Torah Pearls #17 – Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

Torah Pearls Yitro, Exodus 18:1-20:23, Caleb, Calev, canine, didgeridoo, dog, Georgia, Jethro, Kelev, puppy, Ridgeback, Torah PearlsThis episode of The Original Torah PearlsYitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23), is dedicated to Nehemia’s faithful canine companion, Georgia the Rhodesian Ridgeback, who sadly passed away the day of this recording. In her honor, the trio has a fascinating discussion on the character of Caleb and the nature of canine loyalty. They also discuss Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, and challenge the common understanding of the process of Mosaic revelation. This leads to a powerful discussion of the events at Mt. Sinai and culminates in a powerful reading of the Ten Matters that will bring you to your feet. The closing music of this program was specially written in honor of Georgia. It features Yoel ben Shlomo on didgeridoo and Jono Vandor on guitar, and is entitled “Memories of Georgia”. May we all display the faithfulness of Yehovah’s servant, Caleb.

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Torah Pearls #17 - Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

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: It’s time for the Pearls from the Torah Portion, with Keith Johnson in Charlotte and Nehemia Gordon in Jerusalem. Gentlemen, welcome back to the program.

Keith: and Nehemia: Thanks for having us, Jono.

Jono: It’s good to have you, and g'day to Hugh listening to us in Houston, Texas, and Maureen listening in Indiana, and everyone else. Wherever you may be around the world, thank you for your company. Today is a different kind of program. I should let everybody know that we are prerecording this program, I know it's February. We recorded this program on January 10th, and the reason why I’m letting you know, dear listeners, is because today Keith and I got an email from Nehemia, saying, “Listen, can we postpone the program?” because Georgia, Nehemia’s dog, was sick. We said, “Sure, no problem,” and we got an email a little bit later in the day saying Georgia, Nehemia’s faithful canine companion, passed away.

Nehemia was determined to go ahead and do the program, and dedicate it to the memory of Georgia, which we are very, very happy to do. Nehemia, I just wanted to say, I’m sorry for your loss, my condolences. It’s a terrible thing to lose not just a pet, but a faithful companion. One of so many years, as well. Thank you for coming on to do this program.

Nehemia: I already explained to you guys before, because Keith was kind of in shock - how can we possibly do the show today, and here, I’m drawing strength from the heritage of Israel’s military victories. One of the things in Israeli military doctrines is that when you suffer, especially if it’s a crushing defeat, you don’t stop and lick your wounds, you don’t run away. The first thing that you do is you launch an immediate counter attack. The enemy has struck a crushing blow against me today, and so I can’t think of anything better than to launch a counter attack and talk about the word of God, and that’s what I want to do today.

Keith: All yesterday I was monitoring the situation, hearing about what Nehemia was doing with Georgia and having been there with him, being with her, walking her, thinking of how I was going to be seeing her. It’s really something that people would have to understand in terms of how faithful a dog she has been, and so this will be a little bit difficult for all of us, I think. Georgia is very famous, there is not a better dog that I have ever been around.

We’re going to do our best to get through the Torah Pearls and open the word of God, and see if we can be inspired to, as Nehemia said, do a counter attack. We do certainly think of Nehemia, and really all of the people that were connected to her. She was really a wonderful dog - so be it my friends.

Nehemia: and Jono: Amen.

Jono: So let’s get into it, because really this is one of the crown jewels of Torah portions, is it not? It is one to indulge in, and I don’t doubt that we’re going to get into it. This one is entitled “Yitro,” which, Nehemia, am I right in saying that that is the Hebrew name for Jethro?

Nehemia: Absolutely, yes.

Jono: OK, that makes perfect sense. And it is Exodus 18:1 to 20:26. It begins like this, “And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, that Yehovah had brought Israel out of Egypt. Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back.” Now hang on a minute, that’s the end of verse 2. This is new information, right?

Keith: Before we get to her, I just have this question. This really is something I thought about for a long time. Whenever I hear “Priest of Midian,” immediately I think negative. I think ancient, Israel, that time. And there was The Mountain of Elohim (The Mountain of God,) and yet I’m wondering who’s doing the changing here?

Jethro knows that there is this mountain of God. Moses goes to the mountain of God and has this experience. Yehovah tells him to go to Egypt. All of these things, and I’m wondering if that changed Jethro’s view of who God was to him. And the reason I ask that is just because before Moses, I’m wondering if we were dealing “Priest of Midian” with whatever the religion that was going on there. And then you have this sort of personal interaction encounter with his son-in-law, and if that changed his view of who God was. Do we know anything about the priest of Midian? Whatever that religion was in that particular region.

Nehemia: It’s really interesting, because there are two traditional views of Jethro in the Jewish sources, and you could actually see one of them reflected in the movie “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston. One of my favorite movies of all time, but a very inaccurate portrayal of the events. In that movie, Jethro is portrayed as a descendant of Abraham, and he knows the one true God of Abraham. There is a scene where Moses, played by Charlton Heston, has just come out of the desert after fleeing from Pharaoh, and he says how he had this difficult journey across the desert, and Jethro says, kind of casually, “The God Who Has No Name has guided your steps,” and Moses says, “The God Who Has No Name? You too worship the God of Abraham?” Because in the movie they portray Yehovah, the creator of heaven and earth, as the God Who Has No Name.

Jono: That’s right.

Nehemia: So Jethro is portrayed as the priest of Midian according to the faith of Abraham, worshipping the one true God. I won’t say if that’s true or not, because it is really a matter of dispute. There is a religion based in Israel called the Druze. Most people probably never heard of them outside of Israel. The Druze say, the Jews follow Moses, the Christians follow Jesus, and the Muslims follow Mohammad. The Druze say they follow Jethro. Their main shrine, located in northern Israel a few miles from Tiberias, is the tomb of Jethro, to this very day. They say that Jethro was a faithful monotheist, and that he taught essentially about the same God as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. That’s what the Druze say.

I’m not sure you can really support that from what we read in this Torah portion, because in verse 10 and 11 there is a really powerful section. Jethro says, “Blessed is Yehovah who has delivered you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Pharaoh,” and in verse 11 he says, “Now I know that Yehovah is greater than all the gods.”

Keith: There it is.

Nehemia: The other tradition in Judaism says, wait a minute, Jethro has worshipped all the gods. He was one of these people who worshipped every single god in existence, and when he heard about the God of Israel and his feats against Pharaoh and Egypt, he said, “Okay, that Yehovah is the greatest of the gods,” based on this verse.

Keith: That’s why it’s so interesting. I love this little term I come up with, it’s called, “Keep reading.” We could stop right there and make guesses, but I think, based on what Nehemia just brought forward and on a few verses later, the evangelism went from Moses to Jethro, not from Jethro to Moses.

Jono: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because as Nehemia pointed out in verse 11, “Now I know that Yehovah is greater than all the gods.” It goes on to say, “For in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, he was above them.” So you’re right. He seems to be placing, rather than saying, Yehovah is the one true God, he's placing them above.

Nehemia: In the Hebrew it doesn’t say he was above them. It says literally, “For concerning the matter which they dealt…” zadu means to do something maliciously, and not just proudly. To do it maliciously and intentionally. The very matter that they dealt maliciously concerning them. Actually, it sounds to me like he may even be alluding to the plague of the firstborn. That Pharaoh wanted to wipe out all the males of Israel, and in that very matter which they dealt contemptuously and maliciously against them, that’s how Pharaoh was defeated and smitten.

And so when he heard about the plagues and everything that happened to Pharaoh, he said, “OK, well, this is the greatest God, there is no question about that.” The Egyptians are experts of the gods, they have these professional priests who their fulltime job is to appease the gods, and they couldn’t stand up to the God of Israel.

Keith: I know we just did go to 10, but we have to back up a little bit here. I’m going to let you ask the question, Jono.

Jono: Well, I don’t know. I did a little bit of digging, and if I’m not mistaken, the last we heard of Zipporah was when she threw the foreskins at Moses’ feet. Is that right?

Nehemia: That’s right. And apparently the consequence of that incident is that he divorced her. The reason I say that is the word in verse 2. It says, “And Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, took Zipporah, the wife of Moses, achar shiluche’ha,” which you can translate literally as, “after he sent her away.” But the words, “sent her away,” that’s the biblical Hebrew word for divorce. So you could legitimately translate this as “after he divorced her.”

Jono: It’s interesting, isn’t it?

Keith: Is Jethro playing the reconciler? What’s going on here, Nehemia?

Nehemia: He’s trying to reconcile - Moses divorced his wife, and he said: “Look, you got these two boys with her. Get back with her.”

Keith: We have to slow down here. We’re just going to have to take a moment, because you’re telling me that in the English we have no sense that this was a technical term of being divorced. When you read in the Hebrew, Nehemia, are you saying you slow down and think about this, or do you move quickly here?

Nehemia: No, that’s the word. If I were to translate this freehand I would translate it, “after he divorced her,” because that’s what that word means. That is consistently the Hebrew word for divorce. The pi’el form of the verb shalach, to send away, when referring to a woman. And the reason is, basically, before the Torah was given, all divorce really consisted of was kicking the woman out of the house and sending her away, usually to her father’s house. If she had a father.

And later on in Deuteronomy 24, Moses reveals this commandment, that not only do you send her away, but you have to give her a document saying that she's sent away, saying that she is divorced and she is now free to marry anybody she wants. Whereas this kind of left her in a state of limbo. Is she married to this guy? Isn’t she? He kicked her out, it’s kind of subjective, whereas with the document you have legal proof. But in this period of history this was divorce. That’s all divorce consisted of - kicking the woman out of the house.

Keith: So for those people who are listening right now, there’s this huge issue when we have talked about divorce. We have talked about it for years. Never in all my conversations, being a pastor, dealing with people and circumstances, never in all of my many, many discussions regarding this have I ever heard that, based on the wording here, we would see that Moses actually sent his wife away, from the perspective of, in ancient time, being divorced.

This is something to slow down with, and I want to thank you, Nehemia, for reading word by word, letter by letter, accent by accent, jot by jot and tittle by tittle. As a result, it seems to us that this would be that Moses was divorced, and his father-in-law is bringing the wife back and saying, “Hey, here she is.”

Jono: Yes, it seems to be a possibility that has to be considered. What you’re saying, Nehemia, is that possibly Jethro is playing the marriage counselor, if you like.

Nehemia: Definitely. This is the whole point of mentioning the sons. There are two children here. It didn’t work out, you had some kind of thing going on with foreskins and flint knives, let’s put that aside.

We really have to dedicate a few minutes to talk about Jethro, because he is one of the most interesting characters in the bible, in my opinion. First of all, let’s start talking about what his name is. In rabbinical tradition, it says that he had seven names. Biblically speaking, there are definitely three names that he clearly is referred to as. The most common name that’s used in reference to him is, of course, Jethro itself, “Yitro.” But then he is also called Yeter, or Jether in English, and that's in Exodus 14.

Keith: No, that’s not a big deal.

Nehemia: That’s like Mike and Michael. Yeter was a short form of Yitro. But then in Exodus 2:18 and Numbers 10:29 he is referred to as Reu’el. In fact, in a single passage, he is referred to as Reu’el and as Yitro - as Jethro - in that single context of when Moses first meets that family. So which one is it? Apparently Yitro may have actually been a title, rather than his name, or maybe Reu’el was his title, that’s the other possibility. Reu’el means “Shepherd of God,” or it could also mean “God's shepherd.”

About Yitro, that’s a really interesting question, because Yeter can mean “excellent,” or it could also mean “more, extra.” It probably means “excellent,” or “very great.” So Yitro is "His great one", maybe, "His excellent one", and Reu’el would be "God's shepherd", or shepherd of God, possibly. They all may be titles.

Then there’s another character who the rabbis say is Jethro himself, but if you read it in the context it seems to actually be Jethro’s son, a man named Chovav, which means “beloved.” There’s an important story related to him in Numbers 10:29-32, and we’ll talk more about it when we get to that.

Basically, he and his clan continued to travel with the Israelites, apparently, after the father Jethro went home. At a certain point Moses comes to him in the clan and says, “Look, you know all the places we’ve camped, you need to stay with us.” And he says: “No, no, we want to go home, we’re fine, you can trust us.” And he answers, “No, you’re going to be traveling with us,” and evidently these people remained among the Israelites, these kinsmen of Jethro, Chovav, who is essentially Moses’ brother-in-law, his wife’s brother.

Then we have this group of people called the Kenites, who are the family of Jethro, and that’s specifically mentioned in Judges 1:16. It says, “And the son of the Kenite,” and so the rabbis say that the Kenite here being referred to is Jethro, and that’s clearly the case from the context, “And the son of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses, went up from the city of dates,” which is Ein Gedi, “with the children of Judah into the desert of Judah,” which is by the Negev, of Arad, “and they went and dwelt with the people.”

So there are these Kenites, these kinsmen of Jethro, who are dwelling in the land of Israel, and in 1 Samuel 15:6 they’re mentioned again as living in the same area as the Amalekites. When Saul comes to wipe out the Amalekites he says to the Kenites, “OK, you guys need to separate yourselves from the Amalekites, because they’re all going to be killed,” and they actually do separate themselves.

Here is what Keith would call “the moneyball,” and I looked up this term that Keith uses all the time, and now that I know what it means I love it. The moneyball is that ball in the lottery that if you hit that number you double your winnings. And so this is the moneyball - 1 Chronicles 2:55, it is a little verse barely there, in the middle of nowhere. Who would even pay attention to it?

Keith: Nehemia would.

Nehemia: Well, I’m not the one who discovered this, actually ancient Jewish commentators picked up on this. It says, “And the family of scribes who dwelt in Jabez, the Tirathites, and the Shimeathites and the Sucathites. They are the Kenites who came from Hammath,” which may be the name of a person, or possibly a town somewhere, “the father of the house of Rechab.”

So we have these Kenites, who we know are the kinsmen of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, and one of them came from this place called Hammath, and he’s the father of the house of Rechab. Ok, well, so what? Who is the house of Rechab? Who ever heard of that? And that’s not to be confused with Rahab, the prostitute mentioned in the book of Joshua, because that’s with a different Hebrew letter. Rahab is with a Chet, Rechab is with a Chaf. So the house of Rechab is mentioned in one chapter of the bible, which is Jeremiah chapter 35.

Keith: Here it comes, ladies and gentlemen.

Nehemia: There is an amazing story there. This is during the time of Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and God says to Jeremiah, “Bring the Rechabites, and people of the house of Rechab, and bring them into a certain place and give them wine. Tell them to drink the wine.” And so Jeramiah does it, and their response in verse 6 is, “And they said, we cannot drink wine, for Yonadav, the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us saying, ‘You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever. And you shall not build a house and you shall not plant seed, and vineyards you shall not plant for you, for you shall dwell in tents all your days.’”

Then it goes on, he says, “Then you will live many days on the land which you are sojourning in it there.” That’s a really interesting word, “sojourning.” It doesn’t say “dwelling,” it says “sojourning,” and the Hebrew word ger usually refers to somebody who is landless. All the physical descendants of Jacob were given land when Joshua divided up the land, but if you were a sojourner, or one of that mixed multitude, you didn’t get land and you were a sojourner.

So this particular group of Kenites, the house of Rechab, said, “OK, look, we don’t have land, we don’t want to be dependent on anybody, we don’t want to be in debt, we don’t want to owe anybody, we want to be free and independent.” The way to have that type of lifestyle in this economy, back then in that socioeconomic system, is to raise sheep, goats, and animals that can graze off the land. But if you are dependent on buying and drinking wine, planting vineyards, you need to buy land to plant the vineyards, and back then they couldn’t really buy land. All they could do was lease it for 49 years, because in the 50th year, the jubilee, it went back to the people who had inherited from their fathers.

Therefore, the Rechabites didn’t have any land like that, all they could do was rent land for 49 years. Their ancestor Yonadav was a really smart guy, he said, “Look, we’re not going to build houses, and we’re not going to plant vineyards, we’re not going to be dependent on anybody. We’re going to live as Bedouin, as shepherds traveling around as nomads, just like our ancestors did. We know how to do this, this is our ancestors’ way of life.” The main thing is, don’t drink wine, because if you drink wine it has to be grown. A vine is something that you don’t just plant one year, it grows year after year after year. Generation after generation they would be dependent, they would essentially be in debt. And he said, “We don’t want to be in debt, we want to be free, independent people.”

Now, why is all this important? Because God looks at this and says, wow, these people, their ancestor made them take a vow that they wouldn’t plan vineyards or build houses and that they would live this nomadic lifestyle, and you know what? They could’ve said no, I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to take the vow, and lived anywhere they wanted, but they accepted that from their ancestor. They were so faithful to it that it became a picture of what God was calling Israel to do. And he says that, over in verse 14, “For they have obeyed the commandment of their father, and I spoke to you,” this is now God saying to Israel. It says, “These Rechabites, the house of Rechab, listened to the house of their ancestor Yehonadav,” whose name means “Yehovah gives freely.” It says, (in Jeremiah 35:14) “The words of Yehonadav son of Rechab have been established that he commanded his sons to not drink wine. They cannot drink until this very day, for they have obeyed the commandment of their father. And I spoke to you waking up early in the morning and speaking, and you did not listen to me. And I sent to you all my servants the prophets waking up early and sending them, saying, return each man from his evil way and do right in your actions. Don’t go after other gods to serve them.”

So God's saying, look, I gave you these commandments, and I’m God, you have got to listen to me, you have got no choice. You must obey me, and you didn’t obey me. And the Rechabites, who could’ve said, I don’t want to take that vow that my ancestor imposed on his descendants. I don’t want to be involved in that. And they not only accepted that ruling of their ancestor, they did it faithfully to the “T.” And God said, why can’t you be more like the Rechabites?

And now for the moneyball, in verse 19, “Therefore, thus says Yehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, there shall not be cut off a man from the house of Yonadav the son of Rechab, standing before me all the days.” Now, why is that a moneyball? Because that’s a really interesting promise, that there shall not be cut off a man standing before me all the days. God made that promise to three families. Three families in the book of Jeremiah get that promise, that there will always be a continuing descendant from that family standing before Yehovah.

So we have the house of Rechab, who is descendant of the kinsmen of Jethro, meaning they’re not physical descendants of Israel, but they become part of Israel, they’re the sojourners. They’re the grafted-in, the ones who’ve joined themselves to Yehovah. The other two families are the house of David and the house of Aaron, the line of priests. So there will always be someone from the line of the priest, someone from the line of the king, and there will always be someone from the house of Rechab, those that represent this group of the mixed multitude who’ve joined themselves to the God of Israel and the people of Israel.

Those are the three that got that promise. My ancestors who were from one of the other eleven tribes of Jacob, they didn’t get that promise, but the house of Rechab, because they were so obedient to Yehovah, got that promise. That’s amazing to me, that God singled out those three families, to get the promise. The third one is the house of Rechab, they’re not even physically descendant from Jacob. Can I get an Amen?

Keith: You got to get an Amen, Nehemia. The reason I think that this is so important, the concept under that family being able to live by a vow. In other words, the vow is, we’re not going to drink wine. Ok, do you swear that this will be the vow for our family name? Yes, this is the vow. And is this not important that when we learn the significance of vowing something, believing something? The first time you ever told me that, Nehemia, I just thought to myself, Well, maybe somehow I can connect Johnson to Jethro, I don’t know.

Jono: My goodness. Thank you Nehemia, because that’s really news to me. That’s incredible.

Keith: Yes, it’s amazing.

Nehemia: Now, one more thing to tie in here, and this really doesn’t have anything to do with it, except that it’s another person who was not a physical descendant of Israel, who was blessed by Yehovah because of his obedience and faith in God, and that’s Caleb. Caleb is mentioned later on in the book of Numbers, and we’ll get to him, but the reason I want to talk about him just very briefly is that Caleb’s name is from the word kelev, meaning “dog.”

So in honor of Georgia, I want to talk about how Caleb was a picture of a dog in that he was faithful to Yehovah. And we had the twelve spies, one from each tribe, go and report on the land, in the book of Numbers, and ten of them brought back the evil report of the land, saying, “Look, there are giants there, we have no chance against them. We’re not going to be able to defeat them, we should just forget about this. Maybe we should go back to Egypt.”

And Caleb, who is not even a physical descendant of Israel, because we’re told he is Caleb the son of Yefuneh, the Kenizzite. The Kenizzites were one of the original ten Canaanite tribes that lived in the land. They apparently had many people who were down in Egypt as slaves, and some of them left Egypt with the Israelites. And so Caleb, who is a Kenizzite, a type of Canaanite, is one of the two people along with Joshua, Moses’ disciple, who stand up and say, “No, Yehovah can deliver this into our hand, and we have nothing to fear.”

Now, it's really interesting, because when Caleb is recounting the story in the book of Joshua, he sends a message to Joshua, saying, “You remember when this thing happened, and how we were intimidated by giants.” That’s one of the things that they say, that, we saw giants, we were as grasshoppers in their eyes and in our own eyes. Basically, Caleb is later admitting that yes, these guys were giants, that doesn’t matter. We could still defeat them, we don’t have to fear them. We’ve got to stand up to the giants, look the giants in the eyes, call the name of Yehovah and defeat them, rather than running scared from them.

The other ten spies said, “We have to run away, we are afraid of those guys.” It’s interesting, it’s not the facts that were in dispute. The facts were indisputable. That, in standing up against giants, what do we do about that? Do we run scared, or do we trust in Yehovah and face our enemies? And Caleb and Joshua were as faithful as a dog, and when a dog is standing next to you, you know that dog is not going to disappoint you. He trusts in you, and it’s his trust in you that gives him the ferocity to do what he needs to do and to bark and to defend you. And that was Caleb in that day. And he also was not a physical descendant of Israel, just like the house of Rechab. Now we should get back to the Torah portion.

Keith: Ok, and there it is ladies and gentlemen. And you have license, Nehemia, to talk about Caleb, dogs, anything you want to throughout this whole time.

Jono: That’s right. We could wrap it up there, my brain is so full, and we’ve only gotten to the second verse. When we get to that, I have got a story for you two. OK, we’re moving on. With the two sons, the name of one was Gershom for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.” And the name of the other was Eliezer. As in Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, right?

Nehemia and Keith: Yes, they had the same name.

Jono: OK. “For he said, ‘The God of my father was my help and delivered.’” Now, this is interesting. Keith, I think “delivered” appears about five times. Here we go, “Delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh. And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mountain of God. And he said to Moses, I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” So Moses went to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, kissed him and they had a bit of a chat and then it goes on to say that Yehovah had delivered them. “Then Jethro rejoiced all the good which Yehovah had done for Israel whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Jethro said, blessed be Yehovah who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.” And Keith, I just find it interesting, there’s an emphasis on the deliverance of Yehovah there.

Keith: Yes, and of course in my translation in the NIV here, the word they choose to use here is “rescued,” over and over again. Rescued, rescuing, etc. I’m thinking they don’t want us to make a connection with what the word is. I suppose if we ask Nehemia what that word is for deliverance. Nehemia, what does it say in the Hebrew bible?

Nehemia: Verse 4 is, vayatzileni, which is from the word hitzil, and they usually translate that as “delivered.” That’s not the word the Keith gets all excited about.

Keith: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not getting excited about this. Jono is the one who has brought this up.

Nehemia: Ok, it’s a different root, the one that used properly translates as “to save, salvation.” And then in verse 10 it’s also hitzil, the same exact word, it actually appears twice. The same one that appears in verse 4 appears twice in verse 10, and what’s the third verse?

Jono: Verses 9 and 8.

Nehemia: Verse 9 is also hitzilo, to deliver. And verse 8 also, vayatzilem, also from hitzil. He repeatedly uses this word hitzil, which is to deliver, not the word that’s usually translated as “to save.” It has a similar sort of meaning, I suppose.

Jono: It just struck me because it was a word that’s used repeatedly in this passage here, and it just emphasizes the deliverance of Yehovah, which I like. From verse 13, “And so it was in the next day that Moses sat to judge the people and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening, so when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone and the people stand before you from morning until evening?’ And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have difficulty they come to me and I judge between one and another, and I make known the statutes of God and his laws.’” This is interesting because this is before the Mount Sinai events, that Moses is making known the statutes of God and his laws. What do you make of it?

Nehemia: That’s really interesting, because I was taught that Moses went up to Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights and received the entire Torah. That’s actually not said anywhere in scripture. What is says in scripture is that he received the Ten Commandments up there at Mount Sinai. And it’s very clear, when you read throughout the Torah, there will be a section, maybe even ten verses long, that will begin, “And Yehovah spoke unto to Moses saying,” and each one of those little sections, evidently, is a separate revelation. And that’s what this seems to be referring to, that there was a series of many, many revelations over time that Moses had, over a period of forty years, and as he would get these and people would come to him with problems he would get these revelations and he would share them with the people. This is actually a very important verse.

Keith: Hold on, okay? You say the Ten Commandments is your favorite movie, it's been mine before I ever went into a church, I ever knew anything about the church. So Moses went up there, he got the Ten Commandments, he came down, but it has always been my understanding that that’s where he got the whole revelation. Are you going to take that away

Jono: Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because during last week’s Torah portion we were discussing Exodus chapter 16, which has so much emphasis on Shabbat, and we haven’t gotten to Exodus chapter 20 yet.

Keith: Can we slow down and look at this verse one more time? And can you read the verse and say the verse number, Jono, and read it nice and slow? And then I’m going to read it nice and slow. Go ahead.

Jono: This is verse 16 of chapter 18 of Exodus, when Moses is telling his father-in-law, “When they have difficulty they come to me, I judge between one and another and I make known the statutes of God and his laws.”

Keith: Okay, so just a second. It says, whenever they have a dispute it is brought unto me and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and l-a-w-s. And laws. Well, Nehemia, we’re just going to discover a Torah Pearl here if you can. Can you read that for us in Hebrew? This is an important little word here, what does it say in Hebrew?

Nehemia:vihodati et chuke haelohim viet torotav”. “And I informed of the statutes of Elohim,” of God, “and his torot,” His Torahs. That’s an interesting term when it says “torahs” there, laws; really, instructions. What it’s referring to are specific instructions about specific things. They’ll have a section, for example, in Leviticus that’ll open up and it’ll say, “This is the law of the burnt offering,” “This is the law of the sin offering,” “This is the law of the guilt offering,” and each one of those is called a Torah, an instruction.

Each one of those is Torah, and the plural is torot, Torahs. That’s not to be confused with the collective body of revelation, which later on is referred to at the end of Deuteronomy as the book of the Torah, and that is the collective book of instruction. There isn’t only one of those, which is what we call the five books of Moses that has five sections, Genesis to Deuteronomy, but there’s really only one Torah. But within the Torah there are many statutes, chukim, and torot and mishpatim, and different types of commandments, and one of those types is an instruction. Even in the section we read quite a while ago when it talked about Abraham, it talked about how there were torot, that he kept the torot, he kept the instructions.

Keith: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, there it is.

Jono: So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good.” Obviously he’s not referring to teaching the people the statutes of God and his laws. He goes on to say, “Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out, this thing is too much for you. You’re not able to perform it by yourself. Listen now to my voice, and I will give you council and God be with you. Stand before God, for the people, so you may bring the difficulties to God and you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way which they must walk and the work they must do.”

Again, we see two categories. We've got the statutes and the laws, and we’ve got the way that they must walk and the work they must do. Moreover, “You shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times, and it will be that every grave matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves should judge.” So it'll be easier for you. Thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Math wasn't my strongest subject. How does that work exactly? Keith, how do you visualize that?

Keith: Well, it seems clear to me. He's setting up an organizational way of dealing with things so that the toughest things get to Moses. This is a great lesson in discipleship. Moses is basically charged with teaching some people so that those people can deal with some of those matters and issues, so he's not dealing with everybody. He's dealing with things that they can't deal with, but that he's basically imparting the instructions to them, and then they're able to handle this amongst these groups of people.

Jono: Ok. Nehemia.

Nehemia: It's an extremely important passage. I would say it's worthwhile because there is so much more to talk about in this Torah portion, to save my comments for when we get to Deuteronomy 17, if I can hold out that long, I don't know. There are a couple of other places where this comes up, what he's describing here. This is a picture, a paradigm of the system that God has established, and essentially, I hope I don't scare away people when I say that this is a picture of the Messiah. And then I'm not going to say anymore.

Jono: Wow. You're going to leave us hanging on the edge of the chair for how long?

Keith: OK, so ladies and Gentlemen please, whatever you do…Nehemia is about to make some kind of…

Jono: Fine, alright. So we are just going to wait until Deuteronomy chapter what?

Nehemia: Beginning in verse 8.

Jono: Okay moving right along. We’re in chapter 19.

Keith: Something that’s always been a great interest to me. It has been an amazing ten years for me, and the first thing that happened to me when I went to Israel was this idea that I was to be there for the time of Shavuot, and something that always caught me was just trying to get an idea around this actual time, the timeframe. And when I read this in chapter 19 I get kind of excited, and I know there’s a tradition here versus what we actually know in detail, but when I read in 19, “In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt on the very day they came unto the desert of Sinai.” I know we can’t get to the exact day, Nehemia, and I know that there is a tradition. But is it fair for me to say we’re close to the time of Shavuot in the third month after they left Egypt?

[recaps for Nehemia]

The three things that I was confronted with were time, Torah, and God’s name. And I have always been sort of stuck on this verse, in this idea of it being the third month. Is there a real connection that we can biblically base that idea, that this is very close to the time of Shavuot?

Nehemia: If you would’ve asked me ten years ago, I would’ve said, “Definitely not, it doesn’t say that. That’s assuming something not said explicitly in scripture, and you know what happens when you assume.” But the more I think about it over the years and study it, the more I am convinced that there is a connection there, and one of the reasons for connecting the two is that, in fact, Shavuot is the only feast that doesn’t have a date. It’s not tied to a specific day in the month. It says to count fifty days after the morrow after the Shabbat, during The Feast of Unleavened Bread, and it doesn’t have a specific date.

I think that the fact that the revelation of Sinai also doesn’t have a specific date and they both take place early in the third month, and we don’t know on what day of that month, it’s hard for me to believe that’s an accident. I think, more importantly, that Moses repeatedly says to Pharaoh, “We want to go on to the desert to bring sacrifices to our God, for a chag,” and chag is a specific term that means “pilgrimage feast.” And there are only three chagim in the Hebrew year. There is The Feast of Unleavened Bread, well that was the exodus, there is Chag HaShavuot, that’s The Feast of Weeks, and there is the Chag HaSukkot, the feast of Ingathering. And the fact that this chag coincides with the chag that they had at Mount Sinai, I just can’t believe that’s a coincidence. There has to be a connection between Shavuot and the revelation at Sinai.

Essentially, I feel confident saying now, after all these years, that the chag of Shavuot is the chag of that revelation at Sinai, of that thing that they kept saying to Pharaoh, "We’ve got to go do this in the desert, we’ve got to go worship our God in the desert and have this experience," and that’s a chag. Then, that chag they actually have, becomes, I believe, chag HaShavuot, The Feast of Weeks.

Keith: Jono, the reason this is important is that for ten years Nehemia and I have talked about this. We’ve sat in whirlpools, we’ve talked about it on planes, trains and automobiles, and now today, he’s finally willing to make this connection. So now I can say time, Torah and His name, these things happened. I’ve always felt like there was something so close to Shavuot, and it’s an exciting declaration today. I want folks to know that this is a big verse for me, and a big time for us to talk about this. Now we can move on.

Jono: The evidence is certainly compelling. Verse 3, “And Moses went up to the mountain,” and Yehovah calls to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and unto the children of Israel, 'you have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself'.” I don’t know why, but I just think that’s a beautiful sentence. “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Isn’t that beautiful? “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people, for all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” Nehemia, how are we to understand “a kingdom of priests?”

Nehemia: I think the role of the priests is to teach the people about God, and I think the role of Israel is to teach the world about God. I think that’s what it means to be a kingdom of priests.

Keith: Amen. I want to give this Torah Pearl, I’ve got to give this deep Hebrew letters. I’m looking in the NIV. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the NIV matches the Hebrew in this important thing I’m about to share. It is two little letters that I think are the most important two little letters in the entire scripture, both are from the NIV, and I bet you that there are two letters in the Hebrew, and Nehemia, you can actually confirm this or deny if I’m going down the wrong road here. But the “if,” two little letters, I tell my sons all the time, these are the most important two little letters you can learn. Because there are many, many things that you can count on, and there are many, many things that you can put your life based on, but this word, if you can get “if,” you understand a whole lot. So in my NIV it says i-f. What’s the Hebrew word for “if” in your scripture, Nehemia?

Nehemia: The Hebrew word for “if” is eem, it’s the two Hebrew letters alef mem, and it’s a really interesting word.

Keith: The “if” is important in the English and in the Hebrew because there is what you said, Jono, as you were reading, He's about to make this important statement. It says “if,” and I’m telling you, if you did a study on “if” in the English bible or the Hebrew bible you might be surprised how many times those two little letters can change what’s going to happen. I suggest people to always slow down when you hear the word “if,” or eem in Hebrew.

Jono: Yes, like I said. It’s conditional. It’s not just going to come, it’s not guaranteed. There’s something that we are required to do, and if we do that, then… And “if” is always followed by a “then.” I like that. And a “then” is what we want if we are obedient. “And he put it to the people and all the people answered together in unison, and said, ‘All that Yehovah has spoken, we will do.’ So Moses brought back the words of the people to Yehovah. And Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Behold, I come to you in a thick cloud that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.’” We talked about this recently. “And believe you forever.” Can I just ask you, Nehemia, for your clarity there in the Hebrew?

Nehemia: Sure. What he’s saying here is the reason that he’s speaking to all of Israel, every man, woman and child, is so that they will “also in you they will believe forever.” Meaning that Israel will know that Moses isn’t just sitting in a cave on the top of the mountain and making this up, that there really is a God speaking to him, and all the things that are only revealed to Moses to then conveyed to the people, are true. That’s why God makes this revelation at Sinai, so they’ll see that this is for real.

In the entire history of mankind there has never been a claim anywhere by anyone else that there has been a mass revelation that God himself spoke to an entire nation of hundreds of thousands of people. It never happened before or since. And I think there’s a reason for that, because if somebody made up a story like that, somebody would call them on it. Look at the history that’s conveyed in the Tanakh, in what Christians refer to as the Old Testament. You have the worst sins and crimes of my ancestors. You have the adultery and murder that David commits, you have the idolatry of the Israelites, you have all the worst sins laid out before you. If someone were to make up this story of the revelation of Sinai, if it were a lie, somebody in the history of Israel would’ve written a book about it and called them on it.

You can have collusion between a few witnesses, a couple dozen witnesses, maybe a few hundred. But hundreds of thousands of people? You’re not going to get them to all support a story unless it’s actually true. And I think that that’s what God is saying, that they will believe in you forever, they will know that this is not just a made up thing. That God really spoke to hundreds of thousands of people in order so that they would know that his servant Moses is really speaking the truth. That he’s a true prophet.

Jono: Amen. So it’s not just a matter of one or two witnesses, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people. And just to emphasize, you translated it as, “and believe in you”, or “in you to believe forever.”

Nehemia: “Behold, I am coming to you in the thick of the cloud in order that the people will hear when I speak with you, and also in you they will believe forever.” And that’s really interesting. What he’s saying is, I mean, that’s the purpose of this revelation. That they’re going to know that I’m speaking to you, you’re not just making this up. There really is a voice that you’re hearing and it’s not just some nut out of the cave in the desert.

Jono: Amen. So my English translation again misses “in,” it just says “believe you forever.” What do you have in the NIV, Keith?

Keith: Well, it says that, “will always put their trust in you.” The NIV translators get nervous about this idea of believing in Moses. I mean, there is only one that you’re supposed to believe in, so they don’t feel comfortable doing that, they just say “they’ll always put their trust in you.” It’s not what it says, but okay.

Nehemia: I should point out that the same exact phrase, we have the word “to believe” and we follow by the preposition “in” in Genesis 15:6, where it’s talking about Abraham believing in Yehovah. It says, "And he believed in Yehovah and it was reckoned for him as righteousness." That’s the same exact phrase, “to believe in.” How is it translated there in the NIV? Out of curiosity. Does it say he trusted him?

Jono: That’s a good question. “He believed in the Lord, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” In the Nearly Inspired Version it says…

Keith: It says, “And Abraham believed in the Lord.”

Jono: So you’re allowed to say it there, but you can’t say it in conjunction with Moses. Alright, I think we've made our point. Moving along. Three days they’ve got to wash their clothes and they’ve got to consecrate themselves and set themselves apart at the base of the mountain. They’re not allowed to come to it, they’re not allowed to touch it. If they do? Death. And so 14, “Moses went down from the mountain to the people, sanctified the people and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, ‘Be ready on the third day, do not come near your wives.’” Are we talking about possibly becoming unclean in regards to laws of nida? We haven’t discussed that yet, that’s Leviticus 15, I think. Is that possibly what it’s referring to? That makes sense.

Nehemia: I don’t think it has to do with nida, I think it has to do with shichvat zera, but we’ll talk about that in Leviticus 15. Basically, he was saying, for these three days, and by the way, when he says “three days” he means today, tomorrow and the next day. In our terms we would say that’s two days from now, but in Hebrew that’s “the third day” or “in three days’ time,” and he’s talking about not having sex with their wives so that they wouldn’t be ritually impure, because the significance of that is you can’t enter into the Temple.

The place where God reveals himself to Moses at Mount Sinai, He said, “Take off your shoes, because this is a holy place.” So when you approach a holy place you need to be in a state of ritual purity. You can’t touch a dead body or various other things that are in Numbers 19 and Leviticus 15 and other passages. There’s a whole bunch of rules about that.

Jono: Keith, you’ll be excited about this. Verse 16, “When it came to pass on the third day,” we’re talking about, “there were thunderings and there were lightnings, and there was a thick cloud on the mountain and…”

Keith: And then the blowing of the shofar.

Jono: “…The sound of the trumpet was very loud.”

Keith: (Blowing the shofar) That’s me blowing the Shofar, ladies and gentlemen. I had to do it just in case Nehemia would’ve grabbed his shofar, it would’ve been a disaster. Let’s move on.

Nehemia: Wasn’t that interesting? That this statement, “Vekol shofar chazak me’od,” “And the sound of the shofar was very strong,” and then he goes back to that in verse 19, “And it came to pass the sound of the shofar was continually growing stronger.” That’s pretty cool.

Keith: This is so amazing to me, because when I think about this, and Nehemia makes jokes about me with the shofar. But let me tell you something. The sound itself changes things in me. There is something about it. If I could just take a moment, just imagine standing there before you ever get to the actual wonderful thing that we have to stop at, when he makes his introduction. I used to tell people all the time, when I was with the Vikings, they’d do all of this stuff that would happen before the introduction of the players, and they'd beat the drums and believe it or not, with the Minnesota Vikings, they actually would blow something that sounded like a shofar. It was really quite interesting. So they would blow this, and they would have this beating, and trumpeting, and a motorcycle, and smoke, and all this, and I think, “Wow, folks get all riled up.” But these folks, when they heard this it caused great fear in them, and I can understand why.

Jono: And that was the point, too. Wasn’t it, Nehemia?

Nehemia: Can we stop here and pray for a minute?

Jono: That’s a fine idea, please.

Nehemia: [Nehemia recites the following prayer in Hebrew] Yehovah, Father in heaven, God of our fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, let us hear the sound of the shofar, that our eyes be open as Israel’s eyes were opened at Sinai, that we may see the wonderful hidden things of your Torah. Amen.

Keith: and Jono: Amen.

Nehemia: Keith, you must blow the shofar.

Keith: Yes, I will blow it again. (blows the shofar)

Jono: Thanks, fellas. And so yes, thunderings, lightnings, thick cloud on the mountain, the sound of the trumpet was very loud, the sound of the shofar. “And all the people that were in the camp trembled, and Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God.” Oh my goodness. “And they stood at the foot of the mountain, now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because Yehovah descended upon it in fire.” Oh man, it’s like a volcano. “Smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly, and when the blasts of the shofar sounded, they sounded long, it became louder and louder, and Moses spoke and God answered him by voice.” Can you imagine it? Oh my goodness. “And then Yehovah came down upon Mount Sinai, on top of the mountain Yehovah called Moses.”

Keith: Wait, I’ve got to stop. Jono, can we just ask a question? In just a casual reading, it says there’s a conversation going on before the creator of the universe speaks. Is that fair to say?

Jono: I think so.

Nehemia: Definitely.

Keith: I mean, I’m not trying to be funny here, but Moses says, “Ok, Yehovah, are we standing in the right place?” “Yes, you’re standing in the right place.” “Ok, Yehovah, are the people prepared?” “Yes, they’re now prepared…” I mean, is this the kind of thing we’re talking about? Did the people hear this conversation back and forth?

Jono: He spoke to them in a voice, but the funny thing about it is that it is a conversation; at least words have been exchanged between Moses and Yehovah upon the mountain. But then Yehovah called to Moses and says, “Hey, come up here.” And so he goes up and then Yehovah says, “Hey, go down.” “But I was down there and you were talking to me.”

Keith: He’s going to say something privately now, it’s about to be private.

Jono: So I guess that must be what it is, and he says, “Go down and warn the people lest they break through.” This is stuff he’s already told them, and basically this is what Moses says to Yehovah, and Yehovah says, “Hey, away, get down, do what you’re told and then come up. You and Aaron with you, but do not let the priests and the people break through to come to Yehovah lest he break out against them.” The word here is interesting, because it says, “Come up to Yehovah lest he break out against them.” Is it an angel speaking to them? Nehemia, what are your thoughts there, on the way that that’s written? Is Yehovah speaking about himself in the third person?

Nehemia: You know, that actually happens quite a bit. There are many passages where Yehovah speaks about himself in the third person, so I don’t see any problem with that whatsoever. And I’m inclined not to say that’s an angel because it doesn’t say anywhere that this is an angel, and this is the revelation of Sinai. If he was going to speak directly to the people this was the time, and that’s what it says. It says that there has never been another incident in the entire history of mankind in which God took a nation and spoke to them. This is it. This is not the time for angels, this is the time for Yehovah to actually speak to the people.

Keith: I’m just saying, as we get to verse 20 I have to spend a card here, ladies and gentlemen. I have to slow down and say something here. Because they have this interaction back and forth and I just think, please bear with me, this verse has at different times caught my attention. Most recently in 2009, Nehemia and I were in Colorado Springs, and as we were there I was supposed to meet him. Long story, my plane is stuck, I’m not able to get there. I’m going to be there the next day.

I come home and do something I have not done. In the Hebrew bible, (this is back in the old days of my Methodist days) when you didn’t know what to read, you’d open up a part of the Bible and it would come to that section. Well, I came home and opened up the Bible and I was in Exodus chapter 20 and in verse 2 in my bible, and I just can’t say it the way that it says it in my NIV, so I want to know if I can get a card from Jono and Nehemia to simply say what jumped off the page for me. Is that ok? Can I do it in Hebrew? Will that be alright with you all?

So in verse 2 it says in my NIV, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” And when I read that it just doesn’t have the same effect as when I read it in Hebrew, because it says, “Anokhi Yehovah Elohekha,” and when I saw those three words, and it happens to use anokhi. You know, sometimes you’ll see ani, “I am” Yehovah. It happens to be one where he says anokhi, and when I saw those three words it jumped off the page and kind of cracked me in the head. These are the first words out of His mouth. “Let me start off,” He says, “and tell you my name.” Just in case there’s any confusion, that you might think that we’re dealing with the gods of before, maybe you think I’m the god of fire, maybe you think I’m the god of smoke or the shofar. All those things are wonderful things, but Anokhi Yehovah Elohekha. “I am,” and then He says His name. 6,828 times in scripture He proclaims this for everyone to hear. There’s no sleight of hand, there’s no title He’s using, there’s no “Hey, it’s too holy.” He proclaims His name.

People say to me, “Look, we should not call him by his name.” He didn’t come and say, “I am the Father, call me ‘the Father.’” He says Anokhi Yehovah, and then he says His name. I’m going to tell you something. When I read that back in 2009, I knew then for sure I had to go forward with this information, because this introduction is crucial to us understanding how He introduces Himself. He introduced Himself to the mixed multitude of nations by His name.

Jono: “I am Yehovah, your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” Before me? What does it mean to have no other gods before him? That he can see? If you’ve got god number 1, god number 2, god number 3, that he’s not to be number 3 or number 2? What does it mean, “before him?”

Nehemia: Well, I think this is rightfully translated by many people as “in my presence,” literally it means “on my face.” “You shall have no other gods on my face,” but that’s the Hebrew idiom that means “in my presence.” Arguably, this is the most important passage in the Tanakh, in the bible, because these are the words that Yehovah spoke Himself to every man, woman and child of the children of Israel. It’s actually the only passage, this and when it’s repeated in the book of Deuteronomy, in Jewish tradition every week they read the Torah portion like what we’re doing. They read the Torah portion every week in the Jewish synagogues, and this is the only passage where the entire congregation, in many synagogues, will stand up. Throughout the year as they’re reading the Torah portion, the reader is standing up but the congregation are sitting in their seats and they’re following along in their bibles. But when it comes to this passage, the entire congregation stands up.

I know we’re short on time, and we’ve probably run over, but if you’d let me, Jono and Keith, I can spend a card, as Keith likes to say. I’d like to be able to read this passage from beginning to end in Hebrew, the way it’s read in synagogues. I’m not going to read it with the cantillation, because I can’t carry a tune, but I will read you the Hebrew words.

Keith: Well, before you do this, Nehemia. Everybody that’s listening we’re all going to stand up, right? I’m going to stand up.

Nehemia: I’m going to stand up, too. Well, I guess I have to pick up the microphone.

Jono: I’m getting up.

Nehemia: So the first verse, in Hebrew I’ll read it. “And Elohim spoke all these words, saying [Nehemia reads the passages in Hebrew]”.

Jono: Amen, thank you.

Keith: Amen and Amen. I was about ready to start dancing, as I’m standing up. When you hear these words and understand them, as those of us that are listening that believe that these are the actual words of the creator of the universe spoken to all of mankind, and now for there to be this debate of deciding whether or not we need to deal with these words or not, or if these words are any good anymore, whether these words are even applicable anymore.

Certainly they just are words that we look at in a historical context, but we’re so thankful that we don’t have to deal with these words anymore, we've got a different way. And when I hear those words, I know for me, in my heart, it excites me, that we got a chance to not only read these words, to understand these words, but to apply these words in our lives. And you can’t hear those words without having to ask the question “what am I doing about it?”

Jono: Amen. Thank you, Nehemia, for that.

Keith: Thank you, Nehemia Gordon. I’m dealing with this guy for all these years. The thing that hit me more than anything ten years ago; we’re sitting down and he’s actually reading it and it’s not just reference words, but actual living words on the page. It’s just been exciting to walk along with you, Nehemia. It’s really been an honor and a blessing, and you spurred me on, my friend.

Jono: And now, “All the people witness the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the Shofar and the mountain smoking, and when the people saw it they trembled and stood far off.” And then they said to Moses, “You speak with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us lest we die.” How are we to understand that?

Nehemia: Well, they’re terrified. If He gives all the commandments like this, they’re afraid they’re going to die.

Jono: It’s that terrifying that they honestly think their lives are at stake.

Keith: Can you imagine thunder, quaking, fire, smoke, sounds, words? And the words that are spoken from a voice that who knows, maybe it was like rushing waters? Imagine hearing the voice of the creator of the universe speak. I can’t imagine. I think it’s an amazing picture that I can’t even wrap my mind around.

Jono: It's mind blowing. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you and that His fear may be before you so that you may not sin.’” So clearly this is the point of the whole exercise - not just to give the words, but to show them how incredibly powerful He is, so that they think twice before they break His commandments. To literally instill in them the fear of Yehovah, the fear of the Lord. Is that fair enough?

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: It’s interesting, because I’m currently finishing up a book on the priestly blessing, and one of the things my editor keeps telling me is, “Nehemia, don’t tell. Show.” And she means literarily, but that’s what God did here. Rather than tell them, “I’m very powerful, I’m very awesome, I’m very amazing,” Instead of just telling them that, He showed them. And they experienced it for themselves.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: “The people stood far off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” And so these are the final verses. “Then Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, you have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.’” How about that? “You shall not make anything to be with Me. Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it the burnt offerings, your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen.” Keith, are you ready for it?

Keith: Listen, I’m still stuck on this. I know the people have to be listening to this show and they’ve got to say “We’ve heard the Hebrew, and we’ve heard the discussion and we were not able to go line by line because we don’t have time, but I want to encourage people to do something before we get to this moneyball verse for me. And that is to do something that Nehemia actually showed us in the very beginning. What he did that was so powerful, and I don’t know if people caught this or not - we started with Jethro, and we ended up all the way in Chronicles, I think. What was powerful about that is it's a way to study and to make the connections, and I think people would be really surprised if they took, and I want to encourage people to be like the Bereans, to check the scripture and to go into depth on this. Every word, even in English, every word the Creator commanded, go through those words and see where else those words are used and do your own study, and you might be a bit shocked by what you’re going to learn. So I’m going to encourage people to do that.

And then, of course, after we get through all those powerful words and powerful phrases, then he does this little deal, then he adds to the verse, and I think you’re going to go to 24. It says, “Make an altar of earth for me, sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle,” and I think that that’s where I thought the verse was supposed to stop, but then it does something really powerful. In my English bible it says, “Whenever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.” That’s what the NIV says, and if I stick to it I’m just going to honor his name. And honoring his name might mean… who knows what honoring his name means.

Jono: I’ve got a different word here, Keith.

Keith: What does yours say?

Jono: It says: “In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you.”

Keith: Oh, so wherever He records it. Nehemia, could you please read it in Hebrew for us?

Nehemia: It says: “…bichol hamakom asher azkir et shemi avo elecha uverachticha.” “…in every place that I cause my name to be mentioned I will come to you and I will bless you.”

Keith: Wait, so you’re telling me if you were to read that in Hebrew it would actually tell you to mention his name?

Nehemia: It says that He causes His name to be mentioned. He’s going to bless you in those places. He doesn’t say, “In every place I cause My name to be mentioned I will come and curse you because My name is forbidden and too holy to speak.” On the contrary, He says, “Every place I cause My name to be mentioned, there I will come to you and bless you.”

Keith: Amen. Well, the reason it excites me is that when we slowed down and looked…

Nehemia: Here, let me read this to you from the JPS, the Jewish Publication Society, published in 1985. It’s a rabbinical translation, and they have, “In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.”

Keith: There’s the JPS. So the idea being that we do have an opportunity to mention His name. It doesn’t say “every place I cause My title to be mentioned,” it doesn’t say that. It says “Every place I cause My name to be mentioned.” So what an opportunity. And he ties this with the issue of the altar, and we’ve talked about this before - why this is so powerful is that the idea is that the altar would be set up and from the altar they would call upon the name. The connection between the altar and calling upon His name is a close connection and right here, right after all of these powerful words that He speaks, He says, “I’m expecting that you’re going to call upon My name.” In fact, “When I cause you to call upon it and mention it, I will come to you Myself and bless you.”

So may it be for everyone that we learn about His name and who He is, and His introduction is in His words, and not simply mentioning His name with our mouth, but understanding it in our heart, our minds, His character, and being the people that would truly honor His name by understanding, living by His name, calling upon His name and being a people who want to walk by His words. Amen?

Jono: and Nehemia: Amen.

Nehemia: Hey, can I point something out, Jono and Keith? And I want to challenge the two of you. Basically, we skipped over the Ten Commandments. I think the reason we did that is there’s kind of this notion that everybody knows what these are, so we’re not going to be spending time talking about these. But from speaking to people around the world I’ve realized that the understanding of the Ten Commandments is really elementary, and in fact wrong very often, especially when they’re read in English.

And so what I want to challenge the two of you to do is that, when we get to Deuteronomy and the Ten Commandments are repeated, that we go through each and every one of the commandments and we ask what it means and its contents base and its language, and understand it. Because to just skip over the Ten Commandments, I’m really not at ease there. We’ve got to go through them one by one and talk about what they mean, because there’s over a billion people in the world who claim they believe in these commandments, and more than half of them don’t even understand what the basic meanings of these commandments.

Keith: Here’s what I love about this, Jono, and I know we’re at the end. That’s why I said that if people will go through this and make connections, they’ll find that in Deuteronomy, and when we get to Deuteronomy we’re going to have a whole section just on this, because it is powerful to hear Moses re-tell what it was that happened back then. That’s why you guys are not missing anything. Study for yourselves so you’re ready when we get to Deuteronomy, it’s going to be powerful. Thank you.

Jono: Deuteronomy chapter 5, if I remember correctly, we’ll do a two-hour program and go through it in detail, the Ten Commandments and the retelling of the words. We have two very vital verses, we can’t let it go there. This is the way it ends. “And if you make me an altar of stone you shall not build it from hewn stone, for if you use a tool on it you have profaned it.”

Nehemia: “If you wave a sword upon it, you have desecrated it,” and the thinking there is that when you hew stones you use iron, you use metal, and that same metal is used to kill, it’s used for death, and that must not be used to create the altar of Yehovah, a tool that can also be used for death.

Jono: Wow, I wasn’t expecting that Torah Pearl, but there you go. That’s fascinating. And most important of all, here we go, “Nor shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.” That’s important.

Nehemia: And I’m very grateful for that commandment. Wear underwear!

Jono: The final commandment of this week’s Torah portion and the final thought is, wear underwear when you’re going up steps. Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson, thank you for coming back on Pearls from the Torah Portion, my friends. It’s always a blessing to have you on the program.

Nehemia: Let me say just one last word in closing, which is, Yehovah, I pray, please let me have the obedience to your commandments of the Rechabites, and love you with the love of Georgia.

Jono: Amen, that’s brilliant.

Keith: Amen. Thanks Nehemia, thanks Jono for having us here. We do appreciate the fact that we could honor Georgia during this time. She was a great dog.

Jono: Absolutely. Usually we go out with a guitar track from my sister’s album, “The Leftover Sea,” which is available from TRUTH2U, but instead I’m going to leave you with a guitar instrumental by yours truly. I’m going to entitle this, “Memories of Georgia,” and I hope you enjoy it. Next week we are in Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 to 24:18 and until then, dear listener, be blessed and be set apart by the truth of our Father’s word. Shalom.

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22 thoughts on “Torah Pearls #17 – Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

  1. Just out of curiosity, aren’t we commanded not to touch the unclean thing(yes I like dogs and all other animals, but do not trust large cats). Wonder if u could comment?

  2. Nehemia What I found is that it was at Mt. Horeb is where Moses when up the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights ..and he received the 2 tables of stone..(Deut 9:8 [KJV])
    Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.

    (Deut 9:9 [KJV])
    When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, [even] the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:

    (Deut 9:10 [KJV])
    And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them [was written] according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.

    (Deut 9:11 [KJV])
    And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, [that] the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, [even] the tables of the covenant.

    (Deut 9:12 [KJV])
    And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted [themselves]; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.

  3. Nehemia, I really enjoyed the unpacking Exodus 18 but it was the music at the end that made me cry for the loss of your Georgia. Does Jono have a CD out it would be so cool…

  4. Nehemia,

    A little off topic, but have you ever questioned the difference in the accounts of Creation between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2? Oddly, throughout all of chapter 1, the Creator was only God, (Elohim,) that was doing all the creating. Then in Genesis 2, These are the generations of the heaven and the earth in the day that Yehovah God created them. Then through the fall and being kicked out of Eden, all references are towards Yehovah, or Yehovah God. I’m not saying it was, but it’s almost as if there are two separate creations, different accounts when one reads them noting specifically who was doing the creating. I question, because I seek 100% truth, and it just seems strange that His name got longer in chapter 2. I could understand if it was a long name in chapter 1, and Moses asked, can we shorten your name, so they did. But I don’t understand “why” His name would have gotten longer (temporariy, for a few chapters,) after which it was any of the above: God, Yehovah, Yehovah God, Lord, etc….

    It’s almost as if God, (as a family or group) created the world, the universe, etc…, then a specific, singular member of the family, made Adam,

    Any thoughts based on your in depth knowledge of the Hebrew language?.

    Thanks.

  5. quick question–if Moses had actually “divorced” his wife (and not just “sent her back to dad’s while he went off to face Pharaoh), why does the text in v.2, 5, 6 (still) as “his wife”? Just does not quite seem to fit (in this context). thx

  6. Where do you get an eternal line for Aaron? The text says Ex 40:15 Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.”

    It does not say “forever” unless the Hebrew speaks otherwise. Does the Hebrew say differently?

    My point is that the Levites were chosen because of sin but the intention was for a priesthood of believers….no king or human intermediary. YHVH, Himself, would be the “levite” (used as a verb) just as He would be the redeemer, the savior, etc.

    In fact, doesn’t Jeremiah 31 prove that the role of a levite is going to be finished?

  7. Another great Torah portion, thank you. I’m looking forward to the Deuteronomy 5 study. When leaving Christianity to follow Torah this was the passage that my family quoted to me, before ostracising me, specifically this verse…*[[Deu 5:22]] KJV* These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me….Yehovah added no more. Needless to say, I didn’t see things the same, or we wouldn’t have 5 books of instructions.

    Shalom 🙂

  8. The sadness of the loss of our dogs will soon be replaced with the gratefulness and appreciation of memories of them in our lives; Yehovah’s gift to us.

  9. Nehemia…

    I lost my 20 year old miniature dachshund last May, and it makes me weep even now to write this. I’m truly sorry for your loss. I guess this was a couple of years ago for you now…but I’m only just learning about it. Thank you for these Torah portions. Shalom

  10. The Creator of the Universe teaches us how to love by way of His handiwork as narrated so well by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:3

    …..”but the poor man had nothing save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared; and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.”

    Looking into the eyes of a beloved pet and seeing the gratitude and affection they project towards you is like seeing the gleam in our Father’s eye.

  11. The comment that Caleb was a Gentile because he was Kenizzite confuses me a little. Many thoughts come to mind… Kenaz is named as a descendant of Esau, yet in Genesis 15:19 the Kenizzites existed in the days of Abraham. How can this be? Also, is Jephunneh a Hebrew name? Is it possible that there were two men named Kenaz at different points in history, because the families are so closely related? Caleb conquered a city of giants, the Anakim, so if he, as some commentaries say, took his own families land for Israel, he would have been a giant as well and scripture does not indicate this? Nehemia, can you please give a brief overview of the reasons for thinking there is only one Kenaz and that Caleb and Othniel at some point joined Israel in their wanderings and were adopted into Judah? Thanks!

    • The linking of Caleb to the Kenizzite people is tenuous, I think. It may be the right interpretation, but it may also be a case of interpreting to match a theology. There is another argument (just as sound, or (in my opinion) more sound) that says that “Kenizzite” (which means “hunter”) was being used here as a description/title rather than a people group.

      This is somewhat similar to applying “Maccabee” as a family name to Mattathias and his descendants, when Maccabee was apparently a nickname/title for Mattathias’ son Judah “the hammer” (maccabee is usually considered to be an Aramaic word meaning “hammer”, although there are other interesting alternate explanations).

  12. Nehemiah, it is your heart-felt sorrows for losing your beloved Georgia and other personal things that befell you that attracted me to follow your Torah sharing. I lost my dog Rexena recently, too. They are God’s beautiful gifts to us. I am in awe of Jehovah for His awesome work in you and your depth of understanding the Bible. I pray you keep close to Baruch HaShem, for your studies are not falling on deaf ears of us who have ears, we can rejoice greatly with your swimming to the depths and back up for distributing the pearls to us who hunger and treasure His Name above all names with holy holy holy reverence in our spirits, now and forever! Can I have an AMEN!!!!

  13. Nehemia, I highly recommend a female Chihuahua at this point. Chihuahuas are excellent exploration companions; not only are they small, but also they love to travel and wander and explore wherever you go. And females will not mark in the same way that males will.

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