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Note: This Question was inspired by a friend's report after she read 'Hebrew Insights from Revelation,' by Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Pinchas Shir

In Det. 6, God instructs Moses to institute the custom of using phylacteries for morning and evening prayers:

Take to heart these words which I command you today. 7 Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.

Next, in Ezek. 8-9 the Lord commands that the faithful be marked with an X on their foreheads to protect them from God's wrath:

Do you see, son of man? Are the abominable things the house of Judah has done?... the Lord said to him: Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it. 5 ... Do not take pity. 6 Old and young, male and female, women and children—wipe them out! But do not touch anyone marked with the X.

Finally, in the Book of Revelation ch. 13 we find a description the Beast's infamous mark:

6 It forced all the people, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to be given a stamped image on their right hands or their foreheads, 17 so that no one could buy or sell except one who had the stamped image of the beast’s name or the number that stood for its name.

The question is: are these marks and signs in the OT related to Book of Revelation's reference to the Mark of the Beast being placed on the forehead or right hand of the general population? Would the Beast's mark as described above be recognized by Jewish Christians as a satanic version of the mark of Ezekiel 9 and/or the phylacteries they used during daily prayers?

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There is much debate about when the practice of wearing phylacteries, or more correctly "tefillin" (the preferred Hebrew word) arose. Some claim it was as early as the first century but this is unlikely - it was some-time later.

The reason for this is simple - many Jews believe that the instruction in Deut 6 about tying God's laws on the hand and forehead are only metaphorical (the same as Jer 31:33) is rather simple - the same verses (see V9) also instructs people to write the laws on the door posts of their homes which the same observant Jews do not.

In any case, John is unlikely to be alluding to tefillin in Rev 13:6, 17. However, his allusion to Deut 6:7, 8, 11:18-20 (as well as Ex 13:9, 16) is unmissable and has been observed for many centuries. However, it should be seen in a larger context.

The mark of the beast is a direct literary and metaphorical counterpoint to the seal of God as shown in the following table:

Holy Spirit Beast from the Land
Spirit like blazing lamps (Rev 4:5, Acts 2) Calls fire from heaven (Rev 13:11, 12)
Purpose is to brings glory to Jesus (John 16:14, 15) Purpose is bring attention to sea beast (Rev 13:14)
Administers the seal of God (Eph 1:13, 4:30, Rev 14:1-5) Administers the mark of the (sea) beast (Rev 13:16)
Seal given on the forehead only (Rev 7:3, 4, 9:4) Mark given on the forehead and hand (Rev 13:16, 14:9, 20:4)
Inspires the prophets (2 Peter 1:19-21) Is the false prophet (Rev 19:20 – cf 13:13)
Guides into all truth (John 16:13) Deceives the world (Rev 13:14)

There is also likely an allusion by John in Revelation to Eze 9 and the marking of the wicked for destruction. In any case, we observe the following about this survey:

  • the writing on the forehead and hand (and the doorposts of the home) is always (in the OT) in the context of writing of God's laws and the recalling of the miracle of the Exodus. These two reasons are, in fact, the same reason precisely because the purpose and rationale for giving the moral law of the 10 commandments is explicitly stated in both case (Ex 20 and Deut 5) is because God and miraculously brought the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery.
  • in the case of Deut 6, the law or words that must be written are those of Deut 6:4, 5 -

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

  • the same is true in Deut 11:18-20 where, immediately after reciting the 10 commandments (Deut 5) and re-emphasizing the prohibition to worship false gods (Deut 11), God (via Moses' speech) says:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates, 21so that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your days and those of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to give your fathers.

  • about 800 years after Moses, Jeremiah took of the same metaphor with the following prophecy in Jer 31:31-34 -

31 Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt— a covenant they broke, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

33 “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will each man teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more.”

[We should recall that a covenant is broken, not by God but by the people who would not keep the law as was intended - the Israelite covenant was to teach about God.]

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  • Thanks for this excellent answer. One minor disagreement: observant Jews--and often even non-observant ones-- do write the laws mentioned on their door posts in the same way the write them on their foreheads... not directly but inside a mezuzah, just as the laws are written inside the tfillin. Jul 24, 2023 at 15:02
  • About Ezek, you used the word unmissable... by which I guess you meant undeniable. But the question is: would Jewish Christians of the time make the association. How many of John's readers would be familiar with Ezek. 9? Jul 24, 2023 at 15:04
  • @DanFefferman - most Jews would have recognized the association because they were so steeped in Scripture. Gentiles, depending on how well they knew the prophets, possibly less so.
    – Dottard
    Jul 24, 2023 at 20:37
  • they were highly literate but how many of them knew Ezekiel's prophecy is another matter. The Sadducees did not even accept the prophets as scripture for example. I think the focus was on the Torah... Isaiah was quite popular but even Jesus probably didn't have his own copy. most people would never read Ezekiel on their own, only hear it read in synagogue. I think only the scribes and teachers would know it in detail. It takes a long time to go through the whole corpus if you don't have a scroll of your own to read at leisure. Jul 26, 2023 at 3:08
  • @DanFefferman - Yet Isaiah is one of the most quoted books in the NT.
    – Dottard
    Jul 26, 2023 at 3:22
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If the emblem of the X limited only to represent 'ownership', then I would agree the Satanic X imitated God's Mark in Deu 6 and Eze 9. But as we know, none of any imitation is equal or better than the original, they are always inferior.

It can be seen the Mark described in Deuteronomy 6:8 was voluntary, the Israelites received the command but whether did it or not, it was their option. Those who carried the Mark was signing their 'dedication', but it did not constitute to any reward. For example, the Pharisees carried a larger than normal mark, but Jesus called them snakes, brood of vipers (Matt 23:33).

The Mark in Ezekiel 9:4 was unaware to the wearers, only the angels saw it. And the purpose of the Mark was ensure the wearers' survival.

Finally, the X of the breast in Revelation 13:16-17 was a mark of submission, compulsory to all. For those who against it would live a life miserable.

Did Satan imitated God?

12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14 NIV)

He will keep trying but will never succeed.

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