This week’s Torah portion comes from Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. The prophet reading is Isaiah 40:1-26. This is the second class in Ross’ series on the Book of Deuteronomy, and the first of seven prophetic readings of consolation. In this teaching Ross examines the basis for becoming a wise and understanding people. What instructions did Moses give to the children of Israel that specifically spelled out, how they would eventually become a great nation? Ross also shows the meaning and significance of the phrase fear of YHVH.
Several years ago while teaching a class on the biblical significance of the return of Israel, James D. Tabor made reference to an interesting, but not so well known passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah.
“Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” (Jeremiah 32:37–41 ESV)
This is a remarkable passage and predicts the gathering of scattered Israelites from all the countries into which they were driven. In this text, Yehovah promises to bring Israel back and make them dwell safely in the land promised to their forefathers. Referring to the oft-repeated covenant language, we are told that “they shall be my people and I will be their God.” It also speaks of an everlasting covenant that Yehovah will make with His people and of a promise to do good to them. It says further that He will rejoice in doing good and then qualifies this by stating, “I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and soul.” It is this phrase that should give us pause. The one thing that Yehovah promises to do with all his heart and all his soul is to gather scattered Israel and to plant them in the land in faithfulness!
A search of the Hebrew Bible however reveals that the phrase heart and soul appears eighteen times. In the Hebrew Bible, it occurs seven times in the 2nd person masculine singular (Deuteronomy 4:29, 6:5, 10:12, 26:16, 30:2, 6, 10), nine times in the 3rd person masculine plural (Deuteronomy 11:13, 13:4, Joshua 22:5, 23:14, I Kings 2:4, 8:48, II Chronicles 6:38, 15:12, 34:31), once in the 1st masculine singular (II Kings 23:25), and once in the 1st common singular (Jeremiah 32:41).
What is interesting is that among these occurrences is a series of 9 things, recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, that returning Israel must do with all their heart and all their soul.
I highly encourage the reading of these passages in context. When taken as a whole they present a sort of map for returning Israel. Here are those passages in the order in which they appear.
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV)
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV)
“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 11:13 ESV)
“you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:3 ESV)
“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 26:16 ESV)
“and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 30:2 ESV)
“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV)
“when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:10 ESV)
“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.””
(Joshua 22:5 ESV)
““And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.”
(Joshua 23:14 ESV)
“that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”
(1 Kings 2:4 ESV)
“if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name,”
(1 Kings 8:48 ESV)
“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”
(2 Kings 23:25 ESV)
“if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name,”
(2 Chronicles 6:38 ESV)
“And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul,”
(2 Chronicles 15:12 ESV)
“And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”
(2 Chronicles 34:31 ESV)
The restoration of all of Israel is predicted in the Hebrew Bible. See for example James D. Tabor’s, Restoring Abrahamic Faith.
According to Tabor (2008), “There are over forty separate sections of the Hebrew prophets that deal specifically with this theme of the full restoration of ALL twelve of the tribes of Israel. (Isaiah 8:17-18; 11:12-13; 14:1-2; 27:12-13; 43:5-7; 49:5-6; 54:1-8; Chapter 60; 66:19-21; Jeremiah 3:12-18; 16:14-18; 23:1-8; 29:10-14; Chapters 30, 31, 33; 50:4-7; Ezekiel 11:14-21; 16:60-63; 20:33-44; 34:11f; Chapters 36, 37; Hosea 1:10-11; 2:14-23; 3:4-5; Joel 2:30-3:21; Amos 9:8-15; Obadiah 17-21; Micah 2:12-13; 4:1-6; 5:1-15; 7:15-20; Zephaniah 3:19-20; Zechariah 2:10-13; 8:1-13; 10:3-12.” (*)
The return of scattered Israel to the land begins from the places in which they find themselves. Presently, many people who formerly thought of themselves as Gentiles are feeling an irresistible draw towards the One God and the ancient Torah. Could these returning ones be the Lost Tribes of Israel? Could you be a literal descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
According to the prophets, though lost and scattered among the nations, Israel will begin the journey home. The search begins with a quest for the God of our fathers – a search that requires all of our heart and all of soul.
In this week’s class, Ross shares a vital message of turning mourning and sadness into joy. He begins by covering various events in history that led to associating the 9th of Av with fasting and mourning. This day has produced a history of horrors to the Jewish people, but the various fast days will one day become times of joy and gladness according to the prophet Zechariah. How will this transition take place? Ross shows that the answer is found in our focus. Whenever a fast day falls on the Sabbath, the mourning associated with the day is pushed out so that the Sabbath will always be a delight. Is there something to learn from this custom? Ross believes so and sets out to prove this point from Scripture. Can mourning truly ever be turned to joy?
This Sabbath is also, on the Hebrew calendar, the 9th of Av, but because the day falls on the Sabbath, the fast typically associated with the day is postponed to the next day. What is the significance of the day, and why all the mourning? What led the Jewish people to establish this day as a day for fasting?
The Ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av), according to Jewish tradition, is a “day upon which, in the words of the Talmud, ‘disasters recurred again and again to the Jewish people.'”
According to Jewish tradition:
- Both temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av.
- Betar, the defeat of the last stronghold of Bar Kochba took place on the 9th of Av.
- The Decree that the Children of Israel would not enter the land because of the 12 spies incident occurred on the 9th of Av.
- The plowing of Jerusalem in 136 CE happened on the 9th of Av.
- The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was issued on this fateful day!
The book of Lamentations is read during this time and aside from Yom Kippur, it is the only 24 hour fast observed by the Jewish people.
The Bible provides two dates for the destruction of the 1st Temple. In 1 Kings 25:8-9 it says that this took place on the 7th, while the prophet Jeremiah says that it happened on the 10th (Jeremiah 52:12). This is reconciled in the sources by stating that the final phases of the destruction began on the 7th and by the 10th it was completely ruined.
Jewish sources relate that the 1st Temple was ultimately destroyed because the people committed three major sins: murder, idolatry and immorality. The 2nd Temple, we are told, was destroyed because of the sin of Sinat Chinam (Hatred without cause).
Based upon the point that both Temples were destroyed, but for the different reasons listed above, the conclusion reached was that baseless hatred was equal to the three sins of murder, idolatry and immorality.
A fast was established in the fifth month to commemorate the fall of the Temple. The purpose of this fast (or any fast) is called into question by God in Zechariah (see Zech 7:1-7), and then later a prediction is given that these times of sorrow will be turned to joy and gladness (Zech 8:18ff).
If hatred without cause led to destruction and sorrow, then seemingly love without cause can lead to restoration, joy and gladness.
This year, for the reason listed above, the Fast of the Ninth of Av is commemorated on the 10th of Av, the precise time of the 1st Temple’s destruction according to the prophet Jeremiah (52:12ff). I for one will be remembering this day along with my Jewish friends, but I will also be looking for ways to demonstrate baseless love as a remedy for the ills of our modern world. Perhaps all those who love Zion will join in!
PHOTO: Excavated stones from the Wall of the 2nd Temple (Jerusalem), knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in on the 9th of Av, 70 C.E. This first century street is located at the base of the Temple Mount where the western and southern walls meet. The property may be accessed via the Davidson Archeological Center in Jerusalem.
The normal Torah readings for this week (Mattote – Masei / Numbers 30:2-36:13) conclude the Book of Numbers, but Ross takes an opportunity in this class to share experiences from his recent trip to Israel. After recounting the sins of the fathers from Psalm 106, and from passages in the Torah, Ross goes on to share his own positive report of the Promised Land. He recounts that, inspired by events from the Book of Numbers, he set out to take in the sights and sounds of the Old City of Jerusalem. Ross reports that prophecy is being fulfilled at this very moment according to the sure word of God, and this report reveals evidence that this is the case.