Notes of Numbers by Donnie Young
Summary: Counting the “of age” men of all 12 tribes of Israel. Duties of the Levites (non-priests).
This happens on the 1st day of the second month during the 2nd year in the wilderness. This means the Tabernacle has been up for a month and that Aaron and his sons have been ordained as priests. God commands a counting of the men of Israel from 20 years and up. 1:7 mentions Nashon as the leaders of Judah and his fater is Amminadab. If you look at Ruth 4:18-22 you can see a genealogy from Perez (son of Judah) to David. Matthew 1 also covers this. Notice how many names are between Judah and Nashon. Only 4 names. Only 4 generations. There is an idea that Israel was enslaved to Egypt for 400 years. I personally do not hold to this idea. Even Paul says it was 430 years from the promises made to Abraham to the law being given in Sinai in Galatians 3:17. Also notice in Genesis 15:16 that God tells Abraham that they will return to promised land in the 4th generation. This is confirmation of this prophecy by God himself.
Judah has the most men. Manasseh has the fewest. Total men is 603,550. Levites are not counted at this time. Levites are then given tasks that deal with the Tabernacle. These include breaking it down. Carrying it. Guarding it and even striking down people who should not enter into it.. I want to make sure we understand something. Not all Levites are priests. This is a common misunderstanding. Just as all priests are not “High Priests” because there is only one at a time. Only direct descendants of Aaron are priests. This could possibly change in the future as many believe all Levites are priests. I have not found a passage to confirm this but I see a clear distinction so far in scripture.
Summary: Arrangement of the camp and march order.
Tabernacle is in the middle of the camp and the Levites make a circle around it. Then the 12 tribes make a large circle around the tabernacle. They are in four sections of three tribes.
East to South Southeast is Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. They have 186,400 men.
South to West Southwest is Reuben, Simeon and Gad. They have 151,450 men.
West to North Northwest is Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin. They have 108,100 men.
North to East Northeast is Dan, Asher and Naphtali. They have 157,600 men.
Summary: Levite's duties as well as redemption of the firstborn.
This chapter opens up with Aaron and his sons. It tells us he has four sons but that two died because they offered unauthorized fire. It mentions they has no children. The two surviving sons are Eleazar and Ithamar.
We then are told more specifics as to who is going to do what inside the tribe of Levi. It is also important to note that Levi now belongs to the High Priest. We learn that Levites are also charged with protecting the priests as this time.
God announces that he is taking all the sons of Levi as firstborn. All firstborns must be redeemed according to the laws of God. So God is following His own laws. He lists all of Levi as firstborn and then does not require that number to be taken from the other tribes. That may sound complex from our perspective but that is only because we are so far removed from this system. However, this is God's system and even if we are not able to follow it completely it would be foolish for us not to try and understand it. The counting of Levi begins as well as duties of houses inside of Levi. We also learn that Eleazar was in charge of the Levites who guarded the Tabernacle. So we are seeing that God gives specific duties to specific groups. This helps everyone know what their role is. This is an important lesson for us today as many inside the church do not really know what their role is. I am reminded of Isiah 66:21 when God seems to say that from the nations he will take Levites and priests. God does not call people without a purpose. So, if you do not have a purpose then God is not calling you. This does not mean that you must be a pastor or elder. This does not mean you have to be part of the event comity at your local church. This doesn't even mean that your purpose is simply to be discipled by someone learned in the scripture. If you do not know your purpose then you should pray and seek God's calling on your life. Even a witness needs to know how to witness before they can fulfill their purpose.
22,000 are counted from the tribe of Levi. Then, God has all the firstborn counted from the other tribes and they come up with 22,273 males. Remember, this is just the firstborn of the tribes but all of the Levites. So now Israel owes 273 redemption prices. God is fair, always. He is establishing what fairness looks like. Take note! God did not do this for no reason. God will continue to show His people His ways. Not just in words but in actions.
Summary: More details on Levite and priestly duties.
God sets a standard for Levites. He only wants men from 30 to 50 to serve. More detail as to how the duties are to be done are given. These are important tasks in God's eyes. This is why I think God does not want men under 30. I know for me I was not really mature till after 27 years old. I really didn't understand much beyond my own life and issues. I know not everyone falls into this but I know many people who are not ready for much till late into their 20s. This is of course my personal opinion on why 30.
Notice that it is Aaron and his sons who are covering these things and that the Levites are not to touch the items. Kohath is the specific house inside of Levi that handles the items that are covered by the priesthood.
Again, Eleazar is given charge over specific things. Oil, fragrant incense, grain offerings, anointing oil and oversight of the items inside the sanctuary.
Again, God makes it clear that the Levites cannot even look at the items in the sanctuary less they die. The priesthood must do their job correctly so that the Levites are not destroyed.
After God then gives other Levites duties we then find out that all the Levites from 30 to 50 numbers 8,580 men. These are the men tasked with the care of the Tabernacle and its protection. This gives up a good scale to view Israel by. Just over 1% of the men were Levites. Only .0003% of Levites were priests. This is only counting the men as well. So please imagine that the number of total Israelites is probably closer to 2 million.
Summary: Sick people outside the camp, confession of sins, restitution and a test for adultery
God does not want infectious people to be inside the camp. This also includes those who have become unclean from touching a dead body.
When anyone sins and they realize the guilt they are to confess the sin and make full restitution adding a fifth to it. They give the restitution to the person they wronged. If however, restitution cannot be made to the person or next of kin then the restitution goes to the priests in addition to a ram for atonement. Verses 9-10 seems to say this restitution belongs to the priests and not to the sanctuary.
V11-31 is known as the test for the jealous husband or a test for adultery. Either way is fine in my book. It is important to note this is a test when no evidence can be submitted. Essentially a women is presented to the priests and they give her some water that has dust from the ground inside the Tabernacle. If she gets sick then she had committed adultery. There is much more to it but basically that is it. I do however want to point back to the golden calf in Exo 32:20 when he takes the calf and grounds it down to powder and makes the people drink it... This reminds me of that passage. I even think that the 3000 that died that day were the ones the Levites found that were “sick”. While other than similarities I do not have much more scripture to back up this idea. I do not want to lead you on to say “this is what is going on” but it is an interesting similarity in my book.
Summary: Nazirite Vow, Aaronic blessing
The majority of chapter 6 is about the Nazirite vow. This is a special vow of separation to YHVH (LORD). However, much like all things to deal with God, God is the one who sets the terms of this vow. Wine, strong drink, and all things grape. No matter the form you cannot eat or drink things from grapes even the seeds. No razor is to touch the head till all the days of the vow are complete. The person does not go near a dead body. There is a provision that if someone dies suddenly and they touch the body they must re-consecrate themselves and restart their vow time. The period was defiled by the dead. Interestingly enough this is called a sin as well and a 2 bird offering must be made. Once the time of the vow is complete then offerings are made and the head is shaved. This vow is used a few times in scripture to include used by Paul and 4 other men in Acts 21. This vow 100% includes a sin sacrifice. I want to make this clear. Many believe the sacrificial system was done away with upon the resurrection of Christ. However, Paul and 4 other men are doing them here in Acts 21. This is near 30 years after the resurrection of Christ. What ended the sacrificial system was the destruction of the Temple and the scattering of the priesthood. As I said, even sin sacrifices are included into this vow.
Chapter 6 ends with whats called the Aaronic blessing.
YHVH Bless you and keep you.
YHVH make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
YHVH list up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“So shall they put my name, YHVH, upon the people of Israel and I will bless them”
Summary: Gifts from the leaders to God, the Levites and the priests.
Chapter 7 seems to be taking a set backwards. We have went back to right after the Tabernacle was first set up. This seems to be the case moving forward as well. Chapter 8 and chapter 9 seems to be taking place right after the Tabernacle was set up.
All the leaders in Israel are now bringing gifts to God by bringing them to the Tabernacle. The leaders bring their offerings in the order given in Numbers 2. So Judah went first and for 12 days the leaders brought many gifts of animals, gold, silver and other gifts.
After all this Moses enters into the inner sanctuary and hears the voice of God from above the mercy seat. This is important because I do not believe this is taking place during Atonement. Moses is not a high priest. So how is Moses allowed into the Tabernacle at all much less into the place where only Aaron is allowed to go? Well, Moses is in a position that is not like Aaron and the other priests. Remember that when Aaron gave his offering it was Moses who ate the choice portion. This was one such way that God confirms that the position Moses holds it higher than Aaron's. God will eventually say that he will raise up a prophet like Moses. That means that this prophet will also be above the high priests that minister unto God.
Summary: Small bit about lamps then the Levites are cleansed for service.
God then tells Aaron to set up the lamps. I am unsure if there was a 7 branch lamp-stand and 7 lamps in front of it or what. That seems to be what Num 8 is saying. Because this is taking a step backwards I am going to assume that this is talking of the 7 branch menorah and not 7 candles in front of the 7 branch menorah.
God then wants the Levites to be cleansed and it sounds like a type of Nazirite vow for life. There is nothing about not drinking wine or touching dead bodies but there is the razor and cleansing that goes on. It is also of note that these men are “waved” before God. Now... call me crazy but this is taking place in the first month of the 2nd year. Is this event taking place on the day that they would normally do a wave offering and begin the count to Pentecost? It sure sounds like that is what is going on to me.
These men are shaved, cleansed and a sin offering is made for them. Then they may serve. At this point God seems to be saying that from 25 to 50 Levites will serve. So I ask the question... what happened to 30 years that was talked about prior? I am unsure at this point. Maybe the 5 year difference was training years. Or maybe they could only be guards those years. I am unsure at this point but I will keep an eye on this. At 50 years old Levites get to retire. So... God's ways are to retire from your hard work at 50 years old... people say its bondage. Sounds to me like those who say such things have not read the law.
Summary: Passover, 2nd Passover and Israel follows the cloud.
God commands Israel to keep Passover at the appointed time of the 14th day of the month. This is super important. God tells them. Why does God need to? Did he not already give them the way to track time? Well, one of the factors in tracking the beginning of the year is barley being ready for harvest. However, they are in the wilderness and not in the land yet. So, God tells them. They do not need to reply on barley because God is in their midst.
So, they keep Passover but not everyone. Some of the men were unclean and they want to seek God's ruling on what they should do. Moses does the right thing and seeks God's word on the matter instead of just making a ruling. This is also important because many view these laws as Moses's laws. That is incorrect. These are God's laws given through Moses. Yes, there is a difference.
God gives a provision for not just unclean through the touching of dead bodies but also for long journey. They can keep Passover in the 2nd month on the 14th day. However, this is only acceptable on these 2 conditions. A person who does not keep it at the correct time will be cut off. There is a lot of confusion on how to track time according to the Bible these days. While I understand many people's perspective I want to say this is not treated like a big deal by most. I disagree. God says this is a “cut off” type offense. While not an instant death sentence this is to be a huge deal. Also, God says this statute is for both the native and the sojourner. Again, this means these laws are for more than just Israel. Remember, they are not even in the land yet and God expects them to keep them.
At this point we find out that a cloud covered the Tabernacle by day and was like a pillar of fire by night. The people knew when it was time to move when the cloud picked up and moved. Once the cloud settled they would stop and set up camp. This was how God commanded when to move and when to stay. Sometimes they would stay for a single night while other times they would be camped for a month.
Summary: Trumpets, signals of trumpets and setting out for the first time after setting up the Tabernacle.
Two silver trumpets are made. These were used to summon Israel to the Tabernacle and for the breaking of camp. When both are blown then the people know to assemble at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. If only one is blown then only the leaders assemble. There was also a signal for alarm. The tribes of the east would set out first. The second alarm goes out the south tribes would set out. The alarm signal was sounded every time they set out. A long blast was a signal for assemblies. It is the task of the priests to blow the trumpets. The trumpet would be blown during war as well. God says this is so He will remember. This reminds me of God giving the rainbow and saying when He sees it... it would remind him of his promises. God also tells us to blow the trumpets during our days of gladness, appointed times, beginning of the month and over offering/sacrifices. This is to be a reminder for us before God.
Israel sets out in the 2nd year, 2nd month, 20th day. It is at this point that I want to say I understand some people when they feel that the Bible repeats itself over and over. We get several verses that goes over the order of march and who is over what tribe and who was breaking down the Tabernacle. I get it. I understand. However, this is still important stuff. It shows that they did what God commanded them to do. We also get a short conversation between Moses and his brother in-law. Based on the conversation I am unsure if the brother in-law actually stays or not. It seems ambiguous to me.
We end this chapter with Moses saying “Arise O YHVH and let your enemies be scattered and let those who hate you flee before you” every time they set out.
Moses would then say “Return O YHVH to the ten thousand thousands of Israel” when they would stop.
What an awesome thing. Next time I visit somewhere or move I want to say this. Then, when I come to rest I want to ask YHVH to return to me...
I do want to mention that the week of Unleavened bread is from the 15th day to the 21st day. The 21st day is a high day so no work is supposed to be done on it. Because God allows a second Passover many assume a second Unleavened Bread is also OK. Yet, if that is the case then I would be assuming the men who were unclean would be keeping High Days when no one else is. I do not think this is correct. God gives a provision for keeping a 2nd Passover. Not a second everything. God moves the camp on the 20th day of the second month. This guarantees that they would be on the move or setting up camp the next day (21st). So I am not a fan of this idea and I even say its very strong evidence against it.
You may want to point out that King Hezekiah kept Passover and 14 total days of feasting and God blessed this. Yes, but Hezekiah also clearly says they are not doing this according the law. Does it then go on to say that they kept Passover in the 2nd year the following year? Or that next year they kept a 14 day Unleavened Bread? No, it does not. When people come back into fellowship with God he wants it to be a big deal. He wants it to be a happy occasion. So, be glad that you worship an awesome God with awesome laws but also has much grace and mercy on us. While the goal is to keep the law perfectly the expectation is to continue growing in your walk with God and to stop practicing sin. This has always been part of the law. It is not new. You cannot turn away from sin if you do not know what sin actually is.
Summary: The people cry for meat and get 70 elders to help Moses carry the burden of the people.
I find the opening verse funny. The people complained in the hearing of the LORD... is there anywhere not in the hearing of the LORD? I just think it is funny is all.
So it begins! We have already read some of the times the people complained. Some of those times was a little warranted. I mean... when you have been a few days without water I would say that's a valid concern. Here we have Israel craving meat, onions, leeks and such. We then get a good description of what manna looked and felt like. Go read it if you are interested. God's anger burns bright and even sets fire to some of the camp.
Then, Moses... who is called the most humble person in Numbers 12:3... Has had enough and doesn't want to deal with these people anymore. He actually asks God to kill him. Wow... how much complaining had he heard to want to die? Moses seems to understand that he is not “in the right” in this manner and would rather die than to let God continue to see him fail in what he has been called to do.
God's response to this is to gather 70 elders from the people to help Moses. God takes some of the spirit that is on Moses and gives the elders some. Interesting thing is that 2 men were still in camp and they also received a portion of the spirit as well.
Now, we learn that God was giving the people meat back in Exodus 16. We also learn in Exodus 18 that Moses's father in-law gave his advice to not carry the burden alone. While a number is not mentioned it is at least possible the event being spoken of in Numbers 11 was already talked about in Exodus 16 and 18. This is something that is not nearly as uncommon as you might think. Many times in scripture something is mentioned then later is expounded upon. Sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.
Moses asks where all this will come from assuming God wants him to slaughter all the flocks and herds to feed the people but God questions Moses on if he thinks God is shorthanded. Then he tells him to see if His word will come true.
Now, it says 3 feet of quail was all around the camp. That... is a lot of birds. So much so that the people spent over a day gathering the meat. Then... God sent a plague... maybe the first case of bird-flu.
Chapter12: Aaron and Miriam speak out against Moses.
So... Aaron and Miriam, Moses's siblings, start talking about Moses. Two complaints they have is that he married someone outside of Israel and that they believe God has spoken through them as well as Moses. I suppose they are trying to figure out just what everyone's roles are.
God calls all 3 of them to the tent of meeting and gives it to them plainly. God explains that other prophets only get talked to in visions and dreams. Moses however gets spoken to mouth to mouth and is not in riddles. This reminds me of how Yeshua talked in parables to the people but spoke plainly to his disciples. This is also am important point that God's words to Moses are plain while His words to others could be misunderstood. God seems to be telling us that when He talks to Moses... it is as clear as it is going to get.
This type of “clearness” is not attached to any other prophet to my understanding. Thus, listen to God through Moses because it is clear and not in riddles.
God's anger is against Aaron and Miriam as He leaves. Miriam is then struck and turns white. This is called leprous in scripture. Both Aaron and Moses cry out for God to heal her but God allows Miriam to be in this state for 7 days. Miriam is also not allowed to be in the camp for these 7 days.
All of this came about because Aaron and Miriam did not understand the difference between themselves and Moses. They did not understand it was not Moses, who is called the most meek person on earth, did not raise himself up to this but God raised him up. The only other person in all of scripture that is raised above Moses is the Messiah.
Chapter 13: 12 spies
God wants Israel to check out the land. So, they send 12 leaders to spy on the land. One from each tribe. The names are recorded but we all know that only 2 are typically remembered. Caleb from Judah and Joshua from Ephriam. Also, in the ESV the name is written as “Hoshea the son of Nun”. Verse 16 clarifies that Moses calls Hoshea Joshua.
So Moses sends the men and a timestamp is given. The season of first ripe grapes. A quick google search shows grapes to first be harvestable in Israel around what we call August. So, late summer. Of course this was over 3000 years ago so this is meant to be a general idea and not exact.
They staying out 40 days then returned with some fruit of the land.
Caleb wants to leave immediately and dwell in the land. The others do not think they should because the people are strong. Have forts and they also see descendants of Anak. Verse 33 explains these to be the Nephilim we learn about in Genesis 6.
I do want to note that at this time Caleb is the only one mentioned as wanting to go overtake the land. I believe that Joshua also does this but in this chapter is appears that Caleb is the only one willing to go.
Chapter 14: People are upset over the report. This generation will not enter to land and Israel loses a battle.
Aaron, Moses Caleb and Joshua beg the people not to rebel against God. The people mumble about getting a new leader and heading back to Egypt. God is very upset over all this and says “How long will they not believe me? In spite of all the signs that I have done among them?”
God says he will send pestilence and disinherit them and make Moses a nation greater than they.
Of course, God does not end up doing this. This is another one of those things that God does. It is not lying or changing His mind. It is showing them how displeased He is. As a parent I fully understand what He is doing here.
Moses resorts to the same argument he did back in Exodus 32. He pleas that Egypt and other nations who have heard of God will think that God brought them out to destroy His people. While God does not need reminded who He is we do at times. This is written for our sake. Not God's. Moses even says who God is by His own words back in Exodus. “Abounding is steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression but he will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the 3rd and 4th generation!”
It is a powerful thing to know who God says He is and believe it even in the face of God doing or saying something that seems out of character! Trust God Amen!
Moses asks for forgiveness and God relents. However, punishment must still be given. Now, as someone who has the assurance of salvation I fully understand that when it comes to the 2nd death I will be spared. I also fully understand that my sins while I am still alive still need punished. God is fair all the time and not just in the future. Everyone who put the blood over the door in Egypt was saved. However, not all made it to the promised land. Everyone who calls upon the name of Yeshua are saved but not all who say “Lord Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven. I believe we have a misunderstanding as to exactly what saved means in our modern understanding. This is to be understood as history teaches us that we are no better than those Israelites in the wilderness. Moses does not want the other nations to doubt the power of God. That somehow He is not able to bring the people into the land that He Himself promised.
God says that only Caleb of those who came out of Egypt will be brought into the land. Notice once again that Joshua is not listed. I am of a mind that while Joshua did not initially believe it militarily possible to take the promised land he also understood to not trust God was to rebel. This is why Joshua is numbered with Moses, Aaron and Caleb as begging the people to not rebel against God. I also noticed that Caleb and Joshua tear their clothes. However, Aaron and Moses do not. For Aaron we can say that it is a commandment to not tear his clothes. As for Moses... well, while I cannot point to a commandment I think he is held to even a higher standard than even Aaron.
God mentions “ten times” that he has shown His glory to Israel. Is this the 10 plagues or something else? Either way, He has shown who He is over and over.
Joshua and Caleb are the only men 20 years and up who will be brought into the land. God turns their own words on them and says this generation will die in the wilderness. This is why it is important to not grumble. Your grumbling could come to pass.
However, God does not push that on to the next generation. While their grumblings included them God has a different plan. God is going to finish the work he began with the next generation.
By the way... could you imagine being the last included in this judgment? Seriously.... like people are waiting for you to die so they can go take the promised land.
God kind of seals this promise by taking 10 of the spies in a plague. Only Joshua and Caleb remain of the 12 sent.
The people then rise up to try and battle for the land. However, Moses warns them they would be going against the commands of God.
This is a good time to mention that we are actually living in a similar time right now. See, many believe that the death of Christ was the end of sacrifices but this is simply not true. Even in Acts there are several times sacrifices are mentioned as still going on and that people like James and Paul were involved. The truth is that the reason we do not do sacrifices today is because the Temple was destroyed. Even the Jews do not do sacrifices today for this very reason. Not because of the Messiah they do not even recognize. If we were to try and do sacrifices today we would be breaking commandments in order to keep other commandments. That is not how God works. He places commandments that must be meet in our path before we can complete other commandments. Consider Leviticus 17 when God tells the people to take sacrifices to the Tabernacle and priesthood. This is what you call “Conditional Commandments” and they cannot be kept if you do not meet the conditions. A single man cannot keep laws for married men because he has not meet the conditions. A priest does not have to keep the commandments for farmers because he does not meet the conditions. We do not perform sacrifices because we do not meet the conditions of a standings Temple or Tabernacle and the priesthood is currently lost to time. Conditional commandments are actually very common. No one can fill every condition as no one is both male and female. No is both single and married. No one is both in the land and not in the land at the same time. No one is both sojourner and a native of the land at the same time. So, when someone says that Christ fulfilled the law by keeping every single one perfectly then they do not understand the law of God. Yeshua kept every law he meet the conditions for perfectly. Including commandments that were only for him.
God does not allow Israel to win the battle.
Chapter 15: Sacrifices. Sabbath judgment and tassels
1-13 Is all about sacrifices and how God wants people to bring drink and grain offerings with sacrifices and vow offerings.
14-16 is where God explains that strangers and sojourners will keep the same laws as the natives. I am ok with the idea this is specifically talking about sacrifices in this passage but other passages makes it very clear that God holds strangers to the same standards he is giving to Israel.
18-21 God commands that once they are in the land they will give some of the “first” of their flour to God. This is another important lesson. God wants your first and your best always.
22-29 is grace! God understands that sometimes we will sin in ignorance. Please understand what ignorance or “unintentionally” means. It means you did not know. It does not mean you did know but didn't think it applied to you. Ignorance is not willful. That's neglect and is often called rebellion in scripture. 29 once again makes it knows that strangers and sojourners have the same laws. Notice this time it is not specific to doing sacrifices but for the need of sacrifices.
30-31 also makes it clear that those who knowingly break commandments... natives or other... they revile God. They will be cut off because they despised the word of God.
Exactly what do you think the “word” of God is?
32-36 is judgment for breaking the Sabbath. Do yourself a favor. Look through the scriptures and find every reason God expressly condemns someone to death. Every time God judges a sin worthy of death... be very cautions in saying it is no longer important to God. God does not change. I also find it interesting that this person's nationality is not mentioned like it has been done in the past. I find this omission very interesting because this means we cannot assume this man was of Israel. To assume he is after the verses we just read is to take this passage out of context in order to try and establish doctrine over what is actually said.
37-41 is what we call Tzitzit or tassels. At this time there are two things to do. Hang them from the corners of our garments and have a thread of blue in them. Later in Deuteronomy the command is repeated but it says “Four corners”. I believe that hanging them from your belt-loop or wearing an under shirt with them attached is fine. However, remember that they are to be visible by you. One of the reasons given is for us to look at them and remember this commandments of God. You remember the WWJD bracelets? Well, WWJD? Wear tassels. Luke 8:44 is a passage that typically gets translated at “fringe of garment.” Look up G2899. When asked why I wear tassels my response is because Yeshua did. I follow his example.
Chapter 16: Korah
Korah and 250 men come against Moses and Aaron. What is Moses's reaction? To fall on his face. Moses then says that God will choose who is His and who is holy. I want you to pay attention to what is going on right here. Who is hearing the voice of God in the instance? Yet Korah goes along with the plan. V10 is a reminder that the tribe on Levi are not all priests. These men are not happy with where God has placed them. Another great reminder that everyone wants to move up the ranks as they see them. However, God places you where He wants you. You should be happy with what God has placed on your life.
So, everyone gathers together with a censer full of incense. God shows up and tells Moses and Aaron to step aside. Both Moses and Aaron fall on their face to intercede for the people. So, God relents and tells everyone to distance themselves from the ring leaders. Moses then says the ground will open up and swallow them so that no one will be able to say it was not a work of God. The other 250 men were also consumed by fire. The next section is odd to me. The censors used by these wicked men are now holy and will be used to cover the alter because they are now holy. Remember that it is the priests alone who are to burn incense to God... not the Levites.
Stay in your lane guys.
So then... the people grumble again... God is obviously unhappy and sends a plague.
Chapter 17: God chooses Aaron (Levi) from among the 12 tribes
Please remember the full context of what is going on. This chapter is on the heels of two major events. The 12 spies going into the promised land where nearly all of adult Israel is cursed to die in the wilderness. Only Caleb and Joshua of the adults will see the promised land. Also, a rebellion inside of the tribe of Levi has taken place with Korah and friends.
So, on that note we have God essentially showing once again that it is Aaron that He has chosen to be the High Priest and his line that will be the priests. He does this by taking dead staffs and bringing one back to life. God has shown His power of death and destruction over and over. He has not shown His power of life often. He has the power to restore as well.
This is a very good reminder of who God is. Yet, the people do not seem to grasp this as they themselves see this as their own destruction. In a way, I believe we still do this today. I do not look on the day of judgment in fear. I by no means believe I am perfect but I stand on the promises of God. I do not believe I deserve mercy or grace. Yet, based on what God says about these things He will extend them to people like me. So, I actually do deserve mercy and grace but not based on who I am but based on who He is.
Chapter 18: Aaron, Priesthood and Levites
Aaron is the High Priest. His sons are priests and they are responsible for the altar and all that is inside the Tabernacle. The entire tribe of Levi is a gift given to Aaron to help him run the Tabernacle. Yet, Levi must be cautious to not do what is the responsibility of the priesthood or wrath will come down. No outsider is to do what the priesthood or what Levi is called to do.
The priesthood is in charge of all the food and offerings brought to the Tabernacle. It is their portion from God. All people who are clean and part of their house may eat of this portion. This statement seems to extend to all of Levi and not just the priesthood. There is reminders of the firstborn animals being brought to the Tabernacle and that all firstborn male humans being redeemed. The best of the oil, wine, grain and other produce are also given to Aaron and his house (Levi).
A clarification is made that the firstborn animals are to be holy through sacrifice. The breast and right thigh are Aaron's specific portion according to v18. I make the assumption this is the High Priestly portion. This is a promise between Aaron, his descendants and God forever. God establishes they will have no portion in the land. That God is their portion.
Levi will also have no inheritance but take care of all things Tabernacle and priesthood that are not specific to the priests. This would include moving the Tabernacle, guarding the Tabernacle and guiding the priesthood.
The end of this chapter says that what Levi gets from the people will also be tithed. So, a tithe of the tithe. If the people bring the best then the Levites are to also give the best of what is given. This is a wonderful model to follow as we all give unto God by passing the blessings both up and down.
The people take care of Levi, Levi takes care of the priesthood, the priesthood takes care of the holy things, the holy things bring all of Israel back into right standing relationship with God so that God can bless the people.... so the people can take care of Levi...
This is exactly why we need a perfect Messiah! Without a perfect Messiah this cycle cannot be broken. The Aaronic priesthood would have to continue to follow this as this is the system God set up for the people to stay in right standing. However, once a perfect priest is established this system is no longer needed to stay in right standing because the priest has no need to ever offer for himself. This is what the author of Hebrews is explaining. Yeshua needs no offering for himself to say in right standing. Because of this we look to Christ as our high priest in Heaven and no longer look to an earthly priesthood.
Chapter 19: Red cow and other ritually unclean laws.
The red cow sacrifice seems to be over the leadership (not Levi or priesthood) of Israel. This seems to be a very specific moment and I do not really see that this is given as a “forever” type law. However, the other laws about ritually unclean seem to be forever type laws. I do wish to point out that once again these laws are for both Israel and those wishing to live in the land. Basically you can simplify this by saying “Touching a dead body, a bone or even a grave sight will make you unclean for 7 days. On the 3rd and 7th day you must bathe. If this happens in a dwelling place then then ash from a sin offering must be brought and mixed with water to cleans the area. The person performing this task will also be unclean till evening when they bathe themselves.
Chapter 20: Miriam dies. Moses disobeys God and strikes the rock. Edom denies passage. Aaron dies.
The last we heard from Miriam she was sent out of the camp for coming against Moses. Now, she is dead. This was not a major event but does give credence that Moses wrote this. Very few women's deaths are recorded in scripture but Miriam's is.
We then have another water from the rock story. Unlike the previous one where Moses was commanded to strike the rock he was commanded to speak to the rock. Yet, Moses was so upset with the people he chastised them and struck the rock. God still allowed water to come from the rock but this event costs both Aaron and Moses. This is the event God specifically points to as to why they will not enter into the promised land.
While we can all understand that Aaron has messed up a few times this is the lone mistake we see Moses make. Seems a bit harsh from our perspective but our perceptive is not the one that matters. God's is. I feel as if this is another one of those “Life and death” lessons. God can bring water out of a struck rock as well as a spoken to rock. It all depends on what He commanded to be done. But even if the commandment is not followed His purpose will still be achieved. This is a stark lesson reminder for us today! Do not claim that just because God's purpose was achieved through people that they actually followed the commandments of God!
We also find out that Edom (Esau's descendants) denies passage through their land to Israel. This is despite the fact that Israel says they will stick to the main roads, no pass through any fields and if they do need food or drink they will pay for it. Edom responds by sending an army. But... this time Israel turns away instead of trying to fight.
We end this chapter with the death of Aaron. Aaron is taken to a mountain with his son and Moses. Moses taken the priestly garments off of Aaron and puts them on his son Eleazar. While it is not mentioned here I wish to point out that Aaron dies in his 120s. Aaron is only a few years older than Moses and Moses dies in his 120s as well. This puts this event near the end of the 40 years in the wilderness and not in the middle. So, if we assume Numbers is mostly in chronological order then from Numbers 13 to 20 40 years have passed. The people of Israel mourned the loss of Aaron for 30 days.