Parashah 35: Naso (Take)

Parashah 35:  Numbers 4:21-7:89

“Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Take a census of the descendants of Gerson, also, by clans and families …’” (Numbers 4:21).

The counting of Levite men from the clans of Gerson, Merari and Korath, between the ages of 35 and 50, continues with this parashah.   This group of Levites, totaling 8,580 men,  would be responsible for carrying the loads when the Mishkan was transported.  They were to carry the curtains of the Tabernacle, its coverings, the screens,  the tapestries for the Courtyard, all ropes, stakes and tools needed for doing their work.  They were supervised by Aaron and his sons.

The Unfaithful Wife and The Jealous Husband

The test for a suspected unfaithful wife by jealous husband was outlined by Yahweh. The jealous husband was to bring his wife to the priest along with a grain offering: two quarts of barley flour on which he has poured olive oil or frankincense.  This grain offering for jealousy would be for remembering or recalling the guilt.

The priest would bring the wife forward and place her before Yahweh.  He would put holy water in a clay pot and then take some of the dust from the floor of the Tabernacle and put it into the water.  He would unbind the woman’s hair and put the grain offering for jealousy in her hands while the priest held the jar of water representing embitterment and cursing. 

The priest will make her swear that she either did not sleep with another or man or that she did along with a curse: “May Adonai make you an object of cursing and condemnation among your people by making your private parts shrivel and your abdomen swell up.  May this water that causes the curse go into your inner parts and make your abdomen swell and your private parts shrive up” (Numbers 5:21-22).   

The woman was to respond “Amen! Amen!”

The priest wrote the curses on a scroll, washed them off into the water of embitterment and made the woman drink the bitter water.  He was to take the grain offering for jealousy from her hands, wave it before Elohim and bring it to the Altar of Sacrifice. 

If the woman was guilty, her abdomen would swell and her private parts would shrivel up.  She would become an object of cursing among the people and be barren.  If she was innocent, she would bear children. 

Because this ritual is a little unique, I researched to find out more about its roots and reasons.  One website explained the test for the unfaithful wife had its roots in Mithrasim and that Elohim didn’t give this ordinance, but Moshe included it from the Middle Eastern cultures around them.  I would tend to disagree as Moshe would not have added pagan rituals to the commands of Yahweh.

While I searched for other interpretations, I wondered if perhaps the ceremony was actually about the jealous husband.  The mixture of dust and water is not harmful per se –  who has never consumed muddy water?  With the grain offering and oil put in the woman’s hands, the test becomes very personal.  If the woman has truly been unfaithful, she would get a wasting disease that affected her womanhood.  Would any husband actually allow his wife to succumb to such disease before forgiving her or admitting his jealous spirit was unfounded?  Though this test is given in the regulations for Isra’el, there is no account of it ever being used. 

Perhaps there was a deeper spiritual reason for the test.  Holy water mixed with dirt from the Tabernacle floor creates a water mixture different from ordinary muddy water.   The dust is from holy ground.  Along with the grain offering with oil or incense, the test is no longer a moral test, but a spiritual one determining spiritual adultery.

Yahweh is a jealous Elohim (Exodus 34:14).  Isra’el is His wife and He is a jealous Husband (Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 3:20-21).  He does not want His wife to arouse His jealousy.  In order to show Isra’el that He expected her to be faithful, He used a familiar cultural practice to demonstrate how He would decide Isra’el’s unfaithfulness and its consequences if she roused His jealousy.

According to the test of the unfaithful wife, Isra’el would have to offer grain along with oil or incense and drink bitter water mixed with dust from the Tabernacle to prove her innocence.  Because she had been unfaithful, Isra’el was forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  The dust of moving the Mishkan from one place to another stuck to their feet, clothes, bodies and probably floated in the water they drank.  While they offered their grain offerings year after year in the Tabernacle, their bodies wasted away in the wilderness until the entire faithless generation of Israelite bones were buried in the desert.  When the test was complete, the Husband’s jealousy was vanquished.

“‘A wife married in her youth cannot be rejected,’ says your God. ‘Briefly I abandoned you, but with great compassion I am taking you back. I was angry for a moment and hid my face from you; but with everlasting grace I will have compassion on you,’ says Adonai your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:6-8).

The Nazarite Vow

Nazarite comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning ‘to consecrate or separate’ with a Middle Eastern idea of ‘vow.’  The Nazarite vow was voluntary and required the man or woman abstain from anything that came from a grapevine: wine or other intoxicating liquors, vinegar, grape juice, grapes, raisins, grape skins and grape seeds.   

Throughout the duration of the Nazarite vow,  the man was not to shave head until the end of the time allotted for his vow.  In other words, the man’s hair would grow long.  The man was not to approach a dead body including his father, mother, brother or sister if they died. If someone died in his presence, he was to shave his head on the day of his purification, on the seventh day.  On the eighth day, after bringing the required offering, he was to re-consecrate himself in order to complete the duration of nazir

When the time of his consecration was over, he was to present a burn offering, a sin offering, a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread mixed with fine flour and olive oil, unleavened wafers  spread with olive oil as a grain offering along with a drink offering.  The priest would bring the offerings before Yahweh and the nazir would shave his head at the entrance to the Tabernacle.  The hair was put on the fire under the peace offering.   After the ram was boiled, the priest was to take its shoulder, one loaf of matzah from the basket along with one wafer and place them in the hands of the nazir and wave them before Elohim.  These items were set aside long with the breast and thigh for the priest.  When all the regulations had been followed and were complete, the nazir could drink the wine. 

Hebrew Word Pictures

Nazarite or nazir נזיר – noon, zayin, yod, resh

life divides the finished work of the head

There are two accounts of the Nazarite vow. The first is Samson and his Nazarite vow was instituted before his birth.   

When Manoah’s wife was barren, an angel appeared to her and told her she would have a son.  “Now, therefore, be careful not to drink any wine or other intoxicating liquor, and don’t eat anything unclean.  For indeed you will conceive and bear a son.  No razor is to touch his head, because the child will be a nazir for God from the womb” (Judges 13:3-5).

According to the requirements of the Nazarite vow, eating honey from the carcass of the lion Samson killed was a defilement of his vow (Judges 14:9).   Samson had long hair because of his vow, but it was not his hair that gave him strength, it was the Ruach Elohim and Samson’s calling as a lifelong nazir.  Delilah cutting Samson’s hair defiled his vow.  In spite of his weakness as a man, Elohim still used him to judge the Philistines in Gaza.  

“Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you, but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep the Torah” (Acts 21:24).  

The second account is found in Acts 21 with Sha’ul.  The believers in Jerusalem praised Yahweh when they heard that tens of thousands of Jews were coming to faith in Yeshua of Nazareth and remaining zealous for Torah.  However, there were rumors that Sha’ul was teaching against Torah to Jews who lived among the gentiles (nations) telling them not to circumcise their sons or follow the traditions.  In order to stop the rumors, Sha’ul takes a Nazarite vow along with four other men.  He went through the purification rites, paid the expense incurred by the vow and had his head shaved. 

Sha’ul taking a Nazarite vow was done to show the Jewish people that he was still keeping Torah.  It didn’t work. Unbelieving Jews came to the Temple and accused him of teaching against the people of Isra’el, against the Torah, and against the Temple.  Of course, none of this was true, but it aroused the whole city.  Sha’ul was dragged from the Temple and nearly killed.  

New Testament-only theologies teach against Torah and the Temple practices under the guise that Jesus set them free from everything Old Testament.   These views are the very reasons why Sha’ul took a Nazarite vow – to prove they have no place in a walk of faith in Yeshua. In truth, he was upholding the people of Isra’el, upholding the Torah and upholding the Temple regulations long after Yeshua died and rose from the dead.  His vow proved that Yeshua did not abolish the Torah or the Temple regulations so he continued to live his life as a Jew from the Tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee of Pharisees who preached a risen Messiah.

The Priestly Blessing

“Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Isra’el … in this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra’el, so that I will bless them’” (Numbers 6:22-27).

This blessing is known as the Aaronic Blessing.  The name of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (יהוה) was placed on the children of Isra’el so they would receive the blessing from Yahweh.   When the blessing was spoken, both hands were raised making the letter shin ש bringing down on the people, the Shekinah, the Divine Presence of Elohim.

The blessing in Hebrew:

יברכך יהוה וישמרך: יאר יהוה פניו אליך ויחנך: ישא יהוה פניו אליך וישם לך שלום

Transliterated into English:

Ye’va re’ke’kah Adonai ve’yish me’rekah.

Ya’er Adonai panav el’eykah vi’chun’neka;

Yisah Adonai el’eyka ve’ya sem lekha shalom.

In English:

May the LORD (Yahweh) bless you and keep you,

May the LORD (Yahweh) shine his face to you and be gracious to you,

May the LORD (Yahweh) lift up his countenance on you and give you peace.

An interesting interpretation of this blessing involves the relationship between a father and a child.  In Hebrew, ‘bless’ is barak and means to ‘kneel’ symbolizing the father kneeling to the level of his child to bless the child.  To ‘shine his face’ is a Hebrew idiom for being friendly. The Hebrew word ya’er can be translated as ‘illuminate’ so when the father sees his child’s face, his own illuminates in friendship.  The definition of ‘countenance’ includes the expression on the face.  When a countenance is downcast, it looks downward and elicits feelings of discouragement and despair.  When Yahweh lifts up His countenance, the opposite happens.  The imagery of the father and child follows that the father lifts the child over his head, raises his countenance and there is love, joy, and peace.

Selah

Leonard Nimoy who played the character Spock in the “Star Trek” series and movies was Jewish.  When he was trying to come up with a hand sign for ‘Live Long and Prosper,’ he decided to use the letter shin hand sign for the Divine Presence.

Twelve Days of Offerings

After Moshe anointed and consecrated the Tabernacle, all of the leaders of Isra’el, made an offering.  These leaders, counted in the census, brought six covered wagons and 12 oxen–one wagon for every two leaders and one ox for each.  The wagons with two oxen were given to the Gershonites and the Merarites to help with their duties for moving the Tabernacle.  The Korathites carried the holy objects on their shoulders.

For 12 days the leaders of the tribes brought offerings to dedicate the Altar of Sactifice.  The offerings included one silver dish weighing 130 shekels or ¾ pound of silver and a silver basin of 70 shekels or 1 ¾ pounds.   Both were filled with fine flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering.  One gold pan of 10 shekels or ¼ pound of gold was given full of incense. The daily offering consisted of one young bull, one ram, one male lamb in its first year as a burnt offering, one male goat as a sin offering and for the peace offering, two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs in their first year.

The leaders of the tribes were: Tribe of Judah, Nachshon;  Tribe of Issachar, Nathanel; Tribe of Zebulun, Eliab; Tribe of Reuben, Elitzur; Tribe of Simeon, Shlumi’el; Tribe of Gad, Elyasaf; Tribe of Ephraim, Elishama; Tribe of Manasseh, Camli’el; Tribe of Benjamin, Avidan; Tribe of Dan, Achi’ezer; Tribe of Asher, Pag’i’el; Tribe of Naphtali, Achira.

Yeshua and Jealousy

“I would like you to bear with me in a little foolishness — please do bear with me! For I am jealous for you with God’s kind of jealousy; since I promised to present you as a pure virgin in marriage to your one husband, the Messiah; and I fear that somehow your minds may be seduced away from simple and pure devotion to the Messiah, just as Havah was deceived by the serpent and his craftiness” (2 Corinthians 11:1-3).

“For jealousy drives a man into a rage; he will show no mercy when he takes revenge; he will not accept compensation; he’ll refuse every bribe, no matter how large” (Proverbs 3:34-35).

“So when a crowd had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to set free for you? Bar-Abba? or Yeshua, called ‘the Messiah’?’ For he understood that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.  While he was sitting in court, his wife sent him a message, ‘Leave that innocent man alone. Today in a dream I suffered terribly because of him’” (Matthew 27:17-19).

“When the crowd came up and began asking Pilate to do for them what he usually did, he asked them, ‘Do you want me to set free for you the ‘King of the Jews’?” For it was evident to him that it was out of jealousy that the head cohanim had handed him over.  But the head cohanim stirred up the crowd to have him release Bar-Abba for them instead’” (Mark 15:8-11).

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Judges 13:2-25

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

John 7:53-8:11

Acts 21:17-32

Midrash Naso: Making a Vow

There are two accounts of men making a vow, Judges 11 and Mark 6:22-24.  Both men kept their vow.  Discuss the consequences of each vow and compare them to Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:33-37.

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