Behar – Bechukotai 2018
This week is a double portion that closes out the book of Leviticus. Behar/”On the Mountain” Leviticus 25:1-26:2 & Bechukotai/”In My Statues” Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34. Behar deals exclusively with the laws concerning the Shemittah and Jubilee years, and Bechukotai details the promise of blessings for walking in these statutes compared to the curses for rejecting them. The interesting point to note is that though Bechukotai is referring to all of the Torah’s commandments as a whole, special attention is given to the Shemittah statute as the reason for the curses coming upon Israel!
Leviticus 26:34– “Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.” Some would argue that the shemittah holds no importance for us in exile, it is a command directly connected to being in the land, yet with it’s intricate connection to the concept of being obedient to Covenant, is there a lesson we miss if ignored?
In the Mount: Strong’s #2022 har הַרmountain; this opening statement is not just filler material but is directly connecting what’s about to be discussed with the experience on the mountain. Breaking apart the term mountain – ה = to behold or to reveal & ר = Head, this letter is associated with initiating something, beginning or starting something
*Could it be building the connection that the shemittah/Sabbatical year (the weekly Sabbath itself as well being a mini pattern of the 7 year cycle) will not only reveal who is your head but will also initiate/begin/start – literally birth something in you? It’s no accident that the term for mountain har is the root of the term meaning to conceive or become pregnant harah הָרָה
Continuing to look at the phrase behar בהרit also forms the word meaning to clarify, make clear, or brighten! In other words, whatever is about to be shared (which happens to be the rules regarding the shemittah) are going to make clear, clarify, and brighten our understanding of what it means to look to Yahweh as our head, what it means to behold Him and have Him revealed to you and I!
The same letters rearranged forms the term barah (#1262) בָּרָהto eat, consume, to recover or restore; connected to the concept of cutting a covenant
This revolves around the concept of the Shemittah/Sabbath – Leviticus 25:6– “The Sabbath shall be meat for you…” – if Israel (if you and I) can understand this concept (that walking in Covenant is directly connected to honoring these cycles), then there’s a promise of restoration, of being satiated, of eating to one’s fill (it’s dealing beyond just one’s physical needs) – yet to miss this lesson is directly connected to invoking the curses of the covenant, and to missing the opportunity of having Him revealed to us!
How can the Sabbath/Shemittah be meat for you?
Both the weekly and the yearly cycle are directly connected to the hearing of the Word of Yahweh!
Deuteronomy 31:10-11– “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,When all Israel is come to appear before Yahweh thy Elohim in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.”
The cycles of the Shemittah were not just about you getting a break, it was a covenant renewal ceremony! This is why it is directly connected with “behar” – in the mountain! Just as Israel stood at the foot of Sinai and heard and then in turn ratified the terms of the Torah, so the Shemittah cycle was the opportunity for the later generations to do the same. The appearance of the vassal before the Great King was an intricate part of Ancient Treaties and was proof of the vassal’s loyalty.
The end result here in Deuteronomy infers that the reason Israel must gather and hear the words were so that they may “fear Yahweh”.
Fear: Strong’s #3372 yare’ יָרֵאto fear, revere, be afraid; according to the sages there are 3 levels/types of yare’/fear from the basic fear of something unpleasant, to the second type which is fear of breaking the commandments – therefore produces obedience, but the third is defined as a profound reverence that comes from rightly seeing because yare’ is a cognate of the term ra’ah (#7200) רָאָהto see!
*In other words, the shemittah year and the obedience to hear the Word of Yahweh and declare our loyalty is so that we may rightly see Him – have Him revealed to us in the role of King, acknowledge His authority as supreme, and yet also understand that everything we have, everything we are, our very existence is upheld by Him and not by anything that we are able to do ourselves! Every Shabbat we have this same opportunity!
The term barah can also infer to select, to make a covenant, to assign a task; it can infer to choose a representative for oneself
*It seems that Yahweh Himself here is challenging Israel to choose for their selves their King – who will they covenant with, will they choose to acknowledge His Sovereignty or will they reject Him attempting to take control in their own hands and therefore see the fruit of their labors devoured?
Their decision will be based off of how they handle this day (Sabbath) and this principle! The Sabbath and the Shemittah require us to go beyond just lip service, but require action on our part as we choose to cease the work of our hands in order to honor Him as King!
Same letters of behar (“in the mount”) can also form the term habar (#1895) הָבַרto divide, to cut or cut up, to divide out, but it specifically describes one who studies, evaluates, or attempts to prophesy by reading the stars. In its usage it refers to one who attempts to discern their fate/life according to the stars (a perverted use of the signs), yet Abraham was told to read the stars!
Genesis 15:5– “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”
Tell/Number: Strong’s #5608 caphar סָפַרto count, recount, relate, to declare or rehearse, to tell or narrate – Abraham was challenged by Yahweh to be bold enough to declare, read, understand, and rehearse the message written in the stars – the Covenant Promises!
*What does this have to do with the shemittah? The shemittah year represents a real test of faith because it required complete trust (emunah shelemah) that Yahweh would provide despite “letting go” (the definition of shemittah) of the usual means of business – providing by our own hands!
The shemittah represents the times in our life where we are challenged by Yahweh just like Abraham was, can we read the stars? Can we declare the Covenant promises in our life and have just enough faith to believe that what Yahweh has said He will do even when with our natural eyes there is no evidence or possible way for it to come to pass? It’s about making a decision to stand on the Promises of His Word even when we don’t feel like it – that’s what it means to know and understand that He is our Head, our Strength, and our King!
Shemittah – Strong’s #8059 שְׁמִטָּהletting drop of exactions, (temporary) remitting, release (from debt), a remission, release, or a suspension; from #8058 shamat שָׁמַטto release, to let drop or loose, to let rest or fall, indicates the letting go of something
3 letter root of shemittah forms #4291 meta’ מטה to reach, come upon, attain, to happen; it is used of a decree or sentence being fulfilled, that something physically or figuratively has touched or reached a certain location.
The lesson of the shemittah is perhaps one of the hardest lessons required of us and therefore the one that seems to define whether we walk in covenant blessings or not – it is the lesson that it’s only in the letting go, in the release of whatever it is that we hold on to so tightly, the acknowledgement that not our will but Yah’s be done that then will we ever attain, reach to, or come upon the blessings that Yahweh has in store for us!
That same 3 letter root forms matteh (#4294) מַטֶּהrod, staff, branch – metaphorically the image of a staff represents the supply of food, strength, and authority. The origin of this use derives from the image of the leader of the tribe going before the company with his staff in hand. The Shemittah reveals who you follow, who is your strength, who is your authority and source!
*Its no accident that prefixed to this root matteh is the letter ש = El Shaddai – the One who is All Sufficient!
It is no accident that shemittah has the same gematria (354) as the Hebrew term deshen (#1878-#1880) דָּשֵׁןthe ashes upon the altar, yet deshen is also used to symbolize spiritual blessings, abundance, and the anointing!
*From our natural mindset, putting something on the altar immediately makes us think of the loss of what has been given, and the ashes the remnant of what has just been devoured by the fire.
Yet the Torah tells us that it’s from the ashes of the offering upon the altar that the spiritual blessings flow, the anointing is released that breaks the yoke of bondage, and the fullness of Yahweh is experienced!
Isaiah 10:27– “…and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.”
Yoke: Strong’s #5923 ‘ol עֹלyoke; ע= to see, understand, know & ל= staff, authority, direction (Matteh) – what we see with our natural eyes, what we know and understand through our own experiences is often what we base our direction and decisions off of. Yet the shemittah teaches us how to see correctly!
*It is the Torah/Word of Yahweh that will dictate our direction, our next move, and even when with our natural eyes it seems foolish or impossible, it’s about coming to the realization that if we’ll be willing to put that on the altar, from the ashes/deshen will come the provision needed and the blessings!
From the ashes we rise – it’s only by shemittah – by letting go, by placing ourselves upon the altar, acknowledging that we will bow our will to the one who we are now acknowledging as our King, this is how we see the blessings of the Covenant in our life! This is the lesson of the shemittah – this is why it’s given such prominence because it is the means by which we declare that we choose Him over our own desires/plans.
Another connection is found in Job 29:18– “Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.”
Sand: Strong’s #2344 chowl חוֹלsand; yet according to many Hebrew interpreters and the Klein’s Etymological Dictionary this same root also can be translated as the name of a fabulous bird, the phoenix (the mythical bird that rises from the ashes hmm!)
But the Hebrew mindset is about action – what’s the concept Job is revealing here? The root of the word chol is #2342 chuwl חוּלto dance, to twist, whirl about – could it be pointing towards the concept that even when it seems his days are at an end and everything has crashed and burned, even when Yahweh has required everything to be placed on the altar, that in the midst of what may look like loss he can dance, he can whirl about, because it’s from the ashes/deshen that the blessings flow and it’s from this place that Job understood He would see Yahweh revealed to him!
Behar is doubled with Bechukotai where we find a summation of the blessings and curses depending on our obedience to His Torah; but specifically it’s connected to the obedience to the Shemittah!
Bechukotai: From the root #2708 chuqqah חֻקָּהstatute, ordinance, limit, enactment, something prescribed; often associated with the specific commandments that are given without a reason, those that defy our ability to reason them out or fathom their purpose!
*The opening statement of this portion says “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;” (26:3) – the term used for commandments is mitzvah, which encompasses all the 613 laws and judgments. But notice what is highlighted and made distinct from the whole is the specific commandments – the chuqqah – that defy our logic!
The focus is on the fact that there are times where we won’t understand why Yahweh has asked something of us, we can’t fathom the circumstances, yet then is when we’re commanded to bow the knee and follow! And if we can honor Him in that situation, then the rest will come easy! This is the lesson of the Shabbat and the Shemittah – it’s about you and I acknowledging that in all things Yahweh is our source, our King, our direction!