent me to you.’ God said further to Moshe, ‘Say this to the people of Isra’el: Yod-Hey Vav-Hey, the God of your fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Ya’akov has sent me to you.  This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation’” (Exodus 3:14-16).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (I Am that I Am)
אהיה אשׁר אהיה
alef, hey, yod, hey; alef, shin, resh; alef, hey, yod, hey

– the first strength, behold the finished work, revealed;
the first strength consumes the highest authority
first strength behold the finished work behold

(YHVH) – יהוה– yod-hey-vav-hey
– the finished work, behold, the binding, behold
– the hand behold, the nails behold

From the Hebrew rendering of the Name, Elohim’s essence given to Moshe is a simple phrase consisting of the relative pronoun asher stuck between two instances of the first person singular imperfect of the verb hayah, ‘to be.’ Ehyeh is usually translated “I will be.” Asher is a unique word. Imagine one word that can mean ‘that, what, when or where’ and that is the meaning of asher. With this understanding, the forever memorial name of Elohim given to Moshe has the meaning: “I will be that I will be; I will be what I will be; I will be where I will be; I will be when I will be.” From the Hebrew lettering for Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh comes the Hebrew, yod-hey-vav-hey referred to as the ‘Name of God.’

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is not a name, but a state of being, the essence of who Elohim is and an expression of His existence. He cannot give Moshe a finite name because Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is infinite and a difficult reality to comprehend. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is telling Moshe, He can be whatever Moshe needs Him to be; whenever he needs Him to be, wherever he needs Him to be and so much more. No matter what happens in Egypt, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh will be present, seen, and available. Moshe is commanded to make His presence known to the Hebrews as it is His memorial name, to be remembered from generation to generation.

Selah
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, the presence of Elohim can be the King of Salem, a visitor with Abraham, an angel who wrestles Jacob, the commander of Elohim’s army, a smoking pot, a fire in a bush, a dove, a whirlwind, a rock, a pillar of fire, a cloud or even parts of Himself –– His right hand, His finger which writes, and His mighty arm which saves. He can even become flesh in the body and person of Yeshua.

Over the millennia, the correct pronunciation of yod-hey-vav-hey disappeared. The Levitical priesthood took possession of the Name allowing only the high priest to use it on Yom Kippur. They were fearful the Name might be profaned among the nations so the people of Isra’el never heard it spoken. Within generations they forgot how to say it and ultimately use it. Today, ‘The Name’ or HaShem is used by most Jewish people.

Since Isra’el became a nation over 60 years ago, there has been movement by Messianic gentiles to begin re-using the memorial name. This is a fascinating move of the Spirit of Elohim in these last days. As Islam becomes more prevalent in the world, Muslims speak and murder in the name of their god quite boldly, but ‘The Name’ of the One True Living Elohim remains hidden under titles such as Lord, Adonai, HaShem or the generic, God. 

Unfortunately, those desiring to use the memorial name have split in every direction from the most probable utterance of yod-hey-vav-hey being Yahweh or Yahveh to some of the most nonsensical words, giving credence to the reason the Levites decided to keep the Name only in the mouths of those who would not profane it.

The memorial name forever –– yod-hey-vav-hey –– has been replaced in Bibles with LORD.  LORD is not the name of Elohim given to Moshe, it is a title. In the Complete Jewish Bible, the memorial name has been replaced with Adonai. In this book, I will use Adonai, HaShem, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, Hayah or ‘I Am’ when I refer to the memorial name. From my understanding, the memorial name Elohim is yod-hey-vav-hey and I will use that respectfully.

Signs for Moshe

“Then you will come, you and the leaders of Isra’el, before the king of Egypt; and you will tell him, ‘Adonai, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert; so that we can sacrifice to Adonai our God.’ I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so’” (Exodus 3:18-19).

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh tells Moshe to gather the leaders of Isra’el. He is to tell them the Elohim of their fathers appeared to him and has seen their oppression and will lead them out of their misery into a ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’ He is to tell them to go three days journey into the desert where they can sacrifice to Adonai their Elohim. He says the Hebrew leaders will do as he says, but Pharaoh will not let them go unless he is forced to free them (Exodus 3:16-19).

“But I will reach out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will do there. Moreover, I will make the Egyptians so well-disposed toward this people that when you go, you won’t go empty-handed. You will plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:20-22)

Moshe worries that the people will not listen to him and believe he is lying. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh asks what is in his hand to which Moshe replies “a staff.” He tells him to throw his staff down onto the ground and it turns into a snake. Moshe recoils from it, but Adonai tells him to grab it by its tail. He does and it becomes his staff again.

As Moshe knew from growing up in Egypt, the snake was the symbol of Wadjet, an Egyptian goddess who controlled and protected the land.  The snake symbolized Pharaoh’s sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in Egypt.  The snake was so important that it became part of the headdress of the Pharaoh. By turning Moshe’s staff into a snake, Adonai proves He is the Sovereign Ruler over Egypt.  Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh alone is the only Elohim and His divine authority surpasses that of Pharaoh’s.

Adonai tells Moshe to put his hand into his coat. Moshe slips his hand into his coat and when he pulls it out, it is leprous. He put his hand back into his coat and when he pulls it out a second time, it is healed.

Leprosy was a punishment for pride and arrogance against Adonai. This ‘sign’ was given to Moshe as proof Elohim was going to judge and punish Pharaoh’s pride of through the meekest of men (Numbers 12:3). It was also evidence that Adonai knew and saw the murder of Hebrew babies thrown into the Nile, and He would judge Pharaoh for those innocent lives.

In spite of the powerful signs, Moshe makes another excuse. He says that he is a terrible speaker and his words come slowly. This seems ironic as his excuses come out of his mouth rather quickly! Yet, Moshe grew up a Hebrew in Pharaoh’s household. He had to learn to be humble and quiet so that no one would learn of his heritage. Adonai understands Moshe’s character and promises that He will go with him, teach him, and be his mouth.

Moshe finally expresses his true feelings. He doesn’t want to go to Egypt. Period.  He would rather Adonai send someone else. How often are we like Moshe when Elohim has something for us to do?  How often do we find other activities more important than being His hands and feet?   How often do we consider ourselves incapable and forget that when Elohim calls, He equips?

Each of us can be like those who were invited to the wedding feast but were full of excuses: marriage, fields, livestock. Because of the multitude of negative RSVP responses, others are invited to the feast and receive the reward of attending the wedding of the King’s son (Matthew 22). Or, we can be like the prophet Isaiah who heard the voice of Elohim and immediately responded, “Send me!” (Isaiah 6:7-8)

In the book of Esther, Mordecai reminds Hadassah, who has become Queen of Persia, that if she does not rise to the call of saving her people, then help will come from somewhere else, but she and her family will perish (Esther 4:14). When Elohim calls us to do His will, we either do it and receive the blessing or He will find someone else.

Adonai’s anger “blazed up.” From the way this is written, the fire within the burning bush must have burned higher, hotter, and maybe even singed Moshe’s beard and eyebrows. Still, Moshe remains Elohim’s choice and He offers a solution. Moshe’s brother, Aaron, has the ability to speak and will become his mouth. As a matter of face, Elohim says that Aaron is already on his way to meet his brother.

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh encourages Moshe by telling him that everyone who wanted him dead have died, and despite the miracles Moshe will be able to perform, Adonai will harden Pharaoh’s heart.  

Moshe returns home and asks Jethro to allow him to return to Egypt to see if his kinsmen are still alive. Jethro blesses him and tells him, “Go in peace.”  Moshe gathers his wife and two sons, and they leave Midian.

Circumcising the ‘Son of Abraham’

Circumcision was the sign of the covenant El Shaddai made with Abraham that required all male babies eight days old to be circumcised.  As a descendant of Abraham, Moshe’s Levite family circumcised him and he should have circumcised his son.  Adonai could not allow Moshe go into Egypt dishonoring the sign of the covenant; and He also wanted to reveal to Moshe a portion of His redemptive plan.

At a lodging place with his family, Moshe has another encounter with Adonai. This time, however, it is a confrontation that could have ended in death.   In order to end the situation, Zipporah takes immediate action.  Whether it was from the realization that they had disobeyed Adonai’s command or she just didn’t want death on her hands, Zipporah takes a flint knife and circumcises their firstborn son, Gershom.  She cuts off his foreskin and hurls the piece of bloody flesh at Moshe’s feet and says, “What a bloody bridegroom you are for me –– A bloody bridegroom because of this circumcision” (Exodus 4:25-26). While she judges Moshe’s Elohim, she is also prophesying.

“Then you are to tell Pharaoh: ‘Adonai says, “Isra’el is my firstborn son.  I have told you to let my son go in order to worship me, but you have refused to let him go. Well, then, I will kill your firstborn son!”” (Exodus 4:22-24) 

Zipporah and the Midianites were not included in the covenant given to Abraham, even though they descended from Abraham’s second wife Keturah.  From Zipporah’s reaction to the procedure, it is likely that she did not want her son circumcised and had stood against it.  She did not understand, until that moment,  the serious consequences of her unwillingness to have them enter the covenant of their father and his forefathers. 

The most common interpretation for when Zipporah circumcises her son say that Elohim was in a confrontation with  Moshe, and Zipporah saved his life by circumcising their son.  There are also those who suggest that it was Gershom who was going to die during the encounter.   As Gershom was a young man, not a small child, he could have been rebelling against the circumcision and needed to be held down through the strength of his father.  Zipporah performed circumcision with piece of flint and did the deed before her son would die.   Both are valid interpretations when the lives of the firstborn of Isra’el and the firstborn of Pharaoh will be in a spiritual struggle resolved only when the firstborn of Pharaoh dies and death passes over the firstborn of Isra’el.

‘Flint’ in Hebrew is challamish and is used along with the word tsur for ‘rock.’ Flint is a hard sedimentary rock that fractures from the core creating flakes or blades that have razor sharp edges. Flint knives, used by surgeons, are so sharp they can cut between cells rather than cut cells apart. Though Zipporah is disgusted by the act of circumcision, her sacrificial work is done with precision.

“As you come to him, the living stone, rejected by people but chosen by God and precious to him, you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be cohanim set apart for God to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Flint or challamish – חלמיש – chet, lamed, mem, yod, shin
– protect, urge forward, and consume the mighty finished work

Zipporah and her sons return home. They do not go to Egypt; they do not take part in Adonai’s Passover.  Anyone who did not put the blood of the lamb on their doorpost were cut off from Isra’el and their firstborn died. By circumcising Gershon, death would pass over Moshe’s firstborn even while Gershon lived in a foreign land.  Though Zipporah was a foreigner, being married to Moshe, a descendant of Abraham, it was necessary for her to enter the ‘blood covenant’ through the foreskin of her son.  For Moshe, it was a prophetic sign that Pharaoh would not relent and the death of the firstborn of Egypt was inevitable. 

Circumcision became the requirement for taking part in the Passover (Exodus 12:47-49). Those who weren’t circumcised could not share in the Passover lamb.  With the new covenant and circumcision of the heart, everyone whether Jew or foreigner may take part in the Passover memorial. It seems, however, that today Elohim has kept foreigners from the Passover because of uncircumcised and anti-semitic hearts.  In the coming Millennial Kingdom, Isra’el is chastised for allowing foreigners to enter the Millennial Temple without being circumcised in heart and flesh (Ezekiel 44:9).   In the Millennial Kingdom, the circumcision of flesh will be restored as the ‘sign’ of faith given to Abraham.

Moshe and Aaron Arrive in Egypt

Aaron goes to the desert and meets his brother. Moshe tells Aaron that Adonai has spoken to him. He shows him the signs to prove to the Hebrews that he and Aaron have received a calling from ‘I Am’ to deliver them from slavery.  When Moshe and Aaron arrive in Egypt, they call the Hebrew leaders together. Aaron tells them everything Adonai has promised while Moshe performs the signs as evidence for the people. The knowledge that Adonai has remembered them and wants to deliver them from bondage brings them to their knees in worship.

“The people believed; when they heard that Adonai had remembered the people of Isra’el and seen how they were oppressed, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31).

Let the Judgment Begin

“The God of Isra’el says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can celebrate a festival in the desert to honor me’” (Exodus 5:1).

In Hebrew, the word ‘festival’ is chag.  Chag Sameach or ‘Happy Holiday’ is the greeting used for Biblical festivals. Simply, Moshe asks Pharaoh to let the Israelites go for a three-day chag to the desert. Pharaoh refuses and calls the Hebrews lazy. He mocks them and their desire to sacrifice to Elohim.

Pharaoh doesn’t know Moshe’s Elohim. With great pride and arrogance he demands, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey Him?” Moshe and Aaron try to explain that Adonai is the Elohim of the Hebrews and, if Pharaoh doesn’t let the Hebrews leave, ‘I Am’ will strike Egypt with a plague or the sword.  Pharaoh’s heart is hard and refuses to let the Israelites go (Exodus 5:2-3).

Pharaoh orders the overseers to stop giving the Hebrew slaves straw for the bricks they make, while requiring the same number of bricks per day.  The Hebrew foremen are flogged when they do not keep up their daily quota of bricks.  The foremen judge Moshe and Aaron, “May Adonai look at you and judge accordingly, because you have made us utterly abhorrent in the view of Pharaoh and his servants, and you have put a sword in their hands to kill us!” (Exodus 5:21)

Egypt is an expression of a three-pronged denial of Adonai. Egypt denies His existence, His divine intervention in the lives of humanity, and His ability to change events on the earth.  Pharaoh’s heart reflects his nation’s view as the sovereign of Egypt. Moshe and Aaron are sent to Pharaoh to show him and the Egyptians that they have gone too far in their denial of human dignity given to humanity by the Creator Himself.

Yeshua, the ‘I Am’

“Yeshua answered, ‘I Am’ the bread which is life! Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

“Yeshua spoke to them again: ‘I Am’ the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life” (John 8:12).

“’I Am’ the gate; if someone enters through me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

“’I Am’ the good shepherd” (John 10:11).

“Yeshua said to her, ‘I Am’ the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; and everyone living and trusting in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)

“Yeshua said, ‘I Am’ the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“Yeshua said, ‘I Am’ the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing” (John 15:5).

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

Parashah 11: Vayigash (He approached)

Genesis 44:18-47:27

“Then Y’hudah approached Yosef and said, ‘Please my lord! Let your servant say something to you privately; and don’t be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself’” (Genesis 44:18).

Judah pleads for Benjamin’s life and the life of his father who will die if Benjamin is not returned. Judah intercedes as the ‘redeemer’ for Benjamin as well as for all the brothers, Isra’el.   Judah is the tribal lineage of Messiah Yeshua who came not only to become the intercessor for Isra’el, but also the nations.  Located in the tribal land of Benjamin is the city of Elohim, Jerusalem, the place of of Elohim’s name and His Temple.


 “But because he [Yeshua] lives forever, his position as cohen does not pass on to someone else; and consequently, he is totally able to deliver those who approach God through him; since he is alive forever and thus forever able to intercede on their behalf. This is the kind of cohen gadol [high priest] that meets our need — holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners and raised higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:24-26).

Joseph tests his brothers several times to find out if they had repented of their sin against him and to know what was in their hearts. He comes to believe that they deeply love their father and know that if he loses his youngest son, it will kill him.  They want to protect their youngest brother as well as their “gray haired” father (Proverbs 20:29). As they have walked their spiritual journey to and from Egypt, they have been convicted and challenged as brothers.

“At last Yosef could no longer control his feelings in front of his attendants and cried, ‘Get everybody away from me!’ So no one else was with him when Yosef revealed to his brothers who he was. He wept aloud, and the Egyptians heard, and Pharaoh’s household heard. Yosef said to his brothers, ‘I am Yosef! Is it true that my father is still alive?’ His brothers couldn’t answer him, they were so dumbfounded at seeing him. Yosef said to his brothers, ‘Please! Come closer.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am Yosef, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t be sad that you sold me into slavery here or angry at yourselves, because it was God who sent me ahead of you to preserve life. The famine has been over the land for the last two years, and for yet another five years there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me ahead of you to ensure that you will have descendants on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance’” (Genesis 45:1-7).

Joseph cannot contain himself any longer. His grief from years of being a foreigner in an unfamiliar culture finally releases. His heartache from being separated from those he loved is finally over. He weeps. He weeps so loud that the Egyptians hear him, along with everyone in Pharaoh’s house.

The Hebrew words for “he wept loudly” are vyiten et qolow. Within that phrase is the little word et, את , the alef and the tav that represents Yeshua. In the midst of Jacob’s weeping is Yeshua. Salvation comes to Joseph and his brothers; Yeshua restores the Tribes of Isra’el.

Joseph’s brothers are dumbfounded. In the phrase, “They were troubled at his presence,” the Hebrew word ‘troubled’ comes from bahal and means ‘dismayed.’ According to the Talmud: “When Rabbi El’azar would read this verse, he would weep: ‘If the rebuke of flesh and blood is thus, how much more so the rebuke of the Holy One, blessed be He!’”

Joseph tells everyone to leave, except his brothers. He asks them to “Come closer.” A few verses later he says, “Here! Your own eyes see and the eyes of your brother Benjamin that it is my own mouth speaking to you” (Genesis 45:12). Rashi, suggests that the brothers needed further proof that Joseph was truly their brother so he draws them closer to reveal his heritage. “Your own eyes see [my glory] and that I am your brother for I am circumcised as you are and, furthermore, “That my mouth speaks to you” in the Holy Language [Hebrew].”

Joseph embraces Benjamin and weeps. He weeps on his other brothers, and they talk with one another. Joseph tells his brothers to return home. They are to bring their father, their wives, and their children to live in the land of Egypt.  Their spiritual journey continues as they follow the instructions of a brother they “did not recognize.” They are delivered from their past sin through the forgiveness of Joseph.  As they obey his instructions, they set in motion a great family reunion.

It would be a monumental project moving a nation of people from one place to another, especially for an old man like Jacob.   Elohim’s chosen people would need special attention.  Joseph understood this and sent wagons to escort his father’s family to their new homeland.

The wagons and the animals pulling them would be proof to Jacob that Joseph was alive and waiting for him in a distant land. The Torah gives an instruction for an atonement when someone is found murdered in a field with no murder suspect. A heifer is to be taken to a vadi where its neck is broken. The leaders nearest to where the victim was found were to wash their hands as a statement that the blood was not shed by their hands nor did they know who shed the blood (Deuteronomy 1:1-9). With living animals pulling the wagons, Rashi suggests that Jacob immediately understood that his son had not been murdered because the animals were alive. He also suggests that the wagon was a sign to Jacob, as this was the instruction Joseph was learning when he left home to find his brothers.
Joseph gives each brother a new set of clothes. This is his way of honoring his brothers and showing them they are truly forgiven. The long-sleeved robe that many years before had fractured their relationship could be put in the past. The brothers also receive a new status in Egypt as they are the family of the second man in authority over Egypt!

Joseph gives Benjamin 7 ½ pounds of silver and five sets of new clothes. Five is the number of grace or favor. Joseph shows Benjamin special favor, his younger brother from his mother, Rachel. Seven is the number of completion while eight is the number of new beginnings. Seven and half suggests that the brothers are halfway between the completion of the last 23 years of struggle and a new beginning. They still have one journey to complete –– telling their father everything that they did to Joseph so many years ago.

Joseph sends ten donkeys loaded with Egypt’s finest produce and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and food for the return journey. The number ten speaks of divine perfection, power, and protection. By sending ten male and ten female donkeys, Joseph is reminding his brothers, and eventually showing his father, that what happened in the past had divine purpose and prophetic vision for Isra’el.

Still aware of their sibling rivalry, Joseph doesn’t completely trust them and sends them back to their father with a warning: “Don’t quarrel among yourselves while you’re traveling” (Genesis 45:24).

Elohim knew that Jacob would hesitate to move his family to a pagan land even if his son was alive. He may doubt that Joseph is the same young man who disappeared 23 years earlier, the young man with whom he had a deep spiritual connection.   For over two decades, Joseph had lived in the Egyptian court and became the second highest ranking official in Egypt with all of its perks in the Egyptian hierarchy. He may not only have taken on an Egyptian lifestyle, but perhaps chose to serve their gods, forgetting his Hebrew roots.   I believe the wagon sent a second message:

“Do not fear, father. I am still your son, Yosef. I have withstood the influence of Egypt. I rule the people in their culture, but it does not rule me. The world I once knew, that world of Avraham, Yitz’ak and you, my father,  is still alive and exists within my household. I have confronted the problems and challenges of Egypt, yet I was able to assimilate my world, the world of my youth, into Egypt. This land which is opposed to all that I was taught in my youth, all the morals, beliefs and ideals that you instilled in me, has not affected me.  Father, do not fear! I am still Yosef your son.”

The Foreign Jesus

Because Joseph dressed like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, and lived like an Egyptian in an Egyptian palace, his brothers do not recognize him.  Though it was important for him to have an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife to assimilate into the culture, it was not who he really was. He was still a Hebrew, the son of Jacob, who maintained his faith in the Elohim of his father.  He named his children, Manasseh and Ephraim, with his former life still held in his heart.   He did not, at any time, embrace the gods of Egypt, even with a wife whose father was a high priest for the sun god Ra.

Pharaoh had seen the power of Elohim living in Joseph, and the wisdom that allowed his country to be protected from the torment of the famine. Joseph is sometimes called ‘Joseph the Righteous’ because of his great faith in Elohim and his ability to live as a Hebrew among the Egyptians without compromising or assimilating his walk of faith.

Today, many Jewish people do not recognize their own Messiah because he has been clothed in the garments of other gods and goddesses. False religious traditions from Egypt, Greece, and Rome have assimilated not only culturally into Christianity, but also spiritually with a pagan worship system of idolatry.   These traditions embrace false gods and goddesses like Ishtar (Easter), Saturn (Christmas), and Ra (the day of Sun) who cannot deliver from sin and guilt, nor have the power to bring forth repentance, forgiveness, and purification from sin.

Jewish people who observe the teachings of Greek Jesus have no desire for him. They know that many of the commands given to them by Elohim were forever, to be obeyed throughout their generations. When they see the holy Sabbath has been forsaken for Sunday or those who claim to love Elohim eat all manner of ‘unclean’ foods, they shy away from learning about their own Messiah. The Shema, the foundation of all Jewish prayer and faith, speaks about Elohim being echad (one). When they hear about the trinity dividing Elohim into three separate parts and worshiped individually, they turn away from all things Christian. They are waiting for the Messiah, but because anti-semitic doctrines have removed Biblically Jewish traditions from the faith, they do not recognize him. They do not see the Elohim of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Sha’ul says the Jewish mind is veiled because they don’t know Messiah Yeshua, but they can’t know him through the people, language, and the culture in which he is now presented (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). The prophet Jeremiah promised a new covenant for the House of Judah and the House of Isra’el, but its provisions have been hijacked by gentiles and transformed into a religion that is foreign, and not palatable, to the brothers and sisters of Yeshua. Even using the name Jesus Christ makes them think that the leader of Christianity has a first and last name, a name and a religion that has nothing to do with them.

The Jewish Messiah

The Jewish Messiah taught Torah and that nothing in it would end until there is a new heaven and earth (Matthew 5:17-18). He is the prophetic vision of the Feasts of Elohim found in Leviticus 23. He instituted the new covenant promised by Jeremiah at Pesach (Passover), he was buried on Matzah (Feast of Unleavened Bread), rose from the dead on HaBikkurim (Feast of Firstfruits). His Father poured out His Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) on Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) ten days after Yeshua ascended into heaven. Yeshua will return as King of Kings on Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), judge the nation of Isra’el on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), set up his Millennial Kingdom on Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), and will rule and reign from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) for one thousand years. Yeshua never changed the Shabbat (Sabbath), but taught that he is Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). He never ate ‘unclean’ foods nor did he teach that his Father’s dietary instructions had changed. He told the Jewish people at Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) that he and his Father are echad. His Hebrew name, the name which is above all other names and means ‘salvation,’ was known before the foundation of the world and was given to Joseph ––Yeshua.

He is Alive!

“‘Yosef is still alive!  He is ruler over the whole land of Egypt!’  He [Ya’akov] was stunned at the news; he couldn’t believe them. It was only when he saw the wagons which Yosef had sent to carry him that the spirit of Ya’akov their father revived”  (Genesis 45:26-27). 

When first hearing the news that Joseph was alive and a great ruler over Egypt, Jacob’s heart is filled with disbelief and shock. He has been a doubter, especially when it came to his sons’ integrity: “He couldn’t believe them.” Only after seeing the wagons, wagons that can only be sent by the Pharaoh himself, does his ‘spirit revive.’ The Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ in this verse is ruach, the same word used for the Spirit of Elohim. In order for a spirit to revive, it must have be dead. When Jacob was shown the bloodied coat, he immediately believed his beloved son to be dead. Hearing the news that his son was alive jolted his soul and it began living again, pumping spiritual life through his body.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Revive or chayah – חיה – chet, yod, hey
– protect the finished work, behold

The history of Jacob began with “when Joseph was seventeen,” but there is no mention of him again until there is a famine and he hears there is grain in Egypt. As Jacob, he sends his sons down to Egypt for food. When the men return to their father, he is still referred to as Jacob. When Benjamin is taken to Egypt, Jacob’s spirit further succumbs believing evil will happen to his youngest son.

In the Targum Onkelos, the word ‘prophecy’ is added to the phrase “the spirit [of prophecy] of Jacob their father revived” putting an interesting allusion to the passage. Because Jacob had been in deep mourning for 23 years, he had no joy and lacked the ‘spirit of prophecy.’ When his spirit revives, the Divine Presence of Elohim returns. He is filled with joy and the ‘spirit of prophecy’ returns to Isra’el.

Joy and prophecy are connected several times in Scripture (1 Samuel 10:5-6, 16:15-23, 2 Kings 3:14-18). It is believed that a prophetic message can only be received when received with joy. Nothing awakens and feeds the human soul more than the joy intrinsic to music. According to rabbinical literature, it was the gentle music of Serach, Jacob’s granddaughter, that enabled Jacob to receive the incredible news that Joseph was still alive. As Asher’s daughter played the lyre and sang, the music opened Jacob’s grieving heart allowing it to feel joy again –– reviving his spirit. To be a woman mentioned in a genealogy means that Serach’s life held great importance, and this may be the reason (Genesis 46:17).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Serah or Serach – שרח – shin, resh, chet
– consuming the highest authority, protect

Jacob has a prophetic vision at Be’er Sheva and Elohim tells him not to be afraid to go to Egypt. It is in Egypt that Elohim will make him into a great nation.   With the anticipation of reuniting with Joseph and the continuing promises of Elohim, he loads the wagons and travels to Egypt with his sons, grandsons, daughters, granddaughters, and all his descendants.

Isra’el Enters Egypt

“Yosef then sent for his father Ya‘akov and all his relatives, seventy-five people” (Acts 7:14).

A small nation of 70 people enters Egypt, though the book of Acts records 75. There are two views as to why there is this discrepancy.   The first view is that Hebrew letters are used as numerals and could be interpreted different ways.   The second view is that the sons of Manasseh and Ephraim, who Jacob accepted as his own sons,  were counted as part of the nation of Isra’el along with Joseph and his wife (1 Chronicles 7:14-21).

Because Reuben and Simeon lost their leadership roles in the family due to sinful behavior, Judah is sent ahead of the caravan to guide the group into the land of Goshen (Drawing Near).  Judah, the brother who wanted to sell Joseph into slavery, now guides the Tribes of Isra’el taking them from famine in Canaan into a fruitful land in Egypt. He has been given the scepter and draws the nation towards the Promised Land.

“He presented himself to him, fell on him and wept on his neck for a long time” (Genesis 46:29).

Joseph prepares his chariots and heads to Goshen to meet his father. The Hebrew word for ‘presented’ is vayera and actually means ‘appeared.’ This word is generally used for the sudden appearance of angels or Elohim. To Jacob, his son ‘appeared’ to him as the glory of Adonai. Maimonides, a Jewish philosopher, believed that a son in this culture would never fall on his elderly father out of respect, and postulated that Jacob was the subject of the verb ‘to fall’ and thus it was Jacob who fell on Joseph, the one who appeared to him as the glory of El Shaddai.

Isra’el says to Joseph, “Now I can die, because I have seen your face and seen that you are still alive” (Genesis 46:30). These words are similar to what the prophet Simeon says when he sees Yeshua in the Temple on the day of his redemption, “Now, Adonai, according to your word, your servant is at peace as you let him go; for I have seen with my own eyes your yeshuah [salvation]” (Luke 2:29-30).

Isra’el, like his grandfather Abraham, had put his hope in the resurrection of the dead. Just as Abraham symbolically received Isaac ‘back from the dead,’ Jacob receives his beloved Joseph ‘back from the dead’ (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Joseph presents five of his brothers to Pharaoh who asks their profession. They respond that they are shepherds –– which is an abhorrent occupation to Egyptians.  All of Joseph’s brothers were shepherds, and probably excellent at animal husbandry like their father, so Pharaoh allows Joseph’s family to live in Goshen.  Pharaoh has such high respect for Joseph that he even shows favor to his brothers by putting them in charge of his own livestock.

Joseph also presents his father to Pharaoh. Jacob blesses Pharaoh as he enters the king’s presence; Pharaoh is humbled. He asks his age and Jacob replies that his pilgrimage on the earth has been 130 years, less than his father and grandfather, and very difficult (Genesis 47:10). Perhaps knowing Joseph and seeing his wisdom and faithfulness to Elohim,  Pharaoh understands that it came from the greatest patriarch alive at this time.  Before Jacob leaves Pharaoh’s presence, he blesses the greatest, most powerful king of the world a second time (Hebrews 7:7).

The content of Jacob’s blessing is not written, but perhaps it was a blessing for taking care of his son and now, his family. Isaiah 19:23-25 says that in the day of Elohim, along with Isra’el and Assyria, Egypt will be blessed by Elohim and called His people. Perhaps, with his spirit of prophecy, Isra’el speaks a prophetic word over Pharaoh and Egypt. By blessing the king twice, the blessing is established by Elohim.

Isra’el has been brought out of Canaan and the family is reunited in Goshen. Isra’el lives in Egypt 17 years.  His sons acquire possessions, are productive, and their numbers multiply greatly. But, the famine continues. It becomes so severe that money is collected for grain until there is no money; livestock is traded until there is no livestock; land is relinquished until everything in Egypt is owned by Pharaoh.  The people are reduced to servitude –– city by city.   They are given seed to plant and from the crops 20 percent is returned to Pharaoh. This is how Egypt survived the famine and grows into a great nation following the famine.

Yeshua, His Hebrew Name

“Here is how the birth of Yeshua the Messiah took place. When his mother Miryam was engaged to Yosef, before they were married, she was found to be pregnant from the Ruach haKodesh. Her husband-to-be, Yosef, was a man who did what was right; so he made plans to break the engagement quietly, rather than put her to public shame. But while he was thinking about this, an angel of Adonai appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Yosef, son of David, do not be afraid to take Miryam home with you as your wife; for what has been conceived in her is from the Ruach haKodesh. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means ‘Adonai saves,’] because he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:18-24).

“Seeing Yeshua from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him and screamed at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Yeshua, Son of God Ha‘Elyon? I implore you in God’s name! Don’t torture me!’ For Yeshua had already begun saying to him, ‘Unclean spirit, come out of this man!’” (Mark 5:6-8)

“On the eighth day, when it was time for his b’rit-milah [circumcision], he was given the name Yeshua, which is what the angel had called him before his conception” (Luke 2:21).

“Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow — in heaven, on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai — to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has cupped the wind in the palms of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)

Hebrew Word Pictures
Yeshua (Salvation) – ישוע – yod, shin, vav, ayin
– the finished work consumes the binding, understand

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

Covenant – Hebrew: B’rit

Breet or b’rit in Hebrew means “covenant, league, confederacy”

ברית

Used with the most common verb, karat כרת meaning ‘to cut

“But I will establish (cut)  my covenant with you (Noah)” (Genesis 6:18, Complete Jewish Bible).

“But with you (Noah) will I establish (cut) covenant (b’rit)” (Genesis 6:18, New International Bible).

“That day ADONAI made (cut) a covenant with Avram …” (Genesis 15:18, CJB).

“The Lord made (cut)  a covenant (b’rit) with Abram” (Genesis 15:18, NIV).

Hebrew Word Pictures

ב Bet – ‘A House’ means ‘a house’ or ‘family.’

ר Resh – ‘A Head’ means ‘authority’ or ‘leader.’

י Yod – ‘A Closed Hand’ means ‘a finished work.’

ת Tav – ‘Crossed Sticks’ means ‘sign’ or ‘covenant’.

The Hebrew Word Picture for b’rit – house authority finished work of the covenant sign

There are many different covenants in Scripture.   There was a covenant with Noah regarding the destruction of the earth and mankind, a covenant with  Abraham and the promise of Land and descendants, a covenant with Isra’el as a nation, a covenant with Aaron and an eternal priesthood (Exodus 28), and a covenant with King David for an eternal kingship (2 Samuel 7:11-16, Psalm 89:3-4, 29, 34-36).  None of these covenants were replaced by new ones.

There was no specific covenant made with Moses called the Mosaic covenant. Moses was only an intercessor between God and Isra’el; a type and shadow of Messiah Yeshua.  Unlike Abraham, Aaron, and David, who received a personal covenant promise with God, the covenant with Isra’el was made through Moses, not with Moses.  It applied to him in as much as it applied to all the people of Isra’el.

Covenants are expressions of loving relationship and promises that two parties make with one another.

“Y’honatan made a covenant with David because he loved him as he did himself.  Y’honatan removed the cloak he was wearing and gave it to David, his armor too, including his sword, bow and belt” (1 Samuel 18:3, CJB).

Covenants are eternal, never changing.  They can be ‘re-newed’  as in the case of the covenant with Isra’el because Isra’el had broken covenant.   God said that he would ‘renew’ the covenant (Jeremiah 31).    The ‘renewal’ of the covenant would not be a ‘removal’ of a covenant, but the ‘renewal’ would result in a change of heart so God’s ‘word, statutes, and precepts’ would be written on the hearts of the people (Ezekiel 36).

The ‘new covenant’ in Hebrew is b’rit chadashah.  This can be literally interpreted as the ‘new cutting’.  When a Jewish boy is circumcised, it is called a ‘brit’.  So, the ‘renewed covenant’ can also be called the ‘renewed circumcision’ which is what the prophets foretold and Paul spoke about in Romans 2.

©2011 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

What’s Wrong in Galatia?

“They stirred up the people, as well as the elders and the Torah-teachers; so they came and arrested him and led him before the Sanhedrin. There they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and against the Torah…” (Acts 6:12-14).

Whenever we share our faith walk with gentile believers and say that we keep the Biblical Sabbath, celebrate the Feasts of the LORD, and eat according to God’s instructions in Leviticus, we are always referred to the book of Galatians and warned about legalism and Judaizing. What is it about Judaizing, legalism, and the so-called ‘Galatian error’ that incites people to react defensively toward a gentile believer who desires to obey God’s commands out of a heart of love, commitment, and devotion?

The Word is Compel

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.  They only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Messiah. They want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh” (Galatians 6:12-14).

According to Paul, new gentile believers were being compelled to undergo outward flesh circumcision as a requirement to live out their faith in Yeshua. This happened because some Messianic Jews were fearful of being persecuted by non-believing Jews for accepting Yeshua as Messiah.

The ‘Galatian error’ had nothing to do with faith obedience to the commands of God, it had nothing to do with the Sabbath, the Feasts of the LORD or dietary regulations. The ‘Galatian error’ was about a ‘written code’ that inhibited the gentile’s freedom to obey Torah and enjoy the blessings, promises, and covenants they now had access to as part of the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ through faith in Messiah.

‘Circumcision’ and ‘Uncircumcision’

“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).   

When studying Paul’s teachings, and especially Galatians, it is important to understand the terminology he uses when referring to Jews and gentiles. Many times his ‘circumcision’ verses are taught with an ‘anti-circumcision’ viewpoint with the belief that if gentiles become circumcised, they are obligated to obey God’s commands. This is not how Paul used the terms ‘circumcision’ and ‘uncircumcision.’

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has nothing to do with the act of circumcising the flesh. He uses ‘circumcision to compare two different groups of people: the Jews who he called ‘the circumcision’ and the gentiles who he called ‘the uncircumcision.’ Putting his words in their proper context and terminology, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if you are a ‘circumcised’ Jew or an ‘uncircumcised’ gentile, what matters is keeping God’s commandments. It can be reasoned from this understanding that Paul never taught a gospel that encouraged disobedience to Torah, but believed that both the ‘circumcised’ Jew and the ‘uncircumcised’ gentile have the same responsibility of keeping God’s commandments which include Sabbath, the Feasts of the LORD, and dietary regulations.

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” 

Paul uses the same terminology in Galatians. He states that being a ‘circumcised’ Jew or ‘uncircumcised’ gentile means nothing; what matters is becoming a new creation.  He wants all of the Galatians (and those who read Galatians) to understand that neither our outward flesh condition nor our DNA has anything to do with our justification before God. All of us, ‘circumcised’ or ‘uncircumcised’ need to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God; everyone, Jew and gentile needs to become a new creation in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Redemption to Sonship

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4).

Yeshua, who was fully God, humbled Himself and came down to earth as a human being.  He  was born into the world of the ‘law of sin and death’ just like every other human born of a woman.   He lived under the laws of human nature being tempted to sin; however, he remained sinless because his Father was not the Adversary, but the Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. He never broke any of His Father’s commands in Torah.  He lived them perfectly and taught them correctly to his disciples. Because he was completely righteous and without sin, his death was sufficient payment to redeem all mankind, ‘circumcised’ and ‘uncircumcised’ from the ‘law of sin and death’ and give them the hope of eternal life as sons and daughters of God.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua, for all of you who were immersed into Messiah have clothed yourself with Messiah.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.  If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 5:26-29).

Each of us live under the ‘law of sin and death’ until we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.    No one in Galatia or anywhere else at any other time was ever justified by laws –– man’s or God’s.   As redeemed sons and daughters of God, there is no spiritual difference between ‘circumcised’ or ‘uncircumcised,’ Jew or gentile, male or female, slave or free.   When we put our faith in Yeshua, we become Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise.

Zealous for ‘the law’

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13-14).

Paul admits that before he met Yeshua, he persecuted new Jewish believers regarding Judaism and the traditions of the elders that he called ‘the law.’ If anyone lived contrary to the ‘traditions of Judaism,’ they were persecuted and even put to death by his authority. Until his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul was the greatest persecutor of Messianic Jewish followers of Yeshua because he believed they would no longer adhere to traditional Judaism and its religious system. Acts 7:54-60 records him front and center at the stoning of Stephen, receiving the coats of the witnesses at his feet.

Gentile Conversion through ‘Circumcision’

Before Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the only way for a gentile God-fearer like Cornelius to join the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ was to convert to Judaism. This was done through a conversion process that included circumcision of the flesh. Though circumcision was initially given as a covenant ‘sign’ to Abraham, over the centuries circumcision had become an outward show of following Judaism and all of its man-made traditions, yokes, and burdens.

In the Temple, a ’wall of partition’ separated the people of Israel from the gentiles.  Though a God-fearing gentile could come to Solomon’s Colonnade to pray, they could never enter the Temple area unless they had legally converted to Judaism through the ritual of flesh circumcision.  It was this ‘wall of partition,’ this ‘law of hostility’ to become legally Jewish that Yeshua destroyed on the cross.

The problem in Galatia was not that Messianic gentiles were being forced to obey the commandments of God, but that non-Messianic Jews wanted Messianic gentiles to convert to Judaism.   Paul made it very clear that Messianic gentiles did not have to  convert to Judaism to live out their faith in Yeshua. 

In fact, Paul taught that all followers of Yeshua needed to remain in the spiritual condition they were in when they were saved.  If they were ‘uncircumcised,’ they were to remain as gentiles with a calling to make the Jew envious for Yeshua.  If they were ‘circumcised,’  they were to remain as Jews with the calling to be a light to the nations. It is the witness of Jew and gentile worshiping the God of Israel in unity that becomes the full testimony of Yeshua.

“Circumcision has value if you observe the law [of Judaism], but if you break the law [of Judaism], you have become as though you had not been circumcised” (Romans 2:25).

Paul states that ‘circumcision’ to become legally Jewish has no value because it is completely dependent on observing Judaism and its traditions.  A ritual circumcision does not necessarily have its foundation in faith, but in the importance of the traditions of the elders; the traditions of men.  These traditions and rules are easily broken, and then it is as if the gentile is no longer a convert to Judaism.

Paul understands this entire process more than anyone because he had been a Judaizer and believed gentiles needed to convert to Judaism. Moreover, he learned through personal experience that being legally Jewish, of which he has the most extensive credentials, is not as valuable as faith in Yeshua.  It is faith in Yeshua that gives all believers –– ‘circumcised’ or ‘uncircumcised’ –– not only freedom from the ‘law of sin and death,’ but also the burdensome laws of Judaism.

Titus and Timothy

Enter Titus. Titus was a Greek believer, a gentile. He did not feel compelled to be circumcised. He was quite content to remain in his gentile condition, but it created some problems within the Jewish congregation that needed to be addressed.

“This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Messiah Yeshua and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4). 

Notice Paul doesn’t say Jewish believers in Messiah are creating the problems, but rather ‘false brothers’ who had infiltrated the body of believers in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem ‘false brothers’ would either be Jews who had rejected the Messiah and were Judaizing the new gentile believers, Jewish men who bore ‘false witness’ to the Messiah. The purpose of these ‘false brothers’ was to infiltrate the Body of Messiah and compel the Messianic gentiles to convert to Judaism through ritual circumcision.

Titus was the test case.   Though he personally did not feel the need to be circumcised, he was still being compelled to become legally Jewish.  If Paul allowed him to be circumcised and become legally Jewish, then the whole message of salvation by faith for gentiles would have been nullified. It would have changed justification by faith in Yeshua to works of the flesh –– heritage or conversion.  The gospel to the nations with which God entrusted Paul would have ended abruptly.

But what about Timothy?   He was circumcised.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother. His mother and grandmother raised him with the Hebrew Scriptures and he understood his Jewish heritage. For him to be circumcised was not an issue of conversion to be ‘legally Jewish’ because he was already ‘legally Jewish’ through his birth mother.   Furthermore,  Paul was going to take Timothy with him on missionary journeys to places where there were unbelieving Jews. Being an uncircumcised Jew would have been a huge a stumbling block for those Jews to hear and receive the message of salvation in  the Jewish Messiah.

Did Titus not keep God’s Torah while Timothy did? Of course not. Paul has already answered this question: “Circumcision [being Timothy] is nothing and uncircumcision [being Titus] is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).  For Titus to believe that he had a different set of commandments than Timothy or did not have to obey God’s commandments like Timothy would have amounted to not only ignorance, but also gentile arrogance.

Foolish and ‘Bewitched

“You foolish Galatians!  Who has betwitched you?” (Galatians 3:1).

I cannot count how many times this verse has been quoted to correct us and our walk of faith. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.  We have met and known people who sincerely  believe that obedience to God’s Torah is foolish, and we are somehow being led astray by a “bewitching spirit” and have ‘fallen from grace.’

Justification for sin comes through Yeshua’s atonement on the cross and by faith in Him alone. There is no argument there.  To compel someone to become legally Jewish through circumcision is most definitely a foolish error when it comes to the message of justification.  However, anyone who loves the God of Israel and desires to obey His commandments is neither ‘bewitched’ nor foolish. They are not compelling anyone to legally convert to Judaism.  In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are sharing a fuller message of salvation that includes sanctification. Yeshua Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15).

The Zeal of the Judaizer

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them” (Galatians 5:17). 

The unbelieving Jews, the Judaizers, only wanted gentile believers to “mutilate their flesh” so they could boast about them.   They liked the idea of multitudes following them and their rules.  It boosted their egos making them feel important and in control of this new movement of God.   They wanted to be able to say, “Look how many gentiles are converting to Judaism!”  Simply put, this was the ‘Galatian error’ in Paul’s day –– forced gentile conversion to Judaism.

It is highly probable the Messianic Jews didn’t really know what to do with the number of gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua. Though the Council in Jerusalem outlined the responsibility of a gentile turning to God, there was no guarantee that the pagan ways of the nations wouldn’t infiltrate and destroy the Messianic faith that was just out of the womb.  Messianic Jews like Paul were well aware that Yeshua didn’t preach the kingdom of Judaism, but they also didn’t want to lose their Jewish identity and Biblical heritage.  In their defense, after 2000 years of gentile infiltration, councils denouncing everything Jewish about faith in the Jewish Messiah, and the melding of pagan gods with Biblical holy days, there was some merit to their concerns and struggles.

In the first century, there were more Jewish believers than gentile.  Gentiles who came to faith in Messiah grafted into the ‘Commonwealth of Israel‘ and became part of the ‘Olive Tree of Israel.’    They met in synagogues on the Sabbath and were taught Torah (Acts 15:21).   They took on a Biblically Jewish identity while retaining their unique calling as gentiles to make the Jew envious. They tried to live out their new faith celebrating the Feasts of the LORD and eating according to God’s instructions. Read in this cultural context Colossians 2:16 takes on a whole new perspective.

“Therefore do not let anyone (Jew)  judge you (gentiles) by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah.”

When the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the nation of Israel was scattered all over the world.  Jerusalem was no longer central to Judaism, the Jewish people, and the Messianic faith. The Jewish congregation of believers led by James was no longer the example of faith (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

As the centuries passed and the number of gentile believers increased,  there was a loss of identity with Jerusalem and Rome took its place.  The Torah no longer came out of Zion nor the Word of God from Jerusalem, but from Rome and the Popes. Anti-circumcision and anti-Jewish doctrines crept into the church and edicts from councils like Nicaea and Laodicea made it illegal for  believers in Yeshua to follow anything that appeared ‘Jewish’ including the Feasts of the LORD, Sabbath, circumcision, and Levitical dietary regulations. 

Unfortunately for the growing Body of Messiah,  everything in the Bible looked ‘Jewish’ because God had  entrusted His Torah to the Jewish people to guard and protect.  As Rome took the place of Jerusalem, the Pope spoke in the place of God, and the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Latin, gentile believers easily fell into Roman religious practices against warnings by Paul in his letter to the Romans (chapters 9-14). Jewish believers either converted to Roman Christianity or died.  Then, of course, came the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and the Holocaust Nazis that just murdered Jews because they believed them to be ‘Christ killers.’

The Modern ‘Galatian Error’

Judaizing is a non-issue today as Christians are no longer part of the Messianic Jewish community.   They do not attend synagogues for teaching and instruction as did the first-century gentiles.  They are not confronted by ‘false brothers’ who compel them to be circumcised and convert to Judaism. The Christian church no longer teaches Torah or the Prophets as the foundation of the spiritual Temple, let alone as an outline for living a life of obedience.  In fact, most Biblical truths that were taught by Yeshua and lived out by the apostles and first-century believers have been eliminated to the point that neither Paul, the apostles, nor Yeshua would recognize the Body of Messiah today.

The modern ‘Galatian error’ has become a gentile code that compels Jews to follow the pagan ways of the nations embedded in Christian theology. Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ ‘legally convert’ through baptism and confirmation into one of hundreds of Christian denominations. Christiandom discourages anything remotely Jewish and their Jewish converts attend church on Sunday, celebrate pagan holidays that are prohibited by the God in the Scriptures, and eat the flesh of swine.  In these murky waters, many of the ‘circumcised’ have lost their Jewish identity, and their call to be a light to the nations has been snuffed out. 

Something definitely has “bewitched” the church and it is not a Messianic gentile obeying God’s Torah; it’s a distortion of Paul’s teachings (2 Peter 3:16). This distortion has paralyzed the ‘uncircumcised’ from walking in the commandments of God. The ‘circumcised’ Jew and ‘uncircumcised’ gentile still remain separated. No one Judaizes and compels gentiles to become ‘legally Jewish’ through circumcision. The ‘Galatian error’ has become the anti-semitic catch phrase for arrogance over first-century Messianic Jews who dared to allow the ‘uncircumcised’ to enter the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ through faith in the Jewish Messiah.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.