Tag Archive | Pharaoh

The Dilemma of the Ger, Part 3: Dealing with the Kinslaying

This is the third part of a dialogue with Dr. Rivkah Adler of Breaking Israel News on the question of whether the biblical concept of ger, or foreigner, could be considered as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews.  It began with Rivkah’s article, “Are We Witnessing the Restoration of an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews?”, followed by my commentary, “The Dilemma of the Ger, and her observations in “A Jewish Response to the Dilemma of the Ger.

Dealing with the Kinslaying

Albert J. McCarn
April 16,2017

The Kinslaying at Alqualondë, by Ted Nasmith. Used by permission.

A motif running through J.R.R. Tolkien’s fiction works is the exile of the Elves from Valinor, the Blessed Realm of the Valar, the gods of Tolkien’s world.  Those who read The Lord of the Rings first encounter the exiles as the High Elves who aid Frodo and his companions in their flight from the Shire.  Readers who venture into The Silmarillion learn that the High Elves are the Noldor, one of three Elven clans who answered the Valar’s invitation to leave Middle Earth and live in Valinor.  The Vanyar and Teleri – the other two clans – remained in Valinor, but the Noldor rebelled against the Valar and returned to Middle Earth to fight against Morgoth, Tolkien’s equivalent of Satan.

The Noldor had justification for their actions.  Morgoth had stolen the Silmarils, the matchless jewels fashioned by Fëanor, greatest of the Elven craftsmen, and had killed Finwë, Fëanor’s father and king of the Noldor.  Nevertheless, their rebellion under Fëanor’s leadership incurred a sentence of exile and separation from any help the Valar could offer.  Over the next several centuries the Noldor and their allies among the Elves and Men of Middle Earth proved unable to defeat Morgoth, and they suffered a long defeat.  At the end of their strength, the humbled remnant repented and begged help from the Valar.  When help came, Morgoth was defeated and the Valar granted clemency for the Noldor to return to the Blessed Realm, bringing with them the remaining Elves of Middle Earth who had never seen Valinor.

This is the unseen backdrop for the Elves appearing in Tolkien’s later and more popular works.  Those who pick up the story with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings meet wise Elrond, stern yet kindly Thranduil, and gentle Galadriel, but they have no understanding of their history.  Galadriel, for example, was Fëanor’s niece, and along with his sons and her brothers led the Noldor in rebellion.  Upon passing the test of refusing the Ring of Power when Frodo offers it to her, she proves that she, the only surviving rebel leader, is indeed ready to return home as a humble penitent.

In Galadriel’s story we see the stunning panorama flowing through the body of Tolkien’s works.  Yet there is one missing detail:  he never tells us what happens when the exiles return.  It is a significant omission.  We can imagine the scenes of reconciliation as the Noldor made amends with the eternal Valar, but we do not know what happens when they encountered the brethren they had wronged.  At the beginning of their flight from Valinor, the Noldor demanded of their kin, the Teleri, use of their ships.  The Teleri refused, resulting in a terrible battle known thereafter as the Kinslaying.  As Tolkien describes it, “Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt in Alqualondë were wickedly slain.”  If that were not enough, when they arrived on the shores of Middle Earth, Fëanor gave orders to burn the wondrous Telerian ships, craft of great beauty the like of which could never be made again.

What happens when the prodigal Noldor return home is a tale we do not know.  We hope they are reconciled with their brethren, but achieving reconciliation requires conscious effort to overcome the debt of blood between them.  Until that debt is paid or forgiven, the bliss of the Blessed Realm remains unbearably diminished.

Tolkien’s epic thus becomes a parable for us, the returning exiles of the House of Yosef (Joseph).  Like the Noldor, we are guilty not only of rebellion against our God and the king He had anointed, but also of an endless Kinslaying of our brethren of Judah.

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Fox Byte 5775 #48: Shoftim (Judges)

שֹׁפְטִים

The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson, by Theodore R. Davis. Illustration in Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868.

“The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson”, by Theodore R. Davis. Illustration in Harper’s Weekly, April 11, 1868.

What does it take to remove a head of state?  This question concerns situations in which a nation finds cause to remove a leader before the established time.  A survey of history informs us that such circumstances usually involve war and upheaval.  The incumbent, whether a king or a prime minister, is not inclined to surrender power, and therefore must be compelled to give it up, often on pain of death.  In consideration of this state of human affairs, the Founding Fathers of the United States established a procedure by which presidents might be impeached, or removed from office.  The product of their deliberations appears in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

And that is all they have to say on the matter – which is why jurists for nearly 230 years have debated exactly what they meant.

The Founders certainly understood the seriousness of the question.  They had just gone through a lengthy and painful process of removing King George III as head of state over the American colonies by the extreme measure of extricating the colonies from the king’s domain and establishing a separate sovereign nation.  Their attempts at less drastic measures had not sufficed, leaving them no option but the usual method of war and upheaval.  That is why they sought to limit the power of the president, providing a method of removal by legislative and judicial means.  The grounds for removal would have to be well established, which is why the Constitution specifies the obvious transgressions of treason and bribery.  But what exactly are “high crimes and misdemeanors”?  This is where it gets interesting, and frustrating to those who desire to remove an incompetent, unpopular, or abusive president.

The Founders sought not only to prevent abuse of power in the Office of the President, but also to protect the dignity of the office and ensure continuity of government.  Succeeding generations have understood this, which is why only three presidents have been the subject of impeachment proceedings.  President Richard Nixon resigned before Congress could vote on articles of impeachment for his abuse of power.  Had he not done so, it is likely he would have been the only president ever removed from office.  Congress did impeach Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton on charges stemming from their obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, but acquitted both men – not because the charges were unfounded, but because of the political motivations behind the impeachment proceedings.  Under such circumstances, their removal would have brought immense harm to the Office of the President and its foundation in the organic law of the United States.

One might wish that the Founding Fathers had been more specific in the standards they expected of people holding high office.  Then again, how much more specific did they need to be in a Christian culture based on the rule of law derived from the Bible?  Their understanding of God’s requirements for public leaders shaped their creation of the Government of the United States, leading them to do as YHVH did:  provide just enough detail to establish wise government under the principles of justice and mercy.

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Revelation 8-11 as a New Exodus

Could it really be true that God intends to snatch His people out of this earth just before the whole thing blows up, or is that just wishful thinking?  This is something Don Merritt addresses in his recent post, “Revelation 8-11 as a New Exodus”.  Don’s blog, The Life Project:  Finding Clear and Simple Faith, is a straightforward examination of what Scripture says about how the disciples of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) should live.  His approach is Christian rather than Hebrew Roots or Messianic, so there are some points where we do not exactly agree.  Even so, I have found his commentary insightful and instructive.

In the midst of this very busy summer the best I have been able to do is file away the email notifications of Don’s posts on Revelation in hope that I will be able to read the entire series.  The notice of this particular post, however, got my attention immediately, and I had to read it immediately.  I was not disappointed.  This is the first time I can recall seeing a Christian commentator make the connection between the First Exodus and the coming Second Exodus that will restore all of YHVH’s people to the land He promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – both the natural descendants and those who are “grafted in” to the nation of Israel through faith in Messiah and His redemptive work.  Don’s post is a starting point for further investigation.  After you read it, check out “True Confessions of a Former Premillennialist”, another Life Project post in which Don explains the spiritual journey that brought him to his current understanding of the end of this present age.


BFB150728 The Life Project - Revelation 8-11

Revelation 8-11 as a New Exodus

Don Merritt

Posted on The Life Project, July 23, 2015

I mentioned earlier that there is a parallel structure between the story of the Exodus and John’s vision in Revelation 8-11 that might help us to understand this section better or more easily. To show you what I mean I have set out the parallel below. Take a look, and let’s see what you think…

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Fox Byte 5775 #36: Beha’alotcha (In Your Going Up)

בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by  Danacea on Flickr.com via via Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by Danacea on Flickr.com via Wikimedia Commons)

In a response to a reader’s question about his works, author Stephen R. Donaldson provided this enlightening comment about the motivation behind his writing:

I’m a storyteller, not a polemicist.  As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.  (Stephen R. Donaldson Official Website, February 23, 2004)

Donaldson’s best known writings might be categorized as postmodern American science fiction and fantasy literature.  The worlds he creates are not the pristine, archetypical fantasy worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but darker realms that mirror our present ambiguous reality.  Donaldson explores human nature in a secular, relativistic world detached from the moral underpinnings of Christian civilization.  Good and evil manifest in the worlds he creates, but they are often uncomfortably intertwined so as to be nearly indistinguishable.  Such is the case with his most famous protagonist, the anti-hero Thomas Covenant.  In ten novels published over the span of 36 years, Donaldson follows Covenant through three epic quests in The Land, the world of his creation where magic and Earthpower shape the lives of mortals.  Covenant is one of the most unlikely heroes in the history of literature:  a leper living in present-day America who is magically transported to The Land to save it from destruction by Lord Foul the Despiser.  He wears a wedding band of white gold, the source of Wild Magic, which is the greatest power ever known in The Land.  He does not know how to wield this power, nor does he desire to do so, yet the dire circumstances of The Land compel him to find a way.  Each victory comes at a cost.  Ultimately it is Covenant himself who pays the greatest price, and thus he earns not only sympathy, but redemption.

We learn much about power in White Gold Wielder, the last novel of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  The Elohim, supernatural beings who keep watch over the Earth, “silence” Covenant, placing him in a catatonic state so he will not use his ring unwisely and risk destruction of the world.  After Covenant is revived by his companion Linden Avery, Findail of the Elohim explains their actions to her:

The ring-wielder we silenced, not to harm him, but to spare the Earth the ill of power without sight . . . Thus the choice would have fallen to you in the end.  His ring you might have taken unto yourself, thereby healing the breach between sight and power.  Or perhaps you might have ceded the ring to me, empowering the Elohim to save the Earth after their fashion.  Then would we have had no need to fear ourselves, for a power given is altogether different than one wrested away.

Findail’s declaration, “a power given is altogether different than one wrested away,” is a restatement of something taught long ago by One Who understood power:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #15: Bo (Go)

בֹּא

Donkeys in Transition.  Top left:  James Cagney as Nick Bottom, with Anita Louise as Titania in the 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (via “The Many Faces of Nick Bottom” on Shakespeare Talks).  Top right:  Pinocchio turns into a donkey, from the 1940 Walt Disney film, Pinocchio, via The Disney Wiki.  Bottom Left:  Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) in Shrek the Third (via HD Wallpapers).  Bottom Right:  Donkey as Stallion in Shrek II (via Wiki Shrek).

Donkeys in Transition. Top left: James Cagney as Nick Bottom with Anita Louise as Titania in the 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (via “The Many Faces of Nick Bottom” on Shakespeare Talks). Top right: Pinocchio turns into a donkey, from the 1940 Walt Disney film, Pinocchio, via The Disney Wiki. Bottom Left: Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) in Shrek the Third (via HD Wallpapers). Bottom Right: Donkey as Stallion in Shrek II (via Wiki Shrek).

Is there anything more ridiculous among beasts of burden than a donkey?  They are hardly the picture of a noble animal.  On the contrary, they are loud, obnoxious, stubborn, homely (not exactly ugly, but certainly not beautiful), and they smell bad.  It is no coincidence that William Shakespeare places a donkey’s head on the foolishly self-confident Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Neither is it a coincidence that in The Adventures of Pinocchio Carlo Collodi chose to transform foolish boys into donkeys.  Walt Disney offered a simple explanation of this process in his 1940 film version of Pinocchio:  “Give a bad boy enough rope, and he’ll soon make a jackass of himself.”  And then there is the companion of the ogre Shrek:  the carefree, friendly, and unbearably annoying Donkey, brought to life by the vocal talents of Eddie Murphy.  In the second film of the Shrek series Donkey is changed into a white stallion, but the change is only outward.  Inside he is still the same Donkey:  kindhearted, loyal, and eager to please, but seldom aware of the chaos that follows him at every step.

With such a pedigree it is a wonder that donkeys receive favorable attention in Scripture.  In fact, the lowly donkey and the lamb are the only animals mentioned by name in God’s instructions on how to remember the Exodus.

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Fox Byte 5775 #14: Va’Era (And I Appeared)

וַיֵּרָא

The "Smite Button" cartoon remains one of Gary Larson's most popular offerings from The Far Side.  For a twist on the cartoon, with direct application to the Ten Plagues of Egypt, see "God's Defeat of the False Egyptian Gods" at Catholic All Year.

The “Smite Button” cartoon remains one of Gary Larson’s most popular offerings from The Far Side. For a twist on the cartoon, with direct application to the Ten Plagues of Egypt, see “God’s Defeat of the False Egyptian Gods” at Catholic All Year.

One of those cultural icons of the post-modern era is Gary Larson’s cartoon series, The Far Side.  Larson retired the series in 1995 after only 15 years, but the cartoons remain very popular.  Their irreverent, bizarre depictions of people and circumstances continue to amuse, but more importantly, cause people to think about things we consider “normal”.  Such is the case of Larson’s cartoon, “God at His computer”.  The picture shows the Almighty sitting at a computer, with an image on the screen of a hapless victim walking under a piano suspended by a rope.  God’s finger hovers over the keyboard, about to press a button labelled “Smite”.

There is no question that this particular cartoon is irreverent.  Some might call it blasphemous.  But why is it that humor is the most common reaction to this cartoon?  Is it because we have this innate tendency to laugh at the misfortunes of other people – perhaps glad that the misfortune is not our own?  Probably; comics and sadists have played on that tendency for centuries, all too frequently with tragic results.  What strikes the chord in this particular cartoon, though, is that Gary Larson points to God as the cause of misfortune.  In this case he is merely highlighting something we would rather not admit:  our perception that God really does cause evil in the world, regardless how we might try to avoid it.  This perception is rooted much deeper than we may be aware.  Why, for instance, do contracts and insurance policies make allowances relieving the contracting parties from responsibility in the case of “acts of God”?  Something like a tornado, earthquake, or other natural disaster, is an unforeseen event that no one can predict or prepare for, and thus no one can be held responsible for its effects.  No one, that is, except God, the self-proclaimed Creator and Almighty Power of the universe.  God, therefore, gets the blame.

But why?  How did this all get started?  What established our tendency to think of the Creator as a capricious being ready to press the “Smite” button?  And is it fair or right to blame God for misfortune?  To find the answers we must travel far back in time, to the beginning of humanity’s existence.  No doubt our earliest ancestors began blaming God for their problems soon after He expelled them from the Garden of Eden.  However, what most likely caused us to think collectively about God in this way was His judgment on Egypt.

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Fox Byte 5775 #13: Shemot (Names)

שְׁמוֹת

Map of the realms of Middle Earth.  Tolkien fans are familiar with the kingdom of Gondor, in the south opposite Mordor.  Less familiar, but no less important, is the kingdom of Arnor, which at one time incorporated most of the region of Eriador.  (Source:  The HD Wall)

Map of the realms of Middle Earth. Tolkien fans are familiar with the kingdom of Gondor, in the south opposite Mordor. Less familiar, but no less important, is the kingdom of Arnor, which at one time incorporated most of the region of Eriador. (Source: The HD Wall)

No one remembers the kings of Arnor.  Why should they?  After all, they existed only in the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Yet if they had never existed there, the world would never have become acquainted with Aragorn, or with the Hobbits who helped him reestablish his kingdom.  The great drama of Middle Earth is now etched in popular culture thanks to the cinematic artistry of Peter Jackson.  It is a great credit to Jackson and his team that they drew from the deep wells of Tolkien’s works to portray the indispensable back-story of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but that story probably escaped the notice of most of the audience.

In Tolkien’s world, the noblest people among the Men of Middle Earth were the Númenóreans, a people whose kingdom in the midst of the sea was destroyed by a great flood like that which inundated the legendary Atlantis.  Under the leadership of Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion, the survivors of Númenor established a new kingdom in the western part of Middle Earth.  Elendil divided his realm, placing Anárion on the throne of the Southern Kingdom of Gondor, and retaining for himself the title of High King as he ruled over the Northern Kingdom, Arnor.  When Elendil died, Isildur took his place as High King, ruling from Arnor.  Over time Arnor declined and failed, but the line of Isildur continued through the Dúnedain, or Men of the West, a diminished and scattered people known more popularly as Rangers.  Gondor continued on in great strength, but the line of kings descended from Anárion ceased when the last king, Eärnur, died childless.  Tolkien thus created a great irony in his literary world:  a king with no kingdom, and a kingdom with no king.

This is the setting for The Lord of the Rings.  Those who have seen the movies know that Aragorn the Ranger eventually became king of Gondor, but few realize that his coronation was the culmination of the long-awaited rebirth of the Númenorean realm and reunification of the Northern and Southern kingdoms.  Those events could never have happened if the Dúnedain had ceased to exist.  According to Tolkien’s work, they remained few in number after the destruction of Arnor, but their vigilant watch ensured a measure of peace in the lands of the North.  Although all but forgotten by the people of Gondor, the Dúnedain worked quietly behind the scenes to strengthen the Southern Kingdom’s stand against the growing evil of Sauron.  Then, when all hope seemed lost, the heir of Elendil appeared in the greatest hour of need, bringing new life to long-dead hopes and dreams.

A major component of Tolkien’s works is identity:  as long as the Dúnedain and the people of Gondor remember who they are, no enemy can defeat them.  They may be overwhelmed and diminished, but a remnant will remain and will in time prosper anew.  And whether Professor Tolkien realized it or not, his literary works depict something very real in the works of God:  the identity, redemption, and restoration of all Israel.

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Fox Byte 5775 #11: VaYigash (And He Drew Near)

וַיִּגַּשׁ

Billy Bowlegs and Chiefs of the Seminole Indians Gleason's Pictorial, Boston, Saturday, October 23, 1852 (Source:  "Billy Bowlegs and Suite", Seminole Nation, I.T.)

Billy Bowlegs and Chiefs of the Seminole Indians
Gleason’s Pictorial, Boston, Saturday, October 23, 1852 (Source: “Billy Bowlegs and Suite”, Seminole Nation, I.T.)

It has been more than 500 years since Christopher Columbus mistakenly identified the indigenous peoples of the Americas as “Indians”, and yet that name has remained the popular collective label for the many hundreds of nations more accurately identified by their own names, such as Arawak, Pequot, Lakota, Yaqui, Quechua, and Navajo.  Many of these nations have ceased to exist, the victims of disease, war, enslavement, and cultural genocide.  Others have come into existence as dispersed and diminished peoples have merged to make new nations.  Still others have persisted in their identity to this day, enduring beyond hope as distinct peoples.  All of those things describe the Seminole Nation, which now resides in the states of Oklahoma and Florida.  The Seminoles did not become a distinct people until late in the 18th century, when remnants of the Muskogee (Creek) and other peoples of Florida and what is now Georgia and Alabama combined to form a new nation.  The Spanish called them cimarrones, meaning runaways, or free people.  This term referred to the fact that the tribe included many escaped slaves, both African and Native American, who had joined with others from broken, scattered tribes.  In the Muskogee tongue, cimarrones became semulon-e, and eventually Seminole.

This people who originally were not a people soon developed a strong sense of national identity which compelled them to resist all efforts to conquer them.  They fought against the Spanish, the English, the Creeks, and, inevitably, the Americans.  Three bitter wars from 1817 to 1858 left the Seminole Nation broken and divided, but still unconquered.  Most of the surviving Seminoles were removed by the United States government to Oklahoma, but a remnant remained in the swamps of southwestern Florida, where they remain to this day.  The Florida Seminoles are unique among Native American peoples in that they alone have never signed a treaty of peace with the United States.  Those who were removed to Oklahoma may have agreed to peace with the U.S., but they maintained a fierce independence in their new land.  Efforts to integrate them into the Creek Nation of Oklahoma met with determined resistance.  In time the Seminole remnant in Oklahoma reestablished their tribal identity, and today exist as a separate and distinct nation.[1]

It may come as a surprise, but the greatest story in the Bible is about a nation created from a people who were not a people.  The tale begins with the account of Joseph and his brothers, but the story as yet has no ending.

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Fox Byte 5775 #6: Toldot (Generations)

תּוֹלְדֹת

Lenard Nimoy portrayed a famous Evil Twin in his dual role as Mr. Spock and his alter-ego in "Mirror Mirror", one of the most memorable episodes of Star Trek, The Original Series.

A recent presentation of the Evil Twin motif occurred in “Mirror Mirror”, one of the most memorable episodes of Star Trek, The Original Series.  In that episode, Leonard Nimoy portrayed both Mr. Spock and his evil alter-ego.

Who invented the concept of the “Evil Twin”?  This is not just a literary device.  It is a byword, a running gag, a recurring theme in everyday life.  When someone does something ridiculous, for example, they say, “That wasn’t me; it was my evil twin.”  The motif of the twin, or double, stepping into the role of someone else provides endless possibilities for comedy or tragedy based on mistaken identity.  But where did this idea get started?  Perhaps, like so many other things, the answer is in the Bible:

And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  (Romans 9:10-13 NASB)

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Loving Father or Unpredictable Tyrant: A Question About God’s Mercy

Moses (Charlton Heston) confronts Pharaoh (Yul Brynner) in Cecil B. DeMIlle's The Ten Commandments

Moses (Charlton Heston) confronts Pharaoh (Yul Brynner) in Cecil B. DeMIlle’s The Ten Commandments

Does God intentionally create people to do evil for His glory?  This question arose in a Bible study I attended recently.  The man who asked the question confessed his difficulty in understanding why God would harden Pharaoh’s heart when Moses went to him with God’s demand that he release Israel from Egypt.  This point first comes up at the Burning Bush, where God explains to Moses his mission:

And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand.  But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.”  (Exodus 4:21 NKJV, emphasis added)

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