Posts Tagged ‘pillar of salt’

Parashah 4: Vayera (He appeared)

Genesis 18:1-22:24

“Adonai appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the entrance to the tent during the heat of the day” (Genesis 18:1).

As Abraham sits under the oak tree in the middle of the day, he looks up and sees three men. He runs to meet them, prostrates himself on the ground, and says, “My Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, please don’t leave your servant” (Genesis 18:2-3). He offers the men bread to eat, water to wash their feet, and the shade of the oak tree for rest. He tells Sarah to quickly make a feast –– bread with butter and a calf prepared with curds.

Abraham served meat from a calf along with curds from milk to El Shaddai giving no indication that milk and meat should be prepared or eaten separately.

While eating the prepared foods, one of the visitors tells Abraham that by the next year Sarah would give birth to a son. Sarah overhears the conversation and laughs to herself. Though Sarah denies laughing, El Shaddai heard her. The Hebrew word for ‘laugh’ is tzchet –– one of my favorite Hebrew words. From this word comes the name Yitz’ak (Isaac) which means ‘laughter.’

The Quercus calliprinos, the Palestine Oak, is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. In Isra’el this tree is known as the Common Oak or elan matsuy. The fruit of an oak tree is an acorn and it contains only one seed. Abraham is like the oak tree at Mamre where he meets El Shaddai. From his one seed, Abraham will become the ‘father of nations’ though he will not live to see the fulfillment of the promise. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the oak as a tree whose trunk remains alive even after its leaves fall off. The planted ‘holy seed’ becomes its trunk. The descendants of Isaac will grow into the trunk of Isra’el and “they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by Adonai, in which he takes pride” (Isaiah 6:12-13, 61:3).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Oak or terebinth (elah) – אלה – alef, lamed, hey
– first strength urges forward, revealed

Sodom and Gomorrah

Two of the men leave Abraham for Sodom and Gomorrah, but one remains. The one who remains is El Shaddai. The divine essence, the Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh appears to Abraham as a person.

El Shaddai reveals His plans for the two cities that had become very wicked. Abraham challenges His mercy and the two discuss the number of righteous people living in the cities compared to the wicked. For how many righteous would El Shaddai relent on his judgment? Fifty, forty, twenty? Finally, El Shaddai yields to Abraham. For the sake of ten righteous, He will not destroy the cities. Unfortunately, only Lot, his wife, and Lot’s two unmarried daughters meet the criteria.

“For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19).  

“I have made myself known” implies that El Shaddai has revealed Himself to Abraham so that he can “keep the way of Adonai” The ‘man’ conversing with Abraham is Yeshua before he becomes flesh. Through His words, the person of Yeshua is revealed to Abraham.

“Adonai said, ‘The outcry against S’dom and ‘Amora is so great and their sin so serious that I will now go down and see whether their deeds warrant the outcry that has reached me; if not, I will know’” (Genesis 18:20-21).

The prophet Ezekiel describes the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to be pride and gluttony. The people no longer care about the poor and have become complacent regarding those in need. Along with these sins, they are arrogant against Elohim and commit disgusting acts (Ezekiel 16:49-50). Isaiah elaborates on these acts saying their sins are blatantly done in the face of Elohim. They parade their sin with no shame and no willingness to hide their perversions (Isaiah 3:9).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Disgusting or shoar – שער – shin, ayin, resh
– consume and understand first strength

Perversion or iqqesh – עקש – ayin, kof, shin
– understand what is behind the destruction

Grievous or kabed – כבד – kaf, bet, dalet
– open the family pathway

When the two men arrive in Sodom and Gomorrah, they are no longer men or anashim, but hamelakim or angelic messengers. The perversion of the men in Sodom and Gomorrah is so disgusting that they solicit the angels of Elohim for sex. They even reject the offer of Lot’s two virgin daughters! The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is so grievous that Elohim has no alternative except to destroy the cities.

Lot invites the angels into his home and makes them a meal that includes unleavened bread or matzah. Leaven is often compared to sin, and Lot, who lives in the midst of abominable sin, serves unleavened bread. This could allude to his own sinless life in a culture of depravity or be prophetic to the sinless One, Yeshua, who is going to deliver him from death. Though the ‘appointed times’ have not yet been outlined, Lot and his family experience a ‘passover’ and ‘unleavened bread’ and do not die in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Yeshua tells his disciples that the world will be like Sodom and Gomorrah at the time of his coming (Luke 17:26-30). Today, homosexuals, lesbians, and transgenders cry out for equality and acceptance.  They want to marry one another and raise children together. Their perversion, if allowed to continue by Elohim, will mutate into pedophilia and even beastiality. As with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, these perverted people arrogantly parade in the streets of large cities and do not hide the disgusting practices. Though the consciences of humanity may “know well enough God’s righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; they not only allow them to keep doing them, but they applaud [them]” (Romans 1:32).

Another great abomination that may have been happening in Sodom and Gomorrah is the influence of Nephilim who were still on the earth. Some of the Nephilim may have inhabited the area of Sodom and Gomorrah and acted in ways previous to the flood. Ezekiel 16:48 says that the sins of Sodom involved the daughters of Sodom who committed detestable acts.  Perhaps the daughters of Sodom were fornicating with Nephilim leaving human men in need of other men, so much so that the men didn’t even desire virgin women.

Elohim destroyed the earth once because of immoral behavior between angels and women, perhaps these same unholy unions brings Him again to the point of wrath.
Because He had made a covenant with Noach never to destroy the earth by water, He pours out fire and brimstone on two cities that were morally depraved.

The angels have to pull Lot back into the house and they shut the door. Shutting a door symbolizes an ending and a separation from what is on the other side of the door –– permanently. Even so, Lot dallies in the morning not wanting to leave the city.

The residents of the two cities believe that Lot has been judging them, though there is no evidence that he is a bold evangelist or a prophetic voice. It doesn’t appear that he is even semi-righteous, though the life of a semi-righteous person in a completely depraved society can be very convicting. From what is known about Lot, it wasn’t his righteousness that saved his family, but the intercession of his Uncle Abraham and the mercy of El Shaddai (Titus 3:5). Lot may have perished with everyone else if the angels had not pulled him by the hand and removed him from the city.

“Flee for your life, don’t look back!”

In the Hebrew, the phrase is “escape for your nefesh” meaning ‘escape for the sake of your soul.’ The command involved more than not looking back to see the destruction, it was commanded to redeem the souls of Lot, his wife, and his daughters from a life of slavery to sin. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife looked back and lost her soul; she was turned into a pillar of salt.

It is often taught that Lot’s wife looked back because of the loss of her family. Lot’s other two daughters and sons-in-law did not leave the city because they didn’t believe Lot’s warning. Though this may be one reason she looked back, her nefesh was not the same at Lot’s. She was most likely a native Sodomite.

There is a midrash that discusses another reason why Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. In the Middle East, salt is a symbol of hospitality. Sharing salt at a table requires peaceful fellowship between those sharing the salt. Hospitality and sharing salt was not the code of law in Sodom, one of their grievous sins. In the midrash it is suggested that Lot’s wife did not approve of Lot bringing guests into her home. Then, he asked her to bring out the salt. She had no salt in her home so she went door to door asking for salt which revealed to the citizens of Sodom that her husband had broken the code of law against hospitality. It was this action that brought the men of the city to Lot’s door. The midrash concludes that because she sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. Today, the pillars of salt that surround that area of the Dead Sea are a reminder of Lot’s wife and her lack of hospitality for the angels of God (Hebrews 13:2).

The midrash also explained why El Shaddai destroyed the cities by fire and brimstone. It supports the idea that Nephilim or angelic beings were inhabiting the cities. Angels, unlike humans who were created from the dust of the earth, were created by fire. As man returns to dust when he dies, the only way to destroy angels is with fire. Perhaps turning around and seeing with human eyes angels being consumed by burning sulfur would have a devastating effect on the human nefesh –– turning human flesh into salt.

Abraham wakes up the next morning and sees the smoke rising. He knows what has happened. There is no indication that he knew Lot had escaped or that he ever saw his nephew again.

Lot went up into mountains with his two daughters. One day they get him drunk so they can have sex with him.  They had become so morally compromised by the sin that had surrounded them, they didn’t consider what they did might be wrong. It does seem strange that they were unaware that there were other people alive on earth, including their great uncle, but they committed incest with their father and became pregnant.

They give birth to two sons: Moab and Amon who become the fathers of two nations. Ruth, who becomes the grandmother of King David, was a Moabite, a descendant of Lot and his oldest daughter. The Ammonites come from the union of Lot and his youngest daughter. Amon is the capital of modern-day Jordan.

A Promised Seed

At the exact time El Shaddai prophesied, Sarah gives birth to a son who is named Yitz’ak. She exclaims, “God has given me a good reason to laugh; now everyone who hears about it will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6). According to the sign of the covenant, Abraham circumcises Isaac when he is eight days old.

As Isaac grows up, problems arise between him and his brother, Ishmael. It becomes necessary for Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away. At Isaac’s weaning party, when Isaac is between 4 and 5 years old, Ishmael torments his little brother. The Hebrew word for ‘torment’ is matzchak and is rooted in ‘sexual encounter or fondling.’ Ishmael’s ‘playing with’ Isaac clearly upsets Sarah.

‘Weaning’ is generally believed to be the time when a child is removed from its mother’s breast. However, there is also a spiritual ‘weaning’ when a child leaves his mother and begins his spiritual training with his father. Using Biblical chronology, Isaac’s ‘weaning’ would have been on his birthday that began the 400-year time period for Abraham’s descendants’ oppression and slavery. This would place Isaac’s ‘weaning’ on the first day of Unleavened Bread –– 400 years before the exact day when the Hebrews were set free from Egypt.

It was at the ‘weaning’ party that Abraham confirmed to everyone present that Isaac was the ‘promised seed’ who would bring spiritual blessing to the nations. Ishmael, who was born of Abraham’s flesh, was sent away to become one nation that would oppress the descendants of Isaac and Jacob.

Hagar leaves with her son and goes into the desert. While hiding under a tree dying, Hagar cries out to Elohim.  Ishmael, who is nearly 20 years old, continues to be a spoiled young man and doesn’t appreciate nor take care of his own dying mother. Elohim comes to Hagar and promises to make her son into a great nation and directs her to a well where she and Ishmael find water and are revived.

The Binding of Isaac – Adekah

“Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Yitz’ak; and go to the land of Moriyah.  There you are to offer him as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will point out to you” (Genesis 22:2).

This passage of Scripture is called the akedah or the ‘Binding of Isaac.’ It describes the account of Abraham who is commanded by El Shaddai to offer his only son as a sacrifice. The word ‘only’ in this passage is yachid and means ‘unique, only begotten.’ The word yachid also suggests the relationship between Abraham and his son was very close or echad.

Abraham had Ishmael, but Ishmael was not the ‘unique son’ El Shaddai called him to sacrifice. In Islam, the story is recounted as the ‘Binding of Ishmael.’ From it comes the ‘Ein ul Adha’ and the killing of a lamb. Though Ishmael is not the ‘son of promise,’ the ‘binding’ and the substitute ‘lamb’ can be used to explain the substitute sacrifice of Yeshua made for the whole world –– including Muslims.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Moriah (Teach) – מריה – mem, resh, yod, hey
– mighty highest authority, finished work, revealed

Mount Moriah in Jerusalem has a long Biblical history. Moriah comes from the Hebrew root moreh meaning ‘to teach.’ Moriah was where the threshing floor owned by Ornan, the Jebusite, was located; the place where Elohim appeared to King David (2 Chronicles 3:1). On Mount Moriah, King Solomon built the first Temple. On the same mountain, in the Temple courts of the second Temple, Yeshua stood and proclaimed himself the Messiah and echad or ‘one’ with Elohim (John 10:10). Mount Moriah was the location where El Shaddai brought Abraham to test his faith.

The original threshing floor, the location of the first and second Temples, was south and east of the modern-day Temple Mount in the City of David. The Temple Mount and Western Wall may be the remains of a first-century Roman garrison.

According to Leviticus, a burnt offering is a free-will offering. Abraham was not coerced by El Shaddai to get up early in the morning or forced to saddle a donkey, gather wood, and take his two servants with him to sacrifice his son. Because Abraham trusts in the promises of El Shaddai, he obeys without hesitation.

Upon arriving at the mountain, Abraham leaves his servants at the bottom and ascends with Isaac who carries the wood. While they walk towards their destination, Isaac wonders about the sacrifice. Though he has been surrounded by pagan cultures that offer human sacrifice to Molech, this has not been part of his upbringing; so he asks about the lamb.

“My father? I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7)

“Avraham replies, ‘God will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering’” (Genesis 22:8).

When they arrive at the summit, Abraham prepares an altar, sets the wood on top, binds his son, and lays him on the altar. Every step of the way, Isaac submits to his father’s will. Whatever he has learned from his father’s life and teachings for the past 30 years, he completely trusts his father –– even as he raises a knife to kill him.

An angel of El Shaddai calls to Abraham from heaven and says, “Don’t lay a hand on the boy! Don’t do anything to him! For now I know that you are a man who fears God, because you have not withheld your son, your only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).

The Hebrew word for ‘boy’ in this passage is not yelad meaning ‘a young boy.’ It is nar meaning ‘a young man.’ Many depictions of the ‘binding of Isaac’ show him as little boy, but he was a young man between 30-33 years of age.

Abraham raises his eyes from his son and sees a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. Abraham untangles the ram and offers it as a free-will burnt offering –– a substitute for Isaac. Abraham calls the place El Yireh or ‘Elohim will see to it’.

The word for ‘provide’ in Hebrew is yireh and contains the idea of something prophetic in the distant future, not the near present. Another rendering for yireh may be ‘in the future there will be a lamb of Elohim.’ This is an allusion to the same lamb sacrificed for Adam and Eve in Gan Eden that prophesied a future deliverance from sin and death.

According to Romans 4:17 “Abraham is our father in God’s sight because he trusted God as the one who gives life to the dead and calls nonexistent things into existence.” Was the ram in the thicket before Abraham saw it or did El Shaddai speak it into existence at that moment? Was the ram the appearance of El Shaddai Himself?

El Yireh did not want Abraham’s son as an offering. He is not like the gods of this world desiring human sacrifice Through the ram that El Yireh provided, Abraham knew his sacrifice was accepted.

“By faith Avraham, when God tested him, offered Yitz’ak as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Yitz’ak that your offspring will be reckoned.” Avraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Yitz’ak back from death” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Some interpretations suggest the ram symbolizes the strength of Elohim’s lamb that would overcome death and be resurrected; the returning ram that will trample underfoot the enemies of Elohim. With this interpretation, Abraham was shown or taught about the two comings of Messiah: the substitute sacrificial lamb and the warrior ram. (For a beautiful short story of the ram, a child’s midrash, see Study Helps.)

From the account of the ram caught in the thicket, the shofar or the ram’s horn came about. The shofar is used many times in Scripture to announce everything from warfare to Elohim’s ‘appointed times.’

The angel of El Shaddai calls to Abraham a second time. Abraham responds, “Here I am,” or “Hineni.” The Hebrew word hineni is not just a response that Abraham is physically ‘here and present,’ but that he is spiritually understanding everything he is being shown on Mount Moriah.

This parashah concludes with El Shaddai promising to bless Abraham because of his obedience. He will increase his descendants and all nations of the earth will be blessed.

“I have sworn by myself that because you have done this, because you haven’t withheld your son, your only son, I will most certainly bless you; and I will most certainly increase your descendants to as many as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore … and by your descendants all nations of the earth will be blessed – because you obeyed my order” (Genesis 22:16-18).

Yeshua and the Day of Judgment

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we expel demons in your name? Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’ Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

“When you enter someone’s household, say,‘Shalom aleikhem! [Peace upon you]’ If the home deserves it, let your shalom rest on it; if not, let your shalom return to you. But if the people of a house or town will not welcome you or listen to you, leave it and shake its dust from your feet! Yes, I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for the people of S’dom and ‘Amora than for that town!” (Matthew 10:12-15)

“Moreover, I tell you this: on the Day of Judgment people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36).

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:31-46).

“Those in Y’hudah must escape to the hills, those inside the city must get out, and those in the country must not enter it. For these are the days of vengeance, when everything that has been written in the Tanakh [old testament] will come true. What a terrible time it will be for pregnant women and nursing mothers! For there will be great distress in the Land and judgment on the people” (Luke 21:21-23).

“The Father does not judge anyone but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever fails to honor the Son is not honoring the Father who sent him. Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent me has eternal life — that is, he will not come up for judgment but has already crossed over from death to life! For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has given the Son life to have in himself. Also he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:22-27).

“When he [the Counselor] comes, he will show that the world is wrong about sin, about righteousness and about judgment — about sin, in that people don’t put their trust in me [Yeshua]; about righteousness, in that I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; about judgment, in that the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-11).

“After these things, I heard what sounded like the roar of a huge crowd in heaven, shouting, ‘Halleluyah! The victory, the glory, the power of our God! For his judgments are true and just. He has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her whoring. He has taken vengeance on her who has the blood of his servants on her hands’” (Revelation 19:1-2).

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