Numbers 4:21–7:89: God purifies all who come near

The Torah passage נשא Nasso (“take up”) continues the census of the priesthood of Israel from Numbers 1–4, caretakers of the earthly embassy of the Creator. Yes, there’s a Messiah-centered connection between determining who could enter the מִשְׁכָּן Mishkan (“Tabernacle”), testing the faithfulness of a wife, commissioning and decommissioning someone under a Nazarite vow and the 12 days of gifts from each of the tribes of Israel at the dedication of the Mishkan.

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take a census…” (Numbers 4:21–22 NASB)

“‘Moreover, the man will be free from guilt, but that woman shall bear her guilt.’”” (Numbers 5:31 NASB)

Everything in the Temple and all its rituals are patterns of what happens in the Heavenly Temple. The priests are God’s ambassadors, and what they do in the Temple are messages from God to His people.

The accounts recorded here, whether it’s about removing the lepers and those exposed to death from the circumference of the Temple, jealous husband, or the dedication of the Temple, it’s all about how the people who are near God are to be pure, holy and righteous.

Numbers 4: Families of Kohat, Gershon, Merar

Numbers 1–2 covers the census and camping arrangement of all the tribes and the separation of Levi to serve God’s embassy, the Mishkan. Numbers 3–4 focuses counting the families within Levi, descended from his three sons, and noting their roles.

The first clan of the tribe of Levi mentioned in the census are the sons of Kohat (Numbers 3:27–32; 4:1–20). Their Nasi (president, leader) was Elizaphan, son of Uzziel. The High Priest who served in the Mishkan came from Aharon, grandson of Kohat. This is also the clan of Moshe and Miriam. Their duties revolved around the Ark of the Testimony, table of bread of the Presence, menorah, altars, utensils of the sanctuary, the veil. Their responsibility was the “touch points” between Heaven and mankind. This tribe nasso, or “carried up,” the items of the Holy of Holies.

The second clan of the trible of Levi mentioned are the sons of Gershon (Numbers 3:21–26; 4:21–28). Their Nasi was Eliasaph, son of Lael. This tribe was tasked with the care of the Tabernacle tent: the covering, screen for the doorway to the tent, curtains of the court around the tent, screen for doorway to the court and all the cords that go with it. Their responsibility to cover the powerful otherness of God in the Mishkan, protecting the people outside from their own curiosity, arrogance or ignorance. They protected the people from being struck down by God’s glory.

The third clan of the tribe of Levi were the sons of Merari (Numbers 4:29–33, 42–45). Their Nasi was Zuriel, son of Abihail. Their duties included bearing the frames of the Mishkan (bars, pillars, sockets, all its equipment) and the court (pillars, sockets, pegs and cords). Their responsibility was to provide the framework for the coverings.

It could have been easy to have the clan of Gershon take care of the entire tabernacle. Why is there so much delegation? Just as textiles require different skills and attention than framing and mechanics, so too those who serve as the “backbone” of the Body of Messiah, keeping its duties functioning are as important as those teaching people about the merciful holiness of God and His Messiah.

Why were the gifts of each tribe listed individually by name even though the gifts were the same? Why aren’t there a bunch of “etc., etc., etc.” in the script? It’s because each tribe and their contribution mattered to God.

When you look at Israel’s history and each of the tribes listed, you can’t just go visit the tribe of Issachar or Zebulon today. People have their own ideas and theories about where they went but we don’t really know with absolutely certainly where they are. God’s plan is to bring in all the nations, not just those who happen to be born in the family but those who are truly God’s family. Yokhanan (John the Baptist) warned that God can make sons of Abraham from stones.

Numbers 5: Getting to the Ruth of our mindset

Are we like Ruth, who said, “Your people are my people and your God is my God” (Ruth 1:16)? Or do we get bored with or tired of God?

In the early part of Numbers 5, we read about how certain people were put outside the camp. One question that comes up is what is the camp? How many camps are there? The Sages suggested that there were three types of “camps” as Israel moved in the wilderness:

  • Camp of the Shekhinah, where God’s Presence remained.
  • Camp of the Levites, directly around the Mishkan.
  • Camp of Israel

Those with leprosy were sent out of all three, but those who were just טמא tamé (“unclean,” i.e., unfit for entering “holy zone” of the Shekhinah) could remain in the Camp of Israel.

When you see the woman who had the discharge of blood for 12 years (Matthew 9:20–22; Mark 5:25–28; Luke 8:43–48), she was excluded from entering the Temple all that time. When she touched Yeshua, she was healed instantly. God didn’t quarantine himself inside a Temple, He came out to her territory and He healed her.

Sometimes, we have to inconvenience ourselves for the needs of others. One of the sad lessons in Israel’s history is that if you don’t care about the needs of those around you, God will judge that issue. David longed to be in God’s presence (Psalms 23:6; 26:8; 27:4), even though he could not do so because he was not a priest. Yeshua took everything wrong in this world upon Himself for the sake of other people.

When we look at the rules for a jealous husband (Numbers 5:11–31). Even if the woman is exonerated, there is still a lot of distrust and pain that has to be resolved.

Numbers 6: Nazarites and Kohenites

The Nazarite vow was not a easy vow and later generations wrestled with how to start and end of the vow and how long to take on the role of a nazir.

This is not a casual vow. It was not required in the Torah. It was an egalitarian vow, both men and women could embark on it. You don’t enter it lightly and you don’t end it lightly either. Their crown was their hair, as the priest’s crown was a special turban.

Apostle Paul is connected with the Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18; 21:17–30). He had been accused of disregarding Torah, but there he was, keeping and helping four people resolve their Nazarite vows as well as having taken one himself.

“This was the dedication (chanukkah) offering for the altar after it was anointed (mashiach).” (Numbers 7:88 NASB)

Summary: Tammy.

Banner Photo: Painting by Jan August Hendrik Leys, “Vow” in 1860, currently residing in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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