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Posts tagged ‘Shechem’

The Bible and Suicide.


What Does the Bible Say About Suicide?

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking one’s own life, or as some have called it, “self-murder.”

Over the years, I’ve received several emails from readers with questions about suicide:

  • “Does God forgive suicide, or is it the unpardonable sin?”
  • “Do Christians who commit suicide go to hell?”
  • “What does the Bible say about suicide?”

7 People Committed Suicide in the Bible

Let’s begin by looking at the seven accounts of suicide in the Bible.

Abimelech – Judges 9:54
After having his skull crushed under a millstone that was dropped by a woman from the Tower of Shechem, Abimelech called for his armor bearer to kill him with a sword. He did not want it said that a woman had killed him.

Samson – Judges 16:29-31
By collapsing a building, Samson sacrificed his own life, but in the process destroyed thousands of enemy Philistines.

Saul and His Armor Bearer – 1 Samuel 31:3-6
After losing his sons and all of his troops in battle, and his sanity long before, King Saul, assisted by his armor bearer, ended his life. Then Saul’s servant killed himself.

Ahithophel – 2 Samuel 17:23
Disgraced and rejected by Absolom, Ahithophel went home, put his affairs in order, and then hung himself.

Zimri – 1 Kings 16:18
Rather than being taken prisoner, Zimri set the king’s palace on fire and died in the flames.

Judas – Matthew 27:5
After he betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot was overcome with remorse and hung himself.

In each of these instances, except that of Samson, suicide is not presented favorably. These were ungodly men acting in desperation and disgrace. Samson’s case was different. And while his life was not a model for holy living, Samson was honored among the faithful heroes of Hebrews 11. Some consider Samson’s final act an example of martyrdom, a sacrificial death that allowed him to fulfill his God-assigned mission.

Does God Forgive Suicide?

There’s no doubt that suicide is a terrible tragedy. For a Christian it is an even greater tragedy because it is a waste of a life that God intended to use in a glorious way.

It would be difficult to argue that suicide is not a sin, for it is the taking of a human life, or to put it bluntly, murder. The Bible clearly expresses the sanctity of human life (Exodus 20:13). God is the author of life, thus, the giving and taking of life ought to remain in his hands (Job 1:21).

In Deuteronomy 30:9-20, you can hear the heart of God crying out for his people to choose life:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life…” (NLT)

So, can a sin as grave as suicide destroy one’s salvation?

The Bible tells us that at the moment of salvation a believer’s sins are forgiven (John 3:16;10:28). When we become a child of God, all of our sins, even those committed after salvation, are no longer held against us.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (NLT) So, we are saved by God’s grace, not by our own good deeds. In the same way that our good works don’t save us, our bad ones, or sins, cannot keep us from salvation.

Paul made it plain in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from God’s love:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)

There is only one sin that can separate us from God and send a person to hell. In this article, “What is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?,” I explain that the only unforgivable sin is refusing to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Anyone who turns to Jesus for forgiveness is made righteous by his blood (Romans 5:9) which covers our sin—past, present and future.

God’s Perspective on Suicide

A few years ago, I attended the funeral of a Christian man who had committed suicide. The experience gave me a new perspective on the issue of Christians and suicide.

The man who had killed himself was the son of one our church staff members. In the short time he had been a believer, he touched many lives for Jesus Christ. His funeral was one of the most moving memorials I had ever attended.

With more than 500 mourners gathered, for nearly two hours, person after person testified of how this man had been used by God. He had pointed countless lives to faith in Christ and shown them the way to the Father’s love. I left the service convinced that what had driven him to commit suicide had been his inability to shake his addiction to drugs and the failure he felt as a husband, father, and son.

Although it was a sad and tragic ending, nevertheless, his life testified undeniably of Christ’s redemptive power in an amazing way. I do not believe this man went to hell.

His funeral made me realize that no one can truly understand the depth of someone else’s suffering, or the reasons that could drive a soul to such desperation. Only God knows what is in a person’s heart (Psalm 139:1-2). Only he knows the extent of pain which might bring a person to the point of suicide.

In conclusion, it bears repeating—suicide is a terrible tragedy, but it does not negate the Lord’s act of redemption. Our salvation rests securely in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. So then, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13, NIV)

By , About.com Guide

Archaeologists Uncover Biblical City Shekem (Shechem).


NABLUS, West Bank – What happens when biblical history and modern turmoil collide?

Archaeologists in the tumultuous Palestinian Territories are digging up the ruins of Shekem, where Abraham once stopped, Jacob once camped — and today litter is strewn.

The biblical ruin lies inside a Palestinian city in the West Bank, where modern researchers are writing the latest chapter in a 100-year-old excavation that has been interrupted by two world wars and numerous rounds of Mideast upheaval.

Working on an urban lot that long served residents of Nablus as an unofficial dump for garbage and old car parts, Dutch and Palestinian archaeologists are learning more about the ancient city of Shekhem — and preparing to open the site to the public as an archaeological park next year.

The project, carried out under the auspices of the Palestinian Department of Antiquities, also aims to introduce the Palestinians of Nablus, who have been beset for much of the past decade by bloodshed and isolation, to the wealth of antiquities in the middle of their city.

“The local population has started very well to understand the value of the site, not only the historical value, but also the value for their own identity,” said Gerrit van der Kooij of Leiden University in the Netherlands, who co-directs the dig team.

“The local people have to feel responsible for the archaeological heritage in their neighborhood,” he said.

The digging season wrapped up this week at the site, known locally as Tel Balata.

The city of Shekhem, positioned in a pass between the mountains of Gerizim and Eibal and controlling the Askar Plains to the east, was an important regional center more than 3,500 years ago.

As the existing remains show, it lay within fortifications of massive stones, was entered through monumental gates and centered on a temple with walls five yards (meters) thick.

The king of Shekhem, Labaya, is mentioned in the cuneiform tablets of the Pharaonic archive found at Tel al-Amarna in Egypt, which are dated to the 14th century B.C.

The king had rebelled against Egyptian domination, and soldiers were dispatched north to subdue him. They failed.

The city also appears often in the biblical narrative.

The patriarch Abraham, for example, was passing near Shekhem when God promised to give the land of Canaan to his descendants in the Book of Genesis.

Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob was camped outside the walls when a local Canaanite prince raped his daughter, Dinah. Jacob’s sons sacked the city in vengeance.

The body of Jacob’s son Joseph was brought from Egypt hundreds of years later by the fleeing Israelites and buried at Shekhem.

Two millennia ago, the Romans abandoned the original site and built a new city to the west, calling it Flavius Neapolis.

The Greek name Neapolis, or “new city,” later became enshrined in Arabic as Nablus. In Hebrew, the city is still called Shekhem.

Nablus has since spread, and ancient Shekhem is now surrounded by Palestinian homes and car garages near the city’s eastern outskirts.

One morning this week, a garbage container emitted smoke from burning refuse not far from the remains of the northwestern city gate in a curved wall built by skilled engineers around 1600 B.C.

A visitor can walk through the gate, passing through two chambers before emerging inside the city.

From there it is a short walk to the remains of the city’s temple, with a stone stele on an outdoor platform overlooking the houses below.

The identity of the city’s ancient residents at the time remains unclear. One theory posits that they were Hyksos, people who came from northern Syria and were later expelled from Egypt.

According to the Bible’s account, the city was later Canaanite and still later ruled by Israelites, but archaeology has not corroborated that so far, van der Kooij said.

A German team began excavating at the site in 1913, with Nablus under the control of the Ottoman Turks.

The dig was interrupted by World War I but resumed afterward, continuing sporadically into the 1930s under British rule.

Much of the German documentation of the dig was lost in the Allied bombings of WWII.

American teams dug at the site in the 1950s and 1960s, under Jordanian rule. Israel conquered Nablus, along with the rest of the West Bank, in the 1967 Mideast war.

Over the years, the site fell into disrepair.

The neglect was exacerbated after the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, when Nablus became a center for resistance to Israeli control.

Its condition further deteriorated after the second, more violent, uprising erupted in 2000, drawing Israeli military incursions and the imposition of roadblocks and closures that all but cut the city off from the outside world.

In recent years, with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority increasingly asserting security control over the cities of the West Bank, Israel has removed some roadblocks and movement has become more free.

Visitors to Nablus are still rare, but the improvements helped convince the archaeologists that the time had come to resume work.

The new excavations and the establishment of the archaeological park are a joint project of the Palestinian Tourism Ministry, the Dutch government and UNESCO.

The project began last year and is scheduled to end with the opening of the park in 2012.

In Israel, archaeology, and especially biblical archaeology, has long been a hallowed national pursuit traditionally focused on uncovering the depth of Jewish roots in the land.

For the Palestinians, whose Department of Antiquities was founded only 15 years ago, the dig demonstrates a growing interest in uncovering the ancient past.

The department now has 130 workers and carries out several dozen rescue excavations every year on the sites of planned building projects in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority, said Hamdan Taha, the department’s director. Ten ongoing research excavations are being conducted with foreign cooperation.

All of the periods in local history, including that of the biblical Israelites, are part of Palestinian history, Taha said.

Digs like the one in Nablus, he said, “give Palestinians the opportunity to participate in writing or rewriting the history of Palestine from its primary sources.”

This article was originally published by foxnews.com – you can read it here and the Associated Press.

By Travelujah.

A Prophetic Call to the Valley of Shechem.


 

If you are reading these words, then you’ve probably already chosen this day whom you will serve.

But could it be possible that there are yet things you need to put away in order to truly worship the Lord in spirit and in truth and love Him with all your heart, with allyour soul, with all your strength and with allyour mind?.

I submit to you that it is possible, and for many of us even probable.

Today, the Lord is calling you to the Valley of Shechem.

Until recently, I hadn’t spent much time studying the rich biblical history of the Valley of Shechem, the place where Abraham first built an altar to the Lord on his migration out of an idolatrous land.

I had never done an intense analysis of this valley between mounts Ebal and Gerizim, where Jacob built his well and Jesus would later tell a woman there everything she ever did (John 4).

No, I didn’t know too much about this significant valley.

But it only took three words from the Lord to pique my curiosity.

He said to me, “Valley of Shechem.” Those three words set me off on a prophetic investigation for what the Lord is saying to the church in this hour.

I studied the geographical and historical significance of Shechem, but it is the spiritual significance on which the Lord shined a bright light.

The Valley of Shechem is where Joshua called together all the tribes of Israel.

Once all the elders, chiefs, judges and officers arrived and presented themselves before God, Joshua delivered a powerful prophetic word to the nation.

Joshua prophesied about Abraham, a prophet who once worshipped other gods.

He prophesied about the plagues on Egypt.

He prophesied about the parting of the Red Sea.

He essentially offered a history of Israel right up to its modern day.

God was reminding them of the kind intentions of His will.

God was going somewhere with this prophetic history lesson.

Indeed, He was methodically working to drive a point home.

See, God had given Israel a land for which she did not labor and cities she did not build. Israel was dwelling safely in the Promised Land, eating of the vineyards and the olive groves.

In other words, God followed His miraculous deliverance with His abundant grace.

Much the same, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly paces in Christ, predestined us to adoption as sons of Jesus Christ to Himself—according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:3-6).

With this spiritual truth in mind, come with me to the Valley of Shechem and listen closely to the heart of the prophetic message Joshua delivered to Israel on that day of decision—then apply it to yourself.

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.

Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).

The question is simple: Will you serve Jehovah whole-heartedly or will you serve an idol? The simplest definition of “idol” is a false god.

Merriam-Webster defines idol as a “representation or symbol of an object of worship; a false god. Another definition is “pretender, impostor.”

Yet another definition is “an object of extreme devotion” or “a false conception.”

In ancient times, people created idols to worship.

They gave these wooden, silver and golden idols names that represented gods.

Today, we are a little more sophisticated and the enemy is a little subtler.

We would never dream of worshipping a golden calf.

But we may be tempted to worship our favorite sport, our career, our children or even our ministry.

In other words, we may set up people, places and things as idols in our lives that draw our attention away from God.

Anything that draws our attention away from Jesus is a pretender and an imposter.

Any object of extreme devotion apart from God is a false god.

The Bible clearly says “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

In case you didn’t hear it loud and clear in Exodus, the Holy Spirit repeats Himself in Deuteronomy 5:7: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

And once more, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

Maybe you have “idols” in your life, like your kids or your car. But this is what the Lord is saying in this hour: More often than not the idols in our lives is self.

The Bible says that stubbornness is as idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23).

Stubbornness is putting our self-will before God’s will.

The Lord is saying that now is the time for our self-will to decrease so that His will can increase in the earth.

Now is the time for us to lay aside childish ways and adopt His ways for His glory.

Now is the time for us to surrender with allour heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind to the will of God—even at the expense of our personal ambitions, hopes and plans.

It’s time to lay everything on the altar and let the Lord give back only that which agrees with His plans and purposes.

Just like Jesus told the woman at the well in the Valley of Shechem, God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.

So choose this day whom you will serve: self or Spirit.

I urge you by the Spirit of God not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God to a lost and dying world.

And I pray that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding—and that you may be strengthened will all might, according to His glorious power to do obey the will of God in all things.

By Jennifer LeClaire.

Book of Genesis.


Introduction to the Book of Genesis

Book of Genesis:

The book of Genesis chronicles the creation of the world—the universe and the earth. It reveals the plan within God’s heart to have a people of his very own, set apart to worship him.

Author of the Book of Genesis:

Moses.

Date Written:

1450-1410 B.C.

Written To:

The people of Israel.

Landscape of the Book of Genesis:

Genesis is set in the Middle East region. Places in Genesis include the of Garden of Eden, the Mountains of Ararat, Babel, Ur, Haran, Shechem, Hebron, Beersheba, Bethel and Egypt.

Themes in the Book of Genesis:

Genesis is the book of beginnings. The word means “origins” or “beginnings.” It sets the stage for the rest of the Bible, telling us God’s plan for his creation. Genesis reveals the nature of God as Creator and Redeemer; the value of a human life – created in God’s image and for his purpose; the terrible consequences of disobedience and sin – separating man from God; and the wonderful promise of salvation and forgiveness through the coming Messiah.

Key Characters in the Book of Genesis:

Adam and Eve , NoahAbraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph.

Key Verses:

    Genesis 1:27
    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)
    Genesis 2:18, 20b-24
    The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” …But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 

    The man said,
    “This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
    she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

    For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (NIV)

    Genesis 12:2-3
    “I will make you into a great nation
    and I will bless you;
    I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
    I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
    and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”
    (NIV)

Outline of the Book of Genesis:

  • Creation – Genesis 1:1-2:3
  • Adam and Eve‘s Story – Genesis 2:4-5:32
  • Noah’s Story – Genesis 6:1-11:32
  • Abraham‘s Story – Genesis 12:1-25:18
  • Isaac’s Story – Genesis 25:19-28:9
  • Jacob’s Story – Genesis 28:10-36:43
  • Joseph’s Story – Genesis 37:1-50:26

THE CAMP.


The camp was in the form of a square, twelve thousand cubits on each side, and in the middle was the space, four thousand cubits in size, for the sanctuary, and the dwelling place of priests and Levites.

In the East of the sanctuary lived Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons; the Levites of the family of Kohath lived in the South, the sons of Gershon in the West, and the sons of Merari in the North.

Each of theses divisions had for its dwelling place a space of a hundred cubits, while each group of three tribes that joined under one standard had a space of four thousand cubits.

This was only for the dwelling place of the people, the cattle were outside the encampment, and the cloud of glory separated the dwelling places of the human beings from those of the animals.

Rivers surrounded the camp from without, and so also were the different groups separated one from the other by rivers. But in order that on the Sabbath, when riding was prohibited, intercourse among the different parts of the camp might not be rendered impossible, there were bridges of boards over the rivers.

The purple color of the cloud of glory was reflected in the waters of the rivers, so that it spread afar a radiance like that of the sun and the stars. The heathens, whenever they beheld these wondrous radiant waters, were frightened and feared Israel, but at the same time praised God for the miracles He wrought for Israel.

These were miracles that were visible to the outer world as well, but there were others that were known to Israel alone. During their forty years’ march they had no need of change of raiment. The robe of purple which the angels clothed each one among them at their exodus from Egypt remained ever new; and as a snail’s shell grows with it, so did their garments grow with them.

Fire could not injure these garments, and though they wore the same things throughout forty years, still they were not annoyed by vermin, yes, even the corpses of this generation were spared by worms.

During their marches, as well as in their stay at a certain place, they had not only the four standards that divided them into four groups of three tribes each, each individual tribe had furthermore its own special spot and its special ensign. Reuben’s flag was red, and on it were pictured mandrakes. Simeon’s flag was green, with a picture of the city of Shechem upon it, for the forefather of the tribe had conquered this city.

Judah’s flag was azure, and bore the form of a lion. Issachar’s flag was black, and had two figures, the sun and the moon, for from this tribe sprung the learned men who busied themselves with astronomy and the science of the calendar. Zebulun’s flag was white, with the form of a ship, for this tribe devoted to navigation. Dan’s flag had a color like a sapphire, with the figure of a serpent.

Naphtali’s flag was a dull red, the color of wine, and on it was the figure of a hind, in memory of its forefather, who was like “a hind let loose.” Ashere’s flag was red like fire, and had the token of an olive tree, because this tribe had much olive oil of excellent quality. The two tribes descended from Joseph,-Ephraim, and Manasseh-both flags of the same deep black color with a representation of Egypt, but they had other forms besides.

Ephraim’s had the picture of a bull, to symbolize Joshua, sprung of this tribe, whose glory was like “the firstling of his bullock, that pusheth the people together to the ends of the earth;” whereas Manasseh’s was that of a unicorn, symbolizing the judge Gideon that sprang from this tribe, “who with his horns of unicorns pushed the people.” Benjamin’s flag had a color composed of all the other eleven colors, and a wolf for his token, Jacob having described this tribe a “a wolf that ravineth.

” The different colors of the flags corresponded to the colors of the stones set in the breastplate of the high priest, on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes. Reuben’s stone had a red color like his flag, Simeon’s flag was green like the color of his stone, and in this way with all the tribes the color of stones and of flags harmonized.

By Louis Ginzberg

THE STONES IN THE BREASTPLATE.


The twelve stones differed not only in color, but also in certain qualities peculiar to each, and both quality and color had especial reference to the tribe whose name it bore.

Reuben‘s stone was the ruby, that has the property, when grated by a woman and tasted by her, of promoting pregnancy, for it was Reuben who found the mandrakes which induce pregnancy.

Simeon’s stone was the smaragd, that has the property of breaking as soon as an unchaste woman looks at it, a fitting stone for the tribe whose sire, Simeon, was kindles to wrath by the unchaste action of Shechem.

It was at the same time a warning to the tribe of Simeon, that committed whoredom at Shittim with the daughters of Moab, to be mindful of chastity, and like its stone, to suffer no prostitution.

Levi’s stone was the carbuncle, that beams like lightning, as, likewise, the faces of that tribe beamed with piety and erudition.

This stone has the virtue of making him who wears it wise; but true wisdom is the fear of God, and it was this tribe alone that did not join in the worship of the Golden Calf.

Judah’s stone was the green emerald, that has the power of making its owner victorious in battle, a fitting stone for this tribe from which springs the Jewish dynasty of kings, that routed its enemies.

The color green alludes to the shame that turned Judah’s countenance green when he publicly confessed his crime with Tamar.

Issachar‘s stone was the sapphire, for this tribe devoted themselves completely to the study of the Torah, and it is this very stone, the sapphire, out of which the two tables of the law were hewn.

This stone increases strength of vision and heals many diseases, as the Torah, likewise, to which this tribe was so devoted, enlightens the eye and makes the body well.

The white pearl is the stone of Zebulun, for with his merchant ships he sailed the sea and drew his sustenance from the ocean from which the pearl, too, is drawn.

The pearl has also the quality of bringing its owner sleep, and it is all the more to the credit of this tribe that they nevertheless spent their nights on commercial ventures to maintain their brother-tribe Issachar, that lived only for the study of the Torah.

The pearl is, furthermore, round, like the fortune of the rich, that turns like a wheel, and in this way the wealthy tribe of Zebulun were kept in mind of the fickleness of fortune.

Dan’s stone was a species of topaz, in which was visible the inverted face of a man, for the Danites were sinful, turning good to evil, hence the inverted face in their stone.

The turquoise was Naphtali‘s stone, for it gives its owner speed in riding, and Naphtali was “a hind let loose.”

Gad’s stone was the crystal, that endows its owner with courage in battle, and hence served this warlike tribe that battled for the Lord as an admonition to fear none and build on God.

The chrysolite was Asher’s stone, and as this stone aids digestion and makes its owner sturdy and fat, so were the agricultural products of Asher’s tribe of such excellent quality that they made fat those who ate of them.

Joseph’s stone was the onyx, that has the virtue of endowing him who wears it with grace, and truly, by his grace, did Joseph find favor in the eyes of all.

Jasper was Benjamin’s stone, and as this stone turns color, being now red, now green, now even black, so did Benjamin’s feelings vary to his brothers. Sometimes he was angry with them for having sold into slavery Joseph, the only other brother by his mother Rachel, and in this mood he came near betraying their deed to his father; but, that he might not disgrace his brothers, he did not divulge their secret.

To this discretion on his part alludes the Hebrew name of his stone, Yashpeh, which signifies, “There is a mouth,” for Benjamin, though he had a mouth, did not utter the words that would have covered his brothers with disgrace.

The twelve stones in the breastplate, with their bright colors, were of great importance in the oracular sentences of the high priest, who by means of these stones made the Urim and Tummim exercise their functions.

For whenever the king or the head of the Sanhedrin wished to get directions from the Urim and Tummim he betook himself to the high priest.

The latter, robed in his breastplate and ephod, bade him look into his face and submit his inquiry. The high priest, looking down on his breastplate, then looked to see which of the letters engraved on the stones shone out most brightly, and then constructed the answer out of these letters.

Thus, for example, when David inquired of the Urim and Tummim if Saul would pursue him, the high priest Abiathar beheld gleaming forth the letter Yod in Judah’s name, Resh in Reuben’s name, and Dalet in Dan’s name, hence the answer read as follows: Yered, “He will pursue.”

The information of this oracle was always trustworthy, for the meaning of the name Urim and Tummim is in the fact that “these answers spread light and truth,” but not every high priest succeeded in obtaining them. Only a high priest who was permeated with the Holy Spirit, and over whom rested the Shekinah, might obtain an answer, for in other cases the stones withheld their power.

But if the high priest was worthy, he received an answer to every inquiry, for on these stones were engraved all the letters of the alphabet, so that all conceivable words could be constructed from them.

By Louis Ginzberg

THE ASCENSION OF LEVI.


When it was disclosed to Levi that he was about to die, he gathered all his children around him, to tell them the story of his life, and he also prophesied unto them what they would do, and what would happen to them until the judgment day.

He spoke: “When we were pasturing the flocks in Abel-Meholah, the spirit of understanding of the Lord came upon me, and I saw all mankind, how they corrupt their ways, and that injustice builds up walls for herself, and impiety sits enthroned upon the towers.

And I fell to grieving over the generations of men, and I prayed to the Lord to save me. Sleep enshrouded me, and I beheld a tall mountain, and lo! the heavens opened, and an angel of God addressed me, and said: ‘Levi, enter!’

“I entered the first heaven, and I saw a great sea hanging there, and farther on I saw a second heaven, brighter and more resplendent than the first. I said to the angel, ‘Why is this so?’ And the angel said to me, ‘Marvel not at this, for thou shalt see another heaven, brilliant beyond compare, and when thou hast ascended thither, thou shalt stand near the Lord, and thou shalt be His minister, and declare His mysteries to men; and of the Lord’s portion shall be thy life, and He shall be thy field and vineyard and fruits and gold and silver.’

“Then the angel explained the uses of the different heavens to me, and all that happens in each, and he proclaimed the judgment day. He opened the gates of the third heaven, where I beheld the holy Temple, and God seated upon the Throne of Glory. The Lord spake to me: ‘Levi, upon thee have I bestowed the blessing of the priesthood, until I come and dwell in the midst of Israel.

‘ Then the angel carried me back to earth, and gave me a shield and a sword, saying, ‘Execute vengeance upon Shechem for Dinah, and I will be with thee, for the Lord hath sent me.’ I asked the angel what his name was, and he replied: ‘I am the angel that intercedes for the people of Israel, that it may not be destroyed utterly, for every evil spirit attacks it.’

“When I awoke, I betook myself to my father, and on the way, near Gebal, I found a brass shield, such as I had seen in my dream. Then I advised my father and my brother Reuben to bid the sons of Hamor circumcise themselves, for I was quivering with rage on account of the abominable deed they had done. I slew Shechem first of all, and then Simon slew Hamor, and all my other brothers came out and destroyed the whole city. Our father took this in ill part, and in his blessing he remembered our conduct.

Although we did a wrong thing in acting thus against his wishes, yet I recognized it to be the judgment of God upon the people of Shechem on account of their sins, and I said to my father: ‘Be not wroth, my lord, for God will exterminate the Canaanites through this, and he will give the land to thee and to thy seed after thee. Henceforth Shechem will be called the city of imbeciles, for as a fool is mocked at, so have we made a mockery of them.’

“When we journeyed to Beth-lehem, and had been abiding there for seventy days, another vision was vouchsafed me, like unto the former. I saw seven men clad in white, and they spake to me, saying: ‘Rise up, and array thyself in the priestly garments, set the crown of righteousness upon thy head, and put on the ephod of understanding, and the robe of truth, and the mitre-plate of faith, and the mitre of dignity, and the shoulderpieces of prophecy.

‘ And each of the men brought a garment unto me and invested me therewith, and spake: ‘Henceforth be the priest of the Lord, thou and thy seed unto eternity. And ye shall eat all that is lovely to look upon, and the table of the Lord thy descendants will appropriate for themselves, and from them will come high priests, judges, and scholars, for all that is holy will be guarded by their mouth.’

“Two days after I was visited by this dream, Judah and I repaired to our grandfather Isaac, who blessed me in accordance with the words I had heard. Jacob also had a vision, and he saw, too, that I was appointed to be the priest of God, and through me he set apart a tenth of his possessions unto the Lord. And when we established ourselves in Hebron, the residence of Isaac, our grandfather taught me the law of the priesthood, and admonished me to hold myself aloof from unchastity.

At the age of twenty-eight years I took Milcah to wife, and she bore me a son, and I named him Gershom, because we were strangers in the land. But I perceived he would not be in the first ranks of men. My second son was born unto me in my thirty-fifth year, and he saw the light of the world at sunrise, and I beheld him in a vision standing among the proud of the assembly, and therefore I gave him the name Kohath.

The third son my wife bore me in the fortieth year of my life, and I called his name Merari, because bitter had been her travail in bearing him. My daughter Jochebed was born in Egypt, when I was sixty-three years old, and I called her thus because I was known honorably among my brethren in those days. And in my ninety-fourth year, Amram took Jochebed to wife, he that was born on the same day with her.”

Thereupon Levi admonished his children to walk in the ways of the Lord, and fear Him with all their heart, and he told them what he had learnt from the writings of Enoch, that his descendants would sin against the Lord in times to come, and they would suffer the Divine punishment for their transgression, and then God would raise up a new priest, unto whom all the words of the Lord would be revealed.

His last words were: “And now, my children, ye have heard all I have to say. Choose, now, light or darkness, the law of the Lord or the works of Beliar.” And his sons made answer, “Before the Lord we will walk according to His law.” Then Levi spake, “The Lord is witness and the angels are witnesses, I am witness and ye are witnesses, concerning the word of your mouth.” And his sons replied, “We are witnesses.”

Thus Levi ceased to admonish his sons. He stretched out his feet, and was gathered unto his fathers, at the age of one hundred and thirty-seven years, a greater age than any of his brethren attained.

By Louis Ginzberg

SIMON’S ADMONITION AGAINST ENVY.


As Reuben confessed his sin upon his death-bed, and warned his children and his family to be on their guard against unchastity, the vice that had brought about his fall, so Simon, when he was about to die, assembled his sons around him, and confessed the sin he had committed.

He had been guilty of boundless envy of Joseph, and he spoke: “I was the second son begotten by my father Jacob, and my mother Leah called me Simon, because the Lord had heard her prayer.

I waxed strong, and shrank from no manner of deed, and I was afraid of naught, for my heart was hard, and my liver unyielding, and my bowels without mercy. And in the days of my youth I was jealous of Joseph, for our father loved him more than all the rest of us, and I resolved to kill him.

For the prince of temptation sent the spirit of jealousy to take possession of me, and it blinded me so that I did not consider Joseph to be my brother, and I spared not even my father Jacob. But his God and the God of his fathers sent His angel and saved him out of my hands.

When I went to Shechem to fetch ointment for the herds, and Reuben was in Dothan, where all our supplies and stores were kept, our brother Judah sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites. On his return, when he heard what had happened, Reuben was very sad, for he had been desirous of saving Joseph and bringing him back to our father. But as for me, my wrath was enkindled against Judah, that he had let him escape alive.

My anger abode with me all of five months. But the Lord restrained me from using the power of my hands, for my right hand withered for the length of seven days. Then I knew that what had happened was for the sake of Joseph.

I repented and prayed to God to restore my hand and withhold me henceforth from all sorts of defilement, envy, and folly. For two years I gave myself up to fasting and the fear of God, for I perceived that redemption from jealousy could come only through the fear of God.

My father, seeing me downcast, asked to know the cause of my sadness, and I replied that I was suffering with my liver, but in truth I was mourning more than all my brethren, seeing that I had been the cause of Joseph’s sale. And when we went down into Egypt, and Joseph bound me as a spy, I was not grieved, for I knew in my heart that my suffering was just retribution.

But Joseph was good, the spirit of God dwelt within him. Compassionate and merciful as he was, he bore me no resentment for my evil deeds toward him, but he loved me with the same love he showed the others. He paid due honor to us all, and gave us gold, and cattle, and produce. And now, my dear children, do ye love one another, each one his brother, with a clean heart, and remove the spirit of jealousy from the midst of you.”

Like Reuben, so also Simon adjured his sons to beware of unchastity, for this vice is the mother of all evil. It separates man from God, and abandons him to Behar. These were the closing words of his exhortation: “In the writings of Enoch I saw that your sons would be corrupted through unchastity, and they would maltreat the sons of Levi with the sword.

But they will not be able to do aught against Levi, for the war he will wage is the war of the Lord, and he will vanquish all your armies. As a small remnant you will be scattered among Levi and Judah, and none among you will rise to be a judge or a king of our people, as, my father Jacob prophesied in his blessing.”

Having completed his admonitions to his sons, Simon passed away and was gathered to his fathers, at the age of one hundred and twenty years. His sons placed him in a coffin made of imperishable wood, so that they might carry his bones to Hebron, as they did, in secret, during the war between the Egyptians and the Canaanites.

Thus did all the tribes during the war; they took the remains each of its founder from Egypt to Hebron. Only the bones of Joseph remained in Egypt until the Israelites went out of the land, for the Egyptians guarded them in their royal treasure chambers.

Their magicians had warned them that whenever Joseph’s bones should be removed from Egypt, a great darkness would envelop the whole land, and it would be a dire misfortune for the Egyptians, for none would be able to recognize his neighbor even with the light of a lamp.

By Louis Ginzberg

KIND AND UNKIND BRETHREN.


On the twenty-first day of the second month in the second of the seven years of famine, Jacob came down to Egypt, and his daughter-in-law Asenath visited him.

She marvelled not a little at his beauty and strength.

His shoulders and his arms were like an angel’s, and his loins like a giant’s.

Jacob gave her his blessing, and with her husband she returned home, accompanied by the sons of Leah, while the sons of the handmaids, remembering the evil they had once done unto Joseph, kept aloof.

Levi in particular had conceived a fondness for Asenath. He was especially close to the Living God, for he was a prophet and a sage, his eyes were open, and he knew how to read the celestial books written by the finger of God. He revealed to Asenath that he had seen her future resting-place in heaven, and it was built upon a rock and encompassed by a diamond wall.

On their journey they met the son of Pharaoh, his successor to the throne, and he was so transported with Asenath’s beauty, that he made the plan of murdering Joseph in order to secure possession of his wife. He summoned Simon and Levi, and by blandishments and promises sought to induce them to put Joseph out of the way.

Simon was so enraged that he would have felled him at once, had not his brother Levi, who was endowed with the gift of prophecy, divined his purpose, and frustrated it by stepping upon his foot, while whispering: “Why art thou so angry, and so wroth with the man? We that fear God may not repay evil with evil.

” Turning to the son of Pharaoh, he told him that nothing would induce them to execute the wickedness he had proposed; rather he advised him not to undertake aught against Joseph, else he would kill him with the sword that had served him in his slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem. The culprit was seized with frantic alarm, and fell down before Simon and Levi to entreat their mercy. Levi raised him tip, saying, “Fear not, but abandon thy wicked plan, and harbor no evil design against Joseph.”

Nevertheless the son of Pharaoh did not give up his criminal purpose. He approached the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, and sought to accomplish through them what had failed with Simon and Levi.

He called them into his presence, and told them of a conversation between Joseph and Pharaoh that he had overheard. The former had said that he waited but to learn of the death of his father Jacob in order to do away with the sons of the handmaids, because they had been the ones to sell him into slavery. Their wrath excited against Joseph by these words, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah assented to the proposition of the son of Pharaoh.

It was arranged that the latter should kill Pharaoh, the friend of Joseph, while they would fall upon their brother, and put him out of the way. They were furnished with six hundred able warriors and fifty spearmen for the purpose. The first part of the plan, the murder of Pharaoh, failed. The palace guard would not allow even the successor to the throne to enter his father’s bedchamber, and he had to depart without having effected his object.

Now Dan and Gad gave him the advice to take up his station with fifty archers in a secret place that Asenath had to pass on her homeward journey. Thence he could make a successful attack upon her suite, and gain possession of her.

Naphtali and Asher did not care to have anything to do with this hostile enterprise against Joseph, but Dan and Gad forced them into it, insisting that all the sons of the handmaids must stand together as men and repel the danger that threatened them.

By Louis Ginzberg

THE BLESSING OF THE TWELVE TRIBES.


When Joseph and his two sons left Jacob, his brethren, envious of the bountiful blessings bestowed upon the three, said, “The whole world loveth a favorite of fortune, and our father hath blessed Joseph thus because he is a ruler of men.

” Then spoke Jacob: “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

I have blessings enough for all.”

Jacob summoned his sons from the land of Egypt, and bade them come to him at Raamses, first, however, commanding them to make themselves clean, that the blessing he was about to bestow might attach itself to them. Another one of his commands was that they were to establish an Academy, by the members of which they were to be governed.

When his sons were brought into his presence by the angels, Jacob spoke, saying, “Take heed that no dissensions spring up among you, for union is the first condition of Israel’s redemption,” and he was on the point of revealing the great secret to them concerning the end of time, but while they were standing around the golden bed whereon their father lay, the Shekinah visited him for a moment and departed as quickly, and with her departed also all trace of the knowledge of the great mystery from the mind of Jacob. He had the same experience as his own father Isaac, who also had loss of memory inflicted upon him by God, to prevent him from revealing the secret at the end of time to Esau, when he summoned him to receive his blessing.

The accident made Jacob apprehensive that his sons were not pious enough to be considered worthy of the revelation concerning the Messianic era, and he said to them, “Ishmael and the sons of Keturah were the blemished among the issue of my grandfather Abraham; my father Isaac begot a blemished issue in Esau, and I fear now that among you, too, there is one that harbors the intention to serve idols.” The twelve men spake, and said: “Hear, O Israel, our father, the Eternal our God is the One Only God.

As thy heart is one and united in avouching the Holy One, blessed be He, to be thy God, so also are our hearts one and united in avouching Him.” Whereto Jacob responded, “Praised be the Name of the glory of His majesty forever and ever!” And although the whole mystery of the Messianic time was not communicated to the sons of Jacob, yet the blessing of each contained some reference to the events of the future.

These were the words addressed by Jacob to his oldest son: “Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength! Thy portion should have been three crowns. Thou shouldst have had the double heritage of thy primogeniture, and the priestly dignity, and the royal power.

But by reason of thy sin, the birthright is conferred upon Joseph, kingship upon Judah, and the priesthood upon Levi. My son, I know no healing remedy for thee, but the man Moses, who will ascend to God, he will make thee whole, and God will forgive thy sin. I bless thee–may thy descendants be heroes in the Torah and heroes in war.

Though thou must lose thy birthright, yet wilt thou be the first to enter into possession of thy allotment in the Holy Land, and in thy territory shall be the first of the cities of refuge, and always shall thy name stand first in the list of the families of the tribes. Yea, thou shalt also be the first whose heritage will be seized by the enemy, and the first to be carried away into the lands of exile.”

After Reuben had had his “ears pulled” thus, he retired, and Jacob called his sons Simon and Levi to his side, and he addressed them in these words: “Brethren ye were of Dinah, but not of Joseph, whom you sold into slavery. The weapons of violence wherewith ye smote Shechem were stolen weapons, for it was not seemly for you to draw the sword.

That was Esau’s portion. To him was it said, By thy sword shalt thou live. Into the council of the tribe of Simon my soul will not come when they foregather at Shittim to do vicious deeds, and my glory will not be united unto the assembly of Korah, the descendants of Levi. In their anger Simon and Levi slew the prince of Shechem, and in their self-will they sold Joseph the bull into slavery. Accursed was the city of Shechem when they entered to destroy it.

If they remain united, no ruler will be able to stand up before them, no war will prosper against them. Therefore will I divide and scatter their possession among the possessions of the other tribes. The descendants of Simon will many of them be poor men, who will wander from tribe to tribe and beg for bread, and also Levi’s tribe will gather its tithes and gifts from all the others.”

The words of Jacob, “I will divide them in Jacob,” spoken of Simon and Levi, were fulfilled on Simon in particular. When twenty-four thousand of Simon fell at Shittim, the widows they left behind married husbands of all the other tribes.

Nevertheless Jacob did not dismiss Simon and Levi without blessing them; the tribe of Simon was to bring forth the teachers and the beadles needed by all Israel, and Levi, the scholars that would expound the Torah and render decisions according to its teachings.

When the remaining sons of Jacob heard the rebukes dealt out by their father to these three, they feared to hear like reproaches, and they tried to slip away from his presence.

Especially Judah was alarmed, that his father might taunt him with his trespass touching Tamar. But Jacob spoke thus to him: “Judah, thou dost deserve thy name. Thy mother called thee Jehudah, because she gave praise to God at thy birth, and so shall thy brethren praise thee, and they all will call themselves by thy name.

And as thou didst confess thy sin openly, so also thy descendants, Achan, David, and Manasseh, will make public avowal of their sins, and the Lord will hear their prayer. Thy hands will send darts after the fleeing foe, and thy father’s sons shall pay thee respect. Thou hast the impudence of a dog and the bravery of a lion. Thou didst save Joseph from death, and Tamar and her two sons from the flames.

No people and no kingdom will be able to stand up against thee. Rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor teachers of the law from his posterity, until his descendant Messiah come, and the obedience of all peoples be unto him. How glorious is Messiah of the House of Judah! His loins girded, he will go out to do battle with his enemies.

No king and no ruler will prevail against him. The mountains will be dyed red with their blood, and the garments of Messiah will be like the garments of him that presseth wine. The eyes of Messiah will be clearer than pure wine, for they will never behold unchastity and bloodshed; and his teeth will be whiter than milk, for never will they bite aught that is taken by violence.”

Though Issachar was the older, Zebulon came next to be blessed, as a reward for the sacrifice he had made for his brother’s sake, for when Issachar chose the study of the Torah as his vocation, Zebulon decided to devote himself to business and support his brother with the profits of his trade, that he might give himself up to the law undisturbed. His blessing was that he would conquer the seacoast as far as Zidon.

“Issachar,” said Jacob, “will take upon himself the burden of the study of the Torah, and all the other tribes will come to him and ask him to decide their doubts on legal questions, and his descendants will be the members of the Sanhedrin and the scholars that will occupy themselves with fixing the calendar.

” Jacob blessed Issachar also with the blessing, that the fruits of his land should be exceedingly large, and this brought a heavenly as well as an earthly profit in its train, for when the heathen to whom the fruits were sold marvelled thereat, the Jewish merchants explained that their extraordinary size was due to the merits of the tribe of Issachar, whom God rewarded for their devotion to the Torah, and thus many of the heathen were induced to convert to Judaism.

In blessing Dan, Jacob’s thoughts were occupied chiefly with his descendant Samson, who, like unto God, without any manner of assistance, conferred victory upon his people. Jacob even believed the strong, heroic man to be the Messiah, but when Samson’s death was revealed to him, he exclaimed, “I wait for Thy salvation, O Lord, for Thy help is unto all eternity, while Samson’s help is only for a time. The redemption” continued Jacob, “will not be accomplished by Samson the Danite, but by Elijah the Gadite, who will appear at the end of time.”

Asher’s blessing was the beauty of his women, who would be sought in marriage by kings and high priests.

In Naphtali’s land all fruits would ripen quickly, and they would be brought as presents to kings, and gain royal favor for the givers. This blessing was fulfilled in the plain of Gennesaret.

At the same time Naphtali’s blessing was a prophecy concerning his descendant Deborah, who was like a hind let loose against Sisera to conquer him, and she gave goodly words in her song of Israel’s victory. Naphtali himself deserved the description applied to Deborah, for he was swift as a hart to do the will of God, and he was a fleet messenger unto his father and the tribes.

They sent him whithersoever they would, and he executed their errands with dispatch. He served the brethren of Joseph as herald, to announce unto Jacob the glad tidings, “Joseph is yet alive,” and when the stricken father saw him approach, he said, “Lo, here cometh Naphtali the lovable, who proclaimeth peace.”

Joseph’s blessing exceeded the blessing of all his brethren. Jacob spoke: “O son whom I bred up, Joseph, whom I raised, and who wast strong to resist the enticements of sin, thou didst conquer all the magicians and the wise men of Egypt by thy wisdom and thy pious deeds.

The daughters of princes cast their jewels before thee, to draw thine eyes upon them when thou didst pass through the land of Egypt, but thou didst not look their way, and therefore wast thou made the father of two tribes. The magicians and the wise men of Egypt sought to defame thee before Pharaoh and slander thee, but thou didst set thy hope in the Almighty. Therefore may He who appeared unto me as El Shaddai bless thee and grant thee fertile soil and much cattle.

May the blessing thy father giveth thee now, and the blessing that his fathers Abraham and Isaac gave him, and that called forth the envy of the great of the world, Ishmael, Esau, and the sons of Keturah–may all these blessings be a crown upon the head of Joseph, and a chain upon the neck of him that was the ruler of Egypt, and yet diminished not the honor due to his brethren.”

The slander of which Jacob spoke referred to what Potiphar had said of Joseph before Pharaoh. He had complained, saying, “Why didst thou appoint my slave, whom I did buy for twenty pieces of silver, to be ruler over the Egyptians?” Joseph had then taken up his own defense, saying: “When thou didst buy me as a slave, thou didst commit a capital crime.

Only a descendant of Canaan may be sold as a slave, and I am a descendant of Shem, and a prince besides. If thou wilt convince thyself of the truth of my words, do but compare me with the likeness of my mother Sarah that Pharaoh had made of her!” They brought Sarah’s likeness, and, verily, it appeared that Joseph resembled his ancestress, and all were convinced of his noble lineage.

The blessing that Jacob bestowed upon Benjamin contains the prophecy that his tribe would provide Israel with his first ruler and his last ruler, and so it was, for Saul and Esther both belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. Likewise Benjamin’s heritage in the Holy Land harbors two extremes: Jericho ripens its fruits earlier than any other region in Palestine, while Beth-el ripens them latest. In Benjamin’s blessing, Jacob referred also to the service in the Temple, because the Holy Place was situated in the territory of Benjamin. And when Jacob called his youngest son a wolf that ravineth, he was thinking of the judge Ehud, the great scholar, a Benjamite, who conquered Eglon king of Moab, and also he had in mind the Benjamites that captured their wives by cunning and force.

Again, if he called Benjamin a wolf, Judah a lion, and Joseph a bull, he wanted to point to the three kingdoms known as wolf, lion, and bull, the doom of which was and will be sealed by the descendants of his three sons: Babylon, the kingdom of the lion, fell through the hands of Daniel of the tribe of Judah; Media, the wolf, found its master in the Benjamite Mordecai; and the bull Joseph will subdue the horned beast, the kingdom of wickedness, before the Messianic time.

By Louis Ginzberg

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