Shabbat Bible Study for 10Apr2021
©2021 Mark Pitrone & Fulfilling Torah Ministries
Year 3 Sabbath 4 – 1
Numbers 12:1-16 – (No Prophet) – Psalm 104 – Romans 13
B’Midbar 12.1-16 – Ethiopian woman? Was Tzipporah Ethiopian? I thought she was Yithro’s daughter, and he was a Midianite. Maybe there’s something wrong with the xlation? The word is actually Cushite and that is a direct transliteration from Hebrew to English. Did Moshe marry another woman while Tzipporah was at Yithro’s home? See the prefatory notes and the note to v.1 in Schottenstein’s Interlinear Chumash on p.84.
Since Moshe had to be ready to hear God’s Word at any moment, he had to be ritually pure at all times, which meant that he had to refrain for marital relations with his wife Tzipporah. This intimate matter remained their private affair, until Miriam learned of it … Not realizing that God had instructed Moshe to do so, and feeling it was an unjustified affront to Tzipporah, Miriam shared the news with Aharon, who agreed with her. They were critical of Moshe, contending that since the 2 of them were also prophets, but were not required to withdraw from normal life, neither was Moshe. God Himself appeared to them, to chastise them, and to testify to them that Moshe’s prophecy was of a higher order than anyone else’s, and therefore he had to remain ritually pure at all times.
God punished Miriam for instigating this criticism of Moshe, even though she did it out of a sincere desire to correct what she was convinced was his error, and she only spoke out privately to Aharon who shared her devotion to Moshe. Thus her own mistake became an eternal teaching to the Yehudim of the gravity of the sin of slander.
[V.1] The Cushite [literally Ethiopian]. Zipporah was from Midian, not Ethiopia. It is common in scripture and Talmudic literature to attach a derogatory epithet to a loved one in order to prevent an עין הרא, evil eye, envy. Thus the description of her as a Cushite was a euphemistic reference to her great beauty. The numerical value of כושית [Cushith] is equal to that of beautiful in appearance. The term is repeated later in the verse to suggest that her physical beauty was matched byher character. [Rashi]
Rashi’s commentary on the word being numerically equivalent to a phrase seems a stretch to me and y’all know I am open to mystical interpretations. That one is just a bit ‘out there’ to me, though it can be seen as a basis for Rashi’s argument that the discussion between Aharon and MirYam was based on Moshe’s LACK of familial relations with Tzipporah. I still see it as a stretch, though, because there is no biblical evidence that Tzipporah or her sons was even there after Yithro left Israel for Midian. Whatever the REASON for MirYam’s denouncement of Moshe to Aharon and both their wondering why Moshe was ‘better’ than they were (had they not both received prophecy from Y’hovah?), there are a number of things that occur right away that indicate Y’hovah’s displeasure with both Miryam and Aharon.
The parenthetical of v.3 is the first thing that’s different. Y’hovah makes sure that Moshe is seen in the proper light. He is exceedingly meek, more than any person ever (until Yeshua). Often, people mistake meekness for weakness. They are NOT comparable. Weakness of character often displays as arrogant bluster that one really can’t back up. Meekness is a quiet, unobtrusive confidence.
Have you ever seen the movie, Blind Side? Michael Oher is meek, but he is NOT weak. He is an ensample, just a taste, of the meekness of Moshe. His ‘homeys’ got a taste of what meekness is when they threatened his family. Just because you CHOOSE not to openly display your strength doesn’t mean you don’t possess it. Often, when people put on a flagrant display of power they are showing their sense of inferiority or weakness of character, as with Michael Oher’s homeys. He displayed his strength when he needed to.
Kinda like MirYam and Aharon. I think that they had a sense of inferiority or jealousy, which worked itself out in this lashon hara. Y’hovah wanted to nip this kind of thing in the bud. It is likely they would have gone ahead with this same slander in the camp, had Y’hovah not stopped it conclusively.
In v.4, the 2nd different thing happened. Y’hovah calls out all 3 Amramsons to the tent of meeting for … well … a meeting. He called each individually, and, when they had all arrived, the 3rd different thing occurred – he called Aharon and MirYam OUT of the tent and left Moshe INSIDE, intimating that Moshe was preferred over the other 2. Y’hovah wanted a private confab with Miryam and Aharon where all the people could witness the results. He lifted the cloud off the Mishkan and rested it in the door of the tent and said (in a ‘Mark’ paraphrase), ‘When I speak to a prophet, I will show him a dream or a vision. But when I speak to Moshe, I do so face to face as man does with his friend, NOT in a dream or vision. Have I ever before spoken to you face to face? (Hmm! The 4th ‘different thing’) And I will not again. But with Moshe I have, I do, and I shall. How could it be that you didn’t fear to speak against him?’ Then he lifted the cloud from the door of the tent and rested it on the Mishkan – and, (to quote Jonathan Winter’s character, Mollie Frickert), MirYam was a leper, white as snow “ALL-ll-ll over my bo-o-dy!”
Now, I think that MirYam was singled out because she instigated the slanderous dialogue against Moshe. When Aharon looked at her, he was frightened because he knew exactly what he was seeing and also knew that at this stage of leprosy, death is immanent. So he went to Moshe as the intercessor (I think he learned his lesson pretty quickly, don’t you?) and asked him to not allow MirYam to die. Moshe spoke right up, “Please, El, heal MirYam now!” Y’hovah told Moshe, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be humbled for 7 days? Put her out of the camp for that long and then let her back into the camp. She’ll be an example for Israel.” And so, MirYam was put outside the camp for 7 days, and probably had to mikvah before returning to the camp. The inference is that MirYam was healed instantly at Moshe’s plea. After having witnessed all this from pretty close proximity, it surprises me that Korach and Dathan essentially did the same thing not many days later. Ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray, if you know what I mean! Q&C
Tehellim 104 – Ps.104 rehearses the Creation poetically. The psalm opens with a blessing on Y’hovah: “Bar’chi naphshi et-Y’hovah Y’hovah Elohai! Gadal’tha m’od hod v’hadar lavash’tha” – My blessing, my soul, are Y’hovah’s! Y’hovah my El! You are very great! Glory and majesty are your clothing!” He wears his glory and his majesty like a garment. That garment is his Creation. We cannot perceive him with our mortal senses, but we can witness his greatness by what he has created. And his first creation where once there was nothing was light. The argument can be made that he then ‘condensed’ that light energy to make matter because it is true that E=mc2. The initial light itself is the ultimate manifestation of the glory and majesty of Y’hovah. The matter that he ‘condensed’ from that light is a derived manifestation of his majesty and glory. When he first created Adam did he give him a ‘skin of light’ similar to his own? When Adam fell, was the ‘skin of flesh’ that he gave us merely the uncovering of our flesh by removing the ‘skin of light’ or the addition of a lambskin as a substitution for the death that was due us as a wage for our sin? Or is the answer to each question above, “Yes!”
V.3 seems to speak of the pre-flood ‘vapor canopy’ or something of the sort. Stone’s Tanakh has, “He who roofs his upper chambers with water.” A thick vapor canopy helps explain a lot of pre-flood differences from our present experience, like long lifetimes that approach 1000 years. If there was such a thing, it would filter radiation in all spectra and decrease or eliminate any harm they would cause and possibly cause the atmosphere to be a hyperbaric chamber, thus creating a more oxygen rich environment and a sort of ‘greenhouse effect’. The hyperbaric effect could also, among other things, aid the healing of wounds and oxygen absorption. Wings of the wind could also be ‘wings of the Spirit (ruach),’ perhaps a reference to Y’hovah’s omnipresence, the perceived speed with which Y’hovah can ‘move’ from place to place. The last couple of weeks we’ve likened the wheels within wheels in Ezekiel 1 to the camp of Israel in the Wilderness and the movement of the camp to the movement of Y’hovah and the angels in Zeke’s vision. Vv.3-4 could be doing so again – His malachim being ministering spirits (ruchot) and ‘flaming fire’.
Vv.5-9 The earth cannot be destroyed by any other force than the one who created it. We can kill every living thing on it by our own ‘power’, but we cannot remove the earth itself. We just don’t have the juice. Y’hovah keeps trying to awaken us to this fact by some of the natural disasters he sends our way. He’s told us that they are a natural consequence of our disobedience, but we fail to heed his warnings and we continue on in defiance. He gave us a warning in Noach’s flood, which we, in our arrogance, refuse to heed. There is evidence to the flood, not the least of which is the universal reference thereto in every culture on earth, that the ‘worldly-wise’ refuse to acknowledge as such. When the time was right the floods receded at Y’hovah’s command. We talked about the Grand Canyon last week.
By the time the river enters the Grand Canyon, at Lee’s Ferry, its altitude has fallen to 3,110 feet, dropping over one mile since its beginning. The river will drop another 2,200 feet before it reaches the other end of the Grand Canyon, the Grand Wash Cliffs, 277 miles away.
The Canyon is a mile deep in places. If it enters at a level of 3110 and leaves at 2200, how could it possibly have carved through over 4000 feet of rock ABOVE its entry level that it encountered, as our ‘scientist’ friends hypothesize? How it was possibly formed immediately after the flood, when the waters on the Northeastern end of the canyon ‘burst the earthen or lava dam’ holding them back. The resulting flow of huge volumes of water and the associated cavitation could have formed the Grand Canyon in a matter of HOURS or DAYS. From that source of all objective truth – Wikipedia,
Between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago, massive flows of basalt from the Uinkaret volcanic field in northern Arizona dammed the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon. At least thirteen lava dams were formed, the largest of which was more than 2,300 feet (700 m) high, backing the river up for nearly 500 miles (800 km) to present-day Moab, Utah. The lack of associated sediment deposits along this stretch of the Colorado River, which would have accumulated in the impounded lakes over time, suggests that most of these dams did not survive for more than a few decades before collapsing or being washed away. Failure of the lava dams caused by erosion, leaks and cavitation caused catastrophic flooding which may have been some of the largest ever to occur in North America, rivaling the ice age Missoula Floods of the northwestern United States. Mapping of flood deposits indicate that crests as high as 700 feet (210 m) passed through the Grand Canyon, reaching peak discharges as great as 17 million cubic feet per second (500,000 m3/s).
After the flood, the waters from the canopy above and the ‘fountains of the Great Deep’ (Gen.7.11) below would have run off to the Seas, or even back into the reservoirs deep under ground. V.9 says that he set the boundaries that the waters may not pass over again, reiterating Y’hovah’s promise to not destroy the earth by flood. Q&C
V.10-18 talks about business on earth as usual AFTER the flood, and moves rather effortlessly into it by staying on the water theme. This time he talks about normal runoff of rain and snowmelt that sustains the avian and land-based life on the earth. This is also a gracious provision of the Almighty. The fresh water sustains all the land animals and plants on earth and the plants provide sustenance for all the animals of the earth, either directly for the vegetarians or indirectly for the carnivores and omnivores. All the wine, oils and plant-derived foods would be non-existent if not for the fresh water that Y’hovah provides, primarily by precipitation. Even the ground water is replenished by precipitation that filters through the earth and rock to find its water table. Each creature is placed in the most advantageous place for its lifestyle and survival.
Vv.19-35 – In v.19 he begins talking about that which is outside the effect of the water that sustains all life on the planet, beginning with that which is extra-planetary. The moon was placed in its orbit, not just to set apart the months, but the seasons. Not that it causes the seasons of the year (that’s the sun’s job), but it marks, in conjunction with the solar season that is defined by the condition of the crops and their development, like barley that was planted in the fall of the previous year marks the beginning of spring, the biblical ‘seasons’, or moedim – appointments that Y’hovah has commanded us to observe. He set the planets and their satellites and the stars into motion to mark of the biblical times and to be a witness to his plan for the ages, not things by which we tell individuals’ futures, but the general plan for the history he has already created, and completed. He ‘formed’ the light and when other things were created and set into motion, the relative position of those things relative to the light source created the light/darkness cycle we witness on a daily basis. When the sun goes down, the nocturnal animals go out to hunt their food. When the sun comes up the nocturnals go back to their dens and the diurnal animals take their turn hunting their food. Men were made for the ‘day shift’, to work by light of day and sleep by dark of night. What men are about at night are more likely predators or those we hire to protect us from the predators. It was all set into motion by the Creator, Y’hovah Almighty, even the sea creatures that were not destroyed by the flood.
Leviathan, the dragon, represents haSatan, who ‘plays’ in the sea, which represents the world’s system. We see him in Job.41
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? (Job 41:1)
Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. (Psalms 74:14)
In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. (Revelation of John 12:3)
All the things that he wondered at were under Y’hovah’s ultimate control, except the men to whom he allowed free will to throw monkey wrenches into the works. But even at that, he knows all the possible choices we can make and has a work-around to meet them and move his plan forward. We only gather for our sustenance that which he bestows. When we throw the monkey wrenches into the works, he causes first minor and then more and worse calamities to befall us until we either turn back to him or we decide he isn’t worth it. That is when he turns his back to us. But even then he doesn’t leave us. He’s there waiting for us to awaken to our troubles and their source and, like the Prodigal, come to ourselves and reason it out that we would be better off servants in our father’s house than kings of our own, rather limited, domain. His glory will endure. It still shows itself in the earthquakes and volcanoes, the storms and droughts. It is incumbent on us to recognize the source and reason for the both the good and the bad that happens around us, and that it is Y’hovah’s gracious provision that sends all our circumstances. We need to give him the glory in the good times and the bad, because
…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
So, witness to Y’hovah’s greatness, but do not fret that those to whom we witness do not receive our testimony. They know the truth in their heart of hearts and reject Y’hovah, not us. Q&C
Let’s remember that the KJV was translated under the authorization of James I, King of England. That having been said, it is understandable where the idea of the secular government being the ‘Higher Powers’ came from. The KJV translation would have been influenced heavily by the both historical and contemporary idea of ‘the divine right of kings.’ That is not to mention that before the Reformation, there was very little in the way of rebellion from the authority of the Roman Church by any king or nation – all power was subject to the Roman Church on pain of excommunication. You think the synagogue had authority? The synagogue in Rome had some autonomy, but was not the secular authority. They could have been wiped out by the Roman army or thrown out of the city at any time (and were in 135 CE, on pain of death, after the Bar Kochba rebellion of Jews following a false Messiah by that name). The Roman Catholic Church was both the ecclesiastical and secular authority for 1200 years before Luther’s theses were nailed to the Wittenberg church door. So the western idea of ‘higher powers’ being the secular government authority is understandable. It just isn’t contextually correct.
As we’ve seen through chapters 9-12, Paul has been building up to this point. For this to mean the secular authorities, it would mean a 7 verse ‘bubble’ in an otherwise religious context through 7 chapters of text. It is vv.3-5 that really make the argument for the synagogue leadership being the ‘higher powers’. The Roman secular authority could not be mistaken for ministers of Y’hovah – Mithra perhaps, but not Y’hovah.
Are the secular authorities the ministers of Elohim? Do they only punish evildoers? Or do they punish those who do good? Believers who are exercising their right to worship as they believe God would have them do and raise their children in the nurture and admonition of Y’hovah are often persecuted in 21st C. America (1st Amendment rights). In Germany, parents can be arrested and school children committed to a mental institution for daring to say they want to ‘home-school’. How long do you think it will be before this same inane law is enacted in America? WHO (World Health Organization) regulations that are binding on all signatory nations make it a CRIME to refuse vaccination in a declared pandemic [COVID 2021?]. Laws are passed and regulations established with the intent of making us criminals. I would be willing to bet (and I am not a gambling man) that, if we were to look diligently through laws already on the books, every one of us writing, reading or hearing this teaching is guilty of some felony – and possibly are what the courts would call ‘habitual felons’. And I believe I would win that bet every time – it wouldn’t really be a gamble. The governmental power in America has become wicked in the extreme, passing laws with the express purpose of extracting money or control from the people through the application of ‘the guilt trip’. The godly are finally awakening to it, but it may already be too late. IF there is another election and IF it is free and unfixed in any way, we MAY have one chance left to take America back. Unfortunately, those are very large qualifiers. Does anyone suspect it was better in Rome, that had no ‘Christian tradition’ to influence it?
V.1 speaks of the ‘higher powers’. ‘Higher’ is translated from the greek word, huperecho, a compound word which derives from the preposition huper (hyper-), meaning above and echo, a verb meaning to hold. ‘Powers’ is from the greek word, exousia, another compound word deriving from the preposition ek or ex, meaning out of and eimi, a primary verb root meaning to be, elsewhere translated “I am”. Strong’s primary translation is “I exist”. Higher powers ought to fully mirror Y’hovah’s good.
The idea Paul is trying to get across is that we ought to subordinate ourselves to (hold above) those whom Y’hovah has placed in authority over us for our good (v.3). Looking at context up to this point, these higher powers are the leaders of our local synagogue, and that only as far as their authority extends. Your pastor or rabbi is not your mayor, governor or king. His authority extends to your local assembly. His influence may reach to the secular authorities, but his authority does not – unless you live in a theocracy. Can you speak to your pastor or teacher for advise? Yes. And it may be wise to do so under certain circumstances. But MUST you get your pastor’s or teacher’s permission to do anything outside the assembly that doesn’t affect the assembly. No. Godly counsel? Yes. Authority over every aspect of your life? No. And if you have a pastor or teacher who is trying to exercise authority over every aspect of your life, RUN AWAY as fast as your feet will take you! He’ll be preparing the Kool-Aid before long.
When it says the higher powers are ‘ordained’ of Elohim, does that mean that Y’hovah has blessed the wicked, secular government? He may use a wicked, secular government to draw his people back to his Way (if they’re spiritually astute enough to recognize the fact – I hope America awakens to the idea quickly), but he does not ‘ordain’ it in the sense that a rabbi, pastor or elder is ‘ordained’ “for your good”. The grk. word is tasso, meaning “to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot)”. The idea that a wicked government is ordained of Elohim has the same sense as his creation of evil in Is.45.7, which we’ve spoken of before:
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I Y’hovah do all these things .
He didn’t create darkness or evil, as such, but in his forming light and making peace evil and darkness were necessarily created as the relative absence of the things Elohim formed or made. In like manner, he didn’t ordain wicked governments as ministers of good. They came into being as manifestations of the absence of good (and in varying degrees) in that the sinful situation of the nation under its thumb required that absence of good to bring it to itself, even as the prodigal. How much suffering must a people endure before they will call on Y’hovah for deliverance? Israel had to go into abject slavery before they called out in Egypt. Judah had to be exiled to Babylon 70 years before Daniel discerned the time and called out to Y’hovah for deliverance. How much longer will we have to suffer? Until we, the people of Y’hovah, are no longer able to bear it on our own shoulders. Only then will we earnestly call out for deliverance from on high. Only when we humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways will he hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land. That time is coming. Things will have to get very uncomfortable for believers in general before we feel compelled to earnestly call on Y’hovah’s deliverance. Hopefully, it will not be so late that he’ll have abandoned us to our sin.
V.2 speaks of those who resist (antitassomai – arrange oneself against) the ordained authority. Remember that throughout this book so far Paul is telling the Jews that the new gentile members are their Yisraelite brethren whom Yeshua had called to repentance, for whom he’d died the death of the divorced wife’s husband (7.1-4, applying Dt.24.1-4), so that he, as a new man, could lawfully take them as his Bride. Here he is telling the new gentile believers that they are to ‘hold above’ (huperecho) the synagogue leadership in matters of righteous conduct in the kahal as elder brothers. They were to do this so that they could hear the Word of God, which alone could bring them to faith (10.17). If they resisted the ‘powers’ in the synagogue, they would be sent out into Rome, where their new faith in Messiah would make them criminals. If they refused to worship Caesar they were subject to death UNLESS they were under the authority of the synagogue. So, the gentile believers had a decision to take – 1) submit to the synagogue authority, 2) submit to the Roman authority, or 3) die in the circus. Sha’ul expected them to submit to the rabbinic authority, hear the Word of Y’hovah and grow in faith. Q&C
V.3 emphasizes the point of v.2. “Rulers (archon) are not a terror (phobos) to good works.” The question is, “What are ‘good works’? The audience is made up of believers. Are the secular authorities worried about good works in a religious sense (‘religious’ here used as America’s founding fathers used it)? The synagogue authorities would consider Torah observance as ‘good works’, as do I (and Paul in Eph.2.10, Gal.5.22-25 illustrates).
What would Rome consider a ‘good work’? That would depend on the situation, wouldn’t it? A Roman soldier performing a ‘Caesarian section’ on a pregnant woman in a conquered city would be performing a ‘good work’, wouldn’t he? You betcha! And I don’t mean to save the baby’s or the mother’s life, but to kill them both. I chose the most egregious and barbarous Roman practice I could think of just then. I seriously doubt Paul was thinking the Roman government was concerned with whether you were doing biblically ‘good works’. What a secular government calls ‘good’ is not usually what scripture calls ‘good’. If they agree to the ‘goodness’ of a thing, it is more likely coincidence than not. Would the government of a nation take notice of a person who lives as Paul describes in Gal.5? Someone living like that might not be arrested, but will he garner praise from a secular government? Not likely. But one who exhibits this type of behavior in the assembly will be noticed and possibly commended – especially if he’s a gentile in the synagogue. The rabbis would definitely take notice of such a gentile.
Archon means first in rank. This would be the ruling elder or rabbi of the synagogue. I assume that the hierarchy was similar to the governmental authority in the camp. Moshe, as ruling elder, then the tribal elders, then family elders, then the fathers of households. The rabbi or ruling elder was usually not a political appointee, as was the High Priest in the Temple in Roman days, but a man proven to be of godly character, learning and discernment (1Tim.5.17, 3.1ff). While he may not (and probably wasn’t) a believer in Yeshua, he was a man from whom the new believers could correctly learn Torah, which is their purpose in being in the synagogue.
Is this a ‘hard and fast’ truth? Must the gentile believers, in our present context, submit to the synagogue authorities in every aspect of their lives? I don’t think so anymore than I think that your pastor has any business examining your ruling of your own house (unless it’s obviously sinful). But they must walk (righteous conduct) according to the local halacha within the synagogue and according to Torah in their daily walk. If the rabbi were to, for instance, order them not to speak of Yeshua, they should follow Peter’s example from Acts.5
29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey Elohim rather than men. 30 The El of our fathers raised up Yeshua, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath Elohim exalted with his right hand a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and also the Holy Ghost, whom Elohim hath given to them that obey him.
But in matters of halachic conduct, they should submit so they can have fellowship and learn Torah. Remember that the new gentile believers are considered members of a sect of Judaism, the Notzrim or Nazarene sect, understood to be such by Jerusalem Temple authorities and, therefore Roman authorities. Q&C
V.4 says the ruler is the ‘minister of God to thee for good’. The word translated ‘minister’ is the Greek word (Strong’s 1249) diakonos, a deacon or a minister within the kahal. Where Paul calls him a minister of Elohim, he uses this word, diakonos. Will he minister to you if you do evil? Yes. In v.6, he uses the greek word (Strong’s 3011), leitourgos, which is a functionary in the Temple or in the gospel. He is a Levite, but not a priest. The Levite’s (leitourgos) function is to maintain the Temple; the priest’s (diakonos) job is to perform in the offering system, to teach Torah, to judge disputes and such official duties.
The grk. word translated ‘do’ in v.4 is Strong’s 4161, poieo. In this context it means ‘abide in’. In Eph.2.10 it is the root word behind ‘workmanship’ (poiema 4160). As we are a ‘work in progress’ of our Abba, so is the evil in v.4. The ruling elder is both a minister of Y’hovah for our good who act righteously and a ‘revenger to wrath’ on those who are ‘doers of evil’. The word translated ‘doeth’ is Strong’s 4238, prasso, and means one who practices evil as his manner of life – an habitual sinner. Habitual evil must be punished in the kahal, as it had to be dealt with in the camp in the wilderness. In this case, the habitual ‘bad actor’ is to be excommunicated and left to live under the threat of Roman law. As happened in Corinth, the one who was excommunicated didn’t live outside the protection of the synagogue for long before he; 1) repented (2Cor.2.4-10 – the primary purpose of the discipline), 2) reverted back to his paganism (2Tim.4.10a, 1Jn.2.19 – antiMessiahs) or 3) was arrested and sent to entertain in the circus.
V.5 – The use of the 2nd person plural in vv.4 and 6 makes this supplied word ‘ye’ likely to be correct. The word translated ‘be subject’ is greek hupotasso, to arrange oneself under. Ye (that is gentiles in the synagogue) must order yourselves before the elders of the kahal, not just because they can excommunicate you, but because your conscience will afflict you if you don’t – the Spirit of Y’hovah won’t let you alone.
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. Jms.4.17
Paul takes up this idea again in ch.14. Q&C
V.6 speaks of paying tribute, another reason this is seen as speaking of Roman authority. The synagogue collected the Temple tax, as well as the Roman tax. I assume the synagogue assessed some cost for maintenance of the meeting place, too. Members of the local kahal did not pay taxes directly to the Roman authorities, but through the synagogue. There is no distinction made in v.6 about what is being called tribute. The word is from the greek phoros (Strong’s 5411), meaning a load, as borne. Every tax is a load borne by the taxpayer, even the Temple tax (which is scriptural – Ex.30.11-16). The Temple tax was a ½ shekel, which was 2 drachma – the amount the poor widow was putting into the treasury in Mk.12.42. At any rate, the members of the kahal paid all their taxes through the kahal and Rome took its cut from there. This should have made the payment of taxes fairer within the kahal, as well, for the ministers of God for our good should be less likely to assess more than what was due.
V.7 then delineates where tribute money went and that the members ought to pay what was due (not more than what was due). “Tribute to whom tribute” speaks of taxes. We’ve been over a couple of the taxes assessed at the synagogue; Temple tax, Roman head taxes, poll taxes, and etc. The Romans hired tax collectors all over the empire and empowered them to assess whatever they darned well chose. These tax collectors would assess the tax + whatever they thought was ‘fair’ compensation for their ‘services’. This is why ‘publicans’ were so hated in Israel. They were Israelites who stole from their own people because they had ‘legal’ (if not legitimate) authority to do so. Rome’s governors backed them up. As long as Rome got its cut, the governors cared less how much the publicans (like so-called ‘judges’ today) extorted from the people. So, when the synagogue assessed the taxes, they should have been more fair, or less grasping at least, than the average tax assessor. It’s interesting to me that Zaccheus told Yeshua that ‘IF I have cheated anyone, I will repay him 4-fold what I’ve stolen”. I think he may have been an ‘honest’ tax collector, taking only that which was due + a truly reasonable fee. If Zacc was an inveterate thief, he’d have broken himself financially with this oath. I think the synagogues in Rome were honest, as well.
“Custom to whom custom” – ‘Custom’ (Strong’s 5056) is from telos, which usually means goal or end, but in this and most other instances where it deals with the actual payment of taxes it means “an impost or levy as paid.” W1828 has impost as, “A duty or tax laid by government on goods imported, and paid or secured by the importer at the time of importation.” So when customs assesses an impost on what you carry into the country from outside, it is legitimate and you need to pay it. Customs are usually a small percentage of the cost of the goods. Once again, these were assessed at the synagogue, if applicable.
“Fear to whom fear” – The greek word is phobos, terror. To whom is ‘fear’ due? Fear is due to anyone who has legitimate authority to bring judgment against you. In our context, that would be, in order of importance to the believer, 1) Y’hovah, 2) the authority of one’s family (preferably the father, but mother in father’s absence, or eldest sibling), 3) the elders of the kahal, 4) local/municipal police/judges, and then 5) provincial/State authorities. The reason the secular authorities are listed last is that these SHOULD be the last ones anyone would see, judgment being most just at the most intimate level. Seen in light of the 5th Commandment, this explains the reason given in Ex.20.12:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which Y’hovah Elohecha giveth thee.
If we honour our parents and obey them, we are most likely to be good citizens of a just nation and good leaders in the local kahal, because we are most likely to be obedient to Y’hovah‘s Word.
“Honour to whom honour” – We’ve already seen who is most worthy of our honour – Y’hovah and our parents. But to whom else do we render due honour? Let me list a few direct from scripture:
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face (meaning countenance) of the old man, and fear Elohecha: I am the Y’hovah. (Leviticus 19:32)
For thou hast made him (Messiah) a little lower than Elohim, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. (Psalms 8:5)
A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches. (Proverbs 11:16)
That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. (John 5:23)
Honour widows that are widows indeed. (I Timothy 5:3)
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. (I Timothy 5:17)
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (I Peter 2:17)
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (I Peter 3:7)
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.(Revelation of John 21:26)
You could easily say that any righteous man, or any person righteously filling an office of trust or authority is worthy of our honour. It is his due. And what do we generally find? We find that when someone faithfully observes to perform his assigned duties, to keep his word and to honour his trust, he is given much honour. Q&C
Vv.8-11 – “Owe no man any thing” has been taken to mean not to go into debt. It immediately follows the admonition to ‘render’ to whomever what is his due. I think that meant to do so as we would unto Y’hovah. This is a reference to Dt.28 and the curses for disobedience.
43 The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. 44 He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail. 45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of Y’hovah ]
Elohecha, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: 46 And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. 47 Because thou servedst not Y’hovah Elohecha with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart (like Yonah, who served reluctantly), for the abundance of all; 48 Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which Y’hovah shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.
This is, of course the latter end of Y’hovah’s judgments and condemnations against his disobedient children. This is all exactly the opposite of what he WANTS to do for us, but when we get rebellious and obstinate in our sin it is what he eventually MUST do to us to get us to want to repent and do his will instead of our own. Would that it were not so, but all too often it is. We, therefore, ought not get into debt. However, the debt itself is not sin, but a symptom of it. If we are following Y’hovah completely, none of the curses he threatens should come upon us. So, if you are deep in debt, especially credit card debt, you need to look at how faithfully you are obeying Y’hovah’s commands. And shred the cards.
The rest of the phrase says, ‘but to love one another.’ The only thing we owe anyone is to show our love to him by our obedience to Y’hovah’s commandments. If we show love for our fellow men, we show love for Y’hovah – and vice versa. There is no disconnect.
Notice please that 8b does not say that one has fulfilled the ‘whole’ law, as some mistakenly claim. This is a direct reference to Lev.19.34;
34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Y’hovah Elochem.
This is the second greatest Torah instruction, and ‘neighbor’ must therefore mean a stranger who dwells with Yisrael. A fellow Yisraelite is a brother. In context to the gentile converts to the Way in the Roman synagogue, the ‘neighbor’ is the Jewish leadership. In context to the Jewish leadership, the neighbor is the gentile convert.
Remember the Good Samaritan. Whoso loves his neighbor loves Y’hovah. It’s simple, but not easy. Vv.9&10 begin to illustrate and reiterate the truth of v.8 (“For this…”) – if you are doing anything to bring harm to your neighbor generally, or specifically according to v.8, you are not loving Y’hovah. We can only show our love for him, in this specific context, by showing love for those who are his, especially those who are different from us.
V.10 makes the point that Torah is for our good, in a slightly backhanded way – since love does no harm, it fulfills Torah.
V. 11 continues to illustrate the truth of v.8 (“And that…”) – We need to come together as people of faith in Messiah and his Torah (“high time to wake out of sleep”) because our salvation, deliverance to the land, is at hand. Paul’s grammar here shows a difference between belief and salvation. I don’t think it means that we are not saved by our faith, but that simply believing is not faith.
Yacov (James) 2.14-26
14 What profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one Elohim; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect (complete)? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed Elohim, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of Elohim. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So, it is easy to see that works are the life-giving Spirit of faith, and faith is NOT simply a belief system. James juxtaposes faith and belief, showing that works are useless to save and that faith is MORE than just conviction to a mental assent. True faith is seen in both our belief AND our subsequent and consequent actions based on our belief. And also, in this case, I believe that ‘salvation’ (in Rom.13.11) may be better translated ‘deliverance’ or ‘redemption’ – and that redemption is from our evil inclination, or ‘sin nature’. It is what all of Tanakh told us, that our deliverance is into the Kingdom on earth. Q&C
V.12 carries the idea of waking from sleep a bit further by implying that our ‘sleep’ from which we need to wake is our ‘works of darkness’. We discussed what darkness is in our discussion of v.1 (pg. 109 and 103 above). Night refers to exile from fellowship with Y’hovah. The end of exile, our reconciliation with Y’hovah through the resurrection we are promised in Yeshua, is at hand. The light is showing at the end of the tunnel. That reconciliation is now with us spiritually, and will be fully realized in the Millennial Kingdom. For this reason, because the end of our exile is at hand, we need to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
That light is Torah, a word rooted in the Hebrew word ‘or, which means light. Torah is spelled w/4 letters; tav, vav, resh and hey. The two letters in the center are vav, resh, which spell ‘or – light. Hebrew letters have meanings in and of themselves. ‘Tav’ is the mark of Y’hovah and the goal to which we aspire. ‘Hey’ represents an open window through which we behold things. So through Torah we behold the light of Yeshua, who is our ultimate goal.
Paul admonishes us to walk now AS WE WILL ‘in the day’, which refers to the light part of the day of Messiah. He delineates what he means by ‘works of darkness’ in v.13, then tells us that living in them is making provision for the flesh in v.14. So in vv.12-14, we see that works of darkness are those things prohibited in v.13, which are all provisions of the flesh based in our lusts. But we also see that when we cast off those works of darkness and put on the armor of light we are walking honestly before our Creator, having put on Y’hovah Yeshua haMashiyach, who is both the armor of light and the living Torah of Elohim.
The question is this, “Who is acting in these verses?” Sha’ul says, “Let US cast off …. and let us PUT ON …. and Let us walk ….” Then he commands his readers (including US), “Put ye on Y’hovah Yeshua haMashiyach and make not provision for the flesh’s lusts.” First he tells us to put on the ‘armor of light’. Then he tells us to put on Y’hovah Yeshua haMashiyach. The connexion is obvious. Behold the goal and the mark of the high calling of Elohim through the light of Torah, and advance towards it. Q&C