What If It Wasn't A Rooster?

by Lonnie Lane

What if I told you that it is possible that Yeshua didn’t really warn Peter that the crowing of a rooster would reveal to him his downfall? It’s amazing what linguistic research can turn up. One of the many significant things about the re-establishment of the nation of Israel is the resurrection of the Hebrew language. Since it has been found that at least the book of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, once put back into its original Hebrew language and cultural context, it has brought clarity and correction to many previously mysterious or misinterpreted words or passages.

Clearly some of the errors in our translations are due to unfamiliarity with what the words would have meant to those hearing them. But sometimes the translations appear to be the direct result attempting to discredit the overall “Jewishness” in the New Covenant (Testament) in order to support their particular theology that the Gentile “church” had “replaced” Israel. (See my article, “Church Isn’t In the Bible”) Take also the use of the term “the Jews” which sounds like it means every Jew, when in fact it was “the Judeans” or more specifically, the Judean leaders. Cleopas, evidently an eye witness to the whole scenario, talking to and about what happened to Yeshua while walking on the road to Emmaus reported “…how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. (Luke 24:20, emphasis added). Reading the New Testament in English gives the idea that every Jew in Israel was shouting “Crucify Him!” Not likely that would come from the blind who now could see or the lame who could now walk, nor those whose son or daughter was raised from the dead. Certainly not Mary, Martha and Lazarus and certainly not his own family.

One of the many significant things about the re-establishment of the nation of Israel is the resurrection of the Hebrew language.

Other mistranslations appear to be caused by ignorance of the Hebrew idioms or expressions. An example might possibly be found in Yeshua’s prediction of Peter's denial of Him on the night of the Last Supper (Note: Denial of knowing Yeshua is not equal to demanding His crucifixion. Peter denied Him out of fear, but he wouldn’t have called for His murder.) Here’s the dialog. “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’. But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death’. Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster ('cock' in KJV) will not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me’”. (Luke 22:31-34)

As we know, later that same night, after Yeshua had been taken by the guards, Peter did indeed deny knowing the Lord: “And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him’. But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him’. And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them’. But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean’. But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster (cock) crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster (cock) crows, you will deny Me three times. Then Peter went out and wept bitterly”. (Luke 22:56-62).

Hearing that rooster’s call and seeing Yeshua turn to look at him must have been a shock that woke him up to Yeshua’s earlier prediction that he would deny Him and to his own failure to be the faithful man he thought he was. I’m pretty sure he was shocked and ashamed. But as for it being a rooster, there is a controversy here. It can be found in the Talmud, and backed up by the historian Josephus, that chickens were not allowed in Jerusalem during those days. Talmud is not Biblical law but rabbinic and often contains wishful thinking more than enforced or enforceable laws, one of those being the required ritualistic washing of hands which was intended, the rabbis reasoned, to distinguish who was a Jew from who was not. Chickens, as you may know, are pretty dirty birds, leaving evidence of where they’ve been behind them everywhere, if you know what I mean. They also have a habit of getting into places you don’t want them to be. So to be sure that no chickens made their presence known in the Temple which would have desecrated the Holy Place or, worse yet, the Holy of Holies, some writings suggest that the priests simply forbid anyone in Jerusalem from having chickens. That the Romans would abide by this is unlikely and it does make me wonder how a good Jewish chicken soup could have been made without chickens. Other references suggest that a rooster crow was a way of keeping time, and the Talmud does tell of one rooster that was stoned to death in Jerusalem, not because of it’s presence within the city or that it crowed, but because it killed a child. Presumably a Jew owned the rooster.

Whether roosters were or were not permitted in the Temple area or in Jerusalem at all, is there still a message in this well known passage of Scripture for us to consider? The text, as we read it in English, indicates that a rooster crowed. As it turns out, the Hebrew word for rooster may not have been “rooster” at all. The King James translates the word as “cock,” which was a common word for rooster in King James’ day. But when the text is translated back into proper Hebrew, according to some scholars, the word was not a bird, but a man, specifically the priest who was in charge of locking the Temple doors at night and then unlocking the doors each morning just before dawn.

Interestingly, he would place the key each night in an opening in the stone floor in one of the many side rooms of the Temple, then place a flat stone over the opening and put his sleeping mat over the stone so that he was actually sleeping on top of the key to the Temple. Then just before dawn he would proceed to open all the doors in the Temple while crying out in a loud voice three calls to attendance: "All the cohanim (priests) prepare to sacrifice”. "All the Leviim (Levites) to their stations”. "All the Israelites come to worship”. Then he would repeat these statements two more times. It was his responsibility to rouse all the priests, Levites and worshippers to call them to the morning services and sacrifices. (Remember the priests rotated duty so it wasn’t one man whose whole life was to sleep in the Temple on top of the key, but priests took their turn at the Temple responsibilities, including sleeping in the Temple at this particular post.)

Some writings suggest that the priests simply forbid anyone in Jerusalem from having chickens.

You may have heard of the Town Crier in days of old who would call out important information or what the king wanted the people to know. This man is suggested by a number of Hebrew scholars to be the Temple Crier. This Temple Crier, according to these linguistic scholars was called the alektor in Greek, while others state that the word in Greek for Temple Crier is keryx. If the word alektor is used, it can refer to either a cock or a man. Alektor here, was incorrectly assumed to be a cock or rooster instead of the priestly Temple Crier. If this were true, it would have been this priest’s call to service and not the sound of a cock/rooster that was heard in the courtyard where Yeshua was being questioned, with Peter being within eyesight of the goings-on. When the call was uttered, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times” (Luke 22:61). I can’t imagine Peter’s agony upon seeing Yeshua turn and look directly at him even with all Yeshua was going through.

Whether this is a man or a rooster does not change the meaning of Peter’s denial of knowing Yeshua despite his earlier declaration of bravado, nor his anguish at seeing the darkness in his own soul. But the possibility of the Temple Crier does shift our attention to focus on the fact that Yeshua, the Son of God, was being questioned while standing within earshot of His Father’s House, the Temple with its call upon people to respond to God in ways that He has appointed. And while the scene does make us aware that there are real people, not just clergy, around and about the Temple. The fact is this is God’s Temple, not the Jew’s Temple.

Considering the possibility it was not a rooster but a Temple Crier, I pondered if this piece of information might carry any insights worth considering. Here’s what I began to see. It does not change Peter’s realization of his betrayal of Yeshua, but it could bring some awareness of the real issues involved for Peter and for us. The crowing of a rooster would have had no spiritual significance in itself to Peter if that’s what he had heard. But if Peter was hearing the call to sacrifice, the call to service, and the call to worship those words were likely to have brought the stunning revelation to him that he had failed on all three counts. Yeshua was to be the ultimate Sacrifice, though Peter wouldn’t have known that as we do. But where was the willing sacrifice that Peter had so boldly proclaimed to go to prison or die for Yeshua now? Where was his calling to serve the Lord as he was sure he always would? And where was his worship now that he suddenly felt so far from Yeshua…and so far from God?

Be it rooster or a Town Crier, I found myself confronted with what a Temple Crier would be calling the priests and worshippers to. Since we who are faithful followers and worshippers of Yeshua are now also called priests unto God through Him, I found in the Temple Crier’s summons to the Temple my own “wake up call,” a kind of measuring stick for the “calling” to us as priests. Perhaps you will too.

When I read Peter’s words of bravado to Yeshua to always be there for Him, no matter what, knowing how desperately ashamed Peter is going to be, I wince wishing the story could go differently. It doesn’t, of course. But somehow this alleged Town Crier has made his call a call to me and makes me ask questions of myself when I read Peter’s story of his denial of the Lord. Does it touch anything in your own life too? Have you made a declaration to follow the Lord, no matter what comes but are there times and circumstances when you have denied, or just avoided acknowledging that you know Him when you know there could be opposition? I remember quite vehemently opposing those who shared the Gospel with me as an unsaved Jewish woman at one time but I’m sure grateful now that they did. We sing a song in my congregation a line of which is repeatedly sung that says, “We’re not ashamed of You.” Each time we sing it I am challenged by those words, not for today as much (though it may be today’s challenge for you), but I tuck the words into my heart “that I might not sin against Him” (Psalm 119:11) if ever I find myself caught in a threatening situation such as Peter was. Have you ever been ashamed to speak of Him for fear of rejection or repercussions as Peter was?

How about the call to service? Has the Lord asked you to do anything that you have not done, or perhaps you intend to do one day…maybe tomorrow, or next year, or when you get __________ done first (fill in the blank). Has God ever put a dream in your heart that you’ve been too afraid ….of rejection, of failure, of consequences that you put the true service to Him on hold and pretend it’s not God’s word to you for now? And then there is the call to worship. Do your worship times only include when you are in church when there’s a scheduled time once a week when you sing someone else’s word to Him? Or perhaps your worship is of the plugged-in variety. What you thank or praise God for or fill your heart with is what someone else on a CD is saying or singing that you should praise Him for. You don’t take time to worship Him yourself, with your own words, out of your own heart. Are you that authentic with God that you can do that? Or just quiet so you can listen? Do you have a time when you are just awed by who He is….even who He is in you? And for you?

It’s It would have been this priest’s call to service and not the sound of a cock/rooster that was heard in the courtyard where Yeshua was being questioned, with Peter being within eyesight.

Our God is the God of redemption and He knows how to make good out of our failures, moral or otherwise. I’m sure many of us have as our favorite rescue verse Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Things don’t magically work out somehow if we’re His. He works things out for the good that is always in His purposes, because, simply put, God is good (1 Tim 4:4). So what was the good for Peter in all this? What did Peter learn from the experience? It appears what Paul, the learned rabbi, also had to learn when he wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Romans 7:18). The will was present in Peter, but the ability to do what he so wanted to so was not. Peter was under no illusion that he could pull off anything spectacular, spiritual, or even faithful. He knew in him there was nothing that was worthy of Yeshua. I’m sure he had an excruciatingly painful few days…hopeless, self-deprecating, deeply ashamed, and enveloped in depression with no chance of making it right with Yeshua ever again. But then….He’s alive! He’s no longer dead! Suddenly the words Yeshua spoke about the Son of Man being raised on third day (Luke 9:32) come to life in his heart, and with them, the expectation that maybe he can make things right with Yeshua again after all. He may have a chance to tell Him he’s so very sorry.

The redemptive ways of God allowed Peter to not only be restored in his relationship with Yeshua, but now he knew whatever he would do for the Lord would only be the Lord doing it through him by His Holy Spirit. Now Peter was available for the Spirit of God to use him to bring the first evangelistic message anyone ever preached. Three thousand Jewish men and women came to the Lord that very day, without Peter’s ego or sense of himself getting in the way. It was all about God and what He was doing.

It is those with a broken and contrite spirit whom God can trust to work through in spirit and in truth. Those who are less likely to bring their own agendas or motives and assume they are God’s. To be contrite is to be fully penitent after having been conscience-stricken. Have you ever felt that you had disqualified yourself because you had failed somewhere along the line? Have you felt that God could never trust you again or that when you get to heaven He will tell you “You blew it so I gave up on you?” I know there are some of you who feel that way, dear people of God, because you’ve written me E-mails telling me so. But God never gives up on us because He didn’t save us on the basis of what we do. If Yeshua died to pay for our sins, He also died to pay for our failures, those places where we missed God. If God forgave and continued to use Peter is such a powerful way, He will also continue to use those of us who have failed Him somehow.

Take your sense of failure and turn it into contrition before Him. Make that your sacrifice to Him because “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). If you’re familiar with Psalm 51, you know that King David knew something about failing God and having a contrite spirit God accepts. If, perchance, you think God isn’t paying attention to you anymore, that can’t possibly be true if you are His, for God says, "But to this one I will look, to him (or her) who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Do you have a fear of violating His Word and displeasing Him? Then His eyes are upon you for good. “The fear of (displeasing) the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10, my paraphrase).

If you ever thought you had to look good to do good, in His eyes that’s not the case. I marvel that people view very visible people, how they appear, what they say ‘outwardly’ as being more spiritual. None of us knows the motives of someone else’s heart. Only God does and that’s what He judges us on, the motives of our heart. It is a wise prayer to ask Him, as I did just this morning, to purify our motives. Sometimes we become aware of our own motives and it’s hard to believe how self-serving they can be. I’m ‘fessin’ up here, so you know I’m not preaching what I’m not held accountable to God for myself. Teachers have that to deal with: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

If you’re ever looking at the more visible people and think they have it all together, they may have had to go through a Peter-trial to be trusted. We never know the price another person has had to pay in order for the Lord to trust them with much. We’re all in process. Perhaps you’re not identifying with Peter in this story, but you know someone whom you feel has missed or failed the Lord. Judge not! You might just be looking at the making of a man or woman of God in process. We’re called to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things” (1 Cor. 13:7, my paraphrase) of each other in love. And since we’re to love ourselves as we love others, that includes applying those things to how we see ourselves (for those of you troubled with a self-image that’s less than God wants for you.) Believe that God wants to do wonderful things for you and through you. Stay humble and of a contrite spirit and pray for the hope that God has placed within you to come to fruition. I’m believing with you. This could just be our finest hour for the people of God.

Note: The same week that I wrote this article, a similar article was released from Jerusalem. Though it did not include what I thought were the spiritual implications, it spoke of the possible redefining of the word for rooster. With regard to that part of the article, the two read almost as if one came from the other. We apparently had the same Talmudic references, and the similarities are striking. In 35 years I never recall reading an article about this rooster issue. Then two articles days from one another were written to the Body at large. I just wonder if God isn’t issuing a “wake up call” to the voice of the Temple Crier, rooster or not.

Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2011. 


Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.


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