2 Chronicles 1-3: Solomon the Priest-King

Chapter 1

In Solomon’s first act as king upon his second anointing, he immediately spoke to all Israel – the intimacy of speech being also God’s first act to us, Him speaking to us the Word (John 1), followed immediately by burnt offering, a hopeful sign that Solomon understands his position as sinner before the LORD our Redeemer and Saviour.  Rather than going directly to Jerusalem where the ark was, he understood that his sin needed to be typologically dealt with at the altar first, as a sign to the Israelites and the neighbouring countries.  This contextualises Solomon’s thirst for wisdom in v.7-13, as opposed to the common possessions, wealth, honour or lives of those who hate Solomon.  He would rather bless the kingdom with the Wisdom of God, and in turn be given these things which are inherited by the meek (Matthew 5:5). So also Jesus grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52), and it is by this Wisdom (Proverbs 8), the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2), that kings shall truly reign (c.f. v. 13).

Chapter 2

This is followed by Solomon’s humility in understanding that this house, this temple, is but a shadow – “who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him?  Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?” (v.6).  Indeed, not even highest heaven can contain the Trinity, led alone some earthly temple which unfortunately has become a place of over-emphasis when Christ, and not His shadow, is the focal point.  Hiram, the king of Tyre, is first of many non-Israelites to understand this crucial Christian message.  It is “Because the LORD loves his people, he has made [Solomon] king over them” (v.11).  So also, because the LORD loves us so much that He has given us His only begotten son Jesus Christ to be king over us (John 3:16), secured only through his victory on the cross.  What glory to witness Hiram praising the LORD (v.12), contributing also to the work of the temple by the hand of a man with mixed blood – son of both Dan and Tyre (v.14), followed by a description in v.17 of the resident aliens in Israel.  The LORD surely does not only have eyes for Israel, but also for the glory of the Gentiles.

Chapter 3

The work is done on none other than the place where Isaac was to be sacrificed (Genesis 22) and where the LORD provided a substitutionary ram, until the day the Lamb of God would be provided.  It is here that the Lamb is slain on the cross, and it is also here that the glorious temple is built, where the wrath on David was averted by the Angel of the LORD – Jesus Himself.

The remaining commentary of the work of the Temple can be found in my posts on 1 Kings 6-10.  However, it is again important to note the focus of the narrator here that the priestly nature of Chronicles places the work of the temple at the forefront of Solomon’s ministry and role as priest-king, immediately after his speech with the Israelites and burnt offering at the bronze altar of Gibeon.

2 Chronicles 1-3: Solomon the Priest-King

Judges 11-12: Felix Culpa and Foci of Judges

Judges 11:  Jephthah and the Blessed Fault in the Holy Vow

Jdg 11:1-40  Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah.  (2)  And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”  (3)  Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.  (4)  After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel.  (5)  And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob.  (6)  And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.”  (7)  But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?”  (8)  And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”  (9)  Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head.”  (10)  And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.”

Jephthah and Christ – the Outsiders

Following on from Judges 10, we now see ‘the man’ to be Jephthah, another type of Christ.  The distinctive marks of this man are two-fold – that he is exalted as a “mighty warrior”, but also humiliated because he was “the son of a prostitute”.  Our Christ is not so different for He is the greatest warrior of all, he who is the King on Zion (Psalm 2:6), the One who shall break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel (Psalm 2:9).  Yet, He is also the One who bore the weight of the government (Isaiah 9:6), and is seen as an outsider (Hebrews 13:13) – the one who is identified not by His Heavenly Father, but by His earthly family (Matthew 13:55) and is despised for it.  Judges 11:2 might as well be directly applied in the synoptic gospels – “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman”.  Is that not the accusation made against Christ?  That He shall not have an inheritance in the house of the Father in heaven, because He is born into the family of Mary and Joseph?

Furthermore, v.3 is also prophetic of Christ and his disciples – mere fishermen, perhaps even from ancient times to this day and age seen as “worthless fellows”.  He finds these people in the land of Tob, a presumably good land, and here the comparisons between Jephthah and Abimelech are immediately noticeable.  These worthless fellows attracted to Jephthah like moths – they “collected around” Jephthah and went out with him, just like we are called to go out to Christ (Hebrews 13:13).  Instead, Abimelech had had to hire worthless and reckless fellows (Judges 9:4) who, if not for money, would not have even considered aiding Abimelech in his delusional conspiracy.  Jephthah is the outsider not because of his ability to lead as a judge, but because of his familial status as the son of the prostitute, a social outcast; Abimelech is the insider not because of his ability to lead as a judge, but because of his familial status as the son of Jerubbaal, a judge of awesome repute.  Jephthah had not asked to be a leader, though he is of that caliber; Abimelech desired leadership, much like that of Satan (Ezekiel 28) who was guardian cherub.

And so, when Christ was labeled as the King of the Jews at His crucifixion (Mark 15:18), it is ironic that it is exactly at the cross that we see His identity as the true King of men, though He was an outcast of a mere carpenter who fellowshipped with worthless men.  He was hated, even rejected by his own apostles (c.f. Peter’s three denials), but upon recognizing that He is indeed the King of the Jews, we have died with Him on the cross and are born again into the kingdom of heaven (John 3).  So also, Jephthah asked the Israelites to respect that prophetic truth, that if they require him to fight on their behalf and Yahweh gives him victory, then he must become their head just as Christ is our head when we acknowledge his victory over sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Indeed, Christ is neither mere teacher, nor miracle-worker from whom we reap benefits and use Him like a tool; but He is to be loved and worshipped as a Person of the Trinity, just as Jephthah is no mercenary but is protector of Israel because of his self-acknowledgment as head over her.

(11)  So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.  (12)  Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?”  (13)  And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.”

Therefore, where at the end of chapter 10 they had hoped for this ‘one man’ at the watchtower Mizpah, he is now gathered at that same place to symbolically show that he is the one man though initially rejected by his own brethren.  Christ is our One Man, though initially rejected by his own townsmen, and by his own race the Jews.

Beginning with v.13 we learn about the accusations of the Ammonites – the Israelites taking away much land (Arnon/Jabbok/Jordan).  However, listen to Jephthah’s response:

(14)  Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites  (15)  and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites,  (16)  but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh.  (17)  Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.  (18)  “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab.  (19)  Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’  (20)  but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.  (21)  And the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country.  (22)  And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.  (23)  So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them?  (24)  Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess.  (25)  Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them?  (26)  While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time?  (27)  I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.”

Historical Theology

It is of great importance, after reading these verses (v.14-27) to remember the history of the Israelites.  It is also of importance not to them, but also to us as Christians to acknowledge the sins and the justifications of the history of bearing the name of Christ – be that the wars of the Crusades or even our awareness of how many people have abused His Name for their purposes.

Yet, Jephthah is a great apologist – he time and time again appeals to two things between v.14-27:  the passive and diplomatic nature of Israel, and the LORD’s direct intervention and aid when Israel is bullied into war by the neighbouring nations.  This diplomatic nature came in the form of sending messengers (v.17, 19), and whereupon they were rejected from going through a land they would remain calmly for the LORD’s direction (end of v.17); finally, upon being attacked, the LORD took the initiative (rather than the Israelites) and protected His people (v.21, 23).  This last point is important; if not for the LORD, Israel would have quickly become a devoured nation – and so Jephthah appeals to Balak the son of Zippor (c.f. Numbers 22) as testimony of his own acknowledgment that Israel is nothing without Yahweh.  Indeed, Israel is a weak nation, but their Yahweh is mighty.  Even with all their enemies like Sihon (the tempestuous warrior), Heshbon (a stronghold), and Balak himself (the ‘devastator’), Israel had repeatedly exercised compassion and wrought victory in Yahweh’s name.  This is something which Chemosh, the subduing god of the Ammonites, cannot do.

It would seem, as in v.27, that the Ammonites of Jephthah’s day had thus made two mistakes: one, for failing to remember the acts of Israel and making empty accusations; and two, for failing to acknowledge the true living Yahweh as opposed to appeal to their dead god Chemosh which clearly cannot aid them.  Unsurprisingly, this is exactly the same line of argument made by Peter in Acts 2:22-2:36 where he interprets the history of Israel as it should always have been interpreted.

Note how Peter, like Jephthah, is merely employing the only one type of exegesis and hermeneutics used by Christ Himself (John 5:39; Luke 24:27) – which is to understand the Old Testament Christocentrically.  Jephthah is no different; though he does not mention Christ specifically, it is clear that Yahweh’s character is seen through the history of Israel in the face of the accusers.  How many times the Sanhedrin disagreed with Christ’s interpretation of the Old Testament and claimed the self-righteousness of their patriarchs?  And so we also see the same thing with the Ammonites twisting the truth of Israel’s conquers into something worthy of condemnation.  Furthermore, the Ammonites lacked the historical accuracy let alone acknowledging God’s involvement in the Israelites’ victories:

“Jephthah shows that the Israelites did not take the land of the Moabites or Ammonites, but that of the Amorites, which they had conquered from Sihon their king, who had, without cause or provocation, attacked them; and although the Amorites had taken the lands in question from the Ammonites, yet the title by which Israel held them was good, because they took them not from the Ammonites, but conquered them from the Amorites. So now the Lord – hath dispossessed the Amorites. – The circumstances in which the Israelites were when they were attacked by the Amorites, plainly proved, that, unless Jehovah had helped them, they must have been overcome. God defeated the Amorites, and made a grant of their lands to the Israelites; and they had, in consequence, possessed them for three hundred years.” – Adam Clarke

Thus, the condemnation against the Ammonites is increased – for failing to tremble before Yahweh like Balak; for failing to remember the history of Israel’s diplomatic nature; and for failing to understand the legitimacy of Israel’s holding over the Amorites and in turn leading to a rightful ownership of the lands in question.

The result of Peter’s exegesis in Acts 2 led to the immediate response of both the Gentiles and Jews in his presence: 37Now when(BH) they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers,(BI) what shall we do?

Unfortunately, the Ammonites did not meet Jephthah’s explanations with such humbleness:

(28)  But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.  (29)  Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.  (30)  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand,  (31)  then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”  (32)  So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand.  (33)  And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

The Vow between the Father and the Son

The irony of v.28-33 lies in v.33 – where Chemosh, the one who subdues, is the god of the Ammonites, we see here Jephthah to in turn subdued the Ammonites before the people of Israel, all by filling of the Holy Spirit (v.29).  However, as from the end of the previous chapter to the present verse, the focus has never been on the Ammonites.  It has been on the rejection, acceptance and the quality of the “one man” Jephthah – the one man whom the LORD gave to the Israelites upon their desperate call.  And this one man made a vow of a burnt offering upon the giving of the Ammonites into his hand, we are to assume that this vow is directly related to the overwhelming Spirit-led victory over the Ammonites where he single-handedly overcame twenty cities “with a great blow”.  A victory of such scale, by himself, may even rival that of Samson (in the latter chapters of Judges) even though Samson is often celebrated as the powerful judge.

Rather, this vow has taken the spotlight because of its controversy leading to several theologians questioning its translation.  Bullinger in “Great Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrews 11” had said that the “and” of v.31 should be changed to “or” – that “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, or I will offer it up as a burnt offering”.  In such a case, Bullinger is implying dedication to the LORD rather than a human sacrifice like an actual burnt offering.  Adam Clarke is similarly disturbed with the translations, and his in depth study of the Hebrew is quite enlightening:

“The text is והיה ליהוה והעליתיהו עולה  vehayah layhovah, vehaalithihu olah; the translation of which, according to the most accurate Hebrew scholars, is this: I will consecrate it to the Lord, or I will offer it for a burnt-offering; that is, “If it be a thing fit for a burnt-offering, it shall be made one; if fit for the service of God, it shall be consecrated to him.” That conditions of this kind must have been implied in the vow, is evident enough; to have been made without them, it must have been the vow of a heathen, or a madman. If a dog had met him, this could not have been made a burnt-offering; and if his neighbor or friend’s wife, son, or daughter, etc., had been returning from a visit to his family, his vow gave him no right over them. Besides, human sacrifices were ever an abomination to the Lord; and this was one of the grand reasons why God drove out the Canaanites, etc., because they offered their sons and daughters to Molech in the fire, i.e., made burnt-offerings of them, as is generally supposed…

It has been supposed that “the text itself might have been read differently in former times; if instead of the words והעליתיהו עולה, I will offer It a burnt-offering, we read והעליתי הוא עולה, I will offer Him (i.e., the Lord) a burnt-offering: this will make a widely different sense, more consistent with everything that is sacred; and it is formed by the addition of only a single letter, (א  aleph), and the separation of the pronoun from the verb. Now the letter א  aleph is so like the letter ע  ain, which immediately follows it in the word עולה  olah, that the one might easily have been lost in the other, and thus the pronoun be joined to the verb as at present, where it expresses the thing to be sacrificed instead of the person to whom the sacrifice was to be made. With this emendation the passage will read thus: Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me – shall be the Lord’s; and I will offer Him a burnt-offering.” For this criticism there is no absolute need, because the pronoun הו  hu, in the above verse, may with as much propriety be translated him as it. The latter part of the verse is, literally, And I will offer him a burnt-offering, עולה  olah, not לעולה  leolah, For a burnt-offering, which is the common Hebrew form when for is intended to be expressed. This is strong presumption that the text should be thus understood: and this avoids the very disputable construction which is put on the ו  vau, in והעליתיהו  vehaalithihu, Or I will offer It up, instead of And I will offer Him a burnt-offering.”

Although Bullinger’s translation is not as rigorous or detailed as Clarke’s, their theological disposition come to the same conclusion: that there is a separate burnt offering (which is given as such only if the “it” which came out of Jephthah’s house is a clean offering which Moses took great pains to explain in the book of Leviticus; it is thus clear that not every animal made in the context of a vow is a suitable offering); and if not a suitable offering, then Jephthah’s daughter in this particular instance is wholly dedicated, consecrated to the LORD.  There seems, in both of these theologians’ minds, to be no merging of the two.  They do not consider the giving of Jephthah’s daughter as a suitable sacrifice, especially not under the mandate of Leviticus 27 – not unless his daughter is redeemed.  However, whether the daughter is sacrificed will be further scrutinized by the end of the chapter.

(34)  Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter.  (35)  And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”  (36)  And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”  (37)  So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.”  (38)  So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains.  (39)  And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel  (40)  that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

It would appear, as aforementioned in Leviticus 27, that vows are greatly important to God.  The reason for this is because God Himself makes several vows – to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham and so forth, in the continual encouragement that the Seed will soon come through the seeds.  The very first vow made to created man was in the garden (Genesis 3:15), though this vow was an intra-Trinitarian promise made between the Father and the Son before creation (Isaiah 42:1; John 17; Revelation 13:8) making the first vow in the garden technically the ‘second’ vow, or the first expression to Adam of the true first vow made pre-creation.  With this in mind, v.36 should be understood in the context where vows are taken with utmost seriousness – and given the caliber of Jephthah as both type of Christ and captain of Israel, seen as a saint having faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:32) it is important that this great vow which granted him typological victory over Yahweh’s enemies is ultimately correlated to the great vow between the Father and the Son leading to the victory over Satan and the redemption and renewal of the corrupted creation.

It is here that Clarke continues with his Hebrew exposition:

“From Jdg_11:39 it appears evident that Jephthah’s daughter was not Sacrificed to God, but consecrated to him in a state of perpetual virginity; for the text says, She knew no man, for this was a statute in Israel. ותהי חק בישראל  vattehi chok beyishrael; viz., that persons thus dedicated or consecrated to God, should live in a state of unchangeable celibacy. Thus this celebrated place is, without violence to any part of the text, or to any proper rule of construction, cleared of all difficulty, and caused to speak a language consistent with itself, and with the nature of God… [With regards to v.40] I am satisfied that this is not a correct translation of the original לתנות לבת יפתח  lethannoth lebath yiphtach. Houbigant translates the whole verse thus: Sed iste mos apud Israel invaluit, ut virgines Israel, temporibus diversis, irent ad filiam Jepthe-ut eam quotannis dies quatuor consolarentur; “But this custom prevailed in Israel that the virgins of Israel went at different times, four days in the year, to the daughter of Jephthah, that they might comfort her.” This verse also gives evidence that the daughter of Jephthah was not sacrificed: nor does it appear that the custom or statute referred to here lasted after the death of Jephthah’s daughter.”

Thus, Clarke’s comprehensive theology of not accepting Jephthah’s daughter as human sacrifice has led him to retranslate much of the latter parts of chapter 11, including the true manner in which the people had sympathized – indeed comforted rather than wept – with and for Jephthah’s daughter.  However, for the sake of Hebrew interpretation he seemed not to be informed as thoroughly of the context as Matthew Henry who pointed out that there is no reason for her to weep of her virginity and holy dedication to the LORD for two months, for she had the whole life as a nun to do that.

However, it seemed that for Jephthah’s daughter there is a ‘time limit’ before which she could no longer weep.  There is of course the possibility that she wished to worship God in complete dedication, and would rather weep before being anointed for holy consecration (as according to Clarke and Bullinger’s translations of the verse) and thus commit to the ministry of God as a single woman in much rejoicing.  Yet, this is mere speculation: instead, what we do know is that she had wept profusely, going up and down the mountains to weep for her virginity (v.37).  In addition to these points, it is also possible for the daughter to have been redeemed for a price before a priest if she was actually devoted as in Leviticus 27:4 or 27:8 if Jephthah is a poor man.  Let us look at Matthew Henry’s investigation of the event which adds more insight than Clarke and Bullinger in terms of the context:

“…If he [Jephthah] sacrificed her, it was proper enough for her to bewail, not her death, because that was intended to be for the honour of God, and she would undergo it cheerfully, but that unhappy circumstance of it which made it more grievous to her than any other, because she was her father’s only child, in whom he hoped his name and family would be built up, that she was unmarried, and so left no issue to inherit her father’s honour and estate; therefore it is particularly taken notice of (Jdg_11:34) that besides her he had neither son nor daughter. But that which makes me think Jephthah did not go about thus to satisfy his vow, or evade it rather, is that we do not find any law, usage, or custom, in all the Old Testament, which does in the least intimate that a single life was any branch or article of religion, or that any person, man or woman, was looked upon as the more holy, more the Lord’s, or devoted to him, for living unmarried: it was no part of the law either of the priests or of the Nazarites. Deborah and Huldah, both prophetesses, are both of them particularly recorded to have been married women. Besides, had she only been confined to a single life, she needed not to have desired these two months to bewail it in: she had her whole life before her to do that, if she saw cause. Nor needed she to take such a sad leave of her companions; for those that are of that opinion understand what is said in Jdg_11:40 of their coming to talk with her, as our margin reads it, four days in a year. ”

Yet, one thing which the mentioned theologians have not investigated in detail is that she is Jephthah’s firstborn daughter; that she is a virgin; that it is an entirely difficult ordeal to have been devoted.  Given Matthew Henry’s weighing of context, which should similarly inform men of their translation of Hebrew, it would seem more likely that Jephthah’s daughter was duly sacrificed but at the cost of Jephthah’s own hasty vow.  Jephthah had made mistakes, but many saintly men have also done so – be that Gideon, Lot, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Adam.  Yet, they are still considered saints because of Christ, and not by their own caliber of works.  So Jephthah’s honouring of the vow is an honouring of the greater vow between the Father and the Son – the Son who was also a weeping virgin in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood.  The Son who was ordained to go up and down the holy hill (Psalm 24), ordained to be incarnate and ordained to ascend, just as Jephthah’s daughter had done so in contemplation of her impending death as symbolic of the Son’s impending death on the cross.  Matthew Henry makes this passing comment:

“Many circumstances, now unknown to us, might make this altogether extraordinary, and justify it, yet not so as that it might justify the like. Some learned men have made this sacrifice a figure of Christ the great sacrifice: he was of unspotted purity and innocency, as she a chaste virgin; he was devoted to death by his Father, and so made a curse, or an anathema, for us; he submitted himself, as she did, to his Father’s will: Not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And like every tragic event, it is marked with a memorial (e.g. the Passover and the Festival of the Unleavened Bread and the tragic deaths of the firstborn from unbelieving families) – thus making more sense of the people weeping for the death of Jephthah’s daughter like the Mary’s have done prior to Jesus’ resurrection, rather than mere comforting which seems to be a slight violation purely because of pre-informed theological presuppositions concerning God’s character.

Unlike the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 which is by the volition of Yahweh, this is an oath, a vow, made by Jephthah knowing that all vows are taken with utmost seriousness.  He did not match his care of words with the seriousness of taking the vow itself, but his honouring of the vow is perhaps the reason why the writer of Hebrews stated that he was also a man of faith, honouring that higher vow of the Son’s eventual sacrifice.  Would theologians then say that the Father is a cosmic child-abuser, or that He is an advocate of child-sacrifice akin to the religion of Molech?  Rather, the religion of Molech sacrificed children against their will; the religion of Molech sacrificed children hoping to appease that holy wrath of Yahweh.  Yet, the relationship with Christ honours the eventual redemption of the Son, just as Jephthah is honouring that same truth in hope of the eventual resurrection of his daughter (on the Day of Resurrection) despite his grievous mistake used by God to display a greater glory.  Like Isaac, she is willingly serving Yahweh (v.36-37 indicates her willingness to be a sacrifice) – and the picture of Genesis is heavily laden with the third-day imagery held at Moriah, the place of Christ’s eventual self-sacrifice.

Make no mistake – the death of Jephthah’s daughter is a grievous mistake.  It is not pleasing in God’s eyes that man should die instead of the God-man taking his/her place.  However, this is a vow made by Jephthah, not the Father.  It is a vow which the Father used for his glory, just as the Father had used the fallen creation for his glory of recapitulation in Irenaeus’ definition, that we may be glorified from dust to being ‘deified’ beyond dust – just as the fallen creation itself is not good in God’s eyes.  Instead, this is a type of felix culpa, a “blessed fault”:  we see that same image of the Father sacrificing His only and firstborn Son, just as Jephthah is doing so with his daughter, held at the Mizpeh the watchtower – watching for the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Judges 12:  The Word of God

Jdg 12:1-15  The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.”  (2)  And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand.  (3)  And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”  (4)  Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”  (5)  And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,”  (6)  they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

War of Words

It would seem that this episode concerning Jephthah is a reflection of the same conflict between Gideon and Ephraim.  Why is it that Ephraim is so incredibly insecure?  Is it because of their imminent inheritance in comparison to Manasseh according to the blessing of Jacob?  Like the time with Gideon, Jephthah is equally non-blameworthy.  V.3 explains that Ephraim did not even go to save Gideon and Jephthah, the underdog and the outcast, even though (as Gideon implied) that the men of Ephraim are of greater stature and privilege.  As such, Ephraim is seen as a bully within Israel; browbeating and patronizing those who pass by his land, like a Middle-Eastern mafia, ensuring their own prophesied blessings not through faith and not through the corporate church, but through putting other tribes and people down.  This elitist, caste-like attitude is exactly the subject of the feud between Jephthah and Ephraim.  Indeed, the phrase “I took my life in my hand” is repeated in 1 Samuel 19:5 and 1 Samuel 28:21, both seen as positive instances as a result of faith in Christ, rather than an endorsement for works-salvation.  Without this faith, they would not have succeeded (Hebrews 11), as the men of Ephraim clearly show by their exploitation of cheap grace as in Bonhoeffer’s definition.  With this faith, they can even move mountains, hence the aforementioned victory of Jephthah against the numerous Ammonites.

As if Ephraim did not push their social-status weight around, v.4-5 certainly cemented their views against the outsiders and underdogs by calling the Gileadites fugitives.  It would seem that through this event, the deaths of the Ephraimites – all 42,000 of them – is one of the greatest civil wars that Israel has seen since the beginning of Scripture.  Yet, it is certainly telling of how Yahweh favours the underdog and the outsider than the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Sanhedrin.  Indeed, as in Isaiah 63:5, Christ has to work out salvation by himself, for Gideon and Jephthah are merely imitating the work of their Saviour who is rejected by all and accepted by rejected, ‘worthless’ men.  Hence, the end of this feud comprises of two things: the Ephraimites themselves becoming a victim of their curse as they are now truly fugitives instead of their accused Gileadite brothers; and secondly, that they are identified by their inability to speak the word “Shibboleth” properly, even though it be seemingly an extremely minor difference:

With regards to the term “Shibboleth” and “Sibboleth” I turn to Adam Clarke:

“The original differs only in the first letter ס  samech, instead of ש  sheen; אמר נא שבלת ויאמר סבלת  emar na Shibboleth, vaiyomer Sibboleth. The difference between ש  seen, without a point, which when pointed is pronounced sheen, and ס  samech, is supposed by many to be imperceptible. But there can be no doubt there was, to the ears of a Hebrew, a most sensible distinction… Had there been no distinction between the seen and samech but what the Masoretic point gives now, then ס  samech would not have been used in the word סבלת  sibboleth, but ש  seen, thus שבלת: but there must have been a very remarkable difference in the pronunciation of the Ephraimites, when instead of שבלת  shibboleth, an ear of corn, (see Job_24:24), they said סבלת  sibboleth, which signifies a burden, Exo_6:6; and a heavy burden were they obliged to bear who could not pronounce this test letter.”

It would seem that this choice of word may be related to the fords which the Gileadites have captured, for Shibboleth does not only mean ‘ear of grain’, but it could also mean ‘flowing stream and head’; contrary to Sibboleth which means ‘burden’ as well as ‘ear of grain or wheat’.  However, I think the focus of the word is in the first letter as Clarke has noted, the seeming gross negligence for the Ephraimites to be subject to such a minor detail.  Yet, this seemingly minor quibble is merely the peak of a mountain of discontent between Jephthah and Ephraim for Ephraim’s detestation of Gilead.  There is much parallel here between that of the man who attended the wedding ceremony without proper attire in Jesus’ parables (Matthew 22:11-14).  The response was not merely throwing the man back where he came from, but ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – a very similar response to Jephthah’s treatment of the Ephraimites.

So we should see how the Ephramites’ failure to speak the word properly, in crossing the river symbolic of the crossing of the river Jordan and the Red Sea as typological of salvation, is a direct correlation to a failure on their behalf to enter into the true Promised Land over what seems to be a minor quibble.  Yet, in God’s eyes, this minor quibble is what will cost us our salvation – and that is why the path is wide but the gate is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).  Yet, this narrow gate can be entered through Jesus Christ, the one way, and by Him we can speak the right Word and wear the right dress to be accepted onto the other side of the river, through the waters of judgment; from bearing the burden of condemnation (Sibboleth) to reaching that flowing stream and head (Shibboleth), the river of life from the Head of the Church.

(7)  Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.  (8)  After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel.  (9)  He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.  (10)  Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.  (11)  After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years.  (12)  Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.  (13)  After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel.  (14)  He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. (15)  Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

It is then after the death of Jephthah that we come to the quick mentioning of other judges, through whom God had provided approximately thirty-one years of peace in several areas over Israel.  Yet, this time of rest is unsurprisingly followed by corruption, spiritual adultery and idolatry as the refrain of Judges goes.  The fall from Ibzan and Abdon who both had a large number of beasts and children displaying their wealth and honour.

Yet, what I have attempted to show is that through the lengthened expositions of the chosen judges according to the narrator of this book, it would seem that the shadows, prophecies and typologies of Christ and His incarnate work are permeated throughout these great men and women endowed with the Spirit.  History does not seem to be the main focus, for not all men had lives equally recorded.  Contrarily, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology and eschatology are, unsurprisingly, the main foci of the book of Judges as we learn that The Great Judge must have His share of the Spirit, the fullness of the Spirit which these judges do not have;  the One Man is the saviour of Israel who must first be humiliated before he can be exalted; the King-like leader’s victory over the non-Christian enemies is an initiation of Yahweh’s will to portray that final judgment on all nations on the Day of Resurrection, as opposed to his own effort like that of Abimelech – for even the Son knows not when He returns (Mark 13:32) except by depending on the Father and the Spirit.

All these points take us firmly into that vow between the Father and the Son, that they would use a type of felix culpa to ensure that His gospel is indeed preached to the neighbouring nations then, be that in the form of Jephthah’s grievous sacrifice of his only virgin daughter to the killing of the Ephraimites as a direct comparison between two types of ‘leaders’ in Israel – the true leader and the self-proclaimed ones.

We are thus moving closer and closer from the Mosaic administration of the law to the embodiment of the law in person like that of the king (Deuteronomy 17) as we begin to see stronger typologies of the God-man Christ beyond that of Christophanies which were also rife throughout Genesis to Joshua, until the time of the Kings as we are getting closer and closer to the time of Saul and David.

Judges 11-12: Felix Culpa and Foci of Judges

Genesis 33-35: Jacob – man-fearer

1.  “For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God” – Jacob flatters Esau (Gen. 33)

2.  Dinah defiled and revenge enacted (Gen. 34)

3.  Jacob renamed… again – the drink offering and the oil (Gen. 35:1-15)

4.  The Pillar of Rachel (Gen. 35:16-29)

1.  “For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God” – Jacob flatters Esau (Gen. 33)

There is something disappointing about this chapter.

After seeing Jacob clinging onto Jesus in the end of chapter 32, you would think that he need not rely on his own methods to appease Esau.  But he does – and this is the first challenge God has laid before him.  Jacob had just prevailed, and is renamed Israel which means God strives!  God fights for Jacob!  Jacob has also seen God face to face (v.30)!

But in chapter 33, the very first thing he does, after he sees Esau, is divide the children among Leah and Rachel.  The common refrain is this… “…bowed down”.  The bowing down occurs 7 times in v. 3, once more in v. 6, twice in v.7.  There is a lot of bowing – this is either an act of reverence or an act of fear.  To really get a feel of what is going on, let’s read what Jacob says.  He calls Esau “my lord” (v.8, 13, 14, 15), four times in a matter of less than 10 verses.  So we have four ‘my lords’ and ten ‘bows’ and one more flattery which says that his brother’s face is like seeing the face of God (v.10).  What blasphemy!!!  Indeed, Jacob had seen the living God face to face as to honour Him by calling the place of struggle Peniel (“the face of God”) – but to immediately call Esau his lord, and to say that he looks like God?!   We now know the bowing, the ‘my lords’, and the other flatteries were no result of genuine compassion.  Rather, they are words of flattery which do not build up the body, and work from Jacob’s scheming heart again!

That’s not the end of it.  Esau offers to go with Jacob and his party to Seir, the country of Edom (Genesis 32:3).  But Jacob lies to Esau – firstly he says that his children are frail, that the nursing flocks and herds are a care to him (v.13); then he says that there is no need for Esau’s men to stay behind (v. 15).  Now that Esau and his party has gone, Jacob is free to do as he wishes, and decided to journey to Succoth (v. 17), building himself a house and made booths for his livestock.  This clearly isn’t merely a place of rest – it is a place where he will be for at least quite a while.  Jacob is, yet again, avoiding Esau; and he, yet again, fails to trust in the LORD who proclaimed that Esau shall serve Jacob (Genesis 27:40).  What Jacob could have done, is tell Esau to join him, instead of having Esau tell Jacob to go to Edom!  But Jacob, the man-fearer, fails to remind Esau of the promised land Canaan.  He lets Esau go, and instead goes back to Canaan without having his brother serving him by his side in Canaan.

Jacob finally rests at Shechem, the same place that Abraham had passed through in Genesis 12:6.  Is the prophecy going to be fulfilled yet?  No – again, Jacob remembers what Abraham may have said to his descendants about God’s prophecy in Genesis 15:13.  The four hundred years between the book of Genesis and Exodus has yet to occur.  Although Jacob worships God by erecting an altar in Canaan and calling it El-Elohe-Israel (“God, the God of Israel”) – he had failed to convince his brother.  Rather, he folded in and failed to rule and guide his brother to Canaan.

2.  Dinah defiled and revenge enacted (Gen. 34)

This theme is carried across again in this chapter – the theme of Jacob the man-fearer.  This time though, the ‘fear’ has passed down to his son.  The chapter is horrific – it tells of the story of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, being raped by Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, who was the prince of the land.  He may have truly loved her – but his expression was also truly confused.

Jacob had heard about the rape already, possibly through Hamor, but kept his peace about the whole situation until his sons returned.  Hamor is sincere about the marriage – “the soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter.  Please give her to him to be his wife.  Make marriages with us” (Genesis 34:8-9).  Perhaps Jacob kept his peace, knowing that his children would be furious about this event.  Indeed – Israelites and Canaanites must not bond, for it will compromise the gospel message of Christ marrying the Christian Church.  But something heretical is offered here – Hamor is asking Israel to join to Canaan.  Surely there is something odd – isn’t it meant to be Canaan joining Israel, if Israel is the chosen nation to preach the good news of Jesus Christ?!

This is materialised in the abuse of the holy sacrament of circumcision (Genesis 17:12-13) which was also for foreigners.  Why?  So that the foreigners are also marked with this trust in Christ Jesus, that the blessings from the Father are given through the mediatorial offering of Christ’s blood and the water of the Spirit.  So the circumcision, the mark of pain, the mark of cutting of Christ’s flesh, would remind them of their faith.  But no – this sacrament is completely turned on its head; rather, it is now manipulated as a part of a deceitful plan, whereby the Canaanites don’t even have faith in Christ.  Rather, the circumcision is made so that Israel will dwell with the Canaanites, rather than vice versa!  The circumcision is negated of its meaning, but turned completely into a ‘business’ transaction!  How horrifying!  And such is the case of the abuse of infant baptism today; the refusal of people joining “Catholic” or “Christian” schools if the infant is not already baptised, or even special privileges following the completion of certain sacraments.  No – these sacraments have always been about God’s faithfulness to us (Romans 3), and nothing less!  We are set apart for Christ, not set apart for a holy club, or even any club!

And this is the mark of the man-fearer — even though Simeon and Levi did not ‘appear’ to fear man, they became hypocrites.  In return, they killed all the males, and stole their flocks, herds, donkeys, wealth, little ones, wives… what tragedy!  And yet, this is the chosen nation through which God will proclaim Christ.  Yes, as Karl Barth rightly put – the very evidence of God lies in the very existence of Israel to this day.  How can such a nation, with such a horrible track record, be chosen by God?  Naturally, we come to the conclusion that it isn’t down to the nation’s credentials; but it is down to their God’s credentials.

Love thy neighbour and thy enemy… but they could not even do that.  Simeon and Levi seemed not to even repent of what they did (Genesis 34:31).

3.  Jacob renamed… again – the drink offering and the oil (Gen. 35:1-15)

“Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.  Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau”.  Again, we see the Father speaking of Jesus as “the God who appeared” to Jacob.  God protects the sons of Jacob during this period by striking terror on the cities around them (v.5) – such is the provision of God!  Jacob is probably unaware of it, though he may have wondered why his journey through Canaan was peaceful, despite the vengeful massacre Genesis 34.

Interestingly, prior to God re-iterating the blessing he made to Abraham and Isaac (v.11-12), he renamed Jacob as Israel again.  The name, from he who cheats to God strives.  From struggling against God to clinging onto God’s righteousness.  Jacob responds favourably with a drink offering on a pillar of stone and poured oil over it, in prophecy to Isaiah 53:12, our LORD Christ who poured out his life unto death, so that we can be gifted with new names which speak of Christ as well (Revelation 2:17).  And the oil is a representation of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  We have, in these short verses from 9-15 the appearance of Christ (v.9), and his work expressed (v.14) on the Pillar of Stone, in Bethel, “the House of God”.  Jacob had all this head knowledge, but he still failed to obey and trust in the LORD entirely.

4.  The Pillar of Rachel (Genesis 35:16-29)

Rachel’s death definitely worths a mention – it is quite a sad account.  She dies from giving birth to Benjamin, the final and 12th son of Israel.  And she dies on the way, from the House of God (Bethel) to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ:

2[a](A) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of(B) Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be(C) ruler in Israel,
(D) whose coming forth is(E) from of old,
from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

There is again a re-establishment, after Benjamin’s birth, of the 12 tribes of Israel.  Now the 12 tribes of Israel are complete and all born – and they are now the object of the next part and section of Genesis.  The previous generation has gone, and Abraham and Isaac have yet to physically see their descendants inheriting the true Promised Land.  Jesus had re-established the blessing he had made to Abraham and Isaac, now to Jacob (renamed as Israel).  Israel, the nation and people for whom God fights and strives, now has 12 tribes.  The 12 tribes who will usher the world, as the spiritual forefathers of all those in Christ, ushering the age of the Gentiles and Jews shown by the ruler to be born in the little town of Bethlehem Ephrathah — this ruler whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.  Isaac had striven for his church, Rachel – and the 7 years had felt only like a few days to him.  Now Rachel has passed away – his church has fall asleep; but the 12 tribes live on – and it all culminates on the path to Bethlehem.  The Pillar of Rachel, the Pillar of the physically dying Church, looks forward to the path set on the O Little Town of Bethlehem – and meanwhile, the last act before her falling asleep is an act of giving new life, as the church should be continually doing.

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15

These 12 tribes were the original 12 apostles, and the Pillar of Rachel, the only “pillar” built for a person, as opposed to being built for God, is a testimony to the work that will be done in Bethlehem and which the 12 tribes are striving towards in long expectation – and the fulfillment of the prophecy is spoken of the death of Rachel’s children at the hands of Herod in Ramah (in Arabia according to Justin Martyr in his dialogue with Trypho chapter LXXVIII):

15Thus says the LORD:(AL) “A voice is heard in(AM) Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
(AN) Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
(AO) because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

Genesis 33-35: Jacob – man-fearer

Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

3.  Jacob’s dream: the stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

Here is a picture of an old Isaac with dim eyes.  God’s blessing on Jacob had been pronounced in Genesis 25:23; but it appears that this promise has been ignored by Isaac and Esau.  Isaac would rather rely on his own works to please Jacob.  He would cheat his way back into the birthright which he had despised by resorting to the one thing he knows – that is, to hunt game for Isaac.  Where is God in this picture?  No-where – though Jacob be a Schemer, at least he values the birthright.  Here, we see two people joining together to disobey God’s plan which had been announced two chapters ago.

Which is why Rebekah is especially quick to act when she hears Isaac and Esau speaking to one another.  What is Rebekah’s solution?  Take the place of Esau, by pretending to be Esau!

But there is something very apparent.  Jacob is a smooth man!  And Esau is hairy!  Such an important physical difference, let alone difference in personality should be enough to distant his father from his son.  Jacob is fearful of this, and wishes to stay away: “Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing”.

Indeed, such is the same fear when we present ourselves to our heavenly Father when he expects something but we present something entirely unacceptable.  Instead, Jacob is advised to wear the goat skin to be in the place of Esau.  And who is to receive the curse?  Rebekah.  Who appeased the father’s wrath?  Rebekah, essentially.  Yet, who does Isaac look favourably on?  Jacob, in the place of Esau.  Not only goat skin, but also Esau’s best garments.

Then, let’s look at the blessing:

“See,(B) the smell of my son
is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!
28May God give you of(C) the dew of heaven
and of the fatness of the earth
and(D) plenty of grain and wine.
29Let peoples serve you,
and nations(E) bow down to you.
(F) Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
(G) Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

But let’s look at the blessing in detail.  Can this be a blessing strictly for Jacob the person?  No.  “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.” – within his lifetime, at most, only one nation bowed down to Jacob and his immediate descendants, that being the Egyptians when Joseph had aided the Pharoah.  But that is far from saying nation”s”… Secondly, Jacob has no other brother beside Jacob.  But the refrain in v. 29 is “Be lord over your brother”s”… and may your mother’s son”s” bow down to you”.

If anything, there is something interesting at play here – it is an entirely prophetic blessing, peering into the future of the nation Israel, the name of which means “God fights”.  If anything, this blessing seems to work… only in the context of Jesus Christ.  So what does Isaac mean in v. 37, when he says he made Jacob lord over Esau, and “all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him”?

Let me work on the typologies first lest I be misunderstood:

1.  Isaac = the Father

2.  Jacob = a son (note… not the son)

3.  Rebekah = Mediator, though she proclaims that the curse be on her, she was never actually cursed.

4.  Esau = a potential son… though not from the chosen race, he was given an option to serve.

5.  Goat skin = Christ

For point 4, Isaac told Esau (v. 40) that “By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow resltess you shall break his yoke from your neck”. Thus, he is given an option to serve Jacob… but he refused.  If he had listened, then like Jacob, Esau could have become part of the covenant people; like Japheth the brother of Shem (representing the Gentiles), taking cover under Shem the covenant people.

So here, the Father loves Jacob, one of his sons clothed in animal skin and blesses him and his kingdom in Christ.  Esau came with the wrong dress (Matthew 22), and though he smelt like Esau, and provided game like Esau… Isaac still said: “Who are you?” (v. 32).  And in the same way, even though we cry Lord Lord, He will still tell us go to away… replying “I never knew you” (Matthew 7).

The animal skin points to Christ himself… and yet Rebekah plays the role of the Mediator.  The curse never actually falls on her – and I think this is significant.  This most likely points to the aspect of the mediatorial role offered by people like Job… and by people like Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel with their respective intercessory prayers (Exodus 9, Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9).  Does this make Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel a representation of Christ?  Merely a type… but the true curse doesn’t fall on them.  They merely imitate the true Mediator, the true Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Rebekah intercedes for Jacob… but the one truly interceding is the goat skin which witnesses to Christ.

What think you?

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him finally, accepting God’s chosen one.  He finally gives him the same advice that Abraham gave him – to note marry a Canaanite women.  Rather, he tells Jacob to go back to the house where Rebekah was found – to take a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, his uncle (Rebekah’s brother).  Thus, Jacob goes to Paddan-aram. We’ve already established the significance of physically marrying someone from the same race – that it represents spiritual wholeness, like a Christian should marry a Christian out of obedience to display the picture of Christ marrying a Christian church, rather than Christ marrying a non-Christian.

But then Esau overhears the instructions given to Isaac, and attempts to imitate Isaac.  So Esau, after his marriage to the two Hittites, decides to marry another wife!  He completely misunderstands the instruction!  He just wants to appear like Jacob now.  Such is the problem of many “Christians” today.  They sing with their hands clapping, they lift their eyes to the ceiling as they sing, they jump up and down, or they bow down low… all of these are just external actions.  But their heart is not cured.  Their actions are misrepresented, while they compromise the other aspects of their life.  Esau still missed the point… and still refuses to serve Jacob.  Rather, he still wants to replace Jacob, given his actions in attempting still to please his father.

3.  Jacob’s dream:  The stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

Now we come to what Jesus was speaking of in John 1:51.  Here’s the verse 48-51 to refresh your memory:

48Nathanael said to him, “How(A) do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered him,(B) “Rabbi,(C) you are the Son of God! You are the(D) King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[a] you will see(E) heaven opened, and(F) the angels of God ascending and descending on(G) the Son of Man.” (John 1:48-51)

And here in v.12-13

12And he(A) dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder[a] set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold,(B) the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold,(C) the LORD stood above it[b] and said,(D) “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.(E) The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.

Who is the LORD?  Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus in the book of John testifies to the Christophany of himself in Genesis 28:13.  But he doesn’t spend a long time explaining it.  He expects Nathanael to understand it.  So here, we see Jacob putting his head on the rock of oath, of Beersheba which Isaac had established with Abimelech.  And on this rock of oath does Jacob, just like Nathaneal, see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” – Christ himself.

Then, we see Jacob wake up in delirium, setting up a pillar and pouring oil on top of it, calling the place Bethel (house of God), though the city was named Luz.  Luz, being a Canaanite name, renamed as Bethel.  This re-confirms that “God is with him and will keep him in this way” (v.20).  Does Jacob really think that Bethel is the house of God?  No – he just made the point that God is with him.  Yet, this is a reminder, an establishment which he raised as a place of worship, an altar placed on the rock of oath.  This rock which shall be set up as a pillar.  A place where the worship takes the form of giving a full tenth back to the Angel of the LORD, reminiscent of Genesis 14:20 when Abraham gave a full tenth back to Melchizedek, establishing the connection between the Angel and Melchizedek.

However, we must distinguish something important.  Jacob is still Jacob – and has not been renamed Israel yet.  He is still the one who cheats – and here, he is offering God a conditional obedience in v.20-22.  He is not quite ready to be rid of his ways.  He is still trying to control the situation, and still, to many an extent, trying to control/manipulate his own obedience to God.

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

Jacob kissing Rachel.  Laban kissing Jacob.  I think we can guess that this kissing is quite innocent.  Probably more along the lines of 1 Thessalonians 5:26.  Laban’s proclamation in v. 14 – “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” is a repeat of Adam’s statement to Eve – it is a statement of oneness, a statement that we are of one flesh within the same church, the body of Christ. Such is the joy when we meet Christians whom we barely know, if at all – the hospitality of knowing that someone is striving in the race of faith as you are, whose founder of faith is the Spirit himself.

Something theologically profound in Chapter 29v.20 – “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her”.  Amazing.  7 years is not exactly a short time – but, just as the Trinity is awaiting the day that we marry into Christ; just as creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).  But because Christ loves us, and strives for his Bride, the 7 years, let alone 7000 years are just like a few days. 2 Peter 3:8-13:

8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and(N) a thousand years as one day. 9(O) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise(P) as some count slowness, but(Q) is patient toward you,[a](R) not wishing that any should perish, but(S) that all should reach repentance. 10But(T) the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then(U) the heavens will pass away with a roar, and(V) the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,(W) what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12(X) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and(Y) the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for(Z) new heavens and a new earth(AA) in which righteousness dwells.

But Jacob has now met someone equally cunning – his uncle!  Firstly he gets Leah as the bride, then he has to work an extra seven years for Rachel, the true bride he had sought for.  However, even after Jacob’s struggle, the birth of children is still out of his hands.  The LORD continued with his unconditional promise by fulfilling the blessing which Isaac gave to Jacob, but through Leah, the neglected wife.  Through Leah is Jacob given 4 of the 12 tribes of the future nation of Israel – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.  Even this is out of his manipulative hands, and provides a leaping contrast between God’s faithfulness and unmoving promise; as opposed to Jacob and Laban’s trickeries and deceptions in order to struggle for what they both desire, even if it may not be pleasing to the LORD.

Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

Genesis 21-23: Isaac and Jesus

1.  Church Discipline:  Wilderness (Genesis 21:1-20)

2.  Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34)

3.  Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

4.  Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24)

5.  Sarah’s death and burial (Genesis 23:1-17)

1.  Church Discipline:  Wilderness (Genesis 21:1-20)

So we see the difference between the conception of Ishmael vs. the conception of Isaac.  The former is a representation of human effort; the latter the representation of the grace of God.  This is further substantiated by Ishmael, laughing in mockery (this being in the ESV footnote of v. 9 – the Hebrew word is “tsachaq” which literally means to laugh outright in scorn).

This is no mere mockery.  This is a threat to the very gospel itself.

If Ishmael, the ‘firstborn’ gained by human effort were to supersede Isaac, the true firstborn given as a gift, then we have essentially preached that effort trumps grace.  God expresses these sentiments in v.12 : “…’Be not displeased because of the boy (Ishmael) and because of your slave woman (Hagar).  Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

So what happens here is a primary example of church ostracism – either you are for the gospel, or against it.  Remember that this incident began because Ishmael laughed with mockery against Isaac.  This is much like the jealousy portrayed by Cain in Genesis 4 against Abel.  What resulted is murder and deceit.  Cain was banished to the east of Eden.  Here, Ishmael and his mother Hagar, are sent away and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

However, like Cain, Ishmael was not abandoned completely.  When Hagar cried out, God heard the voice of the boy and “the angel of God” (again, one of Christ’s titles) called to Hagar from heaven and said to her that the Father has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  She then saw the ‘living water’, despite being in the wilderness.  Here, we see the work of the Trinity again.  Firstly, someone calls to God (the Father), and the Father sends his presence, his face, the visible of the invisible – his Son, to be the mediator between him and the person who cried to the Father.

There is small hope yet for Ishmael.  God had been with Ishmael in his youth, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.  Some things to say about Ishmael, his character, and the wilderness of Paran.

(a)  Expert with the bow – perhaps this is prophetic of the warring nature of the Ishmaelites.  If it so be true of the Muslims, then it concords well with the Islamic militaristic and political nature of their evangelism.

(b)  Wilderness of Paran – this is most likely where the Israelites had wandered for 40 years between the Exodus and arrival at Canaan.  And how painful a time that was – a time of thirst.  But when they call on the LORD, they received manna and water from the rock.  It is no different for Ishmael. But it still calls into the question of his character, being a militaristic person who also married an Egyptian woman.

(c)  Wife from the land of Egypt – as already mentioned, if God is with Ishmael, then it is likely that the gospel has gone out to Egypt in some respect. But the problem is, like Lot, he had sojourned and mingled with foreign people.  Like Lot’s daughters who were supposedly engaged to the Sodomites, here we have Ishmael married to an Egyptian.  God may have been with Ishmael, like Cain – but the blessing is merely physical (e.g. like Cain’s descendants), but they may not revere God persistently over the subsequent generations for their physical blessings.

2.  Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34)

(a)  Seven ewe lambs – it is interesting that Abraham uses 7 lambs to represent the “witness” of the covenant.  Why seven lambs?  Even Abimelech does not know; but Abraham clearly does.  Job 42:8 and 2 Chronicles 29:21 displays the significance of the number 7.  Why seven?  Because it is the day of the Sabbath, the day of completion. 2 Chronicles 29:20-22:

20Then Hezekiah the king rose early and gathered the officials of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. 21And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats(A) for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD. 22So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood(B) and threw it against the altar. And they slaughtered the rams, and their blood was thrown against the altar. And they slaughtered the lambs, and their blood was thrown against the altar.

(b)  Beersheba – this location will pop up again and again throughout Genesis.  Especially Genesis 26, when we see that Isaac and Rebekah commit the same sin as Abraham and Sarah.  It is clear that the sins of the father has passed down to Isaac; but Abimelech remembered the covenant between Abraham and him.  The relationship between the future nation of Israel and the Philistines could have boded well; but we can see that by the time of the Judges, it could not have been worse.

(c)  Tamarisk tree – this type of tree pops up again in 1 Samuel 22:6 and 1 Samuel 31:13.  What is a tamarisk tree?  Here is a bit on the Tamarisk tree:

Tamarix can spread both vegetatively, by adventitious roots or submerged stems, and sexually, by seeds. Each flower can produce thousands of tiny (1 mm diameter) seeds that are contained in a small capsule usually adorned with a tuft of hair that aids in wind dispersal. Seeds can also be dispersed by water. Seedlings require extended periods of soil saturation for establishment. Tamarix species are fire-adapted, and have long tap roots that allow them to intercept deep water tables and exploit natural water resources. They are able to limit competition from other plants by taking up salt from deep ground water, accumulating it in their foliage, and from there depositing it in the surface soil where it builds up concentrations temporarily detrimental to some plants. The salt is washed away during heavy rains.

So what we have is a sturdy tree, built by a well.  The seed can spread over vast areas by wind dispersal, and water, and exploit the natural water resources.  This explains even more about the well.  We should expect that the Tamarisk tree planted there would later grow into more trees.

Any theology behind the seeds?  Surely so – Abraham had presented 7 ewe lambs; a well of water; and a seed-bearing plant.  Living Water, Living Lamb, Living Seed.

(d)  Philistines – coming from Casluhim (Genesis 10:13), a son of Ham.  As we have already established, all the sons of Ham have problems in the future.  But they could have taken part of the gospel truth; here, the Philistines understood the nature of Abraham’s God.  He is mighty, and He is with him.  Abimelech, much like the Pharoah in the time of Joseph, revered the same God.  But their descendants did not – and that is the prophetic curse when Ham had sinned against Noah.  However, this again displays the global nature of God – he is not only the God of Abraham, but this God of Abraham is also merciful towards Lot, Abimelech and Ishmael.

3.  Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

This is truly a striking story not merely of Abraham sacrificing his only son; but of the Father sacrificing his only Son on the cross.  Some things to note:

(a)  Moriah, third day, donkey, wood – Moriah is the region where the temple of Jerusalem would be built 100’s of years later and especially important – where Jesus is to be crucified!  (2 Chronicles 3:1).  Jesus was cruficied on the mount in Jerusalem, the same area of Moriah!

Then, it is on the third day that Isaac was to be sacrificed.

OK let’s recount the synoptic gospel story.  Jesus entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 on a donkey… this was seven days prior to his crucifixion on the wood in Moriah in Golgotha…

Far fetched?  Probably… not.  But why the differentiation between seven days and three days?  Let’s take a quick look.

Though in the gospel story, like the Passover lamb, Jesus enters Jerusalem 7 days before he is slaughtered, it is on the third day that he is resurrected.  Here, Abraham saw Moriah on the third day.  Day 3 is quite important as I’ve established in my Genesis 1, Day 3 post.  It is a representation of dry land, of hope, of new creation and of course of resurrection itself, after Day 2, with the waters of punishment.  Here, the slaughter of Isaac and his ‘resurrection’ per se happens immediately one after another.  This corresponds very much to Abraham’s quip to his men that he and Isaac would return.  Did he expect his men to wait there for “3 days”, as if Abraham would wait for Isaac to be resurrected on the third day?  No.  It is already the third day, and the resurrection would occur immediately.  Abraham already knew that Isaac, if he is to die that day, would be immediately resurrected.  Even better, Isaac wasn’t even sacrificed – because a ram was taken in his place.

(b)  The offering – one could say that the sacrifices so far in the book of Genesis has pointed towards this sacrifice.  The sacrifice of the only Son.  And so this is also a foundational chapter for all the law about sacrifice for the coming books.  How odd it is that God would test Abraham in such a way; why did he not test the subsequent Israelites similarly?  God is teaching us something about the offering here.  He is essentially saying that the lamb, the ram, the turtledove, the pigeon, the ox, the heifer… all those offerings pale in comparison to the true offering of one’s only Son.  However, it’s not about the ‘degree’ of sacrifice; rather, it’s about the very specific nature of the sacrifice.  It is not a self-sacrifice as God could have simply asked Abraham to sacrifice himself; it is a sacrifice of something EXTERNAL, but extremely dear to him.

So here, we have Jesus.. sorry, Isaac, bound to a piece of wood, undergoing the punishment of fire as symbolised in the burnt offering.  The interesting thing in God’s response is “you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me”.  What about Ishmael – isn’t he Abraham’s son as well?

This, again, is the gospel-driven focus that God views in sonship.  He is not speaking of mere physical heritage; he is speaking of spiritual heritage.  We are all sons of Abraham in a covenant sense.  But Ishmael had been outside of that covenant, because he laughed at Isaac.

(c)  The LORD will provide

Chapter 22v.5 is a big give-away.  “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”  Worship?!  And both will come again to his young men?  What is Abraham speaking of?  He is going there without the sacrificial animal when God had told him to take his only beloved son Isaac to offer as a burnt offering (Chapter 22v.2), and he describes this event as worshipful and he also expects to return to the men with his son?

This reveals Abraham’s mentality.  He had full assurance that God would either intervene or resurrect his son, having seen the miraculous conception of his son when he was already 100 years old (and Sarah 90 years old).  Then, unsurprisingly, we reach v. 12-13, when God tells Abraham to withhold the knife and God provides a ram.  But that is not the end of the offering.  Abraham knew that the ram merely symbolised the things to come – and this is revealed in the phrase “The LORD will provide” or in the ESV, “The LORD will see”.  The phrase then moves on in v. 14 to “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided” or “he will be seen”.  Abraham was still waiting for the True Lamb who will really take away the people’s sins; not by the testimonial witness of the blood of this ram.

4.  Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24)

Another prophetic fulfillment of God’s provision.  We may have heard a lot about Lot and his disastrous family.  But here, we have Nahor, whose descendant Rebekah will be the future wife of Isaac.  Things are going smoothly in God’s divine plan.

I’ve provided a table which may help you see the extensions of the descendants mentioned thus far from the line of Terah, the descendant of Shem, the son of Noah.

This is quite a family – besides Rebekah, comes Elihu the only person in the book of Job who really understands the truth; then there is Laban who knows of God, despite his household idols (Genesis 31:19).

5.  Sarah’s death and burial (Genesis 23:1-17)

Here we see business practices of the day; but more importantly, we see Abraham buying a cave, a tomb, for Sarah in a small plot of land in Canaan.  He understands the promises made to him earlier on in Genesis 12 and 15; and here again, he looks forward to the day when his descendants will inherit the physical Canaan.  The field of Ephron was in Machpelah, the east of Mamre.  This tomb will not be forgotten – in Genesis 49:29 – Genesis 50:5, we see that Jacob speaks of Abraham and Sarah’s burial place.  They want to be buried in Canaan, not Egypt.  Why?  Because Canaan was the prophesied promised land.  The place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, Jacob… and future saints of the old were buried.  Did they have confidence in the land itself?  Of course not… the land could not even hold the ‘multitude’ of nations promised to Abraham.  Rather, this land is symbolic, and Abraham knew that the stars in heaven and dust of the earth were the true spiritual numbers of the descendants in Christ.  Now, it is just a bit of property – it is a firstfruit.  It is a temporary inheritance; and much like the Holy Spirit who is in us now as an inheritance (Ephesians 1), and our faith in Christ the firstborn of creation and the firstfruit of those with new creation bodies, we are awaiting the true total inheritance of the new Jerusalem, the complete filling of the Spirit and the new bodies with new names!

Genesis 21-23: Isaac and Jesus