Hebrew WOW: שְׁאוֹל

Hebrew WOW: שְׁאוֹל

A Jewish Perspective on Sheol

Did Jews in the time of Yeshua believe in hell?

Do you? 

Ancient thought about sheol (hell) was quite different from Western (Christian) thought, yet Yeshua was a Jew. What did He think?

שְׁאוֹל

(Sheol)

sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit

the underworld

Sheol-the OT designation for the abode of the dead

place of no return

without praise of God

wicked sent there for punishment

righteous not abandoned to it

of the place of exile (fig)

of extreme degradation in sin

The word sheol, or שְׁאוֹל, in ancient thought meant the world where bad people, or all people, or maybe only some people went after they died. There were so many different thoughts on what happened when you died that you could write a whole book on that subject alone. It has been described as a deep, dark region, as a pit, and as “the Land of Forgetfulness.” Human beings after death, they thought, went to a netherworld called Sheol, cut off from God and man, but still “alive” in some shadowy existence. However, there is no judgment, whether reward or punishment there.

Pessimism was the rule of the day when it came to life after death. Most Jews were “here-and-now” focused and all people came to the same end.

After the destruction of the First Temple, however, the prophets began to speak with more hope about the future.

When the Second Temple was destroyed in 70AD, a theological crisis occurred. It was one thing to claim as the rabbis did—when the Lord’s sanctuary was destroyed and His people were scattered—mip’nei hataeinu, “because of our sins” but it was very difficult to give reasons that good, pious, individual  Jews should suffer also.

Rabbi Ya’akov said: This world is compared to an ante-chamber that leads to Olam HaBa, (the World-to-Come).” In fact, some rabbis taught that the righteous suffered in this world so that their reward in the next world would be that much greater.

So what did Yeshua teach about sheol?

In the Sermon on the Mount where Yeshua’s message was about love, He emphasized that those who were not more righteous than the Pharisees would never enter heaven (Matthew 5:20). He warned that unrepentant sinners would face the fires of sheol. At the end of His Sermon, the kingdom of God and the horrors of sheol are contrasted. Sheol is described as a place of destruction, where the broad road leads. Even professing to know the Messiah, if one continues in sin, won’t save you from sheol. Everyone who does not find the 

“narrow way” will end up in sheol. He compares the lives of the wicked to those who build their houses upon sand.

So, in essence, we know three things about sheol from the teaching of the first century Jews and from the Messiah Himself:

1. Sheol is the place for deserved punishment, comprises real suffering, and is eternal.

2. Sheol is the place of destruction, likened to death, second death, ruin, and loss.

3. Sheol is the place of banishment, where unbelievers actually realize what they are missing—their purpose in life and in life eternal: to love and glorify God.

 

Sabbath Rest (מְנוּחָה לַשַּׁבָּת)

Sabbath Rest (מְנוּחָה לַשַּׁבָּת)

m'nuchah lashabbat

’Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” — Exodus 20:8-11

When God created all that exists, He did it in six days. Yet He didn’t finish until the end of the seventh day. Why was that? Because God wanted man to remember all that He had done and to rest on the seventh day. Imagine. God made man on the sixth day and the first thing He had him do was rest!

There are numerous reasons for the keeping the Sabbath holy (set apart and sanctified to God) and we benefit from every one of them. But to me, the most important one is because it is holy; God made it so.

The time we spend resting on the Sabbath rejuvenates us for the rest of the week. It’s similar to the tithe. God can do more with 90% of your income when you give the first 10% to Him first than you can do with 100% of your money. The Sabbath is time taken out of our 168 hours—24 hours set aside to receive a gift of time. The tithe given in joy to God reaps rewards, and the Sabbath kept with joy reaps rewards, too.

The Sabbath is meant to be a gift. It is not something that should make us chafe, impatiently waiting so that we can get back to what we’re about.

And speaking of that, there is a difference between work that is not allowed on the weekly Sabbath and work that is not allowed on the other Sabbaths and feasts days of the Lord. On the weekly Sabbath, we are to do no labor. That word in Hebrew is melakha (מְלָאכָה), which refers to all forms of human activity that is work.

The work not allowed on the feast days and other Sabbaths is called avodah (עֲבֹדָה), which means any work that is part of your normal labor. My pastor, who is Jewish, likes to mow his lawn on the Sabbath. It is relaxing to him, and he doesn’t do it during the other six days of the week.

Did you realize that most people who say they keep the Ten Commandments rarely remember the Sabbath? For some reason, modern man has simply cut the fourth commandment out. But really, a precious few also keep the first three commandments, either. If you’re not keeping the Sabbath, have you made an idol out of your work? Are you looking to “make a name for yourself” (a graven image)? Are you by not keeping the Sabbath yet calling yourself by His name taking the Lord’s name “in vain”? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think and why.

Korban: A Sacrificial Present

Korban: A Sacrificial Present

What does the Hebrew word korban mean?

Our Hebrew word for today is קֹרְבָּן (korban), which occurs in the Bible with the following translations: offering (68x), oblation (12x), offered (1x), sacrifice (1x).

The korban was presented as a remedy for the guilt of sin. But sin itself has many different translations. It occurs 448 times in 389 verses in the KJV. Translated as trespass, it occurs 82 times in 73 verses. Transgression occurs 51 times in 50 verses, iniquity occurs 278 times in 262 verses.

Then there are offerings, קָרְבָּן. Although translated as a sacrificial present, there was an elaborate system of offerings to deal with sin in the Hebrew scriptures, but just one in the New Testament. That one, of course, was the ultimate sacrificial offering made by God Himself, in the person of Yeshua ben haElohim (Jesus the Son of God).

Let’s look first at the differences among the translations for sin.

The result of continuous, unrepentant sin is a reprobate mind. Here is how reprobate is defined:

noun

depraved, unprincipled, or wicked person:drunken reprobate.
person rejected by God and beyond hope of salvation.

adjective

morally depraved; unprincipled; bad.
rejected by God and beyond hope of salvation.

verb (used with object), rep·ro·bat·ed, rep·ro·bat·ing.

to disapprove, condemn, or censure.
(of God) to reject (a person), as for sin; exclude from the number of the elect or from salvation.

Romans 1:21

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Now let’s look at the different kinds of offerings.

Colossians 1:19– 20

In Him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All (Hebrews 10:1-10)

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

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Shining the Light on Slavery in the Hebrew Scriptures

Shining the Light on Slavery in the Hebrew Scriptures

“And if the slave shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.”

Exodus 21:5-6

Exodus 21:5-6

What does it mean to be a slave? According to the Vocabulary.com dictionary, slavery is defined thusly: Slavery is the brutal practice of forcing someone to work hard without paying them a fair wage, sometimes without paying them at all. That is a perfectly adequate definition for modern America, but it is far from the reality of slavery in ancient Israel. In fact, the rules and commandments about slaves goes all the way back to Moses, before the people ever crossed into the Promised Land.

As you can see from the definition of avad (above), it actually means doing work that another desires you to do. Moses had just delivered the people from slavery in Egypt; wouldn’t you think they wouldn’t want to subject others to what they just came from? Well, that’s why Moses told them about how they should treat slaves.

The system of slavery in ancient Israel is nothing like the definition from Vocabulary.com. In fact, the word avad was used for both servants and slaves. The difference between the two involved why they were working for their masters. People generally became household slaves because they owed money they could not pay. A thief might become a slave if he could not make restitution. A family who was very poor might sell their young daughter as a slave, but that was the purview of the father alone. The mother had no say in the matter.

In order for a Hebrew to become a slave for debt, a court would have to make an order. The only other way for this to happen was for the slave to voluntarily become a slave. And even then, the period of his slavery could not exceed 6 years.

Reading Hebrew
Photo courtesy of Lavi Perchik on Unsplash

Slaves were members of the master’s household. They were fed, clothed, often given education, and had all their needs met. The Sabbath applied to them, too, so one day a week they were not required to work. They were circumcised and took part in God’s appointed festivals. If there was no heir (and sometimes if there were), a slave could inherit his master’s estate.

While they were living in the master’s household, the master only had limited rights over them. If the master mistreated them, they could be set free by the courts. And all slaves, no matter the reason for their slavery, were set free in the year of Jubilee. Anything that originally had belonged to the slave was returned to him at that point, including landholdings of his family.

If the master ignored the law and mistreated his slave and the slave ran away, others were to give him refuge, not return him to the wicked master.

After a slave was set free, he was not sent away empty-handed but was given gifts like a son leaving home.

“And when thou lettest him go free from thee, thou shalt not let him go empty; thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy threshing floor, and out of thy winepress; of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.”

Deut. 15:13–14

When a female was sold into slavery, the son of the master had to marry her. If he refused, she was set free. However, female slaves were only sold into slavery up to the age of 12, and only in the case of abject poverty. As soon as her father could afford to, she must be redeemed.

What about slaves who were not Hebrew? Alien slaves were rarely personal property. They became slaves through war and as such belonged to the king and not an individual. They were in servitude in perpetuity. “Ye may make them an inheritance for your children after you, to hold for a possession, of them ye may take your bondmen forever” (Lev. 25:46)

Today, slaves are sold, whether male or female, and with indifference to age. They are forced to work for others and are often sold to other owners. The things considered “work” that they must do are often horrific. They are starved, beaten, raped, and made to work for long hours without pay and certainly never allowed a “Sabbath.” But one thing is true: human trafficking and slavery today is nothing like slavery in ancient Israel.

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Hebrew WOW!   ישועה

Hebrew WOW! ישועה

Word of the Week

yeshua

Hebrew

To Christians, salvation comes through Jesus. In Hebrew, the name of Jesus is Yeshua. So is the word salvation.  It looks like this:

ישועה

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means `ADONAI saves,’] because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (Complete Jewish Bible)

Jews do not view salvation the way a Christian does.

To be a Jew is not necessarily to embrace Judaism so much as it is to identify with Jewish culture. Many current-day Jews don’t even believe that God exists. Those who do often do not believe in an afterlife.

In speaking of Japanese resistance to the gospel message, Peter Lundell introduces the concept of “Nihonkyo.” The concept actually speaks to one’s ultimate loyalty. That loyalty is not to a particular belief or even to a nation, “but rather to one’s identity and obligations as a Japanese person.” Similarly, there is an expectation of loyalty on the part of individual Jews despite their religious convictions. Part of that loyalty is defined as not believing in Jesus. — David Brickner | Nov 20, 1997 referring to Lundell, Peter. “Behind Japan’s Resistant Web: Understanding the Problem of Nihonkyo” Missiology: An International Review 23:4 (October 1995), p. 409. 

Salvation for a Christian rests on the knowledge of original sin, acceptance that we are born with the sin nature, and that salvation is an individual experience that converts our souls. There is no individual salvation necessary to a Jewish way of thinking because they do not believe in original sin.

“O my God, the soul Thou gavest me is pure; Thou didst create it, Thou didst form it, Thou didst breathe it into me. Thou preservest it within me, and Thou wilt take it from me, but wilt restore unto me hereafter.” — Jewish Siddur (prayer book)

In cartoons when you see the devil sitting on one shoulder and an angel on the other, you may think that it is a Christian doctrine, but you would be wrong. However, it’s a pretty good representation of how Jewish people think of sin. Believing that each person is born neutral with an inclination toward good and an inclination toward bad, Jews believe that there is nothing to stop us from choosing good.  Their rabbis teach that we have both a yetzer ha tov (good inclination) and a yetzer ha ra (bad inclination). Most will admit to making mistakes and poor choices, but they do not see themselves as sinners.

Therefore, why would they need a Savior?

Salvation, they believe, is not an individual thing but a corporate one. Salvation nearly equals survival in the eyes of the Jew. They see themselves as tikkun olam (correcting the world), in partnership with God to bring about a better earth.

Since the destruction of the second Temple, Judaism has changed out of necessity. With no place to offer sacrifices for sin, the modern Jew uses good deeds and repentance as a substitute. They do not believe they are separated from God and don’t need a Savior to reconcile them to Him.

A common misunderstanding among Jews today is that they think Christians believe that a man became God and not vice versa.

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” John 4:22

Sharing the Gospel with our Jewish friends may help them see that salvation comes from a very Jewish God Who desires closeness and fellowship with His children: hayeshua bemashiah Yeshua. Salvation in the Messiah, Yeshua.

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Hebrew WOW!  זכור!

Hebrew WOW! זכור!

Word of the Week

Zachor!

Hebrew

This verb occurs 252 times in the Bible.

זָכַר

1 Corinthians 11:24-25: “and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (NV)

So if we’re learning a Hebrew word, why are we starting in the New Testament?

Zachar is the Hebrew verb “remember.” It is used as a command (zachor!)ˆ 148 times in the Old Testament, but it was something so important that Jesus used it as one of the last things He would tell His disciples before He died.

“Do this in remembrance of Me” has a couple of alternative renderings that may help us understand more clearly. It can be rendered more literally, “Do this for the remembering of Me,” or “Do this in case you forget.” — John W. Ritenbaugh

Genesis 9:15 gives us an account of God using the verb “remember” for the first time in the Bible.

“and I will [compassionately] remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again will the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. (Genesis 9:15 AMP).”

In Genesis, God tells us that He will remember. In 1 Corinthians, Yeshua is telling us to remember.

Why is this verb so important? Because it is a promise from God that He will remember the covenant He made, and because He wants us to always keep in mind the sacrifice Yeshua made on our behalf, paying with His life for we who were so utterly defiled.

We generally have no problem remembering Yeshua’s personality. We know all the Bible stories. But there is so much more than just the charismatic, itinerant rabbi who did miracles and died on a cross. Yesua was indestructibly connected to the Old Testament through Passover. We are admonished to remember His life that exemplified the way, the horrendous death on the cross for the remission of sins, and that it was He  Who said in Genesis: I will remember.

Remembering the sacrifice of the One Who made covenant with Abraham and went on to die for His children is the foundation for every loving relationship with our Creator and His family. Because He did all of this for us, our lives are not spent in vain. We have this hope, that He Who promised is able to bring to completion all the terms of His covenant in His blood, not to mention all the Old Testament covenants that remain in effect today.

Zachor! Remembering motivates us to recognize that the first sin was one of not remembering Who God is. The “Lord’s Supper” in the New Testament reminds us of one thing: His unfathomable love.

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