Moses 120 Years and Deleavening our Homes and our minds.

Joseph F. Dumond

Isa 6:9-12 And He said, Go, and tell this people, You hear indeed, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back, and be healed. Then I said, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until the cities are wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land laid waste, a desolation, and until Jehovah has moved men far away, and the desolation in the midst of the land is great.
Published: Mar 1, 2012

News Letter 5847-050
9th day of the 12th month 5847 years after the creation of Adam
The 12th Month in the Second year of the third Sabbatical Cycle
The Third Sabbatical Cycle of the 119th Jubilee Cycle
The Sabbatical Cycle of Earthquakes Famines, and Pestilences.

March 3, 2012


Shabbat Shalom Brethren,

This Sunday March 4, 2012 I will be speaking at the Honey & Locust Internet Cafe and Specialty Book Store in Sarnia Ontario at Next Sunday March 11, 2012 I will be concluding the series by explaining the Prophecies in the Law of Niddah and the 70 Shabua and what this all means to each person here.

Honey & Locust Internet Cafe and Specialty Book Store
180 Front Street North
Sarnia Ontario
Canada N7T 5S3

Last week we covered the basics of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years and we will expand on this, this week by explaining the Prophecies of Abraham which I have been doing in the USA and Israel over the past year. The meetings go from between 10 AM-12 and then from 1-4PM Each Sunday. What has taken me 9 hours to present can now be expanded of 15 hours and give you more time to digest it all. Just read the comments from Ocala and consider what you’re missing out on. So if you’re in Michigan then come on over. Sarnia is just on the other side of the Bridge at Port Huron.

On March 16 Friday evening at 7 PM and again on Shabbat March 17 starting at 12 noon. I will be speaking with the Brethren just outside London Kentucky.

The congregations address is
Yah’s Messianic Fellowship
2240 KY 1527 Gray, Ky.
PO Box 425 Heidrick, Ky. 40949

Our leader is Michael Jackson(Mike). His #is 606-622-4102 if you would like to speak with him. You are scheduled for 7 p.m Friday the 16th and we will start at 12 on Shabbat. We will break somewhere 3-5 for Oneg and then continue after that time.

We also will be in California at the club house at the
Tammaron Moble Home Park
14610 Mono Way
Sonora, Calif 95370
on the May 19th weekend. There is plenty of parking and there is no cost to any one to do it there…seating is limited to 55 people….the contact will be John & Lonnie Nelson 209-586-3708…since it is a Sabbath we will be asking for everyone to bring something to share for a late lunch early dinner maybe around four or so and some type of snack to share like muffins, cookies or something for a break.

If your anywhere near any of these meetings do make the effort to come out and hear what is being shared. There is no cost and the amount of information you gain is priceless. And if your considering hosting me teach about the Sabbatical and Jubilee years then let us know ASAP so we can plan it and make it happen.

If you don`t do it then who will? So Make it happen.


In the mail this week from Last weeks News letter are the following.


Shabbat Shalom Brother Joe Dumond,

I was bothered about you and prayed immediately for you when I have seen that the NL was missing.

There is something troubling I have seen in KBS World TV. This is Korean TV. I like to look at it because it is far different from all other channels. It is more clean and often joyful.

In the News they showed the map of Southern Korean and mentioned that they are afraid of a severe drought to come. There are clear signs about this and they showed the Foto all over that land: Earth dried out full of crevices. Oh, I got so shocked.

May YHWH always have his hands over you and thanks again and again for doing this wonderful teaching.
Marie-Louise Thailand


Shalom !

Actually it is very easy to understand – all we have to do is observe the barley, and when it is Abib ( ripe ), we look up for the next new moon sliver knowing that will be the first day of our new year and the first day of our first month…………………………… simple , huh ?

We will continue to keep you in our prayers. If you need ANYTHING, PLEASE CALL !

Love ya, in YAHUSHUWAH haMashchiach, bro.

Tom & sis. Sandy


Shalom Joseph,

I don’t know if you mentioned this in your letter or studies BUT the strongest scriptural support for the sighted moon is actually in the 14th verse of the Scriptures. You said the following:

“The above verse clearly teaches us that the holidays are related to the moon. But when the Torah was given Ps 104 had not yet been written by the Levitical prophets, and the question still remains of how the ancient Israelites could have known this. The answer is that the Hebrew word for month (Hodesh) itself indicates a connection to the moon.”

The reason why the ancient Israelites knew that the sighted moon was the “hodesh” was because it was right there in their writings in the beginning.

Genesis 1:14 says that the light of the moon determines for us the Father’s moedim – not the darkness. It is that simple. A conjunction moon is disqualified because it has no light. (No light, no authority, no truth, no TORAH) Once the moon is renewed, its light gives it the authority to declare/signal new month. Your thoughts…

Shalom and talk soon…


I think Brother John Bennett has nailed it exactly right. No light no authority, no truth, no Torah. It is the light that is the witness. The Light of the sun that shines off of the first sliver of the moon that begins the month. It is that simple. Thanks John.


Two weeks ago I wrote a News Letter explaining how the curses leading up to the Exodus took place over a number of years and I came to that conclusion because of the number of times the cattle had been stuck.

  • Newsletter 5847-048    The Curses of the Exodus took place in the First Sabbatical cycle in 1386 BC

Especially after the curse in which takes all the cattle and kills them.

Exo 9:6 And ???? did this word on the next day, and all the livestock of Mitsrayim died, but of the livestock of the children of Yisra’?l, not one died.
Exo 9:7 Then Pharaoh sent, and see, not even one of the livestock of the Yisra’?lites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

I stated that it would now take time to replace all this livestock after this devastating blow. That takes time. And then we read just a few verses later about the animals being struck again

Exo 9:18 “See, tomorrow about this time I am causing very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Mitsrayim, from the day of its founding until now.
Exo 9:19 “And now send, bring your livestock to safety, and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every beast which is found in the field and is not brought home, and they shall die.” ’ ”

And still after this we read about the first born dying. All the first born including the cattle.

Exo 11:4 And Mosheh said, “Thus said ????, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Mitsrayim,
Exo 11:5 and all the first-born in the land of Mitsrayim shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the first-born of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the first-born of cattle.

So the question I asked was how could the cattle be killed off three times in just one year or less which is how we all perceive the curses of the Exodus? I said they took longer than one year. I suggested they took place over the previous Sabbatical cycle of seven years.

I then began to get a number of emails and I took sick. I could not think and could not respond to them all. But they all had the same message and that message was the following.


Shalom Joseph,

You wrote:

“The curses of the exodus did not take place the week before the Exodus. Although some did; Nor did all the curses take place even the month before although some did.
These curses took place over a number of years. A Sabbatical cycle.”

How can this be, Joseph?

Act 7:22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
Act 7:23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
Act 7:24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
Act 7:25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
Act 7:26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
Act 7:27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
Act 7:28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
Act 7:29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
Act 7:30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

Now, Moses is 80 years old. The children of Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness.

Num 14:33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness.

We are also told:

Deu 34:7 And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

We aren’t told by the Scriptures how long the plagues were upon Egypt, but it appears that they all appeared over over just a few month. I’ve been told by that the rabbis believe that they each happened at the beginning of a month, giving the Egyptians time to recover and repent. Whether or not they had a full month for each plague, it appears that they happened over a short period of time, rather than over a period of seven years.

I then wrote and conceded the point in last weeks News letter. I said I did not have a rebuttal.

But, since then I have recovered from being sick and Yehovah has shown me some of the most obvious things. I do not know why we have not seen it before. And I now state again that the curses of the exodus took place over more than one year. As many as three. So let me explain this and before you write me think about it.

The first thing I want you to realize is that Moses along with Aaron did these curses. Moses and Aaron are likened to the two witnesses.

Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

John 1:21 And they asked him (John the baptist), What then? Art thou Elijah? And he saith, I am not. Art thou the Prophet? And he answered, No.

Matthew 17:10-13 And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

We see that Jesus told His disciples that John was Elijah, yet there is no reincarnation, so what does this mean. Look at what the angel Gabriel tells Zacharias regarding his son to be – the cousin of the Son of God – again, scripture explains scripture (parenthetical notation is mine):

Luke 1:17 And he (John) shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

This makes it crystal clear that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah and was not himself a reincarnation of the prophet of God.

Now, look at Moses. He did perform signs that are harmonious with the criteria for the second of the witnesses of Revelation: (parenthetical notation is mine)

Exodus 4:9 “But if they (the Israelite Elders) will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

Exodus 7:17-21 ‘Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. “The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.'”” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in {vessels of} wood and in {vessels of} stone.’ ” So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that {was} in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that {was} in the Nile was turned to blood. The fish that {were} in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt.

This is very persuasive evidence that Moses is the second witness – yet, not Moses himself, but a man coming in the “spirit and power” of Moses – as Christ Himself explained of John the Baptist’s being Elijah.

If these proofs weren’t enough, we have even more to suggest that the two witnesses – “the two olive trees and two lamp stands that stand before that Lord of the earth” – are in fact Moses and Elijah. During the trip to the mount of transfiguration we see an event takes place that is partially described in the gospels and Revelation regarding these two prophets:

Matthew 17:1-3 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

I think this bit of Scripture speaks for itself. We see that Christ is transfigured so that He looks just as John later sees Him in the vision given to him at Patmos around 90 A.D. And standing before Him – Who IS the Lord of the earth – are His two witnesses…..Elijah and Moses! This speaks volumes when viewed through the lens of the previous Scriptures and I dare say, should be compelling enough for anyone to agree. I see no other scenario that fits like this glove, therefore, I must hold fast to this conclusion. At the beginning of the seven years of tribulation two men of Jewish descent will rise up from among their Israeli brothers in the spirit and power of Elijah and Moses and fulfill the prophecy outlined in Revelation chapter 11 – yet they will not be the reincarnated men but men of this era; converted Jewish Christians, who will have the supernatural hand of the Lord as their protection, and will prophecy about the coming of Messiah to the Jews while bringing about the same types of plagues the former lawgiver, Moses, and the greatest prophet, Elijah, performed in the sight of the nations. If all of this were not enough, one last reference from Christ to seal the deal:

Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Moses was the man anointed by God to deliver the Law to the children of God and Elijah was considered the greatest prophet of Israel – whose duty was to prophecy to the Jewish people to turn back to God and stop shedding one another’s blood and acting treacherously toward each other – meaning love thy neighbor. This is what every prophet was charged with – turning Jacob away from his evil and back to YHVH. This is why one can see that Revelation is predominantly a story of God reaching out with Grace to His chosen people, Israel, a final time while Satan does his best to thwart the plans and providence of the Father. This is significant, also, when you see that the only two churches in Revelation in which all of the congregates were praised, without condemnation for any wickedness, and guaranteed a spot in the rapture, were Smyrna = the persecuted church; who died for the word of God not wavering from His commandments, and Philadelphia = the ‘church of brotherly love’; who truly loved one another with the heart of Christ. These are the two ‘lamp stands’ that will be raptured (along with a precious few from the other five churches who ‘have not soiled their garments’ or ‘do not hold to the ways of the Nicolaitans’, and not them who ‘are corrupted by that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess’ or ‘who call themselves Jews but are not, but are a synagogue of Satan’). The other five, who are (minus previously referenced exceptions within these churches) a harlot who is married to the world and not the Bride set apart as a virgin for Christ at His coming. This is the reason that the two witnesses will rise up among the Jews at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period.

Moses along with Aaron were the first example of the two witnesses.

We are told in Revelation 11 how long they would speak for.

Rev 11:3 “And I shall give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clad in sackcloth.”
Rev 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that are standing before the Elohim of the earth.

That 1260 days is 3 ½ years.

We also read in 1Ki 17:1 And ?liyahu the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gil?ad?, said to Ah?ab?, “As ???? Elohim of Yisra’?l lives, before whom I stand, there shall be no dew or rain these years, except at my word.”

So here both Elijah and the two witnesses did their work and will do their work over 3 years time.

And here is a little note about the Elijah cup which is drunk at Passover.

Elijah’s cup

See also: Passover Seder

In the Talmudic literature, Elijah would visit rabbis to help solve particularly difficult legal problems. Malachi had cited Elijah as the harbinger of the eschaton. Thus, when confronted with reconciling impossibly conflicting laws or rituals, the rabbis would set aside any decision “until Elijah comes.”[75]

One such decision was whether the Passover seder required four or five cups of wine. Each serving of wine corresponds to one of the “four expressions of redemption” in the Book of Exodus:

“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an out-stretched arm and with great acts of judgment, and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:6–7).

The next verse, “And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.” (Exodus 6:8) was not fulfilled until the generation following the Passover story, and the rabbis could not decide whether this verse counted as part of the Passover celebration (thus deserving of another serving of wine). Thus, a cup was left for the arrival of Elijah.

In practice, the fifth cup has come to be seen as a celebration of future redemption. Today, a place is reserved at the seder table and a cup of wine is placed there for Elijah. During the seder, the door of the house is opened and Elijah is invited in. Traditionally, the cup is viewed as Elijah’s and is used for no other purpose.

So in this first part if Elijah stopped the rain for 3 years and in Revelation we are told the two Witnesses will work for 3 ½ years and part of the work they do is to stop the rain for 3 years;

Rev 11:6 These possess authority to shut the heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy. And they possess authority over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they wish.

Then I have to conclude that the first example we have of the two witnesses at work, Moses and Aaron, also took place over a period of three years.

But this is not my only bit of evidence.

The second proof I put forward is from the very argument of those who disagreed.

So those of you with the Sabbatical and Jubilee charts get them out. And if you do not yet have a copy of the Prophecies of Abraham with the whole chronology from Adam down to us today according to the Sabbatical cycles then you can get a copy at: Sightedmoon Marketplace

We all know what the word assume means. Those who assume generally make an ass of U and Me. And this is what we all have done when we just assume what has been written in Acts concludes with the end of the wandering in the wilderness. It does not!

Act 7:22 “And Mosheh was instructed in all the wisdom of the Mitsrites, and was mighty in words and works.
Act 7:23 “And when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Yisra’?l.
Act 7:24 “And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended and revenged him who was oppressed, smiting the Mitsrite.

We are told here that Moses came to the Israelite when He was 40 years old and this is when he killed the Egyptian.

We are then told that after being in Midian for 40 years Moses is talking to Yehovah at the burning bush.

Act 7:30 “And after forty years were completed, a Messenger of ???? appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.

This now makes him 80 when he goes to the children of Israel back in Egypt. Moses could have been 80 in the first year of this first Sabbatical cycle. 1386 BC or there abouts and from here you count the next 40 years.

We now read in Deuteronomy of Moses death and this is where the Assumption takes place.

Deu 34:7 And Mosheh was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his freshness gone.

But in all of this everyone forgets that the Israelites were two years at Mount Sinai building the Ark and after that they went to the wilderness of Paran and this is when the forty years curse was applied and started.

Num 10:11 And it came to be on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the Dwelling Place of the Witness. 12 And the children of Yisra’?l departed, setting out from the Wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud dwelt on it in the Wilderness of Paran.13 Thus they departed the first time, according to the command of ???? by the hand of Mosheh.

With this additional information we now must conclude that Moses dies at least two years before they crossed the Jordan. Either that or that Moses was 122 and not 120 as Scriptures says which we just read in Deuteronomy. So they crossed the Jordan two years after the Moses had died or at least two years after.

We are assuming that the 40 years in the wilderness was the last 40 years of Moses life. Nothing says this is in fact true. We just are not told. But we are told that there were two other years that most do not consider which is the time they were at Sinai.

I am saying and again this is my opinion as we do not have the written word spelled out to go upon. But it is my opinion and it will help if you have the charts now to look at; It is my opinion that Moses went back with the Israelites in 1383 BC or 1382 BC and began to work the miracles that would lead to the Exodus from that time. Either 3 or 3 ½ years before the Exodus.

This matches up with what Elijah did and we know Moses is a typical of the two witnesses.

The year 1383 BC is in the middle of the Sabbatical cycle for that time. It is also in the middle of the Sabbatical cycle in Joseph’s life cycle which is our teaching on the two witnesses who begin in the middle of a Sabbatical cycle. I know this is going too fast for many right now, but this is a teaching I show in my presentation and in The Prophecies of Abraham. How the two witnesses begin their work in the middle of a Sabbatical cycle.

Then once we remove the assumption part of the 40 years in the wilderness being the last 40 years of Moses life then we can come to the conclusion that Moses dies in the last 7 years while they are in the wilderness. Sometime around 1343 or 1342BC.

It also means that the Israelites then crossed the Jordan 6 years later in 1337 BC which we have proven to be the 51st Jubilee year.

To assume the last 40 years of Moses life was the 40 years wandering the wilderness is an assumption which we now know not to be true. So it is time to rethink what we think and to readjust where needed.

Now that we have you thinking and because of the time of year we have another article for you to consider. It is the actual exodus itself.

It is called Exodus Another Study of the Facts.

I also have this article showing you how to count to three as this is the only sign the Yehshua is the Messiah or not. And most do not know how to count to three. It also includes information on why we need to deleaven our homes.

With Passover only about 5 weeks away we need to begin to deleaven our homes and vehicles and places of work so that no leaven, no yeast that causes bread to rise can be found in all our places. This is a laborious job but one I love to do as it is the sign spring is here. It is where we get the phrase spring cleaning from. Imagine that. 3390 years after the Exodus and we all still do spring cleaning but most do not know it has to do with deleavening our homes.

I am sharing the following article for our new Brethren. I do not endorse all that is commented about in this article. But I just wanted something simple for those who are keeping the Passover for the first time this year; so they had an idea of how and why we are to deleaven our homes.

And as you do this exercise do not neglect the cleansing of your hearts and minds of all the false teachings that you have stored there or the secret sins you have hidden from everyone else.

Psa 19:1 The heavens are proclaiming the esteem of ?l; And the expanse is declaring the work of His hand.
Psa 19:2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.
Psa 19:3 There is no speech, and there are no words, Their voice is not heard.
Psa 19:4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He set up a tent for the sun,
Psa 19:5 And it is like a bridegroom coming out of his room, It rejoices like a strong man to run the path.
Psa 19:6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end; And naught is hidden from its heat.
Psa 19:7 The Torah of ???? is perfect, bringing back the being; The witness of ???? is trustworthy, making wise the simple;
Psa 19:8 The orders of ???? are straight, rejoicing the heart; The command of ???? is clear, enlightening the eyes;
Psa 19:9 The fear of ???? is clean, standing forever; The right-rulings of ???? are true, They are righteous altogether,
Psa 19:10 More desirable than gold, Than much fine gold; And sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Psa 19:11 Also, Your servant is warned by them, In guarding them there is great reward.
Psa 19:12 Who discerns mistakes? Declare me innocent from those that are secret,
Psa 19:13 Also keep Your servant back from presumptuous ones, Do not let them rule over me. Then shall I be perfect, and innocent of great transgression.
Psa 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be pleasing before You, O ????, my rock and my redeemer.

Let me say it one more time clearly for those who need to hear this. Do not neglect the cleansing of your heart and mind. We are so close to the end of this age that it is now time to stop your secret sins and begin the hard work of putting it out of your life. It is now time to get straightened up or sobered up.


Confessing Secret Sin

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. Psalm 31:9-10 NKJV

Secret sin is usually involved with sex addiction. I hear from people each week who are secretly feeding their sexual lusts through a variety of outlets. Often they are unwilling to expose their habits, due to fear, shame, not wanting to hurt people or simply not wanting to quit. They find it easier to confide in a stranger about this very personal struggle, than go to those closest to them.

David was a man who had secret sin. He talked about how that sin affected him when he kept it hidden. It actually caused physical and emotional sickness! David later decided to do the right thing by confessing his sin to God:
I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Psalm 32:5 NKJV

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:12-13 NKJV

David’s confessions cleared the way for God’s forgiveness and cleansing. He also asked God to help him stop “presumptuous” sinning and to prevent sin from ruling over him.

If you have secret sin in your life, how is it affecting you? Could it be contributing to physical and emotional problems, as was the case for David? Does it rule your life? People often try to fool themselves by thinking that their secrets won’t hurt them. It’s kind of a “self-blinding” mechanism that numbs them to the reality of how sin is really affecting them.

The way to start breaking free of secret sin’s grip is to confess it to God and to fellow Christians. Consider what John wrote:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NKJV
Confession yields forgiveness and cleansing. When we confess to other Christians, we have additional doors of healing and forgiveness that are opened to us:

16Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16 NIV.

Finding a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ to confide in can be a challenge. Granted, there is hypocrisy in the church, but there are many people who still live for God. If we ask God to help us find a person to confess to, I believe he will do it. We must be willing to stop hiding behind excuses and to make the effort to build relationships with people as God leads us. It will require that we risk getting vulnerable.

When we let people into our private lives, we give them an opportunity to pray for us and encourage us to live for God. It also shatters the power of fear. People’s reactions may not be as bad as we thought they might be. For example, when I shared my porn addiction with my men’s prayer group, 5 out of the 6 men mentioned they had struggled with porn. I also found that my relationships with those six men were generally strengthened as a result.

Read again the story when David is confronted with his sin and note this one thing very carefully. Yehovah was about to kill David until he confessed and repented. That is when Nathan said you will not die.

2Sa 12:7 Then Nathan said to Dawid?, “You are the man! Thus said ???? Elohim of Yisra’?l, ‘I anointed you sovereign over Yisra’?l, and I delivered you from the hand of Sha’ul. 8 ‘And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Yisra’?l and Yehud?ah. And if that were not enough, I also would have given you much more! 9 ‘Why have you despised the Word of ???? to do evil in His eyes? You have killed Uriyah the H?ittite with the sword, and his wife you took to be your wife, and you have killed him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 ‘And now, the sword does not turn aside from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriyah the H?ittite to be your wife.’ 11 “Thus said ????, ‘See, I am raising up evil against you, from your own house, and shall take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 ‘For you did it in secret, but I shall do this deed before all Yisra’?l, and before the sun.’ ” 13 And Dawid? said to Nathan, “I have sinned against ????.” And Nathan said to Dawid?, “Also, ???? has put away your sin, you shall not die.

Again Brethren as you deleaven your homes deleaven your minds and hearts lest Yehovah come and kill you. Those who do not deleaven, we are told will be cut off.

Exo 12:19 ‘For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, that same being shall be cut off from the congregation of Yisra’?l, whether sojourner or native of the land.

You could read this as For Seven Millennium you shall have no sin in all your dwellings nor in your mind or thoughts, lest they should be cut off or killed. Think about this the next time you want to go back to your secret sins.


The Five Ws of Deleavening

by Staff Forerunner, “Ready Answer,” March 2000
Was the Sop Leavened or Unleavened (John 13:26-27)?
Spring is almost here! Warmer, sunny days are bringing the spring flowers out in some of the more temperate climes, though it is officially still winter until March 20. Passover occurs a month later on April 19, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the following day.

Are we looking forward to the spring holy days? Are we looking forward to—or dreading—the “Days of Spring Cleaning”?

Yes, there is a real danger that the days preceding the Feast of Unleavened Bread have become the Days of Spring Cleaning! The very mention of the word “deleavening” conjures dismay in the minds of many a Christian. How terrible is the thought of all that vacuuming, scrubbing, dusting—not to mention the exhaustion that seems to increase each year as our bodies age!

How often have we put so much into our physical deleavening work that we have had little energy and attentiveness left over to learn the important spiritual lessons of Passover, the Night to be Much Observed and the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Is this what God intends?

Just what deleavening does He want His children to do? What has He commanded His people? This article will offer some guidelines on deleavening our homes, so let’s review “The Five Ws of Deleavening”: why, where, what, who and when.


Why should we deleaven? After all, the word “deleaven” never appears in Scripture! God’s original command to His people on this subject appears in Exodus 12: “Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying. . .” (verse 1). In verses 2-14, God proceeds to give them instructions on how they should keep the Passover, then in verses 15 and 19, He gives this command regarding the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. . . . For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.

So the simple answer to the question, “Why should God’s people deleaven?” is that the great God commands it! Yes, but why does He command it? All of His commands are for a good reason. Verses 17 and 39 give the answer:
So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt.

Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. . . . And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves.

The words “the Feast of” are not in the Hebrew of verse 17, but were added by the translators. God says here that His people are to keep the annual practice of deleavening because He brought His Old Testament church out of Egypt. We find later that this great and miraculous event symbolized freeing His New Testament church from sin. Many scriptures show that both Egypt and leaven are symbols of sin. Sermons and sermonettes given on the First and Last Days of Unleavened Bread commonly review these spiritual aspects.

Did God really intend His people to observe this practice forever, as we read in verse 17, or was it nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ? These three scriptures from the early church after Jesus’ crucifixion show that it is indeed a New Testament practice:
» And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, [Herod] proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. (Acts 12:3)
» But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread. . . . (Acts 20:6)
» Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6-8)

We know that Jesus kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and perhaps what is more important for our example, these scriptures prove that His early New Testament church kept it after His death, resurrection and ascension.



Where should we deleaven? Again, God gives the instruction on this point through Moses: “On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. . . . Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses. . . (Exodus 12:15, 19). The English phrases, “from your houses” and “in your houses,” derive from a single Hebrew word, bayith, which can also mean “homes,” “households” or “families.”

Exodus 13:7 expands on this: “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters.” The English words “your quarters” come from the Hebrew word gebul, which can mean “borders,” “coasts,” “bounds,” “landmarks,” “space,” “limit,” “territory” and “region.”

God’s instruction shows that we should deleaven all the areas for which we are responsible. Obviously, this includes our homes, but what about our cars, garages, yards and workspaces? Should we deleaven them? Where do our “quarters” end?

Many centuries ago Galileo wrote, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” God expects His people to be sensible. He should not have to explain every single detail for long-time members of His church. He does not expect us to deleaven areas where there has been no chance of leaven getting into it. Think about it! Is it possible that leavened products have made their way into the downstairs bathroom or into the tool cupboard or work bench? Does anyone ever eat in the car? Have groceries been carried in the trunk? Has anyone eaten in the office? Are we sure?

If a person has young children, of course, there can be no guarantees! But if we are absolutely sure that no leaven has been taken into an area over which we have responsibility, then there is no need to deleaven it! Our time at this period of the year is so valuable. Why waste any of it? We would spend it better preparing for the Passover and searching for spiritual leaven.



Exactly what should we put off our property for the duration of the seven Days of Unleavened Bread? What is leaven? What are leavening agents and leavened products? Here is a brief review:
There are two main Hebrew words for “leaven” in Exodus 12 and 13: seor means “leaven” or “swelling by fermentation”; chamets can mean “leaven,” “leavened bread,” “the thing leavened,” “fermented”and—interestingly, in regard to leaven’s symbolism—”cruel,” “grieved,” “sour,” “embittered,” “oppress” and “ruthless.”

The type of leavening to be put off one’s property is the type used for breads, cakes and cookies. It includes baking powder and yeast. Brewers’ yeast and drinks containing it are permissible and may remain in our homes. As has often been said, this is not the Feast of Unleavened Beer.

Some church members, in their zeal to please God, have taken deleavening to extremes. Although household dust does contain yeast spores, God does not expect us to make our homes completely antiseptic! Besides taking care not to become pharisaical, we also must beware of the other extreme of carelessness. We should be thorough without be fanatical in our cleaning. With deleavening, as with most other areas of our Christian lives, we must strive for proper balance.

Please remember the symbolism! No matter how long we vacuum and how hard we scrub, it is physically impossible to get rid of every single bit of leaven from our homes. It would take God Himself, or an angel at the very least, to reduce himself to a microscopic size and to work his way through every inch of the nap of our carpets to do what even the most efficient vacuum cleaner cannot do. Just like the expulsion of spiritual leaven from our lives, we must be doing our part and working hard at it. With both physical and spiritual deleavening, if we do our best, God’s grace will make up for the difference.



Who should do the deleavening? Throughout the year “poor ol’ Mom” usually carries the main load of the housework. But should the lady of the house do the lion’s share of the deleavening?

To answer this question, we must remember what leaven pictures. A simple question should make the answer obvious: “Can Mom repent of and get rid of all of my sins?” Even if she could, would we really want her to know all of our sins?

To picture properly the putting away of sin, all family members—including the children—must become involved and do their part. Here is what God commands about teaching our children about their involvement in the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, “This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.” It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. (Exodus 13:8-9)

Even very young children quickly learn the lesson and meaning of the deleavening process. Our children really enjoy the annual deleavening project and have always looked upon it as a positive family activity, as well as a memorable prelude to the spring holy days.

Not every church member, though, however zealous, can do heavy housework, much less enjoy it. Increasing numbers of our aging church population are in poor health and cannot deleaven their homes. If this is the case for anyone, he should not hesitate to ask his fellow members for help. Again, think about what the process symbolizes, remembering that none of us can do it alone. We all need help to put out our spiritual leaven as well.



When should we begin our deleavening? What is more important, when should we be finished? Again, Exodus 12:15 provides the answer: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”

What? Does God really want us to be deleavening on the First Day of Unleavened Bread? Verse 16 clarifies what He means: “On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you.”

This “first day” is the first holy day of God’s annual holy day season. He commands His people to hold special church services and to do no work other than what is necessary to prepare food. Even for ancient Israelites living in tents, this forbade deleavening work on the holy day. The phrase “On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses” might therefore be better translated, “You shall have removed leaven from your houses by the first day.” Verses 18 and 19 make this even clearer:
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.

All leaven must be off our property by the sunset that closes Abib/Nisan 14. This sunset marks the Night to be Much Observed and the beginning of the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Many brethren, however, choose to have their deleavening work completed a little earlier so that they can spend more time preparing spiritually for Passover and physically for the Night to be Much Observed.
We should permit no leaven on our property until after the sunset that closes Abib 21, which is the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. This year (2000), we should have our deleavening completed and all leaven off our property by the evening at the end of April 19.
When should we begin our deleavening? Of course, our circumstances differ, so a hard-and-fast rule would not apply to all church members. Nevertheless, since we are getting close, we should all be starting to plan now for our physical and spiritual preparations. Consider the following as you plan:

» When is the last garbage pick-up before the Feast of Unleavened Bread?
» Where can we deposit our discarded leavened products after that last pick-up?
» Do we have enough vacuum cleaner bags and other necessary supplies?
» When would be the best time to put aside a day for fasting?
» Is there any particular problem that I should examine this year?

“The Five W’s of Deleavening” may be new for some, but are timely reminders for most. Done properly, they help us look forward to the upcoming Feast of Unleavened Bread with the proper mindset: enthusiastic and balanced in our preparations with the accent on the spiritual meaning behind the physical, symbolic act of deleavening.

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Triennial Torah Cycle

We continue this weekend with our regular Triennial Torah reading

Lev 18      Ezek 7-9      Prov 31      Acts 27


Leviticus 18

Laws Concerning Sexual Immorality (Leviticus 18)

Chapter 18 continues the theme of holiness and separation. The instructions here are directed to all Israel, and no mention is made of the priesthood. Hence, the instructions are not for ritual sanctification, per se. Since the instructions regard prohibited sexual relationships, they appear to be for social holiness, that is, for producing right relationships between the basic units of society—men and women.

Sexual immorality has been a persistent problem in all human cultures. The societies of Israel’s time committed a variety of sexual perversions, as do ours today. To create a holy nation, a nation whose individual and societal conduct was pure and stable, God had to make clear which sexual relationships were forbidden.

The list of prohibited relationships includes marriage between (1) parent and child, (2) stepparent and stepchild, (3) full siblings, (4) half-siblings, (5) grandparent and grandchild, (6) uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew, (7) father-in-law and daughter-in-law, and (8) brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Also, a man was forbidden to marry a woman as well as her daughter or granddaughter. God also now prohibited a man from taking his wife’s sister as a second wife while his wife was alive; such a marriage would likely ruin the relationship between the sisters and produce endless rivalry and strife within the family.

These prohibitions, which are still in force, prevent destructive sexual relationships with the near of kin, prohibiting sexual relations with persons within two generations of an individual. As can be seen, these prohibitions, had they been enacted earlier, would have prohibited the marriages of any of Adam and Eve’s children (per prohibition 3 above), Abraham and Sarah (per prohibition 4 above), as well as Jacob and Leah and Rachel (per the prohibition against marrying a wife’s sister). No particular reason is given for the prohibitions, but medical science has demonstrated that the children of unions between near of kin, as defined by God, have a greater risk of genetic abnormality—and it is possible that this was a factor in the enactment of these prohibitions.

God also prohibits sexual relations with a woman during menstruation. While no reason for the prohibition is given, it is possible that a sensitive God gave it to provide a measure of protection for women during this often-uncomfortable period. Menstruation frequently produces mild or even severe physical discomfort, and a woman’s emotional condition at this time can be fragile. Moreover, medical science has shown that sex during menstruation poses a greater risk of tissue injury or infection to the woman, as well as of transmitting blood-borne disease from one partner to another. God’s giving of this law may also be tied to the special role of blood for the atoning of sin, as blood seems to be the major concern in Leviticus 20:18. Whatever the reason, God takes this matter very seriously—in the verse just cited, where God imposed a severe penalty for violation, as well as in Ezekiel 18, where it is declared a matter of righteousness (verses 5-9).

God concludes his instruction regarding illicit sexual relations and practices by pointedly reminding the Israelites that such conduct defiles not only them but also the land. It is easy to assume that bad conduct only affects the perpetrator and those immediately around him. Not so. The moral quality of a people extends far beyond them to the very land upon which they dwell. God reminds Israel that because such abominable acts were committed by the people of Canaan, that land was going to “vomit them out.” Far from being a figure of speech or a poetic device, God’s warning reveals a very real moral law of the universe. Sin has a material impact on the natural world. Lucifer sinned and Scripture seems to indicate that the creation was devastated as a result. Adam sinned and the plant and animal natures were corrupted. Just so, when a nation becomes sinful, even its land is defiled. Sin affects everything—man, beast, vegetation and land.


Ezekiel 7-9

“The End Has Come” (Ezekiel 7)

Chapter 7 is a continuation of the prophetic message we’ve been reading, emphasizing the point that because the people have refused to come to know God through seeking and following His will, they will come to know Him in a different way—through His severe judgment (7:4, 9, 27). God’s warning here to the “land of Israel” (verse 2) was likely given during the 390 days of mock siege that represented the punishment on the northern 10 tribes (compare 1:1-2; 4:5; 8:1). Since the ancient fall of Israel happened long before Ezekiel wrote, his warning in this chapter is of Israel’s destruction in the end time—indeed, the time leading into “the day of the wrath of the Lord” (7:19). Of course, as with the other prophecies of this section, there was some application to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in Ezekiel’s own day. But, again, the message is mainly for Israel at the end of this age.

The term “four corners of the land” (verse 2) conveys the total destruction God will bring. This is not a partial or regional calamity. Ezekiel, as God’s watchman, is required to thunder this warning loud and clear, even though his immediate audience was in captivity in Babylon. Accounts of what he said may well have been passed on to those Jews living in Jerusalem. And through the transmission of the sacred text across the centuries, we have his warnings today.

God explains that the Israelites are guilty of “abominations” (verses 3-4, 8-9)—terrible, loathsome sins—even in their religion, which is idolatrous (verse 20). The abominable practices are so bad that God declares He will not spare or have pity in the time of punishment—the severity of punishment conveying the severity of wrongdoing. Verse 9 introduces a terrifying new name for God in this context of punishment: YHWH makkeh, “The Eternal who strikes the blow.”

The ominous sense of impending doom is palpable. “Numerous short sentences and the repetition of words and phrases express the intensity of the message. The recurrence of the word ‘end’ [five] times in the first six verses stresses the finality of the judgment (cf. Amos 8:2). Judgment had come! Imminency was heightened by the reiteration of the verb ‘coming’ (seven times in [Ezekiel 7] vv. 5-12); the repetition of ‘now’ (vv. 3, 8 {NIV, ‘about to’}); and the use of terms like ‘time,’ ‘day,’ and ‘is near’ (v. 7)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-4).

Notice the rendering of this passage in the New Living Translation: “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to Israel: The end is here! Wherever you look—east, west, north, or south—your land is finished. No hope remains, for I will unleash my anger against you. I will call you to account for all your disgusting behavior. I will turn my eyes away and show no pity, repaying you in full for all your evil… With one blow after another I will bring total disaster! The end has come! It has finally arrived! Your final doom is waiting! O people of Israel, the day of your destruction is dawning… Soon I will pour out my fury to complete your punishment for all your disgusting behavior. I will neither spare nor pity you. I will repay you for all your detestable practices… None of these proud and wicked people will survive. All their wealth will be swept away. Yes, the time has come; the day is here!” (verses 2-12).

Verse 10 appears to be saying, “The rod [of punishment] has blossomed [because] pride has budded [among God’s people].” That is, the people are ripe for judgment since their arrogance has reached its zenith. Verse 11 may be saying that violence among God’s people has produced the consequence of a “rod of wickedness”—that is, a rod necessitated by wickedness, a rod for dealing with wickedness. Alternatively, the verse may mean that “the violent one” (NIV)—that is, the enemy of God’s people—has risen up as a punishing rod (meaning either Babylon or, in an ultimate sense, Satan).

Verses 12-13 seem to imply that people in difficult financial circumstances will be forced to sell property at low prices, but that in the end this will be irrelevant. The New Living Translation adds clarity: “There is no reason for buyers to rejoice over the bargains they find or for sellers to grieve over their losses, for all of them will fall under my terrible anger. And if any merchants should survive, they will never return to their business. For what God has said applies to everyone—it will not be changed! Not one person whose life is twisted by sin will recover.”

The message continues with a reminder of the three-fold punishment coming from God: sword, famine and pestilence (verse 15). When the warning sounds, people will be too weak or too afraid to fight (verses 14, 17). The initial survivors will be like birds driven from their roosts, separated from their kind, making mournful noises like the dove. These people are described as clothed in sackcloth and shaved bald, symbols of humiliation and shame in Middle Eastern cultures to this day (verses 16-18). In the bleak despair of the Great Tribulation, as the Day of the Lord approaches, they will finally come to view their money, which they had practically worshiped before, as worthless, unable to truly provide them with what they need, and they will toss it away (verse 19).

God says: “They were proud of their gold jewelry and used it to make vile and detestable idols [as they do even still]. That is why I will make all their wealth disgusting to them. I will give it as plunder to foreigners from the most wicked of nations, and they will defile it. I will hide my eyes as these robbers invade my treasured land and corrupt it” (verses 20-22, NLT). Again, this happened to a degree when ancient Jerusalem was invaded and plundered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It happened again when the Romans, imperial successors to the Babylonians, invaded Jerusalem in apostolic times. It will happen on the greatest scale, as primarily foretold in these verses, when Israel and Judah are both invaded and destroyed by the end-time revival of Rome and Babylon.

Finally, God orders that a chain be prepared (verse 23). Chains were used for binding criminals or enemy prisoners. Indeed, the surviving Israelites will be bound in chains and led away into slavery—just as the Jews experienced when Nebuchadnezzar’s forces invaded Judah and centuries later when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Recall also that the northern tribes were taken captive by the ancient Assyrians more than a century before Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry. And lest this seem only the stuff of ancient history, we should remember Nazi Germany, in which multitudes of Jews were forced to toil in slave labor camps and vast numbers were led away to be exterminated. As horrifying as it is to contemplate, such days will come again, and are prophesied to be even worse.

People will turn to religious and civil leaders for help, but these will have no answers, not understanding the truth of God’s Word (verse 26). They will have ignored the warnings prior to this. And now it will be too late. They will be judged according to what they deserve (verse 27). That would be a dire predicament for any of us. We all should deeply consider this and ask God to lead us to repent of our own sins now and receive God’s merciful grace, before such judgment falls—and pray that others will recognize their own sins and repent as well. God’s truth is available to us right now as we study His Word. Let’s make good use of it.


Sunrise Services at the Temple (Ezekiel 8)

Ezekiel 8-11 records the details of another powerful vision the prophet received from God. The date is a year and two months after the first vision (compare 1:1-2; 3:15-16; 8:1). This would seem to place it within the 40-day period during which Ezekiel lay on his right side to represent the punishment for Judah’s sins—following the 390 days on his left side for Israel (compare 4:4-8). (However, it should be noted that, as sometimes happens with the Hebrew calendar, it is possible that a 13th month had been added to the year, which would mean that the vision of chapters 8-11 occurred just after the 40-day period.)

As chapter 8 opens, we find Ezekiel sitting in his house with the “elders of Judah” (leaders among the Jewish exiles in Babylon) in audience to hear what he has to say. No doubt his lengthy mock siege had attracted a great deal of attention.

Once again, Ezekiel experiences “virtual reality” by seeing and experiencing in his mind what the others in the room do not. He sees the same glorious figure he beheld in the first vision—that of the Lord (verse 2; compare 1:26-28), the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ (compare Revelation 1:12-15). The Lord carries the prophet, who is also a priest, in vision to Jerusalem, to the northern gate of the temple. The north gate was also called the “altar gate,” apparently because sacrifices were killed in its vicinity, on the north side of the altar (compare Leviticus 1:11; compare Ezekiel 40:35-43).

Ezekiel sees the glory of God (8:4)—the cascading illuminations surrounding God’s presence—as he had witnessed in chapter 1. That glory was here at the temple, as were the four transporting cherubim, as we will see in the next few chapters. Yet, as we will also see, God’s glory will soon depart from the sanctuary. Abominations committed here are causing Him to withdraw His presence.

Ezekiel is taken on a tour of the temple area to witness the terrible abominations. He first is told to look around where he has landed in this vision, in the vicinity of the north gate near the place of sacrifice—where a vile image is now located (perhaps implying that sacrifices are made to it).

The image is referred to as the “image of jealousy…which provokes to jealousy” (verse 3). This probably hearkens back to God’s commands against idolatry: “You shall not make yourself a carved image…[to] bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God… You shall destroy their [the Canaanites’] altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)” (Exodus 20:4-5; 34:13-14). Israel is God’s wife by covenant, and He is rightly jealous over her loyalty and affections—demanding that she not enter into adulterous relations with other gods, adopting their worship customs. Of course, being provoked to jealousy essentially means being provoked to justified anger, which may be why the Jewish Tanakh translation renders verse 3 as saying, “that was the site of the infuriating image that provokes fury.” The Revised English Bible has “where stands the idolatrous image which arouses God’s indignation.”

There are different ideas as to what this image was. Some propose an image of Tammuz, the counterfeit savior of the Chaldean religion, since his worship is specifically mentioned in the chapter as occurring in the same place (Ezekiel 8:14). Surprisingly, the image could have been that of a large cross. As Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains, the modern cross “had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the ‘cross’ of Christ” (“Cross, Crucify,” New Testament Section, 1985).

Most scholars, however, feel the image was an asherah, the Hebrew term for a sacred wooden image or tree. The reason for this conclusion is because Manasseh “even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made” in the temple of God, and “he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has made Judah sin with his idols” (2 Kings 21:7, 11, NKJV). Even though Josiah purged Judah of idolatry during his reign, the hearts of the people reverted back to Manasseh’s evil after Josiah’s death—which means the priests may have been inclined to reproduce Manasseh’s image. Either way, since the corrupted Jewish worship was often syncretistic—blending true and false worship—it could well be that the idolatrous object, whatever its form may have been, was being used to worship the true God, which He had strictly forbidden.

Next, “Ezekiel was brought into the north entry gate. There he saw a hole in the wall and was told to dig through the wall, enter, and observe what the elders of Israel were doing secretly in the inner court [or, perhaps more accurately, in chambers or a particular chamber adjacent to the north gate] (vv. 7-9). These seventy elders were not the Sanhedrin of New Testament times. That institution had not yet begun. They were most likely the leaders of the nation who based their traditional position on Moses’ appointment of the seventy elders to assist him in governing God’s people (Exod 24:1, 9; Num 11:16-25)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on Ezekiel 8:7-9).

Note that these are referred to as the “elders of the house of Israel” (verse 12). The expression “house of Israel” sometimes includes Judah—especially as Judah was supposed to be the faithful remnant of Israel. That Judah of Ezekiel’s day is intended is clear from the mention of Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, as Shaphan had been Josiah’s secretary of state and his other sons, such as Jeremiah’s friend Ahikam, came to occupy important positions (see 2 Kings 22:8-14; 2 Chronicles 34:15-21; Jeremiah 26:24; 29:3; 36:10; 40:5, 9, 11; 41:2; 43:6). Moreover, the phrase “house of Judah” is explicitly used In Ezekiel 8:17. Yet it may be that in this vision the 70 elders are also meant to typify, in a broader spiritual sense, the religious leadership of all Israel in a future context (particularly as we will later see other indications that the vision of chapters 8-11 applies to both Israel and Judah in the end time—see 9:9; 11:15, 17-21).

In verses 10-11 of chapter 8, Ezekiel describes the portrayal of idolatrous images on the walls where he has entered, with the elders—shockingly—standing before them as priests with censers. In verse 12, it appears that the honoring of idols is even done privately in the elders’ chambers—showing this to be their personal conviction. This seems fairly straightforward and yet the meaning may be broader. While pagan images may have literally been used to adorn the temple complex or its chambers in Ezekiel’s time, as they certainly did at earlier times, it is possible that the vision should be understood, at least on some level, in a figurative sense. Perhaps the indication is that the nation’s leaders, while practicing what appears to be a form of true worship, are really devoted to false gods and customs of false worship.

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary states that the elders “are here the representatives of the people, rather than to be regarded literally. Mostly, the leaders of heathen superstitions laughed at them secretly, while publicly professing them in order to keep the people in subjection. Here what is meant is that the people generally addicted themselves to secret idolatry, led on by their elders; there is no doubt, also, allusion to the mysteries, as in the worship of Isis in Egypt, the Eleusinian [mysteries] in Greece, etc., to which the initiated were alone admitted” (note on verse 12).

Such a figurative meaning would apply in the nations of Israel and Judah even today—its leaders and people having rejected true worship for a false Christianity descended in many respects from the Babylonian mystery religion—called in Revelation 17 “Mystery, Babylon the Great.” Indeed, as God’s “temple” in New Testament times is His Church (see Ephesians 2:19-22; 2 Corinthians 6:16; compare Ezekiel 11:16)—the true “Israel” of God (Galatians 6:16)—Ezekiel’s vision here may even picture, in type, the great apostasy from the truth foretold by the apostle Paul (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3).

The elders are pictured as saying, “The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land” (Ezekiel 8:12). When Ezekiel received this vision, Judah had experienced drought and a series of invasions—King Jeconiah and many people having been dragged away to Babylon. So, the leaders reasoned, God had deserted the land and the people—what did they have to lose! In the next chapter, these words are attributed to both Israel and Judah (9:9), so the same false reasoning will be employed in the future as national calamities begin to worsen. How ironic that such reasoning itself eventually leads to even greater calamity (verse 10). Also ironic is that the name of Jaazaniah, the person singled out, means “The Eternal Hears” or “The Eternal Hearkens”—implying that God does indeed hear and see whatever is going on, and reacts.

Ezekiel is next directed to see the terrible abomination of women at the temple “weeping for Tammuz” (Ezekiel 8:14). The Encylopedia Mythica says Tammuz was “the Akkadian vegetation-god, counterpart of the Sumerian Dumuzi and the symbol of death and rebirth in nature. He is the…husband of Ishtar. Each year he dies in the hot summer (in the month Tammuz, June/July) and his soul is taken by the Gallu demons to the underworld. Woe and desolation fall upon the earth [in the form of withering vegetation in autumn and winter], and Ishtar leads the world in lamentation [i.e., the weeping for Tammuz]. She then descends to the nether world…and after many trials succeeds in bringing him back, as a result of which fertility and joy return to the earth [in the spring]. In Syria he was identified with Adonis” (”” target=”_new”>Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Keep?).

It has been suggested by some scholars that the practice of “weeping for Tammuz” was the actual origin of Lent, the Roman Catholic 40-day period of abstinence prior to Easter (starting after Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” on Ash Wednesday). Consider that the name Easter itself is derived from Ishtar, the ancient Babylonian fertility goddess and Tammuz’s mother. Alexander Hislop, in his book The Two Babylons, explains that “the forty days abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of forty days, ‘in the spring of the year,’ is still observed by the Yezidis or Pagan Devil-worshippers of Koordistan, who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians. Such a Lent of forty days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans… ‘Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun.’ Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt…Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing, and which, in many countries, was considerably later than the Christian festival, being observed in Palestine and Assyria in June, therefore called the ‘month of Tammuz’; in Egypt, about the middle of May, and in Britain, some time in April. To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity—now far sunk in idolatry—in this as in so many other things, to shake hands” (1959, pp. 104-105).

The month of Tammuz was the fourth month on the Hebrew calendar. Lent today overlaps the last month of the Hebrew year and ends in the first month. It is interesting to consider that the Celtic Britons, who centuries ago observed the mourning period more in line with the time Lent is observed today, were Israelites. Perhaps they had begun this practice while still in the Promised Land—as the apostate Jews may have also done. Either way, whether fourth month or first, we should notice that Ezekiel’s vision takes place in the sixth month (Ezekiel 8:1). Though that might appear problematic, this may just signify the time Ezekiel received the vision, not the time the events depicted in it actually occurred. Indeed, Ezekiel’s vision appears in many respects to be symbolic. Even if literal, we should not necessarily conclude that he was seeing things at the temple the very moment they were transpiring. His vision may have been more sweeping in scope, just as many other prophets had visions in a short time of events that would span days, months or even years in their actual fulfillment.

Ezekiel is then taken from the vicinity of the north gate to the court area outside of the Holy Place. He is here presented with another stunning sight—men with their backs to God’s temple “worshiping the sun toward the east” (verse 16). “The location for the sun worship was in the inner court…between the porch and the altar. These 25 men must have been Levites if temple regulations were being followed; otherwise, the area was forbidden (see Num. 3:7, 8; 18:1-7; 2 Chr. 4:9; Joel 2:17)” (Nelson Study Bible, note on Ezekiel 8:15-16).

Indeed, this group appears distinct from the 70 image-worshiping elders mentioned previously. “It would seem strange that only a portion of the seventy would have been engaged in the sun worship. The specific numbers of seventy (v. 11) and twenty-five (v. 16) were probably given to aid in distinguishing the two groups. Therefore it is more likely that these twenty-five men were priests though one cannot be dogmatic about it. If they were priests perhaps the number is twenty-five because there was a representative of each of the twenty-four courses of the priests plus the high priest (cf. 1 Chron 23)” (Expositor’s, note on Ezekiel 8:16). Perhaps the symbolism is to demonstrate that both the civil and religious leadership were engaged in pagan practices—and maybe to show that the same would be true in the end time. (It should also be noted that chapter 11 mentions 25 “princes” giving wicked counsel, with another person named Jaazaniah among them—albeit a different Jaazaniah.)

In Ezekiel 8:16, since the sun was in the east, this logically denotes sunrise, a popular “in-between” moment for sun worship in the pagan world. Consider, as quoted above, “the solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun.” Tammuz was often equated with Baal, and Baal often with the sun. Coming right on the heels of the previous verses, it could well be that what Ezekiel was witnessing was the conclusion of the pagan Lenten season, when Ishtar (or Easter) was deemed to have brought Tammuz (here as the incarnate sun) back from the underworld in a resurrection in the spring, specifically on the feast of Ishtar, known today as Easter. This, then, would have essentially been Easter sunrise services—so extremely popular today in the world religion that masquerades as Christianity and yet an utterly vile abomination according to God. Indeed, the symbolism is profound. The worshipers, religious leaders even, turned their backs on God in order to participate—and yet they probably claimed to be honoring the true God (as they still do). What audacity!

Rejection of true worship has resulted in violence throughout the land (Ezekiel 8:17)—bloodshed, the next chapter explains (9:9). As for “putting the branch to their nose” (verse 17), the meaning is uncertain. Matthew Henry’s Commentary states: “…a proverbial expression denoting perhaps their scoffing at God and having him in derision; they snuffed at his service, as men do when they put a branch to their nose. Or it was some custom used by idolaters in honour of the idols they served. We read of garlands used in their idolatrous worships (Acts 14:13), out of which every zealot took a branch which they smelled to as a nosegay. Dr. Lightfoot (Hor. Heb. in John 15.6) gives another sense of this place: They put the branch to their wrath, or to his wrath, as the Masorites read it; that is, they are still bringing more fuel (such as the withered branches of the vine) to the fire of divine wrath, which they have already kindled, as if that wrath did not burn hot enough already. Or putting the branch to the nose may signify the giving of a very great affront and provocation either to God or man; they are an abusive generation of men” (note on verses 13-18).

God states that in the time of punishment He will not spare these leaders, even though they cry aloud for help. We must all reject false worship. Yet that is not the only point here. The lesson of this chapter becomes clearer when we examine the next chapters in this section. They show the glory of God departing from the temple because of such abominable practices and attitudes. God’s Spirit leaves when people turn away from Him. He remains only where He is welcome and is obeyed. This is true of nations, church organizations and individuals. And when He leaves, judgment follows.

A Mark on Those Who Sigh and Cry Over Abominations (Ezekiel 9)

The vision of the previous chapter continues. This chapter reveals some insight about God’s sparing of a remnant during a time of destruction. Notice that punishment is to come on “Israel and Judah” (verse 9). As the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen more than a century before Ezekiel wrote, this prophecy must be meant for the future destruction of Israel and Judah in the end time. As in chapters 4-7, Jerusalem is here used to represent all Israel, the city being the ancient capital of all 12 tribes. Of course, the prophecy no doubt had a limited application to the people of Judah in Ezekiel’s own day.

As the chapter opens, men who “have charge over the city” are summoned (verses 1-2). These are apparently angelic beings who were to render God’s judgment on the people of Jerusalem, again representative of all Israel. Six arrive, each armed with a battle-ax. They stand beside the bronze altar, the altar of sacrifice, perhaps symbolizing that they will make a sacrifice of the disobedient nation (compare Isaiah 34:6; Zephaniah 1:7)—that blood would run as a result of the sins of the people.

With them is a man clothed in white linen who has a writer’s kit containing a horn of ink at his side. In the Bible, one “clothed in linen” typically represents a holy servant of God (compare Daniel 10:5; Revelation 15:6).

In Ezekiel 8:3 the prophet again mentions the presence of the “glory of the God of Israel.” It had “gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold [or entryway] of the temple”—on its way out altogether, as we will see in chapters 10-11. Putting this verse together with 10:3-4, it appears that the “cherub” in 8:3 and 10:4 indicates the inanimate copies of the cherubim whose wings covered the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The transporting cherubim were waiting outside on the south side of the temple (10:3). The idea seems to be that God rises from His earthly throne in the Holy of Holies, ascends His transportable throne above the four living cherubim and then flies away. By withdrawing His presence God demonstrates His readiness to bring judgment on the people.

The writer with the horn is instructed to mark the foreheads of those who “sigh and cry” over the abominations and idolatry around them. The sighing here is not just a brief exhalation of disappointment. It is an utter groaning of spirit—deeply grieving and feeling anguish over what is happening. Jesus likewise said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). This does not mean an absence of any joy and happiness in life. Rather, it means regular and heartfelt sober reflection on the state of the world.

Of course, those who are truly grieved at the sins are those who follow righteousness. That does not mean they are perfect, but they strive to do God’s will. They mourn over their own sins as well as over those of the world around them. They groan over the pain and suffering human beings inflict on one another through their sins. They are indignant and outraged at injustice and blasphemy against God and His truth. They constantly cry out to God to intervene. These are the righteous—God’s true servants—and God says He will spare them. He certainly protected such individuals in Ezekiel’s day, but the primary focus here is on the future. This passage might well be read along with traditional references to a “place of safety” or God’s protection at the end time (Zephaniah 2:3; Luke 21:36; Revelation 3:10; 12:14)—the object of such protection being those who are a part of God’s true Church.

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John also saw visions of people being marked in their foreheads for protection. Notice: “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (7:3). And: “They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (9:3-4). Also: “Behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (14:1).

The first occasion in Scripture of a host of people being spared through some outward sign was the time of the Passover in Egypt, when lamb’s blood was used to mark the dwellings of the Israelites who were spared from the slaughter of the death angel. The seal on those in the end-time is an inward one, the forehead representing the mind—wherein resides God’s Holy Spirit, which signifies whether one is truly a Christian or not (see Romans 8:9).

The “death angels” in Ezekiel’s vision are instructed to begin killing the people of Jerusalem—no doubt through the various punishments mentioned in Ezekiel 4-7. Of course, God doesn’t command this slaughter until the people have been given sufficient warning to repent. But eventually it is time for the punishment to fall.

God says to begin with His sanctuary—the elders before the temple then being the actual starting point (9:5-6). This clearly hearkens back to the abominations portrayed in the previous chapter.

The place to begin correction is always with those who should know better. In the early days of the tabernacle, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu disobeyed God and were destroyed by fire (Leviticus 10:1-2). The precedent continues throughout time. The apostle Peter explained that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). This he said of God’s New Testament Church. And in fact, the Church may well be the “sanctuary” of Ezekiel 9:6, at least in type.

The Church is the true “temple” of God today (Ephesians 2:19-22), as God dwells in His people through the Holy Spirit, making each individual Christian a temple or, in fact, part of the same temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). That being so, consider the interesting statement God makes in Ezekiel 11, part of the same prophecy. Regarding “all the house of Israel in its entirety” (verse 15), God says, “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone” (verse 16). This ties in well with Christ’s statement to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain [the Samaritan holy place], nor in Jerusalem [where the temple was], worship the Father… The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24)—that is, through the Holy Spirit, thereby becoming the spiritual temple of God, which is not confined to one place.

If the sanctuary in Ezekiel 9:6 is meant to portray the Church of God on some level (which, besides the parallels we’ve just seen, seems likely also because those to be protected in verse 4 are probably true Christians of the end time), then the indication is that punishment would apparently fall first and foremost on apostates from God’s truth. This would have to mean that the temple abominations of the previous chapter apply in part to such apostates—again, as mentioned in the commentary on Ezekiel 8, possibly indicating the great falling away from God’s truth foretold by the apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2). Moreover, there are degrees of responsibility even within the Church. The apostle James stated, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). So the “elders before the temple,” the first to be judged in Ezekiel 9:6, may well be apostate elders of God’s Church. Paul sternly warned Church elders that savage wolves would rise up from among them (Acts 20:17, 29-31).

Yet the sanctuary is just the beginning of the slaughter. It continues throughout all of Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 9:9-10). Ezekiel sees great numbers killed until He alone is left, and He cries out to God, asking Him if He is going to wipe out everyone who is left (verse 8). Of course, he already had the answer from verse 4 that some would be spared. But they were no longer here to be seen. God explains to Ezekiel that the punishment fits the crime, bemoaning the exceedingly great iniquity of Israel and Judah. The people have degenerated into depravity and disrespect for human life because of their false religion. They have denied the power and reach of God—but they won’t be able to deny it any longer. At that very moment the angel clothed in linen returns, reporting that he has done his job. This means he has marked all of those who wanted to obey God and they have been spared. God thus gives Ezekiel encouragement by the report of the angel.

Let us take heart as well and strive to be among those who sigh and cry over the abominations committed throughout the nations of Israel and the rest of the world, praying to God, “Your kingdom come.”


Proverb 31

The Words of King Lemuel From His Mother (Proverbs 31:1-9)

It was noted in previous comments that chapters 30 and 31 are two distinct but related sections, each apparently with two subsections four parts in all. As stated before, some ties between the two chapters may indicate that they should be read together. We will note some of these again as we proceed.

1. Subheading (31:1).

As with Agur, some have thought that King Lemuel this name meaning “Devoted to God” or “Belonging to God” (repeated in verse 4)?is a pseudonym for Solomon. Yet, as was pointed out in regard to Agur, it seems odd that Solomon would go by another name here considering the clear mentions of his name elsewhere in the book of Proverbs. It is true that he goes by the title of “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes, but his name Solomon is not used elsewhere in that book. Some argue that Proverbs 30 and 31 being separate compositions only later appended to the book of Proverbs could explain this. However, we might then wonder why the later compilers did not clarify Solomon as the author of these sections in line with his name being used elsewhere in Proverbs (unless, of course, they did not know). Clearly, the matter is strictly a guess either way but an author other than Solomon seems perhaps more likely. Lemuel, like Agur, could well be a pseudonym but not necessarily for Solomon. Perhaps it was a nickname for this king used particularly by his mother.

Some maintain that Lemuel was a foreigner. As in Proverbs 30:1, the word in 31:1 translated “utterance” in the NKJV (or “oracle” in the NIV) is massa the Hebrew word meaning “burden” (used frequently by Israel’s prophets to denote a message from God, either because it was “carried” by them or was heavy or weighty). It was pointed out previously that the word occurs in 31:1 without the definite article (the), a fact some use to support this being the name of a country over which Lemuel was king especially as there was a Massa son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13-16; 1 Chronicles 1:29-31), whose descendants were probably the Arabian tribe of that name recorded in Assyrian documents. This opinion is buttressed by the arrangement of the words here in the original Hebrew: dabari lemuel melek massa?”words Lemuel king massa” (it being unusual to say “Lemuel King,” rather than “the-King Lemuel” or “Lemuel the-king,” unless the word to follow was the name of a land or people). However, recall the use of the definite article with massa (i.e., ha-massa) in Proverbs 30:1?which makes more sense as “the burden” (i.e., the borne or weighty message) than as the name of a country. And it is likely that massa is meant in the same sense in 31:1. Why, then, is there no definite article in the latter case? In the Hebrew, the adjective asher (meaning “that”) comes immediately after the word massa here, which can serve to make the sense definite rather than indefinite. The subheading should probably be read this way: “Words of Lemuel, king, a weighty message that his mother taught him.”

Of course, this gets us no closer to knowing who Lemuel was. We know only that he was a king whether of Israel or a related people is not clear. Those who contend he was Solomon maintain that Solomon’s mother Bathsheba was the source of the instruction here. Yet again, that is indeterminate and seems unlikely. Whatever the case it was the king’s mother who taught him what is written here. Some label her the queen mother, but she could have been a lesser royal wife who died before her son ascended the throne. And Lemuel’s mother may not have actually written what we read here. Lemuel himself, or another commissioned by him, may have summarized her lifelong instructions in literary form.

How much of the chapter should be attributed to Lemuel’s mother or to one who summarized her teaching? Some regard only verses 2-9, meant specifically as instructions for a king, as constituting her counsel. They view the poem of the virtuous wife in verses 10-31 as the product of someone else entirely an independent, concluding unit to the book of Proverbs. Yet given the absence of a new subheading at verse 10, it seems more natural to view the latter part of the chapter, even though it is unquestionably a distinct unit in itself, as the concluding part of Lemuel’s mother’s instructions though, again, someone else could have turned her advice into the remarkable poem here. Of course, being part of Lemuel’s mother’s counsel does not preclude this poem from also being used as an epilogue or conclusion to the book of Proverbs, which it seems to be.

2. Three Requirements for Righteous Rule (31:2-9)

TYPE: ADMONITION. Chapter 30 closed with an admonition, and chapter 31 opens with one. The lessons here concern kingship. As pointed out earlier, forms of the word “king” are used four times at the end of chapter 30 (30:22, 27, 28, 31) and four times at the beginning of chapter 31 (31:1, 3, 4). “With remarkable conciseness the mother of Lemuel describes the moral requirements of good government. These lessons are, simply put: do not use your authority as a means to debauchery (v. 3), keep your head clear from the stupefying effects of alcohol (vv. 4-7), and use your power to help the powerless (vv. 8-9)” (New American Commentary, note on verses 2-9).

The previous admonition in chapter 30 concluded with a threefold repetition of two words, “churning produces” (verse 33). This one opens with a threefold repetition of two words, “what son” (31:1). The point in each statement seems to be, “What, then, am I to tell you, my son?” This is not because she is unsure. It is simply a device to call to attention to let Lemuel know she is about to tell him something important. The phrase “son of my womb” is a term of endearment and closeness intensifying the previous phrase “my son” and showing that she has raised him from birth. Next, “son of my vows” perhaps implies that she had made promises to God in praying for a son when she was yet without child possibly even that she had particularly vowed Lemuel (which could explain his name, again meaning “Devoted to God”).

Proverbs 30 mentioned problem women the adulteress and odious woman (verses 20, 23)?while Lemuel’s mother here warns her son against giving his strength to women, by which kings are destroyed (31:3). This likely pointed to kings amassing large harems as well as sleeping around outside of marriage, both of which could ruin rulers through disease, through the squandering of national wealth and distraction from state duties, through subjecting themselves to scandal, blackmail, vengeful plotting or palace intrigue between wives trying to exalt themselves and their sons, and through moral degradation leading to other vices.

Verses 4-5 do not mean rulers should never drink alcoholic beverages. The warning is against excess, as shown by the reason given to prevent interference with proper and just rulership. In strict moderation, alcohol does not impair judgment. Drunkenness, however, is another matter.

There is some debate over the point of verses 6-7. Some think Lemuel’s mother was saying that a king should not hoard up drink for his own use (whereby he would become drunk) but should offer it as a comfort to the suffering and needy as God intended alcoholic beverages to cheer people up (see Psalm 104:15). The contrast with the ruler in this case would not imply that commoners are entitled to drink to excess, as other passages in the Bible show the great dangers involved in that vice (compare Proverbs 23:29-35). Also, the idea here would not be a government welfare program of free beer and wine. The statement would instead be rhetorical to show that a king should put the needs of his subjects above his own desires for pleasure.

Other commentators, however, take a completely different view here, seeing verses 6-7 of Proverbs 31 as Lemuel’s mother telling him to leave to the lowly and downtrodden the drinking away of problems (as they are already inclined to this)?the point having already been made that this is simply not fit for a king, given his responsibilities. It should be noted in this regard that the word at the beginning of verse 6 often translated “give” could be rendered “leave.” Along these lines, The New American Commentary says, “The comparison to the suffering poor and to their use of alcohol is meant to awaken Lemuel to the duties that go with his class and status rather than to describe some kind of permissible drunkenness” (note on verses 4-7).

The admonition from Lemuel’s mother concludes with the charge in the next two verses. Whereas Agur’s admonition to the proud and troublemakers in 30:32 is to “put your hand on your mouth,” the mother of Lemuel twice tells him, a king who is to judge righteously, “Open your mouth” (31:8-9)?meaning “Speak out.” This terminology may have been chosen to contrast with drunkenness (verses 4-5), which also requires the opening of one’s mouth. Rather than open his mouth to drink and get drunk and thereby hurt the needy, a king should open his mouth to speak out to help the needy. For a king is supposed to serve his people.

Given the writing down and passing on of his mother’s instructions, it is obvious that King Lemuel took her words to heart. It is hoped that he came to exemplify the ideals she expressed. Yet even Solomon, the principal author of the book of Proverbs, while a wonderfully successful ruler for a time, eventually succumbed to self-indulgence and debauchery and failed in his duty to God and others. Certainly such a high degree of principled concern to rule for the good of the governed was rare among ancient Middle Eastern monarchs and it has remained so among political leaders throughout history up to our own day. But one day a King is coming whose reign over the whole world will be characterized by perfect, altruistic care for the welfare of all subjects, including an overarching concern to provide for the defense of the helpless and those who serve in positions of responsibility under Him will exercise authority with the same motivation.

Epilogue to Proverbs: The Wife of Noble Character (Proverbs 31:10-31)

“TYPE: WISDOM POEM, ACROSTIC CHIASMUS” (NAC). We come now to the end of the book of Proverbs with a carefully crafted poem describing aspects of an ideal wife. The Hebrew word that the King James and New King James Versions translate as “virtuous” in verse 10 is hayil. This word has the sense of “strength” as it is translated in verse 3 of this same chapter. It is also rendered “well” in verse 29. It is elsewhere used in the sense of military valor or bravery (which we will consider further in later comments here). Yet Boaz called Ruth a woman of hayil in Ruth 3:11?the point being that she was a woman of good, strong character. The sense of the word seems to be powerful and elevated. Indeed, note the description of the Proverbs 31 wife as being clothed with “strength and honor” (verse 25)?with high dignity. The word rendered “woman” (KJV) or “wife” (NKJV) can mean either of these. The context here shows that she is a wife. Thus, “wife of noble character” (NIV) seems a good way to render the phrase referring to her in verse 10. We should recall earlier the same expression being used in Proverbs 12:4: “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown” (NIV). This concluding poem of Proverbs 31 extols that point in greater detail and literary richness.
As the latter part of chapter 30 was characterized by the repeated use of a literary device (the numerical sayings), so the latter part of chapter 31 is a brilliantly structured literary composition.

Who is the author of this section? Does it continue the instruction from Lemuel’s mother, just as the latter section of Proverbs 30 appears to continue the words of Agur? In chapter 30, there are thematic ties between the sections. Proverbs 31 also contains such ties. The negative image of having one’s strength (hayil) sapped through sensual indulgence with women in verse 3 is answered by the positive image of the poem’s woman of strong character (hayil). As the righteous king opens his mouth in the cause of social justice (verses 8-9), so this honorable woman opens her mouth with wisdom and kindness (verse 26). And her focus is likewise on serving others.

In its introduction to the poem of chapter 31, The New American Commentary says: “While this poem apparently does not describe the wife of a king and is not addressed to Lemuel, we cannot say that it is not part of the Lemuel text. Ancient wisdom texts could combine material in a way that seems incongruous to the modern reader, and the poem could come from Lemuel or his mother. If it is not part of the Lemuel text, it is an anonymous poem perhaps added as an epilogue to the canonical text. If that is the case, it is probably fairly late since epilogues are a late phenomenon. [Of course, many have suggested that this concluding poem was written by Solomon attribution being deemed unnecessary since he is named as the principle author of the book at the outset (1:1).] Either way, however, the interpretation of the text is not affected, and the significance that the canonical Book of Proverbs ends in this manner remains.”

There are multiple layers of organization in the poem, demonstrating great skill on the part of the writer. First of all, the work is acrostic, meaning that each of the 22 verses begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Thematically, the poem can be seen to “fold along the middle,” as it were with a point just before the center (between verses 19-20) serving as a “seam.” Note the following structure, adapted from The New International Commentary on the Old Testament:

The seam at verses 19-20 is itself arranged in chiastic (concentric) fashion, considering the different Hebrew words used for “hand” and “palm”:

This unit, an important hinge point in the poem, serves two purposes. Verse 19 concludes the first part of the poem, showing her worth and efforts, while verse 20 opens the next section, showing the results of her character. Moreover the two verses specifically illustrate the point that her activities (work with the hands, v. 19) are in fact done to benefit others (to open her hands to those in need, v. 20).
On top of all this, however, is another chiastic structure spanning the whole of the poem which places the focal point on another verse. The integration of these various structural elements is astounding. The New American Commentary gives the overlaying chiasmus and comments on it:

“The center point of this chiasmus is v. 23, the declaration that the husband is highly regarded at the gate. The verse has been read as almost an intrusion into the poem; all the other verses praise the wife, but this verse alone focuses on the esteem the husband commands. Far from being an intrusion, however, v. 23 actually establishes the central message of the poem: this woman is the kind of wife a man needs in order to be successful in life. [Indeed, the concentric arrangement of the noble wife’s characteristics around this verse may be an allusion to her serving as the husband’s encircling crown in 12:4.]

“In short, the original intended audience was not young women (‘this is what kind of wife you should be’) but young men (‘this is what kind of wife you should get’). This does not mean that the poem cannot be used to instruct women, but the interpreter must recognize its primary objective. Although it may seem strange that a wisdom poem on the virtues of a good wife should be directed at young men, it is in keeping with the whole thrust of Proverbs. The book everywhere addresses the young man (‘my son’) and not the young woman. It expounds in great detail on evils of the prostitute and how she is a snare for a young man; it says nothing about lusty boys and the threats they pose for young women. It is a false reading, however, to suppose that biblical wisdom despises women or views them as fundamentally corrupt (this poem alone contradicts that notion). There is no double standard; the gender slant in Proverbs is a matter of audience orientation rather than ideological bias [just as Ruth, Esther and Song of Solomon may be wisdom texts oriented to young women]. Proverbs directs the reader away from the prostitute toward the good wife because its implied reader is a young man. For the same reason, Wisdom is personified as a woman and not as a man” (note on Proverbs 31:10-31).

As to this latter point, the Zondervan NIV Study Bible says that the poem, besides offering counsel on the kind of wife a young man ought to seek, may be intended “in a subtle way to advise the young man (again) to marry Lady Wisdom, thus returning to the theme of chs. 1?9 (as [begun in 1:20-33 and] climaxed in ch. 9; compare the description of Lady Wisdom in 9:1-2 with the virtues of the wife in 31:10-31). In any event, the concluding epitomizing of wisdom in the wife of noble character forms a literary frame with the opening discourses [of the book], where wisdom is personified as a woman” (introduction to Proverbs). Thus, the poem is not only a brilliant literary creation on its own, but its message and position also makes the whole of Proverbs a greater, more unified literary work.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says more about the woman here epitomizing wisdom: ” The theme of the poem, the wife of noble character, captures the ideals of wisdom that have filled the book….It may well be that this is more the point of the composition than merely a portrayal of the ideal wife” (note on 31:10-31). Expositor’s probably veers too far from the practical, literal sense in its assessment of the passage since the words of the poem do not reveal it to be an obvious personification of wisdom as in Proverbs 1, 8 and 9. But the commentary gives some good reasons for at least seeing important symbolism here and not treating the poem of Proverbs 31 as some kind of numbered checklist of female righteousness.

Continuing in Expositor’s with some inserted comments: “The woman here presented is a wealthy aristocrat who runs a household estate with servants and conducts business affairs real estate, vineyards, and merchandise domestic affairs, and charity. It would be quite a task for any woman [of average means] to emulate this pattern [though the general pattern of behavior and motives can and should be followed by any godly woman]…. Others have also recognized that more is going on here than a description of the ideal wife or instructions for the bride to be…. [One scholar] allows that ‘this lady’s standard is not implied to be in reach of all [in every respect]’… but rather reveals the flowering of wisdom in domestic life…. [Another commentator] likewise affirms that ‘as a whole it cannot be read as a kind of blueprint of the ideal Israelite housewife, either for men to measure their wives against or for their wives to try [in all respects] to live up to’…. Moreover, the work says nothing about the woman’s personal relationship with her husband, her intellectual or emotional strengths, or her religious activities [though it does show that her life is based on the proper fear of God verse 30]. In general it appears that the woman of Proverbs 31 is a symbol of wisdom [though this should not detract from some practical principles on being, choosing or appreciating a godly wife]….Indeed, many commentators rightly invite a contrast to the earlier portrayals of Dame Folly lurking dangerously in the streets she was to be avoided and Lady Wisdom, who is to be embraced. The Lady Wisdom in this chapter stands in the strongest contrast to the adulterous woman in the earlier chapters” (note on 31:10-31).

The same commentary notes more about this with regard to structure and composition: “The passage has striking similarities with hymns….Usually a hymn is written to God, but here apparently it was written to the wife of noble character. A comparison with Psalm 111, a hymn to God, illustrates some of the similarities. The psalm begins with halelu yah (‘Hallelu Yah’…or ‘Praise the LORD’); this is reflected in Proverbs 31:31, which says, ‘Her works bring her praise [wihaleluha].’ Psalm 111:2 speaks of God’s works; Proverbs 31:13 speaks of her works. Psalm 111:2 says that the works of the Lord are searched or ‘pondered’ (derushim); Proverbs 31:13 says that she ‘selects’ (dareshah) wool and flax. Psalm 111:3 says that the Lord’s work is honorable (hadar; NIV, ‘majestic’); Proverbs 31:25 ascribes strength and ‘dignity’ (hadar) to the woman. Psalm 111:4 says that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion; Proverbs 31:26 ascribes the law of compassion to the woman. Psalm 111:5 says that the Lord gives ‘food’ (terep); Proverbs 31:15 says that the woman provides ‘food’ (terep) for her house. Psalm 111:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom the motto of Proverbs; Proverbs 31:30 describes the woman as fearing the Lord. Psalm 111:10 says that the Lord’s praise will endure; Proverbs 31:31 says that the woman will be praised for her works. It is clear [or at least reasonable to think] that Proverbs 31 is patterned after the hymn to extol the works of wisdom” (same note).

Expositor’s and other commentaries also point out that the passage bears similarities with heroic literature seeming like an ode to a military champion. “For example, ‘woman of valor’ (‘esheth-hayil in v. 10…) is the same expression one would find in Judges for the ‘mighty man of valor’ (gibbor hehayil, Judg 6:12…)?the warrior aristocrat; ‘strength’ (‘oz in vv. 17…, 25) is elsewhere used for powerful deeds and heroics (e.g., Exod 15:2, 13; 1 Sam 2:10); ‘[gain]’ (v. 11) in ‘[no lack of gain]’ is actually the word for ‘plunder’…; ‘food’ (v. 15) is actually ‘prey’ (terep); ‘she holds’ (shillehah in v. 19) is an expression also used in military settings (cf. Judg 5:26…); ‘surpass them all’ (v. 29) is an expression that signifies victory” (same note). Commentator Tremper Longman says: “Perhaps life’s struggles here are envisioned as a war and the woman as an active and successful participant in taming life’s chaos” (How to Read Proverbs, p. 140).

Longman also points out: “Another of the dominant themes throughout the poem is the woman’s boundless energy. It is hard to believe that any single person could ever accomplish as much as this ideal woman, and perhaps the description is meant as a composite sketch. In any case, this woman is described not only as a warrior but also as a merchant ship that brings produce to port, namely her home. She also is active in commercial endeavors, not to speak of philanthropy toward the needy. Not only are her actions praised, but also her qualities of mind and attitude. She is fearless about the future, wise and kind. This woman has nothing at all to do with laziness. The emphasis at the end of the poem, as one might expect, is not on beauty or charm, but on the woman’s fear of the Lord. Indeed, this woman is the epitome of wisdom. She is the human embodiment of God’s wisdom; a flesh-and-blood personification of Woman Wisdom” (p. 141).

With this in mind, Expositor’s is right to point out: “The poem certainly presents a pattern for women who want to develop a life of wisdom; but since it is essentially about wisdom, its lessons are for both men and women to develop. The passage teaches that the fear of the Lord will inspire people to be faithful stewards of the time and talents that God has given; that wisdom is productive and beneficial for others, requiring great industry in life’s endeavors; that wisdom is best taught and lived in the home indeed, the success of the home demands wisdom and that wisdom is balanced living, giving attention to domestic responsibilities as well as business enterprises and charitable service” (note on Proverbs 31:10-31).

A Woman Who Fears the Lord the Wise Choice (Proverbs 31:10-31)

Let’s now note a few more issues in the text of the passage.
Verse 10 points out the rarity of such a find as the virtuous woman and her supreme value, which should be treasured (again, applying to both a good wife and wisdom more generally).

Verse 11, the second in the poem, is a good illustration of a poetic device corresponding to the acrostic of the passage. “The Hebrew of the bet line… (Prov. 31:11) has a concentration of the letter bet.Betah bah leb ba’lah wesalal lo’ yehsar” (Longman, p. 45). This was perhaps done to get Hebrew readers to take note of the acrostic pattern up front.

Verses 13 and 19, mentioning the woman’s textile work, serve to frame an inclusio (within the chiastic structure outline above). This should not be taken to imply that women today must take on such work or start a garment business. The point is that she makes good, productive use of her talents for the welfare of her household. The case given is only an example, wherein the wife uses her skills to produce items she can then trade or sell in order to acquire other goods and services for her home. And what of her buying a field in verse 16? This likewise does not mean that wives today should go about making real estate purchases without consulting their husbands. It may well be that, in the example given, the woman’s household is well enough off that such investments (the purpose here being for gardening) are within her discretionary spending. Yet if this involved a major expenditure of family resources we can rest assured that the noble wife would speak to her husband, for one of the principles of wisdom expressed throughout Proverbs is to seek counsel in making important decisions. The point of the example is twofold: 1) the husband trusts his valued wife enough to allow her to spend the household income in various ways; and 2) she takes initiative in such matters and is thoughtfully prudent and active in doing so.

Verse 15 does not mean that the woman portrayed here, a wealthy lady of the house, gets up early to personally make breakfast for the servants. “Instead, she supervises preparation of the morning meal and sees to it that all have a fair share. This implies first that she cares even for the servant girls and second that she is diligent about overseeing them” (New American Commentary, note on verse 15).

Verse 17 shows the responsible woman keeping herself fit so as to continue doing her work and serving her family.

Having succeeded so well in providing for her family, the virtuous wife is able to give to others besides and does so (verse 20). Indeed, this is part of the point of her work, as noted earlier.

Verse 21 shows the woman not fearing for those of her household when it’s cold as she has enabled them to be clothed with “scarlet.” The Hebrew here is shanim. Some, following the ancient Greek Septuagint translation, change the vowels in the Hebrew to read shenayim, meaning “double” the idea being that they are wearing layers. However, “scarlet,” denoting costly garments, might imply comfort even in inclement weather. Note the wife’s clothing of purple in verse 22. The word rendered “tapestry” in this verse means “coverings,” which might refer to bedding or other clothing.

In verse 25, where the KJV and NKJV have “she shall rejoice in time to come,” the meaning is more likely “she can laugh at the days to come” (NIV). That is, being armed with strength and honor (same verse), she can face whatever the future might bring with confidence (able even to dismiss the idea that she and her family might come to destruction). In the overall chiastic structure, this parallels her being unafraid of the cold in verse 21.

“Verse 27 is a brief, summarizing counterpart to the lengthy description of the wife’s diligence in vv. 13-19. Here the text explicitly states that she avoids laziness” (NAC, note on verse 27).

Verses 28-29 show that such a woman is praised by her grateful family. And the next two verses provide us with the summary conclusion. Verse 30 states that charm and beauty are fleeting, while real and enduring praise is for the woman who fears the Lord returning to the book’s opening counsel (1:7). This woman should be rewarded with love and gratitude (30:31).

The New American Commentary summarizes the matter well: “The good wife described here has every virtue wisdom can offer. She is diligent, has a keen sense for business matters, is compassionate, is prepared for the future, is a good teacher, is dedicated to her family, and above all else possesses the primary characteristic of biblical wisdom, the fear of the Lord (looking back to Prov 1:7, the theme of the book). She is no less than Woman Wisdom made real. The riches Woman Wisdom offers (8:18) are brought home by the hard work of the good wife (31:11). Proverbs has, in effect, come full circle. It began by saying that the young man must embrace the imaginary ideal of Woman Wisdom in order to have a fulfilling life [ 1:20-33; 8:1-36; 9:1-6 ], and it ends by saying that one needs a good wife to achieve this goal.

“The young man has no choice but to follow one woman or the other. He will either pursue Woman Wisdom or Woman Folly, and with them he will take their counterparts, the good wife or the prostitute/quarrelsome wife. He cannot attain wisdom without the good wife because she creates the environment in which he can flourish. If he chooses an evil woman, he has little hope of transcending the context she will make for him. Wisdom is not simply a matter of learning rules and precepts but is a matter of socialization, and a man is socialized first by his parents and then by his wife….In Proverbs wisdom is not merely or even primarily intellectual; it is first of all relational. The young person finds wisdom through three specific relationships” (note on 31:30-31)?with God, parents and spouse.

Indeed, the arrangement of the book of Proverbs is ingenious in this respect. It commences with telling a young man that knowledge and wisdom begin with the fear of God, laying out the choice between wisdom and folly, both calling for him. It follows with a great deal of parental advice in the form of short sayings. Then it ends with a “graduation,” so to speak, to adult life with marriage to a godly woman who also wisely lives by the fear of God. Yet for success in life, a young man must not only choose a wise woman. He must choose wisdom itself. This, then, is the culmination of the book. The paramount choice presented lies before us all men and women, young and old alike. Choose wisely.

Acts 27

Sha’ul is now being sent to Italy to stand before the Caesar. He, Luke, Aristarchos (a Macedonian), and some prisoners where put on a boat for sail. A captain of the Augustan regiment named Julius was in charge of the prisoners. They sailed for a day and then stopped in Tsidon where Julius allowed Sha’ul to go out onto land to visit his friends there and receive encouragement. They then set sail again and we placed on another boat, an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy while they were at Mura of Lukia. They were having much difficulty getting anywhere by sea due to some very strong winds that were against them. Luke reports very very slow travel and strong winds such that it took several days to get along and names several ports they passed.

The travel, waters, and weather had become so very treacherous that Sha’ul advised that the voyage was going to end with damage and great loss; for the cargo and the ship and their very lives! But the captain did not listen to Sha’ul and the pilot persuaded him that they should press on. They were hoping to make it to a good port to stay for the winter season. The winds died down for a short time and they thought all was going to be well and they lifted up the anchor, but then a Northeaster rushed in. They were caught up in the Northeaster and had to just let the wind carry them at will. They ran under a small island called Klauda and could not control the boat. They continued to be tossed all over the sea by the winds and began to throw supplies overboard. On the third day of the Northeaster, they threw overboard the ship’s tackle. They had no guidance from the sun or stars and were simply at the will of the weather and truly thought their lives were over.

After some time, there was no food and they had not eaten for days. Sha’ul stood up and admonished them for not listening to him earlier. He then stated with confidence that there would be no loss of life – only the ship would be lost. He had had a visit from a messenger from Elohim. The messenger confirmed that Sha’ul must be taken to appear before the Caesar and that not only would he make it there, but also everyone on the ship. So, he said that they needed to run up onto land if possible. After they had been tossed about the Adriatic sea for fourteen days, they began to suspect they were drawing near land. Taking depth soundings each few hours starting at midnight, it was confirmed and they dropped four anchors and waited for daylight.

Some sailors had thought to escape, but Sha’ul thwarted their plan by advising the soldiers to cut the rope to the small get-away boat and so they did. Just before daybreak, Sha’ul advised everyone that they needed to eat some food or else their health would fail them. So Sha’ul took some bread, broke it, gave thanks to Elohim, and they all took in some bread. This encouraged everyone, two hundred and seventy-six beings in all. At daybreak they noticed a beach and with lightening the ship by throwing wheat overboard along with the anchors, they intended to run upon the beach if possible. They ended up getting the prow of the ship stuck and the boat began to be destroyed by the constant pounding of the waves. Because of this, the soldiers then began to plot to kill the prisoners! They would rather to kill them than have them escape while on their watch. The captain however, mindful of Sha’ul and his words, ordered the soldiers to stand down and he commanded the prisoner to jump out and swim to shore – all those who could swim. In the end, they all reached the land in safety.