AMAZED/ASTONISHED/SHOCKED: tamah. Verb. (Strong’s 8539).
Sounds like: tah-mah
One of the most celebrated stories this time of year is the angelic visitation to the shepherds on the night the Messiah was born. Can you imagine… out in the fields, surrounded by loud baaing sheep, a dark night… when suddenly a single angel stood before them, and then after he spoke a multitude of these heavenly creatures stood in front of them repeating a chorus of praise to God. The shepherds, understandably, were frightened, blown away, astonished, amazed…
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Messiah the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
Their amazement called the shepherds into action. They couldn’t sit still after such a sight; they had to see this little baby for themselves.
This little baby grew up and constantly amazed people. They were amazed at His words (Mark 10:24a); they were amazed at His teaching (Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32,36); they were amazed at His miracles (Luke 5:9); and they were amazed just by the sight of Him (Mark 9:15). Everything was different about this man… His words were different, His actions were different. He stood out, and for a good while the people celebrated His uniqueness.
Amazed by YHWH
In the Tanakh (Old Testament) YHWH caused much astonishment and amazement. But the amazement was often matched with fear and reverence. When Job chastised his friend Bildad, he pointed out the awesomeness of God:
[Job to Bildad:] ““The departed spirits tremble under the waters and their inhabitants. Naked is Sheol before Him [God], and Abaddon has no covering. He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps up the waters in His clouds, and the cloud does not burst under them. He obscures the face of the full moon and spreads His cloud over it. He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are amazed [w-yit’m’hu] at His rebuke.”
YHWH was impressive, and all who felt His presence were amazed. Job’s words reflected elements of the creation story… the separation of light and darkness, wrapping up waters in the clouds, and hiding the face of the moon… God’s creative force was so staggering that even the pillars of heaven trembled and were amazed.
The Amazing Zion
The only place that was called amazing, in the Bible, was Mount Zion (a hill in Jerusalem). Mount Zion was YHWH’s Holy mountain and where His Presence dwelt on earth. According to the sons of Korah, the mere sight of Zion caused amazement:
[Sons of Korah:] Great is YHWH, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King.
God, in her [Zion’s] palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold. For, lo, the kings assembled themselves, they passed by together. They saw it, then they were amazed [tamahu]; they were terrified, they fled in alarm. Panic seized them there, anguish, as of a woman in childbirth. With the east wind You break the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of YHWH of hosts, in the city of our God; God will establish her forever. Selah.
Zion was so amazing that some enemies fled at the sight of it… and anyone who waged war on Zion and the Presence of God would face severe punishment.
It will be as when a hungry man dreams— and behold, he is eating; but when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams— and behold, he is drinking, but when he awakens, behold, he is faint and his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations will be who wage war against Mount Zion.
Be delayed and wait Pause and wonder [u-t’mahu], blind yourselves and be blind; they become drunk, but not with wine, they stagger, but not with strong drink. For YHWH has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.
Prophets and seers could not see, fully, the plans of YHWH… His choices are full of wonder and amazement. Who can predict the actions of God? They are far too wonderful for us to fully comprehend. And yet He did choose a few prophets, whose hearts were open to Him, to give us a glimpse into the wonderment of YHWH’s plan of salvation.
The prophecy of amazement
Amazement often came in the form of a shocking prophecy. Although YHWH spoke strongly against anyone who marched towards Zion, that didn’t mean He would stop them. In fact, He let humans be humans… and some humans wanted to destroy Zion.
“Lift up a standard toward Zion! Seek refuge, do not stand still, for I am bringing evil from the north, and great destruction.
A lion has gone up from his thicket, and a destroyer of nations has set out; he has gone out from his place to make your land a waste. Your cities will be ruins without inhabitant. For this, put on sackcloth, lament and wail; for the fierce anger of YHWH has not turned back from us.”
“It shall come about in that day,” declares YHWH, “that the heart of the king and the heart of the princes will fail; and the priests will be appalled and the prophets will be astounded [yit’mahu].”
God, who had promised destruction on all who came against Zion, was now sending a destroyer against Zion. It was a shocking plot twist, that amazed even the prophets.
Wail, for the day of YHWH is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt.
They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labour, they will look at one another in astonishment [yit’mahu], their faces aflame.
Behold, the day of YHWH is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.
YHWH was shocking. He shook people, uprooted them, made them face the results of their own iniquities. But He never pulled the trigger, He merely turned His face away and let humans be humans. He allowed destruction, and He allowed the pride and power of the Babylonians to dominate over the Hebrew people. But He did not allow this to happen without the promise of rescue.
“For thus says YHWH, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.”
YHWH used shock tactics to change hearts, because He knew that the only way to turn the people back to Him was when they could no longer rely on themselves. They had given up on their Creator, but He had not given up on them.
Be Astonished! Wonder!
Habakkuk had also prophesied about the Babylonian (Chaldean) invasion to come:
Habakkuk 1:5-7, 11-12
[YHWH:] “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! [w-hit-tam’mehu t’mahu] Because I am doing something in your days— you would not believe if you were told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs. They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves….
…“Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god. Are You not from everlasting, O YHWH, my God, my Holy One? We will not die.
You, O YHWH, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
God amazed the people in order to correct them… and why shouldn’t He? He is the Great Creator, the Great Holy One of Heaven. Every time He worked directly with a human on earth they were shocked, gob-smacked, overwhelmed.
But there’s more to this than a surface reading allows. Yes the people were called on to be amazed when the Babylonians came marching into town, but YHWH would amaze them again five hundred years later, not with an army, but with a young woman, a star, a host of angels, and a little baby. YHWH announced, “Be astonished! Wonder! [w-hit-tam’mehu t’mahu] Because I am doing something in your days— you would not believe if you were told.”
The Messiah was an amazement to come, which would change the course of human history. And it all stemmed back to the Garden of Eden, and the terrible choice that humans took at the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. They choose to be their own pretender gods, and in doing so, they exiled themselves out of the garden. But YHWH never wanted them to leave… and so He would put together an amazing plan of salvation that would shock everyone. He would find a way to bring His people back to His Presence in His Garden Kingdom under the Tree of Life.
Amazed at By Yeshua
When Yeshua (Jesus) arrived as a tiny baby, Mary and Joseph were amazed, the shepherds were amazed, the Magi from the East were amazed, and Herod was amazed (and terrified).
When Yeshua grew up and began His ministry, the people of His hometown of Nazareth were amazed, John the Baptist was amazed, His countless followers were amazed, and the religious elite were amazed (and terrified).
But nowhere do we get an in-depth description explaining why exactly they were amazed. They were gob-smacked by His miracles, His teaching, and even just the mere simplicity of being in His presence, but they didn’t fully understand the depth of what was going on. They didn’t understand that through this one amazing individual, YHWH’s plan for salvation would be fulfilled. Yeshua was amazing in more ways than they could count or comprehend.
They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful.
And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
And that was exactly what happened. Yeshua was delivered to the chief religious authorities and put on trial. And these people who were, at one time, so amazed by Yeshua, turned on Him and demanded His death:
Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.
Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
They shouted back, “Crucify Him!”
But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!”
Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Pilate was amazed at their request… but he shouldn’t have been. The writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely Solomon) wrote, centuries earlier, that no one should be shocked at a denial of justice:
If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked [al ti-t’mah] at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.
These people, who had once been so amazed by Yeshua, now turned on Him. They had been star-struck without understanding His mission… and star-struck admiration has a short shelf-life. When we admire a public person and they don’t live up to our image of what they should be, we tend to lose faith in them. This was what happened to Yeshua. He was the Messiah, and to the general public the Messiah was the one who would come as a great warrior and crush their oppressor, Rome. When Yeshua was arrested, they figured this was not their man, and they felt duped… so at the drop of 30 pieces of silver they turned on Yeshua and sent Him to Golgotha to be crucified. And there He died.
After Yeshua was buried and the Sabbath was over, some of Yeshua’s female disciples went to anoint His remains at the tomb:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.
This was no typical man… the women were amazed by his presence, but this messenger from God dismissed their astonishment:
And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”
They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Although they were clearly amazed, really this message should not have been a surprise. Yeshua was the Messiah, the Son of God… Did they really think the grave could hold Him down?! He had told them directly that He would die and rise again, but although their ears may have heard, their brain did not comprehended.
We were once separated from His presence and exiled out of the Garden of Eden, but Yeshua paid our entrance fee to return back to the Garden and see YHWH, face to face. Don’t be amazed by that… He had promised it all along. As part of God’s family, at the end of our days in this life we will pass away, and then we will enter YHWH’s Kingdom of Heaven. That’s when we ought to be prepared to be truly amazed!
Next week: FIND