A Void in the Word

דם המכבים

Memorial day in the new state of Israel is set one day before Independence Day. In this day we all mourn for the soldiers who died in wars and on duty. The symbol of this day is a flower that is very common in the mountains of Israel and blossoms in this season, and looks like drops of blood. Its Hebrew Name is Dam Hamakabim which translates to “The blood of the Maccabees”

The dead left a huge void in our hearts

One verse that is quoted every year in this day is from “The song of the Bow” that David wrote after Saul and Jonathan died in the battle against the Philistines:

“The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19)

Let’s focus on the word that is used in Hebrew for the the English word “slain” here.

The word in Hebrew is pronounced “Chalal” and its literal meaning is “void” or “hollow”.

Many examples in the bible. Here are a few:

“If anyone is found slain (chalal), lying in the field in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him (Deuteronomy 21:1)

For by fire and by His sword
The Lord will judge all flesh;
And the slain (chalal) of the Lord shall be many. (Isaiah 66:16)

“Yes, you shall be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised,
And lie with those slain (chalal) by the sword (Ezekiel 32:28)

Whenever the word “chalal” appears in the Bible it refers to a person that was killed or died unexpectedly. Instead of using the word “meth” – “dead”, in those cases the Bible use the word “chalal” – “void”.

When someone was slain or killed, a void is left in the heart of the people who knew him and loved him.

In memorial day we all remember the people who fell protecting our country and left a huge void in our hearts.

Play the Flute

But Hebrew is a special language. Every word has a root, and you can use the same root to build other words.

So if you take the root of “chalal” and make a verb out of it – you get “chilel

Chilel” has two distinct meaning. The first is: “playing the flute”

A flute is a hollow instrument, and the word “chalal” means also hollow.

So a flute in Hebrew is “chalil” and “to play the flute” is “lechalel

The harp and the strings,
The tambourine and flute (chalil),
And wine are in their feasts; (Isaiah 5:12)

Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 All the people went up after him, and the people were playing (mecholelim) on flutes (chalil) and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth shook at their noise. (1 Kings 1:39-40)

And from the word “chilel” – play the flute, rose the word “Machol” which means “dance for the sound of instruments”:

Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances (machol) of those who rejoice. (Jeremiah 31:4)

Profane God’s word

But now, there is a surprise: The word “chilel” which means “play the flute” is also used for a completely different meaning.

Many times in the Bible this word is used for the meaning of “profane” or “defile”

Here are some examples with different derivatives of the word “chilel”

And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane (techalel) the name of your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:21)

They shall not profane (yechalelu) the holy offerings of the children of Israel, which they offer to the Lord (Leviticus 22:15)

because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned (chilelu) My Sabbaths (Ezekiel 20:16)

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it (chilalta) (Genesis 49:3-4)

Can we understand how the root “chalal” which means “void” and “hollow” turned into a word that means “profane” and “defile”?

Maybe, it is because, when we profane or defile God’s word, we replace it in hour hearts with void?

But He was profaned for our transgressions

Another example of the use of the word “chilel” with the meaning of profane, but this time in a passive form can be found in Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, Chapter 53.

The word is “mechulal” which is the passive form of “cholel” and means: being profaned or being defiled.

Note that in most English translation, the word is translated to “wounded” or “pierced”but this is not the original Hebrew meaning:

But He was wounded (profaned – “mechulal”) for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

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World Peace

קובץ:Peace dove.svg

In this era in which we live, we talk about World Peace probably more than ever before. The reason may be the trauma of the two world wars in the 20th century. After WW2, many people started to believe that this is the lowest point in human history and something radical need to be done by humanity to prevent such a terrible war from happening again.

Many efforts and ideologies aimed to achieve World Peace. There is some kind of perception that we live today in one of the most peaceful time in history. See: Obama: We’re living in ‘most peaceful’ era in human history

When have this “peaceful era” started and when is it going to end?

This month, Rwanda marked 25 years since the genocide in which 1 million people were killed in 100 day.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed in Syria in the last 8 years of civil war. Numbers , as for March 2019, vary between 371,222 and 570,000, while the number of registered refugees resulting from that war is more than 5.6 million. Real numbers are probably much higher.

So, is it really the most peaceful era in human history? What is the meaning of this claim anyway? Maybe it means that in the majority of the western world people are not involved in wars for the last 70 years, but countries like Syria, Rwanda, Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan and other, are too far to be heard and care for?

There are several ways in which humanity tries to achieve World peace.

Diplomacy may be the most effective, but also in some cases the least effective, when it just cannot stop a massacre that started already.

President Barack Obama with the Nobel Prize medal and diploma.jpg

Every year, one person is awarded with a Nobel Peace prize. This represents how much the idea of seeking peace is important in a global view.

And the question still remains: Is seeking of world peace and all the effort that people put in this movement really effective? or are we still living in a time when power and brutal politics rules, as always in history?

I like to investigate every such question with what the Bible has to say. And indeed, there is a lot!

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

This beautiful vision of world peace, in which even the animals stop devouring and killing, is far beyond the ideas of the new World Peace movement.

Note that the vision involves “My holy mountain” and “Knowledge of the Lord”. Those two terms are completely missing from the discussion of modern peace seekers.

And this prophecy continues:

10  “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”

11 It shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time
To recover the remnant of His people who are left,
From Assyria and Egypt,
From Pathros and Cush,
From Elam and Shinar,
From Hamath and the islands of the sea.

12 He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.

There are some more motives that we see here that are bound with this vision. A lot of those motives appear again in all other prophecies:

  1. “Root of Jesse” – this is the Messiah from the seed of David son of Jesse. A redeemer that will come from a certain family and is to be the “banner to the people”
  2. “Recover the remnant of His people who are left”: This future vision cannot happen without “His people” recovered and returning to their home land.
  3. “He will set up banner for the nations”: Note that all the prophets do not talk about “all the people” but always about “the nations”. The important meaning is that people are part of nations. even when the whole world is in peace, the nations are still important and are not gone. This is in contrast to the common thought that globalism and breaking the structure of nations and nationality is part of World Peace

Look at the following lines from John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine”:

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace”
This expression of futuristic world is the opposite of what the Bible teaches us:
John Lennon believed that there would be a world peace when there are no countries and no religion.
Image result for john lennon imagine poster

Israel and World Peace

The United Nations is an international organization that was founded after WW2 and was mainly aimed to protect the world from any new coming war.

Surprisingly (or not), the state of Israel is the most condemned nation by the UN for violating human rights and being a great obstacle to peace with its political actions. The number of resolutions against Israel that were taken in the UN exceeds far more than the number of resolutions against any other country. See “Israel most condemned country at UN in 2018” and “UN to condemn Israel 9 times, rest of the world 0” and “UN Condemns Israel Through six Resolutions in one day

How does this fact above is seen in the light of what the prophet says?

Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:3-4)

flag blue summit state un global world trade internationality foreign trade

What is the right way to bring peace?

With all ideologies, peace movements and diplomacy that concern World Peace, the general idea is that humanity can achieve world peace using the following terms:

  1. Education for tolerance toward other people
  2. International control of conflict using strong military allies
  3. Equality of resources between people and political control of society.
  4. Democracy as an ultimate political regime that allows each person to express himself freely and equally

According to peace movements, if we adhere to those terms, (there are of course some other ideas) then eventually our world would be a safer and more peaceful place.

But the big question is: Can humanity really solve its conflicts by itself? is this achievable at all?

Again, Let’s check what the Bible tells us on how we should behave in order to live peacefully.

26 “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

Note that in the Bible, the key is obedience to God.

When this is done, the blessing and peace will come as a result. This opposes the secular thought on how to achieve peace: The modern idea is that people need to seek peace by taking an action toward it, but without any need to fix themselves. Morality is not part of seeking peace. Only stopping the fighting and accept other people.

The Bible, on the contrary, tells us first to fix our ways, and then peace will shine on us.

The method of the Bible is based on the fact that we cannot really fix humanity as we ourselves are full of sins.

for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21)

For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

for there is no one who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46)

Summary

We see two ways today to seek peace.

The more common way that is taught in most schools in Western society:

Any act of war is evil. You should condemn violence and inequality you see around you.  you should hate the aggressors and love the poor.

And what about your own actions? Do whatever you like, as long as you do not hurt your neighbour. This is modern morality.

Two prophets of this vision are the late John Lennon and former US president Barack Obama.

But there is another way. The way of the Bible:

Fix yourself. Obey God. follow His commandments – And the God of peace will be with you.

…Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…

 

You shall choose: What is your way?

For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
 (Jeremiah 8:11)

Judah: The Lion that confessed

 

We Jews, are called after our father Judah – Yehuda in Hebrew (יְהוּדָה), the fourth son of Israel.

What did Judah do to get the honor that all of the Jewish people are called after him?

In Genesis 49, Moses blessed Judah with a special blessing:

Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes.” (Genesis 49: 8-10)

Although he was the fourth son, he was the one who got the best blessing. Judah was compared to a lion!

This is a blessing that prophesied the role of Judah in the genealogy of the Messiah!

The first three brothers did not get the blessing. Reuben, for defiling his father’s bed; Simeon and Levi were cursed for killing the men of Shechem.

What was it in Judah that gave him the primacy and blessing from his father?

The name Yehuda, comes from the word “Hoda” – To praise and give thanks. This is explained when he was born:

And she (Leah) conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord (of give thanks to the Lord. R.S).” Therefore she called his name Judah.(Genesis 29:35)

The Hebrew word “Toda” (תּוֹדָה) that means “thanks” comes from the same root of Hoda and Yehuda.

And indeed. Judah has a special role among his brothers when they meet Joseph in Egypt, while they do not know yet he is their brother.

Joseph was playing with them for a long time. The ten brother went to Egypt to bring grain for the famine in Canaan, while leaving the youngest – Benjamin – with his father.

When Joseph saw them, he recognised them but acted as a stranger to them. First, he blamed his brothers that they were spies. He took Simeon to prison, and commanded the rest to go to Canaan and bring their young brother Benjamin to him.

After some time in Canaan, the famine was strong and the grain was finished, they needed to go to Egypt again. But this time, they knew they had to bring Benjamin with them. Jacob could not accept this. He did not agree to send his young son with them. At this point, Judah promised and gave his word to be blamed forever if Benjamin would not be back. It was a strong burdon Judah takes upon himself!

In Egypt, Joseph continued to play with his brothers. This time he gave them grain to take back, but commanded to put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. When they had left, Joseph sent people to chase them and look in their sacks. The silver cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, of course. Joseph took Benjamin to be his slave because of this allegedly theft.

Judah could not accept this fate, knowing how his father’s heart would break. And he spoke to Joseph begging to be his slave instead of Benjamin:

30 “Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 31 it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave. 32 For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (Genesis 44:30-34)

This is the point that Joseph broke down. Judah really spoke to his heart and he could not go on with his game.

This is the point when Joseph confessed to his brothers. He wept loudly so all Egypt could hear.

In this story, Judah appeared as the brother that his father could count on. He took on himself something that seemed impossible, and made a change while being accountable.

This is indeed why he is called Yehuda – for his father could give thanks to God of this son. He is indeed a lion!

But This is not the end of the story with Judah. in Genesis 38, after Joseph was sold and before we read what happened to him in Egypt, There is short hidden episode:

This is the story of Tamar. A girl that married one of Judah’s sons: Er. But Er dies, so Tamar was given to his younger brother: Onan. But Onan did not want to give Tamar a son, and he dies too. So Tamar was now supposed to wait for the third son to be old enough to marry her, but this did not happen either. And Tamar wanted a child so much!

What did she do? she waited for Judah where he went to shear his sheep, and pretended to be a harlot in the dark night. When Judah wanted to come to her, she asked for something in return, and he gave her his signet and his cord and his staff – Three personal items.

Three months later, Judah was told that his daughter-in-law – Tamar – was pregnant with a child by harlotry. Judah immediately commanded that she would be burned!

Now, as in a good drama, Tamar showed the three items: the signet, cord and staff, and said: I carry the child of the person to whom those belong.

In this point of the story, we learn something new about Judah: He could have said: she is a liar! She stole those from me! and burn her anyway. But he did something different that showed his generosity:

So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” (Genesis 38:26)

Judah confessed his fault instead of continuing blaming.

The word “confessed” in Hebrew is “Hoda” The same word used for “give thanks. The same word on which Yehuda was called. Yehuda is the son for which his parents could give thanks to the Lord, and he is the one who confessed about being unrighteous.

This is YehudaJudah.

And after his name, we, Jews are called.

 

The Curse on Mount Ebal

29 “It shall come about, when the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? (Deuteronomy 11:29-30)

30 Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. (Joshua 8:30-31)

Where did the Covenant of Abraham take place?

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Abraham and three Angels, Marc Chagall

In the book of Genesis, The Lord made covenant with Abram/Abraham in two different occasions: The first one is known as the “Covenant of the parts” (Hebrew: Brit bein HaBetarim). The second one is the “Covenant of Circumcision” (Hebrew: Brit Milah)

Covenant of the Parts:

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:1, 9-11, 18-21)

Covenant of Circumcision:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. (Genesis 17:1-11)

In this post, I am not going to talk about the meaning of the covenant, but rather on the question: where did it take place?

The Lord commanded Abram: “Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you. (Genesis 13:17).

And indeed, Abraham walked the land from north to south and from east to west.

Many places are mentioned by their names and what Abraham did there:

He built altars in Shechem and Bethel; Moved his tent to Elonei Mamre; Journeyed to Kadesh and Shur; Planted a tree in Beersheba; Pursued kings to Damascus; Sacrificed in the Land of Moriah; and so on.

But two events are described without any reference to a location: the two covenants.

As Bible scholars, we want to learn: where were the places of the covenants.

Let’s start our investigation:

Where was the place of the “Covenants of the Parts”

Mount Hermon

One very common suggestion for the place of the “Covenant of the Parts” is Mount Hermon.

There are several reason to believe that this is the place: The covenant took place, as described in the Bible, immediately after Abram met king of Sodom and Melchizedek king of Salem in “Valley of Shaveh” (Gen 14:17). Unfortunately, there is not an agreement about where valley of Shaveh is…

So, if we look in the Bible a little before that story, we read that Abram was chasing the four kings that took Lot until Hobah which is north of Damascus (Gen 14:15). So, it makes sense, that on his way back, The Lord made the covenant with Abraham on a high mountain somewhere between Damascus and Canaan. Mount Hermon is a good candidate.

Another reason to believe that mount Hermon was the place is the fact that there is an old Jewish tradition (and even Muslim tradition) that relates Mount Hermon to our story. There is even a site that is called “Place of the Parts” that refers to Abraham.

There are though, two problem with the identification of Mount Hermon:

  1. Abraham met King of Sodom and Melchizedek in “Valley of Shaveh that is, the King’s Valley”. Valley of Shaveh is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, but the King’s valley is mentioned once more as the place where Absalom had built himself a pillar as a tomb. (2 Samuel 18:18). It makes sense that Absalom built his tomb close to Jerusalem and not in Hermon Mountain.
  2. The Jewish tradition of “Place of the Parts” on mount Hermon started not before 16th century AD by Jewish pilgrims. So it is quite a “new” tradition that does not go back to Biblical times.

Elonei Mamre (Oaks of Mamre) in Hebron

Let’s read again the verse from the Bible:

And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, that is, the King’s Valley, after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. (Genesis 14:17)

Note that the Bible says: “after his return“. This can point out that all this happened close to where Abraham lived. But Abraham did not live in one place: he moved from one place to another. So how about looking for the last place where he set his tent.?

 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord. (Genesis 13:18)

Oaks of Mamre, or in Hebrew Elonei Mamre, is then the new candidate for the place of the covenant.

And where was the place of the Covenant of Circumcision?

This is in Genesis 17. Again here, there is no reference for a place.

If we go to the previous chapter, to find a reference, then it is the story of Hagar and Ishmael. This story in chapter 16 ends with the saying that Abram was 86 years old.

Chapter 17 starts telling us that Abram was 99 years old when the Lord appeared to him.

It means that 13 years passed between the two stories. We cannot just assume that he was in the same place all those years…

So, why not try to get the location reference from what happens after the Covenant of the Circumcision. In Chapter 18:

Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.  (Genesis 18:1)

This is the beginning of the Story of the three men that came to Abraham and promised him a son from his wife.

We understand that Abraham, after many years, was still in Elonei Mamre. (Later on he would move to the south and set his tent in Beersheba).

So here again, Elonei Mamre is the place where the Covenant could have take place.

Another option though…

I want to come with a different approach about where the covenants took place.

And this is directly from the Bible itself:

Could it be that there is a reason why it was not mentioned where exactly the covenants took place?

If all Abraham’s moves in the country were commented so well exactly where he went and what he did in every place, but the covenants do not have a location – maybe this is in purpose?

Both covenants come with the promise of the inheritance of the land:

18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)

And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:7-8)

The promise in the covenant is the inheritance of the whole land of Canaan. Therefore there is no specific location.

I believe that when the Bible does not mention a place – there is a reason and purpose!

Abraham_Lilien
Abraham, E. M. Lilien

 

I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God

Bible Code Revealed !??

Bible_code_in_Exodus_1,1-6

The Bible, as we know it, was translating to many languages, but the original language is ancient Hebrew. Many people have searched to find a code or a cipher in the Bible that shows divine meaning in it.

And indeed, there are many examples of secrets found in the Bible that can be revealed using decryption method.

In this article, I am not going to dive into those theories or methods. Many books have been written about this subject. I want to focus on something else that people do not always notice: how modern cryptology is explained in the Bible.

Because I am a software engineer, and worked a lot with modern cryptology and ciphering algorithms, I was surprised to reveal that some of the most complicated methods that were invented in the 20th century, were already mentioned in the Bible.

Thus, I am going to explain in simple words, some of the cryptology methods and point to the references in the Bible.

Cryptography for dummies

Goal of cryptography

Cryptography is the practice of sending confidential text or data to another person, in a way that only the recipient can read it. Any person in the middle, including the messenger, should not be able to understand the message.

Terminology

  • Cipher – a cipher is a method (algorithm) that dictates how a piece of text is being encrypted and decrypted. for example, a common cipher is the method of switching letters according to some replacement table.
  • Key/Secret – the key is what is used to encrypt and to decrypt the message. Without the key the message cannot be read. The sender of the message, needs to make sure that the recipient has the key to open and read the message. for example, in a letter switching method, the replacement table is the Key. In the army, they use this method and change the table every two weeks.
  • Identification – because the Key for decryption should be kept secured, the sender of the message also wants to make sure that the recipient got the Key, and not anybody else. Because if the Key falls into wrong hands, all messages are revealed. Therefore the sender wants to identify the person that he hands the key to.
  • Password/Passcode – this is the same as Key, but it is more often used for authentication (Identification). So when I, as a sender wants to verify the identity of the receiver, I ask him to use a password for identification. After successful authentication, I give him the key to decipher messages that I will send in the future. So we have doubled our security.

After this technical introduction, let’s see how all this appears in the Bible.

Gematria (Hebrew: גמטריא‬)

This is the simplest type of cipher. In the Hebrew alphabet, every letter has a numeric value. Aleph:א = 1, Bet:ב‬ = 2, Gimel:ג‬ = 3, etc.

All the chapters and verses in the Hebrew Bible are numbered by letters and not by numbers. So Genesis 1:1 is numbered: א:א. Psalms 114 is numbered:  קי‬ד‬‬.

The cipher here is a translation table between letters and numbers. But the secret is revealed to everyone because it is not really a secret.

Gematria is used a lot in Kabbala, because each word can be translated into a number, and the numbers can be assessed according to numerology.

David and Jonathan

A real example of using a very unique cipher is the story of David and Jonathan. David was afraid that Saul, Jonathan’s father, wanted to kill him. Jonathan, in order to comfort David, Suggests how he would reveal to David whether the king wanted to kill him or not:

David would hide behind a rock. Jonathan, after hearing his father in the palace would send a secret message to David, because no one should know that they have communicated each other. Jonathan would shoot three arrows and would send his servant to find them. He would call the boy with a message that is the secret for David to know whether the king wants to kill him or not (1 Samuel,  20).

In this story we have a Cipher – this is the method that Jonathan agreed with David on how to understand the message. There is a Key – that is the secret message that Jonathan sent when calling his servant. The servant himself, is a messenger that did not have a Key, and therefore could not decipher the message.

But note that there is also a need here for Authentication: Jonathan knew David and passed the secret to him and him only. He did not give the secret to someone else so the secret would not fall into wrong hands.

God will provide the Key

Several times it happened in the Bible that there was a message encrypted and nobody could understand it. But then, there was one person who had the ability (the Key) to decipher the message. This person got the key directly from God.

The different dreams that Joseph interpreted in Egypt were one such example.

Daniel also interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. In this case, the king forgot the dream and Daniel could tell him exactly what was the dream and what was its meaning.

Daniel deciphered later another message that was not a dream. It was king Belshazzar:

They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

25 “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 

26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” (Daniel 5:4-5, 26-28)

There is no way to understand the meaning of the message from God without a key. The key id given to special chosen people and only then the message can be deciphered.

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Give me the password!

 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim. (Judges 12:5-6)

According to this story, the people of Gilead, led by Jephthah, were fighting against Ephraim. They could not distinguish one from the other – not by look or by language. But there was something about the people of Ephraim: They could not pronounce the word “Shibboleth” properly.

Shibboleth” was the “Password” that was used for authentication.

Note that in this case, we call it “Biometric authentication“, because it is something the the person has by nature and therefore can be easily tracked.

A side note here about the word “Shibboleth”(שִׁבֹּלֶת‬):  Its meaning in Hebrew is “stalk of grain”. In Modern cryptography this word is used to refer to “Password” and is even used as a trademark for an Identity Solution framework. Check it here: shibboleth.net

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Forgot your password?

What would you do if you’ve forgotten your password? You need a way to reset it, Right?

This happened to the people of Israel:

11 The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.”

And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

12 Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, “Read this, please.”

And he says, “I am not literate.” (Isaiah 29:11-12)

When the Key or Password is lost, we are in trouble. We cannot read the encrypted messages. Isaiah says in his prophecy that this is what happened to the people of Israel.

In the past, they have had access to the Word of God. But now, they lost access and cannot read the book. Some of them are illiterate and cannot read, others can read but the book is sealed and they cannot open it. In both cases, the method – Cipher – is known, but the Key was lost.

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Asymmetric cryptography

We go now to a further complication of cryptography: Asymmetric cryptography.

The idea is simple, but not the implementation.

Let’s assume that the one who writes the message and encrypt it, use one private Key. But in order to decipher the message, the recipient needs a different key. A public key. The algorithm to implement this is very difficult, but feasible. Why do we need this?

Because, If I have a private key that only I can encrypt a message, then anyone that accept the message and can decrypt it, knows for sure that it arrived from me, as I am the only one that holds the private key. In this case, the recipient wants to validate that the message is authentic and got from the right sender.

The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)

This is a precise example of asymmetric key set: The key of the house of David is the Private Key. It can open, and no one can close. It can close, and no one can open.

This same key appears again in The Book of Revelation.

These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. (Revelations 3:7)

 

 

Israel – Jews – Hebrews: who are we?

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We, Jewish people, are part of a very old nation.

The identification of this nation changed throughout time.

  • We are the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
  • Our land is called Israel, but it was Canaan in the past and also Judah
  • Our language is Hebrew
  • We are known in the world as Jews

Why is our identity so confusing?

Let’s try to explain all those terms:

Hebrews

This is the most ancient term. It was referred to Abraham before Israel existed.

“Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre” (Genesis 14:13)

The term “Hebrew” appears many times throughout the Bible and even in the New Testament there is the “Letter to the Hebrews”.

Today, We do not call ourselves “Hebrews” very often, but our language is called Hebrew, which denotes that it is a very ancient.

Where did this name come from?

Hebrew is the tongue of Eber, who is the forefather of many nations including Israel.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. (Genesis 10:25)

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Israel

Israel is the name that was given to Jacob after struggling with a mysterious man in Peniel. The name means “struggle with God”. Peniel, by the way, means “face of God”.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

The name Israel is mentioned many times in the Bible with reference to the people (Children of Israel, tribes of Israel), the kingdom of Israel and also to God of Israel.

Today this is the name of our state: State of Israel.

The land, before the children of Israel had conquered it, was called Canaan after the people who lived in it.

Judah

Judah is the name of a tribe in Israel. The tribe of the forth son of Jacob/Israel

The kingdom of Israel was divided in the time of Rehoboam, son of King Solomon into two kingdoms: Israel, that was the big kingdom in the north of the country, and had ten tribes, and Judah, that was in the south of the land, and was Judah only (with Simeon and some of the Levites).

Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. (I Kings 12:20)

From here on, Israel and Judah are two distinct Kingdoms.

But note this: although the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel were foes most of the time, people of the kingdom of Judah are also children of Israel. But northern kingdom of Israel does not have part in Judah.

Many prophecies refer to Israel and Judah together.

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:6)

In many places in the Bible, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel are also called “Ephraim“. This may be to differ from “Israel” which include both the people of Judah and the people of the northern Kingdom.

Ephraim shall not envy Judah, And Judah shall not harass Ephraim (Isaiah 11:13)

Jews

Jews and Jewish are terms used to describe the people who once belonged to Judah.

Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by Babylon and people were sent to exile in the first half of the 6th century BC. From this time on, the term “Jews” became the most common reference for our people. The term “Israelites” was rarely used.

Are we all Jews from the tribe of Judah only?

we do not know for sure. Certainly, we have among us people that came from the levites, but also Benjamin, Simeon and maybe other tribes as well.

Modern state of Israel

When the state of the Jews was founded, there was a question of how to call it.

The major suggestions were “Judah” and “Israel”, but also “Zion” and “state of the Hebrews”.

The name Judah made sense, as we are all Jews, which means we refer to Judah.

But there was a problems with this name: if we called it “Judah” it would not include the rest of the tribes of Israel, who, according to the prophecies of the Bible, should also return to their land.

Therefore the name “Israel” was chosen.

There is hope in your future, says the Lord,
That your children shall come back to their own border (Jeremiah 31:17)

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