Counting the Omer is keeping the commandment to count 50 days (seven Sabbaths plus one day) between the offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest (often called First Fruits) until the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) (Leviticus 23:15-21). This year The Barking Fox is counting the omer with modern pictures of people named in the Bible.
It is surprising to consider how pervasive the legacy of Rome is on the global culture. Even those nations which never felt Rome’s touch directly still labor under the political, economic, and social order that the Empire bequeathed to its European children. Tales of the Roman era still find a familiar place in our consciousness. Whether one is looking for the real King Arthur in the detritus of post-Roman Britain, reveling in the semi-mythical exploits of Maximus after the death of Marcus Aurelius, or absorbing the accounts of Christian martyrs in the days of Nero, the grandeur of Rome captivates the imagination. That grandeur certainly includes the glory of the Caesars, the logic of Roman law, the enduring architectural monuments, and the lingering vestiges of Latin, but too often it obscures something else: Rome, the insatiable beast.
Whatever good Rome’s empire accomplished in the half millennium of its existence is forever smirched by the wake of broken civilizations, conquered peoples, and extinct cultures ground into the dust under its boot heels. This is no less true of Britain’s Celts as it is of Judea’s Jews – and of scores of other peoples forever altered by Roman domination.
The story of the Jews should be well known both to Jews and Christians, at least up to a point. Christians will be familiar with the accounts of Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles from the New Testament; Jews will know the accounts of the Great Jewish War that brought the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple, and the epic tragedy of Masada. Thus the first century of this current era is at least generally understood through these two distinct, yet complementary, lenses. What each will find unfamiliar is what happened next: that unexplored dark time between the fall of Masada in 73 CE, and the final destruction of Judea in 135 CE at the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.
Miriam Feinberg Vamosh provides invaluable assistance in shedding light on that dark era through her riveting novel, The Scroll. She weaves her story around a genuine archaeological find from the period: a get, or divorce decree, issued to a woman named Miriam at Masada at the time the last of the Jewish defenders eld the fortress against Rome’s legions. Although nothing more is known of the historical Miriam named in the scroll, Vamosh draws on her own extensive knowledge of the period to create a multi-generational saga that is not only entertaining and educational, but entirely believable.
The history of humanity is filled with mothers in all eras and all cultures saying to their children the equivalent of, “I don’t care if you don’t like how that tastes. Eat it; it’s good for you.” In my case, it was broccoli, but I can imagine children around the world sitting glumly in front of their food as their mothers tell them they won’t grow up big and strong unless they finish their borscht, ceviche, pho, or ugali. God created mothers to be right about such things, which is why each generation survives and (depending on the degree to which they listen to Mom) thrives.
This principle works just as well regarding nourishment for the mind, soul, and spirit as for the body. That is why those who persevere in reading and studying even when the subject matter is uncomfortable tend to come out much better in the end – smarter, wiser, more tolerant, and better able to cooperate with others in the interest of a greater good. Rivkah Lambert Adler has provided rich nourishment of this sort in her book, Ten From the Nations: Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews.
The groundbreaking aspect of Ten From the Nations is that Adler is among the first (perhaps the first) Jewish scholars to document the global phenomenon of Christians coming to an appreciation of Torah. She describes the phenomenon this way:
All over the world, current and former Christians are becoming aware of Torah. They are learning about, and implementing, what most of the world thinks of as Jewish practices, including celebrating Shabbat [Sabbath] and the Biblical holidays. They are refraining from eating pork and shellfish. They are studying Torah and seeing the Land of Israel, and especially the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, in a new light. They are building positive relationships with the Jewish people.
Those who have leprosy might as well be dead. Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת). The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:
Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)
Think about that for a moment. Lepers could not go home. They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them. It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation. Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that. Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:
King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)
How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God? Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?
Yes, there is hope. That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers. Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society. In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do.
If most of the events prophesied in the book of Revelation had already taken place, would we live our lives differently? That is the question at the back of the reader’s mind while processing the wealth of data presented by Christine Miller in her book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ Revealed.
Another question one might ask is why the world needs yet another book on prophecy. The answer, like the book, is logical and straightforward: we need an understanding of how the symbols in Revelation correspond to real events and people in the history of the world since the Apostle John wrote Revelation in the year 96 CE. In other words, Miller cuts through the hyper-sensationalized end-of-the-world drama to examine what Revelation really means in a way that readers not only can understand, but can use as a starting point for their own study.
Miller’s premise is that Revelation constitutes the history of the world as it unfolds between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah). She bases this premise on the precedent set elsewhere in Scripture, particularly in the book of Daniel, which presents the prophetic history of the world from the end of the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people to the first coming of Messiah. In a lengthy appendix Miller relates the well-known histories of the wars over the Holy Land between the Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) and Ptolemaic (Greco-Egyptian) kingdoms in the centuries following the death of Alexander the Great. Those wars produced the Abomination of Desolation, in which the Seleucid king Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and banned the Jews from every aspect of worship of YHVH. As the Jews responded in the War of the Maccabees, YHVH intervened on their behalf to bring the victory memorialized in the festival of Hanukkah. Yet Miller does not stop there; she continues her analysis of Daniel’s prophecies all the way through the ministry of Yeshua and his apostles, making a convincing argument about how they fulfilled the cryptic statement in Daniel 9:27 –
And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and on the wing of abominations shall be one which makes desolate; and even to that full end, which is determined, is poured out on that which makes desolate.
What Miller does with Daniel in an appendix of her book is a microcosm of what she does with Revelation in the body of the work. She begins with this explanation:
The view that all the events of Revelation are future to us is a relatively new view in the history of the church. Traditionally, Revelation was seen as an unfolding prophecy of the things which will take place between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. This unfolding historical prophecy is in the same manner as Daniel, which set the precedent.
With that introduction, she takes us on a whirlwind tour of two millennia of Roman history.