In Num 17, the Lord is going to settle the issue of who is called and who is not once and for all. Yehovah told the sons of Israel to bring a rod for each of the father’s households, twelve in all. They were to write Aaron’s name on the rod for Levi. The word for rod is “shevet” and it can mean “scepter.” This is a good thing to do. If God called you, he will reaffirm you.
He will reaffirm Aaron because his rod will bud almonds. In other words, a dead branch comes to life. Almonds are called the “hastening fruit” because it is the first tree to blossom in the spring. This also alludes to Yeshua being a “dead branch” and coming to life in the spring at his resurrection on Nisan 17. It also alludes to the fact he may have descended from Levi and Aaron also. We know his mother was related to Zachariah and Elisheva who were not only Levites, but kohanim (Luke 1.5). That means Yochanon Ha Matvil (John the Immerser) was a priest and a cousin of Yeshua. We can also see priestly names in Miriam’s genealogy in Luke 3. For more information on this, go to the article called, “Was Mary a Levite, Making Jesus Both King and Priest?” by Shari Abbott, Reasons For Hope.Com. This rod is a dead “branch” that came alive with fruit of the spring. This is a prophecy of Yeshua coming alive also in the spring (Yom Ha Bikkurim).
The concept of Machlekot” (controversy) is not complete without mentioning its alternative, “Shalom.” When we think of all that we can do to make a situation more in our favor, we should also consider that if we swallow our pride and ego, we can make peace. What are some lessons in this story?
Though Moses and Aaron were in the right, they exposed themselves to insult and humiliation, even trying to halt this tragedy. In acting this way, they demonstrate how far one must go to put our ego aside for the sake of peace. Secondly, it teaches that the “democratic process” cannot be applied to spiritual matters. Leave it to the Lord to be the channel of communication and input. In other words, if God called you and gave you authority, that doesn’t mean he took that authority from someone else.
Before we get into conflicts with others, we should remember Korah and his company. We should ask ourselves some questions, like “Why do I care about this?” “Is it for the sake of truth, or my own concerns?” “What might I lose if I get involved?” “What might the world gain?” “Will it really matter in the long run if I get my way?” The main concern is not only if the job gets done, but that it gets done by the people God has called to do it. In Num 18.1-37 Yehovah repairs the breach further and reconfirms the tribe of Levi and their duties are redefined.
The next Torah portion is called “Chukat” meaning “Statute.” It goes from Num 19.1 to 22.1. The whole topic of ritual purity is called “Chuk” meaning “not easy to explain.” The “shadow of death” hovers over this entire portion. We start out with the ordinance of the “Parah Adumah” or the “Red Heifer” given for the case of corpse impurity, and then we will have the death of Aaron, Miriam and the Isrealites in the bronze serpent incident.
In Num 19.1-22 we learn that the Parah Adumah is slain outside the camp. All others are done inside the camp. The word “adumah” has the same root as the word “Adam.” So, right off, this is alluding to something. In Num 19.2 it says, “This is the statute (chuk) of the Torah” not the “statute (chok) of the Red Heifer.” This alludes to the fact that the Torah is not to be obeyed based on our understanding. We are committed to observing it whether we understand the command or not.
Also notice that it says, “Which Yehovah has commanded.” This was not a new law. This is going to be a Law of Purity, similar to what we have read in Leviticus. Remember, the purity laws only apply if we were intending to enter the Mishkan/Temple. Rabbi Hertz in his “Pentateuch and Haftorahs” on p.459 said, “It is to be noted that most laws of purity and impurity apply only in reference to the sanctuary and the holy objects connected with it. They do not apply in ordinary life, or to persons who do not intend to enter the sanctuary.”
The Parah Adumah is a unique procedure. Rabbinic thought says that King Solomon did not understand it. How do the clean become unclean, and the unclean becomes clean? Everyone associated with this procedure becomes unclean ritually. Remember, ritually clean and unclean only pertains to a person who intends on entering the Mishkan/Temple.
The heifer is burnt outside the camp, and the ashes are mixed with water and sprinkled on the person who is wanting to enter the sanctuary. There is a good commentary on the Red Heifer in the Hertz Pentateuch and Haftorahs where it says that the Sages and the Rabbis don’t understand it, but they also don’t believe in Yeshua either. Yochanon Ben Zakkai was a sage in the First Century who died in 90 A.D. He said that “the dead man does not make anyone impure, neither do the ashes dissolved in water make pure; but the law concerning the Red Heifer is a decree of the All-Holy, whose reasons for issuing a decree behooves not mortals to question.” Yeshua said basically the same thing in Mark 7.6-23. The bottom line of this ceremony is that it teaches about Yeshua (Rom 10.4; Psa 40.7; Luke 24.27). What animal is taken outside the camp for slaughter and has the ability to ritually purify a person? Only the red heifer. What offering is taken outside of the camp and has the ability to cleanse a sinner? Only one, Yeshua, and that is the explanation. This is neither a “korban” (offering) or a sacrifice.
There is talk today about the Red Heifer. In the 1980’s and 1990’s a man named Vendyl Jones was looking for the ashes of the last red heifer. Some have been trying to breed one. And every so often a calf is born that may be a candidate. Jones was looking for the ashes of the last red heifer because the the ashes from the previous heifers and were used to cleanse the priests doing this ceremony. Some say that the old ashes are needed to start the ritual cleansing of the Temple and the priesthood, and the holy items. However, nobody knows how all this will work out. What if the old ashes are never found? Then a new heifer will be needed and slain without the ashes of the previous ones. But, how do you cleanse the people cleansing the priesthood if there are no previous ashes? The people doing the cleansing need to be ritually pure to do the sprinkling, so where do they come from?
Young children of priestly descent are being raised right now who are ritually pure. They live in a place where there are no dead bodies buried anywhere and they do not venture out into the neighborhood and are ritually clean. They will do the ceremony if there are no ashes (Mishnah, Parah 3.1-3). They will sprinkle the attending priest, and then the cleansing of everyone and everything begins after that. For more information on this, go to the tractate “Parah” in the Mishnah.
This ceremony will bear a tremendous witness to the world, and Israel will get plenty of attention. It will be the first ceremony done before any of the korbanot can be offered on the coming altar. This ceremony will start a seven day purification process for the priesthood and any of the holy objects that will be used. Anyone who intends on coming near this altar will have to be sprinkled with these ashes. This ceremony, dating back 3500 years, will have an application today.
In Part 20, we will pick up here.