Tuesday, July 24, 2012
The Priestly Blessing: Numbers 6:24-26
The Priestly blessing – Numbers 6:22-27
There is a well-known passage of scripture consisting of just a few short verses contained in the Torah Portion reading from this last week. It is one of my favorite passages in the Torah Portion called Nasso, which means “lift up”. It is known as the Aaronic Benediction or Priestly Blessing. This blessing is found in Numbers chapter 6 verses 22 through 27.
Numbers 6:22-27 NKJV 22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."' 27 "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."
What is the significance of this passage being in the Torah Portion Nasso, or “lift up”?
According to Jewish tradition as recorded in the Talmud, the priests, that is the sons of Aaron, were the only ones who were authorized to give this blessing. The blessing would be bestowed after the daily offering and lighting of the menorah. The priests would come out of the temple and line up at the top of the steps. They would lift both arms and from the shape of the letter shin with their hands. The letter shin looks somewhat like a “w” and is the first letter God’s name “Shaddai.” The name El Shaddai means God Almighty—the God who is all sufficient. The priest lifts up his arms and makes the shape of the shin in order to fulfill the commandment as stated in Numbers 6:27
Numbers 6:27 NKJV 27 "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."
Because of this habit of lifting the hands to bestow the blessing, the phrase, “lifted up his hands”, became synonymous with giving the Aaronic blessing.
In the synagogues today the cantor calls for the priests, the sons of Aaron, to come to the front of the assembled congregation and give the blessing. Today, just as in temple times, the son of Aaron giving the blessing will lift his hands and form the shape of the ancient Hebrew letter Shin with their fingers. If there is no one from the lineage of the priesthood present, anyone can be called upon to give the blessing.
In Yeshua’s day, a person who was not a priest could not both raise his hands and pronounce the blessing. If he did it would be transgressing the commandment as given to Moses, specifically taking on the role of the priesthood. Two kings of Israel were punished for trying to take on the role of a priest. The first one was King Saul. He lost his kingdom for making a sacrifice without a priest. 1st Samuel 13:8-9 and 13-14
1 Samuel 13:8-9 NKJV 8 Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 9 So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering.
1 Samuel 13:13-14a 13 And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 "But now your kingdom shall not continue.
Later, King Uzziah, king of Judah after Israel was split into two kingdom, became a leper for attempting to offer incense before the LORD. 2nd Chronicles 26:18-20
2 Chronicles 26:18-20 NKJV 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God." 19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.
The Gospel of Luke records that Yeshua, on the day of his ascension, took the disciples out on the Mount of Olives as far as Bethany where he “lifted up his hands and blessed them”. Luke 24:50-53
Luke 24:50-53 NKJV 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.
The phrasing of this passage indicates that Yeshua spoke the Aaronic benediction over His disciples as He ascended to heaven. Yeshua was not one of the sons of Aaron; He was from the tribe of Judah. So by performing this blessing; by lifting up his hands and making the priestly blessing over His disciples, was he transgressing the commandment for only the sons of Aaron were to do this? Was He performing a rite that only the sons of Aaron were allowed to perform? In order to answer this, let’s look at Hebrews 7:14-17
Hebrews 7:14-17 NKJV 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
This passage in Hebrews quotes Psalms 110:4
Psalms 110:4 NKJV 4 The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
By lifting His hands and blessing His disciples, Yeshua was asserting His right to a priesthood of a higher order than that of Aaron; He was declaring that His priesthood was of the order of Melchizedek.
Yeshua, as Messiah, not only had the authority to give the blessing, He was the very fulfillment of the blessing. Ephesians 1:3-4
Ephesians 1:3-4 NKJV 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
It is through Messiah that we Gentiles, along with the Jews, have received all blessings bestowed upon Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as it says in Romans 15:29.
Romans 15:29 NKJV 29 But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
What does it mean for the LORD to bless us, to make His face shine upon us and to lift up His countenance upon us? As we examine this blessing in detail, we will take a look at the original Hebrew language and see what it really means.
The first line of the blessing is Numbers 6:24
Numbers 6:24 NKJV 24 "The LORD bless you and keep you;
There are two Hebrew words in particular to pay attention to. The first one is the word translated “you.” Although this blessing is normally spoken over a large group of people, the Hebrew word implies a singular context, as if the blessing is for a single individual. It’s like God is speaking directly to you and no one else.
The other word is “bless.” What does it mean for God to bless us? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones blessing God? The word “bless” is translated from the Hebrew word Barak. It is #1288 in the Strong’s Dictionary. It is a primitive root; meaning to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration). But in this blessing it is God who wants to bless us! He wants to kneel before us! He wants to come to us on bended knee with a blessing. The Hebrew word for blessing is “Barakah” number 1293 which aside from meaning a benediction, also, implies a present or a gift! Here in verse 24, when it says “The LORD bless you,” God is coming to you personally bearing a gift. That gift is salvation by His grace through Messiah Yeshua. John 3:16-17
John 3:16-17 NKJV 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
And the LORD will also keep us and make us able to stand in the presence of His Glory. Jude 1:24-25
Jude 1:24-25 NKJV 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.
The second line of the blessing is Numbers 6:25
Numbers 6:25 NKJV 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
The word translated as shine here is “owr” number 215 a primitive root meaning to be or to make luminous, to kindle, set on fire or shine.
The LORD makes His face shine on us filling our lives with light. In Psalms 80, the Psalmist cries out to God for His face to shine on Him knowing that through the light, He will receive salvation. Psalms 80:1-3
Psalms 80:1-3 NKJV 1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth! 2 Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, Stir up Your strength, And come and save us! 3 Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!
The Psalm ends with a prayer for revival, for Messiah to come, and with another call for God’s face to shine so they will be saved! Verses 17-19
Psalms 80:17-19 NKJV 17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 18 Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. 19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!
The exact phrase we read in verse 3 is repeated here in verse 19 and in verse 7. We clearly see that God’s face shining upon us is connected to his favor and grace.
When God makes his face to shine upon us, His grace will naturally follow. The word “gracious” in the Aaronic Benediction is the Hebrew ‘chanan”, Number #2603, a primitive root meaning to bend or stoop with kindness, to bestow undeserved favor. Again we see the implication of a personal relationship, or a one-on-one encounter between God and the individual on whom God’s face is shining. God’s face shines light into our lives and bestows undeserved favor on us not based on our works, but because He chooses to do so. The result is that we shall be saved!
Messiah is the fulfillment of the grace of God. He is that undeserved gift which God wishes to bestow on us individually. Romans 3:24
Romans 3:24 NKJV 24 being justified freely (undeserved) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
We are saved through the grace of the LORD as it says in Acts 15:11.
Acts 15:11 NKJV 11 "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
The LORD freely bestows salvation on us according to the riches of His Grace, Ephesians 1:6-8.
Ephesians 1:6-8 NKJV 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
The third line of the blessing is Numbers 6:26
Numbers 6:26 NKJV 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."'
The word translated as “countenance” is the same word translated as “face” in the previous verse. It is number 6440, “paniym.” It is one of those Hebrew oddities in that it is in the plural form but always used in a singular context and has a complex variety of meanings but most often means face. It is from a primitive root word meaning to regard or to have respect.
When the LORD lifts up His countenance, or face, on us He is smiling and is pleased with us.
The last word of the blessing is probably the one Hebrew word we are most familiar with, shalom. It is number 7965 and literally means “peace”. However, peace is only one small part of the meaning of the word Shalom. Shalom is a complex word that implies a great deal more than the lack of conflict or war. A complete definition of the word Shalom includes completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.
Shalom is word that implies action. In the Hebrew it is spelled with a Shin, a Lamed, a Vav, and a Mem. When you look at the meaning of the individual letters you see that Shalom means to “Destroy the authority of, or which is connected to chaos”. We can be “peacemakers” when we resolve to destroy the authority of chaos in our relationships with each other, with our families, our neighbors, and other authorities, and mostly with our relationship with God. We must remember that this authority to destroy the chaos comes from God and not through our own devices. In the Aaronic Benediction, God smiles on us and grants us His peace, His “shalom”, the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding”. Philippians 4:7
Philippians 4:7 NKJV 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
So in essence, when the blessing concludes with the word Shalom - you are not only promised peace, but all the above meanings of the word! You have been bestowed with the gift of wholeness, fullness, health, welfare and prosperity!
Through this blessing, spoken by Yeshua as His first action as our heavenly High priest, we receive a gift offered by God that is able to protect and keep us. We receive light and undeserved favor into our lives resulting in our salvation. God smiles on us in approval and makes us whole. We have His peace.
Yeshua told His disciples in the Gospel of John 14:27
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (MKJV)
Shalom and may the LORD bless you!