Prophet Pearls #24 – Vayikra (Isaiah 43:21-44:23)

Prophet Pearls Vayikra, haftarah, isaiah, prophets, jeshurun, israel, poetic name, Keith Johnson, nehemia gordon, obedience, sacrifice, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, vayikra, portionIn this episode of Prophet Pearls, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Vayikra covering Isaiah 43:21-44:23. This portion parallels the Torah’s central section on sacrifices. Gordon and Johnson delve deep into the issues of sacrifice, obedience and idolatry.  Word studies include:  “blot out” (with its historical context of a debt certificate), “first father” (with Jewish and Christian perspectives on original sin), and “bow down” (with its exclusive connection to idolatry).

“Jeshurun,” the poetic nickname for Israel, offers a particularly lustrous pearl, as we learn its meaning, its usage in the Tanakh and its connection to the name Israel. Gordon and Johnson reveal the transgression of the “mediators” and the danger of blindly following anyone—reminding listeners that they serve only as river guides; all can access information, expect inspiration and receive revelation. In closing, Gordon prays that we be worthy of the name of Israel and that the day comes soon when trees and rocks cry out the redemption of Israel.

"Your translators transgressed against me." (Isaiah 43:27)

I look forward to reading your comments.

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Prophet Pearls #24 - Vayikra (Isaiah 43:21-44:23)

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

Keith: Welcome back to Prophet Pearls. This is your host Keith Johnson, along with my friend Nehemia Gordon. I am still without my suitcase. We are in the third recording. I have no suitcase. It’s been three days and two nights. I’m looking for a miracle.

Nehemia: Three days and two nights with the same underwear.

Keith: Well listen, folks, we’re here in the Land of Israel.

Nehemia: Lord, help me.

Keith: Yes. We’re in the Land of Israel. We said we would do whatever it takes, and we literally are doing whatever it takes. Nehemia and I are here, we’re actually getting into an amazing passage, but I have to tell you before we get started, Nehemia, I’ve had a bit of a crisis in this safe house that you have me staying in. I was up at about 4 o’clock in the morning, and as you know - folks that don’t know, we actually can’t sleep in the same place because we don’t have two places. You’ve got a place, you’re sleeping at Bubby Dina’s. I’m here in the safe house, and we’re recording here.

Nehemia: There’s only one bed. Can I share a really funny story? I wrote to the people we rented this place from, and I wrote to her in Hebrew, and I said, “My partner and I will need the apartment.” In Hebrew, that word “partner” is ambiguous. Since there’s only one bed, I think she leaped to some conclusions perhaps. But somebody say, “separate beds.”

Keith: What are you talking about?

Nehemia: I’m at my mother’s house.

Keith: Exactly. But we have this place available so that we can record at any time, and I actually thought last night that we might record early in the morning. I woke up at about 4:30 in the morning, sent you a note, and you didn’t respond. So I got in a little trouble.

Nehemia: My mother made a wonderful omelet, and I had a great breakfast.

Keith: I have nothing in the refrigerator. I haven’t had anything to eat. But the good news is, this morning I had a little bit of a push, Nehemia, and we’re going to get right into this Prophet Pearls. I want to thank our friend Dominique from Tampa, who is our Prophet Pearls Partner. He stepped in early in the process. Dominique, thank you so much for this.

Nehemia: Todah.

Keith: We’re in Isaiah 43. For all the people that have been supporting us in this process, we had to do something that was not on the schedule. We had to fly into the Land of Israel, and there are so many things that are going to take place in the next couple of weeks. One, that we’re going to be recording, but two, I just think that we’re here, it’s kind of a setup, Nehemia. I want to tell everyone right now I do think it’s a setup. I woke up this morning and was really confronted with something that I’ve really been struggling with, and it has to do with why I so love this process that we’re in of sharing the Word of God with people. What I don’t like about sharing the Word of God is that sometimes people can look at you and say, “Okay, you’re going to be the great teacher. You’re going to be the sage. You’re going to be the one that’s going to give me all the information,” and I’ve never had that sort of situation with you. We’ve always taken the approach that we want to give access to the information for people. Now, that doesn’t mean that people are going to go through the same process that you did. [imitating Nehemia] Nehemia Gordon from the Hebrew University who spent all these years, and the things that I’ve done. They’re not always going to do that. But I think that our approach, and correct me if I’m wrong, our approach is to give them the ability to see for themselves what it is that we’re talking about. That is really important to me because I think there’s so much going on right now where that’s not the case. I was actually listening to something today that really vexed me, and it had to do with people that were promoting the idea that you cannot know the Torah unless you’ve got a rabbinic commentary. If you don’t have the running commentary, you literally can’t know it, which means obviously, not only could you not know it, you couldn’t teach it. I vehemently oppose this.

Nehemia: It means something else, as well. It means that if you read Scripture by yourself, you will be deceived by the words of God because you will think you understand them, and in fact, you need the interpreter, you need the translator, you need the intermediary. Without the intermediary of the rabbis, you cannot understand the Word of God. That’s what the rabbis claim. What I’m all about, as a Karaite Jew, is, no, I want to engage with the Word of God myself. I want to engage with the Creator of the universe, read His word, and I believe it is knowable without the intermediary. That’s what I’ve always been about; empowering people with information. That’s what my ministry Makor Hebrew Foundation is about. It’s not, “Here, I’m going to spoon-feed people the answers”, but I’m going to present them, “Look, here are the sources, go check them out for yourself; own the information for yourself.”

Karaite Jews have this saying that it’s better that you get the interpretation wrong but you got it by yourself than that you blindly follow somebody else. Because if you blindly follow one of the teachers of the diaspora when we don’t have prophets, we don’t have the Temple with the high priest with the urim and tumim. When you don’t have that, then every reading of Scripture is somebody’s interpretation, and at least when you engage it yourself, it’s your interpretation based on the information that you have and your relationship with the Creator of the universe, rather than blindly following the words of a man. If you blindly follow the words of another man, who is a flesh and blood human being, not a prophet, and it’s not the Word of God, what you’re doing is you’ve put up those words as the Word of God, and that’s basically idolatry.

Keith: Right. Here’s where the tension comes in, for me, because I’ve so much appreciated many of my friends, rabbis, and others, who have spent their life learning the Word of God and teaching the Word of God. I’ve been really blessed to be able to interact with people like that. The struggle that I have is that it almost seems like there’s a pulling out the rug from under people that literally they can’t know; they can’t have access. There’s an impossibility for them and that hasn’t been my journey. My journey has been to have to learn each letter and vowel and consonant, and it’s still a process. It’s a lifelong process.

But I love having the ability to open the Word of God and to see it for myself and then to ask the question, how do I apply it to my life? I do believe there’s a spiritual aspect to the Word of God and reading and understanding and asking for discernment and for wisdom. Also interacting; what we’re doing, Nehemia, we’re interacting with each other. I want people to feel like they can be encouraged to interact with the sources and all of that. But when you get to the place that says, “You cannot! You cannot understand it unless you have someone else tell you,” that’s where I feel like the line has been crossed. That’s just for me, something I’ve been struggling with.

Nehemia: So look, I mean this isn’t on the topic of Isaiah 43, but actually the day this is supposed to be broadcast, March 21, 2015, is the day that if we find the aviv barley, that will be the beginning of the Hebrew year, the sighting of the new moon. If everything goes the way we expect it - maybe God has other plans.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It’s interesting what you’re saying. It’s inspiring me to… Can I read you something that I wrote in 2011?

Keith: Sure.

Nehemia: Really, what I think you’re saying is that when we engage directly with the Word of God, there’s a struggle. When you go and you have the rabbis spoon-feed you then there’s complete unity, everybody agrees…

Keith: And not just the rabbi, Nehemia. Let me be clear. It’s not just the rabbi. From my tradition, we’ve got the people, that were the bishops, the preachers, the popes, and everyone else.

Nehemia: There’s great comfort for many people in blindly following what the pope says, for over a billion people. There’s great comfort for a million, or hundreds of thousands of Jews who blindly follow what the rabbi says. They don’t have to think for themselves because it’s scary when you have to think for yourself and engage Scripture and you come to the verse and you see, “Wait, there’s a contradiction there, and there’s something I don’t understand.”

Keith: There something I don’t understand. I don't know what it is.

Nehemia: It’s much easier to say, “Well, here’s what the rabbi says it is. I don’t have to think about it and activate my brain.” But then you’re not engaging with the Word of God. I don’t know if you remember this, but in 2011 we went down to Egypt, and it was the time of…

Keith: What do you mean? It was the highlight of my life.

Nehemia: Really? When Mubarak was just overthrown, and here’s what I wrote to people. I wrote a little piece called “Aviv Shmaviv.”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Look, I think the aviv is extremely important, but I think sometimes what we do is we focus so much on the truth that we’ve discovered, and we’re focusing so much on the tree, that we forget the forest. I’m more guilty of that than many people because, as an Aspie, I have a tendency towards that. So I was reminding myself more than others…

Keith: You’re still riding that Aspie bus?

Nehemia: Absolutely, I’m sticking with that. All right. “Many people call for unity, but what they really mean is uniformity.” This is what I wrote. “They claim unity is,” actually, I want to go back here..

Keith: Right there, that was a great statement.

Nehemia: No, it is. I agree with you, and there I’m quoting myself. But no, I’m going to jump ahead. I’m not going to read the whole thing. People can find this online on my website,, it’s called “Aviv Shmaviv.” But here it is, “I got some real insight into unity last week when Keith Johnson and I were down in Egypt. Unless you’ve been serving on a deep-water submarine or stuck in Canada, then you know Egypt is a country still recovering from thirty years of rule by a brutal dictator.” People have such a short memory, but at the time, this was the top story in the world.

Keith: It was huge.

Nehemia: “Keith and I had the opportunity to sit down with several Bedouin men in Nuweiba, on the shores of the Red Sea, where the Israelites crossed over from slavery into freedom. I asked them what they thought of the overthrow of Mubarak. One young man,” I don’t know if you remember this...

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: “One young man was nostalgic about the fallen dictator, insisting that as bad as he was, at least there was ‘unity’ under his rule. This young Bedouin man has never known the basic freedoms many of us take for granted. He was terrified by the ‘division’ that now racks his country. I realize that political tyranny creates unity at the cost of freedom, just as spiritual tyranny creates unity at the cost of truth and the individual’s relationship of faith with God.” To me, that’s what this is about. That’s what this Prophet Pearls is about. It’s about… let’s show people a picture, an example of what you can do if you cast off the chains of spiritual tyranny and engage with the Word of God yourself.

Look, we don’t agree on many things. We don’t see eye to eye on many things, and that’s okay. Some people might look at this and say, “This is complete chaos. There’s division. They’re confusing us.” What that is, is those are people who are struggling for the first time in their life with encountering freedom, because freedom is challenging and it’s scary, and it does appear that it’s division. But what it really is, is that you’re engaging with the Word of God, and it’s true. There’s this false unity, but this is truth.

Keith: You know it’s interesting, Nehemia, a lot of people ask the question about why we do this. This is a very rare situation, because I am not a person who’s looking to figure out how you can let me know, “Hey, how can I become a Karaite? How can I become Jewish? How can I become the next great rabbinic teacher or sage?” Or whatever anything like that. I know who I am, I know where I come from in my heritage, and I’ve joined myself to the God of Israel through understanding the Word of God in its language, history, and context. I’m excited about that. I don’t need to do anything else, even though we’ve had this discussion.

Nehemia: What do you mean? You don’t need to jump through the rabbi’s hoops? Otherwise, you don’t count.

Keith: Yes, you don’t count.

Nehemia: This is what they’ll tell you.

Keith: Yes. But let me just say this, and I want to say this in sensitivity; I do believe there is a process that we need to go through to understand the Word of God. We’ve got to go through that hard process of getting some of the information. What I struggle with is when people don’t have any of the information, they simply go and get the opinion of another person, and then they bring that as authority, and then start beating people over the head with the opinion of this other person as authority. That’s what I see is running rampant, and that’s what I don’t want to be a part of. I want to give people access to the information.

Nehemia: Amen.

Keith: So this is kind of what I’ve been struggling with all night. Now, we’re going to get into Isaiah 43. But I think there are some amazing things in this passage.

Nehemia: Did you know when you brought this up, did you know Isaiah actually addresses this exact issue?

Keith: I had no idea.

Nehemia: I wished you would wait until we got to the verse. Because we’re going to have to talk about this when we speak about that verse in Isaiah.

Keith: Of course, yes. Well, let’s start out.

Nehemia: Let’s get into it.

Keith: Before we get started, I want to just say something. Do you find it’s interesting that Isaiah 43:21 starts at the end of the section?

Nehemia: It’s the end of a prophecy.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It’s completely disconnected from the context.

Keith: I just don’t, again, I don’t know where this tradition is coming from, these people picking - but this is an example, where it’s like, you know, at the end.

Nehemia: Specifically, there is a prophecy - Isaiah 43 verses 16-21 in the Hebrew is a unit unto itself. Our section here of the Prophet Pearls, of the weekly Prophet portion read in many synagogues around the world, begins in verse 21 at the tail-end of that prophecy. I wish we had time so that we could go through the entire prophecy of Isaiah 43:16-21…

Keith: We don’t.

Nehemia: But I say we just jump into the next prophecy because then we’ll have a context.

Keith: Yes. Well, we do have to, at least say this, “The people who formed it for myself,” it says - I’m sorry. If you can, you have 43:21, can you tell me what 43…?

Nehemia: “The people that I formed for Myself they shall tell My praise.” Which is a beautiful verse, but what’s the context? It’s completely cut off, but whatever. All right. Let’s go to verse 22, which is now a new prophecy.

Keith: Okay. Awesome. I’m reading in the NAS here, it says, “Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; But you have become weary of Me, O Israel.” Again, we’re going to be dealing with these… when we get to Isaiah and different sections, especially with Isaiah and others, there’s like this poetic thing that’s going on. Here’s a statement, here’s another statement to confirm it. Here’s a statement, here’s another statement to confirm it. So we want to know what we're reading and how we’re reading. It’s not like a narrative. We’re not reading, “And Abraham walked down the street and did...”

Nehemia: Right. Most prophecies in ancient times were very short. We think about the prophecy of Jonah, where we have the example of how it was given. We don’t know how these prophecies were given; we just have the prophecy without the story behind it. But the prophecy of Jonah was, “Arbaim yom veNinveh nehepachat,” four words in Hebrew, “Forty days and Nineveh is overthrown.” That’s his entire prophecy, he walks to the city for three days back and forth just shouting out, “Forty days and Nineveh is overthrown!” “Forty days…” So imagine, here we’ve got a prophecy Isaiah 43 verses 22 to 24, which is its own unit in Hebrew. Now, yours translated it as, “yet.”

Keith: “Yet.”

Nehemia: That implies that this is a continuation of what came before it. But in the Hebrew, that’s not entirely clear, it just says “and”. In Hebrew writing, “and,” could open up an entire book.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Like we’re actually, this week, as we’re recording - this is prerecorded obviously - as we’re recording is the week of Purim, and the book of Esther begins, “Vayehi bimei Achashverosh.” “And it came to pass,” or literally, “And it was in the days of Achashverosh.” Some people have looked at that, who don’t know Hebrew, and they say, “Wait a minute, ‘and’? What is it following?” It’s not following anything, “and” can actually open up a new thing in Hebrew. So where it opens up it says, “And,” now there’s obviously a theme connection to the previous verse, which is why the prophecy was stuck here, but the original context of this prophecy was three verses by itself, verses 22-24.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It’s interesting, there’s a contrast here for sure, between verse 21, he’s saying, “They tell my praises.” But then verse 22 is a different message altogether.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: “You don’t call upon me, Jacob.” Which one is it? Well, that’s because originally these prophecies were not connected. In the Hebrew text, you still see that. You see there’s a break after 21 and before 22.

Keith: So it says, “Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; But you have become weary of Me, O Israel. You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, nor wearied you with incense.” Next verse, “You have bought Me not sweet cane with money,” Oh. “You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices. Rather, you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities.”

So we’re talking about these issues… transfers from the issue of the sacrifices to something, if I can say this word, it’s more personal. It’s like, “Here are the offerings, et cetera, et cetera. Rather, what you’ve done is you brought me your sins rather than bringing me sacrifices; you have burdened me with your iniquities.”

Nehemia: Well, I think it’s significant that… and obviously this is a tradition that we read this section along with the portion of Leviticus chapter 1 verse 1 through, let’s see, it’s through… You know, this is the portion for Vayikra, which is Leviticus 1:1 through 5:26, which is the central section in the entire Torah on the sacrifices. So whoever set up this tradition chose these verses really as, “Yes, we’ve got to bring sacrifices, but it’s not just about sacrifices.”

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: In fact, most sacrifices have nothing to do with sin. Most sacrifices in Leviticus are sacrifices that were brought by the priests, and it wasn’t for the individual who had sinned against God. There’s this theme that we’re going to come back to again and again and again in the Prophet Pearls, because it’s in the Prophets - I don’t know that we need to talk too much at length about it here - but this theme that comes again and again and again, which is that God wants obedience, not sacrifices.

Keith: Halleluyah.

Nehemia: It’s not that sacrifices aren’t commanded in the Torah; there are certain rituals that will be carried out when the Messiah comes, according to Ezekiel. We read that in one of the Ezekiel sections, it’s in chapters 40 through 48 of Ezekiel. There will be sacrifices at the end time and some of those will be for sin offerings, but that is only once there’s obedience. If there’s no obedience, He doesn’t want it. That’s not what this is about.

Keith: I always think of it this way. I think of the sacrifice as being an overflow of what’s happening in the heart. Here’s what you do. I think of the story of Cain and Abel. Abel comes and he brings his offering, Cain brings his offering, people argue, “Oh, it was the wrong offering.” No, they’re both legitimate offerings, but it was how it was brought. What was the heart? What was going on in the inside?

Nehemia: That’s what God says to him. He says, “Im tetiv se’et,” “If you do well, there will be forgiveness.” “Im lo tativ," "If you don’t do goodness then there’s going to be sin crouching at the door."

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: I love verse 25. Honestly, we could read verse 25 and we’d be done.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It says… I’m going to read it in Hebrew, “Anochi, anochi hu moche fesha’echa lema’ani,” “I, even I.” That’s how your English has it, right, “I, even I”?

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It’s just the word, “Anochi.” “I” twice, as an extra emphasis. “I, I am the one who erases your transgressions for My sake.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Keith: It is.

Nehemia: God erases our transgression for His sake. I love the word for “erases” here is “moche,” which is literally “to blot out.” Now, people hear all the time about blotting out. What does that mean? So back then, they didn’t have erasers. I don’t even know if the young generations know what white-out is. Did you have white-out in your generation?

Keith: Yes, of course. That’s how you make the paper...

Nehemia: Right. So the British call it Tipp-Ex. It’s where you take this material and you put it, and it’s actually white paint or something like that that covers the mistake. They didn’t have that in ancient times. What they did is they would write on parchment, and when you wanted to get rid of a word, if you wrote the wrong word, or let’s say you had a debt - this is actually the image here, there is a certificate of debt, and the debt says, “Keith owes Nehemia three hundred dollars.” So it says it in the letter and there are witnesses who sign it. Then when Keith pays the debt, what happens is you don’t just tear it up, because then there’s no record. How do we know that it was paid? So what happens is the scribe comes along with water, and he puts the water on the ink where says the debt is owed, and he dissolves the ink. That is literally what to blot out means. To blot out, in biblical Hebrew, this word, is a word that implies water to dissolve the ink. He says, “I, even I am the one who blots out,” literally who dissolved with water, “your transgression for My sake.” So, there’s a certificate of debt that God has against us for our transgressions, and God is going to… He’s the one, no other, Him. He’s the one who’s going to blot it out for His sake. He says, “vechatotecha lo ezkor,” “and your transgressions,” your sins, literally, “I will not mention,” I will not remember, as well, it could mean. Wow. That’s awesome.

So God is saying, “You think you need sacrifices? You think you need this blood? You think you need this incense, the slaughtering of sheep? This is not what it’s about. I’m the one who’s going to blot out your transgression, not the sheep, not the incense, not the fat of the sacrifice. It’s going to be Me. So you’ve got to deal with Me. Don’t hide behind your sacrifice.”

Keith: Amen. Now do me a favor, Nehemia. I want you to look at something while I make a comment on this. I want you to go to, “Anochi, anochi” and see how many times that shows up. While you’re doing that, one of the things I would like to share with people is this verse really connects to a verse that, for me, for the longest time has been such an amazing verse that I can hardly wrap my mind around it. It’s in Psalm 103:12, I think, it’s in Psalm 103:12. Yes, it says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed,” I think this is the idea of, “As far as the east is from the west,” and I think to myself...

Nehemia: 103:12?

Keith: Yes, I believe it’s 103:12. It might be different in yours.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: “As far as the east is from the west,” but what I wanted you to look for is how many times…

Nehemia: That has, “For He has removed our transgressions.”

Keith: Yes, “removed our transgressions.” “Anochi, anochi.”

Nehemia: Yes, so three times we have “Anochi, anochi.” Twice is in the passage that we’re reading - once in 43:11, once in 43:25, and the third time is Isaiah 51:12.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: So this is clearly a phraseology that is appearing in this part of Isaiah. Pretty cool.

Keith: But I think what’s interesting, He says, “As far as the east is from the west,” and I used to try to put my mind around what that means. That just means, how far we’re...

Nehemia: Actually, yes, 43:11 is in a previous section that we’re not getting to it, it’s in the prophecy we skipped, where He says, “I,” “Anochi, anochi Yehovah.” “I, even I am Yehovah. And beside Me, ve’ein biladai moshia,” “besides me there is no savior.” I love that verse.

Keith: We’re going to get further into that also.

Nehemia: Yes. So this removing transgression east from west, it’s going to be that far away, as far as we can possibly conceive as human beings. He’s going to remove our sins. I love it.

Keith: Well now, let me say this though. I know we’re going to do 26, but 27 is really connected. It says, “Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together, state your cause, that you may be proved right.” Then He does this really weird thing. That’s not really so weird when you read it in Hebrew, it’s kind of cool. “Your first forefather sinned,” and now here’s the connection, “and your spokesmen,” it says here in the NASB, “have transgressed against Me.” Now, can you read that?

Nehemia: Wow. There’s so much to talk about in this verse. Let’s take it one thing at a time.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: You have, “your forefathers?”

Keith: Yes, “Your first forefather.”

Nehemia: Really, “your first forefather”? That’s really interesting because this is… what translation is this?

Keith: The NASB.

Nehemia: Which is a Christian translation, am I right?

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Would you say that? Meaning this wasn’t translated by Jews, was it? In the Hebrew, it doesn’t say, “your forefathers.” It says, “your first father.”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Let me just see if there are other translations that agree with what it says in Hebrew. I don’t know, let's see. The JPS, which is the Jewish Publication Society, has, “your earliest ancestor sinned.” It’s in the singular; there is no plural. “Thy first father hath sinned,” in the King James. In the Hebrew, it’s very definitive, it’s “avicha.” “Your fathers” would be “avotecha,” your fathers. Here, it’s the one father. It’s very interesting we have this concept here… who is the first father that sinned? Is it talking about Abraham? Maybe it’s talking about...

Keith: Yes. Is it Jacob? Is it Abraham?

Nehemia: I think it’s got to be Adam.

Keith: It’s got to be Adam.

Nehemia: Then here’s the interesting thing. If you were coming from the Christian perspective, you could take this and say, this is original sin. But we definitely have this concept in the Tanakh that each person is really responsible for his own actions, that’s the Tanakh concept. But there’s no question that all humans are going to suffer today from the sin of Adam, and why is that? Because Adam was commanded, “Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” and he was never commanded not to eat of the tree of life. That’s not in there. The rabbis actually say that, I don’t know if you know that, but that’s what I was taught growing up, that he was commanded to eat not from one tree, but from both trees.

But actually, in the Hebrew, in the original Tanakh, in the Torah, he’s only forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge, not from the tree of life. Eventually, it’s possible he would have eaten from the tree of life and lived forever, but instead, he chose to violate God’s commandment, and that is a picture. That’s a picture of the Torah, which is… through the Torah we have this opportunity to once again eat from the tree of life and live forever. I’m not just making that up, that’s in Proverbs 3:18, it says - it’s a very famous verse, it’s sung in the synagogue - “Etz chaim hi lamachazikim ba,” “It is a tree of life to those who grab hold of it.” The Torah Proverbs 3:18.

Keith: Did you used to sing that, Nehemia?

Nehemia: I did.

Keith: Are you serious?

Nehemia: Yes. So here’s an example where we have this idea in Genesis, and then it’s sort of explained in Proverbs, that the Torah itself is the tree of life, and that’s of course in Deuteronomy; it talks about, “I placed before you the choice between life and death, good and evil. Choose life that you may live.” So we definitely have this idea that, yes, Adam sinned and therefore we’re on the line. I can’t just go eat from the tree, now I have… but I get a second chance.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: My second chance is by eating from the tree of life, which is the Torah. So it’s interesting, He says here, “your first father sinned.” It says, “u’melitzecha pash’u bi.” “And your,” what do you have there? For melitzecha, you had your – what did you have there?

Keith: “Your spokesmen.”

Nehemia: “Your spokesmen.” I love it.

Keith: “…have transgressed against Me.” Yes.

Nehemia: “And your spokesmen have transgressed against Me.” So here the King James has, “your teachers.” The N.J.P.S., the Jewish Publication Society, has, “your spokesmen.” Is that what you’re reading, “spokesmen”?

Keith: Yes. It says, “And your spokesmen.” Yes.

Nehemia: Okay. But that’s in NASB. Oh, that’s the true translation of the spokesmen. So literally, “melitz,” in Hebrew is an interpreter.Your interpreters have transgressed against Me.” The place we find this word is in Genesis 42 verse 23, and it talks about the brothers standing before Joseph who is the viceroy of Egypt, and they don’t realize that it's Joseph. They think it’s some Egyptian; he’s dressed like an Egyptian, he looks like an Egyptian, he’s speaking Egyptian. So they’re talking amongst themselves in Hebrew, and it says, “And they did not know that Joseph heard,” literally, or understood, “ki hamelitz benotam,” “for the interpreter was between them.” In other words, the brothers would speak in Hebrew, and the interpreter would translate that into Egyptian. Joseph would speak in Egyptian and the translator would translate that into Hebrew. So the brothers were talking amongst themselves, not realizing Joseph knows what they’re saying because he doesn’t need the translator, he speaks Hebrew.

So that’s what a “melitz” is. “Melitz” is not a spokesman, it’s actually an interpreter. He’s saying here, “Your interpreters have transgressed against Me.” I wish you had waited to talk about this whole issue of how we need the rabbis to know what’s in the Torah because they are the “melitzim,” they are the interpreters; they are the translators and the translators aren’t always reliable. The interpreters aren’t always reliable, that’s the message here. That there were people even back then who maybe weren’t translating it from Hebrew into some other language, but they were translating the Torah into the daily lives of the people.

God is saying, “Those translators who are telling you, ‘Here’s what the Torah really means.’ Those were people who had transgressed against God,” and these are the people He’s calling to task. This to me is a warning that we must not blindly follow what the interpreters do. What’s the message here? The message here is God is saying, “Let’s get rid of these interpreters. Let’s get rid of these intermediaries.” That’s another translation of the word “melitz” is “intermediary.” God’s saying, “I don’t want to have a situation where there’s the translator, the interpreter, the intermediary between Me and you. I want this direct interaction with you, because the interpreter… they might transgress against Me and lead you astray.”

I love the picture of Joseph; he’s sitting on the throne and the eleven brothers are standing around, or the ten brothers – however many there were then. They’re talking amongst themselves and they can’t interact directly with Joseph. They’ve got to have this intermediary, this interpreter, and God’s saying, “Let’s cast out the intermediary, cast out the interpreter. I want to talk to you directly because those interpreters have transgressed against Me.”

Keith: Isn’t it amazing though that part of human nature that says - and we go back to the mountain, where we see God speaks and the people say, “We don’t want to hear from Him.” Sometimes if we hear from Him it’s overwhelming, and so what do they say? You speak to Him, He’ll speak to you. Again, we hear the story about the fact that that was the right thing that needed to happen.

Nehemia: Right. But the beauty is that now we can go and we can hear the Torah.

Keith: We can go and we can hear the Torah for ourselves. Yes

Nehemia: We can hear exactly what Moses heard. Imagine that. Isn’t that amazing?

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It’s not just Moses coming out and saying, “Oh, you don’t need to know what this is. Just trust me. This is the application of the commandment. You don’t need to worry. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” No, I can read the Torah and hear exactly what Moses heard. He recorded it word for word. That’s how powerful the Torah is. Why would I want to go and hear what the interpreter, what the translator has to say, when I can go and hear it for myself?

Keith: Here’s where I know that there’s a lot of people that are listening that do get so frustrated because they think, “Well, how will I be able to understand it, because I’m reading through this translation, I’m reading through that translation?” That’s one of the things that I’ve really been dealing with, Nehemia, the last couple of years, is how to help people get a chance to interact with it as it was written. There are lots of challenges. There are issues that we have to deal with, grammatical issues and things like that.

But I think with where we’re at in society right now, there are so many wonderful tools that people can use, and I want to help. I know that this is something you and I have talked a lot about, is being able to give people access to the information. You just did an amazing study this last week, which is now a few weeks ago, and you were talking about this whole issue of people praying to Jupiter, it’s a big controversy about the name Yahweh, back and forth. But what I loved about what you did is when you talked about the sources, you said, “Here’s the source.” And then the people could go and check that source.

Nehemia: Right. You could disagree with me but go look for yourself.

Keith: Yes. And I think, again, I want to keep beating this drum, that again in this passage He’s talking about, “Look, here’s what happened with the interpreter. The interpreter transgressed against Me.” But isn’t it wonderful that we actually can interact with this information? So I want to continue to do what I can to help people get the tools to do that. I know that’s also been what you did, and the most controversial thing you ever did, 13 years ago, was say, “Here’s the access to the information.” And then for me to make the choice - do I want to go through that process? I want to create ways for people to kind of have that same process; maybe not the same abusive process where you were so tough on me.

Nehemia: It wasn’t abusive.

Keith: You are a hard...

Nehemia: I’m a tough teacher. Look, so...

Keith: Let me say, there are ways for people to learn. As we go through Prophet Pearls in the next few weeks, I’m going to try to give people some hints towards how we’re going to do that. But I really do think this is the beauty of what we’re trying to do, Nehemia, is to give people a chance to learn.

Nehemia: Empower people with information, that’s what my ministry is all about.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: You mentioned that study I did on Jupiter, and what I really did is I said, “Here are the sources, go check it out for yourself.”

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: You can look at those sources and say, “I don’t think that’s what they say. I don’t agree with you.” And that’s fine. Just this morning, I got a long epistle, a very long email from a gentleman who had listened to the study, and he said, “Look, here’s why I can't accept this, this, and that.” He starts talking about these prepositions and the vowels of the prepositions, and I was so blessed - I think he’s wrong - but I was so blessed because he had listened to what I had to say, he went and checked the sources and he came to his own conclusions. I’d rather somebody do that, even if they end up disagreeing with me and being wrong, than to blindly accept what I say, because really, it’s not about me, it’s about the Creator of the universe. That’s the thing. What some people will do is they’ll say, “This is what our holy sages say.” “This is what our holy rabbis say.” There’s really nothing to check or to employ independent thinking based on what Scripture says because they don’t give you any reasoning or any sources, they just stuff it down your throat and you’ve got to accept it; you have got no choice.

I love the next verse, verse 28, He says, “And will desecrate sarei Kodesh,” the holy ministers, the holy officers. So we’ve got these people who have presented themselves as, “We’re the holy rabbis, you have to accept what I say,” and God prophesies that He will desecrate them; He doesn’t want this intermediary between us.

Can I share something that happened and that for me was kind of a formative experience? It was something I encountered… it’s actually something my father said which was really profound. He was a rabbi, an Orthodox rabbi. He definitely didn’t agree with what I teach about the rabbis, obviously. But he once explained something to me that was really interesting. You’ve got this concept in Rabbinical Judaism which illustrates how powerful this interpreter, this intermediary is. The idea is if you come into a situation in your life where you don’t know what to do; you don’t know how to apply the commandments - and really, it might go either way - then what you’re supposed to do is go ask a rabbi. Whatever answer that rabbi gives you - and, of course, it’s got to be an Orthodox rabbi who’s ordained by another rabbi - whatever answer that rabbi gives you, according to my father of blessed memory, the way he described it, it’s as if that answer was the Word of God for you. What does that mean? Which is a really powerful statement.

Keith: Before you go any further, let me be clear, I’m going to slow you down a little bit here. So your father, who was an Orthodox rabbi, is teaching you and he’s telling you that if you get into a situation where you don’t know the answer in a practical life circumstance or something like that, you go to the rabbi and you get the answer.

Nehemia: Right.

Keith: But when you get the answer that answer is binding.

Nehemia: It’s 100 percent binding, and the phrase he uses is “as if that’s the Word of God.”

Keith: Now, is this something your father just made up? Or is it something that he read?

Nehemia: No, this is a pretty standard teaching. I don’t know if that phraseology was his or other people’s, but definitely, this is a very standard idea, that you have this whole actual literature in Rabbinical history called Responsa. Responsa is when you ask a formal question to the rabbi, it’s usually in writing, and he gives you a formal answer. That formal answer is binding on you, you cannot go ask another rabbi, even though you may know another rabbi will give you a different answer. Well, you should have asked that other rabbi in the first place. But once you get the formal answer from the rabbi, it’s binding on you and you don’t have to think anymore. You might say, “Oh, man, I don’t know if I should do this. I’m not sure I feel right doing this.”

I’ll just give you an example, a very trivial example of the type that rabbis will bring. “I’m cooking soup for 500 people, and it’s Friday afternoon before Shabbat, and a fly falls in the soup and I can’t find the fly.” It sounds like a ridiculous thing but this happens in real life. Well, flies are not biblically permissible. “Do I spill out 500 liters of soup, or 500 gallons of soup, or however much it is? Or do I continue to cook it and serve it and tell people, ‘If you come across the fly, don’t eat it.’ But otherwise, we’re not going to worry about that.” So that’s something you go and ask a rabbi. That’s actually the type of question that people will ask, like if you go to yeshivas around the world where they cook for hundreds of people or Orthodox Jewish caterers, they deal with this type of thing on a daily basis. This is not like...

Keith: So they ask a question, they get the answer.

Nehemia: The rabbi may come and look at the soup, and he’ll say, “No, you have to spill the whole thing out.” Or, “No, you don’t.” Different rabbis may give different answers, depending on the situation and depending on all kinds of factors and considerations and situations. But whatever the answer the rabbi gives, you can’t go shop and go to another rabbi. It’s binding upon you as if it’s the Word of God. That’s the doctrine from the teachings of the rabbis. I had this story that happened. I went to an Orthodox Jewish high school, and there was this couple there, and the guy got a girl pregnant, and it happens to be that they were step-brother and sister. So they went and asked the rabbi, “Can we have an abortion?” The rabbi said no, and really that should have been the end of the story. What they did, though, was something really controversial for the Orthodox world, they went and asked a second rabbi.

Keith: This is a new - this is something a story people are aware of?

Nehemia: Oh, everybody in Chicago from my generation knows who these people are. I’m not going to say who they are, but everybody knows this story. So they got the abortion based on the opinion of the second rabbi. The sin in the rabbinical community wasn’t so much that they got the abortion, but that they disobeyed the instruction of the first rabbi. Obviously, people were upset they got the abortion, too. But the real issue there was that they disobeyed the first rabbi, because for them it was as if that was the Word of God, and they went and defied that word.

To me, this is exactly what it’s speaking about here in Isaiah 43 verse 27, “Your first father sinned.” To me, maybe it’s not the first Adam that it’s talking about. In yours, it translates it as, “ancestors,” or “fathers”. We do have this idea in Hebrew of the collective singular, meaning an entire category of people here perhaps being referred to as “father”. What it tells me is, don’t blindly follow rabbis and interpreters, these intermediaries, just because my ancestors did. Just because my ancestors blindly followed what these rabbis had to say doesn’t mean that I have to.

You might say, “Oh, well, Isaiah is not talking about that. He’s talking about what was going on in his day.” But actually, what was he talking about? He was talking about the priests at the high places or even the priests at the Temple who were sinners. The priest at the Temple would say, “Yes, you’ve got to come worship the sun image.” We hear that in the time Josiah that there were idols actually in the Temple itself. So there might be these intermediaries, these interpreters, who were in their day, as well, and they were told, “You can’t just go and follow what you heard six years ago in the public reading in the Torah, you’ve got to obey what the rabbi says. You don’t know what it means. You don’t have the right to interpret it yourself. You can’t understand it by yourself! You need the rabbi! You need the interpreter!” And God says, “Let’s get rid of these interpreters. They’ve sinned against Me. They’ve transgressed against Me. I don’t want them standing between Me and you. I’m going to desecrate them,” in verse 28.

Keith: Then when you get to 44:1, this is one of the verses that I really, really love this verse, because it reminds me of who He is, and not only who He is, but how He deals with us. It says, “But now listen,” and He uses the word, “shema,” just like in Deuteronomy, “listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen.” Then it says, “Thus says Yehovah, who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear,’” And whenever I see that word “form,” I was reminded over and over and again, we see this example of Him being the one who’s the potter, He takes the clay and He takes the people and He begins to mold them and shape them and do all these wonderful things.

Nehemia: Where do you get that from this word?

Keith: No, I’m saying the idea - I’m sorry, Nehemia. So when I see this, first of all, I say, is this the same word? So then I go to Isaiah 44:2, and I say it’s the word, to form, the “yotzer,” the one who’s forming.

Nehemia: In other words, the literal meaning of this word “to form” is “to form a pot.” For a potter forming a pot out of clay.

Keith: Exactly. So the idea though, when I see this, I’m just reminding myself, I want to slow down a little bit. Because what I’ve seen in my process is that He’s taken a pot of clay, me, and at different times He’s had to push some parts of me in and polish some other parts of me, and I’m still in the process; I’m clay in the process. I think that’s why this whole process of us sharing the Word of God is a bit of humility for me. I don’t see us as a finished product. I don’t see that somehow I’ve got all the wisdom and knowledge and understanding, and I can just give this, and now you can just follow that. But that all of us would take the process of being formed. That Yehovah himself would say, “But now listen,” here’s what you did, here’s what was going on. “‘But now listen, Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen,’ thus says Yehovah who made you and who formed you in the womb,” who literally took you piece by piece and He’s shaping you. He says, “who will help you, do not fear, O Jacob My servant.”

Then comes this word that I don’t know how you’re going to get past this word. Then it says, now can I give it in English?

Nehemia: Sure.

Keith: Okay. It says, “‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.”

Nehemia: Jeshurun is what you have?

Keith: That’s what it has, Jeshurun. What do you have in yours?

Nehemia: I have Yeshurun.

Keith: Now is there… I don’t know, you’re not going to allow this as the Word of the Week, I don’t know if you…

Nehemia: We can do this as the Word of the Week. Sure. Absolutely.

Keith: This is really interesting. How are you supposed to know what this is, Nehemia?

Nehemia: Yes. So it’s interesting that you say that because I grew up in West Rogers Park in Chicago, and the synagogue where we used to pray when I was very young was called Yeshurun.

Keith: Really?

Nehemia: Yes. It was a synagogue.

Keith: You’re kidding me?

Nehemia: No.

Keith: Okay. So tell us about this…

Nehemia: It was across… there was a park, and on the other side of the park was the synagogue.

Keith: “Yeshurun whom I have chosen,” it says.

Nehemia: Right.

Keith: So tell us.

Nehemia: We knew Yeshurun is a nickname for Israel.

Keith: Tell us through the process. What do you mean you knew that?

Nehemia: Meaning, it was a synagogue...

Keith: How did the people know that?

Nehemia: We just know. But in Hebrew, you see the similarity, you see that connection. First of all, Yeshurun appears four times in the Tanakh. Deuteronomy 32:15 is the first example. It says, “Vayishman Yeshurun vayivat,” “And Yeshurun grew fat and he kicked,” et cetera, et cetera. Deuteronomy 33:5, “And there was in Yeshurun a king.” Then Deuteronomy 33:26, “There is none like the God of Yeshurun.” It’s very clear that this is referring to Israel. Isaiah 44:2 is actually the only time outside of the Torah, outside of Deuteronomy, that it appears.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So how do we get from Israel to Yeshurun? Well, Israel in Hebrew is “Yisrael.”

Keith: Yes!

Nehemia: You say Yeshurun is a poetic form of it, but what’s the connection? So they both appear... they’re visually similar in Hebrew, even though they don’t sound similar. Specifically, the root of... well, what is the root of the name Israel? It’s “sarar,” Sin, Resh, Resh, which means “to strive,” “to struggle,” maybe “to wrestle.” The root of the word Yeshurun is Yud, Shin, Resh, which means “straight,” or honest, integral, to have integrity. Often we’ll hear the word integrity in the English, and the word is “yashar” in Hebrew, yud, Shin, Resh.

Keith: Yes. “Yashar,” “yashar.”

Nehemia: Yes, right, when you drive on the roads in Israel and it zigzags all over the place, but you’re staying on the same road, you say, “Yashar, yashar, kol hazman yashar.” “Straight, straight, the whole time straight.” It’s called straight, even though the road turns because you’re on the same road, because Jerusalem is mountainous.

So Yeshurun is literally “the straight one”, the one of integrity. But the connection is because Yisrael and Yeshurun both have the three letters: Yud, shin, resh.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Now, here’s where it gets a little complicated. Yisrael is Yud, Sin, Resh; and this is Yud, Shin, Resh. Now, you say, wait a minute, they’re not from the same root. One is Sin, Resh, Resh, and the other is Yud, Shin, Resh. They’re linguistically not connected. That’s 100% true. Meaning if you go and you look at the grammar in a dictionary, if you’d even ask the ancient Israelite, “Are these from the same root?” They’d say, “No, of course not. One is ‘straight’ and one is ‘to struggle’, ‘to strive’.” However, they sound similar, and in fact, obviously, in certain dialects of Hebrew- I say obvious, but maybe it’s not to some people - the Shin and the Sin were both pronounced the same. For example, for the Ephraimites, they’re both pronounced the same.

Keith: Sibboleth and shibboleth.

Nehemia: Right. So an Ephraimite would have said not Yeshurun but Yesurun. But the other Israelites were able to distinguish those sounds. But they were similar enough that there could be this play on words. A play on words in Hebrew, a nickname like this, is often not based on what we would expect from a modern linguistic derivation, a modern grammatical explanation, but it's based on something that sounds similar.

An example I love is Jabez. In Chronicles, it says he’s called Jabez because he was born in sorrow. If you look in the Hebrew, the word sorrow and the word jabez, yabet, one is Ayin, Bet, Tzadik, and the other is Ayin, Tzadik, Bet. The letters are actually switched, what’s going on? It sounded close enough for somebody to give that name explanation. Here it’s close enough that this could be a nickname.

Now, here’s where it’s really interesting to me. We’ve got this situation with the name Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey, where people say, “We don’t know the vowels. The vowels have been lost.” Then they come up with explanations of what the name is. Is it Yahweh? Or is it Yahooha? Often it’s going to begin “Ya” because we know in hallelujah that’s the poetic - say, “poetic”.

Keith: Poetic.

Nehemia: It’s the poetic form of the Father's name. “Ya” as hallelujah. Or “Keis Ya,” we had the first time in Exodus, it’s the throne of “Ya.” The poetic form is not disputed. Meaning those who know Hebrew, I should say, have never disputed the poetic form because it was never forbidden to speak. It was only the full form Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey, which was forbidden. Now, imagine if all you had was the poetic form of the name and you came up with Yahweh, now, let’s apply that to Israel. Let’s say we didn’t know how to pronounce Yisrael. Let’s say there was a superstition in ancient Israel - and it didn’t happen - but imagine if there was a superstition in ancient Israel where they said, “You cannot say the name Yisrael.”

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: “You must only call her Jacob.” So we come to the letters Yud, Sin, Resh, Alef, Lamed, and we say, “We don’t know how to say it. Let’s figure out how to say Yisrael, Yud, Sin, Resh, Alef, Lamed.” You had no idea, except you knew that the nickname was Yeshurun. So then you would maybe, perhaps, very logically say, “Oh, Yeshurun, and we’ve got these three letters. It should be Yeshurul.” That’s not a joke. Yeshurul, as opposed to…

Keith: Israel

Nehemia: Israel, right. Thank the Creator of the universe that the name Israel was not forgotten in the pronunciation of Hebrew and there’s no dispute about it. But if there were, we might end up with people who - we’d have the Yeshurul people, and we’d have the Yasherah people, and we’d have Yoshero people.

Keith: Somebody would come along and say, “After looking in the ancient Hebrew manuscripts, I actually found some examples where we see Yisrael.” And they’d say, “No. We can’t because of the vowels…”

Nehemia: “No! We can’t look at the Hebrew manuscripts. We’ve got to go listen to the Samaritans. We’ve got to go listen to the Greeks, and these various others… the Church Fathers, the Christians.” I say let’s look at the Hebrew manuscripts, and thankfully we know how to say Israel and Yeshurun, and they don’t actually sound all that similar to us, maybe in English, but in Hebrew, they’re very, very similar.

Keith: That’s a great example.

Nehemia: We can’t just look at the poetic form of a name. We’ve got to see how it was actually preserved in the Hebrew manuscripts.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Yes. There it is.

Keith: So here we go, 44:3 says, “For I shall pour out water on the thirsty and streams on the dry ground.” Then, I don’t know why this kind of stuff just gets me. Then the next phrase says, “For I shall pour out My spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants.”

Nehemia: Now, I thought we were going to talk about the Tanakh. Why are you reading to me from the New Testament?

Keith: No, I’m reading right out of Isaiah Chapter 44 verse 3.

Nehemia: God’s going to pour out His Spirit upon Israel? Upon the Jews?

Keith: He says, “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing.”

Nehemia: Come on with that!

Keith: You know what’s interesting, it says, “I will pour out water and streams; I will pour out spirit and blessing.” When I read that, I see what’s happening. It’s like the blessing is the spirit, you know, the stream…

Nehemia: Well, He’s going to pour it out like water. That’s the point.

Keith: Exactly. Like water, absolutely. “This one will say, ‘I am Yehovah’s; and that one will call on the name of Yaakov; and another will write on his hand,” and this is another example.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: I don’t know if I’m going to let you talk about this or not, you’ll go on and on, but it says, “This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s’, and that one will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to Yehovah,’ and will name Israel’s name with honor.” I mean...

Nehemia: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Keith: No, no.

Nehemia: No, “And he will be called by the name Israel.”

Keith: “He will be called by the name Israel.”

Nehemia: Right. So wait a minute, who are these people that are going to be called by the name Israel? Presumably it’s people who aren’t part of Israel who are going to come and they’re going to say, “Look, I’ve got to be part of this. I’ve got to be called Israel. I need to embrace the God of Israel.” Why would they write on their hand Yehovah? We don’t know for sure, but one explanation is that in ancient times a slave, they would write on his hand the name of his master, so if he ran away they’d grab his hand and they say, “Oh, you belong to Josiah, we’re going to take you back to Josiah.”

Keith: You can go to Isaiah 49:16 on that.

Nehemia: Yes, Isaiah 49:16. Here, in any event, the person is writing on his hand, “Belonging to Yehovah,” to indicate look, I’m Yehovah’s, I’m His, I’m his servant. Yes, okay, Isaiah 49:16, you want to read it?

Keith: No, go ahead.

Nehemia: You want me to read it?

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So in the JPS, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands, your walls are ever before Me.” I think this is actually a passage we’re going to get to in one of the sections. So let’s save that discussion. That’s a really interesting discussion.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: But yes, we have this other idea. Anyway, I think that’s a separate thing. But when I was in Kathmandu, and you know this story, go to my website, there’s a study there on shaving. But actually, it also talks about tattoos. One of the things I did in Kathmandu is they have this thing where they do these temporary tattoos called henna.

Keith: I would have argued with you if you’d done it.

Nehemia: So I went and I had them write in henna, temporary tattoo, it lasts about two or three weeks. I had them write, “Belonging,” Well, they weren’t able to write “Belonging,” but they wrote “Yehovah,” based on this verse. It was such a blessing. I was walking around Kathmandu for a few days and people would stop me all over and they’d say, “Wow, we see the henna tattoos all the time, and they’re usually dedicated to the various gods, but we’ve never seen anything like this Hebrew writing,” well, they didn’t know it was Hebrew writing. They said, “What is this?” I said, “This is the name of my God.” And they said, “Well, who is your God?” I say, “He is the God of Israel, the God of the Jews. Yehovah the Creator of heaven and earth.” I’ve told this story before and it really excites me. I had these two people who said, “Can you bless us in the name of this god?” I recited over them the priestly blessing with Yehovah inscribed upon my arms. That was pretty cool.

Keith: Wow. Amazing.

Nehemia: But it’s a great discussion over there,, about the whole issue of tattoos, and go read it.

Keith: Okay. Awesome. Now, do you want to take a moment to talk about ministry? Do you want to...?

Nehemia: Sure. Well, you go ahead. You go first.

Keith: No, go ahead. You’re right in, you’re in the flow of it.

Nehemia: I mean this is what it’s about for me, it’s empowering people. My ministry is Makor Hebrew Foundation. Makor is the Hebrew word for “source,” and it’s about, for me, getting to the source. It also means the source of a spring of water because it’s the source of water. Here Yehovah talks about how He’s going to pour out His spirit like water. I want to encourage people and empower people to, when you feel that spirit, don’t do what I did for all those years, which was I’d feel that spirit and I’d be like, “No, we can’t deal with that. That’s not part of my heritage. That’s not part of my tradition. That’s those other people who don’t know any better, who don’t have the knowledge.”

So for me, it’s not just about information, it is empowering people with information, but also giving you the information so that when you feel that spirit, that you’re not going to shut the door in God’s face, that you’re open to embracing that spirit...

Keith: So there’s that aspect of the ministry.

Nehemia: Yes, absolutely. That’s the key part of the ministry. There is information and there is inspiration. What I’ve learned from you is when you take information and you take inspiration then you become open to revelation.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: That’s what the ministry is about for me, Makor Hebrew Foundation, This is what I want to do. I don’t want people to come to me and say, “Nehemia, you are the great teacher, teach us. Teach us what we should…” No, I’m not the rabbi. In fact, I’ll have people write to me all the time, “Rabbi Gordon.” I say, “I’m sorry, my father passed away, he won’t be able to get this message. But if you’ve something you want to say to me, I’m not a rabbi.” I am simply someone who can… I’ve been blessed with information and had the opportunity to read ancient Hebrew texts and to understand ancient Hebrew culture. I want to empower people with that information so that they can do it themselves.

I love the image, and I keep going back to it. My name is Nehemia and I’m named after the guy who lived thousands of years ago who built the wall. It’s interesting, he didn’t actually build the wall. He stood up there and he set up a situation so that the people could build the wall themselves. He set it up so that he had the trumpeters to warn the people, but the people actually did it themselves. They had the building implement in one hand, and the weapon of defense in the other hand, and if the enemy came to attack, they’d sound the shofar and the people could defend themselves. So it gave them both this foundation, but also a defense. That’s what I want to do, empower people with information so they can build their faith on a solid foundation and build that wall, but also defend their faith, defend the word of Yehovah.

Keith: Amen. You know it’s so interesting to me that we’re here, and actually, this date as we mentioned is that the 21st, I believe the 21st of March, which has a number of things going on, not only the Aviv, also I don’t know if you know it or not, but it’s possible that you’ll be stuck here on the 22nd, because it’s possible that when the sun turns dark that could be the end. It’s all over.

Nehemia: Oh, so there’s an eclipse on the day…

Keith: No, there’s an eclipse...

Nehemia: So the day they’re reading this section in synagogues around the world, there’s an eclipse.

Keith: Yes. This is my thing.

Nehemia: That’s a special eclipse, right?

Keith: I want to talk about it. It’s my turn to talk about it, Nehemia! Let me talk about it!

Nehemia: It’s the beginning of the end times.

Keith: So here we are. We’re here, actually, we’re going to be on tour. BFA is on its third tour. We have people from around the world that are coming, and we actually called it, “The Signs of the Times Tour” because we knew that this great eclipse was going to take place. I told people what better place to be than in Israel when it all goes down.

But you know, it’s really kind of funny, because for the last year I’ve been doing - I did a teaching on the Four Blood Moons. This is one of the big parts of the Four Blood Moons, is that you’ve got the blood moon that took place at the Jewish feast, they call it. Now you have the first day of the New Year, which they’re saying now is going to be this solar eclipse, and people are connecting that with the supermoon that’s going to take place in the fall feast. All of it is, in my humble opinion, an attempt to try to not only to help people understand time but rather to take away God’s time and really to put forth something else. So I did a teaching called “Four Blood Moons Mania.”

Nehemia: So you’re against the blood moons?

Keith: Not against the blood moon, I’m for understanding God’s time.

Nehemia: Okay.

Keith: What I think they’ve done as a result of this whole blood moons is to dramatize and to make it into something that really I can’t find. But I did do a teaching, and it’s available on our Premium Content Library called the Four Blood Moons. But what I like about what we’re doing right now is we’re really giving people a chance to, what I call, interact with it. So in other words, when you hear something that’s one thing, but if you can hear it, see it and interact with it, what better way of learning?

So what we do at the BFA International is there’s an entire series of now 50 presentations, 50 high-quality presentations that have been on Christian television, that have been all over the world, and they’re available for people in the Premium Content Library. But even if they don’t do that, they can go to and interact with a number of things that will help them where they can get to know this whole inspiration.

Now, for my little statement. On the 21st, which is going to be the sun turning to darkness, if we’re here on the 22nd then I want people to consider adding a little something more to their toolbox, which is giving them a chance to have some access to some more information, which we’ll talk about a little bit later. But the BFA International website is based on one thing - inspiring people around the world to build a biblical foundation for their faith, period. If people can do that, wow, it won’t really matter what anyone thinks. You’ll read the Scripture and be able to see it for yourself.

Nehemia: Can I put you on the spot here?

Keith: Uh-oh.

Nehemia: So first of all, I’ll be honest, I don’t really follow the whole blood moon teaching. What exactly is expected to happen, if you know?

Keith: It depends on who you talk to. A lot of people believe that the blood moons are an indicator of the end of the days, according to Joel. They would say that the moon will turn to blood and the sun will turn to darkness. And this is the great and terrible day ...

Nehemia: Okay. What’s the other people, what do they say?

Keith: Other people would say it’s based on… the blood moons are an indicator of what’s happening with Israel. So that basically the blood moons have come, historically, we’ve seen certain things take place with Israel during the time of the blood moons, though they’re not consistent with that.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: But some of those have happened around times...

Nehemia: Basically, if we go through this… Like I said, I don’t follow this teaching, I want to get this straight. If we go through 2015 and nothing really big or major happens, then were they wrong?

Keith: Well, then they would probably - I think they’ll come up with another suggestion.

Nehemia: Okay, but something big is supposed to happen on March 21st, right?

Keith: Well, no, that’s...

Nehemia: Am I right?

Keith: It’s in the process, some people would say...

Nehemia: Look, if March 21st is just a regular day, does that mean that they were wrong? Like, I’m asking. I don’t know.

Keith: You know, Nehemia, I really don’t know how far they go. I just know this.

Nehemia: I want to know if something big happens on March 21st, there’s the next Yom Kippur War, the next Six-Day War, will you recant your Four Moons Blood moon teaching?

Keith: Let me just say this. I’ll be here on the 22nd and nothing will happen on the 21st.

Nehemia: Wait, are you…

Keith: Can I quote this?

Nehemia: Yes, sure.

Keith: The 22nd will come and go, as will the 23rd come and go, and you and I will be in Israel and there will be nothing that will be of epic proportion that takes place on the 21st. You heard it here first!

Nehemia: You heard it here first. Keith Johnson is making a prediction.

Keith: I’m not making a prediction. I’m actually going against the prediction!

Nehemia: Right. So this is not a prophecy…

Keith: No, it’s not a prophecy. See, let me just tell you something. What I learned in Scripture is this - God has this amazing thing called the universe. It has patterns and a beautiful… and what we’re supposed to do is look at those and be like, “Wow! Isn’t He amazing? Look at the stars!” But it’s all about Him.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: What this does, in my opinion, is it takes it away from Him and gives it to somebody who says, “I’ve uncovered that this is actually Morse code from heaven that’s going to let us know what’s going to happen with Israel.”

Nehemia: That’s what they say, “Morse code from heaven”?

Keith: “We’re going to throw Israel under the bus.” I’m kind of tired of that whole thing.

Nehemia: Yes. Look, I don’t rule out the possibility that when the great and terrible day of Yehovah happens that there will be a blood moon.

Keith: Oh!

Nehemia: Because we’ve got the verse in Joel, “The moon will turn to blood.”

Keith: Right. That’s awesome.

Nehemia: I don’t know that it’s going to be this year. I don’t rule it out as a possibility. Here's my perspective, the perspective I’m coming from is I can trace back in Jewish sources back to the first century that people said, “This has to be the timing, it’s got to be now, and because of this sign and because of that sign…” Jews have been persecuted and suffered for the last two thousand years every time they did that. So I want to be really, really careful here about predicting times and predicting dates.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Because it always ended in disaster for Jewish people. Having said that, and I wish...

Keith: I want to do something.

Nehemia: No, wait. I’ve got to read this to you. So the day I arrived in Israel last week, I picked up one of the free newspapers - they hand out these free newspapers - and in the free newspaper was an ad, a full or a half-page color ad, and it was a prophecy, a prediction, by a Jewish organization, nothing to do with Christians, nothing to do with Messianics. These were Jews in Israel, and they actually have a website, I haven’t gone to the website, but I read their ad, and in the ad, it says, “Sunset in the United States,” or sorry, I read that wrong. “Shkiyat Artzot Habrit tachat hamayim.” It’s the same word for sunset. “The United States Sinks Under Water,” or, “The sinking underwater will begin on the 17th of March 2015. “Beyom shebo ulay itkaymu habechirut beIsrael.” “In the day that perhaps the elections will take place in Israel.” It says, “Hashem kvar bahar.” “God, Hashem, has already chosen the Messiah.”

Basically, it goes on to explain that… and actually, specifically, it mentions a - it says specifically “A mega-tsunami from Lake Michigan will wash over the area of Chicago on the 17th of March 2015 as part of additional events,” like, and it says “kemo re’idot adamah,” “like severe earthquakes on biblical proportions that will visit the world.”

Basically, this is the end times prophecy. It’s saying the Messiah is going to come and those events will begin, actually, after this is broadcast. So I think we’re going to look back, and unless there is a mega… if there’s a mega-tsunami that washes over Chicago, I’m going to come back and I’m going to say I was wrong and these guys were right. But if not, then honestly, this is just fear mongering. It really is. It’s sad to me that they’re fear mongering here. I can imagine a lot of people coming, and it’s got nothing to do with Christians, nothing to do with Messianics. This is all in Hebrew, all in an Israeli newspaper.

Keith: So are you going to say… so you’re disagreeing with them?

Nehemia: It quotes the famous Kabbalistic rabbi, Rav Kaduri. It says, “Rav Kaduri says,” this is a prophecy of Rav Kaduri that these things will happen on this exact date. So either Rav Kaduri is a true prophet and this will happen, or he’s a false prophet.

Keith: So I know some people that would say that because he is who he is, then we must listen to him. We must follow him.

Nehemia: Well, let’s listen. There’s a biblical way to deal with this. We can listen, and if the mega-tsunami doesn’t wash over Chicago on March 17th, then Rabbi Kaduri is a false prophet.

Keith: And with that, let’s continue.

Nehemia: I wish I could find… and I don’t know about investing in things like that, but I understand there’s this thing called shorting. Is there any way we can short Rabbi Kaduri? I need money. We must short Rabbi Kaduri.

Keith: Now, for the verse...

Nehemia: Because I’m pretty sure this is not going to happen in Chicago. If it does happen, I will repent.

Keith: Okay. Now, I don’t know how we’re ever going to get through the rest of this. This is like the verse…

Nehemia: Wait, and it goes on here in this discussion, it’s to talk about how this is the Shemitah year so it has to happen this year. It’s a whole thing to do with Shemitah. All right. Anyway.

Keith: Okay. So where are we here? We’ve got to get back to the verse.

Nehemia: We are at, oh, my gosh. I’m still thinking about… will Chicago be washed away? At least I have no family in Chicago. They’ve all left.

Keith: All right, 44:6.

Nehemia: Yes. Is that where we are?

Keith: Now, I will say this - if all we did was talk about this verse we would be in line. But it has this really wonderful phrase. It says, “Thus says Yehovah the King of Israel and his Redeemer, LORD of hosts,” “Yehovah Tzeva’ot,” “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.”

Nehemia: Amen!

Keith: This verse is such an amazing statement of who He is, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is none besides Me.” What does yours say? Read it out of Hebrew if you can, 44:6.

Nehemia: Yes. “Ko amar Yehovha melech Israel vego’alo, Yehovah Tzeva’ot,” “Thus says Yehovah the King of Israel and its Redeemer, Yehovah of hosts,” “Ani rishon,” “I am the first,” “va’ani acharon,” “and I am the last,” “u’mibaladai ein Elohim,” “and besides me, there is no God.” Wow.

Keith: I guess I’ll leave at that. Then it says in 44:7.

Nehemia: Whoa.

Keith: Go ahead.

Nehemia: How can we not talk about this?

Keith: Please, go ahead. Continue.

Nehemia: First of all, I always ask myself, “What’s the context of this?” The context is, no question, that there was this doctrine back in the time of…

Keith: Isaiah.

Nehemia: Of Isaiah. Or specifically, the people who Isaiah is speaking to. He is speaking to Cyrus throughout some of these passages, and Cyrus was a Zoroastrian. Zoroastrians, to this day, they’re still around, and they believe that there were two gods, a good god and an evil god, and they both existed from time immemorial; they’ve always existed, they actually didn’t know about each other, they eventually learned about each other and decided to go into a fight to destroy each other. God here is saying, “I am the first and I am the last and besides me there is no God. There is no Elohim, I’m the only Elohim.” Yehovah is the first and the last. He’s the Redeemer. He’s the King.

Look, can we talk about this phrase? It’s an amazing phrase, “He’s the first and the last. There is no other God.” This appears in a number of passages, and I think we actually looked at the one where He said… and there was a slight variation in the one that we looked at. But for example, this appears in… let’s see, where is this? So, we have Isaiah 48:12, He says, “Listen to Me, Jacob, and Israel, mekora’i, who is called by Me: I am He. I am the first, and even I am the last.” So we’ve got this in a number of places. Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says Yehovah…” oh, that’s this verse.

Keith: That’s the verse we’re in.

Nehemia: That’s the verse we’re looking at. The one we looked at before, I don’t know if we looked at it before but I read it in preparation, Isaiah 41:4, he says, “I Yehovah am the first ve’et achronim ani hu.” That’s a slight variation where it says, “I am with the last.”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Which is an interesting statement. Meaning, maybe it’s referring to eternal life and He’ll be with us in the end time.

Anyway, so can I talk about the elephant in the room? Which is that this appears in the New Testament…

Keith: Okay.

Nehemia: So it appears three times in Isaiah, and it also appears three times in Revelation. In some manuscripts, it appears four times. I’m looking at the New Revised Standard Version, which is based on the Nestle Aland 27th edition. Revelation 1:8 says, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Or, the all-powerful. I love that! Because that’s… wow! I mean, I read that in the Book of Revelation, and look, I’m not Christian, I’m not Messianic, so this isn’t my scripture. But Revelation is one of the five books in the New Testament that many scholars agree was actually written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek.

So when it says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” well, in Hebrew Alpha and Omega is the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the original Hebrew, it wouldn’t have said Alpha and Omega, it would’ve said, “I am the Aleph and the Tav.” Why would it say that? It’s the first and last letter. “Says Lord God,” well, what’s “Lord God”? Lord God is the translation of Adonai Yehovah or Yehovah Elohim. It’s hard to know which one, probably Yehovah Elohim. “Says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come,” which is exactly the explanation in Jewish sources of the name Yehovah.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: “Hayah,” He was, “Hoveh,” He is, “Ihiyeh,” He will be. Some people said, “Oh, no, this is completely different because this has “He is to come,” and not “He will be.” But actually “to come” and “to be,” the Hebrew way of expressing it is you say, “will be,” and in Greek you would say “to come,” or in English as well. For example, you say, “And it came to pass,” in Hebrew it literally says, “And it was.” Meaning, “And it came to pass,” “It was,” it came into existence, it happened. So the Greek here has, “I am the first and I am the last,” or “Alpha and Omega,” in any event. I’m tying that to another verse that has first and last, but here it says, “Hayah, Hoveh, Ihiyeh.”

Keith: “Hayah, Hoveh, Ihiyeh.”

Nehemia: That’s the exact explanation. Yehovah is saying… I should say the book of Revelation is quoting Yehovah as saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” and that's in quotation marks. Now, of course, they didn’t have quotation marks in the Greek, but it is a quote, it says, “Says the Lord God,” where did He say it? He said it in Isaiah.

Keith: In Isaiah.

Nehemia: Revelation 21:6, “Then He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water,’” and that’s Isaiah. It’s the same passage in Isaiah! Don't tell me he's not quoting Isaiah here or referencing Isaiah. “…the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: This is based on the passage in Isaiah. Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” That again ties back to this verse in Isaiah. There is no question that there is a relationship here between the passage in Revelation and the passage in Isaiah.

There’s a fourth passage, which doesn’t appear in some of the manuscripts, which is Revelation 1:11, people can look at that for themselves. I think that’s the one… hold on a second. I’m sorry, 1:8 is the passage that doesn’t appear in some of the manuscripts… or it’s one of those. I don’t know, it’s one of these verses. There are only three... Anyway, or at least the phrase “Alpha and Omega” doesn’t appear, that’s right, in the NRSV, which is based on the Nestle Aland edition. So anyway, yes, it’s Revelation 1:11 that appears in some of the manuscripts, not the others.

But here we have three times in Revelation, three times in Isaiah, this idea of God being the Alpeh and the Tav, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Then Revelation even explains what every Jew knows, that Yehovah is “Hayah, Hoveh, Ihiyeh.” He was, He is, and He will be. I’m excited.

Keith: It’s interesting, whenever I see that verse I’m just reminded, again, I always make it practical. So “He was,” that means those difficult parts of my life in the past, “He is,” whatever He’s dealing with right now, and the thing that’s even more exciting is “He shall be.” He already knows what’s up there.

Nehemia: Yes, and He’ll be with you in the future. You’re not alone. That’s what the name means Yehovah. He says, “Ihiyeh imach,” “Ihiyeh imcha,” “I will be with you.”

Keith: It’s interesting, Nehemia, we find this phrase over and over again, but where He says, “And I will be with you,” He tells Joshua, “I will be with you.” “And I will be with you,” in this one. “And I will be with you.” And it’s like they wouldn’t know. Oh, boy. It’s like He’s saying, “I will be with you.” That’s His name. Like, His name is “I will be with you.”

Nehemia: It’s also what Aleph, Tav, or rishon and acharon, first and last means.

Keith: Exactly. Yes.

Nehemia: He was from time immemorial, before time existed, He will be in the end and He is the one right now.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: It’s not that we had one God who created the world and He retired. That’s, actually, by the way, I was recently in Nepal and in Cambodia, and they’ve got the Hindu religion there, and they actually have this idea of a trinity, where there are three gods that are the same god, but it’s three different statues or three different names. There’s the one who created the world. There’s the one who sustains the world right now. And there’s the one who will destroy the world at the end. That’s the Hindu idea. It’s almost like they took the idea from the Tanakh and they perverted it, they corrupted it and they twisted it. It’s the same God. “Hayah, Hoveh, Ihiyeh.” He is the one who is. He is the one who was. He is the one who will be. He is Yehovah first and last.

Nehemia: You know it’s funny - whenever I think about this phrase, I think about a little bit of sports, because in sports there’s this sort of competitive thing. You know, there’s about to be a boxing match, and then one boxer will stand up and say, “And this is what he did…” And the other one will stand up and say, “This is what he did.” It’s funny because the phrase goes on, he says, “‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me,” and then he continues. He continues in 44:7, “Who is like Me?” Go ahead, proclaim it. You like me? Tell me about it.

Nehemia: Yes. There’s another one, who is he?

Keith: Anyway, I like the phrase. I don’t know, back in my day, it’s like God is letting it be known, “Hey, this is who I am.”

Nehemia: Now, is it possible when He says, “Who is like Me?” there’s a secret meaning here that there is someone else like him and he’s challenging us to figure out the riddle?

Keith: No. I think he’s taunting them.

Nehemia: He’s taunting them? Okay.

Keith: I guess we have some more we’ve got to go over here.

Nehemia: Yes. Let’s...

Keith: And people are going to have to continue, but pick your passage here, Nehemia.

Nehemia: Yes. So how far does this go? Oh, my gosh, there’s so much to talk about.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: You’re right. We have to just pick a few things and cut it short. So let’s just read verse 8, the end there, it says, “Hayesh eloha mibaladai ve’ein tzur bal-yadati?” “Is there an aloha?” That’s interesting, it’s in the singular. Technically it’s pronounced “elo’ach.”

Keith: It’s “elo’ach.”

Nehemia: “Elo’ach.” “Is there an elo’ach,” a singular god, not Elohim, “alo’ach besides me? And a Rock that I did not know about.” In other words, “I’m the only alo’ach; there’s only one.”

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: Let’s skip ahead to verse 15, or do you have something you want to talk about first?

Keith: I just want to say this. I think, real quickly, what I would like to challenge people to do is I just think this is a great passage, when He’s talking about fashioning the graven image and what happens and how it works and what people do. I just think that, again, it’s a great, clear example of what they were doing. You have to ask yourself the question, “This is what they were doing. Is there a place where that’s being done today?” So that’s as much as I want people to look at, but it’s just very clear - fashioning the god, casting the idol, et cetera, et cetera.

Nehemia: So I’m skipping ahead to like around verse 15.

Keith: Yes, go ahead.

Nehemia: Do you have anything before that you want to talk about?

Keith: No, that’s fine.

Nehemia: Okay. So hold on a second here. So 15 and 16, we’ve got a really interesting word that I just have to talk about. All right. Let me read the JPS, “All this serves man for fuel,” it’s talking about the idols. “He takes some to warm himself and he builds a fire and bakes bread. He also makes a god of it and worships it,” meaning the same tree you use for fire, to feed yourself, you also make a god out of. “He also makes a god of it and worships it, fashions an idol and bows down to it! Part of it He burns in a fire, on that part He roasts meat, He eats the roast and is sated. He also warms himself and cries, ‘Ah, I am warm! I can feel the heat!’” I love it. He is, no question, taunting them.

Keith: He’s taunting them.

Nehemia: These idolaters who are heating themselves with the same material as their god, “Of the rest he makes a god; his own carving,” verse 17, “he bows down to it and worships it, he prays to it and cries, ‘Save me, for you are my god!’” I think there’s something really profound here, that there’s this innate human need to feel salvation, to know that God is saving you, and if we can’t get that salvation from the Creator of the universe, we’ll go and we'll make our own idols and delude ourselves to think we’re saved from those idols.

I think it’s really interesting, something that’s lost in the English here, which is in verses 15 and 16, it has a very unusual word for “bow down.” It’s a rare word in Biblical Hebrew. It’s the word… actually, let me see how many times it appears in the Tanakh. It appears 17 times in the whole Tanakh. The word that normally is translated as “to bow down,” is “lehishtachavot.” This is the word, “yisgad.” Anybody who knows Arabic will immediately recognize this is the word in English that is translated as “mosque.” In fact, “mosque” is a translation into English of “masjid.” They couldn’t pronounce that, or actually, in Egyptian Arabic, it was “Masqad,” which became “Mosque” in English. It’s actually an Arabic word, “Mosque.” So literally it says, “He will mosque, he will bow down to the idol, he will prostrate and to pray to him and say, ‘Save me, for you are my god.’” So, I have to wonder here; there is this unusual word referring to an idol, referring to a false god, and it’s saying, “People will mosque before this god; they’ll bow down to it.” And it uses this specific… could this be prophetic?

Keith: Wow. That’s amazing.

Nehemia: Referring to people who think they’re going to be saved bowing down to mosque-ing before a god? I don’t know. Anyway, in verse 20, we jump ahead, and it says, “Ve’lo yatzil et nafsho.” “And it can’t save his soul,” this idol that we’re talking about. Can you read verse 21?

Keith: Yes. “Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you,” there’s that word again. “You are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.”

Nehemia: Whoa. Yes. I love it.

Keith: And again, referring...

Nehemia: I just have to say here, we won’t be forgotten by Him as long as the Israelites remember Yehovah and we don’t forget Him, He’s not going to forget us.

Keith: Yes. Well, you know, it’s interesting, He goes back to the thing earlier, it says, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have,” and then there’s this great word, “I have redeemed you.” So now, the last… again, we have this, what you like to say, He likes us to end on a good note.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: What a great way to end. What does it say? “Shout for joy, O heavens, for Yehovah has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth, break forth into a shout of joy you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it, for Yehovah has redeemed Jacob and in Israel He shows forth His glory.” How many times, Nehemia, do you think, even in this passage have we seen the word “redeemed,” or some aspect of redemption?

Nehemia: That’s a good question.

Keith: I mean, I see it here in 23; I see it here in 22. We see it earlier; I don’t have the verse right off the top of my head. I will tell you, one of my little challenges is I don’t have my suitcase and I don't have all of the things that I had for this. I’m supposed to get my suitcase today.

Nehemia: Allegedly.

Keith: Allegedly. Which is stuck in Hong Kong. It’s funny, I’m at 24% and I’m like, okay, but we have more we’ve got to try to do...

Nehemia: Uh-oh. Better go quick.

Keith: Yes, better go quick.

Nehemia: You turn off your computer.

Keith: Yes. I’m going to turn this off.

Nehemia: I’ll talk. Well, I have to bring this up, and I know we’ve probably gone over the time.

Keith: Yes, that’s okay.

Nehemia: So I have to bring this up - this last verse has a really interesting image of the mountains shouting out about the redemption and the heavens are going to shout out about the redemption of Israel. The reason I want to bring this up is earlier in the passage we heard about that people will make this false god and they’ll mosque to it they’ll “yisgad.” “He will bow down, he will prostrate himself,” using the word describing idolatrous worship, or idolatrous bowing down, because there’s legitimate bowing down, by the way. I don’t know if you know, even in Orthodox Jewish synagogues on Yom Kippur they do full prostration, the same as Muslims. The difference is we’re bowing down to Yehovah the Creator of the universe. Here it’s talking about, in this passage, about mosque-ing yourself. It’s a different word in Hebrew, is my point, when you mosque yourself, when you bow down to the false god. I can’t believe it’s an accident that verse 23 is taken in Islam and it’s twisted and turned 180 degrees around to mean the exact opposite of what it says. Let me read you verse 23 one more time in the English. I’ll read it from the JPS.

You know what? I’m going to read it from a Christian translation, because maybe a Muslim listening to this will say, “Yes, you Jews have twisted it.Here’s how the Christians translate Isaiah 44 verse 21, is that the verse? Sorry, verse 23, “Sing, O ye heavens, for the LORD,” which is Yehovah in the Hebrew, “hath done it. Shout, ye lower parts of the earth, break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein, for Yehovah,” or the LORD, “hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” So the very trees, the very mountains, will shout out, “Yehovah has redeemed Israel!”

What does Islam take it – this is a very famous Islamic statement. It’s actually even in the Hamas Charter. It says, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out, ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’”

So instead of what the Tanakh says, that the trees and the mountains and the rocks will shout out, “Israel is redeemed!” They are going to shout out, “There’s a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” In the Hebrew Scriptures the mountains and forests will cry out, “Yehovah has redeemed Jacob! And He, Yehovah, will glorify Israel.” What a different spirit between the Tanakh and then between this doctrine of Islam. It’s a completely different spirit.

Keith: Wow.

Nehemia: One is bowing down in full prostration before Yehovah the Creator of the universe on the holy mountain. Here’s the picture in my mind - there are these aerial photographs they’ve taken during Islamic prayers where all the Muslims are on the Temple Mount and they’re bowing down to Mecca with their backs to the Temple, their backs to the place where the Temple stood, in a different direction, to a different situation. As opposed to bowing down, they’re mosque-ing to their god. Different spirit.

Keith: Wow. Let me say this. Like I said, this is a day that’s interesting on a bunch of different levels.

Nehemia: The great…

Keith: One, some people are going to be looking at it from that point. Some others are going to find out if it’s the beginning of the biblical year. Others are going to look at it and say, “Wasn’t it the equinox coming at them?” Or something like that.

Nehemia: The day before, yes.

Keith: Yes. I mean there’s a bunch of things that are going to be going on. I think what both of us can say is that it’s really a blessing to be in Israel during this time, whatever it is it’s happening. I mean, there’s so much that’s going on politically and all that sort of stuff. But Scripture is ultimately where I really rest my security in. In Scripture, I can see over and over again, God has an amazing plan. He’s not going to forget His people.

Nehemia: Amen.

Keith: It really is a blessing. If you’d like, we can go back and forth. You can pray.

Nehemia: I will end with prayer here.

Keith: Awesome.

Nehemia: Yehovah, avinu shebashamayim. Yehovah, our Father in heaven. Yehovah, ata she’hayah, hoveh, ihiye, You are He who He was, He is, He will be. Hayita ata hoveh tihiye, You are the one who was, who is, who will be. Yehovah, ata rishon ve’acharon, Yehovah, you are the first and the last. Yehovah, ata ha’aleph ve’hatav, You are the first letter that began the writing of all creation; you will be the last to write the end of all creation. Yehovah, Creator, Father, Yehovah, I pray to you and ask you, pour out your Holy Spirit on us, Yehovah, like water that quenches our thirst. Yehovah, give us that spirit, pour it out upon us as You spoke in the prophet Isaiah. Let us know Your truth the way that David knew the truth, through your spirit, Yehovah. You are our Redeemer and our King, Yehovah. Let the rocks shout out and the trees shout out, Yehovah, the way you spoke, not the way that our enemies spoke, but what it says in Your word. Let them shout out, “Yehovah has redeemed Yaakov, and he Yehovah will glorify in Israel.” Yehovah, it’s for You; it’s not for us Israel that this is all about. This is about glorifying You. Let those rocks and those trees shout out that Yehovah is glorified through Israel. Let us be worthy of glorifying You. We struggle with our internal fights and our internal problems and our internal temptations, Yehovah, both as a people and individually, Yehovah. Give us this… make us yashar, make us straight, make us worthy of the name Yeshurun, the straight one, the one of integrity, that we can walk before You and give honor to Your holy name, Yehovah. Amen.

Keith: Yes. Amen.

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  • Mike Ettinger says:

    You laced up the shoe just fine but didn’t tie it together. Starting out that the IOU was dissolved with water and ending with “past-present-future” being a well spring of living water. Howbeit the “first and last” are one in the “eternal present”, before time, (past and future) wre even made. This is why our sins are gently washed with the passing of time, not only to adjust to and acknowledge the process, for when the fullness of the power of His is revealed, our sins will not transform our fear into torrents of eternal terror, by the power of his love. Contradiction…I think not. It is the same power that increases love as fear. God is love and the sinful will be consumed by the power of his presence. Fear of god is the beginning of wisdom. Perfect love cast out all fear. So can you be one with God without being wise? REV8:5, the angel cast the fire of the alter into the earth. This happened after the saints were sealed back into their heads, as Paul was after being caught up to the 3rd heaven. The reason Paul didn’t know if he was in his own body or not was because he left it from within, as Jesus said, ” the kingdom of God is within”. This is the “knowing” of the “oneness”, which after having known we are baptized by fire, then are endowed with wisdom.
    Peace from “Canada”

  • Brandon Powell Sr says:

    I’m only 12 min into this broadcast and my heart burns within me in the greatest sence I can mean! My heart burns within me to know for myself the truth of Yehovas word and the revelation if his anointed son Jesus! Please point me in the right direction to get started not concerning scripture but the evidence of the leg work you put in please and thank you! My question is, that at this time and with all this talk about the one world religion, and Jesus in revelation tells us of his 2 witnesses, could this be fulfilment of God our father and our Lord Jesus Christ prophecy that says and all nations shall know the name of God? Meaning Jews and Christians together proclaiming the name of our Father? And is that the name above all names or is it Jesus? Thank you!

  • Adele Voss says:

    But Nehemia, almost all of us do not know Hebrew. Therefore we need you or some other source (which may be wrong) to help us understand the correct translation. Example: “between the two evenings” I would understand as evening one day and evening the next day, but which you say is the time between sundown and total dark.

  • Caitlin House says:

    Very powerful message. If we do not have a desire in our hearts to seek the truth for ourselves, then we become deceived and controlled by the “interpreters.”
    Many of the assignments given to us in school are to write papers using evidence provided by the teacher/professor to support the course objectives. After having attended a four year private university with a good reputation, I can tell you that I’ve learned more real, practical, and meaningful things after college by having a desire to seek the truth, even if it meant that I was wrong.
    If we don’t have the Truth, we have no solid ground on which to stand. We can’t be afraid of the Truth because facts will be there whether we want them to be or not.
    I love you guys so much. You’re kindred spirits.

  • Lorry Buehler says:

    Thank you

  • Annette Cohen says:

    Shalom ~ Another good program. Thank you both so much.

    Nehemia ~ “Stuck in Canada”. Whats’ that all about? As a proud Canadian blessed to be living in a beautiful country with beautiful people I don’t quite get your negative comment. I know sabra’s who have moved here and as far as I know they do not feel one bit ‘stuck’.

    Will those of us from Yisrael/Yehudah return one day to our promised Land? You bet. But til then we are thankful to be living in this wonderful peace loving country. My ancestors have been here since 1700’s so I have a great love for my home away from Home!

    Shalom, Shalom
    Annette Cohen

  • Ms. Jan says:

    Instead of Unity or Uniformity how about ‘Harmony”?

  • Ches Misso says:

    I definitely agree with your assessment. Rabbinical opinion is not gonna replace my own Karaite eyes, ears, and brain.

    • Lars says:

      Anyone heard: “I must ask my pastor abot this”, not being eager to read by themselves, asking God for guidance, wisdom and revelation?

  • Kyle says:

    What about Stan Tenen and his toroid in the first verse of breshyt?
    It being the reason why the levites in Babylon preserved their work by coding it into the text.

  • Kyle says:

    Can I replace the Babylonian script with paleo Hebrew?
    And do you believe Jeff Benner’s theory that the hebrew letters and words have a symbolic relationship? E.g. mem-water/ aleph-ox/ vav-hook/tav-crossed sticks.

  • Mimi E says:

    In addition, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the very premise of Karate Judaism is that people make up their own mind after careful consideration of scripture and prayer based on ones relationship with our Creator. And yet, according to my understanding, I would be rejected as a Karaite Jew because that very process gets me to a place of understanding that other Karaite Jews disagree with even though we agree on the same Father and scripture and so on.

    Sorry I don’t mean to annoy anyone with this but am genuinely wondering. Haven’t we all got one Father? has not one God created us?

    • Karate Judaism is a form of martial arts. Karaite Jews believe in the Tanakh as the perfect Word of God.

      • Mimi E says:

        I’m sorry Nehemiah, it’s my spell check on the computer, I correct it and when it’s out of my sight it mucks it up again. I apologise. I believe in the Tanakh as the perfect Word of God too.

        I love Aikido so maybe I can join the Karate Jews? Getting sidetracked here I think…

  • Michael Harrell says:

    Nehemia, I am surprised that towards the end of todays pearl when you were discussing the rocks crying out that Luke 19:40 wasn’t mentioned. It ties in completely. Luk 19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

  • Karen Powell says:

    Mark 15:38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Giving humans access to their God.

    John 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulled, saith, I thirst.
    Who is the Ultimate refresher?

  • Your astute observations spoke volumes (the reading of Rev and comparing it to Qur’an. That is exactly why I believe Islam to be of darkness. By the way I have a T-shirt with this verse in Hebrew. Thank you both for all that you two do to bring these studies to us.

  • Tammi McAfee says:

    Love your teachings!!! Thank you for opening up your mouth and speaking YeHoveas words over us!!!! WOOHOO doing the Torah Dance!!!
    Tammi McAfee…California USA

  • Mimi E says:

    Sorry about the misspelling of Karaite, it is my spell check beating me to it.

  • Mimi E says:

    Hi Nehemia and Keith,

    After listening to you today (Thank You) the following thought came to me. I would call myself a Karate Jew if it weren’t that Karaites don’t ‘believe’ in Jesus. Yet Karate Jews are encouraged to think for themselves and Jesus was a Jewish person who merely pointed to what the prophets taught.
    1. As a Jewish person Jesus was also referred to as the son (man) of God as you both are being addressed also and I imagine consider yourself as such.
    2. It cannot be denied that Jesus is considered the saviour of many, albeit not Karate Jews, just the same bringing many people to read their bible and accept the Word of God, just as you both do the same also.

    So Nehemia and Keith, why can a person not be a Karate Jew if they accept Jesus as a Jewish person who was referred to as the Son of God and brings many to repentance?

    How does that work if Karaite Jews are supposed to be making up their own minds about scripture, given all the information available to them, and after considerate prayer and study and introspection?

    This is a genuine question and apologies in advance if I have missed something obvious.


    posted on both your websites cause I would like a response from both of you when possible, at your leisure. I know that you’re both very busy.

  • Isaiah 44:3-6
    3 For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants;
    4 And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.
    5 This one will say, “I am Yehovah’s”; and that one will call on the name of Jacob; and another will write on his hand, “Belonging to Yehovah,” and will name himself by Israel’s name
    6 Thus says Yehovah, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yehovah of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.”

    Revelation 1:8
    “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord (Yehovah) God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

    Revelation 21:6
    Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.”

    Revelation 22:13
    “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

  • Nicholas Mansfield says:

    Nehemia refers to a verse in the Qur’an which is being much abused. Surely the verse was a contemporary statement for some of the Jews in Midian who were initially in conflict with Mohammad. Furthermore the Islamic forces took Jerusalem and held it for most of history until the colonial period and the current process of Israel’s return. The fact that believers in Islam prostrate, or nun, to Bacca goes back to Psalm 84:6.
    Nehemia please find balance and remind us of the evils perpetrated in the name of christianity, for example the genocide of the Samaritan people. People of all faiths are guilty, like the Islamic factions you most despise, of killing in the name of the lord. Until you guys acknowledge what the Tanakh really says, like Gen.17:20 and Isa.29:9-14, your eyes will continue to be veiled. Pour scorn on Islam and the LDS, it will get you nowhere. Until you and Keith comprehend the finer point of the Torah; that Yeshua was not crucified because his legs were not broken and he was run through by a Roman with a romphaia, you will continue to miss the mark. King Alfred knew better how to defeat his enemies a thousand years ago and he made those Danes believers.
    A house of prayer for all peoples… except non-Jews. Get real.

    • home43garays says:

      Respectfully submit to Nicholas that you have missed the point.

      The multiple counts of violence committed by humanity is not the point. No matter what faith or denomination, the true character of the One Living God Almighty Creator is the point.

      Jehovah, the God of Ishmael and Isaac revealed his character thru Moses in the Torah and thru the prophets (repeatedly to the Jewish nation and anyone else who would listen and hear.)

      The Jews thru the Almighty God’s grace have been able to preserve the record of Jehovah’s name and character throughout our bloody history and Satans multiple attempts to erase it.
      Thank God for the dispersion and preservation of Gods record throughout the world. In the dark ages, the record was not available for people to study and know God or what He is like. Many atrocities were and still are committed because people don’t know God, who He is or what He values. How privileged we are to be able to read, millenniums later, God’s very word to Moses!

      Christians trust in Jesus and believe He faithfully demonstrated the Almighty God’s character in His life teachings and testimonies about the Father, His healing ministry, incomparable love/sacrifice and His mighty power to conquer death.

      The light that Nehemiah and Keith are shining on Jehovah God’s character by revealing nuances in the Hebrew language and the context of the Hebrew history are priceless especially to the Christian believers who in general do not know the Hebrew language. Be thankful there is a Nehemiah and a Keith to share knowledge about God’s likeness with you! And me and anyone else who is seeking truth about Who God Is.

      A few things I believe are evident by studying God in Scriptures and getting to know Him thru His Word:

      1. God does not coerce… He would not starve people (Viking or not) to force anything. He would not make you do anything against your will. There is no truth or love without Free Choice.
      2. God would prefer to go before us and defeat those against Him non-violently. He is not severe or violent. He is love.
      3. God does not need or want worship or sacrifice. He wants us to know him, study Him, admire him, so we in our fallen state can be changed. You become like what you admire. Who do you admire? Do you know Him?
      4. God is not arbitrary. He does not demand obedience for His own satisfaction. Obedience to the Law, including Sabbath time/rest, is for our benefit, our joy, our health and ultimately our eternal life with Him.

      Sent from my iPad

      • Karen Powell says:

        Future Event-Notice who the King is: Not a man. Zech 14:17, And it shall be, whoso will not come up of the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King,the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. 18. And if the family of Eygpt go not up, and come not, that no; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 19.This shall be the punishment of Eygpt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. Drought can cause severe hunger whether physical or spiritual. He will get the nation’s attention.

      • Keren DeTorno says:

        “Your translators transgressed against me.” (Isaiah 43:27)

    • Karen Powell says:

      Why do we need to be reminded of what some who overtly throws the concepts of Christianity under the Bus? Example: The Crusaders may have claimed connection Christ. They were not. When did Jesus/Yahshua/Yeshua EVER say go out and vandalize, or murder? Separate out the person or group and their offensive actions. Don’t let them hide behind, justify their inappropriate actions in the name of Christ or God.Crucified(to be hung)-Christ was hung on a Staros. Once he was placed there. They were not going to be taking him down until he was dead. The soldiers needed to confirm his death. Their heads would have been on the block if they gave a false report. They were confirming his death by spearing him. He was already hung.Breaking his legs only speeds up death, because the person can not raise up to expand their lungs and catch a breath. The Roman government did not care about whether to removing a deceased person from a Staros or leave the body longer. The Romans were only acting in a manner to cooperate with Anna and Cahapais who were corrupt Leaders and played two ends against the middle.They were men who were Faking/playing at being religious.They pretend just enough so as to not anger,upset or cause doubts in the public regarding the feasts. They did not want to loose their social status. or Their power and riches, They did not believe in God. They gave Lip Service to God while reaping the rewards of aligning themselves with and under Ceasar’s rule. Moral of story: Identify the person. People can be corrupt no matter how they look on the outside or what position they hold.

  • Ken C says:

    What a wonderful word picture of having our sins “blotted out.” When Nehemia explained the origin of the debt being dissolved (beginning at 16:50), my heart was filled with gratitude for the enormity of forgiveness performed by our wonderful creator. Baruch Yehovah.