Christmas Connection’s 2020

My wife found these two verses as we were looking into a place called Migdal Eder.  This Christmas connection adds support to the story we know and love.

Migdal Eder is a new place and term for us.  We heard about it in connection with the sheep and shepherds around Bethlehem.  In my post (Jeremiah – A Christmas Connection) we talked about Jeremiah 31:15 because of Rachel and her death and mourning.  Both of these things are part of the history of Bethlehem.  Migdal Eder was a tower that was used to guard the sheep that were used for the Temple.  This tower/cave/birthing pen/stable might have been where Jesus was born.  The reference in the Bible is Micah 4:8 and uses the term watchtower and stronghold and in 5:2 we have Bethlehem added as the location. There are many opinions and much uncertainty about Migdal Eder but I feel it has a place in the Story.   

During the study we saw Job 38:7 – “the morning stars sang together and all of the angels shouted for joy” (NIV).  This is part of the Lord’s answer to Job.  It also would fit very well into the Genesis narrative of the story of creation.  It describes the angel’s songfest for the shepherds on the first Christmas.  So, how does a creation idea work into Christmas?  Jesus’ arrival marked a new beginning for mankind and especially Israel. The Bible is the story of the children of God and our history.  First, with natural Israel and then with spiritual Israel.  The two stories need to be told together to get to all that the Lord God wants to show us.

Over the years, we have heard many facts and traditions about the swaddling clothes or strips of cloth that Mary put on Jesus and that the shepherds were to be looking for.  These two things are tied to Migdal Eder.    

They could have been at THAT stable for the lambs for the Temple.  There seems to be a few facts about the wrapping up of Temple lambs in strips of cloth from the worn-out priest robes.  Some people reference tour guides in Israel as their source of information and others quote an eighteenth-century book about a third-century oral tradition. Do your own study – the idea is nice but very few solid facts about wrapping up baby lambs.

Ezekiel 16:4 does talk about the practice of child care after birth.  The child was washed in water, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in strips of cloth.  This verse and story of how God treated Jerusalem can also be used as part of the Exodus story as the washing might be the trip through the Red Sea after they were delivered from Egypt. The rubbing with salt may be the forty years of wandering and the wrapping up could be the protection God gave Joshua and David.

These verses are good additions to my other Christmas Connection verses.

 

Leah the Overlooked

Leah is one Bible character that just seems to be overlooked or ignored.  I am writing this during the Christmas season which is part of the reason this is bugging me.  I do have a habit of disagreeing with popular preaching and she will be added to my growing list. (Lo Debar was not a dump, Mephibosheth was not pathetic, and Jesse was not cruel to David. Leah was the good faithful FIRST wife of Jacob who probably had “pretty eyes”.)  This Christmas season I have heard Rachel mentioned several times and Leah mentioned only once, and that was only because she was unloved.  So, please bear with me as I try to show you why Leah should be treated better!

Jacob – I know that he got the short end of the deal with Laban, but did he really have room to complain about deceptive practices!  He was not the poster child of fair-trade practices.  (By the way, Jacob was OLD when he took a liking to Rachel.)  It is also very plain that he did not ignore Leah, she had seven children (six boys and a girl).  All of Leah’s family came before the name change to Israel.  Yes, it still amazes me that from that point on he was called by both names.  That change has many foreshadows.

Rachel – She must have been good looking but her personality really did match Jacob’s – she was a thief (her father’s idols), a con artist (Ruben’s gourds), and a liar (faking her period before her father).  Leah is only mentioned in the Books of Genesis and Ruth (she was placed after Rachel), while Rachel is mentioned more times and made it into Jeremiah and Matthew.  She was the “loved one” but I still have a hard time seeing that she was the “better one”.  Because of her “loved” status people have heaped accolades on her but I shutter when they try to compare her to Ruth and Mary.  (Which by the way, Mary was a descendent of Leah and Jacob through Judah.)  Also, the fact that she was not taken to the family burial cave is a little perplexing.  It would seem that Jacob was grieving and set up a pillar over her grave, but he did not take the time to honor her with a trip to the only property the family owned at the time. I know she may have stunk by the time they made it there but he did not even try. 

Leah – Her exact role in Laban’s con of Jacob is never made clear, except that she went along with it and that Jacob could not tell the girls apart in the dark (okay, he was probably drunk).

At first, it bothered me that Leah was not mentioned more than she was in the Bible.  That was until I remembered that the genealogies in Matthew and Luke were really her family trees.  Boaz, Jesse, David, and Jesus are all her grandchildren, as were the majority of Jerusalem. 

It is probable that Leah took care of baby Benjamin and Joseph after the death of Rachel and that she was the “mother” in Joseph’s dream.  How long she lived and when she died is not told to us, only that she was buried in the cave with the rest of the family. 

Leah’s Sons – Please do not point to the behavior of the children as an indicator of how good the parents were.  If you read carefully the best one was Joseph and he may have had a pride problem before the trip to Egypt.  Leah’s children in order of their birth are Ruben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah.  See the graphic in Marching Order.  

It is apparent that “true wives” versus servant girls and first-born and rights of the firstborn come in God’s planning in the Exodus story and occupying the Land.  Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun are in the prominent position of first in the Exodus march and face east in the camp around the Tabernacle.  Rachel’s family of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin set out third and are on the west side of the Tabernacle.  This is not bad, but they are not in the lead.

After the kingdom was split into two parts the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi (Aaron) are the ones that inhabit Jerusalem and protect the Temple.

A Thought – Like many things Leah and Rachel are types and shadows of things to come.  Leah the overlooked, the first wife of Jacob should/does represent present-day Judaism.  That would make Rachel a shadow of Christianity.  Okay, I am not sure how comfortable I am with that idea but God bless Leah the Overlooked and her part in the Family of God. 

Special pic is from the Ultimate Bible Collection – Leah_w_Rachel_67-63

Jeremiah – A Christmas Connection

Jeremiah’s Christmas connection is found in Chapter 31:15. The Gospel of Matthew repeats the verse in Matthew 2:18.  This is the foundation for the special day called the Feast of the Innocents (December 28), which remembers the murder of the male children in Bethlehem at Herod’s command.  

Tradition has the visitation of the Magi on Christmas Day but it could have been up to two years after the angels sang the Gloria and the shepherds found Jesus in Bethlehem.  We also tend to ignore that Jesus was in a house (Matthew 2:11; not a stable) and that the Magi (maybe) went east (2:9) from Jerusalem following the star.  This argument could be pointless, but Nazareth is north and east of Jerusalem while Bethlehem is south and west from the Holy City. The terminology about the star and its behavior could come down to who is doing the translating. Okay back to the connection.

The History behind Jeremiah’s prophecy that refers to Rachel weeping for her children and that she will not be comforted was first said by the Prophet Micah.  Micah’s first mention of a ruler is in chapter 4:8 (kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem, NIV) with the mention of a watchtower of the flock.  Chapter 5:2 completes the location by predicting Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus.  This is the region where the sacrificial lambs came from for the Temple. The watchtower connects the sheep, shepherds, Bethlehem, and Rachel.

Rachel and Jacob – Rachel, Bethlehem, and the mourning all started in Genesis 35:16 – 20.  This is the story of Rachel dying as she gave birth to Benjamin.  Some back story here is good.  Rachel named the boy, son of my trouble, and Jacob renamed him the son of my right hand.  It is also worthy to mention that this makes Benjamin the only child of Jacob born in Israel.

Jacob retells a version of this story to Joseph on his death bed in Genesis 48:7. He adds some details about the distance from Bethlehem, and the burial by the road, with the detail of his returning from Paddan.  Paddan is where Jacob worked for Laban. 

Jeremiah’s word recounts the pain of Rachel, as it foreshadows the loss of the children of Bethlehem. Its Christmas connection goes further as this would be the warning for Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt.

Special pic is from http://www.LumoProject.com.

Tree of Knowledge – East

The first cardinal direction mentioned in the Bible is East. Genesis 2:8 has God in the east planting a garden, so He must have come from the west.  I know this is a simple thought but directions come in pairs – west and east, and north and south.  This simple thought is also important – where is the east?  You can face the east, something can come from the east, go to the east, or be of the east.  

Many important things in the Bible face east – the Temple (especially the one in Ezekiel), the Tabernacle, and I believe the throne of God.  The etymology of the word east deals with where the light comes from and how we orient our position on earth.  Like many other things in the Bible “modern man” picks and chooses why something is important by current standards.  My example here is the direction north – we choose that to be the top of the map or the best/positive direction to go, and it gets the biggest letter on the compass.  A study of “east” in the Bible will include many things, with each bring a different significance to the table for discussion. Several examples are:

  • In Exodus, the children of Israel went east from Egypt to the Promised Land, and the east wind blew in locust, and the east wind parted the Red Sea. The locust became a plague while at the Red Sea the wind provided deliverance. 
  •  In Israel, east winds are a problem, they come in from the desert and dry the land out.
  • The camp around the Tabernacle was laid out with an east/west axis as its prominent feature.  The position of a tribe around the Ark showed birthrights and importance.  I started a study of that in the post – Marching Order.
  • The Christmas star and the Magi also bring east into the discussion.  The star “was in” or “it rose in” the east which joins it to Jesus in many ways.  The Magi came from the east to worship the newborn King.
  • Scripture shows several west to east movements – God to the Garden, Israel leaving Egypt going to the Promised Land, and Jesus, as a young boy, returning to Nazareth. 

An important feature of the east/west axis is the light.  Starting with Genesis 2 we see the metaphor of west (darkness) and going to the east (light).  (No, there is not a problem with the west and it is not a negative “area”.  The little cloud that Elijah’s servant saw would have come from the west – it ended the drought.  In Israel most rain showers come from west or northwest.)  God started in the west heading to the light to plant the Garden.  The two trees in the center of that Garden can carry a dark/light context.  Knowledge of good and evil led to darkness while the tree of life would have led to the light.  Like the study of numbers, the study of directions can add much to your Bible reading, but be sure you are looking EAST.  

Joseph the Tzaddik Christmas 2020

Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, is introduced in Matthew as tzaddik(righteous) for his part in the Christmas story.  That statement in Matthew 1:19 caught my attention because he was making a choice that was not religious (the Law).  John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) would have been the religious solution and would have had Mary stoned as an example. (Was Jesus thinking about His mother while this was taking place?) Stoning was the religious answer, not the righteous one! Joseph’s life and that decision made him tzaddik.

Why, am I using the Hebrew term? I used the two websites below and found the thoughts and the connections very interesting.  This is also a study blog, which means that getting out of your comfort zone is okay. (Note- the Chabad.org site is not Christian, but has great views into Jewish thoughts and practices that I do not find in Christian sites.)  Chabad portrays a tzaddik as a person who is calibrated to the Creator’s original concept of being human.  That dwarfs many modern definitions of the word righteous and challenges me to do some internal checking.

Joseph is not the only tzaddik in the Christmas story.  Luke also places Elizabeth and Zechariah as righteous Christmas characters.  Luke, being a Gentile, would have used the term dikaios for the idea of righteousness.  

I did use the Orthodox Jewish Bible, that is in Bible Gateway, to start this study; use the parallel function.  Grammar is a work in progress for me.  So Jewish grammar is a step-up and I may not have used tzaddik correctly in all of my sentences.

http://www.hebrew-streams.org/works/ntstudies/tzaddikim.html

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2367724/jewish/Tzaddik.htm

In a previous Christmas post about Joseph, I had suggested comparing the Joseph of the Old Testament with the one of the New.  I will do a few of those now.

  • Both went to Egypt and escaped certain death.  I have no problem believing that the first Joseph would have been killed by his brothers and the second Joseph would have put up a fight.
  • I do believe that they came back because of/about Passover.  The death angel had cleared the way for Jesus’ return and Joseph’s body came back with Moses.
  • The Magi supplied for the needs of the Holy Family (the gifts) as Joseph met the needs of his family in Egypt.
  • Righteous – both by the way they lived their lives are righteous (tzaddik).  One was before the Law and the second one was before fulfillment of the Law.
  • Dreams – Joseph of Genesis had and interrupted dreams.  Jesus’s Joseph had dreams and then acted because of them.  Okay, they were different types of dreams.