BIBLE STUDY SERIES: #18, 19, 20 and 21

1 March, 1992


By Douglas C, Nesbit, B.A.

Our own name is one of the most important things which we possess. If a conversation to which we are giving no heed is progressing within earshot, the casual inclusion of our name within that conversation will generally precipitate the attraction of our immediate attention.

Usually, a given name is chosen by one's parents, and therefore a mother and father bear the greatest responsibility in making that choice, for the meaning of a name, once chosen, frequently exerts a subtle influence upon the course of the life of the person thus named. There frequently follows, one might suggest, almost a conscious attempt to live up to (or perhaps down to!) one's name, as though it formed an encapsulation of one's reputation, ready-made.

As surnames indicate family attachments, a name is often a symbol of attachment to a tribe or clan, and further, it often bears the connotation of a loyal commitment. We see how strong this attachment can be as it is strained to the breaking point in Shakespear's "Romeo And Juliet"; probably the most famous of all fictional love stories. In this play, Romeo, son of Montague loves Juliet, daughter of Capulet, but their families are enemies of one another. In one of the most famous scenes, Act II, Scene 2, Juliet, conscious of the family ties which their family names embody, asks of Romeo:

"O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet."

As Romeo hesitates to interrupt, Juliet continues:

"'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;-
Thou art thyself, thou not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is not hand nor foot,
Not arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet... ."

Well, for all the desire of the young lovers, their deaths in a tragic climax induce the peaceable conclusion of this famous play.

A good name is more valuable than one's physical possessions, as Shakespear, in Othello Act III, Scene 3, shows, by placing in Iago's mouth the words:

"Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse, steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed."

Just as we might consider most carefully the meaning which attaches to a name before choosing it for our own child, so, not surprisingly, we find the names of Biblical characters were often chosen with an eye to their meanings as well.

As we thus contemplate the importance of a name, we should also contemplate the importance which a change of name symbolises. In the Bible, quite a number of Biblical characters are at one time or another, given a change of name. Some of these changes are the result of appointment to an office, others speak to a change of heart or character.

In Genesis 41:45, Pharaoh gave Joseph the new name, "Zaphnath Pa-aneah", which Young's Concordance explains as "saviour of world." Although the name is Egyptian, the life pattern of Joseph has been shown to form an enacted prophecy which relates both to the history of the nations formed of his descendants, and to the work of Jesus Christ, the true Saviour of the world. We shall seek an early opportunity to go into that relationship more fully.

In Judges 6:3, Gideon's father, Joash, when challenged, defended Gideon's action in overthrowing the altar and grove of Baal, and Gideon received the new name "Jerubbaal", which Young's Concordance gives as "Contender with Baal."

In Daniel 1:7, the prince of the eunuchs under Nebuchadnezzar gave Daniel the name of "Bel-te-shazzar", which Young's Concordance gives as "the lord's leader." At the same time, Daniel's three companions also received Babylonian names. Hananiah was given the Babylonian name of "Shadrach", Mishael was named "Meshach", and Azariah, "Abednego."

In John 1:42, Jesus said "Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A Stone." Thus, Simon Peter is named "Cephas", to which Young's Concordance applies the meaning "rock."

So, as we see, it is not uncommon to find names changed in recognition of some change of status or character. As we have now consumed some time with the Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob, I should like to spend a few moments contemplating their names, and something that just might, possibly, be involved in the change of status which accompanies their changes of names.

Abram's name means "father of height" according to Young's Concordance, or "high father", as given in Strong's Concordance, and in Genesis 17:5 we see Almighty God changing Abram's name to "Abraham", the meaning of which is given in both Young's and Strong's Concordances as "father of a multitude", "for...", as our quotation puts it, "...a father of many nations have I made thee."

At this same time, Sarai's name, which Young's Concordance gives as "Jah is prince", and Strong's as "dominative", is changed in Genesis 17:15 to "Sarah", which both concordances translate "princess" although Strong's amplifies this by adding "mistress, i.e. female noble", "lady" and "queen" so the overall name means "Princess" or "Queen."

The name "Jacob" means, according to Young's Concordance, "following after, supplanter." In Strong's Concordance, we find "heel-catcher, i.e. supplanter", with a connection to the idea of tripping up, or of tracking in the footsteps.

In Genesis 32:28, we read how God changed Jacob's name to "Israel": "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Young's Concordance explains the name "Israel" to mean "ruling with God", and Strongs gives it as "he will rule", indicating "God." Strong's supplies the roots of the name "Israel" as "El", meaning God, and "sarah, meaning "have power, to prevail."

Recently, I mentioned the observation that there might be something significant in the progression of God's promises to the two Patriarchs, Abram and Jacob, and to Sarai. Before Abraham's name was changed, he was "high father." After, he is "father of nations." Before, Sarai is "dominative", but after, her name is "Princess." Jacob means "supplanter", but Israel means "Prince with God." It would seem that the name changes involve a promotion of the person whose name is changed. They are increased in status.

Now I realise that such an observation cannot be definitive, for Isaac imparted Abraham's blessings to Jacob when he sent him to obtain a wife, in Genesis 28:4, and so Jacob, before his name was changed, already possessed the blessing which contained those promises which applied to Abram after his name was changed to Abraham but I think we may still find something of a progression in the promises. Sarai and Jacob receive a change of name which indicated a new royal status. Would not the children born to them in their new estate, then, also be a "royal people"? This bears further consideration, for such a designation is applied to the children of Israel, when converted to Christ in I Peter 2:9.

Let us first deal with those promises which were made before their names were changed. In the cases of Abram and Jacob, God had made promises concerning their seed. It was to become numerous as the dust of the earth. Promises were also added concerning the ownership of land. To Abram these promises were made in Genesis 13:16, and to Jacob, in Genesis 28:14. Their offspring were to be as the sands of the sea shore, and as the stars of heaven for multitude in Genesis 15:5, and the same, incidentally, was transmitted to Isaac in Genesis 26:4. "A nation" was promised to Abram in Genesis 12:2, and it would become a blessing to all, and have the name "Great." These were the promises God granted prior to the change in the name of each of those men,

When their names are changed, Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, however, there appears in each case to be a subtle amplification to these promises. It seems as though there is a graduation to a higher status. Instead of "a nation", there are now to be "Nations" and we find that there is a new promise of "Kings." Abraham receives these in Genesis 17:4-6, and Sarah, upon receiving her new name, receives the same in Genesis 17:15-16, and they are granted to Jacob, under his new name of Israel in Genesis 35:11. What significance may we attach to this change of emphasis?

In those which were granted prior to the changes of names we note that many children would be born, and that land would be occupied. A blessing, and a name would apply. That is the general thrust of the promises. They would accumulate and would spread abroad, and occupy land. A "nation" would exist, but the form of government, if any, is not indicated. They could even be subject to the rule of other nations and rulers as far as those promises take the matter. They would not be a "royal" people.

But later, after the names of these patriarchs were changed to include a royal status, we find that the promises are of the organization of these children into a number of governmental units. Separate "nations", even a "company of nations" are organized and governed in units treated as separate entities. There are rulers, kings, to be set over them. They are children born to patriarchs whose new names now signal "royal" status, so they are also a "royal people."

The presence of Kings would indicate that a system of laws must be operating, for kings do not rule without laws. Whence would come those laws if God was the responsible agent for the setting up of these nations and kings? This promise would indicate the existence of a God-given law system among those descendants. Governments do not long endure serious rebellion, and any tendency towards rebellion would necessitate judgments. Implied within the promise of "kings", therefore, I would project the promise of God's laws, and, indeed, His ultimate rule as King of kings.

Laws apply to citizens and occupants of the land within a nation, ruled by a monarch. Is there not here a hint that a change of name indicates the acceptance of a commitment to God and to God's Laws? Law designates sin, and sin requires payment. Thus also a loving God must provide a Saviour if the sin is one which leads to death, for God's promise is that this people must not disappear as a national entity. A perfect adherence to the law is the requirement of such a Saviour. This, Jesus Christ provided in His First Advent. Is not this Saviour to receive the monarch's throne which is in the final analysis, God's throne?

Israel peoples in their times of deportation for sin were to be known by another name, as Isaiah 62:2 and Hosea 2:17 inform us, and thus we must seek an Israel people by another name in the world today. The Anglo-Celto-Saxon world answers to the description as Cinderella to the slipper.

We must leave further consideration of these matters for a future broadcast.

8 March, 1992


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

There are some outstanding Scriptural examples wherein the particular evil which men intend to use in order to thwart God's purposes becomes the very means by which God actually brings those purposes to completion.

We may think of Pharaoh's attempt to trap the Israelites against the shore of the Red Sea, and how God, by a miraculous opening of that water, where no avenue of escape was thought possible, both saved the tribes of Israelites and, through the onrushing return of the waters, destroyed the chariots and army of the Pharaoh.

Job was the object of a test case, wherein Satan challenged God. Satan had expected Job to fail and God, knowing that Job would succeed, allowed the test to take place, thus eventually yielding greater riches and honour than before to Job himself, and, also, honour and glory to the Almighty God who permitted the testing to take place. Satan was defeated.

We may also think of the wicked Haman, who, seeking the destruction of Mordecai and his fellow Benjamite Jews, was hanged upon his own gallows which he had built with the intent to hang Mordecai.

In I Samuel 30:11, a sick Egyptian slave, unable to keep up with the retreat of an Amalekite raiding party was callously left behind to die in the desert. Upon being discovered and revived by David's men, he became the means of directing David to a successful attack upon the camp of the Amalekites who had kidnapped the womenfolk of David's band.

We may bring to mind the supreme example, wherein Jesus, Crucified and hanging dead upon the Cross, became, upon the Resurrection morning, the very means, thereby, of Salvation and Redemption for God's people. Satan's greatest apparent victory thus became the means of his total defeat.

In Genesis 37, we find the beginning of a most remarkable interplay of prophecy and fulfilment which, in certain of its aspects, falls into the same category. Let us read the Scriptural account of Joseph's dreams from the 37th Chapter of Genesis:

1. And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
2. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
3. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
4. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

I should interject a few remarks before continuing. The coat's quality is specifically mentioned because later, after being dipped in blood, it will be unmistakeably recognized by Jacob as distinct from any other. Such a coat just might have been intended as a mark, not only of Jacob's tender feelings for Joseph, but, conceivably, in fact, as a mark of some sort of impending enhanced status or authority among the members of his family. It certainly seems to have had directly the reverse effect, however, if that was the intent! Four older brothers, sons of the "lesser wives" Bilhah and Zilpah obviously resented their relative status; a status which Jacob had made obvious not long before, when the family had approached that meeting with Esau.

We may profitably read the New Bible Commentary on these matters. The Third Edition mentions that "the brothers discerned in the special robe, whether ornamented, vari-coloured or long-sleeved, Jacob's intention to honour Joseph with the birthright forfeited by Reuben." It further points out that the sullen resentment of the sons of the handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah led to slothful service, dutifully reported by the favourite, Joseph. The Second Edition comments on the matter of the coat. It says concerning that expression "of many colours", the following:

"Our AV translators were misguided through the use of the LXX in this passage. It is properly `a coat of extremities', i.e. a coat which in length reached down to the feet and was made with long sleeves extending beyond the hands. The usual undergarment was sleeveless and came down only as far as the knees. The gift of the coat was a mark of distinction, but exactly what Jacob intended to signify by this gift it is hard to say. The honour could not have been the full rights of the firstborn, for these he gave to Judah (see 49:8-12). Some explanation may possibly be found in the fact that Joseph was the firstborn of his favourite wife Rachel."

We may understand their feelings as they saw this direct evidence of Jacob's favour towards the younger brother, especially as they knew that he was reporting to Jacob what they were doing and saying. It would certainly not have been a single instance, I feel sure, but a continuing series of reports which Joseph gave to Jacob. Let us continue the Biblical account:

5. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
6. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
7. For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
8. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
9. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
10. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
11. And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

The New Bible Commentaries contain some pertinent notes. The Second Edition says "The two dreams recorded here both had their separate fulfilments in the subsequent events. Note the pivotal importance of dreams in Joseph's career." The Third Edition adds that in Joseph's double dream the brothers "...sensed a divine predestinating disclosure. Professional dream interpretation is attested in much Ancient Near Eastern literature, including reference works listing dream symbols and meanings. The second dream extended Joseph's dominion beyond his brothers to the parental heads of the household. Jacob took offence, not knowing that Joseph's dominion over him would operate within the context of the family's enforced stay in Egypt, and would not involve a usurpation of his patriarchal authority." Continuing at verse 12:

12. And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.
13. And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
14. And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

The Commentaries point out that Jacob had brought his family from the Shechem area, a place in which his name had been made "to stink among the inhabitants of the land" after that massacre of the town, and Jacob was naturally feeling some anxiety at the flock being again pastured there. However this pasturing without harassment from the outraged Canaanites spoke of God's continuing providential protection there.

The Shechem area, although considered dangerous in Jacob's day, would later have some significance for his descendants. Not only was it the first city of Canaan visited by Abraham, but here Joshua was to address the tribes of Israel for the last time. It was here that a Levitical city of refuge would later be established. Here, all Israel would assemble to make Rehoboam king in I Chronicles 10:1, and at that time, the Ten Northern Tribes would rebel from his authority and make Jeroboam their king instead, thus dividing the kingdom of Israel into two parts, and here the first kings of Israel would establish their residence. Here in the territory allotted to Ephraim, an area which would later be inhabited by the Samaritans, was Jacob's well, where Jesus spoke to the woman of Samaria concerning the waters of life. It would certainly be a place of some future significance for Israel in the centuries to come. But let us return to Joseph, searching for his brothers. The account continues:

15. And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
16. And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
17. And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

Perhaps pasture was thought to be better in Dothan, or perhaps the brothers were prudently inclined to move from the rather more dangerous Shechem area to Dothan, about fifteen miles towards the north across hill country to a site near Mount Gilboa. Dothan, incidentally, means "double feast."

We now come to that incident in the life of the young Joseph wherein the actions of his brothers actually have the somewhat paradoxical effect of initiating the sequence of events which eventually bring about the very submission to him which their present thoughts and actions are intended to circumvent. This will be the moment at which a process of prophetic fulfilment begins to unfold in the lives of these patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. It forms a part of a process which proceeds according to the age-long unfolding plan of The Almighty for the salvation of His people. God will use the very enmity raised by Joseph's dream to secure the ultimate fulfilment of his purposes.

18. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
19. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
21. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
22. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
23. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24. And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

While we have read a small portion of the account, which will hint at what is to come, we shall have to leave the rest and our further comments for our next programme.

15 March, 1992


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In Genesis 37, we find Joseph, at the starting point of an ordeal which has great prophetic overtones. This ordeal will be found to reflect both the work of the Nation of Israel, and that of Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry.

We should note, right from the start, that dreams were an important component in Joseph's life. God-given dreams, and the interpretation of dreams were the means by which Joseph was caused to undergo his time of great stress and testing, and also later to rise to the highest estate in the whole land of Egypt under Pharaoh.

Let us, in our imagination, join the band of Joseph's older brothers as they tend Jacob's flock in Dothan. Here, we find Reuben, the oldest, who, in spite of his lustful sexual instability in lying with Bilhah, his father's concubine, (an indiscretion reported to us in Genesis 35:22), nevertheless probably feels some sense of responsibility in consequence of being the oldest son of Leah, the eldest wife.

Here also are Simeon and Levi whose hot temper over the matter of their sister Dinah had brought death to the town of Shechem, and Judah, all sons of Leah, and also of maturing years. The other brothers are there: Dan and Naphtali, Bilhah's sons, and Zilpah's sons, Gad and Asher. These, being sons of the two handmaids, could not have escaped a sense of their lesser status, and hence, in all likelihood were particularly resentful of being passed over in favour of Joseph.

We see Issachar and Zebulun, of younger years, but also sons of Leah, and conscious of Jacob's preference for Rachel, the younger wife, Joseph's mother, over whose grave, in sorrow, Jacob had even raised a mustabah also called a dolmen or cromlech (which is mis-translated as `pillar' in Genesis 35:20 in the AV). These brothers all range downward in age, but all, being older, feel resentful at Jacob's special treatment of Joseph in giving him a robe of especial distinction, called in the AV, a robe of many colours.

Except for Benjamin, the youngest son of Rachel and Joseph's only full brother, Joseph was the youngest son, and in that society it would have been taken for granted that a young brother should not have expected such status as was marked by that robe. Why, then, was it given him? Aside from the Biblical comment of Genesis 37:3 regarding the fact that Joseph was the son of Jacob's old age, and that, in consequence, Jacob loved him "more than all his children" one may assume, in light of the later excellence of Joseph's supervisory capacities in Egypt, and his manifest honesty under the most trying circumstances, that Joseph, though a youth of seventeen, must have displayed, even at that age, the distinct makings of a true administrator. Was it for this reason that Jacob had elected to send Joseph to observe how the rest of the sons were faring in their occupation? Did the rest of Jacob's sons, in fact, sense and resent this preeminence of ability and character in the youth?

Joseph's dreams had excited anger amongst the rest of the family for he had reported to them his visions wherein the brothers' sheaves of wheat bowed to his, and the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing to himself.

Now, in the distance, the brothers see Joseph, wearing that hated robe as he gradually approaches their camp. If Joseph had not worn that robe, a mark of obvious distinction, possibly their conversation as he drew closer might have been less strident. As they have been for weeks labouring out in the fields tending the flock, we can almost hear their comments as they grumbled that a son of seventeen might well, in the circumstances, have been assigned a full share of demeaning labour in shepherding a large flock. But that robe must have drawn their comments and served to accentuate their anger. We read their words in Genesis 37:18:

18. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
19. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

Such a pit might well have been a deep cistern cut into the ground where a shallow water table would supply some water for watering flocks. Such a cistern would probably have a small opening at the top, preventing undue evaporation,

It is said that misery loves company, and as we read those words I cannot help but think that the brothers actually found enjoyment in their community of thought as they fed each other's aggravation over their common grievance against Joseph! Human nature doesn't change much through history. Have we not also known times wherein we have felt moved by the temptation to join in some thoughtless expression of group disapproval, some common element of grievance against someone or some group? Especially is this so when the number of participants permits a sense of anonymity, or at least shared responsibility. On such occasions, even our silence can be marked down as concurrence in the general expression of disapproval.

How very important it is at such times, then, that we exercise our individual judgment in the isolation of our own souls before God. While it is easy to evade group disapproval by "going along with the crowd", we must give account as one individual before God for what we do and say. Something of this must have stirred in the mind of Reuben and of Judah as the heat of angry words filled the air.

21. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
22. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

Reuben here shows a sense of personal responsibility which is commendable. Of course, we must remember that he has doubtless also felt some disapproval of his own actions in the matter of lying with Bilhah, mother of two of these brothers, and so he knows that Jacob has already in a sense, one black mark against him, and he doesn't relish having a second in the form of the murder of Jacob's favourite son!

23. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24. And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

Reuben's suggestion appears to have been accepted because it still appeared to the other brothers to lead to Joseph's death in the dry pit. We gain an insight into what transpired here by the later reference found in Genesis 42:21-23. In Egypt, when they all stood before Joseph without recognizing who he was, we read:

21. And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear: therefore is this distress come upon us.
22. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
23. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Returning to our story in Genesis 37, at the point where we left Joseph in that pit, Reuben appears to have left the group, for he is not present when the next development takes place.

25. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
26. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27. Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

We may sense the cruelty in the minds of some at least of the more dominant of the brothers as they left Joseph without food or water in a pit while the rest sat down to eat their meal.

There is a pertinent comment on this incident in the New Bible Commentary, by the way. It states: "The plea for mercy proved ineffectual until baited with the lure of extra profit ... beyond Joseph's double inheritance share, lust for which was the root of all this evil... ."

As we have previously expressed, the life and experiences of Joseph were a prophetic enactment of what was to come in the subsequent experience of the nation of Israel, and it also reflects in many ways a prophetic picture of the inter-relationship of Jesus Christ with His people. We shall learn more of this as we continue.

22 March, 1992


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

How much misery has the world suffered over the matter of money! Much of our present difficulty in the nations of modern day Israel is due to a lack of comprehension about the matter of money; of what it is, and what it represents.

Money can be a pelt of fur, sea shells, feathers, cattle, corn, pearls, various chunks of metal or rare stone, pieces of paper or a computer blip. Indeed the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica explains the origin of the word "salary" as "salt money." Originally, it was an allowance of salt, paid to officers and men of the Roman army, and later, that sum which Roman soldiers were paid to buy salt. We even have the expression that a man is "worth his salt." Salt has often acted as money through history.

We may well ask the question, then, "What is money?", to which a short answer might be "whatever a people choose to call money IS money." That is to say, whatever a society chooses at any given time as the token-symbol of a certain value, a share of power to trade in obtaining one's purposes can be called money.

Nebuchadnezzar chose to make a great idol of gold as the national token of his kingdom, and it was a refusal to bow down and worship that symbol which brought Daniel's three friends to the fiery furnace, as you may recall. The Babylonian system is the prophetic Biblical designation for a corrupt world-grasping money system which has operated down through history, trading in the souls of men. It is prophesied in Revelation 18 to fall in a great destructive disaster. Verses 1-12 read:

1. And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
2. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
3. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
4. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
6. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
7. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
8. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
9. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
10. Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
11. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
12. The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

Well, that is quite a prospect for which God's servants are to look! We must heed Christ's warning regarding this great financial system, for many prophetic students believe we cannot be far from that very event in our own time.

The strength of the money token lies in the maintenance of confidence that people can exchange the token for some desired object. Over-supply of the token reduces the confidence, and hence de-values the token. It becomes in practice, and for as long as that confidence lasts, a sort of reservoir of that power. The moment that confidence is lost, money loses its value, and becomes only a relatively useless piece of material, or even a vapour of lost electrons!

Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 6:10 that "the love of money is the root of all evil"; a statement which doesn't necessarily mean that every evil thing thought or done throughout the entire history of the world was caused by loving money, for money, as we understand the term, has not always been in existence. Rather, I would take it to mean that every variety of evil has been caused by such love, for money, under our present system, is power.

The word "mammon" appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the AV translation of the Bible. The dictionary meaning of this word is "riches", understood in the sense of a devotion to gain, and to treating riches as a god.

Our Lord, in Matthew 6:24, tells His disciples "Ye cannot serve God and mammon", which is quite true. One cannot meet the demands of two divergent supreme priorities in one's life simultaneously. We should understand, however, that while we are not to "serve" this mammon, we are to make use of it for in Luke 16 we find Christ advising His followers to use this riches, this "mammon", to make friends, that is to say, draw them towards the Christian experience, because this "mammon" will eventually "fail", or in other words, become worthless. We must invest that portion of it which God entrusts within our hands faithfully towards God's purposes, for it is His, not our own, and it will eventually cease to have any value other than what we derive from its investment in God's service. Incidentally, for those who wonder at mention of usury in the parable of the talents (Matthew 26:27) an Israelite was permitted to lend upon usury to a stranger whose economic system involved such practice (Deuteronomy 23:20).

I have been led to review this topic at this time because I have been reading of what happened to Joseph when he went to find his brothers. They stripped his coat of many colours from him as the AV states it, and put him in a pit while they ate their meal. The passage in Genesis 37 continues at verse 25:

25. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

I will interject to draw attention to the goods being carried, for they filled a curiously prophetic detail in the story as we will see in a moment.

26. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27. Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
28. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

The New Bible Commentary suggests that Judah thus sought to save Joseph from immediate death, but unwittingly thus thwarted Reuben's intention towards the same end. But isn't it interesting, that it was Judas Iscariot who sold Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15); that was the value of the life of Our Lord in the eyes of those who hated Him, and here it was Judah who suggested that the seventeen year old Joseph be sold for twenty pieces of silver! It may be of additional interest to note that Leviticus 27:5, in the matter of vows made to the LORD, later set the evaluation of twenty shekels as the redemption price for a male Israelite of an age between five and twenty years of age. The context indicates that the shekels would be of silver.

Also, we remember that spice, aloes and myrrh were used at Our Lord's burial (Matthew 26:12, Mark 15:23, Luke 23:56, 24:1, John 19:39-40) and here Joseph was carried away with the spices, balm and myrrh in the caravan. Is this not indeed another small prophetic aspect of this dreadful act?

Regarding those Ishmaelites who are here termed "Midianites", the New Bible Commentary notes that in Egypt, those who sold Joseph were termed "Medanites." The commentary finds no problem if the term "Ishmaelite" had come to mean something like "trader"; a term which might thus be applied to both Midianites and Medanites.

29. And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
31. And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;

We shall have more to suggest later regarding the further prophetic aspects of this bloody unwitting enactment.