Torah: B’ha’alotkha (When you set up), B’midbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:16
Haftarah: Z’kharyah (Zechariah) 2:14(10)-4:7
Besekh: Mattityahu (Matthew) 14:14-21 (as suggested by FFOZ)
As we begin B’midbar 8, there is instruction for Aharon (Aaron), which is thus an instruction for all Cohen (Priests) on how to properly set up the menorah in the Tabernacle. The menorah is the only item used as a symbol for Israel, even yet today, that was specifically designed by HASHEM. The Rabbinic Sages from days of old deduced that the three lights on the right symbolized those involved in spiritual purposes, while the three lights on the left symbolized those involved in secular duties. All lights together teach that all of the activities of faithful men should be directed to HASHEM, who is to be the “center” of our lives. Other commentators see the Seven Spirits of HASHEM in the seven lamps: “The Ruach [Spirit] of ADONAI will rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and insight, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of ADONAI” (Isaiah 11:2). Back in Sh’mot (Exodus) 30:7-8 are instructions for Aharon (referring to his descendants in the Priesthood also) to tend to the menorah lamps twice daily. Any Cohen could light a daily menorah; on Yom Kippur it was to be lit only by the Cohen Gadol (High Priest).
Looking back at Vayikra (Leviticus) 24:2-4, where there are instructions for lighting the menorah, we could notice a contradiction of sorts. 24:2 & 4 speak of keeping the lamp burning continually. However, 24:3 says that the Cohen was to keep the light going from evening until morning. The explanation comes from the Hebrew word תּמיד tamid, generally translated “continually.” A more understandable translation would be “regularly.” The ESV actually translates it as such: “He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.” In the mornings, the lamps were extinguished, cleaned, and prepared for the evening, when they were lit again. The entrance curtain was made of linen, so no light was needed during the day inside the Tabernacle, and it was probably rolled back at times also. Sh’mot 30:8 tells about Aharon lighting the lamps in the evening. 1 Samuel 3:3 relates how the very young child Samuel was sleeping in the Temple when HASHEM first called him; many versions say that “The lamp of God had not yet gone out.” The Septuagint translates that line as, “And the lamp of God was burning before it was trimmed.” In other words, it was probably near dawn when HASHEM called to him. In fact, Peterson, in the Message, translated is as, “It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning.” This can expand our understanding of Yochanan (John) 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” Yeshua is our light in our darkness; as the outer branches of the menorah are to amplify the light of the center light, so too our lives are to amplify His light to the world around us.
Then Moshe was instructed to separate the Levi’im (Levites) from the rest of Israel, in order for them to perform their work in the Tabernacle. The Levi’im were then consecrated as substitutes for the first-born of all of Israel. (I want to mention that the Cohen, the Priests, were to be descended directly and only from the line of Aharon (Aaron). The Priests at the Temple during the days of Yeshua were a false Priesthood, were not Aaronic descendants, and had either been appointed by Rome or had bought their position.) Many people do not realize that the Levi’im were not Cohen, nor did they perform the Priestly duties. Their duty was to serve the Cohen, and perform the various physical duties around the Tabernacle; they also would become the musicians, both instrumentalists and vocalists.
Moshe “cleansed” the Levi’im by sprinkling them with the Water of Purification. This was the water that had been mixed with the ashes of a red heifer, along with cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet. We have a foreshadowing of Messiah Yeshua here, as noted in Hebrews 9:13-14, “For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!” The Levi’im were not allowed into the sacred areas of the Tabernacle, nor were they permitted to perform any of the sacred rituals, so they did not require a dedication service as intense as what the Cohen underwent.
Next, the Levi’im were to “shave their whole body with a razor”. Some commentators believe that in the Hebrew this simply means “to cut their hair”. The reasoning is that: 1) shaving to the skin as we know it today was not a part of the Hebrew culture of the time; 2) the statement is a euphemism which simply means to cut the hair of their head because the hair sits atop the body as a crown or a covering; 3) the term “razor” refers simply to a sharp object used to cut hair. Thus, they were not actually “shaving,” but “cutting”. Then they were to wash their clothes and cleanse themselves. “Wash their clothes” meant they were to undergo a ritual total immersion in pure running water. Christian “baptism” is rooted in the Jewish custom of t’vilah, or immersion. The mikveh was the location, the “baptistry,” as it were. Immersion is, for believers, identification with our Messiah Yeshua, indicating restoration and renewal, in a sense a return to the Garden. But the ritual of immersion is not what saves; rather salvation is a matter of the heart between Yeshua and one’s self. Immersion is a major step into a total change in lifestyle for a believer.
(In the Didache, an early writing explaining the teachings of the Jewish apostles to new Gentile believers, we are taught this about immersion into Yeshua (7:1-3): it was to be done in “living [fresh, running] water;” if that was not available, other water was acceptable. If there was not sufficient water to immerse, pouring water on the head was then acceptable.)
If you remember the history, the Levi’im were the only tribe to stand with Moshe in the golden calf incident (Sh’mot/Exodus 32); thus the Levi’im were appointed to take the position originally intended to be filled by the firstborn of Israel, that of servitude in the Tabernacle and later Temple. The laying on of hands and all that is described in these verses indicated a transfer of responsibility from the firstborn to the Levi’im. Representing the “offering,” as it were, from Israel to HASHEM, the tribes of Israel were to lay their hands on the Levi’im, dedicating them to their positions. Some translations say, “lean their hands upon them,” which is the same as laying on of hands. The ArtScroll Commentary notes that by “leaning” hands upon someone, the one being leaned upon is elevated to a position of distinction, as when Moshe (Moses) leaned upon Y’hoshua (Joshua) as his successor (coming up in B’midbar 27:23). The Levi’im were to serve from ages 25-50, with the first five years seeming to be more of an apprenticeship, then actual service from ages 30-50. After age 50, they would still assist the younger Levi’im in the Tabernacle, but were not to perform any of the heavy burden work. Rashi and Ramban disagree as to whether the 50-year-olds left the service of music also.
The tendency of many in our modern times is to scoff at such things as animal sacrifice and all of the Temple rituals, when in reality we ought to be thankful, for it all is a picture of the justice of the Creator. We may not understand it, but the Tabernacle/Temple service demonstrates the truths of substitution and atonement. In HASHEM’s justice system, Yeshua was, in a heavenly way, legally able to be the ultimate substitute (Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 5:1-14), bringing us the ultimate atonement. He is our payment, or yet deeper, He is our ransom. No doubt Yeshua had, as our Great High Priest (as Hebrews 4:14 describes Him), the legal right to pass the atonement on to a sacrificial animal, but instead He took on the role Himself, and ended the cycle of sacrifices for sin atonement.
In B’midbar 9 are instructions for anyone who was unable to observe Pesakh (Passover) at the prescribed time – they could observe it a month later in the same method. A גֵּר ger “foreigner, alien, guest;” i.e., a Gentile was allowed to observe Pesakh along with the Jewish people, observing it according to the rules of Pesakh in the Torah. It is a crime for a Jew to not observe Pesakh.
We also learn in chapter 9 about the cloud that covered the tabernacle, appearing as fire at night. When the cloud lifted above the tabernacle on a given day, the people would pack up and begin to travel. When the cloud stopped, the people stopped and set up camp again. B’midbar 9:22: “Whether it was two days, a month or a year that the cloud remained over the tabernacle, staying on it, the people of Isra’el remained in camp and did not travel; but as soon as it was taken up, they traveled.”
In B’midbar 10, Moshe is told to make two silver trumpets חֲצֹצְרָה khats-ots’rah. The trumpets depicted on the Arch of Titus were a picture of these trumpets, since they were used in Temple service. The chapter gives commands for various “blowings” of the trumpets. Each blast followed a particular pattern. Two horns blowing together meant that the entire congregation was to gather; one horn meant only the leaders of each tribe were to gather. This call was a teki’ah, one long steady blast. The same term is used in Joel 2:15, with the call to a solemn assembly, this time with a shofar. When blowing an alarm, in B’midbar 10, the term was a teru’ah, which is 9 short, staccato blasts. Teru’ah is sometimes translated as “shout.” Daniel Lancaster, of FFOZ, notes that this may be what is meant when Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the blast of God’s shofar…” [emphasis mine]. A third type of blowing, not mentioned in this chapter, but used in synagogues is called the shevarim, which is 3 slurred blasts, from a lower note to a higher note. On Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown with a defined pattern of the above listed blasts, for a total of 100 blasts, followed by a final long blast, called a teki’ah gadolah. In the Temple, both shofar and trumpet were in use by the Levi’im for various calls and purposes. The silver trumpets were designated specifically for Temple use; that is why the shofar only is used in synagogue use today. Yochanan (John) speaks of seven trumpet blasts in the book of Revelation. If we picture the book of Revelation as a judgment scene taking place within the Temple in Heaven, then we can understand the trumpets being put to use again.
וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה קוּמָה יְיָ וַיְהִי בִּנְסֽוֹעַ הָאָרֹן
Viy’hee been-so-ah ha-a-ron vi-yo-mer Moshe “Ku-ma Adonai”
And when the ark journeyed, Moshe said, “Arise ADONAI,”
וְיָנֻֽסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶֽיךָ מִפָּנֶֽיךָ וְיָפֻֽצוּ אֹיְבֶֽיךָ
“V’ya-fu-tsu oy-veh-kha v’ya-nu-su m’sa-neh-kha mee-pa-neh-kha.”
“May your enemies be scattered,
and those that hate You flee from Your presence.”
This phrase, from B’midbar 10:35, is sung or chanted in synagogues around the world as the Torah scroll is removed from its cabinet and carried around the room. Those in attendance touch the Scroll cover with a Bible, a Siddur (prayer book), or the tzitzit from a prayer shawl, never the fingers, then touch that object to their lips with a kiss of respect. The scene pictures the original giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, from Sh’mot (Exodus) 24:3 & 7, “Moshe came and told the people everything ADONAI had said, including all the rulings. The people answered with one voice: ‘We will obey every word ADONAI has spoken….’” Then he [Moshe] took the book of the covenant and read it aloud, so that the people could hear; and they responded, ‘Everything that ADONAI has spoken, we will do and obey’” (emphasis added). Those who love ADONAI and His Torah are in essence saying the same thing when the Torah is honored in our day – we will do and obey.
In Messianic Judaism, the Torah scroll, written on a lamb’s skin, represents the Lamb of God, Yeshua, and that is why a Torah scroll is honored and respected. The scroll itself is not worshiped, but it is honored as the written word of ADONAI, which in turn represents the living Word, Yeshua. And as the fact is understood that Yeshua has been around eternally (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17) from before the Creation as a member of the mysterious triune Godhead, we understand better His statement from Matthew 28:20, “…obey everything that I have commanded you.” Simply put, if we love Him we obey Him. 1 Yochanan (John) 2:3-4 says this, “The way we can be sure we know him [Yeshua] is if we are obeying his commands. Anyone who says, ‘I know him,’ but isn’t obeying his commands is a liar — the truth is not in him.” Whether a commandment is from Leviticus or Galatians, our Creator expects us to respond in an affirmative manner. We read in Luke 24:27: “Then, starting with Moshe and all the prophets, he explained to them the things that can be found throughout the Tanakh concerning himself” (emphasis mine).
What then is the purpose in us honoring the Word, obeying the Word? Simply this: “For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). And from Isaiah 43:21, “The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise.” All that we do is to honor Him; all that we do should be a form of praise unto Him. Ancient Israel did not separate the sacred and the secular. That is a good lesson for us in this “modern” world.
The words of Moshe above signaled not only a statement of ADONAI’s authority as Israel set out from an encampment, but also a prophetic word that will ring true in these last days. “As the ark journeyed…,” that is, as the entire Word of ADONAI, and thus the God and Messiah of Israel, is held to a higher standard of love, respect and obedience by His children – Jew and Gentile alike, then the G-d of Israel will arise and scatter His enemies, and those that hate Him will flee from His presence.
Ever notice how easy it is to complain when things aren’t going our way? We find this in B’midbar 11:4-6, when the people of Israel began (once again) to complain about their hardships to ADONAI. “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt — it cost us nothing! — and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, the garlic! But now we’re withering away, we have nothing to look at but this man [manna].” The late Keith Green wrote a great song, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, about this insult to God, called “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt.” Click here to listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qokgHJeUqTg
So HASHEM sent them meat – enough meat (quail) to make them sick of meat. Mmmm, tastes just like chicken! During this time, Moshe complained to HASHEM that he could no longer lead Israel by himself. HASHEM had him appoint 70 elders to lead, under Moshe. These men constituted the original Sanhedrin, which acted more as less as a Supreme Court over Israel. HASHEM came down in the cloud, and imparted the Spirit that was on Moshe onto the 70, who all began to prophesy. This included 2 men who were still out in the camp. Someone worriedly reported this to Moshe, who calmly responded that he wished that the entire congregation would prophesy in such a manner, that they all had the Spirit of HASHEM to such a degree.
Moshe was apparently discouraged and exhausted at this point, such a burden the people constantly were. His faith failed when he did not understand how HASHEM could provide enough meat for the entire population, plus the need for help to lead the people. HASHEM replied with a rhetorical question: “Has ADONAI’s arm grown short?” In other words, “I’ve done many might miracles for Israel up to this time. Have I run out of miracles?” A good reminder whenever we become discouraged – look back and remember what great things ADONAI has done. “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?… I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old… You are the God who works wonders…” (Psalm 77:9,11,14).
A spirit of jealousy overcame Miriam and Aharon, in chapter 12, as they complained about Moshe’s wife, plus they felt they were his co-equals in authority. Many commentators feel that the Cushite woman (literally, an Ethiopian) was a second wife for Moshe. There is no further mention in Torah about Zipporah after Sh’mot (Exodus) 18, when Yitro (Jethro) brought her and Moshe’s sons out to see Moshe, so it is unknown whether she was alive at this time or not, or had left him. The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary says that this “Cushite” most likely was not Zipporah, as it was unlikely that Miriam would complain about her after such a long time had passed since Moshe had lived in Midian, way before the Exodus. Some families however, not all, can be notorious for bringing up things of the past if they feel the need for a vengeance of some sort. For whatever reason, the complaining began. Anyone who is or has been a parent, or remembering their own childhood, will understand this parental statement: “YOU COME HERE RIGHT NOW!” The child knew he was in trouble. HASHEM said the same to Moshe and his siblings, in vs 4: “YOU THREE COME OUT TO THE TENT OF MEETING [RIGHT NOW]!” Uh-oh! It is such a grievous sin to HASHEM when someone “disses” His selected leaders. “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15, 1 Chronicles 16:22). Moshe was the “greatest,” so Miriam was instantly afflicted with tzara’at (which is where the rabbis first got the opinion that this punishment was caused by lashon hara, evil talk). Aharon begged for her healing, for which Moshe then beseeched HASHEM. She was healed, but she still had to go outside the camp for seven days, until she was ritually fit to enter the camp again. Some traditions hold that Aharon was also stricken, but it was not mentioned to honor the role of Cohen HaGadol. Clement, a disciple of Kefa (Peter) mentioned this in a book he wrote, “On account of envy, Aaron and Miriam had to make their abode outside the camp” (1 Clement 4:11). Other commentators say that Aharon was not afflicted, as he was merely an accomplice. This is based on their understanding of the Hebrew wording for “began criticizing,” which is feminine, in the third-person singular. Upon Miriam’s return to camp, the cloud lifted, and the people moved on.
In the Haftarah, the prophet Z’kharyah (Zechariah) writes of a beautiful future picture when Israel is the head nation of the world, and ADONAI has promised to come live with them. The Gentile nations will join with Israel in praise. The Kehunah (Priesthood) will be restored. This is the true “Big Kahuna”🙄! We see hasatan, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10; Job 1:9, 2:5), accusing the Cohen Gadol Y’hoshua of sin. ADONAI vindicated Y’hoshua, clothed him in pure white garments. Again, I believe that here we can picture a judgment scene taking place within the Temple in Heaven, as we did above in a scene from Revelation. The connection to the Torah is the scene of a splendid golden menorah, with two olive trees beside it, providing continuous oil. There is so much to go into in this haftarah reading, but that is for another study at another time.
The suggested Mattityahu (Matthew) reading is from a day when Yeshua returned from the wilderness, following a time alone with His Father. When He came back, a huge crowd was waiting for Him. He felt compassion for them, and healed the sick. Then he fed them, 5000 men, plus women and children. That’s a lot of bread and fish. This can be considered a reflection, or continuation, of something we saw above in the Torah: HASHEM replied with a rhetorical question: “Has ADONAI’s arm grown short?” In other words, “I’ve done many mighty miracles for Israel up to this time. Have I run out of miracles?” At that time, HASHEM felt compassion for Israel, and fed them. Here, Yeshua felt compassion for the people, and fed them. Both instances are a picture of miraculous provision.
The God who did those miracles still does them today. Expect them in faith. Sometimes the miracle is just sensing His presence while going through a valley. He may or may not deliver as we desire, but He is there when we ask Him to be. “You make me know the path of life; in your presence is unbounded joy, in your right hand eternal delight” (Psalm 16:11).
שַׁאֲלוּ שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם – Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
B’rakhot v’todah rabbah
(Blessings & thank you very much)
This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you
into heaven, will come back to you in just the
same way as you saw him go into heaven.
(Acts 1.11 CJB)