Weekly Devotional: Remember All That God Has Done

“And He said to them, ‘Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you shall say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’” Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.’ So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover” (Luke 22:10-13 NKJV).

Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Pilgrims came to Jerusalem in obedience to the Law of Moses that commanded Jewish males to appear before the Lord at Passover (Exodus 23:14-15; Deuteronomy 16:16). If they came to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival, they did so to participate in the sacrificial system of the Jerusalem Temple, which culminated in the eating of the Passover lamb—inside the walled city of Jerusalem on the eve of Passover.

On the day of the eve of Passover, the Passover lambs were brought to the Temple. The person bringing the lamb slaughtered it. This was the only sacrifice where the one who brought the sacrifice slaughtered it instead of the priests in the Temple doing so. When Jesus instructed Peter and John to prepare the Passover, He spoke specifically about slaughtering the lamb and roasting it for the meal.

According to the Old Testament, participants must eat the Passover in the presence of the Lord. Due to the enormous size of the pilgrim crowds who traveled to Jerusalem for Passover in the first century, not everyone could fit into the Temple courts; thus, the Jewish sages extended the sanctity of the Temple to the walled city of Jerusalem on the eve of Passover.

In the first century, while the Temple stood, the eating of the Passover lamb constituted the primary event on the eve of Passover. Today Jewish families and communities all over the world participate in a Seder meal in which the Passover liturgy, the Haggadah, is recited. This liturgy developed centuries after Jesus and does not reflect the Passover meal of the first century. In the first century in Jerusalem, the meal consisted of eating the Passover lamb, drinking two cups of wine—one before the meal and one after—a retelling of the Exodus story in some form, and the singing of a few hymns.

Jesus, knowing what lay before Him over the next few hours, took the opportunity of the meal to provide His disciples a pointed object lesson: He called upon His disciples to remember His action and suffering. This remembrance formed the heart of their gatherings for centuries after, even to this day in some traditions.

The Passover meal was, in itself, a form of memory—remembering what God did for the children of Israel in delivering them from Egyptian bondage. Remember. Remember God’s saving acts. Why do we need to remember what God has done? Especially with the death of Jesus and the Exodus—those are pretty big events. But Jesus called upon His followers, as God did the children of Israel, to remember and celebrate. How often do we do that? 

God uses sacred moments within the Bible, on holidays and the Sabbath, and during Communion to give us the opportunity to stop long enough so that He can be present with us in a special way and cause us to remember. Why? Because we tend to forget. We forget what He’s done for us. We forget to celebrate His redemptive acts. This is why Jesus instructed His disciples to “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 NKJV).

Remember. Don’t forget. Be sure to create space for God’s presence, to remember, and celebrate His wondrous redemption in your life.


Father, we remember Your mighty acts of redemption. We celebrate Your deliverance. Amen.

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Torah Reading Commentary: Mercy

By Mark Gerson

If there were a contest for the least Jewish expression in popular parlance, a leading contender might be: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me.”

God could have created the world using any technique and done so instantaneously. Instead, He chose to do so with a succession of expressions, each beginning with “God said.” We are all familiar with the Ten Commandments, but the correct translation is: Ten Words. God’s words are demonstrably powerful and intentional.

The Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, one of the giants of the faith of the 20th century and of all time, was particularly attuned to the importance of words. The conventional name for “hospital” in Hebrew is Beit Holim—“House of the Sick.” He always used another term, Beit Refua—“House of Healing.” Similarly, he would never use the term “deadline,” but instead “due date.”

In that spirit, let’s consider “Mercy”—which is, according to Wikipedia, “a game of strength, skill, endurance, and pain tolerance popular in Britain, Canada, Pakistan, India, the United States, and elsewhere. The game is played by two players who grasp each other’s hands (with interlocked fingers). The aim is to twist the opponent’s hands or bend the fingers until the opponent surrenders.”

This is an unfortunate game, and not only because of the tissue damage it can cause in the hands of contestants. It is unfortunate because mercy is one of the most important Judeo-Christian ideas, and the game gives children a completely distorted introduction to it.

The importance of mercy is to be found in the answer to a fundamental question of faith: What is God? Many will answer that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and invisible—yet everywhere. All of that, and more, might be right. But the Bible, our ever-present companion and guide, provides us the answer—in the words of God himself. In Exodus 34:6, God describes Himself. Judaism rarely has a name for a biblical passage. But it does in this case. We refer to God’s self-description as the “Thirteen Attributes of Mercy.”

The number 13 has, as do other numbers (particularly 4, 7 and 15), great significance in Judaism. As Rabbi Zalman Gordon points out, the world is structured around the number 12. The year is structured around 12 months, and the Jewish people are structured around 12 tribes. Thirteen then, is the structure of the world plus one—reinforcing the notion that these attributes are God’s sacred self-description that go beyond the human realm.

Each of the 13 attributes is appropriate for its subject and is both fascinating and worthy of deep contemplation. They do not all describe what we would even broadly refer to as mercy. Yet, many translate them using the same word: “mercy.” The God of the Torah is, of course, quintessentially multifaceted. Yet when we want one word to describe God, we choose “merciful.”

That should lead all who love God to ask: What, then, is mercy? It is, in the Jewish imagination, a combination of two other qualities. Much as the combination of red and blue yields purple, the combination of justice and kindness yields mercy.


Justice is effectively actualized truth—it is, in an absolute sense, what one deserves. Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. Gravity is one example. That every crime should be prosecuted with a legally ordained punishment is another.

Kindness, on the other hand, is characterized by giving freely, regardless of whether the recipient deserves what he is being provided.

It is a staple of Jewish culture that the answer is often provided before the question. This is certainly the case with mercy. God may have announced Himself as merciful in Exodus 34, but He already demonstrated it in Exodus 22, in the unlikely context of commercial law. He allows one Jew to take collateral from another but requires that said collateral be returned before sunset. This is not because the deal is expected to be completed within a day. Rather, God explains: “The cloak [collateral] is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? Therefore, if he cries out to Me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.”

In other words: “How could you be thinking about strict justice when your neighbor has nothing to sleep in? What is wrong with you?”

The quality of mercy is best described in modern times through New York’s Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. In the recounting of this story provided by Rabbi Yoseph Y. Geisinsky, Mayor LaGuardia stopped by night court on a freezing night in January of 1935. He told the judge that he would take over that night.

An elderly woman came before Mayor (now Judge) LaGuardia, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She explained, in the depths of the Great Depression, that she stole the bread to feed her grandchildren who would otherwise be without any food.

Mayor LaGuardia asked the shopkeeper if he still wanted to press charges. The shopkeeper said that he felt for the woman but that no one could stay in business if robbery was tolerated.

The penalty for that kind of robbery was $10 and 10 days in jail.

Mayor LaGuardia announced, “Justice is justice.” He fined the woman, took $10 out of his wallet, gave it to the woman, and told her to pay the fine. He then looked around the courtroom and fined everyone $.50 for the crime of living in a city where a grandmother had to rob a store in order to feed her grandchildren. Everyone, including the shopkeeper, paid—and Mayor LaGuardia handed the woman $47.50.

He received a standing ovation, making the shopkeeper surely the only robbery victim to ever pay the thief—and be happy and uplifted by it.

Where did Mayor LaGuardia acquire such wisdom? One cannot know for sure. He was Jewish in the same way that Elvis Presley and Cecile DeMille were—straight through the maternal line, making him (by the standards of Jewish law) fully Jewish. So perhaps he learned, directly or some other way, through Jewish memory.

The Talmud, as Rabbi Gordon relates, tells the story of the great scholar Rava. A fellow sage brought a case before him in which he was demanding compensation for barrels that had been broken by hired porters. This sage had taken the cloaks of the clumsy porters as collateral, assuming that Rava would rule in his favor and at which point he was prepared to return the cloaks. To his surprise and likely dismay, Rava ruled that not only must the sage return the cloaks immediately and without compensation, but that he must pay the porters for their labor (Bava Metzia 83a).

In both cases—the Talmudic original and Mayor LaGuardia’s application to contemporary times—we learn about mercy and, by extension, about God. Mercy is about acknowledging that strict notions of justice are right and relevant, but that they often must be tempered by kindness. A disputant can take comfort that he is absolutely right yet also agree to stand down.

After all, isn’t that what we—failed, broken, and disappointing people—want God to do with us?

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.

Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

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Iran Aims “Eco-Terrorism” at Israel’s Coastline

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

In a conversation with Moses, God portrays Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Israel has certainly fulfilled this description, making their dreams come true in their modern homeland. 

Recently though, Israeli citizens woke up to a nightmare and learned that oil tar was coming ashore killing marine life and birds on their famous beaches—also loved by millions of tourists. A tanker on its way to a Syrian port dumped thousands of tons of Iranian crude oil into the Mediterranean Sea creating an environmental disaster on Israel’s coastline.

The first evidence of the massive oil spill came from examining a beached whale found with oil in its lungs. Then tar began washing in on the waves. The Israeli government immediately banned the sale of fish and other seafood, which impacted Israel’s food chain and its restaurant economy.

While some Israeli officials initially thought the spill was accidental, Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister, Gila Gamliel, quickly named the disaster “environmental terrorism” and cited the leak as intentional. Aware that Iran is known to ship crude oil to its surrogate, Syria, Gamliel commented, “The operator of the ship has black blood on their hands.”

After a two-week investigation, British company Lloyd’s of London verified that the ship sailed from Iran. Since 1734 the world’s most distinguished company in its field, Lloyd’s oversees global marine commerce, including the shipping of oil and gas. Its List Intelligence tracks and makes available the movements of vessels, and Lloyd’s investigation proved that the Emerald oil tanker navigated its route from Iran through the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, where they cut off the vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS)—its tracking devices. The crew turned it back on to transit the Suez Canal, but cut the tracking off again when it reached the Mediterranean Sea.

Lloyd’s reported that the Emerald began discharging crude oil on February 1 and 2, polluting one hundred miles of Israel’s coastline. The ship showed up a few days later with its environmentally destructive payload. The Jerusalem Post reported on March 8 that “the ship was insured by the UAE-based Islamic P&I Club.” The Lloyd’s List stated, “The P&I Club is only used by Iranian shipowners, who are “anonymous, untraceable.” These findings bolster Gamliel’s contention that Iran intended to create disaster via this covert operation. 

Dr. Theodore Karasik, a Gulf State Analytics senior advisor, included his expert opinion in a Forbes interview: “The Israeli government calling the damage ‘eco-terrorism’ is significant.” The author of Toxic Warfare, Karasik stated that it brings up the issue of using “hazardous and industrial materials as a combat strategy.”

The government called for volunteers, who rushed to the beaches to help the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Defense Forces clean up the pollutants. Some volunteers were hospitalized due to the toxicity of the materials they handled. The biggest patches of oil tar have now been cleaned up at 17 of the nation’s 137 beaches, but no swimming is allowed. Environmentalists say it could take months or even years to complete the cleanup. The government has approved $14 million for the effort.  

The clots of crude oil threaten sea life, sands, and tourism but hopefully will not affect Israel’s population or its water supply. As one of the world’s driest countries, Israel must not only carefully safeguard its water supply but look to innovative thinking to achieve water security. This Middle Eastern nation pioneered drip irrigation and is a leader in water desalination and centralized water management. Seventy-five percent of its water now comes from its life-giving operations. The Sorek desalination plant located south of Tel Aviv is the largest reverse-osmosis plant in the world and has been called “Israel’s salvation.” For now, officials are saying that the desalination process is not damaged. We pray that their assessment is correct.

Nevertheless, Iran’s latest form of terrorism—environmental terror—hits at the Bible’s promises and Israeli hearts, especially for a nation that has devoted itself to making its deserts bloom. Israelis have planted their ancestral homeland with trees, flowers, and crops. “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing” (Isaiah 35:1-2).

Israel sits at the junction of three continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe. Over the ages, the region has experienced varying climate changes with beautiful results; its 2,600 plant species include 150 that are indigenous. Five hundred million birds fly over Israel twice a year on their round-trip migration route between Africa, Asia, and Europe, a visual feast for bird lovers. Indeed, Israel is rich in flora and fauna. 

Although Israel’s natural resources are limited, that has not stopped the Israelis. Not only have they innovated in water desalination, but they have also dramatically pioneered water-saving irrigation methods and recycling. They have helped their own population and also exported their skills in water technology to increase crop production and drinking water in many poor nations.

World Water Day is celebrated on March 22. Israel’s water innovations, both private and governmental, top the list—passing along lifesaving water innovations all over the world. Many organizations, like Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) and private organizations like Innovation: Africa and IsraAid, offer humanitarian training courses for governments, farmers, and projects.

No discussion of innovative water supplies and crops can be complete without mentioning Netafim’s drip irrigation. Ruth Schuster, a senior editor for Haaretz newspaper, calls drip irrigation “the holy grail of Israeli water innovation.” Netafim, which developed the system in 1965, is now in 100 countries—helping them grow more food while using less water.

While Iran’s leaders destroy, Israel creates. Iran penalizes its own citizens financially in its quest for nuclear weapons, so the people suffer. Israel’s citizens innovate blessings, and the world benefits. In innovating terror of all kinds, Iran’s leaders embrace a culture of death. Israel’s leaders embrace a culture of life. 

In a March 4, 2021, opinion piece in Forbes, political scientist Ariel Cohen urges, “It is time for the U.S., the EU, and the rest of the world to see Iran for what it is: a rogue, terrorism-sponsoring, anti-status-quo, power. Tehran is endangering the Middle East, international commerce, maritime routes, and global security as a whole.” 

Join CBN Israel in prayer for Israel as they combat this latest form of terror: 

  • Pray with thanks for Lloyd’s of London and its immense global resources. 
  • Pray that the beach cleanup will move forward faster than anticipated.
  • Pray for Israel and the Arab states as they face ongoing threats from Iran. 
  • Pray that Israel will seek the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob praying, “Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us” (Psalm 44:5).

As we look at the remarkable innovations Israel has achieved since this ancient land became a modern nation, we not only recognize the natural blessing on the Jewish people to live and prosper in the promised land, but we also see how much Israelis show their love for the land in the ways they cultivate, develop, and preserve it for future generations. That includes continuing to fight against all forms of terrorism—including environmental terror. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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Rescuing Women from Prostitution

In southern Tel Aviv, there once was a proud, working class Jewish neighborhood that deteriorated over the years. Sadly, it is now filled with brothels, addicts, drug dealers, and rampant crime. And prostitution is common there. Young women who look sick and malnourished walk the streets—selling their bodies openly to support their drug addictions.

But thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel is sharing God’s love, by partnering with a local ministry called The Red Carpet. It was founded 15 years ago by Anat, a social worker who reaches out to women working as prostitutes—and helps them escape the vicious cycle of drug addiction and sexual exploitation. 

For these traumatized women, the challenges of living a normal life can be scary. They are afraid of not fitting in, and not finding a job or home. Anat and her volunteers began operating out of a basement, offering these women free manicures and hope. Many have found freedom. Recently she was able to move the ministry to a new spot, on the toughest street. 

We provided funds for remodeling it into a safe, welcoming place to get a shower, get their hair and nails done, enjoy a hot meal—and receive unconditional love and counseling. And during COVID-19, when the girls were not allowed inside, we provided them with take-away gift bags, containing a hot meal, sweets, fresh clean clothes, and bottled water. 

And your gift to CBN Israel can help others who are hurting—including Holocaust survivors, refugees, terror victims, and single mothers. Your support is crucial, as more people need assistance to survive in the Holy Land.

You can offer them food, housing, financial aid, and more. Please join us in reaching those who need our help!


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Biblical Israel: Jordan River

By Marc Turnage

The most dramatic geographical feature of the biblical land of Israel is the scar of the Rift Valley. Created by the tectonic plates, this forms part of the Syro-African Rift, the longest scar on the face of the planet. Within the land of Israel, the Rift Valley is referred to as the Jordan River Valley because the Jordan River flows through a large portion of it. Within this valley, Lot chose to settle in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed (Genesis 13:10).

The Jordan River begins south of Mount Hermon where three headwaters flow together to form the Jordan River. The Jordan River flows south through the upper part of the Jordan Valley, known as the Huleh Valley, then into the Sea of Galilee. It exits the lake on its southern end traveling south over sixty-five miles into the Dead Sea. Over its journey from the Sea of Galilee (656 feet below sea level) to the Dead Sea (1310 feet below sea level), the Jordan River carves a deep and winding course and meanders roughly two hundred miles over its sixty-five-mile journey. 

The Jordan River played a significant role in a number of biblical stories. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River, when it was at flood stage, to enter the promised land and began their conquest of the land (Joshua 1-4). Biblical Israel spanned both sides of the Jordan River, its east and west bank, so too did kingdoms that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah interacted with, like Ammon and Moab. 

Thus, characters in the Bible crossed the Jordan often traveling to the land on the eastern and western sides of the river (Judges 7:22-8:17; 1 Samuel 11; 31; 2 Samuel 2:24-32; 15-19). Elisha followed Elijah on his final day before being caught up into heaven across the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:6-13). After Elijah’s departure, Elisha crossed the river dividing it with Elijah’s coat. Elisha sent Naaman the Syrian to immerse himself in the Jordan River seven time (2 Kings 5:14) to cure him from his skin ailment. 

In the region of the Jordan, John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Luke 3:3). Modern pilgrims today visit a location identified as the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism near Jericho, and just north of the Dead Sea. The identification of this site began in the Byzantine period (4th-6th centuries A.D.) to enable Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem to also visit the Jordan River, which is a day’s walk from Jerusalem. The Byzantine Christians, however, did not know that Jewish ritual purity laws of the first century considered the waters of the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee impure for ritual immersion (Mishnah Parah 8.10-11). 

It seems unlikely, then, that John would have baptized anyone in the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee; however, the waters of the Jordan north of the Sea of Galilee are considered pure for immersion. This geographically fits Jesus’ meeting Philip coming out of Bethsaida (on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee) the day after his baptism (John 1:43-44). Such a meeting would have been impossible in Bethsaida the day after his baptism if Jesus had been baptized near Jericho.

The Jordan River serves as one of the central geographic boundaries and features that plays so prominently in so many biblical stories. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Temple Cleansing

“Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house is a house of prayer,” but you have made it a “den of thieves.”’ And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him” (Luke 19:45-48 NKJV).

Jesus rode into Jerusalem in the week leading up to Passover on a wave of popularity and redemptive anticipation. Upon His arrival in Jerusalem, He entered the Temple and challenged the financial corruption of the chief priests. They were the ones who oversaw the sale of sacrifices and financial activities of the Temple. Jesus’ actions were not directed against the Temple itself; in fact, He never rejected the Temple, as evidenced by the actions of His followers after His death and resurrection, who continued to frequent the Temple and participate in its sacrificial system (Luke 24:53; Acts 3:1, 21:26).

His actions targeted the sellers—the chief priests. He drove them out by quoting a passage from Isaiah, “My house is a house of prayer,” followed by a passage from Jeremiah when He told the chief priests that they had turned the Temple into a “den of thieves.”

Luke makes clear that this action led the chief priests to seek to kill Jesus, but they could not do so openly because the crowds hung on His words. From this point, the chief priests sought the right opportunity to arrest Him quietly under the cloak of darkness—further evidence that the crowds of Jerusalem never turned against Jesus.

Why did His action elicit such a visceral response? The answer lies in Jesus’ teaching and His popularity, both of which threatened the power and wealth of Jerusalem’s chief priests.

Jewish sages, like Jesus, often taught by tying passages from the Old Testament together. Because the sage and the audience knew the Old Testament by heart, the simple mention of a phrase or line from a passage called to mind the entire context of the passage. Jesus did this when He combined Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

The fuller context of Isaiah 56 calls upon the people to both “keep justice and do righteousness” (56:1 NKJV). It offers the messianic promise of the restoration of the eunuch to bear children, the inclusion of the foreigner with the children of Israel, and the gathering of Israel’s dispersed.

This contrasts with the context of Jeremiah 7, in which Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the First Temple built by Solomon due to the corruption of the people. To “prove” his point, Jeremiah reminded his listeners what God did to Shiloh where the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant resided for a time (Jeremiah 7:12-14). This event seems to coincide with the capture of the Ark and the slaying of the corrupt priests Hophni and Phineas, who were the sons of Eli (1 Samuel 4). On that day, the Philistines captured the Ark and cut off the priesthood of Eli due to the corruption of the people.

Jesus’ fragmentary citation of Jeremiah 7:11 would have caused His audience to make that jump in an instant, and they clearly understood His message: Because of your (the chief priests’) corruption, God is going to judge this place (the Temple) and your priesthood will be cut off! From their response in the Gospels, they understood Jesus’ message very clearly, and due to His popularity with the people, He was a threat that needed to be removed. 

The wealth of the high priestly clans of Jerusalem was legendary, as was their brutality and desire to protect their wealth. They controlled a monopoly setting prices for sacrifices, which often became so exorbitant that pilgrims to the Temple could not participate in the sacrificial system. A number of Jewish sources, including the New Testament, comment on the greed and brutality of the Sadducean chief priests.

Archaeological excavations in Jerusalem have uncovered high priestly homes that attest to the opulent and lavish lifestyle in which these priests lived. The largest of these homes—which contains beautiful fresco work, imported Roman pottery, and a hand-blown glass piece signed by the artist, Enion of Sidon—is over 6,000 square feet!

Jesus, and His popularity, threatened the power and wealth of this elite group. This sets the stage for the events of His last week, which culminate in His death and resurrection, carried out by the Romans in collusion with the chief priests of Jerusalem. It was in their best interest to preserve the status quo with Rome, and so Jesus had to be eliminated. 

These same forces are alive in our world today. The clamor of power and money leads many, including some Christians, to behave in ways God despises. Jesus’ citation of Isaiah 56 calls upon the people to “keep justice and do righteousness.”

He called upon the people to return to God and His ways. He calls us to do the same. We have to guard against the allure of power and greed by submitting daily to God’s rule and reign in our lives and looking for ways we can love those who are hurting and suffering in our world.


Father, may we “keep justice and do righteousness” in our world today. We submit our wills and ways to You, our God. Lead us in the paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Amen.

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Torah Reading Commentary: What Might Exodus Say About Clothing?

By Mark Gerson

My guess is that answers would fall into two general categories. First of all, the Bible would probably say that actions matter and character matters—and that what we wear is a superficial indulgence or distraction from these more important matters. This view would be supported by the facts that the Hebrew word for clothing, beged, also means “betray” and that the Torah is abundantly clear that truth is better accessed through hearing than through seeing. For instance, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Secondly, the Bible probably values the relationship that clothing can have with modesty. In Exodus 25, the biblical author prescribes an elaborate covering for the Torah. If we dress the Torah with such care, at least partly out of respect for the treasure within, then surely the biblical author would apply the same discipline to people.

But then we can consult the Torah portion we read in synagogue on Saturday, Parshat Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20–30:10). Early in this portion, God instructs Moses to “make vestments of sanctity for Aaron your brother, for dignity and splendor.” Much of the rest of the Torah portion is devoted to the details of those vestments. It speaks about the knitting, the accessories, the colors, the belt, the bells—all with a specificity that the most meticulous contemporary fashion designer would employ.

How, one might be moved to ask, can clothing be that important? How can clothing be considered sacred? How can clothing—which in one sense is a “betrayal”—be a source of dignity and splendor?

The answer, or at least a hint of the coming answer, is provided in the beginning of Genesis. God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after the two of them ate the forbidden fruit. But God was not done with them, and would send them out with a parting gift. If I were Adam, I’d probably want God to give me a bow, plow, or some other practical instrument of survival in the new world. But God, being all-wise and omniscient, had a better idea.

He gave Adam and Eve “garments of skin.” In other words, he gave them the fundamental instrument of dignity. With clothing, they could have dignity—and with dignity, they could be anything.

The Torah is not a document of abstract religiosity that would float concepts of “dignity” or “sanctity” without practical implications. We can see those implications in our daily lives. When we see a doctor, a firefighter, or a police officer in uniform, how do we think and feel about them? We immediately, and even instinctively, experience respect and gratitude with (hopefully and appropriately) a desire to express that appreciation meaningfully. But the viewer is not the only person in this exchange who is transformed.

The person wearing the uniform also feels an enhanced sense of responsibility, as he knows he is literally embodying the values that his or her uniform conveys. And this feeling, though generated by the clothing one puts on, becomes deeply felt.

In Parshat Tetzaveh, the garments were designed by God but were funded and supplied by the people to be worn by the priests who were ordained to serve them. In Exodus 29:9, the biblical author describes how Aaron and his sons must wear the sashes and high hats. The Bible does not use the usual word for dress (lavash) but instead the word chavash, which connotes something being closely and tightly wrapped (as in a dressing for a wound). This notion is enforced even more in Leviticus, when this clothing is discussed again. The clothing, we learn, is “on his flesh.” Clothing is not only something that one takes on and off to help regulate body temperature. Its function is even greater than what Polonius told his son Laertes in Hamlet—“the apparel oft proclaims the man.” In the biblical imagination, the clothing makes the man.   

Modern social science has also demonstrated just how right the concept of embodiment is as described in Parshat Tetzaveh. In 2012, Professors Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University conducted a study of how people perform differently when wearing different types of clothing. One set of undergraduate students wore a doctor’s coat, another set wore a doctor’s coat that had been described as a painter’s coat, and a third set were told to see the doctor’s coat in front of them. In each of three experiments, those wearing the doctor’s coat performed much better on “attention-related tasks.” Professors Adam and Galinsky concluded, “Clothes systematically influence wearers’ psychological processes. … Attention only increased when the coat was a) worn and b) associated with a doctor. The influence of clothes thus depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning.”

Professors Adam and Galinsky term their discoveries as “enclothed cognition and describe it as “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.” In more recent years, a burgeoning new academic discipline has developed—that of “fashion psychology,” which is about these same dynamics. 

These are surely new disciplines and discoveries about a truth that was magnificently described and prescribed, with exquisite detail, in the biblical Exodus.

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

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Palestinian Textbooks Incite Violence Against Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

The world marked another International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers just a few weeks ago on February 12. Yet the Palestinians repeatedly violate this worthy United Nations and UNICEF-sponsored goal in their textbooks.  

Shaping young minds with erroneous history and facts is a mental “blunt instrument” that diminishes the bright minds and futures of Palestinian children. How does that happen? By filling these impressionable students with hatred against Israelis—using deliberate misinformation in textbooks—they hope to influence them to become human weapons against the Jewish population. 

Responsibility for such disturbing activity lies at the feet of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). Instead of training children to grow up in peace, these two entities call for them to “defend the motherland with blood” and to “annihilate the remnants.” 

Israel’s Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) pioneered what they call textbook analysis, not only in Palestinian textbooks but those in other cultures and nations. After studying more than 150 Palestinian textbooks, this non-governmental organization published a recent report finding evidence of incitement and violence against Israel and the Jewish people. UNRWA, which promised by September 2020 to remove all the dangerous teaching, has not completely kept their word. 

In fact, UNRWA has been distributing home study materials to Palestinian families that do anything but promote peace. Special packets were disbursed during the coronavirus shutdowns. In fact, they were found to violate UN standards, UNESCO guidelines, and UNRWA’s own stated principles. They claimed it “mistakenly” gave children textbooks calling for jihad. 

But clearly, the PA and UNRWA are still setting children on a path of bitterness and danger. 

As part of its study, IMPACT-se has compiled examples that promote martyrdom and violence against their “enemy” Israel. For instance, a reading comprehension story describes a Molotov cocktail on a bus full of Jewish civilians, calling it a “barbecue party.” 

The UNRWA books also include distorted maps in a seventh-grade textbook. The maps remove Israel—calling it only “Palestine”—with its borders listed as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. In reality, while many nations view “Palestine” as a country, under international law it is not yet legally a state since it has not met all the prerequisites.

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff pointed out about UNRWA: “It does not appear that the organization is institutionally capable of fulfilling its basic duty of care to the children in its schools. Donor countries need to start asking much more pointed questions of UNRWA if they want to stop financing this ongoing hate teaching.”

Donor countries are doing just that—including Canada, Norway, the European Union, and others. For the last few years, many have already reduced their donations to UNRWA. Since the IMPACT-se report came out, member nations are again questioning, reducing, or stopping their financial aid altogether. During the Trump presidency, U.S. funding was stopped. However, the Biden administration is set to reinstate donations to UNRWA and the PA.

Other organizations are also tracking vital facts. Added investigations from the non-governmental Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) have, since 1996, translated Arabic into English to monitor what is really being published and broadcast. In 2012, PMW reported a shocking post on a Lebanese Facebook page. What you read here is not an isolated attitude: 

“My mother dressed me in a strange belt [i.e., a suicide belt]. I asked her: ‘What is this, mother?’ She said: ‘I will put it on you, and you will go to your death!’ I said to her: ‘Mother, what have I done that you want me to die?’

“She shed a tear that hurt my heart and said: ‘The homeland needs you, son. Go and blow up the Sons of Zion.’ I said to her: ‘Why me and not you?’ She said: ‘I will stay in order to give birth to more children for the sake of Palestine.’ I kissed her hand and said to her: ‘Keep it up, mother, for you and for Palestine I will kill the impure and the damned.’”

More than a quarter-million Palestinians live in Lebanon. Who knows how many have seen this appalling post?

As a non-profit Israeli research organization, PMW has educated legislative bodies and leaders worldwide with the troubling truths. PMW was the first to expose and report the financial rewards paid to families of Palestinian “martyrs” (terrorists)—a diabolical reward system called “pay to slay.” The PA pays hundreds of millions of dollars to families—and even Palestinian prisoners—to glorify and reward terror. The PA fills its terror coffers every year using donations from many nations, including the United States. 

PMW’s research opened the door in the 115th Congress to significant legislation to pass the Taylor Force Act in 2017-2018. Taylor, a 28-year-old U.S. army veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was murdered in a Tel Aviv terror attack in March 2016. Bottom line, the bill bans “certain financial contributions lasting from 2018-2023 that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority.” In other words, the Act prohibits paying terrorists and their families for murder until they stop “Pay to Slay.”

In a heartening bipartisan vote on the Taylor Force Act in 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 256-167, followed by the Senate’s 65-32 vote. The Force family was represented by Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder and CEO of Shurat Hadin—the Israel Law Center. She remarked, “It will lead to the end of the Palestinian practice of ‘rewarding murder and terrorism.’” With IMPACT-se, Palestinian Media Watch, and other organizations diligently monitoring the facts—and governments acting on those facts—we must pray that her words will come true. Israel also passed “Anti-Pay-for-Slay” laws, along with many other countries, which set out to end the common practice by the PA to reward terrorists for killing innocent Israelis. 

With less money donated to the PA, it is difficult to understand why Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, would keep his deadly financial policies. The Modern War Institute at West Point offers these reasons about maintaining Pay to Slay—that it is “politically useful to the PA. It ensures that Israel, as well as other nations, take Fatah seriously due to the threat of violence. It also serves to keep a restive Palestinian populace focused on an external enemy instead of on the cronyism, authoritarianism, and corruption inherent in the PA. After decades of occupation, Palestinians likely feel convinced that the only way to obtain independence is through violence, and the PA is all too happy to help them continue to feel that way.”

Mahmoud Abbas’s 16th year (of what was supposed to be a four-year term) qualifies him as a dictator, for other reasons as well. We cannot forget that Palestinian hate-laden textbooks and media also fill children’s minds with the responsibility to become martyrs. The following quote from Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989) is profound. This Russian nuclear physicist, dissident, Nobel laureate, and activist for disarmament, peace, and human rights stated:

“A country which does not respect the rights of its own citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbors.” 

Sakharov’s quote expertly explains long-time Palestinian opposition to peace with Israel and ill-treatment of its citizens—men, women, and children. 

Join CBN Israel to pray with thankfulness for facts emerging from reliable organizations that expose the mind-altering abuse of Palestinian children:

  • Pray that more dangerous indoctrination policies to come to light. 
  • Pray with gratitude that many nations have changed their policies as they continue to learn the facts. 
  • Pray that UNRWA and the PA will respond to the shrinking donations by finally abandoning their destructive policies and removing all hateful lies that damage their next generation. 

I leave you with this sobering and troubling statement by IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff: “UNRWA is complicit in radicalizing schoolchildren through the glorification of terrorists, encouragement to violence and teaching of blood libels to Palestinian schoolchildren.”

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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New Immigrant: Sergey’s Story

Working as accountants in Kazakhstan, Sergey and his wife Alina are a Jewish couple who felt drawn to live in Israel. They finally immigrated with their two children. They also had a passion for the world of beauty and hair styling and used the move to change careers. 

Arriving in Israel, the couple cleaned buildings for a living, and attended beauty school at night. He studied hair styling, while she did facials and beauty treatments. It was a busy year of work, school, caring for their kids, and learning Hebrew. But they graduated, opening a salon in their own apartment. It was so successful that soon they were able to relocate it to a rented space. 

Then, COVID-19 struck—with all beauty salons in lockdown. Although Sergey and his wife were frugal, they still had to pay the salon’s rent, bills, and loan payments, even while it was closed. With no income, their savings ran out, and their debts began piling up. 

Thankfully, CBN Israel’s business development department reached out to Sergey and Alina, who shared their plight. We offered them timely economic guidance, along with crucial financial aid that helped this family survive. They were finally able to reopen, and Sergey said, “If it weren’t for CBN Israel… we would have had to close our business and wouldn’t have been able to put food on the table. We are so thankful!”

And CBN Israel is helping many more during this global pandemic—including desperate immigrants, Holocaust survivors, young families, and more. Your support is urgently needed, as the cries continue across the Holy Land for groceries, housing, and more.

You can bless so many in need. Please join us in offering a lifeline to those who are vulnerable and struggling!


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Biblical Israel: Sea of Galilee

By Marc Turnage

The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake on earth. It sits 600 feet below sea level. It is a lake, and not a sea; thus, the Evangelist Luke correctly describes it often as a lake (5:1; 8:22, 33). 

The Lake of Galilee sits in the Jordan River Valley, which is part of the Syro-African Rift Valley. The Jordan River flows through the lake from the north where its three headwaters converge south of the ancient site of Dan to form the Jordan River and flow south into the lake. The river continues out of the south end of the lake on its southward journey towards the Dead Sea. The modern exit of the Jordan River on the south end of the lake is not the ancient exit of the river; the modern exit was created for the damn used to regulate the flow of water out of the lake.

Hills surround the lake on its western, northern, and eastern sides. To its south, one finds the continuation of the Jordan River Valley. On its northwest and northeast corners sit two fertile valleys into which water runoff from the surrounding hills flow. The northwest valley is known as the Gennesar Valley, which the first century Jewish historian Josephus says was the name given to the lake by the locals (see Luke 5:1). The valley on the northeast side of the lake is the Bethsaida Valley, so called for the ancient site of Bethsaida, the home of Jesus’ disciples Peter, Philip, and Andrew, which was located in the valley along the shoreline of the lake. 

The Bethsaida Valley, while fertile, has three large water tributaries, including the Jordan River, flow through it, which made it more challenging for travel by foot. Two of these tributaries flow out of the Golan Heights feeding the water of the lake along with the Jordan River. Between the Gennesar Valley and Bethsaida Valley ninety-five percent of Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Gospels took place. He fed the 5,000 in the Bethsaida Valley (Luke 9:10). Within this area, one finds the villages of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, which Jesus cursed (Luke 10:13-16). 

South of the Gennesar Valley sits the modern city of Tiberias, which was built by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, in the year 19-20 A.D. Antipas moved his administration from Sepphoris to Tiberias, which was where he resided during the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist. 

The lake itself provided a fishing industry for the locals. The water off the Bethsaida Valley provided excellent fishing, especially for the local tilapia. People used the lake not only for fishing, but also for travel. Both Josephus and the Gospels indicate that people traveled around the lake by boat much more than they did by foot.

The Gospels record the sudden storms that occur on the lake. The topography of the surrounding hills and canyons create wind funnels across the lake, particularly the northern part of the lake. Storms on the Lake of Galilee are serious, especially the wind storms that blow in from the east off the Golan Heights down onto the lake. The easterly wind storms that hit the land of Israel are quite severe, and even in the present day, can cause damage to property and agriculture, even the loss of life. These easterly winds are known as sharkia, from the Arabic “shark” (east). They are most prevalent from October-May. They turn the lake’s waters into churning, violent swells, easily 10 to 12 feet high. 

The Lake of Galilee provides the setting for many of the stories in the Gospels, sayings and actions of Jesus. On its shores, he taught the people about the kingdom of Heaven and performed many miracles. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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