The Book of Numbers

Numbers Chapter Links

Numbers 1

Numbers 2

Numbers 3

Numbers 4

Numbers 5

Numbers 6

Numbers 7

Numbers 8

Numbers 9

Numbers 10

Numbers 11

Numbers 12

Numbers 13

Numbers 14

Numbers 15

Numbers 16

Numbers 17

Numbers 18

Numbers 19

Numbers 20

Numbers 21

Numbers 22

Numbers 23

Numbers 24

Numbers 25

Numbers 26

Numbers 27

Numbers 28

Numbers 29

Numbers 30

Numbers 31

Numbers 32

Numbers 33

Numbers 34

Numbers 35

Numbers 36





Numbers Introduction

Numbers Introduction

Introduction to the book of Numbers: Barthel, a confused commentator, writes: The fourth book of Moses, Numbers, also does not have much to offer the modern reader. As its name implies, it is a detailed census report of the twelve tribes of Israel, along with a checklist of the dates prescribed for certain sacrifices and festivals, a survey of the boundaries between the grazing grounds allotted to the various tribes, and a complete itinerary of their early migrations. As usual, the unbeliever does not even have a clue. Footnote Much of Numbers, like the book of Leviticus, is a set of direct quotes from God, and therefore has been all but eliminated from the teaching in God's churches, slandered as we have here, and poorly and inconsistently rendered. All of this is unfortunate because the content of the book of Numbers is fascinating and completely relevant to our lives today. The NIV Study Bible calls Numbers theologically significant; Footnote which is an understatement. As I write this introduction, my personal notes on this book exceed four hundred pages. This will not be some dusty book that, in your program to read through the Bible in one year, that you spend three hours with, recall little or nothing, and have moved on. We will, for awhile, live and breathe this book, and our lives will be the richer for it.

In the final four books of Moses, there is an interesting checkerboarding which occurs. The Exodus covers a period of eighty years, Footnote the last forty years of which is covered in detail. The book of Leviticus does not even cover a period of a month. Then Numbers covers a time period of almost forty years and Deuteronomy is only a few days long in its scope. However, its scope in time does not take from the direct quotes from God, which are plentiful in this book.

Theme: The book of Numbers deals with the various responsibilities of the sons of Israel—it is in this book where we see where the various tribes are stationed with regards to the tabernacle; we are given more specifics concerning the service of the sons of Aaron; and the responsibilities of the Levites are delineated in this book, not in the book of Leviticus.

Another theme found in this book is, and I attribute this to Zodhiates, is that it was easier for God to get Israel out of Egypt than it was for Him to get the Egypt out of Israel. We will find Israel on many occasions in this book recalling their idyllic life in Egypt, resplendent with great foods (Num. 11:4–6 14:2–4 20:4–5 21:5). It is as though they had completely forgotten that the Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and field labor [with] all their labors which they rigorously imposed upon them...and the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage and they cried out; and their cry for help because of bondage rose up to God (Ex. 1:13–14 2:23b).


The Title: The Jewish Scribes knew this portion of the Pentateuch as In the Wilderness (or, In the Desert), which is the Hebrew word Bemîdebar (ר ַ  ׃ד  ̣מ  ׃ ) [pronounced b'meede-BAHR] (?), which is the fifth word in this Num. 1:1. This is a better description of this book than our name, Numbers. In the Wilderness gives us a feel for the entire book of Numbers, as this is where the Israelites spent their time. Our English name is derived from the two censuses which were taken in this book (the Greek and Latin designations are similarly named). In the Greek, the title is arithmoi (AΡIθΜOI), from whence we obviously derive our word arithmetic. Although the numbering of the people for battle—the numbering of the first and second generations—was important, still, this is not the thrust of the book. Although the men were numbered for battle at the beginning of the book of Numbers, that generation failed in every respect in battle. The second generation was also numbered and they enter into several short wars with several peoples, emerging victorious. However, the actually numbering of these Israelites is but two significant events in a book which is packed with important doctrines.

The date of writing: The time during which the book of Numbers was written is dependent upon the time of the Exodus. Unfortunately, that time period is hotly disputed, being dated between 1440 b.c. and 1260 b.c. Conservative Biblical scholars lean toward the earl date, archeologists toward the later. One reknown archeologist—Nelson Glueck—spent ten years (1930–1940) studying the Negev and the Trans-Jordanian area and his conclusions were that the regions mentioned, particularly in Numbers, were large unihabited during the time period quoted by conservative theologians. In fact, it is his contention that that area was populated by other than nomads no sooner than 1300 bc. However, his conclusions were based on surface observations and climatic considerations made several thousand years after the fact, making his conclusions scientifically unviable. As I will state later, the climate during that time was very likely different than the climate is now. There were some dry areas and some areas where Israel went without water; however, they went for a long time when that was not an issue. You cannot judge the state of the Mideast then by how it is today. Since Glueck had published his findings, L. Harding has shown that during the Hyksos period of Egypt (1750–1550 bc), there were well--stocked tombs in the area of Amman (known in the Bible as Rabbath-Ammon). Nomads do not tend to bury their dead in tombs, so this calls into question Glueck's stand for the late date of the Exodus Footnote .

There are other considerations which point toward the earlier date. Egypt had very little influence outside her realm during this time period (thought to be during the rule of Ikhnaton); which would make sense, since God all but decimated the army of Egypt prior to the Exodus. Furthermore, the run-ins with Midian as recorded in the book of Numbers, is consistant with the historical Midians of this era, but not of any other. During this time period, they did not own much territory, but they exercised control over a lot of territory due to their commercial enterprises which were protected by their military Footnote .

As I will state in the chronology section, I believe that Moses did the majority of his final draft while Israel cooled her heals in Kadesh-barnea after their spectacular failure in Num. 13–14. This would place the date of writing between 1438 bc and 1400 bc. The events herein described would have taken place between 1439 bc and 1400 bc.

Content: We begin the book of Numbers right after the majority of the Mosaic Law had been given and the construction of the tabernacle had been completed. The children of Israel are at the foot of Mount Sinai and will march into the Land of Promise with the intention of taking the land. Along this march, they are continually beset by their own mental attitude sins and lack of trust in God. Once they reach the land, the size of the occupants frightens them and they fall into serious disfavor with God (this is putting it mildly—God will kill every man, twenty years and older with the sin unto death). So Israel settles into a period of stagnation while God kills many of them off. Once most of that evil generation are destroyed, they approach the land once more, traveling in a much more circuitous route (however, in accordance with God's leading). The book of Numbers takes them right to the Jordan Jericho, just due east of their land, poised and prepared for combat.

Allow me to quote from Scofield's introduction: Redeemed from Egypt, possessing the law, led by Moses, daily loking upon the Tabernacle, and supernaturally guided by cloud and pillar of fire, Israel should have walked triumphantly in in the perfect will of God. Instead they failed repeatedly, as this book records Footnote .

Like the book of Leviticus, much of the book of Numbers is quoted directly from God. To the untrained eye, the book of Numbers might seem to be an hodgepodge of events, battles, movement, laws and legal addendums. This may be attributed to the authorship of a man who has recently experienced the events herein found and has more to write about than he has time to write. Nevertheless, the book of Numbers tends to be generally chronological, the ordinances and laws recorded here are often an integral part of the events which were occuring at this time. For instance, the Exodus generation, generation X, were dying off in large numbers due to the sin unto death. Therefore, it would make sense to include here laws which dealt specifically with the uncleanness incurred when coming into contact with a dead body—a very common event of that time period only (Num. 9).

Like all of the Old Testament, there are incidents and their meanings which are not completely perspicuous until after the death and resurrection of our Lord. The bronze serpent event, the movement toward and promise of the land of Canaan, the budding of Aaron's rod (Num. 17), the seriousness of the mistake of Moses when he struck the rock twice instead of merely speaking to it (Num. 20), the horrible infiltration of other religions into the life of Israel (Num. 25) and the cities of refuge (Num. 35) all have meaning which go beyond their simple historic recording. All of these events forshadow and foretell the death of our Lord and His resurrection. Their complete meaning is easy to ascertain today, whereas the full import of these events would be less understood, even by their author, Moses. What I am telling you is that you, an individual Christian with whatever background you have, are in a position to have a better grasp of the events of this book and their spiritual import, guided by the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, than even Moses did, likely the greatest man in the history of Israel, and one of the greatest men in the history of the world.

One of the themes running throughout this book is one of the blessings of obedience to Yehowah and the cursing and discipline attendant to disobedience. When Israel listened to and obeyed God's Word, they received protection and blessing (Num. 21:21–35). When they rebelled against God and His Laws, God punished them (Num. 21:4–9).

Near the end of the book of Numbers, we not only see the deaths of the faithless Exodus generation, but we read of the unceremonial death of Miriam (she will also be involved in her own little rebellion against God's authority) as well as the death of Aaron, who was revered of the people and who was an honorable man, despite several glaring errors of judgment. Even Moses, in this book, will make one grave mistake—the extent of which, he will not fully understand in his own lifetime—but a mistake, nonetheless, which will keep him from even entering into the Promised Land with those he has led for forty years.

Throughout the Pentateuch, as well as from Joshua to Samuel, the Jews were under a theocracy—that is, they were ruled by God. They did not have a king as did the other nations. Footnote However, there was always someone who stood between the people and God, and, throughout their early history, this was Moses. God began right from the very start to teach that there is a mediator between God and man. We know that Mediator today as Jesus Christ; the Jews had their first mediator in the person of Moses, who, in occupying that office, was a shadow of Jesus Christ.

The more specific content can be found immediately below in the outline.

Outline of Chapter 1: The book of Numbers can essentially be divided into two parts: Part I:Generation X—the Exodus generation. Part II: The Second Generation. Throughout this book, we have a contrast between the fathers and the sons.

Generation X


I.     Israel is organized (Num. 1:1–10:10)

       A.   A census is taken of the adult members of eleven tribes of Israel (Num. 1:1–46)

       B.   The Levites are not included in this census and their general duties are given (Num. 1:47–54)

       C.   The camps are arrange around the tabernacle (Num. 2)

       D.   The Levites are a gracious gift to the Aaronic priesthood (Num. 3:1–13)

       E.   The Levites are numbered, all males of a month of age and older and given duties (Num. 3:14–39)

       F.   The first-born of the Levites are numbered and redeemed (Num. 3:40–51)

       G.   Specific Levitical responsibilities (Num. 4:1–33)

              1.    Those of the Kohathites (vv. 1–20)

              2.    Those of the Gershonites (vv. 21–28)

              3.    Those of the Merarites (vv. 29–33)

       H.   The three Levitical families are numbered according to those who will actually serve (Num. 4:34–49)

       I.     Sets of laws and customs (mostly peculiar to the Age of Israel) (Num. 5–6)

              1.    Concerning defilement (Num. 5:1–4)

              2.    Concerning confessions of sin and restitution (Num. 5:5–10)

              3.    The test for adultery (Num. 5:11–31)

              4.    Nazirite vows (Num. 6:1–21)

              5.    A blessing for Aaron to invoke (Num. 6:22–27)

       J.    Rituals (Num. 7:1–10:10)

              1.    The leaders of the tribes bring offerings (Num. 7:1–88)

              2.    The lampstands (Num. 7:89–8:4)

              3.    The cleansing of the Levites (Num. 8:5–26)

              4.    The second Passover (Num. 9:1–15)

              5.    Erection of the tabernacle and the guidance of Yehowah (Num. 9:16–23)

              6.    The silver trumpets (Num. 10:1–10)

II.    Israel moves out (Num. 10:11–19:22)

       A.   The people leave Sinai (Num. 10:11–36)

       B.   Complaints along the journey (Num. 11–12)

              1.    The people complain to Moses about being tired of manna (Num. 11:1–9)

              2.    Moses complains to leadership God about his position of leadership (Num. 11:10–15)

              3.    God provides leaders to assist Moses, quail for the people and the Holy Spirit (Num. 11:16–35)

              4.    Miriam, and Aaron, complain to Moses about their authority and God disciplines Miriam (Num. 12)

       C.   The people at the edge of the Land of Promise (Num. 13–14)

              1.    Moses sends spies into the land (Num. 13:1–24)

              2.    The spies bring back their report (the majority report is that the inhabitants of the land are too big for Israel to oppose; the minority report is that the land is just as Yehowah said it it is; let's go and take it (Num. 13:25–33)

              3.    The people whine and bitch and refuse to go into the land (Num. 14:1–10)

              4.    God threatens to destroy all of the sons of Israel; Moses intercedes; God will just kill those who are twenty years old and up (Num. 14:11–38)

              5.    The Israelites, in a burst of emotion, attack the Amalekites and the Canaanites, and Israel is struck down and forced back to Hormah (Num. 14:39–45)

       D.   God's marvelous grace; His laws for entering into the Land of Canaan (Num. 15:1–31)

              1.    Offerings to be brought before God upon entering into the land (Num. 15:1–13)

              2.    God's laws apply to the temporary immigrant as well (Num. 15:14–31)

       E.   An incident of Sabbath-breaking occurs (Num. 15:32–41)

       F.   Korah's rebellion against Moses and subsequent actions

              1.    Korah, Dathan and Abiram all point to Moses as the reason that the Jews could not take the land of Promise (Num. 16:1–14)

              2.    Moses and his rebels face off; an earthquake envelops the rebels and lightening kills some of them (Num. 16:15–35)

              3.    The bronze incense burners of the rebels are hammered into sheets and used upon the altar as a sign to suceeding generations (Num. 16:36–40)

              4.    The people complain to Moses because of the harsh treatment of the rebels and God disciplines them with a plague (Num. 16:41–50)

              5.    Aaron's rod that buds is a sign to the rebels (Num. 17)

       G.   Spiritual ordinances (Num. 18–19)

              1.    Levitical assistance (Num. 18:1–7)

              2.    The portion of the priests (Num. 18:8–20)

              3.    The portions and obligations of the Levites (Num. 18:21–32)

              4.    The red heifer sacrifice (Num. 19:1–12)

              5.    Personal contact with dead body (Num. 19:13–22)

The Second Generation (the Generation of Hope)


I.     From Kadesh to Jazer: several victories and two deaths (Num. 20–21)

       A.   The death of Miriam and the second generation's no-water test (Num. 20:1–13)

       B.   Negotiations to transverse Edom fail (Num. 20:14–23)

       C.   Aaron's death (Num. 20:24–29)

       D.   The Israelites defeat the king of Arad of the Negev (Num. 21:1–3)

       E.   The long additional journey causes the people to complain; the bronze serpent (Num. 21:4–9)

       F.   Israel continues to advance (Num. 21:10–20)

       G.   Victory over the Amorites (Num. 21:21–32)

       H.   Victory over Og, the king of Bashan (Num. 21:33–35)

II.    Israel, Balak and Balaam (Num. 22–24)

       A.   Balak, king of Moab, sends for Balaam (Num. 22:1–21)

       B.   Balaam goes to Balak (Num. 22:22–41)

       C.   Balaam blesses Israel instead of cursing her (Num. 23–24)

III.   The last of Generation X dies (Num. 25)

       A.   The influence of the cults of the women of Moab and Midian and the subsequent plague (Num. 25:1–9)

       B.   Phinehas stops the plague (Num. 25:10–18)

IV.  Preparations for entrance into the Land of Promise (Num. 26–36)

       A.   The second major census (Num. 26)

       B.   Inheritance laws (Num. 27:11–14)

       C.   Joshua is to succeed Moses (Num. 27:15–23)

       D.   Offerings and vows (Num. 28–30)

              1.    The accompnaying bread offerings (Num. 28)

              2.    Special offerings for the seventh month (Num. 29)

              3.    Special voluntary vows (Num. 30)

       E.   The slaughter of Midian

              1.    Preparation (Num. 31:1–6)

              2.    War (Num. 31:7–10)

              3.    The spoil and prey (Num. 31:11–18)

              4.    Purification of the men of war (Num. 31:19–24)

              5.    The division of the spoil (Num. 31:25–54)

       F.   Reuben and Gad settle in the lands recently conquered (Jazer and Gilead) (Num. 32)

              1.    Their formal request to Moses (Num. 32:1–5)

              2.    Negociations between Moses and the elders of Gad and Reuben (Num. 32:6–27)

              3.    The agreement is formally ratified in public (Num. 32:28–32)

              4.    Gad, Reuben and a portion of the tribe of Manasseh settle their families there (Num. 32:33–42)

       G.   The journey from Egypt to Jordan Jericho is reviewed (Num. 33:1–49)

       H.   The apportioning of the land (Num. 33:50–36:13)

              1.    The general principle of possessing the land (Num. 33:50–56)

              2.    The borders of the land which is to be conquered are given (Num. 34:1–15)

              3.    Delegation of authority of land management (Num. 34:16–29)

              4.    The cities of the Levites (Num. 35:1–5)

              5.    The cities of refuge (Num. 35:6–34)

                     a.    The particular cities (Num. 35:6–15)

                     b.    Differentiating between manslaughter and capital murder (Num. 35:16–34)

              6.    The laws of inheritance of Num. 27 appended (Num. 36)

The author of the introduction breaks the book of Numbers into three parts, with a geographical emphasis. I mention this, so that when we get started, you will have some outlines of what is to occur in the back of your mind. Israel is camped at Mount Sinai for the first ten chapters; in the middle of chapter 10, they move toward the land of promise, and encamp for awhile at Kadesh-barnea; and, after thirty-eight years, move toward the east border of the Land of Promise. For the balance of Numbers (Num. 22:2–36:13), the Israelites remained camped on the plains of Moab.

See notes on Num. 1:1 in NIV. Incorporate Scofield's note for Num. 15:1.

Chronology: The book of Exodus ends with Now it came about in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was erected (Ex. 40:17) and the book of Numbers begins in Num. 1:1 with the date Then Yehowah spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai, in the tent of meeting on the first [day] of the second month in the second year after the had come out of the land of Egypt. Although generally in chronological order, later, part way through the book of Numbers, we read: Thus Yehowah had spoken to Moses in the desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, "Now, let the sons of israel observe the Passover at its appointed time, on the fourteenth day of this month..." (Num. 9:1–3a). We are then told on what day Israel advanced from Mount Sinai: Now it came to pass in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth [day] of the month, that the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran (Num. 10:11–12). Most of the way through the book of Numbers, we are given another date on which to hang our hats: Then Aaron, the priest, went up to Mount Hor at the mouth of Yehowah and died there in the fortieth year after the sons of Israel had come from the land of Egypt on the first [day] of the fifth month (Num. 33:38). This tells us that the book of Numbers was not written immediately after these events, and therefore not all of it is in chronological order. However, the beginning and stopping points are clear: the Israelites are exactly one year out of Egypt and the book of Numbers concludes with them at Jordan Jericho (across the Jordan river from Jericho), preparing to enter into the land of Canaan and to dispossess the peoples in it. The book of Deuteronomy begins with: And it came to pass in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that Yehowah had commanded him [to say] to them (Deut. 1:3). So the time span of the book of Numbers is exactly thirty-eight years, ten months. For those of you like myself, who are very linear and very time-oriented, this should appeal to you.

Previous Date

Earliest Date

Latest Date

Next Date

1/1/2 ae Footnote

1/?/2 ae

5/1/40 ae

11/1/40 ae

Ex. 40:17

Num. 9:1

Num. 33:38

Deut. 1:3

Num. 9:1 occurs prior to 1/14/2 ae; however, this passage may refer to a talk which Yehowah had with Moses prior to the incidents found in the book of Numbers. However, the date 2/1/2 ae is found in Num. 1:1 and is an integral part of the incidents recorded in that chapter. So, in any case, Numbers begins at least with the second month of the second year and ends no later than the fifth month of the fortieth year.

Authorship: This book was written by Moses, most of which was likely recorded during the thirty-eight silent years. You have no doubt heard theories wherein the Pentateuch was supposedly written by four different sets of authors over different period of time, all long after the actual occurrence of the events herein recorded. Numbers in particular is thought to be the product of more than one man because it is so diverse in its content (it is more diverse than any of the other four books of the Torah). However, diversity does not indicate that Numbers had to be written by a team of authors. Moses, apart from any religious connotation, was one of the greatest men of ancient history who, do to his great intelligence and strength of character, was quite diverse in his abilities and interests. He was raised royalty in the castle of Egypt, which would allow for his great background.

One of the primary reasons those who believe in the theory of documetnary hypothesis (i.e., that the Pentateuch was the result of four sets of people or groups operating several hundred years apart long after the facts recorded) take such a stand is that they despise prophecy. They do not like the fact that God the Holy Spirit regularly predicted the near and the far future for Israel throughout the books of the Old Testatment. It is way too dvinely-inspired for them. Therefore, it is easier to claim that the predictions were written after they occurred. That way, one does not have to deal with things such as divine inspiration. This hypothesis and its refutation are dealt with in great detail in Evidence Which Requires a Verdict, Book II and A Ready Defense, both written by Josh McDowell. Footnote A shorter refutationof this flawed hypothesis can be found in ZPEB, Vol. 4, p. 463.

With what I have examined, it is much easier to argue that the writing of Numbers was done by a contemporary with the incidents recorded (i.e., Moses) as opposed to this being written hundreds of years later or redacted several times hundreds of years later. In fact, let me list some of the things which point to a contemporary, and therefore, Mosaic, authorship:

     The length of the geneological line found in Num. 3:1–3 extends from Aaron through his sons and goes no further. It reaches backward, in Num. 3:17–21 to Levi; even an author writing a revision or an updating (i.e., a redactor) would have likely included the sons of Aaron's sons, as the priestly line went through Aaron.

     Num. 33:2a calls Moses the author of at least that portion of Scripture, as it reads: And Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command [lit., mouth] of Yehowah.

     The special instructions concerning Passover and contact with the dead would have special meaning to the second generation, but would mean very little to us (Num. 9:1–14).

     The careful attention to detail of Num. 33, the naming of the individual stopping places, and the geography, would be logically the work of a contemporary to these travels. An author of several hundred years later would not have been interested in this material, and the names would have corresponded to the cities of his time, not to areas totally lost to history (roughly half the stopping places in Num. 33 have no historical impact).

     The splitting of the inheritance laws into two disjoint chapters (Num. 27 and 36) would be logically done by a person who recorded these events as they occurred. An author of a later era would more likely group this ruling into one chapter.

     The events of Korah's rebellion, in Num. 16, have the feel of an eyewitness, as opposed to an author writing about this hundreds of years later. Similar arguments for an eyewitness recording of events could be made for Num. 25, 31 and 32.

     The fallibility of Moses, as seen in Num. 20, includes material that only becomes truly significant after the death of our Lord and the Pauline dissection of same. Since the Pentateuch was in existence long before Paul wrote, this argues for divine authorship, as well as for Mosaic authorship.

     There is a lack of detail in the battles found in Num. 21:1–3, 21–25 and 33–35, whereas the event of Num. 21:4–9 is given more attention to detail. As commander in chief, Moses would not go into battle with Israel's troops, therefore what he writes about the actual battles will be quite sketchy (as contrasted to Joshua, who will give details to many of his battles). However, the bronze serpent incident, sandwiched between, is more meticulous with reference to detail, indicating an eyewitness. This would point to a Mosaic authorship. A later author might want to downplay Israel's failure and to boast more of her victories (furthermore, ancient authors would tend to embellish the great exploits of battle, as opposed to neglecting such details, as Moses did).

     Our Lord and almost every New Testament writer refer to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch (Matt. 8:4 19:7 22:24 Mark 1:44 10:3 Luke 5:14 20:28 John 1:!7 Acts 3:22 Rom. 10:5 II Cor. 3:15 Heb. 9:19 10:28—at least to the last four books), without arguing for it, indicating that was the basic belief during their time, and, because of the divine inspiration of Scripture, this clinches it for any believer. ZPEB points out that Jerome, of the Latin Vulgate translation, was the first early theologian to question the authorship of the Pentateuch.

Allow me to quote from the NASB's introduction to the book of Numbers: Extremes of literary criticism have tried to deny that Moses could have written any of the book and have attempted to partition it into documents dating form several periods of Israel's history. Archaeological discoveries, however, have shown the antiquity of laws, institutions and living conditions described in Numbers. The view that Numbers comes from Moses and the period in which he lived is supported also by the great veneration which the Jews had for Moses and the sacred writings attributed to him.

There is only one portion of the book of Numbers which is curious with regards to original authorship and that is the incident of Balaam being called by King Balak to curse Israel (Num. 22–24). Moses was not an eyewitness to this event, yet it contains great detail. Portions of it, particularly Num. 22:22–35, are very personal to Balaam, yet carry with them a feel of omniscience. The careful quotations of Num. 23 and 24 sound as though they were recorded on the spot by an eyewitness, or soon thereafter. Here, I have a theory or two, but nothing that I am married to. I would think that Balaam might have chronicled these events, and, when faced with death at the hands of the Israelites several months later, he may have offered these writings as proof of his relationship with Yehowah. He was still unceremoniously killed and the writings were likely brought back to Moses. Explanation #2 (which I have even less regard for) is that God the Holy Spirit provided all of the details of this occurance to Moses directly. Now, don't misunderstand me here: I have no problem with the ability of God the Holy Spirit to provide us with details of things that we have not seen and with details only an eyewitness would have. My problem with this kind of an explanation is that it goes against the general tenor of Scripture. When events out of the author's realm are recorded, there are often asides concerning this (the book of Luke, for instance, was based on several documents and the interviews of eyewitnesses—Luke did not just lock himself up in a room and say, "Okay, God, lay it on me; what happened?" His was a careful compilation of existing historical material and eyewitness reports. Moses shows the same attention to detail, and is wont to quote his sources (Num. 21:14 and 27 for instance).

In the NASB, The introduction to the book of Numbers reads: Since the Mosaic period is at least thirteen hundred years before christ, the book in its present form has passed through many hands, and even in the Hebrew itself has been transliterated from one type of script to another. Undoubtedly ther are scribal or editorial additions here and there. The NIV Study Bible reads: It is not necessary, however, to claim that Numbers came from Moses' hand complete and in final form. Portions of the book were probably added by scribes or editors from later periods of Israel's history. This does not mean that this book has been rewritten or revised, but that there have been some changes made to the text. Those who have done so have been appropriately punished, as per Rev. 22:18–19: I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Moses himself told the people: "You will not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yehowah your God, which I command you...Whatever I command you, you will be careful to do; you will not add to nor take away from it." (Deut. 4:2 12:32). This is God's Word, and God is able to preserve His Word.

The Mishna and the Torah are two of the very best arguments today for the preservation of the original text. The Jews fell into legalism and developed the Mishna, the Midrash and the Talmud, whose intention was not unlike that of a Biblical exegete or a Bible commentary, except that they went off the deep end. Their interpretations of certain passages got incredibly intricate, going far beyond that enjoined in the Torah (the Law) of Moses. However, rather than insert some of these ideas and writings directly into Scripture, this information was passed down in written and oral form, and eventually committed to the writings which the Jewish scholars study today. In the Jewish world, these are given a lesser place than the books of Moses, yet they are studied more. However, the point of mentioning these books, is that rather than go into the actual text of Moses with a lot of farfetched ideas and legalistic commentary, even though some groups of Jews held firmly to these beliefs, these writings have remained separate from the Law and their place in Jewish theology is below that of the writings of Moses, generally speaking—and, again, this is a matter of verbal assent; but the reality is different. In Christianity, we also have great verbal deference given to the Word of God; however, those who place it on a pedastal of honor paradoxically rarely study God's Word nor do they obey God' s Word. Also, there is extent today the spiritual gift of textual criticism, which scholars employ to determine what the original text was. My point in all of this is that, yes, there have certainly been changes, additions and adulterations in the text of Moses—on the other hand, these have been very minor, and many of the discrepancies in text will be examined as we study this fantastic book. Bear in mind, that this is God's Word and He has allowed a few adulterations to creep in, and He has given to us people who have devoted their lives to determine what these corruptions are. If you want numbers, let's say that the book of Numbers in the Hebrew is in agreement with the autographs Footnote 97–99.9% of the time (and even with that low 97%, much of it is exegetically inconsequential, as we will see).

You must understand that the Scribes who dedicated their lives to copying and recopying the books of Moses so that God's Word would be preserved had a deep and abiding dedication to this task. They did not take their work lightly. Therefore, they would make every attempt possible to achieve accuracy of the original text. ZPEB called the text of Numbers (along with that of the rest of the Pentateuch) remarkably stable. Footnote The variations which we find in the various codices are quite minor (many of thees will be pointed out early in the book of Numbers to give you an idea as to how inconsequential and unimportant they are).

Authority and Inspiration: The book of Numbers was authored, like all Scripture, by God the Holy Spirit (I originally wrote co-authored, but that does not fully convey what occurs). The writing of Scripture is as much the product of divine inspiration as it is a human accomplishment. It is completely and wholy God's Word and completely and wholy the Word of man. The written Word itself is a picture of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine. The book of Numbers is not merely inspired, nor does it contain God's Word, but it is God's Word, whether a quote directly from God or a narrative passage. However, just as I have listed several reasons why Moses is indeed the human author of this book, let me list why this book is the work of God the Holy Spirit:

     God continually speaks directly to Moses (and sometimes to Aaron), so that much of this book is quoted directly from God (Num. 1:1 2:1 3:40 4:1, 21 5:1, 11 6:1 etc.). In fact, the NIV Study Bible points out that the book of Numbers says over 150 times that God spoke to Moses and states this in twenty different ways. Footnote

     Moses has given us a general enjoinder not to add or subtract from these Laws given by God (Deut. 4:2 12:32).

     Interestingly enough, no writer of Scripture, Old Testament or New, quotes directly from the book of Numbers. However, several of the incidents found in the book of Numbers are mentioned. The Israelites will be fed quails by God in Numbers and this is confirmed as an historical event in Psalm 78:26–30 105:40. I Cor. 10:8–10 carries an admonition against specific mistakes made by the Israelites in the book of Numbers, ending with v. 11: Now these things happened to them as an example and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. One of the most quoted New Testament passage, John 3:16, follows after John 3:14, which confirms the historicity of the bronze serpent of Num. 21: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His uniquely-born Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:14–16).

     Taken as a cohesive part of the Pentateuch, this book is given authority throughout the Old and New Testaments (2Kings 14:6 21:8 Dan. 9:11 Mal. 4:4).

     This book is included in the canon of Scripture without any reservation of any textual critic


Chronology of the Writing of Numbers: Now there is another sort of chronology which should be examined and that is the chronology of the writing of this book. Num. 1:1 compared with Num. 9:1 indicates that not everything is in exact chronological order; however, when examining the dates (Num. 1:1 9:1 10:11 20:1 33:3, 38) which are found in this book, there is every indication that it is essentially written in chronological order. Furthermore, an examination of the incidents in comparison to the movement of the troops in Num. 33 gives no contradiction in time of movement nor does it give rise to any serious argument for the contents of Numbers to be in some order other than chronological.

In Num. 1–19, Moses was quite involved with the following activities: the movement of the Israelites through the wilderness area;  the census taking;  overseeing the removal of the tabernacle and the re-establishing of the tabernacle at every stage of movement;  recording the Law as given him by Yehowah;  speaking to the people as to the contents of the Law;  dealing with revolt after revolt after revolt and with the grumbling and complaining that Generation X seemed to do on a regular basis (we only see a small portion of their degeneracy in God's Word); and,  Moses was involved quite actively in the court system, hearing some cases as the originated and others on appeal. What I am saying to you that during this period of a year or so, Moses had no time whatsoever to himself. During the thirty-eight silent years, although Moses has most of these responsibilities, the tabernacle is remaining in one place, there is no troop movement, there are no spies to send out, the census taking has been completed, and Moses seems to have no close involvment with the thousands of people who were dying like flies in the desert—so it is my opinion that he compiled most of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and the first half of the book of Numbers during this stay at Kadesh-barnea. Much of this material had already been written down—chiefly the Laws as given to Moses by Yehowah. Moses had been told on several occasions to write this down. Then Yehowah said to Moses, "Write this in the book as a memorial and place it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven." (Ex. 17:14). And Moses wrote down all the words of Yehowah (Ex. 24:4a). Then Yehowah said to Moses, "Write down for yourself these words, for in accordance with these words, I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." (Ex. 34:17). And Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the mouth of Yehowah, and these are their journeys accoridng to their starting places (Num. 33:2). I would think that at Kadesh-barnea, he would have a little more time to reflect, insert historical events, and to essentially complete the bulk of the Pentateuch. Because Moses will not enter the land, there was a time period when the troops of Israel attacked and defeated the Amorites, Midian and the King of Bashan; then the tribes of Reuben, Gad and a portion of Manasseh settled them women and children east of the Jordan. This gave Moses some time to finish the last portion of the book of Numbers and to prepare several farewell sermons to the children of Israel, generation 2.

It is possible that at this point, if not earlier, Moses used an amanuensis, although he did not necessarily need one. Furthermore, the likely candidate for that position would have been Joshua, son of Nun. This would explain the smooth transition at the end of Deuteronomy from the message of Moses to the death of Moses, which, as every author points out, Moses could have written prophetically, but which was likely written by Joshua, God's next choice to rule over Israel. Making copies of the Law was enjoined by the time of Deut. 17:18, where the king was to sit on his throne and...write for himself a copy of the Law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.

Geography: The book of Numbers begins at the foot of Mount Sinai after God has essentially given Moses most of the Laws and regulations by which the people of Israel are to live. From there, they will travel up north along the Gulf of Aqaba, probably along a river feeding into the gulf. At some point, much more north than is shown on most Bible maps, they will cut over almost due west to Kadesh-barnea. From there, they will send out spies to examine the land and plan for their first invasion. As the spies are looking over the land, the sons of Israel advance to Hormah and beyond. However, the report of the spies will frighten the people, and they will refuse to go into the land, to take it. Then, after they realize that they have screwed up and that God will discipline them for it, they go up to invade the land, apart form Yehowah, and they are repulsed and pushed back to Hormah. They stop and spend thirty-seven silent years in Kadesh-barnea [where perhaps they had left their women and children prior to the invasion?]. After most of the Exodus generation has died out, they travel east and then south, to where the Gulf of Aqaba began in those days (which I believe was much farther north than it is today). They had hoped to go north on the King's Highway, but the Edomites would not give them passage. There are two routes which they may have taken from here. I believe that they went west again, came up on the west side of Edom, and cut across just south of the Salt Sea. However, it is possible that they moved due east or due south, got out of the border of Edom that direction, and then proceeded north up along the east side of Edom's borders. They traveled outside the east border of Moab, cut across between Moab and Ammon, and got into an altercation with the Amorites who had recently taken a large chunk of alnd away from Moab (this is the land east and northeast of the Salt Sea). Then Israel got into an altercation with Og, the king of Bashan, and they conquered the land directly north of the Amorites and took a rather large chunk of land in that invasion. At the end of Numbers, they will stand perched, across the Jordan River from Jericho, from where Moses will deliver his famous Deuteronomic [pronounced DOO-ter-uh-NOME-ik] messages to the new generation of Israelites (the book of Deuteronomy) who are soon to invade the land of Canaan to take it (the book of Joshua) Footnote .

In this book of Numbers, we will spend more time traveling through the Sinai Peninsula and through the various deserts than we do anywhere else in the Pentateuch. I think that it is important to note that the promised land today is under discipline from God. It is filled with wars and racial and religious strife and intense violence. To look at pictures of Palestine, one does not see a land flowing with milk and honey, but rather a lot of desert area interspersed with some patches of green and disputations. A little water can transform any area, as can the lack of water (Los Angeles is a prime example of what a little influx of water can do to a desert region). At least during the time of the exodus and the early settling of the promised land, there was a lot more rain and a much great agricultural prosperity than we see today. In fact, I believe that the rain was much more pleantiful for perhaps a time period of close to two thousand years. Areas which have water in them only during the rainy season probably had flowing water in them throughout the year. When Abraham and Moses looked out onto the promised land, they saw a land which was lush, and green and inviting, with great agricultural prosperity, unlike it is today. The gulf of Aqaba probably extended at least another 60 miles north, with water flowing between the Salt Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, at least during the rainy season, if not year round. When I first studied the Pentateuch, instead of the standard translation, the wilderness of Sinai or the wilderness of Zin, I instead rendered it the desert of Sinai and the desert of Zin. However, my studies have caused me to conclude that this was not the desert region then that it is today. The translation wilderness would include some desert regions (obviously a problem at times when the Jews faced the no-water test), but it also included some areas which were basically uninhabited and sometimes difficult to transverse.

There are two basic views that I am aware of when it comes to the forty-year wanderings of the sons of Israel. Most authors and commentaries take the stand that the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years. I personally believe that they transversed the wilderness, moving toward Sinai and then toward the land of Canaan in a space of about 2–3 years; then they camped in Kadesh-barnea, because there was no need for them to go anywhere. They were not going into the land. God had begun to kill off large numbers of the exodus generation. They had to deal with the deaths of two million people over a period of thirty-seven years. This would preclude a lot of travel because (1) they had no reason to travel anywhere; (2) they had no place to travel to; and (3) they were constantly busy with the rituals of coming into contact with dead people (cleansing from contact with dead people, although it does not play a prominent part in the book of Numbers, it is still given more time than one would think under normal circumstances). And, finally, (4) the Israelites did not just wander the desert. Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabracnle, until morning. So it was continuously: the cloud would cover it, and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward, the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the pace where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. At the mouth of Yehowah the sons of Israel would set out, and at the mouth of Yehowah, they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, the remained camped. Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days, the sons of Israel would keep Yehowah's charge and not set out (Num. 9:15–19). Do you follow this? The children of Israel did not wander aimlessly. There is no indication of that anywhere in Scripture. This passage, along with Ex. 13:21–22 and 40:34–38, tell us that God guided them every step of the way. At Kadesh-barnea, after their terrible failure, they had no place to go. God had no reason to lead them anywhere. "Therefore, I was disgusted with this generation. And said, "They continually went astray in their thinking [lit., heart]; and they did not know My ways. As I swore in My wrath, they will not enter My rest." (Heb. 3:10–11 Psalm 95:10–11). What do you think is going to happen? Moses is going to get wanderlust and get up some morning and say, "Let's go for a forced march out into the desert." Do you think the sons of Israel will leave an area of their basic necessities and go back into the wilderness? Do you think that God is going to lift the cloud from above the tabernacle and commence to lead these sons of Israel on a wild goose chase, so to speak? Yehowah suddenly says, "I'm bored with us just being here, let's go wander aimlessly until you die." Many of this generation died en route to Kadesh-barnea and many of them will die when they go to enter the land once again from the east side between the two seas. However, many of them will simply die uncermonious deaths out there in the wilderness area of Kadesh-barnea. There is at least parital agreement with this viewpoint by David W. Kerr, Th.M., who wrote the introduction to the book of Numbers. He wrote While these are sually described as eyars of wandering, it is fairly clear that th epeople lived south of Canaan proper, partly in the area known as the Negev, not far from Kadesh Barnea, for about thirty-seven years. During this time the tabernacle was the foacl point of civil as well as religious life, since it was here that Moses carried out his administrative duties. It may be assumed that the people followed the domestic pursuits of nomads, living in tents, pasturing flocks in the semi-arid steppes. This circumstances required special divine provisions of food and water Footnote .

One quite interesting note, however, is that I cannot recall anything being said about the disposal of the bodies of their dead or rituals concerning burials and memorials. They came out of Egypt where the preservation of some of their dead bordered on fanaticism, however this topic is not even covered in the books of Numbers and Leviticus. My personal thought here is that they kept a large fire burning outside the camp and basically dumped the bodies onto this fire. This may seem rather callous to you, but we have an average of approximately 150 people dying every single day. That is a lot of dead people to bury and that requires a lot of room for burial plots (and, as I mentioned, burial is never discussed in these books).

The Census: One of the greatest contemporary objections to the book of Numbers is the census. The book of Numbers is uncompromisingly consistent in this regard, but many object to this because how could two million people wander in the desert for forty years and live? (6) The Israelites did not wander throughout the desert for forty years; they traveled in the desert for a period of a year and a half, and then another half a year, (roughtly). They cooled their heels in Kadesh-barnea for most of those forty years. (7) The climatic conditions of that area were more favorable at that time toward a large, nomatic group. (8) Too many of us picture the water coming from the rock, an incident which took place in Exodus and was repeated for the second generation in the book of Numbers, to look like maybe a hose was in the middle of the rock. This idea is based upon pictures that we have seen in children's Bible stories. Obviously, two million thirsty people and their cattle cannot get enough water from a garden hose. Try standing at a water fountain behind two hundred people and see how fast your thirst is assauged. Much worst to be standing behind two million people. The first we can comprehend; the large number of the second makes this totally incomprehensible. However, this was not a garden hose-sized stream of water; Psalm 78:20 105:41 both indicate that quite a river was almost an immediate result of this miracle. (9) It was clearly miraculous for such a large group to be fed and clothed during this time in the wilderness. Our God is a God of the miraculous. Many of the miracles pertaining to the preservation of these people are not even recorded in Scripture, and others are alluded to very briefly (e.g., Moses said to the second generation: "And I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot."—Deut. 29:5). For these two generations of Jews, miracles were almost commonplace. They had no excuse for their unbelief.

For these reasons, you may read of many authors hedging on the numbers in Numbers; and some make some very good arguments, reducing the population of Israel to a hundred thousand or two, as opposed to two million. But ultimately, we have a problem that their numbers do not add up; they are not consistent. And such an increase in population from a group of seventy in Egypt would have not only not been noteworthy (as recorded in Ex. 1:7, 20), but, if anything, would indicate moderate growth at best.

Final Comments: Numbers, like much of the Old Testament, has been all but ignored in our day of apostasy; however, this is a great book which demands our attention, earns our interest and gives us invaluable historical data on the people of Israel.

Numbers 1


Numbers 1:1–54


Outline of Chapter 1:

       vv.   1–3      The command by God for Moses to take a census

       vv.   4–17    The heads of the tribes to assist with the census

       vv.  18–46    The census is taken

       vv.  47–54    The responsibilities of the Levites

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: In Num. 1 we have the first of two censuses taken in this book of Numbers, so aptly titled. The original plan was for Israel to immediately go into the land and conquer it. However, they will fail a major test at Kadesh Barnea and God will cause them to cool their heels in the desert for an additional forty years until the generation that God loathed dies out.

The Command by God for Moses to Take a Census


And Yahweh spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year of their going out of the land of Egypt, saying, [Num. 1:1]

Moses has been careful to give us a place and date in order to fix this point in history. He was a methodical person in this way. We were able to determine to the month when the book of Leviticus was written. According to Num. 33:38, the scope of this book is 38–39 years. This is thirteen months after Israel began her exodus from Egypt and Aaron will die on the first day of the fifth month in the fortieth year. That makes this book 38 years and four months in its duration between Num. 1:1 and 33:38. Since the book of Deuteronomy begins on the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, Numbers spans 38 years and 9 months. During this time we will see this evil generation struck down by God.

The NIV points out that dating the time of their wanderings using the anchor of the Exodus is very similar to the Christian quoting dates as being a.d. or b.c. (before or after the year of our Lord). Our Lord's death is the great act of deliverance of our souls, just as the deaths of the first born of the sons of Egypt marked the great act of deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Here, the Jews had packed up and began to wander through the desert. They had been at the foot of the Sinai mountains, which they had walked along. This was their second time to break a semi-permanent camp. After escaping the Egyptians, they had been traveling through the desert of Sinai and they parked themselves in front of Mount Sinai while Moses received the beginning of the Law from Yahweh (Ex. 19:1–2). They broke camp after the golden calf incident (Ex. 32) and moved along the mountains of Sinai (Ex. 33:1–6). However, they remained near to these mountains (Lev. 27:34).


"Take a census [lit. head] [or, take a head count] of all the congregation of the sons of Israel by their families, by the house of their fathers, in the number of names—every male by their head by head. [Num. 1:2]


Take is the masculine singular, Qal imperative of nâsâ’ (א ָ ָנ ) [pronounced naw--SAW], a word with 46 renderings in the Authorized version, among them: exact, ease, contain, cast, lade, marry, respect, suffer; it means, as we have seen, to lift, to take, to bear, to carry. Moses bears the primary responsibility, so this verb is in the singular, even though Aaron will assist him and the twelve to be mentioned will also assist them. What Moses is to take is a rô’sh (ש אֹר ) [pronounced roshe] and it is from an unused root that means shake, and it generally means head as the head is easily shaken. The closest we have to this idiom is take a head count. This idiom is reasonable since the word head has a variety of meanings (e.g., top, chief, front, choicest, leading division). We find a different word for head, used twice, at the end of this verse.

Moses is about to go into battle with the surrounding Gentiles and needs to know his strength.


"From a son of twenty years and upward, every one going out [to] war in Israel, you will number them by their armies, you and Aaron; [Num. 1:3]


The census is to be taken of all the men able to go to war. The word translated war is tsâbâʾ (א ָב ָצ ) [pronounced tsawb-VAW], and it can mean army, war, or warfare. It is usually translated hosts in the KJV, which often is sort of a pansy translation, as you do not realize that we are speaking of war and warfare when you hear the word host. Most people seem to think that we are speaking of a band of angels carrying harps and singing sweet hymns. However, the picture is more of a huge army of angels ready to do battle. In this context, we are speaking of all the sons of Israel who are draft age—who are old enough to go to war. God has clearly given the promised land to Israel; however, they will have to take it, which includes going to war against the present inhabitants. This census is not taken for the purposes of siple information or for taxation purposes, but to determine how many men will be going to war. This is a military census. We will see this phrase another thirteen times throughout this chapter.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Heads of the Tribes to Assist with the Census


"And with you there is a man for each tribe, a man he [is] a head to the house of his fathers. [Num. 1:4]


Moses and Aaron will not personally count each and every person. There will be a man with them from each tribe of Israel, a head to the house of his fathers. That is, there will be a tribal leader from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. There is not word for each in this verse, although some translations have the word each occur twice. What is here twice is the word for man, ‛îysh (שי  ̣א ) [pronounced eesh].


"And these [are] the names of the men who stand with you: [Num. 1:5a]

God does not even expect Moses and Aaron to choose the men who would stand for the tribes—God chooses these men Himself. This way, there is no popularity contest, no one can resent Moses or Aaron because he was not chosen, and, most importantly, the correct people can be chosen to head up a tribe.


"For Reuben—Elizur [pronounced el-ee-TSOOR], son of Shedeur [pronounced shed-ay-OOR]; [Num. 1:5b]


Ben (ן  ) [pronounced ben] simply means son, a word that we find nearly 5000 times in the Old Testament. What we have here is essentially our equivalent of a first and last name: Elizur ben Shedeur—the primary difference being that the father's name is his father's first name. The tribe of Reuben would be on the south saide of the camp (Num. 2:10). Although Reuben was the eldest of the sons of Jacob, he was called unstable as water—that is, he would take the form of the container that he was poured into—which means that he did not have the characterisitics of a leader. He was not the oldest son to whom his brothers could look up to. Therefore, when offerings were presented by the leaders of the tribes, Elizur ben Shedeur was fourth, not a reflection upon his own character, but upon that of his father, Reuben. Elizur's name means God of [the] rock; his father's name means spreader of light. By their names, they both appear to have some doctrine and some divine viewpoint.

However, other than God choosing him for this important position of leadership, he did not distinguish himself in any way apart from the rest of the heads of Israel and is therefore not mentioned apart from the other tribe leaders. All five references to him in the book of Numbers are the same standard five references given to the other eleven.


"For Simeon—Shelumiel [pronounced shel-oo-mee-ALE], son of Zurishaddai [pronounced tsoo-ree-shad-DAH-ee]; [Num. 1:6]

He and his tribe also camped on the south side with the tribe of Reuben (Num. 2:12). He was the fifth to offer sacrifices to God (Num. 7:36) and also was not distinguished from the other tribal leaders. His name means peace with God and his father's name means rock of [the] Almighty. In the Apocraphyl book of Judith, his name is listed as Salamiel, son of Salasadai (Judith 8:1).


"From Judah—Nahshon [pronounced nahk-SHONE], son of Amminadab [pronounced am-mee-naw-DAWB]; [Num. 1:7]

Although the tribes are being given in order of the birth of their fathers, Nahshon ben Amminadab is one of the pre-emminent of the tribal leaders. Amminadab means people of liberality and Nahshon means enchanter. He was in the line of David (Ruth 4:20–22 1Chron. 2:10), in the legal line of our Lord (Matt. 1:4) and in the matriarchal line of our Lord (Luke 3:32). Furthermore, you may note with the pronounciations that we do not have a correct transliteration here (as well in several other cases). It appears as though the KJV set the standard for the names and most Bible translations go with it. Nahshon's sister became the wife of Aaron (Ex. 6:23). Due to his position in the line of Christ and the fact that his father, Judah, did eventually become a person with character, he gave his offering first of all (Num. 7:12). He is also listed first when his tribe takes a position on the East side in Num. 2:3. Furthermore, he took the lead when their troops set out (Num. 10:14). It just goes to show that you can name your children whatever you want, but unless they are well-trained and use their own volition properly, there is no telling how they will turn out.


"For Issachar—Nethaneel [pronounced neth-an-ALE], son of Zuar [pronounced tsoo-AWR]; [Num. 1:8]

Nethaneel means given of God, and Zuar means small. Although Nethaneel's name occurs several times throughout the Old Testament, the one spoken of here finds his name only five times, where we would expect it to be. Nethaneel gave his offering on the second day.


"From Zebulun—Eliab [pronounced el-ee-AWB], the son of Helon [pronounced chay-LONE]; [Num. 1:9]

Eliab means God of [his] father. HIs offering was on the third day.


"From the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim—Elishama, the son of Ammihud; from Manasseh—Gamaliel, the son of Pedahzur; [Num. 1:10]

Elishama [pronounced el-ee-shaw-MAW] means God of Hearing, Ammihud [pronounced am-mee-0HOOD] means people of splendor, Gamaliel [pronounced gam-lee-ALE] means reward of God, and Pedahzur [pronounced ped-aw-TSOOR] means a rock has ransomed. Elishama shows up in the standard five places of prominence plus one: we find out in 1Chron. 7:26–7 that he is the father of Nun and the grandfather of Joshua. There are six other people in the Bible with his name. Gamaliel sounds as though he should have been a man of great spiritual growth; however, he is found in the typical five places (Num. 1:10 2:20 7:54, 59 10:23).


"From Benjamin—Abidan, son of Gideoni; [Num. 1:11]

Abidan [pronounced ab-ee-DAWN] means father of judgement (or, of judge) and Gideoni [pronounced ghid-o-NEE] means warlike. Although Benjamin was the youngest, Abidan made his offering on the nineth day.


"From Dan—Ahiezer, son of Ammishaddai; [Num. 1:12]

Ahiezer [pronounced akh,ee-EH-zer] means brother of help and Ammishaddai [pronounced am-mee-shad-DAH-ee] means people of [the] Almighty. This man, other than being chosen of God, does not indiviudally distinguish himself.


"From Asher—Pagiel, son of Ocran; [Num. 1:13]

Pagiel [pronounced pag-ee-ALE] means accident of God (for those who thought that birth control and planned parenting is relatively new) and Ocran [pronounced ak-RAWN] means muddler. With names like these, you want these guys to come in first; however, Pagiel shows up in the appointed five portions of God's Word.


"From Gad—Eliasaph, son of Denel; [Num. 1:14]

Eliasaph [pronounced el-yaw-SAWF] means God [is] gatherer and Denel [pronounced deh-oo-ALE] means known of God. He gave his offering on the sixth day (Num. 7:42); but it only goes to show that you can give children all the advantages in the world (both he and his father have spectacular names), and it means nothing without the proper training.


"From Naphtali—Ahira, son of Enan; [Num. 1:15]

Ahira [pronounced akh-ee-RAH] means brother of wrong (or, brother [is] evil) and Enan [pronounced ay-NAWN] means having eyes. Ahira was the last one named and the last to give an offering (Num. 7:78). The sons younger than he are Joseph and Benjamin, yet he is named last.


"These [are] those summoned [by popular demand] of the company, princes of the ancestral tribes [or, tribes of their fathers]; they [are] heads of the thousands Footnote of Israel." [Num. 1:16]


There is a word here found only three times in the Old Testament. Qârîy’ (אי  ̣ר ָק ) [pronounced kaw-REE] is found only here and in Num. 16:2 26:9. The corresponding verb is qârâ’ (א ָר ָק ) [pronounced kaw-RAW] which we find many times throughout the Bible; it means to read, to proclaim, to summon, to call. In order to differentiate this from the words called, and elected, we will translate the adjective summoned [by popular demand]. It is an organic process where these are practically self-proclaimed leaders and men of reknown who stand before their tribe and are popularly affirmed.

Even though I have spoken poorly of these men, it is only in comparison to the others who were also chosen. This is the Exodus generation, a generation which God spoke of as loathing. Moses will live beyond the time of even these men, the leaders of their generation; God will strike these men down in the desert along with their brothers and sons.


And Moses (and Aaron) took these men, who were designated by name; [Num. 1:17]


I placed Aaron's name in parentheses because the verb took is in the masculine singular. Gâqabv (ב ַק ָג ) [pronounced gaw-KAHBV] means pierce, and you may be wondering about this, not seeing this word in this verse. Gâqabv is in the Niphal (passive) perfect, meaning that they received the action of the verb. We have seen this verb in Lev. 24:11, 16, when a young man blasphemed (or, pierced) the name of Yahweh (similar usage in Num. 23:8, 25 Job 3:8 5:3). We will see this word to mean a literal piercing in 2Kings 12:9 18:2. However, here it refers to someone who has been designated or distinguished or appointed to a position. What I would like to find, but cannot, is this word used to bore a hole in the ear of a slave which earmarked the slave for lifetime service. That is a different verb entirely (found only in Ex. 21:6).

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Census Is Taken


And all the congregation they assembled on the first of the second month, and they declared their births by thir families, by the house of thir fathers, in the number of names from a son of twenty years and upward, by their polls; [Num. 1:18]

The leaders were all chosen and the men were all assembled all on the same day. Even their leaders did not do a head count, per se, but they assembled in groups and gave the number of males who were twenty years and older from each family. The point is that this was done in an organized fashion.


As Yahweh had commanded Moses; and he numbered them in the desert of Sinai. [Num. 1:19]

God gave Moses the command on the first day of the second month and Moses has everything organized and going on the very same day. Verse 19 summarizes the action and the next 33 verses provide the details. A similar census was taken of the new generation in Num. 26.


So there were: the people of Reuben, Israel's first born—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, and everyone of draft age [lit., going out to the army]. [Num. 1:20]


Only the males would be numbered here. The word for families is mishpâchâk (ה ָח ָ  ׃ש  ̣מ ) [pronounced mish-paw-KHAWH] and it means family, clan, class (of people), species (of animals), or sort (of things).


Their numbered ones, for the tribe of Reuben, are 46,500 [lit., six and forty thousand and five hundred]. [Num. 1:21]


One of the theories which I have been exposed to is that there were fewer people of Israel at this time. The key is the word ʾleph (ף ל א ) [pronounced EH-lef], which has several meanings. I first of all examined similar words to make certain that a change in the vowel point would not change to meaning to a similar and also applicable word. No such changes would have likely occurred without rendering this verse nonsense. This word appears to be rendered a thousand most of the time, in some places only that rendering would make sense, such as Ex. 18:21 and 25, which read, in part, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens (see also Ex. 38:25, 29 1Sam. 29:2). The other meaning is families (however, this is not the same word as we find used for families in the previous verse), which rendering is not found near as often (BDB gives the passages Judges 6:15 1Sam. 10:19 Micah 5:2). This same word is translated kine or cattle in Deut. 7:13 28:4, 18, 51; the reference is to the large number of cattle rather than to the animals themselves. In these few passages where this word could mean something other than a thousand, it could be translated a thousand without obliterating the meaning. However, there are a significant number of passages where a rendering other than one thousand would not make sense. Therefore, whereas I have no emotional attatchment to the actualy physical number of Jews included in this census, meaning it doesn't make any difference to me whether there are 200 or 2,000,000 Israelites, I think that we, purely on linguistic grounds, need to stay with the traditional numbering of 46,500. Furthermore, the context of this verse seems to indicate a head count (recall Num. 2:2: Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head). The Septuagint offers a slightly different number: 46,400 (for those who are wondering, the words for four and for five are very different in the Hebrew). Therefore, the rendering one thousand is supported by the Hebrew, by the context and by the Septuagint.

There are a lot of men who hold to ’eleph not meaning a thousand and most of that is based upon the fact that this is an incredibly large army; the total population of Israel would have had to have been at least two million, which is a lot of people to be meandering through the desert. We have already seen that God has provided them with a bread-like substance, manna; and meat (quail)—which in itself is miraculous, and even more so considering the large numbers that are being fed. We have examined the growth of the Israelites from 70 to two million and have shown that it is possible; there would just had to have been large families and a population explosion, which the Bible alludes to (Ex. 1:7–12). For your own study, the NIV Study Bible gives several possible explanations in fairness in its introduction to Numbers, but you can tell that the author of Numbers, like myself, still lean toward the large numbers presented here. Gleason L Archer in the Encyclopedia of Bible Dificulties Footnote also lists some of the alternate theories and in more detail. He goes into more detail. With those who hold to the alternate theories, their beginning point is not God's Word, but human logic. They begin with the fact that it is unlikely for two million people to live in the desert for forty years, a valid objection; and list a variety of reasons; along with the point of view that for 70 people to become two million in 400 years, that would be a sizable population explosion. From that standpoint, they rationalize what is found in the Scriptures to fit their viewpoint. I might as well give the alternate theories. We have looked at the concept that ’eleph could means families, clans, but this linguistically does not stand, nor is this the way you take a census to determine how many men you have. In determining your own military strength, you do not settle for one division of 147 families as an accurate census. The other theory is that ’eleph could be the word ‛allûp, which means chiefs, so that we are listing the number of chiefs and the number of enlisted men. Our problem here is fivefold: (1) once or twice a mistake like this can be made with the vowel points, but every single time is not likely; (2) this would put us in disagreement with all the codices; (3) we would have several instances of too many chiefs and not enough Indians—for instance, Manasseh would have 32 chiefs and 300 Indians; (4) the Israelites are just now being counted in preparation to be mobilized for war—no one has even begun to think about military training and officer selection; such a view is premature; and, (5) this interpretation does not jive with all of the other numbers given in the Bible. Footnote For those who wish to read an author who does hold to one of these theories dogmatically, there is Robert W. Faid's A More Scientific Approach to More Biblical Mysteries, pp. 71–78; however, it all boils down to all the Biblical evidence lands on the side of the large numbers and all the human viewpoint lands on the side of smaller numbers.

Some additional points which Gleason brings out: even if you reduce the number of people, 30,000 draft age men in the desert would die from thirst and hunger as easily as 600,000.


In regard to the sons of Simeon—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:22]

The second-born was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Simeon: 59,300. [Num. 1:23]

The Septuagint's number is the same here.


In regard to the sons of Gad—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:24]

Gad was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Gad: 45,650. [Num. 1:25]

The Septuagint places Gad much later in this list.


In regard to the sons of Judah—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:26]

Judah was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Judah: 74,600. [Num. 1:27]

The Septuagint's number is 74,600.


In regard to the sons of Issachar—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:28]

The NASB redners this as:Of the sons of Issachar, their genealogical registration by their families, by their father's households, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Issachar: 54,400. [Num. 1:29]

The Septuagint's number is the same.


In regard to the sons of Zebulun—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:30]

Zebulun was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Zebulun: 57,400. [Num. 1:31]

The Septuagint's number is the same.


In regard to the sons of Joseph: in regard to the sons of Ephraim—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:32]

Note that Joseph's tribe is counted as two. Joseph, due to his great spiritual character, received the double portion normally affored to Reuben, the firstborn. Furthermore, the tribe of Levi is not included in this census, so the double portion of Joseph gives us the magic number twelve for the number of tribes.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Ephraim: 40,500. [Num. 1:33]

The Septuagint's number is the same.


In regard to the sons of Manasseh—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:34]

Manasseh was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Manasseh: 32,200. [Num. 1:35]

The Septuagint's number is the same. Note that together, Joseph's children number 72,500, which is the second largest family (after Judah) and almost twice the size of some families, such as Benjamin and Reuben.


In regard to the sons of Benjamin—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:36]

Benjamin was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Benjamin: 35,400. [Num. 1:37]

The Septuagint's number is the same. It is after this verse that the Septuagint inserts the tribe of Gad.


In regard to the sons of Dan—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:38]

Dan was numbered next. This also puts us back on track with the Septuagint.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Dan: 62,700. [Num. 1:39]

The Septuagint's number is the same.


In regard to the sons of Asher—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:40]

The tribe of Asher was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Asher: 41,500. [Num. 1:41]

The Septuagint's number is the same.


In regard to the sons of Naphtali—their births by their families, by the house of their fathers, its numbered ones in the number of names by their polls, every male from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army— [Num. 1:42]

The tribe of Naphtali was numbered next.


Their numbered ones, in regard to the tribe of Naphtali: 53,400. [Num. 1:43]

The Septuagint's number is the same.


These [are] those numbered, whom Moses numbered—and Aaron, and the princes of Israel, twelve men, each was for the house of his fathers [Num. 1:44]

This is a testimonial to authority and organization, as we got an accurate census taken of over 600,000 men.


And they are, all those numbers of [lit., all a numbering of] the sons of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from a son of twenty years and upward, everyone going out to the army in Israel; [Num. 1:45]

By the numbers given, this tells us that they had a reasonable arithmetic system, not exactly based upon ten digits, but similar to that; furthermore, it should be obvious that they have rounded these numbers off to the nearest fifty men.


All those numbered are 603,550. [Num. 1:46]

This is the same number given in the Septuagint. The numbers given in the Massoretic text do add up to 603,550, whereas the numbers for the Septuagint do not. All of these men, except for Joshua and Caleb, will die in the desert. The total number of men conscripted for the army is mentioned here, in Num. 2:3–32 and Ex. 12:37, which reads Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth—about 600,000 men on foot aside from children. A more exact figure is named in Ex. 38:26, a portion of which is evidently an addendum to that passage. This indicates that every figure throughout these portions of Scripture became corrupted—including the codices—or that they stand unabashedly as simply a very large number of Israelites. Recall that Yahweh had made a promise to Abraham that his seed would be as the sand of the sea and the stars of the heavens—and since Abraham had but one son, God had to take up the slack somewhere.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Responsibilities of the Levites


But the Levites, for the tribe of their fathers, have not numbered themselves in their midst; [Num. 1:47]

This is the first place where we will see that God will treat the Levite differently than the other tribes. This was not the case in the book of Leviticus. The general responsibilities of the Levites will be stated in Num. 3:6: "Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him."


For Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 1:48]

Just as in the Book of Leviticus, Yahweh speaks directly to Moses. In the book of Numbers, also a neglected book of the Bible, this particular phrase or one like it occurs over 150 times in 20 different ways. As the NIV Study Bible says, from Num. 1:1 to the last verse, Num. 36:13, this book is filled with direct quotations from God spoken to Moses.


"Only the tribe of Levie you will not number, and you will not take their census in Israel [lit., their heads you will not take up in the midst of the sons of Israel]; [Num. 1:49]

The reason why God is numbering those in Israel, but not numbering the Levites is the Levites will not be involved in the war other than on a spiritual level. The other sons of Israel were numbered because they will be going to war against the cancerous heathen in the land.


"And you are to authorize [or, appoint] the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its articles [or, vessels], and over all that it has; they will bear [or, carry] the tabernacle, and all its articles [or, vessels], and they serve it; and round about the tabernacle, they encamp. [Num. 1:50]

As you will recall, the tabernacle was a temporary tent and the articles of furniture were all desgined so that they could be carried. The Levites were the ones authorized by God to do the moving of the furniture. Their camping about the tabernacle was to guard it. Since the tables of the Law were kept inside the ark, which was inside the tabernacle, this structure became known as the tabernacle of the testimony. Footnote The Law was kept in the Ark of the covenant, and it would be reasonable to assume that Levites were also used to make copies of the Law, as well as to make copies of other documents and other literature. See the Doctrine of the Levites—not finished yet!


"And in the journeying of the tabernacle, the Levites take it down, and in the encamping of the tabernacle, the Levites raise it up; and the stranger who is coming near is put to death." [Num. 1:51]

Here the specific responsibilities of the Levites is given; also, a prohibition of the contact of Gentiles with the tabernacle. In order to have fellowship with God, you must be born again. There is no relationship with God apart from being regenerated. In those days, that meant becoming a Jew. However, in this context, the stranger is anyone who is not a Levite. The Israelites, due to the holiness of God and their own natural depravity, could not approach the tabernacle except as specified in their sacrifices and offerings.


And the sons of Israel have encamped each by his camp, and each by his standard, by their armies. [Num. 1:52]


Chânah (ה ָנ ָח ) [pronounced khaw-NAW] properly means to incline; it is used primarily to pitch a tent, to encamp. This word was used in the past three verses: the Levites were to encamp (Qal imperfect—the Qal is the normal stem of a verb and the imperfect looks at the action of the verb as unfinished or in progress) about the tabernacle; the tabernacle itself is pitched (or, setup) (Qal infinitive—the infinitive is similar to our infinitive where the verb is preceded by to); and the sons of Israel have pitched their tents (Qal perfect—the action is looked upon as one event or as an event or action having been completed) near their tribe, near the standard, or the flag of their tribe.


And the Levites encamp round about the tabernacle of the testmony and there is no wrath on the company of the sons of Israel, and the Levites will keep charge [or, will take custody, or will take the responsibility] of the tabernacle of the testimony. [Num. 1:53]


Encamp is in the Qal imperfect. The Levites camping about the tabernacle are a protection that Yahweh does not bring His wrath down upon the Israelites. There is a play on words which we do not see in my English renderings; it could read: and the Levites will guard what is to be guarded; this is the Qal perfect of shâmar (ר ַמ ָש ) [pronounced shaw-MAHR], which means guard, keep, watch, preserve; and mish'mereth (ת רמ  ׃ש  ̣מ ) [pronounced mish'MEH-reth] and it refers to something which someone has been given charge of or responsibility for. It is that which is guarded or taken charge of. God would designate only certain people to be able to have contact with the tabernacle; everyone else had to only observe.


And the sons of Israel did according to all the Yahweh had commanded Moses; so they have done. [Num. 1:54]


The word for do is ʿâsâh (ה ָ ָע ) [pronounced ģw-SAWH] which means to do, to make, to construct. It is found twice in this verse, first in the Qal imperfect, which describes the individual responsibilities involved in obeying God's Word; and then it is in the Qal perfect which tells us that they had completed God's commands. Recall that they are only a year plus one month out of the land of Egypt and they have seen many miracles and they have seen the execution of several people. They Jews can handle obedience over a short term, but in the long haul, their old sin natures will win out and God will have to strike them down in the desert.

Numbers 2

Numbers 2:1–34

Outline of Chapter 2:

       Vv. 1–2         Yahweh's command to Moses

       Vv. 3–9         The eastern division

       Vv. 10–16     The southern division

       V. 17           The responsibilities of the Levites

       Vv. 18–24     The western division

       Vv. 25–31     The northern division

       Vv. 32–34     A census summary and the obedience of the Israelites

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: Num. 2

Yahweh's Command to Moses


And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, [Num. 2:1]

What other book testifies to God speaking to man?


"The sons of Israel will encamp each man [lit. a man] by his standard, with ensigns of the house of their fathers; they will encamp facing from a distance from round about [or, on every side of] the tent of meeting. [Num. 2:2]


Facing from a distance from is the prefixed preposition mîn and the preposition/adverb neged (ד ג נ ) [pronounced NEH-ghed]. Mîn is a preposition which invovles separation and neged means in front of, opposite to, in the sight of. The Levites were to be close to the tabernacle, thus protecting the other Israelites from God's wrath (Num. 1:53); so this short word tells us that the Israelites were to face the tabernacle and camped a distance away from it. We find a similar usage in Gen. 1:16 Deut. 32:52. A more interesting usage of the same combination can be found in Deut. 28:66 and 2Kings 2:15 (spiritual separation or aloofness is the key in these passages).

Each tribe had a ensign or a banner, different from the other tribes; and each trio of tribes had a standard which they rallied around. The ensign was carried at the head of each tribe and possibly for each subdivision of a tribe; the standard was a much larger field sign. We are not told in the Bible what these flags looked like (if they were flags; however, they were probably more similar to Egyptian standards than our modern flags. Egpytian standards were made of wood and/or metal and the top was shaped like some sacred entity. Freeman gives us some various pictures in his books and at the end of a stick there might be a carved bird or an animal, the head of a Pharaoh or some other symbol.

Jewish tradition, which is not always correct (and rarely has a basis in Bible doctrine) has it that each banner was the color of whatever stone on the high priest's breastplate represented that particular tribe. I don't particularly but that nor is it important, as it is not covered in the Bible. There is also a tradition the the standard fo Judah had the figure of a lion on it; Reuben the figure of a man; Ephraim, the figure of an ox; and Dan, the figure of an eagle (to correspond with Ezek. 1:10 and Rev. 4:7). This is more reasonable and satisfying than the first tradition, but, again, has no basis in fact Footnote .

The direction of God in our lives is pervausive. It encompasses every portion of our lives. For a new Christian, this is frightening, and for those who are unsaved, it might even put you off. However, God's desire for us is the absolute best and he works in every aspect of our lives. Here he organizes the way that the Israelites will camp. Up until this time, they have just been traveling as a huge swath of men, women and livestock in a width of several miles without any sort of real organization. For our God is not God of confusion...let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner (I Cor. 14:33a, 40b).

The Eastern Division


"And those encamping eastward towards the sun-rising [are] the standard of the camp of Judah, by their companies [lit., armies]; and the prince of the sons of Judah [is] Nashon, son of Amminadab; [Num. 2:3]

This chapter will be very much like the portion of the previous chapter which was very repetitious. Yahweh will position these men around the camp. You would expect the leading division to be Reuben, as he was the first-born, but it is Judah. "Judah, your brothers will praise you; you hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who [dares] wake him up? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes, and to him will be the obedience of the peoples." (Jacob speaking to his sons in Gen. 49:8–10). Reuben was the eldest and he should have been in the lead of the first division. However, when the brothers plotted against Joseph and were about to kill them, Reuben, as the first-born, should have put a stop to it. He meekly offered that they should not kill Joseph rather than take a stand as a leader (Gen. 37:18–30). The next two oldest, Levi and Simeon, viciously killed every man in a city to avenge the rape of their sister, whereas there was but two guilty parties, the rapist, and his overindulgent father, Shechem (Gen. 34). This left Judah, who, although not perfect (Gen. 38:1–24), he could at least admit to being wrong and he did not continue with his injustice against Tamar (Gen. 38:25–26). What these brothers did, did not determine the future of their tribe; however, it set up a pattern or precedence for their progeny. I know you are wondering about the Levites and how we see this pattern in forward to the time of our Lord and examine the priests in the gospels—Jesus was persecuted and physically attacked by them on several occasions (Matt. 16:21 Mark 11:27 14:55–56 John 18:19–24). As we have seen, Judah will be the line of Christ.


"And his army, and their numbered ones: 74,600 [lit., four and seventy thousand and six hundred]. [Num. 2:4]

This is the same figure found in Num. 1:27, the population of the men in this tribe who were of draft age.


"And those encamped by him [are] the tribe of Issachar; and the prince of the sons of Issachar [is] Nethaneel, son of Zuar; [Num. 2:5]

Notice that our order is different than we had in Num. 1.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 54,400. [Num. 2:6]

God has certain men that He would like to function together as a unit.


"The tribe of Zebulun; and the prince of the sons of Zebulun: Eliab ben Helon; [Num. 2:7]

Notice that the sentence structure is not as repetitive. Judah, Issachar and Zebulun are all sons of Leah.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 57,400. [Num. 2:8]

So far, all of this is in accord with the Septuagint.


"All those numbered of the camp of Judah: 186,400 [lit., a hundred thousand, and eighty thousand, and six thousand, and four hundred] by their armies; they journey first. [Num. 2:9]

The wording here makes it even less likely that thousand really means chiefs or clans. Judah will take the lead in most of the movement and most of the wars. Our Lord will come from the tribe of Judah.

The Southern Division


"The standard of the camp of Reuben: southward; by their companies [lit., armies]; and the prince of the sons of Reuben: Elizur ben Shedeur; [Num. 2:10]

God has grouped the Israelites into three brigades to make a division.


"And his army, and their numbered ones: 46,500 [lit., six and forty thousand and five hundred]. [Num. 2:11]

This number agrees with chapter 1 and with the Septuagint.


"And those encamped by him: the tribe of Simeon; and the prince of the sons of Simeon: Shelumiel ben Zurishaddai; [Num. 2:12]

Reuben was the lead brigade on the south side.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 59,300. [Num. 2:13]

The numbers again check with Num. 1 and the Septuagint.


"The tribe of Gad; and the prince of the sons of Gad: Eliasaph ben Reuel; Footnote [Num. 2:14]

Reuben, Simeon and Gad are grouped together. Reuben and Simeon were sons of Leah and Gad was a son of her handmaid, Zilpah.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 45,650. [Num. 2:15]

Again the numbers check.


"All those numbered of the camp of Reuben: 115,450 [lit., a hundred thousand, and one and fifty thousand, and four hundred and fifty] by their armies; they journey second. [Num. 2:16]

Notice, as has been the pattern, all of those numbered in Reuben, Simeon and Gad are combined and the total checks, as it should. When the Israelites move out, they will move as three divisions, with Judah's triad in front, Reuben's triad second, Ephraim's third and Dan's will be in the rear.

The Responsibilities of the Levites


"And the tent of meeting, the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps as they encamp; so shall they set out each in position standard by standard. [Num. 2:17]

The book of Numbers begins to give the tribe of Levi, a son of Leah, a place in God's plan. They were to surround the tabernacle and protect the surrounding troops from being in too close of contact with a holy and just God. We have become so informal in our thinking about God that some men, seeing our Lord Jesus Christ would go right up to Him and shake His hand and introduce themselves. Maybe they would say a nice thing about our Lord. We have lost sight of the fact that we are corrupt in His sight; our sins caused the worst pain and suffering ever known to man to our Lord; our old sin nature and our personal sins keep us afar from a holy and just God. God is not some namby pamby, sit out on the lawn with all of us holding hands and smelling flowers. He is the perfect God of the universe who demands no less than perfection and our sins sentence us to no better than everlasting torment in separatin from Him. God cannot come into contact with sinful man. The Levites formed a barrier from God's Presence and the Israelite.

The Western Division


"The standard of the camp of Ephraim by their companies [lit., armies]—westward [lit., on the sea-side]; and the prince of the sons of Ephraim: Elishama ben Ammihud; [Num. 2:18]


When compass directions are given, they are always given in terms of Israel. East is often described as the sun rising and west is often described as the sea as the Mediteranean Sea is West of Israel. The word found here is yâm (ם ָי ) [pronounced yawm] and it does not mean west strictly speaking, but sea. We find this word used in Gen. 1:10, 22, 26, 9:2 as well is a half dozen references to compass direction (Gen. 12:8 13:14 28:14 Ex. 10:19 26:22, 27, etc.). Ex. 10:19 has yâm used twice and translated both sea and west. In fact, until 1Chron. 12:15, there is no specific word for west in the Hebrew. However, here, the people have not been in the land and its lay out is unknown to them. This tells us that a great Sea is on their west side for this to make sense to them. West of them is the Gul of Suez, which they have crossed over. They do not realize that east of them is the Gulf of Jordan. Now, God is speaking and God is consistent; therefore, He will refer to that which is on the west by using the word sea. However, this would not have made any sense to the Israelites unless they also had a sea on their western side at this time. One of the unfortunate things when a translation is made to help clarify what is being said is that some things are lost. His helps us place the Jews on the map. Tradition has them on the Sinai Peninsula and this verse is consistent with that.

Ephraim led the division on the West side. Jacob gave precedence to Ephraim over Manasseh (Gen. 48:13–20). But Israel stretch out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first-born...When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim's head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. And Joesph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born. Place your right hand on his head." But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also will be freat. However, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a multititude of nations." Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh (Gen. 48:14, 17–19, 20b).


"And his army, and their numbered ones: 40,500 [lit., forty thousand and five hundred]. [Num. 2:19]

If these numbers are incorrect, it is amazing that we do not have hundreds of contradictory manuscripts.


"And by him: the tribe of Manasseh; and the prince of the sons of Manasseh; Gamaliel ben Pedahzur; [Num. 2:20]

Manasseh and Ephraim were the two sons of Joseph.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 32,200. [Num. 2:21]

Our numbers check again.


"The tribe of Benjamin; and the prince of the sons of Benjamin: Abidan ben Gideoni; [Num. 2:22]

Jacob was in love with Rachel. He served seven years as a slave, thinking that he was serving this time for her. So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her (Gen. 29:20); one of the most romantic verses of the Bible. His father-in-law to be deceived him and gave him Rachel's sister instead and they had sex before Jacob realized that she was not Rachel. Jacob served Laban, his evil father-in-law, for another seven years and took Rachel as his second bride. Rachel produced two sons, Joseph and Benjamin and Josephj later had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. It is Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh who form the third division of the Israelite army.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 35,400. [Num. 2:23]

God is very careful to inform us of the census figures. There is a reason for that.


"All those numbered of the camp of Ephraim: 108,100 by their armies; they journey third. [Num. 2:24]

The division is then totaled, not as a check to Moses or Aaron, but as a check for us reading God's Word.

The Northern Division


"The standard of the camp of Dan: northward; by their companies [lit., armies]; and the prince of the sons of Dan: Ahiezer ben Ammishaddai; [Num. 2:25]

The fourth and final division was led by Dan.


"And his army, and their numbered ones: 62,700. [Num. 2:26]

Dan had one of the larger populations; he was a son of Bilhah, Rachel's maid.


"And those encamped by him: the tribe of Asher; and the prince of the sons of Asher: Pagiel, ben Ocran; [Num. 2:27]

Asher was one of the two sons of Zilpah, Leah's maid.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 41,500. [Num. 2:28]

The size of Asher's regiment was about average.


"The tribe of Naphtali; and the prince of the sons of Naphtali; Ahira ben Enan; [Num. 2:29]

Naphtali was the only other son of Bilhah, Rachel's maid.


"And his army, and its numbered ones: 53,400. [Num. 2:30]



















































This shows the positioning of the troops around the tabernacle

Our numbers check once again.


"All those numbered of the camp of Dan: 157,600 by their armies; they journey second. [Num. 2:31]

Again, God provides us with a checking figure, rubbing our noses in the fact that there were over 600,000 men in the army of Israel, and over two million Jews that God guided through the desert, an extraordinary miracle.

A Census Summary and the Obedience of the Israelites


"The are those numbered of the sons of Israel by the house of their fathers; all those numberdd of the camps by their armies: 603,550. [Num. 2:32]

Again, this figure matches the one from Num. 1 and is a sum of the four divisions of Israel's army.


"And the Levites have not numbered themselves in the midst of the sons of Israel, as Yahweh had commanded Moses. [Num. 2:33]

This tells us that we did not see the entirety of Yahweh's orders to Moses.


"And the sons of Israel did according to all that Yahweh commanded Moses; so they have encamped by their standards, and so they have journeyed, each by his families by the house of his fathers. [Num. 2:34]

The Israelites went from total disarray wandering through the desert to a very orderly camp, which is quite impressive for a group of this size. For all intents and purposes, they have been a mob (witness the golden calf incident or the murmuring prior to the water coming from the rock). Our armed forces have found out that the first step in molding a fighting unit out of a bunch of undisciplined, egocentric young men, is to first instill discipline and orderliness.

You may be wondering throughout this chapter why was this recorded. It is fine that God wanted the sons of Israel to assemble in a certain way and group together in a certain way, but why the repetitive details? Why number the four divisions? Why even name the number of men if this has already been done in the previous chapter? Whereas this is certainly not anyone's favorite passage, it shows us that God has a specific plan for our lives to which we must adhere for blessing. There are no alternatives and the Christian life is not a seat of the pants experience. God has a direct will within which we will find our greatest earthly blessing. Often what is emphasized in teh Christian life is what we cannot do and how much fun we are missing. What is missed is that in following God's Word, we enter into the greatest earthly life that we can have. God gives us His very best here on earrth and then gives us even greater blessings in eternity. However, I have strayed fromthe questions which I raised. What is most important is that we have some checks and balances to the numbers found in Num. 1. God knew that during our time period, many authors and many Christian men would take issue with the numbers presented in the first chapter of Numbers. However, we are given even more checks and balances in this chapter. They are groups by three's and those populations are summed; then the final summation comes at the end. Furthermore, we will have a census of the next generation and it will be reasonable, considering the numbers that we have here. God is telling us that he has done the impossible. He has fed and protected and guided over two million people in the desert between Egypt and Israel, a miracle which is as great as those which accompanied the exodus from Egypt. God knew there would be skepticism so he just rubbed it in verse after verse. Each verse has more men than human viewpoint scholars would like to see, but these people were sustained in the desert beause God is able. We have an analogous situation in the first chapter of Genesis. So there is no confusion as to the time period alluded to, over and over in Genesis we have a literal 24-hour day presented repetitively in language that can only be understood to mean six literal days. Those who hold to the day--age theory skim that chapter lightly, as those who hold to the various theories concerning a small population here skim the verses lightly.

Numbers 3

Numbers 3:1–51

Outline of Chapter 3:

       Vv. 1–4         The Aaronic priesthood

       Vv. 5–10       Yahweh sets aside the Levites to serve Aaron and his sons

       Vv. 11–13     The Levites will replace the first-born as dedicated to Yahweh

       Vv. 14–39     Census of the Levites and duties assigned to the Levites

       Vv. 40–51     Redemption of the first-born

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: Num. 3 covers the Levite tribe, their genealogy and their background.

The Aaronic Priesthood


And this is the genealogy of [lit., these are the generations of] Aaron and Moses in the day of Yahweh's speaking with Moses near mount Sinai: [Num. 3:1]


Tôwledâh (ה ָד  ׃ל ) [pronounced to-L'DAWH] means generations and usually refers to the account of a man and his descendants (as BDB puts it). The writer is not the person at the top of the list, but he is often either at the end of the list or he is the second to the last. In the book of Genesis, the author generally began with a far ancestor and worked his way down to himself. Genealogy is a good modern translation (Young uses the word births). We are used to seeing the emphasis upon Moses and when Moses and Aaron are named in Scripture, Moses comes first. However, in v. 2, we will examine the line of Aaron, so he takes precedence in this verse.

This is a title of sorts, one which we have seen repeated several times throughout the book of Genesis. What this often connoted was there was a new author and he was about to cover his own genealogical information which would end with himself or with his sons.


And these [are] the names of the sons of Aaron: the firs-born [was] Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar; [Num. 3:2]

You will notice that for the past book plus two chapters, we have been reading one long extended quote from God to Moses or to the people of Israel. It was certainly given over various points in time for the past several weeks and now Moses records some personal information. This begins in this verse and continues in v. 17.


These Footnote [are] the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained as priests [lit., whose hand he has filled to function as a priest]. [Num. 3:3]

When one receives a responsibility or is ordained into an office, this is spoken of as filling one's hand. The last word is the verb cognate for the noun priest; we have no easy way to translate this word except to perform the duties of a priest, to function as a priest, to perform priestly functions. Just bear in mind that is one word.


And Nadab died—Abihu also [lit., and Abihu]—before the face of Yahweh, in their approaching with strange fire before Yahweh, in the desert of Sinai, and sons they had not; and Eleazar—Ithamar also—acts as priest before the face of Aaron, their father. [Num. 3:4]

Moses has written an awful lot of material and realizing that one may just pick up this portion of God's Word in the middle and begin reading, Moses gives a brief history of what happened to the first two sons of Aaron (Lev. 10:1–2).

Yahweh Sets Aside the Levites to Serve Aaron and His Sons


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 3:5]

Unlike before, this will be a relatively short quotation.


"Cause the tribe of Levi to approach and cause it to stand before Aaron, the priest, and they will serve him. [Num. 3:6]

Aaron only had two sons and there was far too much to do with the sacrifices to think about doing anything else. They did not have the time to move the articles of furniture and the rest of the tabernacle. Therefore, God will assign certain responsibilities to the Levites. There is a great many things about the Levite tribe in this book and this book ought to have been named Leviticus.


"And they will guard his commission and [the] commission of the whole congregation before the face of the tent of meeting to serve [or, work] the labor of the tabernacle. [Num. 3:7]

We have a pair of cognates here; they will guard his guarding, and to serve the service or to work the work of the tabernacle is what is actually said in the Hebrew. All of Israel had a responsibility before Yahweh—they may not have known the full extent of it quite yet, but they did have spiritual responsibilities as well as the sons of Aaron had specific spiritual responsibilitities and the Levites were to assist in these. These will be specified:


"And they will take responsiblitiy for [lit., keep or guard] all the furniture [lit., vessels] of the tent of meeting, and the responsibility [or, charge] of the sons of Israel to labor in the labor of the tabernacle. [Num. 3:8]

Again we have a general and a more general responsibility: they are to take charge or take responsibility of the furniture of the tabernacle. That is, it will need to be cleaned, moved, repaired, etc., and they are to see to those responsibilities. In doing so, they will be doing the work of the tabernacle.


"And you will give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; in their being given, they are given to him. Footnote [Num. 3:9]

We have a repetition of the verb for give, set, place both times in the masculine plural, Qal passive participle. The Qal is the common stem; the passive voice means that God places them before Aaron or gives them to Aaron. They repetition of the verb means that this is a solemn gift of great importance. "And observe that I, even I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, given to Yahweh, to perform the service for the tent of meeting." (Num. 18:6). We will see more spiritual responsibilities dropped into the lap of the Levites in Numbers 4 and Deut. 17 and 31. In Deut. 31, we will review the responsibilities of the Levites.

You may be wondering why did God choose the Levites; why not the tribe of Judah or Issachar? Ex. 32:25–29 reads: Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them got out of control to be a derision among their enemies; then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, "Whoever is for Yahweh, to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. and he said to them, "Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, 'Every man put his sword upon his thigh and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend and every man his neighbor.' " So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed and about 3000 men fell that day. Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to Yahweh—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today."


"And you have appointed Aaron and his sons and they have taken the responsibility of their priesthood; and to the stranger who approaches, he will be executed." [Num. 3:10]


There is a play on words which I do not entirely get. It is this very difficult verb pâqad (ד ַק ָ ) [pronounced paw-KAHD]. This is the verb used for taking a census and ggenerally translated numbered. However, this is also the verb often translated appoint, visit, punish; and these are all meanings from the Qal stem. The Levites did not have to be numbered as they served Aaron and his sons, who had been numbered [appointed] by Moses. As I said, it is there in the Hebrew, but I don't quite grasp precisely what is being said.

As for the execution of the stranger; this is not just for the non-Jew. No one but the priest could come into the temple. Being able to come to God is an act of mercy. However, there were strict rules and regulations set up in order to present God's holiness and righteousness and ceremonies which clearly revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who was positive toward God at God-conciousness. Those who feel that God is their best friend or that He overlooks their shortcomings out of love is confused as to Who and What God is. Just as the Jews could not approach God directly, neither can we. Our approach to Godis done only in the power of the Holy Spirit through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no worship in whatever way you feel is correct and God will bless your sincerity—it was God's way or no way at all, and His policy has not changed.

This remained God's policy even beyond the need for the tabernacle (which became a temple). Only the priests could enter into the Holy Place and only the High Priest, once a year, was allowed into the Holy of Holies. None of the disciples went into the sanctuary, nor did our Lord (although He would have been qualified). When our Lord taught in the temple, this would be the temple enclosure. As The Amplified Bible points out, the Greek word used is always the outer area (hieron) and never the sanctuary (naos). Our Lord, at His death, entered into the true Holy of Holies, the throne room and Presence of God.

There is one time in God's Word where a king attempted to enter into the Holy Place; King Uzziah attempted to go into the sanctuary in order to burn incense to God. Eighty priests forced him out and he became a leper for this transgression (I1Chron. 26:16–21).

The Levites were to surround the tent of meeting. They were the only one authorized in the service to the tabernacle. Only the priests could go into the tabernacle. There was to be absolutely no contact between the sons of Israel and any part of the tabernacle or its furniture. They could at best come into the courtyard and observe what was being done. What a marvelous picture of our salvation. All the work was done by Aaron, his sons and the Levites—just as all of our salvation was provided for us by God the Son. Everything for our lives on earth have been provided for us by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They have given to us a whole host of angels as guardian angels, our wall of fire, a protection that is about every single one of us. The Israelites could bring a lamb or a goat without spot and without blemish, as we come to God in Christ. Then the Jew could at best, just observe as this aimal is slaughtered before him. Again, the incredible shadow presented here. It was the Jews, the corrupt, unregenerate Judas, along with the chief priests and the elders of the people (Matt. 26:47b), who came and seized our Lord and brought him before the various courts to be tried and executed. Aaron, who is in charge, is analogous to God the Father; he is the spiritual head of the tent of meeting. One of his two sons kills the sacrifice, putting his hand on its head and identifying with it—analogous to our Lord Jesus Christ. The second son is there doing work which we do not see—analogous to God the Holy Spirit. The Levites, a great number of people, were responsible themselves for taking care of a great many things which we do not see—analogous to the ministering angels given us by God. The Jews who day after day bring forward the sacrifices represent both the sinner coming to God with nothing but the sacrifice of our Lord in his hand; and also representative of the unregenerate Jews who seized our Lord and brought him to be crucified.

The Levites Will Replace the First-Born as Dedicated to Yahweh


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 3:11]

Again, God speaks to Moses.


"Observe, I, even I have taken the Levites from the midst of the sons of Israel instead of every first-born opening a womb among the sons of Israel, and the Levites have been mine. [Num. 3:12]

Prior to this, the first-born had been set apart to God: "Set aside to Me every first-born, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me." (Ex. 13:2). This is because God struck down every first-born of Egypt. This was a substitution; God paid for every first-born of Israel with the death of the first-born of Egypt. See also Ex. 11:4–5 12:21–29 13:11–16. The substitution of one for another is a major theme in Old Testament Scripture.

Those who will serve as ministering saints to God are the Levites, taken from among the Jews. Recall that previously, the Jews were a disorganized mob which God had recently organized and from out of this disorganized mob, He pulled out the Levites to serve Him, as the believers are taken out of this world. We are in a mob which we are taken out of by God. This is the mob of the unregenerates in the world and we are thoroughly mixed in with them, insofar as the world sees. In fact, many believers lives do not even begin to reveal a separation. However, we are pulled out to serve our Lord, rather than those who would be the pre-emminent, the first-born. We are all a family, brothers, as the family of the Levites—called to serve God.


"For every first-born is mine. In the day of My striking every first-born in the land of Egypt, I have sanctified to Myself every first-born in Israel, from man to beast; they are Mine; I [am] Yahweh." [Num. 3:13]

Jesus Christ, when He slaughtered the first-born of the Egyptians, in this sacrifice, He set aside the first-born of Israel for Himself. You are not your own, for you have been bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:19b–20). God has paid a fair price for each of the first born of the Israelites—a first-born for a first-born. When our Lord died for our sins, His death was far more painful than we could ever imagine as He took upon Himself the sins of all of us from Adam down to the last sinner in the millennium. See the Doctrine of the Firstborn.

The complete Doctrine of the Firstborn can be found elsewhere, this is the abbreviated version.

The Abbreviated Doctrine of the Firstborn

1.    Two of the related Hebrew words are:

       a.    In the Hebrew, the word firstborn is bekôwr (בְּכוֹר) [pronounced beKOHR]. Metaphorically, this word is used for anything which is chief or first of its kind Strong’s #1060 BDB #114.

       b.    The feminine noun is bekôwrâh (בְּכוֹרָה) [pronounced bekoh-RAW], which means rights and responsibilities of the firstborn, privileges of the firstborn, birthright [of the firstborn]; primogeniture. By virtue of being born first, each firstborn has certain rights and privileges which are bestowed upon him. We have several instances in the Bible where this is taken away. There was never, by God’s Law, a set of definite rights and responsibilities which belonged to the firstborn. That was a matter of tradition and culture, but not Law. See Gen. 29:26. Strong’s #1062 BDB #114.

2.    The related Greek words:

       a.    The noun/adjective prôtotokos (πρωτοτόκος) [pronounced proh-tot-OK-oss], which means firstborn [of man or animals]; the beginning [first] [of a new series]. Used as an adjective only in Luke 2:7; elsewhere as a noun. Strong’s #4416.

       b.    The neuter noun: prôtotokia (πρωτοτόκια) [pronounced proh-toht-OHK-ee-ah], which means birthright, right [or privilege] of primogeniture, the right or advantages of the firstborn son. This references the religious leadership of a family (the firstborn belongs to God); and the double-portion of the father’s wealth went to him. Strong’s #4415.

3.    Webster gives us two sets of definitions for first-born, which is important in order to interpret the next point:

       a.    First brought forth; first in the order of nativity; eldest; as the first-born son.

       b.    Most excellent; most distinguished or exalted. Christ is called the first-born of every creature.1

4.    It is very important in the Bible, the first time a word is used. This sort of sets the tone and/or the parameters for this word.

       a.    When the first man born to a woman occurs in Scripture, he is named Abel but he is not called Adam and Eve’s firstborn. We associate this term with the firstborn of Abel’s flock which he brings to God to be sacrificed, a sacrifice which God respects (which sacrifice speaks of Jesus Christ). Gen. 4:4

       b.    The first time firstborn is used in the New Testament (Luke 2:7), it also refers to Jesus Christ (the only use of that term in the gospels).

5.    It is in Gen. 25 where we have our first indication that being the firstborn carries with it some privileges. This is the chapter where Esau, the firstborn, and Jacob interact with Isaac, their very old and mostly blind father. Jacob is after the blessing of the firstborn. As we go over the sub-points, bear in mind that the Mosaic Law is not been spoken yet and what we are examining here is more tradition than anything else.

       a.    Esau and Isaac were twins, with Esau being delivered first. Isaac came out next, holding onto the heel of Esau. God spoke to Rebekah concerning these two, saying that they would become two nations who would struggle against one another and that the older would eventually serve the younger (Gen. 25:22–26).

       b.    Unfortunately, both Isaac and Rebekah developed favorites—Isaac preferred his firstborn, Esau, the hunter; and Rebekah preferred Jacob, who apparently learned to cook (Gen. 25:27–29).

       c.    When Esau came in from the field, he was starving—hungry to the point of great weakness. Jacob had made a stew. When Esau asked for some, Jacob made Esau give up his birthright for a bowl of stew. Esau’s rationalization is that he was so hungry, he was about to die and what good is a birthright after death? Just exactly what this birthright entailed is not told to us. We also do not know who was later told about the exchange of the birthright. It is never disclosed whether this was simply between Esau and Jacob, or whether Jacob informed his parents of this information; however, it is implied that this was known in their family in Gen. 27:36. Gen. 25:29–34

       d.    In Gen. 27, Jacob steals the blessing of his father to Esau. He pretends to be Esau (at the urging and help of his mother), and receives the blessing from Isaac that was meant for Esau. This is not necessarily related to one being firstborn or not. Isaac simply, prior to his death, was going to bless Esau, but blessed Jacob instead. Jacob, when masquerading as his brother, identified himself several times to his father as his firstborn.

6.    Jacob also blesses his own sons, referring to Reuben as his firstborn. Then he tells Reuben that he is spineless. Reuben lacked character and judgment. When he comes to Judah, Jacob says that his brothers would praise him and bow down to him, meaning that the descendants of his brothers would bow down and praise his Descendant. Actually, this has a double-fulfillment: it is fulfilled in the royal line which extends David to the last king of Judah; and this is fulfilled in our Lord as well, Whose humanity is in the line of Judah (Luke 3:23–33). What had happened was that Reuben, due to his lack of leadership, particularly with regards to the brothers’ treatment of Joseph, lost his birthright. He lost the leadership aspect of his birthright to Judah and the double portion to Joseph. We will touch on this in 1Chron. 5:1–2, where the passage is properly exegeted (we will examine this probably after the book of Ruth).

7.    Although, traditionally, the firstborn was seen as the primary continuation of the line of the father, and often due more blessing and inheritance, God blessed men based upon their regeneration and cursed men if they were negative toward Him. Gen. 41:51 49:3–4 1Chron. 5:1–2

8.    The Levites were taken as God’s firstborn, instead of the firstborn from every family, as a tribe dedicated to Him. Num. 3:12, 45, 50 The close association with the number of Levites as compared to the number of firstborn was to indication (1) that redemption was involved in setting apart the firstborn; (2) setting apart the Levites as firstborn was analogous to God setting apart Jesus as His firstborn; and (3) the redemption had to be exactly the right amount. Jesus could not just go and suffer on the cross for awhile, and that would do the trick; He had to pay for the sins of all mankind. Redemption, by the way, means payment. This redemption was continued so that all of the firstborn had to be redeemed. Num. 18:15 Again, the idea was to connect redemption with the firstborn with a specific amount (a specific redemption amount).

9.    The Passover: The final judgment against Egypt was to kill their firstborn. This was a type of Christ. Ex. 11–12 Num. 8:16–18 9 Deut. 16:1–6 Psalm 105:36 135:8 136:10 (which passage associates God’s love with striking them down) 1Cor. 5:7 Heb. 11:28

       a.    God calls Israel His firstborn in Ex. 4:22. The implication is that there could be another born of God. However, God used it in this way: Pharaoh was to let God’s firstborn go or He would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn (Ex. 4:23).

       b.    God has Moses threaten the Pharaoh with this in Ex. 11:4–6.

       c.    Death of the firstborn is a type of Christ, as Christ is the Firstborn of God. 1Cor. 5:7 Heb. 1:6

       d.    Prior to the carrying out of this curse, God instructs Moses in the Passover. All of Israel is to, by household, slaughter a lamb. What God says is chilling: “The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.” (Ex. 12:6b). The blood of the lamb is then smeared on both sides and at the top of the door frame (Ex. 12:7, 22). That believers were passed over because of the blood about their door (matching the blood on our Lord’s hands, head and feet), is a picture of God not judging us because He has judged His Firstborn in our stead. When God saw the blood of the Passover at the entrance of the house, God would not go into the house and kill the firstborn (Ex. 12:13, 23). Then they were to roast the lamb with fire without removing any part of it, and then to eat the lamb (Ex. 12:7–11). Fire speaks of God’s judgment, which is put upon His Lamb rather than upon mankind, who deserves death.

       e.    Easton tells us about the Egyptian Pharaoh who was probably the one whose firstborn died during this time: Menephtah is probably the Pharaoh whose first-born was slain. His son did not succeed or survive his father, but died early. The son's tomb has been found at Thebes unfinished, showing it was needed earlier than was expected. Some of the records on the tomb are as follows: “The son whom Menephtah loves; who draws towards him his father's heart, the singer, the prince of archers, who governed Egypt on behalf of his father. Dead.” 2

10.  Jesus Christ is called the firstborn in Psalm 89:27.

11.  Jesus is called the firstborn in the New Testament:

       a.    The first occasion, already mentioned, is Luke 2:7.

       b.    Paul associates Christ as the firstborn of many brothers with election. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified (Rom. 8:29–30).

       c.    Jesus is called the firstborn of all creation in Col. 1:15–16: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through Him and for Him.

       d.    He is also called the firstborn from the dead in Col. 1:18–20: And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. He has this same title in Rev. 1:5

       e.    Heb. 1:5–6: For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and He shall be to Me a son"? And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "Let all God's angels worship Him." (Psalm 2:7 2Sam. 7:14 Deut. 32:43 LXX?).

       f.     We should glean two things from these references: Jesus is not actually born or created, but He is preeminent among all that which has been created. Secondly, His title Firstborn is also to tie Him to the Passover event, where the death of the firstborn, redemption, the blood of the Lamb and the passing over all those under His blood are all gathered together as a type, for which Jesus is the antitype.

Again, this is the abbreviated version of this doctrine.

1  Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of American English from e-sword; topic: first-born.

2  M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary; 1897; from e-Sword, topic: first-born.

Chapter Outline

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines

Census of the Levites and Duties Assigned to the Levites


And Yahweh spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai, saying, [Num. 3:14]

God is no longer speaking to Moses near Mount Sinai but in the desert region of Sinai, which means that the mountains should be far out of view.


""Number the sons of Levi by the house of their fathers, by their families; every male from a son of a month [in age] and upward you will number them." [Num. 3:15]

So this is after they have begun their forced march, as they are now in the desert of Sinai. Number is the same word used for visit, punish, appoint. Here, a census is being taken of the Levites.


And Moses numbered them according to the word of Yahweh, as he had been commanded. [Num. 3:16]

Moses had enough sense to obey when he heard God's Word.


And these are the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari. [Num. 3:17]

We have this information in the records of Genesis (Gen. 46:11) and Exodus (Ex. 6:16–25). Moses has already traced his lineage back in Exodus. This is done so that the various tribes of Levi could be separated.


And these [are] the names of the sons of Gershon by their families: Libne and Shemei. [Num. 3:18]

We have covered these two men and their families back in Ex. 6:17.


And the sons of Kohath, by their families [are] Amram and Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. [Num. 3:19]

Ex. 6:18.


And the sons of Merari by their families [are] Mahli and Mushi; there are the families of the Levites by the house of their fathers . [Num. 3:20]

Ex. 6:19.


Of Gershon [is] the family of the Libnite, and the family of the Shimite; ther are the families of Gershonite. [Num. 3:21]

The purpose of recalling the family line is so that the Levites can be counted and organized as each family will have its own function and place to be.


Their numbered ones, in number, every male from a son of a month and upward, their numbered ones [are] 7500. [Num. 3:22]

This is the Gershonite tribe.


The families of the Gershonite, behind the tabernacle, do encamp westward [lit., toward the sea]. [Num. 3:23]

When it comes to their position with regard to thee tabernaclee, theey will be on the westward, sea side. By this we know they have traveled past the Gulf of Suez but they could not sea the Gulf of Aqaba (which would be to the east or to the southeast).


And the prince of a father's house for the Gershonite [is] Eliasaph ben Lael. [Num. 3:24]

Eliasaph means God gathers and Lael means [belonging] to God. Eliasaph is obviously not the same Eliasaph that we saw in Num. 1:14 and 2:14; That Eliasaph was also chosen as a great leader, but he was the son of Deuel (or, Reuel) in the Gaddite tribe.


And the responsibility of the sons of Gershon in [lit., out of] the tent of meeting: the tabernacle, and the tent, its covering Footnote and the veil at the opening of the tent of meeting; [Num. 3:25]

Our second Eliasaph was in charge of the tabernacle coverings, the curtains fo the court and the main altar. There was a curtain at the entrance to the courtyard (Num. 4:26); at the entrance of the tabernacle itself (Num. 4:25); and between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Num. 4:5). The tribe of Gershon was responsible for these coverings.


And the hangings of the court and the veil at the opening of the court, which [is] by the tabernacle and by the altar round about, and its cords, in regard to all its service. [Num. 3:26]

This family took the responsibility of the care of these items and the protection of them when moved.

 (as the Jews will be on the move for the next 39 years).


And of Kohath, the family of the Amramite, and the family of the Izharite, and the family of the Hebronite, and the family of the Uzzielite; these are the families of the Kohathite. [Num. 3:27]

Ex. 6:18.


In number, all the males from a son of a month and upward: 8600—keeping the responsibility of the sanctuary. [Num. 3:28]

With the lack of verbs, this reads more like a list than prose. Moses in this verse records the census result and their general function with respect to the tabernacle. The Septuagint reads 8300 here and 8300 is the proper amount needed so that the total would be 22,000. This is one of the very few places where the minority of manuscripts support a number which is incorrect. Likely this was a copiest error.


The families of the sons of Kohath encamp by the side of the tabernacle southward. [Num. 3:29]

Notice that even for these families, they are organized by God.


And the prince of a father's house for the families of the Kohathites: Elizaphan ben Uzziel. [Num. 3:30]

Elizaphan means God of treasure (or, possibly, God has protected) and Uzziel means strength of God (recall that El means God).


And their responsibility: the ark and the table and the candlestick and the altars and the furniture [lit., vessels] of the sanctuary with which they serve, and the veil and all its service. [Num. 3:31]

The general statement was in v. 28 and the more specific duties, or responsibilities, are listed here. They are responsible for the articules of furniture within the tabernacle.


And the prince of the princes of the Levites: Eleazar ben Aaron, the priest: the oversight of those who perform the duties of the sanctuary [lit., the keepers of the charge—or, guardians of the responsibility—of the sanctuary]. [Num. 3:32]

A prince of princes (or, a chief of chiefs), where a noun in the Hebrew is repeated in the genative plural, is an expression of a very emphatic superlative. There is no superlative in the Hebrew, so it is often expressed using a figure of speech like this, known technically as a polyptoton [pronounced po-LYP-to-ton].

The Levites will not have four chiefs over them, but one, to whom the four chiefs will report. We have a God of order and authority. Aaron's son will assume that authority. At this point I do not know how old this son is, however, Aaron is approximately 85, so this son is probably between 40-60 years of age.


Of Merari, the family of the Mahlite, and the family of the Mushite—these [are] the families of Merari. [Num. 3:33]

Ex. 6:19. We have the interesting figure of speech here: an epanadiplosis [pronounced EP-an-a-di-PLO--sis], which where we have the same word at the beginning and the end of a sentence. What is implied is a complete circle, which in this case draws attention to the completeness of the statement.


And their numbered ones, in number, all the males from a son of a month and upward: 6200. [Num. 3:34]

Note that the population of the Levites, even combined, is among the lowest of the the populations of the other tribes. The other tribes numbered the males who were twenty years and older; these are males who are a month old or older. The reason this numbering is done is that these men are not being numbered for war but for service to yahweh, which can begin at any age beyond the age of accountability (and training prior to that is a must, as we will see).


And the prince of a father's house for the families of Merari: Zuriel ben Abihail; by the side of the tabernacle they encamp northward. [Num. 3:35]

Zuriel means rock of God and Abihail means father (or, possessor) of might. Zuriel is mentioned only here in God's Word.


And the oversight—the responsibility of the sons of Merari: the boards of the tabernacle, and its bars and its pillars and its sockets and all its vessels and all its service; [Num. 3:36]

So that we understand here, every tribe and every subdivision had a specific function, a specific part to play in God's plan. Today, we all have specific functions and a specific plan for our lives, found only by being filled with the Holy Spirit, remaining in fellowship and studying God's Word (and not on our own).


And the pillars of the court round about and their sockets and their pins and their cords. [Num. 3:37]

Someday I will know—when I am in heaven—why those who set up the verses would stop midway in a sentence, midway in a thought, and then finish it in the next verse.


























and Aaron's sons




























This shows the positioning of the Levite families around the tabernacle

And those encamping before the tabernacle eastward, before the tent of meeting at the east: Moses and Aaron and his son, keeping the responsibility of the sanctuary for the responsibility of the sons of Israel, and the stranger who approaches is executed. [Num. 3:38]

Again, the stranger is anyone outside of the Levite tribe. The eastward side, or the side of the sun rising, is the most honored place, in general. This reasonably belongs to Moses and Aaron and also to the tribe of Judah, which would produce King David, King Solomon and our Lord Jesus Christ.


All those numbered of the Levites whom Moses numbered—Aaron also Footnote by the command of Yahweh, by their families, every male from a son of a month and upward: 22,000. [Num. 3:39]

This means that there were probably 10,000-15,000 males who were of age 20 and above.

Redemption of the First-born


And Yahweh said to Moses, "Number every first-born male of the sons of Israel from a son of a month and upward, and make a list of their names [lit., take up the number of their names]. [Num. 3:40]

Now God requires Moses to take a census of just the first-born.


"And you have taken the Levites for Me—I Yahweh—instead of every first-born among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites, instead of every firstling among the cattle of the sons of Israel." [Num. 3:41]

The Levites were to be in place of the first-born, which belonged to God. The Levites would belong to God instead. God has paid for the first-born of Israel, which in turn paid for the Levites.


And Moses numbered, as Yahweh had commanded him, all the first-born among the sons of Israel. [Num. 3:42]

Moses again follows God's orders without question or delay.


And all the first-born—male—by the number of names, from a son of a month and upward, of their numbered ones, are 22,273. [Num. 3:43]

This is the first exact figure which was taken and you will note that there are just enough Levites to stand in the steads of the first-born. We should exmaine some numbers now: if, say, 200,000 of the men of the 600,000 are married and have children, then the number for first-born would reasonably be between 20,000 and 60,000. If a higher number of men are married, that would increase these figures. Well, this is going to cause us some problems with the large population of the Israelites. Under any one of the theories proposed, this number of first-born would have been far too large. However, if you read this carefully, the number of first-born being 20,000 would appear to be too small. This would mean that each family would average ten children, which is excessive at this point. The key here is that the sanctification of the first-born did not occur until Ex. 13:1–2; prior to that, the first-born were not set aside to God. So from that point on, the first-born belonged to Yahweh. This gives us a great many births between Ex. 13 and now (less than two years later). This may not be too large a number; this means that for a period of less than two years, 1 out of 30 men age twenty or above, got married, or were recently married, and they sired their first-born since the Exodus. The population of Israel had grown had a good rate during their persecution; this probably leveled off with the tremendous pressures put upon them by the Egyptian Pharaohs, and this sudden freedom probably blossomed into many marriages and first-born children. This is not too unlike the baby boomer generation of the United States which generated a tremendous populatoin growth immediately following World War II.

Alfred Eldersheim in his book Bible History Old Testament, points out that you cannot judge past population figures by present growth. He gives the example of Austria that, in 1851, saw roughly one marriage for every ten people; which country in 1854, had less than one marriage per 100 people. Footnote He also gives the example of England increasing in population by a million in the space of three years, whereas, during the same time period, the number of marriages decreased by 11, 000.


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 3:44]

I am beginning to think that not only did the worst translators get assigned to Leviticus and Numbers, but the very worst guys when it came to dividing up verses.


"Take the Levites instead of every first-born among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites have been Mine—I [am] Yahweh. [Num. 3:45]

The Levites are kept alive as an even trade for every first-born, just as our Lord was raised again and stands as a perfect substitute for our deserving death uponm the cross.


"And those ransomed of the 273 (who are more than the Levites) of the first-born of the sons of Israel; [Num. 3:46]

There are an excess of first-born sons who are not covered by the Levitical population. There were 22,000 Levites (Num. 3:39) and 22,273 firstborn (Lev. 3:43). Therefore, God required Israel to pay a ransom for the excess of 273 men.


"You will take five shekels each by the poll—by the shekel of the sanctuary you will take; twenty gerahs the shekel; [Num. 3:47]

A gerah is approximately 1/40th of an ounce, making a shekel about ½ an ounce (other sources read 4/10ths of an ounce).

Yahweh will not ignore this disparity. Similarly, every sin that we have ever committed and will commit was paid for on the cross. God did not allow a single sin to go without being paid for.


"And you will give the money to Aaron and to his sons, whereby those over and above are ransomed." [Num. 3:48]

A major topic of the Old Testament is the ransoming of fallen man.


And Moses took the ransom money from those over and above those ransomed by the Levites; [Num. 3:49]

God requires an exact accounting for every last person. This 273 first-born which were not redeemed man-for-man by the Levites, were redeemed with silver at five shekels each.


From the first-born of the sons of Israel he took the money, 1365 [shekels] by the shekel of the sanctuary. [Num. 3:50]

The shekel of the sanctuary means that there is a divine standard.

The Levites were taken as God’s firstborn, instead of the firstborn from every family, as a tribe dedicated to Him. Num. 3:12, 45, 50 The close association with the number of Levites as compared to the number of firstborn was to indication (1) that redemption was involved in setting apart the firstborn; (2) setting apart the Levites as firstborn was analogous to God setting apart Jesus as His firstborn; and (3) the redemption had to be exactly the right amount. Jesus could not just go and suffer on the cross for awhile, and that would do the trick; He had to pay for the sins of all mankind.


And Moses gave the money of those ransomed to Aaron and to his sons, according to the word [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, as Yahweh had commanded Moses. [Num. 3:51]

That which is spoken is often called in the Hebrew according to the mouth of.

Numbers 4


Numbers 4:1–49


Outline of Chapter 4:

       Vv.  1–20    The responsibilities of the Kohathites

       Vv. 21–28    The responsibilities of the Gershonites

       Vv. 29–33    The responsibilities of the sons of Merari

       Vv. 34–49    Census figures and summary

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: Num. 4 deals even more specifically with the duties of the Levites; primarily it covers their responsibilities in a move.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Responsibilities of the Kohathites


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, and to Aaron, saying, [Num. 4:1]

Again, this is a direct quote from God. Whoever developed the idea of a red-lettered edition of the Bible did not take it far enough.


"Take up a numbering [lit., a head count] of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi by their families and their fathers' houses; [Num. 4:2]


Rôʾsh (ש אֹר ) [pronounced roshe], as we have seen, means shake, and it generally means head count, as an idiom, although it is used in several other ways. Initially, you should be confused; didn't we just take a census of the sons of Kohath? However, the key here is that this is an unfinished sentence.


"From a son of thirty years and upward, even till a son of fifty years, everyone going in to the service [lit., army], to do the work in the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:3]

The word here used for service is the same one used for the men entering the armed forces. The Levites are entering into a spiritual battle, the likes of which we learn from God's Word, but will never completely appreciate until we are face to face with the Lord.

This is to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they will enter to perform service in the work of the ten of meeting; but at fifty years they will retire from service in the work and not work any more (Num. 8:24–25). Apparently between ages twenty-five and thirty, the Levites went through an apprentice program of sorts.


"This [is] the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting, the holy of holies: [Num. 4:4]

This will be a list of the services that they will perform, primarily with respect to the moving of the tabernacle. The Kohathites have one of the most sacred positions of responsibility—they will be handling the furniture of the Holy Place and from the Holy of Holies. However, they are not to touch it directly (v. 15) or even look at it (v. 20); or they will be executed by God. The Kohathites were under the direct supervision of Aaron and his sons, who would help to keep them from violating God's holiness.

There is a continual emphasis in the Old Testament on the absolute holiness of God and the fact that man can have no direct contact with God. Those who claim to have a casual, friendly relationship with God the Father or with Jesus Christ have not read the Scriptures and do not realize how painfully sinful we are in the light of His perfection.


"And Aaron will go in and his sons when the camp is to set out; and they will take down the veil of the hanging and have covered with it the ark of the testimony. [Num. 4:5]

The weil hanging between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies is used to cover the ark.


"And they will put on it a covering of animal skin, and they will spread Footnote a garment completely of blue [possibly, violet] above, and have placed its poles. [Num. 4:6]

We do not know really what kind of a skin is being talked about here. Various translations use badger or dolphin; so you can see there is no real agreement. The poles being placed are those poles which are used in order to carry the ark. The idea here is simple: the Ark represents Jesus Christ, and what was seen of the Ark, the gold plating, represented His deity. Man cannot look directly upon God’s deity, due to man’s inherent sinfulness. Therefore, the Ark had to be covered when it was moved. We have one incident when the Ark was transported on the orders of King David, that one of the men reached out to steady the Ark, and God struck him dead for that irreverence (2Sam. 6:2–7).


"And on the table of the Presence, they will spread a garment of blue [or, possibly violet], and they will place on it the dishes and the spoons and the bowls and the cups of the libation, and the perpetual bread [lit., bread of continuity] is on it. [Num. 4:7]


Qasewâh (ה ָו  ׃ ַק ) [pronounced ka-S'WAWH] does not mean covers as the KJV has, nor does it mean basins, as implied by The Emphasized Bible; they are simply cups or jugs and this word is found only here and in Ex. 25:29 37:16 1Chron. 28:17.

The perpetual bread or the bread of continuity is simply bread which is always there; the bread speaks of fellowship and even though God and Israel are now estranged, there is a place in God's plan for every single Israelite, both now and in the future. Furthermore, this fellowship with the nation Israel will be restored in the future when Israel returns to the Lord Who bought her.

We might go down to the local liquor store and pick up a few boxes in order to pack the breakables; however, they did not have that luxury; therefore, the related items were placed over the garment which was on the table.


"And they will spread over them a garment of scarlet, and have covered it with a covering of animal skin; and the will place its poles. [Num. 4:8]

The first garment, from a practical viewpoint, holds everything in place; and the animal (of whatever kind) skin, holds everything in place as sort of a ballast. These things which are holy are surrounded by a cloth of blue, which speaks of the third heaven; by a cloth of scarlet, speaking of our Lord's blood; and an animal skin, speaking of our Lord's sacrifice. The latter two items may seem as though they overlap, but recall in the Lord's supper, we partake both of the body and the blood of our Lord (symbolically).


"And they will take a garment of blue [possibly, violet] and they will cover the candlestick of the lamp, and its lights, and its snuffers, and its snuff-dishes, and all its oil vessels with which they minister to them. [Num. 4:9]

God is very explicit as to how these articles of furniture will be moved. There is no use your best judgement here. It is the same for our lives; there is the correct way to conduct ourselves and the incorrect way. God has a perfect pa=lan for our life and we can fulfill that plan. The only way that we can have complete fulfillment in our lives is through fulfilling His plan for our lives. It is the difference between competing in a sporting event on the sdie of the winning team and watching the game from the bench on the sidelines. Our team will win; there is no doubt about that. We will all share in the glory. However, there will be greater prestige and rewards for those who actually played. They will feel the greatest about our final victory of the Devil and his angels.


"And they will place it and all its utensils [lit., vessels] into a covering of animal skin and they will place it on the carrying frame [or, pole]. [Num. 4:10]

We have a tough word here: môwţ (טמ ) [pronounced mote] and it means wavering, fall. This is found only six times in the Old Testament (Num. 4:10, 12 13:23 Psalm 66:9 121:3 Nahum 1:13). This is apparently a pole used to carry things on, although in the Psalms it refers to stability or possibly dependence and reliance.


"And on the golden altar they are to spread a garment of blue, and they will cover it with a covering of animal skin, and they will place [or, position] its poles. [Num. 4:11]

Each article of furniture was to be covered, partially to keep it from being marred or bruised, and partly to shield it from the Israelites as its holiness was just too great.


"And they will take all the utensils [lit., vessels] of service with which they serve in the sanctuary, and they will place [them] into a garment of blue, and they will cover them with a covering of animal skin, and the will place [them] on the bar. [Num. 4:12]

Like the other items of the sanctuary which are carried, these were also placed between the garments and the skin to be carried in a protective way.


"And they will remove the fat-ashes of the altar and have spread over it a garment [of purple]; [Num. 4:13]

It is the altar that the garment is spread over. This tells us that the altar was a repository for ashes.


"And they will put on it [the garment] all its vessels with which they serve about it, the censers, the hooks and the shovels and the bowls, all the utensils [lit., vessels] of the altar, and they will spread on it a covering of animal skin, and will placed its poles. [Num. 4:14]

To remind you, vessels was an all purpose term; it did stand specifically for bowls and containers, but it was a general designation for anything which was used for the altar (or for any of the other pieces of furniture of the tabernacle).


"And Aaron will finish—and his sons also—covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, in the journeying of the camp, and afterward the sons of Kohath will come in to carry [it]; however [lit., and] they do not come into the Holy Place, or they will die; these [things are] the burden of the sons of Kohath in regards to the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:15]

The tenses of the Hebrew language are very difficult to translate consistently as time is not a major concern of the Hebrew tense system. An imperfect tense can be used to describe ongoing past action, present action, or even future action, which is not looked at from an accomplished standpoint. However, the perfect tense, which is usually a completed action, can also stand for an event which is past, present or future. In any case here, the sons of Aaron and their descendants see to the disassembly of the tabernacle before the sons of Kohath move anything.

One portion of this verse may seem awkward—the relative adjective these (referring to the duties enumerated in this passage) and the predicate nominative (as we would know it in the English) of burden, which is in the singular. However, I have added a couple of words to help smooth out the translation.


"And the oversight of Eleazar, son of Aaron, the priest: the oil of the lamp and the spice-perfume, and the present of continuity, and the anointing oil, the oversight of the sanctuary, and in regards to its vessels." [Num. 4:16]


The noun found here is a difficult one: pequddâh (ה ָ ֻק  ׃ ) [pronounced p'kood-DAWH] are the noun cognate for pâqad (ד ַק ָ ) [pronounced paw-KAHD], which we have translated appoint, set, make, committed, laid up, authorize, delegate, designate, number or install. We find pequddâh used to mean visitation in Jer. 8:12 10:15 and it appears to be a time when God has particular contact with someone, whether it be a positive or a negative visitation (recall the verb is used to visit and to punish in Lev. 18:25 Isa. 13:11 26:14; but also it has been used to visit and to bless or to take care of in Gen. 50:24–25). What appears to be implied here is direct contact with God; so in this context, Eleazar will have direct contact with the items named; that is, they will be under his oversight or under his visitation. Only the High Priest was allowed this kind of contact with the most holy of things here on earth, representing God's perfection and righteousness. Even he, being human, could only enter into that Holy of Holies once a year. He merely represent our Lord, Who is perfect and can draw near to God the Father. It is important to note that all this is merely representative of God's perfection and our inadequacies. This will help us to understand David's transport of the ark in a more casual manner in 2Sam. 6.

The oil speaks of the Holy spirit, the spice-perfume of propitiation and satisfaction with our Lord's work upon the cross; the present of continuity (the bread) is fellowship; the anointing oil is the function of the Holy spirit in a person's life—these things are all the responsibility of the priest, who represents the God-man. A priest is a go between God and man and represents Jesus Christ in that way, Who was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, Who was in fellowship continually with God the Father; whose death on the cross was a sweet-savor, inasmuch as it brought us all to God.


And Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, [Num. 4:17]

Where else is it so clear that this is God speaking to man?


"You will not cut off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from the midst of the Levites; [Num. 4:18]

I am nonplussed here; why is Moses being told not to cut the Kohathites out of the loop?


"But do this to them and they will live and do not die in their approaching the Holy of Holies; Aaron and his sons will enter, and they will place them, each man in accordance with his service, and to his burden; [Num. 4:19]

This explains v. 18; if the Kohathites just barge into the Holy of Holies, then God will kill them, thus cutting them off from the midst of the Levites. Therefore, there will be a specific procedure which will be followed whenever the Jews break camp.


"And they will not go in to see when the holy thing is swallowed, so that they don't die." [Num. 4:20]


Bâla׳ (ע ַל ָ ) [pronounced baw-LAHĢ] does not mean even for a moment, as some Bibles translate it (RSV and NASB, for instance) but it means engulf, swallow up. We saw this same word used when the seven thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven fat ears in Joseph's dream (Gen. 41:7, 24) and when the earth swallows up the degenerate idolaters in Ex. 15:12. All this means is that the holy things will first be covered by the sons of Aaron before these Levites have anything to do with them.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Responsibilities of the Gershonites


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 4:21]

This is a continuation of the responsibilities and the regulations concerning the Levites.


"Take up the number of the sons of Gershon also they, by the house of their fathers, by their families; [Num. 4:22]

The sub-tribe of the Gershonites are examined next. The they belongs in v. 22, even though it is not found in many of the English translations.


"From a son of thirty years and upward, till a son of fity years, you will number them, everyone who is going in to serve the host [lit., army], to do the service [lit., to serve the service] in the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:23]

The NASB gives another meaning for number here: muster. Moses would be not necessarily counting these Israelites but determining how many they were and delegating certain duties to each set which He interviewed.

The use of the verb and its cognate give great emphasis to these words; it is almost equivalent to the superlative in the Hebrew (even though there is no superlative, strictly speaking, in the Hebrew).

The tribes of the Levites are examined one at a time. Again, spiritual service is equivalent to going to war. We are in a constant warfare against Satan and his angels. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] or evil in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12).


"This is the service of the families of the Gershonite, to serve—and for burdens: [Num. 4:24]

Their duties and responsibilities will follow:


"And they will bear the curtains of the tabernacle and the tent of meeting, its covering and the covering of the animal skin, which is on it above, and the veil at the opening of the tent of meetings; [Num. 4:25]

Their responsiblities include primarily the curtains and the coverings for the tabernacle.


"And the hangings of the court, and the veil at the opening of the gate of the court which [is] by the tabernacle, and by the altar round about, and their cords and all the vessels of their service, and all that is made for them—so they will serve. [Num. 4:26]

Everything to do with the curtains and coverings are their responsibilities.


"By the word [lit., mouth] of Aaron and his sons will be all the service of the sons of the Gershonite in regard to all their burden [or, responsibility] and in all their service; and you have laid a responsibility [or, charge] on them concerning the responsibility [or, charge] of all their burden. [Num. 4:27]

A chain of command is set up where the Gershonites report to Aaron and his sons.


"This is the service of the families of the sons of the Gershonite in the tent of meeting; and their charge [is] by the hand of Ithamar, son of Aaron, the priest. [Num. 4:28]

Over the Gershonites is Aaron's son, Ithamar.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Responsibilities of the Sons of Merari


"The sons of Merari, by their families, by the house of their fathers, you will number them; [Num. 4:29]

This is the third sub-tribe of the Levites which will be counted and given spiritual responsibilities.


"From a son of thirty years and upward even to a son of fifty years will you number them, everyone who is entering into the host [lit., army], to perform the service of the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:30]

Like the other tribes, these are numbered as to their involvement in the service to God.


"And this [is] the responsibility of their burden: of all the service in the tent of meeting; the boards of the tabernacle, and its bars and the pillars, and its sockets [or, bases]; [Num. 4:31]

The framework of the tabernacle was their responsibility.


"Also [lit., and] the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets [or, bases], and their pins, and their cords; [Num. 4:32a]

The end of this verse is variously translated:


The Amplified Bible           ...and all their accessories for service; and you will assign to them by name the articles which they are to carry [on the march].

The Emphasized Bible    the extent of all their articles, to the extent of all they labour,—and by names shall ye put under their care the articles of their charge of burdens.

KJV                                          ...with all their instruments, and with all their service; and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden.

NASB                                ...with all their equipment and with all their service; and you shall assign each man by name the items he is to carry.

NIV                                    ...all their equipment and everything related to their use. Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry.

NRSV                                ...with all their equipment and al their related service; and you shall assign by name the objects that they are required to carry.

Young's Lit. Translation     ....of all their vessels, and of all their service; and by name ye do number the vessels of the charge of their burden.

It is a matter of how carefully you want to read this; if you are trying to get the general idea of what is occurring, after reading through the various translation, you have it. All the stuff which is related to the framework of the tent and the court is what they are responsible for; each person will have a specific assignment—specific items which they are responsible for and which they will carry. That is all fairly clear. From the standpoint of a translator, this is kind of a mess because the actual vocabulary is so different and inconsistent with the same words being used elsewhere in the Old Testament.

At the beginning of the sentence, we have the pillars of the court followed by three conjunctions, three nouns and three masculine plural suffixes, meaning the next three things belong to the function of the pillars: their sockets, their pegs and their cords. Then the sentence structure changes and we have the lâmed prefixed preposition (to, for, in regard to), the word for all the noun for vessels (and a masculine plural suffix), a conjunction and lâmed again with the word for all and another noun. This change in sentence structure means that we are now talking not about the pillars or anything to do with the pillars, but this refers backs to the sons of Merari—they are the masculine plural suffix here. So it should read: in regards to all their [the sons of Merari's]....and in regards to their [the sons's of Merari's]...

The first noun in use is specifically vessels; this became an all-purpose word. In the ancient world, a vessel was used for a great many things and it could take all shapes, forms and sizes. Things were stored in vessels, including food, utensils, clothing; vessels were used to carry liquid, to be used to drink from, to be used as food containers for a meal. They had such a wide variety of uses, that anything connected with a particular function in life was grouped under the general title of vessel. It doesn't matter that some of the items alluded to were not themselves vessels; therefore, we have the renderings of accessories, articles, instruments, equipment. You see, a vessel can mean different things depending upon what it is a vessel for. That is, it does not even have to mean specifically something in which you could place water if it is attached to a function which has nothing to do with that. I will translate this word component parts; these are the things they will carry. This word is found twice in the plural at the end of this verse, which is why most translations have the same word repeated. Others translators did not do this purely because it would sound funky to the English ear.


Then we have the same sentence structure (and with regard to all of their...) and the word burden, which, in the Hebrew, is ׳ăbvôdâh (ה ָדֹב ֲע ) [pronounced ģub-vo-DAWH] and it means labour, service. In a more modern vocabulary, we might use load, cargo, freight, payload. It is that which is lifted and carried; however, this refers to the act of service as well as to that which is lifted. In other words, the specific things which the sons of Merari are carrying are covered in Num. 4:31b–32a and this last portion of v. 32 is an all purpose phrase naming that these are the freight and responsibilities of the sons of Merari. Strong’s #5656 & 5647 BDB #715.


At the end of the verse we have a verb which has many applications. It is the Qal imperfect of pâqad (ד ַק ָ ) [pronounced paw-KAHD]. We have looked at this word in the Hiphil, the causative stem, and translated it appoint, set, make, committed, laid up, authorize, delegate, designate, or install. This is the word that we have used in taking a census; we have translated it number. What is being done is that each component part is being assigned or matched to a different person, just as each person was numbered in the census. They are being counted off and assigned a particular piece of freight. This is preceded by the word for name, which is preceded by the prefixed bêyth conjunction, which means in, into, at, by; proximity is


"In regards to all of their [referring to the sons of Merari] component parts [lit., vessels], and with regard to all of their service [or, freight]; and by name you will assign [or number] the component parts [lit., vessels] Footnote of the responsibility of their burden [or, load]. [Num. 4:32b]

Even though what is occurring may seem trivial or unimportant to us, it is still nice to have a correct translation and a reasonable understanding of what is occurring here.


"This is the service [or, responsibility] of the families of the sons of Merari, for all their service, in the tent of meeting, by the hand of Ithamar and Aaron the priest." [Num. 4:33]

This is a summary statement, meaning that we will go onto a slightly different subject, we will go into an overall summary of this chapter or a fulfillment of the directives of Yahweh.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Census Figures and Summary


And Moses numbered—and Aaron also, and the leaders of this assembly—the sons of the Kohathites, by their families, and by the house of their fathers. [Num. 4:34]

The imperfect tense for numbering means that Moses took some time to do this census taking; the verb examines this as a process and a continuing action and not as a completed action. This verse tells us it is the Kohathites who are numbered here.


From a son of thirty years and upward, even to a son of fifty years, every one who is entering to to the host [lit. army], for service in the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:35]

This verse tells us which group of the Kohathites were numbered.


And their numbered ones, by their families, are 2750. [Num. 4:36]

This is a reasonable portion of the males to fall between the ages of 30 and 50 given the previous numbers that we have had.


These [are] those numbered of the families of the Kohathite, every one who is serving in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment [lit., mouth] of Yahweh by the hand of Moses. [Num. 4:37]

This tells us what was done, who took the census; that the census was taken as God spoke (meaning not while God spoke but in the manner prescribed by God); and that Moses was in charge.


And those numbered of the sons of Gershon, by their families, and by the house of their fathers; [Num. 4:38]

This short passage is a summary of the census taken of the sub-tribe of Gershon. Notice how they are spoken of slightly differently than the Kohathites. We speak of the families of the Kohathite and the sons of Gershon.


From a son of thirty years and upward, even to a son of fifty years, every one who is entering to to the host [lit. army], for service in the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:39]

This verse tells us which sub-group of the Gershonites were numbered.


And their numbered ones, by their families, are 2630. [Num. 4:40]

This is a reasonable portion of the males to fall between the ages of 30 and 50 given the previous numbers that we have had.


These [are] those numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, every one who is serving in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment [lit., mouth] of Yahweh. [Num. 4:41]

This tells us what was done, who took the census; that the census was taken as God charged Moses.


And those numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, by their families, by the house of their fathers; [Num. 4:42]

Finally we move to the exact numbers of the sons of Merari; notice that they are named in even a different way than the Kohathites. I don't know how noteworthy that is.


From a son of thirty years and upward, even to a son of fifty years, every one who is entering to to the host [lit. army], for service in the tent of meeting. [Num. 4:43]

This verse tells us which sub-group of the sons of Merari were numbered.


And their numbered ones, by their families, are 3200. [Num. 4:44]

This is a reasonable portion of the males to fall between the ages of 30 and 50 given the previous numbers that we have had. This means that the large numbers overall which have been given are probably accurate. From the standpint of human viewpoint, we may not like them, but God's plan does not depend upon human viewpoint.


These [are] those numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment [lit., mouth] of Yahweh by the hand of Moses. [Num. 4:45]

This tells us what was done, who took the census; that the census was taken as God spoke to Moses.


All of those numbered, whom Moses numbered—and Aaron also—, and the leaders of Israel—of the Levites, by their families, and by the house of their fathers; [Num. 4:46]

This is a final summary verse of the census taken overall of the Levites population which fell between the ages of 30 and 50.


From a son of thirty years and upward even to a son of fifty years, every one who is going in to do the work of the service, even the service of burden in the tent of meeting; [Num. 4:47]

Why these couple verse are broken up, I have no clue.


Even their numbered one are 8580; [Num. 4:48]

The three numbers given previously add up to this number.


By the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, he has numbered them, by the hand of Moses, each man by his service and by his burden, with his numbered ones [or, thus they were numbered by him], as Yahweh had commanded Moses. [Num. 4:49]

The last phrase of this verse was translated according to the western Samaritan, the Targum of Jonathan, the Septuagint, the Syriac and the Vulgate codices; in the Masoretic text, this reads: ...thus they were numbered by him were they whom Yahweh command Moses.

Yahweh commanded Moses to number the people and Moses obeyed, delegating the responsibility out as a good leader should do. Furthermore, each man and each group was given their particular responsibilities during the numbering. As we have seen, the word to number can refer to taking a census and it can refer to an assignment of duties.

Return to Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Site Map

Return to the Samuel Homepage

Return to Beginning of this Chapter

Numbers 5


Numbers 5:1–31


Outline of Chapter 5:

       vv.   1–4      Uncleanness is removed from the camp of Israel

       vv.   5–10    Confession and restitution

       vv.  11–31    The determination of the unfaithfulness of a wife

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

I ntroduction: In the first portion of Num. 5, we will see certain defiled people removed from the camp of Israel. Then we quickly examine restitution when the person to be compensated is no longer on the scene. Finally, in part II, we will see a test applied to determine whether one has committed adultery or not. These are not necessarily connected in anyway—these are three different topics presented that way. The fact that they are in the same chapter is nothing more than a convenient man-made division, which has been quite helpful, but not necessarily inspired.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Uncleanness Is Removed from the Camp of Israel


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 5:1]

A true red-lettered edition of the Bible would just about run out of red ink in Leviticus and Numbers. The parallel passage for the next four verses is Lev. 15:1–33.


"Command the sons of Israel, and they will send out of the camp every leper and everyone with an issue and everyone defiled in regard to the dead body [lit., in regard to the soul]. [Num. 5:2]

According to the NIV Study Bible, these discharges from the body were primarily continual discharges from the sexual organs. This is not merely confined to sexually transmitted diseases, but could also refer to women who are hemorrhaging, as in Luke 8:43–48.

We might look upon this as cruel, but the camp of Israel is illustrative of those who are set aside for Yahweh and the only ones who can be set aside are those who are without spot and without blemish. Everyone else is dismissed from the camp, as they are illustrative of what it means to be lost. The NIV Study Bible called them object lessons. The concept of uncleanness was not left abstract nebulous; but God gave Israel concrete illustrations of uncleanness. Any uncleanness whatsoever, and you are kept from fellowship with God and from God's blessing. In this day and age when so many people claim to visit face to face with Jesus while they are shaving, or visit with God the Son in between watching Lavern and Shirley, Footnote we have totally lost track that God is perfection; God is holy. Contact with God is not some whimsical notion. God does not have any contact with that which is unclean.

The ultimate, if you will, in the realm of uncleanness, was that of a dead body. This is a person whose entire earthly existence has stopped; his internal organs no longer function; his body has run out of energy and has begun to decay. It illustrates the absolutely lost state that we find ourselves in with no way out of this life except death. This is why contact with the dead is considered an act of uncleanness. We are not speaking of punishment here or wrongdoing, but contact which makes one unclean. Just as the entire earth and the entire realm of humanity became unclean due to the sins of Adam and the woman; so now we, as of the earth, are unclean. Our Lord, whose work on the cross cleanses us from all unrighteousness, had contact with the dead, as in the case of the daughter of the synagogue official in Mark 5:41—His contact gave her life instead of making Him unclean, as He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.


"From male even to female, you [plural] will send out—outside the camp; so that [lit., and] they will not defile their camps in the midst of which I am temporarily dwelling. [Num. 5:3]

We are going to look at a couple of prepositions in the verse and the final verb:


׳Ad (ד ַע) [pronounced ahd] is used in four entirely different ways: it can be a noun which means perpetuity, a noun which means booty, prey, a preposition that means as far as, even to, up to, until, while, and a conjunction that means until, until that, to the point that, so that even. Here is a preposition which clearly states that every single person is subject to this ban from the camp.


Describing where one is sent with regard to the camp is two prepositions. ʾEl (ל א) [pronounced el] and it is a preposition which denotes direction and is often rendered in, into, unto. It is followed by the prefixed preposition mîn (ן  ̣מ) [pronounced min], a preposition which denotes separation (away from, out from, out of from). The noun which follows means outside. They are being sent in the direction of the outside of the camp away with everyone else. This is all said by placing these two little prepositions prior to the word outside.


After the first person pronoun, the final verb is the Qal active participle of shâkan (ן ַכ ָש) [pronounced shaw-KAHN], the verbal cognate for our word tabernacle (tent). This is why many translations render this where I tabernacle. God dwelling in the camp of Israel, in the tent of meeting, speaks of fellowship on earth and of an eternal relationship in heaven.

In the Bible, we have distinctions between the sexes—that is the laws are applied differently. We have areas where either the man or the woman is named, but what is covered is applicable to both sexes. And, there are passages like this where it is made clear that uncleanness cuts across sexual lines. So there is no confusion, all males and females alike were cast outside the camp. A marvelous illustration, untouched here but implied: what of the man whose wife is unclean and put outside the camp, yet he loves her? What are his options? He chooses to join her in the area of the unclean outside the camp, just as our Lord Jesus Christ left the throne room of God to pursue His beloved Israel, who is outside the camp through uncleanness.

God's Presence remained with Israel in the tent of meeting, foretelling what would occur in eternity. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the tent of God is among men and He will dwell among them and they will be His people and God Himself will be among them. And He will wipe away ever tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be mourning, or crying or pain; the first things have passed away." And nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying will ever come into it [the new Jerusalem], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 21:3–4, 27).


"And the sons of Israel did so, and they sent them outside the camp; as Yahweh had spoken to Moses, so have the sons of Israel done. [Num. 5:4]


Our often used verb for to do, manufacture, make—׳âsâh (ה ָ ָע) [pronounced ģaw-SAWH]—is found here twice; first in the Qal imperfect tense, referring to a process; and then in the Qal perfect, meaning the action was completed. The rounded up those who were with physical defects, which took time—this is a process; and finally, they were removed from the camp. That was the completed (perfective) action. This in no way means that these persons were unbelievers or that they had no chance of being saved. They played a part in God's plan. We all have a place in God's plan and their was outside the camp to portray God's absolute perfection and holiness.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Confession and Restitution

Lev. 6:1–7


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 5:5]

We covered the doctrine of inspiration back in Genesis; however, it does not get much more inspired than this. There are people who try to draw a connection between v. 4 and v. 5 (and between vv. 10 and 11; however, there is no need for such a relation to exist. This are presented as different periods of time when Yahweh spoke to Moses. Therefore, just because they appear in the same chapter, does not mean they hae to be related or connect, nor is there necessarily a natural segue between these three portions of scripture.


"Speak to the sons of Israel, man or woman, when they do any of the sins of mankind, in regard to acting unfaithfully in unfaithfulness against Yahweh and that person is guilty. [Num. 5:6]

The direct vocabulary of God is sometimes more complex than what I am able to deal with without examining it. There are two different words for man here, the first, with woman, is without the definite article and is therefore rendered by some Bibles as a man or a woman; and the second word for man has the definite article and is more of a generic term. Since it is in the singular, I have gone with mankind. This is a sin which was against another person, which is why it is called a sin of mankind. This is followed by the verb and its cognate, acting unfaithfully and unfaithful. This gives great emphasis upon the transgression.

The Bible so far has already given us a list of transgressions against God. Now we are going to deal with those who have transgressed against Him.


"And they will confess their sin which they have done and he will make restitution [for] his guilt with its principal [lit. full amount], and it fifth is added to it, and he will give it to him in reference to whom he had been guilty. [Num. 5:7]


Confess is the Hithpael perfect of yâdâh (ה ָד ָי) [pronounced yaw-DAWH]. This word is used sparingly to cast or throw when found in the Qal or the Piel; Footnote in the Hiphil, the causative stem, it is used to give thanks (1Chron. 16:4 23:30 Psalm 106:47) and occasionally to confess (1Kings 8:33, 35 Job 40:14—this is usually the infinitive and the imperative), and to praise (Psalm 54:6 76:10 99:3—this is usually in the imperfect tense). Finally, in the Hithpael, which is the reflexive intensive (the reflexive of the Piel stem), it means confess (Lev. 5:5 2Chron. 30:22 Ezra 10:1). In all of these examples, we are throwing something down; we are placing our thanks before Yahweh, we are throwing our confession before Him.

Shûwbv (בiש) [pronounced shoobv] is found over a thousand times in the Old Testament. In the simple Qal stem, it just means to turn back, to return (Gen. 16:9 Josh. 2:23 Judges 15:19); however, in the Hiphil (the causative) stem, it can mean to be caused to return (2Sam. 19:11 2Chron. 6:25), to bring (Gen. 14:16 28:15), or to return something, to restore, to make restitution. (Neh. 5:11 Prov. 24:12 Lam. 3:64).

Obviously what has happened it that the guilty party has defrauded or caused harm to the plaintive, and he is restoring to him what was due plus 20%.

V. 8 is somewhat confusing. It's difficult to tell whether the guilty party is making restitution to a kinsman or whether the kinsman is making restitution on his behalf. The translations read:

The Amplified Bible           But if the man [wronged] has no kinsman to whom the restitution may be made, let it be given to the Lord for the priest, besides the ram of atonement with which atonement shall be made for the offender.

The Emphasized Bible      But if one have no kinsman unto whom he may make good that wherein he is guilty then that wherein he is guilty, which is to be restored to Yahweh shall be the priest's,—besides the ram of propitiation, wherewith a propitiatory covering is to be put over him.

KJV                                   But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him.

NASB                                But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the Lord for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him.

NIV                                    But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for hte wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him.

NRSV                                If the injured party has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for the guilty party.

Young's Lit. Translation     And if the man have no redeemer to restore the guilt to, the guilt which is restored is Jehovah's, the preist's, apart from the ram of the atonements, whereby he maketh atonement for him.


This obviously is not going to be an easy verse to exegete. This verse begins with a conjunction, an hypothetical particle (if) and a negative. Then we have the word for man that we had in the previous verse—ʾîysh (שי  ̣א) [pronounced eesh]—this was the word found where we had man or woman. Therefore, this is likely the guilty party, although grammatically it is not impossible for this to refer to the one who was transgressed against. So far this would read: And if not a man... However, preceding a man is the prefixed lâmed preposition, which means to, for, in regard to. Therefore it reads: And if not to a man... This is followed by the Qal active participle of gâʾal (ל ַא ָ) [pronounced gaw-AHL], the verb for redeem. Because we have a preposition before man and because there is no verb for has or is, we would translate this: And if not to a man [there is] one redeeming... This makes reasonable sense when one leaves out the helping phrase there is.

What follows is the lâmed prefixed preposition and the Hiphil infinitive construct of shûwbv (בiש) [pronounced shoobv], which means to restore, to make restitution. The lâmed plus the infinitive makes this act just like an verb infinitive in the English. This is followed by the definite article and the word for guilt, offense or guilt-offense. Unlike most of the translations, there are no relative pronouns and no prepositions here. This portion should read to restore the offense. We have seen that this word can stand for the guilt one has, the offense that he has committed, or the offering which is given on behalf of the offense, the guilt-offering.

Then we have a preposition which could be rendered regarding, to, unto; which gives us some leeway for interpretation here. It is affixed to a singular masculine suffix. This is followed by the definite article and the word for guilt-offense again, and the Hophal participle of restore. The Hophal stem is the passive causative stem. The subject receives the action of the verb. In the participle, we do not have to have a subject per se, yet the verb is still in the passive-causative stem. Then we have the lâmed preposition and Yahweh, and the lâmed preposition, a definite article, and the masculine singular of priest. So far, we have And if not to a man one redeeming to restore the offense regarding him, the offense being restored for Yahweh, for the priest...

Finally we have some agreement in [most of] the translations: apart from the ram of atonements [or, coverings], with which it covers [or, atones] for him.


"And if not to a man a redeemer—to restore the offense [or, the guilt] to him—the offense restoring [is] for Yahweh—for the priest, apart from the ram of the coverings [lit., atonements], with which it covers [or, atones] for him. [Num. 5:8]

Here is a case where there is not someone to whom the guilty party can make restitution for what he has done wrong; that which he should use to restore to another is given directly to Yahweh—actually, to the priests, who represent Yahweh. Here the redeemer is the one who receives restitution. He is not doing the redeeming but receiving the redemption. In addition to the redemption amount, there is the ram which is sacrificed for the sin.


"And every contribution to the holy things of the sons of Israel, which they approach [with] to the priest will be his; [Num. 5:9]

When things are contributed to the tabernacle or for the sacrifices or for the furniture, these things become the priests'. We have a large segment of the population of Israel who serve God directly and have to be remunerated for not being able to go out in a free enterprise system and make a lot of money. In fact, they cannot make any money—it is only what god provides them.


"And any man's hallowed [lit., set apart] things are his; whatever Footnote any man gives to the priest is his." [Num. 5:10]

God allowed for all things given to Him to go directly to the priests as His particular people. Just as Israel were a peculiar people to God among the nations, the priests are a peculiar people to God among the sons of Israel.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Determination of the Unfaithfulness of a Wife


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 5:11]

This means we are dealing with a new topic.


"Speak to the people of Israel and you will say to them, a man of a man—when his woman goes astray and acts unfaithfully [or, commits an infraction] against him—an act of unfaithfulness [or, infraction]. [Num. 5:12]


We have just recently had the verb mâ׳al (ל ַע ָמ) [pronounced maw-ĢAL] and its noun cognate used together. It is usually translated to act unfaithfully, to act treacherously and I have often rendered this as to commit an infraction. We had a similar construction in v. 6. Here is the verb in the Qal imperfect, the prepositional phrase against him and the noun.


"And a man lies with her—the laying of seed—and it is concealed from the eyes of her man, and she goes undetected, yet [lit., and] she has been defiled and [there is] no witness against her and she has not been taken in the act [lit. she has not been seized]; [Num. 5:13]


Although it is fairly obvious what is occurring here, I will cover some of these words anyway. We have the Niphal (passive) perfect of ׳âlam (ם ַל ָע) [pronounced ģaw-LAHM] means to veil from sight, to conceal. The next verb is the Niphal perfect of çâthar (ר ַת ָס) [pronounced saw-THAHR] and it means to hide, to conceal. The difference between these two words is that the first verb describes what is done behind closed doors, in a tent, under a veil—that is, an act which is concealed; and the second word is an act of concealment.


The final verb is tâphas ( ַפ ָ) [pronounced taw-FAHS] and it means to manipulate, to seize. What is amazing here is that the woman, who is a responder, has committed this act of adultery. However, every single verb in this verse of the last four verbs is in the Niphal, the passive, stem—the receiving, responding stem. Only the first verb is in the Qal, where the man is the subject of the verb.


"And a spirit of jealously has passed over him, and he is jealous of his woman, yet [lit., and] she has not been [discovered as having been] defiled; [Num. 5:14]

We have the exact same construction as v. 13 where it reads she has been defiled except there is a negative here. What is implied, but not outrightly stated is that she has not been discovered to receive defilement. There is a terrific closeness between a man and wife and when adultery has occurred, very often the wronged party knows it has occurred. They cannot put their finger on it, but something is terribly wrong. This does not mean that every time a person is suspicious that adultery has occurred; some people are mentally ill and are in almost a constant state of jealousy. The other way to look at these two verses is in v. 13, she has defiled herself and in v. 14 she has not defiled herself and, in both cases, the husband is suspicious of her activity. Whichever the scenario, the woman is not exposed unquestionably as an adulteress, yet the husband suspects infidelity on her part. For jealousy enrages a man and he will not spare in the day of vengeance; he will not accept any ransom nor will he be content though you give many gifts (Prov. 6:34–35).

The thrust of this passage is the determination of the innocence or the guilt of the woman. Adultery is terribly destructive and hurtful to any marriage and the accusation of unfaithfulness is almost as devastating when the accuser is wrong. It is important to discern at this point if the woman is guilty.

What has to be emphasized next is that early on in God's relationship with Israel, God was more spectacular in the realm of signs and wonders. Yahweh performed more miracles and did more things which were extraordinary than occurred later in the history of Israel and certainly more then than the church age after the first century. Therefore, the next portion of this chapter should be examined in that context.


"Then [lit., and] the man will bring his woman to the priest and he will bring in her offering for her, a tenth of the ephah of barley meal. He will not pour oil on it nor will he put on it frankincense, for it [is] a tribute-offering of jealousy—it [is] a tribute-offering of remembrance—a remembrance of guilt-iniquity. [Num. 5:15]

Let me take an unpopular stance. When either party of a marriage has been unfaithful, it is damaging often beyond repair. However, I think that unfaithfulness on the part of the wife cuts deeper into the soul of the man than his infidelities cut into her soul. A woman seems to be better able to forgive such a trespass, although it may take years for her to do so; a man often cannot ever forgive such a thing. This is not a matter of right or wrong; just a matter of a generalized difference between the sexes.

Marriage illustrates Yahweh's relationship to Israel. Footnote The most famous analogy—which was based on historical fact—is the relationship between Hosea and Gomer. Hosea took a wife who was unfaithful to him and he continued to go after her until he finally found her at a slave auction and purchased her for the price of a gored bull. HIs compassion and love, despite her unfaithfulness, illustrates our Lord's love for Israel. God has not cast Israel aside because of her continued unfaithfulness. "And it will never again be the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing to mind the iniquity of their having turned to Egypt. Then they will know that I am Yahweh Elohim." (Ezek. 29:16). Although a husband whose wife has been unfaithful to might bear this in his soul forever, God will not recall the unfaithfulness of Israel.


"And the priest will bring her near and will cause her to stand before Yahweh; [Num. 5:16]

We are coming to a portion of Scripture which was abused in later years. You have to always take into consideration that although what is described is true and worked in those days; this does not mean that this particular function will last for all time. The only reason I am able to go to the Old Testament and dig out what is there is because I had an outstanding Bible teacher, R.B. Thieme, guide me through the New Testament doctrine and place everything into perspective. So many cults and so-called Christian movements have been waylaid by charismatic leaders who did not have a clue as to how to interpret the Old Testament. So let me make this clear:

1.  God has just delivered the newly formed nation Israel from Egypt.

2.  Yahweh delivered Israel using great signs, wonders and miracles.

3.  The Jews were used to God working great deeds before their eyes. They were almost callous toward such miracles.

4.  At the beginning of almost any dispensation or at any change of a dispensation, there is often a preponderance of supernatural activity which belongs to God.

5.  Therefore, what follows has to be put into that historical context, just as we place the miracles and wonders of our Lord into the context of His first coming; and just as we put the miracles and wonders performed by the apostles during the first part of the first century into that historical perspective.

6.  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever refers to His essence as God; it obviously does not refer to His incarnation, His actual time spent here on earth. It has nothing to do with signs and wonders being present during every period of time during every dispensation.


"And the priest will take holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust which is on the floor of the tabernacle, the priest will take it and place [it] into the water; [Num. 5:17]

For those who believe that talking face-to-face with God while alive on earth or speaking in tongues or healings; you may want to take careful notes here and perform this determiner of guilt or innocence.


"And the priest will cause the woman to stand before Yahweh, and he will uncover the woman's head and he will give into her palms the offering of remembrance—it [is] an offering of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest are the bitter waters—the [waters of] cursing. [Num. 5:18]

Which cause the curse or that bring the curse, are two common renders of the end of this verse—albeit, not altogether grammatically accurate. This is a masculine plural (referring back to waters), Piel (intensive stem) participle (making this verb act like an adjectival noun) and a definite article (referring to a specific substantive) means this verse should end as —the cursing. I have supplied additional words to attempt to give this more readability in the English language without entirely destroying the grammatical correctness.


One of the things that we totally miss in this verse is the paronomasia [pronounced par-o-no-MA-si-a]—the term, paronomasia, is the two Greek words, para (for beside) and onomazō (meaning, to name). Two things which sound the same are placed next to one another, either for emphasis, contrast, additional information. Bullinger writes: The figure is very frequently used and is never to be disregard. This figure is common to all languages, but the instances cannot readily be translated from one language to another. Footnote The last three words of this verse read: mêy hammârîym hame’ârărîym (םי  ̣ר ֲר ָא  ׃מ ַה םי  ̣ר ָ ַה י ֵמ) [pronounced may-ham-maw-reem-ham'aw-ra-eem]. As we saw, it was difficult to put together a flowing translation, but part of that problem was the grammar of this verse takes second place to the paronomasia.

So the priest has the woman stand before Yahweh—it is not specified whether this is a public trial or not—and he uncovers her head; and he places the barley meal into her hands. He has the water mixed with dust in his hand (also called the dirty water). The uncovering of the woman's hair shows her submission to the court of law.


"And the priest will cause her to swear, and will say to the woman, 'If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside [to] uncleaness while you under your man—[then] be free of these waters of bitterness bringing the curse; [Num. 5:19]

The woman will testify before God that she has not been unfaithful to her man while being under him.


" 'And you, if you have turned aside under your husband and if you have been defiled and a man has place in you copulation other than your husband;' [Num. 5:20]

I am not certain how far I want to examine the word copulation here except to say that it is only found here and in Lev. 5:33 18:20 and 20:15. Does it mean what you think it means? I am not certain; I haven't studied these verse enough in the original languages.


"And the priest will make the woman take an oath—an oath of a solemn pledge [lit., swear a swearing of a solemn pledge] and the priest will say to the woman, 'Yahweh give you a solemn pledge and an oath in the midst of your people in Yahweh's giving your uterus [or, reproductive system] to fall [or, to be brought down] and your womb to swell; [Num. 5:21]


We have looked at the word for swearing an oath before—Shâbva׳ (ע ַב ָש) [pronounced shawb-VAH] and it may be recognizable to some because it looks so close to the word for Sabbath and seven. It is a verb which literally means to seven oneself or to bind oneself with seven things. It is a verb for swearing to something, binding yourself to something, giving your word on something, even taking an oath. Here it is found first in the Hiphil perfect—the causative stem with completed action—so this one word is translated will make...take an oath. This is followed by the noun cognate, Shebvû׳âh (ה ָע ֻב  ׃ש) [pronounced sheb-voo-AH]; in the original Hebrew, it is formed by merely adding an h; however, the pronunciation was also quite different. We simply render this swear a swearing to illustrate the solemnity of the oath (in the English, it just sounds corny; in the Hebrew, it carries great weight). At the other end of the Hebrew dictionary we have the word ʾâlâh (ה ָל ָא) [pronounced aw-LAW], commonly translated oath, curse, or execration (whatever the heck an execration is). We might also think to translate this as attestation, solemn oath, statement under oath, vow, guarantee, pledge, judicial oath, solemn declaration, solemn promise. We first find this word used in Gen. 24:41, and although most translators use the word oath, even a superficial examination of that context finds that this is not the best rendering of ʾâlâh. An oath is something that you make to someone else. Therefore, in this context, it is more of an agreement, a pact, an obligation, a commitment, a verbal contract. The difference between the two words is ʾâlâh is a solemn oath, a verbal contract, a guarantee, or a pledge that you make to another person; whereas shebvû׳âh is an oath extracted from someone else. Furthermore, ʾâlâh can mean a cursing (see Deut. 30:7 Psalm 10:7 59:12); Footnote however, it appears to me that cursing is a short-cut for saying that a solemn promise has been made which involves the cursing to whomever this promise is made. That is, Yahweh makes a solemn promise and this solemn promise includes His wrath to fall upon someone.


The next verb found twice in this verse is the very common nâthan (ן ַת ָנ) [pronounced naw-THAHN], which means to give, to set, to place, to put. A full four pages of BDB are given to this word, making it rank right up there with most prepositions (which BDB gives the most space to in general). It is first found in the Qal perfect and then in the Qal infinitive construct (the construct simply means that you can follow the word with our English word of). Yahweh will cause the thigh to nâphal (ל ַפ ָנ) [pronounced naw-FAHL]. This word is given two pages in BDB and means to fall, to lie, to die a violent death, to be brought down, to settle, to sleep deeply. This woman has possibly lain with another man. Therefore, God will bring her uterus or reproductive system to fall, to be brought down.


The word translated thigh in the KJV is yâreke (׃ך ר ָי) [pronounced yaw-REKe] and this word is also found in Gen. 24:2, 9 Ex. 32:25, 31–32 46:26 47:29 Ex. 1:5 25:31 Judges 3:16. In most of these verses, it is translated thigh, with the notable exceptions of Gen. 46:26 and Ex. 1:5, where Jacob's immediate prodgeny were said to have come out of his yâreke, which is rendered loins in these two verses (also, see Judges 8:30). This use connects it unquestionably with progeny; so we care causing the loins to fall here. The same word is rendered shaft in Ex. 25:31 and 37:17, as in the shaft of the lampstand. This word is found translated side in Ex. 32:27 40:22, 24 Lev. 1:11 Num. 3:29, 35. So, to explain my translation: 1.  It does not make much sense to cause someone's thigh or side to fall, to be brought down, to die a violent death. 2.  Yâreke is clearly associated with progeny in some passages (Gen. 46:26 Judges 8:30). 3.  Yâreke can be translated in the dual and there can be a right yâreke (Ex. 28:42 Judges 3:21 SOS 7:1). 4.  Yâreke can also be clearly singular where there is no left or right yâreke possible (Ex. 25:31 Num. 8:4). 5.  Context should always be taken into account when rendering a translation. 6.  The next word means womb. 7.  Therefore, I have translated this uterus or reproductive system.

I am certain that there are many who think that I get far too technical when it comes to the language and the examination of the language. Just how the heck do you think you got any English translation? These translators did not sit around calling upon the Holy Ghost to guide their hands and their hearts and then just wrote what their hearts told them to write. Those who were believers certainly called upon God the Holy spirit for guidance; however, their ability to translate a verse came from years upon years of study of the original languages. Prior to the were years of preparation. They worked to get the best manuscripts and examined with great scrutiny alternate readings. A translation just does not happen without great formal training and your examination of God's Word does just not happen. Not only am I fortunate enough to have spent roughly 60,000 hours under the teaching of one of the best Bible exegetes of the 20th century, but I stand upon the shoulders of many great men whose works in philology, history, textual criticism and language are fundamental—absolutely crucial—to my own work. Without such dedicated men as R.B. Thieme, Robert Young, George Wigram, James Strong, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, John Owens, Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius, James Freeman, E.W. Bullinger, and hundreds—probably thousands more—many of whom I will not know even by name until I reach heaven, my work would be trivial and absolutely mediocre at best. The finger has no meaning or use apart from the hand, which is useless apart from the arm—my place in the Christian community, albeit as humble as it is, would be a thousand times less without the dedication and hard, lifetime work of these men. You will never know how many hundreds of thousands of believers from centuries past have touched and enriched your life with their personal dedication and you have no idea how many lives that you will touch in your representation of Jesus Christ here on earth and for how many generations your impact will be felt. In eternity future, I suspect that we will all be amazed as to the intricacy and interdependency of God's plan and how incredibly blessed we are to be able to take any part in it.


Beţen (ן ט ) [pronounced BEH-ten] primarily means womb, and, so far in the Bible, has been used in no other way (Gen. 25:23–24 30:2 36:27 are all of the prior references) Footnote .

The final word, translated to swell, sounds as though it speaks of pregnancy. However, this verb is found only in Num. 5:22, 27 and this related adjective is found only in this verse. Footnote We don't have anything else to guide us, other than the fact that we are speaking of a womb. At this point in time, I will take the coward's way out and say the God will promise that she will be impregnated by this other person. The problem is that there are other more common words which could have been used, either for giving birth or for swelling, which were not. The NIV Study Bible take on this verse, which is interesting, and has great application to this day, is that what is being said is that these waters, through God's intervening action, will cause the woman to miscarry and to become barren. Since the meanin of swell is not certain, and because the word translated thigh in most English Bibles is almost nonsensical, this is not an unreasonable take on this verse's meaning. Looking at it from the perspective of the ancient world, no man would bring his woman before a priest under these circumstances if the child in her womb could be his. From the perspective of this age, this clearly allows for an abortion under certain circumstances—but note who makes the choice—the husband when he suspects infidelity. This would allow for abortion, by application, for cases of rape. Personally, if the woman's life was at stake, I would support an abortion, although that inference cannot be gotten from this verse.

Recall that in Lev. 20:10, the punishment for being taken in adultery was death. Here, the man is uncertain, so he depends upon God to (1) determine the woman's guilt or innocence; and (2) he further depends upon God for the punishment of the woman. Marriage [is] in honor among all, and let the bed [be] undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers (Heb. 13:4).

It is interesting that we have the same offense dealt with differently because of the way guilt was determined. Let me give you an application—when a person is undeniably guilty of a particular crime, no amount of legal maneuvering or loopholes should preclude the swift application of justice. A lawyer should not be faulted for the cleaver and dedicated defense provided for his client; however, our system of law should be faulted when it allows cleverness to supplant justice.


" 'And these waters which cause the curse [lit., the solemn promise] to go into your bowels, to cause your womb to swell and to cause [the] uterus [or, reproductive system] to fall;' and the woman will say, 'Amen amen [lit., truly truly].' [Num. 5:22]

To fall was in the Hiphil, or causative stem. God clearly will promise that her sin will be revealed and that there will be physical manifestations of her sin. It appears as though there are more physical manifestations than simply pregnancy. As many know, amen is merely a transliteration of the Hebrew, which means truly, verily. Often our Lord would say, verily, verily, I say unto you. This is the same idea.


"And the priest will write these solemn promises in a book and he will blot out with the bitter waters; [Num. 5:23]

Leaving the immediate context, note that we have one of the many references to writing here. People could write in that day and time and it was not an abnormal thing for someone to be able to do. Yahweh does not call for a priest who has the ability to write; this is assumed with this verse, indicating that this skill was wide spread, if not relatively universal in Israel. We are not dealing with cave men here—these people were very likely our superiors in intellect; this is revealed in their rich vocabulary and in the nuances of the Hebrew grammar and syntax. There are times that we cannot fully grasp what is being said in a verse of Hebrew not always due to understanding the individual meanings of the words, but that these thoughts are sometimes more complex than our minds are willing to ponder. God's Word can be complex and we do not plumb its depths by closing our eyes and putting our finger on a verse. Nor do we go to the Bible to find our life verse. Footnote Our ignorance before God is so unbelievably pathetic and our lack of interest in His truth is so appalling. We have so many superficial brethren who—let's put it this way, in many families there is this one person that you do not really want anyone else to know you are related to. These, in God's family, are the life-versers and the people who close their eyes and place their finger on a verse for guidance. We might spend eternity with them and without their old sin natures, they may even be likeable. However, when they're invited over for Thanksgiving dinner, I might end up going out to MacDonald’s.


Back to exegesis. The man's jealous feelings have brought the woman before the priest; the priest records in a book her solemn oath that she has not lain with another man. God has made a promise of definite physical manifestations of her sin before all of Israel. Many husbands, in these circumstances, are unable to copulate with their wives, and, if a pregnancy results, it is clear to them they were not the father.


In this verse we have the Qal perfect of mâchâh (ה ָח ָמ) [pronounced maw-KHAWH]—it means to stroke, to rub, to erase, and the implication is that something is being smoothed. This can be used in a positive or a negative way. God promised to wipe out every living thing in Gen. 7:4 (prior to the flood); see also Deut. 25:19 29:20 2Kings 21:13 Psalm 9:5. However, it can be used to wipe away sin, or to blot out transgressions, as in Psalm 51:1, 9 Isa. 43:25. Furthermore, it can be used to wipe away every tear (Isa. 25:8). What has happened is that the priest writes her oath on papyrus and then washes or wipes it with the bitter water which he has prepared.


"Then he will cause the woman to drink the bitter waters the cursing [waters]; and the water—the cursing—will entere into her for bitterness. [Num. 5:24]


Now we have a word for curse: the Piel participle of ʾârar (ר ַר ָא) [pronounced aw-RAHR], which means to bitterly curse. The previous words given did not appear to be curses—that is, they did not appear to be used in the negative sense, although that could be implied. What seems to be the case is that they were given promises or extracted promises. Here, it means curse, pure and simple (Gen. 12:3 Ex.  22:28 Judges 5:23 Mal. 2:2). This is in the Piel stem, which is intensive, and it has the grammatical notation of a direct object, which is why I translated as though it read that the woman was drinking the...cursing waters. This verb is repeated; it is used again as a direct object. If the woman has slept with another man, her action is one that will cause great bitterness in the soul of her man—as some have found it, this can be an irreparable bitterness.


"And the priest will take out of the hand of the woman the tribute-offering of the jealousy and he will wave the tribute offering before Yahweh, and he will approach with it to the altar; [Num. 5:25]

The woman has brought an offering; she may or may not be guilty but her husband suspects her of being guilty. The priest takes the offering and approaches Yahweh with the offering.


"And the priest will take a handful of the tribute-offering—its memorial—and he will cause it to smoke on the altar; and afterwards, he will cause the woman to drink the water. [Num. 5:26]

Many of the tribute offerings were grain offerings (though not all), so this is how the priest is able to take a handful of it. Then the priest puts this handful of the tribute offering on the altar, where there probably is something already burning, and this causes smoke to come up to God. Recall that a grain offering is often one of fellowship and if the woman has committed adultery, then she is out of fellowship. Finally, the priest causes the woman to drink the water Footnote .


"In fact [lit., and], he will cause her to drink the water and it will come to pass for her [lit. she will become]—if she has been defiled and has acted unfaithfully [in] unfaithfulness against her husband—the cursing waters have gone into her for bitter things, and her womb will swell and her uterus [or, reproductive system] will fall, and the woman will become a curse in the midst of her people. [Num. 5:27]

I don't quite follow why her thigh would fall or even what that means, other than perhaps an allusion to morning sickness; however, what appears to be the likely scenario is that she makes a public declaration of her innocence and several months later, her unfaithfulness will become known through her pregnancy. In reading through some of the English translations, it sounded more mysterious and elaborate than that.


"And if the woman has not been defiled but is clean; then [lit., and] she will be acquitted and she may sow seed. [Num. 5:28]


Nâqâh (ה ָק ָנ) [pronounced naw-KAWH], although said to mean to clean, to empty, it really means to be acquitted, unpunished, declared free or declared guiltless (Niphal, or passive, stem—Gen. 24:8 Ex. 21:19 Jer. 2:35), and cleansed, acquitted, declared innocent (Piel, or intensive, stem—Ex. 20:7 Psalm 19:12 Joel 3:21). This verb is found in the Qal stem only in Jer. 49:12.

The last verb is the Niphal perfect of the verb which means to sow seed and this is followed by the masculine singular of the word for seed; this means that, once acquitted, she can return to having children by her husband.

The NIV Study Bible points out that, while some of us may look upon these steps as severe and damaging, a greater wrong would give the woman no recourse whatsoever when accused. A man tired of his wife or a man who has an affair on the side could not frivalously accuse his wife of adultery, divorce her and establish a relationship with another woman. In such a strongly male-dominated society, this sort of action would leave a former wife without financial support and branded for the rest of her life. This law along with the laws dealing with slavery provided rights and legal protection for slaves and women, something almost unheard of in other societies Footnote .


"This: the law of jealousies, when a woman turns aside under her husband an has been defiled; [Num. 5:29]

This verse summarizes what we have just studied.


"Or when a spirit of jealousy passes over a man and he has become jealous of his wife; then he will cause the woman to stand before Yahweh and the priest will do to her all of this law; [Num. 5:30]

This is the other side of the coin. Here, the woman is placed before Yahweh and the priest and she will turn out to be guilty.


"And the man will be acquitted from iniquity, and the woman will bear her iniquity." [Num. 5:31]

The man is jealous and that is a sin; however, if the woman has committed adultery, then he is acquitted from being jealous. This is prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit; but still, this is an amazing verse. There are very few sins which God overlooked, so to speak; yet, in the case of marriage and unfaithfulness, the man was acquitted of the sin of jealousy if his wife committed adultery.

Return to Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Site Map

Return to the Numbers Homepage

Return to Beginning of this Chapter

Numbers 6


Numbers 6:1–27


Outline of Chapter 6:

       Vv. 1–8         Nazarite vows

       Vv. 9–21       Offerings of a Nazarite who has become ceremonially unclean

       Vv. 22–27     The priestly benediction

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Doctrines Covered

Doctrines Alluded To





Introduction: Num. 6 deals with an unusual breed of character—the Nazarite (and the Nazarite vows). Of the stories with which everyone is familiar, that of Sampson if one of the most notorious. Samson was a Nazarite. This is a vocation of personal choice, possibly for those who wished that they were Levites, but were not. Their interest in spiritual service might be greater than that of the average Levite, therefore, the lifestyle of the Nazarite might appeal to such a one. However, this is in no way to be confused with a Nazarene—that is, a person either born or raised in Nazareth. Our Lord was a Nazarene; He was not a Nazarite. So Samson had long hair, as per the Nazarite vows; Jesus Christ did not, because He was not a Nazarite (by vow).

Nazarite Vows


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 6:1]


"Speak to the sons of Israel, and you will say to them, when a man or a woman is caused to do that which is extraordinary—to vow the vow of a Nazarite—to separate himself to Yahweh; [Num. 6:2]


The first thing which should catch your eye, if you recall anything about Samson, is that a Nazarite can be a man or a woman. Until now, I had never thought of a woman becoming a Nazarite. We have seen before the verb pâlâ’ (א ָל ָ) [pronounced paw-LAW], which is usually used of God in reference to doing that which is miraculous or extraordinary. Here, we find this word used the same way, except with reference to a person who has chosen to do that which is extraordinary—set himself apart fully to Yahweh. This is in the Hiphil imperfect, meaning causative continuous action. So this person is caused to make such a choice and, like all spiritual growth, it is done on a day-by-day basis, involving thousands of decisions.

There are actually three different words for separation in this verse (check Zodhiates here and name them).


Nazarite is a transliteration. The Hebrew word is nâzîyr (רי  ̣ז ָנ) [pronounced naw-ZEER] and we have seen this word thrice previously in Scripture: Gen. 49:26 Lev. 25:5, 11. In Gen. 49:26, we are given the renderings distinguished (NASB), the Separated One (The Emphasized Bible), him that was separate (KJV), who was set apart from (NRSV), and separate (Young's); and it is almost ignored, but footnoted as the one separated from in the NIV. Whereas most translations transliterate this word, the Septuagint translated it to separate (obviously, that is the English translation of the Greek). In Lev. 25:5, 11, this word is translated untrimmed vines (NASB), separated thing (Young's) undressed vine (KJV), untended vines (NIV), and unpruned vine (NRSV). The connection here is that this is like a Nazarite with unshorn hair. The corresponding verb is nâzar (ר ַז ָנ) [pronounced naw-ZAHR] and it is translated to take the vows of a Nazarite, to live as a Nazarite; and more simply to separate, to consecrate (Lev. 15:31 22:2 Num. 6:2–3, 5–6, 12 Ezek. 14:7 Hos. 9:10 Zech. 7:3). A related masculine noun is nêzer (ר ז ֵנ) [pronounced nay-ZER], which means crown, consecration, Nazariteship. Strong’s #5145 BDB #634. There is actually a connection between these various renderings. It is a crown which separates one man entirely from every other man; the crown is on the head and the Nazarites crown is his hair, which is untrimmed, like the vines during the Sabbath Year. These are words which began with a common meanings and Yahweh coined them to mean Nazarite, to become a Nazarite.

It is possible that the vows made herein were similar to vows made by the Jews prior to Mount Sinai, but here they are regulated and made a part of God's Law. Making a vow to separate oneself to God is not to be entered into lightly, nor is this to be an exercise in creativity. God was very specific in what He expected of the Nazarite. This separation to God did not mean that these men or women separated themselves from society, per se. That is, they did not go off into the mountains and live off lettuce and bird seed, as Thieme was wont to say. They remained in the camp of Israel. Famous people who have taken the vows of a Nazarite include Samson (Judges 13:5–7 16:17), Samuel (1Sam. 1:11, 28) and possibly John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) and possibly even Paul (Acts 21:23–26), although it would have been a mistake on the part of Paul to enter into a vow like that during the church age.


The end of this verse is very paronomsiac: lînerrôr nâzîyr nerer lehazzîyr (רי  ̣ ַה  ׃ל רי  ̣ז ָנ ר ר נ רֹּר  ׃נ  ̣ל) [pronounced leen'r-roar naw-zeer New Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament-zer l'hahz-zeer], emphasizing the solemn character of this vow.

We have occasionally made reference to the Charismatics; I would guess that there must be a group of them somewhere where of those who, instead of doing incredible miracles or speaking in tongues, they might be taking Nazarite vows.


"From wine and strong drink, he will keep separate; vinegar of wine, and vinegar of strong drink, he will not drink; and any juice of grapes he will not drink; and grapes moist or dry, he will not eat; [Num. 6:3]

The grapes speak of blessing here on earth. Grapes are a personal favorite of mine and I often have them with breakfast, lunch or dinner. To me, they have the most marvelous taste—not too sweet, but wondrously flavorful. As is pointed out here, the Jews were adept at a great deal of food processing. They used grapes to make both vinegar and wine; they ate grapes raw and as raisins. However, the Nazarite would not eat any of the products associated with grapes, as grapes speak of that which is tied to the earth. They are marvelous blessings from God, but they are a part of this fallen earth.


"All the days of his separation, of anything which is made of the wine-vine, from seeds even to skin, he will not eat. [Num. 6:4]

There is a complete abstinence from all that which is associated with unsinful earthly pleasures. As mentioned, the Nazarite is a type of Jesus Christ, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners (Heb. 7:26b).


"All days of the vow of his separation, a razor will not pass over his head until the fulness of the days which he had separated to Yahweh—he is separated—the upper part of the hair of his head has grown up. [Num. 6:5]

Men grow hair on their heads and on their beards. This vow clearly related to the hair of one's head. And she made a vow and said, "O, Yahweh of the armies, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me and not forget Your maidservant, but You will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and a razor will never come on his head (1Sam. 1:11). We have all of thee goofy pictures of the patriarchs with this long flowing hair. This was an unusual vow, not taken by any of the patriarchs and not taken by Moses, Aaron, or any of the prophets that we know much about. The point here is that these men did not all have long, flowing hair. They were not Nazarites. This is a vow of separation. How can you be all that separate if you look exactly like everyone else? Paul made it very clear that if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him (I Cor. 11:14). Taking the vows of a Nazarite was an exception to this. Obviously, long hair would not be a primary distinguishing mark between Nazarites and everyone else if every other male had long, hippie hair. Also see Ezek. 44:20.


"All days of his keeping separate to Yahweh, concerning a dying soul he will not go; [Num. 6:6]

As we have seen, a person who has died represents the ultimate of what this earth has to offer—death. A person's death, although it is a promotion to God, is viewed as tragic and sad—often the result of many accumulated sins and often a result of the natural decay of the body. In any case, from the human standpoint, death is everything which is wrong with this world. We have laws passed which attempt to keep people from dying. The Nazarite is to be separated from all that is related to the earth. Even a priest was allowed contact with close relatives who had died (Lev. 21:1–3). See also Num. 19:11–22.

It might seem logical to you to examine the Doctrine of the Nazarite at this point in time; however, that would be better suited for our first case history, which is Samson in the book of the Judges (Judges 13:5).


"In regard to his father or in regard to his mother or in regard to his brother or in regard to his sister—he is not to cause himself to become unclean for them at their death, for the separation of his God [is] on his head. [Num. 6:7]

The end portion of this verse could have been rendered, ...for the [badge] of separation of his God[—his hair]—[is] on his head. The vow of a Nazarite is not necessarily a lifetime, as is implied by all the days of his vow (vv. 4a, 5a, 6a); however, in order for his hair to grow long and to stand out because it has not been cut, indicates that this vow must last at least several months, if not longer. Even if any of his close family members die during this time period, he is not to defile himself by their deaths. The separation of the Nazarite to God was absolutely complete and total. Even his family ties were not a hindrance to his vows. While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and His brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. And someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers a standing outside seeking to speak to you." but He answered to the one was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And, stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever will do the will of My Father Who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:46–50). Read also Luke 9:59–62.


"All the days of his separation, he is set apart to Yahweh. [Num. 6:8]

The sign of his separation is his unshorn hair and he is to have no contact with worldly pleasures (the grapes) and no contact whatsoever with the dead. He is a man set solely apart to Yahweh—obviously a type of Jesus Christ, Who came not to do His Own will, but the will of His Father. Our Lord had no interests of His Own which He followed, but He did that which God the Father directed Him to do.

Offerings of a Nazarite Who Has Become Ceremonially Unclean


"And when the dead die beside him in an instant, suddenly, and he has defiled the head of his separation, the he will shave his head in the day of his cleansing—on the seventh day, he will shave it. [Num. 6:9]

The Nazarite, particularly one who took his vows during these next 30+ years of wandering, would see a lot of people die; in fact, the Jews would be dying just like flies in the desert during this time period. The Nazarite must then go through a period of cleansing, which involved shaving his head. The cutting of the hair due to uncleanness was also a part of the ritual of one who had been cured from leprosy (Lev. 14:8–9).


"And on the eighth day, he will bring in two turtle doves or two young pigeons to the priest to the opening of the tent of meeting; [Num. 6:10]

Recall that these are the two least expensive offerings. The land was plentiful at that time with these birds.


"And the priest will prepare one for a sin [-offering] and one for a burnt-offering, and he will make atonement [or, a covering] for him because of that which he had missed the mark [or, sinned] in respect to the soul and he had set apart his head on that day; [Num. 6:11]

Recall that the sin offering is the sins are transferred to the animal and the burnt-offering speaks of judgement.


"And he is separated to Yahweh the days of his separation and he will bring in a lamb, a son of a year, for a guilt-offering; and the former days have fallen, for his separation has been defiled [Num. 6:12]


The second to the last verb is the Qal imperfect of nâphal (ל ַפ ָנ) [pronounced naw-FAHL] and it simply means to fall and is often used for the death of someone. Just as our Lord was made sin for us, his association with a dead person makes him unclean and therefore dead to Yahweh. We are not speaking of being out of fellowship or doing anything wrong; he is dead by virtue of association with the dead—just as we, as being born human, are born out of fellowship and spiritually, as well as positionally, are born dead. Our association with the human race, as being descended from Adam places us dead with regard to God. The former days refer to the time of his Nazarite vows and these days have fallen, as he has had contact with the dead.


"And this is the law of the Nazarite; in the day of the completion [lit., fulness or fulfillment] of the days of his separation, he brings it in unto the opening of the tent of meeting; [Num. 6:13]

The Nazarite brings the lamb to the opening of the tent of meeting; note that only the priests were allowed to go inside. It is possible that Paul, in a move which compromised doctrine, was sponsoring those involved in the Nazarite vows in Acts 21:17–26.


"And he has approached with his offering to Yahweh, one he-lamb, a son of a year; a perfect one, for a burnt-offering, and one she-lamb, a daughter of a year, a perfect one, for a sin-offering; and one ram, a perfect one, for peace-offerings. [Num. 6:14]

The peace offering is peace with God, not peace with mankind. As a result of the sin and the burnt-offerings, we have peace with God—we are no longer at enmity with Him. Notice that these animals make for a rather expensive offering.


"And a basket of unleavened breads of fine flour of cakes mixed with oil, and thin cakes of unleavened breads anointed with oil, and their tribute-offering, and their libations. [Num. 6:15]

Unleavened bread speaks of several things: it is the body—uncorrupted by sin—of our Lord given for us, filled with the Holy Spirit (oil). Bread also speaks of fellowship with God through God the Holy Spirit; the unleavened bread being that which is uncorrupted by false doctrine. The drink offering was not consumed by the priests, but poured out in its entirety in the sanctuary (Num. 28:7). A drink represents the life or the soul of a person which is poured out into a body. Just as a drink completely fills whatever container it is poured into, similarly your soul fills your entire body. The drink offering speaks of our Lord pouring out his life for us. In the same way, the cup, after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant by means of My blood." (Luke 22:20). It also speaks of the Holy Spirit which is poured out over our Lord's church. "But this is [similar to] that which was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'And it will be in the last days,' God says, 'That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams; even upon My slaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour fourth of My Spirit, and they will prophesy.' " (Acts 2:16–18 Joel 2:28–29).


"And the priest will approach before the face of Yahweh and will make his sin [-offering] and his burnt offering. [Num. 6:16]

Notice that the one who brings the offering to the priest, does not bring this offering to Yahweh nor does he sacrifice this offering himself, but the priest actually brings the offering before God and kills it. The double meaning of this is that our Lord brings before God the Father His body and offers it upon the cross—we stand upon His finished work, but He brought it before God. Also, it was the result of the priests and the high priest that our Lord was brought before Pilate and Herod and was eventually executed (Luke 22:49–54, 22:66–8:10).


"And the ram he made a sacrifice of peace-offerings to Yahweh, besides the basket of unleavened bread; and the priest will make its present and libation. [Num. 6:17]

Notice again that the priest does all of the work; even though the Nazarite brings these things before the priest, it is the priest who does the sacrificing of the animals and the burning of the unleavened bread and the pouring out of the drink.


"And the Nazarite will shave (at the opening of the tent of meeting the head of his separation and will take the hair of the head of his separation and he will place it on the fire which [is] under the sacrifices of the peace-offerings. [Num. 6:18]

It is the hair of the Nazarite which distinguishes him physically from the other Israelites—or separates him from his brothers and separates him to God.


"And the priest will take the boiled shoulder of the ram and one unleavened cake of the basket and one thin unleavened cake, and he will put on the palms of the Nazarite after his shaving his [badge of] separation; [Num. 6:19]

These things which are sacrificed to Yahweh are placed into the hands of the Nazarite; he takes a hold of them as we take a hold of Jesus Christ for our salvation.


"And the priest will wave them—a wave offering before Yahweh. It [is] holy to the priest, upon the breast of the wave-offering and upon the leg of the contribution; and afterward, the Nazarite will drink wine. [Num. 6:20]


"For I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." (Luke 22:18). At the end, drinking of wine no longer is a reference to legitimate human pleasures on earth, but fellowship with God. Although I tend to spice up the conjunctions once and awhile, as and in the Hebrew does not just mean and, the prepositions are a different thing. The one used here twice is ‛al (ל ַע) [pronounced al ], and it sounds the same in the English, but it should not be mistaken for the preposition ’al (ל ַא) [pronounced al ]. The first preposition basically means upon; it is upon this definition that all its other shades of meaning are discerned. It is variously rendered as on the ground of, according to, on account of, on the basis of, on behalf of, concerning, besides, in addition to, together with, beyond, above, over, by on to, towards, to, against. When rendering this, we do not get to just go and blindly pick out a preposition from above, but what should be on our minds is the relationship between the words in context and the idea of upon. The bread is generally placed upon the sacrifices and burned, therefore I favor this meaning over besides (Young's Translation, The Emphasized Bible) with (KJV), and together with (NASB, Owen's translation, NRSV, NIV).


"This [is] the law of the Nazarite, who vows his offering to Yahweh for his separation, apart from that which his hand attains; according to his vow which he vows so he does on the basis of [lit., upon] the law of his separation." [Num. 6:21]

The portion which reads apart from that which his hand attains; is a reference to any other freewill offering that the Nazarite might bring to Yahweh. This is the concluding statement, the period at the end of the giving of God's laws on a particular topic.

We will examine the Doctrine of the Nazarite. in Judges 13:5.

The Priestly Benediction


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 6:22]

This will be a concluding general statement—a doxology, if you will—as we will spend some time in narrative.


"Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you will bless the sons of Israel, saying to them: [Num. 6:23]

The Bible is legend for its quotes within quotes within quotes. The priests will apparently say this during or after a sacrifice is offered.


" ' "Yahweh bless you and keep you; [Num. 6:24]

Aaron and his sons will call for the provision and blessing of the Israelites and Gods guarding them, as a shepherd guards his sheep. Moses, in speaking to the next generation, said, "Now if will be, if you diligently listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, Yahweh, your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey Yahweh your god. Blessed you will be in the city and blessed you will be in the field. Blessed will be the offspring of your body [lit., the fruit of your womb] and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Blessed will be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed will be when you come in and blessed you are when you go out." (Deut. 28:1–6). Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed, "He [Yahweh] keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness, for not by might will a man prevail." (1Sam. 2:9). A similar prayer is made by Jabez in 1Chron. 4:10.


" ' "Yahweh to cause His face to shine upon you and to favor you; [Num. 6:25]

A reference to Yahweh's face first signifies His presence, and, secondly, signifies His blessing and protection. The face of anyone in the direction of someone else was a blessing or a show of favor; often associated with deliverance and/or salvation. Make Your face to shine upon Your slave; deliver me in Your graciousness (Psalm 31:16). O God, restore us, and cause Your face to shine on us and we will be delivered (Psalm 80:3). "O, Yahweh, let your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary." (Dan. 9:17b). For God Who said, "Light will shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (II Cor. 4:6 Gen. 1:3). It is our reflected light, ideally, which attracts the unbeliever, although we know in practice, many of us are disdained by unbelievers—not for our faith, but for self-righteous, obnoxious behavior. This is not God's plan, however. His plan is for His glory to be reflected from our souls, which does occur on an occasional basis. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16). Unfortunately, some of us will not reflect God's glory until eternity: "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt. 13:43a Dan. 12:3). See also Ex. 33:20, 23 Psalm 51:11 89:15 1Chron. 29:12 Jonah 1:3 I Cor. 13:12.


" ' "Yahweh lift up His face upon you and appoint for you peace." ' [Num. 6:26]

Those of Israel who are in fellowship and who are functioning correctly in God's plan are ambassadors for peace—they help to bring the message of the faraway king of the peace that He offers them. In the Hebrew, v. 24 has 3 words, v. 25 has 5 and v. 26 has 7. "The steadfast mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You; Trust in Yahweh forever, for in God, Yahweh, the everlasting Rock." (Isa. 26:3–4). Yahweh, you will establish peace for us, since You have also performed for us all our works (Isa. 26:12). This is obviously not world peace, but peace with God; which, in turn, means all forms of earthly good and blessing.


"And they have placed My name upon the sons of Israel, and I—even I—bless them." [Num. 6:27]

God's reputation is tied to His name. There are no national gods, all pointing toward the same God; the national deities are demons, and not the true God. There is but one God, Yahweh, Who chose to reveal Himself primarily to the Israelites during the second period of man's history. God is tied to His name Yahweh—not that we need to call Him by that name, as we know Him now by Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, just as there is one mediator between God and man—the man Christ Jesus, there is one revealed member of the Godhead in Old Testament times, and that is specifically Yahweh. And He has chosen to associate Himself and His name with Israel and through this association, bless them. [A prayer of David to Yahweh]: "For what one nation on the earth is like Your people, Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt [and from other] nations and their gods." (2Sam. 7:23). [God speaking to Moses that which is to be said to Israel]: "You will make an altar of earth for Me and you will sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you." (Ex. 20:24).

Numbers 7


Numbers 7:1–89


Outline of Chapter 7:

       Vv.  1–11    The tabernacle is reassembled; preparations are made for the sacrifices

       Vv. 12–83    The offerings of the leaders of Israel

       Vv. 84–89    A summary of the offerings brought before Yahweh

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: We will be reintroduced to the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel in Num. 7. They will all bring offerings before Yahweh. This is a chapter that, if you decided to read the entire Bible, and you got this far, you either went on fast forward or you fell asleep to this chapter. We will have the same six verses repeated almost verbatim twelve times. This is the longest and the most repetitive chapter of the entire Pentateuch. The challenge to a teacher or the challenge to a writer is just what the heck do you say about the exact same verse the tenth or eleventh time that you come across it? How can you even make a comment? If you will open your NASB—the Study Edition, you will notice that between vv. 16 and 83 there is not a single Scriptural reference. I don't know if this is true of any other portion of the Bible which is this extensive. This is God's Word and every part of it is important. However, this was so difficult, I had to resort to using God's Word in order to expand upon what is found here.

The Tabernacle Is Reassembled; Preparations Are Made for the Sacrifices


And it came to pass on the day Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, that he anointed it and sanctified it, and all of its furnishings [lit., vessels] and the altar, and all of its furnishings [lit., vessels], and he anointed them and sanctified them; [Num. 7:1]

Anointing with oil means that Moses recognized the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism and in spiritual growth, with things the tabernacle and its furnishings facilitated, as they revealed Yahweh, the God of Israel, and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Setting these things apart meant that they had the exclusive use for spiritual things.

Obviously, Moses did not himself, personally, set up the entire tabernacle, any more than Bob Builder, the builder of Bob Builder Homes, builds the homes. The builder of any given house may not pick up the hammer even one time to build a particular home. He oversees the work and sub-contracts out the work. Moses saw that everything was organized and set up correctly.


And the princes of Israel—heads of the house of their fathers—they [are] the princes of the tribes, they who are standing over those numbered—[were caused to] approach; [Num. 7:2]

Approach is in the Hiphil (causative) stem; Moses ordered them, by God's Word, to approach, after he had set up the tabernacle.The word which I have consistently rendered approach, is in the 3rd masculine plural. That is, the princes of Israel were caused to approach. They were not caused to offer anything in this sentence. They will approach Yahweh with their offerings.


And they caused their offerings to be brought before Yahweh, six wagons covered, and twelve oxen—a wagon for two of the princes and an ox for one—and they approached [or, were caused to approach] with them before the tabernacle. [Num. 7:3]

What we have here are a great many sacrifices to God. It is not that God is overjoyed to see hundreds of innocent animals offered to Him—however, this communicated the gospel to all of Israel and God the Holy spirit spoke to the next generation of Jews through these sacrifices.


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 7:4]

We don't know if these leaders of the tribes of Israel had been instructed to bring these offerings to Yahweh or if they just chose to do so.


"Receive from them, and they are to do the service [or, they are to serve] of the tent of meeting; and you will give them to the Levites each according to his service." [Num. 7:5]

The plural they refers to the animals. Moses is to receive the animals and then they are to be given to the Levites to be used in the service of the tent of meeting.


And Moses took the wagons and the oxen and gave them to the Levites. [Num. 7:6]

Moses receives the wagons and oxen as gifts from the leaders of Israel. These wagons and oxen were used to bring the offerings of the twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel, but the wagons and oxen themselves were received as gifts.


He gave two wagons and four oxen to the sons of Gershon, according to their service. [Num. 7:7]

There are three sub-tribes of the Levites and one would expect, from this verse, that each tribe would handle an equal share. The Gershonites handled the hangings and the curtains—that was their service.


And he gave four wagons and eight oxen to the sons of Merari according to their service under the direction of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest. [Num. 7:8]

However, the second tribe received twice as much to be responsible for. The Merarites handled the heavy framework and the pillars, so they required most of the wagons.


But to the sons of Kohath, he gave none because the care of the holy thing [was] upon them; on the shoulder they bore [it]. [Num. 7:9]


The word found here is the masculine singular of qôdesh (ש דֹק) [pronounced koe-DESH], which is a noun meaning sacredness, apartness, that which is holy, holy things. We are not referring to the furniture of the tabernacle here or the utensils of the various pieces of furniture because this is in the masculine singular. Some Bible render this holy things, holy objects and some sanctuary; however, they were not in charge of the sanctuary, per se, but they were in charge of the most holy item of all, the ark, and that is what this passage references. Recall that through the rings of the ark were placed the poles and the sons of Kohath were to carry this ark with the poles on their shoulders. This is what this verse refers to and I am not aware of any translation which got this right.

Now, the Kohathites were in charge of most of the sacred furniture (the ark, the lampstand, the altar, the table of showbread—Num. 4:5–15) and all of these holy pieces of furniture were designed with rings and poles that they might be carried without having direct contact with the furniture itself (Ex. 37:13–15, for instance). These pieces of furniture all representing Christ's work upon the cross and they were to be borne on shoulders as our Lord bore our sins. There was not an easy way out and what our Lord did was not without work—in fact, what He did in terms of sacrifice is totally beyond our comprehension. We would have to suffer through the Lake of Fire for a time just to imagine the weight which He bore.


Then the leaders approached the dedication [or, consecration] of the altar in the day of its being anointed; in fact, the princes will approach with their offering before the altar. [Num. 7:10]

When everything was set up again and dedicated to Yahweh, then these leaders were to approach with their offering (the singular means what they brought was seen as a whole).


And Yahweh said to Moses, "One prince to a day—one prince to a day—they will approach with their offering for the dedication of the altar." [Num. 7:11]

Here we know that if these men took the initiative to come before Yahweh with their offerings, that this would be organized by God. Each leader, or prince, would approach Yahweh with his offering on each day. We have a similar dedication of Solomon's temple in 2Chron. 7:8–10: So Solomon observed the feast at that time for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt. And on the eighth day, they held a solemn assembly, for the dedication of the altar they observed seven days, and the feast seven days. Then on the twenty-third day of the seventh month, he sent the people to their tents, rejoicing and happy of heart, because of the goodness that Yahweh had shown to david and to Solomon and to His people, Israel.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Offerings of the Leaders of Israel


Then the one approaching on the first day [with] his offering is Nahshon ben Amminadab of the tribe of Judah. [Num. 7:12]

I have changed the word order somewhat to accurately render the Hebrew. The status quo verb to be is the first word of this sentence—it is in the Qal imperfect, indicating a long list of leaders to come before Yahweh. Approach, a word that we have looked at several times, poorly translated throughout most Bible translations, is in the Hiphil participle—they are caused to approach and the participle makes this verb act as a noun—the subject of this sentence, in fact. Many of the translations use the words he who at this juncture, which is accurate since both verbs are in the masculine singular; however, there is no relative pronoun.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:13]

When you read a repetitive shopping list such as this, you might wonder as to its purpose. It is good in terms of practicing one's Hebrew and it helps us with the meanings of certain words.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:14]


The word translated spoon is actually kaph (ף ַ) [pronounced kaf] and it is generally translated palm, hollow or flat of the hand, sole of the foot and even bowl. The reason that this is translated spoon is because of its weight—it only weighs four ounces (110 grains). Because of that, we can conclude this should be translated spoon in such passages as Ex. 37:16 Num. 4:7 1Kings 7:50. These various renderings are tied together by the concept of the hollow. Strong’s #3709 BDB #496.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:15]

The young bull, of course, speaks of Jesus Christ. He was taken out of the herd, just as our Lord was a Jew taken out of the Jewish race. We have several examples in the New Testament where our Lord, when persecuted, was able to elude his persecutors merely by melting into the crowd. Even at the very end, Judas had to identify our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, to the priests who came for him the night before the cross—because they knew not Who He was.


One kid of the goats [lit., A male-goat of the female goats—one] for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:16]

This first portion of this verse literally reads: A male-goat of the female goats—one. Why are we that concerned? We are just speaking of one male goat when we just come down to it, right? Wrong—the male goat is born out from the female goats, just as it is the seed of the woman from which would come the Savior. It is the uncorrupted 46 chromosomes of the woman from which came our Lord Jesus Christ, holy and undefiled, not polluted by the sin nature of Adam. Every word in God's Word is important—we need to have more than just the gist of what is being said.


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Nashon ben Amminadab. [Num. 7:17]

Once a burnt-offering and a sin-offering had been placed before Yahweh, there was an even greater offering for peace. What follows is an additional 66 verses which state substantially the same thing for each of the other eleven leaders of the remaining nine tribes plus two half-tribes. Matthew Henry expressed the view that each tribal leader had a separate day for his git and the reports were all given equal space, regardless of the individual tribe's strengths, weaknesses, size, etc. Each tribe was fully recognized and each leader was fully recognized for their particular offering and approach to Yahweh. This tells us that each tribe had an equal share in the land and an equal standing before Yahweh that would only change as their dedication changed. However. God took note of everything that each tribe brought before Him and recorded it perfectly in His Word, telling us that our spiritual service is not unnoticed or disregarded even though our lives at times seem rather unspectacular. We will find that there are many unknown heroes from the church age whose prayer, whose personal integrity in their day to day life, whose unfailing witness sometimes before only one person will not pass unnoticed. We all have a specific plan for our lives on this earth and our fulfillment of those plans are what God wants to see. There is no way that we can assign relative merit to individual lives. The quality of our service is not dependent upon our means or its visual impact upon other believers and unbelievers. The widow with two mites gave a great deal more than rich people with great sums of money (Mark 12:41–44). Our all is worth much more than any billionaire's 10% Footnote .


In the second day, Nathanel ben Zuar, leader of the tribe of Issachar, was caused to approach [Yahweh]. [Num. 7:18]

The sentence structure here is somewhat different; approach is in the Hiphil perfect, rather than the Hiphil participle, and there is no is.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:19]

130 shekels is approximately 3¼ pounds, or 1.5 kg.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:20]

In the Hebrew, the first portion of this verse reads, literally, one spoon ten gold.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:21]

The ram also represents Jesus Christ. See the Doctrine of the Ram—not finished yet!!


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:22]


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Nathanel ben Zuar. [Num. 7:23]

Those who love Your law have great peace and nothing causes them to stumble (Psalm 119:165).


In the first day the leader of the sons of Zebulun, Eliab ben Helon. [Num. 7:24]

We have no verb whatsoever here. We know they are all approaching the altar.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:25]

A silver bowl of seventy shekels weighs about 1¾ pounds, or 0.8 kg.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:26]

When weight is referred to, it was understood that the weight was in shekels if not otherwise noted.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:27]

The lamb is probably the most widely used and recognized of the animals which represent our Lord. John the Baptizer said, Behold, the lamb of God comes. Being a year old is pretty much after the lamb has entered into adulthood. Our Lord began His public ministry at age 30, equivalent to the lamb's age.


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:28]

Recall that there is no particular word for sin-offering in the Hebrew. It is not a combination of sin and offering but it is simply the word sin. It is the context which tells us that we are speaking of a sin-offering rather than just sin. This is because the sin-bearing became completely identified with the sin which He bore.


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Eliab ben Helon. [Num. 7:29]

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us and the government will rest upon His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).


On the fourth day, the leader of the sons of Rueben, Elizur ben Shedeur. [Num. 7:30]

Now the sentence structure is exactly the same as v. 24.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:31]

Silver is one of the precious metals, white in color, and malleable enough to be beaten into leaves 0.00025 mm thin. Its melting temperature is 961°C, and it can be alloyed with gold, copper, nickel and zinc. In fact, there is generally about 10–15% silver found in mined gold. According to ZPEB, the celle dimensions of the basic cubic units of four atoms of silver and of gold are almost identical and because of this silver substitutes for gold, and vice versa, right up to 100% Footnote .


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:32]


This spoon—which could also be a very small incense bowl (?)—contained qeţôreth (ת רֹט  ׃ק ) [pronounced k'toe-RETH] and should not be rendered perfume, but incense.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:33]

See the Doctrine of the Bull—not finished yet!


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:34]

So a male goat is taken from the female goats, just as Jesus Christ was the seed of the woman.


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Elizur ben Shedeur. [Num. 7:35]

[Our Lord speaking to His disciples]: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother; and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." (Matt. 10:34–35 Micah 7:6).


On the fifth day, the leader of the sons of Simeon, Shelumeil ben Zurishaddai. [Num. 7:36]

Like the rest of the chapter, this is now fallen into a pattern.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:37]

Continuing with the information found in ZPEB, Vol. 5, p. 438: from the earliest times, silver was manufactored into articles of value, such as ornaments, jewelry; and, it was of course used as a precursor of money (Lev. 5:15 1Chron. 18:10 Matt. 26:15 Acts 19:24). Silver was certainly known in Egypt as far back as 4000 bc, and it was given the specific value as one-fourth that of gold in 3100 bc by the founder of the 1st dynasty of ancient Egypt. A portion of Abraham's wealth was silver (Gen. 13:2) and it is likely that silver and gold became fairly standard mediums of exchange (i.e., they were money) around 800 bc for all of the countries which were between the Nile and the Indus.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:38]

Gold is considered to be probably the precious metal, although it is by no means the rarest or the most expensive. Because of its beauty, it represents the deity of Jesus Christ.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:39]

See the Doctrine of the lamb—not finished yet!!


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:40]

See the doctrine of goats—not finished yet!!


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Shelumeil ben Zurishaddai. [Num. 7:41]

The father of John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit and he said (or, possibly wrote) the following: Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:78–79).


On the sixth day, the leader of the sons of Gad, Eliazaph ben Deuel. [Num. 7:42]

It is unfortunate that these were the men of God's choosing, meaning that they had the greatest potential of all in their tribe, and, while they are mentioned several times, it is always as part of a large group whose accomplishments were minimal.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:43]

Continuing with the information found in ZPEB, Vol. 5, p. 438: native silver is much more of a rare occurrence than native gold, but it is widely distributed in small amounts and would have been the earliest source of the metal. Silver can be extracted from it many ores by a number of relatively simple processes, one of which was used by the Babylonians, cupellation with lead, is still used today. ZPEB describes the process. However, the melting of the resultant lead-silver alloy, produces lead oxide, which is skimmed away—I mention this, because this lead oxide is called dross in Ezek. 22:18. The tarnish which forms on silver is not an oxidation of silver, but a combination of sulphur or sulphur compounds in the air reacting with the silver to form a thin layer of silver sulphide on the surface of the silver. We see this commonly today in any area adjacent to an industrialized city; however, in the ancient world, such tarnishing was rare, and silver remained the most lustrous of the metals almost indefinitely in the ancient world.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:44]

Taken from ZPEB, vol. 2, p. 771: Gold's melting point is above that of silver (1063°C), which surprised me. Although it is used to plate a great many things, and can be beaten into leaves with a thickness less than 0.0001 mm, that is not as thin as silver.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:45]

When these animals were burnt, this spoke of the sacrifice and judgement of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross.


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:46]

Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and who never sins (Eccles. 7:20).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Eliazaph ben Deuel. [Num. 7:47]

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world give, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27).


In the seventh day, the leader of the sons of Ephraim, Elishama ben Ammihud. [Num. 7:48]

Ephraim is the half-tribe of Joseph.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:49]

The failure of the refining process of lead and silver in the ancient world became a parable to illustrate the refusal of the sons of Israel to become obedient to Yahweh, the God Who bought them (Jer. 6:29–30).


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:50]

Taken from ZPEB, vol. 2, p. 771: another item of interest, of which most of you are aware, is that gold is the most malleable and ductile of the metals, meaning that its shape and size can be changed tremendously without breaking. What a marvelous picture of the deity of our Lord! His perfection and essence are faced with billions upon billions of situations and it can be applied perfectly without tearing it or compromising it. There is a right way to do a thing; there is a correct way to approach every situation. God's character can be applied to every situation in life without compromise.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:51]

In this, the first sacrifices of the tabernacle after it was reassembled, went on for twelve days. Each day there would be parade of animal sacrifices. God was communicating His gospel to the next generation as they became of age.


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:52]

David wrote the following after having taken Bathsheba, another man's wife, and then had her husband killed: Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your gace, according to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I recognize [lit., know] my stransgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You and You only I have sinned (Psalm 51:1–4a).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Elishama ben Ammihud. [Num. 7:53]

Paul, writing to Gentiles: But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the barrier of the divinding wall by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, the Law of commandments in ordinances that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near (Eph. 2:13–17). Here, the peace spoken of is that between the Jew and the Gentile, a natural enmity existed, as there would be between believers and unbelievers. God joined the Jews and the Gentiles in the church.


In the eighth day, the leader of the sons of Manasseh, Gamaliel ben Pedahzur. [Num. 7:54]

Manasseh is the other half tribe of Joseph.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:55]

Silver was a mark of wealth and prosperity. When lands were conquered and booty taken, often silver and things made with silver were taken. Silver was used in the construction of the various items of the tabernacle—chiefly the rings. As was mentioned, silver would last for a very long time without tarnishing; however, we do not find many archeological objects of silver from Palestine and Syria because the limestone soil causes silver to corrode badly Footnote .


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:56]

Taken from ZPEB, vol. 2, p. 771: native gold which is mined is usually alloyed with silver; but occasionally it can be found alloyed with copper, iron, platinum, palladium and rhodium. The more silver present, the whiter the gold; copper makes the gold an orange-red.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:57]

At the first advent, our Lord did not come out of heaven riding a white steed, but he was a son of the herd, a man, just like us.


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:58]

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand His way, but the folly of fools is deceit. Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is grace [from God]. The heart knows its own bitterness and a stranger does not share its joy. The house of the wicked will be destroyed; but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way [which seems] right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Prov. 14:8–12).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Gamaliel ben Pedahzur. [Num. 7:59]

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).


In the ninth day, the leader of the sons of Benjamin, Abidan ben Gideoni. [Num. 7:60]

Recall that Benjamin was the youngest of all of the brothers, Joseph was the second to the youngest. They were particularly important to their father Jacob, as they were children of the woman he loved, Rachel.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:61]

What is most important is what does silver symbolize in Scripture. I appropriated this list from Then International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 2793: 1. The possession of silver indicates great blessing and abundance (Gen. 13:2 Job 3:15 22:25 27:16 Isa. 60:17 Zech. 9:3). 2. God's Word is compared to silver refined seven times with regard to Its purity (Psalm 12:6). 3. Pursuing and attaining knowledge is superior to the gaining of silver (Prov. 3:14 8:19 10:20 16:16 22:1 25:11)—or so says one of the riches men in the history of the world (Solomon, the writer of the bulk of Proverbs). 4. The dross from the silver refinement process was used to illustrate the degeneracy of Israel (Isa. 1:22 Jer. 6:30). 5. Daniel interpreted the breast and coat of arms of silver to present an inferior kingdom to that of Nebuchadnezzar's (Dan. 2:32, 39). 6. Men often compromise what is right in order to make a living; the illustration is the silversmith Demetrius, who made gods of silver (Acts 19:24–41). 7. Although there is nothing wrong with making money, a dependence upon silver in the long term is futile (James 5:3). 8. Finally, one of the signs of the fall of Babylon is the sudden drop off in trade of silver and other items of wealth (Rev. 18:9–19).


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:62]

Taken from ZPEB, vol. 2, p. 771: gold is distributed widely throughout the earth's crust, but in small amounts. The gold in the earth's crust is approximately one part per thousand million. The proportion of people who are in God's plan and acting appropriately is probably similar. In the population of the Jews, of those two million, there are only three men of note: Moses, Caleb and Joshua. And the Jews made up a small portion of the earth's population. One part per thousand million is not out of line when comparing the number of people fulfilling God's plan for their lives as compared to the number of people that there are.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:63]

Each and every day, a leader-representative from each of the twelve tribes (excluding the tribe of Levite and the tribe of Joseph being counted twice) brought before Yahweh and before the congregation twenty-one animals to be slaughtered.


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:64]

"Come now, let us reason together," say Yahweh. "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; through they are red like crimson, they will be like wool." (Isa. 1:18).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Abidan ben Gideoni. [Num. 7:65]

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! (II Thess. 3:16).


In the tenth day, the leader of the sons of Dan, Ahiezer ben Ammishaddai. [Num. 7:66]

Dan was a son through Rachel's amid.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:67]


In the outside world, the value and weight changes. However, Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever. Therefore, the weight of the silver was measured according to the unchanging standard of the tabernacle. The word for sanctuary is one that we have studied earlier: qôdesh (ש דֹק ) [pronounced koe-DESH], which is a noun meaning sacredness, apartness, that which is holy, holy things, sanctuary. We could also have rendered this: according to the holy shekel or the shekel of holiness.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:68]

Taken from ZPEB, vol. 2, p. 771: since gold has such a high density, when it is found in sand, water was used to carry off the less-dense particles, leaving the flakes of gold. Having been raised in California, I had the mining techniques used in the gold rush drilled into me.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:69]

For many, worship of God become perfunctory—the burnt sacrifices often become but a ritual, just as many churches today are filled with a variety of rituals which the congregation blindly goes through without thought, half asleep on a Sunday morning. "For I delight in grace [or, mercy], rather than sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6).


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:70]

"And she will bear a Son, and you will call His name Jesus, for it is He who will deliver His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Ahiezer ben Ammishaddai. [Num. 7:71]

For God is not of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (I Cor. 14:33). Some codices list this person's name as Ahiezer ben Ammi-Shaddai


In the eleventh day [lit., in the day of one, ten day], the leader of the sons of Asher, Pagiel ben Ochran. [Num. 7:72]

Asher is the last son of Leah's maid.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:73]

The flour mixed with oil speaks of the humanity of Jesus Christ filled with the Holy Spirit.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:74]

From ZPEB, vol. 2, p. 771: Gold ornaments and utensils go back to at least the Bronze Age, circa 3000 bc. On Egyptian monuments which date back to 2900 bc, to the 1st dynasty of Egypt, we have the washing of gold ores depicted (gold was found between the Nile and the Red Sea).


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:75]

Thus says Yahweh: "Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people [and on] the fruit of their plans, because they have not listened to My words. And as for My law, they have rejected it also. For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba, and the sweet can from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me." (Jer. 6:16a, 19–20).


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:76]

Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 5:12 6:23).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Pagiel ben Ochran. [Num. 7:77]

Jesus answered them: "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:31a, 33).


In the twelfth day, the leader of the sons of Naphtali, Ahira ben Enan. [Num. 7:78]

Naphtali is the youngest son of Rachel's maid. These tribal leaders appear before Yahweh in the order that they are stationed around the tabernacle, which tells me that my chart on this is incorrect and the one in the NIV is more accurate.


And his offering: one silver plate, its weight a hundred and thirty [shekels]; one silver bowl, seventy shekels (according to the shekel of the sanctuary)—both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute-offering; [Num. 7:79]

Tribute offering is the correct rendition of this word, rather than grain-offering; as I have pointed out in the past, there are several passages where this word is used and animals are sacrificed.


One golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense; [Num. 7:80]

Since gold is pictured in relationship to wealth and abundance (Gen. 13:2 Judges 8:26 1Kings 10:14), it represents that which is the most valuable to man on earth (Psalm 19:10 I Peter 1:7 Rev. 21:18). It is no large leap to see the obvious parallel between gold and our Lord Jesus Christ. The incense, of course, speaks of the sweet savor of our Lord's sacrifice before God the Father; it is that sweet savor which gives us standing before God. Otherwise, we would be totally lost, without any means of reaching out to God.


One young bull, a son of the herd, one ram, one lamb, a son of a year; for a burnt-offering; [Num. 7:81]

Sacrifice and a tribute offering, You have not desired; my ears You have pierced [a mark of lifetime slavery]; burnt offering and sin-offering You do not require (Psalm 40:6).


A male-goat of the female goats—one for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 7:82]

Now I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which I proclaimed to you, which you also received, in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I have preached to you, unless you believed in emptiness. For I delivered to you as of first importance, what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:1–3). He made Him who knew no sin, sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:21).


And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five lambs, sons of a year—this was the offering of Ahira ben Enan. [Num. 7:83]

The Word of Yahweh came to Haggai the prophet, saying, "The latter glory of this house [Israel] will be greater than the former," says Yahweh of the armies, "And in this place I will give you peace," declares Yahweh of the armies (Hag. 2:1b, 9).

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

A Summary of the Offerings Brought Before Yahweh


This [is] the dedication of the altar, in the day of its being anointed, by the princes of Israel; twelve silver dishes, twelve silvers bowls, twelve golden spoons; [Num. 7:84]

The silver speaks of God's reflected glory and the gold speaks of His deity.


A hundred and thrity [shekels] each silver dish, and each bowel seventy [shekels]; all the silver of the vessels: 2400 [shekels], by the shekel of the sanctuary. [Num. 7:85]

The word shekels is implied; such would be the case even without the phrase at the end. When I gave word problem tests and tests over units to my students, the units involved, in their mind, were often implied (as was the irony of some of their answers).


Twelve golden spoons, full of incense, ten [shekels] each spoon by the shekel of the sanctuary; [Num. 7:86]

God's sanctuary is the measure of all things. When Solomon built a temple, a permanent home for the Shekinah Glory, we had all the cups, snuffers, bowls, spoons, fire pans, etc. We find this in 1Kings 7:48–51 and 2Chron. 3:3–4:22. However, Israel's disobedience to God and lack of interest in His truth resulted in the Chaldeans overthrowing Jerusalem and carrying these things away (2Kings 25:10–17).


All the oxen for burnt-offering: twelve bullocks; rams twelve; lambs, sons of a year, twelve; and their present; and kids of the goats twelve, for a sin offering; [Num. 7:87]

I preserved the word order, followings Young's example and translation here.


And all the oxen for the sacrifice of the peace-offerings are twenty-four bullocks; rams sixty; male goats sixty, lambs, sons of a year, sixty; this is the dedication of the altar, in the day of its being anointed. [Num. 7:88]

I am confused; I am counting only twelve bulls; the other explanation here is that the two oxen (vv. 65, 77) are the twelve bulls here.


And in the going in of Moses to the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he did hear the voice speaking to him from off the mercy-seat which [is] upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubs, and He spoke to him. [Num. 7:89]

This tells us that Yahweh was present in the reassembling of the tabernacle. O Shepherd of Israel, listen, You Who leads like the block [of] Joseph; You Who are enthroned—[between] the cherubim—shine forth! (Psalm 88:1).

Return to Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Numbers 8


Numbers 8:1–26


Outline of Chapter 8:

       Vv. 1–4         Yahweh's orders to reassemble the lampstand

       Vv. 5–22       The cleansing of the Levites for service

       Vv. 23–26     Ages of service of Levites

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: Num. 8 deals with three different topics: (1) The reassembling of the lampstand is important because the function of the Jews on earth is to be the light of the world to the Gentiles. (2) The Levites are also set aside for service to Yahweh and herein cleansed. A ceremony which sets them apart to Yahweh, bought by the death of the first-born in Egypt, occurs in this chapter. (3) Finally, God sets up specific ages at which time the service of the Levites will begin and at what time they will retire from physical labor (although they might remain on the scene in an advisory position).

Yahweh's Orders to Reassemble the Lampstand

Ex. 21:31–40


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 8:1]

This verse will occur three times in this chapter. Very likely, that represents three different sessions which Yahweh had with Moses.


"Speak to Aaron, and you will say to him, 'In your causing the lamps to go up [or, in your raising up of the lamps], upon the front of the face of the lampstand, the seven lamps will [be caused to] give light.' " [Num. 8:2]


This is a very literal translation; however, many of the Hebrew verbs have been translated by several words to convey their actual meanings. The lamps (or lights, or candlesticks) will be caused to be put up by aaron, although he may not actually do it himself. Therefore, the word ‛âlâh (ה ָל ָע) [pronounced aw-LAWH], meaning to go up, to ascend, to raise up, is in the Hiphil infinitive. In the infinitive, we do not have a subject, per se, but we can affix a suffix. Here, that suffix was the second masculine singular. When we express our verbs in general form, we use the infinitive of the verb, as in to go up, to ascend, to raise up; and I often do that when giving the meaning of a verb. However, in the Hebrew, verbs expressed in the vocabulary form are given in the Qal stem, just as verbs in the Greek in vocabulary form are given in the present active indicative. This accounts for the added word to. The Hiphil stem is causative, meaning that the rendering to raise up is most apropos.


I have not yet seen a picture of a lampstand which would actually jive with this description. The prepositions involved indicate clearly that there is a front (and, by implication, a back) to the lampstand. The first preposition is ‛al (ל ַע) [pronounced al], which means upon, against, above, over; and this is followed by the preposition mûwl (למ) [pronounced mool] and it means in front of. This is followed by the word for face. These two words together mean that there is a front to the lampstand.

The lamp was in the holy place and the ark was in the Holy of Holies. Because of the Shekinah glory, there was no light needed in the Holy of Holies; in the holy place, the lamp itself provided the light. The lampstand represented the Jews, who were to be the light of the world, just as we as believers have become.


And Aaron did so; upon the front of the face of the lampstand, he caused its lamps to go up [or, he raised up its lamps], as Yahweh commanded Moses. [Num. 8:3]

God always has a chain of command. God spoke to Moses, Moses spoke to Aaron, and Aaron caused, that is delegated this responsibility, to an unnamed Levite (we know this by the continued use of the Hiphil, or causative, stem in this verse and in the previous verse). It is likely that Aaron went to the head of the partial Levitical tribe and spoke to him and he had one of those under him actually do the placement of the lamps. Notice that God does not go directly to the Levite and tell him what to do. Nor does Moses go directly to that Levite and tell him what to do. There is a clear, specific chain of command which is taught to us in the Hebrew.


And this [was] the craftsmanship [lit., work] of the lampstand: hammered work, gold from its base [lit., thigh] to its flowers, Footnote it [was] a hammered work according to the blueprint [lit., appearance] which Yahweh had shown Moses, so he constructed [or, made] the lampstand. [Num. 8:4]


Ma׳ăseh (ה  ֲע ַמ) [pronounced mah-ğă-SEH] means deed, work; it is a reference to that which has been constructed or made (it comes from the oft used Hebrew verb ׳âsâh). I have translated it craftsmanship. Strong’s #4639 BDB #795. Its verbal cognate does occur in this verse in the Qal perfect with an unnamed subject here. The he does not refer to Moses, Aaron or Yahweh but to the person who actually constructed this lampstand, Bezalel (Ex. 37:1, 17–23).


Mar‛eh (ה ע  ׃ר ַמ) [pronounced mahr-EH] means vision, appearance, sight, that which is seen. I stretched things somewhat here to use the word blueprint. Yahweh obviously revealed this to Moses visually and Moses oversaw the work to be certain this is what was constructed.

The Cleansing of the Levites for Service


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 8:5]

This is likely a completely different session.


"Take the Levites out from the midst of the sons of Israel, and you will cleanse them. [Num. 8:6]

In his attempt to be literal, Young translates perfect tense of a verb and translates it as though it is a completed action. So, if you are following along in his translation, it reads and thou hast cleansed them. However, the Hebrew does not have a past, present or future tense; the context determines the timing of the verb. The perfect tense examines this as a completed action, not as a series of actions; however, if God is speaking to Moses, He is not telling Moses what he has done but rather what he will do; therefore, I have used the English future tense. I say this on behalf of anyone who knows that I use Young's Translation as a guide (as well as Owen's terrific Analytical Key to the Old Testament). The Levites have been set apart for service directly to God, to assist Aaron and his sons, and therefore anyone in service to God must be cleansed. No matter how good, kind and nice a person is, they are not in service to God if (1) they are not saved and (2) they are not in fellowship. If I give all my possessions and if I deliver my gody to be burned, but I do not have love [a reference to the filling of the Spirit in this context], [then] it profits me nothing (I Cor. 13:3). The ceremonial cleansing speaks of the perfection of Jesus Christ in His, the ultimate work; and on a less important level, of our service as Christians Footnote .

It is time to look at the translations. If you have a parallel Old Testament, you would read right through this verse and not give it a second thought. If it wasn't for one of my sources, Edersheim, I might have missed this entirely.

The Amplified Bible           And thus you shalldo to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification [water to be used in case of sin] upon them...

The Emphasized Bible      And thus you will do unto them to purify them, sprinkle upon them sin-cleansing water...

KJV                                   And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them,...

NASB                                And thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them...

NIV                             To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them;

NRSV                                Thus you shall do to them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification on them,...

Owen's Translation           And thus you shall do to them to cleanse them; sprinkle upon them the water of expiation...

Young's Lit. Translation     And thus thou doest to them to cleanse them: sprinkle upon them waters of atonement,...


Except for the The Emphasized Bible's translation, a footnote in the NASB and the The Amplified Bible's rendering, you would miss this entirely. What we find here is water of chaţţâ’th (תא ָ ַח) [pronounced khat-TAWTH] and this is the word for sin or sin-offering.


"And you will do this to them to cleanse them: sprinkle upon them waters of sin, and they will cause a razor to pass over all their flesh, and they will wash their garments, and clean themselves; [Num. 8:7]

Maybe if you understood how soap works, then this verse would make more sense. The reason soap works is that it attatches itself to the dirt—the dirt that was attatched to you or to your dishes or to your carpet; it acts like a magnet; and when you wash the soap away, the dirt it is attatched to also is washed away. The waters of sin is the same. The water attatched itself to the sin and as the water flows off the skin, it takes the sin with it. Translating this as waters of purification is fine, if you recognize that it is the water which washes away the sin; it is identified with sin or it attatches itself to sin.

Ther is little significance to the plural of water; throughout the bulk of the Old Testament, water is in the plural. It is the way the Hebrews spoke, just as we say pants or trousers.

You may recognize the shaving of the entire body. This had also occurred back in Lev. 14:8–9 when a leper was cleansed. This simply symbolizes the cleansing of the entire body.

All of this, of course, is ceremonial; this was a way to illustratespiritual cleanness; cleanliness before God. For the believer, there are two kinds of cleanness here on earth. We are positionally clean when we believe in Jesus Christ; and we are temporally clean whenever we have named our sins to Him. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin s ever before me. Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:2–3, 7). However, this is all ceremonial. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, Who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve to living God (Heb. 9:11–15). The true cleansing is the blood of Jesus Christ—His spiritual death on the cross, His payment for our sins upon the cross. After that, we are temporally cleansed through rebound, the naming of our sins to God—which is simple and nonmeritorious as the payment for these sins was made on the cross—we merely acknowledge that fact.


"And they will take a young bull, a son of the herd, and its tribute-offering, flour mixed with oil,—and a second bull, a son of the herd you will take for a sin [-offering]; [Num. 8:8]

We continually see the animal taken out from the herd, just as our Lord Jesus Christ was taken out of the population of the Jews and was made sin for us. The flour mixed with oil speaks of the humanity of our Lord filled with the Holy Spirit.


"And you will cause the Levites to approach before [lit., to the face of] the tent of meeting and you will assemble the entire congregation of the people of Israel. [Num. 8:9]

Moses is the you in this verse. He is the one who will approach the tent of meeting with the Levites and he will be the one to assemble the entire congregation of Israel. The Hiphil stem is causative, so Moses caused the Levites to approach.


"And you will cause the Levites to approach before the face of Yahweh and the people of Israel will lay their hands upon the Levites. [Num. 8:10]

The laying on of hands has three separate connotations: (1) It is a way of identifying. The Levites are set apart to God and the Israelites are identified with the Levites. (2) The laying on of hands often is a means of conferring, and the spiritual vocation of the Levites is recognized by the sons of Israel conferred upon them. (3) Finally, the laying on of hands indicates a substitution has taken place. The sinner often was instructed to lay his hands on the animal sacrifice before it was slaughtered; here, the Levites are substituted for the first-born of Israel.

It's time to see how several translations rendered the next phrase:


The Amplified Bible           And Aaron shall present the Levites before the Lord...

The Emphasized Bible      and Aaron shall offer the Levites as a wave-offering before Yahweh...

KJV                                   And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord...

NIV                                    Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering...

NRSV                                And Aaron shall present the Levites before the Lord as an elevation offering...

Young's Lit. Translation     and Aaron hath waved the Levites—a wave-offering before Jehovah,...

This verse does begin with a conjunction and the subject is Aaron. The verb is the Hiphil perfect of nûwph (ףנ) [pronounced noof]. According to BDB, the technical use of this word is that priest would take an offering and lift it up toward the altar and then move it away, back to himself, as it were, to represent that this is being offered to Yahweh and Yahweh has given it back to them. So, in this verse, Aaron presents the Levites to Yahweh, but then receives them back as a present to himself and his sons.


"And Aaron will present [lit., wave] the Levites—a wave-offering before the face of Yahweh, from among the sons of Israel; they are to serve the service [or, to work the work] of Yahweh. [Num. 8:11]


T'nûwphâh (ה ָפנ  ׃) [pronounced t'noo-PHAWH] is obviously closely related to nûwph. Often, in the Hebrew, a noun is formed from the verb by adding an âh ending. Here, it is preceded by a t as well. This is a wave-offering for want of a better term. This is the offering which the priest brings toward the altar and then takes it away, signifying that the offering is given to God and then received back to them. The Levites are offered to Yahweh, given wholly over to Him; and God the presents them to Aaron and his sons for their service to Him.


The second portion of this verse appears to be generally as poorly dealt with as the first. Owen's reads: from the people of Israel that it may be theirs to do the service of Yahweh; the NASB: from the sons of Israel, that they may qualify [footnoted as lit., be able] to perform the service of the Lord; and Young's Translation is equally abstruse: from the sons of Israel, and they have been—for doing the service of Jehovah. This is not difficult. There are two prepositions, mîn (separation is implied) and ʾêth (ת ֵא) [pronounced ayth] and it simply means with, among. This is a little tricky as this same word is often untranslated and used to designate a direct object. The context here tells us how this is to be used.


The we have the simple verb to be in the Qal perfect with a masculine plural subject, mysteriously rendered by Owen (and the RSV) as that it may be theirs. Hello! This is simply they are. This is followed by the preposition to (the prefixed lâmed) and the Qal infinitive construct of to serve, to work; that is, the verb ʿâbvad (ד ַב ָע) [pronounced ģawb-VAHD]; from this verb is built the words for servant, service (work), and labor. Strong's #5647 BDB #712. The noun cognate is found immediately afterward. The meaning is simple; they Levites are dedicated to God, set apart to Yahweh, offered to their Lord; and then Yahweh returned them to Aaron for service to Aaron and his sons to do the work of Yahweh. Why this was not simply literally rendered by these translations, I do not know.

We have a similar situation back in Lev. 7:30–34: the breast of the wave offering was brought before God. It was likely brought toward the altar, but not burned, and then taken away. When it is brought before Yahweh, brought is in the imperfect and not perfect tense, as though we have a process and not a completed action. Therefore, it is possible that this was brought to the altar and taken away and then this may have been repeated several times. In any case, this portion of the peace-offering—the breast and the thigh—was given to Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8:31–32).


"And the Levites will lay their hands on the head of the bulls and you will make [lit., do] the one a sin-offering and the one a burnt-offering to Yahweh, to cover [or, atone] for the Levites; [Num. 8:12]

In this verse we have a clear case of epanadiplosis [pronounced EP-an-a-di-PLO-sis] where a sentence begins and ends with the same word. A complete circle or completeness is implied in a verse like this; there has been a statement of complete truth and its beginning and end are both marked. The identification with the bulls and their sacrifice as a sin-offering and as a burnt-offering is a complete offering, just as what our Lord did on the cross was completely efficacious on our behalf; that is, His work, His death, completely blotted out the list of sins and ordinances against us.

The laying on of hands is identification and the Levites identified themselves with the bulls. The bulls stood for Jesus Christ being judged (burnt) for our sins (the sin-offering). How this was done, whether a few did this as representing the Levite tribe, it is not revealed to us here. There could have been a procession, but that is not implied here either.


"And you will cause the Levites to stand before Aaron, and before his sons, and you have presented [lit., waved] them [as] a wave-offering to Footnote Yahweh; [Num. 8:13]

Furthermore, it is not revealed whether the Levites moved forward toward the altar and back again; with the use of these verbs and the fact that the Jews were very demonstrative, it would seem as though these movements were done.


"And you will separate the Levites from the midst of the sons of Israel, and the Levites are [or, will be] Mine; [Num. 8:14]

It is in the book of Numbers that we hae the specific duties of the Levites and their calling out, as opposed to the book having their name, Leviticus.


"And afterwards the Levites will go in to serve Footnote the tent of meeting and you will have cleansed them, and you have presented [lit., waved] them—a wave-offering. [Num. 8:15]

As before, the tenses given these verbs are reasonable, given the context. Not recalling my English, it sounds as though I have used a perfective future here (or something like that) to refer to a completed action in future time. When they go in to serve the tent of meeting (an event future from Yahweh speaking to Moses), this will follow Moses having presented them to God, an action future from the time of speaking, but past with regards to their dedicated service.


"For they are completely given [lit., they are the given, they are the given] to Me from the midst of the sons of Israel, instead of him who opens any womb—the first-born of all—from among Footnote the sons of Israel, I have taken them to Myself; [Num. 8:16]

God had purchased the first-born of Israel with the first-born of Egypt; "Set apart to Me every first-born, the first offspring of every womb from among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me." (Ex. 13:2). Here, He has exchanged or substituted the Levites for the first-born. This fits in with the great themes of the Old Testament: atonement (or, covering) of sin, sacrifice, redemption, slavery, cleansing, substitution, the first-born. Every major theme in the Old Testament is a shadow of the good things to come.


"For every first-born from among the sons of Israel, among man and among beast[is] Mine; in the day of My striking every first-born in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them for Myself; [Num. 8:17]


Sanctified, recall, is the verb qâdash (ש ַד ָק) [pronounced kaw-DAHSH] and it means consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, hallow. There are a whole set of words which we have examined wich mean holy, sacred, apart from, set apart to, etc. The entire concept is that God purchased these in Israel through the death of the first-born, through the sacrifice of the first-born when God judged and struck down the first-born. Similarly, he would purchae all of us through the judgment and striking down of His first-born and we would be thereby set apart to Him. You were bought with a price; do not become the slaves of men (I Cor. 7:23).


"And I take the Levites instead of every first-born among the sons of Israel; [Num. 8:18]

Again, we have the great theme of substitution. Just as God's Son will be our substitute for judgement, so the Levites were substituted for the first-born.


"And I give the Levites gifts [lit., given ones] to Aaron and to his sons, from the midst of the sons of Israel, to serve the service [or, work the work] of the sons of Israel in the tent of meeting, and to make atonement for the sons of Israel, and there is not a plague among the sons of Israel in the sons of Israel's approaching the sanctuary." [Num. 8:19]

This gives us a better idea of what a wave offering is. The Levites are presented before God for His service and God gives them to Aaron for service to Aaron and his sons. Giving is a process of receiving blessings from God and returned some of those blessings to Himand having Him return these blessings to you. Our service to God is similar—God has given His Son for our salvation and we give ourselves to Him in service and He gives to us great spiritual and material blessings. The idea of a wave offering is not so much like waving your hand but more like the waves of the ocean, which move backward and forward.

God has a plan for every believer in every dispensation. No one is unimportant. In the church age, this is even more true, as everyone has been baptized with the Spirit and everyone has received at least one spiritual gift. Now concerning spiritual [gifts], brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant...there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For one is given the word of wisdom throught the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit, and to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of works of power [i.e., miracles] Footnote and to naother prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits and to another [the ability to speak] various foreign languages, and to another the interpretation of [these] languages. But one and the same Spirit work all these things, distributing to each one individually, just as He wills. For even as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, thought they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," it is not for this reason any the less of the body. And if the ear should say, "Becaue I am not an eye, I am not of the body," it is not for this reason any the less of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now, there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannnot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again, the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary (I Cor. 12:1, 3–21). In fact, if anything, there is a much greater importance placed upon the believer who is inconspicuous. The older widow who prays two hours a day, the wealthy benefactor who quietly gives to a church without strings, the person who might spend three or four hours a day studying. As I have mentioned, there are believers whose shoulders I stand upon that you have never heard of who faithfully did work in the original languages, an absolutely necessary but thankless job that some Christians actually denegrate because it is complicated and does not always support their own viewpoints.

The Levites also act as a protective barrier, a hedge against attack from God. They are to be the salt of the land—those in service to God, those whose presence in Israel will keep Israel safe from God's wrath and His plagues. Believers today in a nation also protect that nation from God's wrath. The United States is a decadent nation, but it has been prospered and blessed due to a small pivot of mature believers. Because I know how some of you think, you mind is thinking, I'll just make the best use of the great blessing given by God and I will allow someone else to be the mature pivot. We are all sons of God, and as such are subject to discipline. So even though we live in a nation of great material wealth and blessing, we who try God's patience will be severely disciplined. Have you forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor faint when you are reproved by Him. for those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He reeived." It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to ddscipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits and live? for they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He dsiciplines us for good, that we may share His holness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet, to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:5–11 Prov. 3:11–12).


And Moses did [this]—and Aaron— and all the congregation of the sons of Israel in regard to the Levites according to all that Yahweh had commanded Moses concerning the Levites; so have the sons of Israel done to them. [Num. 8:20]

For a long time, a lot of things ran smoothly for the Israelites—God gave a set of directives and Moses saw to it that these directives were followed to the letter. For those who know what is coming, you keep waiting for the ax to fall. It will fall in Num. 11. Thus far, since many of the degenerate idolators were eliminated back in the incident of the golden calf, Moses and the people have been very obedient to all of Yahweh's commands. However, coming up in Num. 11, they will murmur against His great provisions for them here on earth and that will be the beginning of the end. Our relationship to God requires more than legalistic obedience.

The beginning of v. 21 is interesting:

The Amplified Bible           And the Levites cleansed and purified themselves...

The Emphasized Bible      And the Levites accepted the cleansing from sin,...

KJV                                   And the Levites were purified...

NASB                                The Levites, too, purified themselves from sin...

NIV                             The Levites purified themselves...

NRSV                                The Levites purified themselves from sin...

Owen's Translation           And purified themselves from sin the Levites...

Young's Lit. Translation     And the Levites cleanse themselves...


The beginning verb is not what you would expect to find here. We would expect the third person masculine plural, Hithpael imperfect of ţâhêr (ר ֵה ָט) [pronounced taw-HAIR] which simply means to be cleansed. The Hithpael is the intensive reflexive; they act upon themselves and the verb is intensified. Footnote Our morphology would be correct but the verb would be wrong. The verb here, surprisingly enough, is châtâ’ (א ָט ָח) [pronounced khaw-TAW], the verb for sin, deviate, subvert [the Law]. However, when this verb is found in the Piel, it appears to mean unsin, purify (Piel perfect: Ex. 29:36 Lev. 14:52 Num. 19:19 Ezek. 43:20, 22 45:18; Piel Infinitive: Lev. 14:49 Ezek. 43:23; Piel imperfect: Gen. 31:39 Lev. 8:15 9:15 2Chron. 29:24 Psalm 51:9; Piel participle: Lev. 6:26; and the Hithpael future: Num. 8:21 19:12, 13, 20 31:19, 20, 23 Job 41:25). Footnote I wonder if there might be just a complete identification with sin here? This will take some more study; however, for right now, I will take the easy way out and go with the scholarship to date. The Brown Drive Briggs goes into detail with this verb in the Qal stems and their variations, but only devotes a pararaph to the Piel and related stems. Alfred Edersheim suggests the translation unsinned Footnote .


And the Levites were purifying themselves [from sin] Footnote , and they were washing their garments, and Aaron was presenting [lit., waving] them—a wave-offering before the face of Yahweh, and Aaron was making a covering [or, atonement] for them to cleanse them; [Num. 8:21]

The actual activities involved in this cleansing process are ween here as a process and not as a completed action. From God's standpoint, from the standpoint of His directives, these things were mandated and the action was seen as completed; however, from the viewpoint of the Israelites, this was a process which took time in order to fulfill the demands of Yahweh.


And afterward, the Levites have gone in to do [lit., serve] their service at the tent of meeting, before the face of Aaron and before the face of his sons; as Yahweh had commanded Moses concerning the Levices, so they have done to them. [Num. 8:22]

Once the Levites had been ceremonially cleansed, they were fit to serve Yahweh at His holy tent of meeeting. I do not believe that they actually went inside as a general rule; that seems to be reserved for the sons of Aaron, just as only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies.

This is analogous to Paul, who offered to God the Gentiles. But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God; to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that [my] offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 16:15–16). If you have never studied the Old Testament, you have no appreciation for the analogy which Paul was drawing. He brings the Gentiles to God as a wave offering, bringing them to God and then God gives them back to the population for serviced to Him. Paul is just like Aaron or his sons, the priests, offering the Levits to God after having cleansed them.

There are some similarities and several significant differences between the ordination of the priests and the cleansing of the Levites: Footnote

The Priests

The Levites

The priests were made holy.

Lev. 8:30

The Levites were made clean.

Num. 8:6–7, 15

The priests were anointed and washed.

Lev. 8:6, 10, 12

The Levites were sprinkled.

Num. 8:7

The priests received new garments.

Lev. 8:7–9

The Levites washed their clothing.

Num. 8:7, 21

A bull and two rams were sacrificed; blood was applied to the priests.

Lev. 8:15, 24

Two bulls were sacrificed, but nothing was said of their blood.

Num. 8:8

The priests were essentially given to the Israelites; God had them perform all of the sacrifices.

Lev. 6:9, 20

The Levites were a gift to the priests; they were a wave offering

Num. 8:11, 19, 21

Ages of Service of Levites


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 8:23]

Now that the Levites are cleansed and set aside for God's purpose, we turn to another topic:


"This [is] that which [is] the Levites: from a son of twenty-five years and upward, he will go in to serve the host [lit., army] in the service of the tent of meeting; [Num. 8:24]

This appears to contradict the information given us in Num. 4:3 where it appears as though the time of service would fall between the ages of thirty and fifty. However, that was a census taken for a particular responsibility. It is likely that between the ages of twenty-five and thirty, a Levite would go through a period of training and observation, an apprenticeship. We have a similar census taken by David in 1Chron. 23:3. In 1Chron. 23:24, where David apparently lowered the age of service of the Levites to twenty.


"And from a son of fifty years he will retire from service [lit., return from the army of the service] and he will not serve any more; [Num. 8:25]

God does set up a specific retirement age, that being age fifty for those serving as Levites. This does not mean that all servants of God should retire from Christian service at age fifty. There are some who should retire, perhaps, or pursue other areas of service and fifty strikes me as being quite young. However, the responsibilities of the Levites primarily was that of moving the things of the tabernacle and the walls and around age forty is when I lost the romanticism of moving. It is important to be matched with a proper position and this definitely implies that age fifty is a good cut off for strenuous physical labor.


"And he will minister with his brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep the charge [or, responsibility] yet [lit., and] not to do the service; thus you do to the Levites concerning their charge [or, responsibility]." [Num. 8:26]


Recall that mish'mereth (ת רמ  ׃ש  ̣מ) [pronounced mish'MEH-reth] refers to a charge, a responsibility or commission. The Levites did a lot of grunt work; that is, a lot of physical labor. When they moved from camp to camp, the Levites took down the tabernacle and its perimeter and carried it from place to place. However, by age fifty, they were relieved of this work, although they were allowed to assist or advise the younger Levites in their service.

Numbers 9


Numbers 9:1–23


Outline of Chapter 9:

       Vv. 1–14       God's directives for the second Passover

       Vv. 15–23     A summary of God's geographical will for the children of Israel

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: Num. 9 is a summary passage, written long after it occurred, just as Ex. 40 was written long after it occurred. The first half of this chapter focuses in on the first Passover and God's commandments pertaining thereto. The second portion deals with God's directive will in the lives of the Israelites, leading them through the desert. A pattern had been established by this time, indicating that Moses wrote this long after it actually occurred. Furthermore, the time given in Num. 9:1 is prior to the time of Num. 1:1, indicating that Moses wrote this from memory or from notes and arranged this information topically. This indicates to me that from somewhere near the end of Exodus to at least this far in Numbers, Moses wrote that portion long after it all occurred.

What is quite helpful to us in Num. 9 (and 10) is a time frame is given to us by implication. We, as Westerners, tend to think linearlly and chronologically, and the end of Exodus (from Ex. 33 on), all of Leviticus and the first nine chapters of Numbers are not exactly in chronological order, but in a topical order as this information was brought to the hand of Moses when he recorded it. Most of the incidents recorded were in a chronological order and they would be interspersed with information received from God. Moses spent eighty days on top of the Mount of Sinai, God pseaking to him. Do you think that he got the Ten Commandments and then God said, "Cool your heels, boy and let's wait till the Jews get themselves in trouble." God taught Moses the Law and everything that was expected by the Law. During the passages which read, and God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai (Lev. 25:1), this came from one of these two times upon Mount Sinai. When God spoke to Moses from the tent of meeting, this would have occurred after the completion of the tabernacle at the foot of Mount Sinai (Lev. 1:1) or in the tent pitched outside the camp (Ex. 33:7–11). When God spoke to Moses in the desert of Mount Sinai, this would have been either after they set out on a journey or outside the camp prior to the building of the tabernacle (I haven't decided which yet). Now, how do we know that Ex. 33–Num. 9 was not recorded as given by God in a day-by-day fashion? Two reasons: (1) Ex. 40:34–38 and Num. 9:15–23 both are summary verses of the travels of Israel through the desert. That is, both look at the encampments of Israel and the travels of Israel from a perspective of several years of movement—a pattern was observed and recorded. This indicates to us that the information contained in these two passages, and, therefore, everything in between, was written after such a pattern was established. Furthermore, Ex. 33 contains the orders to set out and Num. 10 is the fulfillment of these orders. In between, we have the construction of the tabernalce, tabernacle worship, etc.

God's Directives for the Second Passover

Ex. 12:1–20, 47–49


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, in the desert of Sinai, in the second year of their going out of the land of Egypt, in the first month, saying, [Num. 9:1]

This verse tells us a couple of things. First of all, Num. 1–9 was all written after the move from the foot of the mountains of Sinai. Thus far, the Jews camped at Mount Sinai when Moses went up to receive the Law; they camped along the foot of the mountains of Sinai, and now they have left the mountains for the desert. During the move and immediately after the move, Moses received divine revelation from God and he either kept it in his mind or he took notes. However, this is the final version or his final revision and it is obvious that if Num. 9:1 occurred prior to Num. 1:1 that Moses is not recording this as it occurs, in chronological order, but in a topical order. This takes some getting used to as my personal preference is chronological order and I will likely teach most of the Old and New Testaments in chronological order. It is likely that this chapter is logically inserted here, somewhat out of order.


"Also, the sons of Israel are to prepare [lit., will do] the Passover in its appointed season; [Num. 9:2]

There is a specific reason that this chapter is presented out of chronological order. When God spoke to Moses, it was to let Moses know that first and foremost what must be done in the very near future is the Passover. This is not a ceremony which can be skipped for any reason. Therefore, the Jews were first to erect the tabernacle as per Ex. 40:2 and 17, on the first day of the first month. Then they were to observe the Passover. Then they would be on the move, first cleansing the Levites and then dismantling the tabernacle. The orders to perform the Passover took place prior to the orders concerning the Levites and the dismantling and the moving of the tabernacle. And the fulfillment of God's directives would take place in the following order: first the observance of the second Passover, then the Levites would be cleansed for service (as it would make sense for them to be cleansed prior to rendering their services in the moving of the tabernacle); then they would move the tabernacle and a march would begin, with encampment taking place as per the picture given in Num. 2; finally, the tabernacle would be set up once again.


"In the fourteenth day day of this month between the evenings, you all will prepare it in its appointed season according to all its statutes and acording all its ordinances you will prepare it." [Num. 9:3]

Between the evenings has traditionally been at the end of one day, and the beginning of another which is sunset, when calculated by Jewish time.

In Num. 9:1, it is the first month of the second year, probably at the first of the month. This directive is for the fourteenth of this same month (Num. 9:3). After the Passover, Yahweh speaks to Moses again on the first day of the second month in the second year (Num. 1:1). It is likely that the bulk of the material written between Ex. 40:17 and Num. 9:3 was written quite a bit after the fact, as Moses brought this information to mind.


And Moses spoke to the sons of Israel to prepare [lit., do] the Passover; [Num. 9:4]

The tabernacle has just been erected for the first time not but a day or a week previous and Moses speaks to the people. The cleansing of the Levites and the moving of the tabertnacle take place subsequent to this verse.


And they prepared the Passover in the first [month] on the fourteenth day of the month, between the eveing, in the desert of Sinai, according to all that Yahweh had commanded Moses, so the sons of Israel did. [Num. 9:5]

What we have between Ex. 40:2 and this point in time is the honeymoon. God commands the Israelites and they obey. They are happy and they aren't complaining. When it is time to celebrate the Passover, they do. In the past several verses, we have had the same verb, ‛âsâh, meaning to do, to construct, in severfal different forms. In v. 3, it occurs twice in the 2nd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect—all the sons of Israel performed the action of the verb and it was looked upon as a process. In v. 4, the same verb is in the Qal infinitve construct, correctly translated to do. Finally in v. 5, ‛âsâh occurs twice again, first in the 3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect—the sons of Israel begin to go through the process fulfilling God's commands; and finally, at the end of v. 5, ‛âsâh is found in the 3rd person plural, Qal perfect, meaning the action of the verb is seen as completed.


Then there men were were unclean by a human soul, and they have not been able to prepare [lit., to do] the Passover on that day, and they approached before the faces of Moses and before Aaron on that day; [Num. 9:6]

Now we get a better idea as to the reason for the order of these chapters. Moses recorded things as they went well. Here is the first hint of trouble. Yahwe's directives were clear. Anyone who was ceremonially unclean for any reason could not take part in spiritual activity. It did not matter if they meant it to happen or not. Sincerity is not the issue. You can be as sincere as possible and if you are unclean—that is, if you are out of fellowship—then your service to God is meaningless. The money you give, the amount of time you spend praying, all the witnessing that you do is all worthless. And their spiritual worship would be meaningless because they are unclean.


And those men said to him, "We are defiled by a soul of a man; why are we prevented so as not to approach with the offering of Yahweh in its appointed season in the midst of the sons of Israel?" [Num. 9:7]

Mses' Father-in-law suggested: "Furthermore, you will select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you will place [these men] over them—leaders of thousands, of hundreds of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute, they themselves will judge." (Ex. 18:21–22a). The logical extension of this is that if Moses could not decide, then he took the matter before Yahweh.

If you are stupid, you are thinking, bully for them; they are demanding to worship God! Sorry, but you are 100% wrong. Those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in doctrine. You cannot come to God unclean and expect anything to come of it other than discipline. You cannot do a right thing in a wrong way and expect God to bless you or to take notice of you. These men are sincere and they are wrong. This reveals an undercurrent of disobedience to God that we have not seen heretofor. Moses included this here as a foreshadowing of what was to come. This logically had to occur at the time Yahweh had mandated the second observance of the Passover. So from Ex. 40 until now, we have just heard what occurred that was good and how Moses and the sons of Israel obeyed the mandates of God. Now we will observe a change.


And Moses said to them, "Wait a minute, boys [lit., all of you, stand], that I may hear what Yahweh will command concerning you." [Num. 9:8]

We already know—or think we know—God's response here. Hell no! However, prepare to be surprised.


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 9:9]

This will give us the divine viewpoint regarding this:


"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'Even though a man is unclean by a soul or in a distant journey (or you [specifically] or of your generations), yet he has prepared a Passover to Yahweh; [Num. 9:10]

Here is the if portion of this: a person is unclean due to contact with a dead person or they happen to be away from the camp during a Passover; this means that this ordinance shall stand forever. Now one thing which I would hate for you to miss in this document is the uncleanness associated with death. This is mentioned in vv. 6, 7 and 10—a contemporary to these events would certain write about this because so many of those in the Exodus generation are dying; however, it would make no sense to include this kind of material if this book were written, say, a hundred years after these events occurred, and even less sense for this material to be included in a book written hundreds of years after these events (as some have asserted).


"In the second month on the fourteenth day between the evenings, they will do it; they will eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. [Num. 9:11]

Time must still pass and they might have to go through a ceremonial cleansing similar to that found in Lev. 21:1–2, 11, which applies to priests. The NIV Study Bible provided a good observation here: The Lord thus demonstrates the reality of the distance that uncleanness brings between a believer and his (or her) participation in the worship of the community, but he also provides a merciful alternative. Footnote Out of fellowship, we have no relationship to God's plan. We are afar off. We must become clean, enter into fellowship again, and then we may participate in His plan.


"They will leave none of it until the morning and they will not break a bone of it—according to all the statute for the Passover, they will keep it. [Num. 9:12]

The Passover lamb is Jesus Christ and on the cross, not a bone of his body was to be broken. "It is to be eaten in a single house; you will not bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it" (Ex. 12:46). Yahweh is near to the brokenhearted and delivers those who are grace-oriented. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil will slay he wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be concemned. Yahweh redeems to soul of His servants and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned (Psalm 34:19–22). I feel sorry for the exegete in Old Testament times who had to explain this bit about the no broken bones. In the midst of saving the grace-oriented and the redeeming of the souls of his servants, suddenly the Psalmist points out that that He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. That would be tough to explain except in the light of what has transpired. Only John was there at the crucifixion, so he observed more details than is found in the other of the gospels. His Greek is deceptively simple, meaning that either Greek was not his original language or he was not excepitonally bright. Nevertheless, his gospel is packed with information not found i the others: The Jews, therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), aksed Pilate that their legs might be broken and they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; abut coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierce His chest with a spear, and immediately there came out blood clots and serum {lit., blood and water]. And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness if true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "Not of bone of Him shall be broken." (John 19:–36).


"And the man who is clean, and has not been on a journey and has ceased to prepare [lit., to do] the Passover, even that person has been cut off from his people; because he has not approached with the offering of Yahweh in its appointed season, that man will bear his sin. [Num. 9:13]

The Passover is the sacrifice which most closely parallels the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. The innocent lamb, without spot and without blemish; the entire congregation shall slay it; the death of the first-born; the blood on the door posts; the delivery out of the land of slavery into the promised land—all of this obviously points toward our Lord's death for our sins.

We have a similar warning concerning the communion table: But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup; for he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge to body correctly. For this reason, many among you are weak and sick and many sleep. But if we have judged ourselves, we will not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world (I Cor. 11:28–32).


"And when a visitor visits with you, then he will prepare [lit., do] a Passover to Yahweh, according to the statute of the Passover, and according to its ordinance, so he will do. One statute is to [all of] you, both to a visitor and to a native of the land." [Num. 9:14]

People will come from all over the world to the Jews and to their God, a God of a small but exceedingly prosperous and powerful nation; a nation of slaves which walked away from the Egyptian empire and their God brought that empire to its knees. God will see to it that other people come through Israel for other reasons and they will all be evangelized through the Passover and the other sacrifices. Recall that God the Holy Spirit can take spiritual truth and make it real to the soul of the unbeliever, allowing the unbeliever the chance to believe. This parallels Ex. 12:47–49, which reads: "All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. But if a visitor stays with you and does the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him approach to do it; and he will like like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. One law will be to the native as to the visitor who stays among you." Notice, this is just like being born into a new family, which is the whole point of regeneration.

The Passover ceremony, as we have covered before, speaks clearly of Jesus Christ dying for our sins on the cross. It is one of the clearest pictures of His sacrifice on our behalf. For Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed (I Cor. 5:7b). This most solemn of ceremonies was the only one carried into the New Testament. Our Lord and the disciples celebrated Passover together the night before the cross, and, while they were eating, He took bread and after a blessing, He broke [it] and gave [it] to them and said, "Take—this is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me." And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave [it] to them and they all drank from it. And He said to them, "This cup—which is poured out for you—this is the My blood of the covenant, which is shed on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins. This cup is the new covenant by means of My blood. Do this as often as you drink [it] in remembrance of Me." (Mark 14:22–24 Luke 22:20b Matt. 26:28b I Cor. 11:25b).

According the the NIV Study Bible, this is the last time the Israelites will observe the Passover until Joshua 5:10. This is not necessarily true. The only recorded instance of the observance of the Passover in all of the Penteteuch is in Ex. 12; here, it has mandated and the mandate being carried out was implied by the questions of the unclean men. The mandate to keep the Passover will be found again in Num. 28:16 33:3 and in Deut. 16:1–6. Just because we do not find specific references to keeping the Passover does not mean that they did not keep the Passover. The Israelites did not observe their Sabbatical years and that is well attested to. However, there is nothing said in the Bible about them not observing the Passover.

A Summary of God's Geographical Will for the Children of Israel

Ex. 13:21–22 40:1, 34–38


And in the day of the raising up of the tabernacle the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the tent of the testimony; and it the evening it was over the tabernacle, as an appearance of fire till morning; [Num. 9:15]

Recall the time frame that we are in right now. The tabernacle has just been completed (although this is also true for the first time that it was moved) and the glory of Yahweh is upon the tabernacle. This, just as the end of Exodus, describes what happened the first time the tabernacle was erected, just as what happened everytime it was reassembled. And he erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar and put the screenfor the entryway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle, and throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would mobilize; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not mobilize until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of Yahweh was on the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire in it by night, in the sight of all of house of Israel (Ex. 40:33–38). Notice that the end of the book of Exodus does not sound like some written immediately after the first raising of the tabernacle, but it sounds like something written afterwards, after the tabernacle had been dismantled and moved several times, as per the direction of Yahweh.

Even at the very beginning of the journey of Israel away from Egypt, God provided for them this kind of direction. And Yahweh was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, iand in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might journey by day and by night. And He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night from before the people (Ex. 13:21–22).


So it has been continually; the cloud covered it and the appearance of fire by night. [Num. 9:16]


Fire is the Hebrew word ’esh (ש ֵא ) [pronounced aysh] and one of its many uses is the supernatural fire, the presence of Yahweh or the attendance of a theophany. This passage parallels Ex. 40:33–38. It was written later, but refers to simultaneous events. Recall that this is in the desert of southern Egypt and it is highly unlikely that there are any clouds in the sky at all except for this, the visual image of the acompaniment of Jesus Christ.


And according to the going up of the cloud from off the tent and afterwards the sons of Israel journey; and in the place where the cloud settles [lit., tabernacles], there the sons of Israel would settle [lit., would tabernacle]; [Num. 9:17]


The verb used twice in this verse is the Qal imperfect of shâkan (ן ַכ ָש ) [pronounced shaw-KHAHN] and it means to settle, to settle down, to dwell, to encamp, to tabernacle. Its noun cognate is mîshekkân (ן ָ  ׃ש  ̣מ ) [pronounced mish'k-KAWN], which means dwelling place, tent, tabernacle.


By the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, the sons of Israel journey, and by the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, they encamp; all the days that the cloud encamped over the sacred tent, they encamped [or, more lit, the cloud tabernacled over the tabernacle they tabernacled]. [Num. 9:18]

This is a summary verse describing what would happen in general following the first and the subsequent raisings of the taberncle. The command of Yahweh was the encampment or the tabernacling of the cloud by day, fire by night. The command or the mouth of Yahweh was the movement of the cloud, which guided them. This cloud is supernatural. It is almost supernatural to see a cloud there in the first place and to have one which hovers, rises and falls and moves slowly enough to be followed, is supernatural. The Jews in the Exodus generaton were privy to a great many miracles, although it did not really affect them spiritually. They were a degenerate, rebellious generation and God loathed that generation. Since the cloud represented God's presence and His guidance, it was only natural to follow it, even without being given the directive to do so.


And in the cloud prolonging itself over the tabernacle many days, then have the sons of israel kept the responsibility [or, charge] of Yahweh, and they would not set out; [Num. 9:19]

Whenever the cloud stopped moving, then the sons of Israel remained in the one place. There is a geographical will of God and we are to remain in that geographical will. Ours is not quite as clearly prescribed as it was to the Exodus generation; however, it is not a situtation where we must determine do we go right on the 610 Loop to get to the Galleria, or do we stay on 45 until we get to interstate 10 and cut over on 10? If we stay with doctrine, God will take care of our geographical location. No matter what, it will not be determined by how we feel at any given time.


And so when the cloud is a number of days over the tabernacle; by the command of Yahweh, they encamp (lit., tabernacle); all the days that the cloud tabernalces over the tabernacle, they encamp (or, tabernacle). [Num. 9:20]

The cloud remaining in one place is God's visual directive to them to remain in that one place.


And so when the cloud is from evening till morning, when the cloud has gone up in the morning, then they will journey; whether by day or by night, when the cloud goes up, then they journey. [Num. 9:21]

Apparently, the cloud would settle further down, much closer to the tabernacle. This was an easy task to determine for the sons of Israel. In this desert, they would be staring into an almost cloudless sky, save one. When the cloud would ascend, then would pack up and head out; when it would begin to hover, they would stop, camp and set up the tabernacle. Then the cloud would descend upon the tabernacle.


Whether two days or a month or a year [lit., days], in the cloud prolonging itself over the tabernacle, to tabernacle over it, the sons of Israel tabernacled and did not journey; and in its being lifted up, they journeyed; [Num. 9:22]

There was no set amount of time that the Israelites journeyed. It might be for two days, a month, or for many days (this usually indicates a year, as per Lev. 25:29). It was an indeterminable amount of time, just as our knowledge of our lives here on earth is an indeterminable amount of time. Thisis written from a perspective of previous observation. There have been enough travelings and encampments that Moses has seen the pattern and that the pattern is unrelated to a time factor but to the leading of Jesus Christ in the desert.


By the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, they encamp; and by the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, they set out; the responsibility of Yahweh, they have kept, by the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh with the hand of Moses. [Num. 9:23]

This previous passage describes divine guidance to the children of Israel.

Numbers 10


Numbers 10:1–36


Outline of Chapter 10:

       Vv. 1–10       The Use of trumpets

       Vv. 11–28     The first march away from Mount Sinai

       Vv. 29–32     Moses and his brother-in-law

       Vv. 33–36     The ark of the covenant leads the advance

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

Introduction: Up until this time, the Israelites have prepared to travel. Everyone had their assigned duties and the Levites had been cleansed for service. In Num. 10, as God ordered in Ex. 33, the Jews will finally set out from Mount Sinai. In retrospect, from the end of Exodus until about this time, this information was recorded not in chronological order, but in a topical order, as Moses brought these things back to mind. Some were received on Mount Sinai during his two times up there and some were received in the desert of Sinai (when he was outside the camp) and some things were spoken to him in the tabernacle. At this point, we are actually breaking camp and moving away from Mount Sinai and toward the promised land. Num. 10 is the end of the honeymoon. It has appeared that since the golden calf incident that the cutting out of the cancerous element of Israel possibly did the trick. However, the implication of the Num. 9 incident and one of the first things which will occur when the Jews come into the desert away from the mountain, will indicate that these are a hard-hearted, rebellious generation that God will have to strike dead in the desert.

The Use of Trumpets


And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, [Num. 10:1]

Prior to moving out, there will have to be some way for Moses to keep order. We will have two million people wandering across the desert and there will be times when Moses will have to gt their attention.


"Make for yourself two trumpets of silver; beaten work you will make them, and they have been to you for the convocation of the company, and for the journeying of the camps; [Num. 10:2]

Trumpets, insofar as we know, were long metal tubes which were straight and thin and the ends, like all brass instruments, were falred. God states the purpose of the two trumpets—they are to convene the companies of Israel and to assist them on their journey.


"And they sound the trumpets [lit., blow with them], then [lit., and] the entire congregation will assemble themselves with you, in the direction of the opening of the tent of meeting. [Num. 10:3]

Some of the translation here are difficult to follow. Simply, the horns will be blown and that will be the sign for the sons of Israel to gather themselves to the tent of meeting. We are talking such a large group that there would only be a small percentage of men who would actually be right at the tent of meeting and everyone would have fallen in behind them.


"And if one sounds the trumpet [lit., and if with one they blow], then the princes, the heads of the divisions [lit., thousands] of Israel, will meet together with you; [Num. 10:4]

Two trumpets blowing at the same time means the entire congregation will assemble themselves and one trumpet means that only the princes of Israel need assemble themselves.


"And [if] you blow [the trumpet]—a shout, then those on the east side of the tabernacle will advance [lit., and the camps which are encamping eastward will journey]; [Num. 10:5]

This is not a trumpet sound and then a shout, but rather a description of a type of trumpet sound. The troups camped on the east side of the tabernacle, at this sound, would march. Rotherham renders this but when ye blow an alarm and footnotes it, explaining that it likely means a protracted or repeated blowing. Footnote We find such an alarm alluded to in Joel 2:1: Blow a trumpet in Zion an dsound and alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of hte land tremble for the day of Yahweh is coming; surely it is near.


"And you [all] have blown—a second shout, then [lit., and] the camps which are camping on the south will advance [or, journey]; a shout they blow for their journeys. [Num. 10:6]

Here, two shouts of the trumpet causes the southern troops to advance; I don't quite follow the last sentence here.


"And in the assembling of the assembly you blow and you do not shout; [Num. 10:7]

There is apparently a different kind of trumpet sound to assemble all of Israel.


"And sons of Aaron, the priests, blow [with] the trumpets; and they will be to you a perpetual statute throughout your generations [or, more literally, and they have been to you for a statute age-during to your generations]. [Num. 10:8]

Our language is somewhat different than the Hebrew language. We would blow the trumpets and they would blow with the trumpets. We are saying essentially the same thing. The they here may not necessarily refer to the priests but rather to the instructions with regards to blowing the trumpets. We find the priests blowing these trumpets hundreds of years later in 1Chron. 15:15:24 and 2Chron. 13:12.


"And when you [all] go into battle in your land against an adversary who is distressing you, then you will shout with the trumpets and you will be remembered before the face of Yahweh your God, and you [all] will be delivered from your enemies. [Num. 10:9]

The key here is that during the battle, they concentrate upon their God and Savior, Jesus Christ and callupon Him when things begin going bad, and Jesus Christ would deliver them in battle. We will see a miraculous illustration of this in Joshua 6.


"And in the day of your gladness and in your appointed seasons, and in the beginnings of your months, you will blow also with the trumpets over your burnt-offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings, and they will be to you a memorial before the face of your God; I, Yahweh, [am] your God." [Num. 10:10]

The trumpets can be blown to express joy and gladness and when offerings are made to God. God is obviously saying that He will hear them. The Psalmist wrote: Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon on our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob (Psalm 81:3–4). So far, we see that trumpets are to be used for (1) the assembling of the congregation (v. 3); (2) the assembling of the leaders (v. 4); (3) advancing (vv. 5–6); (4) going into battle (v. 9); and, (5) feastdays (v. 10). See the Doctrine of Trumpets—not finished yet!!

David, possibly during his retirement, set up a full orchestra of 288 musicians (1Chron. 25). I believe that there is one sect (and probably more) which does not believe in musical instruments i the church. And when the priest came forth from the holy place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without regard to divisions), and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and theirs sons and relatives, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them 120 priest blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpetes and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice ot praise and to glorify Yahweh, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised Yahweh: "He indeed good for His graciousness is everlasting" then the house, the house of Yahweh, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of God (1Chron. 5:11–14). If Yahweh was totally against musical instruments, He would have not have blessed this group by filling the temple with His Presence.

The First March Away from Mount Sinai


And it came to pass, in the second year in the second month, in the twentieth of the month, that the cloud went up from off the tabernacle of the testimony; [Num. 10:11]

This is actually the first time that the Jews would set out. Prior to this, they had spent eleven months at the foot of Mount Sinai. During these eleven months, Moses had received doctrine directly from God on Mount Sinai, at the foot of Mount Sinai in the tabernacle; and out in the desert of Sinai at the tent of meeting pitched outside the camp. Ideally, this should have been the march of the Jews into the land of Canaan, into the promised land. These former slaves were to march against and defeat the various degenerate Canaanite tribes. This should have taken another couple years to establish themselves in the land given them by God.


And the sons of Israel journey in their journeyings from the wilderness of Sinai, and the clouth dwelt [lit., tabernacled] in the desert of Paran. [Num. 10:12]

The Jews broke camp and began to follow the cloud which moved into the desert of Paran. Recall that when Hagar left with Abraham's son, Ishamael, they went to the desert of Paran (Gen. 21:21). They are heading north toward the land of Canaan and their first major stop will be Kadesh, which is approximately 150 miles away.


And they advanced [or, journeyed] at first by the command [lit., mouth] of Yahweh, at the direction of [lit., in the hand of] Moses. [Num. 10:13]

The Israelites moved forward following the cloud in obedience to the command of Yahweh. Now even though this is a miraculous occurence, it will seem to them much less spectacular than the things which they have seen and heard about. A cloud is a cloud is a cloud. Even though clouds were rare in an Egyptian or desert sky, particularly one which moved with intelligence, it nevertheless is a less than spectacular miracle and the Jews, once they had traveled somewhat, will begin to complain of God's provision.


And the standard of the camp of the sons of Judah advance in the first, by their hosts, and over its host is Nahshon, son of Amminadab. [Num. 10:14]

Judah's tribe is pre-emminent throughout, even though Moses and Aaron came from the tribe of Levi and the last great person in the Jewish line was Jospeh, fathering the two half-tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. Each company of three tribes will have a standard or a banner which would lead them and which they would rally around.


And over the armyh of he tribe of the sons of Issachar: Nathaniel ben Zuar. [Num. 10:15]

Obviously, this will be another list of the leaders.


And over the army of the tribe of the sons of Zebulun: Eliab ben Helon; [Num. 10:16]

These tribes are probably assembling and falling in line behind one another according to where they had camped about the tabernacle.


And the tabernacle has been taken down and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari have advanced, bearing the tabernacle. [Num. 10:17]

As was pointed out, this was their duty. Only the Levites could take the tabernacle down, as per Num. 1:51—any unauthorized person would die the sin unto death. Notice that their place in the procesion is interesting. You would think that they would be in the middle or in the middle-back, for maximum protection. Nope—they are fourth in line. The sons of Merari are performing their duties as per Num. 4:21–32 and 7:7–9.


And the standard of the camp of Reuben will advance, by their armies; and over its army: Elizur ben Shedeur. [Num. 10:18]

The tribe Reuben should lead by virtue of Reuben being the first-born of Jacob, however he will lead the second brigade (or third, if you include the two companies of Levites) (Num. 2:10–16).


And over the army of the tribe of the sons of Simeon: Shelumiel ben Zurishaddai. [Num. 10:19]

Simeon was the second born and should be second in line; however, as a group, they were not faithful to God's Word.


And over the army of the tribe of the sons of Gad: Eliasaph ben Deuel; [Num. 10:20]

Here we have the repetition of a sentence finally.


And the Kohathites will advance, bearing the tabernacle and the others have raised up the tabrnacle until their coming in. [Num. 10:21]

It's interesting that the Levites were split up with the tribes of Gad, Simeon and Reuben falling between them. We covered the duties of the Kohathites in Num. 4:4–20.


And the standard of the camp of the sons of Ephraim has advanced, by their armies, and over its army: Elishama ben Ammihud. [Num. 10:22]

The two half-tribes of Joseph come next. See Num. 2:18–24.


And over the army of the tribe of the sons of Manasseh: Gamalial ben Pedshzur. [Num. 10:23]

These chosen twelve men are somewhat of a mystery. They are named several times in the Bible, always together in a group where they are essentially indistinguishable, and not one is ever alluded to apart from the others nor is something said to distinguish them from the others. It is as though these are the best the Israel has to offer (with the exception of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb, Aaron and Aaron's sons) and they will all die with their troops and with their generation.


And over the army of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin: Abidan ben Gideoni. [Num. 10:24]

The two youngest sons of Jacob are generally placed together. Notice that right man/right woman does not necessarily insure that your children or their children will be great. Joseph was without a doubt one of the greatest spiritual heroes of the Old Testament, but there have been very few if any others who were distinguished from these tribes.


And the standard of the camp of the sons of Dan has advanced (rearward to all the camps) by their armies, and over its army: Ahiezer ben Ammishaddai. [Num. 10:25]

This is the last three companies led by the tribe of Dan (Num. 2:25–31). The rear army is of great importance and they are mentioned twice more in Joshua 6:6, 9.


And over the army of the tribe of the sons of Asher: Pagiel ben Ocran. [Num. 10:26]

These troops come in from the north.


And over the army of the tribe of Naphtali: Ahira ben Enan. [Num. 10:27]

Naphtali is the final tribe to move out. This was the fourth and final time that these leaders of Israel were to be named (see also Num. 1:5–15 2:3–31 and 7:12–83). We will never hear from them again because God intends to send them into battle and they, like the rest of the congregation, will whine and complain and refuse to go into battle with the Canaanites and God will kill them in the desert.


There advances of the sons of Israel by their armies—and they advanced. [Num. 10:28]

This is our summary statement—the entire two million of Israel advanced into the desert.

Moses and His Brother-in-law


And Moses said to Hobab ben Reguel (the Midianite, father-in-law of Moses), "We are advancing to the place of which Yahweh has said, 'I give it to you'; go with us and we will do good to you; for Yahweh has spoken good concerning Israel." [Num. 10:29]

Obviously one of the things which attracted Moses to his first wife was her father, whom he loved and admired. His father-in-law, a Midianite, is mentioned more often and given more personality and is a greater person than any of the twelve leades of the tribes of Israel. Hobab would be the broterh-in-law of Moses and it is obvious that Moses developed a much better relationship with his in-laws than he did with his wife. Moses and Hobab will be actually going near where they originally met, to where his in-laws had their roots. We will hear about the sons of Hobab in Judges 4:11. We ought to examine The Doctrine of Moses' In-Law's—not finished yet!!

God would promise to bless Israel if Israel obeyed His Word. "So you will keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land wich the Lord your God is giving you for all time." (Deut. 4:40). As we will see, the generation following the Exodus generation was a much greater population; Moses told this second generation: "And Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possesed, and you will possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers." (Deut. 30:5).


And he said to him, "I will not go, but to my land and to my relatives I will go." [Num. 10:30]

Hobab certainly would prefer to return to his family, most of which has remained in the Midianite desert area, how Moses would prefer for his brother-in-law to remain for several reasons. (1) Moses genuinely likes his in-laws; (2) Moses has spent more time with his in-laws (forty years) and has a greater relationship with them than he does with most individual Jews, whom he has only spent less than two years with; and, finally, (3) his brother-in-law, Hobab, would be invaluable as a guide thorughout this desert area. Both he and Moses would have a vast knowledge of the desert area, although Hobab's knowledge would have had approximately an additional forty years of familiarity with the desert area.


And he said, "I [respectfully] implore you, do not forsake us, because you have known our encamping in the desert and you have been to us for eyes; [Num. 10:31]

Don't misunderstand, Moses was not calling his brother-in-law four eyes, but his father-in-law knew the desert area and he would have been quite helpful. However, God wants Moses to depend upon Him and not upon his father-in-law in these travels.


We have this word in the Hebrew nâ’ (א ָנ ) [pronounced naw] and it is part of an exhortation or part of an entreaty. It is equivalent to our word please, although it often does not sound right when translated that way. I cannot come up with a good one word translation, so I will do what the KJV does, but update it from I pray thee to I respectfully implore [or ask or request] you. Moses also genuinely likes his father-in-law, much more than his first wife, who will never be heard from again.

For the next verse, let me give you the smooth and the unsmooth versions:

The Amplified Bible           "And if you will go with us, it shall be that whatever good the Lord does to us, the ame we will do to you."

The Emphasized Bible      "And it shall be if thou wilt go with us,—yea it shall be that with the very good wherewith Yahweh shall do us good will we do good unto thee."

KJV                                   "And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee."

NASB                                "So it will be, if you go with us, it will come about that whatever good the Lord does for us, we will do for you"

NIV                             If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us."

NRSV                                "Moreover, if you go with us, whatever good the Lord does for us, the same we will do for you."

Young's Lit. Translation     And it hath come to pass when thou goest with us, yeah, it hath come to pass—that good which Jehovah doth kindly with us—it we have done kindly to thee."


From these verses, the general meaning of this verse can be ascertained. However, let's look at the Hebrew a bit to see what is here, as our two most literal translations are somewhat abstruse and the freer translations sound great and are easy to understand, but they seem to more of a translation of the general impact of the verse as opposed to a word--by-word translation. This verse begins with the verb hâyâh (ה ָי ָה ) [pronounced haw-YAW] which simply means to be. Without a specific subject and object, it often means and it will come to pass. This is followed by the conjunction kîy (י  ̣ ) [pronounced kee] which means when, that, for. Then hâyâh is repeated with the same morphology. Placing the same word twice in the same verse gives it great emphasis, which I have achieved in my translation below by inserting the words in fact which are not a part of the translation, but an interpretation of the syntactical meaning. Since the Hebrew has no past, present or future tense, I have personally given this a past tense to contrast the future tense which I began the verse with. In the Hebrew, both time this verb is in the Qal perfect, which is the simple stem and completed action.


Here is where things begin to become tricky (the previous stuff was fairly easy by comparison). We have a definite article and the masculine singular of the 3rd person personal pronoun hîy’ (אי  ̣ה ) [pronounced hee] and this can be translated he or it. It is preceeded by a definite article and often this personal pronoun is translated it [is]. However, it could also be the subject of the verb hâyâh. However, it can also be translated as a demonstrative pronoun, as this or that. The reason for connecting this pronoun or demonstrative adjective with the next noun is that the next noun, meaning good, benefit, welfare is also in the masculine singular. This is followed by a verb, again used twice, which means to do good to, to deal well with. The first time the subject is Yahweh and the second time the subject is we.


"And it will come to pass when you go with us, in fact, is has come to pass—that the [lit., the that] good [or, benefit] which Yahweh does graciously with [possibly, in spite of] us, and we will deal graciously with respect to you." [Num. 10:32]

God graces out all of Israel and Moses will grace out his father-in-law; as it has been in the past, so it will continue to be in the future. This is not the first instance of blessing by association being observed by one of Moses' in-laws. And Jethro rejoyced over all the goodness which Yahweh had done to Israel, in delivering him from the hand of the Egyptians (Ex. 18:9). He certainly taught this great truth to hs sons. Furthermore, the Jews had been carefully instructed not to defraud those who ae not Jews by birth. "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you will no defraud him. The stanger who resides with you will be to you as a native among you and you will love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh, your God. You will do no wrong in judgemtn, in measurement of weight or capacity. You will have just balances, just weights, a just ephah and a just hin; I am Yahweh your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33–36). They were not to show favortism in the courts nor were they to lower their standards of business when dealing with a foreignor.

In Judges 1:16 we have the descendants of Moses' father-in-law traveling with the sons of Judah, indicating that Hobab chose to stay with Moses and the Israelites (see also Judges 4:11 and 1Sam. 15:6).

The Ark of the Covenant Leads the Advance


And they advanced from the mount of Yahweh, a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of Yahweh advanced before their faces. The journey of three days [was] to seek for them a resting-place. [Num. 10:33]

If the ark were a mere religious artifact, then it certainly would not lead the march. We are talking about something which required a great deal of gold to make. An enemy would certainly desire to destroy and plunder the front line with the ark in the lead. However, the ark is the very Presence of Jesus Christ, Yahweh Who would lead the Israelites into battle for the next thousand years. This generation needed only to focus their attention upon Jesus Christ, as Moses essentially symbolized by placing the ark before them.

One of the things we search for is eternal rest. Life is difficult and filled with hard labor. Then it will come to pass in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a rallying point for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious (Isa. 11:10). "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28). Rest in Yahweh and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of whom prospers in his way because of the man who carries out evil schemes (Psalm 37:7). Therefore, let us be diligent to enter into that rest, so that no one will fall through the same example of disobedience (Heb. 4:9).

The mount of Yahweh is Mount Sinai. This is the honeymoon period of this march. Recall that we have two million Jews on the march with children, women and animals, no easy feat. We are looking for a new place to put down camp. The three days of marching has no significance yet. It will be in Num. 11 that we will hear these people begin to whine and complain, which will be after the three day march. It should be obvious that with two million people on their first organized march that they did not really get too far.


And the cloud of Yahweh on them by day, in their advance from the camp. [Num. 10:34]

They advanced as the cloud advanced.


And it came to pass in the advancing of the ark, that Moses said, "Rise, O Yahweh, and Your enemies are scattered, and those hating You flee from Your presence." [Num. 10:35]

This was essentially a prayer of protection; Moses called upon God to protect them and scatter their enemies as they marched for the first time in about a year. He called for Yahweh to scatter their enemies from all around. King David wrote a Psalm celebrating this: Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered and let those who hate Him flee befor Him. As smoke is driven away, so drive [them] away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God (Psalm 68:1–2). We will later hear Moses speak to the congregation: "But He rapys those who hate Him to his face, to destroy him; He will not delay with respect to him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face." (Deut. 7:10).


And in its resting, he said, "Return, O Yahweh, the myriads, the thousands of Israel." [Num. 10:36]

And in the evening, when they stopped, Moses called for Yahweh to return to their camp and to rest upon them, as it were, as their protection.

It is possible that these verses are slightly out of order from the original; it is possible that the correct verse order should be vv. 33, 35, 36, 34; or, And they advanced from the mount of Yahweh, a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of Yahweh advanced before their faces. The journey of three days [was] to seek for them a resting-place. And it came to pass in the advancing of the ark, that Moses said, "Rise, O Yahweh, and Your enemies are scattered, and those hating You flee from Your presence." And in its resting, he said, "Return, O Yahweh, the myriads, the thousands of Israel." And the cloud of Yahweh on them by day, in their advance from the camp. The verses seem to flow more logically when rearranged like this. HOwever, that is not the reason that scholars suspect that they were misordered. The earliest Massoretic authorities bracketed vv. 35–36, which likely indicated that they had probably been dislocated. The rearrangement is the thought of Hebrew scholar Ginsburg. Footnote

Numbers 11


Numbers 11:1–35

Israel Complains and God Gives Them Quail to Eat

Outline of Chapter 11:

       vv.   1–5      The sons of Israel desire meat in their diet

       vv.   6–9      The people are tired of eating manna

       vv.  10–15    Moses himself complains about his great responsibilities

       vv.  16–20    God promises Moses that He will send the Israelites an overabundance of meat

       vv.  21–23    Moses becomes sarcastic; Yahweh gently upbraids him

       vv.  24–30    Moses chooses his seventy helpers and God sends them the Holy Spirit

       vv.  31–35    God sends the Israelites an over abundance of quail

Charts, Maps and Short Doctrines:

       v.    15          The Early Life of Moses

       V.   15          The Parallelism Found in vv. 10, 11 and 15

       v.    25          The Abbreviated Doctrine of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Introduction: In Num. 11, we return to narrative once again. Prior to this, throughout Leviticus and Numbers, we have had ordinances and laws given by Yahweh to Moses, interspersed with a portion of their daily life. Now the Israelites are moving away from Mount Sinai, north toward the land of Canaan, and after three days travel, we will begin to see them for what they really are and we will begin to understand why God loathed this generation.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The Sons of Israel Desire Meat in Their Diet

Already in the first verse, we have quite a difference in translations:


The Amplified Bible           And the people grumbled and deplored their hardships, which was evil in the ears of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled;

The Emphasized Bible      And it came to pass that when the people were giving themselves up to murmuring it was grievous in the ears of Yahweh, so Yahweh hearkened and kindled was his anger,...

KJV                                   And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled;

NASB                                Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heart it, His anger was kindled,...

NIV                                    Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused.

NRSV                                Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled.

Owen's Translation           And the people complained about distress in the hearing of Yahweh and when Yahweh heard his anger was kindled...

Young's Lit. Translation     And the people is evil, as those sighing habitually in the ears of Jehovah, and Jehovah heareth, and His anger burneth,...


The idea of the first half of the verse is basically the same; the people grumble and complain, Yahweh hears and He becomes greatly angered (obviously an anthropopathism). However, it would be nice to know just exactly what God's Word really says. This verse begins with the wâw consecutive and the 3rd person masculine singular, Qal imperfect of hâyâh. This is followed by the definite article and the masculine singular for the word people. Without the appropriate noun, this verse would begin, then it came to pass, the people...; however, the people are likely the subject of this verb. Young, being as literal as can be, translated the verb in the singular, which makes it sound goofy in the English; it is an accurate translation, albeit a bit goofy. This is followed by the prefixed preposition ke, meaning like, as; and the masculine plural, Hithpael participle of ʾânan (ן ַנ ָא) [pronounced aw-NAHN], a word occurring but twice in the OT (here and Lam. 3:39) and it means complain (insofar as we know). The Hithpael is the intensive, reflexive stem, so this complaining was like a person you have upset, and he wanders off muttering caustic things, almost out of your hearing. A participle is a verb which can act as a noun, emphasizing the action of the verb. An English example: the hearing impaired. So this should be translated, then the people became like those complaining [to themselves]... Unfortunately, every major translation ignored the reflexive in this participle. These people are like those who are muttering to themselves. God is right there; they can communicate directly to Moses, through the chain of command, and they can pray to Yahweh, Whose very presence they are in constantly. Instead, they mutter to themselves, just loud enough so that those around them hear their dissatisfaction, causing them to mutter to themselves.


This is followed by the noun for evil, distress, misery; ra׳ (ע ַר) [pronounced rah]. Prior to this, we have a complete thought—this cannot be appended to what we have just had. Prior to this noun, we do not have a construct, nor do w e have a preposition, nor can this be attached to the previous verbs as a subject, as they are already attached to subjects. This begins a new thought. It is immediately followed by the preposition meaning in and the rest of the phrase, ear of Yahweh.


Then the people became like those complaining [to themselves]—evil in the ear Footnote of Yahweh. [Num. 11:1a]

It is all well and good to translate the rough meaning, but it is even more reasonable to translate this literally, as the meaning is clear, even though a literal simile is used (when it reads the people became as those complaining, they actually were people who were complaining. The first portion of this verse tells us what the people did and what this was to God. God had freed them from slavery and had provided for them miraculously in the desert. Their complaints and mumblings to themselves showed a distinct lack of faith in a God Who had shown them greater miracles and signs than He has ever shown to any previous generation. Psalm 106:10–13 describes their problem: So He delivered them from the hand of the one who hated [them], and He redeemed them from the hand of the enemy; and the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel.

Recall that these very same people cried out to Yahweh to deliver them from the Egyptians. Ex. 2:23: Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the slavery, and they called out [to God]; and their cry for help because of slavery rose up to God. So God heard their groaning and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And God saw the sons of Israel and God knew them.

From the first ten chapters of Numbers, we have made a dramatic change. For ten chapters, over and over we saw the obedience of Moses and the obedience of the people. All of a sudden, in this chapter and the subsequent ones (see Num. 14:2 16:41), once Israel was uprooted and put on a force march to the promised land, their evil nature is brought out. Some people's evil nature cannot be observe until you put them under a little pressure and then you see them for exactly what they are. Certainly you have seen a husband or a wife who seems perfect; however, when you ask their spouse, who has observed them up close under pressure, the report is not necessarily so favorable. What we really are is clearly revealed when pressure and trials are added to our lives. Almost anyone can behave decently when things are going their way.


So Yahweh kept hearing then his anger was kindled then it burned against them—the fire of Yahweh [or, the fire of Yahweh burned against them]—and it consumed the extremity of the camp. [Num. 11:1b]


The second portion of this verse gives Yahweh's reaction to their degenerate, faithless thinking. We have three words for fire or burning in this verse, and one word for the consumption by fire. The first phrase, his anger was kindled, cannot be improved upon in the English. The verb is chârâh (ח ָר ָה) [pronounced khaw-RAWH] and it means to kindle, to become angry. This is obviously an anthropopathism—God does not get angry; but the picture here is God sees this, and he gets a little mad; He thinks about it, and He gets a little more angry; He thinks about it some more, and He begins to seethe and burn with anger. Just as I learned in the cub scouts, you begin a fire with some paper, which ignites some small twigs, which ignites some larger branches, which ignites the logs. This verb obviously must be in the imperfect, as this is a continued action of one's anger building up. But again, let me emphasize, this is an anthropopathism; God's character does not allow for Him to seethe with anger; this is language of accommodation so that we can have a human understanding of God's actions. We have all been upset over a situation that, when given time to reflect upon it, have become more and more angry. Every time we think about it some more, we get angrier. That is the meaning of this verb—it is just like kindling a fire.


The next verb for burn is in the 3rd person feminine singular, Qal imperfect. This tells us what the subject of the verb is; it is fire (also in the feminine singular) and not Yahweh, a proper noun which takes a masculine singular verb. I placed the fire of Yahweh where it occurs in the Hebrew, but it is the subject of that verb. It is normal for the Hebrew subject to follow the Hebrew verb, rather than vice versa, as in English. Let's take a look at this word for fire. The word is ʾesh (ש ֵא) [pronounced aysh] and it means fire (Lev. 1:7); lightning (Gen. 19:24 Ex. 9:23–24); and it is often used to mean a supernatural fire, the presence of Yahweh or the attendance of a theophany. (Ex. 3:2 13:21). Here, all three meanings are combined; it is lightning from above, revealed the presence of God, resulting in fire on the earth. This is in the imperfect tense and it mirrors the meaning of kindle. Just as kindling is a series of actions, so was this lightning—it is the Divine Presence, which resulted in lightning from the sky, which resulted in fire on the ground. We will see lightning from above strike an altar on behalf of Elijah in 1Kings 18:38. A logical progression God's presence and of His actions, none of which can be isolated from the others.


Throughout this verse there are five waw consecutives. This is generally a w with a patah (ַו) [pronounced wah]. The waw consecutive was once called a waw conversative; it received the latter name because, it was thought, it would change an imperfect verb into the perfect tense and vice versa; it converted them. Footnote My chief comment at this point is why bother? Why not make the verb the way you wanted it in the first place; why bother with a conversative? Luckily, those well-versed in the Hebrew have come to the same conclusion and the name and the meaning of the waw conversative changed. It is now called a waw consecutive, meaning consecutive action is being given. Footnote Here, the continued use of the waw consecutive also draws great attention to these two sentences. Recall that everything has been going so well, and suddenly Moses, through God the Holy Spirit, grabs us by the shirt collar and yells at us. There weren't even five waw consecutives in the preceding five verses and here we have five all at once. They should be translated and so, and then, then, so. Now read v. 1with the following emphasis: Then the people became like those complaining [to themselves]—evil in the ear of Yahweh. Then Yahweh kept hearing; then his anger was kindled; then it burned against them—the fire of Yahweh—then it consumed the extremity of the camp. Not only do we have consecutive action, but it is consecutive action with great emphasis. The similar words for fire and burning also give great emphasis to what is being said here. This is a complete change of pace from the Pentateuch all the way from the golden calf incident back in Exodus until now. I am certain that some of you do not like to delve into the Hebrew, but it is the Hebrew of this verse which tells us exactly what is being said. There are a series of events, one which follows another, a logical progression of events—from our standpoint, not from God's—a series of events which tells us that certain actions have logical consequences.

We might be a trifle concerned at this point, thinking that the Jews have had a pretty good track record up until this time and all that is occurring here is a little mumbling and complaining, and most of them are keeping it to themselves. And Peter said, "Lord, are You addressing this parable to us or to everyone as well?" And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible servant, whom his master will place in charge of his slaves, to give them their rations at the proper time. Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. In fact, I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But, if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes. However, the one who did not know, and committed deeds worth of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I desire that it already be kindled." (Luke 12:41–49). These Jews, at that time, had been given much more and they had seen much more, than any other people on the earth. However, as recipients of God's grace, God expects much more from them. Their advantage is a double-edged sword—one the one hand, they saw daily the animals being sacrificed to Yahweh and they saw the might hand of God through many great miracles and incredible feats and this gave them a jump start on salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ (as a majority of the great believers in the Old Testament are Jewish). As Paul wrote: Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? [It is] great in every respect. First of all, they were entrusted with the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1–2). For those who are ignorant of God's Word, there is limited discipline and limited blessing. For the unbeliever, God pretty much allows them to do what they want (God does not chastise those who are not His children) and only applies pressure when they have positive volition and just need encouragement (if we could have wondrously perfect lives and still be positive toward a relationship with God and to God's Word, it would be highly unlikely that God would ever apply pressure which hurt). However, on the other hand, for a person to be exposed to the gospel and to God's Word and to disobey, there is hell to pay.


Then the people cried to Moses so Moses prayed to Yahweh and so the fire was quenched [lit., sunk down or drowned]. [Num. 11:2]

Again we have several waw consecutives, three of them to be exact, which I have translated differently, then, so, and so. A more literal translation might stick with one rendering only. These eight waw consecutives in one verse grab us and tell us that we are in an historical narrative now which is chronological. The thrust of such a connective is essentially chronological or logical progression.


The final verb is the Qal imperfect of shâqa׳ (ע ַק ָש) [pronounced shaw-KAH] and it means to sink down, to drown although it is a relatively rare word in the Old Testament (Job 41:1 Jer. 51:64 Ezek. 32:15 Amos 8:8 9:5). Strong's #8257 BDB #1054.

Notice here that we have our levels of authority and now the people are going through the correct channels. They go to Moses, who represents God to them, and he goes to God. The stop mumbling to themselves and they talk to Moses (possibly after going through their own immediate leaders). They are not as concerned about the things that they were mumbling about, but about the fires of Yahweh which have been started near the outside of the camp. God listens to this and withdraws the lightning and the fires.


Then he called the name of that place Taberah, for [lit., and] the fire of Jehovah burned among them. [Num. 11:3]

Taberah is obviously a transliteration (we will only see it once more in Deut. 9:22) and it is the word for buring to the letter, with the exception that it is preceded by a ta. The fires which burned among them came directly from Yahweh. Naming this place serves two purposes: (1) as a reminder to them of what had transpired; and, (2) as a teaching aide to their children; the children would ask why this area had the name Taberah, and the adults would explain why.


And the rabble who [are] in its midst had great cravings [lit., lusted a lust], then the sons of Israel reminisced [lit., turned back] then wept, then said, "Who will give us meat? [Num. 11:4]


One of the things which we do not see in the English is the use of the verb and its noun cognate to draw attention to the intensity of this verse. The verb is the 3rd person masculine plural, Hithpael perfect of ʾâwâh (ה ָו ָא) [pronounced aw-WAWH] and it means to desire, to crave, to lust. It is followed by the feminine singular noun taʾăvâh (ה ָו ֲא ַ) [pronounced tah-av-WAW], which is a desire, a craving, a lust, a wish, that which is desired. The literal translation is to lust a lust. This expression, known technically as a polyptoton [pronounced po-LYP-to-ton] obviously intensifies the meaning of the words; this was an overpowering lust or desire. Several translation insert the word again near the word wept; it is actually the Qal imperfect of shûwbv (בש) [pronounced shoobv]; which means return; we saw it several times in Leviticus (Lev. 25 is where we studied this word), where that which was stolen or destroyed or broken was returned or restored to the original owner. Here, the Israelites are returning in their minds to Egypt; that is, they are reminiscing. There are times that we have rosy notions of the way things use to be; there are people, like myself, who rarely remember things in a negative way, but recall the past quite favorably. Some people who do this find themselves longing for the good old days. Here, it was complete and total removal from reality. They were so abused as slaves that they called out to their God for help, as we have recently quoted. They were under great stress and pain. And suddenly, one year later, they are reminiscing about the good old days and their idyllic life as slaves and they are homesick! They weep—the imperfect tense for both verbs indicates that they think back a little, they weep a little, they think back some more and weep some more. Insert into this action that they call out for some actual meat, which they have not had for awhile. Some people have a very tough time with personal inconvenience; where some things are just never the same. I personally recall having apricot trees and eating fresh apricots right off the tree and having apricot pie—the yellowish orange fruit sold in the stores is practically a different fruit; and that which is sold in cans does not even resemble the taste or texture of apricots even remotely. This does not mean that was the greatest time of my life and I spend my life wishing to return to those days. When your life moves ahead, there are things in this world which you will leave behind and some things which you will miss. That is a part of this life. However, these Jews were being melodramatic and their horrible past was blurred by some of the delicacies that they were able to enjoy then. It was not wrong to desire some of the tremendous food which they left behind in Egypt. However, these people are taking this too far; they fail to recognize that (1) their lives were horrible under Egyptian slavery; (2) that they had called to Yahweh for help and deliverance from slavery to the Egyptians; (3) that God was taking them to a land of milk and honey; (4) that the God of the Universe, the One capable of anything, was leading them through the desert and He could provide for them whatever they needed and often gave them things which they desired. There was a way to approach this and a way not to approach this. They could speak to Moses and ask him to ask God for some variation in their diet.

This is actually kind of fascinating because, originally, God provided the sons of Israel with both manna and quail meat, back in Ex. 16 (see Ex. 16:8–13). We do not know what happened between then and now. Did God suddenly stop providing quail? Did God gradually wean the Jews from quail? We are never told that. However, the Jews are being tested here—they are being tested to trust God’s provisions. They are about to face the real test, and this is an intermediate test to get them ready. This is the practice test. God has provided them with meat and manna in the past; God continues to provide the Jews with manna at this time; so, the test question is, can God provide them meat if they ask for it? These Jews did not need to complain. They did not need to bellyache. This did not need to approach Moses like Moses has ruined their lives, taking them out of their Shangri-la Egypt and making them to wander in this desert. Back in Egypt, they got roasts and fish and leeks and garlic; and their life was so good. This is a bad move on their part. This band of elders who have come to Moses simply have to say, “We are all tired of just manna; could God provide us with quail again or even with fish?” God is God. God can do anything. With the proper mental attitude, not only could these Jews have eaten well, and probably have gotten anything that they asked for, but they chose to approach God (actually, Moses, their mediator) in a hostile manner. The fact that these people will fail big time in the next couple chapters is what we ought to expect.


What they wanted in their diet is bâsâr (ר ָ ָ) [pronounced baw-SAWR] which is properly translated flesh; however, it can be used as a euphemism for the male organ (Gen. 17:11, 414, 23), flesh in terms of being related (Gen. 29:14 Judges 9:2), for man as different from God (Gen. 6:3 Psalm 56:5); for animals (Gen. 7:15–16 Isa. 31:3); for living things (Gen. 6:17, 19 Lev. 17:14). However, we will translate this meat because that is the proper meaning of this word in this context relative to our culture.

Perhaps if we looked at this a different way, so that you can understand what was so lousy about their attitude. Haven't you ever known or worked with or been related to someone who does nothing but complain about life, their boss, their co-workers, their family, their husband, their wives, their children? It is if every other sentence from their mouths is a complaint about someone or something. If you are a fellow comiserator, you might enjoy what they have to say because when they stop and take a breath, you will have your chance to complain about someone—or to agree with them. However, for most people, listing to someone moan, bitch, whine and complain is the most distressing. Have you as a husband come home from working ten hours a day and your wife starts bitching at you the moment you come in the door that you don't make enough money? Haven't you as a wife, come home from a hard day at work and the first thing you hear from the husband is why haven't you straightened this up, or why isn't dinner ready yet? Haven't you spent two hours preparing an incredible meal—perhaps several hours preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, and your kid whines about how he would rather have a hamburger; don't you want to just pop him in the head? You foolishly bought your sixteen year old daughter a new red corvette to reward her because she is (1) not pregnant and (2) still in school; and she whines because she likes teal? It is absolutely irritating and frustrating to be around people who are so self-centered, so insensitive and so negative. This is what God faced. Instead of appreciation for what He had done and anticipation for what lay ahead—He had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey—these Jews are whining, bitching, complaining about the good old days which weren't all that good. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave wrong things, as they [those of the Exodus generation] also craved (I Cor. 10:6).

Application: God gives us a variety of tests; some are practice tests and some are mid-terms. This is the practice test for Gen X. Coming up, in Num. 13–14, will be their final exam. They fail the practice test and they will fail the final exam. When God tests you, then it is a good idea to make some kind of attempt, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to pass that test. It is the prudent thing to do. Had this generation of Jews passed this test, it is possible that they would have walked right into the Land of Promise and taken it away from the heathen in the land. However, what will happen instead is, God will let their carcasses die in the desert (preview of coming events). Simple question for you when you face a test: do you want to pass the test and enjoy all that God can provide for you or do you want your dried up carcass to drop dead in a miserable desert?

Application: So there is no misunderstanding, the Christian life is not all about you want to do one thing and God wants you to do something different, and now you have to do this something different that you absolutely hate doing. God is not going to send you off to the African junles to be a missionary if you (1) hate Africa, (2) hate languages, (3) hate bugs and wildlife, and (4) hate difficult surroundings. God has a plan for your life which you will enjoy. I can attest to that. God’s plan for everyone is different. Now, God is going to disrupt your life now and again, and God is going to pick you up and move you from point A to point B; but don’t think that a life of Christian service means, God is going to pick out the thing you hate the most and make you do that. The basic key is this: you regularly name your sins to God, you get under a pastor-teacher who carefully teachers the Word of God regularly (I would say that 4x a week is a bare minimum; and that minimum should be supplemented), and then let come what may. You start there, and then God is going to both bless you and test you. Of course, if you want to just whine and complain to God about how lousy your life is and how mean He is, try that, and see how far that gets you.

If you are carrying Zodhiates The Complete Word Study Old Testament, or the NIV Study Bible, and you read the commentary note which associates this rabble with the Egyptians who came out with the Jews, put a large "X" through that footnote and next to it write wrong wrong wrong. Too many Bible commentaries try to associate the rabble with the non-Jews who came out of Egypt with the Jews. Don't be misled by your translation if it reads mixed-multitude. Those who came with the Jews who were not born Jews were not the problem here or anywhere else. This is a condition of the heart. This is not a racial issue. Certainly, some former Egyptians were whining and complaining; but so were some Jews. The Bible never lists the mixed-multitude as the culprits. Psalm 78, a marvelous psalm written about this generation, reads: Then He led them with a cloud by day and all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave abundant drink, like the depths of the oceans. Yet they still continued to sin against Him, to rebel against the Most High in the desert; and in their heart, they put God to the test, by asking fo food according to their lust. Then they spoke against God; they said, "Can God set [or, prepare] a table in the desert? Sure [lit., behold], He struck the rock, so that waters gushed out and streams were overflowing; [but] can He give bread also? Will He provide meat for His people?" Therefore, Yahweh heard and was full of wrath, and a fire was kindled against Jacob and anger also mounted against Israel, because they did not believe in God and they did not trust in His deliverance (Psalm 78:14–24). This is God's Word and it tells us that the culprits were Jacob and Israel (God's designation for the Israelites). For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God (Rom. 2:28–29). It was that entire generation which God loathed, not just a few scattered Egyptians who left with the Jews. Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me as in the day of trial in the desert—where your fathers tried Me by testing. And they saw My works for forty years. Therefore, I was disgusted with this generation, and said, "They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways." As I swore in My wrath, "They will not enter into My rest." (Heb. 3:8–11 Psalm 95:8–11).

Don't you recall all these consecutives that we just examined. Then the people cried out to Moses; then Moses prayed to Yahweh, then the fire was quenched (v. 2). These Jews are related to the God of the Universe. If they want something, they can ask for it. This principle is illustrated in the gospel of Luke: "And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:11–13).


"We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic; [Num. 11:5]

This is all well and good. Egypt would have had some food stuffs unobtainable while crossing the desert. They have been eating manna all this time and certainly their meals had become monotonous. So what? There was some self-sacrifice involved for a few years. The Israelites had a difficult time separating themselves from Egypt. There weere several times that they viewed their slavery in Egypt through rose-colored glasses, as though it were a stroll through the country. And the sons of Isrrael said to them [Moses and Aaron], "We wish tht we would have died by Yahweh's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat , when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this entire assembly with hunger." (Ex. 16:3).

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

The People Are Tired of Eating Manna


"And now our appetite is bored [lit., our soul is dry]; there is not anything, except the manna [lit., what is it?] before our eyes." [Num. 11:6]

Now her is a thought. Leading them through the desert is the God of the Universe Who created the Universe. All they needed to do was to go to Moses and ask Moses to ask God for some variation in their diet. They don't need to whine, bitch, moan and complain. The problem here is attitude and faith. God should have just popped them in the heads.


And the manna is a coriander seed, and its appearance is like the appearance of bdellium [lit., the eye of it as the eye of bdellium]. [Num. 11:7]

In this verse, the word eye stands in for the word color. This is because it is with the eye that we distinguish color, a meaningless concept to smell, taste and touch. What we have here is an aside by Moses, as guided by the Holy Spirit. Let's just examine this manna thing for a moment:


The people have turned aside and gathered [it], and they have ground [it] will mill-stones, or beat [it] in a mortar, and boiled [it] in a pot, and made it cakes, and the taste is similar to the taste of the moisture of oil. [Num. 11:8]

So what is the point of all this? The point is that when they were hungry, God fed them and brought to them a food unlike any other which wa exceptionally versatile and could be prepared in a very large number of ways. I think of wheat, which can be made into cereal, hot or cold, a vast multitude of breads, croutons, stuffing, pastry and other deserts. This is merely one food, just as manna was merely one food. Don't these Jews realize that they can ask God for what they need? Don't you know that you should not spend your life bitching, whining and moaning? If you need something, you can ask God. Obviously, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. There is protocol. I recall one friend who, whenever she wanted some material thing, she would ask me to pray to God to get it for her. Now she had no interest in God, or Who he really is, or what her relationship to Him should be—she simply wanted that material thing and I was a rabbit's foot to help her get it. I am certain that she also appealed to her Catholic or Buddhist friends in the same way, to cover all bases.


And in the descending of the dew on the camp by night, the manna descended with [lit., on] it. [Num. 11:9]

Moses reminds us that the Jews are still receiving manna here from God. The emphasis here is that manna was miraculous; God gave that to them. Can you imagine what other things God would have given them had they asked correctly? This is simple. Your eighteen-year-old comes to you and says "Gimme the car keys." What's your reaction? Or, he says, "May I borrow the car; I'll be going over to Marcia's to study Algebra for an hour then I would back back here before 10:00 pm." Which kid has the better chance of getting the car? You lust and you do not do not have because you do not ask. [or] You ask and you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motivation, so that you may squander [it] on your lusts (James 4:2a, 2c, 3). Don't misundestand what is being taught here. Neither James nor I are teaching you how to play God. You cannot out-psyche God and there is no particular set of prayers which work better than any others. The key is what is in your soul. You cannot manipulate God; however, there is still a right way and a wrong way of approaching Him. You will note that a great many of the principles taught in the New Testament are merely carried over from the Old Testament. We are certainly in a new dispensation and there have been great changes in what has been given us; however, a vast majority of that which is right and wrong is found in both testaments. You may want to review your notes on manna at this time.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Moses Himself Complains about His Great Responsibilities


Then Moses heard the people weeping by its families, each at the opening of his tent, and the anger of Yahweh burned exceedingly, and in the eyes of Moses they were evil. [Num. 11:10]

A minor grammatical point here: the subject of were evil is people; both are in the masculine singular. However, our use of the word demands the plural, which is the way I translated it. We use the word crowd in the singular; however, this is not a synonymous term for the Hebrew word translated people.


There is a verb found here and in v. 11 (and its noun cognate is found in v. 15). Here we find the Qal perfect of râʿaʿ (ע ַע ָר) [pronounced raw-ĢAHĢ] and it means to be evil, bad, displeasing. To Moses, the behavior of this people was evil.

The people have been out for three days; they are a little tired of manna and they are being melodramatic about the lack of variety in their diet. Their poor attitude, their sloppy approach to God, and their intent to incite others to their own level of dissatisfaction is deplorable; they are nothing more than a bunch of damn crybabies. Here they are, related uniquely to the God of the Universe, and they are whining and complaining. Don’t miss the application to your life. You personally are related to the God of the Universe. You are indwelt by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; you have the greatest power on earth operational inside of you. Do you whine and complain, cry about your lot in life? Are you sniveling about your lack of opportunity, the lack of material wealth that you have, a broken heart? Let me let you in on a little secret: God deplores you! You are wretched in His sight. Footnote And if Moses were on earth, you would be evil in his sight also. You can solve every problem that life has given you. Jesus Christ, on earth, operated His human life entirely by means of the Holy Spirit. I know you don't even have a clue as to what I just said. Whenever it came to His personal needs, to His emotions and mental state, to His hunger and thirst; He could have, in His own power, satisfied His every need. When He was tempted by Satan and had not eaten for forty days, He had the innate power not to just turn the rocks at His feet into bread, but into fillet mignon with baked potatoes, sour cream, cheese and chives. When the soldiers slapped him prior to the cross, He could have instantly vaporized them. Every miracle He performed was not in His own power or from His own diety, but from the power of the Holy Spirit—the exact same Holy Spirit which indwells us. Does that mean that we can turn the stones in our backyard into a barbecue right before the crowd shows up? Certainly not! We are not to function outside of God's plan and we cannot use the power of the Holy Spirit outside of God's plan. However, there is no difficulty, no heart ache, no circumstance, no problem which God did not forsee—He has made full provision for every trouble in our life and has given us the Holy Spirit and His written Word to guide us.

Now brace yourselves: there is another way to see this verse. In this case both interpretations are valid. The unnamed subject for is evil can also be God. In the eyes of Moses, after hearing all this tremendous whining and complaining, God is evil in his eyes because Yahweh has saddled him with this tremendous responsibility and Moses does not know how to make it stop hurting. A mother whose child is in terrible pain, looking to her for comfort, clearly understands the feelings of Moses. She desires above all else to quell the pain and suffering of her child and could find herself angry with God for giving her a child in great pain that she can seemingly do nothing about.


And Moses said to Yahweh, "Why have You caused evil to be done to Your servant? And why have I not found grace in Your eyes—to place of all this people upon me? [Num. 11:11]


Recall how you did not like one of the interpretations that Yahweh had been evil in the sight of Moses. Notice that we have the same verb, râ׳a׳ (ע ַע ָר) [pronounced raw-AH] and this unquestionably is Moses referring to God, as it is in the second person singular. However, Moses has couched this is what would be considered more polite language. The verb this time is in the Hiphil perfect, meaning that God as not done evil to Moses but that God has caused evil to be done to Moses. Because of the Hiphil stem, I have translated this single verb by the phrase caused evil to be done to. God was not the doer of the action of the verb, but God set up a serries of events which resulted in a situation which was evil to Moses.

And notice who is complaining now; Moses is complaining to God. His people the Jews, are hurting and he does not know how to make it stop. Their discontnent and unhappiness is catching. It is difficult for anyone, regardless of their spiritual strength, to be around people who are whining, complaining, blaming and to maintain an even attitude. Moses is a great man beyond what any of us have ever seen, and the whining and complaining of his generation has even impacted him.


"Have I—even I—conceived all this people? Have I—even I—begotten them, Footnote that You say to me 'Carry them Footnote in your bosom as the nursing father bears the suckling? [Carry them] to the land, which You have sworn to their fathers?' [Num. 11:12]

So Moses asks God if he, Moses, is the person who fathered this people, because the person who fathered these people should be the one to carry them into the land. Moses is approaching God gingerly, mostly with inference. He does not come right out and say, "These are Your people, God, You take care of them." Instead, Moses implies that. Afterall, God is the Father of Israel. "Then you will say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says Yahweh, "Israel is My son, My first-born." ' " (Ex. 4:22; also see Isa. 63:16). The picture drawn is that of Moses carrying a suckling baby next to his bosom—a baby actually conceived by Yahweh. And Moses will do this for forty years And for a period of about forty years, He [God] put up with them in the desert (Acts 13:18). God has made promises to the sons of Israel, so why is Moses doing all the work and acting as though he made all these promises? As is footnoted, them should be translated it but it could also be translated him. There is no distinction in the Hebrew between the masculine and the neuter as there is in the Greek.

Moses is the great mediator between God and God's people Israel; and for him the pressure was becoming too great. Moses represents our Mediator, Who faced an even greater pressure. And He took with Him Peter and James and Joh, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." And He went a little beyond and fell to the ground and began praying that if it were posible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All thing are possible for You; remove this cup from Me, yet not what I will but what You will." (Mark 14:33–36). We have our salvation because our great Mediator did not buckle under the pressure of bearing our sins, even though we were born of the devil and not of Him, having an indwelling old sin nature and a deep desire to oppose Him.


"From where do I have meat to give to all this people? For they weep to me, saying, 'Give to us meat, and we will eat.' [Num. 11:13]

Moses lists their number one complaint: they are tired of manna and want some actual meat in their diet. He doesn't have any meat and he has no idea where to get the meat necessary for this many people out in the middle of the desert. However, God is able. This is the same God, Who, several centuries in the future, will feed 5000 with five barley loaves and two fish (Matt. 14:13–21 Mark 6:32–44 Luke 9:10–17 John 6:7–13). He is more than able.


"I am not able—I alone—to bear all this people. For, [this burden is] too heavy for me. [Num. 11:14]

This is a fascinating figure of speech—an implied polyptoton (implied through ellipsis). Normally, this would read: I am not able—I alone—to bear the burden of all this people; for this burden is too heavy for me. The polyptoton is the combining of the verb for to bear with its noun cognate, which would be understood. Hence an implied polyptoton. You expect to see the polyptoton, but you do not; this, along with the abbreviation (ellipsis) of it all shows great emotion in Moses' speech. This is an intense plea for help.

God is incredibly gracious. Moses has begun to sound like the whiny Jews he is leading around. He is acting as if he is all alone, as if God is not there to help him. Rather than strike Moses down for his ignorance, God allows him to speak. Moses, even though this makes him look bad, recorded this conversation of over 3000 years ago for our benefit. Perhaps we may recognize ourselves as going to God, whining about this or that little insignificant problem, as though the world were falling in upon us.


"And if You are doing me [this way], [then] kill me, I implore You [lit., please]; kill [me]—if I have found grace in your eyes, and let me not look on [or, at] Your evil." Footnote [Num. 11:15]


You may perhaps think that I am being far too free with this translation. Moses begins with a conjunction and the hypothetical particle if. This is followed by the second person pronoun Footnote followed by the Qal active participle of ׳âsâh (ה ָ ָע) [pronounced aw-SAWH] which means to do, to make, to construct. This is followed by the the lâmed preposition (to) with a first person suffix. Literally, so far, we have and if you are doing to me. The verb to kill is found twice in this verse, once in the Qal imperative and once in the Qal infinitive absolute. The second occurence of this verb tends to intensify the first usage. In between is a particle of entreaty which should be translated please but that sounds too lame. Occasionally, we have believers in Jesus Christ who get under so much pressure that they cry out to be killed by God. Elijah, when on the run, and feeling quite alone in the world with his stand, wrote: But he himself went a day's journey into the desert, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough, now. O Lord, take my life., for I am not better than my fathers." (1Kings 18:4). There can be times when you have a serious interest in God's Word an dyou will be all alone, insofar as you know, when it comes to this interest. The Christians that you know might be interested in a thousand other things other than the Word. Don't be surprised. In fact, don't be surprised if once and awhile, if not all the time, you feel as though you are the only believer left on this planet who is interested in God's Word.

You are no doubt wondering about the end of the verse. My evil (or, misery) is the reading of the Massoretic text. However, vv. 10–11 lend themselves more readily to this reading Your evil. Furthermore, context does not lend itself to Moses being so insightful here to recognizing that his personal viewpoint and stand here is evil. His accusation is against God, not himself. It has been asserted that the Sopherim (the editorial scribes), made this alteration, not wanting to associate evil with God, and left a margin note to indicate this. Such a marginal note is called an emendation and this will be covered in greater detail in 1Sam. 3:13 From the Jerusalem Targum, it has been shown that this was read the evil of the people or their evil Footnote .

This verse is a small, personal pity party being thrown by Moses. Life is too tough, people are complaining—just kill me, God, and get me out of this. Some of us are foolish enough to desire positions of great authority, not because we can handle it or because we have any leadership capabilities at all, but because we like to boss people around. We like to tell people what to do, but we don't want to be told what to do. This gives us a much better idea as to what leadership is all about. Moses has a tremendous responsibility and all complaints inevitiably—even when they are just spoken to oneself on a hot desert afternoon to no one in particular—wind up on his desk and he, being in authority, is to both take the blame for what has happened and then fix the problem. This is too much for Moses who has never had delusions of grandeur and never had any great desire to lead anything (although, as we have seen, was raised to become the leader of on of the greatest nations on earth at the time). In fact, it might be a good time to re--examine Moses' early life:

The Early Life of Moses

1.    Moses was born a Jew; a Levite (Ex. 2:1–2).

2.    At the time of his birth, the Jews were slaves in Egypt and experiencing a tremendous population explosion (Ex. 1:8–12).

3.    The Pharaoh first instructed the two supervisors of the midwives to kill all male Hebrew babies as they were born, and, when that failed, commanded all of the people to cast male Hebrew babies into the Nile (Ex. 1:15–22).

4.    Like all male Hebrew babies, Moses had been circumcised on the seventh day (Gen. 17:11–12), and therefore when the Pharaoh's daughter found him in the Nile, she knew that he was an Hebrew (Ex. 2:5–6).

5.    Moses was brought up in the castle of Pharaoh (Ex. 2:10 Acts 7:21–22).

6.    Whereas Moses could have been brought up as a prince to one day become king (he would have been in line as a crown prince), he chose instead to lead his people (Acts 7:21–22 Heb. 11:24–27).

7.    The decision to stay with his people and lead them was no one-shot decision; the totality of this decision took over forty years (Acts 7:23–30). Even here we see his reticence.

8.    Moses was so concern about his natural speakig ability that he requested God to give him some alternative to speaking directly to Pharaoh, which was Aaron—for awhile, Aaron spoke for God to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:10–16 6:29–7:2).

9.    However, Moses did eventually assume his position of authority and speak directly to Pharaoh (Ex. 8:8–10 25–30)


Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

You will certainly recall back in Ex. 32 the golden calf incident when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to speak with Yahweh and the people fell into idolatry. At that time, when he confessed the sin of the people to God, he asked God to remove their sin or blot him from the book of life (Ex. 32:32). In this case, we have Moses, unhappy in his position of authority, unable to make it stop hurting ofr his people the Jews; upset because they certainly blamed him for all of their hardships and he knows that he was the mouth which led them out of Egypt into the desert (it was God's command, but it was Moses spoke to the people). Moses asks God to kill him so that he, Moses, will not have to look upon his own affliction—that is, he will not have to deal with his problems and the inevitable crises which come to a person in a leadership position. Your personal application? If you greatly desire a leadership position, rethink this craving. If all it is is a lust for power—a desire to boss others around—don't bother to even pursue such a notion. Be honest with yourself, if this is your motivation, then you will make a horrible leader. The one who leads is a servant of all, not vice versa (Matt. 20:25–28 23:11–12 John 13:3–8 I Cor. 9:19). If you think any differently, you are all mixed up. One of the many problems with out government to day is that it has assumed a position of authority but not a position of servitude and responsibility. Again, the book of Numbers is filled with applications to your life today. When it comes to pointing out these applications, I am only scratching the surface.

We also have a parallelism running between verses 10, 11 and 15, which is even noticeable in the English:


The Parallelism Found in vv. 10, 11 and 15

v. 10

And it [or He] was evil in the sight of Moses.

v. 11

Why have you caused evil to your servant and why have I not found grace in Your sight?

v. 15

[Kill me] if I find grace in Your sight and I may not look at my misery (or, evil, or affliction).


Notice that we have a repeating of the theme in the sight of; and the verb evil occurs in vv. 10–11 and its feminine noun cognate occurs in v. 15. Furthermore, the verb for see is quite simlar to the verb for doing evil. See is râʾâh (ה ָא ָר) [pronounced raw-AWH] and doing evil is râ׳a׳ (ע ָע ָר) [pronounced raw-AW].

We all tend to focus in on God's wrath directed towards Israel and Moses' weakness here; but what we often do not see is God's graciousness toward Moses. Moses has been sarcastic, insolent, self-pitying, and weak. God does not upbraid Moses even once. Moses is so great that God overlooks some of his faults which are occasionally expressed, and God focuses in on what will be done. He does not have to chew Moses out; God needs only to refocus Moses and the greatness that is Moses, being filled by the Holy Spirit, will take over. We will see the same thing when David sins with Bathsheba. God will discipline David and the pain will be almost unbearable, but David will regain his position and power and the line of Christ will actually proceed through David and Bathsheba (who was David's right woman, whom David should have waited for).

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

God Promises Moses That He Will Send the Israelites an Overabundance of Meat


And Yahweh said, to Moses, "Gather to Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you have known that they are elders of the people, and its authorities; and you will take them to the tent of meeting, and they will station themselves there with you. [Num. 11:16]

Unlike most people, Moses does not desire to have absolute authority. He would like some help. There are two million people to rule over and God also recognizes that it is an impossible task for one man to handle. Moses has set up some judges, as per his father-in-law's advice (Ex. 18:17–26); so you may be wondering, where are these men? they were from the older generation, many of whom have died the sin unto death. In addition, the size and complexity of his mobile country requires more administration than just some additional judges. The rulership over two million people by principally one man is an administrative nightmare. Some people foolishly lust after such power. Finally although the suggestion of the father-in-law of Moses was an excellent idea, those who were appointed over groups of fifty and a hundred and a thousand were not filled with the Spirit, so they were likely ineffectual as leaders. Moses, in his working with these people, has gotten to know a great many people well and recognizes the leadership potential in others. God places upon him the task of putting together a government of about seventy men to rule over these two million wandering Jews. As we will find out by the end of the Penteteuch, there are only two men in all of Israel, other than Moses, Aaron and Aaron's two sons, who have any real true leadership potential.

I should point out that from this passage comes the Sanhedrin, the most authoritative Jewish assembly during the time of our Lord. Unfortuantely, they conformed in form, but not in reality. The Sanhedrin during our Lord's time contained very few men, if any, who were guided by the Spirit of God.


"And I will come down and speak with you there, and I had kept back my Spirit, which is upon you, however [lit., and] I will place [it] upon them, and they will bear with you some of the burden of the people, and you will not bear [it] yourself alone. [Num. 11:17]

Now note how easy that was. Moses had a problem, he went to God, and God solved it. Moses prayer was for God to kill him or in some way remove the great responsibility with which he had been saddled. God did not answer this prayer in the way that Moses expected, but God did answer the prayer, immediately, and God solved the problem. The Israelites could have learned something here. Rather than their bitching, whining and complaining, they just needed to go to God (through Moses—they had to approach God through an intermediary)—and requested an expansion of their menu. God is easy. They have believed in Him and up until now had trusted and obey Him. They just needed to approach their God. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to god. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [human] comprehension shall garrison your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6–7). "They will not labor in vain or bear [children] in calamity; for they are the seed of those blessed by Yahweh, and their descendants with them. It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are sitll speaking, I will hear." (Isa. 65:23–24).

Don't become nonplussed over the keeping back of the Holy Spirit here. God has poured the Holy Spirit upon Moses; God will keep back some of that power which He has been giving to Moses and pour it upon the seventy. This does not mean that Moses will now be operating with 32 megs of RAM as opposed to 64; Moses will not operate now on four cylinders instead of eight; God is simply reserving some of the Spirit's power for the assistants to Moses. Filled with the Spirit, these men will be a help to Moses; apart from the Holy Spirit, these seventy elders were just be another seventy people who are a pain in the neck to Moses with more power and authority than they had before. If those immediately under you are working against you, then their influence is much more destructive than that of the hoi polloi.

Note here, as I have pointed out time and time again, their service is worthless outside of the power of the Holy Spirit, just as our service is worthless without God's indwelling power. Our giving, our self-sacrifice, our prayers, our church attendance, our witnessing—you name it—whatever you view as Christian service or Christian activity is absolutely vain and useless apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, they had not the choice that we have. God sovereignly chose who received the Holy Spirit and who did not. Today, we need only name our sins to God and we are filled again with the Holy Spirit Footnote .


"And to these [lit., the] people you will say, 'Sanctify [or, set yourselves apart to God] yourselves for tomorrow, and you [all] will eat meat, for you [all] have wept in the ears of Yahweh, saying, "Who will give us meat? For it was good [or, pleasant] to us in Egypt." Yahweh will give you meat and you will eat [meat]. [Num. 11:18]

The problem was not i God's desire or ability to provide the Israelites with meat. That was a given. He could do that without any difficulty. The problem was their attitude and their approach. We can approach God in a lot of different ways. However, when we come to him with mental attitude sins, in bitterness, blaming Moses, scapegoating others, in anger, in frustration—we have a problem. God is not going to answer our prayers, or, when He does, He will be quite unpleasant about it. He knows the pressures that we are under and He is a forbearing, understanding God. However, the attitude of the Exodus generation was sorry, and God loathed that generation.


" 'You [all] will not eat for one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days; [Num. 11:19]

God will not just answer their prayers, He will give them an overabundance of meat. We have an expression in the next verse about having so much meat that it comes out their nostrils. The Amplified Bible interprets this as them becoming so full that they violently vomit this food back up and it comes out of their nostrils. This is not what God will say below. You recall that, as a child, when describing a marvelous Thanksgiving meal, that you exclaimed that you were full up to here, and you used your hand to illustrate how full you were (usually, you held it over your head). This is the same kind of expression. While not exactly a genteel metaphor, it clearly indicates an overabundance of and overindulgence in meat. Freeman concurs with this explanation of being filled to the nostrils in his book Manner's and Customs of the Bible (p. 99), where he points out the a similar phrase is still used in India.


" 'As far as a month of days, till that it comes out from your nostrils, and it becomes to you an abomination; because you [all] have loathed Yahweh, Who is in your midst, and you weep before Him, saying "Why this? We have come out of Egypt!" ' " [Num. 11:20]

The very words of these Jews shows how disoriented they are to God's plan. For the ways of a man are before the eyes of Yahweh and He watches all his paths; his own iniquities will capture the wicked and he will be held with the cord of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction and in the greatness of his folly, he will go astray (Prov. 5:21–23). "And I say to you that every careless word that men speak, they will render an account for it is the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt. 5:36–37).

The problem is not that the sons of Israel desire a change of diet or some more variety in their diet. It is their sorry attitude. Their attitude and their approach to God shows a loathing for God's character, a misapprehension of God's character. With the right attitude, they could have gone to Moses, their great mediator, and asked Moses to ask God for meat. God would have immediately granted this request. However, instead, they stood around and bitched and moaned to themselves, then to each other, so God gave them too much for the period of a month.

We find this kind of attitude and perception of God is found today. How many people are trapped in what it is they believe because they have made God into their image and they have an idea as to how God should act and be toward them, and where God should show some slack, and how God's morality should change and become updated. To these people, God is loathed because they do not like Him for Who He is.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Moses Becomes Sarcastic; Yahweh Gently Upbraids Him


And Moses said, "Six hundred thousand footmen—your people—in whose midst I [am]; and You—You have said, 'I will give meat to them and they will eat [it for] a month of days!' [Num. 11:21]

Moses reminds God of how many people there are. He has just recently taken the census, so the numbers are in his head. They are in the middle of the desert and there are 600,000 men fit for service in their army—and God is telling Moses that they will eat meat until it comes out their nostrils—for a month of days? Moses is just making sure that he has got his facts right. As far as Moses is concerned, this is quite a miracle—he is just making sure that he got it right and there may have been a bit of a tone of disbelief and/or mocking in his voice.


"And is [the entire] flock and herd slaughtered for them, that [lit., and] one has found for them? If all the fishes of the sea gathered for them, that [lit., and] one has found for them?" [Num. 11:22]

Even in a translation made over three thousand years after the act, you can hear the incredulousness in Moses' voice. You can hear him half-mocking this notion that God will feed this many people meat. Why has Moses taken this tact, and, if he is in disbelief, what about the rest of Israel? When one's faith is held by miracles, then one needs more miracles and greater miracles to sustain this faith. It has been over a month since the Jews have seen anything which was extraordinary. What about the cloud and the fire? this was old hat. They had seen that for over a year; they had begun to take that for granted. Let me give you an illustration. Let's say that God has decided to give you your own personal, private miracle...that everytime you were alone and thirsty and had an empty glass in your hand, that God would miraculously fill it with water or the beverage of your choice. Well, the first time that this happened, you would be amazed. You would drink it down and hold it up for a refill. By the end of the day, you'd be retaining an ocean of fluid. And for a month or so afterwards, this would be the most incredible thing that you could imagine. However, once several months go by, even though you recognize that this is quite unusual, it would not be that big of a deal. And, once a year has passed, it would be nothing, and certainly such a miracle would not sustain your faith. The key is that real faith comes from the inside. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. This is where our faith is developed—not by seeing miracles. Those miracles were Moses' credit card. He was to lead Israel, he was to withstand the Pharaoh of Egypt and the miracles confirmed this. To base your faith upon these great miracles is a mistake. Your sustaining faith will come from your volition. You will choose to take God at His Word. "And if it is disagreeable in your estimation [lit., sight] to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh." (Joshua 24:15). Let's change this passage slightly: And if it is disagreeable in your estimation to believe Yahweh, then choose for yourselves today whom you will believe; whether the whether the gods which your fathers believed in which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will believe Yahweh. Service to God begins by faith in God, just as the Christian life begins with nothing but faith, faith the size of a mustard seed.


And Yahweh said to Moses, "Is the hand of Yahweh shortened? Now you will see whether My Word will meet your expectations or not [lit., will meet you or not]." [Num. 11:23]

Here is the key: My Word. God spoke to Moses and told Moses what was going to happen. That is all God had to do. Moses only needed to believe at that point. When God said, "Is the hand of Yahweh shortened?", what He was saying is did He not have the power to effect this miracle? This is an idiomatic phrase, rendered in the NASB and the NRSV: "Is the Lord's power limited?" The Amplified Bible: Has the Lord's hand [His ability and power] become short [thwarted and inadequate]? It makes me grimace to quote the Living Bible, but: Then the Lord said to Moses, "When did I become weak?" As He said in Isa. 59:1: Behold, Yahweh's hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. Finding meat for a population of 2,000,000+ is obviously a human impossibility in this desert. However, for God, is His arm too short? God created the entire universe in an instant. Providing a little meat is not such a difficult thing. In fact, as we will see, God had obviously been tending a huge flock of quail and will bring them to the Jews without even performing some incredible miracle. He will provide for them from His great power; however, instead of create the quail immediately, God had already had the quial in waiting and he will simply gather them up and bring them to the sons of Israel.


The final verb in this verse is the 3rd person masculine singular, Qal imperfect, 2nd person masculine singular suffix of qârâh (ה ָר ָק) [pronounced kaw-RAWH] and it means encounter, meet, befall. However, in this word is just the slight hint of chance; something just might happen. There is that tinge of probability which is implied, as we see in its noun cognate, mîqereh (ה ר  ׃ק  ̣מ) [pronounced mike- REH], its meaning, by BDB, is accident, chance, fortune. The response of God is missed entirely in all the English translations. Moses is half-mocking, half unbelieving telling God—now let me get this straight—there are 600,000 foot soldiers and you are going to feed them meat until it comes out their nostrils? We're going to slaughter all of the herds and flocks, right? You're going to suddenly provide us with all of the fish in the sea—do I have my facts right, here?" And God replies, "Am I too weak? Let's just see—maybe it will come to pass; it could happen." The attitude of Moses is given rigth back to him by God. I don't mean to imply informality between Yahweh and Moses as much as I want to convey to you God replies to Moses almost tongue in cheek; sarcastically, if you will.

Return to Chapter Outline

Return to the Chart Index

Moses Chooses His Seventy Helpers and God Sends Them the Holy Spirit


And then Moses went out and spoke to the people the words of Yahweh, and so he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people Footnote then Footnote caused them to stand round about the tent. [Num. 11:24]

Moses is a bit uncertain that these things will really occur, so he has quizzed God to make certain these things would occur, thought to himself, what