One of the primary purposes of this site is to reveal the Scriptures to you within the mindset and culture of the ancient Hebrew people God gave it to in the first place.
What I discovered in my studies is that many of the basic premises of the ancient Israelite way of thinking are totally the opposite of how gentile Christians think.
Achieving a proper grasp of these differences will enable you to not only bridge the huge gap that exists between Jewish and Gentile believers with regards to the Mosaic Law but also give you much deeper insight into the New Testament, especially the often misunderstood Book of Romans.
Again, understand before I can even begin to get into the details of all the intricate laws and commands that are introduced starting from Exodus chapter 21, I need to deal with the issue of the ancient Hebrew mindset first, because it serves as the backdrop or foundation upon which these laws of God are built.
So let’s get started by going into THE BIGGEST difference between the mindset of the Old Testament Israelites and the modern gentile believer.
The biggest difference between the ancient Hebrews and gentile Christians are their perspectives on death and the afterlife.
For the Old Testament Israelites, what happened after death was of little importance to them.
They paid little attention to heaven or eternity, especially as it pertained to a place where they might end up residing in someday.
For them, it was the here and now that was the most important.
By comparison, the gentile Christian is super focused on the subject of death and the afterlife.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche saying that “Christians are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good”.
The idea being expressed is that believers are so concerned about getting into heaven that their time here on earth becomes secondary.
For Christians, the primary goal is to obtain what they call “eternal security”.
They have this tendency to focus on the hope of an eternal future with God in heaven as a result of a decision they made for Christ while here on earth.
This focus and mindset is far different than that of the ancient Hebrews.
The ancient Hebrews focused primarily on the present.
They believed that whatever reward or blessings they would receive from God occurred during their life here on earth and were based on their daily obedience to God’s commands.
So quite different to how we modern believers think, the ancient Israelite’s ideal was to live out his natural life span to its fullest.
They weren’t afraid about what happened AFTER death, rather they wanted to avoid a premature death.
In the Bible, the phrase used to refer to a “premature death” is “to be cut off”.
And it refers to one’s life ending abruptly due to sickness, being murdered, dying in war, or an accident etcetera.
Regardless of how a premature death occurred, it was generally considered to be the result of a judgment from God due to wickedness and unrighteous living.
And understand that to the Hebrew mind, unrighteous living meant only one thing: disobedience to the Laws and Commands of God.
To their way of thinking, a long life was the blessing received for obeying God’s commands and a shortened life was the curse one received for disobeying God’s commands.
No further afterlife consequences for sin were contemplated, because for the most part, death was seen as the end of existence.
From this, we can also see that their obedience to the Law had NOTHING to do with earning their salvation.
First, this was because, as I just mentioned, they didn’t harbor notions of going to heaven after death.
And second, they already knew they were saved and part of God’s chosen people.
The only question now was would they be blessed or cursed by God in this lifetime based on their obedience or disobedience to His Law.
Whenever we come across the biblical phrase “they breathed their last and were gathered to their fathers”, it means that that person had lived to a ripe old age and thus were blessed by God.
Interestingly, this phrase also reflects some remaining ideas of ancestor worship beliefs, the idea that in some hazy, undefined way, one’s essence might be able to commune with their ancestors after death.
In my next post, I’ll be going into the underlying reasons why the ancient Hebrews believed the way they did.