Who Am I? Part 7

In another essay I presented his Jewish and Roman trials as a kind of ultimate tempting of the flesh of Adam and an ultimate proving of the Holy Spirit which descendedin bodily form like a dove[1] upon Jesus the Christ or Messiah.  I characterized those trials as a time “when sinners, Jerusalem, the whole world, perhaps even the created cosmos were in extreme danger of falling into the hands of an angry God.”  I want to continue with his crucifixion.

Nail me to a cross and I’m stuck there but Jesus said (John 10:17, 18 NET):

This is why the Father loves me – because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again.  No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will.[2]  I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again.  This commandment I received from my Father.

It says to me that at any moment throughout his ordeal of ultimate humiliation Jesus, yehôvâh in the flesh of Adam,[3] could have decided that enough was enough, sat down at the right hand of his Father in heaven and been none the worse for wear—personally.

As they led him away, Luke recorded in his Gospel narrative, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country.  They placed the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus.[4]  Matthew and Mark recorded the same incident.  I might have assumed that He was too holy to carry his own cross except that John recalled Jesus carrying his own cross (John 19:16, 17 NET).  Apparently the One who said, If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,[5] was too weak to carry his all the way to his crucifixion.

Two other (ἕτεροι, a form of ἕτερος) criminals (κακοῦργοι, a form of κακοῦργος) were also led away to be executed with him.[6]  Isaiah had prophesied, he was numbered with the transgressors,[7] though he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.[8]  But with the words ἕτεροι κακοῦργοι δύο Luke captured (See: ἕτεροι; Luke 11:15, 16) the social reality of Jesus as one of three criminals condemned to death by the duly authorized governor of Judea.  His punishment was neither cruel nor unusual under the prevailing standards of their socially constructed reality.

A great number of the people followed him (Luke 23:27-31 NET):

among them women who were mourning and wailing for him.  But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For this is certain: The days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’  For if such things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink.  But after tasting it, he would not drink it.[9]  There they crucified him along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.[10]  But Jesus said, “Father, forgive (ἄφες, a form of ἀφίημι) them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[11]

Jesus, naked[12] on the cross, looked down as the soldiers who crucified Him took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.)  So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.”  This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.”  So the soldiers did these things.[13]  David (1 Samuel 16:1 – 1 Kings 2:11) had prophesied, they look and stare upon me.  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.[14]

Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.[15]  It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.[16]  That would be the second morning since the night of his arrest with little or no sleep for Jesus.  The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others.  Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”[17]

Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.”[18]  Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic (Ἑβραϊστί; literally, in Hebrew; NET note 67), Latin, and Greek.  Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”[19]

Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross!”  In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law – were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!  Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe!”[20]  He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”  The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.[21]  One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”[22]

This is the point in the story where I wished Jesus would come down from the cross as more than twelve legions of angels came screaming out of the sky to the tune of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries to kill everyone who mocked Him.  Actually it is the ideal of the Sicarii—walking up to an “enemy” (anyone who disagrees with my “truth”) plunging a long knife into him several times and melting away again into the crowd—that appeals to the sin in my flesh more than the straight-up warfare of the Zealots.  Cowardice prevented me from ever actualizing the murderous intentions of my heart.  And until the moment that sentence formed in my mind I hadn’t thanked God for that fear.  All this may help explain why years of imitating the Pharisees felt like a step toward godliness to me.

But the other [criminal] rebuked him [the former criminal], saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”[23] as a door of hope opened (Hosea 2:14-17 Tanakh).

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.  And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.  And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD (yehôvâh, יהוה), that thou shalt call me Ishi (ʼı̂ysh, אישי); and shalt call me no more Baali (baʽălı̂y, בעלי).  For I will take away the names of Baalim (baʽal, הבעלים) out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.

As confessions go, And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did is nothing compared to Achan’s confession (Joshua 7:19-25 Tanakh)

And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day.  And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

I wonder now whether Achan and his sons and his daughters, after suffering the punishment of criminals, face an implacable Judge or a merciful Savior, not because of the merits of Achan’s confession but because of the merits of that Savior: But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.[24]

Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”  He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!”  From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.[25]

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.  At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”[26] that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[27]  After six hours on the cross Jesus lamented his loneliness even as He affirmed his confidence in the Scripture, written for his comfort (Psalm 22:6-18) for the very moment He prayed it (Psalm 22:1, 23, 24 Tanakh):

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.  For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.  But the rest said, “Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.”[28]  After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture [Psalm 22:15]), “I am thirsty!”  A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth.  When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!”[29]  David had already spoken for Jesus’ failing breath (Psalm 22:25-31 Tanakh):

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.  All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.   For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.  All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.  A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

The temple curtain was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  And after he said this he breathed his last.[30]  The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.  And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised.  (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)[31]

Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”[32]  And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.[33] 

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? Jesus asked.  The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.[34]  And in the letter to the Hebrews we are encouraged: Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.[35]  I tell you the solemn truth, Jesus promised, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father.[36]  For, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[37]

The Gospel harmony I made to write this essay follows.

The Crucifixion

Matthew Mark Luke

John

So they took Jesus, and carrying his own cross…

 John 19:16b, 17a

As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross.

Matthew 27:32

The soldiers forced a passerby to carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country…

Mark 15:21a

As they led him away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country.  They placed the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:26

(he was the father of Alexander and Rufus).

Mark 15:21b

A great number of the people followed him, among them women who were mourning and wailing for him.  But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For this is certain: The days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’  For if such things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Luke 23:27-31

Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him.

Luke 23:32

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”)…

Matthew 27:33

They brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which is translated, “Place of the Skull”).

Mark 15:22

So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull” …

Luke 23:33a

…he went out to the place called “The Place of the Skull” (called in Aramaic Golgotha).

John 19:17b

…and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink.  But after tasting it, he would not drink it.

Matthew 27:34

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

Mark 15:23

When they had crucified him…

Matthew 27:35a

Then they crucified him…

Mark 15:24a

…they crucified him there…

Luke 23:33b

There they crucified him…

John 19:18a

…along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33c

…along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.

John 19:18b

[But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”]

Luke 23:34a

…they divided his clothes by throwing dice.

Matthew 27:35b

…and divided his clothes, throwing dice for them, to decide what each would take.

Mark 15:24b

Then they threw dice to divide his clothes.

Luke 23:34b

Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.

Matthew 27:36

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

Mark 15:25

The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others.  Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”

Luke 23:35-37

Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

Matthew 27:37

The inscription of the charge against him read, “The king of the Jews.”

Mark 15:26

There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”

Luke 23:38

Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.”

John 19:19

Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

John 19:20-22

Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.)  So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.”  So the soldiers did these things.

John 19:23, 24

Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads  and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!  If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!”  In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law and elders – were mocking him: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!  He is the king of Israel!  If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him!

Matthew 27:38-42

And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross!”  In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law – were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!  Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe!”

Mark 15:27-32a

He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”

Matthew 27:43

The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Matthew 27:44

Those who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Mark 15:32b

One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”  He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!”  From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.

John 19:25-27

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.

Matthew 27:45

Now when it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

Mark 15:33

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, because the sun’s light failed.

Luke 23:44, 45a

At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.  But the rest said, “Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.”

Matthew 27:46-49

Around three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  When some of the bystanders heard it they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!”  Then someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down!”

Mark 15:34-36

After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty!”  A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth.  When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!”

John 19:28-30a

Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.  Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:50, 51a

But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last.  And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Mark 15:37, 38

The temple curtain was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  And after he said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:45, 46

 

 

Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30b

The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.  And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised.  (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)

Matthew 27:51b-53

Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”

Matthew 27:54

Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Mark 15:39

Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

Luke 23:47

And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.

Luke 23:48

Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance.

Matthew 27:55

There were also women, watching from a distance.

Mark 15:40a

And all those who knew Jesus stood at a distance, and the women who had followed him from Galilee saw these things.

Luke 23:49

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Matthew 27:56

Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  When he was in Galilee, they had followed him and given him support.  Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were there too.

Mark 15:40b, 41

 

[1] Luke 3:22a (NET)

[2] The words free will were added by the translators to the Greek word ἐμαυτοῦ translated my own.

[3] Romans, Part 55; My Reasons and My Reason, Part 5; Romans, Part 38; Fear – Genesis, Part 6; Who Am I? Part 2

[4] Luke 23:26 (NET)

[5] Matthew 16:24 (NET)

[6] Luke 23:32 (NET)

[7] Isaiah 53:12b (Tanakh)

[8] Isaiah 53:9b (Tanakh)

[9] Matthew 27:33, 34 (NET)  David Mathis offers the following explanation in his blog post “The Wine Jesus Drank” on desiringGod.

[10] John 19:18 (NET)

[11] Luke 23:34a (NET)

[12] Stephen Ray, “Was Jesus Crucified Naked?,” Defender’s of the Catholic Faith

[13] John 19:23, 24 (NET)

[14] Psalm 22:17b, 18 (Tanakh)

[15] Matthew 27:36 (NET)

[16] Mark 15:25 (NET)

[17] Luke 23:35-37 (NET)

[18] Though it differs slightly from the synoptic Gospels I’m going with John’s account because he, the disciple whom [Jesus] loved, was actually there (John 19:25-27) near enough to read it.

[19] John 19:19-22 (NET)

[20] Mark 15:29-32a (NET)

[21] Matthew 27:43, 44 (NET)

[22] Luke 23:39 (NET)

[23] Luke 23:40-43 (NET)

[24] 1 John 1:9 (NET)

[25] John 19:25-27 (NET)

[26] I had thought and written that this was Aramaic.  E. A. Knapp in his article “Did the Messiah Speak Aramaic or Hebrew? (part 2)” on Torah Class online disputes that.

[27] Matthew 27:45, 46 (NET)

[28] Matthew 27:47-49 (NET)

[29] John 19:28-30a (NET)

[30] Luke 23:45b, 46 (NET)

[31] Matthew 27:51b-53 (NET)

[32] Mark 15:39 (NET)

[33] Luke 23:48 (NET)

[34] John 14:10 (NET)

[35] Hebrews 12:3 (NET)

[36] John 14:12 (NET)

[37] Galatians 5:22, 23a (NET)

Fear – Exodus, Part 4

Here I continue to see the Lord cultivating the fear that is a conviction to act in accordance with his word in Israel.  It happened at midnight – the Lord attacked all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle.[1]  But the plague of the firstborn did not touch the Israelites who heard the word of the Lord and marked their doors with the blood of the Passover lamb: For the Lord will pass through to strike Egypt, and when he sees the blood on the top of the doorframe and the two side posts, then the Lord will pass over the door, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.[2]

Pharaoh got up in the night, along with all his servants and all Egypt, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no house in which there was not someone dead.  Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, “Get up, get out from among my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, serve the Lord as you have requested!  Also, take your flocks and your herds, just as you have requested, and leave.  But bless me also.”[3]

And so the descendents of Israel (and others) left Egypt:  There were about 600,000 men on foot, plus their dependants.  A mixed multitude also went up with them, and flocks and herds – a very large number of cattle.[4]  A note in the NET reads: “The ‘mixed multitude’ (עֵרֶב רַב, ’erev rav) refers to a great ‘swarm’ (see a possible cognate in 8:21[17]) of folk who joined the Israelites, people who were impressed by the defeat of Egypt, who came to faith, or who just wanted to escape Egypt (maybe slaves or descendants of the Hyksos). The expression prepares for later references to riffraff who came along.”

In this context of cultivating a fear of the Lord that is a conviction to act in accordance with his word I begin to see a purpose for hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 14:1-4 NET).

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites that they must turn and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you are to camp by the sea before Baal Zephon opposite it.  Pharaoh will think regarding the Israelites, ‘They are wandering around confused in the land – the desert has closed in on them.’  I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them.  I will gain honor because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”  So this is what they did.

It happened as the Lord promised Moses (Exodus 14:5-7 NET):

When it was reported to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people, and the king and his servants said, “What in the world have we done?  For we have released the people of Israel from serving us!”  Then he prepared his chariots and took his army with him.  He took six hundred select chariots, and all the rest of the chariots of Egypt, and officers on all of them.

If I am correct in seeing this fear that is a conviction to act in accordance with the word of the Lord as the functional equivalent in the Old Testament of the fruit of the Spirit,[5] the desire and the effort brought forth by God for the sake of his good pleasure,[6]  because it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy,[7]  and the love of God[8] that is the fulfillment of the law,[9] then the contemporary Gentile response to the events of Exodus is telling.  It is a clear revelation of the ασεβεια[10] in human hearts, the ungodliness (ἀσέβειαν, a form of ἀσέβεια) and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness;[11] namely, the learned consensus that the Exodus didn’t happen as described in the Bible.  It is difficult to believe that God would do such things for anyone (the descendents of Israel), let alone for everyone (For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.[12]).

But orchestrating the events to cultivate such a fear could have the opposite effect, creating a fear that caused Israel to flee, in their hearts if not with their feet (Exodus 14:10-12 NET).

When Pharaoh got closer, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them, and they were terrified (yârêʼ).[13]  The Israelites cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert?  What in the world have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?  Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians, because it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’”

The rabbis who translated the Septuagint used ἐφοβήθησαν (a form of φοβέω)[14] here.  The next occurrence of ἐφοβήθησαν in the New Testament is in Matthew’s Gospel when Christ, our Passover lamb, [was] sacrificed.[15]  Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.  At about three o’clock Jesus shouted [the opening line of Psalm 22] with a loud voice…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[16]  Apparently some bystanders didn’t know Aramaic (the language of Judah’s Babylonian/Persian captors and didn’t recognize the Psalm in that ancient tongue: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? [8/19/2017: For a different take on this see, DID THE MESSIAH SPEAK ARAMAIC OR HEBREW? (PART 2) BY E.A.KNAPP]).  They said, This man is calling for Elijah[17] (e.g., Eli, EliMy God, My God).  Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.[18]

Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.  Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.  And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised….Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified (ἐφοβήθησαν, a form of φοβέω) and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”[19]

I doubt that the Centurion and his companions on Golgotha saw the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place ripped, though they may have seen or at least heard the commotion afterward.  I assume they witnessed the earthquake and the tombs opening.  Whether they saw any of the dead come out of their tombs depends on how limiting verse 53 is meant to be taken, They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.[20]  I’m not sure I can make that kind of determination based only on ἐκ,[21] which can mean out of or away from.  But whatever they saw and heard frightened them like the Israelites were frightened when they looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them.

But Moses, who was privy to God’s plan, said, Do not fear (yârêʼ)!  Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that he will provide for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you will never, ever see again.[22]  The word translated fear above was θαρσεῖτε (a form of θαρσέω)[23] in the Septuagint.  When Jesus’ disciples saw him walking on the water they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out with fearBut immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have courage (θαρσεῖτε)!  It is I.  Do not be afraid.”[24]

Israel crossed the sea on dry ground.  The Egyptians were drowned when they attempted to follow.  When Israel saw the great power that the Lord had exercised over the Egyptians, they feared (yârêʼ) the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.[25]  And so, for the moment, God had successfully cultivated that combination of faith and fear that is the functional equivalent of: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,[26] and the fruit of the Spirit,[27] the desire and the effort brought forth by God for the sake of his good pleasure,[28]  because it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy,[29]  and the love of God[30] that is the fulfillment of the law.[31]

Fear – Exodus, Part 5

Back to Fear – Numbers, Part 2


[1] Exodus 12:29 (NET)

[2] Exodus 12:23 (NET)

[3] Exodus 12:30-32 (NET)

[4] Exodus 12:37b, 38 (NET)

[6] Philippians 2:13 (NET)

[7] Romans 9:16 (NET)

[11] Romans 1:18 (NET)

[12] Romans 11:32 (NET)

[15] 1 Corinthians 5:7b (NET)

[16] Matthew 27:45, 46 (NET)

[17] Matthew 27:47 (NET)

[18] Matthew 27:49 (NET)

[19] Matthew 27:50-52, 54 (NET)

[20] Matthew 27:53 (NET)

[22] Exodus 14:13 (NET)

[24] Matthew 14:26, 27 (NET)

[25] Exodus 14:31 (NET) There are no more occurrences of ἐφοβήθη (the word the rabbis chose in the Septuagint) in the New Testament.

[26] Romans 10:9 (NET)

[28] Philippians 2:13 (NET)

[29] Romans 9:16 (NET)