Month: August 2020

The wool over your eyes

The wool over your eyes

The idiom “pulling the wool over your eyes” has its origins in America, but its precise origin is unclear. Some speculate that it originated from the English (and for a short time American) judicial custom of judges and lawyers wearing woolen wigs during court proceedings, with the expression suggestive of a deceptive attorney pulling the judge’s wig over his eyes as a means to prevent him from rendering a reasonable and true verdict.

When it comes to investigating the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, most unfortunately have had the wool pulled over their eyes. This post is my attempt to demonstrate this in as simple a manner as possible. Much of the detail provided here has been discussed in my past posts. This is my attempt to approach it from a different, and hopefully simpler, angle.

My contention is, that of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, only the Torah (the five Books of Moses: Genesis through Deuteronomy) can be considered divinely inspired or of divine origin. (And it goes without saying that the Torah must be true for the rest of the Hebrew or Greek writings to be true!)

Beyond those first five books, things quickly fall apart, but most Christians and Jews fail to realize it, most likely due to presumptions impressed upon them by sectarian instruction and tradition.

I will begin by listing dependencies that both the Christian and Jewish faiths have as the result of claims made by their respective scriptures outside of the Torah, in reverse chronological order:

  • Jesus (Yeshua) is the messiah (the one Christian contention in this list.)
  • The messiah must come from the line of David
  • David was chosen as king by YHWH (God) via Samuel
  • Samuel was a legitimate priest
  • Eli was a legitimate high priest

Each of the above relies on the assertion below it, such that if the earlier assertion can be proven untrue, the later cannot be true.

Let us begin with the bottommost (chronologically earliest) dependency: the legitimacy of Eli the high priest:

Eli was not a legitimate high priest

While one might wonder in what universe this would be questioned, it is absolutely legitimate to challenge the notion that Eli was an authorized high priest, for the following reasons:

Reason #1: Eli was a descendent of Itamar

In the wilderness, when the Israelites were lured into worshipping false gods by Moabite and Midianite women, YHWH instructed that the leaders of this rebellion were to be hung and all the participants executed. As Moses and the judges of Israel wept over this at the entrance to the tent of meeting, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman to his brothers in view of them. Phinehas brutally ran a spear through both, ending a plague that had already cost 24,000 Israelite lives. YHWH gave the priesthood to Phinehas as a reward:

“Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites, when he manifested such zeal for my sake among them, so that I did not consume the Israelites in my zeal. Therefore, announce: ‘I am going to give to him my covenant of peace. So it will be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of a permanent priesthood, because he has been zealous for his God, and has made atonement for the Israelites.'”

Numbers 25:11-13

Eli was a descendent of Itamar, not Eleazar. Even rabbinic Judaism understood the above passage to have given the priesthood to the descendants of Phinehas alone:

Rabbinical commentators explain that the continuity of high priesthood is put forth to the descendants of Phineas from this noted verse.[16] According to some rabbinical commentators[17]Phineas sinned due to his not availing his servitude of Torah instruction to the masses at the time leading up to the Battle of Gibeah. In addition, he also failed to address the needs of relieving Jephthah of his vow.[18] As consequence, the high priesthood was taken from him and given (temporarily, see next section) to the offspring of Ithamar, essentially Eli and his sons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_(biblical_figure)#Phineas/Ithamar_controversy

Note that they agree that the priesthood had been given to Phinehas, so they must come up with conjecture (with no basis in the text of the Torah) for a temporary transfer of the priesthood to the descendants of Itamar.

We must also remember that Israel eventually split into two kingdoms, and the kingdom we generally hear nothing about (the Samaritans, descendants of the tribes of Joseph and their Aaronite priesthood which it still in service today!) recorded their own very interesting version of events. According to them:

Then a dispute occurred within the Temple priesthood. Eli the priest, descendant of Itamar ben Aaron, rebelled against the High Priest Uzi ben Bookie, descendant of Pinhas ben Elazar ben Aaron. The latter was the legitimate High Priest according to the Torah commandment [Numbers 25:11-13]. Consequently, Eli was forced to leave Mount Gerizim, and went with his supporters to Shilo. Uzi, fearing a religious rift among the People of Israel, then hid the Temple of Moses in one of the caves on Mount Gerizim. The Temple remains there, undiscovered to this day. (Later, Josephus Flavius indirectly confirmed the tradition in his history
Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18). Eli then made a new Tent of the Covenant with new ritual utensils, in Shilo. David later brought this Tent to Jerusalem.

However, the Tribe of Joseph would not submit to the rule of David and Solomon. They rebelled against the House of David at the first opportunity, when Solomon died. Subsequently, the Tribe of Joseph led the northern tribes to form the large Kingdom of Israel. Relations between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah were uneasy.

https://www.israelite-samaritans.com/history/

Should one take into consideration the claims of the northern kingdom? Why wouldn’t one? After all, by accepting the claims contained in the Tanak outside of the Torah, one must recognize that they were compiled by Judaeans to document their history, and might have a sectarian spin. Why wouldn’t one be willing to consider the arguments presented by the other side?

Interestingly, the above narrative suggests that Mount Gerizim near Shechem (modern day Nablus in the West Bank) was the place where the high priest originally served. Is it possible that Mount Gerizim was the original chosen place mentioned over 20 times in Deuteronomy as the only place where an altar and sacrificial offerings were authorized, and where the pilgrimage feasts were celebrated? Yes! It’s quite simple to demonstrate this from the Torah, which I’ve done in another post.

The Northern kingdom story is at least plausible considering that Eli, of the line of Itamar, should not have been the high priest.

Reason #2: Eli’s evil sons:

The sons of Eli were wicked men. They did not recognize YHWH’s authority.

1 Samuel 2:12

Elis sons were flagrantly violating YHWH’s instructions regarding offerings (1 Samuel 2:13-17) as well as regularly having sex with women at the entrance of the tent of meeting (1 Samuel 2:22)!

Please ask yourself this question: If YHWH was present among His people at this tabernacle, would Eli’s sons have been allowed to behave in this manner? Recall that two of Aaron’s sons perished in the wilderness for making mistakes when offering something as simple as incense (Leviticus 10:1).

The truth is, YHWH by this time was not present, evidence of which will be presented later in this post.

Would a legitimate high priest have wicked sons who went unpunished for their terrible misdeeds? One might be convinced the actions of the sons are not a barrier to Eli’s legitimacy, but the indication that YHWH is not present to punish the sons should be of some concern.

If Eli was not a legitimate high priest, then the other dependencies required to proceed further from this point are not even worth considering. Why? Because this illegitimate priesthood could not be in communication with YHWH, and therefore Samuel, Eli’s successor, could not have been following YHWH’s directives when choosing first Saul (an obvious bad choice) and later David, as King.

At this point, however, I am sure that many readers remain unconvinced, so we will move on to the next dependency:

Samuel was not a legitimate priest

Encyclopedia Brittanica says the following of Samuel:

Samuel, Hebrew Shmuʾel, (flourished 11th century BC, Israel), religious hero in the history of Israel, represented in the Old Testament in every role of leadership open to a Jewish man of his day—seer, priest, judge, prophet, and military leader. 

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Samuel-Hebrew-prophet

However, it has made a grave mistake in presuming the title of priest was open to just any Jewish (Israelite) man of his day, for the priesthood was explicitly limited to Aaron and his descendants:

“And you, bring near to you your brother Aaron and his sons with him from among the Israelites, so that they may minister as my priests – Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.

Exodus 29:1

Exodus 29 then describes the priestly garments they are to wear, and ends with:

These must be on Aaron and his sons when they enter to the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they bear no iniquity and die. It is to be a perpetual ordinance for him and for his descendants after him.

Exodus 29:43

If we discover that Samuel is performing priestly duties such as sacrificial offerings, he is only legitimately doing so if he is a descendent of Aaron.

How can we be absolutely sure of this? Not only do we have the references above, among many others, that specifically state the priesthood belongs to Aaron and his sons–we also have a story in Numbers of a non-Aaronite seeking to be granted priestly duties:

Now Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, who were Reubenites, took men and rebelled against Moses, along with some of the Israelites, 250 leaders of the community, chosen from the assembly, famous men. And they assembled against Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, seeing that the whole community is holy, every one of them, and YHWH is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the community of YHWH?”

Numbers 16:1-3

Korah, a Levite but not a descendent of Aaron (rather of Kohath), complains that Moses and Aaron have taken on too many holy (which means “set apart”) duties (priestly duties) for themselves.

Moses response, in part, confirms this:

Moses said to Korah, “Listen now, you sons of Levi! Does it seem too small a thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel to bring you near to himself, to perform the service of the tabernacle of YHWH, and to stand before the community to minister to them? He has brought you near and all your brothers, the sons of Levi, with you. Do you now seek the priesthood also?

Numbers 16:8-10

Moses put Korah and his cohorts to the following test:

Then he said to Korah and to all his company, “In the morning YHWH will make known who are his, and who is holy. He will cause that person to approach him; the person he has chosen he will cause to approach him. Do this, Korah, you and all your company: Take censers, put fire in them, and set incense on them before YHWH tomorrow, and the man whom YHWH chooses will be holy. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!”

Numbers 16:5-7

Unfortunately for Korah, things don’t go his way:

When he had finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, along with their households, and all Korah’s men, and all their goods. They and all that they had went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed over them. So they perished from among the community. … Then a fire went out from YHWH and devoured the 250 men who offered incense.

Numbers 16:31-33, 35

And finally, the story is summed up in this manner, once the censors of the fallen men had been gathered up at YHWH’s behest and hammered into a covering for the altar:

It was a memorial for the Israelites, that no outsider who is not a descendant of Aaron should approach to burn incense before YHWH, that he might not become like Korah and his company – just as YHWH had spoken by the authority of Moses.

Numbers 16:40

As you can see, the Torah is crystal clear that the priesthood belongs to only Aaron and his sons. (See also Leviticus chapters 1 through 5 which detail the sacrificial regulations, where one repeatedly finds the phrase “the sons of Aaron, the priests”.)

Now that we’re clear about who is (and who is not) a priest, let us determine whether Samuel should be considered a priest.

First, did he perform priestly duties? Yes he did.

So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to YHWH. Samuel cried out to YHWH on Israel’s behalf, and YHWH answered him.

1 Samuel 7:9

This is not the only example of Samuel sacrificing, but for the sake of brevity it’s enough to establish that he was.

Now, to confirm that Samuel was authorized to do so, let’s consult his lineage, which luckily we have:

There was a man from Ramathaim Zophim, from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; the name of the first was Hannah and the name of the second was Peninnah. Now Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. … After some time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, thinking, “I asked YHWH for him.”

1 Samuel 1:1-2, 20

Here we see that Samuel’s father Elkanah is a man from the hill country of Ephraim. Some have taken this to mean that he is tribally Ephraimite, but that is not the case. An extended version of Samuel’s genealogy is found in 1 Chronicles, and the above shorter version matches it precisely despite the occasional variant name spelling:

These are the ones who served along with their sons: From the Kohathites: Heman the musician, son of Joel, son of Samuel, son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Eliel, son of Toah, son of Zuph, son of Elkanah, son of Mahath, son of Amasai, son of Elkanah, son of Joel, son of Azariah, son of Zephaniah, son of Tahath, son of Assir, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah,

1 Chronicles 6:33-37

Notice the last name: Korah! This is the same Korah, a Kohathite (descendent of Levi but not Aaron) who perished in Numbers 16 for seeking priestly duties, and now Samuel his descendent is making the exact same mistake!

This is far from being the only action to condemn Samuel, for the Torah demands that the Canaanite high places be destroyed, and sacrifice be conducted at only the chosen place:

You must by all means destroy all the places where the nations you are about to dispossess worship their gods – on the high mountains and hills and under every leafy tree. You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, burn up their sacred Asherah poles, and cut down the images of their gods; you must eliminate their very memory from that place. You must not worship YHWH your God the way they worship. But you must seek only the place he chooses from all your tribes to establish his name as his place of residence, and you must go there. And there you must take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.

Deuteronomy 12:2-6

Also:

“Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images, all their molten images, and demolish their high places.

Numbers 33:51-52

And yet, we find in 1 Samuel that not only is Samuel performing duties that are not his to perform, but he is doing them at the high places!

As they were going up the ascent to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water. They said to them, “Is this where the seer is?” They replied, “Yes, straight ahead! But hurry now, for he came to the town today, and the people are making a sacrifice at the high place. When you enter the town, you can find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people won’t eat until he arrives, for he must bless the sacrifice. Once that happens, those who have been invited will eat. Now go on up, for this is the time when you can find him!” So they went up to the town. As they were heading for the middle of the town, Samuel was coming in their direction to go up to the high place. … Samuel replied to Saul, “I am the seer! Go up in front of me to the high place! Today you will eat with me and in the morning I will send you away. I will tell you everything that you are thinking.

1 Samuel 9:11-14

If that isn’t enough, the story in 1 Samuel 16 has YHWH commanding Samuel to offer a sacrifice in Bethlehem. If the story is to be believed, it features YHWH directly contradicting His own commandments!

YHWH said to Samuel, “How long do you intend to mourn for Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with olive oil and go! I am sending you to Jesse in Bethlehem, for I have selected a king for myself from among his sons.” Samuel replied, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me!” But YHWH said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to YHWH.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you should do. You will anoint for me the one I point out to you.”

1 Samuel 16:1-3

At this point we are well into the realm of the absurd, and it should be clear to any reasonable person that something is not quite right.

To put this issue to rest, I will prove to the reader that YHWH was not present among the people of Israel by this time. The Judaean writings will have you believe that YHWH was present and active with them well into first temple times, blessing the selection of David as King, agreeing to David’s desire to build a stone temple, and blessing said temple with his presence after it was built by David’s son Solomon.

However, we are fortunate to have these Judaean writings today, for they have also recorded the simple truth that proves these claims false.

Consider this promise made to Moses:

Then YHWH said to Moses, “You are about to die, and then these people will begin to prostitute themselves with the foreign gods of the land into which they are going. They will reject me and break my covenant that I have made with them. At that time my anger will erupt against them and I will abandon them and hide my face from them until they are devoured. Many disasters and distresses will overcome them so that they will say at that time, ‘Have not these disasters overcome us because our God is not among us?‘ But I will certainly hide myself at that time because of all the wickedness they will have done by turning to other gods.

Deuteronomy 13:16-18

YHWH indicates that worship of the Canaanite gods will cause him to abandon them and hide his face from them.

Now consider what was happening as early as the time of the judges:

The Israelites did evil before YHWH by worshiping the Baals. They abandoned YHWH God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods – the gods of the nations who lived around them. They worshiped them and made YHWH angry. They abandoned YHWH and worshiped Baal and the Ashtars. YHWH was furious with Israel and handed them over to robbers who plundered them. He turned them over to their enemies who lived around them. They could not withstand their enemies’ attacks.

Judges 2:11-14

Given the promise made to Moses, if one takes YHWH seriously, one must conclude that this is the point in Israel’s history when His presence was removed–not centuries later after an unauthorized temple was built in Jerusalem.

This is something that even Gideon, from the same time period, admits:

Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if YHWH is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us? Where are all his miraculous deeds our ancestors told us about? They said, ‘Did YHWH not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now YHWH has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.”

Judges 6:13

Notice how similar this statement is to what YHWH promised would be said in Deuteronomy 31: Have not these disasters overcome us because our God is not among us?

There you have it–conclusive proof that should satisfy the most reticent among us that Samuel was not a godly man, but rather a man in direct rebellion against YHWH’s commandments. He was not in contact with YHWH because YHWH had long before removed his presence. Samuel selected neither Saul nor David at YHWH’s direction, but for his own political purposes. In his days, the schism that began with Eli was accelerating and would soon result in the formation of the Judaean kingdom.

If David was not chosen by YHWH, and was not a legitimate king (stay tuned for an in-depth post about this), then there is no messiah that will arise from his descendants, and thus Jesus is no messiah.

As it turns out, only the tribes of Joseph and their priests have remained true to YHWH’s commandments and His chosen place until this very day.