Category Archives: Pensees
There is a great deal of debate as to the dating of the Exodus. Some scholars, based on archaeological evidence, place the Exodus in the 13th century BC. Others, citing both Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence, place it in the 15th century BC. To support the later dating, scholars like John Currid cite the massive building projects that took place in the 13th and 14th centuries BC. They also note that one of the greatest of the builders was Rameses II, who reigned between 1290 and 1224 BC, who built a new capitol city in his honor, named Pi-Ramesse (“Domain of Rameses”). Exodus 1:11 records that the Jews were used to build the cities of Pithom and Raamses. It is also important to note that it was not until the 13th century that Egypt lost its control over Canaan as a province. There are also Egyptian reliefs that depict the Israelite conquest of Canaan that date between 1224 and 1214 BC.
The most convincing evidence, though, places the Exodus in the 15th century BC. Scholars like Keil and Delitzsch begin with the termination of the 70 year exile, which took place in the first year of Cyrus’ sole reign (536 BC). Thus, dating backwards, the captivity began in 606 BC. According to the chronologies in the book of Kings, Judah was carried into captivity 406 years after the year the building of Solomon’s temple began, placing its beginning in 1012 BC. 1 Kings 6:1 also tells us that the building of Solomon’s temple began 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt, placing it at the year 1492 BC. Their dating concurs with the traditional Christian and Jewish chronologies which date the Exodus. This also concurs with archaeological evidence which shows that the likely date of the destruction of Jericho was in the early 1400s BC.
How do we understand this earlier dating of the Exodus in light of modern archaeology? First, archaeology is not an exacting science, but a lens through which to view history. Archaeological facts are largely the result of educated deductions and scientific hypotheses, not divine revelation. In terms of the specific evidence, Exodus 1:11 speaks of the building of tAnK.s.mi yrE[‘ (store cities), not capitol cities. There was likely a store city of Rameses already in existence when Rameses II build Pi-Ramesse. With respect to Egyptian influence over Canaan, Israel would not have been considered a kingdom by the Egyptians until the enthronement of Saul. Given the upheaval in the land during the time of Joshua’s conquest and the time of Judges, the point where Egypt would have lost all of it’s influence in the land would coincide with the later accounts of the judges or that of Samuel, where some sense of identity was firmly established in the land.
To set this event in its larger context, it is worth recognizing what is going on in the world surrounding Egypt and the wilderness at the point of the Exodus. Assuming an early date of 1492 for the Exodus to have begun, the city of Sparta would be formed two years into the Israelite wilderness wanderings. In addition, the nations of Athens (1556 BC), Troy (1546), and Thebes (1493) had been founded at this point. What would later become the Olympian Games (then called the Panathenaean Games) also had its beginnings during this era (1495). The Areopagus was established in 1504 BC, and in 1493 Cadmus is credited with bringing the 15 Phoenician letters into Greece, which gradually changed in form to become the Romans letters used predominantly in Europe and America today. Though these events may not seem to bear very heavily upon the Biblical text, it is important to note that this era was a time when civilizations were being born and establishing themselves. Growing up in the Pharaoh’s household, Moses would have been aware, particularly of the politics of these (largely Greek) new nations. Who better than one trained in such legal codes to receive and teach the Law of God to God’s people? Who better to organize God’s people into a nation than one who had watched nations form?
“and he raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David, his servant.”
The theme of the “horn of salvation” has important Old Testament Biblical-Theological implications, yet, before we delve back into the Old Testament history of this language, it is important that we set the context of the passage and make several observations:
- Note that this statement is part of the prophesy of Zechariah at his son, John’s, birth. It is prophetic in its scope, but note the use of the past tense with the verb “raised.” This is what is called the “prophetic past,” and it is a common element in Hebrew prophesy. Rather than speak of what God will do in the future tense (which the prophets do as well), the prophets speak of what God will do in the future but use past tense verbs to communicate the absolute nature of this event coming to pass. In other words, the prophet is saying that we can be so sure that God will fulfill this event that we can speak as if it has already taken place even though it is yet to take place. Such language is always used with prophesies that are unconditional and irrevocable. Here, Zechariah is prophesying about the reality of God having fulfilled all of his covenantal promises in the coming of Jesus—John being the forerunner; Zechariah is certain that even in the coming of this child in the womb, God would fulfill all of his plans through his Messiah and there was nothing that the enemies of God’s plan could do about it. Even the might of the Roman Empire is but a bug to be squashed under the heel of our God!
- Note for whom this promise is given: for “us.” How is this, when the coming of Christ will bring about the in-grafting of gentiles? Judaism was never meant to be an isolationist religion—a central temple, yes, but isolationist, no. They were to bring in converts from all of the nations, yet rarely worked to do so. One of the great Messianic promises is that this Messiah would bring in gentiles to the fold, that people from every tribe and nation would come to faith and be part of God’s covenant people. See the prophesies of Zechariah 14, for example, which speak of all the nations coming together to celebrate the festival of Booths together as one people—signaled by the coming of the Messiah. Even as far back as the creation account, where Adam and Eve were commanded to reproduce and fill the world with their kind (Genesis 1:28)—was this not for a purpose? Certainly, it was to subdue the creation so that God would be worshiped in every corner of the earth. This same commandment God gave to Noah and his children (Genesis 9:7), yet, in their sin they settled in Babel and God confused their language to force them into obedience. This is the great downfalls of mankind—refusing to give proper and right worship to God the creator—in Christ, once again, God is hardening the hearts of the Jewish people to bring in the gentiles—forcing them into obedience to the command to spread God’s worship throughout the earth. Thus the promise of the coming Messiah is for “us” from the Jewish perspective, for it is God fulfilling his plan for them.
- “in the house of David:” This communicates the agency by which God will fulfill this promise—by the line of David. We might as easily translate this Greek preposition (ejn) as “by” or “through.” It is not so much that the promise will be fulfilled within the house of David, but it will be fulfilled through one who is from said line. Note too that John the Baptist was from the line of Aaron, not the line of David. There is absolutely no confusion in Zechariah’s mind as to just what is going on with his son. It is interesting to see the change in Zechariah that has taken place in these past 9 months of his life. In the earlier account, he is seen as humble, but doubting God’s promise. Here he is boldly proclaiming the truth about what God is doing in the lives of the people of Israel. Sometimes, when God silences our lips from speaking, we can finally hear the truth that God is speaking to us through his word. We may be moving into some degree of speculation here, but I don’t think that it is too unlikely that Zechariah would have spent much of his imposed silence seeking out God’s face in prayer and the study of the scriptures—perhaps we would all do well to experience such a trial.
- Finally, note the last clause in the passage. Normally, our English Bibles translate this word as “servant” (as I have translated above). Yet, in Greek, it is the term paivß (pais), not douvloß (doulos) as one might expect. The word paivß (pais) is related to the word pai/dion (paidion) and can also be translated as “child,” which is important to note. In speaking of one’s servant in language that would denote kinship, it communicates the idea that there is a significant level of affection that is found between the Master and the servant. A good example of this kind of affection is found in the account of Jesus’ healing of the Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Were this an ordinary servant, why would the Centurion have gone to such trouble to see the servant healed? Certainly it would have been a sign of disgrace for a Roman Centurion to go to a Hebrew Rabbi for healing. Clearly, there is great affection within this relationship. In the case of Zechariah’s prophesy, this concept of affection is especially pertinent. David is one whom scripture describes as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and it is to David that the promise comes to establish an eternal kingship (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Thus, we might even go as far to translate this clause, “in the house of David, his beloved servant” or even, “in the house of David, his child.” Either conveys the idea that Zechariah is communicating.
With the context of Zechariah’s prophesy before us, let us look at the passages that also communicate this idea:
- 2 Samuel 22:3. At the end of David’s life, he composes a song of praise to God that we find recorded here, in chapter 22 of Second Samuel. David sings of God’s fullness and of his provision even in the face of certain destruction. At the beginning of this song of praise, David uses a series of parallel statements that communicate the nature of God’s deliverance. God is described as deliverer, rock, refuge, shield, horn of my salvation, stronghold, refuge (a second time), and savior. What can be said about all of these images?
1. They are all defensive images—this speaks primarily of God’s redemption and not of his judgment upon his foes.
2. They are all passive images in terms of David. One is defended within the fortress or by the high and firm rock. One takes refuge within these safe places, the places do not move from here to there.
3. One may find rest in all of these places. One of the great themes in the Old Testament is that of seeking rest from one’s enemies. David is saying that as tumultuous as his life has been, rest has been given to him in the refuge of God alone.
4. The Hebrew term for “horn” that is used here is the term !r<q, (keren), and is normally used to describe an animal’s horn or something made in that general shape. In particular, it is also this term that is used to describe the four horns of the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 38:2). There are a number of things that are particularly interesting about this connection.
o While we don’t know the origin of the tradition, it seems that in Ancient Israel, people held the belief that clinging to the horns of the altar would provide them sanctuary and refuge from their oppressors. In 1 Kings 1:49-53, we find Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, running and clinging to the horns of the altar for protection. Soon afterward, as recorded in 1 Kings 2:28-35), we also find Joab doing the same. It seems that Solomon puts an end to this tradition, for while he pardons Adonijah, he has Joab slain while still clinging to the altar’s horns.
o In a similar vein, though this is a negative example, when God speaks through the prophet Amos, commanding him to speak of the judgment that is coming upon the people, one thing he states is that he will “cut off” the horns of the altar at the time of said judgment, implying that the presence of the horns on the altar was at least symbolic of God’s protection for his people—that in this judgment that is coming, there will be no place of refuge for the people to go (see Amos 3:14).
Note that this is not the term that refers to a musical horn made from the horn of an animal—that word is rp;Av (shophar) and the two words are not interchangeable.
- Psalm 18:2. This is the psalm that is based on the Psalm above, written by David as a praise to God for deliverance from his enemies, thus, even though the language varies slightly, the idea remains the same, the language of the “horn of salvation” is again used to describe taking refuge in the Lord.
Thus, how are we to understand Jesus as the “horn of salvation”? The answer should be fairly obvious at this point; the horn of salvation is a symbol of a place wherein one can find refuge from the assaults of this world—the greatest enemy we face being sin and temptation to sin. And, indeed, that is exactly the context in which Zechariah is speaking. In Luke 1:68, Zechariah speaks of God having redeemed his people, then in verse 69, he speaks of that redemption in terms of God having raised up the horn of salvation. As the praise song goes, “He is our refuge in days of trouble, he is our shelter in times of storm, He is our tower in the day of sorrow, our fortress in the time of war.” Oh, beloved, God is a strong fortress wherein which we can rest from the oppressors of this sinful world—he is our horn of salvation, clinging to which we cannot be destroyed and our sin before God is forgiven—we are truly redeemed. What a wonderful promise that God has given us in Jesus Christ! As David also wrote:
“Serve Yahweh with fear and rejoice with trembling!
Kiss the Son lest he become angry and you perish in the way!
For his anger will soon burn!
Blessed are those who take refuge in him!”
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
-From John Rippon’s selection of hymns
And in the spirit of Zechariah’s prophesy of the coming Christ:
Say to those who are fearful hearted,
‘Do not be afraid,’
‘The Lord, your God, is strong, with his mighty arm,’
‘when you call on his name,’
‘He will come and save…’
-Fitts & Sadler
In terms of how we are to celebrate the Sabbath day, God gives us five commands within the Pentateuch to guide our worship:
1) The Sabbath is given to us as a day to rest from our labors and reflect on their completion:
Gen. 2:1 ¶ Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and wall the host of them.
Gen. 2:2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
Gen. 2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
2) The Sabbath is a day for the commemoration of God’s creative work;
Ex. 20:9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
Ex. 20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
Ex. 20:11 For min six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
3) The Sabbath is a day that commemorates God’s setting apart of a people to himself as holy and set apart:
Ex. 31:12 ¶ And the Lord said to Moses,
Ex. 31:13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.
Ex. 31:14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Ex. 31:15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.
4) The Sabbath is a day for the gathering of God’s people:
Lev. 23:1 ¶ The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
Lev. 23:2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.
Lev. 23:3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.
5) The Sabbath is a day that commemorates God’s redemption of his people:
Deut. 5:12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
Deut. 5:13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
Deut. 5:14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
Deut. 5:15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Jesus said of the Ten Commandments that not a yod or a seraph (smallest letter and smallest mark in Hebrew) would pass away until his second coming.
Matt. 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Matt. 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Matt. 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
We still need the Sabbath:
1. The Christian Sabbath is still a needed rest from the labors of the week.
2. Not only do we commemorate God’s creative work, which was begun on a Sunday, but we anticipate God’s re-creative work in the new heavens and the new earth, which was secured on a Sunday, as it is Christ’s resurrection that secured for us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:4).
3. We commemorate God’s election, setting us apart as a holy priesthood (1 Peter 1:14-16).
4. We gather as a people in the name of the Lord.
5. To commemorate God’s redemption of His people, not only through the history of redemption, but also in the saving work of Jesus, through which we have been redeemed from our bondage to sin and are being prepared for eternity with Christ in heaven. Because Christ is resurrected, we have the hope of resurrection as well (Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:18).
The word in Hebrew that is translated as testimony is tWd[e (eduth), and is derived from d[e (ed—note that both of these words are pronounced with an “ae” sound in English). Both words carry similar meanings, though the connotations vary somewhat in terms of how they are used.
The first word, tWd[e (eduth), refers to a witness or testimony, but is normally used in terms of legally binding stipulations or laws. The Tabernacle is for example, called the Tabernacle of Testimony (Numbers 17:4) because the tablets of the Ten Commandments were contained within. This becomes very pronounced when you get to verse 10 of the same chapter for Moses is told to put the staff of Aaron before the testimony—ultimately something that was kept with the 10 commandments. Thus, when Psalm 119 speaks of testimony in this sense, it is speaking most specifically of the Moral Law (10 Commandments) but also carries the implication of the rest of the law of God—in essence, all of God’s word. This word is found 9 times in the 119th psalm (which should say something right there), and is located in verses 14, 31, 36, 88, 99, 111, 129, 144, and 157.
The second word, d[e (ed), is a massively important word in Hebrew and is found 118 times in the Old Testament even though it is not explicitly found in Psalm 119. It refers to the idea of witness in much the same way as the New Testament Greek term marturi/a (marturia—from which we get the term “martyr”) is used. This word refers to that witness which confirms the truth to be so. This is one’s testimony of faith before men, for example, as well as being a testimony in a court of law.
The connection between these two words is found in the concept of the covenant of God. God’s covenant with his people is his d[e (ed), but this d[e (ed) contains stipulations for those that would be in covenant with our Lord and King. Those stipulations are the tWd[e (eduth) of God.
What is also worth noting is that another word that is derived from d[e (ed) is the term hd”[e (edah), which means “congregation,” referring to a gathering of God’s people. God’s people are those that he has put into relationship with himself through his covenant, his d[e (ed), and regulates through his tWd[e (eduth). All very closely connected. This word is found 14 times in Psalm 119 (vs. 2, 22, 24, 46, 59, 79, 95, 119, 125, 138, 146, 152, 167, 168). So closely are these words and ideas related that in most if not all cases, when Psalm 119 is translated into English, they have translated it as “testimony” rather than congregation. This is probably a little misleading in the crossover to English, but at the same time, in the context of the Psalm, it appears that the Psalmist is doing much the same thing—wedding together these ideas. Or, to put it another way, the presence of the covenant people of God are God’s testimony to his own covenant faithfulness—his ds,x, (chesed—pronounced with a hard “ch” like in “Loch Ness”). The word ds,x, (chesed) is variously translated in our English Bibles, but refers to the covenantal faithfulness of God in spite of our covenantal unfaithfulness, and is found 7 times in Psalm 119 (vs. 41, 64, 76, 88, 124, 149, 159) and is often translated as “steadfast love.”
With this in mind, permit me to digress to Deuteronomy 6:4 for a moment, commonly called “the Shema” in Hebrew circles. The bulk of the book of Deuteronomy consists of Moses’ sermonic expositions of the Ten Commandments, forming a Constitution for the people of Israel. With this in mind, the Shema functions essentially as the preamble to the constitution for the people. In fact, in Judaism, Deuteronomy 6:4 is considered to be the single most important verse in the Bible and the very language that defines them as a people—giving them their national identity. It establishes their relationship with God as a covenant people and reminds them that they are a people who have been given a name, loved as such by their God. It is the first prayer that the faithful Hebrew prays when he wakes in the morning and the last prayer he prays before he goes to bed at night. It is also chanted at the beginning of a traditional synagogue service. What is especially interesting is the way it is written in the Hebrew Bible:
dx’a, hw”hy> Wnyheloa/ hw”hy> laer”f.yI [m;v.
Note that the last letter of the first and last words have been written larger and in bold print. These two letters, when taken out of the verse spell, d[e (ed)—or witness. In other words, the Shema itself is the witness of the Jewish people to their God, just as the covenant is God’s d[e (ed) to his people. Lastly, if you reverse the letters of d[e (ed), you end up with the word [;D: (da-a), which means “knowledge.” Just as fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Psalm 111:10), so too is all true knowledge rooted in the covenant of God. Any pursuit of knowledge apart from God’s revelation through his covenant is vanity, Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes.
Covenant is, as we know, the context in which God interacts with his people. On the very first day that Adam was alive and placed in the Garden God established his covenant with Adam and set before Adam the tWd[e (eduth) of the covenant—don’t eat lest you will die-die. The punishments given out after the fall are the consequences of their failure to fulfill the covenant. Genesis 3:15, though reminds us that a Messiah is coming who will redeem his people from bondage to the one who led them into sin. Genesis 15 provides us with a foretaste of what would happen to this divine Messiah, though. In the context, God is confirming his covenant with Abraham and Abraham is sent to divide up the animals and separate them creating a bloody path to walk through. In ancient times, when covenants were made between Kings and their Vassals, they would divide up a group of animals like this, and then the Vassal, as a pledge of faithfulness to the covenant, would walk through the middle of the line of animals as if to say, “if I don’t fulfill my part of the covenant, may what happened to these animals happen to me also.” Now, some have suggested that there may be evidence that both the king and vassal walked through this line, but the evidence is varied and this proposition makes little sense as the vassal had no power to enforce this commitment upon the king, where the king certainly had the power to enforce it upon his vassal.
Either way, what is significant is that Abraham should have walked through the bloody pathway, but God puts him into a deep sleep (not unlike the sleep that God put Adam into before he took out his rib to form Eve), and God walked through the bloody pathway in Abraham’s stead. God was saying to Abraham, I will be your covenant mediator and representative for this covenant. If you or your line fail to keep this covenant, may what happened to these animals happen to me as well. And that is exactly what took place on the cross of Calvary. Jesus fulfilled what God promised, bloody and bruised, because we could not be faithful to the tWd[e (eduth) of God’s covenant.
In the context of Psalm 119, the psalmist completely understands that for one to be truly blameless and righteous before the Lord, one must first submit his life to the testimonies of our God—to the tWd[e (eduth) of God’s covenant. Thus, he sets the Law before him as a guide and instructor. We must understand that while the psalmist speaks at times of being blameless before his accusers, this is not to be interpreted in terms of a form of human self-righteousness. Instead, he also understands, as Abraham understood, that his redemption would be paid for by another—by God himself through the promised Messiah, and that his personal righteousness was based, through faith, in the coming of the promised one. At the same time, he understands the thrust of what Paul would say in Romans 6:1-2. In light of that, the psalmist both begins and ends the psalm focused on remembering (implying obedience) the Law of the Lord.