Bamidbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
During the next three weeks, there are special readings from the Haftarah portions called “Between the Mitzarim (Afflictions)”. The term “Between the Mitzarim” can also refer to being in trouble or a “dead end”. As I did some searching on the meaning of this word, I also found the word “divine”, which I thought gives an interesting connection to the rest of this commentary.
This three-week period is connected to the first and second destruction of the Temple, as well as the exile of the people of Israel into the diaspora. They are based on Lamentations 1:3 which says:
Judah has gone into exile out of affliction and harsh servitude; she lives among the nations, but she has not found a resting place; all those who pursued her have overtaken her in the midst of distress.
In general, there is no direct connection between the Parashah (the Scripture portion from the first five books of the Bible) and the special Haftarah (the Scripture portion taken from the Prophets). However, the more I read the Word of God, the more I see the connection between God’s judgment and His amazing grace, which is something that, if we embrace, can deepen our understanding and appreciation of God.
In our Parashah, we read of yet another act of rebellion of the children of Israel against God, which brought His judgment:
While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to commit infidelity with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel became followers of Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry with Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill his men who have become followers of Baal of Peor.”
Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the inner room of the tent and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through the abdomen. So the plague on the sons of Israel was brought to a halt. But those who died from the plague were twenty-four thousand in number.
Pinchas was zealous for God and in his zealousness, he did something that saved Israel from God’s wrath:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has averted My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy.”
The display of God’s grace amid His judgment is an incredible fact of His divine nature. The truth is, one will never be able to truly understand the fullness of God’s grace without understanding His judgment and vice versa.
As we continue to read the Parashah portion, we also see the command to count every man from the tribes of Israel from twenty years old and on:
These are the ones who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the LORD had said of them, “They shall certainly die in the wilderness.” And not a man was left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.”
We can see God’s amazing grace despite His judgment in this passage. Despite the fact that an entire generation was prevented from entering the Promised Land, God still graciously provided a remnant of people who would enter it.
In our Haftarah, we read of God’s call to Jeremiah that may seem harsh:
See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
These words are very powerful in that we see in them both God’s judgment over Israel (and also the nations) due to their disobedience, as well as God’s amazing grace in the midst of His judgment. I believe this is where we can find the “divine”, which is the mysterious connection between God’s judgment and grace. It is all from Him and all for Him.
This is where I find hope despite all that is happening around us. The increasing chaos we see happening throughout the world should not surprise us. We know this has been prophesied. It is up to us to do our part to stand for His Word, His precepts, and truth. I take comfort in the fact that none of this is a surprise to God. He has shown us throughout the centuries that, despite people moving away from Him, He is gracious amid judgment.
We cannot avoid judgment; but we can count on His grace no matter what comes! Let’s take the time this weekend to reflect, repent and intercede on behalf of all people in this fallen world. May we all know His mysterious grace in His judgment!
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