Hebrew Vision News Exclusive
by Miykael Qorbanyahu aka The End Time Scribe
Torah: Numbers 1.1-4.20 Haftarah: Hoshea 2.1-22 Witness: Luke 16.1-17.10
A strict watch over the Temple was maintained, the guard being composed of three priests and twenty-one Levites. The priests were stationed one at the Chamber of the Flame (“Bet ha-Niẓoẓ”), one at the Chamber of the Hearth (“Bet ha-Moḳed”), and one at the Chamber (attic) of Abṭinas (see diagram, page 95). The Levites kept guard as follows: one at each of the five gates of the mount entrances; one at each of the four corners within the mount enclosure; one at each of the five important gates of the courts; one at each of the four corners within the court; one at the Chamber of Sacrifice; one at the Chamber of Curtains; and one behind the “Kapporet” (Holy of Holies). The captain of the guard saw that every man was alert, chastising a priest if found asleep at his post, and sometimes even punishing him by burning his shirt upon him, as a warning to others (Mid. i. 1).
Jewish Encyclopedia: Administration and Service of the Temple
But the Levites shall pitch their tents round about the tabernacle, lest there come indignation upon the multitude of the children of Israel, and they shall keep watch, and guard the tabernacle of the testimony.
In the event of an individual being a key witness in the matter of a legal preceding, it is not unusual to ensure the safety of said person by placing them in protective custody. Protective custody is legally defined as an arrangement whereby a person is safeguarded by law enforcement authorities in a location other than the person’s home because his or her safety is seriously threatened. This course of action often taken by law enforcement officials is similar to that of which the Levitical priesthood did with the Ark of the Covenant (aron haberit/אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית) and other furnishings within the secured quarters of the tabernacle and later the temple precinct.
Being that the Ark was the most prized vessel in the Israelite nation, there were precautionary measures set in place in order to protect this most sacred furnishing which was the portal through which the Shekinah of יהוה was made manifest on Earth. Ultimately, it was this witness that the Levites were intent on protecting, as well as the witness of the people, which the Levites went about guarding to prevent the wrath of Heaven from breaking out within the encampment of Israel due to trespassers or defilement being present within the camp.
Therefore, the Levites custodial protection of the tabernacle and temple was a measure to not only ensure the sanctity of the temple, but also that of the people. In this capacity, it was this responsibility of the Levites as guardians that allowed for the entire nation of Israel to experience ultimate reality.
The responsibilities of the Levites included securing both the outside and inside premises of the holy grounds of which they vigilantly guarded. Specific duties were prescribed to family lines within the Levitical tribe, with Aharon ben Amram being instituted as the high priest (kohen gadol/כהן גדול) and Moshe ben Amram designated as the royal representative of יהוה before the people. What remained was the distinction between the kohanim and the Levites by which the entire duties and functions of the priesthood were delineated. As such three divisions were made to keep watch of the sacred grounds of the tabernacle and temple according to the following:
- Gĕreshonites: the duty of the children of Gĕreshon in the Tent of Meeting was the Dwelling Place, and the tent with its covering, and the covering of the door of the Tent of Meeting, and the screens of the courtyard and the covering of the door of the courtyard, which is around the Dwelling Place and the altar, and their cords, according to all its service (Numbers 3.25-26).
- Qehathites: their duty was the ark, and the table, and the Menorah, and the altars, and the utensils of the set-apart place used in the service, and the covering, and all its service. And El‛azar, son of Aharon the priest, was to be chief over the leaders of the Lĕwites, with oversight of those who guard the duty of the set-apart place (Numbers 3.31-32).
- Maḥlites: From Merari came the clan of the Maḥlites and the clan of the Mushites. The appointed duty of the children of Merari was the boards of the Dwelling Place, and its bars, and its columns, and its sockets, and its utensils, and all its service, and the columns of the courtyard all around, with their sockets, and their pegs, and their cords (Numbers 3.33a, 36-37).
These Levitical duties allowed for the kohanim to go about carrying out the specific rituals of the tabernacle and temple, with the Levites serving as the laborers and custodians of those buildings.
It is interesting to note that it was because of their faithfulness to יהוה during the incident of the Golden Calf that the Levites were chosen to be the guardians of the tabernacle. Their selection was in the stead of the firstborn of every family who were originally chosen to serve as the priests and administrators of the sacred rituals that the nation was to observe. In fact, we read in Numbers
Then יהוה said to Moshe saying, “See, I have taken the Levites from among Bnei-Yisrael in place of the firstborn who open the womb among Bnei-Yisrael. The Levites will be Mine, because all the firstborn are Mine. In the day when I was striking down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated to Myself every firstborn in Israel—whether man or animal—as Mine. I am יהוה.”
Given this solemn responsibility that the Levites were given to guard the tabernacle and temple grounds from unauthorized individuals entering its quarters, there were great measures taken to secure the premises from such persons. In fact, so serious was the duty that if one of the Levites were to be found asleep during their watch, the captain of the watch who would find that person asleep would often burn their shirt to both awaken and shame them for their negligence. Of this measure taken, we find this matter explained by Josh McDowell in his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict, informing us that
Alfred Edersheim gives us this description of the tight discipline under which the temple police worked: “During the night the ‘captain of the Temple’ made his rounds. On his approach the guards had to rise and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep when on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire – a punishment, as we know, actually awarded…The Mishnah shows the treatment given anyone found asleep during the watch: “The officer of the Temple Mount used to go round to every watch with lighted torches before him, and if any watch did not stand up and say to him, ‘O officer of the Temple mount, peace be to thee!’ and it was manifest that he was asleep, he would beat him with his staff, and he had the right to burn his raiment. And they would say, ‘What is the noise in the Temple Court?’ ‘The noise of some Levite that is being beaten and having his raiment burnt because he went to sleep during his watch.’ R. Eliezer b. Jacob said: ‘They once found my mother’s brother asleep and burnt his raiment'” (Middoth). The Jewish Encyclopedia comments concerning “the sacred premises with [the temple],” those who were on watch therein “were not allowed to sit down, much less to sleep. The captain of the guard saw that every man was alert, chastising a priest if found asleep at his post, and sometimes even punishing him by burning his shirt upon him, as a warning to others (Mid. k. I).”
We find this principle later applied to the entire household of faith for the purpose of remaining vigilant and not falling asleep during the latter days. Many times in the Messianic codicil writings, we find exhortations given to the body of Mashiyach to remain alert and awake so as to not allow sleep to fall on our eyes during this dark hour in which we find ourselves. As witnesses to the reality of the Word made flesh, it is our duty to remain ever observant of the Torah’s principles which then causes us to become a most set-apart vessel for the Most High as faithful witnesses who bear the testimony of Yahoshua. Of this principle, rav Shaul of Tarsus encourages the Nazarene assembly in Thessalonica with these words:
Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the Day of יהוה comes like a thief in the night. When they are saying, “Shalom and safety,” sudden destruction comes upon them like a woman having birth pains in the womb—there is no way they will escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, so that the Day might overtake you like a thief. For you all are sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or of darkness—so then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain on the alert and sober-minded. For those who sleep, sleep at night; and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober-minded—putting on the breastplate of faithfulness and love, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For [Elohim] did not destine us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our [Rabbi Yahoshua] the Messiah. He died for us so that, whether we may be awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up—just as you in fact are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5.1-11
The phrase a “thief in the night” is a Hebraic idiom that refers to the watchmen in the tabernacle and temple. In fact, an article from Sweet Manna called A Thief in the Night as Jewish Idiom & Remez Statement tells us
To be caught asleep by the Temple Captain was known as the Captain coming as “a thief in the night.” Once again we see the idiom as a reference to being caught unaware or asleep.
As guardians of the Shekinah, the lesson that we are to take a way from the priesthood’s role with both the tabernacle and the temple is that we are not to allow outsiders or unwelcome beings into our most sacred dwellings. This includes spiritual entities. While we are often on guard against physical invasions, the spiritual invasions tend to slip by our defenses since they are more subtle in nature. Compounding this reality is the fact that over the years, we’ve grown more tolerant to the practice of sin and have not remained vigilant in our contest against it. So as a result of the wide spread acceptance of sin, instead of our detesting even the thought of it, it has many times become a part of our nature when, contrarily, we were created to be perfect reflections of the mindset and characteristics of our heavenly Father. Speaking to this matter while just hours away from his execution, Rabbi Mashiyach Yahoshua ben Yoseph shares these most crucial words with his closest taught ones:
“My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me! Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Then He comes to the disciples and finds them sleeping; and He tells Peter, “So couldn’t you keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again for a second time He went away and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, let Your will be done.” And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them again and prayed a third time, saying the same words once more. Then He comes to the disciples and says to them, “Still sleeping? Taking your rest? Look, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go! Look, My betrayer is near.”
The principle of watching, in Hebrew called shamar (שָׁמַר), is associated with the idea of maintaining, cherishing, observing, storing, preserving, retaining, protecting, guarding, watching, celebrating; it is a thing kept; it is to strain or filter; to keep the golden nuggets—to sort out the precious from the common; lit., the diligent flow of intelligence when wisdom fills the mind. At its peak, it is the complete protection of what is released. The observance of Torah in Hebrew is called shomrei ha Torah, which suggests one’s careful and attentive keeping of the instructions of יהוה. With the observance and guarding of the Torah, we are then able to prevent any foreign invasion from spiritual and physical adversaries. Therefore, we must not only be on guard against our physical enemies, but also against the spiritual enemies which are identified as the works of the flesh, which rav Shaul identifies as follows:
Now the deeds of the flesh are clear: sexual immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, witchcraft, hostility, strife, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, just as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit [Elohim]’s kingdom.
Often we are taken unawares by these invaders due to our relaxed state of mind which allows for these enemies of our nature to enter small, or large, fissures and take up residence within our temples. For the sake of our salvation, however, it is crucial for each member of Mashiyach’s body to maintain a vigilant watch over the affairs of our personal life, as well as those who are in our circle of influence. It is undeniable that group accountability and individual responsibility are crucial matters that play essential roles in maintaining both the sanctity and well-being of the nation. For it is this disciplined action that will allow for the Shekinah of יהוה to indwell our temples, individually and collectively, for the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. For the witness that we protect is the Spirit of יהוה which allows for the body of Mashiyach to bring forth the testimony of Yahoshua, which is the spirit of prophecy. Therefore, it is our duty, as a kingdom of priests, to remain ever watchful of the grounds of our bodies, as temples, that we’ve been given to ensure its safety and sanctity. For our Master will soon return and reward us according to our vigilance, or negligence, as it is written,
Behold, I am coming like a thief! How fortunate is the one who stays alert and keeps his clothes on, lest he walk around naked and they see his shamefulness.