Friday, December 16, 2016

Numbers 3

The generations of Aaron and Moses are listed (as they existed during the time when YAHWEH spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai.)
Aaron's Sons:
1. Nadab (firstborn)
2. Abihu
3. Eleazar
4. Ithamar
These were also anointed and ordained to be priests.

But the two oldest, Nadab and Abihu, died before YAHWEH when they offered unauthorized fire before YAHWEH in the wilderness. These two had no children.

Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during Aaron's life.

(I wish there were details about why they died. What happened? Was this judgment? Or were they acting foolishly and thereby causing a fire that destroyed them? Not enough details here to know what went on.)

Yahweh tells Moses to make the tribe of Levi serve and guard Aaron as well as the whole congregation before the tent of meeting.

Levites should guard the furnishings, the people as they minister.

YAHWEH tells Moses that the Levites should be given to Aaron and his sons, wholly. Aaron and his sons were responsible for guarding the priesthood.

And He reminds Moses that if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.

(Outsider as in from another country/language/people? Or outsider as outsider outside the tribe of Levi?)
YAHWEH says that the Levites are His. Just like he killed all the firstborn in Egypt, YAHWEH has claimed the firstborn of Israel as consecrated to Himself.

Twice, YAHWEH says, "They shall be mine."

YAHWEH instructs Moses to take a record/census of Levites by houses/clans. Every male one month old or older should be listed. Moses obeyed.

Sons of Levi:
1. Gershon (7,500 males 1 month or older)
- Libni (clan of Libnites)
- Shimei (clan of Shimeites)
* These clans were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west.
* Eliasaph was chief of Gershonites.
* Their duties involved tabernacle, tent covering, court hangings, court door screen around tabernacle and altar and its cords.

2. Kohath (8,600 males 1 month or older)
- Amram (clan of Amramites)
- Izhar (clan of Izharites)
- Hebron (clan of Hebronites)
- Uzziel (clan of Uzzielites)
* These clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle.
* Elizaphan, son of Uzziel, was the chief of Kohathites.
* There duties involved keeping guard over the sanctuary, ark, table, lampstand, altars, vessels of sanctuary that the priests use, and the screen.
* Eleazar, 3rd son of Aaron (1st after the older two died), was chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and he had oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary (Kohath).

3. Merari (6,200 males 1 month or older)
- Mahli (clan of Mahlites)
- Mushi (clan of Mushites)
* Zuriel (son of Abihail) was chief of Merarites.
* These clans were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.
* Their duties involved frames of tabernacle, bars, pillars, bases, and accessories; the pillars around the court and their bases, pegs, and cords.
"These are the clans of the Levites, by their fathers' houses."

(What is the difference between "father's house" and "clan"? I think it works on this spectrum: individual --> father's house --> clan --> tribe --> nation/people)

Gershon was west of tabernacle; Kohath was south of tabernacle; Merari was north of tabernacle.
Moses, Aaron, and his son camped east towards the sunrise before the tent of meeting. They were to guard the sanctuary itself, to protect the people of Israel.

"Any outsider who came near was to be put to death." The Levites were responsible for guarding the sanctuary from those who might profane it.
All the male Levites a month old or older were 22,000.

YAHWEH said to Moses to take a census of the firstborn Israelite males one month or older. YAHWEH says that instead of the firstborn and the firstborn cattle of ALL Israelites, He claims the firstborn and firstborn cattle of the Levites.

(It sounds like YAHWEH is changing His mind about who inherits certain responsibilities. And the interject -- I am the LORD -- seems like it's His justification or reasoning. It's like He anticipates that there might be a question as to why. His reason is I AM THE LORD.)

Moses obeyed, and all the firstborn males in Israel (one month and older) were 22,273.

YAHWEH said to Moses the same thing He just said about firstborn of Levites and the Levites' cattle being his. His reason "I am the LORD."

Moses counted all the firstborn males in the other tribes (one month old and up) and there were 22,273 -- 273 more than the 22,000 male Levites (one month or older).

Basically what is happening here is a firstborn swap. Normally, the firstborn would be dedicated to the service of the LORD (I think), but now the Levites were supposed to represent the firstborn of Israel whom God spared in the Exodus from Egypt. Traditionally, it is the ministry of the eldest son to serve his father and protect his interests. But now God is shifting to having a designated tribe to represent the firstborn males of Israel.

Because there are 273 more non-Levite males one month old and up, they had to be "redeemed" at a price of five shekels. It's almost like God is providing a fee for a legal contract breech. This freed them from God's claim on them for sanctuary service.
Matthew Henry comments, "Note, God's institutions put no hardships upon men in any of their just interests or reasonable affections. It was presumed that the Israelites would rather part with the Levites than with the first-born, and therefore God graciously ordered the exchange; yet for us he spared not his own Son."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Numbers 2

This chapter lists where everyone is supposed to camp and who leads the way and in what order.

YAHWEH spoke to Moses and Aaron. He tells them the following:
- that all the tribes should camp by their standard (flag) and tribal banners
- that they shall camp facing the tent on every side
- that those who camp on the east side shall be Judah, Issachar, Zebulun
- that the east side tribes shall set out first on the march
- that those who camp on the south side shall be Reuben, Simeon, Gad
- that the south side tribes shall set out second on the march
- that those who camp on the west side shall be Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin
- that the west side tribes shall set out third on the march
- that those who camp on the north side shall be Dan, Asher, Naphtali
- that the north side tribes shall set out last on the march

The Levites were not listed among the people of Israel, as YAHWEH commanded.

(Where are they when they march on? The center? When do they go? This is not explained.)

All of Israel obeyed Moses, who obeyed YAHWEH.

(Why does YAHWEH give such specific commands regarding who goes when and where? Is it to prevent mass chaos? Why could not have Moses decided this? Is this just wisdom granted? Or was Moses ill-equipped to make decisions like that?)

Numbers 1

YAHWEH spoke to Moses, two years after they had come out of Egypt, commanding him to take a census of everyone who was 20 years or older and able to go to war.

He tells Moses that Aaron will help him, and there will be a man from each tribe as a representative. YAHWEH lists each head of the tribe, who had been chosen by the congregation.

Moses and Aaron assemble the congregations together, just as YAHWEH had commanded. This all happened in the wilderness of Sinai.

Census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
The tribe of Reuben had 46,500 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Simeon had 59,300 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Gad had 45,650 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Judah had 74,600 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Issachar had 54,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Zebulun had 57,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Joseph/Ephraim had 40,500 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Manasseh had 32,200 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Benjamin had 35,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Dan had 62,700 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Asher had 41,500 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Naphtali had 53,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.

This was a total of 603,550 men 20+years and fit for war.

The tribe of Levi was not listed because YAHWEH told Moses not to. Instead, YAHWEH said that Moses should appoint the Levites over the tabernacle and everything related to it.

YAHWEH lists the Levites' responsibilities:
- carry the tabernacle and its furnishings
- camp around the tabernacle
- taking down and pitching the tabernacle
- keep guard over the tabernacle
- let no one from other tribes approach the tabernacle

YAHWEH tells Moses that if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.

Moses obeyed YAHWEH, and Israel obeyed Moses.


In I Chronicles 21, David takes a census, but because God did not tell him to do it, rather Satan incited David to do it, Israel is then punished.

1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” 3 But Joab said, “May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord's servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” 4 But the king's word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. 6 But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king's command was abhorrent to Joab. 
7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 And the Lordspoke to Gad, David's seer, saying, 10 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Choose what you will:12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”13 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-13
What we see here is not that census-taking is morally wrong in and of itself. An act can be completely innocent and benign in and of itself, but if it is done outside the command of YAHWEH, it is sin.

It's important to remember that actions we think are harmless enough may actually be acts of disobedience. Here we would do well to remember and follow Proverbs 3:6-8:
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
It is possible that David's reasoning for commanding a census was simply to boast in numbers -- to boast in his own strength and not in the strength and power of the LORD.

Likewise, 1 Corinthians 13 lists many actions we would automatically identify as altruistic, good, etc. But it all comes down to motive. Jesus says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor."

And Paul clarifies that. Yes, do obey, but if your motive is wrong, the action is wrong.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
So then, the righteousness of an act largely depends on motives.