Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #34: B’midbar (In the desert) B’midbar ( Numbers) 1:1-4:20
Haftarah: Hoshea ( Hosea) 2:1(1:10)-2:22(20)
B’rit Chadashah: Luke 2:1-7; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
We begin our study this week in the fourth book of the Torah which recounts significant events of the Israelite travels from Sinai (G-d’s mountain) to the plains of Moab which are just opposite of the promised land. We can immediately establish a connection between good and evil simply by looking at the comparison between Sinai where the commands of G-d were given and to where G-d descended to speak with Moshe, and the idolatrous nation of Moab on the opposite side; a nation who was condemned by G-d for their idolatrous worship and sexual immorality. The Moabites were descendants of Lot through the sexual intercourse between Lot and his oldest daughter. Balak was also descendent of Lot. These facts are brought to the fore to remind us that Lot was not an Israelite in the true sense of the word. He was the nephew of Avraham who chose to follow Avraham out and away from his kinsmen in Ur who were Mesopotamians, an idolatrous nation. Avraham was separated out as righteous by G-d because Avraham sought the one true G-d over his traditional upbringing. We have no evidence that Lot followed suit although G-d pulled him out of S’dom before destroying it. So, we have Sinai on one side, and Moab on the other, complete opposites.
The book of Numbers continues the story of the Exodus and continues through Leviticus telling of the escape from Egyptian servitude, the desert journey to Mount Sinai, the events at Sinai with the giving of the laws of G-d, and the building instructions for the Tabernacle and instructions on its operation.
There is some confusion about the name of the book of Numbers when the Hebrew name is B’midbar which means “in the wilderness[of Sinai]taken from the fifth word in the first chapter. This name reflects the theme of the book. The English name Numbers comes from the Greek translation, the Septuagint, which titled the book after the census es described in the first four chapters. This Greek name reflects back on an earlier Hebrew name for the book when the names were based on themes rather than specific words.
The book of Numbers opens with the Israelites still camped at the base of Mount Sinai. They had already been given the laws, constructed the Tabernacle, which was portable, and had been instructed on how and when to worship G-d. This included the sacrificial system and the procedures for priests and laypeople. Now they had to organize a mobile war camp before moving forward with their travels. Chapter I begins with a census, the purpose of which is to determine tax revenue potential and the strength of the force. All males 20 years and older were eligible. The census totaled 603,550. Heading the list of chieftains is the representative of R’uven, Jacob’s first- born son, though elsewhere in Numbers, Judah is typically listed first. The lists follow birth order and mothers’ status to some degree. Leah’s sons come first followed by Rachels’s then the concubines’ children last. The exception is Gad, who was a larger military power, replaced third-born Levi, whose priestly tribe were not designated to serve in the military.
There is a long narrative describing the Levitical duties continued in Chapters 3-4. The Levites were charged with guarding the Tabernacle, dismantling, and reconstructing it when the cloud settled indicating camp was to be set up once again. Accordingly, their position in the layout of the nation was closest to the Tabernacle. According to Rabbinic midrash (Num. Rab. 1:12), the Levites were given such a prestigious position and duties because they were the only tribe that remained loyal to G-d in the incident of the golden calf.
Each clan encamped in its own designated spot, 3,000 feet from the Tabernacle with the Levites within an inner circle. The tribe of Judah faced east, toward the sunrise, ready to march first (Num. 2:3-9). This does not mean they worshipped towards the east as we already know the sequence of furniture in the Tabernacle progressed toward most holy from east to west. The tribe of Judah had the greatest census of all the tribes at 74,600.
Another new development in the structure and function of the various tribes is that G-d assigned the L’vi’im to Aharon as the High Priest and his sons. No longer would the first-born sons perform the religious functions for households. Now kohanim assisted by Levites perform religious functions for the entire nation. Only Aharon and his sons, El’azar and Itamar, are kohanim. All other Levites are formally given over in a sense to the kohanim in place of the firstborns. Aharon and who his sons had to guard their priesthood carefully. Any non-priest who tried to encroach would die (Num. 3:10). This is a stark reminder that we all have a role to fulfill for G-d and we best not envy that of another or neglect the opportunities or the role we are given. There is no such thing as an insignificant role in life when it comes to serving G-d.
Additional roles were designated for the Levites and the Levitical descendants of K’hat from 30-50 years of age. These individuals served in the tent of meeting. They were to carry the holy things after they were carefully wrapped by Aharon and his sons. However, they were not to touch the holy things or even look upon them lest they die. As we can see, their role was very specific and no less important in managing the transport of the holy things. The duties of the Gershonite and Merarite clans are described in parashah #35 addressed next week.
Haftarah: Hoshea (Hosea) 2:1-2:22
Hosea prophesies about Israel’s faithlessness, whoring, and bringing disgrace to G-d’s Name. Verses 3-15 describe in great detail what Israel will have to endure as a result of her own sin, not unlike that being committed in the United States as a country that was so blessed by G-d. America has not only brought disgrace to G-d’s Name, but they and the world have removed G-d as the ultimate authority and provider of all things from His rightful place. G-d has been replaced with idols of all sorts, mans’ so-called wisdom. Secular humanism, and an ever-growing worship of foreign gods such as Ishtar, Moloch, and Baal.
Although Hosea gives reference to Israel, there is a direct prophetic connection between the sins of Israel at the time and that which is currently occurring in the world today on a global scale.
Fortunately, there is hope as described in verses 16-25. G-d will woo her as He takes her into the desert and will take her as a bride once again. He will take Israel as His people once again and He will be their and our G-d.
So how can this be that He takes her as a bride once again when a man is prohibited from marrying the same woman twice (Deut. 24:4)? In this case it is permitted because G-d did not divorce Judah( the southern kingdom of Israel), although she too sinned terribly. He divorced Israel(Jer. 3) which are the 10 northern tribes that became “not a people”. Although G-d cannot marry Israel twice by his own regulations, Yahshua as the Son aspect of the G-dhead (not Trinity) can and will take Israel (true believers) as His bride as described in the book of revelation. Note that Israel wears white robes which signify repentance. Nothing is free including salvation. The plan of salvation follows the process of the Jewish wedding perfectly. In this case, Yahshua as “Son” is now in his Father’s house preparing the marital home for his Bride ( all true believers who have been grafted into one stick according to Ezekiel 37) and will return on an unknown day and time to take her to his Father’s house for eternity. For more information on the process of the Jewish wedding, please visit http://www.rabdavis.org.
B’rit Chadashah: Luke 2:1-7: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
2: 1 Around this time, Emperor Augustus issued an order for a census to be taken throughout the Empire. 2 This registration, the first of its kind, took place when Quirinius was governing in Syria. 3 Everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 So Yosef, because he was a descendant of David, went up from the town of Natzeret in the Galil to the town of David, called Beit-Lechem, in Y’hudah, 5 to be registered, with Miryam, to whom he was engaged, and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth; 7 and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him down in a feeding trough, because there was no space for them at the inn.
Augustus is A Title with overtones of divinity given by the Roman Senate in 27 B.C.E. to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, founder of the Roman Empire. He ruled the Mediterranean world until 14 C.E.
There is also a historical problem because according to Tacitus and others, Quirinius did not begin governing in Syria until 6 C.E. But he was in charge of Syria’s defense and foreign policy under Varus around 7 B.C.E. and later. Therefore, he could have supervised the registration (for tax purposes) in Herod’s territory. This registration, the first of its kind, or: this first registration, before the better-known one of 6 C.E. referred to in Acts 5:37.
Addressing 1 Corinthians scriptures for this parashah we see consistency in G-d’s Torah once again through the assignment of various roles for the different Levite clans and the unity of believers in Messiah Yahshua. We all have our places; our roles in making G-d’s Name known and glorifying/serving Him. Our role in G-d’s plan as believers is perfect and we should not envy or covet the roles of other believers. G-d’s purpose for placing us in different environments with different skills and talents; different jobs, some of which may change frequently or not is to build up the entire body of believers that we may further the gospel of the kingdom. We can do nothing on our own, owing every talent and/or skill to G-d’s grace. What is G-d’s will for us? Follow His Torah and it will be made known through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart