The Parashah for this week 20-26 May 2018 is called Naso – “Raise up” – the heads of (i.e. “Take a Census of”).
Numbers 5:11-31 “The Law of Jealousy”. This difficult and for many highly-offensive passage deals with what has been called “the only clear-cut instance of trial by ordeal in the Bible” (Robert Alter). It describes a ritual for determining a woman’s guilt or innocence after a spirit of jealousy has awakened within her husband a suspicion that she has “gone astray and behaved unfaithfully towards him” (5:12-13, 29) by having physical relations with another man, there being no physical or circumstantial evidence that this is true. Verse 14 alludes to the possibility of a “spirit of jealousy” coming upon men, both when their wives are guilty, or when they or innocent of this sin.
The man must bring her to the priest with an appropriate offering; the priest then brings her near and sets her “before the LORD” (5:16). He takes holy water in an earthen vessel and sprinkles in it dust from the floor of the tabernacle. The woman is bound under an oath that drinking this water will bring a curse upon her body if she has lied and is guilty. The oath is written into a book and scraped into the mixture, a grain offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand is waved before the LORD, a portion of it burnt on the altar-and the woman is required to drink the bitter water. If she is guilty, her stomach will swell, her thigh rot, and she will “become a curse” among her people. If she has not defiled herself and is pure, she will be clean and able to conceive seed, her stomach to swell with the blessing of children.
The situation described in this passage strikes many commentators as bizarre, primitive, superstitious, not to mention demeaning, unfair and irrational in the extreme. For some, it seems an ordeal “based on a kind of archaic magic” (Alter). But that is through the paradigm of a modern mind not used to taking into consideration such factors as the existence of a supernatural God of love, truth and justice, the Creator and Lord of the universe, One able and determined when necessary to intrude what appear to be supernatural and marvelous ways into the affairs of those He calls His children. Consider the following:
*This was not some arbitrary, occult divination, but a directive of the Creator of the world who was at that time present and traveling with His people in a real and tangible way. The dust the lady was to drink was not mere filth from the ground, it was from the floor of the mishkan (dwelling place, tabernacle), sanctified by the manifest presence of the God of Gods who dwelt there—the Same who had molded man from similar “dust” and breathed into his nostrils the breath of Life.
*Even as the Creator had placed “light-bearers” to illumine the heavens (Gen. 1:14), it was the destiny and high call of the Israeli women to bear within their wombs progeny through whom the families of the world would experience illumination into God’s nature and blessing for all humankind (Gen. 12:3; 26:4; 28:14)—Indeed, one would eventually bear and bring forth the Light of the World. Satan hated this destiny and its fruit. He had sought to thwart if from the beginning by attempting to violate the wombs of both Sarah and Rebekah (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-17; 26:6-11). He had attempted to slay all the male children in Egypt. After God had delivered His people from Egypt, the nature of their call and destiny began to clarify—they were to be a special treasure to Himself, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation before the whole world (Exodus 19:5-6). Vital to this was that Israeli women—the bearers of that treasure keep themselves pure.
*In this circumstance, the wife is obviously seen as being “under” her husband’s oversight (vss 19, 20, 29). Verse 31 seems to imply that that oversight extended to being held responsible before God if she defiled her body by adultery, and he failed to take action. If he did so and she were convicted, “Then the man would be free from iniquity, but that woman shall bear her guilt.”
*Ultimately, rather than an abuse of the woman, it in fact served as a protection for her—the God of Heaven would be her supernatural defense and vindication, even when her honor was impugned by the Accuser working through the fallen nature of her husband under whose authority she had been placed. And what of the men? Were they free to be sexually unfaithful with impunity, while the onus for unfaithfulness rested only upon the wife? Again, the God of Israel was dwelling in their midst. He released directives for maintaining order and governance in the society through responsibilities appointed to those positioned at every level—including the oversight of families. The righteous God who worked supernaturally to vindicate or to convict the actions of the daughters of His people through laws He had lain down regarding their conduct, would surely be also faithful to see and judge the actions of the men whom He had appointed to administer those laws.
*Numbers 6:1-21-“The Law of the Nazirite”. Nazir has to do with “separation”-in this case by a person consecrating him- or her-self with a special vow, usually for a specific period of time, for devotion to God. Another word for separation or “being set apart” used in verse 2 is linked with that used in Psalm 4:3, “But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who trusts in His lovingkindness.” But here, the person chooses to set himself apart. An outward mark of one engaged in this vow was his abstinence from eating or drinking anything related to the grape. Another, in the case of a male, was abstinence from allowing his head to be touched with a razor for the duration of the vow. In the case of Samson (see this week’s Haftarah) and probably Samuel (I Samuel 1:11) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), the person was dedicated to the Lord in this way for life.
*Numbers 6:22-27. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
‘YHVH bless you and guard you
YHVH make His face shine upon you and grace you
YHVH lift up His face to you and give you Shalom.’
“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
With this blessing the LORD’s holy name YHVH was placed over the Israelites by the priests as a covering and protection. No other name would have true power to bless them, to be their guard and keeper, to release grace upon them, or to guard their hearts and minds with true shalom.
Twice this blessing refers to the LORD’s face in relation to the one blessed. The absolute necessity of being in the light of that face permeates the Hebrew Bible from beginning to end. Without God’s face (sometimes in English translated ‘presence’) attending them, Moses prayed to God not to bring himself and the people up to the Promised Land (Exodus 33:14-15). Three times in Psalm 80 the minstrel Asaph equates God’s causing His face to shine on Israel with “salvation”, while in Psalm 44:3 the sons of Korah attribute Israel’s winning of the Land to YHVH’s “right hand, His arm, and the light of His face, because he loved them.” There is a voice, sang David, crying out within every man, “Seek My face”—and man’s response, whenever He recognizes it, should be “Your face, LORD, I will seek…do not hide Your face from me” (Psalm 27:8). So this was the blessing which would attend the Children of Israel when the priests placed God’s name YHVH over them.
Today, since Israel has lost the pronunciation of that Name, when the blessing is recited, it is replaced by another name for deity Adonai (Lord/Master) or HaShem—“The Name”. However, the root of the original Name it is hidden within the Hebrew name for Jesus. Yeshua, a contraction for Yehoshua (Joshua), means YHVH Saves! He is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). He is Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace. As members of a Holy Priesthood (Rev. 1:6), we would encourage you to pray this blessing over the Jewish people, placing The Name conjoined with Salvation—Yeshua—over them. Pray for the veil to be removed from Jewish eyes through the power of the Holy Spirit that they may come into His presence, to know their LORD face-to-face. “And I will not hide my face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says Adonai YHVH-the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 39:29).
*Numbers 7:6-9. “So Moses took the carts and the oxen, and gave them to the Levites. Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service [i.e. transfer of the outer coverings, etc., of the tents of the Tabernacle]; and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service [i.e. transfer of the skeletal structure of the Tabernacle, bars, pillars, etc.], under the authority of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders.”
Deuteronomy 17:18 would require future Kings of Israel to hand-write out a copy of the Five Books of Moses so that its instructions would be infused into every aspect of their reigns. Yet King David evidently failed to do this—or at least to attend to this graphic directive that carts were ok for everything else, but the “holy things” (including of course, the Ark of the Covenant) were to be “carried on the shoulders” of specific families of the Levites. His failure to follow God’s instructions for dealing with this most-holy of articles from the Tabernacle, resulted, even in the context of genuine ardent praise and worship in other ways, in disaster (II Sam 5:13; I Chron 13:5-14).
Numbers 7:89. “Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the kaporet [“Mercy Seat”] that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; thus He spoke to him.”
Centuries later, the word of the LORD here had become “rare” and there was “no widespread revelation” (I Samuel 3:1). Yet here, “before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the LORD where the ark of God was, the LORD called Samuel. And he answered, ‘Hineini-“Here I am!” PLEASE PRAY: for believers in Israel to keep themselves pure-and to be willing to wait in the Presence of the LORD to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the congregations.”
*Judges 13:6. “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome.”
In this recounting of the coming of the angel/messenger of God to Manoah’s wife to herald the conception of Samson, at least five times the being is referred to as a ‘man‘. Two of those times he is called a “Man of God” (Ish ha-Elohim—which, interestingly, could just as well be translated “The God-Man”). Later in the story he refuses to give his name, since it is a name which awakens wonder. Manoah is convinced that he and his wife must die, “because we have seen God.” Of course, at this time Yeshua/Jesus had not yet taken on human flesh. But it appears, nonetheless, to be an instance of a pre-incarnate manifestation of the One who was to come.
PLEASE PRAY for the understanding of Jews who read or hear these words next weekend to be opened, that they may comprehend the identity of the One who came to Manoah and his wife and ascended in the flame—that He is the same of whom they heard read in synagogues this past Sunday on Shavuot–the One who came down in flame on Mount Sinai to release to humankind the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19-20), the One witnessed by Ezekiel who was seated on a throne in the midst of the flaming holy chariot (Ezekiel 1). He is the same Who has since come to be born in Israel as a Man to deal with the sin of all humankind—and Who is coming again!
Martin & Norma Sarvis
[The Parasha for the week 27 May—2 June 2018 is called B’Ha’alotcha—“When you Light Up” (i.e. the lamps). TORAH: 8:1—12:16; HAFTARAH: 2:10—4:7.]