Monday, October 29, 2012

Brother Against Brother in Genesis

Brother Against Brother in Genesis
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

Genesis 27:29 and 37 reveals that Isaac and Rebecca had more children after Jacob and Esau though they are never listed by name in any kind of genealogy.

In Genesis 16:11-12 and 25:18 we see that Ishmael and his descendants will fight his brothers, the sons of Abraham (Specifically Isaac and his descendants; Jew and Israelite) for supremacy and favor in the Land and with GOD and man. We see Ishmael’s nephew Esau is a kindred spirit (Gen. 27:40) competing with his brothers. Also, both were archers and hunters according to the Torah. Esau is so much like Ishmael that he marries into the family. He marries a daughter of Ishmael in order to try to win back some favor of his parents seeing as they don’t like is other wives who are of Canaanite origins. By taking a daughter of Ishmael he therefore stays in Isaacs family because Isaac and Ishmael had the same father, thus steering clear of the Canaanite women his folks disliked.

I would like to draw your attention to Genesis 27:45 and the phrase, “Why should I lose you both on the same day?”

This is reminiscent of Genesis 4:1-16, the account of Cain and Able. By Divine right according to the Torah, Cain deserved the death penalty, but GOD in His mercy sentenced Cain to exile instead, so Eve would not bare the loss of both of her sons in one day.

Notice the parallels, though strangely opposite they are:

Cain and Esau seem to have more in common with each other, yet we see Cain and Jacob are exiled for their protection; Cain to the land of Nod and Jacob to the land of Haran to his uncle Laban house where Jacob (trickster) is out “Jacob-ed (tricked)” by his uncle.
Abel and Jacob would seem to be somewhat of kindred spirits; however we see Abel and Esau have this in common. Death. Abel by physical death and Esau by social and familial death by losing his birthright, blessing and inheritance and thus being as good as dead to his family and clans.

Rethinking the Ancient Kings of Genesis

Rethinking the Ancient Kings of Genesis
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

When we read the Scriptures and run across the word “king” we can’t help but have our westernized Greco-European trained minds to kick in and think of Kings with golden crowns in fortified palaces ruling over a vast land and people. But the kings in Abraham’s day were much different than the kings in David and Solomon’s day.

In Abraham’s time, kings were more like tribal rulers and patriarchal rulers over tribes and clans; a people that came from one man, his sons (tribes) and their families (clans). Such “kings” were Bedouin/Nomadic type people living in tents and ruling over thousands of people. “Kings” in this day were just beginning to settle and establish fortified towns and cities, such as the king of Sodom.

Abraham and Isaac were on par with such “kings” of their day, for they ruled about as many people, but could not call themselves kings proper on account that they had no tribes and clans to rule over. However, their wealth and possessions rivaled such Bedouin/Nomadic type kings of their day.

In Genesis 14 we have 4 kings battling it out against 5 with Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family getting caught in the crossfire of this battle royal and as a result were taken captive. Abraham who was rich in livestock, possessions and servants took just 318 men trained in warfare out of perhaps a thousand or more men, women and children and rescued Lot and his family and peoples from the kingdom of Sodom.

First of all, we see the enigmatic Priestly-King Melchezidek who comes out and praises and treats Abraham as a king returning victorious from war (14:17-20). Jealous, envious of the attention given to Abraham and not to be outdone and in a gesture to elevate himself above Abraham, tries to pay off Abraham for rescuing his people, the people of Sodom. Wise Abraham sees this move that reeks of desperation and shoots him down because he could, because of his wealth and people under him, he was on par with the king of Sodom and said;

“I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” – (Gen. 14:22-24)

When Isaac was alive, the Philistines were not the vast empire they were in David’s day. They too were tribes and clans under a patriarchal type ruler, if not, why else would the Philistine King Abimelech (Father-King) feel threatened by Isaac’s wealth, possessions people under him (Gen. 26:12-14). Why else would Abimelech say:

“Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.” – (Gen. 26:16)

Only later to make a peace treaty with him (Gen. 26:26-33) unless he considered Isaac a ruler, a type of king that could conquer him and thus change the balance of territory and power in the region?

Jacob becomes a powerful man whom his father-in-law, Laban, was a local ruler and intimidated by and thus oppressed Jacob in order to keep him under his thumb. But eventually, Laban had to recognize that Jacob was more powerful than he and in order to protect himself from Jacobs reprisal, forged a treaty with him (Genesis chapters 29-31).

Jacob was seen as a king in the eyes of Shechem, for by this time Jacob had not only much wealth and possessions, but tribes and clans under him which he led as a patriarchal ruler. Shechem knew how powerful Jacob was and feared revenge for the rape of his daughter and wanted to neutralize his power and influence in the land by merging into one kingdom through intermarriage. Jacobs’s sons; Simeon and Levi smelled a scheme and devised a plan to turn the tables on Shechem and neutralize them as a tribal kingdom and powerhouse in the land and ended up slaughtering them. This gave notice to others settled and nomadic tribal kingdoms of the land that a new superpower just entered the game. Jacob realized this, scolded his rash and hot-headed sons for making them a target.

Esau becomes the father of the Edomites (Gen. Ch. 36) and already during Jacob’s day had reached the status of a tribal and patriarchal king with clans under him and Jacob tries to appease and honor his powerful brother like a king by sending gifts ahead of him (Genesis chapters 32-33).

By the time of David and Solomon, many of these tribal, patriarchal kings and kingdoms, settled, multiplied and expanded their territory as well as advanced in technology as did Israel, to become what we typically imagine ancient kings and kingdoms to be.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

LOL Biblical Style

LOL Biblical Style
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

Laughter. Most of the time when one thinks of laughter they think of a stand-up comedian at a night club, or a prank pulled at a summer camp. In other words we generally think of laughter when something is funny.

Even the most casual of Bible students know that the name Isaac means laughter. That’d be like naming your child, “Chuckles” today; could you imagine!? So why name a child, a Covenant Child, a Miracle Child, a Child that would go down in the annuls of history listed in the litany of the Father of a Great People; “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel),” “Father of Nations, Laughter and Prince of God.”

“Hey Laughter, come here please.”
“Laughter, go fetch Daddy his good sacrificial dagger.”
Sounds “funny” doesn’t it?

And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. Gen. 17:15-19

Well, “funny” thing is, Isaac’s parents didn’t give him that name, GOD DID!

People today name their children after “funny” things. I heard of a girl named “Nautica” after the clothing line. I even have a friend who named their son “Batman”! No lie! I’m not joking! On a TV show called “Guys with Kids” one character named his oldest son “Yoda” after the little green pointy eared Jedi of Star Wars fame. Johnny Cash sings a song about, “A Boy Named Sue.”

A joke is told of a Native boy who asks his father how he got his name.
“Father, I wish to know how I received my name.”
The father said, “Son, when your older sister was born, I looked out the door of our tepee and saw a running deer, and so I named her “Running Deer.” Your older brother, when he was born, I looked out the door of my tepee and say a soaring eagle, so that is why he is named “Soaring Eagle.” Why do you ask Puking Dog?

Can you imagine GOD choosing the name of your child?
“Laughter! LORD can we negotiate!?”
I’m surprised Abraham didn’t raise a fuss. After all he wasn’t above making deals with GOD. Remember how he tried to negotiate sparing the inhabitants of Sodom where his nephew Lot was (Gen. 18:16-33). But we do not see Abraham making a peep. Why do you suppose this is? Because Laughter is a very fitting name.

Yitschaq (Isaac) comes from two Hebrew words. The first, “Tzachak” meaning, “To laugh out loud.” The second, close to the actual name, “Yischaq” means, “He will laugh.”

And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? Gen. 17:15-17

Have you ever planned a surprise party for someone or purchased a special gift for someone and every time you imagine in your head the look on their face when they open the door and all the guests yell, “Surprise!!!” or in your mind’s eye you see yourself handing them that gift you know they have been wanting, and the look of happy surprise or even shock that comes across their face, you smile to yourself, giddily clap your hands together and LAUGH. Imagine GOD saying to Himself, “Boy, Oh boy, I can’t wait to see Abraham’s reaction when I tell him I am going to give him the boy he’s always wanted!” And the Holy One chuckles to Himself because He is a good GOD who gives good gifts (Matt. 7:7-11).

So it is likely that GOD laughs, not in hilarity, but in joyous expectation. I’m sure He knows that Abraham will soon laugh when he gets the news and will laugh in the future with joy as he bounces baby Isaac on his knees.

Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? Gen. 17:17

Abraham laughs, in irony, shock and a bit of disbelief. “After all this time of Sarah and I trying to have children, we give up and then GOD steps in when we are old infertile and impotent; how ironic!”

Abraham, old enough to be a grandparent laughs as he pictures himself and Sarah with a new born baby. Today, he might imagine himself at Isaac’s graduation taking pictures and a classmate asks, “Hey Isaac, is that your grandparents?” Well, it’d either make you laugh or cry and Abraham laughed.

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also.  And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. Gen. 18:9-15

Sarah too laughed in disbelief. If someone comes up to you and says, “Did you hear? A 90 year old woman just gave birth to a healthy bouncing baby boy. And get this; the father is 100 years old!” You would likely huff and chuckle in disbelief, thinking the dude got the headline from a grocery store new stand tabloid and say, “Yeah, right!” Well, Isaac means to scoff too! The root word “Tzachak” means to laugh in merriment or scorn, depending on the context of the passage in which it is used. Sarah must have laughed in a scoffing way, why else would she try to lie to GOD about it?

Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. Gen. 18:15

The laughter of anticipation, irony, shock and disbelief turns to laughs of joy and fulfillment.

And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age. Gen. 21:1-7

In this laughter of joyful fulfillment is mingled the reminder of the laughter of anticipation, irony, shock and disbelief, because when word get out, until they see Isaac with their own eyes, they will laugh in disbelief before they laugh out with joy.

Isaac reminds us to laugh in the face of the impossible, laugh in the face of disbelief, to laugh in anticipation of future fulfillment because we serve a God who specializes in the impossible and the ironic.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. I Cor. 1:27-29

The joy (which can produce laughter) of the LORD is our strength (Ps. 21:1)!

Think about a good sincere and needful thing you’ve always wanted, or a dream, vision or ministry you feel you must birth that may seem impossible to obtain. Now go ahead and laugh, for you just might get it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why does evil seem greater and more prevalent than good?

Why does evil seem greater and more prevalent than good?

  1. Because G-d is letting evil destroy itself.
  2. Because evil will let any idiot have a gun.

One of the words for evil in the Hebrew is “ra,” not only meaning evil, but corrupt and inferior. Corrupt, not only meaning that evil corrupts what it comes in contact with, but that evil itself is corrupted. Have you ever tried to work on a computer with corrupted files and a corrupted registry? The more you work on it, the more corrupt it becomes until the computer is nothing but a glorified paper weight. Inferior, meaning it will never be as strong and as powerful as good. G-d allows evil to remain and run rampant because He knows evil will eventually destroy itself. Why? So:

  1. He can get the Glory. For example, one prophet (Elijah) beating 400 plus prophets of Baal (I Kings 18). And recall Yeshua healing the blind man who was blind for the sole purpose of G-d getting the Glory (John 9:3).
  2. So we can eventually see how weak and puny evil really is: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;”(Isa. 14:15-16).

I recall a quote by the evil clown on the comic based 1997 movie “Spawn” when referring to those who dabble in Satanism trying to perform a satanic ritual:

“How come God hogs up all the good followers and were left with the retards?”

It’s true; evil will let any idiot have a gun. Satan’s army will take anyone whether they know they are being recruited or not.

God’s Army however is by choice and those the Almighty allows to have a gun and go into battle is a special chosen force whose soldiers are willing combatants and trained in warfare. Why do you think that just five of God’s soldiers can set many to flight (Lev. 26:7-8)?

Evil is a substandard, chaotic and undisciplined army that will eventually turn upon themselves as did the enemies of Israel did so many times in the Tanak/Old Testament (Jud. 7:22, I Sam. 14:20, 2 Chron. 20:23). That’s why they feel they need many of them to defeat just one of us. It’s a sissy move like a 90 pound mealy mouthed wuss who has been trash talking and baiting you into a fight bringing his big brother and his big bro’s hockey team to smack you down.
Evil will never win. Just read the end of The Book and we win! HalleluYah!

-        Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr