Naso (Lift up)
Numbers 4:21–7:89; Judges 13:2–25; Acts 23:20–24
“Take [naso] a census also of the Gershonites by their families and clans.” (Numbers 4:22)
Last week, Parasha Bamidbar (In the Desert) was read just before the Biblical holiday of Shavuot, which is regarded as the day when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai and as the wedding of Israel to God. In that Torah portion, God commands that a census be taken of Israel.
This week’s Torah study continues with the numbering of the Levitical families, detailing their duties. Each man was to be named for a specific task.
“At the Lord’s command through Moses, each was assigned his work and told what to carry.” (Numbers 4:49)
This ensured an equitable distribution of the work.
A Model for Community Living
“Count the Merarites by their clans and families. Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.” (Numbers 4:29–30)
This Parasha models community living, especially in regard to serving the Lord.
When we live and work together in community, and everyone has their own assigned tasks so that each carries part of the load, the burden does not fall too heavily on a few key individuals.
This is the ideal behind the communal lifestyle of the Israeli kibbutz movement. It’s also the lifestyle of the early kehillah—the early community of Believers.
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:44–45)
We are called to fulfill the Torah of loving one another by helping bear one other’s burdens. We may accomplish this in practical ways for those overloaded with responsibilities, but also through the act of encouraging and comforting those who are carrying heavy emotional burdens.
But the Lord did not leave us relying totally on one another. Yeshua (Jesus) gives us rest when we are tired and burdened.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
But to experience that rest, we must be willing to go to Him, laying aside our self-sufficiency, and trust Him with our worries, cares and anxieties down.
“Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Jealousy and Trust
“…if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure—then he is to take his wife to the priest.” (Numbers 5:14–15)
This Parasha also deals with the law of jealousy. God gave Israel a way to manage jealousy and suspicion in marriage. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for marriage is nissuin, which is plural for naso (lift up), the name of this week’s Parasha.
God’s intention for marriage is to lift us up.
Sometimes, however, the green-eyed monster of jealousy drags a relationship down. According to this Parasha, if a husband became jealous and suspected his spouse of unfaithfulness, his suspicions might be valid or invalid.
Thus, to resolve this issue of trust, which is necessary for the success of any relationship, the Cohen (priest) would bring the woman in question before the Lord and administer a test to determine her guilt or innocence.
The Cohen (priest) would utter an oath that, if she were innocent, would protect her from the curse; however, if she were guilty, she would come under the curses that were written on a scroll and dissolved into bitter waters.
The woman would commit to this oath by responding, “Amen. Amen.” (Numbers 5:22)
Although the word amen is traditionally considered an acronym for “Eli Melech, Ne’eman” (God, Faithful King), the Hebrew word amen comes from the root that means believe, confirm, and support. Amen is also related to the Hebrew word emunah (faith), which is derived from the same root.
When people respond “amen” to a vow or oath, they are coming into agreement with it, and it’s as if they swear the oath themselves.
The woman would then drink the waters of bitterness that the priest had prepared. It would either bring her guilt to light or clear her as innocent.
It’s evident from Numbers 5:30 that a spirit of jealousy (ruach kinah) can come upon a person.
“…when the spirit [ruach] of jealousy [kinah] comes upon a man.” (Numbers 5:30)
Jealousy, when it is suspicious, overbearing, possessive and demanding, is ugly and sinful.
Jealousy, however, can also be virtuous, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing in an intimate relationship. It’s appropriate to be passionate and to desire undivided loyalty, devotion and faithfulness. No moral spouse wants to share a partner with someone else.
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy [kinah] unyielding as the grave. It burns likeblazing fire, like a mighty flame.” (Song of Songs 8:6)
In fact, the Hebrew word for jealousy (kinah) is also often translated zeal, as in the following Messianic prophecy:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal [kinah] of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)
Can a Holy God be Jealous?
It’s supremely evident in Scripture that God regards Israel as His special treasure, even as a wife (Hosea 2:19). He protects Israel because she is precious to him.
Indeed, in Exodus 34:14, we see that one of the names for God is El Kanah (Jealous God). Since God is holy, we can know that there is an expression of jealousy that is not rooted in selfishness, but in love and holiness.
This theme carries over into the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), where we read that our God is passionately devoted to us, and therefore jealous of our affections.
“Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:22)
The Aaronic Benediction
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24–26)
This week’s study ends with one of the most famous passages in the Book of Numbers: The Aaronic Benediction (Numbers 6:24–27).
Since this blessing was pronounced over the people by the priest, we understand from this passage, that words are important and powerful. In fact, Scripture says that the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
Let’s examine this meaningful passage that so beautifully states God’s will for our lives.
“The Lord bless [y’varech’cha] you: The first element of the benediction is blessing. The Hebrew word bless is barak. This word shares the same root as knee (berech). In fact, the word barak means to bless and to kneel. It takes real humility to get down on our knees and receive the blessing of God.
and keep you: The word keep is shomer which means to guard, watch over and protect from all evil, sickness, poverty and calamity.
The Lord make his face to shine on you: In this benediction, the Hebrew word panav (His face) is repeated twice, which indicates that we can enjoy an intimate, face-to-face relationship with God. God’s face shining on us indicates His attention, favor, light and friendship.
and be gracious unto you: When we seek the face of God, instead of just His hands—what He can give us, He will cause His favor and grace to be poured out upon us.
“It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face [panim], for you loved them.” (Psalm 44:3)
The Lord lift up [naso] His face [panav] upon you: Here toward the end of this week’s Parasha, we once again see the name of the Torah reading: naso, which means lift up or elevate. We also see the second usage of the term panav (His face) in this meaningful benediction.
and give you peace [shalom]: The pinnacle of this blessing is shalom (peace). We can experience this shalom (peace) even in the midst of a storm. Peace is the inheritance of the children of God, as Yeshua said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14: 27)
The Lord is longing to be gracious to us and to bless us. He wants us to receive His blessing, divine protection, favor, the light of His face, and also peace, wholeness, and completion – in Him!
The Aaronic Benediction ends with these words: “So they will put My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:27)
It’s the name of God upon us that blesses us, establishes us and makes us successful, even gaining for us the victory in all our battles.
“Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.” (Psalm 44:5)
As the Cohanim (priests) blessed the people of Israel, they were to remember that it’s ultimately God who blesses. Likewise, as people bless us, let us be mindful that God is the ultimate source of all blessing.