Posts Tagged ‘Priestly blessing’

Parashah 35: Naso (Take)

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 30 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 carried the curtains of the Tabernacle, its coverings, the screens, the tapestries for the Courtyard, all ropes, stakes, and tools needed for doing their work.

The Unfaithful Wife and The Jealous Husband

The test for a suspected unfaithful wife by jealous husband was outlined by Adonai. 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 jealous would be used for remembering or recalling the guilt.

The priest would bring the wife forward and place her before Adonai. He would put holy water in a clay pot and 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 made 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 shrivel up” (Numbers 5:21-22).

The woman responded, “Amen! Amen!” Let it be so.

The priest wrote the curses on a scroll, washed them off into the water of cursing, and made the woman drink the bitter water. He took the grain offering for jealousy from her hands, waved it before Adonai, and brought 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 barren and an object of cursing among the people. If she was innocent, she would bear children.

Because this ritual is a little strange, 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 because Moshe would not have added pagan rituals to the commands of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.

As I searched for other interpretations, I wondered if the ceremony was actually for 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 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 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 from the Tabernacle is holy ground. The test is no longer a moral test, but a spiritual one determining spiritual adultery.

HaShem 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).  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 aroused 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 was 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 concept of ‘vow.’ The Nazarite vow was voluntary and required the man to 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 vow was over, he presented a burnt 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 brought the offerings before Adonai 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 took its shoulder, one loaf of matzah from the basket along with one wafer, and placed them in the hands of the nazir to wave them before Adonai.  These items were set aside along with the breast and thigh for the priest.  When all the regulations had been followed and completed, the nazir could drink the wine.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Nazarite or nazir – נזיר – nun, zayin, yod, resh
– life divides the finished work of the highest authority

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

After Manoah’s wife was barren for some time, 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, but it was not his hair that gave him strength, it was the Ruach Elohim and Samson’s calling as a lifelong nazir. When Delilah cut Samson’s hair, he defiled his vow. In spite of his weakness as a man, Adonai 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 chapter 21.  The believers in Jerusalem praised Adonai 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 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 took a Nazarite vow to prove to everyone 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.  

Some teach against Torah and the Temple practices under the guise that Jesus set them free from everything in the Old Testament. These unBiblical 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 resurrected.  His vow proved that Yeshua did not abolish the Torah or the Temple regulations so Sha’ul 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 called the Priestly or Aaronic Blessing.  The name yod-hey-vav-hey (יהוה) was placed on the children of Isra’el so they would receive a blessing from Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. When the priest spoke blessing, he raised both hands making the letter shin with his fingers, bringing the Shekinah, the Divine Presence of Adonai onto the people.

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 Adonai bless you and keep you,
May Adonai shine his face to you and be gracious to you, May Adonai 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 a 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 Adonai lifts up His countenance, the opposite happens. The imagery continues with the father lifting the child over his head, raising his countenance with love, joy, and peace.

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 –– the hand sign from the Priestly Blessing 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 who 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 Sacrifice.  The offerings included one silver dish worth 130 shekels or 3 ¼ pounds of silver and a silver basin worth 70 shekels or 1 ¾ pounds.   Both were filled with fine flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering.  One gold pan worth 10 shekels or ¼ pound of gold was filled with 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, N’than’el; 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 Nafatli, Achira.

Yeshua and Jealousy

“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).

“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).

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Aaronic Blessing – Priestly Blessing

Blessing the Children
Blessing Children at Passover

“Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to Aharon and his sons, and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Isra’el: you are to say to them,

‘Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha.
[May Adonai bless you and keep you.]
Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekka.
[May Adonai make his face shine on you and show you his favor.]
Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.
[May Adonai lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]’

“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).

May Adonai bless you and keep you; may Adonai be gracious to you; may Adonai lift His countenance upon you and give you shalom.’

This blessing was spoken to put the memorial name of God on His people: Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, yod-hey-vav-hey. Adonai is the ‘name’ used today because the verbally spoken memorial name given to Moshe has been lost.