On the 6th Sivan, exactly 49 days after the Exodus, the LORD revealed Himself on Mount Sinai. All 600,000 heads of households and their families heard the LORD speak, .
Following this first revelation, Moses ascended Sinai where he communed with the Lord face to face for 40 days. During that period, God gave to Moases the remainder of the Torah. This date is commemorated in the festival of Shavuot.
When Moses came down Mount Sinai he was shocked to see Israel worshiping the Golden Calf. In anger, Moses smashed the Tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments and burned the Golden Calf (Exod. 32:19-20, Seder Olam 6, Taanit 30b, Rashi).
According to Jewish tradition, this sin occured on Tammuz 17. Perhaps because this act of rebellion drew the curse of God, God allowed many calamities to occur on this date in later Jewish history….
On the Biblical calendar, the fourth month of the year (counting from Nisan) is called Tammuz (תַּמּוּז) in the Jewish calendar. The name “Tammuz” is of Sumerian origin (as are the other names of months in the Jewish calendar). Since Abraham was (according to Jewish tradition) the son of a Sumerian oracle priest, it is no surprise that Mesopotamia (and later, Babylon in modern day Iraq) came to be regarded as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people (Gen. 11:28). The Torah states that until Abraham arrived in Canaan, the ancestors of Israel “served other gods” (Josh. 24:2), and these “gods” were part of the ancient Near East mythology that was handed down from Babel in the land of Shinar (Gen. 10:10). So when we see Rachel stealing her father’s idols (i.e., “teraphim,” תְּרָפִים) before fleeing Haran (Gen. 31:19), and later we see Jacob later commanding his family to “put away the foreign gods among you” (Gen. 35:2), we realize that the influence of this ancient religious system went back in time to well before the captivity of the Jews under Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century BC, though certainly the Jews adopted the idea of a “fixed” calendar based on Babylonian astronomy.
Starting from the summer solstice, the Sumerians marked the decrease in daylight hours with a six-day “funeral” for Tammuz, and this idolatrous custom was apparently adopted by some Jews during the days of the First Temple. That is why the prophet Ezekiel condemned the worship of Tammuz as one of the causes for God’s anger against His people (Ezek. 8:14). Ezekiel warned that the Temple would be destroyed if the people refused to repent from thinking about the LORD based on these ancient pagan myths…
Sad to say, Israelites periodically fell back into idolatry despite the prophets’ warnings, and on Tammuz 9 God’s delayed judgment fell: the walls protecting Jerusalem were breached by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies. Because of the siege, on Tammuz 17, the Temple service itself was disrupted due to a lack of animals required for the sacrifices. The Temple itself was destroyed three weeks later, on the Ninth of Av.
The Three Weeks of Sorrow
The fast of the 17th of Tammuz (Shivah Asar B’Tammuz) marks the start of the “Three Weeks of Sorrow,” a 21 day period of national mourning which is ends on the 9th of Av (Tishah B’Av). The 17th of Tammuz is the “Fast of the Fourth Month,” mentioned by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 8:19). The purpose of this fast is to instill a sense of teshuvah (repentance) by recalling specific tragedies that befell the Jewish people because of idolatry.
The period Tammuz 17 to Av 9 is called bein ha-Metzarim (בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים) – “between the straights” (based on Lamentations 1:3), a period of time during which many calamities befell the Jewish people. Since both Temples were destroyed during this period, the Jewish sages established this extended period as a time of mourning for the Jewish people.
Marriages are not held during this period, and many Jews deliberately refrain from pleasurable activities, such as listening to music, dancing, taking vacations, and sometimes even shaving! In fact, most Orthodox Jews will refrain from any activity that might require the recitation of the Shehecheyanu blessing.
In short, the Three Weeks of Sorrow is a time for reflection and mourning over the destruction of the Temple and therefore constitutes a time of corporate reflection intended to lead Israel to repentance.
Why Babylonian Names?
The Talmud Yerushalmi states: “The names of the months came up with us from Babylon” (Rosh Hashanah 1:2). In commenting on this statement, the sages said that at first the reckoning of the months was originally a memorial to the Exodus from Egypt. In the Torah, “the first month, the second month,” etc. are understood in relation to the new moon of the first month of Abib (Spring) (i.e., Rosh Chodesh). However, after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (i.e., “it will no longer be said ‘as the LORD lives, who took the people of Israel out of Egypt,’ rather it will be said ‘as the LORD lives, who raised up and brought the people of Israel from the Northern Land’ (Jer. 16:14-15), they began to call the months by the names commonly used in Babylon as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. The month of Tammuz is peculiar, however, since it recalls the name of an idol that was worshipped in the Ancient Near East. The sages comment that this name was deliberately chosen to remind the Jewish people of the judgment that comes from idolatry — beginning with the Golden Calf incident and later with the secret cult worship in “high places” (הַבָּמוֹת) that eventually led to the destruction of the Temple.
Civilizations before Israel
The relationship between the Jews and ancient civilization is a fascinating study. Israel, of course, is not the oldest of the nations, even though Abraham’s genealogy derived from the godly line of Seth -> Noah -> Shem (see here for more). According to Jewish tradition, Shem was an elder contemporary of Abraham who was called Malki-Tzedek (Melchizedek, King of Righteousness), the first king of Jerusalem (Gen. 14:18). His blessing upon Abraham was thought to transfer regal authority to Israel as God’s people upon the earth. The other descendants of Noah migrated away from Jerusalem, and the “cradle of civilization” therefore began in the land of Shinar under Nimrod (נִמְרוֹד), who is called the first “king of the earth” (Gen. 10:10). Of Nimrod the Torah states, “the beginning of his kingdom was Babel” (וַתְּהִי רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ בָּבֶל), the very location where the ziggurat to heaven was erected and from which the dispersion of the 70 nations occurred (Gen. 11:9).
The earliest civilization arose from ancient city states of the Fertile Crescent of the ancient Near East (Mesopotamia), extending from Sumer (in the east) to Egypt (in the south). It was in ancient Sumer that writing was first invented and the first schools were established. Abraham, the Hebrew ancestor of the Jews, was called out from the City of Ur (one of the city states of ancient Sumer, the easternmost “point” in the fertile crescent south of the Euphrates river) to the land of Canaan in the west. Because of a famine in the land, Abraham later “followed the crescent” south to Egypt for a season (Gen. 12:10). Joseph and the tribes of Israel later settled in Egypt before becoming enslaved by Pharaoh, and Moses himself was raised and educated as an Egyptian…. Even Yeshua (Jesus) lived in Egypt as a child (Matt. 2:14-15). The land of Canaan functioned as a “bridge” between the two great power centers of the ancient world (Mesopotamia and Egypt), and much of Israel’s later history had to do with political entanglements between these world powers:
The whole of human history (HIS-story) is the story of the redemptive love of a personal God who is the Creator of both space and time. The nation of Israel is metaphorically called the “firstborn son” of God that was chosen to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah, the “Seed of Promise” (Exod. 4:22, Gal. 3:19). The revelation given at Sinai brought together the realm of spiritual reality with the realm of the material world. The concept of performing “mitzvot” is likened to a divine-human cooperative intended to “repair the world” (tikkun olam). Whenever we truly submit to the LORD as our King, we function as agents of His love and care for the world. Ethnic Israel was intended to be a “birth channel” of something greater still, namely, the complete unity between the upper and lower realms. Yeshua is the LORD “made flesh” and is therefore the only true Redeemer of fallen creation.
After the “fall” of Adam and Eve and their eviction from Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), the LORD prophesied that a cosmic struggle for the fate of humanity would follow. Satan (represented by the serpent) had arrogated a legal or forensic “right” to humanity, who were now under divine kelalah (curse). However, the LORD promised to annul the curse by means of the Seed – the Mashiach – who would “crush the head” of the serpent and restore mankind to the blessedness of paradise (Gen. 3:15). The entire redemptive story of the Scriptures is about this cosmic conflict to deliver humanity from the kelalah by means of the promised “Seed of the woman”. The ancient history of Israel was intended to “get Yeshua to Moriah” – to the place of ultimate sacrifice – where He would offer up His life for the sins of the world…. and thereby break the “spell” of the curse.
Yeshua at Moriah is the Central Point of all history. It is the Altar. Yeshua’s life, sacrifice, and resurrection a divine action that “spoke backwards” the sin of the “First Adam” – and by means of His deliverance the power of the curse was forever broken. Satan’s power was forever defeated by the “Second Adam,” the Son of Man (2 Tim. 1:10).
Because of Yeshua, all people – regardless of their race, gender, or ethnic origin – are invited to become part of the family of God (Rom. 16:26). Yeshua alone gives us true peace with God (Rom. 5:1; 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:18). The authentic practice of our faith is the means of truly repairing the world and furthering the Kingdom of God on earth. The outworking of humanity’s spiritual history is therefore essentially a conflict between good and evil. Yeshua referred to it (among other things) as a conflict between the Kingdom of God (מַלְכוּת אֱלהִים) and the kingdom of Satan (John 8:34-6). The Apostles likewise spoke of “children of darkness” and “children of light” (Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13, 1 Thess. 5:5, etc.). Politically speaking, Augustine described the cosmic conflict as one between the “City of Man” and the “City of God.” Eschatologically, there will be a day of judgment in which the truth will be manifest forever (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 4:13). Our response to this spiritual reality determines our eternal destiny… Those who suppress the truth of God and deny His redemptive love are eternally liable for their decision.
Rosh Chodesh Blessing
Since Rosh Chodesh Tammuz marks the beginning of a season of teshuvah (repentance) and the Three Weeks of Sorrow, we humbly ask the LORD to help us turn to Him with all our hearts:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן
ye·hi ra·tzon mil·fa·ne·kha Adonai E·lo·hey·nu ve·lo·hey a·vo·tey·nu
she·te·cha·desh a·ley·nu cho·desh tov, ba’a·do·ney·nu Ye·shu·ah ha·ma·shi·ach, a·men
“May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen.”
1. A month to see and establish the brightness of the righteousness of Yeshua, the Messiah . Many disasters occured during this month. So, we need to counteract the impact of these disasters through praise and declarations of faith based on God’s Word. See Isaiah 58:8, Psalm. 112:4, and Daniel 12:3.
2. Month traditionally ascribed to the tribe of Reuben – He lost his inheritance as firstborn. Genesis 49:3-4 describes Reuben:
- Beginning of power
- Excellence and dignity
- But unstable as water
Reuben did not excel because of issues in his life that he never resolved. He had great potential that was never fulfilled. He never dealt with sexual issues. Pray and ask the Lord to show your “issues” and that you will be able to deal with them. In summer, many Christians tend to “regress” into indiscipline and sin. Perhaps this is because of a vacation mentality that comes with summer. Determine to “push ahead” this month.
3. We must let our lights shine before men (specially through worship), lest we are tempted to worship a “golden calf.”.
- Moses’ face glowed (shone) after being with the Lord.
- The people who from the beginning of the Sinai revelation didn’t accept to be with the Lord, now couldn’t accept Moses’ delay and instead worshipped a false god the golden calf (Exodus 32:1).
4. A month to accept your calling or to speak an evil report (we actually have a choice between the two). People accept evil reports because they do not know how to speak out who they are and what they are about.
Bring back to mind past prophecies of who you are and declare them regularly this month. They will be like seeds you sow that will bring a great harvest in September (Feast of Tabernacles).
5. The month traditionally ascribed to the letter CHET which means, “light radiating from your eyes.” The Devil tries to put this light out.
- Isaiah 42:6, “You will be a light to the Gentiles (paraphrased).”
- Revelation 1:14, “His eyes like flame of fire.”
6. This is a month to review your journey through life. Stop and make any necessary adjustments. Ask the Lord to show you how you might end up if you are not careful to walk with the Lord!
7. A month linked with the constellation of the crab. Our “shell” must be removed so we can become vulnerable. If we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we become hard, and thus cannot enter into the next stage of growth. Ask the Lord to remove any hardness from our hearts. Ask the Lord to remove our shell.
8. A month to guard our hearts (what we feel and think) and our eyes (what we allow yourself to see (Deuteronomy 11:26, “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse…”; 30:15, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”)
9. A month of the right hand – the right hand of fellowship. Remember your covenants. Affirm the relationships you are to keep. Let God lead and bring you into new relationships.