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We have just completed studying the gracious instruction contained in Leviticus and now we resume the peregrination toward the Promise Land. Naturally the journey in bamidbar (wilderness) begins with a census with the tribe of Levi being excluded from the initial count described in chapter 1.

“Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel.” Numbers 1:49

Here in chapter 3 Levi is counted but done so apart from “the people of Israel.”

“List the sons of Levi, by fathers’ houses and by clans; every male from a month old and upward you shall list.” Numbers 3:15

This is yet another example of the distinction between Levi and the rest of the tribes. Not only did G-d declare they were different (Num. 3:12) but He demonstrated the difference through His commandments. As a brief aside, are G-d’s commandments not what demonstrate our difference from the world?

“So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your G-d.” Numbers 15:40

To be holy is to heed G-d’s instruction which naturally extracts us from the wickedness of the world. In regard to the tribal enumeration the people of Israel were counted only if the following qualifications applied.

So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel –“ Numbers 1:45

Compare the stipulations to that of Levi.

“List the sons of Levi, by fathers’ houses and by clans; every male from a month old and upward you shall list.” Numbers 3:15

Twenty years old is the age when the highest monetary value applies as described in Leviticus 27. The additional qualification for one who was twenty years old and upward was the ability to go to war, which clearly exhibited a physical requirement. However, a month old, which was Levi’s minimum age, is the very first age at which a person has a monetary value. The distinction demonstrates that from as early as possible the Levites were designated for the work of HaShem and were recognized as bearing that responsibility. In other words their vocation and service to G-d was based more on birth than ability.

The encampment instructions are vivid and full of parallels. One item that differentiated the first tribe from the rest was a subtle piece of additional information.

“Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab,” Numbers 2:3

“Toward the sunrise” seems redundant following “the east side.” The Hebrew word for “sunrise” in this case is mitzrach and the Hebrew word for “east side” is kedem so redundancy is no longer an issue. Although the phrase “toward the sunrise” and it’s relation to the tribe of Judah demands further investigation. Our blessed Messiah Yeshua is of the tribe of Judah. (Matt. 2:1-6) Therefore Numbers 2:3 should relate in some way to Messiah.  The following are a couple of passages that use the Hebrew word mitzrach.

“For I am the L-RD your G-d, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east (mitzrach), and from the west I will gather you.” Isaiah 43:3-5

“So they shall fear the name of the L-RD from the west, and his glory from the rising (mitzrach) of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the L-RD drives. ‘And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the L-RD.” Isaiah 59:19-20

Both passages are clearly Messianic and reveal additional truth about the east where the sun rises and the affiliation with Messiah Yeshua. Why is this important? The correlation between the encampment of Judah and Messiah Yeshua help answer questions and increase understanding. From where will Messiah come? From what tribe will He descend? What signs will surround His coming? For which characteristics should we look? Just as Philip saw Yeshua and recognized that He was “him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote” (Jn.1:45) we too should be prepared in order to recognize the Son of Man as He returns to Zion.

“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:27


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