Posts Tagged With: passover

What the Darkness Reveals

Dear readers, this is a written form of my Purim message from this morning’s conference 5781 (2021). 

Isaiah 45:3, 6-7 (TLV) I will give you treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, so you may know that I am Adonai, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name… 6 so they may know, from the rising to the setting of the sun, that there is no one besides Me. I am Adonai—there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness. I make shalom and create calamity. I, Adonai, do all these things.

At first glance, it might seem odd to consider that darkness reveals anything. Typically, we associate darkness with covering, hiddenness, chaos, confusion, sin, judgment, evil, or even death. Most of the Biblical references to darkness agree with those associations. However, like light, darkness is a contranym. While light is most often a symbol of the Word, Spirit, commandments, goodness, wisdom, and Messiah, there is also a false light. The enemy masquerades as a messenger of light. There is a light that is, in reality, darkness. (Luke 11:35)

Just as light doesn’t always equate to something good, darkness doesn’t always equate to evil. Light can blind instead of expose, and darkness can reveal things that light conceals. While the opposite is what one witnesses most often, it is important to know how darkness can be beneficial in our relationship with Adonai. This will build a stronger faith in the One that dwells in thick darkness.

In the natural, this can be compared to the electromagnetic spectrum. The vast majority of the spectrum is invisible, hidden, or one could say “dark” to the eyes of man even though it is all light. These portions of the spectrum have wavelengths too large or too small for the physical limitations of man’s sight. The tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum that man can see with his eyes is called “visible light.” This is also true in the spiritual realm. God compares Himself with light, and yet man can only perceive a fraction of His light.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NASB) …He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

In this sense, there is light that appears “dark” or hidden from man. But, it is only dark from man’s perspective, not God’s. Thus, there are some (good) things that flourish in darkness. Consider a seed buried in the darkness of earth. It is in this place of seeming death that it germinates and sprouts to life. Or, think of a baby in the womb. It is in this dark, watery place that new life forms and grows, awaiting her day of birth.

Psalms 139:11-13 (NASB) If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

While most flowers bloom with the light of day, there are some that only bloom at night to release their sweet perfume.[1] In Hebrew, the tzit-tziyot (fringes) figure the bloom of a flower and the commandments of God.[2]From those blooms, fruit will grow, mature, and become sweet. Just as some flowers bloom in the moonlight, some commandments are to be kept when it is dark, like Passover.

In Hebrew, there are two primary words for darkness. The first is choshek.[3] Like English, this word can imply physical darkness or an absence of light, but it is also used figuratively to represent something hidden, obscure, chaotic, or evil. The second term is araphel.[4] It is often translated as thick darkness or a dark cloud. Many Biblical verses describe the place where Adonai dwells with both Hebrew words for darkness. Here are a few:

Exodus 20:21 (NKJV) So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness (araphel) where God was.

Deuteronomy 4:11-12 (NASB) You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness (choshek), cloud and thick gloom (araphel). 12 Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice.

2 Samuel 22:10-12 (NKJV) He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness (araphel)under His feet. 11 He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind. 12 He made darkness (choshek) canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

1 Kings 8:10-12 (NRSV) And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. 12 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness (araphel).”

In light of this, what does darkness reveal? Consider the night sky. When the sun is shining brightly, the depths of the heavens are concealed from view. But when the sun sets below the horizon, and the beautiful blue sky fades to black, the multitude of stars, planets, and galaxies that exist far beyond the earth’s atmosphere become visible to the earth. The moon, which has no light in the daytime, becomes illuminated, shining her face upon the earth. Without darkness, one would never know that stars, planets, and galaxies dot the sky far beyond the blue heavens, nor would one know that the moon has any light at all.

In the natural, it is darkness that reveals the depths of the heavens. Do you suppose this is also true in the spiritual realm? Consider your life, your light in the earth. Is your light brighter in times of “light” or in times of “darkness?” Is the light of a lamp, candle, or flashlight easier to see in the daytime or at nighttime? Sometimes, we don’t know our potential, our lumens (light output), until we find ourselves surrounded by darkness or dark circumstances. That is what happened in the story of Esther. Facing the darkness of the shadow of death, she shined brilliantly and saved the Jewish nation living in the 127 provinces of Persia.

In Persian, Esther means “star.”[5] Stars shine in the darkness. Like all descendants of Abraham and Sarah, she was born to give light to a dark world.

Genesis 15:5-6 (NASB) And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

In Genesis 1:14, the stars and other luminaries are l’ohtot, for signs. Esther served as a sign to her people; and, she is still a sign, a shiny star to Believers today. It is likely that she drew strength by recalling Adonai’s promise to her father, Abraham. Before Adonai walked through the Covenant of Pieces as the smoking oven and flaming torch, Abraham felt terror and great darkness.[6]

Genesis 15:12-14 (NASB) Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness (chaskekah) fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.”

God’s covenant with Abraham occurred when it was dark. In this frightful place, Adonai told him the fate of his descendants, the figurative stars. Abram experienced this as terror and great darkness. Based on this account, Jewish writings have long associated exile with darkness. Thus, the setting of Esther is darkness because the Jews in Persia were living outside the Land of Promise.

But, Esther is more than a “star.” Her name in Hebrew sounds like hester, which means hidden. In the light of day, the stars are hidden from man. In other words, when things appear good to us, lights like Esther are concealed. A scroll is megillah in Hebrew. It means to unveil or reveal what’s inside. The scroll of Esther means: Revealing the Hidden.

Just below the surface of the story, there is a hidden subtext with brilliant light for eyes that are searching for it. Without the darkness of exile, Mordecai and Esther would not have had their opportunity to shine. Without our personal times of darkness, we wouldn’t either. The darkness tests what’s in our hearts. It exposes what we really believe. And, it reveals the depths of the heavens and God’s hand in our lives in ways that cannot be perceived in times of “light.” In this way, darkness benefits our faith, and deepens our trust in Adonai.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Darkness Precedes Light

There is another important factor one should consider before examining the Scroll of Esther. Darkness precedes light. This pattern is first illustrated in the creation week, and then carried forth throughout the Word. It edifies one in times of struggle, turmoil, and even pending doom like Esther faced. In the beginning, there was darkness, and in that darkness, the Spirit of God hovered and fluttered over the faces of the waters.

Genesis 1:2-4 (NASB) The earth was formless and void, and darkness (choshek) was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

Darkness precedes light, just as exile precedes redemption. At creation, light came forth from the darkness. This is an important concept to grasp, because in all Biblical stories of redemption, darkness precedes light. This is also true for you and me. When we were lost in the darkness of our trespasses and sin, the Living Word of Adonai pierced our darkness with His light, the Messiah, and brought us redemption. Thus, the natural realm mirrors the spiritual.

Consider that in Hebraic thought, the “day” begins in the evening with darkness, then light emerges with the morning sun. “And there was evening and morning…” This is the model given from the first day of creation, and it has been followed faithfully by the Jewish people since that time. The seven day week also follows this pattern. The first six days of the week are mundane working days. One could say they are spiritually dark. But, the week ends with the holy Shabbat, a spiritual day, akin to “light” when man’s work ceases.

Similarly, new months begin when the moon is dark, often called the conjunction. In Hebrew, this period is called the molad, which means “birth.” However, it is not until the first sliver of light is witnessed emerging from the dark moon that it is sanctified and the new month begins.

On the larger, yearly cycle, the late fall and winter season can be likened to the “dark” part of the year, when there is literally less light. Whereas, the festival season that begins in the spring and extends to the first part of autumn, can be likened to the “light” part of the year. The feasts of Adonai occur when the days are longer and warmer. In every case above, darkness precedes light. That is the Biblical creation pattern. Thus, it is not surprising that new human life begins the same way, whether that life is physical or spiritual.

Isaiah 9:2 (NASB) The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

Darkness of Exile and Captivity to the Light of Redemption

Now, let’s examine how the creation pattern of darkness preceding light is illustrated in stories of redemption. The exodus from Egypt is the archetype of redemption. All stories of redemption share aspects of this monumental event, which is forever commemorated by the first feast on Adonai’s yearly cycle: Pesach. Messiah’s persecution, death, and resurrection follows this model. Consider the archetypal pattern: the last three plagues involved darkness before the children of Israel went out from Egypt:

Locusts – Plague 8:

Exodus 10:4-5 (LITV) For if you refuse to send away My people, behold, I am going to bring locusts into your territory tomorrow. 5 And they will cover the eye of the land, and no one will be able to see the land. And they will eat the rest of that which escaped, that which is left to you from the hail. And they will eat every tree that sprouts to you from the field.

Darkness – Plague 9:

Exodus 10:21-23 (LITV) And Jehovah said to Moses, stretch out your hand to the heavens so that darkness (choshek) may be on the land of Egypt, and one may feel darkness (choshek). 22 And Moses stretched out his hand to the heavens, and darkness (choshek) of gloom was in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see each one his brother, and they did not rise up, each one from his place for three days. Yet to all the sons of Israel there was light in their dwellings.

Death of Firstborn – Plague 10:

Exodus 11:4-5 (NASB) Moses said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.

There is a clear mandate for followers of the God of Israel to remember the exodus. Notice when one is to do so:

Exodus 12:42 (NASB) It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.

Redemption (Passover) is to be commemorated at night, when it is dark. But, what was the mark that Israel’s redemption was complete?

Exodus 14:24, 27 (NASB) At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion… So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

When day light pierced the darkness of night, Israel’s redemption was complete! Pharaoh and his army were defeated in the waters of the Reed Sea. Does Messiah’s Passion follow a similar pattern?

 Matthew 27:45 (NASB) Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

When Messiah hung on the tree, darkness fell upon the land for three hours, mirroring the three last plagues of darkness before the redemption of Israel. From man’s perspective, that darkness remained (figuratively) for three days and nights while Yeshua was in the dark tomb. Even when the women went to the tomb, it was dark.

John 20:1 (TLV) Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it is still dark, Miriam from Magdala comes to the tomb. She sees that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb.

Matthew 28:1 (NASB) Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

But with the morning light, Yeshua appeared to Mary and the others, a clear mark of a new dawn, a new day, and the evidence that He had overcame death and redeemed all those who believe. Once again, darkness preceded Light.

 

Purim to Passover

Based on all the above, why do you suppose that the rabbis ensured that Purim occurs one month before Passover in a leap year when there is an added 13th month or Adar 2?[7] They didn’t want us to miss the deep connections Purim has with Passover. Since both are stories of redemption, it is vital that we understand that whether God brings one out of darkness with a Mighty Hand and great miracles, or whether He works behind the scenes in life’s happenstances and coincidences, it is ALL Him. He is the Savior and Redeemer.

Purim occurs at the end of the cycle of months, and Passover occurs at the beginning. The end is the beginning and the beginning is the end. In nature, the season is transitioning from winter to spring – a type of darkness to light. In Esther and Exodus, the people were living in exile, or darkness. Their lives hang in the balance. Anytime one is in state of transition, there are many unknowns, things one can’t see. It is dark from man’s perspective.

But, that is the precise place where God works. David said, “Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou are with me.” (Ps. 23) He is right there with you in your darkness. His Spirit is hovering over the dark waters of our chaos. When Yeshua walked on water, like the Spirit in the Beginning, it was DARK and the wind and waves were contrary. (Mt. 14) Likewise, He is hovering and fluttering over your darkness, your chaos, your foggy circumstances. Light will come forth from your darkness. It is like a birth, a new creation .

Now, let’s step back into the story of Esther. This young Jewish girl ended up in a foreign king’s harem. Her entire life would be dictated by this (ungodly) ruler. She had no control over her life or circumstances. Her life must’ve felt pointless, and subjected to the will of others. When Esther first met King Ahasuerus, it was in a dark month of winter, Tevet, the tenth month. In this dark place and time, God gave her favor with the king, and out of all the other women, she was chosen to be his new queen.

Esther 2:16-17 (NASB) So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth (Tevet), in the seventh year of his reign. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

At this point in the story, Esther’s true identity is hidden from the king at Mordecai’s request. Meanwhile, it just so happened that while Mordecai sat at the king’s gate, he overheard two wicked officials discuss their plot to lay hands on the king. Mordecai reported the men to Esther, and she reported them to the king’s guard. The men were charged and executed. This incident turns out to be the key to the outcome of the whole story.

In the next chapter, Haman the Agagite is elevated to a position of authority. All pay homage to him except Mordecai, which infuriates Haman. His hatred extends to all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews. Three months after Esther is crowned queen, in the month of Nisan or the first Hebrew month, Haman casts purim (lots) to discover a favorable

Haman – May his name be Blotted Out!

month to destroy the Jewish people.

Esther 3:7 (NASB) In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.

This entire scene unfolds in the month of Nisan – the month of redemption on Adonai’s calendar. We don’t want to miss this connection. A great deal of this story occurs during the spring feasts. Once Haman divines that the month of Adar is best for destroying the Jews, he brings his plan to King Ahasuerus.

Esther 3:8-9 (NASB) Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. 9 If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.”

Haman was willing to put forth his own money to fund this campaign of death – 10,000 talents of silver, which is the equivalent of about 333 tons by weight or around $5.6 million dollars in today’s currency.[8] Haman was a man of great wealth, and he used it for evil. So, on the 13th of Nisan, the edict went out to all the provinces that nearly a year later, in the month of Adar, the people should prepare to annihilate the Jews. (Esther 3:11-15)

Esther 3:13 (NASB) Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder.

Pause right there and think about God’s calendar. From Nisan 10th to the 14th, the Passover lambs are examined for blemishes, so they can be sacrificed to the LORD to commemorate Israel’s redemption from Egypt. Was a blemish found in the “lambs” of the Jews living in Persia?

Esther 4:14 (NASB) “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Perhaps, Esther realized she and her fellow Jews did indeed have a blemish. Consider Haman’s accusation against the Jews. They were “scattered” and “dispersed,” and their laws were different that the King Ahasuerus’. While the latter is a good thing, being scattered and dispersed signals disunity among the people. Realizing this, Esther seeks to remedy the problem:

Esther 4:16 (NKJV) “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah, a myrtle branch. Her response to Mordecai was to gather or assemble ALL the Jews. As a true Sukkot branch, she calls for the scattered people to come together in unity, just as the various lulav branches are gathered and waved before the LORD at Sukkot. Instead of feasting during Passover and Unleavened Bread, they fasted for their lives. Esther was willing to risk death for her people, a beautiful foreshadowing of the work of Yeshua.

As a result, the king was more than favorable when Esther approached him unannounced, even offering her up to half of his kingdom. She requests that the king and Haman attend a wine banquet that she had prepared. They do so, but Esther keeps her identity and true request concealed, inviting them to a second banquet the next day. Meanwhile, Haman builds 50 cubit gallows in which he intends to hang Mordecai.

During that night, the turning point of the narrative occurs. (Take note of the dark/light symbolism.) The king can’t sleep, so he has the chronicles read to him and discovers that Mordecai saved his life. The king desires to honor Mordecai for saving him. The next morning, Haman entered the courtyard to ask the king if he could hang Mordecai on the gallows that he built. In a funny turn of events, Haman instead ends up parading Mordecai throughout the kingdom to honor him for saving the king.

This mortified Haman, so he covered his head in shame, and went home to complain to his wife and friends. But, he was quickly ushered off to Esther’s second wine banquet. There, she finally revealed her true intentions. She unmasked Haman as the wicked one set on destroying her people, and revealed her Jewish identity to the king. The furious king hung Haman on the gallows he built for Mordecai.

All the above occurred during the spring feasts of Adonai. In third month of Sivan, when Shavuot is celebrated, the king allowed Mordecai and Queen Esther to issue new edicts for the upcoming time of destruction set by Haman in Adar. The rest is history. The Jews defended themselves, fear of them grew in Persia, the tables were turned, and they destroyed the ones determined to destroy them. These days were marked as the festival of Purim, a remembrance of the time Adonai turned them “from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a yom tov.” (Esther 9:22)

 

Warring with Amalek

Haman was descendant of Amalek, the people that attacked the weak and weary Israelites in the wilderness. After this, the LORD said that He would war with Amalek from generation to generation. (Ex. 17:14-16; Dt. 25:17-19) Moses built an altar at that time, and called Adonai YHWH Nissi, the LORD is my Banner, in honor of Adonai’s declaration. A banner is a nes, which is a sign, standard, or ensign. It is also related to the Hebrew word for miracle, nes.

A nes is something lifted up like a flag that can be seen from far away. When the children of Israel warred with the Amalekites, Hur and Aaron held Moses’ tired arms up as an ensign. As long as his arms remained raised with the staff of God, Israel prevailed. In the yearly Torah cycle, we reread this account in Exodus on Purim, as we celebrate Haman’s (Amalek’s) defeat.[9]

Adonai is truly our Banner, the One lifted up as our ensign. We look to Him and the battle is won. Every year at this season, we remember Amalek. We recall his battle tactics. He seeks to attack the stranglers, the weak, and the frail – those that are experiencing darkness. Those that are struggling with exile and hard circumstances. This is the time to lift up a banner for the whole camp of Israel to see. On Adonai’s calendar, that flag or standard is the Scroll of Esther.

She shines like a bright star to those in darkness, giving gentle instruction to the weary. She calls for gathering and unity, even in exile. She reminds us of Haman’s (Amalek’s) defeat, and the hidden, yet Mighty Hand of Adonai. Esther connects one to the new cycle, and prepares us for Pesach. She transitions us from darkness to light.

The Orthodox Pesach Haggadah highlights this with a song that is read at the end of the Seder on the first night of Passover called, It Came to Pass at Midnight. As you read through the lyrics below, meditate on the timing of redemption. When it seems like the darkest moment, even in our own lives, that is when Adonai comes to rescue us. In Egypt, we were slaves one moment, and then, at the “stroke of midnight” we were free. (Ex. 12:29) How many times has Adonai came to your aid at a figurative “midnight”?

IT CAME TO PASS AT MIDNIGHT

You performed most wonders at night,
In the early watches of this night; You caused the righteous convert,
Abraham, to triumph at night;

It came to pass at midnight.

Gerar’s king Abimelech, You judged in a dream by night; You frightened the Aramean, Laban, in the dark of night;
Israel (Jacob) overcame an angel and won by night;

It came to pass at midnight.

You crushed Egypt’s firstborn at midnight;
They found no strength when they rose at night;
The army of the prince of Sisera, You swept away with stars of night;

It came to pass at midnight.

Senncherib, the blasphemer, You disgraced by night;
Babylon’s idol fell in the dark of night;
Daniel was shown the secret of the king’s dream at night;

It came to pass at midnight.

Belshazzar, who drank from the Temple’s vessel, was killed that same night;
Daniel who was saved from the lion’s den interpreted the writing on the wall at night; Hateful Haman the Agagite wrote letters in the night;

It came to pass at midnight.

You triumphed over Haman in the king’s sleepless night;
Trample the winepress and help those who ask the watchmen, “What of the long night?” The watchman responds: “Morning comes after night;”

It came to pass at midnight.

Hasten the day of Messiah, which is neither day nor night;
Most High, make known that Yours are day and night;
Appoint guards for Your city all day and night;
Brighten like the light of day the darkness of night;

It came to pass at midnight.

In your dark hour, have you asked the watchmen, “What of the long night?” A true watchman will respond, “Morning comes after the night.” Exile, affliction, trials, and sufferings are dark, but they are not the end; they signal the beginning. This is the nature of birth and birth pangs.

We can add another “midnight” to this Orthodox poem:

Mat. 25:5-7 (NASB) Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.

The pattern is consistent and trustworthy. When it is dark, one can trust that Adonai is at work. One can believe without wavering that Adonai will once again bring the LIGHT. Not even death, the thing most fear above else, cannot separate us from the love of Messiah. “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5)

Rom. 8:35-39 (TLV) Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.

Paul was convinced of this message. Are we?

Queen Esther knew the stakes. Her life was on the line for her people. We fear what lurks in the darkness of what we can’t see. But, Adonai is there with us, just as He was with the Jews in Persia. Darkness and light are alike to Adonai. (Psalm 139:12) And, we can trust that He is for us. He is good and works ALL things for the good. (Romans 8:28)

We, especially those that live in western nations like the United States, prefer teachings that focus on one’s safety and prosperity. We have developed entire theological systems that have the “church” escaping trials and tribulations. These doctrines are dangerous because they are rooted in fear of worldly poverty and death. The king’s palace, though luxurious and seemingly “safe,” could not protect Queen Esther. Mordecai told her not to even imagine that her high status would protect her. We serve the God Who gave His all for His people. He expects no less from those that follow His example.

If you find yourself lost in the dead of night at this season, seek wise watchmen, like the moedim or appointed times. They arrive in the year at the perfect time to remind one that though the enemy is always seeking your life, Adonai is still on the Throne. He redeems, He saves, He lives, and He is coming. Death will be swallowed up in victory!

So, every year we rehearse the blow to Amalek at Purim, exactly a month before Passover. On Adonai’s calendar, Purim is the (spiritual) preparation for Pesach. It dissolves the chametz of fear, doubt, and unbelief. These are lies that lurk in the dark, hidden corners of our hearts. They question God’s presence in the natural world and one’s everyday mundane existence. This type of darkness seeks to destroy one’s faith just before the first sliver of “light” pierces the night at Passover.

But, we have our own megillah, our own revealing, like Esther and Purim. This is our testimony of overcoming. It shines in the darkness like the stars and the moon. These sparks of light remind all that dwell in darkness and dark circumstances that we have a great hope. There is Good News! What is hidden now, will be revealed – unrolled like a heavenly scroll. And Messiah, our hope and glory, speaks to us in the thick darkness.

Matthew 10:26-27 (NASB) Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to look up when it is dark. There, far beyond the earth, the heavenlies utter their wordless speech. They remind all the Esther’s or stars of Abraham of Adonai’s Covenant Promises. He is faithful. Can you find the treasures of darkness? Look up!

Luke 21:25-28 (NKJV) “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;  26  men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  27  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”


[1] For example, check out the Moon Flower: https://www.thespruce.com/growing-moon-flower-in-containers-4125231

[2] Strong’s H6734 צִיצִת tsee-tseeth’ Feminine of H6731; a floral or wing like projection, that is, a fore lock of hair, a tassel: – fringe, lock.

H6731 BDB Definition: צץ / ציץ tsı̂yts / tsits 1) flower, bloom. 1a) flower, bloom. 1b) shining thing (of gold plate on high priest’s mitre) (metaphorically). 2) feather, wing.

[3] H2822 חשׁך chôshek BDB Definition: 1) darkness, obscurity. 1a) darkness. 1b) secret place. Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2821

[4] H6205 ערפל ‛ărâphel BDB Definition: 1) cloud, heavy or dark cloud, darkness, gross darkness, thick darkness. Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably from H6201

[5] https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Esther.html

[6] From the same root as choshek: H2825 חשׁיכה / חשׁכה chăshêkâh / chăshêykâh BDB Definition: 1) darkness. Part of Speech: noun feminine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2821

[7] In a leap year, the Hebrew year has thirteen months or a second Adar. (Learn more here and here.) Leaps years occur seven times in a nineteen year cycle. The 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years of the nineteen year Metonic cycle are leap years. 5781 is year number 5 of the cycle and is therefore not a leap year. The next leap year will be in 5782, year number 6 of the cycle. See New Moon posts on Adar for more: here and here.

[8] See the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament and New Testament by John H. Walton; Mark W. Chavalas; Victor H. Matthews; Craig S. Keener on Esther 3:9

[9] See Warring with Amalek Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to understand Haman’s connection to Amalek.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Mark of the Beast Part I

The Mark of the Beast Part I

There is a lot of chatter about receiving the mark of the beast during the current pandemic. Is it a vaccine, an under the skin microchip, or a tattoo? Speculations about this “mark” have been juicy fodder for apocalyptic literature, whether fiction or nonfiction, for decades, and even centuries. Fear about receiving this damnable mark bolsters countless conspiracies and an endless supply of consumers eager to swallow them. Fear is a very powerful motivator. But, one that serves the Most High is to fear Him alone. Not man. Not circumstances. And, certainly not the mark of the beast.

While one can find numerous books, articles, websites, and YouTube videos about the mark of the beast, little is available about the sign or mark of Adonai. There is such a disparity, that many Believers aren’t even aware that the LORD also gives a sign upon one’s hand and forehead. So, there are millions that focus solely on the counterfeit, having no experience with the real, authentic sign. No wonder there is such confusion! That is the intent of the beast system, spiritual Babylon.

Thus, if one wants to understand the mark of the beast, one must first understand the positive side of the contranym, which is the sign or mark of Adonai. This is a lengthy article, because it contains extensive Biblical quotes. And yet, this mini-series will only scratch the surface of this ancient dichotomy. The enemy is not creative, though he is crafty and cunning. He can only imitate and pervert God’s genuine Word and creation. With that in mind, let’s read about Adonai’s sign upon one’s hand and forehead.

The Passover is a Sign

Ex. 13:4-10 (NASB) On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth.  5  It shall be when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month.  6  For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD.  7  Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.  8  You shall tell your son on that day, saying, “It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.”  9  And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.  10  Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.

The sign upon one’s hand and forehead is repeated further down in Exodus 13. The context is still Pesach and Unleavened Bread, but the emphasis in verse 16 is the redemption of the firstborn. In both cases, obedience to celebrating, commemorating, and telling the next generation about YHWH’s mighty works in delivering Israel from the slavery and bondage of Egypt, and His preservation of Israel’s firstborns serves as a SIGN upon one’s hand.

Ex. 13:11-16 (NKJV) And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you,  12  that you shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s.  13  But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.  14  So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What is this?” that you shall say to him, “By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  15  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.”  16  It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, for by strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.

 

Defining Hand & Sign

What does the hand signify in Hebraic thought? One acts, performs, or works with their hands. It is a symbol of “doing” something or having the strength to do or act; thus, it can be translated as power. (Dt 32:36, Pr. 18:21, Hos. 13:14, etc.) One’s hand denotes strength to obey, whether that obedience is toward righteousness or wickedness. Whatever one gives their hand to is what (or who) they serve. (Rom. 6:16)

The “sign” in these passages is אות in Hebrew. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB) defines it as:

H226 BDB Definition: 1) sign, signal. 1a) a distinguishing mark. 1b) banner. 1c) remembrance. 1d) miraculous sign. 1e) omen. 1f) warning. 2) token, ensign, standard, miracle, proof. Part of Speech: noun feminine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably from H225 (in the sense of appearing)

The following verses are samples of how the word oht or sign is used in Scripture:

Gen. 1:14 (NASB) Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years…

Gen. 4:15 (NASB) So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

Gen. 9:12-13 (NASB) God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”

Gen. 17:10-11 (NASB) “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.  11  And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

Ex. 12:11-13 (NASB) “Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover. 12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

Dt. 28:45-48 (NASB) So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.

Ps. 78:41-43 (NASB) Again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember His power, the day when He redeemed them from the adversary, 43 when He performed His signs in Egypt And His marvels in the field of Zoan…

Is. 7:14 (NASB) Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Aleph

An oht or sign is physical symbol of something figurative or spiritual. For example, oht is also the Hebrew word for a single “letter” or character, such as aleph. Thus, even the Hebrew letters can contain signs and meaning beyond the physical. In the case of covenants, the sign is a physical mark such as circumcision or a heavenly appearance of something like the rainbow. Keeping Passover is physical sign upon one’s hand, not as something seen with the eyes, but something physically performed with one’s hand. Observing this moed serves as the sign on the hand. It is both physical and spiritual. In other uses, a sign is the physical miracles and/or judgments of Adonai. Again, these signs are both physical and spiritual.

Defining Forehead or Frontlets Between Your Eyes

What do the phrases “reminder on your forehead” and “frontlets between your eyes” from Exodus 13 mean? In the first case, the Hebrew word for reminder is zikron. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB) defines it as:

H2146 זכרון zikrôn BDB Definition: 1) memorial, reminder, remembrance. Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2142

Zikron comes from the Hebrew root zakar, which Strong’s Definitions defines as:

Strong’s: H2142 זָכַר zâkar A primitive root; properly to mark (so as to be recognized), that is, to remember; by implication to mention; also (as denominative from H2145) to be male: –  X burn [incense], X earnestly, be male, (make) mention (of), be mindful, recount, record (-er), remember, make to be remembered, bring (call, come, keep, put) to (in) remembrance, X still, think on, X well. Total KJV occurrences: 231

The word for forehead in the NASB translation is literally “between your eyes” in the Hebrew of Exodus 13:9. Observing and telling one’s children about the Passover and exodus from Egypt wrought by the Mighty Hand of Adonai is to be a memorial, a mark, and a reminder, between one’s eyes. This phrase and the following one in verse 16, imply undivided attention, thought, intent, and action. The Passover should be right at the forefront of one’s mind, right before one’s “eyes.”

The similar phrase in Exodus 13:16, “frontlets between your eyes,” reveals the same message, but gives one even more information. BDB defines frontlets as:

H2903 טופפה ṭôphâphâh BDB Definition: 1) bands, phylacteries, frontlets, marks. Part of Speech: noun feminine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root meaning to go around or bind.

This word gives physicality to intangible thought being a mark. The Passover memorial is like a band wrapped around one’s head. Just as Pesach cycles around and around on Adonai’s calendar, it is to circle and cycle through one’s thoughts and mind. One should NEVER forget that: “with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.” This reminder is a standing testimony of the God of Israel.

 

The Word and Commandments of God are a Sign on One’s Hand and Forehead

Dt. 6:4-9 (NASB) Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Dt. 11:18 (NASB) You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

By reading the entirety of the chapter 6 above, along with chapters 7- 11 of Deuteronomy, one is given clear context of what it means to have the word of Adonai bound to one’s forehead and hand. The flank chapters (6 and 11) declare the exodus from Egypt as the archetype of deliverance and following after the One True God. In fact, if one substitutes the Land of Promise with the New Jerusalem, an even clearer picture emerges, for they are one.

If the Word is bound to one’s forehead, then one’s thoughts and mind are continually immersed and washed by the Words of Life. If the Word of God is bound to one’s hand, then their deeds (fruit) will follow the commandments and they will teach their children to follow suit, because it is understood that God’s Word and His commandments lead to life. They embody true love and wisdom, and engender reverence to the Holy One of Israel.

Both Deuteronomy passages above have the phrase “frontlets between your eyes.” Frontlets is the same Hebrew word explored from Exodus 13:16. It is tofafa. These verses are included in the Scripture passages that are placed inside the tefillin or phylactery boxes wore by religious Jews. Donning Tefillin (Totafot) or Phylacteries is the Jewish physical expression of the binding meaning of tafafa. It serves as a physical reminder of a spiritual reality.

While the topic of wearing tefillin during prayer is far too immense to cover in this article, I recommend this summary written by Alexander Cowen. A study of the history and intricacies of this tradition, the inner compartments, the included Scripture, and the design of the boxes with the three and four pronged shin can be found in The Creation Gospel Workbook 6: Hebrew Prayer and Worship Traditions by Dr. Hollisa Alewine. She states on page 237:

The Talmud indicates in Megillah 24b that by the time of its writing, it was primarily Jewish believers in Yeshua who wore the round phylacteries or decorated them with precious metals, and they wore them “without scruple.” (Bagatti, 1984, p.101)

Wearing phylacteries as a physical sign of the commandments and commemoration of the Passover was practiced among early believers in Yeshua. Though this custom is foreign to most modern Christians, it would have been common among John’s day when he wrote the Book of Revelation. A sign upon one’s hand and forehead held significant meaning that was not lost on his original audience. But before delving into his mystical book, we will examine a few more references of a godly sign in the Bible. The more context one has of the genuine sign or mark of Adonai, the better understanding one will have of what the counterfeit actually represents.

 

Weekly Sabbaths and Festival Sabbaths are a Sign

Ex. 31:12-17 (NASB) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.  14 Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.  16  So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”

In the above sense, Sabbath is a sign between Adonai and His children. It is like a wedding ring, signifying one that is in covenant with Him. Why the Sabbath? In Genesis chapter one, the Sabbath declares Him the Creator of all things. When one rests in Him by setting the seventh day apart as holy, this is a physical and temporal acknowledgment that He is the King and Creator of the Universe. In this way, it also sets one apart from those that refuse to recognize Him as their true rest and King. One must choose to don this “ring” or symbol of covenant.

Being in covenant with Adonai is often portrayed by the analogy of marriage in the Bible, and in Jewish and Christian tradition. For example, when donning the phylacteries, many Jews recite the following from Hosea.

Hos. 2:19-20 (NASB) “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, 20 and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.”

In Jewish wedding ceremonies, the bride encircles the groom three times (in some traditions it is seven), to symbolize a wall of protection and the creating of a new creation: the two becoming one flesh. The three “betroths” mentioned above in Hosea are mirrored as she encompasses her man. (Jer. 31:22) Likewise, those that encircle the groom seven times, reflect the seven days of creation culminating with the Shabbat, the sign between Adonai and His people.

Ezekiel also recalls the exodus from Egypt and the Sabbaths as a sign between Adonai and His people. Within his prophetic book, he mentions a mark placed upon the foreheads of those who sigh and moan over the abominations committed in Jerusalem. They are preserved from Adonai’s judgment that will start with His sanctuary.

Ezek. 20:10-12 (NASB) “So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. 12 Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

Ezek. 9:4 (NASB) The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”

Like Shabbat, the Passover (and other moedim) declare the wondrous works of Adonai. They proclaim the good news: freedom for the captives. By rehearsing and commemorating His works again and again, one gets to know God as Creator, Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior, Sanctifier, Miracle Worker, Law-giver, Compassionate Father, Righteous Judge, Forgiver of Sins, Husband, and Immanuel. He is the first and the last, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning and the End, the Amen.

As one follows His divine cycles, the cycles encircle them with His water and fire, an immersion that cleans, purifies, guides, teaches, corrects, and leads. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly this process of growth and sanctification continues. In this way, the Word is engraved upon the heart, which directs one’s feet in the Way of Life. Yeshua modelled this perfectly in His earthly ministry. If we follow Him, we will follow the same path that He walked (walks).

This is a sign upon one’s hand and one’s forehead that we are His. It reminds of us of who we are and to Whom we belong, like a wedding ring. But, it also is a sign to those outside of the covenant as well. Though they can’t see a physical or literal mark upon one’s hand and forehead, they can see that you are different. They will see the “sign” and know that you belong to God of Israel. What does that wedding ring look like?

Your calendar is not like their calendar. The oht you observe are not the oht they observe. Your celebrations and commemorations are not like their holidays. Your weekly life revolves around the holy Shabbat, not the constant 24/7 striving that the world enslaves the masses to. Your daily focus isn’t on the acquisition of worldly goods and wealth, but on the Kingdom of God. You don’t fear what they fear. You fear Adonai. You enter into rest, the antithesis to the beast system, which will be explored later in this series.

Continued in Part II.

 

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Pesach Sheni

Tonight is Pesach Sheni or the Passover in the second month. A small group of locals are gathering for a Seder and prayer time since we were isolated by “stay at home” orders this year during Passover. Rather than elucidate on the details of Pesach Sheni, I have some suggested homework or extra reading for you this Shabbat. Consider the following passages:

Ex 12:1-28

Dt 16:1-8

Num 9:1-14

Hezekiah’s Passover

Hezekiah cleansed the Temple and restored proper worship. He reinstated Passover; they celebrated in the second month. 

2 Ki 18-20

2 Ch 29-32

A few years ago, I wrote about Hezekiah’s Passover. It was celebrated in the SECOND month.

Josiah’s Passover

Josiah was the grandson of King Hezekiah.  Josiah’s heart was to seek and serve Adonai. He made many reforms that cleansed the land of idol worship. After this “cleansing,” he reinstated Passover. 

2 Ki 23:1-30 

2 Ch 34:1-33

2 Ch 35:1-19 

Above all, I ask you to pray for heart like Hezekiah and Josiah in regard to repentance, tearing down high places and idols, and for mercy for those that seek to return to Adonai. May we remember that Adonai is the, “LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

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The Bread of Affliction

This is the bread of affliction 
that our fathers ate in the land
of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let 
him come and eat! Whoever is 
needy, let him come and celebrate 
Passover! Now, we are here; next
year may we be in Jerusalem! 
Now, we are slaves; next year may
we be free men! (The HaLachmah Anya - the invitation to eat-
in the Passover Haggadah)

 

This article is based on a quick message at our local new moon gathering. You can listen here: New Moon Meeting Nisan 2019

Adonai calls matzah the bread of affliction. He requires His people to eat it for seven days every year to recall the hasty exodus from Egypt, and His mighty judgments that wrought Israel’s freedom. Messiah compared His body to this bread, and also told His followers to partake and remember. (Mt. 26:26) Why does Adonai want us to celebrate by eating bread that reminds us of affliction? Why is this “bread” at the heart of the Passover Seder and the following seven days of unleavened bread?

Dt. 16:3 (NASB) You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.

 Affliction is the Hebrew word oni from the root anah:

H6040 (Brown-Driver-Briggs) עני ‛ŏnı̂y: 1) affliction, poverty, misery 1a) affliction 1b) poverty Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H6031

Hebrew Word Study H6031 עָנָה ‛ānāh: A verb indicating to be afflicted, to be oppressed, to be humbled. It refers to being oppressed, in a state of oppression. It means to bow down, to humble oneself, to be humbled (Exo 10:3; Isa 58:10). In some senses of the verb, it means to inflict oppression, to subdue, to humble someone: of Israel’s oppression in Egypt (Gen 15:13; Exo 1:11-12); to deal with persons harshly, to oppress them (Gen 16:6); to humble a woman (Deu 21:14); to afflict, humble oneself (Gen 16:9; Lev 16:29; Psa 132:1). It is used of raping a woman (Gen 34:2). It is possible to humble oneself, to afflict oneself by fasting (Ezr 8:21; Dan 10:12). The psalmist was often disciplined by affliction from God (Psa 119:71); the Suffering Servant of Isaiah was afflicted by the Lord (Isa 53:4).

Oni or Affliction

The first mention of oni is in Genesis. Consider the context of the following account:

Gen. 16:4-11 He (Abram) went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.  5  And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.”  6  But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.  7  Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  8  He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”  9  Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”  10  Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”  11  The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.

The second mention is also in Genesis:

Gen. 29:31-32 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  32  Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”

In each of these cases, two women are struggling with one another. One man (husband) is involved, and he favors one woman or wife. Each woman has an “affliction” or hardship that she suffers in this life. One, though loved by the man, is childless and barren. The other woman is either unloved or a mere handmaiden given to the man as a surrogate. Adonai gives the handmaid and the unloved wife a child. Both boys are named for Adonai recognizing their “affliction.” Ishmael (Shema – el) means “God hears,” and Rueben (Ra’ah Ben) means “see a son.” YHWH hears and sees affliction and gives new life, as a result. 

But the other women, the beloved wives, are not left to wallow in despair and remain childless. They, too, eventually have sons, but not right away. Adonai required them to wait on Him and His timing. Their progeny includes the promised (covenant) son, Isaac (laughter), and Joseph (gather, add, increase) – both types for Messiah.

The third mention involves children as well, but notice the twist:

Gen. 31:42-43 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.  43  Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?

Much like Pharaoh, Laban presumes to “own” all that is Israel’s or Jacob’s, including the new life, which is the children and the flocks. Jacob understood that all his toil and labor and changed wages was an oni, or affliction under the rule of Laban. He also recognized, like Hagar and Leah above, that Adonai saw his affliction and acted on his behalf.

The fourth mention:

Gen. 41:51-52 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”  52  He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Joseph understood Egypt to be the “land of affliction.” Though at the time of the birth of his sons he enjoyed the lofty rank of second in all the land of Egypt and served under a Pharaoh that loved him, Egypt wasn’t home. Being the right hand of the king paled in comparison to being with his family. And yet, that’s where he suffered trouble. His brothers sold him. He was mocked, disliked, and ultimately betrayed by his own flesh and blood. Egypt, for Joseph, began with servitude and then imprisonment. Adonai saw Joseph’s affliction and made him fruitful in a foreign place.

Do you see a theme emerging? 

The first four mentions of oni (affliction) are connected to children (fruit), usually their physical birth. Affliction is supposed to have a favorable result – a very favorable outcome – such as children, which are NEW LIFE. We call child birth a delivery. Birth pangs, contractions, sweat, and toil, will accompany new life. The deeper, spiritual message is: deliverance will require the same types of affliction.

The Hebrew root of oni is anah (defined above). Take a look at its first mention:

Gen. 15:13 (NKJV) Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

When terror and great darkness fell upon Abram during the cutting of the Covenant of Pieces, he had just been told that he would indeed have an heir that would come forth from his own body – despite Sarai’s barrenness. But, his descendants would certainly be strangers in a land that wasn’t theirs for four hundred years. They would serve this people and suffer affliction at their hand. Can you imagine? Hopefully, we can. This is the pattern for the children of Abraham. Affliction, but also:

Gen. 15:14 “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.

And afterward… This is a phrase we need to remember. Afflictions, trials, and tribulations WILL come. (John 16:33) But that’s not where Adonai wants us to focus. We will eat the bread of affliction just as surely as Messiah is the matzah. We eat it, because it is the staff of life, our sustenance. Though it may be bitter to the stomach (flesh), it is sweet on the tongue of the righteous. (Ezek. 3:1-4, Rev. 10:8-11) Consider Jeremiah:

Jer. 15:15-16 You who know, O LORD, Remember me, take notice of me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away; Know that for Your sake I endure reproach.  16  Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah was afflicted by multiple enemies within Israel and without. But he knew that he had to eat the bread, the word of Adonai. And afterward, it “became” a joy and the delight of his heart. All pain, all affliction, is birth pain. It is meant to result in JOY, just like the birth of child. Paul knew this truth very well.

Rom. 5:3-5 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  4  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  5  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

2 Cor. 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  17  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  18  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Eating the matzah, the bread of affliction, isn’t a punishment. It teaches the children of Abraham the Way of New Life, Birth. It teaches what comes “and afterward.” As you go through the Seder each year, the matzah is transformed, just as you are spiritually. It ceases to be the bread of affliction; and instead, becomes the bread of faith, hope, renewal, transformation, and new life.

The third step of the seder is eating Karpas dipped in salt water. It is a reminder of the tears and sweat of bondage. The fourth step is Yachatz, the breaking of the middle matzah. The reminder of affliction and the necessary breaking comes before the fifth step, which is the telling or maggid (testimony). Read that again – consider the process.

The order or seder IS our order; it shows the way. We are afflicted and broken. Messiah was afflicted and broken for us. This is the pattern to reach “and afterward” – our testimony and joy. Look at the fifth step, the telling/testimony again:

After the matzah is broken, the larger piece becomes the hidden Afikomen, and the remaining piece is held up high. (Both picture Messiah) Then, a grand invitation is announced to the whole world – this is the beginning of the telling, the testimony:

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat! Whoever is needy, let him come and celebrate Passover! Now, we are here; next year may we be in Jerusalem! Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free men! (The HaLachmah Anya – the invitation to eat- in the Passover Haggadah)

The next time you are afflicted, remember:

Ex. 3:7-8 The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.  8  “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

Adonai sees your affliction. He is aware of your suffering. He has “come down” to deliver you. He will “bring you up” to the Land that flows with milk and honey.

 

Chag Sameach Pesach!

 

More on Passover

Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5779 (2019)

The Four Cups of Passover

Hezekiah’s Passover


More Verses on Affliction

Do you see the theme?

Exo 3:17 (NASB)  “So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘

Exo 4:31 (NASB)  So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.

1Sa 1:9-11 (NASB)  Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD.  10  She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.  11  She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”

Job 36:15 (NASB)  “He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, And opens their ear in time of oppression.

Psa 9:11-15 (NASB)  Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds.  12  For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.  13  Be gracious to me, O LORD; See my affliction from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death,  14  That I may tell of all Your praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation.  15  The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.

Psa 22:24 (NASB)  For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

Psa 25:16-18 (NASB)  Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.  17  The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses.  18  Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins.

Psa 31:7 (NASB)  I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul…

Psa 119:50-51 (NASB)  This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.  51  The arrogant utterly deride me, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

Psa 119:92-94 (NASB)  If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction.  93  I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.  94  I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.

Psa 119:153-154 (NASB)  Resh. Look upon my affliction and rescue me, For I do not forget Your law.  154  Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.

Psa 132:1 (NASB)  A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, on David’s behalf, All his affliction

Isa 48:10 (NASB)  “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

 

 

 

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