Prophet Pearls #53 – Ha’azinu (2 Samuel 22:1-51)

Prophet Pearls - Ha'azinu (2 Samuel 22:1-51)This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Haazinu which covers 2 Samuel 22:1-51. As Gordon and Johnson compare this portion to its parallel in Psalm 18, we learn more about the contexts of these living, breathing prayers and prophecies and the families of Levites who read and sang them in the Temple and in synagogues.

Gordon explains the rabbinical belief that scripture is a divine code—with hidden meanings based on variances in spellings—and gives his own explanation.  Related to these variances, we learn about “qere/ketiv”—the exacting margin notes left by scribes to determine if words should be read differently than they were written. Word studies include “sheol” and the special “and” used in this portion and elsewhere in the Tanakh.

In closing, Gordon prays for peace for the people of Israel and that people who cry out to Yehovah, wherever they are in the world, would feel his arm on their shoulders and know he is with them.

“Then David spoke to Yehovah the words of this song on the day when Yehovah had delivered him… from the hand of Saul. ” (2 Samuel 22:1)

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Prophet Pearls #51 – Nitzavim (Isaiah 61:10-63:9)

Prophet Pearls Nitzavim, angel of his presence, Elijah, haftarah, Isaiah 61:10-63:9, Keith Johnson, Metatron Enoch, nehemia gordon, Nitzavim, Nitzavim haftarah, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, Prophecy, Prophet Pearls, prophets, prophets portion, Temple Mount, watchmen walls, watchmen walls jerusalem, Yeshua, yeshua haftarah, yeshua reading synagogueThis week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Nitzavim which covers Isaiah 61:10-63:9. These watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem recount their most recent visit to the Temple Mount and Gordon gives the historical background of Muslim-control of the only holy site in Judaism.  Gordon and Johnson discuss the Isaiah passage read by Yeshua in the synagogue—which confirms first-century Haftarah readings. We learn statistics on named and unnamed angels in the Tanakh and Gordon provides three rabbinical traditions for the “angel of his presence” mentioned in this passage.  In closing, Gordon asks Yehovah to turn the hearts of those who desecrate the Temple Mount—and to send his messengers to help those on the wall do his work.

“For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest” Isaiah 62:1

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Prophet Pearls #48 – Shoftim (Isaiah 51:12-52:12)

Prophet Pearls Shoftim, haftarah, haftarah consolation, isaiah, isaiah 53, Keith Johnson, nehemia gordon, orthodox jewish bible, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, Prophet Pearls, prophets, prophets portion, shoftim, shoftim haftarah, YeshuaThis week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Shoftim covering Isaiah 51:12-52:12. Gordon and Johnson begin with the elephant in the room: Why does Shoftim (and Ki Teitzeifollowing) decisively leapfrog over Isaiah 52:13-53:12?  Was the omission of this key prophetic passage for Christians and Messianics a conspiracy or did the Rabbis just not consider it comforting?

Gordon notes how Isaiah’s doubling of words (“Comfort, comfort,” “I, I,” “Awake, awake,” “Depart, depart”) make it easy to imagine the prophet proclaiming from a public square. While comparing different translations, the duo check out verses from the Orthodox Jewish Bible. Gordon’s explanations for the translator’s broad choices will leave you scratching your head—and chuckling.

The duo end by debating to whom the omitted verses refer and find common ground even here in the ofttimes polarizing world of Isaiah 53.

“Arise, shake off the dust, Sit on your throne, Jerusalem! Loose the bonds from your neck, O captive one, Fair Zion!” Isaiah 52:2

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The Original Torah Pearls – Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

Artwork for this week’s episode is a painting by Mara Hofmann, artist.

Prophet Pearls #46 – Eikev (Isaiah 49:14-51:3)

Prophet Pearls, comfort zion, eikev, eikev haftarah, eikev prophets portion, ekev, ekev haftarah, gather kibbutz, god as mother, haftarah, hebrew gender rules, hebrew grammar, Ingathering, isaiah, Isaiah 49:14-51:3, jeremiah, Keith Johnson, nehemia gordon, Parsha, parshas, parshat, Prophet Pearls, prophets, Torah PortionThis week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Eikev covering Isaiah 49:14-51:3. The gender rules of Hebrew grammar are explored in this portion as well as Isaiah’s (and Moses’) metaphorical references to God as a mother. We learn that the suffering servant’s message is one of great hope—that we can fully trust and lean on God. In addition to grammar goodies, word studies include “gather/kibbutz”—as we see nations gathering in the Land—fulfilling God’s word to Isaiah.

Gordon and Johnson rejoice with the suffering servant’s message that one day all flesh—perhaps all living creatures—will know the Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Gordon reveals the verse he would thump if he were a Christian missionary and closes in a prayer of thankfulness to the Comforter of Zion for joy and gladness in the streets of Jerusalem.

“See, I have engraved you On the palms of My hands, Your walls are ever before Me.” Isaiah 49:16

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Prophet Pearls Va’etchanan #45 – Isaiah 40:1-26

Hurva Synagogue

This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Va’etchanan covering Isaiah 40:1-26. ”Nachamu, nachamu, / Comfort, comfort ye my people” begins this portion as well as the theme of Haftarah readings for the next seven weeks. Gordon explains the history and symbolism for these “Haftarot of consolation” and why they are read from Tish’ah b’Av (the ninth of Av) until Rosh Hashanah.  We also learn the remarkable story of Herbert Samuel—whose reading of this portion at the Hurva Synagogue in 1920 was seen as the official pronouncement of the end of the third exile.

Word studies include: “nacham/comfort,” and “ratzah/accepted.” Gordon explains comma placement in translations from Hebrew and Greek that support the classic image of redemption coming from the wilderness. In closing, Johnson prays, “you are God and there is no other’ and asks for the humility to apply the Word to all aspects of life.

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Isaiah 40:1

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In this week’s episode we spoke about Eliezer Ben Yehudah, who began the process of reviving modern Hebrew. His fascinating story is told in the book Tongue of the Prophets

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Prophet Pearls #43 – Masei (Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4)

Prophet Pearls Masei ,anatot, cisterns in israel, E’evod, Ein Perat, haftarah, jeremiah, Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4, Keith Johnson, makor, makor hebrew foundation, masei, Masei – Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4, nehemia gordon, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, Prophet Pearls, prophets, Qere Ketiv, Tetragrammaton, Yehovah, אעבדThis week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Masei covering Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4. Gordon gives eyewitness accounts of the springs and cisterns of Israel—springs that are sources and fountains of living water and man-made cisterns that can be rendered worthless. We learn that the “makor” (mem, qoof, reish), the “spring” with which Jeremiah was most familiar, still exists today.

The word-of-the-week is “E’evod” (אעבד) which provides a play on words (via the aleph) when Israel calls to “my father”—the mighty one. Whether Jeremiah wrote “I will not serve” or “I will not transgress” is an issue for the “Qere/Ketiv”—an exacting system that compares margin notes left by scribes to determine if words should be read differently than they were written. While some scholars profess that reading Adonai instead of the written “yud-hei-vav-hei” is a Qere/Ketiv issue, Gordon maintains the meticulousness of a scribe.

“For My people… They have forsaken Me, the Fount of living waters…” Jeremiah 2:13

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Photo by Nehemia Gordon of Ein Perat, a spring of living water in the Judean Desert near Anatot, the ancient home town of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Prophet Pearls #42 – Matot (Jeremiah 1:1-2:3)

Almond branch in the Valley of Elah. Photo by Nehemia Gordon. This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Matot, covering Jeremiah 1:1-2:3. Gordon and Johnson provide copious context for the life and times of Jeremiah and the heart-wrenching message he delivered to Jerusalem. The word-of-the-week is “shoked” (shin, qoof, dalet). Its expressions of “almond branch” and “diligence” provide a lesson in creative destruction and an example of a classic Hebrew word pun. Gordon closes with a prayer based on the last verse of the portion—thanking Yehovah for protecting the first fruits of his harvest in Jerusalem, in Israel, and throughout the world.

“The word of Yehovah came to me: What do you see, Jeremiah? I replied: I see a branch of an almond tree.” Jeremiah 1:11

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Photo by Nehemia Gordon.

Prophet Pearls #41 – Pinchas (1 Kings 18:46-19:21)

Prophet Pearls Pinchas, 1 Kings 18:46-19:21, 1 Kings, elijag mount horeb, elijah and jezebel, elijah mount carmel, elijah mt carmel, elijah mt horeb, etbaal, haftarah, jezebel baal, jezebel sidonian princess, Keith Johnson, mount horeb, Mt. Horeb, nehemia gordon, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, prophets, spirit of jezebel, still small voice, this silent voiceThis week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Pinchas (1 Kings 18:46-19:21). Following the smack-down at Mount Carmel, Elijah flees to the desert. But was he “afraid” or did he just “see” what he needed to do? Gordon parses “ra’ah” (reish, aleph, hei) and explains why this word could be translated “afraid” or “saw.”

We learn Jezebel’s background as a Sidonian princess, the influence of her father’s name on her life, her blind devotion to lies, and why she referred to Elohim in the plural. Gordon exposes the anti-women agenda sometimes at play when describing “the spirit of Jezebel.”  And we see two firsts in this portion: the anointing of a foreign king and the anointing of a prophet.

Elijah’s experience with the divine presence on Mount Horeb leads Gordon and Johnson to recount their own life-changing encounters with the still small voice on this mountain.

“And after the fire – a thin silent voice. ” 1Kings 19:12

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Prophet Pearls #38 – Korach (1 Samuel 11:14-12:22)

Prophet Pearls Korach, Samuel, Yehovah, anointed, Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, Prophets, Gilgal, Torah, biblical, Judges, Jerubbaal, Bedan, Ammonites, Nahash, serpent, witness, Messiah, Saul, mercy, day of wrath, the Name, torah pearls, torah portionThis week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Korach covering 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22. Gordon and Johnson’s insight into the language, history, and context surrounding Samuel’s trip to Gilgal not only inform the portion at hand, but other passages in the Torah as well as extra-biblical sources from the times of the Judges. Gordon reveals the possible identities of Jerubbaal and Bedan. The name of the king of the Ammonites, Nahash (serpent) illustrates that metaphors need to be studied carefully. The study of the word-of-the-week, “witness/ed” (ayin-dalet), includes an explanation of hollow verbs—where not all letters of the root appear.

Gordon considers whether this portion provides a picture of the coming Messiah—rejected and then accepted after a great victory. In closing, he prays that Yehovah (like Saul) will have mercy on those who don’t recognize him—and that the day of Messiah will not be a day of wrath, but a day of honoring the Name.
“Here I am! Testify against me, in the presence of Yehovah and in the presence of His anointed one…” 1 Samuel 12:3

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Prophet Pearls #37 – Shlach (Joshua 2:1-24)

Prophet Pearls Shlach, Yehovah, Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, Prophets portion, Shlach, Joshua, prostitute, Rahab, spies, Jericho, faith, Canaanite, Elohim, Septuagint, rabbis, tikvah, cord, hope, HaTikvah, national anthem, Israel, peace, Jerusalem, torah pearls, torah portion, torah portion shlach, torah pearls shlachIn this week’s Prophet Pearls, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Shlach covering Joshua 2:1-24. In the story of the prostitute Rahab hiding the spies, Gordon and Johnson agree to disagree on their interpretations for Joshua’s motives for sending spies to Jericho. Was it simply prudent reconnaissance, or did it show a lack of faith? And how did a Canaanite prostitute know that Yehovah is Elohim?

Gordon explains how the Septuagint and the rabbis handle the singular pronoun in the statement “Rahab hid him” and gives his own explanation. Gordon also provides geographical context to the wild goose chase on which Rahab sent the King of Jericho. In honor of the word-of-the-week “tikvah/cord/hope” from the root qoof-vav-hei, Gordon sings HaTikvah—the national anthem of Israel. In closing, Johnson asks for strength like Joshua and peace for Jerusalem.

“And she said to the men: ‘I know that Yehovah has given you the land…'” Joshua 2:9

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Image courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

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