Sunday, September 13, 2009

Numbers 26-36

  • Chapter 26 - Census of the New Generation. They are beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho.

    • After the plague from the problem with the Medianite women resulting in the death of 24,000 Israelites, a new census was taken of all fighting age men:

      • Reuben: 43,730

      • Simeon: 22,200 (was 59,300 in the 1st census)

      • Gad: 40,500

      • Judah: 76,500

      • Issachar: 64,300

      • Zebulun: 60,500

      • Manasseh: 52,700 (was 52,700 in the 1st census)

      • Ephraim: 32,500

      • Benjamin: 45,600

      • Asher: 53,400

      • Naphtali: 45,400

    • Total: 601,731 (excludes Levi) - was 603,550 in the first census 38 years earlier.

    • Based on the census, Moses is to divide up that land proportionally.

    • The areas to be divided up will be chosen by lot (using the Urim and Thumin), so no tribe was to choose where they'd settle.

    • A census of the Levites was taken of men one month or older - 23,000 (was 22,000 in the 1st census).

    • Genealogy of Kohath: Moses and Aaron, although Kohathites, were distinct from among the Levites:

      • Kohath was the father of Amram

      • Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi in Egypt

      • Amram and Jochebed gave birth to Aaron and Moses, and their sister Miriam

      • Aaron gave birth to Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar

      • Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange first before the Lord

  • Chapter 27 - The Daughters of Zelophehad, Joshua to Replace Moses.

    • Zelophehad was one of the first generation who had died in the wilderness. He had no sons, but had five daughters, so he had no heirs. Even while the Israelites were still outside of the Promised Land, they asked Moses for an inheritance for their children. They trusted in God that he would give the land to them, and when they settle in the land, they and their families should be given an inheritance. So Moses rewarded their faith and trust by promising land for their children.

    • They probably brought up this issue because the land was being divided up and their father died of natural causes, not by the judgment from Korah's rebellion.

    • God has Moses climb to the top of the mountains of Abarim so he can see the promised land but where Moses will not be allowed to enter. Moses does not object but simply asks God to appoint them a new leader so they would not be "like sheep without a shepherd". God chooses Joshua to replace Moses.

    • God will not work directly with Joshua but through Eleazar, the priest, using the Urim and Thummin.

    • Moses lays his hands on Joshua and commissions him to be the new leader, replacing Moses.

  • Chapters 28 & 29 - Instructions about Offerings.

    • Calendar of Public Sacrifices:

      • Every day: 2 lambs

      • Sabbath: 2 lambs

      • 1st day of month: 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat

      • Unleavened Bread (each day): 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat

      • Pentecost (Feast of Weeks): 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat

      • 1st Day of 7th Month: 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat

      • Feast of Booths:

        • 1st day: 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 2nd day: 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 3rd day: 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 4th day: 10 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 5th day: 9 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 6th day: 8 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 7th day: 7 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat

        • 8th day: 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat

  • Chapter 30 - Laws Concerning Vows

    • A man must keep his vows and oaths.

    • If a girl still living in her father's house makes a vow, the father can make her break it or let it stand.

    • If a married woman makes a vow, her husband can make her break it or let it stand.

  • Chapter 31 - Vengeance on the Midianites

    • 12,000 (1,000 from each tribe) are ordered to attack Midian.

    • God commanded they be attacked in retribution for their seduction of Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry (Numbers 25).

    • Remember that Moses' father-in-law was a Midianite!

    • The Midianites were a nomadic people, at this time associated with the people of Moab.

    • Phineas goes with them along with the trumpets for the alarm and vessels of the sanctuary.

    • They killed the every male adult, the five Midianite kings and also Balaam.

    • Because not one Israelite soldier was killed, they brought an offering to the Lord as atonement.

    • They burned all the cities and took all their cattle, flocks and goods.

    • They brought the women and kids to Moses outside the camp.

    • Moses instructed them to kill all the male children and all women who were not virgins. Why? Is this Genocide?

    • In that ancient culture, the boys would have grown into men with the solemn responsibility to avenge their father’s death and to perpetuate Midianite culture - which in itself was anti-God.

    • Those who had killed anyone or had touched a dead body were then told to remain outside the camp, then on the third and seventh days purify themselves and their captives, according to Numbers 19:11-12. All the spoil was to be purified. Metals were to be put through the fire for this purpose, but anything that might be consumed by fire was to be purified by water.

    • The spoils are divided up.

  • Chapter 32 - Reuben, Gad, and part of Manasseh want to Stay East of the Jordan River

    • The area they want to settle was the area where they had defeated the kings Sihon and Og in chapter 21.

    • They promise to build fortified cities for their families and then enter the land with the other tribes to fight, not going back until the fighting is done.

    • Discuss a sheepfold - only 1 door.

    • It is significant to note that they were the first tribes to go into captivity because they had not the protection really of the Jordan River, which was a natural barrier against the enemy.

  • Chapter 33 - Review of the itinerary of Israel from Egypt until Their Present Camp.

    • This is the only part of the book that is explicitly said to be written by Moses; most of the book is said to have been given to Moses by God.

    • God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that they are to drive out all the people living there, destroy all their images and shrines.

    • God says that if they fail to drive out the people there, they'll be like splinters in their eyes and thorns in their sides and God will do to the Israelites what He'd planned to do to the inhabitants of the land.

  • Chapter 34 - Boundaries of the Promised Land

    • The boundaries declared by God are larger than the area actually ever occupied by the Israelites, even under David, though they were under the control of David.

    • 2 Samuel 8:3: David also destroyed the forces of Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when Hadadezer marched out to strengthen his control along the Euphrates River. So, while the Israelites did not choose to live that far away, nonetheless David's kingdom and control extended to that point, thus fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:18. So, Israel's living area was smaller than the actual kingdom area would be when the covenant with Abraham would be fulfilled under King David.

    • Basically, the land was between the Mediterranean and the Jordan plus modern Lebanon and a portion of modern Syria.

  • Chapter 35 - Towns for the Levites

    • Six cities of refuge - 3 on the east side of the Jordan and 3 on the west side.

    • Plus 42 other towns for a total of 48 - including grazing land surrounding the towns.

    • Rules of revenge and the cities of refuge.

    • A refuge was in this way provided for one who had accidentally killed a person, for it might well be that a relative or friend of the victim would seek retaliation by killing the person responsible. In that city that person would be safe until such time as there was an investigation into the case. If it proved to be a case of actual murder, he must be delivered up to the avenger.

    • A deliberate murderer could not count on the protection of the city of refuge. If one struck another with an iron instrument, or stone or wooden weapon purposely, this was murder and the murderer was to be sentenced to death. In fact, the avenger of blood was to put the murderer to death.

    • If a case was not fully clear as to whether there was intent to cause harm or not, when the manslayer came to the city of refuge, "then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments". "There judgments" involve the question of whether the case was one of murder, as seen in verses or whether it was unintentional manslaughter.

    • The slayer was safe inside the city until this judgment took place. Then, if the person was found guilty of murder he was to be delivered to the avenger of blood, who was to put him to death. If not found guilty, he was to be allowed to remain in the city of refuge without fear of death. Then he must remain there until the death of the high priest, for if found outside the city, the avenger of blood was allowed to kill him.

    • After the death of the high priest he could return to his own home, and would be safe from any reprisal by the avenger of blood.

  • Chapter 36 - Concern about the earlier ruling about the daughters of Zelophehad.

    • The daughters of Zelophehad had before been assured of inheriting the possession of their father who had died. The problem remained for his tribe (Manasseh) as to whether these daughters might be married to husbands of a different tribe. God gave the answer that these daughters must not marry outside their own tribe.

    • The very last word in both Hebrew and English is Jericho.

    So, what does the Book of Numbers have to do with us and why are we bothering to study it?

    Numbers is a study in contrasts: two generations – one rebellious, the other one faithful. Two outcomes – cursing in being unable to enter the Promised Land, and blessing in receiving God’s inheritance. Two mediators – Moses the lesser, and Christ the greater.

    In this world, you are in your wilderness wanderings. Your goal is to reach your promised heavenly city, whose designer and builder is God. When you go through temptations, economic hardship, troubled relationships, sickness and sorrow, do you see only your present situation? Or do you look back to all the wondrous works that God has done for you in the past? How he has saved you from slavery to sin; how he has provided for you and your family when times were hard; how he has given you reconciliation with your loved ones when differences seemed irreconcilable.

    Do you continue to focus on God’s promise that he works all things for your good? That the sufferings in this present age are nothing compared with the glory that awaits us in the age to come? When you lose sight of God’s promise to be with you in this barren wilderness of life till the end of the age, you will end up bitter and rebellious like those first-generation Israelites in the wilderness.

    Always focus on God’s wondrous works for you in the past and on his promises of spiritual blessings in the heavenly places today and tomorrow. The book of Numbers has two very different outcomes for those who are faithful to the end, and those who rebel in this present age.

    Because of their rebellion, most of this book tells us about God’s severe judgment on them in their wanderings in the wilderness. The first 25 chapters tell the story of unbelief, rebellion, despair and death of the first generation, because they refused to place their trust in the Lord who had done marvelous wonders for them in Egypt and in the wilderness. In contrast, chapters 27-36 begin and end with the story of the faith of the daughters of Zelophehad in God’s promised inheritance. Their faith was evidence that they were ready to enter the land that God was giving them.

    Like the Israelites in the wilderness, you are God’s people living in today’s dry and barren wilderness, full of thorns and thistles along the way. You have been redeemed from your slavery to sin by a better mediator of a better covenant. But, like the people in the book of Numbers, you are still waiting to enter your Promised Land, the heavenly city, where your food and drink and light is Christ your Passover Lamb.

    You are pilgrims and strangers living in this barren land, living between redemption and the Promised Land. But as God’s people, “you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” (Ephesians 2:19). And as you await your final redemption, you are “I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. ” (1 Peter 2:11).

    Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

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