Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
Authored By :
Published On :
August 11, 1997
Last Updated :
August 13, 2012
An overview of the ancient Israelites and early Judaism, and an exposé on corrupt worldly governments and politics, and our place in them as servants of Jesus Christ
At this time, it is worth mentioning an interesting point concerning Jacob's feelings towards the God worshipped by his father Isaac and by his grandfather Abraham. The reader needs to remember that Abraham's family worshipped pagan gods. They did not worship the God of Abraham and Isaac. As stated previously, this may be one of the reasons why Abraham was concerned about sending Isaac back to the land of his nativity to find a wife; and also why he didn't allow him to marry a Canaanite woman. Like his father Abraham, Isaac had this same concern with his two sons Jacob and Esau. Incidentally, Esau did displease his parents by marrying a woman of the Hittites. Considering all of this, and Jacob's whole nature of being somewhat of a wheeler-dealer, it should come as no surprise that Jacob actually had doubts about the God of his father and grandfather. If we look closely in Genesis chapter twenty-eight, we discover that even before he arrived at Laban's house many years before, Jacob's belief in the God of gods was conditional:
"And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:"
Genesis 28:20-21, KJV
In other words, he would accept the God of his father and grandfather IF He proved Himself to Jacob. Now, twenty years later, after the Lord had greatly blessed him giving him two wives, many children, huge flocks and many servants, Jacob was now willing to admit that it was indeed due to the God of his father Isaac that he had been blessed, as well as protected from Laban's evil intentions"
"And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me."
Genesis 31:5-7, KJV
When the Lord told Jacob in a dream that it was time to leave his uncle Laban's country, He also reminded him of the vow he had made to Him twenty years before:
"I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred."
Genesis 31:13, KJV
And with that, Jacob made haste, obeyed the Lord, and departed from Laban's house in secret. However, what was not known to him at the time, is that his wife Rachel had stolen the images of the gods of her father Laban. Later, when Laban finally caught up with them, he said to Jacob:
"And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?"
Genesis 31:30, KJV
Although Laban searched high and low in Jacob's property, he wasn't able to find the idols because Rachel had hidden them in a chest of sorts and sat upon it pretending she was having her period:
"With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images."
Genesis 31:32-35, KJV
This is again additional proof that it was no easy task for Abraham's family and relatives to forsake their pagan gods. I expound more fully on this in my article "Revelation's Babylon the Great".
Eventually, the two men come to an agreement not to step over each other's bounds, and Jacob continues on his journey back to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. Sometime thereafter, Jacob finally arrives at the land of his brother Esau. It is just prior to their meeting that Jacob has the all-night wrestling match with a mysterious celestial visitor who refuses to identify himself. As a result of this encounter, three things happen:
First, he receives a special blessing from the Lord. Second, his name is changed from Jacob to Israel. Third, he is crippled in his thigh. In a later event in Genesis chapter thirty-five, after warning his family to get rid of the false gods and idols they have carried with them -- which they apparently do -- the Lord God again appears to Jacob in Bethel where Jacob is building another altar as before. The Lord again blesses him, tells him that He will give him all the land of Canaan, and that many nations and kings will arise from his descendants. He also tells him a second time that his name will now be called Israel, as we see here:
"And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel."
Genesis 35:9-15, KJV
It is after this last event that Rachel again becomes pregnant and has another son whom Jacob names Benjamin, making him the final son of the twelve sons/tribes of Israel. Tragically, Rachel dies while giving birth to this child. Jacob finally makes it back to Arbah -- later to be known as Hebron -- where his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac dwelt. Isaac finally dies at the ripe old age of one hundred and eighty and is buried by Jacob and his brother Esau; that is, Edom:
"And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him."
Genesis 35:27-29, KJV
At this point we are going to move forward to the betrayal of Joseph by his jealous brothers. As is well known by many people, Joseph had the gift of dreams. In one of his dreams, the Lord showed him the future in which his family would some day bow down to him. This did not sit well with his brothers who were already envious of him because their father Jacob -- or Israel -- loved him the most because he was born in Jacob's old age. To show his love for the lad, he had made him the coat of many colors. Initially, some of his brothers wanted to kill him. However, due to the oldest brother Reuben saving his life, Joseph was instead sold to some Ishmaelite -- Midianite -- merchants who were on their way to Egypt. Joseph eventually ended up in the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officers and captain of the guard. You can read about this in Genesis chapter thirty-seven.
Through a series of events, including a false accusation, Joseph found himself unjustly thrown into prison. But this was all a part of God's plan, and he eventually rose up to be the second most powerful man in all of Pharaoh's court. This came about as a result of the Lord giving him the gift to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, much like what also happened to the prophet Daniel, centuries later. During Joseph's time in Egypt, a severe famine caused Jacob to send his sons down into Egypt to secure some grain lest they die. As a result of this, Joseph and his family were finally reunited when Jacob's whole family, which numbered seventy, moved down into Egypt where life was good. Eventually, Jacob died at the age of one hundred and forty-seven after having lived seventeen years in Egypt. His last wish was that he would be buried in the land of his fathers, in Canaan, in a cave in the plain of Mamre which Abraham had bought. Please refer to Genesis chapters thirty-seven and thirty-nine through fifty.
After the burial of Jacob in Canaan, which included a great ceremonial procession of Egyptians, Joseph, his brethren and their families returned to Egypt to dwell in the fertile land of Goshen. This is a really interesting point which most folks are not even aware of. Had they remained in Canaan, they would never have suffered the four hundred and thirty years of Egyptian bondage. On the other hand, we should not underestimate the wisdom and foreknowledge of God. At that time, Canaan was overrun with the pagan descendants of Ham who were much more numerous than the families of the twelve sons of Israel. Had they remained there at that time, they probably would have been wiped out. For this reason, the Lord had them return to the fertile lands of Egypt where they would grow and multiply into a great nation totaling about one million souls. With time, Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten, along with all of his generation, and a new Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph. Because of this, the children of Israel soon found themselves in bondage to the Egyptians. For four hundred and thirty years the Hebrews served the Egyptians building many of their pyramids under very harsh conditions. This is all covered in the first chapter of the Book of Exodus.
But God had not abandoned the descendants of Israel. Within time, He sent them a deliverer, a man who, while being Hebrew, was raised in the house of Pharaoh amidst the royalty. This man of course was Moses. After spending forty years in the courts of Pharaoh, Moses was forced to flee Egypt after he slew a man and hid his body in the sand. After another forty years of being broken and humbled by the Lord, at the age of eighty, Moses was finally ready to become the Prophet and Liberator that God wanted him to be. By the time of the great liberation, the children of Israel had grown from the original seventy, to over six hundred thousand adult males alone! This was obviously quite a handful for one man to lead all by himself. Thus in Numbers chapter one, we find the Lord appointing one man from each of the twelve tribes to assist Moses in his administrative duties. In addition, the Lord also chose the tribe of Levi to serve as the priesthood for the children of Israel. For the next forty years after their liberation, the children of Israel would wander through the desert of Sinai until the Lord could purge out the murmuring and complaining older generation. The story of Moses and the children of Israel can be found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
After the death of Moses on the top of Mount Nebo -- or Pisgah as it is also known -- at the age of one hundred and twenty, the Israelites were led by Joshua, Moses' chosen successor, who victoriously led them into the promised land. Joshua also was assisted by the Levites and the tribal elders. Following the death of Joshua's at one hundred and ten years of age, we read the following in the Book of Joshua:
"And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for them."
Joshua 24:31, KJV
Following the death of Joshua, Israel was ruled for a period by judges/prophets. Some of the better known ones would be Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Samson and Samuel. In Judges chapter eighteen we are told the following:
"In those days there was no king in Israel . . ."
While other nations did set up their kings to rule over them, the Israelites continued to be led by their leaders who served both as Prophets and Judges. In Judges chapter nine there was a certain man named Abimelech who did succeed in setting himself up as king, but this was not the Lord's doing. To even do this, he had to kill seventy members of his own family. Only his younger brother escaped by hiding himself. But the Lord eventually caught up with Abimelech. Three years later while besieging the city of Thebez, a woman dropped a piece of millstone from a high tower and cracked open his head. He had one of his men put a sword through him to finish him off so the people wouldn't say he had been killed by a woman.
Thus begins the sad story of what happens when God's children try to set up an earthly ruler over themselves. While children of the world may become involved in their politics, this was not the original plan God had intended for His children, in this case, the ancient Israelites. When Samuel the Judge and Prophet had grown old, once again the children of Israel desired to have a king over them, as we can determine from the following verses:
"And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD."
1 Samuel 8:1-6, KJV
And now we come to the main reason why the Lord never allowed the children of Israel to have a king over them, and why even today, He does not like His children becoming involved in politics and worldly affairs:
"And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them."
1 Samuel 8:7-9, KJV
In the following nine verses, Samuel describes the ruthless King which the Lord is going to give them since they have rejected Him as being their one and only true King. He finishes his sober warning to them by telling them:
"And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day."
1 Samuel 8:18, KJV
Despite this, in their stubbornness and hard-heartedness, they continue to insist on having an earthly king:
"Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city."
1 Samuel 8:18-22, KJV
Thus, with Saul the son of Kish, begins the long sad story of ancient Jewish politics. Why did this happen? Because they rejected the Lord as their one true King and wanted to be like other earthly people. From the Books of Samuel up to the end of the Old Testament, we read of one king after another, the majority of whom displeased the Lord and were eventually rejected by Him. Sadly, even David and Solomon who were blessed and loved by the Lord committed acts of murder and adultery and did other things to upset the Lord. The one thing that makes David stand out from among his peers, is that he depended solely upon the Lord's mercy to save him in his time of need, despite his own mistakes, sins and shortcomings. Overall, the Old Testament is a continuous story of periods of peace, followed by periods of war, invasion, occupation and chastisement as the Israelites under their kings and earthly politics rebelled over and over again against the Lord. Prophet after Prophet was sent to warn them to get right with the Lord, to accept Him as their only true King and rightful Government. To some of the Prophets they took heed, while others they just ignored, persecuted, rejected and killed.
It must be pointed out that, while some of ancient Israel's kings were "good" leaders compared to some others, this was still not God's highest and best will for His chosen people. Many times in the Old Testament we are told that the Lord is a jealous God. He wants to commune with us directly. He wants to rule over us directly without the need for any kind of intermediary earthly government. In setting up an earthly government and king, the ancient Israelites were in effect putting a god before the God of gods. Eventually, God became so fed up with them that He just stopped talking to them, and we find the Old Testament closing with a period of some three to four hundred years of silence. As I explain in the series "Revelation's Babylon the Great", it was during this time that great emphasis was placed upon the Law -- that is, the Torah -- and oral tradition. The adulterous Israelites had become so hard-hearted that they no longer wanted Prophets prophesying against them, so the Gift of Prophecy was shunned by the spiritual hierarchy of Israel. The Israelites had made their choice; they only wanted the Law and an earthly king to rule over them.
Thus, from Eden, to Babel, to Abimelech the man who would be king, to rebellious Saul, to many of the other Old Testament kings, we see Satan's attempt to convince man that he can rule over himself without help from God; that he can in fact be his own god and the chooser of his own destiny; that he can make his own rules and govern himself through earthly politics. But the point of the matter is, an imperfect people cannot be ruled by an imperfect government; and all earthly governments are imperfect. The only True, Righteous and perfect Government, is one which has not yet arrived.
It will be noticed that thus far, this article has been written from the perspective of God's ancient people, the Hebrews/Jews/ Israelites, with limited mention of other cultures or religions. The reason for this is quite simple: In Old Testament terms, there is a clear distinction between the children of God and the children of Satan, the Israelites/Hebrews and the Gentile nations, the followers of YHWH/Jehovah and the pagans/heathen who rejected the God of Israel. After The Flood, the Earth was pure again. There were only eight God-fearing people to begin re-populating the Earth. God had abundantly shown His mercy and love to these eight people; yet they had to make a conscious choice to continue to obey and follow the Lord. Tragically, as each successive generation was born, the people began to rebel again and follow after other gods. Through the hardness of their hearts, they forgot their godly heritage and the Divine Mercy which had been shown to their forefathers. In fact, as explained previously, the Tower of Babel occurred only a few generations after The Flood. For this reason, while the high level of slaughter of pagan nations by the ancient Israelites may seem repulsive, it must be remembered that those people became pagan by their own rebellious choice, while the Israelites, beginning with Abraham, likewise chose to believe in and follow the one True God.
We will now leave the Old Testament behind and look at the New Testament to see what it has to say about God's children and earthly political involvement.
At the time Jesus was born, the Israelites once again found themselves under foreign occupation; this time by the powerful and iron-fisted Roman Empire. While there was opposition to the masters of Rome and their puppet tetrarchs, it was a time of relative peace; a perfect time for the Savior to be born. Prior to the announcement of His public ministry, God had sent the Prophet John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord, as is discussed in the first chapter of the Gospel of John.
It has been suggested by some that John the Baptist was politically active due to the fact that he exposed the corruption in King Herod's court; in particular, that Herod married his brother Philip's wife. John's ministry was one of warning and repentance. God's whole purpose in choosing him was to show the people of Israel their fallen dismal spiritual condition. Several hundred years had passed since the Lord had last sent them a Prophet. In Jerusalem, Temple worship had been reduced to a meaningless religion full of spiritless tradition. The Scribes and Pharisees, in spite of the Roman occupation, were sitting pompously and comfortably as the spiritual elders of Israel. They were not the least bit interested in upsetting the status quo they had with the Caesars in Rome.
It was at this time that God sent them His wild Prophet of doom, John the Baptist, to wake them up to the fact that a great Light was about to enter the world, and also a great sword which would divide the true sheep from the goats. John was a fiery Prophet of God. He was not a politician; neither did he have political ambitions. He was not part of the Roman government; or even a part of the Jewish spiritual hierarchy for that matter. He lived in the wilderness area, was clothed with garments made of camel's hair, and ate wild locusts and honey. The only Government John was politically active for was the coming Kingdom of God in the hearts of men. In the end, it was the Roman puppet, the Jewish King Herod Antipas who had him beheaded. You will find the story discussed in Matthew chapter fourteen.
John had his eyes on the one true Government and its one true King as prophesied by Isaiah:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6, KJV
Like the Bible Heroes of Hebrews chapter eleven, John looked forward to a Heavenly Country whose Builder and Maker is God:
"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
Hebrews 11:10, KJV
Now, some have suggested that Jesus Himself was very politically involved. Consider this quote from one user:
"Another suggestion was Jesus was apolitical. FALSE. Jesus stood nose-to-nose with the politicians of his day. Anyone who can read can determine this to be true simply by reading the accounts of the encounters with the Pharisees and the Sadducees (the Jewish political leaders of the time.) Today, Christian's must take a very active role in the political environment of this nation, or else we are in danger of losing our rights on a grand scale. "Go to sleep, lose your seat." Wake up!!!"
----- End Of Quote -----
In my view, the above quote reflects a lack in understanding who and what the Pharisees and Sadducees really were, as well as what God's whole view is of earthly governments who ignore His righteous rule. In the back of my KJV Bible, we find the following definitions:
----- Begin Excerpts -----
"Pharisees- Members of a Jewish sect devoted to carrying out every rite and ceremony of the Law (Mosaic Law, not political!) with great strictness. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for neglecting the important things in religion. Paul was a Pharisee as was Nicodemus. The Pharisees adapted the old written Law to the new conditions of their day by means of oral interpretations."
"Sadducees- A priestly group claiming to be the legitimate line from Zadok, the high priest under Solomon. They accepted only the written law and rejected the oral interpretations of it which the Pharisees had developed. Jesus warned his followers against the teachings of the Sadducees."
----- End Of Excerpts -----
This is a very clear definition of both groups and is borne out if you read the Gospels. These groups were strictly spiritual leaders. Like the puppet Herod, they were kept under control by the Roman governors who were in turn controlled by the Caesars in Rome. When it came time to crucify Jesus, it wasn't Caiaphas the high priest who condemned Jesus to die, it was the Roman governor Pontius Pilate who performed the evil deed under pressure from the Jewish religious leaders. If you read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, the Roman military presence is apparent everywhere. Furthermore, crucifixion was a Roman means of punishment. Thus, while the Scribes and Pharisees did in fact condemn Jesus in their hearts; and while Herod was a pawn of the Romans, they did not possess the political power to actually judge, condemn or crucify Jesus. They were viewed by the Romans as puppets who helped to keep the people under control and nothing more.
If one conducts a thorough honest study of the New Testament, there is absolutely no place in Jesus's or the Disciples' teachings where we are told to become politically or militarily active. Quite to the contrary. Jesus and the Apostles said a lot to show otherwise. Consider these for example:
"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
John 15:19, KJV
"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word . . . I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine . . . And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee . . . I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world . . . As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world."
John 17:6, 9, 11, 14-16, 18, KJV
Notice that while we are not of the world, we are sent into the world to preach the Gospel. It is also interesting to note that Jesus did not pray for the world, He prayed only for His disciples whom He had chosen out of the world. Notice again what Jesus says in the Gospel of John:
"My kingdom is not of this world: if my Kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my Kingdom not from hence."
John 18:36, KJV
On one occasion, in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, after Jesus had done the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the people wanted to make Him their king. They just couldn't get it in their heads that God didn't want Jesus or anyone else to be an earthly king over them. He wanted to rule them directly from Heaven. Consider these verses:
"Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."
John 6:14-15, KJV
Please go to part three for the continuation of this series.
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