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Unequally Yoked
...what does it really mean?
Unequally Yoked

by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
(Ephesians 2:12)

"Now the sons of Eli were sons of B'liya'al. They did not know YHVH." 1Samuel 2:12

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has the Messiah with B'liya'al? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?" 2Corinthians 6:14-15

"Truly, I say to you, all manner of sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against ruach hakodesh (the spirit of holiness) never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." Mark 3:28-29

After the last article, The Origin of Christmas (click on highlighted words to view content)), several wrote to ask, "My family does not recognize the Ten Commandments. Specifically, they refuse to abide by the scriptural Sabbath as being Saturday, not Sunday, and they keep Christmas and Easter instead of the Feasts. To keep the peace, I have just kept my head down and my mouth shut. How do I present the Truth of scripture to them so that they might see?" The real question being asked is - just how much wickedness are we to tolerate among those closest to us? This is a hard question to answer because it requires an honest appraisal of the words of the One whose example we are to follow - Yeshua haMashiach, the Messiah, and He says:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:34-38

Even the words of Sha'ul (the apostle Paul) from 2Corinthians above (and he was referring to Deuteronomy 13:12-15) shows how severely Spirit demands we are to approach this question. Sha'ul suggests in this verse that what it means to be LAWless is to be without a yoke. Those who do not follow Torah are not yoked. Christians are often taught that being yoked is a heavy burden; but, Yeshua meant it as a good thing when He said to "…take My yoke upon you and learn of Me…" To be as He is, which is yoked to His Father's words of Torah - that is where we find rest. There are many teaching that this verse has to do with a marriage relationship; but notice that in the entire chapter of 2Corinthians 6 - marriage is never mentioned. Sha'ul applies what it means to be unequally yoked to the Temple now being within or among those who embrace the Life of Yeshua. So, since words mean things, just what does the Hebrew rabbi Sha'ul mean to be unequally yoked to B'liya’al in this verse? Who or what is B'liya’al? This Hebrew word means "worthlessness, destruction, wicked, wickedness" and actually comes from two Hebrew words: the first is beli meaning, a "wearing out, unconcerned, unrestrained, without" and the other is ya'al meaning, "to confer or gain profit or benefit" (to give or to gain something does not necessarily mean money). When understanding this concept and term as derived from these two words we can see that the two sons of Eli in the first verse above, even though they were priests supposedly set apart for service to YHVH, were foolishly unrestrained and unconcerned as to how they gained benefit for themselves; showing no regard for the Torah of Elohim - and, as a result, they DID NOT KNOW YHVH even though they thought their position compensated for their lack of respect. As a result of not fearing YHVH, they became arrogant and thought that they could do whatever they wanted to, however they wanted to and still remain in the Present Presence. It was in the disregard of their words and deeds that clearly showed their blasphemy toward the Name of YHVH - whom they thought they were serving.

Several have also written to ask just what blasphemy is (fearful of having said or done something that might have placed them into judgment). As mentioned earlier, words mean things. The Hebrew word translated "blaspheme" in the verse from Psalm 74:10 is na'ats and means "to spurn, despise, abhor, deride, to reject with contempt and derision". The Greek word translated in the verse from Mark 3:28-29 above is blasphemeo which carries a similar meaning, "to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, to be evil spoken of". Once we have seen that the term "Holy Spirit" is a convoluted translation of the Hebrew perspective of there being only One Spirit spoken of throughout scripture, ruach hakodesh (the spirit of holiness Who is YHVH); then, simply put from a scriptural basis, blasphemy is to proclaim that what YHVH says is good is really evil and what YHVH says is evil is really good. Selah (Hebrew for, "pause and think about this for a minute"). This might be uncomfortable to hear, but isn't that precisely what the religion "Christianity" does by redefining the words of scripture according to its own predetermined theology and promoting that theology as Truth - theology that directly countermands the words written? Isn't that the very definition of what it means to "bear false witness" contained in the Ten Words? For decades in my walk as a Christian, I was told and accepted that blasphemy was attributing the things of the Father to "the devil" - something I thought I was in keeping with. But, if my understanding of evil was encapsulated in a false persona of "the devil" - how could I really know what was good from evil to keep from becoming a blasphemer?

easy yoke
...the Ten Words are Easy
Mention to a devout follower of Christianity (especially someone in a position of Christian "leadership") that the scriptural Sabbath is Saturday and that to proclaim otherwise is to follow the precepts of men instead of the Words of the Holy One of Israel as recorded in Exodus 20:1-17 - and witness for yourself if the kind of response you get falls into the "reproachful" category or not. Mention the same about the pagan rites of Christmas or Easter and watch what happens - all that "love" stuff these Christians are supposed to be living goes right out the window. Christianity takes the position that everything west of the book of Matthew does not apply anymore because "Christ died on the cross for me" even when (as seen in the article, Not A Sinner) there is no scriptural support for this stand - except for a twisted redefining of the words of the One they claim to follow. The scriptural definition of evil is to separate from. To say the Words of YHVH do not apply to me is to proclaim that what He has said is good is really evil because, as the sons of Eli, I purposefully separate myself from those Words. Usually, because followers of this Christian religion just don’t know precisely what scripture says, they end up listening to someone tell them what to believe and, without realizing it, the Words of YHVH spoken of in scripture, upheld and supported by the Words of His Son become redefined according to their own traditions, their own social and cultural morals - thereby, becoming nullified and declared void. The Words of YHVH contained in the Book are not guidelines on what the world considers to be "proper morals" - they are not "right and wrong, good and bad" rules. All of the words contained in the Book were written by Hebrews primarily to those within the family of YHVH who are in a covenant relationship with Him - not to the world. The words of the Book are given to YHVH's Family as instructions (not rules) on how to remain in the Kingdom of His family - how to keep from being separated from His Presence of Light.

When a person becomes a citizen of any kingdom in the world, there is no question about whether that citizenship includes a behavioral observance of the laws governing that kingdom. Why would anyone think that citizenship in YHVH's Kingdom is any different? Scripture tells us that Gentiles are grafted INTO the Hebrew Kingdom of YHVH of which Yeshua is presently the King of - not the other way around. Yeshua even proclaimed it to be His Father's Kingdom. If Christians say that they are citizens of YHVH's Kingdom, then what gives them the audacity to pick and choose which of His instructions and definitions apply to them? Could it be they are following the tradition of men instead of the Words of the Son? "But, what about all the millions who have followed Christianity for the past 1700 years - were they all deceived?" is often a common retort given by those who want to justify their position in defiance of the Words of YHVH. Just because a belief becomes popular does not make it Truth. Many millions of the Islamic religion over centuries have died believing Allah is a supreme god - are they also exempt from the Truth of scripture simply because they believe wholeheartedly in a popular cultural phenomena?

"On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness' ."
Matthew 7:22-23

Most Christians believe this verse applies to everyone who is not a Christian. But, again - words mean things. Notice that these folks who did not know Him were throwing His Name around as if they knew Him intimately. We have to ask ourselves, "What do these words really mean?" Remembering that there were no "Christians" around at the time these words were written, what would it mean to KNOW YHVH to the people Yeshua was speaking to? The Greek word translated "lawlessness" or "iniquity" in this verse is anomia which means "contempt and violation of law". It is the same word used in 1John 3:4 to define what sin is. The only "law" that was referred to when any of these words were written was Torah. Evil is defined in scripture as defiance to YHVH's Words exhibited by a behavioral opposition to those Words (see what it means To Be Free). So, then, how are we to act toward those outside the Kingdom - those who treat YHVH's Torah with contempt? 1Corinthians 5:11-13 says to "…purge the evil person from among you". Sha'ul was quoting the words of Deuteronomy 13:5 which say the means of preserving the brilliance of Light is to purge, to expel anyone from you who would lead you astray from the Light of YHVH's Words - not some moral stance of the world. He says do not have anything to do with such people. He does NOT say, try to "convert them" or "persevere with them" or "tolerate them" or "convince them they are wrong" - he says "do not associate with them". That means do not engage with them in their pagan revelry. Ouch! Oh, man - this is getting even more uncomfortable. "But, what about my brother, sister, son, daughter, mother, father, etc. - do I just abandon them?" is usually the next question that follows. How did Yeshua respond to this question? He answered it in Matthew 12:46-50 saying, "…whoever does the will of my Father IS my brother and sister and mother" - but, the record shows clearly that He did not abandon His natural family. For those who embrace the paradigm of what it truly means to be a part of YHVH's family, that means embracing the One Authority who determines what is good and what is evil. That authority is YHVH as exampled in the Life of Yeshua. What He says is good IS good. What He says is evil IS evil. And there is no argument or appeal or exception or excuse or picking and choosing which of His instructions and definitions apply. When the King speaks, the citizens obey. And, in this case, the citizens are also the family of the King. Anyone not adhering to the Words of the King is considered an illegal alien. And, as with all illegality, there comes a Separation.

"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple ."
Luke 14:26

Again - Ouch! What could Yeshua possibly mean by this statement? Taken at face value, it has caused more stress, more confusion and more division than almost anything else He said. The history of Christian interpretation shows that the Church variously took this to mean self-loathing, rejection of parents and siblings, a call to complete monasticism and a denial of the very fabric of the human community - none of which is seen in the actual words. In fact, most English translations will include some sort of marginal note attempting to explain away the severity of this verse. Even Hebrew translations of this text contain notes suggesting the Hebrew verb sane should be understood as "to love less by comparison." But sane is the opposite of ahav so it's hard to see the justification for mollifying its impact. This statement just doesn't sit well with any loving person and it hardly seems appropriate of the loving Son of a loving God. We could appeal to the parallel passage in Matthew 6:24 and say that Yeshua really meant "love them more than me." Or we could try to tone down the Greek verb miseo (hate). But this is difficult. Miseo is the opposite of agapao and phileo (love), both commanded by Yeshua toward all people. No matter how we slice it, it certainly looks like Yeshua is breaking the fifth commandment to honor father and mother. However, there is one rabbinic comment that might explain Yeshua's remark within the Hebrew context. It is a rabbinic teaching on Leviticus 19:3 that says, "Even though I have admonished you regarding fearing (your) father, if he shall say to you 'Profane the Sabbath,' do not listen to him." Clearly, the requirement to honor parents or anyone else depends on the condition that these people are encouraging Torah obedience. If Yeshua's remark is taken in this sense, wouldn't this rabbinic exception apply if relatives were instructing you to disregard His firstborn status by disregarding His Words? And Yeshua clearly said that His Words were not His but those of His Father's.

Living Torah
The context surrounding Yeshua's statement is about understanding the cost of discipleship. He uses a parable about building a tower, He exhorts followers to carry their own crosses and He talks about planning for battle. In fact, the entire context around this difficult verse is about proper evaluation and preparation. His words are directed to those who have been living their lives without serious reflection on the demands of the Kingdom. Now Yeshua says, "Even if your closest family, even if you yourself provide justification for not doing what I demand, what YHVH demands - do not honor them. Repel such suggestions. Hate that alternative by separating yourself from it. Do not let your present view of life prevent you from becoming a follower of the One who is greater than all these." This is a perfectly adequate rabbinic explanation for such a difficult saying, an explanation that does not require us to moderate the meaning of the verbs. It is also an explanation that upholds Torah. But in order to see it, we have to become students of the Greatest Rabbi. Nevertheless, there it is. It is consistent with Torah. There is no reason not to embrace it and, in so doing, maintaining the integrity of the text as it stands. Yeshua's rabbinic approach to discipleship raises an important question for all of us - are we willing to stand and uphold Torah no matter who tells us that we don't have to? Are we ready to be His disciples, follow His example and live according to His instructions no matter what? That's the real question.

Evil is real and it surrounds us. But you and I can decide to have nothing to do with it. Evil will still attempt to seduce us - particularly among those of our natural family. Are we so immune to believe that nothing can touch us or get under our skin? We would not be human if we did. But we refuse to participate! We refuse to actively pursue, encourage, endorse, experiment with, favor, consider, or sanction any of it. We stand for righteousness even when that standing means being exposed to the darkness in others. I hear the applause, "…preach it, brother. That's us. We won't let any of the bad stuff in." But if all we do is circle the wagons, put up the walls, retreat to the monasteries - then we have not understood Yeshua or YHVH. "Evil I will not know" means standing in the face of evil and choosing not to partake of it (Psalm 23:5). We do not retreat into closed communities of common conscience. As Yeshua, we walk among the wounded but we do not accommodate death in any of its forms. We are not still when we are silent before Him. We are not lax to stand before Him in a familiar crowd. We remain gracious but do not accommodate evil "just to get along". My family gathers together at Christmas and I will be among them to reinforce familial bonds by eating a meal with them; but afterwards, as they begin worshiping the tree and gifts - I politely excuse myself and leave.

the Birth Series
Part One: the Birth - Revisited
Part Two: the Magi
Part Three: the Origin of Christmas
Part Four: Unequally Yoked

"…He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead'." Luke 16:31

Please feel free to email me at While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.