Reflection for Beha’alot’kha

“Jealous Judgment”

John 7:53-8:11
Acts 21:17-32


by Mark Huey

This week in our Torah studies we turn to B’ha’alotkha (Numbers 8:1-12:16), where the instruction delivered concerns the proper usage of the menorah,[1] followed by details on how the Levites are to be purified for service to the Lord, along with some specific age limits for priestly service.[2] Next, a delayed Passover commemoration is described, which allows those who might have been defiled or traveling on a lengthy journey to participate in a convocation a month after the regular Passover memorial on the 14th of Aviv/Nisan.[3] Remembering the Passover is something that both the native born and sojourner within Israel are to do—an emphasis on the level of equality which is to be present among the broad, mixed community of Israel:

“If an alien sojourns among you and observes the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its ordinance, so he shall do; you shall have one statute [chuqah echat], both for the alien and for the native of the land” (Numbers 9:14).[4]

It is foundational to the Holy Scriptures that all of God’s people be held to the same basic standard. The Passover, with all of its important themes of God’s deliverance and salvation—especially for those who acknowledge Messiah Yeshua as Passover Lamb—is something which Jewish and non-Jewish people should strive to diligently remember.

B’ha’alotkha continues, describing the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night, which covered the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting, while also being the visible guide for Ancient Israel’s desert sojourn.[5] This is followed by a short description of two silver trumpets and their use for assembling the various contingents of Israel, for announcing the arrival of the appointed times, as well as for sounding alarms when engaging an enemy in warfare.[6] Then, with the movement of the tribes engulfing the Tabernacle in marshaled array, the orderly process is detailed, followed by an appeal to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite to accompany the Israelites as a scout because of his familiarity with the desert terrain.[7] Finally, before an avalanche of complaints arises,[8] an inspirational declaration is issued from Moses, as the Ark of the Covenant was taken up in leading the assembly of Israel:

“Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.’ When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the myriad thousands of Israel’” (Numbers 10:35-36).[9]

The balance of our Torah portion this week summarizes the complaints of the Israelites about the forced marches,[10] the people desiring some meat rather than just manna,[11] and some direct attacks made against Moses by Aaron and Miriam whining to God about Moses’ position as the anointed leader of Israel.[12] It is with this complaint against Moses in mind, that we might wish to consider how the author of Hebrews compares and contrasts the service of Moses with the Messiah Yeshua. Moses is lauded and highly respected to be certain, but it is Yeshua’s House which Moses is designated as having served:

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Yeshua, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Messiah was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (Hebrews 3:1-6).

Within this selection from Hebrews, we see a direct reference made to something we have read about in B’ha’alotkha this week. The faithfulness of Moses within the House of God is referenced, in the context of when the Lord defends Moses to his siblings Aaron and Miriam:

“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, ‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?’ And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Suddenly the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, ‘You three come out to the tent of meeting.’ So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?’ So the anger of the LORD burned against them and He departed” (Numbers 12:1-9).

In this dramatic episode, Aaron and Miriam challenge the leadership of Moses with the pretense of complaining about Moses’ wife. The text refers to her not as Zipporah, but instead as ha’ishah ha’Kushit. They seem to be offended that Moses would not have married a native Israelite, but the real issue present here is how Aaron and Miriam are not being used more. They had already displayed some spiritual prowess with Aaron being designated and anointed as the High Priest (Leviticus 8:12), and Miriam acclaimed as a prophetess (Exodus 15:20). What we see is a classic case of sibling envy and jealousy, as a younger brother had more responsibility than they did in the community of Israel. Problematically, their complaints were spread among the people of Israel until the Lord heard them and responded accordingly.

In Numbers 12:3, the parenthetical statement is made that “the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” Conservative Bible scholars are widely agreed that given the content, this is a remark made by a post-Mosaic editor of the Pentateuch, and not by Moses himself—as the most humble man could never make such a claim.[13] For our reading of the Book of Numbers in its final form, the reality is that it was Moses’ innate humility which prepared him for the role and responsibility of leading the Ancient Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

When the challenge to Moses’ authority manifested, the Lord spoke to all three siblings and instructed them to come to the Tent of Meeting. The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and presented Himself in the doorway to the three siblings. Calling out Aaron and Miriam, the Almighty reminded them that while He might communicate with prophets through visions and dreams, with His servant Moses, He speaks mouth to mouth. God has chosen to speak directly to Moses so that His words are not subject to interpretation. The natural rhetorical question stated to Aaron and Miriam was simply, “How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses!” (Numbers 12:8, NJPS). Clearly, God was angered. These transgressions result in a physical punishment and temporary banishment for Miriam, because she was apparently the person most responsible for challenging Moses (Numbers 12:5-10).

In Hebrews 3:1-6, the author of Hebrews incorporates in a comparative way, a distinction between Moses as one of the foundational building blocks of the House of God, with Yeshua. The Messiah is not simply a part of the House of God, but He is the Son of God, who happens to be the Master of the House. If Moses is to be given acclaim and respect throughout the ages, then how much more honor and praise is due to the Son of God who offered Himself up as a sacrifice for human sin? The kind of humility and service demonstrated by Moses is surely something that we should emulate—but we should even more consider the humility of the Messiah who gave up His exalted glory and honor to be slain for us (cf. Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 45:23)!

When one considers how the Almighty was willing to come to the defense of His servant Moses—just compare this to the exaltation of Yeshua at His Father’s right hand reigning over the Heavens!

As far as foundations go, is it not said of Yeshua that He is the chief cornerstone and ultimate foundation of the ekklēsia? The Apostle Paul wrote this to a mixed community of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit…so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the [assembly] to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:10).

For Believers today, these words confirm in a round about way what Moses originally said about the native born and sojourner in Israel following the same instruction. Today in the post-resurrection era as salvation history has moved forward, these previous distinctions are to be considered past (cf. 1 Peter 1:1)—as what is most important is that all saints are “subject to one another in the fear of Messiah” (Ephesians 5:21). I consider it a great blessing to know that the Father has used great building blocks like Moses—but most importantly the Messiah Himself—as the very cornerstone of His House. Praise Him for His faithfulness and humility which have brought us salvation, and the many more things to come in eternity!

May each strive to emulate the great examples of humility and service we see in Moses and the Messiah Yeshua!

NOTES

[1] Numbers 8:1-4.

[2] Numbers 8:5-26.

[3] Numbers 9:1-14.

[4] Cf. Exodus 12:48-49; Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 15:15.

[5] Numbers 9:15-23.

[6] Numbers 10:1-10.

[7] Numbers 10:11-36.

[8] Numbers 11:1-15.

[9] This verse, along with Micah 4:2/Isaiah 2:3, is recited in the traditional liturgy of the Jewish Synagogue, as the Torah scroll is pulled from the ark during the Shabbat service.

J.H. Hertz, ed., The Authorised Daily Prayer Book (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1960), pp 473-475; Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, eds., Complete ArtScroll Siddur, Nusach Sefard (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1985), pp 471-473; Jules Harlow, ed., Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2007), 139.

[10] Numbers 11:16-30.

[11] Numbers 11:31-35.

[12] Numbers 12:1-16.

[13] Consult R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), pp 614-634; and the entry for the Book of Numbers in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.


This teaching has been excerpted from TorahScope Apostolic Scriptures Reflections by William Mark Huey