Today's Bible Commentary

NUMBERS Daily Bible Readings
  Commentary, Cross Reference Bible, and Bible Dictionary
Books on Numbers from


DateScripturesDaily devotional commentary
Feb 22-23: Galatians
* Feb 24 Numbers 1-2 Counting Able Bodied Men, N Sween
* Feb 25 Numbers 3:1-4:33The Sons of Levi, Sween
* Feb 26 Numbers 4:34-6:27Final Count, Clean up, Jealosy, Nazarite Vow, Blessing, Sween
* Feb 27 Numbers 7Dedication, by Sween
* Feb 28 Numbers 8-10Blessed, Organized, Ready to Move, Sween
* Feb 29 - (catch up day) Bible word puzzle
* Mar 1 Numbers 11:1-13:29When is Complaining, Rebelling?, Sween
* Mar 2 Numbers 13:30-14:24Godly Minority Report, Bass
* Mar 3 Numbers 14:25-16:27Evaluating Leadership, Sween
* Mar 4 Numbers 16:28-18:32God's Ways, Not Your Ways, Sween
* Mar 5 Numbers 19-21Red Heifer and Moving On, Sween
* Mar 6 Numbers 22-24Balaam, Sween
* Mar 7 Numbers 25-26Phinehas, Sween
* Mar 8 Numbers 27-30Out of the Wilderness, Sween
* Mar 9 Numbers 31-32War and Ranching, Sween
* Mar 10 Numbers 33-35The Value of a Human Life, Weisberg
* Mar 11
Numbers 36,
Ephesians 1-3,
Inheritance Issues #1, Sween
Inheritance Issues #2, Sween
Mar 11-12: Ephesians

Counting Able Bodied Men
Feb 24:
Numbers 1-2
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
More on Numbers, Wikipedia
Census, Easton Bible Dictionary
FACT: "Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who goes near it shall be put to death. (1:51)
On the first day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year out of Egypt, the LORD told Moses to take a count, a census, of every man in the Israelite community who was at least 20 years old and able bodied enough to serve in the army. The head of each of the 12 tribes would oversee the count of their own people, with Joseph's 2nd son's tribe replacing the tribe of Levi. Levi's people were not be be counted with the others, by the LORD's order, because they were exempt from army service. Their obligation was to the tabernacle. The Levites were also responsible for protecting the other tribal members from the dangerous holy power eminating from the tabernacle.

The LORD instructed Moses to organize the Israelite community with the Tent of Meeting at the center, leaving some distance from it.
On the east would be the 186,400 men (plus other males and females not counted) from the camps of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. When the people move, this group goes first.
On the south would be the 151,450 men (plus other males and females not counted) from the camps of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. When the people move, this group goes second.
Then the Tent of Meeting and the camp of the Levites sets out in the middle of the camp.
On the west would be the 108,100 men (plus other males and females not counted) from the camps of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. When the people move, this group goes third.
On the north would be the 157,600 men (plus other males and females not counted) from the camps of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. When the people move, this group goes last.

Note that the census was not a regular occurance nor of all family members as is the United States Federal Census.

The Sons of Levi
Feb 25
Numbers 3-4:33
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Outline of Numbers, Hebrew Bible
Outline of Numbers 3 and Numbers 4, Guzik
PROMISE: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great... (Zech 12:10-11a)
The LORD continues to organize the Israelite camp in the wilderness, preparing to move camp as safely as possible. As we have seen, unauthorized approaching the LORD causes death. So the instructions - including the continuing but specific censuses for the Levites, the firstborn males (listed by name), the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Meraritees - were vital.

Sons of AARON:
-- Nadab, dead
   unauthorized approach
--Abihu, dead
   unauthorized approach
    chief leader (Nu 3:32)
    Assignment: (3:2-4) to be
    a priest while Aaron lived
    Assignment: to be
    a priest while Aaron lived

Tribal sons of LEVI:
-- Gershon
   -- Libni
   -- Shimei
- 7,500 males, a month old or older
- camp to the west, behind the Tabernacle
- Leader: Eliasuph, son of Lael
- Assignment (4:21-28): care of tabernacle and tent
-- Kohath
   -- Amram
   -- Izhar
   -- Hebron
   -- Uzziel
- 8,600 males, a month old or older
- camp to south of the Tabernacle
- Leader: Elizaphan, son of Uzziel
- Assignment (4:1-20): care of specific sanctuary items
in Tent of Meeting
-- Merari
   -- Mahli
   -- Mushi
- 6,200 males, a month old or older
- camp north of the Tabernacle
- Leader: Zuriel, son of Abihail
- Assignment (4:29-33): care of frames, posts, ropes
One verse of note is "But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die." (Nu 4:20) There is no question that the LORD of Moses was holy and therefore dangerous to mankind. The Israelites were warned over and over to obey and honor the LORD. On certain unintential offenses, there was redemption. But on specific offenses such as approaching the LORD or his sacred things unauthorized, there was no room for explaining or giving excuses. Disobedience brought death. God killed them. The relationship the LORD had with the Israelites was not about man, but about God and a distant second about man living in His presence. The concept "God is love" is true, but it follows learning the concept "God is holy" in the relationship between the LORD and man. We recently read in scripture that an heir is in training and treated differently as a young child before he or she becomes an adult (Galatians 4:1-7). This also applies to the Israelites learning about the LORD in the book of Numbers. Accepting the LORD's discipline is how people share in His holiness, per Hebrews 12:7-11.

Compare the Tabernacle of Moses' time with the new covenant tabernacle (Heb 9-10).

Final Count, Clean up, Jealousy, Nazarite Vow, Blessing
Feb 26
Numbers 4:34-6:27
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Earthen Vessel and Bible Women,
Sometimes It's Up To Us, TorahBytes
PROMISE: "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them." (6:27)

8,580 men in the Levite clans, aged 30-50, were available to serve in the Tent of Meeting

-- Gershon
   -- Libni
   -- Shimei
- 2,630 men aged 30-50 served in Tent of Meeting
- 7,500 males, a month old or older
- Assignment: care of tabernacle and tent
-- Kohath
   -- Amram
   -- Izhar
   -- Hebron
   -- Uzziel
- 2,750 men aged 30-50 served in Tent of Meeting
- 8,600 males, a month old or older
- Assignment: care of specific sanctuary items
-- Merari
   -- Mahli
   -- Mushi
- 3,200 men aged 30-50 served in Tent of Meeting
- 6,200 males, a month old or older
- Assignment: care of frames, posts, ropes

Next, the LORD had Moses command the Israelites to send anyone out of the camp who had an infectious skin disease, a discharge, or was ceremonially unclean because of contact with a dead body. The people did this, purifying the camp. Then the LORD explained that when a man or woman wrongs another he or she is unfaithful to the LORD and is guilty. He or she must confess the wrong and make restitution plus a fifth to the person wronged or to a relative or to a priest.

If a woman sleeps with a man other than her husband but he has no proof of it except for his jealousy and suspicions, he is to take his wife to the priest with a grain offering for jealousy. The priest receives instructions on how to test a wife before the Lord for whether she has slept with another man or not. Does the LORD hold Israelite women to a higher standard than men?

A man or woman could make a special vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazarite. During the time of the vow, they could not drink or eat anything from the grapevine - wine, fermented drink, grape juice, grapes, or raisins. If a man, he is not to shave or cut his hair during the time of separation to the LORD. If during the time of the vow one is defiled by a sudden unexpected death of someone nearby, provisions are made for normal sin and guilt offerings and the Nazarite vow does not count and is canceled.

When the Nazarite vow period of separation is over, the person comes to the Tent of Meeting, presenting one young male lamb, one young ewe, a ram, (each without defect) grain, drink, and a basket of bread without yeast as offerings to the LORD through the priest. Then and there, the Nazarite shaves off the hair he dedicated. The priest has detailed duties. Whatever the person can afford, he or she may give more offerings to the LORD. After this, the Nazarite may again drink wine.

The LORD gives Aaron and his sons this blessing to say over the Israelites:

The LORD bless you and keep you
The LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you
The LORD turn his face toward you
And give you peace.
In this way the priests put the LORD's name on the Israelites, and He will bless them.

Feb 27
Numbers 7
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
The 12 Tribes,
God Speaks,
Thought for today: As each tribal leader brought offerings to dedicate the tabernacle to the Lord, they were involving their tribe in obedience to the Lord.
With the tabernacle set up for the first time, Moses anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings. Then each tribal leader brought a total of 6 covered carts and 12 oxen to the tabernacle. Each day, perhaps in these oxen-drawn carts, one leader in the order listed below brought his offering for the dedication of the altar. The tribal order started with the ones camped to the east of the Tent of Meeting (see Feb 24 post). Then the carts and oxen were given to Moses to give to the Levites for their work. Moses gave 2 carts and 4 oxen to the Gershonites for their work (4:21-28), the care of the tabernacle and Tent of Meeting. Moses gave 4 carts and 8 oxen to the Merarites for their work (4:29-33) of the care of frames, posts, ropes. Moses gave none of these to the Kohathites because their work (4:1-20), the care of specific sanctuary holy items, required that they carry the items on their own shoulders.

One tribal leader a day brought offerings for the dedication of the altar:

Silver: 1 plate and 1 sprinkling bowl, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil (grain offering)
Gold: 1 dish filled with incense
Animals for burnt offering: 1 young bull, one ram, one male lamb
Animal for sin offering: 1 male goat
Animals for fellowship offerings: 2 oxen, five rams, five male goats, five 1-yr old male lambs
Day 1. Judah
with 74,600 men
Nahshon, son of
Day 2. Issachar
with 54,400 men
Nethanel, son of
Day 3. Zebulun
with 57,400 men
Eliab, son of
Day 4. Reuben
with 46,500 men
Elizur, son of
Day 5. Simeon
with 59,300 men
Shelumiel, son of
Day 6. Gad
with 45,650 men
Eliasaph, son of
Day 7. Ephraim
with 40,500 men
Elishama, son of
Day 8. Manasseh
with 32,200 men
Gamaliel, son of
Day 9. Benjamin
with 35,400 men
Abidan, son of
Day 10. Dan
with 62,700 men
Ahiezer, son of
Day 11. Asher
with 41,500 men
Pagiel, son of
Day 12. Naphtali
with 53,400 men
Ahira, son of

The number of men per tribe is from the census of the men of Israel, aged 20 years and up,
listed in Numbers 1. The order of tribes follows the camping arrangement ordered in Numbers 2.

At the conclusion of the 12th day of offerings for each tribe, Moses entered the Tent of Meeting and heard the voice of the LORD speaking from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. They talked together.

Blessed, Organized, and Ready to Move
Feb 28
Numbers 8-10
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Unpredictable, TorahBytes
Thought for today: The LORD gives some people as gifts to others as they serve the Lord on behalf of even more people, that atonement can be made for all. (from 8:19)
A Memory Verse: "Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, 'Rise up, O LORD ! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.' Whenever it came to rest, he said, 'Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel.'" (10:35-36)
Getting all the instructions from the LORD, building the worship center according to all the exact patterns from the LORD, training and purifying the priests, and putting everything into practice has taken two years since leaving Egypt. Now at the beginning of the second year, the LORD instructs the people to celebrate Passover on the 14th day of the 1st month. If someone decides not to celebrate it, cut them off from the people. If they could not celebrate it for being unclean or on a trip at the time, they could celebrate it that same day of the 2nd month. Aliens living among the Israelites could celebrate Passover too, with the same regulations.

With the Tabernacle (i.e., the Tent of the Testimony) set up, a cloud covers the tent during the day and a fire all night. Moses knows that when the LORD wants the people to break camp, the cloud will lift. When the LORD wants them to make camp, the cloud will settle. So the people were in training to obey the leadership of the LORD at His signal. If they missed seeing the cloud rise, they wouldn't miss hearing the sound system of specially made trumpets. There were soundings and there were blasts, different intonations depending upon who the message was for (tribal leaders? everyone?) and what the message was (come here? break camp?). There would be different signals for calls to feasts and festivals, and battle blasts when going out to fight oppressors. As the people rejoiced, as they moved, and as they went into battle, with the various and specific trumpet sounds or blasts the LORD would remember his people.

Now the LORD was ready for the people to break camp and move. He had led them from Egypt southeast to the Desert of Sinai, about as far from the Promised Land as possible in that area. But Moses has seen and learned the regulations and organizational plans, and they have been set into place. The cloud lifts from the tabernacle, various trumpet blasts sound, and the tribes begin an orderly procession led by the tribe of Judah. The Gershonites and Merarites (of Levi) take down and move the tabernacle 3 tribes before the Kohathites set out carrying the holy things, so the tabernacle will be reassembled by the time the Kohathites arrive at the new camp site.

Moses' brother-in-law, Hobad, intends to return to his Midianite people, but Moses asks him to stay with them. He knows the desert, and would make a valued adviser. Moses promises to share good things from the LORD with Hobad if he comes. Hobad came.

Led by the cloud and the ark of the covenant of the LORD, this first move took three days, heading toward the Desert of Paran. When the ark set off, Moses would shout: "Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered. May your foes flee before you!" These words were often remembered and quoted later, as in Psalm 68.

Bible Word Puzzle for February 29th
Feb 29
Catch-up Day
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
BibleWord Search,
PROMISE: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7)
We have no Bible reading assignment for February 29th.
BIBLE FUN (author unknown)
Find 16 books of the Bible in the following paragraph. Have fun!!


How did you do?

When is Complaining, Rebelling?
Mar 1
Numbers 11-13:29
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Complaining, Calvary Chapel
Miriam Objected, TorahBytes
PROMISE: "I will take of the Spirit that is on you (Moses) and put the Spirit on them (70 of Israel's elders).... When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again." (11:17, 11:25b)
The Calvary Chapel notes for today's reading are interesting. In the midst of all the things the LORD was doing for the people of Israel in the wilderness, they compared the benefits of living in Egypt under slavery conditions with the irritations of this new nomadic life, and were not pleased with the God-led life. The LORD wanted praise from His people but got complaints. The people wanted meat, and the LORD provided so much quail that the ones who grumbled about "nothing but manna" got sick from eating quail. Joshua, who had been with Moses since youth, was irritated when two elders who hadn't obeyed their summons were given the Spirit and prophesied just the same as the ones who HAD obeyed. Miriam, involving her brother Aaron, wanted a geater share of credit for the Lord speaking through them. But when the LORD spoke to them, answering their complaint, He pointed out the difference between a normal prophet - instructed through visions and dreams - and humble Moses who actually sees the form of the LORD when they speak together.

So it was in the midst of these churning controversies that Moses was told to send a few men out to explore the land of Canaan. Gone for forty days, they came back with what they considered good news and bad news.

Godly Minority Report
Mar 2
Numbers 13:30-14:24
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Presumption vs. Real Faith, TorahBytes
The Episode of the Spies,
PROMISE: "The LORD replied, 'I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times - not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. (14:20-23a)
Special thanks to today's commentator, Douglas Bass author of the Belief Seeking Understanding blog

Numbers 13:31 - "the men" obviously does not include Joshua. Why was God so angered with the response of the ten spies? They ignored the awesome miracles and wonders God did to bring them out of Egypt. They ignored the occasions when the Israelites faced enemies and defeated them, such as the Amelekites in Exodus 17. These men had an itty, bitty, weak god.
13:32 - It would be one thing if they had just kept their mouths shut. But they added insult to injury by actively disseminating their report. The statement "The land we explored devours those living in it" certainly doesn't seem to go with the glowing report of the land given in 13:27. When the ten spies said, "The land we explored devours those living in it," they were referring to an unhealthy climate and country. The Jamieson Fausset Brown (JFB) commentary says "Jewish writers say that in the course of their travels they saw a great many funerals, vast numbers of the Canaanites being cut off at that time, in the providence of God, by a plague or the hornet." John Wesley and Matthew Henry say roughly the same. When they said "All the people there are of great size," that was just a bald-faced whopper. There is no evidence in the rest of Scripture that the general population of the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Caananites were any bigger than they were. So not only were the ten spies forgetful of what God had done, not only did they spread their evil report, but they elaborated and enlarged it beyond the facts to ensure that Caleb's minority report would be rejected. What mystifies me is, what did these men expect to happen after their report had been received? And what spy gives his report to the general public instead of the leaders of his country.
13:33 - Some translations translate Nephilim as "giants." Scripture first mentions the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4. There is a difference of opinion as to the meaning of Genesis 6:4. The Commentary on the Living Bible considers the "sons of God" to be people from the godly line of Seth, and the "daughters of men" to be women of the line of Cain. Cultural intermarriage. Wesley, JFB and Henry focus on the behavior of the Nephelim rather than their origin. There seem to be many ancient commentators who consider the Nephelim to be the offspring of unions between fallen angels and human women. This is perhaps the root of the Greek legends of unions between the gods and human women. The root of Nephilim is nephel which means: "untimely birth, abortion, miscarriage" While the giants were large (Goliath, many years later, was said to be over nine feet tall in I Samuel 17:4), they were nowhere near as large as the ten spies were making them out to be when they said, "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." So not only did they exaggerate the number of giants in the land, they exaggerated the size of the giants as well. A picture is starting to emerge that these ten spies were not only fearful and unbelieving, but liars, gossips, and disrespectful to authority.
14:1 - The evil report of the spies fulfilled its malicious purpose.
14:2 - This is the fourth instance of the Israelites grumbling against Moses. They grumbled against Moses at the waters of Marah in Exodus 15. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron over not having food in Exodus 16. They grumbled against Moses over water at Meribah in Exodus 17. I hope that as you read this, you will resolve to keep your mouth from grumbling, complaining, murmuring, kvetching and any other crosswise words, just as you now resolve to keep your mouth from any kind of profanity. The rest of this verse is a reprise of the grumblings in Exodus 16 and Exodus 17. But it's so senseless! It's not like they had it any better in Egypt, or in the desert.
14:3 - It is true that the Lord is bringing them to this land, but not to let them fall by the sword. The negative imaginings sown by the spies have been further elaborated on by the people, thinking their wives and children would be taken as plunder. No, it would not be better to go back to Egypt. God does not want you to be a slave; He wants you to be a conqueror. God did not save you to do the possible; He saved you to do the impossible through you.
14:4 - Since Moses and Aaron weren't leading them back to Egypt, the only way to get back would be to launch a rebellion.
14:5 - Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was the meekest man alive in his day. He didn't launch the "spin machine" like leaders do today, to try and put their actions in the most favorable light.
14:6 - I don't know why the verse had to mention that Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve spies, but it did. Tearing one's clothes is an expression of exasperation at the grumblings of the people. Caleb had already spoken publicly in favor of possessing the land in Numbers 13:30.
14:7 - Joshua and Caleb give the minority report here. This is a reiteration of the positive report of the land given in Numbers 13:27, and a rebuttal of the statement of the ten spies in Numbers 13:32
14:8 - This verse reminds me of the words of Jesus when he told his disciples, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Joshua and Caleb are saying, "If we can only believe the goodness of God toward us, we can enter into the promised land."
14:9 - Don't think and act as if God has some kind of evil intent. Don't think and act as if God can't accomplish His purposes in you. Don't think that the God who made the universe is at the mercy of some enemy. God had said to Abraham in Genesis 15:16 that the Israelites had to be slaves in Egypt for 400 years, for the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. That moment had now come, and that is why their protection is gone.
14:10 - Joshua and Caleb had spoken the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but it didn't stop the people from seeking to stone them. The only thing that stopped them from killing Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb was the glory of God showing up in a way they all could see.
14:11 - In Numbers 12:4-8, God says that He speaks directly to Moses, instead of in visions, dreams and riddles, as He did to others. God was not intimate with the people. The people had such a lousy picture of God, that He was either not good, or not capable of fulfilling His purposes in them and for them. And all this after the ten plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, sending manna from heaven, giving victory over the Amalekites, purifying water in the desert, making water come out the rock, being a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, descending on Mt. Sinai and giving the law. That works out to about 17 miraculous signs. How many times does God have to do something miraculous for these people before they believe Him? God has saved us when we were dead in trespasses and sins. He raised us up and made us to sit with Christ in heavenly places. He gave us His spirit. How many times does God have to do something miraculous for us before we believe Him?
14:12 - God said something similar to this during the golden calf episode of Exodus 32. Some people have a problem with this passage because it looks like God has some kind of anger management problem, or that He forgets His purposes and Moses has to remind Him. Far from it! God is seeking to bring forth intercession from Moses, just as He is seeking to bring forth intercession from you and me today.
14:13 - If you want to get God's attention about something, tell Him and show Him how it will affect His glory in the earth. Now it's a bad attitude for people to seek their own glory, but God, being God, has a different perspective on things, must have a different perspective on things. He doesn't have an insecurity problem, but God's glory in the earth has a definite impact on the well-being of people in the earth.
14:14-16 - Moses is basically continuing the case he set before God for not destroying the Israelites in Exodus 32, with some additional material. The people of the land had no doubt heard stories of these 2,000,000 or so people moving through the wilderness, with a God who brought them out of Egypt, who provides for their needs, and whose visible presence dwells with them. It's hard to keep a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire hushed up. Moses's argument is "Destroying the Israelites would make it look to the world that You didn't have the ability to fulfill Your purposes."
14:17 - Moses is asking God to display His strength by forgiving the Israelites
14:18-19 - Moses had an experience in Exodus 34, where God revealed Himself as slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God's love is not because of the loveliness of the Israelites, but because love is who He is. If you want to get God's attention, remind Him of what He said about Himself. If you want to get God's attention, remind Him of what He's done throughout history. It's not like He's forgotten, but somehow He wants us to remind Him for our good.
14:19-23 - God forgives them, but the unbelief, contempt and rebellion of the people sentences them to 80,000,000 person-years of wandering in the wilderness. The moral of the story is that the majority isn't always right. My 17-year old daughter hears this sermon from me every time I read this story. I was going to call it, "The Forty-Year 'Oops!'" But now that I've reflected further on the character of the ten spies, it doesn't seem like an oops at all.
14:24 - We discover in Numbers 14:30 that Caleb and Joshua will be the only two Israelites to enter the promised land from that generation. I pray that as you read these words, you will ask God to give you the spirit that was in Caleb and Joshua, a spirit that is quick to believe what God has said, a spirit the follows God wholeheartedly. I pray you will give the godly minority report in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Evaluating Leadership
Mar 3
Numbers 14:25-16:27
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Go to God, TorahBytes
PROMISE: "'As surely as I live,' declares the LORD, 'I will do to you the very things I heard you say.'" (14:28)
Israel was given time in the wilderness for making a transition from slavery to theocracy. The change was not to be a slow evolution but a strict "under new management" difference. The LORD God had instructed Moses, and Moses had instituted the LORD's instructions, including setting up Aaron and his sons to be hereditary priests for the twelve tribes plus any gentiles with them.

From the LORD's point of view, Moses was a terrific success as a leader. Most of the people disagreed. They were complaining about the inconveniences, the uncertainties. How could they make plans for their future? With the tabernacle built, the economy and job market, other than shepherding, was down. When would they get a variety of food again? When could they do things the way they wanted, setting up their own routines? And there was Moses, visible and representing the LORD, teaching, directing, correcting, passing judgements, standing in the way of independence and freedom. The people grumbled, believing the spin reports of the ten spies. Their complaining swept the community like wild fire on a prairie.

From the people's point of view, they were justified to be upset. But the LORD saw them as a wicked community complaining about His desires, plans, and ways for them. What they had accused the LORD of - like bringing them to the desert to die - were lies. But the LORD could arrange for their fears to come true. He promised to do what they had said. Anyone currently over 20 years old, counted in the census, who had grumbled against the LORD will be dead within 40 years. Plan on that! Need proof? The ten fearful spies were struck down and died before the LORD. Need more proof? When Moses told the people about the spies' deaths, many of them decided to go take the promised land after all. On their own, they were soundly defeated.

The LORD next has Moses tell the people further offering instructions to use "after you enter the land I am giving you as a home". Except for Caleb and Joshua, only boys 19 and younger would ever actually see these put into practice. Offerings for unintentional sins could still be atoned by the priest for the community. Israelites and the gentiles living among them were to be treated the same in offering sacrifices and in being punished for intentional sinning. Such defiant sinning was called blaspheming, and identified as despising the LORD's word and breaking His commands.

Soon there was an incident testing defiant sinning. People found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day, and took him to Moses for the LORD's judgement. Obedient in this case, the people took him outside the camp, and stoned him to death.

Realizing that the people needed more help to live by the law and to stop prostituting themselves to the lusts of their own hearts and eyes, the LORD - through Moses - told the people for all generations to add tassels to the corners of their garments. They would be visable reminders to obey all the LORD's commandments. No, you are not going into the promised land yourselves, but still "I am the LORD your God."

Several Levites and a couple of Reubenites now had had enough of Moses. He was not the leader they wanted. Using Miriam's logic, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, On, and 250 well known community leaders all came to oppose Moses and Aaron. The whole community is separated, so all are holy. The LORD is with the whole community. Why does Moses set himself above the others? After the charges, Moses fell facedown. When he got back up and spoke, Moses had the LORD's promise to show everyone who belongs to the LORD and who is holy. What is a man that another should grumble against him? Being angry at a leader is being angry at his LORD.

Because they hadn't received the promised land of milk and honey, Dathan and Abiram refused to obey Moses. Moses was angry that he was blamed for the spies' and the people's disobedience. The LORD was ready to act, but Moses and Aaron interceeded for any innocent bystanders. The Reubenites Dathan and Abiram wouldn't come to Moses, so he went to their tents, and warned everyone nearby to move away from the tents of Korah, Datha, and Abiram. At the conclusion of today's reading, the priest Korah is at the Tent of Meeting. I'm not sure what happened to On, but Datha and Abiram are with their wives and families at the entrances to their tents. All were watching - what would happen next?

God's Ways, Not Your Ways
Mar 4
Numbers 16:28-18:32
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
A Simple Solution, TorahBytes
Thoughts on this section,
PROMISE: "Put back Aaron's staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die." [17:10)
Denied the promised land of milk and honey because of widespread grumbling and complaining - which the LORD credits as rebellion and lack of faith - the leaders of Israel were taking matters into their own hands to impeach Moses. The obvious problem with impeachment was that they hadn't chosen or elected Moses. Moses hadn't volunteered to be spokesman for the Leader of Israel. Likewise, Aaron and his sons had been appointed to their work as the priests, making atonement and reconciling the people with the LORD. Basically, both were thankless jobs, with the LORD watching for the rare exceptions.

There were serious problems - war, even - in the camp.

* Israelite leaders seemed to think "Once holy, always holy." They resented anyone suggesting that the LORD thought differently.
* People continued making bad predictions as though true. "The earth is going to swallow us up, too!" (16:34) "We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!" (17:12) They were perverting the LORD's proven plan - the LORD speaks the word, Moses reveals the word so the people hear, and the word happens. The people were saying a negative word in fear, the LORD was hearing them, and punishing them according to their spoken fears.
* People misunderstood what they were seeing. After the rebelling Korah and his men fell alive into a sudden fissure of the earth and the 250 Levites were burned to ashes, the people blamed Moses and Aaron for killing the LORD's people.
* Moses and Aaron kept responding to rebellion by falling facedown, seeking the LORD. This was not the confident arrogance of the typical warrior, or even the sly callousness of today's explosive terrorists. The LORD had promised these people would know what it is like to have the LORD against them (14:34b). Whether they saw it or not, Moses and Aaron were standing in the gap for them, against rebellion, against grumbling, against the plague.

The rest of today's reading deals with a change of the responsibilities and rewards given to the priests. Aaron was to delegate responsibility for the duties of the Tent of Meeting while making work in the sanctuary and around the altar inside the curtain exclusively his and his sons'. While giving this responsibility to focus upon and to draw nearer to Him, the LORD gives quality gifts. Note that the Levites will not have inheritance in land when that time comes. They are rewarded early - now. Their inheritance is the LORD and His portion of much of the offerings. Even going near the Tent of Meeting is now out-of-bounds for the non-Levite people. The Levites will receive wages from the tithe of the people, as they bring a first part of their best to the LORD. From that tithe the priests are to tithe the best back to the LORD.

Red Heifer and Moving On
Mar 5
Numbers 19-21
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
God's Methodology, TorahBytes
A memory verse: "A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the (red) heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They shall be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purifications from sin." (19:9)
In order to be cleansed (i.e., purified from sin) from contact with a dead body, the LORD instructed how to save and use the ashes of a ceremonially burned red heifer without defect or blemish. This applies both to Israelites and aliens/gentiles.
More on the red heifer:
* Red Heifer, Wikipedia * Excerpts from "The Mystery of the Red Heifer", Richman, (out of print) beginning with the introduction, Temple Institute

The community moved north to Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. Miriam died there. There was no water and the people, miserable again, reverted to the idea that the cause wasn't their unfaithfulness but Moses and Aaron's deceit about their destination. (Perhaps 1 Cor 2:14 and Romans 1:18-28 explain why they couldn't understand.) What about US?, they seemed to say, instead of praising the LORD with faith through hard times and instead of patient belief in delayed reward. The LORD showed Moses and Aaron how to get water for the people, but frustrated, Moses spoke to the rebels not the rock, and struck it - disobeying the LORD's instructions and thus dishonoring the LORD as holy. Because of their waters of Meribah rebellion, neither Moses nor Aaron will bring the people into the promised land. But for now they lead the people toward the promised land. From Kadesh, Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom, requesting permission to use the King's Highway through Edom. Edom emphatically says "NO!" Israel turns toward Mount Hor, and on that mountain Aaron dies. Eleazar becomes high priest.

Now on the move, Israel promises destruction to some Canaanite cities if the LORD will deliver them into their hands. The LORD agreed. On the way to the Red Sea around Edom, some grew impatient again over the food situation and argued again. This time the LORD didn't give them more food, but poisonous snakes. The relief the LORD provided when Moses asks was to look at a bronze snake for healing - not to remove the snakes.

The people kept moving. There was no king in Moab to ask for clearance because the Amorite king had recently defeated him. As the people moved they learned the area history and apparently recorded it in the Book of the Wars of the Lord. They also sang and wrote poetry about current events, especially as they were more and more successful against area kings. Israel defeated the Amorites and some of the people occupied and stayed in the Amorite cities. (Judges 11:26) Moses led on and defeated surrounding settlements.

Mar 6
Numbers 22-24
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
More on Amalek, Temple Beth AM
Discerning the Truth
, TorahBytes
Balak, David, and Messiah,
PROMISE: "I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob, a scepter will rise out of Israel." (24:17) (see Messiah Revealed)
Nearly forty years have passed since Israel sent spies to look over the land of Canaan. Israel is camped east of the Jordan River right where Balak, now the king of Moab, can see them, and he is terrified enough of them to send for Balaam who lives in Aram (or Mesopotamia) near the Euphrates River. Balaam is internationally known as a diviner-sorcerer for hire. Those he blesses are blessed, and those he curses are cursed. When the Moabite messengers come, Balaam takes the request to the same LORD Israel knows. The LORD tells Balaam not to curse these people - they are blessed. So Balaam refuses to go to Moab.

Not taking "No" for an answer, Moabite princes next come to Balaam, still seeking a really bad curse on Israel (make them sick!) and offering more money. It's not the money souring the deal, but Balaam's deal with the LORD. "I must speak only what God puts in my mouth." "I must do whatever the LORD says." Both Moab and Balaam persist for some sort of compromise with the LORD. Sure, Balaam could only do or say what the LORD instructed, but he was intent on manipulating and outsmarting Him for the desired outcome. Balaam is allowed to ride his previously non-conversational donkey into fame, history, and children's Sunday School classes for generations to come. But fame came at the expense of Balaam's expectations. He thought HE would be remembered as "one whose eye sees clearly", not his discerning donkey. He thought he could use a "sleight of hand" trick to keep repeating "I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD - and I must say only what the LORD says" (24:13) while looking for a loophole.

Balaam had no idea why Israel and Christians later joining them would remember the prophesies he spoke. "The Lord wanted these sublime utterances to come to Israel through the agency of the wicked and immoral Balaam, so that all the world would know that everyone was helpless to harm Israel against Godís will." (see Emanu-El of the City of New York) Here is another view on Balaam's contradictions from Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL).

Mar 7
Numbers 25-26
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Torah This Week, CLAL
The Road to Depravity
, TorahBytes
PROMISE: "(Phinehas) and his descendants willl have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites." (25:13)
One of the things Balaam noticed in yesterday's reading was that from a mountain top, the people of Israel were separated off to themselves, not part of the local nations. In today's reading some of the men, even leaders of Israel, have ended that separation - not only taking a sexual interest in the local women of Moab and Midian, but also joining them to sacrifice to the idol, Baal of Peor. [The Midianites and Moabites were the ones who called Balaam to come curse Israel.] The LORD detested this falling away and a plague broke out in response.

After the LORD told Moses to kill all the leaders guilty of this sin, Moses told Israel's judges to kill any of their men who worshipped Baal of Peor. Rather than killing anyone, Moses and many leaders were weeping by the Tent of Meeting when Aaron's grandson Phinehas saw a man openly bring a Midianite woman to his tent. Phinehas took a spear and killed them both at one time. Wasn't Phinehas then unclean? Instead, Phinehas was the only one who had obeyed the LORD and his zealousness honored the LORD. By making atonement for the Israelites, the plague stopped spreading. For his obedience in violence, Phinehas was given a covenant of peace with God and the promise that his descendants would have a lasting priesthood.

Serious crimes require serious punishment, and breaking the first commandment is a serious offense. (For more about the life of Phinehas, read Phinehas - Justified by his Faith, by Lambert Dolphin, and High Priest Anointed for War, by Etz Chaim Torah Study Group.)

Soon after this, Moses and Eleazar were told to take a second census. For most tribes and clans, the count was of men 20 years old or more who could serve in the army. For the Levites, males a month old and up were counted. Of the people named in the first count, only Caleb, Joshua, Moses, and Eleazar remain alive. The rest of the men over 60 had died in the wilderness.

Coming Out of the Wilderness
Mar 8
Numbers 27-30
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Keeping Perspective, TorahBytes
A memory verse: "Moses said to the LORD, 'May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.'" (27:15-17)
There were loose ends to tie up as Israel camped to the east of the promised land and Moses knew his time was coming to an end. For Moses life was still business as usual, representing the people, asking the LORD for instructions. One case was brought by the five daughters of Zelophehad, a man who had died in the wilderness without any sons. Moses, Eleazar, the leaders, and the whole assembly were gathered at the Tent of Meeting when the five women came forward with a prayer. Sonless, their father would not be included in clan records and would not inherit land in Canaan, they reasoned. They asked for a share of property among their father's relatives. Moses took the request to the LORD who agreed that the women should receive their father's inheritance, and added an inheritance clause to the law, for men with no sons.

Moses asked the LORD, God of the spirit of all mankind, to choose his replacement, and to announce the choice to all the Israelites before Moses dies. The LORD chose Joshua, who from his youth had been with Moses, and set up the commissioning ceremony before the Israelites to transfer some of Moses' authority to Joshua. Moses' job had been to represent the people before the LORD. (Ex 18:19) One change - rather than talking with the LORD face to face as Moses had done, Joshua would go to Eleazar the priest who would inquire of the Urim for the LORD's decisions. Joshua would be in charge any time the Israelite army or community was to move.

The LORD reviewed all the days and times of offerings with the Israelites through Moses. Offerings made to the LORD are burnt by fire, with an aroma pleasing to Him. Daily offerings are a year old lamb without defect each morning and another each twilight, both with grain offering (flour and oil) and drink offering (fermented). In addition to this, each weekly Sabbath day another set of year old lambs are to be sacrificed with its drink offering and double the daily grain offering. Each new moon, monthly, in addition to the daily offering, the burnt offering meal to the LORD is of 2 young bulls, 1 ram, and 7 male lambs a year old sans defect, with appropriate amounts of grain and drink offerings with each. A male goat is then presented to the LORD as a sin offering. These instructions continue in exacting detail for the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of the Tabernacles. In addition to these offerings, individual people could also make freewill offerings and fellowship (peace) offerings.

Some individuals would also make vows to the LORD. Not completely understanding this, it looks to me like these were things a person told the LORD he or she would prohibit to themselves, perhaps like what some Christians do during the days before Easter. It might also be a verbal debt incurred by one individual to another. (The promise Samuel's mother made the LORD before getting pregnant was a vow.) According to the LORD through Moses, men were responsible before the LORD for such self-imposed obligations. A young daughter still living at home may make a vow, but if her father hears about it and forbids her, she is released from her promise to God. If her father hears and says nothing, the vow stands. It's possible that a woman may marry after she has made a vow, and even if she has made a rash promise, her husband takes the responisibility to either say nothing and allow her to pay her vow, or to forbid her. If he forbids her when he hears about it, the LORD releases her from her promise. A widow or divorced woman who has vowed to the LORD is bound to her promise. The husband is responsible for his wife who makes a vow or obligation after marriage. He may hear and not forbid it, or he may hear and nullify it. But if he hears and doesn't speak out against it until some time later, then he can nullify it but he then is responsible for his wife's guilt.

War and Ranching
Mar 9
Numbers 31-32
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Communal Responsibility,
TorahBytes (Num 32)
More reading: (Num 31) * Mattot is a disturbing Torah portion..., CLAL * Compassionate Conquest, Fischer
A memory verse: "Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, 'Shall your countrymen go to war while you sit here?'" (32:6)
Despite the fact that Moses' wife was (had been?) a Midianite (Ex 2:15-22), the LORD commanded the Israelites to take vengeance on them for their part in turning the people away from the LORD at Peor.
* The Midianites originated from a son of Abraham and his second wife, Keturah. (Gen 25:2)
* Midianite merchants had carried Joseph to Egypt when his brothers sold him. (Gen 37:28)
* Moses' Midianite brother-in-law, Hobab, had come with the Israelites to share in the promised land. (Num 10:29)
* When the Israelites camped east of the Jordan River, a group of Midianites with an alliance with the Moabites conspired together against Israel with Balaam. (Num 22)
* In deceiving the Israelites at Peor, these Midianites were proven enemies of Israel. (Num 25: 17-19)
* Under the LORD's direction, the Israelites defeated the five kings of Midian. They also tracked down Balaam (maybe he hadn't returned to his home land?) and killed him for showing the Moabite women how to deceive Israel with idol worship. (Num 25)
* Other groups of Midianites continued fighting Israel in years to come. (Judges 6:1-2)

But in this last campaign for Moses, Israel was victorious, killing all the men and capturing the women, children, livestock, and goods. Moses was angry that they let the idol-worshiping deceiving women live, and ordered the deaths of the Midianite boys and wives. Virgins were the only females left alive. Then the warriors and all that they had captured required the purification process, either by fire or by water (with the ashes of the red heifer). The soldiers and community divided the spoils. There had not been a single life lost among the soldiers, and they all gave gifts of gold to Moses and to Eleazar the priest as atonement and for a memorial before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting.

The Reubenite and Gadite clans were ranchers, and saw the grazing value of land east of the Jordan. When they asked Moses and the community leaders for this land, Moses was visably upset as he remembered the spies who looked at the Valley of Eshcol and discouraged the people from entering the promised land - delaying the entrance for 40 years. And now you want to hesitate entering again? But the men clarified their plan. They would quickly set up their herds and families in fortified places east of Jordan, and be ready to lead the Israelite armies to conquer the land west of the Jordan. This was a vow, publicly made before the LORD, with dire consequences if not kept. The clans promised, and Moses gave the land of Gilead - recently occupied by Sihon the Amorite (Num 21) and Og the Bashan (Num 21:32-34) - to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (of Joseph) as their inheritance.

The Value of A Human Life
Mar 10
Numbers 33-35
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Strength in Numbers, Dvora Weisburg
Stages in Israel's journey (Num 33)
PROMISE: "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them." (33:55-56)
More Reading:* A Place of Refuge, TorahBytes * Canaan map * Palestine boundaries
Special thanks to guest commentator Dvora Weisberg. This article is posted here by permission from CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, where it was first published.
MASEI (Numbers 33:1 - 36:13)
In this parsha, God directs Moses to set aside cities "to cities of refuge to which a killer who has killed a person unintentionally may flee" (Num. 35:11). The Torah distinguishes between intentional murder and accidental killing. The former is punishable by death and the sentence is carried out by the victim's closest relative. When death is accidental, the killer may seek protection in the city of refuge; if he leaves the city, the deceased's relative may kill him with impunity. The Israelites are told, "You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the which I Myself abide" (35:33ff.). God cannot dwell in a land defiled.

If blood defiles the land, why distinguish between intentional and accidental homicide? If blood is a pollutant, why allow capital punishment? If one who kills accidentally is spared capital punishment and may flee to a city of refuge, why may the victim's relative kill him if he leaves the city? Why does the Torah forbid monetary compensation in the case of murder, insisting that the killer be executed?

Whether or not we agree with the penalties set here, it is clear that several values are at work. The Torah values human life. To kill intentionally is to deny another's humanness; perhaps the Torah believes that in doing so the murderer has hopelessly compromised his own humanity. Murder is an outrageous crime; to accept monetary compensation would be to place a fixed value on that which is priceless. In the case of accidental death, the community may protect the killer, but the gravity of his act must be recognized through exile.

The Torah cannot prevent human beings from killing each other. It reminds us, however, that each human life has infinite value and that no life can be taken without consequences.

Inheritance Issues #1 - finishing NUMBERS
Mar 11
Numbers 36
Numbers Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Having thought through the implications of women inheriting tribal land and then marrying into another tribe, the relatives of Zelophehad (Num 27:1-11) realized that his daughters' land would eventually go to the tribes of their husbands. In this last recorded consultation with the LORD, Moses relayed that every daughter who inherits land must marry within her father's tribal clan so the land doesn't pass from tribe to tribe.

Inheritance Issues #2 - beginning EPHESIANS
Mar 11
Ephesians 1-3
Ephesians Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Ephesians Study Guide, Chuck Smith
From God, To God
, Craddock
PRAYER: "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better." (Eph 1:17)
Do you notice the change, jumping from seeing the LORD resolve Israelite land inheritance problems to His solution for our spiritual inheritance? He blesses those people He chose to be holy and blameless in His sight, even before He created the world. His plan is to adopt these people as sons through Jesus Christ. All the instructions for daily, weekly, monthly, and special sacrifices from the altar are refocused upon the one sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, so that we are redeemed and our sins are forgiven through His blood. The LORD knew when the time was right for Israel to take over the land of Canaan, and He knows when the time will be right to bring all things together under the Messiah. We have little idea of the complexity of His plan for us on Earth as He includes people in Christ when they hear and believe His message. Have you heard? Have you believed? Then you have been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, guarenteeing your inheritance in Him until we all are redeemed as God's possession. Praise Him for His plan!

Readers, I can't stop thanking the Father for you and your faith.

Father, give these believers the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so they can know you better and better. Let the eyes of their hearts be enlightened so they know the hope You have called them to find. This hope is the wealth of our inheritance! Our belief lets us enter into the great power You used to raise Jesus from the dead and into the heavens for all ages. Thank You that You appointed Jesus to be head over all things and over everything for the church, His body.

Remember how you used to live? Without going into specifics, each of us was dead in transgressions and sins. God had a different plan for us. In mercy, not for anything we did, He gave us the gift to come alive with Christ. This is called "grace." The Father re-worked us according to His longstanding plans. Many of us were Gentiles, not knowing what "Christ" meant, not likely to go to Israel much less become a citizen there. Maybe we knew the 10 Commandments, but we didn't know there was a covenant of promise with God. So without knowing God, we had no hope. But now in Christ we have been brought from far away to near the Father, all because of Jesus' blood. Do you see how His death brought peace? There was Jew and there was Gentile, both needing the Lord, and both divided by hostility, commandments, and regulations. Jesus' assignment was to provide one access to the Father for both. Some movie reviewers say "The Passion of the Christ" movie's message was anti-Semitic, but Ephesians 2:16 denies that, saying Jesus' death on the cross put the hostility of Jews and Gentiles to death. Gentile believers are now fellow citizens with God's people, Israel, as Jesus joins and builds us all together into a holy temple in the Lord where God lives by His Spirit. Before Jesus accomplished His mission, God kept the plan hidden as a mystery in Old Testament references. In the book of Numbers, we saw how gentile aliens with Israel were to obey the same rules and be treated the same. In the book of Ephesians, we see that we gentile aliens become heirs together with Israel in God and through faith in Him.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derive its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may stengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (3:14-21)

Tomorrow: Ephesians 4-6

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