KINGDOM VIOLENCE: MATTHEW 11:12
by Avram Yehoshua
(Endnotes in red. Click on the number to go to endnote. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to the article)
I don't think that I'm the only one who has grimaced upon reading Matthew 11:12 where the Lord speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven suffering violence. What did Jesus mean? This is a verse where knowledge of Greek does nothing to help us understand what Yeshua said, let alone meant. Resorting to the commentaries didn't seem to help either as it was hard for me to fathom Yeshua, who tells us to turn the other cheek and love our enemy, saying that 'violent men' would take the Kingdom. How could this be reconciled with Matt. 5:3; 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven'? While some of what the commentators wrote didn't seem unreasonable, none struck the Chord of Truth within.
Only when we translate this Greek text back into what Yeshua would have said in Hebrew, are we given a translation that allows us to see the meaning Yeshua had in mind. The following are a few translations of the Greek text of Matt. 11:12 that do not go back to the Hebrew:
KJV: 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.'
From all these translations, one primarily gets the idea that the Kingdom of the Heavens is under attack by the very ones who want to get into it ('suffers violence', 'is taken by violence', 'is forcibly entered', 'taken by storm', etc.). In relation to the last clause of the verse, the ones who wish to enter are said to be violent men ('violent men take it by force', 'violent men seize it', etc.). Is this really what Yeshua said? And if so, what could He have meant? Many try to persuade us that the violence had to do with either the Zealots who wanted to make Jesus King in order to defeat Rome, or with the antagonists of Jesus like Herod and the Pharisees who wanted to snuff out the Kingdom.
KJV Interlinear: 'But from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence, and (the) violent seize it.'1
Nestle-Aland Interlinear: 'And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is forcibly entered and violent men seize it.'2 (As a side note, notice that both Interlinears translate the Kingdom as the Kingdom of the Heavens, and not 'Heaven'. In Hebrew, it is never Heaven, but the plural, Heavens.)
NRSV: 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.'3 The NRSV also has an alternate reading in the margin: the kingdom of heaven 'has been coming violently...'4
NKJV: 'And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.'
NAS: 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.'
Kenneth Wuest: 'Indeed, from the days of John the Baptizer until this moment, the kingdom of heaven is being taken by storm, and the strong and forceful ones claim it for themselves eagerly'.5
David Stern: 'From the time of Yohanan the Immerser until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been suffering violence; yes, violent ones are trying to snatch it away.'6
R.T. France states that the, 'violence began with the time of John's preaching, because that was when the kingdom of heaven began to be proclaimed'.7 He goes on to state that there are two understandings of what this violence might be:
Seems to make sense, doesn't it? There was a time when a mob in His home town tried to throw Him off the cliff (Lk. 4:16-30). Rational and reason go a long way in 'explaining' passages that commentators really don't understand. This is one of them. The 'violence' that he mentions, of John being imprisoned is not 'on point.' John wasn't imprisoned for preaching the coming Kingdom but for rebuking Herod for his adultery (Mt. 14:3-4; Mk. 6:17-18; Lk. 3:19-20). That there was 'violence' or tension between Yeshua and the Pharisees, etc., who prevented Jews from following the Messiah is evident to anyone who reads the Accounts of His Life here in Israel two thousand years ago (Mt. 23:13). But how this fits into understanding what Yeshua is saying about the Kingdom leaves much to be desired. France goes on to state that the term 'men of violence',
- 'P.W. Barnett argues that Jesus refers to the political activists among his (and John's) followers who tried to divert his mission into one of national liberation, a movement which reached its climax after the feeding of the 5,000'. France goes on to discount this theory by stating, 'It is not clear however, why this issue should be introduced here, unless (and this must be speculation), John's followers had moved increasingly in a political direction, causing Jesus, while endorsing John's message, to dissociate himself from his 'violent' followers.'8
- 'More commonly Jesus is understood to refer to the violent opposition encountered by 'the kingdom of heaven', already seen in the arrest and imprisonment of its herald, and more ominously foreshadowed in the growing official opposition to Jesus himself. In the context of John's question from prison this seems the more relevant sense. So while John was the last of the old order, his fate was the foretaste of the conflicts which are already beginning to affect the new order.'9
'is an unusual word which always conveys a bad sense. This makes RSV mg. very unlikely, as it assumes a good sense for the cognate verb (the similar saying of Luke 16:16 has the same verb in the sense of 'coming violently' but with 'men', not 'the kingdom of heaven, as subject). Here the verb is probably to be read as passive, not middle: it refers to violence inflicted on the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus condemns (take by force, harpazo, normally means 'plunder or 'seize').'10
As we'll see here and later on, the term doesn't always convey 'a bad sense.' Luke 16:16 speaks of people 'forcing' their way into the Kingdom without presenting the word for 'force' in a negative light:
'The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.' (NAS)
As some will say, the use of 'force' would be more 'inner resolve' or 'determination' to enter the Kingdom. Again, not a negative concept but is it what the Lord is speaking of? Robert H. Mounce offers some more insight into the Greek and tells us that,
'The interpretation of verse 12 has been discussed at length. One's approach turns on whether biazetai is passive ('has suffered violence') or middle ('has been coming violently'). Because the noun biastai (forceful men)' by-aides-zeh-tie, 'that occurs in the parallel clause is used in a negative sense (the cognate verb biao means 'to defraud, cheat, or overpower'), it is better to take biazetai as passive and translate 'has been enduring violent assault' (Weymouth). Jesus is saying that ever since the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven has been under assault by violent men who are trying to overcome it by force. These men are sometimes identified as Zealots who want to force the kingdom's arrival. More likely they are like Herod, who imprisoned John, and the Jewish antagonists of the gospel.'11
One might begin to agree with these assessments out of lack of a viable alternative. But even within the scholarly community there are critics of this understanding. The Theological Dictionary well states,
'In view of Mk. 10:17 ff.; Mt. 5:3 ff.; 7:21, and also the present chapter (27-29), it is hardly conceivable that He should have spoken of men deliberately and successfully seeking to wrest the kingdom to themselves.'12
It goes on to state concerning the Zealot theory that,
'The difficulty here is that Mt. is concerned with the prophets, the Law, the Baptist, Jesus and the bah-sil-lee-ah (Kingdom). 'It is thus hard to see the point of a special reference to an irrelevant subject when we naturally expect an important insight on the situation depicted. In any case the Zealot movement had already been started before the appearance of John.'13
It's good to know that there were others that grimaced at what the commentators presented it. There is a 'special reference' and 'important insight' here once the Greek is translated into Hebrew. It will be seen that both interpretations or meanings given to the sentence fall far short of what Yeshua speaks of.
Mounce basically parallels the theme of France with slight variation. The problem with their interpretations is that they just don't seem to fit the context that Yeshua is using it in. In other words, the topic shifts from John and the Kingdom to what is happening to the Kingdom; and from either some men who 'want it their way' (the Zealots), or wicked men who don't want it at all (Herod, etc.).
David Stern adds to this natural understanding by stating that not only was it a physical assault but a spiritual one (demons), as well. But this only supersaturates an already bloated teaching. Stern writes,
'The Greek is difficult. As rendered, it means that violent ones (demons and their human vehicles) are trying to keep God from carrying out his plan through Yeshua, e.g., through Herod's having put Yochanan in prison (v. 2). An alternative understanding, '...the Kingdom of Heaven has been advancing forcefully; and forceful people are seizing hold of it, ' seems inconsistent with vv. 25-30.'14
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary joins in the chorus and states,
'The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. The verb may be regarded either as middle - violently forces its way (cf. Lk. 16:16), or as passive - is violently treated. The latter is more consistent with the next clause. From John's initial announcement of the coming of the Kingdom, the response had been a violent one, whether by vicious opponents (cf. vv. 18, 19; 14:3, 4) or by enthusiastic supporters. The violent take it by force (or, seize it). Compare Lk. 16:16. Among the most prominent of Christ's adherents were the publicans, harlots, and other open sinners, who flocked to our Lord in great numbers.'15
As Solomon once said, 'there is nothing new under the sun' (Eccl. 1:9). Are we now to understand that the harlots and the sinners are looked upon by our Lord as taking the Kingdom by violence? This hardly fits with the account of the 'sinner' (harlot) who washed Yeshua's feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Where are accounts that these people acted violently toward the Kingdom?
Alfred Edersheim speaks in the same vein but also registers an objection to the common understanding. First he writes,
'When we remember, that in 'the Sermon on the Mount' the call was only to 'enter in,' we feel that we have now reached a period, when the access to 'the narrow door' was obstructed by the enmity of so many, and when it needed 'violence' to break through, and 'take the Kingdom' 'by force (Matt. 11:12). This personal breaking through the opposing multitude, in order to enter in through the narrow door, was in opposition to the many - the Pharisees and Jews generally - who were seeking to enter in, in their own way, never doubting success, but who would discover their terrible mistake.'16
Of importance to us is his unconscious use of the term, 'breaking through'. More on this in a moment. He goes on to say in another place, and this is where he registers the objection to the scholarly insights that, 'The common interpretations of this verse have seemed to me singularly unsatisfactory.'18 I am inclined to agree with him although his writing that there are 'hindrances of every kind' to all those that would seek to enter the Kingdom is certainly a truth. But it really doesn't help in explaining what Yeshua meant.
'From the time that John began to preach the Kingdom, hindrances of every kind had been raised. To overcome them and enter the Kingdom, it required, as it were, violence like that to enter a city which was surrounded by a hostile army.'17
In the Nestle-Aland Interlinear we read 'And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is forcibly entered (by-aides-zeh-tie), and violent men (by-ace-tie), seize it (hah-pahdz-zu-sin).19
The word for 'forcibly entered' is by-aides-zeh-tie and means, 'to urge, constrain, overpower by force; to press earnestly forward, to rush, Luke 16:16'.20 Another account states that the word occurs, 'always with a component of force...in a good sense press (in), try hard to (enter)'.21 Still yet another reveals that inherit within the Greek word is the meaning of, 'apply force...use force, enter forcibly into something'.22 As we will see, the use of force will be in the Hebrew word but its application will be toward a specific 'breaking through' as Edersheim unintentionally mentioned.
The word for 'violent men' is by-ace-tie and means, 'one who uses violence, or is impetuous, one who is forceful in eager pursuit'.23 And here is the place where it doesn't mean in a negative sense but, 'in a good sense (forceful people) lay hold of (it)'.24 Another source tells us that it can mean 'the sense of 'strong,' 'bold' or 'brave'.25 This shows us that the word doesn't always have to have a negative connotation to it as R. T. France suggested above. A further meaning is, 'the stormy waves of the passions beating against the ship of the soul'.26 This meaning of force will be present in the Hebrew but in a pictorial sense of sheep breaking through a fence in order to get to the other side.
The word for 'seize it' hah-pahdz-zu-sin means, 'to seize, as wild beast, John 10:12; take away by force, snatch away...to seize on with avidity, eagerly, appropriate, Matt. 11:12'.27 This parallels another account that states, 'as forcibly taking someone or something, snatch, seize, take away...as the action of thieves and wild beasts steal, carry off, drag away.'28 It is this action that will be the focus of the word, not the negative shade of meaning for it.
When we translate the Greek text back to what Yeshua would have said in Hebrew, we realize at once what the Lord was alluding to. The Hebrew word for 'is forcibly entered' (the Greek by-aides-zeh-tie), is poretzet29 and comes from the Hebrew verb paratz.30 The primary meaning of the verb paratz is, 'to break or tear down...e.g. a wall...to break asunder, to break forth, as a child from the womb, Gen. 38:29; of water, to burst forth...a torrent bursts forth...also to break out, act with violence, Hos. 4:2'.31
You may be familiar with one of its nouns. The son that was given to Judah and Tamar, of whom the Messiah would come through,32 is Perez (Peretz in Hebrew). The name means, 'one who breaks out.' One of the titles of Messiah is 'Son of Peretz', the One who would break out, or 'The Breaker.' The noun peretz also conveys the meaning of 'a breach of a wall...a breaking forth, Gen. 38:29; of water, a bursting forth...overthrow, calamity'.33 Here we see the concept of 'violence' naturally following a wall that is breached (e.g. in a war).
The Hebrew verb and noun carry the connotation of violence, but primarily of 'force' or 'action' in the sense of tearing down or breaking out or of rushing water. Once we place the primary meaning into the sentence, we will understand what Yeshua was presenting to His hearers that day. But first, the Hebrew noun used for 'violent men' is port-zeem and is just the plural of the one who tears down. These too would be breakers or breachers (of the wall or fence).
The Hebrew word for 'seize it' would be oh-hah-zeem and means, 'to seize...to take, catch, in hunting, to take or have possession'.34 The verb also means, 'to take possession (of the land)' (i.e. Israel, Josh. 22:9), and it also speaks of an 'eternal possession' (Gen. 17:8; 48:4; Lev. 25:34).'35 This parallels the possessing of the Kingdom of the Heavens in terms of inheritance instead of 'seizing it.' With these three words we can translate Matt. 11:12 like this:
'And from the days of Yohanan the Immerser until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is being breached and the breachers are possessing it.'
Yeshua was alluding to the prophetic passage in Micah about the Messiah being the Shepherd that would breach or tear open a section of the fence or wall of the Sheepfold (the earthly existence), for the Remnant of Israel. The Sheep (believers; breachers), would then continue to break down and break through the fence of the sheep-pen into greener pastures (the Heavenly Kingdom), as they followed their Shepherd. In Micah 2:12-13 we read:
'I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob. I will surely gather the Remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold' (Bozrah); 'like a flock in the midst of its pasture. They shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.'
This is what Yeshua was pointing to that day in Matt. 11:12. The Kingdom of the Heavens was presenting Itself, first with John's proclamation and then with Yeshua Himself. Not to disparage the Law and the Prophets (Luke 16:17), but on the contrary, to hold up what they spoke of as future, was now unfolding as a present Reality. Yeshua was declaring that He was the Shepherd (the Breaker; the Breacher), who would break down the Fence so that His Sheep (the breakers) could follow Him into their inheritance, the Heavenly realm. A more literal translation of Micah 2:13 reads,
'The Breaker (Poretz from the same verb 'to tear down,' to breach), goes up before them. They break out, pass through the gate and go out by it. So their King goes on before them and Yahveh is at their head.'
'And the One breaking open will go up before them and they will break open and they will go through the Gate and they will go out through Him and their King will pass through before them, (with) Yahveh at their head.'36
It's not that the Kingdom is suffering violence but that the Shepherd is tearing open, making a hole in the Heavenly Fence that separates Man from God. He does this with His Death and Resurrection. The ones that are His, follow Him. They hear His Voice calling to them and escape from the Fold by running through the opening in the Fence that He made for them. It becomes widened much the same way that cattle, stampeding through a break in a fence, will trample it down and tear out more and more of it as they go through it.
Such is the 'violence' that Yeshua was presenting that day. Unfortunately, when Matthew was translated into Greek 'there was something lost in the translation.' The translators tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven 'suffers violence'. As we have seen, the idea of force is inherent in the Hebrew word. But the Greek lacks the Hebraic Scriptural link to Micah that begins to explain what Yeshua said that day and what he meant. Micah then opens up a Scriptural chain for us that will reveal both the Salvation of Yahveh and the Resurrection of Yeshua.
In ancient Israel, the shepherd would take his sheep and box them into a place for the night that would be safe from bear, wolf and lion. If possible, a little box canyon would be ideal. The canyon walls would afford protection on three sides with its high cliffs and the shepherd would build a fence of rocks and branches across the opening so the no wild animal could come in, and no sheep could wander off.
The sheepfold or fold was, 'a wall or hedge made of stones which might be used for a defense of a fold.'37
'Sheepfolds were of various types. At times they were located in or near a cave (e.g., 1st Sam. 24:3). Some were permanent enclosures with a roof and stone walls, while others were temporary, consisting simply of an open pen with thornbush sides.'38
When daybreak came, the shepherd would make a small opening in the fence for himself. This passageway would be known as a 'door' or a 'gate'.39 (Notice the 'Gate' in Micah where the sheep go through). Once on the other side he would call to his sheep by name and they would begin to break through to the other side (Edersheim and Micah), enlarging the hole as more and more sheep followed the others and, moving 'shoulder to shoulder,' they would naturally take out more and more of the fence so that the hole or breach would be further enlarged.
The Breaker or the 'One breaking open' in the passage is Messiah Yeshua, the Good Shepherd (John 10). His Sheep hear His Voice:
'the sheep hear His Voice: and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out. When He puts forth all His own, He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His Voice.' (Jn. 10:3-4)
Yeshua is saying that He will lead us out of this world of darkness into His Kingdom. This parallels Micah's Shepherd as 'He goes ahead of them'. The sheep will follow when they hear His Voice. The shepherd spent much of his day 'talking to his sheep until they all recognized his voice'.40
'So close is the connection between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, who follow their shepherd's voice.'41
In Hebrew, the word for gate or door and opening are conceptually interchangeable. The concept is an opening or hole in something (a wall, a fence, etc.). The Hebrew word for gate is shah-are and means, 'to cleave, divide...an aperture, and then a gate'.42 It also means, 'break, break off, through...gap, opening...tear in two, dissolve...split, divide, tear down...gate'.43 'The root idea is 'to split open' and 'to break through.'44
Yeshua is both the Breaker and the Gate or Door through which the Sheep pass (Jn. 10:7, 9). The Sheep (breakers) go through the Gate (the Heavenly Fence or Wall). Ryken states that, 'Jesus used the imagery of a gate for entrance either into life or into destruction (Mt. 7:13-14).'45 He further writes that, 'Jesus elaborates the image of the gate ('door' in some older translations), in his Good Shepherd Discourse (Jn. 10:1-17). The good shepherd 'enters by the gate' and leads his sheep out through the gate of the sheepfold, an image of safety. In an extension of the metaphor, Jesus calls himself the gate: 'I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved' (Jn. 10:9 NRSV).'46 He further states that, 'In the context this certainly refers to being a door for the sheep and hence the gate or entry-way to salvation.'47
Keil & Delitzsch tell us that the passage in Micah 2:12-13 spoke of God's future Redemption-Salvation through Messiah, the Second Moses:
'And the Lord will gather together all Jacob, not merely a portion, and yet only the remnant of Israel...the further description rests upon the fact of the leading of Israel out of Egypt, which is to be renewed in all that is essential at a future time. The following clauses also predict the miraculous multiplication of the remnant of Israel (see Hos. 2:1, 2; Jer. 31:10), as experienced by the people in the olden time under the oppression of Egypt (Ex. 1:12). The comparison to the flock of Bozrah48 presupposes that Bozrah's wealth in flocks was well known...The comparison which follows, 'like a flock in the midst of its pasture,' belongs to the last verse, and refers to the multiplication, and to the noise made by a densely packed and numerous flock. The same tumult will be made by the assembled Israelites on account of the multitude of men.'49
Even though Keil and Delitzsch fail to understand the connection of Micah 2:13 to Matt. 11:12, they do see the imagery of the gate or walls being broken through by the 'Breaker' (Messiah). This brings us to the understanding that the Breaker is not just breaking down walls for the fun of it or in war but that His task, parallel to Moses; would lead Israel to final redemption. The passage in Micah relates to the End of Time ('I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob.') That is exactly what Yeshua was talking about that day in Matt. 11:12; the Kingdom of the Heavens being broken open (by Him the Breaker) and those who would inherit it, pressing in or breaking in. This would be all believers (the breakers or the breach makers), who would follow Him. In this they would be like Yeshua, making the breach wider for others after them.
'In v. 13 the redemption of Israel out of exile is depicted under the figure of liberation from captivity. Was Egypt a slave-house (ch. 6:4; cf. Ex. 20:2); so is exile a prison with walls and gates, which must be broken through. Ha-Poretz, the breaker through, who goes before them, is not Jehovah, but, as the counterpart of Moses the leader of Israel out of Egypt, the captain appointed by God for His people, answering to the head which they are said to choose for themselves in Hos. 2:2, a second Moses, viz., Zerubbabel, and in the highest sense, Christ, who opens the prison-doors and redeems the captives of Zion...Led by him, they break through the walls, and march through the gate, and go out through it out of that prison...Their King Jehovah goes before them at their head...Just as Jehovah went before Israel as the angel of the Lord in the pillar of cloud and fire at the exodus from Egypt (Ex. 13:21), so at the future redemption of the people of God will Jehovah go before them as King, and lead the procession (see Isaiah 52:12).'50
As the Breaker makes a hole in the Heavenly Fence, the Sheep of Yahveh follow the Good Shepherd. This leads us to another Scripture link in the chain that parallels what Yeshua is speaking of in Matthew, by way of Micah: His Death and Resurrection is the Power that breaches the Heavens:
'Lift up your heads, Oh Gates and be lifted up, Oh ancient Doors that the King of Glory may come in! Who is the King of Glory? Yahveh strong and mighty. Yahveh mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, Oh Gates and lift them up, Oh ancient Doors that the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? Yahveh, King of the Heavenly Armies; He is the King of Glory. Selah.' (Psalm 24:7-10)
Some say that the gates and doors were those of the Temple. There are two things wrong with this assessment. One, it speaks of ancient Doors. At the time of the writing of Psalm 24, if the Temple was in existence, the doors could hardly be called ancient. Which leads us into the next problem; that of assuming that the gates and doors of the Temple were in existence when the Psalm was written. If King David wrote this, and it's most likely he did as the beginning of the Psalm records, the Temple hadn't been built yet. Therefore, it would be impossible for the ancient doors and gates of the Psalm to be referring to a Temple that didn't exist. (The Temple wouldn't be built until after David's death. His son, King Solomon would build it.)
The ancient Gates or Doors in this Psalm were what separated God from Man; the firmament of the Heavens. David is speaking about the Ancient Doors opening for Messiah upon His Resurrection and return to the Heavens. On the other side of this firmament is the Heavenly Temple where first we see the Altar for Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. All who desire to pass through the breach that the Breaker makes, must first apply the Blood of the Sacrifice of the Lamb while they are upon the Earth.
Keil, while stating that the doors are those of the (Earthly) Temple also declares that these are the Doors of Eternity.51 That is because that's what the Hebrew states (v. 7, pit-hay olam). In Keil's understanding, Yahveh was entering the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the Psalm depicts Yeshua coming to the firmament that separated Man from God, a firmament that no man could penetrate or go through. But Yeshua, because of His Blood, is now 'seen' rising and the ancient Doors must give way to Him. The Eternal Doors must let Him into the Heavenly abode for He is the King of Glory; His Death proves it and His Resurrection confirms it. These Doors wouldn't open for anyone else.
Yeshua makes a Way for us to follow Him into the Heavenly realm where not only the Heavenly Temple of God is, but also the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 7:15; 11:1, 19; 14:15; 15:5, 8; 21:2, 10, 22). As for those who want to follow us who are not covered by His Blood, the same fate awaits them that awaited Pharaoh's Army that followed Moses and the Sons of Israel into the Red Sea. For the Red Sea was also 'breached' by the Power behind the Staff of Moses. This is a picture of the Heavenly' cleaving asunder.'
Yeshua came from Above (John 8:23) and when He died and rose, made a Breach in the Heavenly Fence, Gate or Door. In making this Breach (Peretz) in the Heavens, He stands on the other side and calls to His lambs and sheep on the Earth. We hear His Voice and seek to follow Him into our inheritance. Of course at this point, the Greek translations and commentaries are not able to present this because they have failed to understand the Hebraic connection between the Matthew 11, Micah 2 and Psalm 24. They are deeply engrossed in trying to figure out if the Greek word for violence is passive or middle, and just who the violent people were that either came against or, into the Kingdom.
In the beginning of Psalm 24 it speaks of the Earth being established upon the Waters. This will help us to further link the 'Heavenly Breach' to the Creation firmament. The preceding six verses of the Psalm read:
The Earth is Yahveh's and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who may ascend into the Mountain of Yahveh? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from Yahveh and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him who seek Your Face, even Jacob. Selah.' (Psalm 24:1-6)
At first glance, the Earth being established upon the seas and rivers seems to make some kind of physical sense. But immediately we see that it must mean more than just the physical with its reference to ascending to the Mountain of Yahveh (being in Heaven; although one can also interpret it to mean Mt. Zion or Mt. Moriah). Those who ascend it will receive Salvation, the Salvation that Yahveh has promised to the Sons of Jacob.
The seas and the rivers are a direct reference back to the first chapter of Genesis where the physical Heavens and the Earth were made to exist in the lower Waters. Yahveh dwelt in the upper Waters. A firmament (or expanse as some Bibles call it), separated them.
The Hebrew for seas in the Psalm above is my-yim and should be translated as waters.52 The word for rivers is nih-hah-rote and is translated properly. It can mean, 'current, stream...river.'53 The sentence is saying basically the same thing over again, but in a different way, substituting rivers for waters. Saying the same thing but in a different way is very common in Hebrew. It's called parallelism. 'Waters' and 'rivers' parallel one another. That the verse in question refers to Creation is evident from vv. 1-2 where Yahveh is said to own the Heavens and the Earth, establishing it upon the Waters.54
How can we come to be in the Presence of God Almighty when there is nothing humanly speaking that we can do to actually get there? It is to this that Yeshua is speaking in Matthew 11:12. He is not talking about Zealots and Herod's henchmen. He is speaking of Eternal matters and how God is going to make a way for us to get into the Kingdom of the Heavens.
Yeshua is the Shepherd who dislodges the rocks and branches for the sheep (Micah 2:12-13), (the rocks and branches being the Heavenly Door or Gate keeping all Mankind out), and He Himself goes before His Flock, having broken through, and on the other side, He calls to those that are His. His Sheep hear His Voice and proceed, as sheep do, through the opening made by the Shepherd, to be on the side where He is at. This Breach that is made, is seen now to be made in the very expanse (KJV: firmament) that separates God from Man in Creation, even before the Fall. For in Creation, Adam and Eve did not live where God lived:
'Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the Waters and let it separate the waters from the Waters. God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the Waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.'
All the words for 'waters' and 'seas' are my-yim the same word found for 'seas' in the Creation account of Psalm 24:2. The firmament separated Man from God. It has been breached by the only One who could do it. Words can only begin to express the depth of awe, thanksgiving and gratitude that I have for the Death and Resurrection of the Son of Man, the Son of God. He has made a way for us to live eternally with God. May we all follow Him through the Breach, into the Kingdom of the Heavens.
'Then God said, 'Let the waters below the Heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear'; and it was so. God called the dry land Earth and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.' (Genesis 1:6-10)
Micah 2:12-13 is the background for properly understanding what Yeshua was teaching that day when He spoke of the Kingdom.55 Only by knowing the entire Bible and Hebrew can one hope to understand passages in the New Testament like Matthew 11:12. Once the enigma is unlocked, the Scriptures open to a beautifully linked chain of understanding.
- George Ricker Berry, Editor, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2000), pp. 27-28.
- Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort, Translators, J. D. Douglas, Editor, The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990), pp. 38-39.
- Ibid. p. 39.
- Kenneth S. Wuest, Translator, The New Testament, An Expanded Translation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, reprinted, 1998), p. 27.
- Dr. David H. Stern, Jewish New Covenant (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Covenant Publications, 1991), p. 15.
- R. T. France, M.A., B.D., Ph.D., The Rev. Leon Morris, M.Sc., M.Th., Ph.D., General Editor, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Matthew (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), p. 195.
- Ibid. pp. 195-196.
- Ibid. p. 195. Hah-pad-zoo-sin is the word that is translated 'seize' in the NA Interlinear; harpazo is the verb it comes from.
- Robert H. Mounce, W. Ward Gasque, New Testament Editor, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), p. 104.
- Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Editors, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Translator and Editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), p. 610
- Ibid. p. 611.
- Dr. David H. Stern, Jewish New Covenant Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Covenant Publications, 1992), p. 43.
- Charles F. Pfeiffer, Old Testament, Everett F. Harrison, New Testament, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), p. 948.
- Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 682.
- Ibid. p. 460.
- Ibid. Footnote 31.
- The Greek for both words in Nestle-Aland is identical to the Textus Receptus.
- Wesley J. Perschbacher, Editor, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publications, 1990), p. 70.
- Timothy Friberg and Barbara Friberg, Editors, with Neva Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), p. 91.
- Walter Bauer, augmented by William F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich and Frederick Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (London: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 140.
- Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 70.
- Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, p. 91.
- Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 613.
- Ibid. p. 614.
- Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 53.
- Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, p. 75.
- The Torah, Prophets, Writings and The New Covenant (Jerusalem: The Bible Society of Israel, 1991), p. 14 in the New Covenant.
- Benjamin Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 634.
- Gen. 38:29; Ruth 4:18-22; Mt. 1:3; Lk. 3:33.
- Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, p. 634.
- Ibid. p. 17.
- Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, Authors, Mark E. Biddle, Translator, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), p. 82.
- John Kohlenberger the 3rd, Editor, The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Corporation, 1979), p. 533.
- Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor, Everett F. Harrison, Roland K. Harrison and William Sanford LaSor, Associate Editors, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. Two (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), p. 326.
- Ibid. p. 464.
- William Wilson, Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, no publishing date is given), p. 182. The word for gate has as one of its synonyms, the word door. The Hebrew word petach is also used (opening).
- Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. Four, p. 464.
- Leland Ryken, James Wilhoit and Tremper Longman the 3rd, General Editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 782.
- Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, p. 733.
- Dr. Francis Brown, Dr. S. R. Driver, Dr. Charles A. Briggs, based on the lexicon of Professor Wilhelm Gesenius; Edward Robinson, Translator and E. Rodiger, Editor, The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Lafayette, IN: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1978), p. 1044.
- Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, p. 945.
- Ryken,, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p. 322.
- Ibid. p. 216.
- Bozrah is taken by Keil to be a proper noun, the name of a place that boasted of many sheep. It can
also be taken to be a common noun meaning a sheep-pen.
- Keil, Commentary On The Old Testament, vol. 10, Minor Prophets, p. 303.
- Ibid. p. 304.
- Ibid. p. 213.
- Benjamin Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 483.
- Ibid. p. 538.
- Keil, Commentary On The Old Testament, vol. 5, Psalms, p. 211.
- I am indebted to David Bivin for his presentation of the link between Micah 2:13 and Matt. 11:12. Many years ago I read his book, Understanding The Difficult Words of Jesus (Austin, TX: Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 1984), in which he presented that connection. In his revised edition (2001, pp. 84-87), he states that John the Baptist was the Breaker or Poretz, and that Jesus was the King that came through the opening that John made. This he understood from a rabbinic teaching on Micah 2:13 which he himself states actually went against what the Scripture seemed to be saying. He writes, 'the 'breach-maker' and the king are, of course, the same person, but in the rabbinic interpretation...they are two different persons' (p. 86). That we must reject the rabbinic interpretation and adhere to the obvious Scriptural one is seen from the fact that v. 13 is a Hebraic parallelism; stating the same thing twice, but in different ways. The first part of v. 13 has the 'Breach-maker' going out of the sheep-fold before the sheep. The second part has the King (Yeshua) passing before them, saying that it is the Lord (Yeshua). We know too that 'Poretz' or Breach-maker, is an ancient biblical name for King Messiah. Also, no one entered the Kingdom of Yeshua till after His Death and Resurrection. Yeshua Himself says that the Torah and the Prophets were proclaimed till John but that with John, the Kingdom was now being proclaimed and many were seeking to find out more about it or to be part of it. John's role was not to make the opening in the Heavenly Fence but to point the Jewish people to the One who would. As such, John came in the Spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for the King of Israel, not to make the breach in the Heavenly Barrier. John was the Messenger sent to prepare the Way for Yeshua (Is. 40:3, Mal. 4:5-6), but John was not the Poretz, the Breaker. Yeshua Himself says that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John, so John cannot be seen as being included in this conceptual picture. John dies but no one enters the Kingdom until Yeshua's Death and Resurrection. The Shepherd (Poretz-Breaker), has made the way for His Flock. This dramatically demonstrates the problem in accepting rabbinic interpretation of Scripture, over Scripture itself. Sometimes rabbinic interpretation can be very helpful. But to swallow everything the Rabbis have proclaimed is to find oneself renouncing Messiah.
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