Friday, June 29, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 15

    Numbers 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses
  2. to give the Israelites the following laws about offering sacrifices:
  3. Bulls or rams or goats are the animals that you may burn on the altar as sacrifices to please me. You may also offer sacrifices voluntarily or because you made a promise, or because they are part of your regular religious ceremonies. The smell of the smoke from these sacrifices is pleasing to me.
  4. If you sacrifice a young ram or goat, you must also offer two pounds of your finest flour mixed with a quart of olive oil as a grain sacrifice. A quart of wine must also be poured on the altar.
  5. (SEE 15:4)
  6. And if the animal is a full-grown ram, you must offer four pounds of flour mixed with one and a half quarts of olive oil. One and a half quarts of wine must also be poured on the altar. The smell of this smoke is pleasing to me.
  7. (SEE 15:6)
  8. If a bull is offered as a sacrifice to please me or to ask my blessing,
  9. you must offer six pounds of flour mixed with two quarts of olive oil.
  10. Two quarts of wine must also be poured on the altar. The smell of this smoke is pleasing to me.
  11. If you are a native Israelite, you must obey these rules each time you offer a bull, a ram, or a goat as a sacrifice.
  12. (SEE 15:11)
  13. (SEE 15:11)
  14. And the foreigners who live among you must also follow these rules.
  15. This law will never change. I am the LORD, and I consider all people the same, whether they are Israelites or foreigners living among you.
  16. (SEE 15:15)
  17. When you eat food in the land that I am giving you, remember to set aside some of it as an offering to me.
  18. (SEE 15:17)
  19. (SEE 15:17)
  20. From the first batch of bread dough that you make after each new grain harvest, make a loaf of bread and offer it to me, just as you offer grain.
  21. All your descendants must follow this law and offer part of the first batch of bread dough.
  22. The LORD also told Moses to tell the people what must be done if they ever disobey his laws:
  23. (SEE 15:22)
  24. If all of you disobey one of my laws without meaning to, you must offer a bull as a sacrifice to please me, together with a grain sacrifice, a wine offering, and a goat as a sacrifice for sin.
  25. Then the priest will pray and ask me to forgive you. And since you did not mean to do wrong, and you offered sacrifices,
  26. the sin of everyone--both Israelites and foreigners among you--will be forgiven.
  27. But if one of you does wrong without meaning to, you must sacrifice a year-old female goat as a sacrifice for sin.
  28. The priest will then ask me to forgive you, and your sin will be forgiven.
  29. The law will be the same for anyone who does wrong without meaning to, whether an Israelite or a foreigner living among you.
  30. But if one of you does wrong on purpose, whether Israelite or foreigner, you have sinned against me by disobeying my laws. You will be sent away and will no longer live among the people of Israel.
  31. (SEE 15:30)
  32. Once, while the Israelites were traveling through the desert, a man was caught gathering firewood on the Sabbath.
  33. He was taken to Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the community.
  34. But no one knew what to do with him, so he was not allowed to leave.
  35. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell the people to take that man outside the camp and stone him to death!"
  36. So he was killed, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
  37. The LORD told Moses
  38. to say to the people of Israel, "Sew tassels onto the bottom edge of your clothes and tie a purple string to each tassel.
  39. These will remind you that you must obey my laws and teachings. And when you do, you will be dedicated to me and won't follow your own sinful desires.
  40. (SEE 15:39)
  41. I am the LORD your God who led you out of Egypt."

    In chapter 14 the Israelites were sentenced by God with the words: "None of the men who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness . . . will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers. None of those who have despised Me will see it."  (14:22, 23) Chapter 15 begins with the instructions: "When you enter the land I am giving you to settle in . ." (15:2) The instructions of this chapter were, no doubt, directed to the younger generation who would actually enter the land. The abbreviated repetition of instructions given in the chapter for the sacrificial offerings might be viewed as a renewal of the covenant with this younger generation. It might also be viewed as an encouragement to them that despite the actions of their parents and the sentence against them that denied them access to the new land, they would truly enter the land. The adults may not have kept up their end of the covenant, but God would keep His.

    There seems to be a greater emphases in this passage on the equality of the Israelites and any foreigners living among them in regard to their participation in the sacrificial offerings and, thus, their worship of God. We can only guess at the significance of this, if any. It would seem, however, that this younger generation would encounter more foreigners living among them in the new land than had their parents in coming out of Egypt. In Egypt, they were, as a group, discriminated against by the Egyptians and forced into slave labor. It was unlikely that many non-Israelites lived within the Israelite community and left Egypt with them.

    The concluding instructions of the chapter aimed at this younger generation was the initiation of a new practice that was to remind them of "all the Lord's commands," so they would obey them and not "become unfaithful by following your own heart and your own eyes." (15:39) This practice was to make tassels to be worn on the corners of their garments as constant reminders of the Lord's commands. As an ongoing practice, these tassels would not only serve as reminders of the Lord's commands but would set the Israelites apart among other people, identifying them as God's covenant people.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 14

    Numbers 14 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. After the Israelites heard the report from the twelve men who had explored Canaan, the people cried all night
  2. and complained to Moses and Aaron, "We wish we had died in Egypt or somewhere out here in the desert!
  3. Is the LORD leading us into Canaan, just to have us killed and our women and children captured? We'd be better off in Egypt."
  4. Then they said to one another, "Let's choose our own leader and go back."
  5. Moses and Aaron bowed down to pray in front of the crowd.
  6. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in sorrow
  7. and said: We saw the land ourselves, and it's very good.
  8. If we obey the LORD, he will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey.
  9. So don't rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The LORD is on our side, and they won't stand a chance against us!
  10. The crowd threatened to stone Moses and Aaron to death. But just then, the LORD appeared in a cloud at the sacred tent.
  11. The LORD said to Moses, "I have done great things for these people, and they still reject me by refusing to believe in my power.
  12. So they will no longer be my people. I will destroy them, but I will make you the ancestor of a nation even stronger than theirs."
  13. Moses replied: With your mighty power you rescued your people from Egypt, so please don't destroy us here in the desert. If you do, the Egyptians will hear about it and tell the people of Canaan. Those Canaanites already know that we are your people, and that we see you face to face. And they have heard how you lead us with a thick cloud during the day and flaming fire at night. But if you kill us, they will claim it was because you weren't powerful enough to lead us into Canaan as you promised.
  14. (SEE 14:13)
  15. (SEE 14:13)
  16. (SEE 14:13)
  17. Show us your great power, LORD. You promised
  18. that you love to show mercy and kindness. And you said that you are very patient, but that you will punish everyone guilty of doing wrong--not only them but their children and grandchildren as well.
  19. You are merciful, and you treat people better than they deserve. So please forgive these people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.
  20. Then the LORD said to Moses: In answer to your prayer, I do forgive them.
  21. But as surely as I live and my power has no limit,
  22. I swear that not one of these Israelites will enter the land I promised to give their ancestors. These people have seen my power in Egypt and in the desert, but they will never see Canaan. They have disobeyed and tested me too many times.
  23. (SEE 14:22)
  24. But my servant Caleb isn't like the others. So because he has faith in me, I will allow him to cross into Canaan, and his descendants will settle there.
  25. Now listen, Moses! The Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys of Canaan. And tomorrow morning, you'll need to turn around and head back into the desert toward the Red Sea.
  26. The LORD told Moses and Aaron
  27. to give this message to the people of Israel: You sinful people have complained against me too many times! Now I swear by my own life that I will give you exactly what you wanted.
  28. (SEE 14:27)
  29. You will die right here in the desert, and your dead bodies will cover the ground. You have insulted me, and none of you men who are over twenty years old
  30. will enter the land that I solemnly promised to give you as your own--only Caleb and Joshua will go in.
  31. You were worried that your own children would be captured. But I, the LORD, will let them enter the land you have rejected.
  32. You will die here in the desert!
  33. Your children will wander around in this desert forty years, suffering because of your sins, until all of you are dead.
  34. I will cruelly punish you every day for the next forty years--one year for each day that the land was explored.
  35. You sinful people who ganged up against me will die here in the desert.
  36. Ten of the men sent to explore the land had brought back bad news and had made the people complain against the LORD.
  37. So he sent a deadly disease that killed those men,
  38. but he let Joshua and Caleb live.
  39. The people of Israel were very sad after Moses gave them the LORD's message.
  40. So they got up early the next morning and got ready to head toward the hill country of Canaan. They said, "We were wrong to complain about the LORD. Let's go into the land that he promised us."
  41. But Moses replied, "You're disobeying the LORD! Your plan won't work,
  42. so don't even try it. The LORD refuses to help you, because you turned your backs on him. The Amalekites and the Canaanites are your enemies, and they will attack and defeat you."
  43. (SEE 14:42)
  44. But the Israelites ignored Moses and marched toward the hill country, even though the sacred chest and Moses did not go with them.
  45. The Amalekites and the Canaanites came down from the hill country, defeated the Israelites, and chased them as far as the town of Hormah.

    As one reads this chapter they can hardly keep from shaking their head at the ignorant willfulness of these people. And yet, if one is honest, are any of us so very different? Maybe not.

    Following the negative report of those who scouted Canaan, the people mourned all night, railing against Moses and Aaron who led them out of Egypt, wishing they had died in the wilderness before coming to this point only to "die by the sword." (14:3) Be careful for what you wish! They were even ready to appoint a new leader and head back to Egypt.

    Though the Israelites had witnessed God's glory and miraculous signs numerous times in their exodus from Egypt, they were still unwilling to trust that He would keep His promise to bring them safely into this new land. What would it have taken for them to believe? Evidently nothing God did would have convinced them of His trustworthiness if what He had already done did not. This must have been God's conclusion as well for He was ready to do away with them and start over with a people who would trust Him - a people who descended from Moses. This, at least, is what He told Moses.

    How tempting this must have been for Moses! An opportunity to replace the descendants of Abraham with his own descendants as the people of the promise! I think my response might have been to agree with God and start envisioning myself as God's new point person. But this was not Moses' response.  He pleaded with God to "pardon the wrongdoing of this people," not because they deserved it, but because God deserved it. (14:19) First of all, it would be in keeping with God's character which is to possess a faithful love, or mercy. But it would also uphold God's reputation among the nations. If God destroyed the Israelites the nations would think Him incapable of delivering them to the land He promised. And, out of His impotency, that He "slaughtered" them due to His inability to bring them into the land.

    We should never discount the power of prayer on behalf of others - even those who are undeserving. As James tells us, "The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful." (James 5:16) Do we suppose that God had not already thought of the points Moses made in his prayer to Him? Not, at least, on second thought. Might it be that God was also testing Moses? Moses had been totally faithful in his commitment to and trust of God up to this point. But given the opportunity, might he be more committed to his own cause in light of God's offer to raise up a new people from him? Moses proved himself to be righteous and God honored this by granting his request.

    Due to Moses' appeal on their behalf and God's faithful love, the Israelites were spared destruction by plague. But this didn't mean they would be spared the consequences of their actions. This account is not the only place in scripture in which we can see irony in God's actions with His people. The Israelites wished they had already died in the wilderness. As mentioned already, be careful for what you wish. God dealt with their sin by granting them their wish. Over the next 40 years they would wonder around in the desert, unable to enter the new land, and their bones would be left in the desert wherever they had been as they died one by one. None of the adults who had seen God's wonders in leading them from Egypt and across the desert and failed to trust Him in entering the new land would enter that land. Only their children and the two faithful scouts, Joshua and Caleb, would enter the new land. Notice that Moses is not even mentioned among those who would enter the land.

    As a sad ending to this particular account, the people further prove their inability to obey God by insisting they would go ahead and march into the land even though God had told them they would not and could not. The outcome was predictable. The people living in the hill country where they entered attacked them and defeated them, running them back out of the land.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 13

    Numbers 13 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said to Moses,
  2. "Choose a leader from each tribe and send them into Canaan to explore the land I am giving you."
  3. So Moses sent twelve tribal leaders from Israel's camp in the Paran Desert
  4. with orders to explore the land of Canaan. And here are their names: Shammua son of Zaccur from Reuben, Shaphat son of Hori from Simeon, Caleb son of Jephunneh from Judah, Igal son of Joseph from Issachar, Joshua son of Nun from Ephraim, Palti son of Raphu from Benjamin, Gaddiel son of Sodi from Zebulun, Gaddi son of Susi from Manasseh, Ammiel son of Gemalli from Dan, Sethur son of Michael from Asher, Nahbi son of Vophsi from Naphtali, and Geuel son of Machi from Gad.
  5. (SEE 13:4)
  6. (SEE 13:4)
  7. (SEE 13:4)
  8. (SEE 13:4)
  9. (SEE 13:4)
  10. (SEE 13:4)
  11. (SEE 13:4)
  12. (SEE 13:4)
  13. (SEE 13:4)
  14. (SEE 13:4)
  15. (SEE 13:4)
  16. (SEE 13:4)
  17. Before Moses sent them into Canaan, he said: After you go through the Southern Desert of Canaan, continue north into the hill country
  18. and find out what those regions are like. Be sure to remember how many people live there, how strong they are,
  19. and if they live in open towns or walled cities. See if the land is good for growing crops and find out what kinds of trees grow there. It's time for grapes to ripen, so try to bring back some of the fruit that grows there.
  20. (SEE 13:19)
  21. The twelve men left to explore Canaan from the Zin Desert in the south all the way to the town of Rehob near Lebo-Hamath in the north.
  22. As they went through the Southern Desert, they came to the town of Hebron, which was seven years older than the Egyptian town of Zoan. In Hebron, they saw the three Anakim clans of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai.
  23. When they got to Bunch Valley, they cut off a branch with such a huge bunch of grapes, that it took two men to carry it on a pole. That's why the place was called Bunch Valley. Along with the grapes, they also took back pomegranates and figs.
  24. (SEE 13:23)
  25. After exploring the land of Canaan forty days,
  26. the twelve men returned to Kadesh in the Paran Desert and told Moses, Aaron, and the people what they had seen. They showed them the fruit
  27. and said: Look at this fruit! The land we explored is rich with milk and honey.
  28. But the people who live there are strong, and their cities are large and walled. We even saw the three Anakim clans.
  29. Besides that, the Amalekites live in the Southern Desert, the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites are in the hill country, and the Canaanites live along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
  30. Caleb calmed down the crowd and said, "Let's go and take the land. I know we can do it!"
  31. But the other men replied, "Those people are much too strong for us."
  32. Then they started spreading rumors and saying, "We won't be able to grow anything in that soil. And the people are like giants.
  33. In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers."

    A little over a year after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the southern border of Canaan which was to be their land of promise. At this point they were faced with a crisis of faith. Would they believe God or their own assessment? God instructed Moses to send scouts into Canaan to bring back a reconnaissance report of the land. Did He have them do this so they could develop a strategy for entering the land and overtaking it or was it to test their faith?

    Twelve men were selected for the reconnaissance mission, one from each tribe, and set out on a 40 day excursion. Their instructions were to "See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not?" (13:18-20) Again, what was the purpose of this mission? Were they to determine their capability of overtaking the land? If so, what were they to do if they determined they couldn't do it? Was it to determine how to overtake the land? Though this may have been on the minds of the people as a reason for the mission, it was not likely God's reason. He expected them to rely on Him for how they would overtake the land. It seems most likely that God's intent for this mission was a test of faith. The Deuteronomy account of this event (Deut 1:22) attributes the idea for scouting the land to the people themselves. This would mean that God's instructions to Moses to scout out the land came in response to Moses' enquiry on behalf of the people. It would further mean that the idea was inspired by a weak faith and permitted by God to run its inevitable course.

    The scouts returned with evidence of a land "flowing with milk and honey." (13:27) But the perspective of the scouts regarding the people they would have to displace did not include God in the equation. "To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them." (13:33) It was as if God had never performed any mighty works on their behalf.

    We all face similar issues daily. Will we rely on God to take us through the circumstances of life or will we rely on ourselves?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 12

    Numbers 12 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Although Moses was the most humble person in all the world, Miriam and Aaron started complaining, "Moses had no right to marry that woman from Ethiopia! Who does he think he is? The LORD has spoken to us, not just to him." The LORD heard their complaint
  2. (SEE 12:1)
  3. (SEE 12:1)
  4. and told Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the entrance of the sacred tent.
  5. There the LORD appeared in a cloud and told Aaron and Miriam to come closer.
  6. Then after commanding them to listen carefully, he said: "I, the LORD, speak to prophets in visions and dreams.
  7. But my servant Moses is the leader of my people.
  8. He sees me face to face, and everything I say to him is perfectly clear. You have no right to criticize my servant Moses."
  9. The LORD became angry at Aaron and Miriam. And after the LORD left
  10. and the cloud disappeared from over the sacred tent, Miriam's skin turned white with leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her,
  11. he said to Moses, "Sir, please don't punish us for doing such a foolish thing.
  12. Don't let Miriam's flesh rot away like a child born dead!"
  13. Moses prayed, "LORD God, please heal her."
  14. But the LORD replied, "Miriam would be disgraced for seven days if her father had punished her by spitting in her face. So make her stay outside the camp for seven days, before coming back."
  15. The people of Israel did not move their camp until Miriam returned seven days later.
  16. Then they left Hazeroth and set up camp in the Paran Desert.

    Miriam and Aaron, Moses' older siblings, evidently became jealous of his relationship with God, and more particularly his authority over the people. The issues was not so much that they thought he was not worthy or should be deposed as it was that they wanted to share in his position of authority. But as so typically is the case, they didn't attempt to make their case directly. They came at it obliquely by criticizing his choice for a wife. She was Cushite, they said, as if that said it all. God had not forbidden an Israelite marriage to a Cushite, so they were either voicing a prejudice against Cushites in general and included Moses' wife, or were simply reaching for anything with which to criticize Moses.  Verse 2, however, gets at the real issue, "Does the LORD speak only through Moses? Does He not also speak through us?"

    Jealousy is not logical, though. In what way were they going to benefit themselves by criticizing Moses? Would it make them more important by making him look less credible? And if so, more important in whose eyes? Actions driven by jealousy are ugly and bring ugly results. But on this occasion God intervened before the circumstances had a chance to deteriorate. Not only were Miriam and Aaron blind to the fact that they could not possibly benefit by this criticism of Moses, they were also blind to the fact that it was ultimately God of whom they were being critical. Moses had not sought the role he was fulfilling with Israel. He wanted to avoid it. It was God who chose Moses and gave him the position of being His spokesperson and mediator to the people. In the beginning Aaron had often served as the mouthpiece, but Moses was the one to whom God gave His messages. It was God with whom they were ultimately dissatisfied. And God did not remain silent in the face of their criticism.

    God called for Moses and his siblings to go to the tabernacle together. When they got there the Lord descended in a "pillar of cloud," and summoned Aaron and Miriam to step forward. Then He spoke to them and validated Moses as His unequivocal spokesperson. Though God spoke in visions and dreams with His prophets, He spoke directly with Moses, for Moses was "faithful in all My household." (12:7) When God left and the cloud lifted, Miriam was left with a skin disease which was evidently already in an advanced form. Miriam found herself at Moses' mercy to mediate on their behalf before the Lord, which Moses did. But God refused to heal her immediately. In any other case of a person being unclean they would have to stay outside the camp for seven days before they became ceremonially clean. This, too, was to be Miriam's fate. Her sin and punishment were made public to the whole Israelite camp. Besides the knowledge of her confinement outside the camp, Israel's travel to the next destination was delayed until her confinement was complete.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 11

    Numbers 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day the Israelites started complaining about their troubles. The LORD heard them and became so angry that he destroyed the outer edges of their camp with fire.
  2. When the people begged Moses to help, he prayed, and the fire went out.
  3. They named the place "Burning," because in his anger the LORD had set their camp on fire.
  4. One day some worthless foreigners among the Israelites became greedy for food, and even the Israelites themselves began moaning, "We don't have any meat!
  5. In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, onions, and garlic.
  6. But we're starving out here, and the only food we have is this manna."
  7. The manna was like small whitish seeds
  8. and tasted like something baked with sweet olive oil. It appeared at night with the dew. In the morning the people would collect the manna, grind or crush it into flour, then boil it and make it into thin wafers.
  9. (SEE 11:8)
  10. The Israelites stood around their tents complaining. Moses heard them and was upset that they had made the LORD angry.
  11. He prayed: I am your servant, LORD, so why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? You've made me responsible for all these people,
  12. but they're not my children. You told me to nurse them along and to carry them to the land you promised their ancestors.
  13. They keep whining for meat, but where can I get meat for them?
  14. This job is too much for me. How can I take care of all these people by myself?
  15. If this is the way you're going to treat me, just kill me now and end my miserable life!
  16. The LORD said to Moses: Choose seventy of Israel's respected leaders and go with them to the sacred tent.
  17. While I am talking with you there, I will give them some of your authority, so they can share responsibility for my people. You will no longer have to care for them by yourself.
  18. As for the Israelites, I have heard them complaining about not having meat and about being better off in Egypt. So tell them to make themselves acceptable to me, because tomorrow they will have meat.
  19. In fact, they will have meat day after day for a whole month--not just a few days, or even ten or twenty. They turned against me and wanted to return to Egypt. Now they will eat meat until they get sick of it.
  20. (SEE 11:19)
  21. Moses replied, "At least six hundred thousand grown men are here with me. How can you say there will be enough meat to feed them and their families for a whole month?
  22. Even if we butchered all of our sheep and cattle, or caught every fish in the sea, we wouldn't have enough to feed them."
  23. The LORD answered, "I can do anything! Watch and you'll see my words come true."
  24. Moses told the people what the LORD had said. Then he chose seventy respected leaders and went with them to the sacred tent. While the leaders stood in a circle around the tent, Moses went inside,
  25. and the LORD spoke with him. Then the LORD took some authority from Moses and gave it to the seventy leaders. And when the LORD's Spirit took control of them, they started shouting like prophets. But they did it only this one time.
  26. Eldad and Medad were two leaders who had not gone to the tent. But when the Spirit took control of them, they began shouting like prophets right there in camp.
  27. A boy ran to Moses and told him about Eldad and Medad.
  28. Joshua was there helping Moses, as he had done since he was young. And he said to Moses, "Sir, you must stop them!"
  29. But Moses replied, "Are you concerned what this might do to me? I wish the LORD would give his Spirit to all his people so everyone could be a prophet."
  30. Then Moses and the seventy leaders went back to camp.
  31. Some time later the LORD sent a strong wind that blew quails in from the sea until Israel's camp was completely surrounded with birds, piled up about three feet high for miles in every direction.
  32. The people picked up quails for two days--each person filled at least fifty bushels. Then they spread them out to dry.
  33. But before the meat could be eaten, the LORD became angry and sent a disease through the camp.
  34. After they had buried the people who had been so greedy for meat, they called the place "Graves for the Greedy."
  35. Israel then broke camp and traveled to Hazeroth.

    Following the Israelite's three-day trip from Sinai to the Wilderness of Paran, the people began to complain. Had they been complaining all along and this was the first mention of it or was this the first since the initial exodus when they complained for lack of food and water? It seems that God was patient with the earlier complaining, but since then they had seen His presence and known His power and provision for over a year and still they were complaining. In response, "fire from the LORD blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp." (11:1) The people called out to Moses and he interceded on their behalf to the Lord and the fire subsided. There is some question whether this reference to fire on the outskirts of the camp actually consumed people or just the place of encampment.  The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that "The Hebrew word for 'the camp' suggests people who were encamped, not merely a place of encampment." The context also suggests it was the complainers who were consumed and that the complaining came from the outskirts of the camp.

    This experience should have settled them down, but hardly before the smoke of the fire had settled people were complaining about the lack of meat. In particular the lack of fish as they had in Egypt, along with the lack of "cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic." (11:5) These complainers were said to be the "mixed multitude" among them. In other words, non-Israelites who left Egypt with them. By this point Moses had lost his patience along with the Lord and began to question why God had "brought such trouble on Your servant?" (11:11) He was discouraged enough that he said that if this was to be his lot the Lord should just kill him and put him out of his misery.

    The Lord responded first to Moses' complaint and then to that of the "mixed multitude." His response to Moses was to lighten his burden of leadership. He had Moses select "70 men from Israel known to you as elders and officers of the people."  (11:24) He shared with them some of the Spirit He had placed on Moses to enable them to give Godly leadership. With their help Moses would not be the only one to whom the people complained among other shared responsibilities.

    The Lord's response to the complainers was to send a flock of quail so large it could be seen for a day's journey in every direction. The quail were flying only three feet off the ground so the people could easily gather them, which they did "all that day and night and all the next day." (11:32) Though even Moses wondered how God could provide a month's supply of meat for such a large gathering of people, He demonstrated that He had ways of providing of which they couldn't even imagine. So they then had plenty of meat, but while they were still eating the meat "the LORD struck them with a very severe plague." (11:33) Evidently the plague struck only the complainers, for the text says "they buried the people who had craved the meat." (11:34)

    This crowd of complainers brings to mind those who in any setting rely on God's provision but are never satisfied. Though they may appear to be religious and to seek after the things of God, in reality they are only seeking to fulfill their own desires. So when God doesn't provide for their whims they complain. Isaiah said that for those who truly trust in the Lord and are dependent on Him, the Lord will keep their minds in "perfect peace." (Isaiah 26:3)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 10

    Numbers 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses:
  2. Have someone make two trumpets out of hammered silver. These will be used to call the people together and to give the signal for moving your camp.
  3. If both trumpets are blown, everyone is to meet with you at the entrance to the sacred tent.
  4. But if just one is blown, only the twelve tribal leaders need to come together.
  5. Give a signal on a trumpet when it is time to break camp. The first blast will be the signal for the tribes camped on the east side, and the second blast will be the signal for those on the south.
  6. (SEE 10:5)
  7. But when you want everyone to come together, sound a different signal on the trumpet.
  8. The priests of Aaron's family will be the ones to blow the trumpets, and this law will never change.
  9. Whenever you go into battle against an enemy attacking your land, give a warning signal on the trumpets. Then I, the LORD, will hear it and rescue you.
  10. During the celebration of the New Moon Festival and other religious festivals, sound the trumpets while you offer sacrifices. This will be a reminder that I am the LORD your God.
  11. On the twentieth day of the second month of that same year, the cloud over the sacred tent moved on.
  12. So the Israelites broke camp and left the Sinai Desert. And some time later, the cloud stopped in the Paran Desert.
  13. This was the first time the LORD had told Moses to command the people of Israel to move on.
  14. Judah and the tribes that camped alongside it marched out first, carrying their banner. Nahshon son of Amminadab was the leader of the Judah tribe,
  15. Nethanel son of Zuar was the leader of the Issachar tribe,
  16. and Eliab son of Helon was the leader of the Zebulun tribe.
  17. The sacred tent had been taken down, and the Gershonites and the Merarites carried it, marching behind the Judah camp.
  18. Reuben and the tribes that camped alongside it marched out second, carrying their banner. Elizur son of Shedeur was the leader of the Reuben tribe,
  19. Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was the leader of the Simeon tribe,
  20. and Eliasaph son of Deuel was the leader of the Gad tribe.
  21. Next were the Kohathites, carrying the objects for the sacred tent, which was to be set up before they arrived at the new camp.
  22. Ephraim and the tribes that camped alongside it marched next, carrying their banner. Elishama son of Ammihud was the leader of the Ephraim tribe,
  23. Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was the leader of the Manasseh tribe,
  24. and Abidan son of Gideoni was the leader of the Benjamin tribe.
  25. Dan and the tribes that camped alongside it were to protect the Israelites against an attack from behind, and so they marched last, carrying their banner. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was the leader of the tribe of Dan,
  26. Pagiel son of Ochran was the leader of the Asher tribe,
  27. and Ahira son of Enan was the leader of the Naphtali tribe.
  28. This was the order in which the Israelites marched each time they moved their camp.
  29. Hobab the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses, was there. And Moses said to him, "We're leaving for the place the LORD has promised us. He has said that all will go well for us. So come along, and we will make sure that all goes well for you."
  30. "No, I won't go," Hobab answered. "I'm returning home to be with my own people."
  31. "Please go with us!" Moses said. "You can be our guide because you know the places to camp in the desert.
  32. Besides that, if you go, we will give you a share of the good things the LORD gives us."
  33. The people of Israel began their journey from Mount Sinai. They traveled three days, and the Levites who carried the sacred chest led the way, so the LORD could show them where to camp.
  34. And the cloud always stayed with them.
  35. Each day as the Israelites began their journey, Moses would pray, "Our LORD, defeat your enemies and make them run!"
  36. And when they stopped to set up camp, he would pray, "Our LORD, stay close to Israel's thousands and thousands of people."

    The final preparation for Israel's departure from Sinai to be mentioned was the making of two silver trumpets to be as a signal for different purposes. Among the various signals used with the trumpets, there was the use of just one or both trumpets, there were long blasts and short blasts, and though not mentioned, there may have been blasts on different pitches. There was a signal to gather all the people to the tabernacle and one to gather only the leaders. Then there were signals to announce the departure of each section of the camp for travel.

    It was the priests who were given the task of sounding the trumpets. Added to the signals for breaking camp and gathering the people were signals for going into battle and for various offerings, sacrifices, and festivals. Sounding of the trumpets for battle and for religious observances was more than simply announcing these events, though. It was also a means of invoking and celebrating the Lord's presence and protection.

    With this final preparation in place, the Israelites were ready to travel. The cloud that had settled over the tabernacle lifted to signal their departure. They had been at Sinai for almost a year as the Lord formed His covenant with them, gave instructions for how they were to function, and the tabernacle was built. In that time they came to know and to worship this God of their forefathers whom they had for the most part forgotten during their years of slavery in a pagan country.  Though they would have several overnight stops along the way, their immediate destination in leaving Sinai was the desert of Paran.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 9

    Numbers 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. During the first month of Israel's second year in the Sinai Desert, the LORD had told Moses
  2. to say to the people, "Celebrate Passover
  3. in the evening of the fourteenth day of this month and do it by following all the regulations."
  4. Moses told the people what the LORD had said, and they celebrated Passover there in the desert in the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month.
  5. (SEE 9:4)
  6. Some people in Israel's camp had touched a dead body and had become unfit to worship the LORD, and they could not celebrate Passover. But they asked Moses and Aaron,
  7. "Even though we have touched a dead body, why can't we celebrate Passover and offer sacrifices to the LORD at the same time as everyone else?"
  8. Moses said, "Wait here while I go into the sacred tent and find out what the LORD says about this."
  9. The LORD then told Moses
  10. to say to the community of Israel: If any of you or your descendants touch a dead body and become unfit to worship me, or if you are away on a long journey, you may still celebrate Passover.
  11. But it must be done in the second month, in the evening of the fourteenth day. Eat the Passover lamb with thin bread and bitter herbs,
  12. and don't leave any of it until morning or break any of the animal's bones. Be sure to follow these regulations.
  13. But if any of you refuse to celebrate Passover when you are not away on a journey, you will no longer belong to my people. You will be punished because you did not offer sacrifices to me at the proper time.
  14. Anyone, including foreigners who live among you, can celebrate Passover, if they follow all the regulations.
  15. As soon as the sacred tent was set up, a thick cloud appeared and covered it. The cloud was there each day, and during the night, a fire could be seen in it.
  16. (SEE 9:15)
  17. The LORD used this cloud to tell the Israelites when to move their camp and where to set it up again. As long as the cloud covered the tent, the Israelites did not break camp. But when the cloud moved, they followed it, and wherever it stopped, they camped and stayed there,
  18. (SEE 9:17)
  19. (SEE 9:17)
  20. whether it was only one night, a few days, a month, or even a year. As long as the cloud remained over the tent, the Israelites stayed where they were. But when the cloud moved, so did the Israelites.
  21. (SEE 9:20)
  22. (SEE 9:20)
  23. They obeyed the LORD's commands and went wherever he directed Moses.

    The first part of chapter 9 is an addendum to the Passover regulations. A year had passed since the Israelites had fled Egypt and it was time for their first observance of Passover since observing it while still in Egypt and preparing to flee. However, a question arose. Some men in the camp were ineligible to partake of Passover because they were unclean from being in contact with a corpse. Yet they did not want to be excluded so they petitioned Moses for permission to partake. Moses acted wisely. Rather than deciding the matter he took it to the Lord. In response, the Lord made this addendum to Passover regulations.

    Those who are either unclean or on a distant journey at the time of Passover could observe it a month later than the appointed time. When they did, they were to observe the normal regulations. However, if a person were ceremonially qualified to observe Passover and was not on a journey at the appointed time and failed to observe it, they were to be cut off from their people and bear the consequences of their sin. A further addition to the Passover regulation was the allowance for foreign residents to observe Passover. But it appears that this was an allowance rather than a requirement and there was no penalty if they chose not to observe it.

    The chapter concludes with a comment about the Lord's presence in the Israelite camp and guidance for their journey. When the tabernacle was first set up,  it was covered in a cloud representing the Lord's presence. As long as the cloud remained on the tabernacle the Israelites remained in camp. But when the cloud lifted, they broke camp and followed the cloud's movement. Once it stopped, they set up camp again and remained there as long as the cloud remained on the tabernacle. Sometimes it would remain there for a few days, or a month, or even longer, and other times it remained there only over night. Regardless, the Israelites followed its lead.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 8

    Numbers 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said to Moses,
  2. "Tell Aaron to put the seven lamps on the lampstand so they shine toward the front."
  3. Aaron obeyed and placed the lamps as he was told.
  4. The lampstand was made of hammered gold from its base to the decorative flowers on top, exactly like the pattern the LORD had described to Moses.
  5. The LORD said to Moses:
  6. The Levites must be acceptable to me before they begin working at the sacred tent. So separate them from the rest of the Israelites
  7. and sprinkle them with the water that washes away their sins. Then have them shave their entire bodies and wash their clothes.
  8. They are to bring a bull and its proper grain sacrifice of flour mixed with olive oil. And they must bring a second bull as a sacrifice for sin.
  9. Then you, Moses, will call together all the people of Israel and have the Levites go to my sacred tent,
  10. where the people will place their hands on them.
  11. Aaron will present the Levites to me as a gift from the people, so that the Levites will do my work.
  12. After this, the Levites are to place their hands on the heads of the bulls. Then one of the bulls will be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin, and the other to make sure that I am pleased.
  13. The Levites will stand at my altar in front of Aaron and his sons, who will then dedicate the Levites to me.
  14. This ceremony will show that the Levites are different from the other Israelites and belong to me in a special way.
  15. After they have been made acceptable and have been dedicated, they will be allowed to work at my sacred tent.
  16. They are mine and will take the place of the first-born Israelite sons.
  17. When I killed the oldest sons of the Egyptians, I decided that the first-born sons in each Israelite family would be mine, as well as every first-born male from their flocks and herds.
  18. But now I have chosen these Levites as substitutes for the first-born sons,
  19. and I have given them as gifts to Aaron and his sons to serve at the sacred tent. I will hold them responsible for what happens to anyone who gets too close to the sacred tent.
  20. Moses, Aaron, and the other Israelites made sure that the Levites did everything the LORD had commanded.
  21. The Levites sprinkled themselves with the water of forgiveness and washed their clothes. Then Aaron brought them to the altar and offered sacrifices to forgive their sins and make them acceptable to the LORD.
  22. After this, the Levites worked at the sacred tent as assistants to Aaron and his sons, just as the LORD had commanded.
  23. The LORD also told Moses,
  24. "Levites who are between the ages of twenty-five and fifty can work at my sacred tent. But once they turn fifty, they must retire.
  25. (SEE 8:24)
  26. They may help the other Levites in their duties, but they must no longer be responsible for any work themselves. Remember this when you assign their duties."

    Chapter 4 gives the tabernacle assignments of the various Levite clans. Now the Levites are ceremonially cleansed in preparation for their tasks with the tabernacle. Aaron and his sons, though Levites, were assigned as priests and had already been dedicated. This ritual cleansing did not include them, but rather was overseen by them.  God explained again that He had taken the Levites for Himself in place of the firstborn of all Israel. Explaining further He says, "I consecrated them to Myself on the day I struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt." (8:17) Taking the Levites for Himself, the Lord then gave them to Aaron and his sons to perform work at the tabernacle.

    Verse 22 tells us that following the ceremonial cleansing the "Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting in the presence of Aaron and his sons." These ceremonies took place at the tabernacle which was setup. Was this work the Levites came to do "at the tent of meeting" to begin the task of taking down the tabernacle for transport or were they other duties of assisting Aaron and his son related to the tabernacle while it was setup? This is not clear. Adding to the uncertainty of the nature of this work is the instructions in verses 24 and following. The minimum age a Levite could begin work at the tabernacle is given as 25 instead of 30 as mentioned earlier. Is this because the work mentioned here is light work around the tabernacle and the assignment of transporting the tabernacle mentioned before was heavier work and thus the minimum for it was 30?

    The bulk of the chapter is about the Levites, but a brief mention is made in the opening verses about setting up the lamps in the tabernacle. It was to be set up so that its light was thrown forward lighting the front of the lampstand.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 7

    Numbers 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When Moses had finished setting up the sacred tent, he dedicated it to the LORD, together with its furnishings, the altar, and its equipment.
  2. Then the twelve tribal leaders of Israel, the same men who had been in charge of counting the people, came to the tent
  3. with gifts for the LORD. They brought six strong carts and twelve oxen--one ox from each leader and a cart from every two.
  4. The LORD said to Moses,
  5. "Accept these gifts, so the Levites can use them here at the sacred tent for carrying the sacred things."
  6. Then Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites,
  7. who were under the leadership of Ithamar son of Aaron. Moses gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites for their work, and four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites for their work.
  8. (SEE 7:7)
  9. But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were in charge of the sacred objects that had to be carried on their shoulders.
  10. On the day the altar was dedicated, the twelve leaders brought offerings for its dedication.
  11. The LORD said to Moses, "Each day one leader is to give his offering for the dedication."
  12. So each leader brought the following gifts: a silver bowl that weighed over three pounds and a silver sprinkling bowl weighing almost two pounds, both of them filled with flour and olive oil as grain sacrifices and weighed according to the official standards, a small gold dish filled with incense, a young bull, a full-grown ram, and a year-old ram as sacrifices to please the LORD, a goat as a sacrifice for sin, and two bulls, five full-grown rams, five goats, and five rams a year old as sacrifices to ask the LORD's blessing. The tribal leaders brought their gifts and offerings in the following order: On the first day Nahshon from Judah, on the second day Nethanel from Issachar, on the third day Eliab from Zebulun, on the fourth day Elizur from Reuben, on the fifth day Shelumiel from Simeon, on the sixth day Eliasaph from Gad, on the seventh day Elishama from Ephraim, on the eighth day Gamaliel from Manasseh, on the ninth day Abidan from Benjamin, on the tenth day Ahiezer from Dan, on the eleventh day Pagiel from Asher, on the twelfth day Ahira from Naphtali.
  13. (SEE 7:12)
  14. (SEE 7:12)
  15. (SEE 7:12)
  16. (SEE 7:12)
  17. (SEE 7:12)
  18. (SEE 7:12)
  19. (SEE 7:12)
  20. (SEE 7:12)
  21. (SEE 7:12)
  22. (SEE 7:12)
  23. (SEE 7:12)
  24. (SEE 7:12)
  25. (SEE 7:12)
  26. (SEE 7:12)
  27. (SEE 7:12)
  28. (SEE 7:12)
  29. (SEE 7:12)
  30. (SEE 7:12)
  31. (SEE 7:12)
  32. (SEE 7:12)
  33. (SEE 7:12)
  34. (SEE 7:12)
  35. (SEE 7:12)
  36. (SEE 7:12)
  37. (SEE 7:12)
  38. (SEE 7:12)
  39. (SEE 7:12)
  40. (SEE 7:12)
  41. (SEE 7:12)
  42. (SEE 7:12)
  43. (SEE 7:12)
  44. (SEE 7:12)
  45. (SEE 7:12)
  46. (SEE 7:12)
  47. (SEE 7:12)
  48. (SEE 7:12)
  49. (SEE 7:12)
  50. (SEE 7:12)
  51. (SEE 7:12)
  52. (SEE 7:12)
  53. (SEE 7:12)
  54. (SEE 7:12)
  55. (SEE 7:12)
  56. (SEE 7:12)
  57. (SEE 7:12)
  58. (SEE 7:12)
  59. (SEE 7:12)
  60. (SEE 7:12)
  61. (SEE 7:12)
  62. (SEE 7:12)
  63. (SEE 7:12)
  64. (SEE 7:12)
  65. (SEE 7:12)
  66. (SEE 7:12)
  67. (SEE 7:12)
  68. (SEE 7:12)
  69. (SEE 7:12)
  70. (SEE 7:12)
  71. (SEE 7:12)
  72. (SEE 7:12)
  73. (SEE 7:12)
  74. (SEE 7:12)
  75. (SEE 7:12)
  76. (SEE 7:12)
  77. (SEE 7:12)
  78. (SEE 7:12)
  79. (SEE 7:12)
  80. (SEE 7:12)
  81. (SEE 7:12)
  82. (SEE 7:12)
  83. (SEE 7:12)
  84. And so when the altar was dedicated to the LORD, these twelve leaders brought the following gifts: twelve silver bowls and twelve silver sprinkling bowls, weighing a total of about sixty pounds, according to the official standards, twelve gold dishes filled with incense and weighing about three pounds, twelve bulls, twelve full-grown rams, and twelve rams a year old as sacrifices to please the LORD, along with the proper grain sacrifices, twelve goats as sacrifices for sin, and twenty-four bulls, sixty full-grown rams, sixty goats, and sixty rams a year old as sacrifices to ask the LORD's blessing.
  85. (SEE 7:84)
  86. (SEE 7:84)
  87. (SEE 7:84)
  88. (SEE 7:84)
  89. Whenever Moses needed to talk with the LORD, he went into the sacred tent, where he heard the LORD's voice coming from between the two winged creatures above the lid of the sacred chest.

    Numbers should be read more as a collection of topical accounts than as a chronological accounting. This account in chapter 7 takes us back to the account of Exodus chapter 40 with the setting up of the tabernacle and its dedication following construction. Verses 1-9 give an account of the dedication of the tabernacle and the remaining verses an account of the dedication of the altar.

    For the dedication of the tabernacle, the tribal leaders brought as an offering "six covered carts and 12 oxen, a cart from every two leaders and an ox from each one." (7:3) These carts and oxen were distributed to the Levites for transporting the tabernacle. Two carts with four oxen went to the Gershonites for transporting the articles assigned to them and four carts with eight oxen went to the Merarites. None went to the Kohathites whose responsibility was to carry their assigned holy objects on their shoulders. Chapter 4 describes the assignment of tabernacle articles to the various Levite tribes for transport.

    Next, the tribal leaders brought dedication gifts for the altar. Verses 10 and following describe the bringing of gifts by each leader as they each presented theirs on succeeding days. However, their gifts were all identical and a summary is given with a totaling of the gifts in verses 84-88.

    When the dedication of gifts and offerings was finished Moses entered the tabernacle and the Lord spoke to him from above the mercy seat. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 6

    Numbers 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses
  2. to say to the people of Israel: If any of you want to dedicate yourself to me by vowing to become a Nazirite,
  3. you must no longer drink any wine or beer or use any kind of vinegar. Don't drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins--
  4. not even the seeds or skins.
  5. Even the hair of a Nazirite is sacred to me, and as long as you are a Nazirite, you must never cut your hair.
  6. During the time that you are a Nazirite, you must never go close to a dead body,
  7. not even that of your father, mother, brother, or sister. That would make you unclean. Your hair is the sign that you are dedicated to me, so remain holy.
  8. (SEE 6:7)
  9. If someone suddenly dies near you, your hair is no longer sacred, and you must shave it seven days later during the ceremony to make you clean.
  10. Then on the next day, bring two doves or two pigeons to the priest at the sacred tent.
  11. He will offer one of the birds as a sacrifice for sin and the other as a sacrifice to please me. You will then be forgiven for being too near a dead body, and your hair will again become sacred.
  12. But the dead body made you unacceptable, so you must make another vow to become a Nazirite and be dedicated once more. Finally, a year-old ram must be offered as the sacrifice to make things right.
  13. When you have completed your promised time of being a Nazirite, go to the sacred tent
  14. and offer three animals that have nothing wrong with them: a year-old ram as a sacrifice to please me, a year-old female lamb as a sacrifice for sin, and a full-grown ram as a sacrifice to ask my blessing.
  15. Wine offerings and grain sacrifices must also be brought with these animals. Finally, you are to bring a basket of bread made with your finest flour and olive oil, but without yeast. Also bring some thin wafers brushed with oil.
  16. The priest will take these gifts to my altar and offer them, so that I will be pleased and will forgive you.
  17. Then he will sacrifice the ram and offer the wine, grain, and bread.
  18. After that, you will stand at the entrance to the sacred tent, shave your head, and put the hair in the fire where the priest has offered the sacrifice to ask my blessing.
  19. Once the meat from the ram's shoulder has been boiled, the priest will take it, along with one loaf of bread and one wafer brushed with oil, and give them to you.
  20. You will hand them back to the priest, who will lift them up in dedication to me. Then he can eat the meat from the ram's shoulder, its choice ribs, and its hind leg, because this is his share of the sacrifice. After this, you will no longer be a Nazirite and will be free to drink wine.
  21. These are the requirements for Nazirites. However, if you can afford to offer more, you must do so.
  22. The LORD told Moses,
  23. "When Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel, they must say:
  24. I pray that the LORD will bless and protect you,
  25. and that he will show you mercy and kindness.
  26. May the LORD be good to you and give you peace."
  27. Then the LORD said, "If Aaron and his sons ask me to bless the Israelites, I will give them my blessing."

    Chapter 6 of Numbers describes a special vow known as the Nazirite vow. It was a voluntary vow a person could take for a specified period of time. The typical period was 30 days though it could last as long as 100 days, and in rare occasions for life. Examples of a lifetime Nazirite vow were Samuel, Samson, and John the Baptist. In all three of these examples the parents made the vow on behalf of their child. More typically the person made the vow for themselves.

    No reason or purpose for the vow is given other than to consecrate oneself to the LORD.  A person taking the Nazirite vow had three restrictions: they were not to eat or drink anything produced by the grapevine, they were not to cut their hair, and they could not go near a dead body.  This last restriction meant that even if a family member died the person was not to go near the body.  Should a person who was under the vow be standing or sitting near a person who suddenly died, they were defiled and must go through a purification ritual and begin anew the period of their vow. The time they had already spent in the vow was not counted.

    Another ritual was prescribed for when a Nazirite vow was completed. It involved a sin offering, a burnt offering, and a fellowship offering. In addition, the person's hair was cut and placed as an offering "on the fire under the fellowship sacrifice." (6:18)

    The chapter concludes with a blessing the priests were to say on behalf of the people. It is a blessing frequently used as a benediction in Christian religious services:  "The LORD bless you and protect you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace." 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 5

    Numbers 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses
  2. to say to the people of Israel, "Put out of the camp everyone who has leprosy or a bodily discharge or who has touched a dead body. Now that I live among my people, their camp must be kept clean."
  3. (SEE 5:2)
  4. The Israelites obeyed the LORD's instructions.
  5. The LORD told Moses
  6. to say to the community of Israel: If any of you commit a crime against someone, you have sinned against me.
  7. You must confess your guilt and pay the victim in full for whatever damage has been done, plus a fine of twenty percent.
  8. If the victim has no relative who can accept this money, it belongs to me and will be paid to the priest. In addition to that payment, you must take a ram for the priest to sacrifice so your sin will be forgiven.
  9. When you make a donation to the sacred tent, that money belongs only to the priest, and each priest will keep what is given to him.
  10. (SEE 5:9)
  11. The LORD told Moses
  12. to say to the people of Israel: Suppose a man becomes jealous and suspects that his wife has been unfaithful, but he has no proof.
  13. (SEE 5:12)
  14. (SEE 5:12)
  15. He must take his wife to the priest, together with two pounds of ground barley as an offering to find out if she is guilty. No olive oil or incense is to be put on that offering.
  16. The priest is to have the woman stand at my altar,
  17. where he will pour sacred water into a clay jar and stir in some dust from the floor of the sacred tent.
  18. Next, he will remove her veil, then hand her the barley offering, and say, "If you have been faithful to your husband, this water won't harm you. But if you have been unfaithful, it will bring down the LORD's curse--you will never be able to give birth to a child, and everyone will curse your name." Then the woman will answer, "If I am guilty, let it happen just as you say."
  19. (SEE 5:18)
  20. (SEE 5:18)
  21. (SEE 5:18)
  22. (SEE 5:18)
  23. The priest will write these curses on special paper and wash them off into the bitter water,
  24. so that when the woman drinks this water, the curses will enter her body.
  25. He will take the barley offering from her and lift it up in dedication to me, the LORD. Then he will place it on my altar
  26. and burn part of it as a sacrifice. After that, the woman must drink the bitter water.
  27. If the woman has been unfaithful, the water will immediately make her unable to have children, and she will be a curse among her people.
  28. But if she is innocent, her body will not be harmed, and she will still be able to have children.
  29. This is the ceremony that must take place at my altar when a husband suspects that his wife has been unfaithful. The priest must have the woman stand in my presence and carefully follow these instructions.
  30. (SEE 5:29)
  31. If the husband is wrong, he will not be punished, but if his wife is guilty, she will be punished.

    The Israelites were reminded that they were God's covenant people and that God was in their midst. Because of God's holiness they should keep the camp free of any defilement. This meant that any uncleanness must be removed from the camp. Thus, anyone with a skin disease or bodily discharge or who had been in contact with a dead body must be sent outside the camp.

    They must also consider sin against one another to be sin against God. They are acting "unfaithfully toward the LORD." (5:6) The first step in correcting the situation was to confess the sin. Then the offender was to make full compensation to the one he offended plus an additional 20%. If the person who had been offended was no longer alive and had no living relative to whom the compensation could be given, it went to the Lord for the priests.

    The third issue addressed in this chapter is the trial of jealousy in a marriage relationship. Jealousy, whether well-founded or not, could be destructive to a marriage and the trial of jealousy provided a means of settling the matter. If a husband suspected his wife of being unfaithful to him, whether true or not, he could take her to the priest to perform this ritual. The priest had her stand before the Lord and would let down her hair. He placed in her hands the grain offering while he held a bowl of water into which he put dust from the floor. The woman was required to take an oath and then the priest wrote a curse on a scroll and washed the writing into the water. She then drank the water. If she was innocent nothing happened, but if not "her belly will swell, and her thigh will shrivel." (5:27)  For an innocent woman this ritual cleared the air to remove her husband's jealousy, but I wonder how it made her feel toward her husband for having her go through it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 4

    Numbers 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses and Aaron:
  2. Find out how many men between the ages of thirty and fifty are in the four Levite clans of Kohath. Count only those who are able to work at the sacred tent.
  3. (SEE 4:2)
  4. The Kohathites will be responsible for carrying the sacred objects used in worship at the sacred tent.
  5. When the Israelites are ready to move their camp, Aaron and his sons will enter the tent and take down the curtain that separates the sacred chest from the rest of the tent. They will cover the chest with this curtain,
  6. and then with a piece of fine leather, and cover it all with a solid blue cloth. After this they will put the carrying poles in place.
  7. Next, Aaron and his sons will use another blue cloth to cover the table for the sacred bread. On the cloth they will place the dishes, the bowls for incense, the cups, the jugs for wine, as well as the bread itself.
  8. They are to cover all of this with a bright red cloth, and then with a piece of fine leather, before putting the carrying poles in place.
  9. With another blue cloth they will cover the lampstand, along with the lamps, the lamp snuffers, the fire pans, and the jars of oil for the lamps.
  10. All of this will then be covered with a piece of fine leather and placed on a carrying frame.
  11. The gold incense altar is to be covered with a blue cloth, and then with a piece of fine leather, before its carrying poles are put in place.
  12. Next, Aaron and his sons will take blue cloth and wrap all the objects used in worship at the sacred tent. These will need to be covered with a piece of fine leather, then placed on a carrying frame.
  13. They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and cover it with a purple cloth.
  14. On that cloth will be placed the utensils used at the altar, including the fire pans, the meat forks, the shovels, and the sprinkling bowls. All of this will then be covered with a piece of fine leather, before the carrying poles are put in place.
  15. When the camp is ready to be moved, the Kohathites will be responsible for carrying the sacred objects and the furnishings of the sacred tent. But Aaron and his sons must have already covered those things so the Kohathites won't touch them and die.
  16. Eleazar son of Aaron the priest will be in charge of the oil for the lamps, the sweet-smelling incense, the grain for the sacrifices, and the olive oil used for dedications and ordinations. Eleazar is responsible for seeing that the sacred tent, its furnishings, and the sacred objects are taken care of.
  17. The Kohathites must not go near or even look at the sacred objects until Aaron and his sons have covered those objects. If they do, their entire clan will be wiped out. So make sure that Aaron and his sons go into the tent with them and tell them what to carry.
  18. (SEE 4:17)
  19. (SEE 4:17)
  20. (SEE 4:17)
  21. The LORD said to Moses:
  22. Find out how many men between the ages of thirty and fifty are in the two Levite clans of Gershon. Count only those who are able to work at the sacred tent.
  23. (SEE 4:22)
  24. The Gershonites will be responsible
  25. for carrying the curtains of the sacred tent, its two outer coverings, the curtain for the entrance to the tent,
  26. the curtains hanging around the courtyard of the tent, and the curtain and ropes for the entrance to the courtyard. The Gershonites are to do whatever needs to be done to take care of these things,
  27. and they will carry them wherever Aaron and his sons tell them to.
  28. These are the duties of the Gershonites at the sacred tent, and Ithamar son of Aaron will make sure they do their work.
  29. The LORD said: Moses, find out how many men between thirty and fifty are in the two Levite clans of Merari, but count only those who are able to work at the sacred tent.
  30. (SEE 4:29)
  31. The Merarites will be responsible for carrying the frames of the tent and its other pieces, including the bars, the posts, the stands,
  32. as well as the posts that support the courtyard, together with their stands, tent pegs, and ropes. The Merarites are to be told exactly what objects they are to carry,
  33. and Ithamar son of Aaron will make sure they do their work.
  34. Moses, Aaron, and the other Israelite leaders obeyed the LORD and counted the Levi tribe by families and clans, to find out how many men there were between the ages of thirty and fifty who could work at the sacred tent. There were two thousand seven hundred fifty Kohathites, two thousand six hundred thirty Gershonites, and three thousand two hundred Merarites, making a total of eight thousand five hundred eighty. Then they were all assigned their duties.
  35. (SEE 4:34)
  36. (SEE 4:34)
  37. (SEE 4:34)
  38. (SEE 4:34)
  39. (SEE 4:34)
  40. (SEE 4:34)
  41. (SEE 4:34)
  42. (SEE 4:34)
  43. (SEE 4:34)
  44. (SEE 4:34)
  45. (SEE 4:34)
  46. (SEE 4:34)
  47. (SEE 4:34)
  48. (SEE 4:34)
  49. (SEE 4:34)

    The Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to perform a second census of the Levites. The census described in chapter 3 was of all Levite males age one month and older. This census was for the purpose of determining the Levite subsitution for the firstborn among the Israelites. (An explanation for this is given in the Reflections for chapter 3) The census described in this chapter is of the Levite males ages 30 to 50 and is for the purpose of assigning specific duties in transporting the tabernacle. This minimum age of 30 for tabernacle service became the ongoing custom, although there were various ways in which younger men served with the tabernacle.

    The first group to be counted were the Kohathites who were assigned the task of transporting the furnishings of the tabernacle. Their's might be considered hazard duty because if they should come into any direct contact with the object they transported they would die. Therefore, the priests made all of the preparations for transport of the furnishings. This included covering them so they could not be seen and adjusting the poles with which they would be carried. Aaron's son, Eleazar, was to supervise their work.

    Next were the Gershonites who were assigned the non-wooden parts of the tabernacle and outer court. These included the curtains, ropes, and hangings. They were supervised by Aaron's son, Ithmar.

    Finally, the Merarites were counted and assigned the task of carrying the wooden portions of the tabernacle along with such items as pegs and cords. They were supervised by Aaron's son, Ithamar.

    Whereas the count of all Levite males one month old and older came to 22,000, those ages 30 to 50 numbered 8,580.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 3

    Numbers 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When the LORD talked with Moses on Mount Sinai,
  2. Aaron's four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar,
  3. were the ones to be ordained as priests.
  4. But the LORD killed Nadab and Abihu in the Sinai Desert when they used fire that was unacceptable in their offering to the LORD. And because Nadab and Abihu had no sons, only Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests with their father Aaron.
  5. The LORD said to Moses:
  6. Assign the Levi tribe to Aaron the priest. They will be his assistants
  7. and will work at the sacred tent for him and for all the Israelites.
  8. The Levites will serve the community by being responsible for the furnishings of the tent.
  9. They are assigned to help Aaron and his sons,
  10. who have been appointed to be priests. Anyone else who tries to perform the duties of a priest must be put to death.
  11. Moses, I have chosen these Levites from all Israel, and they will belong to me in a special way. When I killed the first-born sons of the Egyptians, I decided that the first-born sons in every Israelite family and the first-born males of their flocks and herds would be mine. But now I accept these Levites in place of the first-born sons of the Israelites.
  12. (SEE 3:11)
  13. (SEE 3:11)
  14. In the Sinai Desert the LORD said to Moses,
  15. "Now I want you to count the men and boys in the Levi tribe by families and by clans. Include every one at least a month old."
  16. So Moses obeyed and counted them.
  17. Levi's three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, had become the heads of their own clans.
  18. Gershon's sons were Libni and Shimei.
  19. Kohath's sons were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel.
  20. And Merari's sons were Mahli and Mushi. These were the sons and grandsons of Levi, and they had become the leaders of the Levite clans.
  21. The two Gershon clans were the Libnites and Shimeites,
  22. and they had seven thousand five hundred men and boys at least one month old.
  23. The Gershonites were to camp on the west side of the sacred tent,
  24. under the leadership of Eliasaph son of Lael.
  25. Their duties at the tent included taking care of the tent itself, along with its outer covering, the curtain for the entrance,
  26. the curtains hanging inside the courtyard around the tent, as well as the curtain and ropes for the entrance to the courtyard and its altar. The Gershonites were responsible for setting these things up and taking them down.
  27. The four Kohath clans were the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and the Uzzielites,
  28. and they had eight thousand six hundred men and boys at least one month old.
  29. The Kohathites were to camp on the south side of the sacred tent,
  30. under the leadership of Elizaphan son of Uzziel.
  31. Their duties at the tent included taking care of the sacred chest, the table for the sacred bread, the lampstand, the altars, the objects used for worship, and the curtain in front of the most holy place. The Kohathites were responsible for setting these things up and taking them down.
  32. Eleazar son of Aaron was the head of the Levite leaders, and he made sure that the work at the sacred tent was done.
  33. The two Merari clans were the Mahlites and the Mushites,
  34. and they had six thousand two hundred men and boys at least one month old.
  35. The Merarites were to camp on the north side of the sacred tent, under the leadership of Zuriel son of Abihail.
  36. Their duties included taking care of the tent frames and the pieces that held the tent up: the bars, the posts, the stands, and its other equipment. They were also in charge of the posts that supported the courtyard, as well as their stands, tent pegs, and ropes. The Merari clans were responsible for setting these things up and taking them down.
  37. (SEE 3:36)
  38. Moses, Aaron, and his sons were to camp in front of the sacred tent, on the east side, and to make sure that the Israelites worshiped in the proper way. Anyone else who tried to do the work of Moses and Aaron was to be put to death.
  39. So Moses and Aaron obeyed the LORD and counted the Levites by their clans. The total number of Levites at least one month old was twenty-two thousand.
  40. The LORD said to Moses, "Make a list and count the first-born sons at least one month old in each of the Israelite families.
  41. They belong to me, but I will accept the Levites as substitutes for them, and I will accept the Levites' livestock as substitutes for the Israelites' first-born livestock."
  42. Moses obeyed the LORD and counted the first-born sons,
  43. there were 22,273 of them.
  44. Then the LORD said,
  45. "The Levites will belong to me and will take the place of the first-born sons, their livestock will take the place of the Israelites' first-born livestock.
  46. But since there are more first-born sons than Levites, the extra two hundred seventy-three men and boys must be bought back from me.
  47. For each one, you are to collect five pieces of silver, weighed according to the official standards.
  48. This money must then be given to Aaron and his sons."
  49. Moses collected the silver from the extra two hundred seventy-three first-born men and boys,
  50. and it amounted to one thousand three hundred sixty-five pieces of silver, weighed according to the official standards.
  51. Then he gave it to Aaron and his sons, just as the LORD had commanded.

    Chapter 3 begins with the statement, "These are the family records of Aaron and Moses." Aaron and Moses were brothers whose family was from the tribe of Levi. The purpose of this accounting of their family was to assign tabernacle duty to the Levite tribe.

    Aaron's immediate family was assigned to be priests. Only they could go into the tabernacle and perform the prescribed duties. However, there was no way they could handle everything related to the tabernacle, so God assigned the entire tribe of Levi to this responsibility. In doing so, God claimed this tribe as His own in place of the firstborn of all Israel. The history behind this claim went back to the last plague of the plagues that led up to Israel's escape from Egypt. With this plague God sent the death angel to kill the firstborn of every Egyptian family. However, He spared the firstborn among the Israelites. Instead of killing them, God claimed them as dedicated to Himself. Now He was substituting the tribe of Levi in place of the firstborn of Israel as those who were dedicated to Himself.

    Previously, the military age males of all the tribes of Israel except the tribe of Levi had been counted. Now the males of the tribe of Levi were counted in relationship to their assignment with the tabernacle. As they were counted, each clan was given its assigned duties with the tabernacle. But explicit instructions were given that no "unauthorized person" was to come near the sanctuary. Such an offense was punishable by death. The total number of Levite males is said in verse 39 to be 22,000. However, if the number given for each clan are added, the total comes to 22,300. One of the most reasonable explanations for this discrepancy is that the additional 300 accounted for the firstborn of the tribe of Levi and thus could not be included.

    After counting the Levites, a census was taken of the firstborn of all Israel except for the tribe of Levi. This total came to 22,273. As a substitute for the firstborn of Israel, the tribe of Levi was 273 short. Therefore, the Lord had the Israelites pay a redemption price of 5 shekels for each of the 273 people they were short.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 2

    Numbers 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses and Aaron
  2. how the Israelites should arrange their camp: Each tribe must set up camp under its own banner and under the flags of its ancestral families. These camps will be arranged around the sacred tent, but not close to it.
  3. Judah and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the east side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 74,600 troops of the tribe of Judah will be arranged by divisions and led by Nahshon son of Amminadab.
  4. (SEE 2:3)
  5. On one side of Judah will be the tribe of Issachar, with Nethanel son of Zuar as the leader of its 54,400 troops.
  6. (SEE 2:5)
  7. On the other side will be the tribe of Zebulun, with Eliab son of Helon as the leader of its 57,400 troops.
  8. (SEE 2:7)
  9. These 186,400 troops will march into battle first.
  10. Reuben and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the south side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 46,500 troops of the tribe of Reuben will be arranged by divisions and led by Elizur son of Shedeur.
  11. (SEE 2:10)
  12. On one side of Reuben will be the tribe of Simeon, with Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai as the leader of its 59,300 troops.
  13. (SEE 2:12)
  14. On the other side will be the tribe of Gad, with Eliasaph son of Deuel as the leader of its 45,650 troops.
  15. (SEE 2:14)
  16. These 151,450 troops will march into battle second.
  17. Marching behind Reuben will be the Levites, arranged in groups, just as they are camped. They will carry the sacred tent and their own banners.
  18. Ephraim and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the west side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 40,500 troops of the tribe of Ephraim will be arranged by divisions and led by Elishama son of Ammihud.
  19. (SEE 2:18)
  20. On one side of Ephraim will be the tribe of Manasseh, with Gamaliel son of Pedahzur as the leader of its 32,200 troops.
  21. (SEE 2:20)
  22. On the other side will be the tribe of Benjamin, with Abidan son of Gideoni as the leader of its 35,400 troops.
  23. (SEE 2:22)
  24. These 108,100 troops will march into battle third.
  25. Dan and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the north side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 62,700 troops of the tribe of Dan will be arranged by divisions and led by Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.
  26. (SEE 2:25)
  27. On one side of Dan will be the tribe of Asher, with Pagiel son of Ochran as the leader of its 41,500 troops.
  28. (SEE 2:27)
  29. On the other side will be the tribe of Naphtali with Ahira son of Enan as the leader of its 53,400 troops.
  30. (SEE 2:29)
  31. These 157,600 troops will march into battle last.
  32. So all the Israelites in the camp were counted according to their ancestral families. The troops were arranged by divisions and totaled 603,550.
  33. The only Israelites not included were the Levites, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
  34. Israel did everything the LORD had told Moses. They arranged their camp according to clans and families, with each tribe under its own banner. And that was the order by which they marched into battle.

    Following instructions to number the military age men in chapter 1, God gave Moses instructions concerning the arrangement of the tribes in their camp around the tabernacle. It would also serve as their arrangement for travel. They would march in the same order as they were camped.

    The twelve tribes were to be arranged in four divisions, one on each side of the tabernacle, with three tribes in each division. Each tribal military unit camped together with the rest of their tribe next to them. Each tribe had an identifying banner and each division an identifying standard. In the center, more closely arranged around the tabernacle were the Levites. The military units and their respective numbers listed in this chapter corresponds to those in the first chapter.

    God will direct all aspects of our lives, if we will allow Him to do so.  It is all in His plan to care for us and protect us and provide for us. We may have this perception that as we go about our lives God will protect us and help in what we do if we ask Him to. But this misses the main point which is that God protects us and cares for us as we live out the plan He has for us. Rather than protecting us while we live out our plan, He directs us in His plan which has a built-in protection. Does this mean that while we live out His plan for us we will never encounter problems? No, for we live in an imperfect world in which a majority of people are not paying attention to God or His plan for life. As our lives intersect with their lives we will at times encounter problems. But God will direct us through those problems for the best possible outcome if we keep listening and following His instructions. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Reflections on Numbers 1

    Numbers 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The people of Israel had left Egypt and were living in the Sinai Desert. Then on the first day of the second month of the second year, Moses was in the sacred tent when the LORD said:
  2. I want you and Aaron to find out how many people are in each of Israel's clans and families. And make a list of all the men twenty years and older who are able to fight in battle.
  3. (SEE 1:2)
  4. The following twelve family leaders, one from each tribe, will help you: Elizur son of Shedeur from Reuben, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai from Simeon, Nahshon son of Amminadab from Judah, Nethanel son of Zuar from Issachar, Eliab son of Helon from Zebulun, Elishama son of Ammihud from Ephraim, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur from Manasseh, Abidan son of Gideoni from Benjamin, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai from Dan, Pagiel son of Ochran from Asher, Eliasaph son of Deuel from Gad, and Ahira son of Enan from Naphtali.
  5. (SEE 1:4)
  6. (SEE 1:4)
  7. (SEE 1:4)
  8. (SEE 1:4)
  9. (SEE 1:4)
  10. (SEE 1:4)
  11. (SEE 1:4)
  12. (SEE 1:4)
  13. (SEE 1:4)
  14. (SEE 1:4)
  15. (SEE 1:4)
  16. Moses and Aaron, together with these twelve tribal leaders,
  17. (SEE 1:16)
  18. called together the people that same day. They were counted according to their clans and families. Then Moses and the others listed the names of the men twenty years and older,
  19. just as the LORD had commanded.
  20. The number of men from each tribe who were at least twenty years old and strong enough to fight in Israel's army was as follows: 46,500 from Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob, 59,300 from Simeon, 45,650 from Gad, 74,600 from Judah, 54,400 from Issachar, 57,400 from Zebulun, 40,500 from Ephraim, 32,200 from Manasseh, 35,400 from Benjamin, 62,700 from Dan, 41,500 from Asher, 53,400 from Naphtali. The total number of men registered by Moses, Aaron, and the twelve leaders was 603,550.
  21. (SEE 1:20)
  22. (SEE 1:20)
  23. (SEE 1:20)
  24. (SEE 1:20)
  25. (SEE 1:20)
  26. (SEE 1:20)
  27. (SEE 1:20)
  28. (SEE 1:20)
  29. (SEE 1:20)
  30. (SEE 1:20)
  31. (SEE 1:20)
  32. (SEE 1:20)
  33. (SEE 1:20)
  34. (SEE 1:20)
  35. (SEE 1:20)
  36. (SEE 1:20)
  37. (SEE 1:20)
  38. (SEE 1:20)
  39. (SEE 1:20)
  40. (SEE 1:20)
  41. (SEE 1:20)
  42. (SEE 1:20)
  43. (SEE 1:20)
  44. (SEE 1:20)
  45. (SEE 1:20)
  46. (SEE 1:20)
  47. But those from the Levi tribe were not included
  48. because the LORD had said to Moses:
  49. When you count the Israelites, do not include those from the Levi tribe.
  50. Instead, give them the job of caring for the sacred tent, its furnishings, and the objects used for worship. They will camp around the tent, and whenever you move, they will take it down, carry it to the new camp, and set it up again. Anyone else who tries to go near it must be put to death.
  51. (SEE 1:50)
  52. The rest of the Israelites will camp in their own groups and under their own banners.
  53. But the Levites will camp around the sacred tent to make sure that no one goes near it and makes me furious with the Israelites.
  54. The people of Israel did everything the LORD had commanded.

    Numbers continues where Leviticus left off.  In Leviticus instructions were given for construction of the tabernacle and this was followed with its actual construction. Also, regulations for the Iraelite community were enumerated concerning the various sacrifices, what was clean and unclean, behavior that was prohibited, etc. Now, one month after the erection of the tabernacle, God instructed Moses to take a census of the military age men, 20 years of age and above. This was to be done by Moses and Aaron along with one man from each tribe.

    The enumerating of each tribe appears to be listed in this passage according to placement of each tribal encampment around the tabernacle. The tribe of Judah was the largest with 74,600 military age men, and the tribe of Benjamin was the smallest with 35,400. It might be noticed that the tribe of Manasseh had a smaller number, but this was a half tribe of Joseph. If the total for Joseph's two sons were given together it would be 72,700. Total military age men for the whole community was 603,550. Taking into account the women, children, and Levites, the Israelite population would have numbered in the millions. The feat of organizing and traveling with such a large number is mind-boggling.

    The Levites were not numbered. They were exempted from military duty to attend to their duties with the tabernacle. This included transport of the tabernacle when they traveled, setting it up when they made camp, and attending to the sacrifices and other duties while they were in camp. No one else was allowed to handle the tabernacle.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reflections on Leviticus 27

    Leviticus 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Moses
  2. to say to the community of Israel: If you ever want to free someone who has been promised to me,
  3. you may do so by paying the following amounts, weighed according to the official standards: fifty pieces of silver for men ages twenty to sixty, and thirty pieces for women, twenty pieces of silver for young men ages five to twenty, and ten pieces for young women, fifteen pieces of silver for men ages sixty and above and ten pieces for women, five pieces of silver for boys ages one month to five years, and three pieces for girls.
  4. (SEE 27:3)
  5. (SEE 27:3)
  6. (SEE 27:3)
  7. (SEE 27:3)
  8. If you have promised to give someone to me and can't afford to pay the full amount for that person's release, you will be taken to a priest, and he will decide how much you can afford.
  9. If you promise to sacrifice an animal to me, it becomes holy, and there is no way you can set it free.
  10. If you try to substitute any other animal, no matter how good, for the one you promised, they will both become holy and must be sacrificed.
  11. Donkeys are unfit for sacrifice, so if you promise me a donkey, you must bring it to the priest,
  12. and let him determine its value.
  13. But if you want to buy it back, you must pay an additional twenty percent.
  14. If you promise a house to me, a priest will set the price, whatever the condition of the house.
  15. But if you decide to buy it back, you must pay an additional twenty percent.
  16. If you promise part of your family's land to me, its value must be determined by the bushels of seed needed to plant the land, and the rate will be ten pieces of silver for every bushel of seed.
  17. If this promise is made in the Year of Celebration, the land will be valued at the full price.
  18. But any time after that, the price will be figured according to the number of years before the next Year of Celebration.
  19. If you decide to buy back the land, you must pay the price plus an additional twenty percent,
  20. but you cannot buy it back once someone else has bought it.
  21. When the Year of Celebration comes, the land becomes holy because it belongs to me, and it will be given to the priests.
  22. If you promise me a field that you have bought,
  23. its value will be decided by a priest, according to the number of years before the next Year of Celebration, and the money you pay will be mine.
  24. However, on the next Year of Celebration, the land will go back to the family of its original owner.
  25. Every price will be set by the official standards.
  26. All first-born animals of your flocks and herds are already mine, and so you cannot promise any of them to me.
  27. If you promise me a donkey, you may buy it back by adding an additional twenty percent to its value. If you don't buy it back, it can be sold to someone else for whatever a priest has said it is worth.
  28. Anything that you completely dedicate to me must be completely destroyed. It cannot be bought back or sold. Every person, animal, and piece of property that you dedicate completely is only for me.
  29. In fact, any humans who have been promised to me in this way must be put to death.
  30. Ten percent of everything you harvest is holy and belongs to me, whether it grows in your fields or on your fruit trees.
  31. If you want to buy back this part of your harvest, you may do so by paying what it is worth plus an additional twenty percent.
  32. When you count your flocks and herds, one out of ten of every newborn animal is holy and belongs to me,
  33. no matter how good or bad it is. If you substitute one animal for another, both of them become holy, and neither can be bought back.
  34. Moses was on Mount Sinai when the LORD gave him these laws for the people of Israel.

    Vows are the topic of this final chapter of Leviticus. They refer to vows that could be made out of gratitude to the Lord. A person could dedicate himself or a member of his family to the Lord as a vow. The vow could also be the dedication of an animal, a house, or a field. Whatever was vowed was given to the priests, but not all items vowed were useful to them. Therefore, there was provision for the person making the vow to give a sum of money in lieu of the thing vowed. This was considered a redemption price.

    In the case of people, the sum that could be paid in lieu of the person was an amount that is set in the instructions of this chapter. If a person was too poor to pay the prescribed valuation the priests set the amount according to what the person could pay. With all other items, however, the amount of valuation was set by the priests. If the person dedicating the item decided to redeem it, he paid the valuation amount plus one-fifth.

    There were exceptions as to what could be dedicated for a vow. For instance, things that already belong to the Lord could not be dedicated. This included the first-born of livestock or animals that could be used for sacrificial purposes. However, animals considered unclean and not useable for sacrifices could be dedicated. Another example given in this passage of something could not be dedicated to the Lord was a person who was set apart for destruction. This was a person who had committed a sin worthy of the death penalty. They could not be dedicated to the Lord and in this way saved from the death penalty. Yet another example was the tithe. It could not be dedicated with a vow. One-tenth of the crops and livestock belonged to the Lord as a tithe. This portion could not be dedicated.

    The final verse of the book states, "These are the commands the LORD gave Moses for the Israelites on Mount Sinai." (27:34) All instructions given in this book were from the Lord. They were not concocted by Moses or anyone else.