Firstborn and Only Begotten

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

Exodus 4:22 (KJV)

Firstborn – As a follower of Yeshua, it is easy to forget history when you believe the history of the faith began with the advent of Jesus in the first century. When all we read is the New Testament, the history prior to it becomes irrelevant. If I believe that Yeshua completely absolved everything written in the Old Testament to create a new religion called Christianity, then I have lost perspective.

During the time of Passover, I am pulled in two directions as both an observer of Torah and a follower of Yeshua. Most of my Christian peers recognize Jesus’ suffering during this time and His resurrection, and I with them, mind you. It is, after all, the time of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. And that is a momentous occasion that a faithful believer honors yearly, if not daily.

But it is also important to recognize that Passover is God’s holy day that He instituted for a particular reason. He even specifies our remembrance of it. Let us read what God says about this time of year.

26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.

Exodus 12:26-27

Passover is a direct call back to when God heard the suffering of His firstborn. Yes, Israel is God’s firstborn son. This holy day is to remember how God redeemed His firstborn. In correlation to that, Yeshua is God’s only-begotten son. Did you catch that? Yeshua is not God’s firstborn.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

But God calls us to remember Israel. Remember the suffering of God’s firstborn son. Surely, as followers of Christ, we can see the obvious ties to Christ, the redemption He provides, and His suffering and ultimate victory. The Old Testament is filled with relationships that lead to Christ’s work – His death and resurrection. But as Christians, we do not have the authority to change what God instituted and the purpose of His holy day – Passover. It’s still about Israel.

As we commemorate the Passover, we can recall both accounts of suffering and redemption. But when my children ask about this holy day, as they always do… I will remind them of the suffering of Israel and how God redeemed them with many miracles. As my children mature, I will watch them make the connections to Christ on their own and smile at their wisdom.

A Hebrew Homonym

11 The word of the LORD came to me: What do you see, Jeremiah? I replied: I see a branch of an almond tree.
12 The LORD said to me: You have seen right, For I am watchful to bring My word to pass.

Jeremiah 1:11-12 (JPS)

Almond tree / I am watchful – We lose so much when we read the text in a translated language. Below, the two Hebrew words look identical, but are expressed with very different meanings. In one case, the word שקד is an almond tree, but the second occurrence of שקד means to “watch.” What is going on?

As many of you already understand, Hebrew words, especially ancient Hebrew, was written without vowels. So without the jots and tittles, we only see the consonants. When reading out loud, we can inflect different vowel sounds between the consonants which ultimately dictate different words. This is why the two seemingly exact same words are actually quite different.

The first is pronounced “shaqed” while the second is pronounced “shaqad.” But as any good scholar testifies, whenever the same word is used for different purposes in the text, there is a relationship that can be derived.

Here, God shows Jeremiah an almond tree and suggests that this means God is watching to ensure his word will come to pass. It is an early example of a homonym. Almost like showing you the bark of a tree because your dog likes to bark at passing vehicles.

Without this understanding, we are left to wonder why God would show Jeremiah an almond tree. What was the point of that? In addition, we might begin a whole doctrine to enforce the concept of an almond tree as the symbol of God’s watchfulness. Eventually, we might come across religious campaigns or churches called “God’s Almond Tree.”

Simply put, God showed Jeremiah an almond tree because the word is the same word that God uses to express his watchfulness. It all comes back to language and God’s creative energy exemplified therein. Hebrew is a very concrete language and uses tangible items to express intangible concepts. This is one of those moments.

The Legacy of Isaac

And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:

Genesis 25:9 (KJV)

Generations of Isaac – When someone begins to tell you about the generations of a person, they normally begin with that person’s children. I’m expecting this verse to end with and Isaac begat Jacob, but instead the verse jumps to Abraham. Why?

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Duality or Triune?

Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:7 (JPS)

Breath of life – What is man made up of? That is the question here. Jewish traditions imply that humans are dual in nature made of a body and a soul. They adopted this concept from Plato’s dualism. However, Trinitarian Christians who desperately want to see their concept of a triune God imitated in the creation of mankind adopted the construct of a soul, a body, and a spirit. Which is correct?

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Mankind and Life

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Genesis 3:20 (KJV)

Adam & Eve – Do you recognize the importance of names in the Bible? They mean something… And this something becomes a moment of teaching about character, about the story, or about a lesson. God Himself will change people’s names to represent a shift in plot line or character. With this in mind, what is the significance of the names, Adam and Eve?

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Contradictory Interpretations

And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Genesis 15:6 (KJV)

Believed – What happens when two Biblical authors use the same verse from Genesis to support two contradictory messages? For the most of us, we just brush it under the rug or fiddle with the wording until it fits better. Both Paul and James, Rabbis of their time, use this verse about Abraham believing to support their message about faith and works.

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The “other” god

And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

Deuteronomy 11:28 (KJV)

To go after other gods, which ye have not known – In order to really understand what God is saying here, we need to consider this verse with the two before it.

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God’s Oral Commandments

If the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.

Deuteronomy 12:21 (KJV)

As I have commanded thee – A recent conversation with a Jewish friend of mine brought us to this verse from Deuteronomy. He reasoned that this verse justified the Oral Law, considered the Talmud, that was given to Moses orally and not part of the Written Law, the 5 books of Moses. The 5 books of Moses (written Torah) does not explain the details for how to kill an animal, but the Talmud does. So obviously God must be talking about the Oral Law in this verse.

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There is Hope

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:10 (KJV)

The gathering together – The word here in Hebrew is mikveh ( מקוה ) which you may recognize. It is often used in reference to a pool of water for ritual immersion leading to ritual purity. Here in Genesis, it is used to describe the waters (mayim) out of which the earth grew.

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