Bamidbar – “In The Wilderness”

This week we begin the book of Numbers with Parashat Bamidbar which translates to “In The Wilderness”. Bamidbar covers Chapter 1 through Chapter 4:20. These chapters contain censuses, encampment instructions, and duties for the special tribe, the Levites.

Numbers begins with the Lord commanding Moses to take a census of the men available to fight. The Torah records that 603,550 Israeli men were available to fight. The Levites were exempt from this count as they were instructed to care for the tabernacle. This census takes us to the end of the first chapter.

In chapter 2 the Lord outlines how the camp was to be organized. The tribes were to camp around the Tabernacle at a distance. The Lord of Armies wisely told our people to break camp so that Judah’s group being the second largest went out first and Dan’s group which was the largest went last. This provided important protection for the people and the Tabernacle on the march.

Chapters 3 and 4 contain the specific duties and place of encampment detailed for each of the Levitical clans. These chapters also contain the two censuses of the Levities. The second census was for the men ages 30 to 50 who were to serve in the Tabernacle which totaled 22,000.

Bamidbar is a parasha that focuses on specific details that can seem like boring history. Much of the parasha is devoted to the topics of census results, tribe movements, and specific duties of the Levites. In the rabbinic tradition, there are no specific commandments found in this parasha. But Bamidbar does have lessons for us today.

One of the most interesting things about this parasha is that in the arrangement of the tribes, we see the need for an intermediary, a Mediator, between God and Man. We read in Numbers 1:53, But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” The Levites are physically placed between the people and the Tabernacle where the Lord dwelled. The Tabernacle was at the center of all the camping tribes and when our people were moving. So, the tribe of Levi was charged with guarding and watching over God’s dwelling place, because of how incredibly precious and important it was. This was not something to be taken lightly as anyone lay person, priest, or king who violated the command of the Lord by entering His sanctuary would die. Or anyone who mistreated any item the Lord had declared holy.

The standards of the Lord in this parasha are exact and deeply consequential. God’s standard for us today has also been communicated and is full of eternal ramifications as well. Our holy God demands holy servants. It is only through the atonement of our perfectly holy Messiah, Messiah Yeshua, that we can be purified and made fit for His service. He is the greater intermediary, from a better priesthood, offering a better sacrifice, for everyone who believes and obeys His commands. The question we must ask ourselves is are we following all of the Lord’s standards, revealed today through Messiah Yeshua, or have we compromised the teachings and principles of the Lord for a standard of our own making?

May the Lord enable us to serve joyfully like the Levites. May each of us care deeply about true holiness. May we each be found fit as capable servants of the Lord in accordance with His calling.