Moses' tenth speech, Part 15, The unknown tongue
Jul 03, 2013
Moses begins to describe conditions under the iron yoke in Deuteronomy 28:49, 50,
49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance who shall have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.
The first thing to note is that God takes credit for bringing this far-off nation to put Israel under the iron yoke. Therefore, if Israel wanted to change the situation, they would have to deal with God, not with the oppressor himself. The reason for the captivity was Israel’s carnal desire to live under the laws of men, so God gives them their desire to show them how oppressive men’s laws can be.
Israel received its iron yoke at the hands of Assyria, whom God raised up to destroy the nation and its capital city, finally deporting them to a foreign land. By contrast, Judah had opportunity to serve out its sentence under the wooden yoke, but chose instead to fight the king that God had authorized to rule Judah (Jeremiah 27:6). Their refusal to submit to divine judgment secured for them an iron yoke.
After seventy years, Judah’s iron yoke was reduced to a wooden yoke under the king of Persia. In 534 B.C. the people were thus allowed to return to the old land and rebuild the temple. Yet they remained under the authority of Persia for the next two centuries until the Grecian empire took the land from Persia in 332 B.C. Hence, they remained under the wooden yoke.
It had been revealed to the prophet Daniel that this captivity would be extended far beyond the seventy years foreseen by the prophet in Jeremiah 25:11. Jeremiah only saw a single captivity (to Babylon), whereas Daniel saw a greater and longer captivity to four beast empires in succession. These four beasts spanned thousands of years, ending only when the authority to rule was to be returned to the saints of the Most High.
The only question was whether Judah would spend this time under an iron yoke or a wooden yoke. The first seventy years was spent under an iron yoke on account of their refusal to submit to God’s authorized beast nation. After that, they submitted to the wooden yoke of Greece until Antiochus Epiphanes attempted to turn the temple of Jerusalem into a pagan shrine in 167 B.C. (See 2 Macabbees 6:1-12.)
The Hasmonean priestly family then rose up and overthrew the yoke in 163, and they succeeded in remaining independent for a full century. God allowed this interim between yokes on account of the sin of Antiochus. But in 63 B.C., the Roman general Pompey took Syria and Palestine, and thus the fourth beast empire of Daniel’s prophecy imposed the wooden yoke upon Judah.
This wooden yoke was changed to an iron yoke in 70 A.D. when the Jewish Revolt took place. Jews were expelled and scattered to foreign lands according to the curse of the law in Deuteronomy 28:49. This iron yoke captivity was not to end until the people repented of their “hostility” to the God of Scripture, known as Yahweh in the days of Moses, but who was revealed in the first century as Jesus Christ. The conditions by which the people might escape the yoke are revealed in the parallel passage in Leviticus 26:40-42,
40 If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
These terms of release from the iron yoke are left out of the prophecy in Deuteronomy 28, so it is important to study this detail from Leviticus 26. Not understanding these conditions has caused many in the church to support modern Zionism, not realizing that Zionism itself is a violation of the covenant and the law of God.
Under normal circumstances, God would not have allowed Jews to return to the old land without repenting of their hostility to Jesus Christ. However, as I explained in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright, God allowed the Zionists to fulfill a different set of prophecies given to Esau-Edom. This was granted on account of the absorption of Edom (Greek: Idumea) into Jewry in 126-125 B.C., thereby making the Jews the inheritors of Edom as well as Judah. Hence, the Zionists came to fulfill the prophecies of Esau-Edom, not of Israel or even Judah. The Israeli state was granted a limited franchise by God in order to give Edom time to prove itself unworthy of the birthright, as prophesied by Isaac (Genesis 27:40, KJV).
Meanwhile, the Israelites—an entirely different set of people who were carried into captivity by Assyria—remained scattered under the iron yoke, seeming to disappear from history. The Assyrians called them by other names, which cloaked their identity as they migrated into Europe. Yet Hosea reveals the primary name by which they were known to the Assyrians. The prophet was instructed to marry a harlot named Gomer, and their marriage was a prophetic type of God’s marriage to Israel, the harlot.
On the Black Obelisk of Shalmanezer, the Assyrians called Israel “the house of Omri,” which in those days was spelled Ghomri. Their land in Assyria was called Gamir, and the people were known as the Gamira. As languages changed over the centuries, Ghomri was altered to Khumri and Humria. Historians tell us that this is the origin of the Celts, whose ancestors migrated from Assyria into Europe after the fall of Assyria.
There were, of course, many other groups who sprang from that original body of Israelites, each having different names, but that is a study that is too detailed for us here. Suffice to say that the Behistun Rock, where Darius the Great was buried, shows that the Gamira were also known in other languages as Saka and Sakka, which the Greeks called Sacae, and the Romans called Saxons.
All of these Israelites were lost on account of their name being changed. This, of course, was foreshadowed by their ancestor, Joseph, who was also “lost” in Egypt. Even when he was elevated to power under Pharaoh and was made a public figure, his family did not realize it, because his name had been changed to Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45). So, like their father Joseph, the Israelites were lost in plain sight for many years.
We see, then, that the iron yoke affected Judah and Israel differently. Each had its own history, because each had its own calling and destiny. Although each has fulfilled the prophecies given to it, neither has truly fulfilled its calling. Paul says in Romans 11:7, 8,
7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not, and ears to hear not, down to this very day.”
The apostle explains that only the remnant of grace has fulfilled the calling of Israel and Judah. These are the ones truly “chosen,” and the rest are “hardened” (or blinded). He goes on to explain how believers of other nations also had equal opportunity to fulfill the calling of Israel by faith in Jesus Christ. Hence, remnants of all nations combine to form God’s “remnant of grace,” not because of their genealogy, but on account of their faith.
God used the iron yoke captivities to distinguish the remnant of grace from those whose hearts remained hardened. And so Moses also speaks prophetically of another aspect of the iron yoke that is little understood. He says the iron yoke is imposed upon them by “a nation whose language you shall not understand” (Deuteronomy 28:49).
Isaiah gives further understanding of this prophecy in Isaiah 28. This is the great “Pentecostal” chapter of the Old Testament, for it speaks of the unknown “tongue” and God’s purpose for this spiritual gift.
Isaiah 28:1 introduces the prophecy by saying, “Woe to the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim.” Ephraim was drunk on the wine of foreign gods, whereas they should have been filled with the Spirit. Paul says in Ephesians 5:18,
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.
The comparison between wine and the infilling of the Holy Spirit is seen everywhere in Scripture. We see it most clearly in Isaiah 28. Israel’s priests and prophets were staggering and reeling from excessive “wine,” when they should have been filled with the Spirit (Isaiah 28:7). Their tables were full of vomit, when they should have been dispensing the word of the Lord from their mouths (Isaiah 28:8).
The prophet goes on to tell us that the people refused to hear the word of the Lord from prophecy given in their own language, and so God said in Isaiah 28:11,
11 Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue.
The Apostle Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 14:21. He then concludes,
22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.
Where did Paul get this idea? He got it from Israel’s example in Isaiah 28. The majority of the Israelites did not believe Isaiah’s prophecy when it was spoken in their own Hebrew language. They were “scoffers” (Isaiah 28:14). So God gave them the word through the Assyrians, who spoke in “a foreign tongue.” It was a word of divine judgment, for they ordered the Israelites to pack up and move to a foreign land.
In other words, if people will not or cannot hear the word of prophecy in their own language, God will speak to them in an unknown tongue. Therefore, prophecy is given as a sign to believers, while tongues are given as a sign to unbelievers. The gift of tongues is also a sign to one’s own carnal mind, for the word given in an unknown tongue brings the unbelieving, carnal mind into captivity. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5,
4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Once we understand the foundational revelations of Moses and Isaiah, we can then see better how Paul applies them in his letter to the Corinthians. We also can better understand why prophecy is superior to tongues, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:5,
5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy, and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.
Even as it would have been better for the Israelites to “hear” the prophecy of Isaiah, rather than to wait for the Assyrians to speak the word of the Lord in an unknown tongue, so also is it better to prophesy in a known language than to receive the word in an unknown tongue. Paul explains also how interpretation can overcome the language barrier. Yet the implication is that the carnal mind is the “unbeliever” within ourselves. Hence, every thought from the carnal mind must be brought into captivity.
The gift of tongues is therefore one of the curses of the law. Like all of God’s “curses,” it is designed to discipline and correct the unbeliever in order to bring all men into agreement with the mind of God. Moses says that tongues is one of the signs of the iron yoke. Isaiah expands on this idea, applying it to the Assyrians who were called to bring those unbelieving Israelites into captivity. Paul applies it to us personally, showing that the unbelieving, carnal mind must be brought into an iron-yoke captivity through the gift of tongues, until we are able to hear God’s voice in our own language.
This is the fifteenth part of a series titled "Moses' Tenth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones