Thursday, May 31, 2007

Numbers 20:22–29

Numbers 20:22–29: Aaron dies


We read earlier that Aaron and Moses had disobeyed the LORD, and, as punishment, would be denied entry to the Promised Land. In this chapter, we see part of the consequences of this.

The LORD instructs Moses to bring Aaron and his son Eleazar up onto Mount Hor, where Moses is to remove Aaron’s garments—that is, the garments of the High Priest—and put them on Eleazar. Aaron will then die there, and be “gathered to his people” (verse 26).

So, “in the sight of the whole community” (verse 27), the three of them ascend the mountain, and they transfer the garments of the High Priest from Aaron to Eleazar. Aaron then dies, and Moses and Eleazar come back down.

When the Israelite community learns that Aaron is dead, they spend thirty days mourning for him.


The transferring of Aaron’s garments to Eleazar is obviously the passing on of the office of High Priest from father to son.

The Israelites may not have always liked the leadership of Aaron and Moses, but they did properly mourn Aaron’s death. I wonder if they felt partially guilty, for his death, since they had indirectly caused the sin that he and Moses committed? Of course, Moses and Aaron were responsible for their own sin, there’s no doubt about that, but, given the circumstances, if I’d been one of the Israelites, I would have probably felt guilty, when Aaron died.

Numbers 20:14–21

Numbers 20:14–21: Edom denies Israel passage through their territory


In this section, the Israelites continue their trek through the desert, and come to the kingdom of Edom. Moses sends a message to the king, asking for permission to travel through the kingdom of Edom. He reminds the king of the many hardships the Israelites have faced, and of the LORD’s faith in bringing the Israelites out of their hardships. He promises that the Israelites will simply stay on the king’s highway, as they pass through. They won’t steal from any fields, or even drink from any wells.

The king’s answer, however, is short and to the point:

But Edom answered:

“You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”

(verse 18)

Ouch. Short and to the point! But Moses tries again; he sends another message to the king, and reiterates that the Israelites don’t want to steal any of the Edomites’ food or water. He even goes so far as to say that if the Israelites drink any of the Edomites’ water, they’ll pay for it. But again, the Edomites answer that the Israelites may not pass through. And, to back up the message, they send a large and powerful army against the Israelites.

No battle is recorded, so I’m assuming the Edomites are simply sending the Israelites a message. It is received: The Israelites turn away, and find a different route to continue their journey.


If the name of this nation, Edom, sounds familiar, it’s because the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who was also called Edom. So it’s no wonder that there is animosity between the Israelites and the Edomites.

God is, of course, aware of this animosity. Later on, in Deuteronomy, God will specifically instruct the Israelites not to “abhor” the Edomites, since they are brothers (Deuteronomy 23:7–8). The LORD may have chosen Jacob to receive the blessing, rather than Esau, but that doesn’t mean that He has no care for Esau at all.

Numbers 20:1–13

Numbers 20:1–13: Water from the Rock


In this chapter, the Israelites continue their 40 year trek in the desert. They come to the Desert of Zin, where Miriam passes away, and is buried.

Unfortunately, there is no water for the people, and, as a result, they begin grumbling again. And, as is usual when the Israelites grumble, the refrain is the same: If only we’d stayed in Egypt!

They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (verses 3–5)

The Israelites often do this—claim they were better off in Egypt—and it strikes me every time: They’re either exceptionally short-memoried, or they’re just like petulant children. (Of course, now they’ve added a new verse to the song: If only we’d died when the other grumblers had died!)

However, there is one problem that is genuine: They need water to drink. So Moses and Aaron go to the Tent of Meeting, and fall facedown before the LORD. He tells Moses to get the staff, and speak to a particular rock, out of which will pour water for the Israelites and their livestock to drink.

Unfortunately, there is a slight hitch with the way that Moses carries out the LORD’s command:

[Moses] and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (verses 10–11)

Their handling of the situation displeases the LORD. In fact, it displeases Him so much that He decides to deny Moses and Aaron entry into the Promised Land! When the Israelites get there, Moses will not be allowed to enter. (Aaron will die in a few verses, although I’m not covering it in this entry.) What displeases the LORD so much about the way Moses and Aaron handled it? Because they did not trust in Him enough to honour Him as holy (verse 12).

This passage is summarized in verse 13:

These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.


The main question in this chapter is this: What was Moses’ sin? My main Bible, for most of my life, has been the New Student Bible (NIV version), and it has the following annotation:

20:12 Moses’ Sin

After so many displays of loyalty and courage, Moses faltered. Numbers does not specify exactly what Moses did that upset God. Was it striking the rock rather than speaking to it as God commanded? Regardless, Moses lashed out angrily against the Israelites and was faulted for his lack of trust in God. In Deuteronomy, God describes the sin as “breaking faith” with him and tells Moses that he “did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites” (32:51).

The scene at Meribah brought a tragic end to a great man’s career: Moses, footsore and weary, was told he too would die in the desert, before the Israelites crossed into the promised land. Deuteronomy 3:23–27 adds a postscript: Moses pleaded with God to reverse the punishment, and, when that failed, he threw the blame back on the Israelites.

After reading this, as a teenager—and every time I read Numbers 20 after that—I was left wondering what Moses’ sin might have been. Ironically, it was when I was reading a non-Christian novel that the answer was explained to me: It was that Moses (and Aaron) tried to take the credit for God’s actions. (“Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”) The Israelites were in the desert, and there was no water; the bringing forth of water from a rock—enough to quench the entire community, and their livestock—should have been a great testament to the LORD’s power, and control over nature, but Moses and Aaron tried to take the credit for it.

This is a very striking thing because Moses was the most humble man on Earth. If someone that humble would be tempted to take the credit for something God had done, then mightn’t I be tempted to do the same? I’m nowhere near as humble as Moses was!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Numbers 19

Numbers 19: The Water of Cleansing


This chapter outlines rules for the “water of cleansing.”

  • The Israelites were to bring to Eleazar (Aaron’s son) a red heifer, “without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke” (verse 2) Eleazar was to take it outside the camp, and it was to be slaughtered in his presence.
  • He was then to take some of its blood, and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tent of Meeting.
  • Once this was done, he was to oversee the burning of the animal—all of it (“its hide, flesh, blood and offal” (verse 5)).
    • While the heifer was burning, Eleazar was to take some cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool, and throw them onto the fire, too.
  • After this was done, the priest and the man who had burned the animal were both to wash their clothes and bathe, and then they would be unclean until that evening. It specifically says that the priest could return to the camp, even though he would be unclean until that evening, although it doesn’t mention of the other man would be allowed to return.
  • After the animal was burned, a third man—who had to be clean—was to gather up the ashes, and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. This man, also, was then to wash his clothes, and he would be considered unclean until that evening.

At this point, you might be wondering what these instructions have to do with the “water of cleansing.” (That is, if you haven’t already read the chapter yourself—which you really should have.) Verse 9b says that the ashes from this bull were to be used in the water of cleansing. (It’s specified later how they were to be used.)

The rest of this chapter goes into some rules for when this water was to be used.

  • Anyone who touched a dead body would be considered unclean for seven days. He was to cleanse himself with the water of cleansing on the third and seventh days, and would then be considered clean.
    • If anyone touched a dead body and failed to cleanse himself on the third and seventh days, he was to be cut off from Israel, because he would have defiled the LORD’s tabernacle (verse 13).
  • When someone died in a tent, anyone who was in the tent at the time, or entered the tent while the dead body was in it, would be unclean for seven days. Also, any containers with unfastened lids would be considered unclean.
  • Verse 16 seems to be making explicit the rule mentioned above, that anyone who touched a dead body would be unclean for seven days:

    Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

Finally, verses 17–22 discuss how the water of cleansing was to be used:

  • Some of the ashes from the heifer were to be put into a jar, and fresh water was to be poured over them.
  • A man who was ceremonially clean was to take some hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle it where appropriate. (The tent and its furnishings, if someone died in a tent; any people who were in the tent, or entered it; any people who touched a dead body, or bone, or other unclean thing.)
  • As mentioned before, the unclean people were to be sprinkled on the third and seventh days, and then were to be purified on the seventh day. The evening of the seventh day, the person would be considered clean.
  • Again, it is mentioned that if someone was unclean, and did not get purified with the water of cleansing, he was to be cut off from the community, for defiling the sanctuary of the LORD.
  • The man who did the sprinkling was to wash his clothes, and he would be considered unclean until that evening—and so would anyone who touched the water of cleansing. As verse 22 states, “uncleanness” could spread:

    Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.

It’s not stated that the person who sprinkled the water of cleansing had to be a priest or a Levite. I don’t know if it’s assumed that it had to be a priest/Levite, or if this was a function that another Israelite could perform.


I don’t have much to say about this chapter, except that these rules served two purposes:

First, these rules would be sanitary. Of course, avoiding dead bodies is a good thing, and, when it can’t be avoided, these rules would force the Israelites to take it seriously.

Second, and more importantly, these rules reinforce the point that the LORD is holy, and is not to be treated lightly. You’ve touched a dead body? Then you can’t come near His Tabernacle—not until you’ve been cleansed. It’s not a sin, per se, but it’s still something that makes you unclean.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Numbers 18

Numbers 18: Duties and offerings for Levites and Priests


In this chapter, we take a break from the “action,” and go into a few more rules and regulations for the Levites and Priests.

First, God gives Aaron (and his descendants) some instructions regarding the care of the Tabernacle—specifically, what should be done by the Levites, vs. Aaron and his sons.

  • Offences against the priesthood and the sanctuary were to be borne by Aaron and his sons. It’s actually worded a bit differently, for offenses against the priesthood vs. offences against the sancutary:

    The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your father’s family are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood.” (verse 1, emphasis added)
  • The Levites were to assist Aaron and his sons in ministering before the Tent of the Testimony. The Levites would be reporting to Aaron and his sons, and were not to go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, or both the Levites and Aaron and his sons would die. They were also to care for the Tent itself.
  • Noone else, other than Aaron’s family and the Levites, were to come near the Tent.
  • The LORD also specifies that He has given the work of the Tent of Meeting to Aaron and his sons as a gift. In addition, He has given the service of the Levites to Aaron’s family as a gift.
  • These rules are laid out so that the LORD’s wrath would not fall on the Israelites again.

I think these rules are rehashes of things the LORD has already told them. When He says that these rules are given so that His wrath will not fall on the Israelites “again,” He is probably referring to all of the rebellion we’ve been reading about in Chapter 17 and Chapter 16.

Next, the LORD outlines what portions of His offerings were to be given to Aaron and his family.

  • All of the holy offerings presented to the LORD were to belong to Aaron and his sons; they were to have the part of the offering that was “kept from the fire” (verse 9). They were to regard it—and eat it—as something holy. This part of the offering was for the males in Aaron’s family.
  • Anyone in Aaron’s family who was ceremonially clean was also to receive anything that was “set aside” (verse 11) from the wave offerings.
  • As well, anyone in Aaron’s family who was ceremonially clean were to receive the firstfruits of the harvest—“the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give to the LORD as the firstfruits of their harvest” (verse 12).
  • The firstborn of “every womb, both man and animal” (verse 15) was to belong to Aaron and his sons. But Israelite children and firstborn unclean animals were to be redeemed.
    • They were to be redeemed for 55 grams of silver, when they were a month old.
    • Oxen, sheep, and goats were not to be redeemed, they were to be sacrificed. The blood was to be sprinkled on the altar, and the fat burned, but the meat would belong to Aaron’s family.

Again, I believe this has all been covered in previous chapters (or in the book of Exodus).

Next, details are given about inheritance, for Aaron’s family and for the Levites.

  • Aaron and his descendants would have no inheritance in the land, for the LORD was their inheritance.
  • In return for their work at the Tent of Meeting, the Levites would receive all of the tithes in Israel as their inheritance. (As an aside, it is reiterated in verse 22 that the Israelites were not to go near the Tent of Meeting from this point forward, or they would bear the consequences of their sin and die. Only the Levites were to go near the Tent of Meeting.) Just as with Aaron’s family, the Levites would have no inheritance of their own; they’d be dependent on the Israelites’ tithes.
  • When the Levites received their tithes, they were to give a tenth of that tithe as an offering to the LORD. This would be accepted on their behalf as if it were their own grain from their own threshing floors, or their own wine from their own winepresses.
    • Just as with the other Israelites, the Levites were to give the best of what they had to the LORD. This is further reiterated in verses 30–32:

      Say to the Levites: “When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress. You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the Tent of Meeting. By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.”
    • The portion that the Levites gave were to go to Aaron’s family.


In some cases, in the rules above, the LORD specifically talks about what was applicable to the Levites, vs. what was applicable to Aaron’s family, but in other cases, it’s not specified. In the cases where it is not specified, I’m not sure what the situation would be for the Levites.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Numbers 17

Numbers 17: The budding of Aaron’s staff


In the last chapter, we read about Korah’s rebellion. (It was more than just Korah involved, but numerous places in Chapter 16 seem to indicate that he was the main ringleader.) Then, after the LORD put down that rebellion, the rest of the people rebelled again. In this chapter, the LORD wants to put and end, once and for all, to all of the “grumbling” by the Israelites about who should or should not be their High Priest.

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” (verses 1–5)

So they do so. Moses collects a staff from every tribal leader, with Aaron’s name on the Levite staff. He puts them in the Tent of the Testimony, and, the next day, they check the staffs.

Of course it comes as no surprise that Aaron’s staff has sprouted. In fact, it hasn’t just sprouted, but “budded, blossomed and produced almonds” (verse 8). Moses then presents each leader with his staff, I guess so that they can see for themselves which one has sprouted, and which ones haven’t.

The LORD then instructs Moses to put Aaron’s staff back in front of the Testimony, “to be a sign to the rebellious” (verse 10). And then He says something interesting:

This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die. (verse 10c)

The reason I find it interesting is that I often try to get my head around God’s sovereignty, vs. free will. (I find this statement very similar to the times when God decides to wipe out the Israelites, before Moses convinces Him not to. It doesn’t fit in with my view of a God who is all-knowing; how does Him “changing His mind” relate to that?)

After this, the Israelites have another fit of histrionics.

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?” (verses 12–13)

Maybe it’s good that they’ve got a healthy fear of the LORD, but to me, this display doesn’t seem Godly. However, it may simply be 21st Century North American culture clashing with ancient Hebrew culture.


Keep in mind, when I talk about my view of a God who is all-knowing not fitting with the idea of Him “changing His mind,” that it’s my understanding that’s not perfect. I do believe that He is all-knowing, and don’t see myself changing my mind on that point, so it’s the part about Him “changing His mind” that I don’t properly get. Perhaps by the time I’m done blogging through the Old Testament—LORD willing—I’ll have a better understanding of such things.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Numbers 16

Numbers 16: Korah’s Rebellion


In Chapter 14, we saw the people refusing to enter the Promised Land, because they didn’t trust the LORD to help them defeat the people living there. In this chapter, further rebellion happens, when the Levites—or, some of the Levites, at least—rebel against Moses and Aaron. Verses 1–2 say that they “[become] insolent and [rise] up against Moses.” A group of 250 men, who are “well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council,” come to oppose Moses and Aaron, because they feel that Moses and Aaron are getting too arrogant.

“You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” (verse 3b)

It’s already been mentioned that Moses is the most humble man on Earth, however, he also knows that the LORD has chosen him to lead the Israelites, and that the LORD has chosen Aaron to be High Priest. Especially ironic is the fact that Moses never wanted the job in the first place—he’s just doing it because the LORD told him to, and he doesn’t want to refuse Him. So his response to the Levites shows both humility and confidence that he is doing the LORD’s will: first, he falls face down. I think this is his response to blasphemy; the people are not properly representing the LORD’s will, as Moses does. Second, he responds to them:

Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

(verses 5–11)

So it will be a showdown. The Levites and Aaron will bring censers of fire before the LORD, and the LORD will choose whoever He wants to choose.

In the meantime, Moses summons Dathan and Abiram, two of the rebels, and they refuse to come. And, as is so often the case, they bring out the “if only we’d stayed in Egypt” speech:

Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!” (verses 12–14)

At this, Moses becomes angry, because he has “not taken so much as a donkey from them” (verse 15), and this is how they’re treating him. So he tells the LORD not to accept the offering of the people who are rebelling.

So Moses tells Korah, who appears to be the leader of the rebellion, that he and all of his followers are to appear before the LORD, the next day, along with Aaron, with their censers full of incense. So, the next day they do so, and the LORD appears at once, saying to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once” (verse 21).

Again, the response by Moses and Aaron shows good leadership, in my mind: rather than saying “See? We told you so!” and sitting back to watch the wrath, they fall facedown before the LORD, and beg Him to only punish the guilty people, not the ones who weren’t involved in the rebellion. So the LORD instructs Moses to have the “assembly” move away from the tents of the rebellion’s ringleaders—Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. (I put the word “assembly” in quotes to note specifically that this is the word used in the text (in the NIV); I normally interpret this word to mean the entire Israelite nation, although it may not.)

And Moses so instructs the people, to do so, and to not even touch any of the men’s things, and the people obey him, and move away. Moses then has a further sign for the people, to prove to them that this is the LORD’s doing, not his own: He tells the people that if the men being punished die a natural death, it must only be a coincidence, and the LORD hasn’t sent him [Moses]. (He doesn’t use the word coincidence, I just want to emphasize the point.) But, he says, if the ground opens up and swallows them whole, then that will be a sign that they are being punished for treating the LORD “with contempt” (verse 30).

No sooner has Moses finished saying this than the ground does split apart, and swallow the rebellers, including all of their households and their possessions. The ground then closes back up over them. This sends the rest of the Israelites into a panic, fearing that the ground will swallow them, too, and they flee the scene. At this point, fire also comes from the LORD, and consumes the rest of the 250 men who had offered incense in their censers.

The LORD instructs Moses to have Aaron’s son Eleazar scatter the coals from the burned men outside the camp, but to gather up the censers, because they have become holy—“for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy” (verse 38). He is to take the censers, and hammer them into sheets, which are to be overlayed onto the altar. So he does so.

Verse 40b says “This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.”

So now that this is all over, the Israelites realize that Moses has been ordained by God to be their leader, and that Aaron has been ordained to be the High Priest, and all of the problems are over. Ha! No, I kid. The next day, the Israelites begin grumbling against Moses and Aaron again. “‘You have killed the LORD’s people,’ they said.” (verse 41b)

The “assembly” gathers in front of the Tent of Meeting, in opposition to Moses and Aaron, and suddenly the glory of the LORD appears. He instructs Moses to get away from the people, so that He can “put an end to them at once” (verse 45). And, indeed, a plague strikes the Israelite people, and they start dying.

Instead of getting away, though, Moses and Aaron fall facedown, and Moses instructs Aaron to get his censer and put some incense in it, to make atonement for the people. He does, and dashes out into the “assembly,” to make atonement for them. The plague stops right at the point where Aaron is standing, so that he ends up standing between the living and the dead (verse 48).

14,700 people die the plague, in addition to the people who had died because of Korah’s rebellion.


I already said this, but in my mind, there is some good leadership happening in this chapter, on the parts of Moses and Aaron. And what I mean by that is this: Some of the Levites rebel, and claim that Moses and Aaron are think they’re better than everyone, and their response is to think about it from the LORD’s point of view—what would be best for Him? The LORD punishes the rebels, and the people revolt, and again, Moses and Aaron think about it from the LORD’s point of view—what would be best for Him? They also take the time to pray for the people themselves; rather than simply saying “they deserve what they get.”

Which would be, let’s face it, true—but then again, I deserve to go to hell, don’t I? I won’t, because Christ took my punishment for me, but that’s what I deserve. So it should never be my place to think about what someone else deserves; if I think someone is sinning, their punishment should never enter my mind. I should pray for them, I should try to help them, I should be ready to forgive them. I should leave punishment up to the LORD.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Numbers 15

Numbers 15: Additional rules; a man is stoned for breaking the Sabbath; more additional rules


At this point, in Numbers, there is a break in the “action,” for the LORD to hand down additional rules for the Israelites. (Actually, I believe these rules are all recaps of rules that have already been given. If my memory was better, I would say for sure…)

The first rules pertain to offerings. (The NIV heading for this section is “Supplementary Offerings.”) I’ll freely admit that I don’t find a consistent theme in these rules—except that they’re about offerings—so I’ll just present them as the Bible does.

  • Offerings for entering the Promised Land
    • Once the Israelites entered the Promised Land, when they brought their offerings, they were also to bring 2 litres of fine flour, mixed with a litre of oil.
    • With each lamb offered, they were to prepare 250 millilitres of wine, as a drink offering.
  • Other offerings—I think these are general rules, that apply to all offerings. Or maybe all offerings except for sin offerings?
    • When rams were sacrificed, they were to offer 4.5 litres of fine flour, mixed with 1.2 litres of oil. They were also to offer 300 millilitres of wine, as a drink offering.
    • When bulls were sacrificed, they were to offer 6.5 litres of fine flour mixed with 2 litres of oil. They were also to offer 2 litres of wine, as a drink offering.
    • Everyone who presented sacrifices, whether native born or alien, was to follow these rules.
    • From the time the Israelites entered the Promised Land, and every year after that, they were to take a cake from the first of their ground meal, and present it as an offering “from the threshing floor” (verse 20).
  • Offerings for unintentional sins
    • If the entire Israelite community were to somehow unintentionally commit a sin, without being aware that they had done so, they were to offer a young bull as an offering, along with its prescribed grain and drink offerings. The priest would make atonement for them, and, since their sin was unintentional, they would be forgiven for their sin.
    • If a single person were to somehow unintentionally commit a sin, without being aware that s/he had done so, that person was to bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. Again, the priest would make atonement for the person who had sinned, and that person would be forgiven. This applied for everyone, whether native born or alien.
    • On the other hand, any person who sinned defiantly would be considered to be blaspheming the LORD, and was to be cut off from the Israelites. Because the person would be considered to have “despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands” (verse 31), there would be no forgiveness for the person—regardless if the person was native born or an alien.
I don’t really have any thoughts in these rules, except for the ones I put in the Thoughts section, below.

After these rules are given, the Israelites find a man out gathering wood on the Sabbath. This is clearly a violation of the rules, because they are to keep the Sabbath holy, and do no work that day, but they’re not sure what exactly they should do with him. So they bring the man to Moses and Aaron, and then put him into custody, until they can find out the LORD’s will on the matter. He tells Moses that they are to take the man outside of the camp, and stone him to death, so this is what they do.

After this, the LORD has another rule for the Israelites, concerning their clothing: Israelites were always to put tassels on the corners of their garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. The idea was to remind the Israelites to avoid lust, adultery, and other sexual immorality. Any time an Israelite was tempted to look at another Israelite lustfully, as his or her eyes began to roam, they would see the tassels, which would be a reminder that they were to stay away from prostituting themselves by going after the lusts of their hearts and eyes (verse 39).


I haven’t gone back over previous chapters, that talk about offerings, to see how the rules in this chapter compare with the rules in previous chapters. (Or even future chapters, for that matter.) I just don’t have that kind of time. But it occurred to me: I wonder if God did this on purpose? Spread rules about sacrifices over numerous places in the Bible, sometimes repeating the same rules in a few places, with the purpose of making Jewish religious leaders spend a lot of time examining them? I mean, if you were to comb through the Old Testament, looking for rules about sacrifices, and then take the time to compare them all to see if they were the same, and then, if any weren’t the same, to try and figure out why they would be different in different places, you’d be spending a lot of time examining His Word!

It seems, to my modern-day 21st Century self, very harsh to stone the man for gathering wood on the Sabbath. However, we can never forget that the man was not so much stoned for gathering wood, as he was for disobeying the LORD. Any time any of us disobeys the LORD, we do so at our own peril; it’s serious business. So serious that Jesus had to come and die on the cross, and be punished for all of the times that I did disobey the LORD. Not to mention all of the times I will do so, in the future.

For the rule about putting tassels on their clothing, in an effort to stop lust, I’m not sure how successful it would be, but one thing Israelites could never do was claim that they forgot they weren’t supposed to lust.