This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 9:1-21. The Psalm begins by stating א לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל-ְמוּת לַבֵּן מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: “For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.” David declares the glory of God saying ב אוֹדֶה יְהֹוָה בְּכָל-לִבִּי אֲסַפְּרָה כָּל-נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ: ג אֶשְֹמְחָה וְאֶעֶלְצָה בָךְ אֲזַמְּרָה שִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן: 9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. 9:2 I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. (NASB) In these Scriptures, David says that he will tell stories (אֲסַפְּרָה) of all your miracles (כָּל-נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ). The Lord has worked mightily in David’s life. The manner in which the Lord worked was miraculous according to the text. Does the Lord work miracles in your life today like He did in David’s life? He goes on to say ד בְּשׁוּב-אוֹיְבַי אָחוֹר יִכָּשְׁלוּ וְיֹאבְדוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ: ה כִּי-עָשִֹיתָ מִשְׁפָּטִי וְדִינִי יָשַׁבְתָּ לְכִסֵּא שׁוֹפֵט צֶדֶק: 9:3 When my enemies turn back, They stumble and perish before You. 9:4 For You have maintained my just cause; You have sat on the throne judging righteously. (NASB) The miracle of our righteous God who is judge of all the nations is evident by David’s enemies turning back and away from him. The righteous Judge in Heaven (God) ו גָּעַרְתָּ גוֹיִם אִבַּדְתָּ רָשָׁע שְׁמָם מָחִיתָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד: ז הָאוֹיֵב | תַּמּוּ חֳרָבוֹת לָנֶצַח וְעָרִים נָתַשְׁתָּ אָבַד זִכְרָם הֵמָּה: 9:5 You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. 9:6 The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins, And You have uprooted the cities; The very memory of them has perished. (NASB) The enemy boasts that their name will be established forever, however, the Lord blots out their name, God uproots cities, and destroys even the very memory of the nations from the earth. David goes on to say that the Lord abides forever, his throne is established for judgment and He will judge righteously. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed and for those who are in times of trouble. The Lord does not forsake those who seek Him. David cries out for the Lord to see his affliction and the reason is the Lord does not forget the cry of the afflicted, those who are persecuted unjustly. He repeats that he will tell of all His praises and rejoice in the Lord’s salvation. The wicked will return to the grave, all the nations who forget the Lord. In the judgment of the Lord the nations will know that they are merely men (יֵדְעוּ גוֹיִם אֱנוֹשׁ הֵמָּה סֶּלָה). Though there seems to be no hope, the Lord will one day provide justice for His people.
עברית Hebrew ארמי Aramaic ελληνικός Greek
ספר תהלים פרק ט
א לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל-ְמוּת לַבֵּן מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: ב אוֹדֶה יְהֹוָה בְּכָל-לִבִּי אֲסַפְּרָה כָּל-נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ: ג אֶשְֹמְחָה וְאֶעֶלְצָה בָךְ אֲזַמְּרָה שִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן: ד בְּשׁוּב-אוֹיְבַי אָחוֹר יִכָּשְׁלוּ וְיֹאבְדוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ: ה כִּי-עָשִֹיתָ מִשְׁפָּטִי וְדִינִי יָשַׁבְתָּ לְכִסֵּא שׁוֹפֵט צֶדֶק: ו גָּעַרְתָּ גוֹיִם אִבַּדְתָּ רָשָׁע שְׁמָם מָחִיתָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד:
סםר טוביה פרק ט
א לשבחא על מיתותא דגברא פולי מדבן פולימרכי די נפק מביני משירייתא תושבחתא לדוד׃ ת׳׳א לשבחא על בסימות מקלפונין על ידא דבן תושבחתא לדוד׃ ב אשבח קדם יהוה בכל לבי לבבי אישתעי כולהון פרישותך׃ ג אחדי ואבדח אדוץ ואיבוע במימרך אשבח שמך עילאה׃
9:1 εις το τελος υπερ των κρυφιων του υιου ψαλμος τω δαυιδ 9:2 εξομολογησομαι σοι κυριε εν ολη καρδια μου διηγησομαι παντα τα θαυμασια σου 9:3 ευφρανθησομαι και αγαλλιασομαι εν σοι ψαλω τω ονοματι σου υψιστε 9:4 εν τω αποστραφηναι τον εχθρον μου εις τα οπισω ασθενησουσιν και απολουνται απο προσωπου σου 9:5 οτι εποιησας την κρισιν μου και την δικην μου εκαθισας επι θρονου ο κρινων δικαιοσυνην
ז הָאוֹיֵב | תַּמּוּ חֳרָבוֹת לָנֶצַח וְעָרִים נָתַשְׁתָּ אָבַד זִכְרָם הֵמָּה: ח וַיהֹוָה לְעוֹלָם יֵשֵׁב כּוֹנֵן לַמִּשְׁפָּט כִּסְאוֹ: ט וְהוּא יִשְׁפֹּט-תֵּבֵל בְּצֶדֶק יָדִין לְאֻמִּים בְּמֵישָׁרִים: י וִיהִי יְהֹוָה מִשְֹגָּב לַדָּךְ מִשְֹגָּב לְעִתּוֹת בַּצָּרָה: יא וְיִבְטְחוּ בְךָ יוֹדְעֵי שְׁמֶךָ כִּי לֹא-עָזַבְתָּ דֹרְשֶׁיךָ יְהֹוָה: יב זַמְּרוּ לַיהֹוָה ישֵׁב צִיּוֹן הַגִּידוּ בָעַמִּים עֲלִילוֹתָיו: יג כִּי-דֹרֵשׁ דָּמִים אוֹתָם זָכָר לֹא-שָׁכַח צַעֲקַת עֲנָיִים [עֲנָוִים]: יד חָנְנֵנִי יְהֹוָה רְאֵה עָנְיִי מִשּׂנְאָי מְרוֹמְמִי מִשַּׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת: טו לְמַעַן אֲסַפְּרָה כָּל-תְּהִלָּתֶיךָ בְּשַׁעֲרֵי בַת-צִיּוֹן אָגִילָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ: טז טָבְעוּ גוֹיִם בְּשַׁחַת עָשֹוּ בְּרֶשֶׁת-זוּ טָמָנוּ נִלְכְּדָה רַגְלָם: יז נוֹדַע | יְהֹוָה מִשְׁפָּט עָשָֹה בְּפֹעַל כַּפָּיו נוֹקֵשׁ רָשָׁע הִגָּיוֹן סֶלָה: יח יָשׁוּבוּ רְשָׁעִים לִשְׁאוֹלָה כָּל-גּוֹיִם שְׁכֵחֵי אֱלֹהִים: יט כִּי לֹא לָנֶצַח יִשָּׁכַח אֶבְיוֹן תִּקְוַת עֲנִויִּם [עֲנִיִּים] תֹּאבַד לָעַד: כ קוּמָה יְהֹוָה אַל-יָעֹז אֱנוֹשׁ יִשָּׁפְטוּ גוֹיִם עַל-פָּנֶיךָ: כא שִׁיתָה יְהֹוָה | מוֹרָה לָהֶם יֵדְעוּ גוֹיִם אֱנוֹשׁ הֵמָּה סֶּלָה:
ד כדיתובו בעלי דבבי לאחורא יתקלון ויהובדון מן קדמך׃ ה מטול ארום דעבדת פורענותי ודיני יתבתא על כורסי דיינא זכאה׃ ו נזפתא עממי דפלשתאי הובדתא גולית רשיעא שומהון שמהתהון מחיתא לעלמי עלמין׃ ז וכד נפל בעיל דבבא אישתציו חילוותיה וכרכיהון אצתדיו לעלמא וקרויהון צדיתא שבקת מלמיתב הובדתא דכרנהון מנהון׃ ח ומימרא דיהוה לעלמין מותביה בשמי מרומא תקין אתקין לדינא כורסיה׃ ט ואיהוא והוא ידין עמא דארעא בזכותא ידין עממיא בתריצותא׃ י ויהי מימרא דיהוה תקוף למסכינא תקוף בעידני עקתא׃ יא ויסתכלון ויתרחצון בסברותך במימרך ידעי שמך מטול דלא שבקתא תבעייך תבעין לך יהוה׃ יב שבחו קדם יהוה דאשרי שכינתיה ציון תניאו בעממיא עובדוי׃ יג מטול דתביע דמיא דמא זכאה ית דיקיא דכיר צדקוי דכר לא שלי יתנשי קבלת עינוותנין׃ יד חוס עלי יהוה חמי סיגופי מבעלי דבבי משׂנאי מרומם מרורם לי ממעלני מותא׃ טו מן בגלל דאישתעי לכולהון שבחתך״פרשוותך במעלני תרעי כינשת ציון אדוץ בפורקנך׃ טז טבעו עמיא עממיא בשוחתא דעבדו במצדתא דנן דנא כמנו איתחדת רגליהון׃ יז גלי קדם יהוה דין דעבד בעובדי אידוי ידוי אתקל רשיעא יר וננון צדיקיא לעלמין׃ יח יתובון רשיעי לשייול כולהון עממיא דאשליו דאיתנשיו דחלתא דיהוה אלהא׃ יט מטול דלא לעלמיא משתלי מתנשי חשוכא סוברא סבורא דעינוותני לא תהובד לעלמא לעלמין׃ כ קום יהוה לא יתעשן בר נשא רשיעא יתדנון עממיא קדמך׃ כא שוי יהוה דחלתא להון ינדעון עמיא עממיא דבר נש דבר נש הינון אינון לעלמין׃
9:6 τοῦ ἐχθροῦ ἐξέλιπον αἱ ῥομφαῖαι εἰς τέλος καὶ πόλεις καθεῖλες ἀπώλετο τὸ μνημόσυνον αὐτῶν μετ’ ἤχους 9:7 καὶ ὁ κύριος εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα μένει ἡτοίμασεν ἐν κρίσει τὸν θρόνον αὐτοῦ 9:8 καὶ αὐτὸς κρινεῖ τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ κρινεῖ λαοὺς ἐν εὐθύτητι 9:9 καὶ ἐγένετο κύριος καταφυγὴ τῷ πένητι βοηθὸς ἐν εὐκαιρίαις ἐν θλίψει 9:10 καὶ ἐλπισάτωσαν ἐπὶ σὲ οἱ γινώσκοντες τὸ ὄνομά σου ὅτι οὐκ ἐγκατέλιπες τοὺς ἐκζητοῦντάς σε κύριε 9:11 ψάλατε τῷ κυρίῳ τῷ κατοικοῦντι ἐν σιων ἀναγγείλατε ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν τὰ ἐπιτηδεύματα αὐτοῦ 9:12 ὅτι ἐκζητῶν τὰ αἵματα αὐτῶν ἐμνήσθη οὐκ ἐπελάθετο τῆς κραυγῆς τῶν πενήτων 9:13 ἐλέησόν με κύριε ἰδὲ τὴν ταπείνωσίν μου ἐκ τῶν ἐχθρῶν μου ὁ ὑψῶν με ἐκ τῶν πυλῶν τοῦ θανάτου 9:14 ὅπως ἂν ἐξαγγείλω πάσας τὰς αἰνέσεις σου ἐν ταῖς πύλαις τῆς θυγατρὸς σιων ἀγαλλιάσομαι ἐπὶ τῷ σωτηρίῳ σου 9:15 ἐνεπάγησαν ἔθνη ἐν διαφθορᾷ ᾗ ἐποίησαν ἐν παγίδι ταύτῃ ᾗ ἔκρυψαν συνελήμφθη ὁ ποὺς αὐτῶν 9:16 γινώσκεται κύριος κρίματα ποιῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν χειρῶν αὐτοῦ συνελήμφθη ὁ ἁμαρτωλός ᾠδὴ διαψάλματος 9:17 ἀποστραφήτωσαν οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ εἰς τὸν ᾅδην πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τὰ ἐπιλανθανόμενα τοῦ θεοῦ 9:18 ὅτι οὐκ εἰς τέλος ἐπιλησθήσεται ὁ πτωχός ἡ ὑπομονὴ τῶν πενήτων οὐκ ἀπολεῖται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα 9:19 ἀνάστηθι κύριε μὴ κραταιούσθω ἄνθρωπος κριθήτωσαν ἔθνη ἐνώπιόν σου 9:20 κατάστησον κύριε νομοθέτην ἐπ’ αὐτούς γνώτωσαν ἔθνη ὅτι ἄνθρωποί εἰσιν διάψαλμα (LXX)
In this week’s opening verse from the Hebrew bible on Tehillim / Psalms 9, says א לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל-ְמוּת לַבֵּן מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: and the English translation states “For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.” Again we find the transliteration of the Hebrew ְמוּת לַבֵּן “Muth-labben.” This phrase appears in Tehillim / Psalms 9:1 and again we find some debate on the meaning of the words in its connection here to the Psalm of David. The phrase may indicate the motivation for writing the Psalm and means either “the death of Labben,” of “the death of a son.” Easton’s dictionary states this may refer to Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33) or to specify the type of musical instrument or the name of an air instrument (tune) to which the Psalm was sung. It is interesting while looking at Ginsburg’s Masoretic text, there is a circulus located above the word עַל-ְמוּת “al-mut” to indicate that there is a variant spelling on these words in the various manuscripts on the Psalm according to the critical apparatus (marginal masorah). The Masorah is a system of critical notes on the external form of the Biblical text. (Jewish Encyclopedia) “This system of notes represents the literary labors of innumerable scholars, of which the beginning falls probably in pre-Maccabean times and the end reaches to the year 1425 AD.”
Tehillim / Psalms 8
For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. 9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. 9:2 I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. 9:3 When my enemies turn back, They stumble and perish before You. 9:4 For You have maintained my just cause; You have sat on the throne judging righteously. 9:5 You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. 9:6 The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins, And You have uprooted the cities; The very memory of them has perished. 9:7 But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, 9:8 And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. 9:9 The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble; 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. 9:11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds. 9:12 For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 9:13 Be gracious to me, O Lord; See my affliction from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, 9:14 That I may tell of all Your praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation. 9:15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught. 9:16 The Lord has made Himself known; He has executed judgment. In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah. 9:17 The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God. 9:18 For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever. 9:19 Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged before You. 9:20 Put them in fear, O Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah. (NASB)
Toviyah / Psalms Chapter 8
9:1 For praise, concerning the death of the man who went out between the armies. A hymn of David. another targum: For praise, concerning the sweetness of the sound by a son. A hymn of David. 9:2 I will sing praise in the Lord’s presence with all my heart; I will tell all of your miracles. 9:3 I will be glad and rejoice in your word; I will praise your name, O Most High. 9:4 When my enemies turn back, they will stumble and perish before you. 9:5 Because you have accomplished my vindication and my judgment; you sat down on the throne of the righteous judge. 9:6 You rebuked the peoples of the Philistines; you destroyed Goliath the wicked; their name you erased forever and ever. 9:7 And when the enemy fell, his forces were obliterated, and their fortresses were laid waste forever, and as for their cities, you destroyed the memory of them forever. 9:8 But as for the word of the Lord, his seat is in the highest heaven forever; he has established his throne for judgment. 9:9 And he shall judge the people of the earth in righteousness; he will judge the Gentiles in uprightness. 9:10 And the word of the Lord will be strength to the poor, strength in times of distress. 9:11 And those who know your name will look at your hope, because you have not abandoned those who seek you, O Lord. 9:12 Sing praise before the Lord who made his presence rest in Zion; tell his deeds among the Gentiles. 9:13 For he avenges the innocent blood; he remembers the, he does not neglect the complaint of the humble. 9:14 Pity me, O Lord; see my pain caused by my enemies, you who lift me up from the entrances of death. 9:15 So that I may tell all your praises in the entrances of the gates of the assembly of Zion; I will exult in your redemption. 9:16 The peoples have sunk in the pit that they made; in the very net they concealed, their feet are caught. 9:17 Manifest before the Lord is the judgment he executed: through the works of his hands, the wicked man stumbled, the righteous will rejoice forever. 9:18 The wicked will return to Sheol, all the Gentiles who neglected the fear of the Lord. 9:19 For the needy man is not forever neglected; the hope of the humble will not perish forever. 9:20 Arise, O Lord, may the wicked son of man not grow strong, may the Gentiles be judged in your presence. 9:21 Put, O Lord, fear on them; let the peoples know that they are a son of man forever. (EMC)
Tehillim / Psalms 9
9:1 I will give thanks to thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will recount all thy wonderful works. 9:2 I will be glad and exult in thee: I will sing to thy name, O thou Most High. 9:3 When mine enemies are turned back, they shall be feeble and perish at thy presence. 9:4 For thou hast maintained my cause and my right; thou satest on the throne, that judgest righteousness. 9:5 Thou hast rebuked the nations, and the ungodly one has perished; thou hast blotted out their name for ever, even for ever and ever. 9:6 The swords of the enemy have failed utterly; and thou hast destroyed cities: their memorial has been destroyed with a noise, 9:7 but the Lord endures for ever: he has prepared his throne for judgment. 9:8 And he will judge the world in righteousness, he will judge the nations in uprightness. 9:9 The Lord also is become a refuge for the poor, a seasonable help, in affliction. 9:10 And let them that know thy name hope in thee: for thou, O Lord, hast not failed them that diligently seek thee. 9:11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Sion: declare his dealings among the nations. 9:12 For he remembered them, in making inquisition for blood: he has not forgotten the supplication of the poor. 9:13 Have mercy upon me, O Lord; look upon my affliction which I suffer of mine enemies, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death: 14 that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion: I will exult in thy salvation. 9:15 The heathen are caught in the destruction which they planned: in the very snare which they hid is their foot taken. 9:16 The Lord is known as executing judgments: the sinner is taken in the works of his hands. A song of Pause. 9:17 Let sinners be driven away into Hades, even all the nations that forget God. 9:18 For the poor shall not be forgotten for ever: the patience of the needy ones shall not perish for ever. 9:19 Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged before thee. 9:20 Appoint, O Lord, a lawgiver over them: let the heathen know that they are men. Pause. (LXX)
The Masorah is collection of commentary on the Hebrew text of the Tanach (OT). The term “Masorah” is taken to be the fixation of the text of the Hebrew Bible in form and pronunciation. According to Ginsburg’s Masorah, the following note is made concerning these words עַל-ְמוּת “In another book עֲלָמוֹת and delivered upon him formally two forms and this is confirmed in the first edition of the entire Bible, Soncino 1488, Second edition, Naples circa 1491-1493, Third edition of the Bible, Brescia 1494, First edition of the Rabbinic Bible by Felix Pratensis, four Volumes fol. Bomberg Venice 1517, and Bible 40, Bomberg Venice 1521.” Therefore the conclusion can be made that this word occurs in other Masoretic texts written with the maqqef “-” as either עַל-ְמוּת or without the maqqef as עֲלָמוֹת. It is interesting that in Ginsburg’s Hebrew bible, we find this variant spelling in David’s Psalm of praise to the Lord. Searching the Hebrew bible for occurrences of the word עֲלָמוֹת results in finding the following verses that contain this word.
Tehillim / Psalms 46:1
א לַמְנַצֵּחַ לִבְנֵי-קֹרַח עַל-עֲלָמוֹת שִׁיר: 46:1 For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. (NASB)
Tehillim / Psalms 68:26
כו קִדְּמוּ שָׁרִים אַחַר נֹגְנִים בְּתוֹךְ עֲלָמוֹת תּוֹפֵפוֹת: 68:26 The singers went on, the musicians after them, In the midst of the maidens beating tambourines. (NASB)
Song of Solomon 1:3
ג לְרֵיחַ שְׁמָנֶיךָ טוֹבִים שֶׁמֶן תּוּרַק שְׁמֶךָ עַל-כֵּן עֲלָמוֹת אֲהֵבוּךָ: 1:3 “Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, Your name is like purified oil; Therefore the maidens love you. (NASB)
1 Chronicles 15:20
כ וּזְכַרְיָה וַעֲזִיאֵל וּשְׁמִירָמוֹת וִיחִיאֵל וְעֻנִּי וֶאֱלִיאָב וּמַעֲשֵֹיָהוּ וּבְנָיָהוּ בִּנְבָלִים עַל-עֲלָמוֹת: 15:20 and Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah, with harps tuned to alamoth; (NASB)
Studying these various occurrences of the word we find that depending upon the context of the verse the word עֲלָמוֹת may be translated as a reference to עלמה “maiden.” Note that in Tehillim / Psalms 68:26 and Song of Solomon 1:3, the context of the sentence requires the translation of עֲלָמוֹת to be “maidens.” Also, 1 Chronicles 15:20, the Hebrew text states בִּנְבָלִים עַל-עֲלָמוֹת meaning “with harps upon alamoth” and the English translators wrote “with harps tuned to alamoth.” Alamoth (עֲלָמוֹת) appears to be related to the harp or psaltery but its specific meaning has been lost. Therefore, in Tehillim / Psalms 9:1 the translators choose to transliterate the Hebrew text rather than to attempt to translate the root meaning of the word. According to the Scriptures in the Tanach, the meaning of Alamoth (עֲלָמוֹת) requires context, the context of Tehillim / Psalms 9:1 leaves its meaning vague and difficult to translate. The LXX states 9:1 εις το τελος υπερ των κρυφιων του υιου ψαλμος τω δαυιδ 9:1 I will give thanks to thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will recount all thy wonderful works. (LXX) translating עַל-ְמוּת לַבֵּן as “with all my heart.” The Targum Pseudo Jonathan states א לשבחא על מיתותא דגברא פולי מדבן פולימרכי די נפק מביני משירייתא תושבחתא לדוד׃ 9:1 For praise, concerning the death of the man who went out between the armies. A hymn of David. Another targum: For praise, concerning the sweetness of the sound by a son. A hymn of David. (EMC) The Aramaic translation leaves questions on the meaning of עַל-ְמוּת לַבֵּן translating these words to refer to a man who went out between armies or the sweetness of the sound of a son. How exactly are the rabbis understanding this verse and why is it translated into Aramaic in this way?
Following the introductory title of the Psalm, David begins his Psalm saying ב אוֹדֶה יְהֹוָה בְּכָל-לִבִּי אֲסַפְּרָה כָּל-נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ: ג אֶשְֹמְחָה וְאֶעֶלְצָה בָךְ אֲזַמְּרָה שִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן: 9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. 9:2 I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. (NASB) Here David says that he will tell stories (אֲסַפְּרָה) of all of God’s miracles (כָּל-נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ). The Lord has worked mightily in David’s life and he desires to praise the Lord. At the end of 9:3 in the Hebrew bible, David uses another circumlocution for the name of God using the word Elyon (עֶלְיוֹן) Meaning “superior, supreme, superb, upper, top, utmost, over, paramount, predominant, preeminent, preponderant, prepotent, top, topmost, transcendental, uppermost, chief.” Note that the English translators understood this as a circumlocution and translate Elyon as “Almighty” which is the meaning of the word. The first occurrence of this word in the Hebrew bible is found in Bereshit / Genesis 14:18. Interestingly, this is also the location of the first priest of God in the Scriptures. The Scriptures state in Bereshit / Genesis 14:18 saying יח וּמַלְכִּי-צֶדֶק מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם הוֹצִיא לֶחֶם וָיָיִן וְהוּא כֹהֵן לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.” (NASB) Note that in this sentence, the Hebrew word כהן (Cohen / Priest) is derived from the word כהן “kahan” meaning “to serve as an attendant, or a servant, to mediate, or to officiate.” According to the Scriptures, this is the earliest mention where a man operated in an intermediary role on behalf of the Lord God Almighty. In Bereshit / Genesis 14, the role of the priest is clearly laid out in scripture saying וְהוּא כֹהֵן לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן: meaning “and he was a priest of God Most High.” The name of the priest was Melchizedek (מַלְכִּי-צֶדֶק) meaning“king of righteousness”who stands to mediate for Abraham on behalf of the Most High God. The role of priest functions as an intermediary on behalf of someone else and as an intermediary the priest prevents the wrath of God from coming upon the people.
In the Hebrew bible, the word עֶלְיוֹן (Elyon) occurs 32 times, 8 times in the Torah, once in Joshua, once in 1 Kings, 19 times in Psalms, twice in Job and once in 2 Chronicles. Statistically speaking, the word עֶלְיוֹן (Elyon) is used more frequently in the Psalms than any other book of the Bible. In the verse from Tehillim / Psalm 9, the word עֶלְיוֹן (Elyon), David is using this word as a circumlocution for the name of God saying אֲזַמְּרָה שִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן “I will sing praise to Your name ‘Most High’ God” Studying the Name of God, it is interesting that in the Torah it was not until Shemot / Exodus 6 that God revealed Himself and His name using the YHVH. Prior to this, the patriarchs knew God only by “El Elyon” or “El Shaddai.”
Let’’s examine Parashat Miketz (Bereshit / Genesis 41:1-44:17) and take a closer look at how the patriarchs knew the Lord God Almighty. The narrative picks up in Parashat Miketz where Israel sends his children back to Egypt and Jacob prays for his children saying וְאֵל שַׁדַּי יִתֵּן לָכֶם רַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי הָאִישׁ וְשִׁלַּח לָכֶם אֶת-אֲחִיכֶם אַחֵר וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִין וַאֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁכֹלְתִּי שָׁכָלְתִּי 43:14 and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’ (NASB) Here, Jacob calls upon the name of God as “El Shaddai” (אֵל שַׁדַּי) the name of God as “El Shaddai” means “the all sufficient God” so Jacob acknowledges the all sufficiency of God and seeks for His help. The Lord who helped him in his past, who made the promise of the covenant at Bethel when he left Eretz Canaan, and reaffirmed the covenant at Bethel on his return back to the Promised Land, Jacob prayed believing the faithful God of his fathers will help him in His compassion to save his children.
פרשת מקץ ספר בראשית פרק מג פסוק יא-טו
יא וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִשְֹרָאֵל אֲבִיהֶם אִם-כֵּן | אֵפוֹא זֹאת עֲשֹוּ קְחוּ מִזִּמְרַת הָאָרֶץ בִּכְלֵיכֶם וְהוֹרִידוּ לָאִישׁ מִנְחָה מְעַט צֳרִי וּמְעַט דְּבַשׁ נְכֹאת וָלֹט בָּטְנִים וּשְׁקֵדִים: יב וְכֶסֶף מִשְׁנֶה קְחוּ בְיֶדְכֶם וְאֶת-הַכֶּסֶף הַמּוּשַׁב בְּפִי אַמְתְּחֹתֵיכֶם תָּשִׁיבוּ בְיֶדְכֶם אוּלַי מִשְׁגֶּה הוּא: יג וְאֶת-אֲחִיכֶם קָחוּ וְקוּמוּ שׁוּבוּ אֶל-הָאִישׁ: יד וְאֵל שַׁדַּי יִתֵּן לָכֶם רַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי הָאִישׁ וְשִׁלַּח לָכֶם אֶת-אֲחִיכֶם אַחֵר וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִין וַאֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁכֹלְתִּי שָׁכָלְתִּי: טו וַיִּקְחוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים אֶת-הַמִּנְחָה הַזֹּאת וּמִשְׁנֶה-כֶּסֶף לָקְחוּ בְיָדָם וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִן וַיָּקֻמוּ וַיֵּרְדוּ מִצְרַיִם וַיַּעַמְדוּ לִפְנֵי יוֹסֵף:
Bereshit / Genesis 43:11-15
43:11 Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 43:12 ‘Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. 43:13 ‘Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; 43:14 and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’ 43:15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. (NASB)
The description of God as אֵל שַׁדַּי occurs 10 times throughout the Tanakh (using the following search criteria: (i) שדי, (ii) אל שדי, (iii) ואל שדי, (iv) באל שדי 6 of which occur in the Torah (5 in Bereshit and 1 in Shemot, 3 in Job and 1 in Ezekiel). The occurrences of אֵל שַׁדַּי in the Hebrew text are significantly lower than that of the Tetragramaton (יהוה, HaShem), that occurs 6,236 times (using יהוה, ויהוה, ביהוה, and מיהוה) within the Tanakh (Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim). Comparison of the Hebrew text from Sefer Bereshit / Genesis 43:13 with the Aramaic translations of the Torah (Targumim Onkelos, Pseudo Jonathan, and Neofiti) are shown below.
פרשת מקץ ספר בראשית פרק מג פסוק יד (Ginsburg)
יד וְאֵל שַׁדַּי יִתֵּן לָכֶם רַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי הָאִישׁ וְשִׁלַּח לָכֶם אֶת-אֲחִיכֶם אַחֵר וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִין וַאֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁכֹלְתִּי שָׁכָלְתִּי:
תרגום אונקלוס פלק מג פסוק יד (Onkelos)
וְאֵל שַדַי יִתֵין לְכוֹן רַחמִין קְדָם גַברָא וְיִפטַר לְכוֹן יָת אֲחֻוכוֹן אֻוחרָנָא וְיָת בִניָמִין וַאֲנָא כְמָא דִתכוֹלִית תְכוֹלִית׃
תרגום פסאודו יונתן פלק מג פסוק יד (Pseudo Jonathan)
ואל שדי יתן לכון רחמין קדם גברא ויפטור לכון ית אחוכון חורנא וית בנימין ואנא הא כבר אתבשרית ברוח קודשא ארום אין איתכלית על יוסף איתכל על שמעון ועל בנימין
תרגום ניופתי פלק מג פסוק יד (Neofiti)
ואלה שמיא ו ישוי לכון רחמין קדם שליטיא וישלח לכון ית אחוכון חרנא וית בנימן ואנה היךמה דלא תכלת על יוסף ברי לא אוסף למתכלה על בנימן׃
The Targum Onkelos is the standard Aramaic translation in Rabbinic Judaism. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan is a western Aramaic translation of the Torah from the land of Israel. This Targum was called “Targum Yerushalami” in medieval times and was also labeled “Targum Jonathan” at one time in reference to Jonathan ben Uzziel. Targum Neofiti was produced from a group of Crypto-Jews living in Southern Italy. The Aramaic translations on this passage in the Torah we find the translators duplicating the Hebrew text to say that Abraham was calling on the name of God as אֵל שַׁדַּי(El Shaddai). In Targum Neofiti, the translators choose to translate the Hebrew text to say ואלה שמיא meaning “and the God of Heaven.” Here in Neofiti the rabbinic translators choose to use a circumlocution for אֵל שַׁדַּ (El Shaddai). Mentioned earlier, using software to search the Hebrew text, we can see there is quite a contrast on those who call upon name of God as אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai) verses the tetragramaton. אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai) is used very infrequently (w.r.t. יהוה) suggesting there may be something we need to examine a little closer on Israel’s choice of the Name of God. The translators of the Targumim reproducing אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai) in the Aramaic translations also should peak our curiosity. Let’s look at four occurrences of calling on the name of God as אֵל שַׁדַּי “El Shaddai” in Bereshit / Genesis 17:1, 28:3, 35:11, and 43:11-15 and attempt to give a plausible explanation for the use of the name over against the Tetragramaton in the overall flow of the Hebrew narrative up to this point.
In these verses, in Bereshit / Genesis 17:1, God declares his name as אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai) and tells Abraham to walk before Him blamelessly. In Bereshit / Genesis 28:3 and 35:11, the name אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai) is connected to being fruitful and multiplying in the earth (וְיַפְרְךָ וְיַרְבֶּךָ וְהָיִיתָ לִקְהַל עַמִּים) as a reference to the seed (descendents) and having children. The singular form of the word אֵל (God) produces 4,368 results however it would take some work to distinguish between the use of the word as a preposition “to, toward, at, into, in direction of, onto, unto” from the use of the masculine noun as a reference to “God” or on its use as a reference to a false “deity.” The Hebrew name of God (אֵל) is derived from the root word meaning “might, strength, and power.” The primary use of this root word (אֵל) in the Hebrew Scriptures is (i) “god” referring to pagan or false gods, (ii) “God” referring to the true God of Israel, (iii) “the mighty” as a reference to men or angels, and (iv) as a preposition, a word used to express the relationship between two words (grammar). When El (אל) is used in reference to the true God of Israel it is qualified by additional words that further define the meaning that distinguish him from the false gods of the land such as what we see here אֵל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai) the all sufficient God. These titles for God are written in the “construct form.” The “status constructus” or “construct state” is a noun form that occurs in Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, and occurs when a semantically definite noun is succeeded by another noun in a genitive relation to the first. In the Hebrew text from Parashat Miketz we find the construct form of the name of God as “El Shaddai” which means the “all sufficient God.” In Bereshit / Genesis 17:1 and 35:11 God chose to reveal Himself using this distinctive name saying אֲנִי-אֵל שַׁדַּי meaning “I am El Shaddai,” “I am the all sufficient God.”
פרשת לך לך ספר בראשית פלק יז פסוק א
א וַיְהִי אַבְרָם בֶּן-תִּשְׁעִים שָׁנָה וְתֵשַׁע שָׁנִים וַיֵּרָא יְהֹוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי-אֵל שַׁדַּי הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִים:
פרשת תולדות ספר בראשית פלק כח פסוק ג
ג וְאֵל שַׁדַּי יְבָרֵךְ אֹתְךָ וְיַפְרְךָ וְיַרְבֶּךָ וְהָיִיתָ לִקְהַל עַמִּים:
פרשת וישלח ספר בראשית פלק לה פסוק יא
יא וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אֱלֹהִים אֲנִי אֵל שַׁדַּי פְּרֵה וּרְבֵה גּוֹי וּקְהַל גּוֹיִם יִהְיֶה מִמֶּךָּ וּמְלָכִים מֵחֲלָצֶיךָ יֵצֵאוּ:
Bereshit / Genesis 17:1
17:1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. (NASB)
Bereshit / Genesis 28:3
28:3 ‘May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. (NASB)
Bereshit / Genesis 35:11
35:11 God also said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, And kings shall come forth from you. (NASB)
In the rabbinic literature, commentary is written stating that Shaddai (שַׁדַּי) is a contraction of a phrase or an acronym. For example, modern Judaism believes Shaddai is an acronym for the phrase “Shomer daltot Israel” (שומר דלתות ישראל) which means “Guardian/keeper of the doors of Israel.” This is illustrated by an abbreviation on the mezuzah as the letter Shin (ש) and is the commentary that is given on this word according to The Stone Edition of the Chumash (Note: Chumash is Hebrew for “five” referring to the “Torah”) published by Art Scroll, Rabbi Nosson Scherman/Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications Ltd., 2nd edition, 1994, cf. Exodus 6:3 commentary p. 319. Shaddai (שַׁדַּי) is also often paraphrased in English translations as “Almighty” such as is shown in Bereshit / Genesis 17:1 and 35:11. Based on the Hebrew text that is found in Bereshit / Genesis, the name refers to a pre-Mosaic patriarchal understanding of “the God who is sufficient.” The Lord God is in fact “sufficient” supplying all of our needs and therefore by derivation “Almighty.” David understood the sufficiency and almighty nature of God according to the Torah and therefore uses Elyon (עֶלְיוֹן) as a circumlocution for the Name of God rather than saying אֲזַמְּרָה שִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן using יהוה (YHVH) to say “I will sing praise to Your name YHVH.”
David goes on to say ד בְּשׁוּב-אוֹיְבַי אָחוֹר יִכָּשְׁלוּ וְיֹאבְדוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ: ה כִּי-עָשִֹיתָ מִשְׁפָּטִי וְדִינִי יָשַׁבְתָּ לְכִסֵּא שׁוֹפֵט צֶדֶק: ו גָּעַרְתָּ גוֹיִם אִבַּדְתָּ רָשָׁע שְׁמָם מָחִיתָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד: 9:3 When my enemies turn back, They stumble and perish before You. 9:4 For You have maintained my just cause; You have sat on the throne judging righteously. (NASB) He believes that in the enemy turning and retreating the Lord has a hand in this and the Lord is causing them to fail (יִכָּשְׁלוּ) and perish or be destroyed (וְיֹאבְדוּ) before Him. The reason being is that the Lord has maintained David’s just cause. Here in 9:5 two words are used to refer to justice, דין and שפט. The word דין means “judgment, sentence, verdict, law, jus (right or law), legi (rule or law), rule, custom, dispute” and the word שפט means “to judge” or to “be judged.” In verse 5, God is described as doing or making (עָשִֹיתָ) my judgment (מִשְׁפָּטִי) and my judgment (וְדִינִי), the phrase is repeated using two different words. The first judgment is a reference to judgment on an individual basis and the second is a judgment or ruling in a broader sense (against the people and/or enemies) like what is done in a court of law. The use of the word דין provides the description of the judgment of a king who sits in judgment, this is consistent with the remainder of the verse that states יָשַׁבְתָּ לְכִסֵּא שׁוֹפֵט צֶדֶק “you sit upon Your throne as a righteous judge.” The attribute of righteousness (צֶדֶק) is given to the judge (שׁוֹפֵט) who is the Lord God Almighty, this is the characteristic nature of God, the God of righteousness. The use of these two words דין and שפט reveal to us that God is the judge of our sins and He has the position of authority as God and Creator to judge the people of this Earth (the enemies of David). The Lord God is righteous and He will judge righteously when He gives His judgment between sin and righteousness, even in the case of judging the world (the unsaved peoples) for their sins.
David then states as a result of the judgment of God גָּעַרְתָּ גוֹיִם אִבַּדְתָּ רָשָׁע שְׁמָם מָחִיתָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד: ז הָאוֹיֵב | תַּמּוּ חֳרָבוֹת לָנֶצַח וְעָרִים נָתַשְׁתָּ אָבַד זִכְרָם הֵמָּה: 9:5 You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. 9:6 The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins, And You have uprooted the cities; The very memory of them has perished. (NASB) In the rebuking of the nations and the destruction of the wicked, David believes that this means God has blotted out their name forever and ever. The blotting out of the name draws a parallel to the words of Moshe in Parashat Kit Tisa (Shemot / Exodus 30:11-34:35). In Parashat Ki Tisa, Moshe says in Shemot / Exodus 32:32 וְעַתָּה אִם-תִּשָּׂא חַטָּאתָם וְאִם-אַיִן מְחֵנִי נָא מִסִּפְרְךָ אֲשֶׁר כָּתָבְתּ saying אם תישא “if you will carry, lift, bear, endure, or suffer” חַטָּאתָם “their sin.” Based on the Hebrew text Moshe is asking God to forgive the peoples sin in a very unusual way. The translators of the NASB understood this to mean “if You will forgive their sin” as it is translated in English (NASB). Interestingly, Moshe is asking God “to carry, bear, endure, and suffer” the sins of the people for them in a way that results in the forgiveness of sins. Moshe qualifies his statement by saying וְאִם-אַיִן “and if not” מְחֵנִי נָא מִסִּפְרְךָ אֲשֶׁר כָּתָבְתּ “erase/destroy me from your book that you have written.” The word מְחֵנִי comes from the root למחות meaning “to destroy, wipe out, and erase.” Moshe asks if God will not forgive their sin; then He should blot his name out of the book of the living too. The Lord responds saying וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה מִי אֲשֶׁר חָטָא-לִי אֶמְחֶנּוּ מִסִּפְרִי “the one who sins I will erase/destroy from my book.” The Lord is saying that the individual person that sins will be removed from His book. Understanding this from the Torah text, the enemy of David, whom God has blotted out, has come to ruin, cities have been rooted up and removed, the very memory of them has been destroyed (אָבַד). This is what happens to those who are blotted out of the book of life.
As a result of the judgement of God and the resulting total destruction of his enemies, David says ח וַיהֹוָה לְעוֹלָם יֵשֵׁב כּוֹנֵן לַמִּשְׁפָּט כִּסְאוֹ: ט וְהוּא יִשְׁפֹּט-תֵּבֵל בְּצֶדֶק יָדִין לְאֻמִּים בְּמֵישָׁרִים: י וִיהִי יְהֹוָה מִשְֹגָּב לַדָּךְ מִשְֹגָּב לְעִתּוֹת בַּצָּרָה: יא וְיִבְטְחוּ בְךָ יוֹדְעֵי שְׁמֶךָ כִּי לֹא-עָזַבְתָּ דֹרְשֶׁיךָ יְהֹוָה: 9:7 But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, 9:8 And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. 9:9 The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble; 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (NASB) The Lord God Almighty is everlasting, the destruction of the enemies of God is proof that His throne is established forever (יֵשֵׁב כּוֹנֵן לַמִּשְׁפָּט כִּסְאוֹ). David repeats ט וְהוּא יִשְׁפֹּט-תֵּבֵל בְּצֶדֶק יָדִין לְאֻמִּים בְּמֵישָׁרִים “And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity” and declares that those who seek the Lord, who are oppressed and in times of trouble, the Lord will be a stronghold. The Aramaic translation states י ויהי מימרא דיהוה תקוף למסכינא תקוף בעידני עקתא׃ 9:10 And the word of the Lord will be strength to the poor, strength in times of distress. (EMC) the Memra (מימרא, Word) of the Lord will be our strength. The LXX states 9:9 καὶ ἐγένετο κύριος καταφυγὴ τῷ πένητι βοηθὸς ἐν εὐκαιρίαις ἐν θλίψει 9:9 The Lord also is become a refuge for the poor, a seasonable help, in affliction. (LXX) the Lord is our refuge. These scriptures are telling us that it is in the Word of God and in the Lord God Almighty that we find strength, refuge, and a place of hope during the desperate times of life. Those who seek the Lord know His name (וְיִבְטְחוּ בְךָ יוֹדְעֵי שְׁמֶךָ), those who know the name of God, trust in Him because they are seeking Him. The results of God’s righteous judgment, His everlasting justice that has been established, He will be praised forever, יב זַמְּרוּ לַיהֹוָה ישֵׁב צִיּוֹן הַגִּידוּ בָעַמִּים עֲלִילוֹתָיו: 9:11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds. (NASB)
David then draws upon the ritual of sacrifice from the priestly service in the Tabernacle saying ג כִּי-דֹרֵשׁ דָּמִים אוֹתָם זָכָר לֹא-שָׁכַח צַעֲקַת עֲנָיִים [עֲנָוִים]: יד חָנְנֵנִי יְהֹוָה רְאֵה עָנְיִי מִשּׂנְאָי מְרוֹמְמִי מִשַּׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת: טו לְמַעַן אֲסַפְּרָה כָּל-תְּהִלָּתֶיךָ בְּשַׁעֲרֵי בַת-צִיּוֹן אָגִילָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ: 9:12 For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 9:13 Be gracious to me, O Lord; See my affliction from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, 9:14 That I may tell of all Your praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation. (NASB) The requirement of blood for atonement is based upon the graciousness (mercy) of God. The Aramaic translation states יג מטול דתביע דמיא דמא זכאה ית דיקיא דכיר צדקוי דכר לא שלי יתנשי קבלת עינוותנין׃ 9:13 For he avenges the innocent blood; he remembers them, he does not neglect the complaint of the humble. (EMC) and the LXX states ὅτι ἐκζητῶν τὰ αἵματα αὐτῶν ἐμνήσθη οὐκ ἐπελάθετο τῆς κραυγῆς τῶν πενήτων 9:12 For he remembered them, in making inquisition for blood: he has not forgotten the supplication of the poor. (LXX) The rabbis translate the requirement of blood as requiring blood for blood, the Lord avenges the innocent and blood that is shed requires the Lord to question and judge between men here on earth.
The Lord sees the unjust affliction of the righteous; he remembers the afflicted and lifts up the afflicted from the gates of death. David states he will tell of the praises of the Lord at the gate of the daughter of Zion (אֲסַפְּרָה כָּל-תְּהִלָּתֶיךָ בְּשַׁעֲרֵי בַת-צִיּוֹן). Sitting at the gate of the city is known biblically as sitting at a place of power. The one who controls the gate is the one who has the power to allow someone in or out of the city. Note how God has power over the gates of death (מִשַּׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת). Sitting at the gates enabled one to know everything that is going on in the city, especially that of a walled city. The Scripture from Parashat Vayishlach (Bereshit / Genesis 32:3-36:43) reveal the importance of the city gates (note that all who passed through the gate of the city was circumcised). In God’s Kingdom, the gate is the only way whereby we gain access to the Lord. Yeshua said in John 10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. (NIV) Yeshua then says in John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (NIV) and in John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (NIV) In Parashat Vayishlach, all of the men who entered in and went out through the gate of the city must be circumcised according to their agreement with the sons of Jacob. Here in Tehillim / Psalms 9, David understands the power of the gate and the power of God not only to overcome his enemies but to overcome the power of death in God’s act of lifting him up from the gates of death (מְרוֹמְמִי מִשַּׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת). The Aramaic translation states מרורם לי ממעלני מותא “from the entrance of death” where J. Payne Smith: A Compendious Syriac Dictionary says ממעלני is taken to mean the “action of entering,” David was in the action of entering death and the Lord lifted Him up and saved his life.
In Tehillim / Psalms 7, David said טז בּוֹר כָּרָה וַיַּחְפְּרֵהוּ וַיִּפֹּל בְּשַׁחַת יִפְעָל: יז יָשׁוּב עֲמָלוֹ בְרֹאשׁוֹ וְעַל-קָדְקֳדוֹ חֲמָסוֹ יֵרֵד: 7:15 He has dug a pit and hollowed it out, And has fallen into the hole which he made. 7:16 His mischief will return upon his own head, And his violence will descend upon his own pate. (NASB) Referring to the unrepentant, David’s enemies, such a people have trapped themselves, they have dug a pit and fallen into their own hole that they have made. Unrighteousness, pride, sin, iniquity, transgressions, lies, untruths, falsehoods, all of these one day will return to the person who “works or labors” (עָמָל) in sin. Similarly to Tehillim / Psalms 7, David says in Tehillim / Psalms 9 that the nations have done the same thing, יז נוֹדַע | יְהֹוָה מִשְׁפָּט עָשָֹה בְּפֹעַל כַּפָּיו נוֹקֵשׁ רָשָׁע הִגָּיוֹן סֶלָה: יח יָשׁוּבוּ רְשָׁעִים לִשְׁאוֹלָה כָּל-גּוֹיִם שְׁכֵחֵי אֱלֹהִים: יט כִּי לֹא לָנֶצַח יִשָּׁכַח אֶבְיוֹן תִּקְוַת עֲנִויִּם [עֲנִיִּים] תֹּאבַד לָעַד: כ קוּמָה יְהֹוָה אַל-יָעֹז אֱנוֹשׁ יִשָּׁפְטוּ גוֹיִם עַל-פָּנֶיךָ: כא שִׁיתָה יְהֹוָה | מוֹרָה לָהֶם יֵדְעוּ גוֹיִם אֱנוֹשׁ הֵמָּה סֶּלָה: 9:15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught. 9:16 The Lord has made Himself known; He has executed judgment. In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah. 9:17 The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God. 9:18 For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever. 9:19 Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged before You. 9:20 Put them in fear, O Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah. (NASB) It is interesting here that in both the Hebrew and Aramaic translations we read the יח יתובון רשיעי לשייול כולהון עממיא דאשליו דאיתנשיו דחלתא דיהוה אלהא׃ 9:18 The wicked will return to Sheol, all the Gentiles who neglected the fear of the Lord. (EMC) The Hebrew and Aramaic text states that the wicked return to the grave. Does this suggest that the wicked, all those who do not fear the Lord, the Gentiles, their state of being is in the grave? They come and go from the grave (שְׁאוֹלָ), their habitation is in the grave? The Lord has executed judgment upon the nations and the result is that they have fallen into the pit they have made. This means the plans that our enemies have made for us, to destroy us, will return back upon them and this is the righteous judgment of God. In doing these things the Lord will place fear into the hearts of man (שִׁיתָה יְהֹוָה | מוֹרָה לָהֶם יֵדְעוּ גוֹיִם אֱנוֹשׁ הֵמָּה סֶּלָה). Do you have the fear of God in your heart because of sin and unrighteousness in your life?
The rabbinic commentary (Midrash) on Tehillim / Psalms 9 has 17 parts. Reading through this week’s Midrash we will be looking at Parts 2, and 3. Let’s begin by outlining Midrash Tehillim Chapter 9 Parts 2, and 3.
Outline of Midrash Tehillim / Psalms, Chapter 9, Parts 2 and 3
- The Midrash introduces the Psalm with the דיבור המתחיל (Dibur Hamathil) “Another comment on alemut libben (concealed from the heart).”
- The פתיחתא (Petihta) “the homiletic introduction” to the Midrash says “This phrase is to be read in the light of the verse, koheleth sought to understand the ordinances of delight (Ecclesiastes 12:10).”
- The משל (mashal) “the parable,” goes on to explain the פתיחתא (Petihta) that Solomon sought to have God explain to him the Scriptural ordinances concerning the following questions:
- What are the ordinances of the red heifer?
- What is the reward for studying the Torah?
- What is the reward of men who fear God and trust in Him?
- What is the reward of acts of mercy?
- When would the year of redemption come?
- The נמשל (Nimshal) “expansion on the parable” expands upon the משל (mashal) to explain the response of God and Solomon to the questions that are asked.
- The Concluding phrase says “Though I provide so many clues in this matter, no man has been able to solve it, how much more unlikely, then, is the discovery of the time of redemption of which it is said ‘the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’ (Daniel 12:9).”
- The Midrash introduces the Psalm with the דיבור המתחיל (Dibur Hamathil) “A further comment on alemut libben (concealed from the heart).”
- The פתיחתא (Petihta) “the homiletic introduction” to the Midrash says “Rabbi Abba son of Kahana said, the verse ‘Lest you should ponder the path of life’ (Mishley / Proverbs 5:6), means that you are not to sit down and ponder the Torah to pick out the one precept whose reward is the most abundant, and then heed that one alone, for the verse goes on to say Her ways have been moved, that you cannot know them, that is the ways of reward in the Torah have been moved out of sight.”
- The משל (mashal) “the parable,” goes on to explain the פתיחתא (Petihta) “Rabbi Khiyya related the parable of a king who had an orchard into which he brought the workman, without revealing to them, the reward for planting the orchard.
- The נמשל (Nimshal) “expansion on the parable” expands upon the משל (mashal), the Sages taught in the style of the Mishnah to be heedful of the minor precepts as well as the major ones.
- The Concluding phrase says “Hence, the phrase alemut libben means that the rewards for the various precepts are concealed from their hearts.”
In Midrash Tehillim 9, a significant portion of the Midrash is devoted to the understanding of the phrase “alemut libben.” In Midrash Tehillim 9 Part 2 we are presented with the opening verse (דיבור המתחיל) “Another comment on alemut libben (concealed from the heart).” It is interesting here that the Midrash spells out “alemut libben” as separate words (דבר אחר למנצח על מות לבן). It is likely the majority of the Hebrew Scriptures available have these words separated, as is indicated in the Masorah of Ginsburg’s Masoretic text there were only a few texts that had this alternative spelling (עלמות לבן). The rabbis exegetically take five questions that Solomon asks of God in order to determine what is the meaning of “alemut libben.” The first question is that of the ordinances concerning the red heifer. It states in the Midrash “All that have the care of the heifer make their garments unclean, but the heifer itself makes clean the unclean” (כל העוסק בפרה מטמאין בגדים, והיא עצמה מטהרת טמאים). The Lord replies that what is written in the book of the upright (Joshua 10:13), to live uprightly, live simply, and live faithfully. When the Lord issues a decree to establish an ordinance it is not to be questioned, Bamidbar / Numbers 19:2 ב זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָֹה לֵאמֹר דַּבֵּר | אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה תְּמִימָה אֲשֶׁר אֵין-בָּהּ מוּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-עָלָה עָלֶיהָ עֹל: 19:2 ‘This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which is no defect and on which a yoke has never been placed. (NASB) The question on why the ashes of the red heifer, in water, sprinkled with hyssop makes the unclean clean (i.e. the leper) is a good question. We do not fully understand why God has chosen and established the ashes of the heifer to make clean the one who is unclean. It is interesting to note that the red heifer is prepared as a whole burnt offering whose ashes are then utilized in the cleansing ritual. If we think on this for a moment, the Olah Korban (קָרְבַּן עוֹלָה) means “that which goes up [in smoke]” and is commonly translated as “whole burnt offering.” The Olah Korban was a twice daily animal sacrifice offered on the altar in the temple in Jerusalem that was completely consumed by fire. The Torah says in Parashat Tzav (Vayikra / Leviticus 6:1-8:36) that the skin of the animal, was not burnt but given to the priests based upon their priestly division. The Hebrew noun olah (עֹלָה) occurs 289 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. It is translated as “that which goes up” and when connected to the Korban “that which goes up [in smoke].” It is formed from the active participle of the Hiphil form of the verb alah (עָלָה) meaning “to cause to ascend.” Some English Bible translations render the word as “burnt offering.” For example, in Shemot / Exodus 18:12 is translated in the NASB as “Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.” (יב וַיִּקַּח יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה עֹלָה וּזְבָחִים לֵאלֹהִים וַיָּבֹא אַהֲרֹן וְכֹל | זִקְנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל לֶאֱכָל-לֶחֶם עִם-חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים:). In the classical rabbinical literature, there are several different etymologies given for the term olah according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, though all agree that it literally translates as “that which goes up.” Modern scholars, however, argue that it simply refers to the burning process, as the meat goes up in flames. The Chazal (acronym for חכמינו זכרונם לברכה translating literally as “Our Sages, may their memory be blessed,” referencing the rabbinic writings is a general term that refers to all the sages of the Mishna, Talmud, and other rabbinic literature commentators) portray the Olah sacrifice as a reference to which no meat was left over for consumption by the Priests. This was the greatest form of sacrifice, this sacrifice was what sanctified the altar prior to the other offerings that were to be performed upon the altar before the Lord. The Olah Korban was also a form of sacrifice permitted by Judaism to be sacrificed at the Temple by the Priests on behalf of both Jews and non-Jews. The Olah Korban was an extreme form of the slaughter offering, and it was only by this extreme form of slaughter, the remnants, the ashes of the red heifer that God decreed is able to cleanse the unclean person.
Solomon continued asking the Lord to explain the reward for studying the Torah making a reference to Mishley / Proverbs 3:15 (“She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her.”). The reward is the hiding of God’s word in our hearts. This enables us to please the Lord in the way that we live our lives (i.e. Not integrating pagan rituals into the worship of the Lord God Almighty, see Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:31-32). Solomon then asks God to explain the reward for those who fear and trust in the Lord? The Midrash says that God answered from Tehillim / Psalms 31:20, כ מָה רַב טוּבְךָ אֲשֶׁר-צָפַנְתָּ לִּירֵאֶיךָ פָּעַלְתָּ לַחוֹסִים בָּךְ נֶגֶד בְּנֵי אָדָם: 31:19 How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, Before the sons of men! (NASB) Goodness is stored up for those who fear God, the reason being that the fear of the Lord results in obedience to Him and His commands. When we obey God, His blessing is poured out upon us.
Question number four, Solomon asks “what is the reward for acts of mercy?” The rabbis write that the Lord replied saying “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). The Lord quoted to Solomon the written Word (Scripture) saying “ 7:9 ‘Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:9). The final question Solomon asks is to explain when the year of redemption would come? The Midrash states “Long ago I wrote, The day of vengeance will be in My heart until My year of redemption will come (Isaiah 63:4). Rabbi Samuel taught in the name of Rabbi Judah, If a man tells you when the day of redemption is coming, do not believe him, for it is written the Day of vengeance will be in My heart (Isaiah 63:4).” (וכל הענין, כי יום נקם בלבי [ושנת גאולי באה] (ישעיה סג ד). ר׳ שמואל מתני בשם ר׳ יהודה אם יאמר לך אדם מתי קץ הגאולה באה, אל תאמין בו, לפי שכתוב כי יום נקם בלבי) Meaning that if the heart does not disclose its secrets to the mouth how can the mouth say anything? Midrash Tehillim 9, Part 2 concludes stating “Though I provide so many clues in this matter, no man has been able to solve it, how much more unlikely, then, is the discovery of the time of redemption of which it is said ‘the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’ (Daniel 12:9).”
In Midrash Tehillim 9, Part 3, the דיבור המתחיל (Dibur Hamathil) has the same opening as that for Part 2 stating“A further comment on alemut libben (concealed from the heart).” The homiletic introduction (פתיחתא, Petihta) to the Midrash says that Rabbi Abba son of Kahana taught quoting from Mishley / Proverbs 5:6 ו אֹרַח חַיִּים פֶּן-תְּפַלֵּס נָעוּ מַעְגְּלֹתֶיהָ לֹא תֵדָע: 5:6 She does not ponder the path of life; Her ways are unstable, she does not know it. (NASB) We are not to sit down and ponder the precepts of the Torah to pick out the one precept whose reward is the greatest and heed that one alone. Then Rabbi Khiyya told a parable concerning the verse from Mishley / Proverbs 5:6 on the precepts of the Torah they have been moved out of sight for a very good reason. The parable says:
מדרש תהלים פרק ט סימן ג
תני ר׳ חייא משל למלך שהיה לו פרדס והכניס פועלים בתוכו, ולא גילה להן שכר בנטיעתן של פרדס, [כי אילו גילה להם שכר נטיעותיו] היו רואין איזה נטיעה ששכרה מרובה ונוטעין אותה, ונמצאת מלאכת הפרדס מקצתה בטלה ומקצתה מתקיימת, [לכך לא גילה להן הקב״ה לישראל שכר מצותיה של תורה, שלא יהיו רואין איזו מצוה שכרה מרובה ומקיימין אותה, ונמצאת התורה מקצתה קיימת ומקצתה בטלה, ועל כן שנו חכמים בלשון המשנה הוי זהיר במצוה קלה כבמצוה חמורה, שאין אתה יודע מתן שכרן של מצות, הוי נעו מעגלותיה לא תדע].
Midrash Tehillim 9, Part 3
Rabbi Khiyya related the parable of a king who had an orchard into which he brought the workmen, without revealing to them the reward for planting the orchard. Had he revealed to them the reward for planting its several kinds of trees, the workmen would have picked out the kind of tree for whose planting there was the greatest reward and would have planted that kind only, Thus the work in the orchard would have been neglected at one end, and heeded only at the other. So the Holy One blessed be He, did not reveal the reward for heeding the different percepts to the children of Israel in order that they should not choose the most rewarding precept and heed that one only. For then the Torah would be heeded at one end and would be neglected at the other. Therefore, the Sages taught in the style of the Mishnah, Be as heedful of a minor precept as of a major one, for you do not know the reward for the heeding of the different precepts. Hence, it is said Her ways have been moved, that you cannot know them (Mishley / Proverbs 5:6).
Rabbi khiyya related the parable of the king who had an Orchard into which he brought the workmen without revealing to them the reward for planting the Orchard. Had he revealed to them the reward that it would yield several kinds of trees along with several kinds of fruit, they would have picked the kind of tree that resulted in the greatest reward and would have planted only that kind of tree. If the workmen had picked only those trees that produced the greatest reward, the work in the Orchard would have been neglected at one end and heeded at the other. Therefore the sages taught in the style of the mishnah, that is to keep (heed) the minor precepts in the same way that one keeps (heeds) the major ones. The truth that is found in this parable is that we are not to pick and choose from scripture. We are to obey all of scripture because this is God’s word and instruction for our lives! In addition to this, all of those who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are to believe and obey all of Scripture. One is not exempted from portions of Scripture based upon ones race, remember the Apostle Paul wrote that there is neither Jew or Gentile in the Messiah according to Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NASB) If we restrict the application of Scripture to only what we feel is valid for today then we restrict the kinds of fruits and blessing that God wants to bring into our lives. Believing by faith, walking by faith, and living by faith all speaks of having a relationship with the Lord. A full and complete relationship with God consists of believing and applying all of Scripture to our lives. We must have an authentic and real relationship with God that is based upon Scripture. In the Torah, the Children of Israel were going in to the Promised Land (eretz Israel) and going in they were commanded to remove all the things that defiled the land, the sinful people, and the sinful places of worship, etc. This is the understanding that we must have (consider) while reading what Yeshua taught on the importance of having a relationship with the Lord in Matthew 7:19-24.
7:19 ‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 7:20 ‘So then, you will know them by their fruits. 7:21 ‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter 7:22 ‘Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 7:23 ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ 7:24 ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (NASB)
19πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται. 20ἄρα γε ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. 21Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι, Κύριε κύριε, εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἀλλ’ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 22πολλοὶ ἐροῦσίν μοι ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Κύριε κύριε, οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν; 23καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι Οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς: ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν. 24Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτοὺς ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν.
Here in Matthew 7:21, Yeshua says that “Not everyone who says to Me Lord Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven will enter.” Yeshua goes on to say without true faith and without a true relationship you will be commanded to “depart from me I never knew you.” What is being taught is concerning faith, having a relationship with God, and how we live our lives. This relationship starts out and begins by faith in Yeshua, and God’s Word the Bible and then follows through by how we live our lives. A relationship with God begins in our hearts which then produces fruit as Yeshua is saying about those who love Him and obey His commands. The Children of Israel were also to love and obey God’s command and remove sin from the land of Canaan. In order for the right kind of fruit to be produced the Children of Israel needed to remove those things that would hinder growth. This is why Yeshua taught so often about the heart condition and producing the right kind of fruit. The Scriptures describe fruit as produce in general, whether vegetable or animal. The Hebrews divided the fruits of the land into three categories (i) fruit of the field, (ii) fruit of the vine (grapes), and (iii) fruit from orchards (dates, figs, citrons, etc) like in the parable from Midrash Tehillim 9, Part 3. Fruit is also used metaphorically in a variety of forms (i.e. Tehilim / Psalms 104:13, Mishley / Proverbs 1:31,11:30, 31:16, Isaiah 3:10, 10:12, Matthew 3:8, 21:41, 26:29, Hebrews 13:15, and Romans 7:4-5, and 15:28) and fruit is used to describe the product of the one who walks in the Spirit (i.e. Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9, and James 3:17-18). The fruit spoken of in Matthew 7:19 is the produce of a life lived for the Lord. We give testimony of Yeshua with our mouth and in our minds but does that testimony follow through in our lives? (see Revelation 12:7-11) According to the scriptures, the Children of Israel failed to remove all of the places of sin and the sinful people from the land and the result was their continued struggle with sin and failure to live wholly devoted to the Lord. The Torah states that those who live in the land defile the land. According to the Scriptures, eventually, with time, as a result of the sin in the people of Israel, the land literally vomited them out into the other nations. The Scriptures draw a parallel between the body and the land of Canaan saying that we defile our bodies by the impure thoughts that we have. We need God’s help to remain pure but culturally speaking, has the concept of purity been lost today?
In part 17 of Midrash Tehillim 9, the commentary returns to the phrase “Upon Muth Labben (Tehillim / Psalms 9:1).” The homiletic introduction (פתיחתא, Petihta) states “Tehillim / Psalms 9:1 is read Upon Muth Labben, and taken to mean upon the death of Nabal, for Laban is an anagram for Nabal, and another comment is upon the death of the righteous.” The Midrash continues stating “Nevertheless, they are not like men about to die but like men who are sick, in the sense of which Solomon speaks when he says I charge you, O daughter of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell Him that I am sick with love (Song 5:8). What sickness does he refer to? Not to a sickness of the head. Nor to a sickness of the bowels. To what kind of sickness then? To being sick with love for the Holy One blessed be He, for by sick with love no ordinary sickness is meant, but a sickness is al mut, unto death.” (ואינן דומין למתים אלא לחולין, וכן אמר שלמה השבעתי אתכם בנות ירושלים אם תמצאו את דודי מה תגידו לו שחולת אהבה אני (שה״ש שיר השירים ה ח), ומה חולי יש כאן, לא מיחוש ראש, ולא מיחוש מעיים, וממה אני חולה, מאהבתו של הקב״ה שנאמר כי חולת אהבה אני (שם שיר השירים ב ה), ולא חולי בלבד, אלא אפילו על מות, על מיתה And then references Daniel 3 saying “Thus when Nebuchadnezzar said, At what time you hear the sound of the horn and all kinds of music, fall you down and worship the image which I have made (Daniel 3:15), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king (Daniel 3:16), Even if God does not deliver us, we will not serve your gods (Daniel 3:18). Later, after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had come out of the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him (Daniel 3:28). These were willing to give up their lives, not expecting to be delivered, but to be burned. How could they be willing? Because Love is strong as death (Song 8:6). See, then, how much the child loves You. Hence David said, For the leader upon Muth Labben (the death of the child) (Tehillim / Psalms 9:1).” (וכן נבוכדנאצר אמר כען (האיתיכון) [הן איתיכון] עתידין (דניאל ג טו), (ענה) [ענו] שדרך מישך ועבד נגו ואמרין למלכא (שם שם דניאל ג׳ יו), אפילו אם אינו מצילנו, לאלהך לא (אנחנו) [איתנא] פלחין (שם שם דניאל ג׳ יח), וכן הוא אומר כשיצאו מכבשן האש, ענה נבוכדנצר ואמר בריך אלההון די שדרך מישך ועבד נגו די שלח (מלאכא) [מלאכה] ושזיב לעבדוהי די התרחצו עלוהי (שם שם דניאל ג׳ כח, ולא מסרו נפשם על מנת להנצל, אלא לישרף, ולמה כי עזה כמות אהבה (שה״ש שיר השירים ח ו, ראה עד היכן הבן אוהב אותך, הוי למנצח על מות לבן) Reading through Midrash Tehillim 9, Part 17, a few questions arise. Studying the lives of these men in the Bible, and what is described here in the Midrash, to what extent are we willing to go in order to remain holy before the Lord God Almighty? Are there things that we can do that are unholy before God? Did Yeshua do away with holiness and purity in the Torah? Why is holiness and purity (ritual purity) dismissed so quickly by God’s Children today when our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit? Today, because of our culture, is there anyone who would bow down their lives for holiness and purity sake for the Lord? To explore these questions a little further, let’s look at a few Scriptures from Parshiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim (Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1-18:30, 19:1-20:27). Let’s begin by summarizing these portions of Scripture.
Summary of Parshiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim
In Parashat Acharei Mot (after/following the death) the Lord spoke to Moshe following the death of Aharon’s two sons saying ב וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה דַּבֵּר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְאַל-יָבֹא בְכָל-עֵת אֶל-הַקֹּדֶשׁ מִבֵּית לַפָּרֹכֶת אֶל-פְּנֵי הַכַּפֹּרֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאָרֹן וְלֹא יָמוּת כִּי בֶּעָנָן אֵרָאֶה עַל-הַכַּפֹּרֶת: 16:2 The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. (NASB) The scriptures describe that Aharon is to take a bull for the Chatat Korban (Sin offering) and a ram for the Olah Korban (Whole burnt offering) and that He is to perform a ritual bath prior to putting on the holy garments (16:3-4). Two male goats are taken for a Chatat Korban and one ram for the Olah Korban for the congregation of people (16:5-6). Both goats are presented at the entrance to the Ohel Moed (אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, Tent of Meeting) one is used as a sacrifice and the other for the Azazel (לַעֲזָאזֵל, Scapegoat). Lots are cast for the goats; the one the lot falls upon becomes the Chatat Korban. Aaron is to make the offering, and the goat that is to remain alive is to be presented before the Lord and atonement is to be made upon it י וְהַשָּׂעִיר אֲשֶׁר עָלָה עָלָיו הַגּוֹרָל לַעֲזָאזֵל יָעֳמַד-חַי לִפְנֵי יְהוָֹה לְכַפֵּר עָלָיו לְשַׁלַּח אֹתוֹ לַעֲזָאזֵל הַמִּדְבָּרָה: 16:10 ‘But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. (NASB) Aaron makes the sacrifice of the bull for a Chatat Korban for himself and the coals from the fire upon the altar are placed in the fire pan along with incense to make a cloud of smoke in the Holy of Holies so that Aaron does not die when He enters into the Holiest place (16:11-12). The blood of the bull is sprinkled seven times upon the mercy seat (16:14) and the blood of the goat is also sprinkled upon the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat (16:15). Aaron then proceeds to sanctify the altars in the Tabernacle with the blood (16:16-20). Aaron then lays both hands upon the head of the Azazel (Scapegoat) and confesses the iniquities of the sons of Israel and sends the animal into the wilderness (16:21). Aaron then takes off the cloths of the High Priest and leaves them in the Mishkhan and performs another ritual bath, and the person leading the Azazel (Scapegoat) into the wilderness and afterwards must also perform a ritual bath (16:23-34). The Lord then commands the people to bring their offerings to the Lord, to not slaughter the ox, lamb, or goat in the field outside the camp, the person who does such and does not bring the animal as a peace offering is guilty and is to be cut off from his people (17:1-5). The reason being, these things shall be a Shelamim Korban (Peace offering) before the Lord (16:5-6), this is the only sacrifice that the common man may eat and this is to be done in the presence of the Lord. Do these scriptures tell us that the people were to regularly go before the Lord when one wanted meat to eat? It is interesting here that the scriptures state ז וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם לַשְּׂעִירִם אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם: 17:7 ‘They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations’’ (NASB) that any man who does not bring the sacrifice to the door of the Ohel Moed (אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, Tent of Meeting) is to be cut off from his people. The Scripture continues saying that the Life of the blood is in the flesh and it has been given (the blood has been given) to make atonement for our souls (17:11) therefore no person is to eat the blood of any animal (17:12-16). The Lord then instructs Israel to not do what is done in the Land of Egypt nor do what is done in the land of Canaan (18:1-5). The commands against incest are given (18:6-20) and homosexuality is an abomination (18:22), intercourse with an animal is prohibited (18:23), for these are the things the nations do and are the reason they are being cast out from the land (18:24). It is written in Vayikra / Leviticus 18:30 that we are not to keep any of the abominable customs of the nations, this includes the holidays that are adopted from the nations. We are to honor our father and mother and not turn to idols or molten gods (19:1-4). It is also commanded to eat all of the Shelamim Korban (Peace offering) by the third day; anything that remains is to be burned with fire (19:6). The person who eats of the sacrifice on the third day will bear his iniquity and will be cut off from his people (19:7). We are told not to steal, not to swear falsely, not to slander others, and not to hate your neighbor or brother (19:11-17). Three years are to be given for freshly planted fruit trees before harvesting (19:23-24). We are commanded not to practice divination or soothsaying (19:26). Do not cut your body for the dead or make tattoos or marks on yourself for “I am the Lord” declares the Lord (19:28). Do not turn to mediums or spiritists, doing so will cause one to become defiled by them (19:31). You are to keep the Shabbat (19:30), do not do wrong to the stranger in the land (19:33-34), and keep correct weights and measures (19:35-37) meaning do not cheat someone financially. The Lord God states that any person who gives his son or daughter as a sacrifice to Moloch is to be put to death (20:1-4). The Lord then declares that to the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists that He will turn His face against that person and cut him/her off from among his people (20:6). We are to consecrate ourselves and be holy for our God is holy (20:7). The Scriptures state that He (God) sanctifies us in His Word (Tehilim / Psalm 86.1-5); therefore we need to spend time daily studying and reading the Scriptures. It is written that anyone who curses his mother or father is to be put to death (20:9), if one commits adultery with another man’s wife he is to be put to death (20:8), if a man lays with his father’s wife, daughter in law, incest, etc he is to be put to death (20:9-12), if a man lays with another man (Homosexuality) they are to be put to death and their blood is upon them (20:12). The Scriptures say if a man lays with an animal he is to be put to death (20:15) and the same for a woman who approaches any animal (20:16). It is repeated in the Scriptures כג וְלֹא תֵלְכוּ בְּחֻקֹּת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר-אֲנִי מְשַׁלֵּחַ מִפְּנֵיכֶם כִּי אֶת-כָּל-אֵלֶּה עָשֹוּ וָאָקֻץ בָּם: 20:23 ‘Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. (NASB) we are not to follow the custom of the nations. The Lord says that we are to make a distinction between the clean and unclean and are not to make ourselves detestable by these things because God has separated us from the unclean thing. The scriptures state כה וְהִבְדַּלְתֶּם בֵּין-הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהֹרָה לַטְּמֵאָה וּבֵין-הָעוֹף הַטָּמֵא לַטָּהֹר וְלֹא-תְשַׁקְּצוּ אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם בַּבְּהֵמָה וּבָעוֹף וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּרְמֹשֹ הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר-הִבְדַּלְתִּי לָכֶם לְטַמֵּא: כו וִהְיִיתֶם לִי קְדשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָֹה וָאַבְדִּל אֶתְכֶם מִן-הָעַמִּים לִהְיוֹת לִי: כז וְאִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה כִּי-יִהְיֶה בָהֶם אוֹב אוֹ יִדְּעֹנִי מוֹת יוּמָתוּ בָּאֶבֶן יִרְגְּמוּ אֹתָם דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם: 20:25 ‘You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. 20:26 ‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine. 20:27 ‘Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.’‘ (NASB)
Examining these Scriptures from Parshiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim along side of the lives of the holy men in the Bible, and what we read in Midrash Tehillim 9, Part 17, the following questions come to mind. Based upon God’s Word (the Bible) …
- To what extent are we willing to go in order to remain holy before the Lord God Almighty today?
- Are there things that we can do that are unholy before God?
- Did Yeshua do away with holiness and purity in the Torah?
- Why is holiness and purity (ritual purity) dismissed so quickly by God’s Children today when our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit?
- Today, because of our culture, is there anyone who would bow down their lives for holiness and purity sake for the Lord?
These commands from Parshiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim are given to us to warn us to watch carefully what we do so that we do not defile ourselves and become detestable in the eyes of the Lord.
The Lord instructs Israel to not do what is done in the Land of Egypt nor do what is done in the land of Canaan (Vayikra / Leviticus 18:1-5). א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָֹה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם: ג כְּמַעֲשֵֹה אֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁבְתֶּם-בָּהּ לֹא תַעֲשֹוּ וּכְמַעֲשֵֹה אֶרֶץ-כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲשֹוּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶם לֹא תֵלֵכוּ: 18:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18:2 ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God. 18:3 ‘You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. (NASB) The commands against incest are given (18:6-20) and homosexuality is an abomination (18:22), intercourse with an animal is prohibited (18:23), for these are the things the nations do and are the reason they are being cast out from the land (18:24). It is written in Vayikra / Leviticus 18:30 that we are not to keep any of the abominable customs of the nations, this includes the holidays that are adopted from the nations. The scriptures go on to say in Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:31 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. 12:32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. (NIV)
The land of Egypt and Canaan practice homosexuality, have intercourse with animals and even have intercourse with demons in their customs and pagan practices. In Parshiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, Mediums (spiritists), those who take counsel of the dead are described as the detestable things. Such people who practice communicating with the dead (the medium or spiritists) are to be put to death by stoning. Today, in our culture, millions of people and even believers watch the television series “The Medium” and watch very occult driven television programming (i.e. Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, etc) committing a great sin in their hearts before the Lord based upon these scriptures. Watching Spirit Mediums (those who take counsel of the dead) has become entertainment in today’s society, the daily checking of ones horoscope, etc. Being entertained by sin and keeping these things in our hearts, do you believe it is possible to defile ourselves by what we watch on television? Can you or I become defiled, unclean, and detestable before the Lord by keeping these things in our hearts? The scriptures say כו וִהְיִיתֶם לִי קְדשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָֹה וָאַבְדִּל אֶתְכֶם מִן-הָעַמִּים לִהְיוֹת לִי: 20:26 ‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine. (NASB) Has holiness and purity been eroded away today? How careful should we be living our lives, to watch, and guard ourselves against sin and the customs of the nations? The lists of prohibitions given in Parshiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim are part of the customs of the nations; we are not to practice these things because we are a holy people that worship a Holy God. Being told not to do these things why do so many people continue to violate the command of God? If we are not willing to obey God’s Word and turn our backs on the detestable practices of the nations today, how devoted are you to God’s Word and His Messiah Yeshua?
- To what extent are you willing to go in order to remain holy before the Lord God Almighty today?
- Are there things that you can do that are unholy before God?
- Did Yeshua do away with holiness and purity in the Torah?
- Why is holiness and purity (ritual purity) dismissed so quickly by God’s Children today when our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit?
- Today, because of our culture, is there anyone who would bow down their lives for holiness and purity sake for the Lord?