Shemini / Eighth
HafTorah 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17
Brit Chadasha Acts 10:9-22
This Torah portion begins by glorifying God on the eight day. Leviticus 9:22-24 states: ‘Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.’ When the Israelites saw the power of the Shekinah, they realized the fierce greatness of The LORD as the verse states: ‘they fell on their faces.’
It is a mystery why the sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu would go before Adonai in such a frame of mind. ‘Then Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.’ Leviticus 10:3.
The death of the two sons ends with God making a declaration: ‘And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying:
‘By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
And before all the people
I must be glorified.’ So Aaron held his peace. Leviticus 10:3.
There are many theories and commentaries on the death of the two sons. One clue we have is the statement from God to Moses directly after their death. ‘By those who come near to Me…I must be regarded as holy…’
This seems to be the infraction, the sin of Nadav and Avihu. Did they not regard Adonai as holy? In Numbers 3:4-5 they are mentioned along the word profane. ‘Nadav and Avihu had died before the Lord when they offered profane fire before the Lord in the Wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests in the presence of Aaron their father.’
The word profane can also be translated as common or foreign. In Leviticus 10:3 God specifically states that it He must be regarded as holy to those that come before Him. When we come before God on our time, in our place on our day that we choose, we might perceive Him holy in our mind, yet that is a fleshly ‘holiness’ for we have tried to bring His holiness down to us. Our minds are not structured to comprehend the vastness and greatness of God. He made the universe but is not contained in the universe. This is a supernatural thought and realm that humans can not fully understand. Therefore, when we come to Him on our preferred time, we demote Him to serve our very needs and likes in the manner that we have chosen. The only way to fully glorify Him His Way is to come before Him during the times and seasons that He specified, not the ones we substituted. This is how we come before Him and regard Him as holy. This is how He is Holy. He doesn’t need us to make Him Holy – He is the epitome of holiness. We are to honor His holiness His way.
Proverbs 16:18 ‘Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.’
Philippians 2:3 ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.’
Proverbs 16:5 ‘Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.’
Proverbs 12:15 ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.’
Galatians 6:7-8 ‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.’
We are used to thinking of God as an always loving Father, sometimes lessening Him as ‘our friend’. But in one of the most profound things shown in Scripture is that the Divine is a being who is “Wholly Other, Completely Set-Apart, and Uncommon,” from a reality different from ours. God cannot be limited to our terms or to our simple understanding. There is Divine power from another realm that demands our awe and wonder, but with whom we must be exceedingly careful to remember what and who He is.
Therefore, we must take our attention off of the strange fire of Nadav and Avihu and put it on The Divine, God Himself. The corresponding HafTorah in 2 Samuel 6, the Ark was mounted onto a wagon, pulled by a team of cattle. When along the way the cattle tripped, and the Ark was about to fall, Uzza stretched out his hand to catch the Ark and prevent it from falling to the ground. ‘And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.’ 2 Samuel 6:6-7. Other Hebrew translations use the word “exploded” (פרץ). Uzza had only the best intentions: he didn’t want the Ark to crash. Where did he go wrong? He did a good thing but was it the right thing?
Uzza forgot that God does not tolerate any impact by the impure on anything that is directly connected with the Divine. We see that God could not tolerate for a second the less-than-divine hand of Uzza making contact with the holy Ark, the seat of God’s presence. This is the same as the strange fire coming from Nadav and Avihu going before the Lord.
These two stories have a strange connection in the Bible. Avinadav is the person who had been keeping the Ark at his home in Gibeah before it was taken to Jerusalem. His name is a strange reflection of the names of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. Uzza, who was the one who tried to stabilize the Ark is Avinadav’s son.
Did everyone become just too comfortable with God? Did everyone become too sure of themselves? James 4:8 states ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ But what does that really mean? We are to draw near to God His way according to His will, not our own.
Shemini / Eighth
HafTorah Portion 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17
Brit Chadasha Acts 10:9-22
The Timeless Order of the Priests,
Shemini opens with God summoning Moshe with instructions for the eighth day of the beginning of the priestly ministry. Chapter 9 ends with a grand display of God’s greatness and glory. ‘Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Leviticus 9:23-24.
Immediately following Moshe and Aaron's obedience to God's instructions and the Divine Glory of Elohim, Aaron’s two sons offer strange fire and are consumed themselves by fire. Another display of Diving Greatness. ‘So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’” Leviticus 10:2-3a.
What was it? What was the strange fire? What was wrong with Nadab and Abihu acting spontaneously? Or did they behave presumptuously? Moshe had acted spontaneously when he broke the tablets after the sin of the Golden Calf. Centuries later, David would act spontaneously when he danced as the Ark was brought into Jerusalem. Neither of them was punished for their behavior. What made Nadab and Abihu deserve such a punishment? What was the unauthorized fire? What was the difference?
The difference was that Moshe was a Prophet, David was a King. but Nadab and Abihu were priests. Prophets and kings sometimes act spontaneously, maybe even presumptuously because both live in the world of time: a time for battle, a time for circumstance, a time for display, a time to live and a time to die. They often operate in the moment and in a moment’s notice. For them, yesterday is not today, and tomorrow will be different again. That can give them situations to act spontaneously. Even presumptuously, even to make mistakes.
But priests have a different role altogether. They inhabit a world that is timeless, in which nothing that is significant changes. The daily, weekly and yearly sacrifices were always the same. Every element of the service in the Mishkan was bound by its own intricate, detailed rules, and nothing of significance was left to the discretion of the Priest. We have just studied the past Torah portions, which included the detailed accounts of the Tabernacle, the items within it and the details of each sacrifice.
The priest was the guardian of order. It was his job to maintain boundaries between sacred and secular, pure and impure, perfect and imperfect, permitted and forbidden. His realm was that of the holy as God tells Aaron in this Torah portion: Leviticus 10:8-11 ‘Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.’
Ezekiel 44:23-24 ‘And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. 24 In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths.’
The key verbs for the Kohen were lehavdil to distinguish and lehorot to teach. The Kohen made distinctions and taught the people to do likewise. The duty and responsibility of the Priests was to remind the children of Israel that there were limits and an order to the Ways of Elohim. There is an order to the universe, and we must respect it. Spontaneity has no place in the life of the priest or the service of the Sanctuary. That is what Nadab and Abihu failed to honor. It may have seemed like a minor transgression, but it was the opposite of everything the Divine Tabernacle and the Priesthood stood for.
We read in Hebrews about Yeshua the High Priest, Hebrews 7:14-17 ‘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.’
Hebrews 5:1-10 ‘For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. 4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” 6 As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'
Psalm 110:1-4 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies our footstool.” 2 The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! 3 Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. 4 The Lord has sworn and will not relent,
“You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
The High Priest represents order and teaches order. Yeshua’s order was even unto death. ‘John 19;28 ‘After this, Yeshua knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.
Rabbi Shau’l reiterates this;
1 Corinthians 14:33 ‘For God is not a God of disorder but of peace as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.'
1 Corinthians 14:40 ‘But all things should be done decently and in order.’
The order in our lives should and must copy the High Priest. If we are not walking in the order of the High Priest, we are walking in an order of our own. John states in Revelation that we are priests and kings in the order of God, ‘…and from Yeshua, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.’ Revelation 1:5-6.
Lehavdil – to distinguish, and lehorot – to teach. We can’t distinguish and teach the principles of God until we walk in His Ways, learn His Ways and be still in His Divine Order.
Shemini / Eighth
HafTorah Portion 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17
Brit Chadasha Acts 10:9-22
Shemini gets its name from the first sentence in this Torah portion. ‘It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. 2 And he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord. 3 And to the children of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a kid of the goats as a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering, 4 also a bull and a ram as peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord, and a grain offering mixed with oil; for today the Lord will appear to you.’ Leviticus 9:1-4.
Aaron and his sons are consecrated on the eighth day. The eighth day seems to have special significance.
Yeshua was consecrated on the eighth day, Luke 2:21 ‘And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.’
In both instances, they entered into the covenant. The process of being consecrated brings one into close proximity of God. This is why God commands us to circumcise the heart. Practically, we can't show the world we've been circumcised, but God's covenant extends further than just the physical realm. A way has been provided in which our words and actions can show the nations that we are in covenant with God is: Deuteronomy 30:6: "Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."
This type of circumcision, by definition a circumcision of the spirit and not the flesh, goes to the heart of a man, to his soul, his essence, his attitudes and relationship with God. Because this theme of an inner circumcision is so important, God repeats and stresses it, as in Deuteronomy 10:12-16 "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. And to keep the Lord's commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more."
Jeremiah 4:4 ‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
Romans 2:28-29 ‘For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.’
1 Corinthians 7:19 ‘Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.’
Romans 3:1-2 ‘Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.’
The key here is that circumcision was to be a "sign of the covenant" that had already been given, with no strings attached, to Abraham. The rite of circumcision was made a part of the Law of Moses several hundred years later when God gave instruction concerning the birth of a male: "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" Leviticus 12:3.
We see holiness and consecration continue in Shemini. Leviticus chapter 10 begins with the sons of Aaron offering strange fire before the LORD. Within two verses, the sons put fire in their censers, put incense on it, and offered profane fire which He had not commanded, then were instantly consumed by fire from the LORD. No hesitation, no grace period, no discussion. Instant death. Moses responds to Aaron who just watched his sons get devoured by fire;
‘‘By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
And before all the people
I must be glorified.’ ”Leviticus 10:3.
What was the strange fire, and was it the fire or their compulsiveness that caused their death. Looking into the HafTorah for this parsha, we see a similar event in 2 Samuel 6. This is the account of King David moving the Ark of the Covenant from its temporary storage outside Jerusalem in Gibeah to Jerusalem, the future site of the Temple. The Ark was mounted onto a freshly made wagon, pulled by a team of cattle. The procession was accompanied by great fanfare. When along the way the cattle tripped, and the Ark was about to fall, Uzza stretched out his hand to stabilize the Ark and prevent it from smashing on the ground. At once the Deity “exploded” (פרץ) against Uzza, slaying him on the spot. Good intentions? But were they right in the sight of The Almighty?
To the glory of God and the consecration of His people continues in Leviticus 11, the detailed chapter of the clean and unclean foods. Leviticus 11:44-45 makes a profound statement about the holiness of God: ‘For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
This entire Torah portion connects with glorifying God. We either do or we don’t. There is no in between. One cannot ‘a little bit’ glorify something. We are either a witness for Him or a witness against Him. And to be a witness for HIm, we must be walking in His ways, His statutes, commandments and His Torah.
Romans 11:36 ‘For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.’