CHRISTMAS – The location of the birth of Christ

Last Year I wrote the first book of a trilogy series called “this is the way” and chapter one starts out challenging the reader with why we as Christians continue to accept and go along with things related to Christ that we know aren’t true or might be misleading. I love Christmas because it points everyone towards Jesus, but I also get tired of the worldliness that is placed on “their” version of the celebration and how far it has strayed from the story of the Messiah’s coming that was presented to us in scripture. I have written a lot on this and have a few videos (posted below), but here is some details of things I have alluded to surrounding the birth of Christ that you might enjoy, and I pray that it also deepens your appetite for intimacy with the Word.

Most devout Christians know the traditional story of Jesus born in a manger has issues. Every year when my church puts a manger out front with three wise men who likely weren’t three and didn’t show up until two years later, I have to question what we are doing as Christians who proclaim the “good news.” Doesn’t Good news imply truth? As I have mentioned before, Jesus likely wasn’t born in a mangy barn but rather the first floor “kitchen-garage” of relative’s home and today I will expound on that.

As with most New Testament stories we first have to start with the Old Testament to get the context right. In Gen 29:9 we learn that Rachel was a shepherdess, and the burial-place of Rachel is called the Tower of the Flock (Migdal Eder in Hebrew). Rachel died there while giving birth to a son, whom she named “Ben-Oni” which means “son of sorrow”, which may have foreshadowed the life that Mary would come to know as she would watch her blessed Son be crucified before her eyes. (I think we all understand the man of Sorrow personification.) In Genesis 35, after Rachel died, Jacob changed the boy’s name to Benjamin, which means “son of the right hand”; both of which names would be very significant foreshadows of Christ. Though we have earthly sin and sorrow, we have a Father that changes our name and claims us as His own. (There is a lot more to the changing of names spiritually but that is another post!)

Micah 4:8 and Gen 35:21 reference the same place – the Tower of Eder also called the Tower of the Flock. Micah is the most interesting, as he mentions the Kingdom and Dominion comes to the Tower of the Flock. 6 verses down, Micah again references the same shepherd who will arise from Bethlehem and feed his flock, to whom all of Israel will return. (I love the “feed” inuendo identifying what Jesus does for us with symbolic reference to the communion within His body.)

It is interesting when we read the prophets, we get the idea that they saw some things that they didn’t have words for. I don’t think they fully comprehended the coming of a Messiah, especially not in the form He came in; but they certainly had some understanding of an Exodus motif deliverance that the remnant of Israel was praying for and spent a lot of time and passion studying and waiting for, likely thanks to the influence of Daniel.

In Ancient Near East culture (ANE – this is what my Doctoral Degree is in), there are 3 lambing or shepherding seasons; early lambs born in November-January, Spring Lambs born in February-March and Summer lambs born in June. The Spring Season is the time of the Passover Sacrifice which required a 1-year old Lamb. Personally, I lean towards Jesus to have been born in this season (likely March 25 according to scholars) as the Lamb of God, as a foreshadowing of His ministry of becoming the Passover Lamb. Most people know the significance of shepherds in the Old Testament and the foreshadow of the royal priestly heritage that is given to us as New Testament shepherds of the New Covenant in Christ. According to the Mishnah (Bekhorot 5:4) shepherds and priests share the same family, we can also gather this from the Old Testament. Where this ties in, is that if the Luke 2:8 shepherds keeping watch were priests this also might explain how they knew where to go. I bet you think they just followed the star (but wasn’t that just the wise men? See how tradition twists this?) I believe the priestly shepherds knew EXACTLY where to go. The wise men from the East weren’t the only ones studying.

The most problematic point of this theory is that Migdal Eder or the “Tower of the Flock” is located outside of Bethlehem not “IN” the city of David as most people understand Matthew 2 to read. But that is a very Western way of reading, a more Eastern or Hebraic understanding of the text will help us. Note that Matthew 2 reads, “in Bethlehem of Judea.” the Greek word ἐν (en) has a broad range especially in the way that it is written when coupled with “of Judea.” In Greek because “of Judea” is added there is a good argument that it is Bethlehem proper rather than specific. In my opinion this is within the hermeneutics of the Greek preposition en which in its nearly 3000 biblical occurrences often takes on a much broader meaning such as on, at, by, or with making the Bethlehem proper usage perfectly acceptable according to any interlinear.

In taking everything in, this study leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured near Migdal Eder, were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds, but priests. The Greek word which is translated in our English Bibles “manger” is Yatnh phat-ne. The definition of the word is of a “stall” where animals are kept and in Luke 13:15 is translated as such. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word means a stall or a crib (See Proverbs 14:4). It is also worth noting that because shepherding was seasonal, the shepherd’s family housing would have been similar to the temporary dwelling or coming and going place we often refer to in English as an INN. This functioned not only as a home to the shepherds but likely a place of study for the priests. Sure, there were nicer places in Bethlehem, but this is where the “lowlier” of the caste would have been staying for Passover festivities.

You may not know that both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David, though they were not considered among the aristocrats of Israel. Mary was related to Elizabeth, the wife of the priest, Zacharias, and thus in the Priestly line of Jesus. As most family land often remained in the family for generations there is a good chance that Mary and Joseph knew the location “in Bethlehem” well that had been in their line of priestly shepherds and the guest room was full in the Passover season but gave way to the “ordinary” kitchen or preparation area for the feast, where the livestock also remained. (This functions as a mosaic picture of the lowly of lowly servants’ quarters as a picture of Christs complete humility.) This also does away with the images of an irresponsible Joseph whose wife is about to birth the Messiah (as he knows) running around knocking door to door; it makes much more strategic Biblical sense.

Does it matter? Maybe not, sort of, yea?! Jesus’ birth at Migdal Eder places Jesus in the traditional location for Passover lambs to be born & explains how the shepherds knew where to go to find and certify “THE Passover lamb” upon birth. It also helps us to understand and explain a better more historically accurate version of Christ’s birth. But it also presents a better truth of the birth of Jesus that leads to a consistency of trust with the gospel message and building on the journey to discipleship.

Merry Christmas, may the Lord Bless you and keep you.

Dr. Ryan



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24/7 WORSHIP

I am blessed to have a family group that spends most of our life together, it basically is a non-stop Jesus party. We tend to always have “borrowed” kids over for the weekend and this morning (Sunday, December 18, 2022) wasn’t much different than most other weekends except we strategically had planned not to attend church Sunday for various reasons, one of which was to stay home and watch the Argentina – France World Cup final match that started at 9:00am. Now before you raise an eyebrow, please hear me out on this!

Normally I wouldn’t do this. Well, not really anyway. My boys are way into soccer and have been playing club just about from the time they could walk. I usually would tell you that club sports are one of the Satan’s best tools for removing families from Sunday morning fellowship. My friend Dr. Steve Cassell would say (in his best “waterboy” accent), that “club sports are the Devil”. So, throughout our club soccer days we have made it known to the club, coaches, and team that there are times, particularly Sunday when we just won’t be there, and the boys in some cases have been penalized for the decisions which is fine (I wouldn’t say that they have been persecuted for it either though). Some may argue we are breaking a commitment to club sports, but we firmly believe that our commitment to God always trumps everything else. We aren’t legalistic about club attendance or church attendance.

Which brings me to the main thrust of this article. Our family tries to not separate things sacred from other things in life, everything should be sacred before the Lord and thus we should worship Him 24/7 as much as we are able, that should be the goal. As homeschoolers, my wife and I have worked hard to make all of life an enjoyable learning experience that is continually honoring to the Lord. That said, we have decided to “skip” church quite a few times and these have become some of our favorite moments together with family and friends. I am sure that sounds strange but my wife and I and many others in our group have made a commitment to be our children’s primary educators in all aspects of life. I can think of several of these home church days that my kids will remember forever; and sadly, I can’t say that I can think of any traditional church services I feel that way about (perhaps the baptism services of my children.) We have many partners in this educational process and prefer them to be in the Jesus kingdom, we would love to start a Christian soccer club; but often it is also important to model Jesus to those outside of this community. Every now and then, (especially when we have friends over in a situation like this – that might be surprised we are skipping church) we are intentional to have something “churchish” in its place. Today, and most Sundays we call this “home church, but in our family, we also have experiences similar to this throughout the week at various times as well.” There is importance in Sunday morning church attendance, I won’t deny that; but there is also importance in families conducting their own “church” services with their friends and families, and I don’t think most evangelical American Christians do this enough. I would venture to say that these services likely will have more overall spiritual impact on my family and yours than most other conventional church services will, especially if you choose to really invest in them. And I would argue that this intimate description of teaching, testimony, and praise is far closer to the biblical intention of the body of believers meeting as the body of believers from the beginning of the pages of the scripture than what we have turned church into today. Today we have made it an entertainment party for everyone to attend. In bible times it was intended to be a meeting “for those that believe.” unbelievers weren’t invited to the assembly of the believers. That wouldn’t have made any sense. In a sacred world that was actually defilement towards those that were set apart. That is just one small example, but there are many more such as the size. Most of the Bible implies a meeting group smaller than 72, perhaps there was a good reason for this. Church has evolved far from what the scriptures modeled for us.

I knew the day was going to be unforgettable, so I wanted to take the opportunity to teach a special lesson. Matt and I have been doing a huge video series on our YouTube channel on the church and I wanted to share some of what we have been covering with my family.

When God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, we get the idea that the “halak” journey was based on intimate fellowship. Covenant story after story, and then with Israel the continued message that we get is that God wants a sacred relationship that is unending covenant relationship with us (signified by a ring in marriage.)  

Our life and church should have the trajectory of complete sacred living (set apart in holiness). The scriptures say that David had a heart after God’s heart, he wanted to be intimate with the Lord 24/7 and sought for Israel to also be.

David’s goal was that all of Israel was to be sacred and set apart to be Holy before the lord. His kingdom was based on 24/7 fellowship in God’s presence which was, at that time, seen through the ark of the Covenant in Israel. In 2 Samuel 6-7 and I Chronicles 15-16 we read that one of the first things David did as King was to place the ark in a tent of worship and commanded Asaph to worship the Lord Day and night (I Chronicles 16:37.) David enabled 288 musicians in 24 teams, each with an elder of 12 family members in continual prayer and worship. All of Israel including the government would be sacred with worship as the center piece through David’s entire rule (I Chronicles 25:6-7). By the end of David’s rule, the number of musicians had grown to over 4000 (I Chronicles 23:5) that continued to minister night and day in the center of life by the ark, but also grew to other places throughout the nation with the idea that every family would follow the model and live as a unified set apart holy nation before the Lord. God gave David a vision for his earthly kingdom to be linked to the throne room of God and begin functioning “on earth as it is in heaven.”

I hope you are picking up on the correlation without me spelling it out.

Today was incredibly memorable for our family. The last time we had a world cup my youngest doesn’t remember it, He was 7. My oldest was 12 and it simply was not an epic experience for him, he likely just thought it was strange dad was watching tv and specific sports (My wife and I often consider spending precious minutes or hours watching TV a complete waste of time and very much limit digital viewing in our house.) The next time we will have a world cup my oldest will be 20 and likely playing soccer in a college hopefully with all of his “covenant” friends. In other words, this will be our family’s primary world cup experience together in our lifetime. What would my family remember? Maybe they will remember the game, but my goal was that they would remember this as one of our epic “home church” and family experiences. They will remember growing up that home church was the best! And hopefully when they have kids, they won’t think twice about leading their families as the primary worship leaders of the scriptures and Jesus kingdom in their families. What happened that morning was likely the best soccer match in history. My kids will remember this day forever. But they won’t simply remember Lionel Messi, or the double hat trick by him or Mbappe, or the shootout; they will also, and I pray more importantly, remember those things that our family was dedicated to the Lord in all we do.

Today our family dynamic grew incredibly close. We put God first, and emphasized what Jesus continually taught; love, compassion, family, communion, and discipleship.

That is also our prayer for all those that we interact with, that we might create a discipleship Jesus culture to all that we come in contact with where King Jesus is worshipped 24/7 and we as a family lead the way to a better way of church as those set apart to do his will bringing Heaven to earth.

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DISCIPLESHIP = PERSECUTION

My life Mantra is the calling to teach a better community of devotion to Jesus and reinvent discipleship. Most readers know my take on discipleship. There were/are fans of Jesus, most “Christians” were and continue to be followers of Jesus, but He desired most that we be His disciples. Christ’s definition of discipleship was to leave everything on the beach and completely follow Him, to not return to the ways of the world (as other Rabbinical disciples did in the latter part of the week.) We don’t do that much today specifically in American and more precisely as the evangelical westernized church (body of believers.)

Disciples were persecuted and in Jesus’ time almost all became Martyrs.

The preeminent calling of all of the Bible is to follow Jesus completely and become one of his disciples in a discipleship community. I’m not sure the average Christian knows of a community that fits this definition of a disciple, or perhaps even a single person. Nicodemus is a great example of what American Christianity has become. Nicodemus was likely the primary financial supporter of Jesus’ ministry and when he asks Jesus what is the next step, Jesus gives Him his definition of discipleship which leaves Nicodemus saying He isn’t willing to do that. Nicodemus is a mosaic of westernized churchianity. What Jesus desired more than Nicodemus’ money was his all-in commitment. Too often I hear American Christians talking about Jesus “just” wanting their heart. As that does hold truth, Jesus was very clear that what he desired was the heart but also the literal physical action of becoming nothing for Him. Its great if you have Jesus training wheels on and your giving big to the great American church (in His name) but Jesus is pretty clear that He would rather have all of you, and all meant everything by His definition of discipleship, and it has very little to do with an offering plate at your mega (likely any number over 72) church.

In traditional OT Hebraic thought, by the time you were an elder you esteemed to give away everything, this was a sign that you were ready to become one with the Father. Jesus sets the record straight by proclaiming that His disciples shouldn’t wait until they are elders (older wiser people) to do this. As young disciples you-we should leave it all on the beach. In other words, Jesus doesn’t even want your “treasures” of the world. Most of the money we are trying to give God or the church is not sacred but rather defiled in an OT sense of purity and sacrifice. Tainted sacrifices aren’t accepted (even if you had a better heart posture.) As an example, if you worked 70 hours that week to make that money but it took you and your family farther from God and sacred living, it represented something that had been defiled not sacred. God only desires what is Holy. In terms of OT purity sin wasn’t given to God it was figuratively (KPR -EXPIATION) carried out of the camp by the scapegoat. We wonder what is wrong with our churches – well, essentially, we are funding them with defiled money and God doesn’t honor that.

Today Christians in America say they are being persecuted. Perhaps I am old fashion, but I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think so is because Satan (or the powers and principalities of the world) are pretty content with a bunch of lukewarm fans with one foot in the world and one in the kingdom of Jesus. If we still had disciples, we would still have persecution. Some fans and followers occasionally do disciple-type things and may experience a “glimmer” of tribulation or persecution, but likely have no idea what Paul really meant by persecution in 2 Timothy.

To me it appears that the Great American Evangelical church has mostly or likely completely missed the calling of the heart of Jesus for discipleship. Americans essentially fit the description of Nicodemus, the rich man that wasn’t willing to give up what he had to be a disciple and walked away. Perhaps Jesus still had a place for Him in the kingdom, but we aren’t told that. I doubt Nicodemus faced any persecution after his conversation with Jesus.

Let me ask you a question. Does the Bible teach that Jesus would’ve rather had thousands of lukewarm fans or a few disciples? I think you know the answer clearly.

One will be persecuted, and one will be left alone. Which will you be?


We often mix biblical words, so let’s establish some defintions:

-Trials- peirasmos often has a positive connotation associated with an athletic event -you’re going to be worked, but it’s essentially building muscle. Sometimes used in a sense of resisting temptation.

-Tribulation- thlipsis various hardship that may or may not be of spiritual nature (but can end in Joy)

-Persecution – diógmos (dioko below) when someone or something is vehemently pursuing you to harm you

Trials and tribulations often lead to Joy… but persecution it’s a little bit different… it’s Biblical affliction. Let’s consider Paul to Timothy

…and indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

Typically, in our western minds the term persecution takes on the thought or image of Saul hunting Christians. The best definition is a malicious intent to cause harm… it’s a little bit different than trials and tribulations, but all of them can take on a contronym form meaning. (A contronym means something that carries the same thought or word but can be an extreme positively or negatively. An example of this is the Hebrew word Barak that can mean to bless or to curse.) Something that is negative, when given to God can turn into something positive which the scripture defines as joy.

In Greek, the verb in this verse for persecution is dioko. It’s about pursuit. It is actually a word play… it means that we are followers of Christ but will be pursued aggressively by Jesus and then others will also pursue us aggressively in tribulation. But the contronym form means that the same verb also means to press hard after good things.  As we pursue Him, we will be persecuted by others.  In Greek, it’s really written well…

Paul is the main person we think about in terms of persecution towards Christians. I always find it interesting that he was the main source of persecution of Christians at one time, and then probably becomes the most persecuted Christian of all times eventually to martyrdom. It’s actually a little bit of a reversal of the contronym. Such a great puzzle.

So, as I often say, Paul thinks, Hebraicly, not like a Roman or Greek. The comparable verb in Hebrew is radad.  It means to beat down or to bring to near extinction. Paul is telling Timothy that as he leads others to discipleship that the world and powers will try to exterminate them.

Interesting, has discipleship been exterminated in the US?

This is where I have to come down to my main point that we don’t really fit the definition of biblical persecution today. When we say we are persecuted as Christians today, we likely aren’t. We may be experiencing brief moments of momentary trouble, but likely not persecution.

Evangelical Christian Americans might be going through trials are even tribulation, but in my opinion, none of us (or very few of us) have really been persecuted. We like to think we are the remnant of discipleship but look around. Does it look like we are living out what Paul and Jesus describe as discipleship? When Paul is planting churches in the New Testament he is sent out as an apostle and established a discipleship community where people leave the world and study the Bible for 5-6 hours a day and live in the community together. They don’t need to worry about tomorrow because they don’t have much of this world to worry about.

Now if you live in this kind of community you’re going to be persecuted.

Peter Leithart (one of my favorites) says, “Christianity is institutionalized worldliness . . . worldliness that has become so much our second nature that we call it piety.”

Leithart argues persuasively that what we call Christianity is really the accommodation of religious ideals and doctrines to the larger culture.  We have converted the Kingdom of God community of Jesus discipleship into an acceptable form of right thinking and right feeling.  But this isn’t what Jesus or Paul described as an “all in” disciple. The reason we aren’t beat down is because, as Jesus said, we have become lovers of the world.  By and large, Christianity is now the religious effort to meld with the culture instead of the call to stand in opposition to the culture – and that culture includes the Church.

We as a church are no longer cultivating a Jesus community discipleship culture.

Want more? Checkout this episode on the church…

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BIBLICAL MEASUREMENT – a cord of 3 strands

Ecclesiastes 4:12
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

ABSTRACT:

If you have attended any wedding in the last several years you have probably heard a pastor refer to the cord of 3 strands mentioned in Ecclesiastes 4. There is a lot more to this than what you likely heard at the wedding though.

The English word for cord is Biblically rooted in the Hebrew word tiqvah, which has a subtly different meaning/translation in every one of its thirty-one English occurrences. It signifies something deeply longed for or set apart… hope.

In Joshua 2:14 we get a bit of a wordplay in the way that Tiqvah is also translated as “hope.” Rahab is saved by hope, but she “saved” the spies. There is another word play later when the text says that Rahab is brought “into the midst” of Israel. In Hebrew the dual meaning of “into the midst” also are the words for the womb or “inner part” in Hebrew. The imagery is that Rahab is a harlot involved in “inner parts” sin but is transferred into communal salvation, redemption, and deliverance, an exodus motif again. This is the contronym of hope in the Bible, that your worst curse might be given to God and the result might be transformed into the greatest blessing of your life.

THREEFOLD CORD – HACHUT HAMESHULASH החוט המשׁלשׁ

At face value Ecclesiastes 4:12 is a strange verse to apply to a wedding. The immediate context is defense of an attack, but the greater context is of intimate love and marriage.

The word withstand in Hebrew is ‘amed which means taking a firm position, but it’s a strange choice for the word. It isn’t a “stand and fight” word… it’s a building word that describes a foundation; building on a firm foundation. It carries the notion of a strong fortress in unity rather than a “fight.” It is one of the many passages painting a backward kingdom idea that paves the way for the messiah’s core message of the ultimate humility in servanthood.

In ancient times a threefold cord was a measuring tape. Equal lengths of a cord were tied together; most of the Hebrew culture thrived on building. If you remember, the Hebrew temple was formed together like a puzzle (with no fasteners) they were craftsman very different than the rest of the world. In order to form the best built (and strongest) items in the world (without using fasteners) foundationally they had to measure things well. This is where a cord of three comes in. It was the basic tool that most craftsman used to fashion something that the entire community could be proud of. It reminded them constantly of who they represented. They weren’t like the world, they were to be unified in their body and fit together like a puzzle with each part serving a purpose.

In many ways it became a mosaic of freedom, heritage, and calling that served as a reminder that all of their “work” should be fully devoted to the Lord.

The craftsmen’s cord was typically 3 strands measuring 6 palms or what was more commonly referred to as a cubit. 1 ell [cubit] (amah) = 2 spans (zeret), or 6 palms [handbreadths]

What you “made” was representative of who your people “were.” It also continually reminded you that you were linked to a higher power. The foundation was based on the brotherhood of mediation founded in covenant calling. Your part of something much greater than yourself.

Every time you built something you were representing the “father” but also the covenant “brotherhood.” That’s where we get that (UNION) term today.

If your core (foundation was off or missing the measured mark) or your covenant was not correct, nothing else could “square” up or be measured correctly. It would all be wrong.

Are we are letting the world measure our lives? Have we lost our covenant cord? Have we forgotten who we represent?




DIVING DEEPER: For those willing to be “challenged”

It is no secret that I often feel like the church is off course (hamartia / missing the mark) compared to what Jesus asks of us. Our basis of measurement for determining where we have been and are headed seems skewed between the world and the kingdom of Jesus. Some argue that the church looks nothing like the intentions of the first century apostles or what Jesus sought to build. Many would even say that the church often does as much harm as good. That we are enabling the world in the name of Jesus and have wondered far from the call of discipleship in the very name of it.

Jesus says to check your possessions on the beach, Christian Americans have just as many possessions as their worldly counterparts. Jesus tells us (the church) to care for the poor and weak, yet our worldly government does a far better job of this than any church I have witnessed. Jesus tells us to live in humility even to death, but the church doesn’t resemble servanthood or martyrdom much anymore. Sexual perversion within the ranks of church leadership are all too common. There are several reasons for these things but one of them is that our standard of measurement is long lost or forgotten.

Joshua 2 describes the cord as a scarlet line in a window that would give deliverance, it takes on the continued exodus motif of the Israelite people into their promised land. You also might remember the Mishnah when talking about the bloody tie cord of the sacrifice placed on the head of a scapegoat then hung on the curtain of the holy of holies.

Scarlet is a Biblical metaphor for things that are lost in the world but have been regained at great cost. It sometimes can carry sexual connotation because of the intimacy inferred. It is the closest metaphor we may have on this earth to the intimacy our father in Heaven desires with us on a spiritual level. Sex is also a contronym in the Bible showing something that can be the furthest from God’s plan for you and the closest when performed in the right or wrong context of the heart.

The English word for cord in Hebrew is the word tiqvah, which has a subtly different meaning/translation in every one of its thirty-one English occurrences. It signifies something deeply longed for or set apart and poetically displays a great dynamic range. This is one of the greatest themes of the Bible & a great study on what covenant means.  I referenced Joshua 2:18 because I wanted to point out an intentional word-play; a great example of the elaborate interconnections found in the Hebrew Scripture that are invisible to us in English.  I say this a lot, but the ancient scriptures weren’t written to us in our modern church (but they are for us); they are clearly written in Hebrew to Hebrew readers because Hebrew readers can read between the lines. Foundationally we have to understand what is going on here before we can apply it to ourselves today.

The wordplay comes in the way that Tiqvah is also translated “hope.” Think of it as a deeply desired lifeline in the story of Rahab and how she is “linked” to the Messiah. Rahab is saved by hope, but she “saved” the spies. There is another word play later when the text says that Rahab is brought “into the midst” of Israel. In Hebrew the dual meaning of “into the midst” also are the words for the womb or “inner part” in Hebrew. The imagery is that Rahab is a harlot involved in “inner parts” sin but is transferred into a sign of salvation, redemption, and deliverance, the exodus motif again. This is the contronym of hope in the Bible, that your worst curse might be given to God and the result might be transformed into the greatest blessing of your life. The red cord protected Rahab’s family as a similar sign of a red Passover offering for them. Notice the communal focus of salvation. The individual affects the whole community. (Today we think me-istic in terms of church rather than see the results of the whole fellowship foundationally missing the mark.) Rahab should be someone that Israel is told not to associate with, but instead grace leads way to hope and even links her to the line of the Messiah. We are “the line” of Rahab as Gentiles grafted into the faith and offered a lifeline to the Father to be restored in hope through grace to be a royal chosen priesthood. We are offered the scarlet line of grace but asked to foundationally follow what is asked of us… one of the related problems today is that as a whole the evangelical church has welcomed uncleanliness into the church and communally caused us to miss the foundation given to us. We have fallen out of the line of grace but expect what is offered with the covenant of three strands we have rejected.


At face value Ecclesiastes 4:12 is a strange verse to apply to a wedding. The immediate context is defense of an attack, but the greater context is of intimate love and marriage.

As we exegetically analyze the verse we need to first ask who is prevailing, the attacker or the attacked? In English it’s a hot mess, in Hebrew it is clear. The syntax shows that the pronoun is an “inseparable pronoun” that is attached to the verb teqepo (prevail) so it is the attacker overcoming the one being attacked.  If it were a separable pronoun then it would be the other way around. The word withstand is ‘amed which means taking a firm position, but it’s a strange word. It isn’t a “stand and fight” word… it’s a building word that describes a foundation; building on a firm foundation. The word two is hashamin literally the two. There is a definite article in front of that too signifying that a very specific person will stand against this one prevailing. The word for prevail is teqepo, which signifies the strongest of resistance can be won or overcome. There is also an inference in the unity of the body being stronger together.

Threefold cord in Hebrew is hachut hameshulash. In ancient times a threefold cord was a measuring tape. Equal lengths of a cord were tied together; most of the Hebrew culture thrived on building. If you remember, the Hebrew temple was formed together like a puzzle (with no fasteners) they were craftsman very different than the rest of the world. In order to form the best built items in the world foundationally they had to measure things well. This is where a cord of three comes in. It was the basic tool that most craftsman used to fashion something that the entire community could be proud of. Often times, it was a rite of passage for a young man to take time to fashion an incredible cord of three strands. It would identify him and his family. In many ways it became a mosaic of freedom, heritage, and calling that served as a reminder that all of their “work” should be fully devoted to the Lord.

The craftsmen’s cord was typically 3 strands measuring 6 palms or what was more commonly referred to as a cubit. But they likely had cords of three strands for other common units too… but always a cord of three strands. Interesting that today 6 palms is around 16 on center.

The Israelite measurements were related as follows:

  • 1 palm [handbreadth] (tefach) = 4 digit (etzba’ot)
  • 1 span (zeret) = 3 palms (tefahim)
  • 1 ell [cubit] (amah) = 2 spans (zeret), or 6 palms [handbreadths]
  • mil (mil) = 2000 ells [cubits] (amot)
  • 1 parasang (parasa) = 4 mils (milin)

These three strands represented a few things. It first represented your trust in covenant community, it was more than about just you. What you “made” was representative of who your people “were.” it also continually reminded you that you were linked to a higher power. The foundation was based on the brotherhood of mediation founded in covenant calling.

So how do we get to a wedding union out of this? Well, that’s what Ecclesiastes is about… but not entirely. Essentially, the Hebrew understood that God was the foundation of every relationship that they represented in. This cord was a tool to measure. It would remind them every day that their measurements in life should be weighed with God’s ideals, and not by the rest of the world. The Hebrews had their own unit of measurements that were different from the rest of the world, and those very units reminded them of the one who gave them redemption. Every time you built something you were representing the “father” but also the covenant “brotherhood.” That’s where we get that (UNION) term in modern today.

If your core (foundation was off or missing the measured mark) or your covenant was not correct, nothing else could “square” up or be measured correctly. It would all be wrong.

Tying the Knot? Hebrew?

I bet your wondering if this is where we get the slogan “tying the knot” for marriage. yes and no. To the Hebrew the answer is no. You see the cord of three strands is specifically “fitted or formed,” (today we say braided together); it was not tied or knotted up. In fact, a knot is what you “don’t” want. In an ancient context if something was knotted up that was symbolic of a problem. In this example if there was a not in your cord of three strands that links you to God in marriage it meant something was broken or clogged up. For instance, if you tie a knot in a rope and apply pressure guess where the rope breaks? At the knot, you theoretically created a weak spot. Those who “tie” knots actually realize that splicing a rope together in a braid like fashion actually creates strength unlike a knot. The Hebrews understood this and would have never said that we are “tying a knot” in marriage. That would have implied something negative not positive. However, the rest of the world observed the Hebraic braid of the marriage ceremony and called it tying the knot. In essence, that saying does come from this Hebraic act, it just isn’t really accurate in the Hebraic or biblical sense. It is actually the opposite!

In the modern evangelical wedding, there’s an emphasis to start things off on the right foot in covenant with God. But it means so much more than this, it means that every single thing that we do needs to be with the “measurement” of the Lord in mind first and foremost. In ancient Hebraic mindset, sinners (or those that were not set apart) were not to be part of the community (assembly-ekklesia) until they had converted. Today our modern thought of inviting anyone, and everyone to church in hopes of converting them has lost the foundation of covenant, and led to defilement… it is inviting what is unholy not holy. We are letting the world measure our lives and tie the church in knots. This is just a simple example of many areas that have gotten off or skewed because foundationally we have lost our covenant cordage. In some cases we have gotten so far off that I am not sure we are even recognizable as the disciples Jesus intended us to be in terms of representing HIS IMAGE.

It isn’t too late to return to the mindset of measuring everything by what Jesus says matters, but it will likely take a community that is in covenant together to get there!



SOURCE LIST:

-The Source of Measures by James Ralston Skinner

-The Cubit: A History and Measurement Commentary by Mark H. Stone

-Cube, Gate, and Measuring Tools: A Biblical Pattern by Matthew B. Brown

-Marital Relations in Ancient Judaism (review) by Dvora E. Weisberg

Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies

-TEMPORARY MARRIAGE: A COMPARISON OF THE JEWISH AND ISLAMIC CONCEPTIONS

Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 July 2018

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