from the days of King David till our days.
Dr. Asher Eder, the Academy of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem - Foundation Stone, Touchstone, Burdensome Stone
1) Foundation Stone.
Isaiah speaks here about a "(foundation) stone, touchstone, precious cornerstone, well founded". He relates this foundation to Zion; however, the terms Jerusalem and Zion overlap to quite some degree:
- Jerusalem is the geographic place with its spiritual significance;
- Zion is the spiritual superstructure with its localization in Jerusalem.
Adam's creation in God's image and likeness, related by Jewish trad-ition to Jerusalem, shall come to its fullness in Zion. Isaiah's term foundation stone comprises these two concepts as out-lined in part A.
Isaiah, consequently, proclaims:
- the Lord God of Hosts resides on (liter.: in, with) Mount Zion (Is. 8:18; the word , mount, mountain, may stand figuratively for teaching);
- the teaching shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. As mentioned, Zion can also be seen as Divine answer to Nimrod's Babel. Mankind finds itself constantly between these two poles.
The prophets hint at this idea also by a pun on the word , (foundation) stone:
- Jacob, in his blessing of Joseph, describes the Lord as (foundation) stone of Israel, Gen. 49:24;
- in contrast, no foundation stone and no corner stone could ever be taken from Babel (Jer. 51:26).
Nevertheless, in the confusion of Babel, many throughout the ages tried, and still try, to lay a foundation stone of their own con-cepts, besides Zion, by forming their own religions, ideas or ideo-logies, in vain. They can be compared to the children in the market place, each one calling "unto me, dance and sing along with me".
2.) Zion the precious corner stone.
While the foundation stone constitutes the permanent base of a building, it is the corner stone which projects the angle of the walls, and where the converging sides or edges meet. Corner stone and foundation stone can be identical. In any case it is the corner stone which aligns the rows. By calling Zion a corner stone, the prophet expresses also by this term the often repeated Divine truth that Man, be he a Jew or a Gentile, realizes his innermost longing and engraved image only by adhering to his Creator's instruction, by facing, and "going up" to, Jerusalem (cf 1.Kings 8:41-43; Is.56:7). Christian readers are used to see in the person of Jesus the corner stone. Besides the quotations above (see par. IV "Zion in the teach- ings of the apostles"), may they in our context be reminded of the following passages:
- in the Sermon of the Mount it is said that "not an iota and not a dot" of the law shall pass away until all is accomplished (i.e. the whole structure of Zion is completed);
- the prayer taught in the Sermon of the Mount is directed towards the "Father in Heaven", i.e. to the God of Israel (and not to Jesus nor to anyone else);
- Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, speaks of Jesus as a mediator between God and men - and not as the ultimate goal (1.Tim. 2:5); he may be a to the Gentiles similar as Mose was set before Pharaoh as a (Exod. 7:1; the word there is to be under-stood in its meaning of judge which represents the aspect of severi-ty of the Godhood. Cf Acts 17:31, and others).
3.) Zion the touch stone.
The usual translation tried stone, instead of touchstone, is wrong and misleading. As a touchstone tests the genuineness and purity of precious metals, so is Zion set as a test for mankind - Ps. 14 and 53. As mentioned above, Abraham called this place "God sees..." (Gen. 22:14). He did so, mindful of what he was told earlier: "I will bless them that bless thee, and pay back those who harm thee" (Gen. 12:3). The usual translation "...I will curse those who curse thee" is inaccurate, inadequate, and misleading. From the word , light, easy, derives , literally to ease, to lift, in the sense of pulling the ground away under one's feet, thus "cursing" him; and from , fire, light, derive towards light, or fire (i.e. even through fire if need be); and dried up, burnt out, figuratively cursed. God himself does not curse anyone! Harm, in this context, can be physical or spiritual. Luring Abraham and the people of Israel away from the path ordained for them would deprive them of their Divine call and the promises, and thus harm them in body and soul.
An example in point is Balaam. Although speaking nice words about Israel, he adviced the Moabites to seduce the Children of Israel to fornication and idolatry so that they would forget their covenant, and stumble and fall. (Christians were warned not "to hold the teaching of Balaam", i.e. not to derail the people of Israel from the path enjoined in the Torah; cf Revel. 2:14; Jud. 7). Zion tests whether a man "has clean hands, and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity... This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob" (Ps. 24:4,6); It is said, the judgment of the nations is in accordance to what they have done, or not done, unto "one of the least of his brethren" i.e. of his Jewish people, in the hour of their persecution (Matth. 25:32-45). This indicates that the world situation would deteriorate to such a degree that mere physical help extended to a persecuted Jew would suffice for a Gentile to be counted among the "Righteous of the Nations" (in Yad vaShem, many of them are remembered by a tree planted in their honour). However, even friends may turn away in the hour of trial: "...among all her (Jerusalem's) lovers she has none to comfort her, all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies" (Lament. 1:2); These warnings are severe.
It seems appropriate to elaborate more on the subject. Some few Biblical examples of right behaviour are Eliezer, the faithful servant of Abraham; Jethro, the father-in-law of Mose; Rahab of Jericho; Ruth the Moabite; and according to the Book of Acts, the Roman captain of Capernaum who, like the captain Cornelius of Caesarea, earned for himself a good reputation among the Jews, even supported the building of a synagogue. We recognize here an important principle: that of differentness.
The touchstone which tests must necessarily be different from the material which is to be tested. True, all of us are descendants of Adam, and belong to the family of Man; but there are different calls, and accordingly different rites and observances. Noah ordained: Japhet shall live in the tents of Shem" (and not vice versa, inspite of Israel's diaspora). Noah's word is to be under-stood spiritually. It includes the principle of differences (priest and laymen; spirit-intellect-emotion; etc). Consequently, Paul (in Romans 13:8) says: "Whosoever loves the different one (i.e. not just another of one one's own kind) has fulfilled the law". Required is the faithfulness in one's own call, and love and respect for the different one. This simple truth was communicated by Paul to his followers in the West (e.g. Rom. 13:8, "he who loves the different one has fulfilled the law"; Phil. 2:3, "in humility esteeming those who are different as excelling yourselves"); and by Muhammed to the sons of Ishmael (e.g. Sura "The Pilgrimage", 66; "The Table", 53; "The Bee", 95: "We (Allah) have appointed for every nation a holy rite that they shall perform"; "If God had willed, he would have made you (i.e Jews, Christians, Muslim) one nation; but he may try you in what has come to you. So emulate in good works; unto God shall you return altogether, and he will tell you of that whereon you were at variance").
Zion, as said, is the touchstone. Every transgression if not repented, especially highmindedness, will in the end lead to contradict Zion and the teaching which goes forth from it; and every assault on Zion, be it for what reason so ever, implies a transgression against the Divine teaching laid down by the Prophets. We may even say: Whosoever is against the Divine Law (Torah) by altering or abolishing it, will in the end be against its bearer, the Jewish people; and whosoever is against the Jewish people is also against the Divine Law.
The modern term anti-Zionism is but a camouflage for anti-Semitism which got a bad taste after the holocaust. The spiritual guide for blessing properly is the Torah which is to be studied and understood thoroughly in order to avoid errors which could turn out to be a curse (cf Hosea 14:10 "The ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but the transgressors stumble in them"; Matth. 3:12 "separating the chaff from the wheat"; Revel. 4:12 "God's word is sharper than a two edged sword". Teaching the "Seven Laws of Noah" means in fact giving mankind a sure frame along these lines. Nations not ready for these minimum requirements, revolt and uproar against God's Torah and priestly people. By adhering to his lower drives - lust for pleasure, power, haughtiness, etc, symbolized by Nimrod ("Let us revolt") against 'Ever (Hebrew) and the spirituality he represents in accordance with the Torah - man invents his own babylonian idolatries under the guise of ideals, philosophies, religions, etc, and comes into conflict with Zion. This results always in some kind of anti-Semitism (originally the Greek word anti means instead of, rivalling). The intent to place oneself in the stead of another results in being against him.
Anti-Semites are those who plainly want to do away with Shem and his teaching, or who want to place themselves in his stead, claiming that they are the true Semites, or the new Israel, or the people of the New Covenant. Yet, Zion, and the Jewish people as the "daughter of Zion", are the touchstone, or test stone, for the nations and their endeavours. However, Zion is a touchstone also for the Jewish people: it tests our faithfulness to the Torah which guides us to live up to the Cov-enant. Through it, the people of Israel serves as the "Kingdom of Priests" for the ultimate blessing of all mankind. We may compare this situation to the creation of man and wife: both are Adam, humans in their different shapes and characters of male and female. Interestingly enough, Eve is described as "a help as before (or against) him" (Gen. 2:18,10). By being of the same quality, and yet different, she can turn out to be a helpmate for him if and as long as both endeavour to do what they were meant to do, i.e. to obey God's voice and not to eat of the tree of their own knowledge; or else, they would clash and be each against the other. Likewise, Israel can be seen in the position of Adam who received the Divine instruction for himself and for passing it on to the rest of mankind, the latter being like Eve. For both of them, Zion is the gauge, the foundation stone and cornerstone; or, if rejected, the touchstone and the burdensome stone. Israel's designation as "holy, peculiar nation" refers to the entirety of its people among mankind. Human weaknessses of individuals or even of the majority does not justify Amalek (who always falls upon the weak), nor does it justify any other enmity (as e.g. that of the Midianites, the Philistines, the Palaestinians, etc etc)
4) Burdensome Stone (Zech. 12:2,3).
We begin to see why Jerusalem/Zion is also a burdensonme stone. Diving more into the details of this strange phenomena, we may find several causes:
- many see in the commandments rather a burden than a joyful opp-ortunity to link up with the Divine and with their fellow beings. They prefer to go after the reasonings and dictates of their own egos, and there is also the fear of the "unknown God". All this is prefigured in the serpant's famous question: "Should God really have said...?" (Gen. 3:1);
- Jerusalem's geographic location:
- Jerusalem is a earthly city, not only a heavenly city or Divine concept. The heavenly and the earthly cannot be separated, and Jerusalem, including its spiritual quality, "shall remain in Jerusalem" (Zech.12:6).
- due to its location at the hinge of the three continents (Africa, Asia, Europe), Jerusalem gets always into the spheres of interest of the ruling powers who want to secure this important place for themselves.
- Jerusalem carries a special blessing. Throughout history, many a political or spiritual power tried to get hold of Jerusalem and benefit from these blessings, or to shift its qualities to some other place. But it cannot be shifted, neither to Rome, nor to Mecca, nor to Moscow, nor to any other place. Such attempts, contradicting the Divine Law, cannot secure the blessings hoped for; they rather led to collisions, and turned out to be a "burdensome stone".
- An example to the point is the Mufti's Jihad, Arafat serving as its symbolic head (Jasir Arafat, actually Abu Omar, adopted this name: Arafat, the name of a hill next to Mecca mentioned in the Koran, is the climax of the Islamic pilgrimage on earth. Fittingly, his late minister of war was called Abu Jihad, Father of the Holy War). The "Palestinian problem" is not the cause of the Jihad but one of its results. In fact the Jihad is carried out on the expense of the "Palestinian Arabs" who are used like a pawn on the chess board. We see that the "Burdensome Stone" are in fact ideologies and the perversions of the religions (counterfeit Islam and counter-feit Christianity): instead of being true pacifists (pax facere, peace makers by establishing the Divine Law), they act against God's Word and thus against humaneness. The political events are on their level but an expression of the religio/ spiritual situation.
5) Harmony and peace are the goal, not quarrel and strive.
Zion as the Divine foundation stone is also their cornerstone. And even more: Zion will be the place of the spiritual rebirth and of the healing of the peoples of the earth: "Of Zion it will be said, "This and that man were born in her..." (Ps.87:5). "Zion shall be redeemed by justice..."(Is. 1:17, perhaps pre-figured by King Cyrus, cf 2. Chron.36:22); "Peace is the fruit of that justice which is valid before God" - i.e. not a justice trimmed to suite temporary conveniances. The IIIrd Temple, like the Ist and the IInd, shall be a House of Peace with the nations after they come to the true "knowledge of the Lord", not a house of war against them: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations". Isaiah visualizes peace between Egypt, Assur, and Israel, with the Divine blessing for all of them (19:22-25), based upon Zion as the foundation stone and cornerstone. True peace would certainly be beneficial for all mankind.
6) The prayer of the upright is powerful. Ps. 122:6 urges: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem...".
7) Praise of the Lord.
Once the nations will recognize all this, they will praise and exalt the Lord God of Israel for his faithfulness to the covenant he made with Israel; for, in their confusion in which they can't discern anymore what's left and what's right (like the Ninvites in the Book of Jonah), this will prove to them his existence, his truth-fulness, his justice, his might and power. As said in Ps. 117: "Praise ( = hallelu) the Lord, all the nations, exalt him, all the peoples; f o r his grace prevailed over us (i.e. over Israel); and the Lord's truth endureth for ever. Hallelujah".
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The above parts A and B are elaborated manuscripts for two lectures delivered in Germany, Sept. 1992, at the annual conference of the ACI (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christen fuer Israel). Dr. Asher Eder
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