Tag Archives: Torah

The Books of Leviticus and Numbers

There seems to have been an ancient work, long since lost, documenting conquest of Canaan. It is in a way parallel to the story of the patriarchs (partially recorded in Genesis) and the establishment of the Kingdom (in Samuel). In the scriptures we now have, it seems primarily scattered in Exodus (covering the baptism of blood and the construction of the Tabernacle), Numbers (called The Wilderness in Hebrew), and Joshua (the action-climax and post-action denouement of the story).

It’s also the story of Moses’s moral decay: that "most humble man" is the Walter White of the Bible. But just as Breaking Bad is the story not just of Walter’s decay but of the grief of those around him, these scriptures are the story not just of Moses’s decline but the story of the deaths of those he loved.

To see this, look at the book immediately before Numbers: Leviticus. It is primary a book of laws, a journal of the well ordered place of fetishism in human society. But there’s one chapter of narrative in Leviticus that’s required to understand Numbers — the death of Aaron’s sons:

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.

So fire went out from the LORD
and devoured them,
and they died before the LORD.

And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying:

‘By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
And before all the people
I must be glorified.’"

So Aaron held his peace.
Leviticus 10:1-3

The baptism of blood in Exodus may symbolize the loss of the part to save the whole. But Leviticus-Numbers feels like just loss. Aaron loses his sons. Moses loses his brother Aaron.

Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son;
and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain.

Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.
Numbers 20:28-29

Moses loses his divine authority.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron,

"Because you did not believe Me,
to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel,
therefore you shall not bring this assembly
into the land which I have given them."
Numbers 20:12

And then even his humanity.

And Moses said to them: "Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately.
Numbers 31:15-17

The same theme of loss is reflected in the adversaries of the Israelites, the Canaanite kings who fear the loss of their lands, and the wizard Balaam who prophesied the victory of Almighty God:

They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian.

Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.
Numbers 31:8

And even the people themselves:

For the LORD had said of them,

"They shall surely die in the wilderness."

So there was not left a man of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
Numbers 26:65

Through Leviticus-Numbers Aaron the High Priest lost his family, his life, and even (though the horrific actions of Moses) his legacy through his brother. Battles will be won in the future, after the end of his natural life, but for the wilderness generation there is pain, and murmuring, and death, and loss.

What should be made of this?

The High Priest loses everything, including his life, including the lives of his people. He is betrayed by those entrusted to help him. He loses those closest to him.

These themes are documented elsewhere in the Bible. That sense of successful futility in Ecclesiastes and Job, the slow political destruction of Kings, the horror of Lamentations or the post-Resurrection despair felt by John. Are these all types of Lent, best understood as reflections of the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?

If we are to imitate Christ who harrowed hell on that day, what does that mean for us?

I don’t know. But whenever I feel pain I have experienced intellectualized like this, I feel like Aaron: hurt, sarcastic, questioning:

And Aaron said to Moses, "Look, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and such things have befallen me!

If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the LORD?"
Leviticus 10:19

What else are you expecting me to do?

What else, when even holding our peace is too much to bare?

I read the books of Leviticus and Numbers in Robert Alter’s translation.

The Book of Exodus

I recently re-read Exodus. I used Robert Alter’s excellent translation, but this time read it at quicker pace. Instead of a one chapter a day, ready out loud to myself, I read multiple chapters a time. This had costs. The characters were flatter, and much of the subtly was lost. But the faster pace made some patterns clearer, especially after having read the full Bible. And one of these is the relationship between circumcision and sacrifice.

The Bridegroom of Blood

The Book of Exodus hangs on an episode that, read in isolation, is inexplicable: God tires to kill Moses, but instead his wife circumcises their son. But by tying together death, sacrifice, motherhood, and life, it is nearly a key to the whole Bible:

And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him.

Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said,

“Surely you are a husband of blood to me!”

So He let him go. Then she said,

“You are a husband of blood!”

— because of the circumcision.
Exodus 4:24-26

Shockingly, Moses does not perform the circumcision. Nor does his brother Aaron, the priest. Nor even his sister Miriam, the prophetess. His wife must do it, and only after the LORD sought to kill him. And this is the second time he was saved by a woman. His wife offered his son to the blade, as his mother offered him to the waters:

And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.
Exodus 2:1-4

Circumcision and the Heart

When Circumcision is first introduced in the Bible, it is likewise paired with sacrifice. Circumcision typically is performed on the 8th day. It took seven days to Create the world, seven days to inaugurate the Temple in Jerusalem, and seven days to prepare the Temple of the Holy Spirit — the body — after birth:

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.

He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Genesis 17:9-14

Yet this birth would be a demanded sacrifice: God later tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.

These themes build momentum through the Bible. The story of the men Abraham and Moses becomes the story of an entire nation, whose circumcision of the heart is now demanded: Instead of the blood of the male member thrown on Moses’ feet, the blood of the pure heart needs to be poured out:

Break up your fallow ground,
And do not sow among thorns.

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
And take away the foreskins of your hearts,
You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Lest My fury come forth like fire,
And burn so that no one can quench it,
Because of the evil of your doings.
Jeremiah 4:4

And finally, this applies to the whole human race.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
but he is a Jew who is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart,
in the Spirit, not in the letter;
whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:28-29

The pinnacle of this story — of Zipporah at the Inn — is the Immaculate heart of Mary. Luke the Evangelist emphasizes, twice in quick succession, how she pondered in her heart:

And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:18-19

even without understanding:

So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.
Luke 2:48-51

The parallel to Exodus is clear. As with Mary, in quick succession: Pharaoh’s heart is referenced, but the outcome is tragically different.

For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
Exodus 7:12-13

and again:

The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
Exodus 7:22

And now we come to the most important moment in the life of Pharaoh and Mary, and one Zipporah only bridges. For her son lived. Pharaoh’s son died:

And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. 30 So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
Exodus 12:29-30

As did Mary’s:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”
John 19:25-26

The Bridegroom and the Blood

Moses, whose own son was saved by a circumcision presented by his wife, would see a Christophany within a Mariophany:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.

So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.

Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
Exodus 3:1-3

And now we see how this ties together. The LORD sought to make a sacrifice of Isaac. And Moses. But he put of this demand until His own Son would be on the cross. Because His Son, being truly God, would not be stopped by death. Being truly Man, His own mother would be a witness:

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
Mark 16:1-7

The Lord places himself as the sacrifice. Instead of Isaac, instead of Moses, instead of us all, his blood spilled. When we suffer we join our suffering to Him, and when we bleed we join our blood to him. For Moses was always a forerunner — it is Christ who is our bridegroom of blood:

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Revelations 19:7-9

The Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew

The End

It begins with an ending.

The genealogies and lists in Genesis are used like credits in modern movies — they tell the audience a story is over. They are a way of indicating a transition from one era to another, from one hero to another. But while Genesis is divided into numerous stories, the Hebrew Bible as a whole is divided into three: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. To begin with a genealogy — a list — implies a whole new section of the Hebrew Bible.

The genealogy is in three pieces too. Some number of generations before the Kingdom. The same number during the Kingdom. The same number after the Kingdom. And there are Kings in the list — the Anointed One himself David, his beloved son Solomon, our friend Ruth, and even two whores — one of whom wasnt even Jewish.

rahab_the_harlot

The Gospel of Matthew is a sort of anti-horror, where one out of place piece is turned until an entirely different world is revealed. But this is that first piece, out of place. The Torah has a nice smooth beginning (“In the Beginning…”). The Prophets begin smoothly (“After the death of Moses…”). The Writings announce themselves confidently (“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…”). But this new thing, the Gospel of Matthew, begins with an ending.

Somethings up.

The Annunciation

Immediately following the genealogy is another piece familiar from the Hebrew Bible, the Annunciation.

abraham sarah and isaac

In the very first annunciation, in the Torah, God appears as a man (the LORD), and promises a son, and an everlasting covenant

Whehn Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless…

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
Genesis 17:1,15-19

The offspring of that covenant, oddly, will be marched up a hill and bound in his 30s.

Elisha_and_Shunamite_1335-176

The only Annunciation during the Kingdom is an odd one, with Elisha promising a son, but a son somehow lost to history. We do not know more about him, other than Elisha’s role in providing for him, and later bringing him back to the dead

He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.
2 Kings :15-17

God as a man. An everlasting covenant. Rising from the dead. The meek.

Something’s up.

The King from Bethlehem

The Gospel of Matthew began with an ending, obvious in the Hebrew Bible but oddly placed. It then continued into an Annunciation, the first since the Kingdom. But what comes next is harder to say. Whatever it is, its unsettling.
Dura_Synagogue_WC3_David_anointed_by_Samuel

Michah, from the Prophets, is quoted, implying this will be about the return of the House of David.

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Michah 5:2

But theres a section after where Deuteronomy. For a reader entering Matthew from the Hebrew Bible the implication is that Jesus’s kingship is created by the LORD and should not be tested — but the rhetorical tact is unnerving

Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you.
Deuteronomy 6:16-17

The Legislation

While God turns men into kings, they rule but do not legislate. The only legislation comes from Moses.

David-and-Nathan

Indeed, a sign that David himself was no longer fit for kingship (though he continued to enjoy the throne, until he became tortured by it) was Davids incompetent arbitration of the case-of-the-stolen-lamb. In willful taking of property the victim is made whole, under Moses’s Law, by actual damages plus treble punitive damages. Davids statement that the thief “deserves to die” is a dangerous innovation, taking to himself the right to make moral decisions when Moses’s Law is clear.

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
2 Samuel 12:5

By contrast, wise Solomon carefully used the Law, even while dealing with political enemies. Generalissimo Joab, who had killed rival Generals, killed Davids son Absalom, imprisoned King David, and attempted to put an impostor on the throne, fled to the holy altar seeking sanctuary. But Solomon remembered Moses’s Law that such protection does not apply to those who killed one they betrayed

King-Solomon

If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.
Exodus 21:13-14

So Solomon could use the Law to dispose of Joab, even though Joab had fled to the place of sanctuary.

When it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the Lord and now is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.'” But he said, “No, I will die here.” Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.”
1 Kings 2:29-31

Solomon’s wisdom was not in creating new laws, but in correctly interpreting Moses’s Law.

But suddenly Jesus is issuing legislation. But he does it challenging the same chapter that Solomon quoted. While the verse and chapter division was made only in the middle ages, its only a few sentences later in Moses’s Law that

If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Exodus 21:23-25

But Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
Matthew 5:38-39

Experts in the Law would be nonplussed at a surface tension in wording (after all, the first law in Exodus and the Second Law often have a tension), but this Jesus, this third law?

This is not just a new King. This is a new Constitution.

Matthew began with an ending. But it seems the old relationship of the King and the Law is itself ending. Where does this stop?

The Prophecy

At this point Matthew is completely disorienting.

elijah-widow-and-son

Elisha brought the dead back to life

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.
2 Kings 4:32-37

and now Jesus does to:

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.
Matthew 9:19-26

So perhaps the Kingdom and the legislation stuff should be seen as a form of prophecy? I mean, isn’t Saul, too, among the prophets? But… its really odd that passage of Elisha bringing back the dead to life is in the same chapter as the Annunciation.

Or does this mean that the King, the Legislation, and the Prophecy are being combined?

Is this a normal passage or a revolutionary one?

What remains in this gospel?

A King Greater than Moses

Step by step, the message of the Gospel of Matthew is unveiled.

prophet-moses-with-aaron-or

Moses’s epithet is “The Man”

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Numbers 12:3

Jesus is the Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16

Moses heals the skin-blanched, on the request of his priest, after seven days

Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed.  Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her.”
Numbers 12:11-13

Jesus heals the skin-blanched, on the request of his priest, but without delays

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; 15 he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.
Matthew 8:14-15

Moses feeds the many

When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”[a] For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person
Exodus 16:15-16

Jesus feeds the many

Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
Matthew 15:34-37

Moses is the intercessor

Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Psalms 106:23

Jesus establishes an intercessors:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 16:18-19

Moses goes up the mountain

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after…

When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up
Exodus 19:9,20

Then Time Collapses In On Itself

elijah-was-taken-up-into-heaven-in-a-chariot-of-fire-and-horses-of-fire

For Elijah went up in a whirlwind

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
2 Kings 2:9-11

And Moses is the greatest of the prophets

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Deteronomy 34:10-12

But then this:

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!
Matthew 17:1-5

and this, radiation burns from the presense of the LORD

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The Transfiguration is so breathtaking that there is no longer any ambiguity that Jesus is greater than Moses. The simultaneous presense of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah ia break in time itself. The implication of the “other” side of Mt. Sinai, the destination of the fierey chariot, reorients the reader. Thus far everything was disorienting, but now we know the destination. The Gospel of Matthew is the story of God on Earth.

Jesus is clear: the Son of Man, his title for Himself, is an apocalyptic figure:

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 24:30

The similarity to the Book of Daniel is unavoidable.

“I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Blake_ancient_of_days

And now everything is unveiled. The greatest of the prophets, the greatest of kings, is the Son of Man, the LORD himself.

The Laws themselves are how we worship the LORD, for this is the greatest of the Laws:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40

And in obeying these laws, we directly serve the LORD

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
Matthew 25:31-40

The Son of David, In a Tree, Under Stones

When the Son of David went up on a tree:

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.
2 Samuel 18:9

When the Son of David was buried under stones

They took Absalom, threw him into a great pit in the forest, and raised over him a very great heap of stones. Meanwhile all the Israelites fled to their homes.
2 Samuel 18:17

The King of the Jews offered his own life for his beloved son

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33

This all happens again. But this time it is the King on the tree. This time it is King buried under storms. The Son of Man died

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him”
Matthew 27:42

And instead of lamentations, after three days the death is followed by the happiest sentences ever recorded

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.
Matthew 28:9-10

The God Who Will Never Leave

moses-cloud-over-tabernacle

The Book of Exodus ends with Moses with glory of God being with the people of Israel.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
Exodus 40:34-38

The Gospel of Matthew Ends the Same Way

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

There are other things in the Gospel of Matthew too. Jesus teaches in parables, which are much like the narrative writings. There are other miracles, including his own resurrection. There is a clear establishment of a line of Priests with Peter, with echoes to both Aaron and the Temple. But this, to me, seems like the core of the gospel.

The Gospels begin a new section of the Bible, equivalent to the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings
Jesus creates a Law on par with the First Law in Exodus and the Second Law in Deuteronomy
Jesus is Son of God, Son of David, Son of Man
Jesus is the LORD God
When we serve this new law, by serving the least among us, we serve the God LORD Jesus God, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man.