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  • Writer's pictureKathy Berry

Priestly Blessings Upon Israel: Numbers 6:22-27

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃ דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר כֹּה תְבָרֲכוּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָמוֹר לָהֶם׃

6:22 Speak to Aharon and his sons: 23 Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them:

יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ׃ יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ׃ יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם׃

24 May YHVH bless you and protect you! 25 May YHVH shine his face upon you and be gracious towards you! 26 May YHVH lift his face up to you, and give you peace!

וְשָׂמוּ אֶת שְׁמִי עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֲכֵם׃

27 Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

God commanded Moses to tell Israel's High Priest, Aaron, to speak His holy, unutterable name (YHVH) upon Israel as a blessing (Birkat Kohanim). The light of His face is ever turned toward Israel, though she is like a stubborn child. Oh how we as parents woo and challenge our children for their safety and welfare. When they are grown, we tend to watch at arms length, interceding as prayer warriors or stepping in when they cry for help. Yet, we never forsake them.

Cultural Backdrop #3

As the Israelites prepared to leave the bondage of Egypt—an apt analogy for sin's bondage—continual setbacks plagued their release. Nine plagues were God's response to Pharaoh's fickle and stubborn rule. A tenth would ravage the Egyptian population while passing over the bloodied doorposts and lintels of Israelite households.

Paul reflects on the Exodus scene regarding the hardening of Pharaoh's heart: "But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (Exod. 4:21b; 9:12, 16). God simply allowed Pharaoh, after many signs and miracles, to do what was already in his heart to do. The Hebrew verb translated "harden", hazaq, is a term denoting strength. In other words, God strengthened Pharaoh to carry out his intensions despite the mighty signs. Paul contrasts the irreparable hardening upon Pharaoh in Romans 9:17-18, using the Greek verb, skleryno, with the restorative hardening of porosis granted to Israel in Romans 11:25. Let me explain.

Mark Nanos, in his book Reading Romans within Judaism, a book I highly recommend to Christians, unpacks the hermeneutical difference between Pharaoh's hardening and that of Israel's. Accordingly, skleryno is metaphorically used of Pharaoh's contumacy, a condition that ultimately leads to suffering and the painful realization of God's sovereignty. Conversely, Paul's use of porosis with Israel refers to the hard formation of a callus necessary for healing a broken bone (Nanos, 153-155). Calcification mends the broken portion by allowing nutrient-rich blood to flow. Ultimately, that which was broken is restored and this is exactly Paul's point in Romans 11.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, knowing that God's countenance shines and His name rests upon Israel. Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover)!

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