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Today's Readings: Joshua 19 | Isaiah 25 | Hebrew 8,9

Reading 1 - Josh 19

In Josh 18:11 through Josh 19:48, the seven remaining tribes receive their inheritances according to lot: Benjamin (Jos 18:11-28); Simeon (Jos 19:1-9); Zebulun (Jos 19:10-16); Issachar (Jos 19:17-23); Asher (Jos 19:24-31); Naphtali (Jos 19:32-39); and Dan (Jos 19:40-48).

"These are the territories that Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel assigned by lot at Shiloh in the presence of the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. And so they finished dividing the land" (v 51).

Reading 2 - Isa 25:7,8

"On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken" (Isa 25:7,8).

"It is the picture of the angel of the Lord personally wiping away for ever the tears of sadness which have been inevitable in the experience of all saints in Christ. This incomparable comfort will be one of the greatest of the blessings of the kingdom of God. For the assurance of the sore-tested believer it is so picked out in two Apocalyptic visions of the age to come (Rev 7:17; 21:4). Behind these words is yet a further comfort. More than once it has been said: 'How shall I be able to enjoy the blessedness of the kingdom if one whom I have so long and so dearly loved does not share it with me?' To this Isaiah's answer is that even such tears will be wiped away. The implication is that all memories involving sadness will be blotted out by the imparting of a superb faculty for forgetting: 'Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded' (Jer 31:16)" (Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah" 269).

Reading 3 - Heb 9:16,17

"In the case of a will [Greek 'diatheke': the same word as 'covenant'] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living" (Heb 9:16,17).

The whole of this translation, not that much different from the KJV and various other versions, presumes the Greek word "diatheke" to be a will, or testament, which is only in force after the death of the testator. But the primary meaning of this word is 'covenant', not 'will' or 'testament'. This is a very secondary and specialized meaning of the word. In short, every will is a covenant, but not every covenant is a will!

However, some translations (notably the Emphatic Diaglott) seem to have gotten it right, assuming the more general meaning of "covenant". And thus we might translate vv 16,17:

"For where a covenant is made, there must of necessity be the death of the covenant-victim. For a covenant is only in force over a dead body [this is Jer 34:18-20!], because it is not binding as long as the covenant-victim lives."

Weymouth's translation has this footnote: "It is possible that the real meaning is, 'For where a covenant is made, there must be evidence of the death of the covenant-victim...' "

With this Bullinger is in general agreement, and Rotherham has an interesting note on the word "covenant": "The NT word 'diatheke' signifies 'covenant' because it is the LXX rendering of the Hebrew 'berith' which everywhere in the OT means covenant and covenant only... It is a word in common use to denote all sorts of covenants between all sorts of persons." Rotherham then goes out to trace the obvious connections with "berith" (covenant) in Exodus 24 and "diatheke" (covenant) in Mat 26:27,28 -- as a guide to its meaning in the Letter to the Hebrews.

The point is obvious: If Christ were making a "last will and testament", then it could only have effect if he remained dead. But he has been raised from the dead, to share in the benefits of the "diatheke", indeed, to receive the benefits of the "diatheke" first of all for himself, before it could be for others. And so -- since Christ is not dead, but gloriously and eternally alive -- the whole idea of a testament and a testator breaks down totally when applied to him and the saints.

Christ therefore is being described here as the "covenant-victim" (cp Gen 15:17; Jer 34:18,19): his death -- in addition to being a sacrifice for sins -- was also the antitype of the death of the special animal called the "covenant-victim". It was through this death that the new covenant was ratified (cp generally Luk 1:72,73; Rom 15:8; Acts 3:25,26).


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