TECHNICAL COMMAND OR THEOLOGICAL STATEMENT?
|We continue our journey through this amazing Torah Portion. One more place in this Parashah became a great blessing for me.
I was utterly surprised to find here the root -כפר – Kafar:
I believe that everybody who knows even a little bit about Israel and Hebrew , would know what Yom Kippur is, and therefore
would recognize this root. All the possible meanings of this root always have to do with “atonement” (or so I thought). So why
would it be here, in the story of Noah? Of course, we know that the ark is a mighty symbol of redemption and salvation –
but there is no word “atonement,” or anything pertaining to atonement even remotely in the translated texts. So, what’s
going on? Why does this amazing root occur here in the Hebrew text – and why then does it disappear in translation?
This word is too significant, too deep, too important for all its future redemptive meanings, and therefore can’t be ignored.
14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; with rooms shalt thou make the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
Let us turn to the dictionary once again – and once again, we become humbled and overwhelmed by the unsearchable depth of this Word.
We find in the dictionary two completely different meanings of the same root:
(qal) כפר – to pitch smth. with pitch;
(pi) כיפר– to atone, to pardon
Can you imagine? This very technical command – you shalt pitch it within and without with pitch – in the original Hebrew text, sounds almost like a theological statement! Yes, we know that the Flood and the Ark are great symbols of punishment of the sinners and salvation of those who put their trust in God; without Hebrew, however, we completely lose something that is so obvious in the original text; even phonetically, the story of Noah is the story of redemption and atonement, the word “to atone” is actually built-in to this text! The technical command was a theological statement indeed!
THE LORD SHUT THE DOOR
|So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.
Why did God Himself shut the door of the ark after Noah went in? Imagine Noach watching from inside all these people outside – people whom he had lived together with for 600 hundred years, friends and neighbors and relatives. Try to imagine how you would feel if you were safe inside, watching so many people you knew and loved outside, trying to get in, doomed to die. I think it is just impossible for us as humans to make this final decision, to draw this final line, separating those who will be saved from those who will die. It was impossible for Noach to shut this door and thus to end their last hopes – it was impossible for Noach, and therefore God Himself had to do it.
NOT TO BE DECEIVED
In the end of the story of the Flood, we find some repelling narrative about Noah’s son Ham who saw the nakedness of his father (while his father was asleep). When Noah awoke and learned what his youngest son had done to him, he cursed Ham (actually, he cursed Canaan, Ham’s son), and blessed two other his sons, Shem and Japhet:
|כז יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.
|27 God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.
This is a very important verse, because it actually became one of the ”biblical” grounds for the replacement theory of the Church. It was here that Justin Martyr found the “biblical” basis for such a doctrine (in his treatise “Dialogue with Trypho”). Commenting on this story of Noah and his sons, he points out the verse, may God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem, as a prophetic word about how in the future Japheth, the Gentile nations that have received Christianity, would seize the tents of Shem, i.e. Israel. Do you know the children’s fable about a fox and a hare: the fox had a hut made from ice, and the hare had a little straw house? The fox’s ice hut melts and the hare takes him in, only to find that the fox kicks him out and takes his home. This is approximately what happened with Israel and Christianity. What do you think God meant here, that Japhet will dwell in the tents of Shem together with Shem – or instead of Shem? I believe, that the original meaning of this verse in no way assumed an eviction of Shem from these tents – no more than the hare would assume that by letting in the homeless fox he soon would find himself out in the street. The interpretation of Justin Martyr, however, served to legitimize the process of Israel’s exclusion from the plan and blessings of God, which at that time was already moving ahead at full speed. Was it, indeed, the original message here?
| Let us try to understand the message of the Hebrew text. The verb יַפְתְּ in the
beginning, that sounds and is spelled exactly like the name of Japhet, means here –
“spread”, “enlarge”. However, as almost every Hebrew word, it might have some
additional meanings. Here is the list of the possible meanings of this verb.
|1. to be spacious, be open, be wide
a. (Qal) to be spacious or open or wide
b. (Hiphil) to make spacious, make open
2. to be simple, entice, deceive, persuade
1. to be open-minded, be simple, be naive
2. to be enticed, be deceived
b. (Niphal) to be deceived, be gullible
1. to persuade, seduce
2. to deceive
1. to be persuaded
2. to be deceived
Once again, thanks to Hebrew we see something that would be completely missed otherwise: through the very same verses that were used by the Church “to justify” the exclusion of Israel, God is speaking about a grave danger of being “deceived”! Those Christians in the history, who were persuaded that they had to live in the tents of Shem instead of Shem – were deceived: : Japhet has to dwell in the tents of Shem along with Shem!
I would like to remind you, my dear readers, that we offer a new course, called Weekly Torah Portion, and those interested to study in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, are welcome to sign up for this course (or to contact me for more information and for the discount). Also, for those interested in my book about Hidden Messiah, As Though Hiding His Face , or my other books (they all have Hebrew insights) ,here is the link to my page on this blog: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/.