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Parasha Ha’azinu (Listen!): Who Was of the Rock in the Wilderness?

Ha’azinu (Listen!)
Deuteronomy 32:1–52; 2 Samuel 22:1–51; Romans 10:17–11:12

Listen [Ha’azinu], O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”  (Deuteronomy 32:1)

Shabbat Judaica-kippah-yarmulke-yad-tallit-kiddish cup

Shabbat Judaica: kippah or yarmulke (head covering), shabbat candles, yad (Torah pointer), tallit (prayer shawl) and a kiddish cup.  The Hebrew inscription on the cup reads “Borei Pri Hagafen,” which is part of the blessing over the wine at Shabbat and holiday meals:  Blessed is the Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Last week in Parasha Vayelech, Moses transferred the mantle of leadership to Joshua.  He also finished writing the Torah, and entrusted it to the Levites.

In this week’s parasha, Moses gives the Israelites the Song of Moses, which indicts Israel’s sin, prophesies punishment, and promises God’s redemption.

Songs of praise seem to bookend Israel’s journey to the Promised Land.

When Israel is on the banks of the Red Sea (Exodus 15), Moses sings a song of praise, and when Israel is on the banks of the Jordan River finally ready to cross over into the Land flowing with milk and honey, he again sings praise (hallel) to God.

Israeli-Soldier-Morning Prayers-Western Wall-Tefillin-Tallit

A Jewish man dons a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries) for prayer at the Western (Wailing) Wall.  Tefillin is a set of black leather boxes containing verses from the Torah on scrolls of parchment.  It is a literal interpretation of the Bible’s command to “bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they should be a reminder between your eyes.”  (Deuteronomy 6:8)

Even though Moses could not cross the Jordan with the children of Israel, he was content knowing that He had been faithful to his calling and had seen the Promised Land with his own eyes from atop the mountain.

He took joy in anticipating the glorious future that awaited Israel beyond their dry, barren, wilderness wanderings.

We see something of a parallel in Yeshua (Jesus).  He endured the pain of the Roman execution stake by anticipating the joy of the resurrection (Romans 12:2; Hebrews 2:9).

A sense of faith-filled anticipation should also be a hallmark of our lives, too.

We too can find joy in this life, even when expectations are not met and outcomes fall short of our heart’s desire.  We can do this not only by anticipating the great and glorious things that God will do in this world and the next, but also those things He has prepared for us in eternity.

“…No eye has seen, nor ear has heard and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  (1 Corinthians 2:9; see also Isaiah 64:4)

Off duty-soldier-Wall

Off duty soldier prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall.

The Rock of Israel

“The Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.”  (Deuteronomy 32:4)

In Moses’ farewell song, the Song of Moses, God is called The Rock (Ha’Tzur) nine times (Deuteronomy 32:1–43)

God is also called El Tzur (God is our Rock) in 2 Samuel 22:47 and Tzur Yisrael (The Rock of Israel) in 2 Samuel 23:3, and Isaiah 30:29.  These names describe His character perfectly since He is solid, unchangeable, immovable and the ever-present reality and foundation.  He is a safe place of refuge for all of us.

In the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), we are told that Israel drank from the same spiritual rock, and that this Rock which accompanied them in the wilderness was Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Just as Yeshua accompanied the Israelites in their wanderings, as Believers, we can take comfort knowing that Yeshua is with us in all of our wanderings.  God not only knows our wanderings, He keeps our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).


The Hebrew Bible text of the beginning of Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1–4) as it appears in the Torah scroll.  It’s written in a two-column format to reflect the poetic structure of the text where each line is matched by a second, parallel thought.

God: The Loving Father of Israel

In this parasha (Torah portion), God’s loving kindness and unchanging faithfulness is contrasted with Israel’s ingratitude and faithlessness.  God is vindicated as a loving Father, while Israel is chastised as a wayward, disobedient child.

Israel’s choice to sin is no blemish upon the goodness of God.  He offered them life and blessing or destruction and cursing, and they chose the latter (Deuteronomy 32:5).

All the subsequent disasters that would befall the nation of Israel were just punishment for their rebellion against God.

But despite Israel’s sin and rebellion, God promises to intervene on their behalf and save them, lest the enemies of Israel exalt themselves and claim that Israel is finished.


A Jewish youth prays the Western (Wailing) Wall with tefillin wrapped around his arm and on his forehead.  It is a display of devotion that acknowledges that the mind, heart and action must be unified if we are to successfully follow God’s ways.

And if we are tempted to scorn Israel for their sin, we should remember that if it were not for the grace of God through Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah), we would all be doomed.

Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning, and that is why we are not consumed.  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22–23)

Despite everything, Israel is called ‘the portion of the Lord’ and Jacob is His “allotted inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:9).

God is also Israel’s portion (Lamentations 3:24).


The Torah scroll contains the first five books of the Jewish Bible: Bereshit (Genesis), Shemot (Exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and Devarim (Deuteronomy).

In Ha’azinu, Israel is likened to a child left to die in the wilderness whom God finds, rescues, and saves.  God cares for the orphaned child, supernaturally supplying all of his needs through food (manna), protection (pillar of fire by night) and guidance (pillar of cloud by day).

“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, a howling wilderness…  He kept him as the apple of His eye.”  (Deuteronomy 32:10)

And God’s loving protection has not diminished with the ages.  Through the prophet Zechariah, He warns the nations that “he who touches you (Israel) touches the apple of His eye.”  (Zechariah 2:8)

The apple of one’s eye is the pupil, the most sensitive and delicate part of the body.

Consequently, then, if anyone tries to harm Israel, it’s as if they are poking their finger into the very pupil of God’s eye.  It’s personal.

Torah-prayer book-Western (Wailing) Wall-Jerusalem

An Orthodox Jewish father teaching his son to read the Sacred Texts.

God is intimately involved with Israel.  He is represented as both father and mother.  And yet Israel turned to other gods and forgot the Rock who bore them.

“They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.  You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot God who gave you birth.”  (Deuteronomy 32:17–18)

Though God had every reason to give up on the nation of Israel, He had mercy instead, lest Israel’s enemies exalt themselves.  He saved Israel for His own name’s sake that He would be known in all the earth (Psalm 106:8).

Likewise, when we fall back into sin, God’s very name is on the line.  When we think that we have blown it too many times, and that God has every reason to give up on us, may we remember that although God will deal with us, He is merciful, faithful and true.

Similarly, He desires that we also be long-suffering with others, extending the mercy and grace that we have received from Him to others.

Orthodox-Jewish men-Wailing Wall

Orthodox Jewish men at the Wailing Wall

The Power of Life and Death

From the calamities Israel suffers, God wants her to understand that He is the one true God with the power of life and death in His hands.  Although He wounds, He also binds up those wounds.

“See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.”  (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Moses concludes his last message to Israel with the exhortation to observe all of the words of the Torah, which is not just a book of meaningless, empty words.  It is the instruction manual for a long, full, satisfying life of blessing, health, holiness and prosperity. 

“These instructions are not empty words—they are your life!  By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you will occupy when you cross the Jordan River.”  (Deuteronomy 32:47)

At the end of Moses’ ministry, God commands him to ascend the mountain one last time.  Even though Moses is still full of health and vigor, he climbs Mount Nebo in the Land of Moab to die and be buried.

Although this great man of God was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, but was only given a glimpse of it from afar off, Moses was as faithful to God in death as he was in life (Deuteronomy 32:52).

Mount Nebo-Dead Sea

From atop Mount Nebo: The Dead Sea is visible in the distance.

Haftarah Ha’azinu

In the Haftarah for this week’s study, David also recites a Song of Thanksgiving, which has parallels to the Song of Moses.

Like Moses, David praises God as his Rock, refuge, fortress and deliverer after He saves his life from King Saul.

“…The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge ….”  (2 Samuel 22:2–3)

When we are being persecuted, pursued or in any kind of distress, we can do what David did and call upon the Lord our God.

He will save and deliver us out of our trouble.  We can trust God to be our mighty Savior, even from those who are too strong for us.

Like David, we can say, “With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God, I can scale a wall….  For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is a Rock (tzur) except our God?”  (2 Samuel 22:30, 32)

Mount Nebo-Dead Sea-Ibex-deer

From atop Mount Nebo: The Dead Sea is visible in the distance.

When we are weary, wandering in a wilderness, faced with hard choices or even in the midst of a battle, we must remember that God is our Rock.  He is our ever-present foundation and far bigger than the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Here in Israel, the circumstances loom large.  We want to live in peace and security; nevertheless, we find ourselves on the defensive from ongoing missile attacks and facing a possible war with Iran.

Today, as Israel stands poised to protect herself from the nuclear threat that Iran poses, she also faces hostile Arab neighbors committed to her destruction and dark spiritual forces rising against her.

Please pray that the hearts of the secular and even religious Jewish people here will return to God—that Israel will look to the ONE God of Israel, our Rock, our refuge, our fortress and strong tower to save and deliver us from those who are determined to destroy us.

“The Lord lives!  Praise be to my Rock!  Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!”  (2 Samuel 32:47)

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