Torah: Numbers 4:21-7:89 | Haftarah: Judges 13:2-25 | Gospel: Luke 1:11-20
The readings are taken from the Torah Portions schedule from First Fruits of Zion (www.torahportions.ffoz.org), but please note that I nor this blog is affiliated with First Fruits of Zion.
The Torah portion picks up where the former left off, continuing with the census of the 30-50 year old male Levites, now of Gershon and Merari. It details both groups’ duties and allocates their oversight to Ithamar, Aaron’s youngest son.
The portion then continues with Yah’s command for anyone—male or female—who is found to be unclean for any reason, whether from leprosy, bodily discharge or contact with the dead, to be put outside of the camp.
Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp: as the LORD spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel.Numbers 5:3-4
As a teaching tool, I believe this points to how the uncleanness of sin separates and isolates us from the Most High and other believers. So, it’s appropriate that right after, the portion presents Yah’s instruction for Israel to confess and make restitution when they have committed sin for atonement.
Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.Numbers 5:7
When we sin against another, it is our duty to admit to our wrongdoing and do what we can to compensate for any harm done. But the fact that Abba tells Israel to add a fifth part to the restitution indicates his desire for us to not simply restore but to go above and beyond in restoring peace to those we wronged.
After this, the law concerning the jealous husband and adulterous wife is presented. Yah instructs that a husband who suspects his wife of unfaithfulness is to bring her to the priest, who is to make her drink a mix of blessed water and earth from the floor of the Tabernacle. If she is innocent, she is unharmed but if she is guilty, the drink will make her belly swell and her thigh—thigh, here being a possible euphemism for her reproductive organs—to rot.
I have heard anecdotes from the pulpit that have suggested that while on the cross Messiah suffered conditions similar to what the adulterous wife would, but I wasn’t able to find anything solid to substantiate this.
Still, water and blood flowing from his side when he was pierced coupled with His promise for living water to flow from within His believers made me not discard the idea totally. Maybe, like so much in scripture, it was a physical/visual marker for the spiritual promise.
Israel was the adulterous wife and Yah the jealous husband. It is Israel’s belly that was meant to swell and whose thigh was to waste. If there is something to Messiah showing the physical symptoms of taking on the curse, then it would be a really interesting reversal of the wife’s fate, in that her belly swelling spoke to the punishment of barrenness but Messiah’s signified eternal life and spiritual gifting for us through his death. Just a thought.
Next in the portion is the law concerning one who takes on the vow of a Nazarite. The most characteristic prohibitions are refraining from trimming of the hair and abstaining from wine and strong drink.
We know that alcoholic beverages while fine in moderation for occasional merrymaking, but drunkenness is a vehicle for disobedience.
The Nazarite was to be the epitome of set-apartness, and the disconnection from such a worldly pleasure as alcohol sends a strong message about separating from the world and finding joy in the things of Yah alone.
But there has to be more because they were to abstain not just from alcohol but any grape derivative. Why?
I found a really great article that provided valuable insight on the subject and I will link it below in the resources.
He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.Numbers 6:3
The first clue is in the Hebrew name for the one who takes the vow on: נָזִיר (nazir), which on top of meaning a person who has taken a Nazarite vow also means ‘untrimmed’ as in a vine. That, coupled with the abstaining from grapes and any grape product reveals what Jewish scholars believe is a connection with the Sabbatical year.
As we read previously, during the seven-year Shabbat, the fields, vineyards and olive yards are to be left untouched in what I believe was as an act of trust that Yah alone provides and denying one’s role in said provision. They were sanctified unto the Most High. The same sanctification and denying of self is seen in the Nazarite.
In the Parable of the Vineyard found in Isaiah 5, we see that Yah describes Israel as a vineyard.
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.Isaiah 5:7
A verse before, Yah’s punishment for Israel’s disobedience is leaving the vineyard to waste, unpruned and undigged.
And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.Isaiah 5:6
The field made wild and the ascetic man who may appear similarly wild may have the additional purpose of showing Israel what trying times looked like to inspire them to hold fast to Yah, remain steadfast in their obedience to Him and be reminded that in good times and bad, submission to their Elohim was the only thing that should matter to them. It makes me think of traditional wedding vows and I don’t believe that that is a coincidence.
As the portion segues into the Aaronic blessing, we can see this idea of being entirely reliant on Yah is mirrored in the blessing’s plea for the Most High to bless but especially to keep us.
The final chapter of the portion details what the princes of each of the twelve tribes of Israel offered at the consecration of the Tabernacle. It may seem repetitive to have listed out the same items twelve times, but we know, for sure, that not one gave less or more than the others. The portion closes with Yah’s approval of the Tabernacle and offerings in that His presence itself was seen to have come down unto the mercy seat.
The Haftarah and Gospel portions describe when the promises of the births of the judge Samson and the prophet John are first made. In both instances, angels appeared to the parents of the promised children and were explicit about both abstaining from wine and strong drink, something characteristic of a Nazarite vow. In Samson’s case, instruction was given to his mother to adhere to that abstinence before he was even in her womb.
Samson and John are extraordinary examples of what a life consecrated to Yah can produce. Messiah, himself, said there was no greater prophet than John and did Yah ever manifest greater physical might in a human than in Samson—imperfect as he was?
There is no time when a believer should not live a life dedicated to Yah and separated from this world. If we went after these things with even a modicum of the dedication of a Nazarite, only the Most High knows how much more He might be able to do through us. Maybe we won’t be bestowed with the physical strength of Samson, but He may gift us with spiritual strength for our own battles unlike we had ever known.
Resources for this Torah portion: