This parashat is always read at the beginning of Elul and it specifically addresses issues to do with prophet, priest and King (Yeshua).
The pashat [surface meeting] - is that the leaders would be at the gate to give advice and judge who came in and out - to enforce the decisions. On a deeper level we are all like a city - we all have gates (eyes, ears, mouths) we need to set before each of our gates - judges - to judge the things we allow in or out.
Deuteronomy 17:14 “When you come to the land that Adonai your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,…’”
The judges would sit at the gates, this was the place where judgement would take place and so when we consider how many times the Scriptures speak of the gates – we should immediately understand a few things about their significance:
- The gates were part of a city’s protection against invaders
- They were central places of activity in biblical times, where important transactions we made, court was held and public announcements were made.
Sitting in the gates would represent one of these activities. The first mention of a city gate is found in Genesis 19:1. Lot, Avraham’s nephew greeted the angels that came to warn him and his family, at the gates of Sodom. Lot was there with other leading men of the city, either discussing the day’s issues or engaging in important public business.
In the Law of Moses, parents of a rebellious son were told to bring him to the city gate, where the elders would scrutinize the evidence and pass judgment Deuteronomy 21:18-21. In the book of Ruth we see this again where Boaz claims the position of Ruth’s kinsman redeemer when at the gates of the city where he talks with the elders. Ruth 4:1-11
The words – dwell – in Hebrew is the word for sit – yashav – but in this text it is spelled – v’yashav’ ta. This is the only place in Scripture where it is spelled with a ‘hey’ at the end of the word. The scribes searched the scriptures and found the same letters in certain places in Scripture where the letters were re-arranged.
This is in Leviticus 26:6 – the word is v’hish’bati which means “I will cause to rest”. This is a direct connection to Shabbat and then of course to the Land – and the message is about restoring us to a place of shalom, as it was in the beginning.
And then inside this word we find the word teshuva with the letter yod being dropped. Ultimately, this teshuva is necessary for entrance into the gates and into the Land! Teshuva is all about repentance, turning our back on the ways of the world and turning back to HaShem.
Now if you look at the word – to sit - v’yashav’ ta – we see the hey was added and in the word teshuva – the yod was dropped – when you put these two letters together they make up the word YAH.
And why is this significant?
And how is all of this significant to this parashat?
It is significant because our HaShem is everywhere and most especially in the midst of The Land!
This parashat is all about the Land and the guidelines HaShem was putting in place for His people.
How would they manage the gates?
How would they sit and would they make teshuva?
Would they dwell in the Land with a heart of repentance?
Would they focus the way they lived with YAH as their first love?
Deuteronomy 20: 19 tell Israel not to destroy the trees when making war on a town in order to capture it and then later in this verse it asks if the trees in the field human beings?
In Hebrew this is not a question - the trees of the field are indeed men - it is a statement. Trees in scripture represent people - both good and bad. When Yeshua heals the blind man, the first time He touches him, He gave him spiritual insight into people and the blind man saw them as trees and then the second time he saw the physical.
What does this mean for us today?
Cutting down trees that are not good for food and saving the trees with good fruit represents the cutting down of strongholds in the process of repentance.
Matthew 3:10 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. (NLV)
In a sense, a judge who gives counsel must do the same in his decision. He must not destroy a fruit-bearing tree, which is a metaphor for a righteous man.
Oaks, poplars, and evergreens were non-fruit producing trees. They are associated with pagan worship, especially gods of fertility and intoxication. While they produced seeds for animal consumption, for the most part, they are not eaten by humans. These non-fruiting trees were the types of trees used for carving images, which ironically are made more in the image of imperfect men and women than of HaShem. Jacob used poplars to motivate the flocks to breed, and he buried the household gods under the oak at Shechem. Job said that "wickedness will be broken as a tree." Job 24:20
And so it is appropriate that these things should be cut down and used as siegeworks against the strongholds of our Promised Land.
In spiritual terms it gives us much food for thought – what do our trees look like right now?
In terms of the state of our heart – are we surrendered to the walking in the ancient ways of Hashem?
Are we bearing good fruit for His Kingdom and are we bringing goodness to our circles of influence?
There is so much to think about in the days of Elul. I pray that each of us would enter into the fields in search of our King to meet Him as his beloved and to surrender to His gentle correction in the field so that when the time comes for us to enter into the gates, we will be ready! Clothed in garments of righteousness, ready to enter into His courts with thanksgiving and praise!
Baruch HaShem and be blessed indeed!