• Jerusalem Comments Off on Why Did God Choose Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel?

    By Gordon Franz


    Jerusalem is a city that is sacred to the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has been and remains to this day, a contested piece of real estate for two of these religions.

    Former Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, often said, “Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided capital of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.” On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, with the help of some world politicians, wants to divide the city and create a Palestinian State with Abu Dis in eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

    Within Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is the most hotly debated piece of real estate anywhere in the world. At the Second Camp David summit held during the summer of 2000, Yasser Arafat said that there was never a temple built by Solomon or Herod on what the Moslems call the Haram esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). Those temples, he said, were located on Mount Gerizim near Nablus (Gold 2007: 11). The literary sources and the Temple Mount Sifting Project have clearly demonstrated that these Temples once stood on the Haram.

    The Bible, history, and geography are clear: Jerusalem was chosen by the Almighty as the capital of the nation of Israel … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.
    There are Better Cities to be Capital

    Politically and strategically there were better sites that David could have chosen to be the capital of Israel. But God had Jerusalem in mind, primarily, it can be argued, for spiritual reasons.

    The first city David could have chosen was Hebron (Tel Rumeidah). In fact, this was the first city from which David ruled when he came to the throne. David was selected by God to be king and anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem (I Sam. 16:1-13). After his flight from Saul, God instructed David to go to the city of Hebron and there the men of Judah “anointed David king over the house of Judah” (II Sam. 2:1-4)1 and he reigned over Judah for seven and a half years (II Sam. 5:5). Finally, all the tribes of Israel came to King David and anointed him king over all Israel and Judah and he reigned for thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

    The reason Hebron was David’s first capital was because he was from the tribe of Judah and Hebron was in the tribal territory of Judah. The city also had a Patriarchal connection: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with some of their wives, are buried in the Cave of Machpelah near Hebron (Gen. 23:9, 17; 25:7-11; 49:29-32). Hebron overlooks the Patriarchal Highway the runs through the Hill Country of Judah down to Beersheva.

    David’s second choice of a capital could have been Gibeah of Saul (Tel el-Ful). Gibeah was King Saul’s capital (I Sam. 15:34). This city had a commanding view of the Central Benjamin Plateau from its position on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 19:13).

    A third possibility might have been Bethel (el-Birah). This city was situated on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 21:19) and had Patriarchal connections. This was the second place Abraham built an altar after he entered the Promised Land (Gen. 12:8-9). Jacob had his hallmark “ladder dream” at Bethel and it was at that event that God reconfirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob (Gen. 28:11-22; cf. John 1:51).

    A fourth possibility is Gibeon (el-Jib) because “this great city, like one of the royal cities” (Josh. 10:2) was strategically located on the Central Benjamin Plateau and controlled the road leading to the Beth Horon Ridge Route. This road goes from the Central Benjamin Plateau to the International Coastal Highway and the port city of Jaffa.

    The last city David could have chosen was Shechem (Tel Balatah). It too was located on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 21:19) at a strategic junction where the road splits. One could go west between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, or go northeast down to Tirzah and the Wadi Farah. Shechem, like some of the other cities, had Patriarchal connections as well. This was the first place Abraham built an altar after he came into the Promised Land (Gen. 12:6, 7) and Joseph is buried there (Josh. 24:32). Interestingly, Shechem was made the first capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) by Jeroboam I following the division of the kingdom (I Kings 12:23).

    These five cities may have geographically, militarily, and strategically made better capitals for the Kingdom of Israel, yet Jebus (Jerusalem) was chosen … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.
    Why Jebus (Jerusalem) Should Not Have Been Chosen

    The ancient city of Jebus is situated on the ridge above the Gihon Spring. Jebus, later named the City of David, covered a small area of approximately 10 acres (Mazar 2007:12). It was not located on the Patriarchal Highway, in fact, one had to turn off the ridge route (the Patriarchal Highway) in order to get to the city (Judges 19:10-12). The city is also isolated by steep valleys (Psalm 125:1, 2). The Kidron Valley is on the east and the Tyropean Valley (Central Valley) is on the west (Neh. 2:13). The city is isolated and in a bowl because it is surrounded by hills (Psalm 125:1, 2). Strategically and geographically, Jebus (Jerusalem) should not have been chosen the capital of Israel, yet it was … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.
    Why Was It Chosen the Capital?

    There are two reasons Jerusalem was chosen the capital of Israel. The first, from David’s perspective, is political. The second, from God’s perspective, and more importantly, is spiritual.
    Political Reason

    Jerusalem was not conquered during the initial conquest of the Land by Joshua (Josh. 15:63). Thus it was still controlled by the Jebusites. During the period of the Judges, Judah and Benjamin could not drive the Jebusites out of the city (Judges 1:21; cf. 19:12).

    When David came to the throne, he first ruled from Hebron. In order to unify the country, he had to find a “neutral” site that was not in the tribal territory of Judah. The unconquered city of Jebus was in the tribal territory of Benjamin (Josh. 15:7, 8; 18:16, 28). Also, there were not any Benjamites living in the city because the Jebusites were able to regain the city after Judah took the city and burned it during the period of the Judges (Judges 1:8; Mazar 2007:47-48).

    David also understood the geo-political realities of the tribal territory of Benjamin. The easiest and most convenient road from Jericho, and thus the Transjordanian Plateau, to the International Coast Highway in the west was via the Central Benjamin Plateau. The tribal territory of Benjamin is lower in elevation than the territories of Judah to its south and Ephraim to its north. David wanted to keep the tribe of Benjamin on Judah’s side so he could control these east-west roads and not let them fall under Ephraim’s control. Eventually, David and his men were able to take the city of Jebus and he moved the capital to the city (II Sam. 5:6-10; I Chron. 11:4-9).
    Spiritual Reason

    God used David as a human instrument to bring about His divine purpose of placing His name in the capital of Jerusalem. Just before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, the LORD instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel that they were to meet the LORD three times a year in a place that He would choose to place His name (Deut. 12:1-11). “But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit … then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD” (12:10-11).

    God does not reveal the identity of this place until nearly 400 years later when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon prayed: “O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ and You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place” (I Kings 8:28, 29; see also 8:44, 48; cf. II Chron. 6:20, 33, 34, 38; Ps. 78:67-69; 132:13, 14). The LORD affirmed Solomon’s prayer when He said: “I have heard your prayer and supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (I Kings 9:3; cf. II Chron. 7:12, 16).

    God chose to place His name in Jerusalem because of the two events that transpired in the city that are recorded in the book of Genesis. Both events foreshadow the Person and Work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The first event is recorded in Genesis 14. In this account, Abram delivers his nephew Lot from the Mesopotamian kings at the city of Laish (Dan). On his way back to the Negev he stops at the Valley of Shaveh (cf. II Sam. 18:18) and meets Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of Salem and also the priest of the Most High God (El Elyon). The King / Priest blessed Abram and Abram in turn gave a tithe to Melchizedek (14:18-20; cf. Heb. 7:1-4).

    The Book of Hebrews gives a divine commentary on this passage as well as Psalm 110 where David stated, “The LORD (Yahweh) has sworn and will not relent, ‘You (David’s Lord) are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'” (110:4). In Hebrews 5:5, 6, God (the Father) said to David’s Lord (God’s Son), “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (a quotation from Psalm 2:7), and also “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (a quotation from Psalm 110:4). Later, Jesus is identified as the Son who is the “High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:20).

    King David composed Psalm 110, a beautiful and prophetic psalm, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God (Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36). In this psalm, David’s Lord is commanded to “Sit at My (Yahweh’s) right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (110:1). David, also being a prophet (Acts 2:30), foresaw the day when his descendent would rule forever from Zion (cf. Luke 1:31-33; Matt. 22:41-46; II Sam. 7:4-17; I Chron. 17:3-15). Zion is another name for the City of David, Salem, or Jerusalem (II Sam. 5:7; Ps. 76:1, 2; I Kings 8:1).

    The first reason God chose Jerusalem as the capital is because one day, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune God, will return again to the Mount of Olives with His saints and sit upon the throne of David and establish His Kingdom over all the earth in Jerusalem as a King / Priest (Zech. 14; cf. Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:5-8; Zech. 12:10; Rev. 19:11-19).

    The second event recorded in the book of Genesis was Abraham offering up Isaac on a mountain in the Land of Moriah (Gen. 22), called in Jewish tradition Akedah, for the “binding” of Isaac. The Temple built by Solomon was located on Mount Moriah (II Chron. 3:1).

    In this touching account, God tested Abraham by commanding him to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the Land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (22:2). In the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, it says, “Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved – Isaac.” The Greek word for “beloved one” in the LXX is the same word used of Jesus at His baptism and transfiguration. The voice from heaven, God the Father, said at His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Again at the transfiguration He said: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5).

    Abraham took his son Isaac, two young men, and a donkey that carried the wood for the sacrifice to the Land of Moriah. When they could see the mountain, Abraham said to the young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (22:5). Abraham said, “we (plural) will come back”, fully anticipating that Isaac would return with him, even though God had said to sacrifice him!

    Rabbis and commentators have had a field day trying to figure out this paradox. How could Abraham kill his son as a sacrifice, yet they were going to return together from worshiping God? Again, the book of Hebrews gives us a divine commentary on this event. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it is said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (11:17-19). Abraham fully believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead, if he killed him.

    As the father (Abraham) and the son (Isaac) walked together to the mountain with the wood on the son’s shoulders, and the knife and fire in the father’s hands, Isaac asks, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (22:7). Abraham solemnly responded, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8).

    Abraham built an altar and bound his beloved son and placed him on it. As he was about to slay him with the knife, the Angel of the LORD stopped him with these words: “Do not lay your hands on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (22:12).

    Abraham lifted up his eyes, probably filled with tears, and saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket. He took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son Isaac and named the place, “The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided'” (22:13, 14).

    The Lord Jesus was visiting the Temple during the Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles) in AD 29 when He had an encounter with the religious leaders. The topic of discussion was Father Abraham. They asked Jesus if He was greater than Abraham and the prophets. Jesus answered in the affirmative and said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The religious leaders said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (8:57). With that, the Lord Jesus asserted His deity by saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58). The religious leaders understood that Jesus was attributing the divine name I AM WHO I AM (cf. Ex. 3:14) to Himself and so they picked up stones to throw at Him for blasphemy (John 8:59).

    But what did Jesus mean by, “You father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad”? What day was he talking about and why was he glad? I believe this statement goes back to the account in Genesis 22. Abraham, the friend of God, somehow knew of the Person and work of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, because he called the name of the place “The LORD Will Provide” which meant “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Abraham said to Isaac that God would provide a lamb as a burnt offering, and a ram was caught in the thicket. The ram is not a lamb! The ram was a substitute for Isaac, the ram died in Isaac’s place. It is not until 2,000 years later that John the Baptizer [remember, John was a Jew, not a Baptist!!!] was at Bethany beyond the Jordan (Batanea) when he saw Jesus approaching him after His 40 days of testing (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13) and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus was the Lamb that God would provide Himself (Gen. 22:8).

    It was on Mount Moriah that Solomon built a Temple (and later the Second Temple stood) where people could bring sacrifices that could only atone for, or cover sins, but could never take away sins. It was on a nearby hill, called Calvary, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless, Lamb of God, died as the perfect sacrifice in order to pay for all the sins of all humanity (Heb. 9:11-10:18; 13:13; I John 2:2; John 19:16-42). The final cry from the cross was “It is finished” (John 19:30). This word was used of a financial transaction that stated a bill was paid in full.

    In the Mount of the LORD, eternal redemption was provided by God and He offers His righteousness to any and all who would put their trust in the Lamb of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Macedonia and said if anyone could gain salvation by their good works, or their own merits, it was himself (Phil. 3:4-6). But he came to realize the great truth, “and be found in Him [the Lord Jesus], not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (3:9).

    The Apostle Peter stated that redemption was not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but it was by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18, 19).

    The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes [trust in, or rely upon] in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
    The Answer to the Question

    God chose Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because of the priority He placed on His Son and His Son’s coming to redeem sinners. Jerusalem figures prominently, practically, and prophetically into Jesus’s coming to earth. The two Jerusalem-centered events in the book of Genesis foreshadowed the Person and work of the Lord Jesus in His first and second comings to earth. The first time He came, He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world on a cross outside Jerusalem. The second time He will come, He will be the King / Priest who will rule the world from the Davidic throne on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

    Gold, Dore

    2007 The Fight for Jerusalem. Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City. Washington, DC: Regnery.

    Mazar, Eilat

    2007 Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center Area. Jerusalem and New York: Shalem.

    1 All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version.

  • Paul and Places Comments Off on THE ARCH OF TITUS AND THE OLIVE TREE OF ROMANS 11

    by Gordon Franz

    During the last two decades of the First Century AD, Rome was in the grip of the self-deified Emperor Domitian.  Imagine a small group of believers in the Lord Jesus walking pass the Coliseum in Rome and turning westward toward the Roman Forum and the Capitoline Hill.  They observe at the highest point of the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) the newly erected Arch of Titus.  Perhaps a few in this group might be struck by the olive groves on both sides of the road and caught the irony of this view.  The Arch of Titus commemorated the triumphal procession by the Roman army after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and also memorialized the apotheosis of Titus, but what of the olive trees?

    Imagine again that one of these individuals in the group had survived the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Roman army, was brought to Rome as a prisoner and was paraded as a captive in the triumphal procession of Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus.  He was later sold as a slave in the Eternal City, Rome.  Perhaps the household this individual was sold into also had Christian slaves.  Eventually one of the Christians shared with this Jewish person the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.  The message was simple.  God loved the world and sent His Son, the spotless Lamb of God – the sinless Lord Jesus, to die and pay for the sins of all humanity.  He offers the free gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, God’s righteousness and a home in Heaven to any and all that would put their trust in the Lord Jesus as their Savior.  Doing good works and obeying the commandments were not good enough to merit God’s righteousness.  Only faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone would gain God’s favor (John 3:16; Rom. 4:5; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 2:8, 9: I Pet. 1:18, 19; I John 2:2).  This Jewish slave was touched by this message and trusted the Lord Jesus as Messiah and Savior.

    As this group of believers walks up the Via Sacra, the new convert ponders some verses that were read that morning at a meeting of the brothers and sisters in the Messiah Jesus.  The verses said: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?  As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39, NKJV).

    The Jewish convert was joyful in the fact that absolutely nothing could separate a believer in the Lord Jesus from the love of God.  But there were several burning questions in his mind, who as a teen-ager had experienced tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword at the hands of the Romans in Jerusalem several decades before.  When he viewed for the first time the panel on the Arch of Titus with the Temple implements being carried off in the triumphal procession he asked the group: “Does God still love ethnic Israel?  He said He did (Deut. 7:8; Jer. 31:3).  Is He finished with her, or is there still a future for the nation of Israel?”  The leader stepped off the Via Sacra and walked over to a branch in the olive groves and said, “The answer to your question, dear brother, is found in this olive tree.  Yes, our loving God still has a future for the nation of Israel!”

    The Arch of Titus
    Emperor Domitian erected this single-fornix arch with elegant proportions in memory of his deceased brother, Titus, after he was deified by the Roman Senate in AD 81.  Above the arch was an inscription that read: “The Senate and the Roman people to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus the son of the deified Vespasian” (Holloway 1987:184).  This arch stood 15.40 meters high, 13.50 meters wide and 4.75 meters deep and was faced with Pentelic marble (Richardson 1992:30).

    There were three reliefs that would have caught the eyes of anybody walking under the arch.  As one looked up to the crown of the arch there was a relief with an eagle carrying the deified Emperor Titus to heaven.  This was his apotheosis (deification).

    There are also two passageway reliefs to note.  On the south side is a relief of the Roman army carrying off the booties from Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in the year AD 70.  The relief includes a menorah (lamp stand), the table of showbread with two vessels on it, and the two silver trumpets.  There were also soldiers holding signs with names of the cities conquered or pictures of various battle scenes.

    On the north side of the passageway is a relief with Titus riding a chariot being driven by Roma.  Nike, the goddess of victory, is crowning him with a wreath, showing his victory over the Jewish nation.

    Josephus, the first century Jewish historian and an adopted member of the Flavian family, gave a detailed account of this triumphal procession in his book, Jewish Wars, written about AD 75 (7:123-157; LCL 3:541-551).  After the triumph, some of the objects were placed in the Temple of Peace (Templum Pax) built by Vespasian near the Roman Forum and other objects were placed in his palace on the Palatine Hill (Wars 7:158-162; LCL 3:551-553; Richardson 1992:286-287).

    There was another arch built a few years earlier that was dedicated to Emperor Titus’ victory over the Jewish people in the Circus Maximus but it is not known archaeologically today.  It is, however, known from coins, reliefs and mosaics (Richardson 1992:30).  One of the inscriptions on this arch states:
    “The Senate and the Roman People to the Emperor Titus Caesar Vespasian Augustus the son of the deified Vespasian Pontifex Maximus, holder of the tribunician power for the tenth time, imperator for the seventeenth time, consul for the eighth time, father of the fatherland, the very princeps of Rome because by example and advice of his father he overcame the Jews and destroyed the city of Jerusalem which even before was besieged by generals, Kings and peoples in vain or left unmolested by them” (Holloway 1987:191).

    The Olive Tree in Romans 11
    The Apostle Paul wrote an epistle to the church in Rome about AD 58.  At the end of chapter 8 of this epistle, he asks the question, “What can separate us from the love of God?”  (8:35). He answers his own question by saying, absolutely nothing! (8:35-39). A Jewish believer in the Lord Jesus, reading this statement after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 might ask the question, “What about ethnic Israel?  Is God finished with her?”  Paul answers these questions in the next three chapters of this book (Rom. 9-11).  In chapter 9 he discusses the past history of Israel and her election by grace.  In chapter 10 he presents present day Israel and how they are seeking righteousness from God by their works, and not by faith alone in Christ alone.  Finally in chapter 11 he reveals the future for ethnic Israel.  One day, all Israel will be saved (11:26).

    Our imaginary group gathers around an olive tree near the Arch of Titus.  The leader points to a wild olive branch that had been grafted into the olive tree and says: “The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to our church and described the root of an olive tree as the blessings to all the families of the earth promised in the Abrahamic Covenant (Rom. 11:16-18; cf. Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:6-9).  Some of the branches of the olive tree, ethnic Israel, had been broken off because of their unbelief; yet wild olive branches, Gentiles, were grafted in (11:17-22).  The salvation of Gentiles was to provoke ethnic Israel to jealousy (11:11-14).  If an individual Jewish person returned to the Lord Jesus and trusted Him as Messiah and Savior, they would be grafted back into the tree (11:23-25).  But there is a day coming when “all Israel shall be saved” when they look upon Him whom they have pierced (11:26; cf. Zech. 12:10; Rev. 1:7).

    For a discussion on grafting by one who was contemporary with the Apostle Paul, see Columella, De Re Rustica 5.11; LCL 2:101-113.  For a discussion on the arboriculture of Romans 11:17-24, see Baxter and Ziesler 1985:25-32; Ramsay 1905:16-34, 152-160; Bruce 1988:203-210.

    The Conclusion of the Whole Matter

    There are at least two theological truths that could be drawn by a believer in the Lord Jesus in the 1st century AD who visited the Arch of Titus.  First, Emperor Titus was declared to be the son of a god by a vote of the Roman Senate and his apotheosis was validated by large inscriptions over monumental structures, by coins, and by a relief showing him ascending to heaven on the back of an eagle.  In sharp contrast, the Lord Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by His bodily resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4), and this declaration was validated by the many eye-witnesses who saw Him after His resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-9).  The resurrected and living Lord Jesus is infinitely superior to the dead and cremated Emperor Titus (Aitken 2001:73-88; 2005:82-85).

    Second, the two scenes from the passageway of the Arch of Titus indicated that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and some might conclude that God had rejected ethnic Israel.  However, the Apostle Paul illustrated from the olive tree in Romans 11 that Israel’s rejection was not complete, but only partial and that there remains a remnant of Israel according to the election of grace (11:5).  Their rejection was not final, but only temporary because one day in the future “all Israel shall be saved” (11:26).


    Aitken, Ellen Bradshaw
    2001    Portraying the Temple in Stone and Text: The Arch of Titus and the Epistle to the Hebrews.  Pp. 73-88 in Religious Texts and Material Context.  Edited by J. Neusner and J. Strange.  Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

    2005    Reading Hebrews in Flavian Rome.  Union Seminary Quarterly Review 59: 82-85.

    Baxter, A. G.; and Ziesler, J. A.
    1985    Paul and Arboriculture: Romans 11:17-24.  Journal for the Study of the New Testament 24: 25-32.

    Bruce, F. F.
    1988    The Letter of Paul to the Romans.  Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

    Columella, Lucius Junius Moderatus
    1968    De Res Rustica (On Agriculture), Books 5-9.  Vol. 2.  Trans. by E. S. Forster and E. H. Heffner.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 407.

    Holloway, R. Ross
    1987    Some Remarks on the Arch of Titus.  L’Antiquite Classique 56: 183-191.

    1979    Jewish Wars, Books 4-7.  Vol. 3.  Trans. by H. Thackeray.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 210.

    Ramsay, William
    1905    The Olive-Tree and the Wild-Olive.  Expositor, 6th series, 11:16-34, 152-160.  Reprinted   in Pauline and Other Studies in Early Christian History. New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1906: 219-250.

    Richardson, L., Jr.
    1992   A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.  Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University.

  • Messianic Passages Comments Off on JONAH: THE PROPHET WITH AN ATTITUDE

    by Gordon Franz


    Jonah has been called the wayward prophet, or the fleeing prophet.  I would suggest that he is a prophet with an attitude!  God gave him a clear command to do something and he did the exact opposite.  Yet after chastening him, God, in grace and mercy, gave him a second chance.  And with that second chance, He did what the Lord commanded, but did it with an attitude.  When God demonstrated His unfathomable mercy toward the people of Nineveh, Jonah got very angry with God because He embarrassed him by not fulfilling His Word.  It got to the point where Jonah just wanted to bag his commission from the Lord and die.

    The city of Gath Hepher in Lower Galilee was home for Jonah when he prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25; ca. 760 BC).  The Lord told him to go in a northeast direction to the Assyrian city of Nineveh and cry against the inhabitants of that city because of their wickedness (Jonah 1:2).  Instead, Jonah went in the opposite direction – southwest to the seaport of Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea.  His intent was to flee from the presence of the Lord by going to Tarshish at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea (in modern day Spain).

    While Jonah knew the Word of God he conveniently forgot, or ignored, the words of a Davidic psalm: “Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea [like Tarshish], even there Your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (139:7-10).

    God had to get the attention of His wayward, fleeing servant so He caused a great wind storm to almost sink the ship Jonah was aboard.  When the captain and the crew discovered Jonah was running from his God, they inquired from Jonah what should be done to calm the sea.  He matter-of-factly said that they should throw him overboard.  Jonah knew the Word of God and understood the doctrine of the chastening of the Lord (Prov. 3:11-12; cf. Heb. 12:3-13).  Jonah acknowledged that the storm was used by the Lord as a tool to chasten him and to bring him back to the Lord.  Jonah, however, had been fast asleep in the bottom of the boat and did not want to be exercised by the chastening of the Lord (Jonah 1:5; cf. Heb. 12:11).

    In the Belly of the Great Fish

    God prepared a unique sea creature, simply called in the Hebrew text, a great fish (dag gadol).  The Lord Jesus called it a “ketos” (Matt. 12:40).  It was not a whale, but a special creature created by God that swallowed Jonah for His purposes.

    After three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, Jonah finally came to his senses and prayed in faith to the Lord.  His prayer was a psalm of thanksgiving that he composed with lines from a number of Davidic psalms (Jonah 2:2-9)[1].

    This suggests that Jonah knew the Davidic psalms, and perhaps even had them memorized, so that in times of trouble he could turn to the psalms for comfort, focus and encouragement.  He also understood the principle that Solomon stated in his dedicatory pray for the Temple.  In times of trouble, pray to the LORD in the Temple in Jerusalem (Jonah 2:4, 7; cf. 2 Chron. 6:20-21).

    The God of the Second Chance

    After the great fish vomited up Jonah on dry ground, God appeared to Jonah a second time (3:1).  He gave this wayward prophet a second chance to fulfill the commission that was given.

    Jonah obeyed this time but he still had an attitude.  He proclaimed the message that God gave him, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be overthrown!” (3:4). God was merciful to the inhabitants of Nineveh and He withheld His judgment from them because they believed God (put their trust in Him) and then turned from their wicked ways (3:5-10; cf. Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).

    Jonah was extremely upset with God because he had prophesized that God was going to overthrow the city and he relished the thought of God nuking Nineveh.  When he complained to the Lord in prayer he said: “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was in my country?  Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (4:2).

    Jonah understood these truths because the Lord had proclaimed them in Exodus 34:6-7: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation.”  The first four attributes of the God – mercy, grace, longsuffering and goodness – were used by Jonah in his prayer.  This suggests that Jonah knew the Torah as well and perhaps even had it memorized.  Yet he still had an attitude.  He was angry because he did not want God to be God and show unmerited love and mercy to the Gentile world.

    A Greater Than Jonah

    The Lord Jesus, when confronted by the scribes and Pharisees, was asked by them for a sign.  He responded: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:38-41 // Luke 11:29-32).

    The sign of Jonah – three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish – was a prophetic picture of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  For the Ninevites, their faith in God leads to their salvation.  Jesus, referring to Himself, said that a greater than Jonah was here because believers in the Lord Jesus, like the inhabitants of Nineveh, should have been judged by God for their sins and wickedness, but God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

    The Lord Jesus, unlike Jonah, had a different attitude toward the world around Him.  He saw His mission as seeking and saving that which was lost (Luke 19:10) and giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  In Gethsemane He prayed three times, “Father, if it be Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done’” (Luke 22:42 // Matt. 26:39, 42, 44 // Mark 14:36).  This was in fulfillment of a Messianic passage in Psalm 40: “Then I [Messiah] said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of Me.  I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within My heart’” (40:7-8; cf. Heb. 10:5-10).

    Lessons from the Life of Jonah

    There are at least four lessons we can learn from the life of Jonah.  First, knowing the Word of God and its doctrines, or even memorizing the Scriptures, does not make one spiritual, or Spirit-filled.  Jonah knew the Davidic psalms and also the Torah.  He also knew the doctrine of God’s chastening of His wayward children.  Yet he still had an attitude.  The believer in the Lord Jesus needs to humbly submit to the Spirit of God and let Him use the Word of God to work in the life of the believer.  We need a humble and contrite heart that will submit to the instructions of the Scriptures and be obedient to its commands (Heb. 4:12, 13; Ps. 119:11).

    Second, when we sin and God disciplines us, we need to be exercised by that discipline.  Jonah refused to be exercised by the chastening of the Lord while he was fast asleep in the ship.  God ratcheted up the chastisement by preparing the great fish.  That finally got Jonah’s attention and he began to be exercised by God’s discipline.  God chastens us in order to bring us back to His Word and Himself.  Let us learn these lessons quickly so God does not have to scourge us severely (Heb. 12:3-13).

    Third, Jonah had an exclusive view of missions.  He thought God only loved the children of Israel and was reluctant to go to the Gentiles.  This is in marked contrast to the Lord Jesus who said to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  James and John had the same spirit as Jonah.  When the Samaritans rejected the Lord Jesus they asked Him if they should call down fire from heaven just like Elijah did.  Jesus rebuked them by saying, “You do now know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:51-56).  Christians should see the world the same way the Lord does: people heading to a Christ-less eternity.  Our hearts and lives should seek to win them to the Savior.  A contemporary song writer caught the essence of this heart’s desire:

    Looking Through His Eyes


    Let me see this world dear Lord as,

    though I were looking through Your eyes.

    A world of men who don’t want You Lord,

    but a world for which You died.


    Let me kneel with You in the garden,

    blur my eyes with tears of agony.

    For if once I could see this world,

    the way You see it, I just know I’d

    serve You more faithfully.


    Let me see this world dear Lord,

    through Your eyes when men mock

    Your holy Name.  When they beat You

    and spat upon You Lord, let me love

    them as You loved them just the same.


    Let me stand high above my petty

    problems and grieve for men Hell

    bound eternally.  For if once I could

    see this world the way you see it

    I just know I’d serve You more faithfully.

    -Mike Otto-

    Finally, when we gathered to worship the Lord Jesus, we do not come to remember our sins, nor our blessings (as many as they may be), nor do we remember Jonah; but rather, we gather to remember a “greater than Jonah” – the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was the One who, unlike Jonah, was obedient to the will of His Father.  He was the One who died for our sins and was in the heart of the earth for three days and nights, but rose triumphantly again from the dead.  We should contemplate, like Jonah did, the Lord’s mercy, grace, longsuffering and goodness because a greater than Jonah is in our midst (cf. Matt. 18:20).

    [1] The lines of this psalm are taken from Davidic psalms (D); psalms of the Sons of Korah (K); psalms of Asaph (A); and unattributed psalms (U).  Jonah 2:2a, cf. Psalm 3:4 (D); 120:1 (A); Jonah 2:2b, cf. Psalm 18:4, 5 (D); 30:3 (D); Jonah 2:3a, cf. Psalm 88:6, 7 (K); Jonah 2:3b, cf. Psalm 42:7 (K); Jonah 2:4a, cf. Psalm 31:22 (D); Jonah 2:4b, cf. Psalm 5:7 (D); Jonah 2:5a, cf. Psalm 69:1, 2 (D); Jonah 2:6b, cf. Psalm 49:15 (K); 56:13 (D);103:4 (D); Jonah 2:7a, cf. Psalm 107:5 (U); 142:3 (D); Jonah 2:7b, cf. Psalm 18:6 (D); Jonah 2:8a, cf. Psalm 31:6 (D); Jonah 2:9a, cf. Psalm 50:14, 23 (A); 69:30 (D); 107:22 (?); Jonah 2:9c, cf. Psalm 3:8 (D); 37:39 (D).



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