Parashah 42: Mattot (Tribes)

Parashah 42: Numbers 30:2-32:42

(In a regular year, read with Parashah 43;  in a leap year read separately.)

“Then Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Isra’el. He said, ‘Here is what Adonai has ordered …’“ (Numbers 30:2).

When a man makes a vow, it sticks.  When a woman makes a vow, it only remains an obligation if her husband (or father if she is an unmarried woman) hears it and has peace with it.  If the husband or father refuses to allow the vow, it is disallowed.   Vows of widows or divorced women stand against them.

“Better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not discharge it. Don’t let your words make you guilty, and don’t tell the temple official that you made the vow by mistake. Why give God reason to be angry at what you say and destroy what you have accomplished? For [this is what happens when there are too] many dreams, aimless activities and words. Instead, just fear God!” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6)

Moshe’s Last Stand

“Adonai said to Moshe, ‘On behalf of the people of Isra’el, take vengeance on the Midyanim. After that, you will be gathered to your people’” (Numbers 31:1-2).

The last battle that Moshe oversees is with the Midianites.  Elohim wants the people of Isra’el to carry out His vengeance.  Vengeance is defined as ‘punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong.’  Yahweh says when His people are wronged, He will repay.  He will take vengeance because when anyone messes with the ‘apple of His eye,’ they are messing with Him and become His enemy.  Elohim makes is very clear that He alone takes vengeance; it is not our responsibility  (Zechariah 2:8).

Hebrew Word Pictures

Vengeance or naqam נקם – noon, qoof, mem

life behind the chaos

One thousand men from each tribe were gathered to create an Israelite army.  These 12,000 men were equipped for war.  Phineas went before them with the holy utensils and the silver trumpets for sounding the alarm of war.

They fought the Midianites and killed every male.  They killed the five Midian kings, Evi, Rekem, Tzur, Hur and Reva.  They also killed the prophet Balaam. They set fire to the Midianite cities and all of their camps.  The women and children were taken captive along with the plunder of cattle flocks and goods.

When they brought the captives to Moshe, he became angry for it was the women of Midian who cause the Israelites to rebel, breaking faith with Yahweh at Mount P’or.  It was because of them that a plague killed 24,000.  At his command, all the male children were killed along with every woman who had slept with a man.  Young girls who were still virgins were allowed to live.

All who had killed or touched a dead body were instructed to live in their tents outside the camp for seven days according to the purification requirements of Torah. Everything, whether wood, garments or skins needed to be purified, too.

“El‘azar the cohen said to the soldiers who had gone to the front, ‘This is the regulation from the Torah which Adonai has ordered Moshe.  Even though gold, silver, brass, iron, tin and lead can all withstand fire, so that you are indeed to purify everything made of these materials by having them pass through fire; nevertheless they must also be purified with the water for purification. Everything that can’t withstand fire you are to have go through the water.  On the seventh day you are to wash your clothes, and you will be clean; after that you may enter the camp’” (Numbers 31:21-24).

According to Sha’ul, at the judgment seat of Elohim, whatever is used to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets will be purified by fire.  Some will build using gold, silver or precious stones; others will build using wood, grass or straw.  All will go through the fire to test the quality of each person’s work for the Kingdom.  If what has been built survives, the individual will receive a reward; if it is burned up, the individual will have to bear the loss.  His reward is to escape with his life, but as escaping through fire (1 Corinthians 3:1-15).

Even though gold, silver, brass, iron, tin and lead can all withstand fire, it must also be purified with water.  The prophet Ezekiel speaks of this cleansing when he takes Isra’el from among the nations and sprinkles clean water on them.  They will be cleansed from their idolatries and receive a new heart and Yahweh will put His Ruach within them causing them to live by His Torah.  They will live in the Land and they will be His people (Ezekiel 36:24-28).

All of the plunder from the battle was divided between the soldiers and the community of Isra’el.  A tax was paid by the soldiers to the cohen; and the tax paid by the community went to the Levites to care for the Mishkan.  The officers and commanders who fought against Midian came to Moshe and told him they had counted their soldiers and no one was lost in the battle.  They brought an offering of armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and belts to make atonement for themselves before ‘I Am.’

The Battle Rages Today

“Therefore,” says the Lord, Adonai-Tzva’ot, the Mighty One of Isra’el, “I will free myself of my adversaries, I will take vengeance on my enemies” (Isaiah 1:24).

In Judges 11, there is the account of Jephthah having an argument over land, the same land that was won by Isra’el in the war against the kings who refused to let them pass through the land peacefully.  Jephthah reminds the people of Ammon that Isra’el possessed the land through war begun by selfish kings whose hearts hated Isra’el.

His statement is as true today as it was in the days of the Ammonites.  Land that is possessed or lost in war remains in the hands of the victor.  The land given to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, populated by Isra’el millennia ago is still their land, not lost in war.

The battles being fought today in Gaza and the West Bank is all land that could have been part of a 1948 two-state solution, but the Arab nations didn’t want two states.  They wanted no state of Isra’el. Thus, they went to war with a tiny nation that had virtually no military and lost the war and their land.  Now, they consider Isra’el occupiers of their land.

Jephthah warns the Ammonites, “You should just keep the territory your god K’mosh has given you; while we, for our part, will hold onto whatever Adonai our God has given us of he lands that belonged to others before us.  Isra’el lived in Heshbon and its villages, in ‘Aro’er and its villages and in all the cities on the banks of the Arnon for three hundred years.  Why didn’t you take them back during that time?  No, I have done you no wrong. But you are doing me wrong to war against me.  May Adonai the Judge be the judge today between the people of Isra’el and the people of ‘Amon” (Judges 11:24).   The same warning applies today for those nations that refuse to acknowledge the state of Isra’el. However, the real battle is for Jerusalem, the city where Yahweh has put His Name. In 2017 that battle rages larger as the United States of America acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Isra’el.

Crossing the Jordan

Reuben and Gad see the land on the eastern side of the Jordan is good for raising livestock. Elohim had conquered that land for Isra’el so they approach Moshe to ask if they may remain there and raise their animals.

Moshe becomes upset with them believing they were deserting their brothers as they went into battle to conquer Canaan.  However, Reuben and Gad only wanted to build structures for their livestock and cities so their wives and children would have a place to live.  They promise to go with their brothers across the Jordan and fight until each tribe had received its land inheritance.  

“We will not return to our own homes until every man in Isra’el has taken possession of his land for inheritance. We will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Yarden, westward; because our inheritance has fallen to us on this side of the Yarden, eastward. We will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan westward; because our inheritance has fallen to us on this side of the Jordan, eastward” (Numbers 32:18-19).

Moshe gave Reuben, Gad and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh land on the eastern side of the Jordan.   They were given the kingdom of Sichon king of the Emorites and the kingdom of Og King of Bashon (the giant).   Both of these kings had refused the peaceful passage of the Israelites and therefore lost possession of their land through warfare. 

Yeshua and Forgiveness

“Forgive us what we have done wrong,  as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us…. For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours” (Matthew 6:12,14).

“Then Kefa came up and said to him, “Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?” “No, not seven times,” answered Yeshua, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22)

“Also he took a cup of wine, made the b’rakhah, and gave it to them, saying, “All of you, drink from it! For this is my blood, which ratifies the New Covenant, my blood shed on behalf of many, so that they may have their sins forgiven” (Matthew 26:27-28).

“Some Torah-teachers sitting there thought to themselves, “How can this fellow say such a thing? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God?” But immediately Yeshua, perceiving in his spirit what they were thinking, said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to the paralyzed man? ‘Your sins are forgiven’? or ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’? But look! I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He then said to the paralytic, “I say to you: get up, pick up your stretcher and go home!” In front of everyone the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and left. They were all utterly amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:6-12)

“And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive your offenses” (Mark 11:25).

“You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet! Because of this, I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven” (Luke 7:46-48).

“When they came to the place called The Skull, they nailed him to a stake; and they nailed the criminals to stakes, one on the right and one on the left. Yeshua said, “Father, forgive them; they don’t understand what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-34).

“Having said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Ruach HaKodesh! If you forgive someone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you hold them, they are held” (John 20:22-23).

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets

Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 5:33-37

Midrash Mattot: The Justice of Elohim

Discuss Romans 12:19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 and waiting on Elohim to render justice, whether it’s a personal situation or in a court of law.

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