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Exegetical Malfeasance in Ezekiel chapter 9.

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  • Exegetical Malfeasance in Ezekiel chapter 9.

    Rabbi Michael L. Munk, The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, explains that the tav [the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet] " . . . denotes the mark of man's final destination." ----He points to the events of Ezekiel chapter 9 where the tav is being used to "mark" out certain people for salvation from the impending "judgment" which is man’s final destination:
    And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark [tav] upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

    Ezekiel 9:4.

    The Lord tells his destroying angels to place a tav (mark) on the foreheads of all those who sigh and cry because of the abominations that take place in Jerusalem. These people marked with a tav on their foreheads are to be spared the coming judgment. ---- But at the time of these events the Hebrew script was Ktav Ivri, and not Ktav Ashuri. --- In the Ktav Ivri script, the tav was a cross and not a dalet and a nun (as it's currently constructed in the modern Hebrew script).

    This created a problem for the Jewish exegetes since they were uncomfortable with the idea of a cross being placed on the head of persons being saved from judgment. So they came up with an interesting, extra-biblical, interpretation that not only fixes the problem of people being saved by the mark of a cross being placed on them, but, since they weren't relying on the bible as a source, they found a way to actually demonize the cross while explaining away its salvific power.

    The rabbinic interpretation interpolated a "bloody" cross (not readily apparent in the Bible) versus a tav that was purportedly an ink mark. In the Jewish rendition the ink mark marked the righteous, while the bloody cross marked those who were to be subject to the judgment (annihilation). This interpolation was extremely powerful in the Jewish mind since it nicely demonized the Christians who were wont to wear bloody crosses dangling from their necks.

    As pointed out by Saul Lieberman, through Professor Elliott R. Wolfson, Alef, Mem, Tau (p. 161), in ancient times the Greeks marked criminals convicted of a capital crime with a "black-mark-of-death" (nigrum theta), a large Greek theta. Professor Wolfson points out that the Greek theta has an affinity to the Hebrew tav (particularly in Ktav Ivri where they look nearly identical, i.e. a cross). The Greeks placed the black theta on criminals convicted of a capital crime. The Greek theta symbolized "thanatos" (death) --- such that the Greeks marked those about to be executed with the black theta.

    In Ezekiel those being marked for salvation appear to be marked with a black tav, which would be opposite the symbolism employed by the Greeks (where the theta symbolized a death sentence). So to fix this problem, the rabbinic interpreters add a bloody-cross to symbolize the marking of a capital crime (and thus impending judgment). Wolfson says that, "Apparently responding to [the Christian interpretation of the cross as the mark of salvation] . . . rabbinic exegetes emphasized that the mark of blood signals destruction rather than deliverance."

    . . . But there's a big problem with this interpretation. . . . As is the case in many examples of the wrath of God annihilating whole swaths of people, Passover language is employed here (as it is when the angels come to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah). The angel in linen, who will do the marking, is said to have a writer's case by his "loins." The word translated "side" in the KJV is used almost everywhere else in the scripture for "loins." The text includes that the angel stands by the brazen altar where blood was drawn from the sacrifice. Finally, the glory (kabod) of the Lord leaves the cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant, and lands where . . . but on the threshold of the door to the house of the Lord.

    Nowhere in the bible is "ink" used to mark the righteous. But in the temple rituals blood is used to sanctify all the appurtenances associated with temple rituals. Blood from the brazen altar is sprinkled on the threshold of the temple, and placed on the high priest to sanctify him so that he will not die when he enters the Presence of God. Here too, the angel in linen stands at the brazen altar filling up his writer's case with the blood that will mark those who will not die in the Presence of the Lord's wrath.

    In his commentary, Redak comments that the idea in Ezekiel is similar to the idea of the sign of blood on the doorposts in Egypt, which protected the Israelites from the judgment that befell Egypt (Rabbi Abulafia actually claims the blood on the doorposts formed an ancient tav).

    Later in Ezekiel (16:6), blood is used in a salvific manner, "And I passed by you downtrodden with your blood, and I said to you, `With your blood, live,’ and I said to you, `With your blood live.’" -----Pirke d' Rabbi Eliezer interprets Ezekiel 16:6, "`With your blood live.' He repeats this a second time because they were redeemed with the blood of the Passover sacrifice and the blood of circumcision" (chapter 29).

    In the same book of Ezekiel, describing the angels annihilating those not marked with a tav, blood is used to sanctify from death. Numerous Jewish interpretations claim that at Passover it's the blood of the Passover lamb, and the circumcision blood, which possess saving properties (in the Talmud both are said to be placed on the doorposts on Passover). The angel in white linen stands by the brazen altar with his writer's case by his "loins" and the altar of sacrifice. He's going to fill his writer's case with the same blood (circumcision, and the blood of the animal sacrifice) that the Talmud says was placed on the doorposts at Passover. He's getting this blood just prior to passing through Israel, as he once passed through Egypt (and Sodom and Gomorrah) to strike dead anyone where circumcision blood and animal blood is not marking out a safe-zone.
    And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his loins [מתן motan]: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.

    Ezekiel 9:2.

    A significant theological difference between Judaism and Christianity revolves around the signs and symbols used in the narrative. Christianity reads Ezekiel 9 to suggest that the destroying angel places a bloody cross on the foreheads of those to be spared destruction (at the time the Hebrew script was Ktav Ivri such that the "sign" or "tav" ---placed on the forehead ---would have been the shape of a cross). But Judaism suggests that a bloody cross ("mark") was placed on the heads of those to be destroyed (although no such thing is stated in the text) while an ink cross ("mark") was placed on the heads of those to be spared.

    There are interesting relationships between "ink" and "blood" which go to the very heart of the distinction between Judaism and Christianity. But the matter at hand is the scripture's notation that the angel clothed in linen had his inkhorn by his "loins" motan מתן, and that he was standing by the brazen altar. (An interesting side note is that the word for the "threshold" --in verse 9:3-- is a transformation of the word for "loins" motan מת, to the word moptan מפתן, the word "loins," by the mere addition of the letter peh פ.)
    Last edited by Xtian Rabinovich; 04-15-2014, 07:25 PM.
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