We study the Torah according to the triennial cycle every Sabbath. (Why?)
We must understand the paragraph divisions in Torah, which are inspired by the Spirit and preserved by Moses and the Jewish scribes (but discarded by the English translators), are key to help us understand what God is trying to tell us. He wants to be understood, and has provided these helps to aid us! We must also understand how the Spirit teaches through Torah by common theme.
Today is the 1st Sabbath of the triennial cycle: parashah (Torah portion) Bereisheet / In the beginning, Gen 1:1-2:3. (Read at Bible Gateway or the Hebrew Bible in English.)
Additional readings for this week:
Prophet: Isa 40 / Psalm: 1 / History: Job 1-2 / Gospel: Joh 1:1-28 / Apostolic: Col 1
The first teaching device which the Holy Spirit placed in Torah are His paragraph divisions! In Torah scrolls, copied without change from the original which Moses wrote on Sinai, there are two different types of paragraph divisions – a strong division and a weak division. This week we will learn about the first paragraph division, the strong paragraph division, marked by the Hebrew character p’tuchah. (I mark the ends of these paragraphs in my English Bible with a penciled- in “p”.)
Gen 1:1-5 ends in a parsha (paragraph) p’tuchah, a strong paragraph division.
Every portion of Scripture that ends in a p’tuchah division completes teaching an overarching theme.
Gen 1:6-8 ends in a parsha p’tuchah.
Gen 1:9-13 ends in a p’tuchah.
Gen 1:14-19 ends in a p’tuchah.
Gen 1:20-23 ends in a p’tuchah.
Gen 1:24-31 ends in a p’tuchah.
Gen 2:1-3 ends in a p’tuchah.
Notice that in today’s reading, each p’tuchah, each strong paragraph division, occurs at the end of each day of creation.
The chapter divisions and verse divisions in our English Bibles were added many thousands of years after the Holy Spirit set His paragraph divisions into the text. The chapter and verse divisions were added by medieval Catholics with an anti- Torah bias. Here we see the bias in play as the seventh day, the Sabbath, is cut by the chapter division from the first chapter outlining creation week, where it belongs. It was added to the second chapter of Genesis, which was held to be allegorical in the Middle Ages. This allowed the Church to ignore the command to celebrate the Sabbath without feeling guilty about it. The Protestant church inherited its anti- Torah bias from the Catholic church!
The paragraph divisions which the Holy Spirit has set into the text are the first device God uses to teach His Word to His people. Since each day is set into its own strong paragraph, we understand that God is teaching us that each day of creation is significant. Each day has its own work, its own purpose, and its own completion. He is the doer of the action of creating, in each day. All the paragraphs taken together reinforce that YHVH is God, the Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth. And since He is our own Creator, He is our own God, and no other. This is the historical understanding that we humans need in order to bow our knee to Him in submission to the 1st Commandment.
Something else that becomes apparent as we look at each section divided into its paragraphs: the days of creation are significant. There are Hebrew words for other lengths of time, such as years or eons, if those units of time were meant. But God chose the Hebrew yom – “day” – the regular 24 hour day. It sometimes comes as a shock to people that a day as a unit of time, is one of the few that do not depend on the sun or moon for marking it. Anyone can look up in any second- grade science textbook and see that a 24- hour day is the time it takes for the earth to revolve on its axis one revolution. No sun or moon is needed, even a light source is not needed – although God provided one (we are not told what it is; perhaps it was Himself and His Word? Psa 119:105). He created light (energy) on the first day. He also created the earth (matter), the day (time), and the heavens (space) on the first day – the building blocks of our physical universe.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
Another thing which becomes apparent as we look at each section divided into its paragraphs: each day begins with the same phrase, “Then God said,” day after day, exactly the same. (This illustrates the second device the Lord uses to teach us His Word – patterns and repetition, to draw our attention to the pattern!) So we see that God brought into being, that which did not exist, by His Word.
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,” 1 Cor 1:27-28
How does God bring a thing which is not, into being, so that He might bring to nothing that which is? He speaks His Word, and it happens. What was in Gen 1:2, when God began, was formlessness, nothingness, darkness, even vanity – one translation of the word “void.” He brought those things to nothing, by bringing into existence the things which were not: form, light, matter, energy, time, space, and life. He did this by speaking His Word.
What “is not” in our lives? Is there a reality that we wish was brought to nothing? We must speak God’s Word to it. When God was faced with darkness, He said, “Light.” When He was faced with formlessness, He said, “Form.” When He was faced with emptiness, He said, “Life.” If we are faced with unbelief, we must speak the Word of God of faith to it. If we are faced with fear, we must speak the Word of God of love and peace. If we are faced with lack, we must speak the Word of God of provision. We must not let that which counters God’s Word cross our lips! And the things which are not will bring to nothing the things that are.
Finding the Messiah in Torah
When we read the Gospel reading for this Torah portion in Joh 1:1-28, we discover that the Word that God spoke to create light and every other thing, is Messiah. It is through Messiah Yeshua that God the Father made every thing that has been made (Col 1:15-17) and He continues to uphold the universe by the Word of His Power, Messiah Yeshua (Heb 1:3)!
Admittedly, some of these things are mysteries. How can a person be a word and a person at the same time? But God is showing us, that He is what comes out of His mouth; that what He speaks is what He is and who He is. Words cannot be divorced from persona or character, because “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Luk 6:45). So when someone tells a lie, or speaks a curse, or mocks or ridicules, they are really shedding some light on the condition of their heart – which would be at best mixed with dross, unrepented sin, or impurities, and at worst completely unregenerate!