Hebrew Gospel Pearls #14 – How Matthew 5 Presents Yeshua as a Sage Teaching Wisdom

In Hebrew Gospel Pearls #14, Nehemia and Keith discuss the three realms of information in biblical thought, how Matthew 5 presents Yeshua as a sage teaching wisdom, and the Hebrew meaning behind the phrase “poor in spirit”.

I look forward to reading your comments in the Comments Section below!

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Hebrew Gospel Pearls #14 - How Matthew 5 Presents Yeshua as a Sage Teaching Wisdom

You are listening to Hebrew Gospel Pearls with Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: I had a friend who was in China, and this fiancée of his would always say to him, in Chinese, she didn’t speak a word of English. She would just blurt out, “Play, piano, cow. Play, piano, cow.” And he’s like, “I don’t know what you’re saying.” And then, months later, I think after he married her, he found out that this is a Chinese idiom that means, “I’m wasting my time talking to you. It’s like playing piano to a cow, that doesn’t appreciate it.”

So Shfal ruach, “low spirited”, is a Hebrew idiom, and if we don’t get into how it’s used in ancient Hebrew sources, we’ll never understand what it means in its historical context.

Keith: Amen, Amen.

Nehemia: Shalom, and welcome to Hebrew Gospel Pearls, episode 14. We are discussing today the Biblical Beatitudes. Our objective is to get through Matthew 5 verses 1 through 12, and in episode 13, we only got through verses 1 and 2. The goal today will be to get through verse 3. Do you think we’ll do it? Will we even get to verse 3, Keith?

Keith: [laughing] No, we won’t, because there’s been something that’s happened, you guys. And here’s what’s happened. Nehemia and I have been communicating back and forth, and we realized that there are so many pearls within the Biblical Beatitudes, that we’re going to take our time. And we really are going to take our time, so I consider last week an introduction to the introduction. [laughing] This week, we’re going to get into the actual first Beatitude, Nehemia, which I’m really looking forward to. You sent me a lot of information, I have a lot of information, and I really do think folks are going to be blessed by this. Folks, make sure that you get your Bibles out. Come along with us, this is really going to be good.

Nehemia: Okay. Let’s start with… I know I read it last week, but why don’t I start by at least reading the first verse here…

Keith: Please do.

Nehemia: … which is Matthew 5:3. Remember, we’re looking at the Sermon on the Mount, which is Matthew chapters 5 through 7. There’s a parallel which is sometimes called the Sermon on the Plain, which is Luke chapter 6, and we’ve got through verses 1-2, where it just introduced it.

And now, verse 3, “Ashrei shiflei ruach shelahem malkhut shamayim. Blessed or happy are those… and it literally says low spirited, or low in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The NRSV has “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Delitzsch has “Ashrei ani’ei haruach, the poor of the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Keith: Tell them the significance of Delitzsch again.

Nehemia: Delitzsch was a Christian scholar in the 19th century, and he translated the New Testament into Hebrew. And his objective - he was really a scholar of the Old Testament, of biblical Hebrew - and his objective was to translate it in a style reminiscent of biblical Hebrew, really that would appeal to a Jewish audience. And so he tried to translate it as closely as possible to the Old Testament style, but he tells us straight out that he’s translating from Greek.

Sometimes, I can see things there… like, why did he choose the word ani’ei versus shiflei? Right? And then, why does Hebrew Matthew have shiflei ruach? It’s a very non-expected verse, or a translation, rather, or version, I should say, if Hebrew Matthew is translating from the Greek. I’m surprised he would translate shiflei ruach from the word shafel as opposed to ani’ei ruach which is the way Delitzsch translated it, and that’s the more expected translation.

So before we get into it, [laughing] I want to take a slight detour, if you’ll allow me.

Keith: Please do.

Nehemia: Would you give me a little bit of grace here?

Keith: 100 percent.

Nehemia: So last week, we went through all these verses in the Tanakh that have “ashrei, ashrei, ashrei”, “blessed is, blessed is, blessed is”, or “happy is, happy is, happy is”. But we didn’t say something which is, I think, kind of foundational. And this foundational background is that in biblical thought, there are three types of information, and each type of information is really the realm of a different type of person, or a different category of person.

And specifically, we see Tanakh in Hebrew, we call it the Old Testament. We don’t call it Old Testament in Hebrew. In ancient Hebrew, you call it Mikra, which is literally “The Reading”, that which is read aloud in the Synagogue. And then, another name for it is Tanakh. Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, the Instruction, usually translated as Law; Neviim, the Prophets, and Ketuvim, the Writings.

Now, if you’re used to your English Bible, the King James version or something like that, the NRSV, or the NIV, or the NASB, you may open up a Hebrew Bible, or even an English translation that follows the Hebrew style, like the JPS, and you’ll say, “Where’s Daniel? Why isn’t Daniel among the Prophets? Why is he in the Writings?”

And you’ll be looking for the category called historical books. We don’t have that category in the Hebrew tradition of the Tanakh. We have, like I said, the Torah, which is the five Books of Moses, and then, we have the Prophets, the Neviim, which are really eight books, or they’re defined as eight books, even though in English there are far more than that. So what do we have in the Prophets? We have… first are four historical-type books, but they’re part of the Prophets, and they have a chronology, from Joshua, from the entering of the land, all the way into the exile. So it’s Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.

And you may say, “Wait a minute. Samuel’s two books, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel.” Well, not in the Hebrew. They were divided into Greek into 1 Kings… Actually, in Greek, they were divided into 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 3 Kings, and 4 Kings, right? Meaning, Samuel was called 1 and 2 Kings, what we call in Hebrew, Malakhim, Kings, was called in the Greek, 3 and 4 Kings.

So we have those four books - Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and those are called the Former Prophets, and then we have what are called the Latter Prophets, not that they were later, but they come later in the series of books, as we arrange them on the shelf.

The Latter Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and then the 12 Minor Prophets. So there are four and four. The 12 Minor Prophets are considered a single book, even though, obviously, they’re 12 small books. But because they were so small, there was a concern the scroll would get lost if it was a separate scroll, so at some point in Second Temple times it became a single scroll.

So that’s the Prophets. Daniel isn’t in there, right? But we have these historical books. So Kings is in there, but Daniel is not. And then we have the Ketuvim, “the Writings”, the Tanakh, Ketuvim is “the Writings”, or “the Holy Writings”. Some people translate that as the Hagiographa, which means “the Holy Writings”.

The Holy Writings begin with Psalms, although in some manuscripts, it begins with Chronicles, actually. So you have what are called the Books of Truth, Sifrei Emet, and that’s an acronym. The acronym is for Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, although not in that order. That spells Emet: Iyov, Mishlei, Tehillim, Sifrei Emet. And they are special books, because they actually have their own accent system. Every word, or every phrase, I should say, in the Tanakh has an accent associated with it. Every unit of speech has an accent, as Hebrew defines it, associated with it. But then, the three Truth books, Emet, they have their own accent system.

And then, you have the Five Scrolls. The Five Scrolls have different orders, even in different Hebrew Bibles. So they’re Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Esther, Lamentations and Ruth. And then, you have at the end, Ezra and Nehemia, which is one book, you have Daniel, which is obviously, one book, and then, you have Chronicles, which is one book. And altogether, that’s 24 books. That’s the Tanakh.

Now, why do I bring that up? Because that division into three is something that’s already mentioned in the Tanakh. It’s also mentioned in the New Testament, we’ll get to. But just to bring a verse in the Tanakh that reflects this, Jeremiah 18:18, and can I ask you to read that, Keith? Jeremiah 18:18.

Keith: Absolutely. So I’m reading from the NASV, Jeremiah 18:18. “Then they said, ‘Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah. Surely, the law…’”

Nehemia: That’s the Torah.

Keith: “… ‘is not going to be lost.’” Yeah, the Torah, “‘is not going to be lost to the priest, nor counsel, to the sage, nor the divine word to the prophet. Come on, and let us strike at him with our tongue, and let us give no heed to any of his words.’”

Nehemia: So what happened is, Jeremiah warned the people. He said, “This religious system, this religion that you’ve created, is going to be destroyed. The Babylonians are going to conquer the land, send you into exile, and the false Torah that you get from the priest, and the false wisdom that you get from the sage, and the false prophesy you get from the prophet, those will be destroyed. They’ll be lost.” And he comes along and says… or these false people come along and say, “No, these things won’t. So let’s just kill Jeremiah, and that will invalidate his prophesy, and we’ll be able to continue in our false religion.”

But what we see is in the mind of the ancient Israelite, there are three realms of information. There’s Torah taught by a Kohen, a priest; there’s wisdom or counsel, in this case, advice really it could be translated as well, taught by a sage, a wise person, a khakham, and there is word, literally word, from the prophet. And why is this important? Because in Matthew chapters 1 through 4 we talked about how Yeshua was being presented as a prophet. In Matthew 5 through 7, he’s being presented as a wise man, as a sage. We have those three realms of information, Torah, Prophets, Writings, and Writings really is the wisdom. What do we have in the Writings? We have Proverbs, we have Ecclesiastes, we have Daniel. Look at Daniel in the first chapter, it talks about how he was a wise man, how he was trained in wisdom. That’s what he’s doing in the Writings.

So we have this division into three in the Tanakh, in ancient Israel, rather, and the Tanakh itself is divided along that, and then now we see in Matthew 1 through 4, and I think especially in 4 we saw he’s being presented as a prophet, and now he’s being presented as the wise man, as the khakham, according to that same division.

Ezekiel 7:26 is another one. It says, “And they will seek vision from the prophet… ”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: “… and Torah will be lost from the Kohen,” from the priest, the instruction from the priest, “and advice, or counsel, from the elders.” So elder is another term for a sage, because often those who are old have wisdom. Sometimes young people have wisdom. So you see this division into three, and whenever you see a phrase like ashrei, ashrei is a wisdom saying.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So right from the bat, people standing and hearing Yeshua preach would hear, “ashrei, ashrei, ashrei,” and they knew, “Okay, this is a sage who’s speaking to us wisdom.” This is a typical wisdom saying.

There’s a very cool thing I can do on my computer, in my tap-tap program, in Accordance.

Keith: What’s that?

Nehemia: I go to the Tanakh, and I type in the word ashrei… let’s do it. And I do a search, and I get, ashrei, “blessed is”. And it appears in the Tanakh 44 times in 41 verses. And then I can do a thing where it says, let’s see, HITS GRAPH, and it shows me how many hits, just like you do hits… back in the old days when they had search engines that would tell you how many hits you got.

So how many hits are here? If you look at the graph, you’ll see there’s almost all, or a very large percentage of the ashrei statements are in Psalms and Proverbs.

Now, what does Psalms have to do with wisdom? Wisdom encompasses things like songs and praise, that’s in that realm of wisdom. And then, you have a reference to that division of three in Luke 24:44. So this is when they were walking on the road to Emmaus, “Then He said to them, ‘These are My words that I spoke with you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” Does he just mean the Book of Psalms? I don’t think so. I think he means Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim. And the first book in the Ketuvim is the Psalms. It’s the beginning of the wisdom section, which is the Psalms.

Ben Sira was written around 200 BC and then translated about 25 years later by his grandson, and he mentions, “Many great teachings have been given to us to the Law and the Prophets and the others that followed them.” They don’t mean people that followed the prophets here. What he means is, the books that follow in the order, Torah, Prophets, and Writings, right? When you have them arranged on a shelf, it’s Torah, Prophets, and Writings. They weren’t bound necessarily into a single scroll - they may have been, I suppose - but they definitely were arranged in that order.

And he says, “My grandfather… ”, his grandfather’s name was Yeshua, incidentally. This is Ben Sira, 175 BC, “…who had devoted himself especially to the reading of the Law and the Prophets and the other books of our ancestors,” that’s the Writings, or the wisdom books.

So here we are now in Matthew, we’ve reached the wisdom sayings. And that’s really how I think we have to look at all of Matthew chapters 5 through 7 - it’s a series of teaching of wisdom sayings.

Keith: So when you saw the word ashrei, when you first saw that in Matthew chapter 5 verses 1… which was going to be one episode, but verses…

Nehemia: Verses 3-12.

Keith: …the Beatitudes… It seems to me, Nehemia, that what really caught your attention, why we couldn’t go any further, is because that word caused you to slow down, the word itself.

Nehemia: Oh, absolutely. I want to look at every place in the Tanakh where we have this word, not just in the Tanakh - and we won’t get to it, probably, in this series - but I spent a very long time going through all the ashrei statements in the writings of the ancient rabbis. Just as Yeshua taught ashrei statements, “Blessed is the man, Blessed is the person who does X, Y, and Z,” they have many of their own statements. And I think it’s important to get that historical context, that cultural context. Now, Yeshua is coming as a sage, teaching wisdom.

Keith: Excellent. Excellent. So they’re like wisdom sayings, I mean, they’re like…

Nehemia: They’re absolutely wisdom sayings.

Keith: He opens up with this, and they stop and they say, “Okay, these are the wisdom sayings.” Excellent.

Nehemia: Now, give me some grace here.

Keith: More grace you want, Nehemia? [laughing]

Nehemia: Yeah, yeah. So you know what? I’m going to save it for later. Let’s jump into Matthew chapter 5 verse 3, because this is now our first wisdom saying that we have here.

Keith: I would like permission to ask grace from you for something before we get started.

Nehemia: Bevakashah.

Keith: One of the things, the reason that I like to call this the Biblical Beatitudes, is because I’m always asking myself this question. And really, this started, Nehemia, when you and I started studying together. What opened my eyes, having been a person who would start with the New Testament and then try to figure out what was going on in the Tanakh, was I switched my thinking. And my thinking was, if I saw it in the New Testament, I’m assuming – and I use that word very carefully – that somehow it came from the Tanakh. So I know we’re going to get to 5:3, but I want to read one verse, and I just want your response to this, okay? Because we’re going to read 5:3, and in my English Bible it says, “Blessed is the poor in spirit,” I think is what it says in the NASB.

There’s a verse I want to read, and I want to ask you if you think it’s possible this verse, or verses like this, would have been in the mind of Yeshua in the wisdom sayings. The first one is in 1 Samuel chapter 2 verse 8. It says this, “He raises the poor from the dust. He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor, for the pillars of the earth are Yehovah’s, and He set the world on them.” That’s 1 Samuel 2:8.

Then Psalms 51:17, last one, and I think this is the key. “The sacrifices of God… ” in the NASB, “… are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Are these things background, as he opens up this verse for us?

Nehemia: So they’re definitely background. The question is, does that apply to this verse? And Psalm 51:17, I think you have a much stronger case than 1 Samuel 2:8. So here’s the interesting thing. In the English, based on the Greek, we have “poor in spirit”. And I was speaking to some people, some Christians, regular Sunday Christians. I said, “What does it mean to be poor in spirit?” And this person named Jimmy, he says, “Poor in spirit are those who don’t know about God,” is what he told me.

Now you immediately jumped to financially poor, which is 1 Samuel, and that’s definitely something the Tanakh talks about. 1 Samuel 2, those who are impoverished, those who are financially poor. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Is that the same thing as being poor?

And so the Greek has the word ptokhoi. Ptokhoi, and this is the very cool thing I can do with Accordance now. In fact, I want to see if we can actually do a share screen and show it to the people. Ah, we’re going to choose the Septuagint, right? So what am I searching? I’m not searching the Greek New Testament, I’m searching the Greek Old Testament, and why am I doing that? Because the approach of many scholars is to say that when they translated the Septuagint, what they did is they took specific Hebrew words and they would repeatedly translate it that way, almost mechanically.

And so you have what are called equivalents. So there’s an equivalent, and I’m looking for the Hebrew equivalent behind ptokhos. So we could look in the Greek dictionary, and that’s valuable, right? We can look in the Greek dictionary, so for example, if we go back to this window here… and we’ll look in Liddell-Scott, right, LSJ? This is the big dictionary of Liddell-Scott, and it brings you… here’s how it’s used. It could be beggarly, and these different Greek texts. So there’s Timocles, and we have Aristophanes. So we have different ways the Greeks used these words, and that’s important, but we should also look and see when the Greek Old Testament uses that, what word does it translate in the Tanakh? What words?

And so here I have a verse, Exodus 23:11. It translates the word eviyon. Eviyon is a poor person. That’s a new thing, Keith. I used to have to do this by hand. I would pull up the Greek, and I would try to figure out, “Okay, what word is it translating in the Hebrew? Okay, I see that word.” Here, it actually directly searches for you the word ani with an Ayin, which is poor.

And then, here’s a really beautiful thing. So I can do analysis, it gives me a list of words that are translated. One time, it’s the word tov, which is good. Well, there maybe it’s a paraphrase, or something. But the words that are common as eviyon which is a needy person, a poor person, dal, 20 times, a poor person. And then ani with an ayin, poor, afflicted, 38 times, and rosh with a Vav, which is impoverished.

So we have these different words, really four different words that are translating the word. And what we can do with this method is find out, what’s the Hebrew behind the Greek? So the Hebrew behind the Greek is financially poor, exactly what you said. But then, it adds another word, poor in spirit, right? So then I’ve got to ask the question… let’s assume Shem Tov isn’t from the 1st century original, but it’s a translation, which is what most scholars think.

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: Why didn’t Shem Tov translate it something like, ani or dal or rosh or eviyon? Why did he translate it as shfal ruach, shiflei ruach? And what does shiflei ruach mean? Is really another question. So we have two questions here. What does the Greek mean when it says poor in spirit? Does it mean they’re uneducated? It could mean that, right, like what Jimmy said. Or is it possible that it means something different? And maybe the answer is in Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew, where it’s shfal ruach and there it’s a different connotation altogether.

Keith: [laughing] I definitely think it’s in Hebrew.

Nehemia: Okay. So what do you have? Tell me, what are your thoughts on this verse?

Keith: So the thing that hit me, Nehemia, and again I’ve been asking a question, and as we go through the Biblical Beatitudes, I’m going to bring a couple of examples where I left the farm and asked other people… You always say, “I talked to the Christians, and the Christians had this thought.” So what I did is, I went to some other Jewish people, people who have some understanding…

Nehemia: Oh, I like that.

Keith: … of the biblical test, and asked them what some of these phrases meant, apart from them being from Yeshua, and we’re going to get to those as we move on to the Biblical Beatitudes. But Nehemia, we tried to do this last week. I want to bring this one statement from your cousin.

Nehemia: Okay.

Keith: And I want you to respond to it…

Nehemia: Remind people about my cousin, who that is.

Keith: Okay. I want you to tell them, because you do so much of a better job.

Nehemia: Okay. As we were starting this, somebody said, “To look at the Hebrew context of the Gospels, you should look at this commentary by Rabbi Soloveitchik.” I hear the name Soloveitchik, I know that’s a distant cousin of mine. It turns out, he’s literally, I think it’s a fifth cousin two-times removed, or something, I don’t remember. Maybe it’s second cousin five-times removed. [laughing] It’s been a while since I looked at it, but he is a distant cousin from the 19th century, and he wrote what is considered to be the first Jewish commentary on the New Testament, where it wasn’t an attack on the New Testament, but an actual commentary, where he’s trying to understand what it says. And he’s not a Jew who converted to Christianity, he is actually an ultra-Orthodox Jew of the 19th century. And it’s now been translated into English.

So yes, my cousin.

Keith: So this is really powerful. This is an example where I’m going to someone who’s not from the tradition that I would… Like, I’ve got my Evangelical commentary here, I’ve looked at that, and I get a little disappointed at times. But when I looked at his statement, I wanted you to give a response to this, Nehemia. He says for this particular verse, “Oh, the gladness.” We could stop right there.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: That’s his translation for ashrei. “Oh, the gladness of the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So I thought to myself, he says poor in spirit. What is he looking at? Now, we talked about this just a little bit in the previous episode. So what is he looking at? I know this is an English translation, but what do you believe, in his mind, he would see as poor in spirit?

Nehemia: So first of all, as far as we know, he wasn’t a Greek scholar. And from what we’re told in the introduction to the English translation, he was reading it from a French translation. And in that case, maybe that’s what it said in the French, that’s a possibility.

However, I actually have here in front of me, a Hebrew version…

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: … and it’s really incredible. This was done before the pandemic started, or before it was in full… I think there was actually a lull in the pandemic. And I asked someone to go to the National Library of Israel… No, it was last year, before the pandemic. I asked someone to go to the National Library of Israel and scan this for me. As far as I know, there’s one copy in the world that’s in Paris. In Jerusalem, they have a photocopy. Then that photocopy, I think, was made into a microfilm, and so I had somebody scan the microfilm for me. So now I’m looking for Matthew chapter 5 verse 3. It’s definitely a microfilm, I can see there are little things on the page where there was a spot on the microfilm reader, [laughing] like little dirt.

So, “Ashrei ha’anavim ki heim yoshu aretz,” he has here. Okay, so that’s important. So this is very significant. So he has two things on the page, in the Hebrew. He has the Hebrew text, and there’s a line, and below the line, he has the commentary. So it says, “Vayehi kir’oto et ha’hamonin vayal el ha’har,” this is my cousin, Rabbi Soleveitchik’s book, Kol Koreh. This is the translation that I have to assume - I don’t know, but I imagine he translated this from French. “And it came to pass when He saw the multitudes, and He went up the mountain,” “vayeshev vayigshu elav talmidav,” “and He sat down, and they went to Him, His disciples.” “Vayiftakh et piv,” “And He opened His mouth,” “vayelamed otam, le’emor,” “and He taught them, saying… ”

Keith: Drum roll, please. Drum roll. Stop, stop. [laughing]

Nehemia: Can I read it?

Keith: Go ahead.

Nehemia: “Ashrei ha’anyim be ruach,” “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.” And that’s a very literal translation from some other language, because he should have said, aniyei ruach, if it was the Hebrew style. “…ki lahem malkhut shamayim,” “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

So that’s his Hebrew text. Now, let’s see his commentary, because maybe there is where he puts in, “Oh, the gladness,” right? Or maybe that’s just the translator, I honestly don’t know.

So what was the process of the translator who produced this book, The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament? So we’re looking at… what page are we on? What page are you on there, Keith?

Keith: It’s page 98.

Nehemia: Okay, so page 98 of the English. So he has, “Oh, the gladness of the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So as far as I can tell, that doesn’t appear anywhere in the Hebrew version. Let me show you the Hebrew version here.

Keith: [laughing] Go ahead. Folks, I want to say this while Nehemia’s doing this. Last week, I thought we were going to get to this, but here’s the good news. We’re going to get to everything that we want to get to. We’re going to take our time doing it. And this is an example where we’re not just looking at here’s the English, which many of you bought the book, by the way.

Nehemia: It’s a great book.

Keith: It’s a great book. My simple question was, what do we think Nehemia’s cousin was looking at?

Nehemia: So here’s what he has in the Hebrew text. “Ashrei ha’anyim beruach, ki lahem malkhut shamayim.” “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And then, when we go over to the English translation, “Oh, the gladness of the poor in spirit.” That is the translator who was translating his Hebrew text, as far as I could tell.

Now, maybe there’s something different in the French version, I don’t have the French version, right? So let’s be careful here.

Keith: Yeah. Here’s why I wanted to get to this, because what your cousin does is something really, really powerful. Forget about the translation that we see, “the poor in spirit”. When he talks about what Yeshua meant, he immediately goes to something that I think when you see that verse, you might go to. And certainly, after I studied it, I went to it. Can I just read one line from him?

Nehemia: Okay.

Keith: He says, “When Yeshua said, ‘Oh, the gladness of the poor in spirit,’ He meant that man should be incredibly humble.” Now, when you hear “poor in spirit”, Nehemia, do you think poor in spirit financially, there’s the destitute? Or do you think in terms of humility? Just off the top of your head, when you first read the verse?

Nehemia: By the way, down here is the commentary. Yeah, so it doesn’t have that “Oh, the happy” thing.

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: All right. So do I hear that?

Keith: Yes. Do you hear humility? Do you hear humility, or do you hear something else?

Nehemia: I don’t know. So here’s the truth, that the more I studied this, the less I realized I knew.

Keith: [laughing] Amen!

Nehemia: When I started out looking at it originally, I’m like, “Okay, poor in spirit. Is that similar to the meek in verse 5, or is it something completely different?” And my takeaway was, okay, so the Hebrew has the phrase, ‘shfal ruach,’ which is ‘low spirited.’ And if we want to know what it means, at least in Hebrew Matthew, we can’t assume we know what ‘shfal ruach’ is. That’s a phrase that appears, and we have to see in different sources, and we have to see what it means.

Keith: This is the part, Nehemia, where it gets so exciting. This is the part that I yearned for, is when you begin to find out what it is that phrase means. Now, how much time do we have? I mean, I think we’re going to have to…

Nehemia: I think we should switch over to the Plus section here…

Keith: I think so too.

Nehemia: … we’re just getting rolling now.

Keith: Absolutely. Absolutely. No, this is where we can get into this phrase. And I want to say something to people that are listening. I really want to say this. This wasn’t intentional. We didn’t intentionally think we were going to go word by word in this situation. Actually, episode 14 was going to…

Nehemia: We haven’t even gotten to the first word. [laughing]

Keith: Episode 14 was going to be the entire Beatitudes, okay?

Nehemia: That was the goal, yeah.

Keith: Last week was an introduction. This week, we’re looking at the first one, and it’s worth it for you to come with us to the Plus section. Go ahead, Nehemia, continue.

Nehemia: I want us to take our time here, so I really think to do justice to this, we have to save this for the Plus section. But when we look at shfal ruach, this “low-spirited”, we’ll see what it means in the Tanakh. We’ll see what it means in Rabbinical literature. And that’s important, because Hebrew is a spoken language in the time of Yeshua; we have Jews who spoke Hebrew, and this is an idiom, shfal ruach. It’s an idiom, it’s a figure of speech.

Keith: Ah-ha!

Nehemia: The example I’ve given in the past is, you know, I had a friend who was in China, and this fiancée of his would always say to him - in Chinese, she didn’t speak a word of English - she would just blurt out, “Play, piano, cow. Play, piano, cow.” And he’s like, “I don’t know what you’re saying.” And then, months later, I think after he married her, he found out that this is a Chinese idiom that means, “I’m wasting my time talking to you. It’s like playing piano to a cow that doesn’t appreciate it.” So shfal ruach, low spirited, is a Hebrew idiom, and if we don’t get into how it’s used in ancient Hebrew sources, we’ll never understand what it means in its historical context.

Keith: Amen, Amen.

Nehemia: All right. So, I want to end with a prayer. I’m going to go first, then you pray. And then we’ll continue into the Plus section, can we do that?

Keith: So Nehemia, I know that you know that you’re assuming everyone knows about the Plus section. What’s going to happen is, it’s going to be on your site. Can you just tell them about that, so they understand, before we pray?

Nehemia: Okay. So what we decided to do is, we’re going to make this series and we’ll make - I call them the main episodes, or the public episodes - for anybody who wants to listen. Subscribe on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts, come to the websites, nehemiaswall.com, bfainternational.com. And then, we’re going to go deeper for each episode and share those with, in my case, people who support my ministry, and in your case, people who become members of BFA International. And so those are what we call the Plus episodes, where we get to go a little bit deeper.

And I know I get people who write to me who say, Nehemia, I skip the public episode. I go straight for the…

Keith: [laughing] Are you kidding me?

Nehemia: I go straight for the Plus episode. No, no, no. The public episode is just as important as the Plus.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: They both have information, and I would highly recommend people to listen to both of them. First listen to the public one, then listen to the Plus one. And it allows us to do what we’re doing, right? It enables us to continue to be able to do this, to continue to be able to share this information and do the research, take the time to pay the editors and all the producers, and everything.

Yehovah, Avinu Shebashamayim, Yehovah, our Father in Heaven. Yehovah, bless all those who have supported what we’re doing with ashrei, with happiness.

Keith: Yes, Father.

Nehemia: And all those who love You and call upon Your name, bless them with ashrei, with happiness.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: And Yehovah, all those who are lost, all those who are searching, all those who are in pain out there, who maybe don’t know you, but they want to find truth, they want to find the way that you’ve given to mankind. Please bless them with ashrei, bless them with happiness.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: And let us continue to follow in ashureikha, in Your ways, Amen.

Keith: Amen. And Father, thank you so much for the sources. Thank you for the language, the history, and the context. Thank you that we get to dive into these important words that were spoken 2,000 years ago, that are still good today. Help us to not only find out what it means, help us to find out how we can apply it into our lives. We thank You in advance for this series, what has happened, what is, and what will happen. We give it all over to You. In Your name, amen.

Nehemia: Amen.

You have been listening to Hebrew Gospel Pearls with Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

We hope the above transcript has proven to be a helpful resource in your study. While much effort has been taken to provide you with this transcript, it should be noted that the text has not been reviewed by the speakers and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you would like to support our efforts to transcribe the teachings on NehemiasWall.com, please visit our support page. All donations are tax-deductible (501c3) and help us empower people around the world with the Hebrew sources of their faith!

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  • Fred (France) says:

    Please give us the reference of the book you told about from rabbi Salavacek …

  • Renée Strand says:

    I enjoyed getting a new picture of Aharon… forming a better opinon of him… Aharon as a peacemaker, the way he tried for another outcome than the golden calf… Didn’t succeed but tried… I never saw that before… Shalom and thank you…

  • Seeker says:

    What is the “Tap Tap” program that Nehemiah is talking about?

  • David says:

    Ferrar Fenton translation has gentle in spirit. Strongs #4151 pneuma can mean mental disposition so we have: blessed are those with a gentle disposition.

  • Mike says:

    Priest Prophet Sage without out learning this information that you guys are providing it is difficult for one to truly understand who Yeshua is and what the writings of the New Testament mean. All must be filtered through the lens of the Torah Nevi’im Ketuvim. I ma so grateful to be on this journey with you. Each and everyday with your help I am adding to my faith and uncovering the scales from my eyes one letter at a time. Toda Raba

  • daniel says:

    OK, I’ll just take a guess and give my gut reaction that ‘poor in spirit’ would be the opposite of ‘Haughty’ or ‘prideful’ (that would be Humble?) and we’ll see in the Plus section how close (or not) it is.

  • Asker says:

    Nehemiah or someone, may I ask what is the Bible computer program you are using? Thank you.

  • JW Brakebill says:

    Interesting. Happy Sabbath!

  • Aron says:

    Yes, Nehemia, these “Public” portions should be viewed before the “Plus” sections. Finally: Screen-sharing. Well done. That was a special prayer at the end.

  • Thomas says:

    What is the probability of Nehemiah publishing his version of the Hebrew Matthew with exhaustive footnotes. Much like Rood’s Chrono Gospel.