Parashat Bamidbar (In the Desert/Wilderness)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1–4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1–22 (1:10–2:20 in the English Bible)
In Hebrew, the Book of Numbers is called במדבר״ ״ which actually means "In the Desert (Wilderness)”. It recounts the time when the children of Israel wandered in the desert after their redemption from slavery in Egypt. The book records the numerous events that occurred in their decades of wandering.
As I was reading this week’s Parasha and Haftarah portions, I found it both interesting and encouraging considering the reality that we are facing in Israel at the moment. In Numbers 1:1–3 we read:
Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall count them by their armies.”
God’s instruction to Israel was to count every male from the age of 20 and above. This is important because these men were the ones who would lead Israel into the Promised Land as an army. We understand from this that Israel’s entrance to the Land would most likely require military action.
And indeed, my dear brothers and sisters, this reality has not changed much. Until today, we see that Israel is in need of an army to defend and protect the Land that God entrusted to us.
Further in Chapter 1:44–46, we read of the total number of these men:
These are the ones who were numbered, whom Moses and Aaron counted, with the leaders of Israel, twelve men, each of whom was of his father’s household. So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers’ households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go to war in Israel, all the numbered men were 603,550.
As I read this account, I got to thinking about how many people — men, women, & children — were in the camp. The Scriptures tell us that there were 603,550 men over the age of 20, and most commentaries I read estimate that there were most likely 2,000,000 people in all!
In the Parasha, we can count or estimate the number of people, yet, in our Haftarah reading from Hosea 1:10 (English Bible) we read a repeat of a great promise which was given to Jacob:
Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted.
A day is coming when the number of the sons of Israel will not be measured or counted. In spite of the fact that Israel’s enemies have never stopped trying to destroy Israel and the Jewish people, they have failed again and again. This is not because Israel is mighty or worthy in its own right, but because Israel and the Jewish people belong to God and His Word will not and cannot return void!
Another interesting fact about Israel’s history is that its people have often been divided - the most obvious example is when the land was divided into two kingdoms, Judah and Israel. Today, we see once again a sharp division among the people of Israel. Whether it’s a political or religious divide, sadly, Israel is deeply divided once again.
Yet, it is in God and His endless promises that I find my hope. As we continue to read from Hosea, we find that one day, there will be unity among the children of Israel:
And in the place where it is said to them, “you are not My people,”
It will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.” And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for the day of Jezreel will be great.
Hosea 1:10b–11 (English Bible)
A day is coming when all of Israel will acknowledge that we are sons and daughters of the living God and we will gather together to appoint for ourselves One everlasting leader - Messiah Yeshua the Redeemer. However, all of this will be God’s doing and He will be the One who will plant the seeds and bring the harvest.
Until that great day, please join me in prayer for God’s peace to come to Israel and for the day that we will all gather together to declare Yeshua as our Messiah.
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