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)

Good Samaritan, Bad Samaritan

 

Jan_Wijnants_-_Parable_of_the_Good_Samaritan

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him…” (Luke 10:30-34)

This is the story told by Yeshua in the New Testament known as the parable of “The Good Samaritan”.

Samaritans still live today in the area called Samaria (Shomron in Hebrew). When asked, the Samaritans say that they are the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel that were sent to exile by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. Few of them remained in the land and formed the people that today are known as “Samaritans”.

In the New Testament, the Samaritans are mentioned several times, but nothing refers to who they are and what is their origin.

from the New Testament, we learn some interesting facts about them:

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

….12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”…

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:1-20)

Four facts we can learn from this short story:

  1. Samaritans lived in Shechem and were the main residents there in the 1st century AD
  2. They considered themselves as the sons of Israel (Jacob)
  3. Jews and Samaritans did not see themselves as one people
  4. Samaritans worshiped on mount Gerizim and not in Jerusalem

All those points are still valid today: The Samaritans reside in Shechem, they see themselves as sons of Israel, they do not see themselves as Jews and they claim that mount Gerizim is where the God of Israel commanded to worship.

And in fact, the Samaritans follow the laws from the Torah like the Jews. They celebrate the feasts like the Jews. In the picture below you see Samaritans celebrating Pesach on mount Gerizim.

samaritans2

What does the Bible say?

In the Bible, there is one hint that supports what the Samaritans say about themselves being descendants of Israel:

In the book of Jeremiah, after the people of Judah had been sent to exile by the Babylonian (150 years after the people of the kingdom of Israel had been exiled by Assyria), The Babylonian nominated a new leader that is not from the seed of the kings: Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.

In Jeremiah 40-41 we read about the assassination of Gedaliah by his foe: Ishmael son of Nethaniah. After Ishmael killed Gedaliah we read the following:

And it happened, on the second day after he had killed Gedaliah, when as yet no one knew it, that certain men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord. (Jeremiah 41:4-5)

There were people living in the cities of the previous kingdom of Israel, and they came to sacrifice in the Temple. Who are those people? Jews? remaining of the Israelites? Foreigners? the auther does not tell us. But we know for sure that people lving in the cities of Samaria came to the Temple in Jerusalem many years after the exile of Samaria.

(Samaria – Shomron: In the old testament it is used as he name of a city, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In the time of second Temple and in the New Testament and even today, Samaria refers to the mountains north of Judea).

Proselytes by Lions

In later Jewish texts, the Samaritans are referred as “Men of Cuth” and “Proselytes of Lions”.

This is based on what we read in II Kings 17. The text describes what was done in the land of the kingdom of Israel after the exile of Israel:

24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.” 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord

29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt…

34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel

According to what is written here, Those who call themselves Samaritan are not from the seed of the sons of Israel, but rather people from the empire of Assyria that were moved to Israel and learned partially how to worship the God of Israel – without much success!

The Jews and the Samaritans became political foes in the time of the return to Zion from Babylon.

The Samaritans sent a letter to the Persian king asking him not to let the Jews to build a Temple:

From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions—representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River—and so forth.

11 To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:

12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. (Ezra 4:9-13)

Later on, When Nehemiah also comes to Zion and wants to build a wall around the city of Jerusalem, we read about some people from the country that want to stop him.

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?”

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” (Nehemiah 4:1-3)

 

Where is the place to worship?

Back to the Samaritan woman at the well:

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:20)

How did it come that the Samaritan claim Mount Gerizim to be the place to worship? Where did they take it from? If they are indeed the sons of Israel, and they read the Torah, Where does it say so?

Well, The Torah does not say where is the place to worship. Only later in 2 Samuel, God made his covenant with David and Jerusalem is chosen.

but in the five books of the Torah, the place to worship is yet to be defined, or it can be understood that this place can move from place to place.

In many places in Deuteronomy, we read:

“the place where the Lord your God chooses, to put His name for His dwelling place”

Deu 12:5, Deu 12:11, Deu 12:14, Deu 14:23, Deu 15:2 and many more.

After the sons of Israel had entered the land, the Ark moved from place to place: Jericho, Mount Ebal, Shilo, Bethel, Kirjath Jearim and finally Jerusalem.

We also know that the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel did not want their people to go to Jerusalem. Jeroboam sanctified Bethel to stop the Israelites on their way to Jerusalem.

So the Samaritans, who have not accepted the legacy of David’s seed, and who have not read any the books of the Bible after the first 5 books of the Torah, do not accept Jerusalem as the place that God chose.

The first Altar that Joshua build was on mount Ebal, opposite to mount Gerizim. Mount Ebal was the mountain of the curse, whereas mount Gerizim was the mountain of blessing. But the Samaritans do not read the book of Joshua either.

They claim that mount Moriah and the mountain of the first altar of Joshua is mount Gerizim.

picture: Mount Gerizim

Footnote

Samaritan people are today about 800 people world wide. Half of them live in a neighbourhood on top of mount Gerizim and half of them in the city of Holon in Israel.

 

The almond Tree

11 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.” (Jeremiah 1, 11-12)

In the first chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah tells us about a vision in which he sees a branch of almond tree.

In Hebrew, the word is not just a ‘branch (Anaf – עָנָף) as translated here, but a ‘dry branch’ (Makel -מַקֵּל).

The almond tree, during fall, has no leaves. In this season it is difficult to distinguish between a dry branch of an almond tree and a dry branch of any other tree.

Jeremiah can make the distinction. And therefore the Lord compliments him and says: “You have seen well”!

And the Lord continues: “for I am ready to perform My word”.

If you read it in Hebrew, there is a special meaning: “ready to perform my Word” or in better translation: be diligent to perform my Word.

Be diligent is: “shoqed” – שֹׁקֵד.

Almond in Hebrew is “shaqed” – שָׁקֵד.

So the vision of the almond – “shaqed” tells Jeremiah that the Lord is being diligent “shoqed” to perform his Word.

There are other verses in which the Lord uses the word “shoqed” with the same meaning. For example:

28 And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 31, 28)

Here again, the expression “watch over” that is used twice, is derived from the word  “shoqed” in Hebrew.

jeremiah

Other almonds in the Bible

In the story of the rod of Aaron in the desert, the rod becomes a branch of an almond tree:

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. (Numbers 17, 8)

The Menorah (lamp) in the tabernacle has also almond shapes in it:

33 Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower—and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. (Exodus 25, 33)

Literal meaning of ‘Almond’ in Hebrew

Why is the almond tree called ‘shaqed’? is it related to the verb ‘shoqed’?

A common explanation for the connection between almond (shaqed) and ‘being diligent’ (shoqed) is the special way that the almond tree blossoms.

During February, when most trees in the mountains of Israel are without leaves, the almond tree blossoms with beautiful white flowers. This is the first sign for the coming spring.

This magnificent blossom in the middle of the winter might have brought our fathers to call the tree ‘shaqed’ for its hard and diligent work.

almonds

Almond in the modern Israeli feast

In February, we celebrate in Israel the feast of “Tu-Bishvat”. This is also known as the “New year of the trees”. This feast is not mentioned in the Bible. Jews started to celebrate it not before 200 hundred years ago.

In the modern state of Israel, this is the day that is dedicated to planting new trees in the land. And the symbol of this day is the almond tree that blossoms in this time of the year.

  almonds_jlm