Monthly Archives: March 2017

From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 35

Yahweh had told Aaron that he and his descendants or any of the tribe of Levi wouldn’t get even a small plot of land for an inheritance. Yahweh was the inheritance[1] of the priests among the chosen people. The tithes and offerings of the people of Israel were to belong to the Levites as payment for the work they did in the Tent of Meeting. [2] Yahweh told Moses while they were on the Plains of Moab at Jordan-Jericho that he was to tell Israel to give the Levites towns to live in as their part of the inheritance. The towns were to have plenty of land around them for pastures for cattle and flocks. Theirs was to be a live of service to the people and, in return, the people were to supply their material needs.

The pastures around the towns were to spread 1,500 feet in every direction from the walls of each city and, outside the borders; the pastures were to measure three thousand feet on each side. The towns were to be in the center of each plot.

There were to be forty-eight towns in all – forty-two besides the towns of refuge. They were to be proportioned according to the size of each tribe – the more people in a tribe, the more towns for the Levities. The Levites were to be spread out and available to all the tribes.

Six of the Levitical towns were to be for protection for anyone who accidently killed another person. Yahweh told Moses that if someone were to hit another man so that he died the penalty for the murderer was death unless the man hit the dead man by mistake. Yahweh is full of mercy and grace and because there was no intent to kill and Yahweh didn’t prevent it, it was an “act of God” and Yahweh would set apart a place of refuge for the killer.[3] Anyone who killed someone could go to these cities until he went to court to determine whether he was guilty of manslaughter or murder. When the accused impulsively pushed someone and there was no history of hard feelings between them and the other died, he would be innocent of murder. Other incidents where he should be judged innocent were when someone impetuously picked up something and threw it or accidentally dropped a stone tool and it hit and killed someone he didn’t even know was there. It was the task of the community to save the killer from the hand of the avenger in these cases. The community was to return him to his asylum-city to which he fled. He must stay there until the death of the High Priest who was anointed with the holy oil. Nevertheless, if the murderer left the asylum-city to which he had fled, and the avenger found him outside the borders of his asylum-city, the avenger had a right to kill the murderer and he would not be considered guilty of murder. A person guilty of involuntary manslaughter was a prisoner in the sanctuary city till the death of the High Priest.

There were to be three sanctuary towns on each side of the Jordan. They were to be for the foreigner as well as the Israelite – as long as the killer didn’t use an iron object, wooden club, or rock to kill. When it was an obvious murder, the killer couldn’t flee to a city of refuge. If it wasn’t an accident – or even an act of anger that resulted in death there should be no mercy. Premeditated murder deserves death.[4] In which case the avenger – the family member had the responsibility of holding the murderer accountable – had a right to kill the slaughterer on the spot.[5] This is not the kind of feud portrayed in Hollywood movies. Only the slayer was in danger, not his family or associates, and only one member of the victim’s family served as the blood avenger.

However, a person couldn’t be condemned without the testimony of more than one witness. Yahweh’s chosen people were not to accept bribe money to let a murderer – or someone found guilty of manslaughter – go free or condemn someone who was innocent. In Mesopotamia the state was responsible and anyone could begin the legal process by notifying the established authority. They would investigate the case and hold a trial. Historical records suggest that sometimes the members of the victim’s family could choose whether they preferred the execution of the slayer or compensation payment. Bribery was a way of life.[6] There are many parallels and overlapping themes within the Mosaic Law and various ANE law codes. These include the death penalty for murder. As Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke observed, Scripture’s incarnation within its historical environment does not negate its theological significance. Despite the overlap between the Mosaic Law and ANE legal texts, there are notable differences between them and significant moral advances made in the Mosaic Law. Israel’s law was far more concerned with the sanctity of life than Mesopotamian law. Because of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, laws intending to preserve both the family unit and Yahweh’s unique covenant/marriage relationship to Israel were paramount. Their violation was a serious matter that would undermine Israel’s very identity.[7] The Torah attempts to lay forth principles of right and wrong and to set up a just society, while the primary goal of the other codes is to preserve law and order.[8]

The Promised Land was to be cleansed of all the murder and degradation that it was soaked with from the evil of the people living there at the time Israel moved in. Israel was not to pollute the land themselves, with the blood of the innocents. Yahweh told Israel that the land could only be cleansed of the blood of murder through the blood of the murderer. They were to remember that Yahweh lived in the neighborhood with his people.

 

Summary of chapter 35

The Israelites were commanded to give the Levites, out of their inheritances, cities and their suburbs for themselves and their cattle, etc. The suburbs were to be 3,000 cubits around the walls of the cities. There were to be forty-eight cities in all, six of them were to be for refuge. Each tribe was to give cities in proportion to its size. These cities were to be appointed for the person who might slay his neighbor unintentionally. Of these six cities there was to be three on each side Jordan. The cities were to be places of refuge for anyone who killed a person inadvertently, whether they were an Israelite, a stranger or a sojourner. Yahweh listed cases of murder in which the benefit of the cities of refuge were not to extend. He also described cases of manslaughter in which the benefits of the cities of refuge would cover. Yahweh told the congregation how they should judge between the murderer and the avenger of blood. The man guilty only of manslaughter was to reside in the city of refuge till the death of the high priest at which time he could return to the land of his possession. Two witnesses must attest a murder before a murderer could be put to death and every murderer was to be put to death. The land was not be polluted with blood, for Yahweh dwelt in it with his people.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the poets and songwriters who write lyrics and music that express my feelings so I can espouse them as my own communication to you. Yahweh, my God, how great you are! Beautifully, gloriously robed, you are dressed up in sunshine. All heaven is stretched out for your tent. You built your palace on the ocean deeps. You made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings. You commandeered winds as messengers, and appointed fire and flame as ambassadors. You set earth on a firm foundation so that nothing can shake it, ever. You blanketed earth with ocean waters and covered the mountains with deep waters. Then you roared and the water ran away. Your thunder crash put it to flight. Mountains pushed up and valleys spread out in the places you assigned them. You set boundaries between earth and sea. Never again will earth be flooded. You started the springs and rivers, and sent them flowing among the hills. All the wild animals now drink their fill – wild donkeys quench their thirst. Along the riverbanks the birds build nests – ravens make their voices heard. You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns and earth is supplied with plenty of water. You make grass grow for the livestock and hay for the animals that plow the ground. What a wildly wonderful world, Yahweh! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, you made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why didn’t the tribe of Levi get any plots to farm?
  2. Why did the rest of the tribes have to share with the tribe of Levi?
  3. What did the nation get out of the arrangement of the priesthood?
  4. For what were the six sanctuary cities?
  5. What was the difference between murder and manslaughter?

6 Why do you think someone who committed manslaughter had to stay in a sanctuary city until the death of the High Priest?

  1. Why did the near relative of the person killed by a murderer have to carry out the punishment for the murderer? Why didn’t they just give the poor man life behind bars somewhere and give him or her a chance to get his or her life straightened out?

 

 

[1] Psalm 73:26; 142:; I Peter 2:9

[2] Page 176

[3] Exodus 21:14 – Out of bondage, Alison Kohn, page 158

[4] IBID

[5] Exodus 21:12-14; Deuteronomy 19:1-13

[6] Pamela Barmash, “Homicide in the Ancient Near East “, n.p. [cited 22 Mar 2017]. https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/homicide-in-the-ancient-near-east.aspx Pamela Barmash is professor of Hebrew Bible and biblical Hebrew at Washington University in St. Louis and served as director of Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Studies there. She is the author of Homicide in the Biblical World (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and is editor of Exodus in the Jewish Experience: Echoes and Reverberations (Lexington Books, 2015) and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Biblical Law.

[7] http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/02/the-ancient-near-east-was-no-picnic-contrasting-the-mosaic-law-to-ancient-moral-codes/

[8] http://alhatorah.org/The_Torah_and_Ancient_Near_Eastern_Law_Codes

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From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 34

The southwest corner of the Fertile Crescent was the bridge between the two cradles of civilization, Mesopotamia – where Babylonia Assyria sprang up – and Egypt and its appendages.

Yahweh commanded that the territory would be geographically limited. It was to be carefully defined to eliminate boundary disputes. The Promised Land is a picture of the generous privileges of Yahweh’s chosen people, and our everlasting inheritance. It was not a continent or a large portion of a continent. Yahweh was teaching his chosen people the difference between size and importance. The extent of land doesn’t compare with the inexhaustible wealth that comes out of good ground. A square mile in the territory that Yahweh blessed is better than thousands of acres of unblessed land. The country Yahweh gave to his chosen people was large enough to impress the world with beautiful illustrations of his methods that bring peace, prosperity, and happiness. The territory was limited and compact so that with short notice the whole nation could gather to any time for worship or defense.

The southern border[1] would include some of the Wilderness of Zin where it touched Edom. Israel would remember that the Wilderness of Zin was where Meriam died and Moses struck the rock for water instead of speaking to it as Yahweh had instructed.[2] Edom was founded by Esau who was Jacob’s brother and; therefore, a close relative of Israel. The eastern border there was to be the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water on earth. It was to curve south of the steep and twisted Scorpion Pass in the eastern Negev desert. From there it was to go south of Kadesh Barnea where Israel was camped when the spies were sent out. It went further south until it took a turn in the northwest to the Brook of Egypt and on to the Mediterranean Sea, which was to be the western border. The great sea was the open pathway of nations and the symbol of Israel’s connection with the whole world. Israel had destroyed Amorites and Midianites and was commanded to drive out the Canaanites but in the seed of Abraham all families of the earth were to be blessed. From Canaan there was a path of blessing by a landward way to many lands beside, but by sea there was a way to every island.

The northern border would go from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor, where Aaron was buried. It ended at the a place called Hazar Enan – Village of springs or Village of Fountains – north of present day Syria. The eastern border was to run from there to Shepham, Riblah and east of Ain along the slopes east of the Sea of Galilee. From there the border would follow the Jordan River and end at the Dead Sea. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had received their inheritance east of Jordan-Jericho, facing the sunrise.

Yahweh provided a means for Israel to drive out the Canaanites when he set the border where they were to be driven and where Israel was not allowed to return and occupy the other side. In the same way Yahweh’s people should know that the world has its own principles and tolerate whatever way they choose to endorse them without adopting them. The world’s view of life is communicated from generation to generation according to the natural condition of human beings and what they negatively suppose human character is fated to be. For ancient Israel and us today Yahweh’s chosen people must uphold a place, and earnestly defend it, where the condescending egotism of worldly wisdom doesn’t get a foothold. Our field of faith, born of the Spirit of Yahweh, is grounded on the word of our God, Yahweh. We are born of the flesh and without Yahweh we would be stuck with the inevitable belief that what is born of the flesh is flesh, and that we must go by what other humans are. However, we know what humans ought to be, and remember that what is born of the spirit is spirit and able to transcend the things of the flesh[3].

Yahweh told Moses that Eleazar, Joshua, and the leaders of the ten remaining tribes were to distribute the land. Moses made a record of the names of the leaders of each tribe and the fact that it was at the command of Yahweh that they had the authority to do so.

 

Summary of chapter 34

The narrator described the borders of the Land of Promise, naming the southern, western, northern, and eastern lines of the land to be divided by lot among the 9 ½ tribes. Reuben and Gad, and the half of Manasseh already got their inheritance on the east side of Jordan. Yahweh told Moses that Eleazar the priest and Joshua were to assist in dividing the land with a chief out of every tribe. Moses recorded the names of the twelve chiefs. Yahweh named the princes that should divide the land in the order of their possession so that they would dwell together as brethren in unity, for the mutual help and comfort of each other. Yahweh displayed characteristics of skill, judgment, and kindness in his placement of the tribes in their new home. Their land would be given to them so that they would live in the same order that they had been camped around the tabernacle. Judah had the first lot; and dwelt in the south part of the land. Next to him Simeon’s inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah[4]. Judah and Simeon were both sons of Leah. Benjamin – the youngest son of Rachel – was third and had his inheritance by Judah, between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph. Dan – a son of Rachel’s maid – was the fourth with the territory of Benjamin in the country of the Philistines.[5] Manasseh and Ephraim – Rachel’s grandsons – were six and seven and their inheritances were behind Benjamin[6]. Zebulun was seven and Issachar was number eight.[7] They were sons of Leah. Asher was nine and Naphtali was tenth[8]. Asher was a son of Leah’s maid and Naphtali was a son of Rachel’s maid.

 

Prayer: Lord, I thank you that when Christ died he took the whole rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving me free to connect to the power of his resurrection life. For as long as I lived the old way of life, doing whatever I felt I could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed me in. In the end, all I had to show for it was failure and unproductive exploits. Now that I’m no longer chained to that oppressing companion of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, I’m free to live a new life in your freedom. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. It started out as an excellent piece of work. However, sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code itself is your good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel. Sin hid in your good commandment and did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own. I spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for me and then do it, it is obvious that your command is necessary. However, I need something more since I know the law but still can’t keep it. The power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions so I obviously need help. I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do what is right, but I don’t actually do it; I decide not to do what is wrong – unhealthy and damaging – but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do what is right, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in your commands, but it’s obvious that not all of me connects with that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I can’t win for losing so you acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve you with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. You came in the person of Jesus, the Messiah/ Yeshua ha Mashiach and that fateful dilemma is resolved. When I entered into Christ’s being-here-for-me I no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing me from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. You went for the jugular when you sent your own Son. You didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In Your Son, Jesus/Yeshua, you personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. Now what the law code asked for but I couldn’t deliver is accomplished as I, instead of redoubling my own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in me.

You have taken up residence in my life so I can hardly be thinking more of myself than of you. Even though I still experience all the limitations of sin I experience life on your terms and because you moved into my life- you who are alive-and-present and raised Jesus from the dead moved into my life, you do the same thing in me that you did in Jesus, brought me alive to you. You live and breathe in me so I am delivered from that dead life. With your Spirit living in me, my body is as alive as Christ’s/Yeshua ha Mashiach’s.

The resurrection life I received from you is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting you with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” Your Spirit touches my spirit and confirms who I really am. I know who you are, and I know who I am: Father and child. In addition, I know I am going to get what’s coming to me—an unbelievable inheritance! I go through exactly what Christ goes through. If I go through the hard times with him, then I will certainly going to go through the good times with him. You decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love you along the same lines as the life of your Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity you restored. I see the original and intended shape of my life there in him. After you decided what your children should be like, you followed it up by calling your own by name. After you called us by name, you set us on a solid basis with yourself. Then, after getting us established, you stay with us to the end, gloriously completing what you have begun.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. What do you think was the importance of the location in the Fertile Crescent that Yahweh established for his chosen people?
  2. Why was the area so smell where Yahweh places his chosen people?
  3. Of what incident did the southern border remind Israel?
  4. Why didn’t Yahweh tell Israel to rid the land of Edom?
  5. Of what did Kadesh Barnea remind Israel?
  6. What was important about the western border?
  7. What does this chapter tell you about the character of your God, Yahweh?

 

 

[1] Joshua 15:2-4

[2] Chapter 20

[3] Romans 8

[4] Joshua 19:1

[5] IBID 19:40, 41

[6] IBID 16:7

[7] IBID 19:10-17

[8] IBID 19:24, 32

From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 33

Under Yahweh’s direction, Moses kept a record of every time Israel moved from camp to camp after they left Egypt. They organized with precision under the command of Moses and Aaron and marched out of Rameses the day after Passover on the fifteenth day of the first month after Yahweh exposed the nonsense of the gods of Egypt.

Their first camp was Succoth. After 430 years Yahweh’s complete army left Egypt and Yahweh kept watch over them all night – and because he did, all Israel, for all generations were to honor him by keeping watch on that night every year.[1] Israel left Egypt in military formation but Yahweh avoided the road through the land of the Philistines, which happened to be the shortest route, because he knew that they would encounter war going that way. The Israelites had been many years under the yoke of the Egyptians and Yahweh knew that they weren’t equipped to fight a war. Therefore, he led the people on the Wilderness Road around the Red Sea.[2] Their next camp was Etham.

Yahweh did a peculiar thing then. He turned Israel around and headed them back in the direction they came from. Pharaoh’s spies would think they were confused and turning in circles when they turned south and camped at the mouth of the pass on the shore of the Red Sea. It looked to Pharaoh as though they were in a spot where they couldn’t escape from him. Yahweh told Moses when he redirected Israel that Pharaoh would think they were confused and decide to peruse them. He also assured Moses that he knew Pharaoh’s heart and what he would do, so he was using this as another demonstration of his power meant to confirm that he is Yahweh – God – the great I AM.[3] Then he told them to circle back and camp near Pi Hahiroth not far from the sea. Yahweh turned the sea to dry land for Israel to walk over [4] and drowned the perusing Egyptians. They sang praises to Yahweh there and three days later when fresh water was scares and throats were dry, they complained loudly. At Yahweh’s command Moses threw a stick of wood in the water and it became sweet so Israel could drink it. Moses told the Israelites that Yahweh wanted to transform them the way he had the water. He had brought them out of Egypt where they lived for the benefit of Pharaoh. Now he would show them a better way. They were to listen to him and follow his directions. They would be living in his presence and under his protection. He said, “I AM Yahweh, your healer.” Yahweh would heal them by renewing their minds so that they would be able to understand the will of Yahweh for their lives. [5]

After they left the sweet water of Mariah they came to twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees at Elim and set up camp. Seventy symbolizes perfect spiritual order carried out with all power – or great fullness. Twelve symbolizes Yahweh’s power and authority or blessing and care for Israel.[6]

Two months and fifteen days after Israel left Egypt they left Elim. They had been camping under the palm trees amid springs of water and traveling in the wilderness again made them grumpy. They started finding fault with Moses and Aaron again asking why their God didn’t just let them die in comfort in Egypt where they had plenty to eat. The “good old days” always seem so much better than they actually were. We like to remember the days of our youth when everything was so much better. We remember lying around in the sun and conveniently forget how cold it was getting to the outhouse in winter or trying to read by candlelight. Israel forgot how the whip felt on their backs when they didn’t produce enough bricks for their Egyptian taskmasters. They also forgot the miracles at the Red Sea and Mariah.[7] Yahweh, in his great mercy, gave them bread from heaven and quail from the sea.

Israel left the Red Sea and camped in the Wilderness of Sin; left the Wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah; left Dophkah and camped at Alush; left Alush and camped at Rephidim where there was no water for the people to drink. Yahweh gave them water from the rock. The Amalekites attacked and were defeated by the power of Yahweh. Israel left there and went to the Wilderness of Sinai where Yahweh met them and gave them the Ten Commandments.

Israel left the Wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah (Graves of Lust) where they complained about not having meat to eat. [8] Yahweh sent them so many quail from the sea that they over ate, got sick, and died. Their gluttony killed them, as Yahweh knew it would.

Yahweh’s chosen people left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth where Mariam and Aaron criticized Moses because his wife was a Cushite woman.

Altogether there are 42 camps listed. The Pri Tzadik taught that the fortytwo stops of Israel in the wilderness correspond to the fortytwo letter name of HaShem, a Hebrew term for God that literally means “the name. This is based on an understanding that the first fortytwo letters of the Torah contain one of HaShem’s names. According to the Kabbalah, HaShem brought[9] the world into being by virtue of the first fortytwo letters of the Torah. They were the fortytwo periods of creation. The fortytwo camps in the wilderness travels of Israel repeat the genesis of the world and suggest a second process of creation that lasted forty years – the creation of the nation of Israel.

Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (Hebrew:אברהם בן שמואל אבולעפיה‎), the founder of the school of “Prophetic Kabbalah” thought that the divine name consisting of fortytwo letters was derived from the first fortytwo letters of Bereshit (Hebrew for “in the beginning,”), which starts with the letter bet and ends with the letter mem. Mem bet represent fortytwo in Hebrew. The name “I Am that I Am”, comes out to 42 in gematria.

These camps are like the phases that Yahweh’s chosen people experience as we move through life, preparing for a new chapter in life. As Israel moved through the wilderness for forty years they were in training for their transition into the Promised Land. Each camp and each journey was an opportunity to reach a higher level of spiritual growth and bond with Yahweh and his law. Each camp was a time to learn something about Yahweh so that when it came time to enter the Promised Land Israel would be ready for her new life. The goal was to bind the chosen people together in love for their God, Yahweh.

In the fortieth year after the chosen people left Egypt Israel left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor on the border of Edom. On the first day of the fifth month Aaron the priest climbed the mountain at the command of Yahweh and died there. He was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor.

The Canaanite king of Arad who ruled in the Negev of Canaan heard that the Israel had arrived.

Israel’s camp on the Plains of Moab at Jordan-Jericho stretched along the banks of the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim (Acacia Meadow). Beth-Jeshimoth is on the northern margin of the Dead Sea and means house of destruction. Acacia wood is noted for its spines, and contains the idea of piercing.

Yahweh told Moses to tell his people that when they crossed the Jordan into Canaan they were to drive out the native population and destroy their carved idols and cast images, level their worship mounds and take over the land for their home.

The Canaanites had not heeded the message Yahweh sent them through the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; nor did they pay attention to the historical example of the flood. Yahweh had placed Abraham and his family in the land in order to witness to the Canaanites, as Noah had previously. Their unwillingness to repent and change even to escape judgment shows how bad they really were.

Yahweh told Moses to divide the land by lot according to the size of the clans of each tribe. Large clans were to get more land while smaller clans got smaller tracts of land to farm.

Yahweh warned Israel that if it didn’t drive out the native population every person left would be like a cinder in their eye or a splinter in their foot. Did you ever try to walk with a splinter in your foot or see with something in your eye – even an eyelash? It can’t be done. It would cause Israel boundless difficulty and it would end up in the same place as Canaan. Depravity is destructive and would destroy even Yahweh’s chosen nation.

As Cory Baugher says, “Today the church is not called to execute justice on the wicked in the same way. This does not mean that Yahweh has changed His mind on what He considers wickedness or how to execute justice. Rather, for the same reason that only ten nations were marked for destruction and the others (even though they were unbelievers) were left alone in the First Testament, so today, in a post-Second Testament world, not every nation or people group is marked for destruction though they are unbelievers as well. Likewise, Yahweh did not choose Israel alone to execute justice in every case throughout history. He also used the flood to judge the world, the plagues and the Red Sea to judge Egypt, fire to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Assyrians and Babylonians to judge Israel. Today He is still judging people by many means we do not always recognize because we do not have divine revelation.”[10]

 

Summary of chapter 33

This chapter details the breaking of camps – the marching out – of the children of Israel throughout the roughly forty years between their departure from Egypt and their entry into Canaan.

The principal significance of this chapter seems to be in the number forty-two. The number forty-two is significant throughout scripture. The fact that so little is known about most of these places suggests that Yahweh had a reason for commanding the Moses to write these down that wasn’t geographical. Yahweh doesn’t have any worthless material in his Book. However, the power of this record is in the record of faithful protection and blessing that Yahweh gave to his chosen people and his firm purpose of saving the human race through Israel.

There are only two dates presented for Israel’s travels. There is the date of the start, the 15th day of the first month of the first year; and the date of Aaron’s death (at Hor) on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year at the 34th camp.

Moses explained the departure of Israel from Rameses. He said it was while the Egyptians were burying all their first-born, explaining why the Israelites got such a head start on Egypt when they left. The Egyptians put all other passions and interests aside while they cared for the departed.

The whole civilization of the Canaanite people was out of control and justly consigned to destruction. The charge to exterminate the Canaanites and possess their land was altogether a just and necessary condition if Israel’s were to achieve what Yahweh intended to do through them.

 

Prayer: I will sing to you, my God, with your entire creation. I will praise you with the song of the water fall and babbling brook. I will listen to the wind sing your praise and let my heart sing along. I will sing in harmony with the rustling trees as they sway to the music of the gentle breeze and shout for joy with the loud claps of thunder that keep time with flashing light. I will worship you with joy and come before you with happy songs. I will acknowledge that you are God before the whole world. You made me, and I belong to you. We are your people – we are the sheep of your pasture. I will enter your gates with thanksgiving in my heart and skip into your courts with praise. You are good; your love is eternal and your faithfulness lasts forever. You are a blessing to my life forever and ever.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think Yahweh wanted Moses to keep a record of every camp they left?
  2. What should ancient Israel have remembered from leaving the first camp?
  3. Why didn’t Yahweh take his chosen people directly to Canaan on the most direct route?
  4. Why did he take them so far away and then turn them back to the Red Sea?
  5. Why was it important for Israel to be aware of the difference between who he is and the gods of human invention? Why is it important for us to constantly remind ourselves of who our God, Yahweh, is?
  6. What is significant about the number forty-two?
  7. What is the most important thing for the ancient Israelites – and us – to remember about the places that the chosen people camped along their wilderness journey?

 

 

[1] Out of Bondage by Allison Kohn, page 96

[2] IBID 103

[3] IBID 109

[4] Psalm 66

[5] Out of bondage, page 119

[6] http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/70.html

[7] Out of Bondage, 124, 125

[8] Chapter 11

[9] According to some classical interpretations, the world was fortytwo thousand years old when Adam was created. That would mean that the age of the Earth is 15,340,500,000.

[10] https://www.knowingthebible.net/the-extermination-of-the-canaanites

From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 32

As Steve Taylor, Ph. D. says, “Books on world history usually begin with the civilizations of Sumer and Egypt, which arose at around 3000 BC, and from that point until the present day, history is little more than a catalogue of endless wars.”[1] The psychologist William James wrote an essay on ‘The Moral Equivalent of War’ in 1910. He suggested that warfare was common because of its positive psychological effects, both on the individual and on society as a whole. War gives societies a sense of unity in the face of a shared threat. It necessitates that the whole community works together and brings discipline and a sense of structure with a shared objective. He said that the ‘war effort’ inspires individual citizens as well as the soldiers to behave honorably and unselfishly, in the service of a greater good. Warfare also facilitates the manifestation of loftier latent human traits such as self-control, valor, altruism and self-denial.[2]

Israel had conquered the Moabites and the Midianites, and the tribes of Reuben and Gad had a lot of livestock. When they saw that the regions of Jazer and Gilead were good places for raising livestock, the leaders of the tribe of Gad and Reuben went and spoke to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders of the congregation telling them that they would like to have that country as their possession. Yahweh had laid it low, it was good for livestock, and they had livestock.

Human beings in general have a strong need for belonging and identity. Going home to the Promised Land had been the identity of the children of Israel ever since Jacob moved the family into Egypt to find relief from famine. However after the conquest of the country east of the Jordan the tribes of Gad and Rueben were content to stay where they were. It seemed good enough for them. The fact that any of Yahweh’s chosen people would consider settling outside the land promised to Abraham showed an indifference to the plan of their God, Yahweh. Moses was apparently concerned that the attitude of the tribes of Reuben and Gad would keep the other tribes from going into the Promised Land. Complacency is contagious and Israel was going to have to fight for their home. Gad and Reuben had a responsibility to the rest of Israel. They couldn’t be allowed to discourage the whole family of chosen people by dropping off short of the Promised Land.

Moses reminded them why the nation failed to enter the Promised Land some 38 years before. Most of the men of that generation of Israelites had let the discouragement of the ten unfaithful spies sway them. If they had wholly followed Yahweh the discouraging report would not have persuaded them. Joshua and Caleb hadn’t wavered in their commitment to Yahweh and his plan and were the only ones left of that generation. The new generation could perish just like the previous one if they were to walk in the same unbelief. Moses told the tribes of Rueben and Gad that if they were to discourage the rest of Israel from entering the Promised Land they would be responsible for destroying the present generation just as the ten spies were responsible for destroying the last one.

Faith is productive and a lack of faith is destructive. Confidence in Yahweh should have been the result of all the evidence Israel had that he could love and care for their needs because he had brought them out of Egypt through many powerful miracles. He had demonstrated his caring love by controlling the forces of nature in order to supply their needs many times. However, as Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D. of Psychology Today says, “Evidence doesn’t speak for itself. It must be interpreted, people deciding what it’s evidence for and how far to extrapolate from the evidence to a general certainty. Even if all of us agree that the evidence points a certain way, we may later come to a different conclusion. … Without our leaps of faith, we’re unfocused, un-reliable, [and] our efforts to diffuse [or] to yield anything of lasting value [is diminished]. Without faith, we would extend our energy every which way and never get anything done. … We don’t feel or experience faith; we have it, as though it’s a permanent possession. Your faith is with you always, not in waves of certainty amidst your doubts, but a conviction made and held once and for all.”[3] Some years ago I read about a couple of Christian girls who were kidnapped and killed by an evil man. They spent their last hours in fear and finally died in the trunk of a car. The author of the article about their ordeal asked, “How could a good God allow that to happen to Christians?” A little later I read another article about another Christian girl who was kidnapped by another evil man. The reason for fear was as great in her case but it was overcome by her confidence in her God. She knew that he is the great I AM, reality behind all reality. She knew that he would never leave her nor forsake her and if the evil man killed her – as he surely would have – she knew she would go into eternity swaddled in God’s love. She didn’t die. Her love and peace, produced by her faith, was greater than the evil intent of the man who kidnapped her and he eventually let her go. That was the difference between those two incidents. In both cases the girls were Christians, but faith is the victory that overcomes the world – not association. When Yeshua/Jesus said faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains, that’s what he meant.[4]

The leaders of Gad and Rueben effectively satisfied Moses’ concern of the other tribes being discouraged by their actions. They promised Moses, confidently, that the men of Reuben and Gad would fight right beside the nation, as they possessed the Promised Land. They said they wanted to build corrals for their livestock and towns for their families but then the best fighting men would leave their families behind in secure walled towns and go with the rest of Israel to claim the Promised Land. They promised not to go home until Israel was in full possession of the land – and they wouldn’t expect any inheritance west of the Jordan.

Moses told them that if they did what they said and took up arms in the presence of Yahweh for battle; and went across the Jordan ready to fight until Yahweh cleaned his enemies out of the land; when the land was secure they would have fulfilled their duty to Israel and their God, Yahweh. At that time the land east of the Jordan would be theirs to keep.

Moses added that if they didn’t keep their word they would be sinning against Yahweh and they couldn’t get away from the result of sin. Everyone has to live with the consequences of bad choices and sin always leads to misery and regret. Remember Joseph’s brothers [5] many years after their evil deeds against their brother assumed the punishment would come. Even after their father died they were still worried about the consequences of their sin.[6]

Moses told Gad and Rueben to build towns for their families and corals for their livestock and be ready to go to war with the rest of Israel.

The people of the tribes of Gad and Rueben agreed to do everything Moses commanded them to do. Their children and wives along with their herds and flocks would stay in the towns of Gilead and they would cross the river to fight for Yahweh.

Moses told Eleazar, Joshua, and all the leaders of the other tribes that if the tribes of Gad and Rueben kept their word and crossed the Jordan River with the other tribes – armed and ready to fight – that they could give them Gilead for their inheritance after the land was secure for the other tribes.

The tribe of Manasseh was so large that their portion spanned the Jordan. The descendants of Manasseh’s son, Makir, went to Gilead captured it, and drove out the Amorites who lived there. Moses then gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants of Manasseh. They moved in and settled there. The descendants of another son of Manasseh, Jair, captured some villages and named them Tent Camps.

Moses gave the families of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh the kingdoms of the Amorites and Bashan. They had all the territories connected with them to build on.

 

Summary of chapter 32

The Reubenites and Gadites asked Moses to give them their inheritance on east side of Jordan. Moses objected and rebuked them but they explained themselves, and offered conditions which satisfied Moses. They were to build cities for their wives and children, and folds for their cattle, and then they would cross over the Jordan River ready to fight with the other tribes till the land was subdued. After that they would be free to return. Moses advised Eleazar, Joshua, and the elders about their proposal and the Gadites and Reubenites promised a faithful observance of the conditions. Moses assigned them, and the half tribe of Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan. The narrator listed the cities built by the Gadites, and the cities built by the Reubenites. The tribe of Machir, the son of Manasseh, expelled the Amorites from Gilead, and Moses granted it to them. The tribe of Jair, the son of Manasseh, took the small towns of Gilead, and Nobah took Kenath and its villages.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be faithful and obedient to you in all the circumstances of my life – whether they are good or bad. Help me to remember that you can see better and further than I can and know the beginning from the end of my life. You know how the things that happen in my life relate to and affect others and well as me. If I can be dead to my own selfish interests and let you live through me, the outcome will always be better, both for the lives I touch and for me. Therefore, I pray with the Psalmist let the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think it was important for the tribes of Gad and Rueben to go to war with the rest of Israel?
  2. What do you see is the main difference in the way we, as Christians, are supposed to fight and the way ancient Israel fought?
  3. What do you think is the most important thing for us to learn from the example of what Yahweh, through Moses, expected of the different tribes of Israel?
  4. Why do you think self-control, valor, altruism and self-denial are important to any society?
  5. Whose battle was the conquest of Canaan? Who would benefit from the land being free from violent people involved in and promoting idolatry, gang rape, bestiality, child sacrifice, and many other evil and grotesque practices?[7]
  6. What is faith and why does it make a difference?
  7. Why would confidence in Yahweh make a difference in whether or not Israel was able to conquer the Promised Land?

 

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201403/the-psychology-war

[2] IBID

[3]https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/201309/faith-what-is-it-and-who-has-it

[4] Matthew 17:20

[5] Genesis 42:21

[6] Genesis 50:14, 15

[7] https://www.knowingthebible.net/the-extermination-of-the-canaanites

From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 31

Yahweh told Moses to punish the Midianites for what they did to Israel before he died – was separated from Israel – and united with his ancestors.

In this incident, ancient Israel had a unique place in Yahweh’s plan, with a special call to be an instrument of God’s vengeance. This is something no person should take upon himself or herself today.

Remember that while Israel abode in Shittim the men committed unlawful sex with the daughters of Moab. They also worshiped Baal with the women. They joined themselves to Baal and worshipped with obscene rites. Twenty-four thousand died of the result of these sins. It all started when the Midianites sent their women to invite the Israelite men to their sex and worship rituals to Baal. Yahweh commanded the Israelites to consider the Midianites their enemies forever.

Moses mustered a thousand men from each tribe of Israel and sent them off to war. He sent the son of the high priest’s son, Phinehas, with them and gave him charge over the holy vessels and the signaling bugles.

Israel attacked Midian, as Yahweh commanded Moses, and according to the custom of the day, killed every man. In that culture and time, the boys would have grown into men with the solemn responsibility to avenge their father’s death and to perpetuate Midianite culture – which in itself was anti-God. The People of Israel took the Midianite women – also according to the custom of the day but in direct violation of Yahweh’s command – and children captive and took all their animals and herds and goods as plunder. They burned all the towns in which Midianites lived and their tent camps to the ground. They looted and plundered everything and everyone. Among the fallen were the five kings of Midian and Balaam son of Beor, who had told the Midianites to send their women into the camp of the chosen people. They took the loot and captives all back to Moses, Eleazar the priest and the encampment of Israel still bivouacked on the Plains of Moab, at Jordan-Jericho.

Moses, Eleazar, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet the returning army outside the camp. Moses was furious with the army officers because they let the women who had caused the trouble in the Israeli camp earlier to live. They were the ones who, under Balaam’s direction, seduced the men of Israel away from Yahweh and 25,000 men had died. He told the leaders to finish their job and kill all the boys and the women who had been bonded to Mediante men by sex. These were probably all girls under the age of twelve, or maybe younger, who would be slave labor[1] for Israel – not sex toys.

“Though most Israelites thought these women were safe, they were more dangerous to Israel than an army of mighty warriors. Israel could overcome mighty warriors if they were spiritually strong; but if they were seduced into immorality and idolatry, they would certainly fall.”[2]

Moses gave the warriors instructions for purifying themselves and their booty before they could renter the camp of Yahweh’s chosen people. Anyone who had killed anyone or touched a corpse was told to stay outside the camp for seven days. Remember that, “Yahweh was teaching his people spiritual truths. He wanted them – and he wants us – to realize that death isn’t the result of perfection. Corruption – sin – causes death and Yahweh is the author of life[3]. Death is as sin made visible.[4] Death is the result of sin. Therefore, death is the symbol of sin.

“Yahweh repeated his instructions for a person to purify himself or herself after contact with death, and added that the ritually unclean must purify himself or herself on the third day with the Water of Cleansing[5] so he or she could be clean on the seventh day. The water purification ceremony was a picture of purifying the heart by the Word of Yahweh[6]. The number three pictures completeness, but to a lesser degree than the number seven, and points to something that is solid and substantial.”[7] Moses instructed the leaders in the army to purify everything made of leather, goat hair, or wood.

Eleazar the priest told the soldiers who had fought in the battle that he was giving them the revelation from Yahweh to Moses so they would know it was important for them to obey without discussion or second guessing his orders. Anything that could survive the blaze – all the gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, and lead – had to be passed through the fire; where it would be ritually purified. It would also have to be ritually washed in the Water-of-Cleansing. Anything that couldn’t be put through the fire had to go through the Water-of-Cleansing. They were to scrub their own cloths on the seventh day before they would be ritually clean and could return to camp.

Yahweh commanded Moses and Eleazar and all the leaders in the community to count the people and animals that were captured in the war. They were to divide the plunder between those who went out to battle, and the entire congregation:. According to the customs of the era and area the spoil would have belonged to the soldiers alone but Yahweh didn’t want soldiers who were looters or pirates. Therefore, he ordered that the spoil be divided with the people of Israel who did not fight. Yahweh wanted Israel to have the heart of givers.

What non-living booty went to the soldiers was to be taxed ten percent lower than the community was taxed for their share. The proceeds were given to Eleazar the priest. The tax on animals and people went to the Levites. The tax on them was also ten percent lower for the soldiers than for the community.

“The greatness of the victory is shewn by the result, since such an abundance of cattle could only have been collected from a wide and populous country. It is probable that it was not very fertile, and consequently only live stock, and not corn and wine, are enumerated as amongst their wealth. Still, we may conjecture that it was famous for pastures, since barren mountains could not have fed so many oxen, and goats, and sheep, and camels. Besides, it is most evident, from the number of young women, that the men who were slain were more in number than their conquerors that had been sent to the battle; for suppose they each of them had an unmarried daughter, they would have almost three times outnumbered the 12,000 Israelites. Hence, again, it is manifest that the victory was affected by Divine power.”[8]

When the leaders of the army saw that none of their men were lost, they consecrated their spoils of gold and silver to the Lord. Moses magnified Yahweh’s special blessing in bringing them all back safely. The war was successfully accomplished under the guidance of Yahweh who had protected the 12,000 men. They acknowledged Yahweh’s power in the preservation of the soldiers by offering as the price of their redemption whatever gold and silver they had taken among the spoils. Moses recorded the sum to make it clear that it was a large amount and that it was donated by the soldiers who had taken the booty. It was given to the commanders who took it to Moses and Eleazar who, in turn, took it to the Tent of Meeting to serve as a reminder to Israel before Yahweh.

 

Summary of chapter 31

Yahweh commanded Moses to make war on the Midianites. One thousand men were chosen out of each of the twelve tribes, and sent with Phinehas against the Midianites. Israel slayed all the males along with the five kings and Balaam and took all the women captive, with the flocks and goods. They burned the Mediante cities, and brought the spoil and the captives to Moses. He was angry with the leaders for sparing the women, who had been the cause of their sin and the resulting deaths. He commanded all the male children and all the sexually active females to be slain. The soldiers were given instructions to purify themselves and the different articles taken in the war. They were commanded to take the sum of the prey and divide it into two parts; one for the 12,000 warriors, and the other for the rest of the congregation. One in 500, both of persons and cattle, of the share of the warriors, was to be given to Yahweh for the priests; and one part of fifty, of the people’s share, was to be given to the Levites. The leaders reported that they had not lost a man in the war and brought a voluntary offering to Yahweh of gold and ornaments in the amount of 16,750 shekels. Moses and Eleazar took the gold into the tabernacle for a memorial.

 

Prayer: I love you, O Lord. You are my strength. Your law is perfect and restores my soul. Your precepts are right and rejoice my heart. Your commandment is pure and sheds light on my spiritual eyes. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer. Human nature is so complicated, Lord. I need your guiding hand in my life every second – every nano-second – of every minute of every hour of every day. I remember that you have told me to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you but find it hard to know what justice is. I get mercy confused with unproductive sympathy; and I confuse walking humbly by your side with letting evil use me for a rug. I need your instructions to show me how to live a productive healthy life but if I’m not careful I allow the opinions of other imperfect humans to cloud and confuse your instructions. James said that if I lack wisdom to ask and you will give it to me. Please give me wisdom, Lord. Thank you.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think Yahweh told Israel to go to war against Midian?
  2. What difference does the gospel – death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua ha Mashiach/Jesus Christ – make in the way Yahweh deals with evil nations today?
  3. Could the Midianites have repented and been saved from destruction?
  4. Why do you think every male and sexually attached female that Israel went to war against was killed but no Israelite died in the battle?
  5. Why were the woman and little boys killed?
  6. Can we honestly ask how a good god could allow bad things to happen today and still wonder how he could have got rid of the evil and the people seeped in evil in the ancient land of Canaan?
  7. Why do you think the soldiers took the women captives back to Israel and why did it infuriate Moses?

 

 

[1] According to the custom of the area and era

[2] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/numbers-31.html

[3] Romans 6:23

[4] Romans 5:12; 7:24

[5] That has the ashes of the cow in it, combined with the symbols of Yeshua – scarlet, cedar, and hyssop and his work of salvation – For soap Egyptians used a paste containing ash or clay http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/cosmetics.htm

[6] James 4:8

[7] Chapter 19

[8] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/numbers-31.html

From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 30

In the archaic scheme of things – the economy of mutual giving – the objects exchanged have both an objective and a subjective significance; they not only create a partnership, they also serve to insure it. They give rise to rights and obligations. They are pledges. Vows and oaths have the same archaic structure. They create and solidify partnerships based on reciprocal giving. One swears by specific things, and in the exchange these pledges become extremely important. They guarantee the peace, subjectively and objectively. The bond of order they establish is affirmed in the oath itself, so that the oath, like the things by which it is sworn, is part blessing and part curse: it obligates one to a bond, and binds one to an obligation. A vow is an unconditional promise to do something specific—good or evil.[1]

Moses repeated Yahweh’s instructions to his chosen people about oaths and vows. Yeshua/Jesus[2] told his followers not to take an oath at all because they didn’t take into account the Supreme Being and his place in our lives. Moses told Israel that when someone made a vow or bound himself with an oath that person was obligated to keep his word. “Honesty is important because it creates peace of mind and promotes relationships of trust. The benefits of honesty extend to personal health, relationships and society at large. The opposite, lying, leads to distrust, conflict, corruption and anxiety.[3]

When a young girl still living in her father’s house made a vow and her father didn’t object, she was bound to her vow or pledge, but if her father did object and forbid her to keep the vow Yahweh wouldn’t hold her responsible. If she married after she made a vow or some impulsive promise or pledge, and her husband heard of it but didn’t say anything to her, then she had to make good on whatever she vowed or pledged. However, if her husband interceded when he heard of it, he could cancel the vow or rash promise that bound her and she was released from keeping her word.

A widow or divorced woman didn’t have the privilege of a man to intercede for her and must keep her word. However a woman who lived with her husband and made a vow or swore to do something her husband could stop it immediately and neither would be guilty. If he heard about her vow or oath and it was okay with him at first but decided later to object and not allow her to fulfill the vow or keep her word he would be guilty before Yahweh. When a man consented to his wife’s vow or oath – by either word or silence – he was binding her to the oath or vow.

“These are the things that you shall do:  Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”[4]

A reformed Bible study says it very well. “Oaths and vows are commended in Scripture, but not every oath or vow is legitimate. Certainly, a vow to commit a sin must not be kept, for we are never to break God’s law. David realized this when Abigail’s actions kept him from his vow to kill Nabal[5]. Moreover, no one should swear an oath indiscriminately or frivolously. The Westminster Confession of Faith says oaths are appropriate only in “matters of weight and moment”[6]. This reflects a biblical pattern wherein oaths are commonly associated with covenants[7]. We should make vows only in matters of great and lasting consequence, such as marriages or court proceedings. Yet, we are left with some New Testament texts that, on first glance, seem to forbid oaths in our day. Understanding common first-century Jewish practices helps us see what our Savior was getting at in His teaching on oaths and vows. To keep people from breaking the law’s rules regarding our promises[8], Jewish teachers and leaders invented a system by which they could determine whether a vow had to be kept. Extrabiblical literature indicates that many rabbis did not consider it a sin to break a vow if it was not made explicitly in the name of God. Oaths made in the name of heaven or even the gold of the temple were not regarded as ultimately binding. As we might expect from sinners, this led to people making oaths by persons or objects other than God to give them an out in case they did not keep their word. Jesus[9] pointed out the foolishness of this teaching by reminding His audience of God’s omnipresence. People might think they can get out of their obligations because they did not swear an oath in the name of the Lord, but the Creator is present with those things by which people might swear, and He is the sovereign Creator of all. All things exist by His authority, so to swear an oath at all is to finally swear an oath in His name. A mere change of words does not give one a “get-out-of-oaths-free” card. Jesus’ teaching leads us to conclude that it is better not to make a vow than to swear an oath that we have no intention of keeping. It also reinforces the point that oaths and vows should not be made on just any occasion, but they should be reserved only for occasions of great import and lasting significance. In all circumstances, we must strive to keep our word.”[10]

 

Summary of chapter 30

The instruction for vows and oaths was given from Yahweh, through Moses to the leaders of the tribes of Israel, for them to communicate to all the others in Israel. A vow before Yahweh was serious. Yahweh clearly commanded that his chosen people should be careful to keep their vows, and to fulfill every oath they made. As Yeshua taught, Yahweh’s people should be so committed to integrity that our words don’t need an oath to give them legitimacy or validity. Many vows are just plain thoughtless. When someone says, “I’ll never do that again” it is a foolish vow.

Moses specified vows that are not binding. A young woman under her father’s household was not binding unless approved of in some way by her father, who had the right to override her decision. A married woman’s vow was not binding, unless it was authorized in some way by her husband,. A husband had the right to overrule his wife because he was responsible for her actions. A widow or divorced woman had no male to take the responsibility, so she was bound by her vows.

If a man consented, by word or silence, for his wife’s vow or oath he became responsible. When Yahweh declares someone to be in a position of rightful authority, others are expected to submit to that authority, the head also is accountable before Yahweh for the result. Yahweh never confers authority without responsibility.

 

Prayer: You, my God, prescribed the right way to live and expect me to live it. Keep my steps steady on the course you set. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart and I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do and know that you won’t ever walk off and leave me. A person can live a clean life by carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you. Please don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankruptcy. Be blessed, God and train me in your ways of wise living. I’ll transfer to my own lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth. I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you and attentively watch how you’ve done it. I relish everything you’ve told me of life. I won’t forget a word of it. My God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me. Make my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments. I love traveling this freeway. Give me a bent for your words of wisdom. Keep me from the desire to pile up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets and invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Let your love, my God, shape my life. Your truth never goes out of fashion. It’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up. Your Word and truth are dependable as ever because that’s what you ordered—you set the earth going. If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so I would have given up when the hard times came. But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me. You saved my life with those wise words. You saved me and I am all yours. By your words I can see where I’m going. They throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order. You are right and you do right, my God. Your decisions are always right on target. You rightly instruct us in how to live ever faithful to you. Your promise has been tested through and through, and I, your servant, love it dearly. [11]

 

 

Things to think about

  1. How do you think Yahweh’s instructions for vows and oaths relates to the following paragraph? “Fostering positive values is essential for leading a healthy life and helps to get rid of negative qualities. Therefore, an individual who practices honesty in his or her actions and speech is able to live openly and be truthful to others. This earns him or her respect and trust among other people and their peers. More importantly, honesty is a crucial quality in building stable and lasting relationships. It also has a major part in leadership and the judicial system of any country.[12]
  2. Since, in the archaic scheme of things, oaths and vows created a partnership why do you think a man could nullify his wife or daughter’s vow or oath if he did it immediately?
  3. Since honesty is a crucial quality in building stable and lasting relationships why do you think a man was allowed to annul a vow made by his wife or daughter that might include someone else?
  4. Why do you think it was important of the man to invalidate the vow or oath as soon as he heard about it? Why couldn’t he think about it for a while and decide later if he wanted his wife or daughter held to it?
  5. Why do you think Yeshua/Jesus said that it was better not to swear an oath by anything at all?
  6. What vows or oaths are good to make and which ones are not good?
  7. Why is it just as important to keep the word a person gives in a secular environment, as it is to keep the vows made in a church building? Was Yahweh telling his chosen people to only keep their word if they made their vow to him or swore an oath in his name? Do you think what Yeshua told his followers about swearing oaths made what Yahweh told ancient Israel any clearer?

 

 

[1] http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/vows-and-oaths

[2] Matthew 5:33-37

https://www.reference.com/world-view/important-honest-21fd637024245ffd%5B3%5D

[4] Zechariah 8:16, 17

[5] 1 Sam. 25

[6] 22.2

[7] Gen. 26:3; Ps. 132:11

[8] Num. 30:1–2

[9] Matthew 5:33–37

[10] http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/jesus-teaching-on-oaths/

[11] From Psalm 119

[12] https://www.reference.com/world-view/importance-honesty-813a1c295d6ea15

From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 29

Yahweh had met Moses in the Tent of Meeting and given him directions for the feasts to pass on to Israel. Moses had instructed the chosen people concerning the feast days and recorded them in Leviticus 23.[1]

Tishri, 1 – The Feast of Trumpets and the first fall festival – Yahweh told his people to set aside a day of rest for a sacred assembly and mark it loud with the blast from the ram’s horn to signal the interruption of harvest. They were to offer a fire-gift to him and not do any ordinary work but celebrate his work of creation and rest.

Tishri, 10 – The Day of Atonement – Yahweh ordained another sacred assembly and fast – from evening to evening – along with the offerings of atonement. According to pray4zion.org, “The High Priest went through a complex set of sacrifices to atone for his own sins and the sins of all the people, and a goat was then led out to die outside the walls of the city – symbolically taking the sins of the people with it. The High Priest was then able to enter the Holy of Holies, sprinkling blood on the Ark of the Covenant. It was by no means certain that he would leave alive. A rope was tied around his legs so he could be pulled out if he should die. If he lived, he would go outside, lift his hands up and pronounce the Aaronic blessing on the people – the only time in the year any one would invoke the tetragamatron (“Y-H–V-H-“), the usually unutterable Name of God.”[2] Yahweh told his people, through Moses, not to work or eat on the day when atonement would be made for them. It was to be a day for concentration to Yahweh and their relationship to and with him – from the evening of the ninth day of the month to the evening of the tenth day of the month.

Tishri, 15-21 – Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles – Yahweh instituted the last fest of the year to last seven days. It began and ended with days of sacred assembly with fire-gifts to Yahweh. Yahweh told his people that, after they had brought their crops in from your fields, they were to celebrate his Feast for seven days. The first and eighth days were to be days of complete rest. On the first day, they were to pick the best fruit from the best trees; take fronds of palm trees and branches of leafy trees and from willows by the brook and celebrate in Yahweh’s presence for seven days as a festival to him. Every year from that time forward, they were to celebrate it in the seventh month. They were to live in booths for seven days—every son and daughter of Israel was to move into booths so that their descendants would know that Yahweh made his people live in booths when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. Again, he reminded them that he is the great I AM – their God.

Yahweh told Moses that these appointed feasts were to be sacred assemblies for presenting the fire-gifts, Whole Burnt Offerings, grain, and drink offerings that were assigned to the specified day. He told Moses that these feasts were in addition to Sabbaths and other gifts connected with whatever a person vowed – and all the free-will offerings brought to him.

Some forty years later Yahweh instructed Moses to review these directives with the generation that would shortly be entering the Promised Land.

On the first day of the seventh month they were to gather in holy worship and do no regular work. This was to be their Day-of-Trumpet-Blasts when they were to sacrifice a Whole-Burnt-Offering: one young bull, one ram, and seven male yearling lambs—all healthy—as a pleasing fragrance to their God, Yahweh. They were to prepare a Grain-Offering of six quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for the bull, four quarts for the ram, and two quarts for each lamb, plus a male-goat as an Absolution-Offering to atone for them.

On the tenth day of Tishri, they were to gather humbly in holy worship and take their Whole Burnt Offering of healthy bull, ram, and seven yearling lambs. The Grain and Drink offerings were to be of the best required amounts and accompanied by the Absolution Offering.

Yahweh, through Moses, reminded his chosen people that these were all over and above the monthly and daily Whole Burnt Offerings with their accompanying Grain and Drink offerings.

Yahweh repeated to his people that on Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, they were to celebrate for seven days. Each day they were to take a succeeding number of young bulls, starting with thirteen and ending with seven on the seventh day. Every day they were to take fourteen yearling healthy male lambs; a Grain-Offering of six quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each of the bulls, four quarts for each ram, and two quarts for each of the 14 lambs. Along with these they were to take a male-goat as an Absolution-Offering in addition to the regular Whole-Burnt-Offering with its Grain-Offering and Drink-Offering.

On the eighth day they were take a whole burnt Offering, one bull, one ram, and seven male yearling lambs along with the prescribed Grain and Drink Offerings and a male goat for an absolution Offering.

Yahweh restated for Israel that these were all over and above their personal Vow Offerings and Freewill Offerings.

The narrator recorded that Moses instructed the People of Israel in all that Yahweh commanded him.

 

Summary of chapter 29

Eugene Peterson’s preview to the book of Leviticus says, “Because the core of all living is God, and God is a holy God, we require much teaching and long training for living in response to God as he is and not as we want him to be. The book of Leviticus is…a kind of an extended time out of instruction, a detailed and meticulous preparation for living “holy” in a culture that doesn’t have the faintest idea what “holy” is. The moment these people enter Canaan they will be picking their way through a lethal minefield of gods and goddesses that are designed to appeal to our god fantasies: … What these god fantasies do is cripple or kill us. …God provides a way (the sacrifices, feasts, and Sabbaths) to bring everything in and about us into his holy presence and we, like ancient Israel; stand in his presence at every moment (Psalm 139). Our Lord is not dwelling in a tent or house in our neighborhood. But he makes his habitation in us and among us as believers and says, ‘I AM holy. You be holy.’”

David Zucker says, “Though the ancient sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus have no present day application, they do tell us about the thinking of the ancients.”[3]

Chapter 28 and 29 of Numbers records the reinstallation of these ceremonial laws for the new generation of Israelites who would shortly be entering the Promised Land. If we look at them through eyes of faith we can see the glory of Yahweh in them. If we examine them only through physical eyes we learn something about the ancients.

 

Prayer: Lord, I pray that you will help me to let the evidence of my eyes be interpreted by faith. Help me to see you at work in everything and your glory – your character – in your creation. You are dressed up in sunshine with all heaven stretched out for your tent. You built your palace on the ocean deeps and made a carriage out of clouds and took off on wind-wings. You commandeered winds as messengers and appointed fire and flame as ambassadors. You set earth on a firm foundation so that nothing can shake it, ever. You blanketed earth with ocean and covered the mountains with deep waters. Then you roared and the water ran away as your thunder crash put it to flight. Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out in the places you assigned them. You started the springs and rivers and sent them flowing among the hills. Along the riverbanks the birds build nests. You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns so that earth is supplied with plenty of water. Mountain goats climb about the cliffs and badgers burrow among the rocks. The moon keeps track of the seasons and the sun is in charge of each day. When it’s dark and night takes over all the forest creatures come out. The young lions roar for their prey, clamoring to you for their supper. When the sun comes up they lazily stretch out in their dens. What a wildly wonderful world, Yahweh. You made it all, with Wisdom at your side. You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. What was the feast of trumpets?
  2. What was the object of the Day of Atonement?
  3. Why do you think Yahweh inaugurated the Feast of Tabernacles?
  4. What was the purpose of a fire gift?
  5. Why do you think there were a succeeding number of bulls used for the Burnt Offering during the Feast of Tabernacles?
  6. What is the difference between approaching the ceremonial laws through physical eyes and the eyes of faith?

[1] Displaying Holiness, page 244, 245

[2] http://www.pray4zion.org/TheBiblicalFeastsofIsrael.html

[3] David J. Zucker, PhD. Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah, N. J., page 118, 2005