Shalom All, Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study titled “Bamidbar (In The Wilderness)”: the service of the Levites. Numbers 1:1 – 4:20; Hosea 1:10 – 2:22; Romans 15:1-7. “Adonai spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert [Bamidbar].” (Numbers 1:1). Last week, we finished studying the Book of Leviticus with Parasha Bechukotai. This week’s Torah / Bible study begins the fourth of the five books of Moses, Bamidbar, which means “in the desert” or “wilderness”. While this name is taken from the fifth Hebrew word in verse one, it reflects one of the themes of this book. In this section, God makes it a priority to create an Israelite military force before they set out on their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The Counting of the Army: Bamidbar is called “Numbers” in English because the first four chapters mention censuses of Israelites, the first of which number the men who are able to bear arms. An older Hebrew name for Bamidbar, Sefer Hapikudim (Book of the Countings) also reflects this theme of counting. In chapter one of Bamidbar, the Israelites still camp at Mount Sinai after having received the law, built the Tabernacle, and been instructed in worship. Now before they move forward to the Promised Land, they must be prepared for the threats that lie ahead on the journey. Yahweh commands Moses to take a census of all Israelite males able to bear arms from ages twenty and up. They assembled on the first day of the second month in the second year “And so he counted them in the Desert of Sinai” (Numbers 1:19). All the people of God are real people. Moses and Aaron counted them according to their "genealogical registration by their families, by their fathers' households, according to the number of names, head by head" (Numbers 1:20). This method gave every Israelite the opportunity to tell his name and be counted as an individual of worth. Each person is valuable and unique, a special treasure to God. The census results reveal that the Israelites are mighty in number. The men capable of battle are listed by tribe, totalling 603,550 men: • Reuben: 46,500 • Simeon: 59,300 • Gad: 45,650 • Judah: 74,600 • Issachar: 54,400 • Zebulun: 57,400 • Ephraim: 40,500 • Manasseh: 32,200 • Benjamin: 35,400 • Dan: 62,700 • Asher: 41,500 • Naphtali: 53,400 Revelation 19 offers us a glimpse of the Messiah as commander of Yahweh’s hosts prepared for battle. He rides at the head of the host of heaven. As in the beginning of the book of Numbers, the hosts of Yahweh are arrayed for war, ready to swoop into action. Angelic hosts will accompany Messiah into battle at the time of the second coming. Yahshua has twelve legions of angels at His disposal. The twelve legions correspond to the twelve tribes. Revelation 19:14 describes “armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” The reference to the fine linen suggests more than just angels. Revelation 19:7-8 describes the righteous bride of Messiah as those clothed “in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8). The ranks of the heavenly cavalry, mounted upon the white horses, include the righteous of the generations. The Elite Service of the Levites “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). The Levites are not counted in the census since they are not to be conscripted into the military. Their function is to minister and intercede for the people. Num 1:51 And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. Num 1:53 But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony. The Levites who descend from Aaron are anointed as priests and given priestly duties (Exodus 28:1, 29:9). Those Levites who do not descend from Aaron function in subordinate roles to the Aaronite priests as their servants. These Levites replace the firstborn sons of Israel who were originally given this task but lost that privilege due to their worship of the Golden Calf. The Levites, however, remained faithful during that time and earned God’s favour (Exodus 13:2, 13:11–13, 32:25–26; Numbers 3:12–13). As servants to the priests, the Levites are placed in charge of the furnishings and structure of the Tabernacle, taking it all down, carrying it, and setting it back up as the Israelites moved through the wilderness. This is such a holy assignment that only the Levites are allowed to approach the Tabernacle. Any unauthorized person coming near would be punished with death (Numbers 1:47–51). The Levites are also required to set up their tents around the Tabernacle (not in one location as the other tribes). They form a barrier to prevent the Israelites from coming too close to the Tabernacle in order to prevent the wrath of God from falling upon the Israelite camp (Numbers 1:53). All Israelites are to camp at a specified distance from the Tent of Meeting, far enough away to protect the holiness of the Tabernacle and yet close enough for the Israelites to come for the meetings on foot. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: ‘The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.’” (Numbers 2:1–2). According to Divine placement, the 12 tribes of Israel camp beyond the Levite circle in four groups of three tribes each: • Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun to the East • Reuben, Simeon, and Gad to the South; • Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin to the West; and • Dan, Asher, and Naphtali to the North. Maybe because sunlight comes from the East, that is where Moses, Aaron, and his sons camp, since they are great, holy men responsible for carrying the light of God to the nation. Each tribe has its own prince or leader (nasi / Numbers 2:3) and distinctive flag or banner (degel / Numbers 2:2) with its own particular tribal emblem and colour. The colours are thought to correspond to the precious stones on the breastplate of the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol). These symbols are considered a sign of God’s great love for each tribe of Israel, as it says in the Song of Songs: “His banner [degel] over me is love” (v. 2:4). Even while travelling, the Israelites kept to their particular formation around the Tabernacle. According to Rabbinic commentary (Midrash), that formation allowed Korah (a Levite) to conspire with Datan, Abiram, and On (Reubenites) to mutiny against the leadership of Moses (Numbers 16:1). Since they lived in close proximity on the south side of the Tabernacle, they used the opportunity to foment a rebellion. Of course, this is a perfect illustration of the importance of carefully choosing our companions. The Bible teaches us that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). The Tests on the Journey to the Promised land. The book of Numbers tells the story of the Israelites' journey from Mount Sinai to Canaan. Along the way, the congregation of Israel faced tests and challenges as they progressed toward their ultimate destination: the land of promise. They met both failures and triumphs and learned important, timeless lessons. The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is an apt metaphor for the spiritual journey through life. Just as Israel's journey began when God liberated them from Egypt, our spiritual path begins with a great salvation when we meet the Messiah. Just as God brought Israel to Mount Sinai, Messiah brings us to the revelation of Torah. Just as Israel's goal was the Promised Land, our ultimate destination is eternal life in the world to come. Between here and there we face tests, trials and all manner of adventures. Like the children of Israel, we may face warfare, temptations, discontentment and agonizing hardships. As with the Israelites in the wilderness, our success or failure is determined by our reactions to these trials. Paul used a similar metaphor. He compared the life of faith to a race run by athletes. The competitors in the race keep their eyes on the prize ahead. Though Paul was a mighty apostle and confident in his salvation, he did not regard himself as if he had already arrived at his goal: Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet. ... I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in the Messiah Yahshua (Philippians 3:13-14). In his race metaphor, Paul declared, "I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it" (1 Corinthians 9:23). He was concerned that, after having preached to others, he would find himself disqualified from the race (1 Corinthians 9:27). If those were Paul's sentiments, how much more so should we be concerned with the prize that lies ahead! The book of Numbers illustrates the hazards in this race. The generation of Israelites who left Mount Sinai never did reach the Promised Land. The journey through life's spiritual wilderness is fraught with difficulties and dangers. Paul said, "If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Timothy 2:5). We need to be mindful of the Bible's rules for this journey. Each day we need to recommit ourselves to pressing forward and keeping our eyes on the goal that lies ahead and how we get the prize Mat 19:17 ... if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments (all of them, not only the so called ten). This does not mean that if believers fail, God sends them to damnation. Only those who do not repent. He sent Israel back into Egypt and other gentile nations as He warned in Deuteronomy. However, when they prayed and repented as did Daniel, He also said He would forgive and He did. There are consequences for how we conduct ourselves, and there is rich reward for those who stay and endure the course to the end. House of the Father. If Gentile believers are grafted in to Israel, with which of the twelve tribes of Israel should the Gentile believer identify? ________________________________________ The census in the wilderness illustrates the family structure and relationship of the nation of Israel. All the children of Israel were one large family. The hierarchical family relationships reveal the Bible's patriarchal worldview. The breakdown of the nation into tribe, clan and household demonstrates the strong central position of fathers. The entire nation looked back to one common father. They were the descendents of Jacob. That's why they were called "children of Israel." (Israel is another name for Jacob.) Each Israelite could trace his line of descent through one of the twelve sons of Jacob. That line of descent formed his or her tribal identity. Those who were descended from a common father were referred to as a tribe. The twelve sons of Jacob were fathers over the tribes. The tribes of Israel were further broken down into large extended families. The Hebrew word for "family" is mishpachah (משפחה). However, when used in the tribal sense, it does not refer to a nuclear family household; it refers to the large extended family of a common forefather within a tribe. A better English word is "clan." A clan is like a sub-tribe—a tribe within a tribe. Every clan was composed of many households. The Hebrew word for "household" is beit av (בית אב), a term that literally translates as "house of a father." The father's household was composed of himself, his wife (or wives), children and grandchildren. The common denominator in all these family rankings is the central position of a father. In the biblical world, fatherhood was the essential ingredient for family and identity. Isn't that chauvinistic? Not from the perspective of the biblical woman. She regarded her father and husband as her prestige and her identity. They were the affirmation of her femininity. They provided her protection, sustenance and dignity. It's a different way of thinking from what we have today. The patriarchal worldview explains why Paul was so eager to establish spiritual paternity for the Gentile believers. To be reckoned as part of the nation, the Gentile believers needed to come under the household of Israel's fathers. In Paul's theology, Gentile believers are adopted into the family of Israel. Jew and Gentile alike, we all share in the person of Messiah and are fellow heirs, citizens in the Israel of God—the Kingdom of Messiah. We have all been brought near by the same atonement and given the same Torah. Still, a Gentile believer might wonder which tribe of Israel he is to be identified with. Since the Gentile disciple's participation in Israel is only by means of faith in Yahshua the son of David, the Gentile's tribal affinity is naturally with David's tribe: the tribe of Judah. Haftarah (Prophetic Section): United Under One Authority “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered” (Hosea 1:10[2:1]). Usually there is a common theme between the study sections of the law and the prophets. The connection in today’s study from the Book of Hosea (Hosea 1:10-2:20 [2:1–22]) is the wilderness and the numbering of the people of Israel. Hosea, in fact, prophesies that Israel’s numbers will grow in number like the sand of the sea. Hosea prophesies that the two houses of Judah and Israel will eventually be re-unified in the Messianic Era under a single leader, as also foreseen by Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, among other prophets and writers. (Daniel 7:13–14; Isaiah 9:6–7, 11:1–16; Ezekiel 37:15–28; Zechariah 14). This reuniting of Israel and Judah is also the purpose of the Messiah’s first earthly appearance and death and is also spoken of in Romans 11; Rom_11:26 “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”: It is not a spiritual Israel application. If we recall, the tribes of Israel were scattered among the gentile nations by the Assyrians. Judah were also taken into captivity by the Babylonians; but were not scattered. They returned to Jerusalem with Nehemiah and Ezra. “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:11 [2:2], also 3:3–5), Because of this theme of assembling together in unity under one head, this portion is read before Shavuot (called Pentecost), the time when all the children came as one people to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. Likewise, at Shavuot, the disciples of Yahshua waited in unity of mind, heart, and purpose for the coming of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) (Acts 1:14) which fell on the 11 apostles (Judas being dead) who he had chosen, saw Him during the forty days between His death and ascension and met the other criteria of Acts 1:2-4 . “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133). Redemption and Marriage In the prophetic book of Hosea, God uses Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute as a real life parable to reveal His great love for Israel. After Hosea’s wife bears him children, Yahweh tells Hosea to send his wife and children away. Hosea obeys; but declares his love for them, despite his wife’s straying. Through this dispersion of his family, Hosea comes to understand God’s absolute commitment to Israel despite her straying. With this insight, Hosea rebukes Israel for engaging in adulterous affairs with pagan deities and being an unfaithful spouse to Yahweh. An act called “fornication”; but many mistake it to mean sex before marriage. Yet just as Hosea takes back his wife who played the harlot, God promises to take back His unfaithful wife, Israel. He promises that Israel will repent and be betrothed to Him forever. Under the law a wife cannot remarry unless her husband dies. For that reason, her husband Yahweh, in the body of Yahshua, had to die and that happened at Passover (Rev 1:18). “I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD” (Hosea 2:19–20 [2:21–22]). This concluding passage of the Haftarah is a wonderful prophecy of redemption, which is recited by Orthodox Jewish men each morning. It is meant to be symbolic of the betrothal of God and Israel. Rom 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: Many have falsely said that God is finished with His Chosen People and has replaced them with Christians. However, Bible prophecy clearly reveals that this will never be so. In fact, in these Last Days, God is moving among His people to physically and spiritually restore them. Just like when Israel was formed it consisted of Hebrews and their non Hebrew household that went into Egypt and multiplied into a nation. Today Israel also consist of Hebrews by birth and adopted believers who have joined themselves to the commandments of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Rom_1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom_2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; Rom 2:10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Rom 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Rom 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Rom 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Col 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Act 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Act 10:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. SHALOM.