Did you know that nearly 2000 years when Yeshua paid the price for our sins (thus reconciling us to YHWH), there was a wall built around the house of YHWH which prevented gentiles, on pain of death, from approaching the presence of God. That’s correct, at that time Gentiles were tough out of luck. The apostle Paul described it this way:
…That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: (Ephesians 2:12)
But something happened that famous Passover week which changed the history of the world and gave the Gentiles the privilege to approach the presence of YHWH. This week let’s look at how Yeshua’s death and resurrection forever changed the dynamics of how mankind approaches their Creator. This Passover season I hope to give you another way of seeing the love and mercy YHWH showed mankind by becoming our Yeshua (Salvation of YA).The following is a excerpt from my book The 13th Enumeration: Key to the Bible’s Messianic Symbolism.
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” —Ephesians 2:12–14
If I’ve accomplished my purpose in writing about the 13th Enumeration, by now you’ve recognized the Messianic symbolism associated with the numbers 13 and 14 as found in the biblical record. These “Messiah factors,” as I like to call them, are like a prophetic thread woven into the Bible’s fabric which shows YHWH’s desire to reconcile mankind to Himself through Yeshua, the Messiah promised in the Scripture from the very beginning.
In this final chapter, I would like to look at one last aspect of the Messiah factors as they relate to the Second Temple era, that exciting time when the Jewish people returned from Babylonian exile to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem. By all accounts, the Second Temple, as finally reconstructed by Herod, was a truly impressive structure. So impressive, in fact, that we find in Mark 13 one of Yeshua’s disciples commenting on its grandeur. It’s beyond doubt that the temple was important to the Jewish people, but is it also possible that within its design were hidden the symbols of the Messiah’s redemptive purpose? I believe so; see what you think.
The Number 13 in Jewish Thought
It may come as a surprise to some, but Jewish thought does not attach the same negative superstition to the number 13 as does the rest of the world. In fact, 13 finds great prominence in Rabbinic traditions related to both the Torah and the Second Temple.
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, better known to some as Maimonides, lived in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. He summarized the Jewish faith with 13 principles. His 13th principle is the belief in resurrection of the dead:
I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, Blessed be His name, and His mention shall be exalted for ever and ever. (Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah)
In the Babylonian Talmud (the rabbinic writings that help explain the Torah), the number 13 is featured prominently, especially as it relates to the Torah and the temple service. Here are a few examples:
Circumcision is mentioned 13 times in the Torah, and is in consequence regarded as the 13-fold commandment.
- There were 13 trumpet-shaped chests for offering in the temple court of the women.
- The 13th trumpet was for the free will offering
- The priests made 13 prostrations in the sanctuary. During the days of Gamaliel and Hananiah, 14 prostrations were made.
- 13 prostrations were made toward the 13 gates of the temple. A 14th was made toward the wood chamber because it was believed the ark of the covenant was hidden there.
- There were 13 tables in the sanctuary.
- There were 13 kinds of mercy attributed to YHWH.
- In a leap year, there are 13 lunar months.
- There are 13 public and general fasts.
- The land of Israel will be divided among 13 tribes, with the 13th portion going to the “Prince of Israel . . . whom men of all the tribes will serve . . .”
(The Babylonian Talmud, Annotated. The Publication Society of America 1895. Kindle Edition.)
Fascinating, isn’t it? The number 13 and even 14 underlies the temple service in rabbinic thought as well as future Messianic expectations and the division of Israel.
And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Mark 13:1–2)
Yeshua’s disciples were understandably surprised by Yeshua’s statement and asked him when this destruction would take place. I think it is important to realize that the disciples were still under the impression that Yeshua was going to usher in the Messianic era in their generation. They did not quite grasp that He first had to become a suffering servant, the 13th Enumeration, the atonement sacrifice described in Isaiah 53. Only after that could He become the conquering king, the 14th Enumeration, to rule from the throne of David as described in Joel 3, Isaiah 9, and numerous other places in the biblical record.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of YHWH of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6–7)
YHWH also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but YHWH will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am YHWH your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. (Joel 3:16–17)
Not only did Yeshua’s disciples fail to grasp the necessity of the first and second comings of the Messiah, but they did not yet understand that this delay was so that the Gentiles might also be added to the family of YHWH. After all, YHWH had promised Abraham that through his “seed,” the Messiah, all nations of the earth would be blessed:
And the angel of YHWH called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith YHWH, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:15–19)
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (Romans 11:25–26)
But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. (Acts 3:18)
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:28)
A Pause in the Temple Era
Forty years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the temple service came to an end and the Jewish people were scattered. The apostle Paul makes it clear that this interruption in YHWH’s dealings with Israel is only temporary, but more importantly, it is part of YHWH’s plan to reconcile the whole world through Yeshua the Messiah:
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew . . . I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (Romans 11:1–15)
Just as in the first century many Jewish believers had no concept of the Gentiles’ inclusion into the covenants and promises given to Israel, today many Gentiles believe the “church” has replaced Israel in that ancient covenantal relationship YHWH made with the seed of Abraham. The apostle Paul explains why this is not correct:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (Romans 11:25–32)
A House of Prayer for All People
In keeping with the New Testament idea that someday both Jew and Gentile will be part of the same olive tree, Isaiah prophesied that at a future date, the house of YHWH would be a place of prayer for both Jews and Gentiles:
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to YHWH, to serve him, and to love the name of YHWH, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord YHWH which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. (Isaiah 56:6–8)
The Middle Wall of Partition
That Isaiah is speaking to a yet-future time when the house of YHWH will be a place of “prayer for all people” is proven by the fact that during the Second Temple era, Gentiles were prohibited under pain of death from entering the temple proper. This is the “middle wall of partition” that Paul talked about in Ephesians 2:13–14 (yes, you read those verse numbers right). That this wall actually existed was proven in 1871 when an engraved limestone block was found in the ruins of Jerusalem. Inscribed in Greek upon the block were these words:
NO FOREIGNER IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR HIS DEATH WHICH WILL FOLLOW
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus also described the wall of partition:
When you go through these [first] cloisters, to the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all around, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary.” (The Jewish War 5:193–194)
You see, during the time Yeshua walked this earth, any person of non-Jewish origins who passed through this wall, even a Roman citizen, was to be put to death. This wall effectively separated the Gentiles from the presence of YHWH.
With His death and resurrection, Yeshua’s blood removed the necessity for sacrificial atonement, but it also reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to YHWH. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Take the time to read below the full context of Paul’s words, for in a moment I will explain how this passage is one of the most stunning examples of Messianic symbolism as exemplified by the Messiah factors.
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [verse 13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.[verse 14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in YHWH: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11–22)
The Messiah Factors in the Middle Wall of Partition
Way back when YHWH first made His covenant with Abram (Abraham), He promised that the Gentiles were to be blessed by the promised “seed.” As Paul described in Ephesians 2, both Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to YHWH through Yeshua, that promised seed. How awesome, then, to learn that during the Second Temple era the “middle wall of partition”— that great obstacle to the presence of YHWH—was accessed by 14 steps and 13 gates. Yes, the very design of the temple showed that Yeshua would become the mediator, the means by which all mankind would someday have access to YHWH, the living God of the Bible!
When you go through these [first] cloisters, to the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all around, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary,” and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court. (Josephus, The Jewish War 5:193–195, emphasis mine)
In what direction were the prostrations made? Four towards the north, four towards the south, three towards the east, and two towards the occident; i.e., towards the thirteen gates. (The Babylonian Talmud, Annotated. The Publication Society of America 1895. Kindle Edition, loc. 13277, emphasis mine.)
There were thirteen curved chests and thirteen tables in the Sanctuary, and thirteen prostrations took place in the Sanctuary. The family of R. Gamaliel and of R. Hananiah, chief of the priests, made fourteen prostrations; this extra prostration was made towards the wood-chamber, because, according to an ancestral tradition, the ark was hidden there. (The Babylonian Talmud, Annotated. The Publication Society of America 1895. Kindle Edition, loc. 13256, emphasis mine.)
The price has been paid, the veil rent, and the obstacles removed so that mankind may once again approach the presence of YHWH. All that is required now is a simple act of faith. Will you take the first step?
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” —Hebrews 10:19–23
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” —Ephesians 2:8–9
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