Katav: The WRITE Stuff

WRITE: katav, verb (3789); WRITING: ketav, masculine noun (3791).

Root: כתב

Sounds like: kah’tahv

When I was in grade 7 I told my teacher that I was going to be a writer of novels. That did not happen. I did co-author the history of a local PEI town (Opening Doors to the Past: the Life and Times of Borden-Carleton, Vol.II)… but my great Canadian novel never materialized. Instead I became a library technician at an academic library. I may not have written the books, but I am surrounded by them. 

I think my first employment dream sprouted from the fact that my grandfather, Bruce Marshall Fisher (pseudonym Lee Marsh) was a mystery short story writer. He had his stories published in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen magazines and I thought that was the epitome of coolness. Creating characters and stories for a living sounded like a great job, but somehow the dream faded away from me. Life took its course and I travelled down many roads. On one of those paths I began to learn Hebrew and, as dramatic as it sounds, it changed the course of my life!

Three years ago, in an effort to get Hebrew vocabulary to stick in my brain, I decided to start blogging about Hebrew words. Without even realizing it, I fulfilled my dream of becoming a writer. HebrewWordLesson’s first posting was on October 15, 2017, and one-hundred and fifty-nine postings later, here we are!

The writing of the Bible is a fascinating study. In some Biblical books and letters the author tells us who they are. Some books are attributed to people because God tells them, within the narrative, to write. And then there are some books where the author is a complete mystery. The book of Job is one such book. The age of the book is debatable and there is no clear author listed. In a fun twist, Job himself wished that his words were immortalized in a book:

Job 19:23-25

[Job:] Oh that my words were written [w-yikat’vun]! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”

Job wanted it on record that his Redeemer was a living God who would stand victorious alongside His creation. The writer of the book of Job fulfilled Job’s wishes.

YHWH said, “Write!”

The Bible did not write itself. Every book of the Bible had a writer (or writers). Within the text we actually get glimpses of how and why the Bible came to be written. The first time this happened was after the Hebrew people, with the help of YHWH’s divine intervention, defeated the Amalekites. After the defeat, YHWH said to Moses:

Exodus 17:14

Write [k’tohv] this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 

And later, after YHWH outlined some social ordinances, we read that…

Exodus 24:3-4a

…Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of YHWH and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which YHWH has spoken we will do!” Moses wrote [wai-yik’tov] down all the words of YHWH. 

This was the second mention of writing the Bible, found in the Bible. The first was a writing of a memorial event, the second was the writing of laws. The third instance where God commissioned Moses to write, was the writing of a song.

When Moses was about to die, God warned him that eventually all the people would turn away from YHWH and turn towards evil. When that happened God would turn His face away from them. As a witness to that inevitability, YHWH then commissioned Moses to write a song as a prophetic warning:

Deuteronomy 31:19, 22

“Now therefore, write [kit’vu] this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel.” …So Moses wrote [wai-yik’tohv] this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel.

That song was recorded in Deuteronomy 32 and it included a great promise:

Deuteronomy 32:36-39

“For YHWH will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free.

And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your hiding place!

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.’”

YHWH would vindicate His people and He would redeem them. He wanted it on record that they would fall, but He would raise them up. 

The prophet Isaiah was also commissioned by YHWH to write: 

Isaiah 30:8-9

[YHWH to Isaiah:] Now go, write it [kat’vah] on a tablet before them and inscribe it on a scroll, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever. For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of YHWH.

Writing did not just capture a memory; in the form of prophecy it stood as a witness to God’s fulfillment of His intricate plans. 

The prophet Habakkuk also recorded his commission from YHWH to write:

Habakkuk 2:2-4

Then YHWH answered me and said, “Record [Write: k’tohv] the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.”

YHWH had a goal and it would not fail. He would save the people from their enslavement to sin. He would send a Saviour to redeem them. It was the epic story of the Bible: the humans had been exiled out of the Garden and left to wander in the wilderness, but YHWH would send a Messiah (an Anointed One) who would sacrifice Himself and pay the price. With this sacrifice we could overcome our sin, and our covenant with death, and face YHWH in the Garden once again.

This beautiful, tumultuous, epic adventure of humanity started with the Torah and concluded when Jesus commissioned John to write down his vision (revelation):

Revelation 1:17-19

When I saw Him [Jesus], I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Therefore write [Greek: grapson] the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”

At the end of John’s recorded vision he concluded the Biblical narrative with a victorious ending:

Revelation 21:1-7

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write [Greek: Grapson], for these words are faithful and true.” 

Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”

These writings created tangible objects (scrolls) that illuminated God’s glory; and these objects could be read and re-read, over and over, as they have been for centuries. The word of the Bible was commissioned from beginning to the end, and it was faithful and true. God wanted people to write and read and worship Him with the use of literacy.

Writing Words of Truth

This phrase, words of truth can be found all over the Bible, and there is a special emphasis on the writing of those words:

Proverbs 22:17-21

[David:] Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in YHWH, I have taught you today, even you.

Have I not written to you [ha-lo katav’ti l’ka]  excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you?

David’s son Solomon, who called himself The Preacher (Qohelet), also put emphasis on the importance of writing words of truth:

Ecclesiastes 12:9-10

In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write [w-katuv] words of truth correctly.

In the book of Daniel we are introduced to a very detailed prophecy. Before describing the prophetic vision, Daniel’s divine guide said, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth [bik’tav emet](Daniel 10:21a). After describing a time of great distress the guide went on to say, everyone who is found written in the book [katuv ba-sefer], will be rescued.” (Daniel 12:1b).

Written in the Book

Daniel’s guide mentioned the Book which listed the names of all those who would be rescued. Sometimes this book is given the title the Book of Life or the Book of Remembrance.

In one of David’s Psalms, he expressed his feeling of drowning under the weight of his enemies. He called on God to remove His enemies from the Book of Life:

Psalm 69:16-17, 27-28

[David:] Answer me, O YHWH, for Your lovingkindness is good; according to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me, and do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in distress; answer me quickly…

…Add iniquity to their iniquity, and may they not come into Your righteousness. May they be blotted out of the Book of Life and may they not be recorded [not be written: al  yikatevu] with the righteous.

Being written in the register was a common phrase in the Bible. There was a register taken of those who could serve in Israel’s army (Numbers 1:3, 2 Samuel 24:2)), there was an Israelite general census (Exodus 30:12), there was the register of the house of Israel (Ezekiel 13:9), and there was a written genealogical register of those who had left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 7:5). But the greatest registered list of people was a divine list… YHWH’s book. 

When Hebrew people turned against God and began to worship idols, Moses begged YHWH to forgive them:

Exodus 32:31-34

Then Moses returned to YHWH, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written [katav’ta]!” 

YHWH said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

Boldly Moses went so far as to say, if you won’t forgive them, blot Me out from Your book! This book was written by YHWH and it was an account of His people. It was a register distinguishing the righteous from the wicked. The righteous were YHWH’s:

Malachi 3:16-18

Then those who feared YHWH spoke to one another, and YHWH gave attention and heard it, and a Book of Remembrance was written [wai-yikatev] before Him for those who fear YHWH and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” says YHWH of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

David also recorded the song which identified that The Book wasn’t just a list of names, it was a book of days, outlining the life of each recorded individual:

Psalm 139:13-17

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written [yikatevu] the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Jeremiah and the Writing Process

One of the most interesting sections in the Bible, which gives us a hint about how the Bible was written, is found in the book of Jeremiah. Here we are given a glimpse into the process of writing the Scriptures:

Jeremiah 36:1-7

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from YHWH, saying, Take a scroll and write [w-katav’ta] on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote [wai-yik’tov] on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of YHWH which He had spoken to him. 

Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, “I am restricted; I cannot go into the house of YHWH. So you go and read from the scroll which you have written [katav’ta] at my dictation the words of YHWH to the people in YHWH’s house on a fast day. And also you shall read them to all the people of Judah who come from their cities. Perhaps their supplication will come before YHWH, and everyone will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and the wrath that YHWH has pronounced against this people.”

After reading to the people of Judah, Baruch was accosted by the officials and they demanded that Baruch read the scroll to them:

Jeremiah 36:16-18

When they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one to another and said to Baruch, “We will surely report all these words to the king.” And they asked Baruch, saying, “Tell us, please, how did you write [katav’ta] all these words? Was it at his dictation?” 

Then Baruch said to them, “He dictated all these words to me, and I wrote [kotev] them with ink on the book.” 

Jehudi then went to the king and read him the scroll:

Jeremiah 36:22-23

Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him. When Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 

King Jehoiakim did not like the fact that Jeremiah was claiming that his kingdom would be destroyed by the Babylonians. This was not the kind of message he wanted his subjects to hear, and by burning the scrolls he thought he was protecting himself. After king Jehoiakim destroyed the first scroll, YHWH said to Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 36:28

Take again another scroll and write [u-k’tohv] on it all the former words that were on the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned.“

Essentially YHWH instructed Jeremiah to write a second edition, which also contained new content. This is the edition that we have in our Bibles (which included the story of how the first edition was destroyed).

The penalty for burning the word of God, was severe:

Jeremiah 36:30-32 (see also Jeremiah 51:60-64)

‘Therefore thus says YHWH concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them—but they did not listen.”’

Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neriah, the scribe, and he wrote [wai-yik’tov] on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.

In a later passage, Jeremiah wrote a list of all the terrible things that would come upon Babylon:

Jeremiah 51:60-64

So Jeremiah wrote [wai’yik’tov] in a single scroll all the calamity which would come upon Babylon, that is, all these words which have been written [ha-k’tuvim] concerning Babylon. 

Then Jeremiah said to Seraiah, “As soon as you come to Babylon, then see that you read all these words aloud, and say, ‘You, O YHWH, have promised concerning this place to cut it off, so that there will be nothing dwelling in it, whether man or beast, but it will be a perpetual desolation.’ And as soon as you finish reading this scroll, you will tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, and say, ‘Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her; and they will become exhausted.’” Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

As instructed by Jeremiah, Seraiah would read this scroll to the Babylonians, and then use the scroll as an object lesson. It would be thrown into the Euphrates river as a symbol of the future sinking of Babylon. Other than the mention of this list, we are not privy to its content. It was written and then thrown into the river… it’s words lost to the harshness of water and time.

YHWH, Himself, claimed that every prophecy that Jeremiah wrote down would be fulfilled… including the prophecy that Babylonian exile of the Israelite people would one day come to an end. One day they would return to Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 25:12-13 (see also Jeremiah 45)

[YHWH:] ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares YHWH, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation. I will bring upon that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book [kal ha-katuv ba-sefer] which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations.’ 

Jeremiah prophesied, and dictated it to his scribe, Baruch. Baruch recorded the prophecy, and YHWH fulfilled it. 

God Writes

God didn’t just commission others to write; sometimes He wrote things down Himself, most famously, The The Commandments:

Exodus 31:18 (see also Exodus 24:12, and Deuteronomy 9:10)

When He [YHWH] had finished speaking with him [Moses] upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God [k’tuvim b-etz’ba Elohim].

Exodus 32:15-16

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written [ketuvim] on both sides; they were written [ketuvim] on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing [w-ha-mik’tav] was God’s writing [mik’tav] engraved on the tablets.

After the tablets were broken as a result of Moses’ anger (see Exodus 32:19), YHWH agreed to write out His words on a new set of stone tablets:

Exodus 34:1

Now YHWH said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write [w-katav’ti] on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. 

Moses added to these new tablets the words of the covenant between YHWH and His chosen people:

Exodus 34:27-28

…Then YHWH said to Moses, “Write [k’tav] down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote [wai-yik’tohv] on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments was not the only instance where the finger of God made an inscription. Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, held a great feast and pulled out the golden vessels from the Temple that his father had plundered from the Israelites. The king, his friends, his wives and concubines, all drank from these sacred vessels at a lavish party.

Daniel 5:5-6

Suddenly [at the party] the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing [Aramaic: w-kat’vahn] opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing [Aramaic: kat’vah]. Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together.

Eventually Daniel was called upon to interpret the startling event.

Daniel 5:23-28, 30-31

[Daniel to Belshazzar:] “…but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written [Aramaic: u-k’tava] out.

Now this is the inscription that was written [k’tava] out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.” …That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.

The finger of God wrote out the fate of Belshazzar on the wall. He would not live to feast again.

Image by zofiaEliyahu (Pixabay.com)

Writing the Law (Torah)

The writing of the Law [Torah] of YHWH provided essential spiritual nourishment for the Hebrew people and any leader of the people should put special emphasis on it significance. At the crux of successful leadership was the veneration of YHWH’s Law [Torah]:

Deuteronomy 17:14, 18-20

“When you enter the land which YHWH your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me.’

…Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write [w-katav] for himself a copy of this law [ha-torah] on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear YHWH his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” 

Moses has traditionally been identified as the writer of the Torah (first five books of the Bible), but Joshua also was credited in the Bible as a writer of the book of the law of God.

We find this announcement in the story where Joshua warned the people that they would likely someday fail in their allegiance to God. The people disagreed:

Joshua 24:21-28

The people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve YHWH.” 

Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves YHWH, to serve Him.” 

And they said, “We are witnesses.” 

“Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to YHWH, the God of Israel.” 

The people said to Joshua, “We will serve YHWH our God and we will obey His voice.” 

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote [wai-yik’tohv] these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of YHWH. Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of YHWH which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.” Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

Centuries later the prophet Samuel also wrote laws in “the book”:

1 Samuel 10:25

Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote  [wai-yik’tohv] them in the book and placed it before YHWH. And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house.

Both Joshua and Samuel dismissed, or sent people away, after they were done announcing the law. The law was the final say; there was no more to be said.

Yeshua and the Writings of the Tanakh

Yeshua (Jesus) took great comfort in the Law and quoted it significantly. He declared that he would become the fulfillment of the Law:

Matthew 5:17-18

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

After His death and resurrection Yeshua came back to His disciples and announced that he had fulfilled what was written in the Tanakh. The TaNaKh is an acronym standing for Ta Torah/Law), Na (Nevi’im/Prophets) and Kh (Ketuvim/Writings). These three groupings contained all the writings of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), and what we call the Old Testament. Yeshua announced that He fulfilled every part of the Old Testament:

Luke 24:44-48

“These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written [Greek: gegrammena] about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written [Greek: gegraptai], that the Messiah would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Writing Letters

Many of the witnesses in the New Testament (John, Peter, James, Paul) wrote letters to communities sharing Yeshua’s message of salvation. Out of the 27 books in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament), 21 were letters. Letter writing was also a very popular form of communication in the Ancient Near East:

  • David wrote a letter to Joab to get him to put Bathsheba’s husband on the front lines of battle (in order to have him killed) (2 Samuel 11:14-15).
  • Jezebel wrote letters in her husband’s name in order to have Naboth killed (1 Kings 21:8-14)
  • Jehu wrote a letters to plan king Ahab’s demise (2 Kings 10:1-7)
  • Hezekiah wrote letters to invite the people of Israel and Judah to come and celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:1-9)
  • The Assyrian king Sennacherib wrote letters insulting YHWH (2 Chronicles 32:17)
  • Shemaiah wrote a letter condemning Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:24-28)
  • Haman wrote letters to destroy the Jewish people (Esther 8:5)
  • Mordecai wrote letters to the Jewish people in various provinces to encourage them to celebrate Purim (Esther 9:20-21)
  • And Queen Esther, with Mordecai, wrote letters to establish the customs for Purim:

Esther 9:29-32

Then Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote [wa-tik’tohv] with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. He sent letters to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, namely, words of peace and truth, to establish these days of Purim at their appointed times, just as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had established for them, and just as they had established for themselves and for their descendants with instructions for their times of fasting and their lamentations. The command of Esther established these customs for Purim, and it was written [w-nik’tav] in the book.

Although letters and written accounts are great things to have, they do not make up for communication with each other face to face. John wrote the following in one of his letters:

2 John 1:12

Though I have many things to write [Greek: graphein] to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.

John wrote this letter to “the chosen lady and her children”, but the same could be said for YHWH to us. He commissioned the writings of His word but what He really wanted was to speak with us face to face, so that our joy would be made complete. Only with Yeshua’s sacrifice could that be fulfilled. 

Written on the Tablet of your Heart

The Bible is incredibly important, but YHWH does not want you to just read it. He wants you to envelop it… to wrap yourself around it. He wants to to consume it:

Ezekiel 2:8-10, 3:1-4

[YHWH to Ezekiel:] “Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.”

Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written [k’tuvah] on the front and back, and written [w-katuv] on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 

So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.” 

We are to consume these writings and share in the feast of these words that YHWH has given us. We should not read these writings in passing, like they were some sort of insignificant pulp fiction… we should be filled up by the scripture so that we become a living vessel of the writings of God. It needs to be written on our hearts:

Jeremiah 31:31, 33

“Behold, days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares YHWH, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it [w-al libbam ek’ta’vennah]; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

David recognized the significance of being a walking remnant of God’s word:

Psalm 40:7-8

[David:] Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written [katuv] of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”

David passed that concept onto his son Solomon, and Solomon passed it onto his son:

Proverbs 3:1-4

[Solomon:] My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart [kat’vem al luakh libbeka]. So you will find favour and good repute in the sight of God and man.

This conviction was important enough to Solomon that he repeated it to his son:

Proverbs 7:1-3

My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart [kat’vem al luakh libbeka].

By the days of Jeremiah the people no longer consumed the written word of God. Instead they wrote their own sins on the tablet of their hearts. They consumed iniquity, rather than the word of God. As a result their names would be written down, but not in the book of the righteous:

Jeremiah 17:1-2, 13-14

The sin of Judah is written [k’tuvah] down with an iron stylus; with a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart and on the horns of their altars, as they remember their children, so they remember their altars and their Asherim by green trees on the high hills…

…O YHWH, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written [yikkatevu] down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even YHWH.

Heal me, O YHWH, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.

The Gospel (Good News) Writers

The Gospels were the Good News writings of the story of YHWH’s plan of Salvation. Luke felt compelled to write the events surrounding Yeshua to his friend Theophilus:

Luke 1:1-4

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write [Greek: grapsai] it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

The four gospel writers did just that… they wrote out the biography of Yeshua from their witness and from their research. They, of course, varied… some with unique stories and different perspectives, but every story culminated at Yeshua’s crucifixion:

John 19:17-22

They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote [egrapsen] an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 

Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. 

So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write [Greek: me graphe], ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 

Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written [Greek: Gegrapha gegrapha].”

It was Pilate who wrote the inscription that was placed on the cross, and when chief Jewish religious leaders begged him to take it off, he refused: I’m not taking it back; I’m not scratching it out. What I wrote, stays written. 

Sometimes the writers of YHWH’s words were unaware of their significance. Without knowing it, Pilate wrote words of truth and he stood by them.

The Gospel writers each gave a poignant account of Yeshua’s ministry, but they couldn’t capture it all. John made this clear:

John 21:25

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written [Greek: graphetai] in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written [Greek: graphomena].

The Bible is a full circle story… written from the beginning to the end with the same goal in mind: to be a memorial, to be a witness, to be a hope… a hope that one day we will return to the Garden of Eden and face YHWH, and He will welcome us with open arms. It’s a beautiful story of redemption recorded by complicated people, just the way YHWH wanted it to be.

Next week: falsehood, deception, lies

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