Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #39: Hukkat (Regulation) B’midbar (Numbers) 19:1-22:1
Read with Parashah #40 in regular years
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 11:1-33
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 3:9-21; 4:3-30; 12:27-50
I am focusing on Parashah #39. Please read Parashah #40 for your continued learning.
This parashah begins with G-d addressing the issue of how to cleanse the camp after the defilement caused by those who dies in the plague and those who had to handle the bodies. “Anyone who touches a corpse, no matter whose body it is, will be unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11).” They must cleanse themselves with the ashes of the red heifer that was slaughtered. This heifer had to be without blemish, completely red, and never have been placed under a yoke. The symbolism in this narrative equates to Yahshua, who was a Lamb without blemish who was accepted as a total burnt offering (consecrated); an Olah offering to G-d for the sins of the world. El’azar became unclean while working with this offering and had to undergo ritual cleansing himself before he could reenter the camp. Again, it is symbolic that one man “became sin” while preparing the way for cleansing for others. Yahshua “became sin” for us in order to provide a way to salvation. It was imperative for those touching the dead bodies to cleanse themselves on the third and seventh days lest they be cut off from the people of Israel because the water for purification was not sprinkled on them. “He will be unclean; his uncleanliness is still on him (Num. 19:13). Similarly, we must be cleansed of our sin through repentance; our sins covered by the blood of Yahshua as blood purifies by absorbing defilement, and cleansed by the Living Water (Yahshua; HaTorah). Detailed instructions concerning this process follow that apply to the people of Israel and the foreigners staying with them. Anyone who wants to be included in the covenants of Israel must follow G-d’s rules; Gentiles, fellow travelers, foreigners. The red heifer is slaughtered outside the camp just as Yahshua was taken outside Jerusalem to Golgotha (place of the skull) to be crucified. This was so named for the shape of the hill is like a skull.
The narrative changes the subject to the death and burial of Miryam with nothing more said about her life. We don’t know exactly how much time passed between her death and when the people started complaining again about the lack of water and the food they had in Egypt. Ah, the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. How short our memories seem to be when we want something, rather than focusing on the positive. This is an example of the unrestrained animal soul. Again, Moshe and Aharon run to the Tent of Meeting, prostrate themselves before Adonai and the glory of Adonai appeared to them (Num. 20:6). Moshe’s response to G-d’s instructions about how to obtain water from the rock cost him entry into the Land. G-d was to be glorified by having Moshe speak to the rock by which Adonai would cause water to flow from it; enough for everyone and their livestock. Instead, Moshe is so overwhelmed with frustration at the continued complaints of the people, that he takes out his anger on the rock, striking it twice after stating “Listen here, you rebels! Are we supposed to bring you water from this rock?” There are two problems here. The first is that he disobeyed Adonai’s command to speak to the rock; a gentler approach with no physical contact with the rock, which would be even more miraculous that physical contact. The second problem is that Moshe refers to “we” as in he and Aharon as if they could bring water from the rock instead of glorifying Adonai. Again, the animal soul ruled in this case. It is easy to empathize with Moshe and Aharon in this scenario. How difficult it must have been to lead about 1.2 million people through the desert with such frequent complaining. Yet, G-d is ever patient with us and repeatedly instructs us to be kind, accept our trials and tribulations with calm and confidence that He has our backs and that these events are for our own good. G-d is glorified and His power is brought to perfection in weakness and our response to such situations so well described by Sha’ul in Romans 8:28-39 and 2 Cor. 12:1-10.
After being told that he and Aharon will not bring the people to the land that was their inheritance, one might expect them to pout or rebel. Yet, Moshe continues to lead the people as G-d ordained him to do. He sends messengers ahead of him to the king of Edom who is Esav. Israel is again greeted by a threat of overwhelming force (Num. 20:20-21) as in Gen. 32:4,33:1). Moshe promises that the people will stay on the King’s Highway and not venture to the right or left and will not drink their water without paying for it. This time, negotiations fail and Israel was forced to take another route. When the people arrived at Mount Hor which was near the for Aharon to die. The role was passed from father to son and the people mourned for 30 days.
The next segment is full of prophecy concerning Yahshua and the requirement to look to Him only as the way of salvation. The people complain yet again. Initially, it was brought on by the detour to stay clear of Edom. But old complaints persisted about food and water with the people stating that “there’s no real food, there’s no water, and we’re sick of this miserable stuff we’re eating” (Num. 20:5). Really? Calling the manna sent from G-d himself miserable stuff. As bad as this was, step back and think for a moment on out complaints to G-d and decide if we are any more righteous. We have the complete Torah at our disposal for reproof, instruction and comfort. Yet, we complain. Some complain about not being allowed to wat bacon or shrimp. Others lament not being allowed to conduct business on Shabbat or attend “fun” activities in lieu of obeying G-d’s command for Shabbat observance. The list is endless just as was that of the Israelites concerning all the types of foods they complained about not having. This narrative should speak to our hearts as we compare the Israelites complaints and G-d’s responses. Remember, He never changes. His commands and instructions for living back then are just as applicable today. Adonai’s response to the latest complaints of the people took the form of a serpent. Adonai sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Those remaining went to Moshe, repented of their sin of complaining against him and Adonai, and asked for him to pray to Adonai to remove the snakes. He prayed for them and was instructed by Adonai to make a snake and lift it up on a pole. When anyone who was bitten looked upon it, he lived. This parallels what we must do to be reconciled to G-d and obtain salvation in the end. we must look up to the execution stake of Yahshua, repent of our past sins (Romans 3:25; 2 Peter 1:9) and emulate His life by following G-d’s instructions out of love and obedience (John 14). Yahshua refers to this account later as he tells Nicodemus how to obtain eternal life (John 3:14-16). The “lifting up” of the Son of man will become the way of salvation for all who are condemned to die without Him.
Previously, Israel had to take many detours around Edom. Even though it was a more tortuous route, G-d expressly commanded them to show kindness to Edom. In contrast, G-d commands Israel to fight the Amorites when attempts at peace fail. Previously, Sichon invaded Mo’av and seized the lands on the Yarden. Now, the poel describing Sichon’s victory over Mo’av is quoted in the context of Israel’s victory. There is no mercy for Canaanites who will not accept peace. Israel lived in the land of the Emori and went on to defeat Og, the king of Bashan. The lesson is that we should always offer a peaceful solution first, just as Israel has and continues to do with the Palestinians to no avail, and trust G-d for the victory. We must learn to have faith in Yahshua’s sacrifice beyond human reason. Take off your water wings and jump; He will catch you.
Yiftach is despised because his mother was a prostitute. He was driven out of his home by his own family. He lived as an outcast until his town of Gil’ad (Rugged country) is about to be attacked by the Ammonites (Judges 11:4). He consents to take charge only if the people of Gil’ad make him Chief and they agree. He sent messengers to the king of Amon to ask why they were planning to invade Gil’ad. The response was that the king accused Israel of taking territory from them from the Amon to the Yabok and the Yarden. Yiftach sets the story straight and tells the king the history of recent events and G-d’s intervention on Israel’s behalf; that Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, in Aro’er and its villages and in all the cities on the banks of the Arnon for three hundred years. He asked why had the king not tried to take the land back at that time? He confirms that he did no wrong to the king or the people of ‘Amon and that the error was on the king to war against Gil’ad. Yiftach tells the king that he will leave the judging as to who is right and wrong to G-d. Unfortunately, the king paid no heed to this message.
The Spirit of G-d came upon Yiftach and he made a vow that he would soon regret. He tells G-d that if he is given victory, he will make a sacrifice of the first thing that went out of his door of his house as a burnt offering (Judges 11:31). G-d honored this vow and granted the Israelites victory. But as Yiftach returned to his house, his only child, a daughter, came dancing out to meet him. He immediately tore his clothes and asked her how she could cause him such pain. Of course, she could not know of the vow he made to G-d. The next verses (Judges 11:40) describe the faith and obedience of a young girl to G-d. She learned of her father’s vow to G-d and did not dissuade him from keeping it. She only asked for two months to go to the mountains and spend time with her friends to mourn, as she would never marry. She returned “and he did with her what he had vowed; she had remained a virgin” (Judges 11:39). This narrative provides another illustration of the care we must take when making a vow. Numbers 30:1-2 reads “This is what the L-rd has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the L-rd, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” To safeguard from such pain and condemnation, Yahshua went on to say in James 5:12 “But above all. My brothers, do not swear either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” Other references that address this issue are found in Ecc. 5:5, Matt. 5;33-37, Num. 30:10-15. Num. 30:6-8. We must learn to think before we speak, and speak according to the instructions in G-d’s Torah.
Nicodemus holds the office of teacher among the Pharisees but he does not understand the concept of being born from above as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven (John 3:4,7,12). Yahshua alluded to the account of the bronze serpent being lifted up in the wilderness. Those who were bitten and dying were not saved because of the serpent, but because they were obedient to cast their sight on the serpent being lifted up. Similarly, those who are dying in the flesh become reconciled to Yahshua when they look to Him and follow His commands out of love and obedience. To live a life pleasing to G-d often calls for experiencing dangerous circumstances and drawing on faith that ventures beyond human reason. It is not for us to decide how we will negotiate such obstacles; G-d will work it out for us for His glory at the perfect time. We don’t have to look for difficult times; they will come soon enough. The question is, how will we respond? We must be willing to look upon the Son of Man, Mashiach Yahshua, before He will open our spiritual eyes to the way of salvation. Our souls depend on it.
Rabbi Tamah Davis