from Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 9

The year after the tabernacle had been set up and the dedication ceremonies for the priests and Levites were a year old Yahweh reminded Moses that it was time for the Passover ceremony.

Remember when Israel was still in Egypt. Yahweh got Moses ready for the future before his last audience with Pharaoh. He told him that the month of their exit from Egypt was to be the first month of the year for Israel. He instructed Moses to tell all the Israelites that on the tenth day of the month each man was to take a healthy male lamb one year old from either his sheep or his goats and keep it penned for four days. On the fourteenth day of the month they were to slaughter their lambs at twilight. They were instructed to smear some of the blood on the doorposts and supports of the house where they would eat the meat. Yahweh told them that the blood would serve as a sign on the houses and when he saw the blood he would pass over them and no harm would come to them when he struck the land of Egypt with the death of the first-born.[1]

Moses told the Israelites to never forget the day they left Egypt as slaves. Not to ever forget that Yahweh brought his people out of slavery with power. As a commemoration they weren’t to eat any bread corrupted with leaven. He told them they were leaving in the spring, in the month of Abib and when they got to the Land of Promise that Yahweh gave to their fathers for their inheritance they should remember to observe the Passover every spring[2].

Israel was still in the wilderness of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they left Egypt. The people celebrated the Passover according to Moses; instructions just as Yahweh commanded. However, some Israelites couldn’t celebrate on the assigned day because they had become ritually unclean from a corpse. They complained to Moses and Aaron and Moses told them he would ask Yahweh about the situation.

Yahweh told Moses to tell the people of Israel that if an Israelite was ritually unclean because of a corpse, or happened to be off on a long trip, they could still celebrate the Passover. However, they were to remember to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at evening. They were to eat the lamb together with unraised bread and bitter herbs. He reminded them not to leave any of it until morning, not to break any of its bones and be sure to follow all the procedures.

It was to be a continuous perpetual feast celebration when they would eat matzoth for seven days. The whole community of Israel was to be included. If an expatriate wanted to keep the Passover every male of his family had to be circumcised then he would be treated as a native son and could keep the Passover; but no male who wasn’t circumcised was allowed. It was Yahweh’s Passover and only his family was included.

They were again charged to keep this feast perpetually because it marked the day that Yahweh forced them out of bondage in Egypt. They were to honor the day down through their generations. It was to be a permanent tribute to be remembered regularly beginning on the fourteenth day of the first month at evening until the twenty-first day at evening they were to eat unleavened bread with not a smidgen of leaven anywhere in their houses. Anyone – Israeli or visitor – in the land who ate anything with leaven would be cut off from the nation of Israel. The only kind of bread that was permitted was matzoth. Leaven was a representation of sin, because it progressed from corruption; and the putting away of this represented the heart that humbly turned to Yahweh. As a nation, they were to be careful to show themselves devoted to their God, Yahweh. They were the people of the promise and Yahweh would bless the world through them. They were the nation that would produce the Savior of the world. Sin is the word Scripture uses for the corruption of Yahweh’s character in us. When the participant leaves the leaven out of the bread as part of the feast of the Passover, it is a picture of shunning the corruption of Yahweh’s image in each of us. Paul told the Romans[3] that we have all declined to reach the perfection of Yahweh’s moral fiber in our own natures.

Yahweh reminded Moses that any one who was ritually clean and decided not to celebrate the Passover must be cut off from his people.

Yahweh also reminded Moses that any foreigner living among them who wanted to celebrate Yahweh’s Passover was welcome to do it, but he had to follow all the rules and procedures. The same procedures went for both foreigner and native-born.

The day the Dwelling was set up [4]the cloud covered the tent and the glory of Yahweh filled the tent – the earthly dwelling place of Yahweh. Moses couldn’t enter the tent when the cloud covered it. From sunset until daybreak it was over the Dwelling. It looked like fire. It was like that all the time, the Cloud over the Dwelling and at night looking like fire.

Whenever the cloud lifted Israel struck camp and moved out but they stayed put until it lifted. The cloud was replaced by fire at night so Israel could follow their instructions form Yahweh by looking at the tent of meeting. Israel marched at Yahweh’s command and they camped at his command. As long as the cloud was over the Dwelling, they camped. Even when the cloud hovered over the Dwelling for many days, they honored Yahweh’s command and wouldn’t march. They stayed in camp, obedient to Yahweh’s command, as long as the cloud was over the Dwelling, but the moment Yahweh issued orders they marched. If the cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the cloud lifted, they marched.

 

Summary of chapter 9

At the appointed time in the second year from when the nation of Israel left Egypt Yahweh reminded his people to celebrate the Passover Feast[5]. Some Israelites were afraid that they couldn’t celebrate with the rest because they had become ritually unclean when they were exposed to a dead body. Yahweh assured them that they should eat the Passover feast according to the rules whether they were ritually clean or not. They were to celebrate the Passover even if they were away from home. The Passover was important because of what it commemorated. It was important that all Israel remembered and rejoiced in what Yahweh had done for them on that first Passover evening. Yahweh was with his chosen people caring for them just as they were. He didn’t wait until they perfected themselves. That wasn’t going to happen and he loved and cared for them anyway. Yahweh told Moses that he had taken a good, long look at the affliction of his people in Egypt. He heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; he knew all about their pain and he delivered them and cared for them. Moses made a mistake that is common of humans. He thought Yahweh expected him to be able to “help God” all by himself. He knew he wasn’t qualified and asked Yahweh if he knew something that he – Moses – didn’t know about himself. Yahweh does know something about each of us that we don’t know ourselves and we can see that our God was preparing Moses for the task all of his life. By the same token we can be sure that our God is using the circumstances of each of our lives to prepare us to function well in our individual places in his plan. Yahweh, or God, may not hover over a physical representation of his dwelling with us as a cloud or flame of fire but he is always with us. He is still our guide and counselor. He was present with Israel in the cloud that looked like a fire at night because they needed the assurance in physical form that we have in the very core of our essences.

 

Prayer: Prayer: Lord, I am weak but you are strong. You have equipped me to reflect your image to the part of the world you place me in and I will dwell there and cultivate faithfulness. Because I know you from the records kept by your family – past and present – as well as from my own experience with you I can trust you enough to die to my own self-will and let you direct my way.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think the narrator wanted his reader to know that he reminded the nation of Israel to celebrate the Passover the second year after they left Egypt?
  2. Why do you think some of the Israelites who were ritually unclean thought that they might not be allowed to celebrate with the rest of the nation?
  3. Why do you think Yahweh mentioned the case of an Israelite being on a journey?
  4. Why do you think Yahweh said the stranger living among his people could celebrate the Passover? What were the conditions?”
  5. Why do you think Yahweh told them to celebrate according to the pattern?
  6. Why is the Passover important to you and me?
  7. Why did the Holy Spirit of Yahweh position the information about the Passover and the symbol of his presence – the cloud by day and fire by night – in the same chapter of Numbers?

[1] Out of Bondage, Allison Kohn, page 84

[2] IBID page 93

[3] Romans 3:23

[4] Exodus 40

[5] Exodus 23

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