Messianic Torah Portion Bamidbar
Bamidbar "In the wilderness"
Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1- 4:20 29
Two of the most neglected topics of study are the genealogies and the censuses of ancient Yisrael. On the surface genealogies and censuses often appear to be dry and spiritually unrewarding. However, when studied in detail the significance of genealogies and censuses becomes apparent. The time invested in studying the genealogies and censuses of ancient Yisrael can be just as rewarding as the time invested in studying prophecy. Bamidbar is a good example of how studying the genealogies and censuses of ancient Yisrael can open our eyes to understanding of other segments of the Tanach. For example, studying the census in Bamidbar teaches us that the Levites were not to be counted with the rest of Yisrael as Bamidbar 1:48-49 states"the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying, you shall not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel". Counting the Levites as part of Yisrael was against the will of HaShem. In fact, in 1Chronicles Yoav saw the counting of Yisrael as abominable. Therefore, he disobeyed king David, and did not count the Levites, as part of Yisrael. 1Chronicles 21:5-6 states "Yoav gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand, thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Yehudah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Yoav." Yoav was willing to risk the wrath of king David rather than violate HaShem's commandment. Yoav realized that the numbering of the Children of Yisrael is a holy process that can only be conducted according to the procedures HaShem commands. In Bamidbar HaShem gives very specific commands regarding the appropriate way of taking a census. Two of the most important commands regarding a census are when and how to take the census.
The first command HaShem gave regarding the taking of a census is when to take the census. No person in Yisrael had the authority to command the taking of a census. Only HaShem had the authority to command the taking of a census. Bamidbar 1:1-2 states "HaShem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, take a sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls". King David transgressed this commandment when he ordered that a census be taken as 1Chronicals 21:1-3 states "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?" The authority required to number the Children of Yisrael belongs to HaShem only. HaShem knows the total number of His people, and will not take a census until He chooses to reveal the number to mankind.
The second command HaShem gave concerning the taking of a census is how to count His people. This commandment is divided into two sections. Each section is actually a separate counting. The first section of this commandment is the general census. The general census consisted of all the male Children of Yisrael who were old enough to go to war. Bamidbar 1:2-3 states "Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies." The general census only applied to individuals who were old enough to fight for the land they would inherit. As a result HaShem commanded the general census to consist of males from twenty years old and upward.
The second section of numbering the Children of Yisrael is the Levitical counting. The Levites did not have an inheritance in the land as Bamidbar 18:23 states "The Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance." As a result, the Levites were not required to fight. We can see this when HaShem punished the Yisraelites for being afraid to fight the giants and posses the land. Bamidbar 14:29 states "Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me," HaShem only punishes the Yisraelites who are twenty years old and upward. The Levites were not part of this group, because they entered the land with Yehoshua and Caleb. Yehoshua 24:33 states "Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim." Eleazar the son of Aaron died in the land and was buried in the land. The Levites were not considered men of war; therefore they were not punished for being afraid of the giants in the land. The Levites inheritance was HaShem, and the tithes of Yisrael. Bamidbar 8:20-21 states "the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation." Because the Levites inheritance was separate from the inheritance of the rest of Yisrael the Levites were counted separately. In addition to being counted separately the Levites were also conducted differently. Bamidbar 1:47-49 states "the LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shall you number them." The Levites were counted from a month old and upward. This is because the Levites were trained for ministry from an early age.
HaShem is the only authority that can number His people. When HaShem authorized a census two separate countings were taken. HaShem divides the numbering of Yisrael into separate countings, because each group has a different calling. The first counting is the general census. The general census is for males who are old enough for war. The general census consisted of males twenty years old and upward. These individuals are called to inherit the land. The second counting is for the Levites. The Levites are called to minister. Therefore, the Levitical counting consisted of males from a month old and upward. Separate countings were required because the inheritance of each group is different. Therefore, the Levites and the men of war have different destinies.
Torah Portion Study Questions For Each Weeks Torah Portion
These questions and answers are to use in individual study or as a foundation for individuals creating Shabbat School lessons. Feel free to use the Torah Portion comments as templates to enhance your Torah study.
Bamidbar Study Guide Questions
- what verse in Bamidbar states that the Levities are not to be counted with the rest of Yisrael?
- In 1Chronicles why did Yoav disobey David?
- Who is the only one that has the authority to order a census in Yisrael?
- Who does scripture record was the one that instigated David into taking a census of Yisrael?
- What group in Yisrael 20 years and above does Bamidbar 1:2-3 say are to be counted?
- (True or False) The Levities were considered men of war?
- At what age did the counting of the Levities start?
- Why were the Levities and the General population of Yisrael counted separately?
Bamidbar Study Guide Answers
- Bamidbar 1:48-49
- he new that counting Levi with Yisrael was an abomination to the Lord
- 1Chronicals 21:1-3 states “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”
- The men that are able and old enough to go to war?
- The Levities were counted from a month old and upward as Bamidbar 1:47-49 states
- The Levities did not have an inheritance in the land all of the other tribes had an inheritance in the land. The Levities and the rest of Yisrael had different destinies to fulfill.
By Rabbi Yaakov benYosef ABOUT-Torah.org© 2010 About Torah