The Book of Numbers Ralph Yost
If one understands the numbers to be literal and the men to represent about one-fourth of the population, then the number of the Israelites ranges from two to three million people. A literal understanding of the numbers in the census is in congruence with Pharaoh's fear of the rapidly increasing Hebrews overrunning Egypt (Ex 1:7-12), the promises made to Abraham about becoming a great nation (Gen 12:2; 17:5-6), the earlier census taken during the first year in the wilderness (Exod 30:12--16; 38:26), and other traditions about the numbers of adult males who left Egypt (Ex 12:37; Num 11:21)
The Hebrew word for "thousands" from the lack of vowel markings in the writings and could be read as "clan," "tribe," or even unit" (cf. Judg 6:15; Zech 9:7) or even "chieftain" or "armed warrior" (e.g., Gen 36:15). One source (Hill and Walton) notes: "Hence the census lists of Numbers record either military 'units" or an unspecified number of warriors or individual (armed) fighting men. Such accounting lowers the Israelites army to a figure somewhere between 18,000 and 100,000 men, with the total Hebrew population numbering between 72,000 and 400,000 people. It is argued that these drastically reduces figures are more consistent with available historical and archaeological data regarding population patterns during the period of the Hebrew Exodus. This approach also corroborates the biblical affirmations about the size of Israel when compared with surrounding nations (cf. Deut 7:1-7; Exod 23:29)
The Character of the Community as a Priestly Theocracy:
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
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:
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
The community is gathered around the tent of meeting sanctuary, which is therefore the real focal point of their life.
The ordering of the tribes around the tent of meeting is an interesting situation. First, this is a list of tribes that we find in Numbers 1:5-15. We have the five Leah tribes (minus Levi) that come first in their traditional order of birth. Then come the three Rachel tribes with the supremacy which tradition gave to Ephraim (Gen 48:19) duly acknowledged. The four tribes of the concubines follow, though there is no obvious reason for the ordering within this group.
Note that Judah is given the prime position. This appears logical and appropriate since the Judah has the highest census figure. We can find in Gen. 49:2-27 and Deut. 33:2-29 that the Simeon and Reuben tribes are noted as losing favor. Then we can see even more logically how the promotion of Judah (excluding the Levites) can take place over them.
We find that one of the concubine tribes is promoted to join Reuben and Simeon on the southern side. Gad is selected, possibly because he is the firstborn of Leah’s handmaid. The remaining concubine tribes are placed on the north side.
There are barriers which divide a holy God from the fallible Israel. The structure of the tent of meeting itself are one barrier, yet the distance from the tribes to the tent, and through the Levites who camped nearest to the tent, represents another barrier.
The Arrangement of the Tribes around the Tabernacle
Order of departure:
(tabernacle taken down Num 10:17)
(Gershon and Marari cary tabernacle)
(Kohathites carry the ark, Num 10:21)
Tribe of Asher 41,500 men Tribe of Naptali 53,400 men
Tribe of Asher
Tribe of Naptali
Tribe of Dan
Ahiezer’s army 62,700
Total 603,550 men
Levites Levites Levites Tribe of Issachar 54,400 men Tribe of Manasseh 32,200 men (total 186,400) (total 108,100) Tent of Meeting Tribe of Zebulun 57,400 men Tribe of Benjamin 35,400 men Levites (total 151,450) Tribe of Gad 45,650 men Tribe of Simeon 59,300 men
Tribe of Judah
Nashon’s army 74,600
Tribe of Ephraim
Elishama’s army 40,500
Tribe of Reuben
Elizur’s army 46,500
Tribe of Issachar
Tribe of Manasseh
Tent of Meeting
Tribe of Zebulun
Tribe of Benjamin
Tribe of Gad
Tribe of Simeon
Analyzing the Inner Structure of the Priestly Hierarchy:
Why were the Levites chosen to be the priests?
In Exodus 32:25-29, it was the Levites (sons of Levi) that responded positively to the request of Moses to be identified with “who is for the Lord.” The Levites still responded favorably and obediently to the Lord by following his command to go throughout the camp executing the rebels of the Lord. For their loyalty to God, they became the special ministers.
Levi was the third son of Jacob to Leah. “Levi” means “attached” and was named as such because Leah felt unloved (for Jacob loved Rachael all the more). Thus Genesis 29:34 explains it:
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." So he was named Levi. 
1.  Levi sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for attached.
Distinction between the Levites in general and the priests:
The priests were a special class within the tribe of Levi whose ministry included the more scared functions from which other members of the tribe were barred. In a general sense, God wanted all Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). But only Aaron and his sons could be priests (Ex 28:1; Num. 3:10) but that was not made an hereditary appointment until Phinehas’ act of zealous loyalty to God shortly before Israel entered Canaan (Num. 25:6-13).
Numbers 25:6 Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. 9 Those who died by the plague were 24,000. 10 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 11 "" Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 ""Therefore say, " Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.'''
v. 2-4 Sons of Aaron: 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). Note that Nedab and Abihu had no sons. Lev 10:1-2 describe the fate of Nedab and Abihu.
- Strange fire: the precise nature of this sin is not known and entirely clear. Some have suggested that the action was presumptuous, and possibly they lacked the right to enter the holiest place, or if they had the right, that they might have neglected to take the proper precautions in advance. Other theories are that the act of censing in itself was wrong, that the fire came from the wrong place, that the mixture for the incense was incorrect, or that the timing was wrong. This story in Numbers 3 compares with that of 2Chr 26:16-21.
- In either case, the fire was considered “strange” as a result. If their act was merely presumptuous, it would seem that the fault would be made more clearer to us by the scriptural writer, as indeed it is in Numbers 16:8-11 and 2Chr 26:16-21. The possibility that the fire was not taken from the alter remains the strongest possibility.
v. 5-10 The Levites Role: The Lord spoke to Moses ordering him to bring the tribe of Levi before Aaron the priest to perform the duties 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 meeting.
v. 11-51 (Summary): 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.
v. 12- 13 Substitutionary First-Born: Because the first-born belong to the Lord who struck down the first-born in Egypt, the Levites are the Lord's instead of every first born of the sons of Israel
v. 14-15 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:
a) By their fathers' households
b) By their families
c) Every male
d) From a month old and upward
v. 16-37: Census of the Levites by Clan and Position in the Camp: 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
Summary: The Levites whom Moses and Aaron numbered in accordance with the command of the Lord were 22,000 (3:39 )
- 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
- 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 (29-51)
Transportation of the Tent of Meeting
The subject in Numbers 4 is Levitical service for the journey. The stress in Numbers 3 is on care and protection, and in Numbers 4 on transport.
Census II--All Male Levites between Thirty and Fifty Years Old As Workers:
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
v. 1-20: 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.
- Only the ark has its colored covering over the skin. The other 5 large packages are covered first in the colored cloth, then they are covered with the skin.
- Verse 6 and 14: "put in the poles" does not correlate with Exodus 25:15 in which the poles were never to be removed. Could it possible be meant to "adjust" the poles? However, the Kohathites are clearly just the carriers of the items, not those who would adjust it.
- Removal 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.
- The description of the service of the Kohathites is long in comparison with that of the Gershonites and the Merarites. This is understandable in that they are most exposed to danger through their handling of the holiest things. Its noted that the sons of Aaron themselves must make the preparations for the journey and not the Kohathites. The Kohathites must carry, but not come into direct contact with (or even see), the holiest things. In verse 16 we see how Eleazar is specified as the only one who can service the oil for the lamps, and not the Kohathites. This reaffirms the ultimate supervision and responsibility of the sons of Aaron. Perhaps the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16-17 was rooted in the restriction of the Kohathites from being any participant at all in the service of the most holy objects while the Tent of Meeting was in operation.
v. 21-28: 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
- Duties of the Gershonites: Under the direction of Aaron and his sons (especially Ithamar) the Gershonites are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle
- Ithamar is given supervisory responsibility over the Gershonites and the Merarites (v.28, 33 and in Exodus 38:21)
v. 29-33: 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
- 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 tabernacle
v. 34-49: 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
Sons of Kohath: The Kohathites numbered 2,750 men
Sons of Gershon: The Gershonites numbered 2,630 men
Sons of Merari: The Merarites numbered 3,200 men
Grand Total: 8,480 men
Age of those in service:
One obvious feature of this chapter is the age of service for the Levites being from 30 to 50 years old. This is in contrast to that prescribed in Numbers 8:23-26 in which the age is specified as being between 25 and fifty. In 1Chr 23:24, 27; 2 Chr 31:17; Ezra 3:8 the age is specified as starting at 20 years old, with no upper limit specified.
The author is now venturing into the realm of the relationship between the priests and the people. 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.
Numbers 5 is about sanctification of the community. A crucial part of this is the unmasking of hidden sin. Along with this is the vindication of those who may have been unjustly accused.
v. 1-4: 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, was having a discharge, or was unclean because of a dead person so that they will not defile the camp where the Lord dwelt and they obeyed.
v. 5-10: Repayment of Debts: 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 (i.e. 100% repayment plus a 20% penalty), 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 gifts.
The principle of restitution was well established in Exod 21: 32, 34-36; 22:2-6, 11, 13, 15-16). In these instances, the restitution might be decided by the victim (Exod 21:22), and in other cases could be as high as double (Exod 22:3, 6, 8). In our text here in Numbers 5, there is no clear indication why the penalty of 20% is imposed.
Note that the restitution was to be made to the priest if there is no surviving relative. We can find in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that the slackness in the maintenance of the priesthood had a damaging effect on the priestly practices and morale.
v. 11-31: Trial of Suspicion of Adultery: 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 offering 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, or she would be vindicated if nothing happened.
Generally, judgments were reached through enquiry and hearing of the evidence, as is described in Deuteronomy which set up a central systems of priests and judges. That system stresses enquiry instead of medical techniques (Deut 17:8-9; 19:17-18).
Marital deceit is a serious matter in which the truth must be uncovered. It is harmful to the sanctity of the community at large, and destructive of one of the bases of community life. This particular procedure led to proof of either innocence or guilt and basically favored the innocent, since nothing detrimental would occur to the innocent. This is in contrast to Exod 32:20 in which the guilty were to drink a mixture as punishment. For that case, guilt was clearly known. Here in Numbers 5, there is little danger to an innocent accused to drink dust and water.
(Nazarite means one separated)
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
v. 1-8: In order to be dedicated to the Lord:
1) Nothing from the vine (no wine, no raisins, no grapes)
2) Cannot ever touch a dead body, including family
3) Cannot cut the hair
v. 9-12: Description of procedure if one dies suddenly beside a Nazarite 6:9-12
v. 13-21: 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 them to the Lord.
v. 22-27: Blessing by Aaron and His Sons: 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.
The Chieftains' Initiatory Gifts: 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.
v. 1: Day One of setting up of the tabernacle: On the day that Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it, all its furnishings, the altar, and its utensils
v. 2-3: Offerings of the Leaders: 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.
v. 4-11: 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.
- The acceptance of these gifts were commanded by the Lord
v. 12-83: Presentation of Offerings: Moses listed those from the tribes of Israel who presented their offerings on the appropriate days.
v. 84-88: Summary of the Dedication Offering: Moses recorded the summary of the dedication offering.
v. 89: Moses speaks to the Lord in the tent of meeting, and the Lord speaks to Moses
- The location of the voice of the Lord is given in very specific, accurate terms:
o Above the mercy seat that was upon the Ark of the Testimony
o Between the two cherubim
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.
v.1-4: Lighting the Menorah: 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
v. 5-22: The Dedication/Purification of the Levite Work Force: 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
v. 23-26: The Retirement of the Levites: 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". (See notes above on Numbers 4 for a discussion of the age of service for the Levites).
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
The author is coming close the end of the discussion of the congregation. He has discussed the congregation’s dimensions (1:1-46) and indicated the character of the priesthood (2:1-34). He has discussed the rights and responsibilities of the priests (5:1-6:27) and the community’s commitment to the new order (7:1-88). He has elaborated on the status of the Levites, but who remain in subordination to the sons of Aaron. All of this leads up to the eventual departure from Mt. Sinai to the Promised Land. Recall that the Passover that took place in Egypt (Exodus 12) was the last event prior to their departure from Egypt.
v. 1-5: The Observance of the First Passover: 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.
v. 6-8: 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. We can surmise that these men had a sense of the importance of celebrating the Passover, and hence, did not want to be excluded from it.
v. 9-14: 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. The Lord provides this alternate Passover celebration which indicates his recognition of its importance. Note that in 2Chr 30:1-3 Hezekiah celebrated a late Passover because “not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem.” No one has a case for failure to observe the Passover.
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 (v. 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 (v.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 (v.14)
v. 15-23: 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, as we will see in succeeding chapters of Numbers
In Exodus 13:21-22 the cloud takes the form of a column which at night becomes a column of fire. In Exodus 33:7-11 (cf also Num 11:25; 12:5, 10; Deut 31:15) its is also a column associated with the Tent of Meeting where it appears from time to time when God communicates with men. Here in Numbers 9:15-23 it is not described as a column but it is described as fire at night (Exodus 13:21). It makes its first appearance herea t Sinai and is associated with the Tent of Meeting.
Israel is depicted as being faithful and obedient to the leading of God as the cloud, whether the encampments are long or short time periods. Later we will see Israel in times of disobedience.
We are told that the cloud (God) moves at no predetermined time. We know that God is not subject to rational explanation. Our commitment is to follow in faith without question.
The Lord prescribes his means of guidance 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.
v. 1-10: 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.
The trumpets are blown by the sons of Aaron, which reinforces the priestly status and authority. We find the trumpets are used many places in scripture to call Israel together and to warn them when necessary (Judges 3:27; 4:10; 6:34; 7:20; 8:1). A role for the priests prior to battle had already been established in Deut 20:2-4 in which the priest spoke words of encouragement to the people. Additionally, in 1Sam 4:1-11, the priests handled the ark of the covenant in times of war.
v. 11- 36: Departure From Sinai in Battle Order: On the 20th of the second month 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.
Moses and his brother-in-law, Hobab the Kenite, set out 10:29-32. This section explains the close relationship between Israel and the Kenites (Judges 1:16; 4:11; 1Sam 15:6). After Hobab initially refused, verse 31 indicates that he complied with the request of Moses and stayed with Israel. Moses is recognizing Hobab’s special experience of the desert area they will be traveling in. Verse 31 also illustrates a lack of understanding on the part of Moses that YHWH will be leading them. Hence, the keen site that Hobab has is not necessary for their well being.
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
Setbacks, Complaints, and Rebellion 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
Preliminary to Major Setbacks--Issues Associated with Mosaic Leadership and Authority: When the people, and even leaders (Miriam and Aaron, as we will see in Chapter 12), 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
There are four main events in this chapter:
1. Complaining by the people and the Lord’s reaction by burning them
2. The sending of quail in response to Israel’s complaints
3. The appointment of seventy elders to assist Moses in the leadership responsibilities
4. The separate ministry of Eldad and Medad
The most striking differences between this story and those in Exodus (Exod. 14:11-12; 15:24; 16:2-3; 17:2-3) where Israel complains are that the Lord intervenes much earlier in the development of this story, and brings punishment rather than aid. The role of Moses changes similarly. In Exodus 14-17 he is the leader who appeals for aid in situations of want, need and danger. Here in Numbers 11 he is a great intercessor that lessens the effect of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and thus, averting a certain degree of a larger wrath that would likely have otherwise been applied.
In the various stories of complaint in Exodus 14-17 the problems are real and external, involving genuine dangers of death. Here, however, the problem is internal faithlessness. Here Moses is the one who is critical in convincing God to belay his divine wrath, similarly to that portrayed in Exodus 32.
v. 11:1- 3: Complaint One—Taberah: When the people became like those who complain against adversity before the Lord, He became angry and burned the outskirts of the camp until they cried out to Moses and he prayed to the Lord; thus the place was named Taberah.
- The site of Taberah is unknown. Its name means “burning”.
v. 11:4-35: 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.
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. Note that the original offenders were the “rabble” rather than the people of Israel. However, their complaining becomes like poison to the rest of Israel. 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. The gift itself would become the means of punishment. 11:16-30
4) When a portion of the people greedily gathered the quail which the Lord provided for them He struck them with a severe plague resulting in the burial of many and the naming of the place Kiborth- hattaavah 11:31-34
5) Move to Hazeroth: From Kibroth- hattaavah the people went to Hazeroth and remained there 11:35
Rebellion of Miriam and Aaron against Moses (Complaint Three):
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. The main idea is to understand the ramification of opposing Moses’ authority.
v. 12:1-2: Criticism: Miriam lead a criticism against Moses with her brother Aaron under the pretense of criticism over his marriage to a Cushite woman, but really over jealousy questioning whether the Lord had spoken only with (through) Moses.
Remember what happened to Korah and the 250 men of the camp that also questioned whether or not God only spoke through Moses. See Numbers 16.
v. 12:3-8: 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.
v. 12:9-10: 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.
v. 12:11-12: 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.
v. 12:13-15: 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.
v.12:16: 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.
Moses was God’s servant. Today, all believers are God’s children and God’s servants. We should consider how God is grieved and angered when we speak badly of any of God’s children.
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.
In this chapter, the sin of the Israelites causes their travel to the Promised Land to be interrupted.
a) v. 1-20: 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. It is important to emphasize that this expedition was being conducted at the command of the Lord Himself. The preparations and methodology are logical and orderly.
b) v. 21-24: 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. They were told to spy out the whole land, since God intended for them to have the whole land.
- Hebron: located about 20 miles to the south of Jerusalem, the name means “confederacy”. It is traditionally believed that this is the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as Sarah, Rebekah and Leah. It was David’s capital when he was king of Judah alone. In Genesis 23:2 it is referred to as Kiriath-arba (“city of four”) and is also referred to as such in Joshua 14:15.
- Descendants of Anak: Anak probably means that they were thought to have been very tall (taller than ordinary).
c) v. 25-33: The Report: After forty days the spies returned to the sons of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran and reported (except for Caleb) that although the land was rich (as testified to by the fruit they brought) it was also inhabited by mighty people who would conquer them. The spies bring a report that is different that that of what the Lord had told them about the land. In verses 27-28 they use the description of the land used by the Lord, the “land of milk and honey.” But they cover the goodness of the land with a terrible depiction of the people who inhabit it.
- The Nephilim: Some versions use “giants” while others us “Nephilim’, who were a legendary race of partially divine beings whose origin is found in Genesis 6:1-4. It is believed by some commentators that the word may have some connection with “to fall”, although the etymology (word origin and history) is unknown. “Nephilia” is the Aramaic of “Orion,” which means “giant of the sky.”
The People's Response:
The Israelites, as they see it, have come a long way, all to no purpose. Thus they bemoan the fact they have not already died. They are certain tat the best course of action is to return to Egypt. However, they forget how they got through the Red Sea! The reference to “return to Egypt” represents a symbol of apostasy and alienation from God (Deut 17:16; Hos 7:11;a 30:1-7; 31:1-3; Jer 2:18, 36; Ezek 17:15)
v. 1-5: 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, 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, 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. Exodus 16 also has an account of the Israelites “murmering”.
v. 6-10: The Counter response 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. As in
v. 11-38: 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 years and die in the wilderness for their high handed sin.
v. 39-45: The People's Expedition: 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.
Renewed Commitment to Land and Stress on the Need for Obedience:
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.
v. 1-16: 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.
v. 17-36: 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.
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
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
1) 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
v. 1-2: 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.
v. 3-7: 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.
v. 8-11: 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.
v. 12-15: 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.
v. 16-24: 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.
v. 25-35: 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.
v. 36-50: 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.
(v. 36-40): 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.
(v. 41-50): 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.
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 17:1-13
v. 1-10: 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
v. 11-13: 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
Renewed Commitment to the Levitical Order:
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
v. 1-31: 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
(v. 1-7) 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
(v. 8-19): 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 covenant 18:8-19
(v. 20-24): 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
(v. 25-31): 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
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
v. 1-13: The Red Cow (Heifer): 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
v. 14-22: 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
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
v. 20:1-13: The Sin of Moses and Aaron: 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
· v. 20:1: 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
· v. 20:2-13 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 twice 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
v. 20:2-6: 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
v. 20: 7-8: 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
v. 20: 9-12: 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 20:9-12
v. 20:13: 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) in the presence of the sons of Israel, they were prevented from bringing the people into the land, and the waters were called Meribah because Israel contended with the Lord, but He proved Himself holy among them 20:13
v. 20: 14-21: The Encounter with Edom: 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 away 20:14-21
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.
v. 1-3: Progress--Encounter with the Canaanites: 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). See also Numbers 14:39-45; Jud 1:17 where Hormah is referred to. This is a turning point in Israel’s military encounters, and from this point on, Israel cannot be matched as a military force.
v. 4-9: Sin--The Copper (Bronze) Snake: 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 (pole). The bronze serpent is also mentioned in 2Kings 18:4 where Hezekiah destroys it. Moses never instituted a burning of incense to the bronze serpent as is referred to in 2Kings 18:4. The snake was referred to as “Nehushtan”, a piece of bronze. It was not to be worshipped, but to be looked upon by those who are sick. Some speculate that “fiery” refers to the burning bite of the venomous snakes. However, it appears more likely that “fiery” is a description of the snakes themselves rather than the result of their bite.
v. 10-20: Progress--The Route through Transjordan: Israel moved from Mount Hor, around Moab between Armon and Moab to Bamoth. This is Israel’s travels east of the Dead Sea. The travel ends at Psigah, which overlooks the Jordan somewhere near Jericho.
v. 21-32: 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 Heshbon the former home of the king, is the modern city of Hesbon, located about 20 miles east of the northern end of the Dead Sea).
v. 33-35: 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.
Successes on the Journey:
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.
Enemies Are Defeated: 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 (prophecy) 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.
External Enemies Are Defeated--Balak's Failure to Turn YHWH Against Israel: 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) Number 22:1--24:25
v. 1: Setting: The sons of Israel journeyed and camped in the plains of Moab in the Transjordan region opposite of Jericho 22:1
v. 2-6: 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.
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.
Balak's Fear: 22:2-6
First Pursuit of Balaam: 22:7- 14
Second Pursuit of Balaam: 22:15-21
v. 22-35: Balaam and the Ass: 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.
v. 36-41: The Meeting of Balak and 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. 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.
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.
v. 1-6: 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 word.
v. 7-10: 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.
v. 11-17: Result--Balak's Reaction: Balak responded in anger to Balaam but not defeat, as he seeks still another oracle from Balaam.
v. 18-26: Balaam's Second Oracle: Balaam proclaimed that with God as their strength Israel was indestructible and mighty.
v. 27-28: New Location: Balak took Balaam to another place in hopes that the Lord would change His mind and curse Israel 23:27-28
v. 29-30: 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.
Balaam's Third Oracle:
v. 1-4: Balaam saw the greatness of Israel and offered blessing to whoever blessed them and cursing to whoever cursed them. Saw God's Will: Balaam finally saw God's will and praised Him.
v. 5-6: Israel's Magnificence: Balaam proclaimed the magnificence and blessedness of Israel.
v. 7: Future Greatness: Balaam predicted the future blessing and greatness of Israel.
v. 8-9a: God is Defense: Balaam again described the Lord as Israel's defense. Powerful People: Balaam described Israel as a powerful people who will destroy her adversaries.
v. 9b: An Offer of Blessing or Cursing: Balaam offered blessing or cursing to whoever blessed or cursed Israel.
v. 10-13: Result--Balak's Reaction: Balak became furious with Balaam and gave up on cursing Israel through him.
v. 14-24: Balaam's Fourth Oracle: Balaam predicted the rise of Messiah, a future kingdom, and the fall of present kingdoms.
v. 25: Conclusion to the Balaam Oracles: Balaam and Balak both go their separate ways back to their homes.
Internal Enemies Are Defeated:
v. 1-5: Balak's Success in Turning Israel From YHWH
· Israel's Worship of Baal: While the sons of Israel were at Shittim, they were drawn into the worship of Moab's god, Baal of Peor, through Moabite women causing the Lord to be angry with Israel.
· 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.
v. 6-18: Phinehas Ultimately Justifies Priestly Leadership: 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.
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
The Second Census: The Reconstitution of the Community
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 proscribing 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
The Second Census--The Reconstitution of the Community: 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.
v. 1-4: 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.
v. 5-51: The Results of the Census: The sons of Israel who were numbered by families totaled 601,730 men.
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
v. 52-56: 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.
v. 57-62: The Levitical Clans: 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.
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
Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange first before the Lord 26:61
v. 63-65: 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 command.
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.
The Right of Women to Inherit Land: 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.
+++ The continued existence of a man’s “name” was important to the Israelites, and one way in which it could be preserved was in connection with the inheritance of his land by his descendants.
v. 1-7: The Case of the Daughters of Zelophehad: 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.
- It is reasonable to assume that there is no widow to bear children (by her dead husband’s brother) in accordance with Deut. 25:5-10.
- The daughter’s emphasize that their father had nothing to do with Korah’s rebellion, which indicates they recognize the seriousness of its sinfulness.
v. 8-11: 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. The principle stated her confirms the one in Leviticus 25 in which all land property should be kept within the family of the original owner. The principle is based on the premise that ultimately all the land was the Lord’s (“The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.” Lev. 25:23).
- The obvious question of what should happen to the property inherited by daughters when they should marry is not mentioned or even implied here.
v. 12-23: 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' successor, and Moses transferred his authority to Joshua before Eleazar and the people.
- Abarim is a general name for a mountain range. Deuteronomy has the more precise designation “Mount Nebo” (Deut 32:49).
- Joshua is not on par with Moses. He has no direct contact with God and is dependant upon the guidance offered by the priestly process.
- URIM: Urim is part of the sacred lot (“Urim” and :Thummim” which was kept in the high priest’s breastplate (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8). The usual conclusion is that these were two flat stones capable of giving a positive or negative response to a question on the basis of the way they fell and cast. A mixed response (one positive and one negative) could be the possibility of indecisiveness, in the way suggested by 1Sam 28:6. There is a general indication that over time, the kind of question that might have been posed to Urim and Thummim was more likely addressed to the prophet.
A Calendar and Pattern of Daily Observances in the Land:
The Lord prescribed specific daily and yearly observances for the sons of Israel to keep when they enter into the land. This section tells of the offerings required on eight distinct occasions:
1. The daily sacrifice- morning and evening
2. The Sabbath sacrifice
3. The sacrifice of the first day of the month
4. The sacrifice of the Feast of Unleavened Bread
5. The sacrifice of the Feast of Firstfruits (Weeks)
Then in Chapter 29:
6. The sacrifice of the first day of the seventh month (Turmpets).
7. The sacrifice of the tenth day of the seventh month (Day of Atonement).
8. The sacrifice of the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Passover is mentioned but no public sacrifice is required.
Four types of offerings are mentioned:
1. whole offerings (the burnt flesh of animals)
2. cereal offerings (grain and oil)
3. drink offerings or libations of wine
4. purification offerings (one goat)
Similar material is found in Exodus 29, Leviticus 23 and Exekial 45-46. The quantities of the offerings were mentioned in Numbers 15:1-16 and along with the fixing of dates, are the main theme of this chapter.
v. 1-2: Introduction: The Lord commanded Moses to be careful to present the food for His offerings at the appointed times 28:1-2
v. 3-8: 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.
v. 9-10: 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.
v. 11-15: 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.
v. 16-25: 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.
v. 26-31: 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) 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.
Feast of Trumpets:
v. 1-6: 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.
v. 7-11: The Tenth Day of the Seventh Month (day of Atonement): 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.
v. 12-34: The Fifteenth to the Twenty-First of the Seventh Month: (Feast of Tabernacles) On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, for 7 days, 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.
v. 35-38: 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.
v. 39-40: 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
Status of Female Vows--The Annulment of Vows and Oaths Made by Women:
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.
v. 1: Moses spoke the following words to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel as the commandment of the Lord
v. 2: 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.
v. 3-5: 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.
v. 6-8: 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.
v. 9-12: 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.
v. 13-15: 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.
v. 16: A Summation: The Lord commanded the statutes above to Moses concerning a man and his wife and a father and his youthful daughter.
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
Defeat of Midian and Renewed Commitment to Priestly Theocracy: 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.
v. 1-6: 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 Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest with the holy vessels and trumpets to fight against the Midianites.
v. 7-12: 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.
v. 13-24: Exhortation of Moses: 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.
v. 25-31: 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.
v. 32-47: 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).
Settlement of Transjordan--Commitment of All to Settle in the Land is Tested Through Gad and Reuben:
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.
v. 1-5: 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 Jordan.
v. 6-15: 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.
v. 16-19: 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.
v. 20-24: 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.
v. 25-27: 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.
v. 28-30: 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.
v. 31-32: 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.
v. 33-38: 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
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
v. 39-42: 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
A Review of Israel's Journey through the Wilderness:
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
v. 1-4: Introduction.
v. 5-15: Rameses to the Sinai Wilderness
v. 16-36: The Sinai Wilderness to Kadesh.
v. 37-49: Kadesh to the Steppes of Moab:
Laws about the Land: 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.
v. 50-56: 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
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 tribe and with the warning that they will be afflicted by those in the land whom they do not drive out.
The Boundaries of the Promised Land:
The Lord provided the northern, southern, eastern, and western boarders for the land of Canaan which the sons of Israel were to inherit
v. 1-5: 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.
v. 6: The Western Boarder: The western boarder was the Mediterranean Sea.
v. 7-9: 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).
v. 10-12: 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.
v. 13-29: The Apportionment: 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.
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
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
Levitical Provisions in the Land/Cities of Refuge:
v. 1-8: 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.
v. 9-34: Refuge in Case of Homicide: 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.
The Right of Women to Inherit Land--Marriage Requirements of Heiresses:
v. 1-13: 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.
- End of the book of Numbers -