An Argument of the Book of NumbersRelated Media
After the Lord constituted the exodus generation at sinai into a people in covenant relationship with him under theocratic rule, as well as initiated and guaranteed her walk with him in spite of her repeated disobedience, he made final preparations for the sons of israel to ob
I. CONSTITUTING THE EXODUS GENERATION AT SINAI:2 The Exodus generation is ordered in covenant relationship to YHWH as a theocracy with the sons of Israel encamped around the tabernacle in military order and the Levites and priests encamped closer to the tabernacle as God’s substitutes for the first-born of the nation and as guardians of the tabernacle, the sons of Israel purifying the camp since God dwells in their midst, the tabernacle being supplied for by the accepting gifts of the chieftains of the people, and the people celebrating the Passover in the wilderness 1:1--9:14
A. The Census: The census of the sons of Israel by leaders and number orders the tribes for their march and encampment emphasizing that the community is a theocracy with His priests at the center around the tabernacle 1:1--2:34
1. An Exploration of the Dimensions of the Community:3 Moses, Aaron, and the heads of the twelve secular tribes of Israel counted all of the men of Israel above the age of twenty who could go out to war by tribe totaling 603,550 men, but the Levites were not included in the census because they were to care for the tabernacle and protect the sons of Israel from God’s wrath for coming near to the tabernacle 1:1-46
a. The Census of the People:4 On the first of the second month of the second year Moses obeyed the command of the Lord that he, Aaron, and the heads of each of the twelve secular tribes of Israel should number the men of Israel above the age of twenty who would be able to go out to war 1:1-19
1) Setting: On the first of the second month in the second year after the nation had come out of the land of Egypt the Lord spoke ti Moses in the wilderness of Sinai in the tent of meeting 1:1
2) Exhortation: The Lord commanded Moses to take a census (calculate the total) of all the congregation of the sons of Israel: 1:2-4
a) By their families (clan)
b) By their fathers’ households
c) According to the number of names
d) Every male
(1) Head by head
(2) From twenty years old and upward
(3) Whoever is able to go out to war in Israel5
e) Moses and Aaron are to number the men by their armies with a man of each tribe--each one head of his fathers household 1:4
3) List of Men Who Shall Stand with Moses: Moses lists the representatives of each of the twelve secular6 tribes: 1:5-16
a) Of Reuben: Elizur7 the son of Shedeur 1:5
b) Of Simeon: Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai 1:6
c) Of Judea: Nahshon the son of Amminadab 1:7
d) Of Issachar: Nethanel the son of Zuar 1:8
e) Of Zebulun: Eliab the son of Helon 1:9
f) Of Joseph: 1:10
(1) Of Ephriam: Elishama the son of Ammihud 1:10a
(2) Of Manasseh: Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur 1:10b
g) Of Benjamin: Abidan the son of Gideoni 1:11
h) Of Dan: Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai 1:12
i) Of Asher: Pagiel the son of Ochran 1:13
j) Of Gad: Eliasaph the son of Deuel 1:14
k) Of Naphtali: Ahira the son of Enan 1:15
l) Summary: These (above) are those who were called of the congregation--the leaders of their fathers’ tribes, the heads of the divisions of Israel 1:16
4) Moses and took the above leaders, assembled all the congregation together on the first of the second month and counted the people just as the Lord had commanded 1:17-19
b. The Results of Census:8 Moses provides the results of the census by tribe and then summarizes that he, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel ended with a total of 603,550 men 1:20-46
1) The following are the total men who were numbered by tribe:
a) The numbered men of the tribe of Reuben9 were 46,500 1:20-21
b) The numbered men of the tribe of Simeon were 59,300 1:22-23
c) The numbered men of the tribe of Gad were 45,650 1:24-25
d) The numbered men of the tribe of Judah were 74,600 1:26-27
e) The numbered men of the tribe of Issachar were 54,400 1:28-29
f) The numbered men of the tribe of Zebulun were 57,400 1:30-31
g) The numbered men of the tribe of Ephraim (of Joseph) were 40,500 1:32-33
h) The numbered men of the tribe of Manasseh (of Joseph) were 32,200 1:34-35
i) The numbered men of the tribe of Benjamin were 35,400 1:36-37
j) The numbered men of the tribe of Dan were 62,700 1:38-39
k) The numbered men of the tribe of Asher were 41,500 1:40-41
l) The numbered men of the tribe of Naphtali were 53,400 1:42-43
2) Summary: The above numbers are the ones whom Moses, Aaron and the leaders of Israel numbered totaling 603,550 1:44-46
c. The Levite’s Special Role: The Levites were not to be included in the census of fighting men, but were to care for the tabernacle and all that belongs to it camping around it, being responsible to take it down when they set out and to set it up when they encamp and protecting the sons of Israel from death for coming near to it 1:47-54
1) Not Numbered: The Levites were not numbered among the tribes of Israel became the Lord forbade Moses to include them in the census 1:47-49
2) Cared for the Tabernacle: The Levites were to care for the tabernacle and all that belongs to it camping around it, being responsible to take it down when they set out and to set it up when they encamp, protecting the sons of Israel from death for coming near to it 1:50-54
2. The Character of the Community as a Priestly Theocracy:10 The arrangement of tribes around the tabernacle when encamped and the pattern for marching with the tabernacle in the midst of the camp physically demonstrates the nation to be ruled by the Lord with His priests at the center around the tabernacle 2:1-34
a. Summary: The Lord told Moses and Aaron that the sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banner of their fathers’ households, around the tent of meeting at a distance 2:1-2
b. East: JUDAH,11 Issachar, and Zebulun totaling 186,400 men who will set out first 2:3-9
c. South: REUBEN, Simeon, Gad totaling 151,450 men who shall set out second 2:10-16
d. Middle: The tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites shall follow the camp of Reuben so that the Levites shall be in the midst of the camps as they travel just as they are in the midst of the camps when encamp 2:17-18
e. West: EPHRAIM, Manasseh, Benjamin totaling 108,100 men who shall set out third 2:19-24
f. North: DAN, Asher, Naphtali totaling 157,600 men who shall set out last 2:25-31
g. Summary: The above are the numbered sons of Israel by their tribes totaling 603,550 men among whom the Levites were not numbered and the sons of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses camping by their standards and going out by his family according to his father’s household 2:32-34
B. Analyzing the Inner Structure of the Priestly Hierarchy: Through two distinct censuses which the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to take the Levites are identified as those who are a substitute for the first-born of the nation, and who are to guard12 and care for the holy tabernacle when they travel 3:1--4:49
1. Census I--All Levites More than One Month Old As the First-Born of Israel: With Aaron and his sons as priests and the task of the Levites stated concerning the tabernacle, they are numbered from one month old and older to be 22,000 men who are also positioned around the tabernacle as substitutes for the first-born of the sons of Israel; and the overage of 273 Israelite first-born men is redeemed through five shekels per head totaling 1,365 shekels to Aaron and his sons 3:1-51
a. Summary Statement: These are the generations of Aaron and Moses when the Lord spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai 3:1
b. Sons of Aaron:13 The names of the sons of Aaron who were anointed priests and where ordained to serve as priests were Nedab (the first born), Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (of whom the last two replaced the first two because of the former’s offering of strange fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai) 3:2-4
c. The Levites Role: The Lord spoke to Moses ordering him to bring the tribe of Levi before Aaron the priest to perform the duties14 for him and his sons and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting and to do the service of the tabernacle being on guard to judicially put to death any unauthorized person approaching the tent of meeting15 3:4-10
d. Levites as the First-Born of Israel: The Levites who are a month old and older were 22,000 in number and their position around the tabernacle was stated because they were a substitution for the 22,273 first-born of the sons of Israel; but for the 273 Israelite first-born men over the Levite number of 22,000 men, five shekels per head were given as redemption to Aaron and his sons totaling 1,365 shekels 3:11-51
1) Substitutionary First-Born: Because the first-born belong to the Lord who struck down the first-born in Egypt,16 the Levites are the Lord’s instead of every first born of the sons of Israel17 3:12-13
2) Order to Number the Sons of Levi: Moses is ordered (in the wilderness of Sinai) to number the sons of Levi in accordance with the following criteria: 3:14-15
a) By their fathers’ households
b) By their families
c) Every male
d) From a month old and upward
3) Census of the Levites by Clan and Position in the Camp:18 Moses lists the number of Levites in each clan and assigns them their position in the camp--7,500 Gershonites to the west of the temple, 8,300 Kohathites to the south of the tabernacle, 6,200 of the family of Merari to the north of the temple, Moses, Aaron and his sons to the east of the tabernacle with a total of Levites at 22,000 men 3:16-37
a) Summary: Moses numbered the Levites according to the word of the Lord as he had been commanded 3:16
b) Sons of Levi: The sons of Levi by names are Gershon, Kohath, and Merari 3:17
c) Families of the Levites: The Families of the Levites according to their fathers’ households are as follows: 3:18-20
(1) The sons of Gershon by families are Libni and Shimei 3:18
(2) The sons of Kohath by families are Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel 3:19
(3) The Sons of Merari by families are Mahli and Mushi 3:20
d) Numbers and Positions of the Levites:
(1) Gershonites: The Gershonites (including the Libnites and Shimeties) numbered 7,500 and were to camp behind the tabernacle to the west and to care for the curtains of the tabernacle 3:21-26
(2) Kohathites: The Kohathites (including the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites) numbered 8,30019 and were to camp on the south of the tabernacle and to care for sacred vessels of the tabernacle 3:27-32
(3) Merari: The family of Merari (including the Mahlites and Mushites) numbered 6,200 and were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle and to care for poles and tent pegs of the tabernacle 3:33-37
(4) Summary: The Levites whom Moses and Aaron numbered in accordance with the command of the Lord were 22,000 3:39
(5) Moses, Aaron and Sons: Moses, Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east side of the tabernacle toward the sunrise and to perform the duties of the sanctuary for the sacrifices of the sons of Israel guarding it from the layman (who was to be put to death if he/she came near 3:38
4) Redemption of Israelite First-Born: Since the 22,000 Levites were to be a substitute for the first-born of the sons of Israel and the first-born of the sons of Israel numbered 22,273 men, the sons of Israel were to pay a ransom of five shekels per head20 for the 273 first-born for whom the Levites did not have representatives; this totaled 1,365 shekels which was given to Aaron and his sons 3:29-51
2. Census II--All Male Levites between Thirty and Fifty Years Old As Workers:21 In accordance with the command of the Lord Moses and Aaron numbered the sons of Levi between thirty and fifty years of age at 8,580 and assigned them their duties under the direction of Aaron and his sons--The Kohathites at 2,750 were to carry the sacred vessels, the Gershonites at 2,630 were to carry the curtains, and the Merarites at 3,200 were to carry the poles and tent pegs of the tabernacle 4:1-49
a. Removal Duties of the Kohathites: Moses and Aaron are commanded to take a census of the Kohathites who are between thirty and fifty years old so that they can take care of the holy objects of the tent of meeting after the priests have prepared them for removal 4:1-20
1) Command to Take Census: Moses and Aaron were commanded to take a census of the sons of Kohath by their families and by their fathers’ households from thirty years of age to fifty years of ages to do the work of the tent of meeting 4:1-3
2) Duties of the Kohathites: Aaron and his sons are to first enter into the Tent of meeting, cover the holy objects and furnishings of the tent of meeting and then assign the Kohathites their work and load making sure that they do not see the holy objects lest they die 4:4-20
a) Preparation by Aaron and His Sons: Aaron and his sons are first to enter into the sanctuary, cover22 the holy objects and furnishings of the sanctuary before the Kohathites enter to carry the objects lest they die23 4:4-16
b) In order that the Kohathites might live and not die, Moses and Aaron are commanded to have Aaron and his sons to go in and assign each of the Hohathites to his work and his load with the most holy objects, but they are not to see the holy objects even for a moment lest they die 4:17-20
b. Removal Duties of the Gershonites: Moses and Aaron are commanded to take a census of the Gershonites who are between thirty and fifty years old so that they can carry the curtains of the tabernacle under direction of Aaron and his sons 4:21-28
1) Command to Take Census: Moses and Aaron were commanded to take a census of the sons of Gershon by their families and by their fathers’ households from thirty years of age to fifty years of ages to do the work of the tent of meeting 4:21-23
2) Duties of the Gershonites: Under the direction of Aaron and his sons (especially Ithamar) the Gershonites are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle24 4:24-28
c. Removal Duties of the Merarites: Moses and Aaron were commanded to take a census of the Merarites who were between thirty and fifty years old so that they could carry the poles and tent pegs of the tabernacle under direction Ithamar the son of Aaron 4:29-34
1) Command to Take Census: Moses and Aaron were commanded to take a census of the sons of Merari by their families and by their fathers’ households from thirty years of age to fifty years of ages to do the work of the tent of meeting 4:29-30
2) Duties of the Merarites: Under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the Merarites are to carry the poles and tent pegs of the tabernacle25 4:31-33
d. Summary of Census: In view of God’s command to Moses and Aaron they numbered the Levites for service and arrived at a grand total of 8,580 from 2,750 Kohathites, 2,630 Gershonites, and 3,200 Merarites 4:34-49
1) Sons of Kohath: The Kohathites numbered 2,750 men between thirty and fifty years of age 4:34-37
2) Sons of Gershon: The Gershonites numbered 2,630 men between thirty and fifty years of age 4:38-41
3) Sons of Merari: The Merarites numbered 3,200 men between thirty and fifty years of age 4:42-45
4) Grand Total: The total of all of the men of the Levites whom Moses and Aaron numbered between thirty and fifty years of age who could enter to do the work of service and the work of carrying in the tent of meeting were 8,480 men 4:46-49
C. Cleansing the Camp--Rights and Responsibilities of the Sons of Aaron:26 Because the Lord dwelt among the sons of Israel he ordered Moses to command the sons of Israel to purify the camp by sending out those who were unclean (lepers, those with a discharge, those in contact with the dead) and by exhorting the sons of Israel to deal with their acts of unfaithfulness, whereupon, they are to bless the sons of Israel with the Lord’s name affirming that He will bless them 5:1--6:27
1. Separation from Defiling Things--Purifying the Camp: The Lord ordered Moses to command the sons of Israel to send outside of the camp any man or woman who was a leper,27 was having a discharge,28 or was unclean because of a dead person29 so that they will not defile the camp where the Lord dwelt and they obeyed 5:1-4
2. How to Treat the Unclean:30 The Lord spoke to Moses exhorting him to speak to the sons of Israel about how to deal with acts of unfaithfulness (not paying debts, adultery, breaking a Nazirite vow) which would make them unclean and require resolution whereupon Moses is to command Aaron and his sons to bless the sons of Israel with the Lord’s name affirming that He will bless them 5:5--6:27
a. Repayment of Debts:31 The Lord ordered Moses to command the sons of Israel who have committed a sin against mankind and acted unfaithfully against the Lord to make full restitution to the one who was wronged adding one fifth to it, and to make this to the priest in addition to the ram if he has no relative with whom he may make this restitution, and the priest may keep the gifts32 5:5-10
b. Trial of Suspicion:33 When a woman went astray and defiled herself through adultery or when her husband became jealous and suspected his wife of committing adultery, she was brought before the priest with a grain offering34 and required to drink water with the dust of the tabernacle in it; whereupon she would be shown to be guilty if or stomach swelled and her thigh wasted away,35 or she would be vindicated if nothing happened 5:11-31
c. Nazarite Vow:36 The Lord commanded Moses that the one who makes a Nazirite vow to dedicate himself to the Lord will pollute himself if he partakes from the vine, cuts his hair, or comes into contact with the dead, and at the fulfillment of his vow is to offer a burnt offering, sin offering and peace offering which the priest will present to the Lord 6:1-21
1) Opening Formula: The Lord commanded Moses concerning the man or woman who makes a Nazirite vow to dedicate himself to the Lord 6:1-4
2) The Pollution of Nazirites: The man or woman who makes a Nazirite vow will pollute him or herself if he/she partakes of anything from the vine, cuts his/her hair, or comes in contact with the dead 6:3-12
a) Separation from wine, strong drink, vinegar, and any think from the grape vine 6:3-4
b) Shall not cut hair:37 6:5
c) Separation from all of the dead including family 6:6-8
d) Description of procedure if one dies suddenly beside a Nazarite 6:9-12
3) The Deconsecration of a Nazirite When the Vow is Fulfilled: When the Nazirite vow is fulfilled he/she is to offer without defect one male lamb as a burnt offering, one ewe-lamb as a sin offering, one ram as a peace offering with unleavened cakes and wafers spread with oil which the priest will then present 6:13-21
d. Blessing by Aaron and His Sons:38 Moses is to tell Aaron and his sons to bless the sons of Israel with His name whereupon, He will bless them and grant them peace 6:22-27
D. Events after the Erection of the Tabernacle:39 Through a digression describing events which took place before the taking of the census (1:1ff) Moses proclaims the communities’ acceptance of the tabernacle through gifts given by its chieftains, the purification/dedication of the Levite work-force (in place of the first born of the people) and the Lord’s command that the people observe the Passover in the wilderness 7:1--9:14
1. Commitment of the Community to the Theocracy--The Chieftains’ Initiatory Gifts:40 On the day that Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it, the leaders of the tribes of Israel offered six covered carts and twelve oxen before the tabernacle which were accepted and given to the sons of Gershon and Merari, and Moses demonstrated the unified acceptance of the tabernacle through the gifts from the leaders of the twelve tribes 7:1-89
a. Setting: On the day that Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it, all its furnishings, the altar, and its utensils 7:1
b. Tribal Offerings: The leaders of the tribes of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ households, offered six covered carts (one for every two leaders) and twelve oxen (one for every leader) before the tabernacle 7:2-3
c. Acceptance of Offerings: Moses daily accepted the carts and oxen for twelve days and gave two carts and four oxen to the sons of Gershon, four carts and eight oxen to the sons of Merari, none to the sons of Kohath since they carried the holy objects on their shoulder 7:4-11
d. Presentation of Offerings: Moses listed those from the tribes of Israel who presented their offerings41 on the appropriate days: 7:12-83
1) Nashon of Judah 7:12-17
2) Nethanel of Issachar 7:18-23
3) Eliab of Zebulun 7:24-29
4) Elizur of Reuben 7:30-35
5) Shelumiel of Simeon 7:36-41
6) Eliasaph of Gad 7:42-47
7) Elishama of Ephraim 7:48-53
8) Gamaliel of Manasseh 7:54-59
9) Abidan of Benjamin 7:60-65
10) Ahiezer of Dan 7:66-71
11) Pagiel of Asher 7:72-77
12) Ahira of Naphtali 7:78-83
e. Summary of the Dedication Offering: Moses recorded the summery of the dedication offering as follows:
1) Twelve silver dishes
2) Twelve silver bowls,
3) Twelve gold pans
4) shekels of silver for the utensils
5) Twelve golden pans full of incense
6) Twelve bulls
7) Twelve rams
8) Twelve male goats one year old for the sin offering
9) Twelve bulls
10) Twelve bulls for a burnt offering
11) Twelve rams for a burnt offering
12) Twelve male goats for a sin offering
13) 60 Bulls for a burnt offering
a) rams for a burnt offering
b) male goats
2. Purification of the Levitical Order: After prescribing how the seven lamps on the lampstand should be mounted, the Lord prescribed through Moses how the Levite work-force (in place of the first-born Israelites) was dedicated/purified for their work as movers of the tabernacle and how those who retire at age fifty may continue to help the younger Levites with guarding the Tabernacle 8:1-26
a. Lighting the Menorah:42 The Lord spoke to Moses exhorting him to tell Aaron that he is to mount the seven lamps on the lampstand so that they would give their light forward, and Aaron obeyed the Lord 8:1-4
b. The Dedication/Purification of the Levite Work Force:43 The Levite work force (in place of the first born Israelites) is dedicated/purified for their work as movers of the tabernacle 8:5-22
1) The Command to Dedicate/Purify the Levites: 8:5-19
2) Obedience to the Command to Dedicate/Purify the Levites: 8:20-22
c. The Retirement of the Levites:44 The Lord commanded Moses that the Levites may only do the hard work of erecting, dismantling and transporting the tabernacle from ages 25-50 whereupon, they are to retire and only help the younger men do “guard duty” 8:23-26
3. Observance of the Second Passover at Sinai:45 On the first month of the second year after the people had come out of Egypt the Lord commanded the sons of Israel to observe the Passover on the fourteenth day according to its statues and ordinances and made provisions for exceptional cases--the defiled, the disobedient, and the alien 9:1-14
a. The Observance of the First Passover:46 On the first month of the second year after the people had come out of Egypt the Lord commanded Moses to have the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time (at twilight on the fourteenth day) according to all of its statutes and ordinances and they did in the wilderness 9:1-5
b. The Complaint of Those Bared from Participating in the Passover: Some men who were unclean because they had been with a dead person asked Moses why they should not be allowed to present their offering to the Lord at the Passover with the sons of Israel, and Moses agreed to seek the Lord’s command concerning them 9:6-8
c. Provision for Those who are Bared from Participation in the Passover: The Lord provided provisions for exceptional cases among the sons of Israel with regard to the Passover 9:9-14
1) Defiled: If one has contact with a dead person, that one may observe the Passover one month later (on the fourteenth day of the second month) according to all its statues and ordinances 9:9-12
2) Clean: If one is clean and not on a journey but does not keep the Passover, that one is to be cut off from the people and to bear his sine for not presenting his offering to the Lord 9:13
3) Alien: If a foreigner is among the sons of Israel and observes the Passover according to the statue and ordinance of the Passover, he is permitted since there is one statue for both alien and the native of the land 9:14
II. THE JOURNEY--ITS SETBACKS AND SUCCESS: Israel’s walk in YHWH’s presence was initiated and guaranteed by Him in spite of the disruption and disorder caused by Israel’s repeated disobedience 9:15--25:18
A. The Journey Commences: After the Lord prescribed his means of guidance through moving from over the tabernacle and resettling upon the tabernacle and through message through two trumpets which the priests were to blow, the nation left Sinai under the Lord’s direction and traveled in military array a three days journey to the wilderness of Paran 9:15--10:36
1. The Means of Guidance--The Cloud and Silver Trumpets:47 The prescribed means of guidance for the sons of Israel was the movement of the cloud over the tabernacle and the sounding of two silver trumpets 9:15--10:10
a. Leading of the Lord: On the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle by day and in the evening it appeared like fire over the tabernacle leading the sons of Israel from campsite to campsite by going ahead of them and then resting on the tabernacle 9:15-23
b. Blowing of Trumpets: The Lord commanded Moses to make two hammered trumpets of silver and for them to be blown by the priestly sons of Aaron: two to gather the congregation at the tent of meeting, one to gather the leaders, an alarm for the camps on the east side to set out, a second alarm for the camps on the south to set out, an alarm at war, and at the offerings in the day of gladness and for the appointed feasts 10:1-10
2. Departure From Sinai in Battle Order: On the 20th of the second month48 of the second year the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the sons of Israel set out in military array for the first time on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai to the wilderness of Paran where the cloud settled 10:11-36
a. Statement:49 10:11-13
b. The sons of Judah set out 10:14-16
c. The sons of Gershon and Merari took down the tabernacle 10:17
d. The sons of Rueben set out 10:18-20
e. The sons of Kohath set out with the holy objects 10:21
f. The sons of Ephraim set out 10:22-24
g. The sons of Dan set out as the rear guard 10:25-28
h. Moses and his brother-in-law, Hobab, set out 10:29-32
i. Summary: The Lord led the sons of Israel for a three days’ journey with Moses honoring God as a mighty warrior when He set out and praying that the Lord would return to Israel when they came to rest 10:33-36
B. Setbacks on the Journey: Like increasing waves the people and their leaders rebelled against God and his leaders resulting in His holy judgment upon those in rebellion, His continual affirmation of those whom He had chosen as His leaders, and an ultimate progress toward the promised land in spite of the peoples’ sinfulness 11:1--21:35
1. Preliminary to Major Setbacks--Issues Associated with Mosaic Leadership and Authority: When the people, and even leaders (Miriam and Aaron), complained against the Lord and Moses over their circumstances out of their greed and jealousy, they kindled the Lord’s anger resulting in judgment upon the people and affirmation upon Moses as His unique leader 11:1--12:16
a. Complaint One--Taberah:50 When the people became like those who complain against adversity before the Lord, He became angry and burned the outskirts of the camp51 until they cried out to Moses and he prayed to the Lord; thus the place was named Taberah52 11:1-3
b. Complaint Two--Kibroth-hattaavah: When the people complained over the food and Moses complained over the task of caring for these people, the Lord responded by supplying help for Moses through the seventy elders and by supplying quail for an entire month until the people became sick of it, and He judged with death those who had incited the incident out of their greed 11:4-35
1) Complaint over Food by People: The rabble who were among the Israelites and the sons of Israel began to complain about only having the manna to eat and to long to go back to Egypt and the foods they had there 11:4-9
2) Complaint over People by Moses: When Moses heard the people complaining about their food, he began to complain to the Lord about the burden He had given to him of these people and asked to die 11:10-15
3) The Lord Response: The Lord’s response to the complaints of Moses and the people was that He promised to share Moses’ responsibility among the seventy elders by placing His Spirit upon them, and that He would bring about meat for the people of Israel to eat for an entire month so that they will be sick of meat, and He did so 11:16-30
4) When a portion of the people53 greedily gathered the quail which the Lord provided for them He struck them with a server plague resulting in the burial of many and the naming of the place Kiborth-hattaavah54 11:31-34
5) Move to Hazeroth: From Kibroth-hattaavah the people went to Hazeroth and remained there 11:35
c. Complaint Three--Rebellion of Miriam and Aaron against Moses:55 When Miriam and Aaron lead a jealous criticism against Moses’ unique position with the Lord, He affirmed Moses’ uniqueness, brought leprosy upon Miriam, and responded to Moses’ intercession by healing Miriam after seven days of separation, whereupon, the people moved from Hazeroth to Paran 12:1-16
1) Criticism: Miriam lead56 a criticism against Moses with her brother Aaron under the pretense of criticism over his marriage to a Cushite woman,57 but really over jealousy questioning whether the Lord had spoken only with (through) Moses 12:1-2
2) Affirmation of Moses: After Moses is described as the most humble man on the earth he is also confirmed by the Lord before Moses, Aaron, and Miriam as the one to whom the Lord speaks face to face (unlike the speech which he does with other prophets through dreams or visions) and thus the one whom Aaron and Miriam should have been afraid to criticize 12:3-8
3) The Lord’s Judgment: When the anger of the Lord was kindled by the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron He departed leaving Miriam leprous, as white as snow 12:9-10
4) Aaron Appeals to Moses: When Aaron see Miriam’s Leprous condition he begs Moses as his lord not to account this foolish sin to them (Aaron and Miriam) and not to let Miriam remain in this condition 12:11-12
5) Moses’ Intercession: Moses interceded form Miriam asking the Lord the heal her, and He agreed to let her return to the camp after she had been shut up for seven days outside the camp during which time the camp did not move and after which time she was received in the camp 21:13-15
6) Movement from Hazeroth to Paran: After Miriam was received again into the camp, the people moved out from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran 12:16
2. The Three Major Setbacks: Through the failure of the people to believe the faithful spies, the rebellion led by some of the Levites and the sin of Moses and Aaron at the waters of Meribah the Lord brought disciplining judgment (death) upon those who did evil while at the same time affirming His plan and His representatives 13:1--21:34
a. Failure of the Community to Believe the Faithful Spies:58 When the leaders of the twelve tribes went as spies into the land and reported back to the sons of Israel its prosperity and the might of its inhabitants, the people--against the advice of Caleb and Joshua--became fearful and rejected the Lord’s gift requiring the Lord to judge the older generation in their continued rebellion with death in the wilderness and to give the land to the younger generation after forty years of wondering 13:1--15:41
1) Unbelief of the Spies:59 13:1--14:45
a) Scouts are Chosen: Under the direction of the Lord Moses sent twelve spies (leaders from the tribes of Israel) into the Land of Canaan to spy out the land with regard to the strength of the people, the nature of the land, its cities and to bring back some of its fruit 13:1-20
b) The Expedition: When the spies went into the land they spied it from the south (wilderness of Zin) to the north (Rehob) and then brought back a cut branch of grapes from Eshcol 13:21-24
c) The Report: After forty days the spies returned to the sons of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran and reported (except for Caleb60) that although the land was rich (as testified to by the fruit they brought) it was also inhabited by mighty people61 who would conquer them62 13:25-33
d) The People’s Response:63 The people responded with despair as they wept all night, grumbled against Moses and Aaron, proclaimed that they wished that they had died in Egypt or in the wilderness,64 accused the Lord of bring them into this land for them to die by the sword and for their wives and children to become plunder,65 and desired to appoint a leader to help them return to Egypt causing Moses and Aaron to fall on their faces in the presence of them all 14:1-5
e) The Counterresponse of Joshua and Caleb: When Joshua and Caleb rebuked the people for their rebellion against the Lord and affirmed that the He would enable to take the land, the people decided to stone them, but the Lord interrupted them as He appeared in His glory in the tent of meeting 14:6-10
f) God’s Response: When the Lord responded to the rebellion of the people by intending to destroy them and raise up a new generation from Moses, Moses interceded for the people on the basis of God’s character and the Lord pardoned the people but required that the generation from age twenty and upward (except for Caleb and Joshua) would wonder for forty years66 and die in the wilderness for their high handed sin 14:11-38
g) The People’s Expedition:67 The people continued to demonstrate their rebellious nature as they went into the land to conquer it against the command of the Lord (cf. 14:25) and the exhortations of Moses resulting in their defeat by the Amalekites and Canaanites 14:39-45
2) Renewed Commitment to Land and Stress on the Need for Obedience:68 The Lord confirmed His promise of the Land by describing specific accompaniments to the sacrifices when they enter the land, by describing the procedure for the sons of Israel to offer the first of their dough when they enter the land for blessing from the Lord, by describing God’s provision for unintentional sins in the Land while dealing justly with deliberate sin, and by describing reminders for the nation to remain obedient to Him as their redemptive Lord through placing tassels on their garments 15:1-41
a) Accompaniments to the Sacrifice--Meal, Oil and Wine: When the sons of Israel enter the Land they are to provide specified accompaniments of meal, oil and wine to their thanksgiving offering to the Lord 15:1-16
b) Offering and Provisions for Sin: When the sons of Israel enter the Land they are to offer the first of their dough to the Lord for blessing and seek out a sin offering for inadvertent sin, but defiant sin is to be dealt with by cutting the people off as is illustrated by the man who was stoned for gathering wood on the sabbath 15:17-36
(1) First Dough Offering:69 When the sons of Israel enter the Land they are to offer from the food of the land the first of their dough throughout their generations 15:17-21
(2) Atonement for Inadvertent Sins: When the nation or an individual (native or alien) inadvertently sins against the commands of the Lord, they are to make a sin offering, but if one sins defiantly, it is considered to be blasphemy and that one is cut off from among his people because he despised the word of the Lord 15:22-31
(3) An Example of the Defiant--A Sabbath Breaker Stoned:70 When a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath while the nation was in the wilderness, he was brought before Moses and Aaron and then stoned by the congregation outside of the camp as the Lord commanded 15:32-36
c) Tassels on Clothes:71 The Lord commanded Moses to tell the sons of Israel to put tassels on the corners of their garments with a cord of blue through each72 as a reminder to obey the commandments of the Lord who brought them out of Egypt rather than following their own heart 15:37-41
b. Sin of the Levites and Its Aftermath: After some of the Levites rebelled against Moses and Aaron and were destroyed along with their followers by the Lord as a part of His affirmation of Moses and Aaron, the Levites were proclaimed to be the representatives of the sons of Israel who would receive the consequences for guilt and who should receive provision for their service through the sacrifices of the people 16:1--19:22
1) Sin of the Levites: When the Levites exalted themselves in rebellion against Moses and Aaron the Lord judged them for their evil and those who followed them and confirmed Moses and Aaron through His choice, Aaron’s mediating atonement and Aaron’s rod which budded causing the rebellion to cease as the people feared for their lives 16:1--17:13
a) The Rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram: When Korah, Dathan and Abiram led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron which was designed to exalt themselves, the Lord confirmed Moses and Aaron by judging all of those in the rebellion with destruction through an earthquake and fire 16:1-35
(1) The Leaders of the Rebellion: Korah (of Levi), Dathan and Abiram (of Reuben) rose up against Moses and Aaron with 250 leaders of renown of the community 16:1-2
(2) The Incense Test for Holiness: When the leaders accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves, Moses humbly affirmed that the Lord would decide this matter by choosing the one who is holy--either these leaders with their censers of incense and fire or Moses and Aaron 16:3-7
(3) Moses Rebukes the Levites: Moses rebuked the Levites under Korah and his company for rebelling against God by desiring to exalt themselves even more than He had exalted them wanting themselves to be priests and grumbling against Aaron 16:8-11
(4) Moses Defied: When Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram to come to him, they refused and accused him of misleading them away from their inheritance of the land and of lording it over them, whereupon, Moses asked the Lord not to regard their offering since he had not harmed them 16:12-15
(5) The Incense Test at the Tent of Meeting: On the next day when Korah and his company, Moses and Aaron came to the tent of meeting the Glory of the Lord appeared with the intention to destroy the entire congregation (save Moses and Aaron), but when Moses interceded, the Lord decided to destroy the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram 16:16-24
(6) The Punishment of the Rebels: After Moses announced that the what was about to happen was to be God’s confirmation of him, the Lord opened the ground and swallowed up the households of Dorah, Dathan and Abiram and with fire consumed the 250 men who were offering incense 16:25-35
b) The Aftermath of Korah’s Rebellion--Aaron halts the Plague: When the Lord ordered Eleazar to hammer the cencers of the sons of Korah into a plating for the altar as a warning, the people rebelled accusing Moses and Aaron for having caused the death of the Lord’s people, whereupon, the Lord brought a plague upon the congregation and Aaron was confirmed through stopping the plague via mediated atonement and through causing his rod to uniquely blossom from among the rods of the other tribes thus causing the people to fear that they would all perish 16:36-5073
(1) The Fire Pans as Reminders: After the judgment of Korah and his company the Lord ordered Eleazar the priest, the son of Aaron, to take the censers (fire pans) of those who had been judged and to hammer them into a plating for the altar as a reminder that only the descendants of Aaron were to come near to burn incense before the Lord 16:36-40
(2) The Outbreak of the Plague: When on the next day the people accused Moses and Aaron of having caused the death of the Lord’s people, the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting and began to judge the people with a plague, but Aaron took his censer with fire on it from the alter and incense and made atonement for the people by standing between the dead and the living and thus checking the plague which killed 14,700 additional people 16:41-50
c) Aaron’s Rod: When the Lord confirmed the tribe of Levi from among the twelve tribes through the budding of Aaron’s rod as a means of putting down the rebellions, the people panicked that they were all going to perish 17:1-1374
(1) The Test of the Staffs: The Lord confirmed Aaron as a means to putting an end to the grumbling by having all of the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel present a rod to Moses with their names on it, and then causing Aaron’s rod alone to blossom and produce ripe almonds and keeping it as a sign before the testimony against the rebels 17:1-10
(2) The Response of Panic: The people responded to Moses with fear and panic over so many dying--especially when they came near to the tabernacle of the Lord; they wondered if they were going to completely perish 17:11-13
2) Renewed Commitment to the Levitical Order:75 The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to proclaim that the priests and Levites were to represent the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and thus receive the consequences for guilt as well as provision from the Lord through the people’s offerings which they too were to offer one tenth of to the Lord; and the priests were to cleanse the people from uncleanliness when they came into contact with a corpse by sprinkling them with water and ashes from a red cow who had been sacrificed outside of the camp lest they be cut off from the people for defiling the tabernacle 18:1--19:22
a) Duties and Privileges of the Tribe of Levi: As a remedy for the sons of Israel’s fear of judgment at the temple the Lord told Aaron that he and his sons shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary in the future and then prescribed a proportional means by which He would provide for their service as well as the Levites who assisted them through one tenth of the offerings of the sons of Israel to the Lord 18:1-31
(1) The Remedy for the Panic Above: As a remedy for the sons of Israel’s fear of judgment at the temple the Lord told Aaron that he and his sons (the priesthood) shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary in the future and that although their brothers (the Levites) may assist them, only the priests may come near the inside of the sanctuary (the furnishing and the alter) lest they die along with the outsider who comes near 18:1-7
(2) The Priestly Emoluments (fees): The Lord gave the priests a portion of the offerings of the sons of Israel: grain, sin, guilt, wave, oil, wine, first fruits, first of the womb, the redemption price of men and unclean animals, and the meet of the first born of the ox and lamb--this is an indestructible covenant76 18:8-19
(3) Reward for the Levites:77 The Lord announced to Aaron that he would have no inheritance in their land, but the Lord shall be their portion and the tithe from the sons of Israel shall be the Lord’s provision for the sons of Levite who shall represent the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting 18:20-24
(4) A Tenth of the Tithe--A Priestly Perquisite: The Lord told Moses that the Levites where to take a tenth of the tithe offered to them from the sons of Israel to and to offer the best of it to the Lord, whereupon, they would be able to enjoy the rest anywhere as their compensation for service 18:25-31
b) Laws on Cleansing--Purification from Contamination by a Corpse: When someone or something is defiled by coming into contact with a corpse, they can become clean again by being sprinkled on the third and seventh days with a mixture of water and ashes (with cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet) from a red cow who was slain and wholly burnt outside of the camp, lest they defile the tabernacle and thus need to be cut off 19:1-22
(1) The Red Cow (Heifer):78 The sons of Israel were to bring to Eleazar the priest an unblemished red cow to be slaughtered outside of the camp whereupon he is to sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting, then the cow is to be completely burned, its ashes mixed with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet material, then it is to be used to clean those who have touched a corpse, and those connected with the sacrifice are to purify themselves 19:1-13
(2) Purification by Sprinkling: When anyone touches one who has died or enters the tent of one who has died, or when an open vessel is in the tent of one who has died they are unclean for seven days and need to be sprinkled with a mixture of water and ashes from the red cow on the third and seventh day to be clean lest they be cut off from the assembly because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord; and the one who performs the ceremony as well as all that the unclean person touches will also be unclean until evening 19:14-22
c. The Sin of Moses and Aaron: On the first month of the fortieth year, Miriam died, then Moses and Aaron were forbidden from leading the sons of Israel into the promised land because of their sin at the waters of Meribah, Edom refuses to allow Israel to cross through their land to enter the promised land and Aaron dies on Mount Hor in accordance with God’s word 20:1-29
1) The Sin of Moses and Aaron:79 On the first month of the fortieth year the leaders of the Sons of Israel moved toward death80 as Miriam died and Moses and Aaron were forbidden from leading the sons of Israel into the promised land because of their sin during God’s provision of water for the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah 20:1-13
a) The Death of Miriam: When the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin in the first month81 and stayed at Kadesh, Miriam died and was buried there 20:1
b) Meribah: While the people were at Kadesh they rebelled against Moses and Aaron because of the lack of water whereupon the Lord commanded Moses to speak to the rock and water would come forth, but Moses became angry and struck the rock twice82 which resulted in the Lord providing water for the people but Moses and Aaron being forbidden from leading the sons of Israel into the land and the place being named Meribah because the sons of Israel were bitter with the Lord 20:2-13
(1) Rebellion: When there was no water in the wilderness, the people rebelled against Moses and Aaron complaining that they had been delivered from Egypt to only this barren wilderness 20:2-6
(2) The Lord’s Instruction: When Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the doorway of the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to them and commanded Moses to take the rod and speak to the rock before the assembled community and it will bring forth water 20:7-8
(3) The Lord’s Provision: When gathered the assembly before the rock, he addressed them as rebels, said that he and Aaron would bring froth water for them from the rock, struck the rock twice with his rod and water came forth abundantly for the congregation and their beasts 20:9-11
(4) The Lord’s Rebuke: Because Moses and Aaron did not believe the Lord (by not obeying His words) nor treat Him as holy (by striking the rock)83 in the presence of the sons of Israel, they were prevented from bringing the people into the land, and the waters were called Meribah84 because Israel contended with the Lord, but He proved Himself holy85 among them 20:13
2) The Encounter with Edom:86 Although Israel requested twice of Edom for permission to pass through their land with assurances that they would not touch any of their land, Edom twice refused the request and supported their refusal with force with the result that Israel turned away87 20:14-21
a) Request to Pass through the Land: 20:14-17
b) Edom’s Refusal and Threat of War: 20:18
c) Israel’s Second Request to Pass through the Land: 20:19
d) Edom’s Second Refusal with Force: 20:20-21
3) The Death of Aaron: When the sons of Israel came to Mount Hor near the boarder of Edom, Moses, in accordance with the Lord’s command, took Aaron upon Mount Hor, gave his garments to Eleazar, and then returned with Eleazar down the mountain after Aaron’s death (due his rebellion at Meribah) whereupon the people wept for thirty days 20:22-29
3. Ultimate Progress In Spite of Sin: Even through Israel rose up again in her grumbling against Moses and the Lord so that she had to be disciplined, the Lord brought about ultimate progress for the people as they approached the land and defeated the Canaanites to the South, moved into the Transjordan region, defeated the Amorites under Sihon and the people from Bashan under Og also taking their land and cities 21:1-35
a. Progress--Encounter with the Canaanites:88 When the Israelites move northward toward the land of Canaan, the Canaanites under the King of Arad attack them and took some of them captive causing the Israelites to vow to place them under the ban (herem) if they Lord would allow them to defeat them, whereupon the Lord delivered the Canaanites into the hand of Israel and they completely destroyed them causing the place to be named Homah (destruction) 21:1-3
b. Sin--The Copper Snake:89 When the people were traveling from Mount Hor by the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom, they began to grumble against God and Moses for their wilderness wondering causing the Lord to judge them with fiery serpents which bit the people so that they died and could only be delivered by looking upon the serpent which Moses made and set upon a standard 21:4-9
c. Progress--The Route through Transjordan: Israel moved from Mount Hor, around Moab between Armon and Moab to Bamoth90 21:10-20
d. The Victory over Sihon: When Sihon the king of Ammon refused with force Israel’s peaceful request to simply pass through their land, Israel defeated the Ammorites and lived in their cities (especially Hesbon the former home of the king) 21:21-32
e. The Victory over Og: When Og, the king of Bashan, came out against the Israelites who were going up the way of Bashan, the Lord told Moses not to fear him and He gave them and the land into Israel’s possession 21:33-35
C. Successes on the Journey:91 Although the sons of Israel were under the spiritual attack of Moab and the Midianites so that God might destroy them, they were victorious because God was faithful to His promise to Abraham, and because the priesthood through Phinehas was jealous with God’s jealousy making atonement for the idolatrous sin of the people 22:1--25:18
1. Enemies Are Defeated:92 When the leader of Moab became fearful of the sons of Israel who were camped on his boarder he tried to destroy them through an oracle of God upon them and through raising God’s anger upon them as they sinned, but he was unsuccessful because they Lord was faithful to His promise to Abraham, and because the Lord only judged the leaders of the people who led them into Baal worship 22:1--25:5
a. External Enemies Are Defeated--Balak’s Failure to Turn YHWH Against Israel:93 When the sons of Israel camped in the plain of Moab, Balak became fearful and sought to defeat Israel by having Balaam, a Mesopotamian prophet, come and proclaim a curse upon Israel, but Balaam could only speak God’s word which was a blessing for the people of Israel and a warning of cursing upon those who would curse her (in accordance with the Abrahamic covenant) 22:1--24:25
1) Setting: The sons of Israel journeyed and camped in the plains of Moab in the Transjordan region opposite of Jericho 22:1
2) Prologue to the Balaam Oracles: When the sons of Israel were on the boarder of Moab, Balak the king of Moab sought out Balaam as a prophet to proclaim a curse upon Israel, but Balaam could only come as one who would speak the word of God, and although Balak attempted to persuade Balaam (through money and a banquet) and the Lord (through sacrifices), Balaam returned to Balak with the word that God gave to him 22:2--23:6
a) The Hiring of Balaam: When the sons of Israel were on the boarder of Moab, Balak, the king of Moab, became fearful, sought an alliance with the Medianites against Israel, and twice besought Balaam, a Mesopotamian prophet, to curse Israel who refused to come the first time under God’s direction and then agreed to come the second time under God’s direction but only to speak what God told him to say 22:2-21
(1) Balak’s Fear: 22:2-6
(2) First Pursuit of Balaam: 22:7-14
(3) Second Pursuit of Balaam: 22:15-21
b) Balaam and the Ass:94 As Balaam began to leave with the leaders of Balak, he was stopped by his donkey who three times tried to avoid the angel of the Lord who was before him, and then learned from the angel that he may go, but he must speak the word which he is told to speak 22:22-35
c) The Meeting of Balak and Balaam: Although Balak was disappointed that Balaam did not come with his first invitation, he entertained Balaam with a banquet and then took him to a high place where he could see Israel whereupon they tried to win God’s favor through seven sacrifices and Balaam received a word from God to proclaim to Balak 22:36--23:6
(1) Balak Meets Balaam: When Balak met Balaam at the city of Moab on the Arnon border he rebuked Balaam for not coming with the first invitation, heard Balaam proclaim that he could only speak God’s words, provided a banquet for Balaam at Kirathhuzoth and then took Balaam in the morning to the high place of Baal to see a portion of Israel 22:36-41
(2) Balak and Balaam offer seven bulls and seven rams to the Lord so that they might He might look favorably upon them, whereupon, Balak went to receive a word form the Lord and returned to Balak and the Leaders of Moab with God’s word95 23:1-6
3) The Oracles of Balaam: Although Balak attempted to persuade both Balaam and God to curse Israel, God, and thus Balaam, both blessed Israel and warned of cursing upon any who cursed her 23:7--24:25
a) Balaam’s First Oracle: Balaam proclaimed against Balak’s desire and in accordance with the Lord’s desire that Israel was a unique, righteous people among the nations 23:7-10
(1) Balak’s Purpose: Balaam described Moab’s purpose in calling him to be to curse Israel 23:7
(2) Balaam’s Limitation: Balaam stated that he could not do what the Lord would not do (e.g., curse Israel) 23:8
(3) Balaam observed that Israel was a unique, great people from among the nations 23:9-10a
(4) Balaam proclaimed Israel as righteous and that he desired to be blessed like her 23:10b
b) Result--Balak’s Reaction: Balak responded in anger to Balaam but not defeat, as he seeks still another oracle from Balaam 23:11-17
(1) Rebuke: Balak rebuked Balaam for blessing rather than cursing his enemies, but Balaam remained consistent to speak the Lord’s word 23:11-12
(2) New Plan: Balak took Balaam to a place where he would see less of Israel96 in hopes that he would change his oracle 23:13
(3) Persuasion Repeated: Again Balak offered seven sacrifices to the Lord to win His favor and Balaam received a message to give to Balak 23:14-17
c) Balaam’s Second Oracle: Balaam proclaimed that with God as their strength Israel was indestructible and mighty 23:18-26
(1) Consistent Decree: Balaam proclaimed that God is consistent in His decree, and thus he must be too by blessing Israel 23:18-20
(2) God with Israel: Balaam proclaimed that God was still with Israel 23:21
(3) Defense: Balaam proclaimed that God was Israel’s defense against all 23:22-23
(4) Victorious: Balaam proclaims that Israel will be victorious over its enemies like a lion over its prey 23:24
d) Result--Balak’s Reaction: Balak responded to Balaam in frustration but not in defeat 23:25--24:2
(1) Frustration: Balak was frustrated commanding him to say nothing, but Balaam remained consistent to what the Lord said 23:25-26
(2) New Location: Balak took Balaam to another place97 in hopes that the Lord would change His mind and curse Israel 23:27-28
(3) Persuasion Repeated: Balak offered seven more sacrifices to the Lord, but Balaam did not seek another omen from the Lord because he know it pleased the Lord to bless Israel who was tribe by tribe before him 23:29--24:2
e) Balaam’s Third Oracle: Balaam saw the greatness of Israel and offered blessing to whoever blessed them and cursing to whoever cursed them 24:3-9
(1) Saw God’s Will: Balaam finally saw God’s will and praised Him 24:3-4
(2) Israel’s Magnificence: Balaam proclaimed the magnificence and blessedness of Israel 24:5-6
(3) Future Greatness: Balaam predicted the future blessing and greatness of Israel 24:7
(4) God is Defense: Balaam again described the Lord as Israel’s defense 24:8a
(5) Powerful People: Balaam described Israel as a powerful people who will destroy her adversaries 24:8b-9a
(6) An Offer of Blessing or Cursing: Balaam offered blessing or cursing to whoever blessed or cursed Israel98 24:9b
f) Result--Balak’s Reaction: Balak became furious with Balaam and gave up on cursing Israel through him 24:10-13
(1) Flee: Balak again became angry with Balaam for not cursing Israel but blessing her and ordered him to flee without payment for his services 24:10-11
(2) Balaam’s Response: Balaam responded to Balak by remaining firm to his stand to say what God told him to say 24:12-13
g) Balaam’s Fourth Oracle: Balaam predicted the rise of Messiah, a future kingdom, and the fall of present kingdoms 24:14-24
(1) Prediction: Balaam was going to his own people, but first he wanted to predict what Israel would do to Balak’s people in the future 24:14
(2) God’s Will: Balak again revealed that he saw God’s will and praised Him 24:15-16
(3) Messiah and Kingdom: Balaam predicted the coming of a future king (Messiah) and the rise of a future kingdom for Israel over Moab and all of her neighbors 24:17-19
(4) Future Destruction: Balaam described the future destruction of those leaders who were present: Amelek, Kain, Assher, and Eber 24:20-24
4) Conclusion to the Balaam Oracles: Balaam and Balak both go their separate ways back to their homes 24:25
b. Internal Enemies Are Defeated--Balak’s Success in Turning Israel From YHWH:99 25:1-5
1) Israel’s Worship of Baal: While the sons of Israel were at Shittim,100 they were drawn into the worship of Moab’s god, Baal of Peor, through Moabite women causing the Lord to be angry with Israel 25:1-3
2) Judgment upon Leaders: Lord commanded Moses to slay all of the leaders of Israel so that He might turn His anger away from the entire people, so Moses ordered the judges to slay the men who had joined themselves with Baal of Peor 25:4-5
2. Phinehas Ultimately Justifies Priestly Leadership:101 When one of the leaders of Israel comes with a Midianite woman to his tent to have sexual relations with her, Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron through Eleazar, pierces them both through with a spear and stops the plague which killed 24,000 people causing God to affirm him and to offer him a perpetual priesthood, and causing God to command Moses to be at constant war with the Medianites 25:6-18
a. Righteous Judgment through Phinehas: When one of the sons of Israel came with a Midianite woman to his tent Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron through Eleazar, pierced them through the body with a spear and the plague on Israel which killed 24,000 was stopped 25:6-9
b. Phinehas Affirmed by God: Because Phinehas had God’s jealousy for uprightness among the people, the Lord proclaimed that he had His covenant of peace and would have a perpetual priesthood having made atonement for the sons of Israel 25:10-13
c. Oracle Against Midian: After identifying the son of Israel as Zimri, a leader of the Simeonites, and the Midianite woman as Cozbi, a daughter of Zur a leader in Midian, the Lord commanded Moses to be hostile to the Midianites and to strike them because they had been hostile with the people through their deceptive tricks at Peor 25:14-18
III. FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR SETTLEMENT: The Lord prepared the sons of Israel to obtain the land by taking a census of those among whom it was to be apportioned, by prescribing His will concerning events which will occur in the land, by transferring the leadership from Moses to Joshua, by an expression of commitment of the people to the Lord and His program of conquest, by proclaiming the Lord’s faithfulness in the wilderness, and by proclaiming the Lord’s specific provision of the Land of Canaan as well as how to maintain it as a people through purity and inheritance 26:1--36:13
A. The Second Census--The Reconstitution of the Community:102 Under the command of the Lord Moses and Eleazar took a census of the sons of Israel who survived God’s wilderness judgment by the Jordan at Jericho which numbered the men at 601,730 and the Levites at 23,000 so that the land might be apportioned 26:1-65
1. Directions for Taking a Census: The Lord commanded Moses and Eleazar after the plague while they were in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho to take a census of the sons of Israel who are twenty years old and upward 26:1-4
2. The Results of the Census:103 The sons of Israel who were numbered by families totaled 601,730 men 26:5-51
a. Reuben: The families of Reuben numbered 43,730 men: 26:5-7
b. An Addendum to the Korahite Rebellion: Neither the Reubenites nor the Korahites died out despite the deaths of Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families 26:8-11
c. Simeon: The families of Simeon numbered 22,200 men 26:12-14
d. Gad: The families of Gad numbered 40,500 men 26:15-18
e. Judah: The families Judah numbered 76,500 men 26:19-22
f. Issachar: The families of Issachar numbered 64,300 men 26:23-25
g. Zebulun: The families of Zebulun numbered 60,500 men 26:26-27
h. The Sons of Joseph--Manaseh and Ephraim: 26:28-37
1) Statement: These are the sons of Joseph according to their families--Manasseh and Ephraim 26:28
2) Manasseh: The families of Manasseh numbered 52,700 men 26:29-34
3) Ephraim: The families of Ephraim numbered 32,500 men 26:35-37
i. Benjamin: The families of Benjamin numbered 45,600 men 26:38-41
j. Dan: The families of Dan numbered 64,400 men 26:42-43
k. Asher: The families of Asher numbered 53,400 men 26:44-47
l. Naphtali: The families of Naphtali numbered 45,400 men 26:48-50
m. Summary: The number of the sons of Israel were 601,730 men 26:51
3. The Method of Apportioning the Land: The Lord commanded Moses that the apportioning of the Land was to be by lot to the names above--the larger inheritance to the larger families, and the small inheritance to the smaller families 26:52-56
4. The Levitical Clans:104 The Levites were numbered to be 23,000 from a month old and upward separately from the sons of Israel since no inheritance was given to them from among the sons of Israel 26:57-62
a. Traditional Clans: The Gershonites, Kohathites, and the Merarites were the traditional clans of Levi 26:57
b. The Sub-clans of Levi: The families of the Levi were the Libnites, Hebronites, Mahlites, Mushites, and Korahites 26:58a
c. Genealogy of Kohath: Moses and Aaron, although Kohathites, were distinct from among the Levites105 26:58-61
1) Kohath was the father of Amram 26:58b
2) Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi in Egypt 26:59a
3) Amram and Jochebed gave birth to Aaron and Moses, and their sister Miriam 26:59b
4) Aaron gave birth to Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar 26:60
5) Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange first before the Lord 26:61
d. Summary: The Levites were numbered to be 23,000 from a month old106 and upward separately from the sons of Israel since no inheritance was given to them from among the sons of Israel 26:62
5. A Postscript: Of all of those who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar there was not a man from the earlier census taken by Moses and Aaron except for Caleb and Joshua because they died in the wilderness according to the Lord’s command107 26:63-65
B. Laws about the Land, Observances and Vows: As the nation prepares to enter the promised land the Lord proscribes His will concerning events which will arise, namely, the right of women to inherit the land, the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua, specific daily and yearly observances for the sons of Israel to keep, and His expectations when one makes a vow 27:1--30:16
1. The Right of Women to Inherit Land:108 When the daughters of Zelophehad brought their case before Moses of their father dyeing without sons, the Lord commanded Moses to allow the daughters to receive their father’s inheritance and proscribed rules for the succession of the inheritance when other difficult cases arise 27:1-11
a. The Case of the Daughters of Zelophehad:109 When the daughters of Zelophehad besought Moses and Eleazar for the right to keep an inheritance of the Land in their father’s name since he had died without any sons, Moses brought their case before the Lord and the Lord confirmed their request exhorting Moses to transfer the inheritance of their father to them 27:1-7
b. The Law of Succession: The Lord then proclaimed as a rule that if a man dies without any sons, then his inheritance shall be transferred to his daughter, and if he has no daughter then to his brothers, and if he has no brothers, then to his father’s brothers, and if his father has no brothers, then to his nearest relative in his own family to posses it 27:8-11
2. Commitment to Mosaic Succession--The Succession of Moses by Joshua: When the Lord commanded Moses to go up to the mountain of Abarim to see the land which He was giving to the sons of Israel whereupon he too would die, Moses pleaded with the Lord to replace him with another leader of the congregation, and the Lord appointed Joshua as Moses’ succeeder, and Moses transferred his authority to Joshua before Eleazar and the people 27:12-23
3. A Calendar and Pattern of Daily Observances in the Land:110 The Lord prescribed specific daily and yearly observances for the sons of Israel to keep when they enter into the land 28:1--29:40
a. Introduction: The Lord commanded Moses to be careful to present the food for His offerings at the appointed times 28:1-2
b. The Daily Offering: Two male lambs were to be offered each day as burnt offerings to the Lord--one in the morning and the other at twilight with a grain offering and a libation 28:3-8
c. The Sabbath Offering: In addition to the daily offering two male lambs one year old without defect were to be offered to the Lord with a grain offering and its libation 28:9-10
d. Rosh Hodesh, the New Moon: In addition to the offerings above the sons of Israel were to offer two bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect, and a male goat for a sin offering along with appropriate grain offerings and libations at the beginning of each month 28:11-15
e. The Paschal Sacrifice and Unleavened Bread: On the Lord’s Passover (the fourteenth day of the first month) and for the Feast of Unleavened bread (the fifteenth day of the first month and for the next seven days) the sons of Israel were on the first day to rest and to present an offering of two bulls, one ram and seven male, one year old lambs without defect along with their grain offering and a male goat for a sin offering to make atonement for them in addition to the offerings above 28:16-25
f. The Feast of Weeks: Then fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the day of First Fruits (or Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks)111 the sons of Israel were to rest and offer two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old with their grain offerings and libations and one male goat to make atonement for them in addition to the offerings above 28:26-31
g. The First Day of the Seventh Month: On the first day of the seventh month the sons of Israel were to rest and offer one bull, one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect, the appropriate grain offerings, and one male goat as atonement for them besides the other offerings and libations 9:1-6
h. The Tenth Day of the Seventh Month: On the tenth day of the seventh month the sons of Israel were to rest and offer one bull, ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect, appropriate grain offerings, and a male goat for atonement in addition to the other offerings and libations 29:7-11
i. The Fifteenth to the Twenty-First of the Seventh Month: On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the sons of Israel were to rest and offer thirteen bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect, the appropriate grain offerings, and a male goat as atonement repeating these on the second through seventh days minus one bull each day 29:12-34
j. The Eighth Day: On the eighth day from the fifteenth (or 22 of the seventh month) the sons of Israel were to rest and offer one bull, one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect, the appropriate grain offerings and one male goat for a sin offering besides the regular offerings 29:35-38
k. A Subscript: Moses spoke to the sons of Israel all that the Lord had commanded that they these offerings were to be presented to the Lord in addition to their votive offerings, freewill offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, libations and peace offerings 29:39-40
4. Status of Female Vows--The Annulment of Vows and Oaths Made by Women:112 The Lord commanded Moses that although all vows of men are binding, the vow of a woman may be annulled by either her father (if she was a daughter who lived in his house) or by her husband if he annulled it on the day that he head of it; if he did not, the vow stood and he was responsible for it if he annulled it at a later time 30:2-16
a. Introduction: Moses spoke the following words to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel as the commandment of the Lord 30:1
b. Case One--Men and Vows: If a man takes a vow to the Lord, or binds himself with an obligation, he is not to violate his word, but to do it as he promised 30:2
c. Case Two--Young Women and Fathers: If a young woman takes a vow to the Lord, or binds herself with an obligation, she is bound by it unless her father hears of it and forbids it on the day that he learns of it; in this case the Lord will forgive her 30:3-5
d. Case Three--Woman and Husband: If a married woman takes a vow to the Lord, or binds herself with an obligation, she is bound by it unless her husband hears of it and forbids it on the day that he learns of it; in this case the Lord will forgive her 30:6-8
e. Case Four--Widow or Divorced Woman: If a widow or divorced woman takes a vow to the Lord, or binds herself with an obligation, she is bound by it unless she took it in her husband’s house, he heard of it and forbade it on the day that he learned of it; in this case the Lord will forgive her 30:9-12
f. Generalization: A husband may confirm or annul an oath of his wife, but if he does not upon hearing it, the vow remains binding, and if he annuls it some time after he has heard of it, he will be held responsible 30:13-15
g. A Summation: The Lord commanded the statutes above to Moses concerning a man and his wife and a father and his youthful daughter 30:16
C. Renewed Commitment through the Defeat of Midian and Settlement in Transjordan: The sons of Israel renewed their commitment to the Lord through the dedication of the spoils of battle to the Lord from the defeat of the Midianites and by the dedication of the sons of Rueben and Gad to fight with the sons of Israel in Canaan before they settle in their inheritance in the Transjordan 31:1--32:42
1. Defeat of Midian and Renewed Commitment to Priestly Theocracy:113 As a consequence to the pollution caused by the Midianites, the Lord commanded the sons of Israel to fight against them, they utterly destroyed them, purified themselves and then distributed the booty as the Lord prescribed with a portion of it going to the Lord 31:1-54
a. Preparation for War: In accordance with the Lord’s command, Moses spoke to the sons of Israel to prepare for war and they gathered twelve thousand men (one thousand from each tribe) as well as Pninehas the son of Eleazar the priest with the holy vessels and trumpets to fight against the Midianites 31:1-6
b. The War: When the sons of Israel went to war against the Midianites they killed every male, the five kings of Midian and Balaam the son of Beor, captured the women and children, plundered their livestock, burned their cities, and took all the spoil and prey which they presented to Moses, Eleazar, and the sons of Israel who were camped at the plains of Moab 31:7-12
c. Exhortation of Moses: The the army returned to the sons of Israel, Moses was angry that they had returned with the women who had brought a plague upon Israel and commanded that all of the male children be killed, that only the virgin girls be allowed to live and that the army purify itself (for contact with the dead) and wait seven days before they reenter into the camp 31:13-24
d. Dividing the Booty: The Lord commanded Moses, Eleazar, and the leaders of the tribes to divide the booty between the warriors and the congregation, but to also issue a tax of one out of every 500 captured persons and animals to the Lord with the half from the warriors going to Eleazar and one out of fifty from the congregation going to the Levites 31:25-31
e. Listing of the Booty and Its Divisions: Moses lists the booty, its division among the warriors and the congregation and its portion to the Lord as prescribed above 31:32-47
f. A Memorial Offering: Because none of the sons of Israel were found to be missing from the battle, they provided a memorial offering to the Lord of thanksgiving (6,700 ounces of gold) 31:48-54
2. Settlement of Transjordan--Commitment of All to Settle in the Land is Tested Through Gad and Reuben:114 When the sons of Reuben and Gad requested to settle in the Transjordan area, Moses at first rejected their request as a sin which would discourage the sons of Israel to take the land much as their fathers had done, but when the sons Gad and Reuben offered to enter into Canaan and fight with the sons of Israel for their inheritance, Moses agreed and gave them, with Manasseh, the Transjordan for an inheritance 32:1-42
a. The Proposal: When the sons of Reuben and Gad saw that the land in the Transjordan region was suitable to their many livestock, they requested of Moses that they be allowed to settle in this region rather than going across the Jordan115 32:1-5
b. Moses’ Rejection: Moses rejected the proposal of Reuben and Gad to settle in the Transjordan because he perceived it to be a sin similar to that of their fathers who discouraged the people from settling the land and caused God’s anger to burn against them 32:6-15
c. A Compromise Formula: The leaders of Gad and Reuben explained that even through they would like for their inheritance to be in the Transjordan, they would go and fight with the Sons of Israel until all of them had obtained their inheritance 32:16-19
d. Moses’ Acceptance: Moses agreed to let them settle in the Transjordan if they would keep their word and go to war with Israel, but warned them that if they did not fight, it would be sin against the Lord 32:20-24
e. Gad and Reuben Agree: The sons of Gad and Reuben agreed to build for their children, wives and livestock in the cities of Gilead and to then to cross over in the presence of the Lord to do battle just as Moses said 32:25-27
f. The Essence of the Compromise Formula: Moses told Eleazar, Joshua and the heads of the fathers’ households that the sons of Gad and Reuben would fight with the sons of Israel in the promised land and then be given the land of Gilead for a possession, but that they would be apportioned a possession in Canaan if they did not fight 32:28-30
g. Gad and Reuben Repeat Their Acceptance: The sons of Gad and Reuben agreed to fight for Israel in Canaan as the Lord has said and then to possess the land in the Transjordan 32:31-32
h. The Grant of Transjordan: Moses gave to the sons of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Joseph’s son Manasseh the kingdom of Sihon, King of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, the king of Bashan with all of its cities, territories 32:33-38
1) Statement: 32:33
2) The Possession of the Sons of Gad: 32:34-36
3) The Possession of the Sons of Reuben: 32:37-38
i. Manassite Incursions into Upper Transjordan--Gilead:116 The sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, took Gilead from the Amorites and Moses gave it to them 32:39-42
D. A Review of Israel’s Journey through the Wilderness:117 Moses recounts the journeys of the sons of Israel as well as strategic events which occurred along the way as a conclusion to the wilderness wanderings and a memorial of the Lord’s faithfulness in spite of the peoples rebellion 33:1-49
1. Introduction: 33:1-4
2. Rameses to the Sinai Wilderness: 33:5-15
3. The Sinai Wilderness to Kadesh: 33:16-36
4. Kadesh to the Steppes of Moab: 33:37-49
E. Laws about the Land:118 The Lord commanded Israel to take the land and thus provided the geographical boundaries of the land, the means of apportionment through Eleazer and Joshua, as well as provisions to maintain the land in purity from blood guiltiness and within each tribe when women inherit the land 33:50--36:13
1. The Divisions and Boundaries of the Land: The Lord commanded the sons of Israel to occupy the land and then provided the geographical boundaries of the land and the means for its apportionment through Eleazer the priest and Joshua to the leaders of each tribe 33:50--34:29
a. The Command to Occupy the Land: The Lord commanded the sons of Israel to occupy the land, driving out the inhabitants, destroying their false worship, taking possession of it in accordance with the lot by tribe119 and with the warning that they will be afflicted by those in the land whom they do not drive out 33:50-56
b. The Boundaries of the Promised Land:120 The Lord provided the northern, southern, eastern, and western boarders for the land of Canaan which the sons of Israel were to inherit 34:1-15
1) The Southern Boarder: The southern boarder ran from the Dead Sea through the ascent of Akrabbim, through the wilderness of Zin south of Kadesh-barnea to the Mediterranean Sea 34:1-5
2) The Western Boarder: The western boarder was the Mediterranean Sea 34:6
3) The Northern Boarder: The northern boarder ran from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor (Herman?) to Lebo-Hamath (southern Syria?) to Zedad (65 miles NE of Damascus) to Ziphron to Hazar-enan (75 miles NE of Damascus) 34:7-9
4) The Eastern Boarder: The eastern boarder ran from Hazar-enan to Shepham, down to Riblahon the east side of Ain to the east side of the Sea of Galilee and down along the Jordan river to the Dead Sea 34:10-12
c. The Apportionment:121 After explaining that the two and a half tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh would not be included in the apportionment of the land since they already had their portion in the Transjordan, the Lord to Moses that Eleazer the priest, Joshua the son of Nun and a chosen leader from each of the remaining nine and a half tribes will be the ones to apportion the land 34:13-29
1) Introduction: The following is an apportioning of the land among the nine and a half tribe since Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh received their portion received their portion in the Transjordan 34:13-15
2) Leaders Chosen: The Lord told Moses that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun along with one leader from each of the remaining nine and half tribes were to apportion the land for the people’s inheritance 34:16-29
2. Levitical Provisions in the Land:122 The Lord commanded Moses for the sons of Israel to proportionately provide forty-eight cities for the Levites and their flocks, six of which were to be cities of refuge, from five hundred to 1,000 yards away from the city walls 35:1-8
a. The Placement of the Cities: The Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel to provide cities for the Levites to live in123 as well as pasture land for their animals the first of which extended around the city five hundred yards (1,000 cubits) and the second of which extended 1,000 yards (2,000 cubits) around the city walls 35:1-5
b. A Description of the Cities: These cities were to be proportionately given from the sons of Israel by their size numbering forty-eight124 in all and six of which were to be cities of refuge where the manslayer could flee 35:6-8
3. Refuge in Case of Homicide:125 In the case of murder the sons of Israel were not to permit financial expiation, but were to allow the blood avenger to take the murderer’s life for intentional homicide, and when the manslaughter was unintentional the manslayer was to be judged by the congregation and then taken to one of six appointed cities of refuge where he was to remain until the death of the high priest 35:9-34
a. The Cities of Refuge: The Lord commanded Moses to have the sons of Israel select six cities of refuge--three in the Transjordan126 and three in the land of Canaan127--for the person to flee to, whether Jew, alien or sojourner, who unintentionally killed another 35:9-15
b. Deliberate and Involuntary Homicide: Unlike deliberate homicide wherein one killed another in a premeditated way which required the blood avenger to put the murderer to death, the lack of intention was involuntary manslaughter 35:16-23
1) Deliberate:128 The blood avenger was to put the murderer to death if he struck the person with an iron object, a stone, a wooden object or his hand by lying in wait or in enmity 35:16-21
2) Involuntary: One committed involuntary manslaughter if he pushed him suddenly with out enmity, threw something at him without lying in wait or struck him with any deadly object without being his enemy or seeking his injury 35:22-23
c. Involuntary Manslaughter--The Procedure: When one committed involuntary manslaughter the congregation129 would deliver the manslayer from the blood avenger and restore him to the city of refuge130 where he was to stay until the death of the High Priest,131 but if he left the city of refuge before the death of the High Priest, the blood avenger was allowed to take the life of the manslayer 35:24-29
d. Supplement and Peroration: Because blood pollutes the land and there is no expiation for it other than the blood of him who shed it or the death of the high priest, they were not to receive a ransom for the life of a murderer or a manslayer, and the death penalty was to be enforced under no less than two witnesses 35:30-34
4. The Right of Women to Inherit Land--Marriage Requirements of Heiresses:132 When the heads of the fathers’ households of the family of the sons of Gilead, Machir, and Manasseh brought their concern that land from one family could be lost to another through the right of women to inherit the Land the Lord spoke through Moses commanding that women who inherit the land marry within their tribe so that their land will not be lost just as the daughters of Zelophehad did 36:1-13
1 The usual divisions of this book are centered around geography: (1) At Sinai [1:1--10:10], (2) From Sinai to Kadesh [10:11--12:16], (3) At or Near Kadesh [13:1-19:22], (4) From Kadesh to the Plains of Moab [20:1--22:1], (5) In the Plains of Moab [22:2--36:13]. See Wenham, Numbers, 54; Hill and Walton, SOT, 132; Ryrie Study Bible, 205; The NIV Study Bible, 187-88. While a geographical progression truly characterizes this book, the argument of the book is not very clearly seen through these categories. Budd (Numbers, xvii) seems to have offered better logical categories which aid in understanding the logic of the book:
A. Constituting the community at Sinai (1:1--9:14)
B. The journey--its setbacks and success (9:15--25:18)
C. Final preparations for settlement (26:1--35:34)
These categories will be adapted for the larger structure of this argument. -viii).
2 Wenham writes, These opening chapters of Numbers are not arranged in strictly chronological order. The regulations in chapters 1--6 are dated by 1:1 to the first day of the second month, whereas 7:1--9:15 fall between the first and fourteenth day of the first month (cf. Ex. 40:2). Chapters 1-6 are probably placed before chapters 7--9 to explain the significance of the latter. For example chapter 4, specifying the tasks of the Levitical clans, explains the gift of wagons to them in 7:1-9. Chapter 3 explains the purpose of dedicating the Levites, described in 8:5-26 (Numbers, 56).
3 Milgrom writes, The march of the Israelites through the wilderness, from Mount Sinai to the promised land, will take them through hostile environments, both natural and human. To meet those dangers, the people must be organized into a military camp, which requires a census. Under the supervision of Moses, Aaron, and the tribal chieftains, all males over twenty, other than Levites, are registered by their respective clans. The Levites, who are assigned special functions, are subject to a special census (3:14-39; 4:21-49) (Numbers, 3).
4 This is the second census that was taken. The first was to tax all who were over twenty years old half a shekel for the building of the tabernacle (Ex 30:12-16; cf. 38:25f).
5 The nation is being organized to invade the Promised Land (See 1:3, 20, 22, 24).
6 The Levites were not counted in the census.
7 Note that all of these name are theophoric (compounds in which a name of God is used). For instance Elizar means my God is a rock.
8 Wenham's correlation is significant: This census invites comparison with the opening chapters of the gospels. Matthew begins by tracing the genealogy of Jesus, the new Israel, while Luke mentions that he was born in a census (Lk. 2:1-7). It is not clear if Luke saw this event as recapitulating the experience of the people of God in Numbers; but certainly many other parallels are drawn by the evangelists between our Lord's life and Israel's wilderness experiences. The great difference is that whereas Israel often failed the test, Jesus triumphed (Numbers, 1:20-46).
9 The formula for each entry is about the same: (1) the sons of ..., (2) their genealogical registration, (3) by their fathers' households, (4) their numbered men, (5) according to the number of names, (6) head by head, (7) every male from twenty years old and upward, (8) whoever was able to go out to war, (9) their numbered men of the tribe of ... were ....
10 Wenham states, Here symbolism is very important. At the centre of the camp stood the tabernacle where God enthroned above the ark in the holy of holies. Round the tabernacle camped the priests and Levites, guarding it to prevent ordinary Israelites entering without careful preparation. Beyond the Levites camped the secular tribes, drawn up in battle order as befits the people of God. Outside the camp lived the unclean, sufferers from skin diseases or bodily discharges, who were unfit for the presence of God.
Both at rest and on the move the camp was organized to express symbolically the presence and kingship of the Lord (Numbers, 56).
This structure probably relates to the new Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 21:9ff). The Jewish tribes will become the gates of the city (21:12). We will replace the priestly portion and we (the church) may well replace Moses.
11 On each side of the tabernacle one tribe is accentuated and the other tribes are seen to be next to that tribe.
12 Elliott Johnson writes, The spatial structure and hierarchies of the house of Levites permit certain groups to approach God's presence while safeguarding the rest of the people from God's holiness. Continuing, there are concentric circles of holiness in the camp--priest, Levite and Israelite--each protecting the outer circles from divine wrath. At the absolute center stands Moses--the unique means of revealing the divine will (Analytical Outline of Numbers, 1).
13 Wenham writes, The family of Aaron did belong to the tribe of Levi (1 ch. 6:1-15), but as priests possessed superior status to the rest of the tribe. They alone had the right to handle the sacrificial blood, to touch the altar and to enter the tent of meeting. They were the authoritative teachers of the nation (e.g., Lv. 10:11; Dt. 24:8), the official mediators between God and Israel. With great privilege went immense responsibility. Those who represent God before men must be punctilious in obeying God's word. And Aaron's two elder sons were not: they offered unholy fire before the LORD, such as he had not commanded them (Lv. 10:1). This brief reference to the earlier incident explains why only Eleazar and Ithamar are mentioned as in charge of the Levites in 3:32; 4:16,28,33. It also serves to set the tone for chapters 3--4, which repeatedly allude to the mortal danger men face in dealing with God (3:10,13,38; 4:15,18-20; cf. Acts 5:1-11; 12:22-23; 1 Cor. 10:6-11; 11:29-30) (Numbers, 69).
14 These duties include keeping guard and doing the heavy work of dismantling, transporting and erecting the tabernacle (note the Hebrew terms and chapter four).
15 This would be much like a policeman shooting a criminal (cf. 1:51; 3:10,38; 18:7; cf. Ex 32:25-29; Nu 25:7-12). This was so that the entire congregation would be prevented from God's punishment for the evil of one individual (cf. 1:53; 16--17; 25:8).
16 In remembrance of their salvation the first-born Israelites had to be consecrated to the Lord (Ex. 11:4--13:15) (Wenham, Numbers, 70).
17 This is since the golden calf episode (cf. Ex 32:25-29).
18 For a good diagram of the total layout of the sons of Israel and the Levites see Wehnam, Numbers, 67.
19 The number 8,600 may well be due to the corruption of vlv (3 as in the LXX--triakovsioi) to vv (6). When this correction is made the total in 3:39 matches the individual clans in 3:22, 28, 34.
20 See Leviticus 27:6. This may well anticipate Christ's redemption of His people.
21 Wenham has a diagram of the tabernacle which clarifies the instructions in chapter four (Numbers, 72).
Applicationally Wenham writes, Running through these censuses are two important biblical principles. First, that every member of the people of God has his part to play. The priests offered sacrifice, the Merarites carried the tent pegs, the other tribes fought in the army. Each was indispensable to the smooth functioning of the whole body. Without full mutual cooperation the people would not reach the promised land. Similarly, in Christ's body every member has been endowed with spiritual gifts which contribute to the welfare of the whole church. But as in ancient Israel 'there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one' (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Paul devotes the rest of the chapter to working out these principles in more detail.
The second great principle that is clearly enunciated in these chapters is that Israel was a hierarchy, or more precisely, a theocracy. God spoke to Moses and Aaron, and they passed on God's words to the people. The priests, Aaron's sons, obeyed their father. The Levites were subordinate to the priests, while in their turn the Levites served as religious policemen preventing the ordinary Israelite falling into deadly sin. Similarly, the New Testament pictures the church as well organized with a hierarchical order among its office-bearers. This organization goes back to our Lord himself who appointed twelve apostles in evident imitation of the twelve tribe organization of Israel. Under Christ the apostles are the supreme authority in the church. Beneath them are the other office-holders such as prophets, teachers and elders (cf. 1 Cor. 16:16; 1 Thess 5:12ff; 1 Pet. 5:5); and the leaders are encouraged to 'command' and 'reprove with all authority', for by holding to scriptural teaching 'you will save both yourself and your hearers' (1 Tim. 4:11-16; Tit. 2:15) (Numbers, 73-74).
22 The colored cloths marked the different degrees of holiness (cf. Wenham, Numbers, 72, n. 1; V.W. Turner, The Forest of Symbols [Cornell University Press, 1967], pp. 59ff.
Milgrom writes, Thus, the sacred colors of the sancta as well as their sequence indicate their holiness rank. The Ark, covered by all three sacred colors, is the holiest. The table, next in holiness, claimed two sacred colors. The golden altar and the lampstand were provided with one sacred color, violet, denoting that they were equal in holiness. The sacrificial altar and probably the laver were also granted one sacred color, but it was purple not violet. IN this manner the sequence of the sancta is marked by the differentiation in the colors of their covers, both signifying a descending order in holiness. These distinctions are matched by the quality and workmanship of the sancta themselves. The inner sancta are made of gold, the outer altar of copper (cf. Exod. 25-27). The order of dismantling the sancta is the same as for reassembling them (Exod. 40:17-33) (Numbers, 25).
Wenham writes, The same set of colours was used in the tabernacle. Deep blue curtains were used in the holy of holies, purple in the holy place, and the outer cover was again of goatskin. Undoubtedly these colours had significance, but discovering what they signified is difficult. Evidently blue marked out the holiest objects, those most closely associated with the presence of God, perhaps because blue is the colour of heaven, God's real dwelling-place (cf. Ex. 24:10; 1 Ki. 8:27), and the tabernacle was built on the pattern of God's heavenly house (Ex. 25:9,40; Heb. 8:5). Elsewhere blue and purple hangings adorned royal tents (Est. 1:6). Similarly, kings and nobles wore blue and purple garments (e.g., Ezk. 23:6; Jdg. 8:26). The use of the same colours here reminded Israel that the tabernacle was the palace of their divine king and that the ark was his throne (Numbers, 73).
23 Milgrom writes, Only the priests, who were sacred, were qualified to handle the Ark and the other sancta. The Kohathites, however, had no sacred status (see 3:9) and hence their touching and even seeing the uncovered sancta could be fatal (vv. 15-20). Thus Aaron and his sons had to cover the sancta before the Kohathites could enter the sacred area to attend to their transport (Num. R. 4:19).
24 More specifically the screen for entrance to the tabernacle (26), the screen door for the tent of meeting (25), the curtains of tabernacle and tent of meeting (25), the hanging court of the tabernacle (25).
25 More specifically the boards of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, the pillars around the court, their sockets, their pegs, their cords, with all their equipment, with all their service (4:31-32).
26 This priestly scroll is a collection of case studies in variation from the norm designed to decide future situations (e.g., the trail of suspicion [Nu 5:11-31, the Nazarite [Nu 6], the special Passover [Nu 9].
27 Leviticus 13:2
28 Leviticus 15:25
29 Numbers 19:11 ff.
30 Wenham writes, The narrative pauses for a moment for the revelation of three pairs of laws illustrating how the unclean should be treated. Whereas the expulsion of 'lepers' and others from the camp was an immediate response to the presence of unclean persons among the holy people of God, these laws could be applied beyond the wilderness situation and hence function as implicit promises that ere long Israel would reach the promised land (cf. 13:23ff) (Numbers, 78).
31 Wenham writes, The practical importance of this law is obvious. Israel had been drawn up in battle array to march towards the promised land. But their unity would be shattered if they were squabbling among themselves and taking God's name in vain. Through restitution and sacrifice, peace with God and harmony within the nation could be restored (Numbers, 79).
32 Compare Leviticus 5:14-19; 6; Matt 5:23f; Lk 19:8f; 1 Cor 6:7f; Gal 5:15 et cetera.
33 Wenham writes, As often in Numbers, it is not immediately apparent what this law has to do with its context. It seems out of place in a section concerned with purifying the camp and the people. Closer inspection shows that this ritual is indeed related to the preceding laws. Adulterous wives are picked out for special attention, because adultery pollutes those involved, making them unclean (verses 13f., 19f, 28f.; cf Lv. 18:20, 25, 27). They should therefore be eliminated from the camp (cf verses 3f). Second, both adultery and the offenses described in verses 5-11 are described as breaking faith (verse 6) or acting unfaithfully (verses 12,27). The same Hebrew word (ma‘al ) is used in both cases: false oaths break faith with God, adulterers break faith with their spouses. Thirdly, it may be noted that Leviticus 19:20-22 prescribes a guilt offering for adultery with a slave girl. This association with guilt offerings serves to link those three consecutive sections (5:5-10; 11-31; 6:1-21; n.b. verse 12). A fourth point of contact with verses 5-10 is that this ordeal is essentially an elaborate oath to establish a wife's fidelity or otherwise. Such oaths were also used to determine rights in property claims (e.g. Ex. 22:7-13) and are alluded to in verse 6 ‘breaking faith’. Whereas in the case of debt repayment we have a guilty man owning up to misusing an oath, in this ordeal we have a suspicious husband imposing a solemn oath on his wife. Finally, throughout Scripture the covenant relationship between God and his people is compared with marriage. As he is concerned with the purity of Israel shows in the expulsion of the unclean from the camp, so husbands are right to be worried if they suspect their wives have polluted themselves through infidelity. Indeed, early Jewish exegesis likened the drink made from the ashes of the golden calf to the draught administered to suspect women. The law and the golden calf episode may lie behind prophetic references to the cup which the Lord will make faithful Israel drink (Is. 51:17,22; Ezk. 23:30-34) (Numbers, 80; see 83-85 for a fuller discussion of the particulars of the test).
In other Ancient Near Eastern cultures the women would not have had any trial. This was an attempt to deal with the situation righteously, to give women rights (emphasizing that God recognized the rights of a women in a trial), and to deal with men's jealousy.
34 Without the symbols of joy--oil and frankincense.
35 The Mishnah writes, In the member she sinned with she will be punished (Sotah 1:7). Wenham writes, In adultery the woman sinned with he 'thigh' and conceived in her 'belly'. Therefore, it is fitting that these organs should be the scene of her punishment (Numbers 84).
36 The Hebrew term “nazir” from which the English term is transliterated means to separate. There are many similarities between the high priests and the Nazirites (cf. Lev 8; 10:9; 21:2ff., 11)
Wenham writes, The Nazirites were the monks and nuns of ancient Israel, lay men or women who consecrated themselves to the total service of God, usually for a specific period of time, through more rarely for life. The laws on Nazirites were included here because they fit the general theme of this part of Numbers. The nation is being organized as a holy people of God. Israel was called to be 'a kingdom of priests' (Ex. 19:6), and the rules voluntarily assumed by the Nazirites resembled those governing the behaviour of priests, while their distinctive hairstyle reminded the laity that even they were called to be kings and priests to God (cf. Rev. 5:10). Thus as marriage symbolized the relationship between God and Israel (Nu. 5), so the Nazirites epitomized the holy calling of the nation (Je. 7:29). If pollution through dead bodies demanded the expulsion of ordinary laymen from the camp (5:2-3), it had an even more drastic effect on the Nazirites, the quintessence of sanctity (6:9-12).
Formally these laws also cohere well with their context. There is the same opening formula (6:1-2; cf. 6:6f., 11f.), and as in the preceding laws, the subject is dealt with under tow main heads: the pollution of Nazirites (6:2-12) and their deconsecration (6:13-21). The reminder to give the priests the full dues links these laws with what precedes and what follows (6:19-20; cf. 5:8-10; 6:22-26). (Numbers, 85-86).
37 This was a sign of his or her separation and had to be returned to the Lord if he or she became defiled.
38 Wenham writes, The blessing which invokes God's protection on the people comes at a very apposite moment. It also serves to show that God's permanent purpose is to bless all his people, not merely those who undertake the Nazirite vow. Whereas Nazirites generally undertook their vow for a short period, the priests were always there pronouncing this blessing at the close of the daily morning service in the temple and later in the synagogues. The proclamation of this prayer by the priests was a guarantee that God would indeed bless the people of Israel (verse 27) (Numbers, 89).
39 Wenham writes, Exodus 40 to Numbers 6 describe what happened from the erection of the tabernacle on the first day of the second year until the census one month later. Numbers 7--9 record other less important events that fell within that same period, and constitute a digression whose beginning and end are marked by the inclusion, on the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle (7:1; cf. 9:15) (Numbers, 91; see also S. Talmon, The presentation of Synchroneity and Simultaneity in Biblical Narratives, Scripta Hierosolymitana, 27 (1978): 9-26). See Wenham, Numbers, 91 for a chart of dated events in Exodus 40 to Numbers 10.
Milgrom writes, The wilderness camp having been organized (7:1--8:26) and purified (5:1--6:27), attention is now given to last details for making the cult operative. These include supplying the Tabernacle with its initial sacrificial implements and ingredients--gifts of the tribal chieftains (7:1-89), mounting the menorah lights (8:1-4), and inducting the Levites into service (8:5-26) (Numbers, 52).
40 Milgrom writes, It is not clear why this document concerning the initiatory gifts of the tribal chieftains was placed here. Ibn Ezra conjectures that the previously mentioned Priestly Blessing is to be identified with Aaron's blessing, recited at the end of the first public service (the eighth day following the seven-day consecration of the Tabernacle, Lev. 9:22-23), and that immediately after the blessing the chieftains brought their gifts. The context, however, offers another, more plausible reason. In chapter 4, the Levites have been assigned their transport duties. The carts required for the Gershonites and Merarite labors are now donated by the chieftains (vv 1-9). The alter gifts of the chieftains (vv. 10-88) are incidental and are included only because they form part of the same archival document (Numbers, 53).
Wenham writes, Finally, placing this record of the princes' gifts for the altar at this point in the narrative serves a theological purpose. It follows the Aaronic blessing (6:22-27). The priesthood and the altar belong together. The princes are thus portrayed as responding to the prevenient grace of God shown in the establishment of the tabernacle and priesthood. Their generosity leads in its turn to greater divine blessing, God's continued presence among them (verse 89; cf. Lv. 26:11f.). This pattern--divine blessing/believing human response/greater blessing--is basic to Old Testament theology (Numbers, 92).
Concerning the wordiness in 7:12-88 Wenham writes, It seems likely that a theological purpose underlies his wordiness: to emphasize as strongly as possible that every tribe had an equal stake in the worship of God, and that each was fully committed to the support of the tabernacle and its priesthood (Numbers, 93).
41 The gifts were one silver bowl and one silver basin, each filled with choice flour and oil for cereal offerings, one gold ladle filled with incense, and the same number and kind of sacrificial animals (Milgrom, Numbers, 53; one young bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, one male goat, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs one year old).
42 Milgrom writes, The question as to why this text was placed here, at the head of chapter 8, may be resolved by the previous verse (7:89): Only when God began to speak to Moses from the Holy of Holies, after the consecration of the Tabernacle, did Moses receive the final instructions concerning the operation of the menorah. Earlier he writes concerning the content of the chapter, This passage now adds that the lamps must be affixed so that they will cast their light forward. Since the menorah is located against the southern wall of the Tabernacle (Exod. 26:35), the lamps should cast their light northward for the maximum illumination of the altar of incense and the table of the bread of presence, which stand in the center and along the north wall, respectively (Numbers, 60).
43 Milgrom writes, The Levites have replaced the Israelite first-born (3:11-13, 40-51). and have been assigned to the duties of guarding (3:14-39) and removing (4:1-33) the Tabernacle. But before the Levite work force is permitted to dismantle and handle the sancta, it must be ritually qualified, which requires that it be purified of impurities such as contact with the dead. This purification, however, should not be compared with the consecration service of the priests (Exod. 29; Lev. 8), who are consecrated with the anointment oil (Exod. 29:7,21) in order to gain a holy status so that they may have access to the sacred objects, that is, officiate at the altar and enter the Tent. The Levites, on the other hand, are forbidden to enter the Tent or officiate at the altar (cf. 18:3-4): They may only transport the dismantled Tabernacle and its sacred objects after they are covered by the priests, a task that does not require sanctification but purification (Numbers, 61).
Wenham writes, New Testament parallels to the Levites are hard to find. In their role as sacrificial victims who ransom the people from their sins one may view them as a type of Christ. In their role as lay assistants to the priesthood they foreshadow the deacons, who were appointed to relieve the apostles of church administration (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13) (Numbers, 97). However, one needs to add that the ministry of deacons is more than administration (cf. Acts 6 with 7--9).
44 Milgrom writes, the present passage is essential not only because it informs us that the Levite must cease from the arduous task of removing the Tabernacle when he reaches the age of fifty but also because it stipulates that he does not withdraw into retirement but continues to perform guard duty, the other main Levitical function (cf. 3:7) (Numbers, 65). For a discussion of the differences in ages between Numbers 8:22; 4:3, 23, 30 and 1 Chronicles 23:3 see Milgrom, Numbers, 65-66).
45 Wenham writes, This episode therefore concludes the digression from 7:1 to 9:15, relating events that took place before the census recorded in 1:1. It is not clear whether the dedication of the Levites took place within this fortnight, but its present place is appropriate since the Levites took the place of the first-born who had been consecrated to the Lord on the first passover night (8:17f.) (Numbers, 98).
46 Milgrom writes, the prescription of the regular Passover (9:1-5) must be considered a flashback, inserted here to distinguish it and all subsequent Passover observances from the original one in Egypt. Henceforth, according to Rashbam, the sacrifice had to be observed in the sanctuary. Also, it may be no accident that the instructions concerning the Passover immediately precede the march from Sinai. This sequence duplicates the sequence of the events of the Exodus. Then too, instructions (Exod. 12--13) had preceded the march out of Egypt (Exod. 13:17; 15:27) (Numbers, 67).
Continuing he writes, It is no accident that Passover, falling on the fourteenth day of the month, follows the erection and dedication (on the first through eighth days) of the Tabernacle, followed by the altar dedication and purification of the Levites (chaps. 7--8). In later times the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem is climaxed by the observance of one of the great pilgrimage festivals: Solomon on Sukkot (1 Kings 8:65-66), Hezekiah on Passover (2 Chron. 29--30), Josiah on Passover (2 Kings 23:21-23), the exiles on Sukkot (Ezra 3:4), Ezra and Nehemiah on Sukkot (Neh. 8:13-18), and perhaps Jeroboam on Sukkot (one month later, 1 Kings 12:32-33) (Ibid.).
47 The historical link with Exodus 40:34-38 rests in Numbers 9:15-23 with the presence of YHWH's glory (E.E. Johnson, Analytical Outline of Numbers, 1).
48 This was April-May called Iyyar or Ziv. See also Numbers 1:1 to see that only twenty days has passed since the beginning of the book.
49 This verse summarizes several days journeyings since stops were made at Kibroth-hattaavah and Hazeroth before they finally arrived at the Wilderness of Paran (cf. 11:35; 12:16). Milgrom writes, The notices that the desert of Paran is the first major stop, without mention of the minor intermediary ones (cf. 11:34-35), is intended to form an inclusion with the notice of the actual arrival at Paran (12:16), thus structurally defining the section 10:11--12:16 as a complete literary unit (Numbers, 76). The march itself took almost forty years (14:33; 33:38), but the majority of this section is concerned with the opening and closing months of the march (10:11--14:45; 20:1--22:1).
50 Milgrom writes, This short section of three verses contains all of the essential elements of all the subsequent narratives describing Israel's complaints: complaint (11:4-5; 12:1-2; 14:1-4; 17:6-7; 20:3-5; 21:5), divine punishment (11:33; 12:9-10; 14:20-37; 16:32; 17:11; 21:7), and immortalizing the incident by giving a name to the site (11:34; 20:13; 21:3; Esod. 15:23; 17:7) (Numbers, 82).
Likewise Wenham writes, This episode heads a series of stories in which every group among the Israelites rebels at God's provision and plans. On each occasion the sin is described, and then the subsequent divine judgment. As a result of unbelief and disobedience all the adult males except Joshua and Celeb die in the wilderness not in the land of promise. Even Aaron and Moses dies before arriving in Canaan. The complete reversal of national attitudes is emphasized in traditions about Kiboroth-hattaavah. The triumphant optimism of Moses, urging Hobab to accompany Israel to the good land promised by the Lord, is replaced by grumbles about the evil (RSV misfortunes verse 1, wretchedness verse 15) they are actually experiencing. Instead of looking forward to Canaan, they nostalgically yearn for Egypt (10:29; 11:5, 18, 20). Whereas Moses assured Hobab that the Lord would treat Israel well, he was soon to ask, 'Why hast thou dealt ill with thy servant?' (10:32; 11:11). Other great saints experienced similar crises of faith in times of adversity, e.g. Elijah, John the Baptist, and Peter (1 Ki. 19:4ff.; Mt. 11:2ff.; 26:69ff.). Both Moses and the people are treated gently at first; the fire is only at the edge of the camp (verse 1), and Moses is not rebuked for his doubts. It was their repeated acts of unbelief that led to their exclusion from Canaan (Numbers, 107).
51 It is not clear what was burnt on this occasion--shrubs near the tents or tents themselves (Wenham, Numbers, 106).
52 This term, hr*u@b=T^ , means burning. Wenham writes, Since Taberah is not included in the list of camp sites in chapter 33, it was probably a name given to an area near Kibroth-hattaavah (cf. verses 4-35) (Numbers, 106).
53 The construction is <u*b* , among the people.
54 The terms, hwaTh twrbq , graves of craving probably refer back to the rabble in 11:4 who had greedy desires implying that the main body of Israelites escaped the judgment).
55 Milgrom writes, The previous chapter (11:14--17, 24-31) has contrasted Moses with the ecstatics. This chapter contrasts him with prophets, in particular, with Miriam and Aaron who, on the basis of their own prophetic gifts, contest Moses' leadership. This theme serves as the link that connects the two chapters. Miriam and Aaron summon the courage to challenge Moses from the example of Eldad and Medad (11:26-29), who also have received their prophetic gift from God, prophesying independently of Moses and with the latter's encouragement. As God's intimate confidant, Moses is now proclaimed the prophet par excellence (Numbers, 93). Wenham writes in the same way, Though this protest appears to be much less serious than the widespread popular discontent described in the previous chapter, it was in fact a peculiarly piquant and fundamental one. It was not just a case of petty family jealousy, for Aaron, Moses' brother, was also the high priest and therefore supreme religious leader and most holy man in Israel; while Miriam, his sister, was a prophetess and thus head of the spirit-filled women (Ex. 15:20f.). Here, then is an alliance of priest and prophet, the two archetypes of Israelite religion, challenging Moses' position as sole mediator between God and Israel. His vindication is at once decisive and dramatic: indeed the description of his position and office clearly prefigures that of our Lord in the New Testament' (Numbers, 110).
56 That Miriam lead the criticism is supported by three lines of evidence: (1) her name is stated first (cf. vv. 4-5), and (2) the verb is in the feminine singular ( rB@d@T=w ). See also (Ex 15:1; Judg 5:1; Esther 9:29; cf. v. 32), and (3) it is she who receives the consequences of the Lord's anger (12:9-10).
57 This may have been Zipporah who is more usually described as a Midianite (cf. Ex 2:16ff) or she may have been Moses' second wife (after the death of his first) who came from Ethiopia (cf. Gen. 10:6).
58 Milgrom writes, The juxtaposition of chapters 13--14 with chapter 12 derives from the tradition that Israel's rebellion following the reconnaissance of Canaan took place in the wilderness of Paran (12:16; 13:26). There also is a psychological connection: Miriam and Aaron's public outburst against Moses (12:1-2, 8b) may have encouraged the malcontents among the Israelites to do the same (Numbers, 99).
59 Of all of the wilderness sins, this rates on top with the sin of the golden calf (cf. Ex 32-34; Dt 1:22-45; 9:12-25). Only for these two does the Lord threaten to destroy the nation (cf. Ex 32:10; Nu 14:12)
60 He believed because of God and did not need to go into the land to see it resolved.
61 The descendants of Anak in the Negev, The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, and the Amorites in the hill country, and the Canaanites by the sea and by the side of the Jordan (13:29).
62 The ten men feared Canaan but never came to experience what they feared. They ignored God and should have feared Him.
63 The complain about God's gift. This is not the first time that they have done this (remember the manna in Numbers 11).
64 This idle wish will be granted as their destiny!
65 This fear never became a reality! On the contrary their rebellion against God led to the hardship which their children faced (cf. 14:31-33).
66 One year for each day that the spies were in the land (14:34).
67 Wenham writes, As the people refused to believe God's promise of victory over the Canaanites, so they would not accept his judgment. The episode concludes with tier attempting to conquer the land without divine aid, and being chased all the way to Homah (Numbers, 115).
68 The three larger subdivisions of this subunit are identified with the opening phrase, The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the people of Israel' (1f, 17f, 37f), then with a mention of the land (2, 18), a command to do or make something (2, 22ff, 28ff) and a formula recalling Israel's salvation from Egypt and her call to holiness (41). Wenham writes, It therefore seems likely that these laws have been placed here as a deliberate comment on the preceding narrative. The people have questioned the basic purpose of their journey, and in judgment God has declared the adults will die out in the wilderness. After a break of forty years their children will enter the promised land of Canaan. Chapter 14 closes with a defeat by the Canaanites at Hormah. A question mark hangs over the whole enterprise (Numbers, 127).
Milgrom comments: Why this chapter placed here? The reason suggested by the medieval commentators is most plausible: After the generation of the Exodus is told that it must die in the wilderness (14:32), it is given some lows that will take effect in the promised land, when you enter the land... (v. 2; cf. f. 18). Thus the members of that generation are assured that their children will inherit the land (Numbers, 117).
69 This is for the non-farmer who also is meant to feel that his provision is from YHWH.
70 This incident is a particular example of the highhanded sinner just mentioned in the previous verse (15:30-31). Wenham writes, The procedures followed in their case closely resemble Leviticus 24:10-23, describing the conviction and execution of a blasphemer. It was already recognized that sabbath breaking warranted the death penalty (Ex. 31:15; 35:2-3). Stoning was prescribed, a punishment which involved a large body of people, the congregation (36), thereby symbolizing the community's rejection of this offence. Since the sabbath was a sign of the covenant, its desecration was particularly serious (Dt. 5:15).
Why then was it necessary to ascertain God's will in this case? There are three possibilities. The traditional view is that it was necessary to discover how the man should be executed. Another suggestion is that the law laid down that kindling a fire on the sabbath merited the death penalty (Ex. 35:3) but did not cover the case of gathering firewood. The law in Numbers extends the Exodus rule somewhat lest the man should have gone on to start a fire. The third possibility is a modification of the second view. By collecting sticks the man was demonstrating his clear intention of lighting a fire on the sabbath. His action prompted the query: Did premeditated preparation to break the law count as a high-handed sin and deserve the same penalty as actually breaking the law, or could it be overlooked? In favour of this view it may be noted that premeditation demonstrated in the preparations for committing a crime distinguishes murder from manslaughter, killing inadvertently, bisgagah, in Numbers 35:15ff. Intention to harm was also punishable when it issued in false testimony (Dt. 19:16-19) (Numbers, 132).
71 Milgrom writes, Most probably, the tsitsit [ tx!yx! ] was placed here to form a verbal inclusion with the episode of the spies recounted in chapters 13--14. In scouting (tur, 13:2, 25; 14:34), the spies whorted (zanah, 14:33) after their eyes and brought a false report. So by wearing the tsitsit, Israel would be prevented from ever again 'scouting' (tur, 15:39) and 'whoring' (zanah, 15:39) 'after their heart and eyes.' Moreover, wearing the tsitsit would convert their dress into uniforms of the royal priests of God (Numbers, 127).
72 Wenham writes, Blue or violet (NEB) distinguished royalty (Est. 8:15) and divinity. The ark, God's throne, was wrapped in a blue cloth (Nu. 4:6) and blue curtains adorned the tabernacle indicating that this tent was the place of the King of kings (e.g. Ex. 26:31, 36). Blue was also used in the high priest's uniform (Ex. 28:31, 37, etc.). No doubt it had a similar significance in the layman's tassel. The blue thread reminded him that he belonged to 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (Ex. 19:6). Like the high priest he was called to exhibit holiness not only in his outer garb, but in his whole way of life. You shall be holy to your God (40) (Numbers, 132-33).
73 Hebrew 17:1-15.
74 Hebrew 17:16-28.
75 Milgrom writes, As a consequence of the death of their chieftains at the Tabernacle (16:35--17:5) and the toll taken by the plague, the Israelites began to dread the Tabernacle and will not come near it. To allay their fright they are given the assurance that henceforth priests and Levites alone will bear the responsibility for encroachment. This responsibility is divided into three groupings: priests and Kohathites are liable for Israelites (18:1a); priests and Levites for Levites (18:3); and priests for priests (18:1b). A fourth grouping, Levites for Israelites, is postponed to 18:22-23. This assignment of responsibility guarantees that 'wrath may not again strike the Israelites'(18:5b...) (Numbers, 145).
76 Thus it is called a covenant of salt ( jlm tyrb ; 2 Ch 13:5). Milgrom writes, Salt was the food of preservative par excellence in antiquity. Its use was required for all sacrifices (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24), and it stands in contrast to leaven and other fermentatives, whose use is forbidden on the altar (Lev. 2:11). Thus salt is a symbol of permanence, and a 'salt covenant,' therefore, means an unbreakable covenant (Numbers, 154).
77 The phrase, the Lord said to Aaron sets this paragraph off as another unit.
78 Wenham writes, Normally the animal's colour did not matter. This one had to be red to resemble blood. Heifer (RSV) is more accurately rendered 'cow' by the NEB. However, it if had never been used for ploughing or pulling a cart (2), it must have been relatively young, hence the traditional English translation (Numbers, 146-47).
Milgrom relates this chapter to the unit as follows: Perhaps the twice-mentioned warning that corpse contamination may defile the sanctuary (vv. 13,20) made this chapter a natural sequel to the parrashah of Korah (chaps. 16-18), in which the main problem is the desecration of the sanctuary by encroachment. The most attractive explanation may be that Eleazar and not Aaron officiates--as is also the case in the previous Korah episode (17:2-4). As both instances involve corpse contamination, Aaron is barred from officiating and Eleazar takes his place. Hence this unit was placed here, between the Korah narrative and the account of Aaron's sin and death (20:1-13, 20-29) (Numbers, 157).
79 Milgrom writes, After Miriam's death, the people complain about the lack of water. Moses and Aaron are commanded to bring forth water from the rock. They produce the water but in so doing they are condemned by God to die in the wilderness. Their sin is akin to heresy .... It constitutes the climax of a series of rebellions: first by the people (chap. 14); then, b the Levites and chieftains (chap 16); and finally, by the leaders, Moses and Aaron. The punishment for all of them is the same: They will not inherit the land but, instead, will die in the wilderness (Numbers, 163).
Concerning the broader structure Wenham writes, The brief notice of the death of Miriam (20:1) introduces the third and last travel narrative in Exodus-Numbers. The first deals with the journey from the Red Sea to Sinai (Ex. 13--19); the second covers that from Sinai to Kadesh (Nu. 11-12); while this final one summarizes the journeyings from Kadesh to Transjordan (Nu. 20--21). As was noted in the Introduction, certain motifs occur in all three travelogues, e.g. battles with enemies (Ex. 14; 17:8-16; Nu. 14:45; 21:1-35), complaints about the lack of food and water and its miraculous provision (Ex. 16--17; Nu. 11; 20:2-13), the need for faith (Ex. 14:31; Nu. 14:11; 20:12), the role of Moses, Aaron and Miriam (Ex. 15:20-21; Nu. 12; 20;1).
But the narratives each develop quite differently. The first begins with the defeat of the Egyptians and Moses and Miriam singing songs of triumph by the Red Sea (Ex. 15), and the people believing in the Lord and his servant Moses (14:31). The the mood changes with the complaints of the people about the lack of food and water. The second journey begins well with the cloud of fire leading the advance to the promised land (Nu. 10:11ff). But grumbles from the people and from Miriam and then the disheartening report of the spies lead to the postponement of the conquest, and finally a defeat by the Canaanites at Hormah. But the third journey proceeds quite differently. It begins in gloom and ends on a note of subdued but real jubilation. Chapter 20 records the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, and Moses' unbelief that shut him out of Canaan. But this is followed in chapter 21 by victory at Hormah, where years earlier Israel had been defeated (cf. 14:45), and further victories over Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, are accompanied by short songs of celebration (21:14-15, 17-18, 27-30). These three victories and their songs recall the first and greatest victory over Egypt by the Red Sea that Moses and Miriam had hailed in Exodus 15. Thus this final travel narrative inverts the patterns found in the earlier two; whereas they recount triumphs that turned into tragedy, this tells of tragedy that ends in triumph and a re-awakened hope of entry into the promised land (Numbers, 148).
80 Wenham writes, The death of Miriam followed by the death sentence passed on her brothers makes this one of the most tragic sections of Numbers (Numbers, 151).
81 Although the years has been omitted, this was probably the fortieth year of the people's wandering. This is supported by 33:38 where Aaron is said to have died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Exodus from Egypt (cf. 20:22-29).
82 Moses was irritated with the people and perceived the problem as his personal responsibility (20:10). In irritation Moses failed to perceive the graciousness of God's grace or the way in which God was dealing with the people (speak, do not hit; 20:8). In irritation Moses misrepresented God before the people (he struck the rock twice; 20:11). In Exodus 17:6 the Lord told Moses that He would stand before Moses when he struck the rock. Therefore, when Moses struck the rock, he struck God. It seems that the Lord's design was to portray two means by which He would supply water: (1) by striking, and (2) by speaking. He was teaching that on the first occasion God would respond by being struck, but on the second occasion God would respond by being asked. These may well foreshadow the crucifixion and later revelation. Moses misrepresented God's character when he struck the rock twice (Elliott E. Johnson, class notes of student in 303 Old Testament History II, Spring 1981).
83 Note how the Lord is often symbolized through the imagery of a rock (Pss. 18:2; 31:3; 42:9; cf. 1 Cor. 10:4!).
84 This term ( hbyrm ) has the sense of bitter. Milgrom writes, But they had quarreled only with Moses (v. 3). Elsewhere Israel's quarrel with Moses implies that their real object is God (14:2, 11, 27, esp. v. 9). Indeed, the next quarrel (21:5) makes this explicit. Moreover, Deuteronomy bears the tradition that the people are responsible for Moses' punishment (Deut. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21) as does Psalms 1-6: 32-33, 'They provoked wrath at the waters of Meribah and Moses suffered on their account, because they rebelled against Him [or 'embittered his spirit'] and he spoke rashly.' Psalms 95:7-11 bears yet another variant tradition: Israel's forty years in the wilderness was due to its sin at Massah-Meribah ... and not to the scout episode (14:26-35; Deut. 1:34-35). Hence, Moses and Aaron must die with them in the wilderness (Numbers, 166).
85 This was done by the judgment upon Moses and Aaron in 20:12. There is also a play on words in the Hebrew. The place was Kadesh and He showed himself vdqyw !
86 Wenham writes, The main thrust of this paragraph is to demonstrate Israel's irenic approach to its neighbours. Though the inhabitants of Canaan itself, i.e. the area west of the Jordan, were dealt with ruthlessly, those on the east were treated more courteously (cf. Dt. 20:10-18). Edom in particular was handled gently, because he was Israel's brother (14; Dt. 23:7). According to Genesis 27:30; 36:1, the Edomites were descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob (Israel, Gn. 32:28) (Numbers, 152).
87 They skirted Edom on their way to Moab (Num 20:21-22; 21:4; Dt 2:1-8).
88 Milgrom writes, This victory marks a turning point in Israel's military fortunes. They will henceforth be victorious in all their battles ... (Numbers, 172).
89 See also John 3:14.
90 More literally the trek was from Oboth to Lyeabarim in the wilderness which is opposite Moab to the east, to Wadi Zered, to the other side of Arnon along the boarder of the Amorites and Moab, to Beer, to Mattanah, to Nahaliel, to Bamoth.
91 The conflict with Balak using Balaam results in YHWH's guarantee of Abraham's promise in spite of Israel's harlotry in Moab. Balak offers God a chance to curse Israel, but God curses Balak. This is a test of the Abrahamic covenant and YHWH remains faithful! If God will not curse His people, and they are tempted to curse him through the infiltration in chapter 25.
92 Wenham writes, This section begins with Balaam, a Mesopotamian prophet, declaring that the patriarchal promises are being fulfilled in the history of Israel (chs. 22-24). This has analogies in the allusions to God's promises at the beginning of the Sinai and Kadesh sections (Ex. 19; Nu. 13). As before, this is followed by a great apostasy with atonement made by the priests of Levites (ch. 25; cf. chs. 1--4). This section ends with more laws about worship and the land, important themes in the earlier legislation, which serve here as an implicit promise that Israel will shortly enter into its inheritance (chs. 28--29; 33--36; cf. Lv. 1--7; 23; 25; Nu. 15) (Numbers, 164).
More synthetically, it seems to this author that these oracles are a revelatory explanation as to why Israel is beginning to make progress toward acquiring the land. She still is sinning as a people, so the progress cannot be explained by her actions. The reason Israel is being victorious is because God is fulfilling his promises to Abraham!
93 This is a test case of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12).
Some of the questions implied in this unit are: (1) Is this indeed the people of promise, (2) Does this nation really have a unique relationship to the God of the universe, (3) Is Israel really the chosen people? See Elliott E. Johnson's notes for a fuller discussion.
For another structural treatment of this material see Wenham, Numbers, 165-66.
94 It seems that this resistance from the angel of the Lord was because Balaam was anxious to go and curse Israel for the fees sent from Balak (cf. 22:17, 35).
95 The irony is that these sacrifices were meant to persuade God to give Balaam a word of cursing upon Israel, but it will be a word of blessing upon Israel and thus cursing upon Moab!
96 The field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah.
98 Again this is a clear allusion to the Abrahamic promise (Gen 12:3; 27:29).
99 See 31:16. When Satan could not turn God against Israel, he turned Israel against God!
100 The last stop before they entered the land (cf. Josh 2:1).
101 Milgrom writes, The apostasy of Baal-peor and that of the golden calf resemble one another in their inner detail. both involve worship of other gods (Num. 25:7-8; Exod. 32:26-28), and the designation of the line of the Levites/Phinehas for sacred service in the sanctuary (Num. 25:11; Exod. 32:39). Moreover, Baal-peor is the punishment for the sin and the fulfillment of the sentence for the golden calf. The editor who added the notice 'Then the Lord sent a plague, for what they did with the calf that Aaron made' (Exod. 32:35) to the divine pronouncement 'A day will come when I will punish them for their sin' (v. 34b, NEB), clearly had Baal-peor in mind. Ironically, yet justifiably, the coup de grace to the generation of the Exodus is executed when they commit apostasy for the second time. In a real sense, Baal-peor is but an extension of the golden calf.
The story of the reconnaissance of Canaan (chaps. 13--14) provides another illuminating parallel. 'In both cases, the people stand on the brink of entering the land of Canaan, a setting filled with hope. The immediate response in the two stories, however, is open rebellion against God. A plague kills the people involved (14:37; 25:29). One or two faithful people separate themselves from the majority and act on behalf of God (Caleb and Joshua--Num. 14:6-10; Phinehas--Num. 25:6-7)' ( (Numbers, 211).
102 Budd writes, This section puts the setbacks of the past behind, beginning with the reconstitution of the community, measuring its dimensions again, and raising the question of the division of the land (26:1-65) (Numbers, xviii).
Although Wenham correctly sees this to also be a military census as the sons of Israel prepare to fight Midian and to conquer Canaan (Numbers, 189), Milgrom emphasizes the distinctiveness of this census as a land census describing the tribal arrangement of the land (Numbers, 219). In any case the wilderness wandering is bracketed by two censuses.
103 Milgrom writes, The names are closely related to those in Genesis 46:8-24, with the difference that there they are persons, whereas here they are clans. If one includes the daughters of Zelophehad (v. 33) and the Levites in the following census (vv. 57-62), the people of Israel comprises seventy clans. Thus Israel--having entered Egypt numbering seventy individuals (Gen. 46:27; Exod. 1:5)--has become a nation of seventy clans (Numbers, 219). Notice how long it took Jacob to become a nation rather than unrighteous Esau (Gen 36). When God builds a nation, it must be done more slowly than when man builds a nation because God must deal with their character along the way.
104 This census was probably for the purpose of their Tabernacle duties as was the case in Numbers 3--4 and for the following allocation of forty-eight towns to the Levites (35:1-8).
Milgrom writes, Where is the Aaronide clan? Some say it is subsumed under the Hebronites (v. 58), since Hebron is a Levitical town assigned to Aaron (Josh. 21:10; 1 Chron. 6:42). However, the text should be taken at face value. There are only two living Aaronides, Eleazar and Ithamar; and they need only be enumerated in the brief account of Aaron's family given in verses 59-62 in precisely the same fashion that the Aaronides were counted in the first census of 3:1-4 (Numbers, 228).
105 See Milgrom's discussion (Numbers, 229).
106 Because they do not serve in the army.
107 Cf. 14:29-32. Some question whether the Levites were excluded from the judgment, but this is unlikely (cf. Milgrom, Numbers, 229).
108 This is also addressed again in the appendix of 36:1-18.
109 Milgrom writes, The basic assumption here is that of Leviticus 25:29: The land belongs to God, who assigned it to the Israelite clans for their use; whoever alienates it from them is subject to divine punishment (Numbers, 230).
110 Milgrom writes, Having decided the questions of the apportionment of the land among the Israelites and the succession to Moses, the Torah's next step is to establish the cultic calendar that will prevail in the land....
Thirty days of each year, in addition to the daily and Sabbath cultic requirements, are marked for special public offerings. They exhibit the following distinctive features: (1) The offerings are cumulative; that is, the offerings for the Sabbaths and festivals are in addition to the daily offerings, and the offerings of the New Year are in addition to the daily and the New Moon offerings. Hence, should the New year fall on a Sabbath, there would be offered: (a) the daily offering (b) the Sabbath offering (c) the New Moon offering, and (d) the New Year offering. (2) The organizing principle of the calender is according to descending order of frequency: daily, Sabbath, New Moon. Then the sacrifices for the festivals follow in calendrical order, beginning with Passover. (3) All the sacrificial animals are males; bulls, rams, and lambs as burnt offerings and goats as purification offerings. (4) The sacrificial order is prescriptive not descriptive. In practice, the purification offering would be sacrificed before the additional burnt offering. (5) The number seven and its multiples are very prominent in the number of animals offered ... (Numbers, 237).
111 See Leviticus 23:15.
112 Milgrom writes, This section was probably placed here because vows (votive offerings) were mentioned in the last verse of the previous chapter (29:39), a connection that is further strengthened by the fact that the payment of vows generally took the form of a sacrifice (Numbers, 250).
Wenham writes, Finally, one should ask why this group of laws is placed here. The only answer offered by the few commentators who consider the question is that vows are a type of offering, the subject-matter of chapters 28--29. This may be so, but the subject-matter just discussed are official priestly ones, whereas anyone can make vows. It would seem to me that there may be other reasons for the insertion of the laws on vows at this point. First, vows were usually sealed with a sacrifice; and when the prayer was answered, another sacrifice would be offered (e.g., Lv. 7:16; Ps. 50:14). This would require the worshipper to go to the sanctuary, and the most convenient time to do that would be during the annual pilgrimage feasts, the subject of chs. 28--29 (cf.1 Sa. 1). Second, vows were frequent during war (Nu. 21:2; Jdg. 11:30-31; 21:1-7), and Israel was about to engage in a long campaign of conquest (cf chs. 21, 21--32 etc.). During this war the wives of the Transjordanian warriors would be left on their own, so the question of vows made in their husbands' absence might arise (32:26). Third, vows are discussed in the Sinaitic legislation (Lv. 27; Nu. 6); the inclusion of the subject here emphasizes again the parallel between the first law-giving in the wilderness of Sinai and the second in the plains of Moab. There may be yet a fourth reason for the inclusion of the law here. Israel had made a vow that they would annihilate the Canaanites (21:2). The covenant relationship between God and Israel is likened to that between father and child, or husband and wife (11:12; 25:1ff.). Could it be that the Lord's silence concerning this vow is understood as confirmation of the programme of conquest (Numbers, 206-207)?
113 Wenham writes, The Midianites were a large confederation of tribes, associated with various smaller groups such as the Ishmaelites (Gn. 37:28; Jdg. 8:22,24), the Moabites (Mu. 22:4, 7), the Amalekites (Jdg. 6:3, 33) and Ephah (Gn. 25:4; Is. 60:6). They roamed through the arid lands of Sinai, the Negeb and Transjordan. Here it is those Midianites associated with Moab that are picked out for vengeance (8, 16; cf. chapters 22 and 25), not the whole group (Numbers, 209)
Milgrom writes, Moses' final commission is to execute retribution upon the Midianites for having, on the advice of Balaam, incited their women to seduce the Israelites in the licentious rites of Baal-peor, as recorded in 25:17-19. Moses musters a small army of twelve thousand men (or twelve divisions), one thousand men (or one division) from each tribe. The army annihilates the Midianites without suffering a single casualty (Numbers, 255).
Wenham continues, Nevertheless, it is right to say that the narrator is more concerned with the aftermath of the battle than with the battle itself. The decimation of the Midianites fulfilled the divine command issued in 25:16-18 and reiterated in 31:1ff. But it also looks forward to the conquest of the Canaanites, who were to be treated similarly (cf. 21:2-4; 32), and the distribution of the spoils on this occasion between warriors, people, priests and Levites serves as a model for the big campaign. The percentage of booty allocated to the priests and Levites anticipates the allocation of special cities to them in chapter 35 (Numbers, 210).
114 Milgrom writes, Whereas 21:21-35 dealt with the conquest of Transjordan and the subsequent narrative--Balaam (chaps. 22--24), Baal-peor (chap. 25), and the Midianite war (chap. 31)--concerned itself with the threats to Israel's existence, chapter 32 begins a new phase: the settlement period, the record of how the tribes of Israel began to find themselves permanent homes (Numbers, 265).
Many of the terms of this chapter are meant to reflect the rebellion of the people earlier on in the spy story (Numbers 13--14) emphasizing a similar problem (see Wenham, Numbers, 213).
115 Note the boundaries of the promised land in Numbers 34 where the Jordan marks the eastern frontier of Canaan.
116 Although some consider this unit to be a late interpolation from the time of the Judges (Milgrom, Numbers, 275), Wenham seems to be correct when he says, This may be so, but when the sources are not extant, on cannot be certain. But there is no reason to suppose the references to Manasseh are late: Deuteronomy 3:13 and Joshua 13:29ff.; 17:1ff. both assume the settlement of part of Manasseh in Transjordan, and Numbers 27:1-11 has given a hint that some people in the tribe of Manasseh were already thinking about the problem of girls inheriting land. The same tribe brings up the question again in chapter 36. It could be that the representatives of Manasseh took no part in the negotiations until Moses had approved in principle a settlement in Transjordan (Numbers, 215).
117 This is a logical place for a summary of the trek of Israel from Rameses to the Transjordan because all of the material which follows will relate to the land of Canaan. In addition the design of this account is as a memorial to commemorate the Lord's provisions for Israel through this barren land and in spite of her rebelliousness (see Milgrom, Numbers, 277).
In addition Wenham writes, Since Moses' great achievements took place at the stations mentioned, this list serves as a sort of Obituary for him, and this is an appropriate place in Numbers to insert an obituary. But there is more to the list than this: it summarizes the main themes of the books of Exodus and Numbers. It reminds the reader of the great obstacles that the nation has overcome in escaping from Egypt and crossing the Sinai desert. If God has helped Israel thus far, then he will surely enable them to reach their goal, the land of Canaan. This glance back at history is, therefore, a fitting prelude to the last group of laws in the book (33:50--36:13) which deal explicitly with the land. God's past dealings with Israel are a guarantee that they will soon be in a position to implement these laws in the land promised to the patriarchs (Numbers, 217).
Concerning the listing of places and their possible significance in terms of numbers and order see Wenham, Numbers, 217-19.
118 Milgrom writes, Having completed its wilderness trek (chaps. 1-21, 33:1-49), secured its base at the Jordan against all enemies (chaps. 22-25, 31), allowed two and a half tribes to settle in Transjordan (chap. 32), and resolved the problem of who will be its leader (27:12-23), Israel can turn its undivided attention to the conquest and apportionment of Canaan. Each pericope begins in an identical manner: God commands Moses to transmit instruction to Israel (33:50; 34:1, 16; 35:1, 9). The instruction begin, nearly always, the same way: 'When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan' (35:51; 34:2; 35:10). The topics of the divine command are sequentially logical: the conquest and apportionment of the land (33:50-56), defined by precise boundaries (34:1-15), under the supervision of designated chieftains (34:16-29), who will also appropriate forty-eight towns for the Levites (35:1-8) and six Levitical towns as asylums for the involuntary homicide (35:9-34).
This entire section serves as a consolation to Moses: Barred from the promised land, he at least merits the privilege of drawing the blueprint for its apportionment (Numbers, 282).
Wenham writes, The whole book of Numbers looks forward to Israel's settlement of the promised land. It is, therefore, highly appropriate that it closes with six laws dealing explicitly with the theme of the occupation of Canaan (Numbers 230). Continuing he writes, These laws, like others in the book, are more than pure legal enactments, they are implicit promises. God is in effect pledging that he will give his people victory over their enemies (ch. 33), a huge land (ch. 34) made holy by the dwelling of the Levites and God himself within it (ch. 35), that they will hold for ever (ch. 36) (Ibid.).
119 This was already done in chapter 26, but is repeated here because of the settlement of those tribes in the Transjordan. Now it must be apportioned among the remaining nine tribes.
120 Milgrom writes, This chapter follows logically upon 33:50-56. Having been commanded to displace and replace the present occupants of the land, it becomes imperative to know its boundaries (Numbers 285).
Wenham writes, Canaan as defined here is a much larger area than ever Israel settled. David controlled most of Canaan and much of Transjordan as well, but the land defined here does not correspond to Israel's actual boundaries at any time in her history. The land described here is therefore an ideal, the territory promised by God to the people of Israel, but never fully occupied by them. But the fact that the land as defined here in Numbers 34 does correspond to the geographical entity of Canaan as known from Egyptian texts of the 14th-13th centuries BC is a clear sign of the antiquity of this section (Numbers, 232).
121 Wenham writes, The tribes are listed in rough order of their settlements, beginning with Judah and Simeon in the south and ending with Asher and Naphtali in the south (cf. Jos. 14--19) (Numbers, 232).
122 Milgrom writes, Instructions to the Levites always follow those given to the other tribes. Hence, here too, the Levites only receive their apportionment after the other tribes have received theirs. Although the Levites are to receive no permanent property in the promised land (18:23), this restriction applies solely to farmland. They are, however, provided permanent residences for themselves and pasturage for their livestock in the form of forty-eight towns and their surrounding fields (the measurements of which take into account variations in the size of the towns and the possibility of their growth (Numbers, 288-89).
Wenham adds, The importance of the priests and Levites is repeatedly stressed in Numbers, and the other tribes' obligation to support them is set out fully in chapter 18. There the laity were enjoined to give a tithe of all their produce to the Levites (18:21-24), here they are instructed to set aside a few cities, proportionate to the land holdings of the various tribes (8). Even with the surrounding pasture-lands for the cattle, the total area assigned to the Levites came to 15 square miles (40 km), about 0.1% of the land of Canaan. In a society where farm-land was wealth, this minute fraction of the land meant that the Levites would still be dependent on the generosity of the secular tribes among whom they lived. Relative to the other tribes it could still be said of the Levites that they had 'no inheritance in their land' (18:20, 23f.) (Numbers, 234).
123 This was because not all of the Levites would be serving at the tabernacle at the same time.
124 Wenham writes, The forty-eight cities are listed in Joshua 21. Note the symbolic number 48 = 4 x 12. Keil suggests that four symbolizes the kingdom of God, and that the Levites were distributed among Israel to remind them of their calling to be the holy people of God (Ex. 19:5-6; Lv. 10:11; Dt. 33:9-10) (Keil, 260-261, Wenham, Numbers, 235).
125 Milgrom writes, It is a basic theological postulate that the divine Presence cannot abide in a land polluted by murder; the offence leads to the pollution of earth and the abandonment by God of His sanctuary and people. For this reason the laws of homicide are given special treatment here. The establishment of asylums for homicides was further necessitated because of the prevalence of the institution of blood vengeance in the ancient Near East. Accordingly, the blood of the slain was avenged by his nearest kinsman, called go’el, either by taking the blood of the slayer or of a member of the latter's family or by accepting monetary compensation. Israel's laws of homicide and its system of asylum cities presuppose the following basic modifications in the prevailing practice: (1) Only the guilty party is involved; thus, no other member of his family may be slain. (2) Guilt is determined by the slayer's intention: The involuntary homicide is not put to death. (3) No ransom is acceptable in place of the death of the murderer. (4) The verdict of deliberate or involuntary homicide is made by the state and not by the bereaved kinsman, and to this end asylum cities for the homicide are established. (5) His trial is by a national tribunal and not by the kinsmen of either party. (6) The deliberate homicide is executed by the go’el, and the involuntary homicide is banished to the asylum until the death of the High Priest. The institution of asylum is attested elsewhere, but the form adopted by Israel is characterized by a revolutionary principle: The right of asylum is limited solely to the unpremeditated manslayer (Numbers, 291).
Wenham adds, This is a good example of a punishment designed to fit the crime. The murderer who took life deliberately is deliberately put to death himself. the manslaughterer who took life by chance (Ex. 21:13) must await the chance of the high priest's death before he can be released from the city of refuge.
The law's prime concern is the provision of cities of refuge for manslaughterers (15), but it moves to consider related issues. First, who qualifies for admission (16-25), then what happens if he leaves the city before the high priest's death and the prohibition of ransom (31-32) (Numbers, 235-36).
126 Bezer, Ramoth-gilead, and Nolan
127 Hebron, Shechem, and Kedesh (see Dt. 4:43; Jos. 20:708; 21:13, 21, 27, 32, 36, 38).
128 Wenham writes, The stress placed by the texts on evidence of preparation and advance planning and previous hatred (cf. Dt. 19:11) makes it probable that premeditation is the key factor differentiating murder and manslaughter in the biblical texts, rather than the slightly broader principle of intention. In the fury of a sudden brawl the participants may intention to kill each other, but according to Nu. 35:22 death would not count as murder unless the fight was part of a long-standing feud (Numbers, 237 n. 1).
129 This may well have been from all of Israel since the manslayer is then returned to the city of refuge.
130 Joshua 20:4.
131 Wenham writes, But the banishment itself was not construed as making atonement for the dead man's blood. Atonement for manslaughter came through the death of the high priest. This is shown by the ban on ransoming murderers and manslaughterers. Just as a murderer cannot buy his life for money (31), so a manslaughterer cannot purchase freedom (32). Both have caused the death of another man, and only the death of a man can atone for the killing. This it was the high priest's death, not the exile of the manslaughterer, that atoned is confirmed by the mishnaic dictate, 'If after the slayer had been sentenced as an accidental homicide the high priest dies, he need not go into exile' and the talmudic comment thereon, 'But is it not the exile that expiates? It is not exile that expiates, but the death of the high priest.' .... Thus the high priest of ancient Israel anticipated the ministry of our Lord, not only in his life of offering sacrifice and prayer on behalf of the people, but also in his death (cf. Heb. 4--9) (Numbers, 238, cf. also Makkoth 11b).
132 Wenham writes, In chapter 27 the daughters of Zelophehad raised the problem of their father's name dying out. Since he had no sons, his land would pass to other members of his family. The rules of inheritance were therefore altered to allow daughters to inherit if they had not brothers. But this raised another problem: when they married, the land would pass into their husband's family, and if he belonged to another tribe, out of their own tribe. This would upset the God--given allocations of land announced in 33:50--34:29.
... The resolution of the case of Zelophehad's daughters in chapter 27 was immediately followed by the command to Moses to appoint Joshua as his successor and ascend the mountain to die (27:12-21). An unusually brief note records the appointment of Joshua (27:22f.), but there has been no further mention of the death of Moses. A full description of the handover to Joshua, Moses' farewell to the nation, and an account of his death are the subject of Deuteronomy. The reappearance of these daughters of Zelophehad right at the end of Numbers reminds the reader that God's last command to Moses (27:12-13) awaits its fulfilment: obliquely they hint at a sequel to Numbers.
At the same time the story of Zelophehad's daughters does provide a fitting conclusion to the book of Numbers itself. The last group of six laws in Numbers 33:50--36:13 has been concerned with the land, its distribution, its extent and its holiness. Indeed, the whole story of Numbers had been one of movement towards the land of promise. The last judgment Moses gave concerns the land and asserts: every one of the Israelites shall cleave to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers (36:7). formally this is of course a statement of a legal principle forbidding the transfer of land from tribe to tribe, but theologically, like many of the laws in Numbers, it is a promise land. In the words of Genesis 17:8, 'I will give to you, and to your descendants after you ... all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God'. On this strong note of hope the book closes, inviting the curious to read on to see how God's purposes were worked out in the subsequent history of Israel (Numbers, 239-40).
See Milgrom for some other less convincing reasons for the placement of this chapter at the end of Numbers (Numbers, 296).
Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines