Shabbat Shalom, this week we have a double parasha Mattot-Masei which means “Tribes – Journeys” and covers Numbers chapter 30:1 through 36:13.
Chapter 30 starts with the importance of vows. The promises that one makes to God and others that are above them in authority. A binding obligation that you are held to keep. We see that in verse 2, that if a man makes a vow he must keep it. Anything that comes from his mouth he must do. There is no breaking it, he is held to what he says. However, for women in verses 3 through 15, it is not as strict. If she is unmarried and makes a vow but her father hears it and says nothing then she is to keep her vow. If her father disapproves of the obligation she made, then she does not have to keep it and the Lord will forgive her. This is the same if she is married and her husband says nothing, then she is to keep the vow. However, if he expresses disapproval then she is not bound to keep it. We see in verses 13-15, that if she makes a vow and then is married, but the husband does not make it invalid he will bear the responsibility for her vow.
Chapter 31 has the Lord instructing Israel to fully destroy the Midianites, with God saying to Moses in verse 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the sons of Israel; afterward you will be gathered to your people.” With that command, Moses instructs Israel to take one thousand men from each tribe and go to war. After the battle, every male of Midian was killed along with its five kings and Balaam the son of Beor. In verses 9 and 10, they take the women and their children captive and plunder all of the Midian property. They then Burn all the cities and encampments.
The spoils of the war are then presented to Moses and all of Israel. Yet Moses in verse 14 was angry at the officers and commanders in the army. We find out why in verse 16, “Behold, they caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to be unfaithful to the Lord in the matter of Peor, so that the plague took place among the congregation of the Lord! 17 Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. 18 However, all the girls who have not known a man intimately, keep alive for yourselves.”
When we look at those verses in today’s mindset it seems harsh. Yet the sin that Israel committed was great. God punished Israel with a plague and sentenced the Midianites to death.
Chapter 32 records the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad speaking to Moses about not crossing into the promised land but wanting to stay in the land that has been conquered. Moses responds in verses 6 and 7, “But Moses said to the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben, “Should your brothers go to war while you remain here? 7 And why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the Lord has given them?” He then goes on to compare them to the spies and reminds them of the punishment that happened to Israel as a result of them walking away from God’s commands. But the men responded and said they will go with the other tribes and will not return until Canaan is captured and the enemies of Israel are destroyed. Moses is then satisfied and allows them to do what they said.
Chapter 33 begins the parasha Masei which means “journeys” and is a retelling of the events that have happened thus far to the people of Israel. This serves as a reminder of what Israel has done both the good and the bad. The chapter ends with the command God gave to the sons of Israel in verse 52 to drive out all the people in the land of Canaan, destroy all their idols, and all their high places. If they do not do those things then the people of Canaan that remain will be a thorn in their sides. Also if they do not obey, in verse 56 the Lord will do to Israel what he plans to do to Canaan.
Chapter 34 begins with God telling Moses the boundaries of Israel after they take the land. Joshua and Eleazar the priest, along with a leader from each tribe are to portion out the land to the sons of Israel. The only ones who did not get an inheritance were the Levitical tribe. We find out why in Deuteronomy 18 verses 1 and 2, “The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall not have a portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His property. They shall not have an inheritance among their countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them.” The reason is God is their inheritance which is greater than any physical land.
In Chapter 35 we read that though the Levites were not given land, they were to receive 48 cites within the Promised land. Of the 48 cities, the Lord portions off six cities for refuge which the Levites are in charge of. Three cities are to be in the land of Canaan and three in Jordan.
We find out in verse 15, “These six cities shall be a refuge for the sons of Israel, for the stranger, and for the foreign resident among them; so that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.” These cities of refuge existed so that no one would be killed before they were put on trial.
In chapter 36 the families of Joseph came to Moses saying that if their daughters marry someone from another tribe then their inheritance will be removed. This is due to the fact that the inheritance of the land was given to the daughters. So Moses commands them to only marry within the family of the tribe of their father. This is to make sure that the inheritance that was promised will not be transferred from one tribe to another.
What is a takeaway from these parashas? In chapter 30 we found that when you make a vow, you are making it under the authority of God. Your word matters. When we make a commitment, we must follow through with that commitment. If we don’t follow through with that commitment, then our word becomes less, and then when we share the truth of Messiah Yeshua people will turn their heads. Don’t become a stumbling block for others to hear the truth. Matthew 5 verse 37, “But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.”
We are all judged by our words and actions, these parashas make it clear that we cannot say one thing and do something else. We must be honest and reflect the honesty of our Messiah. Our reputations should speak for us the same way Yeshua’s does for Him. Let’s ask ourselves what sort of reputation we have with people and how we can improve fulfilling the commands of our Messiah to share the Good News and live in a way that is pleasing to Him.