Parashah #34: B’midbar (In the desert) B’midbar ( Numbers) 1:1-4:20

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #34: B’midbar (In the desert) Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftarah: Hoshea (Hosea) 2:1-2-22
B’rit Chadashah: Luke 2:1-7; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

The Book of Numbers often gets a “bad wrap” by those who believe reports from many individuals uninitiated in G-d’s Torah that it is “boring” and has no application for today. Hopefully, the commentary today will change the mind of such individuals. Afterall, after an individual reads the words in the Bible, one must interpret what it means and then derive its applications. This is the core of Bible study.
The contents of Numbers are approximately half legislative and half historical A special type of content (types and symbols), are found in the book of Numbers. This should be no surprise in a book of the Bible that describes G-d’s people when He specifically used familiar objects such as the ark and the tabernacle in his prophecy of things to come.
Before we decide to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and choose to ignore the Old Testament text, we should think about the fact that the universal principles behind historical facts are timeless. G-d did not waste time or space for words that would not have both import for the time they were written, but for the entire history of Israel and mankind. There are four major truths in the book of Numbers that concern the nature of G-d, G-d’s ways, the nature of man, and the experience of man. Sha’ul (Paul) applies these truths when he refers to the experiences of Israel from Egypt to Canaan in 1 Corinthians 10:11; “ Now these things happened unto them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition…”
We must also pay attention to specific exhortations and commands. There is a significant use of words spoken to Moshe and/or the people in the form of legislation. How do we apply these to our lives today? Here again, we must look into the “hologram” of G-d’s Word and “see” the timelessness of such legislation and/or legislative concepts derived from the word written in the past and apply it to our lives. In some cases, the words are identical. For example the people of Israel were told to “Remember all the commandments of the L-rd and do them(15:39). Nothing has changed. Just as the Israelites were to obey the Commands of G-d, we are to do the same with no changes!
As Israel was preparing to take the land, G-d commanded a census of the entire assembly with the names of all those who were eligible for military service to be documented by clans and families. This required each person to establish his genealogical descent from the corresponding tribe. This was done in one of three ways; document; witnesses, or by the individuals’ profession. Note the responsibility inherent in belonging to the community of Israel at that time.
The Levites were set apart to carry out the duties associated with the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle. The males were to be counted from the age of one month and older, and all the firstborn were to be consecrated to Adonai.

The acceptance of G-d’s Torah was not a one- time commitment. It was an acceptance of each generation as are many of the designated times specifically written as such. The whole concept of G-d giving the Torah to the smallest population in the world and designating them as “Israel” was to provide an example to the world of how He wants us to relate to Him and to our fellow man. This was a “compass point” for others to follow at the time the Torah was given, and for future generations of the world. For example, if you want your child to emulate a specific behavior, you are the one responsible to consistently demonstrate the desired behavior. Repetition of this behavior will show the child that you “do as you say” and this behavior will be internalized in the child’s mind. To deviate from the desired behavior is to show the child that the behavior is important “sometimes” but may be ignored at other times. So it is with Israel’s responsibility to set the example for the world. G-d meant for the Israelites to set a G-dly example of living throughout all generations. Anyone who wants to be a partaker of the covenants of Israel, must be grafted in through G-d’s grace, and the individual’s love and obedience to G-d’s commands. This is taught throughout the Old and “New” Testaments so no one can say G-d’s commands are “just for the Jews,” abrogated when Yahshua was executed, or are not in keeping with the times. Remember that Avraham was not a Jew yet was found righteous due to his obedience and love of the One True G-d for whom he searched and G-d honored (Heb. 11:8).
So, how is this information passed from one generation to the next? This is done through compliance with G-d’s instructions (Torah) to “only be careful, and watch yourselves diligently, as long as you live, so that these things won’t vanish from your hearts. Rather, make them known to your children and grandchildren- the day you stood before Adonai your G-d at Horev, when Adonai said to me [Moshe], ‘Gather the people to me, and I will make them hear my very words, so that they will learn to hold me in awe as long as they live on earth, and so that they will teach their children’” (Deut. 4:9-10). However, there is a catch; this process is only perpetuated if the children respect the parents. A child who has no respect for parents will not adhere to their instruction or transmit it to their children. The following illustration, becoming more prevalent in our society, is a perfect example of how children can fall from G-d’s teachings and perpetuate the belief in other gods or no god at all: A biological Jewish man marries a Christian woman. Placing love for the other before the love of and obedience to G-d, they decide to raise children according to the doctrine and traditions of both religions and let the child chose which way they want to go when they get older. The result is a child who comes to understand that neither Mom’s nor Dad’s G-d is important enough to take precedence over the other, therefore the child can pick and choose from both religions or neither. G-d has something to say about this because He knew this would happen when the people entered the land and no longer followed Him out of love or obedience; “ When you have had children and grandchildren, lived a long time in the land, become corrupt and made a carved image, a representation of something, and thus done what is evil in the sight of Adonai your G-d and provoked Him; I call on the sky and the earth to witness against you today that you will quickly disappear from the land that you are crossing the Yarden to possess. You will not prolong your days there but will be completely destroyed. Adonai will scatter you among the peoples and among the nations to which Adonai will lead you away, you will be left few in number” (Deut. 4:25-27). Indeed, this is what we see in many families today and why our society has degraded to its current state of a progressive non-faith system. Every generation produces intellectuals who think they have a better idea and are wiser than the previous generation. History has not proven this to be true. Each generation strays further from G-d’s Torah, with history as a witness.
There has never been such a push by those involved in education to produce so many PhD graduates. Why is this important in the context of prophecy? We live in a Hellenistic society that is supposedly based on a democratic form of government; a majority rule ideal. Our children are being taught secular humanistic religion in school which holds that there is no fundamental truth. Who will oversee the educational system and enforcing the agenda of secular humanists? It will be the PhD graduates who are considered experts in their fields, taught by other secular instructors who dare not teach anything but secular humanism lest they lose their jobs. The 21st century paradigm maintains that secular humanism is the most productive system to integrate into all systems; schools, workplaces, and religious institutions because it is a tolerant, equalizing system. No one wins, no one loses. No one has any authority over another, and all conclusion and answers are correct.
This is a very real and present danger that our children and grandchildren are exposed to on a daily basis. Without Torah observant parents, teachers, and others to transmit and exemplify G-d’s Torah (instructions), the young ones are left with no direction, no protection, no G-d.
This is in direct contrast to G-d’s system for managing a society. There is a hierarchy, and order. Although some may say that is an unfair system and it cannot work because of human greed for power and such, remember these people followed the same G-d, the same rules applied to all. There is great symbolism in the fact that YHWH chose the first day of the second month to bear the fruit of mustering the forces of the Torah.
G-d even designates where the tribes are to camp around the tent of meeting, also significant. Let us take a closer look.
Those under the banner of Y’hudah was to camp on the east side toward the sunrise (2:2). The tribes included Y’hudah, Yissakhar, and Z’vulun
Those under the banner of Re’uven was to camp on the south. The tribes included Re’uven, Shim’on, and Gad.
Then the camp of the L’vi’im were to set out with other camps ahead and behind.
Those camping in the west under the banner of Efrayim included Efrayim, M’nasheh, and Benyamin.
Those under the banner of Dan were to camp to the north and included Dan, Asher, and Naftali.
Here we have the specific distribution of the twelve tribes into four squadrons, three tribes in a squadron, one of which was to lead the other two.
Observe, 1. G-d himself appointed them their place which should eliminate any strife or envy among them. Had they been left to determine their place surrounding the tabernacle themselves, they would have been in danger of quarrelling with one another (as the disciples who strove which should be greatest); each would have had tried to justify why their tribe should be set up in a certain direction. Had it been left to Moses to determine, they would have quarreled with him, and charged him with partiality; therefore, G-d d designated placement; He who is the rightful Judge. We have a community purpose to glorify G-d and a specific purpose just as we learn from the parashah. Furthermore, G-d provides an example of the seriousness of someone who may decide to involve himself in the designated responsibilities of another, in this case Moshe, Aharon, and his sons. We need to learn to bloom where we are planted with joy, just as do wildflowers. As far as the place we should choose for ourselves, Yahshua tells us in Luke 14:8; Sit not down in the highest room; and in Matt. 20:27; He that will be chief, let him be your servant. Those that are most humble and most “user friendly” for G-d are really most honorable.
2. Every tribe had a captain, a prince, or commander-in-chief, whom G-d himself nominated, the same that had been appointed to number them (Num. 1:5). Our being descendants of Adam is so far from justifying the levelers, and taking away the distinction of place and honor, that even among the children of Abraham, Jacob, and Judah, G-d himself appointed that one should be captain of all the rest. There are powers ordained of G-d, and those to whom honor and fear are due and must be paid. It appears that the Israelites in Egypt did not quite forget the name of their G-d, but, when they wanted other memorials, preserved the remembrance of it in the names of their children, and therewith comforted themselves in their affliction.
3. Those tribes were placed together under the same standard that were nearest of kin to each other; Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, were the three younger sons of Leah, and they were put together. Issachar and Zebulun would not begrudge Judah’s, since they were his younger brethren. Reuben and Simeon would not have been content in their place. Therefore, Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son, is made chief of the next squadron; Simeon, no doubt, is willing to be under him, and Gad, the son of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, is fitly added to them in Levi’s room: Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, are all the posterity of Rachel. Dan, the eldest son of Bilhah, is made a leading tribe, though the son of a concubine, that more abundant honour might be bestowed on that which lacked; and it was said, Dan should judge his people, and to him were added two younger sons of the handmaids. Thus unexceptionable was the order in which they were placed.
4. The tribe of Judah was in the first post of honour, encamped towards the rising sun, and in their marches led the van, not only because it was the most numerous tribe, but mainly because Yahshua would come from Judah, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and was to descend from the loins of him who was now nominated chief captain of that tribe. Nahshon is reckoned among the ancestors of Yahshua, Matt. 1:4. So that, when he went before them, Yahshua himself went before them in effect, as their leader. Judah was the first of the twelve sons of Jacob that was blessed. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, were censured by their dying father; he therefore being first in blessing, though not in birth, is put first, to teach children how to value the smiles of their godly parents and dread their frowns.
5. The tribe within Levi pitched closely about the tabernacle, within the other tribes (Num. 2:17). They were to defend the sanctuary, and then the rest of the tribes had to defend them. Thus, in the vision in which John saw of the glory of heaven, between the elders and the throne were four living creatures full of eyes, (Rev. 4:6;8). Civil powers should protect the religious interests of a nation, and be a defense upon that glory.
6. The camp of Dan (and so that tribe is called long after their settlement in Canaan (Judges 13:25), celebrated for their military prowess), though posted in the left wing when they encamped, was ordered in their march to bring up the rear, (Num. 2:31). They were the most numerous, next to Judah, and therefore were ordered into a post which, next to the front, required the most strength.
Lastly, the children of Israel observed the orders given them, and did as the Lord commanded Moses, (Num. 2:34). They put themselves in the posts assigned them, without murmuring or disputing, and, as it was their safety, so it was their beauty; Balaam was charmed with the sight of it: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! (Num. 24:5). Thus the body of spiritual Israel (all true believers according to the book of John and the Seven-Fold- Witness in the book of Revelation, ought to be according to the scripture model, every one knowing and keeping his place according to the will of G-d. If we do not know our place, we should continue to seek, ask, and knock; G-d will show us what He has for us as we continue to learn, internalize, and act upon His Torah. G-d expects us to reach beyond our comfort zones and seek Him out (Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:9; Jer. 29:13; Deut. 4:29; 2 Tim. 2:15; Isaiah 55:6).
Haftarah Connection (Hoshea 2:1-22)
This week’s haftorah begins with the words “The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand and of the sea [shore], which can be neither measured nor counted.;” an appropriate reading for the first Torah reading of the Book of Numbers.
Hosea first prophesies about the eventual reunification of the houses of Judah and Israel. During the Messianic Era, these two perennial antagonists will make peace and appoint a single leader. Hosea then rebukes the Jewish people for their infidelity, abandoning their “husband, “G-d, and engaging in adulterous affairs with pagan deities. He describes the punishments they will suffer because of their unfaithfulness. Our world and nation will have to endure G-d’s punishment as well because of unwillingness to follow G-d’s instructions.
Eventually, though, Hosea reassures the Jews that they will repent, and G-d will accept them wholeheartedly. The haftorah concludes with the moving words: “And I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, and with justice and with loving-kindness and with mercy.” We are reminded that the two sticks of Ezekiel MUST be reunited in order for this prophecy to be fulfilled. It will happen.
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Cor. 12:12-31
The verses in this chapter teach that true believers have an organismic unity like that of a human body. Indeed, we are parts of a whole, the sum of which is greater than the individual part. The body we are speaking of in this context is that of the Messiah (v.27). This is a very different perception than that of 21st century complexity theory that maintains we are all connected in some way but does not acknowledge G-d as the Creator and sustainer of the universe. I encourage exploration of the following verses for more information 6:15; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 1:23, 2:16, 4:4-16. Therefore, all members of the Messiah’s body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free (v. 13), have their places determined by G-d (not man) and have appropriate functions (ministries) which they should find and develop, trusting G-d for empowerment by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). This is done through diligent prayer, seeking, asking, and knocking. We should appreciate and not envy others’ ministries and gifts. The purpose of the gifts, skills, knowledge is NOT self-aggrandizement. Rather, they are for building up the whole body in love. Let us expound on verse 28.
G-d determined several distinct ministries including emissaries, prophets, and teachers. Then He mentions those who work miracles and those with gifts of healing. Listed next are those with the ability to help those in need and the skill of administration. But exercising those gifts would be manifestly improved if one had the charismatic qualities that are not mentioned in this passage. These are wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment of spirits. At the end of this list are the two “showy charismata” that are most easily abused; speaking in different kinds of tongues and interpretation. We must remember that those who exercised this gift of “tongues” spoke in RECOGNIZABLE LANGUAGES with the others. At the same time Sha’ul addressed abuses involved in manifesting the gift of tongues. He instructed the Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues and wished that all would speak using this gift. By the way, this gift is NOT meant for today based on the Torah. Sha’ul was speaking to a first century audience. Later in Scripture we are told in 1 Cor. 13:8 that charity never faileth, but whether knowledge, it shall vanish away. 1 Cor. 13:9 states “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 1 Cor. 13:10. But when that which is perfect is come 5046: teleios; from G5056; complete (as noun, with G3588), completeness: of full age) is come, then that which in part shall be done away. The word “perfect” is neuter in Greek so does not refer to a man or a woman but to an object. It can therefore be interpreted as referring to the Torah when which was completed by the addition of the B’rit Chadashah (NT) which was given as Torah (Heb. 8:6). May we come to understand this truth and not fall into the misunderstanding of those who think, teach, and believe that this refers to Yahshua coming to earth to abolish G-d’s Torah with His appearance. G-d forbid! (Rom. 3:31; Matt. 5:17).
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart