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May 2014

What Price to Pay

By GARY ALLEY

Israel is never a boring place.  This time of year, especially, is filled with events, memorials, and occasions to stir the slumbering soul.  During the past 30 days we have witnessed the festival of Passover, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, and Israel’s Independence Day (see a colorful video here).  In further events, part of Jerusalem’s water supply was contaminated two weeks ago, an uncharacteristically late rain storm fell on Israel last week, and hate crimes against Christians, Muslims, and Druze continue to rise (200% in the last three months).

This last bit of news has been cause for concern here in Israel for the past six years.  The attacks are termed “Price Tag” because often at the site of the crime, whether arson, vandalism, or property destruction, the criminal will leave a graffiti message “Price Tag” alluding to the price that must be paid for interfering with Jewish settlement in the West Bank.  The attackers are believed to be extremist settler youth.  For more information on the nature, history, and list of attacks, here.

Initially, Palestinians and mosques were the targets, but later Christians and churches also became prey.  The fellowship where many of JCF’s staff attends, Narkis Street Congregation at the Baptist House in Jerusalem, was hit in February, 2012. For more photos, hereThe attackers left messages spray painted on the church’s walls such as “Death to Christianity”, “Jesus is dead”, “Jesus son of a whore”, and "We will crucify you."  The latest Jerusalem church attacked was last week.  Azar Ajaj, a Christian Arab leader in Nazareth, has recently posted a challenging call to all followers of Jesus to consider what their prayerful response should be towards these menacing actions.

The attacks continue unabated, and the Israeli government so far has not directed its full energies to halt the hate.  Sunday night, there was a Jewish, Muslim, and Christian protest in Jerusalem in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s house demanding a serious response from the government. For a video of the protest, here.

Vered Goldfarb of Jerusalem, a participant at Sunday night’s protest, said:

“I think when people are silent we encourage negative behavior, and it’s going to boomerang against all of us,” she said. “In the first chapter of Isaiah he brings a prophecy that our external religious behavior is worthless unless we bring justice to our society. I think that’s relevant today.”

So, too, as we pray for Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East, let us be reminded of those words from Isaiah,

“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I look the other way;
when you offer your many prayers,I do not listen,
because your hands are covered with blood.
Wash! Cleanse yourselves!
Remove your sinful deeds from my sight.
Stop sinning! Learn to do what is right! Promote justice!
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!
Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow!
Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD.
“Though your sins have stained you like the color red,
you can become white like snow..." (Isa 1:15-18a)

 

A Good Land

Israel’s Seven Species: Barley

 By GARY ALLEY

Deuteronomy is a book of expectations. In this final book of the Pentateuch, God stokes the Israelites’ expectations concerning their entrance into the long-awaited “Promised Land”, while at the same time, He explains the rules that they are expected to follow.  One of these expectations is the agricultural bounty of the land of Canaan, often summed up by the so-called seven species.  During the time of Jesus, only these seven varieties[1] were presented in the Temple at Jerusalem as offerings of the first fruits festival (Ex 34:26).

“For the Lord your God is bringing you to a good land, a land of brooks, springs, and fountains flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates, of olive oil and honey (Dt 8:7-8).”


BARLEY is a cereal grain and the first of the seven species harvested after winter.  Barley was an essential Israelite staple for making bread and porridge.  In Egypt and Mesopotamia, barley was used in the production of beer, though little evidence has been found for beer drinking among the Israelites.  A coarse cereal, barley, in comparison to wheat, was cheaper, less desired, and even fed to animals.[2]  Barley is a hardier crop than wheat, able to grow in poor soil, less water, intemperate weather, and even quicker to harvest.

So, when the Bible commanded that a first sheaf or “omer” of grain be brought before the Lord as a wave offering on the day after the Sabbath of the Passover (Lev 23:5-11),[3] that sheaf was barley.[4]  After this first “omer”, the next fifty days are then numbered[5] until the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, when two loaves of wheat bread are presented before the Lord as “first fruits” of the grain harvest (Lev 23:15-17).

The story of Ruth poignantly represents these fifty days of crescendoing grain harvest.  Ruth, a poor, foreign widow, entered Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest (Ruth 1:22; 2:23).  After she started by gleaning barley, the food of the impoverished, she ended by gathering during the wheat harvest--symbolic of her new status.  Now married to Boaz, Ruth had become a rich, adopted Israelite, and mother of the Davidic dynasty.


[1] Mishna Bikkurim 1,3

[2] 2 Kgs 7:1; Rev 6:6; Ps 81:16; I Kgs 4:28

[3] That day is designated by rabbinic Jewish tradition as the second day of Passover (16th of Nissan).

[4] The harvesting of barley is specifically mentioned prior to the greater harvest (i.e wheat) in the Gezer calendar, a three thousand year old tablet that lists the twelve months of Israel’s agricultural year.

[5] “Counting of the Omer”



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Study Hebrew or Greek this Summer
in North Carolina

BLC Biblical Hebrew and Greek Summer Courses in North Carolina.  The Biblical Language Center will be offering four week courses at Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina from June 22 to July 18, 2014.  The courses offered will be Beginning Biblical Hebrew: The Book of Jonah and Beginning Koine Greek: Select Gospel Stories and Parables.  For more information, write [email protected].

 

 

Join a JCF Israel Study Tour this Fall in 2014 

Have you always wanted to learn more about God's Word in its original context?  Have you dreamed about seeing the Holy Land in person?  This is your chance.  Check out all the groups and dates that you can join.  

  • Oct 28–Nov 12 - Wilderness with Petra

  • Nov 15-26 - In the Footsteps of Jesus

  • Nov 29–Dec 10 - Wilderness with Petra

For more information, here.