Torah Portion: Matot (Tribes) & Masa’ei (Journeys) Numbers (B’Midbar) 30:2-36:13
HafTorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:28
NT Matthew 5:33-37; James 4:1-12
This week we read a double Torah section, the first Matot is given to the heads of the tribes of Israel and covers some very important material, especially for us as grafted in believers. It begins with a teaching on vows and also the responsibility of the husband in the matter of vows, not only for his own but of special importance to us, also those of his wife. Why should this be of any interest to us? Yeshua is the head or husband of the assembly. (Eph. 5:22-33) Given this, these verses in B’Midbar can give us insight into how Yeshua freed us from our sins and took them upon Himself.
It also helps us to understand Yeshua’s statement in Matt. 16:19 about binding and loosening. Let’s start with this. In Numbers 30:13 it says a husband may confirm an oath taken by his wife or loose her from it. In Judaism of Yeshua’s day and also of today this relates to a rabbinic concept of binding and loosening. As a husband could bind or loose his wife so could the Sanhedrin and later the Apostles bind or loose. Binding and loosening simply means forbidding and permitting an act. That authority is subject to Torah of course. One can’t loose a commandment of Torah. But it did apply to interpretations of those commandments. For example, in Mark 3:1-6, also Matt. 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11 Yeshua looses His followers from the interpretation that forbade healing on the Sabbath. In Matthew 5:32 we see Him bind His followers to a more stringent interpretation of Torah about divorce. He did not add or subtract from Torah but interprets it for us. Going back to the Ephesians scripture it is very important for us not to dismiss His words, we must not adopt interpretations from which He has loosed us or ignore matters to which He has bound us. We can also apply this to the Apostolic teachings as well.
Now to vows. In B’Midbar 3013 Yeshua talked a lot about vows in Matt 23:16-22, Matt 10:5-13 (shirking our vows), and the binding nature of vows Matt. 5:33-36. Given these verses it would seem important for us to understand vows and their effect.
B’Midbar 30:15 tells us that if a husband annuls his wife’s vows after he has heard them, he bears the consequences for her breaking her vow. Verse 30:35 states if he voids her vow then he bears her guilt and whatever punishment heaven hands out. This can show us that by Torah a husband can choose to suffer on behalf of his wife. This translated in Judaism as the principle that the suffering of a righteous man affords or makes atonement possible for a people. Applied to Messiah, we could read this as Yeshua suffered not for His own sins but for His people. Isaiah 53:12. He suffered on behalf of His bride and due to His suffering the L-rd will forgive her (bride)/us.
Shaul alludes to this in Col. 2:13-14. Yeshua annuls our sins just as the husband here in Numbers annuls his wife’s vows. As our husband, Yeshua has the ability to annul our transgressions so long as He bore our guilt upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us. (I Peter 2:21-24) Also, this explains why we must have a personal relationship with Him. He can only do this for those who are His bride, over whose life He has authority.
In the second Torah section we read about the journeys of Israel. When we go on a trip we usually look at only the destination. Torah is making a point that we should never forget the trip. We have a goal in life but it is important how we get there.
We also read about the cities of refuge and the blood avenger. We read about the need to set up cities to which a person could flee if they had killed someone, either intentionally or by accident. There they found asylum until their case could be heard. If guilty they were turned over to the avenger, if not they could stay in the city of refuge and be safe. B’Midbar 35:12. Yeshua is our city of refuge, from the one who goes about seeking those he can devour. As we stay in Messiah we are safe.
In Numbers 35:28 it talks about the death of the High Priest and that it released all those in the cities of refuge who were there for an unintentional death. Somehow the death of the High Priest paid the price or debt of the manslayer. The death and resurrection of our Heavenly High Priest erased our debt of guilt and sin. His death set us free and canceled satan’s claim on our lives. Like our husband He took it upon Himself.