Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jewish Imagery.

Jewish Imagery ~ "Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29)

The first thing we should always remember when reading the New Testament is that its almost entirely composed of symbols that the first century Jew would found immediately recognizable. These symbols were used before in books such as, Psalm, Joel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Nahum, Amos etc.

The problem is we are not accustomed to dealing with such symbolic language like the sun being darkened and the stars falling, etc, without thinking literally. To the Jews, this was not new language. This language was studied by all the congregation of Israel on the Sabbath in the synagogue. It was spoken in homes and by the rulers of Israel.

To help us get a grasp on how the Jews communicated in terms of symbolical language, we will start with the book of the beginning. This kind of language was used in relation to Israel began in Genesis 37:1-10 Joseph had a dream and in his dream he saw the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bow down, before him. He told this dream to his father, and brothers and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your bothers indeed come to bow down ourselves to you to the earth? Joseph’s father know the language was not to be taken literally.

In Amos 8:9 we read, "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day." This had reference to the northern kingdom.

In Ezekiel 32:7-7 we read, "And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD" This applied to fall of Egypt, as mentioned in vs. 12. 'By the swords of the mighty warriors, all of them the most terrible of the nations, I will cause your multitude to fall. 'They shall plunder the pomp of Egypt, And all its multitude shall be destroyed.

Isaiah used this same Jewish symbolical language when he predicted the fall of Babylon. In the 13th chapter of Isaiah, we find a most interesting account of God's dealing with wicked ancient Babylon and His great judgment upon her. He said: Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine. "I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the LORD of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:9-13)

This applied to fall of Babylon, as mentioned in verse 1. At the hands of the Meders in 539 BC. "Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it. verse 17

When God overturned the rulers of a nation it was said that the sun was darkened and the moon shall not give her light the stars the heavenly bodies will be shaken etc. Since the writers of the Old Testament used such highly symbolic language to picture the actions of God, it is not unreasonable that the New Testament writers and Jesus in particular would use the same kind of imagery to describe events of historic proportions as well?

There are striking similarities in the language used to described the judgment on Babylon and the language used by Jesus. Jesus spoke apocalyptically of his return in judgment at the end of the Jewish Aion. In Matthew 24:29-31 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Jesus is used the same symbolic language to describe the fall of the Jewish nation. This is how the Old Testament prophets often described the collapse of a great nation in the same language.

The disciples, who were familiar with the Old Testament, would have understood his words. The destruction of Jerusalem would not just be a temporary setback for Israel. It would actually cease to exist as a holy nation. After AD 70 the Jews existed as a people, but they ceased to be a holy nation with their own government, temple, priesthood and their own land. They lost their political independence.

For many Jews, this idea would be impossible to accept. They traced their political independence right back to Moses. They believed that a time would come when a king of Israel would come and they would once again rule over all the nations of the earth. This was a false hope, so Jesus used dramatic language to bring home the seriousness of his message. He wanted them to know that the nation of Israel was coming to an end. The nation would not just be defeated, it would be destroyed.

This was a shocking message, so dramatic that it need reinforcing. of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.