The Nineth Commandment

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: Jan 24, 2013
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News Letter 5848-048
13th day of the 11th month?5848 years after the creation of Adam
The 11th Month in the Third year of the third Sabbatical Cycle
The Third Sabbatical Cycle of the 119th Jubilee Cycle
The Sabbatical Cycle of Earthquakes Famines, and Pestilences
This is also the end of the Forty Fourth week of this the Third Tithe Year for the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow?Deuteronomy 26:12


January 26, 2013


Shabbat Shalom Brethren.

As many of you know we have been going to Israel now since 2005 and have developed some great relationships.
For the last two years we have toured Israel at Sukkot with Avi ben Mordechai. Well Avi has asked me to share with you a tour he has put together for Passover. We stayed at Avi’s house for Sukkot and I know you will love it there for Passover should you decide to go.

Here are the details.
Considering making a trip to Israel for Passover, 2013?

Come along with Israeli State Licensed Tour Guide and Twenty-Two Year International Biblical Author and Lecturer Avi ben Mordechai, as we study together on-location, the theme, “CROSSING THE JORDAN.”

For details visit our website – Click on the Passover 2013 Link.


This Year, for the first time, we are going to travel from Israel into the country of Jordan and visit two very important sites related to the Passover Theme – Crossing the Jordan!

1) The river where Jacob wrestled with the Ma’lach (the Word). In biblical days it was called the “Yabbok.” Today, it is called the Zerqa River. Nearby, we will stop to read and understand, on-location, the story of Genesis Chapter 32 at Penuel, where Ya’acov camped and saw Elohim “Faces to Faces,” literally in Hebrew.

2) Mount Nebo (in Hebrew, Har N’vo) where Moses took his last look at the Land of Promise. On location, we’ll study Deuteronomy 34:5 and Deuteronomy 18 and learn how these texts are Messianic in context with what I call the “Sacred Line.” Did you know thatHar N’vo or Mount Nebo is in fact on a 90-degree true east line from the Jerusalem Temple Mount? Could it be that this mountain, Har N’vo, which is related to the Hebrew word for prophecy and the Prophet, may also be the site of Yeshua’s transfiguration? I think there is a very strong possibility and we’ll discuss this on-location!

After visiting these two important sites related to our Passover theme, we will, together, descend the mountains of Moab and make our way over to stop on the Plains of Moab, where Moses delivered his last lectures to B’ne Israel (Numbers 36:13), before climbing up to Har N’vo, where the Almighty One of Israel took him (Deuteronomy 34:1-8). On our arrival at the Allenby Bridge on the Jordan River, we will clear customs and make our way across the river and immediately travel into Jericho, of course, on a bus, not on foot! Here, in the ancient city of Jericho, we will study the events of Joshua Chapters 1 through 6, when the walls came a tumblin’ down!

Our 2013 Passover program will also include the following:

A full day of 4 x 4 “jeeping” across the roughshod hills of the Bet Netofa Valley to the biblical ruins of ancient Cana (John 2:1 and 4:46). Also, in our 4 x 4 jeep, we’ll travel to Yodefat, where Jewish historian Josephus helped the city to defend itself against a Roman siege, which in the end defeated the Jewish resistance, resulting in the capture of Josephus.

We’ll be celebrating Pesach with a full spread of good food, homemade matzo, and BBQ’d lamb at the private home of Avi ben Mordechai in a traditional reclining mode, under the stars of Israel.

During the week, we’ll be stopping to learn biblical lessons from Mount Carmel and the story of Elijah and the 450 prophets of Jezebel’s Table (1 Kings 18). We’ll stop at the Jezreel Water Spring where King Saul was camped with his men, before his fateful day on Mount Gilboa(1 Samuel 28 – 31). We’ll ascend Mount Tabor and learn about Deborah and Barak against the armies of Jabin, King of Hazor (Judges 5).

We’ll be visiting three sites related to what I call the “Triangle of Woes,” – Bethsaida, Chorizim, and Capernaum (Matthew 11).

We’ll be taking about two hours to do some “gentle” white-water rafting on the Jordan River! Bring a hat and some swimming gear and plan to get wet!

We’ll be swimming in the Sea of Galilee and taking a one-hour boat ride on the lake, to learn about Yeshua’s ministry in the area.

We’ll be in Tel Dan and Banias for a hike in the nature reserve, amongst lots of green foliage and rushing waterfalls.

We’ll be exploring a 1200’s era castle that is in pretty good shape! It was built by Baibars, the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt and Syria. It is referred to as the Nimrod Castle. But why? Well, you understand that NIMROD is related to the Hebrew root N-M-R, a Leopard, you will understand why the castle was called by this term!

We’ll be hiking to Gamla and having a close look at the possibility that this was “Nazereth” of the gospels (Luke 4).

We’ll be traveling “UP” to Jerusalem on the seventh day of Pesach. Along the way towards Jerusalem, we’ll stop at the newly developed Mount Gerizim National Park and learn on-location the events that shape the stories of John Chapter 4, Nehemiah 4, Joshua 24:32, and 1 Kings 12:1.

We’ll be making a stop in Shiloh (Joshua 18) to learn about Hanna and Samuel (I Samuel chapters 1-8) and Joshua and so many others from the narratives of the Bible.

While in Jerusalem, we will ascend the Temple Mount and learn about the “Sacred Line,”which will shed light on why Moses was taken up to Mount Nebo in Deuteronomy 34 and why Yochanan (John) was immersing (“Baptizing”) at the Jordan River opposite Jericho!

We’ll also be visiting the ancient City of David and the Shiloach Pool (John 9). We will also hike about a 1/3 of a mile (600 meters) UNDERGROUND, through a newly excavated drainage channel that is now open to the public. This drainage channel is extremely interesting and will amaze you to no end! We’ll be in this channel for about 45 minutes all the way up to the Davidson Center Archaeological Park.

All this and so much more, this year 2013 for Passover in Israel.
Full details are on the COMINGHOME website:

Shalom from Israel
Avinoam ben Mordechai
Israeli State Licensed Tour Guide

This year at the Inaugural Prayer was one Rabbi Cahn who made a prayer. It was an historic prayer and he called out the US Government. I encourage you all to stop what you are doing and take the time to listen to this. You have hear and read about his book the Harbinger. Now hear his prayer down in front of the leading teachers of the nation.

This week someone sent me this very insightful article on what the Fruit of the brethren looks like. So I share it with you.



The modern spiritual-archaeological phenomenon of seeking the “roots” of the messianic faith is an important event in the ongoing history of what may be called, for lack of a better term, religious evolution. Those who have taken up the spade in the challenging labor of digging down through millennial layers of accumulated rubble to find that very root have taken on a noble task. But it is a task fraught with risk and danger. Many who have taken up that endeavor of restoring the faith to its original root have unearthed and brought to light valuable treasures affecting change around the world. But in digging downward some of those same pioneers have at times forgotten to look upward.

The roots of a tree are absolutely essential to the growth of the tree. But if the root is detached from the trunk and the branches, that tree will never bear fruit, nor will branches detached from the root. Many in what has been called the Messianic Jewish movement have so focused on the root in their attempt to avoid the many errors of the past, have created their own generation of errors. Perhaps the worst of the errors is in digging down to the root of the wrong tree, which is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, rather than the much to be desired Tree of Life.

There has been much focus in that movement on the accumulation of knowledge, which in itself can be a good thing. But the New Covenant writings admonish us with, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1). In such a vast collection of new knowledge some have forgotten the very purpose of the Torah command upon which its very root is based, v’ahavta- “you shall love”. Or as it is defined in those same writings, “The goal of the command is unfeigned love from a pure heart, some straying have turned aside unto fruitless discussion” (1 Tim. 1:5).

In forgetting the original purpose of the commandment, some have only succeeded in reproducing the same divisions and acrimony that past error in the history of religion had produced. In endeavoring to create the original frame around the picture, many have virtually forgotten the picture that is to be held within that frame…

The Messiah said this in defining his community, “They shall know you are my disciples by the love you have one for the other”. Therefore one must look upward, away from the root and out to the branches to observe if that tree is bearing its intended fruit. Of a tree one may not eat of the root nor of the trunk or the branches and leaves, but only of its fruit. Yeshua went on to tell us that a good tree will bring forth only good fruit, and “therefore you will know a tree by its fruit.” If indeed we are restoring the very Tree of Life, then it will be certain to bear the good fruit of Life expressed by that very precious sign of unfeigned Love. Let us therefore all be certain that we are barking up the right tree, lest we labor in vain only to become but another clanging symbol in the marketplace of religious display, and far below the kingdom of God.

We also have a sister in the faith here in Toronto fighting for the right to keep her husband alive. And her case has now made the Toronto Star, a major paper in Canada. Read this article and keep her and her husband in your prayers. We have been in contact with Pillar a number of times since this tragedy took place.–stroke-victim-s-wife-fights-physicians-to-keep-him-on-artificial-life-support

We are going to continue with the 9th Commandment this week. This is more than I thought of when we began this project. Please read this and let your tent pegs be stretched again as you wrap yourself around what the Torah teaches.


The Ninth Commandment

“You do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16


This teaching will hopefully prove to be fun and thought provoking, especially for those of you who enjoy opening your minds and hearts to new perspectives. Thinking outside the same old box can be fun. It can be like taking a drive down a different street, or walking along a new trail to see new things and then consider them in your minds. Hopefully this article will be that for you, and Yehovah is edified and praised.

In a fellowship not long ago, this commandment created the most stir, emotion, and confusion. If we understand Yehovah to be telling us “Don’t lie” then it is all said and done and no questions asked and it is straightforward and simple. Except of course for all those examples of our heroes in scripture taking part in lies or deceptions that evoke questions and seemingly paradoxes.

What is Yehovah really instructing with this particular command, is it ‘thou shalt not lie’? Then what about the Biblical heroes who lied and seemingly Yehovah did not have a problem with that? A bit confusing to say the least. Maybe there is just a little bit more to this commandment. This article will attempt to bring some matters out that can be prayed about, discussed, and considered.

Do we realize how blessed we are in this day and time to be able to search the scriptures for ourselves? We have several translations to compare, we have Lexicons, we have commentaries, we have the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, we have Strong’s Concordance, we have the internet with all it offers, and many of us have the Hebrew Bible, JPS, and are even learning Hebrew! Truly we are blessed to have all these things to help us to get down to the true word as best we can. And so that is what we shall attempt do for this commandment.

To start in our exploration of His Word and commandment this week, we are going to start with what we might “think or believe” He is saying so that when we see what the scripture truly says, we will notice the different and have an open door to walk through and hopefully obtain willing explorers at that point to walk together through this discovery.

The Hebrew word for “lie” as we understand it in the English language and as it is used in the Bible is the word kazab.
It was translated as “lie” for the first time in Psalms and then in Proverbs.

kazab {kaw-zawb’} from 03576; TWOT – 970a; n m AV – lie 23, lying 2, leasing 2, deceitful 1, false 1, liar 1, lies + 01697 1; 31 1) a lie, untruth, falsehood, deceptive thing

kazab {kaw-zab’} a primitive root; TWOT – 970; v AV – lie 11, liar 3, vain 1, fail 1; 16 1) to lie, tell a lie, be a liar, be found a liar, be in vain, fail 1a) (Qal) liar (participle) 1b) (Niphal) to be proven to be lying 1c) (Piel) 1c1) to lie, tell a lie, tell a lie with, deceive 1c2) to disappoint, fail 1d) (Hiphil) to make a liar, prove to be a liar

From the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament:

This root, kzb, and its derivatives occur forty-nine times in the Old Testament. The basic meaning is to speak that which is untrue and therefore false to reality. It is often used with shaw’ meaning “vainity, emptiness.” In distinction from words translated “deceived, lie,” kazab stresses the actual act of lying.

Fundamental to the concepts of truth and falsehood in the Old Testament is the understanding that the God of Israel does not lie:
“El is not a man, to lie; nor a son of man, to repent! Has He said, and would He not do it; or spoken, and would not confirm it?” Numbers 23:19
“Once I have sworn by My set-apartness, I do not lie to David.” Psalm 89:35

He is faithful to all that He has said and expects His followers to do and be the same. We could say that this “walking in truth” is part of being His Image in the world. Perhaps equal in importance to “walking in truth” is the concept of keeping covenant in faithfulness.

Let’s look at another commonly used Hebrew word in scripture having to do with lying. This word is pathah

??? pathah {paw-thaw’} a primitive root; TWOT – 1853; v AV – entice 10, deceive 8, persuade 4, flatter 2, allure 1, enlarge 1, silly one 1, silly 1; 28 1) to be spacious, be open, be wide 1a) (Qal) to be spacious or open or wide 1b) (Hiphil) to make spacious, make open 2) to be simple, entice, deceive, persuade 2a) (Qal) 2a1) to be open-minded, be simple, be naive 2a2) to be enticed, be deceived 2b) (Niphal) to be deceived, be gullible 2c) (Piel) 2c1) to persuade, seduce 2c2) to deceive 2d) (Pual) 2d1) to be persuaded 2d2) to be deceived

The basic idea behind this word is “to be open, spacious, wide,” and might relate to the immature or simple one who is open to all kinds of enticement, not having developed a discriminating judgment as to what is right or wrong. Enticement is described in terms of a man seducing a woman in Exodus 22:15. Another usage is what happens when a man refuses to follow God’s direction. He is enticed to do wrong to his ultimate hurt, a discipline or judgment for rejecting Yehovah. To deceive carries almost the same idea as to entice. Israel is warned not to be deceived by turning to other gods in the midst of plenty.

Jeremiah in the depths of despair complained that God had deceived him when his ministry seemed so fruitless. Yehovah was gracious with him.

“O Yehovah, You entice me, and I was enticed. You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I have been ridiculed all day long, everyone mocks me. For when I speak, I cry out, proclaiming violence and ruin. Because the word of Yehovah was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Whenever I said, “Let me not mention Him, nor speak in His Name again,” it was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones. And I became weary of holding it back, and was helpless. Jeremiah 20:7-9

There are some other interesting passages in Ezekiel, where we read Yehovah has deceived, but we should take care to understand what is truly happening.

“Therefore speak to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus said the Master Yehovah, “Everyone of the house of Israel who set up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his crookedness before his face, and shall come to the prophet – I Yehovah shall answer him who come, according to his many idols, in order to lay hold of the house of Israel by their heart, for they have become estranged from Me by their idols, all of them.”’

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus said the Master Yehovah, “Repent, and turn back from your idols, and turn back your faces from all your abominations.

“For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts the stumbling-block of his crookedness before his face, and shall come to a prophet to inquired of him concerning Me, I Yehovah shall answer him Myself.

“And I shall set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I shall cut him off from the midst of My people. And you shall know that I am Yehovah.

“And if the prophet is deceived, and shall speak a word, I Yehovah have deceived that prophet, and shall stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from the midst of My people Israel. Ezekiel 14:4-9

We read the word “deceive” here in this passage, but the Hebrew word is “pathah,” the word “entice.” Yehovah tells us the situation, how the prophets and/or people had already set up idols in their hearts and Yehovah knew this. Therefore, He sends them further enticement by His own Hand to cause their end. This reminds us of the “great delusion” spoken of by Paul in the book of 2 Thessalonians that Yehovah will Himself send. There may be some who find this unfair or treacherous, but Yehovah has already given us His Will through His Word and through all the evidence all around us concerning Himself. It is up to us and our love for Him to be that son or daughter who studies Him, keeps His commandments, and guards His Words. When we do this, we will not be deceived or enticed.

Another event where we see “enticement by Yehovah” is with King Ahab and the messengers of Yehovah. The word used again is pathah.

In 1 Kings 22:19-23, there is a troubling passage in which we are told that Yehovah used an enticing spirit to deceive Ahab. Does Yehovah really use evil, lying spirits to do His bidding? We claim that Yehovah is all powerful, He is King and Creator of all things with all under His Authority. But, for some reason, many shy away from the idea that He also commands and controls evil. We wonder… why would Yehovah do such a thing? To find the answer to this question, we need to learn a little background about King Ahab, and also understand something about the sovereignty of Yehovah.

King Ahab was the son of Omri, and he reigned over Israel in Samaria for 22 years (1 Kings 16:29). Continuing the example of his father, Ahab did evil in the sight of Yehovah by worshiping Baal and “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:23). Ahab again and again proved he was bent on evil, evidenced by his continued refusal to listen to the prophet Elijah’s warnings. Ahab accused Elijah of troubling Israel by the drought, but Elijah declared that it was Ahab’s own sin which caused the troubles for the nation (1 Kings 18:18). Since Ahab had declared war on Yehovah by killing His prophets (v. 13), Yehovah then brought the war to Ahab in the form of a contest (1 Kings 18:19-40) between the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on one side, and Elijah on the other. When Yehovah miraculously verified Elijah’s status as His true prophet, Ahab should have repented, but he remained in his sinful rebellion, fueled by the wicked anger of his wife, Jezebel.??

In many subsequent incidents, Yehovah again showed His power and mercy to Ahab, but the king refused to submit and obey Him. Finally Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, came to visit him and Ahab persuaded him to join in battle to take Ramoth-Gilead from the Syrians. Wisely, Jehoshaphat insisted that they seek Yehovah’s will in the matter, so Ahab brought 400 false prophets together, who all assured him that Yehovah would give them victory (1 Kings 22:6). Jehoshaphat recognized their falsehood and asked whether a true prophet of Yehovah could be summoned. Ahab acknowledged that Micaiah was a true prophet, but he hated him, because “he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad,” (1 Kings 22:8).??Micaiah was brought before the kings and delivered Yehovah’s final warning to Ahab. He said that if they went to war, they would be defeated and left without a king. Ahab replied, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” (1 Kings 22:18).

Ahab was again rejecting the clear warning from Yehovah, and choosing a path of wicked rebellion. In response to Ahab’s constant choice of sin, Yehovah revealed some of the inner workings of the spiritual world.??Yehovah had already pronounced a death sentence upon Ahab (1 Kings 20:42, 21:19), but had given him opportunity to repent of his wickedness. With this final rejection of Yehovah’s counsel, Elohim determined to carry out the death sentence. Since Ahab continued to prefer the lies of his false prophets over the truth given by Yehovah’s prophets, Yehovah chose to use the false prophets to carry out His plan. When Yehovah asked for volunteers to “entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there” (1 Kings 22:20), a spirit said he would be an enticing spirit in the mouth of the prophets. Yehovah gave the spirit permission to proceed, and Ahab received the message he desired.??

Yehovah chose to use an enticing spirit because Ahab rejected Yehovah’s rebukes and warnings all through his life and the cup of Yehovah’s wrath was full. Since Yehovah is sovereign over all of creation, He is not restricted in what or who He can use to accomplish His holy purposes. All of creation is under His authority and He chooses to use people and spirits, both good and evil, to bring His divine plans to pass and bring glory to Himself. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). In the case of Ahab, Yehovah chose to use an enticing spirit to accomplish His perfect and righteous plan (Psalm 18:30).

And again, this is no different from Yehovah sending a strong delusion to people, or an enticing spirit to do what seems like, to give unto those who have already broken covenant with Him, the desires of their wicked hearts. Souls that refuse, refuse, refuse, and refuse again to hear His Torah, His Voice, and His counsel are in great danger of experiencing the His wrath. Is this bearing false witness? No, it is consequences of evil and wicked choices.

So we have now looked at some words that express the idea of lying, deceiving, enticing.
Now let us look at our commandment for this study, “You do not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The Hebrew words of the 9th commandment are:
The Hebrew word “lo” gives us a negative instruction similar to saying “no” or “do not.” Anah is a very interesting Hebrew word and most often it is used to mean “answer.”

`anah {aw-naw’} a primitive root; TWOT – 1650,1653; v AV – answer 242, hear 42, testify 12, speak 8, sing 4, bear 3, cry 2, witness 2, give 1, misc 13; 329 1) to answer, respond, testify, speak, shout 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to answer, respond to 1a2) to testify, respond as a witness 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to make answer 1b2) to be answered, receive answer 2) (Qal) to sing, utter tunefully 3) (Qal) to dwell

There are a few words in Hebrew that also deal with the spoken words such as “amar” meaning “to say, said, spoke” and then there is the Hebrew word “dabar” which most of the time literally means, “word.”

The word “anah” is something spoken also, but it begins with the Hebrew letter “ayin.” This may give us a small clue as to its full meaning because the Hebrew letter ayin is the picture of an “eye.” When we see the picture of an eye, we think to ourselves “sight” or “to see” and we don’t think so quickly of “to speak” for that is something to do with the mouth. But having this “ayin” here in our word “anah” tells us something spoken perhaps with some “knowledge, or understanding” of what is spoken? In others words, it is not something we speak or something we say (or that Yehovah says) in a simple response or remark or answer. This expression indicates that behind the words spoken is an understanding, an insight, a knowledge about what is being spoken or expressed in a purposeful way.

Remember the article concerning killing and murder. How these words give an understanding of something different. Both actions have the same outcome, but the condition of the heart of the person involved is in question. Deceiving/enticing and bearing false witness are like that. What is the motive of the heart?

Let us keep this in mind as we go forward.

Our next word in the ninth commandment is:
rea` {ray’-ah} or ??? reya` {ray’-ah} from 07462; TWOT – 2186a; n m AV – neighbour 102, friend 42, another 23, fellow 10, companion 5, other 2, brother 1, husband 1, lovers 1, neighbour + 01121 1; 188 1) friend, companion, fellow, another person 1a) friend, intimate 1b) fellow, fellow-citizen, another person (weaker sense) 1c) other, another (reciprocal phrase)

`ed {ayd} contracted from 05749 ; TWOT – 1576b; n m AV – witness 69; 69 1) witness 1a) witness, testimony, evidence (of things) 1b) witness (of people)

sheqer {sheh’-ker} from 08266; TWOT – 2461a; n m AV – lie 28, lying 21, false 20, falsehood 13, falsely 13, vain 5, wrongfully 4, deceitful 2, deceit 1, liar 1, misc 5; 113 1) lie, deception, disappointment, falsehood 1a) deception (what deceives or disappoints or betrays one) 1b) deceit, fraud, wrong 1b1) fraudulently, wrongfully (as adverb) 1c) falsehood (injurious in testimony) 1c1) testify falsehood, false oath, swear falsely 1d) falsity (of false or self-deceived prophets) 1e) lie, falsehood (in general) 1e1) false tongue 1f) in vain

Shaqar is used of the breaking of a promise, being false to a treaty or commitment, as in an empty promise.

There is a significance for the use of this word shaqar in regards specifically to “covenant breaking.”

This word is used of activities or words which are false in the sense that they are groundless, without basis in fact or reality. David uses this word to express, “Many are they that hate me without cause (sheqer).” Psalm 38:19.

The false witness of our commandment involves a false accusation, an accusation that is groundless, not based on facts.

Jeremiah 23:32 speaks of those who “prophesy lying dreams,” that are founded on nothing more substantial than the dreamer’s imagination. He speaks similarly of those who prophesy falsehood in 27:10 (Zech 10:2, 13:3). No matter how persuasively or “logically” the prophet might speak, his words are groundless and false unless they are based on Yehovah’s self-revelation. Isaiah 59:13 forms part of repentant Israel’s confession. Included in this is the statement that they had conceived and uttered from their hearts lying (sheqer) words. Micah 2:11 portrays this attitude of Israel by saying that if a man whose way of life is “wind and falsehood (sheqer)” were to come to them with lies, that is the one they would choose as their prophet.

Idols are called sheqer in a number of passages (Isaiah 44:20, Jeremiah 51:17). Habakkuk 2:18 speaks similarly of idols, asking what value they have, being “teachers of falsehood,” that is, making empty promises and raising vain hopes.

With these words then in the commandment this week, we have:
You shall not answer / hear / testify / speak a lie / falsely / falsehood / deceptively in witness / testimony / evidence of things neighbor / friend / another / fellow or literally “you afflict not in another by or with falsehoods, false dealings, lies, or wrongs” .

He instructs us: don’t afflict one another. Don’t terrorize one another. Don’t accuse one another of false things or wrongly. Don’t cheat one another because this causes afflictions and breaks trust amongst one another.

We, as the family of Yehovah and community of believers are in covenant with Him. Because we are in covenant with The Holy One, each of us as a profession of our lips and circumcision of our hearts, we are also in covenant with one another. We are to be one in unity, just as He is One.

This word shaqar in our commandment is leading us to this idea of covenant keeping both with Him and with one another. When we make agreements with one another, contracts, promises… we are to keep them, just as Yehovah keeps His promises and covenants with each of us.

Whether or not we can express with words how this is different from simply saying “don’t lie,” certainly there is a difference. There is a feeling of testimony against someone else, rumors, perhaps even gossip. Most certainly there is an idea of being a cause of injustice in the community against someone else at or by our witness.

For instance with our children, we teach them not to lie. The idea is that we desire them to be honest and act with truth and integrity. Why? Most probably because we are teaching them to be the Image of the Holy One. This teaching of honesty can gain depth of understanding when taught in the confines of covenant keeping too. As a parent, we understand we have a covenant with our children. It is a covenant of love. We love them, teach them, care for them, nurture them, feed them, clothe them, provide safety for them. For their portion and part of the covenant we ask (and require) that they be honest and truthful with us. Honesty and truthfulness strengthens the covenant and therefore the relationship. The same occurs within the marriage covenant and indeed with all relationships we enter into.

There are times we are tempted to lie to get out of trouble. There are times when we deceive out of shame or fear. We may omit the full story or even purposefully lead astray for some sort of motive of self preservation or preservation of another person. We have many events in scripture where we read about people doing this, and they are not always punished that we know of. Is this the type of situation we have in our commandment?

Our commandment here has very strong nuances of court proceedings and judgments because of the word “ed” for witness, testify, give evidence. And then Yehovah says, “against your neighbor”.

The Hebrew letter “beyt” used as a prefix on the word for neighbor gives us a phrase that reads: “in your neighbor” or “with your neighbor” and saying “against your neighbor” seems acceptable according to our translations. Whether in a court of law under oath, or out in the street with just the two people speaking, we should be forthright and honest with one another. Yehovah’s society is required to be based upon Truth and Honesty, both in our actions, words, deeds, and intentions. We do not reflect Him and His Nature if we deal treacherously with one another.

Returning to the Torah, let us look for other instructions to support the idea that our commandment appears to focus on the matter of judicial situations.

This instruction that Yehovah has given through Moses in Deuteronomy.

Deut 19:15-19
One witness does not rise up against a man concerning any crookedness or any sin that he commits. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses a matter is established.

When a malicious witness rises up against any man to accuse him of turning aside, then both men who have the dispute shall stand before YHWH, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days.

And the judges shall diligently search and see if the witness is a false witness, who has falsely accused his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from your midst.

In reading this passage we may remember the incident with Yeshua, the woman caught in adultery, and the gang of men who brought her to Yeshua for judgment and stoning. They desired to stone her and Yeshua addressed them and said, “[he that is without sin among you]… cast the first stone.” John 8:7. His “writing in the sand” and then His Words lead us to wonder if perhaps He was reminding them of the instructions concerning a false witness and how a ruling is properly made according to the Torah of Elohim.

Imagine how important this commandment is for justice and right ruling among us. Even in our secular societies there are laws to prevent perjury while under oath in a trial. There is no justice without this idea of it being wrong for us to testify falsely against one another and accuse and tell lies. There are laws against slander and against libelous proclamations against other people punishable by law. This is the type of thing our commandment is focusing upon. Let us remember that we are in covenant with Yehovah and with one another.

Do not tread down a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Do not afflict any widow or fatherless child.
If you do afflict them at all – if they cry out to Me at all, I shall certainly hear their cry, and my wrath shall burn and I shall slay you with the sword, your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless. Exodus 22:21-24

Yehovah is telling us that with Him, He is the King and Ruler whether we see Him or not, hear Him or not, or think we are getting away with something in secret. Remember before Israel cried out for a King, Yehovah was their King and Ruler. Each day of our lives we are in a courtroom… unseen… walking out our positions before our Father. He knows when we have slandered, told a lie against someone else, spread a rumor, gossiped, or afflicted someone else. It does not have to be as we imagine it in our perception of reality with a literal judge, jury, and attorney. He is there each day with us and knows our words, thoughts, desires, and works.

Proverbs 19:5
A false witness does not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies does not escape.

Exodus 23:1-2
Do not bring a false report. Do not put your hand with the wrong to be a malicious witness.

Do not follow a crowd to do evil, nor bear witness in a strife so as to turn aside after many, to turn aside [what is right].

Deuteronomy 5:20
You do not bear false witness against your neighbor

Bearing false witness against another person falls in the list of the things that are an abomination to Yehovah.
Proverbs 6:16-19
These six [matters] Yehovah hates,
And seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
And hand shedding innocent blood,
A heart devising wicked schemes,
Feet quick to run to evil,
A false witness breathing out lies,
And one who causes strife among brothers.

Proverbs 12:17
He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.

Lying lips are an abomination to YHWH, but those who deal truly are His delight. Proverbs 12:22

Proverbs 14:5
A trustworthy witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.

Proverbs 19:9
A false witness does not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies perishes.

Proverbs 21:28
A false witness perishes, but the man who obeys speaks forever.

Proverbs 24:28
Do not witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.

Proverbs 25:18
A man bearing false witness against his neighbor [is like] a club and a sword and a sharp arrow.

Deceiving to preserve our own life, someone else’s life, or to accomplish Yehovah’s will in a fallen world or situation.

There are several occasions in scripture where deceptions occurred by prophets, priests, and kings… and even others, and it appears that somehow, there is no sin in it. These matters can be difficult to resolve. However, according to the “meaning and intent” of what this article on the ninth commandment is trying to convey… we in fact do not find instances of people involved in bringing false witness against another person and finding this action acceptable.

Let us look at some instances of deception (lying). These topics are good to discuss with fellowship groups and children too. These discussions could spark ways in which to teach wisdom to children. Discuss how to determine whether or not deception in some cases may have to be done and for what reasons do they think is acceptable? What are some reasons that deception is not acceptable? How is lying to parents related or not related to this commandment? Perhaps lying to our parents has more to do with a lack of honoring them, or fearing Yehovah?


Genesis 12:18
And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not inform me that she was your wife?

Pharaoh is testifying here that Abram did not fully disclose his and Sarai’s full relationship. And indeed, Abram requested that Sarai herself answer for their relationship to say that she is his sister.

Genesis Chapter 20
And Abraham set out from there to the land of the South, and dwelt between Qadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. And Abraham said concerning Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelek sovereign of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

But Elohim came to Abimelek in a dream by night, and said to him, “See, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”

However, Abimelek had not come near her, and he said, “YHWH, would You slay a righteous nations also? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and in the innocence of my hands I have done this.”

And Elohim said to him in a dream, “Yea, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart, and so I kept you from sinning against Me. For this reason I did not let you touch her. (v 1-6)

Isaac in Genesis Chapter 28
v. 6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And when the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister.” For he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” [thinking], “let the men of the place should kill me for Ribqah, because she is good-looking.”
Isaac himself professes why he lied and told Ribqah to lie, v.9 “Lest I die on account of her.”

In these instances Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah deceived strangers out of fear for their own lives. These people were in covenant with Yehovah. Within that living covenant they came into contact with others outside that covenant who were perceived as a threat. Their love for one another and desire for survival led to their actions.

The midwives who saved Hebrew children in Egypt

Exodus 1:15-21- The midwives lied to Pharoah about their disobedience to his wicked command to murder the Hebrew infants. Their motives were obviously good (v 17), intending to save the Israelite babies out of fear of Yehovah. Not only does He not disapprove of their deception, but He compliments and rewards their methods (v20,21).

Rahab in Joshua Chapter 2
Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. “It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. (Joshua 2:1-6)

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. Hebrews 11:31

I Samuel 16:1-5- Yehovah instructs Samuel to mislead the elders of the city (and Saul, indirectly) about the true intentions of Samuel’s visit. Samuel tells them he is simply there to sacrifice, but in reality he is anointing the next king of Israel. Can circumstances that exist in the earth and with people cause a situation where we have to deceive them in order to accomplish the task we have been given by Yehovah in life?

I Samuel 21:1-3- David lies to Ahimelech the priest about his mission. David tells the priest that he is on a secret mission for Saul, when he is really running from Saul. Again we do not see any condemnation from Elohim. Could it be that here David reveres the reputation of his King in the land above the urgency of truthful answer of his duties? Is it worse to lie to a priest than any other person? Or is a lie and lie no matter who we lie to?

I Kings 22:22- A spirit speaking through a false prophet which Ahab should not have been listening to in order to bring Ahab into judgment for his own wickedness. Does Yehovah allow us to be deceived, and if so, why would He do this?

II Kings 8:10- Elisha, Yehovah’s prophet, instructs Hazel to give Ben-hadad a false prophecy, which he does.

Jeremiah 38:24-27- King Zedekiah instructs Jeremiah to lie to the king’s officials about the subject of Jeremiah’s conversation with the king as a means of saving Jeremiah’s life.

These events we read about have a common thread and common theme even though deception was involved. Motives to preserve life, to accomplish a command or instruction, to protect a reputation, or to reveal someone’s true heart to them. There are many other events similar to these and we must take care not to interpret events in the lives of Biblical characters only, to determine Father’s will. We must look at His specific instructions (His Torah) for His Perfect Will and go from there; the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. We know that Yehovah desires truth and for us to walk in Truth.

Psalm 51:6 See, You have desired truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You make me know wisdom.

Being a liar

The Bible says that YHWH desires truth in our innermost being (Psalm 51:6) and that he “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4) We are told that we should serve Him in truth (Joshua 24:14) and worship Him in spirit and truth. (John 14:13-24) Our prayers are to be presented in sincerity and truth. (Psalm 145:18) We are to select our leaders on the basis of their truthfulness, (Ex 18:21) and their judgments are to be based upon the truth. (Deut 13:14) In fact, no person was to be convicted of a capital crime on the basis of one witness, but at least two were required, (Deut 17:6) to minimize the possibility of a false conviction.

Individuals are implored to speak the truth at all times, (Psalm 15:2) and are commended for doing so. (Malachi 2:6) We are instructed not to lie, (James 3:14) and lying is strongly condemned. (Psalm 120:2) Testifying falsely against another person is specifically prohibited in the Ten Commandments, (Ex 20:16) and is punishable with the same punishment the accused would have received (including falsely testifying in a capital crime). (Deut 19:18-19) Evil and unrighteous people oppose the truth (1 Tim 6:5) and will not even receive it. (2 Thess 2:10) A lack of truth leads to evil and injustice. (Isaiah 59:14) God will punish those who suppress the truth, (Romans 1:18) and lying is one of the sins that keeps one out of (Rev 22:27) since it is the “City of Truth”. (Zech 8:3)

Being a false witness is a condition of a defiled heart.

Matthew 15:19
“For out of the heart come forth wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, whoring, thefts, false witnessings, slander.

These defile the man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”

If we consider the condition of the heart of a person who is willing to testify against another falsely, we might find things such as anger, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, love of money, pride. As children of Elohim with His Spirit within us, we are not to allow ourselves and our hearts to be in this condition. Daily prayer and repentance, daily evaluation of our thoughts and motives cannot be overemphasized in our walk. We are to love one another and treat each other just as we desire to be treated.

One of the most well known cases of false witnesses had to do with our Messiah Himself. We read in Matthew this testimony:

Matthew 26:59-64
And the chief priests, and the elders, and all the council were seeking false witness against Yeshua to put Him to death, but found none. Although many false witnesses came forward, they found none. {Mark 14:56: For many bore false witness against Him, but their evidences did not agree} But at least two false witnesses came forward, and said, “This one said, ‘I am able to destroy the Dwelling Place of Elohim and to build it in three days.’”

What a sad testimony. They had many false witnesses come forward, and it sounds as if some of the accusations against Him were the misunderstood statements, parables, and teachings He gave them.

I think of my own heart at times when I am angry or embittered with someone else, by something they said or they did according to my understanding. I talk about it in my heart and in my thoughts against them and I hear the still small voice inside tell me to take care not to be accusing my brother or sister falsely. If I have a problem with another, I should go to them and try and clear up the matter. If I am not willing to do this, then I need to take care to pray “for” them, turn the matter over to Yehovah and put an end to my endless accusations against them and forgive them.

And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Have You no answer to make? What do these witness against You?”

But Yehshua remained silent. So the high priest said to Him, “I put You to oath, by the living Elohim that You say to us if You are the Messiah, the Son of Elohim.”

Yehshua said to him, “You have said it. Besides I say to you, from now you shall see the Son of Adam sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of the heaven.”

It is our prayer that this article on the ninth commandment, “you do not bear false witness against your neighbor” has been something that causes thought, discussion, prayer, and growth in your walk with Elohim. Love for Yehovah and love for one another. When these two guide our actions and motives we do not have to fear of breaking commandments or covenants. We will end with an uplifting vision and wish you Shalom.

Isaiah 63 gives us a wonderful blessing for behaving honestly before Him. Verse 8-9 fall within the prophecy of the vision of the warrior who speaks in righteousness and mighty to save coming up from a slaughter from Edom, from Botsrah;

And He said, “They are My people, children who do not act falsely.” And He became their Savior. In all their distress He was distressed, and the Messenger of His Presence saved them. In His love and in His compassion He redeemed them, and He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

Triennial Torah Cycle

We continue this weekend with our regular Triennial Torah reading

Deut 2      Neh 8-10      2 Cor 8-9


God Is in Control (Deuteronomy 2)

In spite of the fact that the Israelites, because of their sin and subsequent punishment, had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, unable to enter the Promised Land, they were still being cared for and provided for by God (verse 7). Once “all the men of war had finally perished from among the people” (verse 16), God gave command to the new generation to begin to conquer the land (verse 24). He made clear, however, that it was He who was in ultimate control of events (verse 25), so that no flesh would glory before Him. In fact, God hardened the heart of King Sihon to provoke him into fighting against Israel (verses 30, 32). And God delivered him and his cities, as well as other specifically designated cities, into the hands of Israel (verses 33, 36).

At God’s command, the Israelites “utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city” (verse 34). Passages like these have led many readers to conclude that the God of the Old Testament was harsh and cruel, in contrast to Jesus Christ, who is thought of as gentle and meek. The fact is, however, that it was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ Himself who appeared to and gave this command to Moses (see 1 Corinthians 10:). It was He, the Giver of life who created mankind at the Father’s behest (compare Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:9), who rightly ordered taking the life of certain people. It appears that in God’s infinite wisdom, He decided that, rather than the children of that evil, demon-worshiping society continuing to live in misery and pain, it was better for them to die and later be resurrected to physical life in a better world in which His right way of life would be taught to everyone and enforced throughout the earth (see Revelation 20:5, 11-12; “The Last Great Day: Eternal Life Offered to All,” God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind, 1999, pp. 51-57). Of course, the prerogative to take human life belongs solely to God. Only He has the right to kill a person or command someone else to do so.

Nehemiah 8

Returning to Nehemiah 8, Ezra is called on to read to the people from the Book of the Law of Moses. Exactly what the term Book of the Law specifies is debated. Some see it as the entire Pentateuch—the five books of Moses. Others view it as just Deuteronomy. Still others see it as certain sections of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Since Joshua wrote of the Shechem covenant near the end of his life in the Book of the Law (see Joshua 24:25-26), it seems that the book may have encompassed more than what is written in the Pentateuch. Following Ezra’s reading, the history recounted afterward in Nehemiah 9 could argue for understanding the Book of the Law in the broad sense of the whole Pentateuch and perhaps even more of Scripture. Whatever the case, Ezra reads to the people for five or six hours, as the word translated “morning” in Nehemiah 8:3 actually specifies “dawn” as the starting point. He continues on until about noon, and the people remain attentive.

As the Law is presented, the Levites help the people to understand it (verses 7-8). The wording here is interesting. Rabbinic tradition maintains that the Levites were here translating the less familiar ancient Hebrew into Aramaic, the common language of the people since the exile in Babylon. And perhaps the phrase translated “gave the sense” does have that meaning—along with possibly explaining outdated idioms and other archaic usages. (Indeed, those skeptics who argue that the Mosaic Law was a priestly invention during the time of Ezra should note that this passage seems to show the Law as a very old document even then.) Yet the phrase that follows, “helped them to understand the reading,” may well have referred to some expounding on how to apply the principles and lessons contained in the Law.

On hearing the Law, the people sink into weeping—evidently sorrowful over their failure to live up to its demands. Gauging from this reaction, it seems to have been a long time since the Law was read. It could be that the command to read it every seventh year at the Feast of Tabernacles was being followed (see Deuteronomy 31:9-13) and that it was now seven years since the previous reading. And it may be, if the book is not arranged chronologically, that this whole episode was following the serious lapses of chapter 13, which we will read later.

Though Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites were no doubt glad to see such widespread heartfelt contrition, they nevertheless pointed out the need for the people to strive to refrain from weeping at this time so as to rejoice in God’s Holy Day (Nehemiah 8:9-12). The people are encouraged to indulge in fine food and drink and to share with others in need. If the events of chapter 8 followed the completion of the wall by only a few days, as the scriptural arrangement would seem to imply, then there would have been a lot of people in need at this time, given that Nehemiah would have only just instituted his economic reforms of chapter 5 within the past two months.

It is wonderful to see the leaders of the people coming again the next day with a desire to learn more of the Law (verse 13). These leaders were likely being given specialized instruction so as to be able to in turn teach those over whom they served. As they listen, the reading comes to Leviticus 23, which mentions dwelling in booths and the gathering of branches as part of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (verses 40, 42-43; compare Nehemiah 8:14-15), the term “tabernacles” denoting booths—temporary shelters. Again, this feast is not named in Nehemiah 8 either. It is simply called the “feast of the seventh month” (verse 14) and said to last seven days with a sacred assembly on the eighth day (verse 18; compare Leviticus 23:33-36, 39).

It is surprising to read in Nehemiah 8:17 that the nation had not made temporary shelters and dwelt under them since the time of Joshua. Clearly, the Feast of Tabernacles had been observed in the intervening centuries, such as under Solomon (see 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:9) and even more recently under Zerubbabel (see Ezra 3:4). How is it, then, that the Israelites had not constructed booths out of branches for more than 900 years even during times of national faithfulness? It could be that many had but that the “whole assembly” (see again Nehemiah 8:17) had not done so since Joshua’s time. Another explanation may be that Leviticus 23 does not explicitly state that the branches are to be used for such construction. It merely states that the people were to gather branches and, mentioned separately, that they were to dwell in temporary dwellings. Perhaps those in intervening centuries understood their temporary housing in Jerusalem as meeting the Feast’s requirement or, as Judaism today teaches, that booths could be made with other materials—with the branches simply carried in worship and used for festival decoration. According to this explanation, the Jews at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah come to see the branches as construction material for the booths and reinstitute a practice not seen since Joshua’s day. In any case, it is clear from Jewish tradition that the people at some point began carrying branches about as part of their worship during the festival—as observant Jews still do today.

The Feast in Nehemiah 8 is observed with exuberant gladness, reminiscent of the great joy at the renewal of the Passover under Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:26) and at the revival under Josiah (2 Kings 23:22; 2 Chronicles 35:18). This was a wonderful time, with the Book of the Law being read from each day (Nehemiah 8:18). Indeed, God’s law brings great joy—in understanding the truth, and much more in living by it.

Moreover, there was a rebuilt city wall for which to be thankful. Indeed, whether the fall festivals of chapter 8 came the next month after the completion of the city wall or many years later after its rededication, the chapter arrangement fits thematically either way. The autumn festival period represents the time when Jesus Christ will return to the earth to defend His people, restore them and their land and set up His rule from Jerusalem. There was a small prototype of this in the mission of Nehemiah. Furthermore, when Christ returns He will lead Judah and Israel in spiritual reformation. That too is prefigured in the national turning to God at the reading of His law in Nehemiah 8 and the commitment of the people as related in the next two chapters along with Nehemiah’s reforms described later in the book.


The Levites’ Psalm (Nehemiah 9)

On the 24th day of the seventh month, two days after the sacred assembly following the Feast of Tabernacles, the people gather in public fasting and repentance (verses 1-2; compare 8:18). This was just two weeks after a commanded holy fast day, the Day of Atonement, which the people would have observed on the 10th day of the seventh month, between the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles. For just as the leaders on the second day of the month had read about the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23 (see Nehemiah 8:13-15), they would also have read about the Day of Atonement at the same time, since it too is described in Leviticus 23 (as well as in Leviticus 16). Perhaps, in learning much more of the Law through the Feast of Tabernacles, the people came to see that they had much more about which to repent. Moreover, the fast on the 24th was preparatory to an official renewal of the covenant relationship with God, as explained in Nehemiah 9:38 and chapter 10. Jesus taught that His followers should fast (Matthew 9:15), clearly referring to more than just the annual fast of the Day of Atonement (although Christians also continued to observe this commanded fast, as alluded to in Acts 27:9). Fasting is a way to clear the mind of distractions and give concentrated thought to spiritual matters.

Verse 2 mentions the children of Israel having separated themselves from all foreigners (see also 10:28). While this could simply refer to the Jews distinguishing themselves from the pagan world around them, some who view chapters 8-10 as falling later in Nehemiah’s governorship see the separation as a reference to ending the intermarriage problems described later in the book (see Nehemiah 10:30; 13:3, 23-30). Foreigners were welcomed in Israel, so long as they adopted the worship of the true God and forsook their pagan religions entirely. Circumcision of their males demonstrated their commitment to God (Exodus 12:43-49). Whatever the case, the intent was to serve as the special, distinct people God intended His nation to be.

On this special fast day, the Book of the Law was read for about three hours, and another three hours were spent in congregational worship (9:3).

In verse 5, a group of Levites give a call to praise: “Stand up and bless the LORD your God forever and ever.” Some see these words as the commencement of a psalm that continues to the end of the chapter. Others see them as simply calling for the psalm or poetic prayer that follows, beginning with the words “Blessed be Your glorious name” and then continuing to the end of the chapter. This address to God reviewing His consistent intervention in Israel’s history is sometimes referred to as the Levites’ Psalm. Yet some refer to it as the Prayer of Ezra—seeing it as his response, perhaps already planned and written out, to the Levites’ call to praise. The former seems more likely—that is, that this was all part of what the Levites spoke or sang—since Ezra’s name is not mentioned. However, if it were spoken or sung together by the Levites, it had to have been written out ahead of time—and Ezra could certainly have helped with that.

This eloquent psalm recites the faithfulness of God throughout Israel’s existence despite the persistent unfaithfulness of Israel. The recounting of the history was probably fresh on the minds of the people to whom the Book of the Law had been read over a three-week period. This passage is a testimony not only to God’s powerful intervention on behalf of His people, but also of His great mercy and loyalty toward those with whom He had established His covenants. The psalm begins with the glory of God’s name and His greatness as the Creator (verses 5-6). It then goes through God’s involvement with Israel throughout the nation’s history (verses 7-31): the call of Abraham and the promise of Canaan (verses 7-8); the deliverance from Egypt (verses 9-11); the time in the wilderness, including the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and the revelation of the weekly Sabbath (verses 12-21); the conquest of Canaan (verses 22-25); the period of the judges (verses 26-28); and the succession of prophets during the period of the monarchies of Israel and Judah (verses 29-31). Next we see the nation’s subjugation to foreign powers as the righteous judgment of God—the period in which the people still find themselves in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (verses 32-37).

With the example of God’s faithfulness so powerfully before them in this historical review, the people commit to emulating His faithfulness through the making of a sure covenant with Him and abiding by it (verse 38). We will read about the sealing of this covenant in the next chapter.


Covenant to Obey God and Support His House (Nehemiah 10)

It is apparently still the 24th day of the seventh month (see chapters 8-9). Nehemiah lists the signers of the covenant made on this day (see 9:38). “The way someone ‘signed’ a document in the ancient world was similar to the use of a wax seal in more recent times. A distinctive seal was pressed into soft clay. The pattern of the seal showed what authority issued that document” (Nelson Study Bible, note on 10:1).

Nehemiah was the first to sign. Verses 2-8 then list the priests who placed their seals on the covenant. “Some of these names appear in a later list as heads of priestly houses (12:11-20). Twenty-one priests who were heads of households signed the agreement in the name of the houses and families of their respective classes. Ezra’s name does not appear, perhaps indicating that he was not the head of a household” (note on 10:2-8). It could also be that Ezra wrote the document, serving not as a representative of the people in this covenant but as a mediator between the people and God—perhaps alongside the high priest Eliashib, whose name does not appear here either.

Seventeen Levites, some of whom later appear as heads of Levitical orders (see 12:8), also signed (10:9-13)—as did 44 civil leaders (verses 14-27). As for the rest of the people, though they did not themselves sign, they did agree to the terms of the covenant, which called for a curse on them if they failed to keep their oath of obedience to the Law that God gave through Moses (verses 28-29).

Special mention is given in the covenant to not intermarrying with people from the neighboring nations (verse 30). It could be that this problem was given consideration because of what happened prior to Ezra’s governorship (see Ezra 9-10). However, it could also refer to the resurfacing of the problem as later discovered by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:23-30). As was mentioned in the Bible Reading Program comments on our previous reading, the reference to the people having separated themselves from the peoples of the lands in 10:28 (and 9:2) have led some to conclude that the events of chapters 8-10 occurred much later in Nehemiah’s administration than where they fit in arrangement order (compare 13:3). Yet it could be that this covenant came early in Nehemiah’s administration and the problems arose later in spite of it. The biblical record demonstrates time and again that knowing what God wanted them to do was no guarantee that the people would do so.

Another concern addressed in the covenant is the buying of wares and grain—that is, doing one’s shopping for the coming days—on the Sabbath (10:31). Here again is a very specific problem that Nehemiah later dealt with as governor (see 13:15-22). Perhaps this was an issue addressed early on in Nehemiah’s administration that defiantly returned at a later time. The Sabbath command is appropriately known as the “test commandment” (compare Exodus 16, especially verse 4) because it presents a strong challenge for people to set aside their normal everyday wants and business in order to worship God. On the other hand, if the chapter arrangement of Nehemiah is not chronological, it could be that the problem occurred late and that this covenant followed it. Since the two problems of intermarriage and Sabbath breaking occur in both contexts, the latter seems a distinct possibility. As The Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes on Nehemiah 10:31: “The provisions of vv. 31-34 may have been a code drawn up by Nehemiah to correct the abuses listed in chapter 13 (e.g., vv. 15-22).”

The people also agreed in the covenant to observe the Sabbatical year—that is, in every seventh year they would leave their fields uncultivated (to allow the nutrients in the soil to build up, thereby preventing the depletion of the land) and cancel debts owed them (10:31; see Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-6).

They further agreed to pay a temple tax of a third of a shekel for the ongoing expense of temple worship services—similar to the half shekel paid by the Israelites in Moses’ day for the tabernacle (see Exodus 30:11-16). Expositor’s lists a few possible explanations as to “why the offering should be a third rather than a half shekel. (1) Some maintain that the half-shekel of Exodus (30:16; 38:25-28) was meant as a onetime offering for the construction of the tabernacle and therefore has no bearing on the offering in Nehemiah 10:32. (2) Others argue that the offering was reduced from one-half to one-third because of economic impoverishment. (3) Some argue that the later shekel was based on a heavier standard, thus one-third of the later shekel was equal to one-half of the earlier shekel. That is, the later Babylonian-Persian shekel was twenty-one grams, whereas the former Phoenician shekel was fourteen grams, hence one-third the former was equal to one-half the latter” (note on verse 32).

Verse 34 says that lots were cast to determine who would provide the “wood offering” and in what order. Though no such offering was directly mentioned in the law, it is clear that the perpetually burning altar fire would have required an ongoing supply of wood (compare Leviticus 6:12-13). “Josephus mentions ‘the festival of wood-offering’ on the fourteenth day of the fifth month (Ab), when all the people were accustomed to bring wood for the altar (War[s of the Jews, Book 2, chap. 17, sec. 6]…). The Mishnah (Taanith 4.5) lists nine times when certain families brought wood” (note on Nehemiah 10:34).

The covenant further confirms that the people would be faithful in the offering of the firstfruits and firstborn and in the payment of tithes (verses 35-38). The focus of these commitments is brought out well in the last words of the document: “We will not neglect the house of our God” (verse 39). Like Sabbath breaking and intermarriage, failure to provide for the temple and priesthood through tithes and offerings was yet another matter specifically addressed by Nehemiah in chapter 13 (verses 10-14)—lending further support to the possibility that the covenant of chapter 10 was made after the events of chapter 13.

As the “house of our God” today is His Church, we should see in all this a parallel for us. We must all be committed to separating ourselves from the world, obeying God in all areas of our lives and providing for the needs of the Church and the work He has given it to do.


2 Corinthians 8

The apostle reminds them of charitable contributions for the poor saints. (1-6) Enforces this by their gifts, and by the love and grace of Messiah. (7-9) By the willingness they had shown to this good work. (10-15) He recommends Titus to them. (16-24)

The grace of Elohim must be owned as the root and fountain of all the good in us, or done by us, at any time. It is great grace and favour from Elohim, if we are made useful to others, and forward to any good work. He commends the charity of the Macedonians. So far from needing that Paul should urge them, they prayed him to receive the gift. Whatever we use or lay out for Elohim, it is only giving him what is his own. All we give for charitable uses, will not be accepted of Elohim, nor turn to our advantage, unless we first give ourselves to the King. By ascribing all really good works to the grace of Elohim, we not only give the glory to him whose due it is, but also show men where their strength is. Abundant spiritual joy enlarges men’s hearts in the work and labour of love. How different this from the conduct of those who will not join in any good work, unless urged into it!

Faith is the root; and as without faith it is not possible to please Elohim, Hebrews 11:6, so those who abound in faith, will abound in other graces and good works also; and this will work and show itself by love. Great talkers are not always the best doers; but these Corinthians were diligent to do, as well as to know and talk well. To all these good things the apostle desires them to add this grace also, to abound in charity to the poor. The best arguments for the obedience found in believers, are drawn from the grace and love of Messiah.

Good purposes are like buds and blossoms, pleasant to behold, and give hopes of good fruit; but they are lost, and signify nothing without good deeds. Good beginnings are well; but we lose the benefit, unless there is perseverance. When men purpose that which is good, and endeavour, according to their ability, to perform also, Elohim will not reject them for what it is not in their power to do. But this scripture will not justify those who think good meanings are enough, or that good purposes, and the mere profession of a willing mind, are enough to save. Providence gives to some more of the good things of this world, and to some less, that those who have abundance might supply others who are in want. It is the will of Elohim, that by our mutual supplying one another, there should be some sort of equality; not such a levelling as would destroy property, for in such a case there could be no exercise of charity. All should think themselves concerned to relieve those in want.

The apostle commends the brethren sent to collect their charity, that it might be known who they were, and how safely they might be trusted. It is the duty of all believers to act prudently; to hinder, as far as we can, all unjust suspicions. It is needful, in the first place, to act uprightly in the sight of Elohim, but things honest in the sight of men should also be attended to. A clear character, as well as a pure conscience, is requisite for usefulness. They brought glory to Yeshua as instruments, and had obtained honour from Messiah to be counted faithful, and employed in his service. The good opinion others have of us, should be an argument with us to do well.


2 Corinthians 9

The reason for sending Titus to collect their alms. (1-5) The Corinthians to be liberal and cheerful, The apostle thanks Elohim for his unspeakable gift. (6-15)
When we would have others do good, we must act toward them prudently and tenderly, and give them time. Believers should consider what is for the credit of their profession, and endeavour to adorn the doctrine of Yeshua their Salvation in all things. The duty of ministering to the saints is so plain, that there would seem no need to exhort believers to it; yet self-love contends so powerfully against the love of Yeshua that it is often necessary to stir up their minds by way of remembrance.

Money bestowed in charity, may to the carnal mind seem thrown away, but when given from proper principles, it is seed sown, from which a valuable increase may be expected. It should be given carefully. Works of charity, like other good works, should be done with thought and design. Due thought, as to our circumstances, and those we are about to relieve, will direct our gifts for charitable uses. Help should be given freely, be it more or less; not grudgingly, but cheerfully. While some scatter, and yet increase; others withhold more than is meet, and it tends to poverty. If we had more faith and love, we should waste less on ourselves, and sow more in hope of a plentiful increase. Can a man lose by doing that with which Elohim is pleased? He is able to make all grace abound towards us, and to abound in us; to give a large increase of spiritual and of temporal good things. He can make us to have enough in all things; and to be content with what we have. Elohim gives not only enough for ourselves, but that also wherewith we may supply the wants of others, and this should be as seed to be sown. We must show the reality of our subjection to the gospel, by works of charity. This will be for the credit of our profession, and to the praise and glory of Yehovah. Let us endeavour to copy the example of Messiah, being unwearied in doing good, and deeming it more blessed to give than to receive. Blessed be Elohim for the unspeakable gift of his grace, whereby he enables and inclines some of his people to bestow upon others, and others to be grateful for it; and blessed be his glorious name to all eternity, for Yeshua Messiah, that inestimable gift of his love, through whom this and every other good thing, pertaining to life and godliness, are freely given unto us, beyond all expression, measure, or bounds.


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