From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 7

The narrator wrote that once Moses finished setting up the tabernacle[1], he anointed it and consecrated it all. Yahweh told Moses how to assemble everything and how to position the furnishings in the tabernacle. It had been a year since Israel left Egypt – an amazing year in the history of Israel. When the tabernacle was finally assembled, it was an earthly model of a heavenly reality[2]. The [record of the erection of the tabernacle is culminated with] great hope and trust in Yahweh. Though Israel was in the middle of a desolate desert, had fierce enemies in the Promised Land, and was weak and liable to sin and rebellion, Yahweh was with them. This gave them great cause for faith and confidence[3]. Cole said, “To speak of a journey is to look for an arrival: He who has begun a work of salvation for Israel will complete it (Philippians 1:6).” [4]

In response, the leaders of Israel who were the heads of the ancestral tribes – the same men who had taken the census – brought offerings.

We know that Torah – individual books or as a whole – wasn’t written as one writes a diary, recording events as they happen. Torah is teaching – law, doctrine, system, or theory and was originally written in Hebrew for Israel so when we read it we must read from ancient perspective. Although Numbers contains various censuses along with historical material and some legislation its purpose is the reveal Yahweh to his[5] people. They are a record of the formation of the people in covenant with Yahweh and how he related to them. As David Zucker says, they contain truths that are timeless in their observation of the human condition. The Torah is a crown, a treasure of life experiences, and contains wisdom and insights that have spoken to the generations past and will speak to the generations to come. It is cosmic and personal in its approach – a guide book to living, and at the same time it contains materials that are of interest largely to scholars of the ancient past.[6]

The narrator chose to record a census of the offerings of the tribes here in a book dedicated to organization, the longest chapter in the Torah. First each pair of leaders brought a covered wagon with an ox – six of them – that Yahweh told Moses to keep and give them to the Levites for transporting the Tent of Meeting.

The narrator said that Moses, at the direction of Yahweh, took the wagons and oxen and gave them to the Levites. He gave two wagons and four oxen to the Gershonites for their work – they had the responsibility of transporting the fabrics of the tabernacle – and four wagons and eight oxen to the Merarites for their work- they had the job of transporting the boards and pillars of the tabernacle. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest. Moses didn’t give any to the Kohathites because they had to carry the holy things for which they were responsible on their shoulders.

According to Yahweh’s instructions[7] Moses was to anoint the dwelling and its contents, consecrating everything so that it was holy – separated – to Yahweh. He instructed Moses to anoint the altar of whole burnt offerings and make it holy for Yahweh alone; and the narrator reported here that after the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their dedication offerings. Each day, one leader presented his offering for the dedicating the altar.

On the first day the leader of the tribe of Judah – the oldest son of Israel – brought a 3 ¼ pound silver plate and a 1 ¾ pound bowl, both filled with a grain offering of flour and oil. They also brought a 4 ounce gold vessel filled with incense along with the animals. He brought a young bull, a ram, and a yearling lamb for a Whole-Burnt-Offering; a male-goat for an Absolution-Offering; two oxen, five rams, five male-goats, and five yearling lambs to be sacrificed as a Peace-Offering.

The leader of the second son of Israel brought their offering the second day. Each leader of the tribes descended from sons of Leah brought their offerings equal to the tribe of Judah. On the seventh and eighth days the leaders of the tribes of the sons of Joseph – Rachel’s oldest son – brought their equal offerings. On the ninth day the leader of the tribe of Benjamin – Rachel’s other son – brought their offering equal to the others. Then the tribes that were descended from Jacob’s other sons brought their offerings – all equal to the others. Each leader was named and each offering detailed.

Altogether the dedication offerings of the leaders of Israel for the anointing of the Altar were twelve silver plates, twelve silver bowls, and twelve gold vessels. All the plates and bowls together weighed about sixty pounds (using the official Sanctuary weight). Altogether the gold vessels weighed about three pounds.

The sum total of animals used for the Whole-Burnt-Offering together with the Grain-Offering was twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve yearling lambs. The total for the Absolution-Offering was twelve male-goats. The sum total of animals used for the sacrifice of the Peace-Offering was twenty-four bulls, sixty rams, sixty male-goats, and sixty yearling lambs.

“Clearly, this was generous giving. God must show Promised Land people how to be givers – one of the best measures of one who has moved from a slave mind-set to a Promised Land mind-set. The slave by nature is a taker, because he is often unsure of provision. Promised land people are generous, because they trust in a God who promised to meet all their needs.”[8]

The narrator’s purpose was to draw attention to each tribes offering, though they were all the same – and record each leader’s name.

Moses reported that when he entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with Yahweh, he heard the Voice speaking to him from between the two angel-cherubim above the Atonement-Cover on the Chest of The Testimony.

 

Summary of chapter 7

On the second day of the second month of the second year after their departure from Egypt when the tabernacle was fully set up, the leaders of the twelve tribes had prepared six covered wagons, drawn by two oxen each, one wagon for two tribes, and set them aside for the service of the tabernacle. The wagons were given for the more convenient exporting of the heavier parts of the tabernacle, which could not be conveniently carried on men’s shoulders. Yahweh commanded Moses to receive this offering, and distribute it to the Levites according to their service. Moses gave two wagons and four oxen to the sons of Gershom and four wagons and eight oxen to the sons of Merari. The sons of Kohath had none, because they were to bear the ark, etc., on their shoulders. Each leader presented his tribe’s offering in succession. The different tribes brought their offerings in the same order they camped around the tabernacle.

On the first day Nanshan, of the tribe of Judah, offered a silver charger, a silver bowl, a golden spoon, a young bullock, a ram, a lamb, and a kid, for a Sin-Offering; two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five lambs, for a Peace-Offering. On the second day Nathaniel, of the tribe of Issachar, offered the same. On the third day Eliab, of the tribe of Zebulun, offered the same. On the fourth day Elizur, of the tribe of Reuben, offered his. On the fifth day Schlemiel, of the tribe of Simeon, made a similar offering, on the sixth day Eliasaph, of the tribe of Gad, made the offering, and on the seventh day Elishama, of the tribe of Ephraim, made his offering. On the eighth day Gamaliel, of the tribe of Manasseh, made his offering, and on the ninth day Abadan, of the tribe of Benjamin, made his offering. Then on the tenth day Ahiezer, of the tribe of Dan, made his offering. On the eleventh day Pagiel, of the tribe of Asher, made his offering. On the twelfth day Ahira, of the tribe of Naphtali, made the same kind of offering. The sum total of all vessels and cattle which were offered was twelve silver chargers, and twelve silver bowls; twelve golden spoons; twelve bullocks, twelve rams, and twelve kids; twenty-four bullocks, sixty rams, sixty he-goats, and sixty lambs, the offerings were ended. Moses reported that when he went into the tabernacle, he heard the voice of Yahweh from the mercy-seat.[9]

 

Prayer: I love you, Yahweh; you are my strength. Your law is perfect and it restores my soul. Your precepts are right and they rejoice my heart. Your commandment is pure and it enlightens my eyes. I pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be acceptable in your sight, Yahweh; my strength and my redeemer. Put a seal on my lips so they will never be used to hurt anyone but only to praise your name. Thank you for recording, not only the gifts from your people, but the names of the men who took the responsibility of collecting and presenting them. The list shows me that the men who were responsible for their tribes had to be organized, and plan and work together, for each tribe to bring the same gift in an organized manner. Help me to remember this example when I am called on to be organized and work well with others. Thank you for the timeless truths of the human condition that are recorded in the Torah. It is indeed a crown full of a treasury of life experiences. It contains wisdom and insights that have spoken to the generations past and speaks to me today. Your words are cosmic and personal in their approach. The Torah is a guide book to show me how to live; while at the same time it contains materials that are of interest to scholars of the ancient past.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think the narrator detailed the gifts for the sanctuary and the names of the tribal leaders? Why were they recorded in the book of numbers after the rules for the Nazirite and the pattern for the priestly blessing?
  2. What was the most important thing about the list of gifts, as you see it?
  3. Do you think this list is as important today as it was to the ancients? Why do you think the narrator listed the names of the leaders and their tribes they came from?
  4. What do you see as the most important thing about the gifts themselves?
  5. When you remember how much the different parts of the tabernacle weighed, does it seem reasonable that the tribes responsible for transporting them would need a good cart and oxen? Why do you think the Kohathites had to carry their burdens on their shoulders?
  6. Why do you think Moses recorded at this particular point that Yahweh spoke to him in an audible voice from the “Mercy Seat”?
  7. Does Yahweh usually speak to us in an audible voice? Why do you think he spoke to Moses that way? Can you honestly say that Yahweh doesn’t speak to anyone like that anymore or show himself in visible form to anyone? Is anything too hard for Yahweh?

[1] Exodus 40

[2] Revelation 4:1-6; 8:2-4; Isaiah 6:1-7; Hebrews 9:23, 24

[3] Proverbs 3:5, 6

[4] Taken from https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/exodus-40.html

[5] Remember that Torah was written in Hebrew that does not have a neutral case so everything is either famine or masculine.

[6] The Torah, an introduction for Christians and Jews, David J. Zucker, 2005, Paulist Press, page 27

[7] Exodus 40

[8] https://enduringword.com/commentary/numbers-7/ David Guzik

[9] http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/num007.htm

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