And The Plague Was  Stopped …

Second Passover?

Trying times are upon us, my dear readers – and, like everyone else, I am seeking the answers. The words that ring in my mind these days, are the words from Numbers 16: “And the plague was stopped”- and even though I know very well the Hebrew word, עָצַר atsar (“stopped”), that is used here, I was still  blessed to read  in my Bible program the list of all the possible biblical meanings of this word:

1) to restrain, retain, close up, shut, withhold, refrain, stay, detain 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to restrain, halt, stop 1a2) to retain 1b) (Niphal) to be restrained, be stayed, be under restraint”.

To restrain, retain, close up, shut, withhold, refrain – that is exactly what we need today isn’t it? But how did it happen then? How was the plague stopped? Let us study this chapter together, and try to understand exactly what God says to us today. C.S. Lewis wrote: suffering is God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. If so, undoubtedly God is speaking very loudly these days – so let us try to understand what it is that He is saying to us.

Before we move to the book of Numbers, I would like to share some thoughts. I do need to issue a very stern warning though: this is not a prophecy! For me personally, it was a powerful revelation and that’s why I would like to share it with you, but there is no way I would pretend to know the “ultimate truth”. Like you, I have more questions than answers, but I just want to bring your attention to two obvious facts.

The first one is the “when” of the plague – the timing. Coronavirus is happening right before Passover (this year, Passover starts on April 8th ) – exactly at the time when the plagues in Egypt were happening. Are we witnessing a second Passover? In our previous, before-Corona, life (that feels so remote to us now, although it was only a few weeks ago), we were very aware of – and alarmed by – the growing anti-Semitism in the world. Might it be that the God of Israel is standing behind His people? Might it be that He is using this plague in order “to rouse a deaf world” and to shake off from it the hatred of His people? Of course, there is coronavirus here in Israel as well, and our lives here have become  as scary and surreal as everywhere else: empty streets, closed stores, crowds of masked people waiting before the entrance to supermarkets etc.; yet the approaching Passover makes me think, again and again, about the Egyptian plagues: did the people of Egypt realize that it was all about the Hebrews—that they were key to that story? Jewish people are always the  key to God’s plan and God’s heart  – and I  can’t help but  think that somehow, Israel is one of the keys to unlocking today’s story.     But once again, this is not a prophecy, I may well be wrong  – I am simply sharing my personal thoughts and my personal feelings with you.

Even more significant – and less obvious – is a second factor that I would like to bring to your attention: the “where” of the plague. If we consider which countries were hit the hardest (outside China), we realize that this topography may not be by chance and may well have to do with the attitude of these countries – in the  past or in the present – towards His people.  Trust me, the suffering of the simple people in these countries seems as unfair and as incomprehensible to me as it seems to you – but these are the sad but true facts, and I am just trying to decipher God’s message through these facts. Once again, I may l be wrong. Once again, my heart goes out to all the suffering, whatever country they are from – and like you (and like Abraham in the Bible), I am asking God how can it be that innocent people are suffering and dying because of the sins of the others. But the numbers are soaring – and these are the facts and not just my personal thoughts.

 

Between the Dead and the Living

And now, let’s open Numbers 16. I suppose, most of you know the story of Korah and his rebellion – how “they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown[1]. You probably remember “that the ground split apart under them, and the earth … swallowed them up”[2]. What I find very interesting in this chapter, though, is the fact that it’s not right after the Korah rebellion that the plague began: as a punishment for this rebellion, just 250 people, along with their households, were swallowed up by the earth – and the story seemed to be finished. But it was on the next day, when “all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the LORD,” that the “wrath has gone out from the LORD” and “the plague has begun.”. What made God so angry?

There is no better commentary on Scripture than Scripture itself, so in search of an explanation, let us consider another well-known story: when Moses saw the people sinning with the golden calf, his “anger became hot”[3] and he broke the tablets that God gave to him. We know that not only did God not rebuke him for doing so, but He Himself was so angry that He wanted to destroy the people! The obvious conclusion: God is angry when something that is not His, is called by His name. And that’s exactly what happens in the story from Numbers: when the Israelites call those people who rebelled against Moses (and by doing so rebelled against the God of Moses), “people of the Lord,” – “wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.”[4]

14,700 people died from this plague (almost like the death toll in the world now – at the time of writing this post it’s 13,071).  But how was the plague stopped? We read that Aaron put fire and incense in his censer and “ran into the midst of the assembly … and made atonement for the people.[5]. – and here is the key verse that I’ve kept hearing in my head ever since it all began: And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.[6]

Friends, I am not making any conclusions here – it is not my place, after all. I do want to know, however, how the plague can be stopped. Let us think together and seek the answers together; I invite you to share here your comments and your thoughts. Maybe, together we will understand how the plague was stopped.

 

 

 

[1] Num.16:2

[2] Num.16:31-32

[3] Exodus 32:19

[4] Num.16:46

[5] Num.16:46-47

[6] Num.16:48

 

In these difficult days, when it feels indeed as if God is hiding His face from His people, I invite you to check out my books  – because now I understand that some of them have been written for such a time like this!. You can get them  from my page on this blog:  https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/   

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

You might also be interested in:

The Seventh Month

By Julia Blum

Join the conversation (52 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. Susan Larkins

    So glad Julia, to read your post. Yesterday into my head popped the word ‘census.’ It was to do with the census that David took in 2 Samuel 24. And 70,000 people died from plague as a result. Following from your comments it was when the plague was reaching Jerusalem that the Lord said to the afflicting angel, “Enough. Withdraw your hand!” So it might tie in…? We need to keep asking God to show us all…

    1. Maria Raquel

      Hoje dia 30/03 estava fazendo minha leitura da Bíblia e o texto era exatamente esse do censo de Davi. Então li sobre a praga que matou 70 mil pessoas e quando chegou em Jerusalém, O Eterno mandou que o anjo parasse. Então orei pedindo ao Senhor que pare com essa praga no Brasil e em todo mundo. Só o Eterno pode nos salvar. Obrigada Júlia por compartilhar seus sentimentos. Abraços.
      Maria Raquel

  2. Paul Kristofferson

    Thanks for your thoughts Julia. These are difficult days and the world has been through more difficult times in the past ( plagues in the Middle ages ) however not in recent times for most in the affluent world. “Suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world” and in this fallen and broken world all experience suffering , even His people. The question for me is not so much “why” but WHAT can we do. As you have pointed out Moshe interceded on behalf of the people. This is probably the most important thing God’s people do. The second thing God’s people can do is show compassion by word & deed without discrimination. The early Christians displayed this compassion to a suffering world. Our Church is still providing a mobile food pantry. This demonstrates to a suffering world that God is compassionate and is not indifferent to our situation but rather He sent His beloved Son into our suffering world. I also take consolation in the fact that nothing can separate me from the love of God in our Messiah Yeshua/Jesus and I also try to share this hope in an anxious world.
    Shalom. Paul.

  3. Peter Mojassamian

    I understand Aaron’s actions and stance as Intercession. Deep heavy intercession.
    The other aspect would be so fantastic when Israel comes up with the solution and offers it to the world. How phenomenal that would be!!!
    Much blessings to you all.
    I also read some of the earlier comments and I agree with 2 Chron 7:13-14 comments.

  4. Ken Weekes

    Dr. Blum
    I enjoy your work and your books

    The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none…
    Ezekiel 22:29-30

    We all agree the only one who will stand for us is Jesus

    Thank you from California

  5. barbara iulinao

    As we gather (on line, over the phone) in UNITY and pray God hears and answers

  6. Randy McGrady-Beach

    I appreciate your insight and thoughts, but I am not sure what South Korea, one of the hardest hit by Covid-19, has to do with the Jews. True there is a special place for the Jews in the gospel message, if nothing else their tenacity to hold on to their faith in the midst of all their suffering. I am just glad that I have been grafted into the salvation aspect, the redemption of this world through Jesus. Blessings, Randy

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Randy, for your words of appreciation. Of course, it’s not South Korea that I was talking about, but in any case – I am not trying to prove anything to anyone. I wrote clearly, that it was not a prophecy, and that I might be wrong. I don’t pretend to know the answers – I really mean it! I just wanted to share my thoughts with my readers! Health and blessings!

      1. Gladys Fox

        Thank you Julia ! You are an amazing teacher. First let me say that I thought just as you thought and I too am not sure. However as far as South Korea goes ,people must remember that South Korea is very small and densely populated . That’s why the virus was able to spread so quickly. Now let me say what I feel may have to do with the Jews. About half the people have no religious beliefs. The other half is divided about fifty fifty between Buddhist and Christian . Some Christians teach that they have replaced the Jews in God’s plan which is false teaching . Again I say SOME CHRISTIANS NOT ALL.. Also we must take note of how quickly the country worked to contain the virus while here in the USA there’s so much hatred and fighting within the government. I can truly understand why God may be angry. May God Bless you all!

        1. Julia Blum

          thank you Gladys for your generous words, I am so glad I can be somehow useful in these times of fear and confusion. So happy to hear that my articles do bring hope and encouragement.

    2. Dot Healy

      Randy, I think the first countries to be hit the hardest were Italy, Iran, and Spain. Each of these has had a very negative impact on God’s people – either past or present. Although, as Julia says, it is difficult to think innocent people today would bear the judgement.

      1. Julia Blum

        Thank you for this comment Dot, we definitely think along the same lines – although it is indeed incredibly painful to think of the thousands and thousands of suffering people! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I reread my article and saw that the death toll at that point was around 13,000. I wrote it 10 days ago – and now there have been more than 38,000 deaths in the world! Incredible!

    3. Debra

      May I put you to look up 5G technology. Very high frequency radio waves. This is the devils domain. Cell radiation poisoning. And what countries have this. One country uses 10G. Just food for thought. What is our governments not telling us. ?

  7. Chuck Kirk

    Julia,
    I believe we are seeing a repeat of 2 Chronicles 7 verse13. The solution is found in the next verse.

    1. Susan Larkins

      I would have thought so.

    2. Susan Larkins

      Yes

    3. Julia Blum

      I hope you are right Chuck – and I hope we will see this mass repentance and turning to God.

      1. Luis

        I had the same verse come to mind as Chuck mentioned with more details though. In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 God speaks to Solomon and tells him that when He shuts up the heavens so that there is no rain, or commands locust to devour the land or, as in our present situation, sends a plague among his people if certain people do specifically four things God will hear from heaven and heal their land. The people he is referring to are those who are known by His Name, which at the time of Solomon were the Israelites or His chosen people. Since the atoning sacrifice of Jesus many more people not direct descendants of Abraham have been grafted into Israel, namely followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both Jews and Christians are the people God requires to do four things–humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways–and when we do so God’s word which is true says He will hear from heaven and heal our land.
        Many of us follow this advice from God, but something tells me not all of us who are known by His Name do so. I have also heard some of our politicians quote this verse in our town meetings, but some of them leave out the part that says turn from their wicked ways. Is God waiting for ALL His people who are known by His Name to respond? How desperate do things need to get before ALL God’s people respond?
        Are we not all, by ignorance or otherwise, guilty of having contributed to the wickedness of this world to some degree? I plead guilty as charged! I will continue to humble myself, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from my wicked ways and look forward to God’s promise of healing our land.

  8. Scott J Much

    Few realize the parallel of the plagues in Egypt and Passover, fewer still do not look at the plagues that afflicted Israel throughout it’s history and the whys, the reasons for the plagues and the stoppages. each time it required someone who truly was trusting YHVH to stand between the Death Angel and the people. Be it Aaron, David or another… Each time there was an arrogant action that set the things in motion.. for those assumed innocents that succumbed to the plagues, only YHVH knows who deserved judgement.. we can not see the mind of YHVH as we are all in a fallen state thanks to Adam..We can only trust that YHVH is in control and Yeshua is the door..

    1. Julia Blum

      I agree Scott. As Psalm 29 says – and we repeat it in our prayers – “The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever!”

  9. Michael Toliver

    Hello Professor Blum,
    I believe your on tract with your thinking here. However, the suffering of the simple people in all these countries is unfair, but we must remember that it rains on the just as well as the unjust. I never thought I would live to see something like this, but we must turn to the Word Proverbs 3:5-6 states, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
    in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Professor, I heard a prophesy a few days back and the person said that at the time of Passover there would be a vaccine, which would come from Israel. I think that would be awesome if that does happen!
    God bless

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Michael, of course I agree, the vaccine would be a huge blessing in any case, but if it comes from Israel, it would be a double blessing!

      1. Michael Toliver

        You may be able to look back at the past programs by Sid Roth on “It’s Supernatural”. This is where I heard the prophesy at. God bless

        1. Julia Blum

          Thank you Michael, I did watch some of these programs and found some similar thoughts there. Blessings!

  10. Elaine

    I find it interesting that this is happening around Passover as well
    I am sure you recall in Exodus 12:23 God instructed the Hebrews to go inside because the enemy of man would go through and the angel of death would take the 1st born
    In Isaiah 26:20 God again instructs them to go into their rooms to be safe from the enemy
    In this case the enemy is this virus. If we practice the instructions given we can tame this beast. I certainly have no medical knowledge nor am I claiming that I Know how to stop it but we can slow its march so that those who do know can find a way to stop it. It also goes without saying we seek the face of the Lord and ask His help and strength
    May you and your household stay well in this difficult time and I pray that this virus will Pass over you and you

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Elaine, for your kind words and wishes. Yes, several times in the Scripture God instructs His people to go inside. Probably, now is also one of these times when we have to stay inside The Passover story sounds so incredibly relevant these days!

      1. F.H. Hulsker

        I’m not sure why, but I thought of what Jesus said in Mt 12:31. Is that maybe also hidden in the story of Num. 16.

        1. Anne van Deurse

          A friend of mine told me yesterday that their whole faith community all over the world was holding a
          day of fasting and prayer,
          How could we organise.a World Day of Prayer by all people, churched or un-churged , who believe
          in God’s mercy and plead with God in our own special and favourite way . Would God not relent?
          Do you know whom we could approach?
          Thank you all for your commentary and you responses.
          Anne

        2. Julia Blum

          You might be right. Maybe there is some connection between these two stories.