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Ruth is the classic example of a Gentile being “grafted in” to Israel. Although, is Caleb the son of Jephunneh another example? This week’s portions state the following:

“These are the names of the men: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.” Numbers 34:19

There are several other verses where Caleb appeared to be associated with the tribe of Judah. In fact, the first mention of Caleb son of Jephunneh is in Numbers 13:6 where he is named as one of the “heads of the people of Israel”, specifically the head of the tribe of Judah. Often times the two verses below are linked to show that Caleb is not a Jew because he bears the title “Kenizzite.” (Num. 32:12, Jos. 14:6;14:14)

“On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,’” Genesis 15:18-19

“none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.’” Numbers 32:12

To further inhibit the clarity of Caleb’s ancestry it appears there was another option. Look at the relationship described here:

“And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.” Joshua 15:17

Based on this verse, if Caleb’s brother was the son of Kenaz, would that not imply Caleb was the son of Kenaz? This would fit with the title of “the Kenizzite.” Although this does not fit with the prior established relationship to the tribe of Judah because Kenaz was a descendant of Esau.

“These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: the chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz,” Genesis 36:15

Personally, I do not have the answer as to whether Caleb was a Jew or Gentile. What we do know is that he was the head of the tribe of Judah, that he fully followed G-d, he had a different spirit, and he received an inheritance in the land. The most important aspect of Caleb, and what was emphasized throughout Scripture was his actions, not his ethnicity.

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.” Romans 10:12

Paul toiled in sharing with many that being a Jew is not the way to eternal life. It is only through the blood of Messiah Yeshua.

Speaking of blood, the following verse is an interesting description of blood and atonement.

“You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” Numbers 35:33

The context of this verse was the various rules regarding a murderer, manslayer, and avenger of blood.  Clearly Numbers 35:33 contains the additional command not to pollute the land through bloodshed. Although the second part of the verse implies that atonement cannot occur without blood. Nor can there be the forgiveness of sins without blood. (Heb. 9:22) Added onto the truth of blood as a requirement for atonement, Numbers 35:33 specified the source of atoning blood as “of the one who shed it.” Essentially blood pollutes AND atones? It is a bit easier to understand by adding more detail based on context. In other words, innocent blood pollutes the land because of the murderer’s sin, but it is the blood of the murderer (or administering of justice) that atones for the land. The Hebrew word for “shed” is shaphak and the first usage is in Genesis 9.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Genesis 9:6

This verse further explains the execution of justice G-d requires in regard to a murderer. Does it not make sense why the shedding of innocent blood “pollutes the land?” The word for pollute in Hebrew is chaneph which literally means “to be profaned.”1 Since man was made in G-d’s own image an act of murder also profanes G-d in addition to the land. Both sins bear the death penalty. Both sins require blood for atonement. If the blood of an animal or a convicted murderer can provide atonement than how much more can the blood of an innocent righteous man provide atonement in an eternal sense?

“Said R. Ammi, Wherefore is the account of Miriam’s death placed next to the [laws of the] red heifer? To inform you that even as the red heifer afforded atonement [by the ritual use of its ashes], so does the death of the righteous afford atonement [for the living they have left behind].

R. Eleazar said, Wherefore is [the account of] Aaron’s death closely followed by [the account of the disposal of] the priestly vestments? [To inform you] that just as the priest’s vestments were [means] to effect atonement, so is the death of the righteous [conducive to procuring] atonement.”  (Talmud – Mo’ed Katan 28a)

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:13-15

“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” Hebrews 13:12

Stringing together the various passages describing atonement and including quotes from Talumdic Sages reveal the nature of G-d’s justice, conditions of atonement, and the role His Son plays. The more we study these passages the more we will understand the incredible sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua. And hopefully these passages will fan the passionate flames in our hearts to sanctify His Name in this world and proclaim the Gospel!

1http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2610&t=ESV

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