Mothers as Bridge Builders

Leah was the older sister of Rachel and daughter of Laban.  Rachel was so lovely to look at that Jacob was smitten at first glance and fell so head-over-heels he was willing to work for seven years to have her as his wife. However, Laban tricked him into marrying Leah first—and perhaps Jacob never forgave her for her part in the deception.  Certainly she spent years striving to gain a small share in his affection, hoping that the children she was bearing would gain her some fondness in his eyes.

How many women have been like her across the ages, thinking that their marriages will change for the better when children come along?

Leah never seemed to get any emotional traction with Jacob; even her children were discounted. Jacob made this remarkable statement revealing his inner attitude towards them:

My son will not go down with you. His brother Joseph is dead, and he is all I have left. If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.’

Genesis 42:38 NLT

When he said, ‘my son… all I have left…’ he was referring to Benjamin. It’s as if he has no children other than the sons of Rachel—Joseph, whom he believed was dead, and Benjamin.  The argument which climaxed with this statement was about his second son Simeon who, at this point, was in prison in Egypt. All it would have taken to free him was for Benjamin to show up, but Jacob wouldn’t let it happen. His words and his actions say that Benjamin is precious to him; Simeon is worthless.

Jacob’s favouritism towards Rachel’s children and his almost callous dismissal of Leah’s offspring seem to reflect his attitude towards their mothers. He simply didn’t care for Leah, despite all her efforts to win a crumb of affection from him. It took years for her to realise nothing would change. When she first bore Jacob a son, she was so obviously hopeful. Naming the child Reuben, she said, ‘The Lord has seen my affliction. Surely my husband will love me now.’

Hear the desperate yearning in those words: ‘Surely my husband will love me now.’  But her hopes were dashed. Over the next few years, her optimism rose repeatedly with the birth of each new son, only to be crushed back down. 

Again she conceived and gave birth to a son, and she said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has given me this son as well.’ So she named him Simeon.

Once again Leah conceived and gave birth to a son, and she said, ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi.

Genesis 29:32–34 BSB

Then, at long last, she realised the truth. Jacob wasn’t going to change. He was so totally besotted with her sister he would never have eyes for anyone else. Leah could have become embittered at this point; she could have taken out her anger and frustration on those around her. She could, like so many of us, have pointed the finger of blame at God and held Him responsible for her anguish.

Instead she does something no one in the Bible is ever recorded as doing previously.

Once more, she conceived and gave birth to a son and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ So she named him Judah.

Genesis 29:35 BSB

She praised God.

She raised her hands to heaven and gave thanks. Praise is mentioned so often in Scripture it’s easy to overlook its first appearance. It happens when Leah gives birth for a fourth time.

Take particular note of the circumstances: it’s not in celebration of a great victory; not in remembrance of some glorious fulfilment of a promise; not when a cherished dream at last comes true. It’s when a disappointed woman chooses to turn to God in her brokenness and her pain and give thanks anyway.

As she changed direction, she became the navigator and bridge-builder for the future. For it is through the line of Judah that Jesus, the Messiah, would eventually come.

Island calls to island across the silence, and once, in trust, the real words come, a bridge is built and love is done—not sentimental, emotional love, but love that is pontifex, bridge-builder. Love that speaks the holy and healing word which is: God be with you, stranger who are no stranger. I wish you well. The islands become an archipelago, a continent, become a kingdom whose name is the Kingdom of God.

Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

In ancient times, people thought the making of a bridge was such a miraculous skill it must be inspired by the gods. A pontifex—bridge-builderwas almost a sacred title and the greatest were treated as close to divine.

Make no mistake, Leah built a bridge to heaven. Her husband might have had a vision of a ladder with angels ascending and descending on it, but Leah’s expression of faith is no less significant. She may not have known that God inhabits the praises of His people, but her acknowledgement of Him was a gateway into her life and into the situation. Her legacy is that of the first person ever mentioned as praising God—a woman who surrendered her hope of earthly favour and who put on record her thankfulness for heavenly favour.

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Why Seventeen?

Well, I’ve neglected this blog for a long time. And it might be a surprise to see two posts for two weeks running, but it certainly won’t be a surprise to realise this is about numbers.

In fact, it’s about 17. In the past I wrote a series here: seventeen posts about the number 17 showing where it  appears in Scripture and pondering why it is so mysteriously dominant—especially in the gospels and epistles. If there’s a long list, chances are it has seventeen elements.

Check out some of the seventeens here.

Now, since it’s been nearly seven years since the majority of those posts, it’s about time I came up with some deeper insight. And hopefully I have.

One reason always clearly stood out for the use of 17 to structure the gospels and epistles. It was a number the Pythagoreans would never use. For religious reasons, involving the resurrection and re-memberment of Osiris, who apparently lost the 17th part of his body, they wouldn’t touch this number. And since the Platonists and Gnostics were overwhelmingly Pythagorean in their philosophic bent, and writers like John were determined to drive the Gnostic bent out of the church, it makes sense to use this number.

But that’s a negative reason.

What’s the positive reason?

I think, after seven years of reflection, that it’s because 17 points to 70.

In both Hebrew and Greek, it’s unclear whether forgiveness should be associated with 70 + 7 or 70 x 7. When Peter asks if it’s necessary to forgive someone seven times, Jesus responds that actually, it should be more like ‘seventy times seven’. But some translations think the ‘times’ there should be moved to the end and the answer become ‘seventy-seven times’.

Exactly the same problem occurs in the Hebrew when Lamech tells his wives that if anyone tries to kill him, he will be avenged ‘seventy times seven’—or maybe it’s ‘seventy-seven times’.

Clearly in both languages there’s an ambiguity about whether to add or whether to multiply. Thus 7 + 10 could be a sly way of saying 7 x 10. A list of 17 elements could be a shorthand way of implying that the whole list consists of 70 elements.

Take, for example, the list of 17 groups of people who heard the disciples speaking in their native languages on the Day of Pentecost.   It would make so much more sense if that was a list of 70. The number of nations dispersed across the entire earth in Genesis 10 is seventy. Deuteronomy 32:8 also mentions God allotting the boundaries for the nations, according to the number of angelic shepherds who were to rule over them. And that is seventy.

When Jesus sets up His own government of the nations, He sent out seventy disciples. (Luke 10:17)

So my conclusion is this: all those 17s in Scripture imply 70—pointing to the Kingdom of God covering the ‘entire earth’.

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A Historic Passover

As the sun set last night a remarkable anniversary began. It wasn’t just the start of the feast of the Passover, it was also—if the Jewish calendar reckoning and the count of the years is correct—the 3333rd Passover since that first incredible night in Egypt so long ago.

Maybe that’s why the forces of the enemy have been working overtime on such an all-out offensive recently. Because, if God were indeed to do something as miraculous as the first Passover, now would be a logical time. 3333, to me at least, is a ‘covenant’ number.

Now we know about two Passover seasons in the life of Jesus. In John 6:4, we’re told that it was near to the Passover when Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. People were following Him all through the backblocks of Galilee—well, that’s probably a bit too polite for what they were doing. In today’s terms it would be more like stalking Him, staking Him out. And despite their avid pursuit, after He announced that He was the ‘Bread Come Down from Heaven’, lots of people stopped following Him. He’d made a statement that was way, way too controversial.

I used to love reading an old radical Christian magazine called The Wittenburg Door. On a fairly regular basis, the reporter would remark to some interviewee who’d made a divisive, contentious statement, ‘Thanks for that comment! We need another purge of our mailing lists.’

Sometimes I think Jesus was doing something similar. Purging His mailing list. Uprooting the weeds. Booting out the hangers-on. Or, maybe, if that all seems a little too ungentle a way of expressing it, just simply scouring out the house like a careful housewife would do as the Feast of Unleavened Bread approached.

In fact, because this is the very time that Jews would do their spring-cleaning, making sure to remove all yeast in preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, I think that’s why Jesus was so scathing when people asked Him for a sign—right after they’d witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He was hunting down the yeast in their thinking and removing it. Sure we know about the way the people couldn’t think of Him as one with the Father and I sympathise with them. It would have been a hard call to accept any I AM statement. But what shouldn’t have been a hard call was the accusation of Jesus about Moses. Apparently many of those wanting a sign thought Moses was the one who dispensed the manna, not God. Somehow Moses had been given the throne of heaven. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

And you’d think that wouldn’t be a mistake we could make today, but let me assure you it is. At the beginning of this year I was talking with a pastor who was surprised I knew about an issue that is increasingly prevalent in his denomination. The issue is this: there’s a whole body of thinking today in Christian circles where the writings of Paul are placed at the pinnacle of a hierarchy … … … above, wait for it … … … the words of Jesus. The pastor didn’t fully understand it but I’ve come across it so often I was able to tell them how the thinking is justified: Paul is post-resurrection while Jesus is pre-resurrection.

So while Christians are unlikely to put Moses on God’s throne, they are tempted to put the apostle Paul there.

But back to Jesus and His spring-cleaning. The next time we hear about Him cleansing a House and upending people’s thinking around the Passover is when He cleared out the Temple. He made a whip and He overturned tables and He chased the money-lenders out of the courts.

No doubt you’ve heard the story many times before and know that the money-lenders were practising extortion as they exchanged ordinary currency for Temple shekels which was the only way to pay the Temple tax. As Jesus said, they’d turned the House of God into a den of thieves. But what you may not know is that the defilement involved an unholy trade using an image of the god of Death.

The temple shekel was stamped with a design celebrating Moloch and it was the only acceptable coin for payment of the temple tax.  You’re probably stunned. How on earth did this happen?

Well, the Romans had forbidden the Jews to mint their own coins. They had to buy them. They could have got custom-designed coins of inferior silver from any number of places, but if they wanted the highest quality silver it came from Tyre, already stamped, and with a picture of Hercules Melqart on one side and the words ‘Tyre, holy and inviolable’ on the other. Hercules Melqart was the Phoenician name for Moloch and Tyre, of course, was the place where Ezekiel had seen the power of satan behind the throne of the king.

The decision had been made in the highest political and spiritual quarters that it was better to have the finest silver, no matter what abominable image was on it, than to choose lesser quality silver with an inoffensive symbol on it.

It seems the prince of Tyre had moved in the first century, taking up residence in the outer courts of the Temple of Jerusalem. No wonder Jesus decided a spring-clean was in order. The temple shekels, stamped with a symbol of Death, represented yeast of a truly demonic kind.

Yet there’s a beautiful prophecy in what Jesus did. The emptying of the Temple, casting out the image of Death, foreshadows of the emptying of the tomb and the casting out of Death itself through the power of the resurrection.

But back to today and what the cleansing of the Temple means for us. It’s a perfect time to let Jesus take a look around your mind, your heart, your soul and expose the crumbs of yeast to the light. It’s a perfect time to ask Him to be ruthless with any accommodations we’ve made unconsciously and unthinkingly with sin. It’s a perfect time to ask Him to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Take some time right now to ask Jesus to show you where some spring-cleaning is needed.

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Take Off!






Take Off!

16 January 2016


Take-off looks at:

  • the devastating constriction and wasting many people experience when they see an open door into their calling
  • the name and threshold covenants that affect our ability to realise our destiny and ultimately impair our identity
  • what to do about the obstacles, barriers, beliefs and woundings that block the way forward

Venue: ‘The Fort’, 219 Fort Rd, Oxley 4075 QLD Australia

Time: 9.30 am – 4.30 pm, Saturday 16 January 2016

Cost: $15

Register now by emailing me or phoning the registrar 07 3278 8515.

Limited numbers (30 max)



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Twice Hidden

In 1946—just on seventy years ago—three Bedouin teenagers went exploring some cliffs near the Dead Sea. There, in a cave in the wilderness, they made a discovery that would change Biblical studies forever.

Muhammed Ahmed el-Hamed, Jum’a Muhammed Khalib and Khalil Musa returned from their exploration with three scrolls covered with strange writing—the first of the literary treasures that became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The boys had found the long-lost library of the Essenes—a first-century treasure trove of testaments, visions, laws, rules, translations and apocalyptic works. There were books mentioned in the Bible but whose contents were previously unknown and lost texts such as the Hebrew version of Psalm 151. This short psalm by David, which rejoices in his victory over Goliath, was known from Greek translations but the Hebrew version had disappeared.

At least one fragment from every Old Testament book, except Esther, has been found. In some cases, far more than simple fragments have been recovered—the entire Book of Isaiah, for instance, has been retrieved.

Esther, of course, is the book in which the name of God is not mentioned. Perhaps that’s why the Essenes did not include it in their library.

Yet Esther is the book that is, in many ways, the one that corresponds to most people’s experience of God. His hand is hidden in daily life, just as it is hidden in the book of Esther.

Every name list I’ve ever consulted (dozens in all) has an entry explaining that ‘Esther’ means star and is Persian in origin. It allegedly derives from Ishtar, the name of the goddess who personifies the planet Venus.

Until this week, I never thought to question that theory. But on delving into some Hebrew, I discovered many rabbis consider that Esther is a Hebrew name, meaning ‘astir’, hidden.  This describes so many aspects of the book of Esther: her hidden Jewish background, her hidden name (her real name is ‘Hadassah’ meaning myrtle but it’s hidden behind an allusion to Ishtar), her hidden relationship to Morcedai, her hidden agenda in inviting the king and Haman to dine with her, the hidden machinations of Haman, the hidden hand of God.

Perhaps it’s not surprising the book is missing from the library of the Essenes.

One of the most interesting comments on Esther by the rabbinic sages relates to the phrase, ‘haster astir’, from Deuteronomy 31:18 ESV, ‘And I will surely hide My face [‘haster astir panai’] in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.’

But ‘haster astir’ is not simple concealment. It means hide the hiding. In other words, God not only hides Himself, He goes much further. He wipes out all trace of the fact He’s hidden Himself.

So often we wonder why the wonders of creation don’t point to a Creator for many people. We should not be surprised when we realise God has hidden His own hiding.

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The Gospel Ring (2)

John’s gospel is set up with at least eleven pairs of mirror-like bookends. Some of these chiastic reflections involve numbers,  most involve identical names (though not always identical people) and all involve similar thematic episodes.

Of these episodes, the most dramatic pair held up for comparison and contrast is Jesus’ resurrection coupled with Jesus casting the money changers out of the Temple. The emptying of the tomb and the emptying of the Temple, as it were.

Because the incident where Jesus made a whip to cast out the merchants and moneychangers occurs right at the beginning of this gospel and at the end of the gospel of Matthew, many commentators believe there were two similar events. One occurring at the start of Jesus’ ministry and one occurring in the week before His death on the cross.

I don’t think that’s a necessary conclusion. John marks off the days very carefully from the moment John the Baptist is asked by the leaders and priests who he is.  ‘The next day…’ (John 1:29), ‘The next day…’ (John 1:35), ‘The next day…’ (John 1:46), ‘Three days later…’ (John 2:1). Altogether six days between John being asked about his identity and the threshold event of Jesus’ first miracle.

Another huge parallel here—though not within this gospel. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus asks Peter what people are saying about His identity, then six days later takes him, along with James and John, up a mountain for the threshold event of the Transfiguration. In fact, the six-day interval in both cases, along with specific words spoken at each event, suggest these pairs of incidents were exactly two (perhaps three) years apart.  

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Book Giveaway

The latest book in the series about covenants is now available. God’s Pageantry continues the exploration of name and threshold covenants, begun in God’s Poetry and continued in God’s Panoply. To celebrate, two copies are being given away on Goodreads. If you’re not already a member of this great online reading community, it’s simple to sign up for free.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

God's Pageantry by Anne   Hamilton

God’s Pageantry

by Anne Hamilton

Giveaway ends October 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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He received from God the Father honour and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:17-19 NKJV

This coming Saturday, I’ll be speaking at Kedesh Ministries in a seminar entitled Xarama. It’s a Greek word to describe the time just before dawn when God writes firegold letters on the rim of the clouds as a promise of the new day.

The seminar is about covenants: blood covenants, name covenants and threshold covenants. What they are supposed to look like and how they can go badly wrong. And, of course, what to do about the repeated constriction and wasting that is a signature result of a covenant curse in operation.


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The Gospel Ring (1)

It’s been quite some time since my last post. Perhaps I should apologise but it wouldn’t be entirely sincere. I’ve been enjoying myself far too much to even begin to be sorry.

The fun started when I forgot a significant item of information I wanted for my next book. I could remember reading somewhere that John the apostle identifies himself as the author of the fourth gospel by using a unique placement. His signoff as ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ mirrors the testimony of John the Baptist at the beginning. This bookending identifies the writer as John.

Well, being unable to remember where I’d read this, I tried googling it. No joy. I remembered the technical name for this mirror technique was chiasmus and tried that as well. Lots of different examples of mirror episodes in John’s gospel turned up but not the particular matter I wanted. After quite a bit of searching, I began to realise that the lists of chiastic scenes were rarely the same. So I created my own list by putting together the ones I’d found. And that’s when I noticed something fascinating: the names almost always match.

It’s not just the testimony of John the apostle mirroring that of John the Baptist.

It’s a scene involving Mary the mother of Jesus mirroring one with Mary Magdalene.

It’s a scene with Nicodemus matching another with the same Nicodemus.

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Constriction and Wasting



Recognise them?

Many of us find that, as we try to enter into our true calling in God, we suffer unexpected constriction or wasting. We are pummelled financially; crushed to such a degree that we can’t go on. Despite a desire to push on, despite our faith that God will come through for us at just the right moment, there comes a time when we simply have to call a halt. We know we’re putting ourselves in harm’s way. Sometimes the squeeze is so severe the best course of action is cut our losses and just suffer the wastage of all the time, effort and money already invested.



When we’ve met them once or twice, we find ourselves assailed by doubt: didn’t we hear from God? Because when we prayed, a whole set of amazing signs, confirming prophecies and even miraculous openings all lined up. Before they slammed so brutally shut.

Could the problem have been our lack of faith? Not if all we need is the size of a mustard seed. The very size of the financial loss testifies on our behalf: no, it wasn’t lack of faith.

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how soul-destroying it is. Some people, after being flattened by the steam roller more than once, feel God has abandoned them and throw over their faith entirely.

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The Nest of God

What do all the following Scriptural verses have in common?

  1. Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Succoth.’ Genesis 33:17 NIV
  2. The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.’ Exodus 12:37 NIV
  3. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4 NIV

They all mention ‘Succoth’ meaning shelters, tabernacles or booths. As Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, draws to a close, it’s appropriate to look deeper into the context of each of these events.

  • Jacob had only just received his new name, Israel, and passed over the ford of Jabbok. This is his first stopping place, after parting from his brother Esau.
  • The Israelites had only just received their new identity as God’s chosen people and celebrated the very first Passover. Succoth was their first stopping place after parting from the Egyptians.
  • Simon had only just received his new name, Peter, and gone with Jesus up a high mountain. In asking Jesus about building shelters, he was simply pointing out what God himself had commanded for this day: the building of temporary booths or tabernacles.

The thrice-repeated pattern here is of (1) a new name, (2) passing over a threshold (which in the last case is encoded in the name ‘Cephas’ or ‘Peter’) and (3) stopping to rest and build shelters.

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On this day about 1980 years ago, give or take a few, Jesus took three disciples up a high mountain. Many scholars think they climbed Mount Tabor. However I’m with those who believe they ascended a peak of Mount Hermon.*

At sunset this evening Sukkot begins. It’s the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, a time when people build temporary booths, entwining boughs and branches to make a ‘tent’. All to celebrate and remember their history, especially the time when God provided for them during their wilderness wanderings.

So, back almost two millennia ago, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what was going on in the head of Simon the fisherman. He was only just getting used to his nickname Cephas, the threshold stone. Some of the Greek–speaking disciples—including his own brother Andrew—had fun with the new name. Turned it to Petros, the rock. Ribbed him it’s a pun on the Hebrew word peter, the first–born—nicely symbolic for the first to announce the Messiah.

Simon’s not sure he’ll ever hear the end of it. He’s happy to be away from the jokes but he’s still concerned. It’s Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. He’s supposed to be building a little hut. But Jesus doesn’t look like he’s about to stop anytime soon to collect wood. And once they get above the treeline and into the snow, the building of a booth’s going to be even harder. Wait. This is Jesus. Five thousand people fed from a few loaves of bread. Perhaps just a dead twig will be enough: Jesus could make it sprout branches like Aaron’s rod once budded with blossoms.

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