Category Archives: THE NATION ISRAEL

Who were the “scribes?”

WHO WERE THE “SCRIBES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “scribes.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

As their title implies, scribes were literate men—able to read and write. They were copyists of the Old Testament Scriptures in the nation Israel. Also, they were teachers of the same. Scribes were of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.

“And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar” (1 Chronicles 24:6). “Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters” (2 Chronicles 34:13). Shaphan the Scribe appears in this chapter.

Living circa 500 B.C., Ezra was another Levitical priest and scribe. These verses from Ezra chapter 7 describe his job: “[6] This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him…. [11] Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel. [12] Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time…. [21] And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,….” Ezra faithfully copied the words of God, and was influential in getting the Old Testament Scriptures to us to read even now!

Ezra also taught the Hebrew Old Testament, as we see in Nehemiah chapter 8: “[1] And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel…. [4] And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam…. [9] And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law…. [13] And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law” (cf. Nehemiah 12:26,36).

Baruch was the Prophet Jeremiah’s scribe, writing the words of the LORD as He spoke through Jeremiah. See Jeremiah chapter 36. Another scribe, Elishama, is mentioned here as well. Verse 4: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.”

Around 600 B.C., Israel really did not care to read the scribes’ work, the Hebrew Bible. “How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain” (Jeremiah 8:8) By the time of Christ’s arrival, even the scribes were in unbelief… some of Jesus’ greatest critics. They knew the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, including His birthplace (Bethlehem of Judaea), but they did not visit Him when He was born (Matthew 2:4-6). Possessing the Word of God, and yet not believing it, profited them nothing (Hebrews 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Jesus paired the scribes with the Pharisees—self-righteous, conceited people who were not right in God’s sight (Matthew 5:20). Both scribes and Pharisees considered others to be “sinners,” but they viewed themselves as sinless (Luke 5:29-32; Luke 15:1-10).  Jesus said of scribes in Luke 11:44: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” They were hypocrites—appearing to good and righteous, but really as defiled and disgusting as corpses! “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

When teaching their Jewish people the Old Testament Scriptures, the scribes relied on others’ interpretations of the Bible. However, Jesus was His own authority, never quoting rabbis, which impressed the crowds (Matthew 7:28-29). Some of the scribes manifested themselves as unbelievers in that they accused Jesus of blasphemy when He forgave a man of his sins (Matthew 9:3; Luke 5:21). Like the Pharisees, scribes were strict Sabbath observers. They watched Jesus closely to see if He would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath—a violation of rabbinical tradition (Luke 6:6-11). Right here, they are “filled with madness [insanity]; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” The scribes will reject Him to the point of His death (Luke 9:22).

In Luke 11:53-54, the scribes partnered with the Pharisees to try to cause Jesus to stumble in His words: “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” Some scribes and Pharisees even took an adulteress and brought her before Jesus for condemnation—another unsuccessful attempt to embarrass Him (John 8:1-11).

“And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And they could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke 19:47-48). The scribes united with the chief priests and deliberately challenged Jesus’ authority in Luke 20:1-8. “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them” (Luke 20:19). Also, Luke 22:2: “And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.” The scribes assembled with Israel’s other religious leaders in trying and condemning Christ (Luke 22:66-71). During His Gentile trial before King Herod Antipas: “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him [Jesus]” (Luke 23:10).

The scribes gathered with Israel’s other religious leaders in opposing the Apostles in early Acts (chapter 4, verses 1-22). Scribes were some of those who were convinced to be antagonistic against Stephen, the Holy Spirit’s preacher to Israel at the time of Acts chapters 6 and 7 (cf. Acts 6:12). A portion of the scribes of the Pharisees “somewhat” came to the Apostle Paul’s defense during his trial many years later (Acts 23:9). While not clear in Scripture, some scribes (likely few) seem to have some spiritual receptivity, though we cannot ascertain to what degree. See Matthew 8:19 and Luke 20:39.

In closing, the scribes copied and taught the Old Testament Scriptures in Israel. If anyone in the nation should have been familiar with the writings of the ancient Jewish prophets, these were the men. They were the educated, literate crowd—alas, they could not care less about God’s Word or God’s Son. A good many such “scholars” today exist in Christendom. They do not believe the Bible, and, using their vast influence, they encourage others not to believe it either. Remember, the scribes possessed and copied the Scripture… but did not actually trust the Scripture. Let us learn this lesson. It is not enough for us to have the Bible: we must also read, study, and (most importantly!) believe it in the heart!

Also see:
» Who are “lawyers” in Scripture?
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “Sadducees?”

Who were the “Sadducees?”

WHO WERE THE “SADDUCEES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “Sadducees.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

HISTORIANS SPEAK

While the Pharisees numbered around 6,000, the Sadducees were an even smaller group during Christ’s earthly ministry. Sadducees were the second most influential group in Judaism (Jewish religion) in the nation Israel, but were equally corrupt. The origin of the name “Sadducee” is debated. It may be related to Zadok (Greek, “Sadok”), the priest who served under Kings David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24-29; 1 Kings 1:32; 1 Kings 2:35). Sadducees disappeared in A.D. 70, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, about four decades after Christ’s earthly ministry.

Now, we can move on to God’s Word.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

The Sadducees—along with the Pharisees—are first found in God’s Word in Matthew 3:7. John the Baptist addresses them as “vipers,” for they resemble their spiritual father Satan (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). According to the Bible study principle of “the law of first mention,” this first instance of the word sets the tone of the Scriptures as touching them. They are some of the bitterest opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will for the nation Israel, especially in the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John) and the Acts period.

Sadducees appear by name a mere 14 times in the King James Bible. However, many Jewish priests, including the high priest, were Sadducees. Thus, Scripture may indirectly refer to them when it mentions priests, chief priests, high priests, and so on. Sadducees were aristocratic, wealthy and exclusive. Hence, they are rarely seen mixing with the common Jewish people: this explains their few verses in Scripture. In contrast, the Pharisees involved men of all social statuses, as Pharisees engaged in proselytizing.

Jesus warned His disciples of the doctrine (teaching) of the Sadducees (verses 11-12). The Sadducees were noteworthy for two positions. Firstly, they did not believe in bodily resurrection (they were “sad, you see!” hahaha). Secondly, they did not believe in angels or spirits.

  • Matthew 22:23: “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,….”
  • Mark 12:18: “Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,….”
  • Luke 20:27: “Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,….”
  • Acts 4:1-2: “[1] And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, [2] Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
  • Acts 23:8: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”

If you read Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, and Luke 20:27-38; you will see the Sadducees posing a complex and ridiculous question about resurrection so as to make Jesus look foolish. (They did not believe in resurrection, so they were not interested in learning the truth. It was nothing but a pointless argument to embarrass Christ. He answered them—and put them to silence!)

Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees rejected oral tradition, contending that the written Law of Moses (Scripture) alone was the source of Divine revelation. Sadducees accepted only Moses’ writings, however; Jesus skillfully used Moses to answer the “resurrection dilemma” they posed to Him. They were materialistic, far more involved in politics than religion. Yet, they agreed with the Pharisees challenging and murdering Jesus Christ, and opposing Him and His followers as much as possible. “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1). They persecuted the Little Flock of believers in Acts 4:1-3 because they preached Jesus’ resurrection. Notice Acts 5:17-18: “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”

In closing, the Sadducees are modern rationalists, skeptics, and liberals in that they outright questioned, denied, and refuted Bible truth. They do not believe in the supernatural, only the material or physical world.

SUPPLEMENTAL: FROM WHERE DID THE SADDUCEES’ STRANGE POSITIONS COME?

How could the Sadducees not believe in resurrection, when their Old Testament clearly taught it (Exodus 3:6; Job 19:25-27; Daniel 12:2; et cetera)? How could they not believe in angels and spirits, when their Old Testament abounds with these creatures (Genesis 19:1,15; Genesis 32:1; Job 4:18; Psalm 68:17; et al.)(Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6,27; Deuteronomy 18:11; et al.)?

Remember, the Sadducees only accepted Moses’ five Books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now, why did they not listen to Moses concerning resurrection, spirits, and angels? The most likely answer is they developed their anti-spirit, anti-angel, and anti-resurrection attitude during the time between Malachi and John the Baptist. For 400 years—between the writing of Malachi and the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist—God was not speaking to Israel. The Jews had rejected His words for centuries, so now He was being quiet (Amos 8:11-12). He would send no angels or prophets to talk to them, perform no miracles in their midst, and so on. Once Malachi’s ministry terminated, Israel did not hear from God until John the Baptist four centuries later (cf. Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:13-17). That interim of God’s silence probably led to the surfacing of the Sadducees.

Also see:
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “scribes?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Who were the “Pharisees?”

WHO WERE THE“PHARISEES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “Pharisees.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

HISTORIANS SPEAK

The Pharisees numbered only about 6,000 during Christ’s earthly ministry. Although a relatively small sect of Judaism (Jewish religion), they were the most influential group in the nation Israel. The name “Pharisee” is from the Hebrew word “parash,” meaning “separated ones.” However, they preferred the title “chasidim,” or “pious ones.”

Josephus, the famed Jewish historian who lived A.D. 37–100, reports they arose in Israel during the 400-year-long intertestamental period (between the ministries of Malachi and John the Baptist), roughly 150 B.C. They were they successors of the Hasidim, religious Jews who allied with the Maccabees during the fight to be liberated from Syrian oppression (166–142 B.C.). Some sources claim the Pharisees first appeared during the reign of Jewish leader and high priest John Hyrcanus (ruled circa 135–105 B.C.).

Now, we can move on to God’s Word.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

The Pharisees—along with the Sadducees—are first found in God’s Word in Matthew 3:7. John the Baptist addresses them as “vipers,” for they resemble their spiritual father Satan (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). According to the Bible study principle of “the law of first mention,” this first instance of the word sets the tone of the Scriptures as touching them. They are some of the bitterest opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will for the nation Israel, especially in the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John) and the Acts period.

Pharisees appear by name nearly 100 times in the King James Bible. One particular fault of theirs is religious hypocrisy: they pretend to be God’s people and servants but are anything but. Jesus warned, “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Matthew 23:1-3).

Saul of Tarsus, later the Apostle Paul, was a Pharisee. Alluding to his former life, he shares: “[All the Jews] Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5). Pharisees were strict in their observance of religious rules and regulations, to the point they underscored outward performance (“going through the motions”) instead of inward faith (believing in and relying on God’s Word).

Pharisees refused to be water baptized of John the Baptist, demonstrating their unbelief, their rejection of Jesus as Messiah: “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29-30). The Pharisees asked silly questions to challenge John the Baptist in John 1:19-25. According to Luke 5:17-21, Pharisees doubted Jesus was God: they accused Him of blasphemy because He forgave sins. Pharisees were also known for their dedication to frequent fasting and prayers (Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:53). Some would pray for as long as three hours at a time—just for the public to notice and praise them!

In modern English, the adjective “Pharisaism” is applied to a self-righteous person. This is rooted in Scripture, as the Pharisees considered others as “sinners” but they themselves as sinless (Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32; Luke 7:36-43; Luke 15:1-2). It was feigned (pretend) righteousness—self-righteousness—and certainly not enough to please God (Matthew 5:20). They did not seem themselves in need of a Saviour, and they did not desire to have Jesus Christ reign over them as the rightful King of Israel. Hence, they rebelled against Him at every possible opportunity.

Jesus describes a Pharisee most graphically in Luke 18:9-14: “[9] And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [12] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [13] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

The Pharisees stressed outward performance, particularly washing hands to make them ceremonially clean according to rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23). Ignoring their sin problem, they overlooked their need for internal cleansing. They took the Word of God—the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, at the time—and set it aside so they could retain their religious tradition. Their authority was not the Scriptures alone, but rather the interpretations of men (oral tradition). The Lord Jesus Christ thus warned His disciples of the dangerous doctrine (teaching) of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6-11; Mark 8:15).

Pharisees were fanatics as touching the observance of other rabbinical traditions. For example, they complained when Jesus’ poverty-stricken, hungry disciples plucked corn (grain) to eat on the Sabbath Day. Oral tradition forbade such a practice, although the Word of God had taught them to be merciful (and not cold-hearted religious extremists)! See Matthew 12:2, Mark 2:24, and Luke 6:2. Regarding Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were outraged that He did not observe their rabbinical rule (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11). According to Jewish religious tradition, no medical aid was to be rendered on the Sabbath unless it was a life-threatening condition.

The Pharisees operated with the desire to attract the attention and praise of others. Read this excerpt from Matthew chapter 23: “[4] For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. [5] But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, [6] And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,…. [13] But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. [14] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. [15] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

“[23] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [24] Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. [25] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. [26] Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. [27] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. [28] Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Read all of Matthew chapter 23 in your own time. Also, see the companion passage, Luke chapter 11, verses 37-52.)

Matthew 9:34 shows us the Pharisees were bitter enemies of Jesus, falsely accusing Him with: “He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” That is, they publicly labeled Christ as a partner of Satan! It is no mystery why they wanted Jesus out of the way. He was “competition,” and they desired the attention for themselves. “And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples” (Luke 19:39). Read this context. They did not like Jesus being praised because the crowds were ignoring them!

The Pharisees frequently questioned—yes, opposed—Jesus. As touching the issue of divorce, for instance, they used a captious question to make Him look foolish (Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-9). Moreover, they mentioned numerous other topics, hoping to trip Him up in His words so He would discredit Himself (Luke 11:53-54). In Matthew 22:34-40, a Mosaic Law “scholar” of the Pharisees asks Jesus a trick question as concerning what is the great commandment. Pharisees constantly sought signs (miraculous demonstrations), outright ignoring the numerous others Jesus had already performed (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11)! They were also materialistic, ridiculing Jesus after He spoke out against their greediness: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (Luke 16:14).

While the Pharisees and Sadducees were diametrically opposed in doctrine (see our companion “Sadducees” study linked at the end of this article), they united with each other in their absolute hatred for the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:1, both sects challenge Him to perform a special kind of miracle. He refused, for they were not willing to believe anyway.

The Pharisees despised Christ so much they actually conspired to put Him to death! “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14). “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6). As we can see, the Pharisees also allied with the “Herodians” (a political group instead of a religious group—see our related study linked at the end of this article). Later, the Pharisees sent some of their students with the Herodians to ask Jesus a trick question regarding paying taxes to the Roman government (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17).

Jesus was aware the Pharisees were scheming to put Him to death, and He informed them of it in a parable—which convicted and angered them (see Matthew 21:33-46). On another occasion, the Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus in the Temple, but failed (John 7:32-44). Later, in chapter 8 of John, they dare Jesus by bringing an adulteress to Him for her to be condemned. Also, He has some more harsh words for them throughout the rest of the chapter! They manifest their unbelief again in verse 13: “The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.”

In chapter 9 of John, Pharisees persecute the blind man whom Jesus just healed. They do not believe the man was actually cured of anything, and they refuse to believe on Christ too! When the Lord Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees respond by wanting to capture and kill Jesus once again (John 11:46-53,57). In chapter 12, we see more of the Pharisees’ complaints: “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.” Verses 42-43 now, and notice how they tyrannically suppress Jews in the synagogues from sharing their testimonies of faith in Jesus as Christ: “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

The Pharisees assembled a mob to accompany Judas Iscariot at Christ’s arrest, as John 18:3 reveals. Even after His death, the Pharisees challenged Jesus in denying He would really rise from the dead. Joined with the chief priests, they called Him a “deceiver” (Matthew 27:62-63; cf. John 7:45-47).

As far as Scripture is concerned, some Pharisees became believers in Jesus Christ. One was named Nicodemus (John chapter 3; cf. John 7:47-50), and another was Joseph of Arimathaea (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51; John 19:38). As we mentioned near the beginning of this study, the Apostle Paul was a former Pharisee, trained under Gamaliel, a rabbi of the Pharisees (see Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 5:34). However, it is unclear whether Gamaliel ever trusted Jesus Christ. Acts 15:5 speaks of some of “the sect of the Pharisees which believed.” Their names are not revealed though.

The Apostle Paul, in the late Acts period, stood on trial before Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts chapter 23). From verse 8, we learn the Pharisees believed in resurrection, angels, and spirits (the Sadducees did not). Verse 9 indicates some Pharisees were “scribes”—copyists and teachers of the Old Testament Scripture. (See our related “scribes” study linked at the end of this article.)

In closing, there are many such “Pharisees” in Christendom today. They value oral tradition, so much so that they gave it equal authority to the Scriptures—and even discard Scripture for sake of keeping their tradition. Also, they place emphasis on meticulously observing religious rules and rituals as opposed to faith in God’s Word. In these two senses, they are the modern Roman Catholics. As formalism corrupted ancient Judaism, so it perverts the Church the Body of Christ today. Incidentally, modern Orthodox Judaism is based on the doctrines and rules of the ancient Pharisees.

Also see:
» Who were the “Sadducees?”
» Who were the “scribes?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Why did John the Baptist behave so strangely?

WHY DID JOHN THE BAPTIST BEHAVE SO STRANGELY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Consider these two verses regarding John the Baptist. “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). “And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;…” (Mark 1:6).

John the Baptist certainly did not conduct himself in any ordinary way, did he? Locusts (grasshoppers) and wild honey were his diet. He wore a garment made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt. The Bible also says he lived out in the wilderness, far away from people. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). Some 30 years later, he even conducted his ministry out in the wilderness. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,…” (Matthew 3:1). “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2).

One cross-reference helpful in understanding John the Baptist’s manner of living and ministry is 2 Kings 1:8: “And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.” The Prophet Elijah and John the Baptist are very closely related (see Matthew 11:11-15, Matthew 17:10-13, and Mark 9:11-13). (Be sure to note “Elias” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Elijah.”) Perhaps the clearest verse is Luke 1:17: “And he [John the Baptist] shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” This is actually an allusion to Malachi 4:5-6, written about four centuries before John the Baptist: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Elijah’s ministry was managed as apostate King Ahab and Queen Jezebel increasingly polluted the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom with pagan idolatry (Baal worship). Be sure to read 1 Kings chapters 16–22, with Elijah first appearing in chapter 17. Israel has heathen leaders, and the LORD God confronts them through Elijah’s preaching! If you are familiar with the Four Gospel Records—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—you will immediately see the parallel. Apostates here are in the form of chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, Herodians, and so on. They are actively opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and do everything they can to malign and discredit Him. Ultimately, it was these “religious” leaders who presided over His trial, deliberately and unapologetically lied about Him, and then demanded Roman Governor Pontius Pilate crucify Him! John the Baptist had rightly titled them “vipers” (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7)—snakes, deceptive souls akin to the serpent Satan!

That being said, John the Baptist is dressed in such a way as to cause the nation Israel to remember their spiritual condition in the days of Elijah. His camel’s hair garment and leather belt are reminiscent of Elijah’s clothes, are they not? The paganism (false religion) that deceived and plagued the Jews in Elijah’s time is exactly the system Satan is operating so as to oppose Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry! As for John eating locusts and wild honey, locusts are nothing but grasshoppers (and the Mosaic Law permitted their consumption in Leviticus 11:22). The honey likely made grasshoppers “tastier!”

John lived out in the wilderness not only to fulfill prophecy (see Isaiah 40:3 cf. Matthew 3:3), but also to call Israel away from the apostate religious system centered in the Jerusalem Temple. Instead of being a priest like his father Zacharias and serving in the Temple (Luke 1:5-9), John the Baptist was out in the desert places because the Temple had been corrupted and converted into the house—yea, had become the headquarters—of a vain, worthless religion that will eventually lead to the Antichrist’s satanic regime and his Whore of Babylon religion (pictured in Ahab and Jezebel)!

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How could John the Baptist question if Jesus really is Christ?
» Was John the Baptist really Elijah?

Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?

WHY WAS THE TEMPLE’S VEIL RENT WHEN CHRIST DIED?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Turning to Matthew chapter 27, we read these words of God: “[51] And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; [52] And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, [53] And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” This tearing of the veil of Herod’s Temple is also recorded in Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45.

Why was the veil of the Jerusalem Temple ripped in two? Various and sundry explanations have been offered. Some say the Mosaic Law ended here and the Dispensation of Grace began. Others further claim this tearing of the veil signifies the abolishment of the distinction between Jew and Gentile, all people now having equal access to the God of the Bible. Are these correct views? Could there be another reason? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

At Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, “from the top to the bottom.” The nature of the split indicates God did it as opposed to man: man would have torn it from bottom to top, but Divine working would have caused it to tear from top to bottom. According to the Mishnah, this curtain was 60 feet (18 meters) long, 30 feet (9 meters) tall, and as thick as man’s palm. It was so heavy it took 300 men to lift it when wet! This was the partition between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Behind it, once a year (Day of Atonement), the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place with animals’ blood and, on the Mercy Seat, make atonement for his sins and the sins of Israel (cf. Leviticus chapter 16). God’s presence—also known as “the Shekinah glory”—hovered above the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 25:17-22, for example).

This veil as touching the Tabernacle was first constructed according to Exodus chapter 26: “[31] And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: [32] And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. [33] And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. [34] And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. [35] And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side.” You may also see Exodus 36:35-36 and Hebrews 9:1-7. A similar arrangement was followed in King Solomon’s Temple 500 years later (2 Chronicles 3:14). Zerubbabel’s Temple was constructed 500 years after that, and King Herod the Great refurbished it a few decades before Christ’s birth.

Why was the Temple veil ripped in two in Matthew chapter 27? Firstly, let us deal with the supposition the Mosaic Law was rescinded (cancelled) when Jesus died and the veil was rent. No one who reads the Bible with an open heart could ever suggest this to be true. Either they have not actually read the verses, or they have read the verses and chosen to ignore them for sake of maintaining denominational traditions! It is absolutely, categorically wrong to say the Law ended at Calvary and the Dispensation of Grace began at Calvary. All we have to do is turn to Ephesians chapter 3, and read the first two verses: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:….” If the Bible is correct—and it is!—then the Dispensation of Grace could in no wise begin until the Apostle Paul. Saul of Tarsus is a lost or unsaved man in Matthew chapter 27, and he will not be converted until a year later (Acts chapter 9).

Furthermore, the Mosaic Law was not abolished at the cross, for Christ Himself commanded His disciples to observe the Law and teach men to do the same so they could be great in the Kingdom. Matthew 5:17-19, spoken before the cross: “[17] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. [18] For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. [19] Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew chapter 23, also spoken before the cross: “[1] Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, [2] Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: [3] All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

Matthew 28:18-20 now: “[18] And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” What were the “things” Jesus commanded them? Was it not the Law, as we just read? No one is told anywhere here, “You are not under the law, but under grace.” We do not find such language until the Apostle Paul (namely, Romans 6:14-15).

Even after Calvary, Temple worship is still ongoing. No one in these passages is under the impression that they are under grace and not law! “And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:53). “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,…” (Acts 2:46). “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1). There is absolutely no question about it. Even though the Temple veil was rent, Law observance was encouraged and continued. Temple worship remained.

Now, let us deal with the claim the rending of the veil means there is no longer a difference between Jew and Gentile. This too is false, nothing more than a baseless assumption. The cross of Calvary did not abolish the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision. Again, if we have eyes to see, we can clearly see the middle wall of partition is still up post-resurrection. The nation Israel is still considered separate and distinct from the nations of the world, and God’s messengers restrict His Word to the Jews even into the early Acts period. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem(Luke 24:47). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth(Acts 1:8).

Read the Apostle Peter’s famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2: “[14] But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:…. [22] Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:…. [36] Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Whom is Peter addressing? The whole world? No, the nation Israel! Again, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (Acts 4:10). “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).

The “no difference between Jew and Gentile” is applicable beginning with the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Acts chapter 9 onward. Someone will inquire about Peter visiting Gentile Cornelius in chapter 10. Here, we will notice this followed Paul’s salvation and the beginning of his ministry (chapter 9!). God directed Peter to Cornelius’ house so that he may defend Paul’s “all-men” message in chapter 15 many years later. Paul wrote, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference (Romans 3:22). “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12). For more information, see our Ephesians 2:18-22 article linked at the end of this study. Also, read all of Ephesians chapters 2 and 3, which speak of the difference between Jew and Gentile being removed in the Church the Body of Christ—an entity that did not exist until Paul’s salvation and ministry.

Having handled the misconceptions, we can now offer two reasons why the Temple veil was ripped apart when the Lord Jesus died.

Firstly, back in Matthew chapter 23, Christ had told Jerusalem, “The Temple is now your house!” Notice: “[37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! [38] Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” No longer was the Temple His house (Matthew 21:13) or His Father’s house (John 2:16). With the veil rent, it is clear to all in the Temple that the Shekinah glory of God is absent! They have rejected Him, and they have rejected His Son (crucified Him), and now He has given them over to the error they so passionately desired. The Temple vacated, the Antichrist can enter and occupy (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)!

By the way, at the time of Christ dying and the Temple veil rending, the priests would have been there offering the animal sacrifices. No doubt they knew God Himself took that veil and tore it. While not recorded in the Bible, it is said they stitched the veil back together and continued with their vain religious system!

The second reason the Temple veil was rent is found in the Book of Hebrews, information God revealed many years after Calvary. Go over to chapter 10: “[19] Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20] By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; [21] And having an high priest over the house of God; [22] Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised; ) [24] And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

When the writer of Hebrews speaks of “a new and living way,” he refers to something beyond the Mosaic system. This is the transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In fact, read chapters 8-10, carefully noting 8:7-13, 9:1-28, and 10:1-25. As explained in Hebrews 10:19-20, the Temple veil being split was a picture or symbol of Christ’s flesh—His death—opening the way for Israel to approach God differently. Through Christ’s shed blood, the New Covenant can now be ratified. It will be instituted at His Second Coming, as seen in the following two passages (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Romans 11:25-27: “[25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: [27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

CONCLUSION

Why was the Temple veil rent in Matthew 27:51? Contrary to popular belief, it was not because the Dispensation of Law ended and the Dispensation of Grace began. Also, it was not because the middle wall between Jew and Gentile was abolished. These are true with respect to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, which is over a year away. The veil was torn because it was a sign of God judging Israel, His absence from the Most Holy Place now evident. No glory or presence of God is visible in Herod’s Temple because this is the way Israel has chosen it to be! Through later Divine revelation unveiled in Hebrews—information not known at the cross—we learn the veil symbolized Christ’s flesh. With the shedding of His sinless blood, the New Covenant can be confirmed and the Old Covenant can pass away.

Also see:
» Could you please clarify Ephesians 2:18-22?
» Does Hebrews 10:25 really teach we must attend church?
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?

What are “groves?”

WHAT ARE “GROVES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, there seems to be much confusion as to what “groves” are in Scripture. Hopefully, we can make sense of this topic for you.

THE KING JAMES BIBLE SPEAKS

The word “grove” appears 41 times in the Authorized Version. Before we look at these verses, we must note one exception. Genesis 21:33 contains the first occurrence: “And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” This “grove” is in a positive light, as Abraham is a Bible believer. The Hebrew word is “’eshel” (Strong’s #H815), a tamarisk or myrica tree [Tamarix orientalis]. It was rendered “tree” in 1 Samuel 22:6 and 1 Samuel 31:13. This fact will prove useful to us later.

As for the remaining “grove” verses (40 in all), they are negative. We present them now, reminding you the reader to sense the associated evils:

  • Exodus 34:13: “But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:….”
  • Deuteronomy 7:5: “But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.”
  • Deuteronomy 12:3: “And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.”
  • Deuteronomy 16:21: “Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.”
  • Judges 3:7: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.”
  • Judges 6:25: “And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:….”
  • Judges 6:26: “And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.”
  • Judges 6:28: “And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.”
  • Judges 6:30: “Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.”
  • 1 Kings 14:15: “For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger.”
  • 1 Kings 14:23: “For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.”
  • 1 Kings 15:13: “And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.”
  • 1 Kings 16:33: “And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”
  • 1 Kings 18:19: “Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”
  • 2 Kings 13:6: “Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin, but walked therein: and there remained the grove also in Samaria.)”
  • 2 Kings 17:10: “And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:….”
  • 2 Kings 17:16: “And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.”
  • 2 Kings 18:4: “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.”
  • 2 Kings 21:3: “For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.”
  • 2 Kings 21:7: “And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:….”
  • 2 Kings 23:4: “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.”
  • 2 Kings 23:6: “And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.”
  • 2 Kings 23:7: “And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.”
  • 2 Kings 23:14: “And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.”
  • 2 Kings 23:15: “Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.”
  • 2 Chronicles 14:3: “For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:….”
  • 2 Chronicles 15:16: “And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron.”
  • 2 Chronicles 17:6: “And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.”
  • 2 Chronicles 19:3: “Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.”
  • 2 Chronicles 24:18: “And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass.”
  • 2 Chronicles 31:1: “Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.”
  • 2 Chronicles 33:3: “For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.”
  • 2 Chronicles 33:19: “His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sins, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.”
  • 2 Chronicles 34:3: “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.”
  • 2 Chronicles 34:4: “And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.”
  • 2 Chronicles 34:7: “And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.”
  • Isaiah 17:8: “And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.”
  • Isaiah 27:9: “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.”
  • Jeremiah 17:2: “Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.”
  • Micah 5:14: “And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.”

THE BIBLE DICTIONARIES SPEAK

As we just saw, the term “grove” appears 41 times in the King James Bible’s Old Testament. The first one was the Hebrew “’eshel,” also rendered “tree.” Regarding the last 40 instances, it was the Hebrew word “Asherah” (Strong’s #H842). The term is defined as: “from H833 [happy]; happy; Asherah (or Astarte) a Phoenician goddess; also an image of the same:—grove. Compare H6253 [Ashtoreth, the Phoenician goddess of love (and increase)].”

Smith’s Bible Dictionary has the following entry for “grove:”

“1. A word used in the Authorized Version, with two exceptions, to translate the mysterious Hebrew term Asherah, which is not a grove, but probably an idol or image of some kind. [ASHERAH.] It is also probable that there was a connection between this symbol or image, whatever it was, and the sacred symbolic tree, the representation of which occurs so frequently on Assyrian sculptures.

2. The two exceptions noticed above are Gen. 21:33 and 1 Sam. 22:6 (margin). In the religions of the ancient heathen world groves play a prominent part. In the old times altars only were erected to the gods. It was thought wrong to shut up the gods within walls, and hence trees were the first temples; and from the earliest times groves are mentioned in connection with religious worship. Genesis 12:6, 7; Deuteronomy 11:30; Authorized Version “plain.” The groves were generally found connected with temples, and often had the right of affording an asylum.”

You will notice the critical (anti-King-James) position the “scholar” usually takes. The 1611 translators are once again deemed unskilled, allegedly “mistranslating” the Hebrew “Asherah.” What they considered “groves” the Bible dictionary editor believes something else. Dear friends, what is the authority? The Bible, or the Bible dictionary? Is not the Bible dictionary a derivative of the Bible? Why is more emphasis placed on the offshoot than the original? People are so quick to believe books about the Bible than they are to believe the Bible. This, dear friends, is the nonsense often found in Bible scholarship. There are competing authorities. Educated people do not want to submit to God’s Word; they want God’s Word to submit to them. This is unbelief, not faith, and yet that attitude is found in nearly all places of leadership within Christendom (seminaries, Bible colleges, churches, authors, commentators, and so on).

CONCLUSION

Pay very close attention as to how the King James Bible disproves the Bible dictionary. “Grove” is most definitely a correct translation of “Asherah,” even if doubters and unbelievers choose to remain in spiritual darkness! The Oxford English Dictionary says of “grove:” “a small wood or other group of trees.” The last 40 instances of “grove” in the Authorized Version are simply a garden of trees encircling an idol, and the LORD God spoke of destroying these! Such a practice underlies a common architectural practice of erecting a statue and then planting bushes or shrubbery around it, forming a “courtyard” within the confines of floral walls. We can find shrines and religious grottos (small caves) as centerpieces of various so-called “gardens of contemplation” even today—at hospitals, church buildings, cemeteries, et cetera. Of course, modern English versions obscure this reference to trees and wood because they often leave the word untranslated (reading “Asherah poles,” “Asherahs,” “Asherim”) and thus reducing it to nonsense for English readers. “Groves” is a perfectly acceptable translation of the Hebrew!

SUPPLEMENTAL: ANOTHER TREE ROOTED IN PAGANISM

Although highly offensive, while we are on the subject of trees and pagan idolatry (idolatree!), we might as well remind ourselves of the ancient “Christmas tree” rooted in Jeremiah chapter 10, some 600 years before Christ!

“[1] Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: [2] Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. [3] For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. [4] They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. [5] They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. [6] Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.

“[7] Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. [8] But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities. [9] Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.

“[10] But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. [11] Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. [12] He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.”

Also see:
» “Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?”
» How could God forbid Jeremiah to pray for His people?
» Should I display a Christmas tree?

Who were “the sons of the prophets?”

WHO WERE “THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The title appears nine times in the Authorized Version (King James Bible)—once in 1 Kings, and the others in 2 Kings. A synonym is “children of the prophets,” a word found once. Usually, they are associated with the Prophet Elisha’s ministry—about 800 years before Christ. They mysteriously appear in the record of Scripture, and disappear just as inexplicably.

Notice:

  • 1 Kings 20:35: “And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.”
  • 2 Kings chapter 2: “[3] And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace…. [5] And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace…. [7] And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan…. [15] And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”
  • 2 Kings chapter 4: “[1] Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen…. [38] And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.”
  • 2 Kings 5:22: “And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.”
  • 2 Kings 6:1: “And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.”
  • 2 Kings 9:1: And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramothgilead:….”

The likely explanation is that “the sons of the prophets” refers to men who had studied under the Old Testament prophets/preachers themselves. Someone would wonder about the priests and other Levites in Israel. Were they not to teach the Word of God to the Jewish people? Indeed! “And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 10:11; cf. 1 Samuel 12:23; Ezra 7:10,25; Malachi 2:7). Alas, many apostates existed in Israel’s religious leadership—like a good many so-called “Christian” preachers today! The Priest Eli and his sons Hophni and Phinehas are three prime examples of corruption prior to Samuel’s ascension to the office of Prophet-Priest-Judge (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12-36; 1 Samuel 3:1-14). The LORD directly chose Samuel to replace Eli and his perverted household.

One idea is that Samuel himself established Bible schools throughout Israel’s land about 1,000 B.C. Although not explicitly stated in Scripture, this may be the origin of “the sons of the prophets.” They were Jewish men trained in the Law of Moses and other Divine (Scriptural) teachings. Dr. Scofield refers to them as “theological students”—although we certainly do not want to confuse them with modern seminary graduates who are oftentimes religion/philosophy students instead of Bible students!

Also see:
» How did Eli honor his sons more than he honor God?
» Can you explain 2 Kings 2:23-25?
» Is there a geographical error in 2 Kings 2:2?

How did synagogues originate?

HOW DID SYNAGOGUES ORIGINATE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Our English word is a transliteration of the Greek “sunagoge,” meaning “meeting, assembly, congregation” (“sun–,” “together;” “agein” “bring”). According to Jewish tradition, a minimum of 10 Jewish men—a “minyan”—was needed to form a synagogue.

According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “…an assembly of Jews formally gathered together to offer prayer and listen to the reading and exposition of the Holy Scriptures; assemblies of the sort were held every sabbath and feast-day, afterward also on the second and fifth days of every week (see references below): Luke 12:11; Acts 9:2; Acts 13:43; Acts 26:11…. Synagogues seem to date their origin from the Babylonian exile. In the time of Jesus and the apostles every town, not only in Palestine but also among the Gentiles if it contained a considerable number of Jewish inhabitants, had at least one synagogue, the larger towns several or even many. That the Jews held trials and even inflicted punishments in them, is evident from such passages as Matthew 10:17; Matthew 23:34; Mark 13:9; Luke 12:11; Luke 21:12; Acts 9:2; Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11.”

When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and razed Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; 2 Chronicles 36:19), the Jews no longer had any formal place of worship and religious study. Prior to King Solomon, they had the Tabernacle dating back to Moses’ time. The Jews assembled around these structures for religious services. Now removed from the land of Palestine during the 70-year Babylonian Captivity, the Israelites began establishing houses of worship throughout the foreign territories to which they had been scattered. While a remnant of Jews returned to the land of Israel during the ministries of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, the majority remained in Gentile domains. Some 500 years after the return from Babylon and the building of Zerubbabel’s Temple, the nation Israel was still dispersed around the world. Hence, we read the following concerning the Day of Pentecost: “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5).

A few decades before Christ’s birth, King Herod the Great renovated and expanded Zerubbabel’s Temple, and this (“Herod’s Temple”) functioned until the Roman troops destroyed it in A.D. 70. This was the Temple operating during Christ’s earthly ministry. In the 2,000 years since its demolition, synagogues have played an integral role in Judaism (Jewish religion).

Being Bible students, we are most familiar with synagogues because of their prominence during Christ’s earthly ministry and the Apostle Paul’s “Acts” ministry. For example, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35). “And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils” (Mark 1:39). “And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee” (Luke 4:44). “Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing” (John 18:20).

As noted earlier, synagogues were places where Jews gathered to read and study Holy Scripture (Old Testament only). “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:21). Look at Luke chapter 4: “[16] And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. [17] And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, [18] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, [19] To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. [20] And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. [21] And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

In the case of the city of Philippi, there was no synagogue (see next paragraph). Remember, according to Jewish tradition, a synagogue needed a minimum of 10 Jewish men (“minyan”). One historical authority continues, “Where the Jews were not in sufficient numbers to be able to erect and fill a building, there was the proseucha, or place of prayer, sometimes open, sometimes covered in, commonly by a running stream or on the seashore, in which devout Jews and proselytes met to worship, and perhaps to read.”

Acts chapter 16 provides an example: “[12] And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. [13] And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. [14] And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. [15] And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”

Synagogues were often constructed of stone, and, if possible, set on the point of highest elevation in the city. They were always oriented so people entering them would be facing Jerusalem (as King Solomon instructed in 1 Kings 8:29,30,35 and 2 Chronicles 6:20,26). Toward the synagogue’s “Jerusalem end” was a chest or box that held the Old Testament Bible scrolls—like the Ark of the Covenant contained such holy documents in the Jerusalem Temple (see Deuteronomy 31:25-27). Within two centuries before Christ, the Pharisees began to lead synagogues (see John 12:42).

Near the middle of the synagogue building was a raised pulpit where guests could speak or read, as revealed in Acts chapter 13: “[14] But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. [15] And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. [16] Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.”

Regardless of the synagogue’s size, at least two officials were present. One was “the ruler of the synagogue” (see Mark 5:22,35,36,38; Luke 8:41,49; Luke 13:14; Acts 18:8,17). He oversaw the building and property, organized the public service and kept order, selected people to read Scripture and pray, and asked visitors to speak to the group. Some synagogues had more than one ruler (Acts 13:15). The other synagogue official was the “minister” or attendant, paid to care for the building and furniture. Undoubtedly, his most important role was looking after the Old Testament scrolls—handing them out to speakers and putting them away after use (see Luke chapter 4, quoted earlier—especially verses 17 and 20).

Never forget, Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry and the Apostle Paul in the Acts period visited synagogues because they were where Jews had gathered for worship service and Bible study. Synagogues were the best place to reach Israel concerning the Scriptures, as they would have been most receptive to spiritual truths. Unfortunately, despite all that exposure to the Holy Bible, there was overwhelming unbelief in Israel. It was dead, worthless religion! Had they been studying their Hebrew Scriptures in faith, they would have seen Jesus as Christ, a fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. Through the Apostle John, the Lord Jesus applies a most uncomplimentary title to these Jewish unbelievers! “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9). “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Revelation 3:9).

Saul of Tarsus—Paul the Apostle when he was a lost man, before he trusted Christ—visited synagogues to arrest and execute all Messianic Jews (those who trusted Jesus as Christ). “And [Saul] desired of him [the high priest] letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). “And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee” (Acts 22:19). “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:11).

Then, Saul of Tarsus met the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ in Acts chapter 9—and Saul trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour! “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). For the Apostle Paul’s other visits to synagogues as he preached the Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Acts 20:24), read Acts 13:14-42, Acts 14:1-4, Acts 17:1-17, Acts 18:4-8, Acts 18:19-21, and Acts 19:8-9. As Acts chapter 18 shows, the first members of the Church the Body of Christ at Corinth came from the synagogue literally next-door!

Also see:
» What does “joined hard” mean in Acts 18:7?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?

Does God suffer from Alzheimer’s disease?

DOES GOD SUFFER FROM ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

According to the American National Institutes of Health, Alzheimer’s disease is “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” It is absolutely ironic to find Bible verses that describe God “remembering” Israel’s sins and other verses that speak of Him “not remembering” them. After all, is He not omniscient? Does He not know everything? Then how should we handle these passages? Does Alzheimer’s disease afflict God’s mind? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

GOD REMEMBERING ISRAEL’S SINS

  • Jeremiah 14:10: “Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.”
  • Hosea 8:13: “They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.”
  • Hosea 9:9: “They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.”

Here, the LORD God certainly brings Israel’s sins to mind. He will not let them escape the consequences of their breaking the Old Covenant. Curses or punishments must follow, as per Deuteronomy chapter 28: “[14] And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. [15] But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:….”

GOD NOT REMEMBERING ISRAEL’S SINS

  • Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
  • Jeremiah 31:34: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
  • Hebrews 8:12: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
  • Hebrews 10:17: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

While Israel broke the Old Covenant with her repeated idolatry, God will make another agreement with her. This is the New Covenant first promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and repeated in the Book of Hebrews (chapters 8 and 10). Yet, how can God simply overlook Israel’s transgressions? What does He do with those sins? He cannot just pretend like they are not there, like they never occurred. Why, He does not remember those sins because He places them under the shed blood of Jesus Christ! Once He ratifies the New Covenant at Christ’s Second Coming (Romans 11:25-29), He will not see Israel’s sins but rather Christ’s righteousness applied to their national account! Instead of concentrating on Israel’s filthy past, He will focus on them washed in the blood of Christ!

Hebrews chapter 10 pronounces: “[1] For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. [2] For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. [3] But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. [4] For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

“[5] Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: [6] In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. [7] Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. [8] Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; [9] Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. [10] By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

“[11] And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: [12] But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; [13] From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. [14] For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. [15] Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, [16] This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; [17] And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

“[18] Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. [19] Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20] By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; [21] And having an high priest over the house of God; [22] Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» Are we under the New Covenant today?
» Does the New Covenant take away Israel’s free will?

How shall Elijah “restore all things?”

HOW SHALL ELIJAH “RESTORE ALL THINGS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things (Matthew 17:11). “And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought” (Mark 9:12). In what sense will Elijah “restore all things?”

Our best option in interpreting this is to appeal to the original Old Testament passage being quoted, the final two verses of Malachi chapter 4: “[5] Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: [6] And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

The Word of God, if permitted, would have brought societal unity in the nation Israel. However, the Jews allowed spiritual error—false religion (pagan idolatry)—to creep in and it destroyed them from the inside out. In Malachi’s day, some 400 years prior to Christ’s earthly ministry, Jewish fathers and children are at odds with each other. Micah chapter 7, written over three centuries before Malachi, says: “[5] Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. [6] For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.”

Christ quoted Micah in the Book of Matthew, chapter 10, when He commissioned His 12 Apostles: “[21] And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. [22] And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. [23] But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. [24] The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. [25] It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?….

“[32] Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. [33] But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. [34] Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. [35] For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [36] And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. [37] He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. [39] He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

As touching John the Baptist’s ministry, an angel of the LORD told his father Zacharias in Luke chapter 1: “[16] And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. [17] And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John the Baptist conducting his ministry “in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah]” meant he, like Elijah eight centuries earlier, would be fighting against Israel’s apostate leadership (see 1 Kings chapter 17–2 Kings chapter 2). As a believing remnant was formed because of Elijah’s message, so a Little Flock of believers would be created in Israel when John preached. John’s converts would be ready to accept Jesus Christ.

Combining all the foregoing information, we take Elijah “restoring all things” as meaning thus: (1) the Holy Spirit will use his ministry to “recover” and proclaim truth that has been pushed aside because of false teaching, and (2) the Holy Spirit will reestablish the spiritual and social stability in Israel lost because of said false teaching. The truth unites people; it is error that divides. Unfortunately, a majority in Israel will retain their error, which will further divide Jewish families. This was true in Elijah’s day, it was applicable during John the Baptist’s time, and it will be true even beyond our dispensation leading up to Christ’s Second Coming (Matthew chapter 10).

Revelation chapter 11 prophesies of “two witnesses” who will have ministries during the reign of the Antichrist. As the Lord Jesus Himself confirmed, Elijah will be one of these men who will precede His Second Coming (cf. Malachi 4:5-6 and Matthew 17:11). Therefore, as Elijah of old preached sound Bible doctrine that unified Jews spiritually, as John the Baptist proclaimed sound Bible doctrine that united Jews spiritually, so Elijah (who never physically died) will be brought back to Earth in the future to preach sound Bible doctrine that unifies Jews spiritually. This believing remnant in Israel formed will then make way for Messiah Jesus to return and usher His earthly kingdom.

Also see:
» Was John the Baptist really Elijah?
» How could John the Baptist question if Jesus really is Christ?
» As Christians, should we hate our parents?