This week Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Bereshit covering Isaiah 42:5-43:10. After a quick tutorial on the origin of the Haftarah, we learn that the Prophets aren't the golden oldies; their writings are as relevant as ever and more current than our news feeds. Gordon and Johnson explore the original context in which this portion was written, followed by the context in 168 BCE when this passage was first read aloud in the synagogue, and finally the context in September 2014 when Netanyahu spoke the holy words of Isaiah to the United Nations. In addition to parsing key words from the portion, Gordon and Johnson answer the following: What service did the Jews provide to the ancient Roman Empire? And since the Creator refers to himself in so many wonderful ways, would he really name himself, “Lord”? In closing, Gordon and Johnson remind us that while God’s one and only name may have been lost for generations, he did not lose ours—he calls every one of his covenant people by name. Continue reading
This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Nitzavim which covers Isaiah 61:10-63:9. These watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem recount their most recent visit to the Temple Mount and Gordon gives the historical background of Muslim-control of the only holy site in Judaism. Gordon and Johnson discuss the Isaiah passage read by Yeshua in the synagogue—which confirms first-century Haftarah readings. We learn statistics on named and unnamed angels in the Tanakh and Gordon provides three rabbinical traditions for the “angel of his presence” mentioned in this passage. In closing, Gordon asks Yehovah to turn the hearts of those who desecrate the Temple Mount—and to send his messengers to help those on the wall do his work. Continue reading
This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Ki Tavo covering Isaiah 60:1-22. Gordon and Johnson revel in this sixth in a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation,” as the prophet Isaiah details the future glory of Israel. Gordon and Johnson provide eyewitness accounts of the fulfillment of some of the prophecies—such as walls built by foreigners and the ingathering of exiles. Word studies include uri/wake up, kavod/glory leaving, netzer/branch and hamas/
This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Va'etchanan covering Isaiah 40:1-26. ”Nachamu, nachamu, / Comfort, comfort ye my people” begins this portion as well as the theme of Haftarah readings for the next seven weeks. Gordon explains the history and symbolism for these “Haftarot of consolation” and why they are read from Tish’ah b’Av (the ninth of Av) until Rosh Hashanah. We also learn the remarkable story of Herbert Samuel—whose reading of this portion at the Hurva Synagogue in 1920 was seen as the official pronouncement of the end of the third exile. Continue reading
This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Pinchas (1 Kings 18:46-19:21). Following the smack-down at Mount Carmel, Elijah flees to the desert. But was he “afraid” or did he just “see” what he needed to do? Gordon parses “ra’ah” (reish, aleph, hei) and explains why this word could be translated “afraid” or “saw.” Continue reading
This week 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). Continue reading
This week Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Terumah covering 1 Kings 5:12-6:13. Gordon and Johnson provide volumes of contextual insight into this seemingly straight-forward “How to Build a Temple” portion. We learn the importance of the “480 years” date given in this passage, that the forced labor used to build Solomon’s Temple compares favorably to modern practices, and how the coloring of the “hewn stones” beautified the Temple. Continue reading
This week Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Yitro covering Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6. Gordon compares Isaiah’s succinct vision of heaven to accounts in Kings, Ezekiel and Daniel. We see a “real” Adonai is this Portion and learn about the importance of the Masoretic notes. Gordon and Johnson tackle the problematic issue of Isaiah actually seeing God and explain where Isaiah got the idea that fire cleanses. Continue reading
In this week's Prophet Pearls Bechukotai, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion covering Jeremiah 16:19-17:14. Gordon and Johnson discuss the lies that Jeremiah refers to and who inherited them—including the biggest lie of all—the deception concerning God’s name. Gordon addresses Hebrew plural endings and answers the question of every Hebrew 1 student: Why is “Elohim” not always plural?
Word studies include “shmitah/let go” and how Jeremiah intentionally contrasted its use to reflect both cause and effect. The word-of-the-week is at the heart of Gordon’s ministry: makor (mem-koof-vav-reish)—living water, source of strength.
In closing, Gordon shares how his views have changed over the past decade regarding the concept of “salvation” and prayed the words of Jeremiah for both physical and spiritual healing and salvation.
In the Prophet Pearls of Kedoshim, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion of Kedoshim covering Amos 9:7-15. The nine verses of Kedoshim yield riveting questions for Gordon and Johnson to explore: Why were the Philistines brought from Caphtor? Where is Caphtor? Who is the sinful kingdom? What is David’s fallen booth? What other nations bear the name of Yehovah? And why would God tell his chosen they are the “same to me” as the Cushites? To get closer to understanding this jarring rebuke (or was it a loving affirmation?), Gordon provides biblical references for Cush—from the Tanakh and the New Testament—as well as statements of medieval commentators.
After a deep exploration of language, history and context, there are still hypothetical and abstract arguments that could be made. But Gordon and Johnson end with questions more easily answered: Is there a kingdom outside his dominion? Is there a prophecy more clear than the ingathering? Is there fruit more beautiful than the fruit of Israel?
"In that day, I will set up again the fallen booth of David ...I will build it firm as in the days of old." Amos 9:11