Wednesday, January 16, 2019
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The video version of this teaching is available at:
The scripture reading for this teaching is Judges 4:1-5:31
The book of Judges is many times overlooked by the casual Bible reader. We tend to go for the prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah seeking out relevance for our theological understanding and looking to support our preconceived notions about biblical prophecy and the return of Messiah. But doing so is a serious mistake. The Book of Judges offers us the necessary historical background and cultural insight that guides our understanding of the later kings and prophets.
Certain women of the Bible play a key role in the history of the Children of Israel. These women are far more than just support for the men. They provide a kind of glue which holds the pieces of society together. They not only bear children, bringing new physical life into the world, in many cases, they also bear a kind of spiritual life that only they can provide.
This is true of our Haftarah reading this week with Judges chapters four and five with the story of Deborah. This Haftarah tells the story of a powerful Canaanite leader who severely oppressed the Children of Israel for twenty years, and Deborah, who was both Judge, or ruler of all Israel, and a prophetess of God, who led her people with her chosen army commander in a great battle to deliver them from this oppression.
With the story of Deborah, we not only have a woman who ruled Israel, but who also wrote a portion of the scriptures. This is the only place in the Bible where this is found.
One very striking thing that we observe about the Book of Judges is that in nearly every chapter it is written that the Children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. But, yet again, in this book we see example after example of God dealing with Israel and offering grace and forgiveness, and the opportunity for repentance. Deborah comes on the scene at a time of great repression.
Judges 4:1-4 NKJV 1 When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. 2 So the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. 3 And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he harshly oppressed the children of Israel. 4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
the name Deborah is #1682 in the Strong’s Lexicon meaning the bee. It is from the primitive root #1696 daw-bar’ meaning to arrange, to say, speak or command. Deborah, as a prophetess was to say, speak, and command the words of the LORD! Even though, throughout the time of the Judges the people continued to do evil in the sight of God, there was always exceptions and exceptional people who followed God and kept His covenant.
The time of the Judges is between the death of Joshua and when Saul became king of Israel. Scholars have a great deal of disagreement as to when each of the Judges ruled. There is not much to indicate a precise time sequence in the scripture narrative, and it is entirely plausible that multiple Judges ruled at the same time. The Judges of Israel had two basic jobs: to settle disputes between people and to protect them from their enemies. In many ways the period of the Judges can be viewed as a transitional time between the pure theocracy established in the wilderness and the monarchy later established by God at the request of the people.
Our Haftarah reading of the story of Deborah takes place somewhere in the middle of this time period. This section of scripture can be broken down into two basic areas. There is the story itself, found in chapter four and then the Song of Deborah found in chapter five. Both of these relate the same story in different forms and differing detail.
The story of Deborah opens with a statement about the state of the people. Jabin, the king of the Canannites was rising up against Israel. Deborah is in her place as a judge.
Judges 4:5-7 NKJV 5 And she (Deborah) would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "Has not the LORD God of Israel commanded, 'Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 7 'and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand'?"
Deborah was speaking in her role as a prophetess, relating the words of God to Barak. It is unusual for a woman to rise to a position of power in ancient Israel, but not unprecedented. At the time of the exodus, there was Miriam.
Exodus 15:19-20 NKJV 19 For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. 20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
Later there was Huldah, a prophetess in Jerusalem.
2 Kings 22:14 NKJV 14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her.
There many other examples of women in prominent positions in Israel’s history; Naomi, Ruth, and Esther to name a few. And in modern times, Golda Meir served as Israeli Prime Minister.
Verse six of chapter four indicates that Deborah, faced with the challenge of the twenty years of oppression from the Canannite king, called on a capable military leader, Barak. The scriptures don’t give us much detail about Barak except that he was from the tribe of Naphtali, originally the northern most tribe of Israel. As such, Barak would have had a strong motivation in the coming battle with the forces of Jabin who reigned from the same general area. Deborah may have made a great choice in Barak, his name means lightning. It is derived from number 1300 in the Strong’s lexicon. It also means glittering sword. But contrary to his name, Barak seems to act with some reluctance to Deborah’s call.
Judges 4:8-10 NKJV 8 And Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!" 9 So she said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him.
Why was Barak so reluctant to go? Barak’s words echo those of Moses when God tells Moses to go to the Promised Land. Moses says he won’t go unless God goes with him.
Exodus 33:15-16 NKJV 15 Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 "For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth."
Perhaps Barak knew that his army would be vastly outnumbered, but also understood that Deborah was a prophet of the LORD. Perhaps it was Deborah’s words to Barak in verse nine which convinced him that her presence as God’s prophetess at the battlefield would be the deciding factor. Barak gathered his army and set out for battle. It is this ensuing battle where the two chapters of our Haftarah reading both merge and depart.
Deborah had laid out the initial battle plan as she had received the word of the LORD, and Barak gathered his army at Mount Tabor in the Galilee. Mount Tabor was in a strategic and convenient location. It was at the border of Naphtali, Zebulun, and Issachar, from which Barak was to gather his troops. Mt Tabor also provided the perfect high-ground look out for the battle field, the Jezreel Valley.
Initially the army under Barak was small, only ten thousand men. However, the account in the Song of Deborah in Chapter five indicates the size of the army was increased.
Judges 5:14-15 NKJV 14 From Ephraim were those whose roots were in Amalek. After you, Benjamin, with your peoples, From Machir rulers came down, And from Zebulun those who bear the recruiter's staff. 15 And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; As Issachar, so was Barak Sent into the valley under his command; Among the divisions of Reuben There were great resolves of heart.
The commander of Jabin’s army, Sisera, having been warned of the army of Barak, also gathers his much larger and more formidable army.
Judges 4:11-13 NKJV 11 Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh. 12 And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon.
Through the prophecy of Deborah, Barak was told that the LORD would deliver Sisera into his hands. In verse seven, the Lord says that He will “deploy” Sisera at the river Kishon. The Hebrew word used in this verse is “mashak”, #4900 meaning to remove or to draw out. God would cause Sisera to be drawn out into battle in a place not well suited for his nine hundred chariots, the area around the river Kishon.
This river is the primary water source for the Jezreel Valley. In the dry season it is little more than a wadi, a dry riverbed. But in the rainy season the river and the surrounding land can become a large swamp. Sisera’s chariots would get bogged down in the mud and become useless.
God promised that Sisera’s army would be delivered into the hands of Barak and he would do so in the valley below Mount Tabor. The narrative in chapter four gives some detail of the ensuing battle.
Judges 4:14-16 NKJV 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, "Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the LORD gone out before you?" So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 15 And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
Sisera’s army was soundly defeated in the flooded plains near Megiddo. Seeing this horror, Sisera fled on foot and came to the tent of Heber the Kenite seeking refuge and a much needed rest.
Judges 4:17-19 NKJV 17 However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, "Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear." And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket. 19 Then he said to her, "Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty." So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him.
We were previously introduced to Heber in verse eleven. Seeking refuge in this tent would turn out to be a fatal error for Sisera.
Judges 4:20-21 NKJV 20 And he said to her, "Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, 'Is there any man here?' you shall say, 'No.'" 21 Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
In pursuit of Sisera, Barak also came upon the tent of Heber and was met by Jael. He entered the tent and found his adversary, Sisera, dead with the tent peg through his head. God had acted just as Deborah prophesied and Jabin was soundly defeated.
Judges 4:22-24 NKJV 22 And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, "Come, I will show you the man whom you seek." And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple. 23 So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. 24 And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
Through Jael, Deborah’s prophecy to Barak came to pass. Barak had led the army to a great victory with the complete route where not one soldier was left standing, but the death of the opposing commander, Sisera, was at the hand of a woman!
The entirety of Judges chapter five consists of the Song of Deborah. It is the one passage of scripture which connects this Haftarah with the Torah Portion Beshalach where we find the Song of Moses. One of the study questions for this teaching deals with the comparisons between the two songs so we won’t explore that aspect here. we will however, briefly look at some highlights that will help guide you in reading and studying this song.
The song contains many Hebrew parallelisms which are common in ancient Semitic poetry. The first type is synonymous parallelism where the first line is repeated in the second. Verse three is a good example of this type.
Judges 5:3 NKJV 3 "Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.
An example of climatic parallelism, where the first line is repeated in the second line, but with new detail added to it. An example of this type is found in verse nineteen:
Judges 5:19 NKJV 19 "The kings came and fought, Then the kings of Canaan fought In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; They took no spoils of silver.
The Song of Deborah gives all the glory to God as the one who accomplished the victory! The name of God, the yood, hey, vav, hey is used seven times, perhaps signifying divine completion. This is the name of God used when referring to the covenant keeping nature of God. Regardless of the state of the people of Israel, God was, and always is, faithful to His covenant with them.
There is another seven in the Song of Deborah which parallels the entirety of the events depicted in chapter four. The song of Debora recorded in chapter five can be broken down to seven components or stanzas. First, that the LORD is the source of victory which is found in verses one through five: Then Deborah is the prophet of victory, found in verses six through eleven: Barak is the commander of victory in verses twelve through eighteen: the army is the instrument of victory in verses nineteen through twenty three: Jael is the woman of victory in verses twenty four through twenty six: Sisera is vanquished in verses twenty eight through thirty: And finally, Israel is victorious in verse thirty one.
There is a richness and linguistic nuance contained in the Song of Deborah which cannot be experienced without reading it in the original Hebrew. For those who can do this, there is a blessing to be found in these words.
But beyond that, what lessons can we learn from this important historical account of this long-ago battle? One: Make sure that God is with you, and two: The glory for the victory is not ours, it belongs to God!
I think that we can clearly see, that even though Israel was in a sorry state where everyone did what was right in their own eyes and practiced evil in God’s eyes, it was still a time when God worked miracles of grace for His chosen people. This story of Deborah is one such time among many that we have examined in our recent studies. These same lessons being shown to the people of Deborah’s time also apply to us today. God’s intervention is for the purpose of bringing His people back to Him through their repentance and serves as a reminder to them that all the glory belongs to God!
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Beshalach Exodus 13:17-17:16?
2. What are some of the specific similarities between the Song of Moses, or Song of the Sea, found in Exodus 15 and the song of Deborah in Judges 5?
3. The Song of Deborah gives more details that are not included in the narrative in chapter 4. What are some of these details? Are they in conflict with, or do they enhance the story in chapter 4?
4. Look up the meaning of some of the other names in this Haftarah. How does the meaning of these names enhance the message of the story and Song of Deborah?
5. What can this Haftarah teach us about the role God has for women?
6. (Extra Credit) Two women of the Bible are called “most blessed among women;” Jael in Judges 5:24 and Mary (Miriam) in Luke 1:41-42. How are these two women connected?
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Sunday, January 13, 2019
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The scripture reading for this teaching is: Jeremiah 46:13-28
Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah during the tumultuous time encompassing the fall of the Assyrian Empire, the brief domination of Judah by Egypt, followed by the rise of Babylon culminating in Judah being taken into exile in Babylon. Jeremiah’s contemporary, Ezekiel prophesied during this time period as well, except he was prophesying from Babylon to the Jewish people who were already in exile with him. In a way, we can look at Jeremiah and Ezekiel as twin prophets both prophesying about the inevitable fall of Judah as well as judgment coming against the nations. Jeremiah’s main focus was warning the leaders of Judah that the fall of Jerusalem was coming and, unless they changed their ways quickly, it was inevitable. For all this, though, God told Jeremiah that he was a prophet, not to Judah, but to the nations.
Jeremiah 1:4-5 NKJV 4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Jeremiah’s words in chapter 46 verses 13-28 focus on the judgment coming on Egypt. What is God’s word through Jeremiah to the nations? What can we learn and apply today? Do his words have implications for the future?
Jeremiah had an extremely difficult task! He was a resident of Judah, yet God called him to be a prophet to the nations. The word translated “ordained” in Jeremiah 1:5 is the Hebrew word “natan,” number 5414 in Strong’s Concordance. It means to give. God gave Jeremiah to the nations to be His spokesperson. God called Him to speak His words of judgment from within a nation hostile to his message. While other so-called prophets said that God would deliver them from the hand of the Babylonians, Jeremiah said that their captivity by Babylon was a certainty. The leaders of Judah placed Jeremiah in stocks in the gate of Benjamin near the temple. Later, Jeremiah was held prisoner; he remained a prisoner until the day that Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon.
Jeremiah had an idea of what he was facing from the time that God called him when he was a young man, but God promised to be with him through everything that would happen to him.
Jeremiah 1:6-9 NKJV 6 Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." 7 But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD. 9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
God gave Jeremiah a huge task! Jeremiah’s mission was to root out evil in the nations and to plant God’s righteousness!
Jeremiah 1:10 NKJV 10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant."
Mostly, Jeremiah’s words to the nations were sent through emissaries. For example, Jeremiah sent God’s word to the leaders of the surrounding nations through their ambassadors to Judah that God had given all their lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
Jeremiah 27:2-4 NKJV 2 "Thus says the LORD to me: 'Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck, 3 'and send them to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 'And command them to say to their masters, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel-thus you shall say to your masters:
In our passage, Jeremiah relays the words of God about judgment against Egypt. To set up this prophecy, we need to look at the aspirations of Egypt and the events that led up to Egypt’s defeat. Egypt was a vassal and ally of the Assyrian Empire. When the power of Assyria was threatened by the rise of Babylon, Egypt, under Pharaoh Necho, took its army to the aid of Assyria. Their path took them right through Israel. King Josiah, seeking to stop Egypt’s army, engaged them in battle on the plains at the base of the hill of Megiddo. Egypt won the battle and King Josiah was killed. Josiah’s son Jehoahaz became king in his place, however, Pharaoh Necho captured Jehoahaz and imprisoned him. Necho made another of Josiah’s sons king and extracted tribute from him.
2 Kings 23:35 NKJV 35 So Jehoiakim gave the silver and gold to Pharaoh; but he taxed the land to give money according to the command of Pharaoh; he exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land, from every one according to his assessment, to give it to Pharaoh Necho.
Once Pharaoh Necho had control of Judah and the surrounding nations of Edom, Amon and Moab, he continued on his way north to the aid of Assyria. However, with his control of Judah, he had aspirations of building his own great empire.
Jeremiah 46:7-8 NKJV 7 "Who is this coming up like a flood, Whose waters like the rivers; And he says, 'I will go up and cover the earth, I will destroy the city and its inhabitants.'
Jeremiah goes on to say that when Egypt purposes to conquer and destroy, it will be the day of the LORD for them.
Jeremiah 46:9-10 NKJV 9 Come up, O horses, and rage, O chariots! And let the mighty men come forth: The Ethiopians and the Libyans who handle the shield, And the Lydians who handle and bend the bow. 10 For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, A day of vengeance, That He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; It shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; For the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice In the north country by the River Euphrates.
Egypt gathered its army which consisted of mercenary forces from Ethiopia, Libya, and Lydia. They marched north to Carchemish by the Euphrates River where they fought a battle with the Babylonians in aid of the Assyrians. There at the Battle of Carchemish in 604 BCE, Babylon defeated both the Assyrian and Egyptian armies. Both Assyria and Egypt are now on the run! Jeremiah describes Egypt’s defeat as an illness from which there is no cure.
Jeremiah 46:11-12 NKJV 11 "Go up to Gilead and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; In vain you will use many medicines; You shall not be cured. 12 The nations have heard of your shame, And your cry has filled the land; For the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; They both have fallen together."
The battle at Carchemish sealed the defeat of both Assyria and Egypt. Babylon first consolidated its victory over the Assyrian Empire before turning its eyes on the Egyptian controlled Israel and the nations surrounding it. This is where we pick up our scripture passage. The agent of Egypt’s defeat and destruction was Babylon.
Jeremiah 46:13 NKJV 13 The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon would come and strike the land of Egypt.
Jeremiah prophesies about the utter destruction of Egypt beginning with its armies.
Jeremiah 46:15-17 NAS95 15 "Why have your mighty ones become prostrate? They do not stand because the LORD has thrust them down. 16 "They have repeatedly stumbled; Indeed, they have fallen one against another. Then they said, 'Get up! And let us go back to our own people and our native land Away from the sword of the oppressor.' 17 "They cried there, 'Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a big noise; He has let the appointed time pass by!'
Jeremiah prophesied that the mercenaries Egypt hired would flee back to their own lands. Egypt’s armies would be decimated and no longer able to hold back the mighty forces of Babylon. The extent of that destruction is hidden in a Hebrew word play in verse 15. The Hebrew word translated as “mighty ones” is ab-beer, number 47 in Strong’s Concordance, meaning angels, bulls, mighty ones, or strong ones. One of Egypt’s main gods was Osiris represented by a bull or apis. As we continue, the phrase become prostrate is from the Hebrew phrasing “nes haf”, Phxn which literally means to be swept away. However, splitting the word to the individual words “nes” and “haf” as the Septuagint does, the meaning becomes “apis fled.” As we look at both the literal and deeper meaning of this passage, we see that not only is the army of Egypt destroyed but so are its gods! The fleeing mercenaries state that Pharaoh, who was also considered a god, is only a loud noise.
When the children of Israel fled from Egypt with Pharaoh in pursuit, Pharaoh stated that he would overtake and destroy the children of Israel. At that time, he was also only a loud noise and Egypt’s armies were destroyed.
Exodus 15:9-10 NAS95 9 "The enemy said, 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be gratified against them; I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them.' 10 "You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Just like the Pharaoh of Moses’ time missed the opportunity to let Israel go without having the judgment of God fall on it, so too, does Jeremiah say that Pharaoh Necho missed the time or opportunity to make a decision that would avert the coming disaster. Egypt would go into captivity!
Jeremiah goes on to describe Egypt as a heifer pestered and stung by horseflies or stinging insects. The mercenaries, no longer strong bulls, but fattened calves ready for slaughter, flee leaving the heifers unprotected.
Jeremiah 46:20-21 NAS95 20 "Egypt is a pretty heifer, But a horsefly is coming from the north--it is coming! 21 "Also her mercenaries in her midst Are like fattened calves, For even they too have turned back and have fled away together; They did not stand their ground. For the day of their calamity has come upon them, The time of their punishment.
Two of the plagues on Egypt were a plague of flies covering everything and a plague of pestilence on the cattle. The word translated as “horsefly” is “kaw-rats”, Number 7171 in Strong’s Concordance meaning, according to the Brown, Drive, Briggs lexicon, nipping or stinging insect, a gadfly. Strong’s lexicon defines it as destruction. “Kaw-rats” comes from a word meaning to pinch, bite or sting.
The destruction of Egypt shall be so complete that the loud noise or roar of Pharaoh becomes like the hissing of a serpent, and the people of the land, the entire population, fall like trees being cut down by the wood cutter.
Jeremiah 46:22-23 NKJV 22 Her noise shall go like a serpent, For they shall march with an army And come against her with axes, Like those who chop wood. 23 "They shall cut down her forest," says the LORD, "Though it cannot be searched, Because they are innumerable, And more numerous than grasshoppers.
Jeremiah concludes that this day of the LORD for Egypt is of judgment against the gods of the land as well as the leadership.
Jeremiah 46:25-26 NKJV 25 The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, says: "Behold, I will bring punishment on Amon of No, and Pharaoh and Egypt, with their gods and their kings-Pharaoh and those who trust in him. 26 "And I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of his servants. Afterward it shall be inhabited as in the days of old," says the LORD.
After forty years, the people of Egypt would return to the land, but Egypt would never regain the power it once held. Its aspirations to rule over all the Earth had been brought to nothing.
Jeremiah than turns to Israel to reassure her that God would be with them even as Nebuchadnezzar turns south after securing the land once held by Assyria as its own. Judgment against Egypt is all well and good, but Nebuchadnezzar’s path to Egypt goes straight through Israel! What would happen to them? Jeremiah prophesied that they would, also, go into captivity!
Jeremiah 37:6-8 NKJV 6 Then the word of the LORD came to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, 7 "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Thus you shall say to the king of Judah, who sent you to Me to inquire of Me: "Behold, Pharaoh's army which has come up to help you will return to Egypt, to their own land. 8 "And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city, and take it and burn it with fire."'
Judgment was coming to both Israel and Egypt but God told Israel not to fear.
Jeremiah 46:27-28 NKJV 27 "But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, And do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, And your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid. 28 Do not fear, O Jacob My servant," says the LORD, "For I am with you; For I will make a complete end of all the nations To which I have driven you, But I will not make a complete end of you. I will rightly correct you, For I will not leave you wholly unpunished."
God would bring back the descendants of Jacob. God would restore the land of Israel. Although the nations would face utter destruction – both Babylon and Assyria were completely destroyed – Israel would return.
God’s word to the nations is that they would face destruction because of the god’s they worshiped and their lust for power. Jeremiah’s prophecies against the nations don’t end with the prophecy of judgment coming to Egypt. Jeremiah prophesies that judgment will fall on Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Elam, and, finally, on the agent of judgment, Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:11-12 NKJV 11 "Because you were glad, because you rejoiced, You destroyers of My heritage, Because you have grown fat like a heifer threshing grain, And you bellow like bulls, 12 Your mother shall be deeply ashamed; She who bore you shall be ashamed. Behold, the least of the nations shall be a wilderness, A dry land and a desert.
As the time of Yeshua’s coming approaches, Egypt will seek to gain power and come out of her land to go against a new empire that will rise out of Babylon. This new empire will set its face to the south to take Israel, the surrounding nations, and Egypt. God will appoint two prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah to be His witnesses and to speak His words. Once again, Israel and Egypt will be taken.
Daniel 11:40-43 NKJV 40 "At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. 41 "He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. 42 "He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 "He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels.
Even though this will be a time of terror, Daniel, like Jeremiah, tells the people not to fear, God will deliver His people.
Daniel 12:1 NKJV 1 "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.
Although Israel and Egypt will fall to this new Babylon from the north, God will bring about the judgment and destruction of this Babylon.
Revelation 18:1-2 NKJV 1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
What is Jeremiah’s word to the nations? How does he fulfill his mission to uproot and to plant? Jeremiah brought the word of the LORD for the nations to turn from their evil ways and to do good.
Jeremiah 18:7-10 NKJV 7 "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 "if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 "And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 "if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
We, also, need to hear Jeremiah’s words of warning. We need to turn from our evil ways and do good! Yeshua said that those who do the will of His Father will have their inheritance in the kingdom of God. Let us be diligent to pray for our own nations; that our leaders would follow God and seek true justice for her people. Let us practice that in our own lives.
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Bo Exodus 10:1-13:6?
2. In what ways are Ezekiel and Jeremiah like the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-11? How are they different?
3. We tend to think of the day of the LORD as being a one-time event ushering in the reign of Yeshua. What is the day of the LORD in Jeremiah 46:10? How does this change your understanding of this phrase?
4. How did Jeremiah fulfil his role as prophet to the nations even though he was always among the Jewish people? How could that apply to us?
5. Compare Jeremiah 46:27-28 with Yeshua’s words in Matthew 24:6-31. Is Yeshua talking about the same event? What is different about these accounts?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved.
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Join us each Shabbat at 10:00 am Pacific time for our weekly service. Watch our midweek video teaching on Wednesday nights, download the discussion questions from our midweek teaching (available from our website at MoedMinistries.com) and be ready to join in the discussion on Shabbat. We live stream our service on the home page of our website, Livestream.com and on our Moed Ministries International Facebook page.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The video version of this teaching is available at: https://youtu.be/S7D8zsgeXiU
The scripture reading for this teaching is Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Last week at our Shabbat Service, our discussion questions included one about how we sanctify or hallow God’s name. Since, because of time constraints, we didn’t get to it to any degree, we assigned the question as “homework” for our congregation. It just so happens that this week’s Haftarah reading from the prophet Ezekiel is all about how God’s name will be sanctified or hallowed in Israel and the nations. It opens with a tremendous promise with the last two verses of chapter 28.
Ezekiel 28:25-26 NKJV 25 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. 26 "And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God."'"
Ezekiel is telling his readers, and us, that Israel will be regathered from their exile and reestablished in their land. Through this restoration, God will be sanctified or hallowed before the entire world. Everyone will see that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the creator of the universe. How is this sanctification accomplished by God’s actions and dealings with these other nations? Ezekiel’s prophesy in this Haftarah reading is primarily dealing with Egypt, however Egypt is often a metaphor for the nations in general.
The prophecies of Ezekiel are perhaps the easiest to date because the prophet himself was careful to reference dates in his writings. In order to understand Ezekiel, and any Biblical prophets and their prophecy for that matter, it is important to have a clear picture of the historical context of their writings.
Ezekiel was born around 622 BCE into a priestly linage. His age and date of birth are inferred from the dating of his first divine encounter.
Ezekiel 1:1-2 NKJV 1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity,
Ezekiel was born and raised in Judah and was an eye witness to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Ezekiel’s prophecies contained in this week’s haftarah deal with Egypt. Egypt played an important role at this critical time in Judah’s history.
Around the time of Ezekiel’s birth, Babylon was a rising power in the Middle East. Egypt had allied itself with Assyria to try and stop the aggression of Babylon. We are familiar with the story of Judah’s king Josiah who led the Judean army against Pharaoh Necho’s Egyptian army to stop them from joining up with the Assyrians. The ensuing battle at Megiddo resulted in the death of Josiah when he was struck by an arrow just as the battle began.
This attempt to stop the Assyrians failed, Josiah died, and after a succession of evil kings, Judah fell into the hands of the Babylonians and were taken into exile. Ezekiel, along with the priesthood and the temple treasury, were among the first to be taken captive. All of Ezekiel’s prophecies are given while in captivity in Babylon.
Five times in this week’s Haftarah, Ezekiel uses the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD.” The first time this phrase is used is when Ezekiel speaks of Israel’s return from captivity and possession of the land that was promised to them in the covenant with Abraham. We have already read Ezekiel 28:25-26 in the opening of this Haftarah where Ezekiel speaks of their return and the conditions that they will find in the land.
While in captivity, it would have been an easy matter for the people to lose hope and simply forget their heritage and their God and assimilate into Babylonian society. In the first place their exile to Babylon was the result of their turning away from God and adopting the ways and religious practices of their pagan neighbors. Through his prophecies, Ezekiel supplies the people of Judah with hope for their return and also pronounces God’s judgment on Israel’s enemies, specifically Egypt.
The choice of words in Ezekiel 28:26-27 is quite interesting. As we examine the original Hebrew text, we see that in the Hebrew the word translated as “gathered” is in the perfect tense. It is as if their return to the land and their prosperity is as good as accomplished. This is a great assurance that they will be rescued from their captivity and dwell in their own land in prosperity.
In Ezekiel chapter 29, the prophet begins his prophecy against Egypt. God will be known through Egypt’s demise.
Ezekiel 29:1-3 NKJV 1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt. 3 "Speak, and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, 'My River is my own; I have made it for myself.'
Egypt was historically a frequent thorn in the side of the people of Israel. Probably for good reason. Actually, the next several chapters of Ezekiel are devoted to this prophecy against Egypt. In our reading for this week, Ezekiel uses a couple of metaphors to describe God’s judgment on Egypt.
In verse 3, the words translated as “great monster” is the Hebrew word “tannim.” #8577 meaning a marine or land monster, sea-serpent or dragon, etc. It is most often used to describe a crocodile with which the Nile River was infested.
In ancient Egypt, the Nile river and the crocodile were considered sacred. The crocodile itself was worshiped as a god. A Jewish commentary explains:
“The ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile was holy and the Crocodiles inhabiting it possessed divine powers. One huge crocodile was believed to rule over all of them, and to have created himself as well as the Nile. To this huge crocodile, the prophet (Ezekiel) compared Pharaoh; for his power on land was equivalent to that of the crocodile in the Nile.”[i]
Ezekiel continues his prophecy against Egypt with this comparison and speaks of Pharaoh’s demise.
Ezekiel 29:4-5 NKJV 4 But I will put hooks in your jaws, And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, And all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales. 5 I will leave you in the wilderness, You and all the fish of your rivers; You shall fall on the open field; You shall not be picked up or gathered. I have given you as food To the beasts of the field And to the birds of the heavens.
The way to render a crocodile helpless is to use a hook in its jaw and bring it out of its primary environment, the water. Ezekiel is using the imagery of the crocodile/creator god of Egypt to illustrate that Pharaoh, and hence all of Egypt, will be brought down. Egypt will face their own exile when, as Ezekiel put it, they are “given… as food to the beasts of the field and to the birds of the heavens.” Egypt will be broken and brought down.
Ezekiel 29:6-7 NKJV 6 "Then all the inhabitants of Egypt Shall know that I am the LORD, Because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. 7 When they took hold of you with the hand, You broke and tore all their shoulders; When they leaned on you, You broke and made all their backs quiver."
In this way, through the demise of Pharaoh and the power of Egypt, the LORD will be hallowed or known among the nations!
Ezekiel 29:8-9 NKJV 8 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will bring a sword upon you and cut off from you man and beast. 9 "And the land of Egypt shall become desolate and waste; then they will know that I am the LORD, because he said, 'The River is mine, and I have made it.'
In verse 9, Ezekiel reveals that God would be known through the desolation of Egypt. The LORD is the creator of the Nile and the giver of life and power, not their crocodile god. God would make their once beautiful and fertile land a wasteland and a desert.
The word translated a desolate is #8077 Shem-aw-mah’, meaning devastation, desolation, or waste. The word also implies astonishment. People will look upon the devastated land of Egypt in horror and astonishment at how they have been brought down and left in a state of devastation. The Nile river is the lifeline for the prosperity of Egypt. It seems that Ezekiel is suggesting the God’s judgment on Egypt would include a demise or shrinkage of the Nile.
Ezekiel 29:10 NKJV 10 "Indeed, therefore, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia.
As suggested by Ezekiel in verse 9, Egypt would recognize the LORD as the God of the universe and creator of all, including the Nile.
The judgment pronounced on Egypt through Ezekiel’s prophecy went even further, God would be known through Egypt’s reversal of fortune. They would experience an exile which paralleled that of Judah’s exile to Babylon.
Ezekiel 29:11-12 NKJV 11 "Neither foot of man shall pass through it nor foot of beast pass through it, and it shall be uninhabited forty years. 12 "I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and among the cities that are laid waste, her cities shall be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries."
Ezekiel’s words seem to indicate that the exile of the Egyptians and the desolation of their land would be worse than the desolation of the surrounding nations. John B Taylor in his commentary on Ezekiel writes:
“… subsequent history has consisted of repeated conquests and humiliation. (for Egypt) She has never been anything more than a “lowly kingdom” and it is unlikely that she will ever again enjoy the glory that once was hers.”[ii]
Ezekiel later give a prophecy about the return of Egypt to their land, but unlike the promises given to Judah and Israel, Egypt will never again obtain the glory she once had.
Ezekiel 29:13-16 NKJV 13 'Yet, thus says the Lord GOD: "At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. 14 "I will bring back the captives of Egypt and cause them to return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. 15 "It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore. 16 "No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD."'"
Ezekiel, then, shows that God would be known through fulfilled prophecy. In this last section of our Haftarah reading we see the prediction of specific events which will cause the previous prophecies to come to pass.
Ezekiel 29:17-20 NKJV 17 And it came to pass in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 18 "Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it. 19 "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. 20 'I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,' says the Lord GOD.
This last prophecy of Ezekiel in our Haftarah reading is given seventeen years later. Judah and the Children of Israel had been carried off into exile in foreign lands, yet God was not finished with His work! Judgment continued for Israel’s neighbors even as Israel’s exile in Babylon and Assyria continued. The king of Babylon laid siege to the port city of Tyre but came up dry after thirteen years of effort. The city had sent their treasures out to sea and there was no plunder for the Babylonian army.
Beginning in verse 29, Ezekiel says that God will give Egypt to Babylon. All through Israel’s time in exile, God is still faithful to His covenant with the Children of Israel and working to destroy their enemies. God allowed the Babylonians to succeed the Assyrians as the super power of the region. God allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem, to destroy the temple, and take Judah into captivity as judgment for their iniquities.
God allowed the Babylonians to capture Egypt. A fragment of an ancient Babylonian text, part of what is known as the “Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings” records Babylon invading Egypt about 568/567 BCE corresponding to the history recorded by Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews.
The Haftarah begins where it started with a promise to restore Israel to their land which was promised to them through Abraham.
Ezekiel 29:21 NKJV 21 'In that day I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth, and I will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.'"
The phrase, “the horn of the House of Israel” has been problematic with Bible scholars and commentators for centuries. What is this “horn?” This verse in Ezekiel is the only place in scripture where this exact phrase is used. The Hebrew word for horn here is #7161 keh-ren meaning a corner as in the corner of the altar or a mountain peak. Figuratively it means power, as from a leader. We see this usage in 1st Samuel
1 Samuel 2:10 NKJV 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed."
And in 2nd Samuel.
2 Samuel 22:3 NKJV 3 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.
This is the context in which, I think Ezekiel is using the term “horn.” This final verse of chapter 29 is not only speaking of the return of the people from exile in Babylon, but also of the ultimate return at the end of the age when Messiah will be that horn and finally establish a united kingdom in the land!
Daniel, being a contemporary of Ezekiel speaks of horns as evil leaders and kings found in his vision in chapter 8.
Daniel 8:8-9 NKJV 8 Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. 9 And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.
The book of Revelation has imagery similar to Daniel’s vision using “horns” to describe kings who bow down to the beast. But the key to understanding Ezekiel’s prophecy in this Haftarah is to refer to the words of Zacharias as his voice is returned to him after the birth of his son John the Baptist.
Luke 1:67-70 NKJV 67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 68 "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,
This prophecy spoken by Zacharias, which continues for several more verses, reflects Ezekiel’s words and speaks of a horn rising from the house of David who is none other than the promised Messiah!
It is our prayer as believers in Yeshua the Messiah that all the world will come to believe in the one true God. That all of the Jewish people will hear the words of the prophets and see their prophecies being fulfilled in their very midst. Ezekiel was and is the faithful messenger of God and his words are just as trustworthy and accurate today as they were in his time. This is the intent of Ezekiel’s final words in our Haftarah, “… I (God) will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Va’era Exodus 6:2-9:35?
2. The Bible often uses Egypt as a metaphor for the nations in general. In this Haftarah, we learned that God is known through the humbling of Egypt. How can this be applied to the nations today?
3. Discuss the reference in Ezekiel 29:6-7 to Egypt being referred to as a “staff of reeds” to Israel.
4. What are the four theological lessons that Egypt, and by extension, the nations and us today to learn from Ezekiel’s prophecy?
5. The Jewish people have experienced dispersion and exile from their land several times over their history and yet, have been able to maintain their ethnic and religious identity despite their exile. Discuss how that have accomplished this when no other civilization in history has be able to do so. What are both the positive and negative aspects of this accomplishment?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved