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B'Midbar/Numbers 33:18 They travelled from Hazeroth and camped in Ritmah
Rashi explains why this particular stop on our peoples' journey through the desert has this name. The word , meaning 'broom' or 'juniper', is the noun derived from the root verb which means to bind, yoke or harness. The narrative at B'Midbar 12:16 and 13:3 tell us that it was at the camping place after Hazeroth that the spies were sent out to reconnoitre the Land and came back with a bad report; believing it, the people became bound, so that in a sense, the place name can mean "the binding".
Rashi also connects the name to Psalm 120:3-4 where a deceitful tongue is allied to burning coals from a broom or juniper tree. Unlike other coals, the juniper continues to burn on the inside, even though the outside has cooled and gone black - so it is easy to inadvertently get burned by touching or picking up juniper coals that look spent and cold. So it is with gossip and slander: even though apparently forgiven, they can be held in someone's heart and then flare up to cause damage later (cf. Beresheet Rabbah 98:19).
Yeshua's talmidim were having some trouble understanding just what that might mean, so one of the most frequent spokesmen - Kefa - came to Yeshua and asked Him, "how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?" (Matthew 18:21, CJB). Kefa thought he was setting a pretty high limit; after all, if someone repeats the same offence seven times, even if they say 'Sorry' in between, they must seem very determined to offend and not very sincere in their apologies. "'No, not seven times,' answered Yeshua, 'but seventy times seven!'" (Matthew 18:22, CJB). Yeshua names an impossibly high number - 490 times - but you would have lost count way before you got there, so it effectively means: without number, always. Yeshua then goes on to tell the parable of the slave who owes an enormous sum of money to a king, who recognising that the debt is unpayable, has compassion on the slave and forgives the debt. The slave, however, then has a fellow slave thrown into goal over a much smaller sum and when the king hears about it, he has the first slave thrown into prison and re-instates the debt, rebuking him for showing no mercy when he had been shown so much himself. Yeshua emphasises that forgiveness is a chain process - it is passed on from person to person; as He taught in the L-rd's Prayer: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matthew 6:12, KJV).
The final phrase of Yeshua's parable brings us round full circle to where we started: "This is how My heavenly Father will treat you, unless you each forgive your brother from your hearts" (Matthew 18:35, CJB). Our forgiveness must be complete and from our hearts so that we don't burn on like the juniper coals.
Further Study: Zechariah 7:8-14; Ephesians 4:31-32
Application: How is your forgiveness? Is there someone that you need to forgive from your heart so as to release the binding for both of you? Forgiveness on the surface leaves the hurt in place, ready to flare up and bite you later.
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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