Sunday, September 9, 2012

LV - Numbers - Preparing to Move to the Promised Land


Human Author:   Moses
Place:                    Mount Sinai to Borders of Canaan
Main Subjects:    Organization and Rebellion

I plan to slow down somewhat versus the rapid journey through Leviticus.  I'll cover fewer chapters in each posting than I did with Leviticus.  Numbers somewhat repeats the laws, but there is so much more than that in this book.  The name of the book is of course derived from the beginning chapters where a census is taken.  You will find Numbers to be much more interesting reading as Israel moves from Mount Sinai toward their destination, the Promised Land.  But what Israel encounters on the way and how they react will influence their future for generations to come.

Before Israel was prepared to leave Mt Sinai for the Promised Land, some organization was necessary.  So, God gave Moses intructions concerning the order of the tribes in the first two chapters.  As you read the first chapter, a meticulous census was to be taken per tribe.  {Throughout the next few books of the Bible, it is good to remind yourself that there are 11 tribes plus two half tribes as Joseph's was split between his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.}  They counted the males who were age twenty years or older, except the tribe of Levi.  All the tribes totaled 603,550 males age twenty and older, but remember that this did not include the tribe of Levi.  The Levites would be commisioned to other matters.  {Can you imagine what was going through the minds of the Levites while the census was being taken?  It was common knowledge that land distribution according to tribes was one of the main purposes for grouping the tribes.}  But the main reasons for this particular accounting were for the positioning of the respective tribes as the journeyed and camped.  (Much military implications in this setup)

Chapter 2 explains how God assigned four tribes to encamp on each side of the tabernacle.  I don't see a particular pattern here but I haven't looked very hard.  At first I thought He would assign the oldest to the youngest, which would have been Rueben to Benjamin.  It may just be a measurement of equal strength on each side.  Imagine for a moment over two million people, more than three million head of livestock and all their belongings.  The tabernacle was in the center and all of the camp surrounded it in equal proportions.  Hard to picture what that camp looked like, but it was massive.  Also in this chapter it states the name of the tribal leaders who helped with the census.

Chapter 3 deals in detail with the Levites.  I don't want to get too tied up with this chapter, but I must give it its due.  The leaders of the tribe of Levi was of course Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's two remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar.  (Remember Nadab and Abihu died because of their disobedience and rebellious spirit.)  The Levites would be the tribe of priests.  Along with that distinction came the responsibilities of the tabernacle and everything associated with it.  God assigned sub-tribes specific duties in setting up and taking down portions of the tabernacle and the actual transport of it and its contents.  This seems like quite a responsibility and indeed it was, but the Levites were excused from all military obligations and were always given aid by the other tribes.  God encouraged all of the tribes to make certain the Levites were taken good care of while traveling.  Also different about the Levites was the way they were counted in the census.  All of the other tribes counted all males twenty years and older.  The Levites were counted two ways:  all the males a month or older and all males between the ages of 30 and 50.  These adult males between the ages of 30 and 50 were assigned responsibilties for moving and caring for the tabernacle and its furnishings.

Chapter 4 details the distribution of these responsibilities.  Chapter 5 deals with three subjects:

1)  Purity of the camp  -  All unclean persons were to dwell outside the camp to maintain purity within.  And as they travelled, they must keep separate from their respective tribes.
2)  Restitution for wrongs against other people  -  This involved confession of the sin causing the wrong-doing and restitution plus 20%, which is in keeping with the earlier stated Levitican Law.
3)  Infedelity  -  This dealt with determining the guilt or innocence of a woman accused of cheating on her husband.  {If it was a hesaid/shesaid situation, I would have thought the urim and thummim would have been used, but this chapter doesn't mention them.  Instead they used bitter water to make that determination as described in chapter 5.}

Chapter 6 describes the particulars of declaring oneself to be a Nazirite.  {We'll see later that the colorful character Sampson was a Nazirite.}  One would be declared or declare himself to be a Nazirite for either his entire life or a predetermined time period.  During this time there were restrictions, including never cutting one's hair, and never drinking strong drink.

Chapter 7 and 8 list the offering each tribe brought to the tabernale and the final setting up for worship.  This was done to dedicate and consecrate the temple, but what they probably didn't realize was that they were about to begin their journey north to the Promised Land.  Therefore, this worship service served also as a sendoff.

The 9th chapter tells of the Passover observance and in the last verses tells how God filled the tabernacle with His presence and further tells how the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night will tell the Israelites when to move and where to go.

The next post  -  The Second Leg of the Journey

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