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Beha’alotcha (As You Raise Up) – Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

Is Israel ready to enter the Promised Land?

“And it came to pass, when the ark set forward that Moses said, Rise up Lord, and let your enemies be scattered and let those you hate you flee before you. And when it rested he said Return, Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” Numbers 10:35- 36.

In the Hebrew text, there is an inverted “nun” placed before and after these two verses, a one-of-a-kind symbol in the Scriptures. Clearly, these two verses are meant to be set apart, to draw our attention to something dramatic.

And, in fact, these verses mark a highlight in the experience of the Children of Israel in the desert. Until this point, we have read of the counting of the children of Israel, of the dedication of the tabernacle and the procession of the camp, as each tribe gathers around each flag. Revelation at Sinai happened the year before, G-d has forgiven His people after the sin of the golden calf, the tabernacle has been built and dedicated, the priests have been instructed in their duties and the camp is organized and ready to march. And in fact, these two verses signify their marching orders. We have already learned that the camp travels only when the holy cloud is lifted and here, Moses calls upon G-d to rise up, to lift the cloud and the nation will march forward, into the land of Israel.

The journey should only take 11 days. They have already traveled 3 days. (Numbers 10:33). But with the opening verse of Chapter 11, everything begins to crash. The nation complains repeatedly and is punished. Miriam speaks ill of her brother and his wife and is punished. And then, of course, comes the sin of the spies, resulting in the most severe punishment of all — an entire generation would die in the desert and never see the Promised Land.

These two verses promise what could have been. These two verses echo the trumpets that were about to be sounded and the royal procession that would have brought the nation of Israel into the Land of Israel within weeks. Instead, it would be 38 more years.

And 38 years later, we encounter a similar phrase: “When the people set out from their encampment to cross the Jordan, the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant were at the head of the people” (Joshua 3:14). Whereas in Numbers, it is the ark which sets out, in Joshua, it is the people who set out, with the ark mentioned afterward as leading the way.

I believe that the verse in Joshua is intentionally reminding us of the previous verse but the similarity is for purpose of contrast. In Numbers, the ark was ready to travel but the people weren’t, lacking the faith that would be needed to trust God and embark on such an adventure. In Joshua, the next generation is ready for their grand entry into the Land-it is the people who set out, following the direction of the Ark.

The State of Israel was established in 1948 among much fanfare and trumpet-blowing, both the trumpets of war (unfortunately) and the trumpets of G-d’s miracles. Ever since, we have eagerly awaited the completion of the process, the final resting in the Land of Israel, in peace with our neighbors. But so many things went wrong. So many of our people did not really understand the spiritual significance of these events. We are ready to march forward, but G-d may be putting a hold on the procession for now. Will we have to wait a generation until we proceed? We don’t know. But we must continue reading these verses, calling upon G-d to rise and lead us into the Promised Land, for even if there is a delay, He will surely lead us on to redemption.

Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,

Sondra Oster Baras
Director, Israel Office

4 thoughts on “Beha’alotcha (As You Raise Up) – Numbers 8:1 – 12:16”

  1. Interesting as always. I think I look at the prophecy of both Jeremiah and Zechariah as a comment here.
    Jeremiah ch 30 states that Israel will return ‘for Jacob’s trouble’ but that he will be saved out of it. Zechariah 12 sees Jerusalem as ‘the burdensome stone’ that will wreck those nations who try to move it. It also states the effect that nations and people will generally go berserk as a result. Look what is happening to the Muslim world and to the rest of us!! Very few people understand this but it does lie in Biblical prophecy. Numbers 12 does seem to reflect a failure to understand what is required of Israel, and, maybe, after the 1967 6 day war Israel could have established her authority over all Jerusalem far more assertively than she did, and I guess pays the price for not doing so. That might be a matter of interpretation and understanding but that is where I personally am up to at present.

  2. I notice that you have ‘saved’ my earlier comments from 2017!! This passage deserves response as it is pivotal to our relationship with G-d. Right throughout the history of G-d’s people (Israel; the church?) this failure to respond in faith to G-d’s Word has afflicted us more than anything else. Right across the board those within Israel and the church appear not to ‘get it’ regarding prophecy, the regathering of Israel to the Land, and the biblical implications that apply. Hence we go through more suffering and affliction, one example of which might well be this virus called covid. That is controversial and there will be many views on this. However, the point of this Numbers passage remains indelibly as applicable to the dilemmas we experience presently. G-d, as always looks for a people who believe His written Word. How we, all of us, struggle with that!

  3. This passage always leaves my brain going hyper!! I am aware of the issues of ‘Aliya’ right now, and the war in Ukraine is very pertinent! Having been to Ukraine over 20 years ago I was aware of the reluctance of many Jews to move and ‘make aliya’ to Israel (please forgive me if the terminology is not quite right!) because they had so many ties to their present living arrangements. |Yet we must ‘move on’. In Numbers, Israel had a periodic craving to return to Egypt, which then compromised their faith and caused the first generation, as you stated to die in the wilderness. I currently predict that world events will become more ‘dire’, especially for Israel, and also for Christians who have a Biblical world view. All of us may yearn for the relative stability of the past, but we, like Israel in Numbers must move on in faith. There is, therefore, a massive lesson here for all of us.

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