Inspirations

Archive for the ‘New Testament’ Category

WITNESS OF HANUKKAH

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.

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BARABBAS: The Scapegoat

In earlier writings, BARABBAS’ name was Jesus Barabbas literally meaning Jesus, son of the father. However, the Gospel writers say he was the following:

  • Mt (27:16)   notable/notorious prisoner
  • Mk (15:7)    insurrectionist/rebel
  • Lk (23:19)   sedition/rebellion, murder
  • Jn (18:40)   brigand/robber

While Barabbas was a robber, his antithesis was Jesus Christ “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philipians 2:6).  Barabbas played an important character during the trial of Jesus Christ, but we have to dig into Old Testament scriptures to understand his goatish nature.

Barabbas was a notorious robber, murder, and rebel. As has been speculated by some, I doubt he was some kind of heroic ‘freedom fighter’. If he had been one, would Pontius Pilate have considered the possibility of releasing him? All that the Governor Pilate would have needed on his hands would be a future Spartacus style uprising, for which Pilate would have been answerable to Caesar. Knowing that the Jewish leaders, out of spite, desired Jesus to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice to release either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, who undoubtedly would not win the support of the people. As we know, Pilate’s plan backfired.

Before being brought to Pontius Pilate, Jesus had been interrogated by Caiaphas, the high priest. When angered by Jesus’ words, Caiaphas then rent his clothes. Because it was sin for the high priest to rend his clothes (Lev 21:10, 10:6), Caiaphas’ action would have disqualified him from his religious service during Passover.

Matthew 26:64-65 – Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

Had Pilate, in a sense, become the Jewish high priest, since Caiaphas had rent his clothes?  The Roman Emperor was the ‘pontifex maximus’, the high priest of the Roman religion. Representing the Emperor Tiberius, Pilate who was the prefect could decide judicial cases. By religious disqualification of the Jewish high priest, Pilate unknowingly filled the seat of the high priest when he decided the fate of the “goats” and by washing his hands of the affair. In essence, he was replacing the Roman appointed Jewish high priest, who could not officiate due to the rending of his garments.

ATONEMENT SACRIFICES IN LEV. 16 FORESHADOW CHRIST ON CALVARY

Lev 16:7 The high priest presented two goats before the tent of meeting, where judgment decisions were made. (Ex 33:7-10)

  • The Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas in front of the praetorium, the residence of the Governor.

Lev 16:8 The high priest cast lots for the two goats: one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.

  • Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to make a decision of whom to release: Barabbas or Jesus. Having come under Roman rule, the Jews were allowed the privilege of asking for the release of one prisoner of their choosing during Passover.

Lev 16:9 The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be sacrificed as a sin offering.

  • The people, at the urging of the priests and elders, choose Jesus to be crucified.

Lev 16:10 The goat on which the lot fell is to be the scapegoat presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement, and then to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

  • They choose Barabbas, a symbol of the antichrist, a man of sin and a son of the devil. Then Pontius Pilate releases Barabbas unto them.

Lev 16:15-17 Then the high priest would kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat, making an atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle of Congregation, and for the Congregation of Israel.

  • After Pontius Pilate has Jesus scourged, Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified. Christ is making atonement for the sins of the world.

Lev 16:18-19 The priest would make atonement for the altar, and would sprinkle the blood upon it seven times, cleansing it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

  • At Gethsemane, his sweat becomes great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk 22:44)
  • Internal bleading (Is 53:5, Micah 5:1, Mt 26:63-64)
  • His beard is ripped out (Is 50:5-6)
  • Jesus is whipped (Ps 129:3, Is 50:6, Is 53:5, Mt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Jn 19:1, 1 Pet 2:24)
  • The crown of thorn causes bleeding from the head (Mt 27:29, Mk 15:17, Jn 19:2)
  • His hands and his feet are nailed to the cross (Mt 27:35)
  • His side is pierced (Jn 19:34)

Lev 16:20-22 When he had made an end of reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he would bring the live goat, making confession of iniquities and transgressions upon its head, and sending it away into the wilderness. The goat would bear all the inquities unto a land uninhabited, and he would let go the goat in the wilderness.

  • Barabbas is the scapegoat that will be set free to go wild, while Jesus becomes the sacrificial goat for the sin offering.

Lev 16:24, 26 The priest would wash his flesh and his clothes.

  • Pontius Pilate washes his hands.

Deuteronomy 21:6-8 The elders would wash their hands of an innocent murder.

  • Pilate is washing his hands, though prior to the death of Jesus, of murder.  It was a Jewish custom, not a Roman custom.

Imagine how this scene of the two goats was played out for centuries during their sacrifices to be as a foreshadow of Christ and the scapegoat.

Jn10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Samaritans

http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/map-of-palestine.htmlOriginally, the people of Samaria belonged to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Throughout their history, they seemed to be in tension with the tribe of Judah. Could it be they thought that their tribes should dominate, since they were descended from Joseph?

The Bible and other writings give us a glimpse of the tension that existed between the tribe of Judah and the tribes of Joseph.

a)   Tension had developed at the time of the Judges when Eli, a descendant of Aaron’s son Ithamar, usurped the priesthood. Refusing to acknowledge Eli as the High Priest, the tribes of Joseph supported the rightful priesthood through Uzzi, a descendant of Aaron’s son Eleazar, and they set up worship at Mt. Gerizim, the mountain of blessings near Shechem. When David (c.1040–970 BC) became king, he restored the rightful lineage of the high priest to Zadok, a descendant of Eleazar, and set up worship at Jerusalem.

b)   After Solomon’s death, friction arose between the Northern and Southern tribes with the Northern tribes setting up their own Kingdom under Jeroboam (931 BC).

c)   Later, Judah formed an alliance with Assyria against Northern Israel, which was then conquered (721 BC), and the elite sent as exiles to Assyria. The Assyrian king sent people from the Babylonian cities of Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to repopulate Samaria and mix with the remaining inhabitants. Of course, these people brought their religious beliefs with them.

d)   After the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile (537 BC), the Samaritan leader, Sanballat, troubled the people of Judah as related in the Book of Nehemiah. The Samaritans had their own temple at Mt. Gerizim, while the Jews had theirs at Jerusalem.

e)   We learn from Josephus that when the Greeks conquered the land of Israel (333-331 BC), that the Samaritans legally disassociated themselves from the Jews and allowed their temple to be renamed Zeus Hellenios or Zeus Xenios. While the Greeks forcefully profaned the Temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans requested that their temple be dedicated Zeus.

f)    After the Israelites won their independence, they invaded Samaria, a dependent state of the Seleucid Greeks, and the Judean king, John Hyrcanus, destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim and devastated Samaria (c. 129 BC).

Understanding the tensions of racial purity, religious purity, and general animosity between the Jews and Samaritans will give a background for understanding New Testament references. The Rabbinical Jews held the Law, Prophets, and Writings sacred along with the Oral Law (Traditions of Men); the Sadducees held to the Torah as Law denying the inspiration of Oral Law and accepting the Prophets and Writings as divinely inspired; the Samaritans held only to the Torah as Law. While the Jews worshiped on the mountain at Jerusalem, the Samaritans worshipped at Mt. Gerizim.

Many Samaritans became Christians, many followed the Gnostic leadership of Simon Magus (Acts 8), and many continued in their traditional religious beliefs. Through the following centuries, they have suffered from war and persecution or converted to Islam, leaving about 721 dedicated Samaritan followers in 2007. They are a people who have been quite religious yet mislead, have had many differences with the Jews, and have suffered from war and persecution from many groups up to the twenty-first century.