The Many Names of God

Other Names Part 3

Genesis 49:24b; Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:11-15, 23-24, Ro'eh Israel "Shepherd of Israel"
Genesis 49:24; 1 Samuel 7:7-17, Eben Israel "Stone of Israel"
Deuteronomy 32:4, 15-37; 2 Samuel 23:3-4; Isaiah 30:29, Tzur Israel "Rock of Israel"
1 Samuel 26:8-23; Psalms 2, Messiah/Christ (OT)

More Names of God

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Genesis 49:24b; Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:11-15, 23-24, Ro'eh Israel "Shepherd of Israel" (1/27/2009)

Quick! How many of you can recite Psalm 23? Even if you know it by heart, you might be surprised to know that the image of God as a shepherd of His people is very common in the Old Testament, although the specific name or title "Shepherd of Israel" is used only once or twice. The figure of the shepherd is used in three ways. Often God is the shepherd, as in Psalm 23. Second, the Messiah is the shepherd, as shown in Ezekiel 34:23-24. Remember that Ezekiel is preaching long after the time of David; "David" is used to refer to the offspring of David, i.e., the Messiah. Isaiah 40:10-11 is also frequently taken to be speaking of the Messiah. Third, God often refers to the political and religious leaders of Israel or Judah (and the occasional foreign ruler) as shepherds, although usually God is saying that the people are like sheep without a shepherd, because the leaders aren't doing their jobs properly.

Genesis 49:24; 1 Samuel 7:7-17, Eben Israel "Stone of Israel" (1/28/2009)

God is called the "Stone of Israel" once. I admit to a little puzzlement about this title, and the references I checked were no help. One footnoted Bible passed over Genesis 49:24 with no comment on "Stone of Israel." One omitted it from the translation. One translated it as "Rock," which seems to me to be taking real liberties with the text. The Interpreter's Bible didn't comment. Here's my suggestion. Take it for what it's worth.

I didn't look at every single instance of "stone" and "rock," but the ones I did look at were consistent. An eben, "stone," always seems to be small enough for a person or two to pick up, as opposed to a tzur, "rock," which seems almost always to be more geological in size, like "Plymouth Rock" (which used to be a lot bigger) or the "Rock of Gibraltar." For example, execution was by stoning, i.e., picking up stones and throwing them at the criminal until he or she died. Surely we can't be referring to God as small and manipulable, so I think maybe the answer is in the other uses of stones. Stones, not rocks, were used to build alters. Stones, not rocks, were set up as witnesses and given names, as we saw in Genesis 31:46-47 when Laban and Jacob set up a heap of stones as a witness, and as we see today. "Stone of Israel" suggests to me that God is not only the Shepherd who cares for us, but the Witness to our actions.

Deuteronomy 32:4, 15-37; 2 Samuel 23:3-4; Isaiah 30:29, Tzur Israel "Rock of Israel" (1/29/2009)

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted! (Psalms 18:46). We saw yesterday that God is called the "Stone of Israel" once. God is called or compared with a Tzur 32 times, e.g., Rock, Rock of Salvation, Rock of Israel, and Rock of Refuge. Tzur means "rock," and most of the time the English translations say "rock," although sometimes the King James translates the same word, Tzur, as strength (a few times), God (twice), or mighty one (twice). I'm not sure why this is, and apparently neither is the standard Hebrew/English dictionary or some translators of other English Bibles, e.g., CEV, ESV, and JPS, which go with "Rock" all the time. A Tzur, as opposed to the "stone" we saw yesterday, is a cliff, a butte, or at bare minimum, a boulder. God is a figurative Rock, the strong support and foundation of His people. In contrast, the gods of the heathen nations are just rocks idols carved out of stone. I especially like the way this contrast is made in the passage from Deuteronomy.

1 Samuel 26:8-23; Psalms 2, Messiah/Christ (OT) (1/30/2009)

Messiah = Christ = Anointed One, depending on the language; however, not every reference to a messiah or christ in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, refers to THE Messiah or Christ. You have to pay attention to the context. The two passages we read today present an example of A messiah and an example of THE Messiah. Saul was the Lord's messiah because God had chosen him and Samuel had anointed him to be King of Israel. Even though Saul was hunting David down to kill him, David repeatedly refused to harm Saul on that grounds that Saul was God's anointed one.

Given that the entire Judeo-Christian community pays considerable attention to THE Messiah, you might be surprised to learn that the Old Testament unambiguously refers to THE Messiah by name only a few times, and ambiguously maybe a dozen times. Or maybe you wouldn't, since most English translations (including JPS; I was surprised to learn) go with "anointed one" in the OT and "Christ" in the New Testament. (Well, obviously the Jewish Publication Society Bible doesn't have a NT, but you know what I mean.)

The bulk of the 37 OT occurrences of the word are talking about A messiah, i.e., a priest or king of Israel (or sometimes of another nation). Most Messianic scriptures do not use the word, and from what I gather, most of these scriptures were interpreted to be Messianic by the rabbis and the early Christian writers. (I am not suggesting that they are wrong. I'm just saying that we must rely on Biblical scholars to determine what most of the Messianic scriptures are.) I also gather that there is considerable agreement among Jewish and Christian scholars on this topic.

So our second passage is one of the relatively few scriptures that refers to THE Messiah using the word messhiach/christos. It has been interpreted as a Messianic passage by both Jewish and Christian scholars since at least the First Century, e.g., Hebrews 1:5.

More Names of God
Names of God - Introduction
Sacred Names - Part 1
Sacred Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 1
Other Names - Part 2
Names of Jesus - Part 1
Names of Jesus - Part 2
Names of Jesus - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 4
Names of Jesus - Part 5
Names of Jesus - Part 6
Names of Jesus - Part 7
Names of Jesus - Part 8
Names of Jesus - Part 9
Names of the Spirit

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