Hebrew Voices #107 – The Mishnah and the New Testament

In this episode of Hebrew Voices, The Mishnah and the New Testament, Bible Scholar Nehemia Gordon speaks with Rabbi Dr. David Moster about how the early rabbis dealt with supposed Biblical contradictions, what we can learn from the Mishnah and New Testament's approaches to the text of the Hebrew Bible, and why a famous rabbi made a cameo-appearance in the New Testament. Continue reading

The Yom Kippur Jazz Singer

Scene from the movie The Jazz Singer (1972).One Yom Kippur I watched a great movie, the original 1927 film The Jazz Singer. This was the first "talkie," containing several scenes with sound, although most of it was still silent. The second “talking” scene in the movie - actually, the second non-silent scene in movie history - features a Jewish cantor singing Kol Nidre, a famous Yom Kippur prayer in Aramaic. This alone makes the movie worth watching. Just imagine an American audience in 1927. The first time they see a "talking" movie. And it’s a Rabbi singing a Jewish prayer in Aramaic! Continue reading

Opening the Door with Nehemia Gordon (Open Door Series – Part 5)

In Part 5 of the Open Door Series, Nehemia Gordon teaches on the name that is the source of all blessing and at the heart of the Priestly Blessing. Gordon explains the literal meaning of God’s personal name and the power inherent in its uniqueness. With accounts from the lives of Abraham and David, he addresses the problems of ambiguity and syncretism (the spiritual mixing of seed) that arise when only the titles of God are used. Gordon discusses the great unlikeliness of the Smithfield revival and reveals a 30-year secret about a shut door — and his commitment to not shut the door again.


Opening the Door with Nehemia Gordon (Open Door Series - Part 5)

You are listening to the Open Door Series with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: I'm gonna talk to you today about the Priestly Blessing, or the Priestly Benediction. It's a section that appears in Numbers 6. It's the blessing that God teaches to Aaron and his descendants to place upon the children of Israel.

And here, we have actually a photograph of the oldest biblical passage that's been preserved ever discovered. It's written on a silver scroll that was discovered in a cave in Jerusalem. It's actually on display at the Israel Museum and it contains the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6. So, this is the oldest surviving fragment of a biblical text.

And of course, you know, Moses wrote the Torah around 1,500 BC, give or take a couple of hundred years, and that was copied, and copies of that were made, and copies of that were made. But we don't have the one that Moses wrote in his own hand. We have the copies, of the copies, of the copies. And this is a fragment of the oldest copy written on a silver scroll. And this is, I think, a really profound and important passage, Numbers chapter 6. Here, it says in verses 22-27, in the Hebrew, it says, “And Yehovah spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons saying, Thus shall you bless the children of Israel, say to them,’” and we have a three-line blessing, one line in each verse, verse 23 on.

It says, “May Yehovah bless you and keep you. May Yehovah shine His face towards you and be gracious towards you. May Yehovah lift His face towards you and give you peace.” It's a three-line blessing, and in each line to the blessing it has the four-letter name of the Creator of the universe, of our Heavenly Father, Yehovah. Some people say “Yahweh,” I pronounce it “Yehovah,” we've explained that. But three times it has this name Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, once in each line in the blessing. And then he concludes in verse 27, He says, “And they shall place My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” That's what it literally says in Hebrew. Placing the name upon Israel, speaking the name over Israel, invoking the name over Israel. That is what the Priests were commanded to do in order to bless the people.

I think this is a powerful thing. I grew up hearing this. Every feast day we would have the Kohanim, the direct descendants of Aaron through their father's line, would come to the front of the synagogue, and they would spread out their hands and cover themselves in talit, and they will proclaim this blessing. But they didn't proclaim it in the name. They proclaimed it with a replacement of the name, with the title, “Adonay,” which is “Lord,” and that's a Jewish tradition I talked about yesterday. It goes back about 1,800 years, maybe a little longer.

But here in scripture it was intended to be spoken with the name. And what's really exciting about this is the Rabbis who forbid speaking the name today, who say, “Whenever you see that name, read it as ‘Lord,’ as ‘Adonay,’” they actually say in their writings that when it comes to this blessing, originally, it was to be spoken with the name. There, they say there's no dispute, that in the Temple it was spoken with the name. And they say, “When the Temple will be rebuilt, it must only be spoken with the name.”

And here's a quote from the Babylonian Talmud. They're quoting the verse that says, “Thus shall you bless the children of Israel...” and they say it means with the explicit name. When Jews say, "The explicit name,” they mean the name “Yehovah,” Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey. Say, “Yud.”

Crowd: Yud.

Nehemia: Hey.

Crowd: Hey.

Nehemia: Vav.

Crowd: Vav.

Nehemia: Hey.

Crowd: Hey.

Nehemia: That is the explicit name. And it goes on, and the other Rabbis come and they say, “Is it really with the explicit name or with the title?” They can't believe this. “How can it really be with the explicit name? We don't use that in everyday speech anymore, we’ve banned the name.” They explain, “Scripture says, ‘And they shall place My name, which means, My name which is unique to Me.’” It has to be “My name,” not a title. Those titles aren't names. He only has one name. And you could actually check this for yourselves. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Go to your Bible in Hebrew, the Old Testament, and look at the word "name.” In Hebrew, the word “Shem,” say, “Shem.”

Crowd: Shem.

Nehemia: Whenever it refers to the Shem, the name of the God of Israel, He only has one name. He has many descriptions, and they're beautiful descriptions, but only one unique name. And there's power in that unique name, and I don't mean a magical incantation. Some people get really caught up on the exact pronunciation. I think that pronunciation is important, but it's not a magical incantation where if I don't say it exactly this way, we're not going to get the blessing. That's not what it's about.

You know, my grandmother was an old lady... Well, I guess at one time she was a young lady. She was born in Lithuania, came over the United States in the 1920s and lived most of her life in Chicago. But she never lost her Eastern European accent. So, she's living most of her life in Chicago, and one day in the 1980s she's in a traffic accident. She gets rear ended. It was his fault. She gets out of the car, being a true Chicagoan, and she starts yelling at the guy. And he's yelling back at her, and at one point in this exchange he yells at her, he says, “You blank foreigner…” He doesn't say, “Blank.” He uses a cuss word, a four-letter word, but not the name of God.

And she’s telling me this story. Later, she's sitting in our kitchen and she's telling us this story, and she's so upset that this happened. And she puts her forehead in her hand, and she says, “Vhat made him tink I'm a foreigner?” And, you know, some people get really caught up on, is it “Yehovah” or “Yahoowa” or “Yahoowehi” or “Yahweh?” And I think it's important to try to get the truth and know how to pronounce it. But if God thinks I'm a foreigner because I pronounce it the way I pronounce it, I'm okay with that. I'm gonna do the best I can, and I don't think He expects anything more from us than to do the best that we can. And it's through His grace and mercy, that even if we mispronounce His name, He's gonna accept it. You know, my name is Nehemia, say, “Nehemia.”

Crowd: Nehemia.

Nehemia: Now, some of you were able to pronounce that. Some of you said it as “Nehemia.” Some people call me “Neheemia” or “Nehamaya.” And I'm fine with all of those names, as long as you don't call me “Baldy.” It’s a very sensitive issue. And I think it's the same with the Creator of the universe. As long as we do our best and turn our hearts towards heaven, and call upon His name, even if we mispronounce that name, I believe He will accept it. Can I get an Amen?

Crowd: Amen.

Nehemia: Now, let's talk about some of these titles. The Rabbis mention there, He's got the unique name and He's got the titles. And that unique name is unique to Him, nobody else can be called “Yehovah.” The titles are different. One of those titles is “Elohim.” Say, “Elohim.”

Crowd: Elohim.

Nehemia: Elohim is a perfectly good title. It appears hundreds of times. Actually, it's nearly 2,000 times in the Tanakh, referring to the God of Israel, and it can be translated as “great God.” But the thing is, other gods can be called Great Gods. And in the Tanakh itself, there are other gods who are called “Elohim,” in the Old Testament. We have our Elohim and their Elohim. “Adonay,” we usually translate this as “Lord.” More literally it's, “My great Lord.” And other gods can be called “Lord,” can't they? “El Elyon,” “most high God.” “El Shaday,” these are great titles. El Shaday is not a name, by the way, it's a title. It means “mighty One, my great protective spirit,” that's a literal translation of it. Other gods, other spirits could even be called that, “El Shaday.” Now, what's unique about the God of Israel is His unique name. And it appears in the Tanakh, “Yehovah” or “Yahweh,” 6,828 times. Say “6,000.”

Crowd: 6,000.

Nehemia: 800.

Crowd: 800.

Nehemia: And 28 times.

Crowd: And 28 times.

Nehemia: That's a lot. Now, we have the abbreviated poetical form, “Yah.” And actually, properly, it's not “Yah,” and that's like in “Halleluyah.” It's “Yuh” Say, “Yuh.”

Crowd: Yuh.

Nehemia: It’s not “Yakh-heh,” it’s “Yuh.” Yuh, and they still said, “Yuh.” But it’s okay. It's okay that you're a foreigner, no problem. Yuh. It appears 49 times altogether, His unique name. And that's kind of like, I don't know, calling somebody named Michael, “Mickey.” It's a term of love and endearment for our Heavenly Father, altogether 6,877 times. That's more than Elohim, Adonay, El Shaday, El Elyon, El, Eloah and all the other titles combined, His personal name. That's an important thing. What does that personal name mean? His personal name, we actually get an explanation from Him in Exodus 3:14.

Exodus 3:14, He says to Moses, “I am that which I am.” And He says, “Thus shall you say to children Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Is His name "I am" or is His name Yahweh, Yehovah? Which one is it? And you might not know reading it in English, but in Hebrew, the phrase "I am" is actually one Hebrew word, the word, “eheyeh. Say, “eheyeh.”

Crowd: Eheyeh.

Nehemia:Eheyeh” literally translated, is, “I will be, I am, and I will be.” In Hebrew it's a continual action, what's called the imperfect. I won't get into the technical explanation, but essentially it means, “I am and I will continue to be.” And His name, Yehovah, is a Hebrew verb, a combination of three forms of the Hebrew verb, which means, “He was, He is, and He shall continue to be.” So, He refers to Himself as, “I am and I will continue to be,” but we refer to Him as “He that was, He that is, and He that will continue to be.”

Crowd: Amen.

Nehemia: That's what His name means. Now, those three forms of the verb that together make Yehovah are hayah, which is the past tense, he was. Say, “Hayah.”

Crowd: Hayah.

Nehemia: And the present tense hoveh, He that is, say, “Hoveh.”

Crowd: Hoveh.

Nehemia: And yihiyeh, He that is and will continue to be, say, “Yihiyeh.”

Crowd: Yihiyeh.

Nehemia: Hayah, hoveh, yihiyeh together is “Yehovah.” Now, I'm going to ask Karen to stand up and sing that. No, I won't do that. That's Keith shtick. All right, let's move on here.

One of the really powerful things about His name, referring to the One that was, the One that is, and the One that always shall be, is that if you call Him by that name, Yehovah, by His personal name, the name He tells us that is His name forever, you can avoid ambiguity. And let's think about this. If you're speaking to a Hindu from India and you say to that man, “I believe in God,” and he says, “I also believe in God.” Are you talking about the same God?

Crowd: No.

Nehemia: I don't know, maybe you are. It's arguable. They have many Gods, one of those might be the same as ours. I don't know, I'm not an expert on Hinduism. And if you say, “I believe in the God who created the heaven and the earth,” and he says, “I also believe in the God who created the heaven and the earth,” are we talking about the same God? Maybe, maybe not, I don't know.

This is something that I know is very hotly debated. If we speak to a Muslim and we say, “I believe in the God of Abraham.” He says, “I also believe in the God of Ibrahim.” Is that the same God? And that's something that people will disagree with and argue about. But if you say, “I believe in Yehovah, I believe in Yahweh, I believe in the Creator of heaven and earth, who is called, ‘He that was, He that is, and He that will be,’” and we give His personal name, there's no question of who we're talking about.

And we could actually learn this from Abraham, our forefather, who originally was called “Avram.” When he meets the King of Sodom, he uses the name “Yehovah” to cut through all the ambiguity. Now, this is one of my favorite stories, it's Genesis 14. I love this story, ‘cause I go down to the Dead Sea whenever I have a chance. It's one of my favorite places in the world.

And I look across the plane of the Dead Sea that at one time we're told was full of water. It was a very lush place. It was essentially like a rain forest, like the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. And now, it's one of the driest places on earth. Literally, one of the driest places on earth. And it actually says there, it's interesting how it describes it in Genesis. It says it was like the “Garden of Elohim,” the garden of God, meaning Eden, and it says, “And like the land of Egypt,” ‘cause the image for an Israelite of a place where there was always perpetual water throughout the year, that's Egypt. Israel is not like Egypt. Israel doesn't have perpetual water throughout the year. We're dependent upon rain from God.

And it tells us in Deuteronomy that God's eyes are upon the land of Israel throughout the year. And through his rain, He's expressing His grace towards us, His mercy towards us, ‘cause we couldn't live for a single year if we didn't have that blessing of the rain. In Egypt, they always have water. They have the river that perpetually flows through the land. And Israel is not like that. Israel is a desert country that's dependent upon the rain.

So, you look across the plane of the Dead Sea, where if you're lucky, it rains two or three times a year. And you think back, thousands of years ago this place was like the garden of Elohim, like the land of Egypt, and now it's dry as could be when God overturned Sodom and Gomorrah. But back when it was this lush garden, five Kings invaded the Land of Israel. They came from the land of Shinar, which today is Iraq, and eastern Turkey. And they came into the land... Excuse me, four Kings, and they attacked the five Kings. And I always thought that was a weird story. How did the four Kings defeat the five Kings? The five were more than the four. But I guess they had better tactics, and maybe they even had more people, even though they were fewer kings. They capture all this property and all the people from the five Kings, and they take them back to Iraq and eastern Turkey.

Abraham hears about this and he's very upset. Now, why is Abraham upset? Because Lot, his nephew, is among the captives who've been taken. They've taken property, and people, who they're going to then take to Iraq and sell as slaves. And Abraham hears about this and he mobilizes his army, his men, 318 men he has, and he goes after them. He descends upon them in the night, and he liberates all the people who have been taken and he brings them back.

And on the way back, everyone's coming out. They want to greet Abraham, they want to praise him, they want to love on him. They say, “Abraham, you're the greatest. We want a piece of this. How are we gonna get a piece of this? We want to be next to you. We want to bless you, because we could see that God has blessed you.” And one of the people who comes out to bless him is a man named Melchizedek. Malkitzedek, which means, “My righteous King.” And we're told that Melchizedek, Malkitzedek, he blesses Abraham, and his blessing’s a really interesting statement. It appears in Genesis 14:19. It says, “And Melchizedek blessed him and said, ‘Blessed is Avram by the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth.’”

Now, Melchizedek, we're told, is a Priest of the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, and he's a righteous man. As an archetype he's later mentioned in Psalm 110. So, Melchizedek is okay, he's kosher. When he says, “The Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth,” it's not like speaking to that Indian. I know that he's speaking about the same God as I worship.

Now, one of the things about the Canaanites is they also worshipped a God called “El Elyon,” the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. Uh-oh. And their God, they believed, created the universe, and when He was done creating the universe, he retired. He went to what's called the “Mountain of the North,” sat in his palace, and turned over the ruling of the universe to his children. And his children fought it out. And eventually, his son, the son of the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, whose name was Ba'al... In English you say “Bale,” but his name was Ba'al, which means, “The Lord.” He became the ruler of the physical universe, while his father was sleeping and resting on the Mountain of the North. And if you were an ancient Canaanite, you didn't pray to the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. What Melchizedek did was scandalous in the land of Canaan. You didn't pray to the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, ‘cause he was retired. You prayed to his son, Ba'al.

And Avram meets Melchizedek, and he says, “Okay, I’ve got no problem with you.” But then, the King of Sodom shows up, and Avram gets really nervous, because he says, “If I use, out of respect, the same terms that Melchizedek used, and refer to the ‘Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth,’ the King of Sodom might think I'm talking about his God, the father of Ba'al, the father of their Lord.” And so, Avram decides, “I'm going to use those terms that Melchizedek used out of respect, but I'm going to take back the terms that the Canaanites have usurped. I'm going to restore these terms that have been taken over by this idolatrous faith.”

And what does Avraham say in verses 21-22? It says, “And Avraham said to the King of Sodom...” and here now, the King of Sodom wants to bless Avraham. He says, “I'll give you all of the property, just give me the people back.” Avram says, “I lift my hand to Yehovah, the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth.” He uses the exact same terms as Melchizedek, but he adds the name, because when you're speaking with a Sodomite, you need to be clear of who we're talking about. The King of Sodom could be talking about anybody. Avram cuts through that and uses the name. He uses the name to avoid that ambiguity.

Now, one of the powerful things about using this name versus only using the titles, and the titles are beautiful, wonderful, “El Shaday” and “El Elyon,” and “Elohim,” use them all the time and pray with those names, those titles, there’s nothing wrong with them. But if you use those only and not the unique name, then you end up with what I was taught was called at the university, “syncretism.” Say, “Syncretism.”

Crowd: Syncretism.

Nehemia: Syncretism is this big, fancy word. It's like when you sync your iPod with your computer, your iPod has half the songs, and your computer has half the songs, and you sync them, and you get the full set of songs. You get the original songs from the iPod with those added songs from the computer. And when you sync the faith of Israel with the pagan faith, you get the true songs mixed in with the false songs. And this is what I call… I don't like using this big term, “syncretism,” this is what I call “spiritual mixing of seed.” We have a commandment here in Leviticus 19:19. It says, “You shall keep My statutes. You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed.” What does that mean, to sow your field with mixed seed?

Now, the Rabbis came to this verse and they said, “This doesn't make any sense, because when you let your livestock breed with another kind, what you're talking about is taking a horse, and letting it breed with a donkey, and you end up with a mule. But if you take seed...” and when scripture talks about sowing the field with seed, it's talking about grain. It's not talking about pumpkin seeds, it means grain. And if you take barley and you mix it with a seed of wheat, you don't end up with “warley” or “beets.” You know, there's no such thing. And so, the Rabbis looked at this and they said, “Well, it doesn't really mean mixing seed, what it means is grafting. You're not allowed to take from an apple tree and graft it onto a pear tree.” That's what they understood.

But if we literally take what it says about mixing seed, why is God forbidding us to do this? Is this just some arbitrary commandment? And I guess we could say that, but the explanation many scholars give is that sowing your field with mixed seed, mixing the wheat and planting it in the same field as the barley, produces a mixed crop. You end up with a field where half the grain is wheat and half is barley, and they're completely intermingled. And back in ancient times, they didn't have centrifuges. There was no way to separate out the wheat from the barley.

Well, who cares, right? What's the problem with that? The problem is, you go to the marketplace to sell that wheat, which is the most valuable crop in ancient Israel, and it's mixed in with barley, which is the least valuable crop in ancient Israel. And you're presenting that wheat as if it's pure wheat, but it's mixed seed. It's wheat mixed with barley. And the problem with sowing your field with mixed seed is, it's deceptive, it leads to deception. And that's what the deceiver does. He passes off on us mixed seed. He doesn't come to us and say, “Here's something completely different. Here's barley, eat this. This is less valuable grain.” He says, “Here's the wheat. It's so valuable, it's so nourishing, eat it.” And you eat it and it's not wheat. It's wheat mixed with barley. That's what mixed seed is about.

That's what the deceiver does. If you want to hand off this large cache of counterfeit money, and you want to pass it off, what do you do? You mix it in with the real money, to where people can't tell the difference. If you say, “Here's the stack of money, and it's all counterfeit,” someone's gonna pick up on that. If you mix it in with the true stuff, they won't be able to distinguish. And when you make counterfeit money, what does it look like? Is it purple, purple $100 bills? It looks like the real thing. That's what the deceiver does. He gives us a counterfeit faith.

Hoshea chapter 2:16 talks about how the Israelites were practicing mixed seed, they were sowing a mixed faith. It says in 2:16, in the Hebrew, it's verse 18, “’It shall come to pass on that day,’ says Yehovah, ‘You shall call me my husband and you shall no longer call me my husband.’” That's a literal translation of what it says. And when you look at it, literally, it makes absolutely no sense. And that's why your Bibles, and most of your English translations don't translate it literally. They don't translate the two different words that mean, “My husband.” The two words are, “Ishy,” say, “Ishy.”

Crowd: Ishy.

Nehemia:Ish” means husband, “-y” means mine. Together,” ishy” is “my husband.” And that's what God says we should call Him. He's acknowledging there's a covenant relationship between the God of Israel and the people of Israel. He's our Father, and as a nation, He's our husband and we are the bride. It says, “And you shall no longer call me “ba'ali,” “my ba'al.” Now, what's going on here? What's going on is that “ba'al” which means “Lord, the son of the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth,” also means “husband.” And what the Israelites were saying is, “We have this covenant relationship. The true God, Yehovah, is our husband, and the God of the Canaanites is also their ba'al, their husband. Ba'al, Yehovah, that's the same thing.” That's what they were doing. They were mixing seed, spiritually mixing seed. Calling Yehovah, “Ba'al.”

Now, that's significant, because I was always taught... Let's read the next verse. It says, “And I will remove the names of the ba'als from her mouth, and they shall no longer mention them by name.” They were calling upon the God of Israel as “Ba'al. That's profound, that blew me away when I learned that, because I was always taught that idolatry would be this foreign thing, something completely different, something that would look like a purple $100 bill. It would be Ganesh. You know who Ganesh is? He's that Indian God with all the arms and the big elephant trunk. I mean, no Jew in his right mind is going to worship Ganesh. You'd have to be brain dead to do that. I mean, come on. It's an elephant, for God's sake. What are you doing worshipping an elephant? I mean, I think of the line in The Simpsons where... what's the guy's name? Apu. Keith is saying, “Don't say that, Nehemia,” where Apu says to Mr. Simpson, “Please stop feeding my God peanuts.” Like, really, you're gonna feed your God peanuts? Who's gonna worship that?

But that's not what the deceiver does. He doesn't bring you Ganesh, because he knows you're not going to fall for Ganesh. He brings you something that looks like the real thing, that has some of the truth mixed in it. And then that's how he deceives us.

And that's what happened to the Israelites. They didn't just go and worship some completely foreign God that had nothing to do with their God. They worshipped Ba'al as if he was Yehovah. And they said, “Ba'al and Yehovah, that's the same God. He's the husband, he's the master,” etc. It turns out there was even a King of Israel named after Ba'al. Who was that King? He's mentioned 2 Samuel 2:10. It says, “Ishbosheth, son of Saul, was 40 years old and began to reign over Israel, and he reigned for two years.” Well, where does it mention a King of Israel named after Ba'al? Ishbosheth. “Ish” means “man,” we just saw that, husband or man. “Boshet” means shame. “Ishbosheth,” “Man of shame.” His friends didn't call him “Ishbosheth.” His real name appears in 1 Chronicles 8:33-34. “And Ner begat Kish, and Kish begat Saul, and Saul begat Jonathan, Malkishua and Avinadav, and Esh Ba'al, man of Ba'al.” He was the King of Israel who took over the 11 tribes after the death of Saul, his father, and he was named after Ba'al.

And he's not the only one. King David, the one anointed by Yehovah. You know how you say "anointed one" in Hebrew? “Mashiakh.” He was the Mashiakh, the Messiah. Not the one we're expecting in the end time, that will be his descendant. But he was anointed of Yehovah. Every legitimate King of Israel is anointed with oil, and sits on the throne, and rules as a flesh and blood King. David was a Mashiakh, he's called that in the Tanakh. And we're told that… Well, actually, this is a quote from the Talmud that I'm bringing here. This is what I was always taught about David. I was taught “Anyone who says that David sinned is in error.” Say, “Error.”

Crowd: Error.

Nehemia: “As it is written, ‘And David was wise in all his ways, and Yehovah was with him.” Say, “With him.”

Crowd: With him.

Nehemia: This is what it says in Scripture. The Rabbis say, “Well, if we believe scripture, David never sinned, because Yehovah was with him.” They say, “Is it possible that David sinned when the Shekhina was with him?” Now, let me let you in on a secret. Shekhina, that's what you guys say, “Shekhina glory.” It's actually “Shekhinat kavod,” which means “the dwelling of honor.” And what it refers to specifically, Shekhina, that word doesn't exactly appear in the Tanakh. What appears is the word “leshaken, leshikhno,” which means “to cause to dwell.” And what dwells among us?

If you look in Scripture, you people refer to the Shekhina as the “Holy Spirit.” Well, we have in the Tanakh what dwells is Yehovah's name. It says, “He causes His name to dwell among us.” And so, it says, “How could David, who had the name of Yehovah, it was in him, it came into him. How could he possibly have sinned? He was wise in all his ways.” And they come with all the explanations. What was his biggest sin, the most obvious sin of David? Batsheva. Batsheva. He committed adultery with a married woman and got her pregnant. Well, she wasn't married, the Rabbis say. Why wasn't she married? Because the Israelites, when they would go off to war, it says in Deuteronomy 24 to divorce your wife, you have to give her a certificate of divorce. What happened if a man disappears in battle? She's what's called an “agunah,” say, “agunah.”

Crowd: Agunah.

Nehemia: This is actually a big problem in modern Israel among the Rabbis. If there's an Orthodox woman whose husband is missing in action, then she can never marry again. There's a woman in Israel just like that. Her husband, Ron Arad, was an Israeli pilot shot down during the First Lebanon War, and she's still married to him according to Israeli law and the Rabbis, even though everyone says he's dead. That's called an “agunah.”

And so, the Rabbis say, in ancient times, what they used to do is when they would go off to war, they would hand their wife a piece of parchment and it was a divorce. It was a provisional divorce that says, “Until I return, we are divorced, until I return and I'm with you again.” You know what I mean by “with you?” I won't say in front of the children. Well, therefore Batsheva was not married to Uriah, because he had given her the provisional divorce. This is what the Rabbis teach, some Rabbis, I should say.

And what about murdering Uriah? That was a sin, obviously. Well, no, Uriah deserved death, because David said to him, “Go and sleep at your home tonight in your bed, with your wife.” Now, why did David really say that to Uriah? To cover over his own crime. He'd gotten her pregnant and her husband had been away in battle for months. It would be obvious to everyone that Uriah wasn't the husband, if Uriah wasn't with his wife. So, according to the Rabbis, Uriah was worthy of death, ‘cause he didn't listen to the King's order to go back home. He said, “As long as the Ark of the Covenant of the God of Israel is in the field of battle, I will not go and sleep in my own bed,” and he refused to go.

So, according to the Rabbis, David was sinless. And you might think, “Oh, this is some obscure doctrine, no one really takes that seriously.” About 15 years ago, I remember in the Israeli Knesset, there was a secular Jew who stood up and said, “King David was a bully who stole another man's wife.” And you know what? He wasn't entirely wrong. David had character flaws. He wasn't perfect. In the Tanakh there's no one who's perfect. We learn from people's mistakes, not just from their righteous actions. Another Knesset member, the Israeli parliament, who is an ultra-Orthodox man, the big black hat, and the pe'ot and everything, the whole nine yards, he gets up and he says, “That's blasphemy. David never sinned. If you say that you are in error,” and he quoted this passage. This is not some ancient discussion that's been forgotten. There are people today who believe David was sinless.

I got a secret for you. David wasn't sinless. And not only was he not sinless, he was a spiritual seed mixer. It's interesting, not all the Rabbis accepted this explanation that David was sinless. There was another Rabbi who came along in the same passage, and he said, “Well, that Rabbi who said David was sinless, he overturns and seeks to interpret in David's favor, because he's descended from David.” Meaning, that particular Rabbi, whose name was Judah the Prince, he was a direct descendant of David on his father's side, and he wanted to clear his family name. So, he made up this explanation about how David didn't sin.

And I want to reveal something to you. You guys in the back won't hear this. I want to reveal something that maybe I've shared a couple of times before, which is that on my mother's side, there's a tradition that we’re descended from King David. In fact, my cousin went to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, which has a database of all the Jews and much of the genealogy, and he was able to trace us back to the 11th century, to a Rabbi who was a direct descendant from David on his father's side. I'm not going to overturn and seek to interpret in David's favor. I don't care who my ancestor was. I'm going to tell you the truth. David was a spiritual seed mixer. And we see that from 1 Samuel 5 and other passages. It says, “Now the Philistines came and spread out in the Valley of Refaim.” I love this story, ‘cause I live in the Valley of Refaim. That's a place in Jerusalem. To this day, it's called “Valley of Refaim,” “Emek Refaim,” the “Valley of Giants.” I've met Michael many a time in the coffee shops on Emek Refaim, on that street named after the valley in which it's located.

“The Philistines came and spread out in the Valley of Refaim. And David asked Yehovah, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines, will you give them into my hand?’ And Yehovah said, ‘You shall surely go up because I will give the Philistines into your hand.’” David's doing everything right. He's asking God, “Should I go out to war?” God is saying, “Go out.” He's obeying God. “David came to Ba'al Pratzim and David smote them there and he said, ‘Yehovah has burst forth.’” Say, “burst forth.”

Crowd: Burst forth.

Nehemia: “...upon my enemies before me as the water burst forth.” Now, what it's describing here is what we call in Israel a “flash flood.” You'll be standing on a perfectly cloudless day, the sun is shining, and all of a sudden, a wall of water will come rushing through the valley. And why is that? Because 10 miles away, it's raining somewhere. And actually, to this day, people are killed every year in Israel by these flash floods, because the water comes out of nowhere. And David's saying, “Yehovah has burst forth upon my enemies in my presence before me, as the water bursts forth. Therefore, he called the name of the place ‘Yehovah Pratzim.’” That's not what it says. It says, “Therefore, he called the name of the place Ba'al Pratzim.” Somebody say, “Uh-oh.”

Crowd: Uh-oh.

Nehemia: “Ba'al Pratzim” means, “Lord bursting forth.” Now, David wasn't honoring the Canaanite deity, he was referring to Yehovah, calling Him by the name of the Canaanite deity. That's an uh-oh. David was a spiritual seed mixer. David actually had a son named after Ba'al.

You know, I'm not going to go on here. I have another 30 slides, Keith, I can’t go on. I want to share something. Michael was introducing me, and he said something. And he only told you half the story. When he talked about “The Hebrew Yeshua Versus the Greek Jesus,” he came to me with this problem, and I researched it. What he didn't tell you, and what I've never said publicly, is that when I was researching this topic that eventually became the book, “The Hebrew Yeshua Versus the Greek Jesus,” I thought, “This is amazing. This is one of the most important discoveries,” I thought, “in a long time. And there are people whose lives are based on this one letter in one verse in the Greek, and that's not what it even says in the Hebrew version.”

And I went to Michael, and I said, “Michael, here's this information. Study it, and read it, and we'll talk.” And he studied it, and he read it, and we sat down. I said, “Michael, you need to share this with the world. You need to publish this, but please, whatever you do, don't mention my name. Because if people find out that I'm talking about Yeshua, and I'm saying that he actually taught the Torah, they're going to tar and feather me. I'm going to be persecuted, I'm going to lose friends.” And these things have happened. Some of my closest friends won't talk to me today because they said, “You're teaching about Yeshua, and you're not trying to convince people to give up belief in Him? I don't understand, have you converted to Christianity? What are you doing?”

And I actually asked Michael if he would share it with the world, and he said, “Nehemia, if I say this, people won't receive it. I can't go and write something about the Pharisees. I don't know anything about the Pharisees from my firsthand experience. And I can't write about how I read in some Hebrew manuscript somewhere. They know I can't read Hebrew manuscripts, no one's gonna buy it.” And so, I prayed about this and very reluctantly said, “Okay, I'm going to share this.” And there have been consequences.

And I’ve mentioned, we did a little promo, and we did this interview, and we talked about what happened in Smithfield. And I want to share with you what happened there, because it for me was a life-changing experience, it really was. And what happened in Smithfield... I gotta backup and tell you something that happened that I've never publicly shared. I've told three people in my life, actually five. I told two people yesterday, I told Keith last week, and before that, I told two people in 30 years. And this is something that happened to me many, many years ago. I was probably 8 years old, or 9 years old... now you know I'm 38.

We have this tradition in Judaism, over the Passover Seder. We sit down, the evening of the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and we read over the story of the Exodus, and we drink the four cups of wine, etc. And at a certain point, we pour a cup of wine for the Prophet Elijah. And there's a tradition that you then go up and you open the door, and you let Elijah in. And nobody takes this seriously. It's a silly little tradition that, you know, “We let in Elijah, you know, ha, ha, ha.” And why Elijah? Because if you read in the last verses of Malachi, Elijah will return one day. Can I get an Amen?

Crowd: Amen.

Nehemia: And the Jewish understanding is when he was taken up in the chariot of fire, that Elijah is still alive, he never died. And Keith told me when I told him last week, that that's actually what many Christians believe as well. Is that true, that Elijah is still alive?

Crowd: Yes.

Nehemia: Okay, I didn't know that. And there I am, I'm eight or nine years old, and my father says, “Okay, Nehemia, it's your turn this year. Go and open up the door and let Elijah in.” And we're laughing about it and joking. It's a silly little thing, silly little tradition, no one takes seriously. And I opened the door. He's standing in front of me. I saw Elijah. And, you know, some of you are saying, “Yeah right, Nehemia saw Elijah.” And believe whatever you want, but I know that standing in front of me was a man. I'm not gonna describe it for you, but it wasn't a modern human being. Standing in front of me was Elijah. And what do you think I did?

What's that? Well, I mentioned yesterday, I'm a Litvak. That's Jews who came from Lithuania, the intellectual elite of the Jewish world, rightfully so. And in my teaching, in my tradition, you didn't deal with angels and spirits. That was unheard of. That was for the superstitious people, it's not even real. We have the truth, because we've got the book learning. We've got the information, say, “Information.”

Crowd: Information.

Nehemia: …and we don't deal with that inspiration, say, “Inspiration.”

Crowd: Inspiration.

Nehemia: And we believe that, as it says in the Book of Joel, the spirit of prophecy will be poured out on your young men, and your young women, and your old people, and your young people, on everyone. But that'll only happen when the Messiah comes, and sits, and reigns as the King over Israel as a flesh and blood King; that's the Litvak belief.

And so, I see Elijah, I'm standing before him, and I'm like, “What's going on here?” I close the door, walk back to the table, never said a word. To this day, unless my mother’s watching right now, my parents didn't know about it. Never heard it, didn't know anything about it. Still don't know about it. Because we didn't deal with those spiritual experiences. We won't do that.

And, you know, I've been interacting with people of all kinds of different walks, and faiths, and cultures. Last week, I spoke in a place where they believe that the Book of Mormon is Scripture. I mean, if you would have told me 20 years ago, “Nehemia, you're going to be going around speaking to Christians, and Messianics, and Mormons...” and they don't like to be called “Mormons,” you know, various groups like that, I would have said, “That's ridiculous. I don't want to have anything to do with those people. I don't want to have any connection to them.” But what I’ve found is God is bigger than the boxes that we've created for Him. Now, I'm gonna say something controversial. My people, the Litvaks, weren't the only ones who created a box for God. Your people have also created boxes for God, tried to stuff Him in there and said, “Nehemia can't have a spiritual experience, because he ain't saved.” Is this not what many of your people have been saying?

Crowd: Yes.

Nehemia: I know it is. And you're entitled to be wrong. And many of my people have been contacting me and saying, “That guy, Keith, he's a Christian. He can't have a true spiritual experience, ‘cause he's not a Jew. If he wants to have the truth, and the true inspiration, then he needs to become a Jew.”

And can I share the story about my father? So, Keith comes to Israel back in February. We actually were getting together for two weeks of study and preparation to do a presentation on Christian television over in West Texas, which was going to be called something to the effect of, “A Jew and a Christian come together on common ground in an ancient Hebrew prayer.” That eventually was cancelled, that program, because they said, “The only way we could have Keith on television again, is if Nehemia comes and debates his lack of belief in Yeshua as the Messiah.” Now, I'll tell you what I told them and what I've told everyone, which is that I believe the Messiah will come, and you say come back, but I believe the Messiah will come and sit as a flesh and blood King over Israel. He'll be a descendant of David, and He won't just be a regular man, like this man or that man. He will have the spirit of Yehovah resting upon him, according to Isaiah 11.

Crowd: Amen.

Nehemia: He will judge not with his eyes and hear not with his ears. He will have that spirit of Yehovah and be a Prophet not like the other Prophets. And I believe this will happen. And I'll tell you something that 10 years ago, if you would have said, “Well, do you believe that's Jesus?” I would have said, “I don't know what His name will be, but I know it can't be Jesus.” And I'm not dealing with the Jesus or Yeshua, I would have said, “I know it can't be Yeshua.” And I could have given you a long list of reasons. And the biggest reason is that Yeshua did away with the Torah. This is what every Christian I've ever met has told me. That's what I would have told you 10, or 15, or 20 years ago.

Now I'll tell you that I don't know what His name is gonna be. I really don't know what His name will be. And whoever it is, we're all going to accept Him as the Messiah. You're going to accept Him, and I'm gonna accept Him, because it will be a fact that He will be sitting on the throne of David, ruling the world.

Well, so Keith was over there in Israel, and my father came to visit, my father, the Orthodox Rabbi. And had you ever met my father before?

Keith: Only on the phone.

Nehemia: Only on the phone. Keith had spoken to my father several times on the phone, but he'd never actually met my father. And we come over there on late Thursday afternoon. And the plan is that Keith has been invited for Shabbat afternoon lunch. And he says to my father, “Rabbi Gordon, I have something really special I want to share with you on Shabbat.” And I lean over, and I say to my father, “It's good news.” And my father says, “Oh, no.” He has this deep voice, “Oh no. If it's about Jesus, I don't want to hear it.” And I said, “No, it's not about Jesus, I'm just kidding.”

So, Shabbat afternoon comes along, and he comes for the meal. This is the event of the week in the Jewish family, Friday night dinner and Shabbat afternoon dinner. And we're eating at the meal and then we come to the end and they do what's called the Birkat HaMazon, that's the grace after meal. This is a whole ritual, this blessing. And this particular blessing, anyone can say it, even if you're one person. But in order to make a special blessing in this grace after meal, you need have three Jewish males. And at this point, Keith says, “Okay, now I'm ready to share.” And he gets a Tanakh, and he opens it up and he starts reading to my father from Isaiah 56, and he's preaching, and he’s talking. He says, “Rabbi Gordon, it talks here about the son of the Gentile who joins himself to the God of Israel, and loves His name, and keeps His Sabbath, and embraces His covenant.” He says, “Rabbi Gordon, can I be the third person in your blessing? Because according to Isaiah 56, I'm part of Israel.”

And my father looks at him and he says in his deep voice, “You don't count.” And he explains, “If you want to count, you have to appear before a panel of Rabbis and you have to convert to Judaism and undergo all the ceremony and ritual of that.” And I want to know where that says that in Isaiah 56.

You know, I think it was last week, we got an email from one of the top Karaites in the world. Actually, we got an email from the top Karaite in the world. And Keith said, “That can't be, because you, Nehemia, are the top Karaite in the world.” No. And I have a secret for you, I'm not. But we got an email from the top dog. And he says, “What on earth happened in Smithfield? What are you guys gonna do and reveal on Shavuot?” He was very nervous. And you have to understand, this is a man who I have the utmost respect for. I think he's one of the greatest scholars living.

And before I actually put out the book “The Hebrew Yeshua Versus the Greek Jesus,” I sent it to him, and I said, “Would you please give me your feedback?” Now, he didn't agree with everything and he wasn't happy about everything. But he read it and he said, “Okay, I see where you're coming from, I see what you're doing. Go forth and prosper.” And before we published “A Prayer to Our Father,” we also sent it to this man. He's a man who lives over in England. And he said, “Go forth and prosper.” He didn't agree with everything, it's not exactly his approach. He thinks it's better, if you're going to talk to Christians, to convince them why they shouldn't believe in Yeshua. That's his approach. He's not exactly comfortable with what I'm doing, but he said, “Okay, I see where you're coming from. And what you've written there, I may not agree with all of it, but you believe this is the truth.” He hears about what's going on now and he's really nervous. There's no more, Go forth and prosper. “What are you guys up to?”

And we call him up, and we speak on the phone and we explain to him what happened in Smithfield, and I think he was a little bit more calm. And he definitely didn't agree with everything we're doing and saying, but he understood where we're coming from. And we then spoke to another man, and Keith quoted him Isaiah 56. And he didn't have the deep voice, but he basically said to Keith - this is a Karaite man whom I have great respect for - but he then said to Keith, not in these exact words, but he basically said to him, “You don't count.” So, it's not just the Rabbis who are doing this. Both camps are saying, “If you don't go through that narrow gate, the conversion to Judaism, and undergo the training and undergo the circumcision...” And if you're already circumcised, you get re-circumcised, did you know that?

You know, my mother tells the story that when the mohel cut me, I got him back by pissing in his face. True story. A true story. But what basically they're saying, on the Jewish side, and this is in all the camps, is if you want to count, if you want to be part of God's people, if you want to be part of His covenant, the one and only covenant, then you must become a Jew. You must convert to Judaism. And that's not what my Bible says, though. My Tanakh doesn't say that. My Tanakh talks about those who join themselves to Yehovah that they shall not say, “Yehovah is surely separating me from His people.” That's what it says in my Bible. So, Keith, I believe you do count.

Now, on the Christian side, they're saying the same thing. They're saying, “Nehemia, you don't count. Nehemia, you can't have a true spiritual experience, because you didn't say the sinner's prayer. Nehemia, you haven't accepted the four spiritual laws and therefore, you don't count.” And you know what? I'm gonna let those people say what they're saying, and then the other side say what they want to say. You know, say whatever you want, guys. I know that I saw Elijah.

And I'll tell you what happened in Smithfield. In Smithfield, we preached about a bunch of things, but one of the things that we both taught on was the name of our Heavenly Father, the name that Yeshua sanctified. The name that the Tanakh says, “This is My name forever, the name ‘Yehovah.’”

I was standing there in a church. This is a Sunday-keeping church. There's a big cross in the background. I was teaching there in the morning. We then go to lunch with the Pastor, and he orders the bacon, lettuce, and tomato burger. And he's sitting next to me, and I'm like, “What on earth am I doing in this place? Does he know I'm Jewish?” And then he tells Keith while I'm sleeping, and I wake up later and find this, that we are in a place that used to have a sign at the front, which said, “Welcome to Smithfield, the home of the KKK.” And next to the church we were preaching, there was the home of the Grand Dragon of the KKK.

It used to be, not anymore, and the town has changed. But I'm thinking, “If God is going to be anywhere, He's not going to be here at this church with the big cross, and the bacon-eating Pastor, and the KKK in Smithfield, North Carolina. God is not here. If He's anywhere in the world, He is not going to be here. That's the one thing I can guarantee you.” And I'm sitting there, and I'm giving my little presentation with my little slides, and I'm minding my own business. And guess what I encounter? I encounter the Father of creation. I'm standing there, and there's this outpouring of people who are dedicating themselves and committing themselves to Yehovah.

And I'm thinking, “Wait a minute, no, no, no. These are Christians. This is not happening. They believe in Jesus. They pray to Jesus and they have all the Jesus things going on. Just this morning they were singing about Jesus, and now all of a sudden, they're standing up, and they're committing themselves to Yehovah, to my God, the Father of the Old Testament and the Father of the New Testament. But this isn't supposed to happen. God is not supposed to be in this place.” But God was in that place.

You know, in the Christian world, they talk about the “Azusa Street Revival” and the “Toronto revival.” And I walked away from that place and I said, “This is the Smithfield revival. This act of committing yourself to Yehovah, to the God that we share in common. To your Father, to my Father, the Father of creation, the one who Yeshua, your Messiah, the one who you believe to be the Messiah, the One that He said to sanctify His name. I believe this will go forth across the world, and people I never met and will never meet, will dedicate themselves and commit themselves to Yehovah, the God of creation.”

Let me read you something. On the way back, as we were driving, we had a three-million-hour drive back to Charlotte from Smithfield. And on the way back, I'm saying to Keith, I said, “What just happened here?” I called it the “Smithfield revival,” not Keith. And I'll tell you why I called it the Smithfield revival. The verse that was going through my head that I haven't even shared with Keith, this is a verse in the Psalms. And I open up to Psalm chapter 85. It's a really interesting Psalm, ‘cause it starts off and it says... In Hebrew it says in verse 2, and I would imagine in English it's verse 1, ‘cause they don't include the titles in the English versions as part of the verses. Verse 2 in the Hebrew, probably verse 1 in the English. It says, “Ratzita Yehovah artzekha. Shavta shevit Ya'akov.” “Yehovah, You have accepted Your land, You have comforted your land. You have returned the remnant, the captivity of Jacob.” They're talking about a time when the captives had returned from Babylon and they're now back in the land, and everything's supposed to be hunky dory, right? It's not.

He continues to pray. He says, “You've forgiven us,” etc. etc. And then verse 6, he says, and this is a translation from Hebrew, “Will Your wrath against us be forever?” God’s still angry at us. “Will your anger continue for generation to generation?” And verse 7, and probably 6 in the English, he says, “Surely, You will once again revive us.” Say, “Revive us.”

Crowd: Revive us.

Nehemia: “Your people will rejoice in You.” And the reason I was thinking about this verse is because it doesn't say in the Hebrew, “You will surely once again revive us.” It says, “Revive us.” What it says is, “Halo ata tashuv,” say, “Tashuv.”

Crowd: Tashuv.

Nehemia: “...tekhayenu” which literally translates, “Surely, You will return and You will revive us.” Are the Jews also waiting for a return? We are. Ezekiel had the vision where he sees the cherubim, and the Rabbis said, “This is such a difficult passage. We're going to talk about everything in the Bible, except the vision of the cherubim of Ezekiel. We can't talk about that.” It's actually a Rabbinical prohibition to talk about that, and also, one other thing. We can't study that in depth.

And what was the vision of the cherubim? He sees it in the Temple, and he sees it then moving out of Jerusalem and leaving. That was the Shekhina, the Shekina glory. That was Yehovah's presence, the thing that we feel. That something, that intangible thing that we can't even describe, that we know that's God. That was leaving Jerusalem when the Temple was destroyed. That was Ezekiel's vision, and here in the Psalms, he says, “Surely, You will return and You will revive us.” And I believe that Yehovah is returning and reviving His people.

And what really happened to me in Smithfield, I'm gonna let you in on a secret. When I saw that outpouring of people dedicated to themselves to Yehovah, I've seen that before. What really happened in Smithfield wasn't so much to the people. It was something that happened with me. And what happened with me is I said, “Yehovah, I see that You're returning and You're reviving Jew, and You're reviving Christian, and Gentile. You're reviving the people who have gone in through this door, and the people who say, ‘No, you can only get in through this door.’ And they can't agree with the shape of the door, or the place of the door, or what the door is. And maybe it's the same door, I don't know. But You're reviving the people.”

David had the Shekhina with him, but he sinned. And so, we're not perfect. Maybe I'm a sinner, because I don't believe what you believe. I don't know. I don't think I am. And many of you may think I am, because I don't confess what you confess. But I'm trying like David tried. And all I think that Yehovah wants from us is for us to do our best, and to try and to live by His covenant.

And I’m gonna to say to my Jewish brothers... You guys, close your ears. You don't need to hear this. What I'm gonna say to my Jewish brothers is these Christians, and these Messianics who are trying, God is working with them. God is reviving them. God has returned, Yehovah, the God of creation, and He's doing that with my people. What I decided in Smithfield, I said, “Yehovah, You've returned, and I see what you're doing. Next time, I'm not going to shut the door.” I've got nothing else to say.

You have been listening to the Open Door Series with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

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

Makor Hebrew Foundation is a 501c3 tax-deductible not for profit organization.

Share this Teaching on Social Media

Related Posts:
Hebrew Voices Episodes
Support Team Studies
Nehemia Gordon's Teachings on the Name of God