Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Bamidbar

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Bamidbar / In the Wilderness Numbers 1:1 to 4:20 1 Samuel 20: 18-42; Luke 2:1-52; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Bamidbar/Numbers details many of the encounters that the Ancient Israelites had in their wilderness experience and various statutes and decrees that the Lord gives them as they begin to form a more cohesive national identity and prepare themselves to take the Promised Land. As you read these first four chapters of the book of Numbers, you get a sense that the Holy One is intimately involved with all the details of just how He wants His people to function as they leave the bondage of Egypt and head toward the Land of Promise through this deserted area.

Numbers/Bamidbar 1:1-4 Yahweh spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first of the second, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt, saying: Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Yisrael according to their families, according to their fathers’ household, by number of the names, every male according to their head count, from twenty years of age and up – everyone who goes out to the legion in Yisrael-you shall count them according to their legions, you and Aaron. And with you shall be one man from each tribe; a man who is a leader of his father’s household.


The Census

This Torah portion, Bamidbar,"In the Wilderness,” begins the Book of Numbers, commonly called so because the first few chapters record the census of the tribes of Israel, with the exception of the priestly tribe of Levi. It is here where we discover conclusively that the tribe of Levi has been chosen for unique status among the tribes. This was to be a census done of the Israelites for a specific accounting of those able to go out to war as soldiers. This is, without a doubt, a necessity so the leaders of Israel can evaluate the competency and power of their forces.

As the numbers of fighting men were counted there was no doubt some hesitancy and concern, if not discouragement, on behalf of the leaders of Israel. They knew God was leading them in the near future to conquer the Promised Land and had probably heard rumors about the enemies that awaited them. Forming them into an organised unit transformed them from a band of runaway slaves into a cohesive functioning unit for divine service.

The Body of Believers is a spiritual army which has the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of Heaven. It is an offensive organism which cannot invade the enemy’s territory without the enemy resisting. Do you view yourself as a spiritual warrior? We must be advancing against the enemy’s strongholds (the world, flesh and the devil) wherever and whenever possible both individually and corporately. We should not be discouraged by the smallness of numbers as compared to the enemy, but remember “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)

And also let us remember the promises of His provision and our eternal reward, as well as the great cloud of witnesses of those who have gone before us that are watching our performance and dependant upon us to finish the course.so they also may enter into their inheritance. Most of all, remember He who endured to the end and conquered every assailing force that we might be victorious. He dwells in the midst of us just as He did in the wilderness Tabernacle. The Israelites actually stood round about the Tabernacle and guarded His Presence in their midst. In the same way we are to guard this treasure which we have in this earthly vessel, that it is not overpowered by the forces from without.

In Luke 14:26-34 in parable form, Yeshua tells us to take account of our resources personally to assess our strength to withstand the enemy. This assessment is based on whether the enemy has grounds in our life or whether we have taken up our cross and forsaken all to follow Him. Engagement in warfare must be based on an appropriate strategy.

The war in which we are engaged is against the powers of darkness which war against our soul, either directly or indirectly to cause us to lose the battle against him and his device against us. The weapons of our warfare are not natural - that is, we do not fight this battle in our own resources of will-power, greater effort etc. but we tale the spiritual weapons assigned for this purpose. 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:10-20

Our warfare then is against the fleshly lusts within us over which our enemy can exercise dominion (James 4: 1-), which lusts “war against our souls” (1 Peter 2:11). For this reason, Paul said that he kept his body (his fleshly appetites) under control. “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27) “You therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Messiah Yeshua. .. .. .. You therefore must endure hardness as a good soldier of Yeshua the Messiah. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself in the affairs of this life that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2: 1- 4 Discipline over our life is essential in order to be counted as a ‘man of war’ in His army going out to conquer the land.

The Levites

Yahweh distinguished the tribe of Levi for a special position of service because of their faithfulness to Yahweh at the golden calf incident. Yahweh honors those who serve him. For their zeal in defending Israel from idolatry they were given charge over the Tabernacle and its treasures. Though they were thusly honored, they were the least tribe in that they were not given a land inheritance, and thus did not have the means to become wealthy. Furthermore, they were pressed into Yahweh’s ministerial service with little recompense. This is the price one has to pay to be close to the holy things of Yahweh and to be high up in his service (Matt. 23:11). Are we willing to walk this difficult path, if called to do so? Are we willing to lose our life for Yahweh’s sake? (Matt. 10:39)

Yahweh demanded the best years (ages 30-50) of the Levites to be employed as servants in the Tabernacle. Are we giving Yahweh the best of your life, or are we giving him the leftovers? Are we pursuing our own interests now and planning to serve him in the waning years of our lives?

Have we taken into consideration how these type of choices will effect our heavenly rewards?

The Calling of the Ministry

The census of the very Levitical families is taken after the men solicited for the army and the various responsibilities assigned to individuals. The Holy One is extremely interested in the details of life. He has a role for each of us to play as we seek to honor, worship and praise Him. This is especially true of those among the children of God who have been called into His kingdom at this hour. The Apostle Paul was describing to the Corinthians the importance of each priestly member of the assembly. ‘But just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is Messiah. For by one Spirit we were all immersed into one body, whether Yehudim (Jews) or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. For also the body is not one member, but many."

In this passage to the Believers at Corinth, the Apostle Paul relates the need for the Body of the Messiah to be composed of a variety of people with all sorts of unique gifting. Just like the different tribes had their functions and positions and the different Levite families had their specific duties, so does the living ‘called out ones’ have their individual gifts and responsibilities. As you read through this passage, you are reminded that due to the unique nature of the body, we are to give those who have less ability greater honor. In so doing, Paul is using body parts in an analogous way to communicate the imperative to give even the hidden organs honor. Even though we do not see the vital organs that are hidden beneath the surface of the skin, without them, we would not be able to live. (1 Corinthians 12:22-27). So also we need to appreciate that those whose function we do not see, are still vital to the Body.

We ought to think in terms of the whole Body and its welfare without losing sight of the individual. As each person gives of himself and his talents for the kingdom, the rest of the Body prospers and the one who gives partakes of the overall blessing. The individual ought to seek the good of the corporate congregation, and the corporate congregation ought to seek the good of the individual. Thereby all are blessed and provided for. (Ephesians 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:12-26) A good leader seeks the welfare of all those who are under him and not certain personalities or giftings in his people.

The Tribal Elders

The names of the twelve men who would "stand with" Moshe (Moses, meaning "drawn out") has spiritual significance for us today. To be called a son of someone indicates you have their traits, or character. The tribe indicates the overall nature of a person and the area of their giftings. These were men that were the 'head' of their tribes, men of character, men of responsibility, capable of caring for the 'flock' (Matthew 24:45-47).

Numbers 1:16 These were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel. Notice that these were captains of thousands, not common people. Each was fulfilling the place of responsibility as a general in the army of Yahweh. Rashi, the Medieval Jewish Torah commentator, notes that the sons of Aaron are called Moses’ offspring, showing that when we teach Torah to someone we become their spiritual father. The more we pour of ourselves into someone else the more we will be replenished from above.


The Twelve Tribes Insignia

Reuben’s banner was red and its insignia was that of a duda’im (mandrakes), a type of the flowers he brought to his mother (Genesis 30:14-15).

Simeon’s banner was green with an embroidered representation of the City of Schechem.

Levi’s banner was white, black, and red with an Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30)

Judah’s banner was a jade blue with a lion. Judah was the leader of the twelve tribes and was positioned toward the east, the direction from which the light of the world. It was a position of honor in the four formations, as Judah led by example.

Issachar’s banner was blue-black with a sun and moon. Issachar was famous for its scholars who calculated the orbits of the heavenly bodies to fix the calendar (I Chronicles12:32). Issachar was positioned behind Judah, as they are considered the tribe becoming the judges who would make all legal decisions in Torah.

Zebulon’s banner was white with a ship and mainly pursued business ( considered the tribe of wealth) and supported the people of Yissachar in their work.

Dan’s banner color was sapphire with a eagle.

Gad’s banner was gray with a battalion of soldiers.

Naftali’s banner was pale red with a doe.

Asher’s banner was the color of flaming olive oil with an olive tree.

Joseph’s tribes were jet black with Ephraim’s banner having an ox, and Manesseh’s a re’em (Deuteronomy 33:17). Benjamin’s banner was a mixture of all the other colors of the twelve tribes with a wolf as its insignia (Genesis 49:27).


The Banners of the Lead Tribes

Each tribe had its own distinctiveness characterized by its own unique banner which was the colour of its stone in the breastplate of the High Priest. The Israelites travelled in the wilderness in four groups, each group consisting of three tribes, and each with its own banner which comprised the colours of each of the three tribes. The entire system of banners was set up through Yaakov (Jacob) according to Rabbinic tradition. When Yaakov asked to be buried in Eretz Yisrael he taught his children the marching formation for carrying his coffin according to their prophetic roles in the kingdom which became their future marching formation. Each son that Yaakov addressed in second person was to be a leader of a camp. “Revuen, YOU are my firstborn”, “Yehuda, YOU your brothers will acknowledge”, “Dan... YOUR salvation”, “Yosef... the God of YOUR father... blesses YOU”. The ensignia on each banner was according to the prophetic emblem given them in Genesis 49 by Yaakov. Yahweh encourages pageantry as well as (cultural) uniqueness among his children. We do not all have to be carbon copies of one another to be members of the Body of Messiah. Some of us are hands, feet, noses, mouths, etc. (1 Corinthians 12) If each know their placement there can be order and unity in the Body.

On the EAST we have Judah, Issachar and Zebulun On the SOUTH we have Reuben, Simeon and Gad On the WEST we have Ephraim , Benjamin and Mannaseh On the NORTH we have Dan Naphtali and Asher

With regard to the placement of the tribes around the Tabernacle The Stone Edition Chumash comments: God patterned the formations of Yisrael after that of His own Heavenly Throne of Glory: The Throne is in the center and is surrounded by four animals, as it were. On earth, the Tabernacle represents the Throne, surrounded by the four formations. Judah, as the leader of the tribes, was assigned to the east, the direction from which light comes to the world. With him were Issachar, the tribe of Torah, and Zebulun, the tribe of wealth and the others north, south and west of the Tabernacle. (p. 733). The banners of the four major encampments corresponded to the four ‘faces’ of the mystical chariot mentioned in the beginning of Ezekiel. These four ‘faces’ are fundamental Divine attributes. Thus each encampment related to a particular Divine attribute. Notice Revelation 4:7 where the four heavenly creatures around Yahweh’s throne are described to be like: a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle. This corresponds to the four lead tribes and their corresponding banners which have the same spiritual significance.


The Tribes in Formation

Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, The Children of Yisrael shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their fathers’ household, at a distance surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they encamp. Bamidbar 2:1-2

At a distance of no more than two thousand cubits from the Tent of Meeting, the Israelites set camp. If it had been any further, the people would have been forbidden to walk to the Tent of Meeting on Sabbath to pray and listen to the teachings of Torah.

Each man camped according to the insignias of his father’s household. Each of the four tribal formations had a distinct identifiable colored banner. In addition, each of the individual tribes had its own flag with insignia that identified its own unique characteristic. Each individual tribe’s flag was the same color as that of its stone worn on the High Priest’s (Kohen Gadol’s) breastplate.

The formations of Yisrael were patterned after the Heavenly Throne of Glory: The Throne, represented here on earth by Yahweh’ Ark of the Covenant, was to be centrally located and surrounded by the four formations of tribes. The sanctuary being in the center represented the fact that Yahweh is the center of His people. He is at the center of holiness and is the source of life, blessing, and empowerment. “Every individual was located in relation to the Ark and the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the first thing one saw on leaving home and the first thing one looked for on returning home. Gradually, this physical centrality must have led to the Ark’s gaining a central place in the Israelite soul” (Etz Chayim, New York: The Jewish Publication Society, 2001, p. 774). Like our ancestors, each of us sees God from a slightly different perspective, depending upon where we are encamped in life, but God remains the focal point, our anchor and compass in bad times and good. To picture the magnificence of Yahweh’ Glory as the tribes of Israel were arrayed to move forward with the Tent of Meeting centered between them, Ezekiel 10:9-11 says, “And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the color of a beryl stone. And as for their appearances they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place where the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went. ”

In the middle of the Yisraelite encampment were the Levites and the sanctuary. Surrounding this center were the 12 Tribes. The image of the Yisraelite camp is like a wheel with many spokes all leading to one hub. The tribes had a specific order and method of movement. Everyone “knowing their place” fostered harmony among the people. Each tribe was placed to face the Tabernacle as the centre, the focus of their existence so that none would focus on their tribal identity to the exclusion of the other tribes and their function around the tabernacle. They were to develop their individual abilities for the service of the heavenly vision before them. The Tribal positions being around the Tabernacle kept it at the very center of the camp. (See The Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by W. Gunther Plaut, New York: UAHC Press, 1981, p. 1,027.) As the focus of the people’s attention, the Ark and the Tabernacle were powerful symbols of God’s Presence.

If you diagram out on paper the arrangement of the tribal camps around the Tabernacle by their numbers on the north, south, east and west the shape formed is a ‘cross’ with the Tabernacle in the center. Notice the cross within the cross - Yeshua is the One within that forms the pattern for our gathering together unto Him and the pattern for our life which is structured around Him. Yahweh’s glorious presence (anointing) is a shadow-picture of Yeshua hanging on the cross and was found at the very center of the Tabernacle. This needs to be the focal point of everything in our lives as well

Yahweh is intimately concerned about the actual placement of the different tribes around the tabernacle or tent of meeting. Since He knew that this temporary dwelling was going to be on the road for some time, He conveyed the details about how the sons of Yisrael can move with Him in their midst, in an orderly martial led array. Just contemplating nearly three million souls moving through the desert with order, according to tribal identification.


The Established Order

When being transported the Ark of the Covenant was covered with a tachash skin which, according to rabbinic tradition was an unusually beautiful color of turquoise blue made from the hide of a now extinct animal. According to Stone Edition Chumash, this striking color of blue invited one to keep Yahweh’s Torah-commandments by clothing them in physical beauty thus showing that obedience to them would be enjoyable (p. 745).

Can we honestly say that obeying Yahweh, keeping his commands, is inviting and enjoyable, or is it a burden? If the latter then you need to examine your heart before Yahweh and check your motives for obeying him. In 1 John 5:1-3 we read: “Whosoever believes that Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous [burdensome, severe, cruel, heavy]. “

The Apostle John clearly states that obedience to Torah is centered on love — a love relationship between man and his Creator. John, in his Gospel, records Yeshua, the Living Torah-Word of Elohim, saying, If you love me, keep my Torah-commandments (John 14:15).

The cherubim form a position at the gate of Eden and upon the cover of the Ark of the Covenant and their reference in the book of Revelations appear to provide a defense and protection from attack or encroachment. Cherubim were evidently connected with vindicating the Holiness of Yahweh as violated by sin, while seraphim, upon which the mercy seat rested, dealt with the uncleanness in the people of Yahweh. But the cherubim moved with the four wheels, the formations of the tribes of Yisrael. The wheels, which were the Children of Yisrael set in array as they camped and moved through the wilderness resembled a wheel; but their appearance was also as that of a beryl stone. A beryl stone is blue-green in appearance, turquoise, and with the Children of Yisrael numbering so many as they moved and camped in the Wilderness, they appeared as a sea.

There was an order of holiness. The regular tribes were at the outside and kept at “some distance” (Numbers 2:2). The rabbis says this was one mile. Later when the Israelites marched behind the ark the distance was 2,000 cubits (3,000 feet or about 1 kilometer). The Levites and Priests were closer. The greatest honor was on the east side, where the gates into the Tabernacle faced. Moses, Aaron, and the priests camped on this side.

Yahweh is an God of order, not confusion. Each member of the Body of Yeshua has a position, responsibility and a role to play in the proper and orderly functioning of the “camp”. What is your role in the Body of Messiah? Are you functioning in your gifting and calling? How are we serving and how are we helping to advance Yahweh’s kingdom is something to consider? (Read Rom. 12:5-8 and 1 Corinthians 12).

Are you a spectator or a participating member in the Body of Believers?

With disobedience comes a withdrawal of His Presence. The Glory of Yahweh is pictured as departing in stages in Ezekiel 10th chapter. With Judah’s final deportation into the land of Babylon, Yahweh’ Glory departs from the Tabernacle. But as we begin to reassembled ourselves today as the twelve tribes of Yisrael, Yahweh’ Glory shall return with great power and Glory through His Son Messiah Yeshua. There will be an order of holiness also in the Messianic Age. Our treasure in heaven may very well have something to do with this. All the sheep of Yisrael need to come into order and fulfill their function in the kingdom.