A Hidden Truth About God’s Character

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The Torah Portion this week is Ki Tisa – Exodus 30:10 – 34:35. This is also one of the four special Sabbaths and it is called “Shabbat Para” – Shabbat of the Cow, the Red Heifer. The additional portion of the Torah is read from Numbers 19:1-22. It is the story of the Red Heifer (a red cow) that has a special function in all the issues of ritual purity and the purification from leprosy.

From the prophets the reading is from 1 Kings 18:1-39, Elijah’s ordeal on top of Mount Carmel and also an additional reading from Ezekiel 36:16-38. From the New Testament the reading is from 2 Corinthians 3:1-18. Every one of the readings on this Shabbat is very important and very interesting.

I want to discuss this very special revelation that the Lord Himself reveals to Moses, while Moses is standing on the rock. I believe that this text from Exodus 34:5-7 is a key to understanding God Himself, His character and nature. For me personally understanding the Lord and how He works with humans and especially with Israel is most interesting and the most revealing. Here is the text :

“And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.’ So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’” – Exodus 33:18 – 34:7 [NKJV]

This text is very important, but for those of us who believe that Yeshua is the Word of God and that the Word of God is God, from the Gospel of John chapter 1, this text is a key for understanding what is going on in John chapter 1:1-17.

Let us note from the text in Exodus 33:18, Moses asks to see God, the Lord tells Moses that no man can see His face and live, but He will make His goodness pass before Moses and the Lord’s name will be revealed to Moses. Moses will stand on the rock and God will reveal to Moses His mercy.

First Moses is to cut two new tablets of stone (the second set) and come up the mountain and stand on the Rock and, “I will put you in the cleft of the rock and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” Moses goes up onto the rock and the Lord passes by and Moses sees the back of God and hears this very important proclamation: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,”

Now there are a few notes that I want to point out from this text:

First, in God’s self-proclamation there is no judgment or condemnation.

Second, He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…

And third – here comes the problem. In the Hebrew text it says the following: “rahum v’hanun erech apayim v’rav hesed v’emet”, meaning, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and full of grace and truth.”

In the Christian translations in place of “grace and truth”, it says, “abounding in goodness and truth.” This is the pattern in most Christian translations. The phrase “grace and truth” in the Old Testament appears zero times.

This phrase appears only twice, and both times are in the Gospel of John chapter 1, verses 14 and 17. In most Christian translations of the Old Testament, the phrase “grace and truth” does not appear at all, not even in this source, in Exodus 34:5,6.

The Hebrew text of the Tanach has the following places where the phrase, “Grace and Truth” appears clearly:

Genesis 24:27, 49; 47:29; Exodus 34:6; Joshua 2:14; 2 Samuel 2:6; 15:20; 1 Kings 3:6; Isaiah 16:5; Hosea 4:1; Micah 7:20; Zechariah 7:9; Psalms 25:10; 26:3; 40:11,12; 57:4, 11; 61:8; 69:14; 85:11; 86:15; 89:15; 108:5; 115:1; 117:2; 138:2; and Proverbs 3:3; 14:22; 16:6; 20:28.

Let me just give you a few tangible examples from the above list:

“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…’” – Exodus 34:6 [NKJV]

“And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.” – 2 Samuel 2:6 [NKJV]

“Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.” – Psalm 85:10 [NKJV]

“In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.” – Proverbs 16:6 [NKJV]

You can see that in the New King James Version in Proverbs the translators come close to translate “grace and truth”, but they still use a different word for grace. A synonym – “mercy”.

Why do the Christian translators work so hard to mask the phrase “grace and truth”? The reason is simple. A misunderstanding of John 1:14,17.

If “grace and truth” came from Jesus Christ, how could “grace and truth” exist in the Torah and in the Old Testament? So, the easiest thing to do is mask/hide/camouflage the original Hebrew phrase with synonyms and the untrained eye. And those who don’t know Hebrew and don’t read the Old Testament will never know that grace and truth are from deep within God’s nature and character.

There are other words that are hidden from the Hebrew text and by tendentious translation. The chief of these words is the word “gospel” that in Hebrew is “besorah” (“evangelium” in Greek).

In English the same word is translated in the Old Testament as “good news”, and in the New Testament the same word is translated with a non-English word – “gospel”. The word “gospel” is specially adopted from the Celtic and Germanic languages: “Gotspil”, meaning “God’s story”.

The result is that you don’t find the word “good news” in the New Testament, and you don’t find the word “gospel” in the Old Testament.

John chapter 1 is actually a classic midrash (rabbinical-style teaching or interpretation of biblical text) of Exodus 33:18 – 34:7. It is easy to see the two major common elements in the text: who has seen God, and grace and truth.

One more comment on the Red Heifer (from Numbers 19) – it was sacrificed outside the camp. The text from the book of Hebrews chapter 13, is a reference to Yeshua being like the Red Heifer sacrificed outside the camp (the city), like the Red Heifer, and now there is no longer a place for our purification inside the camp, so we, like Yeshua, have to go outside the camp to find our purification from sin.

“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” – Hebrews 13:10-14 [NKJV]

This idea is that we must follow Yeshua our Lord and if necessary be willing as His disciples to go outside the camp in order to stay with Yeshua and in solidarity, in order to fulfill the need to be purified.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.