Thursday, May 25, 2017

Parashat Bamidbar ("In the desert") Numbers 1:1-4:20

Parashat Bamidbar ("In the desert")    Numbers 1:1-4:20

Bamidbar translates to "in the desert" and it begins with the census of the shevatim (tribes) and a description of machaneh Yisrael (the Israelite camp). The Levites are not included in the senses as they are responsible for the Mishkan, and have a special status within the nation.

“The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, "Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head." (Numbers 1:1-2)
The LORD had Moses take a census in order to raise funds for the construction of the Mishkan and to provide atonement for shed blood during battle. This collected money was called kesef hakippurim (atonement money), and was to be melted down to create the 100 adanim (sockets) used to hold the pillars of the Mishkan (tabernacle).

It is interesting that the “cost of atonement” was used to hold up the pillars of the Mishkan; we read the prophet Amos 9:11 which states that “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” and we see that in Acts 15 (the Council of Jerusalem) that Hashem is rebuilding a spiritual Mishkan through the work of  Yeshua in which His atonement is holding up the pillars.

Moses (and the chiefs of each tribe) counted a total of 603,550 men of draftable age (20 to 60 years) in Israel. Of these, 22,273 were firstborn sons.   The tribes were then arranged symbolically.
The Mishkan occupied the central location, with the Levites surrounding it.  Moses and the Kohanim camped at the entrance on the east.

The Tribe of Judah was prominent and guarded the entrance to the inner camp of the Levites at the eastern (main) gate. Each tribe's tents were to face the Mishkan. This camp formation (of over 2 million people) was maintained while traveling throughout the wilderness.

The Gershonites - Descendants of Levi's firstborn son Gershon (Ger-shon). This clan was responsible for caring for the Mishkan's woven articles (i.e., the coverings for the walls and roof of the tabernacle). They dwelt on the West side of the Mishkan.
The Kohathites - Descendants of Levi's middle son Kohath (Kehat). This clan carried the sacred objects of the Mishkan. Note that the kohanim are a subset of this clan (see below). They dwelt on the South side of the Mishkan.

The Merarites - Descendants of Levi's youngest son Merari. This clan carried the wooden parts of the Mishkan as well as the ropes and sockets used for the curtain of the courtyard. They dwelt on the North side of the Mishkan.

 The Kohanim - Descendants of Levi's great grandson Aaron. This clan was responsible for performing all of the korbonot (sacrifices) and other rituals on behalf of all of Israel.  Only the Kohanim were allowed to perform avodah (priestly service) on behalf of Israel. They dwelt on the East side of the Mishkan.

Some scholars have pointed out that the arrangement of the tribes details a cross; a short top beam, two arms and a long lower half – but it could be a square.

The north and south arms of the cross represent nearly identical populations of 25% and 26%, each almost exactly a quarter (1/4) of the whole (the outstretched arms). Taken together they represent just over half (51%) of the population. The other 49% is distributed on the east and west arms which are divided into 18% (the head) and 31% (the legs) for a ratio of roughly 3 to 5, the same as the proportions of the Ark of the Covenant (Exo 25:9) which was housed in the heart of the Tabernacle at the center of the camp.

My favourite part of this parashah is the rock phenomena.

According to midrash, a watergiving rock accompanied the Israelites in the desert (the rock was later called the "Well of Miriam"). Whenever the Israelites prepared to camp, the 12 nesi'im (leaders of the tribes) would sing praises to the LORD, and the rock would gush forth four streams of water. One stream surrounded the Mishkan, another surrounded the camp of the Levites, and another surrounded all the Israelites. The fourth stream marked out the boundaries for each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

It is fascinating to note that the Apostle Paul correlated the life-giving Rock that provided supernatural water for the Israelites with the Mashiach Yeshua;  ..and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ”. (1 Corinthians 10:4)    In other words, Yeshua Himself was the source of life for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness of Sinai.    It is still true to this day.    

Shalom  Jon Eaton

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