The War Messiah

The Torah gives us a glimpse of King Messiah coming as a warrior-priest, wielding supernatural weapons, and fighting the wars of God.

A shofar on an open holy book is overlayed on the Arch of Titus as a backdrop, providing the visual narrative of the War Messiah, conquering the enemies of Israel. (Composition © First Fruits of Zion / Images © Bigstock)

Mattot-Massei

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Mattot-Massei (מטות-מסעי | Tribes-Journeys)
  • Torah: Numbers 30:2-36:13
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4
  • Gospel: Luke 13:1-9; Mark 11:12-23

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 30:1 | Vows Made by Women
    • Numbers 31:1 | War against Midian
    • Numbers 31:13 | Return from the War
    • Numbers 31:25 | Disposition of Captives and Booty
    • Numbers 32:1 | Conquest and Division of Transjordan
    • Numbers 33:1 | The Stages of Israel's Journey from Egypt
    • Numbers 33:50 | Directions for the Conquest of Canaan
    • Numbers 34:1 | The Boundaries of the Land
    • Numbers 34:16 | Tribal Leaders
    • Numbers 35:1 | Cities for the Levites
    • Numbers 35:9 | Cities of Refuge
    • Numbers 35:16 | Concerning Murder and Blood Revenge
    • Numbers 36:1 | Marriage of Female Heirs
  • Prophets
    • Jer 2:4 | God Pleads with Israel to Repent

Portion Summary

Mattot

The name of the forty-second reading from the Torah is Mattot (מטות), which means "tribes." The name is derived from the words of Numbers 30:1, which says, "Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel." Numbers 30 discusses the laws of vows and oaths. Numbers 31 tells the story of Israel's war with Midian. Numbers 32 relates the story of how the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Mannaseh came to inherit the land east of the Jordan River. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Mattot is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Massei, on the same Sabbath.

Massei

The last reading from the book of Numbers is called Massei (מסעי), a word that means "journeys." It comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words "These are the journeys of the sons of Israel" (Numbers 33:1). Massei is the end of the continuous narrative of Torah that began in Genesis with the creation of the universe. The narrative does not resume until the end of Deuteronomy, when Moses dies.

The final reading in Numbers settles several last-minute details. In it we find a list of the encampments from Egypt to the plains of Moab. We also find instructions for apportioning the land, as well as the specifics regarding the borders of the land. While explaining the land and its borders, Moses introduces the laws of the cities of refuge and more inheritance laws. In most years, synagogues read Massei together with the preceding portion, Mattot, which accounts for the brevity of this portion's commentary.


Moses raised an army of twelve thousand Israelites and sent them to make war on the Midianites. He also sent Phinehas into battle along with several holy items.

Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them. (Numbers 31:6)

Although Phinehas led the army into the battle, he was not the high priest. His father Eleazar had the office of the high priesthood, but the Talmud refers to Phinehas as one “Anointed for War (Meshuach Milchamah, משוח מלחמה).” We might also translate the term as “War Messiah.” The “Anointed for War” was a priest that marched out with the armies of Israel and served as their intercessor and representative of the Almighty on the battlefield.

Typically, the Anointed for War was not the high priest but a deputy of the high priest. As the army prepared for war, the priest designated as Anointed for War rallied the soldiers, encouraged them, emboldened them, prayed over them, and accompanied them to the battlefield (see Deuteronomy 20).

The “Anointed for War” alludes to King Messiah who will take the battlefield like David His father and fight the wars of the LORD. He fights with supernatural weapons: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). The Almighty anoints Him with the Spirit of power to overcome the enemies of Israel.

The Torah says that Phinehas brought “the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm” with him into battle. The supernatural weapons prevailed in the battle.

What are “the holy vessels”? Jewish tradition explains that Phinehas carried the high priest’s breastpiece with the Urim and the Thummim in them so that the army could consult with the Almighty on the field of battle. The Talmud explains that the “holy vessels” refers to “the ark with the tablets which were in it.” The ark represented the presence of God on the battlefield. When the ark would set out, Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! And let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You” (Numbers 10:35).

Phinehas also carried the silver trumpets created for rallying the nation and sounding the battle cry. The trumpets invoke the coming of Messiah when “a great shofar will be blown” (Isaiah 27:13). Psalm 110 depicts the Messiah as both priest and warrior. He is the priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” but He also shatters kings and leaves foreign nations filled with corpses:

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside; therefore He will lift up His head. (Psalm 110:4-7)

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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Torah Club is an interactive group Bible study that brings together disciples from diverse backgrounds to share the common ground of new discovery. This year only, Torah Clubs have the option of following the main study track commentary, Shadows of the Messiah. This deep dive into the Torah employs Jewish commentary and ancient Christian texts to reveal Messiah in the books of Moses.

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