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Ezekiel 38:23 And I will show Myself great, sanctify Myself and become known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am the L-rd.
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This verse comes from the haftarah portion for a Shabbat that falls in the intermediate days of Sukkot: Ezekiel 38:18 - 39:16. It ends the first of two chapters of oracles against Gog, from the land of Magog, who invades the land of Israel. Although Magog is mentioned among the Aegean peoples in the list of nations following the flood (B'resheet 10:2), there is no scholarly consensus for definite identification. Michael Fishbane explains that "the most probable suggestion is to associate Gog with Gyges, a Lydian king mentioned (as Gugu) in the seventh century BCE annals of King Ashurbanipal of Assyria". The theme ofHaShem manifesting His divine power - a common feature of the book of Ezekiel - so that the nations shall know that He is the L-rd, appears three times in the haftarah portion: here, 39:6b-7 and 39:13.
The text starts with three consecutive verbs - HaShem's actions - presented as 1cs affix forms linked together by vav-reversives to make them future tense: "And I will ... and I will ... and I will". The first, , is in the Hitpa'el stem, denoting reflexive or iterative action; the root is , "to be or become great, to grow; to be great, exalted" (Davidson). The Hitpa'el stem has the idea of showing oneself to be great - a demonstration, as it were - of how great one is; and only HaShem can do that for Himself. The second verb, , is another Hitpa'el stem, from the root , "to be holy, consecrated, set apart" (Davidson); in Hitpa'el this means to consecrate or sanctify oneself, or to cause oneself to be revered or reverenced. Again, only HaShem can do that for Himself, as He shows that He is distinct and separate - in another league - from all the non-gods of the other nations. The third verb, , is in the Nifal stem, usually denoting a passive meaning, from the root , "to know, perceive, discern; to recognise, acknowledge" (Davidson). The Nifal meaning is "to be or become known" - HaShem will make Himself known "in or before the eyes of many nations".
The second half of the text also starts with another vav-reversive verb - "and they shall know" as the definite conclusion of HaShem's revelation. is the 3mp Qal affix form of , so here has the idea not only of knowing, but recognising and acknowledging who HaShem is. The nations won't just know, in an academic or abstract way as a chemist knows that sodium metal should react strongly with water, that He is the Almighty G-d; they will have seen the mighty works that He has done, the way the peoples and nations of the world are moved in His hands, just as the chemist has seen with his own eyes a piece of sodium floating on water and spontaneously burning with a bright yellow-orange flame.
The second half of the text also starts with another Our Jewish liturgy preserves this theme of G-d's greatness and holiness in the prayer known as the Kaddish, said by mourners and used to mark liturgical breaks in services:
Magnified and sanctified may His great name be ...
Kaddish is not supposed to be said without the presence of a minyan because it is a community expression of faith and trust in G-d. Although recited by individual mourners, it is witnessed by others as an affirmation of G-d's complete sovereignty over life and death and so is one of the ways in which G-d manifests Himself - shows Himself great - in this age through the public witness of His people. This echoes the song that Moshe taught the people of Israel, when he says: "For I will proclaim the name of the L-RD; ascribe greatness to our G-d!" (D'varim 32:3, ESV). In front of all the people, even though he knew that he was about to go up Mount Nebo and die, yet he exalted the L-rd and affirmed His goodness and faithfulness. That was his witness of trust and faith in G-d despite the circumstances! Similar stories have come out of the wartime concentration camps for both Jews and Christians: of people declaring their trust in G-d when they are about to be executed.
John's vision of heaven gives us another picture, of those who have conquered the beast; standing beside the sea of glass with harps in their hands, "they sing the song of Moshe, the servant of G-d, and the song of the Lamb, saying, 'Great and amazing are Your deeds, O L-rd G-d the Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O L-rd, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed'" (Revelation 15:3-4, ESV). These victorious saints, whose testimony cost them their lives, also proclaim the goodness and greatness of G-d, before all the nations.
How, then, is G-d showing Himself great in this age? G-d continues to shake the earth and move both physical and political mountains. In recent years there have been spectacular volcanic eruptions, a number of severe earthquakes and tsunamis. At every earth tremor, people ask, "What is happening?", "Where is G-d in this?" and those who seek, as Yeshua promised (Matthew 7:7), always find "For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Romans 1:20, ESV). The political situation around the world is altering almost every day. As little as two years ago, who could have foreseen the changes in governments that we now see happening in the Middle East? Rav Sha'ul points out that "there is no authority except from G-d, and those that exist have been instituted by G-d" (13:1, ESV) while Daniel proclaimed, "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding" (Daniel 2:21, ESV).
More than physical and government changes, which can - while those personally involved find them all too real and challenging - seem remote and far away to those who live outside the scene of action, G-d continues to manifest His greatness through His Body - the church and the synagogue - and His people, both Jew and Gentile. That means you and me; that means all of us who are called by His name and name the G-d of Israel, the G-d of Avraham, Yitz'khak and Ya'akov, as their G-d. It happens every day through acts of kindness and charity, smiles and laughs, blessings and prayers, hard work and tears, at weddings and funerals, in offices and on the shop-floor, everywhere that people are and G-d's people can go. There He manifests His greatness and there He does amazing deeds through His people.
The feast of Sukkot is one particular time in the year when G-d reveals His glory. As Jewish neighbourhoods around the world blossom and grow their multi-coloured, multi-textured and infinitely varied tabernacles, in order to keep the feast as we are commanded in the Torah, guests are invited to come and sit in the sukkah, to eat a meal in the sukkah, just to relax in the sukkah. Guests are both Jewish and Gentile because the mitzvah of showing hospitality is without boundaries of race, colour or creed. In some neighbourhoods, the guests can be as variegated as the tabernacles themselves: old and young, male and female, black and white, not to mention hispanic, asian and everything in between. This is a prophetic sign taken straight out of the prophets: "All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to the King L-RD of Hosts and to observe the Feast of Booths" (Zechariah 14:16, JPS). When G-d brings people together to share the Feast of Sukkot today, all sorts of people ask questions: "What did you do?", "What did it look like?", "Can I come too?" And the answers open doors to conversations about what G-d is doing in your life, what He is doing in the Jewish world and how He is preparing for the return of Yeshua.
Writing to the Ephesians, Rav Sha'ul said, "So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with G-d's people and members of G-d's family" (Ephesians 2:19, CJB). We can experience that family time in the sukkah each year as we act out a living model of the One New Man. Sh'aul continues, "In union with Him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord. Yes, in union with Him, you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for G-d!" (vv. 21-22, CJB). There's that word again "dwelling place"; that's a sukkah, a tabernacle. In the sukkah we build the sukkah, a holy temple for our G-d.
Further Study: 1 John 4:13-17; Ephesians 4:13-16; Hebrews 3:3-6
Did you get to a sukkah party last year? Make sure you connect this week
so you too can declare the praises of G-d as you help build His sukkah on
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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© Jonathan Allen, 2013
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.