Torah Pearls #42 – Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42)

The oblation out of the spoils of the Midianites (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible).In this episode of the The Original Torah Pearls, Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42), we explore the relationship between the Midianites and Israel and the laws on vows.

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Torah Pearls #42 – Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42)

You are listening to The Original Torah Pearls with Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, and Jono Vandor. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at

Jono: G’Day to Michael and Evie in Perth, Western Australia and wherever you may be around the globe, it is good to have your company. It is time for Pearls from the Torah Portion with Keith Johnson and Nehemia Gordon. G’day, gentlemen.

Jono: I know last week I did read out a comment from a listener, Darren Chan. I'm going to read out another one of his because boy, this is a good comment and g’day to Darren. And he says, “hey guys, please make this world a better place and create an unbiased, enhanced new and improved version of the scriptures. Either an NIV - Nehemia Inspired Version - or a KJV - the Keith Johnson version - or an all in one NKJV Nehemia Keith and Jono version. Make available in iPad interactive format with Torah Pearl commentary, bonus outtakes, video, including a musical score featuring the singing voice of Nehemia Gordon with Keith's shofar blowing and Jono's guitar shredding. Seriously, for us English speakers we need an accurate translation of the scriptures. Nehemia continually reveals the tragedy of the biased translations we have so diligently based our misguided faith upon. Thanks”. Well Darren, that's just a great comment my friend and thank you so much and to everybody who leaves comments, we really appreciate it. I don't know… I don't that really just, the Torah portion, it's all about me pitting my Bible against Keith's really, isn't it? Isn't that what it's about?

Keith: Yeah, it really is. What's nice is that Nehemia gets to be the referee.

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: You know what's amazing about…

Nehemia: You're both wrong!

Keith: Hey, what's really amazing about it, and we've talked a lot about this for the last several years and I think we've talked about it… I'm sure we've talked about it on the show, but I would hope people have at least two versions that they're reading as we're going through the Torah Pearls. Because even Nehemia - you know what he'll do is he'll have his computer up. You know, ladies and gentlemen, he's got this thing all set up and he's got different windows in his deal so he can click any number of I think about 20 different versions and he can ask us and set us up that way.

But what's awesome about it is in many, many cases, that's sometimes the only way you can find out when there's an issue. You’ve got to see what the translators are doing. That usually is the thing that jumps off the page if you're not reading it directly from Hebrew and comparing it to English. So, I hope that the folks that have been listening to Torah Pearls will have at least, at least, two versions in front of them as they go through this with us.

Jono: Okay. Now listen, we are in Matot, Numbers 30:2 to 32:42, and I'm just going to start in verse one. It says it begins like this. “Then Moses spoke to the heads.” And actually, before I do Nehemia, does verse 1 belong to this story or does verse 1 belong to the previous paragraph?

Nehemia: That’s a really interesting question. What I need to do is pull up on my computer, because I suspect your chapter numbers are different than my chapter numbers. The reason for that is that the chapters were introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Lankton, in the early 13th century, and he actually did it based entirely on Christian considerations. When the Jews later were forced to adopt those chapter numbers, they didn't always implement them in the same way. What I mean by that is, very often you'll get a situation where chapter 30, verse 1, in the Hebrew will be the end of chapter 29 in the English; and that's exactly the case here. So, in Hebrew, chapter 30, verse 1 in the English is actually chapter 29, verse 40, and the English chapter 30, verse 1, begins, “And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel.”

In the Hebrew, chapter 30, verse 1 is really the previous verse in the last chapter. “And Moses told the children of Israel according to all that the LORD commanded Moses,” which frankly, in English the chapter division makes a lot more sense this way, and it's even stranger, in the Hebrew, that the Torah portion ends after the first verse of the chapter. Well, maybe that's the cliffhanger; I don't know.

Jono: So, I guess it's an interesting thing because, if we go from, in the English, (chapter) 29 verse 40, it says, “So Moses told the children of Israel everything just as Yehovah had commanded Moses.” It goes on to say, “then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel saying, ‘this is the thing which Yehovah has commanded.’”

Nehemia: Exactly. So, the difference of chapters actually changes the interpretation of the first verse, or the last verse of the previous chapter. In other words, “and Moses said to the children of Israel according to all that Yehovah commanded Moses.” So, is that referring to Numbers 28 and 29 that Moses conveyed to the Israelites? Or is it talking about what comes in chapter 30? It seems to me, contextually, that actually it's talking about what happened in chapters 28 and 29; then chapter 30 is a whole different issue, which has its own introduction. But then the way the chapters are divided in Hebrew, somebody obviously thought differently; that the last verse of 29, 29 verse 40, was actually connected to chapter 30.

Jono: There it is. So, listeners, you're gonna have to play that back in slow motion to pick it up.

Nehemia: Well, here's the thing. The chapter divisions are not an original part of the text and they actually reflect somebody’s interpretation of the text. Sometimes that has profound impact on how you read the text. Just to give a very famous example - Isaiah 53, which is one of the major points of contention between Jewish and Christian interpreters throughout the centuries. If you look in the Hebrew text, Isaiah 53 actually begins in chapter 52, verse 13, and continues all the way to the end of what's called chapter 53.

Now, there are no chapter numbers outside of the Book of Psalms; that actually does have chapter numbers. But in the ancient texts, there are no chapter numbers throughout most of the Hebrew Bible. Where you put the chapters actually affects the interpretation. And sometimes it's deliberately done that way.

Jono: Indeed, indeed. And that's an excellent example, and doesn't it change the way that you read Isaiah 53 when you start from Isaiah 52 verse 13, and there's some homework for the listeners.

Now I'm going to keep going. It says, “If a man makes a vow to Yehovah or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Keith, what exactly are we talking about here when it says a vow? “A vow to Yehovah”, are we talking about promising something in His name?

Keith: This is something that's really an important issue that is a current throughout not only the Tanakh but we, you guys I'm going to say this… we even see this in the New Testament. And so, as it pertains to this idea of a vow, the first thing I think about - and Nehemia, I want to take people back to 10 years ago. I've been dealing on this 10-year issue of having been 10 years since I went to Israel, and I know it's now July here as we're doing the show. But it's just finished Shavuot as far as sharing this. And a really interesting thing happened, Jono. Now I can't wait until you come to Israel so I can take you to where this happened, because it was life changing for me.

I was with Nehemia, and we were walking through the Kidron Valley. As we were walking through the Kidron Valley, as I've told people this story, we would stop at different places and open the Bible. And so Nehemia would open up his Hebrew Bible. I'd open up my English Bible and we'd have conversations back and forth. And a lot of the conversations… we're simply just getting some idea of what his thinking was being Jewish, my situation being a Methodist, and it was this sort of issue that kind of was the linchpin for me.

So, we're sitting down and we're talking, and I'm talking about the issue of the Ten Commandments. We're talking about the Ten commandments and we go back to this issue. Now, Nehemia, maybe you remember this, I hope that you do. In Exodus 20, verse 7, it says… in Exodus 20, verse seven, a very important verse. Of course, it's in the Ten commandments, and as I mentioned this as a theme - it says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” And this had become a really big deal because I was talking to Nehemia and we're sitting here by what was called the traditional Absalom's Tomb. And we're sitting and we're going through this particular verse, and Nehemia, if you don't remember this, I'm going to just be crushed. Do you remember having this conversation? And why this is so important and connected to the issue of the vow?

Nehemia: Remind me. Bear in mind, you’ve been there once, I've been there like a million times. You’ve got to be more specific.

Keith: But it was with me Nehemia! It was with me! And we were talking about the issue… we were talking about the issue of a vow, and the only thing that we could find in the Tanakh that was not forgivable.

Nehemia: Okay. So, this is in Exodus 20, verse 7, although I’ve got to say in some versions it's actually a different verse number, because the Ten Commandments in each translation has a different division of verses. And that actually isn't related so much to the chapters as it is to something in the Hebrew text. But anyway, that's a whole different issue.

So anyway, in mine in chapter 20, verse seven, it says, “Lo Tisa Et Shem Yehovah Eloheich Lashav Ki La Yanake Yehovah Et Asher Yisa Et Shemo Leshav.” “Do not,” literally, “lift up the name of Yehovah your God in vain for Yehovah will not make clean he who lifts up His name in vain.” Now, what does that mean? If you look at the earliest Jewish and Christian interpretations of this verse, they both agree that to lift up the name of Yehovah in vain means to swear falsely in his name. Specifically, the way people would make an oath or a vow, which is what we're talking about really in Numbers right now - the way they make it is, they'd say one of two things. One way they'd say it is 'Chai Yehovah,' which means ‘as Yehovah lives’. And then they'd make their vow or their oath. They'd say 'Chai Yehovah,' the first thing that walks out of my door, and I'm not saying this, but if I were to say it, the first thing that walks through my door, I will sacrifice to Yehovah. Or 'Chai Yehovah,' I saw such and such a person do such and such a thing. They might testify in court. Or the other way that they would formulate it is they'd say, “So shall Yehovah do to me, and even worse.” And then they would make a statement. Really what they're saying is, “if I'm lying, may Yehovah do horrible things to me.” They're essentially laying a curse upon themselves.

Now, in both instances, when they make the oath or the vow, they're taking the name of Yehovah. They're proclaiming His name in their vow. The point here is if you take the name of Yehovah in vain, and in ancient Hebrew, to speak vanity, actually it doesn't mean to say, “Oh, I'm so beautiful.” To speak vanity means to speak falsehood. You can see that repeatedly through the prophets. So, to take the name of Yehovah in vain means to make a false vow.

So, for example, now if we open up to the JPS, the Jewish Publication Society translation, you'll see it has even the modern translation. It says, instead of “thou shall not take the name of the LORD in vain”, it says, “you shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by his name.” That word ‘clear’, or literally, ‘make clean’, is actually a technical terminology that we see related to vows. You can see this in Genesis 24 when Abraham makes a servant make an oath. He says, “put your hand on...”, remember that with the family jewels? He said, “put your hand under my thigh and make this oath.” And he says, “what if I can't bring back the woman to Canaan?” Then Abraham says, “well, then you will be clean.” Literally it says, “you'll be clean of the oath.” To be cleaned of the oath means you're not held responsible for the terms of the oath, or essentially, the curse that's put upon you if you don't fulfill it.

So Yehovah is saying, if you make the oath, you will not be made clean if you don't keep it. And that's really key. You know, we have this passage, and it appears actually twice in the Tanakh, in the Hebrew Bible. Once, is in Deuteronomy. Maybe you could read that Jono. So, Deuteronomy, Chapter 23, verses 21 through 23.

Jono: “When you make a vow to Yehovah your Elohim you shall not delay to pay it, for Yehovah will surely require it of you and it would be sin to you. But, if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to Yehovah your Elohim what you have promised with your mouth.”

Nehemia: The point here is, if you speak it, you must fulfill it. There's no sin if you don't speak it. There's no commandment to make a vow. You're not required to. But if you speak it, you better follow it up with action. And then that's repeated in Ecclesiastes, chapter 5, in the English it's verse 2, in the Hebrew it's verse 1.

I'll just quickly read it here. It says, “Do not be rash with your mouth and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven and you on earth. Therefore, let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity and a fool's voice is known by his many words.” And the context here is that people would make vows when they had a bad dream.

Then it says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it,” which is almost word for word from Deuteronomy, “for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin nor say before the Messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?” The point here that is you're under no commandment to make a vow. Think twice before you make it, and if you make it, you better be speaking the truth.

You know, think about how often - I know in American culture, I don't know about in Australian culture - but I know in American culture how easily people throw around the phrase “I swear.” “I swear to God that this is the hottest day on earth.” They'll say, or, “I swear to God, that's the best ball game I ever just watched.” The point is, if you're swearing to God, that's not something to be said lightly. That's something that is irreversible. He says He will not take lightly he who takes the name of Yehovah in vain. It doesn't mean you can not use his name and then get out of keeping your word. You’ve still got to keep your word. Even if you don't use His name, whatever vow you make, you better keep it, with his name or without his name.

So, I want to urge the people to think twice before they just throw out those words “I swear to God” or “I swear”. That's something you want to be very careful. I mean in my entire life I could probably count on one hand how many times I've made a vow or an oath where I've actually sworn. That's because that's something I'm not in the habit of doing. I'm very careful not to do that because what you speak, you must keep.

Keith: I think there are two reasons I wanted to bring up. One is I wanted to go back to the memories of 10 years ago where it was just Nehemia and me sitting and talking about the Bible. If you just read this very casually and you just simply say, “okay, when a man makes a vow, okay well that happens.” You know, and you can put it in those terms over there, some far away ancient idea. But this idea of vowing, making a vow, swearing, is like I mentioned, it’s a core issue throughout.

And the reason that was so important for me is that what hit me as I was in the Kidron Valley with Nehemia, this idea that He says in Exodus 27, “You shall not take the name, you should not lift at the name. You shall not use My name in that way, that you would lift your hand and raise your hand or raise your voice and say, I vow in His name.” And that would be something He could not, he would not choose to make clean.

That started me on this journey of why it was so important. What is so important about His name? And so that's why I wanted to bring that up. But now when we get to chapter 30 and it says here… this is the part I really wanted to get to, it says in verse three, “when a young woman still living in her father's house makes a…” and this is so radical to me like this I have to slow down, it says, “when a young woman still living in her father's house makes a vow to Yehovah or obligates herself by a pledge,” and this – we’ve got to work this through, “and her father hears about her vow but says nothing then all of her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand.”

I know I took over the reading, but just bear with me here Jono. So here it’s clearly saying she's made a vow to Yehovah. In fact, it even uses His name. She's lifted up her hand or her voice or her heart, and she says, “I vow by Yehovah to do X.” But then here comes this little curve ball. “If the father hears it and says nothing, then her vow, which she obligated herself, will stand”. But now three little English letters, b-u-t. “But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. Yehovah himself will release her because her father has a…” Man, did you guys hear that?

Jono: Now what does that say about authority, Keith? What is being said?

Keith: I want to first make sure we're clear. Nehemia just did an entire wonderful explanation about when you say a vow you better make sure that you mean it and let's be honest. Let's take this to the wedding vows. This whole tradition of, is there anyone here who does not agree? You know, we used to do this as a pastor. We used to ask the question - we're about to do this. Is there anyone here that disagrees? Then if someone raises their hand…

Well, if the father, just being biblical here now... Let's just say that there's about to be a wedding and in the room is her father. And she says, “I vow myself” and her father hears it, and I'm just taking this back now. Her father hears that and he says nothing. Keeps silent, forever hold your peace. Or he stands up and says, “I've heard this vow that she's making and I'm telling you that I disagree with this vow.” What would happen in ancient times Nehemia?

Nehemia: Okay, I'm going to throw a monkey wrench into your whole situation. So, in the Christian world, and I guess in the secular world, you write your vows and you've got the vows that you make at the wedding. But in the Jewish, biblical wedding there are no vows. It's not about a vow. You're entering into a covenant. And the covenant is essentially seen… the term is for a man to take a wife. And, of course, the wife has to agree to be taken. But then the way he takes her is in front of two witnesses, he takes a ring, and it doesn't have to be a ring. It's anything of value. He gives it to her as essentially an act of… I'll call it what it is - it's an act of acquisition. He's essentially acquiring her as his wife; sanctifying her as his wife.

To make it a legal bond, he's got to give her something of value and she's got to agree to receive it. And then when he gives her the ring, and actually it could be… he could give her a penny, quite literally. But whatever he gives her, he then proclaims the word, and this is tradition, but he proclaims the words, 'Harei At Mekudeshet Li Kedat Moshe v'Yisrael.' ‘Behold you are sanctified to me according to the law of Moses and Israel.’ And what he means by sanctified is to take something and put it aside, set it apart for a specific purpose and to set it aside and to elevate it. So, when you sanctify a woman to you, what you're doing is saying, “this woman is now only for me and for no one else and I raise her up as holy for me.” So, man actually sanctifies a wife to him in the Hebrew context. He doesn't make a vow.

There is a tradition also, though, to proclaim the words of the Prophet Hoshaya, or in English Hosea. In the Hebrew it's Chapter 2, verses 21 to 22, which are the words that essentially God will say to Israel. These are often repeated in a Jewish context when a man marries, which is 'Verastich li LeOlam' 'Verastich li BeTzedek O'Be Mishpat O'Be Chesed O'Be Rachamim. Verastich li Be Emuna Ve Yadat Et Yehovah.' Which is, “and I will betroth you to me forever and I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice and mercy, and another word for righteousness.”

Well, I'm not done. Verse 22, “and I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know Yehovah.” So that's basically the Jewish context of a wedding. If you do that, you're by definition married in the Hebrew biblical context. You may have to jump through some other hoops to be legally married in Western law, but that's a legal biblical marriage, if that's done in front of witnesses and there's no actual vow. Essentially, you're entering into a covenant and sanctifying a woman.

Keith: So. Let me use Jono and his wife. So, we're talking about his vows and let's just say that Jono's wife's father is there and Jono decides before anything that he's going to have to say a vow and she's going to say a vow. So, I'm trying to bring it back, I'm going to use this example.

Jono: So, in the Christian world Keith, where they do make vows and these vows are voluntary...

Keith: Right.

Jono: …then I suppose in reading this, it has to be applicable because if he stands up and he says, “this guy is too tall. He's got a weird beard and I'm not letting her make that vow.” Then I guess…

Keith: Well no, and that's why I want to take it. I wanted to take it out of a Christian context. What I was trying to get to was, I was trying to use a present situation that people could say, “okay, if we were going into ancient times, and let's just say that he's got a daughter,” let's just use a situation here. The daughter says, “I'd make a vow right now that I will do X,” and I was using a wedding or…

Jono: Sure. Voluntary vow before Yehovah.

Keith: Voluntary vow. She makes a vow to this person. “Yes, I will go with you. I will do this thing,” and the father hears it. What is so amazing about this passage is that here we've had this whole discussion about a vow and the seriousness of a vow, but it says that Yehovah will, if the father, while she's not married, if she's in her father's house, she vows to Yehovah. She says it, “I vow by Yehovah that I will do X.” And he hears it and steps in and says no on that situation, then even Yehovah will release her from the vow.

Jono: He will release her because her father overruled her. Now Keith, this probably wouldn't fly well in the feminist movement.

Keith: Look, it wouldn't fly well in a conservative... The point is that when I read this, and I've had to read this passage several times. Because I know from the last 10 years the significance of a vow. But to hear that what that responsibility would be for a father, while the daughter is in his house, brought a certain level of being sober.

Well then when it goes to the next part and says, “if she marries after she made…” and I'm reading from the NIV here, I would like to be challenged by Nehemia contextually, if there's something that doesn't fit here. But it says, “if she marries after she makes a vow or after her lips utter a rash promise by which she obligates herself, and her husband hears about it, but says nothing, then her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. But if her husband forbids her when he hears about it,” now here's what we want to find out what the Hebrew word says. “He nullifies the vow that obligates her or the rash promise by which she obligates herself, and Yehovah will release her.” I mean, that's… you guys. I mean…

Jono: I know, I know. Because this is now from her father's house. She's now married. She has a husband.

Keith: Now she's married, and she's got a husband. And so, let's… to the listeners out there that are listening, there are some husbands and wives… Don and Carol, for example, great friends down in Texas. They're down there and let's just say Carol makes a vow. I vow that I will do X thing. I vow by Yehovah, I take it that serious. Don hears about it and he says, “no, I do not stand by that vow that you made.” What happens?

Jono: It’s overruled.

Keith: I'm asking the question. I'm asking you. Now we'll ask the more liberal guy over in Israel.

Nehemia: Here's the thing in verse 9. Liberal? Here's the key thing in verse 9, it says, “if in the day that her husband hears about it, he invalidates it or overrules her and abolishes her vow upon her, et cetera.” So basically, the scenario described here is, he hears about it, he's got a 24-hour window to say “no, that vow doesn't stand.” If he says nothing by the next day, then her vow stands and there's nothing you can do about it.

Keith: Okay. I want to talk about the 24 hours. I want to talk about this.

Nehemia: I don't know that it's 24 hours. You could argue that it's actually from sunset.

Keith: I'm using your words. Let's say it's sunset to sunset. Okay, I'll use your words. Here's what I want to get to. This is the part that I want to get to. How serious is a vow to Yehovah? I'm asking both of you. How serious is a vow to Yehovah?

Nehemia: It's a big deal. I think where you really get a feel of how big a deal it is, is I think, in the book of Joshua. So, over there in the book of Joshua, you have an example of the Gibeonites, who are really interesting people. So, the Gibeonites have these five cities. They've got a pentapolis. Five city states over in the northwest of what today is Jerusalem. And in their city states they hear about these invaders who have come. They've crossed over the Jordan River and they were about 30 miles away from the five Gibeonite city states, and they're like, “oh man, we're cooked. We got no chance here. What we need to do is make a covenant with these people. But we know they won't make a covenant with the people of the land, so we're going to deceive them.”

The way the Gibeonites deceive them is they make it appear that they came from hundreds of miles away, from very far away, from another land. They even bring worn out clothing and their food is all rotten. They come to the Israelites and they say, “we're from a faraway land. Make a vow with us, swear to us that we'll have an alliance”. The Israelites swear to them and when they find out they've been duped, that in fact the Gibeonites are from nearby, Joshua says to them, “we made the vow. We should’ve asked Yehovah, but we made the vow and we're bound by that vow, even though it was done under false pretense. We've got to keep it because you can't violate a vow. It's inviolable”. They're essentially stuck with these Gibeonites, who are interesting because, of all the Canaanites, they were the only ones who wanted to make an alliance with us. And we end up essentially stuck in the alliance because we made the vow.

What's interesting - a little side note on the Gibeonites - there was one Arab city in the entire region of central Israel that decided to fight on the side of Israel during Israel's War of Independence. That's a city called Abu Gosh, which is built on the site of one of the five Gibeonite cities of the Gibeonite alliance, specifically the city of Kiryat Ya'arim. So that's pretty cool. You might say that's a coincidence; I want to say it's a God-incidence. The hand of God is there. But anyway, there you see the illustration from that story that once you make a vow, even if you don't like the terms, even if the terms kind of suck for you, you have to keep the vow no matter what.

Jono: I'll just read it, Keith. Joshua nine, verse 19, “and the ruler said to the congregations, ‘we have sworn to them by Yehovah Elohim of Israel. Now therefore, we may not touch them. This we will do for them. We will let them live lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them.’”

Nehemia: Not only did they let them live, but then when the other Canaanites say, “wait a minute, these guys are traitors, let's wipe out the Gibeonites,” the Israelites come on their side and defend them because they've made the vow. The vow is not just in the past. By vow, they are now our allies and we're bound to keep our word.

Keith: So, here's what my point is about this whole thing from the beginning of this chapter to the end. And in the end is the application of it. If you take the seriousness of that very vow that Nehemia just brought up, and if Joshua's wife would've said, “hey, I'll take care of this. I vowed by Yehovah that we will give you such and such a land and such and such a thing.” And Joshua hears it in that day and says, “I nullify that vow.” Then guess what? The vow is nullified.

So, the weight of that situation that we just brought up, or the weight of lifting up the name Yehovah. I mean I'm just saying if I'm listening to this and I'm a woman in my father's house or if I'm a wife of a husband and I think what the Christian Church has done honestly is taken this and gone so far that they've applied it to everything.

What I'm specifically talking about is the weight of just this chapter. That if a woman were to make a vow and the husband were to hear it, that Yehovah would say, “even if she's made that vow to Me” and the husband hears that vow in his presence and says, ‘no, I nullify that vow’, then Yehovah says “I keep her clean. I released her from that.”

But then of course in verse 14 is where the sort of the weight of it comes to the husband because it says, 14 and 15, “but if her husband says nothing about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows and the pledge is binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. If, however he nullifies them sometime after he hears about them, then he is responsible for her guilt.”

Jono: So, if she breaks it, he's responsible.

Keith: So it's kind of like this deal where you want to pull the authority card, you know, the man wants to pull the authority card – “I'm the man of this house and here's what I want to do and et cetera.” And that's kind of what happens in my tradition. The weight of this is much more serious and it's much more sobering to be that person that's in the house that Yehovah would say, “okay, I hold you responsible for that. That if it is broken and you have heard of it…” I mean that, I just think that's a double-edged sword. I mean, but that's what it says.

Jono: So, let me just backtrack here to verse 6. “If indeed she takes her husband while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips, by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears it and makes no response to her on that day that he hears it, then her vows shall stand and her agreement, by which she bound herself, shall stand.” Now, how are we to understand that? Because if she takes her husband while she is bound, does that mean to say in her youth that she made a vow?

Nehemia: I think the point is, the way it reads in Hebrew, anyway, is you've got three categories of people. You've got a woman who has never been married and she's under the responsibility of her father. You've got a woman who is married and she's under the responsibility of her husband. And you've got a woman who is now either divorced or widowed and she essentially is under her own authority, not her husband's because he's either dead or divorced from her, and not her father's because she's now moved on and is an adult.

So those are the three scenarios. In the case of the woman who has never been married, who's young, and the woman who is married, in each of those cases there is a man who is responsible, essentially. He essentially has veto power. That's the way to look at this. He's got a veto, but he's got to use the veto within a timely manner, and if he doesn't then he loses his opportunity to make that veto. Then the woman who is now divorced or widowed, she's kind of on her own. She can't rely on anybody else to have a veto.

Jono: If she makes a vow, she has to stand by it, is what it says. In verse 16, “these are the statutes which you have Yehovah commanded Moses between a man and his wife, between a father and his daughter in her youth, in her father's house.”

Now Chapter 31. Oh boy, there are some questions here. But we're going to get to them. It starts, “And Yehovah spoke to Moses saying, ‘take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. You shall be gathered to your people.’ So, Moses spoke to the people saying, ‘arm yourselves, arm some of yourselves for war. Let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for Yehovah on Midian. 1,000 from each tribe from all the tribes of Israel you shall send to war.’ So, they were recruited from the divisions of Israel, 1,000 from each tribe. 12,000 armed for war, then Moses sent them into war. 1,000 from each tribe. He sent them into war with Pinchas the son of Eleazar, the priest with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand. And they warred against the Midianites just as Yehovah commanded Moses. And they killed all the males. They killed all the kings of Midian and the rest of those who were killed, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, Reba, the five kings of Midian also.”

Now, chapter 25, verse 10, we read that right? Chapter 25, verse 10, this is the first prophecy, the first blessing that Balaam gave. In verse 10, he says, “Let me die the death of the righteous and let my end be like his,” he says, speaking of Jacob, speaking of Israel, but here we see “Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.” So that didn't quite work out for him in the way that he had hoped.

Nehemia: Actually, it's very interesting, because at the end of the story of Bilaam earlier in Numbers, he goes home. Where's that verse? Let's find that. He actually went home, and it was over. He just should have stayed away. Here, it's chapter 24, in the Hebrew verse 25, it says “And Bilaam got up and he went, and he returned to his place and also Balak returned to his way.”

So, the King of Moab goes home, and he says, okay, we tried this three times; it didn't work. He blessed them; he didn't curse them. I'm going home. You go home, get out of here. So, then what does Bilaam do? He goes home, but then he continues. He's done with the Moabites, but he continues some kind of relationship and interaction with the Midianites. And to the Midianites he said, “okay, the Moabites tried to get me to curse.”

Now here's a really interesting point, and this is like very easy to miss. So if you look over at Numbers 22, verse 4, when the whole conspiracy starts, it says, “And Moab said unto the elders of Midian,” of 'Midyan,' ‘now shall this company lick up all that are around about us as ox licketh up the grass of the field, et cetera.’” And then in verse 7 of Chapter 22, “And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination”, which is not really what it says, “in their hands.” So basically, the Midianites start out here and they're involved with the original conspiracy with Balaam. But then they kind of disappear, and we don't hear about them again until the whole incident of Ba'al Peor, where they send the flirty fishing. They send the women to seduce the Israelite men to come and participate.

What happened to the Midianites? You know, so it turns out that they had kind of a separate deal going on with Bilaam, which was separate that from what was with Balak, who was the king of Moab. He wasn't a Midianite. And they said, “look, we’re going to try this other method that Bilaam has suggested”, and Balaam ends up getting killed through this. He's somehow comes back from Mesopotamia and is killed.

Jono: There it is.

Nehemia: And there's a whole story going on there that we don't know all the details of.

Jono: And you're right. That’s really easy to breeze over, isn't it?

Nehemia: Yeah. It's like alluded to in the background, and 'Midyan,' or Midian in English, is really interesting. I mean, our relationship with them as a people is very complex. It's not like the relationship with the Canaanites, who are our enemies, and we've got to destroy them because they worship idols. They're never going to repent, even though some of them do. But most of them are just going to need to be driven out of the land.

But the Midianites - we're not promised their land. We were never promised the land of the Midianites. If you look at the map of where Midian is, that's not part of the land of Israel, not part of the Promised Land. It's never been part of the land of Israel or part of the Kingdom of Israel. Midian is out in the desert of what is today Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - southwestern Jordan. It was never part of Israel. So our relationship with them is very interesting.

Let's remember - Moses, Moshe, he went and fled to Midian, to the land of Midian. He married Jethro's daughter, Tziporah, who was a Midianite. And he wasn't just any old Midianite. He was a priest of the Midianites. Then later on we hear about Chever the Canaanite who was a type of Midianite. He's apparently Moses' brother-in-law. Possibly Jethro's son or maybe his cousin. Brother-in-law may have been used in a very loose sense. But he's part of the clan of the Midianites. Then later on we've got Yael, who's Kenite, who is a type of Midianite. We've got the Rekabites who come from the Midianites.

So, some of the Midianites are our enemies and some of them are our allies. I think that sheds a little bit of light on the story you read a few chapters ago, or maybe quite a few chapters ago, where Moses says to the one guy, to his brother in law, he says, “look, I can't let you go, you know our travelings to the desert. You're our eyes. You've got to stay with us.” And the guy's like, “but I want to go home.” He's like, “sorry. You know where we camp. You can't go anywhere.”

The problem was that some of the Midianites were our enemies and some of them were our allies. So, there's a very complex situation here where some of them are actually joining us and they’re part of us and they become Israelites. They essentially become part of the congregation of Israel, and other ones are bitter, sworn enemies. It's pretty interesting. It's not black and white; there's a lot of gray here.

Jono: That is fascinating. And that is, as you said, it's easy to breeze over. But that's a Torah Pearl as far as I'm concerned. Keith?

Keith: No, I just think this whole idea of Balaam, and it comes to where he ended up losing his life. I mean, you have to ask yourself what's happening. And I guess the point is that to see the connection with Midian where, it's like Nehemia said, they sort of disappeared but not really.

Jono: That's right. And so here it is. In verse 9, “And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive with their little ones and took as spoil all of their cattle, their flocks, and their goods. They also burned with fire all the cities where they dwelt and their forts, and they took all the spoil and all the booty—man and beast. Then,” boy oh boy, “then they brought the captives, the booty and all the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. And Moses, Eleazar, the priest and the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp.” Keith, he was angry. “Moses was furious with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds who had come from the battle.”

Now, Keith, do you want to walk us through the next few verses? Cause this wouldn't fly. I don't think I've ever heard a sermon on this one.

Keith: Yeah. I don't know if I'd be able to give a sermon on it, but I guess I'll read it real fast. And, I'm not trying to be funny here. But you know, I’ve got to go back to something and that is chapter 31, verse 1. If you were to look at the psychology of Moses, look at what it says here.

Nehemia: Woah, woah, woah. We're allowed to talk about psychology?

Keith: Well that's what I was going to invite Dr. Gordon to look at the psychology of Moses here. I was trying to be facetious. It says, “Yehovah said unto Moses, ‘take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites,’” and then we could have stopped there. But it says, “after that you're gone. You're dead. It's over. Here you shall be gathered to your people. You're not going into the land. You're going to die.”

And so, I think I would ask this question. So here you've got this statement. I mean, couldn't Yehovah simply have said, take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites, and then just end the sentence right there? Does he really have to tell Moses, “and after that you're dead?” I'm not trying to be funny here.

Jono: That's a good point.

Keith: I don't think Moses is in a very good mood right now. Okay, good. Let me just, please... Nehemia opened the doors, the psychologist of Moses. So I'm saying here, he hears these words and he's thinking, “take vengeance on the Midianites.” He probably sticks his chest out, he's ready to go. He straps up and He says, but after that, you're dead.

So like, so again, this is the last thing. You know, you ever hear the word when people say, and he went out fighting? So this came from this idea of Moses. I mean, he battled to the very end. Moses is basically leading the people here. He can't be in a good mood. And then at the end here come these guys and it says, “Moses was angry with the officers of the army. ‘Have you allowed all the women to live?’” Verse 15, he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from Yehovah, and what happened at Peor so that a plague struck Yehovah's people. Now kill all the boys, kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourself every girl who has never slept with a man.”

I'm telling you this should be a sermon. This should be a message because what do we see here? He drops this line and he says, “listen, these women here were the ones that were about turning the Israelites away from Yehovah and what happened at Peor.”

Jono: And this is the reason why there was the plague and… what was it? 24,000?

Keith: And this is a tough one. I would have done well without the beginning of verse 17, and it says, “and kill every woman who has slept with a man but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” Come on you guys, this is power packed. How are we going to get out of this Pearl?

Jono: Oh well, Nehemia…

Nehemia: I have to beg to differ with Keith on some of the psychology aspects here.

Keith: I wasn't actually being a psychologist. I simply was throwing it back to you.

Nehemia: No, you were! And I think that's legitimate. The question then becomes, okay, so why is God saying, “and afterwards you will be gathered to your people”? It does sound like, “okay, you've got one more thing to accomplish before you die.” Well, why is this the final thing he's got to accomplish? And I think the answer is - I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a bitter pill for Moses to swallow. What I mean by that is, Moses is married to a Midianite. He's got a Midianite brother-in-law and now God is saying, “you've got to wipe out the Midianites”. And he's like, “what are you talking about? My children are half Midianites. I mean, you gotta be kidding me.” Because he may have been just happy to let, you know, the Midianites… whatever. We've got the Amalakites and we've got the Canaanites; leave the Midianites alone. But God's like, “no, the Midianites…”

Now look at this; God didn't say to Moses or to Israel, take vengeance upon the Moabites. The Moabites hired a prophet to curse Israel. And the advice of the Prophet was foiled by Yehovah himself. He didn't let the curse take place. And then God doesn't say, take vengeance; He lets it go. But the Midianites, what they did was worse than trying to curse Israel because they ensnared Israel.

Here I want to refer the people… and here's some homework to do. Read the first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs is a section unto itself. What it deals with is two figures. And one of those figures is metaphorically described as the foreign woman. She's the foreign woman in the sense that she comes, and she seduces the Israelite away from the Torah. What that's a metaphor for, and it's very clear in the context, that the foreign woman is an allegory, or metaphor, for evil. For, essentially, not following the Torah, for following ways contrary to the Torah. The opposite of the foreign woman is the righteous woman, who is wisdom. So, there's wisdom, who is the righteous woman, and there's the foreign woman who is essentially what Proverbs calls foolishness.

Those metaphors are throughout chapters 1 through 9 of Proverbs and it essentially describes, in allegorical terms, what we saw happen with the Midianites in the literal terms where they sent in the flirty fishing and they seduce the Israelites to go worship other gods, seduce them away from the Torah. That's far worse than the curse that the Moabites tried to do because that was always doomed to fail. You know, you can't curse what Yehovah has blessed. But if you can draw the Israelites away from the Torah, draw the righteous away from righteousness, seduce them away from it, then their protection is gone. And Yehovah will… then the plague comes, and the curse comes. So that's far more threatening.

I think maybe this is why God put this on Moses. He could've said to Joshua, “hey, you're still on the plains of Jericho. Go wipe out the Midianites”. But it had to be Moses because Moses was married to a Midianite. He had alliances with Midianites, he had two children who are half Midianites. He had to be the man to step up and take care of this problem.

Jono: Nehemia can I, and maybe I'm as you guys say, I'm leaving the farm. But can I jump over to Ezra chapter 10? Is there some sort of connection that we can make here?

Nehemia: Bevakasha. Oh Absolutely. Absolutely. So, Ezra chapter 10, and that whole story in Ezra about the foreign women, what that has to do with is, these women were essentially saying, “okay, we're going to raise our children as idolaters.” It talks about in one passage, actually in Nehemiah, how there were some Israelite children who had gentile mothers and they couldn't even speak Hebrew. They were speaking Ashdodite. They couldn't even speak the language of Israel. What we see here is, essentially, they were being raised as pagans. The bottom line is, the reality is, that a woman raises the children and educates the children. The man was out working in the fields all day, and the one who was teaching the children and educating the children was the woman, who had the most influence.

And they said, “these foreign women, who are raising their children as little pagan children, we can't have - in Christian terms, I guess you could say they're unequally yoked - and if they're not going to embrace the Torah, which they're obviously not going to because they love their pagan ways, then they’ve got to go”. That was a painful decision, and it was a decision that we read in there, in Ezra, we find out it didn't take one day. In other words, there was a process here where I think the men probably tried to pressure the women to say, “okay, let's start being good Israelites,” and the women… this was deeply rooted, their pagan ways. In the end, if they wouldn't give up their idolatry, they had to go. It was as simple as that.

Jono: And so, I suppose, Keith, the difference between these two examples is that, in the Midianite example, Israel is used as a tool to exercise Yehovah's vengeance upon them. Whereas here in Ezra, there is no demand to exercise vengeance upon the foreign wives and their children. So, they're sent away. Does that make sense?

Keith: Ezra's situation is different. These are men that have long-term… they brought them in, and they said, “okay, all of those that are married, here's what you're going to do.” But it's interesting in here he's saying, “go and do this. Go and take them out”. But the question that I kind of had was that, in the end it says, “and kill every woman who has slept with a man but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” Is the idea that those girls that will be saved will eventually convert to the God of Israel?

Jono: That's the thing. I'm glad you asked Keith. Because, when you really put yourself in a situation, when you think about what they've just gone through, first of all, their father, their uncle, their brothers have been killed in war…

Nehemia: Their mothers.

Jono: Well, it looks like their younger brothers and mothers. They’re going to be spared somehow. What's going to happen? They've traveled all the way back to the camp and all of a sudden, this angry Moses guy gets out and he goes, “No, knock off the women and all the males.” And then, all of a sudden, their mothers and their younger brothers had been killed. And here they are by themselves. What are we… what do we expect?

Keith: Exactly. And this is where it gets a little complicated.

Nehemia: Look, there's no way to whitewash this. Let's call a spade a spade here.

Keith: That's right.

Nehemia: Ancient war was brutal, and this is how it was. Basically, it's almost like Genghis Khan’s situation where, the way that the Mongols conquered such a large empire is, everybody knew when they came to the city walls, if you didn't surrender, they are going to kill everybody. So, you surrendered, and that's essentially the system the Torah is laying out here. If your enemies come out to war against you and they initiate an act of aggression... and there's a commandment about this in Deuteronomy that we're going to get to. What we're just seeing here in concrete terms is described there.

As a rule of thumb, if the enemy comes out against you, when you defeat them, you wipe them out because you've got to send a message that the enemy shouldn't be coming out against you and initiating a war against you. War is a brutal thing. I don't want to get political here, but I know Israel as a country is often criticized by the world for its wars. But if you look at the Israeli method of war in modern times, it's one of the most merciful countries. You could just look at the statistics. Look at the statistics of how many civilians have died from the United States wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - which are wars that, I think, were totally justified, and they were righteous wars. Well, look how many people have died and you'll be shocked at the numbers. I mean, we're talking about in Iraq alone, if I'm not mistaken, it's in the tens of thousands and possibly in the hundreds of thousands. I don't remember the statistics of civilians that have been killed. I'm not talking about soldiers. That's how war is. War is a dirty business.

I think the point here is to send the message; don't go to war against us, don't initiate an aggression against us. And the Midianites did. They initiated an aggression. They knew exactly what would happen from there, because they had the advice of Bilaam. They knew that the way to curse Israel is not with words. The way to curse Israel is to draw them away from God, draw them away from the Torah into your pagan gods, and then they're susceptible to your attacks. So that was an act of aggression. And this is a brutal business, war. I mean, that’s why it talks about pursuing peace as a righteous thing. Don't pursue war, pursue peace.

Jono: So, what becomes… let's deal with this thoroughly. What becomes of these young girls? They get older, they're taken as wives?

Nehemia: That's pretty… yeah, that's what happened.

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: That's what the commandment talks about later on in Deuteronomy. Should we read that? Do we want to read that now, so we understand what I'm talking about? Or…

Jono: Sure, let's do it.

Nehemia: Actually, before we read that, can we read Deuteronomy 7 just real quick? A little passage here, which I think sets the context. Chapter 7, verse 1, “when you come to the land that Yehovah your God is giving you…” et cetera, et cetera. “You shall dispossess many nations, many nations from before you.” And then it lists seven nations - the Hittites, the Girgashites, and the Amorites… these are different tribes or whatever. “Seven nations who are many and greater than you, or more mighty than you.”

In verse 2, “And Yehovah your God will give them into your hand, will give them before you and you shall smite them, and you shall utterly destroy them. You shall not make a covenant with them and you shall not have mercy upon them.” Then it says in verse 3, “you shall not marry among them. Your daughter, you shall not give to his son and his daughter, you shall not take for your son.”

Now a lot of people read this and stop here. They say, “this means that the Israelites are not allowed to marry those specific seven nations.” And this is actually an ancient debate about those seven nations. Is this commandment specific to those nations? Or does it refer to any nations that are then described in verse 4? I argue that, what's the description in verse 4? The reason given for the commandment is the key to understanding of the commandment.

Verse 4 says, “for he will turn your son from after me to worship other gods and the wrath of Yehovah will burn against you and he shall destroy you quickly.” The way I read it, that's the key to the entire passage. That when it brings these seven nations, that's like in other commandments where it talks about, an ox, an ox that gores. But a goring ox isn't just specific to an ox. If it's a mountain goat that you have that gores or it's a pit bull that bites, it's the same thing.

Jono: Of course.

Nehemia: Here, those seven nations, I think, are just examples. The principle in verse 4 teaches you what this is about. What it's about is not marrying idolaters, not making a covenant with idolaters. If you're dealing, though, with people who are willing to embrace your ways and embrace the one true God and His commandments in the word of God, then I would say that they don't fall under this category. That's actually, I think, borne out by Deuteronomy 23, which talks specifically about - and I'm getting way off track here, we'll save that for Deuteronomy 23.

Deuteronomy 23 talks about certain nations that can't come into the congregation of Yehovah. If you look at what that means, that actually means to marry those nations. The implication is, all the other nations you can marry, even if they're not Israelites, as long as they're not idolaters. But we'll save that for Deuteronomy 23. So, we really need to quickly read this, and I know I'm off track. I'm sorry, Keith. The rest of the chapter is what I call Jewish counting, and we're probably just going to skip over that anyway.

Jono: Sure, sure.

Nehemia: So, let's talk about the issue with the captive woman. If I'm not mistaken, that's Deuteronomy 21, and maybe you can read that Keith, since you're not actually saying anything. Deuteronomy 21, because that's the abstract commandment of what we're seeing in Numbers as the concrete example. So, in mine in Hebrew, it's Deuteronomy 21. In mine it starts in verse 10. It says, “when you go out to war against your enemies.” That thing.

Keith: I'm so excited about this. How long do I get to read? Because I’m going to read slow.

Jono: Just read slow.

Nehemia: It’s through verse 14.

Keith: “When you go to war against your enemies and Yehovah your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife, bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she's lived in your house…”

Nehemia: Let me stop you there for a second. So why does she shave her head? One of the things we saw is that it was a pagan practice to shave the head when somebody died. And that's exactly what's happening here. Her father has been killed, her brother has been killed, her mother's probably been killed. And it's saying that, although she's a pagan…

Jono: You're allowing her time to mourn.

Nehemia: She's got to have her pagan mourning practice. You’ve got to let her do it because that's what she is. You're bringing her into Israel. But before you marry her and make her an Israelite, you’ve got to let her mourn in her way. Sorry, go on Keith.

Keith: This just doesn't seem fair to me. I mean, I saw this beautiful woman, she's got this long flowing hair, and you're telling me we’ve got to shave her head?

Nehemia: No, she wants to shave her head because that's what they do when they mourn; that's what the Pagans did. If she doesn't want to mourn, she doesn't have to. But that was seen as a basic… Otherwise it'd be cruel to take her and not let her mourn in the way that she's accustomed to. That's the point.

Keith: Okay. “And put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she's lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you're not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave since you've dishonored her.”

Jono: Okay, so now where does it leave these young women?

Keith: So, I'm gonna read that and there's no discussion about it. Are you kidding me?

Nehemia: Again, that's the rule that's essentially being described in concrete terms over in Numbers. This is the general rule that then, you know…

Jono: Okay so, sorry, I'm confused. How do I reconcile that with what we read in Deuteronomy 7, because I can't imagine these young girls are going to be pretty pleased with the situation. And I don't think they're going to be pretty pleased for some time.

Nehemia: Look, I think, and I'm applying my interpretation, maybe I'm wrong, but I would think that what's implied in this whole context is that they're willing to give up their gods and live according to the Israelite ways. Meaning, it doesn't even make sense to me that you'd marry the woman and she's eating pork and bowing down to idols. So, I think that's kind of implied here.

I think also what's implied in any kind of situation like this is, she has the right to say no. But if she says no, then of course what happens to her is what happened to the other women. She'd be killed. So, I mean, it's a brutal business. War sucks. It's no question about it. And I pray every day for peace.

Jono: Amen. Alright, there it is. And so, then Keith, there's a process of purification here, “and not only for the people,” perhaps being involved in war, “but also for everything that they take.” The gold and the silver and the bronze. Keith, there's the refiners fire!

Keith: There's the refiner's fire. Everything goes through the fire, right?

Jono: Everything has to be purified. And then, Nehemia, there’s the water purification for those things. I mean it's the, the silver, the gold.

Nehemia: Right. So, the waters of purification we read about, that Numbers 19. That's essentially this liquid that has the ashes of the red heifer and all kinds of other things mixed in. That's then called the waters of purification. And then they get sprinkled with it on the third and seventh day. Exactly what it says here.

I think this is really interesting, this passage. I know for me this is interesting, because one of the things it shows is that - and this is I guess a debate I have with Rabbinical Jews - is they say that ritual impurity from the dead only applies to Israelites. So, in Rabbinical law, if you touch the dead body of a gentile, you don't become ritually unclean. Essentially what they're saying through that principle is, a gentile is not a human being. It'd be like if you were touching the body of a dead cow or dead pig. Whereas here, it's very clear that these people have killed in war. Who did they kill? They killed Midianites who were gentiles. And because of that, they need to go through a process of ritual purification. You're being sprinkled with the waters of purification on the third and seventh day. And even though they killed gentiles, gentiles are human beings too. Their dead bodies impart ritual impurity.

Jono: Wow, boy. So, as you say, Nehemia, it goes on with a little bit of Jewish accounting, the divisions of the plunder, pretty much to the end of chapter 31. And then we have to deal with chapter 32. Now I'm going to let you guys highlight anything that you want to. Keith, is there anything in this latter part of the Torah portion that you want to highlight here? Is there anything you want to bring out?

Keith: The things that I remember, reading about this a long time ago, that I always loved was when in verse six it says, “Moses said unto the Gadites and the Reubenites, ‘shall your countrymen go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from going over into the land Yehovah's given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them.’” He goes on to explain the situation again. He's talking about it and then it says here, “Then they came,” verse 16, “up to him and said, ‘we would like to build pens here for our livestock, cities for our women and children, but…’”and I love verse 17, “…but we are ready to arm ourselves and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile, our children and our women will live in fortified cities for protection from the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance. He will not receive any inheritance with him on the other side of the Jordan.”

Jono: So, If I am to understand this correctly, Keith? They've sussed out the whole area, and they've gone, “You know what? This is prime land for our flocks. Boy, we've got some flocks, and this is good stuff.” So, they go to Moses and say, “Hey, let us do it. Let us set up here.” And Moses says, “what are you talking about? Do you think you're going to sit here while everyone else goes and fights?” And they go, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We just want this land. We'll set up pens. We'll have cities, we'll do all this, but we're going to fight on the front line. We will go and fight on the front line until we're finished.” Is that fair enough? Is that what's happening?

Keith: That's what it's saying here. They're saying, “So we are on the other side of the Jordan,” and that's another discussion on the geography of it. But the point being that they're saying, “look, we're not just going to say, we've got our spot.” And I don't want to be too controversial, but it's like, you know, sometimes we get this sort of an eschatology thought that says, “okay, look, here's what we'll do. We're going to all get taken up. We're going to sit with our lemonade, sip our lemonade on the lounge chair and then let the fight be down there with the bad people. You know, that's kind of like a convenient way of figuring stuff out. But in this situation, it's the picture of, “hey, we're not going to rest until you rest. We're going to fight because you're fighting. You're our brothers.” And I mean, what would that be like if we had that attitude more? That says, “hey, we're going to enter in with you. You know, you're battling this situation. We're going to battle this situation. To possess what Yehovah has for us. We're not going to just simply take the easy route and say we're going to sit back here. We're going to take care of our women, children and our flocks, but we're going to get out in front of the line and help you fight shoulder to shoulder”.

Jono: Yeah, and so I guess from verse 20, Moses approves the proposal. Nehemia, is there anything you want to highlight here?

Nehemia: Well, there are two things. One is I want to… can maybe one of you guys read verse 38? It's really interesting.

Jono: Keith!

Keith: Let's see, “As well as Nebo and Ba’al Meon, these names are changed and Sibmah, they gave names to the cities they rebuilt.”

Nehemia: So, what is that about? These names were changed… what?

Jono: Yeah, well when I read it, I wondered about that because I’ve got it in brackets here.

Nehemia: It's in the Hebrew, and I think what may be going on here is that Ba’al Meon means, you know, ‘Ba’al’ is the pagan deity. So, we had Ba’al Peor, which was the Ba’al of a town called Peor. And Ba’al Meon is the Ba’al of a town called Meon. Why would you change the name? Because you shouldn't have the name of a city named after Ba’al, even though there were other cities.

If you look later in scripture, the name Ba’al Meon keeps showing up. I mean, it shows up; I think I found it at least three more times. So, the name was changed, but old habits die hard. In Chronicles we still hear about Ba’al Meon, and in Ezra we still hear about Ba’al Meon. It was changed but it’s hard to uproot bad habits. The city named after Ba’al. Then I think another interesting thing is verse 40, which is a little controversial. Maybe we shouldn't end with controversy, but why not? So, could somebody read me verse 40?

Keith: Go ahead Jono.

Jono: “So Moses,” as I turn the page, “gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh and he dwelt in it”.

Nehemia: Oh, so I'm sorry… verse 41.

Jono: “Yair the son of Manasseh went and took its small towns and called them Havoth Yair.”

Nehemia: “Yair.” So Yair, the son of Manasseh, went and he captured their 'Chavot.' 'Chavot' are villages, or little encampments, or something like that. In Modern Hebrew it means a farm. But it's some kind of little encampment. He called them Chavot Yair. Okay. Now when it says Yair the son of Manasseh, you gotta wonder, what is this guy, like three or four hundred years old? Like what? But no, come on. Manasseh died in Egypt, and so obviously it's not Yair the son of Manasseh himself. It's actually somebody from the clan of Yair. I mean, that clan of people, which might have been hundreds of people, captured these Chavot and they called them Chavot Yair. The villages of Yair. Okay, no problem. Except when we open up our Bibles and we turn to Judges, chapter 10, verses 3 to 4.

Jono: “After him rose Yair, a Gileadite,” I've got, “and he judged Israel 22 years. Now he had 30 sons,” Wow! “who rode on 30 donkeys. They also had 30 towns, which are called Chavot Yair to this day, which are in a land of Gilead, and Yair died and was buried in Camon.”

Nehemia: So, this kind of raises a little bit of a problem. Chavot Yair… were those called Yair after Yair the Gileadite? Or after Yair the son of Menasha, who were two different... I mean, one is a person and one is a tribe or a clan or something. And when was it named that? Was it named that at the time of Moses? Or was it named that at the time of Yair the Gileadite who was the judge over Israel? You know, sometimes I feel like the question is more important than the answer because now we can start to get creative and come up with all kinds of different answers. But I think it's important to be aware of these things. You know, there's a lot of little things like this in Scripture that raise all kinds of questions and there's all kinds of different answers you can come up with.

You can say, “you know what? This verse, verse 41, Moses didn't write that. That was written hundreds of years later in the time of the judges.” Some people are happy with that type of answer. I'm not very satisfied with that. For me that's kind of the last resort. I'm not saying it's impossible, but that wouldn't be my starting assumption. I think a better explanation would be that a lot of times we have place names that are given the same name multiple times for multiple reasons.

And a good example is Be’er Sheva, or Beersheba in English, where the name is called Be’er Sheva because of the seven sheep that Abraham set aside when he made the covenant with Avimelech. Why seven sheep? Because he was making a vow, and that ties us into the beginning of the chapter. The Hebrew word for vow is 'Shvuah', which is from the same root as seven, and so it was kind of a play on words.

Well, the same town is given the name Be’er Sheva later on in the time of Isaac, also having to do with, if I'm not mistaken, a covenant that was made with the Philistine king. Now, is that a contradiction? Or does it really mean that the name of the town was essentially being rededicated for that purpose? And I'll tell you what; it was probably called Be’er Sheva even before Abraham. That's why Abraham set aside, you know, seven sheep. Okay. The name of the town is Be’er Sheva, we're making a 'Shvuah', a vow, which has to do with the word seven. Let's symbolically dedicate this town to the vow that we're making.

And it reminds me of the type of sermons I'll hear from Keith from time to time. Where... no, really, he'll tie something into some kind of symbolism like that. And it won't be like nobody ever called it Be’er Sheva before that, but it's now being rededicated for that purpose. I think that's not a bad thing. That's a beautiful thing. So, I think that's the situation with Chavot Yair, that originally it might've been called Chavot Yair by the Canaanites. Who knows? And then Yair the Gileadite, his clan conquered them. So, he said, “okay, let's dedicate them to our ancestor Yair.”

Then Yair the Gileadite, the 'Giladi', came and he conquered them, or dominated them, or whatever, and maybe he fortified them. So, they were rededicated for his purpose. I don't see… that's not actually a contradiction. That's the type of thing that we see throughout Scripture; that things are dedicated for multiple purposes.

Jono: My word. Keith, how about that? Look, I'll tell you what, with controversial things like that in Scripture, it's probably an idea if we end this Torah portion. Keith, if you would, with a prayer from Psalm 119, verse 18?

Keith: Oh, I'd love to do that. And let's pray. Father, I want to thank you so much for a chance to just open Your word and to dive into Your word and to even have the questions that can't be answered to be before us. But in all of it, open our eyes that we might see the wonderful hidden, amazing, marvelous, powerful, prophetic things in Your Torah. Amen.

Jono: Amen. Next week we are in Masei. Is that correct Nehemia?

Nehemia: Masei.

Jono: Masei?

Keith: Masei.

Nehemia: It is not a Kenyan tribe.

Jono: Numbers 33:1-36:13. Until then dear listeners be blessed, be set apart by the truth of our Father's word. Shalom.

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  • John says:

    If Archbishop Stephen Langton is credited for dividing the Bible into chapters, then who is credited for dividing the Bible into sentences?

  • barbara graham says:

    great discussion on vows, on marriage vows or any vows. Divorce does not release you from your vows and isn’t worth the paper its written on. it is for the ancient contracts as you mentioned. That is both old and new let your ya be a ya and your nay be a nay. So be carful what you speak. makes sense, when GOD spoke it came to be.

  • Lucile says:

    Helpful as usual. Can somebody says something about Moses family, because the bible never told us what happened to them. Did they go back to Median and got assimilated into them? What has happened to the two sons, no inheritance, no descendants in Israel? Thank you.

  • Loy Jefferson Sampson says:

    You cannot use the law to vow to not keep it. This is the worst example of zeal I have ever heard of. Can I vow to YHWH to kill all the Jews? What a neat trick any criminal can just vow to rob you and he has no choice because now he is doing YHWH’s work. YOU CANNOT MAKE AN UNLAWFUL VOW BECAUSE IT STRIPS EVERYONE OF THEIR GOD GIVEN RIGHTS. Israel made a peace covenant with the Amorites while Moses was mourning his brother and sister. The Gibionites was the first to accept. According to you Nehemiah all they had to do was vow not to kill the Canaanites and they would have no choice but to do everything they wished. Joshua should have been the one to be put to death for being presumptuous and deciding without inquiring through the high priest. The people were not obligated to keep an unlawful vow and should have done more than grumble against the leadership.

  • Bernardo says:

    What happens if my daughter lives in her mother’s house? Does it apply to when if she let’s me know?

  • Off topic, but can you give me any scriptural reference to a messiah ben Joseph?

  • Marta Goodrich says:


    Did I miss the part about Caleb?

  • Diana says:

    Shalom! thanks for the highlight on versions of the Bible. Has Nehemia finished the Hebrew Matthew? we are interested in copies

  • plonesr says:

    Did anyone see that the Offering given to the Levites, was actually a tithe taken out of the Sons of Israel & the Men of War?

  • NANCY HORTON says:

    Would Moses asking Hoban the Midianite to in essence lead them be a portion of the reason Yehovah ordered Moses to lead the destruction of the Midisnites? He said, “…You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes…” , It appears for a moment Moses is Relying on Hoban rather than fully relying on Yah to lead them .

  • NANCY HORTON says:

    Could Numbers 10:29 through 30 to have been part of the reason that Yehovah order Moses to be the one to Order the destruction of the Midianites?

  • NANCY HORTON says:

    Nehemia what is the difference between an oath and a vow?

  • So, now the NKJV stands for Nehemia-Keith-Jono Version? Outstanding!

  • Erin Hunter says:

    So let me question, is it by making statements or specifically by speaking The Name…

  • Jean says:

    When I was young, in the sixties, no matter what the stores’ return policy was if her father did not like the purchase it was returnable without question. Many of Texas laws were based on scripture.

  • Martin says:

    With the slaughter of the Midianites, you mentioned that Tzipora and her kids are Midianites. We don’t know Tzipora’s fate from the Torah. Are there any midrashim them resonate with you?

  • Ester says:

    Shalom Nehemia,
    Very interesting midrash as usual and stimulating. Land of Midianites are not of Israel, explains why Moshe is approved by YHWH to marry Tzipora.
    And names of places repeated in other areas are in dedication purposes; really makes sense..
    Todah! brachot.

  • Ken Kiefer says:

    we appreciate Nehemia and the TORH Pearls Thankyou from Oklahoma

  • Rick says:

    Gentiles are people too?