As We Camp, So Shall our Journey Be
Bamidbar "in the wilderness"
Numbers 1:1-4:20 (with a liberal helping of Mattot)
Bamidbar ("in the wilderness") emphasizes the "safeguarding" of the Mishkan in the wilderness according to one's tribe. From this emphasis on safeguarding, whose Hebrew root is
shamar, the priests and Levites designated "watches," or terms of service in the Mishkan. This principle was later transferred to the Temple. These "watches" of the Levites made up the 24 watches of the Temple/Mishkan.
The number of watches is the number of tribes times two. Likewise, there are twenty-four elders in the Book of Revelation, such as in Revelation Four. If Moses designed the watches according to the pattern in heaven, then 24 watches of the priesthood and Levites makes sense. Earthly, Heavenly. The Torah portion also emphasizes that the Levites represented the twelve tribes and their firstborn, so perhaps the 24 is representative of those.
The twelve tribes, who had their own banners, camped in four divisions. Each divisional banner had a graphic of the four living creatures (p. 8,
CG Workbook Five Vol 4), lion, man, bull, eagle. There are also four angels at each direction who can hold back the winds, perhaps both natural and spiritual, for "wind" in Hebrew is
ruach, also spirit.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, 'Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees
until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.' And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: (Re 7:1-4).
Hot Tip: When you want to understand something in the New Testament (
HaBrit HaChadasha), there is an index at the beginning of Scripture to help you find related information. This index is the titles of the weekly Torah portions.
For instance, Bamidbar's contents describe the encampments of the tribes. If I want to know more about the 144,000 sealed from each tribe, then I turn to Bamidbar, the first portion in the Book of Numbers, which numbers the armed men of the tribes. Since all prophecy is founded in the books of the Torah, let's add the Torah portion Mattot (Tribes) for context of the 12,000 armed men among the tribes in Numbers 31:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.' Moses spoke to the people, saying, 'Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD'S vengeance on Midian.
A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war.' So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. (Nu 31:1-5)
Although we are locating context for an equal number of combatants from each tribe, which is intensified in Revelation (for He keeps his promises in thousands), the context supplies another clue that will make sense when matched with texts in Revelation: the 12,000-man army of Numbers 31 is to take vengeance on Midian for its sin of sending women to corrupt the Israelites men with eating things sacrificed to idols, adultery, and fornication. It was the false prophet Balaam who taught the Midianite women how to do this.
Another context for a 12,000-man army is the army of Edom, which was defeated by David and Joab:
For the choir director; according to
Shushan Eduth. A Mikhtam of David,
to teach; when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and
smote twelve thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt. (Ps 60:1)
This psalm hints to a theme of 12,000, which is the defeat of Edom in the Valley of Salt. Edom is "The Red One," representing the soul, the nefesh, the bundle of appetites, emotions, and desires that war against the spirit of a man. It is what man has in common with a beast.
The Artscroll commentary on Psalm 60 helps the reader to make the thematic connections among the encampment of the tribes, the 12,000 who defeated the Midianites to execute Adonai's revenge, and the selection of 12,000 from each tribe to total the representative number of all Israel, 144,000:
This psalm presents David's inspired vision of a universal order of nations united in complete harmony. This was his dream. True, Scripture describes David as a mighty warrior endowed with extraordinary martial skills; nevertheless, he was not a belligerent man of war, but an ambassador of peace.
The concept of universal peace is a manifestation of monotheism, the belief in one Almighty God. Pagan mythology depicts a chaotic heaven torn asunder by jealous, warring 'gods' who are no more than an exaggerated reflection of their human creators. Struggle, conflict, and polarization are basic elements of the idolator's weltanschauung [worldview].
The Jew, who believes in one Creator, believes that all of the diverse elements of this universe are basically united to serve the purposes of the one God, Who gives order to the world. Israel is at the center of this world order, and the supreme tribunal of this nations, the Great Sanhedrin, convenes in the Temple, which is the spiritual center of the earth. Each of the seventy members of this august body is symbolic of one of the world's seventy nations, and the seventy-first member, the chief justice, represents Israel, the nation which controls the order of all other peoples (Ramban, Numbers 11:16, quoted in The Tehillim, p. 745).
This psalm records a rare time when David went on the offensive instead of defensive in the war against Edom, who represented the nations. The two entities he attacked had already broken pacts with him: Aram Naharaim and Aram Tzovah. According to the commentators, "It was necessary to take the offensive to subjugate the nations in order to prepare for universal peace, represented by his son Solomon's reign." It was in this Messianic archetypal war that David and Joab struck down 12,000 Edomites. The psalm was to be played upon a Shushan Edut, or "rose of testimony," possibly a harp shaped like a rose. (Tehillim, p. 746)
Edut is familiar to Creation Gospel students as holding the root
ed, which forms so many vital words: testimony (edut), jewelry (adi), witness (edah), assembly (adat), feast (moed). It must have been a very beautiful instrument.
mikhtam is "an explanation," or a teaching.
The English rendering of "when he made war against Aram Naharaim and Aram Tzovah" has a double entendre, a poetic turn of phrase in Hebrew: "B'hatzoto et Aram Naharaim veh-et Aram Tzovah..." The roots of war and Tzovah are the same, and as suggested by Ibn Ezra, it means "destroy."
David destroyed the [high place] destroyer and set it on fire (p. 747). Again, this is a Messianic turn of phrase.
David also destroyed Aram Naharaim, the high place of the Rivers. This river is understood to be the Euphrates, which is also called the Great River, and it corresponds to the Perat River of Eden. The
Midrash Shocher Tov suggests that David actually split this river so that it would not block his army when he attacked Aram (p. 748). Revelation alludes to this "drying up" of the Euphrates for the Kings of the East to draw them into a final war of their destruction.
Verses three and four of Psalm 60 mention two of the three components that comprise Israel: Land, Covenant, and People. The Covenant is to be understood from its being played upon the Shushan Edut, the beautiful rose of testimony. David records also the quaking of the land itself along with the breaking of the people in His wrath. He begs mercy, return, and healing of the fragments.
David also mentions that Israel was forced to drink "benumbing wine." The commentators parse the Hebrew and conclude that this wine "arouses the world to undo the burden of Torah." In Revelation, a cup of wrath is also being forced upon the world. The world will likewise be shattered. "The world is only considered to be united when Israel is recognized by all nations as the center of world affairs for it says, Jacob is the bond (which keeps together all the nations) of His estate." (Dt 32:9) (ibid)
Verse eight mentions dividing portions, which "refers to enemy property which would be apportioned to the Jewish exiles returning from the Diaspora (Rashi)" (p. 753), and in another reference to the nations, David calls it "the Valley of Sukkot" that will be measured out. Sukkot is the Feast of the Nations. It is also called Shechem, which is where Jacob camped when he re-entered the Land of Israel, and he built sukkot for his cattle. In Psalm 60:9, "Judah is my lawgiver," suggesting that Judah will organize this return and assigning of the inheritance, just as in Bamidbar it is Judah who sets out first once the trumpets blow. This context of blowing trumpets also appears in Revelation.
In Revelation, the 144,000, which is 12,000 from each tribe, have a defining characteristic, and it helps all the Torah prophecy drop into place:
And they sang a new song before the throne and before
the four living creatures and the elders; and
no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as
first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And
no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless. (Re 14:3-5)
As with the numbering of the tribes for representation by the Levites and the redemption, or purchasing of the first born, so the 144,000 is a representative number chosen as a first fruits representative of the vast numbers who also have not been defiled by Midianite women with food sacrificed to idols, adultery, or idolatry. They are also true witnesses, having "no lie," which recalls the Rose of Testimony, a beautiful harp instrument to sing truth:
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. (Re 14:1-2)
In the context of Mattot, or "Tribes," Moses tells the people to select armed men. This command to the tribes follows the annulment of vows. If one does not perform a vow, then he or she is a liar unless nullifying words follow. This passage is preceded by a summary of the feasts. All the themes are connected in Revelation. The armed men were to be men of righteousness, and therefore they would be men who obeyed the commandment to "Hear O Israel..." This was performed by putting on tefillin on the arm and forehead, and the parchments within the tefillin contain the Sacred Name.
The vengeance on Midian was for the spiritual and natural adultery (idolatry) committed by the men of Israel with the Midianites under Balaam's teaching. A righteous man, Pinchas, is dispatched to finish the job he began with spearing Cozbi in the act of idolatrous adultery. Now this makes sense:
Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father's household among the Simeonites. The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father's household in Midian. (Nu 25:14-15).
Zimri was the Israelite man who cohabited with the adulterous Midianite woman. Zimri means "melody, song." In Revelation, the 144,000 turn the tables with truth, and they sing a different tune!
Let's return to Revelation for additional clues to our Torah prophecies:
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. (Re 2:21-23)
John gives more context clues by tying the teaching of Balaam with spiritual adultery, which Adonai equates with the works of Jezebel. The pestilence on the children is the proof of an adulterous woman who has violated her vows. Vows are the context of Mattot, both men AND women. If Elijah is one of the two witnesses (with Moses) in Revelation, now we have more context for the wilderness (Bamidbar prophecy):
1) an oath or vow
2) spiritual adultery or those who have not defiled themselves with women
3) the prophet Elijah, who, according to tradition, will designate who is a member of which tribe upon their return, possibly both to be assigned an inheritance in the Land and as an army to take vengeance on Midian/Jezebel/Balaam spiritual adulterers and idolators
4) the wilderness (midbar) as a place of escape
Our tour through the Bible continues! Now Elijah joins the "in the wilderness" conversation:
Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.' And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree... (1 Ki 19:1-4)
Queen Jezebel is angry that the false prophets have been killed, so she takes a vow, and King Ahab does not annul it, which is the procedure outlined in Mattot. Jezebel cannot perform the vow, and as a result, she dies. The gods she believed in were not so kind as to forgive a broken vow. Again we have a Revelation link, the iconic false prophet, such as Balaam. Elijah, the true prophet, goes to the wilderness expecting to die, yet an angel prepares a place for him and nourishes him.
And she gave birth to a son, a male child,
who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. Then
the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Re 12:5-6).
Here is the Jewish expectation of a ruler from Israel who will rule the nations. The birth of the child was vindication of the "woman's" faithfulness and fidelity to her vows to her Husband, for the innocent woman who was tested in a vow brought forth healthy children, not the children to be killed by pestilence. In the wilderness, Elijah is told that there are 7,000 more like him who had not bent the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18)
two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. (Re 12:14).
Elijah represents righteous Israel being taken to the wilderness for protection and testing, just as Adonai took them before in Deuteronomy 34:11 and Jeremiah 2:2. Like Jezebel, there is an adulterous woman in Revelation who is in league with a false prophet for a beast and a serpent:
he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names... (Re 17:3)
Edom is the Scarlet Beast, a king to be defeated by David's offspring who will rule the nations and prepare an era of peace.
So the Scriptures present contrast and choice. Are we apostate Israel whoring in the desert with idolatrous behaviors, or are we righteous Israel hiding from evil, sealed in the Torah, and awaiting the trumpet call to war against the King of Edom (the Red One, the Beast), the False Prophet, and the Dragon? Both Israels go to the wilderness, but one will bear the fruit of righteousness, and the other will die with her idolatrous fruit.
As we camp in the wilderness, so shall our journey be to Sukkot. Let's not die from a serpent's bite or kiss an idol.
Is your head spinning with all the connections? Here's another hot tip:
Hot Tip: When you want to understand something in the New Testament (HaBrit HaChadasha), there is an index at the beginning of Scripture to help you find related information. This index is the titles of the weekly Torah portions. Learn what's in them!
Oh, yeah, it's the same hot tip as before.
And it's still hot.