The following Scripture passages are offered to aid beginning fellowships. The readings and commentary for this week are more in line with what has become usual; for the following will most likely be familiar observations. The concept behind this Sabbath’s selection is Judah’s scepter is the key of David.
For the Sabbath of February 18, 2012
The person conducting the Sabbath service should open services with two or three hymns, or psalms, followed by an opening prayer acknowledging that two or three (or more) are gathered together in Christ Jesus’ name, and inviting the Lord to be with them.
Then Jacob called his sons and said, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.
Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up to your father's bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!
Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
and scatter them in Israel.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion's cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk. … (Gen 49:1–12 emphasis added)
For ancients, the production of writing surfaces was difficult: as a result paper or parchment or sheets of copper foil were precious. And because the medium on which the person wrote was precious, what was recorded on these surfaces was important, with this importance signaled to the reader by the words being recorded as poetry, which focuses on the words, not on those things that the words seek to describe or disclose … the focus of every poem is the words of the poem, not what the words mean. Ordinary business records which had some importance but not historical or prophetic significance could be quickly and cheaply written on tablets of clay or slate or even of wood (said with acknowledged exceptions); hence history and prophecy and praises to a king were, almost without exception, composed as poetic discourse.
This is the case for most Old Testament prophecies—and failure to translate poetic discourse as poetry is the principle failing of the King James Version of the Bible; for in Hebraic poetry is seen seemingly meaningless repetition when this poetic discourse is translated as plain prose. But what Hebrew poetic repetition discloses is conceptual structure through thought-couplets that has the first presentation of the thought/concept being physical, of the darkness [night], pertaining to the community, and the second presentation of the same thought being spiritual, of the light [day], pertaining to the individual … Jacob is the natural or given name for the grandson of Abram/Abraham whereas Israel is the name given to the same person when he has prevailed with God; thus Jacob is to Israel as the night is to day, or as the hand is to the heart.
When biblical scholars, pundits, and pastors have read Jacob/Israel’s pronouncements concerning his sons, they have previously read these prophetic declarations physically, meaning that they have looked for physical peoples holding physical traits to fulfill these declarations. As such they have scoured secular texts and secular events for fulfillment of the spiritual portion of Jacob/Israel’s prophecies. An example being in Genesis 49:10,
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, — physical
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, — spiritual
until tribute comes to him; — physical
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples — spiritual
In the above pairing of thought-couplets, the first pairing forms the physical presentation of a thought in an expanded thought-couplet, with the second pairing representing the spiritual portion of this expanded presentation.
A scepter is the visible, physical symbol of authority and was usually a symbolic ornamental rod or staff or wand borne in the hand of a reigning monarch as the sign of the monarch’s right to rule. Therefore in the physical portion of the thought-couplet about royal staffs, Jacob told his son Judah that the symbol of authority to rule shall never depart from him, but in the spiritual portion of the same thought-couplet, the symbol of authority shall not depart from between his legs—and it is this spiritual portion that has significance for endtime Israel; for the staff that is the symbol of authority is the ability to give life to what is not-living, with Christ Jesus as a physical descendant of Judah and as the last Adam (Rom 5:14) being a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45) … more need not be said about a ruling staff coming from between feet for the reader to understand that in order for the scepter not to depart from Judah, this son of Jacob must have descendants.
Egyptian pharaohs used the was scepter [from the hieroglyph of the same name, the hieroglyphic character representing power] as their symbol of dominion through association with their gods, notably Set, with the was scepter appearing as a full-length staff. But bronze-age kings of Mesopotamia were not depicted with staffs, but with the bow as the symbol of their authority. The bow was the symbol of Parthian dominance into the 2nd-Century CE when even Rome paid tribute to the Parthian emperor, with Parthia then being an empire incorporating Babylonia and all of Babylon … in vision, John the Revelator records,
Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, "Come!" And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. (Rev 6:1–2)
The bow was the scepter of Babylon: the first horseman of the Apocalypse comes forth bearing the symbol of authority of the spiritual king of Babylon (see Isa 14:4) who remains the prince of this world. This first horseman appears when the authority of Babylon has been dealt a blow by the sudden demise of the great horn, the first king of the spiritual king of Greece (Dan 8:8) … compare Dan 8:8 with Dan 10: 20; 11:3, 4 — no human king can withstand an angel, let alone withstand an angel for twenty-one days. So the kings of Persia and the prince of Persia of Daniel chapter 10, the kings of Persia that withstood the angel bringing knowledge to Daniel, the angel who needed the help of the archangel Michael to get through to Daniel, were/are demonic kings and princes, which in turn makes the king/prince [sar] of Greece also an angel allied with the Adversary.
The angel Gabriel identified the ram with two horns that Daniel saw in vision as the kings of Media and Persia (Dan 8:20), and the male goat that Daniel saw trample the ram as the king of Greece, with the horn between the goat’s eyes being the first king, the great king of the king of Greece (v. 21).
When Daniel is given knowledge of what is written in the Book of Truth (Dan 10:21), the prince and kings of Persia are demonic rulers well able to prevent the angel bringing knowledge to this man of God from reaching Daniel for twenty-one days. Therefore, the little horn that appears on the king of the North as well as the four kings [of the West and East, South and North] should be read as demonic sars [kings and princes].
Because there are not many little horns in Daniel’s visions, when the little horn of Daniel chapter eight is superimposed on the little horn of Daniel chapter seven, what’s revealed is that the fourth beast (fourth king — see Dan 7:17) is the prophetic King of the North from Daniel chapters 8 & 11. And it is here where an argumentative shortcut must be taken (for the full argument see, A Philadelphia Apologetic — 2012, notably chapter 6): the fourth beast of Daniel chapter seven is the King of the North and is the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse, Death, who is terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong and who devours the living. This will now make the first beast/king of Daniel chapter seven the first horseman of the Apocalypse and will make all four beasts/kings and all four horsemen the four horns that sprout from around the stump of the first horn of the spiritual king of Greece, with this spiritual king of Greece being represented by the bronze belly and loins of the humanoid figure Nebuchadnezzar saw in vision (Dan 2:32, 39), with the first king or first horn that comes from between the eyes of this king of Greece appearing on the humanoid figure that Nebuchadnezzar saw as an erect penis would appear. However, the penis is missing and iron [a white metal as opposed to a yellow metal] legs are present; so the humanoid image that Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar reveals what will be in the latter days (v. 28) is seen after the first king of the king of Greece has been supernaturally broken, and broken at the Second Passover liberation of Israel because he is an uncovered spiritual firstborn. Indeed, the image Nebuchadnezzar saw was for the latter days: the humanoid image seen in vision is of the Adversary’s reigning hierarchy in the Affliction, the first 1260 days of the seven endtime years of tribulation.
It is always wrong to add Rome, the Roman Empire, the Roman Church, or the Roman See into the visions of Daniel; for the two legs of the image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in vision are of the Greek bronze belly and loins, and are the kings of the South [Sin] and the North [Death], represented physically by the king of Egypt and the king of Syria—by the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires. The Christian pastor or teacher who inserts Rome into the visions of Daniel is without spiritual understanding and hence false, a false prophet, which isn’t to say that the person is not sincere or is not a good person by this world’s criteria but is to say that this person does more harm than good to infant sons of God. For the spiritual infant, able only to ingest milk (see 1 Cor 3:1–3), will grab hold of the teachings of a false prophet and cling to the prophet’s teachings until the infant spiritually starves to death, what was seen throughout the second half of the 20th-Century when many Sabbatarian disciples took to their bosoms the prophetic understanding of the Sabbatarian Churches of God and then, when the United States and Britain didn’t collapse, became so weak spiritually that they fell away from obedience to God and returned to spiritual Babylon as sons of the prince of this world.
When the Lord spoke to Moses on Horeb, the mountain of God, the Lord asked Moses what was in his hand (Ex 4:2). Moses answered, “‘A staff’” (same verse):
And [the LORD] said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—"that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."
Moses’ staff was his scepter, with Moses bearing in his staff greater authority than Pharaoh had in his scepter … the hieroglyph for <was>, the word meaning power, appeared as a serpent … the was scepter would have a stylized animal head on its top end and a forked end on its bottom, the fork suggestive of the serpent’s tongue. Hence, a staff that would turn into a serpent represented great authority, great power to ancient Egyptians.
Moses still wasn’t all that willing to return to Egypt, from where he had fled as a fugitive:
But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak." But he said, "Oh, my Lord, please send someone else." Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, "Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs." (Ex 4:10–17 emphasis added)
Moses’ staff/Aaron’s staff was the scepter of Israel in the days of Moses; yet Moses and Aaron, brothers, were of the tribe of Levi, not the tribe of Judah; so how is it that the scepter of Jacob/Israel should not depart from Judah? A question that is virtually self explanatory for Jesus was of Judah and is now Israel’s high priest after the order of “Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, [who] met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him” (Heb 7:1)—the scepter of Israel is today the spiritual Key of David, that the glorified Christ Jesus has and holds and has used to give the holy ones at Philadelphia knowledge of what has been written in the Book of Truth (see Rev 3:7).
The Key of David doesn’t appear as an Egyptian was scepter, or as the scepter with the oldest history, the heqa-scepter, sometimes described as the shepherd’s crook. It doesn’t appear as a bow or a mace or even as a sword. It isn’t physical. It isn’t like Aaron’s staff that budded and bore almonds overnight, or Moses’ staff that became a snake when cast down. Rather, it is the tangible possession of knowledge that has come from the Book of Truth; for David was a poet, writing not in prose but in structured thought-couplets, building couplet upon couplet as if his couplets were sculpted stone prepared for the spiritual temple, the Christian Church (1 Cor 3:16–17; 2 Cor 6:16), a structure built from living stones (1 Pet 2:4–5) upon which the sound of no iron tool striking iron is heard.
There are Sabbatarian Christians that hold the concept that Jacob gave to Joseph the firstborn birthright:
Joseph is a fruitful bough,
a fruitful bough by a spring;
his branches run over the wall.
The archers bitterly attacked him,
shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The blessings of your father
are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
(Gen 49:22–26 emphasis added)
Translation presents problems and doesn’t present a perfect pattern of movement from physical/earthly to spiritual/heavenly that can be easily seen; however, the poetic movement is evident … Joseph can only metaphorically be a fruitful bough—and as a bough, he is attached to a trunk and to a root, with the trunk and root being the Mighty One of Jacob, the God of Joseph’s fathers, the Stone of Israel, the Rock that was Christ Jesus (1 Cor 10:4).
When movement is from the physical to the spiritual, expressed in metaphorical language, and when Joseph is represented in the tribes of Israel by his two sons, both blessed by their grandfather:
And Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.' And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.” (Gen 48:3–5)
Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph as his own sons; so when, concerning Joseph, Jacob declared that, “‘The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, / up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. / May they be on the head of Joseph, / and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers’” (Gen 49:26), Jacob spoke of the two lads, Ephraim and Manasseh, saying that their blessings from their father was greater than the blessings Jacob received from Isaac or Abraham—but that wasn’t what Jacob said, for the One who would give a mightier blessing than had Isaac or Abraham wasn’t Joseph or even Israel, but God Almighty who through adoption would become the Father of Ephraim and Manasseh. However, to receive the blessings of the Father, the adopted sons of Israel must be set apart from their brothers. And it is their being set apart that makes all the difference; for Joseph didn’t voluntarily go down into Egypt. He went as a prisoner, a captive sold into slavery by his brothers; whereas the natural sons of Jacob went down to Egypt to save themselves from hunger and want.
Human beings are not born as free persons, able to keep the commandments, but are humanly born consigned to disobedience (Rom 11:32) as sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2–3). They were sold into slavery by their ancestors whom the Lord was sorry He made (Gen 6:6); they were delivered into the hand of Death when the world was baptized in water in the days of Noah, with only this righteous man and his sons of righteousness passing from one world to the next in a covered Ark of Noah’s own construction. And while in the Ark, Noah and the seven with him were as the inner selves of human persons are to their fleshly bodies (represented collectively by the Ark). Noah was to the Ark as Adam was to Eve, perhaps not a perfect analogy, but an appropriate one; for Noah was the head of the Ark as the husband is the head of his wife and as Christ Jesus is the Head of the man and as God is the Head of Christ (1 Cor 11:3), with the head inside the body, not atop the body.
In Judah and in Joseph, together, is the reality of Christ Jesus, the First of the firstborns, and the firstborn sons of God, all having received birth through the indwelling of Christ in the form of the breath of God [pneuma theon in the breath of Christ [pneuma kristos]. In receiving a second breath of life, the Father adopts human persons as His sons in a manner analogous to Jacob adopting Ephraim and Manasseh as his sons, with this adoption joining these persons to Israel while at the same time separating them from the remainder of humanity.
In Jacob/Israel’s declarations about the fate of his sons, Jacob/Israel joins what is physical to what will be spiritual so that in each of his sons will be everything that the name Israel represents, for both bad and for good. Therefore, no assignment of purely physical meanings can be attached to the patriarch’s pronouncements. To do so misses the significance of his declarations.
Equally problematic are attempts to use Jacob/Israel’s pronouncements to identify specific Northern European peoples as biological descendants of the tribes of Israel; for a mixed multitude left Egypt with Israel (Ex 12:38) — Caleb was not of Israel but was of Esau. And throughout Israel’s history proselytes joined themselves to Israel, and after Alexander overran the Persian Empire, a certain number of Israelites sought to remove the evidence of their circumcision. So Israel in the Hellenist period consisted of peoples who were not biologically descended from the patriarchs but who had converted at the point of a sword, and outside of Judea was a significant percentage of biological Israelites who were not circumcised and as such were indistinguishable from Gentile peoples.
Genealogy is a messy business, and genealogy doesn’t matter at all when the circumcision of record is of the heart and not of the flesh. Therefore, using the scepter of Christ Jesus—the key of David—let it here be declared that in the movement from physical (the breath of life entering through the person’s nose as typified in the name, John) to spiritual (the breath of God entering the heart—inner self—of the person as typified by the name, Jonah) is the revelation necessary to untwist the serpentine ways of Dan, whose salvation comes in the great White Throne Judgment, not in the resurrection of firstfruits to glory.
Construction of a more solid argument for the scepter of Judah being the Key of David and for the birthright of Joseph being salvation coming via spiritual birth is beyond the scope of a Sabbath Reading. However, the need for such an inscribed argument is real and suggests that another book-length manuscript will be written before long.
The person conducting the Sabbath service should close services with two hymns, or psalms, followed by a prayer asking God’s dismissal.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."