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Commentary - Year 3 Sabbath 14

Numbers 23:2 - 25:9   -   Joshua 17:1-18   -   Psalm 112   -   James 3:1 - 4:17
 

 

Tammuz 5, 5763 / July   5, 2003 

Tammuz 5, 5766 / July   1, 2006

Tammuz 5, 5769 / June 27, 2009

Tammuz 3, 5772 / June 23, 2012

Tammuz 3, 5775 / June 20, 2015

 

V'yaas Balaq / Balak Did   SCRIPTURES should be read first

Setting:

Israel is marching northward toward the Promised Land. They defeated Amon upon being attacked; they bypassed Edom by going eastward, and are now passing to the east of Moab – descendants of Lot. Moab’s King Balak has engaged the Edomite sorcerer Balaam to curse Israel.

Note: Balak means Devastator, and Balaam means Not of the people – he was a prophet of Edom.

At the end of last week’s reading, “Balak took Balaam, and brought him up to the high places of Baal; and he saw from there a portion of the people. Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Build seven altars for me here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here.’ ” From this high place of false worship, they could see part of the millions of Israel in their eight-mile-wide camp (Talmudic dimension).

Commentary:

Chapter 23

(V.2) “And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.” Seven people of record had previously erected altars to Yahweh: Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Seemingly, Balaam was trying to equal all of them together to appease God.

(V.4) “Now God happened upon Balaam”. The Hebrew word (vayiqar) translated “happened” is related to (qeriy) “contamination”: the implication is that God only reluctantly appeared to Balaam, and only on necessary occasions.

Balaam kept trying to find a way to curse Israel, so that he would be rewarded by King Balak. But, as God spoke through a dumb donkey, He also spoke through Balaam, making him pronounce only a prophecy of blessing upon Israel.

(V.7-10) “And he declaimed his parable”. “Declaim” means to proclaim loudly. He prophesied that Israel would be holy (“dwell apart” – kept separate), and will not be punished with the nations in the final judgment. “Who can number the fourth part” means that even one of the four camps of three tribes would be too much to count.

(V.13-24) Balaam went with an angry King Balak to a different place, where “Yahweh happened upon Balaam” (v.16), and Balaam “declaimed his parable” (v.18). The message for the King was (paraphrased): “Sh’ma (Hear)! God is not like man that changes his mind! He blessed Israel, and does not 'see' iniquity in Jacob! He brought Israel out of Egypt by His power, and Israel shall overcome all enemies!

(V.25-29) Balaam again went with an angry King Balak to another place, where they hoped to find a curse against Israel.

Chapter 24

(V.1-4) But Balaam now saw that Yahweh intended to only bless Israel, so instead of performing his divinations as before, he “looked toward the wilderness, and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he declaimed his parable”. Now Balaam claimed to have opened eyes, hear the sayings of God, and see a vision of the almighty.

(V.5-9) The parable included, “Blessed is everyone who blesses you (Israel), and cursed is everyone who curses you.

(V.10-13) A very angry King Balak told Balaam to flee, and said that Yahweh had withheld him from honor. A sanctimonious Balaam made excuse that he had only done what he initially said was all he could do.

(V.14-25) Finally, Balaam “declaimed” one last “parable”. His prophecy was Messianic: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth. And Edom [Today, Israel is under Edom] shall be a possession, Seir (inhabitants of Edom before descendants of Esau), its enemies, also shall be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly. One from Jacob shall have dominion, and shall destroy the remnant from the city." And he looked at Amalek and declaimed his parable and said, "Amalek (descendants of Esau) was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction." And he looked at the Kenite (tribe of Moses’ father-in-law), and declaimed his parable and said, "Your dwelling place is enduring, and your nest is set in the cliff. Nevertheless Kain shall be consumed; how long shall Asshur keep you captive?" And he declaimed his parable and said, "Alas, who can live except God has ordained it? But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim (Japethites from Cyprus), and they shall afflict Asshur and shall afflict Eber; so they also shall come to destruction." Then Balaam and Balak departed.

Joshua 17

This Haftarah reading describes the area of the above lands apportioned to each tribe. After the return of Messiah Yeshua – the “Star from Jacob” who will “have dominion” (Num 24:17-19) – the land portion* of the Abrahamic Covenant will be fulfilled. [* This is sometimes called the Palestinian Covenant.]

Psalm 112

(V.7-8) The “righteous . . . will not fear evil tidings”; he will look “with satisfaction on his adversaries”. We who trust in Yahweh need not fear the evil intentions of the ungodly.

James 3-4

No one is able to completely control his tongue in a perfect manner. We all “stumble” (v.3:2) in things we say. Nevertheless, we should be learning control and growing toward perfection.

With our tongues we may boast of past accomplishments or future plans. We may bless God and curse man who is made in His image (v.3:9). This conduct may come from hypocrisy, jealousy, greed, or lust.

Teaching is prophesying, whether it be related to the present or the future. In teaching for God, we need to put aside all selfish ambition (v.3:16), love of money (v.4:3) – “the way of Balaam” (2 Peter 2:15), and carelessness. We must take great care to speak only what God says, as Balaam was warned (Num 22:20, 35). We face stricter judgment (v.3:1), but more importantly, we are affecting the present lives and future rewards of many people.

While we are all told to “teach and admonish one another” (Colossians 3:16), we are told that not many should be teachers (v.3:1), apparently referring to a more formal position.

If we would ask for things in Yeshua’s Name, meaning for His purpose and glory, instead of asking for things for our own pleasure, then we would receive from God (v.4:3). In King Balak’s case, his asking was from baseless fear, and his request against God’s people was to return upon his own head.

Numbers 25

The plot to curse Israel having failed, the Moabites incurred God’s wrath against Israel by enticing the people with immorality.

(V.1-2) “While Israel remained at Shittim (west of Jordan River), the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they (Moabites) invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.  Yahweh, in anger, had the leaders executed. A total of 24,000 died before the plague was abated. Among them, a certain Israelite leader and a Midianite woman were found together and brought before the congregation and pierced through to death: here we see the example of strict judgment for leaders.

Readings:

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

 

Reader 1*  Amen. 2 Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered up a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam said to Balak, "Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps Yahweh will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you." So he went to a bare hill. 4 Now God met Balaam, and he said to Him, "I have set up the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on each altar." 5 Then Yahweh put a word in Balaam's mouth and said, "Return to Balak, and you shall speak thus." 6 So he returned to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, he and all the leaders of Moab. 7 He took up his discourse and said, "From Aram Balak has brought me, Moab's king from the mountains of the East, 'Come curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!' 8 "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom Yahweh has not denounced? 9 "As I see him from the top of the rocks, And I look at him from the hills; Behold, a people who dwells apart, And will not be reckoned among the nations. 10 "Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!"

Reader 2*  Amen. 11 Then Balak said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!" 12 He replied, "Must I not be careful to speak what Yahweh puts in my mouth?" 13 Then Balak said to him, "Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them and will not see all of them; and curse them for me from there." 14 So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 And he said to Balak, "Stand here beside your burnt offering while I myself meet Yahweh over there." 16 Then Yahweh met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, "Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak." 17 He came to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the leaders of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, "What has Yahweh spoken?"

Reader 3*  Amen. 18 Then he took up his discourse and said, "Arise, O Balak, and hear; Give ear to me, O son of Zippor! 19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? 20 "Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it. 21 "He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel; Yahweh his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them. 22 "God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox. 23 "For there is no omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel; At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done! 24 "Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And as a lion it lifts itself; It will not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain."

Reader 4*  Amen. 25 Then Balak said to Balaam, "Do not curse them at all nor bless them at all!" 26 But Balaam replied to Balak, "Did I not tell you, 'Whatever Yahweh speaks, that I must do '?" 27 Then Balak said to Balaam, "Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there." 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor which overlooks the wasteland. 29 Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here." 30 Balak did just as Balaam had said, and offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.

24:1 When Balaam saw that it pleased Yahweh to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times to seek omens but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. 3 He took up his discourse and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; 4 The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, 5 How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! 6 "Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens beside the river, Like aloes planted by Yahweh, Like cedars beside the waters. 7 "Water will flow from his buckets, And his seed will be by many waters, And his king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted. 8 "God brings him out of Egypt, He is for him like the horns of the wild ox. He will devour the nations who are his adversaries, And will crush their bones in pieces, And shatter them with his arrows. 9 "He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, And cursed is everyone who curses you."

Reader 5*  Amen. 10 Then Balak's anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, "I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times! 11 "Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, Yahweh has held you back from honor." 12 Balaam said to Balak, "Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, 13 'Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of Yahweh, either good or bad, of my own accord. What Yahweh speaks, that I will speak '? 14 "And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come." 15 He took up his discourse and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, 16 The oracle of him who hears the words of God, And knows the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered.

Reader 6*  Amen. 17 "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth. 18 "Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly. 19 "One from Jacob shall have dominion, And will destroy the remnant from the city." 20 And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, "Amalek was the first of the nations, But his end shall be destruction." 21 And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, "Your dwelling place is enduring, And your nest is set in the cliff. 22 "Nevertheless Kain will be consumed; How long will Asshur keep you captive?" 23 Then he took up his discourse and said, "Alas, who can live except God has ordained it? 24 "But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim, And they shall afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber; So they also will come to destruction." 25 Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way.

Reader 7*  Amen. 25:1 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. 2 For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and Yahweh was angry against Israel. 4 Yahweh said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before Yahweh, so that the fierce anger of Yahweh may turn away from Israel." 5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor." 6 Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. 9 Those who died by the plague were 24,000.

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

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"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."

 

Joshua 17:1-18

Reader 8*  Amen. 1 Now this was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. 2 So the lot was made for the rest of the sons of Manasseh according to their families: for the sons of Abiezer and for the sons of Helek and for the sons of Asriel and for the sons of Shechem and for the sons of Hepher and for the sons of Shemida; these were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families. 3 However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. 4 They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, "Yahweh commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers." So according to the command of Yahweh he gave them an inheritance among their father's brothers. 5 Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons.

Reader 9*  Amen. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh. 7 The border of Manasseh ran from Asher to Michmethath which was east of Shechem; then the border went southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8 The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the sons of Ephraim. 9 The border went down to the brook of Kanah, southward of the brook (these cities belonged to Ephraim among the cities of Manasseh), and the border of Manasseh was on the north side of the brook and it ended at the sea. 10 The south side belonged to Ephraim and the north side to Manasseh, and the sea was their border; and they reached to Asher on the north and to Issachar on the east. 11 In Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its towns and Ibleam and its towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns, the third is Napheth.

Reader 10*  Amen. 12 But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 13 It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely. 14 Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, "Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom Yahweh has thus far blessed?" 15 Joshua said to them, "If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you." 16 The sons of Joseph said, "The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel." 17 Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, "You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong."

 

Psalm 112    (To be sung.)

1 Praise Yahweh! How blessed is the man who fears Yahweh, who greatly delights in His commandments. 2 His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 Light arises in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and compassionate and righteous. 5 It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; he will maintain his cause in judgment. 6 For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. 7 He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in Yahweh. 8 His heart is upheld, he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries. 9 He has given freely to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted in honor. 10 The wicked will see it and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish.

 

James 3 - 4

Reader 11*  Amen. 1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

Reader 12*  Amen. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. 13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Reader 13*  Amen. 4:1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Reader 14*  Amen. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? 13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words."


© 2003  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)

 

 

 

 

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