Qohl, Raam & Baraq: The VOICE of THUNDER and the flash of LIGHTNING

THUNDER/VOICE/SOUND: qohl. Masculine Noun. (Strong’s 6963)

TO THUNDER: raam. Verb. (Strong’s 7481).

LIGHTNING: baraq. Masculine Noun. (Strong’s 1300); Verb (Strong’s 1299).

Root: qohl קוֹל /raam רָעַם /barak בָּרָק 

Sounds like: koal, rah-awm, barawk

Thunder, Lightning & Creation

I think it’s safe to say that most humans are mesmerized by thunder and lightning. They are incredible forces of nature: mysterious, powerful, unpredictable, and somewhat scary. Some consider them to be almost primeval forces, which is fitting considering that the sound of thunder and the flash of lightning were images associated with the earliest moments of creation:

Psalm 104:5-9

He [YHWH] established the earth upon its foundations, so that it will not totter forever and ever. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled, at the sound of Your thunder [qohl ra’am’ka] they hurried away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth.

This passage was densely packed with rich imagery: the waters covered of the mountains, and at the sound of YHWH’s thunderous rebuke they rushed down towards the surface of the earth.  With one command from the rumbling voice of YHWH, creation responded.

Similarly Psalm 77 gave an image of tohu v’vohu, a wild wilderness, a land filled with chaotic waters, the sound of thunder from the sky and flashes of lightning that illuminated the the trembling earth: 

Psalm 77:16-18

The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were in anguish; the deeps also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth a sound [qohl]; Your arrows flashed here and there.

The sound of Your thunder [qohl ra’am’ka] was in the whirlwind; the lightnings [b’raqim] lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.

At the beginning of creations there was a sound in the sky and flashing arrows. In the next sentence the Psalmist elaborated; the sound was thunder and the arrows were lightning which lit up the earth. It was an audio-visual mega experience.

Job saw YHWH as a God of great details and an intricate planner of Creation:

Job 28:24-28

For He [YHWH] looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure, when He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt  [l-khaziz qoloht], then He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out. And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

According to Job, God was so detailed and caring about His creation that he even planned out the direction of each thunderbolt. Later YHWH replied to Job’s statement and facetiously asked… 

Job 38:24-29, 34-35

“Where is the way that the light is divided, or the east wind scattered on the earth? Who has cleft a channel for the flood, or a way for the thunderbolt [ [l-khaziz qoloht], to bring rain on a land without people, on a desert without a man in it, to satisfy the waste and desolate land and to make the seeds of grass to sprout? Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth? 

Can you lift up your voice [qohleka] to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you? Can you send forth lightnings [b’raqim] that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Only YHWH has control of all these aspects of creation; only He could lift His voice to the clouds and expect to get a response from shards of lightning. This conversation, in the book of Job, gave great credence to the awesome creating authority of YHWH.

Photo by phillmarley (Pixabay.com)

God’s Voice Like Thunder

Surprisingly, the Bible does not give us many descriptions of what God looks like, but we are gifted with a description of His voice. Elihu, Job’s mysterious young friend, described it:

Job 37:2-5

“Listen closely to the thunder raging of His voice [b-rogez qohloh], and the rumbling that goes out from His mouth. Under the whole heaven He lets it loose, and His lightning [light: w-owrow] to the ends of the earth.

After it, a voice [qohl] roars; He thunders [yar’em] with His majestic voice [b-qohl g’ohnoh], and He does not restrain [them] the lightnings when His voice [qohloh] is heard.

God thunders with His voice [yar’em El b-qohloh] wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend.

Elihu gave a great myriad of descriptive words… God’s voice raged [b-rogez], roared [yish’ag] and rumbled [w-hegeh]; His voice was majestic [g’ohnoh], and it thundered [yar’em]. 

Elihu’s description was very similar to David’s illustration of YHWH’s voice in Psalm 29:

Psalm 29:3-9

The voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders [hir’im], YHWH is over many waters.

The voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] is powerful, the voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] is majestic. The voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] breaks the cedars; yes, YHWH breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] hews out flames of fire. The voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] shakes the wilderness; YHWH shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of YHWH [qohl YHWH] makes the deer to calve and strips the forests bare; and in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

In many translations the noun qohl is a bit of a chameleon… it is sometimes voice, sometimes sound, and sometimes thunder, even though the Hebrew language already had a noun for thunder. Raam was thunder, itself, and qohl was the sound of thunder. Exodus 19 stands as a good example of passage that has used all three renderings of qohl:

Exodus 19:5-6a

YHWH: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice [b-qohli] and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Here YHWH was speaking to Moses and the Hebrew people at Mount Sinai. The people just needed to listen to God’s voice and they would become a great nation. Later in the passage the root word qohl (previously translated as voice) would be translated as “thunder” and “sound”:

Exodus 19:16-19

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes [qohlot u-v’raqim] and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound [w-qohl shofar], so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because YHWH descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet [qohl ha-shofar] grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder [v-qohl].

God answered Moses with thunder; His voice was synonymous with the great rumbling of an intense storm. Thunder and lightning appeared to be physical elements that surrounded the presence of God, emitting an overwhelming sense of awe and fear:

Exodus 20:18-21

All the people perceived the thunder [et ha-qohlot] and the lightning flashes [torches: w-et ha-lappidim] and the sound [w-et qohl] of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

YHWH’s thundering voice was meant to instil a great fearful respect for God… an unforgettable sound that would help them stay on the right path and away from sin.

Eve and Adam, upon hearing the voice of YHWH, certainly feared Him, but it was too late for they had already sinned. The first time qohl was used in the Bible Adam and Eve heard the sound/voice/thunder (qohl) of YHWH in the Garden, just after they ate from the forbidden tree:

Genesis 3:8-11

They heard the sound of YHWH [et qohl YHWH] God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHWH God among the trees of the garden. Then YHWH God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 

He said, “I heard the sound [et qohl’ka] of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 

And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”…

Just like an impetuous child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Eve and Adam hid themselves to escape punishment. Hearing God’s footsteps at the doorway of their hiding place would have been terrifying. By sound alone, they knew they would be facing the consequences of their actions in mere moments.

Even God described His voice as being like thunder. Speaking of Himself in third-person narrative, God asked Job:

Job 40:9

“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder [ta-r’em] with a voice [u-v-qohl] like His?”

God’s voice, sounding like thunder, was a prevalent description throughout the Bible. It makes one wonder why Yeshua (Jesus) chose to give the sons of Zebedee, James and John, the nickname “Sons of Thunder” (see Mark 3:17). At one point during their wanderings with Yeshua, James and John become indignant when Samaria won’t receive them into their town. The Sons of Thunder, perhaps trying to live up to their nickname, asked Yeshua, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54).

John, son of Zebedee, was likely (although some scholars argue this) the same John who wrote one of the Gospel accounts, a few letters, and the report of his Revelation (which certainly included many examples of thunder and lightning imagery). If this was our John, he certainly exercised his voice through writing.

James used his voice to glorify God in active ministry, but his voice of thunder led him to martyrdom by sword. He was one of the earliest disciples in the Messianic movement to be executed under the orders of Herod (see Acts 12:2).

Although YHWH used His voice frequently in the Tanakh, there are only a handful of examples in the New Testament when YHWH used His voice for all to hear. At Yeshua’s baptism, YHWH’s voice called out, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22), and at the transfiguration, YHWH’s voice came from heaven saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35).

In John’s Gospel, Yeshua (Jesus) was speaking to a crowd and suddenly became very blunt about His impending mission:

John 12:27-28

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”

Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 

Imagine what it would have been like to be in that crowd, listening to these very personal words of Yeshua, and hearing a rumbling response from the sky. John described the reaction of the crowd:

John 12:29

So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered [Greek: bronten]; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 

People weren’t actually sure what they heard, but the most common description was that a voice thundered. Regardless of the description, it had a dramatic impact on those present that day:

John 12:23-33

Jesus answered and said, This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. 

Yeshua didn’t need to hear YHWH’s words, but the people did. Yeshua was nearing the end of His ministry on earth and in not long afterwards He would be lifted up onto the cross to be the One Sacrifice to save the people.

He would go to the cross and in doing so, draw all humanity to Him. At the same time the ruler of this world, He said, would be cast out:

Luke 10:17-20

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 

And He said to them, I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning [Greek: astrapen]. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

Yeshua spoke of the Adversary (ha-Satan) falling like lightning… but a lightning strike was nothing to laugh at or dismiss. It was quite dangerous! The ruler of this world would be cast out of heaven and this world, but he wouldn’t go gently; he would go like a terrifying lightning storm.

The Confusion of Thunder

Thunder wasn’t only used as a description of God’s voice. Sometimes thunder storms were tools used by God to defend His people against the enemy. Perhaps the most memorable example was against Pharaoh. God called on Moses to lift his staff so that a hail storm would fall on Egypt:

Exodus 9:23-24

Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and YHWH sent thunder and hail [qohlot u-varad], and fire ran down to the earth. And YHWH rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation…

The storm was certainly convincing. Pharaoh begged Moses to make it stop:

Exodus 9:27-28

…Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time; YHWH is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. Make supplication to YHWH, for there has been enough of God’s thunder [qoloht Elohim] and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” 

Although Moses agreed to his request, he also sensed Pharaoh’s insincerity:

Exodus 9:29-30, 33-34

Moses said to him, “As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to YHWH; the thunder [ha-qoloht] will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is YHWH’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear YHWH God.” 

…So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to YHWH and the thunder [ha-qohlot] and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder [w-ha-qoloht] had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 

Over and over, Pharaoh made a promise to let them go, and then over and over he refused… until the final plague put a nail in the coffin of his own son. 

Centuries later Hannah sung a song thanking YHWH for healing her barrenness and blessing her with a son. In the song she announced that YHWH would thunder from the heavens and the wicked would be shut down:

1 Samuel 2:9-10

“He [YHWH] keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.

Those who contend with YHWH will be shattered; against them He will thunder [yar’em] in the heavens, YHWH will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.

Years later Hannah’s son, Samuel, would be with his fellow Israelites in the heat of the battle against the Philistines, and YHWH would use thunder, like a great voice, to help them:

1 Samuel 7:10-12

Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But YHWH thundered [wa-yarem] with a great thunder/voice [b-qol gadol] on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer [Eben=Stone, Ezer=Help], saying, “Thus far YHWH has helped us.” 

YHWH used thunder and lightning to confuse the enemies. In a song of victory, David recalled the time when YHWH’s voice thundered and scattered His enemies:

2 Samuel 22:14-15, 18-19 [see also Psalm 18]

YHWH thundered [yar’em] from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice [qohloh]. And He sent out arrows, and scattered them, lightning [baraq], and routed them… He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but YHWH was my support.”

Weapons of Lightning

YHWH used thunder to confuse the enemies and his weapons were like lightning. In Ezekiel there was a lightning sword of judgement:

Ezekiel 21:9-10a, 15b, 28

“Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says YHWH.’ Say, ‘A sword, a sword sharpened and also polished! Sharpened to make a slaughter, polished to flash like lightning [baraq]!’ 

…I have given the glittering sword. Ah! It is made for striking like lightning [l-baraq], it is wrapped up in readiness for slaughter

…And you, son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord YHWH concerning the sons of Ammon and concerning their reproach,’ and say: ‘A sword, a sword is drawn, polished for the slaughter, to cause it to consume, that it may be like lightning [baraq].’”

In Ezekiel, it was a lightning sword, in Habakkuk the weapon was a lightning spear:

Habakkuk 3:9b-13

You cleaved the earth with rivers. The mountains saw You and quaked; the downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice [qohlo], it lifted high its hands.

Sun and moon stood in their places; they went away at the light of Your arrows, at the radiance of Your gleaming [lightning: b’raq] spear. In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations. 

You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.

YHWH did not trample the nations for sport, He went forth for the salvation of His people and His Messiah (Anointed). He struck the head of the house of evil with lightning to elevate and illuminate the house of YHWH.

Ezekiel had a lightning sword, Habakkuk had a lightning spear, and Zechariah spoke of arrows like lightning, to set the prisoners free!

Zechariah 9:11-12, 14-15a, 16

YHWH: As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you…

…Then YHWH will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning [ka-baraq khitzoh]; and the Lord YHWH will blow the trumpet, and will march in the storm winds of the south. YHWH of hosts will defend them

…And YHWH their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people; for they are as the stones of a crown, sparkling in His land.”

Thunder, Lightning and Prophetic Visions

Thunder and lightning also played a significant role in the visions of prophets. In the New Testament, the book of John’s Revelation put thunder and lightning together at least four times (Revelation 4:5, 8:5, 11:19 & 16:18).

Revelation 4:1-5a

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder.

John went on to describe four living creatures: one like a lion, one like a calf, one like a man and one like a flying eagle:

Revelation 4:8

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, Holy, holy, holy is YHWH God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.

John’s vision was very similar to two Old Testament prophetic visions: both Isaiah and Ezekiel envisioned themselves in the throne room of YHWH.

In Isaiah’s vision the throne room was filled with Seraphim, saying, 

Isaiah 6:3-4, 8

Holy, Holy, Holy, is YHWH of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice [mi-qohl] of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke… Then I heard the voice of the Lord [qohl Adonai], saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” 

Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

When Adonai asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”, Isaiah did not hesitate to answer the call of YHWH’s commanding voice… a voice that undoubtedly sounded like a thunderous roar.

Ezekiel’s vision was also very similar to John’s Revelation:

Ezekiel 1:4-6, 10, 13-14

As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings… As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle

…In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning [baraq] was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning [ha-bazaq]

Like Isaiah and John, Ezekiel also was faced with winged heavenly creatures in his vision, and they made quite a sound:

Ezekiel 1:4-6, 10, 13-14, 24

I also heard the sound [et qohl] of their wings like the sound [k-qohl] of abundant waters as they went, like the voice/thunder of the Almighty [k-qohl Shaddai], a sound [qohl] of tumult like the sound [k-qohl] of an army camp.

Lightning Illumination

In visions and dreams, and in battlefields and mountain ranges, thunder was YHWH’s voice and lightning illuminated His awesome presence.

Psalm 97:1-5

YHWH reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about.

His lightnings [baraqaw] lit up the world; the earth saw and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of YHWH, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

YHWH’s lightnings lit up the whole world! Yeshua may have had Psalm 97 in mind when he dropped this announcement on his disciples:

Luke 17:24-25 (see also Matthew 24:27)

“For just like the lightning [Greek:astrape], when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

Yeshua was making quite a statement here. He would light up the sky, from one side to the other, but first he would have to suffer and be rejected by His own people.

Although His light would go far and wide, Yeshua made it clear that followers of YHWH would also be illuminators of YHWH’s reflection within themselves:

Luke 11:33-36

“No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays [Greek: astrape].”

The Greek word astrape, listed here as “Rays”, was generally translated as lightning in most other passages.

Appearance Like Lightning 

Along with the audible thundering voice, the lightning weapons, and the bright illuminations, the appearance of heavenly beings were also described using lightning imagery. Daniel’s heavenly guide had an appearance of lightning:

Daniel 10:4-6

On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning [baraq], his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound [w-qohl] of his words like the sound [k-qohl] of a tumult.

This was no ordinary man standing on the riverside. Creatures from the heavenly dimensions were consistently described as brightly lit, glowing, gleaming, flaming, and like lightning”.

At the event known as the transfiguration, Yeshua became white and gleaming. This  was the only time this Greek word, exastrapton (gleaming), was used in the New Testament. Within the Greek word, exastrapton, was the word for lightning, astrape.

Luke 9:28-31, 35-36

…He [Jesus] took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming [Greek: exastrapton]. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem

…Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.

Yeshua, gleaming like lightning, was reminiscent of Moses’ glowing face after being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35). After Yeshua discussed His mission in Jerusalem, with Moses and Elijah, God announced that Yeshua was His Chosen One; He was the Mashiach (Messiah) who would be lifted up on the cross and sacrificed for the sins of all humankind.

At his death Yeshua’s own voice thundered from the cross:

Matthew 27:45-51

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 

Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

According to John’s account of the crucifixion, Yeshua said the following before He yielded up His spirit:

John 19:30

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Yeshua’s final moments on the cross were almost identically represented in John’s Revelation:

Revelation 16:17-18

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 

After Yeshua’s death, and burial, Mary and Mary (in Matthew’s account) came to look after His grave. They were met with an awesome sight:

Matthew 28:1-7 (see also Luke 24:1-8)

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning [astrape], and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

Listen to the Thunder; Shine like Lightning

YHWH sounded like thunder and heavenly beings shone like glittering balls of lightning. This is an image we can grab onto. We’ve all seen and heard thunderstorms and they invoke feelings of awe and reverence. Really though, what God looks like and what His voice sounds like is irrelevant. What’s important is that we seek out the heart of YHWH, we listen to His voice and we obey His commands.

Psalm 103:19-20

YHWH has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. Bless YHWH, you His angels [messengers], mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice [b-qohl] of His word!

Next time you enjoy the sounds and sights of a lightning storm from the safety of your home, remember the awesomeness of your God. Listen to His voice, be His messengers, and light up the world!

Next week: crown

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