Print Friendly, PDF & Email

News Letter 5851-014

19th day of the 3rd month 5851 years after the creation of Adam

The 3rd Month in the Sixth year of the Third Sabbatical Cycle

The Third Sabbatical Cycle of the 119th Jubilee Cycle

The Sabbatical Cycle of Earthquakes, Famines and Pestilence

The Year of the Tithe for the Widows, Orphans & Levites

June 6, 2015

Shabbat Shalom Family,

This week we have had to go to a PDF format due to the number of Hebrew fonts we are using. Here is the link to the article.

ERIKTOLOGY - ALEPH/BEYT

I do not know about you, but Eric week in and week out is blowing me away. His teachings are stretching my mind to whole new understandings and I am so thankful we found him.

He will be here in Sarnia Ontario this June. So stay tuned and plan to come out. Details to come.

This week Eric is sharing about the letter Sameach. s.

I had no idea when I planned this News letter how much our two teachigns would mesh together. How Yahsome.

Here is Erics first DVD and second teaching.

Triennial Torah Reading

We continue this weekend with our regular Triennial Torah reading which can be found at? https://sightedmoon.com/files/TriennialCycleBeginningAviv.pdf

 

06/06/2015    Lev 6   Jeremiah 29-31      Prov 18     Acts 15

 

A Perpetual Fire (Leviticus 6:8-7:38)

This section is basically a review of the various offerings, albeit with many interesting additional bits of information. One fascinating fact we find in this passage is that the fire upon the altar was to be kept burning (6:9, 12-13). The Nelson Study Bible comments: “The fire on the altar was never to go out. This was accomplished at night with a burnt offering that was not extinguished. It could have been stoked with wood through the night to keep it burning. After being renewed in the morning [with wood] (see v. 12), the fire was kept going throughout the day for the succession of [various offerings]…. Five times in this paragraph the priests are instructed to keep the fire burning. There are at least three reasons for this: (1) The original fire on the altar came from God (9:24). (2) Perpetual fire symbolized the perpetual worship of God. (3) Perpetual fire symbolized the continual need for atonement and reconciliation with God, which was the purpose of the offerings” (notes on 6:9 and verses 12-13).

When the altar was transported, the ashes were removed and a cloth was put on top (Numbers 4:13-14). The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states in its note on verse 13: “No mention is made of the sacred fire; but as, by divine command, it was to be kept constantly burning, it must have been transferred to some pan or brazier under the covering, and borne by the appropriate carriers.” Though we can’t be certain about this, it is plausible since sacrifices were offered every morning and evening, which may well imply that they were done even at times of transport. When tabernacle worship was later transferred to the temple at the time of Solomon, God ignited that fire too. However, it is not known whether the same fire was kept burning through periods of apostasy when temple worship was abandoned, although it certainly could have been. However, there is no indication that God ignited the fire of the altar built after Judah’s Babylonian captivity.

 

Letter to the Exiles (Jeremiah 29)

Jeremiah 29 appears to fall in the same time frame as chapters 27-28—the fourth year of King Zedekiah (see 28:1). Though chapter 27 contained rumblings and plotting of rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, it is evident that Zedekiah has not yet actually revolted—for we see him sending a delegation to the emperor in Babylon (29:3). Later in his fourth year, Zedekiah himself travels with others to Babylon (see Jeremiah 51:59). The reason for these journeys is not given, “but it is altogether possible that they had to do with the annual presentation of tribute” (Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 463). Regarding the second journey, The HarperCollins Study Bible alternatively suggests, “It may be that Zedekiah made such a trip in order to explain his participation in the conspiracy mentioned in ch[apter] 27” (note on 51:59-64). The same could be true of this earlier delegation.

Jeremiah sent messages from God with key individuals in both delegations—the first message being a letter to the Jews in captivity. He entrusts the letter to Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah. They are clearly important dignitaries. Elasah was evidently the brother of Ahikam, who defended Jeremiah (26:24), and brother of the Gemariah who allowed the use of his room at the temple for the proclamation of Jeremiah’s prophecies (36:10)—all three being sons of Shaphan, who reported the finding of the Book of the Law by the high priest Hilkiah to King Josiah (2 Kings 22:3-13). The Gemariah of Jeremiah 29 may have been the son of Hilkiah the high priest. “If so, Jeremiah was supported by two very powerful families in Judah who had been involved in Josiah’s reform” (verse 3).

In the letter, God tells the exiles through Jeremiah that they will be there for a long time and that they should make the most of it by settling down, building houses, growing food, expanding their families and being good citizens of Babylon, even praying for it: “For in its peace you will have peace” (verse 7). This parallels the responsibility of God’s Assembly today, which dwells in the “Babylon” of this world. Besides telling us to obey the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7), the apostle Paul writes: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Indication of Judah’s integration into Babylonian society is confirmed by archaeology. Over the course of excavations in 1889, 1900 and 1948 at Nippur, southeast of Babylon, 700 inscribed tablets known as the Murashu Archives were uncovered. “These tablets record contracts, certificates and receipts for payments, in documents belonging to a Jewish family living in Babylon in the fifth century B.C. The names of the individuals mentioned there are both Hebrew and non-Hebrew names, perhaps indicating that the family was integrating into Babylonian society” (Walter Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?, 2001, p. 163 ).

In general, “the Jews experienced economic well-being, and some found opportunities to rise high in the government, just as Daniel did. There is evidence that they were able to form their own council of elders and to have the advantage of prophets and priests in their midst as well, for Jeremiah addressed all three groups when he wrote to the captives (Jer. 29:1)” (Kaiser, A History of Israel, 1998, p. 414). Yet Jeremiah warns the people against listening to the prophets among them (Jeremiah 29:8-9). For these prophets were preaching the same message the false prophets in Judah were propagating—that the captivity would be over shortly, with the people soon resettled in the Jewish homeland.

Yet Jeremiah reaffirms the time as 70 years, as in chapter 25 (see 29:10). He also reaffirms the wonderful fact that God’s people actually would go free and return to Judah—but that they had to wait a while. Verses 11-14 “are undoubtedly among the most comforting in Scripture. The exiles in Babylon are to settle down and wait, for God knows the plans He has for them, plans to give them a hope and a future. In the O[ld] T[estament] ‘hope,’ either miqweh/tiqwah or yahal invites us to look ahead in confident expectation. Each assumes a time of waiting. But the latter especially reminds us that our future is guaranteed by our personal relationship with God. Because He is our God, He has plans for us [too]. And those plans are good—both beautiful and beneficial. Like the exiles, we may have to wait for God’s plans for us to bear fruit. But we can wait confidently, because our hope is in Him” (Bible Reader’s Companion, note on 29:11-14).

The point of verses 15-20 can be a little confusing. In essence, God seems to be saying: “Because you think these false prophets are telling you the truth—that you’ll be going back to Judah soon—let me tell you what’s going to happen to the land of Judah and the people who remain there….” “He informs them that their hopes of returning soon are fruitless, for Zedekiah, the present occupant of Judah’s throne, will shortly be unseated and the last vestiges of the kingdom will be cruelly eroded away” (Merrill, p. 463). The imagery of cyclical punishment and rotten figs is again used (verses 17-18; compare Jeremiah 24). So the exiles just needed to wait it out—keeping their hopes and trust on God’s true message.

In Jeremiah 29:21-23, two prophets were singled out for speaking lies in God’s name. As punishment, Nebuchadnezzar would have them “roasted in the fire,” a form of execution that was certainly used in Babylon (see Daniel 3).

Next Jeremiah sends instruction to proclaim a message to another false leader in the exile, Shemaiah (Jeremiah 29:24), who went on a letter-writing campaign to the people and priests of Jerusalem to have Jeremiah reprimanded or locked up for his prophecies. One important recipient was Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah (compare 21:1-2; 34:3-4; 2 Kings 25:18), who read aloud the letter he received to Jeremiah. The prophet then received God’s judgment against Shemaiah. His treachery would be paid back in his having no descendants and being prevented from seeing the blessings God had promised to the exiles.

Deliverance From Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:1-31:26)

It is not known specifically when chapters 30 and 31 of Jeremiah were written. Since they follow our previous reading, chapter 29, which contains the letter sent to the captives in Babylon, we are reading these chapters now. Indeed, there is a thematic continuity here. In the letter, Jeremiah delivered God’s message that the people would later be brought back from captivity. The message of this section, communicated to Jeremiah in a dream (31:26) is also one of return from captivity—yet clearly in the end time. “In the latter days,” God says, “you will consider it” (30:24). This ties in with “Behold, the days are coming…” in verse 3. We will see more about this phrase in our next reading.

In no way can the return of this section refer to merely the Jewish return from the ancient Babylonian captivity. Notice that this is a return of Judah and Israel to the Promised Land (verses 3, 10). This has never happened. However, some who recognize that this section is a prophecy of events in modern times have argued that it refers to the Jewish return to establish the state of Israel in the 1900s. Yet it is only a low percentage of Jews in the world who have returned to live in the land of Israel. Moreover, only a very small percentage of Jews are ethnically descended from Israelites of the northern tribes. Most are descended from the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Moreover, most of the people in the world today who are descended from the northern tribes of Israel are not Jews at all—rather, they are largely people of northwest European heritage (as northwest Europe is the area to which the “lost tribes” eventually migrated following their ancient captivity). The United States and Britain are the preeminent nations descended from ancient Israel (download or request our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy to learn more).

Also noteworthy is the great joy described in Jeremiah’s account of the return from captivity. When some of the Jews under Zerubbabel returned from Babylonian captivity, they apparently were not feeling relieved and liberated, since they had not suffered an oppressive slavery prior to this. They had mixed feelings when they arrived at Jerusalem, saw the ruins and realized they would not be able to restore the temple to its former glory (Ezra 3:11-13; Haggai 2:1-3). Shortly before Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, he “wept and mourned for many days” at the pitiful state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3-4). So the description in Jeremiah 30-31 of miraculous interventions, huge masses of people and great excitement, joy and thanksgiving just does not fit the return of Jews from Persian-ruled Babylon.

We should also observe that the release from captivity described here follows a period of greatest suffering for both Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 30:4-7). The greatest suffering the people of the northern kingdom had experienced so far was the Assyrian conquest of their nation and their subsequent deportations. Yet God could not here be referring to those events, as He gave Jeremiah this prophecy of Israel’s suffering more than a century later. So to what was He referring?

Notice verse 8: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it”—that is, after suffering through it, not that Israel would never have to go through it at all. This is parallel with other passages of Scripture. The end of Daniel 11 describes events “at the time of the end” (verse 40). Of the same period, the Jewish prophet Daniel was told, “At that time…there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered” (12:1). The next verses show that this refers to the time of the resurrection at Messiah’s return. We see this here in Jeremiah 30 as well. God says He will “raise up” King David after this terrible time (verse 9), so there should really be no question that we are dealing with future events.

Matthew 24:21-22 says of the time preceding Messiah’s second coming, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [preserved alive]; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” Clearly, there is not more than one worst time ever. These verses are all describing the same period. Jeremiah 30:12-15, regarding Israel’s incurable affliction and wound, abandonment by allies and severe chastisement from God is obviously parallel to Hosea 5:12-15, which was previously explained in the Bible Reading Program to be a prophecy of this same period of the Great Tribulation.

This will be a time of terrible calamity for the American people, other nations of British heredity, certain peoples of northwest Europe and the Jews—to soon be followed by the entire world suffering the greatest catastrophes imaginable. All the dreadful events of human history will pale before the awful and horrific events that are coming. But each scriptural announcement of this worst time that is yet to happen is accompanied by a message of hope: “but he shall be saved out of it”; “your people shall be delivered”; “those days will be shortened.”

In fact, as we have elsewhere noted, God offers a promise of protection even during this terrible time to those who will repent and seek Him. In Luke 21:36, Yeshua said: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” And He tells true Believers who remain faithful in this age: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). This should not be viewed as a guarantee against death or even martyrdom, as death itself can be a “place of safety” until the resurrection (see Isaiah 57:1-2). Nevertheless, it does appear that God will give His faithful servants protection from the kind of suffering the rest of the world will experience—and in general will hide His faithful people from what is coming (see Revelation 12:13-16; Zephaniah 2:3).

On the other hand, as for Believers who have spiritually drifted from God, it appears that they will have to experience the terrible times ahead in severe measure to be shaken into taking a stand for Him and His truth (see Revelation 12:17; 3:14-21).

A Dream That Ends Sweet (Jeremiah 30:1-31:26)

After the awful calamities at the end of this age, Yeshua Messiah will return and a new age will commence. Notice again the mention of King David being resurrected. This is repeated in Ezekiel 37:24-25). Some think “David” in both places is a reference to Messiah, David’s descendant, since it is Messiah who inherits the throne of David to reign as King over Israel (see Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:32-33). Yet notice that Jeremiah 30:9 says the Israelites will serve “the LORD their God, and David their king.” The “LORD” in this context is Yeshua Messiah. Consider that even when David ruled over Israel 3,000 years ago, the ultimate King of Israel was Yeshua Messiah, as David and then Solomon “sat on the throne of the LORD” (compare 1 Chronicles 29:23; 2 Chronicles 9:6-8). Even so, Messiah promises that in His coming Kingdom, His servants will share His throne with Him (Revelation 3:21). Yet they will have specialized administrative duties, being given particular rule, under Him, over different responsibilities, such as different numbers of cities (compare Luke 19:11-19). The 12 apostles, resurrected in glory, will each rule over one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). And a resurrected David will serve as king, under Messiah, over all of them.

Humbled and repentant, the Israelites will be restored to a position of honor and glory in the world (Jeremiah 30:18-20). Foreigners will no longer be their masters (verse 8). In fact, the nations that enslaved them will be destroyed (verse 11)—that is, the political entities, not all the people in them, since we also see that these enemy nations will themselves be put into captivity for a time (verse 16). At long last, Israel will have peace and no longer need to fear (verse 10).

The beginning of Jeremiah 31 contains what The Expositors Bible Commentary describes as “one of the most beautiful poems in [Jeremiah’s] book” (1998, note on verses 3-4). It is a continuation of the magnificent prophecy about Israel and Judah’s future in the previous chapter. God’s love won’t be just a nice platitude—He will demonstrate it with action. He will bring Israel’s people home, the land will be fertile, producing plenty of food, and there will be peace and abundance.

God says in verse 8, “Behold, I will bring them from the north country [primarily Europe], and gather them from the ends of the earth”—wherever they have been scattered. A proclamation is issued to the nations and to the remnant of Israel “in the isles afar off” (verse 10) that God is the one who has humbled, freed and now amazingly blessed Israel. The scattered Israelites will come “streaming to the goodness of the LORD” (verse 12). And eventually, the rest of mankind will follow their example.

We then see a sad picture of Rachel weeping inconsolably for the loss of her children, which is heard at Ramah in the territory of Benjamin, five miles north of Jerusalem. Rachel, wife of Jacob, was the mother of Joseph and thus of the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh that descended from him. She was also the mother of the southern tribe of Benjamin, so she is representative of both kingdoms. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin and was buried not too far to the north of Bethlehem, which itself is five miles to the south of Jerusalem (Genesis 35:19; 48:7). The location of her tomb was later referred to as Zelzah, which in Samuel’s day was within the territory of Benjamin (see 1 Samuel 10:2-3). The traditional spot is about a mile north of Bethlehem, and thus around nine miles from Ramah. The image of Rachel weeping from the grave is not to be understood literally. Like the image of Abel’s blood crying out to God from the ground (see Genesis 4:10), it is figurative—especially considering that this is a prophetic dream.

Rachel’s northern children had in one sense been lost in the Assyrian conquest and deportation more than a century earlier. Many of her southern children had been lost to the Assyrians not long afterward. And many more were lost in the stages of Babylonian conquest, the final stage of which was coming soon. Ramah was “the very place where exiles were gathered before deportation to Babylon (cf. [Jeremiah] 40:1)…. Jeremiah himself was in a camp for exiles in Ramah (cf. 40:1)” (Expositor’s, note on 31:15). So the prophecy apparently had some application to Jeremiah’s day. However, in context, it should be clear that the primary meaning here relates to what we have already seen in this prophetic dream—the terrible time of Jacob’s trouble, when Rachel loses more children than ever before. In verses 16-17, the weeping is to stop because the children will be brought back. In fact, Ephraim is specifically mentioned as returning in the next few verses, making the end-time context plain—since Ephraim will not return in the repentant way described until after the Great Tribulation.

It may seem strange, then, that the New Testament book of Matthew applies the verse about Rachel weeping for her children to King Herod’s massacre of the innocent children in the region of Bethlehem in his attempt to kill the infant Messiah (Matthew 2:16-18). Expositor’s comments: “How can this prophecy be fulfilled in Matthew’s reference? First, it must be stressed that Matthew’s method of quoting an O[ld] T[estament] reference does not automatically imply a direct fulfillment…. For proof see the immediate context in Matthew 2:15, where Hosea 11:1 in its original context unmistakably speaks of the nation Israel but by analogy and higher fulfillment (called by some ‘compenetration’) refers to Messiah. Similarly, that which related to Israel in original revelation (v. 15) is by analogy (‘typological fulfillment’…) used in speaking of Herod’s atrocities. In both cases God will overrule the nation’s sorrow for her ultimate joy” (note on Jeremiah 31:16-17; see also Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary, note on verse 15). Indeed, though children were lost to Rachel in Herod’s massacre, they will ultimately be restored in a future resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14).

It should be pointed out that though we have spent time exploring the meaning of Rachel’s weeping, that’s not really the main focus of the dream. The main focus of the dream, and why it is so positive at this point, is that the time for weeping has ceased. The mention of the weeping itself was in fact very brief. It is God’s declaration concerning the wonderful time that follows that filled most of Jeremiah’s present vision.

In Jeremiah 31:21, Israel is directed back to God. In verse 22, God intends to bring Israel’s gadding about to an end. “For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—a woman shall encompass a man.” This is one of the most disputed sentences in the book of Jeremiah. Many interpretations have been suggested. A tradition going back to early Catholic theologians is that it refers to Yeshua in Mary’s womb. But most modern interpreters reject this view. Indeed, just to say that a male child is inside a mother’s womb does not seem that unique.

Interestingly, rabbis have used verse 22 to explain the custom of a bride walking in circles around the bridegroom seven times at a traditional Jewish wedding. This is also related to the encirclement of Jericho seven times, whereby the city wall was brought down. The idea with bride and groom seems to be one of collapsing any wall or barrier between them—and in Jeremiah would imply collapsing the wall that has been built up between the woman Israel and her Husband the Lord. However, if the interpretation does relate to God and Israel, perhaps it is much simpler. In the beginning of the verse, God asked Israel how long she would gad about. And now the new thing He has brought about is that she encircles her Husband with her arms—embracing and clinging to Him rather than continuing to wander. The New Living Translation renders the verse: “For the LORD will cause something new and different to happen—Israel will embrace her God.” This seems most reasonable. Nevertheless, we cannot be certain as to what is meant. We do know that Israel returns to God—and that is sufficient.

Verses 23-25 show Judah, Jeremiah’s beloved homeland, ultimately restored with great blessings. The prophet had been afforded a marvelous picture. After all the warnings and the people’s continuing rebellion, beyond the sin and punishment of Israel and Judah, he sees through God’s vivid testimony that they would ultimately turn back to God and be gloriously restored to such blessings as he could only imagine. It was such a change for Jeremiah from the sadness of so many previous visions, and the frightening images at the beginning of this one, that he woke up in the middle of it feeling on top of the world—or, as he put it, “my sleep was sweet to me” (verse 26). Greatly comforted, he was able to rest easy—for he saw with clarity what the future would ultimately bring.

A New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:27-40; 49:34-39)

At the end of our previous reading, Jeremiah awoke from a prophetic dream that had become peaceful and even blissful regarding the future of Israel and Judah. Comforted, he fell soundly back asleep. And it appears that he went right back into the dream.

This final part of the prophecy is divided into three sections, each beginning with the same words we read in Jeremiah 30:3, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD…” (31:27, 31, 38). “This expression introduces a new era in the history of God’s dealing with His people” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verses 38-40). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says it is “an eschatological formula that places the prophecy in messianic times in the Day of the Lord, the consummation period of the nation’s history” (note on verse 31).

The first section continues the millennial picture of the prophetic dream. Though the population of Israel and Judah will be greatly diminished due to the calamities they will suffer in the end time, God will begin to multiply them once again when He returns them to the Promised Land. He will also multiply the animals of the nation—bringing back the livestock and general wildlife (verse 27). As God has overseen the destruction of the nation, He will now oversee its building and planting—here using the same words as those describing Jeremiah’s commission (see 1:10).

In God’s just society, children will not be made to pay for their parents’ sins, as happens in various ways in the present age (31:29-30). The New Living Translation paraphrases the thought this way: “The people will no longer quote this proverb: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste.’ All people will die for their own sins—those who eat the sour grapes will be the ones whose mouths will pucker.” (The discontinued proverb is also mentioned in Ezekiel 18:2; see verses 1-20 there for a fuller exposition).

We then come to the second section here (Jeremiah 31:31-37). God says He will make a “new covenant” with Israel and Judah (verse 31). “This mountain-peak O[ld] T[estament] passage stands in a real sense as the climax of Jeremiah’s teaching” (Expositor’s, note on verse 31). Indeed, in Jeremiah 17:9 God proclaimed that the human heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Here, we see how this is going to change.

In describing this New Covenant in contrast to the one He made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt, God is, by implication, declaring the previous one old. Thus the term “Old Covenant” for the Sinai Covenant. The Old Covenant was, as we see here, essentially a “marriage” covenant—by which God was a Husband to Israel (verse 32). In this covenant, Israel, the wife, had agreed to submit to God and obey His laws. But she did not. The people never had the right heart and mind to obey (Deuteronomy 5:29; Romans 8:7). This fault of the people, the book of Hebrews explains, was the problem with the Old Covenant—and the reason the New Covenant was necessitated (8:7-8). The book of Hebrews actually quotes this important passage from Jeremiah twice (verses 8-13; 10:16-17).

What, then, is the New Covenant? It is basically a new marriage contract God lays out with Israel and Judah. Does it negate God’s laws, as many today claim? By no means. First of all, remember that God’s commandments were in effect long before the Sinai Covenant was entered into (compare Genesis 26:5). Thus, Old Covenant or no, God’s law was still binding. Certainly, obedience to God’s law was part of the obligation of the Old Covenant. But man has that obligation even without the specific terms of the Old Covenant. When the Old Covenant ended, the law remained. It remains still under the New Covenant, as we will see.

Bear in mind that just because God has drawn up a “new” covenant, this does not mean that it is such a radical break with the past that there is no similarity between the Old and New Covenants whatsoever. Consider contracts today. The parties to a contract may decide to void it and draw up a replacement contract. There may be many aspects of the former contract that are made part of the new. Moreover, the law of the land upon which the contracts are based remains unchanged. So it is with God’s contracts. The end of the Old Covenant does not mean the end of the law upon which the covenant is based. And neither does the introduction of the New Covenant.

Moreover, under the terms of the New Covenant, the laws of God (i.e., those that were His laws at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, when the Old Covenant was in force!) are to be written in the hearts and minds of God’s people—engraving them into their very character and making it possible for them to truly obey. God says that all will know Him under this new arrangement (Jeremiah 31:34). And how do people really know God—developing an intimate, loving relationship with Him? The New Testament answers: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4). That should be pretty clear—God’s law is still required under the New Covenant. Of course, God desires and expects more than mere grudging compliance. That’s not at all what God’s laws and covenant are all about. He wants our hearts to be in the covenant and the covenant to be in our hearts. This is the spirit and intent of God’s commandments.

Notice what else God says in Jeremiah 31:34: “For I will forgive their iniquity [lawlessness], and their sin [lawbreaking] I will remember no more” (compare 50:20). If lawbreaking were constantly before God’s face, how would He ever forget it? Is God saying that He will eliminate lawbreaking by doing away with His laws? Clearly not, as He will write His laws in the hearts and minds of His people. So what God must be talking about is putting an end to lawbreaking—an end to sin—through enabling people to obey. Yet as other biblical passages explain, this is a growth process. People do not become perfect overnight. With help from God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit He gives them, they grow in obedience—God’s laws being written into their character gradually. But eventually, as Scripture shows, people are to be transformed into perfect spirit beings who will never sin again. This is how sin will ultimately one day be remembered no more—it will no longer exist.

Yet there must still be a provision for dealing with sin in the meantime—both sins committed before this process has begun and sins that occur during the growth period. And indeed there is—the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah. On the eve before His death, during the last Passover meal at which He ate with His disciples, Yeshua introduced the symbols of broken bread to represent the sacrifice of His broken body and wine to symbolize His shed blood—His death. Notice: “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins'” (Matthew 26:27-28). Messiah was explaining that the shedding of His blood as a sacrifice for sin was required to make the New Covenant possible. Without it, there was no way to atone for the sins of all who would participate in the covenant. Also, it was Messiah’s death that brought the Old Covenant marriage to an end—thus enabling a new marriage contract to be entered into.

Notice further that Yeshua was here initiating the New Covenant with His disciples. This can be confusing since Jeremiah’s prophecy of the New Covenant made with Israel and Judah is definitely millennial in setting. Furthermore, the “marriage of the Lamb” does not occur until Messiah’s return (Revelation 19:7-9)—and this is clearly referring to Messiah’s marriage to the Assembly. It helps when we understand that the Assembly of God is spiritual Israel—a pioneer in the relationship God announced through Jeremiah. However, this does not explain why the Assembly seems to be under the New Covenant marriage today even though the marriage does not take place until Messiah’s return.

To understand, we must know something about the nature of Jewish marriage in biblical times. Couples initially became engaged or betrothed with a customary shared cup of wine. This betrothal was not like engagements today, which can easily be broken off. A Jewish betrothal (Hebrew eyrusin) was a binding contract. It required a divorce to break it. The couple during this kiddushin or “sanctification” period was considered essentially married—and already considered husband and wife—except that they did not live together or have conjugal relations (compare Matthew 1:18-20, where Joseph and Mary are “betrothed” yet already called husband and wife). The betrothal period was one of preparation. Later, at the time of the actual marriage ceremony (nissuin), another cup of wine was shared to confirm the covenant and a wedding feast commenced. (In modern Jewish practice, the eyrusin and nissuin are combined into the same wedding ceremony—the contractual engagement period having been removed, according to some scholars, during the dangerous times of the Middle Ages due to fear that bride or groom would not survive until the wedding.)

With all of this as background, we can better understand the New Covenant relationship. Yeshua initiated the New Covenant—proposed marriage we might say—to a group He saw as the remnant of Israel and Judah who were as yet married to Him under the Old Covenant arrangement. As we’ve seen, the Old Covenant arrangement was not good enough. Even Messiah’s disciples, the most faithful people of His day, were still carnal and condemned because of their sins. They needed to be freed from the Old Covenant marriage and then changed into new spiritual people to enter into the new relationship with Messiah. This was accomplished through Messiah’s death and resurrection and their receiving the Holy Spirit (see Romans 7:1-4; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17; Romans 8:5-10), thus making them the Assembly of God, the true “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)—that is, the faithful remnant of Israel according to God’s grace (compare Romans 11:1-5).

Having agreed to the New Covenant, the Assembly is now betrothed and sanctified to Messiah (2 Corinthians 11:2)—under the terms of the New Covenant but still awaiting the coming fullness of the New Covenant marriage. The Assembly has grown to include more people ever since. Yet to be part of it still requires partaking of the cup of the New Covenant each year, reaffirming agreement to the terms of the marriage contract—a repentant commitment to obey and the acceptance of Messiah’s shed blood to atone for any failure to obey. Those who accept these terms and follow through on them become part of the true Israel, spiritual Israel. Gentiles, and even all those who make up the physical nations of Israel and Judah, must actually become spiritual Israelites, through repentance and spiritual conversion, to participate in the New Covenant. And a small number of physical Israelites and gentiles have become part of spiritual Israel, the Assembly, since the Assembly began.

At Messiah’s return, those who are betrothed to him prior to that time will then go through an actual wedding ceremony and feast wherein the New Covenant will be ratified. Glorified with spirit bodies, they will be perfect and will never sin again, having God’s laws ingrained perfectly into their character—continuing in unbroken oneness with Messiah thereafter. This is the culmination and fullness of the New Covenant marriage—yet God intends to thereafter extend the marriage relationship to all human beings, that is, to all who will ultimately agree to be changed in the same way.

When Messiah returns and joins into the fullness of marriage with the Assembly, He will then also extend His engagement proposal to all those of physical Israel and Judah who are then left in the world—and later to all Israel and Judah of all ages in the resurrection of Ezekiel 37. Yet, as mentioned, all of these, too, must become spiritual Israelites. Messiah will also extend His proposal to all mankind—yet the covenant is still with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 37:11, 19) since all must become spiritual Israelites to participate in it. Eventually, all who ultimately choose to serve God and continue in His covenant will be changed into spirit to enter into the fullness of the New Covenant. And, in the end, sin will at last be no more.

Yet even before that, when Israel and Judah as a whole repent and embrace the way of God at Messiah’s return—and become spiritual Israelites betrothed under the New Covenant—peace and harmony will begin to reign among them as God transforms them on the inside to develop His character. And as all of mankind is brought into this relationship, peace will extend to encompass the earth—all under the rule of Messiah and His perfected saints, the glorified spiritual Israel.

What we see, then, is that the offering of the New Covenant to Israel and Judah at large, as described in Jeremiah 31, will happen in an ultimate sense after Messiah’s return. It is parallel to other passages foretelling the general outpouring of God’s Spirit in the latter days. However, He has already initiated the New Covenant with a forerunner of Israel, His Assembly, to whom He has given the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23) to begin the process of transformation now (to learn more, download or request our free booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion).

Finally, we come to the third section of Jeremiah 31 (verses 38-40). With the New Covenant will come a rebuilt Jerusalem. “The rebuilding of the city will encompass the four corners of the capital (cf. Zech 14:10). The Tower of Hananel was the northeast corner of the city (cf. Neh 3:1; 12:39; Zech 14:10). The Corner Gate probably refers to the one at the northwest corner of the city wall (cf. 2 Kings 14:13; 2 Chron 26:9). The locations of Gareb and Goah are unknown (v. 39); conjecture places Gareb on the western side of Jerusalem and Goah towards the Valley of Hinnom on the south. There are no clues to the sites. The valley of the corpses and ashes (v. 40) is generally understood to be the Valley of Hinnom (cf. 7:31). It has been suggested that the fields are quarries. The Kidron flows east of Jerusalem (cf. 2 Sam 15:23). The Horse Gate is apparently at the southeast corner of the temple courts (…cf. Neh 3:28 with 2 Kings 11:16; 2 Chron 23:15). Thus even the polluted areas would be sanctified to the Lord” (Expositor’s, note on Jeremiah 31:38-40).

Prophecy Against Elam (Jeremiah 31:27-40; 49:34-39)

The prophecy against Elam (49:34-39) apparently came to Jeremiah at a later time than the several prophecies immediately preceding it in chapters 46-49. Yet they are all grouped together in his book, along with chapters 50-51, as these are prophecies against other nations. This one was given to Jeremiah “in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah.” This would date the prophecy to some time in the first half of Zedekiah’s reign, from 597-593 B.C.

Elam was a son of Shem (Genesis 10:22). As we have seen previously in the Bible Reading Program, the ancient territory of the descendants of Elam eventually came to be called Persia (known today as Iran). Western Persia was called Elymais by the Greeks. During the day of Assyrian rule, some of the Elamites were evidently pressed into Assyrian military service and may have participated in assaults on Israel and Judah. This may be partly what is meant in Isaiah 22:6, which states that “Elam bore the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen” (though, as was explained in the Bible Reading Program commentary on this verse, it may well be an end-time prophecy). Yet the Elamites, along with the nearby Medes, actually opposed Assyrian rule in the main. They allied with the Chaldean Babylonians in overthrowing the Assyrians. Following that, they also “helped Nebuchadnezzar against Judea” (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary, note on Jeremiah 49:34)—at least in the initial incursions.

For the Elamites’ actions and pride in their strength, God pronounces punishment on them. He would break their “bow”—the implement of their power (again compare Isaiah 22:6). “God often orders it so that that which we most trust to [at] first [later] fails us, and that which was the chief of our might proves the least of our help” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, note on verses 34-39). The “four winds from the four quarters of heaven” (verse 36) represent a mustering of power by God (compare Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 8:8)—evidently military forces under His direction in this case.

Interestingly, “the last exploit of Nebuchadnezzar which is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicle is a campaign against the Elamites…594-593 [B.C.]” (Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 1987, p. 452). Once Babylon was secure as the imperial successor to Assyria, the Elamites and Medes were no longer needed as allies. So they were conquered and became subjects of the Chaldeans. Some see this as the prophesied destruction on Elam. In this context, the Lord setting His throne in Elam (Jeremiah 49:38) is said to be Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest, as this is by God’s doing (compare 27:4-8; 43:10), and the Elamite return from captivity (49:39) is considered to be the later conquest of Babylon by the Persians and Medes under Cyrus in 539 B.C. Still others identify the destruction of Elam as the Persian Empire falling to the Greek forces of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.—this later episode seeming to fit better since it was the great destruction of the Elamites in ancient times and the prophecy states that recuperation from the foretold loss does not occur until “the latter days” (verse 39).

Yet while verses 35-37 may refer to ancient destruction, perhaps they actually refer to end-time calamity—or it could be that they are dual in meaning, applying to past history and events yet to be. In any case, verses 38-39 are probably exclusively for the end time—which would seem to give some latter-day context to the previous verses as well. The Lord setting His throne in Elam (verse 38) most likely refers to the establishment of the Kingdom of God over all nations following Messiah’s return—and this will be accompanied by great destruction, as the nations of the world will attempt to fight Him.

Recall from the Bible Reading Program comments on Isaiah 21 that the Elamites today are apparently to be found in Eastern Europe as well as their ancient homeland of Iran (with a few in western India). When the kings “of the whole world” gather to fight the returning Messiah (Revelation 16:14), it is evident that a representation of Elamite forces will be present and thus destroyed. Soon afterward, forces of Persia are part of a great military host that will be destroyed for attempting to invade a reestablished Israel under Messiah’s rule (see Ezekiel 38-39, especially 38:5). Either or both of these events would well fit Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Apparently, those Elamites who are scattered and taken into captivity will eventually be brought back to reconstitute a nation during the reign of Messiah. This demonstrates God’s great mercy. In fact, even those who die without a full realization of what they are doing—which will be the case with the vast majority of those fighting Messiah at His return—will be brought back to life after the first 1,000 years of Messiah’s reign (see Revelation 20:5) and then given their first real opportunity to serve or reject God. (See our booklet You Can Understand Bible Prophecy for an explanation of this little understood truth of the second resurrection.)

 

Proverb 18

In 18:1, the person who “isolates” or, literally, “separates” himself is not here a quiet recluse or hermit. Rather, the latter part of the verse makes clear that this individual is one who “rages” at other people. The NIV translates the Hebrew term here as merely “defies,” but the literal sense is “breaks out,” the word also being used in 17:14 and 20:3 in the sense of engaging in quarreling. The person identified in 18:1 is therefore contrary and schismatic, one who is divisive, setting himself against others and bringing strife. The proverb thus fits well with the next one in verse 2.
Second Part of Major Solomonic Collection Cont’d (Proverbs 18)
42. Diverse Teachings (18:22?20:4)
“TYPE: THEMATIC, RANDOM REPETITION, INCLUSIO SERIES….The verses of this text do not readily organize into small, discrete units. At the same time, this is not simply a jumbled collection of unrelated proverbs. Within this section are many parallel or similar verses, and some of these serve as structural markers. Also, a number of proverbs are collected into groups that follow distinct themes, although the borders of these groups may not be clearly marked.

“First, 18:22 and 19:13-14, describing family life and repeating the assertion that a good wife is from the Lord, are an inclusio that marks off a section of verses. This does not mean that all intervening verses concern wife and family, but the opening and closing assertions that a good wife is a gift of Yahweh are significant…. Second, proverbs on laziness (19:15,24; 20:4) demarcate two further sections. Once again, this does not mean that the intervening proverbs concern laziness. In addition, two pairs of similar proverbs in chiastic order [when taken together] on forbearance and a king’s wrath (19:11-12; 20:2-3) close off the major sections.

“Three sections that for the most part adhere to common themes occur within these three divisions. There are (1) the inequities and abandonment suffered by the poor (18:23?19:10), (2) the disciplined life (19:16-23), and (3) the mocker (19:25?20:1). Thus the structure of the whole is illustrated below.

“In addition, many verses closely parallel each other either within or between the sections. Close parallels include 19:1 and 19:22; 19:4 and 19:7a,b; 19:5 and 19:9; 19:8 and 19:16. Also 19:17, on kindness to the poor, appears to be a response to 18:23?19:10. These interrelationships among the verses have two functions. First, they help to tie the whole text together; and second, by randomly repeating certain points, they reinforce the lessons in the reader’s mind” (NAC).

Most scholars agree that the first colon of Proverbs 18:24 is mistranslated in the King James and New King James Versions. While it is true that a key to friendship is being friendly, this is evidently not what the proverb says. Indeed, how would this contrast with the loyalty of a true friend in the second colon? On the phrase “must himself be friendly,” the NKJV gives the following marginal note: “Masoretic Text reads may come to ruin.” Several modern translations render the verse accordingly. The New American Bible has “Some friends bring ruin upon us.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes on the phrase: ” The Hebrew lehith ro?ea? is difficult. It means ‘for being crushed’ or ‘to be shattered’ but not ‘to show oneself friendly’ (cf. KJV). The idea may be that there are friends to one’s undoing….If a person has friends who are unreliable, he may still come to ruin, especially if these nominal friends use him. The second line is clearer: ‘there is a friend {?oheb} who sticks closer than a brother.’ This indeed is a rare treasure!” Indeed, Proverbs 19:4 highlights the fickle nature of fair-weather friends. And verse 7 shows that even brothers may abandon a person in adversity. Thus the need for a true, loyal friend who is closer than a brother. The epitome of such a friend is Jesus Christ.

Acts 15

Enter the circumcision for salvation regulation. A man from Judea came now at this time – preaching and teaching that only through circumcision can a man be saved. A huge disagreement ensued between what Sha’ul and Barnabah taught and what this man taught and so they were all appointed to go to Jerusalem and present the case before the elders.

Both sides were heard and many were weighing all the matters very heavily. Then Kepha spoke up and reminded them of his dream… that Elohim had cleansed the gentiles by their belief and it is not advisable to try Him in this matter. Shim’on also stood up and recounted sacred Scripture concerning the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David from amongst all peoples and upon the Gentiles upon whom His Name is called.

Then they all agreed that a simple thing be done: teach the gentiles about common and profane so that at least they will not defile the assembly as they come to worship and hear the Torah on the Sabbaths with the Yehudim. Abstain from defilements of idols, from whoring, from what is strangled, and from blood. After that as they hear Mosheh taught each Shabbath, more will be learned as they go along. They all agreed this is good.