|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #296, 297 and 298|
27 July, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession to our present focus in Leviticus 26:33. We have looked at the Biblical story of the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (who was re-named Israel), and the children of Israel as they first entered Egypt, under the care of Joseph, but later began to suffer bondage under a pharaoh "who knew not Joseph." We saw in the miracles of The Exodus the hand of The Almighty God Who was, at Mount Sinai to make an agreement of national marriage with the nation of Israel. Laws were imparted to the nation there, and we have been examining those laws down to our present study.
Today, before we continue with succeeding verses, I want to run over some particular points from the passage found in Leviticus 26:1-33 which we did not have time to develop and examine in greater detail on the last two studies. In our last study, I took issue with a comment made by one of the Commentaries, about the term "seven times", and I shall return to that for some further insights in a little while, but we ought to take the verses of particular interest in the order in which they appear in the Scripture passage. First, we might take for particular consideration verse 8 and verse 17, which are linked opposites.
In verse 8, there is a promise which will follow national contrition and observance of God's Laws: "And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword." Certainly this is a desirable objective for a righteous nation of people, for, if they are righteous, it naturally follows that their enemies will be unrighteous to attack them, and if the God of our Scripture is the Almighty, Who is the rightful owner of all of Creation and that which is contained therein, the people can be certain that He will fulfill His words in that contractual agreement. There is, however what we, today might call "the flip side of the record", namely the penalty for disobedience, which is found in verse 17: "And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you."
When we realise how certain is the benefit of the promise of The Almighty God upon receiving the loyal adherence of His people to His Law, then we can also understand the strength of disapproval wherewith they will be visited by His imposed penalty for disobedience. There is, in fact, a direct cause and effect relationship between the breaking of God's Law in this matter and the result. If God's people are to remain free of the power of those who are their enemies, they will need the strength of character and protection which comes from their adherence to The Almighty and their consequent loving protection of one another. Upon wandering away to pursuits in their own strength, they will doubtless find opponents who are stronger and even less inhibited from imposing upon them than they themselves might be by the residual remnant of self-disciplining restraint of God's Laws. In listening to the beguiling words of strangers, they will forget God's words. In very truth, they will be splintered from one another, not standing together, and will thus be weakened, and fail to protect one another. Being scattered, they will become more vulnerable.
Even in nature, as we know, in the flock of birds, or the herd of animals each individual bird or animal will find rest from the extreme and wearying tensions of constant vigilance which must be exercised when in isolation. The eyes and ears of the whole flock or herd and particularly of those members temporarily at the perimeter of the group at any given moment, are at the service of each of the other members, to raise an alarm and so each can find more assurance of peaceful rest amidst the throng, and when in turn called upon for extra vigilance, rested minds and heightened sharpness of mind will be more able to observe some lurking danger. In a somewhat related sense, during development of aerial warfare, it was soon observed that flying in formation would concentrate many wary eyes to scan the same sky, and when required, allow convergence of fire from a number of rear gunners on bombers to overlap, and thus increase security for the whole squadron.
In general, more peace and security for every individual will be found among those whose have the same heritage of genetic, racial history, that is to say, descent from one patriarch or, in other words, a common patriotism. (Patriotism is a word from Latin and Greek roots; "pater" meaning literally "father.") Such people, as part of their cultural inheritance drawn from familiarity with family cultural norms taught at their parents' and grandparents' knees, consequently tend to agree on one common system of religion, laws, values, priorities and interests.
Tribal symbols or banners displaying the religious traditions regarded as truth by the whole community will be equally respected and form a bond, sometimes greatly reinforced by certain special events in tribal history which involved those symbols as a means of creating united direction of response among tribal ancestors of a former generation in those times which were particularly challenging or distressed in their past.
Whole tribes are but extended families which contain multitudes of relations, and so the same conditions tend to be preserved within a tribal setting even though the extended family has grown so large that the individual may not know every other member individually, or even the vast majority of the tribe. There remains a certain peaceful assurance of the existence of these common bonds even though one may find oneself among people who are strangers on the personal level, and contacts tend to be easily made as the various parties, though strangers to one another, do know much about one another's backgrounds simply because of the background relationship and common cultural heritage. They react the same under stress, and appreciate the same standards in their patterns of life. I have had personal experience of this upon meeting strangers in other lands and on other continents whose racial stock and religious patterns stem from the same roots as my own. Living within a context of those conditions which are known and commonly experienced and even predictable brings a general and agreed peaceful co-existence.
There is less tension where one can expect and even predict the actions of one's neighbours. This is why we tend to avoid the obvious stranger who does not display the physical stamp of tribal connection and the erratic lunatic among us. If we must be near them, we tend towards an approach with extra vigilance, for the actions of such could conceivably be violent or inconvenient, and in any event, unpredictable. We do not know how they are likely to be viewing reality at any given moment, and thus we do not feel assured of their reactions in circumstances which seem different to their minds than to ours. They may also regard as normal some type of food which we are forbidden, or behaviour which causes us distress such as invasive noisiness or littering the neighbourhood, to say nothing of destroying our property. Life is made more agreeable and peaceful when one can be surrounded by one's own, and with this comes release from stress of tension, greater consequent health, and the enjoyment of relaxed pursuits.
Let us return to the matter of God's Laws in this regard. We must understand that nothing which happens comes about without God's controlling oversight and direction. If a person is under contract to do a certain work, the director or athletic trainer has the contractual right to give some form of direction to the person regarding their health or physical and mental development and preparation, so that there can be no reasonable objection on their part if they receive disapproval in some form for non-compliance. We would not find it unreasonable to see this in the case of an Olympic candidate, or a student under instruction, so we ought not to hold God unreasonable or unrighteous for thus dealing with those with whom He has created what amounts to a marriage agreement at Mount Sinai. If we are a part of His family, the relationships will be displayed in all the areas I have just been mentioning both with Himself, and among others of like background in our family, so we ought not to rebel against His Laws in forcing a miscegenated and culturally diverse invasion into the unity which God's Laws invoked for Israel, His national wife, as He seeks to bring about the basic foundations of His national kingdom. This is one important reason for teaching the Biblical background of that family relationship which is capable of generating release from tension, respect for others of our community, and a healthy unity and continuity within our people. God's Laws are rational. When applied by the whole community, they "work" for the benefit of all. We cannot avoid stating as a final point that our Biblical heritage shows us the truth which is only found within it and, as Christians, the Christian values which God demands that we cultivate in these laws which we are studying in the Old Testament. May you find these thoughts beneficial food for meditation this coming week.
3 August, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession to our present focus in Leviticus 26:33.
Today, before we continue with succeeding verses, I want to run over a particular point from the passage found in Leviticus 26:1-33 which we did not have time to develop and examine in greater detail on the last few studies. It concerns those "seven times" which are mentioned in several verses, including Leviticus 26:28; a verse which states the following curse to come upon Israel for increased or prolonged disobedience: "Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins." With reference to the mention in that verse 28 of a punishment of "seven times", I ought, perhaps to make some further comment. This has variously been stated to mean either a punishment experience of seven times normal intensity, or alternatively a period marked out in the history of Israel which would comprise a punishment of dispossession from the land for a period which is called "seven times."
Some authorities are either unaware of, or unwilling to accept, our insights regarding the identification of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the modern world with their forefathers of ancient Israel. While some of Israel had crossed, by ancient reports, to the areas of Troy and Spain even about the time of The Exodus, and others of a later century had, for many years, accompanied their allies of Tyre and Sidon by ship across the Mediterranean Sea and frequently to the distant "isles of the west", the history of the children of Israel involved, on the part of many of ancient Israel, the well-known captivities under the powerful Assyrian Empire.
The chief Hebrew word for "captive" or "exile" is "golah" or "galah" incidentally, which explains why Peter, in I Peter 2:10, applied Hosea's prophetic statement (Hosea 2:23), which had been exclusively and specifically designated to the descendants of the Northern House of ten-tribed Israel, to those of "Galatia" to whom, among the other listed descendants of Israel, he addressed his First Epistle.
Israel's historic submission to Assyrian deportation was almost immediately followed, within a few years, by participation in what might be described as a "mass break-out" from the fragmenting Assyrian Empire where they and others had been removed and re-located as captives. Multitudes escaped through the Caucasus Mountains by The Dariel Pass to become part of the Scythian populace of the time, living within trading route reaches of, or along the shores of, the Black Sea, who were trading allies of the Greeks. "Israelites Escaping Into Scythia"
Painting by D.C.Nesbit © 1997 (19.1K)
"Israelites Escaping Into Scythia"
The consequence of failure to appreciate these somewhat under-reported developments of history almost automatically results in a tendency on the part of many preachers to equate the much wider and inclusive term "Israel" with the much more restricted term "Jew", and the name of "Israel" is, then, assigned exclusively by them to the only fragment of a remnant of Israel within their range of vision. These preachers frequently further compound their error by equating the much more numerous Jewish proselytes who were added in later centuries out of a variety of origins with the minimal numbers actually descended of the ancient Israelite Tribe of Judah.
(* See Footnote at end of this broadcast script)
It was to only one remnant of the former Kingdom of Judah, upon its return from the Babylonian captivity, that Josephus, the Jewish historian accorded the term "Jew". Having made this blunder, these preachers naturally cannot find any sensible historic evidence to support the interpretation of "seven times" as a time of duration of such a period. Thus they dismiss that possibility out of hand.
The idea of those "seven times" is connected to several parts of scripture. At Belshazzar's feast, described in Daniel 5, the drunken orgy was brought to a stunning halt by the appearance of the fingers of a man's hand which wrote upon the wall the words "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." These words, interpreted by Daniel, are actually a variety of Babylonian weights used in commerce, which are one thousand, one thousand, twenty and halving [of a thousand] or in other words, a total of 2520 gerahs. The statement is thus a judgment on Babylon, drawing the line on the ledger, so to speak, at the accumulation of that quantity, which may be a measure of amount or of units of time. That number, 2520, amounts to seven times the 360 number of degrees marking one circuit of a circle, which is a part of the Babylonian sexagesimal mathematical system. In Daniel 12, that prophet was given the visionary revelation of future events to come upon his people and in verses 6 and 7, the symbol is shown of a man with two arms raised, and the time leading up to the end is symbolised as "a time, times, and an half" for each hand which is raised or, in other words, 2520 units of time.
In Revelation 12, we find the same number of 2520, halved in verse six, in the number "a thousand two hundred and threescore days" which is obviously a symbolic measure of time, and again, in verse fourteen, where the same time span (which, from the context can only be ascribed to the years after the first Advent of Our Lord) is described as "a time, and times, and half a time" wherein there is protection of "the woman" from "the dragon." The time given in the next chapter for the dominance of the similarly described "dragon" is given as "forty and two months." The most sensible connection appears when we realise that a "time" on the shorter scale measured in days is what has been described as a "prophetic year" of 360 days because then the "time, times and a half" or three and a half times 360 days would be 1260 days, and it fits with the forty-two months which would, on average, be a span of 42 times 30 days, or 1260 days.
Having said this, I can, perhaps, supply some particular evidence using the "times" as a period of history which makes sense in accordance with our understanding of the connection of Israel and the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples. It may be helpful if we first examine some general principles by considering an example which is easily understood. Suppose a group of three people are brought before a court and convicted for some crime for which a prison sentence of 2520 days (about seven years) is imposed on each. We will designate the prisoners by their initials as brothers M and E and a relative we will call J. Let us suppose that, for reasons accepted by the judge, prisoner M will begin serving his sentence almost at once, prisoner E will begin serving his sentence after a couple of weeks, and prisoner J will start his term of incarceration after a lapse of twelve weeks. The sentence of 2520 days will, in the case of each prisoner, be marked at its beginning and again at its termination precisely 2520 days later by a similar event, namely, the passing of the prisoner concerned through the door of the jail. At the beginning, each prisoner will step through to begin serving his sentence, and at the end, precisely 2520 days later on the day of his release to begin a life of freedom, but note that the two terminals of the span of days will have a connecting event to mark them as special days related specifically to each prisoner in turn. Thus, the start of the period of incarceration in each case will differ by a matter of weeks, and by a similar precise offset there will be a corresponding offset of the dates upon which each prisoner is released. It is important to see this, in order that we may identify each prisoner, M, E and J apart from his relatives, because each will upon his release be somewhat changed in appearance by increased age and perhaps different clothing. The dates upon which each individual is released will serve to identify and distinguish one from another.
Students of prophecy have identified the "time" as a period of 360 units (not unlike the number of degrees of a circle, to which it appears to be anciently related). These units may be days or years. Seven of these "times" will comprise 2520 units. In the case of one of the above individuals, that would comprise seven periods of 360 days each, but in the case of portions of the whole nation, it might be seven spans of 360 years, or 2520 years, on the Biblical basis of "each day for a year" found in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. The parts of the nation of which I used initials are as follows. M stands for a half of the Tribe of Manasseh which, along with Reuben and Gad, resided east of the Jordan River and these were deported by Assyria during 745-736 B.C.. E stands for Ephraim and the remaining Northern tribes of Israel, deported in 721 B.C., and J for Jerusalem, which fell to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 604 B.C. With a sentence of 2520 years having elapsed, we watch the door of the prison and see on the terminal year span of 1776-1787 one prisoner emerge, at the year 1800, a second, and in 1917, a third. The U.S.A. represents prisoner Manasseh, The United Kingdom, formed officially in 1800 is Ephraim, and Jerusalem was released by British troops from the Turkish forces in 1917.
I believe this is the correct interpretation based upon a correct understanding and identification of the present-day descendants of those Israelites to whom these words were given from The Almighty.
(See Items on John Hyrcanus under "Occasional Guests: - Authors, Contributors" on this web page for more information on this aspect of history.)
10 August, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession to our present focus in Leviticus 26:33. Although we ought, in the normal course of events, to address points of interest in the order in which they appear in the Scripture passage, in this case I thought that I might go a few verses back to pick up some further thoughts on verse 26.
In Leviticus 26:26 we read: "And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied." A word or two of amplification may be in order here. This is one of the verses in this chapter which sets before the people of Israel the dire consequences of disobedience. If this prophesied condition, is not sufficient to effect a correction on their part, the condition will lead further on to a "seven times" punishment for the nation. The Companion Bible note at this verse explains the usage of the word bread as "being put for the support it gives, and staff which it is" and further remarks that the breaking of the staff is "put for the cutting off [of] the supply." Further, it makes the point regarding the mention of ten women using one oven that the supply of the ingredients to make the bread will be so little that "one oven shall be sufficient for ten families" or, to restate the matter, all ten families together will only have enough to permit them all to use the same oven at the same time to bake their bread. This, I might observe, would also address the matter of the amount of fuel used, for if it was likewise in short supply, then it would be necessary for as much use as possible to be made of that which was available by making one heated oven do all the baking at one time. The statement speaks of a lack of food, and, I believe, also of fuel, and The Companion Bible note adds a reference to II Kings 6:28-29, which concerns a siege of Samaria wherein at least two of the people were even willing to eat their own babies! Verse 29 records "And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat."
In a somewhat more sophisticated approach, in our own society, I understand that certain portions of the unborn can be used in mending the bodies of others. Thus, as verse 26 puts it, with this possibility in view, I would say that our society is not so far from the prophecy which tells Israel that they will "eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters." The end result of Israel's removal from their land would be such that even their enemies would be amazed at the destruction which followed. Verse 32 says: "And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it."
Let us now read the first portion of today's Scripture passage, starting at Leviticus 26:34.
34. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.
35. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.
36. And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.
37. And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
38. And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
39. And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.
The New Bible Commentary, under the heading "ii. The Climax of desolation (xxvi. 34-39)" has this to say concerning that passage, with a particular focus on the words of verse 34, "Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths", an occurrence which will happen while Israel is in exile: "Cf. 2 Ch. xxxvi. 21 where the same expression occurs with reference to the Babylonian captivity. This does not justify the inference that during the centuries between the conquest and the captivity exactly seventy sabbatic years (corresponding to the length of the captivity) had not been observed. But it does indicate that this Mosaic law requiring sabbath rest had been grievously abused and had been largely neglected. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel reprove Israel for failure to keep the sabbath (cf. e.g., Je. xvii. 19-27). But they make no mention of the sabbatic year. Nor does Jeremiah represent the seventy years as a sabbath for the land (see Je. xxv. 8-11, xxvii. 6-8, xxix. 10). The sword (36, 37) is described in verse 25 as executing 'the vengeance of the covenant' (RV), a terrible phrase which suggests 'the wrath of the Lamb' (Rev. vi. 16). Perhaps we ought to review what those references in Jeremiah have to tell us.
Jeremiah 17:19-27 is an occasion wherein Jeremiah is told by The LORD to stand in the gate of the people where king and people will hear him appeal to them to observe the Sabbath day, with blessings and curses as their alternatives depending upon how they react.
Jeremiah 25:8-11 is a prophecy spoken to Judah by Jeremiah in which he shows that they have not hearkened to the warning, and so they will suffer invasion and the land will be a desolation.
Jeremiah 27:6-8 confirms that Nebuchadnezzar will be given dominance over the land and
Jeremiah 29:10, part of the letter from Jeremiah to those in Babylonian captivity, shows that they must await the seventy years before a return will be permitted. The previous verse condemns false prophets who had either been telling the people that they would never return, or had been giving them assurances that their stay would only be short, and that they would soon return. God had not sent these false prophets, Jeremiah explains to the people in their captivity.
Let us continue our reading to the end of the chapter.
40. If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;
41. And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
42. Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
43. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.
44. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.
45. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.
46. These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.
The Companion Bible points out that verse 40 presents the option of confession in order to lead on to His remembrance of His covenant with them, and the note at that verse tells us that this act of confession "is the one abiding condition for national blessing and restoration." Curiously, mention of Jacob in verse 42 is noted to be the only place where the order of the Patriarchs is inverted, as they are listed in the order Jacob, Isaac, and then Abraham. It is possible that in that order the people might trace their roots, and thus find cause for this required repentance and confession.
On this last portion, under the heading "iii. The result: confession and forgiveness (xxvi. 40-45)", The New Bible Commentary says "In verse 40, follow the RV, 'And they shall confess'. The 'if' does not come till 41b, 'if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled.' When punishment has finally resulted in confession, if the people who have been scattered among the nations humble themselves, knowing that it is God who has brought them into their evil state, and accept of the punishment of their iniquity (41) then the Lord will remember His covenant with their fathers (42). The implication is that He will restore them to the land promised to their fathers, since its possession was an important element in the covenant promise. but it is noteworthy that this is here left to inference, quite different from Dt. xxx. 1-5, where return to the land is definitely promised on condition of repentance. Verse 46 concludes this group of laws with the emphatic declaration that they were delivered to Israel through Moses at mount Sinai (cf. vii. 38).
If repentance and confession was shown to be so very important in the case of ancient Israel, surely it will be no less important to ourselves, who are, as we of the British-Israel-World Federation continually assert, the Anglo-Celto-Saxon descendants of those same Israelites of so long ago. As Christians, we who observe the connection ought to have an even better sense of the manner that this repentance and confession ought to be presented in consequence of that knowledge. May this serve as a meditation for the coming week.