Num 7.1-59 deals with the dedication of the Mishkan and the Altar. This portion is read at Chanukah because of the concept of “dedication” of the Temple and Altar. This portion also alludes to the 144,000 because each tribe is represented and each tribe brought the exact same thing for twelve days in a row. One would think this would be boring but this chapter has more commentary written about it than any other chapter in the Torah.
This Torah portion is long because it includes seventy verses on the same gifts. It repeats the same thing over and over. What does that mean? It means that many of our deeds are “repeats” of all the generations in the past. Many are repeats from yesterday, yet God loves them and cherishes each one. He wants us to bring the same acts of kindness, mercy, justice, compassion and forgiveness. This also teaches us to avoid “one upmanship” and trying to outdo one another. That is prideful and boastful. This is about gifts. They will go through the blessings of each tribe, then go through the gifts to find clues in these gifts. What do the gifts mean to that tribe?
For example, let’s look at Issachar. Issachar’s blessing from Jacob in Gen 49.14-15 says that they could carry “burdens” and were strong in the Torah. 1 Chr 12.32 says they had insight into the Torah and were devoted to study. So, the silver dish full of flour (bread = word) meant something to them. Man does not live by bread alone (Deut 8.3). To another tribe, the silver bowl with seventy shekels alluded to the seventy souls that went into Egypt in the First Redemption. To another, it was the seventy judges, or the seventy nations of the world. To another it was Abraham’s age at the Covenant between the Halves in Gen 15.
The Torah repeats itself twelve times here, for each tribe. This also teaches that each tribe is stamped with its own special meaning. The next thing we can do is look at the numbers given. For example, twelve is the number of teaching, one hundred and thirty was the age of Jacob when he entered Egypt, ten is the number of judgment, and so on. Another thing we can do is look at what a ram, a bull or a lamb signified. Then look at the metals used. What does gold and silver signify? For some help you can go to our teaching on “Idioms, Phrases and Concepts ” on this site for some information, but this information is quite common in other sources. For example, a ram is symbolic of the “leader of the flock.” A bull is symbolic of vigor, virility and violence. Gold symbolizes deity and the kivod (glory) of God. Silver symbolizes redemption. Our teaching on this has a list you can go down in alphabetical order to find some basic meanings.
The value of a gift is determined by the giver. Although these were the same, they had value assigned to it by each tribe individually. One of the hallmarks of spiritual maturity is to be able to give, but we must also learn how to receive. That is a true test for some people. Some people will not take a gift or help from anyone. That is prideful and not a good attitude to have. People need to receive gifts as well as they give gifts. The difference is this. When giving a gift the attention is on you, the giver. People look at what the gift is and say, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you gave.” On the other hand, when you receive a gift the attention is not on you. We like the idea that “we don’t accept charity from nobody.” That is the American spirit isn’t it. We like to think of ourselves as “self-made” people, but in reality, we all have received help along the way. Giving a gift is easy for some, but receiving a gift can be another story.
In Numbers 7.12 it is time for the tribes to come forward and give their gifts. But why did Judah go first? Why did they come in this particular order? Well, Judah was the first to enter the Red Sea and he was the first to come to the aid of Benjamin in Gen 44.18. Benjamin will return this act of kindness in the drama found in the book of Esther. Judah (the Jews) in Persia was on the brink of destruction because of the evil proclamation of Haman. Up steps Queen Esther, who is from the tribe of Benjamin, and she steps forward to save her people this time. So in this case, Benjamin rescues Judah. Also, the name Judah has the name of God in it (Yehudah) and this name will eventually be put on all the descendants of Jacob.
Nachshon is not called “prince” (or leader) here because that title belongs to the Messiah, who will come from Judah. All the other tribes had a “prince” or a “leader” come forward with the gifts. No tribe outdid the other. There was unity in this. The tribes are putting their seal of approval on the Mishkan and the Altar, and God is establishing a theocracy. In Rev 7.5 Judah is first again when the 144,000 is called. So, this order is according to function and their calling. In Revelation, they groan over the evil they see and God begins to establish a theocracy again on the earth, beginning with the twelve tribes, twelve thousand from each tribe.
In the Messianic Kingdom there will be a covenant of peace (Ezek 37.26, 39.25; Isa 54.9-10; Jer 31.31-34). There will be life, prosperity and blessings. Do we want to see the Lord? At that time you will be able to see him. He will be right there looking at you, and he will smile. He knows you and we know him. The Messianic Kingdom is known as the Atid Lavo (Future or Coming Age). The world will be much different than it is now, and we haven’t even gotten to the Olam Haba yet.
The dedication of the Mishkan and the Altar in Num 7 is a tremendous thing. The Temple and the Altar are going up again in the very near future, and it will relate to this chapter. It is ironic that most people don’t look forward to this theologically. Secular Jews don’t want it because “it will start a war.” That’s right, it will, just like the Lord said it would. Orthodox Jews have said if the Temple services, the altar and the korbanot started they would have to reexamine Judaism because what they do is not according to the teachings of Moses, and they would need to make massive changes.
Most Christians have no concept about this at all and they don’t even know what is coming, or the ramifications. They don’t believe any of this is even relevant or necessary for today, in fact, they will be against it for the most part. A famous Christian author who was hailed a “prophecy expert” said that the Temple was the Abomination of Desolation in one of his books. On top of all this, we have secular people in the world who have no idea about it. On top of all this we have the issue of animal offerings in this day and age. That will be quite the scene to sort out. But a Temple, an Altar and the offerings are coming and this chapter will again play a vital role.
We will pick up here in Part 7.