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TANATA is devoted to discussing the paradoxes and the mysteries of life, among which is the paradox of the coexistence of good and evil. “God is love,” John tells us. Evil exists, we would suggest, not because God is detached or unconcerned, but because free will exists which is required for true, unforced love to exist. Still, it is painfully hard to reconcile this paradox. We believe that all evil one day will be judged and destroyed, until then we must pray.

DANIEL 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.

REVELATION 1:7

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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Friday
Feb132009

« A Second Virgin Birth? »

Arguably, the prophet Hosea’s marriage to and trials with Gomer, a former prostitute, mirrors the relationship of God as a weary husband to an unfaithful humanity, most particularly Israel, God’s beloved. Hosea prophesied in the years leading up to the fall of the northern kingdom Israel to Assyria in 722 BC. This strikingly symbolic parallel originating in Hosea would appear not to end there. Throughout the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures, God is often portrayed as a husband, a caring tender to the needs of wayward Israel. The most striking evidence of this, to our minds, is found in a riddle-like verse in Jeremiah, which follows:

“Set up signposts,
Make landmarks;
Set your heart toward the highway,
The way in which you went.
Turn back, O virgin of Israel,
Turn back to these your cities.
How long will you gad about,
O you backsliding daughter?
For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—
A woman shall encompass a man.”

What the prophet appears to be saying is that “a new thing” is going to be performed by God — that being a transformation of an aging woman into a virgin, and then the woman encompassing a man, that is, giving birth … to a man. That would be a new thing, but how would that be accomplished? An expectant mother encompasses her baby … but can a man re-enter his mother’s womb to be born again, as Nicodemus once asked Jesus?

Jeremiah is clearly alluding to Israel as the woman who becomes a virgin anew. So one can assume if there is to be a birth, if Israel, as a woman, is once more to encompass a child, it won’t be an infant she bears in her womb … but a man. Of course, that is not possible in any way but a symbolic way. Well to what man will a virgin Israel give a virgin birth?

It may seem crude to some to mention it, but have you ever noticed that Israel, the tiny sliver of land that she is, at the Dead Sea, forms the shape of a vagina? This would be a crude characterization, a grossly overwrought symbol if Jerusalem were not physically the center of the earth, if the Dead Sea were not the lowest land trench on the face of the planet, where new birth is foretold to occur. Indeed, the prophets speak time and again of Israel’s miraculous restoration and rejuvenation by way of fresh water, new streams in the desert. If any place on earth could use more water, or a bath, a cleansing of all the bloodshed, it would be the altar Israel, most particularly Jerusalem.

Are we straining this image too much, no pun intended? Will there be a virgin birth, when and if a restored Israel encompasses and gives birth to a man, which will be “a new thing?” Will Israel and Jerusalem be cleansed and renewed by the sudden appearance of water, in the same way that a mother’s water breaks to lubricate the birth canal?

Have you ever bothered to do a study of the hydrology of Jerusalem? It is arid and parched … but there are some amazing things going on beneath the surface of the birthplace of not one but three religious faiths. Dan Gill, in an article titled “Subterranean Waterworks of Biblical Jerusalem: Adaptation of a Karst System,” writes the following:

“Ancient Jerusalem has long been known to possess a system of subterranean waterworks by which the spring of Gihon, which issues outside the walls, could be approached from within the city, and its waters diverted to an intramural pool. Most scholars regarded these waterworks as man-made, but the techniques of underground orientation and ventilation (and) … the numerous anomalies and ostensible mistakes in design (have) mystified investigators. Geological investigation has revealed the waterworks to be part of a well-developed karst system, a network of natural dissolution channels and shafts, in the limestone and dolomite underlying the city. Thus, it was not through primary planning but by means of skillful adaptation of these pre-existing natural features that the city was ensured of a dependable water supply during both war and peace. Likewise, knowledge of the subterranean access may have played a role in David’s capture of the Jebusite city.”

King David entered Jerusalem for the first time like a little seed traveling up a birth canal, and of course the Jebusites fell away and Israel had her new shining city. Are we stretching this symbol or this set of symbols too far? Does God intend for us to apply his words and the events of our lives in such a poetically meaningful context?

Apparently, there will come a point, we can reasonably suppose, that this natural design of subterranean waterworks about which Mr. Gill writes, and which Edward Robinson and Eli Smith noted in their 1838 exploration of Jerusalem underground … apparently there will come a time when the sandstone and the limestone which has been holding back water … will give way. And then the Gihon, the name of the famous spring in Jerusalem which means “gusher,” will indeed become one. (Gihon is also the name of one of the rivers which fed Eden.) When that will be no one knows. But there have been signs of water in Jerusalem in recent years in places, significant places, which may have gone overlooked, beginning in 2001, which may suggest to us that water is on the verge of performing a major renovation at the holiest site on earth for the Jews.

It first made the news significantly in 2002: a water stain roughly the size of a loaf of bread appeared about 30 feet up on the Western Wall, also referred to as the Wailing Wall, causing some mystics to note that the Wailing Wall was weeping. This unusual sight would perhaps not be worth reporting on if things had not continued on from there. In succession, there were mops and new plumbing which appeared at the Dome of the Rock, where in 2008, by the way, an earthquake just outside the mosque left a hole about three feet deep. And that was all. The quake registered 5.3 on the Richter scale and was centered in Lebanon. Reportedly the hole was the only real damage anyone could find in Jerusalem which the quake was responsible for creating.

It may be that the baby’s head is crowning, which is a joyous moment in the process of delivering a baby, because for the first time the parents (or parent, unless a mirror is handy) see that there really is a baby in there, the one they’ve been waiting for. If these were the only evidences that something dramatic was about to happen at the Wailing Wall and the adjacent Temple Mount, we could stop there, though the prophets would urge us to continue our search for signs of new life, very arguably. What followed the appearance of this water stain on the Western or Wailing Wall were two enormous bulges, one near the Western Wall and one to the southeast, near the place called Solomon’s Stables. The bulges were caused by water seeping to the surface and wearing down the aging mortar and stone which form the subterranean walls of the al-Aqsa mosque. More mops were brought in, as were engineers from Jordan, who were asked to study the problem and file a report with recommendations for repairs. The bulges were fixed, very carefully, but beyond that the public has not been allowed to see what may still be going on underground.

Limestone, dolomite and sandstone form much of the Cumberland Plateau where I live. Consequently, there are tunnels and caves, naturally formed, all along the bluffs and brows which form the outer edges of the ridge upon which my town rests. Over time, limestone and sandstone, I can say from personal observation, are no match for water. Water will follow the path of least resistance, but water has the ability over time to wear down rock and stone.

And so, what will happen if water does break in the area of the lowest land trench on the face of the planet? What renovations will be caused? What new streams will appear in the desert, what restoration and regeneration of plant life will occur, what river might burst forth and from where to turn the Jordan River into a real river all the way to the Aqabah, the Red Sea? What then might be built to make Ezekiel’s water-oriented prophecies come true?

God is a generous husband. And a generous informer. Isaiah tells us that before new things occur … God tells us about them in the form of former things, forerunning events, types to be matched with antitypes, richly symbolic events, places, objects and people which forerun what is to come.

Will there be a second virgin birth? Well, was there a first one? Some scholars who read the messianic prophecy by Isaiah in which he says a young woman will give birth to a son (Isaiah 7:14) say no. While the word “virgin” is inserted by some in this verse in the seventh chapter of Isaiah where it says “almah” or young woman, many scholars have reasonably argued that a virgin birth is not what is being referenced here, and so why should there have been one … or why might there be two?

Well, the high place where Isaiah uttered this messianic prophecy was one adjacent to the Gihon Spring, it was here that Ezra got the pitcher of water to anoint the altar, it was here that Jesus proclaimed himself to be the source of “living water,” and it was here where King Ahaz stood chewing his nails as he waited for worst in the form of the approaching Assyrian army. And Isaiah gave Ahaz a chance to put his mind at ease, but Ahaz wouldn’t take it. “Ask God for a sign,” Isaiah said, imploring Ahaz to use his faith to save himself and his people. But Ahaz said no. So, Isaiah said, “Fine, then I will choose the sign for you. And Isaiah uttered these words, “Behold, a young woman (”almah”) will conceive … and will give birth to a son, and she will call his name ‘God with us.’”

What kind of sign is that? you may ask. Well, it wouldn’t be any sign at all … unless Isaiah had been referring to a virgin.

 

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