“The Alpha and The Omega” and Merisms

August 31, 2013

In Revelation 22:13, Jesus said, “”I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation is filled with allusions to the Old Testament. Isaiah furnishes the background for Yahweh’s declaration that He is the “first and the last” (41:4; 44:6; 48:12). What is said of the Father is here affirmed of the Son, as He shares the divine essence. Consider the first part of the verse.

“I Am The Α

and The Ω.”  

 

What does this mean? Beale and McDonough observes:

These divine titles are figures of speech (merisms) in which the figurative point is to mention the opposite poles of something on order to emphasize the totality of all that lies between. The use of the first and last letters of the alphabet was typical of the ancients in expressing merisms. So the Jews could say that the law should be kept from aleph to tau. (Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, p.1055). 

The concept is that of totality, completenessInterestingly, the blessings for obedience are listed in Leviticus 26:3-8, and begin with aleph (first letter of the Hebrew alphebet) and conclude with tau (last letter).

Wikipedia has some helpful info on merisms:

In rhetoric a merism is the combination of two contrasting words, to refer to an entirety. For example, when we mean to say that someone searched thoroughly, everywhere, we often say that someone “searched high and low”. You also say “ladies and gentlemen” and the “young and old”.

Merisms also figure in a number of familiar English expressions. The phrase lock, stock, and barrel originally referred to the parts of a gun, by counting off several of its more conspicuous parts; it has come to refer to the whole of anything that has constituent parts. Basically, and everything in between – all encompassing.

In biology, a merism is a repetition of similar parts in the structure of an organism (Bateson 1894). Such features are called meristic characters, and the study of such characters is called meristics.

Merisms are conspicuous features of Biblical poetry. For example, in Genesis 1:1, when God creates “the heavens and the earth” (KJV), the two parts combine to indicate that God created the whole universe. Similarly, in Psalm 139, the psalmist declares that God knows “my downsitting and mine uprising”, indicating that God knows all the psalmist’s actions. 


Greek Letters Alpha and Omega. commons.wikipedia.org

Greek Letters Alpha and Omega. commons.wikipedia.org

Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet; omega is the last. We would say, “Everything from A to Z. What is affirmed is that everything is summed up in Jesus. He is the beginning of creation, responsible for its origin. He is the end, and will bring it to a conclusion. He is what all history is about from beginning to end. Contextually in Revelation, it was not ultimately the Roman Emperors who ruled, but rather Jesus is KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev.19:16).

Romans 11:36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Ephesians 1:9-10: “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”

Col. 1:15-20: 

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

What is meant by Jesus’ being the Alpha and Omega? He is Everything! Observe:

1. Jesus’ absolute Deity is affirmed.

2. He is Creator.

3. He is Redeemer.

4. He is Sovereign Ruler over all.

5. He is Judge.

“I have found a friend in Jesus,

He’s everything to me,

He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;

He’s the Lily of the Valley, in Him Alone I see

All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole. “


Mount Gerizim, the Mount of Blessing

August 24, 2013

Our previous couple of posts pertain to mounts Ebal and Gerizim, the setting of the curses and blessings of the law’s being read and accepted by all Israel as the basis of their receiving the land promise (Deut. 11:26-32; Deut. 27-28; Josh. 8:30-35).

At the top of Gerizim there are archaeological ruins that date to the Persian and Hellenistic periods, as well as a Byzantine church.

Mount Gerizim, view at top. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mount Gerizim, view at top. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In distance at right you are seeing the tomb of a 12th century sheikh. The mountain in background is Mt. Ebal, the mount of cursing. Out of sight below in the valley between lies Shechem.

In later times Mt. Gerizim would become sacred to the Samaritans, and still is today. In the intertestamental period there was a temple here, but it was destroyed by John Hyrcanus (Maccabean ruler) in 111-110 BC.

When Jesus conversed with the woman at the well, she said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain” (John 4:20). She was speaking of Mount Gerizim, which was very much in sight of Jacob’s well, where they were talking.

Click image for larger view.

Todd Bolen has an interesting post on the acoustics of mounts Ebal and Gerizim here. See also Ferrell Jenkin’s post here.

Hopefully this info and these photos will help you visualize the events of Joshua 8, at the time of the conquest under Joshua:

33 All the people, rulers, leaders, and judges were standing on either side of the ark, in front of the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD. Both resident foreigners and native Israelites were there. Half the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the LORD’s servant had previously instructed to them to do for the formal blessing ceremony. 34 Then Joshua read aloud all the words of the law, including the blessings and the curses, just as they are written in the law scroll. 35 Joshua read aloud every commandment Moses had given before the whole assembly of Israel, including the women, children, and resident foreigners who lived among them (Josh. 8:33-35, NET). 


View of Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim

August 15, 2013

In our last post we referenced some biblical texts regarding Mt. Ebal, the “mount of cursing.” Our photo today shows the view from the east of Mt. Ebal (right) and Mt. Gerizim (left). Shechem is located between the two.

Mt. Ebal (right) and Mt. Gerizim (left). Shechem is at center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mt. Ebal (right) and Mt. Gerizim (left). Shechem is at center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

When Joshua led Israel to Shechem (Josh. 8) they would have seen this view. Likewise this would have been the scene when Jesus went through Samaria en route to Galilee when he stopped here at Jacob’s well, and had that fascinating conversation with the woman who came to draw water. She left there knowing the Source of the Water of Life (John 4).

We have previously posted on Shechem here, here and here.

Click image for larger view.

 


Mount Ebal

August 13, 2013

The first mention of Mount Ebal is Deuteronomy 11:29: “Now it shall be, when the LORD your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.”

More instructions were to follow in Deut. 27. When Israel crossed over to receive the promised land of Canaan, they were to go to Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, which are situated opposite each other, with Shechem in between. Six tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim (representing the blessings of the law, conditioned upon obedience), and the other six on Mount Ebal (representing the curses/punishment resultant from disobedience).

Joshua 8 shows Israel’s compliance with God’s instructions. The Levites and Joshua were positioned at Shechem. There all the blessings and curses of the law were read, and all the people shouted, “Amen.”

It is significant that Shechem is where childless Abraham stood when God promised Canaan to his descendants (Genesis 12:6,7). Now his descendants, the nation of Israel, were there to receive the promise, to stake their claim to the land. But more was involved than their receiving the land–it was based on their covenant relationship with their God.

Our photo shows Mount Ebal, the mount of cursing. You will notice how barren it is; very little grows there.

Mount Ebal, the mount of cursing. Six tribes ascended here in Josh. 8.

Mt Ebal, the mount of cursing. 6 tribes ascended here in Josh. 8. Photo: Leon Mauldin.

In the foreground you can see the ruins of ancient Shechem. Click image for larger view.


Dor on the Coastal Plain

August 13, 2013

I’ve been enjoying my Holman Bible Atlas on my Kindle Fire by Thomas V. Brisco. In his section on “Regions and Subdivisions” in the land of Israel he looks at the four major longitudinal zones that are characteristic of the  land, the first of which is the coastal plain. He includes a brief mention of the plain of Dor. “One of the most important harbors of Palestine, Dor gave the plain a strategic importance.”

This map shows the location of Dor, the harbor city and the plain running north and south and for a short distance to the east.

Dor, an important harbor in ancient Israel. Map by Bibleatlas.com.

Dor, an important harbor in ancient Israel. Map by Bibleatlas.com.

Here is a view of the harbor.

Harbor of Dor on Coast of Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Harbor of Dor on Coast of Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here you can see some of the excavations (from a distance) at the city of Dor.

Excavations at Dor. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Excavations at Dor. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We previously posted on Dor here.

Click on images for larger view.