Mussar and the Little Scroll
One passage from the Sixth Seal has a significant connection to traditional Jewish thought about mussar, which is the study of the Torah in order to build one's everyday ethics and character. This is the purpose of reading the Torah, even for the kings of Israel, who are commanded to write two copies of the scroll and read it all the days of his life in order to:
- fear Adonai
- perform the commandments
- not become proud and haughty over his brothers (Dt 17:19-20)
The Torah should bring inner transformation, for it is a spiritual document to be received with spiritual tenderness of heart. The king sits upon the throne (Dt 17:18) not merely to reign, but to judge his kingdom. Wise judgment, the "hearing heart" of King Solomon, prolongs the days of both the king and his offspring.
The Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim) is sometimes referred to as Mishneh Torah, or the Repeated Torah. This book is the one most-quoted by Yeshua, for it is a summary of the previous books, sometimes adding clarification of a particular commandment or statute. It is a little scroll representing the whole Torah of the full five books. It is in the little scroll of the Mishneh Torahthat the Torah portion Shoftim urges all Israel, and especially its judges, "Justice, justice you shall pursue!" (Dt 16:20)
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Re 6:12-17)
Just as in the Torah portion Shoftim (Judges) the kings are commanded not to become haughty, nor the judges to prefer more influential litigants, the heart-condition of Israel is addressed as the core of this very legal section of the Mishneh Torah. This heart-condition is addressed in mussar because "Hashem will execute judgment on every hidden thing." (Salanter, Ohr Yisrael, p. 112) The people of the earth who are hiding during the Sixth Seal of Revelation are being sought for judgment, no matter where they are hiding.
While most believe that the Proverb, "The fool has said in his heart that there is no God," is a reference to atheists, the atheist is not addressed in ancient times, for everyone believed in a god or gods. The Jewish interpretation is from an ellipsis that can be understood in context, "...there is no God who will judge me for my evil works":
The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good. (Ps 14:1 & 53:1)
For that matter, the modern atheist still resides within the same category of one who does not believe in a final accounting and judgment. Because the fool does not believe in a final Throne judgment and accounting of his life, the fool lives his life accordingly, like the Sadducees of the First Century who rejected both the doctrines of resurrection and a final judgment.
Because traditional Judaism is founded upon a belief in the resurrection and judgment, mussar is urged as part of daily Torah study. What one reads should change one's character, for "the foundation of Mussar study is the contemplation of yiras ha'onesh-the contemplation of the world's accounting...he should recall the long days of darkness he will face in the future." (Salanter, p. 112) Indeed, the Sixth Seal and the Fifth Trumpet introduce long days of darkness and judgment because the sun is obscured, lengthening the days of darkness.
Rabbi Salanter recognizes that many do not want to study mussar, for
...while it is true that this spiritual pill is bitter to swallow at the outset of the treatment, it is as sweet as honey upon its completion.
Is it possible for a person to blunder through life like a blind man in darkness, when in the end he will not be able to escape his destined fate? (Salanter, pp. 112-113)
Man's chosen days of darkness, which is blindness to the Word, is also his chosen end of spiritual darkness. Choosing not to develop the Reverence of Adonai is to choose blindness, but because at first it is a "bitter pill," he chooses not to contemplate the future, judgment, and his need to prepare himself for an "evil day." (ibid, p. 113) He wants only to feel happy and cheerful, and studying the Torah all the way to its heart invokes periods of sobering, and sometimes even depressing, contemplation while the heart changes.
Rabbi Salanter, however, emphasizes that even though inner transformation is at first bitter, it turns sweet as honey in the end, which is the repeated description of the Torah in the Psalms.
John sees a vision of kings, peoples, nations, and tongues who decided on the sweetness of self-indulgence instead of the bitter pill of transformation emphasized in the little scroll of the Mishneh Torah, where one finds the Song of Moses.
Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, 'Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.'
So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, 'Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.' I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter
. And they said to me, 'You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.' (Re 10:8-11)
The process is reversed on the blind kings and people. What at first was sweet self-indulgence turns bitter in their stomachs, as John prophesies this. The Song of Moses in the little scroll has some joyous passages, but it is also full of judgments! Those from every nation, tribe, and tongue who worship Adonai with palm branches at the Heavenly Sukkot around the Throne are those who swallowed the bitter pill of mussar, as Rabbi Salanter wrote, "...one who studies Mussar will be happy with his portion and rejoice with trembling (cf. Tehillim 2:11), for his eyes will be opened..."
For the blind kings and foolish peoples hiding from the One who sits on the Throne in judgment and the wrath of His Lamb, Salanter quotes from the Pirkei Avot (4:29), "Against your will you die; and against your will you are destined to give an account before the King Who rules over kings, the Holy One, Blessed is He." (ibid, p. 113)
Following the closing of the gates at the conclusion of the Sixth Seal, which coincides with the closing of the Yom Kippur service, the breaking of the Seventh Seal follows:
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Re 8:1)
The stillness of Shabbat reigns in Heaven with the breaking of the Seventh, or Zayin, Seal. This silence also parallels the silence of the Hebrews while the Egyptian army was destroyed at the Reed Sea:
But Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation [yeshuat] of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you, and
you have only to be silent." (Ex 14:13-14)
The saints of Adonai stand still and await the destruction of "Egypt" with the breaking of the Seventh Seal. "You will never see them again," says Moses, prophesying of the final destruction of the Destroyer from Abaddon whose coming is like the sounds of horses and chariots prepared for battle. The clue in the Torah portion Shoftim is in the recall of the horses of Egypt in Deuteronomy 17:16:
Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, 'You shall never again return that way.'
Dark Horses, Dark Forces
It is not so apparent in a translation, but in Hebrew, the anomaly is apparent. At the beginning of the verse, "horses" [susim] appears in plural, many horses. The second use is rendered "horses" in English, but it is singular in Hebrew, "horse" [sus].
Why are Egypt's many horses reduced to just one horse in this Torah portion of Judges? In past newsletters, we looked at physical Egypt as a representation of a dark spiritual force, also called Egypt, just as there is both a physical and mystical Babylon. Israel is to be separated from the power of these physical entities just as she is to be separated from the dark spiritual forces of Egypt and Babylon. All the dark horses and forces of "Egypt" that are prepared for battle in Revelation work for their boss, King Abaddon, the angel of the dark abyss.
They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. (Re 9:11)
One day we will see that all the soldiers, chariots, and horses that chased Israel all boiled down to one king, Abaddon, which means Destroyer. There have been many horses and chariots over the millennia, but their king Abaddon is "the horse and his rider thrown into the sea":
Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said,
'I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse [sus, singular] and its rider [rokvo, singular] He has hurled into the sea.' (Ex 15:1)
Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, 'Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse [sus, singular] and his rider [rokvo, singular] He has hurled into the sea.' (Ex 15:20-21)
"The beast" of the abyss wants to kill the two witnesses, likely Moses and Elijah, who represent the Torah and the Prophets, and who prophesied Abaddon's defeat long ago.
The King of Resurrection
The beast has always wanted to control Israel, specifically Jerusalem, whether through apostates within Israel or conquering armies of foreigners. When the beast believes that he has been victorious, achieving the death of God's Word, he wants the bodies to lie in the street of Jerusalem to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are dead and there is no resurrection. For that reason, they lie in the street for 3 ½ days, a half-day beyond the designated time of resurrection for the Messiah:
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. (Re 11:7-10)
The celebration of death will be short, however, when the plan backfires. Yeshua was buried in a tomb, so it was easy for the Romans to lie and to say the body had been stolen, not resurrected. This time, however, the resurrection of those who speak with Yeshua is open for the world to see. Because the Lamb has overcome, so can the saints "Come up here." The beast, the horse and his rider, will be thrown into the sea: "The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation [yeshuah]!" (Ex 15:2)
The saints will be able to stand before the Throne with hope while the fools are judged for their evil works and thrown down with their king.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jd 1:24-25)
Deuteronomy was known as the Mishneh Torah until the late Middle Ages. It is not to be confused with a book by the same name written by the Jewish sage Maimonides.
Although chapters and verses are a man-made addition to Scripture, it is ironic that this particular verse is doubly marked with the number of Messiah, 14.