Tag: Midrash


{Word Study} Take, Seize “Lakach”

I Samuel 4:3: “And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?  Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.”

Take, Seize – Hebrew: lakach – Take, fetch, to seize control or take possession of something that is not yours.
In the Hebrew the nation of Israel is asking: “Why did God defeat us? ” Israel was shocked that God had let them down.   I am surprised too, the only sin that is mentioned is with the house of Eli and his corrupt sons running the worship services.  Is God punishing the whole nation because of the sins of the religious leadership? Their sin was not in their acts but their hearts. Perhaps the next move by Israel is a clue as to the heart of the nation which shows they were no better than their leadership.

The elders said: “Let us take the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us.”  The word for “take” or “fetch” is “lakach” which is taking possession or control of something that is not rightfully yours.   They then added the word: “elinu” which is rendered “unto us.”  Using this form suggest a play on words for “our god.”    In other words they were saying they would seize control of the ark of the covenant to be a god for them.  Then they said “that it might save us.”  Some translations will say that “he might save us.”  Indeed there is no neuter pronoun in Hebrew, but the syntax does suggest that the elders are saying “it” the ark of the covenant and not “He” or God will save us.

Think about it. The most sacred object in the land, the object where the very presence of God rested became an idol, a god.  They knew enough to know that the ark could only be carried by a priest and they either bribed or forced the sons of Eli to carry the ark into battle.  However, they did not know enough to know that it really didn’t matter for apparently the presence of God was not going to manifest itself at this time on the ark. The midrash suggests that the nation of Israel was to consult the ark.  Apparently, they did not need to carry the ark into battle, only consult with God as to what to do in battle.  In other words, the elders had the right idea, but the wrong approach.

In my own life when I enter into battle and get defeated and crawl back licking my wounds, I begin to ask: “God, why did you let me down?”   Then just like Israel I go and seize the Ark.   I start to carry my Bible around, I make sure I read it every day, I play only religious music and spiritual songs.  I begin praising and worshipping because I have heard that brings the power and presence of God.  I listen to testimonies of others who were victorious and try to follow their steps to victory.  I am then ready to go back into battled.  I now have the Ark with me and I  am certain that “it” will save me, yet I end up suffering even a worst defeat.  So what went wrong?  All my good religious practices were “elinu” for me, or a god to me.   They were used to bribe God but not to consult God.

Sometimes the enemy can use even the most sacred thing in our lives to deflect us away from the heart of God. That little cross we carry in our pocket or around our necks become objects or good luck charms to ward off evil things rather than serving as a simple reminder of the one we love.

Devotional Psalms 118:10

Good Morning Yamon Ki Yesepar and Nevim Arith Hayomim:

Psalms 118:10: “All nations compassed me about, but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.”

The letter “Beth” can be used as a preposition for “in,” “on” or “with.”   No English translation I know will render the Beth in this passage as “with.”  However, the Jewish sages do that very thing.  David could very have said: “With” the name of the Lord I will destroy them.  We, of course, will not render it this way because David is literally saying that by speaking the name of the Lord he will destroy the nations that compassed him.

Such a rendering sounds just too mystical.  Yet, a recent study showed that the biggest complaint people have about the church in America is that it is not spiritual enough.  People want to connect with their creator is some, shall I say, mystical way.  They want to feel His presence, they want to experience His power, they want a mystical experience.

Ok, here is a mystical experience.  I Samuel 17 tells us the story of David defeating Goliath.  We all know the story, he went to the brook, chose five smooth stones and used one of them to kill Goliath with his sling shot and then chopped off his head.  My study partner and I took a very close look at this story and we found that the words used in I Samuel 17:49 could tell a very different story, but that is too mystical.

I Samuel 17:49 is rendered in our KJV as: “And David put his hand in his bag and took a thence a stone and slang (it), and smote the Philistine in his forehead that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.”  I have a few problems with the syntax of this translation but it is an accepted translation. However, right from the Hebrew we could render this as: “And from the Name, David made words with power and clapped his hands and sent the words to the mockery of the Philistine, slandering it.  And he sent out the strength (of the words) upon him and the power penetrated his mockery and he fell to earth.”

In other words David did not kill Goliath with the stone in the forehead.  The passage could be telling us that David clapped his hands and spoke the name of God sending out a power which overcame Goliath such that he fell under this power and while under this power, David chopped of Goliath’s head and killed him.  He killed by chopping off his head not by a stone in the forehead.

The Jewish midrash tells us that: “Knowing God’s name implies knowing how to actually make use of it.”

Devotional Psalms 40:1

Good Evening Yamon Ki Yesepar and Nevim Arith Hayomim:

Psalms 40:1 “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me and heard my cry.”

Matthew 19:23-24: “Then Jesus said unto his disciples, verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter heaven,  Again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

George, the 84 year old former Greek teacher that I meet with once a week, and I were relaxing doing what we enjoy doing most, making fun of modern English translations of the Bible.  George shared one of his biggest complaints.  He could not understand why any modern translator did not accept a later manuscript rendering of the Greek word for camel as “kamelos” (rope)  rather than “kamilos” camel.  This would make more sense in Matthew 19:23-24 that is easier to put a rope through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to go to heaven. I explained that translators always go with the earliest manuscripts as they are considered more accurate and the earliest manuscripts us “kamilos” (camel).  George just sighed and said: “One day they are going to dust off some manuscript in the basement of the Vatican which is earlier than our eariliest manuscripts and it will use the word “kamelos” (rope).

I thought about this as a possible answer to an old question I had.  I always, and still do, believe that Jesus was quoting form Oral Tradition (now the Talmud)  which speaks of dreams revealing one’s heart by saying: “They do not show a palm tree of gold nor an elephant going through the eye of needle.   Again the Midrash in a discussion of the Song of Solomon, describes the lengths and willingness that God would go to open the door of salvation by saying: “Open for me a door as big as a needles eye and I will open for you a door through which may enter tents and camels.”

The idea of a large animal passing through a needle’s eye was a common expression of rabbis to illustrate something that is very difficult if not impossible.  I might add that needles in those days could have very large eyes that could accommodate a thin rope, like packaging rope or thicker.   Rope, like today, was made by combining thin strands of fabricate  and tightly binding them together.  The tighter the bind, the stronger the rope was and the thinner the rope was.

Could it be that Jesus, being the good rabbi that he was, was making a play on the word camel.  He would have been alluding to an old and familiar illustration while at the same time playing the word “kamilos” (camel) but also leading his disciples to hear “kamelos” and think of a rope.  Yes, if a rope were bound tight enough it could pass through a needle’s eye.

In other words, for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, he must bind himself  very tightly with God.  That is not so difficult when you are poor and depending on Him for your daily bread, but when all your needs are meet and your storehouses are full, you have a tendency not to bind yourself to closely to God.

I remember hearing stories of some old line Pentecostal groups that had what they called tarrying services.  They would stay up all night waiting for the Lord to make a visitation. After all that is what is instructed in Scripture in verses like Psalms 40:1 and Isaiah 40:31 which talks about waiting for, or more correctly upon the Lord.  I tend to think it is more God waiting for us that we waiting for Him.  During these tarrying services the faithful would spend hours praying to God, confessing sins, just really getting down and heavy with God.

You see the word “wait”  is the Hebrew word, “kavah,” which is more than just sitting back waiting like you are waiting for a bus or train.  This word is the same word use for making rope.  In Psalms 40:1 David is saying he is  “waiting patiently.”  Actually, the word kavah is repeated two times which is why the translator  added the adverb patiently.  The word patiently is implied, it is not in the Hebrew. In this case the repetition of the word “kavah” was to indicate a very tight binding.   David is saying that when he completely bound himself to God, then God inclined unto him.  The root word “inclined in Hebrew is “natah.”  This has the idea of stretching out, or reaching out to embrace.  That is when God heard the cry of David.  The word “cry” here is “shava’” which is a calling out for help.  Note, even before God hears the cry of help from David, God is already reaching out to embrace him. Well, let’s get this progression right.  Before David found himself in trouble where he had to call on God for help, God was already reaching out to him and as He was reaching out David began to cry out for help.

There is a story in the Talmud of a rabbi who crossed a street and heard a small child silently sob for his mother who had left him to go to the market.  The rabbi knew the mother had left some time ago, for had the mother just left and was in the child’s sight, the child would wail loudly for his mother, but now that she was out of sight, the child only sobbed to himself.   So, to are we with God.  David’s cry was not a silent cry, for he knew his heavenly Father was reaching out to him and longing for the nearness of God so he wailed to him He longed for the protective, secure embrace of His Heavenly Father as a child longs for the secure protective embrace of his mother.

There is an old song, written by Gary Paxton who wrote such novelty songs as Alley Oop and co-wrote the Monster Mash with Bobby Pickett. After many years of successful song writing Gary Paxton found Jesus and began to write more serious music, such as:

Time after time I was searching for peace in some void,

I was trying to blame all my ills on this world I was in

Surface relationships used me till I was done in

But all the while someone was begging to free me from sin.

He was there all the time

He was there all the time

Waiting patiently in line,

He was there all the time.

I think maybe this is what David was talking about here in “waiting patiently” for God.  It was really that God was there “waiting patiently “ for David, as David was slowly through prayer, confession, praise, worship binding himself to God.  You see the word “wait” is spelled with a qof which represents sanctification, sacrifice, receiving.  This is followed with a vav which represents transformation through unification.  The vav is then followed by an ayin which represents spirituality.  God is patiently waiting for us to sacrifice our lives to Him so we may be unified with Him and be spiritually transformed.   The time of tarrying is not waiting for God to come, it is God waiting for us to lay aside all the hindrances, all the foreign thoughts and fleshly desires so that we become one is spirit with Him.  Note that the qof  is the number 100 which represents God’s patience,  vav, is six the number of man and the ayin is 70 the number of restoration.  Waiting  or kava’ is God patiently waiting for man to be restored to Him.

He was there all the time, just waiting patiently in line.