Parashat Chukat (Statute of)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:1-22:1
Haftarah: Judges 11:1-33
As I prepared to write this week’s commentary, I felt that it is important to repost what I wrote last year with some additional thoughts. This topic is also as relevant today as it was a year ago, and it ties very nicely with our current series of articles on this topic.
Before I continue this commentary, I exhort each one of you to read with an open heart as it may touch some areas that challenge you and your opinion about God, His Word, and how you perceive history.
One of the hottest topics in the political world is the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. It is a topic full of misinformation, lies, bias, etc., that leaves many confused about the actual historical facts. The misinformation causes many people in the world to be one-sided against Israel, as they view the land as “occupied” and Israel the aggressor against a helpless people group. The sad reality is that even within the Body of Messiah, many reject Scriptural and historical truth in favor of a “woke” political agenda.
Yet, as we see in our Scripture portions this week, disregarding historical facts about the people of Israel is nothing new. In the Parashah, we read of Israel’s journey in the desert toward the Land of Promise. As they traveled, they faced a few people groups who blocked their efforts to pass through the land. For example, Edom rejected Israel's peaceful attempt to pass through and even threatened to attack them. After the Canaanite King of Arad attacked the children of Israel, God gave victory to Israel over him. They then continued to pass through the desert opposite Moab, which Israel had again requested that the king of the Amorites let them pass through peacefully. However, the king responded through violence, and once again the victory was God’s. The final battle occurred as Israel sat in the Land of the Amorites and were attacked by Og the king of Bashan; here, too, God gave the victory to Israel.
In the Haftarah, we see the importance of knowing these historical accounts, and standing on their historical truth! We read of Jephthah the Gilalite’s confrontation and dialog with the King of Ammon:
So Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What conflict do you and I have, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” And the king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, “It is because Israel took my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan; so return them peaceably now.” But Jephthah sent messengers once again to the king of the sons of Ammon, and they said to him, “This is what Jephthah says: ‘Israel did not take the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh, then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please let us pass through your land”; but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent messengers to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said to him, “Please let us pass through your land to our place.” But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz, and fought with Israel. And the LORD, the God of Israel, handed Sihon and all his people over to Israel, and they defeated them; so Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. So they inherited all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan. And now the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven out the Amorites from His people Israel; so should you inherit it? Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will inherit it. Now then, are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend with Israel, or did he ever fight against them? While Israel was living in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? So I have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me. May the LORD, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.’” But the king of the sons of Ammon disregarded the message which Jephthah sent him.
My dear brothers and sisters, historical facts are just that – FACTS. No one can change them. We must be careful to not allow our personal biases to be the framework through which we interpret these facts. Just like the sons of Ammon, you can choose to ignore them and reject them, but that will not change them from being historically true. I challenge us to really ask ourselves if historic truth matters. Or even more pressing – does truth matter?
For example, did you know that the Jewish leaders in 1947 accepted the international partition plans for the Land? The Arabs rejected them outright, so much so that the Arab countries surrounding Israel attacked immediately after Israel declared independence. Israel’s desire to have peace with its neighbors has been proven multiple times through various peace agreements that have included relinquishing land that it fairly won in war: the Sinai Desert in Egypt; part of the areas between Israel and Jordan; and the Gaza Strip. In all cases, Israel gave away land out of a desire to have peace.
My dear brothers and sisters, if you believe in the one and only true God and His Messiah, then truth matters. It is not about taking sides of an earthly conflict, but rather choosing to stand on the truth of God and His Word, rather than basing our opinions on politics, emotions, and at times, lies that the media and other influencing forces feed us.
Jephthah rebukes the lies of the sons of Ammon and responds with historical facts. When the sons of Ammon refuse to accept his message, I believe God honors Jephthah as we see in the rest of the passage:
Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed hand over to me the sons of Ammon, then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD handed them over to him. He inflicted a very great defeat on them from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
History matters. I pray that we will have the courage to stand on God’s truth and live our lives in accordance with the fullness of His truth.
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