Study Notes and Slides
Who is the Messiah? Part 5
The Demon in My Shul
(Slide) The next recorded miracle of Yahshua takes place in a small village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. By now, Yahshua is accepted by many in the region as an exceptional Torah teacher, but a cloud surrounds his ministry. Some of his language seems to suggest that he is the Messiah as foretold of by the prophets and he has been accruing a growing list of miraculous feats, which quite frankly are giving weight to some of his more provocative statements. Chiefly among his growing list of followers, are poor and middle-class individuals, which make up a large demographic. Those most emphatically convinced of his more controversial allusions are those who have directly witnessed, or been direct recipients of, his miraculous signs.
(Slide) Yahshua is invited up to speak at a synagogue in Capernaum and during a particularly stirring shiur (lesson), he is interrupted by a fearful outburst.
“(Yahshua and his talmidim) went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Yahshua went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 ‘What do you want with us, Yahshua of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of Elohim!’ 25 ‘Be quiet!’ said Yahshua sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)”
(Slide) A day or so ago, Yahshua was preaching 40 miles away in his home synagogue at Nazareth, where he was set upon by the congregation and dragged out to the brow of a cliff to be thrown off. Miraculously he escaped.
(Slide) Now, a man is raving at him to leave them alone! What’s going on? Despite what Hollywood and most religions teach us, the demonic world works best when it is left alone, quietly wearing down the conscience of its victims. There’s no benefit in putting on a special effects show. “The repetition of convulsions occur only in the course of the (spirit’s) entering or leaving the body” says the book Dybbuk, by Gershon Winkler.
Most people refer to this incident as a case of demonic possession. There is no equivalent word in any ancient Near East languages, including Hebrew, for the English term “demon.” The concept of a spirit that chiefly concerns itself, whether individually or en masse, with causing individual human suffering are on the bottom rung of the food chain in the spiritual realm and are simply accorded the reference “unclean” or “impure spirits,” called in Hebrew, ruach tum’ah רוח טומאה. The term Shedim is a Hebrew word often translated as demons, which appears only twice (always plural) in the TaNaK in Psalm 106:37 and Deuteronomy 32:17. The word is related to Akkadian word šêdu, which means a protective of benevolent spirit.
Yahshua’s words provoked an outburst from a ruach tum’ah, an unclean spirit that had fastened itself to member of the commonwealth of Israel, a Jew. This took the occupants of the room by surprise. Luke’s account is as follows:
(Slide) 31 “Then (Yahshua) went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man echō (holding onto) ä-kä'-thär-tos daimonion (an uncleansed divine power). He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Yahshua HaNazet? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of Elohim!” 35 ‘Be quiet!’ Yahshua said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’ 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:31-37)”
Note the Greek word echō, which means “to hold” and ä-kä'-thär-tos daimonion, meaning a power an “unauthorised divine power.” For a person to become overridden by an unsanctioned spirit, they have to be convinced that they need it. This is why no-one in Scripture asks to have an impure spirit removed from them. This is why they are sometimes called familiar spirits, because they feel like family.
(Slide) “What do you want with us, Yahshua HaNazet? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of Elohim! (Luke 4:34)” Ironically, the only individual in the room who is completely sold on Yahshua’s true identity is an impure spirit. Ya’akov HaTzadik (James the Just) said, “You believe that there is one Elohim. Good! Even the unclean divine powers believe that--and tremble. (James 2:19)”
Dybbukim (Yiddish word for ‘attachments’) feared Yahshua. In fact, they were petrified of him. Why? Primarily because he was without sin. They could bring no valid accusations against him. There’s an old story of a group of rabbi’s who turned up to do an exorcism. After they arrived to begin the exorcism, the demon began calling them out, saying you can’t remove me, you steal, and you can’t remove me, you spoke Lashon Hara, and you can’t remove me, you’re immoral and so on. One-by-one the rabbi’s left the scene.
When we sin, we allow our divine light to be swallowed up by a shell, a klipa in Hebrew. Prior to sin we are too bright and painful for an unclean spirit to even look upon, let alone harass. After each sin, we block off more light and become targets of the dark forces.
The serpent in Gad Eden is the blue print of the dark force’s method of attack. It approaches quietly at first and then increases the pressure of its proposition. By entering into conversation with the serpent, Hava exposed herself to harm. Error escalates. All witchcraft is, is plain old rebellion. Yahweh therefore forbad general conversation with the enemy.
Wilful commune with these lowest of entities was outlawed in the nation of Israel.
(Slide) “You shall not tolerate a sorceress" (Ex. 22:17(18) “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to Yahweh; because of these same detestable practices Yahweh your Elohim will drive out those nations before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10–12)” King Saul had driven out the practitioners of necromancy out of the Land (I Samuel 28:3).
(Slide) Yahweh uses both angels and evil spirits as His agents. The Scriptures specifically state that all spirits are under His control. Take for example one recorded audience HaSatan has with the Almighty. HaSatan says he’s been walking to and fro upon the earth. His implication, by Elohim’s reply is that he’s looking for kinks in the armour of Tzaddikim (Righteous Ones). Yahweh then says to him, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears Elohim and shuns evil. (Job 1:18)" HaSatan is then permitted to harm him, even escalating the level of attacks only under the direction of Elohim.
In another example, an affliction, which troubles King Saul is actually “an evil spirit (sent) from Yahweh (I Samuel 16:14)”
In fact the Almighty goes onto say that calamities and illnesses are not from the dark forces, but from Him. "Shall there be evil in a city, and Yahweh has not done it? (Amos 3:6)” Any claim that HaSatan has brought about an evil by his own will, in exclusion to Yahweh, is an attack on the benevolence of Yahweh’s sovereignty. It’s like HaSatan is doing something Yahweh has to scramble to clean up.
We think that if it’s Yahweh’s will, that we should experience calamity, then it must be His will that we die. Not at all! If Yahweh wills that something bad happens to you, Yahweh wants you to get better. Yah still brought about Job and Saul’s affliction, but He also wanted both of them to find rest from it. What does Yahweh say? "See now that I myself am he! There is no Elohim besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand (Deuteronomy 32:39)” You might say, ‘Well, if Yahweh said it, I believe it and that settles it.’ But this is not true. If Yahweh said it, whether you believe it or not, and that settles it.
(Slide) So if we are in Yahweh’s will, we also accordingly have control over evil spirits. “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:19)” This is why the people respond to Yahshua by saying, “He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” But actually, these astonished onlookers have been granted the “…authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; (and Yahweh promises that nothing) will harm (them or) you. (Luke 10:19)” “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)”
Your level of astonishment in Yahshua’s miracles is directly proportionate to your lack of trust in His Word which says, we have that power too!
(Slide) Many people see Yahshua’s casting out of demons as being a new thing. It wasn’t. What was new, was the ease by which he did it, with authority. “A new teaching—and with authority! (Mark 1:27)”
Even early Christian scholar Origen credits Jews with a special talent for exorcising demons (Against Celsus, book 4).
Josephus recounts incidents of possession and exorcism in his Antiquities of the Jews (2, 5, 8, 45-48). In his description, exorcism involved burning herbs and immersing the possessed person in water.
One incident Josephus (Ant. 2, 5) recounts reads: "I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal, in the presence of Vespasian and his sons and his captains and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down, immediately he abjured him to return into him no more, still making mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done the skill and wisdom of Solomon were shown very manifestly."
(Slide) If asked where the first incident of exorcism takes place in the Bible, most people would say with Yahshua in Capernaum. This is wrong! The first incident was when David drove off the evil spirit from Saul with his harp. Sure, it was temporary, and sure it wasn’t a full, blown possession, but he is recorded as driving off the first evil spirit causing affliction to the then King of Israel.
(Slide) Now, what caused the evil spirit to depart? You might say the playing of the harp. But it was the music from the harp or lyre that soothed Saul’s darkened mood. “Whenever the spirit from Elohim came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (1 Samuel 16:23)” The notes plucked from the strings of a kosher instrument by a tsaddik saturate the spiritual realm. Thoughts, scents, sounds, smells, and smoke are things that inhabit both physical and spiritual reality and can be used to ward off or encourage evil. Many have heard the expression, “music sooths the savage beast.” The actual quote is, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” – The Mourning Bride by William Congreve (1697) Will words speak to the mind, music speaks to the soul. When a poor fool is happy he sings, but when a wise man is happy he does not recite words, he also sings. A song has the power to restore a troubled heart. In recent times, studies have shown that exposing patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia to music, causes the diseases to abate. One study noted, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.” – Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)
Let’s be honest, a Christian mind’s frame of reference for possession and exorcism is Jes-s casting out demons and Hollywood and not necessarily in that order.
(Slide) In the year of 1970 an American novelist and script writer retired to the secluded locality of a rental chalet in woodland off Lake Tahoe to write a novel called The Exorcist. This book went on to become a New York Times bestseller, staying on the bestseller list for fifty-seven straight weeks with seventeen of those weeks remaining at the number one spot.
This author was William Peter Blatty. In 1971 this novel was adapted into one of the most famous and controversial mainstream horror movies of all time. It set the standard for possession based horror films that has not been surpassed since, enjoying a strong following with the movie going public and genre fans alike.
While it may have achieved its original intent as a horror flick, The Exorcist falls grossly short of being any assistance as an instructional video for driving out demons. The Catholic Church has unquestioningly cornered the market, if you will, with being the dominant religious template used by Hollywood for the so-called Biblical execution of exorcism.
(Slide) Although in recent times, The 2008 film, The Unborn, does explore a Jewish perspective, but unfortunately uses a reformed rabbi who teams up with a Christian minister. The result is a woeful mishmash of rabbinic and Judaeo-Christian rites that is just plain wrong even for the novice viewer. (Click) In 2012 Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, creators of the original Evil Dead film, produced a slightly more centred film called Possession. It starred ex-Chabad reggae artist Matisyahu playing surprise, surprise, an orthodox Jew, who gets entangled with a disembodied spirit that’s emerged from an antique wooden box. Though this one doesn’t attempt to merge religions it ultimately falls flat due to minimal detail, choosing rather to focus on tension and scares rather than attempt to shed any light on tackling demons from a Jewish perspective.
(Slide) Apparently based off a true story, it simply borrows the source of a much publicised ‘Jinx Box’ that was placed up for sale on eBay and dubbed the “haunted Jewish wine cabinet box” by the seller who ran it with a fictitious possession story. However, the eventual purchaser, Jason Haxton, a medical museum curator, did some research and traced the box back to the holocaust, leading him to publish a book on his findings called The Dibbuk Box.
There’s little argument that Michael Cuneo’s 2002 book, “American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty,” is correct in crediting Blatty’s The Exorcist as being the chief catalyst in igniting the modern-day interest in exorcism. Cuneo does characterise Blatty’s work as a massive structure of fantasy resting on a flimsy foundation.
In Blatty’s film the Jewish Messiah is represented in his ever-popular Greco-Roman persona in the form of two Catholic priests, one young, but weak in the faith and the other, strong but physically ill, as they stumble through a ritual based exorcism that seems to rely on fancy words and artefacts rather than the true power of the Almighty. This attempt to drive out an unclean spirit stands in stark contrast to the simple and effective way King Messiah Yahshua handled the same situation.
In one respect it might seem a bit excessive to level any great weight of criticism as even Yahshua’s very own talmidim encountered their share of difficulties.
(Slide) “Then the talmidim came to Yahshua in private and asked, ‘Why couldn't we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:19-21)
But perhaps we shouldn’t fixate on their one recorded failure. After all they were given the authority to do these works, so they weren’t operating beyond their jurisdiction by any means. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.” (Mark 3:14-15)
And furthermore, Mark 6:12-13 records that they did have some success. “And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.”
It’s not the success or failure of the exorcism in the movie that should be questioned, but rather the context of it being Gentile centric, the given that the religion brought in to handle the phenomenon is the true one and that the template for the procedure is somehow scripturally sound.
(Slide) After David’s soothing sonnet for King Saul, the next case of an exorcism is found in the Apocryphal Book of Tobit. This account is a particularly nasty story with a nasty shad (demon). A girl named Sarah is possessed by a demon named Asmodeus and that demon causes the death of 7 of her husbands before it is driven away by burning a fish’s heart and liver. In one part of this story, Sarah seeks to kill herself, but ultimately does not. In this instance the spirit is not a low level messenger or accuser, but a powerful pre-flood disembodied spirit. This is noted by Michael binding him in chains.
We see that even by examining Yahshua’s methods of doing the same miracle, there is no two instances that are exactly the same.
This book, along with the rest of the Apocryphal writings was originally considered part of the Christian Cannon. The Jews for many centuries distanced themselves from these works because no Hebrew originals remained in existence. For a long time, the only copies were ones translated and interpreted by the Church. However, Hebrew originals of the deuterocanonical books were discovered amongst the works of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
(Slide) The Dead Sea Scrolls include several exorcism incantations and formulae, mostly directed against disease-causing demons. The DSS Psalms collection in particular (11Q5) has “four songs for the charming of demons with music.” People who fell under the influence of false prophets and mediums were thought to also require the exorcism of possessing evil spirits (the false prophets and mediums themselves were subject to death, a sure cure for most possessions; see Zechariah 13.
(Slide) Rabbinic literature does contain accounts of rabbis removing dybbukim (spiritual attachments). One approach for removing a dybbuk involves a minian (10 men) who represent the 10 Kabbalistic sephirot (10 attributes of Yahweh). They encircle the individual and recite Psalms 91 three times. At the conclusion of this a shofar (ram’s horn) is blown. The sound of the shofar is said to cause confusion in the dark forces and prompt them to flee an area. The rabbi leading the ritual will usually enter into dialogue with the dybbuk, usually limiting the exchange to asking its identity and convincing it to leave the host.
Most people who believe they are experiencing an evil spirit are simply going through a psychological episode and simply wish to externalise their problem to a foreign entity. There is a story that dates back to the eighteenth century where a woman took her daughter to a local rabbi after suspecting she was being influenced by a dybbuk. The rabbi found that she exhibited no real signs of a dybbuk, but noted that the girl and her mother were so convinced that he instructed them to take home an alarm clock and at 4:30pm the dybbuk will leave the girl. Hours after they arrived home the alarm clock rang and the mother and daughter were completely convinced that it had gone by the mere shock of hearing the bell of the alarm clock go off precisely at the time the rabbi predicted.
(Slide) Evil spirits appeared after the flood. Even a belief in ghosts emerged after the flood (I’ll explain why shortly). Even Yahshua’s own talmidim mistaken him for one as is evident in Matthew 14:26 & Luke 24:36-37).
The first mention of evil spirits occurs in the Book of Leviticus when Israel is warned not to associate with those who have tried to cultivate a livelihood out of contact with evil spirits. Leviticus 19:31; “Regard not those who are mediums, neither seek after spiritists, to be defiled by them: I am Yahweh your Elohim.” The actual appearance of the first evil spirit is mentioned as being sent out by Yahweh in Judges 9:23; “Then Elohim sent an evil ruach between Avimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously against Avimelech…”
(Slide) The Book of Enoch, a text deliberately withheld from accepted Scripture until the last days, explains in detail the origin of familiar spirits. 1 Enoch 15; “But now the giants who are born from the (union of) the spirits and the flesh shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, because their dwelling shall be upon the earth and inside the earth. Evil spirits have come out of their bodies. Because from the day that they were created from the holy ones they became the Watchers; their first origin is the spiritual foundation. They will become evil upon the earth and shall be called evil spirits. The dwelling of the spiritual beings of heaven is heaven; but the dwelling of the spirits of the earth, which are born upon the earth, is in the earth. The spirits of the giants oppress each other, they will corrupt, fall, be excited, and fall upon the earth, and cause sorrow. They eat no food, nor become thirsty, nor find obstacles. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of the people and against the women, because they have proceeded forth (from them).”
(Slide) Josephus elaborates further in his work Legends of the Jews: “...And the spirits of the giants will devour, oppress, destroy, attack, and do battle and cause destruction on the earth and work affliction. They will be invisible, and these spirits shall raise up against the children of men and against women, because they have proceeded from them, thus they will destroy until the day when the consummation of the great world will be consumed.”
(Slide) Yahshua was not the first person to ever cast out an unclean spirit, but he certainly was the first to do so with such authority, by silencing them and literally waving them out with his hand. The Netzarim Writings (A.K.A. The New Testament) carries hints as to this practice’s prior history inside normative ancient Judaism. Note the existence of Pharisees who specialised in exorcism in this passage from Acts 19: “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Adonai Yahshua over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Yahshua whom Sha’ul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Yahshua I know, and Sha’ul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (Acts 19:13-16)
Note, that these verses are talking about Pharisees who starting using the name of Yahshua within their existing formula and then there was also the seven sons of the High Priest Sceva. No success or failure in this practice is recorded in the first description, but there were also some religious charlatans in Ephesus who pretended to have special, miracle-working powers. Sceva, who is identified as “a Jewish chief priest” in Acts 19:14, had seven sons “who went around driving out evil spirits” (verse 13). Seeing the success that Sha’ul had in exorcising demons, the seven sons of Sceva began using the name, but stupidly added, “…the one whom Sha’ul preaches” which ended with disastrous results.
(Slide) Demonic possession is the rarest and severest affliction that can befall a person. My hope is that no-one here becomes afflicted by a dybbuk or has to remove one. Removing one is extremely dangerous if one isn’t suitably prepared. An exorcist should interview the individual at length and only do so if asked by them or a relative. The fixing of a mezuzah in the home, regular blowing of a shofar, immersion, and regular reading of psalms is sufficient to make a person undesirable for an unclean spirit.
It is believed within Judaism that demonic possession is lessoned in our age by to chief reasons. One, is that the onset of materialism in the world has caused people to be less inclined to be concerned about the spiritual realm, so the affliction accordingly become rare and two, a very powerful rabbi hundreds of years, banished them from civilized areas and they are thus confined to ruins and deserted places. This is why abandoned houses, tunnels and forests are undesirable to venture off into alone to someone who is attuned to spiritual things. The general rule is that if someone goes into deeply remote area, three people are safe, two are acceptable and one is not advised.
“Dear brothers and sisters, don't be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind. (1 Corinthians 14:20)”
(Slide) King Messiah Yahshua exercised authority over evil spirits, but he never went out hunting them, he simply moved from place to place, sifting lost Israel, and they presented themselves. He came to set the captives free, to deliver his children from bondage. Even those who had descended to the most filthiest of states found deliverance and were saved. Who is the Messiah?
He is our Deliverer: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. (Romans 11:26)”
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as Yahweh hath said, and in the remnant whom Yahweh shall call. (Joel 2:32)”
Messiah is El Shaddai אל שׁדי (Mighty One over all Spirits). “‘I am the Aleph and the Tauv,’ says the Sovereign Elohim, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the El Shaddai (also translated as ‘One who holds sway over all things’). (Revelation 1:8)’”
In the Midrash, Shaddai is also an acronym for “Guardian of the Doors of Israel” שׁוֹמֶר דְלָתוֹת יִשְׂרָאֶל. Yahshua is our doorpost, our mezuzah!