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Parasha 42: Matot (Tribes)Bamidbar/Numbers 30:2-33:42
We now open in this week’s Torah parasha to find Am Yisrael again poised to make their entrance into the land of Cana’an. The first generation having died and been completely removed by reason of their unbelief, all except for Yahushua/Joshua and Kalev/Caleb. This just as YHWH had said it would be. YHWH is about to give Yisrael some further preliminary instructions that will be necessary for them to shomer/guard upon entering The Land, and to take care of some unfinished business concerning the Midianites. In certain yearly Torah cycles this week’s parasha Matot and our last parasha for the book of Bamidbar/Numbers, Massei, are studied together. In leap years they are read and studied separately.
First, before we move on with our study, I would like to take a look at the title of our parasha Matot. While the title is said to be Tribes, there is also another Hebrew word for tribe which we have seen called Shevet. Both of these Hebrew words also have other meanings, and while if you look into your Strong’s Concordance or Brown-Drivers- Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, it appears that the definitions maybe interchangeable, they are in fact not. Matot may also mean staff or rod. Shevet may also mean the same. A rod or staff that is a shevet may appear no different than a rod or staff that is a matot, but they are not the same. A shevet is a branch that is still connected to a tree or it may have been just freshly removed. In that sense, it is still pliable and bears the semblance of life. A matot on the other hand, is a rod or staff that has been removed from a tree. Due to the time that has elapsed since its removal it has lost its pliability. It has grown hard and sturdy. It is able to be used to give support. YHWH does not choose His words lightly when it comes to the Torah. In our next parasha, Massei, we will see the process, an overview of the journey by which YHWH has brought Yisrael. It has not been easy, but it has definitely been necessary. Through the process Am Yisrael has gained strength, the sturdiness they will need when it comes to putting their trusting faithfulness in YHWH in order to enter and possess The Land of their inheritance. Hence we have the use of Matot rather than Shevet as the title of our present parasha.
The Seriousness Of Our Words And Making Vows
It is interesting that the first section of our parasha opens with YHWH’s instruction concerning a neder/vow and a shevuah/oath. Do you have inkling as to why this is? Let your mind move back over what Yisrael has been through as we have studied this sefer/book. What initiated the judgment that befell the first generation that came out of Mitzrayim/Egypt resulting in their not being allowed to go into The Land the first time? It was their words.“And Hashem [YHWH] spoke unto Moshe and unto Aharon, saying, How long shall I bear with this Edah Hara’ah [Evil Congregation], which murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the Bnei Yisroel [Children of Yisrael], which they murmur against Me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith Hashem [YHWH], AS YE HAVE SPOKEN IN MY EARS, SO WILL I DO UNTO YOU:” (Bamidbar/Numbers 14:26-28 OJB- emphasis/definitions mine)
Words are powerful. The Scripture is full of admonitions to shomer/guard what we say,“Mavet [Death] and chayyim [life] are in the power of the lashon [tongue], and they that love it shall eat the p’ri (fruit) thereof.” (Mishle/Proverbs 18:21 OJB- definitions mine) “What ish [man] is he that desireth chayyim [life], and loveth many days, that he may see tov [good]? Keep thy tongue from rah [evil], and thy lips from speaking mirmah (guile). Depart from rah [evil], and do tov [good]; seek shalom [peace], and pursue it.” (Tehillim/Psalms 34:12(13)-14(15) OJB- definitions mine) “But I say to you, that for every careless lashon horah (evil speech) that men speak, they will be called to account on the Yom HaDin (the Day of Judgment). For by your dvarim [words] you will be pronounced tzodek (righteous), and by your dvarim [words] you will be charged with guilt.” (Mattityahu/Matthew 12:36-37 OJB- definitions mine)
Am Yisrael suffered a great loss by the actions and words with which the first generation sinned against YHWH. Now, the second generation is poised waiting to make their entrance into The Land. YHWH begins His instructions through Moshe in reinforcing the imperative command to shomer/guard the words that come out of their mouth. Words are spirit and they have power. Life and death are released in our life by the words we speak. Therefore, YHWH warns Yisrael to take care in making neders/vows or in taking shevuah/oaths. These things bind us to our doing what we have promised. We are to be like unto our Creator, indeed a reflection of Him to the world around us. As I’ve said before, our words are spirit. All you have to do is listen long enough to a person talk and you will be able to discern what kind of spirit they are of. YHWH created all things with His Word. We too create the atmosphere in the world in which we live by the words we speak. Like Yisrael of old, we too will either walk in agreement with YHWH’s revealed will in His Word, or we will find ourselves suffering as we walk in disagreement with His will. Many times our words become our own judgment!