Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Water-Walk III: Leap of Faith

When we are looking for details of the story that don't appear on the surface, a good way to begin is to look for strange or unusual wording which can only be found in the Hebrew text (not in the English) of the passage.  Often Hebrew contains clues to hidden aspects of the story.  As it turns out, there are a couple of sentences in the Red Sea passage that don't seem strange in English, but they look downright odd in Hebrew.  First, before the Sea was split: "...the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold!  Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; and the children of Israel cried out to the L-RD."
  
So, what's unusual about this?  They see huge armies of chariots approaching, and they are terrified.  Wouldn't you be?  But there is just one problem.  The text doesn't say they saw the armies or the chariots... or the Egyptians.  The Hebrew text says that they saw "Egypt".  Was this simply a reference to the Egyptian army as a whole, as a unit?  No. 

The wording in Hebrew is singular, not plural, and Hebrew is very specific about these kinds of things.  The text literally says that the people saw some individual thing called "Egypt" coming after them.  Later on in the passage, when G-d is breaking the chariots of the Egyptians,  the Hebrew text clearly refers to an individual when it says, "Egypt said, 'I will flee from before Israel, for the L-RD is waging war for them... against Egypt.'”  Who is speaking here?  Had it been a collection of people, wouldn't they have said, "We will flee..." ?

The Jewish rabbis puzzled over this wording, knowing that since G-d referred to "Egypt" as an individual, there must be some individual representative, someone who was like the embodiment of Egypt.  Based upon other places in the Bible, the rabbis believe that each and every nation on earth has a spiritual representative, an angel (or demon) who stands for that nation and is known as its "prince". 
Thus, they reasoned, Israel "lifted up their eyes" and saw the spiritual being which is Egypt, the demonic "prince of Egypt" coming after them (no relation to the movie).  They were terrified (understandably), and felt that they could not hope to escape the clutches of this demonic being; but Moses told them not to fear even this creature, but to "stand fast and see the salvation of the L-RD".
Now before you roll your eyes and label this legend a 'fable', please remember that the idea of spiritual "princes" over different nations is first mentioned not in the Talmud, but in the Bible, in the book of Daniel.  In chapter 10, Daniel is speaking to an angelic being who has fought against the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" for twenty-one days, and was helped by Micha'el, another angel.
  
The angel says that once he goes back to fight against the "prince of Persia", the "prince of Greece" will arrive.  Later on, in chapter 12, Micha'el is mentioned again, with the words: "Michael... the great prince which stands for the children of [Israel]".  In other words, Micha'el is Israel's "prince".  Remember, all of this is from the Bible, not something made up by men.

At this point, perhaps the rabbinic interpretation doesn't seem quite so farfetched as it did before.  If you still find it too much to swallow, that's fine.  It is not a prerequisite that you believe this legend, only that you understand that the disciples of Jesus knew of it and would respond accordingly.

According to the rabbinic understanding, this demonic power was finally thrown into the Red Sea by G-d Himself as the Egyptian army was drowned.  The Bible clearly says that the Egyptian army was covered over by the sea: "The water came back and covered the chariots and the horsemen of the entire army of Pharaoh...", yet in the Song at the Sea, it clearly states that G-d "is exalted over the arrogant, having thrown the horse with its rider into the sea."
  
Again, the wording in Hebrew is decidedly singular.  Whether you believe that this tradition was meant to be taken literally or just as a parable, perhaps you can see a foreshadowing in the casting of this demonic "prince" into the sea, a foreshadowing of the final judgment on the Adversary and his demons when they are cast into the lake of fire.

In any case, it is important to realize that the disciples knew this legend very well, and in the hours, days and even years to come, they would have reflected on their own fears and understood in a unique way what it was like to be at the Red Sea with the unclean spirit of "Egypt" chasing after them. 

And they would well have remembered Y'shua's response to their own fears: "Courage!"  The disciples of Y'shua had read the Exodus account in Hebrew, but they also would have read it in Greek, in the Septuagint.  It translates Moses' words of comfort to the people: "Courage!  Stand firm and see the salvation of the L-RD..."

What about the term, "the salvation of the L-RD"?  Many people read the name "Jesus" (an altered form of the Greek 'Iesous') in their English Bibles, and do not realize that His disciples, His family, even His enemies would have used His Hebrew name, "Y'shua", which does have a literal meaning.  It means "G-d's Salvation" or "G-d Will Save".
 
In the Bible, Hebrew names had significance in their meaning.  They represented the personality of a person, or their lifelong goals, which is why some people had several names or changed their names after a momentous change in the focus of their lives.
 
But when translators of the Bible chose not to translate the names, choosing instead to "transliterate" the Hebrew words so that we could hear what they sounded like, it kept us from learning the meaning of the names, and therefore we lost some of the significance of that person's purpose.

This helps to explain the passage in Matthew before Y'shua is born, where the angel is speaking to Joseph, His foster-father.  The angel says, "You shall call His name Y'shua [G-d's Salvation], for He will save His people from their sins."  If we don't understand the meaning of the name, we miss the significance in the angel's proclamation.  But now, we can see that "you shall call His name 'G-d Will Save', for He will save His people from their sins."  It makes perfect sense now.

So, knowing what we do now about the meaning of Y'shua's name, let's summarize the walking on water passage.  The disciples see what they take to be an unclean spirit, and they are frightened.  They immediately received Y'shua's response, "Courage!  It is I."  In other words, "Courage! It is 'G-d's Salvation'."  Also, they would have remembered reading how Moses called out to the people, "Stand fast and see the 'Y'shua' of the L-rd".

What Was Peter Thinking?

After Y'shua reveals Himself to the disciples and calms their fears, we read that “Peter answered Him and said, 'Master, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' So He said, 'Come.' And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Y'shua.”

"But when he saw the mighty wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Master, save me!”

And immediately Y'shua stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O little-faith, why did you doubt?”

If you ask most people why Peter got out of the boat in the first place, they will give you answers like, "He was carried away by the emotion of the moment; he was an impulsive guy", or "He wanted to get in on the action; he was a very hands-on individual". In light of the symbolism we have been seeing in this entire episode, is there perhaps another explanation for Peter's behavior? Did he make a mistake, jumping into the middle of things and messing up a perfect foreshadowing Mosaic picture of the coming Messiah, or was his action the most symbolic piece of the entire puzzle?

A Leap of Faith 

To make sense of Peter's actions, we need to look once more at the traditions and legends of the rabbis. In the rabbinic retelling of the Red Sea story, there is a character who figures prominently in the crossing itself, and though the Bible does not mention him in this particular passage, he is a well-respected, somewhat famous individual in certain other passages of Scripture. His name is Nach'shon, son of Aminadav.

The Bible tells us that Nach'shon was the leader of the tribe of Judah, often called the "prince of the tribe of Judah".  No, this is not the same kind of prince that we were talking about earlier, but you need to know that he was held in very high regard and was one of the twelve leaders of the nation under Moses.

The tribe of Judah itself was considered the foremost of the tribes, because Jacob (also known as Israel), the father of all the tribes, had blessed Judah and given him the right of kingship. Judah was officially the royal tribe. Nach'shon was also King David's great-great-great-grandfather, which puts Nach'shon in the direct lineage of Y'shua. In fact, one of the traditional titles that the rabbis gave to the coming Messiah was the "Son of Nach'shon".

According to legend, Nach'shon first became famous at the shore of the Red Sea.  When G-d gave the order to walk into the sea, the waters had not yet parted and solidified (this can easily be verified by reading the Biblical account), and all of the people were afraid to venture forth.
 
But in the legend, Nach'shon, hearing the command of G-d, immediately ran forward and leaped into the sea.  He didn't care whether the water had yet parted.  G-d had commanded for them to go forth, and he was going forth.  However, as the sea was still in its natural state, he found it difficult to keep above water, and the rabbis quote Psalm 69 as a passage which could be applied to him at that moment: "Save me O G-d, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing... Let not the waterflood overwhelm me, neither let the deep swallow me up."
 
As Nach'shon cried out to G-d for help, Moses received the command from G-d to "stretch out his hand over the sea", so that Nach'shon would be rescued.  "Nach'shon's Leap" became a proverbial expression for bravery and faith, and of obedience to G-d's commands even at the risk of one's life.

Once again, whether you believe this really happened or think it's just an interesting parable, the important thing is that the disciples knew this tradition and believed it, and would see parallels to the events they were going through.

Let us look at this event again with new eyes.  It is conceivable that Peter sees Y'shua walking on the water, and the Red Sea crossing immediately comes to his mind.  He says, "if it is You, command me to come to You on the water".  In his mind, this statement is clear: if Y'shua is the "second Moses", then He should command us to journey forth onto the waves. 

Y'shua commands him to come, and he jumps down out of the boat and starts to walk, not realizing that he may be playing the part of Nach'shon, whose faith was exemplary but whose buoyancy was lacking... Nach'shon who sank before being rescued.  Peter sees the storm and becomes afraid, but holds on to his courage and presses on, and then... horror of horrors! he starts to sink.  We can only imagine what must have gone through his mind in that moment.  "Have I been abandoned?  Does G-d want me to drown? 

Why is He letting this happen to me? Was I wrong to request this?" etc. In his terror and despair, he cries out to Y'shua for help... and immediately, Y'shua "stretches out His hand" and saves him.  As the shock and panic wears off, Peter begins to realize the part he has just played, and his own words and actions fall into perspective as he realizes that his sinking was part of the plan all along. He hears Y'shua say to him, "Why did you doubt?" Peter shakes his head in chagrin, knowing that his faith had indeed faltered as he slipped beneath the waves.

As they climbed into the boat together, the wind ceased, another reminder of the Red Sea.  The disciples bowed down to Y'shua, in so doing, proclaiming their belief that He was the Messiah, the second Moses.  Remember that after the Red Sea crossing, the Bible recorded that "the people believed in Moses". Another parallel.

What time of year did all this happen? John 6:4 provides the answer: "And the Passover, a festival of the Jews, was at hand." Whenever one of G-d's holy festivals was drawing near, everyone studied portions of the Bible that dealt with that particular festival. Furthermore, it has been an established tradition for thousands of years that the passage of the Red Sea crossing is always read during the Passover season. It seems that the disciples were being given the opportunity to witness first hand the crossing of the sea, within a week or two of the Passover celebration and the anniversary of the nation's water-walk.

One Last Piece to the Puzzle: Teleportation

In John 6:21, we read, "Then they willingly received Him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land where they were going." This is an extremely odd event, unless again... we can find something in the disciples' understanding that would point to a Mosaic quality.

The rabbis, looking at the biblical quote where G-d says, "I bore you to me on wings of eagles", have a tradition that G-d supernaturally transported them in an instant out of Egypt, "rapturing" them in a split second away from the Egyptian city of Rameses to the area of Sukkot, where they would begin to journey on their feet, using natural means, before crossing the Red Sea.

The teleportation of the disciples would have been the icing on their cake, completing the comparison of Moses and Messiah in a most profound way.  It would be this and other similar "movie moment" incidents, long after His resurrection and ascension, that would have given them the courage to boldly proclaim Y'shua as the long awaited "Prophet like unto Moses", Messiah and final Redeemer, even to the point of giving up their own lives to do so.

A Challenge

We have looked at the first part of Deuteronomy 18:15 and we have seen that the Messiah will be like unto Moses; but what does the rest of the passage say? "And it will be that anyone who will not hearken to My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him." The voice from Heaven proclaims, "Hearken to Him!"

2 comments:

  1. Todah Rabah‼️❤️��

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  2. Once again you have me thinking. Iron sharpens iron. Thank you. http://www.cominguntrue.com/2015/12/nationhood-and-angelic-representation.html

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