Thursday, September 13, 2012

LVII - Numbers 15-21 - Wandering in the Wilderness

Remember in the last post that God had told them that none of the Israelites over the age of 20 would be allowed to enter the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb.  Therefore this enitre nation, which were about 2 million and growing, were confined to the wilderness of Paran, which is located in the east central portion of the Sinai Peninsula.  They spent most of forty years wandering in that wilderness, following God's leading through the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

In chapter 15, there are more details of laws given, mostly dealing with offerings according to certain sins committed.  It makes a definite distinction between unintentional sins and defiant sins.  The Scripture does not detail any offering to be sacrificed for the defiant sin, but rather the guilty person or persons were to be expelled from the camp.  Look at vss 32-36.  I keep mentioning the Sabboth because God keeps mentioning it.  A person disrespecting the Sabboth is to be put to death by the whole assembly.  {Of course this sounds harsh, but what we need to take from this is how seriously
God feels about His commandment concerning the Sabboth.

Chapter 16 shifts gears a bit and tells about a rebellion, or more appropriately termed, a "mutiny".  You will find this reading to be interesting.  Korah, who is a Levite, and two Ruebenites, Dathan and Abiram, gathered 250 men from all of Israel and challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron.  This rebellion was probably the most critical event in all the years of Israel's wandering in the wilderness.  As we look closely at this chapter, we'll discover that this rebellion is a result of jealousy.  Korah the Levite was jealous because most of the Levites were assigned menial duties while Moses and Aaron were given leadership authority and prestigious priestly duties.  {Also, I think that the Levites were
somewhat jealous that they were not to receive a portion of the Promised Land for them to settle on.  This may have been an underlying cause for unhappiness upon that whole tribe.}  On the other hand there is Dathan and Abiram who were Ruebenites.  The Ruebenites were not passed over, but they were not singled out either.  Rueben was Jacob's first born, which traditionally would have entitled Rueben to special entitlements.  But there were no special entitlements given to the Ruebenites and I believe this would have come up if the rebellion would have been successful.  In vs 15 it was one of the few times Moses became angry.  Moses was angry because Dathan and Abiram accused Moses and Aaron of self-seeking and self-exaltation.  God's anger was kindled as well, and was going to
destroy the whole assembly, but Moses fell facedown to the ground to plead for God's mercy on behalf of these people yet again.  But God was determined to punish the three ringleaders of the rebellion plus any of their followers.  Moses had the rebels separate themselves from the rest of the assembly.  All people who were on the side of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram stood with them in a show of unity and support.  All others who respected Moses and Aaron as God's chosen leaders were instructed to stand away from them.  When the separation was accomplished, God opened up the earth and all the rebels fell into the hole, which closed back up, concealing their very existance.

Chapter 17 gives the account of how God reaffirms His choice of leaders by making Aaron's staff to blossom and produce almonds on the end.  This is significant because it was that staff that was placed in the Ark of the Covenant along with the jar of manna and the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

Chapters 18 and 19 further detail the priestly duties concerning the Levites.  It gives further instructions concerning defilement and the cleansing processes, particularly dealing with the touching of a dead body.

Chapters 20 and 21 have so much in them.  The very first verse in chapter 20 tells of the death of Moses' sister Miriam after they had camped at Kadesh-barnea.  Kadish-barnea is located in the northeast region of the Sinai Peninsula, very close to the southern entrance to the Promised Land.  Although they were close to the Promised Land, they were still in wilderness and now they have run out of water.  The people complained to Moses, pressing the same buttons about how they should have stayed in Egypt where at least they had water.  Moses prayed to God about the situation concerning the lack of water.  In vss 6 and following, the Scripture tells about how God instructed Moses to gather the people around a particular rock.  When all the people gathered, Moses was to speak to the rock and water would gush out of it in front of all the people, and there would be plenty of water for all the people and their livestock.  But when the people gathered Moses did not speak to the rock, but rather he struck the rock twice with his staff.  The water came gushing out of the rock, but God was displeased with Moses for acting rashly instead of strictly obeying the instructions of God.  God's judgement for Moses' actions was that he and Aaron would not be able to enter the Promised Land.

Capter 20:14-->  If you look at a map of the middle east you can see that the Gulf of Suez makes up the western border of the Sinai Peninsula.  The Mediteranean Sea makes up the north border.  Finishing out the eastern border is the Gulf of Aqaba with an imaginary line up to the Dead Sea.  So from Kadish-barnea to Canaan was an easy northern journey along the Mediteranean Sea.  However, if the Israelites were to follow the coastline straight to Canaan, they would have to have crossed the land occupied by the Edomites (descendants of Esau).  Moses asked the Edomites if Israel could cross their land if they promised not to do any harm to the land.  The Edomites said "No".  This meant that Israel (all 2 million of them plus livestock and belongings) would have to go southeast about a hundred miles, then north about three hundred miles to go around the Edomites.  {The Edomites are going to pay for this later.}

The final verses of chapter 20 tells of Aaron's death and his son Eleazar being chosen as his successor as High Priest.

Chapter 21 starts off with a Canaanite king attacking Israel for no good reason and God blessed Israel with victory over these aggressors.  Vs 4-->  tells the story of the people getting disgruntled against God again.  God causes their camp to be infested with poisonous snakes.  The only way to avoid death from their bites was to look upon a bronz snake fashioned onto a pole.  Verse 10 tells of them approaching Moab, the home of the troubling Moabites.  {Remember Moab?  He was Lot's son.  Abraham rescued Lot from Sodom, but Lot still separated from Abraham and Lot's descendants settled in this area just east of the Jordon River and down along the east side of the Dead Sea.  This is very good land on which to settle.  God eventually gives this land to the tribes of Dan and Rueben.}  But we'll see in the next post that the Israelites are so massive that most of the Canaanite tribes are frightened of them.

Moses and the Israelites meet up with more trouble from kings who attack them, but God gives the Israelites victory each time.  After hundreds of miles and a generation of years, they end up on the east side of the Jordan river, right across from the fortified city of Jerico.

Our next post will find Israel camped at a place from which they can actually see the Promised Land.

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