This week we look at another of the lesser known characters of the Bible – Nachshon ben Amminadav. He figures in the sidra as prince of the tribe of Judah and the first to bring an offering to the Tabernacle (Num. 7:12, 17).
Aaron the high priest was married to Nachshon’s sister Elisheva (Ex. 6:23). Ibn Ezra explains that Elisheva’s relationship to Nachshon shows that she came from a good family, and Rashi quotes a Talmudic teaching that a man who is looking for a wife should find out what kind of people her brothers are (BB 110a).
As an ancestor of David, Nachshon played a crucial role in Israelite history. When the people were dithering on the edge of the Red Sea, he boldly stepped forward, the waters parted, the Israelites crossed on dry land, and the people began their path towards destiny.
Nachshon is a byword for decisiveness and courage, and the people remembered what he had done; when Moses could not decide which prince would bring his offering first, the people told him, “Nachshon sanctified the Divine Name by entering the waters first, and therefore he deserves to appear before the Divine Presence first” (Num. R. 12:26).
According to the sages, Nachshon was not merely worthy to be the ancestor of David, but through him he was a forebear of the Messiah himself (Num. R. 13:11).