Divine Reflections on Jezreel
The section from Deut. 32:26-33 is “D2” in the outline of the Song of Moses. It runs parallel to “D” in verse 20.
Whereas “D” was about Israel becoming Lo-ammi, “not My people,” the parallel section of “D2” is about Jezreel, “God scatters.” These were two of Hosea’s children, who lived out this prophecy found in the Song of Moses.
God Establishes His Sovereignty
It appears that in the Song, God was most concerned that men would not recognize the sovereignty of God, but would believe that His judgment upon Israel was either random or the result of Assyria’s great strength and power. Deut. 32:26, 27 says,
26 I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces,
I will remove the memory of them from men,”
27 Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy,
Lest their adversaries should misjudge,
Lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant,
And the Lord has not done all this.”
The main thrust of this is not so much that Israel was to be broken apart, or cut to pieces, but rather that beast nations would take credit for doing it by their own power. This is what God “fears” most, Moses says. When he speaks of “the provocation of the enemy,” the word means “vexation or frustration.” The Hebrew word is kahas.
In other words, when Israel’s adversaries misjudge the situation and take credit for removing Israel into foreign lands, they cause God to be vexed and frustrated for not recognizing His sovereignty.
Israel’s scattering was on account of their refusal to obey the vow that they had made at Mount Horeb. In Deuteronomy 28 God pre-wrote history by prophesying that if they were disobedient, He would bring foreign nations to deport them into other lands. The Song of Moses was a final attempt to make men understand that God takes responsibility for this judgment. So God seems to fear being misjudged, as if He is not powerful enough to stop the Assyrians and their gods from conquering and scattering Israel.
God Chops and Scatters Israel
In verse 26 God reveals two aspects of divine judgment that was to come. First, “I will cut them to pieces.” The Hebrew word is pa’ah, “to blow them away, as in scattering them with the wind.”
So many centuries later, when the rabbinic scholars translated this passage into Greek (the Septuagint), they translated it “I will scatter them.” This relates Israel’s judgment to the name of Hosea’s oldest son, Jezreel (Hosea 1:4), which means “God scatters.” Jezreel (Yiz-reh-al) is a homonym that sounds like Israel (Yis-ra-al). Yet Jezreel’s root word is zara, “seed,” while Israel’s root word is sara, “prince.” Jezreel represents Israel in the time that they are scattered as seed sown in a field.
The second aspect of divine judgment was, “I will remove the memory of them from men.” Not only were the Israelites to be scattered, but they were also to be forgotten. And so we find that when the Assyrians took the Israelites captive, they became the so-called “lost tribes of Israel.” The only group that remained to be remembered were the Judahites, or Judeans, or Jews.
Most of the people of Judah were deported to Assyria along with the tribes of Israel, for the Assyrian records on the Taylor Prism tell us that King Sennacherib took 46 walled cities of Judah along with their communities and deported those people to Assyria.
“Compared to this, the Taylor Prism proclaims that 46 walled cities and innumerable smaller settlements were conquered by the Assyrians, with 200,150 people, and livestock, being deported, and the conquered territory being dispersed among the three kings of the Philistines instead of being given back. Additionally, the Prism says that Sennacherib’s siege resulted in Hezekiah being shut up in Jerusalem ‘like a caged bird’.”
Although perhaps the majority of the people of Judah were deported to Assyria, the national entity known as the House of Judah remained in Jerusalem for another century. The nation resided with the king, and in this case King Hezekiah was not taken to Assyria. God destroyed the Assyrian army (185,000 troops) outside the walls of Jerusalem, as Scripture says (2 Kings 19:35).
The “nation,” as a political organization, resides with the king, not with the people, so even though the majority of the people were deported to Assyria, they did not take the “nation” with them. Hence, 2 Kings 17:18 says, “none was left except the tribe of Judah.”
The Israelites, on the other hand, were removed from the land. The name Israel was given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph (Gen. 48:16). The Ephraimite chief or leader specifically held the birthright of Joseph and the birthright name Israel. When he was taken to Assyria, the “tribe” of Ephraim and the nation of Israel itself was removed from the land and scattered in Assyria.
Israel Becomes Lost Sheep
Not only were they scattered, but God caused their remembrance to cease so that they would become “lost sheep” (Jer. 50:6). Ezekiel 34 prophesies that God’s sheep were lost and scattered on every mountain (kingdom). By the law of lost sheep in Deut. 22:1-3, the shepherds (“pastors”) were supposed to find and care for God’s lost sheep until He came to claim them. However, the prophet says, the shepherds abused the sheep and treated many of them as if they were their own (Ezekiel 34:4).
Other sheep remained “lost,” and because no man sought for them, God vowed to search for them and to find them (Ezekiel 34:11). Jesus claimed to be the One fulfilling this prophecy, for when He sent the disciples on their first mission trip, he instructed them in Matt. 10:6,
5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
It is likely that Jesus was sending them north to Parthia, which was the nation located in the old territory of Assyria. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, still knew where the majority of those Israelites were living, for as yet they had not been completely lost. He writes in his Antiquities of the Jews, XI, v, 2,
“Wherefore, there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans; while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now; and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers.”
If Josephus knew the location of the Israelites in the first century, it must have been somewhat common knowledge. Hence, Jesus needed no special revelation to send His disciples to Parthia. The Euphrates River was the traditional boundary between the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire. The river’s source was in the mountains of Armenia in what is now eastern Turkey. The disciples’ mission trip was only the beginning of His search for those “lost sheep.” It was to be completed by the time of Christ’s second coming.
In 224 A.D. the Persians conquered Parthia and pushed those Israelites further north into Europe all the way to the Baltic Sea. This was when the Anglo-Saxon confederation was formed. Angle, or engle is Hebrew for “bull,” and Saxon was the Latin version of Sacae (Greek) or Saka (Persian), also known as the Beth-Sak, “house of Isaac.” When these people invaded the island of Britain, the nation came to be known as Engle Land, or England, nicknamed “John Bull.”
When the Western Roman Empire fell (476 A.D.), many records were lost, and education became the privilege of the few. As the ex-Israelites migrated into Europe under other names, their identity was lost, as both Moses and Hosea had prophesied. They truly became “lost sheep,” for they were both scattered and forgotten.
And yet, as Ezekiel 34 says, God’s lost sheep would be found at the end of the age. They would be regathered, along with many “others” (Isaiah 56:8). Jesus Christ would find them, and they would be regathered to Him, as “Christians” claimed Him as their King and rallied around Him (Hosea 1:11).
All of this was essentially a repeat of the story of Joseph. Joseph was “lost” in Egypt and presumed to be dead for many years. But as it turned out, he was lost in plain sight because Pharaoh gave him a new name, Zaphenath-paneah (Gen. 41:45), which appears to mean “lost or hidden treasure.”
Joseph was given a wife, Asenath, who bore him two children. The first-born was Manasseh, whose name means “forgetfulness.” We read in Gen. 41:51,
51 And Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
His name prophesied of his descendants (and all Israel) who were to forget their heritage and their connection to the biblical nation of Israel. In the end, however, Joseph revealed his identity, not only to his brothers, but also to Pharaoh himself (Gen. 45:4, 16).
The timing of the fulfillment of this revelation is seen when we study the two comings of Christ. His first coming was as Messiah ben-Judah in order that He might claim the throne rights of the His father David. The second time, however, He comes with his robe dipped in blood (Rev. 19:13) in order to identify Him with Joseph (Gen. 37:31). He comes as the Messiah ben-Joseph in order to claim the Birthright, which had been given to Joseph (1 Chron. 5:2). In this way, the breach between the Scepter and the Birthright is to be repaired, as prophesied in Ezekiel 37:17.
There are many details of Scripture and history that we must know in order to have a clear understanding of the divine plan. God gives us a very brief statement of intent in the Song of Moses when He tells us that God will scatter Israel and cause them to be forgotten. The prophets expound on this—Hosea and Ezekiel in particular—but in the end, we must study some history of the migrations of Israel that occurred after the fall of Assyria, if we are to understand the divine plan. Only then can we read the Song of Moses with any serious appreciation for what is revealed in it.
The Foolishness of Israel
In Deut. 32:28, 29 Moses says,
28 For they are a nation lacking in counsel
And there is no understanding in them.
29 Would that they were wise, that they would understand this,
That they would discern their future.
Israel lacked intelligent understanding and wisdom. Their foolishness was shown in their failure to “discern their future;” that is, they failed to comprehend what would come to pass as a result of their sin. Like most people, they thought they could get away with it, that being the “chosen people” was sufficient to obtain the blessings of God in spite of sin. They thought they could presume upon their “chosen” status which they attributed to their genealogy and to the reputation of their founder, Moses.
Their lack of foresight was, in fact, the underlying motive behind the Song of Moses, which was to warn them of impending judgment as well as to give them hope during the time of their judgment.
30 How could one chase a thousand,
And two put ten thousand to flight,
Unless their Rock had sold them,
And the Lord had given them up?
This verse is unclear, so let me offer two alternate paraphrases:
30 How could a single Israelite chase a thousand
And two of them put ten thousand to flight,
Unless their Rock [God] had sold their enemies into their hands,
And the Lord had given them up into the hands of the Israelites?
We may also understand this in reverse:
30 How could one of the enemy chase a thousand Israelites,
And two enemies put ten thousand to flight,
Unless Israel’s Rock [God] had sold the Israelites,
And the Lord had given them up into the hands of their enemies?
Either way we read it, Moses intended to say that the only way to win battles was for God to be on your side. But if God “sold them” into slavery as per Exodus 22:3, the enemies would always win those battles. Our second paraphrase seems more likely to be correct, because it sets forth the possibility that God might sell Israel into the hands of their enemies.
Moses again calls Yahweh the “Rock” of Israel, as in Deut. 32:4, 15, and 18. Since the term refers not only to a rock or cliff but also to the wall around a fortress, it is appropriate to understand this in terms of security from one’s enemies. Hence, when one’s rock, or fortress, gives up those who depend on it for security, it means that one cannot trust the fortress. In this case, Israel could not trust God to save them if they persisted in violating His law.
The False Security of Drugs
Moses then speaks of another rock—that is, the gods of other nations in whom they trust—for their own security.
31 Indeed their rock is not like our Rock,
even our enemies themselves judge [palel, “assess”] this.
The nations were well aware that Yahweh, the “Rock” of Israel, was different from their own gods in whom they trusted for protection and salvation. What is that difference?
32 For their vine is from the vine of Sodom,
And from the fields of Gomorrah;
Their grapes are grapes of poison [rosh, “poppies”],
Their clusters, bitter.
33 Their wine is the venom of serpents [tanniyn, “dragon, whale, sea monster, serpent”],
And the deadly poison of cobras.
The gods of other nations are pictured as poppies, because its extract, opium, only gives the appearance of pain-free security. In Gesenius Lexicon, under “Helps,” he explains:
????? … is also the name of a poisonous plant (Deut. 29:17); growing quickly and luxuriantly, Hos. 10:4; of a bitter taste, Ps. 69:22, Lam. 3:5; and on this account, frequently connected with wormwood, Deu. 29:17, Lament. 3:19; as I judge neither the cicuta as thought by Celsius in Oedmann (iv. p. 63); nor lolium, darnel (Mich. Supplemm. p. 2220); but the poppy, so called from its heads (Liv. i. 54). ???? ?? juice of poppies, opium, Jer. 8:14; 9:14; 23:15. Hence, poison of any kind, Deut. 32:32, 33; Job 20:16.
So Gesenius says that rosh is neither cicuta nor darnel, as some have thought, but is rather “the poppy, so called from its heads.” The Hebrew word rosh means “head,” and the poppy plant has a prominent “head” (flower).
Hence, the poppy is the “rock” of those foreign nations. Their gods give men a feeling of security by its own laws, but in reality those laws are bitter and poisonous. Moses also suggests that Sodom and Gomorrah were areas where poppies were cultivated and exported in their drug trade. Instead of growing grapes as Israel did, their “vineyards” were poppy fields.
Moses tells us, then, that the Rock of our salvation is not like the “rock” that other nations depend upon. Israel’s God is real; other gods are simulations. The law of Yahweh is “perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7); the laws of other gods demand a way of life that ends in bitterness, addiction, and (as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah) homosexuality.
Prophets like Jeremiah and Hosea speak of this drug problem and equate it to the lawless way of life that the Israelites had chosen. Hosea 10:3, 4 says,
3 Surely now they will say, “We have no king, for we do not revere the Lord. As for the king, what can he do for us?” 4 They speak mere words, with worthless oaths they make covenants; and judgment [mishpat, “justice”] sprouts like poisonous weeds [rosh, “poppies”] in the furrows of the field.
In other words, Israel refused to honor its vow and keep its covenant with God. Hence, its system of justice sprouted like poppies, rather than being genuinely fruitful as grapes. We see this today quite clearly, for the modern nations of the West, which have been formed by those dispersed Israelites, have now reached the place where homosexuality is being normalized and same-sex marriage legalized.
Their legislatures have now bought shipments of poppies from Sodom and Gomorrah, and the laws will be bitter and poisonous.
Moses warns Israel that this will be their way of life in the end after they have become scattered (“Jezreel”) and when they cease to be “My people” (“Lo-Ammi”). Jeremiah enlarges upon this prophecy as well, saying in Jer. 8:13-15,
13 “I will surely snatch them away,” declares the Lord; “There will be no grapes on the vine, and no figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall wither; and what I have given them shall pass away.” 14 Why are we sitting still? Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities, and let us perish there, because the Lord our God has doomed us and given us poisoned water [rosh mayim, “poppy water (juice),” i.e., opium] to drink, for we have sinned against the Lord. 15 We waited for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror!
Jeremiah saw that the people, its leaders, and its judicial system had all cast aside the law of God. Spiritually speaking, Israel preferred the drugs of false gods. They drank the “poppy juice” and waited for “peace” (that is, for the good feeling) or for “healing.” But they discovered that drugs could not heal anything but only mask the symptoms.
This is the price of casting aside the law of God. Even many Christians do not fully comprehend the problem, for there are many who teach that the law was put away, and that we no longer need to concern ourselves with it. Fortunately, they still have a residue of morality that comes from their past heritage. Fortunately, the New Testament lists enough of the laws of Moses to give Christians some moral compass. But the traces of opium are still being dispensed in the idea that the law no longer defines sin.
Hence, we are eating the bitter fruit of church doctrine. First, God was removed from government, then from the educational system, then from the judicial system. To appeal to the law of God only brings laughter and derision. Although many Christians have objected, their opposition has been weakened by an inherent contradiction. Their official teaching was that the law of God had been set aside, but when abortion was legalized, the Christians believed that murder had been legalized by the government.
Murder is sin because the law of God says so in the Sixth Commandment. Homosexual relations is likewise a sin, according to the law in Lev. 20:15. The same is true for bestial relations, as stated in Lev. 20:16. The problem is that after the Church has put away the law, how can they yet appeal to the law of God in their opposition to abortion or homosexual marriage? How can we put away the law as a whole, and yet appeal to the law in more specific cases?
The fact is, because we have put away the whole law, thereby legalizing all sin (at least in theory), God has “given us poppy juice to drink.” The consequences of our doctrine is also our punishment. If we put away God’s law, we will be ruled by the unjust laws of other gods and their chosen people. This is the underlying theme of the Song of Moses.