Can Jesus Christ be found in the book of Numbers?
To answer this question, we’re going to turn to the book of Numbers and focus on God’s holy priesthood, aided by this week’s guest on our television program Christ in Prophecy, Avi Mizrachi.
Avi is the founder and pastor of Adonai Roi, a Messianic Congregation in Tel Aviv, and Dugit Outreach Ministries. His heart for the Jewish people is demonstrated every day as he shares the Gospel, disciples his flock, and speaks internationally about the eternal promises of God and His chosen people, Israel. He and his wife Chaya are avid servants of the Most High God!
Numbers is a book of the Bible that was written around 3,500 years ago, call it 1420 BC. As the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, God ongoingly cared for them, meeting all of their needs, but also forgiving and loving them. Early in the book, Moses outlined the duties of the priests and all the Levite men who would serve God foremost. And here we’ll begin to seek out Jesus in the book of Numbers.
The Hill of the Spring
Nathan Jones: Avi, it was a real blessing visiting you a few years ago in Tel Aviv, Israel, where your ministry is based. Nahum Sokolow and his Hebrew translation of Theodor Herzl’s book, Altneuland, labeled Tel Aviv in German as “The Old New Land.” Why did he mean by that?
Avi Mizrachi: Well, back in 1948, the Holy Land was called the land of Palestine. The Romans, after they had destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem back in AD 70, changed the name of the land of Israel to Palestina. It then became basically desolate for almost 1,900 years. Nobody was interested in settling there. Israel was known as “Palestine the Deserted Land.” But, when the early twentieth century Jews came to build their first city after all of those centuries in exile, it was built by Jews who chose to speak Hebrew, and so they believed a new city needed a new Hebrew name, so they called it Tel Aviv. Doing so was to remember the old, but now they are doing something new.
Nathan Jones: Yes, and Tel Aviv means “Hill of the Spring,” right? Is there a spring in Tel Aviv that it is named after?
Avi Mizrachi: Not necessarily, but it was spring for us, for Tel Aviv rings of springtime — something new and fresh which blooms after the winter has finished. Tel Aviv reminds the Jews that now we are in a springtime when everything turns green and life returns.
Tim Moore: Speaking of names, when I was looking up some information about you, I found out that there is another Avi Mizrachi in Israel. He is a famous general in the Israeli Defense Forces. Your name, Avi, I learned comes from “Avraham,” or Abraham in English. Likewise, there’s something beautiful about the book we know of as Numbers, because in Hebrew it goes by a different name, right?
Avi Mizrachi: Yes, in Hebrew the name is “Bemidbar” which means “in the desert.” It’s beautiful because inside the word “Bemidbar” we have the word “Davar” which is the Word of God. In other words, God is taking us to the desert to speak to us. So, the Israelites entered the wilderness of the desert in Exodus 19, then they leave the Sinai Desert in Numbers 10.
Tim Moore: In the book of Numbers, God called the people to take a census and count the number of men. During this census, God ordered Moses to count the number of firstborns from all of the Israelites and separated the number of firstborns from the tribe of Levi, for these men from the tribe of Levi were called to fill a very special role. And so, in addition to the historical narrative taken by this particular book, there’s also an emphasis on the priesthood and those who were given a special calling.
From a Jewish perspective, Avi, what was the role of the priest? Who could aspire to actually serve in that special role?
Avi Mizrachi: The word for priest in Hebrew is “Kohen.” A priest served the Lord by bringing in the sacrifices unto the Lord. His role was to be the mediator between God and His people.
Then you also have the Levites from the tribe of Levi. They served the priests by helping. They also were in charge of worship and playing the instruments.
I find it very interesting that when we study Numbers we see how God has orchestrated all of these roles together.
Tim Moore: The Bible records at times how the priest and the Levites were very zealous in defending the honor of the Lord and in excising sin from the people. At other times, they were not so very zealous about defending the honor of the Lord.
For example, in Numbers 25, when the people of Israel began to do what is described as “playing the harlot” by marrying their sons to the daughters of Moab, and when they began to worship false gods, Aaron’s grandson Phinehas, also a priest himself, ruthlessly slew both an Israelite and the Midianite woman who had defiled the nation. In doing so, he ended a plague that had come upon them due to God’s anger which had killed 24,000 people.
At other times, the very sons of Levi were instigators of rebellion and wrongdoing, such as when Korah rose up against Moses and tried to lead a rebellion against God’s chosen leader. Again, in that instance, God brought down judgment and the earth itself swallowed up Korah and some of the others who had rebelled. Being a priest even then was a very heavy burden.
Avi Mizrachi: Yes, Numbers 16 tells the whole story of Korah, and it says that he also took with him 250 leaders when challenging Moses and Aaron. This was definitely a coup against the Israelite’s leadership and those God had anointed. God brought His judgment, and all of the rebels went under.
In the second segment of this series on finding Jesus Christ in the book of Numbers, we’ll keep searching through the chapters, particularly at stories of Balaam and his talking donkey and the Brazen Serpent.