Five Big Promises God Made at Mt. Sinai About “the Place”

Mt. Sinai is famed as the place God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses. What many may not realize is that God also made five big promises at Mt. Sinai about “the place” that were key to the Israelites’ destiny and to the future Messiah.

The place – what were these promises?  God promised to lead the Israelites to the land that He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the place for their descendants to possess; the place to establish a kingdom of the nation of Israel; the permanent place for His Name to dwell; the exclusive place for Israel to observe the Passover; and the place for the judgement seat of Israel.[1]

God just didn’t say exactly where the place would be. Great faith in these promises was required for a fledgling nation of people who had just fled the only life they had ever known – slavery in Egypt.

Spies on a recon mission found the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to be occupied with many enemies, their kings and their militaries. Moving to that place seemed an impossible task, especially for a ragtag nation of former slaves without a military. In fact, doubts and lack of faith by the Exodus generation at Mt. Sinai would cost them from seeing God’s promised land.[2]

A kingdom required a king and his dominion over a land with boundaries, but the Hebrews were a people isolated in the desert wilderness without a king or a country. Everywhere they would trek, the local inhabitants would go to war to defend their lands to keep out the Israelites. Every kingdom had a seat of the Throne, the monarchy’s base of power, which for security reasons must be located in a fortified city protected by a military. If there was no king, no land, and no fortified city for the Throne, how could there be a kingdom?

For a permanent place for the Name of God to dwell required a temple to replace the temporary Tabernacle tent and its Holy of Holies. A temple also required protection from heathen enemies inside a defensible, centralized city. Fundamental to a theocracy, this temple had to be located in the nation’s capital.

According to the Law, the Passover was to be celebrated at its appointed time requiring the sacrifices to be offered by the priests of God at the central place of worship. For a perpetual place to observe the Passover required a permanent sacrificial alter in close proximity to the Temple with enough open space surrounding it to accommodate tens of thousands of people and priests.

A high court to judge the most important and most complicated cases of the nation in the place God chose, by its definition, was to become the judgement seat of Israel.  As the highest court in a theocratic government, it had to be located in close proximity to the seat of the Throne and the Temple.[3] This highest court was part of the hierarchal judicial system structure previously implemented by Moses.

None of these promises seemed like even the remotest reality to the Israelites who, after 400 years, were starting from scratch after escaping from under the harsh rule of Pharaoh. Yet against all odds over the coming centuries, these five prophetic promises did become a reality.

Israel conquered its enemies and took possession of the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, where each of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel were allotted their own land apportionment. Israel’s now formidable military protected the nation even before the establishment of a kingdom.

A king, the most famous in Hebrew history, was born in Bethlehem in the lineage of Judah fulfilling the royal prophetic blessing of Judah by his own father, Israel. The giant slayer, King David, conquered and occupied the fortified city of Jebus or Salem, soon thereafter called Jerusalem. The city became the seat of the Throne of David over the kingdom of Israel.

King Solomon, son of David, built the Temple still known to this day as the Temple of Solomon, its Western Wall remnants a most holy place for Jews today.[4] This new Temple was consecrated and blessed by Solomon where the first sacrifices offered on its permanent alter were burned by fire sent down from heaven.[5]

The Passover was observed at its appointed time with the sacrifices offered by the priests of God on the permanent altar at the new Temple.[6]Annual pilgrimage to The Passover would resume after the Babylonian captivity at the Second Temple until Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome.

Lastly, the judgement seat of Israel, the highest court in the land for both civil and criminal cases, was established in the capital city of Jerusalem. Civil cases were judged in the Hall of Judgement, initially decided by the famed wisdom of Solomon, on the porch of the King’s palace.[7]

Built into the northern wall of the Temple was the Chamber of Hewn Stone. It served as the meeting place for the 70 elders of Israel, later to become known as the Great Sanhedrin.[8] In a theocratic government where God’s Law serves as the criminal code, the highest level of criminal offenses, including some capital death cases, were judged in this Chamber.[9]

God’s five big promises at Mount Sinai laid the ground work for the appearance of the House of David and the subsequent prophecies of the Messiah tied specifically to its legacy. Once the Throne of David legacy was established, over the coming centuries prophets Isaiah, Zechariah, Jeremiah and Micah would reveal specific prophecies announcing the Messiah would come from the House of David, son of Jesse, of the Tribe of Judah, the son of Jacob.[10]

Isaiah’s prophecy of “My Servant” described a cruel sacrificial-type judgement resulting in a death verdict which, during the period of the Second Temple, could only be rendered in the judgement seat of Israel, Jerusalem.[11] Zechariah’s prophecy predicted God would comfort the descendants of David in the city of Jerusalem as they mourned over the death of the one whom they had pierced, their depth of mourning as for the death of a first born only son.[12]

With 100% accuracy of fulfillment of all five big promises made by God at Mt. Sinai about “the place” – from the Exodus to King Solomon’s reign, which in turn fulfilled the prophetic promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah – what are the odds it was all just a gigantic coincidence?[13]

REFERENCES:
 [1] Genesis 17, 22, 35, 49; Exodus 23, 33; Deuteronomy 12, 16, 17.
[2]  Numbers 14.
 [3] Exodus 18; Deuteronomy 1, 17, 19; Numbers 11.
 [4] 1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 3.
 [5] I Chronicles 6; Leviticus 9; Nehemiah 11.
 [6] II Chronicles 8.
 [7] 1 Kings 3, 4, 7.
[8] Exodus 18; Deuteronomy 1, 17; Numbers 11; I Chronicles 19.  Shachter and Freedman.  “Introduction to Sanhedrin.”  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>  Ariel, Yisrael. “The Chamber of the Hewn Stone.” The Temple Institute.  2014.  <https://www.templeinstitute.org/illustrated/hewn_stone_description.htm>  Ariel, Yisrael. “Blueprints for the Holy Temple.”  <http://www.templeinstitute.org/blueprints-for-the-holy-temple.htm
[9]  Schoenberg, Shira. “Ancient Jewish History: The Sanhedrin.” 2017.  <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sanhedrin>   Shachter, J. and Freedman, H.  “ Sanhedrin.”   
[10] Isaiah 7, 9; 11; Jeremiah 23, 33; Zechariah 3, 6, 12.
[11] Isaiah 52-53. Sanhedrin 16a, 17a. Shachter, J. and Freedman, H.  “Sanhedrin.” Josephus.  Antiquities. Book IV, Chapter VIII.14; Book XX, Chapter IX.4.  “Ancient Jewish History: The Beit Din.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2017.http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-beit-din>
 [12] Zechariah 12.
 [13] 2 Chronicles 6.

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Balaam’s Prophecy to a King Who Tried to Use God

What was the first prophecy about the coming Messiah? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been promised through God’s blessings that many nations and kings would come from their descendants. Jacob, renamed Israel by God, divided the blessing among his sons, future fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel, but to only one son, Judah, did he pass along the royalty blessing of a future kingdom.

Building on those blessings, on Mt. Sinai Moses received more prophetic promises laying foundational requirements for the Messiah, but no prophecy had yet directly pointed to a future Messiah. The first distinctive Messiah prophecy came from a very unlikely source.

Mount Sinai was long since behind the Israelites having spent nearly the past 40 years led by Moses through portions of the Sinai, Negev and Arabian deserts. They had been following pillars of cloud by day and fire by night on their journey tothe place.[i]Delaying the promise to go to the place by two generations was a consequence of the people doubting God, but another promise to protect Israel from their enemies remained fully in effect.[ii]

Along came a Gentile enemy King, Balak, and a Gentile prophet, Balaam, whose oracle came as a prophecy outside the established Israelite Hebrew heritage of Abraham.  Balaam’s prophecy to the king who tried to use God – was it a messianic prophecy?

Balak, son of Zippor, King of Moab, ruled his kingdom located east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in modern day Jordan. He was painfully aware of how the Israelites vanquished the strongly defensed Amorites whose own army had defeated the previous king of Moab and occupied many of its cities. Now the Israelites were poised to do the same again to the cities of the kingdom of Moab.[iii]

Dread spread throughout Moab for fear of the size and might of the Hebrew people. King Balak knew his military was no match for the Israelites thinking only supernatural intervention could save his kingdom. To that end, he sent an envoy of Moabite leaders to buy the services of the prophet Balaam and bring him back to the King to place a curse on Israel.[iv]

Balaam, neither a Hebrew prophet nor even familiar with the Israelites, asked for a night to consider the royal envoy’s request. The prophet prayed for guidance and that night God told him not to return to the King and not to place a curse on the Hebrews because they were “blessed.”  The Moabite leaders went home telling the King that Balaam refused to return with them.

Undeterred, Balak upped the ante sending a larger envoy with more distinguished leaders back to the prophet promising him great honors if he would return with them to place a curse on Israel. In response to the King’s offer, Balaam told the Moabite leaders that even if he was offered a palace full of silver and gold, he could not do more or less than God’s commandment. Still, Balaam said he would give them an answer the next morning and overnight he sought God’s guidance. The next day the prophet decided to go see the King with God’s strict instructions to say only what he was instructed.

King Balak was irritated with the prophet questioning why he had resisted both his requests to come see him. Brushing off the question and getting right to the point, Balaam said, “I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.”(NRSV) 

Three times Balak offered sacrifices, each time taking Balaam to a different high position to observe portions of the extent of the Israelite people who were so numerous, they could not be seen entirely from one location. After each sacrifice, the King asked the prophet to place a curse on Israel. Each time Balaam sought God’s message which came back offering blessings on Israel rather than to curse them. After the third time, Balak was exasperated.

Clapping his hands King Balak said, “I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times!”(NASB)[v]The prophet saw no point in staying any longer and announced he was going back home, but before he left, he would foretell their future.[vi] It was an dark prophecy for Moab in the form of an oracle prefaced with a royal prophecy about Israel’s bright future:[vii]

Num 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”[viii]

“Scepter” is translated in the Bible from the same Hebrew word shebet, the same word used in Jacob’s royalty blessing of his son, Judah, in Genesis 49:10. According to the renowned Jewish sage, Rabbi Rashi, the verse is a prophecy.  Rashi interpreted the term scepter as representing “a king who rules dominantly” from the future lineage of David.  Referring to the star, it presents one who “shoots out like an arrow” from Jacob and uproots the sons of Sheth or Seth, the son of Adam; in other words, symbolically uproots all of mankind.[ix]The Rabbi’s interpretation was tied to the blessing of Jacob’s grandfather,Abraham,which said “kings will come forth from you.”[x]

If the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth was to fulfill Balaam’s prophecy, a lot of things had to fall into place. The fledgling nation of Israel needed both a kingdom and a royal lineage promised in the Law of Moses to first be established inthe place. Hundreds of years into the future, prophets of the Bible would narrow the requirements saying the Messiah would be born in the royal lineage of the House of David. Was Balaam’s oracle limited only to Moab King Balak or was it a prophecy about the Messiah who would rise from Israel in the lineage of Jacob?

REFERENCES:

[i]  Numbers 14. “Sinai Peninsula;” “Negev;” and “King’s Highway.” Encyclopædia Britannica.  2014.  http://www.britannica.com> Last accessed 6 Feb. 2017.
[ii]  Deuteronomy 2, 28.
[iii]  Numbers 21-22. “Map of OldTestament Israel.”  Bible-history.com.  <http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-old-testament.html>
[iv]  Numbers 22.
[v] Numbers 24:10.
[vi] Numbers 24:20-24.
[vii] Schneerson, Menachem M.  From Exile to Redemption.  Volume 2.  Ed. Alter Eliyahu Friedman, trans. Uri Kaploun  Brooklyn, NY:  Kehot Publication Society.  1996.  Chapters 4 & 5.  SichosInEnglish.org. 2009.  <http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/from-exile-to-redemption-2/01.htm> Last accessed 11 May 2014.  Shulman, Moshe. “The Rambam on Isaiah 53.”  Judaism’s Answer. 2003.   <http://www.judaismsanswer.com/Ramban.htm>   Last accessed 11 June 2014.
[viii] NASB.
[ix] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary  Commentary for Numbers 24:17.
[x] Gensis 17:6, NASB.

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