christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

numbers 19:1-22:1, parashah chukat (decree)

I study the Torah every year using the teaching tools of Scripture. (Why?)

Today is the 37th Sabbath of the annual Torah cycle. The Torah reading is Chukat, Decree, Num 19:1-22:1.

The paragraph divisions are as follows:

Num 19:1-22 p The law of the red heifer for purification
Num 20:1-6 p Death of Miriam + no water
Num 20:7-11 s Moses draws water from the rock in disobedience
Num 20:12-13 s Because Moses did not believe, he will not bring Israel in (Meribah)
Num 20:14-21 p Edom refused Israel passage
Num 20:22-29 s Death of Aaron
Num 21:1-3 p Destruction of the Canaanites of Hormah
Num 21:4-16 s Complaint at the Way of the Red Sea
Num 21:17-20 p Praise at the Well of Beer
Num 21:21-22:1 s Defeat of Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan

In finding the chiastic structures, I was not wise enough to be able to find a single chiastic structure that encompassed this parashah. Here are the structures that I did find:

Num 19:10-22
1a) Num 19:10a, The man who gathers up the ashes shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening;
1b) Num 19:10b, It shall be a statue forever to the children of Israel and to the stranger who dwells with them;
central axis) Num 19:11-20, Death makes unclean + water of purification process, repeated twice in four parts each:
1.1 — Num 19:11, He who touches a dead body shall be unclean seven days;
1.2 — Num 19:12, He shall purify himself with the water on the 3rd and 7th days, then he will be clean;
1.3 — Num 19:13a, Whoever touches death and does not purify himself defiles the tabernacle of the Lord; that person shall be cut off from Israel.
1.4 — Num 19:13b, Because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.
2.1 — Num 19:14-16, Anyone who touches death shall be unclean seven days;
2.2 –Num 19:17-19, The process of purification with the water on the 3rd and 7th days;
2.3 — Num 19:20a, But the one who is unclean and does not purify himself, he shall be cut off from the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord;
2.4 — Num 19:20b, The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean;
2b) Num 19:21a, It is a perpetual statute;
2a) Num 19:21b-22 p, He who sprinkles the water shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening.

In every way that I could see, I was left with Num 19:1-9, Preparing the ashes of the red heifer without blemish and without yoke, as a loose end. This alerts me that it may pair with something further back or further ahead in Numbers, or in Torah, or it is its own central axis of an as yet uncovered chiastic structure. The Law of the preparation of the ashes of the red heifer is packed with signs of the Messiah, so my guess, based on the patterns previously set in Torah, is that it is its own central axis. We will see!

Num 20:1-29 p+s+s+p+s
1a) Num 20:1, Journey to Kadesh + death of Miriam;
1b) Num 20:2, Israel gathered together against Moses and Aaron;
1c) Num 20:3a, Israel contended with Moses;
1d) Num 20:3b-5, Moses has not brought Israel into a land of grain + water;
1e) Num 20:6 p, The glory of YHVH appeared to Moses and Aaron;
1f) Num 20:7-8, Speak to the rock to bring water out for Israel and their animals;
central axis) Num 20:9-10, Moses + Aaron: Must we bring water out of this rock;
2f) Num 20:11 s, Moses struck the rock twice and water came out for Israel and their animals;
2e) Num 20:12a, Because YHVH was not hallowed in the eyes of the children of Israel;
2d) Num 20:12b, Moses will not bring Israel into the land promised them;
2c) Num 20:13 s, Israel contended with YHVH at the waters of Meribah;
2b) Num 20:14-21 p, Edom came out against Israel with a strong hand;
2a) Num 20:22-29 s, Journey from Kadesh + death of Aaron.

Num 21:1-22:1 p+s+p+s
1a) Num 21:1a, Israel moved along the road to Atharim;
1b) Num 21:1b, The king of Arad took possession of some of Israel;
1c) Num 21:2-3 p, Israel utterly defeated the king of Arad;
1d) Num 21:4-5, Israel’s journeys + spoke bitterly when faced with no food or water;
1e) Num 21:6, Many died when bitten by fiery serpents;
central axis) Num 21:7-8, Israel’s confession + YHVH’s provision of the bronze serpent;
2e) Num 21:9, All lived when looking upon the bronze serpent;
2d) Num 21:10-20 s+p, Israel’s journeys + sang joyfully when faced with no water;
2c) Num 21:21-35a, Israel utterly defeated Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan;
2b) Num 21:35b, Israel took possession of his land;
2a) Num 22:1 s, Israel moved and camped opposite from Jericho.

Now I believe this section of the parashah is teaching us something important if we look at it carefully:

Num 20:22-29 s Death of Aaron
Num 21:1-3 p Destruction of the Canaanites of Hormah
Num 21:4-16 s Complaint at the Way of the Red Sea
Num 21:17-20 p Praise at the Well of Beer

This is not the first time in Numbers that the Canaanites of Hormah are mentioned. In Num 14:45, the Canaanites defeated Israel as far as Hormah. After the ten spies brought back a discouraging report of the land, and the people refused to go in, and the Lord consigned them to wander for 40 years in the wilderness, a group of them repented of their unbelief and tried to go in and take the land, even though Moses told them not to, because the Lord would not be with them. They tried anyway, and were defeated by the Canaanites as far as Hormah.

Now, however, 40 years later (actually it was about 38 years later), the Israelites utterly defeated the Canaanites at Hormah. In other words, the place of their great defeat, because of unbelief and rebellion, became the place of their great victory, because of faith and obedience.

Now look at the paragraphs surrounding this bit of information about the Canaanites of Hormah. Before it we have the death of Aaron, i.e., the changeover in the priesthood from the elder generation to the younger (Eleazar as High Priest, Num 20:22-29). After it, we have a weak paragraph followed by a strong paragraph:

Num 21:4-16 s Complaint at the Way of the Red Sea
Num 21:17-20 p Praise at the Well of Beer

The Spirit has connected these two passages together by the weak paragraph division. In the first paragraph, the children of Israel do what they have always done since leaving Egypt when faced with need, or lack, or an obstacle: complain. In the second paragraph, the children of Israel do what they have not yet done since leaving Egypt when faced with need, or lack, or an obstacle: they give God praise in the face of their need!

This is significant, because I believe Torah is showing us a similar changeover of generation, just as in the priesthood, but here among the congregation. The elder unbelieving generation has died out, and the younger believing generation has taken its place. If so, the victory over the Canaanites of Hormah, victory in the place of former defeat, forms a central axis:

Num 20:22-29 s, Change of generation in the priesthood (death of Aaron);
central axis) Num 21:1-3 p, Destruction of the Canaanites of Hormah;
Num 21:4-20 s+p, Change of generation in the congregation (complaint / praise).

It does not matter what has defeated you in the past. The place of your greatest defeats can become the place of your greatest victories in Him! Renew your heart and mind, to turn it from unbelief and complaint, to faith and praise in the face of your obstacles, your lack, and your need, and God will bring you the victory!

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