“Adonai spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month of the second year after they had left the land of Egypt. He said, ‘Take a census of the entire assembly of the people of Isra’el, by clans and families. Record the names of all the men’”(Numbers 1:1-2).
B’midbar means ‘in the wilderness.’ This part of Torah follows the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. This journey should have only taken only ten days or so, but because of their faithlessness, they camped and broke camp for 40 years. The title ‘Numbers’ comes from the reference to the census taken in the first verses.
The first order of business before the Israelites set out from Mount Sinai was to count the men, 20 years of age or older, who were able to do military service for Isra’el. The leaders of each tribe were chosen by Elohim, the leaders of each family and the heads of thousands in Isra’el. The grand total military-aged men was 603,550. Their names, family name, and clan were recorded:
From the Tribe of Reuben: Elitzur the son of Sh’de’ur, 46,500; from the Tribe of Simeon: Shlumi’el the son of Tzurishaddai, 59,300; from the Tribe of Judah: Nacshon the son of Amminadav, 74,600; from the Tribe of Issachar: N’tan’el the son of Tzu’ar, 54,400; from the Tribe of Zebulun: Eli’av the son of Helon, 57,400; of the children of Joseph: from Ephraim: Elishama the son of ‘Ammihud, 40,500; from Manasseh: Gamli’el the son of P’dahtzur, 32,200; from the Tribe of Benjamin: Avidan the son of Gid’oni, 35,400; from the Tribe of Dan: Achi’ezer the son of ‘Ammishaddai, 62,700; from the Tribe of Asher: Pag’i’el the son of Okhran, 41,500; from the Tribe of Gad: Elyasaf the son of Re’u’el, 45,650; from the Tribe of Naftali: Achira the son of Enan, 53,400.
The men from the Tribe of Levi were not counted in the census because they were given the responsibility of the Mishkan, its equipment, and everything connected with it. When the Israelites moved camp, only the Levites could take down the Tabernacle, carry the equipment, and set it up in the new location.
“This is what the people of Isra’el did – they did everything that Adonai had ordered Moshe” (Numbers 1:54).
Only the men were counted because in a patriarchal system men were responsible for the care and protection of women and children. When a woman married into any family, it was a sign of prestige, protection, and honor. To birth more children was a blessing viewed as producing the grains of sand and stars in the sky according to the promise El Shaddai gave to Abraham. Women had the unique role of teaching and training their children, taking care of the ‘tent,’ and honoring their husbands.
“Likewise, tell the older women to behave the way people leading a holy life should. They shouldn’t be slanderers or slaves to excessive drinking. They should teach what is good, thus training the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to take good care of their homes and submit to their husbands. In this way, God’s message will not be brought into disgrace” (Titus 2:3-5).
Titus 2 remains the Biblical standard for ordering the home. However, the idol of this world is feminism and ‘equality’ for women. Women who want to live according to Elohim’s design for the home and family are constantly challenged and bombarded with the western culture and the belief that a woman can have it all: career and family. The truth is that something always suffers and it’s rarely the woman’s career. College degrees are believed to offer more self-esteem than being a mommy to raising little lives. If a woman chooses not to go to college, she is led to believe that she will have no future nor be able to take care of herself if something happens to her husband. The greatest deception many women have embraced is that they need time away from being a mommy and a wife, time away from those they love, so they don’t lose their identity.
Many years ago, my sister complained that she was known only as Wayne’s’ daughter, Robert’s wife, and Kris and Kyle’s mother. No one knew her as Aileen. I tried to explain that these relationships did not take away from her personal identity, but added to it. Two weeks later her husband was killed in a car accident and suddenly she was no longer anyone’s wife. She was a widow and a single mom. She had lost part of herself, and part of her identity.
With the Tabernacle in the center of the camp, each tribe set up their tents with every man under his own tribal banner symbol. These symbols are referenced from numerous sources from Jacob’s blessing to traditional Jewish interpretations.
On the eastern side of Tabernacle toward the sunrise were the Tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The banner of Judah was a lion because he was the prophesied lion’s cub who would become a ruler. The banner of Issachar was a donkey because he would labor on the land. Zebulun’s banner was a fishing boat because he would settle by or be able to view the sea. The total number of military men on the eastern side was 186,400. When the camp moved, these three tribes set out first under Judah’s banner, the first standard.
On the southern side of the Tabernacle were the Tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. The banner of Reuben was mandrakes like those he brought to his mother, Leah. Simeon’s banner was the city gates of Shechem that brought his demise. Gad’s banner had a tent for the troops that would overcome their enemy. The total number of military men on the southern side was 151,450. When the camp moved, these three tribes set out second under Reuben’s banner, the second standard.
The Mishkan and the Levites followed the first and second tribal groups with the third and fourth tribes bringing up the rear. In this way the Tabernacle was in the center of the procession and protected in front and back. The banner for the Levites was the breastplate of the high priest with the gemstones representing the 12 Tribes of Isra’el.
On the western side of the Tabernacle were the Tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. The banner for Ephraim was an ox symbolizing the firstborn of Joseph. The banner of Manasseh was a branch bearing fruit. Benjamin’s banner was a wolf for his courage in war. The total number of military men on the western side was 108,100. When the camp moved, these three tribes would set out after the Levites and the Tabernacle under the banner of Ephraim, the third standard.
On the northern side of the Tabernacle were the Tribes of Dan, Asher, and Nafatli. The banner for Dan was a set of scales representing justice and avenging his people. The banner for Asher was an olive tree symbolizing peace and prosperity. Nafatli’s banner was a deer that had been set free. The total number of military men on the northern side was 157,600. These three tribes would set out after Ephraim under banner of Dan, the fourth standard.
According to rabbinical tradition, Judah’s banner had the figure of a lion, Reuben’s had the likeness of a man, Ephraim’s had an ox, and Dan’s had an eagle so the four faces of the living creatures, k’ruvim, described by Ezekiel were represented. In the middle was the Tabernacle with the Divine Presence of Adonai.
The Levites – The Descendants of Aaron
“You are to appoint Aaron and his sons to carry out the duties of the cohanim [the priesthood]; anyone else who involves himself is to be put to death” (Numbers 3:10).
Aaron needed help with the Tabernacle so Adonai commanded the Levite priesthood to serve Aaron and his sons. They helped minster in the Mishkan and carried out priestly duties in the community of Isra’el.
By the time of Yeshua, the priesthood had lost its attachment to bloodline through Aaron and his descendants. The high priest Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, was appointed to be high priest by Rome completely out of divine regulation. Because the Jewish priesthood could not order an execution because it violated Jewish law, they used the Roman-appointed high priest to judge Yeshua; he could be executed for inciting insurrection. Caiaphas and Annas were integral in bringing Yeshua to trial and ordering his death sentence. According to Torah, however, it should have been the high priests, Annas and Caiaphas, who were put to death for usurping the priesthood from the sons of Aaron.
“But some of them went off to the P’rushim and told them what he had done [raised Lazarus from the dead]. So the head cohanim and the P’rushim called a meeting of the Sanhedrin and said, ‘What are we going to do? — for this man is performing many miracles. If we let him keep going on this way, everyone will trust in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both the Temple and the nation.’ But one of them, Kayafa [Caiaphas], who was cohen gadol [high priest] that year, said to them, ‘You people don’t know anything! You don’t see that it’s better for you if one man dies on behalf of the people, so that the whole nation won’t be destroyed.’ Now he didn’t speak this way on his own initiative; rather, since he was cohen gadol that year, he was prophesying that Yeshua was about to die on behalf of the nation, and not for the nation alone, but so that he might gather into one the scattered children of God” (John 11:46-52).
The Redemption of the Levites
“I have taken the Levites from among the people of Isra’el in lieu of every firstborn male that is first from the womb among the people of Isra’el; the Levites are to be mine” (Numbers 3:11-12).
The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Their sons, one month old and older, were counted in a separate census so their numbers might redeem the firstborn of Isra’el. The total number of Levites was 22,000. All the firstborn males one month old and older of the people of Isra’el were also counted. The total number was 22,723. The difference of 273 were redeemed for five shekels per person. Using the sanctuary value of a shekel, Moshe collected 1,365 shekels and the money was given to Aaron. In this way, the Levites were redeemed in place of the firstborn of all Isra’el.
The Gershonite clans included Livni and Shimeni along with 7,500 male offspring. These clans camped behind the Tabernacle toward the western side with Elyasaph, the son of La’el as their leader. These Levites were in charge of maintaining the Tabernacle, its inner and outer coverings, the screen for the entrance of the Mishkan, the curtains surrounding the Courtyard, the screen for the entrance of the Courtyard surrounding the Tabernacle, and the Altar of Sacrifice, and all the fixtures and coverings for these articles.
The Kohathite clans included Amram, Yitzar, Hebron, and Uziel along with 8,600 male offspring. These clans camped next to the Tabernacle on the southern side with Elitzaphan, the son of Uziel, as their leader. Their responsibilities included maintenance the Ark of the Covenant, the Veil, the Table of Presence, the Menorah, the Altar of Incense, and the utensils the priests used when serving in the Holy Place. Eleazar, the son of Aaron, supervised the Levites in charge of the Holy Place.
The Merarite clans included Machli and Mushi along with 6,200 male offspring. They were camped next to the Tabernacle on the northern side with Tzuriel, the son of Avichayil, as their leader. They were responsible for maintaining the frames of the Mishkan, its crossbars, posts, sockets, fittings, and the posts of the surrounding Courtyard with their sockets, pegs, and ropes.
Moshe and Aaron’s sons camped on the eastern side of the Tabernacle where the sun rises. They were in charge of the Most Holy Place on behalf of the people of Isra’el.
A separate census was taken of the Kohathite clan who were 35 to 50 years old. These men would be responsible for transporting the Tabernacle when the camp moved. Specific instructions were given to Aaron and his sons for preparing the holy things and only after the holy objects were ready, could the Kohathites move in and carry everything to the next campsite. They could not look at or touch any of the holy objects or they would die.
The Ark of the Covenant
To prepare the Ark of the Covenant for travel, Aaron went into the Holy of Holies with this sons, took down the Holy Curtain separating the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies and used it as the first covering over the Ark. The second covering over the Ark was fine leather. The Ark had third covering of blue cloth representing the heavens where Elohim dwells. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, anyone who came into contact with them would see the heavenly presence of Adonai’s Throne in the midst of the Tribes of Isra’el; and receive a glimpse of eternity to come.
In my Bible, I wrote notes from a teaching regarding the Divine Presence of Adonai represented in the four coverings for the Ark:
• Uncovered: The Garden of Eden where His Divine Presence needed no covering as He walked in the cool of the evening with Adam and Eve.
• The Holy Curtain: After the fall, His Divine Presence was covered by His holy nation of Isra’el.
• The Leather: When Yeshua was born as a human being, the Divine Presence was covered in flesh.
• The Blue: This is the covering of complete redemption when the Divine Presence comes down out of heaven as the New Jerusalem, and Adonai makes His home with His people.
Table of Presence
“I am the bread which is life. Your fathers ate the man in the desert; they died. But the bread that comes down from heaven is such that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. Furthermore, the bread that I will give is my own flesh; and I will give it for the life of the world” (John 6:48-51).
When traveling, a blue cloth was spread over the Table of Presence. The dishes, incense pans, offering bowls, and pitchers were placed on top and covered with a scarlet cloth and fine leather. The carrying poles were inserted into the rings.
The Bread of Presence remained on the Table when it was transported so Adonai’s presence would remain with Isra’el. There weren’t three loaves for the trinity or 40 loaves for the nations, but 12 loaves representing Adonai’s chosen people. The Bread of Presence was probably made with manna as that is what the Israelites ate for 40 years. While they traveled through the wilderness, manna was the physical provision from Elohim; Torah was their spiritual.
The Menorah and the Oil
The Menorah along with its lamps, its tongs, its trays, and jars were covered with a blue cloth. It was wrapped along with its accessories in fine leather and placed on a carrying frame. No one, not even the Levites, could see under the covering of leather.
Eleazar, Aaron’s son, was responsible for the Menorah’s oil, the incense, and the anointing oil. He was also responsible for the entire Mishkan and everything in it including the sanctuary and its furnishings.
The Altar of Incense
The Altar of Incense was covered with blue cloth and leather. All utensils used for serving in the sanctuary were put in blue cloth and covered with leather and placed on a carrying frame. The carrying poles were inserted into the Altar’s rings.
The Altar of Sacrifice
After removing the ashes from the Altar of Sacrifice, a purple cloth was spread over it. All the utensils required for the Altar service: the fire pans, meat hooks, shovels, basins, and other utensils were placed on the cloth. A covering of fine leather was spread over the top. The carrying poles were inserted for travel.
Purple and scarlet are often times interchangeable in Scripture. Purple, however, was rare and a highly valued cloth –– symbolic of judgment and justice. It was at the Altar of Sacrifice that justice and grace was rendered by Adonai –– the lifeblood of an animal as a substitute for the lifeblood of a human.
Mysteries of Adonai
“Things which are hidden belong to Adonai our God. But the things that have been revealed belong to us and our children forever, so that we can observe all the words of this Torah” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
The word ‘mystery’ in Hebrew is raz and means ‘secret.’ Proverbs 25:2 says that it is Adonai’s privilege to conceal matters. The Hebrew word for ‘conceal’ is sathar and means ‘hide.’ Every object in the Tabernacle was covered in blue, scarlet, purple, and leather; what was under the coverings remained concealed in mystery to the priesthood, the Tribes of Isra’el, and the nations they encountered. Only when the coverings were removed could the hidden objects be seen, and then only by a chosen few.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Secret or raz – רז – resh, zayin
– the highest authority divided
Conceal (Hide) or sathar – סתר – samech, tav, resh
– support the covenant of the highest authority
Yeshua, The Concealed Reality
“He [Yeshua] answered them, ‘To you the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given; but to those outside, everything is in parables, so that they may be always looking but never seeing; always listening but never understanding. Otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:11-12)
“For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nothing is covered up that will not be known and come out into the open…. There is nothing covered up that will not be uncovered, or hidden that will not become known. What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 8:17, 12:2-3).
“For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness” (Romans 11:25).
“Now to God, who can strengthen you, according to my Good News, in harmony with the revelation of the secret truth which is the proclamation of Yeshua the Messiah, kept hidden in silence for ages and ages, but manifested now through prophetic writings, in keeping with the command of God the Eternal, and communicated to all the Gentiles to promote in them trust-grounded obedience — to the only wise God, through Yeshua the Messiah, be the glory forever and ever! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27)
“What is more, their minds were made stone like; for to this day the same veil remains over them when they read the Old Covenant; it has not been unveiled, because only by the Messiah is the veil taken away. Yes, till today, whenever Moshe is read, a veil lies over their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:14-15).
“I [Sha’ul] became a servant of the Good News because God gave me this work to do for your benefit. The work is to make fully known the message from God, the secret hidden for generations, for ages, but now made clear to the people he has set apart for himself. To them God wanted to make known how great among the Gentiles [nations] is the glorious richness of this secret. And the secret is this: the Messiah is united with you people! In that rests your hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:25-27)
“He has made known to us his secret plan, which by his own will he designed beforehand in connection with the Messiah and will put into effect when the time is ripe — his plan to place everything in heaven and on earth under the Messiah’s headship” (Ephesians 1:9-10).
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