Tuesday, September 18, 2012

LIX - Numbers Chapters 26 - 36

We finished the last post with the Israelite men having been seduced by the Midianite and the Moabite women.  God's anger was kindled and ran so hot that He took the lives of 24,000 Israelites before it was cooled by the righteous zeal of Phinehas.

I hope to cover the remaining eleven chapters of the Book of Numbers in today's post.  Much of the
Scripture will be covered quickly.  Again, I encourage that you read every chapter of every book, preferably prior to addressing the posts.

Chapter 26 finds the entire nation of Israel camped along the eastern shore of the Jordan river, ready to cross the Jordan and settle in the Promised Land.  Moses takes a second census prior to entering the Promised Land.  The purpose of this is to make sure the land is allotted fairly, which can only be done by allotting acreage approprate to the relative sizes of the tribes.  Note that in the first census there totaled 603,550 Israelite men over the age of twenty years in the ten whole tribes and the two half tribes.  Also, there were 22,000 Levites over a month old.  Here in the second census there were 601,730 men over twenty, and 23,000 Levites over a month old.  So during this fory years in the wilderness, the Levites gained in population and the rest lost some.  Remember, there have been battles with Canaanites and judgements by God.  24,000 were just recently killed as a result of sins commited with the Moabite women.  The Levites were not effected by either, with the exception of Korah.  The Levites never had to fight in any battles, therefore there would be no Levite casualties of war.

Chapter 27 tells of the daughters of Zelophehad, a descendant of Manasseh.  These women had a valid point in that if a sole survivor was killed in battle, or any other good reason, then the direct female descendants wouild have no inheritance, thus no land on which to settle.  So, as explained in the first eleven verses of chapter 27, arrangements would be made so that there would be no innocent victims of the casualties of war.  In the remaining verses of chapter 27, God tells Moses that he doesn't have much longer to live, and must appoint Joshua as his successor.  But take note of verse 12.  For years Moses had anticipated entering the Promised Land.  His hopes to see that land was about to be realized.  The Lord told him to ascend Mount Abarim.  (This is an easy verse to miss because of the name of the mountain:  Mt. Abarim.  In Duet. 32:49 this specific mountain range that Moses ascended is re-named Mt. Nebo.)  From its lofty height Moses was given a sweeping, panoramic view of the Land.  God instructs them how to go about annointing Joshua as the new leader.  Joshua is a mighty man of valor and a faithful servant of God, and will prove himself worthy of filling the shoes of the great leader Moses.

Chapters 28 and 29 go through the offerings, as God tells Moses to remind the Israelites of all of them:

Daily Offerings
Sabbath Offerings
Monthly Offerings
The Passover
The Festival of Weeks
The Festival of Trumpets
The Day of Atonement
The Festival of Tabernacles

Chapter 30 is dedicated to the laws concerning taking vows.  It covers the importance of taking one's vow seriously to completion, but also details how vows can be overturned, and the hierarchy involved.

Chapter 31 tells of God's vengeance on the Midianites.  God tells Moses that defeating the Midianites in battle is the last thing Moses will do before he dies.  Moses then calls on the leaders of the tribes to gather a thousand warriors from each tribe, a total of twelve thousand men of war.  Moses sent these men out along with Phinehas, son of Eleazar the High Priest.  Vss 7--> they went and faught against Midian.  Among their victims were five Midian kings as named in verse 8.  It goes on to say that the Israelites killed all the men, burned their cities and camps, plundered their livestock and belongings, but took the women and children captive.  Moses (vs 15) questions this.  {So do I.  It was the women
who seduced the Israelite men into sexual promiscuity and idolatry.}  Moses intructs them to kill all but virgin women.  {It would be difficult to have young girls executed, but we'll find out that was probably what Moses should have done.}  Still in chapter 31, the Scripture tells of how the spoils were to be divided among the nation Israel.  All of the spoils were counted, item by item (vss 32-40 gives the exact numbers).  Half was to be given to the twelve thousand solders and their families.  The other half was to be distributed to the rest of Israel, after which each would tithe their portion.

Chapter 32 is interesting.  The camps of Rueben and Gad thought the land they were camped on east of the Jordan looked pretty good for their livestock.  The Jordan provided water.  The land was already cleared by the Moabites and the Midianites.  So the Ruebenites and the Gadites approached Moses and Eleazar with their request to stay on the east side of the Jordan.  To their surprise, Moses took a "you must be kidding" attitude.  Moses saw it as Rueben and Gad get help from all Israel to conquer this land, and the hard work was yet to be done when they crossed the Jordan.  Moses figured that the rest of the land would have to be conquered by only ten trivbes instead of twelve while Ruben and Gad are settled in peace on the east side of the river.  {Also, the Promised Land was all west of the Jordan.  Therefore one sixth of the nation would be outside the boundries of the land God had set aside for them.}  So Ruben and Gad regrouped and approached Moses with a compromise, promising to send all able bodied man over the Jordan to fight for the land along with their cousins, and would not bring them back to the east until all the Promised Land was conquered, if Moses would grant their request for the land east of the Jordan.  Moses agreed and added a half of the tribe of Manasseh to have the southern portion of that land out of respect for Makir's part in defeating the Amorites who were previously occupying that portion.  (Makir was a son of Manassah, grandson of Joseph.)

In chapter 33, vss 1-48, Moses recounts, step-by-step, Israel's journey from Egypt to the Jordan river in Canaan.  In the last seven verses of this chapter, God commands them to drive out ALL of the inhabitants of the Promised Land.  To destroy their idols and their places of worshipping their false gods.  God goes on to promise that any people left in the land "will become barbs in your eyes".

Chapter 34 states the boundries of the Promised Land.  {If you have a large Bible, turn to the back where there are usually maps.  Find the map of the tribal allotments, and you can more easily follow the boundries as they are stated in this chapter.}  Moses then appoints leaders from each tribe to be in charge of plotting out each tribal allotment.

Chapter 35 - Towns for the Levites

The Levites were not given land on which to settle, but rather towns in which to dwell.  {Being born a Levite can be looked upon as a positive or a negative, depending on one's point of view.  The negative is that they owned no land on which to settle and raise their families, therefore never having a place to call their own.  Also negative was that their life's work was already assigned them, leaving them almost no say in the matter.  The positive was that everything was provided for them (food, shelter, clothing, all of life's necessities).  Additionally, they never had to fight in any battles or
wars, thus they never had to fear the leading cause of death at that time:  war.}  Forty two towns were to be assigned to the Levites, along with ample pasture land surrounding each town.  In addition to the forty two, there were six more towns to be designated "Cities of Refuge".  {Per the law, when someone was killed, the closest male relative of the victim would be considered the "Avenger of Blood".  This avenger of blood would usually be a eldest brother or a first born son of the victim.  When someone committed a murder, accidental or otherwise, he would be hunted down and killed by the avenger of blood.  The "cities of refuge" were cities to which the accused could flee.  The avenger of blood was forbidden to pursue the accused inside a city of refuge.  While the accused was in the city of refuge, his family members could work toward proving his innocence.  If the man was found guilty, he was turned away from the city of refuge and given over to the avenger of blood.  If the man was found innocent, he was set free, and the avenger of blood was no longer obligated or legaly entitled to kill him.  In fact, if the avenger killed him after he was judged to be innocent, the avenger would then become the hunted fugitive because he had killed a man found innocent.  Make sense?  Hope so.}  These six cities were placed strategically so that anyone in Israel was within a relatively short distance from anywhere in the nation.

In chapter 36, the law pertaining to the daughters of Zelphehad was further visited.  The Scripture tells that widows or orphaned daughters must marry into their own tribe, and the remaning verses of the chapter explain why, with the principal objective being the protection of inherited land.

Next post  -  Deuteronomy

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