Monday, March 3, 2014

Biblical POINTERS in the Qur’an and Talmud March 2016

                                    Biblical POINTERS in the Qur’an and Talmud
-        a comparison of biblical personalities in the Qur’an and Talmud

Adam and Abel – Bloody Affairs     
Noah, the Warner       
Abraham, the Friend of God
Ishmael, an unfair Pariah of the Scriptures? 
Isaac, the obedient Son             
Jacob, the deceiver, gets a new name            
Joseph and his special Gifts   
Moses, God’s special Instrument       
David, a man after God’s Heart        
Jonah gets another Chance    
Jeremiah, a man of Sorrows
Daniel, the consistent Prayer Warrior
The encouraging Archangel Gabriel 
Jesus and John, the Baptist    
Jesus, the Messiah

Mary, the Mother of our Lord
The Son of Mary or the Son of God?
Elijah and Elisha
Paul, the Apostle, regarding Joseph

The studies of biblical personalities figuring in the Qur’an and Talmud are thoroughly revised scripts of a broadcast on Cape Community FM Radio (C.C.F.M.) as a series in 1997 and 1999. Some of the material has also been used at the teaching course Love Your Muslim Neighbour and its successor My Muslim Neighbour and Me. 
            This is an effort to find some common ground in the three monotheistic religions, faiths that believe in a single deity. In these studies we look at historical figures, which are found in the Scriptures of the three religions that have Abraham as common arch-father. Jewish sages of the first centuries of the Common Era appear to have especially probed oral material around those issues on which the Bible is silent. It is common knowledge among insiders that the Qur’an owes much to contemporary Jews of Muhammad in Mecca and Medina, as well as to converts from Jewry to Islam. Christians – including Mary, a Coptic slave and Khadiyah, his first wife and especially her cousin Waraqah - account for many influences. We endeavour to show how biblical figures that are mentioned in the Qur’an foreshadow Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures[1] and Talmudic sources. It is quite fascinating to see how especially the Jewish Talmud includes pointed information about him. Given the origins of Christianity in Judaism and the proximity of the two religions in the first century AD, this is not really surprising. All the more it is sad how Early Christianity seemed to prefer pagan traditions. One of the most striking is the Pesach Seder meal with so many pointers to Jesus. To just pick out one that struck me especially - the custom of the breaking of the middle Mazot of three, that had been wrapped in a napkin apiece. This piece is hidden, to be found later by one of the children. What a picture is this of the middle one of the Holy Trinity, the middle one that was hidden in the grave and then found! But what a distortion of the beautiful Seder tradition followed in Christianity when children go and look for hidden easter egg nests on the supposed third day morning Resurrection Celebration.
            A few questions were raised in my mind as I pondered over the links to Islam. The similarity of Ebionite Christianity, which developed from early Judaic beliefs through to Islam, did answer some of my probing. However, I also discovered that all pointers to the Cross and the crucifixion have been omitted in the Qur’an. I am really interested to know what is the position in the other manuscripts that were destroyed by Uthman, the third Kaliph. This certainly poses a challenge for archaeologists and researchers.
            I am also curious why it seems as if hardly any serious questioning has been put to the Qur’anic figure Gabriel. It is clear that Muhammad and the Qur’an believed the figure, which appeared to the prime Islamic prophet to have been identical to the biblical archangel. It is not necessary to delve very deeply to discover that the way in which Muhammad received his revelations and the effect on him was completely different to the three people in the Bible who are mentioned to have had visitations by Gabriel (Daniel, Mary and Zechariah).  Is this feature of the Qur’an purely incidental or are there other precedents in Judaism? (In the Nazarene Gospel the ‘angel’ who came to Mary became John the Baptist.) At any rate, we use this feature - plus the fact that Islam regards the Hadith as equal in authority to the Qur’an, to include a study on Gabriel, although there are only two occurrences in the Qur’an and also only relatively few times in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud. There are many oral traditions in Islam in which Jibril, as Gabriel is called in Islamic parlance, figure.
                Traditionally Christians have been speaking – sometimes derogatorily - about the ‘Old Testament’, forgetting that the Bible is a unit, where both parts are equal in value. The Tenach, consisting of the first letters in Hebrew for the Law (Torah, the Prophets (Nebiim) and other Scriptures (Chetubim), is very much a basis for the 'New Testament'. We attempt to stay clear of this tradition, referring to Hebrew Scriptures instead of ‘Old Testament’ and writing 'New Testament' or NT in inverted comma's. When I refer to the Good News as the summary of the Christian message I will write it with a capital G, thus Gospel as against the individual gospels.
            Early Talmudic allegoric literature appears to be very close to Christian positions. What has become very clear to me is that the adherents of the three Abrahamic religions could rally around the person of Jesus. I am aware that a lot of baggage that is called tradition will have to be dropped.  It would be nevertheless great if the present studies could help towards this process, although I am very much aware that this would not be easy at all. Due to the nature of the material, some repetition is inevitable.

                                                                                    Ashley D.I. Cloete,
                                                                                    Cape Town, March 2016

Adam and Abel – Bloody Affairs

The Bible does not tell much about the history of the earth before the tower of Babel. Valuable additional oral material passed down the centuries, found their way into the Jewish Talmud and probably from there to the Qur’an. Muhammad had contact with various Jewish people in Medina and on his journeys as a trader. Jewish converts to Islam evidently also influenced him substantially.
Attention given to Creation
In Talmudic material much attention is given to creation. This is not surprising at all. The Hebrew nation understood their Almighty God as a deity that speaks creatively. With the words he spoke, he created out of nothing. And whatever He created, was very good (Genesis 1:31). There was furthermore harmony between the creator and His creation.
         The harmony and unity between God, nature and the first human beings is amplified through his communication with them in the cool of the evening. The speaking God of the Bible has a special interest to see his creation happy. Simultaneously this highlights the aloof and punishing gods of the ancient world.
When God created the body of man, according to the Talmud, He prepared to join it with the soul, which had been created on the first day. The sixth day, of creation is highlighted especially. On this day God made human beings. God is said to have discussed the creation of humans with the angels, who were apparently not too sure that it was a good idea. Some of the angels resented the idea that God would create another being and they complained. God, tired of their rebellion, pointed his finger at these angels and they were consumed by fire. God then ordered the angel Gabriel to go and bring soil from the four corners of the earth, with which to make man. When Gabriel began his task, he apparently learned that the earth was reluctant to give up any soil for the creation of humans. The earth knew that mankind would someday ruin the earth and spoil its beauty. Upon hearing this, God himself scooped up the earth and fashioned Adam, the first man.
The biblical personalities Adam and Abel are mentioned in the Qur’an. Muslim writers reckon Adam as the first prophet. Allâh is said to have conversed with angels before the creation. According to Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:30-31: ‘And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif (a viceroy, namely Adam), they said: What! Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know. And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if you are right.”  In this Qur’anic snippet the central Hebraic tenet of the shedding of blood is mentioned. the shedding of innocent blood by the off-spring of Adam is thus obliquely referred to, namely the killing of Abel by Cain. Talmudic tradition attempted to exonerate Cain to some extent by pointing out that Cain desired the beautiful twin sister of Abel (Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer, 1970:154). (This at the same time would explain the riddle where Cain got his wife from).
Divine Over-ruling of human Disobedience
In the creation story the disobedience to the divine instruction was the cause of havoc. God granted authority and dominion to man over the earth, linked to obedience to the divine command and man's free will to obey or not. Disobedience would lead to slavery - becoming the slave of satan. Genesis 3:1 tells us that 'the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field,' while Genesis 3:12 records Adam's words to God, ' I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.'  There is an interesting play on words in the Hebrew text. In verse 1 the word translated "cunning" is the Hebrew word arum while in verse 12 the word translated "naked" is the Hebrew word erom. Both are from the identical root (the letters ayin, resh, mem). The devil was arum, Adam was erom. Our arch ancestors sought to become like God, but their disobedience caused them to become like the devil!             Disruption of the unity between man and God, discord between Adam and Eve and strife between man and nature (Genesis 3:15) were the result of man's first act of disobedience. The basic enmity though is between the seed of the snake and the seed of man. Interesting is the divine intervention, the provision of skins, which was of course preceded by the slaughtering of an animal and the shedding of blood. This pattern can be found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, viz. how the Almighty overruled the disobedience and wrong compromises of sinful human beings. The ultimate sacrifice was that of his Son, the Lamb of God, which made all other sacrifices redundant.
Spirit of Cain
In the same context Rabbi Zadok[2], suggested that a great hatred entered Cain’s heart against his brother because Abel’s offering had been accepted. The Bible is quite clear on the reason (Genesis 4:7): ‘If you do right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’ This would rule out a wanton decision, which only depended on the shedding of blood. Otherwise God could have been accused of being unjust, that Cain was given no chance at all. It is a spirit that ensures that a person, territory, or generation does not bring a pure offering before God. The spirit of Cain uses different ways to accomplish this, and one of its primary ways is through bloodguilt.
Bloodguilt influences the psyche of a human in such a way that the person loses the ability to discern and uphold the difference between good and evil. Bloodguilt disrupts the mental constitution of the lawbreaker. It ultimately hinders productivity.
Cain killed his brother because his brother brought an acceptable offering before God. Satan entered into Cain to eliminate Abel so that Abel would not have the chance to do that again. Neither would Cain because he is blood guilty. At the end of the day the devil succeeds to ensure that God does not get a pure offering.

The Aspect of Firstlings
Another reason that seems to get only scant attention in both Judaism and Christianity is the aspect of firstlings. The Hebrew Scriptures mention this tenet quite a few times, namely that a special blessing rests on the ‘first fruit’ of the harvest.[3] Abel gave of the first-lings and Cain apparently did not do it. In some church circles the concept has been consistently abused when tithing is mentioned and Malachi 4:10 is quoted as a special financial promise of God if we do our part. In that context it is intrinsically about the difference between a pure and a defiled offering. Some profound ideas were expressed by Segun Olanipekun of the Institute for Christian Leadership Development in the wake of the wanton bloodshed in South Africa. I cite extensively from the Herald Ministry response to the xenophobic violence in the country as mentioned in their newsletter of 4 June 2008:
It is through a pure offering that God becomes part of the life of a person, people or generation. Without a pure offering, God cannot be part of a nation, territory or community. This is what the devil wants and we must pray that he does not get it. Pure offering consists in the quality of time, energy, and resources that a person or a people commit to God’s kingdom purposes. In Genesis 4 we see God respect and enjoy Abel’s offer of the firstborn, and of their fat Genesis 4:4. Later on in Scripture we see God’s demand for all the firstborn and first fruits. (Exodus 13:11-16, Exodus 34:20, Exodus 22:29-30).
The principle here can be described in simple terms as that of acknowledgement. A people must acknowledge that God is the giver of all things and demonstrate this by dedicating the first to Him. As soon as the first is given to God the rest can be enjoyed by the people. When the first and the best are not given to God the people also cannot enjoy the rest. It is about priority. Through this offering, God stamps His authority over all of creation and every aspect of life in that nation. When the first fruit and the best is not offered to God, it is taken that God is not acknowledged and that the person or the people do not require His presence, power, and guidance.
When God is absent, evil takes over. This is what the devil prefers. He prefers that a people treat God with levity, that they give God the left over and not the best. This will allow the devil to be part of such a people’s life instead of God.
Whenever the enemy seeks to attack a people, he incites them to break certain laws of God so as to make the land abominable, keep God’s presence off the territory, and saturate the place with demons.
It seems to me that the enemy succeeded in making previous generations guilty of blood one way or the other, and now he is in the same way leading the younger generation into the trap of blood guilt. His goal is to defile the generation and the territory with blood in order to prevent the possibility of a pure corporate offering from the younger generation.
In many countries in Africa and other parts of the world where God has not been acknowledged with the first fruit of human and natural resources, and the people are also unable to enjoy the resources. The skills are untapped and the mineral resources have become more of a curse than a blessing. May the Christian leaders in such nations begin to study and understand the principle of first fruits and that of a pure offering!

When God is not acknowledged in a generation through a pure offering, the number of fugitives and vagabonds increase. This translates into violence and increased disrespect for human life.
It is important to note that the spirit that disregards life is the spirit that disregards God in the first place.
As we see in Genesis 4, blood guilt also translates into decreased productivity. Cain could no longer tap or benefit from creation. In the midst of abundance Cain could not thrive. His life was in steady dissonance with the rest of creation ( verse 14).
Cain realised that as he was driven or absent from the presence of God, he would also not have favour with creation - ‘driven... from the face of the earth and hidden from God’s face’ (verse 14). Cain’s lifestyle, and the demonic presence accommodated in him, resulted in insecurity as he says ‘... anyone who finds me will kill me.

The Serpent at Work
According to Talmudic material the angels were concerned that another creature with a soul would exist. Among the most contentious of these angels was Sammael [meaning “venom of God”], who was also called satan. He questioned God: “You created us, the angels, from your Shekhinah [Divine Presence] and now you would place us over a lowly thing made of dirt? You would waste a soul on a piece of mud? You would create a thinking being out of dust?”  The entry of the serpent signifies the sowing of doubt into the mind of man in the authority of the word of the creator: 'Indeed, has God said...' This was conveying the message 'Did God really say...' This ushered in disunity, not only between God and his creation but also between the first humans mutually. Ultimately this was to lead to the 'fall' of man, to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, deportation from the special Presence and breaking the sweet communication between man and his Maker which they had enjoyed prior to the entry of the serpent.
         The dialogue between the serpent and the human couple is depicted in all colours in Jewish midrash (teaching orally passed on through the generations). The Genesis report is of course the basis - where disobedience is taken to be the main reason for the enmity between the seed of Eve and that of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). It is significant that the seed of the woman is mentioned in the singular. This points to a single person.
         The theme of disobedience is depicted as the basic sin – in this case listening and responding to the machinations and distortion of the serpent. This is thus highlighted right from the beginning of the Bible as the cause of the curse on man and all misery that came from that. In fact, the first lie was soon followed by the first murder in the very first generation when Cain killed his brother.
         Allegorical material of the Early Church builds upon the suggestion – also found in the Talmud - that the Messiah is the germinated seed of Eve. The 'New Testament' definitely regards the serpent as the personification of satan.  The devil (satan) is described as a fallen angel who disobeyed God’s command to the angels. Ever since satan has been regarded as the arch tempter of man. As they once had to slaughter innocent lambs obediently at the exodus from Egypt, the obedience of the Israelites was tested when they had to look at the brazen snake which would bring healing in its wings.  The serpents, which had bitten the rebellious, disobedient Israelites in the desert, remind us of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The great Serpent’s Head crushed   
The Church through the ages understood this as a pointer to the Messiah who would one day crush the serpent's head, giving a fatal blow to satan through his death and resurrection. The great serpent’s head was so to speak smashed on the cross of Calvary. That is why Jesus could prophetically challenge all generations to heed the universal meaning of his death on the cross: ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ (John 3:14f). The letter to the Hebrews, that is so close to Talmudic thinking, picks up the cue: ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’ (Hebrews 2:14ff). Paul, the apostle, surely had the same idea in mind when he wrote ‘the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Romans 16:20).

The Creation of Man in Islamic Tradition   
The Qur’an comes close to biblical and Talmudic tradition when Allâh is quoted to have said: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) you will; but approach not this tree, or you run into harm and transgression” (Surah al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:35). The dialogue between the serpent and the human couple gets no attention in the Qur’an.
In Islamic tradition the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) appears again and again to the prophets, beginning with Adam, to whom he gave consolation after the Fall (Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1989:136). Islamic tradition emphasises that Allâh created Adam without father and mother, just by his word ‘be’ and of course by his ‘ruch’, his breath.
According to Genesis 2:7, ‘the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground’. The name Adam is linked to adamah, which means soil. The image of God breathing into his nostrils with the association to the ru(a)ch (Spirit) is something that the Qur’an otherwise emphasises: Allâh created Nabi Isa from dust - just like Adam (Surah al-Imran 3:59).  This is however contradicted by Surah Iqraa (Read!) 96:2, where man is said to have been made from a clot of congealed blood. The figure which brought the first revealed words to Muhammad thus has as parallel the serpent in Genesis 3:1, which changed God’s words slightly in a sly way: ‘Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’
A moot point in Islamic tradition with regard to the creation of angels was the day on which the permanent angels were formed. Interestingly, it was said that they were not created on the first day lest it be thought that they were God’s partners in the creative process. Here was surely the pristine notion of shirk, the prime sin in Islamic thinking, namely to ascribe a partner to Allâh. The understanding of Muhammad also comes through quite clearly in Surah An’am (Cattle) 6:22, ‘One day shall We gather them all together: We shall say to those who ascribed partners (to Us): “Where are the partners whom you (invented and) talked about?”
Also in Islam the devil (Iblis or al-Shaytan) is regarded as a fallen angel or jinn who disobeyed God’s command to the angels. He is now the arch-tempter of man and the producer of the shaytans and all evil jinn. Iblis is mentioned in Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:33f after Adam had given the names to the animals. He said: “O Adam! Tell them their names.” When he had told them, Allâh said: “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what you reveal and what you conceal? “The proud Iblis, speaking in Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:12, saw no reason to prostate himself before man: He (Allâh) said: What hindered thee that thou didst not fall prostrate when I bade thee?” (Iblis) said: “I am better than him. Thou createst me of fire while him Thou didst create of mud.” (Here the Qur’an follows Biblical and Talmudic tradition that man was made of earth (mud), in contrast to Surah Iqraa (Recite!) 96:2.[4] The tradition that pride was the basic reason of satan’s fall, his rejection from heaven, surely came via Judaism into Islamic tradition.
Instructions given to Adam and Eve in Islamic Tradition
Somewhat different than in the Bible, the instruction was given to Adam and Eve with regard to the tree of which they were forbidden to eat fruit. In Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow)2:35 one reads:We said: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) you will; but approach not this tree, or you run into harm and transgression.” The role of the serpent is comparable to the biblical tradition: ‘Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: “Get down, all (you people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time” (Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow)2:36).
The idea that satan was required to bow down before Adam, has probably been derived from the Talmudic notion that all the animals prostrated themselves before Adam.  They are said to have thought that he (Adam) was their creator.  At that time – apparently before Eve was created, Adam refused this worship. Instead, he led the animals – that were taken to be able to speak - in worship of their real creator.  The Qur’an picks up this tenet, stating the refusal of Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam.
The inferiority of the feminine gender that was developed quite extensively in Islamic tradition probably has its origins in the Talmud. Thus Adam would proudly mention that he did not sin when he was alone. The serpent is quoted, arguing with itself: ‘If I go and speak to Adam, I know that he will not listen to me, for a man is hard’ (Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer, 1970:94).[5] In the same context Proverbs 9:13 is (ab)used: ‘The woman folly is loud, she is undisciplined and without knowledge.’ That the serpent is said to have used the eye to deceive Eve. Was this possibly a part of the pristine origin of ‘the evil eye’.  The bottom line of ‘the evil eye’ in other Hebrew Scriptural verses is greed, e.g. Proverbs 28:22 ‘He that hath an evil eye hasteth after riches’, translated as ‘a stingy man is eager to get rich’ in the NIV. Precisely the same usage is found in Talmudic literature. No superstitious notions are connected with the phrases ‘a good eye’ and ‘an evil eye’; ‘they refer to magnanimity and its reverse’ (Cohen, 1971:287).
Adam and Eve in Islamic Legendry
Islamic legendry[6] has some interesting additions. Adam is thus said to have pleaded with Jibril to beseech Allâh on his behalf to give him a woman and especially what he should give her as dowry. The answer came in due course via Jibril:[7]God grants you Eve as spouse, because he created her from his body for this purpose; you must however love her as yourself and treat her with meekness and goodness. As dowry he requires of you that you pray 20 times for Muhammad, his darling prophet, whose body will one day be formed out of your flesh and blood, but whose soul has been floating around his throne many years before the creation of the world.’ Hereafter Ridhwan, the gatekeeper of Paradise, brought the winged horse Maimun to Adam and for Eve he brought a female camel. Jibril assisted them to mount the animals and then he led them to Paradise where all the angels and animals greeted them with the words: ‘Welcome, father and mother of Muhammad.’ When Adam and Eve went into the garden, Jibril passed on God’s command that they had to bathe in one of the four rivers. Allâh himself told them: ‘Enjoy fully everything that this garden offers. Beware however to heed the one prohibition, one fruit is forbidden. Beware of this transgression and guard yourself against the moves of your enemy Iblis; he envies you ... to thrust you to your downfall…’ This legend has possibly been influenced by the tradition alluded to in Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey) 17:1, that Muhammad went to Mecca on Buraq, the winged horse in the company of Jibril.
After Adam had lost Eve, according to legend, they found each other on Mount Arafat. They started building a temple with four doors, respectively that of Adam, Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad. Jibril brought them the plan for the building, as well as a shining jewel, which later became black because of the sin of man. The Black stone of the Ka’ba had supposedly been an angel who had to guard the forbidden tree and warn Adam whenever he would approach it. As punishment for his negligence he was changed into a stone. Only at Judgement Day the stone will become an angel again, according to tradition. The legend that the stone became black through the sins of the pilgrims, has a Christian counterpart best typified by the hymn ‘Rock of Ages cleft for me…’ (Nobody would however think of a real rock in the latter case).  
Jibril gets a special role in the teaching of Adam and Eve. The first of these lessons according to the legend compiled by Weil (1853: 28) is to teach Adam the ceremonies of the pilgrimage. Eve gets a lesson how wheat must be grinded and knead to dough. Under Jibril’s guidance she learns spinning and weaving to sew a veil for herself and a robe for Adam. Jibril (Gabriel) is interestingly brought into the picture in Islamic legend when he teaches Adam and Eve to plough the ground. But when the plough got stuck, a variation of the Balaam narrative occurs (Numbers 19-22). Adam had started beating two oxen when the eldest of the two started speaking “Why do you maltreat me? …Did God also beat you like this when you were rebellious?” (Weil,1853:29). To Adam’s surprise, the reason why the plough got stuck was the decaying corpse of their son Abel. Very importantly, the couple was taught how a lamb must be slaughtered in the name of Allâh (Weil, 1853:30).
Shedding of innocent Blood
Both Talmudic and Islamic tradition apparently discerned the centrality of the slaughtered animal. The 'New Testament' summarised it: ‘without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin’ (Hebrews 9:22). That is an explanation why Abel’s offering was accepted and that of Cain refused. The shedding of innocent blood points to Calvary where Jesus, the Lamb of God, was innocently ‘slaughtered’ for the sin of the world. Peter reminded the first century Christians that they were not bought free by silver or gold, but by the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:19). The death of Abel was redemptive as the Almighty told him: 'The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground' (Genesis 4:10). The voice of the innocent blood shed at that occasion is a pointer to the redeeming power of the blood to be shed on Calvary.
Early Church theologians took the cue from this tenet to point through allegory that an animal was innocently slaughtered to provide the skins to cover Adam and Eve. Thus blood as remission for their disobedience was provided. Abel’s offering prefigured the Lamb of God. Hereafter God’s covenant with man was always founded upon sacrifice (Genesis 8:20, 9:11-17, 15:9-18). Through the book of Genesis we repeatedly have the record of an altar, pointing forward to the ultimate Sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.
Adam was finally a type of Christ by way of contrast. He was tempted by the devil and failed. Jesus was tempted by satan and triumphed. Paul summarised this aptly: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

                   Noah, the Warner

When we look at Noah, we are actually viewing another biblical personality common to mankind as such. Apart from the three Abrahamic religions, the story of the flood has also been found in oral traditions from different parts of the world. It is therefore especially interesting to see how such a universal personality points to Jesus.
            The Bible does not tell much about the history of Noah before the narrative of the flood. Oral material has been passed down the centuries, finding a way into the Jewish Talmud and probably from there to the Qur’an. Muhammad had contact with various Jewish people in Medina and on his journeys as a trader.
The book of Genesis shows us the utter failure of man. Adam failed and now God gave the human race a new start through his servant Noah. The Bible sums up Noah’s character with one sentence: ‘Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord’(Genesis 6:8). He is the first person in Scripture to whom epithets are attached. He is said to have been “righteous” (zaddik) and “whole” (tamim) in “his generations”, i.e. in the generations during which he lived.
            The Talmud states not only that Noah grew up in righteousness, but adds that he followed zealously in the ways of truth which his grandfather Methusalah had taught him.
Warnings to the Wicked
Morally Noah’s life contrasted starkly with that of the other people living at the time. The Bible gives us a glimpse of the compassionate heart of God. ‘The Lord was grieved...and his heart was filled with pain’  (Genesis 6:7). The Holy One is also the deity who cannot stand the sinning of his creatures. It cannot be left unpunished. The Talmud adds the aspects of His justice and His grace: ‘The Lord stayed his wrath until every man who walked in His ways was that his faithful servants might not see the punishment of their fellow-men.
            Information that is found in many a children’s Bible and in the Qur’an, but not included in the Genesis report, centres on the warnings that Noah had to give to the people. According to the Talmud, the Word of the Lord came to Methusalah and Noah: “Turn from your evil inclinations, abandon your unrighteous ways, then may God forgive and spare you on the face of the earth.” It almost sounds like a precursor to 2 Chronicles 7:14 where the Almighty promised to heal the land if His people humble themselves in repentant prayer. The Qur’an repeats the aspect of warning with different prophets, especially with regard to idolatry and the coming judgement. Noah is repeatedly included as the first of a series of prophets: Noah, Hud, Salih, Lut (Lot) and Shu’aib. Every one of them is the respective warner to his people. Almost as a refrain one reads in the Qur’an, ‘a man of your own people, to warn you’ (e.g. Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:63; 7:69).
            The Bible does not highlight how Noah’s compatriots rejected his warnings. All the more this has been accentuated in the Talmud and in the Qur’an. Of Noah it is said in the Islamic sacred book: ‘...they rejected him and we delivered him and those with him in the Ark’ (Surah Al-Araf (The Heights)  7:64).
            Initially this is how Muhammad understood his role: as a warner to the Arab people. And therefore he seemed not to have been troubled much when the Meccans did not heed his warning. However, he followed the tragic example of Abraham and Adam of old, listening too much to his wife Khadiyah. She nudged him for two years to take seriously what Waraqah-bin Naufal had said about him, namely that he was a Namus, a prophet. He had been full of doubts, thinking strongly that he was demon-possessed. Yet, Muhammad initially still understood his primary calling to be merely a messenger of God, a warner. In his latter years people were called to believe in him as a prophet. The biblical prophets saw the call to the exclusive worship of the Almighty as the most important part of their calling.
            Jesus spoke about the days of Noah, without referring to the warnings. Yes, warnings mean nothing if people ignore them. People head for disaster if they just carry on living as if there is no forthcoming judgement. Noah was the forerunner of the other prophets, who called the Jews to repentance.
A Pointer to the coming Judgment   
The warnings of Noah point to the coming judgement where Jesus will be in the judgement seat. In a similar way Jesus also warned that the time of warning is also a period of grace. There will be a moment when it is too late.
            The 'New Testament' (NT) points to a double role for Jesus in this judgement, respectively as advocate and as judge. Whosoever has accepted in faith that Jesus died for his sins, may expect Him to be the advocate in the final judgement. On the one hand, Christ sits on the judgement seat (Matthew 25:31ff, Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 10:5) handing out rewards and punishment. On the other hand, he is also the advocate (1 John 2:1).
            The 'NT' also teaches that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). The only ‘fear’ the believer in Jesus should have is to get an inferior reward, or no reward at all in the day of judgement. The ‘fear’ serves as encouragement to go for the 'gold medal', to build the ‘house’ of your life with material that can stand the fire of judgement (Compare 1 Corinthians 3:12-14).
            Fear of death and judgement becomes superfluous and unnecessary. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, the believer can now cry out with Paul: “Where o death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Two courts of law
It may help us to think of two separate courts of law. In the first court God is the judge, the devil is the accuser and Jesus is the advocate. In this court the believer is acquitted of the accusation of his sins if Jesus as the advocate can point out that the believer has accepted in faith what he did on the cross of Calvary, namely that God ‘forgave us all our sins having cancelled the ...(accusation) that was against us...; he took it away, nailing it to the cross’ (Colossians 2:14).
            Let us use an illustration how Jesus could be both the judge and the Saviour: A young man had to appear in court because of his dealing in drugs. He got frozen stiff when he discovered that his father was the magistrate.
            The old man was almost moved to tears when he had to pass judgement. But justice had to take its course. He had no option than to pass a heavy fine in respect of his son’s drug offences. As bravely as possible he tried to appear unmoved. The son broke down in tears when his father came over as the harsh judge.
            But thereafter the magistrate took off his cloak and went to pay the fine himself. The judge became his saviour. Jesus, our judge, paid the penalty for our sin himself.
            In the second court, believers are being put on trial. Here the rewards are decided, another set of laws operates. In four different letters Paul, the apostle, challenged the believers to live worthy of the Gospel and the high calling in Christ. According to the measure of our commitment to the cause of the Gospel, we are expected to build our house.  We can erect structures with different materials, but it must be built on the only valid foundation, namely a personal faith in Jesus.  The buildings could consist of gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw. The rewards we shall receive will be according to the product (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). Alternatively, at a lack of commitment, loss is clearly to be reckoned with. Then one may just scrape home, smelling like fire at the judgement. We could contrast this with the three friends of Daniel who were in the fire but who did not even have the smell of smoke when they came out of the furnace.
            Be it as it may, the quality of our work will be put to the test of fire in the day of judgement. 1 Corinthians 3:14 says: ‘If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward’. The quality is measured by the people who are influenced by us and by the spiritual depth of our own lives; probably hardly by the number of people one may have led to faith in Jesus. More important is how they are discipled and helped to grow from being babies in the Lord. We should be going for gold and not be satisfied with silver or costly stones as reward.
Complete Obedience
In yet another way, Noah pointed to Jesus, namely through his complete obedience. Almost as a refrain we read about him in the Bible: ‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him’ (Genesis 6:22; 7:5; 7:9; 7:16). The letter to the Hebrews (5:8) states that the Master learned obedience through his sufferings and Paul, the apostle, gave a summary of Jesus’ life as one of utter obedience: He, ‘being in very nature God...humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.’ The Qur’an comes very close to this image in one of the series of warnings by the prophets Noah, Hud, Salih, Lut (Lot) and Shu’aib, which occur a few times: ‘Whenever We sent a prophet to a town, We took up its people in suffering and adversity, in order that they might learn humility’ (Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:94). A comparison to the biblical version shows important differences. First of all, the issue of obedience, which is so central in the Genesis report, is missing. The other major difference is that in the Bible it is the prophets who suffer innocently and not the people to whom the prophets were sent.  The Islamic version is however consistent with the teaching in the Church at Muhammad’s time; that suffering and adversity become good deeds.  According to this unbiblical view, it counts in one’s favour in the coming judgement, to learn humility and thus earn plus points.  In spite of the corrective teaching during the Reformation and thereafter, this notion is however far from eradicated in the Church at large.
            Noah’s obedience was combined with his trust in God, even though we do not read about a special relationship to the Almighty. We deduce that so-called primitive peoples can also be obedient to God, even before the clearer revelation of God came to them. Noah became the example to all of us, to put our complete trust in God. He simultaneously challenges us towards complete obedience to the divine revealed will. Noah’s obedience culminated in him entering the Ark with his family only on God’s word. When the door closed, they were ‘trapped’. Now they were at God’s mercy. Jesus picked up this warning, stating that it would be like in the days of Noah in the end, when it will be too late for some to repent of their sinful ways.
            The Qur’an depicts the notion that Allâh can do what he likes, almost in an arbitrary way. That would be a one-sided description of faith, a negative way. Indeed, God is sovereign. He does things we cannot understand or fathom.
The Safety of the Ark
The positive way - which is more centrally included in the biblical narrative of Noah - is to put your trust in God like a parachute jumper who trusts that the parachute will open and carry him to safety. In 1 Peter 3:19,20 Noah’s ark is compared to Jesus. Baptism becomes the outward sign of what happens when one takes the step of faith into the ark, which rises above the water. This faith ultimately rescues one from the judgement.
            It is significant that Noah’s Ark had only one entrance. Jesus said: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10:9). He also said I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
The resurrection of Jesus is compared to the new life, safe in the ark. Paul uses the same image in Romans 6. The baptism is shown there as the visible demonstration of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. He explains with the image so to speak that the believer dies to his old self, to rise with the new life in Christ. In this sense the image is deficient because the ark was not submerged. Yet, Jesus is the ark on which the great flood of judgement was let loose. The ark saves from the wrath and judgement of God.
            The narrative of Noah points not only to judgement, but it also ends with a promise. The rainbow serves as a sign of God’s covenant with mankind: ‘never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth’. This speaks of God’s compassion and love for mankind. The Qur’an also speaks of the ark as a sign (Surah 36:41), without making clear of what it is to be a sign. The idea of a covenant between God and man does not come through in the Islamic sacred book. A covenant presupposes a personal relationship between God and man.
            The idea of judgement is present all the more in the Bible.  The Genesis report emphasises that the earth will be destroyed again - the next time by fire. But God has already provided the ark, his own Son Jesus. The fire of God’s wrath sent Jesus in atonement to the cross. We need not fear the judgement. In fact, we are taught about the enabling of the personification of God’s love, Jesus: ‘love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement because ... we are like him (1 John 4;17).’ We must just step in faith into the ark - Jesus - trusting the ‘parachute’ will open and bring us to safety.
And what about the true ‘witnesses’ - our sin - about which we would have to plead guilty before God? When we accept in faith that Jesus atoned for them through his death on the cross, we can say with Paul (Colossians 2:14), ‘They have been nailed to the Cross!’
The new start God had made with Noah failed completely, his descendants were soon falling into universal idolatry. Then God called Abraham. From this time the Almighty deals in a special way with mankind via the descendants of Abraham.

Abraham, the Friend of God

The person of Abraham contains a lot of common ground for the followers of the three faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Paul, the writer of various letters in the 'New Testament', showed how the roots to Abraham were basic to the Christian faith. All Jews are aware that the soul of their people goes back to Abraham. In the Qur’an - the sacred book of Islam - a similar sentiment comes to the fore; true religion stems from Abraham.
            The great Jew Martin Buber (1968:30) pointed to Abraham’s place in biblical history, namely ‘between the story of the failure of the first human race and the story of the growth of the people of Israel under the shadow of the call and the promise.
A Friend of God
All three faiths see Abraham as a friend of God. What caused him to be called thus? Abraham received this description because it speaks of a living relationship. He communicated with the invisible God, which was very radical for his time. Because of this trust in the unseen Almighty, Abraham was led out of his home area Ur in Chaldea. The faith of Abraham helps us to 'forgive' him for negative examples of compromise in his life: By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). Through the ages he has become the example for men and women to set out into the unknown, trusting God to lead and guide them. Thus Cameron Townsend, the founder of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, was challenged to say: ‘I go nowhere unless God leads me but I am prepared to go everywhere when he leads the way’.
            Scripture has quite a few examples of men of faith who reasoned with God. Abraham is one of these men of faith. His close relationship to God - by speaking and pleading with Him - comes over especially clearly when Abraham prays for his nephew Lot and his family. He pleaded with the Lord God after Lot and his family had been drawn into the life-style of the sinful inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded with God to spare them (Genesis 18). This gives also a basis for our attitude towards homosexuals. Instead of condemning them outright, the compassionate and loving Christian can learn from Abraham to intercede instead.

     This narrative furthermore proves that the Almighty is not unbending at all. God heard Abraham’s prayers. Eventually Lot’s family was even saved. It shows the character of God. Also we can move the hand of God through our prayers if we become ‘friends of God’. This applies to personal needs as well as to national problems. But now one may ask:’ How do I become a friend of God?’ Abraham became one by fulfilling God’s condition, by trusting Him fully.

Alone but not lonely
Like no other person Abraham was a forerunner of the Lord Jesus, displaying that one can be alone without being lonely. The key to Abraham’s life can be typified by the word separation. He was separated from his fatherland and kinsfolk and later from his cousin Lot. But he would experience a close fellowship with the unseen I AM as no person had done before him. Abraham depicted how centuries later Jesus was to experience extreme loneliness, but who could nevertheless testify: ‘The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him’ (John 8:29). Jesus clearly intimated his divinity when he said ‘Before Abraham was, I AM’ (John 8:58). No wonder that the crowd hereafter ‘picked up stones to stone him...'
            It is nevertheless interesting that Islamic oral history also has a parallel to the extreme loneliness of the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Muslims go on their pilgrimage at Eid-ul Adha they commemorate Abraham’s difficult path. They are reminded at three places how satan tempted the arch father to abort the sacrifice. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry he was tempted three times and in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was also tempted thrice to abort the run-up to Calvary.  Thrice he found the disciples sleeping. Again and again our Lord faced the temptation of evading his mission but consistently he replied with the words of submission ‘Yet...not my will, but your will be done’ (Mark 14:36).
Abraham became the example to every believer of being a pilgrim and stranger who is nowhere really at home. He was a visionary, described so well by the author of the letter to the Hebrews (11:10): ‘For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
The faith in only one God is regarded as the main area of common ground of the three faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is not surprising that the Qur’an stresses that Abraham - known as Ebrahim to the Muslims - opposed idolatry. According to the Qur’an he even argued with his father (Surah Anam 6:74; Surah Maryam 19:41-50), challenging everyone in his surroundings to leave the idols, to believe in the invisible God. Following Talmudic tradition, Abraham is persecuted because of this, thrown into a fiery furnace (Surah Anbiyaa (The Prophets) 21:69). In the Talmud it is reported how the 12 men who threw Abraham into the flames were killed. According to the Talmud tradition, King Nimrod called Abraham to walk out of the furnace. The partial background of this story is the erroneous translation that Abraham was led out of the furnace (in stead of Ur) of the Chaldeans. Excavations of the ancient town point to a vast temple that was probably dedicated to the Moon.
            The sons of Ham are said to have been grossly idolatrous. When the Shemite family from which Abraham descended went there, they were apparently also infected by the idolatry of the region. Extra-biblical oral material supports the tradition that Abraham was engaged as a young man in an uncompro-mising opposition to the evil practices that were rife and to the idolatry in his father’s house. He is said to have employed the weapon of sarcasm, breaking the images to pieces. This led to the clash with Nimrod, the ruler - and ultimately to Abraham’s martyrdom. He was thrown into the fire from which he is said to have been supernaturally saved. There is an obvious similarity to the story of the three friends of Daniel who were likewise thrown in the fire by order of Nebuchadnezzar, but there is no reason to suggest that the tradition around Abraham is fictitious. Also in our day occult practises are known, e.g. in Hinduism, where people walk over hot red-hot coals in a trance without getting burnt.
Contrary to biblical and other tradition, Allâh cools the fire supernaturally in the Qur’an and he was thus saved. The Hebrew Bible states more than once that God stands with the believer, he goes with him even through the waters, into the fire, e.g. Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.
Opposition to modern Idolatry is required
I suggest that we take the cue from Abraham to oppose every form of modern idolatry, e.g. the idolising of material possessions and money. We say quite easily that we believe in only one God, but in practice our hearts cling to material things. The 'New Testament' equates materialism (greed, covetousness) with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Greed has become fashionable. A South African TV programme of yesteryear even had that title.
            In Judaism, the belief in only one God is a main pillar of the faith. The idolatry of the surrounding nations brought the Israelites in temptation again and again. The most notable example is surely the casting and worship of the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. The prophets had to remind the Israelites repeatedly of their special relationship with the Almighty. He was so to speak their husband; as His people they were the equivalent of His wife. He does not tolerate another man, another god, next to Him. That was for example the basic cause of the strife between Jews and Samaritans. During the reign of King Ahab a pagan temple was built and an altar for Baal worship was erected (1 King 16:32). The Samaritans worshipped there. This is the major reason why the Israelites despised the Samaritans. In their view this people group mixed pure worship of Yahweh with the despicable Baal idolatry. Basically this also happened in Mecca. Muhammad understood very well to oppose idolatry but he mixed the prevalent Arab pagan worship with Biblical monotheism. He reputedly cleared out 360 gods out of the Ka’ba, but held on to Hubal, the main god, the Lord of the Ka’ba, whose symbol of worship was the Black Stone. It has been pointed out that Hubal was derived from the Hebrew Ha-Baal, which means the god. Muhammad’s intention was ostensibly to stress monotheism (the faith in one God). The meaning of Al-lah is the god. It is therefore not so surprising that one does not find the equivalent of Yahweh (the One Who is) a single time in the Qur’an, although it occurs 6823 times in the Bible (compare this to only 2550 times of Elohim (God), the Arabic counterpart of Al-lah.) The typical mixture of religion is also found in some brands of Christianity - where ancestor worship and nice tradition are mixed. The 'New Testament' teaches a living faith in the Almighty, through a personal relationship in Jesus, his Son. Muhammad possibly never met a more or less pure 'New Testament' Christianity. The Nestorian version that he encountered evidently represented a much-diluted form of biblical faith.
Blessing the Nations
The words of Genesis 12:3 set the agenda for Israel's missional existence in history. So important are they that Paul, the apostle, calls them the Gospel in advance (Galatians 3:6-8). God declares his intention that through Abraham and his descendants, all nations on earth will be blessed. If the nations are to be blessed, or to find blessing, in the same way as Abraham, then we expect that they must follow the footsteps of his faith in, and obedience to, the God who called him. The path to blessing for Abraham meant leaving his home country (in that sense also turning from his ancestral gods), trusting in the promise of God, walking in obedience, and teaching his household to "keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice" (Gen. 18:19).

The Faith of Abraham
The Christian faith builds on Judaism, including the faith of Abraham in the invisible God, for example as he set out from his home country into the unknown. Paul and the unknown writer of the letter to the Hebrews both stress that this faith of Abraham - unconditional trust in God - was reckoned as righteousness (cf. Buber, p.33).
            God, the friend of Abraham, invites us to become his friend. Perhaps that may not be concrete enough to the person who still sees God as aloof and far away. When Jesus’ disciples were puzzled, when they wanted to have a clearer picture of God, Jesus invited them to look at him: ‘If you see me, you see the Father’. Yes, the supreme invisible God has revealed himself in this special way. That is why Jesus could say ‘I and the father are one’ (John 10:30). Through faith in Him we become a friend of God like Abraham. In fact, we can come into a closer relationship to Him, because the Word says that we can become children of God through personal faith in Jesus (John 1:12).  Faith - not works - was Abraham’s hallmark. In a similar way we are saved by faith, not by works. Otherwise we could boast about earning our own salvation (Compare Ephesians 2:8,9).
            Even a child can believe. But perhaps that may be our problem. Abraham had child-like trust in God. What is our relationship to God like? Is He still far away or do you regard him as a friend? Could it be that some of us are too proud to get into the trustful dependency that Abraham practised?

Children of Abraham: a covenant Relationship       
Let us go now to the time when Abraham had to circumcise his sons. Circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant, the visible sign of the agreement of God with His people. This became the token of the agreement between God and the Israelites; whether one was circumcised or not determined whether one was regarded to be a ‘son of Abraham’ or not. Of course, there was a clear symbolism involved right from the start because only males had to be circumcised. This agreement was God’s promise of support to Abraham and his offspring. It was based on Abraham’s trust in Him. A covenant presupposes a personal relationship between God and man.
            In John 8 Jesus stressed that it is not good enough to merely point to one’s family tree. To be a real son of Abraham is a matter of trusting God like he did - a matter of the heart.
            Paul, the apostle, emphasised that the true circumcision has to happen in the heart. He echoes various Hebrew Bible prophets who had said centuries before him that a heart transplant was needed to replace the uncircumcised, the unbelieving heart. The heart of stone had to be replaced. As a believer in Jesus one experiences this virtual heart transplant. We believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus out of our own free will. It is our free response to God’s gift of love. For God so loved the world... that He gave Jesus, so to speak as a part of Himself to save the world. Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae who had been Gentiles and possibly not circumcised: 'In him you were also circumcisised with the circumcision made without hands ... by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism...' (Colossians 2:11:12).
            Baptism is the sign of this faith agreement, our response to say yes to God’s love. We note that it is not the ritual - which is sometimes called a sacrament - that is important, but our voluntary loving response.
            In following the Jewish practice of circumcision, Islam stuck to the ritual - but missing this deeper meaning of circumcision. Christening of infants often is a similar ritual. In calvinism it has traditionally been regarded and defended as a sign of the covenant with the triune God of the Bible.

An Example of serious Compromise
The obedience of Abraham sounds so overwhelming. If ever there was someone who had to learn obedience through his suffering, then Abraham was such a person. Learning the hard way, he now stands there as a prime negative example to every believer who dare to dabble with compromise.
            It has been suggested that by taking his father Terah with him from Ur, Abraham delayed God’s dealings with him. For as many as fifteen years there were no further commands, no additional promises and no communication between Abraham and God. There is every indication that the worldly Lot could have been a drag on his spiritual pilgrimage and he definitely still had to learn to wait on the Lord, before acting in panic like going to Egypt when famine broke out. God intervened after Abraham’s ‘white lie’ that Sarai was his sister had brought him out of God’s will.
            The habit of lies proved very pervasive. In rather cowardly fashion to protect his own skin, Abraham instructed Sarah to tell people in every place they would come, that he is her brother (20:13). When Abraham perceived a threat from King Abimelech, he resorted to the lie once again, repeating that Sarai was his sister. By this time he had received the divine promise of off-spring more than once. God’s mercy and grace came through. Abraham is one of various biblical personalities whose failures are not hidden. In this regard the nature of the Almighty of the Tenach[8] and Allâh of Islam is well-nigh identical. The Qur'an stresses that Allâh is forgiving and merciful, albeit that there is some ambivalence because Allâh is normally depicted as being aloof and unchanging.
Abraham compromised by listening more to his wife than to God to have a child with his slave Hagar.  This compromise became the cause of division between the off-spring of Isaac and Ishmael. The strife between his descendants via Isaac and Ishmael had repercussions that are still keeping the Middle East in suspense, even though Scripture itself does not support a rift between the two sons of Abraham. The slave Hagar as the mother of Ishmael, is generally acknowledged as the physical female ancestor of the Arabs and thus in a sense of Muslims at large.  Furthermore, the slave Hagar is on par with Abraham, having been divinely addressed by the Angel of the Lord with a promise.  Very interesting is the comparison with the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:31 where it is said: 'You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall call him Jesus.” To Hagar the Angel of the Lord said: Your are now pregnant and you will bear a son, and you shall call him Ishmael (Genesis 16:11). This could be reason enough for Jews and Christians to take another look at their view of Muslims – we are indeed cousins in respect of our faith ancestry!

The tested Abraham
Through his mistakes Abraham learned that it pays to be completely obedient. He thus became a pointer to Jesus also in this way and an encouragement to every believer. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8f).
         It is not difficult to imagine how Abraham wrestled with the divine command: He had to offer his only son as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1) after sending Hagar and Ishmael away. We note that Abraham obeyed God immediately. He had been disobedient as Abram. His immediate and complete obedience was one of the attributes that endeared Abraham to God. By now of course he could not mistake the voice of God any more. He was all too familiar with it to make another mistake in this solemn crisis. It has been said that Abraham had to cut himself off from his entire past when he left his homeland. With the sacrifice on Moriah he was tested to give up his entire future. He was required to give up the unique son, the child of promise. The birth of Ishmael had been a miracle. He was fathered by Abraham when the latter was eighty six years old. Sarah had become pregnant with his second son many years later at an age when she easily could have become a great-grandmother.

         Even so, it is one thing to believe something in theory. It is another matter to put your faith in practice. Abraham did just this when he commanded the servants to stay behind with the donkey. After Abraham had learnt to trust God, his faith was really tested. To have to sacrifice your special, your one and only son, was really the ultimate test. (Ishmael, the older son, was already out of bounds after Sarah had demanded that Abraham would send Ishmael away with his mother Hagar. We can really empathise with Abraham as he may have thought: ‘Was this God whom I have learnt to trust no better than the pagan gods that require one to sacrifice children?’  The Qur’an picks up this element of doubt in the mind of Abraham: ‘My Lord, show me how Thou givest life to the dead’ (Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:260).
According to a Jewish Midrash - which is so much part and parcel of the rabbinic oral teaching tradition - Abraham's son was said to have carried the fire-wood on his shoulder that was to be used on the altar. Early Jewish Christianity cherished the oral tradition whereby the boy was revered for his willingness. The tradition of Abraham’s vow with regard to Isaac has been quoted as: ‘He will be a sacrifice for God’In Genesis 22 we read about the young lad walking with his father, two servants and a donkey. At some point in time the wood is taken from the animal. The servants are ordered to wait with the donkey, until father and son would return. According to tradition the wood for a burnt offering was put on the back of Isaac.
          It is quite probable that Abraham had deep doubt whether he had heard God properly. The believer is sometimes also tested in this way. Iblis - the Qur’anic equivalent for the devil - is reported to have attempted to prevent Abraham from fulfilling the command of God. According to the Al-Tabari tradition, Iblis said ‘...I have seen that Shaytan has come to you in a dream and ordered you to slaughter this little son of yours. And you intend to do that slaughtering!’ Abraham is said to have recognised Iblis saying: ‘Get away from me enemy of God!’ This has interesting (theological) implications. First of all, this sounds very much like Jesus reprimanding Peter when the latter suggested that Jesus should circumvent the crucifixion (Matthew 16:23): 'Satan, get behind me...' In his commentary Al-Tabari sees the little son apparently still as Isaac. Al-Tabari continues in so many words that Iblishad taken on the form of a man’(quoted by Rippin and Knappert, 1990:64). 

Resurrection Faith
Abraham learned to trust God because of the experiences he had made with Him. Therefore he had set out ‘early the next morning’ (Genesis 22:3). This is a clear indication of his obedience. He thus became a precursor of our Lord. The biblical record states that Abraham saw Mount Moriah in the distance on ‘the third day’ (Genesis 22:4). Abraham told the servants: ‘we shall return to you’ (v.5). This was nothing else than special faith, trust that the Almighty could bring his son back to life. He must have concluded that if God could create his son out of nothing, out of their barren bodies, the Almighty could also raise him from the ashes. So logically, why could he not also raise the boy back to life? The first generation of Christians was in complete agreement in their belief that Jesus arose on the third day. We can thus state that resurrection faith was birthed in Abraham's heart on the third day.
          Abraham must have weighed things carefully until he came to the conclusion: the command to sacrifice the son could not be contrary to the earlier promise. Apart from that, Abraham had seen that God could raise life out of his and Sarah’s bodies that were as good as dead.      
            The letter to the Hebrews (5:8) states that the Master learned obedience through his sufferings. Through His voluntary taking of the cup, the content of which (the sins of the world?) would send the sinless Son of God to the cross. On Calvary God did not intervene because that was to become the reply to all sorts of accusations by satan. As Abraham was walking to Moriah, wrestling with the command to sacrifice his Son, he was a type of the Father who gave his Son Jesus as atonement for our sins. God allowed Him to become a spectacle. The fear of death and judgement was given a fatal blow on the third day. On account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the believer can now say with Paul, (Romans 8:1):  ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death’. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul echoed this sentiment when he cried out: “Death, where is your sting?”  It is like a buzzing bee that has already deposited its sting. Every bit of fear of death should have disappeared for the believer!
            In a similar way faith in God is an adventure, exciting. Even though we sometimes feel to be out on a limb if we trust God in an irrational way, we are encouraged when we think back to experiences where He brought us through, sometimes miraculously.        
            Paul and the writer of the letter to the Hebrews show how Abraham believed in the resurrection because God had brought life out the bodies of him and Sarah that were as good as dead. He had faith that God could bring Isaac back to life after the sacrifice.
            With his 'resurrection faith' Abraham gives hope to every believer. Even when circumstances appear grim, completely without any hope, we are challenged to imitate Abraham’s faith. We may latch on to the fact that the Father in Heaven, who created Abraham and Sarah’s son so to speak out of nothing, is a specialist in doing the impossible.
            God’s attempt to deal with mankind through the chosen race seems to have failed. In the Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures) he however proves himself faithful as he continued to work with a remnant. But it only seemed so. Did not Abraham prophetically speak about a lamb that God would provide. On Moriah God did not provide a lamb, he provided a ram. The fulfilment of the promise and prophecy was of course the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who was to be led like a sheep to be slaughtered, the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35), Jesus the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Reconciliation of Isaac and  Ishmael?
If there had been some rift between Abraham's two sons – which would have been natural after all that had transpired - the deduction that the two got reconciled to each other at the time of the burial is thus definitely to the point.  But even more significantly is the possibility that Abraham could have died in peace.
           We emphasise: there was a blessing on both Isaac and Ishmael. The notion that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael have been eternal enemies (and should remain that way?), has scant biblical basis[9],  even though the Qur'an advises Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews. (The background of the relevant verses is of course the disappointment of Muhammad that representatives of these groups would not recognise his perceived status as a divinely appointed rasool, the special messenger of Allâh for the Arabs.) There is however also a strong tradition of dhimmitude, where favoured treatment was to be given to the 'people of the Book', i.e. Jews and Christians.[10] (This should not be interpreted as support for a basically wicked religious system.) Michael Esses, Hebrew scholar and Messianic Jewish believer who had come from rabbinic lineage, points out in his book Jesus in Genesis (1974:117) that the word for your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies' of Genesis 22: 17 changes there into the singular.
Furthermore, whereas it is clearly recorded that there was an inner-Israelite feud between Joseph and his brothers, there is no biblical evidence that the brotherly link between Isaac and Ishmael was severed during their lifetime, despite the sad separation. In fact, at the funeral of Abraham the two sons buried their father together (Genesis 25:9).  Abraham's prayer that Ishmael might live before Yahweh (Genesis 17:18) was not compromised or nullified in any way. In fact, God said Yes, I have blessed him (Genesis 17:20). Perhaps we as Christians with our common (spiritual) Jewish roots could play an important role in mediation between the feuding descendants of Isaac and Ishmael as a major catalyst towards their common acknowledgement of our Lord Jesus as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

                                    Ishmael, an unfair Pariah of the Scriptures?

            Because of the traditional rivalry and enmity between Muslims and Jews, a negative vibe remained around Ishmael in Jewish and certain Christian circles. The common Islamic faith of the countries living in the Middle East - along with the general attitude of enmity of Muslims towards Israel and Jews - tends to strengthen this prejudice.  I suggest that a correction in this regard is needed in the light of the fact that these sons of Abraham buried their father together (Genesis 25:9).
            Muslims attach a special role to Ishmael, as he is taken to be an ancestor of Muhammad. The greatest feast of Islam is Eid-al-Adha, where the obedience of Abraham is commemorated to sacrifice his ‘only’ son. (The Hebrew word for one and only, unique - ‘yachid’ of Genesis 22:1 (one and only, unique son of Abraham) - is seldom used in the Bible, just as the 'New Testament' equivalent monogenos. This is the word used in John 3:16 appropriately translated with God’s unique son). Muslims take the son – the korban (sacrifice), who was almost killed on Mount Moriah, to have been Ishmael. He is furthermore regarded as one of their important prophets.
The Hebrew Scriptures teach not only a common ancestry, but they also give examples of positive inter-action between the off-spring of Isaac and Ishmael. Esau married a daughter of Ishmael (Genesis 28:9) and Joseph was saved by Ishmaelite traders (Genesis 37:28), albeit that the traders’ motives were probably not purely humanistic. This nevertheless eventually saved the whole nation from extinction because of the severe famine.
The Narrative
The name of Ishmael does not occur very often in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Genesis narrative is fairly simple. When the barren Sarai was well beyond child-bearing age and Abram had received a prophetic divine word that he would have descendants like the stars in the heaven (Genesis 15:5), Sarai suggested that he should have intercourse with Hagar, their Egyptian slave. There the problems started.  Hagar became proud and arrogant towards Sarah her mistress (Genesis 16:4) after she had become pregnant.
            Then Sarai mistreated Hagar so she fled from her. … The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; … And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”  (Genesis 16:6-8). The compassionate God sees and hears the cry of a destitute woman, even though she had despised her mistress.
          The Angel of the Lord, who spoke in the first person to Hagar, has often been interpreted as the manifestation of Christ as God’s Messenger Servant in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In spite of the failure of Abram and Sarai to obey God fully, God blessed Ishmael.  Then the Angel of the Lord told her, '…I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. … You are now with child and you will have a son.  You shall name him Ishmael, [God hears] for the Lord has heard your misery (Genesis 16:10f). The prophetic word given by the Angel of the Lord before his birth (Genesis 16:11f) also contained an element of freedom. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, he will live in hostility toward all his brothers”  (Genesis 16:9,10,11-12). In the book Job we read how a wild donkey lived: ' ... He explores the mountains for his pasture and searches after every green thing' (Job 39,5-8).  Ishmael did not use his freedom in a proper way.
          That the Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar for the first time in Scripture is prophetic in yet another way. At the time of the first appearance she was destitute and lost. Centuries later God would send his Son Jesus to find and rescue the lost.
          We have the benefit of hindsight to know that God chose Isaac to be the son through whom He was to bless Abraham especially, and make him into a great nation. At the time however, because of their customs, Abraham would have regarded Ishmael as God’s answer to His promise. Thus he would probably have regularly held Ishmael in his arms and reminded him of what God had promised. When Ishmael was thirteen years old and had been living with Abraham as a son and also knowing all the blessings that God had promised to Abraham and his off-spring, the Lord appeared to Abraham saying, “… I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. … I will make you fruitful; … I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:2,6,7). As confirmation of God’s covenant to Abraham, every male child was to be circumcised.  And God said to Abraham, “…My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:13). Even though the covenant is not expressly extended to his other descendants, the blessing is on them because  Abraham's obedience is implied.       
          God repeated His promise to Abraham, indicating that His promise was to be accomplished through his first wife Sarah. Abraham, who had been raising Ishmael as His son, was probably somewhat distraught, pleading with God: “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (Genesis 17:18) Abraham pleaded with an intercessor’s heart, crying out to God to reveal His love to Ishmael and his descendants. God said, “Yes…” He blessed Ishmael and his off-spring. “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers.  He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael …and circumcised them, [him], as God had told him (Genesis 17:23).  Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen years and is therefore part of God’s covenant blessing made to Abraham and his descendants.

            Hagar's behaviour is a lesson to all of us. She confesses her sin, that she has fled (v.8), thus establishing the paradigm of confession and divine cleansing (1 John 1:9). How often we also tend to, want to and sometimes do run away from problems. 
            The divine response – the first time the Angel of the Lord appears in Scripture – contains no promise that things will improve for Hagar. Instead, we find a pointer to another scriptural principle. She was told to humble herself under the hand of her mistress. We are reminded of James 5:6. If you humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up.
The Estrangement                                                                                                                           Hagar is one of very few people mentioned in the Bible to whom an angel appeared. No less than the Angel of the Lord appeared to her twice. We note that God heard the boy. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him (Genesis 21:5). By now Ishmael was of course a teenager.  We read that God was with the boy as he grew up (Genesis 21:20). We can therefore assume that God has an appointed time to reveal Himself more fully to the sons and daughters of Ishmael.  When Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast (Genesis 21:8) to celebrate God’s confirmed blessing.  When the infant was about two years of age, Ishmael would have been a juvenile of about fourteen years.  There arose a serious disagreement between Sarah and Hagar after the hurting and rejected teenager Ishmael had mocked the celebration (Genesis 21:9). Sarah requested that Abraham banish Hagar and Ishmael. Hagar hereafter no longer enjoyed the favoured status of being the “blessed” wife of Abraham, the one who gave him a son. Sarah's request was clearly an over-reaction out of jealousy. This matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son (Genesis 21:11). We note that even after this promise from God, Abraham still saw Ishmael as his first son through whom God would bless him.  God assured Abraham of the future blessing of Ishmael and his sons, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. … I will make the son of your maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring” (Genesis 21:12f). We note however that God actually instructed Abraham to listen to Sarah.
          We note how Abraham obeyed God immediately. He had been disobedient as Abram. His immediate and complete obedience was one of the attributes that endeared Abraham to God. Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen years and is therefore part of God’s covenant blessing made to Abraham and his descendants. The Muslims in many countries recognise this covenant and circumcise their sons at the age of thirteen and not at eight days. (The latter practice is incidentally also customary amongst Cape Muslims!) 
Generalisations around the Birth and Childhood of Ishmael
That the birth of Ishmael was a miracle is sometimes overlooked. He was fathered by Abraham when the patriarch was eighty six years old. Typical of distorted and bigoted thinking is that Ishmael was solely the result of the disobedience of Abraham, a compromise because the arch father could not wait on God’s promise. Abraham listened more to his wife than to God. Worse still, it might be concluded that he was weak, giving in to the demands of Sarah by sending Hagar away with the boy. Partly due to the teaching of Paul, the apostle, in Galatians 4:21ff, Christians tend to have a negative view of Ishmael and his mother Hagar. Thus Ishmael is negatively viewed as the son of Abram, born from the flesh (Isaac was the son of Abraham, the father of many nations and the son of the promise.)  The problems of the Middle East thus stem ultimately from Abraham’s disobedience according to this perception or interpretation.
Feiler (2002:65) draws some interesting parallels at the pregnancy of Hagar with Ishmael. ‘Sarah ‘afflicts’ Hagar, using the same words invoked…(??)
            Because Ishmael – by then a teenager - teased the baby Isaac (Genesis 21:19), he was to be blamed for the misery - causing his downfall and that of his mother Hagar, to be finally sent away. The misguided inference sometimes followed that Ishmael was not blessed. But this was definitely not so as we have seen.
An Islamic problem
The Muslim is reminded of Abraham's voluntary sacrifice every year at the major Eid celebration and at the name-giving ceremony when sheep are slaughtered. Then Muslims see the picture of the sacrifice visually demonstrated. A washing movement across their faces symbolises the atoning effect of the slaughter. They thus come very close to the biblical message of atonement by the blood of the Lamb: ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things ... you were redeemed... but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18,19). In Surah Saffat (The Ranks) 37, where we can read about Abraham’s sacrifice, the name of the son is not mentioned specifically. However, the name of Isaac is found in the context (v. 112,113). A Dictionary of Islam (Thomas Hughes, Lahore, 1885:216) says: ‘there would seem little doubt that Isaac was intended.’ Two of the few references where the name of Isaac is found in the Qur’an, occur in these two verses, just after the allusion to Abraham sacrificing his son.
The Bible mentions that Abraham built an altar. Oral tradition surmised that Isaac helped him to build the altar. This tradition developed toward the Qur’anic belief expressed in Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:127, that Ishmael helped Abraham to build the Ka’ba in Mecca. Today Muslims generally believe that it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was almost sacrificed on Moriah. The commentary of Al-Tabari, a reputed Muslim commentator and compiler of traditions, comes very close to the tradition of Genesis 22 and the Talmud. The commentary of Al-Tabari around Abraham’s sacrifice may have caused the confusion with regard to the Isaac/Ishmael dilemma of Islam. In Tabari’s commentary Gabriel reportedly said to Sarah, ‘I bring you good news of a son whose name is Isaac and after him Jacob.’ This almost sounds like the biblical angel coming to Mary, albeit minus the significant words ‘Son of God’ (Luke 1:35) and ‘Son of the most High’ (Luke 1:32). It becomes rather problematic though when Al-Tabari then lets Ishmael appear from nowhere, walking behind Abraham, carrying the wood and the large knife. This indicates that the confusing tradition may have been established at this time. In the Qur'anic account up to this point, only Isaac had been mentioned. Al-Tabari’s record gives the impression that Ishmael was to be sacrificed as well, using similar wording that he had used for the sacrifice with Isaac.[11]  

The Issue of Jews and Race
The whole issue of Jews and race was abused by Adolph Hitler. It was and is essentially a spiritual issue, not a racial one. Only the twelve tribes stemming from the patriarch Isaac via Jacob are counted in the Bible as ‘proper’ Israelites. Thus one finds the Midianites mentioned as Ishmaelites (Judges 8:24, Genesis 37:28), although Midian was a son of Abraham with Ketura, not a son of Ishmael.  Ishmaelite traders helped saving Joseph from certain death when they bought (Genesis 37:28) and sold him as a slave to Potiphar. Furthermore, Zipporah, the first wife of Moses, was the daughter of Reuel or Jethro, a Midianite priest (Exodus 2:21). To all intents and purposes Moses seems to have had a good relationship to his father-in-law, possibly also learning a thing or two from him. Later he readily accepted advice from Jethro to delegate his responsibility. Three female ancestors of King David, namely Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, did not stem from one of the twelve tribes. That the Israelites were saved from the bondage going through the Red Sea, has some spiritual significance. Rahab, a harlot, who had to use a red chord as an indication to the spies, which house was to be spared when Jericho would be destroyed (Joshua 2:17ff, 6:17). The Bible does not give any reason why it had to be red, but it does state that through this chord, Rahab and her family were saved. Through her trepidation at the awesome Israelites - no, because of her faith in the God of Israel - her life and that of her family were spared. She evidently understood the purposes of God. She must have had supernatural revelation. To crown it all, the Bible makes a point to note that she became an ancestor of the Lord (Matthew 1:5).
               We emphasise: there was a blessing on both Isaac and Ishmael. The notion that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael have been eternal enemies (and should remain that way,[12]) has very little biblical basis, even though the Qur'an advises Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews. (The background of the relevant verses is of course the disappointment of Muhammad that representatives of these groups would not recognise his perceived status as a divinely appointed rasool, the special messenger of Allâh for the Arabs.) There is however also a strong tradition of dhimmitude, where favoured treatment was to be given to the 'people of the Book', I.e. Jews and Christians.[13] Whereas it is clearly recorded that there was an inner-Israelite feud between Joseph and his brothers, there is no biblical evidence that the brotherly link between Isaac and Ishmael was severed during their lifetime despite the sad separation. In fact, at the funeral of Abraham both sons buried their father together (Genesis 25:9), reconciled to all intents and purposes. 

                                                            Isaac, the obedient Son

We already had a brief look at Isaac, the son of the promise; how he was born from Abraham and Sarah when this looked humanly impossible. In his birth Isaac was already a type of Christ, being born in such unique circumstances, thus prefiguring the virgin birth of Jesus.  He was born from the 'as good as dead' womb of the ninety-year old Sarah, so to speak brought to life – a pointer to the resurrection of Christ.  A messianic vibe was attached to his birth, as mentioned in the Jewish Encyclopaedia Vol. 9, p. 5: ‘The sun shone with unparalleled splendour, the like of which will only be seen again in the messianic age’.  He was the only one of the three patriarchs whose name was not later changed. Isaac was furthermore unique among the patriarchs, remaining monogamous, and he was exceptional in that he did not have concubines.
When we saw how God tested Abraham, we discovered that he had what we called resurrection faith. He trusted that God could bring his son back to life. We shall now look at the same report once again, but this time from the perspective of Isaac, the son. In the Epistle to the Hebrews Abraham’s sacrifice of his son prefigures both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus (Hebrew 11:19f).

Isaac as a Sacrifice
The oral tradition of Abraham’s vow with regard to Isaac has been quoted as: ‘He will be a sacrifice for God’In Genesis 22 we find the young lad accompanying his father, two servants and a donkey. At some point in time the wood was taken from the animal. The servants are ordered to wait with the donkey, until father and son would return. According to tradition the wood for a burnt offering was put on the back or shoulder of Isaac.
            A remarkable connection to Isaac is the reference to the coming Messiah. Judaism knows two strains or branches of the stream of Messianic Prophecy. The one branch refers to a kingly Messiah and the other strain depicts a suffering Messiah. Midrash commentary on Genesis 22:6 states that Isaac carried the wood on his shoulder to Moriah like someone would carry a cross. A Targum, on Job 3:18 - which speaks about a captive who does not hear the slave driver’s shouts - calls Isaac ‘the servant of the Lord’.
Father and son had hardly resumed their walk when the boy puts the uncomfortable question to his father where the offering - the animal for the sacrifice - was. They only had the flint for the fire, the knife and the wood. The answer in Scripture to Isaac’s question becomes very meaningful. Abraham replied: ‘God will provide unto himself the lamb for the burnt offering.’ The Jewish Talmud, the rabbinic commentary on the Scriptures during the first few centuries of the Common Era, has an interesting viewpoint. Abraham’s reply points to God’s perfect Lamb: ‘Our God has chosen you, my son, you, a creature without blemish, as an acceptable burnt-offering to His glory in place of the lamb.’ Whether this reply was comforting to the lad, is another matter. His humble submission became proverbial.

Looking forward in History  
The pious Jew automatically looks forward in history from this narrative to the unblemished Passover lamb at the exodus out of Egypt. Yet further fast forwarded, we see the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who was to be led like a sheep to be slaughtered, even though this is a prophecy with which Jews still have great difficulty. Isaac's submission to the will of his father – no, actually submission to the will of the heavenly Father who tested Abraham's faith and obedience – is a picture of the ebed, the slave-servant of the Lord whose ear was daily listening to the instructions of His Master. The opened ear (Psalm 40:6 ; Isaiah 50:4-9) alludes to the slave who had his ear bored as a sign that he voluntarily and willingly chose to be earmarked as a faithful servant for life (Exodus 21:6). Beyond this, the Servant-Messiah relinquished all personal rights, refusing to cling to His glorious divinity (Philippians 2:5ff) and submitting Himself to the indignities and pain of the Cross.
            The Christian sees the fulfilment of Isaiah 53 in the backdrop when Jesus was led innocently - without protest - like a sheep to be slaughtered. Jesus did not open his mouth, after hearing the false accusations against Him. Christians also hear as an echo John the Baptist speaking of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35). Paul wrote of Jesus as the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Last not least, Peter reminds in his first letter in the verse quoted above (1 Peter 1:18,19) that the Christians were not bought free by silver or gold, but by the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.    
Rabbinic Judaism’s View of Isaac
The rabbinic Judaism of the first few centuries was still very close to the 'New Testament'. The Bible does not tell the gruesome story of the actual sacrifice fully until the point where Abraham heaves the knife to kill his son. Oral tradition however added all sorts of detail. The aspect of voluntary submission - which is signified by the meaning of Islam - comes through in various traditions around the sacrifice. It has been stressed in the Talmud that the sacrifice of Isaac was more effective because it was voluntary.
            Judaism attaches special significance to Isaac’s obedience to be a sacrifice. In due course this became tantamount to his willingness to bear the sins of Israel.  Jews through the centuries believed that their sins are forgiven if they commemorate what they call the ‘binding of Isaac’. The sacrifice of Isaac is still prominent in the Jewish liturgy. The Christian can see the binding of Isaac as a type of Jesus nailed to the cross. The doctrine of forgiveness through the scapegoat - which is commemorated on the Day of Atonement - also appears on the horizon. The blood of this animal atones for the sins of the nation.
            In the rabbinic literature Isaac is the proto-type of the martyrs. He is e.g. called the one ‘who gave himself as a sacrifice for righteousness (IV Maccabeans 13:12). Bound on the altar as a sacrifice, he was the one over whom the angel of death had no power in the oral tradition. This is very special because the ‘resurrection’ of Isaac is thus accepted. According to another oral tradition, Isaac passed out as a result of the terror he experienced when Abraham lifted his knife. He was believed to have been revived by the heavenly voice telling Abraham not to sacrifice his son. An interesting observation is that a divine instruction is given here – don't kill you son - in diametrically opposite to the original sacrifice your only son. This demonstrates that God cannot be put in a box. He is sovereign, having the right to change his mind arbitrarily.
A remarkable connection to Isaac is the reference to the coming Messiah. Judaism knows two strains or branches of the stream of Messianic prophecy. The one branch refers to a kingly Messiah and the other strain depicts a suffering Messiah. The story of Isaac links up closely with the latter, e.g. In the written Targums, which are summaries – in Aramaic - of the most common interpretations of the Tenach. It is interesting that the Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 52 and 53 identifies the suffering servant of the Lord with the Messiah. Midrash commentary on Genesis 22:6 states that Isaac carried the firewood on his shoulder to Moriah like someone would carry a cross.
The age of Isaac at the time of the sacrifice is a moot point. Josephus suggested that he was twenty-five, ‘while the Talmud proposes thirty three, the same age as Jesus was when he was crucified (Feiler, 2002:86).
Ideas in Islamic Thinking about Isaac’s Sacrifice    
Two ideas which are implied in Islamic thinking about Isaac’s sacrifice are a) that suffering means punishment and rejection by God and b) that Isaac was not really sacrificed. Both play a role in the Qur’an. Evidently the link between Abraham’s sacrifice to Jesus was laid in the reference to the denial of Jesus’ death in Surah 4:157. With regard to a) there is the precedent of the Targum Jonathan, where suffering of the Messiah is attributed to the enemies of Israel. We listen to what the Qur’an says: ‘...they said (in boast), We killed Christ Jesus...the Messiah...but they killed him not ... so it was made to appear to them... for of a surety they killed him not.’ We could paraphrase it in this way: 'You Jews yourselves say that the Messiah did not suffer. You yourselves say that Isaac, the proto-type of the Messiah, cannot really be sacrificed, but that God provided a substitute. Then it should be logical that Jesus, who was that type, did not die on the Cross.'
            It is really sad that Muhammad, the founder of Islam, evidently only encountered a caricature of faith in Jesus. We bear the strained relationship between Muslims and Jews in Medina in mind, after the latter group had refused to become followers of Muhammad. Muslims of Muhammad’s day obviously thought they were doing the Christians a favour by refuting that the Jews had crucified Jesus. Professor Naudé summarised it so aptly: ‘If a Muslim would proceed with the spirit of this searching Muhammad consistently, …  he must come to true faith in the Saviour.  Muhammad tried to touch Jesus, but because of the crowd of people who stood between him and Jesus, the crowd of Christians pushed him away and crushed him, Muhammad could not come to touch Jesus himself - surely one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the world.’[14]

Obedient Submission 
The obedient submission to God, which is stressed in Islam, is not reported in Genesis 22, but it is completely in line with biblical thinking. This is a valuable addition, something that is well known in rabbinic Judaism. The Talmud reports how Abraham referred to Isaac as the substitution for the lamb. On the way to the Akedah – the sacrifice – satan is said to have attempted unsuccessfully to dissuade Isaac from obeying his father and when he failed, the deceiver tried to impede their journey. According to tradition Isaac however cooperated fully in the proposed sacrifice, even begging his father to bind him tightly lest he might struggle involuntarily and thus render the sacrifice invalid (Gen. R. 56:8).[15] We listen how the obedient son replies according to rabinnic tradition: ‘To the will of the living God in thankfulness I bow.’ Just like Isaac, the Lord Jesus would willingly lay down his life. One almost hears the echo centuries later, where the agonising Jesus was required to empty the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cup must have ‘contained’ something against which his whole being rebelled. It has been suggested that it could have been the sins of the world and all sicknesses and ailments against which his sinless being came in fierce opposition. The victory is achieved when the Son learned obedience through his suffering: ‘Not my will, but thy will be done’ (Mark 14:36). The events leading to the crucifixion and the cross of Calvary itself echo Abraham and Isaac’s obedient submission in every respect, culminating in Jesus saying: ‘Father, in Thy hands I commit my spirit’.  Jesus, the submissive Lamb was slain for the sins of the world. Now whosoever believes in Him, can have everlasting life.
            God, who provided the ram on Moriah, also gave the Lamb on Calvary, his only Son. The ram prefigured the slain lamb of the Passover that saved the Israelites in the hour of judgement. The Lord Jesus became the Lamb slain for the sin of mankind. Now whosoever believes in Him as Saviour, receives everlasting life. Paul recorded the significance of this fact in the following words: ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2).

The Heir as the Son of Promise
Paul, the apostle, adds some interesting insights in his letter to the Galatians when he looks at Isaac as the heir and as the ‘son of promise’, comparing this to Ishmael - the son by the slave woman. His belligerent style in the epistle to the Galatians tends to have negated many interesting views. In our climate where religious tolerance is sometimes written in capital letters, Paul’s negative opinion about the Law unfortunately throws a shadow over Chapter 4 of the letter. His Hellenistic upbringing in Tarsus probably accounts for this relative insensitivity on this score. Paul does not seem to have discerned the emotive value of circumcision for a staunch Jew sufficiently.
            His speaking of the Law as a curse (Galatians 3:13) has however so often been cited out of context. He also states that Christ became a curse for us. Yet, Isaac as the ‘son of promise’ thus came insufficiently into the sunlight. His reference to a ‘Jerusalem above’ gives an interesting eschatological (end-time) perspective. Paul equates the  ‘Jerusalem below’ with Mount Sinai in Arabia (Galatians 4:25). The specific mentioning of Arabia puts Judaism and Islam on an equal footing, both religions of the Law. The ‘Jerusalem above’, which is free, is the ‘mother of us all.’ One is reminded of Hebrew 11:10 where Abraham is quoted as having expected a city of which God is the architect and builder.
            The instruction to ‘cast out the bondwoman’ (4:27) becomes an invitation to challenge all sorts of legalistic bondage – also what we have in our churches, which we sometimes camouflage by calling it tradition. This we do in the name of the most prominent descendant of the Son of the promise. Jesus Christ came to redeem both Jews and Gentiles, including Muslims – giving to all and sundry the possibility of adoption as sons, as ‘children of promise’ (4:28). Jesus, our Lord, proclaimed that whosoever the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36) and Paul enjoined us not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).

The heavenly Bridegroom pre-figured                                                                                           
Another aspect from the life of Isaac should still be mentioned, namely his marriage to Rebekah. The prayerful attitude of the slave Eliezer makes the choice special.  He saw in her response a sign whether she should become Isaac’s bride. Her willingness to leave her own people and her father’s house  to be the bride of Isaac has been described as a picture of the Church, the Bride of Christ.
            In the Hebrew Scripture the Almighty is often depicted as the bridegroom with the nation of Israel the (sometimes very unfaithful) wife. Thus the prophet Hosea was charged to marry a prostitute to portray this relationship clearly. In the Christian Scripture the Church is portrayed as the Bride, with Jesus as the (coming) bridegroom.  The bride is still incomplete because the 'new man' of Ephesians 2:4, when the Gentile Church will get its Jewish complement, must still be completed.
            In Genesis 24:63 we find Isaac in the field meditating. His slave Eliezer had been sent to Nahor, a relative of Abraham to look for a bride for the young man. Meditating speaks about a prayerful attitude. Significantly, the Word speaks of him ‘looking up’ and seeing the camels coming. This points forward to the messianic Isaiah 60:6,7 that speaks of the camels of Midian and the descendants of Kedar and Nebaioth. These two are the eldest sons of Ishmael. This points to many Muslims coming to faith in al-Masih, the Messiah.  The worldwide - still predominantly Gentile – Church should be on the look out and be a conduit, at the same time for the Jews to come to recognise their Messiah.
            In Genesis 24:64 it is reported in the story immediately hereafter how Rebekah also ‘looked up’. After being told that their master Isaac was coming, the bride put on her veil. If this is not another type of the bride of Christ getting ready for the ‘marriage’, the second coming of our Lord, what is? Rebekah symbolizes the Church waiting for a long time. She sees Isaac (i.e. the Messiah) coming towards her as the one announced by the prophets. He is thus also a fore-shadow of the Bridegroom Jesus, ready to meet his Bride, the Church bought from every tribe and nation.

Isaac and Ishmael Reconciled
We highlighted the fact that Isaac and Ishmael buried their father together (Genesis 25:9), reconciled to all intents and purposes. It is sad that this tenet appears to have been neglected so much not only in Rabbinic Judaism but also in Western Christianity. I have the impression that Islamic theologians hardly took notice of the reconciliation of Abraham's sons.
               Allan Boesak (2006:25) made an important contribution in his book Die Vlug van Gods Verbeelding. He summarised the situation beautifully: 'Here are two sons that are reconciled to each other, who buried all rancour with their father.'[16] This must have had a run-up where Ishmael and Isaac had put the mistakes and sins of their parents aside.  What an amount of bitterness could have accumulated in the older son who saw not only his birthright and inheritance robbed, but who was so harshly treated and rejected. What an amount of courage Isaac must have mustered to dare to make contact with his brother again. We don't know whether they only met again after their father had already died or whether he notified him prior to his death. That is however irrelevant. The point is that he must have made the first move for which he surely needed special grace and courage. And Ishmael obviously rose to the occasion to forgive him.
Jacob, the Deceiver, gets a new Name

Isaac’s twins by Rebekah after she had been barren for a long time, become special. The difference between Esau and Jacob has however sometimes been abused. The guile which he practised in collusion with his mother Rebekah would not remain unpunished. The great father Augustine went however obviously too far to equate Jacob with the Church and Esau with the Synagogue. This is only one of many examples in Church History of intensifying the unacceptable rift between Judaism and Christianity.
Jacob’s Ladder as a special Picture of the Cross
The Talmud gives extra attention to the Bethel (House of God) experience of Jacob. The Talmud gives extra attention to the Bethel (House of God) experience of Jacob. His dream of a ladder that bridges the gulf between heaven and earth became a paradigm also for Christians. Believers down the centuries saw in the ladder an allegorical picture of the Cross, which bridged the gap between sinful man and the Holy God. Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). The stone that he used as a pillow, has invited commentary in different ways, supplying probably a pristine example for shrines and sacred stones. We note that the sacrifice on the altar was more important than the stones used for it. However, tradition idolised stones in due course, when they were kissed and revered.  The Black Stone of the Ka’ba became one of the most (in)famous in this regard.  The Hebrew Scriptures (‘OT’) are absolutely clear in its rejection of the idolatrous worship at so-called sacred stones (Exodus 23:24; Deuteronomy 7:5; Leviticus 26:1; 2 Kings 3:2 etc.). Ibn Ishaq pointed to the idolatrous nature of the cult around the Black Stone in the Ka’ba.
Jacob’s wrestling at the Jabbok rivulet with the angel – said to be Israel, from which he received the new name – is also highlighted in Talmudic material. Jacob, the deceiver, becomes the special father of the nation after this encounter through the new name Israel.
A negative Pointer to Jesus
If ever one could speak of a negative pointer to Jesus, Jacob would possibly qualify best of all. The Lord Jesus describes some of his divine qualities in John 14:6 ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ By contrast, Jacob’s whole life story until the Jabbok encounter with the Almighty contained diverse lies and deception.  Genesis 25:26 mentions how Jacob was grasping the heel of Esau at birth. This has sometimes been described as typical of his tricky nature, that he would try and trip up all and sundry. That he pulled Esau back at his heel at birth, is highlighted – somewhat overdrawn in my opinion – as proof of this nature. An otherwise unintelligible divine element becomes evident when Rebekah gets the explanation from God when she felt that the twins were jostling within her womb: 'the older will serve the younger'. Divine support for the underdog is a tenet that one can find in the Scriptures again and again.
            The Bible does not hide it in any way that Jacob received a bad example from both mother and father, who were dishonest, who were telling lies left, right and centre. The old King Abimelech must have been very amused when he caught out Isaac caressing Rebekah, after he heard the lie in a previous generation that the lady was the patriarch Abraham’s sister (Genesis 26:8f). The spirit of lies proved to be very pervasive indeed. Both parents displayed favouritism. Jacob was Rebekah’s pet and Esau was the darling of Isaac. The deception - with the mother assisting Jacob to acquire the special birth right through a bowl of soup - is well-known, albeit that he had to flee for his life thereafter.
With the special coat he gave to Joseph, Jacob passed the bad example of favouritism on because Joseph was the son of his favourite wife.  The multi-coloured coat clearly points to favouritism. It goes perhaps just a bit too far to suggest in this regard that Paul would refer centuries later to the Church as the instrument through which God's multi-coloured wisdom would be demonstrated (Ephesians 3:10). But it is nevertheless good to know that God's favour rests on His Body, the Church.
The hatred of the brothers - even to the point that they considered killing him, does not leave much to the imagination. To parents this should be a constant warning. We need divine guidance to treat our children equally; otherwise we might make it difficult for them to function well in the family. Jacob’s behaviour is partly to blame for Joseph’s misery later. Giving Benjamin, their youngest son the name meaning ‘son of my right hand’ – thereby overruling Rachel’s suggestion Ben-oni, which means son of sorrow – is just an extension of this habit. Yet, this is simultaneously very prophetic – the man of Sorrows of Gethsemane and Calvary was destined to finally sit at the right hand of God.
Jacob as someone in Need of special Grace
Parallel to the concept of mercy, the Bible also teaches grace as a central tenet. In the Qur’an, Allâh is often described as the merciful one. Almost every Surah starts with him as the most merciful. In the name of Allâh, most gracious, most merciful! However, the aspect of grace, is not highlighted in Islamic theology. Of course, it is just a little nuance of mercy, perhaps not even such a big deal and yet so profound.
Throughout the Old and 'New Testament' this is taught. It is not what we earn or deserve, but God’s grace which sustains us.  Jacob needed special grace and forgiveness after the treachery and deception which he had been practising or of which he had been a party. It appears that the notion that one must earn God’s forgiveness, must have been very pervasive and stubborn. Jacob was no different when he tried to buy Esau’s forgiveness through various gifts. Not only in Judaism, man seems to prefer receiving divine atonement by way of some deed. It is sad that Moses’ heritage, the gift of the Torah, in due course lost its original purpose, namely instruction and a guideline for living under the Almighty’s sovereign rule. Legalism and a petty playing with words came in its place. A whole range of legalistic interpretations and traditions in Judaism have had the combined effect of nullifying God’s laws as Jesus had to tell some people (Mark 7:13). Samuel summarised beautifully what was at stake: ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22).
Paul deemed it necessary to chide work-righteousness. He clearly taught in Ephesians 2:8-9 that it is ‘by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.’ How important it was to him, is illustrated by the fact that the same message is also stressed in his letter to the Galatians (3:22-26) and the Romans (3:24-28).

Good Works atoning for Sin 
In pre-Islamic Christianity and in the Great Church of Muhammad’s day it was most probably preached that good works could atone for one’s sin. Man likes to earn his own salvation. The Islamic view of the atonement of sin is a tragic development of the doctrine of works. We contrast this with the biblical teaching that ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ before God (Isaiah 64; 6), that Christ is ‘our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Corinthians 1:30). The final result of the unbiblical view is that one does not need a Saviour and mediator. According to this concept, payment of indulgence money and good works one can buy one’s way into heaven. This is one of the teachings against which Martin Luther protested fiercely.
            In the early medieval environment of work righteousness in church and synagogue, it is not surprising at all that Muhammad failed to pick up the biblical teaching of salvation by faith. Hence one reads in Surah Al Ma'ida (The Table Spread) 5:48 ‘Charity, it is an act of atonement…’ and so many other examples occur in the Islamic scriptures, notably of man earning divine rewards in one way or another. In fact, Islam basically denies the biblical message of atonement, teaching that human repentance and good deeds become conditions for Allâh’s forgiveness. The Qur’an teaches that good deeds should outweigh and cancel the bad ones (Surah Hud 11:114). In the ultimate divine judgement the good deeds must give light when man has to cross the chord that is as thin as a hair. 
            It seems to sit quite deep in human nature to want to earn his salvation. In Judaism the law and its companion circumcision became exalted as the way of salvation.  Not only other religions, but also some Protestants who should know better, have time and again fallen prey to this temptation.
            Somehow many Christians have been led to believe that the Hebrew Scriptures teach that salvation is accomplished only through works. This is definitely a misconception. The Hebrew word often translated with ‘grace’ or ‘favour’ is chen. Chuck and Karen Cohen - two Messianic Jews - i.e. followers of Jesus with a Jewish background, highlighted the meaning of chen in biblical history: ‘the stronger coming to the help of the weaker... (The stronger) acts by a voluntary decision, though he is moved by the dependence or the request of the weaker party.’ An excellent example of how it works in practice is how Moses interceded for the idolatrous Israelites after the experience of the golden calf in Exodus 32. In the exchange between God and Moses the word chen is used nine times. Moses knew that it was not by any merit on the part of the Israelites that he could approach the Lord and intercede for them. It is significant that God met him on that basis, even stating that it is His divine nature to be ‘gracious’ (Exodus 34:6).      
Jacob apparently also knew in his deepest of hearts that all his gifts could never        win back the favour or even forgiveness of his twin brother. He was completely at his mercy. He needed grace because he nowhere earned such forgiveness. Above all, he needed (divine) forgiveness.

Jacob imbedded in religious Polemics
In the Qur’an there are frequent but brief allusions to the Patriarch Jacob, all in connection with Abraham and Isaac. The only Qur’anic narrative material refers to Jacob’s journey to Egypt and to his death. The former is included in the 12th Surah in the fairly full account of the life of Joseph. The brief reference to Jacob's death is imbedded in polemics: ‘The same did Abraham enjoin upon his sons, and also Jacob, (saying): “O my sons! Lo! Allâh hath chosen for you the (true) religion; therefore die not save as men who have surrendered (unto Him). Were you witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: “What will you worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship Thy god and the god of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma’il and Isaac,- the one (True) Allâh: To Him we bow (in Islam).” (Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:132f). The Qur’an continues in the polemical mood in Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:135 (Pickthal translation:  ‘And they say: Be Jews or Christians, then you will be rightly guided. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Nay, but (we follow) the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolaters. Yusuf Ali translated the latter phrase ‘and he joined not gods with Allâh.’

Is Divine Election Favouritism?
Before the twins Jacob and Esau were born, God revealed to Rebekah: ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated, one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger’ (Genesis 25:23).  In the natural we find this strange. This is however as clear an example of divine election as we could wish. The problem is that Rebekah could not wait on God to implement it himself. With guile and deceit she tried so to speak to help God to His purposes, by assisting Jacob to resemble Esau as near as possible, in order to receive the blessing from the old and blind Isaac. Whenever man cannot wait and then endeavours to assist God, catastrophe often follows. In the case of Jacob, it resulted in him having to flee to escape the vengeance of his twin brother.

Jacob copied the bad example of favouritism by his parents when he had a special robe made for Joseph. The evil result of this practice of parental favouritism gave rise to the advice in the Talmud and in many sermons that a man should never make distinctions between his children. A happy medium is usually recommended between spoiling a child, not correcting his faults on the one hand and on the other hand being too stern with him. A typical and beautiful advice for a better course to adopt with children and women is given in the Semachoth II, 6: ‘to push away with the left hand and draw them near with the right hand’ (Cohen, 1971:182). Yet, Jacob’s favouritism has a divine touch. God himself would have a monogenes, a favourite, a uniquely born Son. All three synoptic gospels report how a voice from heaven confirmed at his baptism that Jesus is God’s Son whom He loves, with whom he is well pleased. On two occasions the Gospel of Matthew reports the divine voice mentioning ‘This is my son, whom I love’ (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
When God however steps in sovereignly, it is so much better. Nowhere was this possibly more radical than in the case of Jacob. Instead of having been the ‘deceiver’, he becomes a fighter for the Almighty, albeit that he was limping after his battle with the Lord of hosts at Peniel (Genesis 32:31f). The name change implied also a change of character.  It is striking that the character of the God of faithfulness is so much imputed into Jacob, that many a Psalm would refer to the Almighty as the God of Jacob (e.g. Psalm 46:7; 8:1,4; 146:3). In fact, the new name of Jacob, namely Israel, became the name used for the nation.

Jacob's Sons as prophetic Pointers
The final blessings of Jacob to his sons before his death get a special significance. The names of some of Jacob’s sons point to the Messiah, the Son of God. Reuben means “see a son.” Leah gave him this name ‘because the Lord has seen my misery.’  God saw the misery of men becoming slaves of sin. Therefore he sent his SON, born of a woman to redeem us. The colour red gets highlighted in an interesting way in the Bible, e.g. mentioned as the colour of the soup that Jacob used to buy the right of the first born from Esau.
It is very striking what the dying Jacob prophesied over Judah, whose life story includes actually very little spectacular happenings. Yet, it was he who suggested that Joseph should be sold to the Ishmaelite traders. Thus he saved Joseph’s life. All the more it is surprising what Jacob says about him in Genesis 49:9, ‘Judah is a lion’s whelp.’ This ties in perfectly with Revelations 5:5 where the Lord Jesus is described as ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah.’ Jacob continued: ‘…The sceptre (or tribal staff) shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.’  Shiloh is the man of rest or peace. We think of the similar prophecy of Isaiah 9:6, foreseeing that the Messiah would be the ‘Prince of Peace.’  (Centuries later, Paul would be describing Jesus similarly: He himself is our peace, who smashed the separating wall between Jew and Gentile, to create one Body, Ephesians 2:14).
The royal sceptre is like a baton in a relay race that Judah inherited from his father Jacob, of whom it was prophesied in Numbers 24:17: ‘… there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Seth…’ This in turn ties in with Jacob’s ‘ testament’ over Judah in respect of the descendants of Jacob’s other children: ‘thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.’ This can only point to some future time when all Israel will bow to the King of Kings, the Messiah, the Lion of Judah.
A less glorious snippet in Judah’s life is mentioned in Genesis 38 where it is told how Judah had intercourse with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. She tricked Judah after he had promised that she could marry his son. Tamar disguised herself as a harlot. In the 'New Testament', in Matthew 1, Tamar is mentioned among a few women in the genealogy of Jesus.  The birth of twins coming from this physical union gets a special twist when a chord is bound around the first-born. Without any reason given for the choice of the colour, a scarlet chord is tied to Perez, the first-born of the twins. Thus the prophecy of Jacob is fulfilled. The Prince of Peace came from his loins via Tamar.
Another tradition with a negative vibe in terms of inter-religious dialogue came through via the Midrash about the aged Esau when he is reported to have said to his grandson Abimelech (quoted by Robinson, 2004: 110): 'I tried to kill Jacob but was unable. Now I am entrusting to you and your descendants with the important mission of annihilating Jacob's descendants – the Jewish people.'
This was exemplified by Haman, a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite (Numbers 24:7), who is especially mentioned in the book of Esther. Fighting against and perpetuating hatred toward the Jewish people is sadly still one of the hallmarks of contemporary Islam.
Before we look in more detail at the life of Joseph as a pointer to Jesus, it is appropriate to note the profound prophecy of the aged arch father Jacob over this son. In Genesis 49:22 we read for instance: Joseph is a fruitful vine. The reader of the 'New Testament' is automatically reminded of the words of Jesus: 'I am the true vine...'

Joseph and his special Gifts

            When we go to the biblical personalities Joseph and Moses, we find a common denominator. We  see here two men who were very gifted, but whose gifts God could not use straight away. Both of them first had to be humbled before God could use them.

Suffering because of his Gift
One gets the impression that Joseph was arrogant and haughty because of his special gift, namely the interpretation of dreams. The youthful Joseph was very proud of his robe, the special gift. The way in which he told his second dream to the rest of the family most probably displayed more self-confidence than was good and healthy. In fact, it appears to have contained a good dose of arrogance. Even his father Jacob was offended when the interpretation of the dream was proudly told: they as parents will have to bow before Joseph! Jacob could not do much else but rebuke the spoilt lad. Up to this stage of the story, there is evidently a lot of guilt involved. Years later we find Joseph asking his brothers for forgiveness. He evidently knew full well that he was not innocent at all.
            This part of the narrative already clearly points to Jesus, albeit with a significant difference. The Master was conscious of his Messianic status, but instead of boasting about it, he toned it down. More than once he asked people who were healed to keep it to themselves.

The special Gift as an Offence
The special gift of Joseph - to explain the meaning of dreams - was offensive to his brothers and parents.
This was interpreted as boasting. In fact, the depicting of the life of Joseph in the Tenach is second to none as a pointer to Jesus, the only person about whom no negatives are reported. Apart from his gift there was the multi-coloured garment he received which gave such grave offence. When it was soaked in the blood of an animal, it thus had a prophetic link to the Messianic Isaiah 61:10 ‘For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness’ and to Hebrews 9:22 – no salvation without the shedding of blood. Another garment – a torn one as the tradition goes - played a part in his incarceration when he ran away from the seduction of Potiphar's wife and thereafter falsely accused of an attempt to rape her.
            In a similar way, Jesus rubbed his audience up the wrong way merely through the divine authority that he displayed. Especially the religious people were offended because He forgave sins. Of course, this was an indication of his divinity, but it would have been difficult for them to accept that. Instead, they regarded Jesus as a lunatic.  Once he not only healed someone on the Sabbath, but he also defended himself by saying that the Father was always at work (John 5). In fact, when Jesus made no effort to deny that he was the Son of God, the rage of the priesthood passed boiling point. That was the ultimate reason why Jesus was hurriedly crucified before the Passover (Matthew 26: 63-66).
            What is the lesson for us? We should not be too surprised if people get angry when we assert positively that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour! We should however also not be perplexed by a negative reaction if our own attitude has been one of arrogance. It would stand us in better stead if we were humble, if we do not speak about our faith in a boastful, arrogant way, but in a loving and inviting manner.

The Robe of Righteousness   
When one believes in faith in Jesus as Lord, one gets a special ‘cloak’ from the Father, the robe of righteousness. The Count Zinzendorf, the German Moravian pioneer of the modern missionary movement, composed a wonderful hymn: ‘The Saviour’s blood and righteousness my beauty is, my glorious dress.’ In Afrikaans the hymn has been translated into: ‘Christus bloed en geregtigheid, dit is die kleed vir my bereid.’
This is a fitting interpretation of Isaiah 61:10, ‘For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness’.
            The Messianic Isaiah 61:10 is a clear pointer to Jesus. The Hebrew word for Jesus is Yeshua, which means salvation. A children’s chorus starting with: ‘The windows of heaven are open...’ includes the phrase ‘...He gave me a robe of pure white’. The latter sentence fits perfectly to other hymns and songs, which speak about the blood of Jesus that cleanses and purifies. This is in turn a paraphrase of 1 John 1:7 and 9 which states that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin if we confess them.   
            However, the acceptance in faith of the ‘new robe’ involves the counting of the cost. This robe might even lead to persecution and false accusations as it happened to Joseph and Jesus. Nevertheless, in the case of false accusations, we are challenged to leave our defence over to God. He will see to it that our innocence is proved in His good time.
            Yet, it should be a sobering thought that many believers worldwide have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Just as Joseph was maltreated innocently especially because of his cloak, believers have been suffering merely because of their stand in faith. In certain countries believers have even been killed, their houses and churches burnt down for no clear reason other than that they professed their faith in Jesus.

Death and (partial) Resurrection
The biblical report of Joseph describes candidly how he was thrown alive into a pit. This only happened after Ruben had intervened on his behalf, so to speak on the last minute. His life was finally saved when he was sold to traders. Significantly, the Word notes that 20 pieces of silver were used to sell him to the traders. It sounds almost like the price for which Judas betrayed our Master. This was the price of a slave. Joseph prefigures Christ who took upon himself the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7).
            The Bible furthermore specifically mentions that the traders were Ishmaelites. We could see this as co-operation, as the working together of the ancestors of Jews and Muslims to save Joseph, albeit that monetary profit was the over-riding motive. Ultimately Joseph became the Saviour of many thousands from different nations of the Middle East. God had to reprimand both Joseph and Moses, using exile after they had acted in the flesh. Yet, His hand was on them, guiding and chastening them through suffering. It is especially hard to witness our loved ones suffer. But then, it is so wonderful when that what Bishop Retief (Tragedy to triumph, 1994:59) calls ‘the Joseph principle,’ comes into play: ‘...You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’ (Genesis 50:19-20). In fact, earlier he had said to them: 'do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you' (Genesis 45:5). He thus was in a special way a pointer to Jesus. He was their Yeshua, their Saviour. Listen how prophetically Joseph put it to his brothers: ‘God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth’ (Genesis 45:8).
         We detect the divine hand - especially in the light of the constant enmity between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael up to this day - when we note that Joseph was rescued by Ishmaelites.

A new Name for Joseph        
In Islamic tradition the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) taught Joseph the letters of the alphabet and the skills of working in the world (Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1989:136). This has clearly been derived from Judaism. According to a Talmudic passage, Joseph received two things from the angel Gabriel, namely mastery over seventy languages and an additional letter to his name. Both of these ideas are based on exposition of a verse in Psalm 81:4-7: ‘... For this is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. This he ordained in Yehosef (Joseph) for a testimony, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I heard a language I had not known. I removed the burden from his shoulder ... You called in trouble, and I saved you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.’
The verse refers to Yehosef, that is, Yosef with an extra “heh”.  This is seen as a new name given by the Angel Gabriel to Joseph. That the letter “heh” was used, is seen as special, because it is the only letter used twice in the tetragram Yahweh, the ineffable four-lettered name of the Almighty in Hebrew which tradition prescribed not to be spoken aloud.  We see this same idea in the Bible where God changes the names of Jewish leaders such as Abram to Abraham, where “heh” was also added. The name change usually implied some major change and divine intervention, often including also a change of character.
Having become the slave of Potiphar, Joseph was just like the Master. The Saviour had to leave his heavenly glory, to take on the stature of a slave (Philippians 2:1-5).The life of Joseph was indeed clearly fore-shadowing the death and resurrection of the man of Calvary, who was to become the Saviour of the world. Of course, the ‘resurrection’ was not yet complete in the life of Joseph. He was still a slave.

False Accusations against Joseph, the Slave  
As a slave of Potiphar, Joseph was innocently imprisoned for attempted rape. In the biblical report Potiphar’s wife lied to get Joseph behind bars after he had refused to commit adultery with her.
             Before Jesus’ crucifixion the high priest bribed false witnesses, who actually contradicted each other. After the false accusations had been brought against Him, Jesus did not open his mouth (Matthew 26:62). These were the exact words of the Messianic Isaiah 53. In the latter chapter there is the prophecy that the servant of the Lord would be led like a sheep to be slaughtered without protest of any sort.
            Joseph is without doubt a clear pointer to Christ who was likewise accused falsely. Just like Jesus, who was led like a sheep to his shearers, Joseph seems not to have been given the opportunity to prove his innocence.
            In extra-biblical sources Joseph seems to have undergone some sort of trial. According to the Talmudic version of the narrative, Potiphar actually found Joseph ‘not guilty’ upon investigation, when it was discovered that his shirt was torn at the back. This rendering is also found in the Qur’an. It is not clear why Joseph nevertheless landed in prison in the Qur’anic report. The Talmud gives as reason that it was a safeguard, because the character of the wife of one as highly profiled in the state as Potiphar should not suffer.
            Yusuf Ali, the famous Islamic commentator and translator of the Qur’an, suggests that Potiphar thought that it was in his wife’s interests to get Joseph out of the way. The argument is very interesting. The decisive factor - according to this source - was the view of the men generally. It is said that the men were alarmed at the consternation, which Joseph had caused among the women. I quote: ‘ was argued that it was better that one man (even if righteous) should suffer in prison than that many should suffer extraordinary disturbance.’   Ali was probably not aware that he used prophetic language, just as little as Caiaphas, the High priest, was aware of it when he used almost identical language: ‘It is better that one should die for all’ (John 18:14). Was not Jesus indeed the innocent Lamb of God, the one to die for the sins of the world? 

Waiting on God’s Time
God used the special gifts of Joseph while he was working as a slave for Potiphar. Also in prison he was soon given special responsibility after he had showed his mettle. But the full ‘resurrection’ of the young man was still to take off. When the butler promised to tell the Pharaoh about his innocence, one thinks: now the innocence of Joseph is going to come out, now he will be vindicated.
            But none of it! In one terse sentence the Bible states that the butler forgot Joseph. How tragic, when one considers that the young man had to languish in prison for two more years! Satan often gets more honour than seems appropriate. Thus in the very context where Joseph is quoted as saying: ‘Verily my Lord understandeth best the mysteries of all’, one can read ‘Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers’ (Surah Yusuf 12:100). Where the Bible implies that God fitted the mistake of the butler into His sovereign plan to mould Joseph for a further two more years in prison, the Qur’an says: ‘but Satan made him forget’  (Surah Yusuf 12:42). That would nevertheless be in line with the tactics of the enemy of souls. He always tries to cut through God’s plans. But we should never give the devil too much honour, e.g. by blaming him for things where we are responsible ourselves. Yet, the qur'anic inference is completely comprehensible. Joseph did not really deserve the two extra years in jail.
            But God is greater. He can supersede the devil’s snares and sometimes he even incorporates them into his plans. In fact, John, the apostle, summarised the reason of the appearance of the Son of God as ‘to destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8). Joseph’s extended stay in prison becomes part and parcel of God’s teaching and the moulding of Joseph. Hereafter he was even better prepared for the daunting but divinely appointed task!
            When one looks back critically at one’s own life, one may discover how God used difficult years of waiting and testing to mould one. Sometimes we do not understand why we have to wait, sometimes even for years. It is good to know that God can even overrule our mistakes and our sins, on condition that we repent and confess. God often uses affliction, disappointment and trials to mould us. The spiritual growth of Joseph in this regard underlines this principal. As an arrogant young man he became haughty because of the gift he had received and with it the interpretation of dreams. After he had landed in prison and after using this gift once again in respect of the butler and baker, he seemed to have learned the lesson well when he was summoned to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. Humbly he replied: I cannot do it by myself, but God will tell you what it means (Genesis 41:16).

The final Glory
That Joseph is finally more than vindicated, demonstrates that God has everything firmly under control, even though it might not always seem so. When Joseph’s innocence comes into the open, his years in prison get another perspective. The ‘resurrection’ becomes increasingly evident. Joseph could have humiliated his brothers. Just as God overruled the wicked scheming of satan, allowing His Son Jesus to be crucified, the Holy One used the exiled Joseph to save the nation. 
            It is significant that Joseph was an Egyptian in the eyes of his brothers when he reminded them of their God and the God of their forefathers. In this way he pre-figured our Lord who came to his own but his own did not receive him (John 1:12). Joseph could have given orders to have those brothers killed who had schemed against him. Instead, he told them: ‘do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here...’ (Genesis 45:5). Later he hugged and kissed his brothers. He displayed the spirit of Jesus who proclaimed on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). His using the words 'do not be afraid' is likewise typical of the deity putting fearful and anxious people at ease, one of 366 instances in the Bible – one for every day of the year, also in a leap year.
            In yet another sense Joseph was a type of Jesus. The ‘resurrection’ is only a part of the final glory. Earlier we quoted the prophetic words of Joseph:  ‘God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth…’ (Genesis 45:8). In the backdrop we hear Jesus telling his disciples that he would go ahead to prepare a place for them and for us (John 14:2f). Special were also the prophetic words of the dying patriarch Jacob: ‘Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring… With bitterness archers attacked him, but his bow remained steady… because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel… ’  (Genesis 49:22-24). Centuries later, Jesus proclaimed: ‘I am the true vine…and my Father is the gardener’ (John 15:1).  The victory of the resurrection, after the evil plot preceding the crucifixion of Jesus, is prefigured when Joseph proclaims: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’ (Genesis 50:20).
            Joseph was at this time second in command, virtually running the show in Egypt, without however usurping any authority. Jesus is in a sense also second ‘in command’, but he has definitely not usurped power from God, the Father. The Almighty is the undisputed sovereign primus inter pares (first among equals) of the persons of the Godhead. Jesus is thus the second among equals. Jesus said: ‘I and the father are one.’ It is glorious to see God’s sovereign plan in this allegory.
            And yet, this is only part of the story. One day Jesus will return even more gloriously, as the King of Kings!  Lance Lambert, a messianic Jew, gave an interesting view in this regard, saying: ‘When I think of my Jewish compatriots, I always have to think of Joseph who kept his identity secret before his brothers. Eventually he took the initiative himself to reveal it. I have the suspicion that the Lord has kept his identity hidden on purpose and that he will choose the moment himself when he will embrace and kiss them.

Moses, God’s special Instrument

Moses has a special place in the three Abrahamic faiths. He was not only the instrument through which the Law was given to the Israelites, but he also symbolised the Messiah, God’s anointed, like no other. No wonder that the Jews expected the Messiah - on the authority of the prophesy in Deuteronomy 18:18 - to be someone like Moses. Muslims regard the same verse as a prophecy of Muhammad, the founder of their religion. 

From the Cradle to the Crucible
In the Gospel of Matthew it is reported how the baby Jesus was saved - just like Moses - after Herod had instructed all baby boys to be killed. His mother Mary’s fiancé Joseph - as the physical guardian of the baby Jesus - was instructed by the Angel of the Lord to flee to Egypt.
            The Israelites were divinely saved from extinction through famine after Joseph had been sent ahead of them to Egypt. The Bible narrative makes it clear that God’s hand was on the baby Moses right from the beginning. Moses was saved from certain death through the courageous actions of Jochebed, his mother. The new Pharaoh, who feared the growing number of Hebrews, wanted all baby boys killed. This became God’s way of making sure that the future leader of his people would get the best education possible. Centuries later Stephen said: ‘Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action’ (Acts 7:22). Evidently Moses was a very confident personality at the age of forty. With this extreme self-esteem he was nevertheless useless to God, in spite of his gifts. Our pride effectively hinders God to work through us optimally.
            The attempt of Moses to avenge the killing of a fellow Israelite brought out his true sympathies. This was God’s method to make him humble enough to be used. After a period of roaming, he finally settled down in Median. From the outset the Christian detects some subtle pointer to our Lord Jesus. One sees the good Shepherd at work who shields the harassed daughters of Jethro from the false ones (Exodus 2:17). We compare the portion with Ezekiel 34 which speaks of the Almighty as the true Shepherd and John 10:11, where Jesus uses one of the 'I am' phrases to describe this part of His character. (With some imagination we can also detect in the backdrop how our Lord met the Samaritan woman at the well without drinking utensils of his own.)
            Forty years later, Moses was called to be the shepherd, the leader of his people. It was God’s timing and the divine answer to the groaning prayers of the Israelites in Egypt. Once again, we see the death and resurrection of Jesus pre-figured.

Meeting the Great I am         
The divine commission to Moses opens with the glorious vision of the Angel of the Lord at the burning bush that is a picture of the incarnation – God present in a visible form. When Moses asked His name he replied YahwehI AM that I AM. Say unto the people of Israel, I AM has sent me unto you.’  (Exodus 3:14) Centuries later Jesus echoed these words by saying: I AM the Bread of Life; I AM the Light of the World; I AM the Door; I AM the Good Shepherd; I AM the Resurrection and the Life; I AM the Way the Truth, and the Life.
Surprisingly, Moses did not jump at the chance of showing his mettle after the invitation to lead God’s people out of Egyptian bondage and agony. That would have been typical of the old Moses. He was by this time moulded into a humble old man, albeit that he was going overboard, looking for all sorts of excuses. He was not so keen at all to go and lead the Israelites out of Egypt, out of bondage.
            Moses actually overstepped in his disobedience and reluctance to carry out the appointed task, so much so that God became angry with him. That he apparently was also (constantly?) disobedient by not circumcising his son, appears to have been a last straw. Shed blood was necessary to save him from God’s wrath. In Exodus 4:24f we read how his wife Zipporah was used, when she touched his feet with a flint knife that had been used for circumcision. She called him a “bridegroom of blood”. This evidently appeased the divine anger as Moses was humbled.
            In this moment of truth, Moses was clearly once more a proto-type of Jesus. In contrast to the rebellious Moses, the Master added the significant words: ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39ff). Jesus became the real ‘bridegroom of blood’, appeasing the wrath of God. John summarised it so succinctly: ‘...and the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). By now Moses had probably become humble enough! Moses had thus been moulded to become God’s chosen instrument.
Leading God’s People out of Bondage
It is written about Moses: ‘Now Moses was a humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). Quite a few verses of the Qur’an refer to the confrontations of Moses with Pharaoh. All the more it is surprising that the Qur’anic report does not mention the tenth plague and the Passover. In this confrontation with Moses, Pharaoh is the image of the enemy of souls allegorically. Satan is always ready to oppose the Almighty and all who believe in Him. Egypt represents bondage in sin and Moses is God’s appointed deliverer, to lead His people from bondage and slavery.
             The Qur’an speaks furthermore of a great sign which Moses showed Pharaoh (Surah Fajr (The break of Day) 79:20). The Islamic sacred book does refer elsewhere, in Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:133, to nine signs. They can be easily identified as the biblical equivalents of the first nine plagues. With some imagination we derive that the great sign of Surah An-Naziat (Those who tear out) 79:20f is the tenth plague: Then [Musa (Moses)] showed him the great sign. But Pharaoh denied and disobeyed.” The Bible describes this plague as the death of the first-born in all those houses where the blood of an unblemished lamb was not applied to the door posts.
            The meal that had to be enjoyed in all haste, prior to their departure from Egypt, became the watershed event, the decisive moment of Jewish history. The Seder meal at the annual celebration of the Passover became the prime liturgical moment in practically every Jewish home.  The Passover event was to take place in the first month of the year (Exodus 12:2). This signified a new life, a new start, prefiguring the Christian becoming born again through the redeeming blood of Christ, ‘a lamb without blemish or spot’ (1 Peter 1:19). 

The Blood of a Lamb and the Scapegoat as divine Provision          
At the Passover, the blood of a perfect lamb applied to the door posts was the divine provision to lead God’s people out of bondage. The first-born in Egypt were saved from death by the lamb slain in their stead. The 'New Testament' equivalent to Egypt is the slavery of sin. Just like Moses, who led the Israelites out of bondage, Jesus leads men and women out of the bondage of sin. Through faith in Him as one’s Saviour, one can be set free. On that fateful night in Egypt, the blood on the door posts was the guarantee of life. God’s word to them was ‘When I see the blood I will pass over you.’ ‘The blood of the lamb made them safe, their trust in God’s promises made them sure. In the same way we may have salvation through Jesus, the Lamb of God, slain in our stead, and assurance through believing God’s record…’(Hodgkin, 1979:18). The angel of death passed over those houses where the blood of the lamb was applied to the door posts in obedience. It is easy to guess what happened to those Israelites who disobeyed the divine command.
            It is significant that before the celebration of the Seder meal (of the Jewish Passover) every semblance of yeast has to be removed from the houses. One small piece of bread is hidden on purpose. Yeast is the image of sin in the Bible. Jesus gave his life voluntarily, so that every semblance of sin might be atoned for. In this way the description of Jesus in the Qur’an as an ayatollah, as a sign of God (e.g. Surah al-Muminun (The Believers) 23:50), gets a special meaning.
In Christianity the suffering servant as a type of the Messiah in Isaiah 50, 52 and 53 is well known. He was to be led like a sheep to be slaughtered.  John, the Baptist, described Jesus twice as the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35) and Paul, the prolific epistle-writing apostle, described our Lord as the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). In this regard it is interesting that the Talmud depicts Moses as an innocent meek lamb in respect of the might of Egypt. In a dream of the Pharaoh, it is recorded how he saw an old man hanging the weighing scale.  On the one side of the balance there were all the elders, princes and officers, bound together. On the right side of the balance there a tiny meek lamb was hung. Strangely enough, the little lamb outweighed all the mighty men. In the interpretation of the dream Balaam saw the baby Moses as the lamb. 
The 'New Testament' sees Jesus not only as a second Moses, but also as God’s Lamb. In this regard it is interesting that the Talmud also depicts Moses as an innocent meek lamb in respect of the might of Egypt. In a dream of the Pharaoh, it is recorded how he saw an old man hanging the weighing scale.  On the one side of the balance there were all the elders, princes and officers, bound together. On the right side of the balance there hung a tiny meek lamb. Strangely enough, the little lamb outweighed all the mighty men. In the interpretation of the dream Balaam saw the baby Moses as the lamb. 
The Sacrifice of Yom Kippur
Very much related is the doctrine of forgiveness through the scapegoat - which is commemorated on the Day of Atonement. The blood of this animal atones for the sins of the nation. It is significant how the message of death and resurrection was depicted in the Holocaust. In Hitler’s propaganda the Jews were used as scapegoats. Everything that was going wrong in Europe was loaded on them. But the Holocaust would become the vehicle par excellence to bring into being the fulfilment of Hebrew Scriptural prophecy, ushering in the massive return of Jews to Israel and the birth of the new nation of Israel in 1948.
The sacrifice of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is distinct from all the other sacrifices offered during the year. No wonder that this would point to the event of Calvary like virtually no other 'OT' tenet. While the other sacrifices reconciled the sinner on a day to day basis with God, Yom Kippur is the day that God would forgive all the sins of all the people in every generation. Yom Kippur was the only time that the High Priest would enter into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, doing this four times in all that day. He would remove four of his eight garments – all those with gold – and enter only with four white linen garments.
            Two goats were sacrificed, one to Hashem (the Name) and the other sent to Azazel after all the sins of the people were 'placed' upon it. The agnus dei (Lamb of God) in church liturgies caught this phenomenon with the following wording: Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.... be merciful unto us. A miracle/sign that took place in ancient Israel, showing God’s approval and forgiveness, was that the red ribbon tied to the scapegoat, always turned white. In the Talmud it is recorded that the usual Yom Kippur miracles ceased to occur about 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple and never returned. We can read in Yoma 39b: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot (‘For the Lord’) did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white... This coincided with the time of the death of Jesus, amplifying the belief that he was indeed the ultimate scapegoat, the Lamb of God that was slain for the sins of the world.
A New Covenant
The Law that Moses received on Mount Sinai has to be seen as part of an agreement, a covenant. The requirements in the covenant that Moses had to communicate to his people became another notable feature. It was an agreement between God and the people chosen by Him. It meant a renewal of the covenants that God had made with other leaders before Moses. The Law was the sign of this covenant made with him, just as the circumcision was the sign of the agreement made with Abraham. The name of Moses became synonymous with the Law, the Torah. It is significant that the Almighty is depicted as the bridegroom in tradition at the giving of the Law at Sinai (Pirkê de Eliezer, 1970:322). The Messiah is similarly described as the bridegroom in the wedding of the Lamb with the Church as the bride at the second coming of Jesus.
The Challenge of Obedience 
Again and again the Israelites were challenged to obey, to go either for the blessing or for the curse. They could choose between death and life. The most significant instance of this choice for life was probably where Moses was required to put a brass serpent on a pole after poisonous snakes had bitten many of them. This was God’s punishment after they had rebelled, displaying grave ingratitude at His provision for them. In the desert the Israelites received more than merely healing, they received new life. Jesus prophesied that he would be ‘lifted up’ just like Moses did with the serpent on the desert wanderings after their rebellion in the desert (John 3:14). On the occasion in the Sinai desert, those Israelites who looked up to the brass snake in obedience to the divine command were instantaneously healed. It is not difficult at all to imagine what happened to those Israelites who disobeyed the divine command.
Strikingly, Jesus pointed to this example in the context of explaining to Nicodemus when the latter came to him at night, that one has to be born again. The serious seeker after truth was puzzled by the idea of being born again. Jesus more or less pointed him to Calvary. The message is clear in the context of John 3:16. We as Christians have become so used to the ‘Gospel verse’ that we tend to overlook the double instruction starting in verse 15: (Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,) that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. The brass serpent served for the temporary healing of the Israelites who were bitten. Jesus was to be lifted up so that all who believed in him might have eternal life. Whosoever believes in faith in Jesus as God’s healing instrument, the 'New Testament' ‘serpent’ on the Cross, will be healed from being bitten by satan, the ‘snake’ who is the liar from the beginning (John 8:44). All of us – Jew and Gentile alike – are almost automatically reminded how satan originally came in the image of a serpent to deceive Adam and Eve.
Nicodemus, might have thought further about the incarnation of the Son of Man - how Jesus became flesh. When the Master spoke about the Son of Man coming from heaven (John 3:13), Nicodemus appears to have been quite puzzled initially. Perhaps he also discovered later how Moses prefigured Christ in this regard. Paul, a Hellenistic Jew, wrote in Philippians 2:7 that Jesus - in obedience - took upon himself the form of a slave, not regarding that as robbery to have left the heavenly glory.
Not much is known about the rest of Nicodemus' life. The only other time he is mentioned in Scripture where he colluded with Joseph from Arimathea, a secret follower of our Lord, to bury the body of our Saviour (John 19:38-40). From this we can deduce that Nicodemus did become a follower of Jesus, albeit probably a secret one. He came to the front though when it counted, when many of the disciples of the Master had deserted him, or followed him only from afar like Peter.
It is not known who the author of the Hebrews was. I suggest that it could have been someone like Nicodemus. If we understand obedience as the golden thread in Scripture, it becomes very significant how the life of Moses is summarized in that epistle, keeping in mind that he preferred to be a Hebrew and suffer with his people, instead of remaining known as the son of an Egyptian princess. Listen how it is described in Hebrews 12:7. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead for his reward. Thus also he follows the example of Abraham to become a voluntary exile. That is the destiny of the pilgrim who chooses to be a stranger in a crooked generation.
Obedience highlighted           
The issue of obedience is thus highlighted. One can say that Moses displayed this even more in the Book of Deuteronomy. Again and again the Israelites were told that the demand of obedience to the laws are for their good (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:24). Moreover it is clear that their obedience is not an effort to buy God’s favour, but rather it is demanded because they enjoy His favour. They are not called to purchase their redemption by obedience, but to obey because they are a redeemed people’ (Hodgkin, 1979:37). The enemy of souls is a specialist in confusing matters. It is sad that Moses’ heritage, the gift of the Torah, in due course lost its original purpose, namely instruction and a guideline for living under the Almighty’s sovereign rule. Legalism and a petty playing with words came in its place.
            To Moses was given the best biblical example of inner cleansing. His hand was clean after he had put it to his own bosom (Exodus 4:6). To put your hand in your own bosom became the metaphor for confession and self-criticism. In Judaism confession was ritualised and pushed to the Day of Atonement. The Church made Lent, the seven weeks before Easter, into such a season and for Islam it is Ramadan.
            Ritual washing became all-important in Pharisaic Judaism (and in Islam). The Lord Jesus was quite forthright in his appraisal of the rituals, e.g. around the washing of hands. When the Pharisees challenged Jesus because his disciples were not following the prescripts, he told the guardians of the Law to their face: ‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of menYou nullify the word of God by your tradition’ (Mark 7:8,13). Outward cleansing, ritual washing had become more important than the cleansing of the heart. We must be cleansed from within. His blood shed on Calvary has exactly that purpose - to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
A new Law
Quite surprisingly, Moses already prefigured grace, which can be described as the new law. An excellent example of how it works in practice is how Moses interceded for the idolatrous Israelites after the experience of the golden calf in Exodus 32. In the exchange between God and Moses the word chen (grace) is used nine times. Moses knew that it was not by any merit on the part of the Israelites that he could approach the Lord and intercede for them. It is significant that God met him on that basis, even stating that it is His divine nature to be ‘gracious’ (Exodus 34:6). More than once divine grace is mentioned as the basis of him giving them favour, and not because they deserved it. In fact, as a people they were repeatedly called stiff-necked and rebellious, such as in Deuteronomy 9:6: You must recognize that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not--you are a stubborn people.
God had to send a second Moses to put things back on track after the Law - which had been given via Moses - was adulterated. In delivering the Israelites from the awful bondage of Egypt, Moses prefigured Christ. The bondage of sin is far more terrible than the bondage of Egypt. Jesus, the ultimate fulfiller of the Law, introduced His new royal law: the Law of love. Paul experienced this personally. He, who originally had been the fundamentalist persecutor of the followers of Jesus, was won over by the love of the Master. Hereafter, Paul taught that the Law is an educator that can drive one to Christ. This happens when one senses that one can never meet the demands of the Law in one’s own strength. God actually intervened by sending Jesus to enable us through his atoning death and his resurrection. 
In order to grasp what is involved in atonement, we must understand the fatal effects of sin.  When we break God’s law, we come under God’s wrath and stand in peril of judgement.  In view of this, Moses instructed sinners to sacrifice an animal as an atonement price to satisfy the requirements of Divine justice. God demonstrated the new law by letting Jesus die as an atonement for the sins of the world. For God so loved the world...that no one should perish but have everlasting life. Through faith in Jesus as your Lord and through dependence on Him, you are enabled and empowered to radiate love.

Moses, the Friend of God
Abraham is referred to in the three religions of faith as the friend of God. We read in Exodus 33:11, ‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend’. The special relationship is also seen in Moses’ words to the Almighty. Thus we read about him saying in the same context ‘If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you.’ God responds with: ‘My presence will go with you...’ Over fifty times it is recorded of Moses: ‘As the Lord commanded Moses, so did he do.
            The replies of Moses show that he was no robot; the friend of God can also voice objections. God shows understanding when Moses raved in bitter disappointment and frustration: ‘...What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of these people on me? ... I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me’ (Numbers 11:11,14-15). In a sovereign display of Divine understanding, the Almighty encouraged Moses, by instructing him to appoint 70 leaders and officials to assist him.                     The encounter on Mount Sinai became the beginning of visible evidence of someone who had been in the presence of the Almighty. Moses’ face was shining so much that his rebellious compatriots could not face him. Hereafter he used a veil every time he came from the holy of holies. This was surely a pointer to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) where Moses and Elijah joined Jesus supernaturally (from verse 3-5): ‘There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters  - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” At the same time, this is also a challenge to the believer to spend quality time with the Lord so that he/she can pass on His love. The cloud that enveloped  the three on the Mount of Transfiguration also indicates the continutity of Jesus with the Torah and the Prophets, with Moses and Elijah linked in a special way.
            Another link to the Hebrew scriptures of the event was that the law of Moses required two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15; 17:6. On the Mount of Transfiguration there were three earthly  ones viz. John, Peter and James, with two heavenly ones.

Moses, the Intercessor and Mediator
Moses was not only concerned about himself. He felt himself fully responsible for the people who were put under his care. What was very special about him is that he was also gravely concerned about the honour of God.
            Moses pleaded passionately and successfully with God - after he had heard that the Israelites had worshipped an idol.  Like no one else before or after him till Jesus came, Moses mediated between God and his people. Thus he became also a precursor of our Lord. I Timothy 2:5 speaks of ‘one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ’. The letter to the Hebrews looks at his mediator role from different angles: the superior ministry of Jesus, of which he is the mediator (8:6); the reason of his mediation is to cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death (9:14,15). Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (12:24).    When Moses saw the golden calf and the dancing, he could easily identify with God’s anger. In a rage he smashed the tablets with the commandments. Finally, he put his own salvation on the line in his prayer: ‘Forgive them their sin... if not, blot me out of your book’ (Exodus 32:32). Moses’ intercession on their behalf considerably reduced the punishment. Jesus was temporarily ‘blotted out’, when he became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), taking the penalty of our sin. He finally had to experience being forsaken by God his Father.
            In Exodus 17 we find that as soon as the people drank from the living waters that came from the rock, the Amalekites came and attacked God’s people. A.B Simpson writes ‘Amalek was a type of the flesh. He was descended from Esau; and Esau represented the carnal nature.’ It has been suggested that ‘Amalek represents the hinderance to their walk with God through the wilderness… Amalek stands before us as a type of the flesh.’ And that reason is given to us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 where it says that the Israelites ‘drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.’ As a type of Christ, the striking of the rock pictured Christ being struck and crucified when He came to earth 2000 years ago. Moses, the lawgiver, was the one to strike the rock (Christ) as it was God’s justice that demanded that sin be atoned for through the death of an innocent sacrifice. And what occurred after rock was struck? Jesus Himself said what would happen in John 7:37-39. He clearly said that the water of the Holy Spirit would be given, but not until He was glorified (His death and resurrection – see John 12:23-24).
            Exodus 17:12-13 we read: When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the otherso that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. If we take Jesus (Yeshua) to be our prime fighter against Amalek/the enemy and his cohorts, this teaches us that we have to stand together, llifting up the hands of the weary prime intercessor.
            A second instance occurred where Aaron played a mediatory role. After the rebellion when Korah and his followers were swallowed up by the erath, we read in Numbers 16:41-48:
The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said. But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord said to Moses, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.                                      Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. In this way Aaron was a type of Christ, standing in the gap for His people, standing between the (spiritually) dead and giving them a new lease of life.
            In a way similar to Moses’ debating with God, we read how Jesus wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane, identifying himself with the sins of the world. This was not paid for by silver or gold, but through the precious blood of His one and only Son (1 Peter 1:19).
            Jesus was required to empty the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the so-called high priestly prayer Jesus interceded passionately not only for his disciples but also for those who would believe in Him through their testimony. In the same prayer he prayed prophetically, also for the divided Church of the 20th century, ‘that they may be one... that they may be brought to complete unity’ (John 17:21,23). The same evening at the Passover Supper with his disciples, he said: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you’ (Luke 22:20), shed for many for the remission of sins.

Rock of Ages
The divinity of Jesus is closely linked to the image of the rock. Moses declares in Deuteronomy 32:31 “For the rock of our salvation is not like our Rock…” The Almighty is ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Psalm 94:22; 2 Samuel 22:47). In line with other biblical personalities like Joseph and David who were also initially thumb-downed, Moses was a proto-type of Jesus. Various 'NT' writers see Jesus as the stone that has initially been rejected by the builders - the foundation stone or cornerstone. This tenet is found throughout the 'NT' (e.g. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11) as the fulfilment of Psalm 118:22 – ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.’ Jesus himself taught that the wise man builds his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).
The smitten rock takes a special place In the history of Israel. Moses received the instruction: ‘Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life' (John 4:13f). Paul interpreted the rock – the source of living water - as Christ: ‘They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).
Moses had to strike the rock only once. When the wandering Israelites were at the rock a second time, the Almighty instructed him to speak to the rock. He struck it twice, partly in anger at the rebelliousness of his people. This disobedience was however taken very seriously by God. He and Aaron were not allowed to enter Canaan because of this.

Other allegorical Images of Christ
Moses was divinely used to prefigure two other important images, namely the living bread and living water. When Israel murmured, God answered. ‘I will let bread rain from heaven for you’ (Exodus 16:4). Moses was however only the agent to bring down the manna from heaven that was to feed the Israelites for forty years. The Lord Jesus applied this to himself, saying: ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35). Moses was thus only the pointer to the truth. Jesus repeated even more pointedly when the Jews argued how he could have come from heaven: ...I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:48-51). 
Two other types of Christ occurred in the wanderings of the Israelites through the desert. The cloud pillar during the day and the fire in the sky at night, hovering over the Tabernacle prefigured in a special way what Jesus said:  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Closely connected to the cloud pillar was the sound of the silver trumpets. They were used as a signal for the journeying of the congregation. The believer needs to listen to the voice of the Lord, whose words are as tried silver. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). With few other artefacts in the Bible has there been so much typological pointing to Jesus as the various items of the Tabernacle. That the table of show bread with its lamp stand was seen as a type of Jesus as the bread of life and the light of the world respectively is hardly special. Nor is the pot of manna in the ark. More interesting is minute details like the fact that the mercy seat - on which the blood was sprinkled once a year on the Day of Atonement, pointing to the atoning blood of Jesus. It had to have the same height as the table of show bread. That almond buds emanated from Aaron’s rod, which was also put into the ark, is very special. This has been seen as pointing to the resurrection of Jesus, where life followed death. The separation to the Holy of Holies had its counterpart in the veil of the Temple. The author of the letter to the Hebrews evidently had the mercy seat and the trepidation of the High priest on the Day of Atonement in mind when he wrote (4:16): Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy …’ and (10:19): ‘having boldness to enter he Holiest by the blood of Jesus.

Qur’anic Parallels
Just like in Judaism, Moses is a spiritual giant in the Qur’an. The Qur’an contains a parallel to Moses’ intercessory prayer for his people in Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:148-156. In this portion Moses reprimands his people for the worship of the calf and prays for them. However, in stead of the atoning offer of Moses in the Bible, to be blotted out of the book of life for their sins, we read how Moses questions God: ‘wouldst Thou destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us?’ (Surah Al-Araf (The Heights)  7:155)
            This verse is remarkable, because Islam generally disallows its adherents to question God. In the Bible this is accepted. In fact, there are passages, for example long ones in Job, Psalm 73 and the whole book of Habakkuk, where the questioning of God is mentioned as the most normal thing on earth. In these Scriptures God dialogues with the doubtful as we have seen with Abraham and Moses. As friends of God we are fully permitted to voice our disappointment and frustration in prayer. God sees the heart and we may reckon with it that He takes our views seriously. A condition is that we must be honest in our questioning and willing to submit to his overruling and guidance. The sovereign God can however also become angry, when he regards our arguing as unreasonable. Moses experienced the anger of God more than once. The Qur’an does however give advice to the doubtful in at least one instance, but no licence is given to doubt Allâh’s ruling. In Surah Yunus (Jonah) 10:94 the doubting Islamic believer is advised to consult those ‘who have been reading the Book before thee.
            In the Qur’anic version of the narrative of the golden calf, Moses depicts God as aloof and arbitrary: ‘Thou causest whom Thou wilt to stray and Thou leadest whom Thou wilt into the straight path' Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:155), and ‘With my punishment I visit whom I will’ (v.156). This reflects Exodus 33:19, where the Lord says to Moses: ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’. Paul mentioned this tenet in Romans 9.  In the totality of the biblical message this is however one-sided. Isaiah 57:15 puts it pointedly that the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity is also with the low and humble, giving new courage to the repentant hearts.
            Nevertheless, the same surah does include an appeal to Allâh’s mercy, because He is ‘the Best of those who forgive’ (v.155). However, forgiveness in the Qur’an is usually conditional, e.g. by ritual washing before the prayer. Thus Surah Nisaa (The Women) 4:43 says Allâh does blot out sins and forgive again and again’. But this has to be preceded by ceremonial cleansing by the Muslim (The same aya, Surah Nisaa (The Women) 4:43, goes on to mention a few situations that would disqualify prayer e.g. ‘a mind befogged’, ‘ceremonial impurity’ or  if ‘one of you comes from offices of nature’.
            Where God’s name is at stake - but also where there is real repentance - the Bible teaches that He forgives unconditionally. Moses used the reputation of God’s name to good effect. He pleaded with God on this premise after the idolatry with the golden calf (Exodus 32:11-14). In the end God’s grace cancelled out His anger. But there is a price to pay for the sin: even though Moses was not blotted out of God’s book as He had pleaded in prayer, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Likewise, God forgives our sins, because the punishment has been paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

The redeeming Death of Jesus foreshadowed
In the original levitical ordinance the worshipper was required to press his hand on the head of the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:4). The life was offered to God as an propitiation or atonement for sin. The sacrificial system that is so intimately connected to Moses and the Torah is a type and foreshadow of the redemptive death of Christ.  By offering the sacrifices ordained by God, one was able to obtain forgiveness from sin through the death of a substitute life.
God gave the instruction in Numbers 19:2 that a red heifer without any blemish, which had not been yoked before, had to be used. We note how the ashes of the heifer serve as a source for the removal (purification) of sin (v.9).  It has universal connotations when one reads: ‘This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the aliens living among them’ (v.10). The death of the innocent Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the cross of Calvary was such an atonement for the sins of the world (John 1:29). It is no wonder that the crucifixion is an issue that caused a divide between the religions because the arch enemy was defeated by the 'slaughtering' of Jesus, the Lamb of God  - followed by His resurrection by the power of the Almighty. Paul highlights the connection in Colossians 1:20 where he states that peace with God is achieved through the blood of Jesus. In typical fashion, the deceiver changed the red colour. Thus we read in Jeremiah 10:9 about idols being dressed up by the craftsman and goldsmith in blue and purple. It happens immediately after the Almighty is described as King of the nations (v.8). The inference is clear: the colours suggest an imitation of his royalty.
            Significantly, the incident of the red heifer is linked to the separation of the account of the water of separation – God’s wonderful provision for cleansing of the defilement contracted in daily life. The cleansing was effected by the water that was mingled with the ashes of the red heifer, rendered as a sin offering. Thus it was an offering based upon atonement, ‘a foreshadowing of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses (i.e. goes on cleansing) from all sin those who are walking in the light' (1 John 1:7, Hodgkin 1979:32).
In the case of the heifer, not only is the colour striking, but also the fact that it was not yoked before. The ass, on which Jesus entered Jerusalem, comes to mind. That ass was one that had not been ridden before and the letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus as the unblemished Lamb of God. Arthur Glass, who comes from a Jewish background, has shown that Isaiah 62:11 includes the root of the Jewish name for Jesus (Yeshua). Isaiah 62:11 could thus be translated: ‘Behold Jehovah has proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say you to the daughter of Zion, behold thy Yeshua (Jesus) cometh...[17] This is the parallel text to Zechariah 9:9 (Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion…) which Matthew, the evangelist, saw as the prophecy pointing to Jesus entering Jerusalem on an ass.
            We contrast the above with what the Qur’an says quite emphatically about the colour of the heifer to be used as a sacrifice. In Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:67-71 a whole discussion is recorded about the heifer to be used as a sacrifice. This context does mention some similarities with the above: ‘a heifer not trained to till the soil or water the fields; sound and without blemish’. Two clear differences emerge with the biblical reference. The Qur’an quotes Moses as saying that the animal had to be ‘a fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone’ and that ‘they offered her ... not with good-will.’ Thus the biblical heifer that was given voluntarily is contradicted as well as the colour red.[18]
Interesting is how a midrash (teaching) depicts Moses as a forerunner of the Messiah: ‘To Moses He gave God’s rod and upon the head of the Messiah he placed His own crown’ (Exodus Rabba 8). Another midrash (Eccles. 1) states that ‘Moses, the first redeemer, who rode on an ass, gave the Israelites manna for food, and brought up the water. Messiah will be seen riding on an ass (Zechariah 9:9). He shall bring down manna from on high (Psalm 70:16) and cause the rivers of Judah to flow with water (Joel 4:18)’. (Also the midrash Song of Songs 1 highlights the Zechariah prophecy as Messianic).

God as a Daddy
Moses was not satisfied with the second best. After God had assured him that His presence would accompany them, Moses’ insisting response was: ‘if your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here’ (Exodus 33:14).
            In this way Moses is the definite foreshadow of Jesus who also had such an intimate relationship with God as his heavenly father. He became the supreme example to the Jewish nation and to all of us to regard the Holy One as “our Father... in heaven”.
            As a 12-year-old child the things of the Father were the Lord Jesus’ top priority. His reply to the request of his mother at the wedding in Cana would sound almost rude in our ears: ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ (John 2:4). It can only be properly understood from his complete dependence on God as His Father. That is the absolute authority from which He would take his orders.
A Jewish midrash (teaching) points to the fact that Moses saw in his spirit that the time would come when the Mishkan (the Ark, Sanctuary) would cease to exist and the Shekinah (divine presence and glory) would dwell no more in Israel’s midst. ‘Moses was anxious to know by what means the sins of his people would then be expiated. The Almighty vouchsafed the information that he would choose a righteous man from their midst and make him a pledge for them and through him their sins would be forgiven’ (Rappoport, 1968:48). How remarkably this points to the Messiah!

Forgiveness via Atonement
The doctrine of forgiveness through the two goats on the Day of Atonement points clearly to ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ In the words of the letter to the Hebrews - looking back at the Calvary event Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people’ (Hebrews 9:28). The sacrifice of the two goats combined to be a sin offering. Aaron, the High Priest, had to confess the sins of the people over the head of the scapegoat that is then sent into the wilderness.   Together the two goats on the Day of Atonement formed the sin offering. The slain goat showed that perfect atonement was made to God for the sin of the high priest and the sins of the people put on the sondebok; the (e)scapegoat pointed to the perfect pardon granted as it was sent into the desert. In Jesus the perfect Lamb of God the two goats are combined, allowing us to go free.  The prophecy of Isaiah 53:6 was fulfilled in this way: ‘The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The book of Leviticus emphasises emphatically that ‘The life of the flesh is in the blood… it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life’ (Leviticus 17:11). The sacrifice was actually altogether out of proportion to the need – two goats for the whole congregation for a whole year. It has been pointed out that it was purposely out of proportion in this way to show that the whole system was temporary and typical. No animal, no mere man, not even an angel could atone for sin. In this way ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Aaron as a Type and an Anti-type
Aaron was in some ways a type of Christ and in others depicted as an anti-type. As a High Priest he was a forerunner of Jesus. But Jesus was a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedek, a king and priest simultaneously. In fact, he was also a prophet, indeed much more than a prophet. Whereas Aaron and Moses were disqualified to enter the promised Land because of their disobedience – they smote the elevated rock whereas they were required to speak to it – Jesus became the paradigm and example of meticulous obedience and submission to the will of the Father.

David, a Man after God’s Heart

The reason why the little book of Ruth was included in the canon of the Bible is most probably because of the genealogy leading to David, the Great King of Israel. How else could Ruth - converted from the ‘prohibited’ tribe of Moab, from where Jews were not allowed to take spouses get such prominence? Simultaneously she became the link and the pointer to the other descendants of Abraham – Jews and Muslims - who would one day become followers of Jesus, the Messiah. Divine Providence surely had a big hand because now Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer, came into the picture as a clear pointer to the greatest son of David, Jesus. The kinsman-redeemer has been described as the keynote of the Book of Ruth. In him we see Christ pre-figured, who purchased his Church – including those from outside the fold of Israel - to be his bride.
Another person mentioned in the run-up to the story of David is the judge Samuel who anointed him as king. In his own right Samuel personified the Saviour. He was ruler, priest and prophet. It is said that his name was a riddle for many years. Commentaries have usually used ‘God hears’ as the meaning of Samuel, coming from the root shamah, so well known from Deuteronomy 5, the Shema (hear Israel!) confession of Judaism.[19] Hannah, his mother, gave up her first-born son to God completely. Therefore it is not surprising to find that her song resembles that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so closely. Hannah has the honour of being the first person in the Bible to use the name Messiah (Hodgkin, 1979:64). Samuel anointed both Saul and David, the first two kings of Israel.
In His Dictionary of Islam, Thomas Hughes states that the account of David in the Qur’an is ‘exceedingly meagre.’  Yet, all sorts of legends appeared around David and Solomon, the two major kings of Israel. For Christians and Jews David, the shepherd boy who became king, is one of the great men in Israel’s history.

The imperfect David as an Encouragement
For the believer the person of the imperfect David is an encouragement, because now we know that any one of us can be moulded to become God’s chosen instrument.
         Psalm 66 highlights an interesting anomaly. God cannot be enveloped in a mould. Whereas God brought the Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea and saved individuals like Lot from fire, destructive waters and purifying 'fire' are used to strengthen and mould David – like Abraham and the other arch fathers before him. Every follower of the Lord is treated like silver in the crucible. In Malachi 3:2 the Almighty is compared with a goldsmith who purifies the special metal from all impurities in the red-hot fire.

The Shepherd King
Already as a boy David portrayed facets that prefigure Jesus. More than once he risked his life, leaving the flock to rescue a lamb from the mouth of a lion or bear. With that confidence he wrote Psalm 23 ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’  Surely with this psalm in the backdrop, Jesus intimated his divinity in John 10:1I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’. He leaves the rest of the flock, the ninety-nine in the wilderness, going after the one that was lost until he finds it (compare Luke 15:3f).
Significantly, the first time the Messiah or anointed one is spoken of in Scripture is in the prophetic prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:10), where there is also a grand prophecy of a king, before that office was established among the Israelites. Although Samuel clearly expressed Yahweh’s disappointment that Israel wanted to emulate the other nations aspiring to have a king, David was to become the man after God’s heart – more typical than the kingship of Christ than any other Israelite king. Over sixty times he is mentioned in the ‘New Testament’ closely associated with Christ. The application of the title of David to Christ testifies to Israel’s second king as being the ideal of kingly authority.  Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures David’s stature and reign assumes a prophetic character. The prophets referred to the Messiah in his kingly rule – with David as the model, either of grace or glory – as ‘the highest perfection of the ancient Jewish economy’ (Lockyear, 1973:238).
The Shepherd King was blended into the life of David and in the ‘Son of David’, the Messiah. A true king must always have the heart of a shepherd. When David saw that the Angel of the Lord was about to destroy Jerusalem after his wanton act of taking a census of Israel and Judah, he cried out in repentance: ‘It is I that have sinned..., and done evil indeed; but as far as these sheep, what have they done? (1 Chronicles 21:17)
            The prophet Ezekiel foresaw the Messiah with the following words: ‘I will set up one Shepherd over them, even my Servant David; and he shall be their Shepherd’ (Ezekiel 34:23). Hodgkin (1979:67) summarised Jesus as the Shepherd beautifully in the following way:
The Good Shepherd in death (John 10:11, see Psalm 22);
The Great Shepherd in resurrection (Hebrew 23:20, see Psalm 23);
The Chief Shepherd as the coming King of Glory (1 Peter 5:4, see Psalm 24).
Lockyear (1973:241) highlighted a few very interesting facets in this trilogy of Psalms with Jesus as the shepherd of his flock. He notes that ‘Psalm 22 is the Psalm of the Saviour with grief as its keynote. Psalm 23 is the Psalm of the Shepherd with goodness as its keynote. Psalm 24 is the Psalm of the Sovereign with glory as its keynote’.
A few Psalms often have David as the point of departure depicting the futuristic Messiah as The King of Zion, who would display in greater measure His sceptre of righteousness and royal priesthood (e.g. Psalms 2; 16; 45; and 110). The ‘NT’ adds to the picture the exalted nature of Jesus, His victory over sin and death and His universal dominion – before whom every knee will ultimately bow, confessing Him as Lord.
‘The evil Eye’
 ‘The evil eye’ was originally seen as the counterpart of ‘the good eye’, typical of a stingy or greedy person. A telling illustration of ‘the evil eye’ in the Talmud is the embellished account of the first interview between David and Saul. Cohen (1971:288) quotes one of the sages when David put on Saul’s battle clothing: ‘so when he clothed David in his apparel and saw that it fitted him, at once the evil eye entered into him. David, perceiving that Saul’s face had gone white, said to him, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them; and David put them off’ (1 Samuel 17:39).
            Jealousy and greed create malicious feelings towards the person who exudes these passions, giving rise to calamity to happen to him. Such an unfriendly hope is usually connected to a glance of envy; hence the phrase ‘the evil eye’. That the glance of ‘the evil eye’ can have negative effects, was especially attributed to the Rabbis. Subsequently, ‘the evil eye’ was prominent in Jewish folklore and eagerly followed by Folk Islam.

Messianic Prophecies in the Psalms
That Islam sees Dawood (David) as a nabi, a prophet, gets a special poignancy when one looks at Psalms that have been attributed to the Shepherd-King. In the Psalms 45 and 72 the Messiah rules. Very significantly, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus are quite clearly predicted in two Psalms of David, namely Psalms 22 and 69. The former one, starting with ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me...’, foretells the crucifixion in astonishing detail. At a time when crucifixion was still unknown, David described remarkably the experience of Jesus a thousand years later: ‘my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws...They have pierced my hands and feet’ (Psalm 22:14-16). Verse 18 is just as pointed ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots.’ This is exactly what the Roman soldiers did at Jesus’ crucifixion as the Gospel of John (19:23-24) reports. Psalm 69 fills in other detail like ‘They hated me without reason’ (v.4) and ‘for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink’ (v. 21).  Jesus applied the former prophecy to himself ‘…yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: They hated me without reason’ (John 15:25). Quite strikingly, the gruesome details of the crucifixion is followed in Psalm 22 by a declaration that the heathens will be transformed through this suffering and brought to worship of the true God.
            In both psalms 22 and 69 the crescendo towards heart-rending cries for deliverance is followed by praise and complete composure, thus depicting the victory over death - the resurrection of the crucified one. As John Gilchrist (2003:87) so aptly says about Psalm 69: ‘The lamb becomes a lion…Anguish has given way to triumph! Jesus Christ has risen from the dead’. What is furthermore remarkable about the resurrection of Jesus in the context of Jewish writings is that although Jesus’ resurrection has been consistently refuted by Jewish scholars, one of their highly regarded historians - the first century author Josephus - wrote in his report of the Jewish War that 30 Romans and 1,000 Jews were posted as guards around his tomb. Even though it has been suggested that these numbers might have been exaggerated, it is interesting that he as a Jew asks how the body could have been stolen under the watchful eyes of so many.
            Two other Psalms of David clearly point to the resurrection and ascension of the Lord. In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter referred to the resurrection of the Lord as the fulfilment of Psalm 16:11, that his flesh did not decay (Acts 2:32). Psalm 110:1 is seen as the prophecy of the ascension: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies a stool for your feet.”  
            The messianic Psalm 2 portrays the Messiah clearly as the Son of God: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’.  First century Christians understood this to have happened at Jesus’ baptism when a similar wording was used by the divine voice. Psalm 89, another messianic prophecy, starts with David. Soon it becomes evident that more is at stake: ‘…I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens’ (Psalm 89).

The Prelude of the Adultery of David
The Bible does not hide sin. It does not spare King David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart. The most pronounced is the case of the adultery of David with Bathsheba that was followed by the callous calculated murder of Uriah, her husband, narrated in 2 Samuel 11. His sin is an object lesson in backsliding. There were steps leading up to David’s sin, such as his marrying many wives and staying at the court when his men were in battle.
This is followed in Samuel 12 by the rebuke of the prophet Nathan, who started his attack with a story of a rich man who took the ewe lamb of a poor man in the same town to prepare a meal for a traveller coming through, where he easily could have taken one from his own flock. In 2 Samuel 12 David was severely reprimanded by the prophet Nathan after the adultery with Bathsheba and his premeditated plot to get her husband Uriah killed in battle. When David’s sin is exposed, he is truly remorseful, resulting in the beautiful Psalm 51 ‘…according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity…’
A snippet of interest in Islamic legendary is how Jibril challenged Dawood (King David) after his adultery.  Consistently Jibril takes the role of the prophet Nathan in the narrative, which is originally told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 (Weil, 1853:143).

…and the Aftermath
David had to learn the hard way that sins have the tendency of catching up with the perpetrator. David sinned grievously but his repentance was deep and sincere. The baby born as a result of the adultery died, but God’s grace came through for him when Solomon was born as his heir and his successor. God blotted out David’s transgressions, but he did not remove the consequences of the sin. The great desire of David was to build a house for the Lord, but God sidelined him because he had been a man of war. The privilege to build the temple went to his son Solomon. The latter was blessed with exceptional wisdom, only to be eclipsed by ‘someone greater than Solomon’ (Matthew 12:42) – Jesus - of whom he was a type in many a way.  The magnificent reign of Solomon is described in 1 Kings 4:21-34 ‘…he had peace on all sides round about him…  Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree’. This sounds very much like a proto-type of the verses from Isaiah 11 that prophesy the thousand-year reign of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace.  Solomon’s temple and glory thus pre-figured the eternal Kingdom that Jesus will usher in at his second coming.
God chastened David through many a trial in his family, notably through his rebel son Absolom, when he had to go into exile himself. But even in this regard he became a forerunner of Jesus who was rejected by his own nation (John 1:11). During the exile of David he pre-figured another facet of our Saviour who has been in the live-changing business for centuries. Rogues, outlaws and criminals who joined David in exile became brave, self-controlled, magnanimous men – prototypes of people like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, or Mary Magdalene, whose life-styles were drastically changed when Jesus stepped into their lives.

A divergent Version
David’s adultery and murder are not mentioned in the Qur’an explicitly.  The account of 2 Samuel 11 is hardly recognisable in Surah Sad 38:21-26. Yusuf Ali, the well-known Qur’an translator and commentator, suggests that a different story is at the basis of the Qur’anic narrative. He does not indicate from where this story could have been taken.  Two intruders are mentioned who had been quarrelling about ewes. The two intruders are taken to be angels in disguise because they disappear mysteriously after challenging David. The man who had ninety-nine ewes, had taken the only one from the other in a dishonest way. The Qur’an tells the story as follows:
‘Behold, they climbed over the wall of the private chamber.  When they entered the presence of David, he was terrified of them. They said: “Fear not: we are two disputants, one of whom has wronged the other: Decide now between us with truth, and treat us not with injustice, but guide us to the even Path. “This man is my brother: He has nine and ninety ewes, and I have (but) one: Yet he says, ‘commit her to my care.’ (David) said: “He has undoubtedly wronged thee in demanding thy (single) ewe to be added to his (flock of) ewes: truly many are the partners (in business) who wrong each other: Not so do those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and how few are they.” Guilt-ridden, King David understood that the two intruders were of divine origin: ‘... and David gathered that We had tried him: he asked forgiveness of his Lord, fell down, bowing (in prostration), and turned (to Allâh in repentance). So We forgave him this (lapse)…:
Islamic tradition derived from the narrative that David had 99 wives and that he took the only wife of some man (Hughes, 1885:72), hereafter prostrating himself in remorse.
Islamic legend attempted to rectify the distortion when Jibril (in stead of the two Qur’anic intruders or the prophet Nathan of the Bible) challenges King David (Dawood). On the day of his marriage to Bathsheba, the angels Michael and Jibril are said to have appeared in human form before the King at his court. Jibril said to the King in words that are close to the biblical report: ‘The man thou seest here possesses ninety-nine sheep, whilst I have only one, and yet he is pursuing me constantly and claiming my ewe lamb’. According to the legend, David reacted angrily: ‘This is unfair and shows an evil and unbelieving heart and a bad nature.Jibril’s reply made David realise that the unknown man was alluding to his own conduct with regard to Uriah. Wrathful he wanted to pierce Jibril. Michael hereafter burst out in laughter whereupon the two angels ‘now rising up on their wings exclaimed:Thou hast given judgement against thyself and hast declared thine own action to be that of a wicked unbeliever” (Rappoport, Vol. III, 1928:179).
As part of Dawood’s remorse, he expresses doubts about his wisdom in judgement. A royal staff was given to him, but Jibril had to take the staff to heaven because Dawood continued to fail in his judgements. The Qur’an teaches that Dawood was given knowledge and wisdom to judge (Surah Al Abinya (The Prophets) 21:78) but Islamic legend highlights his failure as a judge. Simultaneously his adultery and the wicked murder plot - ordering Uriah to be left stranded in the front line of the battle that are described in 1 Samuel 11:4-14) - are glossed over. Surah Sad 38:21-23 vaguely intimates correction when one of the intruders refers to the lamb, but the subsequent verses indicate that the King feels guilty.

An Example of Penance
The Bible has no problem to narrate King David’s moral failures, but his penance is highlighted. The beautiful Psalm 51 has become the example of a contrite heart ‘. Wash away all my iniquity… Against you … have I sinned…’ (verse 2-4). The 'New Testament' speaks the same language, namely that God forgives generously if we confess our sins. He is ever ready to purify us (1 John 1:9). That was perhaps the major difference between David and his predecessor Saul who tried to cover up his mistake by giving others the blame after he had been impatient, rendering his burnt offering disobediently and prematurely. The Talmud states that ‘repentance and good deeds are a shield against punishment.’ Yusuf Ali and orthodox Islam take the same line with regard to Dawood’s moral failure, calling it a mistake or a lapse. Despite his failures the Bible describes David as a man after God’s heart.
            Islamic Ahadith stress Dawood’s zeal in prayer and his readiness to do penance, but the above-mentioned legend overcompensates when Dawood (David) is depicted as remorseful for three full years (Weil, 1853:142). His voice is described as having a magic power not only over man, but also over wild beasts and inanimate beings.
The biblical David was also quite penitent after he had ordered a census without any divine instructions to that end. ‘He sought to do penitence, and spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of all worlds!’  (Pirkê de Eliezer, 1970:338). The Bible quotes him when he saw how the Angel of the Lord ravaged the country with a plague: ‘I am the one who has sinned and done wrong…’ (2 Samuel 24:17).  He repented - insisting to pay for the threshing floor where he wanted to build an altar - in order to sacrifice burnt offerings. This was duly accepted. 'Then the Lord answered prayer and the plague on Israel was stopped (2 Samuel 24:25).’

Reprimands on sexually deviant Behaviour
The Bible clearly reprimands sexually deviant behaviour. Juan Bosch (1965:151) calculated that David must have been 45 years old when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. The Bible condemns outright that he tried to cover up his adultery through the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. King Solomon’s many wives led to idolatry, misleading the whole nation.
            Islamic legendry paves the way for David’s illustrious son Sulaiman (Solomon) to come to the scene. Jibril announced at his birth: ‘The rule of Satan speeds towards its end; in this night a child is born whom Iblis and his whole army and all his off-spring will be subjected… all wisdom will be given unto him which Allâh has given to man …’ (Weil, 1853:144). Whereas the legend shows Joseph learning 70 languages through Jibril’s intervention, Sulaiman (King Solomon) was blessed with nine tenths of all wisdom, so that he will be able not only to understand all languages of man, but also that of animals and birds. Here the wisdom of Sulaiman is highlighted to such an extent that the idolatry to which his many pagan wives led him into, hardly features. If anything, his polygamy is used as an excuse for Muhammad’s life-style in Medina. Quite a few times in the Bible – especially in the Hebrew Scriptures - idolatry is linked to sexual immorality.
Jewish legendry has an interesting contribution when David and his son Solomon are said to have been destined to build a temple on earth that would be the mirror image of the one in heaven. It was furthermore to be built above an ancient stone, which God had set into the earth at the time of creation. The obvious parallel is the Ka’ba, which was said to have been (re)built by Abraham and his son Ishmael around the Black Stone. As the German theologian Julius Wellhausen has pointed out, the Ka’ba thus became an idol itself, an enlarged sacred stone (Wellhausen, 1961:74).
Islamic tradition interestingly passed on that David divided his time meticulously, setting apart one day for the service of God, another day for rendering justice to his people, another for preaching to them and another day for his own affairs (Hughes, 1885:72).
The Son of David
The belief was general that the sending of the Messiah was part of the Creator’s plan at the inception of the Universe. The Talmudic Rabbis were unanimous that the Messiah[20] would be just a human being divinely anointed and appointed to carry out an allotted task. Some authorities identified the Messiah with King David. More common was however that he would be a descendant of David, therefore the Son of David.
            In a special sense David was a forerunner of the Anointed, the Messiah. When Samuel anointed him the first time as a boy, it was not recognised. It appears that few people got to know about it. Only at David’s third anointing as King he was accepted as ruler of all Israel. Similarly, John the Baptist was divinely prepared to see the dove at the baptism of Jesus as a confirmation of the anointing that Jesus was God’s Son and the Lamb of God. Yet, it was not generally recognised.
            Jews accept Isaiah 53 as a messianic prophecy but they have difficulty with the sufferings linked to it: ‘stricken, smitten of God and afflicted ‘(verse 4). The practice developed that this chapter is simply skipped in the weekly synagogue readings. This is apt to change when Zechariah (12:10) comes to fulfilment, when Jews will recognise whom ‘they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child.’ Much more acceptable is therefore a prophecy like Jeremiah 30:9- ‘They shall serve their God and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.’ The Talmud stresses that it is not stated ‘has raised’ but that he ‘will raise’ (Cohen, 1971:369).
 The Talmud mentions a mysterious figure called ‘Messiah, son of Joseph’. The link to Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10 is interesting. The passage quoted in Cohen (1971:369) reads: ‘Messiah son of Joseph was slain, as it is written,They shall look unto me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one who mourns for his only son.’ ‘Son of Joseph’ or ‘Son of David’ denotes of course a descendant of Joseph and David respectively.  We note that the last words read ‘his only son’ instead of the biblical ‘for an only child’. Yet, Zechariah 12:10 does end with ‘and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first-born son’, which brings the monogenes, the unique son of Genesis 22:1 (Septuagint) and John 3:16 into the picture.
            Talmudic tradition foresees a clear role for the ‘Son of David’, the Messiah, at his return one day. For every year of the last seven years certain occurrences have been prophesied until at the conclusion of the seven-year period,[21] the son of David will come.

Jonah gets another Chance

            Jonah (Yunus) follows a somewhat different pattern compared to the Hebrew Scriptural prophets who were also mentioned in the Qur’an. Usually the prophet was sent to his own people group. That was all too often the reason why their message was not accepted. The Qur’an gives the impression that every prophet is primarily a warner who should expect difficulty because of his message. Jonah is thus listed a few times in the Qur’an with the other warners of their own peoples.
            The story of Jonah illustrates both principles of the sacrifice - purifying sin and atonement for it.  God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, but he disobeyed by fleeing in a ship that was sailing in the opposite direction.  God was displeased and sent a violent storm. Via big things - a great city whose sin was great - God sent a great storm and a very big fish, demonstrating his great inclusive love for the whole world.
            The overwhelming picture of Jonah in the Qur’an is that Yunus was very fortunate: ‘Had not favour from his Lord reached him ...(whom) his Lord chose’ (Surah Al-Qalam (The Pen) 68:48-50), he would have died. This is typical of Allâh’s attitude to him.

Nationalistic Thinking
In the Bible Jonah is reprimanded by God for his nationalistic thinking. He had fled in the opposite direction to which God had sent him. That speaks of disobedience. It is striking that in spite of his disobedience, God still used him when he testified on the boat to his faith in the unseen God. Initially it could have been fear of the wicked Ninevites which drove him to the frantic step, but the end of the story clarifies the issue: Jonah had evidently been more interested that the Ninevites should be punished, rather than that they should repent. We recognise this carnal trait in all of us, seeking retribution and revenge.
            The Qur’an omits the divine rebuke for Jonah’s disobedience and for his legalistic, nationalistic thinking. The reprimand in the Bible was tantamount to an invitation to self-denial, so to speak a challenge to Jonah to take up his cross. (We are reminded that Jesus first said ‘deny yourself’, before inviting his followers to take up the cross (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). To accept that the Ninevites could be forgiven, that God could change His mind, was obviously very difficult for the prophet to accept. Sometimes the impression is spread that God is not moved easily; that He can just do what he likes in an authoritarian and wanton way. Jonah thought that God was bound to His original prophecy of doom. He had to learn that God was basically compassionate, that the Almighty takes ‘no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live’ (Ezekiel 33:11). We compare the reprieve of David (2 Samuel 12:13) and Ahab (1 Kings 21:28) after they repented and humbled themselves before God. He gave them a new chance. That is the nature of God: loving forgiveness after repentance, rather than punishment for our sins.
Yet, Jeremiah 18:7ff has special actuality for Capetonians. Evangelicals who think that God is obliged to bring to pass the many prophecies over the Mother City without (united) repentance and prayer, would do well to see that the Bible forces a good rethink on the matter:   ‘...And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it’.
I am convinced that if Christians are willing to accept more generally that we cannot put God into a box of Western Theology ‑ the Scriptures have originated in the Orient ‑ we might find Muslims and Jews more open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The complete Biblical message seems to be: God is loving and forgiving, he is slow to anger but there comes a time when continued sinning will call forth his wrath.[22] Somehow quite the opposite came through to Islam. Allâh is swift in taking account (Surah Al-Nur  (The Light) 24:39), quick in retribution (Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:167). Furthermore, the verse from Jeremiah 18 quoted above repudiates the Islamic tenet that God does not change His mind. The Bible repeats more than once that the Almighty is in principle unchangeable and sovereign, but not arbitrary and aloof. Compassionate and remorseful prayer moves him, especially when it is done corporately. We note e.g. how the Ninevites averted the destruction of their city through general remorse and repentance.

Self-denial as a Correction of Ethnocentrism and wrong Nationalism
Some Jewish theologians seem to like to harp on Jesus’ break with nationalism, without pointing out that His ministry had the intention of bringing Israel back to its original destiny, namely to be a ‘light to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6 I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. ). Islamic scholars on the other hand likewise usually do not seem to have a problem with nationalism or ethnocentrism. Allegiance to the Ummah, the brotherhood of Muslim believers, is usually very important to them.
            To be patriotic is laudable. But it should never make one uncritical. However, when patriotism and loyalty turn to chauvinism, the red card must be shown. In the Bible it is narrated how Jonah was reprimanded by God for his nationalistic thinking. The Qur’an does mention ‘a spreading plant of the gourd kind’ (Surah Al-Saffat (The Ranks) 37:146) in reference to this narrative, but one does not find God rebuking Jonah’s legalistic, nationalistic thinking in the sacred Islamic book.
            Paul and John the Baptist were definitely influenced by the nationalist strand of Judaism. But they also included in their teaching its correction towards self-denial for example: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). Compare also 2 Corinthians 5:15, And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again and Romans 14:7,8, For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. We note that Jesus included ‘deny yourself’ before saying ‘take up your cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Paul extended himself for the Gentiles to such an extent that he was almost killed because of his conviction, namely that God had sent him to preach the Gospel to the - in their eyes barbaric inferior Gentiles - gojim (for example Acts 22:22, The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, 'Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!').
            John the Baptist said that Jesus must become greater and he must become less (John 3:30). Jesus himself set the example in self-denial, for example by washing the disciples’ feet (John 13) and saying: ‘… so that your Son may glorify you’ (John 17:1).
            The Christian theologians of the dark ages did not fare much better with regard to nationalism. Our religious forebears obviously did not understand what Jesus’ radical break with nationalism implied for the rank and file Christian. They made an aloof deity out of the biblical ‘Lord of Lords’ and ‘King of Kings’ (Revelations 17:14). Not only God the Father but also Jesus became further and remote as the Christians prayed increasingly to mother Mary. The Hebrew Scriptures speak of God being exalted over all the nations, but also that he bends down to uplift the downtrodden and needy from the ash heap (for example Psalm 113:4,7). This tenet became concealed and the incarnation of God - Jesus as the Immanuel - got almost completely lost. The message in the Magnificat that God identifies himself with the lowly (Luke 2:48, 52), was interpreted in a very one-sided way, namely in the veneration of Mary.

Caricature of the punishing God                  
Superficially, it looks as if the forgiving and the punishing God are cancelling each other out in the Jonah narrative. These two facets are explained and reconciled to a considerable extent when one looks at the context of some of the appropriate verses. This can for example be seen explicitly in the Ten Commandments. In the context of Deuteronomy 5:9, the punishing God is the deity who metes out punishment to the God-haters. But it is more than balanced out by divine favour on those who do his will and follow His commandments. Whereas God punishes the wicked to the third and fourth generation, he shows love to the thousandth generation of those who love Him. The God-haters are the idol-worshippers. In Isaiah 43 we read about His forgiveness in spite of the rebelliousness of the people. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, aptly summed up God’s basic character: ‘Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression...You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy’ (Micah 7:18). In the early Meccan Surah’s the Qur’an used al-Rahman, the merciful, as a favourite name for the Almighty.
            The tension between the forgiving and the punishing God is perfectly balanced and demonstrated in the work and life of Jesus. He could forgive sin straight away where He saw faith (e.g. Mark 2:5 and Luke 7:48).
            The author of the letter to the Hebrews, who understood the Jewish mind-set par excellence, summarises the issue beautifully: ‘The people of Israel ...steeled themselves against his love and complained against him in the desert while he was testing them. But God was patient with them for forty years, though they tried his patience sorely...’ (Hebrews 3:8,9 Living Bible).  His patience so to speak ran out: ‘I was very angry with them, for their hearts were always looking somewhere else...’  (Hebrews 3:10, Living Bible). 

A sad Development    
A sad development in Church and Islamic history is that it was not picked up sufficiently that a basic tenet of the 'NT' was non-violence, non-coercion.  It would not be incorrect to summarise the message of the Hebrew prophets to say that they were warners. However, they never used coercion or force to get followers in line.  Jonah’s message must have been very forceful, but even he did not force the Ninevites to repent. With the advantage of hindsight we can state that the emperor Constantine and the Church father Augustine made grave errors to deduce force from the Scriptures. That Augustine could cite the words of Jesus ‘compel them to come in’ (Luke 14:23) with regard to backsliders, was actually a sectarian abuse of the Word. The most tragic part of the interpretation was that military force and compulsive baptisms became the examples, which Muhammad and his followers could emulate. Thus thousands have been killed in religiously motivated wars. Many so-called apostates are still being persecuted and even killed – not only in Muslim countries - when they decide to become followers of Jesus.
            Jonah had the idea that God was always ready to punish. The Qur’an basically has a similar view of Allâh. As a result, Muslims have difficulty to see that God can ‘change His mind’. According to Surah Qaf 50:16 and Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey) 17,  the Muslim has to be fearful of death because Allâh is always nearby, ready to cut off one’s life like the slash through the jugular vein at the sheep slaughtering - with the two angels always at hand -lurking on the two shoulders to report one’s deeds, one on the left shoulder recording the sinful things and the angel on the right one recording the good deeds.  Because God is righteous, He is provoked to wrath by sin.  Jonah (Yunus) disobeyed God and as a result, his life was threatened by a violent storm. If Jonah had not repented he would certainly have died.  We also read in the Qur’an, ‘If God were to punish men for their wrongdoing, He would not leave on the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated term’ (Surah Al-Nahl (The Bee) 16:61).  It is clear from this verse that basically everyone disobeys God. This is echoed in the 'New Testament' where Paul said ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). All of us should be punished with death, but God is forbearing.  The Qur’an does not tell why Jonah landed in the belly of the fish, but it does mention ‘a spreading plant of the Gourd kind’ (Surah Al-Saffat (The Ranks) 37:146). This of course refers to the plant that grew quickly, providing shade to Jonah and which then withered just as promptly. The Bible explains that God waits to execute judgement so as to give us an opportunity to repent. That is why Jonah received another chance.                                                                   The idea of punishment could still have been Jonah’s frame of mind when the storm failed to subside. A miracle had already happened as he succeeded in falling asleep while the storm was raging around them. It is striking that even in this detail about Jonah he became a type of Jesus. The Master could also sleep on a boat through a storm.

From God one cannot flee     
But Jonah had to face the music at last: you can run away in disobedience, but so often you take your unresolved problems with you. From God one cannot flee. Jonah was convicted of his sin and admitted his guilt. Faced with severe judgement, he did not lose hope but cried out for mercy. He confidently confessed his belief that “Salvation comes from the Lord” and promised to make a sacrifice with thanksgiving (Jonah 2:8,9). Being an Israelite, Jonah knew that the Law of Moses required a sin offering to be sacrificed.  He knew that it provided a basis for forgiveness.
            According to the law, provision was also made for the sinner to express his thanks to God.  Accordingly, Jonah promised to sacrifice “with a song of thanksgiving”. What was Jonah thankful for?  To be rescued from death?  Yes, indeed he was!  David praised God in a similar way, acknowledging that God is the One who enables us to escape from death. David wrote in Psalm 68:19,20, “Praise be to God our Saviour ...  Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.”
             Significantly, Jonah did not jump into the water when his disobedience caught up with him. He requested to be thrown into the sea (Jonah 2:12). Thus his action became a pristine form of baptism - a voluntary decision after the recognition and confession of sins. In a parallel way, Jesus submitted himself to be baptised by John at the beginning of His ministry - although he was without sin. No wonder that John the Baptist was taken aback at Jesus’ request.

Salvation only comes through Death and Resurrection.
The message of the Bible is that salvation only comes through death and resurrection. Jonah got the message.  The only way his fellow passengers can be saved is for him to be thrown overboard.  He was an extremist.  He went overboard.  There’s an amazing picture here.  He represents God,  willing to sacrifice his own life so the crew will be saved.   We take note that Jonah didn’t simply jump overboard himself.  Crew members had to sacrifice him to the sea.  What a picture of Jesus.  Yeshua was willing to lay down his life, but it was other people who put him to death.  But in Jonah 2:4 he doesn’t say, 'The sailors threw me into the sea.' Instead he prays to God: 'You cast me into the depths of the sea.'  It’s very interesting that to complete the section to be read on the Day of Atonement, the rabbis added a small portion from the Book of Micah that uses almost the identical words. In Jonah it says, 'you cast me into the depths of the sea,' but in Micah 7:19 it says, 'You will cast their sins into the depths of the sea.   That’s a very interesting connection even if the rabbis probably didn’t intend it as such.  It more or less equates Jonah with the sins of the people.  And what a picture that is of Yeshua who became sin for our sakes. 
            Jonah was the sign of someone going down into the depths and being raised to new life, an example of God’s power to raise someone from the dead. To be a perfect type of Christ, Jonah had to die, be ‘buried’ for three days, and rise again. The watery deep was more than a dungeon for the disobedient prophet – it was the equivalent of a grave. He thus typified the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Qur’an does not pick up Jesus’ prophecy of his death and resurrection as the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39; 16:4).  This central tenet of Christianity is denied in Islam.
The early Christians, when under severe persecutions, carved Jonah on the walls of the catacombs as a type of the resurrection. But Jonah was only a type. He finally died whereas Jesus did not die again after his resurrection.

God loves the whole World   
One of the Bible’s greatest themes is that God loves the whole world - not just one group. Abraham was called to be a blessing to the nations. The root verb of salvation in the Bible can be described as ‘to save’ or ‘to rescue from death’.  Jonah’s experience is seen as such in the Bible (Jonah 2:10) and in the Qur’an (Surah Anbiyaa (The Prophets) 21:88 and Surah Al-Saffat (The Ranks) 37:144).
The book of Jonah is essentially a missionary book. Twice the prophet received the commission to go and warn (it is so to speak to evangelize) the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh. This was a foreshadowing of the Gospel to every nation. Jonah had to learn that salvation was not for the Jews only; that the love and mercy of God were broader than his prejudiced mind.
Jonah did not understand the ramification of God’s commission and had to be rectified. Jonah was not alone in his thinking that the Jews were so special in God’s eyes that it excluded other peoples. Jesus corrected the congregation in Nazareth, making them so angry by his reference to the widow of Zarefath and Naaman from Syria that they wanted to kill him. Obviously their thinking corresponded with that of Jonah.
            Also Peter had to realise that the Gospel was for Gentiles too. Cornelius could be described as the equivalent of the Muslims. God heard his prayers, seeing his sincere heart as he gave alms to the poor. Peter had to go down-stairs; he had to climb down from his pedestal of condescending Jewish pride with regard to the Gentiles.
            The Qur’an itself would later teach that Muslims should consult people of the book in case of doubt, Surah Yunus (Jonah) 10:94. This is what the devout Cornelius did. He also gave alms, fasted and prayed. He went to Peter, the apostle, for counsel. All the more it is sad that Waraqah reportedly only told Muhammad that he was like Moses, i.e. encouraging him that he was a prophet - that he apparently did not encourage Muhammad to seek salvation through faith in Jesus Jesus, whom Muhammad revered so much.
            We will possibly never know whether there were Christian contemporaries who were disobedient and failed to go and tell Muhammad the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ clearly. Nor do we know whether Muhammad was actually the disobedient one.

Out of our cosy Zones
The message of Jonah includes the fact that God wants to take us out of our cosy zones. In the age of the Internet we are tempted to want to do everything from our computer. In no way does this invalidate the parable of the sower, who had to go out to sow his seed. We must share the Gospel with the unreached, to those nearby and those far away – including the use of modern tools like the internet or mobile phone. Sometimes one feels like running away from the task at hand, just like Jonah. Then God has to call us back.
            The Hebrew word most commonly associated with repentance and conversion, sub is much more often addressed to Israel than used in connection with non-covenant nations. God eagerly seeks the conversion of his own people, the apple of His eye, who seemed so often bent on turning away from Him in apostasy, rather than turning towards Him in repentance for restoration. The word sub is used of turning in the opposite direction. Their seems to be a continuous need of God's people for radical conversion themselves, rather than being seen only as the agent of the conversion of others. The conversion of the Ninevites and the (unsuccessful) conversion of Jonah is a paradigm for haughty scalp-counting evangelism. In this sense the so-called conversion of Cornelius is just as much the conversion of Peter, repentance of his haughty attitude towards gentiles.

God’s Moulding process        
God often uses affliction, disappointment and trials to mould us. To this end the worm was used by God to teach Jonah the bottom line: he was selfish and without compassion towards the Ninevites.
            How gracious of the Father that he gives us a second chance, yes sometimes even a third and a fourth one to get us back to His purpose for us. The biblical condition is remorse and repentance. In 1 John 1:9 we read: If we confess ours sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
            We could thank God for the ‘great fish’ - the pits of despair and tribulation that bring us back to our senses. We should praise the Lord for the storms, the troubles that focus our faith and give us opportunity to share the good news with those who might not be our first choice, but who are God’s challenge for us.
            Jonah assumed that Nineveh would have no time for God. Christians too easily assume that certain people groups are resistant to the Gospel. Jonah had to learn that it was not only the city of Nineveh that had to repent. He himself and especially his attitude to the Ninevites had to change. We as Christian Capetonians might still be very surprised by the reaction of Muslims and Jews to the Gospel if our own attitude changes to one of love and compassion.
                                     Jeremiah, a Man of Sorrows

The image of the prophetic suffering servant is usually linked to (the second) Isaiah. However, the prophet Jeremiah’s calling and life can be typified with tears. The book of Lamentations stemmed from his pen. No single Jewish prophet personified Jesus as the suffering servant more than Jeremiah. 'The people of Jeremiah  own village of Anathoth and even his own brothers did not believe in him. Westphal and Du Pontet have been cited in saying: Alone among the Prophets of Israel he was for his age what Jesus was for His, an enigma and a stumbliing block.' It is interesting that compatriots of our Lord, who had great reverence for the ancient prophets, made this link. In answer to the question ‘what do men say that I, the son of Man, am?’ they promptly answered ‘some say … Elijah: and others Jeremiah … (Matthew 16:13, 14). To be mentioned so closely to Elijah, speaks for the high regard the compatriots of Jesus had for Jeremiah.  In this chapter we also look at Isaiah, the most quoted prophet in the 'NT'. Eric F.T Bishop, in his book Prophets of Palestine (Lutterworth Press, 1962:75), he says of Isaiah: 'In his use of simple things he anticipated the Incarnate Lord.'

Sowing with Tears
God used Jeremiah’s sadness and tears to express the divine sorrow at the unfaithfulness, the idolatry, the spiritual adultery of his people. But this was part and parcel of the process of the restoration, of the healing of the nation.
            The sowing of the Gospel seed entails suffering of a different kind. The Psalmist wrote: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, and return singing, carrying their sheaves’ (Psalm 126:5). This is surely prophetic of the seed of the Gospel to be sown with the expectancy of a rich harvest. It comes to mind how Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. He encouraged his followers to pray for workers in the white harvest after he had displayed deep compassion over the shepherd-less mass of people. We should note that the quick-fix methods of evangelization - without tears and toil - become at least doubtful in the light of these references. In some circles there is such an emphasis on ‘decisions’ in ‘revival’ meetings that it is hardly emphasized that the hearer should also count the cost before deciding to follow Jesus. Many people ‘raise their hand’ and ‘go forward’ without knowing clearly what they are doing. The high rate of backsli­ding in South Africa - perhaps also in many other countries - might be attributed to these ‘still-born’ Chris­tians who bring more shame than honour to the name of the Lord. Their being born-again is a sham, which is not so much because of their own doing. The blame is often to be laid at the feet of result-seeking evangelists, who do not know what it is to travail in prayer, to pray people through into radical birth. (Some of these ‘evangelists’ are semi-experts in manipulating, using mass psychology to coerce people into deci­sions.) Follow-up and discipling are often neglected. The result is Christian cripples or babies who have not grown spiritually. (The Bible however also relates how God has sovereignly helped those to grow spiritually where the evangelist had no apparent opportunity to disciple the new believer (see for example Acts 8:39, the Ethiopian eunuch).
            A lack of repentant remorse over sin and unfaithfulness can also be counted to this category. Forgiveness and restoration are available for those who recognize their failures and repent of them. The eyes of Jesus fell on Peter at the time of the disciple’s unfaithfulness, when he had denied the Lord thrice. Jesus’ eyes rested on him once again after his resurrection. Repentant Peter was forgiven, restored and commissioned by his Lord.

Similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus
There are many similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus. Both of them were men of sorrows, as Jeremiah's prophet colleague Deutrero-Isaiah wrote 'acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Of both Jeremiah and Jesus it could be said that ‘he came to his own and his own received him not’(John 1:12). Jeremiah however not only revealed Christ in his prophecies, but he also reflected Christ in his personality (Lockyear, 1973:250). His most conspicuous Christ-like characteristic was his sorrow for the sins of those around him. Jeremiah was prepared to make any sacrifice or endure any pain if only he could see the people reformed and restored. He has been described as ‘The Prophet of the broken Heart’ (Lockyear, 1973:250). Secretly and publicly he wept over the iniquity all around him. Bravely he denounced the sins of the nation. Jeremiah proved himself a faithful, fearless champion of the truth amid rebuke, insults and threats.
           With his Lamentations Jeremiah symbolised Jesus who would bewail later ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!’ (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). Vividly he described captivity of Israel and especially the desolation when Jerusalem would be plundered by the Babylonian Army. Jeremiah wept over Jerusalem as he predicted the destruction of the city by the Babylonians, and Jesus foretold its sacking by the Romans. It was for Jeremiah far from easy to deliver the message of doom. He struggled with it until he could not contain it any longer (Jeremiah 6:11).

The Moulding of the Believer

In Christian teaching it has often been neglected that suffering and persecution is part and parcel of being a Chris­tian. The Bible teaches directly and indirectly that suffering prepares one for ministry. Jeremiah was taken to the house of the potter to receive a lesson (Jeremiah 18:2-4). The forming of a precious jar is basically a painful process, for example when the initial product of toil is all but completely destroyed. But the end result brings satisfaction and glory to the pot­ter. The gifted, but arrogant young Joseph could only become an instrument to be used by God to save His people after he had been afflicted by persecution, landing in prison innocently (Genesis 37:39ff). Moses was useless for God until he was humbled in the desert for forty years (Exodus 2:3). Paul was struck blind (Acts 9:8) and had to disap­pear from the scene for many years until Barnabas searched for him, finding him in his home town of Tarsus (Acts 11:25). Paul wrote about the hardship and troubles which the Thessalonians were going through: ‘God uses your sufferings to make you ready for the Kingdom’ (2 Thessalonians 1:5). Jesus Himself had to learn it: ‘During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8). To mould us into the image of Jesus, God often uses unpleasant circum­stances and hardship.
            It is special when one is taken like the eagle above the storm - when one can so to speak ‘smile at the storm’. To use another metaphor with this majestic bird as the example: Even when the baby eagle is cast out of the nest, the resulting initial feeling might be one of helplessness, but the mother is on hand to catch the chick before it can crash to the ground. The experience of suffering and persecu­tion makes the Christian stronger, helps him to get strong wings, to ‘fly’ even better. Just as the caterpillar gains strength as it breaks out of the cocoon, in order to get strong wings during its process of metamorpho­sis,[23] diffi­culties are part of the transformation which the Christian needs in order to grow spiritually.
            Second century North African theologian Tertullian proclaimed that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The truth of Tertullian’s adage can be easily verified when we take a quick look at the greatest Christian contri­butors through the centuries. One has to look very far indeed to find anyone who made a significant contri­bution, who did not experience hardship and/or persecution. On the contrary, a cursory view of special personalities like Raymond Lull, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, John Bunyan, Jan Amos Comenius, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, Count Zinzendorf, William Carey, Watchman Nee and Festo Kivangere to discern that suffering and persecution helped to mould these men of God into mighty instruments of the Gospel.

Prophetic Tenets that pointed towards Jesus
In Jeremiah 2:13 the prophet refers to leaking water containers. The antithesis is the living waters that Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman (John 4:10) or the streams of life-giving water – the Holy Spirit - that would gush forth, of which our Lord spoke at the last day of the Festival of Shelters (John 7:38). Jeremiah 31:10 is a clear pointer to Christ as the Good Shepherd. The most striking pointer to Jesus in the life of Jeremiah was possibly when he landed in a well, after palace officials manipulated to get King Zedekiah so far to allow them to eliminate him after they had suggested that Jeremiah’s prophecies, which predicted the sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army, would undermine the morale of the soldiers and all people still in the city. The way in which Jeremiah was given a new lease of life was special - pointing prophetically to the resurrection of our Lord from the grave by the power of God. In Jeremiah 38:8-13 we read how the African eunuch Obed-Melech, a palace slave, intervened on Jeremiah’s behalf when he heard that the prophet was in the well, where he would have starved. In a touching way he also threw down some worn-out clothes which Jeremiah could put under his arm pits so that the ropes with which he would pull him out, would not hurt him. The pulling of Jeremiah from the mud became proverbial for the sinner to be saved by a life line, pulled from the miry clay and brought to safety, echoing David who even went on to sing a new song after his cry and deliverance from a dangerous pit (Psalm 40:2f).
According to Jeremiah, Jesus is the sprout of righteousness who will proceed from the kingship of David, a ruler who will reign with justice on earth. Isiah echoes this vision of the expected king from the root of Jesse, David's father, as 'a banner of the nations'.

God’s Wrath incurred
Repeatedly it is stressed in the Scriptures that God’s ‘revenge’ is caused by the estrangement and disobedience of his people. They incurred God’s wrath by running away from him (compare for example Isaiah 63 and 64). The strict words of the prophets were intended to bring them to repentance - back to God. His ‘revenge’ has the same purpose. He sometimes even used other agents to carry out punishments, especially when his people persevered with idolatry.
          Idolatry is equated by Jeremiah (2:13) with leaking cisterns. Jeremiah 3 similarly referred to the idolatry which caused the nation to ‘have the brazen look of a prostitute’ (v. 3), but the prophet included this in a moving plea on God’s behalf: "Return, faithless people," declares the Lord, "for I am your husband" (v.14). Throughout the Bible the writers’ intention is to get the wayward people reconciled to God, but on His terms: holiness and righteousness.
            Ezekiel 16 is an account of how God took special care of the despised Jerusalem, nurturing her until she became ‘the most beautiful of jewels’ (v.6). But she turned out to become a prostitute of the worst kind through her idolatry. God hates idolatry. Jeremiah (4:3) advises all of us not to sow seed on unploughed ground and among thorns. Jesus explained the effect of seed sown among thorns: but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful (Mark 4:19). We should never try to either give someone else the blame or belittle sin, for example by calling greed or covetousness materialism. Paul, the apostle, equated this to idolatry (Colossians 3:5). In stead, we must uproot the thorns. Our love of money and possessions makes our hearts like rocky ground and full of thorns (compare Luke 8:14 ‘The seed among the thorns represents those ... whose faith is choked out by worry and riches and the responsibilities and pleasures of life.) No wonder we become cool, hard and hurting if these issues are not brought to the Cross. Confession and repentance is needed, for individual and for collective sin. Moses confessed the sins of his people after they had worshipped the golden calf, even though he was not involved himself. In the process he became a type of Christ, willing to be blotted out from the divine book of life, willing to bear the consequence of the idolatry of his people (Exodus 32:32). Confession of materialism as idolatry should be the logical conclusion. Sharing meaningfully with the poor would be the proof that we are serious about restitution.
Other Messianic forecasts by the Hebrew Prophets
The image of the prophetic suffering servant is usually linked to Isaiah. Judaism knows two strains or branches of the stream of Messianic Prophecy. The one branch refers to a kingly Messiah and the other strain depicts a suffering Messiah.
In Christianity the suffering servant as a type of the Messiah in Isaiah 50, 52 and 53 is well known. He was to be led like a sheep to be slaughtered.  John, the Baptist, described Jesus twice as the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35) and Paul, the prolific epistle-writing apostle, described our Lord as the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). The written Targums are summaries - in Aramaic - of the most common interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures (what we Christians usually call the 'Old' Testament). There are proofs that these Targums were also well known in Arabia. It is interesting that the Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 52 and 53 identifies the suffering servant of the Lord with the Messiah. However, in this instance all the examples of suffering of the Messiah are removed and attributed to the enemies of Israel.
One of the most profound prophetic harbingers of the Messiah can be found in Isaiah 9:6. The son to be born will be called among other majestic titles like 'Prince of Peace' also 'Eternal Father, thus prophesying his divinity and equality with God, the Father. Along the same lines the prophet Micha and Daniel foresaw a never ending or eternal rule. Zechariah calls Him Lord of Hosts. Haggai implied His divinity by prophesying that His presence would make the glory of the second temple greater than that of the first one.

No Place for Vengeance
Some Christians have the impression that leaving the revenge over to God (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30) is solely a New Testament trait. Not only are these verses merely a quotation of Deuteronomy 32:35, but there are also quite a few other Hebrew Scripture verses (for example 1 Samuel 24:13; 2 Chronicles 24:22; Jeremiah 15:15) with the same message. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the spirit of revenge, which is sometimes ascribed to the Jews (and from there possibly emulated by the Muslims), is actually a distortion of God’s plan with His people. Of course, revenge was ordered when His name was at stake. More than once the Israelites incurred God’s wrath, when they were following other gods (for example Judges 6:1; Jeremiah 5:4-9).
            We are actually taught in the Hebrew Scriptures: ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord’ (Leviticus 19:18). Furthermore, though God sometimes has to punish, He is also ‘forgiving and merciful unto those who love Him and keep his commandments’ (Deuteronomy 5:9, 10; Psalm 99:8). With His example of enemy love, Jesus actually stepped in the footsteps of King David.

Feed rather than Fight your Opponents
One of the most profound examples of the principle of feeding rather than fighting your opponents is found in 2 Kings 6:8ff. Elisha the prophet was given special insight into the spiritual realms when the Syrians sought to thrash and invade Israel. The one moment he asked God to open the eyes of his servant to discern the unseen army protecting them but the next moment he prayed to the Almighty to close the eyes of the enemy forces. The invading Syrian army was blinded and rendered powerless. The enemy was thus at the mercy of the Israelites. Elisha advised the king not to kill them but to feed them and sent them home.
            Because some of his Psalms call for divine revenge on his enemies, Christians tend to forget that David had also refrained from it more than once. When he had the chance to kill King Saul, he only cut off a piece of his robe (1 Samuel 24) and on another occasion he spared the king at a time when Saul was once again after his scalp. David refused to practise revenge because he had respect for God’s anointed. Even more dramatically, 1 Samuel 25 narrates how David was prevented from taking revenge. After he had already vowed to kill Nabal and his men, Abigail - Nabal’s wife - was divinely used to intervene. Nabal dies after a heart attack, with the message emerging clear as crystal that vengeance is to be left to God. It is significant that this narrative is recorded just before the next opportunity for vengeance on Saul in 1 Samuel 26. It is almost as if God had reminded David once again of the divine principle, lest he succumb to the new temptation. This is so much in line with what Paul taught, that God will enable us to withstand temptation victoriously (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Fight the real Enemy
Few Christians today are aware that Paul was basically paraphrasing Isaiah for the Gentile Ephesians in chapter 6 of that epistle. He actually merely added a few more items of the armour. In Isaiah 59:17 the breastplate of righteousness and the helm of salvation are mentioned. It has hardly been noted how Paul proceeded - just like Jesus had done in Luke 4, when he cited from Isaiah 61 - to delete vengeance in his version of (spiritual) weapons.[24] Vengeance would fit to the darker side of things. The follower of Jesus walks in the light, detesting anything which belongs to the kingdom of darkness.
         Quite striking is what Paul added to the armour. To buckle oneself with truth is saying in another way: ‘I make myself ready for battle’. We remind ourselves that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). It also highlights the fight against the real enemy who is a liar from the beginning, whose ‘native language’ (John 8:44, NIV) is lying and deceit.

Turning the other Cheek
For years I thought that Jesus’ instruction to ‘turn the other cheek’ was new and innovative. How big was my surprise to discover that Jesus was actually only quoting the Hebrew Scriptures, and not even fully at that. In Lamentations - of all places - Jeremiah identifies himself fully with the sins, the idolatry of his people, which resulted in the exile. Then he writes: ‘Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him and let him be filled with disgrace’ (Lamentations 3:30). The suffering servant of Isaiah, who is widely accepted as a prophetic foreshadowing, a type of the Messiah, likewise displays these characters: ‘I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:5-6).
The reaction of Jesus to the exclamation of the Samaritan woman of John 4 – who was possibly angry or at least indignant -  that he as a Jew dared to ask her for a drink, could be interpreted as an example of ‘turning the other cheek’. Instead of retaliating, the Master initiated a discussion on water. By the way, in the radical suggestion by Jesus of ‘turning the other cheek’, one finds an excellent example of a crooked misconception that developed out of the elevation of the ‘New Testament’ (in respect of the ‘OT’). Theologians have misled the most of us as Christians to regard the Hebrew Scriptures as inferior, to see the ‘NT’ as superior! The Bible is a unit. Hebrew Scriptures and ‘NT’ belong together, even though possibly well over 90% of sermons in churches are taken from the ‘NT’.
            The Church universal should be very thankful for the correction that came through via Landa Cope. In her book The Old Testament Template (Burtigny (CH), 2005) she has wonderfully and quite convincingly shown how God gave principles to the nations, his plan for government, economics and family centuries ago in the laws passed on via Moses.
          Some Christians think that Jesus departed from Hebrew Scriptural thinking by refraining from revenge. His correction of the one-sided oral notion of ‘eye for an eye’ and hating the enemy blurred our perception, thinking that such an attitude is consistent with Mosaic Law. We can regard Peter, the apostle who walked the earth with our Lord for around three years, to have been a good judge of the Master’s motives. He summarised our Lord's life as follows, as part of an example to follow: ‘When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats’ (1 Peter 2:23).

Jesus toned down Revenge    
That Jesus clearly toned down revenge, made him extremely unpopular. The author Luke especially picked up this facet of His ministry. The absence of revenge runs like a golden thread throughout the Gospel of Luke. Bosch suggests that this - perhaps more than anything else apart from nationalism - was a major reason for the change of atmosphere during Jesus’ address in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:18). By quoting Isaiah 61, the Lord Jesus stopped just short of the reference to ‘the wrath of our God.’ In his splendid study Bosch (1990:79) argues quite impressively why this angered the Jews so much that the mood of the congregation changed completely. Those among them who knew Isaiah 61 well, might even have experienced mixed feelings, knowing that in the context aliens and foreigners are seen in a neutral light, scheduled to shepherd their flocks, to work in their vineyards. From excitement and astonishment at the return of their gifted prodigy (v.22), the congregation switched to extreme hatred (v.28). Bosch pointed out that in his comparing other Scriptures, our Lord deleted divine revenge in three cases (Isaiah 35:4; 29:20; 61:2). God wanted His people were to be a blessing to the nations. The notion of the ‘New Testament’ Church as a spiritual Israel is nowhere clearly taught in the Bible, but the inference is nevertheless correct that Israel is the example to the Church. The body of Christ should also bless the nations.

Foreigners as a Blessing
In the scriptural context of His sermon in the Nazareth synagogue, the positive referring to strangers, preferring them to Jewish nationals, evidently angered his audience at least as much. In the context, the overriding reason for the anger of the Jews seems clearly to be their nationalism, because Jesus spoke positively about Naaman, the Syrian and the foreign widow of Zarefath.[25] The Hebrew Scriptures depict clearly how foreigners became a blessing to the people of God. The prime example in this regard was Joseph who was an Egyptian in the eyes of his brothers when he reminded them of their God and the God of their forefathers. The Ethiopian servant Obed-Melech who rescued Jeremiah and the prostitute Rahab are two more ‘foreigners’ who are mentioned favourably. But God also used other nations to chastise the ‘apple of His eye’, the Israelites, when they strayed from Him. Furthermore, Bosch states that forgive­ness as such is highlighted only in the Gospel according to Luke. However, ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘going the second mile’ (Matthew 5:38-41) is just another side of the same coin.
Jesus surely did not endear himself to His Jewish com­patriots by quoting Leviticus 19:18 ‘love your neighbour as your­self’ when he narrated the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Jews traditionally despised Samaritans who mixed pure worship of Yahweh with elements of the Baal cult). This parable is only recorded in the Gospel according to Luke. It is very clearly a teaching on ‘enemy love.’

                                    Daniel, the consistent Prayer Warrior

          Around the exilic prophet Daniel two Bible stories are well known. Both of them have as theme persecution for one’s faith, or alternatively, standing firm despite onslaughts in this area. In Babylon, where Daniel was taken to, the special gifts of the young man was spotted soon. Along with his three young friends who received the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he sought the face of God on more than one occasion when their lives were threatened. In the narrative where the three friends refused to bow down in worship of a golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected, they dared to incur the wrath of the king, ready to be thrown into a scorching furnace. Significantly, the enraged king saw a fourth person, whose form was like unto the Son of God (Daniel 3:25).
          This narrative possibly served as model for the legendary features whereby Abraham was also thrown into a furnace by order of the Babylonian King Nimrod for refusing to worship the idols of his day. The other very well known story about Daniel is the events leading up to him being thrown into to a den with lions.
A focused young Man
Daniel was very focused from a young age. As a youthful young man he was confronted with a challenge in a foreign land to where he and his compatriots were taken as a exiles. They knew that they would break God’s laws if they would participate in the meals of the king. Despite his youth and the obvious pressure to adapt, Daniel determined in his heart to obey God’s laws at all costs. Because he put God first, the Almighty gave him favour in the eyes of other people. Daniel was a young man with firm principles, refusing to compromise his convictions, by drinking the wine of the palace or participating in the royal meals. Among the children of Israel he was exceptional, without blemish, well favoured, skilful in all wisdom, knowledge and understanding. The prophet obviously learned early that ‘low living was the way to high thinking’ (Lockyear, 1973:256). His special gifting was clearly given from on high, revealing deep and secret things to Daniel’s mind (Daniel 2:22). That is why Daniel and his friends were ten times better than the king’s magicians and astrologers. The Lord himself taught that the Holy Spirit leads and guides into all truth.

A principled Believer
As an adult Daniel remained just as principled, refusing the gifts of Belshazzar, the son of King Nebuchadnezzar. Not even the threat and possibility of being killed could move him. With steadfastness he withstood the threat of persecution that emanated from the evil scheming of his foes which led to the decree of Darius. The devout Daniel was meticulous in all matters. This accounted for his appointment unto great responsibility and power. Of course, his purity in every respect was closely linked to his resolve and determination to please God. He confounded the concept that one must adapt to the sinful practices of society to get somewhere. Daniel not only earned the favour of men. He was greatly loved by God. Three times we read that a heavenly voice called him a greatly beloved (Daniel 9:23; 10:11, 19); thus pointing in this way to the Son in which the Father was well pleased Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

A Man with Integrity
Daniel was a man with integrity from his youth. How principled he and his friends were, is demonstrated when they preferred to enjoy a simple diet above the choice food and wine on offer. However, there was a spiritual matter at stake: ‘Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank’ (Daniel 1:8). When the possibility arose to get special perks from the king for performing the almost impossible task - not only to interpret the dream but also tell what Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed - Daniel stood steadfast. He was dependant upon God, not interested in the gifts, the reward and honour. He requested to be given time so that they may be given ‘compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery’ (v.17). Most probably he and his friends had united prayer meetings, beseeching the Almighty that the dream itself as well as the interpretation be revealed to them. Again and again we read of him looking to God in confidence that his petitions would be answered.
            When he received the very special night vision Daniel knew the priorities, giving honour to God, the Almighty, for the extraordinary revelation: ‘Let the name of God be blessed for ever and ever… He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding…To you o God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise…’ (v.19-11). The quality of Daniel’s character is clearly demonstrated by the fact that he earned the esteem of four different kings from three nations, namely Nebuchadnezzar, his son Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus.

Wisdom and Humility displayed
The exceptional wisdom and humility Daniel  possessed was displayed when he went to see the king’s envoy hereafter. Daniel demonstrated the spirit of Christ as he interceded for the Babylonian wise men, who would have been killed because of the king’s rage. ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylonian! Take me into the king’s presence and I will declare the interpretation to the king.’ That was evidence of true greatness, not only concerned about the threat to his life and that of his compatriots. In fact, he displayed the teaching of Jesus to love your enemy, because the very same Chaldean wise men were quick to make Daniel and his friends the scapegoat when they found the king’s expectation unreasonable.
            The divine revelation – not only the interpretation, but also the actual dream of Nebuchadnezzar- affected the future on a very broad level. According to the interpretation the golden head of the gigantic statue was no less than Nebuchadnezzar himself, reigning in great splendour. Significantly, in the dream the statue was destroyed by a stone that was cut out without hands. Daniel interpreted that Nebuchadnezzar would be succeeded by inferior kingdoms, which history confirmed to be Medo-Persia and Greece. The fourth kingdom - as strong as iron - was the image for the mighty Roman Empire. God – this is the divine hand that cut out the stone - would crush and put an end to all these kingdoms and set up a kingdom which will never end. Bible scholars agree that this was to be the rule of the Messiah.

An exceptional Intercessor
Daniel was an exceptional intercessor not only because of his actual praying but also because of his lifestyle. We have seen already how he pleaded that his enemies would not be destroyed. In this way he points to our Lord who prayed for his enemies on the cross. Jesus also prayed for his disciples who were quick to promise allegiance to him ‘even if I were to die with you, I will never deny you’, only to leave him en masse later. It is good to put our hands in our bosom in the knowledge that it was not only Peter who spoke so arrogantly - and then left Jesus in the lurch when it mattered. ‘Thus spoke also all the disciples’ (Matthew 26:35).
Daniel kneeled down when he prayed as a sign of his humility before God. He prayed three times a day as a token of his continuous dependency upon the Father in heaven. He stands in this way very much in the same line as Abraham and Moses as a friend of God, as someone who had an intimate relationship with the Almighty. In that respect he surely prefigured our Lord, who would be up for prayer early in the morning and still around late at night. An interesting aside is how he was in prayer when his accusers came to 'catch' him red-handed while praying. Our Lord was also agonising in prayer when the soldiers came to arrest him (Daniel 6:11; Matthew 26:36-44). Daniel was brought before Darius who wanted to set him free. Pontius Pilate tried his utmost to strike a deal and not be guilty of a travesty of justice, but he ultimately still sent Jesus to be crucified (Daniel 6:15f; John 18:38; John 19:4-6,12,16). A striking comparison between Daniel and Jesus is that Daniel did not speak one word to his accusers (Daniel 6:16f). Our Lord Jesus was likewise very silent to all the accusations (Matthew 27:36-44).
Until old age Daniel remained a consistent prayer warrior. His habit of praying thrice a day towards Jerusalem brought the idol worshippers to extreme rage. With this practice he was clearly distancing himself from those who worshipped the sun as God. The practise does not have a biblical injunction as basis as far as I know, but it may have served as a model to later generations. It is known that Muhammad was deeply impressed by the practice, modelling the qibla, the prayer direction on it. He made it incumbent upon all Muslims. The salat prayer - five times a day - possibly also has Daniel’s habits as model and origin, via the Jews living in Mecca and Medina around 620 CE.
            There is every indication that Daniel was a real righteous man of God. Yet, like the great Moses who had interceded for his idolatrous people risking to be blotted from the Almighty’s book of life, Daniel set his face toward God in heart rendering intercession and confession. After discovering from the prophecy of Jeremiah the desolation awaiting Jerusalem, and the subsequent restoration of the people, he identified himself with the sins of his people in intercession and fasting: ‘we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled…O Lord hear! O Lord forgive O Lord, listen and act…’ (Daniel 9:4ff).

Innocently Persecuted
Daniel stands there as a beacon of steadfastness. The envious rival rulers knew that Daniel was faultless and faithful, and that they could only trap him in his prayer-life. The model of being innocently persecuted is clearly a pointer to the man of Nazareth. The way in which the Medes set up a trap to get at him is a type of the schemes of the arch enemy who has been doing this again and again. Daniel thus became a victim of the law of the Medes and Persians.
            The authors of the four gospels narrate this feature in the life of Jesus quite a few times. The Pharisees have been doing this and the Sadducees also took a bash at him in this way. The gospel of Matthew reports the following of the accusation against him. When the high priest said to him, 'I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.' Jesus merely replied, 'You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven' (Matthew 26:63-64).[26] In the gospel of John we read how Jesus was trapped: 'We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God' (John 19:7).

            Daniel nevertheless portrayed the example of being a stranger in a crooked generation by his prayerfulness, taking the persecution such as the threat of being thrown into the lions den in his stride because of his prayerful habits. It would be quite appropriate to rewrite Hebrews 12:7 for Daniel in the following way: He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Babylon.
A Blessing in Exile
In the midst of persecution Daniel remained thankful, not losing sight of divine blessings. Unlike Abraham and Moses who chose to become exiles voluntarily, Daniel was most probably taken captive forcefully and brought to Babylon in exile, along with so many other Jews. The persecuted and exiled Daniel this stands in the line of the other great exile of the Jewish nation, Joseph, becoming a great blessing to the nation in which they found themselves. In the case of Daniel, he held his appointment as the king’s advisor until the first year of King Cyrus, i.e. through the reign of different kings. Both great men of God, Joseph and Daniel, accepted their difficult situation as an exile without grumbling.
Like Joseph, he had the special gift of interpreting dreams. The interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and of the vision of his son Belshazzar may not have been as spectacular as those of Joseph in saving the nation from famine, but the accurate prophecies of Daniel have been a blessing to scores of theologians down the centuries. The explanation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the gigantic statue represented epochs.
Just like his famous harbinger Joseph, Daniel climbed the ladder in society to become very highly ranked in royal administrations. Daniel’s case was evidently not merely his gift of explaining and interpreting dreams, but especially his proficiency in administration, along with his wisdom and diligence that caught the eye of all and sundry. (Joseph became not only a blessing to the Egyptians, but he was also the divine instrument to prepare the exodus from that land.)
Daniel was the forerunner of so many other Jews in exile who blessed nations outside of their homeland Israel. Germany and the USA benefited probably the most of all countries from the Jews in their midst, whereas Eastern Europe possibly lost most through the persecution and pogroms of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Death and Resurrection of Jesus prefigured
It is significant how the message of death and resurrection of Jesus was prefigured in the life of both Joseph and Daniel. Whereas Joseph was thrown into the pit in the wilderness, Daniel landed in the den with lions. The difference is immaterial, but the common elements are striking. In both cases evil intentions caused by envy and jealousy resulted in the near death of the innocent men of God. That was of course also the case with Jesus, our Lord. In both instances – as was also the case with the patriarch Isaac – divine intervention gave them a new lease of life. With our Lord, the Father allowed His Son to die, to go to hell in our stead.
With Daniel, God the Almighty intervened by closing the mouths of the hungry lions that devoured the evil schemers and their families in no time. Jesus would be raised by the power of God to give eternal life and enablement to victorious living to those who believe in Him as their Lord and Saviour.

A Scapegoat found
The first time Daniel and his friends were challenged deeply, a phenomenon came to the fore which runs like a golden thread threw the history of the Jews. They were made the scapegoat. On the Day of Atonement Jews still commemorate how the blood of this animal atones for the sins of the nation.
          After Nebuchadnezzar had given the well-nigh impossible task for the wise men of Babylon not only to interpret his dream, but also to tell him the dream, the Chaldean wise men were rightly very perturbed. Nebuchadnezzar was furious when they declared their inability, ordering them to be killed. Upon hearing this, we read that Daniel and his three friends were now made the scapegoat: they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them (Chapter 2:13). Daniel and his friends became the forerunners of so many other Jews in exile who were made the scapegoat when things went wrong. The Holocaust was definitely not the first time when Jews were made the scapegoat. (The Jews were given the blame that Germany was in an economical crisis. In Hitler’s propaganda the Jews were used as scapegoats. Everything that was going wrong in Europe was loaded on them.)

Daniel’s Vindication as a Precursor
When Daniel had to be thrown into the lion’s lion, King Darius became a sort of precursor of Pontius Pilate. Pontius, the Roman official would be trapped by the schemes of the religious Jewish leaders, black-mailed by the notion that he could be dubbed to be ‘not the friend of Caesar’. King Darius was likewise caught out by the wicked plot of the Medes who wanted to get rid of the wise Daniel, in their eyes the king’s pet. Darius threw Daniel to the lions, evidently against his wishes. When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid (John 19:8). Pontius would wash his hands demonstratively as if that would clear his feeling of guilt to send the innocent Jesus to the vicious death on a cross. The equivalent would be how Darius - after spending the night fasting - went to the den early in the morning, inquiring with a lamenting voice whether the God of Daniel could save him from the lions. To his astonishment but his exceeding joy, the king discovered that Daniel was alive (Daniel 6:20-22). Likewise, Mary Magdalene and other women went early in the morning, only to discover that Jesus was alive (Mark 16:1-5; John 20:11-18).
            Divine intervention – when God closed the mouths of the lions – led to more than merely relief and acclaim by Darius. The king dared to decree universally to 'all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell the earth should tremble and fear the God of Daniel’ (Daniel 6:25f). Daniel’s vindication thus became a precursor to the universal recognition of Jesus Christ as the King of kings, before whom ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord of all.

A Prophet of the last Days
Daniel has been highly regarded as an eschatological prophet, as one whose words could be checked out as events will be unfolding around the return of Christ. While he was praying and fasting, there came to Daniel the prophetic programme of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24ff).
            A very profound prophecy of Daniel states that the seventy weeks were designed ‘to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity’ (Daniel 9:24). Then he foretold the cutting off of the Messiah, an event that Isaiah chapter 53 had prophesied and depicted so dramatically. Daniel relayed the message given to him by the angel Gabriel that sin is a reality, and must be paid for. The Messiah would do this by being cut off; that is, He will die for the sins of men.
When during the reign of Cyrus, God designed to grant Daniel a glorious vision of himself, the prophet spent three weeks in prayer and fasting (Daniel 10:2,3). He received a panorama of future events as a result. His intercession was so effective that there was a satanic blockage for twenty one days in his grim struggle with a demonic prince (Daniel 10:12).  Through such fervent prevailing prayer Daniel is a fitting type of the Messiah whose prayers and supplications were saturated with his tears. 
The encouraging Archangel Gabriel 

            According to Christian tradition the angel Gabriel brought the message to Mary about the supernatural birth of a son. Muslims believe that Gabriel brought the first revelations of the Qur’an to Muhammad in the month of Ramadan while he was in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca. Following the example of Christian hermits, Muhammad went there from time to time to meditate and pray for long periods.  
            A superficial look at Jibril, the Islamic Gabriel, could give the impression that he is identical with the angel Gabriel in the Bible. In both the Bible and in the biographical notes on the appearance of the supernatural figure that introduced himself with that name to Muhammad, one finds awe and fear.  One does not have to delve very deeply however, to discover major differences between the two supernatural figures.

Gabriel in the Bible   
Gabriel occurs in the Bible by name only in two books, namely in the Gospel according to Luke and in the prophetic book of Daniel. The angel introduces himself in Luke 1:19 to Zechariah with the words ‘I am Gabriel’.  In both Lukan reports (1:11-20 and 1:26-38) there is awe on the part of Zechariah and Mary: ‘When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear...’ In Luke 1:19ff we read how the angel made Zechariah dumb after he had doubted that his aged wife would become pregnant.  Gabriel brings the good news to the Virgin Mary of the birth of a son (Luke 1:26-38). We read ‘Mary was greatly troubled’. The prospect of a pregnancy was surely quite shocking to the teenage virgin.
             So typical of angelic appearances in the Bible, we find with Zechariah the reassuring ‘Do not be afraid’. This we also know from the angel on the fields of Bethlehem (Luke 2:10). In the two Gabriel appearances to Zechariah and Mary, they ultimately led to rejoicing, to birth, to life.  The end result is awe, followed by joy. 

            The angel Gabriel is mentioned by name in the book of Daniel when the prophet was down and out.  In Daniel 7:15 we read ‘I Daniel was troubled in spirit’. This happened after Daniel had seen a vision of one like a son of man, who was led into the presence of the Ancient of Days, as the Almighty is being described here. The visions that Daniel saw disturbed him. We note in our Bible what happened in Chapter 8:15, I heard a man calling: Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the (yet another) vision. In the Church universal the Son of Man was always understood to be Jesus after our Lord had used the apocalyptic term as an euphemism for ‘Son of God’.[27]
            Furthermore we find with Daniel exactly what would happen to the shepherds of Bethlehem! He was terrified and fell to the ground. Daniel was in a deep sleep with his face to the ground as the angel Gabriel spoke to him. Then Gabriel touched him and raised him to his feet. The only thing that is surprising is that we do not hear the words “Do not be afraid!(This typical phrase by angelic beings occur only later, in Daniel 10:12, 19). When he was awe-struck and fearful, with his face to the ground, the angel lifted him literally to his feet. We note that Daniel had prostrated himself wilfully in awe and adoration. The general sphere radiated by the Gabriel messages in the Bible is one of expectation.
An unnamed Angel
An unnamed angel came to the embarrassed Joseph in Matthew 1:20 after he had discovered that Mary to whom he had been legally engaged, was pregnant. The terribly surprised Joseph was evidently not impressed by her explanation that she had been supernaturally impregnated. He knew that he was not responsible.  Tradition perceived the angel that came to Joseph to be Gabriel as well, possibly because of the typical phrase:  ‘Do not be afraid’. The phrase ‘fear not’ or its equivalents are quoted in the Bible quite a few times in connection with a divine supernatural intervention to uplift destitute or awe-struck people. After Elijah e.g. had to run for his life, he became devastated and completely suicidal (1 Kings 19:4) - in spite of the magnificent victory on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18.  We read how he was twice encouraged by an angel to get up. An interesting comparison occurred with Muhammad who at a similar period of his ministry was near to despairing. In 1 Kings 19:13f we read how Elijah … pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
            Surah Al Muzzammil (The Enshrouded One)
73:1,5 O thou folded in garments... Soon shall We send down to thee a weighty Message. And Surah Al Muddaththir (The Cloaked One) 74:1 'Arise and deliver thy warning!' The nature of some of the Medinan revelations are however rather problematic, e.g. Surah 33:37 which paved the way for Muhammad to marry the divorced wife of Zaid, his adopted son.
The Angel of the Lord                                                                                                                                     In summary, one can say that the biblical Gabriel or his equivalents in the Bible uplifts and encourages. This amplifies also the divine nature of Jesus, who also used the phrase ‘fear not!’ or its equivalents a few times to uplift the despondent or fearful in a similar way.  This would also give credence to the theory of seeing the angel Gabriel as the figure often called ‘the Angel of the Lord’ in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In Genesis 22 Abraham had an encounter with a supernatural figure identified as the Angel of the Lord.  If we take oral tradition seriously - and that of targums especially – the divine intervention brought Isaac  back to life. Interestingly in Judges 13:22,  the Angel of the Lord is clearly regarded by Manoah and his wife as no less than God himself: 'We shall surely die because we have seen God'. The resurrected Lord comforted Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the grave (Matthew 28:10) as well as the bereaved and fearful disciples, pronouncing peace to them (John 20:19) in the upper room along similar lines.  It is striking that even the devil knows that it is the function of angels to uplift. In fact, at the temptation in the desert, satan cited Scripture: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands’ (Matthew 4:6). We note that satan had invited Jesus to commit suicide. In our day and age, many people who got involved with Satanism, end up committing suicide.

Jibril in the Qur'an regarding the birth of Yahya
In Surah al-Imran 3 and Surah 19 we find the same basic ideas as in Luke's Gospel, Jibril first appearing to Zechariah (and then to Mary). There we read the following regarding the birth of Yahya, as John, the Baptist, is called in the Qur'an (3:39).
'While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels[28] called unto him: "Allâh doth give you glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from Allâh, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet - of the (goodly) company of the righteous." A sense of awe overcame Zechariah as in the Bible that led to the following reaction: "O my Lord! How shall I have son, seeing I am very old, and my wife is barren?" "Thus," was the answer, "Doth Allâh accomplish what He wills."
            It is significant how the Qur'an portion about John the Baptist concludes in 19:15 'So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)!' These are almost the same wording with which Jibril ends the prophetic portion around the birth of Jesus (19:33).  This of course implies a contradiction of the orthodox Islamic belief that Jesus did not die on the Cross, that God took him away supernaturally and that someone else died in his place. (However, this belief was significantly undermined by the screening of the movie The Passion of the Christ in 2004, an event film that was very widely watched in the Middle East).

The first Qur’anic Revelations to Muhammad
The supernatural being that brought the first Qur’anic revelations and which requested Muhammad to recite, did not lift his spirit when he protested that he could not read from the cloth. This happened while Muhammad was asleep. Instead, he was wrapped in the cloth and twice squeezed Muhammad so much that he thought he would die. Muhammad was very fearful of this figure that required him to read or recite three times.  He feared that he would be given the cloth choking treatment a thrid time. Muhammad passed on that he asked thrice in desperation what he should read or recite. The Arabic command iqra is the word from which Qur’an is derived. The Islamic sacred book thus means something like ‘recitation’. It has some sacral touch to it. But already at the very first reported revelation, accepted to be the words of Surah Iqraa (Recite!) 96, a central difference to the Bible can be discerned. A Qur’anic verse from this Surah states that man was created out of a (mere) clot of blood (v.2). This is contrary to the Genesis report and other Qur’an verses, which state that man was created from earth or dust.
            According to tradition, Muhammad left the cave with the thought of throwing himself down from a cliff. As he stood on Mount Hira, a voice called him by his name. The gigantic figure on the horizon introduced himself with the same words as the angel in Luke 1:19, namely ‘I am Gabriel’. Much later Muhammad deduced that it must have been the same figure that had choked him with the cloth in the cave.
            Muhammad was more or less illiterate (Surah Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:157) and not always sure whether all his revelations were from God or not (Surah Anbiyaa (The Prophets) 21:5; Surah Ad Dukhân
44:14; Surah An Nahl (The Bee) 16:103;
(Surah Al-Saffat (The Ranks) 37:36).  After his first encounter with Jibril, Muhammad feared that he might have become demon-possessed. It was only after the reassurance of Khadiyah, his wife and the encouragement from Waraqah bin Naufal, her cousin and a priest, that he won back his composure. Waraqah encouraged Muhammad, suggesting that he was a prophet, on a par with Moses.
            Unlike the biblical personalities who had encounters with Gabriel, Muhammad was depressed after his experiences with Jibril.  He feared that evil spirits had beset him. The revelations were accompanied by intense emotional stress, perspiration and a state of trance. It is clear that Muhammad was aware of the presence of evil spirits, which he feared had taken hold of him. Hence he became suicidal.
            The logical other appropriate parallel to Muhammad’s encounter with a supernatural figure is Matthew 4:1-11. After Jesus had passed the test by frequently calling satan’s bluff and quoting Scripture in better context, the Lord is attended by angels (v.11). In the light of the initial effect on Muhammad, the nature of the figure that confronted him in the cave and on the cliff has to be seen in this regard.

More Supernatural Beings appearing to Individuals in the Bible
For a good comparison of the biblical figure with Jibril we should also look at a few other appropriate instances where supernatural beings appeared to individuals in the Bible. A special case is the appearances to Hagar, whom the Muslims know as Hagira. She is one of very few people in the Bible to whom an angel appeared more than once. The second time the angel appeared to Hagar, he says: ‘Do not be afraid!’ (Genesis 21:17) This happened when she felt really downcast, wandering aimlessly in the desert. After first being rejected by Sarah, she was now dejected as she feared her son would die for lack of water to drink. At this point the Angel of the Lord stepped in! There is not sufficient ground to suggest that this angel could have been Gabriel as well, unless one equates Gabriel with the Angel of the Lord.
An interesting feature about Hagar is that God promised to greatly increase your offspring. (Genesis 16:10, cf. Genesis 13:16; 17:2; 22:17). Thus she is the only woman who received personally the divine blessings of descendants, making her in effect a female patriarch (Feiler, 2002:66). She is also the only person in the Bible – male or female – to call God by name, You are El roi – God of my vision (Feiler, 2002:67).
Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, is also especially interesting because she is linked to the Muslim-Arab ancestry.  According to Jewish tradition Hagar had been a princess, the daughter of the Pharaoh, reduced to slavery and eventually humiliation. Hereafter she was fearful of other people around her, with enough reason to feel inferior and rejected. Let us listen attentively to what the angel said to Hagar: ‘Lift the boy up!’ Yes, that is the nature of God, to uplift the rejected and dejected. She was elevated to be a divine agent and instrument! Very fittingly Islamic tradition gives to her a special role, even though she is not mentioned by name in the Qur'an. Also in the Bible special divine messianic promises are given to the descendants of Ishmael, her son via Nebaioth and Kedar, the two eldest grandsons of Hagar (Hagira).

            Gideon is another biblical personality who had several supernatural visitations. It is not surprising any more to hear the unnamed angel saying to him: ‘Do not be afraid!’ (Judges 6:23).
             The respective angelic figures gave dignity to both Hagar and Gideon. In the case of the cowardly Gideon, he was even called a mighty warrior. The fourth figure in the fire with the three friends of Daniel (3:25) led commentators to equate ‘the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures to Jesus, our Lord. The idea probably stems from the divinity of Jesus as a premise. The Talmud makes a point that God is ‘in the fire’ with his faithful servants.  Gabriel translated means ‘man of God’ and he is regarded in Talmudic literature as the Prince of fire, being in the fire with the three friends of Daniel and with Abraham.
Supernatural Phenomena that Muhammad displayed                                  
The phenomena that accompanied Muhammad’s encounters with the supernatural being, which he thought to be the angel Gabriel, should make us wary of its nature. Being struck to the ground (contrasted to falling forward in adoration, awe and worship) usually had negative connotations in the Bible, one of opposition to God’s purposes. Saul was rejected because of his impatience after he could not wait on Samuel. 'You have disobeyed the commandment of the Lord' (1 Samuel 13:13). Still later, he fell full length on the ground as divine punishment after he had consulted a witch, a spiritist (1 Samuel 28:20). This was symptomatic of his falling from divine grace. The Roman soldiers fell backwards when they wanted to arrest the innocent Jesus. Ananias and Saphira were struck down one after the other after they had lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11) and Paul was struck to the ground while he was persecuting the Christians (Acts 9).  On the other hand, also extra-biblical material attests to the striking down of someone in opposition to God’s purposes. Thus the book of Jasher gives an explanation why the Pharaoh eventually gave Sarah back to Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20): Pharaoh was purportedly struck to the ground every time he approached Sarah for sexual intercourse.
             It is strange that rank and file Western Protestant theologians have easily discerned that the angel Maroni that appeared to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, could never have been of divine origin. But so many have been deceived just because the supernatural figure introduced himself to Muhammad with a name that occurs in the Bible. Yet, these supernatural occurrences in the life of Muhammad have been too easily derided as legendary. By the same token, one is surprised that the Church is so quiet about modern forms of idolatry, uncritical of witchcraft and ancestor worship at a time when these phenomena receive general acclaim and recognition.  We are not propagating a return to the haughty arrogant Western attitude towards so-called primitive religion, towards things that we Westerners do not comprehend fully. What I am questioning is the apparent uncritical condoning of everything nowadays!  Is this because of a guilt trip due to the arrogant attitudes of yesteryear?

A Comparison of certain supernatural Revelations
We should briefly also compare the content of the biblical Gabriel with the revelations of the Islamic counterpart. In Daniel 8:17 and 9:22 the angel Gabriel respectively came to let Daniel ‘understand that the vision concerns the time of the end’ and ‘to give you insight and understanding’. Gabriel thus brought clarity when Daniel was over-awed and confused. After the first revelation of Muhammad he was confused to such an extent that he thought he was demon-possessed. For two solid years he doubted the nature of the figure which appeared to him on Mount Hira.   
The biggest difference is found in the good news given to Mary with exactly the opposite content found in the Qur’an. The biblical Gabriel speaks of the baby to be born as the Son of God. In Luke 1:35 we read: ‘the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’. In the Qur’an - albeit always in protest against the pagan concept of a son born through a physical relationship between Mary and the supreme Deity - the Qur’an repeats again and again: God does not have a son, God does not beget. The words ‘Son of God’ (1:35) and ‘Son of the most High’ (1:32) have been omitted in Surah al-Imran 3:45. Of course, this is consistent with the rest of the Qur’an in which it is disputed that Jesus is the walad of Allâh, the literal, physical and birthed Son of God. (The Qur'an seems to have no problem to see Jesus as the ibn of Allâh, the figurative Son of God.)

            It is striking that the ‘Do not be afraid!’ of Judges 6:23 to Gideon is followed up with ‘The Lord is peace’ (Judges 6:24). This is echoed in the Gospel of John where Jesus pronounces (his) peace  - it is not like that of the world. In Ephesians 2:14 the epistle writer refers to Jesus as ‘our peace.’ In the Messianic verse Isaiah 9:6, where different titles are accorded to the child that was born unto us, we also find ‘Prince of Peace’. The angels on the fields of Bethlehem proclaimed ‘on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’ (Luke 2:14). This might be seen as prophetic, pointing to the age when the returning King of Kings will reign. Jesus radiated the same Spirit when he warns that those who live by the sword, will die by the sword; he opposes vengeance, encouraging his followers to turn the other cheek. 
            Proponents of Islam have often stated that the religion propagates peace. Extremist Muslims - though probably quite a minority - have in recent years brought to the fore that the revelations of the Medinan period of Muhammad's life are more typified by the sword than by peace.
Gabriel's Pointing to Jesus
Billy Graham shows in the beautiful exposition of the work of the angel Gabriel - and the equivalent angels that came to Joseph and to the shepherds of Bethlehem, how the angels are clear pointers to Jesus. I quote here only what he said about Gabriel’s appearance to Daniel: ‘Daniel was deep in prayer, confessing both his sin and that of his people. While he was praying, Gabriel appeared to him...Gabriel did not preach the word of salvation, but he bore eloquent testimony to it. He said that the seventy weeks were designed ‘to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity’ (Daniel 9:24). Then he foretold the cutting off of the Messiah, an event that Isaiah 53 had prophesied and depicted so dramatically... Gabriel told Daniel that sin is a reality, and must be paid for. The Messiah will do this by being cut off; that is, He will die for the sins of men.’ The context is also very interesting, where the Daniel prophesy intimates the destruction of Jerusalem, which is in line with the prophecies of Jesus in this regard (Graham, 1987:??).   
This is consistent with what we read of the angelic instruction to Joseph ‘you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21) and the prophetic reaction of Mary, ‘God my Saviour’.  The statement of the unnamed angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem: To-day … a Saviour has been born … Christ the Lord’, conveys the same message. The tenet of salvation is clearly linked to the death of Jesus on the Cross in the 'New Testament'. Paul, the apostle, refers to ‘a different gospel, which is no gospel at all’ in the letter to the Galatians (1:6), a distorted gospel that could even have been revealed by an angel (v.8).

A Personal View
Muhammad is generally regarded to have been a true seeker.  It is however difficult to accept that God could have allowed such a potentially choice servant to be misled. There are a few possible explanations.  It seems as if God had a special purpose with Muhammad, but that the enemy of souls, helped by the ignorance and indifference of Christians on the one hand and the pride of Muhammad on the other, hijacked the divine plans.  One explanation could be that Muhammad possibly did hear the Gospel clearly enough, but that he responded negatively to it.  Instead, the youthful lad, already misled by the Syrian monk Bahira, unwittingly opened himself further to the occult. Another logical explanation is that Muhammad reacted purely angrily in response to the ridicule and rejection, which he experienced from Christians and Jews. Jealousy has been attributed to the Medinan Jews when they heard that God is said to have chosen an Arab as the last prophet. Talmudic scriptures indicate that Ishmael was regarded as wicked. For a Jew it would have been quite difficult to swallow that a descendant from Ishmael would now lead them (Very few Jews possibly knew  - and probably still do not know - the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 60:6f, which speaks about the descendants of Ishmael).
            The best reply to the dilemma seems to me is to look at a positive biblical corollary. Cornelius can easily be compared with the staunch Muslim or any true seeker after God. In Acts 10:4 one reads: ‘The angel answered: Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’ This is the confirmation of the way God looks at things, as 1 Samuel 15:22 states: God is delighted more in obedience than in burnt offerings and sacrifices. God looks at the heart. Almost simultaneously Peter’s heart was prepared by God to step down from his haughty view of Gentiles. Thrice he objected to the unclean animals, which he was required to eat in the vision. Only hereafter he was obedient to ‘go downstairs’ (Acts 10:20), to step down from his condescending view of non-Jews, which was very common in his environment.
As Christians we should nevertheless remain humble enough to regret our collective debt that millions of Muslims have been misled. They still believe that the supernatural figure, which appeared to Muhammad was identical to the angel Gabriel of the Bible. Furthermore, if we consider that the Bible speaks of arrogance (1 Samuel 15:22) and materialism (Colossians 3:5) as equivalents of idolatry, we discover that Western Protestant Christians are basically no better than any other people groups whom we would like to accuse of idolatrous practices. The appropriate attitude is repentant humility, praying that God might open the eyes of many – e.g. to the nature of the Biblical Gabriel as a candidate to be the Angel of the Lord, and especially to our Lord Jesus. He used similar words of encouragement to the fearful and faint-hearted to that of the angel Gabriel of the Biblical and Talmudic tradition.

Jesus and John the Baptist

How should one relate to a rival? We want to examine an exceptional situation in God’s Word that should be of assistance. To this end we examine the relationship between possibly the greatest preaching rivals of all time, John the Baptist and his close relative Jesus. The Baptist had a substantial following among Jewish compatriots.
            John the Baptist was the greatest of Prophets (Matthew 11:9-11) and the privileged messenger who was sent to prepare the way of the Messiah according to the Word of God. There are four main texts in the gospels used to support this. They use Isaiah 40:3 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!' and Malachi 3:1, Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You,
            The Bible prophesies that John the Baptist will prepare the way of YHWH (Jehovah), yet it is Jesus who arrives on the scene. How can this be? The simple answer is that Jesus is divine; that is, He is the fullness of deity in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). Also,  John 1:1,14say "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... ' The context also mentions John the Baptist The fulfillment of John the Baptist as the messenger and Jesus as YHWH make these scriptures clear for us to understand.
Islam also had a big regard for John the Baptist, whom the Muslims call Yahya. He is not mentioned frequently in the Qur’an, but there he is interestingly mentioned in very similar words to that of Jesus regarding birth, death and resurrection.  Compare Surah Mariam 19:12- 15 where Allâh addresses him: ‘O Yahya! take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him wisdom while yet a child. And tenderness from Us and purity, and he was one who guarded (against evil). And dutiful to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient. And peace on him on the day he was born, and on the day he dies, and on the day he is raised to life.  In another verse (Surah Anam 6:85) Yahya (i.e. John the Baptist) is listed among all the big names of the Hebrew Scriptures like Abraham, Moses, David, Lot, Jonah, Elijah plus Jesus.
Muir (1975[1923]: 454) points out that the Sabian religion was characterised by lustration (ritual bathes). The Sabians were taken by Muhammad as also belonging to the ahl al-khitab, ‘People of the Book’ (Surah 2: 59; 5: 73; 22: 17). Muir goes on to say that they are indeed the Mandaeans, the so-called ‘Christians of St John, the Baptist.’ The first Muslims were called Sabians – by Muhammad’s opponents – probably because of their frequent ablutions.
Jesus speaking about John                                                                                                               We read in Matthew 11:4-6 how the imprisoned John the Baptist sent a few of his disciples to go to Jesus, to enquire who he was. And then we read: Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”                                                                                                                                     Quoting Isaiah 61 in his answer to the followers of John the Baptist, Jesus actually omitted two issues.  In all probability he did this on purpose. He left out the phrase referring to vengeance[29] and very sensitively Jesus skipped the part that alluded to captives to be set free. The first notion is one of the golden threads going through the life and teaching of our Master - to love our enemy and to turn the other cheek when we are attacked. (This is completely the opposite of the teaching and example of Muhammad.) On the second score – that captives were to be set free - it would have been uncharitable, not loving of Jesus to mention that. In the literal sense, that was probably not happening as well. With John imprisoned, it would have been callous of Jesus - unless Jesus intended to liberate the Baptist.
         It is interesting what Jesus said after John’s disciples had left. ‘Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you' (Matthew 11:9). This is saying in so many words that John the Baptist was the fulfilment of Malachi 3:1, the one preparing the way for the Messiah. And then Jesus proceeded: ‘I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’
John speaking about Jesus                                                                                                                Let us listen now how John the Baptist spoke about Jesus. The very first time John refers to Jesus he gives honour to him and he displays humility. When Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John, we read in Matthew 3:14 ‘John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” In verse 16 we read that ‘As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”                                      In John 1:14 we find the significant pronouncement of the Gospel of John that Jesus is the unique, the one and only one who came from the Father.  (This is the same word in the original Greek – monogenos - used in John 3:16 stating that God gave his unique, his one and only Son.) In the same context John the Baptist states clearly that Jesus must have pre-eminence: ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’ (John 1:15). This is of course a clear hint to the divinity of Jesus.            
         John’s preaching was very impressive when Jesus had not yet started his own ministry. People flocked to come and listen to the Baptist even though it was out there in the desert. He must have been someone like Billy Graham in his day and age. Secular history refers to a whole sect, the Mandaeans, who have a scripture, the Genzâ, in which John the Baptist is revered.                                           
         The next time John refers to Jesus, he said in the same vein: “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (v.27). The self-denial continues, repeating in verse 29f what he had already said, but surpassing it by far. When John saw Jesus coming towards him the next day, he said prophetically, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.'  John obviously knew the Scriptures very well. He must have known what it meant to refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God.  Yes, he knew that this was referring to Jesus as the Messiah; according to Isaiah 53 he was the sheep that would be led to the slaughter.  John had witnessed the dove that came down on Jesus at his Baptism and heard the voice. This is the background of 1:33f where he also said: 'I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.'
         That John was a humble pointer to Jesus is demonstrated by the fact that the Gospel of John reports how Andrew and Peter became followers and disciples of Jesus. Andrew had been one of the disciples of John, the Baptist. In 1:23 John had told priests and Levites that he was merely a voice in the desert with the purpose of making straight the way for the Lord. In 1:35 he reiterates when he saw Jesus again after he had seen Jesus passing by:  “Look, the Lamb of God!” Andrew overheard this. This became the run-up to him and his brother Peter becoming disciples of Jesus. Having heard that Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God’, Andrew obviously concluded: “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41) 

The Church as the Bride
We read again about John, the Baptist, in chapter 3 in the context of a quarrel about ceremonial washing.  His disciples were evidently upset when they came to complain: ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about - look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him’. How easy it would have been for John to get upset. But none of it! He would not allow the enemy of souls create a rift between him and Jesus. It is interesting that John the Baptist described himself as the friend of the Bridegroom. This fits in perfectly not only with what Paul, the apostle, as well as the Book of Revelation said about Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride (Ephesians 5:22, 2; Revelations 19:7;  21:2+9;  22:17). It also confirms the divinity of Christ. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel has been repeatedly described as God’s bride (e.g. Exodus 34:15; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2:19ff).  When the disciples of John united with the Pharisees at another occasion to get an explanation of Jesus why His disciples do not fast, the Master refers to the presence of the bridegroom (Mark 2:19; Matthew 9:15).
            The dynamics of the forthcoming marriage of the ‘body of Christ’, the Church - with its bridegroom, our coming King - have not been generally recognised sufficiently. The whole existence of the Church is at stake. The dismal state of the Church resembles that of a widow rather than that of a bride. Of course, in a certain sense the Church is indeed a widow because of the death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. But the fact that ‘the widow’ is due to 'marry again' must change matters of necessity.
            We as Church are impoverishing ourselves when we neglect the teaching of the second coming of Christ at our own peril. There is unnecessary confusion about the details of the coming of the bridegroom of the Church. Is it necessary to know everything so exactly? The enemy knows what a power could emanate from the Body of Christ if it starts to take the fact of the return of our Lord seriously. In every major religious awakening this played an important role. It could also happen here in South Africa. Let’s go for it!

Jesus had his Priorities right
Let us now have a look at Jesus’ response when he was also challenged regarding rivalry with the Baptist. Apparently, the Pharisees were not happy after they had failed to hype up John via his disciples.  In John 4:1 it was brought to Jesus’ attention that the Pharisees ‘had heard’ something. This is a classical case of a rumour. How should we respond to a rumour? Jesus gives the example: A rumour often does not require a response at all! Jesus treats it with disdain. There might be circumstances where one might be tempted to squash even a hint to defend oneself fiercely. The example of Jesus - to ignore the rumour and walk away - is definitely one of the valid ways of responding to a rumour. The issue at stake will possibly determine whether one should respond in the way He did. Instead of getting pulled into a petty, unproductive discussion about a rumour, Jesus ‘left Judea’. This is however not to be interpreted as a cowardly act of circumventing an uncomfortable situation. Very often it is a good and valid reaction to a situation to walk away, even though that might not look very gracious. It might be wise to give a reply at a later stage - at a more appropriate moment.

            In this case, Jesus knew that it was serious business. He knew that the Pharisees were really trying to kill him. But even more, He was giving an unspoken answer. Sometimes the best way to reply is to stay silent, not to be drawn into petty squabbling about minor issues.
            Jesus did not only know His own calling, but He also respected that of John the Baptist. Jesus showed support for John. Therefore He refused implicitly to be drawn into a fruitless discussion about trivialities. A rumour has all the ingredients to get one side-tracked. Less relevant side issues then usually get an importance that is way out of its proper proportion.

Explosive Issues         
Let’s take a look at some issues that could have turned out to become explosive if Jesus had responded differently. There was e.g. the suggested number of people baptised by Him, compared to those by John the Baptist. How easily we allow ourselves to be impressed by numbers! It was possibly true that Jesus was gaining more disciples than John, but Jesus did not react. This meant so much as saying: ‘so what?’ It is completely immaterial who baptises how many people!
            At the base of the issue was plain church politics. The Pharisees were envious of Jesus. In a situation where John the Baptist had already drawn people away from their sphere of influence, Jesus seemed to be even worse. Religious people - often those who belong to the Church establishment - have through the ages often actually opposed the Gospel.
            It is sad to see the low morals that religious leaders can display when their influence appears to be threatened. Instead of doing introspection, the Pharisees started a smear campaign. And because they could not successfully hit at Jesus’ moral quality, they tried to play Him out against John, the Baptist. The aim of their endeavours was to get Jesus out of the way. The beastly intrigue which preceded the death of John the Baptist, might have had its origin with the religious leaders. John called the Jewish leaders in the Gospel of Matthew ‘a brood of vipers’ (snakes) and Jesus referred to them as whitewashed tombs in which there were merely dead bones!! Let’s face it: the things that Jesus and John said to those Pharisees and Sadducees would have been quite difficult to swallow. The second cousins really gave it to those religious leaders! From what we read in the Gospels about the Baptist, he could just as easily have told Herodias or Herod to their face what he thought of their incestuous marriage. But some incitement by the Pharisees against John would also have fitted perfectly into the picture.

From Jesus we learn that there is power in being small and insignificant, that it is better to serve than to be served upon. Also Paul taught: ‘When I am weak, I am strong.’ We note that the missionary apostle said this in the context of suffering under an attack by an agent of the enemy, the thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Watch out for Discussion around Trivialities!
The issue of baptism was obviously exaggerated out of proportion! Perhaps Jesus baptized only one or two people. The Gospel writer mentions in passing in chapter 4:2 – included in many translations in brackets –  that Jesus’ disciples were actually performing the actual baptizing. Who baptized was a non-issue, a triviality! John’s greatness comes through when he answers coolly: ‘You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ John even surpassed this when he responded: ‘He must become greater; I must become less’.
It is not clear what the motives of that person (or those people) were who brought the rumour on behalf of the Pharisees, but the gunpowder contained in it is quite evident. It is not impossible that the Pharisees had sent them to act as agents provocateurs, as trouble-shooters. How tragic that we as Christians are not always aware of the snares of the evil one. In the process the enemy succeeds to cause distrust and enmity by unintentionally spreading rumours and half-truths, sometimes using us. The enemy would have had his way had Jesus walked into the trap to stray into a discussion about who actually performed the baptisms. Occasionally, heated debates among Christians centre on trivialities like who should perform what rituals, with or without liturgical robes, with or without headgear in the case of women, whether the sermon is held from the pulpit or a lectern etc.
            The issue of baptism was evidently already divisive in Jesus’ days. In John 3:25f we discern how the divergent and competing baptisms for purification gave rise to a verbal dispute. The disciples of John the Baptist got engaged in controversy with the Jews about purification rituals.
It is futile to get involved in a discussion with Muslims about whether Islam is a ‘skoon geloof’ (clean religion) or not! As a rule it is usually better to testify than to debate. On this particular matter, it is surely more effective to tell your dialogue partner how Jesus cleansed you from within than to defend doctrine. We constantly need to allow Jesus to clear the filth in our lives. The rubbish of the world gets dumped on so many Christians, e.g. via the TV. But we can also get defiled by listening to all sorts of negative talk and gossip in Church circles.
            For their part, some of John’s disciples were quite perturbed that ‘He that was with you...baptizes, and all men come unto him.’ The rumour that the Pharisees heard something, thus may have had some ground. But it might also have originated from those envious disciples of John who did not understand that they were playing in the same team.
            Being the good strategist he was, Jesus however did not allow himself to be trapped in fruitless discussion over trivial matters. He would not have any of this doctrinal and petty bickering. Elsewhere, for example with regard to the issue to whom tax should be paid (Matthew 22:17f) - or on an emotive religious question, such as where one should worship (John 4:20) - the Master cleverly evaded getting involved in an endless discussion. It is not wise to get drawn into doctrinal debates about Jesus as the Son of God, the deity of Jesus or the Trinity before a basis of trust has been built. Basically, the message of the Kingdom is at stake. Jesus encouraged the disciples to get rid of the dust on their feet if this message is rejected (Matthew 10:14). Instead of getting drawn into a heated argument about any debatable doctrine, it might be wiser to back off. It is better to look stupid than to loose your (wo)man.
            In similar vein, Paul moved on from the synagogues and towns where the message was rejected, symbolically removing the dust from his feet in Acts 13:51. We note in this passage how the influential people of the town were instigated against the messengers of the Gospel. Through the ages the wealthy and the intelligentsia were usually the least responsive to the Good News. So easily one can waste precious time with academic disputes that bring one nowhere.

Beware of Comparison!
The flexibility, which Jesus displayed, was actually taught by Paul as strategy. In 1 Corinthians 9:19ff the missionary apostle stressed how he adapted to the various groups of Jews and Greeks ‘in order to win at least some of them.’  By going to sit next to Jacob’s well, Jesus displayed identification with the Samaritans. He does not stand condescendingly above them, as his Jewish compatriots used to do.
            Jesus knew that he and John the Baptist were basically on the same side of the battle. It is tragic that the Pharisees, the religious leaders, were the authors of the infamous rumour that was clearly bent on sowing mistrust between Jesus and the Baptist. The proverb goes that comparison is odious. All too often comparison has poisoned relationships. It has turned out to be a prime tool in the hand of the arch enemy. Not for nothing the ancient Romans perfected the art of ‘divide and rule’. The psalmist Asaf described in Psalm 73 how his looking at the success of others caused bitterness in his own heart. Yes, comparison is dangerous because it can cause jealousy, self-pity and bitterness.
John had said so magnanimously that Jesus should become greater and he should become less (John 3:30). We note that John gave this reply after his own disciples evidently had problems with the number of people who were following the man whom their master had baptized. Thus, also John teaches us how to handle people who are misled by jealousy and false pride. We should beware of people who could be used to drive a wedge between you and a friend! Now, how does one handle the matter effectively? By praising the absent party! There is always something good to say about any person. This is the proven way to drive away gossipers and backbiters.

                                                Jesus, the Culmination

            Up to now we have highlighted how various biblical personalities point to Jesus. It is only logical that we must now take a look at how the Lord himself is depicted in the sacred books of the three Abrahamic religions. We first want to take a closer look at the difficulties that people from the different religions have to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Is Faith in Jesus irrational?
It is a fact that the majority of people who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour came to such faith either as a child or as a youth. Jesus himself said that nobody can inherit the Kingdom of God unless he believes like a child. It would be wrong however to use this as an argument against personal faith in Jesus. We have to acknowledge that faith in Jesus as Lord of your life does not always come as the result of rational reasoning. Where adults came to believe in Him, it has often been a case of giving it a try when their lives were in a mess, after they had tried to do things on their own and everything else has failed.
            We can derive that there have been stumbling blocks for some people. Some intellectuals assert e.g. that faith in Jesus is not for thinking people, only for the simple-minded. It is indeed an anomaly that such faith in Jesus is uncomplicated enough so that even a child can accept it. However, this has unjustifiably become a reason for intellectuals to deride it. Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur, was one of quite a few atheists and agnostics who took up the challenge to examine the facts critically.  Josh Mac Dowell was another apologist who scrutinised the evidence from a judicial point of view.  As a rule, the serious seeker of truth that searched the Scriptures, came under a deep impression of the person of Jesus. More often than not they have then come under conviction to become one of his followers.[30]
            Supernatural intervention should be added to this, e.g. through dreams and visions, as it happened to many Muslims around the world.

The Distortion of divine Words
The enemy of souls clearly does not like people to get peace with God. Distortion of God’s Word was and still is one of satan’s major methods. Through the centuries he used people of a variety of backgrounds to this end. That Jesus’ words would be distorted as well is only logical.
            Jesus knew that He was the Son of God. However, in the 'New Testament' it is not reported that He used these words himself. He always toned it down, referring to himself as the Son of Man. Likewise he never pushed himself forward as the Messiah, although He confirmed it when others like Simon Peter came to that conclusion. Nevertheless, the accusation - that He said that he was the Son of God - became the reason why He was crucified.
            The distortion of divine words - along with outright lies - became once again the reason why many down the ages were confused about what happened at his crucifixion. The lie that His disciples had stolen His body, was one of the variations that the devil used to cause doubt in the minds of seeking people who wanted to believe in His resurrection. Josephus, the highly regarded first century author and historian, wrote in his report of the Jewish War that 30 Romans and 1,000 Jews were posted as guards around his tomb. Even though it has been suggested that these numbers might have been exaggerated, it is interesting that he as a Jew asks how the body could have been stolen under the watchful eyes of so many guards.[31] Nobody has come up with remains of the ‘stolen body’.
Christian learned men started with the theory of ‘mere appearance’ in the second century: They suggested that Jesus did not really die on the cross; that it only appeared like that to the spectators. The Qur’an - and hence Islam - took one of the explanations: God removed the body mysteriously, substituting Jesus with someone else, e.g. Judas or Simon of Cyrene. 
            Judaism had problems with the resurrection of Jesus although Abraham for one possessed such a resurrection faith. Because of the bickering of the Sadducees, who already in biblical times did not believe in the bodily resurrection, the resurrection faith of Abraham could not penetrate properly. In fact, works of righteousness as an effort to gain salvation, instead of child-like faith like that of Abraham, became a main characteristic in large factions of all three religions.

The Source of Strife around the Person of Jesus
Many Christians might be very surprised to discover that Jesus has been revered - and still is - by big sectors of Islam and Judaism. Historically, a lot of irrational animosity has unfortunately been built up around the person of Jesus. The cause of this has to be stated bluntly. The source of the strife is no less than the devil himself. It is part of satan’s nature to cause mistrust, division and separation. The person of Jesus could have been a binding factor among the three religions if it had not been for demonic forces.
            In the creation story satan created strife between man and God, enmity between man and nature. The arch enemy caused disunity between Adam and Eve by twisting God’s words. Misunderstanding is basically the reason for the problems of Jews and Muslims around the person of Jesus. 
            The major reason why a significant part of Judaism of the first centuries of the Common Era was initially not so happy with the person of Jesus was very effective incitement by their religious leaders. There has been hostile opposition especially to Paul, the prime representative of the faith in the divine Jesus. Paul was unfairly regarded as a biased apostate of the Law. The whole Christian faith became suspect because of some unfortunate misunderstanding, e.g. through Paul’s calling the Law a curse. He evidently intended to emphasise that the Law of Moses ideally point people - as an educating instrument - to Christ, the Messiah, i.e. God’s anointed one (Galatians 3:21ff).
Moses was the embodiment of the Law. Any Jew could have derived from the fact that Moses was not allowed to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land that the Law cannot bring us into the fullness of divine blessing. Joshua  was destined to lead the Israelites nto the Promised Land. Yeshua, the 'New Testament' Joshua, leads the way to Eternal Life.
Paul, the apostle, showed the importance of the resurrection as part of the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15). However, Paul unfortunately became the scapegoat because he taught the divinity and resurrection of Jesus so forcefully. His perceived insensitivity in respect of circumcision and the Mosaic Law possibly made him suspect.
            The learned men of Hellenistic Greek Christianity unfortunately stripped from Jesus some of his Jewishness. However, the last few decades there has been an increased interest in Judaism in the person of Jesus. Martin Buber, one of their theological giants, described Jesus many years ago as his great brother whose message had been primarily Jewish.
             Furthermore, instead of teaching clearly that there is cleansing and forgiveness of sin through the atoning blood of Jesus, Christian theologians quarrelled about the nature of Jesus and whether he was begotten or created. The special gift of God, the demonstration of his love to the world - so much that He gave His one and only Son - became suspect in the process. The unique Son of God was understood literally: Mary was simultaneously elevated to a sort of goddess and described as the mother of God. 

A Mission via Israel and the World
The misunderstandings with His person started already very early in Jesus’ ministry. From the 'New Testament' it is clear that the return of Israel to their divine mission as a nation was Jesus’ major goal. This was strategic, but it was not easy to understand for the rank and file Jew. Jesus did not make it easy for them by his efforts at breaking down the traditional walls of prejudice. His ‘yes’ to the despised Samaritans and His ‘no’ to a revengeful spirit were not so easy to swallow for the Jewry of his day. At Jesus’ reading from chapter 61 of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of his home town Nazareth, he stopped short of quoting the emotional words ‘...and the day of vengeance of our God.’ Ostensibly the village folk could still take this, although they possibly had to restrain themselves quite a lot. In fact, at this correction of the common view, his townsfolk were still excited about Jesus; they admired him. They were proud of their prodigy.
            When Jesus however referred to God’s special view of the non-Jewish widow of Zarephath, to the Almighty’s healing of Naaman, the Syrian, from his leprosy (and not other lepers in Israel), Jesus was in deep trouble. He had attacked their national pride. This infuriated the synagogue visitors to boiling point. They wanted to kill him. What Jesus was basically saying was that Israel had a mission to the world, but they did not understand Him.
            On another occasion Jesus stated bluntly - to a Samaritan woman - that salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). The Jewish nation was not the apple of God’s eye for nothing. It was however not a case of senseless favouritism for a special people group. They were God’s elect for a purpose. As children of Abraham they had to take the message of faith and love to the nations. This message was and is still not understood properly.
            Even to-day Christians find it difficult to appreciate the biblical primacy of the Messianic Jews. Historically, the value of having Jews in the front row of missions has been proven with the first apostles. With their traditional base in the Hebrew Scriptures, they have an edge. God’s hand has evidently been blessing the physical descendants of Abraham specially. By the end of the first century almost the whole known world was evangelised. The Gospel was spread as far afield as China, India and Spain. We would do well to get the leadership in missions world-wide to where it belongs: in the hands of those divinely appointed leaders from the Jewish community, whose eyes have been opened to their Messiah.

Grave Guilt of the Church
The fourth-century reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, marks a sad but significant point in Church History. The marriage of imperial power and the Cross caused the Jesus movement to deteriorate from being the persecuted to become the persecutor. Masses were christianised by force, while repentance and biblical conversions became a scare article.            
            During the crusades that started just over 1000 years ago, thousands of Jews and Muslims were killed. The basis of the crusades was a crooked misunderstanding of the Bible, whereby the Jews were unfairly accused for ‘killing Jesus’. It is not very difficult to discern that satan must have been behind the whipping up of the masses at the crucifixion of Jesus. How else could the mood change so soon? Only a week after they had welcomed him with ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!' , some of them cried out ‘Let His blood come over us and our children’. Satan was basically the source of the hate-filled anti-Semitism down the ages, also through the way ‘the Jews’ were lumped together through the written word.
            Few Christians down the centuries were aware of the subtle inner-Hebrew tussle between the southern Judeans and the northern Galileans, whom they regarded as backward. Likewise few of them were aware that John, the gospel writer, possibly essentially had no issue with the common Jew. Like Jesus, he argued with the religious authorities, the Pharisaic Jews who departed from Biblical Judaism which was God-centric to a version that was rabbi-centric. He also records many who came to believe in Yeshua in John 8:30. They would have been ordinary Jews. John, the apostle and gospel writer, nevertheless predominantly referred to Judeans as Jews in a negative way, not meaning all descendants of Jacob. But many Christians unfortunately latched on to the corresponding negative connotation.
            The founders of Islam were not the only misguided people who got to believe that. This surely led to the unfortunate Surah 4:157, which brought many Muslims to believe that Jesus did not die on the cross. This misunderstanding also led to the Holocaust in the thirties and the forties of the 20th century. Hitler abused unfortunate words of Martin Luther to execute millions of Jews in his gas chambers.
Luther’s change of attitude in respect of the Jews was practically a rehash of that of Muhammad. Initially Luther had been positively inclined to the Jews, thinking that many of them would easily become followers of Jesus as well. But he seemed to have attempted in this process to use them as pawns in his battle with the Catholics, as he wrote in 1523: 'For they (the Catholics) have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs and not human beings.' Luther's attitude changed drastically when they turned out to be more resistant than he had expected. He was not prepared to enter into missionary dialogue with them, seeing them only as mission objects to be converted to faith in Christ. (In the 1540's the sickly and bitter Martin Luther – disappointed after many friends had deserted him – also turned against the German peasants who used Protestantism to free themselves from serfdom.)
In the case of Muhammad, there were likewise some extenuating circumstances. A group of Jewish ‘converts’ at Medina – including nine rabbis – merely professed Islam for material advantages, thereafter ridiculing him. The disrespectful contempt of some Jews who embraced Islam, but who linked up with the ‘hypocrites’ of Medina, embittered Muhammad. Soon his attitude to Jews changed to resentment. He started accusing them of corrupting the Torah.

Saviour of the World
Let us turn for a moment to a few of the titles given to Jesus and see how the Holy Spirit revealed them. Before the birth of Jesus, the angel gave the reason for his name: ‘Thou shalt call His name Jesus (Yeshua) for He shall save (or salvage) His people from their sins’. Just after his birth, one of the angels declared him as a Saviour and the Christ, the Lord. Other angels from heaven joined in, singing His praises. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the old prophetess Anna and the wise Simeon testified to His stature. Simeon stated: ‘for my eyes have seen your salvation’. We are reminded of the name of Jesus meaning salvation. During his earthly walk the Samaritans of Sychar discovered prophetically that ‘this man really is the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42).
            The root verb of salvation in the Bible can be described as ‘to save’ or ‘to rescue from death’.  Jonah’s experience is seen as such in the Bible (Jonah 2:10) and in the Qur’an, Surah Anbiyaa (The Prophets) 21:88 and Surah Al-Saffat (The Ranks) 37:144. In Isaiah 25:7-9 the prophet foresees that the coming Messiah would destroy death. The last words of Isaiah 25:9 actually reflect the meaning of Jesus’ name – We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation - even as Isaiah 49:6 states that the Messiah would bring His salvation. The proof of the pudding came when Jesus raised the dead, showing that He was divine, because the Almighty has power over death. In Surah Al-Anám (Cattle) 5:113 the Qur’an refers to this power. Salvation also means to save from sin. Jesus destroyed the fear of death together with its root - sin.
            What do we do with Jesus, who is more than a mere man, who is still changing the lives of people around the world radically? The 'New Testament' professes him as the Saviour of the world, as the mediator between man and God, as the visible image of God. Islam sees in Nabi Isa a great prophet, but not more than merely an apostle, definitely not divine. Judaism sees Jesus as one of their great sons, a very special teacher.

Divinity and Lordship of Jesus
Jesus’ divine nature had become clear to the Samaritan woman when He showed that He knew everything about her life-style. This happened on many other occasions, e.g. when Jesus saw Nathaniel while he was sitting under a tree; when he knew what the Pharisees were thinking. His deity was further highlighted that He could forgive sins and that He had authority over nature, for example in quieting the storm and ‘guiding’ fishes into the nets of his disciples.
            The divine power of the words of Jesus in the 'New Testament' is e.g. demonstrated by the way in which different role players referred to his speech. In the 'NT' he is quite often addressed as Lord. When Peter addressed him as Lord (kurios) in Luke 5:8, he recognised Jesus’ divinity: Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.
            Peter was possibly unwilling to put down the nets in broad daylight, thus confounding all rules of fishing after their unsuccessful night attempt (Luke 5:1ff). But as he sensed the authority of the speaker, Peter obeys against all common sense on ‘your rhema’, on the word of his Lord. The result was a catch so vast that the colleagues in the other boat had to come and help with the haul.
            Jesus altercations with Simon Peter around this issue is quite revealing. On another occasion Peter confessed - after being challenged by Jesus: “Whom do you say I am?”  he replied .. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). And when many of Jesus' disciples took offence when he said that He was the bread of life, many turned back and no longer followed Him.
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, "Are you also going to leave? Simon Peter was the one to answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).
            In Matthew 8 the centurion of Capernaum had heard enough about Jesus to know that the Lord needed only to speak ‘a word’ for his paralysed servant to be healed at home. Jesus is being addressed as kurios, Lord. In fact, the whole chapter 8 of Matthew’s Gospel can be seen as demonstrations of Jesus’ spoken word (see also verses 16, 26 and 32).

Other ‘Titles’ of Jesus
The above-mentioned discovery of the Samaritans - Jesus as the Saviour of the World - was preceded by His encounter with a woman from their ranks with low morals.  After the Master had exposed her sinful life-style, she professed him as the Messiah. The Samaritans discovered that he was more than only a normal man. The Qur’an states on the one hand that Jesus was not more than an apostle. Yet, the Qur’an uses on the other hand various titles for Jesus, like ‘the Word’ (Surah An-Nisaa (The Women) 4:171, ‘a spirit proceeding from Him (Surah An-Nisaa (The Women) 4:171) and ‘the Messiah’[32]. We shall discuss the ‘title’ Messiah separately albeit only briefly. Taking Jesus as ‘the Word’ in the Qur’an, the idea is evidently that the birth of Jesus was the result of Allâh’s spoken word. Jesus was birthed miraculously just as God brought Adam into being, by his spoken word or by his ‘ruch’, His Spirit.  In the Hebrew language the etymologically related word ‘ruach’ is used for Spirit and breath. Therefore the Qur’an logically also called Jesus ‘the Spirit.’ Various Psalms report how by his breath God created ex nihilo - out of nothing.  Jesus as a creator (almost)out of nothing – thus like God - is also found in the Qur’an, when one reads how the boy Jesus created a bird from clay that then flew away. This is seen as a miracle that he performed, rather than as a creative fact comparable to the divine creation of man from dust. (This is nevertheless ambivalent, attributing the divine quality of creation to Jesus.)[33]

God and Man simultaneously?
The veneration of Mary, Jesus’ mother - even to the extent that she was idolised like a goddess - caused many to stumble. Wrangling about the two natures of Jesus – divine and human - had the same effect.[34]   Although Jesus himself opposed the seeking of signs by the crowd, many down the centuries saw in Him only the performer of miracles. That He could speak to the elements of nature e.g. calming a storm, that He could forgive sin, made it clear to his followers that He was no ordinary human being.
            He displayed the character of God through his love for everybody and his care for friend and foe alike. His preferential care for the outsider and downtrodden, his forgiveness of those who nailed Him to the cross were further extraordinary qualities, in line with those of the Almighty in the rest of Scripture.
            On the other hand, the Word is quite clear that He got hungry; that Jesus got tired and that He wept. Yes, the Bible describes Him as God and man simultaneously.

The resurrected Messiah                                                                                                       
The Messiah's victory stems from His vindication. Nowhere is this more thoroughly done that through His resurrection, that God raised him from the dead. The honour bestowed upon Him is highlighted at the beginning (Isaiah 52:13) and at the end of the fourth song of the 'Servant of the Lord' (Isaiah 53:12). Commenting on Isaiah 52:13 a Talmudic Midrash says of Him: 'He shall be exalted above Abraham, lifted up above Moses and be higher than the ministering angels.' Similar language about Jesus is not only found in the epistle to the Hebrews (1:4ff ; 3:3), but also Surah al-Imran 3 and Surah Maryam 19 that mention al-Masih by name. Highly exalted (Isaiah 52:13), raised thee to myself (Surah al-Imran 3:55 and raised up (Surah Maryam 19 :33) are variations on the theme of resurrection and ascension.
            The word Christ (al-Masih) means literally the anointed one. In the Gospel of John it (11:1-8) it is recorded how another Mary – the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus had just raised from the dead -  anointed him like a King (2 Samuel 5:3), pouring costly oil on his head. She obviously discerned that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. No wonder that he defended her 'wasteful' act, done in advance 'for the day of My burial' – we are tempted to add 'and for His resurrection'. Jesus compared his death prophetically with a grain of wheat that must die before it can bear fruit (John 12:34).

Confusion around the Messiahship and Sonship of Jesus     
Because Muhammad was misled and thus confused – like probably many Christians of his day – with his comprehension of the deity of Jesus and the misunderstanding of the concept of the Trinity, we find in the Qur'an various verses equating Allâh with the Almighty. Closely linked to this is the objection against Jesus being the literal Son of God and the Islamic perception that Christians were worshipping Mary and Jesus as two distinct gods - just like the pagan Arabs had been worshipping Allâh with three daughters. Thus we read in Surah Al Ma'ida (The Table Spread) 5:116 And when Allâh says: 'O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you to mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allâh...' and in Surah Maryam 19:88 we read, 'The Compassionate has taken to Himself a son' (We find this also in Surah Anbiyaa (The Prophets) 21:26 and Surah At-Tawbah (The Repentance) 9:30 and a few other aya's.)
            Also in Scripture we find that eyes needed to be opened to the truth of the Messiahship of Jesus and many still need to be opened to it. In Luke 18:31-34 we read how Jesus prophesied his death and resurrection to His disciples. But they did not understand the full ramifications until much later. They could have picked it up when immediately hereafter something transpired which could have opened their eyes. A blind man (Mark 10:46 identifies him as Bartimaeus and the place just outside of Jericho where inhabitants tried to quieten him when he called 'Jesus son of David...' The reason for this was probably because son of David was the title for the expected Messiah. When the blind Bartimaeus put his trust in Jesus, he was healed. This has double significance. Many a Jewish and Muslim eye will be opened when they put their trust in Him, the Messiah - the one who was pierced on the Cross of Calvary.

Jesus as the Messiah
Jesus is the greatest Jew who ever lived. The 'New Testament' sees him as the Christ, the anointed of God, the Messiah. Also the Qur’an sees him as such, as al-Masih. Before the birth of Jesus, the angel gave the reason for his name: ‘Thou shalt call His name Jesus (Yeshua) for He shall save (or salvage) His people from their sins’ (Mt.11:21). Surah al-Imran 3:45 has a slight variation to this. According to the sacred Islamic book, the name to be given to him is Christ Jesus, i.e. Messiah Jesus.
            That He would be ultimately and universally recognised as Jesus, the Messiah, is only a matter of time. In God’s divinely appointed time it will be clear to all and sundry. In the meantime, we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is where his rule of peace will ultimately become evident. At the moment the end-time prophecy, the scenario of that city becoming a cup of strife and turmoil, is being fulfilled in front of our eyes via the TV.
            The letter to the Hebrews starts off quite dramatically, depicting Jesus as ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3). This is nothing less than God’s stamp put on a human being. This resulted in the church fathers describing Jesus as having the same essence as God. His exalted state – sitting at the right hand of God after his resurrection, whereas the angels were standing around the throne – places him above the rest of creation, indeed a secundus inter pares. With his ascension the prophecy of Psalm 110:1 was fulfilled. All God’s enemies were scattered and the final humiliation of satan was ushered in.
            Many Jews world-wide (also in Israel) have in the meantime recognised that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, last not least through the prophesies in Scripture about him. Those who have come to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour have basically only one duty: to profess their own faith in him very humbly but boldly. We may pray and trust that God will perform the rest. He is quite capable to bring His elect people group - the Jews - to the point where ‘they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child’; when they will thus recognise as a group that Jesus is indeed ‘the one they have pierced’. We nevertheless use this reference to Zechariah 12:10 with respect and trepidation.
            Hundreds of Muslims across the world have had visions and dreams of Jesus the last few years - some of them even in Mecca while they were walking around the Ka’ba. In Bulgaria 24 imams had more or less simultaneous visions, which led them to follow Jesus as their Saviour in 1994. Since then many came to Christ out of Islam in South Africa. Others are still following Jesus as secret believers. 

The titles of Jesus mean little unless it becomes personal. If I believe that Jesus is indeed the Saviour of the World, that he is the promised Messiah, it means only the start to the adventure. He wants to be my Lord and yours. Only by accepting his atoning death for my sin in a personal way, the difference is made. Saying ‘Lord’ to Jesus made all the difference to the tax collector Zacchaeus. That enabled him to release his bank account so to speak, to return fourfold what he had taken illegally. Making Jesus Lord of our lives means to release the final control over our day to day living. That is saying that I want to regard him as the boss who has the final say over everything I do or say. 

Appendix 1: Mary, the Mother of our Lord

            Imbalance in the appreciation of Mary has caused one of the biggest rifts in Church history. Attempts at the veneration of Mary have been described in the 'New Testament'. There were at least two efforts during Jesus’ lifetime to put Mary on a pedestal in a wrong way. In both these instances Jesus deemed it necessary to rectify his audience. They are recorded in Luke 11:27-28 and Matthew 12:46-50.

Mary in the Gospels
In the afore-mentioned Scripture, Luke 11:27-28, a woman from the crowd called out to Jesus: ‘Blessed is your mother - the womb from which you came, and the breasts that gave you suck!’ Jesus basically agreed to these sentiments in his reply, but he put things in perspective: “Yes, but even more blessed are all who hear the Word of God and put it into practice.” This reply of Jesus was in a sense an echo of what Mary herself said at the wedding in Cana when Jesus started his ministry. In John 2:5 we read how she said to the servants: Do whatever he tells you.
            In the second Scripture reference, Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus was speaking in a crowded house when his mother and brothers wanted to talk to him. When someone told him they were there, he remarked: ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? “Look!” he said, “These are my mother and brothers.” Then Jesus added, “anyone who obeys my Father in heaven is my brother, sister and mother.”
            So we see that even during Jesus’ lifetime, He had to rectify people who wanted to make more out of Mary than what she herself had perceived to be primarily, namely the servant maid of God. At the same time, it joins all people who want to do the will of the Father, who worship Jesus as the Son of God. They become a big family, as brothers and sisters of each other. Thus we could even interpret Jesus’ reply as a stinging attack on all forms of sectarianism and denominationalism.
            According to Christian tradition the angel Gabriel brings the good news to the Virgin Mary of the supernatural birth of a son (Luke 1:26-38). Mary is one of the three people in the Bible who are mentioned to have had visitations by Gabriel (Daniel and Zechariah are the other two). We read that initially ‘Mary was greatly troubled’. The prospect of a pregnancy was surely quite shocking to the teenage virgin. The angel consoled her with the words  'Don't be afraid!' (Luke 1:30).
            The turning of water into wine is described by the Gospel of John as the first public miraculous sign of Jesus. After telling her son that the wine had run out and obviously knowing about miracles that he would have performed, Mary, the mother of our Lord, pointed to Him with the following words: Do whatever he tells you. The Gospel of Luke (2:19,51) records  how she treasured the circumstances around the pregnancy and birth of Jesus in her heart.

Jibril comes to Mary
The Qur'an ostensibly puts much weight on Mary's supernatural pregnancy. Not only is Mary the only woman mentioned in the Islamic sacred book, but in two chapters the circumstances around the pregnancy and birth of our Lord – especially her virginity - are highlighted, viz Surah al-Imran 3 and Surah Maryam 19.  Surah al-Imran 3:39 and 45 lets angels - in the plural[35] - bring the message respectively to Zechariah and to Mary. This is not a serious difference, merely demonstrating how the Luke narrative was distorted in the oral tradition. In Christian tradition the angel who came to the shepherds spoke about a sign, a babe in a manger. That angel also used the reassuring word like angelic figures in the Bible: 'Don't be afraid!' Thereafter the solitary angel was joined by a multitude of angels - thus in the plural.
            In Surah al-Imran 3 and Surah Maryam 19 we find the same basic ideas as in Luke's Gospel. Gabriel/Jibril first appears to Zechariah and then to Mary. The words, which Jibril used when he came to Mary, bringing to her the message of the birth of a son, have the same basic content in the Qur'an as in the Lukan version. In  Surah al-Imran 3:45 it states Behold! the angels said: 'O Mary! Allâh giveth you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allâh ...'
            The Qur'an contains features about Mary and the infancy and childhood of Jesus not included in the Bible. Oral tradition, as we find reflected in the apocryphal Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of Christ and in the likewise apocryphal Gospel of Thomas comes through in Surah al-Imran 3:46 .'He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.' (The 'NT' Gospels are silent about the years of the childhood of Christ until he was twelve years old.)
            In the Qur'an Mary's protest at the prospect of pregnancy is virtually the same as in Luke's Gospel. The description of Jesus in the Qur’an (e.g. Surah al-Muminun (The Believers) 23:50) as an ayatollah, as a sign of God, has a special meaning.  According to Surah al-Imran 3:47, she said: 'O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?" Jibril's next words are quite significant: 'He said: "Even so: Allâh creates what He wills: When He hath decreed a plan, He but says to it, 'Be,' and it is! (v.48) " And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allâh's leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allâh's leave; and I declare to you what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if you did believe.' We thus find once again the issue of a sign quite prominently.
The parallel report in Surah Maryam 19:17 depicts a similar awe: 'She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects'. This is followed by the profound 19:19f where Jibril said: 'I am only a messenger of your Lord, that I may give you a faultless son' (Pickthall translation).

Special Features of Mary and Jesus in the Qur'an
Surah al-Imran 3:27 tells how Mary was mocked when she brought the babe to her people, carrying him in her arms. They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing have you brought! In 3:28 other accusers are quoted when she sports the baby. "O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a man of evil, nor your mother a woman unchaste!" Apparently, the accusers either confused Mary (Maryam) with Miriam, the sister of Aaron or this was a part of the mocking (In Semitic languages the consonants have more weight). Mary had no real defence other than to point to the babe in the cradle. The images, which are taken here, probably came via the apocryphal Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour.  There we read that 'Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom you have brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to you; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.'
Generally, the baby Jesus speaking from the cradle is regarded as legendary, as is the notion that the boy Jesus could make a bird out of clay. Then he breathed into it. This picture is found in the Gospel of Thomas. Yet, Jesus thus becomes almost equal to God, the creator. That he is not completely divine is alluded to in the Qur'an by the addition by Allâh's leave with regard to the miracles he performed. Similarly we read in Surah Maryam 19:30, He said: 'I am indeed a servant of Allâh: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet ...'

The words of Jibril to Mary 'that I may bestow on you a faultless son', has special significance. Of no other person in the Qur'an - not even Muhammad - it is said that he was faultless or blameless. Thus the revered book of Islam possibly stops just short of declaring that Jesus was divine. In 19:34 we read 'Such (was) Jesus, the son of Mary, a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.' We find a concept very near to these extraordinary qualities in the pronouncement of 3:55 where Allâh said: "O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow you superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then  you will all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein you dispute.

Very closely linked is the Qur’anic belief that Christians worship Mary and Jesus as two gods: ‘And behold! Allâh will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allâh'?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say)…” (Surah Al Ma'ida (The Table Spread) 5:119a, some translations have the verse as aya 116).

Furthermore, instead of teaching clearly that there is cleansing and forgiveness of sin through the atoning blood of Jesus, Christian theologians quarrelled about the nature of Jesus and whether he was begotten or created. The special gift of God, the demonstration of his love to the world - so much that He gave His one and only Son - became suspect in the process. The unique Son of God was understood literally: Mary was simultaneously elevated to a sort of goddess and described as the mother of God. 

Veneration of Mary
The prophetic word of the aged Simeon, that a sword would pierce her soul, was possibly pointing to Mary's experience decades later at the feet of the Cross, where she would witness how her Son would die cruelly and innocently.  Too much influenced by the Reformation, Protestants are in general very negatively inclined towards Roman Catholicism, especially with regard to anything that honours the Mother of Jesus. Because of this, Mary is perhaps even more highly regarded by Muslims in general than by the average Western Protestant. We should be thankful for Orthodox Christianity which could have rectified our view to appreciate that. The indirect indoctrination which we in the West experienced – especially in the cold war period – possibly blinkered us so much that also this got usually out of sight of our churches and seminaries - if not brought with suspicion of Communist influence. 
            Thankfully there are Protestants who have attempted to value the biblical truths highlighted in the veneration of Mary. Richard Wurmbrand (If Prison Walls could speak, 1972:41) thus pointed to a beautiful hymn sung in the Orthodox Church on Good Friday, to express the awe which her Son inspired in Mary. In his sermon, which Wurmbrand preached to the prison cell walls and without having access to a Bible, the Holy Spirit revealed some profound truths, such as that Mary believed in him, whereas his own physical brothers did not (John 7:5). In a balanced way Wurmbrand argues with ‘my Orthodox and Catholic friends’, noting that ‘they seem to forget sometimes how unspeakably small the Virgin Mary felt herself to be, and how unworthy, when she held the infant in her arms.’
            The prophetic word of the aged Simeon, that a sword would pierce her soul, was possibly pointing to her experience decades later at the feet of the Cross, where she would witness how her Son would die cruelly and innocently. 
            The enemy of souls abused the worship of Mary to deceive many people. I would like to stress that this is definitely not to be construed as a swipe at the Roman Catholic Church. The things I am about to mention all happened long before the Reformation. In fact, it also occurred long before the schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Rome.
            It was known about the Christian Arabian sect of the Collyridians that they venerated Mary like a goddess. In spite of Jesus’ own words - which were of course not yet freely available - Mary was worshipped before long almost like a goddess, at the expense of her son. An idolatrous worship followed, a practice which was later to be imitated also in respect of ‘saints’. As a rule, these revered (wo)men of God were devout Christians who themselves had pointed people to Jesus. Mary did just that when she said: ‘Do whatever he tells you'  (John 2:5).
            Protestants are often quick to put the blame for the veneration of Mary on the Roman Catholic Church. It is sobering to remind ourselves as Protestants that this early development is part and parcel of our common Church history, many centuries before the Reformation. This is an integral part of our common guilt.
            The Roman Catholic Church must however take full blame that there has hardly been any effort to rectify the idolatrous worship of Mary, that two doctrines were added which have no biblical basis, namely the immaculate conception of Mary and her supposed ascension. The veneration of Muhammad and his ‘ascension’ could be traced to this development.

Appendix 2

The Son of Mary or the Son of God?
One of the main issues why Muslims and Jews have difficulties to believe in Jesus is because the 'New Testament' describes him as the Son of God. The doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God has its origins in the 'NT'. A big difference is found between the Qur’anic account of Jibril speaking to Mary and the Angel Gabrielin the good news given to Mary. The biblical Gabriel speaks of the baby to be born as the Son of God. In Luke 1:35 we read: ‘the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’. In the Qur’an - albeit always in protest against the pagan concept of a son born through a physical relationship between Mary and the supreme Deity - the Qur’an repeats again and again: God does not have a son, God does not beget. The words ‘Son of God’ (1:35) and ‘Son of the most High’ (1:32) have been omitted in Surah al-Imran 3:45. By contrast, angels came to Mary in Surah al-Imran 3:45 saying His name is Christ Jesus, the son of Mary... The addition son of Mary would otherwise make little sense other than to emphasise that He is not the Son of God. This is consistent with the rest of the Qur’an in which it is disputed that Jesus is the walad of Allâh, the literal, physical and birthed Son of God. (The Qur'an seems to have no problem to see Jesus as the ibn of Allâh, the figurative Son of God.)
            Consistently the Qur'an refer to Jesus as the Son of Mary. Because some Muslims do not comprehend fully what Christians really believe, they oppose certain doctrines. There is notably the misunderstanding of Jesus as the figurative Son of God. In Muhammad’s lifetime there were sectarian Christians, e.g. the Collyridians, who believed that the birth of Jesus was the result of the physical union of God, the Father and Mary, his mother. 
            In the course of Jesus’ ministry Peter confessed: ‘You are the Messiah, the son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16). Jesus confirmed the supernatural nature of this confession: ‘This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’.  Jesus was crucified for this very reason. The accusation had been made before his crucifixion that Jesus had said that he was the Son of God.
            The wording that Jesus was ‘not begotten’ can be found repeatedly in the sacred book of the Muslims. The misunderstanding is behind the problem whereby the Qur’an negates Jesus as the Son of God. Early medieval theologians meant to emphasise the fact that Jesus was born in a human way.  Arabic has two words for son, namely ibn and walad. The Qur’an does not object to Jesus being the ibn, the figurative Son of God. Following from this, it was only logical that the most central verse of the 'New Testament', John 3:16, became a bad smelling odour to Jews and Muslims alike because it was generally translated as God’s ‘only begotten Son’ and often understood in a very literal sense. The intention of the Greek word monogenes  in the original text, is better reflected if Jesus is described as the unique Son of God or one and only Son of God as it has been done in the NIV.
            The fact that a big sector of the Church did believe that he was uniquely born, supernaturally conceived, was almost completely obliterated as the theologians argued with each other, causing confusion that was to continue for many centuries. Islam was directly influenced. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Qur’an stresses time and again that Jesus was ‘not begotten’. From here it followed that he was understood to be the walad, the son of God in the physical sense, the result of intercourse between God and Mary. The term theotokos (bearer of God) was intended to highlight his divinity, but Mary was misunderstood to be the waalada, the literal (mother) of God and not the ibnaton, who could have been a figurative one. This was of course very unacceptable. Thus the bickering medieval Christian theologians of Muhammad’s day and age - who majored on minor issues - also have to take some of the blame that Islam could finally be described as ‘a Christian heresy... a protest against paganism’; that Muhammad never broke through to a living faith in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.
I dare to repeat however: The basic reason for this estrangement is the tactics of the real figure behind it, namely the devil himself. It is significant that satan attempted to cause doubt about Jesus as the Son of God when he tempted him in the desert. Scripture records how the enemy of souls tried to lure Jesus into sin by repeating ‘If you are the Son of God...’  The second time it is followed by a distortion of Scripture. The view of many people who have difficulties with the person of Jesus, is so often based on distortion. This happened just after Jesus’ baptism. All three synoptic gospels report how a voice from heaven confirmed at that occasion that Jesus is God’s Son whom He loves, with whom he is well pleased. On another occasion demons protested: ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ Also at Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountain, a voice from heaven was heard calling him God’s Son (Matthew 17:1-9).  In his epistle Peter testifies to the latter occasion when he was on the mountain with Jesus, John and James, when the voice brought the same message of Jesus as God’s beloved son.
Samuel Rappaport,  A Treasury of the Midrash,  KTAV Publishing House, New York, 1968
p.44 ‘Dip the morsel in vinegar’ foretells the agony through which Messiah will pass, as it is written in Isaiah (chap. 53) … And she set herself beside the reapers predicts the temporary departure of Messiah’s kingdom… (Midrash Ruth 5)
p.49 (About the Messiah ) The general resurrection of the dead for the day of judgement, and when it takes place revived souls will sing angelic songs (Midr. Eccles. 1)

If Israel repents of his sins, the glorious redemption will be hastened and Messiah will make His appearance before the appointed time.(Exod. Rabba 25).

p. 50 7th year: Persecution will be rife everywhere, youth will have no respect for the aged… ‘and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Midr. Song of songs 2)
Unlike the kings of this earth, God bestows some of His possessions and dignities upon beings of flesh and blood. To Elijah God caused to ride upon His own horse; that is to say upon the storm and whirlwind. .. To Moses He gave God’s rod and upon the head of the Messiah he placed His own crown (Exod. Rabba 8)

Five things brought about the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt:
1)      the sufferings of the people
2)      their repentance
3)      the merits of their ancestors
4)      the expiration of the time fixed for their captivity
5)      the mercy of God
6)      ‘These same causes will operate towards the realization of Israel’s Messianic hopes and lead to the last redemption through Messsiah (Deut. Rabba 2)

At the last redemption you will not depart in haste of by flight (Isa. 52:12)
.(Exod. Rabba 19).

Three things Israel despised, viz the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of the house of David, and the Temple. God withholds his blessings from them till they mend their ways in these things. That they will do so Hosea 3: 5 says ( Midrash. Samuel 13)

Why was the Mishkan called ‘the Tabernacle of Testimony’ (Exodus 38: 23)? Because it testified to the fact that Israel gained foregiveness and was received again into God’s favour.  …It was a glorious demonstration that the Lord was reconciled with his people (Exod. Rabba 51).

Muhammad misled by Christian clergymen   
It is very tragic that a Christian clergyman was responsible to mislead the seeker Muhammad. 
It seems as if (one of) Muhammad’s first experiences with the occult happened when he was only twelve. The story goes that Bahira called in Muhammad from outside after the Syrian monk had invited Abu Talib and the rest of the travelling group inside, which he had never done before. Apparently he had discovered from his ‘books’ that there would be someone in the group who had the seal of prophethood. The tradition around the monk Bahira can make the Christian very sad if everything is factual what Muhammad’s biographers report. That Bahira is mentioned immediately after Abu Talib had tried to hide Muhammad from a fortune teller and that the monastery possessed some mysterious ‘books’ sound very ominous. Bahira reportedly looked for a sign on the body of the youthful Muhammad. As Christians we cannot be proud that a Syrian monk - of whom everything mentioned in the Ibn Ishaq biography points to heavy dabbling in the occult.  His referring to the phrase ‘seal of prophethood’ indicates that the third century heretic Mani could have influenced him.  
            The way in which Bahira hereafter looked for the mysterious sign on Muhammad’s body does not look very voluntarily from the point of view of the youth.  It does smell very occult though. Superficially the narrative almost sounds like the story of David, where the young lad was only called in after the old prophet Samuel had turned down the other sons of Isa, to be anointed as the possible future king of Israel. David (Dawood) hardly features in the Qur’an and Muhammad was quite proud in narrating his past.  One could safely assume that the similarity to David would have been mentioned in one of the biographies if Muhammad had known it. Or was the occult background of the Syrian monk a hindrance? It does not seem so, because the later Sira writers, the biographers and Islamic theologians never seem to have sensed a problem in this regard. In fact, Islam thrived on the mystic and the occult. Uncritically it was assumed that the book(s) to which Bahira referred were Christian. Grave doubt has to applied.
            Twentieth century Christian theologians will however also have to take part of the blame that millions of Muslims are still in the dark about the deception at the origins of their religion. An arrogant and haughty attitude by Westerners towards Islam generally did not help to open up the adherents of the religion to Jesus, whom their prophet had admired so profoundly. His name is now derided and irrationally hated by some present-day Muslims. Western (and liberal Islamic) academics have contributed to the unwitting bondage of millions around the world. By their condescending look at biographical details about the gifted Arabian leader, which is not firmly entrenched in secular history, like his visit to the Syrian monk and the visits by the supernatural being, Western Scholars have erred gravely. 

This is surely an indicator that the discovery of the Samaritans of Sychar, has indeed a lot of substance. They stated that ‘this man really is the Saviour of the world’ (John 4: 42).
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                                                                         Hänssler, Holzgerlingen (Germany), 1999
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Appendix 3

Script of a CCFM radio recording of Edith Sher

P.S. I initially intended to make partial use of the very special radio message on the prophet Jonah of our missionary colleague Edith Sher, who is linked to Messiah's People and herself a Messianic Jewish believer. Instead however, I asked her permission to include the message in my manuscript in its entirety as an appendix.

The book that’s read in the synagogue on the Jewish Day of Atonement is the book of Jonah.  It’s not too difficult to see the connection.  The Day of Atonement is about judgment and repentance.  The book of Jonah is about judgment and repentance.  On the Jewish calendar, there’s a 40 day period of grace leading up to the Day of Atonement, and in Jonah the people of Nineveh are given 40 days grace to repent.  On the Day of Atonement Jewish people observe a total one day fast, and in Jonah the people of Nineveh observed a total one day fast.

Jonah is one of the so-called minor prophets, but it’s different to the other prophetic books because it centers on the prophet, not on his prophecies.  In fact, the only prophecy Jonah uttered in the book never came to pass!  That’s Jonah 3:4“Another 40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  Well, it didn’t happen because the people repented.  And yet Jonah himself is a prophetic sign of the greatest happenings in history – the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah.  Jesus himself said so twice in the gospel of Matthew.  In chapter 12:39-41 and in chapter 16:4.

Now we all know that Jonah was a reluctant prophet who didn’t want to go to Nineveh, so God forced his hand.  One of the main reasons he was so reluctant is that he knew the kind of people he’d be dealing with.  Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire lying to the east of Israel.  And to get an idea of what the Ninevites were like we have to turn to another of the minor prophets, Nachum, who prophesies against Nineveh.  This is what he says in chapt. 1 vs. 9“Whatever they plotted against the Lord, he will bring to an end.”  So straight off we see that these are people who plot against God’s will, who’ve set themselves in opposition to God.

Now listen to chapt. 3:1“Woe to the city of blood.”  How’s that for a description of your hometown?  Not exactly a tourist attraction.  I can just see the Argus headlines:  “It’s official:  Nineveh, murder capital of the world.”  Then Nahum goes on to say, “Full of lies, full of plunder, never without a victim.”  Then the last part of vs. 3 says, “Many casualties, piles of dead bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses.”  Sounds like a rugby match.  I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture.  Then in vs. 4 Nachum calls Nineveh, “the mistress of sorceries who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft.”  They plot against God, they’re treacherous, murderous.  They enslave other nations, and they’re steeped in the occult and witchcraft.  Talk about mission impossible.  I’m not at all surprised that Jonah didn’t care too much for the Ninevites.

Jonah is a very short book, only 4 chapters and you can read it through in one sitting.  But as short as it is, it’s a book of extremes.  In the Hebrew, there’s one adjective that crops up more than any other – “gadol” which means big or great.  And four times Nineveh is called that great city.  Everything that happens in this book is great, or big or exceeding.  Everything is extreme. There are no shades of grey in Jonah.    It’s like a van Gogh painting.
Jonah himself is something of an extremist.  He has extreme reactions and he takes extreme action.  God told him to go east so he goes west.  In fact, Tarshish, where he was headed, was one of the remotest trading posts of that region. 
What Jonah didn’t realise is that he wasn’t headed west, he was headed down. Chap. 1:3 says, “He went down to Joppa.”  Vs. 5 says he went below deck.  And chapt. 2:6 says he ended up at the bottom of the ocean.  How low can you go? 

What Jonah didn’t bargain on is how extreme God could be.  Many people want a nice, tame God.  A domesticated God who doesn’t require too much of us.  Well, I’m afraid that’s not the God of the Bible.  A film that’s been on circuit recently is the Chronicles of Narnia.  Perhaps you’ve even read the books.  It’s a Christian allegory and in the story Aslan the lion, represents Jesus.  One of the children in the story looks at Aslan and asks the question: “Is he a tame lion?”  And the reply that comes is, “No, he’s not tame, but he is good.”  And that’s so true of God.  Even when he allows difficulties to come our way, he always has our good in mind.

So God prepared a few extreme surprises for Jonah, in fact five of them, and the first of these was a great wind, which caused a great storm. It wasn’t to make Jonah seasick.  It was to get Jonah off the ship.  Sometimes storms come into our lives and we think it’s got to be the devil.  But sometimes it’s God trying to get us to change direction.  He’s not doing it to be cruel but to be kind.  Because going our way usually ends up in disaster.  Going his way results in blessing.

Chapt. 1:5  says the crew of the ship were afraid.  Now bear in mind, these are hardened sailors so this must have been an exceptional storm to make them afraid.  Then vs. 10 says they were greatly afraid.  But not our friend Jonah.  He’s snoring away below deck.  Just pay attention: It’s the heathen who give the man of God the wake-up callThey say to him: “How can you sleep?  Get up and call on your God.”
I think there’s quite a prophetic message there.  We shouldn’t be surprised if God sends some sort of storm to shake the Western Church out of its complacency.  Already there are anti-Christian storms rising in the world that but many of the people of God are fast asleep.  Often we’re the last to know.  It’s time to call on our God, for our families, for our city, for our country. 
In chapt. 1 it says Jonah had to pay his own fare to Tarshish.  Centuries later God sent the apostle Paul, to the city of Rome - the Nineveh of that generation.  Unlike Jonah, Sha’ul went in obedience and God not only paid his fare, he provided a military escort.  But even more important, when Paul’s ship was caught in a storm, God kept everyone safe because of Sha’ul’s obedience.
But Jonah’s disobedience and apathy put everyone else in danger.  And when the the Church doesn’t wake up, the world is in danger.  And it will be to our own detriment.
When Jonah confesses that all their troubles are because of him, he tells the crew to throw him overboard, but instead they row all the harder to get to land.  What they’re doing is they’re trying to bring about their own salvation by their own efforts. Today there’s a storm of judgement coming but people are calling on their own gods. Gods of money, politics, sport, technology, science, you name it.  Apart from Nineveh, two other places are mentioned in the book of Jonah.  Joppa and Tarshish.   Jonah went to Joppa to get a ship bound for Tarshish.  In Hebrew, Joppa or Yaffo means "beauty" and Tarshish means "wealth."  That’s what the world is putting its trust in.  And even the the Church prefers to go to Tarshish when God is telling us to go to the Ninevehs of our generation. 
The message of the Bible is that salvation only comes through death and resurrection. Jonah got the message.  The only way his fellow passengers can be saved is for him to be thrown overboard.  See, I told you he was an extremist.  He goes overboard.  There’s an amazing picture here.  He represents God, willing to sacrifice his own life so they will be saved.   And just take note: Jonah couldn’t simply jump overboard himself.  They had to sacrifice him to the sea.  What a picture of Yeshua.  Yeshua was willing to lay down his life, but it was other people who put him to death.  But in chapt. 2:4 Jonah doesn’t say, 'The sailors threw me into the sea. Instead he prays to God: 'You cast me into the depths of the sea.'  It’s very interesting that to complete the section read on the Day of Atonement, the rabbis added a small piece from the Book of Micah that uses almost the identical words. In Jonah it says, “you cast me into the depths of the sea,” but in Micah 7:19 it says, "You will cast their sins into the depths of the sea."   That’s a very interesting connection even if the rabbis didn’t intend it as such.  It more or less equates Jonah with the sins of the people.  And what a picture that is of Yeshua who became sin for our sakes. 

Now remember, the sailors had greatly feared the storm.  But when they threw Jonah overboard, it immediately ceased, and vs. 16 says, “They greatly feared the Lord.”  And so these men became Jonah’s first Gentile converts.  Isn’t it interesting that centuries later someone else with the name Jonah got out of a boat?  A man named Simon bar Jonah.  He walked on the water at Yeshua’s word, but this Jonah sank in the water for disobeying God’s word.  The only way to rise above the storms of life is to hear God’s Word and apply it.

But here we come to the second of God’s extreme surprises.  First God prepared a great wind, now he prepared a great fish.  Jonah’d challenged G-d, he’s tried to escape his mission - he’s worthy of death!  But G-d  shows him such amazing compassion.  Who said grace was a New Testament invention? It’s the same God all the way through He provides this sea creature to follow Jonah and redirect his life. 
Jonah prayed a most remarkable prayer in the belly of the fish.  Now you must understand that in the ancient Jewish world, the sea represented chaos and the forces of darkness.  With that in mind, this is what Jonah prayed.
Jon_2:2“And he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, and he answered me; out of the belly of hell I cried and you heard my voice.    He didn’t say, “out of the belly of the fish”.  He said, “out of the belly of hell I cried.” 

He prayed a most remarkable prayer in the belly of the fish.  Before we look at it, you must understand that in the ancient Jewish world, the sea represented chaos and the forces of darkness.  With that in mind, let’s see what Jonah prayed and compare it with some other verses in the Bible.
Jon_2:2 – “And he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, and he answered me; out of the belly of hell I cried and you heard my voice.”
 “The cords of hell surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me, in my distress I called upon the Lord and cried to God for help.  He heard my voice out of his temple.”  - Ps. 18:5-6.
Jon_2:3,  For you had cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods engulfed me: all your breakers and your waves passed over me. 
Psa_42:7; “Deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfalls:  All your breakers and your waves have rolled over me.”  
Jon_2:4 - Then I said, I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.
      Psa.31:22 – “As for me, I said in my alarm , ‘I am cut off from before your eyes.’ Nevertheless you heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to you.”
 Jon_2:5 - The waters compassed me about, even to the point of death: the great deep engulfed me.
  Psa_69:1 – “Save me O God for the waters have threatened my life.  I have sunk in deep mire and there is no foothold.  I have come into deep waters and a flood overflows me.”
Jon 2:5 – “The seaweed was wrapped around my head.”
Ps. 18:5 – “the cords of hell were coiled around me.”
 Jon_2:7 - When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD.
 Psa_142:3 – “When my soul was overwhelmed within me you knew my path.” 
Jon. 2:7 : and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
 Psa_18:6 – He heard my voice out of his temple and my cry for help before him came into his ears.”
Jon_2:8 - Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy
Psa_31:6 – “I hate those who regard worthless idols but I will trust in the Lord.” 
Jon_2:9 - But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed.
 Psa_116:17-18 – “To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord.  I shall pay my vows to the Lord. ”
Jon. 2:9 – Salvation is of the LORD
Psa_3:8 – “Salvation belongs to the Lord.  Your blessing be upon your people.” 

I hope you can see what Jonah is doing.  He feels he’s in the belly of hell, so he starts praying lines out of various psalms and applying it to his own situation.  He’s praying the Word.  And clearly this is a pagan fish because it can’t stand the Word and after three days and nights it vomits Jonah up onto dry land. Again, there’s an amazing picture here.  Yeshua descended into hell for our sakes, but hell couldn’t stand the Living Word, and after three days and nights the Messiah rose again.  No wonder Yeshua called it the sign of Jonah.  If you want to get out of the belly of the whale or whatever hopeless situation you’re in, let me encourage you, pray God’s Word into the situation. 

But here again is Jonah showing his extreme nature.  In the worst possible circumstances, he shows extreme faith.  Please note, this isn’t a cry for deliverance, it’s a prayer of thanksgiving in the situation. 

God gives Jonah another chance and so Jonah goes to Nineveh but inwardly his attitude is still the same.  It smells worse than the fish’s innards.  How often don’t we pray prayers of repentance, and yet our attitudes haven’t really changed? That’s the challenge.  Now here’s the catch.  It was only when Jonah was finally willing to obey and he’s already entered Nineveh, only then does God give him the message he must preach. I can just picture Jonah praying before entering Nineveh. “What message shall I give them, Lord?  Shall, I say, God loves you and he’s waiting for you with outstretched arms.” Nope.  “40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  Now that’s an extreme message.  Remember, this was the city of blood where you had to step over piles of corpses just to get to the supermarket.  This was the mistress of sorceries steeped in witchcraft. But Jonah is obedient and he let’s them have it:  “40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown!”  It’s the shortest sermon on record and the most effective.  An entire city repents.   That is an extreme response.  From the king to the least in the kingdom, from human beings to animals – there’s a total fast in sackcloth and ashes.  On the Sabbath before the Day of Atonement the portion that’s read in the synagogue is 2 Sam.22 and this is what it says in vs. 45: “And foreigners come cringing to me; as soon as they hear me, they obey me.”  Doesn’t that sound as if it could be speaking about the Ninevites?  God is satisfied with their extreme response and he withholds judgement. 

But at this point Jonah also has an extreme response.  Chapt. 4:1 says that he’s exceedingly displeased and grieved.  So he goes to sit opposite the city to see what will happen.  Presumably the 40 days aren’t over yet, and he makes himself a little shelter.  And this time God has a more pleasant surprise for Jonah.  It’s God’s third provision.  He causes a castor-oil plant to spring up.  Apparently the leaves of this plant are very long and broad and they provide very welcome relief from this blistering heat.  And vs. 6 tells us that Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant.  It didn’t take much to make him happy.  But God had another surprise in store.  Surprise no. 4.  He prepared a cutworm that destroyed the plant and Jonah wanted to die.  This was only a day later.  He went from being exceedingly glad to suicidal depression.  He had extreme mood swings.  If he’d lived today, he might be diagnosed as bi-polar and yet God chose him.  But what is God trying to show Jonah through this incident? 

Jonah is in serious danger of spiritually withering away just like that plant withered away.  Chapt. 1:1 tells us he’s the son of Amitai.  That name Amitai comes from the Hebrew word emet, truth.  Jonah is the son of truth.  And truth demands that evil must be punished. This is exactly what he has the cheek to say in chapt. 4:2-  “This is why I hastened to flee to Tarshish; I knew that you are a gracious and merciful G-d slow to anger, abundant in loving kindness and forgiving of evil.” But Jonah’s forgotten that his first name means dove, and just as the dove back in Genesis was saved from the flood so was he, but he didn’t deserve it, and he’s forgotten that.  He could see the sin of Nineveh but not his own sin of self-righteousness.  Do you know what the difference is between righteousness and self-righteousness?  Righteousness tries to help the sinner.  Self-righteousness tries to avoid the sinner.

And so God has one final surprise for Jonah, another extreme provision.  It was another wind, but this time instead of bringing rain and freezing cold, it was an east wind that brought scorching heat, and now Jonah really wanted to die.    It’s amazing to me that in the belly of the fish, among all the rotten snoek, horrible gases, destructive digestive juices, with seaweed wrapped around his head, at the bottom of the ocean, Jonah had faith to live.  But after one little worm had its lunch, he wanted to die.  And isn’t that like so many of us?  We can handle the big crises, we can trust God in the life and death issues.  But when the little worm gnaws at us, we lose it.  Watch out for the little sins, the little grievances.  Those are the things that trip us up. 

It’s ironic that Jonah dreaded success more than he dreaded failure. The amusing thing is that Jonah is the only successful prophet in the TENACH, the only one that people listened to and who actually changed their ways.  Let me draw this to a close.  If you read 2 Kings 14:25 you’ll see that Jonah prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at a time when there was great spiritual apostasy.  The Torah passage that’s read on the Sabbath immediately before the day of Atonement is Deut. 32.  This is what it says in vs. 21: “They made me jealous with their worthless idols.  I will make them envious by those who are not a people.  I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”  Could it be that Jonah read that verse and understood it’s prophetic message?  So he couldn’t bear to see the Assyrians turning to God at his preaching, while his own people refused to repent.  Nineveh’s repentance was meant to provoke Israel to jealousy, but Israel didn’t repent.  And that was the very thing that sealed the fate of the Northern Kingdom. And here’s the greatest irony of all: it was the Assyrians who eventually drove the Israelites out of the land.   That’s what I meant when I said, if we don’t wake up, in the end it will be to our detriment. What if Jonah had really put his heart and soul into it?  What if he’d seized the moment when the Ninevites’ hearts were open?  Who knows?  Perhaps the whole nation might have repented and their relationship with Israel might have been vastly different. 

So in Jonah there’s a prophetic sign that the Gentiles would turn to God.  But Nineveh’s repentance didn’t last and eventually it was destroyed.  If Jonah had lived to see it, he might have said:  “I told you so.”  But if you look at the end of the book, it’s God who has the last word, not Jonah, and God’s final words to Jonah are words of compassion:  “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people who can’t tell their right from their left and much cattle.”  God's compassion for all these people and even for the animals is such a contrast to Jonah's lack of concern.

Are we like Jonah?  Crying over our own comfort.  Crying more over our dead goldfish or a lost possession than over the lost people of this great city of Cape Town?  God is challenging us: “Which shall it be, the comfort of Tarshish or proclaiming God to Nineveh?”  The good news is that we don’t have to wait for a special Day of Atonement.  There’s always an opportunity to bring our attitudes before God.  He is a God of judgement, but he’s also the God of extreme compassion and mercy. 

Perhaps like Jonah you’re running from God.  Perhaps there are issues in your life he wants to deal with, but you’re keeping him at arm’s length.  For some of you it could be issues dating back to childhood.   Perhaps many storms have come into your life and you feel God doesn’t love you.  But sometimes he allows things to happen so we’ll stop running and turn to him.

Maybe you feel as if you’re in the belly of the whale. Trapped in some sort of situation with no way out.  Well, God is not only able to deliver you, he’s willing.  But for most of us there are the little worms, just like that cutworm, gnawing at our lives.  Worms of unforgiveness, of addictive habits, of resentment.  Or for some of you that worm could be a lack of boldness. Maybe you find it difficult to share your faith in Yeshua. 

Appendix 4
Elijah and Elisha

Although Elijah and Elisha are not two prophets of whom written documents exist. They are highly regarded in Judaism.  There are referred to directly a few times in the 'NT' and indirectly a few times more.

Appendix 5
Paul, the Apostle regarding Joseph
Paul sees the Jewish estrangement from Messiah as a necessary part of a sovereign, ordained plan whereby God intends to extend salvation to the entire world. In this regard, the Jewish estrangement from Messiah is not at all unlike the Joseph story. Paul concedes that Israel has stumbled (though not fallen), but even their stumbling was part of God's plan. Just as Joseph and his brothers were eventually reunited all Israel will be saved. All Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The deliverer will come from Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob." "This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins." (Romans 11:26-27, quoting Isaiah 59:20-21)
When Joseph revealed his identity to his bewildered brothers, he explained that his descent into Egypt had been ordained by God to "preserve life" and "to preserve a remnant."
Joseph says, "God sent me before you to preserve life (l'michayah - למחיה)" (Genesis 45:5). The same Hebrew word (l'michayah - למחיה) is typically used in reference to the resurrection of the dead. Joseph goes on to state that, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance." (45:7)
Where Joseph is understood as foreshadowing the work of Messiah, a similar statement may be made. As with Joseph, Messiah was rejected by his brothers the Jewish people, but that rejection was ordained by God to accomplish a great deliverance.
Paul seems to read the Joseph story in this light as well. In Romans 11, he struggles with the difficult question of Israel's rejection of Yeshua. Though he does not directly invoke the Joseph analogy, he seems to allude to it. For example, he points out that Israel's rejection of Messiah has meant riches for the world. So too, the brother's rejection of Joseph resulted in riches for the famine-stricken world of Joseph's day.  By Israel's transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfilment be! (Romans 11:11-12) Similarly, Paul points out that Israel's eventual reconciliation with Messiah will be "life from the dead." So too, Joseph declared, "God sent me before you to preserve life."
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15)

However, Paul does not suppose that all Israel must wait until the culmination of the age before entering into Messiah. He maintains that just as the LORD has always preserved a remnant of faithful in the past, so too in Paul's day a remnant was preserved.
Joseph says, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance." (Genesis 45:7)
Paul says, "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice." (Romans 11:5)

[1] As Christians we have been referring to the Hebrew Bible as the 'Old Testament', a term Jews consider offensive. I try to avoid the term because of the negative connotations, i.e. implying that the 'New Testament' more or less replaced it. For lack of a better term (Jewish scholars sometime refer to the 'NT' as Christian Scriptures, but that terminology does not sound to me accurate enough), I use 'NT' in inverted comma's.
[2] I take Rabbi Zadok to be Zadok Hakohen, a renowned Jewish Talmudist from a Lithuanian Rabbinic family who succeeded Rabbi Akiva Eiger in 1888.

[3] Count Zinzendorf, the pioneer of the renewed Moravian Church, was one of the few in Church history to whom the concept was quite important. He emphasized the ‘first fruit’ from those people groups which had not been reached by the Gospel.  According to his Eschatology it is the duty of missions to bring in the ‘first fruit’, the first converts from all tribes and nations. He believed that the Moravians could hasten the return of our Lord Jesus in this way.
[4] Iblis = Lucifer which means carrier of fire.
[5] Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer, 1970: 94 quotes the Midrash Haggadol (Genesis c. 87) in a footnote ‘for Sammael has not authority over man because he is hard’. 
[6] The portions referring to Islamic legends have as a rule been gleaned from Gustav Weil’s Biblische Legenden der Musselmänner (Frankfurt, 1845) of which I consulted the Dutch translation.
[7] Closer investigation shows that Jibril and the biblical Gabriel are not identical.
[8]              The Hebrew Bible is also known by its acronym, Tenach or Tanakh – Torah, Nevi’im, K’tuvim. In English they are known as Law or Pentateuch, Prophets and Sacred writings.
[9]              Some enmity did develop over the centuries though as the prophet Isaiah attested to seventeen hundred years later.
[10]           At the end of 2009 an English translation of a purported letter surfaced, dated 628 CE, supposedly a letter from Muhammad as a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. There is serious doubt however, w.r.t. the authenticity of the letter but the general tone is not in contradiction to other sayings of the prime Islamic prophet.
[11] A parallel is found in Surah Mariam 19:15 and 33 where a prophecy is spoken over Yahyah (John the Baptist) in almost identical words as over Jesus.
[12]           Some enmity did develop over the centuries though as the prophet Isaiah attested to seventeen hundred years later.
[13]           At the end of 2009 an English translation of a purported letter dated 628 CE surfaced, supposedly a letter from Muhammad as a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. There is some doubt w.r.t. the authenticity of the letter, but the general tone of the letter is not in contradiction to other sayings of the prime Islamic prophet.
[14]           Translation from Afrikaans: In Gesprek met Islam oor die Moslem Belydenis, 1974:??
[15]           This legalist tradition probably also ultimately led to Islamic oral traditions which prescribe various conditions for prayer to be acceptable to Allâh, as well as their invalidation if not adhered to, e.g. fhe perfect prayer direction, place of prayer, menstruation of females.
[16]           Literally: Hier is twee seuns wat met mekaar versoen is, en wat deur die versoening alle wrok saam met hulle vader begrawe het.
[17]           Mentioned in a brochure by Arthur Glass, published by the Evangelical Mission Press, Bellville, called Yeshua in the Tenach. The Hebrew Bible is also known by its acronym, Tenach or Tanakh – Torah, Nevi’im, K’tuvim. In English the sectors are known as Law or Pentateuch, Prophets and Sacred Writings.

[18]           That the Israelites were saved from the bondage going through the Red Sea, has some spiritual significance. Rahab, a harlot, who had to use a red chord as an indication to the spies, which house was to be spared when Jericho would be destroyed (Joshua 2:17ff, 6:17). The Bible does not give any reason why it had to be red, but it does state that through this chord, Rahab and her family were saved.
[19]           Professor Jastrow a Jewish scholar, pointed out that the name Samuel not only means God hears, but that in the Assyrian, which is closely linked to Hebrew, the word sumu means son (Hodgkin, 1979: 63). Jastrow translated Samuel as ‘son (or offspring) of God’.
[20]           Messiah = Christ in Greek. Both words mean the anointed.
[21]           In a common interpretation of the last of the 70 year-weeks of Daniel (Revelation), the last seven years will be the so-called tribulation, that will stop when Jesus starts his millenial reign on earth.
[22]           Compare e.g. Psalm 81:8ff where a reminder of the Almighty’s intervention and aid is interspersed with His wooing and warning of His people.
[23]           The Greek word used for transformation in Romans 12:1 is metamorpheste.
[24]           A comparison of Luke 4 with Isaiah 61 shows that Jesus actually stopped short of quoting ‘the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isaiah 61:2).
[25]           In fairness to Bosch it should be mentioned that he did note the offence to their nationalist pride as a cause of the change of mood. This nationalist pride surfaced again after 1948 when Palestinians were marginalized, feeling themselves as second-class citizens in Israel 'and worse, with no rights at all in Gaza and the West Bank' (Brother Andrew, 2004:21)
[26]           The Jewish listeners will surely have picked up his reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13.
[27]        In the significant dialogue of John 9:35-37 we find between Jesus and the man who had been born blind, Jesus stated clearly that he is the Son of Man.
[28]           Angels (in the plural) also appear to Mary to inform her of her pregnancy miracle in the same Surah (3:42,45).
[29]           He probably also did this in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:14ff).
[30]           An exception is Hugh Schonfield, a Jewish scholar and author of various books like The Passover Plot and Those incredible Christians, who interestingly seems to accept the witness of first century authors with regard to the resurrection of Jesus.
[31]           Josephus was nowhere sympathetic to the Christian cause, calling them ‘deceivers and impostors, under the pretence of divine inspiration fostering revolutionary changes’ (cited by Schonfield, Those incredible Christians, p.77). He was however in the service of the Romans. This distracts to some extent from the credibility of his story.
[32]           The Qur’an teaches that the title “Messiah” or “Al-Masih” in Arabic is one of the unique titles given to Jesus to honour him. This title is used of Jesus 11 times in the Qur’an {3:45; 4:157,171,172; 5:17(2x), 72(2x), 75; 9:30;31}.
[33]           Scholars generally take that this incident came into the Qur'an via an oral tradition that had its origin in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, which has very limited credibility form an academic point of view.
[34]           What initially was the cause of the Arian dispute of the fourth century, not only later resulted in the side-lining of the Nestorian Church, but also the Reformation was seriously hampered when Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli differed intensely about what nature of Christ is predominant in the elements at the Lord's Supper.
[35]             However this is not the case in Surah Maryam 19:17 where 'our angel  appears to her as a man in all respects.


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