Ezra 7-10: Pleading of the High Priest

Chapter 7

The events leading up to chapter 7 have been providing a background to Ezra’s (the name means “help”) involvement in the restoration of Israel, a context and culture in which Ezra operated as the LORD’s key servant in re-building of the Temple.  This is the same Ezra whose lineage is traced directly back to Aaron, the chief priest – as a reminder that it is the High Priest who re-built the temple, and no mere “layman”, pointing towards Jesus the High Priest who is the one who destroyed the temple and also built it up in three days (John 2:19).  Not only is it refreshing to know that this son of the high priest Aaron is the key catalyst behind the Second Temple, but he is also a “scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD the God of Israel had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him”.  Indeed, his faithful walk with Christ has led those around him to grant him favour and understand the ways of the LORD as well.  Therefore, this man is equipped, and ready to leave Babylonia to Israel for the purpose of teaching the LORD’s statutes and rules in Israel (v.10), knowing that the previous six chapters provided the context of the return of the exiles as summarised in v.7-9 of this chapter.  The LORD effectively uses King Artaxerxes to provide Ezra (the refrain, again – “a man learned in matters of the commandments of the LORD and his statutes for Israel” – repeated previously in v.6 and v.10) with the resources (i.e. all the silver and gold that Ezra shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, v.16, the money used to purchase bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, v.17) to do all that is necessary, “according to the will of your God” (v.18).  It is clear from v.11-20 that the king, too, is well-versed in the necessities of Temple maintenance.  What a contrast in v.24 for Artaxerxes to command the treasurers to not impose a tribute, custom or toll on anyone of the specified servants of the house of God (c.f. Rehum and Shimshai’s lies in Ezra 4:11-15).

This chapter ends with a first person commentary of Ezra – indeed, blessed be the LORD who put such a thing as this into the heart of the non-Israelite king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.  Whilst the book of Ezra focused primarily on theology than chronology, we saw Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s work on the Second Temple completed by chapter 6; and in the remaining chapters of Ezra, we shall see this scribe of the LORD focus on the community of Israel and the issues of their hearts as revealed later.

Chapter 8

Ezra therefore left Babylonia with a number of exiles to return to rebuilt Jerusalem – yet, his primary concern is the presence of the sons of Levi (v.15), despite the lengthy detail given to the returning exiles in v.1-14.  It is from Iddo that Sherebiah (“heat/flame of the LORD”) (with his sons and kinsmen, sons of Mahli the son of Levi), Hashabiah (“whom God regards”), and Jeshaiah (“salvation of the LORD”) (of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons) were appointed, these men (and their kinsmen/sons) making up the 12 leading priests (v.24).  In the same vein, Ezra continues to rely on the LORD for protection by fasting and imploring Him for safety at the river Ahava (meaning “water/essence“), relying not on Artaxerxes’ band of soldiers and horsemen which would otherwise be reliable in worldly eyes.  Most importantly is Ezra’s pronouncement that these men are “holy to the LORD”, a refrain often used as a reminder of the priesthood, the setting apart of Israel from other nations and the Sabbath rest (c.f. Exodus 28:36, 30:37, 31:15, 35:2, 39:30; Deuteronomy 7:6).  This is key, given the events in chapters 9 and 10.

Symbolically, Ezra’s return is timed to a meaningful date in the Israelite calendar.  Where chapter 3 began with the Feast of Booths in the 7th month (Tishri) of the ecclesiastical year, this chapter focuses on the Passover, occuring between the 15th to the 21st of the month of Nisan (the 1st month).  Therefore, whilst under Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s re-institution of the Temple the Feast of Booths and other offerings were kept (fitting in the context of the Feast reminding them of the tent-centric life of Abraham and the saints as we look forward to new creation), under Ezra the re-institution began with the Passover, an equally fitting reminder of the separation of the Israelite community from the captivity of the Egyptians, just as the community is now restored after 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  To conclude this chapter with the words of Matthew Henry as the churches finally entered (a temporary) rest:

“That will be dispensed with when we want opportunity which when the door is opened again will be expected from us. It is observable, … That among their sacrifices they had a sin-offering; for it is the atonement that sweetens and secures every mercy to us, which will not be truly comfortable unless iniquity be taken away and our peace made with God… That the number of their offerings related to the number of the tribes, twelve bullocks, twelve he-goats, and ninety-six rams (that is, eight times twelve), intimating the union of the two kingdoms, according to what was foretold, Ezek. xxxvii. 22. They did not any longer go two tribes one way and ten another, but all the twelve met by their representatives at the same altar.
…That even the enemies of the Jews became their friends, bowed to Ezra’s commission, and, instead of hindering the people of God, furthered them, purely in complaisance to the king: when he appeared moderate they all coveted to appear so too. Then had the churches rest.”

Chapter 9

Throughout chapter 8, the theme of being “holy to the LORD” (taking us back to Exodus and Deuteronomy) has been briefly explored – and immediately Ezra is faced with the challenge of spiritual purity of the returned Israelites.  “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations” – language which is directly lifted from the Deuteronomic law (chapters 13, 14, 17, 18, 22-27).  What beauty then, that in spite of our sins, that the LORD is merciful.  Look at Ezra’s humility as he stood on behalf of Israel before the LORD, praying as if he himself was the High Priest mediating on behalf of the nation, as if it was Christ mediating between Israel and His Father.  The words in v.6-15 could be lifted from the lips of Christ as he bore our sins on the cross – that he should be counted as a worm whilst the burden of the Fall was on His shoulders (Psalms 22:6), pleading in relation to man’s heaven-high guilt (v.6), the nation given into captivity for its iniquities (v.7), that the LORD has not forsaken them in their slavery (v.9), that they still break His commandments (v.10), that they have inter-married against the commandments of the prophets (v.11-14; c.f. Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 7:3).  Ezra recognises that His grace and His steadfast love is still on this remnant of Israel (v.15), preserved as this remnant hides in Christ.

Chapter 10

It is telling that the first person to confess the sin of inter-marriage is from Shecaniah (the name aptly means “dweller with Jehovah or intimate with Jehovah”) son of Jehiel (“God lives”), of the sons of Elam (“eternity”).  It is because of his first confession that the nation is on its first steps to heart-felt recovery, rather than that of the mere infrastructure.  The restoration of the Temple, though centre to the lives of the Israelites, would be meaningless in face of a rebellious remnant.  It would take a man, intimate with Christ, to proclaim the living and eternal God through true repentance by separation from their wives, as Ezra calls for in v.9-11 (though not universally agreed by the Israelites – v.15).  Symbolically, this begins in the 9th month (Kislev – commonly known as the month of “hope”, during the autumn season), lasting until the first day of the first month (v.17 – i.e. Tishri, the month of “beginnings”) – that in this period of refining, Israel would not only hope to be restored but is given a new beginning (and, especially, that even the sons of Jeshua, son of Jozadak (v.18), the Levites (v.23) would be purified from their sins the same way as the other “laymen” of Israel, a reminder that the Israelites are all but sinners, with Ezra standing as the typological mediator between them and the LORD). 

The book interestingly ends on this “census” of those who have sinned and inter-married – a bittersweet mixture of a new beginning under Ezra’s leadership of the community, having established the re-institution of the Temple in the earlier chapters under Zerubbabel and Jeshua; yet time with tell as to whether these sons of intermarriage (v.44) would have a role to play in the first coming of the Messiah and whether they cling to the Promised Seed or become the seeds of Satan, leading Israel astray.

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Ezra 7-10: Pleading of the High Priest

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

Chapter 7

In response to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel as to why and how the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, the kindling fire of the LORD fills the Temple in v.1-3.  The manifold offerings were accepted (v.4-6), the offering overflowing into the middle of the court before the Temple because the bronze altar was not sufficient!  This is a beautiful time of worship, the type of overflowing love which the Father gives to us through His Son, hence the celebration of the Feast of Booths here between the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month as described in Leviticus 23:

“33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.”  As I have explained here, the Feast of Booths is a feast which reminds us of Hebrews 11:8-10, of Abraham looking forward to the day of meeting the God the Father face to face, starting and ending the festivities with rest, foreshadowing the eternal Sabbath of New Creation.  With this “rest” in mind, Solomon sends the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart (v.10) because of the LORD blessing the Israelites through David and Solomon, symbolic of his actual blessing through his only begotten Son Jesus.

Jesus then appears to Solomon in the evening (v.12), He responds verbally to Solomon’s pleading in chapter 6, essentially stating that He has chosen and consecrated the Temple that His name may be there forever, His eyes and His heart there for all time (v.16).  Yet, again, v.17-22 is a reminder of the demise of Israel as the kings failed to walk with Christ – failing to receive the wisdom, the Spirit, whom Solomon asked for after he was anointed a second time as king.  Yet, the caveat is still v.36-39 in chapter 6 – that even if Israel does become a proverb and a byword among all peoples (v.20-22), a reminder of those who forsake the LORD, He will still forgive so long as Christ is their King – for His steadfast love endures forever.

Chapter 8

Now we turn to the daily life of the Israelite – and here we see Solomon assigning forced labour tasks to the Gentiles, the once-enemies of Israel; rather than destroying them, he extends his hand gracefully to keep them in the land although as bondservants of Solomon.  Contrarily, the Israelite enjoys other positions of work (v.9), a sign again of the “work” in new creation.  This “work” should be placed in the context of the various ministries and delegations in 1 Chronicles 27-29 under the ruling of David (v.14) – and the three annual feasts as described throughout Leviticus as reminders of the Trinity, from the Son (the Passover), to the Spirit (the Pentecost), and to the Father (Sukkot).

Here there is a seemingly strange interjection of Solomon’s visit to Ezion-geber and Eloth in the land of Edom, and together with Hiram, going to Ophir to obtain 450 talents of gold.  Matthew Henry observes it thus:

“He did himself in person visit the sea-port towns of Eloth and Ezion-geber; for those that deal much in the world will find it their interest, as far as they can, to inspect their affairs themselves and to see with their own eyes, Canaan was a rich country, and yet must send to Ophir for gold; the Israelites were a wise and understanding people, and yet must be beholden to the king of Tyre for men that had knowledge of the seas. Yet Canaan was God’s peculiar land, and Israel God’s peculiar people. This teaches us that grace, and not gold, is the best riches, and acquaintance with God and his law, not with arts and sciences, the best knowledge.”

It is indeed true that the Temple is already filled with gold, to convey the majesty of the LORD’s presence through Israel; yet Israel is not rich with gold itself but with other natural resources (Numbers 13:27).  Israel is therefore not a “self-sufficient” nation, but a nation which requires inheritance of resources from neighbouring nations, but not by becoming their allies or assimilating their practices (Deuteronomy 18) – but by preaching the gospel to them (Matthew 5:5) and teaching all to be meek before the LORD.  This is adequately expressed in chapter 9, with the Queen of Sheba’s visit (carrying spices and gold) immediately juxtaposed to Solomon’s expeditions for these resources.  One can presume that Solomon’s dedication to the LORD in the previous chapters, and his voyages to Ezion-geber, Eloth and Ophir have created the impression of a priest-king-evangelist, missional in his outlook and ensuring that other nations are, too, blessed by the gospel.

Chapter 9

See my commentary on the Queen of Sheba’s visit here.  Her contribution to Israel is described to have coincided with Hiram’s contribution – both bringing gold – one from Sheba, the other from Ophir (v.10) and rare elements for the Temple, Solomon’s house, and lyres and harps for the singers.

However, this is but the beginning of the famed “Golden Age” of Israel – and quite literally so.  From v.13-28, we see a variety of gold and silver brought in from explorers, merchants, from the kings of Arabia and governors of the land – used for shields (v.14-16), for overlaying a great ivory throne (v.17-18), for the king’s drinking vessels (v.20) – and the resources kept coming (v.21; making silver as common as stone v.27).  This grand depiction of the LORD’s material and spiritual blessing is summed in v.22-23 – “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind“.  They came not to receive items from Solomon – but simply to learn of the LORD’s wisdom!  Such was the glorious kingdom under the headship of a king who followed, sought, and met with Christ.  Never was the gospel so gloriously communicated in Israel, not until the time of Christ’s first coming.

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

1 Samuel 9: The Servant-Leader

Saul is Israel, Israel is Saul.  When Jacob was plucked out of anonymity, he could echo Saul’s words: “Am I not… from the least of the tribes…?  And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans…?  Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”

Yet, there are signs in which Saul is to fulfil the prophecy of the one who is misplaced on the throne of Israel; that he is the tyrannous king of 1 Samuel 8.  He who hails from the tribe of Benjamin, the ravenous wolf in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil (Genesis 49:27).  This is the mark of the king who will (chapter 8:14-18) take the best of the Israelites’ field and vineyard and olive orchards and give them to his servants, taking their male and female servants and the best of their young men and donkeys and put them to work.  This is the ravenous wolf who will enslave them.  Saul is the son of Ben-oni – the son of sorrow, the original name of Rachel’s last son.  Yet Jacob erroneously calls him Benjamin, the son of the right hand – the right hand which indicates strength, priority and headship in a family as is Christ who stands at the right hand of the Father.  Saul is the son of Kish, the bow, and by this warrior bow and by this righteousness by the right hand shall Saul be portrayed – yet Saul is not the son of the right hand for he is the wolf who will cause sorrow for Israel; cause sorrow for Samuel (c.f. 1 Samuel 15 and 16) who will be replaced by the true son of Judah (Genesis 49:9).  It is in Judah that we find true humility; the great lion who has stooped down, far from the false pretence of humility of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Saul is the leader of donkeys which he cannot find, and after three days he finds the type of Christ – Samuel – he who had prophesied that Saul himself would be that tyrannous king in the previous chapter.  It is mysterious as to who found the donkey, but the real importance lies in the fact that the donkeys were found – but not by Saul.

Saul had gone to four different places, but it is his servant who ushered his master to seek the seer, a term fitting for the situation.  Samuel is the prophet-seer, the spokesman who is inspired by the Word and who, as “seer”, is defined as one who is perceptive and who truly has his eyes opened.  It is the servant who provided the right offering (v.8) – which is all that the servant had (quarter of a shekel), and like Mary in John 12:3 who offered all of what she had in praise and worship, so this servant’s hear was hear before the LORD.  It is the LORD who identified the servant of Saul as one who was fitting to feast with Samuel the type of Christ, and this servant had enjoyed all these blessings because of his knowledge of the importance of the seer; because of his greater persistence in pursuing the donkeys when compared to Saul’s half-heartedness.  The servant portrays Christ’s attitude to salvation as the true characteristic of The King of Israel (Matthew 18:12), and for this reason the LORD describes to Samuel in v.17 – “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you!  He it is who shall restrain my people” – the operative word, “restrain” (עצר), being a peculiar Hebrew term very different from malak which is the word associated to a king’s reigning.  Instead, the Hebrew of restrain implies constraint, a withholding and closing-up.

And indeed, that is the truth of Saul – the type of Israel.  He had roots which were humble, like Jacob who was not initially Isaac’s chosen one on his right hand – instead, Jacob ‘stole’ Esau’s birth-right and was exalted to Isaac’s right hand.  Similarly, Saul is from a humble family of Benjaminites, yet his name and his character as an expected man of righteousness is like the law which curses us; like the law which was withheld in Israel, just as Samuel tells the servant to pass on before them (v.27), although it is the servant who had a circumcised heart though it was unlikely that he had the Torah (c.f. Romans 2) the same way Saul did (v.27) upon the personal tuition Samuel gave him.  Similarly, though Israel was the firstborn son of God and was the first of an ethnic nation to receive the law en masse through the administration of Moses, the servant represented the Gentile who shames Saul; the servant represented the gospel which reveals the law, and thus the servant shames the fake-king.  And thus is this first king of Israel who shall restrain the gospel from going forth as he, like the Pharisees, would keep the law restricted to Israel and keep the Israelites condemned for failing to reveal the gospel.  Yet, the law and gospel is for every nation, so that the true King is praised for seeking out even the one sheep in the wilderness; yet Saul’s ministry is very much defined by Samuel’s words in 1 Samuel 15:

1Sa 15:22-23  And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  (23)  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Through this ‘restraining’ led by Saul; through the witnessing of the servant who did not receive the word of the LORD like Saul did and yet was truly circumcised by pondering on the Torah in a different way and received food-fellowship with the great guests of the Seer (much like the feast of Exodus 24); and through the mighty appearance though compromised life of Saul’s integrity in Christ (whom He did not truly know nor see), the object of the burnt offerings, do we see a king who focuses on two things:  the Torah in and of-itself as not pointing to the crucified Saviour thus leading to burnt offerings which are underlined by sinful rebellion; and the ethnic exclusivity of Israel as he fails his mission to lead a nation as priesthood and light to the neighbouring nations.

1 Samuel 9: The Servant-Leader

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

We’ve considered many new things since the Day of atonement in Leviticus 16, all of which can be under the banner of cleanness to holiness of both the layperson and the priest to enjoy the only true privileges of being part of the church of Israel.  The progression is indeed intentional: and the progression of Christ through the layout of the gospel story so far in the first three books of Moses, rather than the progression towards Christ (as if Christ was not preached nor revealed until the New Testament) is again embodied by the famous Jewish festivities.

Many non-Christian cultures celebrate special days and events – and today, the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we use in the majority of the world today) is filled with all types of random days commemorating significant moments in history; from Jimi Hendrix’ birthday, which is coincidental to mine (November 27th), to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles to remember the end of the First World War on the 11th of November, 1918, to the catastrophic September 11th.

Each day is thus filled with its respective significance and the western calendar used today is therefore a mark of western anthropology; just as the Chinese lunar calendar’s timing of the Mid-Autumn festival is a time of celebrating the Chinese myth of the love story between a damsel on the rock orbiting the earth.  The calendar itself speaks of culture and ideology.  The Chinese calendar marks the myths, superstitions and religions of the Eastern Orient; the Gregorian now speaks of post-modernism, relativism and a global cultural melting pot.

What of the Jewish calendar which the LORD established?  Here, we find one of the most engaging and interesting aspects of Christianity, and how much the Calendar, the dates, and the feasts reveal the progression OF Christ.

Progressive Revelation of, not towards Christ in the Feasts

Just a cautionary note and perhaps a little bit of side-tracking: the title of this post is “The Progression of, not towards, Christ”.  The reason I say this is because of the relatively modern establishment of the concept of ‘progressive revelation’, which speaks of Christ as if the saints only, over time, knew that the God they trusted in was actually the Son of God.  The implications behind this, is that Adam had no idea he believed in the Son of God, and believed (as far as he is concerned) in a mono-theistic God; then David, in Psalm 110, had spiritual foresights and glimpses into the Trinitarian behaviour, but they are merely glimpses; Isaiah, only when he is filled with the Spirit, was literally possessed by the Spirit when he wrote his book – the clarity of the Trinity was not apparent to Him even as he was writing the verses about the future non-acceptance of Christ in Jerusalem (thus the common phrase: “they wrote better than they knew”); and only until the time of the gospel writers, no one had the clearest and most revealed concept of Jesus Christ as Son of God and mediator in the Trinity.

With much respect to those who struggle or hold strongly to this view, the progression towards Christ seriously frustrates me on many levels.  Primarily, the arrogance of our assumption that Adam had no faith in Christ.  Let me explain: Adam had faith in the Seed (Genesis 3:15), called his woman Eve (the mother of all living despite being cursed with death in the same chapter!), who in turn called their son Cain the LORD-man (mistakenly and prematurely, which simultaneously reveals their mentality of their faith).  If anything, his faith isn’t in the generic God – his faith is in the Seed considered as LORD-man, manifested through the burnt offerings which he taught his sons Cain and Abel as well (although the former forsook it).  I am not opposed to progression per se, because I am not saying that Adam knew where exactly Christ is born, what exactly Christ’s name is.

What I am proposing however is the progression of Christ, which is an important distinction.  The progression towards Christ, is a progression towards allowing Christ the role he plays – that being the Redeemer and Mediator between us and the Father (and himself, for the matter, for both are our Judges).  This makes the assumption that in the Old Testament, none knew consciously they needed a mediator – their concepts were vague at best, but not explicit.  This simply has no scriptural warrant (Job 19:25).  What progression of Christ means the different manifestations of God’s sacraments towards man; the different expressions of God towards man (be they Noah’s ark; rainbow; circumcision; Passover; manna; Tabernacle; Mosaic Law), they continue to express the same Mediator, the same Truth, the same Redeemer – Christ.  Thus, there is a progression of Christ towards his incarnation, and these expressions, shadows and signs have always pointed towards the fulfillment of the incarnation.

This means that Jesus is clearly known, through these teaching tools.  The people did not only trust in the signs and shadows – they trusted in what the signs and shadows pointed towards, being Christ!  The New Testament is therefore not a book of ‘revelation’ – it is a book of fulfillment of the work of the Anointed One.  It is what the Old Testament had always pointed towards.  These feasts are simply a good way to express what the sacrifices could not – a school teacher if you will, like the rest of the Mosaic law.

What makes the feast stand out is for this reason:  it is tempting to look at the animal sacrifices and literally think they save them.  It is even tempting to think you are saved by your physical circumcision, and your diligence in obeying the law, despite the constant reminder from Moses not to be tempted to think so (c.f. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6).

But where is such a temptation when you’re looking at the Jewish Calendar?  What can YOU possibly do about these calendar dates?  They are absolutely external to us; these days were established from the LORD alone; and ALL of them pointed towards Christ and his work on the cross.  Like the sacrament of the rainbow, let this calendar speak of the extra nos (outside of ourselves) of Christ’s work.  However, this did not stop people from being self-righteous from the observing of the days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) – and Paul is exactly making the same point I am making about the spiritual significance of these significant periods.

This is a great opportunity dive into the Jewish calendar which I’ve touched briefly upon in Exodus chapters 23 and 34.

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

3.  Oil and bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

4.  Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

Taken from here:

Hebrew English Number Length Gregorian Equivalent
Nissan (in Hebrew) Nissan 1 30 days March-April
Iyar (in Hebrew) Iyar 2 29 days April-May
Sivan (in Hebrew) Sivan 3 30 days May-June
Tammuz (in Hebrew) Tammuz 4 29 days June-July
Av (in Hebrew) Av 5 30 days July-August
Elul (in Hebrew) Elul 6 29 days August-September
Tishri (in Hebrew) Tishri 7 30 days September-October
Cheshvan (in Hebrew) Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November
Kislev (in Hebrew) Kislev 9 30 or 29 days November-December
Tevet (in Hebrew) Tevet 10 29 days December-January
Shevat (in Hebrew) Shevat 11 30 days January-February
Adar (in Hebrew) Adar I (leap years only) 12 30 days February-March
Adar II (in Hebrew) Adar (called Adar II in leap years) 12 (13 in leap years) 29 days February-March

Now, we must not look at the Jewish calendar is if it is identical to the Gregorian one which we use.  Although there are parallels to be made in identifying the corresponding Gregorian month to the Jewish month, there are additional months added in leap years (or literally, pregnant years).  The beginning of the month is normally established from observing the first teal of the moon, after the darkened moon – and therefore, each month is approximately 20-30 days, hence the discrepancy in some of the months.  However, the period between Nisan and Tishri are stable and unchanging: which means that the feasts and festivals and days of remembrance remain the same throughout those months.

Secondly, the ‘first’ month may be Nisan on the ecclesiastical year, but the actual first month of the Jewish year starts on the ‘seventh’ month – Tishri/Tishrei.  This is akin to the ‘school year’ of the Gregorian month, which begins often in September; for the Jews, Tishri is the ‘first month’ of the year – it is often referred to as a month of many significant days, from Rosh Hashanah on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei (marking the beginning of the Jewish civil Year, as opposed to Nisan being the beginning of the Jewish ecclesiastical year), to Yom Kippur on the 10th (Day of Atonement), to the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) beginning on the 15th.

The 1 Tishri is very significant.  It marks the same day where Adam and Eve were created; the sending of the dove after its return with the olive branch on Noah’s ark; the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22.  With such a small taster of the significance of the day, each day bears its own significance in preaching the truth of Jesus.

With this background knowledge, we can turn to the feasts.

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

The progression of the festivals/feasts is as follows:

Feast/Festival

Hebrew Name

Dates

Christological sign

Passover

פֶּסַח, Pesach

14th of Nisan

Blood and death of Christ

Unleavened Bread

מצּה, Matstsah

15th– 21st of Nisan

The need for redemption, and that we are in the world but not of it

Firstfruits/Weeks

שבועות, Shavuot

6th of Sivan

Resurrection of Christ

Pentecost

Πεντηκοστή (the word ‘Pentecost’ is actually from the Greek, not Hebrew), and seen as a continuation of the harvest – Shavuot

50 days after 6th of Sivan

Giving of the Holy Spirit

Trumpets

זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה, zichron teruah; ראש השנה Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Yr)

1st of Tishri

The return of Christ and the victory revealed

Day of Atonement

וֹם כִּפּוּר, Yom Kippur

10th of Tishri

Renewal of the entire creation

Tabernacles/Booths

סוכות, Sukkot

15th – 21st of Tishri

Waiting for this new creation

Sabbath (23:3)

“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.”

Before the festivals and the feasts, we begin with the remembrance of the first creation of 6 days (Exodus 20:11), ending with the seventh day of Sabbath, reminding Israel of the initial rest which the LORD took, before undertaking the work of new creation from the 8th day (John 5:17) onwards.  A new week, a new start. Deuteronomy 5:15 explains that this model of 6 days, then the seventh, is a model of our salvation as symbolised through the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

The Sabbath is therefore a symbol of looking forward to the peace, the resting, of New Creation.  Do you take your Sabbath seriously?  Do you over-spiritualise it, and work every day without remembering that the LORD is in complete control and that our work is temporary on earth, for what-ever work we undertake is of two natures: the curse of Genesis 3 (the toil); or the Godly work of bringing people to the House of the Redeemed?  The former is temporary, and the latter is merely something we partake – for it is His work entirely, and not ours.  If even He rests on the Sabbath, what right do we have to work on the Sabbath?

Passover (23:4-5)

Lev 23:4-5  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.  (5)  In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover.

So the first month of the ecclesiastical year begins with the Passover – but remember that the Jewish year begins with Tishri, not with Nisan – month number 7 is the ‘first month’ of a new year, not month number 1. This is the day that Christ went to the cross and died, and significantly so.  I have already considered the importance of the Passover in my exposition of Exodus 12.

Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:6-8 )

Lev 23:6-8  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  (7)  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (8 )  But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

I’ve already looked at the importance of the feast of the unleavened bread, where one’s waiting of leaven is the symbolism of one’s attachment to the world (during the Exodus of Israel – Exodus 12:39).  This is a period of the onlooking hope of full-redemption by arriving at the spiritual Canaan (1 Corinthians 5:8 ).

Firstfruits (23:9-14)

Lev 23:9-14  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (10)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest,  (11)  and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  (12)  And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD.  (13)  And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin.  (14)  And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

This is a time of harvest; and the very first of the harvest is offered to the LORD as they waited for the full harvest to be gathered later on.  This is a reminder of birth of the new life through the seed; the day of the seed, the third day (and also Day 3 of creation – Genesis 1:11-13), on which Jesus rose again is a perfect example of new life (John 12:23-24).  Jesus is the Seed which gives life to the firstfruits (2 Thess 2:13).

Feast of Pentecost (23:15-22)

Lev 23:15-22  “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.  (16)  You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.  (17)  You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.  (18 )  And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.  (19)  And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.  (20)  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.  (21)  And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.  (22)  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

Out of the ecclesiastical year, this is the first feast which is so fulsome –

(a) a grain offering (v.16)

(b) two loaves of bread to be waved, baked with leaven as firstfruit (v.17)

(c) seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bullock and two rams (as burnt offering v.18 )

(d) male goat for sin offering, two male lambs a year old as sacrifice as peace offering (v.19)

So this feast is one representative of the arrival at the Promised Land – for now, there is time to use yeast!

The Firstfruits marked the beginning of the harvest, as Pentecost marks the end of it; the firstfruits looked at salvation of those from the beginning of the world until Christ’s second advent – and every Christian in this period is seen as ‘firstfruits’.  However, the Pentecost looks at the fulness of this redemption – the revealing of all the sons of God in new creation (Romans 8:19).

However, how are we made the firstfruits?  By the power of the Spirit – which, unsurprisingly, is the day on  which the Spirit was given to Gentile and Jew alike in Acts 2.  Now, and not later, do we have the intimacy and fellowship with God in Christ.  We may not ‘feel’ it, or ‘experience’ it daily, but we taste the firstfruits of it.  The true intimacy we will experience with our new bodies in New Creation, but now we already know God because he knew us first (John 17:3); we already love God because he loved us first (1 John 4:19).

Out of all the feasts, this is the only one that required fellowship/peace offering.  Let’s work through the progression: first burnt offering, then sin offering, then peace offering – it is tracing the work of salvation.  Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross as burnt offering, his blood as our sin offering, and then the Spirit given as peace and fellowship offering.  Only by the power of the Spirit do we now that true communion with God, and this fellowship consists in the form of eating with God (hence the feast of Pentecost).  That is why we are a son of God, through the Sonship of Christ.

This does not end the analogy, for the latter parts of Acts 2 displays a sharing of the property of the believers.  “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”.  This is a parallel to v.21 – 22.  Do not do any work, as a mark of rest; and you shall not reap to the edge of the land as a form of provision to the poor and the sojourner.

Day of Trumpets (23:23-25)

Lev 23:23-25  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (24)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.  (25)  You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”

This marks the coming of Christ, as the trumpet blast has signified so often throughout both OT and NT.  The ram’s horn was sounded in Exodus 19; then again in Joshua 6:13, v. 16, v. 20; Isaiah 18:3, 27:13; Ezekiel 33:5; 1 Thess 4:16; Revelation 11:15.

Note in the references above that the trumpet is a two-fold sign: a sign of rejoicing for those in Christ, but a sign of dread and punishment for those without Christ – rightly so; are we going to be under God’s wrath, or hiding in the cleft of the Rock?

Day of Atonement (23:26-32)

Lev 23:26-32  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.  (29)  For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.  (30)  And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  (31)  You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.  (32)  It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

Some observations about this day –

(a)  No work (v.28 )

(b)  Who does not deny himself will be cut off (v.29)

(c)  Who works on that day will be destroyed (v.30-32) as a Sabbath.

It is quite clear that the Day of Atonement is a day of rest, combined with the significance of the Day of Atonement as a symbol of the death, resurrection and primarily the ascension of Christ, as well as the second advent of Christ (the High Priest’s return from the Holy of Holies).  This is a hope of new creation, with no regular work – it is a celebration of Sabbath rest for the whole of creation – this theme is repeated consistently between v.26-32.

Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-44)

Lev 23:33-44  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (34)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD.  (35)  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (36)  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (37)  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day,  (38 )  besides the LORD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.  (39)  “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.  (40)  And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.  (41)  You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.  (42)  You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,  (43)  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  (44)  Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

v.37-38 acts as summary verses for chapter 23, and now we move on to the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the eighth day they hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD – it is a solemn assembly without ordinary work.

In many ways, this feast of tabernacles focuses on the lifestyle of the church on earth as we await the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which prophesies the truth of the life of the True High Priest. Starting on the 1st day with solemn rest, and 8th day with solemn rest (therefore beginning both weeks with rest).  Additionally, one should take the fruit of splendid trees, with branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice before the LORD for seven days (v.40).  Then, they will dwell in the tents (v.42) for those seven days – and all native Israelites shall dwell in booths to remind the surrounding nations that the sign of the booth is significant.

Firstly, the importance of the solemn rest is again a concurrent theme throughout the festivals and feasts: but then the offering is one of fruit, branches, boughs, willows.  They are all related to the trees. Numbers 33:6/1 Kings 6:32/John 12:13/Revelation 7:9 indicate that palm trees are associated with life and victory; leafy trees is also a sign towards new life (Ezekiel 20:28 ).

What of the significance of living in tents/booths for seven days?  Hebrews 11:8-10 explains it away:

Heb 11:8-10  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (9)  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  (10)  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

3.  Oil and Bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

Lev 24:1-9  The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.  (3)  Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.  (4)  He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.  (5)  “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf.  (6)  And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD.  (7)  And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD.  (8 )  Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever.  (9)  And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

The oil of the lamp is that of the Spirit, who burns regularly.  The twelve loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles.  The frankinsence and gold (Isaiah 60:6), an indication of the coming King!  If this is a food offering to the LORD, then the gifts given to Christ in Matthew 2:11 is an indication of an offering to Christ as LORD, as God.  This, following on from the Feast of Tabernacles, is a forward looking prophecy of the coming of Christ in his office as High Priest, and the sustenance of the Holy Spirit as our deposit throughout the end of the ages.

4.  The Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

I wrote in my post on Exodus 22-24 that out of these festivals, there are three where the all males are required to attend, namely the progression of Passover/Pesach, to Pentecost/Shavuot, to Sukkot/Tabernacles/Booths. I also mentioned in that post that the Passover represented the Son.  The Pentecost the Spirit.  The Sukkot, the Father – for it is a reminder that we may have both the Son and the Spirit, but the Father remains unseen except through the Son.  We are still in necessity of a Mediator Christ, and of his power the Spirit.  The Sukkot, therefore, reminds us that we are not yet in new creation, and are looking forward to it.

Let’s look at all these festivals in their progression – the ecclesiastical year therefore begins with the Passover, the death of Christ.  Our trust in the Passover leads us to be on our spiritual Exodus from this world to the new creation (Hebrews 13:13) signified by the Unleavened Bread, looking towards the fulfillment of Christ’s resurrection displayed through the Firstfruits.  The Pentecost, the giving of the Spirit, is the progression of Christ’s death on the cross on Passover, then resurrection on the 8th day of the week (New Creation), third day since he was dead (day of the creation of seeds), and became the firstfruit of creation as we are in him, by the power of the Spirit which he gave 50 days after Firstfruits.

All Christians of all ages therefore looks forward to the sounding of the trumpet, announcing the destruction of the reprobate and the salvation of the faithful, where the Day of Atonement, akin to the Day of Resurrection, will see the full renewal of our bodies and entire creation.

This is where the sign and blueprint of God’s plan throughout the OT to the NT is displayed – and this is the progression of Christ, not towards Christ.  For if we are speaking of towards Christ, then these ‘signs’ and calendars make no sense.  They are but extremely vague shadows, and cannot be given the Christological significance Christ tells us they deserve (John 5:39).

Which is why, AFTER the establishment of these signs, God however brings us back to our current state and establishes the feast of tabernacles after telling us of these important annual dates.  He reminds us essentially to wait for the fulfillment of these signs.  Wait for the progression of Christ from these signs to the future fulfillment.  This, therefore, should be a source of hope for the Christians in the Old Testament.

But remember the Jewish civil calendar as opposed to the ecclesiastical calendar.  The year essentially began in Tishri – and Tishri is the month starting with Trumpets and Yom Kippur.  Thus, the Jewish year begins on a joyous note of VICTORY!  Just as the new week starting on the 8th day is the day that Christ rose, so the new year represented new creation!  And the end of the Jewish year also ends joyously with the Pentecost, looking forward to the day when we eat bread with leaven in New Jerusalem, established by the trumpet blast.  The Tabernacles, Passover and Unleavened Bread are almost insignificantly sandwiched between – but it is Christ who has always been the alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8 ) – even displayed through the Jewish Year!

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

Leviticus 3-7: The Sacrifices pt.2

We saw how in every day the gospel is imprinted every morning and every night: that when the Israelites wake up, they see the burnt offering which preaches the message of both sin and reconciliation simultaneously (so as not to ‘guilt-trip’ them every morning, yet also remind them of their position in God’s grace!); and every night they thank God for the day through the grain offering which also preaches the message of urgency with the combination of oil and unleavened bread.

Let’s turn to the last three types of offerings in Leviticus.

1.  Fellowship Offering (3:1-17; 7:11-21, 28-34)

2.  Sin Offering (4:1-5:13; 6:24-30)

3.  Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7; 7:1-7)

4.  Conclusion for the fundamental five offerings

5.  Breakdown of the Priests and the (Peace) Offerings (7:11-21)

1.  Fellowship Offering (3:1-17; 7:11-21, 28-34)

In the ESV subtitle it is also named as “peace offering” which is suitable, but does not actually reflect the expression of thankfulness and love for the LORD like “fellowship” offering.  Fellowship implies a certain sense of unity amongst diversity, but “peace” offering sounds very much like an overly personal affair; as if salvation is something personally wrought and personally experienced, when it is just as much something experienced as a church body of Christ.

Voluntary Offering and the “fat” portions

Unlike the previous two offerings of burnt and grain offering, this one is a bit different: it is voluntary.  Secondly, where the previous offerings required the worshipper to give up the sacrifice in totality (through different means), the person who sacrificed the animal can actually eat the sacrifice.  The relevant passages are found in chapter 7:11-21:

11“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice(DZ) unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour(EA) well mixed with oil. 13(EB) With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a(EC) gift to the LORD.(ED) It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings(EE) for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16But(EF) if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is(EG) tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19“Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings(EH) while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether(EI) human uncleanness or an(EJ) unclean beast or any(EK) unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

There is a lot of detail behind these verses.  And there is much similarity between this offering and the grain offering, save the voluntary nature of the type of sacrifice to be given (an animal from the herd, lamb, goat – all covered between v. 1-17 of chapter 3).  What unites these three types of peace offerings is this (v.16-17):

All fat is the LORD’s. 17It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither(O) fat nor(P) blood.”

We understand that in the blood is the life (Genesis 9:4), and now we also understand that fat and blood are somewhat related.  Genesis 4:4 compared with Genesis 45:18 suggests that what is ‘fat’ is the best portion (the “fat” of the land; the “fat” portions) – therefore, Abel understood quite clearly the meaning not only of burnt offering, but also of this peace offering combined.  Burnt offering speaks of propitiation, but it is also a matter of thankfulness – hence, the worshipper is not only providing the LORD with the life of the sacrifice, but also the best portion of the sacrifice!

Of course, we learn much about Jesus through the peace offering, and something about the worshipper as well.  The worshipper should give the best portions to the LORD in response to his initiating love for us; yet this “best portion” business stems from Christ offering the best of himself to the LORD.  It is the Christ who, as a male young and without blemish, in the prime of his life (~30 years old), who offered himself willingly and voluntarily to appease the wrath of Himself and of His Father against sin and sinner.  This offering is one that is given wholeheartedly, expressed through the message of giving the “best portion” of the sacrifice to the LORD.

There is more to be said about fellowship offering in Chapter 7 v.12 and v.16 pertaining to the priestly duties which I will cover below.

Eating the offering and the Holy Communion

On the point about eating the offering, the person sacrificing the animal is shown to be allowed to invite brethren to enjoy the meat at the tabernacle in the presence of the Seen God in the Holy of Holies.  This is the reason why I think ‘fellowship’ offering is far better than relying on the ESV translation of ‘peace’ offering – because there is now an image of the smaller fellowships of Israel congregating outside the tabernacle, having their self-sacrificial meal with the LORD.

This message is quite profound.  Unlike the last two burnt and grain offerings; and the following two concerning sin and guilt offering, the voluntariness and the grounded nature of this offering points to the importance of this offering is a natural outshoot of our Christian lifestyle.  Do we want to enjoy our fellowship with God, or do we want to go to ‘heaven’ where God does not preside (i.e. the Islamic heaven)?  Do we want to eat with God, or do we want to make God our omnipotent genie?

The fellowship offering therefore points towards the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:6-9 – we will take part in consuming from the same table which the LORD eats; we will take part in consuming from the same food which the LORD partakes.

There is only one time that the fellowship offering is made compulsory, which is the Feast of Pentecost mentioned earlier in Exodus and later in Leviticus 23.  I have already spoken that the Feast is one which prophesies the coming of the Holy Spirit, and is a clear expression of the forward looking hope of New Creation – and there is no doubt that this fellowship offering speaks the same message of the Marriage Feast with the LORD which even Exodus 24, the manna, and the bread of presence merely point towards.

As application: the fellowship offering as we know it should be a time of spiritual intimacy and further bonding within the family (Deuteronomy 12:7):

7And(A) there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and(B) you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

and Jude 12:

12These are hidden reefs[a](A) at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear,(B) shepherds feeding themselves;(C) waterless clouds,(D) swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead,(E) uprooted…

May we try and understand the utter importance of the Holy Communion and that though it is a physical manifestation of the spiritual truth, our LORD isn’t only Spirit, but he is also MAN – and he will come down to eat with us in New Jerusalem in physical form, just as we partake the meal with him in our physical bodies.

2.  Sin Offering (4:1-5:13; 6:24-30)

The purpose for sin offering is cleansing.  This is easily explainable by just how there is so much focus on hygiene in these few chapters.  What is interesting to note again is how the priest represents the people of Israel, just like Christ represents us:

3if it is the anointed priest who(S) sins, thus bringing guilt on the people…

Here, there is no real concept of sin being something entirely personal.  If anything, sin affects other people: in the context of the high priest, his sin and his righteousness is imputed onto the people of Israel because he stands as a representative for us before the Father in heaven.

What is very interesting about sin offering, and unlike burnt offering, is the focus on the different types of unintentional and intentional sins.

Unintentional and intentional sins

The division may be a bit technical, pedantic or perhaps artificial: is there such thing as an intentional or unintentional sin, or even a ‘level’ of sins?  In fact, yes!  However, remember that all sins are seen as a breaking of covenant (Galatians 5:3), each and every sin explains something of our standing with Christ, and the consequent of the sin.  The sin of the high priest is far more serious and needs more sin offering cleansing than failing to testify at court – because the implication of the high priest sinning actually concerns the entire congregation which relies on the high priest as mediator, just as we rely on Christ as mediator.  If Christ sins, then the implications are gigantic.  However, by failing to testify at court, the implication isn’t comparatively as destructive, although both sin represents a lack of our faithfulness to Him.  Yet, these laws, these 613 commandments from God, are just there to add to our transgressions, to show how utterly incapable it is for us to be like God, unless we stand IN the everlasting ark, Christ.

Numbers 15:28-31 displays unintentional sin with defiant sin:

28(A) And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. 29(B) You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. 30(C) But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31Because he has(D) despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

However, there are times when we DO sin defiantly, knowing that we ARE sinning.  What does that mean?  Does that mean we should be cut off permanently?  NO – the “defiant” and the “unintentional” sin has very specific definitions.  The definition of the sin lies in the heart of the sinner.  Do you have a heart of repentance, of true repentance whatever sin you may have committed?  The defiant sin is done wilfully without repentance of any sort; but the unintentional sin, which the sinner later realises or the sin is brought to his/her attention and knowledge, causes deep sorrow in the heart of the Christian.  That is why Paul’s heart is one of repentance, despite his sinful nature in Romans 7:19:

19(A) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

That is why the context of Numbers 15 is important, given the example of a man gathering wood on the Sabbath: this man is completely unrepentant, and doesn’t even say anything nor show any expressions of remorse.  Numbers 15:28-31 indicates that this man should simply be executed.  In the physical church of God, we should not allow non-seekers remain; they should be ostracised.  To remain within the physical church, to claim to be a spiritual descendant of Abraham, but to continue a life of non-repentance, a life of non-redemption, is to live a life of defiant sin, ignorantly denying the knowledge of God and his statutes.

This is actually quite different from saying that if you still sin (even after repenting of other sins), then you are going to lose your salvation.  No.  The message preached in Hebrews (about running the race of faith, hearing God when he speaks to you, and especially chapter 10:26-29) is that of defiant sin, exemplified by the unrepentant man gathering wood on the Sabbath.  Here is a man who had always belonged to the physical Israel: he expresses no remorse and presumptively assumed that being physically part of Israel is sufficient.  But he misunderstood the significance of the Sabbath and wants to continue in his ignorance.  Thus, the unregenerate heart, which rejects Jesus will continue to reject Jesus for failing to look to Christ. But the regenerate, with the Spirit dwelling within, will continue to look to Christ for he is the perfecter and founder of our faith (Hebrews 12).

Common similarities and differences of the sin offering

There is a common refrain for each subsection of sin: that the sin is brought to the attention of the sinner, or that the sinner becomes aware of it.  This is very important.  The current Catechism of the Catholic Church sees the Pope explaining there is no condemnation for unintentional or ignorant sins.  But, the message shown in Leviticus is very different: each unintentional sin needs the cleansing offered from the blood.

Another common refrain is the fat of the animal is offered to the LORD, as well as the rest of the animal being brought outside to a clean place, to the ash heap, and burnt up on a fire of wood; on ash heap it is burnt up.  (Chapter 4:8-12, 19-21).  This refrain however only refers to the unintentional sin of the HIGH PRIEST and the CONGREGATION.  For the LEADER and the COMMON PERSON/PEOPLE, only a sacrifice and blood needs to be given: there is no mentioning of burning of the flesh at the ash heap, although there is mentioning of the fat being offered (Chapter 4:26, 35).  Finally, for the rest of the sins mentioned in Chapter 5:1-11, only atonement needs to be made: no mentioning of fat, nor ash heap/burning of flesh.

For all the sin offerings, the priest does the offering either for himself, or for others, representing the mediatorial nature of the priest.

The different types of sin offering

Thus, we begin with the high priest’s unintentional sin:

4He shall bring the bull to the(U) entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. 5And the anointed priest(V) shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, 6and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and(W) sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7And the priest(X) shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and(Y) all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Then we continue with the congregation’s unintentional sin:

the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering and bring it in front of the tent of meeting. 15And the elders of the congregation(AH) shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be killed before the LORD. 16Then(AI) the anointed priest shall bring some of the blood of the bull into the tent of meeting, 17and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the veil. 18And he shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is in the tent of meeting before the LORD, and the rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Then we continue with the leader’s unintentional sin:

he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, 24and(AO) shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD; it is a sin offering. 25(AP) Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26And all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like(AQ) the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. So(AR) the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven.

Then we continue with the common people’s unintentional sin

he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. 29(AU) And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering. 30And the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. 31And(AV) all its fat he shall remove,(AW) as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a(AX) pleasing aroma to the LORD.(AY) And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. 32“If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring(AZ) a female without blemish 33(BA) and lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering. 34Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.

Then we have a multitude of sins:

(i)  Failing to testify as a witness (Chapter 5:1)

(ii)  Touching unclean thing (v.2-3)

(iii)  Rash oath (v.4) – verses shown here:

1“If anyone sins in that he hears a public(BD) adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall(BE) bear his iniquity; 2or(BF) if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean wild animal or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, and he realizes his guilt; 3or if he touches(BG) human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and realizes his guilt; 4or if anyone utters with his lips a(BH) rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people(BI) swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; 5when he realizes his guilt in any of these and(BJ) confesses the sin he has committed, 6he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation[d] for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

For these sins, if the sinner cannot bring a lamb for atonement, then they should bring two turtledoves and two OR two pigeons.  If the sinner cannot bring two turtledoves OR two pigeons, then they should bring a tenth of an ephah of fine flour like a grain offering – however, these three options are all sin offering and are offered similar to burnt offering, or grain offering (for the fine flour) – but they are all considered as sin offering.

Concluding thoughts on Sin Offering

There is clearly a progression over the seriousness of the sin in these various instances, from the gravest to the least offensive.  However ‘small’ the sin may be, a sacrifice of life needs to be given.  Can you imagine how many animals were killed innocently in the process?  A lamb for atonement, just because you fail to testify at court?  Two pigeons killed innocently, because you touched a carcass of an unclean wild animal?

God is teaching something entirely important here: the necessity of cleansing; which is synonymous with holiness.  The flip side, therefore, points to sin as being dirty.  Many may consider sin as a corruption of morality/ethics – but not many consider sin as something dirty.  We know that dirt does not coagulate only in one person’s heart: it effectively influences other people as well.

Beginning with the first two: the high priest’s and the entire congregation’s sin identically needs the blood of the bull, the laying of hands on the head of the bull, the blood being sprinkled onto the dividing veil 7 times (a number representing the Sabbath, representing God, representing perfection), and then the blood being smeared onto the horn of the altar of incense and the rest on the altar of burnt offering.  The blood is everywhere!  Yet, the blood covers the veil; it covers the altar of incense (Revelation 5:8; Malachi 1:11 – the incense representing the prayers of the church); it covers the burnt offering altar (meaning propitiation).  Thus, the blood of the animal sacrifice will provide the cleansing for the veil which protects us from the Father, through the prayer of us, the saints, which cannot be heard if there is no blood on the propitiation!  This is very thorough, and indeed points out the seriousness of the sins of the high priest as akin to the entire congregation.  The high priest is tied up to the congregation: he doesn’t just die for the individual; our High Priest Jesus Christ died for the entire church.

This is also an interesting thing to note: unlimited atonement does not actually teach universalism (the idea that Jesus died for the entire world, therefore the entire world will be saved regardless of whether they acknowledge Christ’s death on the cross or not as their personal salvation).  Rather, the message of the high priest and the congregation offering the same offering when they commit unintentional sin shows just how the high priest acts only for the congregation, and that the blood only works for the congregation.  Yet, the congregation is ever expanding – the numbers in Israel are always growing.  The blood which the high priest offers will continually apply to those who JOIN the church in Christ, their true pre-destination (Eph 1) – the blood of the high priest does not elect who should or shouldn’t take part in this blood sacrifice.  If you may, it is blind to the individual person: but it is simply applying the blood to the entire church in the Elect One.

The extra message of the ash heap for the HIGH PRIEST’s and the CONGREGATION’s unintentional sin preaches the message of the remaining flesh which has neither fat of the flesh, nor blood – it is subsumed in the fire of punishment far away from the tabernacle, far away from the presence of the LORD.  That is what happens to the sinner’s body – and that is the message preached for the high priest’s/congregation’s sin.  If Jesus had failed to complete his duty, then all of us would have had that same destiny.

This is why I think the message of the ash heap and the wood-fire is not preached for the leader’s and common people’s sin.  Not that the sin is less offensive in God’s eyes, but the message of the church’s/Christ’s sin is tied up together, as we are part of Him; we are in Him.  So if He sins, then we all sin and will partake in the death in the ash heap.  But Jesus’ body did not see corruption, which is why the next two sins concerning the LEADER and the COMMON people’s need not refer to the ash heap – but just referring to the necessity of both fat and blood.

And then the ‘smaller’ but equally deadly sins, which require the death of an animal.  This brings us back to the most important message preached in Genesis 3: that however grave the sin may be (even if Adam and Eve were simply to eat from the tree of good and evil), an animal still needs to be sacrificed.  Such is the gravity of our sin!  If the Israelites were subjected to this visual portrayal of the gospel of death and their life at the cost of an innocent animal’s death, then their ability to understand the death of the Lamb of God for their own life should be far more profound than ours!

A final note before we move onto guilt offering: is the absolute necessity of knowing God’s commandments clearly.  If even such a little thing can offend and display our lack of faithfulness to God, and we choose to defiantly sin (i.e. to not know what is required of us in marriage, whether we should date non-Christians or even date at all, whether we should tattoo our bodies, whether we could smoke, whether we should work hard at our secular jobs rather than actively pursue a missionary attitude in preaching at the work place… just to name a few examples), then it is a mark of a hard heart.  Worse yet, it is the mark of an unregenerate heart.  If you wish to know Him, Him who saved you, then you would simply not short-change God by failing to study the Scriptures, by failing to know Him in clarity, and look to Him who uses you and sanctifies us by the power of the Spirit.  If you wish to know Him, you will learn to obey Him in the Spirit, and learn to humbly accept his commandments however ‘out-dated’, or ‘irrational’ they seem, for God transcends contemporary culture, and He defines logic by the Logos Christ.

To cut the paragraph short – look to Christ when you read the Scriptures in the Spirit!

3.  Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7; 7:1-7)

Contrarily, this is a repayment offering, displaying a facet of the understanding of incurring a debt against the LORD God and human beings.  This offering is one of restoration.  Burnt offering is one of propitiation; sin offering is one of cleansing; guilt offering is one of repayment and restoration.

The concept of guilt offering is restoration in full, and then adding a 1/5th to it. This effectively means a 120% restoration, but Exodus 22:4, and Leviticus 6:4-6 implies that it may be 220% restoration. The fundamental message is that not only is restoration in full restoring the innocent party’s position to prior the sin – but even better than before the commission of the act of the sinner!

Chapter 5:14-17:

14The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 15(BU) “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD,(BV) he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued[h] in silver shekels,[i] according to the(BW) shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and(BX) shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest.(BY) And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

17(BZ) “If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done,(CA) though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. 18(CB) He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and(CC) the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. 19It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before[j] the LORD.”

And again chapter 6:4-6:

…will restore(CJ) what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found 5or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall(CK) restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. 6And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the LORD(CL) a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering.

What is different in guilt offering is the focus on the financial restitution. Chapter 5:15 speaks of the valuation in silver shekels, according to the currency of the sanctuary.

Secondly, is how everything is attributed to the LORD (Chapter 6:2):

2“If anyone sins and(CD) commits a breach of faith against the LORD by(CE) deceiving his neighbor in(CF) a matter of deposit or security…

When was the last time you thought that your sin against someone is first and foremost your sin against God himself? The deception of one’s neighbour is a breach of faith against the LORD! (Psalm 51:4)

Another thing which people normally miss out is chapter 5:15 –

15(BU) “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD…

Paul Blackham makes the distinction that compensation needs to be made against the holy things of the LORD. Why against the holy things, and not directly to the LORD? Surely the holy things were merely symbolic? 2 Samuel 6:6-7:

6And when they came to the threshing floor of(A) Nacon, Uzzah(B) put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and(C) God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.

I think this is really quite significant. The story of Uzzah has angered many Christians and non-Christians alike, but I feel that it betrays something of their theology of Sacraments. Many Christians today over-spiritualise things and end up espousing ‘philosophies’ which actually have no biblical bearing. God takes the physical and the spiritual equally seriously: if one defiles and sins, the tabernacle is effectively seen as corrupted (Leviticus 16). If one touches an unclean person, the LORD doesn’t just expect you to understand the spiritual meaning of being unclean, but to actually go through the act of cleansing by blood. If the LORD expected you to commit to infant baptism and communion, then don’t over-spiritualise it.

The visual is just as important as the spiritual. Christ is both man and God. Glen’s essay on “Creation and Redemption – the One work of the One Word” covers these antinomies (a term coined by JI Packer in “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” which explains the accepted ‘paradoxes’ of Scripture – like human responsibility vs. God’s sovereignty). Our Christ is both Creator and Redeemer; Alpha and Omega; God and man; Within time yet Eternal; Spirit and Flesh. This understanding of both physical and spiritual truth undercuts Gnosticism and shapes our eschatological theology of new creation entirely.

4.  Conclusion for the fundamental five offerings

If one may quickly sum up the differences of the five offerings: the burnt offering uses a personal picture of man, the guilty sinner, and the innocent and clean animal dying in his place.

The sin offering is a medical specimen, of sin making the world dirty so much that God cannot dwell there until His re-creation.

The guilt offering is thus an example of a financial, a commercial picture of sin – it is a debt which man accumulates against God, and it also can be paid through the offered animal.

The grain offering shows a picture of a present pre-new-creation view of life – that we thank God for his blessings, but after the grain offering, we enter the night and the inevitability of the day returns to preach the truth of the inevitable second coming of the Light of lights.

The fellowship offering looks forward to renewed creation, that we may partake of the Holy Wedding Feast with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

5.  Breakdown of the Priests and the (Peace) Offerings (7:11-21)

11“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice(DZ) unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour(EA) well mixed with oil. 13(EB) With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a(EC) gift to the LORD.(ED) It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings(EE) for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16But(EF) if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is(EG) tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19“Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings(EH) while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether(EI) human uncleanness or an(EJ) unclean beast or any(EK) unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

If you notice in v.11, the laws are addressed to the priests.  We already understand the significance of the priests in relation to the assembly, the church of Israel.

What is really confusing here is the fellowship offering being split into three types (v.12 and 16): thanksgiving, vow, or freewill.  These three represent the three facets of fellowship offering: that we thank God, that we vow our commitment with Him as a response to his unwavering faithfulness to us, and that there is much freedom in our desire to fellowship with Him (the last one has already been shown via the freewill offering of the giving of silver and other things for the building of the tabernacle).

Then in v.12-13, there is the detail of the (i) offered animal, (ii) yeast-free bread with oil, (iii) yeast-free wafers with oil, (iv) cakes with oil and (v) bread with yeast.  We already understand the significance of the yeast symbolising one’s stay in the world (shown through the history of Egypt).  Thus, the fellowship offering having bread with yeast represents the time when we arrive at our eternal new home, along with the oil representing the Holy Spirit.  This image is further amplified with the food fellowship with God after atonement; and for those Christians whose sins are already atoned for by the blood of Christ, we can enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit shown in the oil right now as a seal (Esther 8), firstfruit and deposit of new creation (Eph 1).

We then move to the detail of v.16-18 which speaks of the meat which the people are allowed to eat on the day after the sacrifice, extending the eating for 2 days, and then destroyed on the third day.  This example of the third day, destroying the symbolic bread, displays the significance of the ‘third day’ even in eating.  On the third day there is new life – the resurrection of Christ.  Perhaps this points towards the significance of the sign of the third day, the sign of Jonah: that after the resurrection of Christ would people have something to rejoice in.  After the resurrection of Christ, the prophetic eating of the flesh is ended by the prophecy fulfilled, replacing this Old Testament law with the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

v.19-21 serves to substantiate the point in Numbers 15 – either we are clean… or we are unclean (the distinction between clean and unclean is not the same distinction between holy and unclean – I will dwell on this point in the next post on the sanctification of the priests; therefore, “clean” is merely the middleground between holiness and uncleanness), in which case we must be sent out of the city of God which we cannot live in.  Either we are wearing the wedding garments of the robes of righteousness… or we are kicked out of the wedding.  This message cannot be preached enough.  Let us dwell on this truth: the truth of animal sacrifice, of pleasing aroma, of partaking in the food and reminding ourselves that we cannot even wear the robes of righteousness, bear the oil representing the Holy Spirit, eat of leavened bread of the wedding feast if not for Jesus’ magnificent work on the cross.  Matthew 22:1-14:

1And again Jesus(A) spoke to them in parables, saying, 2(B) “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave(C) a wedding feast for his son, 3and(D) sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4(E) Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my(F) dinner,(G) my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5But(H) they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants,(I) treated them shamefully, and(J) killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and(K) destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not(L) worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and(M) gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there(N) a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him,(O) ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and(P) cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are(Q) called, but few are chosen.”

Leviticus 3-7: The Sacrifices pt.2

Exodus 22-24: The law and the gospel

1.  Restitution – the Penal Substitution on the cross (Exodus 21:33-Exodus 22:16) – commandments 6 (murder) and 8 (stealing)

2.  Social Justice – God’s responsibility (Exodus 22:16-31) (a mixture of commandments 7 (adultery), commandment 2 (no other god and loving those who love him), commandment 8 (stealing), commandment 1 (I am the God who saved you out of Egypt)…

3.  No False Report (Exodus 23:1-9) – commandment 9 (do not bear false witness)

4.  Eating with God (Exodus 24)

1.  Restitution – the Penal Judgment on the cross (Exodus 21:33-Exodus 22:16) – commandments 6 (murder) and 8 (stealing)

The last bits of Exodus 21:33-36 thus goes on to explain God’s character, and his methods of shattering the idols in our minds by going into the most intricate detail of His law.

This includes the detail of opening a pit (in Hebrew “bowr” which means cistern, but commonly used term for prison/dungeon); there is restitution for that as well.  We understand that God himself had made a dungeon, his own ‘pit’ where he holds the fallen angels.  He himself is responsible for this duty; similarly, if a man opens a pit (v.33) – he needs to be responsible for what goes in or comes out.  God is, on a macro-level, in charge of the eternal pit.

v.35-36 maintains man’s rule over animals – “if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past” – and it is of course up to the man to regulate the animal’s character; and as the animal, as the beast’s master, anything done by the beast shall be repaid by the master, not the beast himself.  This is perhaps something quite different from how men restores things for themselves and for their beasts, whereas beasts clearly have no power to repay anything.

Exodus 22 begins on an interesting note: if a man steals an ox/sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox.  Amazing!  He is to give back more.  Just as Jesus taught the disciples to forgive seventy times seven more, so also the man is taught about grace through restitution.  v.3-4 continues this theme of graceful restitution – from selling oneself if the bloodguilt is on the murderer of the thief in broad daylight; to providing double for a stolen possession (v.4); to making restitution from the best in his own field and vineyard (v.5)… full restitution (v.6) if not more is required in many circumstances.

2.  Social Justice – God’s responsibility (Exodus 22:16-31) (a mixture of commandments 7 (adultery), commandment 2 (no other god and loving those who love him), commandment 8 (stealing), commandment 1 (I am the God who saved you out of Egypt)…

Now, the commandments get increasingly mixed up.  v.16 refers to a man seducing a non-betrothed virgin/a girl of marryable age, and that he is to give a bride-price for her; or pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins even if her father refuses to let her marry him.  This is the better way to do it; not through circumcision as was the tragedy of Simeon and Levi in Genesis!  The bride-price is important as it symbolises the man’s responsibility to the woman.  For seducing the virgin, it comes with a cost!  God does not allow pre-marital relations because it shouts out pre-mature intimacy; in the same way that we have the firstfruit of that intimacy with God by the seal of the Spirit (Eph 1), so also there should be a deposit money equal for the bride-price for such unwarranted intimacy with the Church if the man should treat her as if she is his church.

v.18 is strict liability as well – you shall not permit a sorceress to live.  Is this a contradiction to the law against murder (commandment 6)?  It would, if God did not define the confines of murder; but because he did, the 10 commandments are not statements to be loosely interpreted as to allow paradoxes to arise.  This is to directly contrast two points: firstly, that the LORD’s works and miracles are not that of sorcery (let alone of Moses’ sorcery!); and secondly, that the sorcerers and sorceresses of Egypt deserve death for meddling with dark arts which is an outlet for Satan to bewilder people and distract them from the gospel.  God doesn’t want miracles to be adored; he wants miracles to point to Him. Thus, the 10 commandments must be exegetically explained by God himself!  We will come back on this in just a sec.

v.19 – again, this act of ‘adultery’ shows how a man shall not lie with a non-woman; similarly, a woman shall not lie with a non-man.  There is nothing to portray Christ and the Church in either imagery, except to show that Christ is bonding with beast; and Church bonding with beast – this is a clear heresy of subverting the hierarchical chain of God to Man to Beast, to Beast to Man to God.

v.20 -26 – this is sculpted by the 1st commandment, because the people of Israel themselves have been mistreated in Egypt; but this is no excuse for them to exact similar revenge on other people – for [the Israelites] were sojourners themselves (v. 21) in Egypt!  Why should the Israelites then do the same disgusting thing to the sojourners in their land?  God detests such hypocrisy.

v.28 – this is charged with the flair of Romans 15 – respecting authority.

v.29-30 – like Abraham’s tithing of his 10% to Melchizedek, Jesus Christ, so also we are called to sacrifice not the lowest but the best 10%.  What does it mean though “the firstborn of your sons you shall give to me”?  What does it mean “seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me”?  The meaning is as I’ve mentioned concerning the cross; on the 8th day Christ rose again, after the Sabbath!  Justin Martyr on the eighth day:

The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.

This displays that the giving of the firstborn, as well as the sign of the circumcision, both serve to provide this imagery of God the Father’s firstborn son being cut and raised again on the 8th day, the first day after the Sabbath; and same for oxen and sheep, for they too are saved (Jonah 3 – the beasts repented as well!).  Such is the significance of the 8th day.

3.  No False Report (Exodus 23:1-9) – commandment 9 (do not bear false witness)

v.1-3 is almost a reflection of Psalm 24: “Give me clean hands” when this Christological Psalm speaks of Jesus asking for clean hands from His Father in heaven. v.1-9 in general has a heavier judicial undertone, explaining the absolute solemnity of speaking the truth rather than perverting the judicial system (v.6).  It is quite clear that our God is just, and he is the one who defines this justice.

4.  Sabbath laws and festivals (Exodus 23:10-19)

Again, this is a repeat of what has already been spoken of earlier – the number seven connotes Sabbath, according to the order of the creation of the heavens and the earth (v.10-12).  V.13 re-iterates commandment 2, and then he speaks of three appointed times of the year according to the Jewish ecclesiastical calender:

(i)  Feast of Unleavened Bread: also known as the ‘Passover‘ (Pesach) in the first month (15th to 21st day), the month Nisan/Abib (v.15); the Paschal Lamb killed on the 14th, and the Paschal feast from 15th to 21st

(ii)  Feast of Harvest: 6th day of Siwan/Sivan, the third month of the ecclesiastical calender (this is also known as Shavuot/the Pentecost/Firstfruits of Wheat Harvest)

(iii)  Feast of Ingathering:  known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles (firstfruits of wine and oil) occuring from 15th to 21st of the month Tishri, the seventh ecclesiastical month

These are the three memorable days where all the males appear before God.  Unsurprisingly, these three festivals mark important dates in Scripture: the year opens with the reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross; followed by the Pentecost in the middle of the year, reminding us of the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit given to all men (Acts 2) which also occured on the Shavuot.  This being in the sixth month, on the sixth day, is the mark of man equipped and blessed by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel, and also to be sanctified (as day six represents that of the creation of man and woman, just as the Spirit is given to all men and women.  For six days shall man labour; and so for six days shall we labour with the Holy Spirit for God’s Holy Work of salvation.  This is closely followed by the seventh month, symbolising a time of reaping of rewards, the firstfruits of wine and oil, and unlike the Feast of Weeks, this is similar to the Passover, a seven-day celebration.

Interestingly, following the Feast of Ingathering there is approximately 5 months before the next Passover… and this contributes to the seasonal cycle of Scripture – through death, comes life, and returns to death again, comes life again.  This is no Buddhist samsaric realm (as cherishable as the Buddhist anthropological view is) – rather, this is an observation of our life on earth.  Just as we are made from dust, we are given the firstfruits of new life by the Spirit; then we return to dust.  But we will rise again, breaking away from all seasons in new creation, and will eternally live in the Feast of Tabernacles where there is eternal wine and oil of gladness, where there is the eternal Tabernacling of the Lamb with us in New Jerusalem.

Perhaps there is something more I’d like to note:  Three times the male appears.  Why?

The first festival relates to CHRIST

The second festival relates to the SPIRIT

The third festival… relates to the FATHER – whom we will no longer conceive as invisible, but visible when we are given new bodies.

5.  Conquest of Canaan by the Name in the Angel (Exodus 23:20-Exodus 24)

v.20-21 speaks of the divine archangel which Philo considered to be God the Father’s chief messenger, and no doubt, Jesus is the Father’s chief and foremost messenger.  The Angel of the LORD, who has the name of GOD himself, has the power of pardoning one’s transgressions.  The Father tells Moses to relay to the Israelites that this Angel must not be disobeyed (v.22).

v.23-24 relates to the essence of all theology – v.24: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces”.  Indeed, Christ, the angel, is the one who brings the victory – God the Father is the one who blots them out (v.23), but WE are the ones who decide to destroy the idols according to the victory won.  Is faith inactive?  Of course not!  Let’s not rely on inactive faith, but readily active response to the victory won!  Glen has written another great post on faith here.

And that fight of faith, by the victory of the cross and the power of the Spirit has explained by the festivals, shall result in the symbolic treasures of Canaan.  The land will be enlarged, the people will no longer be barren… but v.33 ends on a sombre note: “They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”  So that is the truth – STRAIGHT after Moses speaks to the Father, Israel is already serving their self-made calf.  Will the Israelites ever inherit such blessings?  Surely God knows they won’t if they relied on themselves: look at what happened with the quail and manna and water, and their inability to not whine.  The irony of Exodus 24v.3: “And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.'”  The immediate hypocrisy.

Clearly, the only way one can even do any of those things completely is in Jesus Christ alone.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to explain that Christ alone can do these things.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to explain God’s character, and the character of the Seed God-man.  What is the meaning of the law?  To display how utterly fallen we are, and our utter incapability of fulfilling it by ourselves, except in Christ alone.  Yet, if we understand the law, and keep the covenant undefiled by the power of the Spirit, then we will truly inherit the spiritual truths behind the blessings of v. 23-32.

Conclusion of the Law and the Gospel (for now)

This is of course a preliminary conclusion, given the next three books of the Bible elaborates on the Mosaic law.  Just a few things to point out:

(a)  The 10 commandments are essentially undergirded by the first two; without the first two, the other 8 do not make much sense

(b)  This is the reason why it is difficult to separate one law from another, to purely classify one as a law concerning ‘adultery’ and another concerning ‘theft’.  The analysis above shows that God intentionally mixes the commandments together to show that they are all undergirded by the first two truths, and cannot be pedantically analysed in themselves.

(c)  The detail given in these few chapters show God’s theological method – he decidedly smashes the pre-Christian thinking in our head, our pre-conceptions of ‘justice’, of ‘honouring one’s parents’, of social justice… and each of them speak the truth about God’s justice over evil by sending Christ to the cross

(d)  Noticeably, this justice system is one of mediation:  Exodus 21:22, and 22:8 are the more obvious examples.  There is no indication that one is to strive for restitution by themselves, and there is in some sense a mediator between two parties.  Restitution is still followed, and the punishment normally matches the crime, but where an intended crime is committed, the punishment is even greater (Exodus 22:1).  God therefore doesn’t look on the physical act, but on the heart of the person.  This system of mediation however teaches us that we do not strive for justice alone; but we need a third person for objectivity: which also means that as Christians, until the Judge comes to provide justice, we fully understand that restitution is owed to Christ when we offend him.  And any non-Christian offending us, who are in Christ, is effectively offending Christ himself.

(e)  Remember, this law so far is related to the land of Canaan.  This is what Dev has to say about the Old Covenant established on Mt. Sinai:

Now in Hebrew a covenant is something that must be sealed in blood, it can only be ‘cut’ or ‘cut-off’. Thus the ‘new’ (or ever-new, renewed) covenant, renewed time and time again with Abraham, Noah, Adam, etc, is always commemorated with a sacrifice, but the sealing blood of that covenant lies in the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world (Luke 22:20, Rev 13:8). The ‘old’ (or passing away) covenant, distinct from the new covenant, is then sealed on top of the Mount Sinai that is in Arabia, in the desert, outside the Promised Land (Deut 33, Gal 4), with the blood of goats and bulls (Ex 24, Heb 10). Deut 5:2-4 “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire”. On top of Mount Sinai, the Jews seal a wedding vow, a covenant with the law – Exodus 24:3 “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

We’ll leave it at that, until we come to the new covenant… which is not mentioned of course only in the New Testament.  The new covenant will come around as soon as Moses shatters the tablets of the law and the commandment, and the new tablets have slight alterations which really aren’t so slight.

4.  Eating with Jesus (Exodus 24)

v.4 – “He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel”

After which he offered burnt offerings/peace offerings – half of the blood in basins, half of blood on the altar – and everyone heard the law and said they will obey (v.7).  The blood in the basin is then thrown onto the people:

“Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Such is the blood of Christ that has been thrown on us to redeem us and to cleanse us of our sins.  The Israelites are not ignorant of this imagery, as already shown by the blood on the lentils and the doorposts in Egypt.

What happens in the next few verses is awesome: v.9 –

9Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and(DF) seventy of the elders of Israel(DG) went up, 10and they(DH) saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of(DI) sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and(DJ) ate and drank.

What an amazing and humbling picture this is.  The seventy elders, Nadab, Abihu (the oldest and second oldest son of Aaron), Aaron and Moses went up to the mountain of God and effectively SAW God.  Remember John 1:18 – no one has revealed the Unseen God except for the seen God Christ himself.  They saw the sapphire stone, the throne in heaven!  (Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1).  They ate and drank before JESUS!  This is truly prophetic of what we will be doing with God in New Jerusalem, that we will be eating and drinking with Him at the wedding feast (Matthew 22).  And what a fitting time it is to establish this wedding feast, when the wedding vow was entered between God and the Israelites (when Moses read the Covenant out to the Israelites, whereupon they responded in Exodus 24:3) – and after the wedding vow of course comes the wedding feast on the holy hill.

Finally, the LORD tells Moses to seek him after six days of the cloud covering the mountain (v.15), and going in on the seventh day (v.16); Moses lasted there for forty days and forty nights neither eating bread nor drinking water (Genesis 7:12; Numbers 13:15; Deuteronomy 9:9; Jonah 3:4; Mark 1:13).  This pattern of forty-days and forty-nights is not only seen as a time of testing, but it is seen as also a time of anticipation – and either victory or destruction results from these forty days and forty nights.  Indeed – will Israel be judged for their obedience in Christ?  Or will Israel turn away and worship other gods?  Will Jesus ascend to the higher throne, the holy hill?  Or will he buckle to Satan’s temptation by just the bow of His knee?

Joshua

Perhaps an important though small detail to note.  Moses chose Joshua as his assistant (Exodus 24:13).  Joshua who later conquers Canaan.  Joshua who won against the Amalekites.  Joshua who later meets the Angel of the LORD.  Joshua, whose name was given by Moses (previously it was Hoshea) at the Conquest of Canaan.  Joshua, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua.

Exodus 22-24: The law and the gospel

Genesis 42-44: Refiner’s Fire

1.  “That we may live and not die”  (Genesis 42)

2.  Joseph and his brothers, the covenant people (Genesis 42:19- 43:34)

3.  The testing of the eleven (Genesis 44)

The problem with the Joseph story is that too many people read it as many different things; some have read it as prosperity gospel (the blessings given to Christians); some have read it as an elevation of the Christian himself (e.g. Joseph placed in a high position).  Others have read it negatively – that Joseph’s testing is unnecessary, perhaps mean.  Or perhaps Joseph is imperfect, which is why he may be harbouring negative thoughts towards his brothers.  However, these are all very non-Christological interpretations, and they do not serve to edify the body of Christ if we read this story as a swansong of the Old Testament How-To Guide to becoming rich, becoming noticed, or becoming important.  It is, as I have been trying to maintain consistently, about Christ.

1.  “That we may live and not die”  (Genesis 42)

The first thing we have mentioned about Joseph since Chapter 37 is how the dream he prophesies speaks not only of himself temporarily, but eternally of Christ – how all the stars, moon and sun point to Christ.  Joseph is a type of Christ.  Which means that as bread-giver in a time of famine, we have a picture of Christ giving bread in a time when the Word of God has not appeared to the Israelites for 400 years.  It is a time of wilderness, of famine, and a time when people desire, nay, are desperate for the Living Bread.  Jacob wisely tells his 11 sons not to look at one another (v.1) for aid; rather, look to Christ, who dwells in Egypt, a land outside his home.  Look at The Christ, who tabernacled with men temporarily outside of his home-place with his Father and Spirit.  He is the one who will give the Living Bread and Water in this famine.

Benjamin

But not all are sent – only 10 are sent, whilst the last one is kept at home.  The reason why the last son, Benjamin, is kept at home is only partially explained, for Jacob feared that harm may happen to Benjamin.  One may immediately assume it is to do with Benjamin’s youth – but remember that it has been at least 9 years since Joseph has been sold as a slave to Egypt – not only that, but by now Benjamin has already 10 sons (Genesis 46:21).  2 of the 9 years wer spent in prison, 7 spent gathering the food, and then, somewhere during the latter 7 years when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph then opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians (Genesis 41:56-57).  This wasn’t merely a local famine – this is a global famine, and I would imagine that a famine spreading over all the earth would not be immediate.

If it isn’t because of his youth that he is prevented from visiting Egypt, then what might it be?  It is possible that it has to do with Joseph and Benjamin being his only second-born son after Rachel’s death, the first love of his life.  Look at how Jacob addresses him in v. 38 – “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one leftOnly one?  What about the other 10!?  Again, this is similar to how God spoke to Abraham concerning Isaac, his “only son” despite Ishmael’s earlier birth.  Ishmael, who was born of a servant who belonged to the wilderness was merely given birth by the will of man.  So, it is similar with most of the other brothers; but through Rachel, Jacob’s first love, is Jacob given two sons against the barrenness of Rachel, much like the barrenness of Sarah.  We were given Isaac by such a miraculous birth beyond scientific comprehension; and again, we were given Joseph and Benjamin also against scientific comprehension.    In any case, at this point it is mere extrapolation but keep this mind in point.

Custody for 3 days

Here again, we see a glimpse of the future fulfillment of Scripture: The brothers were kept in custody for 3 days, after which he says “Do this and you will live, for I fear God”.  In the same way, on the 3rd day on Mt. Sinai, the 10 commandments and the Law was given to Moses, after they have already been saved.  What is the meaning of Joseph’s expression – “Do this and you will live, for I fear God”.  Is it conditional?  The phraseology is odd – what does “Doing this” have anything to do with “God”?  It is as if the one who gives the commands right now is a representative of God before them.  This, in fact, is very similar to Christ’s commandments in the New Testament – do this and you will liveLove me with all your heart, your mind, your soul… and you will live.

So also, on the third day, we will rise up.  But will we be struck down in our second death, or will we go on to ascend?  We can only have eternal life in the interim of the End Days if we choose to look on Christ, and let faith be a tool of such an expression.  Look at Hosea 6:

1“Come, let us(A) return to the LORD;
for(B) he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and(C) he will bind us up.
2After two days(D) he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3(E) Let us know;(F) let us press on to know the LORD;
(G) his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us(H) as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

The narrative of these last chapters of Genesis make us assume that Joseph had already decided the fate of these brothers.  He had already decided to obey God and let Him fulfill his dreams.  Look at v.9 – “And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them”.  Indeed, he isn’t going to condemn even the father and Benjamin who weren’t even involved in the treachery of selling him as a slave?  In which case, these 11 men, and their father Israel, already had salvation offered to them – but the question is, will they take it?  Will they show the fruit of their desperation, of their search for the living bread?  Will they be even so much as willing to bring another brother as a witness to their truth?  This is why Joseph says, “do this and you will live”.  Examine the fruit of the Spirit as a mark of your salvation.  Examine the desperation for the living Word in your heart, and you shall live eternally with Jesus in new creation.

2.  Joseph and his brothers, the covenant people (Genesis 42:19- 43:34)

Notice the effect Joseph has on the people.  They are convicted – and they want to live.  v.20-21 of Chapter 42 shows their confession – they have truly repented before the LORD Christ.  “…’bring your youngest brother to me.  So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.’  And they did so.  Then they said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen.  That is why this distress has come upon us.’  Reuben is the first one to reveal his heart.  He was the one who had been slow in his obedience… yet he had eventually expressed his anger against their collective sin.  Like Peter, he regretted what he had done; he regretted taking part with the wicked. His regret is fully expressed in Chapter 42v.37, to exchange his sons for Jacob’s two sons from Rachel.

What is interesting is the little detail about Joseph speaking in the Egyptian tongue, whilst the Israelites spoke in their own linguistic dialect.  The parallel I find is the apparent ‘misunderstanding’ between the two parties; we think our Christ does not understand us, because of his supposed elevated position.  But he does, and he understands our dialect, our hearts very well.  And our LORD is not a merciful pushover; he takes what is dear to us to make a point – so much as to take our kin (v.24 chapter 42).

Yet, upon the way, he provides us with the necessary resources to respond to his commands.  He gifts us with the necessary finances to fulfill His commands.  It is all from Him – the manna, the water from the Rock, the Tree of Life, the Bread of Life, even the very gold and silver used to make the Tabernacle.v.28: “At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?'” Indeed, I find it unclear here whether they are pleasantly surprised or genuinely frustrated.  Either way, Joseph still awaits their obedient response as an expression of their love for their brother Simeon; love for their father Jacob; love for their brother Benjamin – such love which has been seriously lacking from their birth (Simeon and Levi’s sin against Shechem; the brothers collectively hating and scheming against Joseph; Judah’s disobedient attitude in bonding with a prostitute).  Joseph’s actions have put them in their rightful position, and now they remember and realise their sins; indeed, so much as to respond in desperation.

The fact that Joseph is placed in a position to know the family better than the brothers assume creates a very good foretelling of Jesus’ omniscience in partnership with the Father and the Spirit.  From knowing how many husbands an adulterous wife has to knowing the heart of the rich man, Joseph knows and probes the family of Jacob to the point of their conviction and confession.  Such truth and knowledge penetrates, bone, soul and marrow (Hebrews 4:12).

But it seems that they had delayed in going to save their kin.  They actually took their time to eat the grain given by the LORD through Joseph, and still delayed in returning to save Simeon!  Then at this point, Jacob’s name reverts to Israel – and this is a sign of his obeying God again.  He tells him to take the honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.

A land flowing with milk and honey; pistachio nuts and almonds being the edible type of Seed; but myrrh?  Myrrh, gold and frankincense was given to Christ – two of which are used for anointing, one of those two being an anointing for death (which is myrrh, representing the death of Christ Jesus).  I doubt this is a common gift given to the living LORD of the land. (Chapter 42:30).

Bread, water and the Wedding Feast

What a surprise then for them to see that Joseph, the lord of the land, would give them water and wash their feet a la Christ with his disciples and truly caring for the beast of the last (Genesis 1:28; Chapter 43:24).  There they were, eating the Bread which they desired at noon, at the height of God’s righteousness Psalm 37:5-6:

5(J) Commit your way to the LORD;
(K) trust in him, and he will act.
6(L) He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as(M) the noonday.

So also, our God will eat with us (Matthew 22) at the great wedding feast in the city that has no night and where the true light of noon will be the Lamb Himself.

When Joseph returns to his chambers to weep, his brothers do not see it.  In the same we only have a glimpse of God’s love for us, God’s faithfulness, and God’s tears for us.  We know, in part, through the glory of the Scriptures, of God’s true love.  But will we stand in his chambers, dwell in his tabernacle and Holy of Holies behind the veil to see his face, and bask in his true glory and love?  Not yet.

So the brothers are amazed at each other as they sat before him, firstborn and youngest according to their age (v. 33), but Benjamin’s portion was greater than any of theirs.  There, however, was no jealousy – instead, they drank and were merry with him.  They may sit at different positions around the table, but they are all in communion with the lord of the land.  So also, let us be children in faith, let us be little children in the Spirit (Matthew 11:25, Matthew 19, Luke 22:26), like Benjamin who is the youngest (though by no means physically young) but most prone to be hurt in this world.  This is fulfilled in the spirit of breaking the tradition of the ‘right of the firstborn’ – for Joseph fully understands that the LORD does not differentiate between the physically old and young reprobate, but fully depends upon the old and young in Christ.

3.  The testing of the eleven (Genesis 44)

Now, Joseph tests the eleven brothers, just as the risen Christ tested the eleven apostles.  They had the temptation to place the blame on someone else, but Judah laid his heart before Christ.  He laid honesty before Christ.  And he offered himself self-sacrificially for his brother.  Judah has made a full metanoia from his Chapter 37 phase.  He is now willing to be a SERVANT.  This is a fulfillment of dream of Joseph – and now Judah is prepared to be a servant of Joseph.

Conclusion

These three chapters have been very colourful in painting the picture of the brothers of Joseph, at least some if not all of them having a changed heart through this experience.  The famine has created the conviction of sin; their inability to look to each other for aid; so they look to God for the living Bread; whereupon the cost of taking up the cross of the living Bread is that they lay their life down to take it up again – all of which Reuben and Judah (as we know) have come to experience as true Christians refined by the disciplinary and consuming fire of the LORD.

Genesis 42-44: Refiner’s Fire