Ezra’s Prayer & Languages of the Old Testament World

It appears that Ezra got things put in order, is it going to stay that way?

1500 year-old ‘ Syriac ‘ Bible found in Ankara, Turkey
The devil works hard at deceiving people (2 Tim 3:1, 2 Pet 2:1-3).

The relic was ‘rediscovered’ in the depositum of Ankaran Justice Palace, the ancient version of bible is believed to be written in Syriac, a dialect of the native language of Jesus. Ankara/Turkey – The bible was already in custody of Turkish authorities after having been seized in 2000 in an operation in Mediterranean area in Turkey.

The gang of smugglers had been charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations and the possession of explosives and went to trial. Turkish police testified in a court hearing they believe the manuscript in the bible could be about 1500 to 2000 years old. After waiting eight years in Ankara the ancient bible is being transferred to the Ankaran Ethnography Museum with a police escort.

The bible, whose copies are valued around 3-4 Mil. Dollars had been transferred to Ankara for safety reasons, since no owners of the ancient relic could be found. The manuscript carries excerpts of the Bible written in gold lettering on leather and loosely strung together, with lines of Syriac script with Aramaic dialect.

Turkish authorities express the bible is a cultural asset and should be protected for being worthy of a museum. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic – the native language of Jesus – once spoken across much of the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is used wherever there are Syrian Christians and still survives in the Syrian Orthodox Church in India and a village in the vicinity of Syrian capital Damascus. Aramaic is also still used in religious rituals of Maronite Christians in Cyprus. Experts were however divided over the provenance of the manuscript, and whether it was an original, which would render it priceless, or a fake (definitely fake, Jesus was crucified).

Other questions surround the discovery of the ancient bible, whether the smugglers had had other copies of the relic or had smuggled them from Turkey.

“Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

If you check out the Bible translation statistics on Wycliffe’s page, you will find that of the world’s 6,800+ languages only 513 have a copy of the entire Bible (that is around 6.6% for those keeping score).
However, you may also notice that 1,276 languages have access to the New Testament. This means that we have 763 languages that have the New Testament, but not the Old.

There are many translation projects that stop with the New Testament. One of the reasons for these statistics is that translators at times will go into a people group, translate the New Testament, and then wait to see how well it is received before translating the Old.

Some think there is wisdom in this practice and wonder if,

“Do we even need the Old Testament?”

If we only had the Book of Romans we would know:
* we are sinners (Rom 3:23),

* the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23a)

* we can receive eternal life only through Jesus (Rom 6:23),

* this is because Jesus died on the cross for our sins (Rom 5:8),

* in order to be saved we must call upon the Lord (Rom 10:13) and,

* to call we must believe in Christ Jesus and that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9-10).

That is pretty much the Gospel, so why bother with the Old Testament if we have what we need for salvation in the New?

The answer is, Yes, we do need the Old Testament and here are five reasons:

Much of the New Testament Does Not Make Sense Without the Old

When Jesus approached John the Baptist in the River Jordan John cried out “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

Imagine reading that with no concept of the Old Testament.

Why in the world would John call Jesus a lamb?

Jesus was not that young, he did not have wool, he did not eat grass, and he was the kind of guy who would make a whip and drive people out of the temple.

How was he anything like a baby sheep?

Of course, to those who have read Exodus 12 know of the lamb that died so that death might Passover the house of the Hebrews.

If you have read Isaiah 53 you would know that Isaiah predicted a suffering servant would come who would be led like a lamb to the slaughter.

Reading the New Testament without the Old is like walking into a movie 2/3 of the way in. You get to experience the climax and the conclusion, but without the character development and history.

You are squinting at the characters thinking, which one is that again? Wait, he’s HIS son? So, why did they kill him?

Jesus Liked It
It is sort of popular these days to act like the only part of the Bible that is important are the red letters, the actual spoken words of Christ.

But what is amazing is that quite a bit of those red letters are actually black letters from the Old Testament quoted by Jesus.

I counted 183 quotes from the Old Testament just in the four Gospels. Consider that. Jesus came to Earth as God incarnate. He could have said anything he wanted, communicated anything to us, and he chose to quote from the Old Testament. And why would he do that? Well, I can think of one reason…

It is the Word of God
When Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, he revealed its source: God. In Matthew 22 the Sadducees confronted Jesus trying to find a logical and legal problem with the concept of the resurrection.

They “knew a guy” who died and having seven brothers his widow followed the law of Moses and was married to each one successively after the previous brother died.

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?

He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching (29-33).

There are a few things that are striking about this passage.

First, he confronts the Sadducees for not knowing the Bible.

Then he explains that the Bible represents words that were “said to you by God.”

And then finally he quotes from Exodus and forms his argument on the reality of the truth in the Old Testament.

He is not quoting philosophical principles from the Old Testament; he is appealing to its historicity.

If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never really existed (as some claim) this argument would not make sense.

God is the God of the real, not the fictional.

And the God of the living and not the dead.

The crowd was rightfully astonished at his teaching because he valued and understood the Old Testament.

We Need Repetition
I have four toddlers and I am currently writing this blog while every five minutes reminding them that in order for nap time to work, they need to stay in their beds.

I think when God called us sheep (Is 53:6) another fitting illustration would be that we are like toddlers.

We just do not seem to be able to learn the first time.

This is exactly why the author of Hebrews appeals to the book of Exodus for us to learn a lesson.

The time of the Exodus was the most toddlerish period of Israel’s history.

Over and over again the Lord provided for them and over and over again they rebelled, lost sight of God’s promises, and in the end an entire generation was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land.

But even the Promised Land was not the rest that Israel had hoped for. Instead that rest comes through trusting in Christ. However, the author of Hebrews reminds us,

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (4:11).

There is a reason the Exodus was recorded in God’s Word, we need to be reminded.

God is faithful, even when we are faithless.

We are being called to learn from the repetitive failures of our predecessors – the toddlers are still not asleep.

We Need to Know God
Finally, there is so much about God that is not talked about in the New Testament.

That is not to say that the New Testament speaks of a different God, or is lacking in some way, but it is only part of the canon that God gave us to know him.

Missing out on the Old Testament is to miss out on watching God work for thousands of years.

On hearing God’s children cry out to him and seeing him answer. How could we neglect reading of God creating the world from nothing?

Listening to his promises throughout the generations and watching as he step-by-step fulfills those promises? He truly is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And he has chosen to reveal himself through history.

He has revealed himself as an awesome, creative, faithful, wrathful, merciful, glorious God. It takes more than 66 books to get a good understanding of this, let alone 27. Let us not neglect the very Word of God written to reveal Him to us.

I agree with everything this author said.
Remember, Jesus is not just the Son of God, He is God.

If all you read is the New Testament than all you will know about Jesus is what He did no earth, He was crucified and then resurrected.

If you really want to know God, to know Jesus, you must read the Old Testament as well.

Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lordmy God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.

For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.

And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,

Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.

Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.

And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this;

Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?

Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this” (Ezra 9).

Ezra had cast himself to the ground and wept as he confessed and prayed to God, then a great congregation of the Israelites that stood there also wept.  And Shechaniah said,

Administrative tablet with cylinder seal impression of a male figure, hunting dogs and boars.
Jumdat Nasr, Uruk III style 3100-2900 B.C.

“And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.

Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.

Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.

Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.

Oldest known complete Torah scroll discovered miscatalogued in Italy
An Italian expert in Hebrew manuscripts said he has discovered the oldest known complete Torah scroll, a sheepskin document dating from 1155-1225 B.C.

It was right under his nose, in the University of Bologna library, where it had been mistakenly catalogued a century ago as dating from the 17th century.

The find isn’t the oldest Torah text in the world: the Leningrad and the Aleppo bibles — both of them Hebrew codex’s, or books — pre-date the Bologna scroll by more than 200 years.

But this is the oldest Torah scroll of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, according to Mauro Perani, a professor of Hebrew in the University of Bologna’s cultural heritage department.

Two separate carbon-dating tests — performed by the University of Salento in Italy and the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign — confirmed the revised dating, according to a statement from the University of Bologna.

Such scrolls — this one is 36 meters (40 yards) long and 64 centimeters (25 inches) high — are brought out in synagogues on the Sabbath and holidays, and portions are read aloud in public.

Few such scrolls have survived since old or damaged Torahs have to be buried or stored in a closed room in a synagogue.

In a telephone interview, Perani said he was updating the library’s Hebrew manuscript catalogue when he stumbled upon the scroll.

He said he immediately recognized the scroll had been wrongly dated by the last cataloguer in 1889, because he recognized that its script and other graphic notations were far older.

And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;

And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.

Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.

And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.

Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.

Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.

But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.

Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.

Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.

And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.

And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.

And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.

And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass” (Ezra 10:2-19).

And these are the names of them that were guilty: (Ezra 10:20-43).

All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children (Ezra 10:44).

Languages of
the Old Testament World

The ancient Near East encom­passed a large number of different languages, the most significant of which were Sumer­ian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Hebrew.

Earliest Evidence of Alphabetic Order.
The source of that order is still a matter of debate. What is not debated is the fact that once established, it was highly resistant to change. The Phoenician alphabet reduced the number of characters for 28-30 to 22, but the order was not changed. To read more go here.

Understanding these languages has considerably aided our knowledge of Israel’s social, economic, political and linguis­tic environment.

Sumerian: History’s first written lan­guage (c.3100 B.C.), Sumerian used pictures (called pictographs) to represent words or ideas.

Thousands of pictographs were needed to write in Sumerian, but these eventually came to be written abstractly as cuneiform, wedge-shaped characters in­cised into clay with a pointed, reed stylus.

Although Sumerian was unrelated to the ancient Semitic languages of the Near East (such as Hebrew), many Semitic languages adopted the use of cuneiform writing. ■Egyptian: as history’s second written lan­guage (also c.3100 B.C.); Egyptian produced a unique pictographic script called hiero­glyphics, which is found in pyramid inscriptions.

Though not Semitic, Egyptian was re­lated to Semitic languages and shared some features with them.

Akkadian: A Semitic language, Akkadian falls into the same language group as Hebrew. Used from at least the 17th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D.  it was a northeastern, Mesopotamian Semitic language that borrowed some Sumerian vocabulary.

Akkadian was spoken in both Babylonia and Assyria, and thousands of Akkadian tablets preserve records of the economic, religious, royal and legal life of these societies.

World’s Oldest Musical Instrument: Divje Babe flute
The oldest musical instrument ever discovered is believed to be the Divje Babe flute, discovered in a cave in Slovenia in 1995, though this has been disputed. The item is a fragment of the femur of a cave bear, which has been dated at 60,000-43,000 years old, which had been pierced with spaced holes.

Scientists who could not accept the possibility that Neanderthals were playing music rejected the claim and said that the perfectly spaced and neatly carved holes are in fact the result of the bone fragment having been chewed by an animal.

However, a general consensus that the Divje Babe flute is actually a musical instrument has been growing as the view of the Neanderthals from subhuman brutes to more sophisticated humans is changing.

The Babylonian dialect became the international language of communication during the Late Bronze Age.

Knowledge of the Akkadian language often helps to clarify the meaning of an ob­scure word in Biblical Hebrew.

Ugaritic: This language has significantly improved our understanding of Hebrew gram­mar and vocabulary.

It too was a northwestern Semitic language closely related to Hebrew and similar to the language of the Canaanites (by comparison, Akkadian was a northeastern Semitic language and somewhat more distant from Hebrew).

Ugaritic employed an alpha­betic cuneiform (i.e., used cuneiform signs to represent individual letters) and is preserved in approximately 1,300 administrative, economic and religious documents from the 14th to the 13th centuries b.c.

Aramaic: This language spans at least the last 3,000 years of the Old Testament period.

Like Hebrew and Ugaritic, it was a north­western Semitic language. Aramaic utilized a 22-letter alphabet borrowed from the Phoenician language.

It became the inter­national language of communication for the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians during the first millennium B.C.

The Persian Empire’s “standardized” Aramaic has been dubbed Imperial Aramaic—the dialect of the governmental communique in Ezra 4.

The books of Ezra and Daniel were partially written in

Aramaic and traces of Aramaic are scattered throughout the Old Testament.

Hebrew: Hebrew uses the same alphabet as Aramaic. Attested outside the Bible from the 10th century B.C., it was the language of the Israelites and of most of the Old Testa­ment.

Although the present Old Testament is primarily rendered in a standard Biblical Hebrew, traces of ancient Hebrew dialects are apparent in the text (e.g. Jdg 12:6).

During the inter-testamental period Aramaic gradually replaced Hebrew as the spoken language of the Jews (Jesus spoke Aramaic; e.g., Matt 27:46).

A modern version of Hebrew is spoken by Israelis today, but it has a number of substan­tial differences from the classical form.