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Parashat Bereshit - Covenant of Fire

Covenant of Fire

Further thoughts on Parashat Bereshit

by John J. Parsons

THE SIX LETTERS OF THE VERY FIRST WORD of the Torah, namely, the word bereshit (בראשׁית), are sometimes compared to the six days of creation. The first and last two letters form the word "covenant" (i.e., brit: ברית) while the remaining (inner) letters form the word "fire" (i.e., esh: אשׁ), suggesting that the act of creation itself is a "Covenant of Fire." Here's a simple diagram to show the relationship:


Words created the universe -- or rather, the Word of God did (בְּרֵאשִׁית הָיָה הַדָּבָר). When the Divine Voice (i.e., the Word of God) spoke cosmic Light into existence (Gen. 1:3), God was not creating the physical light of the Sun or the Moon, since the heavenly bodies were created later (Gen. 1:14). This supernal light was the first expression of God's handiwork outside of Himself, His first revelation of contingent existence (i.e., existence that owes its source, continuance, and end to God's transcendent power and will). The Divine Light forms the canvass, if you will, of God's portraiture of creation (in three-dimensional terms, the Divine Light forms a sort of "container" that becomes the "house" of Creation).  Among other things, this means that ultimate reality is grounded in the Source of Light, Love, and Truth -- regardless of how dark the present hour may appear....


The Torah (and indeed, all of Scripture) begins with the plosive letter Bet (ב) in the word Bereshit. Notice that this word is derived from the root rosh (ראשׁ), which means head or chief, with the surrounding letters forming the word bet (בית), meaning house:


Since we know that Yeshua was "in the beginning with God" and is Himself God (John 1:1-2), the "Head of the House of Creation" is none other than Yeshua the Mashiach (Hebrews 3:4). This is further confirmed by looking at the verse from Genesis 1:1 alongside the verse from John 1:1:


"In the beginning was the Word..." and this Word was made flesh and "tabernacled" with us (John 1:14). The body of Yeshua is Bet-El, the House of God Almighty.

The Word of God is compared to a fire, often symbolizing God's jealousy in relationship to His covenant.  God revealed Himself to Moses as a "Burning Bush" (Exod. 3:2-4) and later called Himself Esh Okhlah - a Consuming Fire (Deut. 4:24). Fire surrounded the mountain at Sinai (Deut. 5:5) and later appeared as a Pillar (עַמּוּד הָאֵשׁ) that graciously illuminated the Israelite camp in the wilderness (Exod. 13:21-22; 14:24). The Fire of God consumed the holy sacrifices (Lev. 9:24, Judges 6:21, 1 Kings 18:38, etc.) and was present in the ministry of the prophets (2 Kings 1:12, Jer. 20:9). Indeed, the Word of God is likened to Fire itself (Jer. 23:29) - a destructive power for those who impugn the glory of God - but a source of warmth and comfort to those who heed the message.  Indeed, fire is symbolic of God's terrible judgment to come:

    When Yeshua Ha-Adon is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel... they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed... (2 Thess. 1:5-10)

What was the very first sin in history?  It was not Adam's fateful eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but rather the snake's lashon hara (evil words) - "Has God said...?" (Gen. 3:5). Part of the jealous outflow of the Divine Light is manifest in the very fires of Hell itself. In the end, "whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Rev. 22:15) will be "as chaff that will burn with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12, Luke 3:17). It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, chaverim...

The first word of Scripture, then, implies a Covenant of Fire....  The moral of this lesson, as the ancient sage Akavya ben Mahalalel said, is to "know from whence you come; know where you are going; and know before whom you are destined to give an account (Avot. 3:1).  Ask Yeshua to save you this very hour, friend.... Time is indeed short.

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