The Hidden Wisdom of Bethlehem
 
The Garden
 

The Garden

 

     The mystery of Bethlehem begins in the Garden of Eden where the Lord G-d had brought Adam whom He had formed from the moistened dust of the ground of a field. Earthman (Adam) was brought to a fruitful garden, a superlative place for growth and production, where the "Lord G-d made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food," 1 and where there was a plentiful supply of water. We are all "offspring of him who was first formed from the earth." 2

     "In the day that G-d created Man [Adam]...male and female He created them and blessed them and called their name: Man." 3 Being truly formed from the earth, Man's relationship with their Maker is basically that between earth and Sower; ground and Seed; garden and Gardener, matter and Life. For the Lord said: "As...seed to the sower...so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth." 4 Philo, a Jewish philosopher who lived between 20 B.C.- 42 A.D., described the Word of G-d as "the invisible seminal artificer: the divine Word," 5 and as such it is the vitalizer through which G-d effects His will in Man.

     Adam was truly an Earthman, a living plot of potentially fertile ground as yet unsown. And because the Lord G-d desired fruit from Earthman, He brought him into the optimal place for sowing and growth, the watered garden called Paradise. There, the Lord was going to sow in Man the seed of His command and wait for that seed to be accepted, kept, and made to flourish and bear fruit in the end to His glory. For when G-d created the grass, plants and fruit bearing trees we are told that He placed their "seed... upon [AL] the ground." 6 Therefore, it is written that "the Lord G-d commanded [VAYTZAV] upon [AL] the Man [ha ADAM]" 7 as one would place a "seed upon [AL] the ground" 6 . Thus, was Earthman commanded not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

     Through the keeping of the seed of the Lord G-d's command, Earthman was to bring forth of himself a Treeman full of fruit of knowledge of G-d and of good. And because Man was created to give glory to G-d, the Lord also expects from Earthman the "fruit of praise." 8 Yes, we are meant to be "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified" 9 by our fruits of praise. 10

     "The fruit of whose knowledge is upon his body" 11 could be said of an Earthman who has become a Treeman bearing the fruit of knowledge through accepting and keeping the given seed of the Word of G-d. We learn from the Torah 12 that we receive the knowledge of G-d through obedience to His commands. Conversely, "if they (the people) do not obey...they shall die without knowledge." 13 We can now understand why it is said in the book of Proverbs: "Is not the keeper he who knows?" 14 And also why concerning Adam it is written:

"You commanded upon him [Adam] just one commandment that he may know..." 15

"You [Adam] have forsaken My commandment which I delivered to you to keep it." 16

     Adam forfeited true knowledge of G-d and "eternal knowledge" 17 through his disobedience. For "the knowledge of the holy ones" 18 is the "holy knowledge" 19 given to those who have kept the seed of His command. There is no knowledge of G-d without the keeping of His commandments because there is no personal knowledge of Him without enjoying His friendship. It is through his faithfulness that Abraham merited to be known as "the friend of G-d." 20 "Was not Abraham found faithful in trial?" 21 and obedient to the Lord's command? "When he [Abraham] was proved, he was found faithful." 22 Thereby, through his obedience "Abraham...acquired knowledge." 23

      We can trace throughout the Holy Scriptures the imagery of Man as a "tree". 24 Thus, in the book of Deuteronomy the people were told to spare the fruit trees and not cut them down "for the tree of the field is Man [Adam]." 25 Even in the later Jewish writings we are told: "The Paradise of the Lord, the trees of life, these are His holy ones, their planting is rooted forever." "To what are the righteous like in this world? To a tree." 26 "Blessed are they, O Lord, who are planted in Your earth and for whom there is a place in Your Paradise." 27

 

The Field

The Field

     After the Fall, Man was exiled from the Garden back to the field where he was formed. There, he was "to till the ground from which he was taken" 28 and labour to grow the grain that would provide his bread. They were no longer in the ideal "watered garden" 29 of Paradise, where there was no grievous labour or sorrow and suffering, for "a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up" 30 and flourish effortlessly. But the ground of a field must be harrowed, ploughed, sowed and tilled, and the wheat must be reaped, threshed, winnowed and ground, and the dough then kneaded, moulded into loaves and baked before there is bread to eat. Perhaps, that is why "the bread of men" 31 is referred to as "the bread of affliction," 32 "bread of sorrows," 33 "bread of adversity," 34 and "bread of tears," 35 for it is "bread gotten by sweat." 36 For the ground of a field is the "earth whose fruits are raised by labour." 37

     We know that if he had kept the seed of the Lord G-d's command in the Garden of Eden, Earthman would have become as it were, a Treeman bearing the fruit of the knowledge of G-d. But having been exiled back to the field where he was taken from, Earthman was expected to be in righteousness 38 : a Breadman, providing "bread of understanding" 39 for G-d, as it were, from his own ground. Thus, in the book of Job we are told that those who in meekness accept "the chastening of the Almighty...shall come in full vigour to the grave as a sheaf of grain." 40 And if in the field "the wicked... are like chaff which the wind drives away," 41 are not the righteous like grains of wheat? "The righteous all of them are as grain fit for storage." 42 Not only are the righteous compared to "grain" and the wicked to "chaff" but the Lord also compares His true words to "wheat" and the lies of the false prophets to "chaff ." 43

      Understanding the imagery of Earthman becoming a Treeman or Breadman we have insight as to why the enemies of Jeremiah said of him: "Let us destroy the tree and its bread [LEHEM]." 44 "May he be as a flourishing field of grain," 45 said the rabbis concerning the Messiah. And "kiss the wheat [BAR=either "wheat" or "son"]" 46 was interpreted by them to mean: "kiss the Messiah." 47 And this "King Messiah... from where does he come forth? From the royal city of Bethlehem [literally "house of bread"] in Judah." 48 Are not kings born to rule, protect, shelter, and provide bread for their subjects? It is very apt that the little town called "House [BETH] of Bread [LEHEM]" should be the birthplace of King David and the prophesied birthplace of King Messiah. Great and extensive is the tradition 49 which says that King Messiah will come forth from the tribe of Judah and the House of David, and that he is to be born in Bethlehem. And it is to this generation of Noah 50 still in exile in the "field" of the world from the "garden" of Paradise, that King Messiah is to come. Yes, he will be in this figurative generation of "breadmen" and "breadwomen" to share our lot in the "field."

 

Bethlehem

Bethlehem

      We shall see, in the wisdom of G-d, that Bethlehem and its environs is truly a city of kings. But first let us discover that wisdom in the naming of the small city of which the prophet Micah said:"And you Bethlehem-Ephratha, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me the one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." 51 In ancient times Bethlehem [i.e., "House of Bread"] was first called Ephrath or Ephratha which means "fruitful," before it became know by its present name. Thus in the book of Genesis we see it referred to as "Ephrath, the same is Bethlehem." 52

      There is wisdom in the change of its name, for thereby this little city of kings helps us to recall the two stages of Man, who while in the Garden was meant to be a Treeman bearing fruit for G-d, but being exiled to the field he was to be a Breadman made bread for Him. We know now why the "firstfruit" offering of the barley harvest was the Omer 53 sheaf of barley: the fruit of that grain. And why the subsequent "firstfruits" offering of the wheat harvest fifty days later at the Feast of Weeks, were "the two wave loaves" of bread. 54 Do we not remember that before the Holy of Holies in the Holy Place of the Temple in Jerusalem there stood, on one side of the Altar of Incense, the golden seven branched Lamp reminiscent of a tree, 55 and on the other side of the Altar, the golden Table with the twelve loaves of the bread 56 of the Presence?

      When the Lord told Abraham and Sarah that through their progeny kings would come forth, 57 He also told their grandson Jacob, who acquired the birthright 58 from his brother Esau, that kings would come forth from his loins. 59 Jacob had twelve sons, Reuben being the eldest held the birthright, and it would have been from him that the parentage of a line of kings would have ensued. But Reuben lost his birthright when he lay with his father's concubine Bilhah 2 at the southern border of Bethlehem by the tower of Eder. Jacob had gone there to camp very shortly after his wife Rachel died giving birth to his youngest child Benjamin. Rachel expired at the northern border of Bethlehem, which was called Ephrath at that time. Thus, right by Bethlehem on its southern border, Reuben, the eldest son lost his birthright to be founder of the royal lineage promised to Jacob. And on the northern border of the same town, Benjamin, the youngest was born from whom Saul ben Kish the Benjaminite first king of Israel descended. The mysterious circumstances that brought this about all stemmed from "a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah." 61 We learned about that before. 62

 

Caleb

Caleb

      Bethlehem-Judah, the city of King David was founded by Salma, 63 who was a direct descendant of the spy "from the tribe of Judah" 64 called "Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite." 65 The Kenezites were descendants of Kenaz, son of Eliphaz, the son of Esau. 66 Caleb was also a member of the tribe of Judah because he was of the progeny of Pharez one of the twins born from the union of Judah, the son of Jacob, with Tamar. 67 Thereby, in Salma the founder of Bethlehem and descendant of Caleb, the bloodlines of Jacob and Esau were united. There is also ancient rabbinic tradition that traces the genealogy of Bethlehem's King David from the marriage of Miriam, the sister of Moses, to the same Caleb 65 who was the forefather of Salma, founder of Bethlehem (See Midrash Exodus Rabbah I.17; 40.1; 48.4; Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 45; Sifre to Numbers 78; Midrash Tanchumah I.152; II.121-123; Sotah 11b-12a, Babylonian Talmud; Targum to 1 Chronicles 2:19; 4:4; Tanchumah wa Yakhel 4-5). Thus, in Bethlehem's prominent son: King David, ran the bloodlines of Jacob [Judah-Caleb], Esau [Kenezites-Jephunneh], Moabites [Ruth-Boaz], and the priestly Levites [Miriam-Caleb]. According to this Jewish tradition, being a descendant of Miriam (Aaron and Moses' sister), King David and his descendants would have both royal and priestly blood in their veins. Indeed, it is written in the Holy Scriptures that "David's sons were priests [KOHANIM = the plural of KOHEN: "priest"]." 68 And did not King Solomon, David's son, bless the people, consecrate the middle court of the Temple, and also offer sacrifices himself at the inauguration? 69

          Caleb, the spy and forefather of Salma the founder of Bethlehem was also, as we know, the ancestor of King David of Bethlehem. The Holy Scriptures and Jewish tradition hold Caleb in great esteem as one who "wholly followed the Lord," 70 we are also told that Caleb was one of the eighteen persons in the Bible designated "His servants" 71 by G-d. Moreover, he is mentioned as being one of the seven holy men who lived in the time of Moses. 72

          It all began while the Israelites were with Moses in the wilderness getting ready to march into the promised land. It was then that the Lord told Moses to choose one from among the leaders of each tribe to go and "spy out the land of Canaan." 73 From the chief men "of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh" 74 was chosen to go. And while all the eleven other men chosen from the rest of the tribes had striking and alluring names, the delegate from the tribe of Judah was called Caleb [KLB] which in Hebrew means "dog" [KLB]. 75


         When the spies returned from their expedition, almost all of them gave the people a discouraging report, frightening them with their accounts that told of great walled cities, high mountains, deep rivers and gigantic inhabitants next to which they appeared to be mere grasshoppers in size. Only Caleb spoke up bravely saying: "Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it" (Numbers 13:30). Along with Joshua, Caleb continued exhorting the frightened people: "The land which we passed through to search is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the inhabitants of the land for they are bread for us. Their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us, do not fear them"(Numbers 14:7-9, literal translation).

          They spoke to no avail, and as the still badly demoralized people proceeded to stone them to silence, the Lord intervened, rebuked and condemned the people and the rest of the spies - except Caleb and Joshua - to wander in the wilderness for forty years until all of them who came out of Egypt had died. The Lord then spoke to Moses in praise of Caleb, saying: "But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him and has wholly followed Me, him will I bring into the land where he went, and his children shall possess it" (Numbers 12:24). Seven times do the Holy Scriptures tell us that Caleb "wholly followed the Lord," 76 as a loyal dog follows its master. 77 Because of his fidelity, the Lord gave Caleb first choice on any parcel of land he desired before the division of the Holy Land among the twelve tribes. Caleb chose Hebron 78 as his very own city and gave it as a heritage to his descendants. There was wisdom in Caleb's choice of the city of Hebron and its environs for himself and his children, because, excepting Rachel and Joseph, 79 all the tribal patriarchs and matriarchs: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and all the rest of the children of Jacob were buried in Hebron. Caleb chose and obtained Hebron as his possession so that "all the children of Israel might see that it is good to follow the Lord" (Sirach 46:10), and that they may know that it was only fitting that a man named "dog" (Caleb) should ask and get to keep the place where the holy bones of his ancestors were buried.

 

Caleb and David

Caleb and David

          It is because King David of Bethlehem was a descendant of Caleb that the Calebite cities of Hebron and Bethlehem figure prominently in his reign. For when King Saul and Prince Jonathan died, David asked the Lord where he was to reside, and the Lord answered:"Hebron" (2 Samuel 2:1). And it was in Hebron, the chief city of the Calebites, that David was anointed King over Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3) and where "he reigned for seven and a half years over Judah" (2 Samuel 5:5).

          King David himself may have acknowledged his Caleb family connections by addressing himself as "son" to a Calebite (1 Samuel 25:2-3,8). That same Calebite was not only said to be a "fool" (1 Samuel 25:25) but literally a "dog-man" [ANTHROPOS KUNIKOS, in the ancient Greek Septuagint Text of 1 Samuel 25:3]. Did not King David use such self-deprecatory expressions as: "After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog? After a flea?" (1 Samuel 24:14; 26:20). And in threatening to exterminate Nabal the Calebite's descendants did not King David apply to them actions reminiscent of dogs? (1 Samuel 25:22,34, literal Hebrew translation).

         We now know why in praising King David the Lord extolled him in the same terms He had used for His servant Caleb: "My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart" (1 Kings 14:8; Numbers 14:24), just as Caleb the faithful "dog"-man did.

          Both Bethlehem and Hebron figure prominently in the patrimony of Caleb and his descendants. These two cities are south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, six miles away and Hebron twenty miles from the holy city. They were both in the territory allotted to Judah but they nevertheless belonged to Caleb of "the tribe of Judah" 80 and his descendant, the founder of Bethlehem. We know the tradition concerning the marriage 65 of Miriam (of the tribe of Levi) and Caleb (of the tribe of Judah). Perhaps, this may explain why although "Joshua...gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance" and "Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite," 81 it was nevertheless given to the Aaronic clan (to which belonged Moses, Aaron and Miriam) of the tribe of Levi. 82 Thus, from the time of Joshua to King David's reign, Hebron and its environs were shared by the tribes of Judah and Levi 83 whose members lived in close proximity and communion with one another. Hebron was also chosen to be one of the six priestly Levitical cities of refuge which the Lord commanded Joshua to establish in the land of Israel. 84 We can see that Levitical priests lived alongside members of the tribe of Judah not only in Hebron but in Bethlehem as well, and in such a close association that we hear about "a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family [MISHPACHAH] of Judah, who was a Levite (priest)" - Judges 17:7, literal Hebrew translation.

 

Judah

Judah

          Was not the tribe of Judah fourth in line regarding the promise made by G-d to Jacob 59 that from his progeny would arise a dynasty of kings? We know that Reuben, 60 the firstborn, lost his birthright at the southern border of Bethlehem, but what about the rights of the second-born Simeon, and of Levi, the third son of Jacob? Where and when did they lose their right to be forerunners of the royal lineage? We shall find in the book of Genesis (34:1-30; 49:5-7), that these two sons of Jacob lost their respective birthrights by their treachery and brutality in Shechem. The firstborn birthright of Reuben now fell upon the shoulders of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. And so it was that from the patriarch Judah,85 the line of King David of Bethlehem would ensue, from whom King Messiah: "Son of David" was to come and be also born in Bethlehem, the city of kings, as prophesied (see notes 51,48 and 49).

          "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind [CHESED] in all His deeds." 86 We have seen that Reuben, Simeon and Levi lost their birthrights and brought disgrace upon themselves by their actions, but in His merciful lovingkindness G-d incorporated the descendants of Simeon into the tribe of Judah, 87 and He established the children of Levi to live as priests among all the tribes. Moreover, in the very spot south of Bethlehem where Jacob's firstborn Reuben disgraced himself, it was decreed by ancient tradition that it was to be "the place where King Messiah will be revealed at the end of days." 88

          Did not the Lord, according to His promises to Abraham and Jacob, 89 choose His people because they "were the fewest of all peoples" 90 and not the greatest in number in all the earth? Sometimes, in the designs of G-d's will, He does the unexpected, such as to make the first last and the last first as in the case of Reuben, the eldest son, who lost the right of kingship for his descendants, and the astonishing elevation of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob, from whose progeny came King Saul, the first king of Israel. How this came about involves again the little city of kings for it all started because of "a concubine...from Bethlehem in Judah" who "played the harlot" 91 against her Levite husband.

          We must not forget that the royal lineage of King David, the second king of Israel, ultimately originated from the union of the patriarch Judah with Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law who 'played the harlot' in order to conceive from him. 92

         In the wisdom of G-d we have seen the many fortuitous circumstances that centered not only in the little city of Bethlehem but in its surroundings as well. All these culminate in the fact that the Messiah is to be born there. For our Jewish tradition states indeed that: "All the prophets prophesied only concerning the days of the Messiah" 93 and that "the world was not created but only for the Messiah." 94

         Thus, even the borders of Bethlehem are to bear witness to the Lord's anointed one, not only the southern border "where King Messiah will be revealed at the end of days" 88 but also the northern border where tradition says that when the time comes for the Messiah to be revealed in a great light, he shall be found in the outskirts of Bethlehem by Rachel's tomb (Zohar II.8).

 

References


 
References

1. Genesis 2:9,10
2. Wisdom 7:1; Isaiah 45:9; 64:8; IQH 10:3-4; IQS 11:22, Dead Sea Scrolls
3. Genesis 5:1,2; Midrash Genesis Rabbah 8.1
4. Isaiah 55:10,11
5. Philo, Her. 119
6. Genesis 1:11
7. Genesis 2:16,17
8. IQS 10:9, Dead Sea Scrolls
9. Isaiah 61:3
10. Psalm 50:23


11. Sirach 37:22, Hebrew Text. Thus, we read in the Holy Scriptures and other writings such fitting expressions as : "the trees of the field shall know "(Ezekiel 17:24) and that: "the trees took counsel "(2 Esdras 4:13). No doubt, they did so by their "knowledge" because it takes wisdom, understanding and knowledge to give good "counsel" (Job 38:2; 42:3). Conversely, there is bad counsel, and wayward people go to "ask counsel from their trees [ETS= "trees", figuratively "idols"] - Hosea 4:12. Consequently "the sword...shall consume their branches and devour them because of their own (bad) counsels" (Hosea 11:6). And on that day "shall all the (good) trees of the forest rejoice" (Psalm 96:12) and "sing" (Isaiah 44:23; 1 Chronicles 16:33) when the Lord "comes to judge the world with righteousness and the people with His Truth" (Psalm 96:13). Our wise men realized that "the roots of the counsels of the heart throw out four branches: good and evil, life and death" (Sirach 37:17,18, Hebrew Text) for they knew that Earthman was meant to be a Treeman, and that good and evil, life and death were in the fruit of the tree of knowledge depending on the keeping of His command. "Choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19) and live by the keeping of the commandments of the Lord.


12. Deuteronomy 4:5,6; 29:9 (8); Joshua 1:7; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 18:1,5,6,7; Psalms 111:10; 119:100, etc.


13. Job 36:12
14. Proverbs 24:12
15. 2 Esdras 3:7, Armenian Text
16. Books of Adam and Eve 23:3
17. 1QM 17:8, Dead Sea Scrolls
18. 1QSb 1:5, Dead Sea Scrolls
19. 2 Maccabees 6:30
20. 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; Judith 8:22, Latin Vulgate
21. 1 Maccabees 2:52
22. Sirach 44:20
23. Zadokite Fragment [CD] MS A 16:6


24. Psalms 1:3-4; 52:8 (10); 92:12 (13), 13-14 (14-15); 128:3; Proverbs 11:28,30; Song of Songs 2:3; Judges 9:7-15; Isaiah 3:10; 44:3-4; 58:11; 61:3; Jeremiah 17:8 Ezekiel 19:10; 31:2-8; Daniel 4:10-12, 20-22; Hosea 14:6(7)


25. Deuteronomy 20:19, Literal Hebrew translation. See also Midrash Genesis Rabbah 26.6; 53.1; Taanith 7a, B.T.


26. Psalms of Solomon 14:3-4; Kiddushin, 40b, BT. See also Moed Katon iii init. 81c, JT; Shabbath 118b; Berakoth 57a; Yebamoth 63a; Pesachim 112a; Betzah 27a; Abodah Zarah 7b, Babylonian Talmud; Pirke Aboth III.22; Aboth de Rabbi Nathan Ch.39; Midrash Genesis Rabbah 16.3; 23.5; 41.1; Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 30.11; Sifra Tazria to Leviticus 13:47; Tanchumah Genesis Lech Lecho p.34a (Buber); W.Bacher's, Ag. Pal. Amoraer I, 239; II, 424; Ag. Tannaim I, 229-230, 53, 103 etc. And did not the Lord liken Himself to a tree?: "I am like an evergreen tree, from Me is your fruit found"-Hosea 14:8(9)


27. Odes of Solomon 11:18, Syriac Text
28. Genesis 3:23
29. Isaiah 58:11
30. Isaiah 61:11
31. Ezekiel 24:17,22
32. Deutronomy 16:3; 1 Kings 22:27; 2 Chronicles 18:26
33. Psalm 127:2
34. Isaiah 30:20
35. Psalm 80:5(6)
36. Sirach 34:26, Latin Vulgate
37. Testament of Issachar 5:5


38. See Isaiah 61:3 for the expression "Trees of righteousness", and Hosea 10:12 for "sow to yourselves righteousness"


39. Sirach 15:3, Hebrew Text
40. Job 5:17,26; see also Genesis 37:6-8
41. Psalm 1:3,4; 35:5; Job 21:18; Isaiah 17:13; 29:5
42. Midrash Numbers Rabbah 4.1;1.4 Midrash Genesis Rabbah 83.5; 59.8
43. Jeremiah 23:28 see vv. 26, 31-32, 36
44. Jeremiah 11:19, literal translation
45. Midrash Genesis Rabbah 48.10; 86.1; Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1.9
46. Psalm 2:12
47. R.David Kimchi's, Commentary on Psalm 2:12


48. Berakoth 5a, JT; Midrash Lamentations Rabbah,Proem I. 1.16; Bereshith Rabbati pp.130-131; see also Targum Jonathan on Micah 5:2


49. Targums on Genesis 49:8-12; Ruth 3:15; Jeremiah 23:5; 30:9; 33:15; Hosea 3:5; Micah 5:2(1); Berakoth 5a; Sukkah 55a; Taanith 64a, 68b, Jerusalem Talmud; Erubin 43a,b; Yoma 10a; Sukkah 52a,b; Megillah 17b; Yebamoth 62a; Nazir 23a; Sotah 48b; Baba Kamma 38a,b; Sanhedrin 38b; 93; 94a; 96b; 97a; 98a,b; Abodah Zarah 5a; Niddah 13b; Kallah Rabbathi 52a; Derek Eretz Zuta 59a, Babylonian Talmud; Midrash Genesis Rabbah 50.10; 51.8; 85.19; Midrash Exodus Rabbah 25.12; 30.3; Midrash Numbers Rabbah 13.11; Midrash Ruth Rabbah 3.14; 7.15; 8.1; Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah 2.13; Midrash Lamentations Rabbah, Proems 21,23; 1.16 sect. 51; Midrash Tehillim (Psalms) 18.36; 21.11; 43.5; 60.3; 87.6; 92.10; Midrash Mishlei (Proverbs) re Proverbs 19:21; Midrash Haggadah [Buber] on Genesis 15:12; 19:15; 38:15; Midrash Haggadol I.735-739; Pesikta R. Kahana, Piska 5.9; Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 15.14-15; 36.2; Pirke R Eliezer, Perek 30,31; Yalkut Shimoni f.106; Yelammedenu 35; Beth ha Midrash [Jellinek] Vol V, pp 167-168, 187-188; Vol VI. Introduction 22, 25-26, 84; Zohar I. 25b, 82b, 188b, 238a; II. 203b, 278b; Sekel Tob [Buber] re Genesis 32:5; 49:8; Rashi on Genesis 49:8-12; Otzar Midrashim [Eisenstein] 466, etc. See also Ezekiel 34:23-24.


50. The generation of Adam perished in the flood, and just as Adam was the "father" of all humanity before the Deluge, so is Noah the father and progenitor (compare Genesis 1:28-30 and 9:1-3) of all the generations that repopulated the earth after the Flood. "The world was repopulated from one (Son of) man: Noah" (Midrash Rabbah 5.1, see also Midrash Numbers Rabbah 14.12; Wisdom 14:6; 2 Enoch 34:3-35:1-2, A Text)


51. Micah 5:2(1)
52. Genesis 35:19
53. Leviticus 23:10-11
54. Leviticus 23:15-17


55. Exodus 40:24-25. See The Tree of Light: A Study of the Menorah, the Seven-Branched Lampstand by L. Yarden, Uppsala, 1972. See Nogah Hareuveni's (of Neot Kedumin) commentary cited in W. Gunther Plaut's, The Torah (p.613, note 5) regarding the botanical nature of the Menorah in Exodus 25:33ff.


56. Exodus 40:22-23; Leviticus 24:5-9
57. Genesis 17:6,16
58. Genesis 25:29-34 see vv.24-26
59. Genesis 35:11
60. Genesis 35:21-22
61. Judges 19:1
62. See the article on The Mystery of Shiloh
63. 1 Chronicles 2:51
64. Numbers 34:19
65. Numbers 32:12; Joshua 14:6
66. Genesis 36:10-11,15,42 etc.
67. Genesis 38:13-30
68. 2 Samuel 8:18


69. 1 Kings 8:14,54-55,62-64; 2 Chronicles 6:3,13; 7:7; 8:12-13. "In the Temple court (the hallowed place) the kings of the house of David alone are permitted to sit" (Sotah 41b; Yoma 69b, Babylonian Talmud). Moreover, when the Queen mother Athaliah (the daughter of the infamous Jezebel, wife of Omri, King of Israel) took over after the death of her husband King Jehoram of Judah and of their son King Ahaziah, she determined to "destroy all the Royal [Davidic] offspring of the House of Judah" (2 Chronicles 22:10). She succeeded in exterminating all the princes except for the youngest son of King Ahaziah: Prince Joash who escaped aided by his aunt Jehoshabeath wife of the high priest Jehoiada. Prince Joash was hidden by them inside the most sacrosanct place in the temple where only the high priest was allowed to enter, and in the area forbidden to all except the priests of the tribe of Levi (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 8,2, see note 2 p.117 Soncino Edition).


70. Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8,9,14; Sirach 46:9-10; 2 Baruch 59:1


71. Aboth de Rabbi Nathan 43.121 (ed. Schechter, Vienna 1887)


72. Midrash Exodus Rabbah 44.7; Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah 3.15; Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah I.5.1; Midrash on Song of Songs 13b (ed. Grunhut, Jerusalem 1897); Aggadat Bereshit 5.13-14; Sifre on Deuteronomy 27; Midrash Tannaim 16 (ed. Hoffman, Berlin 1908-9); Midrash Tanchumah [Buber] II. 90-91


73. Numbers 13:2,16,17
74. Numbers 13:6


75. KLB (Caleb) means "dog" not only in Hebrew (see Jewish Encyclopedia Vol. III p.498) but in other related languages (see Ugaritic Texts: Keret I. 3.19; 5.10; 11. 1.15; Baal Text V. 3.60 and Lachish [Tell el-Amarna] Letters II. 4, also ancient Canaanite inscriptions found in the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, pt. I. 86; pt. II. 56; pt. III. 22-2, Paris, 1881). Even in the ancient Babylonian Tablets VAT 9933; 13836; 10349, [Berlin Museum], KLB means "dog"


76. Numbers 14:24; 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8,9,14; Sirach 46:10
77. Tobit 11:4; Story of Ahikar 2:8, Armenian Text
78. Joshua 14:12-15; Judges 1:20


79. We know that Rachel was buried in the northern border of Bethlehem. The patriarch Joseph was buried in Shechem, see Joshua 24:32


80. Numbers 13:6
81. Joshua 14:13,14; 15:13
82. Joshua 21:10-11
83. Joshua 21:11-12; 1 Chronicles 6:54-56
84. Joshua 20:1-2,7
85. Genesis 38:1-26
86. Psalm 145:17


87. There was an ancient tradition that said: "Moses attached (the tribe of ) Simeon to the tribe of Judah" (Midrash to Psalms 90.3; Zohar II, Vayehi 236a; Judges 1:3,17). Just as the Calebites received "a portion among the children of Judah" (Joshua 15:13), so did the tribe of Simeon receive a share "in the midst of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah" (Joshua 19:1,9). So close were the ties between the tribe of Simeon and the tribe of Judah, that the cities which were said to belong to the tribe of Judah were also cities that belonged to the tribe of Simeon. Thus, Maladah, Beersheba, Hazar, Shual, Baalah, Ezem, Ziklag, Ain, and Rimmon were cities of Judah (in Joshua 15:26,28,29,31,32) yet also cities of the tribe of Simeon (in Joshua 19:2,3,5,7). And the Negev region of Judah (1 Samuel 27:10) and of Caleb (1 Samuel 30:14), was the same Negev region of the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1-9; Tamid 31b-32a, Babylonian Talmud).


88. The Targum Jerusalem on Genesis 35:21 states: "And Jacob proceeded and spread his tent beyond Migdal-Eder, the place where it is to be that King Messiah will be revealed at the end of days".


89. Genesis 17:7-8; 35:11-12
90. Deuteronomy 7:7
91. Judges 19:1,2
92. Genesis 38:1-26 and see also Leviticus 18:15, note Genesis 38:26
93. Sanhedrin 99a; Berakoth 34b; Babylonian Talmud
94. Sanhedrin 98b, Babylonian Talmud

 

 

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To the Wisest of the Wise
To the wisest of the wise
 
and
 
To the Wise made Wise the exceedingly wise
"To the wise made wise": the "exceedingly wise"

Proverbs 30:24
 

Adam went from field
 


Adam went from field (Genesis 3:23) to the Garden (Genesis 2:15), and from Garden back to the field where "he was taken from" (Genesis 3:23).

"Well watered everywhere... like the Garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt" (Genesis 13:10).

Abraham went from field to garden and from garden back to the field (Genesis 12:5 - 13:4).

Jacob went from field to garden and from garden back to the field (Genesis 46:5 - 50:13).

The children of Jacob went from field to garden and from garden back to the field (Genesis 37:28; 42:1-3; 43:1 - 50:24 and Exodus to Joshua inclusive). And...

To love is to keep and to give

To love is to keep and to give
The first sin was in not keeping.
And the second sin was in not giving.

Adam and Eve did not keep the commandment
Their given firstborn: Cain, did not give to the Lord the best
of the firstfruits of his labour (Midrash Genesis Rabbah 22.5 re Genesis 4:3-7).

Sow to yourselves the seeds of righteousness and keep them,
And you shall reap the fruits of lovingkindness to give (Hosea 10:12).

A house keeps,
And bread is given
Bethlehem.

Treeman and Breadman
 


Treeman and Breadman

Throw a "tree [ETS]" into bitter waters and make them sweet to drink (Exodus 15:23-25).
And where "there is death in the pot" of stew made from the fruits of "a wild vine", throw into the pot some "flour" [QEMACH] and have a good meal (2 Kings 4:38-41).

Was not the Lord G-d as a Gardener

 


Was not the Lord G-d as a Gardener when He "planted a garden east of Eden"? (Genesis 2:9). And was He not like a Builder when He "built [BANAH]" (Genesis 2:22), and when "He made them houses"? (Exodus 1:21, Literal translation).

Adam was a gardener (Genesis 2:15).
And Noah was a builder (Genesis 6:14-22)

Adam, after the exhaustion from his labour brought forth "bread, which strengthens the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15b).
Noah,after the desolation of the great flood and the death of all mankind, planted a vine and made "wine which gladdens the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15a), and comforts him.

The Three Concubines
 

 

The Three Concubines

We saw that because of a concubine, Reuben the eldest did not generate a line of kings.

And also because of a concubine, circumstances were set in motion wherein, in the wisdom of G-d, the first anointed king of Israel did not come from the eldest but from the progeny of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob-Israel from whom King Saul descended.[See The Mystery of Shiloh].

But again, because of a concubine, the actual (non-anointed) first king of Israel was Abimelech, the son of Gideon, the Manassite, by his Ephraimite concubine from Shechem (Judges 8:31). Gideon, the fifth judge of Israel, having refused the people's demand that he rule over them as king (Judges 8:22-23), renamed his son by that Ephraimite concubine: Abimelech (lit. "my father is king"). After the death of Gideon the people "made Abimelech king beside the oak of the pillar that was in Shechem" and "Abimelech reigned over Israel three years" (Judges 9:6,22), before he was killed by a woman (Judges 9:52-53). That happened about a hundred and fourteen years before Saul ben Kish was anointed King of Israel by Samuel the judge.

It was by a dastardly act, with the collusion of the Ephraimite men of Shechem (Judges 9:1-6), that Abimelech became the first king of Israel. We can now discover that behind all the intrigues and machinations that made Abimelech king was the fact that among all the more than seventy sons of Gideon only Abimelech, Gideon's son by his concubine, had both Manassite and Ephraimite blood in his veins.

For his mother (Gideon's concubine), was an Ephraimite (see Judges 9:1,3; Shechem was in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim). And it was decreed that the birthright [to kingship] that Reuben lost was to be given and shared by both "the sons (i.e., Manasseh and Ephraim) of Joseph" (1 Chronicles 5:1). Abimelech who was both a Manassite and an Ephraimite no doubt considered himself the true heir of that firstborn's birthright to kingship. And had not his father Gideon solemnly "made [SUM="appointed," "ordained" in the Hebrew of Judges 8:30] his name: Abimelech" ("my father is king")?

David King and Priest

David King and Priest

During the reign of King David where it is said in the Holy Scriptures that "Zadok, the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were the priests [KOHANIM]" - 2 Samuel 8:17; we are also told in the next verse, that King "David's sons were priests [KOHANIM]" - 2 Samuel 8:18. Again, in the time "Sheva was scribe and Zadok and Abiathar were priests [KOHANIM]-2 Samuel 20:25; the verse following tells us that "Ira the Jairite was also a priest [KOHEN; HIEREUS= "priest" in the Greek Septuagint] under [King] David"-2 Samuel 20:26. Ira was of the tribe of Judah since Jair was the son of Segub, son of Hezron, son of Pharez, one of the twins born of the union of Judah with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. It was from Pharez that King David also descended. Thus, Ira the Jairite who was "a priest [KOHEN]"Levite, was also a member of the family of Judah. Moreover in the reign of King Solomon when we are told that "Zadok and Abiathar were priests [KOHANIM]" - 1 Kings 4:5; it is also said, in the next verse, that "Zabud, the son of Nathan (David's son, and half brother of Solomon) was the priest [KOHEN] and confidant of the king" (1 Kings 4:6). For indeed, as a descendant of Caleb (Judah) and Miriam (Levi), King David had both royal and priestly blood in him as we know from our Jewish tradition (see Sotah, 11b-12a, Babylonian Talmud; Sifre to Numbers 78; Tanchumah [Buber] I.152; II.121-123; Tanchumah Wayakhel 4-5; Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah, 1.17; 48.3-4; Jerusalem Targum to Exodus, 1:21).

If we search the Holy Scriptures we shall find instances where King David exercised his priestly prerogatives as when "David the king went in, and sat before the Lord" (2 Samuel 7:18). Notwithstanding that "sitting...in the court of the Temple, or in the Temple itself...was permitted only to the High Priest" (Midrash to Psalms 1.2). But there was a tradition that "taught that sitting in the court of the Temple was prohibited, except to the kings of the house of David" (ibid.; Sanhedrin 101b; Kiddushin 78b, Babylonian Talmud; see also Josephus, Antiq.VIII. 4.2.),for if it is said [2 Samuel 8:18] that King "David's sons were priests [KOHANIM]," so was he (see also Yoma, 25b, Babylonian Talmud; Pesachim 5,32d, Jerusalem Talmud; Midrash Shemuel [Buber] 26, 125).

The Ephod was a characteristic linen garment worn by the priests, it distinguished them from the ordinary people as "persons who wore a linen ephod" (1 Samuel 22:18). When the priest would offer upon the altar and burn incense, he was to "wear an ephod before Me" (1 Samuel 2:28). Thus, we hear about "the Lord's priest in Shiloh wearing an ephod" (1 Samuel 14:3), and "Samuel ministered before the Lord...girded with a linen ephod" (1 Samuel 2:18). It was because King David was aware of his priestly prerogatives when he accompanied the Levite priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant, that King "David had also upon him an ephod of linen" (1 Chronicles 15:27). It was then that "David danced before the Lord with all his might, and David was girded with a linen ephod" (2 Samuel 6:14),as were all the priests. And when "David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings" himself (1 Samuel 6:18), it was also King David (and not the High Priest), who "blessed the people in the name of the Lord" (ibid.and 1 Chronicles 16:2). Yet we know that from the time of Moses - who was of the tribe of Levi - only the priests had the right to sacrifice and make offerings to the Lord before His Tabernacle.

Moses was the one who was first appointed, commanded, and instructed by the Lord to prepare the anointing oil and consecrate his brother Aaron as High Priest, and Aaron's sons as priests to succeed him (Exodus 30:22-25, 30-31; Leviticus 8:1-30). They were the ones who "ministered" unto the Lord "in the priest's office" (Exodus 29:41; 30:30), and this duty was to be handed down to their descendants alone. And from the time of Moses and Aaron it was "the priests and Levites" who "blessed the people" (2 Chronicles 30:27). Yet we are told that not only King David, but his son King Solomon as well, offered sacrifices and peace offerings and also blessed the people (1 Kings 8:22-64), in special occassions. Furthermore, King Solomon himself "consecrated the middle of the [Temple] court that was before the house [inner sanctum] of the Lord, because there he offered burnt offerings and...peace offerings" (1 Kings 8:64; 2 Chronicles 7:7). Is it not rightly said that King "David's sons were priests [KOHANIM]"? - 2 Samuel 8:18.

The Ephod the Lord instructed Moses to fashion for his brother Aaron, whom he was to anoint and consecrate as high priest, was very beautiful and more elaborate (Exodus 28:2-43) than the linen ephod that the priests wore. Upon that garment was the breastplate of judgment bearing the precious stones with the name of the twelve sons of Jacob. Directly behind and sewn into it was a pouch containing the oracular stones called the Urim ("lights") and Thummim ("perfections") which were to repose "upon Aaron's heart" (Exodus 28:30). These oracular stones qualified the high priest to make inquiries of the Lord, and by their means he would receive answers and right decisions from Him, whenever the people would go to the high priest for guidance, knowing that the breastplate of judgment with the Urim and Thummim were in his charge.

Joshua, of the tribe of Ephraim, succeeded Moses and led Israel to the conquest and possession of the promised land. Joshua received a special ordination from Moses, at the command of the Lord (Exodus 31:14; Deuteronomy 34:9). But he was also told by Moses that he was to go to Eleazar, the high priest who succeeded Aaron, whenever he needed to inquire of the Lord regarding important decisions, because the answer from the Lord would come through the use of the Urim and Thummim by the high priest (Numbers 27:18-20).

King Saul in his time also asked counsel of G-d through the high priest Ahijah who was the one who wore the special ephod then (1 Samuel 14:3). The answer he sought in his inquiry was again obtained by the priest through the use of the Urim and Thummim which he would draw out from the special pouch in the back of the ephod's breastplate. We find specific mention of this in the very ancient Hebrew text of 1 Samuel 14:18-19,41 which was translated into the Greek of the Septuagint [Vaticanus Text].

But when King David wished to consult the Lord through the use of the Urim and Thummim, he demanded the ephod from the high priest, and he did the inquiring himself (see 1 Samuel 23:6,9, 10-12). Again, did not King David say "to Abiathar, the [high] priest, Ahimelech's son: "please bring the ephod here to me." And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. Then David [himself] inquired of the Lord..." - 1 Samuel 30:7,8. Because David was king and priest too, and had family connections to the high priestly Levitical house of Aaron through the marriage of his ancestor Caleb to Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. Aaron himself married into the tribe of Judah (Exodus 6:23) so that his own descendants - from whom came all the high priests - were a union of the tribes of Levi and Judah from whom came the priestly and royal families of Israel. Bethlehem was always known as the city of David because his family came from there, yet we are also told about "a young man from Bethlehem of Judah of the family[MISHPAQAH] of Judah, who was a Levite" (Judges 17:7), And this young man was no doubt from the Mosaic and Aaronic high priest clan of the tribe of Levi, because we are told later on in the book of Judges that he was "the son of Gershon, the son of Moses" (Judges 18:30, original Hebrew Text, see Aboth de Rabbi Nathan, chap.34; Rashi, ad loc.; Sukkah, 4,54c, Jerusalem Talmud; Baba Bathra, 109b, 110a, Babylonian Talmud; Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah 2.5,3; ibid.1.4[Wilna 1887]; Sifre to Numbers 84; Tanchumah [Buber] IV.79; V.25; Mekhilta Yitro1 [ed.Weiss p.65b]; see also Tosefta Sanhedrin, 14.7-8; Berakoth, 9,13d, Jerusalem Talmud).

Regarding this young priest "of Bethlehem-Judah," who was uniquely said to be "of the family [MISHPAQAH] of Judah," but who "was [also] a Levite" (Judges 17:7), we must take into consideration that both Aaron's and Caleb's families settled in Bethlehem and Hebron. So closely united were those particular branches of the tribes of Levi and Judah that we have a tradition that Aaron's rod was identical to the rod or staff of Judah (Midrash Numbers Rabbah 18:23) and that David's staff or rod was the staff of Aaron (Yelammedenu in Yalkut I.763; II.869 (re Psalm 110); Zerubbabel 55 [Jellinek],10b [Wertheimer]).

As we can see from his Aaronic priestly family connections, King David rejoiced to have the right to go to the inner precincts of the Sanctuary and to encompass the altar of the Lord (David's Psalm 26:6,8). And although he was the king and lived in his own palace, King David's ardent desire was to dwell in the house of the Lord (David's Psalms 23:6; 27:4), and even in the Lord's Tabernacle (David's Psalm 61:4[5] 6-7 [7-8]). In the wisdom of G-d this desire was granted to one of King David's direct descendants.

It happened in the days of Ahaziah, King of Judah, who had a young son called Joash. King Ahaziah died after a short reign and his evil mother queen Athaliah (wife of King Jehoram, Amaziah's father) usurped the throne of the kingdom of Judah by massacring "all the seed royal (i.e., royal heirs) of the house of Judah" (2 Chronicles 22:10; 2 Kings 11:1). Fortunately, prince Joash's aunt: Jehoshabeath stole him away while all the rest of the princes were being murdered, and hid him from his wicked grandmother Athaliah. Jehoshabeath, the sister of King Ahaziah, was the wife of the high priest Jehoiada who hid prince Joash inside the Temple of Jerusalem. Joash was the sole survivor of the royal Davidic line, since by Athaliah, and also King Jehu of Israel (2 Kings 10:13-14; 2 Chronicles 22:8) all the other royal heirs of the house of David had been exterminated.

According to tradition, Jehoiada, the high priest, saved little prince Joash by hiding and keeping him within the holy of holies - the sacrosanct chamber of the Lord's Tabernacle - for six years (Tanchumah [Buber] II.23,31; Tanchumah Wayera 9; Seder Olam 15,18; Midrash to Psalms 18,151; Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah I.16; Targum to 2 Chronicles 22:11; Makiri on Psalm 9(end); Eldad ha Dani, 25-26 [edit.Epstein]; see also Ps. Jerome [Migne 23] re 2 Chronicles 24:17). Jehoiada - the high priest descendant of Aaron - who sheltered prince Joash, was a very devout and observant priest as we can see when he gave orders to the Levite porters of the doors of the Temple to "let no one come into the house of the Lord except the priests, and those of the Levites who serve; they are allowed to come in, because they are holy" (2 Chronicles 23:6). We may be sure that Jehoiada also knew that only a high priest was allowed to enter the holy of holies. Nevertherless, because of the great emergency at that time he may have justified concealing King David's little descendant Joash there, because of David's ancestral connections to the priestly family of Aaron. We should remember that Jehoiada himself - as his ancestor Aaron had done (Exodus 6:23) - married into the tribe of Judah, and the royal branch at that! For had not Jehoiada taken as wife Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the Davidic King Jehoram of Judah (2 Chronicles 22:11)?

The children born of their union also had high priest and Davidic royal blood in their veins. In later years regarding one of their sons, we are told that "the Spirit of G-d came upon (lit."clothed") Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the [high] priest" (2 Chronicles 24;20), and he prophesied against the transgressors among the people. But he was stoned to death in the court of the Temple at the command of the ungrateful King Joash who did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, did to him. It was Jehoiada who saved Joash from certain death by hiding and taking care of him as a child in the inmost sacred places of the Temple. The Lord avenged Zechariah in that the servants of King Joash slew him in his own bed in retribution "for the blood of the sons (plural) of Jehoiada the priest" (2 Chronicles 24:25). Could it have been that King Joash had all the sons of Jehoiada killed because their pedigrees were equal to his and greater than that of his own progeny?

Did David have the to partake

Did David have the right to partake of
the loaves of the Bread of the Presence?
1 Samuel 21:1-6

Although David's family pedigree was connected to the priestly Levitical house of Aaron, King David was not an officiating priest. He had no right to eat any of the "most holy" (Leviticus 24:9) loaves of the Bread of the Presence which could only be consumed by Aaron's descendants, and by them alone in the "holy place" (ibid.) and nowhere else. Ordinary "holy things" could be consumed by the priests and their households in any clean place provided they were also ceremoniously clean themselves, but no one except the officiating priests, descendants of Aaron, were allowed to have anything to do with the Lord's "most holy" things. Moreover, any outsider who came near where the priests were officiating was to be put to death (Numbers 3:10,38; 1:51; 16:40; 18:7).

Besides the showbread, the specially prepared incense was "most holy" (Exodus 30:36) and could only be offered to the Lord by a priest, "no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron should come near to offer incense before the Lord" (Numbers 16:40), because that incense was "most holy" and only a priest could burn it before the Lord. The desecration of that incense, and anything that was "most holy" was punishable by death (Exodus 30:37-38). There was a time when King Uzziah, a descendant of King David, and possessing the same pedigree, presumed to offer (i.e., "burn") the incense himself. We are told that he did this "to his own destruction for he transgressed against the Lord his G-d by entering the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense . Azariah, the [high] priest went in after him with eighty of the priests of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 26:16-17). And although "they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, "It is not the right for you Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the Sanctuary for you have trespassed!" (2 Chronicles 26:18). Nevertheless, King Uzziah with censer in hand forced his way in to burn incense beside the altar of incense. It was then that the Lord struck King Uzziah with leprosy (ibid. v.21).

According to tradition (Sanhedrin 95a, Babylonian Talmud), it is said that because of David's "crime"in taking and consuming the five loaves of showbread given to him by Abimelech, the [high] priest, the Lord threatened to either end David's line or let him be delivered to his enemy (David chose the latter). What happened at "Nob, the city of priests" (1 Samuel 21:1-10; 22:19) was a grave offense before the Lord, and as a result Abimelech and eighty-five priests were killed by order of King Saul, only Abiathar, Abimelech's son escaped the slaughter of all the priests at Nob. But it was Abimelech who was guilty of the greater trangression when he gave David those "most holy" five loaves of the Bread of the Presence, for he fully knew that only the officiating priests could consume them and that they could only do so within the precints of the holy place, never outside. Needless to say, David's men had absolutely no right to partake of the loaves. Moreover, if Abimelech did not have common bread at hand for David and his men, surely he could have obtained some from among the eighty-five other priests who lived in Nob and who we are told had "oxen and sheep" as well (1 Samuel 22:19).

Gideon's Ephod

Gideon's Ephod

We know that when Gideon, the son of Joash the Manassite, returned triumphant from the campaign against the Midianites and Amalekites, "the men of Israel" asked him to rule over them as king (Judges 8:22-23) but Gideon refused. Nevertheless, Gideon then no longer lived in his father's house but in his own much larger residence; for if it is said that he had seventy sons, he must have "multiplied wives to himself" heedless of Moses' warnings (Deuteronomy 17:17a). Gideon was also unmindful of the admonition not to "multiply to himself silver and gold" (ibid.17:17b), for he had asked every man to give him the gold earrings taken as plunder from the bodies of the slain Midianites. We are told that "the weight of the gold earrings" he received, came to "one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold" (Judges 8:26), without counting and weighing the golden crescents, pendants and other precious ornaments also given to him including the golden chains around the captured camels' necks. With all these Gideon made a magnificent (as for a high priest) Ephod which he formally "set up" [YATSAG = "set up," "establish," as in 2 Samuel 6:17; Amos 5:15] in his city Ophrah, and which became a snare to "all Israel" (Judges 8:27) because the people ended up worshipping it. The same thing happened concerning "the brass serpent" which Moses made for the people in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9) which is the reason why King Hezekiah destroyed it (2 Kings 18:4).

Gideon was a good man who did good towards the people. With the help of the Lord he rid the land of the Midianite and Amalekite oppressors so that "the country was in quietness for forty years in the days of Gideon" (Judges 8:28, 35). In his time, the priesthood, the tent of meeting, and the Ark of the Covenant centered in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. If we do not hear that Gideon was able to fulfill the instructions the Lord had given Moses (Numbers 27:18-23), concerning the requirement of the leader to stand before the high priest to receive counsel from him through his use of the Urim and Thummim found in the breastplate of his Ephod, it may have been that the priestly office was at a low ebb in those days. Or it may have been because there were strained relations between the two fraternal tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (see Judges 8:1). It was in Shiloh that the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Tabernacle of the congregation, and it was there that the high priest with the Ephod and Urim and Thummim presided, but we must remember that Shiloh was in the territory of Ephraim. Thus, the beautiful rich Ephod Gideon had fashioned from all that gold was enshrined instead in Ophrah, his city in the territory of Manasseh. In asking for a share in the gold booty taken by his men, Gideon may have recalled the time when the Lord commanded Moses and the children of Israel to war against the Midianites, and what was done then with the spoils of victory (Numbers 31:1-12; 50-54). In those days the Midianites were also routed, and "every man" who plundered them brought "the jewels of gold, chains, bracelets, rings, earrings and tablets" to Moses, and Eleazar the high priest, to be offered as an atonement before the Lord. And Moses and Eleazar took and brought all that gold "into the tabernacle of the congregation for a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord" (ibid.31:54).

Yes, Gideon also wanted to dedicate to the Lord the precious booty obtained by him from the vanquished Midianites, thus, out of all the gold his men had given him, Gideon "made an ephod thereof" (Judges 8:27). But the elaborate Ephod that he had made could only be worn by a Levitical high priest and no one else. And in those days, when the Ephod of the high priest was not worn it was to be kept in the Tabernacle of the congregation -- before the Lord. Were not the holy loaves of the Bread of the Presence placed in array before the holy of holies? So was the Ephod kept in the same chamber (1 Samuel 21:9[10]). Yet Gideon placed the Ephod he had made "in his city, that is, in Ophrah" (Judges 8:27), instead of taking it where it rightly belonged: in the house of the Lord.

However, we should take in consideration that if Gideon housed that special Ephod in his own city, it was because he greatly cherished and admired it. Notwithstanding, he never wore it nor made use of the Urim and Thummim himself, to ascertain the will of G-d. Gideon knew it was not his right to do so, even though he once had the greater investiture of being "clothed [LABESH]" by "the Spirit of the Lord" (Judges 6:34). And did not the Lord Himself in Ophrah, command him to "build an altar to the Lord your G-d," and take a "bullock and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove (Judges 6:26, 25)"? Gideon was sent by the Lord to "save Israel from the hand of the Midianites" (Judges 6:14), and although the children of Israel acknowledged him as a "saviour [YASHA]" who delivered them from their oppressors (Judges 8:22; 9:17), it is never said of Gideon that "he judged Israel," as it is said of all the rest of the saviour-deliverers of Israel in the book of Judges (see Judges 3:10; 4:4; 10:2,3; 12:7,8,9,11,13,14,20,31; 1 Samuel 4:18; 7:6,15).

Did Gideon set up the Ephod in Ophrah as an invitation and also as an indirect reproach to the people for not having sought him out as a counselor, judge and arbitrer of their causes? For those were the days when the Lord raised up judges from His people not only to deliver them (Judges 2:16,17-19) but also to judge. There was already a tradition about those past judges sitting in judgment when the Lord raised up Gideon to be the fifth judge of Israel, yet it is not said of Gideon that "he judged Israel" as it was said of his antecedents, and those who came after him.

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