Parashah 34: B'midbar (In the desert)
Numbers 1:1 through 4:20
Parashah 34: B'midbar (In the desert); Numbers 1:1 through 4:20.
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Hosea 2:1-22.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Luke 2:1-7; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
Tanach Scriptures are from Stern's Complete Jewish Bible; B'rit Chadash Scriptures from the Aramaic English New Testament.
Welcome "newbies" and "oldies!" As you all know, Torah was written by Moshe (Moses) and consists of the first five Books of the Bible which contain God's original Divine Instructions in Righteousness. Since this is a Netzarim (Nazarene/Messianic) website, we refer to God by His proper Name: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, transliterated into English as YHWH, and most likely pronounced "Yah-way" (see Exodus 3:13-15). His Son's Name is Y'shua (most likely pronounced "Ye-shoo-ah"). Enjoy this week's Torah portion!
The first chapter of Numbers is one most of us would probably rather skip over, because the thought comes to mind: "Who cares how many people there were in each of the tribes and who begat whom? This is boring!"
But, mature believers ultimately come to understand that Numbers, Chapter 1 is extremely important because YHWH is about to announce His Divine "seating chart!"
Remember when you were in school and, on the first day you quickly grabbed the desk next to your best friend, or some cute guy or gal, or some "popular" kid, in hopes that they would notice you and include you in their clique? And then in came the teacher with a seating chart and rearranged everybody - and consequently you had to spend the rest of the year sitting next to the class clown or some "geek"....
Well, this is pretty much what YHWH did to the Israelites. Why? Because it was time for His people to discover exactly who they were and what He wanted them to do! You see, in Egypt they were nothing but slaves, "worker bees" for Pharaoh. They did whatever Pharaoh wanted. Their value was found in what they could produce with their labor. They were stonemasons, bricklayers, shepherds, domestic servants and nannies....whatever the Egyptian taskmasters demanded.
Consequently, in Egypt their sense of identity came not from within or who they were created to be, but from external sources - whatever they could do well enough to keep Pharaoh and his taskmasters satisfied.
They were bought and sold in the marketplace, then grouped and herded and moved from place to place according to serve whoever purchased them. They were separated from their families because family obligations and loyalties only interfered with their work.
So, over the generations as Pharaoh's slaves YHWH's people had lost their sense of lineage and family heritage. The Hebrew families were scattered all across Pharaoh's vast North African kingdom. But after 400 years in captivity, they had gotten used to this way of life, even comfortable with their situation.
All that, however, changed in the thirteenth month after the Exodus when YHWH's "seating chart" transformed this rag-tag bunch into a People - a kind of People the world has never seen! He caused them to leave behind the comfortable community of friends, peers and co-workers from the days of Egyptian slavery, and knitted them together with their long-lost, forgotten blood relatives. This is because YHWH considers family, tribe and inheritance more important than our vocation, interests or social status, etc.
And this what the Book of Numbers is all about: YHWH's census. Not necessarily of numbers or for YHWH's sake, but so that His people could finally get a good look at who they were, in the grand scheme of things! If you'll remember, there was a "counting"-type census taken of His people just a few months ago (Exodus 30:12-16; 38:25-26), but this one would be very different....This "seating chart" consisted of the various camps according to companies, by tribe and leader.
Please read Numbers 1:1-4:20, if you haven't done so, and you'll see how exacting YHWH was in His instructions for who was to camp where. This was no small task for there were several million people!
Here is something interesting - The Levites were not to be counted in this census:
Numbers 1: 47 But those who were L'vi'im, according to the clan of their fathers, were not counted in this census; 48 because ADONAI had told Moshe, 49 "Do not include the clan of Levi when you take the census of the people of Isra'el. 50 Instead, give the L'vi'im charge over the tabernacle of the testimony, its equipment and everything else connected with it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its equipment, serve in it and set up their camp around it. 51 When the tabernacle is to be moved onward, it is the L'vi'im who are to take it down and set it up in the new location; anyone else who involves himself is to be put to death. 52 The rest of Isra'el are to set up camp, company by company, each man with his own banner. 53 But the L'vi'im are to camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that no anger will come upon the assembly of the people of Isra'el. The L'vi'im are to be in charge of the tabernacle of the testimony."
How did each person know exactly to which Tribe they belonged to and what their lineage was? We can only surmise that it was by supernatural revelation for each person, through Moshe. It must have been amazing to behold as each man was stripped of his "old life" which he had carried with him out of Egypt and given a new identity that revealed who he really was! This maneuver was pure supernatural revelation - for a people descended from several generations of slaves, to declare Hebrew names and father's names, and family history!
One has to wonder how the "mixed multitude" of non-Hebrews who accompanied Moshe and His people out of Egypt were incorporated into the various tribes....
Please think about this: When we look at this particular Parashah, the central "theme" is "order". YHWH provided order to the people in the desert - how to camp, how to prepare, how to march.
Notice which tribe leads the march? Yehudah! (Numbers 2:3) - they lead - they "set out first".
Guess who was charged to carry Torah to the Nations?! Yehudah! (Genesis 49:10 and Micah 4:2)
So, in this Word-picture of the tabernacle in the desert - what "leads it"? Torah! What provides "order" to our lives? Torah! Halleluyah!
Note that when Israel went into Egypt because of the famine (Genesis 40), they were only 70 in number. Then they became slaves of Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14); yet by the time YHWH led them out - they numbered more than 603,000 - counting only the men! (See Numbers 1:46)
Note also something very interesting:
Of the tribe of the Levi, Numbers 3:21 says Gershon was 7,500; Numbers 3:28 says K'hat was 8,600; and Numbers 3:34 says M'rari was 6,200 - this adds up to 22,300.
But Numbers 3:39 says the total Levis were 22,000! Even the rabbis do not have a good explanation for this! The rabbis do not know why the census numbers (in Numbers 1-2) are all "even" - ending in zero.
In reading through these parashahs we see over and over again YHWH's true grace and mercy! Our Elohim simply wants us only to obey Him! At the end of the 40 years in the desert, YHWH says: "Be careful not to forget YHWH your God by not obeying his mitzvot, rulings and regulations that I am giving you today. Otherwise, ... you will become proud-hearted. Forgetting YHWH your God - who brought you out of the land of Egypt, where you lived as slaves; ... you will think to yourself, 'My own power and the strength of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.' No, you are to remember YHWH your God, because it is he who is giving you the power to get wealth, in order to confirm his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as is happening even today." (Deut 8:11-20)
Isn't this what our nation has become today? "...You will become proud-hearted. Forgetting YHWH your God - who brought you out of the land of Egypt, where you lived as slaves; ... you will think to yourself, 'My own power and the strength of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.'"
Well, look at what YHWH says about this! "If you forget YHWH your God, follow other gods and serve and worship them, I am warning you in advance today that you will certainly perish. You will perish just like the nations that YHWH is causing to perish ahead of you, because you will not have heeded the voice of YHWH your God." (Deut 8:9-20)
Hosea 2: 1 Say to your brothers, 'Ammi [My People]!' and to your sisters, 'Ruchamah [Pitied]!' 2 Rebuke your mother, rebuke her; for she isn't my wife, and I'm not her husband. She must remove her whoring from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts. 3 Otherwise, I will strip her naked and place her as she was the day she was born, make her like a desert, place her like a dry land and kill her with thirst. 4 I will have no pity on her children, for they are children of whoring 5 their mother prostituted herself, she who conceived them behaved shamelessly; she said, 'I will pursue my lovers, who give me my food and water, wool, flax, olive oil and wine.' 6 Therefore, I will block her way with thorns and put up a hedge so she can't find her paths. 7 She will pursue her lovers but not catch them. She will seek them but won't find them. Then she will say, 'I will go and return to my first husband; because things were better for me then than they are now.'
8 For she doesn't know it was I who gave her the grain, the wine and the oil; I who increased her silver and gold, which they used for Ba'al. 9 So I will take back my grain at harvest-time and my wine in its season; I will snatch away my wool and flax, given to cover her naked body. 10 Now I will uncover her shame, while her lovers watch; and no one will save her from me. 11 I will end her happiness, her festivals, Rosh-Hodesh, and shabbats, and all her designated times. 12 I will ravage her vines and fig trees, of which she says, 'These are my wages that my lovers have given me.' But I will turn them into a forest, and wild animals will eat them. 13 I will punish her for offering incense on the feast days of the ba'alim, when she decked herself with her earrings and jewels, pursuing her lovers and forgetting me," says ADONAI. 14 "But now I am going to woo her - I will bring her out to the desert and I will speak to her heart.
15 I will give her her vineyards from there and the Akhor Valley as a gateway to hope. She will respond there as she did when young, as she did when she came up from Egypt. 16 "On that day," says ADONAI "you will call me Ishi [My Husband]; you will no longer call me Ba'ali [My Master]. 17 For I will remove the names of the ba'alim from her mouth; they will never again be mentioned by name. 18 When that day comes, I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds in the air and the creeping things of the earth. I will break bow and sword, sweep battle from the land, and make them lie down securely. 19 I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in grace and in compassion; 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you will know ADONAI. 21 When that day comes, I will answer," says ADONAI "I will answer the sky, and it will answer the earth; 22 the earth will answer the corn, wine and oil, and they will answer Yizre'el [God will sow].
This Haftarah reading is all about Hosea and what's happening in his time. YHWH is angry and is speaking metaphorically about what He will do because of the endless sinning and transgressions; He's also speaking about the restoration to come.
Here is a brief outline of the concepts presented, not just in this week's reading of Hosea 2, but in the entire Book of Hosea:
Chapters 1-2: Account of Hosea's marriage with Gomer biographically which is a metaphor for the relationship with Yahweh and Israel.
Chapter 3: Account of Hosea's marriage autobiographically. This is possibly a marriage to different women.
Chapters 4-14:9: Oracle judging Israel, Ephraim in particular, for not living up to the covenant.
No further breakdown of ideas is clear in 4-14:9: Following this, the prophecy is made that someday this will all be changed, that God will indeed have pity on Israel.
Chapter two describes a divorce. This divorce seems to be the end of the covenant between YHWH and the Northern Kingdom. However, it is probable that this was again a symbolic act, in which Hosea divorced Gomer for infidelity, and used the occasion to preach the message of God's rejection of the Northern Kingdom. He ends this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back in love.
In Chapter three, at YHWH's command, Hosea seeks out Gomer once more. Either she has sold herself into slavery for debt, or she is with a lover who demands money in order to give her up, because Hosea has to buy her back. He takes her home, but refrains from sexual intimacy with her for many days, to symbolize perhaps the fact that Israel will be without a king for many years, but that God will take Israel back, even at a cost to Himself.
Chapters 4-14 spell out the allegory at length. Chapters 1-3 speaks of Hosea's family, and the issues with Gomer. Chapters 4-10 contain a series of oracles, or prophetic sermons, showing exactly why YHWH is rejecting the Northern Kingdom (what the grounds are for the divorce). Chapter 11 is God's lament over the necessity of giving up the Northern Kingdom, which is a large part of the people of Israel, whom He loves. YHWH promises not to give them up entirely. Then, in Chapter 12, the prophet pleads for Israel's repentance. Chapter 13 foretells the destruction of the kingdom at the hands of Assyria, because there has been no repentance. In Chapter 14, the prophet urges Israel to seek forgiveness, and promises its restoration, while urging the utmost fidelity to God.
Brit Chadashah reading:
Moving on to the B'rit Chadasha (New Testament), here is a census you'll surely recognize as we read about Josef and Mary who, in order to register for the census, had to travel to Bethlehem - where, as you know, our awesome Messiah was born.
Luke 2: 1. Now it happened in those days that a decree went out from Augustus Caesar that the names of all the people of his dominion should be written down. 2. This census first happened during the governorship of Qurinius in Syria. 3. And everyone went in his own city to be registered. 4. And Yosip was also going up from Nasrath, a city of Galeela into Yehuda to the city of Dawid, which is called Beth-Lekhem, because he was from the house and from the clan of Dawid, 5. With Maryam his bride while she was pregnant, that there they might be registered. 6. And it happened that while they were there, her days of pregnancy were fulfilled. 7. And she bore him a firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room where they could lodge.
And how about this one - a "census" of the members of our body and of the Body of Messiah!
1 Corinthians 12: 12. For as the body is one, and in it are many members; and all those members of the body, though many, are one body; so also is the Mashiyach. 13. For all of us, likewise, by one Spirit, have been immersed into one body, whether Jews or Arameans, whether slaves or free; and all of us have been nourished in one Spirit. 14. For a body also is not one member, but many. 15. For if the foot should say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it, on that account, not of the body? 16. Or if the ear should say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it, on that account, not of the body? 17. And if the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? Or if it were all hearing, where would be the smelling?
18. But now has Elohim placed every one of the members in the body, according to His will. 19. And if they were all one member, where would be the body? 20. But now they are many members, yet but one body. 21. The eye cannot say to the hand, You are not needful to me: nor can the head say to the feet, You are not needful to me. 22. But rather, those members which are accounted weak, are indispensable. 23. And those which we think dishonorable in the body, on them we heap more honor; and those that are not beautiful, on them we put the more decoration.
24. For the honorable members in us, have no need of honor: for Elohim has tempered the body, and given more honor to the member which is inferior; 25. That there might be no conflict in the body, but that all the members, equally, might care for one another; 26. So that, when one member is in pain, they will all sympathize; and if one member is exalted, all the members will be exalted. 27. Now you are the body of Mashiyach, and members in your place. 28. For Elohim has placed in his assembly, first, Shlichim; after them, prophets; after them, teachers; after them, workers of miracles; after them, the gifts of healing, and helpers, and leaders, and (various) kinds of tongues. 29. Are they all Shlichim? Are they all prophets? Are they all teachers? Are they all workers of miracles? 30. Have all of them the gifts of healing? Do they all speak with tongues? Or do they all interpret? 31. And if you are searching for superior gifts, on the other hand, I show to you a better way.
Footnotes from the AENT:
 One the clearest statements about "hierarchy" in the entire NT. The relationship between YHWH and Y'shua is like that of the mind/head to a limb of the body. The arm is not a separate entity from the body, nor does it move in any way other than with the full power and intent of the mind. Y'shua is literally the arm of YHWH in this manner (Exodus 6:6, 23:20-22, Isaiah 53:1). This statement by Rav Shaul proves this idea is not some modernized Nazarene doctrine, but the original doctrine of Mashiyach which is founded in the Tanakh; not the expansion of this in verses 14-28.
 Again the word is "Armaya"-Arameans. All the tribes of Israel are comprised of Hebrews and Arameans. Others are grafted into the faith, first though Torah observance (before Mashiyach came) and then through Mashiyach according to the Renewed Covenant of Torah being written upon the heart. Rav Shaul is assuming his audience is similarly grafted in.
 The word here for "teacher" is malpana, which denotes a person of high intelligence and disciplined study, but who has done so informally, outside of the rabbinical schools. Many people in First Century Israel functioned in this unofficial role, either as village elders or, in Y'shua's case, as itinerant Torah lecturers. Y'shua was frequently called by this title, as well as the more familiar "rabbi". In many cases, malpana was meant perjoratively by his critics, as they held his lack of formal training against him. On the other hand, the rich man in Matthew 19 used it as a compliment asking, "Malpana tava (good teacher), what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
There is so much more that could be said about today's study, and we wholeheartedly urge you to read the cited scriptures through, if you haven't already done so. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write! Thank you for reading our Torah study notes for this week, and we pray for you a blessed week ahead, that may you ever grow in your knowledge of YHWH. And, as always, please let us know if you ever see anything in our studies that sounds "off the mark"! Nobody has the market cornered on absolute Truth; we are all learning and obeying to the best of our abilities....
The next parashah reading:
Parashah 35: Nazo (Take); Numbers 4:21 through 7:89.
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Judges 13:2-25.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Acts 21:17-32.
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