Messianic Education Trust
(Num 16:1 - 18:23)

B'Midbar/Numbers 16:5   [In the] morning the L-rd will make it known who is His and [who is] the holy [one] that He will bring near to Him

View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

Moshe is here speaking to Korah and the company who stood with him in opposing Moshe and Aharon's positions as leader and high priest of the people. The dissenters had assembled a emotional argument, saying that "all the community are holy, all of them, and the L-RD is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the L-RD's congregation?" (B'Midbar 16:3, NJPS). This was not without apparent support from The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem, for had He not spoken to the whole people and told them, "you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Shemot 19:6, NJPS)? Moshe falls on his face to the ground, aghast at the ferocity and brazenness of the challenge, then rallies to respond by setting up a trial by incense for the next morning. Given the recent incident when Aharon's two eldest sons had died attempting to bring their own unbidden incense offering, Korah and his co-conspirators should have known better.

Several of the commentators ask why Moshe didn't deal with the matter there and then. Why wait until the morning? Why not summon a meeting of the whole assembly and sort it out right there and then? Following the suggestion that they had all eaten their main meal of the day, which was usually accompanied by wine, Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi proposes that the 'now' time of day might be "a time of intoxication for us ... and it is improper to appear before Him. Moshe intended," Rashi continues, "to delay them so that perhaps they would turn back from the confrontation." Rabbi Jacob Lorberbaum of Lissa1 comments that "Moshe said 'in the morning' for it is a time during which people do not drink wine." The latter's opinion might have been useful for Peter and the other apostles on the day of Pentecost! Following Rashi's idea, Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch explains that, "Moshe said 'in the morning,' not tomorrow, to let the day and the night pass. This is to allow the rebels time to come to their senses, especially in the quiet and retirement of the night." Time, perhaps for a little sober reflection.

The rest of the text tells what us the purpose is of what will happen in the morning. Moshe is going on in the following verses to give the detail of exactly how the divine choice will be manifest, but here he tells what the choice is about. Korah has been arguing three things: firstly, that HaShem has declared the whole Israelite people to be holy, so there is no need for the Levites to be singled out as a holy tribe; secondly, that since all the people are holy there is no need for a separate holy priesthood, the firstborn of each family should resume acting as priests for their families; and, thirdly, that because Israel is both a holy nation and a royal priesthood, there need be no hierarchy and the role of leader and high priest have essentially been invented by Moshe and Aharon for their own benefit. Moshe essentially agrees that he and Aharon have no right to appoint themselves (or anyone else) to any position and announces that HaShem Himself will chose how and by whom He is served; as G-d, that is His prerogative. HaShem will show whether Korah is right - anyone may serve HaShem, offer sacrifice and be eligible for leadership - or whether Moshe and what he has taught the people about the priests, the Levites and the leadership model is right. "If you really want to hear and see HaShem make His choice - so that we'll all know for sure - one way or the other," Moshe is saying, "then turn up in the morning and we'll all abide by what He says or does, right?" As Hirsch comments, "G-d will choose the one and designate him as the one who may and should come near to Him, and thereby the matter will be decided in every direction. He will decide whether everybody, or only one designated by Him as priest may and should come near to Him."

The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno broadens the question a little, expounding the the phrase "who is His" to mean, "who truly speaks on behalf of G-d, the Blessed One." This is important, for Moshe thinks that Korah and the other troublemakers are simply speaking for themselves, for their own status and position, and not really with any sense of what G-d might want or in a way that honours G-d. The one who is really holy is set apart for G-d, the Sforno continues, and "He will notify us who the holy one is that is worthy to offer sacrifices to Him." This is more than simply being part of a holy people, as Richard Elliot Friedman points out: "Moshe sets up a test of who is holy,to establish what it means to be holy in the priestly sense, as opposed to the general concept that the people should strive to be holy."

The second verb in the text - , the Hif'il 3ms affix form of the root , with a vav-reversive construct to make it future tense - is literally translated "and he will bring near." Jacob Milgrom points out that "the verb in cultic contexts frequently means 'be qualified' and with the preposition [as it is here] it means 'have access to.'" We then have the sense that HaShem will chose and reveal who is holy and who He will grant access to Himself. What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos inserts the word into the text so it reads: who is proper for him and who is holy. Onkelos considers that the text implies 'proper' - the word is that used is the post-biblical period for food that is kosher to eat. The one who is holy and approved by G-d is granted access to G-d's presence.

So we have now reached the point where we can say that the L-rd will reveal who is holy, to whom He has granted access and is therefore fit and proper to speak for G-d. Rav Sha'ul tells us that "the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19, NASB). The whole world is waiting for G-d to reveal who His children are: the physical creation, which "groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (v. 22, NASB), we ourselves, who "groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (v, 23, NASB), and - I will suggest - just about every man, woman and child on the face of the planet. Solomon wrote hundred of years before Yeshua that G-d "has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which G-d has done from the beginning even to the end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NASB), and that drive to connect with the "something more" that we all seem intuitively to know is there but somehow cannot find or pin down by ourselves, is still waiting for G-d to reveal His hand. Indeed, much of the levels of anger and violence expressed in society today is an expression of the frustration of those who are seeking but not finding because they are looking in the wrong place and what they do find is never enough and does not satisfy. Although they reject G-d because they cannot make or control Him in their image, G-d still speaks to them, saying, "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David" (Isaiah 55:2-3, NASB).

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is present in all four gospels, but only John concludes his story with the note that "When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world'" (John 6:14, NASB). John is recording that there has been a revelation of Yeshua that the people recognised. So much so, John goes on, that Yeshua had to withdraw from them because he perceived "that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king" (v. 15, NASB). The people's response to the revelation was in one sense quite correct - they want Yeshua to be king over them - but in the larger sense (that they couldn't see) it was both the wrong time and the wrong political move in Yeshua's ministry, so he had to withdraw from the situation.

Believe it or not, the same revelation happens through the followers of Yeshua. Rav Sha'ul tells the Corinthian congregation that "we are the aroma of Messiah to G-d among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, ESV). Everywhere we go, we radiate the revelation of Yeshua. That is why we encounter such hostility in the world, often unexpected and unanticipated. To the powers and authorities, it is as if we have a flashing blue light on our heads - we can be seen for miles - but even to our fellow humans, the presence and aroma of Yeshua is always discernible no matter if we try to hide it. Yeshua warned the disciples, "I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19, ESV). And there we are again, back with our original text. Korah hated and rebelled against Moshe and Aharon because they had been chosen to be holy and were granted access to G-d's presence, while he was not, or at least, not as much as he wanted. The world does the same to us because we have something that they don't and, although a few will, they refuse to humble themselves and ask how they can have it too, but instead rebel against G-d and reject us as His representatives.

1. - Rabbi Jacob ben Jacob Moshe Lorberbaum, 1760-1832, rabbi of Lissa (now Leszno in Poland), in Nachalas Ya'akov a collection of essays and sermons on the Torahportions and halachic decisions.

Further Study: Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 6:22-23

Application: Have you encountered a surprising incident of animus or hostility recently, probably while in the process of helping someone or just doing the right thing? Rejoice that the revelation of Messiah in you was sufficient to trigger that reaction and pray that those around you will react in the right way.

Comment - 01:05 11Jun18 Anon: This word was a very great blessing to me today. An encouragement from Him just when I needed it.

Comment - 14:40 16Jun18 Brian and Anne Nelson: I found (Anne) this Drash extremely challenging. The Holy Scripture, which I find most relevant to help me "provoke others to jealousy" or for others to enquire the reason for my joy, is Colossians 4:5,6 - "Behave wisely toward outsiders, making full use of every opportunity - let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so that you will know how to respond to any particular individual." Is this portion of Holy Scripture appropriate here, please ?

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© Jonathan Allen, 2018

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