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The Ten Commandments: Like a Coronavirus Test in Kali Yuga

It is commonly accepted that we are living in the Kali Yuga or the Age of Kali.  This is the last yuga of four, starting with Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga.  What is common among these four yugas is a steady moral and social decay from the first Age of truth (SatyaYuga), down to our current Kali Yuga.

Markandeya in the Mahabharata describes human conduct in Kali Yuga in this way:

  • anger, wrath and ignorance will grow
  • Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, physical strength and memory diminish with each passing day.
  • People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that.
  • Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
  • Sin will increase exponentially, while virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
  • People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
  • People will no longer get married and live with each other just for sexual pleasure.

Moses and the Ten Commandments

The Hebrew Vedas describe our current age in much the same way.  Because of our tendency to sin, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments shortly after they escaped Egypt with the Passover.  God’s goal was not only to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but also to guide them to a new way of living. So fifty days after the Passover that rescued the Israelites, Moses led them to Mt. Sinai (also Mt. Horeb) where they received the Law from God.  This law was received in Kali Yuga to uncover the problems of Kali Yuga.

What commands did Moses get?  Though the complete Law was quite long, Moses first received a set of specific moral commands written by God on tablets of stone, known as the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue). These Ten formed the summary of the Law – the moral dharma before the minor details – and they are now God’s active power to persuade us to repent of the evils common in Kali Yuga.

The Ten Commandments

Here is the complete list of the Ten Commandments, written by God on stone, then recorded by Moses in the Hebrew Vedas book of Exodus.

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Exodus 20:1-17

The Standard of the Ten Commandments

Today we sometimes we forget that these are commands. They are not suggestions. Nor are they recommendations.  But to what extent are we to obey these commands? The following comes just before the giving of the Ten Commandments

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:… Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,

Exodus 19: 3, 5

This was given just after the Ten Commandments

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Exodus24:7

Sometimes in school exams, the teacher gives multiple questions (for example 20) but then require only some of the questions to be answered. We may, for example, choose any 15 questions out of the 20 to answer. Each student can pick the 15 easiest questions for him/her to answer. In this way the teacher makes the exam easier.

Many think of the Ten Commandments in the same way. We think that God, after giving the Ten Commandments, meant, “Attempt any six of your choice from these Ten”.  We think this way because we imagine God balancing our ‘good deeds’ against our ‘bad deeds’.  If our Good Merits outweigh or cancel our Bad Imperfections then we hope that this is sufficient to earn God’s favor. 

However, an honest reading of the Ten Commandments shows that this was not how it was given. People are to obey and keep ALL the commands – all the time.  The sheer difficulty of this has made many dismiss the Ten Commandments.  But they were given in Kali Yuga for the situation that Kali Yuga brings.

The Ten Commandments & Coronavirus test

We can perhaps understand better the purpose of the strict Ten Commandments in Kali Yuga by comparing with the Coronavirus pandemic that has been raging around the world in 2020.  COVID-19 is a disease with symptons of fever, cough and shortness of breath which is caused by the Coronavirus – something so small that we cannot see it. 

Suppose someone is feeling feverish and has a cough.  This person wonders what the problem is.  Does he/she have a common fever or are they infected with the Coronavirus?  If so that is a serious problem – even life threatening.  Since the Coronavirus spreads so rapidly and everyone is susceptible it is a real possibility.  To find out they take a special test which determines if the coronavirus is present in their bodies.  The Coronavirus test does not cure them of their disease, it simply tells them definitively if they have the Coronavirus which will result in COVID-19, or if they simply have a common fever.

It is the same with the Ten Commandments.  In the Kali Yuga moral decay is as prevalent in society as the Coronavirus is prevalent in 2020.  In this age of general moral vice we will want to know if we ourselves are righteous or if we also are tainted by sin.  The Ten Commandments were given so that by examining our lives against them we can know for ourselves if we are free from sin and the karma that comes with it, or if sin has a hold on us.  The Ten Commandments function just like the Coronavirus test – so you know if you have the disease (sin) or if you are free from it.

Sin literally means ‘missing’ the target that God expects from us in how we treat others, ourselves and God.  But instead of recognizing our problem we tend either to compare ourselves with others (measuring ourselves against the wrong standard), strive harder to obtain religious merit, or give up and just live for pleasure.  Therefore God gave the Ten Commandments so that:

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Romans 3:20

If we examine our lives against the standard of the Ten Commandments it is like taking the Coronavirus test that shows our internal situation.  The Ten Commandments do not ‘fix’ our problem, but reveal the problem clearly so we will accept the remedy that God has provided.  Instead of continuing in self-deception, the Law allows us to see ourselves accurately.

God’s Gift given in repentance

The remedy that God has provided is the gift of forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – Yeshu Satsang.  This Gift of life is simply given to us if we trust or have faith in Jesus’ work.

know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 2:16

As Sri Abraham was justified before God we too can be given righteousness.  But it does require that we repent.  Repentance is often misunderstood, but repent simply means to ‘change our minds’ involving a turning away from sin and a turning towards God and the Gift He offers.  As the Veda Pusthakan (Bible) explains:

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Acts 3:19

The promise for you and me is that if we repent, turning to God, that our sins will not be counted against us and we will receive Life.  God, in his great mercy, has given us both a test and a vaccine for sin in Kali Yuga.

The Puzzle of the Psalm 22 Prophecy

A few years ago a work colleague, J, wandered to my desk. J was smart and educated – and definitely not a follower of the gospel.  But he was somewhat curious so we had some warm and open conversations between us. He had never really looked at the Bible so I had encouraged him to investigate it.

One day he came into my office with a Bible to show that he was taking a look. He had opened it randomly in the middle. I asked him what he was reading. Our conversation went something like this.

“I am reading in Psalm chapter 22”, he said

“Really”, I said. “Any idea what you are reading about?”

“I guess I am reading about the crucifixion of Jesus”, J replied.

“That’s a good guess”, I laughed. “But you are about one thousand years too early. Psalm 22 was written by David around 1000 BC. Jesus’ crucifixion was in 30’s C.E. one thousand years later”

J did not realize that the Psalms were not the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life written by his contemporaries.  Psalms were sacred Hebrew hymns written 1000 years before Jesus by inspired sages.  J had only heard some stories about Jesus, including his crucifixion, and randomly opening his Bible, read what seemed to describe the crucifixion. Not knowing any better, he just assumed it was the story of the crucifixion which is remembered around the world annually on what is called Good Friday.  We had a chuckle over his first mis-step in Bible reading.

Psalms are ancient Hebrew hymns and were written by Rsi David 3000 years ago.

Psalms are ancient Hebrew hymns and were written by Rsi David 3000 years ago.

Then I asked J what he saw in Psalm 22 that made him think he was reading about Jesus’ crucifixion. Thus began our little study. I invite you to consider some of the similarities J noticed by placing the passages side-by-side in a table. To help I have color matched the texts that are similar.

Comparison of Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion with the details in Psalm 22

Crucifixion details from the eye-witness Gospels Psalm 22:  1000 BC
(Matthew 27:31-48) ..Then they led him (Jesus) away to crucify him…. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “… save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him,…About the ninth hour Jesus cried…“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” …48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. (Mark15:16-20)16 The soldiers led Jesus away… They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him…37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.(John19:34) they did not break his legs..., pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.…they crucified him… (John20:25) [Thomas] unless I see the nail marks in his hands ,…”…(John20:23-24) When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining…Let’s not tear it”, they said,”Let’s decide by lot who gets it” 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest…7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

That J made the logical but wrong conclusion that Psalm 22 was an eye-witness account of the Good Friday crucifixion, should make us ask a question.

How do we explain the similarity between the crucifixion accounts and Psalm 22?

Is it coincidence that the details match so precisely as to include that the clothes would be divided (seamed clothes were split along the seams and divided among the soldiers) AND have lots cast (if torn the seamless garment would be ruined so they gambled for it). Psalm 22 was written before crucifixion was invented but it still describes its various details (piercing of hands and feet, bones being out of joint – by being stretched as the victim hangs). In addition, the Gospel of John states that blood and water flowed out when the spear was thrust in Jesus’ side, indicating a fluid buildup around the heart.  Jesus thus died of a heart attack.  This matches the Psalm 22 description of ‘my heart has turned to wax’.

Psalm 22 was written as if Jesus’ crucifixion was being seen.  But how so, since it was composed 1000 years beforehand?

God-inspired Explanation for Psalm 22

Jesus, in the Gospels, argued that these similarities were prophetic. God inspired Old Testament prophets hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ life to predict details of his life and death so that we can know that this was all in the plan of God. Prophetic fulfillment would be like having a Divine signature on these events of Good Friday since no human could foresee the future in such detail.  This is evidence of God’s work and intervention in history.

Naturalistic Explanation for Psalm 22

Others argue that the similarity of Psalm 22 with crucifixion events of Good Friday is because the Gospel writers made up the events to ‘fit’ the prophecy.  But this explanation totally ignores the testimony of historians from that time outside of the Bible.  Josephus and Tacitus respectively tell us that:

“At this time there was a wise man … Jesus. … good, and … virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die.” (Josephus. 90AD. Antiquities xviii. 33   Josephus was a Jewish Historian)

“Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius” (Tacitus. 117 AD. Annals XV. 44.  Tacitus was a Roman Historian)

Their historical testimony agrees with the gospels that Jesus was crucified. This is important because many of the details in Psalm 22 are simply particulars of the act of being crucified. If the gospel writers were going to make up the actual events to make them ‘fit’ Psalm 22 then they would basically have had to make up the whole crucifixion.  Yet no one from that time denied his crucifixion, and the Jewish historian Josephus explicitly states that this is how he was executed.

Psalm 22 and Jesus’ legacy

Also, Psalm 22 does not end at v.18 as in the table above. It continues on. Note the triumphant mood at the end –after the person is dead!

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it. (Psalm 22:26-31)

This is not talking about the details of events of this person’s death. Those details were dealt with in the beginning of the Psalm. The psalmist is now addressing the legacy of that person’s death with ‘posterity’ and ‘future generations’ (v.30).

Who would that be?

That is us living 2000 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  The Psalmist tells us that ‘posterity’ which follows this ‘pierced’ man who died such a horrible death will ‘serve’ him and be ‘told about him’.  Verse 27 predicts the geographic scope of the impact – going to the ‘ends of the earth’ and among ‘all families of nations’ to cause them to ‘turn to the LORD’.  Verse 29 predicts that ‘those who cannot keep themselves alive’ (since we are mortal that means all of us) will one day kneel before him. The righteousness of this man will be proclaimed to people who were not yet alive (the ‘yet unborn’) at the time of his death.

Psalm 22’s conclusion has nothing to do with whether the gospel accounts borrowed from it or made up the crucifixion events because it is now dealing with a much later era – that of our time. The gospel writers, living in the 1st century could not ‘make up’ the impact of the death of Jesus down to our time.  They did not know what that impact would be.

One could not make a better prediction of the legacy of Jesus than Psalm 22 does. Even simply noting the annual worldwide Good Friday celebrations remind us of his global impact two thousand years after his death.  These fulfill the conclusion of Psalm 22 as precisely as the earlier verses predicted the details of his death.

Who else in world history can make a claim that details of his death as well as the legacy of his life into the distant future would be predicted 1000 years before he lived?

Perhaps, like my friend J, you will take the opportunity to consider Psalm 22 in light of Jesus’ crucifixion. It will take some mental effort. But it is worthwhile because the man Psalm 22 foresaw promised:

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10)

Here is the entire gospel account for Good Friday that Psalm 22 foresaw and here its gift for you is explained.

For the Varna as well as Avarna: The Man coming for all people

We have learned how the ancient Vedas foresaw the Coming Person.  We started at the beginning of the Purusasukta in the Rg Veda.  Then we continued with the Hebrew Vedas, suggesting that what both the Sanskrit and Hebrew Vedas (Bible) predicted was fulfilled by Yeshua Satsang (Jesus of Nazareth).

So was Jesus of Nazareth this prophesied Purusa or Christ?  Was his coming just for a certain religious group, or was his coming for all – including all castes, from the Varna to the Avarna.

Caste (Varna) in Purusasukta

The Purusasukta said of Purusa that:

Purusasukta Verses 11-12  – Sanskrit Sanskrit Transliteration English Translation
यत पुरुषं वयदधुः कतिधा वयकल्पयन |
मुखं किमस्य कौ बाहू का ऊरू पादा उच्येते ||
बराह्मणो.अस्य मुखमासीद बाहू राजन्यः कर्तः |
ऊरूतदस्य यद वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत ||
11 yat puruṣaṃ vyadadhuḥ katidhā vyakalpayan |
mukhaṃ kimasya kau bāhū kā ūrū pādā ucyete ||
12 brāhmaṇo.asya mukhamāsīd bāhū rājanyaḥ kṛtaḥ |
ūrūtadasya yad vaiśyaḥ padbhyāṃ śūdro ajāyata
11 When they divided Puruṣa how many portions did they make?
What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
12 The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made.
His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced.

This is the first mention of Castes or Varna in the Sanskrit Vedas.  It speaks of the four Castes as separating out from Purusa’s body.  The Brahmin Caste/Varna came from his mouth, the Rajanya (today known as Kshatriya Caste/Varna) from his arms, the Vaishya Caste/Varna from his thighs, and the Shudra Caste from his feet.  For Jesus to be Purusa he must be able to represent everybody.

Does he?

Christ as Brahmin and Kshatriya

We saw that ‘Christ’ is an ancient Hebrew title meaning ‘ruler’ – the Ruler of rulers in fact.  As ‘the Christ’, Jesus fully identifies with and can represent the Kshatriya.  We also saw that as ‘the Branch’ Jesus was also prophesied to come as Priest, so he fully identifies with and can represent the Brahmin.  In fact, the Hebrew prophecy indicated that he would unite the two roles of Priest and King into one person.

…he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ (Zechariah 6:13)

Jesus as Vaishya

The Hebrew Rsi/prophets also prophesied that the Coming One would, like a merchant, be a trader.  Isaiah (750 BC) foretold in the Hebrew Vedas:

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:3)

Here God is speaking prophetically to the Coming One, saying that He would not be trading in things, but he would be trading for people – in exchange for his life.  So the Coming One would be a merchant, trading in the freeing of people.  As a merchant he identifies with and can represent the Vaishya.

Shudra – Servant

The Rsi/prophets also foretold in great detail his coming role as a Servant, or Shudra.  We saw how the prophets foretold that the Branch would be a servant whose job it would be to remove sins:

“‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch…. and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. (Zechariah 3:8-9)

The Coming Branch, who was Priest, Ruler and Merchant, was also a Servant – Shudra.  Isaiah prophesied in great detail of his role as Servant (Shudra).  In this prophecy God advises all nations ‘distant’ from Israel (that includes you and me) to pay attention to the work of this Shudra.

Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”

And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:1-6)

Though coming from the Hebrew/Jewish race, the prophecy stated that the service of this Servant would ‘reach to the ends of the earth’.  Though Jewish, Jesus’ service has indeed touched all nations on earth as prophesied of this Servant.  As Servant, Jesus fully identified with and can represent all the Shudra.

Avarna Represented also

To mediate for all peoples Jesus would also have to represent the Avarna, or Scheduled Castes, Tribals and Dalits.  How would he?  Another prophecy from Isaiah predicted that he would be completely broken and despised.  He would be viewed as Avarna by the rest of us.

In what way?

Here is the prophecy in full with some explanations inserted.  You will notice that it speaks of a ‘He’ and ‘him’ so it is prophesying a coming man.  Since the prophecy uses the image of ‘shoot’ we know it is referring to the same Branch who was Priest and Ruler.  But the description is different.

The coming Despised One

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him [God] like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

In spite of being the ‘shoot’ before God (i.e. The Banyan Branch), this Man would be ‘despised’ and ‘rejected’, full of ‘suffering’ and ‘held in low esteem’ by others.  He would literally be regarded as untouchable.  This coming one would also be able to represent those as broken as Untouchables of the Scheduled Tribes (Vanvasi) and Backwards Castes – the Dalits.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We sometimes judge the misfortune of others, or look at those who have a low position in society, as a consequence, or karma, of their sins.  This prophecy states that similarly the afflictions of this man will be so great that we could think he is being punished by God.  This is the reason he will be despised.  But he will not be punished for his own sins – but rather for ours.  He will bear an awful burden – for our healing and peace.

These prophecies were fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, who was ‘pierced’ on a cross, stricken and afflicted.  Yet this prophecy was written 750 years before he lived.  In being held in low esteem, and in his suffering, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy and is now able to represent all Backward Castes and Tribals.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth

It is our sin and our going astray from dharma which requires that this man carry our iniquities or sins.  He would be willing to go peacefully to the slaughter in our place, not protesting or even ‘opening his mouth’.  This was fulfilled precisely in the way which Jesus went willingly to the cross.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

The prophecy stated that this man would be ‘cut off’ from the land of the living’, which was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Jesus died condemned as a ‘wicked’ man even though ‘he had done no violence’ and no ‘deceit was in his mouth’.  Yet, he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich Priest. Thus it was fulfilled that Jesus was both ‘assigned a grave with the wicked’ but also ‘with the rich in his death’.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand

This cruel death was not some terrible accident or misfortune. It was ‘the LORD’s will’.

Why?

Because the ‘life’ of this man would be an ‘offering for sin’.

Whose sin?

Those of us among the ‘many nations’ that have ‘gone astray’.  When Jesus died on the cross, it was to cleanse all of us, regardless of nationality or social position, from sin.

11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Here the tone of the prophecy changes and becomes triumphant.  After this terrible ‘suffering’ (of being ‘despised’ and ‘cut off from the land of the living’ and assigned ‘a grave’), this Servant will see ‘the light of life’.

He will come back to life!  And in so doing this Servant will ‘justify’ many.

To ‘justify’ is the same as getting ‘righteousness’.  We saw that Rsi Abraham was ‘credited’ or given ‘righteousness’.  It was given to him simply because of his trust.  In a similar way this Servant who would be so low as to be untouchable will justify, or credit righteousness to ‘many’.  This is exactly what Jesus accomplished by rising from the dead after his crucifixion and now he is able to ‘justify’ us.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.(Isaiah 53:1-12)

Though this oracle was written 750 years before Jesus lived, it was fulfilled in such detail by him that it proves this was the plan of God.  It also shows that Jesus can represent the Avarna, those often held in the lowest esteem.  In fact, he came to represent, bear and cleanse their sins, as well as the sins of the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.

He came as the center of God’s plan to offer you and me the gift of life – cleansing from the guilt and karma of sin.  Is it not worthwhile for you to fully consider and understand such a precious gift?  There are several ways to do this here:

The Coming Noble King: Named hundreds of years beforehand

The Vishnu Purana narrates the account of King Vena.  Though Vena started out as a good king, because of corrupt influences he became so evil that he outlawed sacrifices and prayers.  In fact, he claimed that he was superior to Vishnu.  The Rsis and Brahmins (i.e. the priests) in his day tried to reason with him, saying that as king he should be teaching and being an example for proper dharma, not undermining it.  However Vena would not listen and continued in his stubbornness.  So the priests, desperate to restore dharma and since they could not convince him to repent, killed him to rid the kingdom of the evil he had become.  However, that left the kingdom without a ruler.  So the priests rubbed the king’s right hand and a noble person emerged, named Prithu (or Pruthu).  Prithu was named as the successor King to Vena.  Everyone was jubilant that such a moral person was going to become king such that even Brahma appeared for the bathing ceremonies prior to Prithu’s coronation.  The Kingdom entered a golden age during the reign of Prithu.

This story illustrates the similar dilemma faced by Hebrew Rsis Isaiah and Jeremiah.  They had seen the Kings of Israel, initially noble and adhering to the dharma of the Ten Commandments, become corrupt.  They prophesied that the dynasty would fall, as a tree cut down.  But they also prophesied of a future noble king, a branch that would shoot up from the stump of the fallen tree.  The story of Vena also illustrates the clear separation of role between priests and kings.  When King Vena was removed by the priests there was no king to rule.  The priests could not step into the role since that was not their right.  This same separation of role between king and priest was also in force in the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  The difference in these stories is that Prithu was named after his birth, whereas we will see how the Hebrew Rsis named the future noble king hundreds of years before his coming.

Isaiah first wrote of the coming Branch.  A ‘he’ from the fallen dynasty of David, possessing wisdom and power was coming.  Jeremiah followed by stating that this Branch would be known as the LORD – the Jewish name for Creator God, and would be our righteousness.

Zechariah continues The Branch

Zechariah returned after the Babylonian exile to rebuild the Temple

Zechariah returned after the Babylonian exile to rebuild the Temple

Rishi-prophet Zechariah lived 520 BCE, when Jews began returning to Jerusalem from their first exile.  Upon their return, the Jewish people started rebuilding their destroyed temple.  The High Priest at that time was a man named Joshua, and he was re-starting the work of Temple priests. Zechariah, the Rishi-prophet, partnered with his colleague Joshua, the High Priest, in leading the returning Jewish people. Here is what God – through Zechariah – said about this Joshua:

‘”Listen O High Priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch.” …, says the LORD Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day”.’ (Zechariah 3:8-9)

The Branch!  Started by Isaiah 200 years before, continued by Jeremiah 60 years earlier, Zechariah carries on further with ‘The Branch’ even as the Royal dynasty was now cut down.  Like a banyan tree this Branch has continued by propagating roots from a dead stump.  The Branch is now called ‘my servant’ – the servant of God.  In some way the High Priest Joshua in Jerusalem at 520BCE, colleague of Zechariah, was symbolic of this coming Branch.  But how? It says that in ‘a single day’ the sins will be removed by the LORD. How would that happen?

The Branch: Uniting Priest and King

Zechariah explains later. To understand we need to know that the roles of Priest and King were strictly separated in the Old Testament. None of the Kings could be priests, and the priests could not be kings. The role of the priest was to mediate between God and man by offering sacrifices to God for atonement of sins, and the responsibility of the King was to rule with justice from the throne. Both were crucial; both were distinct. Yet Zechariah wrote that in the future:

‘The word of the LORD came to me: “…Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says, ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD… and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two’’ (Zechariah 6:9-13)

Here, against previous precedent, the high priest in Zechariah’s day (Joshua) was to put on the king’s crown symbolically as the Branch. (Remember Joshua was ‘symbolic of things to come’).  Joshua, the High Priest, in putting on the kingly crown, foresaw a future uniting of the King and Priest into one person – a priest on the King’s throne.  Furthermore, Zechariah wrote that ‘Joshua’ was the name of the Branch. What did that mean?

The names ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’

To understand we need to review the history of Old Testament translation. The original Hebrew Old Testament was translated to Greek in 250 BCE, and known as the Septuagint or LXX.  Still widely used, we saw how ‘Christ’ was first used in the LXX and here we follow that analysis for ‘Joshua’

'Joshua' = 'Jesus'. Both come from the Hebrew name 'Yhowshuwa'

‘Joshua’ = ‘Jesus’. Both come from the Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’

As you can see in the figure Joshua is an English transliteration of the original Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’.  Quadrant #1 shows how Zechariah wrote ‘Joshua’ in 520 BCE in Hebrew.  It is transliterated ‘Joshua’ in English (#1=> #3). ‘Yhowshuwa’ in Hebrew is the same as Joshua in English   When the LXX was translated from Hebrew to Greek in 250 BCE Yhowshuwa was transliterated to Iesous (#1 => #2). ‘Yhowshuwa’ in Hebrew is the same as Iesous in Greek. When the Greek is translated to English, Iesous is transliterated to ‘Jesus’ (#2 => #3).  Iesous in Greek is the same as Jesus in English.

Jesus was called Yhowshuwa when spoken to in Hebrew, but in the Greek New Testament his name was written as ‘Iesous’ – exactly how the Greek Old Testament LXX wrote that name. When the New Testament is translated from Greek to English (#2 => #3) ‘Iesous’ is transliterated to the familiar ‘Jesus’.  So the name ‘Jesus’ = ‘Joshua’, with ‘Jesus’ going through an intermediate Greek step, and ‘Joshua’ coming directly from the Hebrew.  Both Jesus of Nazareth, and Joshua the High Priest of 520BCE had the same name, being called ‘Yhowshuwa’ in their native Hebrew. In Greek, both were called ‘Iesous’.  This is similar to how बरगद = bargad (transliteration) = banyan = Ficus benghalensis (scientific Latin name).

Jesus of Nazareth is the Branch

Now the prophecy of Zechariah makes sense. The prediction, made in 520 BCE, was that the name of the coming Branch would be ‘Jesus’, pointing directly to Jesus of Nazareth.

This coming Jesus, according to Zechariah, would unite the King and Priest roles. What was it that the priests did? Representing the people they offered sacrifices to God to atone for sins. The priest covered the sins of the people by sacrifice. Similarly, the coming Branch ‘Jesus’ was going to bring a sacrifice so that the LORD could ‘remove the sin of this land in a single day’ – the day Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice.  With the removal of sin, the power of death would lose its authority over us.

Jesus of Nazareth is well-known outside the gospels.  The Jewish Talmud, Josephus and all other historical writers about Jesus, both friend and enemy, always referred to him as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’, so his name was not invented in the Gospels.

Jesus comes ‘from the stump of Jesse’ since Jesse and David were his ancestors. Jesus possessed wisdom and understanding to a degree that sets him apart from others.  His shrewdness, poise and insight continue to impress both critics and followers.  His power through miracles in the gospels is undeniable. One may choose not to believe them; but one cannot ignore them.  Jesus fits the quality of possessing exceptional wisdom and power that Isaiah predicted would one day come from this Branch.

Now think of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He certainly claimed to be a king – The King in fact. This is what ‘Christ‘ means.  But what he did while on earth was actually priestly. The priest’s job was to offer acceptable sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people.  The death of Jesus was significant in that, it also, was an offering to God, on our behalf. His death atones for the sin and guilt for any person, not just for the Jew. The sins of the land were literally removed ‘in a single day’ as Zechariah had predicted – the day Jesus died and paid for all sins. In his death he fulfilled all the requirements as Priest, even as he is mostly known as ‘The Christ’ or The King.  Then in his resurrection, he showed his power and authority over death.  He did bring the two roles together. The Branch, the one that David long ago called the ‘Christ’, is the Priest-King.  And his name was predicted 500 years before his birth by Zechariah.

The Prophetic Evidence

In his day, similar to today, Jesus had critics who questioned his authority.  His answer was to point to the prophets that came before, claiming that they foresaw his life.  Here is one example where Jesus said to those opposing him:

… These are the very Scriptures that testify about me… (John 5:39)

In other words, Jesus claimed that his life was prophesied hundreds of years previously in the Old Testament.  Since human insight cannot predict hundreds of years into the future, Jesus said this was evidence to verify that he had really come as God’s plan for mankind.  The Old Testament is available still for us today to verify this for ourselves.

Let us summarize what the Old Testament prophets have predicted thus far.  Jesus’ coming was hinted at the beginning of human history.  Then Abraham foretold the location where Jesus was to be sacrificed while the Passover foretold the day of the year.  We saw that Psalm 2 was where the title ‘Christ’ was used foretell a coming King.  Here we have seen that his lineage, priestly career, and name were predicted.  Can you think of anyone else in all of history whose life was even as remotely predicted as Jesus of Nazareth’s was by the many Old Testament prophets?

Conclusion: Tree of Life offered to all

The riddle of how and what the Branch was prophesied to do, mirrors the story of Savitri and Satyavan.  Like the pure Savitri, the Branch would face death for his love.  But instead of the love of a wife for her husband, the Branch would have powerful sacrificial love that would gain him a spiritual wife, who would be rescued from death forever.

The image of an immortal and sustaining tree, like that of a banyan tree, continues to the very last chapter of the Bible, where it again foresees into the future, picturing the next universe, with a ‘river of water of life’ where

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

So, peoples of all nations – including you – are invited to experience both deliverance from death and richness of the Tree of Life – a truly immortal banyan tree.  But the Old Testament rishi-prophets prophesy for us how this would first required that the Branch be ‘cut off’, as we see next.

Sign of the Branch: Like the persistent Banyan in Vat Savitri

The Vat-vriksha, Bargad or Banyan tree is central to South Asian spirituality and is the national tree of India.  It is associated with Yama, the God of death, so is often planted near crematoria.  Because of its ability to re-sprout it has great longevity and is a symbol of immortality.  It was by a Banyan tree that Savitri bargained with Yama for the return of her dead husband and King Satyavan so that she could get a son – remembered in the annual celebration of Vat Purnima and Vat Savitri.

A similar account is found in the Hebrew Vedas (Bible).  There is a dead tree … coming to life … representing a new son from a dead line of kings.  The major difference is that this account is a future-looking prophecy and was developed by different prophets (rishi) over hundreds of years.  This composite story predicted that someone was coming.  The man who began this story was Isaiah (750 BCE) which later Old Testament rishi-prophets further developed – in the Branch from the dead tree.

Isaiah and the Branch

Isaiah lived in historically verifiable time, seen in the timeline below.  This timeline is taken from the history of the Jews.

Isaiah shown in historical timeline. He lived in the period of the Davidic Kings of Israel

Isaiah shown in historical timeline. He lived in the period of the Davidic Kings of Israel

Isaiah’s book was written in the period of David’s Royal dynasty (1000 – 600 BCE) ruling from Jerusalem. In Isaiah’s time (750 BCE) the dynasty and the Jewish kingdom was corrupt. Isaiah pleaded for the kings to return back to God and to the good practice of Moses’ Ten Commandments. But Isaiah knew that Israel would not repent, and so he foresaw that the Kingdom would be destroyed and the kings cease to rule.

He used an image for the royal dynasty, picturing it like a great banyan tree. This tree had at its root Jesse, the father of King David. On Jesse the dynasty of kings was started with David, and continued with his successor, King Solomon, and so on.  As illustrated in the image below, the tree continued to grow and develop as the next son in the dynasty ruled.

The image Isaiah used of the Dynasty like a large banyan tree with the Kings extending the tree trunk from the root of the founder - Jesse

The image Isaiah used of the Dynasty like a large banyan tree with the Kings extending the tree trunk from the root of the founder – Jesse

First a Tree … then a Stump … then a Branch

Isaiah warned that this ‘tree’ dynasty would soon be cut down, reducing it to a dead stump. Here is how he began this tree image which became the riddle of a stump and Branch:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Isaiah warned the Dynasty would one day become a dead stump

Isaiah warned the Dynasty would one day become a dead stump

The felling of this ‘tree’ happened 150 years after Isaiah, around 600 BCE, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, dragging its people and king into exile in Babylon (the red period in the timeline above). This started the exile of the Jews – some of whom migrated to India. Jesse was the father of King David, and so was the root of David’s Dynasty. The ‘stump of Jesse’ was an image of this shattering of David’s dynasty.  In the story of Savitri and Satyavan there was one dead king’s son – Satyavan.  In the prophecy of the stump the whole line of kings would come to an end and the dynasty itself would die.

The Branch: A coming ‘him’ from David possessing wisdom

Shoot from the dead stump of Jesse

Shoot from the dead stump of Jesse

But the prophecy also looked further into the future than just the cutting down of the kings in using an image associated with the banyan tree.  When banyan seeds begin life they often do so on the stumps of other trees.  The stump is a host to the germinating banyan tree.  But once the banyan seedling is established it will outgrow and outlive the stump host.  This shoot foreseen by Isaiah would be like a banyan tree as a new shoot would go up from its roots – to form a Branch.  Isaiah used this imagery and prophesied that one day in the far future a shoot, known as the Branch, would emerge from the dead stump, just like banyan shoots sprout from tree stumps. This Branch is referred to as a ‘him’ so Isaiah is talking about a specific man, coming from the line of David after the dynasty would be cut down. This man would have such qualities of wisdom, power, and knowledge it would be as if the very Spirit of God would be resting on him.

A banyan tree outgrowing its host stump. Soon it will be a tangle of propagating roots and shoots.

A banyan tree outgrowing its host stump. Soon it will be a tangle of propagating roots and shoots.

The banyan tree in mythology is mentioned in many scriptures as symbolic of immortality. Its aerial roots grow down into the soil forming additional trunks. It symbolizes longevity and thus represents the divine creator.  This Branch foreseen by Isaiah in 750 BCE would have many similar divine characteristics, and last long after the dynasty ‘stump’ disappeared.

Jeremiah and the Branch

The rishi-prophet Isaiah erected a signpost so people could understand unfolding future events. But his was only the first of several signs. Jeremiah, living about 150 years after Isaiah, in 600 BCE when David’s dynasty was being cut down right before his very eyes, wrote:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD our Righteousness“. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

Jeremiah expanded on Isaiah’s Branch image of David’s dynasty. The Branch will also be a King. But not a King like the previous kings of David who had been reduced to a dead stump.

The Branch: The LORD our Righteousness

The difference with this Branch is seen in his name.  He would bear the very name of God (‘The LORD’ – The Jewish name for God), so like a banyan tree this Branch would be an image of the Divine.  He will also be ‘our’ (us humans) Righteousness.

When Savitri disputed with Yama over the body of her husband, Satyavan, it was her righteousness that gave her the power to face death (Yam).  But, as noted about the Kumbh Mela, our problem is our corruption or sin, and so we lack ‘righteousness’.  The Bible tells us that we therefore do not have power to face death.  In fact it says we are helpless against:

… the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14b-15)

In the Bible the devil is like Yama since he holds the power of death against us.  In fact, like Yama arguing over the body of Satyavan the Bible records another time the devil disputed over a body, when

… the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)

So, since the devil has power, like Yama in the story of Savitri and Satyavan, to dispute over the body of a noble prophet like Moses, then he certainly has power over us in death – because of our sin and corruption.  Even the angels recognize that only the Lord – the Creator God – has the authority to rebuke the devil in death.  And here, in the ‘Branch’ is a promise that in the future the LORD would give ‘righteousness’ to us so we can have victory over death.  But how?  Zechariah fills in further details as he develops this theme, predicting even the name of the coming Branch with details that parallels the story of Savitri and Satyavan defying death (Yama) – which we look at next.

Like the Kurukshetra Battle: The Coming of the ‘Christ’ Ruler Prophesied

The Bhagavad Gita is the wisdom centerpiece of the Mahabharata epic.  Though written as a Gita (song) today it is usually read.  It narrates a conversation between Lord Krishna and the royal warrior Arjuna just before the great battle at Kurukshetra between two opposing forces.  On the two sides of this impending war were arrayed the warriors and rulers of two branches of the dynasty of King Kuru, the founder of the ancient royal dynasty. The Pandava and the Kaurava cousins were going to war over which side of the dynasty had the right to rule – the Pandava King Yudhisthira or the Kaurava King Duryodhana.  Duryodhana had usurped the throne from Yudhisthira so he and his Pandava allies were going to war to get it back. The Bhagavad Gita conversation between the Pandava warrior Arjuna and Lord Krishna focuses on true wisdom in difficult situations yielding spiritual freedom and blessing.

The Psalms are the centerpiece of wisdom literature of the Hebrew Veda Pusthakan epic.  Though written as songs (gitas) today they are usually read.  Psalm Two narrates a conversation between the High LORD and His Anointed (=Ruler) just before a great battle between two opposing forces.  On the two sides of this impending war are arrayed great warriors and rulers.  On the one side is a king who is a descendant of the ancestral King David, founder of an ancient royal dynasty.  The two sides were going to war over which side had the right to rule – over the entire earth.  The Psalm 2 conversation between the LORD and His ruler touches on freedom, wisdom and blessing.

Similar don’t you think?

As the Bhagavad Gita is the portal to understand wisdom of the Sanskrit vedas, the Psalms are the portal to understand wisdom of the Hebrew Vedas.  To gain that wisdom we need a little background information on the Psalms, and its principal composer, King David.

Who was King David and what are the Psalms?

King David, Psalms and other Hebrew Rsis and writings in Historical Timeline

You can see from the timeline taken from History of Israelites, that David lived about 1000 BC, a thousand years after Sri Abraham and 500 years after Sri Moses. David started out as a shepherd tending his family’s sheep. A great enemy – a giant of a man – named Goliath led an army to conquer the Israelites, and so the Israelites were discouraged and defeated. David challenged Goliath and killed him in battle. This remarkable victory of a young shepherd boy over a great warrior made David famous.

However, he became King only after long and difficult experiences because he had many enemies, both abroad and among the Israelites, who opposed him. David ultimately triumphed over all his enemies because he trusted in God and God helped him.  Several books in the Hebrew Vedas recount these struggles and victories of David. 

David was also famous as a musician who composed beautiful songs and poems to God. These songs and poems were inspired by God and form the book of Psalms in the Veda Pusthakan.

Prophecies of ‘The Christ’ in the Psalms

Though a great king and warrior, David wrote in the Psalms of a ‘Christ’ coming from his royal line who would eclipse him in power and authority.  Here is how the Christ is introduced in Psalm 2 of the Hebrew Vedas which casts a royal battle scene similar to the Bhagavad Gita.

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2

Here is the same passage but from Greek as explained previously.

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his Christ, saying,

Psalm 2: 1-2 – Greek LXX

Results of Kurukshetra War

As you can see, the context of Christ in Psalm 2 is very similar to the Kurukshetra War in the Bhagavad Gita.  But some differences emerge when we think of the aftermath of the Kurukshetra War fought so long ago.  Arjuna and the Pandavas won the war, and so there was a shifting of power and rule from the usurping Kauravas to the Pandavas, making Yudhistira the rightful king.  All five Pandava brothers and Krishna survived the 18 day battle, but only a handful of others survived – everyone else was slain. But after ruling for only 36 years after the war, Yudhistira renounced the throne, passing the title on to Arjuna’s grandson, Parikshit. He then left for the Himalayas with Draupadi and his brothers. Draupadi and four Pandavas—Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva died during the journey. Yudhistira himself was granted entrance to heaven.  Gandhari, mother of the Kauravas, was furious with Krishna for not stopping the war, so she cursed him and he was killed 36 years after the war when accidentally shot by an arrow because of an inter-clan fight.  The Kurukshetra War and the subsequent killing of Krishna moved the world into Kali Yuga.

So what gain has passed down to us from the Kurukshetra War?

Fruits for us from Kurukshetra War

For us, living thousands of years later, we find ourselves in greater need.  We live in samsara, constantly living in the shadow of pain, disease, aging and death.  We live under governments that are usually corrupt and help the rich and personal friends of the rulers.  We feel the effects of Kali Yuga in so many ways.

We yearn for a government that will not foster corruption, for a society that is not under Kali Yuga, and for personal deliverance from never-ending sin and death in samsara. 

Fruits for us from coming ‘Christ’ of Psalm 2

The Hebrew Rsis explain how the Christ introduced in Psalm 2 will meet these needs of ours. It will require a war to meet these needs, but a different war than the Kurukshetra and different even than the war pictured in Psalm 2. It is a war that only the Christ can wage. These prophets show that rather than begin by power and might, the Christ starts by serving us in our need for deliverance from sin and death. They show how the road to Psalm 2, which will one day be reached, needed first to take a long detour to another battle to defeat another usurper, not by military might, but by love and sacrifice for those who are captive to samsara.  We begin this journey with the shoot from the dead stump of the royal tree of David.

Like the Raj: What does ‘Christ’ of Jesus Christ mean?

I sometimes ask people what Jesus’ last name was. Usually they reply,

“I guess his last name was ‘Christ’ but I am not sure”.

Then I ask,

“So when Jesus was a boy did Joseph Christ and Mary Christ take little Jesus Christ to the market?”

Put that way, they realize that ‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ family name. So, what is ‘Christ’? Where does it come from? What does it mean?  Surprising to many, ‘Christ’ is a title that means ‘ruler’ or ‘rule’.  It is not unlike the title ‘Raj’, as in the British Raj that ruled India before independence.

Translation vs. Transliteration

We should first understand some translation basics. Translators sometimes choose to translate by similar sound rather than by meaning, especially names and titles. This is known as transliteration.  For example, “Kumbh Mela” is an English transliteration from the Hindi कुंभ मेला.  Though मेला means ‘fair’ or ‘festival’ it is brought into English by similar sound to Kumbh Mela rather than Kumbh Fair“Raj” is an English transliteration from Hindi राज.  Though राज means ‘rule’ it was brought into English by sound to “British Raj” rather than “British Rule.  With the Veda Pusthakan (Bible), translators had to decide which names and titles to translate (by meaning) and which to transliterate (by sound).  There is no specific rule.

The Septuagint

The Bible was first translated in 250 BC when the Hebrew Vedas (Old Testament) was translated into Greek – the international language at that time. This translation is known as the Septuagint (or LXX) and it was very influential.  Since the New Testament was written in Greek, its many quotations of the Old Testament were taken from the Septuagint.

Translation & Transliteration in the Septuagint

The figure below shows this process and how it affects modern-day Bibles

The flow of translation from original languages to modern-day Bible

Translation flow from original languages to modern-day Bible

The original Hebrew Old Testament (written from 1500 – 400 BC) is shown in quadrant #1. Because the Septuagint was a 250 BC Hebrew –> Greek translation it is shown as an arrow going from quadrant #1 to #2.  The New Testament was written in Greek (50–90 AD), so #2 contains both Old and New Testaments. In the bottom half (#3) is a modern language translation of the Bible.  The Old Testament (Hebrew Vedas) is translated from the original Hebrew (1 -> 3) and the New Testament is translated from the Greek (2 -> 3). The translators must decide on names and titles as explained previously. This is shown with the blue arrows labeled transliterate and translate, showing translators can take either approach.

The Origin of ‘Christ’

Now follow the process above, focusing on the word ‘Christ’.

Translation steps of 'Christ' in the Bible

Where does ‘Christ’ come from in the Bible?

In the Hebrew Old Testament the title is ‘מָשִׁיחַ’ (mashiyach) which means an ‘anointed or consecrated person’ such as a king or ruler.  Hebrew kings of that period were anointed (ceremonially rubbed with oil) before they became king, thus they were anointed ones or mashiyach.  Then they became rulers, but their rule was to be in submission to the heavenly rule of God, according to His laws.  In that sense Hebrew kings in the Old Testament were like The Raj.  The Raj ruled the British territories of South Asia, but under submission to the government in Britain, subject to its laws.

The Old Testament prophesied the coming of a specific mashiyach (with a definite article ’the’) who would be a unique king. When the Septuagint was translated in 250 BC, the translators chose a word in the Greek with a similar meaning, Χριστός (sounds like Christos), based from chrio, which meant to rub ceremonially with oil. So the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’ was translated by meaning (not transliterated by sound) to Χριστός in the Greek Septuagint. The New Testament writers continued to use the word Christos to identify Jesus as this prophesied ‘mashiyach’.

For European languages, there was no obvious word with similar meaning so the New Testament Greek ‘Christos’ was transliterated to ‘Christ’. The word ‘Christ’ is a very specific title with Old Testament roots, by translation from Hebrew to Greek, and then by transliteration from Greek to modern languages. The Old Testament is translated directly to modern languages from Hebrew and translators make different choices regarding the original Hebrew ‘mashiyach’.  Some Bibles transliterate ‘Mashiyach’ to variations of ‘Messiah’, others translate by meaning ‘Anointed One’.  One Hindi word for Christ (मसीह) is transliterated from Arabic, which in turn was transliterated from the original Hebrew.  So its pronunciation ‘maseeh’ is close to the original Hebrew, while another word क्राइस्ट is transliterated from English ‘Christ’ and sounds like ‘Kraist’. The Nepali word for Christ (ख्रीष्टको) is transliterated from the Greek Christos and so is pronounced Khrīṣṭakō.

Because we do not usually see the word ‘Christ’ in the Old Testament, its connection to the Old Testament is not always clear. But from this study we know that ‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’ and that it was a specific title.

The Christ anticipated in 1st Century

Now let’s make some observations from the Gospel. Below is the reaction of King Herod when the Magi came looking for the King of the Jews, a part of the Christmas story. Notice, ‘the’ precedes Christ, even though it is not referring specifically about Jesus.

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. (Matthew 2:3-4)

You see that the idea of ‘the Christ’ was well understood between Herod and his advisors – and here does not refer specifically to Jesus. This shows ‘Christ’ comes from the Old Testament, commonly read by people in the 1st century (like Herod and his advisors) from the Greek Septuagint. ‘Christ’ was (and is) a title, not a name, denoting a ruler or King. This is why Herod ‘was disturbed’ because he felt threatened at the possibility of another King.   We can dismiss the notion that ‘Christ’ was a Christian invention. The title was in use hundreds of years before there were any Christians.

Paradox of Christ’s Authority

The early followers of Jesus were convinced that Jesus was this coming Christ prophesied in the Hebrew Vedas, while others opposed this belief.

Why?

The answer goes to the heart of a paradox about rule based on love or power.  The Raj did have authority to rule over India under the British crown.  But it obtained the right to rule in India because the Raj first came in military power and enforced outward submission through its might. The people did not love the Raj and through leaders like Gandhi, eventually the Raj was terminated.

Jesus as Christ did not come to demand submission, even though he had the authority.  He came to establish an eternal kingdom based on love or bhakti, and this required that the paradox between power and authority on one side meet love on the other.  The Hebrew Rsis explored this paradox to help us understand the coming of the ‘Christ’.  We follow their insights from the first appearance of ‘Christ’ in the Hebrew Vedas, coming around 1000 BC from the Hebrew King David.

History of the Jews: Across India & Around the World

Jews have a long history in India, being here for thousands of years, forming a small community within the mosaic of Indian communities.  Different than other minorities (such as Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists), the Jews originally came from outside India to make their home.  Just before the historic visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi to Israel in summer 2017 he penned a joint op-ed with Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel.  They recognized this migration of Jews to India when they wrote:

The Jewish community in India was always welcomed with warmth and respect and never faced any persecution.

In fact, Jews have had a profound effect on the history of India, providing a solution to a stubborn mystery in Indian history – how did writing emerge as it did in India?  The answer to this question impacts all the classical works of Indian culture.

Jewish History in India

Though distinct, Jews blended in by adopting traditional Indian attire

How long have Jewish communities been in India?  The Times of Israel recently published an article highlighting that after ’27 centuries’ Jews from the tribe of Manasseh (Bnei Menashe) are returning to Israel from Mizoram.  That puts their ancestors originally arriving here around 700 B.C.  Their Telugu-speaking cousins from the Jewish tribe of Ephraim living in Andhra Pradesh (the Bene Ephraim) have a collective memory of being in India more than 1000 years, after wandering through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, and then China.  In Kerala, the Cochin Jews have been living there nearly 2600 years.  Over the centuries Jews formed small but distinct communities across India.  But now they are leaving India for Israel.

Inscription on Jewish synagogue in Cochin. It has been there hundreds of years

How did Jews come to live in India?  Why are they returning after so long back to Israel? We have more facts about their history than that of any other nation. We will use this information to summarize their history using a timeline.

Abraham: The Jewish Family Begins

The timeline starts with Abraham. He was given a promise of nations and had encounters with God ending in the symbolic sacrifice of his son Isaac.  This was a sign pointing to Jesus (Yeshu Satsang) by marking the future location of his sacrifice.  Isaac’s son was named Israel by God.  The timeline continues in green when Israel’s descendants were slaves in Egypt. This period started when Joseph, son of Israel (the genealogy was: Abraham -> Isaac -> Israel (also known as Jacob) -> Joseph), led the Israelites to Egypt, where later on they were enslaved.

bible timeline with abraham and moses in history

Living in Egypt as slaves of Pharoah

Moses: The Israelites become a Nation under God

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt with the Passover Plague, which destroyed Egypt and freed the Israelites from Egypt into the land of Israel.  Before he died, Moses pronounced Blessings and Curses on the Israelites (when the timeline goes from green to yellow).  They would be Blessed if they obeyed God, but Cursed if they did not.  Israel’s history was bound to these Blessings & Curses ever after.

bible historical timeline from Abraham to david

For several hundred years the Israelites lived in their land but they did not have a King, nor did they have the capital city of Jerusalem – it belonged to other people in this time. However, around 1000 BC this changed with King David.

historical timeline Living with Davidic Kings ruling from Jerusalem

Living with Kings of David ruling from Jerusalem

David establishes a Royal Dynasty at Jerusalem

David conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital city. He received the promise of a coming ‘Christ’ and from that time on the Jewish people waited for the ‘Christ’ to come.  His son Solomon, rich and famous, succeeded him and built the First Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The descendants of King David continued to rule for about 400 years and this period is shown in aqua-blue (1000 – 600 BC).  This was the period of Israelite glory – they had the promised Blessings.  They were a powerful nation; had an advanced society, culture, and their Temple. But the Old Testament also describes their growing corruption during this time.  Many prophets in this period warned the Israelites that the Curses of Moses would come on them if they did not change. These warnings were ignored.  During this time the Israelites divided into two separate kingdoms: the northern Kingdom of Israel or Ephraim, and the southern Kingdom of Judah (like Koreans today, one people split in two countries – North and South Korea).

The First Jewish Exile: Assyria & Babylon

Finally, in two stages the Curses came upon them. The Assyrians in 722 BC destroyed the Northern Kingdom and sent those Israelites into mass deportation across their vast empire.  The Bnei Menashe in Mizoram and the Bene Ephraim in Andhra Pradesh are descendants of those deported Israelites.  Then in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful Babylonian King came – just like Moses had predicted 900 years before when he wrote in his Curse:

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away … a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. … They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28: 49-52)

Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, burned it, and destroyed the Temple that Solomon had built. He then exiled the Israelites to Babylon. This fulfilled the predictions of Moses that

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. (Deuteronomy 28:63-64)

jewish historical timeline Conquered and exiled to Babylon

Conquered and exiled to Babylon

The Jews of Cochin in Kerala are descendants of these exiled Israelites.  For 70 years, the period shown in red, these Israelites (or Jews as they were now called) were exiled outside the land promised to Abraham and his descendants.

Jew’s Contribution to Indian Society

We pick up the question of writing which emerged in India.  The modern languages of India including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil as well as ancient Sanskrit in which the Rg Vedas and other classical literature was written are classified as Brahmic scripts since they all descend from an ancestral script known as Brahmi script.  Brahmi script today is only seen in a few ancient monuments from the Ashoka Emperor period.

Brahmi script on Ashoka pillar (250 BC)

Though it is understood how the Brahmi script changed into these modern scripts, what is not clear is how India first adopted the Brahmi script.  Scholars note that the Brahmi script is related to the Hebrew-Phoenician script, which was the script used by the Jews of Israel in the period of their exiles and migration to India.  Historian Dr. Avigdor Shachan (1) proposes that the exiled Israelites who settled in India brought the Hebrew-Phoenician with them – which became the Brahmi script.  This also solves the mystery of how the Brahmi script got its name.  Is it just coincidence that the Brahmi script appears in North India at the same time when the Jews settled there in exile from their ancestral land, the land of Abraham?  The natives who adopted the script of Abraham’s descendants called it the (A)brahamin script.  Abraham’s religion was belief in one God whose role is not limited.  He is first, last, and eternal.  Perhaps this is where the belief in Brahman also arose, from the religion of (A)braham’s people. The Jews, in bringing their script and religion to India, shaped its thought and history more fundamentally than the many invaders who sought to conquer and rule her.  And the Hebrew Vedas, originally in Hebrew-Phoenician/Brahmi script, has its theme of the Coming One, in common with the Sanskrit Rg Vedas theme of Coming Purusa.

But we return to the history of the Jews in the Middle East after their exile from their ancestral land.

Return from Exile under the Persians

In 539 BC, the Persian Emperor Cyrus conquered Babylon and he became the most powerful person in the world. Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to their land.

jewish historial timeline Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire

Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire

However they were no longer an independent country, they were now a province in the Persian Empire.  This continued for 200 years and is in pink in the timeline. During this time the Jewish Temple (known as the 2nd Temple) and the city of Jerusalem were rebuilt.  Though Jews were allowed to return to Israel, many remained abroad in exile.

The Period of the Greeks

Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and made Israel a province in the Greek Empire for another 200 years. This is shown in dark blue.

jewish historical timeline Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires

Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires

The Period of the Romans

Then the Romans defeated the Greek Empires and they became the dominant world power. The Jews again became a province in this Empire and it is shown in light yellow. This is the time when Jesus lived.  This explains why there are Roman soldiers in the gospels – because the Romans ruled the Jews in Israel during the life of Jesus.

jewish historical timeline Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire

Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire

The Second Jewish exile under the Romans

From the time of the Babylonians (586 BC) the Jews had not been independent as under the Kings of David. They were ruled by other Empires, similar to how the British ruled India before independence.  The Jews resented this and they revolted against Roman rule. The Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem (70 AD), burned down the 2nd Temple, and deported the Jews as slaves across the Roman Empire. This was the second Jewish exile. Since Rome was so big the Jews were eventually scattered around the whole world.

Jerusalem and Temple destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. Jews sent into world-wide exile

Jerusalem and Temple destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. Jews sent into world-wide exile

This is how the Jewish people lived for almost 2000 years: dispersed in foreign lands and never accepted in these lands. In these different nations they regularly suffered great persecutions.  This persecution of the Jews was particularly true in Europe.  From Spain, in Western Europe, to Russia the Jews lived often in a dangerous situations in these kingdoms.  Jews continued arriving in Cochin to escape these persecutions.  Jews from the Middle East arrived in other parts of

David Sasson & sons – wealthy Baghdadi Jews in India

India in the 17th and 18th centuries, and were known as the Baghdadi Jews, settling mostly in Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta.  The Curses of Moses back in 1500 BC were accurate descriptions of how they lived.

… Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:65)

The Curses against the Israelites were given to make peoples ask:

All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” (Deuteronomy 29:24)

And the answer:

It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:25-28)

The timeline below shows this 1900 year period. This period is shown in a long red bar.

Historical Timeline of the Jews - featuring their two periods of exile

Historical Timeline of the Jews on larger scale – featuring their two periods of exile

You can see that in their history the Jewish people went through two periods of exile but the second exile was much longer than the first exile.

The 20th Century Holocaust

The persecutions against the Jews reached their peak when Hitler, through Nazi Germany, tried to exterminate all the Jews living in Europe. He almost succeeded but he was defeated and a remnant of Jews survived.

Modern Re-birth of Israel

The fact that there were people who self-identified as ‘Jews’ after thousands of years without a homeland was remarkable. But this allowed the final words of Moses, written down 3500 years ago, to come true.  In 1948 the world, through the United Nations, saw the incredible re-birth of the modern state of Israel, as Moses had written centuries before:

…then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 30:3-5)

It was also remarkable since this state was established in spite of great opposition. Most of the surrounding nations waged war against Israel in 1948 … in 1956 … in 1967 and again in 1973. Israel, a very small nation, was sometimes at war with five nations at the same time. Yet not only did Israel survive, but her territory increased. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel regained Jerusalem, her historic capital city David had founded 3000 years ago.  The result of the creation of the state of Israel, and the consequences from these wars has created one of the most difficult geo-political problems of our world today.

As predicted by Moses and explored more fully here, the re-birth of Israel created an impetus for the Jews in India to return back to Israel.  There are now 80 000 Jews living in Israel who have one parent from India and there are only 5000 Jews left in India.  As per Moses’ blessing they are being ‘gathered’ from the most ‘distant lands’ (like Mizoram) and being brought ‘back’.  Moses wrote that both Jews and non-Jews should note the implications.  The incarnation of (A)brahman in Jesus is explored here.

  1. Avigdor Shachan. In the Footsteps of the Lost Ten Tribes p 261

From Lakshmi to Shiva: how Sri Moses’ Blessings & Curses Echo today

When we think of blessing and good fortune our minds go to Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, success and wealth.  She blesses hard work when it is not done in greed.  In the story of the Churning of the Milky Ocean, Lakshmi left the devas and entered the milky ocean because of the disrespect that Indra showed when he threw away the sacred flowers.   However, after one thousand years of churning the ocean for her return, she blessed the faithful with her re-birth.

When we think of destruction, desolation and annihilation our minds go to Bhairava, the fierce incarnation of Shiva, or even to the third eye of Shiva.  It is almost always closed but he does open it to destroy evil doers.  Both Lakshmi and Shiva receive much attention from devotees, because people desire the blessings from the one and fear the curse or destruction of the other.

Blessings & Curses … to the Israelites … for instructing us.

The Creator God revealed in the Hebrew Vedas was the author both of such blessing to rival that of Lakshmi and of curse and destruction as terrible as that of Bhairava or Shiva’s third eye.  This was directed to his chosen people – the Israelites – who were his devotees. They were given after God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and gave them the Ten Commandments – the standard to know whether sin controlled them or not.  These blessings and curses were directed at the Israelites but were announced long ago so that all other nations would take note and realize that he offers us blessings with the same power He bestowed on the Israelites.  All of us who want prosperity & blessing, and avoid destruction & curse should learn from the experience of the Israelites.

Sri Moses lived about 3500 years ago and he wrote the first books that make up the Hebrew Vedas.  His last book, Deuteronomy, contain his final words written just before he died. These were his Blessings to the people of Israel – the Jews, but also his Curses.  Moses wrote that these Blessings & Curses would shape world history and should be noticed, not just by the Jews, but also by all other nations. These Blessings & Curses have affected history in India.  So this was written for us to reflect on. The complete Blessings and Curses are here.  The summary follows.

The Blessings of Sri Moses

Moses began by describing the blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Law (ie the Ten Commandments).  The blessings from God would be so great that all other nations would recognize His blessing. The outcome from these blessings would be:

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)

… and the Curses

However, if the Israelites failed to obey the Commandments then they would receive Curses that would match and mirror the Blessings. These Curses would be seen by the surrounding nations so that:

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you. (Deuteronomy 28:37)

And the Curses would extend through history.

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (Deuteronomy 28:46)

But God warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from other nations.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

It would go from bad to worse.

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:63-65)

These Blessings and Curses were established by formal agreement between God and the Israelites:

…to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath … also with those who are not here today. (Deuteronomy 29:12-15)

So this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact this covenant was directed at future generations – both Israelites and foreigners.

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it. … nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. … All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” (Deuteronomy 29:22-24)

The answer will be:

“It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt….Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. … the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:25-28)

Did The Blessings and Curses happen?

The Blessings were delightful, and the Curses were dreadful, but the most important question we can ask is: ‘Did they happen?’  Much of the Old Testament of the Hebrew Vedas is the record of Israelite history so we know their past. Also we have historical records outside the Old Testament and many archeological monuments.  They all paint a consistent picture of Israelite or Jewish history.  This is given here through a timeline.  Read it and assess for yourself if the Curses of Moses came to pass.  This explains why Jewish groups migrated into India starting 2700 years ago (eg. Bnei Menashe of Mizoram).  They were scattered to India as a result of Assyrian and Babylonian conquests followed by mass deportations – exactly as Moses had warned.

The Conclusion to Moses’ Blessings and Curses

Moses’ final words did not end with Curses.  Here is how Moses made his final pronouncement.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)

After being exiled for thousands of years, in 1948 – within the lifetime of many alive today – the modern nation of Israel was re-born from a United Nations resolution and Jews started immigrating back to Israel from nations around the world – exactly as Moses’ predicted.  In India today, the thousand- year Jewish communities in Cochin, Andhra Pradesh and in Mizoram are dwindling rapidly as Jews depart to return to their ancestral land.  Only about 5000 Jews remain in India.  The Blessings of Moses are becoming fulfilled before our eyes, as certainly as the Curses shaped their history.

This has several implications for us.  First, the blessings & curses had their authority and power from God.  Moses was simply an enlightened messenger – a Rsi.  The fact that these curses and blessings reaches down thousands of years, across the nations of the globe, and affects billions of people (the return of Jews to Israel has created turmoil – regularly causing events making global headlines) – is evidence that this God has the power and authority that the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) says He has.  In the same Hebrew Vedas He also promised ‘that all peoples on earth’ would be blessed.  ‘All peoples on earth’ include you and me.  Again in the sacrifice of Abraham’s son, God reiterated that ‘all nations would be blessed’.  The striking location and details of that sacrifice help us know how to obtain this blessing.  The blessings being poured out now on the Jews returning from Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala is a Sign that God wants to and can equally bless peoples in all the states of India and in the other nations around the world as He promised.  Like the Jews, we too are offered Blessings in the midst of our Curse.  Why not receive the gift of Blessing?

Yom Kippur – The Original Durga Puja

Durga Puja (or Durgostava) is celebrated days 6-10 in Ashvin (Ashwin) month across much of South Asia.  It is celebrated to commemorate the goddess Durga’s victory in her ancient battle against the asura Mahishasura.  Many devotees do not realize that it coincides with the more ancient festival called Yom Kippur (or Day of Atonement), which began 3500 years ago and is celebrated on the 10th day of the seventh lunar month in the Hebrew year.  Both of these festivals are ancient, both fall on the same day (of their respective calendars.  The Hindu & Hebrew calendars have their extra leap-month in different years, so they do not always coincide on the Western calendar but they both always occur in September-October), both involve sacrifices, and both commemorate great victories.  The similarities between Durga Puja and Yom Kippur are astonishing.  But the few differences are equally remarkable.

Day of Atonement Introduced

Moses and his brother Aaron led the Israelites and received the Law about 1500 years before Jesus

We followed Sri Moses leading the Israelites (Hebrews or Jews) out of slavery and receiving the Ten Commandments to guide the Israelites in Kali Yuga.  Those Ten Commands are very strict, impossible for a person enticed by sin to keep.  These Commandments were kept in a special box, called the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant was in a special temple called The Most Holy Place.

Aaron, brother of Moses, and his descendants were the priests that offered sacrifices in this temple to atone, or cover, the sins of the people.  Special sacrifices were offered on Yom KippurDay of Atonement.  These are valuable lessons for us today, and we can learn much by comparing the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) with the ceremonies of Durga Puja.

The Day of Atonement and the scapegoat

The Hebrew Vedas, from the time of Moses gave precise instructions about the sacrifices and rituals of the Day of Atonement. We see how these instructions begin:

The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

Leviticus 16:1-2

The two sons of Aaron the High Priest had died when they disrespectfully entered the The Most Holy Place Temple where the Presence of the LORD was. In that Holy presence their failure to fully keep the Ten Commandments resulted in their deaths.  

So careful instructions were given, including the only day in the whole year when the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place – the Day of Atonement. If he entered any other day he would die. But even on this one day, before the High Priest could enter into the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, he had to:

“This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.

Leviticus 16:3-4

On Saptami day of Durga Puja, Durga is invoked into the idols by Pran Pratisthan and the murti is bathed and dressed.  Yom Kippur also involved bathing but it was the High Priest who was bathed and readied to enter into the Most Holy Place, not the deity.  It was unnecessary to invoke the LORD God – his presence was in The Most Holy Place all year round.  The need instead was to be prepared to meet this Presence.  After bathing and dressing the Priest had to bring animals for sacrifice.

From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.

Leviticus 16:5-6

A bull was sacrificed to cover over, or atone, for Aaron’s own sins. Bull or goat sacrifices are sometimes performed during Durga Puja.  For Yom Kippur the sacrifice of the bull to cover the priest’s own sin was not an option.  If he did not cover his sin with the sacrifice of the bull the Priest would die.

Then immediately after, the Priest performed the remarkable ceremony of the two goats.

Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering.

Leviticus 16:7-9

Once the bull was sacrificed for his own sins, the Priest would take two goats and cast lots. One goat would be designated as the scapegoat. The other goat was to be sacrificed as a sin offering. Why?

“He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

Leviticus 16:15-16

What happened to the scapegoat?

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:20-22

The bull sacrifice was for Aaron’s own sin. The sacrifice of the first goat was for the sin of the Israelite people. Aaron would then place his hands on the head of the living scapegoat and – symbolically – transfer the sins of the people onto the scapegoat. The goat was then released into the wilderness as a sign that the sins of the people were now far removed from the people. With these sacrifices their sins were atoned for. This was done every year on the Day of Atonement and only on that day.

The Day of Atonement and Durga Puja

Why did God command this festival to be celebrated this day every year?  What did it mean?  Durga Puja looks back in time to when Durga defeated the buffalo demon Mahishasura.  It commemorates an event in the past. The Day of Atonement also commemorated victory but it was prophetic in that it looked forward to a future victory over evil.  Though real animal sacrifices were offered, they also were symbolic.  The Bible explains that

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:4

Since the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement could not really take away the sins of the priest and the devotees, why were they offered every year?  The Bible explains

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.

Hebrews 10:1-3

If the sacrifices could cleanse the sins away, then there would have been no need to repeat them.  But they were repeated year after year, showing that they were not effective.

But when Jesus Christ (Yeshu Satsang) offered himself as a sacrifice it all changed. 

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

Hebrews 10:5-7

He came to offer himself as sacrifice.  And when he did

…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10

The sacrifices of the two goats were symbolically pointing to the future sacrifice and victory of Jesus.  He was the sacrificial goat since he was sacrificed.  He was also the scapegoat, since he took all the sins of the worldwide community and removed them far from us, so we can be cleansed.

Did the Day of Atonement cause Durga Puja?

In the History of the Israelites we noted how the exiles from Israel began arriving in India about 700BC, making many contributions to learning and religion of India.  These Israelites would have celebrated The Day of Atonement every year on the 10th day of the seventh month.  Perhaps, just as they contributed to the very languages of India, they also contributed their Day of Atonement which became Durga Puja, the commemoration of a great victory over evil.  This fits with our historical understanding of Durga Puja, which began to be celebrated around 600 BC.

When the Day of Atonement sacrifices Terminated

The sacrifice of Jesus (Yeshu Satsang) on our behalf was effective and sufficient.  Shortly after the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (33 AD), the Romans destroyed the Temple with the Most Holy Place in 70 AD.  Since then Jews never again offered any sacrifices on The Day of Atonement.  Today, Jews celebrate this festival by observing a somber day of fasting.  Just as the Bible explains, once the effective sacrifice was offered there was no need for the annual sacrifice to continue.  So God stopped it.

Images in Durga Puja and Day of Atonement

The Durga Puja involves invoking an image of Durga so that the deity resides in the murti.  The Day of Atonement was a foretelling of the coming sacrifice and did not invoke any image.  God in the Most Holy Place was invisible and thus there was no image. 

But at the effectual sacrifice, the one that the many Days of Atonements for hundreds of years beforehand had pointed towards, there was an image invoked.  As the Bible explains

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Colossians 1:15

At the effectual sacrifice, the image of the invisible God was invoked and was shown to be the man Jesus.

Taking stock

We have been going through the Veda Pustahakan.  We have seen how God had given several signs to reveal his plan.  At the beginning He foretold the coming ‘He’. This was followed by the sacrifice of Sri Abraham, the Passover sacrifice, and also the Day of Atonement.  There remains the Blessings and Curses of Moses on the Israelites. This would set in motion their history, scattering Israelites all around the world, even to India, as explained here.