Messiah in Exodus

Apparently people like it when I publish what amounts to raw notes. Actually, that makes sense: I’m more to the point, the notes are easy to scan, and they serve as a jumping-off point for one’s own studies. So, that being the case, here’s a follow-up to Messiah in Genesis.

On the many Messianic prophecies embedded in Passover, see here.

mosesThe principle (human) figure of the book of Exodus is, of course, Moses. Moses (Heb. Moshe, “to pull out”; Egyptian Mu- (“water”) Ses (“came up”) is the most distinctly messianic figure in the Bible other than Yeshua, surpassing even David and Joseph in the number of connections he has to the Messiah. Moses serves as a ruler to Israel, a lawgiver, an intermediary with God (beyond even what Aaron, the high priest, could accomplish), and the ultimate example of a prophet. The end of his life left a void in Israel that only the Messiah could fill:

Deu 18:15-19 – The LORD your God will raise up to you a prophet from the midst of you, of your brothers, like me. You shall listen to him. This is according to all that you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I not die.” The LORD said to me, “They have well said that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (This is directly quoted by Peter in Acts 3:22-24.)

Num 12:6-8 – He said, “Hear now my words. If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so. He is faithful in all my house. With him I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see the LORD’s form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” (See Heb. 3:1-6.)

The Torah ends with these words:

Deu 34:10-12There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses worked in the sight of all Israel.

The life of Moses prefigures the life of Yeshua:

  • Moses was raised in a royal household; Yeshua was born to the noble house of David
  • Both Moses and Yeshua had to flee early in life from a king who wanted to kill them; ironically, Moses fled from Egypt, while Yeshua fled to Egypt. (In this case, Yeshua’s life more closely reflected the history of all Israel; see Mat. 2:15 and Hos. 11:1.)
  • Both were initially popular due to the signs they performed (Exo. 4:29-31) but later rejected by the leaders of Israel out of fear for their Gentile overlords (Exo. 5:21; John 11:48).
  • Through Moses, Hashem cast down the gods of Egypt (Exo. 12:12, 15:11); through Yeshua, Hashem cast out the gods (demons) infesting his people and the world.
    • Both attacks on the dark spiritual realm are described as “the finger of God” (Exo. 8:19; Luke 11:20; cf. Exo. 31:18).
  • Moses stretched his hand out against the sky, and three days of darkness fell (Exo. 10:21-22); when Yeshua’s two hands were stretched out on the cross, darkness fell for three hours (Mat. 27:25; cf. Rev. 16:10).
  • To bring them out of Egypt, Moses “baptized” the people in the Sea of Suf (Exo. 14; 1Co. 10:2); to bring us out of the world-system, Yeshua immerses his people in water, fire, and the Spirit (Luke 3:16; 1Pt. 3:21).
  • Moses struck the rock to bring forth the water the people needed to live; to give his people the “living water,” the Holy Spirit, Yeshua was struck (John 7:38-39; 1Co. 10:4).
  • Moses gave the people mana, which sustained their bodies for a time; Yeshua is the Bread of Life, who sustains us, body and soul, forever (John 6:48-51).
  • Both inaugurated a new covenant with the blood of a sacrifice (Exo. 24; Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:18-20).
  • Moses taught the twelve tribes; Yeshua taught the twelve disciples. Moses appointed 70 elders (the Sanhedrin; Exo. 24:1, 9-10); Yeshua appointed 70 messengers (Luke 10). See here for more details.
  • Moses asked that his life be blotted out to atone for Israel’s sin (Exo. 32:32); Yeshua’s life really was blotted out to atone for the sins of Israel and the whole world!
  • Moses ascended into the mountain so that God could dwell among Israel (Exo. 24:18; 34:1-9); Yeshua ascended into heaven so that the Spirit of God could dwell in his faithful (Acts 1:9; John 16:5-15).

    Jabal al Lawz, aka Mt. Sinai
    Jabal al Lawz, aka Mt. Sinai
  • Moses ascended to see the pattern of heaven (Exo. 29:5, 40); Yeshua ascended to enter the reality behind the pattern (Rev. 4-5).
  • Moses built a tabernacle so that God could dwell among his people (Exo. 25:8, 29:45-46); Yeshua is the temple of God (John 2:19) who died so that Hashem–in the form of his Holy Spirit–could dwell in us (1Co. 3:16, 2Co. 6:16).
  • Moses saw the form of the Eternal One (Num.12:8), but not completely (Exo. 34:1-9); Yeshua was the only one who has seen the Eternal completely, because he came forth from God (John 6:46).
  • Moses for a time removed the tent of meeting from the camp due to Israel’s sin (Exo. 33:7-11); Yeshua for a time removed the Assembly (Church) from the midst of Israel due to Israel’s sin. However, both continued to intercede for Israel until the nation would be forgiven (Exo. 33:12-17; Rom. 11).

As for the ceremonies introduced in Exodus, they are all described in more detail in Leviticus, so we’ll pick up there.


Messiah in Genesis

A reader of the old Hebrewroot page expressed concern about losing an article that I wrote back in the day called, well, “Messiah in Genesis.” In the interest of preserving my old work (even if it looks more like a few notes than a finished article), I’m reposting it here. Obviously, it crosses over significantly with Ben Joseph and His Brothers and Messiah, Son of Joseph, but there are a few details here that I’m not sure are already on the blog.

Seeking Messiah in the Torah

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALuke 24:27 – Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Luke 24:44-45 – [Yeshua] said to them, “This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures.

John 1:45 – Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the Torah, and the Prophets, wrote: Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

John 5:45-47 – “Don’t think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you, even Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Where is He?

Genesis 3:15 – The Seed of the Woman

Genesis 49:10 – Judah’s rule and tribal identity will not pass away until Shiloh comes.

Deuteronomy 18:18 – The prophet like Moses

Look For Pattern, Not Just Prediction

Western view of time – a straight line (timeline), prophecy is prediction-and-fulfillment

Eastern view of time – a circle, no beginning or end, no ultimate purpose to history

Biblical view of time – a spiral, with a beginning and end, but with a repeated pattern

The pattern of history is revealed in the Torah.

What the prophets were destined to prophesy in subsequent generations they received from Mount Sinai. . .  Moses gave utterance to all the words of the other prophets as well as his own, and whoever prophesied only gave expression to the essence of Moses’ prophecy.  (Sh’mot [Exodus] Midrash Rabbah 28:6, 42:8)

[Yeshua] said to them, “Therefore, every scribe (Torah-teacher) who has been made a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out of his treasure new and old things.” (Mat. 13:52)

Levels of Interpretation (PaRDeS = “Paradise”)

P’shat – “To make a road,” the plain meaning, our road in the wilderness

Remez – A “hint” of a deeper meaning

Drash – To “dig,” the homiletic meaning, reading back into the text, often told as stories

Sod – The “secret” or mystical meaning, kabbalah

See The Way of Paradise for more information.

The Story of Genesis

Abraham and Isaac

Abraham = “Father of a Multitude”

  • Gen. 22:18 – “In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed . . .“

o       Gal 3:16 – “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn’t say, ‘To seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘To your seed,’ which is Messiah.”

  • “Seed” in Hebrew (zera) is a collective noun; no plural form.  Paul is making a midrash

Isaac = “Laughter”

  • A miraculous birth

o       Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, John the Immerser – and Yeshua

  • Oppressed by the would-be heir, Ishmael, who is removed by his father

o       Yeshua was threatened by the Herods, the would-be rulers of Judea

The Bindings of Isaac (The Akkedat Yitzchak – Genesis 22)
  • Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac as a test

o       “Your only son, whom you love . . .” (v. 2)

  • Takes Isaac to Moriah (v. 2), three days away (v. 4)

o       Yeshua also sacrificed on Mt. Moriah, possibly on the same spot.

akedah2By faith, Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. Yes, he who had gladly received the promises was offering up his one and only son; even he to whom it was said, “In Isaac will your seed be called;” concluding that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Figuratively speaking, he also did receive him back from the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19)

  • A Hint:  “God will provide Himself the Lamb . . .” (v. 7)

o       God provided a ram for Abraham (v. 13)—He provided the Lamb later

  • Isaac bound

o       Isaac was a grown man, likely 37 years old at this point

o       He did not resist, but submitted to his father’s will – “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

  • God called off the sacrifice
  • A Hint:  “Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-Yireh (‘The Lord Will Provide’ or ‘The Lord Will Be Seen’). As it is said to this day, “On the Lord’s mountain, He will be provided.” (v. 14)

cropped-picture12.jpgSaid R. Abbahu, “Why do we blow a ram’s horn?  Said the holy one, blessed be he, ‘Blow a ram’s horn before me so that I will remember in your favor the binding of Isaac, the son of Abraham, and will credit [that act] to you, as though you bound yourselves [before me, willing to offer yourselves as a sacrifice].’”  (b. Rosh Hashanah 16a)

The Lord will see this ‘akedah to forgive Israel every year and rescue them from trouble; so that it will be said, “On this day” in all coming generations, “on the mountain of the Lord is seen” the ashes of Yitzchak heaped up and serving for atonement. (Rashi)

  • Gen 22:19 – So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba. Abraham lived at Beersheba.

o       Isaac “disappears” from the Biblical record

o       Yeshua “disappears” from view after His Resurrection

  • Isaac only reappears when his father’s trusted servant (Eliezer, “God of Help,” Gen. 15:2) brings him a bride from outside the Land

o       Yeshua will only reappear when the Holy Spirit brings Him a Bride from among all the nations (Mat. 24:14, Rev. 7:1-7).


  • The son of Isaac (a Messianic type) and the father of Joseph (also a Messianic type)

o       Isa 11:1 – A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.

o       Rev 22:16 – “I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star.”

  • Heb. Ya’akov = “He grasps the heel,” a metaphor for “the supplanter”
  • Was prophesied to rule over his elder brother (Gen. 25:23)
  • Buys Esau’s birthright from him (“So Esau despised his birthright” Gen. 25:34), and later tricked his father into giving him the firstborn’s blessing

o       He tried to gain by human effort that which God had already promised him

o       Rom 9:31 – But Israel, following after a law of righteousness, didn’t arrive at the law of righteousness. Why? Because they didn’t seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law. They stumbled over the stumbling stone; even as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense; and no one who believes in him will be disappointed.”

  • As a result of his deception, he had to flee the Land to escape Esau’s wrath

o       As a result of trying to gain the Messianic kingdom by force, the Jews were driven out of the land by the Romans

  • Jacob lives among the Gentiles, where his father-in-law Laban tries to cheat him by changing the terms of his wages ten times, but he nevertheless prospers.  Finally, Jacob leaves to escape Laban’s anger.

o       The Jews were forbidden to own land in much of Europe, so they cultivated the intellect, becoming doctors and lawyers and loaning money to Europe’s rulers—only to be kicked out of every land where they went whenever the local rulers owed them too much.

  • Jacob does not leave completely righteous; Rachel steals her father’s idols and brings them with her

o       The Jews have not escaped being Gentilized, but even when returning to the Land have brought pagan and atheistic ways with us

  • Jacob returns to the land, but is greatly afraid when Esau is coming up to meet him

o       The Jews have returned to the Land, but live in fear of the Gentiles around them.

  • When his brother comes up against him in an armed company, Jacob first sends gifts to placate him, divides his people so that at least some will escape, and then spends the night wrestling with God, dislocating his hip.  God changes his name to Israel (“Prince of God” and “Wrestles with God”).

o       The Jews are seeing the Gentiles coming against them.

o       They have tried to placate the Arabs with gifts of land – “Land for Peace”

o       Israel wrestles with Yeshua

  • Hos 12:-4 – In the womb he took his brother by the heel; and in his manhood he contended with God.  Indeed, he struggled with the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication to him. He found him at Bethel, and there he spoke with us.

o       Israel has received a permanent limp – the Holocaust (Shoah)

o       The day is coming when they will seize Him and refuse to let go until He blesses them, and on that they, the Jews will truly become Israel.

  • God brings about a change in Esau so that the two brothers live in peace, Esau departing from the Land and establishing Edom

Joseph and Ben Joseph

Joseph is so much a picture of the Messiah that the Talmud twice refers to a Mashiach ben Yoseph, a suffering servant who would die for the sake of the nation and who would appear either just before or alongside the Mashiach ben David, the conquering King.  We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that there were several theories in the 1st Century that there would be more than one Anointed; it seems quite possible that the Mashiach ben Yoseph idea was around in Yeshua’s time, perhaps being referenced in Luke 3:23, which states that Yeshua was “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph”–a bit of a pun engaged by the good Doctor.

Rejection of His Brothers

Joseph’s first parallel to the Messiah is in his relationship to Isaac:  Isaac, another type of Messiah, was born before Jacob/Israel and indeed gave birth to him, and Joseph was born to Jacob in turn.  This prefigures that Yeshua would be both the Root and the Branch of David (Isa. 11:1, 10; Rev. 22:16).  Secondly, as did many other figures in Israel’s history, both Isaac and Joseph were the products of a miraculous conception, a barren womb being opened.  The Holy One one-upped that miracle with the Virgin Birth.

Joseph’s next parallel to Yeshua is in the relationship with his brothers.  Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him?  Because he was the favored son of Israel (and had the gift, the amazing techonocolored dreamcoat, to prove it; Gen. 37:3), was prophesied to rule over them and even his father despite his low rank in the birth order (vv. 7-8), and because he gave a bad report about them (v. 2).  Why did Israel’s 1st Century leaders hate Yeshua?  Because He was the favored Son of God and Israel (and had the gifts to prove it, arousing their envy), because He was prophesied to rule over them—and even His father David (Psa. 110:1, Mat. 22:42ff)—and they didn’t think this hick from Galilee had the right (“Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee” [John 7:52]), and because instead of siding with them, He brought a bad report, exposing their hidden sins (Mat. 5-7 and 23).

When Joseph went to look into his brothers and found them goofing off yet again (hanging out in Dothan instead of tending the flocks), that’s when they decided to do away with him (Gen. 37:13ff).  It was when Yeshua cleared out the Temple courts the second time that the plans to get rid of Him kicked into high gear (Mat. 21:12ff, cf. John 2:13ff).  Judah was the one who got the bright idea to sell Joseph (Gen. 37:28).  Judah/Judas was the one who sold Yeshua, and Judah/Judea handed Him over to the Gentiles (Mat. 26:15).  Both were stripped of their clothes (Gen. 37:23, John 19:24).  Rabbinic tradition has it that Joseph kept his brothers in prison for three days because he was kept in the cistern for three days (based on Gen. 42:17). It’s interesting that there’s a whole theme in Scripture of life from death being granted on the third day (the third day of creation, the Akkedat Yitzchak, Jonah, Esther, etc.).

Joseph was falsely accused before Potiphar, the official representative of the then-ruling empire (Gen. 39:13ff).  Potiphar essentially washed his hands of someone that he knew to be innocent to save his own honor.  Yeshua was falsely accused before Caesar’s representative Pilate, who also washed his hands of an innocent man (Mat. 26:60).  Both were mourned by Israel (Gen. 37:33f, Luke 23:55).

Salvation of the Gentiles

Through his trust and obedience even in the midst of unjust shame and suffering, as well as through his wisdom and gifting to correctly interpret prophecy, Joseph was raised to the right hand of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:39).  He was given all of Pharaoh’s authority–only in regards to the throne itself was Pharaoh Joseph’s superior.  Through His trust and obedience even in the midst of unjust shame and suffering, as well as through his wisdom and gifting to correctly interpret all Scripture, Yeshua was raised to the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).  All judgment is given to the Son (John 5:22, 27), yet the Father is still the Father.

Through his wisdom, Joseph fed the entire Gentile world bread in the midst of a great famine (Gen. 41:57).  Through His wisdom, Yeshua feeds the entire Gentile world the Bread of Life (Mark 6:44, John 6:33ff), which is the Word of God (cf. Deu. 8:3, Psa. 119:103, Eze. 3:3, Amos 8:11, Mat. 16:12 and 26:26).  Joseph gave to all who came to him, accepting their goods, livestock, lands, and finally their very lives in return for food–and everything they gave him he made them stewards over for Pharaoh.  Yeshua gives His Bread to all who come unto Him, gradually accepting our goods, livestock, lands, and finally our very lives–and everything we give unto Him He makes us stewards over for the King of Eternity.

Joseph and His Brothers

joseph and his brothersJoseph fed the entire Gentile world the Bread of Life (so to speak) before his brothers came to him.  This is the first prophecy of Gentile inclusion in God’s Kingdom, corresponding with other prophecies that first the Gentiles would come to the Root of Jesse and be called by the Holy Name, and only after that would Israel be restored (cf. Isa. 11:10ff, Amos 9:11f).

When Joseph’s brothers come to buy bread, they don’t recognize him (Gen. 42:7)!  Why not?  Because he was dressed in Egyptians clothes, with his head and beard shaved in Egyptian fashion, and speaking to them in Egyptian through an interpreter.  Why haven’t Yeshua’s brothers recognized Him for two millennia?  Once again, because we have dressed Him up as a Gentile, given Him a Gentile haircut, and He speaks to His brothers in Gentile language (Greek).  Look through the whole corpus of Christian art and try to find a portrait of Yeshua that shows Him with a long, uncut beard, a head covering of some sort, tefillin (phylacteries), or tzitzit (tassels) on His cloak.  Only a few old Eastern Orthodox works get it right.  More to the point, look at how most Christian commentators exaggerate to cartoonish proportions the differences between Yeshua and the rabbis, never noticing the similarities in teaching, teaching styles (e.g., parables), gathering disciples, emotional makeup (Yeshua was clearly no stoic), etc.  Small wonder His brother’s can’t recognize Him!

When Joseph is faced with his brothers, he falsely accuses them, throws them into prison, and binds Simeon before their eyes and takes him away, requiring that they bring him Benjamin if they wish to see his face again (Gen. 42:9ff).  In the same way, the Church has in Jesus’ name falsely accused the Jews, thrown them into prison, and taken away from the Jewish people, binding Jews who wished to follow the King of the Jews from being among their brothers.  (See here for some examples.)  Sadly, the Church went even further: Joseph never tortured or slew any of his brothers, but the Church has done so to the brothers of Yeshua!

(Note: Here, I am obviously referring to the visible, cultural institution of the Church, comprised of both wheat and tares.  Even so, unless the beneficiaries of the Protestant Reformation wish to repudiate Martin Luther, author of The Jews and Their Lies, as not being truly saved, one cannot simply escape corporate responsibility by saying, “Well, real Christians wouldn’t do any of that.”)

But notice here that even in testing his brothers with persecution, Joseph still gives them the Bread of Life they need to live.  In fact, he does so freely, giving back the silver that they try to pay him with.  Why?  Because his brothers already belong to him, whether they know it or not.  Is Yeshua less generous than Joseph?  And if He is as generous, in what sense has He fed the Jewish people who didn’t recognize Him?

Also let us note that Joseph seats his brothers in birth order to show that he knows them, much to their amazement and consternation (Gen. 43:33).  Today in Judaism, there are increasing numbers of scholars who are studying the NT and discovering how well Yeshua knows them.  Indeed, He is increasingly becoming known as a Jew of the Jews and a rabbi ahead of His time.  It’s not where my people need to be, but the momentum is clearly in the right direction.

Now we come to Benjamin, whose significance in this type is so often overlooked.  What does he represent in this tale?  Let us consider his attributes:

  • He is the brother of the same mother as Joseph
  • His birth brought about the death of his mother.  For this she named him, “Son of My Sorrow,” but his father Israel would rename him, “Son of the Right Hand.”
  • He was not involved in the betrayal of Joseph; he and Joseph obviously loved each other very much
  • He disappears from the narrative, only being mentioned while “off-screen” until the very end
  • Israel will not let him go forth with his brothers, fearing to lose him as he lost Joseph and Simeon
  • Joseph weeps when he sees Benjamin among his brothers again
  • While Joseph feeds all the brothers, he gives Benjamin five times as much
  • Finally, Benjamin is “outed” by the possession of Joseph’s silver cup

I propose that Benjamin represents the remnant of Jewish believers, Messianic Jews if you will, that Paul assures us the Eternal One always reserves for Himself in Romans 11.  Like Benjamin, the faithful remnant were born at the time of the death of their mother, Jerusalem (which dwells in Benjamin’s territory).  We are the sons of sorrow and the sons of the Right Hand, Yeshua Himself.  Like Benjamin, the remnant has always loved Yeshua and vice-versa.  Like Benjamin, the remnant has virtually disappeared from the narrative of history, being mentioned only by our enemies when they try to suppress us.  Like Benjamin, Israel has not allowed us to be seen among our brothers, and for the same reason: Fear that like Simeon, we will be carried away by the Gentiles, assimilated and lost to a Christian culture.  And like Benjamin, we are ultimately “outed” by the discovery of our Lord’s Cup in our hands.

Benjamin receives five times as much food as his brothers (Gen. 43:44).  We have already established that food, bread in particular, is a type of the life-giving sustenance of the Word of God.  It’s interesting that in Israel, it is becoming well known that the Messianics are ardent students of the Scriptures.  In fact, if you want to know if you are talking to a Messianic, there is a simple test:  Ask a question about the Law.  A traditional Jew will answer from his rabbi or the Talmud; a Messianic will answer from the Scriptures, as our Great Rabbi has taught us.

Notice also that only when Benjamin is among his brothers is Simeon returned to them.  Simeon, we believe, represents those Jews who were converted to Christianity, bound by law in front of their brethren to no longer live as Jews, and taken away.  With the advent of Messianic Judaism, many in the world have become aware that they are descended from Jewish converts to Christianity, and are seeking to know what that means as far as their personal identity goes.  Many are even returning to Judaism, both Messianic and traditional, to return to their roots.

When Benjamin is caught with Joseph’s cup, the brothers face a decision-point:  Do they let him be carried away by the Gentiles as Simeon was, or do they protect him as a brother at their own risk.  Today, as more and more Jews declare themselves for Yeshua, Judah/Judaism faces the same decision:  Do they reject the Messianics and force them out of the community to be assimilated by Gentile Christianity, or do they embrace us as brothers, even at the risk that they believe such inclusion could bring to Judaism?

Believe it or not, Israel is starting to come to the same decision as Judah.  Among an increasing number of rabbis, there is no longer any question whether born Jews who identify as and live as Jews should be counted as part of the community.  The resistance now is to Jews who have converted to Christianity and no longer keep the Torah at all and how to handle our proselytes.  (This is why many Messianics completely reject the label of “Christian,” which is virtually synonymous with “Gentile.”)

When Judah embraced and protected Benjamin as his brother, Joseph revealed himself at last for who he is.  Likewise, as we see Judah embracing Messianic Jews, we see another sign that our Lord is soon to return.

The more I study the Torah, the more I see the truth of what the Midrash Rabbah says of it:  “What the prophets were destined to prophesy in subsequent generations they received from Mount Sinai. . .  Moses gave utterance to all the words of the other prophets as well as his own, and whoever prophesied only gave expression to the essence of Moses’ prophecy” (Exo.R. 28:6, 42:8).


The Shame of a Shameless Society

deSilva HonorI’m currently reading David A. deSilva’s Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture. It’s a fascinating read, and not too dense or pedantic for a scholarly work, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand the New Testament.

I’ll have to do a full review sometime, but at the moment, I’d like to just highlight one passage that struck me as apropos for the Days of Awe, as we prepare ourselves for Yom Kippur:

One psychologist who has brought the academic discussion of shame in psychology to popular attention, Robert Karen [“Shame,” The Atlantic Monthly, February 1992, pp. 40-70], distinguishes between three kinds of shame. The first is the “feeling” or “experience” of shame (the warmth under the skin and extreme self-consciousness that overtakes an individual when he or she has done something that provokes public disapproval or ridicule); the second is a “sense” of shame, the “healthy attitudes that define a wholesome character,” the predilection for avoiding certain behaviors that bring shame. . . 

The third kind of shame, however, is what Karen describes as “repressed but hounding shame, something activated to the level of gnawing self-doubt, occasionally reaching the intensity of fully inflamed self-hatred,” a kind of shame about who we are that “drives people towards perfectionism, withdrawal, diffidence, combativeness,” “a festering negative self-portrait against which one is repeatedly trying to defend.” . . . (p.89)

It is this vague, self-hating shame that is the target of psychologists, who rightly affirm that this kind of shame is prevalent even in a time when shame in its other senses appears to be so much in a recession (witness the immodesty that leads people to “expose their sexuality on TV, howl obscenities at those who would once have been considered their betters, cling to elective office despite the revelation of serious breaches of public trust, and greedily pen books about their misdeeds”). (p.90)

That pretty much sums up the entirety of the spiritual sickness pervading the West. When we see people acting in a shameless manner regarding, for example, their sexual addictions–and more than that, demanding that the rest of us celebrate those appetites–it is ultimately because they are suffering from the third, pathological type of shame. They erroneously take it for the first (societal disapproval) type of shame and think that it can therefore be destroyed by reshaping society.

And that’s really nothing new. Unwilling to suppress their sexual appetites, the pagans of old created the idea of “sacred prostitutes” in order to attempt to sanctify their sin–and then lashed out at the women who took part to cover their own shame (note the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38). The healthy internal shame that is a restraint on violence always has to be placated with some rationale: “We’re just avenging some sin against us.” “We’re just bringing civilization to them.” “They hate us and want to destroy us, so we have to destroy them first.” “They’re worshiping a false god/God in the wrong way/a god weaker than ours.” Then, when the self loathing hits, violence itself is sanctified through the worship of violent gods.

The solution for the Talmidei Yeshua (Disciples of Yeshua, whether they call themselves Christians or Messianics) is not to placate those feelings of shame, nor to allow ourselves to be shamed (in the public disapproval sense) into approving of sin. Rather, it’s to lead them to the One who can take away their (Type 3) shame and bestow upon them the necessary honor. As J.P. Holding notes:

The person who is ashamed cannot come into the presence of God, but would indeed be driven away from it by the very nature of the dialectic, seeking to get as far away from the presence of the greatest glory and honor as possible. Literally speaking, “Hell” would be a life on the lam — always trying to get yourself further and further from God’s holiness, but because God is omnipresent, and because in Him all things move and have their being, never being able to succeed. . .

[I]t was not the pain, but the shame and degradation (of which, the pain, and the shedding of blood, was of course an integral part) that was the “payment” for our sins — and that this makes much better contextual sense of the doctrine coming out of an honor and shame setting. . . Jesus’ divine identity made him a personal being due the highest honor by nature (what Malina and Rohrbaugh call “ascribed” honor, such as that one has by being born into a noble family) — not infinite of necessity, but the highest.

The reversal of this value upon Jesus, and the experience of status degradation — his public humiliation in the eyes of others, and thereby loss of ALL honor status — undermines and makes irrelevant the question, “Could he have suffered enough for all sins?” As my good friend among the Skeptics, Kyle Gerkin, puts it, the experience allowed people “to recognize that Jesus was undergoing something extraordinary (a god willingly being shamed) in their stead.”

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel" takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that the whole point of crucifixion was to ultimately shame the victim."
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel” takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that the whole point of crucifixion was to ultimately shame the victim.”

Crucifixion was a ritual meant to strip away every single vestige of honor the criminal had, to show him to be completely shameful so that no one would ever follow his example. Yeshua willingly accepted the shame of all of our sins upon himself so that he could bestow the robe of his honor upon us, enabling us to stand in the presence of a truly holy and honorable God in this world and the next. The Resurrection demonstrated the Eternal One’s reversal of human judgment, so that the King who “endured the cross, despising its shame”–not it’s pain (Heb. 12:2)–was raised to sit at the right hand of the Almighty forever. Therefore, those “having been buried with him in immersion” are likewise “raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12)–raised not just to life, but to eternal honor.

Sometimes we think that it is our job to shame the world. There is no need–it is already fundamentally, pathologically shamed, as much as it would like to deny it. We need to provide the cure, not more of the symptom. However, within our own fellowships, honor to those who live rightly according to Hashem’s precepts and shame towards the behaviors (not the individuals, unless there is no other corrective means left, as deSilva notes on p.90) that dishonor God should be used to motivate the Disciples of Yeshua towards and ever-growing, ever-maturing, ever-strengthening relationship with the Holy One.


Random Thoughts As I Approach the New Year

Picture12Yom Teruah (the Day of the Trumpet Blast), aka Rosh Hashanah (the Head of the Year) is almost upon us. My wife is out visiting a friend who is in need of encouragement with our two little ones, my daughter is entertaining a friend she just made at her new school, and I’m in the kitchen cooking for dinner at Tikvat David, our (possibly permanent) new synagogue home, tonight. Yes, I’m cooking. I find it relaxing and it gives me time to think.

I’m currently thinking about the past year, and it’s been an incredible one. On the downside, I had to step down from being associate rabbi of my own congregation due to conflicts over direction and teaching with the head rabbi. However, out of that Hashem gave me the opportunity to interact with several other Messianic rabbis, who gave me the wise advice to take some down time before getting back into ministry. Hashem also provided me with a much more lucrative secular job, enabling me to take better care of my family, to see the inside workings of a company that has striven hard to build a really good and completely honest culture while maintaining a stellar growth (obviously lessons that will be important in one day founding and growing a ministry), and to do so while putting my organizational skills to work in a satisfying way.

I’ve neglected this blog in part because I’ve simply not had as much time due to moving to a better place while learning the new job, and in part because I seem to be in a period of learning more than teaching, as I’ve said before.  However, I’ve continued teaching on The Iron Show with Johnny and Matthew, who have both been a real blessing to me during the time when I felt rudderless and despondent.

So as I sit here in between prepping ingredients, I think I’m in a place to think a bit more solidly about the future. Obviously, there are some significant challenges and tribulations ahead. Five out of the nine Supreme Court members have decided to declare war on the covenant of marriage. This issue is already being used to attack Christians, particularly those with businesses and in the public sphere. And those persecutions are really quite mild compared to the holocaust being experienced by our Sunday Brethren over in the Middle-east at the hands of ISIS and similar groups–a holocaust that, just like the one against the Jews during WWII, is being completely ignored by the world at large. Israel is finding herself standing alone with only Hashem on her side while Iran continues to push forward its nuclear program with a wink-and-a-nod from the rest of the world. And of course there is another economic downturn coming–even secular economists have taken note of the stock market’s seven year cycle, and a few have even noticed that it is linked to Israel’s Sh’mittah year, which begins at sundown today.

Does that mean the end is nigh? Well, yes, in the sense that it has been since Israel was restored as a nation. But are we about to enter the Seventieth Week? Maybe. I’ve maintained for over a decade now that the Seventieth Week will coincide with the Sh’mittah cycle, with the seventh year of the Week being a sabbatical year. That means that the next available “slot” for the 70th Week to begin would be in the fall of 2016.

But I’m not really sure that we’re there yet. While I’ll be the first to admit that modern history has a way of turning on a dime thanks to our travel and communication advances, it still seems to me that there are a few things that are not fully set up yet. Maybe I’ve become a little cynical, having been watching world events (and watching the prophecy watchers) since the ’90s.

Maybe having kids has given me the father’s natural desire to see them grow up in a stable environment, so maybe that’s interfering with my vision.

The Days of Awwwwwwwwwwwwww!
The Days of Awwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Whatever the case, whether the last Week begins in 2016 or 2023 there’s a lot of work to do. While I’ve been taking it relatively easy, I know that I’ve only been given a short season of rest, and the time to get back into the game will be starting again soon. I also know that there isn’t a Talmid Yeshua (Disciple of Yeshua) out there who doesn’t have a job assigned to him or her from Heaven, and that the time to get those jobs done is running out.

New Years resolutions are often forgotten. Let’s resolve to treasure the time we have, whether long or short, and to not forget our duty to our King and Savior in the press of day-to-day life.

Shalom, ul’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem,
Peace, and may you be inscribed and sealed for a good new year.

Being Fed

No Iron Show tonight, and we’re sorry about that. Johnny’s got a problem with his eye. I’m telling you, the guy just can’t catch a break. He’s going to have some amazing treasure stored up in heaven when this is all done, because he certainly isn’t getting his reward here. Hopefully everyone will keep him in prayer.

One of the best Christian novels ever, along with its prequel, The Facade.
One of the best Christian novels ever, along with its prequel, The Facade.

I’ve been trying to find the time to write a well-thought-out, researched article for weeks now, and it just doesn’t seem to be coming. On the other hand, I’m getting plenty of reading in during my lengthy daily commute: In addition to several novels (including Dr. Heiser’s The Portent, which you really should run out and read if you haven’t already), I’ve re-read the David Flynn Collection, and read Sinister Forces – The Nine, Stories from Ancient Canaan, The Mythic Mind: Essays on Cosmology and Religion in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature, and about 2/3rds of Bruce Malina’s On the Genre and Message of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys. I’ve also been catching up on my blogs and podcasts.

I’ve got a number of half-started articles and lots of new notes going into my good ol’ wide-margin Bible, but I can’t seem to get out any finished copy.

So basically, I seem to be in a quiet time of feeding rather than an active time of teaching. I think Hashem is both refreshing me and giving me time to absorb what I need before I do the next big work. He’s letting me do the Iron Show because a) it really does reach a lot of people who need solid Biblical teaching, but b) I learn as much or more from Matthew Miller as I ever teach, and c) it gives me a place to shoot from the hip a bit, just to talk about the Word without feeling like I have to have every i dotted and every t crossed.

So my apologies that I don’t have a lot of new posts on the blog, but while it’s quiet now, it won’t be forever. I just have to let the Spirit lead and wait for my Lord’s timing, and sit at the feet of Yeshua in the meantime.

Shalom and thanks.

Where is Satan in the Old Testament?

[Author’s note: I’m playing around with some features in Google Docs, namely the EasyBib Bibliography Creator, Bible Verse, and Docs to WordPress add-ons. Consequently, this post is going to look a bit more like an academic paper than usual. Let me know what you think!]

The "character" of Satan, via Disney's Fantasia
The “character” of Satan, via Disney’s Fantasia

If you spend any time at all in academia–or with pseudo-academic skeptics–inevitably you will run across a discussion on the “evolution” of the “character” of Satan. The basic formula usually comes down to the claim that Satan in the Old Testament is more like a prosecuting attorney, and only becomes elevated and vilified as the enemy of God in the intertestimental period (the four hundred years separating Malachi and Matthew). The skeptic is quick to jump on this supposed change in characterization as evidence of a major change in the Bible’s narrative, and therefore of its human–rather than Divine–origin.

That pre-supposes, of course, that the being we commonly call Satan isn’t really found in the Old Testament, at least not insofar as being portrayed as the enemy of God and his people.

At first glance, that would seem to indeed be the case. Other than a few references in Numbers 22, Job, 1 Chronicles 21:1, and Zechariah 3, Satan is nary to be seen. Furthermore, in 1 Chronicles, it’s possible that the verse simply means, “Then an adversary”–that is, a human foe–”stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel” in preparation for a normal, physical war, thus moving David to want to number his own forces. Likewise, Numbers 22:22 describes the angel of Hashem as being “an adversary” to Balaam–as in 1 Chronicles, the Hebrew word satan is a description rather than a name. That leaves only the Job and Zechariah references, and those are pretty darn vague about whether Satan is the bad guy or not.

But as it turns out, the Adversary (HaSatan) is quite active in the Hebrew Scriptures; he’s just going under a different name: Baal.

Apparently they had Baal action-figures back in the day.
Apparently they had Baal action-figures back in the day.

The first mentions of Baal are found in the names of people and places (Gen. 36:38-39; Exo. 14:2, 9), but his first mention as a god is in Numbers 22:41, in the story of Balaam. (Interestingly, this chapter also contains the first instance of the word satan in Scripture; perhaps this is a remez, or hint, to us.) Balaam is an interesting figure, as the text clearly identifies him as a prophet who communes with Hashem (vv. 8-9). Though later rabbinic material identifies him instead as a sorcerer, the New Testament presents him as the archetypical figure of one who knew the truth but fell away for material gain (2Pt. 2:15, Jude 11, Rev. 2:14). Even so, when he goes to curse Israel, he specifically does so “from the high places of Baal.” This is best understood in the light of the pagan beliefs of the day, in which each of Israel’s neighbors recognized an original uncreated High God, but worshipped lesser gods alongside him, and often instead of him. To a pagan like Balaam, utilizing the high places of Baal, thought to be the viceroy of El (God), to call upon El would not have seemed unusual.

Balaam’s attempt to curse Israel of course was turned into blessing instead, so he proposed an alternate route of cursing Israel to Balak, his employer: Aware that Hashem had taken Israel to be his peculiar people who would worship him alone among all the “gods,” Balaam suggested that Balak send beautiful women to entice Israel into worshipping Baal instead (Num. 25:1-5, 31:16). The attempt was very nearly successful, with only the zeal of Phinehas turning back God’s resultant wrath (Num. 25:11). However, while Hashem did not destroy Israel for her sin that day, the worship of Baal would continue to be a snare for many centuries to follow. Practically from the moment of Joshua’s death, Israel began turning aside and worshiping Baal and Ashtoreth.

When used as a proper name (ba’al in Hebrew also means, “lord,” “master,” and even “husband”), Baal is usually identified with the Aramaean weather-god Hadad or Adad.[1] Like all the Canaanite gods, he was considered to be a son of El, but because he was believed to bring the winter storms that were so vital to life in that region (unlike Egypt or Mesopotamia, which were watered by mighty rivers) he was the de facto head of the sons of El and the most revered deity in the Canaanite pantheon. Even today, the Arabs use the word ba’al to describe farming done without the aid of irrigation, depending only on rainfall.[2] Since he was associated with the coming of the rains, Baal was considered to be the one who rode on the clouds,[3] again a title tha that the Bible gives in truth to both Hashem (Jdg. 5:4; 2 Sa. 22:12; Job 22:14; Psa. 18:11f, 78:23, 97:2, 104:3; Jer. 10:13; Nah. 1:3; Zec. 10:1) and his Messiah (Dan. 7:13; Mat 24:30, 26:64; Rev. 1:7). The Biblical references to the Baals in the plural (Ba’alim) or to local Baal-figures (e.g., Baal-Peor or Baal of Peor) are not meant as individual gods, but as local cults or idols to the one Baal.

Kinda looks like the sterotypical image of Zeus in your textbooks, doesn't he? There's a reason for that.
Kinda looks like the sterotypical image of Zeus in your textbooks, doesn’t he? There’s a reason for that.

In the Baal Cycle the story is told of how Baal became chief of the Canaanite pantheon and of his striving with his brothers Yam (the Sea) and Mot (Death). After an initial setback, in which Yam temporarily defeats Baal and is consecrated as king of the gods (possibly an echo of the Flood, told in a uniquely Canaanite fashion[4]), Baal defeats Yam with two maces forged by the smith Kothar-wa-Khasis (“Skillful and Wise”). In the Baal steele recovered at Ugarit, on the other hand, Baal is shown holding a mace in one hand and a thunderbolt as a spear in the other, suggesting that his real weapons are thunder and lightning–as apropos for a storm god. However, he is not able to so easily defeat Mot, and is in fact portrayed at being in fear of Death incarnate and eventually slain by him. However, El has a dream in which Baal returns and after a second battle on Mt. Zaphon that draws to a stalemate, it is announced to Mot that El has given kingship to Baal, and Death cannot defeat him again. As a result, Mot comes to fear Baal and reveres him as El’s appointed king.

The story of Baal being devoured for a time by Mot is not simply a symbolic representation of the summer or winter, but seems to hearken back to a time when the land was sterile due to drought, specifically for a period of seven years.[5] This story, mythological and pagan as it is, gives us several key insights into the Ugaritic / Canaanite theology that the Biblical prophets contended with. First, it admits that Baal, though first in the hearts of the people of Canaan, was not the supreme God, but received his kingdom on the earth only at the sufferance of El, a name that is used nearly 250 times in the Bible of the true God, the Eternal Creator. Second, it admits that Baal apart from El was not able to defeat Death. We saw in the previous chapter that all of the ancient pagan religions admitted the existence of a High, Father God above their gods that they nevertheless did not give their greatest devotion to. It establishes a close, though adversarial relationship between Baal and the Sea and Death, which will be shown to be important shortly.

There are numerous passages of Scripture that are written specifically to refute the claims of Baal. For example, Psalm 29 was originally written as a hymn of praise to Baal, but was co-opted by David to praise Hashem instead.[6]

In 1935, H.L. Ginsberg proposed that Psalm 29 was originally a Phoenician hymn which had found its way into the Psalter. In support of his hypothesis, he noted several aspects of the psalm which suggested to him that it had been composed initially in honor of the storm god, Baal; he drew upon the Ugaritic texts to substatiate his hypothesis. . . Today, although debate continues on the details of the hypothesis, almost all scholars agree that Psalm 29’s background is Baal worship, as portrayed in the tablets from Ugarit.[7].

The claim of Baal to be the god of the storm, of thunder of lightning, comes to a head in 1 Kings 17-18, where Elijah, the prophet of Hashem, first demonstrates the true God’s power over the rains which were supposedly the domain of Baal (17:1; cf. Jas. 5:17, Rev. 1:6), and then challenges the prophets of Baal to summon “fire” from heaven: that is to say, lightning (1Ki. 18:24). In every way, Elijah gave up the advantage to the prophets of Baal–and yet it was Hashem who proved himself in fire from heaven, fulfilling David’s’ Psalm that it is Hashem who is revealed in the voice of the thunder.

Baal being a storm god also links him to the Adversary (Satan) in the book of Job, who uses “fire of God . . . from heaven” (lightning; 1:16) and “a great wind” (likely a tornado; v. 19) to destroy Job’s flocks and children. The attacks of the Sabeans in v. 15 and Chaldeans in v. 17 also fit with Baal, a warrior god, and his violent consort Anat. It is quite likely that Job was adapted from an earlier story regarding a contest between El and Baal which was adapted and edited, perhaps during the reign of Solomon, to remove the direct references to Baal and deal with the problem of evil and suffering from a uniquely Israelite perspective.

Jebel al-AqraaOne of the titles of Baal was Zebul, “the prince.” In 2 Kings 1:6, Elijah the Tishbite mockingly changes this title to Baal-Zebub, “Lord of the Flies,” essentially calling Baal a dung heap that his followers fly to. This title carries over in the New Testament, as we shall see in a moment. He is also known a Baal-Tsaphon for his holy mountain north of Ugarit which is today known as Jebel al-Aqraa, in the far northwestern corner of Syria. The word Tsaphon became the Hebrew word for “north,” as in Isaiah 14:12-14:

12 “How  you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star (Heylel),  son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!

13 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north (Heb. Tsaphon);

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High (Elyon).’ (ESV)

In fulfillment of Heylel’s/Baal’s desire, the Ugaritic writings give the title Aliyan / Elyon to Baal rather than to El, though acknowledging that Baal received his throne and his house from El, and that Baal was created while saying of El, “Indeed our creator is eternal, Indeed ageless is he who formed us.”[8]

Cows-of-Bashan-with-Mount-Hermon,-tb032905276-bibleplacesBaal actually claimed two sacred mountains: Tsaphon (or Tsaphanu) in northern Syria, and Hermon in northern Israel (Jdg. 3:3, 1Ch. 5:23). The name Hermon comes from the Semitic word charem, which means something devoted to a god, a devotion that may mean destroying it so it can never again be used for common purposes (Lev. 27:28f, Deu. 7:26). Renowned Orientalist and Biblical scholar Edward Lipinski has argued that both Tsaphon/Sapan and Hermon were originally mountains dedicated to the worship of El, but which Baal co-opted:

El was earlier venerated as the patron of navigators on Gebel el-Aqra’, the ancient Mount Sapan [Tsaphon], which became subsequently the mountain of the Storm-god Ba’al. It does not seem, nevertheless, that this mountain was ever conceived as the Mount of divine Assembly. This quality was instead attributed to Mount Hermon, at least from the Old Babylonian period on, so that, in the second half of the IIth millennium and in the Ist millennium B.C., we must deal with at least two Semitic Olympus.[9]

We’ve already looked at the significance of Bashan and Israel’s conquest of it, but to quickly sum it up:

For the ‘Canaanites’ of Ugarit, the Bashan region, or a part of it, clearly represented ‘Hell’, the celestial and infernal abode of their deified dead kings, Olympus and Hades at the same time. It is possible that this localization of the Canaanite Hell is linked to the ancient tradition of the place as the ancestral home of the rpum. The Biblical text also recalls that “all Bashan used to be called the land/earth of the Rephaim” (Deut 3:13 [NEB]), an ambiguous wording that could equally be translated as “the ‘hell’ of the Rephaim”.[10]

Baal had a special relationship with the race known in Scripture as the Rephaim, who dwelt in Bashan: “Mythological fragments not belonging to the Baal Cycle have increased our knowledge of this side of the god. Baal is called with the epithet rpu (Rapi’u), ‘healer,’ (cf. Hebrew rope). Dietrich & Lorenz have shown that Baal is called rpu in his capacity as leader of the rpum, the Rephaim. . . Baal is their lord in the realm of the dead, as shown by the circumlocution zbl b’l ars (‘prince, lord of the underworld).”[11]

It is this title of Baal, Baal-Zebul or “Baal the Prince,” which links him to the NT Satan:

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said,  “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said,  “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul,  by whom do  your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is  by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then  the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or  how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matthew 12:22-29, ESV)

Yeshua outright calls Satan by his ancient name and title, Baal-Zebul, in this passage. The importance of this has generally been overlooked due to the slight variant spelling (which actually was done to avoid saying Baal’s name: cf. Deuteronomy 12:3 and Hosea 2:17). He also agrees with the Pharisees that Baal is the prince of the demons, aka the Rephaim or Rapum, exactly as described in the Ugaritic texts. This also fits well with the description of the Devil as being “the one who has the power of death” (Heb. 2:14) and “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in  the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).

Baal was not, as it turns out, a uniquely Canaanite god.

Bel (‘lord’) came to be used as a designation for Marduk [the patron deity of the city of Babylon; cf. Dan. 4:8] . . . During the period of the Middle Kingdom, if not earlier, the cult was adopted by the Egyptians, along with the cult of other Canaanite gods (S. Morenz, Agyptische Religion [RdM 8; Stuttgart 1977] 250-255). In the wake of the Phoenician colonization it eventually spread all over the Mediterranean region.[12]

A text discovered in Qal’at Gandal and dating from 292 A.D. is dedicated by a priest to Zeus Megistos . . . who is likely to be the Ba’al Hermon of the Bible. Zeus is in fact the Greek equivalent of Ba’al, the Canaanite storm-god. . . The Greeks equated Ba’al with Zeus from at least the beginning of the fifth century B.C., since Herodotus, The Histories, I, 181 and III, 158, explicitly identifies Zeus with the Babylonian Belos, i.e., Marduk. Now, this equation implies a previous identification of Zeus with the Phoenician Ba’al, since the nature of Marduk would not justify by itself an equation with the Greek storm-god.[13]

The Bible likewise identifies Baal/Satan with Zeus. The designation of Satan as “the prince of the power of the air” or “the atmospheric region”[14] would have fit well with Zeus in the minds of Paul’s audience, who knew Zeus as “the Gatherer of Clouds,” “He Who Thunders High Up,” “He Who Enjoys Lightning,” and “the Master of the Tempest.” “Zeus rains” was likewise a common Greek expression.[15] All of these appellations would have been quite comfortable to followers of Baal.

The Pergamum Altar in Berlin, Germany.  They built this in 1930.  Do you think maybe that was a sign?
The Pergamum Altar in Berlin, Germany. They built this in 1930. Do you think maybe that was a sign?

Zeus is also identified as Satan in Revelation 2:13: “I know where you dwell,  where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not  deny my faith even in the days of Antipas  my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” “Satan’s throne” in Pergamos refers to an altar-temple to Zeus which was shaped like a throne, which was discovered by the German engineer Carl Human in 1878.  (A scale model of this altar was built at the Pergamum museum in Berlin, Germany in 1930.)  On a spiritual level it was also “a reference to the cult of emperor worship, because Pergamos was a center where this form of loyalty was pledged to the emperor of the Roman Empire.”[16] The emperors, of course, claimed to be the gods incarnate, whether Augustus as Zeus or Nero as Apollo.[17]

Zeus is also associated with the “serpent of old” in the Bible (Rev. 12:9, Gen. 3). “The Diasia, ‘the greatest Athenian festival of Zeus’ (Thucydides 1,126,6) . . . took place in honor of Zeus Meilichios who had the form of a huge snake.”[18] The Hebrew word for serpent is nachash, which originally had the meaning (as reflected in the Akkadian nachsu) of “to shine” or “the Shining One.” This meaning of the word is preserved in the Hebrew term for bronze, n’choshet, a shining metal which can be easily heated to the point of glowing. This leads to the wordplay in Numbers 21:9, “Moses made a bronze serpent (nachash n’choshet),” which Hezekiah later called Nechushtan, a “piece of bronze” (2Ki. 18:4). The name Zeus comes from an older Indo-European word (Diw) which “refers specifically to the bright daytime sky, as it is derived from the root meaning ‘to shine.’”[19] Thus Zeus was both the “serpent” and the “shining one” who tempted Mankind in the Garden of Eden.

Three BeastsMost kids learn that Zeus had two brothers: Poseidon, who took dominion over the sea; and Hades, who took dominion over the realm of the dead. Zeus / Poseidon / Hades perfectly parallels the Canaanite triad of Baal / Yam / Mot. The same relationship is surprisingly found in the Bible (Rev. 12-13) as well, with Satan the Dragon, “the serpent of old,” finally being cast down from heaven before being joined with two beasts: one from the sea, a picture of Yam / Poseidon; and one “coming up out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11) as if from its underworld, just like Mot / Hades.

Finally, let us consider the traditional Christian view of Satan: As generally taught, Satan was the greatest and most beautiful of God’s creations, and served as the Eternal Creator’s viceroy until he became proud, and fell (cf. Ezk. 28:11-19, Isa. 14:12-15). This fits in well with the understanding that Satan is simply a later name for Baal that came into employ as the Jewish prophets and teachers destroyed Baal-worship. In Ugaritic myth (reflecting northern Canaanite beliefs to about the period of the Judges), Baal was the viceroy of El and derived his kingship from El. However, by the time that the Greek city-states had reached their heights, the myth had turned far more violent, with Zeus overthrowing his father Cronus (equivalent to the Roman Saturn and the Canaanite El) and seizing the throne in his place.

Of course, the real El was not overthrown and still sits upon the throne of the universe, but the mythology of the Greeks aptly reflects the Adversary’s desires and fantasies. Ultimately, it will not be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who will be cast down into Tartarus (aka the Abyss), but the being calling himself Baal (Master) and Zeus (the Shining Lord of the Sky).



“The American Heritage Dictionary Entry: Zeus.” American Heritage Dictionary Entry: Zeus. Web. 5 Jul. 2015.

Dahood, Mitchell J. The Anchor Bible. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1968. Print.

Editors El In The Ugaritic Texts. “El’s Abode.” El in the Ugaritic texts (1955): 61–81. Web.

Finegan, Jack. Myth & Mystery: an Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989. Print.

Grimm, Carl Ludwig Wilibald, Christian Gottlob Wilke, and Maurice A. Robinson. The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1981. Print.

Oldenburg, Ulf. The Conflict between El and Baʼal in Canaanite Religion. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1969. Print.

“The Roman Cult Of Emperor Worship.” Reading Acts. N.p., Feb. 2010. Web. 5 Jul. 2015.

Toorn, K. van der., Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der. Horst. Dictionary Of Deities and Demons in the Bible DDD. Leiden: Brill, 1999. Print.

“Ugarit.” Ugarit. Web. 5 Jul. 2015.

Wyatt, N. The Mythic Mind: Essays on Cosmology and Religion in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature. London: Equinox Pub., 2005. Print.

Youngblood, Ronald F., F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995. Print.

[1] This is the general consensus, though there is some scholarly debate on this identification. See The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, “Baal,” pp. 171ff.

[2], accessed on July 5, 2015

[3] DDD, “Rider Upon the Clouds,” p. 704, cf. Isa. 14:14

[4] Wyatt, p. 301

[5] Oldenburg, p. 37; cf. Gen. 41

[6] Dahood, Anchor Bible: Psalms 1-50

[7] Exerpted from on November 25, 2014

[8] Finegan, p. 138

[9] Lipinski; retreived from on November 26, 2014

[10] DDD, “Bashan,” p. 162

[11] DDD, “Baal,” p. 135

[12] ibid., 132, 133

[13] Lipinski

[14] Thayer’s, #109, αηρ

[15] DDD, “Zeus,” p. 934

[16] Nelson’s, “Pergamos”

[17] “The Roman Cult,” Reading Acts

[18] DDD, ibid., 936

[19] American Heritage Dictionary, “Zeus”

The Day Israel Conquered Hell

It’s been a while since I really wrote on spiritual warfare, and that’s not because my life has lacked it. I’ve actually been frustrated with how subtle the battle tends to be. It’d be much easier if the demons would just pop out in full manifestation so that they could be driven out in the Name of Yeshua–which is, of course, why they try to avoid that around Yeshua’s true disciples.

In fact, when the battle goes from spiritual cloak-and-dagger to open and aggressive warfare, it’s most often the Holy One who has pushed it into the open. When God’s people are walking blameless, they win every time; it takes sin in the camp, like that of Achan (Jos. 7), to turn an otherwise certain victory in the Lord into a rout. Therefore, the Adversary has every reason to hide his presence while he probes, digs, tempts, angers, and subverts God’s people.

Today’s post isn’t really about that: It’s about what happens when the Holy One takes off the gloves and leads his people into war–and why he picks the battlegrounds that he does. Let’s talk about Bashan:

They turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. The LORD said to Moses, “Don’t fear him: for I have delivered him into your hand, and all his people, and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” So they struck him, and his sons and all his people, until there was none left him remaining: and they possessed his land. (Num. 21:33-35)

For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; isn’t it in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, after the cubit of a man. (Deu. 3:11)

This little incident seems tucked away in an innocuous place in your Bible–some have never read it before. It’s mostly famous among Christians who study the Nephilim (usually connecting them to the hybrids of UFO lore), due to the fact that Rephaim and Nephilim are connected in the Scriptures (cf. Num. 13:33 and Deu. 2:11). However, it’s absolutely crucial to understanding some events in Yeshua’s ministry over a thousand years later.

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Let’s start by explaining how the Canaanites saw the land of Bashan. In their own language, it was called Bathan, which means “serpent.” Where Mt. Hermon, whose melting snows kept Bashan green, fertile, and perfect for raising cattle (cf. Num. 32:1ff), was one of the two sacred mountains of the Canaanites (the other being Tsaphon/Tsaphanu in the northwestern corner of modern Syria, overlooking the ancient city of Ugarit), Bashan was clearly identified by the Ugaritic texts as being the underworld:

“For the ‘Canaanites’ of Ugarit, the Bashan region, or a part of it, clearly represented ‘Hell,’ the celestial and infernal abode of their deified dead kings, Olympus and Hades at the same time. It is possible that this localization of the Canaanite Hell is linked to the ancient tradition of the place as the ancestral home of their dynasty, the rpum [the Biblical Rephaim].” (The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd Ed. (Eerdmans, 1999), “Bashan,” p. 162)

The Rephaim/Rapum are the subject of an entire set of tablets retrieved from the ruins of Ugarit, where they are described as “the gods” (tablet 1, line 1), and “the divine ones . . . the warriors of Baal and the warriors of Anat [Baal’s consort]” (tablet 3, lines 6-7). In Kirta, they are called “the Rephaim of the underworld . . . the assembly of Ditan’s company” (tablet 2, column 3). In the Baal Cycle, we are told that “Sun rules the Rephaim, Sun rules the divine ones: Your company are the gods, see, the dead are your company” (tablet 6, column 6). (All quotes are from Mark S. Smith and Michael D. Coogan’s Stories from Ancient Canaan, Second Edition.)  These descriptions are consistent with those of the Bible, which uses rephaim to denote not only several tribes of giants in Canaan (e.g., Gen. 14:15ff, 1Sa. 17, 2Sa. 21:16ff), but also the spirits of the dead (e.g., Psa. 88:10; Pro. 2:18; Isa. 14:9, 26:14 & 19), including at least some that were slain in the Flood (Job 26:5).

I’ll do a whole study connecting the Nephilim of the Antediluvian world to the post-Flood Rephaim at some future date, but suffice to say there is complete a complete agreement between the Ugaritic texts, the Biblical texts, pagan Greek tradition (specifically Hesiod, as noted in Dic. of Deities, p. 235), the ancient Jewish tradition (e.g., Enoch 15:8ff, Jubilees 10:5ff) and the ancient Church tradition (e.g., Justin Martyr, Athenagoras) that the demons were the souls of a race of “heroes” (in the Greek term), “gods” (the Ugaritic texts), or hybrid human-angelic race (the Biblical, Jewish, and Christian tradition) who once walked the earth, died, but whose spirits remained and could be contacted by mortals now.

Suddenly, the terror shown by the Midianites (Num. 22) and the Canaanites (Jos. 2:9) makes perfect sense. It wasn’t just a general sense of dread that Hashem sent to paralyze them. They were confronting a mysterious people who walked under the visible Presence of the Holy One, a God who had destroyed Egypt to take his people out, and who had just marched that people through Canaanite Hell and killed its king, Og of Bashan–as the warm up to the conquest of the Land!

Fast-forward some thirteen centuries to two events in the Messiah’s earthly ministry. The first is the exorcism of a “Legion” of demons from a man in “the country of the Gerasenes” (Luke 8:26, cf. Mark 5:1). When confronted by the Son of God, the demons initially resist being cast out, begging not to be sent “away into the Abyss” (Luke 8:31) or even “out of the country” (Mark 5:10). Why?

What if I were to tell you that the country of the Geresenes was within the ancient boundaries of Bashan? Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the maps in the back of your Bible and compare the locations of Old Testament Bashan with New Testament Khersa/Gergesa.

The demons begged not to be sent from that particular plot of real-estate because they were the spirits of the Rephaim, who had dwelt there for thousands of years, being alternately sought-after and feared by the mortal inhabitants.

Not actually the gate of Hell, but definitely a sign-post along the way
Not actually the gate of Hell, but definitely a sign-post along the way

Nor would this be the last time Yeshua would reference the land of Bashan. The following year, Yeshua would bring his disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi. The Arabs today call the place Banyas, but in Yeshua’s time, it was named by the Greeks as Panias, the place of the goat-god Pan. Even today, you can see the remnants of an ancient Greek temple built into a shallow cave–and the Greeks were just the latest pagans to have built a worship-center there.

It was in the midst of that pagan place that Yeshua asked a question on which all of history would turn:

“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They said, “Some say Yochanan the Immerser, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Yeshua answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Sheol will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” (Mat. 16:13-19)

It was not the simple affirmation of his Messiahship that Yeshua was after–they had, after all, started recognizing him as the Messiah from their very first encounters with him (John 1:41). Rather, there is something significant about Peter’s declaration: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” that Yeshua links to his declaration, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of Sheol [Gr. Hades, Lat. Hell] will not prevail against it.”

What if I told you that Caesarea Phillipi was right on the border of ancient Bashan–that it was very literally at “the gates of [Canaanite] Hell”?

And what if I told you that some eight days later, when Yeshua’s transfiguration took place, it was most likely on Mt. Hermon, showing Yeshua’s dominion not only over Canaanite Hell, but Canaanite Olympus as well–and that his ascent there was prophesied in Psalm 68?

But that’s another story and will be told another time.

When I teach someone on spiritual warfare, this is one of the two books that I consider required reading
When I teach someone on spiritual warfare, this is one of the two books that I consider required reading

So what’s the point of all this? The point is that the Bible presents spiritual warfare to take place on specific geographical grounds on earth. We are called not only to redeem people, but to redeem sacred space. I remember reading in George Otis’ Twilight Labyrinth: Why Spiritual Darkness Lingers Where It Does (which I can’t quote from directly due to having loaned it out, so I’ll have to get the quote later) that missionaries often find themselves stymied in their efforts until they make a point of praying along the pagan pilgrimage routes and right before the pagan holy days.

Unfortunately, all too often we have failed to redeem those sacred places, and let the demons of the past linger among us. I’m not talking about destroying historical sites (if we were in the habit of doing that, we wouldn’t have all of the wonderful contextual information from Ugarit that I’ve used above), but re-sanctifying them. I’m not talking about military conquest and seizing other peoples’ property, but spiritual conquest and taking authority over our own property.

Those of a Pentecostal or charismatic persuation are used to this idea already, but I’ve known enough who are skeptical that the practices of dedicating a home with oil or walking the boundary line of a piece of property in prayer is really Biblical. I’m hoping to show in this series of posts that not only are such practices Biblically permissible, but that they are Biblically commanded.