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If G-d commanded through Moses, “take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 32:46) then one would assume the Gospel would be included in such an important song, right? Walk through just a few snippets of the inspired song and note the various cross references.

“But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.” Deuteronomy 32:15

“Jeshurun” literally means “upright one” based on the root word yashar which is the verb for “to be right, be straight, be level, be upright, etc.” Therefore the name Jeshurun was an endearing term to describe the “ideal character”1 of Israel. The name in the above verse was juxtaposed with the uncharacteristic forsaking of G-d and the scoffing at the Rock as if to remind future generations not to lose hope but to pursue the higher calling of being the “Upright One.” Indeed, one of Israel’s greatest follies was that of forgetting G-d and scoffing at the Rock.

“What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” Romans 9:30-32

It appears Paul blended Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16 to emphasize Yeshua as the Rock through whom no shame will be administered to those who believe. The Rock over whom Israel stumbled. Paul conclusively stated Yeshua is the Rock in the following verse:

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrownin the wilderness.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

There is only one true Messiah therefore there have been and will be many false messiahs. (see 1 Jn. 2:18) HaSatan desires to pervert what is of G-d and replace good with evil. The song also warns us of the anti-messiah:

“For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.” Deuteronomy 32:31

To conclude, many verses from the song in this week’s portion were referenced throughout the Bible and it is easy to see the Good News proclaimed in the various passages! It is an important song to study, to memorize, and upon which to meditate “that this song may be a witness”. (Deut. 31:19) For those of us who are not native born Jews the following verse and Paul’s comments on the verse are interesting!

“Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people’s land.” Deuteronomy 32:43

“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’ And again it is said, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’” Romans 15:8-10

According to www.biblegateway.com in Deuteronomy 32:43 there is a footnote that states: “Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text Rejoice his people, O nations.” However www.blueletterbible.org contains the “Masoretic Text” which is actually “a digital version of the Leningrad Codex developed by the Westminster Hebrew Institute at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.” and the Hebrew clearly contains hashamayim or “the heavens” in Deuteronomy 32:43. Despite this technological irregularity, in his book The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul Guy Prentiss Waters2 writes, “It is sufficient to say that Paul has cited LXX Deut 32:43c and that the peculiarities of the wording of this citation prove “crucial” to his argument at Rom 15:7-13.289” Either way Paul certainly encouraged Gentiles based on the passage from this week’s portion. Rejoice and glorify G-d that while we were yet sinners Yeshua died for us! (Rom. 5:8) If you have any further insight into the parallels of Deuteronomy 32:43 and Romans 15:10 please leave a comment below.


1 http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3484&t=ESV

2http://books.google.com/books?id=frU1U5ljRHoC&pg=PA223&lpg=PA223&dq=deuteronomy+32:43+and+romans+15:10&source=bl&ots=m7TwCBcwbk&sig=2CVBPNvmLe2e36jTQlA2INT5W20&hl=en&sa=X&ei=vphkUPCFMuGQ2gWhhIGYCQ&ved=0CEkQ6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q=deuteronomy%2032%3A43%20and%20romans%2015%3A10&f=false

289 Hays, Echoes, 72

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Aside from the therapeutic benefits, singing is an excellent way to remember rhetoric. The songs found throughout Scripture are essentially melodious compilations of truth. This week’s portion ends right before the highly anticipated song that G-d commanded Moses to teach the people. Nevertheless, the portion contained the functions of the song.

“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.” Deuteronomy 31:19

“And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” Deuteronomy 31:21

The previous verses demonstrate that the song was to be both a witness and a reminder. Ideally people are less likely to sin the more witnesses are present. In this week’s parasha Moses called “heaven and earth to witness against them” (Deut. 31:28) as well as the song. In addition, G-d is always a witness to every occurrence. (Heb. 4:13) The result is more than enough witnesses to convict someone of even a capital crime. The conclusion is inescapable. It is impossible for man to abscond from conviction. One would assume such opposition would be sufficient for preventing transgression, but it did not suffice nor will it ever. However, the L-rd in His abundant mercy has provided means with which His chosen people avoid the deserving eternal damnation. The King of the Universe “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn. 4:10) The following excerpt from the “Song at the Sea” concisely reveals the same truth.

“The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:2

G-d is, indeed, our song (in the case of this week’s portion a “witness” and “reminder”) and also our salvation. Praises and exaltation far beyond any human capacity are due to our gracious King. After singing the song of Moses, also include the song of the Lamb.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4

To gain a more thorough understanding of a word in Scripture it is important to consider context, additional usage, and Hebrew root among other things. In this week’s parasha there was a unique word that caught my attention.

“And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster.” Deuteronomy 27:4

The Hebrew word for “plaster” is sid which literally means lime or whitewash. The definition seemed straightforward until compared to another verse that used sid.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he burned to lime (sid) the bones of the king of Edom.’” Amos 2:1

Isaiah 33:12 echoed a similar concept of creating the “lime” from burning bones. Perhaps burning bones into lime is common knowledge and I have exposed an area of my own ignorance, but, nevertheless, the affect such a definition has on the verse from Deuteronomy is fascinating. Recall that Mount Ebal, where the plastered stones were set up, was also the location of the curses resulting from disobedience. (Deut. 11:28-29) I believe it is highly unlikely that the plaster described in this week’s parasha was literally the lime made from burning bones because burial was so important. However, the word correlation makes a strong statement for us today. As James said in chapter 1, “..and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (1:15) The plaster serves as a reminder of the consequence of sin. It reminds us that “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:10) Remember:

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

In conclusion, the following verse concisely demonstrated the necessity for faith in Messiah Yeshua.

“But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” Deuteronomy 29:4

It is almost unfathomable that one could witness the wonders G-d performed and yet not understand, hear, or see. Though Moses clearly stated an understanding heart, seeing eyes, and hearing ears come from G-d. Now look at the following passage:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Matthew 13:13-17

Yeshua was speaking to His disciples in this case and He calls their eyes and ears “blessed” because of their belief in Him. The gift of knowledge, sight, and hearing is synonymous with the gift of salvation. Indeed the disciples of Yeshua are blessed for what could be better than seeing and hearing G-d? Praise the L-RD for His grace and faithfulness!

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

In this week’s portion a great mystery is present.

“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord. No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever,” Deuteronomy 23:1-3

Why are groups of people mentioned who would, by default, not enter the assembly of G-d? Have we all not fallen short? Aren’t we all, by default, unable to enter the assembly of G-d? Could this mean, by implication, that there are some who do enter the assembly of G-d by default? The correct reconciliation of this possible contradiction escapes my level of knowledge. If you have or have heard a biblical explanation of Deuteronomy 23 please post in the comment below. One thing we do know is that the previous passage cannot be referring to an impossibility of these unique (pun intended), condemned people from being eternally saved. Look at the following passages:

“For thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant–’” Isaiah 56:4-6

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’” Ruth 1:16

In addition, remember Judah and Tamar! According to Levitcus 18:15 it is a forbidden union to uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law. Judah’s son Perez is a descent of Messiah Yeshua! (Matt. 1:3)

I am certainly not qualified to give a definitive answer on such a major issue. However, I was fascinated after reading the passage containing those who may not enter the assembly of the L-rd because we have studied examples of when those people do enter the assembly of L-rd! Perhaps this week’s portion contains yet another marvelous example of G-d’s abundant grace. Even though it is just and appropriate to condemn these groups, still G-d has mercy. Even though we are deserving of G-d’s wrath He has shown mercy and saved us. That is incredible and beyond understanding.

“I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” Psalm 40:9-11

“Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16:20

Seems simple enough, right? Just follow justice and be blessed with the inheritance of the land. As with every word in the Bible there lies more significance and accuracy in the Hebrew.  Most translations read, “Justice…justice” except the Young’s Literal Translation which translates “justice” as “righteousness.” The word in Hebrew is actually tzedek. Gesenius’s Lexicon defines tzedek as “(1) in a physical sense, straightness, rightness (2) rectitude, right, what is right and just, what is so, or ought to be so.” In English it is easy to assume the “justice” in verse 19 is the same as the “justice” in verse 20. Indeed there is overlap but tzedek more accurately describes this command in verse 20 because not everyone can serve as a literal judge (as described by the word mishpat used in verse 19). However, everyone can and is commanded to follow righteousness and act justly. How much more than shall the Righteous One, Messiah Yeshua, be followed! The following verse also contains the word tzedek.

“My righteousness (tzidki) draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.” Isaiah 51:5

Yeshua came and perfectly demonstrated how to follow righteousness. Look to Him. Follow His example. Heed His Word. As it is written:

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Additionally, there is an excellent example in this week’s portion of the result of hearing and hearing the Law.

“And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” Deuteronomy 17:19-20

The context of this passage is the commandment for the king to write a copy of the Law. Why did he need to write his own copy? To keep with him, to read, to study, and ultimately to obey every single word possible. The passage also said, “that he may learn to fear the LORD his God.” Summarized here in one verse describes the learning process to fear G-d; that by reading and hearing the Law the king would practice all the words of the Law. Once G-d has set us apart unto Him both fear and love must follow. May we follow the king’s example and learn to fear G-d and only follow Messiah Yeshua, the Righteous One!

A lesson in the importance of context is contained in this week’s parasha. At first glance it is easy to read the following two verses and claim the discovery of a contradiction.

“The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.” Deuteronomy 7:22

“Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.” Deuteronomy 9:3

The parallel passage of Deuteronomy 7:22 is Exodus 23:29-30. Although note verse 28 of Exodus 23:

“And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you.” Exodus 23:28

Clearly the “nations” described in Deuteronomy 7:22 and Exodus 23:29-30 were the inhabitants of the Promise Land. On the other hand, Deuteronomy 9:3 was describing a present commandment revealed by the use of “today” (ha’yom). Also, note verse 2 of Deuteronomy 9:

“a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’” Deuteronomy 9:2

Clearly the “them” described in Deuteronomy 9:3 were the Anakim who stuck fear in the heart of the spies. Therefore both verses in this week’s parasha were true and both were accomplished. The inhabitants of the land needed to be removed while the Children of Israel simultaneously increased. However, when the time arrived to destroy the Anakim it had to be accomplished swiftly.

Both verses also contain important life principals. In regard to commandments we must be swift to obey and not delay! (Ps. 119:10) Though we must remember we can neither attain perfection nor holiness overnight. Once G-d saves us through Yeshua we must work out our salvation each day. (Phil. 2:12) Remember “..that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3) Yeshua used this verse to combat the temptation to turn stones into bread as suggested by Satan. (Matt. 4:4) This is an excellent reminder that we do not live by the produce of our own hands but by the will of our King, the Holy One, Blessed is He. Hallelujah!

This week’s parasha provides an additional parallel between Moses and Yeshua. During the many warnings against idolatry and the reminders of G-d’s Justice Moses stated the following:

“When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed.” Deuteronomy 4:25-26

Moses would call heaven and earth to witness against the idolater. This truth helps explain a passage found in Hebrews!

“Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Hebrews 10:28

Two or three witnesses are required by the Torah to administer a sentence of capital punishment and/or establish a charge.  (Num. 35:30, Deu. 17:6, Deu. 19:15) In Deuteronomy 4 the word for “witness” in Hebrew is (ha’idoti) הַעִידֹתִי (the root word is ud עוּד) which is a verb that literally means to testify, give warning, or to return. In Numbers 35 the word for “witness” is (ed) עֵד which is contracted from the same root (ud)עוּד and describes the noun “witness.” It is very interesting that the particular word used for the “witnessing” of heaven and earth can also mean warning or return. Perhaps this describes one of the purposes of having witnesses that are always around! First they serve as a warning to return to the ways of G-d then they become a condemning witness. It is impossible to escape both heaven and earth just as it is impossible to dwell somewhere G-d is not, for He is everywhere.

Moses stated that he would “call” heaven and earth to “witness.” Both words are the same and they are combined in Deuteronomy 4. Therefore it was as if Moses was including himself in the witnessing. If so, then that would be a total of three witnesses. Now, according to Scripture Moses shared many characteristics with Messiah Yeshua. (Heb. 3:2,5; Deu. 18:15; Jn. 5:46-47) One of the most important parallels to firmly grasp is that Moses wrote of Messiah Yeshua. (Jn. 5:46-47) Also, Moses wrote the law that G-d spoke to him. (Deu. 31:9) It is the law that condemns and it is Messiah Yeshua that saves but both were revealed by G-d written by Moses. That is why setting aside the law is a capital crime lacking mercy because it is also setting aside or rejecting Messiah Yeshua. The same witnesses adjudicate for both sins.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40

May this never describe us. May we never separate Yeshua from His law. And may both be on our lips at all times.

Here we are. The last book of the Torah. Deuteronomy could have been strictly a continuation of the story in the wilderness and the eventual entrance to the land. Though HaShem used the last book of the Torah to summarize the previous four books and emphasize the importance of the Law. There were many instances of miraculous occurrences and benevolent blessings experienced by the Children of Israel. Although time and time again, the Children of Israel forgot G-d and slipped into sin. To avoid participation in similar mistakes take note of the excellent principle found in the first chapter of this week’s parasha.

“after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying” Deuteronomy 1:3-4

Notice the sequence of the previous verse. The Children of Israel defeated a formidable foe through G-d’s intervention and “had no survivor left.” (Deut. 3:3) Then Moses “explained this law” and recounted the marvelous acts of HaShem. Why in this order? Because we are most vulnerable to fleshly seduction and pride when we are satisfied. Skipping ahead to Deuteronomy 8, G-d warned of this temptation:

“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.” Deuteronomy 8:11-19

Following the example of Moses and deliberately remembering G-d’s magnificent works after receiving a blessing will help prevent sin. The Torah shared several tactics to avoid forgetting the L-rd our G-d. One notable tactic is the commandment to “bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deut. 8:10) after a meal. Also, wearing tzitzit on the four corners of a garment, placing His words on the doorpost, binding His words to our arm and head, and teaching our children. Deuteronomy contains many references to remembering the L-rd and commandments not to forget certain occurrences. Ultimately, Deuteronomy is a revelation of G-d’s grace. An entire generation passed away in the wilderness due to sin and turning away from G-d. Therefore Deuteronomy serves as an entreaty to learn from the mistakes and strive to walk uprightly before G-d. In several passages the tone is almost that of pleading with the reader to follow G-d and G-d alone. What a gracious Father that He would instruct the repetition of “this law” and key events of the wilderness journey.

In addition, Moses foreshadowed Messiah Yeshua. Moses explained the Law, recounted important events, and called for repentance before he died just as Yeshua eventually did when He dwelled on earth.

“Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.” John 18:20

“Therefore, holy brothers,you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.” Hebrews 3:1-2

Come quickly L-rd Yeshua!

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

At first glance one may consider the Sages harsh when they write of Balaam. After all, he refused the diabolical offer from Balak at least a couple times, he only spoke the words G-d told him, and G-d actually spoke to him! A closer look at the story reveals more reason to believe Balaam strayed from the ways of G-d. The Bible all but entreats the reader to reexamine the story of Balaam after this clear statement found later in Numbers:

“Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.” Numbers 31:16

One interesting parallel at the beginning of this week’s portion provides a glimpse of the actions to follow.

“And God came to Balaam and said, ‘Who are these men with you?’” Numbers 22:9

It is obvious G-d was not asking Balaam this question to learn the answer. Where is the first time G-d asks a rhetorical question? Right after Adam and Eve sinned.

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:9

Can you hear the voice of a gracious father who is disappointed at the choice of his son? It seems as if G-d was using a similar approach. The reason the parallel is interesting is because G-d’s rhetorical question came after Adam and Eve sinned. But how did Balaam sin to provoke the question? By fellowshipping and keeping company with diviners for the evening instead of immediately driving them away. As it is written:

“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.” Leviticus 19:26

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer” Deuteronomy 18:10

Allowing the wicked elders to stay with him may have influenced his own actions or perhaps Balaam was already involved in divination, which resulted in lax standards. Either way look at how Balaam is described later in Joshua:

“Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain.” Joshua 13:22

The most important truth from the story of Balaam is that G-d can use what was meant for evil and treachery to save his people. In this case, Balak demanded that Balaam curse Israel in hopes it would weaken them enough to destroy Israel. Instead Balaam pronounced blessings from G-d and even prophecies.

Balaam’s Prophecy:

“…The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them.” Numbers 23:21

Parallel:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9

Balaam’s Prophecy:

“Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the LORD has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” Numbers 24:6-7

Parallel:

“And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” Zechariah 14:7-9

Balaam’s Prophecy:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” Numbers 24:17

Parallel:

“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’” Hebrews 1:8

This portion contains bountiful illusions to Messiah Yeshua none of which should be overlooked. Study very carefully. Just as the prophet Micah spoke:

“O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” Micah 6:5

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