The Broken Covenant

 

Most Orthodox Jewish people seem to understand, that as a very small group of people percentage wise on this planet, they, above all others, entered into an agreement with the Creator of the Universe whereby the Jewish people were promised certain things dependent upon their obedience to the Covenant that their forefathers made with God. In fact, God’s original intent was to live among His people. Exodus 25:8 states, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” God wants a relationship with His people and proved it by residing with them in the Ark of the Covenant. In the Torah (Lev. 26, Deut. 28), Moses was inspired by God to specifically describe what blessing the Jewish people would receive for obedience and what punishments they would receive for disobedience. The biblical historical record indicates that the Israelites were just as sinful as the gentiles who surrounded them. In Deuteronomy 29, the Lord speaks through Moses and predicts that the people of Israel will seek other gods.  As a result of their idolatry, God would banish them from the Promised Land. The Israelites never had to wonder if God existed. He continually did miracles they witnessed yet God told Moses just before Moses’ death that the Israelites would break the Covenant.  

After Moses’ death, the predictions in the Torah began to come true. In Joshua 7:11-15, Israel sinned and transgressed the Covenant. In Joshua 23: 14-16, Joshua predicted before his death that Israel would revisit sin and ultimately be cast out of the Promised Land. Sure enough Israel returns to idolatry after Joshua’s death. In Judges 2:20, the Lord’s anger is hot against His people for transgressing the Covenant. This scenario continually repeats until we come to the period of the last Judge Samuel. In 1 Sam 8:7-8, God told Samuel that the Israelites have rejected Him (the Lord) as their King.

For all that the Lord God did for them and their forefathers they preferred a human, and not God to be their King. So Israel receives Saul, David and Solomon in succession. Saul is a psychologically troubled monarch who disobeys the Lord. David demonstrates he has a heart for God all through his life. He had two chances to kill Saul while Saul was hunting him yet he refused out of respect for God’s anointing. He repented of killing Nabal in response to Abigail’s warning. He sought and obeyed counsel from the prophets Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, never ignoring them much less threatening them or publicly scolding them like most of his successors did. And yes, David was always quick to admit sin when he was made aware of it, and repented of it before God. Then Solomon, David’s son becomes King. He asks God for wisdom and people come seeking his wisdom from all surrounding nations. Unfortunately, in Solomon’s latter years he spent more time trying to please the multitude of foreign women he married and slept with than obeying God. He even participated in rituals to their foreign gods. In 1 Kings 11:9-13, God declares in His anger that Solomon has violated the Covenant and as a result his Kingdom will be torn in two.

With Israel and Judah divided and at war the Kingdom of Israel can hardly muster a righteous King. According to 1 Kings 19:10-14, Israel has not only forsaken the Covenant, but also slain all the Prophets, except Elijah and he was on their hit list. During the period of the Northern Kingdom, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah were the Prophets. In Amos 8:2-3, God predicts through the prophet that Israel’s end will come with many dead bodies. In Hosea 6:7, God declared that Israel transgressed the Covenant again and as a result the Kingdom of Israel would be destroyed by Assyria (Hos. 8:1, 8-9).  According to 2 Kings 17: 5-9, 15, the Assyrians came in 722 BC, destroyed the Kingdom of Israel, then deported those who were not killed because of the secret things they did.

The Kingdom of Judah to the south was able to buy more time because of the righteousness of King Hezekiah, but that would soon change. It should also be noted that Jehosophat was a good king who ruled a long time during the time of Elijah and Elisha; Joash was also a good king; both preceded Hezekiah. Josiah, a late successor to Hezekiah, was the last good king of Judah.  By the 6th century BC, the Jews of Judah violated the Covenant by turning to Baal and Ashteroth according to Jeremiah the Prophet (Jer.11:10-11). Under good kings this was suppressed. In chapter 22:5-9, God promised that Judah would become desolate because of their idolatry.  In Jeremiah 33:4-7, he predicted Judah would be destroyed by the Chaldeans (Babylonians). Those not slain would be deported, but the deported would return.  The Prophet Ezekiel predicted in Ezekiel 16:59; 17:16-20 that the Covenant was broken and the King of Judah would die in the midst of Babylon. Then according to 2 Chronicles 36:12-23, the priests and the people polluted the Temple. They mocked and scoffed at the Prophets until there was no remedy. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  For 70 years the Jews were driven from their land.

Just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem the Prophet Jeremiah declared in Jeremiah 31:31-32, that a new Covenant was needed.  According to the 700 year Biblical record that we’ve just covered, it was obvious the Jews were not capable of keeping the Original Covenant. After the Jews returned from Babylon, God continued to speak to his people through the post-exilic prophets Haggai, Zechariah, Obadiah, Joel, and Malachi.  Through the prophet Haggai God showed His people that He was willing to live among them again in a newly built Temple since their national punishment ended.  Zechariah describes how the Messiah can be recognized. Obadiah speaks of a future conflict with the Edomites. These are the descendents of Esau and Mahalath-Basemath, the daughter of Ishmael. Joel promised that the Spirit of God would be placed within and poured on all flesh. Malachi was the last prophet recorded in the Tenakh. He speaks of God’s love for his people but highlights the sins of Israel, especially the priesthood, who were poor moral guides for the people. He concludes by describing the coming of one who will announce the Messiah.    

During the post-exilic period, the Jewish people stopped idolatry based on worshipping foreign gods and became strict monotheists.  There was an expectation of a messiah and a new covenant. Despite this, the Jewish people made agreements with foreign powers. Persia had conquered Babylon; in that process, Judea (and Samaria) became part of the Persian Empire; the Jews had no choice in the matter, but were blessed by God in that God used the Persians to restore the Jews to the land and not only authorized them to rebuild the Temple, but gave them access to the remaining Temple fittings that were still part of the wealth seized from Babylon. Judah became part of the Greco-Macedonian (Hellenist) Empire through Alexander’s conquest of Persia. Judah remained under Hellenist control after Alexander’s death, but wound up as a contested borderland between the initially ruling Ptolemies and their rivals, the Seleucids. The Jews retained their internal autonomy and freedom of worship under the Ptolemies, but Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV “Epiphanes,” feeling threatened by enemies both externally (the Roman Republic in alliance with the Ptolemies) and internally, sought to assert Hellenistic culture and religion and eliminate the non-Hellenistic elements in his domain. This led to the Hasmonean revolt and allowed for Judah to remain independent for about a century until the Romans arranged the end of the Hasmonean line. Originally, the Romans entered as “allies” whom the Hasmoneans had brought in to protect them against the resurgent Seleucids. Unfortunately, there was considerable in-fighting amongst the Hasmoneans as well as rebellions against them by Jews who rejected the Hasmoneans’ illegal combining of the roles of high priest and king in violation of the Torah. The Romans found all of this chaos intolerable, a threat to their bigger and more important plans, so the Great Roman General Pompey led an invasion in 63 BC. Eventually, they put the half-Jewish Edomite [Idumean] Herod in power.

Before we segue into the Common Era and discuss why the second Temple was destroyed, we must first acknowledge that its destruction was predicted in the Tenakh. The prophet Daniel who was taken to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, wrote the following in Daniel 9:26: “And after 62 weeks (of years) shall the anointed (Moshiakh/Messiah) be cut off, and there shall be none to succeed him; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” In the 6th century BC, the prophet Daniel predicted the Moshiakh will be cut off (killed) before Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed once again.

This is the question we need to ask. Why was the Second Temple destroyed? According to Rabbi Ken Spiro (with the Jewish site AISH.com), the Talmud (Yoma 9b) states, “Why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because of sinat chinam, senseless hatred of one Jew for another.” What is the antidote to this problem which is so rampant in the Jewish world today? The answer is ahavat chinam, the Jews have to learn to love their fellow Jews. There’s no hope for the Jewish people until all learn how to communicate with each other, and respect each other, regardless of differences. God has no patience for Jews fighting each other. It’s extremely important to study this period of time carefully because there are many valuable lessons that we can learn about the pitfalls that need to be avoided. Rabbi Spiro is probably thinking of the sicarii (Zealots, Jewish nationalist terrorists) who were killing Jews accused of collaborating with Rome. Also, the Sadducees dominated the priesthood and the Levitical Temple bureaucracy and fought with the Pharisees who dominated the local synagogues and communities. Furthermore, the preaching of the followers of Jesus caused unrest and disruption in Jerusalem, while the Essenes and other ascetic groups retreated into wilderness communities to avoid the corruption and violence. From a (Pharisaical) rabbinical perspective, if everyone kept the peace and had been content to ostracize the radicals, collaborators, and Jesus people, the Temple would not have been destroyed.

Did the Jewish religious leadership, led by the Roman-appointed High Priest Caiaphas, display senseless hatred towards the Jew Yeshua and his Apostles as detailed in the Book of Acts? According to Josephus (Antiquitates, XVIII, iv, 3), Caiaphas was appointed High-Priest of the Jews by the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus, the predecessor of Pontius Pilate, about 18 AD (Ant., XVIII, ii, 2), and removed from that office by the procurator Vitellius, shortly after he took charge of affairs in Palestine,  36 AD (Ant., XVIII, iv, 3). Given these facts, is it possible that this Roman-approved Sadducee displayed senseless hatred and, if so, was it justified? To the Orthodox Jew, whether in the Middle Ages or today, the hatred of Yeshua and his followers was/is not senseless at all, but rather necessary and legitimate suppression of a blasphemy. The Jew Yeshua was certainly not loved by these Jews when he was taken to the Roman governor for execution. The Rabbi states that Jews must learn to respect each other, regardless of differences. Does this respect extend to Messianic Jews who are routinely abused by the ultra-Orthodox in Israel? Does God have patience for this abuse? Did God have patience for how the Jewish religious leadership treated Yeshua? To follow the Rabbis logic, God allowed his Temple to be destroyed, replaced by a temple to a foreign god (the Dome of the Rock) and not be rebuilt for the past 1,944 years because Jews have not been good to one another? Is it possible that there is a better explanation to this question? Consider the following: 

Luke 18:31-33, 19:41-44: “He took the twelve and said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles and shall be mocked, and spitefully treated and spit upon: And they shall scourge him and put him to death; and on the third day he shall rise again…And when he came near the city (Jerusalem) he saw it and wept over it. Then he said, If you knew this day the things that would bring you peace! but now they are hid from your eyes. For the days will come upon you that your enemies will build a trench around you and encircle you on every side. And they will thrust you to the ground and your children within you; and they shall not leave one stone upon another; because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

1 Sam 8:7: “And the Lord said to Samuel listen to the voice of the people and all they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”

Isaiah 53:3: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

The rabbis claim Yeshua could not be the messiah because he did not fulfill all the messianic prophesies. Yet it was the Jewish religious leadership of his day that rejected him and handed him over to the Romans thus fulfilling the scripture. Is the messiah of the Jewish people determined by the Jews acceptance of him or the description of him found in the Tenakh?

May the Jewish people who are beloved of the Father despite their sins ask God to reveal the truth to them. The Moshiakh of Israel is there to be found if the sons and daughters of Israel will only look with an open heart. For the Scripture states: “He has poured out his soul to death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Broken Covenant

  1. Susan Ader

    Joe- we can’t read this because the text is yellow. We really enjoy your emails and would like to read this one : (. Can the text color be changed? Thanks Susan and Dave

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Susan Ader

    Never mind- I can read it just fine on my computer. Think it was yellow because I wax trying to read it on my phone. Sorry!

    Sent from my iPhone

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