12 Tammuz, 5783
Chukat (Statute or Decree)
· Numbers 19:1–22:1
· Judges 11:1–33
· Hebrews 9:11–28; John 3:10-21
“This is a requirement (Chukat / statute) of the Law (Torah) that YEHOVAH has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer (parah adumah).” (Numbers 19:2)
Last week in Parasha Korach, the Levite Korach incited mutiny against Moses. He and 250 chieftains of Israel questioned the anointed position of Moses as leader and Aaron as high priest.
This week’s Torah portion, called Parasha Chukat, presents the ritual laws of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) and the deaths of Aaron and the prophetess Miriam, Moses and Aaron's sister.
The Bridge from Impurity to Purity
To purify the Temple vessels and priest, the chosen red heifer, a young female cow that has not yet borne a calf, was to be blemish and defect free. It also must never have borne a yoke.
It would be slaughtered under the supervision of the Jewish Priest (Cohen), who would then sprinkle its blood seven times toward the Tabernacle. Its body would be burned outside the camp and its ashes used to create the waters of purification.
The waters of purification are necessary to ritually cleanse those who had been contaminated by death through contact with a corpse, bone, or grave. Once purified, they could enter the Tabernacle to draw near to the Living YAH.
In Hebrew, the concepts of clean and unclean or pure (tahor) and impure (tamei) are akin to an insider and an outsider. Only those who were ‘tahor’ (clean/pure) could enter the dwelling place of YAH’s presence.
Those who were deemed ‘tamei’ (unclean/defiled) would be kept outside and, if not purified, would be cut off from Israel – for example, lepers.
Along with the ashes of the Parah Adumah being added to the waters of purification, three other elements were put in: hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet thread.
These elements were all used in the building of the sanctuary. The hyssop was used by the priests for sprinkling the blood, the cedar wood was used for the posts, and the scarlet thread was used in the curtains.
Though this mysterious mixing – the sacred elements combined with the ashes of the heifer – death and life would come together in order to bring forth cleansing and purification, which would allow a person to cross the bridge from ‘tamei’ to ‘tahor’.
The Brit Chadashah (New Testament) also speaks of the ashes of the Parah Adumah, promising that the Blood of the MASHIACH has greater power to cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the Living YAH:
“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to YAH, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living YAH?” (Hebrews 9:13–14)
Miriam Perishes in the Wilderness
“Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.” (Numbers 20:1)
Besides the symbolism of life and death in the waters of purification, this week’s Parasha also provides some details of the death of Moses and Aaron's sister, Miriam, in the Wilderness of Zin.
Her death occurs about one year before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, and it is also connected to water.
The last time we read about Miriam, she had been stricken with tzara’at (leprosy) as a punishment for speaking against Moses’ choice of a Cushite (Ethiopian wife).
The tzara’at caused her to become ‘tamei’ (defiled/impure), and she was exiled from the camp for the required period of seven days after “Moses cried out to YEHOVAH, ‘Please, YAH, heal her!’” (Numbers 12:13)
Miriam lived many years after this, healed of her leprosy, and apparently never again allowed pride and arrogance to cause her to speak against the leadership of Moses.
Miriam had played an important role in the prophetic fulfillment of YAH’s promise to bring Israel out of Egypt, and two of the biggest highlights involved water.
She was the one who carefully watched over baby Moses as he floated among the reeds of the Nile River in a basket. She bravely intervened and offered her mother's services as a wet nurse when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him.
Miriam led the procession of women singing, dancing, and rejoicing with tambourines after YAH safely led the Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea on dry land while drowning the pursuing Egyptians army.
Although Miriam was considered a leader and prophetess, her death is mentioned only briefly in the Scriptures. No mention is made of the usual mourning period. Jewish commentary suggests that Moses and Aaron buried her in the middle of the night, and it seems that Moses and the people did not mourn her properly.
After Miriam’s death, the people thirsted for water and complained, yet again:
“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to bring us to this terrible place, a seedless place without a fig or a vine or a pomegranate, without even water to drink?” (Numbers 20:5)
Since a vine can represent a mother at home with her children, like little shoots all around her table, some commentaries believe that the people who complained were mourning the loss of Miriam, who was like a mother to the Israelites, especially the women and children. If so, they were misdirecting their anguish. (Psalm 128:3)
The Well of Miriam
According to Jewish tradition, a water-bearing rock followed the Israelites in the wilderness, but dried up and disappeared at Miriam’s death. First Corinthians 10:1–4 is seen by some to confirm this rock:
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were mikvahed [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 were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Messiah.”
“Miriam died, Moses and Aaron were weeping inside, and (the Children of) Israel were weeping outside, and for six hours Moses did not know (that the well was gone), until (the Children of) Israel entered and said to him: For how long will you sit and cry?
"He said to them: Should I not cry for my sister who has died? They said to him: While you are crying for one person, cry for all of us! He said to them: Why? They said to him: We have no water to drink. He got up from the ground and went out and saw the well without a drop of water (in it). He began to argue with them....”
The rock had followed them, providing water. YAH did show mercy for their thirst, telling Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water.
Nevertheless, before following through on YAH’s command to give them water, Moses responded in anger to their complaining, for Miriam’s death, saying, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10)
It seems that Moses is thinking of his sister Miriam and had not yet properly mourned. He may have misdirected his anger about her death toward the people.
In his anger or frustration, Moses struck the rock twice and water gushed out giving the people water to drink – but YEHOVAH had told Moses to speak to the rock, not to strike it.
Moses failed to model obedience at a time when all of Israel was looking to him for leadership.
Therefore, the name of the water was called ‘Merivah’, which means to argue, strive or contend.
“Those were the waters of Merivah, because the sons of Israel contended with YEHOVAH, and HE proved Himself holy among them.” (Numbers 20:13)
This word, Merivah, can also be connected to Miriam. It can be read Meri-vah, which means ‘Mir[yam] is in it – that is, Miriam is in the waters of contention.
Tending to Our Emotions
Although Moses never mentioned Miriam again after her death, and although she seemed to have been buried quickly, without great public ceremony, the memory of her has been irrepressible.
Like Moses’ anger that caused him to disobey YAH and strike the rock, whatever we repress instead of dealing with it will ultimately demand attention. And it might be expressed in ways not pleasing to YAH. For instance, we must take the time to properly come to terms with our feelings of loss.
We must take the time to grieve, just as the people did at the end of this Torah reading for Aaron – six months after the death of Miriam.
Moses did not have the luxury of that time because of his role as leader or because the people were thirsty.
Furthermore, it seems that Moses might not have brought his pain and disappointment to YAH. In not doing so, he missed an opportunity to model his trust and faith in YAH’s love. Instead, he raged and disobeyed YAH.
However, we can bring to HIM our deepest pain, our darkest despair, and our broken hearts. HE will cleanse us spiritually from our contact with loss and death, and HE will heal us.
May we likewise be healers, allowing rivers of living water to flow freely out of our inner being to help bring people back into a restored relationship with ELOHIM through the purification we experience in YESHUA HAMASHIACH.
"For the LAMB in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and HE will guide them to springs of living water, and YAH will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)
Welcome to our study of Parasha Balak (Destroyer).
· Numbers 22:2–25:9
· Micah 5:6–6:8
· Romans 11:25-32
“And Balak [בָּלָק] the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.” (Numbers 22:2)
In Parasha (Torah Portion) Chukat, we see that it ended with Israel seeking to pass through the land of the Amorites on their way to the Promised Land. The Amorites responded with war, but with YAH's help, Israel defeated them.
In this week’s Parasha, we see the overpowering strength of ELOHIM’s blessing on Israel. When Balak, the king of Moab, sent a sorcerer named Balaam to curse Israel, he found that he could not do so.
Although Balaam was commissioned to pronounce a curse over Israel, he found that he could only issue a blessing instead, saying, “How shall I curse whom YAH has not cursed?” (Numbers 23:8)
Many might come against the nation of Israel, but no one can curse those whom ELOHIM HIMSELF has blessed!
The Moabite King Balak, whose name means ‘waste’ or ‘to lay waste’, wanted to lay waste the nation of Israel. To his dismay, he found that he was unable to do so because of YAH’s blessing upon her.
Why did King Balak feel so threatened by Israel that he felt the need to have her cursed?
It is because Balak, along with his elders, had heard of the Israelites stunning victories over the mighty enemies of Sihon and Og.
Therefore, deciding that it would be too risky to fight Israel directly, they hired a “spiritual mercenary,” Balaam, who was a heathen sorcerer, to put a “hex” on their enemies. Although we may consider this an ancient superstition, many practice such magic even today.
For instance, in the United States there exists a form of Louisiana Voodoo also known as New Orleans Voodoo. It is rooted in West African Dahomeyan Vodun, which came to the American south through the slave trade.
The Bible strictly forbids the people of YAH to practice such sorcery; neither are we to seek guidance from astrologers, sorcerers, psychics, or those who consult with the dead:
“When you come into the land which YEHOVAH your ELOHIM is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
For all who do these things are an abomination to YEHOVAH, and because of these abominations YEHOVAH your ELOHIM drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before YEHOVAH your ELOHIM. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, YEHOVAH your ELOHIM has not appointed such for you.” (Deuteronomy 18:9–13)
As the world becomes darker and more terrifying, many people seek guidance and comfort from sorcerers and others skilled in the occult arts, but as YAH’s people we are to “come out from among them and be separate.” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
The adversary of humankind seeks to deceive and enslave us through a variety of methods: false doctrines mixed with true doctrines, false religions, and fleshly temptations through spiritists, books, TV, and more.
But those who follow YESHUA actually have an advantage that is superior to any of those methods. Believers have the RUACH HAKODESH to lead and guide them into all truth; therefore, they do not need to stumble around in the kingdom of darkness looking for direction from those who serve the evil one.
YEHOVAH promises that if we seek HIM with all of our heart, we will find HIM (Jeremiah 29:13), and that those who are HIS Sheep will hear HIS voice (John 10:27).
He has not left us to our devices wondering which way we should go.
The Power of the Tongue
Even though most people in today’s modern, Western culture do not purposefully engage in placing curses on others, people frequently and unknowingly affect others in a negative sense with their words.
The Bible tells us that the power of life or death is in our tongue (Proverbs 18:21); therefore, we need to be deliberate when we speak about or over other people, ensuring that our words are constructive and lifegiving.
Not everyone has been so privileged to have blessings spoken over their life, especially as a child. All too often we hear parents, teachers, and children speak appallingly ungodly words over others.
These negative words can pierce the heart and soul. False labels are taken to heart and believed to be true, such as loser, stupid, lazy, hopeless, ugly, bad, worthless, inept, idiot, jerk, brat, or unlovable.
What is the answer to this very real problem? How can we escape the multitude of word curses spoken over us?
The answer is found in YESHUA HAMASHIACH!
Not only do we find unconditional love and acceptance with YESHUA; but also the Blood of the MESSIAH has the power to break every curse that has ever been spoken over us – whether intentionally or out of ignorance.
YESHUA became a curse for us so that we could be redeemed and set free from every curse:
Blessing and Cursing the Jewish People
By taking upon himself the task of cursing the Jews, Balaam entered into Jewish history books as Balaam HaRashah (the Wicked).
Although he called himself a prophet of YAH, he was motivated more by earning a profit with his gift than edifying, warning, teaching, and blessing others with it.
Some consider his name to mean ‘without a nation or people’ (bli – am), suggesting that by going to curse Israel, he became excluded or cut off from a place in the World to Come, Olam haBah.
The reality that Balak and Balaam ignored is that YEHOVAH has promised to bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to curse those who curse us. (Genesis 12:3)
How many people or nations are cutting themselves off from a blessing and a place in Heaven by attempting to curse the Jews?
Although Balaam possessed legendary powers, they were tiny compared to YAH’s power.
Three times Balaam tried to curse Israel, and three times he involuntarily blessed them instead.
Why has Israel survived against all odds even till today?
It is because of YAH’s covenantal promise to the seed or offspring of Israel:
“Thus says YEHOVAH, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar YEHOVAH of Hosts is HIS Name: ‘If those ordinances depart from before ME,’ says YEHOVAH, ‘then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before ME forever.’” (Jeremiah 31:35–36)
Even though YAH has made the survival and ultimate salvation of Israel secure, Psalm 83 prophesies that in the Last Days, a confederacy will be formed before our very eyes that intends to wipe out the name of Israel forever:
“They have taken crafty counsel against YOUR People, and consulted together against YOUR sheltered ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’” (Psalm 83:3–4)
There is only one way that Israel may be defeated; that is, through her own sin – by turning away from YEHOVAH.
This is what happened to the people of Israel in this Parasha. Although Balak and Balaam failed in bringing a curse upon Israel, they brought destruction upon themselves by committing sexual immorality with the Moabite women and worshiping their god, Baal-Peor.
“So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of YEHOVAH was aroused against Israel.” (Numbers 25:3)
Seeing HIS Chosen People worship pagan gods enraged ELOHIM and resulted in a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. Scripture reveals that it was Balaam, who counseled the Midianites to ruin Israel through association with their women. (Numbers 31:7–16)
Therefore, some also discern another meaning of the name of Balaam as ‘bilu-am’ – ‘one who confused the nation’.
What happened in the end to Balaam?
After being ridiculed by his own donkey, who miraculously tried to save him by telling him about the end that lay before him, Balaam finally died in a battle with the Israelites. (Numbers 31:8)
So ended the life of one who was motivated by greed and selfish ambition rather than by YAH’s righteousness.
The Book of Jude underscores the error of false prophets like Balaam:
“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” (Jude 1:11)
What was this grave error of Balaam that was serious enough to be included alongside Cain, who murdered his brother (Genesis 4) as well as Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses that resulted in the deaths of many Israelites (Numbers 16)?
"Whoever possesses the following three traits is of the disciples of our father Abraham; and whoever possesses the opposite three traits is of the disciples of the wicked Balaam:
The disciples of our father Abraham have a good eye, a meek spirit, and a humble soul.
The disciples of the wicked Balaam have an evil eye (greed/envy), a haughty spirit and a gross soul. ...
The disciples of our father Abraham benefit in this world and inherit the World To Come, and as is stated, 'To bequeath to those who love Me there is, and their treasures I shall fill' (Proverbs 8:21).
The disciples of the wicked Balaam inherit the pit of destruction, as is stated, 'And YOU, YAH, shall cast them into the pit of destruction; bloody and deceitful men, they shall not attain half their days. And I shall trust in you' (Psalm 55:23)."
YESHUA also referred to Balaam, saying to the Believers at Pergamum:
“Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2:14)
And Peter referenced Balaam in his warnings to Believers; may the people of YAH today take heed:
“They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey — a beast without speech — who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.
These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” (2 Peter 2:15–18)
Why are there so many warnings about Balaam, and how are they relevant today?
Balaam, even after failing to curse Israel directly, continued to associate and cooperate with those who sought Israel’s destruction.
Some within the Christian Church not only associate with, but also financially support people, charities, and causes with an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda.
From the example of Balak and Balaam, we can see that being drawn into despising Israel is a dangerous path — and “talking donkeys appear to be in short supply these days!” (Wild Olive)
May YAH’s People disassociate from those who curse Israel and teach anti-Semitic lies. May the followers of YESHUA, both Jews and Gentiles, choose to stand with Israel to the very end and continue in Holiness.
Let us bless Israel and pray that YEHOVAH will save her from all those enemies who try to curse her. Let us also pray that the Jewish People will seek after YEHOVAH with all of their hearts and will walk in righteousness before HIM and receive HIS SON YESHUA. Then they will find HIM.
Many have falsely said that YEHOVAH is finished with His Chosen People; however, Bible Prophecy clearly states that this will never be so. In fact, in these Last Days, YEHOVAH is moving among HIS people to physically and spiritually restore them.
You can be part of this end-time move of YEHOVAH, YESHUA AND RUACH HAKODESH, IMMA by helping us to spread the Good News of YESHUA!
"Hear the word of YEHOVAH, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: 'HE who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over HIS Flock like a Shepherd.'" (Jeremiah 31:10)
"Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding." (Jeremiah 3:15)
SHABBAT SHALOM FROM TORAHKEEPER!