The Month of Light

When a non-Jewish person writes a book on the Jewish festivals and seasons, I imagine Jewish scholars are sortof like uhhhh errrr duh we’ve already written a million books on that. It’s become my practice to try to honour Jewish Bible scholars by going to their work in the first instance when I am trying to understand aspects of Hebrew history, rather than immediately looking to the scholarship of my fellow ‘Gentiles.’

This came to my mind again this weekend as I was reading the account of Solomon building the temple in 1 Kings. There are some beautiful moments in chapters 6-8, but also …. all those details! 100 cubits of this, 15 rows of that, 30 cubit hall of pillars this, three rows of cut stone that. The Gentile eye glosses over.

And there I am back to my feelings of slight embarrassment but, more than that, deep appreciation for Jewish Bible scholars. Jewish collective traditions of reading are incredibly valuable to anyone who wants to understand the Bible. Sidenote: If you come across the sadly prolific falsehood that Jesus Christ taught a message different from the God of the Old Testament (God of judgement and wrath vs. God of love), then BE WARY. This way of thinking is not only bad theology but it has roots in anti-semitism.

But let’s return to 1 Kings 6 and a verse that stopped me in my tracks.

In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid, in the month of Ziv.

1 Kings 6:37

Times and seasons matter, especially in Hebrew life. God established for His people a rhythm of work and rest in His account of the world’s creation in Genesis. Then and ever since, He helps us remember Who He is through moments of remembrance, through days and events and objects we can touch, see, taste and experience many times over. This is His kind condescension to us. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

The month of Ziv is the second month of the Hebrew calendar, after the month of Nisan, when Passover is observed. In Ziv, the flooding of the world began (Gen. 7:11), and in this month the ground was finally dry again (Gen 8:14).

Years later, on the first day of Ziv, after Israel fled Egypt, Moses threw a branch into the bitter waters, which became sweet, and God promised that

The diseases I have placed on Egypt I will not place upon you, for I am the Lord your Healer.

Exodus 15:26

Again, in Ziv, as the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness, mannah began falling from heaven (Exod 16:1-7). And again, as Israel made their way, Moses and Aaron took a census (Num. 1:1-2) in that same month and gathered the people around the Tabernacle. Last but not least, the month of Ziv also offered the Israelites a second Passover, for those who were unable to observe the event in the previous month (Num 9: 9-12).

In Ziv, now known as Iyyar, God gave Israel a month of light, of radiance. During Ziv, Israel knew God’s provision through His rescue of them from a wicked world, through dry land, through sweet water and manna, and through the promise of God’s presence. As a reminder of such things, the month of Ziv saw the earth come into fullness, the splendour of the trees, the brilliance of the flowers and buds.

He guided them with the cloud by day
And with the light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the desert
And gave them water as abundant as the seas;
He brought streams out of a rocky crag
And made water flow down like rivers (Psalms 78:14-16).

And on this first day of Ziv, as we read in 1 Kings 6, King Solomon began the construction of the Temple by laying its foundation. Solomon adorned the temple with carvings of flowers, gourds and palms and overlaid it with gold. Fullness, splendour, radiance.

Sadly, it wasn’t to last. After Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple, and Israel entered exile. Yet hundreds of years later, again on the first day of Ziv, just as the prophet Ezekiel had foretold to Israel in Babylonian exile, Ezra began the reconstruction of the Second Temple (Ezra 3:8).

But this too wasn’t to last. The rebellion against Rome that began in AD 66 effectively ended with the Temple’s destruction in AD 70, and all that remains of the Second Temple today is its western wall.

Jerusalem: Western Wall, Second Temple
The Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, all that remains of the Second Temple

But as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, an hour was coming when the people of God would no longer worship in the Temple in Jerusalem nor on Mount Gerizim. And again, in the month of Ziv, 40 days after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ, our tabernacle of God among men, our Chief Cornerstone, ascended into heaven to be with His Father and to prepare another place of worship for us.

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 
11 having the glory of God.
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 

Revelation 21: 10-11, 22

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