Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Numbers 15

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

Synopsis

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).

Thoughts

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.

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