Wednesday, January 30, 2019
By Dan and Brenda Cathcart
The reading for this teaching is: Jeremiah 33:25-26, 34:8-22
One central theme throughout both the Tanach as well as the New Covenant writings is release from slavery. Whether that slavery is literal, such as the Children of Israel being released from Egypt, or in a more spiritual or figurative sense with our release from the bondage of sin, the LORD is faithful to His covenants despite our shortcomings and stubbornness.
In our Haftarah reading this week we return to the book of Jeremiah where it opens with two rather profound and complex verses.
Jeremiah 33:25-26 NKJV 25 "Thus says the LORD: 'If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, 26 'then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return and will have mercy on them.'"
Why would this Haftarah open with these two verses then skip to a section of the next chapter which focuses on slavery? What is the connection? As we dig a little deeper, we will see that this Haftarah is about much more than just slavery.
The Torah portion title for this week is Mishpatim which means enactments or judgments and outlines the conditions and dispositions of slavery within the community of God’s people. How were slaves to be treated? Specifically, slaves who were themselves counted among God’s chosen people. How are the Biblical regulations of slavery, and this story of Zedekiah in particular, a picture of our redemption from slavery to sin by the blood of Yeshua?
The bulk of this week Haftarah reading is concerning the covenant king Zedekiah made with the people involving the release of their Hebrew slaves. Zedekiah was the third son of the great king Josiah. Josiah was the last truly good king of Judah, leading the people in following the Torah of God. All three of Josiah’s sons would sit on the throne of Judah following Josiah’s defeat and death at Megiddo, but none would ever live up to the example of Josiah.
But who is Zedekiah? Zedekiah was the last of Josiah’s sons who obtained the throne by appointment. During Zedekiah’s reign, Judah was a vassal kingdom, paying tribute as a subordinate to king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Zedekiah came to power following a great captivity when Judah had been stripped of most of its army, the entire priesthood, as well as many of their skilled artisans, merchants and politically connected people. The prophet Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, himself a priest, was among the first group taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The name Zedekiah was give to him by king Nebuchadnezzar.
2 Kings 24:15-17 NKJV 15 And he carried Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. The king's mother, the king's wives, his officers, and the mighty of the land he carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 All the valiant men, seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths, one thousand, all who were strong and fit for war, these the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. 17 Then the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
Zedekiah was really stuck between the proverbial rock and the hard place. He did not have the support of the people, who had again fallen into rebellion and rejection of the Torah and the LORD’s covenant with them. And he owed loyalty to Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar who had put him in power. What was Zedekiah to do? How could he survive this contradictory and politically dangerous position?
To top it off, Zedekiah receives a frightening message from Jeremiah regarding his fate.
Jeremiah 34:1-3 NKJV 1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army, all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem and all its cities, saying, 2 "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: 'Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. 3 'And you shall not escape from his hand, but shall surely be taken and delivered into his hand; your eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon, he shall speak with you face to face, and you shall go to Babylon.'"'
Perhaps with the help of his closest friends and advisors, Zedekiah decides to enter into a covenant with the LORD and with the people. From the text it is difficult to ascertain his motivation for doing this. Was Zedekiah entering into this covenant out of conscience or for reasons of convenience? Regardless of the motivation, it is clear that Zedekiah entered into a binding covenant with the people and with God.
Jeremiah 34:8-10 NKJV 8 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were at Jerusalem to proclaim liberty to them: 9 that every man should set free his male and female slave-a Hebrew man or woman-that no one should keep a Jewish brother in bondage. 10 Now when all the princes and all the people, who had entered into the covenant, heard that everyone should set free his male and female slaves, that no one should keep them in bondage anymore, they obeyed and let them go.
This was a covenant entered into by means of the ancient traditions where a sacrifice is made, the parts of the sacrificial animal are split into two, and the parties walk between them. The understanding was that the one who broke a covenant would then be treated as the covenant sacrifice and cut into two pieces. The covenant that Zedekiah made was to honor the Torah in regard to the treatment of slaves.
It had been more than seven hundred years since the Children of Israel had been released from slavery in Egypt and God had established them in their land and given them a system of laws that were radically different than those common to other ancient Near East cultures. Generally, slavery at this time, and throughout most of history, was a particularly brutal practice. Slave were treated as mere property, not unlike a piece of furniture or any other household item. The practice of slavery in Roman times is well documented and typical of the conditions of slaves in the ancient world.
Since the death of Josiah, the Children of Israel had ignored the Torah laws regarding the indentured servitude of fellow Hebrews and reverted to the common practices of the surrounding nations. These laws are enumerated in Leviticus chapter twenty-five.
Leviticus 25:39-43 NKJV 39 'And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. 40 'As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 'And then he shall depart from you-he and his children with him-and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers. 42 'For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 'You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God.
The Torah says that their fellow Hebrew was to be treated with the same respect and dignity that one was to give to a neighbor or even a family member. But the Israelites of Zedekiah’s time were not following the Torah. Zedekiah essentially renewed the provisions of the covenant regarding their brethren as indentured slaves, but their observance of this covenant was to be short lived.
Jeremiah 34:11 NKJV 11 But afterward they changed their minds and made the male and female slaves return, whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection as male and female slaves.
Whatever spiritual revival resulted among the inhabitants of Judah at that time due to this covenant, died right then and there. Jeremiah goes on to give a stern warning and prediction to Zedekiah.
Jeremiah 34:12-16 NKJV 12 Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 13 "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: 'I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, saying, 14 "At the end of seven years let every man set free his Hebrew brother, who has been sold to him; and when he has served you six years, you shall let him go free from you." But your fathers did not obey Me nor incline their ear. 15 'Then you recently turned and did what was right in My sight-every man proclaiming liberty to his neighbor; and you made a covenant before Me in the house which is called by My name. 16 'Then you turned around and profaned My name, and every one of you brought back his male and female slaves, whom he had set at liberty, at their pleasure, and brought them back into subjection, to be your male and female slaves.'
By reclaiming their Hebrew slaves, they were violating several provisions of God’s covenant with them. First by forcing their former slaves back into a condition of slavery they were, in effect, kidnapping them! At the point of their release, they had become liberated, or were once again free citizens, not in debt to anyone! They were now being taken into slavery outside of the provisions outlined in Leviticus chapter twenty-five! By reclaiming their slaves, they also profaned the name of God because they entered into this covenant in the precincts of the Temple. And by reclaiming the people as slaves they were also breaking their word to each other.
God’s judgement against the people is severe. But why did God’s judgment fall on them at this time? The Children of Israel had been violating various Torah laws and provisions for centuries. As we read in the time of the judges and under the reign of all the kings of the northern tribes, and many of those of Judah, their sins against God and each other appear far more extensive than this example in our Haftarah. Why now? Was God over reacting in His judgment? Jeremiah tells them what is to come:
Jeremiah 34:17-20 NKJV 17 "Therefore thus says the LORD: 'You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming liberty, everyone to his brother and everyone to his neighbor. Behold, I proclaim liberty to you,' says the LORD-'to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine! And I will deliver you to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 'And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it- 19 'the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf- 20 'I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the earth.
That is a harsh punishment for a single transgression of the Torah laws regarding slavery! Especially in light of the fact that for centuries prior, both Israel and Judah were engaged in far greater sins including idolatry, murder, and the sacrificing of their children.
Covenants are sacred, and they had made a covenant with God in the Temple! As such, God was a witness and party to this covenant. If people were allowed to treat this covenant lightly, then it would leave the impression that God also treats His covenant obligations lightly. And this wasn’t just any covenant, it was a covenant which dealt with slavery, the very thing that God released them from when they were in Egypt. It is interesting to note that among the cultures of the ancient Near East, the Bible is the only document which begins its list of enactments or mishpatim with rules about slavery.
In a commentary by the Jewish Publication Society, Nahum Sarna writes:
“The priority given by the Torah doubtless has a historical explanation: Having recently experienced liberation from bondage, the Israelite is enjoined to be especially sensitive to the condition of the slave.”[i]
As we read in Exodus chapter twenty five, the Torah says that a fellow Hebrew who finds himself as a slave to another Hebrew is to have a special status. He is a brother and was not to be treated as Israel was treated when they were slaves in Egypt. When the people broke their covenant at this time, they also violated one of the most important Torah provisions and insulted God in the process. No wonder God’s response was so severe! Judgment would come to Judah by the hands of the Babylonians.
Jeremiah 34:21-22 NKJV 21 'And I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon's army which has gone back from you. 22 'Behold, I will command,' says the LORD, 'and cause them to return to this city. They will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.'"
King Zedekiah would face judgment as well, but his life would be spared. His judgment would be to be taken into captivity in humiliation to face the Babylonian king.
Jeremiah 34:2-5 NKJV 2 "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: 'Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. 3 'And you shall not escape from his hand, but shall surely be taken and delivered into his hand; your eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon, he shall speak with you face to face, and you shall go to Babylon.'"' 4 "Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says the LORD concerning you: 'You shall not die by the sword. 5 'You shall die in peace; as in the ceremonies of your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so they shall burn incense for you and lament for you, saying, "Alas, lord!" For I have pronounced the word, says the LORD.'"
Even though the end of this Haftarah reading ends with Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Children of Israel will be defeated, the city of Jerusalem burned and left desolate, and king Zedekiah along with the remaining population taken off to Babylon, we know that this isn’t the end of the story. The opening two verses of this Haftarah reading would be best left to read at the end of this portion. It might serve us well to read them again.
Jeremiah 33:25-26 NKJV 25 "Thus says the LORD: 'If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, 26 'then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.'"
We can see that God takes His covenants seriously! God kept His obligations under this covenant even though Israel and Judah did not. But how does this Haftarah relate to us and our relationship to God through Messiah Yeshua? When we accepted the sacrifice that Yeshua made, we too entered into a covenant relationship with God. Yes, we fail from time to time because of our flesh and our sin nature. But God is faithful to his obligations under this covenant as well. Our salvation is built upon His promise to never forsake His obligation to His covenants.
Hebrews 9:15 NKJV 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Just like with Israel, God may prescribe discipline on us, yet just like the promise to the People of Judah in Zedekiah’s time, God will always remain faithful to His people and He will restore them, and we are no exception.
God kept His promises to the Children of Israel and brought them back from their captivity and restored their nation once again. And the modern State of Israel owes her very existence to God’s covenant promises, and so do we. Yeshua reminds us of His covenant keeping promise in John’s gospel.
John 10:26-30 NKJV 26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. 30 "I and My Father are one."
We have learned that this Haftarah is indeed about much more than slavery. It is all about the nature of covenants and their importance in our relationship with the LORD of hosts. It is about His unfailing, covenant keeping nature and His promise to all who call on His name. Just as the battered and beaten Israel needed to be reminded of God’s Covenantal promise to them and their relationship to Him through His covenant, so do we who claim to know Messiah Yeshua. Just like with the Children of Israel, we also from time to time will fall victim to our own shortcomings. But by our reliance on, and faithfulness to His word, we are reminded that we have entered into a covenantal relationship with Him through a better sacrifice and, by extension, a better promise, He will forever and always be faithful to that covenant!
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Mishpatim Exodus 21:1-24:18?
2. Discuss the connection of this teaching with last weeks teaching that included the Northern kingdom of Israel taking captives from Judah. See 2 Chronicles 28,
3. Why was Zedekiah spared the immediate punishment of death for breaking the covenant unlike the others? What eventually happened to Zedekiah and how is his final disposition a worse punishment? Why do you think God promised Zedekiah that he would die in peace?
4. Why do you think that the return of the Babylonians to sack the city of Jerusalem and take all the remaining people captive is appropriate discipline for breaking the covenant?
5. According to Leviticus 25:39-43 the children of Israel could not, in practice, be actual slaves in the household of another Israelite. Compare their actual practice of slavery with this passage as well as the words of Yeshua and the apostle Paul.
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved.
Saturday, January 26, 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 23, 2019
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The video version of this teaching is available at:
The scripture reading is: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:6-7
The prophet Isaiah prophesies in Judah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The section of Isiah’s prophesies that we will examine here in Isaiah 6:1 through 9:7 involve the time from the death of Uzziah to the middle of Ahaz’s reign. Over the course of this interval of time, Judah would go from one of its most prosperous states under Uzziah to the lowest it had ever been. It would, of course, fall even further in the days leading to its exile, but at this time exile was still far away and Judah experienced near destruction under the reign of Ahaz.
Isaiah’s name, Yesha-Yahu in the Hebrew, means Yehovah has saved. The overall theme of Isaiah’s prophesies are that Yehovah is the source of salvation and that He will save His people. This is dramatically demonstrated in this passage when Judah faces utter destruction for the first time with the house of David being the focus of that destruction. In what way does Isaiah reassure the people that the line of David will continue? In what way does he condemn the people for their continued pride and idolatry and condemn Ahaz? How will the house of David prevail?
During the reign of King Uzziah, who is also called Azariah, Judah prospered greatly. The account of his reign in 2 Chronicles chapter 26 describes Uzziah as winning back the land lost in battles with Edom and Israel under his father. Uzziah built watch towers and fortified cities throughout Judah. He dug wells and promoted the growth of agriculture. Finally, he built, trained and maintained a strong military force. In his successes, Uzziah grew proud and attempted to enter into the temple of God and offer the incense on the altar. As a result, Uzziah spent the final years of his life as a leper, and his son Jotham reigned as co-regent. This excessive pride was not just an attribute of the king; the people of Judah shared this tendency.
Isaiah 3:16-17 NKJV 16 Moreover the LORD says: "Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks And wanton eyes, Walking and mincing as they go, Making a jingling with their feet, 17 Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab The crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, And the LORD will uncover their secret parts."
Although from the outward appearance, the kingdom of Judah was in great shape, the seeds of her destruction had already begun to show. The first sign was the pride of Uzziah resulting in God striking him with leprosy. The NKJV Study Bible states that of Jotham’s sixteen year reign, eleven of them were as co-regent with his father. When Uzziah died, he was buried apart from the other kings of Israel because of his leprosy. We pick up Isaiah’s prophesies in the year that King Uzziah died and in the final five years of Jotham’s reign. Isaiah is taken up into heaven to see the heavenly throne room.
Isaiah 6:1-4 NKJV 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
What a contrast from that of the throne of Uzziah! Isaiah immediately saw the contrast and realized how far short of God’s standard the people of Judah had already fallen.
Isaiah 6:5 NKJV 5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
God didn’t reassure Isaiah that he was mistaken about this fallen state; Instead Isaiah’s fallen state was addressed and taken care of.
Isaiah 6:6-7 NKJV 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged."
The contrast between the kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of God could not be more pronounced! Those in Judah thought they were doing alright. They were certainly better than their recent enemies of Edom and even their brothers in the northern kingdom of Israel. Both Uzziah and Jotham were described as doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. However, they tolerated the high places set up in the time of Solomon as the kings of Judah had before them. But Isaiah had seen the difference between what Judah was and what was necessary to go into God’s presence. Now that Isaiah had understood the difference, God could send him out with the message.
Isaiah 6:8-10 NKJV 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." 9 And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' 10 "Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed."
The message is clear; judgment was coming on the people of the LORD. The voice of the LORD goes on to describe the utter destruction facing Judah until only a tenth would remain.
King Jotham continued the practices and policies of his father, and Judah continued to prosper under his reign. However, things began to fall apart as Syria and Israel, who had conquered much of Judah during the reign of Uzziah’s father Amaziah, sought to gain control over Judah.
2 Kings 15:37 NKJV 37 In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah.
Motivation for Syria and Israel’s attack on Judah can be found in the writings of the Assyrians. Alfred Edersheim in his book Bible History Old Testament explains that Assyrian writings reveal a connection between Assyria and Judah from the time of Uzziah. During Uzziah’s long reign, Assyria had begun to make inroads against Israel and Syria exacting tribute or ransom from Israel as recorded in 2 kings 15. With threats from both the north and the south, Israel and Syria had motivation to deepen their alliance. At the time of Uzziah, Judah was too strong for Israel and Syria to conquer, however when Jotham became king, Syria and Israel tested that strength. When Jotham died and a weaker Ahaz took the throne, Syria and Israel decided to eliminate the threat to the south and strengthen their position against Assyria. They brought Judah’s enemies Edom and Philistia into their alliance. Because Ahaz did evil in the sight of God and the people of Judah had hardened their hearts against God, God allowed Syria and Israel to have an overwhelming victory over Judah.
2 Chronicles 28:5-6 NKJV 5 Therefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria. They defeated him, and carried away a great multitude of them as captives, and brought them to Damascus. Then he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who defeated him with a great slaughter. 6 For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers.
The armies of Judah were totally destroyed by Syria and Israel. Israel had deployed their forces around Judah but had been unable to take it. However, news reached Ahaz that Syria was on the way to join Israel. Ahaz and the rulers of Judah were terrified!
Isaiah 7:1-2 NKJV 1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it. 2 And it was told to the house of David, saying, "Syria's forces are deployed in Ephraim." So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.
It was probably during this siege of Jerusalem when Ahaz was inspecting the water sources for the besieged city, that Isaiah approached him with the news that Syria and Ephraim would not be successful in their attempt to take the city.
Isaiah 7:3-4 NKJV 3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller's Field, 4 "and say to him: 'Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.
Isaiah, whose name, as we know, means Yehovah has saved, brings his son Shear-Yashub with him. Shear-Yashub, number 7610 in Strong’s Concordance, means “a remnant will return.” Although God had allowed Israel and Syria to have great victories over Judah, God would not allow them to take Jerusalem. In fact, Shear-Yashub’s presence was a sign that those of Judah who were taken captive by Israel would be returned to their homes! Yehovah would save!
After the battles in Judah, Israel carried away two hundred thousand women and children as captives to be sold as slaves. A prophet of the LORD met them in Samaria and demanded their release.
2 Chronicles 28:9-11 NKJV 9 But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out before the army that came to Samaria, and said to them: "Look, because the LORD God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven. 10 "And now you propose to force the children of Judah and Jerusalem to be your male and female slaves; but are you not also guilty before the LORD your God? 11 "Now hear me, therefore, and return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you."
Four leaders of the tribe of Ephraim who heard the prophet supported him and the prisoners were released, tended, and eventually taken to Jericho where they were released.
Israel and Syria went beyond what God would allow! Not only did they take the women and children captive, they plotted to overthrow the ruling house of David!
Isaiah 7:6 NKJV 6 "Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel" -
They plotted to put a Syrian named Tabel as king over Judah! The rebellion of the tribes of Israel against the house of David that began at the time of Solomon’s son Rehoboam was now complete and God would bring the Assyrians against them in judgment!
Isaiah 7:17 NKJV 17 "The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father's house-days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah."
Even though Ahaz did evil in the sight of the LORD, God would preserve the house of David! Isaiah explains the certainty that the plot against Jerusalem and the house of David would fail.
Isaiah 7:7-9 NKJV 7 'thus says the Lord GOD: "It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, And the head of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken, So that it will not be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, And the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established."'"
Isaiah concludes with the statement that if Ahaz would not believe, then he would not be established. To emphasize the importance of this pronouncement, Isaiah uses a Hebrew word play. The Hebrew words for “believe” and “establish” are the same Hebrew word “aman,” from which we get the word “amen.” God then required a response from Ahaz. Would Ahaz “believe” and be “established” or not? Isaiah records that question as coming directly from God!
Isaiah 7:10-12 NKJV 10 Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 "Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above." 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!"
Ahaz failed the test! He did not believe and would not be established! In fact, Ahaz turns to the Assyrians for help instead of believing Isaiah’s word from God.
However, God still gave a sign to the house of David. The word “you” in this passage is in the plural. God has turned from talking to Ahaz to talking to the house of David!
Isaiah 7:13-14 NKJV 13 Then he said, "Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
In context, we can see that Isaiah is talking about the rise of a king in place of Ahaz. Isaiah had been shown the King on his throne in heaven as contrast to the leprous King Uzziah. The kings of Syria and Israel wanted to put their own king on the throne of David! Then, Ahaz rejected the sign given to him; Ahaz did not believe and would not be established! Therefore, the kingship would be given to a child not yet born; His throne would be established! The Jewish commentators associate this child with King Hezekiah who was a complete opposite of his father Ahaz! In many respects, Hezekiah is a shadow of what the Messianic king will be like. However, Hezekiah would have already been born at the time of this prophecy. Ahaz only reigned sixteen years and Hezekiah became king after him when he was twenty five years old. Hezekiah would have been nine years old when Ahaz become king.
Who is this child? The child would be born from a virgin. The NKJV Study Bible explains:
“… the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in the second century B.C., translates the Hebrew word with a Greek word that specifically means “virgin.”[i]
The child’s name would be Immanuel, number 6005 in Strong’s Concordance, meaning “God is with us.” This child, Immanuel, was not yet born and wouldn’t be old enough to change the upcoming events. God said that before the child would be old enough to know right and wrong, the threat from Syria and Israel would be gone!
Isaiah 7:15-16 NKJV 15 "Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 "For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.
The child would eat curds and honey which doesn’t sound bad until we contrast it with the promise of grain, wine, and oil that God provides when the children of Israel are following Him. Isaiah describes those left in the land of the northern tribes of Israel after the mighty Assyrian army sweeps them away. He says that the remnant left in the land would have only a cow and a few sheep from which to feed their families.
Isaiah 7:21-22 NKJV 21 It shall be in that day That a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep; 22 So it shall be, from the abundance of milk they give, That he will eat curds; For curds and honey everyone will eat who is left in the land.
It seems this child would live in a time when the children of Israel are not following God; he would know hardship and want. This child would live among the humble and lowly and would learn to refuse the evil and choose the good! He would associate with the remnant! No king of Israel has experienced this until the birth of Yeshua! The angel that appeared to Joseph explains the fulfillment of this sign.
Matthew 1:20-23 NKJV 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
Remember, Isaiah’s name means Yehovah has saved. This Child is named Yeshua, a form of the name Yehoshua or Joshua, number 3091 in Strong’s Concordance, meaning Yehovah saved. This Child is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s mission; He is Immanuel, God with Us!
In chapter 8 of Isaiah, Isaiah laments the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians. God gave Isaiah another son whom he named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, number 4122, which means “quick to the spoil, speedy to the prey” indicating the swiftness and brutality of the Assyrian victory. Isaiah says that it is Immanuel’s land that is desolated. But not all is lost; the land is not without hope. Naphtali and Zebulun, the first lands of Israel to be taken by Assyria, would be the first to see the light of Messiah when Yeshua was born in Nazareth of Zebulun and set up His ministry in Capernaum of Naphtali.
Isaiah 9:1-2 NKJV 1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.
A king will rule over all of the land of David, over all of Israel not just Judah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV 6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
The house of David prevailed at the time of the Syrian-Israel invasion of Judah. The house of David prevailed at the time of the Assyrian invasion of Judah under Hezekiah. Although Judah went into captivity, the house of David continued and still continues. Yeshua, Immanuel was born to Mary and Joseph of the house of David. Yeshua ate curds and honey with the common people in a time of oppression and occupation of the Promised Land. When He returns, He will do so with power and establish His throne, like the throne that Isaiah saw in his vision. Yeshua will reign with justice and righteousness.
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:26?
2. In Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly throne room, a seraphim touches Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal from the altar and “atones” for both his uncleanness and his sin (Isaiah 6:5-7). How is this similar to the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16? How does Isaiah’s experience demonstrate the utter futility of trying to be “good enough to go to heaven”?
3. What made Isaiah a good candidate to send with the message of God (Isaiah 6:8-10)?
4. 2 Chronicles 28:9-15 describes return of the captives taken by Israel in their war against Judah. What does the prophet Oded’s name mean? Why does the Bible record the names of the four princes of Ephraim? Who else has acted in a similar way and been rewarded with their names written in the Bible or been rewarded in another way?
5. Alfred Edersheim, in Bible History Old Testament records in Book 7, chapter 8 that the Assyrian writings record King Ahaz’s name as Joachaz (Ja-u-hazi). Why would the Bible leave off the prefix “Ja”? What other king also had his name shortened? What is the significance of this act?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved.
[i] NKJV Study Bible. General Editor: Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D. Thomas Nelson, Inc. ©1997, 2007. Page1051.
Saturday, January 19, 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 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?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved