Torah Portion: Mattot and Massei

Numbers 30:1- 36:13, Jer. 1:1-2:4-28, 3:4, Mt. 5:33-37, James 4:1-12

Mattot

The first of our double portion for this week’s Torah reading is Mattot. Mattot is translated as “tribe(s)” 182 times in our Tanakh (O.T.); and as rod(s) or staff another 66 times. Below is Strong’s definition followed by the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible’s entry for this word.

Strong’s H4294

    מטּה From H5186; a branch (as extending); figuratively a tribe; also a rod, whether for chastising (figuratively correction), ruling (a sceptre), throwing (a lance), or walking (a staff; figuratively a support of life, for example bread): – rod, staff, tribe.

AHLB#: 1285-H (N)

1285) ac: Shake co: Branch: The pictograph “mem” is a picture of water, the “tet” is a picture of a basket which contains objects. Combined these mean “liquid contained”. A green branch still contains water allowing the branch to be flexible. A green branch can then be bent to the desired shape and left to dry.

Based on the light shed by our lexicons, what is it to be a tribe? Have you ever heard the phrase “When you’re green you’re growing”? According to ancient Hebrew, to be part of a tribe is to be a tree branch— a green growing branch that is still moldable or flexible. To remain green, this branch must have life giving water still flowing through it. In other words, the word picture shows us a tree (a whole complete unit) and that tree has many branches, but all the branches are a part of the one tree. I recall Yeshua using this very word picture to explain our relationship to Him in John 15.

 John 15:1-8  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  (2)  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  (3)  “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  (4)  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  (5)  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  (6)  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  (7)  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  (8)  “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (NASB)

Branches exist for the purpose of producing leaves and fruit. The leaves absorb light/energy which is likened unto the (Torah) and this light ultimately is what powers the leaves to produce food for the whole tree. [Bread from Heaven, anyone?] The fruit however, has an entirely different purpose.

Trees produce fruit for the sole purpose of propagating seeds. And those seeds will produce the exact same tree. This is why Yeshua said, “You will know them by their fruit”. If the fruit doesn’t match the tree they are claiming to be, then we can be sure that they are liars. Trees are known by what kind of fruit they produce.

Mat. 7:15-20  “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  (16)  “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  (17)  “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  (18)  “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  (19)  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  (20)  “So then, you will know them by their fruits. (NASB. See also Mat. 7:16, 12:23; Luke 6:44)

Now that we understand that as a “branch” or “tribe” of Israel we should be absorbing light (learning Torah) and producing fruit (keeping Torah), is it any wonder that Paul uses the analogy of the olive tree for Yah’s family in Romans chapter 11? Please go and reread this whole chapter.

Yeshua and Sha’ul/Paul are teaching the same message. If you or I (branches) do not do what we were created to do (produce fruit) we are cut off from the tree (Messiah). However, if we do what we were created to do, then we are grafted into The Olive Tree: Yeshua. Therefore, a tribe is a branch in the house of Israel/Yeshua.

Vows

This aptly named Parashah begins by teaching us the Torah of vows in chapter 30. There is basically a simple rule for men: he must keep his vow. Period. There is no recourse for him should he break his vow or obligation. (vs. 2). But the rest of this chapter deals with vows made by women. If you’ve read any of my posts on women, you know that I seek godly restoration for the roles of men and women. That being said, most commentaries on this passage tend to use a skewed lens as they peer into the fact that while a man’s vow must be kept, a woman’s vow may be annulled by her father or husband. Sadly, too many commentators write that this is because the woman is weak, easily deceived, and acts impulsively compared to a man.

If we allow the WHOLE counsel of God to speak to this issue, we can easily see that an assessment such as this is a result of flawed theology and doesn’t even come close to connecting how YHWH created woman or how He SEES her. Remember Hagar? She is the one that proclaims that YHWH was the Elohim that sees her— El Roi[1].

I believe that YHWH not only created woman with a unique role, but with a special purpose in the restoration of all things. If we find ourselves feeling put out like Hagar, we need only to meet the Master by the well of Living Waters. There, He will allow us to SEE with new eyes. How glorious it is when we realize that the Creator of Heaven and Earth really SEES us! This passage is far from being misogynistic.  Instead, if we have eyes to SEE, it is liberating not only to women, but to the Body of Messiah.

In His most endearing of terms for His people, YHWH calls us His wife and His Bride. Both men and women have an opportunity to be included in this glorious remnant. As His special treasure, we are kept in His care. As our Master, Father, and Husband He takes responsibility for us —- flaws and all. What better hands could we ever hope to trust in? When I read this passage about the importance of vows and the glaringly obvious difference between the responsibility of men and women, I have to conclude that this passage is teaching us about YHWH and His people. You see, only He — our Father and Husband — can annul the foolish vows that we make. While it is not impossible to make good on our vows, it is improbable. What else could have motivated the Messiah and James to say the following?

Mat 5:33-37  “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’  (34)  “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,  (35)  or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.  (36)  “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  (37)  “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

Jam. 5:12  But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

I am very thankful that as my Abba and Husband, YHWH can annul vows for me. I believe men would also give a hearty A-mein to that! A bond-servant relinquishes all of his rights into the hands of his Master. The servant trusts the Master with his/her life. A servant has no need to make a vow, for he/she lives to serve/please the will of the Master. I am continually amazed by the Messiah’s presence in the volume of the Scroll[2]! It really is all about Him and His relationship with us. But like Hagar, we have to first meet Him at the well and have our eyes opened to His splendor and most tender affection for us.

Massei

This is the last parashah (portion) in the book of B’midbar (Numbers). B’midbar is a book that means “in the wilderness” and so it does chronicle each step and stop as the Israelites marched toward the Promised Land over a 40 year period. Our portion, Massei, can be defined as “pulling up stakes” as this is the word picture we are given from the Hebrew. We usually translate it as “journeys”, since a journey can convey the meaning of pulling up tent pegs to move toward another location.

At this point in the wilderness, the children of Israel are preparing to go in and take possession of the Promised Land, Canaan. YHWH instructs Moses to record each of the 42 stops or encampments that Israel made while dwelling in the wilderness. (Num. 33:2) An inexperienced Torah reader may be tempted to skim or skip over most of chapter 33’s place names. They may seem boring or even arbitrary to the untrained Greek eye. But nothing could be further from the truth! These 42 stops have many past, present, and future implications for those that follow our Master, Yeshua, and keep His commandments.

The rabbis have long taught that each of the 42 encampments is a clue to the “journey” that we are on as we walk and sometimes stubble toward the Promised Land. There can be no coincidence that there are also 42 months (3 ½ years) in the Great Tribulation. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d first like to draw your attention to the number 42.

42

The number 42 is significant for several reasons. For those of you that are familiar with the Creation Gospel model, the fact that 42 is the product of 6 x 7 will be very telling.

First, 6 x 7 is the number of man (and/or the beast) and of rest, spiritual perfection, or wholeness. Second, 6 and 7 are also representative of the Spirits of Knowledge and Reverence, the festivals of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and the assemblies of Philadelphia and Laodicea.

These pairings suggest two similar paradigms. The first paradigm is man, as E.W. Bullinger suggests[3], working out his opposition to God. Every person is capable of acting like a man created in the image of Elohim or resorting to his/her base nature (i.e. evil inclination, flesh) that reflects the image of a beast. This inward struggle is common to all of mankind. Like Cain, we have a choice — everyday. Will we walk in the Way of Messiah and mirror His image? Or will we relent to the desires of our flesh and reveal the image of the beast? Both man and beast were created on day 6. This is why the number of the beast is also the number of man[4].

For those that deny or afflict their souls on Yom Kippur (6), sweet rest and rejoicing follows on Sukkot (7). But there is another paradigm revealed in this number as well. Let’s peruse some other instances of the number 42 in Scripture.

  • If we count the 2 years from the original Pesach in Egypt to the evil report and 40 years from Kadesh Barnea to Jericho when Israel finally enters the Land, we get a total of 42 years.
  • Israel’s wilderness journey’s had 42 stops or stages where they sometimes cooperated with YHWH and other times they opposed Him.
  • There were young boys that mocked the ascension of Elijah to Elisha and 42 of them perished before Elisha in the Name of YHWH by 2 female bears. (2 Kings 2: 23,24)
  • The beast is given 42 months to control the earth (Rev 13:5). We also know that 42 months equals 3 ½ years.
  • In our Parashah, the number 42 comes up twice. Once in the wanderings listed above and a second time in ch.35. The Levites were designated 42 cities among their brothers in the Promised Land, besides the 6 cities of refuge.

While the first paradigm reveals an inward struggle, the second pattern exposes a very real outward battle. Those that choose to live by their own desires will find that they are indeed enslaved by the beast. As his captives, they have a natural hatred for the servants of the Most High. We can see this pictured in the last two assemblies mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, symbolizes people who are willing to sacrificially love God and others. This is the epitome of the Holy Spirit of Knowledge[5]. This intimacy is portrayed by the 42 cities given to the Levites in the Land. It is vital that Yah’s people always have an intermediary present. But as we progress to the last assembly, Laodicea, we see a very different image.

Laodicea is neither hot nor cold, so she believes she is just right. But her condition is so vile that it makes the Master want to vomit. In other words, she has no reverence or fear of the LORD — the 7th manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The white garments she should have received on Yom Kippur (6) are missing when Sukkot (7) comes around. Yet she childishly wallows in her pride and ignorance. Without sincere repentance, the beast will overtake her like the 2 bears that slew the 42 young boys who mocked the ascension of Elijah to Elisha.

Have you ever wondered why the beast is given “42” months to control the earth? Most people understand that the number 40 represents probation, trial, and chastisement for those whom YHWH loves[6]. But what happens when we add “2” to that number? Two denotes division and difference in the Bible. For example, the second day of creation DIVIDES the upper and lower waters, the second sentence in scripture speaks of chaos, and the second chapter reveals 2 trees representing life and death. These instances continue throughout the Bible in regard to the number two[7]. While it is true that the world that YHWH loves is put to the ultimate test (40) in the Apocalypse, the addition of the number 2 reveals the vehicle that YHWH will use to accomplish this task: the enemy.

Obviously, the heart of YHWH desires for us to come to repentance above all else. This is what our trials and tribulations are all about. We must tame the animal nature or beast within and choose to walk in His Way, reflecting His image. This is expressed in its fullness when we love YHWH with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Pulling Up Stakes

Our journey begins in the same place for all people living in all times——- Rameses. One thing those of us that are returning to the Torah know and know well is that all roads do not lead to Rome——– or even Egypt——- but to Babylon, or Babel. Rameses means “child of the SUN” and all false worship can be traced back to sun worship that was first concocted in Babylon.

I urge you to look up each of the 42 place names of Israel’s wilderness journeys in Hebrew. I’m certain that you will find a place name that expresses your current life situation, station, trial, or movement. Like Israel, we all are all on journey with YHWH. We may not all be at the same place at the same time, but one thing is certain. There will be a day that we are. In the meantime, consider it another test when you are faced with brethren who are not as far down the path or who are further ahead of you in the Way. How we treat or mistreat them may dictate our next “stop”.

Moreover, it is clear that there is real war along the Way. One of the more pronounced foes is the Canaanites. While the Canaanites are outward enemies, the “spirit” of the Canaanites can reside in our hearts if we allow the beast within (our flesh/evil inclination) to have rule. YHWH gives us this warning:

Num. 33:55-56  ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live.  (56)  ‘And as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you.'”

This is essentially the same message He gives to us in the 42 month rule of the beast in the Book of Revelation. If we do not repent and walk after Him, we will be counted with the beast and receive its punishment.

Rev. 12:14  But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time (42 months), from the presence of the serpent.

Rev. 14:9-12  Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,  (10)  he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  (11)  “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  (12)  Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

We must willingly pull up the tent pegs when YHWH’s cloud moves our encampment. This is our perseverance as verse 12 above attests. This double portion and all of Scripture for that matter tells the same story in different ways again and again. YHWH loves us and desires for us to dwell with Him in His house. However, we have 2 interwoven enemies that battle for our affections. The first one is the beast within (our flesh, evil inclination, or fleshly desires). The second is the serpent from the beginning, who speaks to our desires. We are told that we CAN overcome the enemy by choosing the Life YHWH has offered us in Yeshua. This New Life of YHWH has House rules that keep or guard us from the beast: His commandments.

But as we live out these earthly lives, we are in a constant state of choosing. This is why our journey requires perseverance! To persevere is to persist, continue, endure, insist, proceed, stick with, etc. And with the empowerment of the free gift of the Spirit of God, we can do just that.

Chazak! chazak! V’neet’chazek!

(Be Strong! Be Strong! And let us be strengthened!)


[1] Genesis 16

[2] Hebrews 10:7

[3] Bullinger, E.W., Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1967, p.268

[4] Rev. 13:18. Also, The Creation Gospel Workbook 1 explores this further.

[5] Is. 11:2

[6] Bullinger, E.W., Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1967.

[7] For instance, even the Brit Chadashah (N.T.) displays this pattern. Consider the 2nd books of Corinthians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Peter, and 2 John; they each speak either about the enemy/antichrist or the church in ruin/apostasy.

Categories: Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Torah Portion: Mattot and Massei

  1. Oh wow! When I submitted this post to be published, a 42 popped up! This is my 42nd post — coincidence is NOT a kosher word!

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