Book 3: Psalm 73 of 89 – In His Sanctuary

Psalm 73

73 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
    and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
    and find no fault in them.[a]
11 And they say, “How can God know?
    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
    always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
    and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
    and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
    I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
    O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
    when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
    I was like a beast toward you.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength[b] of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.


My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

These are not words which can be uttered overnight.  That is because the world around us is filled with lies that it can sustain itself outside of God.  After all, to justify its own existence, the world must continually preach the falsehood that it can build a city, a Tower of Babel, that can rival the heights of His throne (v.9).  To do that, it must present itself as beautiful; as desirable; as filled with abundance (vv.4, 7); as free from trouble (v.5); as growing in riches (v.12).

That is what the enemy does.  He tries to lure the world by attractive gems.  He is not so crude that he will just present these temptations in their naked form; he will present them as if they are goals, rewards, that we must work towards.  The religion of the world is that hard work will results in just deserts; and once we obtain them, we wear these achievements proudly, and arrogantly, as a badge of merit.  We exclude God’s intentions for our lives in these worldly pursuits.

Yet, the veil of the enemy’s lies can be torn in half, once we go before God Himself. Once we step into His sanctuary (v.17), and by the Spirit discern their end, we realize that the world has but covered itself in a skin of leaves, like Adam and Eve after the fall.  These achievements, these growing riches, the sleek fat bodies which they possess, are all emblematic of the skin of pathetic leaves to cover their own naked shame.  What is more, is that Godis the one who arranged it so; that these apparent blessings of the world are, in fact, the curse by which they are doomed to hell.  As Spurgeon eloquently put it:

Verse 17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God. His mind entered the eternity where God dwells as in a holy place, he left the things of sense for the things invisible, his heart gazed within the veil, he stood where the thrice holy God stands. Thus he shifted his point of view, and apparent disorder resolved itself into harmony. The motions of the planets appear most discordant from this world which is itself a planet; they appear as “progressive, retrograde, and standing still; “but could we fix our observatory in the sun, which is the centre of the system, we should perceive all the planets moving in perfect circle around the head of the great solar family. Then understood I their end. He had seen too little to be able to judge; a wider view changed his judgment; he saw with his mind’s enlightened eye the future of the wicked, and his soul was in debate no longer as to the happiness of their condition. No envy gnaws now at his heart, but a holy horror both of their impending doom, and of their present guilt, fills his soul. He recoils from being dealt with in the same manner as the proud sinners, whom just now he regarded with admiration.

Verse 18. The Psalmist’s sorrow had culminated, not in the fact that the ungodly prospered, but that God had arranged it so: had it happened by mere chance, he would have wondered, but could not have complained; but how the arranger of all things could so dispense his temporal favours, was the vexatious question. Here, to meet the case, he sees that the divine hand purposely placed these men in prosperous and eminent circumstances, not with the intent to bless them but the very reverse.Surely thou didst set them in slippery places. Their position was dangerous, and, therefore, God did not set his friends there but his foes alone. He chose, in infinite love, a rougher but safer standing for his own beloved. Thou castedst them down into destruction. The same hand which led them up to their Tarpeian rock, hurled them down from it. They were but elevated by judicial arrangement for the fuller execution of their doom. Eternal punishment will be all the more terrible in contrast with the former prosperity of those who are ripening for it. Taken as a whole, the case of the ungodly is horrible throughout; and their worldly joy instead of diminishing the horror, actually renders the effect the more awful, even as the vivid lightning amid the storm does not brighten but intensify the thick darkness which lowers around. The ascent to the fatal gallows of Haman was an essential ingredient in the terror of the sentence—”hang him thereon.” If the wicked had not been raised so high they could not have fallen so low.

Imagine an empty man, like Asaph, who admits openly that he has stumbled (v2); that he envies the prosperity of the wicked (v3); who feels that he has vainly kept his heart clean and washed his hands in innocence (v13); who is weary (v.16), then even more reason that he would want to fill up his cistern with the riches of the world.

Imagine then, the mind-blowing truth of the situation once Asaph has received the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit: that these blessings are designed by God to be a slippery path.  That God has given these people over to their sins; and the result is the apparent blessing; the result is like Haman, preparing his own gallows, as if for Mordecai, but only to find out that the gallows are for himself.  Like the enemy who thought that he is climbing a mountain to heights above God, who is actually struck down as quickly as lightning strikes the earth (Luke 10:18).

And so, the people of this world have committed two evils: they have forsaken God, the fountain of living water; and they have dug cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:12-13).  With eyes that see and ears that hear (Proverbs 20:12; Isaiah 6:10), as we go before God in His sanctuary, we begin to see with insight and discernment (vv.16-17) the end of the people of the world.  Those who reject and refuse God are set by Himin slippery places (v.18); Godis the one who makes them fall to ruin. In a moment, they are destroyed.

Can we adopt the same response as the psalmist?  Can we say to God, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength/rock of my heart and my portion forever”?  By remaining in God’s sanctuary, by being close to Him, by being in His presence, we see that our true end is to be received by Him to glory (v 24).  But those who are far away from Him shall perish, and God(not the enemy) is the one who puts an end to everyone who is unfaithful to Him (v.27).  The psalmist clarifies that the enemy can do nothing of his own accord; it is only through God’s permission that anything is done (c.f. Job 1:7).

How fitting it is for the third book of the Psalms to open with this chapter.  Indeed, the religion of the world, the works and rewards which people clothe themselves with, are exactly what God is guarding against in the book of Leviticus (i.e. being, in parallel, the third book of Moses in the Pentateuch).  Imagine the Pharisees, working hard to comply with every single law, and adorning their pride in their own abilities, like necklaces around their necks.

God would respond in very much the same way as He does with the people of the world: those who view the law as the means of their salvation are set by Him in slippery places, and they will fall to ruin.  It is those who recognize their own weaknesses, like Asaph, who go before God for wisdom.  It takes a humbled person, an envious person, a person who delights not in his own abilities and treasures, to step into God’s sanctuary, only to be clothed by God with beautiful animal skin instead of the pathetic leaves and scraps of this world.  Just like the Levites who carefully, but confidently, approaches God in the book of Leviticus; so also let us – the priests of the era after the Spirit was given to all – approach the throne of grace with similar confidence:

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Book 3: Psalm 73 of 89 – In His Sanctuary

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 Kings 8: the House of the LORD (pt. 3)

1(A) Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes,(B) the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem,(C) to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of(D) the city of David, which is Zion. 2And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at(E) the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. 3And all the elders of Israel came, and(F) the priests took up the ark. 4And they brought up the ark of the LORD,(G) the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 5And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark,(H) sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 6(I) Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD(J) to its place in(K) the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 7For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. 8(L) And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before(M) the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 9There was nothing in the ark except(N) the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where(O) the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10And when the priests came out of the Holy Place,(P) a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

After 2 chapters of describing the monumental significance of the Temple, the build-up inevitably leads to one very stark question – what is the LORD’s purpose for the Temple, and more importantly, where is the LORD in relation to the Temple?

This one question, uniting the LORD’s purpose and the LORD Himself to the Temple, is found firstly in Solomon’s worship of the LORD and the LORD’s response to Solomon’s worship.  We begin chapter 8 with Solomon assembling all the elders, heads and leaders to bring up the ark of covenant out of the city of David.  Of all the furniture in the Temple, the ark is the only item which is brought from the tabernacle to the Temple, whereas all the other items of the tabernacle are effectively replaced by the Temple.   It is important for us to see here that the ark is taken from the city of David, Zion, and brought to Jerusalem.  Although geographically different places, throughout the Word we learn that Zion and Jerusalem are identified as one and the same (soon thereafter Zion is the metonym for Israel and the Promised Land c.f. Psalm 147:12; Isaiah 2:3, 4:3-4, 24:23, Zechariah 8:3, 9:9 – though Jerusalem is the very name of the new city which we will inherit in new creation, c.f. Revelation 3:12; 21, whereas Zion is referred to as the Mount where the Lamb dwells (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1)).  It is significant for us to therefore recognize that the Temple is not built on Mount Zion, but rather is built on the very threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite where the LORD appeared to David and where the LORD will appear as prophesied by Abraham in Genesis 22 concerning Moriah in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1).

Furthermore, this inauguration of the Temple takes place in the month of Tishri (before the Babylonian captivity, called Ethanim here (v.2)), both names bearing the significance of “strength” and “beginning”, the Feast of Booths, Day of Atonement, creation and fall of Adam and Eve, the dove’s final mission to obtain the olive branch (Genesis 8), the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22); the provision of the second set of tablets  (on 10th Tishri) and finally the erecting of the tabernacle itself on the first day of this month (Exodus 40:2) tells us that the inauguration of the Temple bears the full weight of the events of this month.  The Temple is not only a “renewal” of the tabernacle (though no longer mobile, but steadily built into the ground of Moriah), but it is also the House of the LORD where both Feast and Atonement occurs, where the fall of Adam and Eve is undone, where new creation and firstfruit of the olive branch is truly witnessed (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), where the prophecy of Abraham is fulfilled, where the first set of Mosaic law shall be shattered and fulfilled in the second set’s focus on the eternal Promised Land:

“The 2 stone tablets on which the Ten Words rest, represent the dual witness to Christ Himself, the Rock, the basis of all the Law, who will be shattered for our sins that we may be spared, like the temple, His body will be renewed, made again. During that time Moses intercedes for the people and the glory of the Lord is revealed, all testifying to the works of oblation and intercession of Christ on the cross. Thus the 2nd giving of the Decalogue is differently quoted from the first: Deuteronomy 5:13-16 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. 16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. The Sabbath is refocused on the new land, the new creation instead of on the first creation, and now things will go ‘well’ in that land.” – Dev Menon in “Law and Gospel” essay

Thus, taking us in an upward spiral through to the Temple’s establishment.

However, unlike Exodus 35:20-29 where the Israelites’ have collectively contributed to the materials of the tabernacle, there is nothing of that sort here.  Instead, it is the two Hirams and the hired workers who contribute the material; even David’s gold and treasures had to be stored (in 2 Chronicles 5:1) as Solomon did not exhaust them in the building of the Temple.  Contrarily, the tabernacle was finished with a very immediate entry of the glory of the LORD filling the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38), though here we witness in v.5 a grand sacrifice, the very first thing which comes to the mind of these many men in their worship of God.  In their free-will offering, they offer up lambs and sheep without blemish, such innocent creatures, providing the propitiatory image to us of the Temple.  Innocent blood is spilled as the first human act prior to the instatement of the ark in the Temple from Mount Zion, just as Christ’s blood was spilled prior to the Father and the Lamb’s entry into New Jerusalem from the Holy Hill of Zion.

Thus, v.6-8 sees the mediatory nature of the cherubim between us and the ark – as if acting as a barrier or a protection between us and the item which represents the holy Father (c.f. 2 Samuel 6:8, Uzzah’s death), His sent ones often acting on behalf of the Father to speak with us.  And in the extension of the poles into the Holy Place but not visible from the outside, so we also peer into the secrets of new creation as Christians standing in the Holy Catholic Church, represented by the Holy Place; yet only the Son who now stands in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 8-9) is in the immediate and physical presence of the Father, compared to our present firstfruit yet dimness of the Father’s glory (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).

Finally, only once the ark has entered the Holy of Holies that the glory of the LORD, like a cloud, filled up the entire house (akin to Exodus 40, the establishment of the tabernacle).  Yet – it should be interesting to note the contrast between the author of Hebrews (chapter 9:4) and the author of 1 Kings.  It is specifically stated in v.9 that there is only the Mosaic tablets; yet what of the jar of manna and Aaron’s staff which the writer of Hebrews focuses on?  Some views on this matter:

But he says that the pot in which Moses had deposited the manna, and Aaron’s rod which had budded, were in the ark with the two tables; but this seems inconsistent with sacred history, which in 1 King s 8:9, relates that there was nothing in the ark but the two tables. But it is easy to reconcile these two passages: God had commanded the pot and Aaron’s rod to be laid up before the testimony; it is hence probable that they were deposited in the ark, together with the tables. But when the Temple was built, these things were arranged in a different order, and certain history relates it as a thing new that the ark had nothing else but the two tables.  – John Calvin

Though it may be due to the actual perspective and angle on viewing the items in and around the ark as John Calvin suggests (and depending on the time difference between what the writer of Hebrews understood to be in the ark and what was initially the case in 1 Kings 8), Matthew Henry visits the more spiritual reasoning behind these items:

This typified Christ, his perfect obedience to the law and his fulfilling of all righteousness for us. Now here we are told both what was in this ark and what was over it. [1.] What was in it. First, The golden pot that had manna, which, when preserved by the Israelites in their own houses, contrary to the command of God, presently putrefied; but now, being by God’s appointment deposited here in this house, was kept from putrefaction, always pure and sweet; and this to teach us that it is only in Christ that our persons, our graces, our performances are kept pure. It was also a type of the bread of life we have in Christ, the true ambrosia that gives immortality. This was also a memorial of God’s miraculously feeding his people in the wilderness, that they might never forget such signal favour, nor distrust God for the time to come. Secondly, Aaron’s rod that budded, and thereby showed that God had chosen him of the tribe of Levi to minister before him of all the tribes of Israel, and so an end was put to the murmuring of the people, and to their attempt to invade the priest’s office, Num. xvii. This was that rod of God with which Moses and Aaron wrought such wonders; and this was a type of Christ, who is styled the man, the branch (Zech. vi. 12), by whom God has wrought wonders for the spiritual deliverance, defence, and supply of his people, and for the destruction of their enemies. It was a type of divine justice, by which Christ the Rock was smitten, and from whom the cool refreshing waters of life flow into our souls. Thirdly, The tables of the covenant, in which the moral law was written, signifying the regard God has to the preservation of his holy law, and the care we all ought to have that we keep the law of God–that this we can only do in and through Christ, by strength from him nor can our obedience by accepted but through him. [2.] What was over the ark ( 5): Over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat. First, The mercy-seat, which was the covering of the ark; it was called the propitiatory, and it was of pure gold, as long and as broad as the ark in which the tables of the law were laid. It was an eminent type of Christ, and of his perfect righteousness, ever adequate to the dimensions of the law of God, and covering all our transgressions, interposing between the Shechinah, or symbol of God’s presence, and our sinful failures, and covering them. Secondly, The cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat, representing the holy angels of God, who take pleasure in looking into the great work of our redemption by Christ, and are ready to perform every good office, under the Redeemer, for those who are the heirs of salvation. The angels attended Christ at his birth, in his temptation, under his agonies, at his resurrection, and in his ascension, and will attend his second coming. God manifest in the flesh was seen, observed, visited, by the angels.  – Matthew Henry

Yet, what I find fascinating is that all three items, the branch of Aaron (Numbers 17), the manna (Exodus 16), and the two tablets (Exodus 32-34) renewed are all sources of Israel’s shame, rather than Israel’s pride.  Their rebellion against God in all three circumstances remind us of the Father’s judgment; and rightly the three items represent three key events in Israel’s history, prior to their entry into the Promised Land and securing Moriah for Christ’s fulfillment, which prophesy the stripping down of Israel to her knees in anticipation of the Messiah who is the firstfruit, the bread of life, and the fulfillment of the New Covenant.  It is unimportant at what stage the Hebrews writer saw the three items in the Temple, whether it is in the construction of the Temple in 1 Kings 8, or whether some period further on – the key unshakeable understanding here is the sin of Israel cast within and under the very mercy seat of the ark of covenant, highlighting the Father’s mercy towards Israel, but not without the blood of sacrifice first.

Hence v.10-11 remind us that the cloud of the LORD is used as a veil and a protective covering (Psalm 105:38), just like the pillar of fire by night.  Yet, both rain of clouds and fire of the pillar are emblems of the first Noahic judgment and the coming global judgment of the world.  It is in this joint imagery of Temple establishment and impressive but bloody sacrificial offering of the innocent; mercy seat and Israel’s shame; and finally the cloud of the LORD (c.f. 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalm 18:11; compared against the pillar of fire) that we see a grander picture of the seemingly paradoxical ways of the LORD in uniting these dichotomies together under the name of Christ.

12(Q) Then Solomon said, “The LORD[a] has said that he would dwell(R) in thick darkness. 13(S) I have indeed built you an exalted house,(T) a place for you to dwell in forever.” 14Then the king turned around and(U) blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15And he said,(V) “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled(W) what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 16(X) ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house,(Y) that my name might be there.(Z) But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17(AA) Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 18But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19(AB) Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel,(AC) as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 21And there I have provided a place for the ark,(AD) in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

It is also interesting to witness Solomon’s thinking here – does he really believe that the LORD who dwells in such dread-inducing, awesome but fearful thick darkness (Isaiah 8:22; 60:2; Zephaniah 1:15) will truly dwell in this man-made house?  Of course not (see v.27).  It is entirely the mercy of the LORD’s and the outward pouring love between the Father and the Son (John 17) that the Father comes to dwell with us after the Son’s first humiliation.  Yet in the day that the Father dwells with us, He shall no longer be the very same darkness which plagued the land in Christ’s death (Acts 2:20); rather, He shall be the everlasting light (Revelation 22:5).  Even the very Hebrew phrasing of v.20 here, “Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made” is better fitted if we were faithful to the verb quwm (יקם) which suggests that the LORD is arising / accomplishing this very promise that he made, but it is not necessarily already complete or fulfilled as the ESV indicates.

22Then Solomon(AE) stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and(AF) spread out his hands toward heaven, 23and said, “O LORD, God of Israel,(AG) there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath,(AH) keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him.(AI) You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying,(AJ) ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26(AK) Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

What we then see is a picture of humility, the bookends of this doctrinal prayer and plea beginning in v.22 and ending in v.54, the transition from Solomon standing before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, with hands widespread toward heaven, to kneeling with hands outstretched toward heaven.  Here is the mark of the man who begs for the LORD’s acceptance of the Temple – a man who seeks the LORD’s mercy and His Presence to grace the Temple, for the Temple is nothing without His Presence.  Like Moses whose arms and hands were spread during battle (Exodus 17:9-13), so also Solomon’s plea is one of weakness in the shape of Christ on the cross, arms widespread and entirely vulnerable to the Father’s will (and man’s abuse):

“For it was not without design that the prophet Moses, when Hur and Aaron upheld his hands, remained in this form until evening. For indeed the Lord remained upon the tree almost until evening, and they buried Him at eventide; then on the third day He rose again. This was declared by David thus: ‘With my voice I cried to the Lord, and He heard me out of His holy hill. I laid me down, and slept; I awaked, for the Lord sustained me.’ (Psalm 3:4-5) And Isaiah likewise mentions concerning Him the manner in which He would die, thus: ‘I have spread out My hands unto a people disobedient, and gainsaying, that walk in a way which is not good.’(Isa. lxv. 2; comp. also Rom. x. 21.) And that He would rise again, Isaiah himself said: ‘His burial has been taken away from the midst, and I will give the rich for His death.’ (Isa. liii. 9.) And again, in other words, David in the twenty-first (That is, Ps. xxii. 16–18.) Psalm thus refers to the suffering and to the cross in a parable of mystery: ‘They pierced my hands and my feet; they counted all my bones. They considered and gazed on me; they parted my garments among themselves, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ For when they crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands248 and feet; and those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each casting lots for what he chose to have, and receiving according to the decision of the lot. And this very Psalm you maintain does not refer to Christ; for you are in all respects blind, and do not understand that no one in your nation who has been called King or Christ has ever had his hands or feet pierced while alive, or has died in this mysterious fashion—to wit, by the cross—save this Jesus alone.” – Justin Martyr in “Dialogue with Trypho”, Chapter XCVII.—Other predictions of the cross of Christ.

Solomon rightly states that there is only one LORD in heaven and on earth who keeps covenants – all other “gods” are lifeless, and dead, non-responsive and unable to fulfill promises, testament to Elijah’s battle with the false prophets (1 Kings 18:36-39).  Such is the LORD who fulfills promises, the LORD of David (v.25-26), the second king of Israel who never saw the Temple built, just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked forward to the day of the Messiah’s work on the cross, seeing it by the Spirit but long after they have fallen asleep (John 8:56).  What is Solomon’s mentality when the LORD promised David these things?  On what basis did David “pay close attention to his way” when walking before the LORD as an example to the later kings?  Surely this murderer of Uriah, adulterer with Bathsheba, passive contributor to the abuse of Tamar, among several other chronicled sins of his life marks him as perhaps even worse than Saul whose greatest sin seems to have been the unfounded persecution of David?

Yet, it is not David’s own righteousness which Solomon understands.  It is the LORD’s righteousness which David inherits; for David did not cease his pursuit of the LORD in spite of his life marred with sin.  David need only walk with the LORD, walking in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham (Romans 4:12), walking according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16, 25), walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), walking in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2), walking in Christ (Colossians 2:6), in the light (1 John 1:7).  David had walked in Christ, experienced the mercy of Christ the Angel at the field of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:16), the second LORD of David’s worship (Psalm 110), the Son who should not be denied (Psalm 2) – this is the way in which David walked.  So, too, will we be fellow heirs of the Father’s kingdom if we walk in Christ.

27“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold,(AL) heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29(AM) that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said,(AN) ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

And what we find in v.27-30 is also very profound.  Despite the Pharisees take on the Temple, Solomon, the builder of the Temple himself acknowledged that the man-made Temple cannot possibly contain God!  “But will God indeed dwell on earth?”, Solomon proclaimed (v.27)!  Yet, note his please in v.28-30 – this is a plea of mercy, a place of worship, a place where His name, Christ, will be there (Acts 19:17).  So also this dwelling is prophesied in Ezekiel 37:27, finally fulfilled in new creation (Revelation 21:3) where the LORD’s true dwelling place is with man and not simply to remain in third heaven.  So also, the LORD is man’s dwelling place (Psalm 91:9), the beauty of this mutual indwelling phrased by Paul in Ephesians 2:19-21, where the whole structure of the church is joined together, growing into a holy temple of the LORD; and in Him, we are built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.  Thus, in these times of end days we are growing into that eschatological Temple, the new creation dwelling where both God and man shall dwell forever.  And His Name shall be there – Christ shall be there, through Whom we experience the Spirit and the Father in fullness.

Upon noting Solomon and the saints’ Christological take of the true meaning of “God’s dwelling”, the portion of the plea and prayer in v.31-53 outlines Solomon’s thinking based on his theology of God’s merciful dwelling in relation to this symbolic house:

Summary Verses
“swears oath before your altar in this house… hear in heaven… and act and judge and condemn and vindicate and reward” 31-32
“turn to your name, pray and plead with you in this house… hear in heaven… and forgive and bring them to the land that you gave” 33-34
“pray toward this place… hear in heaven… and forgive, and teach, and grant rain upon your land which you have given to your people as an inheritance” 35-36
“plea…stretching out his hands toward this house… hear in heaven your dwelling place… and forgive, and act, and render, in the land that you gave 37-40
“pray towards this house… hear in heaven your dwelling place… and do so all may know your name” 41-43
“pray toward the city that you have chosen/house built for your name…” then  “hear in heaven…and maintain their cause” 44-45
“pray toward their land which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, the house that I have built…” 46-48
Then “hear in heaven your dwelling place… maintain their cause… forgive… grant them compassion… (they are your people, your heritage, from the midst of the iron furnace)… open your eyes, give your ears… you separated them when you brought out fathers out of Egypt” 49-53

A quick summary provides us with such important details which build upon each other – the first few statements which reveal that the Israelites are now to swear bear the altar of the house, turning to His name and praying in the house, praying toward the house, praying toward the city where the house is built, praying toward the land – all in the name of the Saviour of Israel during the great exodus.  As Solomon zooms out from the altar (v.31-32) to the land  (v.48), we begin to see that this house is symbolic of the salvation of Israel, of the elected church in the Elect Christ, so powerfully demonstrated by the Angel’s guidance out of Egypt through the pillar of cloud and fire.  For such salvation extends from personal and intimate, to the congregate (c.f. Joshua 7 – sin of Achan), and it is through this house as a medium that the LORD hears, even in the midst of the iron furnace of the refiner’s fire (Revelation 3:18).

One wonders – why must it be done through this Temple?  For Christ is the true Temple (John 2:19), in Whom we dwell and through Whom the mutual indwelling of the Trinity and us could be finally effectuated.  Yet, in the day of Christ, the Temple has lost its significance.  Rather than a house of invitation, it became a house of rejection; rather than a house of the priesthood of nation of nations, it became a house of isolation.  Solomon prayed over the house, that the LORD may mercifully use it as a typological medium between Him and man; yet Solomon, like the Christian saints before him, knew that the true medium, or better yet, Mediator, is the Anointed and Appointed Son and Lamb who will help build the new kingdom (2 Samuel 7) and take our sins away (Genesis 22) like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).

54(BN) Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had(BO) knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55And he stood and(BP) blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56“Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised.(BQ) Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers.(BR) May he not leave us or forsake us, 58that he may(BS) incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60that(BT) all the peoples of the earth may know that(BU) the LORD is God; there is no other. 61(BV) Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

And what confidence Solomon has, in the LORD whose promises have never failed (v.56) spoken by Moses his servant; the LORD who inclines our hearts to him (v.58), He who renews us to life beyond our own volition for we are but living corpses (Ezekiel 37).  This is the House of the LORD, the House through which (and as a type of the “through Whom”) all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God, [that] there is no other (v.60)!

62(BW) Then(BX) the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD. 63Solomon offered as peace offerings to the LORD 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. 64The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because(BY) the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to receive the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings.

This chapter thus ends beautifully with v.62-66 – by the peace offering (or better described as the fellowship offering as per the NIV translation of Leviticus 3):

“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…

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.” – from my commentary on Leviticus 3.

This is but the description of the fulsome peace/fellowship offering; not to mention the consecration of the area in the court, beyond that of the altar, for more burnt and grain offering!  So beautiful is the typology of the Temple and Solomon’s understanding of the Temple’s symbolic use that he does not stick to hard religion and understands that all ground can be holy, for the purpose of heart-felt sacrifice which no man-made altar could contain; such is the overflowing mutual love which Christ had hoped from His church (John 17:26), and now we see one of the rarer occasions where this is fulfilled in the Old Testament.  And to emphasise this as as an offering of fellowship rather than merely that of peace, note v.65 onwards:

65So Solomon held(BZ) the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from(CA) Lebo-hamath to(CB) the Brook of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days.[c] 66On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.

Can one imagine how glorious this image is, that of the holy golden Temple and House of the LORD taking the central typological stage where the church of Christ stands in relation to this House – a great assembly (להָקָ qel), the Hebrew word for the Greek equivalent of church in the NT (a great ekklesia,εκκλησια μεγαλη” c.f. LXX translation of 1 Kings 8:65), a full seven on seven days of worship (c.f. LXX which has two weeks, as opposed to one week, of celebration) of the feast of tabernacles, and rejoicing looking to the eighth day of true renewal after the seventh day of Sabbath:

“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 first2061 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.” – Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho”, Chapter XLI.—The oblation of fine flour was a figure of the Eucharist.

In the words of Matthew Henry whereby “Solomon was herein a type of Christ, the great intercessor for all over whom he rules”, both him and Adam Clarke agree in the LXX interpretation of these final verses, that there is a feast lasting fourteen days (v.65) of the feast of tabernacles after the feast of dedication.  What beauty it is to see this joyful feast in relation to the Temple’s replacement of the tabernacle, both after the model of God’s design, both typifying Christ’s work from the Holy Place entering the Holy of Holies, as we await His glorious return from before the veil and the doors separating between us and the Father, finally and truly ripping this veil apart where we will see the Father face-to-face, and have true fellowship with the Trinity.

1 Kings 8: the House of the LORD (pt. 3)

2 Samuel 12: David as the two doves

Just as the truth of the fall and the history of mankind are recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis, the story of David’s fall is emblematic of the same truth in the form of actual adultery as well as spiritual adultery.  Chapter 11 saw the opening scene of David’s ‘first’ recorded sin in his biography, and chapter 12 continues in the same vein as we see the effect of sin not just in any man, but in the head of the anointed nation just as Adam was head of the race of man.  It is by looking at Adam and David that we learn to understand sin in light of Christ’s obedience to His Father, and the implications when the head has succumbed to the body, a reversal of the mystery of man and wife in Ephesians 5:22-33.

So Nathan is sent by the LORD to share the parable of the rich man who had very many flocks and herds, but would rather sacrifice a poor man’s ewe to provide for the travelling man, for the guest (v.1-4).  The message here is not simply that of exploiting the poor man’s lamb; it is both the exploitation of the poor man’s only possession, as well as the fact that they are both from the same certain city (v.1).  To the Israelite’s theocratic thinking (c.f. refuge cities in Numbers 35, jubilee in Leviticus 25), it is an offence to civilian equity to even see the rich man steal from the poor man, let alone the fact that this rich man and the poor man are one before the LORD (Galatians 3:28).  It is not as if the rich man is the lord of the poor man; it is not as if the rich man is even the king of the rich man.  The crux of the message therefore lies in the overlaying of these nuances.

What surprise it is for us to see that David would justify himself as the judge of the entire situation!  Was he not the poor man once, who was persecuted throughout a portion of his life (1 Samuel 20)?  What irony that he still speaks on behalf of the poor man when he has in fact switched places and has become the rich man who has committed theft and murder of the poor man’s daughter (v.3)!

And who is the poor man instead?  Uriah, the obedient servant who is poor in comparison to the rich king David.  Look at the LORD’s proclamation of David’s wealth provided by the LORD in v.7-9 – David was delivered consistently; he was anointed as king over Israel; he was given Saul’s house, given Saul’s wives, given the house of Israel and Judah – as if this were insufficient, the LORD continues, “I would add to you as much more”! (v.8) Do these words not echo the same words spoken to man (Matthew 6:30), to Adam?  Adam was given the kingdom of heaven and earth to rule over it!  He was made in the image of God!  He was taken from the dust outside of the Garden (Genesis 2:7) and was gracefully given all the riches of the house of Eden, all the trees, all the fruit, all kingship over the creatures and even his counter-part, the wo-man.  What would drive him to desire the one thing, the fruit of the tree of good and evil?

Yet, this is the mystery of sin – the shock and awe of understanding that sin is not something natural to us.  It should not be natural to us – because we are given all these riches, the entire kingdom of God for us to inherit.  This is the important paradigm shift we need to receive, that the world is not our oyster, because it pales so significantly to the riches provided through Christ Jesus.  Do you feel the temptation to undress a woman adulterously in your mind?  Do you feel the tug of materialistic pleasures when you walk by High Street?  Do you feel the desire to speak half-truths so to present the gospel in a ‘likeable’ and ‘acceptable’, or perhaps even ‘sensible and reasonable’ manner?  Then you have stolen the ewe from the poor man.  You are the man! (v.7) – You are Adam, who would exchange the poverty of this world for the riches which you already have.  You would rather take a poor man’s possession rather than recognise the new creation which we inherit.  What of the loyal wife, the church?  What of the golden streets of new Jerusalem?  What of the unadulterated, unsaturated purity of the gospel which is beyond sensibility, beyond mere acceptance of the world’s standards but by far the most outrageous truth this world can ever truly be shocked and awed by?  All wasted on a poor man’s ewe.

This is why the LORD reacts so angrily to David’s sin, because of the Christological implications behind the two-fold subtlety of the parable.  It is but a micro-perspective of the macro and grander cosmic temptation of Satan to the Christ (Matthew 4).  As if Satan could offer Christ anything!  Would Christ exchange the relationship between Himself and His Father for another man’s daughter, another man’s family?  Would the Triune God exchange the glory and wealth of the Triune community to thieve another relationship?

On another Christological level, the poor man’s treatment of the lamb must not be ignored for that is another important detail to the LORD’s parable through Nathan.  This poor man’s treated the lamb as everything which he had, feeding it well and loving it well (v.3), that this lamb is to even lie in the man’s bosom.  Such beautiful love is this, that we see the Father’s love for the Son portrayed (John 1:18) in this parental relationship, the Father’s love for the Lamb.

So the Christological message of the parable is twofold – the exchange of the wealth of the Triune relationship for the false kingdom of Satan which, compared to the riches of Adam, is but a poor man’s possession.  Secondly, that this raping of the poor man’s relationship with his daughter is a raping of the Father’s relationship with the Son.  Therefore, the primary thrust of the parable is supported by these two Christological meanings, that David should choose to leave the bosom of the Father to steal Bathsheba from Uriah, and that in doing so he has by equivalence destroyed the relationship between the Father and the Son portrayed between poor man and the ewe.

If not for these implications, then the LORD’s infliction of death upon David’s first son would not make sense.  For David to remove the daughter from the poor man’s embrace as equivalent to the Son leaving the Father eternally, the implication is simply death (Colossians 1:17).  If the Son were not to intercede on our behalf, if the Son were to walk His own path and become His own God just as Satan (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28) and Adam (Genesis 3:22) had done, then not only will we never resurrect.  We will simply return to the very chaos which David has unfolded (a return to the chaos of the abyss in Genesis 1, c.f. Jeremiah 4:23) – the implosion of the ordered universe upheld by the Logos into disordered fragments of watery nothingness.  Instead of peace, the sword shall come (v.9-10).

It is therefore important to see what unfolds from v.10-22.  The narrator opts to call Bathsheba Uriah’s wife, even though at the end of chapter 11 David had already taken Bathsheba to be his wife, thus emphasising the message of adultery and the broken intra-Trinitarian relationship implied by David’s selfish actions.  The death of the child on the seventh day, the day indicative of God’s rest (v.18) is again a mock-ironic message for David as he had fasted before the LORD for the first six days.  Even in this follow up to the LORD’s curse on David in v.11-14, the theme of reversal continues: the exchange of light for darkness, of kingdom of righteousness for the kingdom of poverty, of the ordered Triune relationship torn apart to be subsumed by chaos and darkness.  In this reversal, we also see David’s fasting and then David’s feasting, a reverse of Christ’s disciples’ feasting followed by fasting (Matthew 9:15).  In this reversal, we also see David’s son’s death on the seventh day symbolic of the final Sabbath rest; whereas, we are to anticipate the Son’s return on this important seventh day.  This is why David ceased to fast after his son’s death: for David will go to his son but his son will not return to him; whereas the disciples in the New Testament would fast after Christ’s departure for we shall not go to the Son, as He will return to us.

Thus, it is only after such a chaotic beginning of David’s first murder and adultery all within chapter 11 do we begin to say a ray of hope – found in Jedidiah (the only time referred to in Scripture as the beloved one akin to Christ: Matthew 3:17), found in Solomon, he who shall bring peace.  Only upon the death of David’s son conceived and marred with sin, will Solomon be born; where David’s first son by the adulterous Bathsheba dies, David’s second son by Bathsheba is glorified.  David’s first son followed the route of the first Adam, the first man’s story entirely typified by chapters 11 and 12; and the second Adam’s story is to be shadowed by Solomon, the type of He who was spoken of in 2 Samuel 7.

In the death of David’s first son and in the birth of his second son, the pattern of David causing death and the LORD bringing life; of David causing chaos and the LORD bringing order; of David’s first son born out of an act of adultery and the birth of Solomon through loyal wedlock, a parallel can also be found in Leviticus 14 (c.f. one bird sacrificed as the other bird is freed; in Christ we see both the sacrificed and the freed bird; in Christ we see the rejected and elected LORD):

“At any rate as they are systematised in Leviticus 14 and 16 it is obvious that the following form is common to both.  Two creatures which are exactly alike in species and value are dealt with in completely different ways.  The selection of the one for this and of the other for that treatment, seems to be a matter for the priest in Leviticus 14:15f, while lots are cast in Leviticus 16:8.  In both cases it is obvious that the selection is inscrutable, and that it is really made by God Himself.  It is also obvious with what special purpose and meaning these two acts accompany the history of Israel, and to which special moment of this history they refer as sign and testimony of the divine intention.  We obviously face the special aspect of this history according to which it is the history of the divisive divine election of this and of that man.  What these choices mean, or what it is to which the whole history of Israel points as a history of such choices, is attested by these particular rites, the witness being given a fixed and permanent form by the detailed legal regulations.

The actual treatment of the two creatures makes this even clearer.  Both Leviticus 14 and 16 say that one creature is to be used, and that the other is not to be used – or only used to the extent that it is, so to speak, solemnly and necessarily not used.  One creature is slain, that is, and the other is allowed to go free.  It is too soon to ask what is really meant by using and not using, by slaying and releasing.  It is also too soon to ask who is meant by the creature which suffers the first fate, and who by that which suffers the second.  But if we study the transaction as such in its general nature, we can hardly fail to recall the Genesis stories of Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel and so on.  The ceremonies are obviously a comment on the history of Israel as a history of the differing choices, and its character as witness is fixed in the legal instruction which relate to these actions…

… It is this redemptive endurance of death as such, ordained and accomplished by God in His love for him, which is brought before his eyes in the slaughtering of the different animals on the Day of Atonement, and therefore in the slaying of the first goat, and then in the blood-sprinkling of the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle, in the sanctification of the sanctuary by the slaying of the first goat, by the total outpouring of its life as accomplished in the shedding of its blood.  Man is chosen for the Lord, and not for Azazel, not for the wilderness…

The fact that man is of himself unfitted for the service of God, and his blood valueless, is revealed in the treatment of the second animal.  His life cannot make good that which is evil by any judgment which follows him, or even by his death.  IT is not, indeed, a joyful release into freedom which is the lot of this man, but a flight into the realm of Azazel, the demon of the wilderness; his surrender to an utterly distressful non-existence, to a life which is as such no life…

Yet we must observe that the second goat is also ‘placed before the Lord’, that the treatment meted out to him and the tragic record of his unusability also form an integral part of the sign and testimony set up on the Day of Atonement.  Cain is just as indispensable as Abel, and Ishmael as Isaac.  For the grace which makes an elect man of the first can be seen only from the second, because the first, the elect, must see in the second, the non-elect, as in a mirror, that from which he was taken, and who and what the God is who was delivered from it.  It is only as one who properly belongs to that place that God has transferred him from it.  Because election is grace, the unused belonged to the used, the sacrificed goat to the goat driven into the wilderness, the non-elect to the elect…

…The ceremony described in Leviticus 14 obviously runs in exactly the opposite direction… The treatment of the first bird speaks of this necessary presupposition of his purification.  The bird is slain, its blood is shed and then made ready for what follows, as in the case of the first goat in Leviticus 16.  But this time everything really depends on what follows… The healed leper is sprinkled seven times with this blood, while simultaneously the second bird is allowed to fly away ‘into the open field’… to freedom… The purpose, and the only purpose, in the death of the one bird, the separation and reservation of the one man, is that the other may live.  But how comforting it is for all who are separated and reserved that, according to Leviticus 14, it is to the second bird, which has no part in the accomplishment of the decisive action, and which is unusable in the sense of Leviticus 16, that the benefit of the sacrifice of the first and usable bird accrues.  That which was done to the first turns to the advantage of the second… The recipient of the fruit of election is obviously for the non-elect.  How can we fail to see that Cain and Ishmael and Esau are now given yet another right than that which is remotely visible in Leviticus 16?  They are witnesses to the resurrection reflected in Leviticus 14.  The promise addressed to the men on the right hand is manifestly fulfilled in those on the left.” – Karl Barth on the doctrine of election in “Church Dogmatics”

Yet, in spite of the birth of Solomon, this is but a faint shadow of the future glory to come through David’s son and remnant of his house furthermore prophecied in the immediate placement of Solomon’s birth to David being crowned with the golden crown of the Ammonite king (v.30), a picture of the subversion of Satan’s ‘kingdom’ and the reality of it inevitably being subsumed under the headship of Christ even in the midst of David’s sin.  The victory is immanent – even in the sin of David, for it will come through Solomon.

However, this is but just a shadow.  In Joab’s taking of the city and attempting to name it after his own name as opposed to David initiating the victory (v.26-31), we continue to see the king of Israel becoming more and more passive, from the restoration of his daughter Tamar, the delayed restoration of his son Absalom, to the eventual restoration of the kingdom Israel, all woven into the tragic latter years of David’s life.  The coming chapters are therefore a continuation of the significant implications if the Son of God, King of Israel, were to really submit to sexual adultery rather than pure loyalty to his one wife and church by His obedient life to his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection and ascension.   Yet, by God’s grace in His will of Jesus Christ, even if David were to be become the figure of the slain goat and dove just like David’s first son, there will always be the typology of the free dove found in Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, even in David’s contrast to Saul, and now Solomon’s contrast to David.  Therefore, in Solomon we soon find the shadow of the Son who is to build the eternal temple, who will give freedom and riches to all nations, in direct contrast to the proverb which David has become from 2 Samuel 11 onwards. 

2 Samuel 12: David as the two doves

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

Judges 9-10: The King, The Man

Judges 9:  Who is the true King?

Jdg 9:1-57  Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family,  (2)  “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”  (3)  And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.”  (4)  And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him.

Moses, Jotham, Christ

It is unfortunate that Abimelech is named after pagan kings – the king of Gerar (in Genesis 20-21) and another king of Gerar, respectively in the time of Abraham and Isaac.  He had the makings of a king indeed – but not a Christian king.  He did not model after his father who contended with Baal, and it seemed that his works represented his faith in a god which endorsed murder over mercy.  In continuation of the theme of dualism, of meek against the proud; of the small army of Yahweh against the large armies of the Eastern tribes – here, we see Abimelech seeking to be a leader, against Gideon’s initial humility, approached by the Angel rather than approaching the Angel for self-glory.

Secondly, it may be intentional that we see a contest of sorts between the seventy sons of Jerubbaal and the one son of Jerubbaal.  The number seventy (Genesis 46:27 – Jacob’s household in Egypt; Exodus 24 – the seventy chosen elders) is, like the number 12, symbolic of God’s government and God’s household.  Here, Jerubbaal’s 70 children would have represented that peaceful household; instead, Abimelech traded these children for 70 pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, ironically titled the lord of the covenant, though he is more like fellowshipping with darkness (c.f. 2 Corinthians 6:14) by hiring worthless and reckless fellows (v.4) rather than people who followed him because of being an approved leader in the Spirit.  He is no different from Judas who had sold Christ by attaining silver as well (Matthew 26-27).

However, we must understand that in both cases Christ is not ‘sold’ to Satan strictly speaking, for the judgment of death was executed by the Father on the cross.  Satan had no power of executing that judgment, for he too is subject to eternal death in the prison of hell.  Satan is the one who tempts others into the same judgment of the Father, taking more and more people with him into the lake of fire where he is also punished.  Christ did not satisfy the wrath of Satan as if they were two Angels fighting against one another, akin to the Gnostic doctrine of creation; rather, Christ died to satisfy the wrath of his Father and his own wrath against sin (for Christ himself is also the judge of the book of Revelation).

It is in this sense that we see the false lord of the covenant, he who masquerades as an angel of light, is literally using silver (through Abimelech) as the leaders of Israel had done through Judas.  In both cases, Abimelech and Judas are vessels of evil, and both (as well as Baal-berith, the Satan who mocks by imitating the true Lord of the covenant) are subject to God’s curse of typological retribution as we shall soon see:

(5)  And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.  (6)  And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.  (7)  When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you.

Gerizim and the blood of Christ

And so Jotham, he who proclaims that Jehova is perfect, is the youngest, most meek, and is hidden from the tyranny and madness of Abimelech.  Like Moses and Christ, he escaped the impending wrath on the innocent 70, the innocent children of Israel; and yet he returns to the top of Mount Gerizim, the mount of blessing to ironically proclaim judgment upon Abimelech, who himself was standing ironically by the oak of the pillar at Shechem which represented the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 12.  Here, we see a juxtaposition of the unrighteous king, anointed at the symbolic place of Shechem when the true king, Jotham, stood by the place of blessing (Gerizim) which is simultaneously a place of cursing for Abimelech.

In similar way, the blood of Christ is also a blessing for believers, and a curse for unbelievers.  Jotham’s choice to proclaim these truths at Gerizim after being in hiding is more profound than meets the eye.  Though Deuteronomy 11:29 and Deuteronomy 27 both account for the blessings given on Mount Gerizim, it would seem more appropriate (according to Deuteronomy 11:29) for Jotham to have chosen Mount Ebal to pronounce proper curses on Abimelech.  Yet, in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, it states that:

“According to the traditions of the Samaritans it was here that Abraham sacrificed Isaac, that Melchizedek met the patriarch, that Jacob built an altar, and at its base dug a well, the ruins of which are still seen. Some scholars think there is ground for the first belief; but careful observers of the locality discredit it and believe Moriah to be the spot.  Gerizim was the site of the Samaritan temple, which was built there after the captivity, in rivalry with the temple at Jerusalem. Gerizim is still to the Samaritans what Jerusalem is to the Jews and Mecca to the Mohammedans.”

It is unclear whether this has an impact on Jotham’s choice, though I personally hold to the truth of Genesis 22 that Moriah is the same location of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Issac and the eventual fulfilment of that sacrifice by the true sacrifice of the Lamb.  Whatever the case may be, Jotham’s choice of Gerizim has the double-impact of shaming Abimelech for assuming blessing upon himself when he is more deserved of the judgment of Christ, the blood which cleanses believers but pronounces punishment on non-believers.

(8)  The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’  (9)  But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’  (10)  And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’  (11)  But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’  (12)  And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’  (13)  But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’  (14)  Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’  (15)  And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’  (16)  “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him as his deeds deserved–  (17)  for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian,  (18)  and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative–  (19)  if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you.  (20)  But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.”

The Parable of the Tree

In this parable, we see a tree seeking to anoint a king over them: looking at olive tree (v.8-9); the fig tree (v.10-11); the vine (v.12-13); and the bramble (v.14-15) – the decreasing size and appropriateness for a proper shade (v.15), from the most useful olive tree to the most worthless bramble.  Adam Clarke especially focuses on the “word אטד  atad, which we translate bramble, is supposed to mean the rhamnus, which is the largest of thorns, producing dreadful spikes, similar to darts”.  It is quite clear that Jotham is using the trees to illustrate the same truths which Christ illustrated by the fruit of a tree either rooted in Christ or rooted in the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah (c.f. Matthew 12:33).  It appears that the first three, the olive, fig tree, and the vine each have their respective elements which bless the user, be that for medicinal use, for culinary consumption (whether fruit or wine) – but the bramble is the most dangerous and thorny, and Clarke describes it as the “emblem of an impious, cruel, and oppressive king”.

Upon the mentioning of the bramble, v.16-18 then focuses on the illegitimacy of Abimelech as the son of his female servant, looking at the worthiness of kingship to come through Gideon’s good works as he was anointed as judge; but Abimelech carried no such weight and instead denied the works of his father by murdering his other sons.  V.19-20 then ends on the God who answers by fire which, like the blood of Christ, either destroys or refines a person. 

It is here that we learn by the olive, fig and vine each refuse royalty.  The common refrain for each is “Shall I leave…” – as if royalty is a bad thing which deprives them of their original purpose.  Rather, this is the same response of the called and great reluctant saints; from Abraham to Jacob; from Jacob to Moses; from Moses to David – so entirely different from the calling of those, like the bramble, who seek to power and instead infect the public with a lack of refuge.  As if a bramble can provide shade, let alone anything else which is of benefit to those being ruled by it?  So also our Christ need not proclaim his divinity except through his works, his fruit; who desired not to become the temporal physical king of Israel (John 6:15), but the true king of heaven and earth (John 18:36).  Jotham, the type of Christ, was born a king (c.f. Matthew 2:2), being the only other descendant left; he was the true king who should have been celebrated (c.f. Mark 15); and thus he stood on the mount of blessing, cursing those who are unfaithful and blessing those who are and will not be subject to the judgment of fire (v.19), indicative of the last days when the wheat shall be separated from the chaff for good.

Thus, Jotham’s participation ends here as he hides in Beer, the well, fulfilling the prophetic role of Christ’s incarnation as the king denied to his rightful true throne, waiting to return and to be revealed as the true king of Israel whilst Abimelech, Satan, pretended to be the prince of the world though he was at most a guardian cherub.  Although Jotham is not mentioned again here, we will see his name appear again in 2 Kings as a king of Judah.

(21)  And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.  (22)  Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.  (23)  And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,  (24)  that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.  (25)  And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech.  (26)  And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him.  (27)  And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech.  (28)  And Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him?  (29)  Would that this people were under my hand! Then I would remove Abimelech. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out.'”

Immediately after the disappearance of Jotham, during the three years of Abimelech’s reign God had sent an evil spirit, His tool, to repay Abimelech for the blood he spilt.  Indeed, the blood is on his hands (Ezekiel 3:18), just as the blood of innocent Abel (Hebrews 12:24) cried out for justice, and thus the LORD sent a spirit of evil, a spirit of confusion (Deuteronomy 28) similar to the fall of the Tower of Babylon, so that Abimelech will soon realise that he is short of allies and that his office as judge and king would fail miserably.

The introduction of Gaal and his subsequent removal is also indicative (and typological) of the invasion of foreign nations ruling over Israel, prophetic of Assyria and Babylon’s eventual rule over Israel and their eventual displacement when Israel is re-established.  It should not come as a surprise that the inclusion of this event of Abimelech as a ruler rather than a mere judge – the latter office related to warfare upon the approval of Yahweh and guiding Israel to Christ; whereas Abimelech, the wicked bramble, sought warfare and did not guide Israel to Christ.  His rule is like that of the kings in the Old Testament, leading to the eventual displacement of Israel by foreign nations.  Gaal who is named loathing, along with his men seemed to serve Hamor the father of Shechem, the perpetrators of Dinah’s rape in Genesis 34.  Indeed, though the Shechemites had committed a grave sin, Simeon and Levi’s retaliation was also condemned.  Gaal’s invasion of Israel, his reviling of Abimelech, were a result of Abimelech’s own work leading to this curse (Deuteronomy 27-28) upon the land.

(30)  When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.  (31)  And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you.  (32)  Now therefore, go by night, you and the people who are with you, and set an ambush in the field.  (33)  Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.”  (34)  So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies.  (35)  And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush.  (36)  And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops!” And Zebul said to him, “You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.”  (37)  Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners’ Oak.”  (38)  Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them.”  (39)  And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech.  (40)  And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate.  (41)  And Abimelech lived at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives, so that they could not dwell at Shechem.

What is interesting about Gaal’s reliance on Zebul’s word is that he already knew Zebul was Abimelech’s office in v.28.  His pride and lack of wisdom has brought himself in this web of betrayal, Zebul betraying Gaal, Gaal (as a leader of the Shechemites) betraying the trust the Shechemites had with Abimelech, and Abimelech betraying the trust of his brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal.  This is the infection and curse of sin, that the betrayal shall spawn and the mutual devouring resulting as a direct opposite to the mutual loving of the Trinity.  So dark is Gaal’s eyes that he only sees the shadow of the truth, which brought death to his doorstep.  V.37 seems to furthermore amplify this mystical appearance of Abimelech’s army in the form of ‘sorcery’ (for Diviners’ Oak in v.37 literally means a “practice of conjuring/soothsaying, מעוננים, a practice of witchcraft of sorts).

Yet, the truth behind the shadows is no ‘magic’ – it is in fact what we are called to do, to look beyond the shadows of the true images as reflective of the similar truth of the faithful men of the Old Testament.  Are the OT saints clear about their object of faith, or have their sights been darkened like that of Gaal, that they have mere faith in shadows and promises but they did not take hold of the true reality of the Trinity’s work?  Paul Blackham looks at this in “Bible Overview” (pg. 307, F.A.Q Appendix I):

“There are Christians who see the promises in the Old Testament as physical and earthly, and see those promises of God as speaking of nothing beyond earthly land, kings and signs.  This perspective sees the Old Testament people as trusting in these promises, without knowing of the person of Christ.

However, it seems to us that the best way to understand the Old Testament is around the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In all the promises and signs of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ was presented to his church.  The great creeds and confessions of the historic Christian church tend to take this view of the Old Testament [quoting the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) Question and Answer 19; the 39 Articles of the Church of England (1571) Article 7; the Westminster Confession (1647) Chapter 7; the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) Article 7.”

The irony compounds itself as Abimelech chose to stay at Arumah, ill-suitably named as “exalted” – as if Abimelech, through this temporary victory, is a sign of exaltation.  Israel, too, descended into this failure when she had exalted righteously through David the typological son of God, and had been humbled temporarily in the invasion of Babylon and Assyria, but once again forgetting the spirit of the law by the time of Christ’s incarnation (John 3; Acts 2).

(42)  On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told.  (43)  He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them.  (44)  Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them.  (45)  And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.  (46)  When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith.  (47)  Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together.  (48)  And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.”  (49)  So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.

We see here the horror of Abimelech’s revenge – he went on to destroy the leaders of the Tower of Shechem, hiding in the house of the God of covenant, as opposed to lord of covenant (Baal-berith), that the LORD would use Abimelech to destroy the very thing which brought Abimelech the seventy pieces of silver.  Whatever revenge Simeon and Levi had enacted on the Shechemites, here Abimelech had similarly done as a ruler of Israel.  Although Israel is not as mildly numbered as in the days of Abraham (Genesis 34), it is still true that the name of Israel will stink in the middle of Canaan.  How can they be a light to the nations when Abimelech’s victories do not give glory to God, but is a result of restoring the name which Gaal has defiled?  It is not for Christ’s name, nor for the restoration of Christ’s reputation; but for the restoration of his own pride, social status and recognition.

(50)  Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it.  (51)  But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower.  (52)  And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire.  (53)  And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.  (54)  Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.'” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.  (55)  And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home.  (56)  Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.  (57)  And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

Yahweh’s disapproval finally came when he captured Thebez and planned to re-enact the same method of murder by burning all those within a tower – as is shown in v.53.  Like the case with Deborah and Jael, the symbol of the weaker vessel destroying the king of Israel, we see the humiliation of Christ, his death on the cross, the Rock of his work destroying the head of a serpent like Abimelech, cutting off the bramble from the olive tree, the fig tree, the vine.  And as soon as Abimelech the representative head was crushed by the woman (the young man thrusting him through in the end being another act of final deception), so the evil returned on the men of Shechem “on their heads”, similarly replaying that curse of Jotham akin to the curse on the serpent’s head in Genesis 3.

Though Jotham’s proclamation is seen as a curse, we have already investigated what this means in a Christ-focused context, for all evil consider Christ as a ‘curse’ as well (c.f. Mark 5).  Because of the silent narrative up to v.56, it is easy to see Abimelech’s works as similar to that of God given all the warfare; but it is also hard to deny Abimelech’s deception, lies and betrayal even to his very last request to die as if by sword when he is really crushed by the Rock; his vengeful heart as shadowed by Simeon and Levi, both disapproved for their retaliation on the Shechemites; and his own rise to the throne without the true anointing of the olive, fig or vine.  Jotham’s curse was in fact the undercurrent of the entire chapter, finally confirmed in v.57.  His absence is indeed duly noted, but his word remained true.  So also Christ’s ascension to the symbolic Mt. Gerizim, pronouncing the deception of Satan, enables us to preach the true gospel to the four corners of the earth so that all evil is cursed and all faithful are blessed as the Word stays true in contrast to the lies which we make (Romans 3:4).

Judges 10:  Who is the man…?

The Humble Judges

Jdg 10:1-18  After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.  (2)  And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.

After the dictatorial reign of Abimelech came the humble worm Tola, the son of Puah (“splendid”), the son of Dodo (“his beloved”), a man of Issachar.  It is important for us to look at the meaning of the names, given Abimelech’s name which indicates royalty (which was achieved via ungodly means), so also Tola was exalted as judge of Israel for twenty three years contrary to his character as implied by his name.  So also in Isaiah 41:14, we learn that the more humble and submissive Israel is, the more God decides to aid the nation which has no self-pride nor self-confidence left:

“After Abimelech had debauched Israel by his wickedness, disquieted and disturbed them by his restless ambition, and, by the mischiefs he brought on them, exposed them to enemies from abroad, God animated this good man to appear for the reforming of abuses, the putting down of idolatry, the appeasing of tumults, and the healing of the wounds given to the state by Abimelech’s usurpation. Thus he saved them from themselves, and guarded them against their enemies. He was of the tribe of Issachar, a tribe disposed to serve, for he bowed his shoulder to bear (Gen. 49:14, 15), yet one of that tribe is here raised up to rule; for those that humble themselves shall be exalted. He bore the name of him that was ancestor to the first family of that tribe; of the sons of Issachar Tola was the first, Gen. 46:13; Num. 26:23. It signifies a worm, yet, being the name of his ancestor, he was not ashamed of it. Though he was of Issachar, yet, when he was raised up to the government, he came and dwelt in Mount Ephraim, which was more in the heart of the country, that the people might the more conveniently resort to him for judgment. He judged Israel twenty-three years (v. 2), kept things in good order, but did not any thing very memorable.” – Matthew Henry

Though Matthew Henry mentions in the very last line that Tola was appointed to keep things ‘in good order, but did not any thing very memorable’, we should try and remember the contrast between chapter 10 and chapter 9.  Chapter 9 we see the egomaniac Abimelech matched by the detail spent on his escapades; here, in chapter 10, we see the worm who had judges Israel over seven times longer than Abimelech’s reign, and had humbly saved Israel by faith in Christ who grants him all victories (c.f. Hebrews 11 – by faith in Christ the judges would achieve this temporary salvation of Israel).  And so it could not be more fitting that such humility is matched by the humble attribution to Tola, escape to describe his work of obedience in a matter of two verses.  Similarly, for Jair:

(3)  After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.  (4)  And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead.  (5)  And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

Jair, the enlightened one, had the blessing of much procreation like Jerubbaal.  Fortunately, these sons lived peaceful lives without the fear of their own brother massacring them, and it is possible that these thirty cities, named after Jair himself, were given to each of the thirty sons.  Again, like Tola, his life is humbly accounted for and though the narrative here is silent, the writer of Hebrews would also understand Jair to be blessed through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Jair died, and was buried in Kamon, elevated and ascended to the Father with his descendants materially blessed and equally enlightened.

Yet, in these forty-five years of peace (both the rule of Jair and Tola added together) Israel had fallen back into idolatry, the common refrain of “again”:

(6)  The people of Israel again [my emphasis] did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.  (7)  So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites,  (8)  and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.

Trinity and adultery

Leviticus 26 is, among the latter chapters of Deuteronomy, indicative of the fallen nature of Israel.  In fact, the entire Pentateuch is a record of the fall of man, with Leviticus 17 being the pinnacle Day of Atonement recording the necessity of a God-man mediator to cleanse the sins of all mankind once and for all.  Without this faith in the God-man, Israel will only descend into spiritual adultery as is the case with the Baalim, the Ashtaroth, gods of Syria, Sidon, Moab, Ammonites, Philistines.  We are not advocating polytheism, a common trait amongst many religions (especially that of Hinduism); and neither are we advocating modalism, as if God appears in different modes (or within Christian modalism, as if God appeared as Father, Son and Spirit at different times when he is apparently Unitarian).  Rather, the Trinitarian God has revealed Himself to us as one unit, as one family, as one Elohim – the Father and the Son united by the Spirit in love, a fully Trinitarian relationship because the Spirit is also a Person, preventing any Binitarian agenda as is accused of Barth who furthered this inter-Trinitarian thought in his Church Dogmatics (this is proposed in Book III Volume I, but it takes a deeper understanding of Barth’s pneumatology to understand whether or not his agenda leans towards Binitarianism rather than Trinitarianism, which it does not seem to be).

Instead, we find these gods separated; these gods made from the hands of men; these gods worshipped to please the hearts of Israelite.  Indeed, these Israelites perhaps mentioned the same thing as people do today, “If only I worshipped all the gods, pleased all gods, then I would receive blessing from the real ones among the false ones”.  As if this is a supermarket selection!  God is not to be man-handled, but contrarily man is to be God-handled, for God had made man to participate in the intra-Trinitarian love which unites all of them into one family (c.f. John 17).  This adultery can only lead to impending punishment and anger (v.7).

It is also not ironic that one of the oppressors are the Ammonites, the posterity of Lot.  Although in retrospective Lot has been called a saint (2 Peter 2:7), he was not a very evangelistic one nor a very faithful one for being caught up in one distress after another (c.f. Genesis 14; 29).  His wife who looked back upon Sodom and Gomorrah and his daughters who developed an incestuous relationship with him were all the marks of a person of lapsed or back-sliding faith.  Thus, it makes sense for the Ammonites who had introduced these foreign gods to become a snare for Israel, for Lot himself was snared by his surrounding cultures like his posterity.

For the Ammonites to cross the Jordan and fight against the major tribes of Israel is undoubtedly the reason why Israel would turn to the LORD after great distress, knowing that their numbers and personal might can no longer help their survival.  What is of great interest to me is that they had ready access to the LORD (v.10).  It is not as if this was a generation which had lost the law; instead, they knew the LORD’s name and they could have called to Him by looking at the testimony of the tabernacle where His Shekinah would dwell.  They did not forget His Name, but they have forgotten His deeds (v.11-12).  It was only until their repentance was whole (v.16) that the evidence of their faith was shown; and only then did the LORD grieve painfully for Israel (Matthew Henry’s translation: “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel”which follows the KJV, where the original Hebrew for ‘grieve’, קצר, could also mean “mourn”).

(9)  And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.  (10)  And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.”  (11)  And the LORD said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines?  (12)  The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand.  (13)  Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.  (14)  Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”  (15)  And the people of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.”  (16)  So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.  (17)  Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah.  (18)  And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

Who is The Man?

Although there is no immediate work which the LORD has done for Israel despite their repentance, it is clear that v.18 is meant to be a cliff-hanger – the great question being “Who is the man?”

The answer to that should be clear:  look to the tabernacle within the camp.  Look to what it means when the High Priest goes from the laver to the altar covered in innocent animal’s blood to the two pieces of furniture of the Spirit and the Son in the Holy of Holies to the burning incense of prayer at the curtain and through to the curtain to the Ark of the Covenant, to the mercy seat also sprinkled with the blood of innocent animals.  Look to the LORD dwelling over that mercy seat, and be reminded of the time when Gideon was commissioned by the Angel (Judges 6); when the Angel fought for Barak (Judges 5:23); when the Angel was asked to protect Israel’s children (Genesis 48:16); when the Angel led Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan (Exodus 14:19); when the Angel led Moses to the Father (Exodus 19 on the third day); when the Angel supped with the elders of Israel on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24).  The Angel Who leads us to the Father (c.f. Matthew 11).  We who were made as typical images (Genesis 1:26-27), as shadow images, as images in likeness to the prototypical Son of God – the image of God to Whom we are to conform to (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49).

This question is not limited to the Israelites calling upon this “man” in the Old Testament.  Indeed, the righteous man is mentioned more than once in Psalms, in fact opening the Psalter with chapters 1 and 2 referring to the Righteous and Blessed Man, the Son Who shall be kissed lest He break the nations.  Christ in the New Testament sends similar riddles about this “man” in the form of the parables.  Glen Scrivener in his series on the parables in 2008 had looked at the importance of Christ both in the New and the Old Testament, for often we think of this man as a mere judge.  As a mere man who is particularly filled with the Spirit.  However, the whole thrust of Scripture is to describe how everything relates and should point us to Christ the Man.  Indeed, He is the Man who sought us, the church, the treasure in the field (Matthew 13:44-46) as a result of the radical “othercentredness of the triune life”;  He is the Good Samaritan above and beyond the shadow of the Levite and the Priest for He was the Outsider (Hebrews 13:13) coming to the church left for dead;  He is the Father in the sense that the Father’s fatherhood is seen in the Son:

Jesus is the father.  Plain and simple.  Jesus is the father.  Jesus is the good shepherd ([Luke 15]v4-7), he’s the good woman (v8-10), he’s the good father (v11-32).  It just seems blindingly obvious don’t you think?  And have we been confused on this simply because of the role ‘father’?  Well Jesus casts himself as father even in the Gospels – ‘Son, your sins are forgiven… Daughter, your faith has healed you.’  He has children (Is 8:18; 53:10; Heb 2:13; see also Luke 7:35).  If He can be a woman and even a mother hen, it’s not at all inappropriate for Him to be pictured as father.”

And so, we can only realise that Jesus “is at the very centre of this drama” whether Old or New Testament.  The stories of the judges so far can only highlight the shadow nature of the judges (Abimelech being the first to rule against God’s will), though the Israelites calling for “the man” indeed is an indication that their reliance on the judge is condition to the fact that this judge obeys God’s commandments as a king would.  Yet, these judges have, in the previous few chapters, proven to be weak; to be meek; to be taken from humble origins; to be outcast.  So also, Jesus even in the parable of the ‘prodigal sons’ “goes out… bears the shame… pleads… appears weak and He celebrates sinners.  This is not prompted by the sinner’s repentance, which was calculating at best, but by His own reconciling love… You have (as Barth put it) the father going into the far country to hoist the lost onto his shoulders and bring them home.  Luke 15 is no Christ-less, cross-less forgiveness tale.  Christ and His cross is the heart of it all.” – Glen Scrivener in “Who’s the Daddy” dated 2 October 2008 part of the “Who’s the Man” series.

And so the church gathers at Mizpah, the watchtower – the watchmen at the wall preaching the gospel diligently (Ezekiel 3), and furthermore watching for the day when Christ would fulfil the shadows, prophecies, typologies, Christophanies made in the Old Testament and shame the adulterated world on the cross to display that eternal love between the Father and Him sustained by the Spirit before creation.

Judges 9-10: The King, The Man

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land

Since chapter 16 we have been working towards the newness of life, from the cleanness of being in this world (and being sanctified by the Spirit) to being completely sanctified in New Creation (with new bodies).  It is a strong reminder that Israel, then, could not have been the chosen race because of their merit – it was something they looked forward to.  Canaan, to them, was a temporary place – representative of the renewed creation of New Jerusalem.

The previous two chapters referred to the importance of the Jewish feasts on an annual basis, and the next two work towards building up on this picture of holistic living, as a preparation for true kingdom living in new creation; as well as incorporated temporarily the aspects of looking forward to new creation where this forward-looking hope is erased in Zion when all things are fulfilled (Hebrews 11).

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

Lev 24:10-23  Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp,  (11)  and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.  (12)  And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.  (13)  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (14)  “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.  (15)  And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.  (16)  Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

When we first read these verses, it is easy to skim over and conclude that they relate to blasphemy.  In one sense, it is right to read it as such – but given today’s climate and interpretation of the word ‘blasphemy’, it is perhaps better to understand the actual Hebrew which seems to give it a much stronger tone (qalal – קלל – which literally means ‘to make lightly of’, but the figurative use of the Hebrew term is to despite and to curse).  Given the context and the choice of the English translation, it seems to be inclined to the Hebrew figurative.  This Egyptian-Israelite son is a blasphemer, a despiser, of the Name.

Before we move on to look at what this “Name” is, it is interesting to note the little detail about the child’s heritage.  He is of Egyptian-Israelite heritage: there can be many implications made about this mixed heritage.  Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry simply state the fundamental spiritual problem represented by the mixed heritage.  Henry goes on to say that the incorporation of the Egyptians into Israel during the Exodus is a cause of much strife since Exodus 12:38.

However, I think Calvin marks the message best.  We know from Genesis 12 that the LORD does not have essential problems against mixed-heritage marriage, so long as both are spiritual Israelites – so long as both are heart-circumcised.  Indeed, a command to marry only Israelites, and not outsiders, is more a proclamation of singleness of identity and loyalty to the LORD – the very name “Israelite” is the same as saying, “I am a citizen of those whose God fights for them”. How can an outsider, a Canaanite, or Amorite, or Ninevite say the same thing?  Their national identity preaches other truths (“Canaan” means humilitated).

Which is why the treatment of this Egyptian-Israelite child should not be different from anyone else.  v.16 explains it well: whoever blasphemes the name; the sojourner as well as the native.  The LORD does not actually differentiate between nations.  He is not making a statement against Egyptians.  He is saying that anyone who appears to be in the physical church will still be destroyed if they do not partake of the fruit of faith.  Only the spiritual church will be taken up to the Holy of Holies, and the physical church like the rest of the world remain reprobate and judged.

On another level, his treatment of the Egyptian child is also a mark of the LORD’s acceptance of Egyptians fully into Israel and his expectation of the child to obey the laws of the land be he Israelite or not.  Thus, physical lineage does not give us the privilege in itself; it is the national citizenry which we join as born-again Israelites and Gentiles which establishes that privilege.  The LORD here is destroying he who took pride in the Exodus which the child clearly did not remember nor took seriously.  His faith in Jesus was never true.

The Name

What is “the Name”?  Let’s work backwards in the NT.  Revelation 16:9 and 19:13 reveal that the blasphemy of this “name” will lead to people’s death.  This “name” is revealed as the Word of God, as explained in John 1 as Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:13 is especially important:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Christians did not have a generic understanding of “the Name”, as if it referred to some monotheistic God of divine essence.  The Christians viewed faith as a firm belief in the name of the SON of God, that you may know you have eternal life.  1 Peter 4:14 states that if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God rests upon you which corresponds directly to James 5:10 who tells the Greek and Jewish NT readers to look at the OT Scripture and the OT saints who spoke in the name of the LORD.  Which LORD was James speaking of?  What name was James speaking of?  Given Peter’s explanation that our persecutions are a result of bearing not just any “name”, but the name of CHRIST, the Son, James’ reference to the LORD is synonymous to that of Christ as well.  Hebrews 1:4 – “the name” of Christ, generated from the Father, establishing his identity as far superior to that of angels.  2 Thess 1:12:

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul had clear Trinitarian worship in 2 Thess 1:12.  He refers that in his name we are glorified, according to the grace of our God (meaning the Father), and the Son.  He understood that it is by the grace of the Father, and in Christ, that we are glorified through Christ (c.f. Ephesians 5:20).  Philippians 2:10 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”.  One might ask – why would people profess another name in the OT, and why would God work under a different economy in the OT, if he intended to have people acknowledge the name of Christ in heaven, on earth, and under the earth?  If God himself has such a Christological focus of the entire creation, even in heaven and under the earth beyond what we see, perceive and understand?  The presupposition of exegesis, as we investigate the NT, shows that it must be Christological.  That it MUST presume Christ as the focus of every Israelite’s faith in the OT, before proven otherwise (c.f. Romans 9:17; 10:13).

The Council of Jerusalem shows exactly the contention shown – the Jews had no idea who this “Name” is, and that is exactly the tension between them and the circumcised Christians who understand that salvation must come through a Trinitarian understanding, by calling on the Christ, and saved and glorified by the grace of the Father:

Act 5:40-42  and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  (41)  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  (42)  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Note, however, that v.42 implies that the some in Israel understood the name as synonymous with the Christ.  Many may not have understood the Christ to have come as God-man, but many did consider the Anointed One, the Seed, as the name on which they called.

Therefore, bringing us back to the Egyptian child – for him to blaspheme the Name is to blaspheme the very identity of the church of Christ.  He is directly blaspheming, cursing, despising, the only mediator who should be acknowledged in the heavens, earth and under the earth.

(17)  “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.  (18 )  Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life.  (19)  If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him,  (20)  fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.  (21)  Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.  (22)  You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.”  (23)  So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

It may sound completely ironic that after the stoning and death of the Egyptian child, v. 17-22 is preached.  However, remember that these passages relate to a tit-for-tat attitude of sin.  A sin shall be repaid – a life for a life.  However, what of the inevitable death of tens of thousands of billions of men and women who have died as a result of Adam’s inherited sin?  That must be repaid by a mediator who is more than man – a mediator who is fully man and fully God.  That is the cost of Christ’s death, and how absolutely wonderful and glorious it is!  How little of the impact of the cross we know of!  Thus, the proportionality of the punishment is reflected in the stoning prior to this commandment.  It is as if Christ is saying that the stoning is completely appropriate and proportional to the blaspheming of the Name, and so it is, for who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit who brings us the eyes of our hearts to Christ who not be saved (Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2).

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

Lev 25:1-55  The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,  (2)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. (3)  For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits,  (4)  but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.  (5)  You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.  (6)  The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you,  (7)  and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

Again, the very first command is not to sacrifice to the LORD; it is not to do ‘good works’.  It is to simply keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  But note the important distinction: the LAND shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  The model of work for six, then rest on seventh.  Six days, seventh day rest.  Six years, seventh year rest.  We understand that this model of Sabbath is a continual reminder of the rest that we look forward to, that in new creation we will not work and toil in the same way as we do now.  But this commandment relates to the LAND: for the LAND is also looking forward to its own redemption as symbolised through the Sabbath (Romans 8:18-25).

(8 )  “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  (9)  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  (10)  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.  (11)  That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.  (12)  For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you…

While we have looked at the theology of numerology to some extent by looking at the significance of the numbers 1-7 (according to the significance shown on day 1-6 of creation, day 7 of Sabbath rest and divinity, day 8 of new creation and first day of new week, number 12 as representative of governmental perfection (c.f. the 144,000 in the new city of Jerusalem = multiple of 12, perfection of Christian political order; 12 Tribes of Israel; 12 Apostles).  Here, the Israelites are asked to wait 49 years (7 x 7 years), the fullness of the Sabbath multiplied!  The food is provided without any further need to work after the consecration of the 50th year. This is not the first time we consider the number 50 – the last time we saw this number is the commandment of the festival of Pentecost (23:15-22), simultaneous to the festival of harvest and as we know, the giving of the Spirit to both Jew and Gentile alike.  The festival was also a time of communion and unity through harvest-sharing (23:22).

We understand that the trumpet points towards the victory of Christ, but why is it on the 10th of Tishri instead of 1st of Tishri?  When the trumpet is normally blared on the 1st day of the Jewish civil year, it is a forward-looking action towards new creation.  However, the 50th year, the year of the jubilee, marks the actual joining of the victory of Christ to the Day of Atonement.  This is very important: if the trumpet signifies victory won, and the Day of Atonement signifies ascension, then the commandment to preach the victory won must be part and parcel with the ascension.  The Jewish understanding of the Day of Atonement, again, must not be tied to an actual trust in the goat sacrifice; it is symbolic of Christ’s work!  And, just as sure as Genesis 3:15 is preached, so the victory of Christ is something they look forward to but the LORD wants the Israelites to consider it as a victory already achieved.

There are a few things to note under this chapter:

(a)  Redemption of the Land from the lessees to God

Lev 25:13-18  “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.  (14)  And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another.  (15)  You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops.  (16)  If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you.  (17)  You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.  (18 )  “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

The verses state that for 49 years, the land may be leased to a fellow Israelite or sojourner, but it is freed in the 50th year to the owner. The next few verses continues on this theme of freedom:

Lev 25:25-28  “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.  (26)  If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it,  (27)  let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property.  (28 )  But if he has not sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

This theme is again shown in v.25-28, that even if the redeemer has insufficient means to recover the land, the buyer shall hold the consideration until the year of the jubilee where a return of the property will happen, regardless of the redeemer’s capability!

Lev 25:29-34  “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption.  (30)  If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee.  (31)  But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.  (32)  As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess.  (33)  And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel.  (34)  But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The only difference shown here is a dwelling house in a walled city:  with a right of redemption within a year of its sale, and shall keep forever it if it is not redeemed within a year.  But every other land outside of the walled city is considered as “fields of the land” (v.31).

Contrarily, the priestly Levites have the privilege of redeeming the houses in the cities they possess at any time.  These houses are their possession among the people of Israel; but the fields are their possession forever.

Some important things should be stated here – as we understand Canaan as representative of the spiritual Israel, the walled city is akin to the walled city of Revelation 21:12-19.  Therefore, anything within the walled city can be kept forever if not redeemed.  This perhaps implies an eschatological significance of the people of Israel no longer living in “the land” in tents, but living in walled cities built by the hands of God.  The ownership in the walled city belongs to us and to Christ.  This is why there is much privilege in being a Levite during the Mosaic law period, because of their typological significance as being like Christ.  The Levites have the power of redeeming the houses in the city, and the fields that they own are in their possession forever.

The picture here is quite important: for every non-Israelite, there is much ‘exchanging’, from lessee back to owner.  It is a picture of the land being redeemed to God, who is the true owner of the entire creation.  But this picture is even clearer when we look at the Levites – only they can own the land forever.  Only they can redeem the houses within the walled city at any time.  This teaches us that for everyone who is a doulos, a slave, who is redeemed into Christ, is truly and forever owned by Christ.  Only Christ can redeem us whenever and wherever, and when Christ redeems us, we are kept forever by his work on the cross (c.f. Romans 8:38 ).  It is a picture of salvation from the LORD and kept by the LORD.  True freedom is marked here by being joined to Christ; to follow Christ, who set us free to bear the cross — that is to gain true Christian freedom (Galatians 2:4; 5:1).

(b)  Debt management & slavery

Lev 25:35-55  “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.  (36)  Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.  (37)  You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.  (38 )  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

This is a perfect picture of kingdom living: v. 38 is the justifying verse of the behaviour of v. 36-37.  This is the type of holistic Christological lifestyle that should be conducting the actions of the Israelites and us Christians today.  Why do we love our neighbours?  Why do we love our brothers?  Why do we love our enemies?  It stems from the justification of v.38 – because He is faithful.  Because he brought the detestable and complaining Israelites out of Egypt.  The LORD did not ask anything from us as a contribution to salvation; so why would you ask your brother who becomes poor to return money at an interest?  As this holistic living is built upon salvation already won, it is not holistic living to gain the LORD’s approval.  It is how the LORD wants us to live by pondering our salvation in hindsight, and not to fight for our own salvation.

(39)  “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:  (40)  he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. (41)  Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.  (42)  For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.  (43)  You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. (44)  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you.  (45)  You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. (46)  You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.  (47)  “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan,  (48 )  then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him,  (49)  or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself.  (50)  He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired servant. (51)  If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price.  (52)  If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service.  (53)  He shall treat him as a servant hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. (54)  And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. (55)  For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Again, v. 55 is the justifying verse for the jubilee redemption of the slaves and servants.  They are to look back on the Exodus as their salvation gained, so they can live holistically.  There is a refrain in this part of chapter 25:  The Israelite “shall not rule over (the servant/slave) ruthlessly” – the reason being v.55.  The servant/slave shall serve the Israelite until the year of jubilee.  Because of v. 55 – because we are the redeemed slaves of God – we are the LORD’s servant.  Paul’s statement is clear in Galatians 1:10 – doulos, literally meaning slave, of Christ.  v.47-55 sees the LORD maintaining national purity and integrity, requiring the relative of a slave to redeem him/her if the slave is subjected to a “stranger’s clan”.  These verses show the importance of familial redemption, and again, these verses find their meaning in v.55, and the year of the jubilee is the year of full redemption, whether the money is paid for the slave or not.

However, what of a pagan slave?  He will surely be ‘released’ back to his pagan owner!  It is not clearly stated here, but Deuteronomy 23:15-16 implies that refuge is not found in his pagan master!  Rather, refuge is found within the land of Israel, and the pagan slave shall find his identity within Israel.  The year of the jubilee therefore is a year where he is free, and will enjoy his freedom in attachment to the LORD who set him free.  The 7th years described in Exodus 21:1-4, and the jubilees, are all indicative of this inevitable redemption which is all justified from the great Exodus.  The book of Leviticus is not one of holistic living in a vacuum; and these chapters display that the work of the Exodus is not isolated either: it is tied very much to the 10 Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the new kingdom living as a result of salvation won.  The jubilee is merely a mock-representation of the great future Jubilee starting from the true Day of Atonement, the spiritual 10th of Tishri that we are all looking forward to.  However, are we merely going to wait for it, and not bring the reality of this new kingdom living now, by the power of the Spirit?  Let us continue to live as the Redeemed, and bring more strange clans and outsiders into the spiritual church of Israel so they, too, and live as the Redeemed and fight the slavery outside of Christ, for Christ alone gives us freedom in our slavery to His Name.

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land