Numbers 25:10-30:1; 1 Kings 18:46-19:21
By Pastor Rolf Piller with reference to a commentary by Michael Schneider (israel today, Jerusalem)
In our previous Torah portion we read about 3 sacrifices (on each of the 7 altars, 7 bulls and 7 rams). We read further on how Israel was saved by God from the curses the Moabite king Balak wanted to be spoken by Balaam, a man used by God. This is clearly seen in 24:2, And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him.
Instead of cursing, Balaam “gave counsel to trespass against the LORD” (31:16).
The main point to me is here, that God uses whomever He wants to use!
But in this week’s reading, “.the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor” (25:1-3). This is always a dangerous undertaking, as being testified by king Solomon and Samson. See also proverb 5:3,20; 6:24-26; 23:27.
Ruth was also a Moabitess, but she followed the God of Israel. One can imagine that this consequence of a plague in our reading served as a strong warning for the ‘daughters’ in this region – and I am sure that it was also passed down to Ruth.
A plague ensued as punishment for the immorality and idol worship and only a drastic intervention of the wrath of God could stop it. He used the high priest Phinehas, a descendant of Aaron.
“Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body” (Num 25:6-8).
What he did could be seen as brutal, even ungodly. But Phinehas was zealous for God, that’s why he did it, and God blessed him with an everlasting covenant of peace, see verse 12. This act saved many, the plague stopped – although 24 000 people already paid with their life.
“He (Phinehas) turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them” (25:11). In the same way, we as believers should strive to zealously uphold God’s Word, so that you may turn away God’s wrath over His people!
In chapter 26 we read about the enlistment of all man above 20-years-old to military service, a total of 601 730 men. Verse 64, But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.
In chapter 27, we read about the five daughters of Zelophehad from the tribe of Manasseh. Legally, when parents do not have sons and the father dies, who gets the inheritance? “Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son?” one of the daughters asked Moses. A legitimate question! The humble Moses went immediately before the LORD for counsel. God’s legal order followed: In this case, the inheritance should be passed to the daughter.
Then we read about the nomination of Joshua (Jehoshua) Ben Nun, “a man in whom is the Spirit” as Moses’ successor.
In Chapter 29 we read about a very interesting point regarding the Feast of Tabernacles (Succot) in the seventh month. According to Genesis 10, the Bible speaks about 70 nations of the world. We also know that this Feast of Tabernacles in Zechariah 14 has a universal and end-time character, providing atonement for all 70 nations in the world.
Here the Jewish sages interpret and connect it to the seven-day festival sacrifices during this feast. In Numbers 29:12-32 we read about the exact allotment of the sacrifices: on the first day 13 cows, on the second day 12 cows, on the third day 11 cows till the seventh day with 7 cows. The outcome of this is that there been 70 sacrifices for the 70 nations. That is the unique part of this universal feast! But it appears there is something else hidden in this feast. When I read it, I all over sudden felt it was like a countdown. Perhaps it points toward the second coming of Jesus, because there is no other feast that has such a massive amount of offerings – and He is the perfect atonement !!