Inspirations

By Beth PiepenburgLazarus by Bonnat

INTRODUCTION

In late December, Jesus had walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch during Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication). When the questioning crowd asked who He was, He replied that “I and my Father are one.” Angry, the Jews took up stones and sought to take Jesus by force, but he escaped across the Jordan in the area of Perea and dwelt there for two months. Soon Purim would be celebrated during the month of Adar, that is, from the evening of March 3rd to the evening of March 6th in the year 33 A.D[1].

John 11 has two parts: The raising of Lazarus, and the outcome of this event. Both parts are each arranged in a chiastic fashion. While the central theme for the first part is Jesus being the Resurrection and the Life, the central theme for the second part is Jesus residing at the location where Abraham encamped (Khirbet el-Maqatir)[2] between Bethel and Hai (possibly et-Tell).

1ST PART:

KABOD (1-4)

From historical tradition, Lazarus is thirty years old when he became sick. His name means God is my helper, and he certainly would need God’s help. Along with his sisters, Mary and Martha, they live in the town of Date House, known as Bethany. By the way, the date palm is an Israeli symbol of praise. His sister Mary would become known for anointing Jesus in a few weeks to come. Desperate, his sisters send a message to Jesus about Lazarus being sick. By substituting the words, he whom you love, for their brother’s name, they are reminding Jesus of the strong relational friendship of love he has with Lazarus. Can you imagine the surprise when they hear from the messenger that Jesus had replieds, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God might be glorified thereby.” Lazarus is now dead! However, this fourth verse is a Kabod = glory verse for two reasons. Not only is the word glory used twice for emphasis, but it is represented by twenty-six Greek words, which the numerical value of twenty-six in the Hebrew refers to both YHWH and glory.

LOVE (5-16)

Jesus has a strong brotherly love for this family. Although Mary is an important character in a previous narrative and a later narrative, Martha is the key person here who has interaction with Jesus. Then Jesus delays for two days before leaving the Jordan. Sometimes, our timing is not God’s timing. Fearing the enemies of the Lord, the disciples are concerned about Jesus being stoned if He should return to Jerusalem. Sensing their fear not only for Him but for themselves, His allegorical answer conveys not only that spring was approaching by the equal number of hours in a day, but that tension existed between day and night. While the twelve hours represent the disciples, the day represents Christ and the night represents Satan. Therefore, one cannot stumble in the daylight because he walks in the Light of Christ, unless he chooses to walk in the night because he walks not in the light. As his disciples are thinking upon his figurative answer, He explains in the following Kabod = glory verse of seventeen Greek words that He intends to awaken the sleeping Lazarus. Missing his point about sleep, they respond that Lazarus will be saved or will be well. Because they misunderstood what He had meant, He plainly tells them that Lazarus is dead. Evidently, Jesus sees this loss of a friend as an opportunity for spiritual growth of his disciples in the area of belief. They will need this object lesson for strength in next month’s event.  Is Thomas expressing his cowardice by sarcasm, or is he expressing his braveness and love for the Lord?

WHERE IS YOUR PRESENCE? (17-22)

By the time Jesus had arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, which also means that Lazarus had died four days ago. In fact, the messenger had left on the day that Lazarus had died. While Bethany is about two miles from Jerusalem, the distance is short climb for friends from Jerusalem to pay their condolences. Martha approaches Jesus, leaving Mary at the house. Addressing Jesus as Lord, she shares that if He had arrived in time, Lazarus would not have died. Yet, she maintains that Jesus has a direct connection with the Father. She is really posing an oxymoron by saying, if your presence had been here, then everything would be fine; however, I do believe that God answers your requests. In reality, her faith is limited to His presence.

I AM THE RESURRECTION (23-27)

When Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, Martha acknowledges that her brother will rise at the Resurrection. Emphasized in the Greek are the two words I AM, which is equivalent to saying [3]אהיה in the Hebrew. “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” is the theme of the story of Lazarus. Yet, Jesus states that those believers who die will live, and they will not die in eternity. When He asks if she believes these truths, she professes that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.

WHERE IS YOUR PRESENCE? (28-32)

This section is similar to the earlier one (17-22), moving from the arrival of Jesus, to the crowd, and then to the first sister of Lazarus. Not only has Jesus arrived, but he is calling now for Mary. Their comforters, who follow Mary toward the grave, will become witnesses of this event. Although Mary expresses the same words as her sister, she does so from a spirit of worship.

LOVE (29-37)

Jesus identifies with their suffering by his own groaning and weeping. Thus, the Jews recognize the strong relational friendship of love Jesus has for Lazarus, but fail to recognize the greater bond of brotherly love He has for Lazarus. Knowing that Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind man at Hanukkah (Jn. 9), could He not have the foresight to know the condition of Lazarus? Could He not have prevented Lazarus’ death?

KABOD (38-44)

Groaning again, Jesus comes to the closed cave, and asks for the stone to be taken away. Aghast, Martha reminds Him that the body is in decay due to being dead for four days. You see, the Jews had a belief that the soul could not return to the body once it was in decay[4]. Obviously, Lazarus was good and dead! For Martha to see the glory of God, a key phrase here, Jesus reminds her “if you would believe”. Because of the people standing by Jesus gives thanks to the Father who hears Him. Then Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth! Lazarus, bound hand and foot with grave clothes and his face bound by a towel (soudarion). Jesus says for them to loose Lazarus and let him go.

2ND PART:

JEWISH LEADERS (45-53)

While many believed, some did not and reported to the Pharisees about what Jesus has done. His miracles bothered many of the members of the Sanhedrin. Two things bothered them: People would believe on Him, and their corrupt power was at risk with the Roman government. Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest from 18-36 A.D., suggested that it was best for one man to die for the people so the nation be spared. From that point on, most of the Sanhedrin sought for the death of Christ.

JESUS (54)

Jesus went northerly to Ephraim (Ai – Khirbet el-Maqitir)[5] with his disciples, an area located next to the wilderness. This is an important statement, because Jesus was staying at the spiritual location where Abraham had built an altar to the Lord.

JEWISH LEADERS (55-57)

Soon Passover would be observed with many coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves, and hoping to see Jesus. Would He dare to appear in person? However, the Jewish leaders had commanded that if anyone knew of Jesus’ whereabouts, they were to report it to them.

CONCLUSION:

Not only does this miraculous event link the previous healing of the blind man at Hanukkah, but it will link the chain of events to come during Passion Week.

 

[1] According to my astronomical calculations.
[2] At the time of Joshua conquest, Ai had already moved to the location of Khirbet el-Maqatir.
[3] Ex. 3:14 And God saith unto Moses, `I AM THAT WHICH I AM;’
[4] “Bar Kappara taught: Until three days the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it” (Genesis Rabbah 100:7; cf. Leviticus Rabbah 18:1; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 12:6).
[5] http://www.biblearchaeology.org/file.axd?file=2014%2f12%2f2014_Fall_BAS_Stripling_article_final.pdf

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2018. All rights reserved.

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By Beth Piepenburg

Lazarus by BonnatWhen Jesus had walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch during Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), He revealed to the questioning crowd that “I and my Father are one.” Angered, the Jews took up stones and sought to take Jesus by force, but He escaped across the Jordan. After the Temple incident which had occurred on December 22-23 of 32 A.D.[1], Jesus continued ministering across the Jordan River for two months. Soon Purim would be celebrated during the month of Adar, which happened during March 3rd – 5th in the year 33 A.D[2]. Before Purim had arrived, his sisters sent a message informing Jesus that his dear friend is sick. Meanwhile, Lazarus had died! When Jesus arrived in time for Purim, He raised Lazarus from the dead! Both the story of Purim in the Megillah (Book of Esther) and the raising of Lazarus demonstrate that God is at work in the background, show his timing is impeccable, and foreshadow a final victorious celebration.

GOD IN THE BACKGROUND

In the Book of Esther, God is never mentioned, but was working behind the scenes. Esther has been chosen in a national beauty selection to be queen for the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). At the advice of her Uncle Mordecai, she has not revealed her Jewish identity. A few years later, Haman, the king’s top advisor, convinces the king that the Jews ought to be destroyed because of disloyalty to their king. Mordecai approaches Esther to petition the king, even at the possible cost of her life. She fasts for three days and asks for the king and Haman to attend her banquet. In a series of banquets that she has prepared for both of them, God’s hand exposes Haman’s plot. Not only was Haman sentenced to death on his own gallows that he had prepared for the Jews, but the royal decree was reversed for the Jews to destroy their enemies for three days. Because God had saved the Jewish nation from their enemies, they celebrate this event as Purim in the month Adar.

In the story of Lazarus (Jn. 11), his sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick. Jesus replies, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God might be glorified thereby.” Jesus remains at the Jordan for another two days before making the journey to Bethany. After hearing that Jesus is approaching, Martha meets Jesus and expresses that if He had been there her brother would not have died. When Mary sees Jesus, she expresses the same regret as her sister. The mourners also wonder why Jesus couldn’t have prevented Lazarus’ death. In other words, where was God in this situation? However, Jesus asks for the stone to be taken away. Despite Martha’s objections, Jesus reminds Martha that if she would believe, she should see the glory of God. Giving thanks to the Father, Jesus then calls out to Lazarus to come forth. Lazarus is raised from the dead in order for those in attendance to know that God had sent Jesus. While the Lord had seemed unconcerned about the situation when He was at the Jordan River, He was preparing for a victorious outcome!

IMPECCABLE TIMING

In the Jewish calendar year, Purim is the last of the ten Moedim or appointed times before the religious New Year commences in the spring. After God had saved the Jews from a three day annihilation devised by the evil schemes of Haman to a three day annihilation of their enemies, the Jews thereafter have observed Purim. Held between the thirteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, the Jews celebrate heartily.

So you may be asking, where does it talk about Purim in John 11? While the Apostle John did focus on the feasts in his gospel, here he is subtly quiet. The text does not reveal that it is the time of Purim because the story is about the Lord operating in the background until the appropriate time. In order to recognize the Resurrection power of God, the reader must not be distracted by other religious elements.

Knowing that this miraculous event took place between the time of Hanukkah and the Passion Week, Scripture does indicate that Jesus spent some time at the Jordan beforehand and at Ephraim (Ai)[3] afterward. Another clue is that Jesus states that there are twelve hours in a day. At Hanukkah there are only ten hours in a day. Nearing the first day of spring when there are twelve hours in a day, the days of Purim in the year 33 A.D. would have been almost twelve hours.

Lazarus skyThe Heavens revealing the glory of God, show several astronomical clues. Nogah (Morning Star – Esther) was in the constellation of Taleh (Lamb) at Purim in 33 A.D. Tzedek (righteousness) is located in the constellation of Teomim (Twins), which represents the divine and human nature of Christ. The full moon is located beside the constellation of Betumah (Virgin). Perhaps, his mother Mary witnesses this event, because she will need the confirmation of God’s power in days to come.  I find it spectacular how the starry sky validates this event of Lazarus and Purim. (see below)

A FORESHADOW

The Book of Esther served as a foreshadow of Christ and the Crucifixion. Unless God saved his people, the Jewish nation would have been decimated. Yet, humankind was condemned without a Savior. Just as Esther fasted for three days and nights, Jesus suffered for three days and nights. As God redeemed her people, God would redeem the world through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Not only had Lazarus’ death given Jesus the opportunity to demonstrate that death is conquered by Him, but that Lazarus being brought back from the dead would serve as a  foreshadow of Christ’s future death and resurrection. The events at this particular Purim would be a month from the death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus the image of the resurrection of Lazarus needed to be emblazed in their hearts and minds.

CONCLUSION

Although the stories of Esther and Lazarus are quite different, the underlying themes are parallel. God quietly moved through a queen to save Israel, and Jesus does not fail to save Lazarus from the grave. We may wonder where God is in our situations, but we can be assured He is working for our behalf. While Purim had been established centuries before, the timing was certainly perfect for Jesus to move not only on Lazarus’ behalf, but for those who would witness this event. We may wonder about God’s timing, but if we trust in Him his timing is perfect. Both redemption of a nation and the resurrection of Lazarus point to a Messiah who would die for our redemption and be resurrected by the power of God for our eternal life.

[1] https://wyomingsprings.wordpress.com/category/appointed-times/hanukkah/

[2] According to my astronomical calculations.

[3] Ephraim = Ai according to Dr. Scott Stripling with Associates for Biblical Research.

Purim 33

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2018. All rights reserved.

by Beth Piepenburg8th_Night_of_Chanukkah_in_Meah_Shearim

Hanukkah is a religious and cultural holiday celebrated by Jews. One of the main themes is the lighting of candles and blessings for eight days. Introduced during the “400 Years of Silence”, what connection does it have to Scripture or to the Messiah? Was God really silent or was He moving in the Jewish nation? Was Hanukkah a manmade holiday or was it inspired? Is Scripture silent about Hanukkah? As an inspired eight day feast, Hanukkah has much to do with prophecy, history, astronomy, Scripture, and the Messiah.

In the sixth century B.C., Daniel the prophet, received several visions about four nations that would appear in the destiny of the Jewish nation. The first vision described an image of four elements which was smashed by a stone. In the second vision, four winds came forth over a great sea, with four beasts coming up from the sea, and then the Ancient of Days appeared. In the third vision, Daniel saw himself in the Elami palace by a stream and saw a ram with two horns, one higher than the other. As this ram pushed himself in every direction over those around him, then a he-goat with a conspicuous horn between its eyes arose from the West, and smote the ram. The table below summarizes the three visions. (Dan. 2:31-45; Dan. 7:1-9; Dan. 8:1-8, 15-22)

Danil visions

In the third vision of the he-goat, the large horn was Alexander the Great who reigned between 336 B.C. and 323 B.C.  After leaving his homeland, Alexander conquered many lands. When the Levant fell in 333-332 B.C., he paid a visit to Jerusalem, but continued to conquer Egypt and Persia in 331 B.C. After Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals, denoted by the four smaller horns in the vision. From one of the four kingdoms comes forth a small horn that persecutes the Jews for 6.33 years and desecrates the Temple. (Dan. 8: 9-14, 23-27; Dan. 11)

Diadochi

Under the Seleucids, Antiochus IV Epiphanes began persecuting the Jews around 170 B.C. He appointed a Hellenistic High Priest to the Temple, prohibited the study of the Torah, and desecrated the altar with the sacrificing of a pig. Desiring to switch over to the rule of the Ptolemies, the Jews rebelled in 167 B.C., and Antiochus had 40,000 Jews murdered. In 165 B.C. a high priest named Matthias joined forces with his youngest son, Judah Maccabee (the hammer), against Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Ousting the Seleucids, the Jews were able to rededicate the Temple on the 25th of Kislev, Dec. 13, 164 B.C. (148 SE). Kislev is the ninth month in the Hebrew calendar, and the feast began on the first day of the week of that particular year. While the Jews had enough undefiled oil to last one day, the oil miraculously lasted eight days. Although Hanukkah means dedication, the feast is also known as the Festival of Lights. How interesting that the number eight and oil symbolize the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit, respectfully.

From an astronomical view, a spiritual battle is portrayed in the skies. During this particular week, the sun is positioned in Keshet the archer, whose bow is directed at Akrab the scorpion. The moon will move into several constellations during the week. In five mornings, the moon has journeyed through three constellations: Moznayim the scales of justice, Ophiuchus the serpent bearer who attacks Akrab the scorpion, and Keshet the archer whose bow is directed at Akrab the scorpion. During the remaining evenings, the moon progressed through two constellations: Gedi the Atonement goat, and Deli the water bearer.

Mazz 164c

 

Where is Hanukkah mentioned in Scripture? In the Gospel of John, the theme of Hanukkah is introduced by demonstrating that Jesus forgives, heals blindness, and identifies Himself as the Light. When a woman is caught in adultery (Jn. 8), the scribes and Pharisees bring her to Jesus in an attempt to accuse Him. Although she deserved death, Jesus forgave her. Shortly afterwards, Jesus identifies Himself by declaring, “I AM the Light of the world…” On a following day (Jn. 9), Jesus expresses to his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”; and proceeds to heal a blind man. Then Jesus leaves the Pharisees to ponder their own blindness.

There are several key words in the Hanukkah passage in John 10:22-30. On the Feast of Dedication, winter had arrived and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Aha! The Feast of Dedication is Chag CHanukkah in the Hebrew! Although the Feast of Dedication had commenced on the evening of December 17, 32 A.D., winter arrived on December 22, which is on the 5th day of Hanukkah that year. Therefore, we know that Jesus was at the temple in Solomon’s porch between December 22nd and 25th.  Remarkably, the porch of Solomon was the original part of Solomon’s Temple. Is it any surprise that the Jews are full of suspense if Jesus is the Messiah? Yet, when he reveals, “I and the Father are one,” they are ready to stone Him.

As a result of the animosity, Jesus goes to the Jordan and many come to Him there. The beautiful story of Lazarus being raised from the dead (Jn. 11) foreshadows the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Hanukkah Menorah directs us to the eighth day, the Resurrection Day.

What was happening in the starry skies? A similar scene of the first Hanukkah was on display this year. The sun and the moon are the signs and moedim in the skies that are mentioned in Genesis 1:14. They are not to be worshiped, but only serve to point out specific themes. On the evening of December 21 and the morning of December 22, the moon was enveloped by the sun, testifying that “I and the Father are one.”  On the evening of December 22, two things had happened. First, the New Moon ushered in the tenth month called Tevet; second, the moon was in the constellation of Gedi, the Atonement goat which represents Christ.

Although Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday, Christians can appreciate its spiritual significance, too.  Not only did the observance of Hanukkah preserve a memory of a historical and religious event that occurred during the 2nd century B.C., but it would be symbolic of the Light. The prophetic background seen by Daniel and the witness in the starry skies add further testimony to the story of Hanukkah and to the Messiah. Therefore, take the time during Hanukkah to reflect upon the significance of the holiday by lighting some candles or reading Scriptures pertaining to light and oil..

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2017.

by Beth PiepenburgSalomons dom.jpg

In this story of 1 Kings 3:16-28, we are informed that two women are presented to Solomon for judgment for an unresolvable situation. Because names aren’t given, I will name the first mother Alepha, and the second mother Betah, a modification of the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. While Solomon used great wisdom in deciding their dispute, I wondered why Scripture didn’t inform us who the real mother was.

Alepha speaks out and presents the problem that each mother had birthed a baby son, but Betah slept on hers and he died. Then Betah traded babies while Alepha was sleeping. Alepha desired justice! Betah speaks up and says this is not true, and Alepha says not so. What is Solomon to do to decide this case justly?

Many might think Alepha is the true mother of the living child, because she is first to petition the king about how she was wronged. No one is going to mess with a mother bear, right? Yet, she being the victim is a strong possibility.

Perhaps Betah is the true mother of the living baby, but Alepha is grieved and her emotional loss leaves her desperate enough to steal Betah’s baby son and claim it as her own. Alepha poisons the well against Betah by her lies. By winning this case, Alepha will have all legal rights to the child, and poor Betah will be victimized by Alepha and the system.

Desire can open the door to deception; even a good desire can open the door to deception. Solomon desired to rule justly, and this case presented a problem. Would Solomon be deceived by the emotional drama presented?

Interestingly, Solomon called for the sword to help decide who the rightful mother was. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul identifies that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. In Hebrews 4:12, we are told, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart.” We need God’s spirit to discern rightly in life.

While the true mother was willing to give her son to the other in order to spare her son’s life, the other woman was vindictive enough to see the baby split into two. Thus, Solomon was able to discern the true mother.

We are not told which woman was the true mother, because either scenario could have been possible. Only by true wisdom could Solomon discern the thoughts and intents. Solomon’s wisdom was not logically or emotional based, but was placed in his heart by God.

by Beth PiepenburgEcliptic

I have enjoyed watching in anticipation every year when the Aviv barley is ready in the land of Israel. On that day or soon after, the New Moon would be sighted and the New Year would begin. Two weeks later, Passover could be observed. As I studied and watched how the ancient Hebrew calendar functioned, it led to further research. I discovered how the Feasts also tied with the nighttime sky in conjunction with the appointed times of the work of Christ. What I found was an astronomical-agricultural based calendar. However, some of my original understanding of how the New Year was determined began to change. The sighting of the Aviv barley as an agricultural marker was now dovetailed by the Vernal Equinox as an astronomical marker.

A small sect of Jews, called the Karaites, have maintained for centuries that the Aviv barley had to be sighted on or before the New Moon, in order to start the New Year and for Passover to be observed fourteen days later. In Exodus, the barley was in the Aviv prior to Moses’ establishing the New Year. However, the Karaites have maintained that Rabbinical Judaism had changed the sighting of the Aviv barley for the Babylonian system of using the Vernal Equinox and also had changed the calendar in other ways. As a result of these differences, Passover could be celebrated a month apart by each group. Now if the Jews can’t seem to agree in determining the Passover date, the Western and Eastern Christians fair no better having two separate systems in determining Easter.

From the time of Moses, the Israelites have used the Aviv barley, the Vernal Equinox, and the New Moon to determine the New Year. As the Egyptian Sphinx was aligned to the Vernal Equinox, Moses, having been educated in the courts of Pharaoh, would have known about the Vernal Equinox. However, the ancient Egyptian calendar was based on the heliacal rising of Sirius, and the New Year began in July. When Moses commanded the Israelites to begin the New Year on the evening of Aviv 1, the moon was a New Moon and the Vernal Equinox was just beginning. This particular day in history, the calendar was naturally aligned to both the moon and the sun. Thus, the Israelite calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and begins in the spring. Passover and the other Feasts would be aligned to the proper constellations, which were pointing to the Savior.

Along with finding new insights of the importance of the nighttime sky, I also began to see problems with the Aviv method pointing to the New Moon to usher in the New Year. Sightings of the Aviv barley differed in respect to the grain, location, time, etc. Did ancient barley grown naturally ripen sooner or later than the modern methods of growing new strains of barley? Because of the micro climates in Israel, which micro-climate was more suited for maturation? If the Aviv barley was not quite ready when the New Moon appeared, then how could one preserve the Aviv barley during an intercalary month? The integrity of checking the Aviv barley was maintained by the Levitical priests, but how can one know now when one group claims they have found the Aviv a little too early for comfort? Does the Scripture say, one must see the Aviv first? In Egypt, the Aviv barley would have naturally occurred much earlier than in the land of Israel. As far as the nighttime sky, the importance of the sun and moon being in the right constellations during Passover was important for the Feasts to correlate with the sky.

Since I follow the ancient Israelite lunisolar calendar in my personal life, I look forward to starting the New Year in the Spring rather than in the dead of Winter. While I can follow the lunisolar calendar with ease, this ancient calendar should coincide fairly well with the Jewish Passover and the Western Church observance of Easter. Most important, I will view the nighttime sky with the Feasts in mind along with the significance of Christ. While the New Moon and the Vernal Equinox will determine the New Year, yet the sighting of the Aviv barley will add purpose to the meaning calendar. As I follow the lunar months throughout the year, I hope to understand further how astronomy worked in connection with the agricultural seasons in ancient Israel.

 

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2017. All rights reserved.

by Beth Piepenburg

shiloh-google

SHILOH, ISRAEL

Living in Star Valley in Western Wyoming, I was invited to tour the new Mormon Temple before it is dedicated. Naturally, my LDS friends are excited about their Temple opening up, and much discussion was on Facebook. When my friend and State representative, Marti Halverson, shared she had enjoyed the tour, discussion developed about the difference of their Tabernacles and Temples. My background being in Classical Studies and Biblical History, I was highly interested in the discussion and shared some about the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple, too.

First, I explained the difference of the use of the words, house and home, in our own English language.” We use the term house and home to mean a different thing and the same thing. We buy a house to live in, but our home is dear to our heart. If we move, our home moves with us. Although it’s not wrong to use house and home interchangeably, house more often refers to the structure, while home has dear memories and the sense of family.”

Second, I shared the difference between the Tabernacle and Temple during the Old Testament days. “In the early Old Testament, the original Tabernacle was a glorified tent for the worship of the LORD. Tabernacle means dwelling, like a home. Temple is a building, somewhat a palace but for worship of a deity. When Solomon built the Temple to God, it was a tabernacle where God was to dwell among them. At times, the Temple was called the Tabernacle, because the Temple was thought of in terms of being the Tabernacle of God. The heart of the Temple was the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies where the requirements of worship took place for the High Priest. Outside this area was where the ritual sacrifices took place and the Molten Sea for the priest to cleanse themselves. Mostly south of the Temple were the Mikva’ot, which were used for spiritual cleansing by immersion by the people.”

In looking up Scriptures, and checking the difference of Hebrew words used for tent, tabernacle, and temple, I was surprised to find that the word temple was first used in the days of Eli, the usurping High Priest. Previously, I have noticed that a few times Bible translators have been inconsistent in translating the Hebrew words for tent, tabernacle, and temple correctly. So, I decided to see if this were the case. No, the words were translated correctly in 1 Samuel 1:9 and 3:3.

Could it be that a mini-Temple had been built in Shiloh to replace the older Tabernacle that had been erected centuries earlier? In reference to Jeremiah 7:8-14, Dr. Bryant Wood had explained to me that he believed the Tabernacle had been destroyed by the Philistines when they captured the Ark of the Lord. Yes, that would make sense. Years later, when King David had brought the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem, he saw the need for a permanent house for the Ark of the Lord. Christians and Jews understand that the first Temple was built by David’s son, King Solomon, and indeed it was the first one built in Jerusalem. However, could a smaller Temple have been in existence at Shiloh?

Josephus writes in the Antiquities of the Jews, “So Joshua removed his camp to the mountainous country, and placed the tabernacle in the city of Shiloh, for that seemed a fit place for it, because of the beauty of its situation, until such thee (time) as their affairs would permit them to build a temple…” (Book 5, Chapter 1:19) However, we aren’t given any clues if a Temple was ever built or not.

This coming May of 2017, my friend, Dr. Scott Stripling, will be excavating this sight for evidence of a Tabernacle, and associated buildings, with hopes of finding the homes of the priest Eli and the prophet Samuel. Could it be possible that they will find evidence of Temple stones there or evidence of a Tabernacle? Through archaeological excavations, we might be able to learn the truth.

For anyone interesting in joining or supporting an archaeological dig at Shiloh, please click here: Volunteer at the Shiloh Excavations.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2016. All rights reserved.

by Beth Piepenburg

INTRODUCTION

Chiasmus 1This passage is written in a chiasmus structure, much like a sandwich with the bread on the outside, the condiments and salad material inside, and the meat as the main course or central theme.

While the story is about Elisabeth’s conception, and the magnificent appearance of the angel Gabriel, the central theme is about the words of Zacharias. Scratching my head and pondering why the words of Zacharias were the theme, I began to understand that he represented Israel at a time when believing in God’s promises was difficult.

ELISABETH WAS BARREN

chiasmus2

Zacharias and his wife were well advanced in years. In their younger days they had lived under the independent Jewish kingdom with the reigning Hasmonean dynasty. In 63 BC, Pompey conquered Jerusalem, making the Jewish kingdom a Roman client state. In 40 BC the Parthians (Persians) invaded and drove out the Romans in many of the eastern Roman provinces. The Hasmonean dynasty was reestablished under Antigonus II Mattathias, a pro-Parthian monarch. Fleeing to Rome, Herod was proclaimed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 39 BC. Fighting for control of Judea, Herod was entrusted to govern the province by Antony in 35 BC, and remained in power shortly after the eclipse in 1 BC. So, Zacharias and his wife had seen much conflict in their land over the years. Where was God in all this turmoil?Herod Rule

Both Zacharias and his wife were descendants of Aaron, the first high priest of the tribe of Levi. Zacharias’ name meant Yah has remembered, but did Zacharias wonder if God had remembered him as he had prayed for his country and for a child? Elisabeth was named after Aaron’s wife, Elisheba, meaning God has sworn. Zacharias served in the eighth division of Abijah, which these priestly divisions had been originally instituted by King David. The number eight signifies the Resurrection. Zacharias would serve in the Temple at Jerusalem when the time came for his division to be present.

When life has its hardships, Job’s comforters will contribute their unwarranted explanation. Barrenness obviously has to do with God’s lack of blessing because of sin, right? I’m sure many wondered about Zacharias and Elisabeth and why they had failed to be blessed by God. However, Scripture clearly indicates that they were both righteous before God and that they were blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. What a high recommendation!

Elisabeth’s barrenness served as a reflection of the barrenness of Israel. Throughout the ages, God had promised the Messiah to the nation of Israel. Any hope of being liberated from Rome and from the Edomite King Herod seemed futile. The life of Elisabeth and Zacharias appeared fruitless without any children. Was there any hope left?

THE PEOPLE WERE PRAYING

chiasmus3Only the descendants of Aaron could enter the Holy Place to offer incense, but after four hundred years the number of descendants had grown. When David was king, he appointed 24 divisions with each division serving twice a year besides the Feasts. With thousands of Aaronic descendant, the chance that a priest would offer incense might be once in a lifetime. Had Zacharias ever served before?ZachariasIncense

When did the eighth division serve? Besides the major feasts, the eighth division would have served either in the third or eighth Jewish month. Since the Annunciation of Mary has been reckoned to be first day of the ancient seventh month of 3 B.C., Elisabeth would have conceived sometime after the preceding Passover. Thus, the angelic visitation to Zacharias might have fallen in the third month (May-June) of 4 B.C., the eighth month (October-November) of 4 B.C., or during the Passover (March) of 3 B.C.

Twice a day incense was burnt, which were made of four precious spices: stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense. Chosen to serve on this particular morning, Zacharias must have been somewhat unnerved to follow protocol as prescribed. He would enter into the Holy Place alone and have the privilege to burn incense to the Lord!

While the priest would offer incense to the Lord, the people would be praying outside. Besides personal prayers, many offered prayers for the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and for the coming Messiah.

WORDS OF THE ANGEL

chiasmus4What an astonishment for Zacharias to see a heavenly being suddenly appear next to the altar! No wonder fear gripped him.

The angel addresses Zacharias’ present state of fear, his past years of prayers that seemed to have gone unheard, and the future about a son.  However, this son was to be named John, meaning Yehovah-favored. The importance of naming the child John pertained to God’s destiny rather than family tradition.GabrielZacharias

Of course, this child would bring joy and gladness to this elderly couple because they would enjoy their remaining lives with their son and never live to see his imprisonment or death.  Yet, many would rejoice at his miraculous birth because they would know that God had not forgotten his people.

John’s destiny was to be great in God’s presence, but he was expected to live a life of a Nazarite, not partaking in liquor and possibly never having his hair cut. Even Elisabeth would abstain from liquor until she had weaned John. To fulfill his godly purpose, John would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the womb. Could that have happened when he was conceived or on the Shavuot (Pentecost)?

How would John return the people to their God? He never performed the miracles that Elijah had done, but called Israel to repentance like Elijah. He would speak to their hearts in three ways: by turning the hearts of the fathers toward their children, by turning the heart to seek righteous wisdom, and by preparing the hearts of the people for the Messiah.

WORDS OF ZACHARIAS

Chiasmus5What a question to ask an angel? Zacharias would have been well versed in Jewish scripture. Besides the story of Abraham and Sarah having Isaac in their old age, he would have known the prophecy of Malachi that an Elijah would return for the purpose of turning the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.  Could it be that his heart was hardened with the sadness of life that he lacked any faith? Even an appearance of an angel failed to generate faith.

Why is this verse the theme for this passage about the birth of John the Baptist? Perhaps, Zacharias exemplified Israel, an older nation compared to Rome. For centuries, they had awaited the Promise of a Savior and the return of the Kingdom of David. Had God forgotten his people and his promises?

WORDS OF THE ANGEL GABRIEL

chiasmus6Zacharias must have been shocked when the angel identifies himself and his purpose. Gabriel, meaning Man of God, was the archangel mentioned in Daniel.

For God to work in Zacharias’ and Elisabeth’s lives, he would need cooperation from Zacharias. By silencing Zacharias, the angel put a damper on Zacharias’ unbelief, which would have affected the future of Israel.

THE PEOPLE ARE WAITING

chiasmus7Can you imagine after the hour of incense that the people wondered what had happened to Zacharias? Although he was older, Zacharias was in good health. What should be done? In order to enter the Holy Place, another priest would have to cleanse himself. At last, Zacharias exited, and the crowd wondered what happened. He responded only with signs because he was struck mute. What people had waited for through the centuries was to be accomplished.

ELISABETH CONCEIVED

chiasmus8While his service at the temple was fulfilled, Zacharias with his wife Elisabeth awaited for the fulfillment of the angel’s words.  After she conceived, why did she hide herself five months? By the Jewish lunar-solar calendar, the end of five months would be twenty weeks, exactly half of her pregnancy. At twenty weeks, she would began to show and would experience a “quickening” when the first movements of her child could be felt. She had waited for the Lord to fulfill what the angel Gabriel had spoken to her husband. Although she had been righteous before God, she would no longer bear the criticism of people

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Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2015. All rights reserved.

 

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