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Deuteronomy 33:8.

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by John D. Brey, Apr 7, 2021.

  1. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    In studying scripture, few things are as rewarding as when, through using scripture to interpret scripture, i.e., cross-referencing scriptures to gain a greater clarity to what's going on beneath the p'shat layer of the text, you come upon a glaring textual oddity that lends itself to the direction you're already heading even while it creates problems for the traditional renderings of the text; say the Masoretes' rendering of the text (the MT ---Masoretic Text ---being the traditional Hebrew interpretation the King James Version is based on).

    Deuteronomy 33:8 is a case in point. It lends itself to the exegesis I was pointing out in a number of recent threads even while it creates something of a problem for a magnificent Hebrew exegete like Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch who's generally inclined to incline toward the Masoretes's interpretation so long as sound exegesis permits. . . Here, Deuteronomy 33:8, it kinda doesn't.



    John
     
    #1 John D. Brey, Apr 7, 2021
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  2. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    במסה can hardly refer to the place called "Massah" and to the events that transpired there. Neither the tribe, nor Moshe, nor Aharon ---who, as the first bearer of the Urim and Tummim, is alluded to here --- were put to the test by special trials.

    The Hirsch Chumash, Devarim 33:8.​

    It's no small thing when a Hebrew scholar questions the Hebrew text of scripture as interpreted in the MT. Rabbi Hirsch is questioning how the term "Massah" מסה is supposed to be the name of the locale because of the trials מסה (Hebrew "massah") that occurred there when according to Rabbi Hirsch no trials transpired against Moses, Aaron, nor the tribe (the alleged target of the verse) that would account for that particular name as mentioned in Deuteronomy 33:8. The King James Version, come from the MT, says:

    And of Levi he said, Let they Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah . . ..​



    John
     
    #2 John D. Brey, Apr 7, 2021
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  3. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    If we look at the events in question, Exodus 15:25, we read in the KJV:

    And he [Moses] cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree which when he had cast into the waters the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them.​

    The KJV's Hebrew translators mess up numerous places. And Rabbi Hirsch's interpretation corrects two glaring mistakes in the KJV when he properly translates the masculine singular pronoun the KJV treats as a plural. Then Rabbi Hirsch messes up his own interpretation when he translates the final word as a plural when it's a singular pronoun נסהו:

    There He established law and ordinance for it, and there it tested them נסהו.​

    Even as a former President said that the truth of a matter depended on the meaning of "is," so too here, the meaning of both scriptures (Deuteronomy 33:8, and Exodus 15:25) depend on the meaning of "it" (the proper translation of the pronoun) above? Rabbi Hirsch's own error (translating the final pronoun as a plural) lends itself, when corrected, to correcting the mistaken identity he points out in Deuteronomy 33:8.



    John
     
    #3 John D. Brey, Apr 7, 2021
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  4. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    And of Levi he said, Let they Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah . . ..​

    The subject of the verse is "thy holy one whom thou didst prove at Massah." And as Rabbi Hirsch rightly discerns, it can't be talking about Moses, Aaron, or the tribe, for various reasons. Which leaves a serious problem for Rabbi Hirsch and his tradition, but which is part and parcel of the exegesis I provided in other threads. "Thy holy one" is not Moses, nor Aaron, nor the tribe. It's the rod of Moses whom Aaron, less than a chapter later, Exodus 16:34, seemingly mistakes for the holy one, the Lord, when told by Moses to place a pot of manna before the Lord at which time Aaron places the manna before the same rod that's being called "thy holy one" in Deuteronomy 33:8.

    Rabbi Hirsch is dumbfounded about the fact that neither Moses, Aaron, nor the tribe, are tested, proved, at Massah, such that some one or thing other than those three has to be "thy holy one" tested at Massah.



    John
     
  5. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    A long-suffering interlocutor in another thread poo pooed the idea that Moses' rod is an avatar, icon, or vessel, for the Presence of the Lord (even though Exodus 4:1-5 makes that all but a forgone and conclusive conclusion). And he wasn't buying the idea that Moses' rod is the pre-testimonial stones Torah rod either (the Tree of Life around which the written testimony is eventually wrapped and nailed, i.e., the lambskin with the curse of the Law on it, nailed to the wood, to form the Torah scroll).

    Nevertheless, ironically, Numbers chapter 5 all but proves the latter proposition when the testing, the proving, that occurs in that chapter, is effected when the "bitter waters" are made sweet, ala Exodus 15:25, precisely when a Torah scroll with the name of the Lord written on it, is placed into the bitter water to make it sweet.



    John
     
  6. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    Not true. My objection stands. In that conversation you cherry picked a few verses from Deut 18 and ignored Deut 13. In this case you're cherry picking verses 1-5 while ignoring verse 12 which literally means God is with Moses, not in Moses.
     
    #6 dybmh, Apr 8, 2021
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  7. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    Fwiw, when I said "long suffering" that wasn't intended to be demeaning. I meant to imply that you were patient, and, well, long suffering, concerning my idiosyncratic interpretation of the verses.



    John
     
  8. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    I'm not saying God is in Moses. I'm saying he (God) --- at least the seminal manifestation of the Lord (the "miraculous sign" R. Hirsch) ----is in Moses' hand. Exodus 4:1-5 makes that as clear as it can possibly be made:

    And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. 2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. 3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. 4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: 5 That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

    Exodus 4:1–5.​

    There's no way to read that but to say the serpent-rod in Moses' hand is proof not only that God has "appeared" to Moses, but that he's with Moses ---- in Moses' hand (at least emblematically). Therefore, it doesn't seem out of line to imply that the serpent-rod captures in some important, graphic (or pictographic) way, what the "appearance" of God to Moses looked like since it's the icon, or sign אות, given to relate to Israel God's appearance to Moses.

    That being the case, i.e., that the serpent-rod represents God being with Moses, God empowering Moses' right hand, by being grasped by Moses (held in his hand), we shouldn't be surprised that this emblem of the Lord in Moses' hand is associated with God's power throughout the exodus, and most particularly in the early stages of the deliverance and salvation.

    Ergo, when Moses tells Aaron to place the manna before the Lord, there's no reason to be alarmed or surprised that Aaron places the manna before the serpent rod; there's no reason to be surprised when Deuteronomy 33:8 implicates this self-same rod as the one that was tested, and proved, to be able to save, at Massah. There doesn't seem to be a real reason to protest the seemingly obvious: Moses' staff, rod, or serpent-rod, is a "sign" אות, or manifestation, of God's very appearance and Presence (his shekinah glory).

    Btw, for the Hebrew illiterate out there, the word "shekinah" as in "shekinah glory," comes from a root meaning a "dwelling," a place where someone "dwells"; so that it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Moses' serpent-rod is the dwelling place שכן of the Lord's power and glory.



    John
     
    #8 John D. Brey, Apr 11, 2021
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  9. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    Rabbi Hirsch calls Moses' serpent-rod a "miraculous sign." And yet, in what might be considered misplaced respect for modern Judaism's ingrained aniconism, Rabbi Hirsch tries not to think too concretely about the fact, nor the manner in which, this miraculous sign signifies the appearance of God to Moses (and then Israel); although in fairness he does take a stab at it; if those words aren't too Christological in this context?

    Nevertheless, as is often the case where the significance of a sign is of the utmost importance, the Hebrew letters themselves lend themselves to the exegete willing to lift up the banner of the Lord's power and glory, his shekinah glory, so that the Hebrew letters themselves speak to the God fearer as loudly as should the rod lifted in Moses' hand.

    The word for God's "dwelling glory" (shekinah) comes from the Hebrew word "to dwell" שכן. It's the letters shin-kaf-nun. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh (an expert in Hebrew letter symbolism) says the shin ש is a picture of a bush, even a thorn-bush. Likewise, in Hebrew letter symbolism, the letter kaf כ symbolizes the palm of the hand, or the hand in general. Finally, the letter nun נ and particularly the nun-sofit (ending, extended-nun ן) represents a "staff" or "rod."

    In each case, the existing shape of the Hebrew letter comes from the pictographic Paleo-Hebrew script of Moses' day where, unremarkably, these letters also symbolize the pictogram they evolved from. . . Which is a long-winded way of pointing out the nearly miraculous truth that the "miraculous sign" in Moses' hand (the staff that represents God's "dwelling place") is a picture of a "thorn-bush" ש whose "branch, stump, or rod," ן, is in a "hand," כ.

    Moses' rod is a picture, in Hebrew letter symbolism, of the burning thorn-bush that's the outer-skene that represents God's "dwelling place," his "shakan" שכן: the thorn-bush, lifted in a hand, by means of the branch, around which the thorny-addendum grow or are wrapped. To repeat what was just said (earlier in the thread):

    There's no way to read that but to say the serpent-rod in Moses' hand is proof not only that God has "appeared" to Moses, but that he's with Moses ---- in Moses' hand (at least emblematically). Therefore, it doesn't seem out of line to imply that the serpent-rod captures in some important, graphic (even pictographic), way, what the "appearance" of God to Moses looked like since it's the icon, or sign אות, given to relate to Israel God's appearance to Moses.​

    To just spit it out, Moses' staff, or serpent-rod, is an emblematic representation of the burning bush theophany. And since this is as clear as can possibly be, there's bound to be a reason why one of the greatest Jewish minds of all time, Rabbi Samson Hirsch, binds the testimony so no one can see it? There's bound to be a reason he won't go here, other than to take a stab at it here or there, won't go into what the very Presence of God looks like and why? Our primary question is why he won't go there? What's he guarding of his modern Jewish sensibilities? There appears to be something more here than meets the naked-eye, i.e., beyond the standard Jewish aniconistic distaste for concrete images of deity?




    John
     
    #9 John D. Brey, Apr 11, 2021
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  10. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    I actually don't have any interest in this topic. I replied because you called me out, and the argument brought in this thread was cherry picking verses, same as before. The connections you're attempting to make fall apart as soon as I read the text referenced.
     
  11. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    OK, this is more cherry picking.

    in Exodus 4, there are 3 signs. 1 is Moses hand turning white as snow, 1 is a staff changing to a serpent and back again, 1 is water spilled on the ground becoming blood.

    You cherry picked one, the staff, and ignored the others. Using your logic, the dwelling places (plural) for the Lord's power and glory are diverse not localized.
     
  12. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    At the beginning of Exodus chapter 4, where God tells Moses the serpent-rod will be proof of his appearance, Rabbi Hirsch says:

    Fundamentally, there was no reason to equip Moshe with a אות [sign], a miracle. The guarantee of success was included in the words spoken to Moshe and to us, for all time: כי אהיה עמך וזה לך (above, 3:12). The historic path we have traveled through the ages, weak as we were, with nothing but the Torah in our arms, is reliable testimony forever that Moshe and his Torah are true.​

    Freud would have had field day with this. Rabbi Hirsch is supposed to be informing us about the nature of the serpent-rod that God implies pretty clearly is going to be an emblem, or sign אות of his appearing. And what does Rabbi Hirsch say? That there was no reason to equip Moses with it. Rabbi Hirsch chides God for the serpent-rod; he takes a stab at the serpent-rod, presaging what Hezekiah is going to do to it when it reaches his day (2 Kings 18:4).

    But then Rabbi Hirsch blurts out what he, and we, should already know, i.e., that the serpent-rod in Moses' hand is the same wooden rod, wrapped in lambskin with Masoretic addendum, the Torah scroll, carried in Israel's hands and in their bosom to this very day. We know this is pretty undeniably what's hidden beneath Rabbi Hirsch's Freudian slip of the wrist since he actually calls this Torah rod in the hands of Israel the reliable "testimony" that will exist forever.

    When Moses tells Aaron to place the manna before the prototype Torah scroll, his serpent-rod, he tells Aaron to place it before the "testimony" עדת. Ironically, this is the first time in the scripture that that word is used, and is thus the first time we're clued in, in an unambiguous manner, as to whom, or what, the serpent-rod that looks like the appearance of God is actually revealing. When Rabbi Hirsch, in introducing us to Exodus chapter 4, immediately speaks of the "testimony" in Israel's arms as all anyone needs to know in order to appreciate how weak little ole Israel has survived all these centuries, he's taking the serpent-rod out of Moses' hand and placing it in Israel's arms all the while, seemingly, unaware of what's going on in his testimony concerning the serpent-rod he's lifting his pen to describe.



    John
     
    #12 John D. Brey, Apr 11, 2021
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  13. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    The Good Rabbi ( obm) isn't fixatd on Moses' rod like you seem to be. Duh.

    The rest of the post linked to above is nonsense. There were 3 signs, not one. The symbolism proposed by the shape of the Hebrew letters fails because it's irrelevant for the other two signs.

    It's cherry picking one sign and ignoring the other two.
     
  14. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    I apologize for calling you out. I most definitely don't want anyone reading anything I write just because I called them out. I'll try to make it a point never to do that to you or anyone else in the future.



    John
     
  15. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    From my perspective that's an understatement; as I pointed out in message #12.

    Rabbi Hirsch clearly, if below the surface of his Jewish consciousness, knows (and maybe you do too) what Moses' rod represents: the testimony in Israel's arms all these years; which he concedes is the Torah scroll.

    The fascinating question concerns what precisely is going on when Rabbi Hirsch seems to take the same attitude toward the testimony in Moses' hand that Hezekiah takes toward it when those Israelites who knew exactly what it represents, whom it represents, were offering prayers and burning incense to the only personage any Jew should ever be offering prayers to, and burning incense toward, or placing jars of manna before.

    Why Hezekiah sets out to destroy it, and why Rabbi Hirsch uses his pen to bind it up, only taking half-stabs at it, should be a burning question for all God-fearing Jews and Christians?

    Btw, I'm trying not to be critical of Rabbi Hirsch. Something is going on here that I'm trying to understand myself. I believe there's something going on here that he, me, and ye, need to understand to the degree God is willing to reveal it.



    John
     
    #15 John D. Brey, Apr 11, 2021
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  16. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    The transformation is the focus of Rabbi Hirch's commentary on these verses in Exodus 4.

    "
    This transformation -- that a staff can be turned into a serpent, and then back again into a staff at will -- is initself a sign. It is a means of generating the conviction that a man who is equipped with this power of transformation is indeed the emissary of an utterly unique Power, a Power Who establishes the natural order and course of all things, a Power by Whose Will alone the laws of nature were established and continue to operate, and through Whom all things not only came into being but continue to exist.
    "

    Rav Hirsch Chumash commentary on Exodus 4:2-5.

    Note: Moses is an emissary according to rav Hirsch. God is not manifesting inthe object in Moses' hand. Also Rav Hirsch indicates that this is an "utterly unique power". If you're proposing what I think you're proposing, that is literally a greek spiritual practice. It's not unique. They did/do stuff like that in Chinese folk religions too. It's not Jewish. It's prohibited. You know this.

    All 3 signs need to be included in your analysis imo.
     
  17. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    I think there's more than just three signs. But I think they're all interrelated. For instance, though the Masoretic text doesn't clue the reader in to it, the text implies that when Moses places his hand in his bosom, at which time it becomes leprous, that hand still has the serpent-rod in it. If the serpent-rod represents the Torah scroll, then there will come a time in Israel's future when the Torah scroll will appear to be powerless to save Israel, leprous perhaps.

    Exodus 23:28 implies that the power God will send to drive out Israel's enemies is, get this, צרעה? The same word is found in Exodus 4 to describe what happens to the Torah scroll, Moses' serpent-rod, when placed in his bosom. For the non-Hebrew reader the word is "hornets" and "leprous." They appear to have not only a phonetic relationship, but they both, in some interrelated manner, appear to be a way God will defeat Israel's enemies.

    Which segues into how the Hebrew word "shakan" (to dwell) שכן relates to Moses placing his hand, with the serpent-rod in it, into his bosom, where the Torah scroll (or it's prototype manifestation) turns leprous: his dwelling place turns leprous.

    When the Hebrew sages wonder out loud why "leprosy" and "hornets" use the same Hebrew consonants they sometimes say that a hornet sting is like the "burning" pain associated with the skin disease. Which is to say that, perhaps, God gets himself into something like a hornet's nest when he decides to enter time and tide to save Israel from her enemies: the burning thorn-bush, represented by the shin, is a bush alight with flying seraphim, which, the seraphim, almost unbelievably, are associated with flames of fire. (Bronze is thought to look like flames when light hits it. And the word God uses when he tells Moses to add a fore-skene to his rod, is "seraph" שרף. The sages wonder why Moses, and not God, chooses bronze? And why does Moses, not God, call the the "seraph" a "nachash"?)

    The hornet's nest God gets himself into is the bush where his deepest Presence is protected by a hornet's nest of flying seraphim. You can't get to the Branch, the tree of life, unless you can get through the protecting angels who protect God just as they protect Israel even though something of their sting, their leprous nature, rubs off on everything they touch. (Perhaps this is why it's it's forbidden to touch the Torah scroll in this day and age and in its current state. A "yad" must be used to point to the lambskin skene that's the Torah's fore-skene while it's in its leprous state.)

    But this sign may have an additional meaning. From מקרב חיקך כלה (Tehillim 74:11) we learn that "hiding one's hand in one's bosom" is an expression denoting inactivity. Accordingly, this sign was intended to convey to the people the following message: "Placing one's hand into one's bosom" ---i.e., refraining from taking action ---can lead to one's destruction, if that is God's will. But if it is at God's behest that one assumes a stance of שב ואל תעשה and refrains from taking action, this can bring salvation.

    The Hirsch Chumash, Shemos 4:7.
    The referenced passage from Tehillim 74:11 (Psalms 74:11), says (with verses 10 and 12 added):

    9 We see not our signs:
    There is no more any prophet:
    Neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
    10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach?
    Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?
    11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand?
    Pluck it out of thy bosom.
    12 For God is my King of old,
    Working salvation in the midst of the earth.




    John
     
    #17 John D. Brey, Apr 11, 2021
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  18. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    When I claimed that I'm trying not to be critical of Rabbi Hirsch, it's precisely because I appreciate the rejection of representing God in tangible, mudane, profane, things. And yet a thorn-bush is just such a thing. Which is why God, perhaps, gets himself into a thorny, burning, situation, when he leaves heaven (if such a thing were possible) to save Israel even if it hurts like hell to leave heaven and enter into time and tide. ------Deutero-Isaiah implies God gets himself into a real pickle, finds himself leprous, and in need of salvation himself, before he can save Israel:

    In one of the most difficult verses in the difficult text (Is. 53, 10), YHVH states as a condition of the future life and work of the servant: “if his soul makes a guilt-offering.” Some scholars see in this a “clear and definite” expression of “vicarious expiation.” But the wording does not allow such an interpretation. Asham, “guilt-offering,” means compensation and not expiation. It is the name of the gift which the leper had to bring on the day of his purification (Lev. 4, 11ff). We have no indication as to how we should picture in our minds the future purification of him stricken with the leprosy of the world; but we are told that he must purify himself before he enters upon his duty of bringing to the nations the order of righteousness, and of linking them together to a people of peoples in his capacity as “covenant.”

    Martin Buber, The Prophetic Faith, p. 228.​



    John
     
  19. John D. Brey

    John D. Brey Well-Known Member

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    I read that. But I thought the next statement was even more telling:

    A more penetrating analysis, however, should also explain why God chose this particular sign instead of some other one.​

    Rabbi Hirsch takes a stab at answering his own question. And in answering it comes to say:

    This sign in Moshe's hand will show the people that, if God so desires, the thing on which a person leans for support and with which he wields his authority can turn into the very opposite: a serpent.​

    Perhaps he forgets, perhaps not, but not too much earlier in the same examination Rabbi Hirsch said the Torah scroll is what Israel always leans on for support, and that it's the testimony of the Torah that's their authority; the testimony of the Torah is Israel's rod and staff. . . God forbid it turn into a serpent, or that the very seraphim guarding it come to believe they're something more than servants of the Presence that they're only stationed to serve and protect.

    There's a saying that it's futile to give the solution to a problem to those for whom the problem hasn't even yet been perceived. We could say the idea that God gets himself into a hornet's nest (the burning bush) when he desires to rescue Israel from some very dark and formidable principalities and powers is not a problem on Judaism's plate yet such that the solution the presence of Jesus presents is a non-starter for Judaism at this time. . . That's a roundabout way of saying his life is the breadcrumbs to the gateway out of a conundrum the occupants don't yet fully realize they're in. He's the bread of life only those who realize true life has been robbed from them are prepared to swallow.

    It would indeed be a dark saying to say, or even suggest, that Israel, like the seraphim, were stationed to guard the testimony, the Torah, but, that like the guardian angels before them, might have come to believe they were the central characters in the staring role rather than merely faithful servants guarding the testimony until its time in the bosom of God's long-suffering came to an end.

    It would be an even stickier wicket to imagine that only by believing themselves the central character of the story, the Clark Gable of the testimony, so to say, that the seraphim, or Israel too, might have the necessary investment in their guardianship to perform the impossible task assigned to them; that a divine cunning might be involved in Israel's latter day conversion as referenced, perhaps, in Zechariah 12:10-13? Maybe even the fall of the seraphim is not something God was unaware of or something his right hand is powerless to catch before anyone or thing gets permanently injured (Ephesians 3:7-12)?



    John
     
    #19 John D. Brey, Apr 12, 2021
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