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B'Midbar/Numbers 7:1 And it was on the day Moshe finished erecting the tabernacle
Although Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia shows no textual variation at this point, agreeing with theMasoretic Text, it is clear that there have been variants at this point in the past. The word , according to Davidson and Even-Shoshan, is a hapax legomenon in this form - a Pi'el infinitive construct - although it comes from the well-known root , to complete, finish or end. We know that a variant text was in circulation because Rashi's comment (below) is based upon a text that omits the to be , which in turn could be pointed and pronounced , the construct form of the word , a bride. The Rashba also confirms the existence of a text spelled like that of Rashi, although there is no current textual evidence today.
Rashi's comment, then, says: " is written as if which implies that on the day of the erection of the tabernacle, Israel was like a bride who enters the marriage canopy." Tanchuma adds that "the tabernacle was like a marriage canopy, under which Israel joined G-d" (Tanchuma 26). Both of these comments portray the traditional view of Israel being chosen as a bride for G-d Himself, with the Torah given at Sinai being the ketubah - the marriage contract - and the marriage being celebrated in the tabernacle as the chuppa or marriage canopy. On the day that Moshe finished erecting and preparing the tabernacle for service, Israel is pictured as the bride about to enter the canopy to be joined to her husband in a holy covenant.
The whole verse reads: "On the day when Moshe had finished setting up the tabernacle, and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings, and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils" (RSV), so theSforno comments that the altar and its vessels were set up in their proper place and order; the holiness of the moment demanded that everything should be done properly. Hirsch amplifies that idea by adding that the holiness of the whole depended on the holiness of the parts, yet the parts could not be holy apart from the whole: "the whole cannot do without even its least important part; nothing is superfluous for the whole, nothing is without meaning." To erect a canopy for the bride to meet her husband, everything had to be together, in its correct place, and perfect.
HaShem used the image of the bride and bridegroom to speak to the people of Judah during the time of the kings. Firstly, speaking of the period of time that was to come He said, "Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of millstones and the light of lamps; and this whole land shall be a destruction and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jeremiah 25:10-11, NASB). Yet a few chapters later, still before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, Jeremiah hears the L-rd say, "Yet again there shall be heard in this place - of which you say, 'It is a waste, without man and without beast,' that is, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast - the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, 'Give thanks to the L-rd of Hosts, for the L-rd is good, for His lovingkindess is everlasting', who bring a thanks-offering into the house of the L-rd. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first" (Jeremiah 33:10-11, NASB. The presence of the bride and bridegroom, the celebration of marriage, is a sign that the L-rd is making in the Land and among our people, both then and now.
Another prophet, Amos, who also spoke during the time of the kings before the captivity in Babylon, seemed to have a longer time-scale vision. Seeing a time when G-d would send "a famine in the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the L-rd" (Amos 8:11, NASB), a time that seems very descriptive of the days we live in, Amos hears the L-rd say, "In that day I will raise up the fallen tabernacle of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old" (Amos 9:11, NASB). G-d will once again prepare a place for marriage, a tabernacle where He may celebrate with His bride. There, although ancient, G-d Himself will have repaired the fabric and raised the roof so that everything may be set in order and be perfect for the wedding.
So it is that we hear Rav Sha'ul speaking about Yeshua who - as a model for marriage between husbands and wives - "loved the church and have Himself for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water by the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blamelesso" (Ephesians 5:25-27, NASB). In these days, Messiah Yeshua is preparing His bride: "that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14, NASB). Everything will be set in order, the holiness of the whole depending on all the parts who come together to make up the whole.
Further Study: Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 19:7-10
Application: Are you preparing for the wedding? Is everything set in order and its proper place in your life, your family and your congregation? G-d is building up the fallen tabernacle and the day is drawing near, so why not ask Him what you should do to prepare so that you will be ready for the wedding!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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