In this week’s class, Ross covers the subject of the Priestly Blessing. These fifteen Hebrew words, recorded in the fourth book of the Torah, in Torah reading Naso contain much that we should know. Ross begins the study with a passage from II Chronicles, which conveys that Israel has been without the True God, a teaching priest and Torah for far too long. The teaching seeks to show that Joseph is currently experiencing the hiding of the face. The priestly blessing speaks of the shining of the face. By carefully studying the subject of blessing in general and the words contained in the priestly blessing specifically, Ross points out that the word for blessing in Hebrew is associated with the word for “knee.” Could it be that divine blessing and perhaps even the restoration of Joseph is connected to prayer? You will not want to miss this class.
Click here to listen to this class.
Tune in today at 10am EST/9am CST for a live Shavuot/Pentecost service at the historic Temple Sinai in St Franciscille, LA. at Roots of Faith.
Today is the festival of Shavuot on the Jewish calendar, literally it means the festival of “weeks” or “sevens,” which refers to the seven weeks between Passover and what was originally a harvest celebration on the 50th day–also called the “feast of firstfruits” (Exodus 34:22). Christians know it as the feast of Pentecost–which literally means “fiftieth,” and Christians around the world celebrate this coming Sunday, 50 days after Easter, as Pentecost Sunday.
Shavuot has a long and controversial history. It is probably the least known day of the Jewish calendar to non-Jews, who are culturally familiar with Passover, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah, and even many Jews, other than those who regularly attend synagogue, will pay it little mind.
The controversy has to do with determining the proper date for Shavuot as well as the interpretation of its significance or meaning, which has shifted and evolved through the ages.
The texts in the Hebrew Bible about Shavuot are few and somewhat obscure, giving rise to some of the controversy. Unlike the other Jewish festivals that fell on a fixed date of the Jewish lunar month (e.g., Passover=Nisan 15, Rosh HaShanah=Tishri 1), there is no date specified for Shavuot or the “feast of weeks.” It had to be literally counted–falling seven weeks plus one day following the offering of the “sheaf of the firstfruits” (called the Omer) which represented the beginning of the grain harvest and was cut from the fields and symbolically “waved before YHVH” for acceptance during Passover week. Thus we read:
You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to YHVH (Leviticus 23:15-16).
If the term “Sabbath” was taken here to mean the normal weekly Sabbath, which fell on Saturday, then clearly Shavuot would always fall on a Sunday. It would be counted from the Sunday that fell during Passover week, fifty days, taking one to the “day after the Sabbath,” i.e., Sunday, seven weeks later. However, since Passover was also understood as a “Sabbath” or rest day, some understood the offering of the “sheaf of the firstfruits” to always be the day after Passover, or Nisan 16th of the lunar month, so that Shavuot would come 50 days thereafter, and could fall on any day of the week. Ironically, though, with this method a “count” is really not necessary since 50 days after Nisan 16th is always Sivan 6th–that is the 6th day of the 3rd lunar month–so Shavuot ends up having a “date” like all the other Jewish holy days.
In the late 2nd Temple period (1st century BCE through 70CE) this “counting of the omer” as it was called, was hotly contested–especially between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees argued for the Sunday Shavuot, whereas the Pharisees pinned the 50 day count to the day after Passover–regardless of the day of the week. Most Jews today follow the practice of the Pharisees, which was the majority decision of the rabbis of the Mishnah in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. The Karaites are the only major group of Judaism, and they are a tiny minority, that still adheres to the Sadducean practice of a Sunday Shavuot. In that sense one might say that Christians, in calculating Pentecost, are closer to the Sadducees, since they adhere to the “always on a Sunday” practice as well. They are joined in this Sunday-Shavuot practice by countless Jewish-oriented Messianic groups, as well as various Sabbatarian Christian, and other Hebraic-oriented groups that are committed to a more literal reading of the biblical texts.
Even more obscure than the “counting” of Shavuot or Pentecost is the question of its meaning or significance. Passover is clearly tied to the Exodus from Egypt, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur to the ancient day of atonement for sins, and Sukkoth or Tabernacles to the 40 years of Israel’s desert wanderings. So what does Shavuot either commemorate or celebrate?
We know it was one of the three pilgrim festivals at which all males were commanded to go to the “place where God would choose,” which was understood as Jerusalem during the time of the 1st and 2nd Temples:
Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed (Deuteronomy 16:16).
But beyond that we are only told that it had something to do celebrating the beginning of the wheat or barley harvest:
You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end (Exodus 34:22).
Just as the festival of Sukkoth or “Tabernacles,” here called the “Feast of Ingathering” fell in the early Fall, to celebrate the end of the harvest, the “Feast of Weeks” appears to represent the beginning or inauguration of that harvest.
These kinds of celebrations, tied to the land and its agricultural seasons made sense in their original contexts but for Jews outside the Land of Israel, and subsequently throughout the history of Diaspora Judaism worldwide, not to mention the millions of Christians who also celebrate Pentecost–the original agricultural context of honoring God with the “firstfruits” of the wheat or barley harvest could have little direct application.
What the Jews and the Christians did in the face of this dilemma is quite fascinating. The rabbis noticed that in Exodus 19:1 the Israelites in the time of Moses arrived at Mt Sinai at the third new moon of the lunar year, having left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan–the 1st lunar month (Exodus 12:1). They realized this would work out to approximately seven weeks after Passover, especially since Moses is told that YHVH would descend upon Mt Sinai “on the third day” to deliver the “Ten Words” (literal translation), putting one into the first week of Sivan–the 3rd month of the year. That was close enough to make the claim that the “giving of the Torah” which came during that first week of the 3rd month, was surely on Shavuot–which they were convinced fell on Sivan 6th. This gave rise to the common notion today, so widespread in Judaism, that the celebration of Shavuot has to do with remembering the “giving of the Torah” at Mt Sinai:
“Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jews. The Talmud tells us that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews on the sixth night of the Hebrew month of Sivan. Shavuot always falls 50 days after the second night of Passover. The 49 days in between are known as the Omer.” About.com: Judaism
Christians took another route entirely. They picked up on the biblical notion of the firstfruits of the harvest and offered an allegorical interpretation, alluded to by Paul who makes “Christ” both the sacrificial Passover lamb and the “firstfuit” offering–as the one first raised from the dead–representing the greater “harvest” to come when he returns in the clouds of heaven and those who “belong to Christ” will be gathered like ripe fields of grain (1 Corinthians 5:7; 15:23-24). There are similar “harvest” motives in the gospels. God is like a master farmer who “when the grain is ripe, puts in the sickle because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:29). Jesus tells his disciples in the Sayings Source that scholars call Q: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). In the gospel of John, with a direct reference to the agricultural cycles, Jesus says to his disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). When I was growing up in an conservative Christian church there were countless old “Gospel hymns” that we sung from “Bringing in the Sheaves” to “Lord of Harvest,” all tied to this evangelism theme.
According to the account in the book of Acts, fifty days following the resurrection of Jesus, which fell on Sunday morning after Passover, takes one to Pentecost or Shavuot–and on that day the followers of Jesus were gathered in Jerusalem and the “great harvest” began with the Holy Spirit being “poured out,” the miracles of “speaking in tongues,” and over 3000 people being baptized as a result of Peter’s preaching that day (Acts 2). So for Christians, Pentecost came to mean the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (thus our term Pentecostal) and the inauguration of the New Covenant of Christ, whereas for Jews it represented the inauguration of the Sinai Covenant.
This mixing of allegory, historical imagination, and theological dogma, superimposed upon what was originally an festival of thanksgiving tied to the agricultural harvest that begin in the late Spring of the year is a great illustration of the creativity of religious traditions. Religious ritual and faith tends to fill any vacuum and in this case the simple words of the Torah: “You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” proved not to be enough for people far removed from an agricultural setting. In our modern age when our food industries have made the seasons and their cycles largely irrelevant, perhaps it bears remembering this day that a simple prayer of thanks “for daily bread” might be the most appropriate Shavuot/Pentecost observance–with perhaps a glass of good red wine thrown in as well (Psalm 104:15).
Even though the Israeli celebration of Independence Day, based on the Hebrew calendar (Iyyar 5) was celebrated this year on April 15th, there is something profound about May 14 on the Gregorian Calendar that really acts as a marker of great events of the last century.
Just to think, on this very date, in 1948 these great and momentous things happened. One very interesting fact is that if you follow an “observed” Jewish calendar for 1948 and don’t add the 13th month that year, it moves everything one month back–that is “Adar II becomes Nisan, Nisan becomes Iyyar, and Iyyar becomes SIVAN–which makes the establishment of the State of Israel fall on Sivan the 5th, the evening of Shavuot or Pentecost. That would mean the establishment of the State of Israel in some way echoes the Standing At Sinai in the days of Moses, and the giving of the Torah, also celebrated in Jewish tradition as falling at Sivan 5/6th. It is certainly uncanny that both the former and latter “national” founding of Israel would correspond to this festival of “Weeks.”
One can not help but think of Isaiah’s ancient query:
Is. 66:8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
There is a nice set of articles on the Aish HaTorah Web site dealing with the history of Israel and Zionism more generally:
In this day and time when “Zionism” is used by so many as some kind of ugly word, it is refreshing to capture some of the Spirit that the true “returnees to Zion” really had 60 years ago. The founder of United Israel World Union, David Horowitz, was one of those “pioneers,” who moved to what was then called “old Palestine,” in July, 1924. You can read more about his experiences and life with photos of those times in a previous Blog post here: Remembering David Horowitz.
An very nicely done illustrated “Timeline” can be found here:
For those a bit “rusty” on the history, here is a crash course Crash_Course_in_Jewish_History:
Crash Course in Jewish History Part 65 – The State of Israel
by Rabbi Ken Spiro
After the British brutally turned away Holocaust survivors from Israel, the UN voted to partition the land.
The British broke promise after promise to the Jews while they created new Arab countries out of the land of the former Ottoman Empire. In addition, because of Arab revolts and pressure, the British even barred entry to the land of Israel to Jews fleeing the Holocaust. (See Part 64.)
Even when the full scope of the Holocaust was known, and thousands of Holocaust survivors were stranded in refugee camps (DP camps), the British refused to relent.
One of the most egregious of the British actions involved the refugee ship, Exodus, which the Royal Navy intercepted in 1947 in the Mediterranean Sea with 4,500 Jews aboard. The ship was brought into Haifa port under British escort; there the Holocaust survivors were forcibly transferred to another ship and returned back to Germany via France.
Abba Eban, who was then the Jewish liason to a special UN committee — called Special Commmitte On Palestine or UNSCOP — persuaded four UN representatives to go to Haifa to witness the brutality of the British against the Jews.
Historian Martin Gilbert includes Eban’s account of what happened there in Israel: A History (p. 145):
“[In Haifa] the four members watched a ‘gruesome operation.’ The Jewish refugees had decided ‘not to accept banishment with docility. If anyone had wanted to know what Churchill meant by a “squalid war,” he would have found out by watching British soldier using rifle butts, hose pipes and tear gas against the survivors of the death camps. Men, women and children were forcibly taken off to prison ships, locked in cages below decks and set out of Palestine waters.’
“When the four members of UNSCOP came back to Jerusalem, Eban recalled, ‘they were pale with shock. I could see that they were pre-occupied with one point alone: if this was the only way that the British Mandate could continue, it would be better not to continue it at all.’”
UN PARTITION OF PALESTINE
The British also wanted out of the problem. They had 100,000 soldiers/police trying to maintain control with a total population of about 600,000 Jews and 1.2 million Arabs. (Interestingly, they had the same size force controlling India with a population of over 350 million!)
And so it came to pass that the British turned the matter over to the UN which decided to end the British Mandate over what was left of “Palestine” (after the creation of the country of Jordan) and to divide the remaining land among the Arabs and Jews. The proposal called for the Jews to get:
a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast, including Tel Aviv and Haifa
a piece of land surrounding the Kineret (Sea of Galilee), including the Golan Heights
a large piece in the south, which was the uninhabitable Negev Desert
The Arabs were to get:
the Gaza Strip
a chunk of the north, including the city of Tzfat (Safed) and western Galilee
the entire West Bank of the River Jordan and the hills of Judea and Samaria
Jerusalem was to be under international control.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted for this partition plan. Of those voting, 33 nations voted yes, including USA and USSR; 13 mostly-Arab nations voted no; 11 nations abstained.
Hard-hearted to the end, the British did not vote yes; they abstained.
As disappointed as the Jews were with the portion allotted for the Jewish state, they felt that something was better than nothing after all the waiting and the pain.
However, the Arabs, always maximalist in their demands, rejected the UN resolution. The next day Arab rioting began, and two weeks later soldiers from surrounding Arab countries began arriving into Palestine.
The British, happy to be out of the situation, were packing up to go and turned their backs on what was going on. Writes David Ben Gurion in his Israel: A Personal History (p. 65):
“The British did not lift a finger to stop this military invasion. They also refused to cooperate with the UN committee charged with supervising implementation of the General Assembly resolution. At the same time, the Arabs living in the district destined to become part of the Jewish state began evacuating their homes and moving to the Arab states neighboring Palestine at the orders of the Arab High Committee.”
In the midst of confusion, the rioting continued with almost 1,000 Jews murdered by Arabs in the ensuing four months.
One of the worst incidents occurred on April 13, 1948. A convoy of 70 doctors and nurses making their way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed by Arabs. This happened 200 yards of a British police station. After a seven-hour shoot-out, during which the British did nothing, all the doctors and nurses were killed. Afterwards, the Arabs mutilated their bodies.
JERUSALEM UNDER SIEGE
In all of this, the British encouraged the King of Jordan, Abdullah, to invade and annex the Arab sections to his kingdom. To Abdullah this was not enough. He wanted Jerusalem too.
As a result Jerusalem came under siege.
The focus of the struggle during April and May 1948 was the road to Jerusalem which passes through the mountains. The vehicles on that road are completely exposed to gunmen up above. It was on this road that all supplies to the Jews of the city had to come. But they could not get through.
Hunger reigned. The residents of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were completely cut off.
And then an amazing incident happened. A young Yemenite Jew, who was not known for his shooting skills, almost accidentally killed three Arab men in the hills. One of these men was the Arab leader, Abdul Khader el Husseini. Demoralized, the Arab forces abandoned their positions to attend his funeral.
As a result a huge convoy of 250 trucks of food was able to re-supply the city. Writes Berel Wein in Triumph of Survival (p. 397):
“[On Shabbat, April 17, 1948] Jews left their synagogues and, with their prayer shawls still draping their shoulders, helped unload the convoy. The siege of Jerusalem was broken for the moment. The Arabs, however, mounted a strong counter-attack, and by the end of April once again cut the Jerusalem road… for the next seven weeks Jewish Jerusalem was isolated.”
A NEW STATE IS BORN
The official date given by the United Nations in their partition vote for the creation of the two new entities was May 15th, 1948.
Thus, May 14th was to be the last day of the British Mandate. At 4 p.m., the British lowered their flag and immediately the Jews raised their own.
It was a flag designed in 1897 by the First Zionist Congress. It was white (the color of newness and purity), and it had two blue stripes (the color of heaven) like the stripes of a tallit, the prayer shawl, which symbolized the transmission of Jewish tradition. In its center was the Star of David.
Thus on May 14, 1948 at 4:00 p.m., Hay Iyar, the 5th of Iyar, Israel declared itself a state.
After 2,000 years, the land of Israel was once more in the hands of the Jews.
David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence over the radio:
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here the spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world…
“Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of the dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and restoration of their national freedom.
“Accordingly we, the members of the National Council met together in solemn assembly today and by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and with the support of the resolution of the General of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine to be called Israel…
“We offer peace and amity to all neighboring states and their peoples and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all…
“With trust in the Rock of Israel, we set our hands to this declaration at this session of the Provisional State Council in the city of Tel Aviv on Sabbath Eve, 5th Iyar 5708, 14th day of May 1948.”
(Note that the Declaration of Independence of Israel — unlike the American Declaration of Independence — does not mention God. This is because the hard-line secularists that dominated the Jewish Agency opposed any such thing. “Rock of Israel” became a compromise.)
Everyone was dancing in the streets. But not for long.
Almost immediately five Arab countries declared war and Egypt bombed Tel Aviv.
June 7, 1967. Are you old enough to remember? Those of us who are will never forget how the entire world was riveted to their televisions during the “Six Day War.” Today is Yom Yerushalayim or “Jerusalem Day” on the Hebrew calendar (Iyyar 28), commemorating the Israeli return to the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. You can read the account by Michael Oren here, taken from his book, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. This Youtube video captures the moment with live radio transmissions and footage as Israeli soldiers arrived at the Western Wall.
What few realize today with all the rhetoric about “occupied Arab East Jerusalem” is that the Old City had a Jewish population majority under Turkish rule until the early 20th century, even though Jewish life was severely restricted, see my blog post on this here. Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 until 1967, Jews had been driven from the Old City and many historic markers of Jewish life and culture were systematically destroyed by the Arab Legion from Mt Zion to the Mount of Olives. I first visited Jerusalem in July, 1962, under Jordanian occupation, and even visited the Western Wall and the “Jewish Quarter,” but the Old City was filled with Christian tourists and Arabs, both Christian and Muslim–but strangely, no Jews. You can read my personal account here.
Forty-six years later the differences are hard to fathom with religious rights and access guaranteed by the Israeli government to all faiths and holy sites and much of the Jewish Quarter restored–including most recently the magnificent Huvra Synagogue. Next month when we begin our excavation at our site just outside Zion Gate our students and participants will be able to experience fully the vibrantly diverse culture of the Old City with freedom to explore all areas of its historic past. By the way, we still have a few spaces open, especially the last two weeks of the dig, if any of my blog readers would like to join us, see “The Mt Zion Dig, 2013.”I plan to be there the entire four weeks.
In this teaching, the 7th and final in the Messiah Series, Ross offers perhaps his most important teaching ever. The class is based upon the subject first taught to him by his teacher James Tabor, from his book, Restoring Abrahamic Faith. In this teaching, Ross convincingly shows that the focus on a coming messiah, though expected by Jews and Christians is not the primary event of the last days, rather that the central event is the coming of Yehovah. Ross works through prophetic passages in an attempt to set the record straight. You will not want to miss this teaching! The focus of this teaching is in the final analysis, a case or mistaken identity or at the least a disproportionate focus on the person of “Messiah.” Surely our main focus should be on the Moshiya and not Mashiach.
Click here to listen to this teaching.
In celebration of the 70th Anniversary of United Israel World Union and the upcoming May 14th celebration “A Day to Honor Israel” at Temple Sinai in St Francisville, LA sponsored by Roots of Faith…
Announcing a 2-for-1 sale on autographed copies of Restoring Abrahamic Faith, May 1-14th.
Read more about the book here.
The offer is a simple one. Order any number of copies at the regular price of $15 and your order will be doubled at no extra cost or postage.
Two ways to order:
On-line from http://genesis2000.org/
Or, Send a check to UIWU, 2124 Crown Centre Drive, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC 28227 (postage is $5.60 US domestic)
This historic gathering will celebrate the 70 year history of United Israel World Union and the life of its founder David Horowitz (1903-2002), a lifelong Zionist pioneer and advocate of Israel at his post in the United Nations for 57 years. You will not want to miss this historic gathering and the impressive program we have put together.
All meetings are in the clayton Room, Southpark Doubletree Hotel
5:00-7:00 Registration and Informal gathering
7:30-9:30 Welcoming Shabbat: James Tabor “David Horowitz: A Life Remembered”
9:30-10:30 Ross Nichols “The Dreams of the Fathers”
11:00-12:30 Robert Eisenman “Orde Wingate and Other Forgotten Heros of Zionism”
2:00-3:00 DeWayne Coxen “Blooming the Desert: Tamar Project”
3:30-4:30 Ralph Buntyn “A Noble Cause: Lesser Known Episodes in the history of Zionism”
7:30-9:00 Screening of “Charging the Rhino” with Simcha Jacobovici
8:00-9:00 Business Meeting: Board, Members, and Guests
9:30-11:00 Simcha Jacobovici “The Zionist Revolution of 2013: How the Landscape has Changed”
11:30-12:15 Michael Fauth “Early Christian Zionism: Moving to the Land”
2:00-3:30 Stephen & Anne McLeod “Point Women for Zionism” and “The Language of Zionism”
4:00-5:30 Roundtable Sessions: Bible Codes & Gematria; Prophecy; Family & Children; outreach; Connecting with Israel
Special Screening of the Award-winning Film: “Charging the Rhino” produced by Simcha Jacobovici and Bruce Thorson that deals with the Holocaust in Romania
In part 4 of his series on messiah, Ross narrows his focus to David and his sons. He covers the subject of messiah through the Davidic Dynasty. From the anointing of David, Ross takes a look at the divine promises to David and his sons. He works through texts that are considered “messianic” and offers a challenge to long held beliefs in some of these passages. Does the Bible tell of a son of David who will be called the son of God? What does this mean? Is this a reference to a coming son of David? Were the promises unconditional? Ross shows that the sons of David for the most part did not do as their father had done and ultimately the crown was cast to the ground. Despite this, the Scripture seems to suggest that the promises remain valid. Ross leaves the listener with a clue. In what way did the prophets provide hope when it appeared that all hope was lost? You will not want to miss this teaching on David, Messiah of Jacob’s God.
Click here to listen to this teaching.
In his third class of the Messiah series, Ross begins to focus on the subject of the king. In his second class, Ross pointed out that the person called messiah, or the anointed one in the Torah, was exclusively used of the priests – Aaron and his sons, but in class 3 Ross reveals that there is a clear shift. From the first mention of the word mashach in Judges chapter 9, our emphasis is directed to the king. Ross challenges his listeners to find forms of the word anoint associated with priests outside of the Torah. In this class Ross explores this new focus on the king. He covers Saul, Israel’s first messiah king. Was Israel ever intended to have a king? The Torah after all contains the instruction for the king. What was the mission of Israel’s first messiah king? And what does this do in so far as shedding light on our understanding of the subject at hand? He closes his third class in the series with the introduction to the next messiah king, the sweet Psalmist of Israel. David, are you the one or should we look for another? You will also find the audio file for the dialogue session in this post.
Next week we will investigate what the bible says of messiah in regards to David and his sons. You will not want to miss a single class.
Click here to listen or watch this teaching.
Today brings the New Moon or a new month on the Jewish calendar. But it is not just any new moon. According to the Torah, “This month (literally “new”) shall be to you head of the months…Exodus 12.
Today is the beginning of Nisan or Aviv, the biblical name of this new moon/month. This is the case not only on the traditional Hebrew calendar but just confirmed in Israel with the confirmation of the ripening sheaves of barley that signal the harvest is near and there is no need to add a 13th month to this particular year.
Even though the focus on the 1st day of the 7th month is dominant in Judaism today has been picked up even in our culture as “Rosh HaShanah,” the Jewish “New Year,” in biblical times such was not the case. This is indeed the beginning of the “Sacred” year, not the civil year, and the return of the cycle of Sabbaths, New Moons, and Festivals…
The terms “first day of the first month” in the Hebrew Bible, marking the ,”New Year” signal a new beginning, or renewal of life, including here in this text in the time of Moses at the Exodus. It is also called the turning of the year, and has to do with the sprouting of the barely, and with what we call “Spring”–at least in the northern hemisphere!
According to the Torah Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 (Gen 17:17). A year earlier, when Abraham was 99, we have an important set of references to what was ahead. Three “men” appeared to Abraham, one of whom is subsequently revealed to be an “epiphany” of Yahweh. The Yahweh figure tells Abraham explicitly twice:
I will certainly return to you when the season comes around, and lo, Sarah your wife shall have a son (Gen 18:10).
Is anything too hard for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you, when the season comes around, and Sarah shall have a son (Gen 18:14).
Two precise Hebrew expressions are used here, lending strong emphasis to the precise timing of the birth of Isaac. There is great meaning in all this. The first phrase, “when the season comes around,” is literally, “at the time (or season) of life.” It is a reference to the new year in the Spring, in the month of Abib or Nisan (see Exodus 12:2). It is worth noting that in the traditional reading of the Torah portions this section is paired with a reading from the Prophets, from 2 Kings 4. There we read of another extraordinary birth, that of the son of the Shunammite woman during the time of Elisha (2 Kings 4:16). Truly this month of Nisan is a month of miracles and “new birth” as we shall see. The second phrase, “at the set time,” stresses the exactitude of the timing of this important event. It will come at a precise time or season. These are not merely superfluous passing references. Three chapters later we read:
And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him (Gen 21:2).
What we learn here is that Isaac was born in the Spring of the year, likely in the month of Nisan, at a “set time.” In the book of Exodus we read of another “Spring” birth–this time the birth of the nation of Israel. Whether the author intended to link the two ideas or not is difficult to say:
Israel is My son, My first-born,
and I have said unto you: Let My son go (Exodus 4:22).
When Israel was a child I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son (Hosea 11:1).
Exodus 12:40-41 explicitly states that this “birth” of a nation taking place at this precise time:
Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass, at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the very day [i.e., Passover], it came to pass that all the host of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt.
The reference to the very day is to the 15th of Nisan, the evening of the Passover Seder. But what about this intriguing reference to 430 years? Scholars have disputed over the meaning of this chronological note. It should be noted that the verse, when properly translated, does not say that Israel was in the land of Egypt for 430 years, but rather the that the time of their “sojourning” was 430 years. What event happened, 430 years earlier, “to the day,” from Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, based on the chronological records now preserved in the traditional Hebrew “Masoretic” text.
Some have suggested plotting this 430 year period of “sojourn” with the Call of Abraham in Genesis 12. Others have counted the 430 years from the circumcision covenant with Abraham, when he was 99 years old (Gen 17). Still others have begun the 430 years with the birth of Isaac in Genesis 21. The Rabbinic source Seder ‘Olam preserves a traditional solution to this question.
In Genesis 23:4 Abraham tells the children of Heth, from whom he purchases the burial cave of Machpelah in Kiriatharba or Hebron, “I am a stranger and a sojourner” with you. Abraham refers to himself as a ger (stranger) and a toshav (sojourner), even though the Land of Canaan had been promised to him. Abraham never received the Land of Promise in his lifetime; he remained a “sojourner” until the day of his death. The same is true for Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and their 70 descendants who went down to Egypt. The question is, precisely when did this “sojourning” of the people of Israel begin? According to Seder ‘Olam it begins not in Genesis 12, with the Call of Abram to leave his father Terah’s house in Haran, but five years earlier, when he left the city of Ur in Babylon. Note carefully, when Abram leaves Haran he is 75 years old (Gen 12:4). But according to Genesis 11:31 “they went forth . . . from Ur of the Chaldees” some years earlier. This is the actual beginning of their wandering or sojourning. There is a significant reference in this regard in Genesis 15:7:
And He said to him: “I am Yahweh that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it.”
One might have expected, on the basis of Genesis 12:1-3, for the text to read “who brought you out of your father’s house,” i.e., from Haran. But in the Genesis tradition, picked up on by the Rabbis, the initial “Call” of Abram was out of Ur in Babylon, not from Haran in the land of Canaan. In other words, the wandering, or “sojourning” of Abram begins before his call from Haran at age 75. Also, the Hebrew word here is crucial. The phrase here translated “brought you out” is from the verb yatz’ah, the same word used in Exodus 20:2 introducing the Ten Words at Mt Sinai:
I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
That would mean that according to the Masoretic chronology Abram left Ur, which was his own personal “Exodus” from idolatry and paganism, on the very same night, Nisan 15th, which later becomes the Passover.
The precise chronology of the Masoretic Hebrew text confirms this. Note the following references and numbers (the years are given as AM, “after Man (i.e., Adam),” which correspond to the traditional numbering of Jewish years since Creation):
Abram leaves Ur Abram 70 Year 2018 AM (Gen 11:31)
Abram leaves Haran Abram 75 Year 2023 AM (Gen 12:4)
Birth of Isaac Abram 100 Year 2048 AM (Gen 17:17)
Birth of Jacob Isaac 60 Year 2108 AM (Gen 25:20)
Israel to Egypt Jacob 130 Year 2238 AM (Gen 47:9)
Exodus 210 yrs later Year 2448 AM (Ex 12:40)
The total years from Abram leaving Haran at age 75 (2023 AM) until Jacob going down to Egypt (2238 AM) are 215. To this we add the 210 years of Egyptian slavery for a total of 425 years: from Abram leaving Haran, until the Exodus in the year 2448 AM. Since Exodus 12:40-41 designates 430 years rather than 425 the conclusion becomes obvious. The five additional years are by default the time Abram spent in Haran. Accordingly, he must have left Ur at age 70. Thus, the total years of “sojourning of the children of Israel,” is precisely 430 years, from the Abram’s “going out from Ur” at age 70 (2018 AM), until Israel’s “going out of Egypt” in the year 2448 AM. T
One important additional note here. Why would Exodus 12:40 speak of the sojourn of the “children of Israel” as 430 years when this period begins with Abram? The answer is that Abram stands for the whole people. The term “Israel” is both a name and a title which includes Abraham and his entire line through Isaac and Jacob. The Covenant with the Jewish people begins with Abraham. The Rabbis love to play with letters and point out that the name ISRAEL in Hebrew is spelled Yod, Shin, Resh, Alef, Lamed. These five Hebrews letters are the first letters of the names of the Patriarchs and their wives, namely Yod=Yitzak (Isaac) and Yaakov (Jacob); Shin=Sarah; Resh=Rebecca and Rachel; Lamed=Leah!
Isaac is born at a “set time,” when the “season of life” comes around. We have already seen that this is a reference to the beginning of Spring, or the month of Nisan. In Jewish tradition Isaac, as a miraculous child of promise, was born on Nisan 15th or Passover. In fact Genesis hints at the festivals and holy days of Israel, later set forth in the Torah, as known in various ways in much earlier times (Gen 1:14; 8:13). For example, there is a reference to Lot preparing “unleavened bread” or matzos, for the heavenly guests prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:3)! Why matzos? In the previous chapter Abraham has been told that Isaac will be born “at this season next year” (18:14). So, in the text of Genesis we know we are in the time of Nisan, when Abram is 99, a year before Isaac’s birth. Does Genesis imply that God rescued and removed Lot and his family from Sodom around, or even on, the very night of Passover? The text contains several Passover motifs. The angels keep urging Lot and his family to leave, to hurry, and not to delay. In a similar way the Israelites make haste to leave Egypt, not even allowing their bread to rise.