What is a Miqra?
A Commanded Assembly
By David M Rogers
Second Edition: 2011
The Miqra is a designation we once used as the name of our congregation. We are not a "Christian" congregation. Because the term "Christian" has come to be associated with so many teachings, practices and reputations which are repugnant and which we repudiate, we do not embrace that handle. We prefer to be described as Scripture teaching followers of the Messiah Yahusha of Netzeret (mistakenly a.k.a. "Jesus"). The reason we used to call ourselves the Miqra will become clear as we study and come to understand the meaning of the Hebrew term miqra.
We are Torah observant (as much as we can be in the galut [exile]), because the Messiah of Scripture was Torah observant and taught all his disciples to be Torah compliant as well. But we are not Jewish, nor are we a "Messianic" congregation. We do no follow the man-made teachings and practices of the Rabbis, because our Master Yahusha strictly instructed us not to do so. He alone is our Rabbi ("Great One").
We do believe and obey the Scriptures, we believe and trust in the Messiah and we look forward to Messiah's return to planet earth to establish his reign of righteousness and peace on the earth. We believe that the proper response of faith is to obey the Messiah and do what He taught. Scripture is clear that Messiah taught obedience to all of the instructions given to ancient Israel. And we who hope to inherit the promises of Scripture will do the same. (Feel free to visit We Believe for a more detailed account of our teachings and "beliefs")
The word miqra comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. The word ar'q.mi occurs in Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:2:
"Speak to the sons of Yisrael and tell them, 'These are Yahuwah's appointed times which you must proclaim as set-apart assemblies (miqras)--my appointed times:
In the above translation, it is rendered by the English "assemblies." We will examine the accuracy of this translation below where we ask the question, "Is an Assembly Commanded for the Miqras"? Let's first dig down to the root meaning of "miqra."
The Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines our word as follows:
explanation, reading; basic meaning: calling
1. a) summons: b) assembly
2. reading, recitation
"Miqra" comes from the root qara' which means to "call, call upon, proclaim, read." Thus, 'miqra' means "reading" or "proclamation." So, these days which are named in Vayiqra 23 are to be times when the message of Scripture is "proclaimed" by the "reading" of the Scriptures.
In modern Hebrew, miqra is the common equivalent to the English "Scriptures" and it is used in roughly the same way that English speaking people would use the word Bible. But, as we have just seen, miqra can have meanings other than "scripture." In the Scriptures, miqra means proclamation, reading or the assembly (for the sake of proclamation of the scriptures).
These miqras are said to be "holy" or "set-apart." The reading/proclamation which is to occur on these days is not just any reading or proclamation. It is to be a set-apart time when the set-apart Scriptures are to be read, proclaimed and explained.
The popular Christian tradition of meeting on Sunday to preach and study the Scriptures is taken from this Hebrew concept in the Torah. Unfortunately, Christianity has torn this day of proclamation away from its proper context of occurring at particular set times. The Christian tradition has appointed its own times of observance which are not in conformity with the commandment of Elohim.
Again, in the verse quoted above,
"Speak to the sons of Yisrael and tell them, 'These are Yahuwah's appointed times (moed) which you must proclaim as set-apart assemblies (miqra)--my appointed times: (Vayiqra 23:2)
the phrase rendered "appointed times" is translated from the Hebrew work d[eAm ("moed"). A moed (pronounced with a long o - "mo-ed") is defined as an "appointed time, appointed place, appointment, meeting." It comes from the root word, d[;y' (ya-ad) which means to "appoint, assemble, meet, set."
The basic meaning of this root is "to appoint," in which sense it occurs in the Qumran War Scroll, the Thanksgiving Psalms, and the Messianic Rule. The root is used in the Qal for the betrothal of a woman (Exo 21:8), to designate a time (2Sam 20:5) and place of meeting, and to appoint a rod (RSV "tribe"; Mic 6:9).
The Niphal form is used for Elohim's meeting Israel at the sanctuary (Exo 25:22; Exo 29:43ff; Exo 30:6, 36) and for the assembling of the congregation for worship in the sense of appearing (Num 10:3; 1Kings 8:5; 2Chr 5:6) or for other purposes. It is of interest that Elohim's meeting with Israel's representative at the "mercy seat" (kappret, q.v.) is an appointed meeting (Exo 25:22). So also were the other times when Elohim met with the people before the tabernacle. The people were expected to come and Elohim promised to meet them there. Elohim keeps his appointments.
The Niphal form may also be used with the preposition against (al) for an assembling against Yahuwah (Num 14:35; Num 16:11; Num 27:3) in rebellion. It is used for kings joining their forces (Josh 11:5). It may also designate making an appointment (Amos 3:3; Job 2:11; Psa 48:4 [H 5]).
The Hiphil signifies to appoint (Jer 49:19) or in some cases to summons (Jer 50:44; Job 9:19). The Hophal participle, mūadim, signifies that which is ordered or set (Jer 24:1; Ezek 21:1 [H211). (The preceding summary of usage of moed was taken almost verbatim from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)
From its usage in the Scriptures cited above, it seems rather clear that miqra designates an appointment to meet with Elohim. Thus, at these designated times, all who are attached to Yahuwah in covenant relationship are required by contract (this is the covenant we agreed to...) to lay aside all other pursuits ("rest") and meet with Elohim, our Creator and read and proclaim the message of Scripture.
It has been suggested by some Scripture expositors that the miqra which occurs at these appointed times does not require an assembly of the congregation. In fact, they suggest, it would be "work" to locomote to the place of meeting. In defense of this position, Shemot (Exodus) 16:29 is cited:
See, because Yahuwah has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day."
Thus, some conclude, there is no compelling reason to go anywhere on the Sabbath! And in addition to this Scripture, it is suggested that with the exception of those festivals on which there is clearly a call for assembly in Yerushalayim, the remainder of the miqras would best be done in the privacy of one's own home!
My response to those who object to an interpretation which requires an assembly on the appointed miqras is threefold: While I would not criticize worship at home, I would recommend a better way which has the support of Scripture. First, the interpretation of Shemot 16:29 as noted above, is taking that instruction out of context. Let's look at the whole passage and then its meaning will emerge from the situation:
And Mosheh said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahuwah; today you will not find it in the area. Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any." And on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it, but they found nothing. So Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "How long do you refuse to obey my commandments and my Instructions? See, because Yahuwah has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day (Shemot 16:25-30).
The instruction to stay in one's place (home) on the Sabbath day is set in a situation which describes some who went out of their homes to gather food on the Sabbath. The prohibition is not meant to instruct us to abstain from going outside! The prohibition is to abstain from going outside to gather food. Gathering food on the Sabbath is what was clearly prohibited.
Shemot 16:23 And he said to them, "This is what Yahuwah has said: 'Tomorrow is a time of cessation, a set-apart Sabbath to Yahuwah. Whatever you want to bake, bake today; and whatever you want to boil, boil today; and whatever is left put aside for yourselves to be kept until morning.'"
This Scripture teaches us that food was to be gathered on the sixth day and prepared on the sixth day, so that on the seventh day no work at all had to be done. The food was ready on the Sabbath to be eaten, and no one would have to do the work of gathering it or preparing it. They could enjoy a complete rest. The command of Shemot 16:29, "each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day," is plainly referring to refraining from gathering food (i.e. grocery shopping, eating out at restaurants) on the Sabbath.
My second response is to note that the very usage of moed, miqra and their derivatives in the Hebrew Scriptures suggests upon us a broader understanding of the terms to include an assembly of the congregation at these times. The root word, d[;y' ("to appoint") from which the word d[eAm ("moed") comes, has additional derivatives. The word, hd'[e (edā) derives from that same root. It is the Hebrew word normally translated "assembly, congregation, multitude, people, swarm (ASV and RSV similar except ASV tends to render edā uniformly by "congregation."). Edā occurs frequently, in Qumran materials as a self-designation of the community.
Edā is a feminine noun from ya-ad "to appoint," hence is an assembly by appointment and is rendered in the king jimmy version most frequently as "congregation." First appearing in Exo 12:3, the noun occurs 145 times in the OT and is rendered synagogue 127 times in the LXX. However the noun itself does not imply the purpose of the gathering; hence we have a swarm of bees (Jud 14:8) and a multitude (Psa 68:30 [H 31]). It may be a gathering of the righteous (Psa 1:5), but there is also the assembly of the wicked (Psa 22:16 [H 17]), violent men (Psa 86:14), and the godless (Job 15:34). The followers of Korach (Num 16:5) and Aviram (Psa 106:17-18) are frequently termed a company. Assembly is sometimes used in the king jimmy version for edā for variety when it occurs in proximity to some of the other terms rendered congregation (Num 16:2; Num 20:8; Prov 5:14). Edā designates the assembly of people gathered before Yahuwah in judgment (Psa 7:7 [H 8]). Similar is the designation of an assembly of the officers of Elohim (Psa 82:1) which is nearly identical with a Ugaritic expression for an assembly of the subordinate gods of the pantheon (Text 128:II, 7, 11).
Despite the fact that we have two words, "congregation and assembly" (qahal and edā, Prov 5:14), qahal and edā seem to be synonymous for all practical purposes. Edā is also used for groups of animals, but qahal is not. Edā occurs most frequently in Ex, Lev, and Num, and occurs only three times in the prophets (Jer 6:18; Jer 30:20; Hos 7:12). Qahal, on the other hand, is infrequent in those portions of the Torah, but is frequent in Devarim. The book of Chronicles uses qahal frequently, but edā only once (2Chr 5:6 = 1Kings 8:5). A man may be excluded from the edā (Exo 12:19), but the same is true of the qahal (Num 19:20).
Most characteristic of the Tanach is the use of edā for the congregation of Israel. "The congregation" (ha-edā) occurs seventy-seven times in Ex, Lev, Num, and Josh. We also have "the congregation of Yahuwah" (Num 27:17; Num 31:16; Josh 22:16-17); "the congregation of Israel" (Exo 12:3; Josh 22:20); and "all the congregation." There is the "assembly of the congregation of Israel" (Exo 12:6) and the "assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel" (Num 14:5).
And my third response to objections to assembly for set-apart miqras is the example of our Messiah Yahusha. His is the example we are commanded to follow. We imitate him. And the Scriptures are clear that Yahusha participated in the assemblies which occurred on the Shabbat:
Then they went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath came, Yahusha went into the synagogue and began to teach. (Mark 1:21)
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did he get these ideas? And what is this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these miracles that are done through his hands? (Mark 6:2)
Now Yahusha came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom (habit). He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Yesha'yahu was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, (Luke 4:16,17)
So he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galil, and on the Sabbath he began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. Now in the synagogue... (Luke 4:31-33)
On another Sabbath, Yahusha entered the synagogue and was teaching. (Luke 6:6)
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, (Luke 13:10)
Yahusha did not "remain in his house" on the Sabbath. On the contrary, he was out and about, with his talmidim (disciples) and with other people:
At that time Yahusha went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat and eat them. (Mattityahu 12:1)
Now one Sabbath when Yahusha went to dine at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. (Luke 14:1)
Now because Yahusha was doing these things (healing people) on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began persecuting him. (Yahuchanon 5:16)
It is evident from these testimonies that it was not the habit of our Master to remain at home on the Sabbath. On the contrary, Yahusha our Messiah went to the assembly as his HABIT. He did this customarily. And he mingled with people on the Sabbath, ate with his friends at their homes or in the fields on the Sabbath. And he regularly healed people on the Sabbath. This testimony should put to rest the well-intentioned but ill-informed opinions of some that we should not leave our houses to assemble with others on Sabbath.
Another suggestion from well intentioned folks is that the only times commanded to assemble before Yahuwah are the seventh day of Chag HaMatzot and the eighth day of Chag HaSukkot. This argument is based upon the usage of the Hebrew word atzeret. The commandments are stated as follows:
For seven days you must present a gift to Yahuwah. On the eighth day there is to be a set-apart assembly (Heb. miqra kodesh) for you, and you must present a gift to Yahuwah. It is a solemn assembly day (Heb. atzeret); you must not do any regular work (Vayiqra 23:36).
On the eighth day you are to have a sacred assembly (Heb. atzeret); you must do no ordinary work on it (Bemidbar 29:35).
And concerning the seventh day of Tabernacles, it says,
You must eat bread made without yeast for six days. The seventh day you are to hold an assembly (Heb. atzeret) for Yahuwah your Elohim; you must not do any work on that day (Devarim 16:8).
According to the BDB Hebrew Lexicon, our word, hr'c', tr,c, means "assembly (as confined, held in)." Likewise, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines our word as "solemn assembly." And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament renders this word as "holiday, celebration, festive assembly." For lack of an insight into the true understanding of this word, translators have thought that this word means "assembly."
But what is most instructive is the root word from which atzeret is derived. This is where we get the true concept underlying our word. The root word rc[ (pronounced "atsar"), according to HALOT means "to hold back, restrain." BDB renders this word as "restrain, retain." And the TWOT defines it as "restrain, close up, retain, shut, withhold, refrain, stay, detain."
With this information it becomes clear that the primary meaning of atzeret is not "assembly" but rather "a restraining" or "a retainer"! Upon reflection, the purpose of a commanded atzeret is to retain all the "benei Yisrael" for the duration of the festival seasons. Thus, what is commanded by this word atzeret is not an assembly, per se, but to remain at Yerushalayim until the very end. The "last day" of these two feast seasons acts a "a restrainer" by requiring all to remain in Jerusalem until the feast is over.
It is human nature to try to beat the crowd. In the USA at a fireworks display, there are always a number of people who skip out early and miss the very end in order to avoid the crowds and traffic. And in other situations, the same is true. People look for ways of avoiding the inconvenience of slowdowns due to overcrowding. It appears that Yahuwah has commanded the final day of the spring and fall festivals to have a set-apart miqra and a restraining (atzeret) of skipping out early. Yahuwah wants us to enjoy to the full each of the celebrations of his goodness and his salvation works on our behalf.
Therefore, the word atzeret is not the word which commands us to assemble. The word miqra is the word which implies assembly, because without a gathering of people, there is no one to proclaim to. The miqra is the proclamation and presumes the gathering of Yahuwah's people for that purpose. The atzeret is the command to "stay for the whole thing."
That's what a Miqra is all about. It is the time and opportunity Yahuwah gives each of us to fellowship together with Him as the center of our focus. We were not made to "stay at home" on the Sabbath. Yahuwah our Maker wants us to enjoy the fellowship and encouragement of being together and sharing the experience of relationship with Him, together.