Torah Pearls #3 – Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

In The Original Torah Pearls, Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), we revel in the extraordinary drama of Abraham’s epic: a call from heaven, famine, war, plagues, dreadful and great darkness, bisected animals, flaming torches, battles with vultures, sister wives and kings. Then the cliffhanger—the God-who-sees promises to make an everlasting covenant with a yet-to-be-conceived son, and to make him the father of 12 princes.

Word studies provide their own degree of drama in this portion as we learn the action implied in the Hebrew word for “belief” as well as details concerning the following phrases: “circumcised with foreskin,” “he gave tithes to him,” “make covenant,” and most telling, the three little words that sum up Abraham’s M.O., “So Abram left”.

While not depicting Abraham as “every-man”—we’re led to imagine at least a smidgen of our own story in Abraham’s faithful life and wonder—what if we were prone to a little less conversation, a little more action?

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Transcript

Torah Pearls #3 - Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

You are listening to The Original Torah Pearls with Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, and Jono Vandor. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Jono: G’day to everybody listening around the globe, wherever you may be, thank you for your company. Joining me this hour are Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Keith, of course, is the author of His Hallowed Name Revealed Again. Also available is the 12-episode DVD series entitled His Hallowed Name and they’re available from www.hishallowedname.com. Keith is also the co-author, with Nehemia Gordon, of the book A Prayer to Our Father: Hebrew Origins of the Lord’s Prayer. And of course, Nehemia is the author of The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus, both of which are available from www.truth2u.org, as too, is the live teaching and DVD. I highly recommend these products. My friends, welcome back to the Pearls from the Torah Portion.

Nehemia: Shalom.

Jono: Shalom, shalom.

Keith: Thanks for having us, Jono.

Jono: It’s great to have you back on the program. This week we are in Lech Lecha, Bereshit chapters 12 to 17. It is the eternally important story of Abram, and it begins like this. Can I read the first three verses?

Nehemia: Please.

Jono: This is how it goes, my friends. “Now Yehovah said to Abram, ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you, and I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you – I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” Is that not one of the most important passages of Scripture, Nehemia?

Nehemia: Yes, absolutely. This is the promise to Abraham, the election of Abraham, and what an act of faith Abraham does by following. Think about it, he has no GPS, he has no map. God says, “Go to the land I will show you,” and he walks out into the desert, just following the voice of God. I mean that’s faith. In Hebrew, when we speak about faith, it’s not just what you believe in your heart, it’s that you express that through your actions. He didn’t just believe in some kind of idea of God, he actually walked out into the desert following that voice, taking his whole family to a place where he had no idea where he was going. It’s not like God said, “Go to the land of Canaan.” He said, “Go to the land that I will show you.” He just followed. That’s an amazing act of faith.

Jono: It wasn’t just his family - he had already acquired quite a lot. He had livestock. He had servants and what not. There was a lot involved. It wasn’t just...

Nehemia: Right. It was a whole tribe.

Jono: It was a whole tribe. It’s a whole lot of people and a whole lot of stuff to get up and suddenly leave and go to a place that he knows not of. Incredible.

Keith: It’s just so interesting how the Bible reads, regardless of what the translation is. In this situation, it’s just cool how it reads, because He says, “Leave.” He gives him the promise and then in verse 4, these three little words just say, “So Abraham left.” There’s no discussion. There’s no, “Let’s think about this. Let’s have a little…” It just says, “So Abraham left as Yehovah had told him.” I just think that, that’s such a great statement - like Nehemia says - of faith in action, but obedience. He said it, he did it; He said it, he did it. What if we were like that? I think we’d have a completely different view of things if there was less debate with God when He asked us to do something.

Nehemia: He wasn’t a spring chicken. He was 75 years old at the time. Can you imagine? You’re 75 years old and God tells you to walk out into the desert with your family and your extended family and your whole tribe, essentially. That’s incredible. It’s mind-boggling. Most of his life, as far as we know, he probably lived as an idolater. There are little legends and stories about how he was a child and he smashed the idols, but that’s not in the Bible. In the Bible, as far as we know, most of his life he didn’t know God. Then all of a sudden, he hears this voice and the voice tells him, “Go to the land that I will show you.” That’s amazing, absolutely amazing.

Jono: It is. And you say that he’s 75 years old. I kind of get a feeling that 75 years old back then isn’t the kind of 75 years old that we imagine today. The reason I say that is because only a little further on, from verse 10 of this chapter, it talks about the famine in the land. “And they went to Egypt to dwell,” obviously where there was food, “and he said to his wife, Sarai, he said, ‘now, you’re pretty hot.’”

Nehemia: Is that an exact quote?

Jono: She’s 65 years old, right? Can you explain that for me?

Nehemia: He married a younger woman - that’s not all that unusual. He was afraid the... He assumed that the Egyptians had no morality whatsoever, and so they would kill him and take his wife. So he lied to them and told her to lie to them and say that she was his sister so that when they took her as a wife they wouldn’t kill him. Later on, we find out that he should have given the Egyptians the benefit of the doubt, because they were righteous. When they found out that she was his wife, they said, “We wouldn’t have done this if we’d known she was your wife.” He kind of prejudges them, and he shouldn’t have done that. Just because they’re misguided doesn’t mean they’re completely morally bankrupt.

Jono: So she’s a beautiful 65-year-old woman. He kind of predicts that the Pharaoh’s going to want to take her into his household, and says, “Can you just say that you’re my sister?” Now, that’s not entirely a lie. Is that right? Was she...?

Nehemia: She’s like a half-sister.

Jono: A half-sister.

Nehemia: It’s an interesting question, because this happens two more times. Another time with Abraham is when he’s dealing with the Philistines, and a third time it happens with Isaac and his wife, Rebecca, Rivkah, when they’re dealing with the Philistines. They keep making the same mistake, where they’re lying to the people. Then Abraham explains to Abimelech the Philistine that, “Every place where I would go I would say to her,” and this was a pattern, it wasn’t just one time it happened. He would say to her, “Say that you’re my sister.” Then he says, “Well, it’s kind of true because she is my half-sister,” which boggles the mind to the point where many interpreters have said, “Well, it can’t literally be a sister, it has to be kin, because when you say sister in Hebrew or brother you can mean a literal brother, a literal sister, or you could mean a relative. Maybe she’s some kind of half relative, like a distant cousin from his father’s side, not his mother’s side. Because it’s hard to believe he’d actually marry his literal sister even back then.

Jono: Really? Is it hard to believe?

Nehemia: But maybe he did. It’s hard for me to believe, yes. What do you think, Keith?

Keith: I’m actually not sure. I got stuck on the issue of Abram and what his background was. See? I know you guys are talking about that, but I’m still in 12. If I can just do this one verse?

Nehemia: I love how he does. He did this last time with the other question.

Keith: No, and the reason Nehemiah, dropped a bit of...

Nehemia: He changes the subject.

Keith: ...he dropped a bomb and then he moved on to the hot-looking wife. The issue... Anyway, the issue of what Abraham’s background was regarding his religious possibilities, whether he was an idol worshiper or whatever, and I just wanted to bring something up.

Jono: Sure.

Keith: He said it twice in 12 in verse 6 and 7. “And Yehovah appeared to Abram and said, ‘And to your offspring, I will give this land.’” And then it says, “So he built an altar there for Yehovah, who had appeared to him.” Then later it says in verse 9, “Then Abraham set out and continued toward the Negev.” It says, again, in verse 8, “There he built an altar to Yehovah and called on the name of Yehovah.”

So in two different verses, within a couple of verses, there are two different places where he stopped, and I thought that was interesting, what Nehemia said regarding the idol worship, and then all of a sudden now he’s got this voice that speaks to him and he’s building an altar. So what would be the connection for Abram and his background to think, “I need to build an altar”? Is that something new or is that something that he had experienced before?

Jono: Yes. This is something I wondered as well, Keith, because this does happen a couple of times throughout this Torah portion.

Keith: Exactly.

Jono: Nehemiah, does the building of the altar and the calling on the name of Yehovah, have any significance?

Nehemia: Well, these definitely weren’t new things. In the story of Cain and Abel, we see that we have sacrifices already. Then calling upon the name of Yehovah, we saw also when... you mentioned chapter five where it says, “Then they began to call upon the name of Yehovah.” Those weren’t new things. The reason I say that he was an idolater is that if you go to Joshua chapter 24 verse 2, Joshua is offering this prayer and he says, “Across the river, your forefathers dwelt from of old, Terach the father of Avraham and father of Nachor, and they served other gods.” This is where he comes from. He comes from this background of idolatry, and he turned to the one true God.

Now, here’s what we don’t know. Did he turn to the one true God because God called upon him and he heard the voice? Or did he somehow himself come to the one true God because he had that understanding just through pure reason that if God is really eternal - because that’s what God is all about, He’s eternal - then how could there be more than one of them? This is something that we don’t know for sure. It’s interesting, because I know that I was actually taught... I remember this is one of the first things I was ever taught by my father, of blessed memory. He used to tell me how there was a debate among the rabbis whether Abraham came to know his God when he was three years old or when he was 40 years old. According to the one opinion, knowing God when he’s three years old - well, as soon as he had logical thought, he realized that if there’s a god there could only be one God. Then, according to the other opinion - no, this was something that he came to as a mature adult. I think I was probably about three years old when my father was telling me this, and I didn’t understand the significance of it at the time. But the truth is we don’t know if Abraham came to know God by himself or if God called him. It’s an interesting question, and maybe it was a combination of the two. I believe that God calls upon people and sometimes they don’t listen. He stirs their hearts and they feel there’s something going on, and then they misdirect that energy into the wrong places and sometimes they respond. With the case of Abraham, I guess, we don’t really know. But at some point, being raised as this idolater by Terach, he came to know the true God.

Keith: We have a rule. We need to stay within the portion, and I really want to do that, but there’s just one little verse right before the beginning of the portion.

Nehemia: There it is.

Keith: It’s connected to what Nehemia just said and that’s the only reason I want to bring it up. He said that sometimes we might hear the voice and we’re not able, or we’re not ready, and this is maybe an assumption, but I always thought it was interesting that when we got to 12 verse 1, where Abram is on his way to the country, that we find that just two verses before that, that his father was on his way to Canaan. As he was on his way to Canaan he stopped in a place called Haran, which happens to be the name of his son who died. I always read that and I always thought about my own family and I thought, “I wonder where my father...” They always say that my father had a call on his life and he used to preach to chickens when he was a little boy.

Nehemia: Really?

Keith: They say, “George, you’re going to be a preacher.” Well, my father... that’s the farthest thing from his mind in his life. He also passed away a couple of years ago. But when I read this story, I thought about my father and I thought about Abram’s father. It says he was on his way to Canaan but he stopped at Haran, who knows whether he named...

Nehemia: Actually, his son is Haran. The place he stopped is Charan, with a “Chet.”

Keith: Charan? Okay, so there are two different names. But what was interesting to me, as I was reading it, I was reading it and I was thinking about, on his way what caused them to stop? We don’t know what caused them to stop. We know that Abram responded, but it’s just interesting that it says, “He was on his way.” He was going to Canaan, but when they came to Charan, he stopped there. I think about people who may have that prick in their heart or that call, but then they settle somewhere also. But Abram didn’t do that. I always look at that as a wonderful connection between his father, who said he was on his way there and didn’t go, and then, Abram, who did, and how we are able to go beyond it. That’s as much as I will go beyond the portion but I thought it was connected.

Jono: Coming from Egypt, if I can just pick up there, they leave from Egypt with... I mean the Pharaoh sends them on with some gear, right? I mean he sends them on with some riches, with some livestock. He kind of picks up from his mistake and seems to benefit from it. That reminds me of the way that the Israelites leave in Exodus chapter 12, right, Nehemia? Is there a similarity there?

Nehemia: Well, there is an idea in Jewish history called, “Ma’aseh avot siman le-banim,” which is “The actions of the fathers is a sign of what will happen with the children.” A lot of people look at this and say, “What happened with Abraham, he went down to Egypt and he got sent away with great property, and that’s an example of that ‘Ma’aseh avot siman le-banim‘ - that what the father did was then repeated by the children.”

You have a number of examples of that. You actually have similar stories with Abraham and Isaac. You don’t have to go all the way to the children of Israel to see some of the examples of that, of “Ma’aseh avot siman le-banim.” What I think is interesting, if we can jump ahead just a little bit, because you mentioned it...

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: ...is the whole incident with Hagar who is an Egyptian slave that Abraham mistreats, and his descendants end up as slaves in Egypt. I find it hard to believe that there’s not some kind of historical justice there, or at least that’s the message that...

Jono: That is interesting.

Nehemia: ...don’t mistreat people because there could be consequences further down the road. Specifically, he mistreated her in connection with her descendants. Then, his descendant, her child Ishmael, and then his descendants ended up as slaves of her people.

Jono: I’ve never thought of that. That is really interesting. Keith?

Keith: I think that is also interesting. I actually was wondering about something. In verse 12, where He does the call of Abraham. He says, “Here’s what I’m going to do. This is how I’m going to bless you. This is how I’m going to curse you.” Then, in 15, we get to this issue of the covenant. I know we talked about the covenant last time; we were discussing the Covenant of the sign that was in the sky that he looks at, and I was wondering if we could also look at that, because that’s right before we get to this whole issue of...

Jono: Of Hagar and Ishmael. I’ll tell you what. We’re definitely going to get to that, because it’s so incredibly significant, if not one of the most... the crown of this whole Torah portion. But before we get there, I just want to point out, obviously, Abram takes with him Lot, who I believe is his nephew, and the story goes that they increase their herd and so on and so forth. Then they decide that it’s time to split up, and it’s interesting that Abram gives Lot the choice. Yehovah says to him, “I’m going to take you to a place where you know not of,” and so on and so forth. But Abraham says to Lot, “Hey, you choose. Which way do you want to go? You tell me. What do you want? Do you want to go there? Do you want to go there? You choose first. And I’ll just go the opposite direction.”

It turns out that Lot, of course, goes towards Sodom and Gomorrah, the city Zoar, and Abram... And here we pick up in verse 14 of chapter 13, and this is where Yehovah says to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants could also be numbered.” Now, that’s a lot.

Keith: Right before we get to that, Jono, I think it’s interesting too - you said that he gave Lot a choice, there’s this little theme that I also picked up on, and I think is really interesting. He tells Lot, “You decide.” In verse 10, it says, “Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of Yehovah.” Now, when I see that image I think, “Lot looked, he saw, and he said, ‘Here’s what I want.’”

Then… at the garden and I think about Eve, it says, “She looked and it was good and she saw and she took.” It’s like, just because we see a thing, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing. So what does Lot choose based on his own eyes? When he looked with his own eyes, he thought, “I’m going to take that spot over there.” But the spot that he picked, I don’t know that that was probably the best place to go, obviously based on the story as we go through it.

Then when it’s Abraham’s time, He tells him, “Now, you lift up your eyes and look.” It’s like He gives him a chance to see something different. But like I said, Eve looks and she sees with her eyes and it’s good. Lot looks, he sees with his eyes and he thinks it’s good. Then, obviously, it’s not the right thing. That’s just one of the little things that I like when I see that.

Nehemia: I love verse 17. That’s one of my favorite verses, where He says, “Everything that you see, I’m going to give you.” That’s the heart. That’s the eyes. That’s the intellectual. Then, He says in verse 17, “Rise up and walk about in the land to its length and its width, for I will give it to you.” It’s not just enough to have the intellectual, you also have to combine that with the action. You’ve got to get up and walk through the land. If you want to possess it, you’ve got to walk through it and taste it, feel it, touch it.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: I love that combination. He says, “You’ll see it and also walk through it.” It’s great.

Jono: When you say that it actually reminds me of the book A Prayer to Our Father, because that’s exactly what you guys did. You did so much walking throughout the land, right?

Keith: More than I...

Nehemia: I love walking throughout the land.

Keith: You know Nehemia never accepted the fact that we...

Nehemia: Didn’t do enough.

Keith: We would look at a situation and we’d have the pictures and we’d have the maps and we’d have the information, and he’d say, “We must go to this place.” I’m like, “Yes, but Nehemia it says right here.” “No, we must go to this place.” Every single time we would physically go to the place, there would be some revelation that would be there. It was really important. So I could see why that’s your favorite verse, Nehemia, because you live that out. “We must walk up to the fortress. We must walk over to…”

Nehemia: Right. But this is I think one of the central messages of Scripture. He says, “See what I’m giving you. See the blessing and the gift I’m giving you.” Then, He says, “Go, rise and walk up through the land.” It’s not enough just to see it and to understand it and to know it. You have to experience it as well. Can I get an Amen?

Jono: Amen.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: I would love to say Amen, but I’ve never walked, I’ve never been. I really hope to soon.

Nehemia: You’ve got to do a walkabout in the land.

Keith: You’ve got to do a walkabout.

Jono: Well, Yah willing, may it be soon.

Keith: Pretty soon you guys are going to jump ahead to some major issue here, but I want to make sure that we get to this one verse. It’s a very, very important verse of chapter 14. Nehemia and I, we’ve been in situations where this has been discussed, and it’s very, very interesting. I want you, Nehemia, if you’d be willing to share some of this. It has to do with the very famous story of Abraham giving his tithe.

The reason I want to talk about it is it’s a Hebrew pearl. You know the story that Abram goes and gets Lot. Then he has this interaction with the king, Melchizedek, and then it says, “And then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread.” We’re in verse 18 chapter 14.

Jono: They had communion, didn’t they, Keith?

Keith: Well, I’m not sure. It simply says they had bread and wine. “And he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Now, Nehemia, would you do us a favor? If we can all do this, if we could turn to Genesis 14 verse 20 if we could?

Nehemia: Okay.

Keith: If you’ve got your Tanakh there, Nehemia, if you’d be willing to tell us what it actually says in verse 20? And if it’s as clear as it is...

Nehemia: Now, did you just read from a translation? What did you just read from?

Keith: Yeah, I’m reading from the translation for all our Methodists that are listening.

Nehemia: What translation was that that you just read from?

Keith: This one here is the NIV.

Nehemia: Okay. So they actually added a word.

Keith: They added a word, a very important word.

Nehemia: They added the word “Abraham” – Abram – because what it literally says is...

Jono: Oh, wow. It doesn’t...

Nehemia: It says, “And he gave him a tithe of everything.” So who gave who? It’s not clear in the passage. Obviously, a lot of interpreters have said, like the NIV is interpreting, that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe. But the way I read this story, that doesn’t even make sense. Why would Abraham... Why does he even have a tithe to give to Melchizedek?

Here’s a story. Four kings come and invade the land. They take all these spoils from all over southern Canaan and they capture Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities and they take spoils from there. They kidnap Lot. Actually, it’s an invasion, or more like a raid, they’re raiding to take spoils rather than for conquest. They take all these spoils and they start returning to their countries, and Abraham goes after them to get Lot. But while he’s getting Lot, he defeats them and takes all the spoils back. On the way back, he runs into a bunch of kings, and one of them is the king of Salem, which is Jerusalem, and it actually, geographically makes perfect sense, because he is coming back from what today is occupied Syria. Then he comes down through central Israel and he’s going to be passing Jerusalem on the way back to Sodom and Gomorrah to return Lot.

Melchizedek comes out and blesses him, then it says, “And he gave him a tithe of everything.” To me, it makes sense that Melchizedek gave Abraham a tithe of the spoils from Jerusalem that he was returning, meaning he was bringing back all the stuff that was stolen from Jerusalem and Melchizedek said, “You know what? You keep 10%.” The reason that fits in the context is that the very next verse, verse 21, is the king of Sodom then tries to outdo Melchizedek. The king of Sodom says, “Give me the life and you take the property.” What does he mean by “the life”? He means the animals and the people, but all the gold and the silver and the grain or whatever, that you take for yourself. Now, that’s very generous of the king of Sodom because he’s offering to Abraham stuff that Abraham was holding and possessing.

But Abraham, being a righteous man, realizes that these are stolen goods. I’m going to return all of it to the people it was taken from. When he returned it to Melchizedek, Melchizedek said, “Well, why don’t you take 10%, that’s the righteous thing to do here for your trouble.” The king of Sodom says, “I’m going to outdo Melchizedek and give him all of the property.” Abraham responds, “I don’t want your property. I don’t want anything from you, not even a shoelace. I don’t want you, a sinner, to be able to say you made Abraham great.” That’s my take on it, at least. I mean you could definitely read it the other way, but that’s my take.

Keith: All that Nehemia has just done, Jono, is completely turned on its head, the traditional interpretation of this verse. He didn’t do that by any great technical thing; he just did it by context. However, I want to ask a technical question, Nehemia.

Nehemia: Sure.

Keith: In verse 20 - and again, just to be clear for those that maybe didn’t catch the significance of this, in verse 20, it says, and I’m reading out of the NIV here, “And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.” However, when we go to verse 20 and it says...

Nehemia: Wait. Can I do it? Let me do it this way. Let me read 18 through 20. “And Melchizedek, the king of Salem brought out bread and wine, and he was a priest to the Most High God.” Who’s the “he” there? Melchizedek.

Keith: Melchizedek.

Nehemia: “And he blessed him.” Who’s the “he”? Melchizedek. “And he said.” Who’s the “he”? Melchizedek. “Blessed is Abraham and the Most High God who created heaven and earth and blessed is the Most High God who has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him a tithe of everything.” So the “he” in this entire passage is Melchizedek, and the “him” being given to, is Abraham - that’s the context. Now, the reason that people have turned it around and said that Melchizedek got the tithe is because, well, he’s the priest and you give tithes to priests. Okay. But Melchizedek doesn’t have anything to give. All his stuff was taken by the four kings.

Jono: That’s an excellent point. It’s fascinating that... I just want to get this right. Keith, you read it out and Abraham, or Abram, gave him a tithe of all, and Nehemia says that’s the NIV. It’s added to the text. I’m reading here from the New King James, and it says, “And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him a tithe of all.” Where do they get off adding to the text?

Nehemia: NIV is a very periphrastic translation, meaning it paraphrases a lot. It takes a lot of liberties. That’s very common in the NIV. Look, every translation does that to some extent, but the NIV is egregious. It does it almost on every page. There are certain translations like that.

Keith: So what I was trying to get to, when I said that a little bit of the technical aspect, just a little bit of the technical aspect - if you remember, Nehemia, when we were looking at this verse in Hebrew…

Nehemia Yes.

Keith: There were four things that I was interested in wanting to learn, and I was blessed by being able to interact with Nehemia on these four things. They had to do with the consonants, the vowels, the actual Masoretic notes and also the accents. That the accents in the verses help us, not only in terms of those being used for when they’re chanting the verse, when they’re singing the verse, if I could use those terms, but also grammatically.

The one little thing that kind of gave me pause, when we went through this verse, Nehemia, I think this is the Etnachta, the accent in the middle of this verse, where it’s the idea - this is the half of the verse. I just have to say what was interesting about it was that it made me take a little bit of a breath as I was reading verse 20 of chapter 14 because there’s this break in the middle of the verse. And then it says, “And he gave him a tenth from all.” For some reason, and I don’t know why, and maybe you can explain why, I thought this way. When I saw that by having that little pause, that one little simple pause, it made me have to rethink, “So who is the ‘him’?” Whereas, as I’m reading in English, it doesn’t make me ask that question. But for some reason, the Hebrew made that question and I didn’t originate the question, it was something that Nehemia was using as a way for me to use this. But again, I just think it’s so important that there are many, many things. For example, in my tradition, when we see Abram giving a tenth to Melchizedek, there are all sorts of theological things that come. But the practical is, even back then you all, this is why you have to give 10% of everything you have to us as the church because Abraham had set the standard. You see why this is important?

Nehemia: Let me just say something for some of our Christian listeners who are probably shaking in their boots now, because obviously, I’m going to throw them a bone. In the book of Hebrews, it obviously reads this according to the NIV way and understands that Abraham is giving the tithes to Melchizedek, but what I would say to the people who insist that that has to be the interpretation here as well, is that the book of Hebrews is an allegory. It explicitly is an allegory and is not speaking literally, it’s speaking in symbolic language, and you can’t interpret the literal based on the allegorical or the symbolic. That’s called wagging the dog - the tail wagging the dog. You’ve got to first understand the literal and then you can speak about the allegorical, the symbolic. The two don’t always correspond 100%. That symbolic language, you can do all kinds of weird things, but the literal I think can legitimately be read either way and the more obvious way, contextually, is that Melchizedek was giving Abraham the tithe, not the other way around.

Keith: Let me say this, Jono, this is an example where the blue light comes on and we say, “Torah Pearl, Torah Pearl, Torah Pearl.” This is a Torah Pearl in the Tanakh, in the Hebrew Bible. You get to stop and say, “Torah Pearl!” I think it’s an important one. It’s one where it gives us a chance to slow down, to take a look at what the verse actually says, and add that information and then let people do their interpretation as the writer of Hebrews did. Now, let’s move on.

Nehemia: That’s one other point in this passage, one of my favorite points, is that Melchizedek, it says, is a priest of El elyon, Most High God. Now, one of the things we know from archaeological excavations is they found these Canaanite documents, the biggest cache of them was at a place called Ras Shamra in Syria.

In the Ras Shamra documents, you see that there’s a Canaanite deity called “El elyon,” the Most High God. Canaanites believed that he created the universe and then he retired. He went off to what they call the mountain of the north, which in Canaanite lore is Lebanon - the mountains of Lebanon. He went to his palace there, and that’s the Canaanite equivalent of Mount Olympus in Greece. Then, he left the universe to his son to rule. Actually, he left it to his children who fought it out amongst themselves, and his son Baal, the Lord, he won the battle. You have to imagine, if you’re Abraham and this guy Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, comes to you and blesses you by Most High God Creator of heaven and earth, you have to be thinking, “He’s a righteous guy.” But what does everybody else understand when they’re hearing the phrase “Most High God, El elyon, Creator of heaven and earth?” They’re thinking of the Canaanite, the father of Baal. That’s why when Abraham responds to him, especially when he’s speaking to the king of Sodom, who is a complete idolater, he said, “I lift my hand to Yehovah, the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth.” He has no problem with that phrase, “the Most High God, creator of heaven and earth,” that legitimately describes our God. Let’s just say His name because the king of Sodom, he might understand something else if we don’t specify who we’re talking about. I think that’s a very important lesson.

Jono: He’s qualified who it is that he’s acknowledging that they’re talking about.

Nehemia: Exactly. When you’re speaking to a brother who has the same beliefs as you, there’s no problem, you can say “God,” you can use vague language, I guess. But when you’re speaking to somebody who is a known idolater, it’s very useful to use the actual name and cut through the ambiguity. Because when you say “God” to an Indian, to a Hindu, or to a Buddhist - who do they mean? Who knows? If you specify, “Yehovah God,” then we know we’re talking about the same God.

Keith: Amen! In just those few chapters, Abram went from wherever he came from and after hearing from the voice of the One who has a name that is unique and is an explicit name, by the time he gets to 15, he’s evangelizing.

Nehemia: Well, he knows about idolatry because he came from it.

Keith: Of course he did. Yes.

Nehemia: He knows if you don’t specify to the idolater who we’re talking about, then they’re going to be thinking it’s the father of the Lord, of Baal.

Keith: I simply want to give Abram a stripe from the School of Evangelism of the Methodist church, John Wesley an evangelist. He’s an evangelist here because he is evangelizing by proclaiming the name of the Creator of the universe. Yud-hei-vav-hei four letters with his name as we find it Yehovah and he says, “Yehovah, El elyon.” I mean it’s like, wow, that’s a pretty powerful thing that’s happening with Abram there, the great evangelist.

Jono: Amen. It moves on into chapter 15, and Yehovah says to Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” I mean what great words are those, “Exceedingly great reward.”

Nehemia: Here in verse one, we have what I love in the Hebrew that you miss completely in the English, is that there is one of these word puns, a word connection. He says to Abraham, “I am your shield.” The word is “Magen.” Earlier, a few verses earlier when Melchizedek blessed Abraham, he said, “Blessed is he by the Most High God who delivers your enemies into your hands.” The word there is “Migen.” Migen, Magen, it’s actually from the same root. Migen there in verse 20 literally means, “he gives over your enemy’s shield into your hands.” So the enemy comes at you with the shield holding it up to block your sword, and God gives over your enemy’s shield into your hands. That’s a word connection. That was because they were hearing the Torah orally and this helped them string together the passages in their minds. After Migen, we know the next passage opens with Magen.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: That’s brilliant. Abram has this sort of... He’s wondering how is it that I’m going to... I don’t even have a descendant. I don’t have an heir to my throne. Maybe what he’s talking about is Eliezer of Damascus, my head servant, if you like. Maybe that’s who it’s going to be. And Yehovah says, “No, it will come from your body. It will be your own seed, and so shall your descendants be.” It gets interesting in verses 6 through 8. Let me, if I may read that. “And he,” this is Abram, “believed in Yehovah, and he accounted it to him for righteousness.” Now, first of all, before I go on, Nehemia, how do you understand that “He believed in Yehovah, and he accounted it to him for righteousness”?

Nehemia: Well, we see what it meant. It meant that God said, “Go to the land I will show you,” and he followed. God told him to walk through the land and he walked through the land.

Jono: He did it. It seems like there’s no doubt in his mind.

Nehemia: Well, when you say believe in Hebrew, the word “emunah,” “leha’amin,” that doesn’t just mean intellectually, it means through your actions. You show through your actions that you believe. Because if you say you believe in something and don’t actually follow it up, then you don’t, in a Hebrew sense, believe in it. Hebrew is a very action-oriented language. Belief is expressed through action.

Jono: It goes on, “Then He,” Yehovah, “said to him, ‘I am Yehovah, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit it.’” Then verse 8 says this, “And he said, ‘Yehovah Elohim,’” in fact, what are the words in the Hebrew there?

Nehemia: It says “Adonai Yehovah,” which means “Lord Yehovah.”

Jono: Lord Yehovah.

Nehemia: Lord Yehovah.

Jono: “How shall I know that I will inherit it?” Are we to understand that as just a little bit of doubt or confusion in his mind? Is that what verse 8 is alluding to?

Nehemia: Well, I don’t know if it’s so much doubt as it is God’s telling him something that he’s basically saying, “I must not understand what You’re saying because when You speak of inheritance, that means I’m going to pass it on to a son, and I don’t have a son.” I guess you could call it doubt.

Jono: It’s just such an incredible miracle that he’s having trouble wrapping his brain around it.

Nehemia: It’s bewilderment. It’s “what you’re saying doesn’t compute.” It does not compute. He asked for this sign and the sign is this covenant they make between the pieces. But yes, it doesn’t make sense. You’re saying I’m going to inherit it, but I don’t have a son. In what sense, am I going to inherit it? Do You mean symbolically?

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: How am I going to actually pass it on to a son if there’s no son?

Jono: He’s not getting any younger.

Nehemia: Right. It’s interesting what you’re saying, that you have in verse 6 you have the belief, and then in verse 8 you have the doubt, if you want to call it that.

Keith: I have a Torah Pearl here.

Jono: Keith?

Keith: Di, di, di, di, di, Torah Pearl. Sometimes people make fun, this whole idea, and they say, “Well, can I get an amen?” Then there’s an amen. Yehovah is saying to Abraham, “Hey, can I get an amen?” And Abraham says, “Amen. Yes, I trust, I believe.” In verse 6, the root of the word there is the word, “Amen,” amen. It’s like this whole idea, and we’ve talked about this before, the idea that trusting isn’t simply trusting just in your mind, trusting and believing and saying…

We had this great conversation, Nehemia and I, about three or four years ago. I was on the phone. It was myself, and Nehemia and a lady. She was doing an interview with us. In my tradition, if you say “amen”, sometimes that’s just... you just say amen, and sometimes you say amen so people will stop talking. Nehemia asked me after we got off the phone, he said, “Keith, why did you say amen?” I said, “Because I wanted her to stop talking.” He said, “But when you say amen, you’re saying not only yes but I believe, I trust.” It’s funny because in Abraham, what he’s saying in verse 6, the first word he’s saying, what is the root of the word that he believed, Nehemia? What is the Hebrew word of the root of the word of his belief in verse 6?

Nehemia: What is the root? Aleph-Mem-Nun. Amen, which is “emunah,” which is “truth.” Amen comes from the word truth and also “emunah” is faith and trust, or really faithfulness.

Keith: In other words, what... It’s literally... I guess we get this picture, you guys, just bear with me for a second. Let me just be the Methodist for a second. It’s like the Father is speaking to him and he’s saying, “I’m doing this and I’m going to do this and that. This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to take you. You’re going to be able to count. You’re going to be able to do this. Can I get an amen?” Abraham said, “Okay, amen. I trust. I believe.” Then at that amen, that he trusted and he believed, the action was what was the credit to him. So this word is a very powerful word and it’s a word that is spoken in every language on earth. Everyone says amen. But we don’t always know what it means. Anyway, that’s my little point.

Nehemia: What I think is profound here in verse 8 is he has the faith, he has the faithfulness and the obedience. He shows his faith through his actions in verse 6. Then verse 8, he says, “But I don’t understand. I don’t know.”

Keith: Exactly!

Nehemia: He has that faith and trust even though he doesn’t understand. He’s asking for understanding but he doesn’t quite... He says, “Okay. Something’s not adding up here.”

Jono: Clearly, his amen, if you like, is a sincere one because it is accounted to him for righteousness. But what you’re communicating with me, and I think I agree, is that he’s just saying, “But how is it going to happen? How are you going to do it? This is mind-blowing.”

Here we are, Keith. This is where you wanted to go a little earlier, where here - this is the covenant. This is the cutting of the pieces and everything that goes on here. I have to admit, there’s a lot here that I don’t understand. Do you want to try to shed some light on some of this?

Keith: Well, I wouldn’t say that I have any more understanding than you, my friend. All I know is that it’s a pretty powerful picture, that He gives him this promise. He says, “Here’s what I’m going to do.” Abram says, “Amen, amen.” He trusts and he believes, and then he’s got questions and he got concerns. Then the Father does this sort of demonstration and He says, “Here’s going to be the way that I’m going to let you know. This is going to be the covenant process that is going to give the picture of the fact that this is going to happen.” It’s almost like the Father is saying, “Okay...” it’s almost like this, it’s like there’s a picture of this covenant and He gives him this in verse 15 in chapter 15. Again, there’s so much that’s in here and there may be obviously some historical things and archaeological things. But I just think it’s so amazing that he doesn’t just say to him, “I’m going to do this.” And Abraham says, “I believe,” and then Abraham says, “I’ve got questions” and then he leads it to him. He goes further and he says to him, “How can I know?” The first thing he says in verse 9, He says, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Now, do we think that Abraham knew what was coming, or do we think he simply was acting in obedience? Is this something that he would have had some experience with? Would he have a sense of, “Oh, here it comes”? There’s about to be something. Or is this something completely foreign?

Jono: I’ve asked myself the same question. Is this a familiar thing here that is happening by which Abraham is saying, “Oh, right, okay, I see where we’re going with this. We’re going to enter into covenant...”

Keith: That’s what I would like to know.

Jono: “I’ll go and get these animals and let’s get on with it.” There’s some graphic and almost dark imagery. Nehemia, what can you shed on this?

Nehemia: Well, one thing to point out is that this whole thing of cutting the animals in half and walking between the pieces, that’s something that’s mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 34 verses 18 to 19. It talks about how the people of Jeremiah’s time had made a covenant between the pieces, as well. So, is that something just known in the ancient world or were they emulating what was done in the time of Abraham? I would think they probably were emulating what was done in the time of Abraham. But I think the significance of cutting into two pieces is that the Hebrew word for making a covenant is to cut a covenant.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: You see in Jeremiah 34:18 and 19, that cutting the covenant there literally means cutting the animals in half and walking between the pieces that you’ve cut. I guess the significance of that is there’s a finality there. If you cut the animal in half, you can’t put them back together, and that maybe symbolizes the permanence of a covenant. There is this really interesting image in verse 11, where he cuts the pieces in half and he’s ready to get the vision. The vision comes in verse 12, and that’s really how he knows, he has this vision. But in verse 11, before he gets his vision, it says, “And the vultures descended upon the corpses and he drove them away.” Abram drove them away.

Keith: Come on, brother. Come on.

Nehemia: Doesn’t that happen? When you’re about to have the experience with God, that’s when the vultures swoop in. They want to swoop in upon the people, swoop in upon the pieces.

Keith: Some people could say, “Oh, that’s okay. It’ll be fine. It’s all right. I won’t respond.” But what does Abraham do? He doggone drives them away. Nehemia, if you don’t preach to this, I’m going to hit you over the head.

Nehemia: I think it preaches itself.

Keith: Torah Pearl! Torah Pearl! Because look at the image, I mean the image is - yes, he’s about to get this promise. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He believes. God said, “Give me the animals.” He does the work. He cuts them in pieces. He does everything. The vultures come and Abraham could have sat there and said, “God will handle it.” No, he drove them away. That’s why I don’t mind having a good fight every once in a while.

Jono: Amen. And so, now in verse 12, “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.” Horror and great darkness.

Keith: Is this not a foreshadow? Is this not a sentence, is this not a verse of foreshadowing. It’s almost like he experiences it, and then the Father says right there, Yehovah says, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own.” He could have left it there, but then He goes on to say, “And they shall be enslaved.” He could have left it there, but He said, “And they shall be mistreated,” and He could have left it there, but then He ends with three simple little words, “four hundred years,” there’s an end to it. It’s like, wow. I mean in two verses, he gives Abraham the feeling of what’s happening for his descendants, and even in that, at the end of it, there’s going to be an end to it. It’s amazing that 400 years exactly, which we’ll talk about later, they’re released. But I just think that’s been a cool couple of verses.

Jono: It’s incredible. And after, “when the sun went down,” I’m in verse 17, “and it was dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch,” the imagery of this whole section is incredible, “that passed between those pieces.” Nehemia, what do you make that?

Keith: Give us a sermon, Nehemiah. Give us a sermon from that book.

Nehemia: I don’t know that I have a sermon for it. But yes, the passing between the pieces, that Abraham had passed between the pieces. Then this is now this oven and fire, I guess representing Yehovah, His angel or whatever, now passing between the pieces. Both needed to pass between the pieces. This is the completion of the covenant when these symbols passed between the pieces.

Jono: Is there a significance, and I’m just pulling this out of thin air, but do you think perhaps there’s a significance between the burning bush and the burning torch? I mean is there any sort of significance to this in particular?

Nehemia: Well, I guess you could say that, “And the mountain burned with fire,” and it says, “Yehovah is a consuming fire.” But I wouldn’t press that too far. Those are definitely symbols that are used for us to understand, to somehow comprehend Yehovah. But I wouldn’t say that’s he’s literally a fire. I hope that’s obvious to everybody - that he’s not literally a fire. But definitely, fire has been used to represent Him to be something that we can connect with and somehow... because there’s an awesomeness to fire, if you think about it, there’s both awe and terror at the same time. I think that’s why these are symbols that are used to represent Yehovah. On the one hand we have this respect, on the other hand with that respect comes fear. It should, anyway.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Yes. Absolutely. But in the remaining minutes, we have to go to chapter 17, because looking at all the Scriptural evidence in the Tanakh, I concluded that even though when my boys were born - I have an eight-year-old and the six-year-old boy - when they were born in the religion that I was in at the time, I didn’t even see a significance in circumcision. We chose not to do that. But in the episodes that we did some months ago, and really studying it out, I came to the conclusion that, yes, of course, they should be circumcised. And so, we went about to have that done, and both of them are so very proud that they are circumcised now. It’s wonderful. And here we are.

Keith: No. Here you guys are going to go again, you’re cutting the pieces, you’re doing these – Look, this is very uncomfortable for me.

Jono: This is where all the guys start to cross their legs and go, “Ay.” But here we are in Chapter 17. It is the sign of the covenant. We were talking about the sign of the covenant, in the previous Torah portion, of being the rainbow. But here it is, and it is the circumcision. And it doesn’t seem, again...

Nehemia: Doesn’t it say that that’s only a temporary covenant sign? Isn’t the word “temporary” there, the Hebrew word for temporary?

Keith: Nehemia, why would you say that? Of course, it’s written.

Nehemia: No, but you mean it says that’s for all generations there?

Jono: I’m pretty sure that’s for all generations.

Nehemia: Can you read that passage for the people, where it says, “for all generations”?

Jono: Okay. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old,” mind you, “Yehovah appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God. Walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’ Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham.’” Now, before I go on, do you want to just quickly give us the significance of that in Hebrew?

Nehemia: Avraham is the Hebrew name Abraham, and it represents “av hamon goyim,” Father of many nations.

Jono: Father of many nations. “For I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you, and I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. I will also give you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you.” This is, obviously, verse 10, “Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who was bought with money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of the foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

Nehemia: What I find interesting is, there are two categories of people here that need to be circumcised. One is Abraham and his literal, physical descendants, and in addition it’s anyone who is part of his household. It says even if he’s a foreigner who is part of Abraham’s household, that’s become part of that house, he also has to be circumcised. That’s in verse 12. There’s this really interesting passage I want to bring - it’s a little controversial, but I’ll bring it anyway. Jeremiah chapter 9 verses 24 to 25. I’m going to ask Keith to open up his NIV, the Nearly Inspired Version, and read Jeremiah in 9:24 to 25. Oh, I’m sorry in Hebrew, it’s 24 to 25, in English it’s 25 to 26.

Keith: 25 to 26. “The days are coming,” declares Yehovah,” it doesn’t say Yehovah, it says, “LORD,” but they capitalized it, so that’s good. “When I will punish all those who are circumcised only in the flesh— Egypt...”

Nehemia: Oh. Go on. Keep going.

Keith: “Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places, for all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.”

Nehemia: Okay. So that’s the NIV, and it doesn’t actually say that in the Hebrew. Let’s look at the King James version. Do you have that one, Jono?

Jono: I’ve got the New King James. Give me the reference, again.

Nehemia: It’s Jeremiah 9, in the English, it’s 25 to 26.

Jono: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says Yehovah,” it says “the LORD”, “‘that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised.’”

Nehemia: Let me stop you there. So in the NIV, it was, “I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh.” In the New King James, it’s, “I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised.” Two profoundly different translations. That should always be a red flag for people that something’s going on here.

Jono: Oh yeah.

Keith: Torah Pearl! Torah Pearl!

Nehemia: They’re dancing around and they don’t want to actually translate what it really says, so they’re coming up with all these little clever translations. Let me just pluck out another one, let’s see, the New Revised Standard has, “when I will attend to all those who are circumcised only in the foreskin.” Well, here’s what it literally says in verse 24. It says, “‘Behold, days are coming,’ says Yehovah. ‘I will remember,’” and “remember," there is a word that often means to punish. “I will remember every circumcised with foreskin.” This is the problem. That doesn’t actually make sense. What is a circumcised person with a foreskin? Circumcised people don’t have foreskins. He explains in verse 25, “Egypt and Judah and Edom and the children of Ammon and Moav and all those who have the cut sides who dwell in the desert, for all the nations are uncircumcised and the house of Israel is uncircumcised of heart.”

What He’s saying here in verse 24 and verse 25, or in the English, it’s 25 and 26, what He’s saying is that He’s going to punish all those who are circumcised but still have a foreskin. What does that mean? That’s a paradox - they don’t know how to translate that because it’s a contradiction. It’s an oxymoron. But He explains - there are two types of circumcision. There’s physical circumcision and there’s heart circumcision. Anyone who’s circumcised but still has the foreskin is going to be punished. If you’re circumcised of the flesh but not in the heart, you’re going to get the punishment. If you’re circumcised in the heart, but not in the flesh you’re also on that list.

Keith: Wait a minute.

Nehemia: That’s Jeremiah. I didn’t say it.

Keith: We’ve got to end this thing, Jono. Nehemia, you’re saying that in Jeremiah, that the English translators had a problem? Did they know what it said? Or did they simply not understand it?

Nehemia: They probably read it and said, “Well, we know that’s not true. So let’s translate something different.”

Keith: Oh, boy. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

Nehemia: But it’s very clear what it says. It says, “every circumcised with foreskin,” is what it literally says.

Jono: That is fascinating, because obviously the concept, the idea of the circumcision of the heart is a Tanakh concept.

Nehemia: Oh, absolutely.

Jono: Which is mentioned numerous, numerous times throughout the Tanakh. I know that a lot of people from the religious background that I had, think that that’s a New Testament concept, but it’s absolutely not. It originates in the Tanakh and is mentioned in various places. What you’re saying is that not only is it those who may be circumcised in the flesh but not circumcised of heart, they’re in trouble, but it’s also those who claim to be circumcised of heart but aren’t even actually circumcised in the flesh, they’re also equally in trouble.

Nehemia: That’s what Jeremiah said. Now, if you have a problem with it, you could take it up with him. We could say, “Well, it can’t really mean that because we know theologically it’s not what it’s supposed to say.” All right, it’s still what it says in the Hebrew.

Jono: That is fascinating.

Keith: Torah Pearl! Torah Pearl!

Jono: There you go, Keith.

Keith: That’s why I’m saying that was a Torah Pearl, boom!

Nehemia: I could also refer people to Ezekiel 44:7-9, and I’ll let them read that for themselves, because I don’t know how the NIV could possibly get out of that one.

Jono: Okay. Ezekiel 44:7-9 is the other reference for people to do some homework on. We would love to read comments from listeners on that. But we’re running out of time, my friends. Keith, is there anything else you want to pull out of this Torah portion?

Keith: All I have to say is amen.

Jono: Amen. Nehemia?

Nehemia: I’ll say halleluyah.

Jono: Halleluyah, my friends. Thank you so much for coming back on and sharing with us this Torah portion. Of course, next week is going to be Bereshit chapters 18 to 22. In the meantime, listeners, be blessed, be set apart by the truth of the Father’s word. Shalom.

You have been listening to The Original Torah Pearls with Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson and Jono Vandor. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

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42 thoughts on “Torah Pearls #3 – Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

  1. with many interest I have heard Lech Lecha. I have been searching 1. Mose 14,20 in different translations and found in the Schlachter 2000 really not: Abraham gave to…. The name of (Abraham) only like this. But my question, the 10th of WHAT has given Melchisedek to Abraham.

  2. Seems evident from the 40 wilderness years without circumcision that it is just not that urgent in the flesh. Yah will deal with it when the time comes. Ez44:7-9 seems a bit ambiguous, is the “waw” to communicate “or”, or “and”?

  3. I’ve always wondered what the reason or the significance for the covenant to be made using the flesh of the foreskin. Can someone offer some explanation or insight please?

  4. My comments… The Stone Edition and, the Koren Jerusalem Bible do not have any level of recognition!
    More likely because they are not as much known and/or recognized?
    Quite the shame.

  5. Both the book of Hebrews and Rashy who is the canonical commentator of the Jews, agree that Melchizedek received the tithe from Abraham, not the other way around. It is good to remember that Adam is before Abram, and the Gentiles before the Jews.

  6. Nehemia, you stated that Abraham had passed between the pieces before Yehovah did. Can you tell me where the Scripture tells of Abraham walking through the pieces? Do you mean while he was chasing away the vultures? This is important to me because I had understood that only Yehovah had taken on the consequences of a broken covenant. In other words, if Abraham breaks this covenant, it is Yehovah who pays the penalty out of His great love for Abraham (and his seed in him). I am looking only for truth (not to back up any preconceived notion). Thanks for all your help. I appreciate your scholarship as well as your sense of humor, thoughtfulness and faithfulness to our God.

  7. To anyone/everyone, if Melchizedek was giving a tithe to Abram, then 1) what was his motivation, and 2) what/whose property was he giving?

    We have no indication that Melchizedek was one of the ones who had been looted by Chedorlaomer, or I should say I see no such indication. Since neither he or Salem was not listed among the victims, it seems more likely that he was not a combatant at all but was a host on Abram’s route home.

    By the way, we tend to assume that the king of Sodom was present with Abram and Melchizedek and that the blessing and the giftings were all one event, but the scripture doesn’t actually say that.

    If Melchizedek was in fact one of the looted, then I could see him giving Abram 10% as a reward. If he was NOT one of the looted, then he would be giving away property that either belonged to those originally looted OR belonged to Abram (as the victor in battle). Neither makes any sense to me.

    On the other hand, if Abram is giving away a 10th, then we should ask the same question: whose stuff is Abram giving away?

    The only thing that seems to fit here is that all the people and property now belonged to Abram as spoils of war. Melchizedek offers hospitality to Abram on his return, blessing both God and Abram. Abram, in a customary “honor swap”, gives Melchizedek a tenth of everything he has brought back since it is by custom his (Abram’s) to do with as he pleases. Then when Abram encounters the looted kings and the king of Sodom offers to give Abram all the goods, Abram tells him off and returns it all except the 1/10th that has already been given away (to Melchizedek).

    • As I read this it sure seems like this was a meeting between the king of Sodom and Melchizedek the king of kings and Salem.

      Why do I say the king of kings. Nimrod did it that way. He had seven kings each over nine kings and they had their own kingdom making a total of ten kingdoms each. Obviously this is not from the Bible.

      What is from the Old Testament is Melchizedek praised El Elyon. Abram praised Yehovah as the El Elyon. Nimrod demanded he be called El Elyon or the most high God. So it is not at all unlikely that is whom he he praised Abram in the name of. Abram was clear Yehovah is my God not Nimrod or whomever Melchizedek was blessing through.

      Later Abram left this area. it seems clear to me Abram wanted nothing to do with Melchizedek. He kept nothing he had won in war. Seems clear to me that this is what was going on. As king of kings this was all Melchizedeks. The King of Sodom offered Abram all the goods but none of the slaves. Remember slaves were part of that 10%. Tithing meaning giving slaves? There is no indication Abram brought with him from his possessions 10%.

      Most versions of the Old Testament get this translated very poorly if not just plain selling their religious beliefs through the disguise of translation. Some add Abram to the verse on the 10% offer. It is not in the Hebrew. There is no valid excuse for doing this. The Hebrew is quite clear this was an offer to keep 10% of both the goods and the slaves.

      Regardless the Bible is not perfect. Many read the same verses and see them quite differently. You have the right to believe it says what you chaim. I have the right to see it how I see it.

    • Neville Newman’s comment makes sense also, especially since it is believed that Shem, Son of Noah, was still alive, and was Melchizedek.But that would be a problem for those ho claim that Abraham was he first one to know/realize that Yehovah is the One and only God, Creator of heaven and earth–the first Jew, as they say.

      • It would. Furthermore there is absolutely nothing to support Shem being Melchizedek. Wrong name and the assumption that the name itself is meaningful is simply ridiculous. Many very evil people in the Old Testament have names praising Yehovah. A parent just names the child. Parents are not generally prophets.

  8. Circumcision may have some flexibility, in every time. As we read, Abraham was called while uncircumcised in the flesh, and none were circumcised during the 40 year wilderness sojourn. All evidence indicates a contrite and obedient (circumcised) heart is most important in all times. There will come a time when the flesh will be dealt with by Yah himself, for those for whom it has not been done by the regular mohel. It seems interesting how secular circumcision came so into fashion after WW2. Did Yah think too many Jews had died, and more circumcised people were needed now? I was born 1950, and Doc White figured I needed it done, parents were not informed, and were surprised after the fact. I’m not complaining, its fine with me.

  9. When you had us read Jeremiah 9: 24-25 it reads pretty similar in both the JPS Tanakh and the NIV. Is there a better Hebrew to English translation for the Tanakh than JPS? Thanks

  10. I heard that Abram knew Shem, or as a descendant wouldn’t he have known at least about Yehovah? I think it would be possible he had a relationship with the true God in order to be able to respond, which would still take faith. Just thinking.
    Darlene

  11. Stone Chumash pg 53, chart of chronological line Adam to Jacob, shows everyone was alive at some point in Abraham’s life from Noah thru Abraham; so perhaps Abraham heard of One God; through one of his ancestors, and like the Israelites,in Eqypt God pulled Abraham out before he was totally assimilated into the pagan lifestyles.

  12. About minute 33, I could almost here my old Eng. Lit. teacher,”The Old English and Middle English speaker knew full well that ‘what you’re believing is how you be living’.” Additionally, she pointed out Old German; Leiben und Bleiben means Living and Believing…. if memory serves… Regarding Abram asking ‘how’ will he inherit the land, seems he wanted or needed some clarification so as not to cling to some erroneous image in his own mind. And of course, he got an answer. Thanks again – always a blessing!

  13. Awesome . All glory be to Yehovah .

    In Genesis chapter 15 : 1 – it says Abraham had a vision and does the vision end in verse 6 or does it extend up to verse 21 of the same chapter .

  14. This episode has put me in a situation that I have being crying a lot. The book of Hebrew a allegory!! The same that teachers say about the book of Job. Melquisedec give the 10th to Avraham. Definitely I will put all my heart to learn Hebrew and I am going to get the Bible that Yeshua used… Nehemiah thank you so much for this Torah pearls..

  15. Howdy! Grammar question. In Gen 15:2, the vowel pointers for YHVH are different. The yod has a chataph-seghol instead of a sheva and the vav has a hiriq instead of a qamats. It occurs in other cases when the translation is “Lord GOD”, but not in all cases. What is the reason for this? Is there a secret meaning? 🙂 Thanks!

  16. Sarahi, was not a “hot” looking wife. Her beauty was in her purity, and holiness, not your American braven reaction to your hot western male harmone reation; which is animalistic. nature. The circusision is an issue of blood indexing, all Abran’s seed Holy to YeHovah (seed belongs to HIM for His purpose) that’s why is unlawful to pour seed onto the ground, and why mikveh wss needed for noctornal emmision. Abraham’s life was more imortant than “just his life” he wss called to be a Father of nations; if he dies what happens then? If Sarah was not returned he could lawfully get another wife or mother of his seed.
    Also, there is a cultural understanding about sister-wife, that we don’t have as yet. It appears in Song of Solomon, my sister my bride.I thnk we may find out Abraham did not lie; we need to be careful when we are dealing with ancient customs.

    Appreciate your sharing with us, Nehemiah, I realize it comes as a great price, sometimes loss of family or friends, ridicule and persecution. I agree greek form of debate is not concerned with truth, but who is the best orator, which is the language of politics.truth is like gold it takes time, digging, sifting, melting, refereeing.

    Appreciate your friendship with Keith, which allows us to be your friend also.

    Correct about when using the term G-d. Yes, Abraham would have understood the significance of “cutting covenant” it is we who are ignorant of his culture not him. Animals cut in half, both parties usually walk between the pieces. Which means if either person violate the covenant ‘may he be cut to pieces as well. G-d’s mercy put abrahm to sleep, so Yehovan goes between the piences, meaning He’ll be responsible for both parts of the covenant. He’ll bring it about.

  17. How could a “tithe” be given to Abraham when the very concept of a tithe was for the priest? At least that is the only tithe that is actually given over. Other tithe(s) was consumed with everyone.

    Wouldn’t that be the reason the writer of Hebrews assigns the giver as Abraham and the receiver as the priest since the tithe concept itself is that the tithe is given to the priest?

    • Tithes were given to the Levites, not the Kohanim (Aaronic Priests), although the Levites did give a tithe of a tithe (1%) to the Aaronic Kohanim. Of course, there were neither Levites nor Aaronic Priests in the time of Abram.

      • Nehemia, tithe is such a hot topic. I have read where the 10th between Av and Mel was in fact not a traditional “tithe” which was only on agricultural products. Since it was cut from spoils of war, a different set of rules applied. So it was a voluntary and perhaps expedient exchange, but did not really fit into a “torath yhwh” mandate concept.

      • Like you said, there were no Levites (levitical system to receive tithes) until Sinai when the sin happened that began the whole levitical system. Therefore, since the Priests received the tithe (Priests were before Aaron’s line and Priests rec’d tithes) how does it make sense that Abraham would be receiving a tithe? The whole point of the tithe is that it is to those who don’t own land. Melchizedek is such a strange figure that we don’t know anything about him and who YHVH intended him to be or hinted at in the text. All we are told is that this particular person was described as a “priest forever.” That is nothing like an Aaronic priest who is not forever.

        • Melchizedek was the red flag for me that Christianity is highly flawed.

          We do know from the Sumerian Tablets about Nimrod. 70 Kings 7 were Kings of Kings each had their own kingdom and each had nine Kings under them. Nimrod was over them all. Nimrod was the name given to each new Babylonian King. So Nimrod the second and on and on.

          Melchizedek had to serve Nimrod who proclaimed himself the Most High God, El Elyon in Hebrew. Melchizedek blessed Abram in the name of El Elyon and Abram did not like that at all. Instead of accepting that praise Abram said Yehovah is the real El Elyon. I lift my arm to Yehovah as El Elyon. I will not take the 10% (not tithes) you ofer, not even a shoelace from you. If I took anything you would falsely claim that you made me rich.

  18. I love all of your teachings here. I’ve been looking at the topic of ‘Covenant’ this past year and would really appreciate you doing a more exhaustive teaching on Covenant in the Torah. Specifically I would like your opinion on the parallel with the Suzerain-Vassal covenant and the Mosaic covenant. After looking at this, I can’t help but to see ‘covenant language all through out the Torah. This also provoked me to looking at the Messiah relationship with Yehovah, and the ‘power of attorney’ that is given to Messiah. (yes i know power of attorney is not in the Scripture, but all the evidences of it are present). Any comment on this would be much appreciated, as well as any recommended references. Shalom Nehemia….daniel sevilla

  19. It’s amazing! Every time I listen to one of your episodes of “Pearls” I learn new information (Torah and/or Prophets). I use NKJV, NRSV, and JPS, but it takes hearing Nehemia give the true meanings from the Hebrew to really make it clear! What a gift! Thank you, Nehemia!

  20. Can’t get the idea of Melchizedek giving Abraham a 10th. And what this means to Or applies to Messiah and to us. Is there something there as or possibly a transfer of position given to Abraham as Melchizedek blessed him and gave him a 10th.

    • This was after Abraham rescued Lot defeating five kings in the process. He took many slaves and much loot.

      The remaining kings met with Abraham on how to deal with this new force. They were probably afraid Abraham would become a greater threat. They thus sat down to eat and decide what to do.

      Genesis 14:17-22 KJV  And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.  18  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest (cohen or ruler) of the most high God(El Elyon).  

      (So we see that king Melchizedek brought forth wine and bread. The meal for the event. I will add the Hebrew for God as it is less than clear in the English)
      19  And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God(El Elyon), possessor of heaven and earth:  20  And blessed be the most high God(El Elyon), which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.  
      (Remember they met to decide what to do. This was Melchizedeks turn to speak. He blessed Abraham in the name of his God El Elyon (not kjv LORD (Yahovah)). He then offered Abraham could keep a tenth of all. A tenth of the slaves and goods taken. The word Abraham is not there and it says he gave not received.)

      21  And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.  

      (So now Sodom did not want Abraham to receive any of the slaves. So he offered Abraham all the goods but none of the slaves. Countering Melchizedeks offer.)

      22  And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD (Yahovah), the most high God(El Elyon), the possessor of heaven and earth,

      The first thing Abraham does is correct Melchizedek. He does not want the blessings of any El Elyon just Yahovah El Elyon. The true God not the god of Melchizedek. The Hebrew is clear. Abraham said I lift my hand to Yahovah. He is clearly saying he worships Yahovah as the Most High. Not a generic Most High.

      Also Cohen can mean priest. It also means rulers. A King is a ruler so all are Cohen (meaning rulers not priest). They translate the word wrong it should not say priest it should say ruler.

      If you want to believe the Book of Jasher supports what you say here. The Old Testament, in the Hebrew, does not. Psalms 110 is the same. David was a ruler after the order of Melchizedek. He ruled over the same land Melchizedek ruled over. Lorc meant master. LORD is God.

      I will correct it

      Psalms 110:1 KJV  A Psalm of David. Yahovah said unto the king, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
      Psalms 110:4 KJV  Yahovah hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a king for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

      El Elyon is only used 43 times in the Old Testament. Most of the verses make clear it is Yahovah. These in Genesis make it clear it is not. We also have this about the King of Babylon Nimrod. I know again the KJV confuses.

      Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV  How art thou fallen from heaven (from what you were not heaven), O Lucifer(no king of Babylon) , son of the morning!(the first great king) how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  13  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:  14  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High(elyon).

      Nimrod fashioned himself a god. El Elyon. The God Melchizedek served. He was the king of all nations and cut down. Killed by Abraham according to the book of Jasher (false book). Most likely though recorded in many stories known when Jasher was written.

      This is what the Hebrew says. The question I suppose is is the Hebrew correct in this case. Hard to believe there are no errors in the Old Testament. Feel free to check it out. Download e-sword or my sword (android). Both are free. They will let you see the Hebrew and what the words can mean. Be careful. It is not as easy as these make it seem. Also Strongs is biased toward the New Testament. Not honest in just saying what the Hebrew means. BDB is a bit better, more likely to give the true meaning as well as the biased meaning.

      Nehemiah has 25,000 followers. He is unlikely to answer. Hope this helps. I try to not shake faith. I am a Karaite Jew but from Christianity. I see faith as a good thing regardless of whether you believe in Jesus or not. A good thing. May you be blessed by our God.

      • Hi Steve,

        you seem to be quite literate and to have a sound reasoning. Me, I also research as much as possible, but I acknowledge that it will still take many years to at least partly understand some of the secrets in scripture. There is only one thing 100% clear to me: In order to live a righteous life and to reach a high spiritual level, one definitely has to follow God´s laws and teachings – genuinely and with a pure heart. Not out of religious motives and traditions, like most conservative jews do (not to mention any form of Christians with their paganized pseudo monotheistic belief that perverts the actual teachings of the great prophet Yeshua) , without acknowledging the true essence of Jah´s teachings, as they lay the foundation to a harmonic life with God, the people and nature (which constitutes the actual teaching of Yeshua).
        Or as Solomon puts it at the end of the deeply philosophical Ecclesiastes: 12; 13-14: “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

        Anyways, enough of reporting about my background. This is my actual request. Maybe you are able to help me out with this one (or anyone else who feels encouraged to reply): Today, I came across the following passage: Judges 11; 29-40. The passage is very confusing to me, as it mentions a human sacrifice to God as part of a vow. The vow was taken by Jiftach in exchange for the defeat of the sons of Ammos. Perhaps the passage is ought to emphasize the importance of paying a vow to God, no matter the price? I would really like to hear your thoughts towards this issue.
        Take care and be blessed. Greetings from Germany

        • Jdg 11:29 And the Spirit of יהוה came upon Yiphtaḥ, and he passed through Gilʽaḏ and Menashsheh, and passed through Mitspeh of Gilʽaḏ. And from Mitspeh of Gilʽaḏ he passed on toward the children of Ammon. 30 And Yiphtaḥ made a vow to יהוה, and said, “If You give the children of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall belong to יהוה, and I shall offer it up as a burnt offering.”

          Pay attention to what is being said. He does not ask Yahovah what he should do he simply makes a vow to follow his pagan beliefs. Human sacrifice. Only humans would come out of his house after all.

          Throughout the Bible God acted for pagans. Cyrus was anointed of Yahovah. Ba’al worshipers are still loved by Yahovah. He does not force them to leave evil. He actually helps them in many cases. He does what he can to get them to do good. But evil is in their hearts. Thus they do evil.

          The people of Israel would not properly follow God. Thus God acted through the people who would at least do some of what needed done.

          I hope that helps. This concept of God controlling all evil is a difficult one for many. Remember God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Allows his magicians to do many miracles.

          Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The Scriptures 1998+ 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the entire matter: Fear Elohim and guard His commands, for this applies to all mankind! 14 For Elohim shall bring every work into right-ruling, including all that is hidden, whether good or whether evil.

          Sad how some versions insert doctrine rather than translate. Yes Yahovah will make all things right in the end. Peace on all the earth. Lamb and lion shall lie down together with no ire.

          I assume you are referring to the humane gospels or some such. Jews for Judaism is a good source as well to understand the Jewish mindset. Perhaps Yeshua was a great prophet. But Noah sacrificed animals and because of it no more flood is ever to come. God creates all life. If he has us end it that is God’s choice. In the end God will create a new plant and all will cease eating meat. Also for now animal sacrifice would be a sin. Not when God comes to earth. Ezekiel is clear animal sacrifice will return with the third Temple.

          I pray this helps you in your journey. If it is working for you continue.

  21. Shalom Nehemiah! Yesterday our study group had a discussion over Genesis 14:20. Could you please help us determine who gave who the tenth? Jenny in Michigan

  22. Nehemia, you referenced Joshua 24:2 regarding the alter but I was reminded of something a friend showed be awhile ago. Both Joshua 24 and Psalm 78 give a detailed history of the Jewish people including being slaves in Egypt, the plagues, crossing the sea, manna, water, etc…But both omit Har Sinai and the 10 Commandments. My friend’s point was this serious omission shows that the story of Mt Sinai had not yet been written and was not part of our narrative until much later in history, that the Torah was clearly written by man, not the word of God or God inspired. My question is why do you think those two chapters omitted the giving of the 10 Commandments and the Golden Calf? Thank you

    • You can’t expect a systematic history in a prayer or poetry and then when you don’t get what you expect deny the historicity of the select events not mentioned. The revelation at Mount Sinai has the strongest proof of any event in the history of Israel. It was witnessed by 2-3 million people. If Exodus and Deuteronomy fabricated these events, someone would have called them on it. The revelation at Sinai is also mentioned in Judges 5:5; 1 Kings 8:9; Malachi 3:22; Psalms 68:9; Nehemiah 9:13; and others. Regarding the Golden Calf, I would expect that to be selectively omitted as it wasn’t our proudest hour.

      • I thank you for your insight. It frustrates me that people will not look at the context here . They take turns. It is Melchizedek’s turn to do the giving. Also as you point out Melchizedek is wicked and worships just the Most High not YHVH the Most High.

        I also like you throw them the bone.

        But to me this was the straw. Melchizedek was wicked not good. Thus Christianity is false. It is all based on another Priesthood. To me I saw that other Priesthood was of Ba’al. Though I have many other reasons to so believe.

        Is this a major reason why you could never accept Y’shua?

        I am listening to these are there other resources for ones such as I leaving Christianity and fully accepting the Bible (Old Testament only)?

  23. I am learning so much! I am addicted to listening to your shows and I love sharing on Facebook so others can learn also. We just had the discussion in our study group on circumcism and we had some unhappy people when we seen that circumcism is a requirement. I believe this and I hope others in our group will learn this too. Thanks so much!

  24. Shalom Nehemiah, I love this series and I love your website. Thank you for taking the time to share your incites with all of us. I really enjoyed this portion, but I just have one question regarding Melchizedek and how you inferred that he was a pagan priest rather than a priest of YHVH. How would you interpret Psalm 110 than when it reads, “YHVH has sworn and will not repent you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” ?

    • In Psalms 110 Melchizedek is a type of priest who is also king of Jerusalem (Salem in Genesis). So he’s an example for the future Messiah who will serve God not as a sacrifice offering priest, but as a King-Priest over Jerusalem. Anyway, I don’t think Melchizedek was pagan, although he lived in a pagan society and served the Most High God Creator of Heaven and Earth.

      • Not really sure how Melchizedek could have been King in the Kingdom of Nimrod and Nimrod the second without serving Nimrod and Nimrod the second as his most high God. Both insisted they were god on earth.

        Do you simply discount all the record of these men that have been found?

        Each of the Kings Abram defeated were ultimately answerable to Nimrod.

        Abram was clear I lift my cup to Yahovah as my El Elyon. Do I get that wrong in the Hebrew? How is this not Abram making it clear His God is not the God of Melchizedek? If not the same God well only pagan and God exist.

        Just how I see it. I also see how objectionable this is to Christians.

        I also see the Messiah differently than you. I see David back from the dead as King and Yahovah speaking to David in the Temple. I see David as King and Yahovah as Yahovah. Same relationship as before except now David is 100% righteous. David or whomever this King is.

        I pray you do not respond, I greatly respect your work. If you do I pray you not step on the toes of Christians.

        Although if I am wrong on the Hebrew a response on that would be useful to me. I barely know Hebrew can not speak or write it. I know some words from the Bible and that alone.

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