Drash
Numbers 8:1-3

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 10 June 2017

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Lamps for Messiah

 

1 ADONAI said to Moshe, 2 "Tell Aharon, When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps are to cast their light forward, in front of the menorah.'" 3 Aharon did this: he lit its lamps so as to give light in front of the menorah, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe." (Num 8:1-3 CJB)

 

Before we consider the passage we need to understand the central term. When you read the word "menorah" what do you think of? Well Dictionary.com says the word means a candelabrum having branches. Actually, the Hebrew word menorah simply means a lampstand. In ancient times a lampstand was an accessory in buildings and houses on which to set a single lamp [1Kgs 7:49; 2Kgs 4:10; Prov 31:18; Jer 25:10; Dan 5:5; Matt 5:15]. Ancient lamps came in a variety of designs and relied on wick and oil to provide light.

While on Mount Sinai God instructed Moses to make a special lampstand of pure gold that could hold seven lamps, a number representing perfection [Ex 25:31-40]. This menorah was to be fashioned as a tree with the base and center shaft representing the trunk and with three branches on each side. The top of the shaft and of each branch was to be made like an almond flower; each flower held an oil lamp. The fuel for the fire was specially made pure olive oil [Ex 27:20; Lev 24:2]. The menorah stood next to the wall on the south side of the holy place, and opposite the table of consecrated bread which sat on the north side of the room [Ex 26:35; 40:24]. Why make the menorah? There were no windows in the holy place and without the menorah it would be pitch black in there. Yet, the design hints at a spiritual purpose.

Let's consider the instruction for lighting. Aaron was told to position the lamps so that the light shone toward the "face" or front of the menorah. The Sages interpreted the instruction to mean that the wicks of the branches were to be directed at the menorah's center lamp, which they considered the face of the menorah [Rashi; Menachot 98b]. Pointing the wicks to the center made the whole shine more as one single unified light. However, the straightforward reading of the text suggests the seven lamps should give light to their front, thus illuminating the altar of incense and the table of consecrated bread.

Many interpretations have been made about the symbolism of the menorah, but Scripture offers no direct explanation of its spiritual significance. However, I would like to point out various testimonies of Scripture that you could consider to form your own interpretation of its symbolic meaning. I will post my drash on my website, blainerobison.com, in the Tanakh section, with the references for further study.

One: the priests had the responsibility to prepare the special olive oil and keep the light burning night and day [Ex 27:20-21; 30:7-8; Lev 24:2-4].

Two: in the Aaronic blessing there is the line which says, "May ADONAI cause His face to shine on you" [Num 6:25]. Remember, only priests were allowed to see the light of the menorah.

Three: the prophet of God and his message is likened to a lamp [1Sam 3:3; John 5:35; 2Pet 1:19].

Four: David is called the "lamp of Israel" [2Sam 21:17], and this role passed through his sons down to Yeshua [cf. 1Kgs 11:36; 15:4; 2Kgs 8:19; 2Chr 21:7; Ps 132:17; Matt 1:1].

Five: David said, "For you, ADONAI, are my lamp and ADONAI illumines my darkness" [2Sam 22:29]. David also said, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" [Ps 119:105; cf. Prov 6:23].

Six: ADONAI told Isaiah that Israel was appointed to be a light to the nations [Isa 42:6; 49:6]. Yeshua echoed this thought when he told his talmidim, "You are the light of the world" [Matt 5:14].

Seven: Jeremiah was shown a vision of an almond branch and ADONAI explained the vision as meaning "I am watching over My word to perform it" [Jer 1:11-12]. The Hebrew noun "almond" is derived from the root verb meaning "to watch."

Eight: an angel gave Zechariah a vision of a golden menorah with seven lamps, and two olive trees, one on either side of the menorah. The angel explained the meaning of the vision as "This is the word of ADONAI, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says ADONAI Ts'vaot" [Zech 4:1-6].

Nine: Yeshua is the "light of the world" [John 1:9; 8:12] and he gives light to every person. He is also the great high priest [Heb 3:1].

Ten: Kfa [Peter] likened the body of Messiah to a temple and followers of Yeshua as a holy priesthood [1Pet 2:4-5].

Eleven: Yochanan the apostle saw Yeshua walking among seven lampstands or menorahs, which represented seven congregations [Rev 1:12, 20]. He also saw seven lamps of fire [Rev 4:5], which are the seven spirits of God, probably a reference to the seraphim Isaiah saw [Isa 6:2].

Twelve, Yochanan was informed that the New Jerusalem will have no lamp because the Lamb is the lamp [Rev 21:22; 22:5].

And, in the Talmud there is the curious statement that during the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the westernmost branch of the menorah would not stay lit (Yoma 39b). Yeshua's atoning sacrifice occurred 40 years before the Temple was destroyed.

Whatever else the menorah may mean, to me the menorah represents the face of ADONAI who gives the knowledge of Himself and His ways to his people. As priests we must attend to that knowledge on a daily basis and commit ourselves to be lamps to shine the light of Messiah in dark places [Php 2:15].

Barukh Hashem

Copyright 2017 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.