Not Traditional, Original

1.2 The Synagogue Became a Substitute For The Temple

We have looked at how the liturgy developed in the old Testament from simple sacrifices held by heads of households to the giving of the Law and God-given instructions for a much more elaborate liturgy. We also have looked at how the Israelites started their own traditions that accompanied some of these rituals in books like the Haggadah where additional details were added to the Seder meal.

Next, we are going to look at the development of the synagogue which was in full swing by the time of original Christianity. While the Temple was major in Judaism at that time and others, the synagogue became more of a center of everyday Jewish life.

The origins of the synagogue are uncertain, but we do know a few things. When the law was given the Tabernacle was the center of worship. Once the Temple was built the Temple became the center of worship. The temple was unavailable, however, during periods of Exile or when it was destroyed. So it is believed that the synagogue became a replacement for the Temple at that time.

The Babylonian captivity started in 597 BCi. The general opinion is that that is when synagogues started. By the time of Jesus, synagogues appeared wherever Jews lived together.ii

Similar to the Greek word for church, ekklesia, meaning called out or assembly the greek word for synagogue is sunagoge, also meaning assembly. While both words later came to also mean the buildings where people assembled, both words actually refer to the gathering of people together.

A synagogue, then, is a gathering of God’s chosen people. There is a record in Ezekiel of a gathering of elders that some think is a reference to a synagogue:

In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me. (Eze 20:1)

Ezekiel was a prophet at the time of the Babylonian captivity and lived in exile in Babylon and this verse looks like him meeting with the leadership of a Babylonian synagogue, but that is not certain.

Also in the Book of Ezekiel is a reference that Jewish leadership interpreted as meaning that the synagogue would be a substitute for the Temple for Jews that lived in other nations:iii

Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ (Eze 11:16)

Synagogues did not have defined dimensions and specifications from the Torah like the Temple so the edifice itself depended on the wealth and abilities of the participants although there are specifications given in the Talmud.

There is a description in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah of an ancient synagogue that describes various beautiful ornamentations on the doors and moldings, two colonnades forming a passageway east and west separating the gallery of men from the pulpit and chief seats, the structure including a supposed women’s gallery, the floor being a slab white limestone and the walls impressively two to seven feet thick. There was an area for the movable ark, the Bima (elevated stand) that held the luach or desk where the scrolls were read, and a chair for the speaker to sit. (The law is read standing, the sermon is given seated.)iv

These were a few of the guidelines that the Jews themselves apparently enacted. Other guidelines include the participants seated facing Jerusalem, the building should be conspicuous, preferably on the highest ground around with the roof above surrounding buildings.v

Synagogues were segregated, men alone in the main chamber with women and children separated from the men to avoid distractions. The ruler of the synagogue was elected by the elders. The order of service was a creed, prayers, readings from the scrolls, a sermon, and a question and answer period for men to question the minister. There was the movable ark of sacred scrolls in a curtained alcove behind the pulpit, only to be opened by doctors of the law. Between the alcove and the pulpit were the chief seats, also known as Moses seats where the chief teachers and readers sat.vi

The purpose of the synagogue was not sacrificing as in the Temple, but rather instruction. Teachers of the Law taught and expounded. There was also praying and singing. Priests weren’t in charge of synagogues, but they would be honored guests. Also, tithes were not used to finance the synagogue, they were dependent on free will offerings. Persons known to be knowledgeable would be allowed to speak, especially people who were good at explaining the law.vii

The main difference between the Temple and the synagogue besides the Temple being in Jerusalem and synagogues being built everywhere is that in the synagogue the reading of the Torah took the place of sacrifice in the Temple.viii

The synagogue was a community center besides being a place of worship. It housed the local school, the local government including the local court, as well as being a public meeting place. The elders of the synagogue were magistrates and local authorities.ix

The synagogue appears to have become the place where God was brought to the people in substitution for the Temple. I don’t know how this became okay in light of God’s declaration that he would name the place for worship and sacrifice (Deut 12:5) but it is clear that there was no sacrifice at synagogue so all the details of this verse are not being violated.

The Gospels talk about the courts and disciplining that happened in the synagogue:

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, (Mat 10:17)

In an adjunct room to the assembly hall, the synagogue housed the local court system where the law was strictly interpreted, and the punishment was often severe. Punishments included excommunication, scourging, and death. Scourging was limited to 40 stripes, but to avoid mistakes (a punishable mistake itself) stripes were limited to 39. There were 168 faults for which the punishment was scourging.x There is also more than one form of excommunication.

The Talmud does have specifics on synagogues. I could not find any ancient Talmud references about the synagogue but there are some online for the current times.xi There are specifications there for both the structure and what needs to be in the building. Many details are given including the building direction, the windows, The Ark, the bimah (table), the Amud (lecturn), the Mechitzah (partition between men and women), and a number of other things.

We are at the end of the development of liturgy in the Old Testament and we are discussing a topic, synagogues, from which there is no, or hardly any reference in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms while there are guidelines that were set up both in the Talmud and from other Jewish authorities. That is very interesting. And that is the setting upon which Jesus arrived.


iiThe New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, Michigan, J.D. Douglas Editor, 1962 p. 1227

iiiIbid, p. 1227

ivLife and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, Alfred Edersheim, 1953, p. 787 available at http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/The%20Life%20and%20Times%20of%20Jesus%20the%20Messiah.pdf

vManners and Customs of the Bible, Logos International, Plainfield, New Jersey, James M Freeman, 1972 p. 334-335

viHandbook to the Bible, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, Michigan, David Alexander and Patricia Alexander, 1973, p. 96

vii Manners and Customs of the Bible, Logos International, Plainfield, New Jersey, James M Freeman, 1972 p. 334-335

viiiNew Bible Dictionary, p. 1227

ixHandbook to the Bible, p.494

xIbid, p 347


July 22nd, 2019 Posted by | Liturgy | no comments

1.1 Worship Changes with the Giving of the Law; Part 2 – the Feasts

We have seen in Part 1 of the Worship Changes with the Giving of the Law that the liturgy of the children of Israel became increasingly complex with that giving. Part of the law included a series of feasts or festivals there were also become part of the new liturgy.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  (Col 2:16-17 ESV)

Before proceeding with what the Law says, it’s important to note that these feasts are important to understanding original Christianity because of what the verses above say. They say that all the minutia of the law, including the Sabbath and the festivals, are a shadow of the things to come. The first four festivals relate to events in the first coming of the Savior. The last three feasts relate to the second coming.[i]

Leviticus 23 specifies the following as festivals:

  • The Passover
  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread
  • The Feast of Firstfruits – occurs in the week of the Passover festival
  • The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost
  • The Feast of Trumpets
  • The Day of Atonement
  • The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles

All of these feasts are called “holy convocations”, which means they were times set aside as sacred for the people to gather and celebrate.  The word feast used in the Biblical references to these events is actually 1 of 2 words.

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.  (Lev 23:2 ESV)

This word feasts above is the Hebrew word mo’ed which means appointment, or fixed time or season.

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  (Lev 23:6 ESV)

This word Feast here is the Hebrew word chagag which means to celebrate, to dance, to hold a solemn feast or holy day.  See the words celebrate and dance in there.  These were festivals!

Even though there were seven feasts, these feasts were divided into three festival seasons. Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits are in the month of Nisan which is in the spring.  Pentecost, also called the feast of Weeks, is celebrated in Sivan, two months later.  Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles all happen in the month of Tishrei which is in the fall, about four months after Pentecost. 

The feasts were to be done at the appointed place:

“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.  (Deu 16:16 ESV)

We read in the verse above that the feasts are to be at “the place that he will choose”. 

Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken.  (Isa 33:20 ESV)

Above we see Jerusalem named as the city which is that appointed place for the feasts.

We read in the law about Passover:

And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.  (Exo 12:25-27 ESV)

In the spring Passover occurs on the 14th of Nisan. Unleavened bread comes on the next day, the 15th of Nisan to the 21st:

But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”  (Lev 23:8 ESV)

During the week of unleavened bread comes the feast of First Fruits where sheaves of barley are waived:

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Lev 23:10-14 ESV)

The first of the feasts, Passover, celebrates the deliverance of the children of Israel from Pharaoh, a type of Satan, who had legal ownership of them. 50 days later, Pentecost, commemorates the day that the Lord gave the law on Mount Sinai. The feast of the Passover isn’t considered over until Pentecost. As said earlier, the feasts were a shadow of things to come. Jesus was the Passover lamb for all time on the 14th of Nisan. He was in the sepulcher on the day of Unleavened Bread, the 15th of Nisan. He was resurrected on the day of the First Fruits, the 17th of Nisan.[ii]

Pentecost, of course, is the day of the outpouring of the holy spirit after Jesus’s resurrection.

Passover celebrates the protection from judgment by the blood of the lamb. During the original Passover, anyone who had the blood of the lamb in the right places on their doorposts was protected from the judgment of the Lord and their firstborn were spared. As a shadow of things to come, the blood of our Savior protects us from that judgment. Just as the Passover lamb had to be without blemish, so did the Savior have to be without blemish or sin.  The Passover lamb was to be killed at twilight, as was our Savior.  The Passover lamb was to be eaten; our communion service is symbolic that our lives are made alive by the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Jesus as the perfect lamb. These are just some of the correlations between the old covenant and the new.

The fall festival season actually begins with a period of repentance. Just like some people fast during the periods of Advent and Lent in what is called the liturgical year in some Christian churches, the children of Israel have a 40 day period before the second fall festival, the Day of Atonement, called Teshuveh.   Thirty days into Teshuveh  is the Rosh Hashonah, the Feast of Trumpets, the first fall festival.  Rosh Hashanah is about the resurrection of the dead among other things.  The day of atonement, also called Yom Kippur, is celebrated on the 10th of Tishri. Yom Kippur is about the second coming of Christ. The third fall festival, the Feast of Tabernacles is observed from the 15th of Tishri two the 21st of Tishri.  The Feast of Tabernacles is about the joy of the Messianic Kingdom which some people refer to as the Millennium.

One of the points of this article is to show the increasing sophistication of the liturgy of the children of Israel at this point.  We have come from a time in Genesis where heads of families offered sacrifice on altars, and certainly prayers were offered, but there was no detailed, sophisticated liturgy. Now there is.

Besides what is in the bible there appears to be more sophistications of the feasts that developed.  These increased details of the services come down in documents.  The Haggadah is a document that Jews today used in preparing and reciting during the Seder.[iii]

This Seder meal has examples of an increase in sophisticated liturgy from the Haggadah. Here are some highlights from Edward Chiumney’s book. At one point there are three cakes of unleavened bread placed one on another with a napkin between each cake. The middle cake is broken in two. One piece is eaten by the people present and the other piece is hidden in the napkin. Toward the end of this Seder, the hidden piece is brought out and eaten by those around Passover table.  During this Seder there are 4 cups of wine that are served to the people;

  1. the cup of blessing,
  2. the cup of wrath,
  3. the cup of blessing, salvation, or redemption
  4. the cup of the kingdom.

There is also another cup served called the cup of Elijah, which is poured out at the end of the Seder.[iv]

There is no command in the Law to do these cups. A google search brings up web sites that give possible reasons for this tradition.  One site lists a number of places in the Law where the number four is symbolic, the first one being Exodus 6:6-8[v]:

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.  (Exo 6:6-9 ESV)

The four cups symbolize these four truths of redemption from the above verses.  They are:

  1. I will take (bring in the above version) you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians
  2. I will deliver you from slavery to them
  3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment
  4. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob

There are other symbolic fours given: Pharoah’s four evil decrees, four cups of wine in pharaoh’s butler’s dream, and four forces of impurity listed in the Kaballah.[vi]

I bring all of this up to show how liturgy developed.  Before the Law liturgy was simple with very little structure.  With the coming of the Law, the Law itself institutes numerous practices about the tabernacle, the temple, the priesthood, different kinds of sacrifices, and as we see in this article, a cycle of feasts to be celebrated every year.

Also, beyond what is in the Law, traditions developed and were eventually written down as the example of things from the Haggadah are shown in this post. Now, according to Jewish sources, they believe the Talmud was given orally to Moses at the same time he got the Law. We haven’t even started to look at the effect of the Talmud on these aspects of the liturgy.

And, of course, the reason I include this in the context of originalChristianity.net is Jesus’ charge to the Jews in Jesus time that they were voiding the Law with their traditions:

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”  (Mar 7:5-13 ESV)

These verses appear to contradict that the instructions in the Talmud were given by revelation to Moses as Jewish tradition claims.

But that does not mean that drinking four cups of wine with the seder is evil, or wrong.  Or eating 3 cakes. Or celebrating Thanksgiving at a church, for that matter. What is wrong is elevating religious traditions to the status of the Law, or the word of God. That is one of the things that Jesus took issue with on several occasions according to the gospel. And taking a stand against the elevation of the importance of tradition to be seen as important as the word of God was something Original Christianity was very concerned about.

[i] THE SEVEN FESTIVALS OF THE MESSIAH, Edward Chumney, Treasure House, Shippensburg, PA, 1994 P.1-5

[ii] Ibid p.14-16

[iii] Biblical Archeology Society, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/was-jesus-last-supper-a-seder/


[v] Chabad.org, Why four cups of wine by the seder, at https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/658549/jewish/Why-four-cups-of-wine.htm

[vi] Ibid

June 28th, 2019 Posted by | Liturgy | no comments

1.0 Worship Changes with the Giving of the Law; Part 1 the Priesthood and the Tabernacle/Temple

Part of the law received on Mount Sinai related to the operation of what is referred to as the Priestly Law. In fact, the whole liturgy of Old Testament times is changed radically with the giving of the Law. Whereas before altars had been set up in places where contact with God had been made, and services had certainly been performed there is a lack of any evidence that shows any kind of substantial structure and rules. That changes with the giving of the Law.  The new system is complex, and details were to be followed to the letter.

Look at the amount of material covered in the law regarding the Priests, and the Tabernacle, the movable temple that moved with the people during the Exodus.  The chapters include Exodus 25 – 31and 35 – 40; Leviticus 1 – 27; Numbers 1 – 10.  All those chapters are details of the law specifying the sanctuary in the wilderness, the sacrificial rituals, the priestly garb, the ritual cleanings, and other priestly duties.[i]

This staggering amount of scripture is too much to examine in this article, but we need to look at some key points.

Exodus 25 specifies the building of the tabernacle including the Ark of the Covenant, and other fixtures. As far as where to get the materials:

“Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.  (Exo 25:2 ESV)

These contributions could be acacia wood, gold, silver, bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns,lamp oil, precious stones and a host of other materials specifically named.

Look at the intricate design specifications for the Ark of the Covenant:

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.  (Exo 25:10-22 ESV)

The Ark was certainly a beautiful, intricate piece of work.  Additionally are specifics for a table and a golden lamp stand for use next to the ark.

Then we have the specifics for the tabernacle itself, curtains of fine twined blue, purple and scarlet linens with cherubim worked into them with loops and clasps of gold is the start. There are frames of acacia wood and bases of silver, and much, much more.  Read Exodus 26 for all the details.  Exodus 27 has details for the bronze altar and the court of the Tabernacle and oil for the lamp.

The priests’ garments are particularly striking to me and they are detailed in Exodus 28:

These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance. You shall make settings of gold filigree, and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings. “You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold. And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece. And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece. The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod. And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod. (Exo 28:4-28 ESV)

Look at the grand ornateness of these vestments.  Look at references to the symbolism of the pieces”.  “Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance.  There was a breastpiece of judgment.”  The stones on the breastpiece were “like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes”

Look at this part of the liturgy. Part of Aaron’s vestment was a plate that he wore in front of his turban. The purpose of the plate was to bear the guilt from the people’s sacrifice :

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.  (Exo 28:36-38 ESV)

Part of the vestments even included linen undergarments!

Exodus 29 specifies the ceremony that consecrates the priests.  It is a beautiful ceremony with the killing of a bull and a killing of a ram and sprinkling of blood and a wave offering with fat and bread and cake and a wafer.  The ram of ordination is boiled and eaten by those ordained along with bread from the basket at the entrance.  What’s not eaten by next morning is burned up because it is holy. There is more to do in the consecration of the altar and the tent.

Exodus 30 gives specifications for an altar of incense and a census tax, the bronze basin and the anointing oil and incense.

Exodus 35 through 40 gives the details of the execution of these divine designs. 

The culmination of these plans led to the actual presence of the Lord as evidenced as a cloud covering the tabernacle:

And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exo 40:33-38 ESV)

From its simple beginnings back in the book of Genesis where worship was sacrifice and prayer at spots where the patriarchs made contact with the Lord God we see a clear transition here today to a much more sophisticated liturgy.

In the beginning there were no ephods, and vestments with the urim and thummim and other symbols, there were no multicolored linens symbolizing various things.  There was no priesthood delegated to specifics in the order of sacrifices and godly worship, but now with the giving of the Law all this and more were institutionalized by divine decree.

This shows growth from a simple to a more sophisticated liturgy. What also increased was the different types of offerings.  The simple offerings of Genesis are replaced with basically five offerings.  The burnt offering is still there. 

Look at the detail and specifics in the instructions for a burnt offering. The animal is without blemish. It’s not defective or a leftover but a top choice animal. The animal is killed in front of the priest or by the priest. The blood is thrown against the altar. The aroma of this sacrifice is a sweet aroma to the Lord.

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. “If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish, and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. “If his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or pigeons. And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it on the altar. Its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He shall remove its crop with its contents and cast it beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes. He shall tear it open by its wings, but shall not sever it completely. And the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. (Lev 1:2-17 ESV)

The grain offering may have been what Cain was supposed to have carried out but did badly by not choosing the choicest crops. The law specifies a grain offering, some of which provided cakes for the priests to eat.

“When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings. “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. (Lev 2:1-6 ESV)

Then there is the Peace offering which was a sacrifice of thanksgiving:

“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. (Lev 7:11-15 ESV)

Then there are two offerings for sin:  the sin offering was for unintentional sin.   The guilt offerings are set for specific sins like doing illegal things with God’s altar or things, or when a person is unsure whether he has sinned.[ii]

“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering.  (Lev 4:2-3 ESV)

“If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven. “If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD.” (
Lev 5:15-19 ESV)

Worship in the old testament still centers around sacrifices but as we are seeing it is more complex. Now there is a tabernacle, a place of worship. Later the Temple in Jerusalem replaced this movable temple called the tabernacle. Now there are priests with specific duties. Now there are five types of sacrifices and they are geared to more specific reasons. There is even now the unintentional sin offering and the guilt offering for those who think they may have sinned but aren’t sure.

In addition to these changes to the Liturgy brought on by the Law are the Festivals but we will save those for part two of this post. 

[i] OLD TESTAMENT LAW, Dale Patrick, John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1985, P. 145

[ii] https://theisraelbible.com/reading-plan/leviticus/portion-vayikra/sin-offerings-guilt-offerings/

May 24th, 2019 Posted by | Liturgy | no comments

0.2 Early Old Testament Places of Worship

As we have seen in a previous articles, O.1 Overview of Worship in Old Testament Times, it was common in the early centuries to worship outdoors.  A determining factor in where an altar or might be created would be the presence of God. If someone experienced the presence of God in a place it was common to put an altar there to commemorate. Here are a number of examples:

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen 8:20-22 ESV)

What a wonderful blessing that is stated here!  God vows to never flood the earth again because Noah built an altar, and the sacrifice he gave on that altar touched God’s heart.

The next record is just one that documents the appearance of the Lord to a man, and the man’s response in building the altar, and making a sacrifice on it.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 12:7-8 ESV)

In Genesis 13:4, we see Abram going back to a place where he had made an altar, and he worshipped there, calling upon the name of the Lord.

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD.
(Gen 13:2-4 ESV)

So by now we are seeing the pattern, a believer experiences God in a certain place, and builds an altar at that place, and then it becomes a place of worship. Here are some more examples:


And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. (Gen 26:24-25 ESV)


And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Gen 33:18-20 ESV)

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. (Gen 35:1-7 ESV)

Jacob again:

And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Gen 33:18-20 ESV)

Look at this incredible example of Moses, Joshua, and the battle with the Amalakites with the construction of an altar afterwards:

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner, saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”  (Exo 17:8-16 ESV)

From these records we see the pattern of the earliest believers which was to recognize those places where the Lord God had made contact with man as places of worship. Altars were constructed in those places, and they were visited when someone sought the Lord. Sacrifices were made there to the Lord God.

From a liturgical point of view then we see that the form of worship in those times was to construct altars in places where man made contact with God. Then the man would go to those places, probably prostrating themselves while asking the Lord for guidance in prayer. Part of the process would be to offer a sacrifice.  There is no mention of a designated priesthood before the Law so the head of household probably offered the sacrifice. Of course, the sacrifice would be a sacrifice of first fruits that is the best of the crop, or the best of the herd, perhaps a firstborn lamb.

May 17th, 2019 Posted by | Liturgy | no comments

0.1 Overview of Worship in Old Testament Times

When a lot of us Christians think of worship services what comes to mind are church services.  For Catholics it is the Mass.  For others it is a different service, but it is complete with a church, and a pastor or worship leader of some kind, and maybe musicians, and very possibly, communion, and probably a teaching of some kind.  And what worship service would be complete without prayer, and some announcements and some mixing with other believers?  But, in fact, worship started out as a much simpler process, and became more sophisticated over time.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word worship itself comes from the Hebrew word – shachah, which just means to bow. It has the sense of being a servant under a master.  A connection is made between worship (bowing down) in the first of the 10 Commandments:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exo 20:2-6 ESV)

In the middle of the above verses is ” You shall not bow down to them or serve them”.  Servants bow. Servants serve. As Christians we say we serve the living God. We worship him. Worship at its heart in bowing in service.

Today, there are churches, synagogues, mosques in everything from huge cities to small towns all over the world. However, in Old Testament times, it was common for people to worship outdoors, no building required.   Look at this verse from first Kings:

And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, (1Ki 14:22-23 ESV)

“They built for themselves high places and pillars and ashram on every high hill and under every green tree.” It was common for people everywhere including the early Jews to build a shrine, an altar, i.e., a place of worship in the countryside around where they lived.  Obviously, worship wasn’t just something that God’s people did alone, from early on we read that there are many people worshiping many gods around the world at that time.

The earliest worship records in the Old Testament refer to people worshiping outdoors. And by worship, as it could be something as simple as prostrating oneself on the ground with their hands toward heaven, or it could be a sacrifice of some sort, and it could be individually, or in groups.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Gen 8:20 ESV)

This is the first record of an altar in the Old Testament but altars were probably customary by then.  There are records of altars as a religious artifacts in numerous ancient cultures. After Noah was delivered from the flood, he made offerings to the Lord, sacrificing some of the clean animals in a worship service.

However, while not mentioning an altar per se Old Testament Historians postulate that altars were well in use before this. The first animal sacrifice was by God himself in clothing Adam and an altar may have been used there. Altars were used by Cain and Abel in their sacrifices.  Thus altars are in use from the very beginning of man for their use in worship.[i]

Like everything else in the world things get more sophisticated over time. People began worshiping in temples, having dedicated buildings designated as places of worship. Liturgies, rites of services also developed.

For the Israelites, God’s chosen people this transition happened during the Exodus. Specifically, during the giving of the law were in instructions regarding how the Levites, the priest tribe of Israel were to act in regards to offerings, sacrifices, and rituals. Festivals were set up.  Festivals included Passover, Unleavened Bread, the First Sheaf, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Day of Blowing of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and more. And there were instructions to them for rituals during these feasts. 

The law specified worship rules like the people were to come only to the entrance of the tabernacle, the priests would sprinkle blood and so forth. Different sacrifices were ordained for different purposes.

The Law certainly had strict rules regarding everything including worship and the feasts, but we should see that worship was a beautiful thing and feasts were times of celebration that were greatly enjoyed.

The Tabernacle and the Temple talked about next are symbols of the future Christ. The Tabernacle was really a portable Temple. Jesus said he was the gate, he became the access of the people to the Holy of Holies. And Ephesians says that the body of Christ is now the temple.

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:18-22 ESV)

After Israel entered the Promised Land, the great Temple was built.  The temple was the center of worship in Israel.  The temple was built to specific design and dimensions given by God through Moses and set out in many chapters in the law.

As far as Sabbath worship services there are no biblical records showing the origins of the synagogue.  But we know that they developed over time and became the meeting place on the Sabbath, and other times for the Jews.  Services there resembled Christian church services with readings, sermons, prayers and so forth

[i] The Old Testament, A historical, Theological and Critical Introduction, Richard S. Hess, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2016 p. 52

[i] The Old Testament, A historical, Theological and Critical Introduction, Richard S. Hess, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2016 p. 52

May 10th, 2019 Posted by | Liturgy | no comments