The eternal life reward (Mt 19:28-19:29)

“Jesus said to them.

‘Truly!

I say to you!

At the renewal of all things,

When the Son of Man

Is seated on his glorious throne,

You who have followed me

Will also sit on twelve thrones,

Judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Everyone who has left

Houses,

Or brothers,

Or sisters,

Or father

Or mother

Or children

Or lands,

For my name’s sake,

Will receive a hundredfold.

They will inherit eternal life.’”

 

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι, ἐν τῇ παλινγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.

καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ἐμοῦ ὀνόματός, πολλαπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει.

 

This demanding saying of Jesus, talking about giving up family and land for eternal life, can be found in Mark, chapter 10:29-30, and Luke, chapter 18:29-30, but slightly different.  Jesus then issued a solemn proclamation to his disciples (ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν).  He told them, if they had followed him (ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι), that at the renewal of all things, the rebirth, the end times (ἐν τῇ παλινγενεσίᾳ), the Son of Man would be seated on his glorious throne (ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ).  At that same time, his followers, these 12 disciple apostles, would sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel (καθήσεσθε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ).  Everyone who has left (καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν) houses (οἰκίας), brothers (ἢ ἀδελφοὺς), sisters (ἢ ἀδελφὰς), father (ἢ πατέρα), mother (ἢ μητέρα), children (ἢ τέκνα), or lands (ἢ ἀγροὺς) for his name (ἕνεκεν τοῦ ἐμοῦ ὀνόματός) would receive a hundredfold (πολλαπλασίονα λήμψεται).  They would inherit eternal life (καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει).

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The descendents of Israel (1 Chr 2:1-2:2)

“These are the sons of Israel, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.”

The first listing of the 12 tribes of Israel is found in Genesis, chapter 35, where they are listed by their mother so that you could understand where the 12 tribes came from. Incidentally here in this book Jacob is always called Israel, never Jacob. The opposite is true in Genesis, where they are generally called the sons of Jacob. Here in Chronicles, there is no mention of the four different wives of Jacob. Thus you had the 11 clans of Esau or Edom and the 12 tribes of Jacob or Israel. The twelve clans of Israel had 4 different mothers. Leah was the mother of six sons or half of the tribes with (1) Reuben, (2) Simeon, (3) Levi, (4) Judah, (5) Issachar, and (6) Zebulun. Rachel was the mother of (7) Joseph and (8) Benjamin. Bilhah was the mother of (9) Dan and (10) Naphtali. Zilpah was the mother of (11) Gad and (12) Asher. The two maid servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, contributed to a third of the house of Israel. More information about these people can be found in chapters 29 and 30 of Genesis.

The blessings of Moses (Deut 33:1-33:39)

“This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. He said.

‘Yahweh came from Sinai,

He dawned from Seir upon us.

He shone forth from Mount Paran.

With him were myriads of holy ones,

At his right, a host of his own.

Indeed, O favorite among peoples,

All his holy ones were in your charge.

They marched at your heels,

They accepted direction from you.

Moses charged us with the law,

As a possession for the assembly of Jacob.

There arose a king in Jeshurun,

When the leaders of the people assembled

The united tribes of Israel!”

Once again this is a famous death bed blessing. Yahweh has been good to them, leading them forward. Each of the tribes will get a blessing in this ancient text that may come from the time of the kingdom, since there is a mention of the king in Jeshurun or Israel. It also speaks of Moses in the 3rd person when it is supposed to be Moses speaking.

“Let Reuben live, and not die out,

Even though his numbers are few.”

Reuben was the first born. The Reubenites had already taken their land on the east side of the Jordan River. There is only this simple statement that his tribe might continue or live on, which means that it may have been dying out at the time of the kings. There is no mention of his brother Simeon, since this tribe may have already vanished by the time of the kings.

“This he said of Judah.

O Yahweh, give heed to Judah,

Bring him in to his people,

Strengthen his hands for him,

Be a help against his adversaries.”

Apparently Judah was going off on its own and needed the help of his brothers.

“Of Levi, he said.

Give to Levi your Thummim,

Your Urim to your loyal one,

Whom you tested at Massah,

With whom you contended at the waters of Meribah.

Who said of his father and mother

I regard them not.

He ignored his kin,

Did not acknowledge his children.

They observed your word,

Kept your covenant.

They teach Jacob your ordinances,

And Israel your law.

They place incense before you,

And whole burnt offering upon your altar.

Bless, O Yahweh, his substance,

Accept the work of his hands.

Crush the loins of his adversaries,

Of those that hate him,

So that they do not rise again.”

Levi gets a long blessing, since they are now the loyal priestly class. The Thummim and Urim were priestly items. The Levites were willing to ignore their families. However, Moses asks Yahweh to bless them. Remember that Deuteronomy may have been written by the priestly class of Levites. The tribe of Levi had risen to a higher status compared to the problems that Levi himself had in Genesis.

“Of Benjamin he said.

The beloved of Yahweh rests in safety.

The High God surrounds him all day long.

The beloved rests between his shoulders.”

Benjamin was the youngest, so that there is this simple statement about being loved and safe.

“Of Joseph he said.

Blessed by Yahweh be his land,

With the choicest gifts of heaven above,

And of the deep that lies beneath,

With the choice fruits of the sun,

And the rich yield of the months,

With the finest produce of the ancient mountains,

And the abundance of the everlasting hills,

With the choice gifts of the earth and its fullness,

And the favor of the one who dwells on Sinai.

Let these come on the head of Joseph,

And on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

A firstborn bull – majesty is his!

His horns are the horns of a wild ox.

With them he gores the peoples,

Driving them to the ends of the earth.

Such are the myriads of Ephraim.

Such are the thousands of Manasseh.”

This is a long section on Joseph, who has had received a special blessing to get the best of everything from the land, in the sky, and what lies beneath. He will conquer all, especially with the mention of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh who are the beneficiaries of this blessing.

“Of Zebulun he said.

Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out.

Issachar, in your tents,

They shall call peoples to their mountain.

There they offer the right sacrifices.

They suck the affluence of the seas

And the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Zebulun and Issachar are the two commercial tribes, one by land and other by sea.

“Of Gad he said.

Blessed be he the enlargement of Gad!

Gad lives like a lion.

He tears at the arm and the scalp.

He chose the best for himself,

For there a commander’s allotment was reserved.

He came at the head of the people.

He executed the justice of Yahweh,

And his ordinances for Israel.”

Gad got the best land on the east Jordan and was a great fighter and follower of the law.

“Of Dan he said.

Dan is a lion’s whelp.

That leaps forth from Bashan.”

There is not much about Dan. He seems to get very little land.

“Of Naphtali he said.

O Naphtali, sated with favor,

Full of the blessing of Yahweh,

Possess the west and the south.”

Naphtali was in the Sea of Galilee area.

“Of Asher he said.

Most blessed of sons be Asher.

May he be the favorite of his brothers,

May he dip his foot in oil.

Your bars are iron and bronze.

As your days, so is your strength.”

Asher is strong and prosperous.

“There is none like God,

O Jeshurun,

Who rides through the heavens to your help,

Majestic through the skies.

He subdues the ancient gods,

He shatters the forces of old.

He drove out the enemy before you,

And said, Destroy.

Israel lives in safety.

Untroubled is Jacob’s abode

In a land of grain and wine,

Where the heavens drop down dew.

Happy are you, O Israel!

Who is like you,

A people saved by Yahweh,

The shield of your help,

The sword of your triumph!

Your enemies shall come fawning to you.

You shall tread upon their backs.”

Yahweh is truly magnificent in his love for Israel and what he has done for them and what he will do for them.

The breastplate (Ex 28:15-28:30)

“You shall make a breastplate of judgment, in skilled work.  You shall make it in the style of the ephod.  You shall make it of gold, of blue and purple and crimson yarns, and fine twined linen. It shall be square and doubled a span in length and a span in width.  You shall set in it four rows of stones.  A row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald shall be the first row.  The second row is a turquoise, a sapphire, and a moonstone.  The third row is a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst.  The fourth row is a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper.  They shall be set in gold filigree. There shall be twelve stones with names according to the names of the sons of Israel.  They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.  You shall make for the breastplate chains of pure gold, twisted like cords.  You shall make for the breastplate two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastplate.   You shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastplate.  The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings. Attach it in front to the shoulder-pieces of the ephod.  You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastplate, on its inside edge next to the ephod.  You shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder-pieces of the ephod, at its joining above the decorated band of the ephod.   The breastplate shall be bound by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a blue cord, so that it may lie on the decorated band of the ephod, and so that the breastplate shall not come loose from the ephod.   So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the holy place, for a continual remembrance before Yahweh. In the breastplate of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim.  They shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before Yahweh.  Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Israelites upon his heart before Yahweh continually.”

The breastplate is made in the style of the ephod, but it is square with 4 rows of 3 stones each.  They really knew the various gemstones. 4 rows with 3 stones each corresponds to the 12 tribes of Israel.  Of course, there are gold rings at the two ends of the breastplate in order to attach it to the ephod with a blue cord.  There is a mention of the Urim and Thummim.  These were sacred oracles, in the pouch of the breastplate of judgment.  Aaron bears the names of the Israelites and the judgment of the Israelites, when he goes into the holy place, for a continual remembrance.

 

The ephod (Ex 28:6-28:14)

“They shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, skillfully worked.  It shall have two shoulder-pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together.  The decorated band on it shall be of the same workmanship and materials, of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen.  You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth.  As a gem-cutter engraves signets, so you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel.  You shall mount them in settings of gold filigree.  You shall set the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel.  Aaron shall bear their names before Yahweh on his two shoulders for remembrance.   You shall make settings of gold filigree, and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords.  You shall attach the corded chains to the settings.”

The ephod is an old cultural vestment, an embroidered garment, believed to be like an apron with shoulder straps, worn by Hebrew priests in ancient Israel.  It was made of gold, as well as blue, purple, and crimson yarns and fine twisted linen.  The two shoulder pieces that were joined together had two onyx stones, like a cameo, with the engraved names of the twelve tribes, six on each stone in the order of their birth, one on each shoulder as a remembrance.  On top of that, you have two gold chains attached to these stones.  This was a very colorful piece of clothing or apron, much like the later medieval Christian chasubles.

The blessings of Jacob (Gen 49:1-49:28)

“Then Jacob called his sons, and said: ‘Gather around, that I may tell you what will happen to you in days to come.  Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father.’”

Once again, we have a great death bed blessing just like Isaac with his sons, Jacob and Esau.  Now instead of two sons, there are twelve and this more or less describe in a poetic fashion what will happen to the various tribes of Israel.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the first fruits of my vigor, excelling in rank and excelling in power.   Unstable as water, you shall no longer excel because you went up onto to your father’s bed.  Then you defiled it.   You went up to my couch!”

1)      Reuben is the first born in rank and power shall no longer excel because he defiled his father’s bed sleeping with Bilhah, the maid servant of Leah, and mother of his brothers.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers.  Weapons of violence are their swords.   May I never come into their council.  May I not be joined to their company.  In their anger they killed men, and at their whim they hamstrung oxen.   Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel!  I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”

2)      Simeon and Levi are put together here for their violent actions in Shechem.

3)      However the sons of Levi will take on a greater role later, but they will not have territory in Canaan, only cities. 

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you,  Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies.  Your father’s sons shall bow down before you.  Judah is a lion’s whelp.  From the prey, my son, you have gone up.  He couches down, he stretches out like a lion.  Like a lioness, who dares rouse him up?  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, or the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him.  The obedience of the peoples is his.   Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes.  His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.”

4)      Judah will be the leader.  Clearly, he is the favorite like a lion.  His brothers will bow down to him, even though he had the strange sexual affair with Tamar.

 “Zebulun shall settle at the shore of the sea.  He shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon.”

5)      Zebulun does not have much except a land on the shore and bordering on Sidon.  Very little is said about him.

“Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds.  He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant.  So he bowed his shoulder to the burden, and became a slave at forced labor.”

6)      Issachar is as strong as a donkey and will become a slave laborer.

“Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.  Dan shall be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider falls backward.”

7)      Dan will be a judge of his people, but also a snake or viper biting horse heels to throw people off their horses.

“I wait for your salvation, Yahweh.  Gad shall be raided by raiders, but he shall raid at their heels.”

8)      Gad will raid and be raided.

“Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall provide royal delicacies.”

9)      Asher will be rich.

“Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears lovely fawns.”

10)  Naphtali is like a doe.

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring.  His branches run over the wall.  The archers fiercely attacked him, they shot at him, and pressed him hard.  Yet his bow remained taut, and his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, by the God of your father who will help you, by God Almighty (El Shaddai) who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.  The blessings of your father are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills.  May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.”

11)  Joseph gets a long good blessing, clearly indicating that he is the favorite.  Like Judah, he gets special attention.

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey, and at evening dividing his spoil.”

12)  Benjamin is like a wolf, even though he is the youngest.

“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel; and this is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing.”

So it is that the 12 tribes of Israel become firmly established.  Each one is distinct.  However, 2 or 3  tribes will basically dominate the others.