Thursday, June 13, 2024

T Is For Yaweh, That's Good Enough For Me

(EZE. 9: 3-4) 3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; 4 and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”

Have you ever noticed these verses? I know you've read them and had them read to you, but have you ever stopped to contemplate them? There is a very interesting idea in there.

For a little background, the time is the 590s BC. Some say it was 592, specifically. The northern kingdom of Israel were already taken into captivity by Assyria some 130 years prior. Replaced by other peoples (II Kings 17: 24). It is the period between the the second and the third waves of invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The first came in 605 and the second in 597. Babylon had invaded the southern kingdom of Judah and carted away many people, set up a puppet government, and was treating it as a vassal state of the empire. Ezekiel was among those removed in the second wave. He is in Babylon. He was called by God to preach against Judah and warn them of more captivity, mainly due to their idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar would come again (in 588), this time to utterly destroy Jerusalem.

The cultural upheavals had their impact on all facets of Jewish life. Nothing remained as it had been. Everything was heavily influenced by foreign powers - even the Temple. Over a century of influence of foreign nations in the territory of Israel had born fruit. You can read in II Kings 17 how the foreign peoples Assyria carted into Israel brought their religions with them. That influence crept south and seeped into Judah. Read in Ezekiel 8 how even the Temple and the priesthood were given almost entirely over to idolatry. They had mixed worship of God with worship of foreign gods. Ezekiel 8 is a vision, and imagery was likely exaggerated to make a point, but the point is none the less completely valid. Idolatry pervaded into every facet of Judah - an idolatry even greater than that of northern Israel.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a standard Judahite. You've survived the first and second waves of captivity, you're still at home, and even though things could be much better, you've missed the worst of it. Despite all that has happened and is happening, you might even mistake this as a sign you are favored by God.
But are you?

Ezekiel was a priest. He knew the Temple. He knew what went on there. The visions might have shown him the depth of the problem was even worse than he realized, but he didn't need them to know what was going on. He didn't need a weatherman to tell him it was raining. Yet, he was carted away to Babylon. As were others, like Daniel. Good people whose lives were uprooted through no direct fault of their own. Is it true the good stayed and the wicked were deported?

This might even be another of those turnabouts and juxtapositions that God enjoys so much. The captive, thought to be taken because he displeased God, preached to the remnant, thought to remain because they pleased God.

When I look around the world today, I feel almost a personal connection to the conditions of that time. It must have been an incredibly confusing time. When even your priests are going astray, whom do you trust for the truth?

And here is where our verse comes in.

There were still people who looked around Jerusalem and didn't like what they saw. Men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done. Here, God marks them all, to identify and separate them. "Put a mark on the foreheads," it says. Their lives would yet be overturned, like dirt in a plowed field. There was a long siege coming but at least they wouldn't be allowed to be killed. They would be spared the worst of it.

What was that mark? The Hebrew word holds a clue.

Strong's 8420: tav/taw
From H8427; a mark; by implication a signature: - desire, mark.

It was a signature. It wasn't just a blotch, nor a splat. But a representation of a name. God wrote His name on those people's foreheads. This is precisely the same as in Revelation (see Revelation 14; 1). Entirely the same.

But Strong's 8420 isn't "signature", it's taw/tav. It is a signature, and comes from the word for signature, but it isn't written-out name. It was a mark that stood in place of a name. The mark was a taw/tav. What is taw/tav, then? Why, taw is a Hebrew letter!

The signature wasn't a full name, it was just a single letter. A "put your mark on the line" sort of a signature, like the kind you might have expected in an old Western movie.

"Write your name on this line, pardner."
"Can't. Don't know how to read and write, or spell my name."
"Make your mark, then."

What does a taw look like? It looks like this:


Is that the mark people received from God?

There is a detail of timing we need to be mindful of. That letter you see is modern Hebrew. The Hebrew alphabet used today was not developed until centuries after the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel is still in the midst of the Babylonian captivity. In Ezekiel's day, they still used the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. What does a taw look like in paleo-Hebrew?

The oldest extant example of Paleo-Hebrew writing we have is the Siloam Inscription. It details the construction of the Siloam Tunnel. It predates Ezekiel. The original is difficult to read, so I am providing you an example of a drawing.

Do you see that X almost in the dead center? I circled it in red and put a red arrow pointing to it. (Apologies if you have trouble seeing red.) That right there is a taw. X marks the spot!
(For some fun, there are three more in that screenshot. See if you can find them.)

I bet you thought this was going to be something cooler than an X shape. Maybe a spaceship shape, or a dinosaur, or a Fibonacci Sequence, or something truly interesting. No. Just an X.

But ... (there's always a but)
If you went back in time just a bit more, back to the earlier alphabet styles like what Moses might have used, then you will get a shape that looks precisely what we think of as a traditional cross shape.
Yes, THAT cross. The cross of Christ.

Whether an X or a T a + or a cross, the mark God puts on foreheads is cruciform, regardless. Anything with two intersecting lines is called "cruciform" because it resembles a crucifix. All these years we've been told by reliably inaccurate Church of God "historians" that anything cruciform was a symbol of Tammuz, and idolatrous. You know, the same Tammuz the women at the Temple were weeping for one chapter earlier, in Ezekiel 8: 14. Only, as usual, that is incorrect. Is God writing Tammuz on their foreheads? No! The Bible tells us God Himself uses the taw's + or X shape. If it's good enough for God, it's good enough for me!

Now, before some of you get too excited about this, the taw was not a representation specifically of God's name to the exclusion of all others. Anyone could sign with a taw. It was common. Common enough that no explanation was needed when God gave the command to mark people with a taw. It was assumed readers would just know what was going on. That said, God still did it and accepted it as His own mark.

If you're wondering how the taw went from a cruciform shape to the modern Hebrew shape that looks more like an n, the answer is there was another alphabet in between the Paleo-Hebrew and the Modern Hebrew. That alphabet is the Imperial Aramaic. When the Israelites returned from captivity, they replaced most Hebrew with Aramaic. In Aramaic, the tau has more of an n shape. Modern Hebrew is a modern block Aramaic.

Funny thing is, if you go back in time with the Aramaic script, the tau is also a cross. Yes, THAT cross. It looks like a t became a carat ^ which became an n.
Same with the Greek. That's where we get our T from. Did you catch the similarity between taw, tau, and T? It's not just your imagination. They really are related. All the alphabets in that area of the Mediterranean developed from related scripts. All of them will be similar in certain ways. This is one of those ways.

So, for all those people who look at those silly Catholics after Ash Wednesday mass and think, "Those pagan people go around with Tammuz on their forehead," you might want to forbear that statement until you have discovered what the taw is. You might find that the mark God puts on foreheads is identical, or at least in certain time periods quite similar indeed. Regardless, I hope He puts His taw on you, too.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11


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