What is Midrash?
The early Christians where converted Jews, (Messianic Jews). They had a way of interpreting scripture called Midrash/Pesher Hermenuetics.
The interpretations understood by Jewish rabbis like Jesus and Paul in the first century was largely based on this Midrash.
Midrash/Pesher is a principle in Rabbinic hermeneutics that often seems to go against the literal meaning of the text, on the surface it seems to contradict the historical/grammatical interpretation of a text.
This is a faulty definition of the midrash and pesher principal and has led to much misunderstanding.
In liberalism, this has tended to lead to a denial of biblical authority and a denial that the New Testament is the inspired Word of God.
An example of this is that some Evangelicals claim that in the Book of Matthew, the visit of the wise men is a “midrash” and should not be taken as a real historical event.
The implication here is that when rabbis practice midrashic interpretation, they deny the actual literal intent of the passage itself.
This kind of interpretation is in effect “Gnosticism”. The Gnostics Allegorised /Spiritualised scripture and in doing so, lost the literal meaning in the text.
What true Midrash means is examining the Old Testament scriptures for the literal, allegorical, comparatives and mystical meanings in a particular text.
There are four ways to look at scripture. This is based on the Hebrew word “PaRDeS”. (Orchard - Paradise).
P.R.D.S is an acronym.
Peshat (פְּשָׁט — " Surface )("straight") or the literal (direct) meaning. (It says what it means and means what it says).
Remez (רֶמֶז) — "hints" or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) a
meaning that goes beyond just the literal sense.
Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: "inquire" ("seek") — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in 'lore') — "secret" ("mystery") or the esoteric/mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
Each type of Pardes interpretation examines the extended meaning of a text. As a general rule, the extended meaning never contradicts the base meaning (the literal meaning). The Peshat means the plain or contextual meaning of the text. Remez is the allegorical meaning. Derash includes the metaphorical meaning, and Sod represents the hidden meaning. There is often considerable overlap, for example when legal understandings of a verse are influenced by mystical interpretations or when a "hint" is determined by comparing a word with other instances of the same word.
A good example of this is the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1.
"In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth"
בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ.
Peshat interpretation is simply that, In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.
This is the literal meaning, (It means just what it says) and the hidden or allegorical meaning should never rob the text of its literal meaning.
However, there are hidden meanings in this verse.
Here we see an overlap with the Sod interpretation. (Hint and secret meaning)
Beginning, (Hebrew – Barashyt). Hebrew letters - Beit - aleph – shin – yod – tav.
The Beit and Aleph together is Bara (Son of God). Shin (Destroy). Yod (Hand). Tav (Cross).
(The Son of God—destroyed—hand—cross).
Here we have a hidden secret, the Gospel in the first word of the scriptures. (The Son of God shall be destroyed by His own hand on a cross).
Derash interpretation. Meaning inquire or seek. It is used for the comparative (midrashic) meaning, looking at similar occurrences of a word.
By comparing scripture with scripture we can also find truth.
EG. Beit Aleph (Son of God). Bar = Son of and A = Aleph (God). The word Bara also means (created).
So the text reveals that the Son of God created. The Word of God was the Creator.
Gen 1:1 Hebrew: Barashyt bara Elohim et Hashamayhim ve et Erets.
Compare with John 1:1
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
Joh 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In fact when a first century Christian who was a Jew read John Ch1, Ch2,and Ch3, he would have seen it as a midrash of Genesis 1,2 and 3, a parallel of creation and the new creation.
The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed and the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed.
God’s role in creation and God’s role in the new creation.
God’s Spirit moved over the face of the waters and God’s Spirit moves on men’s heart in regeneration.
God created the lesser light and the greater light. So to in John the Baptist and Christ.
God’s creative Word brought everything into existence and Jesus the Word of God (the logos) brings new life by His creative power in the new birth.
The early Jewish Christian would have seen the parallel between Genesis and John’s Gospel.
God walked in His first creation and God walked in the new creation in the man Christ Jesus.
God separated the light from darkness in the Genesis account and so God comes to separate the light from darkness in the new creation.
The fourth kind of interpretation is: Sod.
Sod, literally means secret,. Another Sod level, the Sod of Sod, or secret of secrets, is sometimes used for the innermost meaning of the Torah.
Prophecies are sometimes called as being part of the Sod level, as they are deeper revelations, which are not of this world.
Another truth that emerges from this particular text (the first verse of Genesis) is the rabbinic understanding of the whole of history.
6000 years of man and 1000 year millennium.
Six days shalt thou labour and rest on the seventh.
This six thousand years is split into three 2000 year periods and then a 1000 year period.
The first 2000 years represent the time from Creation, from Adam, through Noah and the Tower of Babel, to Abraham, this 2000 years was when God was hidden.
The next 2000 years from the Israelite Patriarchs, through the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, to the 1st and 2nd Jewish Commonwealths and Temples in Jerusalem, were 2000 years of Divine revelation.
The final 2000 years of preparation when the Jewish Messiah is waited for, are 2000 years balanced between Divine concealment and Revelation.
1000 year Millennium.
(English) "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth"
(Hebrew text read right to left) בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ.
Hebrew: Barashyt bara Elohim et Hashamayim ve et Erets.
In Beginning created God the Heavens and the Earth
Examining our text again, of these seven words, only Hashamayim-Heavens has no letter א Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, (the letter for God) numerical value of 1 (Hebrew gematria). The meaning of Aleph, is (Chief/Ruler/Strength) and "Eleph" (One Thousand), the first representing the 1 God, the second representing 1000 years. Hebrew root words are generally made from three consonant letters, no vowels are included.
Hebrew reads from right to left. Of the six words with Aleph in them in the verse: in the first two, Aleph is positioned as third letter (concealed God in the first 2000 years), in the next two, Aleph is positioned as first letter (revealed God in the middle 2000 years), in the last two, Aleph is positioned as second letter (balance between concealed and revealed God in the last 2000 years).
Midrash recognises the scriptures as being the divine revelation of God, not just an ordinary book but a book that contains deep spiritual truth.
By examining Old Testament scripture using Midrash we can see the thumb print of God all through the Bible.
There is a plain and simple meaning, (literal) which remains and should never be replaced.
However there are deeper meanings like symbol, allegory, token, simile, type, picture, metaphor, parable, etc but none of these should replace the literal meaning of the text.
i.e. The bible reveals that God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh. (Literal – fact).
So too, in Revelation the scripture speaks of a 1000 year millennium reign of Christ. (Literal – fact)
There may be an allegorical or symbolic interpretation of these things but it should not rob the text of its literal meaning.
With this in mind, let us look at a passage of scripture that shows that scripture is cyclical, that scripture has a meaning for the time it was written but with future meaning also.
The event is literal but with prophetic meaning for a future time and the last days.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
Gen 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
Gen 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
Gen 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Gen 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Gen 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Gen 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
Gen 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
Gen 3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
Gen 3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
Gen 3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
Gen 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, they had eternal life. God had breathed into Adam the breath of life. He gave them a command, “Do not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil” for in the day that you eat, you shall surely die.
Satan came along and using his subtle tricks he applied his deception. He used the lust of the eye. The lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
V6, When she saw. It was good to eat (Lust of the flesh), pleasant to look at (Lust of the eyes) and able to make one wise (The Pride of life).
Notice the deception, the questioning of God’s Word V1, (Hath God said?).
Then comes the twisting of God’s Word V4, (Ye shall not surely die)
Then comes the outright lie V6, (Ye shall be as god’s).
Eve believed the lie and she took the fruit and ate, then she gave it to her husband Adam and he ate also.
Immediately their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked.
They lost eternal life. In that day they lost it. V5 In the day that ye eat thereof.
It would be 930 years before Adam would die physically but in that day he died spiritually.
Gen V7, They sewed fig leaves together, to cover their nakedness. They attempted to cover their sin.
When challenged by God concerning their sin, they allotted blame.
Adam blamed the woman and God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree”.
Eve blamed the serpent, “The serpent beguiled me”.
V15, Here is the prophecy of the coming of the Saviour, the seed of the woman (speaking of Christ) and the enmity that would follow down through the scriptures up to the coming of Jesus.
Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Here is the prophecy of the coming of Christ and the defeat of Satan.
So, how can the truth of this passage of scripture be understood in the New Testament?
The temptation of Adam and Eve is recapitulated in the Gospels.
Adam was the first Adam and Christ was the second or last Adam.
1 Cor 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive"
Satan the adversary never changes his tactics. He does exactly the same things with Jesus as he did with Eve.
Satan’s temptations come once again trying to use the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
Luk 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
Luk 4:3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
Luk 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Luk 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
Luk 4:6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
Luk 4:7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
Luk 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Luk 4:9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
Luk 4:10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:
Luk 4:11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Luk 4:12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Luk 4:13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
The devil tempted Jesus when He had fasted and was hungry, attempting to stimulate the lust of the flesh.
Then the devil showed him the kingdoms of the world, attempting to stimulate the lust of the eyes.
Then finally attempting to stimulate the pride of life, by offering Jesus the power and glory of it all.
In the writings of the New Testament we see this parallel with ourselves also.
1 John 2: 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
2 Cor 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
The god of this world, the same Satan that tempted Eve, that tempted Jesus, is the same Satan that blinds the minds of the unbeliever to keep him from seeing the glory of the Gospel and tempts us to sin, stimulating the very same three things.
What happened in the past is recapitulated in the future.
We see this also in other parts of scripture. We see it with Abraham – Moses – Jesus - Ourselves – Rapture.
In Matthews Gospel, Matthew quotes from Hosea Ch 11:1.
Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with Jesus and stayed there until the death of Herod.
Mat 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Hos 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
There is no rational way to view the Hosea passage as Messianic in the traditional sense.
Because, Hosea here is talking about the Exodus (the literal account).
However, in Matthew it has another meaning. It is applied to Jesus, it was fulfilled in Jesus. This is without robbing the text of its literal meaning.
Matthew is not taking the Old Testament verse out of context but applying a pesher interpretation (enquiring into).
It has a cyclical interpretation. An interpretation for the time in which it was written and also a future fulfilment.
Egypt in scripture is a type of the world. In the New Testament both Egypt and Babylon are used as metaphors for sin/world.
Examples of Babylon used as a symbol of sin are Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10 and 18:21. Revelation 17:5 will serve as an example of using Babylon as a metaphor for sin. “On her forehead a symbolic name was written: Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and of the vile things of the earth.
To the Jews, their captivity/slavery in Babylon was a more poignant memory, which will explain why God uses this metaphor more in the New Testament.
As for Egypt being used as a metaphor for sin/slavery, the first example that comes to mind is the one already quoted earlier: Matthew 2:15 in which Matthew points out that the prophecy in Hosea 11:1 is fulfilled in Christ. “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Here Matthew uses Israel in Egypt as a metaphor as Jesus goes into Egypt.
Perhaps a more obvious reference to Egypt as a symbol for sin is in Revelation 11:8 which says of God’s enemies, “Their dead bodies will lie in the public square of the great city, which is called prophetically Sodom or Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Being in Egypt is used symbolically in Hebrews as well (Hebrews 3:16, 8:9, 11:26-27).
We see the same thing again with Abraham.
God judges Pharaoh – Abraham comes out of Egypt. Genesis 13:1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south..
God judges Pharaoh – Moses is brought out of Egypt with the children of Israel. Exodus 13:3 Then Moses said to the people, "Remember this day when you came out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, for the LORD brought you out of here by the strength of his hand. Nothing leavened may be eaten..
God judges Herod – Jesus is brought out of Egypt. Matthew 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
God judges Satan – We come out of the world.(Typified by Egypt) John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.
The ultimate fulfilment:
God judges the world – the church is taken out of the world (Egypt) at the Rapture.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The Bible is not just a book like any other book. It is the Word of God, the Word of Life. It does not just contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God.
The Bible is a factual book, filled with history, it contains apocalyptic literature and poetry but it a book that is also filled with parable, revelation, prophecy and mystery.
Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.