A Devotional Look at How God Led Israel
Through the Wilderness
F. Wayne Mac Leod
LIGHT TO MY PATH BOOK DISTRIBUTION
Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia CANADA
Copyright © 2011 by F. Wayne Mac Leod
Revised March 2016
Published by Light To My Path Book Distribution
153 Atlantic Street, Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, CANADA B1V 1Y5
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission of the author.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise specified,
are taken from the New International Version of the Bible (Copyright ©
1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used with permission of Zondervan
Bible Publishers, All rights reserved.)
A special thank you to the proof readers without whom
this book would be much harder to read: Diane Mac Leod, Suzanne St. Amour
Table of Contents
Introduction to Numbers. 1
1 A Census is Taken. 4
2 The Arrangement of the Camp of Israel 9
3 The Priests and Levites. 14
4 A Census of the Levites. 20
5 Purity in the Camp. 26
6 Nazirite Vows. 34
7 The Dedication of the Altar 40
8 The Dedication of the Levites. 46
9 The Passover and God's Leading. 51
10 Leaving Sinai 57
11 Israel Complains. 64
12 Miriam and Aaron Speak Against Moses. 74
13 Different Perspectives. 82
14 Obedience Too Late. 88
15 Offerings, Sins and Tassels. 96
16 A Lesson Never Learned. 102
17 Confirmation of Aaron as Priest 110
18 The Water of Cleansing. 118
19 Trouble in the Desert 124
20 The Conquest East of the Jordan. 132
21 Balak and Balaam.. 140
22 Balaam's Prophecies. 150
23 Sin, Judgment and Blessing. 158
24 Moses Prepares to Die. 166
25 Israel's Offerings. 173
26 Vows. 180
27 The Defeat of the Midianites. 187
28 Land Allotted to Gad and Reuben. 195
Way to the Promised Land. 201
30 The Allotment of the Land of Canaan. 208
31 The Problem of Zelophehad's Daughters. 215
Moses is traditionally considered to be the author of the book of Numbers.
While the book does not clearly state this, the phrases, “the Lord spoke
to Moses,” or “the Lord said to Moses,” occurs about seventy
times in Numbers, indicating that the material for the book came from Moses and
his conversations with God. Numbers 33:2 is also strong evidence of Moses being
the author when it states:
At the Lord’s command Moses
recorded the stages of their journey. This is their journey by stages.
verse, we not only have the command of God given to Moses to record the journey
of the people of Israel through the wilderness but also evidence that Moses
obeyed that command and put it in writing. While it is certainly possible that
Moses had a secretary to help write the material, the content of this book
comes from Moses who faithfully recorded what God had given him.
book likely gets its name from the various censuses taken in the book. Chapter
1 begins with a census of the people who had come out of Egypt. Chapter 2 lists
the number of people by tribal divisions. Chapters 3 and 4 give the number of Levites
in the service of the Lord. Finally, chapter 26 contains a census of the number
of people who were ready to go into the land of Canaan thirty-eight years
begins in the second year of Israel’s release from captivity in Egypt
(1:1). It is a record of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness and
God’s requirements for them at this time. The book not only gives us a
sense of the number of people who were in the nation at the time but also their
character. Israel is portrayed as a complaining people, discontent with the
purpose of God. The book ends with the people of God camped beside the Jordan
River ready to enter the land God had promised their fathers.
the book, we catch a glimpse of the requirements of God for His people and although
they often failed Him, God continued to walk with them, provide for them and
watch over their needs.
of the Book for Today:
has much to teach us about God. In the arrangement of the Israelite camp we see
that He is a God of order who has a purpose for each of His children. As we
note the size of the nation through the censuses taken in the book, we are
conscious of his unlimited resources as He provided food and provisions for
each Israelite. We see His justice when He punishes those who rebel against Him
and His chosen leadership. The book gives us a better understanding of the
mercy of God when we see Him patiently endure the grumbling of His people on an
ongoing basis. His protection is evident in the victory over Balaam and King
Balak who wanted to curse Israel. We understand more of His power as we watch
Him use Israel to overcome nations more skilled at war than themselves.
Demonstrating incredible generosity and favour, God uprooted nations and gave
their land to His people. He provided them with a means of forgiveness and
intimacy with Him though the sacrifices and vows He ordained; showing His
people the wonderful love He had for them despite their unworthiness.
favour of God rested on a grumbling and disobedient people. He brought Israel
from the land of their captivity, through the wilderness, to the border of the
land He had promised their fathers. Israel often chose to walk away from
God’s purpose. They would suffer the consequences of their disobedience
and many would die in the wilderness without ever seeing the land God had
promised; but God was still faithful to His word.
see ourselves in this book. We too have often fallen short of God’s
standard but He does not give up on us. Sometimes, like Israel, through our
disobedience, we have lost opportunities and blessings but God continues to
work in our lives drawing us day by day closer to His side and His purposes for
our lives. The book of Numbers speaks of lost opportunities, consequences of
sin, and judgment. It also speaks to us about a God of mercy who proves
faithful even when we have failed.
book of Numbers continues the story of God leading His people on the journey
from Egypt to the Promised Land. As we begin the book of Numbers, the
Lord is speaking to Moses. Verse 1 gives us some important details about the
timing of events that take place in the book. The Israelites were camped in the
Desert of Sinai on their way to the land God had promised their fathers. They
were two years into a journey that would take forty years to complete.
in verse 1 that Moses was in the Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle when the
Lord spoke to him. Moses had a very important role to play in leading the
people to the Promised Land, and he would often come to the Tabernacle to hear
from God. Moses did not trust in his own wisdom. It was in this place of quiet
with God that Moses would find the wisdom and direction he needed to lead the
occasion, the Lord told Moses that He wanted him to take a census of the
Israelite community, “listing every man by name, one by one” (verse
2). Moses and his brother Aaron were to count all the men in Israel twenty
years of age and older who could serve in the army (verse 3). This reveals the
purpose of the census. It was to determine how many men were able to fight for
Israel. Every healthy man over the age of twenty was a candidate for the army.
Notice that there was no option for these men. They were to serve their country
and be ready to lay down their lives for their people.
are you willing to lay down your life for today? These men were expected to be
ready to serve the Lord by advancing His purpose for His people. There would be
difficult times coming for the people of God and these men would be required to
stand firm against the enemy to protect their families and bring God’s
people to the place He had prepared for them. In the spiritual battle before us,
God is looking for men and women who will do the same.
could not take this census alone. In verses 4-15 God told him that one man from
every tribe in Israel, the head of his family, was to help him. The following
chart shows who God chose from each tribe to help Moses with this census.
Elizur, son of Shedeur (verse 5)
Shelumiel, son of Zurishaddai (verse 6)
Nahshon, son of Amminadab (verse 7)
Nethanel, son of Zuar (verse 8)
Eliab, son of Helon (verse 9)
Elishama, son of Ammihud (verse 10)
Gamaliel, son of Pedahzur (verse 10)
Abidan, son of Gideoni (verse 11)
Ahiezer, son of Ammishaddai (verse 12)
Pagiel, son of Okran (verse 13)
Eliasaph, son of Deuel (verse 14)
Ahira, son of Enan (verse 15)
the men chosen by God to help Moses were leaders of their tribes and heads of
the various clans of Israel (verse 16).
census was taken on the first day of the second month (verse 18). The whole
community was called together at that time. As they came, they were asked to
give their family details (tribe, clan and family names). They were to inform
the head of the tribe how many men over twenty years of age there were in their
family. These names were listed one by one. Verses 20-46 give the results of
this census. The following chart summarizes these findings:
Over 20 years of age
these men were twenty years old or more and were fit to serve in Israel’s
in verse 47 that the tribe of Levi was not counted with the others. The Levites
were excluded from military service. They were instead to work with the priests
and had various responsibilities in the care of the tabernacle and its
furnishings. They were not to leave their responsibilities to go to battle. The
worship of the Lord was not to be neglected in time of battle.
easy it is for us to neglect our spiritual responsibilities when things get
busy or when we are facing struggles in life. The Levites were to maintain the
worship of God at all times. This was one matter that was never to be
neglected. They were excused from military duty to care for the things of the
Lord. In reality, their role was just as important as the role of those who
went to battle. We see throughout the history of Israel that when her spiritual
duties and worship of God were neglected, she did not have victory over her
enemies. The role of maintaining the tabernacle and the worship of God was
vital if Israel was going to be victorious. The same principle applies
today. We dare not neglect our spiritual walk and our time with God. If we are
to be all that God wants us to be, worship and obedience is essential.
We see in this passage how
Moses spent time with the Lord seeking His wisdom and guidance to lead the
people. How important is your time with the Lord? Do you find direction and
guidance in the Lord for your life and ministry in that time?
God chose men to help Moses
in taking a census. Who are those who stand with you in your service of the
The men of Israel were to
be ready to lay down their lives for their country and the purpose of God. What
are you willing to lay down your life for today?
We see in this passage the
importance of not neglecting our spiritual responsibilities. What keeps us from
our time with the Lord? Have you ever found yourself so busy that you did not
seem to have time with God? What was the result?
Thank the Lord that He
desires to give us wisdom and guidance for our lives and ministries.
Take a moment to thank the
Lord for the people He has put on your path who have helped and encouraged you.
Ask the Lord to help you to
spend the time you need with Him in worship and seeking His wisdom. Ask Him to
help you not to neglect this time.
Ask God to forgive you for
the times you have failed to see the importance of your time with God. Ask Him
to forgive you when you have not sought His heart in the situations you
encountered in life.
you ever wondered if God has a special purpose for you in your daily activities?
Is He interested in the ordinary, everyday affairs of your life? In chapter two,
we learn of the special arrangement of the tribes and how they were to camp as
they wandered through the desert. God had a special place for each family to
camp. While the details of this arrangement may not be particularly interesting
to the modern reader, it does show us that God is concerned for even the
seemingly small details of our lives.
verses 1 and 2, the Lord told Moses and Aaron that He wanted the Israelites to
camp all around the Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle. In other words, the
Tabernacle was to be in the centre of their camp. The importance of this cannot
be overlooked. God’s desire was to be the centre of Israel’s life.
God expects nothing less in our day.
from verse 2 that while the Israelites were to camp all around the Tent of
Meeting, they were also required to be “some distance from it.” We
need to understand that the Tabernacle was holy and God’s people were to
hold it in high regard. The people of Israel were not perfect. They were often
guilty of complaining against God or disobeying His commands. The people of God
were to camp some distance from the tabernacle so they did not defile it by
their evil. There was a distance between Israel and their God. Their sins kept
them from being in His presence, but His mercy kept His presence in their
also from verse 2 that God wanted each family to identify themselves with a
family banner. This implies that each extended family unit had a banner that
represented them. Families would camp together under that banner.
verses 3-4, God commanded Moses to place each tribe in a specific place around
the tabernacle. The arrangement of the tribes is shown below in the following
that the Levites were to live next to the tabernacle on three sides. According
to Leviticus 3:38, Moses and Aaron lived on the east side of the camp in front of
the tabernacle entrance.
also how the Lord provided for the organization of the camp. It appears the
twelve tribes were organized into four camps. Each camp had a leader and one
tribe out of the three was chosen to be the head tribe.
arrangement of the tribes was particularly useful when the people of God were
moving from one place to another in the wilderness. God designed a particular
order for the tribes to set out when He called them to move to another
location. When the Lord led His people to pack up and move to another location,
the eastern camp led by Judah (Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun) would be the first
to leave (2:9). The southern camp led by Reuben (Reuben, Simeon and Gad) would
follow (2:16). Then the tribe of Levi would follow carrying the tabernacle and
all its furnishings. The western camp led by Ephraim (Ephraim, Manasseh and
Benjamin) would follow behind the Levites (2:24). The northern camp led by Dan
(Dan, Asher and Naphtali) would be the last camp to move out (2:31). As they
moved, each tribe would carry a standard to identify itself.
results of the census showed that the total number of men over twenty ready to
fight was 603,550. Not included in this number were men who were too old to
fight, women and children, and the Levites who were not counted (verse 33). We
can safely assume that there were at least two million people travelling
through the wilderness with their animals and supplies. It was important that
they be organized so that the move from one place to another would flow
details of how Israel was to camp in the wilderness, the order in which they
would travel, and who would be their leaders had been carefully worked out by
God. The Israelites were careful to follow these directions and did everything
as God commanded Moses (verse 34).
chapter shows us that the Lord God is concerned about our daily lives. He does
have a purpose for us. He is a God of order and it is important that we seek
Him and His purpose in all we do, just as Israel did in this chapter.
What does this chapter
teach us about God and His purposes? Does God have a purpose and plan for your
Each tribe and family in
Israel had its place to camp. Are you in the place God has designated for you?
The tabernacle was to be in
the centre of the camp of Israel. How important is it that the worship of God
and obedience to Him be at the centre of our lives?
Ask God to show you if you
are where He wants you to be. Ask Him to show you if you are doing what He has
called you to do.
Thank the Lord that He has
a purpose and plan for your life.
Ask the Lord to help you to
make worship and obedience to Him more central in your life.
Thank the Lord for brothers
and sisters around you who all have a role to play in the advancing of
seen that the tabernacle was located in the middle of the camp of Israel.
Worship and obedience to the Lord God were to be central in the lives of
God’s people. The work of the tabernacle was done by the priests and Levites.
Chapter 3 introduces us to these important men.
chose Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and
Ithamar to serve as priests. Verse 4 reminds us, however, that Nadab and Abihu
died when they made an offering using incense that was not authorized by the
Lord. According to Leviticus 10:1-2, fire came down from the Lord and consumed
them. As a priest of God, Aaron knew what it was like to have rebellious
children who wandered from the Lord and His ways. Aaron’s two remaining
sons Eleazar and Ithamar would serve with him as priests.
Aaron and his sons served as priests, they were assisted by the descendants of
Levi. Verses 6-9 tell us that the tribe of Levi assisted Aaron and his sons in
a variety of roles at the tabernacle. This included taking care of the temple
furnishings (verse 8) and a number of other service duties we will examine at a
later point in this chapter. Although the Levites assisted Aaron and his sons,
they could not approach the inner part of the tabernacle or they would be put
to death, like Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu (verse 4). This role was
reserved for the priests alone. Each person knew their place and the role God
had given him.
11-13 show us why God chose the Levites to be servants at the tabernacle.
According to verse 12, God’s choice went back to the days when the
Israelites were in Egypt. At that time, the Lord moved over the land of Egypt
destroying every firstborn male child. Only those families who had painted
their doorposts with the blood of a lamb were saved from this terrible
devastation. This story is recorded in Exodus 12. Instead of killing the
firstborn male of each Israelite, God asked that the descendants of Levi be set
aside in their place to serve Him. Notice from verse 13 that even the firstborn
of every animal was to belong to the Lord because He had spared their firstborn
through the blood that was painted on the doorposts.
Lord commanded Moses to count the Levites by families and clans. While the
census of the other Israelite men was of men twenty years of age and older (ready
to be a soldier), every male descendant of Levi one month old or more was to be
included in this census (verse 15).
had three sons. Their names were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. From the
descendants of these three sons of Levi came a number of clans. A clan can be
defined as a group of related families. Verses 18-20 give the names of these
various clans and related families.
Family of Libni (verse 18)
Family of Shimei (verse 18)
Family of Amram (verse 19)
Family of Izhar (verse 19)
Family of Hebron (verse 19)
Family of Uzziel (verse 19)
Family of Mahli (verse 20)
Family of Mushi (verse 20)
from verses 21-37 that God had a special role for each clan to play. He also
told Moses where each clan was to set up their tents. Verses 21-37 can be
summarized in the following chart:
coverings and curtains
South of tabernacle
lampstand, altars and inner curtain
North of tabernacle
bases, tent pegs, ropes
21-37 tell us that there were a total of 22,300 Levite males devoted to the
service of the tabernacle. While many of these were much too young to serve (as
the census was of males one month of age and older) it does give us a sense of
the number of active Levites involved in the care of the Tabernacle on a daily
and his sons camped to the east side in front of the main entrance, along with
Moses. They served as priests. Verse 38 makes it clear that these priests were
given a special responsibility before God on behalf of the Israelites. They
were responsible for the general care of the sanctuary. Anyone else who
dared to approach this innermost sanctuary was to be put to death. One thing
that is quite clear from these verses is that the work of God was to be done in
a particular way by those who had been called of God for that purpose.
the Levites had been counted, God then told Moses to count the firstborn
Israelite males one month old or more and make a list of their names (verse
40). For every firstborn male Israelite child there was to be a Levite who
represented him in the service of the Lord. Notice also that the firstborn of
all livestock was to be counted and there was to be an animal in the Levite
herd for every firstborn of the livestock of Israel (verse 41).
obeyed and discovered that there were 22,273 firstborn Israelite males (verse
43) compared to 22,000 Levites in the service of the Lord (see verse 39). This
meant that there were 273 firstborn males in Israel not represented by a
Levite. The Lord told Moses that he was to collect 5 shekels for each of the
273 remaining firstborn males in Israel. This money was to be given to the Lord
and His service to cover the firstborn not represented by a Levite (verses
demanded precision. Every firstborn male was to have his debt to God covered
down to the last one. A special offering was required for those who were not
covered by a Levite in the service of the Lord. Not a single one was to be
missed. This precision on the part of God is important for us to notice. He was
concerned for each individual. No sinner would be ignored. No righteous person
would be forgotten. He sees every sin, every sinful attitude and demands that
payment be made to cover each one.
In the camp of Israel,
every Levite had a special role to play. In fact, they risked death if they
chose to do what God had reserved for someone else. Does God have a specific
role for us to play in His kingdom today? Have you discovered what He has
called you to do?
Aaron’s sons died
because they offered unauthorized incense to the Lord. Does God have principles
today that we need to live by? What are some of those principles?
Aaron’s sons rebelled
against the Lord, but God still chose Him to be the High Priest. Do children of
Christian leaders rebel against the Lord today? Can God still use a leader whose
children are not following Him?
Every firstborn needed to
be represented either by a Levite in the service of the Lord or by an offering
given to the Lord. What does this tell us about God’s concern for every
person? Does God care for you particularly?
Ask the Lord to help you to
see the importance of worship and obedience. Ask Him to help you to keep Him
central in your life each day.
Ask the Lord to show you His
purpose for you in particular. Ask Him to help you to be obedient to that
Take a moment to pray for
the families of Christian leaders. Ask that God would touch the lives of their
children so that they walk with Him.
Thank the Lord that He is
concerned for each individual. Thank Him that He is interested in you
descendants of Levi had the responsibility to help as servants to the priests
in the work of the tabernacle. Levi’s three sons Kohath, Gershon, and Merari
were all heads of their families and their descendants were chosen by God for
various roles in the work of the tabernacle. In this chapter God commanded
Moses and Aaron to do a census of the Levites. They were to count all the
Levite men thirty to fifty years of age who were able to serve in the
purpose of the census seems to be to organize and instruct each family with
regard to their responsibilities when the camp of the Lord moved from one place
to another. This would insure that there was no confusion and that the tabernacle
articles were treated with respect and dignity.
descendants of Kohath were the first to be counted (verse 2). Verse 15 tells us
that their responsibility was to carry the sacred articles of the tabernacle
from one place to another. In verses 15 and 20, God warned the Kohathites that
if they touched these articles or even looked at them they would die. This was
a clear reminder to them of the tremendous responsibility they had been given
as God’s servants. The priests were to carefully wrap up each of the holy
articles so that they could be carried by the Kohathites without actually being
Aaron and his sons were to take down the curtain in front of the
Holy of Holies and use it to wrap around the ark and its covers. They were then
to cover this with hides of sea cow and a solid blue cloth. When the ark and
its cover were wrapped, the priests were to put the long poles in place that
had been designed to carry the ark. In this way the Kohathites could carry the
ark without seeing it or even touching it.
next piece of furniture prepared was the Table containing the bread. The
priests were to spread a blue cloth over the table and put the dishes, bowls
and jars on it. Notice that the bread was to remain on the table while it was being
transported (verse 7). A scarlet cloth was used to cover the table and its
articles. Over that the priests were to put a hide of sea cows. The poles were
then put in place so that the table could be carried without touching it or
the priests covered the lampstand and all its accessories with a blue cloth
(verse 9). It was put on some kind of carrying frame (verse 10) and covered
with a hide of sea cows. The lampstand and its accessories were carried in this
way by the Kohathites.
altar used for incense was also covered with a blue cloth and a hide of sea
cows (verse 11). Poles were put into place and the Kohathites would carry the
altar by the poles without touching it or even seeing it. All the other
articles used for ministering in the Holy Place were wrapped in blue cloth and
a hide of sea cows and put on a carrying frame to be transported by the
Kohathites (verse 12).
larger bronze altar used for sacrifices was covered with a purple cloth (verse
13). All the utensils used with the altar were carefully placed on the altar
(firepans, meat forks, shovels, sprinkling bowls). They were covered with a
hide of sea cows. As with the other articles, poles were put in place so that
the ark could be carried by the Kohathites.
son Eleazar was to be in charge of the oil for the light, the incense, the
grain offering and the anointing oil. He was to supervise all that took place
with these holy articles. The Kohathites would be directly responsible to him.
and Aaron were to warn the Kohathites of their responsibility before the Lord
with these holy articles. If they dared to come near them or touch them they
would die. If they dared even to look at the articles covered by the cloths and
hides they would die. All these articles were carried with great dignity and
important it is for us today to carry the name of the Lord God with respect and
dignity as well. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has set us apart
as representatives of His name. We must respect the name we represent.
next family to be counted was the family of Gershon. Moses and Aaron were to
count the number of men between the ages of thirty and fifty (verses 21-22).
The Gershonites had the responsibility of carrying the tabernacle curtains and
coverings (verses 25-26). Aaron’s son Ithamar was to oversee their work,
so they were directly responsible to him (verse 28).
Merarites, descendants of Aaron’s son Merari, were also counted. Their
obligation was to carry the poles, frames, bases, crossbars and posts that held
up the tabernacle. They were under the direction of Ithamar, Aaron’s son
and Aaron, with the help of the community leaders, counted the number of
Levites in each family. The following chart shows their findings:
are a couple of important details we need to see from this passage. Notice
first how God required that His people treat His holy things with respect. The
Kohathites, in particular, had an awesome privilege of carrying the holy
articles, but they were not to take their responsibility lightly. God was a
holy God and they needed to respect Him as such. To touch or even look at the
articles they transported from place to place was an offense punishable by
death. The Lord God is still holy. He still demands respect. To dishonour Him
is a serious matter. In a day when we have begun to lose sight of the holiness
and majesty of God, we would do well to consider the teaching of this passage
also that the Lord God is a God of order. Each Levite family had a specific
responsibility. This was given to them by God. They were under the
responsibility of the priests and were accountable to them for their actions.
In a similar way, we are to work together as the body of Christ. Each person
has a special role to play and is accountable to each other for the good of the
body as a whole. In this way the Lord God is honoured.
What does this passage
teach us about treating the things of God with respect? How do we show respect
for God, His servants and His purposes?
What does this passage
teach us about how God has given us each different responsibilities and called
us to work together for His glory? What part does He want you to play?
God placed the Levites
under the responsibility of the priests. How important is it for us to be
responsible to each other in the body of Christ? What happens if we choose not
to be responsible to each other?
Thank the Lord for the
spiritual leaders He has given you. Ask God to lead and direct them for His
Ask God to show you His
particular purpose for your life. Ask Him to help you to be faithful to that
Ask God to help you to know
how to work more effectively with your brothers and sisters for the expansion
of His kingdom.
Thank the Lord that He is a
God of order.
first part of this book we saw how the Lord organized the camp of Israel. As we
move into chapter 5 we see that order is not enough. God also expected that the
camp be pure and undefiled. It is good for local assemblies of believers to be
well organized with each person knowing his or her responsibility, but God also
expects that those who serve Him be right with Him and live lives that are
compatible with His holiness.
verses 1-2, the Lord commanded Moses to send anyone with an infectious skin
disease or discharge from their body away from the camp. The same was true for
anyone who was ceremonially unclean because they had touched a dead body. These
individuals were to live outside the camp as long as they were impure so that
they did not defile the camp where God had chosen to dwell (verse 3).
that while God is everywhere, His presence was particularly evident in the camp
of Israel. He chose to reveal Himself in a special way within the camp. God
will make His presence known to us in special ways. Because God’s
presence was evident in their midst, the people of God needed to exercise
special care not to offend Him. They were to respect Him and remove anything
that was offensive to His character. The place where God dwelt was to be holy.
God’s people were to walk in respect and honour of His name. No unclean or
unholy thing was allowed in His presence. In a similar way, we who are now
God’s children need to exercise great caution not to offend His Holy
Spirit who is present in our lives and ministries. It is God’s desire to
dwell with us, but we must walk in holiness and purity before Him if we are to
make Him welcome in our midst.
the camp required the removal of anyone who was ceremonially unclean but this
was not the only thing that needed to be addressed in the camp if it was to
remain pure. God also expected that any broken relationship between His
children would be addressed. Notice what God says in verse 6:
Say to the Israelites: ‘When a
man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that
person is guilty
particularly important that we see from this verse that when we hurt a brother
or sister in any way we sin against God. He holds us accountable for any sin
against our brother or sister.
that God required two things from those who had wronged a brother or sister.
The first requirement is found in verse 7. Those who wronged another were to
confess the sin they had committed. This meant admitting to what they had done.
In some cases this would require naming the sin before the person they had
offended. You can’t truly confess something and hide it at the same time.
True confession requires honesty and understanding our sin. It is to recognize
that we have wronged someone in a particular area and an admission of our guilt
before that person.
from verses 7-10 that confession was not enough. Something had to be done to
make restitution. In other words, the person who had offended or wronged
another needed to make things right again. Admittedly, there are times when it
is impossible to repair the damage our sins have caused. The reality of the
matter, however, is that the Lord required that steps be taken to this end. The
guilty person needed to pay for what he or she had done. In this case, the
guilty party was to calculate how much damage had been done, pay for that
damage and add one-fifth more (verse 7). In the event that the person who was
wronged died and had no relative to receive the restitution, the contribution
was given to the Lord and would belong to the priest (verse 8). Notice that the
individual who had wronged another was not only to pay for what he or she had
done but also bring a ram to the Lord to cover their offence (verse 8).
Restitution was not only to be made to the person offended but also to the Lord
camp was to be pure before the Lord then sins against brother and sister were
to be confessed and relationships repaired. In doing this, God’s people
would continue to walk in purity and God’s presence would not be
third area that needed to be addressed in the camp of Israel had to do with
marriage relationships. Verses 12-13 speak of suspected unfaithfulness between
a wife and another man. In the illustration given in these verses, a husband
suspected that his wife has been unfaithful but had no witnesses to prove it.
The tension in the marriage would be obvious and the problem needed to be
resolved. Notice that the issue is not just about unfaithfulness, which was an
obvious sin, but also about trust between the husband and the wife.
the desire of God that a man and his wife walk in harmony, trust and mutual
respect. If the camp of Israel was to be pure, then husbands and wives needed
to walk in faithfulness and live with confidence and trust in each other as God
intended. This shows us not only how much God values marriage but also the
importance He places on husbands and wives living in harmony with each other.
For the camp to be pure, the relationship between husband and wife needed to be
verses 14-31 the Lord shows Moses what the priest was to do in the case of a
husband suspecting his wife of unfaithfulness. The ceremony involved a number
of steps. When a husband suspected his wife of unfaithfulness he was not to
allow this to continue. Verse 15 tells us that he was to take his wife with him
to see the priest so that the matter could be resolved. It is the intention of
God that husbands and wives deal with the conflicts that exist between them.
Any unresolved matters in their relationship were to be resolved between them.
If these matters could not be resolved them they were to be taken to the priest
who would help them to work them out. How easy it is to allow matters to come
between us as married couples. The challenge of this verse is to deal with
anything that comes between us.
the husband came with his wife to the priest he was to bring an offering. It
was the husband who was to bring the offering on his wife’s behalf. His
concern was for his wife and her purity before God. According to verse 15, the
offering was not to have oil or incense on it because it was an offering
brought to the Lord as a result of jealousy and possible infidelity.
woman was to stand before the Lord (verse 16). This was not taken lightly. Standing
in the presence of the Lord, she would be aware that He would be her judge. He
knew all about her and nothing could be hidden from Him.
woman stood in the presence of the Lord, the priest would put some holy water
(possibly from the basin in the outer court used for washing) in a clay jar. He
would then gather dust from the floor of the tabernacle and put it in the
water. It is unclear why dust from the tabernacle floor was put in the jar.
priest would approach the woman and let down her hair so that it fell on her
shoulders and back (verse 18). Many women spent time preparing their hair. In
fact, in Bible times a woman’s hair was a symbol of honour. Here in this
situation the woman would stand with humility before God. Her hair would not be
done up nicely but would hang down uncombed as a symbol of her humility before
woman stood in the presence of the Lord, the priest would put the grain
offering in her hands. With the grain offering in her hands, the priest would
place the woman under an oath before God (verse 19). The oath stated that if
she had been faithful to her husband then nothing would happen to her. If,
however, she had been unfaithful to her husband by sleeping with another man,
then her people would curse and denounce her, and the water she was about to
drink would cause her thigh to waste away and her abdomen swell. The woman was
to agree to this curse by saying “Amen. So be it.”
priest would then write the words of the curse on a scroll and wash them off
into the water mixed with dust from the tabernacle floor (verse 23). By washing
off the words of the curse into the water, the priest was in reality placing
the curse in the water the woman was about to drink.
offering would then be taken from the woman’s hands, waved before the
Lord and offered on the altar as a sacrifice for sin (verses 25-26). The woman
was given the water to drink. Verse 24 tells us that it would enter her and
cause bitter suffering (if she had been unfaithful). If, however, she was
not guilty, the Lord would protect her and she would be clear of all guilt.
Verse 28 tells us that she would be able to have children if she was cleared of
guilt. This may be because the Lord would bless her for her faithfulness and
normal relations would be restored between her and her husband.
one final matter in verse 31. If the woman was found guilty, she would suffer
the consequences for her sin, but her husband would be innocent. From the
beginning of time people have tried to put the blame for their actions on
others. Adam did this in the Garden of Eden when he told the Lord that his wife
gave him the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are not
told why the woman was unfaithful to her husband. Maybe he did not care for her
and her needs as he should have. What is clear, however, is that her
husband’s possible neglect did not excuse the wife’s
unfaithfulness. This principle is the same for men. We cannot excuse our
actions by blaming them on someone else. God calls us to be accountable for our
in the camp of Israel required that God’s people keep themselves from
sin. It also required healthy and trusting relationships between friends and
loved ones. It is not enough to have a well-run church. God also expects holiness
in our relationship with Him and with others.
What do we learn here about
God's expectation for us to walk in purity before Him? Are you walking in
purity before God today?
How do our sins against
each other affect our relationship with God?
What are the two steps
required in this passage for restoring relationships with our brothers and
How important is it that we
deal with problems in our marriage? What is God’s expectation for us as
marriage partners in this passage?
Have you ever blamed
someone else for your sinful actions? What do we learn in this passage about
Ask the Lord to show you if
there is anything in you that offends His presence in your life. Confess that
sin and ask Him to give you complete victory over it.
Ask God to forgive you for
the times you have wronged a brother or sister in Christ.
Ask the Lord to help you to
confess your sins to your brother or sister and show you how to make
restitution for the things you have done.
Take a moment to pray that
the Lord would reveal any issues in your marriage or other significant
relationships that need to be resolved. Ask God to show you how those problems
can be resolved so that your marriage brings honour to His name.
Ask for forgiveness for any
time you have tried to justify your sin by blaming someone else.
Thank the Lord that He is a
holy God. Ask Him to give you grace to walk in purity and holiness before Him.
are times in the life of the believer when he or she feels compelled to draw
closer to the Lord for a period of time. This may be for the purpose of seeking
deeper intimacy with Him or for seeking His wisdom or favour about a particular
situation in life. The Old Testament provided a means by which God’s
people could draw closer to Him for this purpose. A special vow of separation
could be made for a period of time. While this vow was made freely and the
individual could fix the time and the duration of the vow, certain requirements
still had to be met. A person taking such a vow was called a Nazirite.
in verse 1 that the Nazirite vow could be made by either a man or a woman.
Verse 1 calls the Nazirite vow a “vow of separation.” This implies
that the individual would separate himself or herself from certain things for
the duration of the vow with the purpose of seeking the Lord.
3-8 tell us that the Nazirite was to abstain from three things during the
period of the vow.
the Nazirite was to abstain from wine or any fermented drink. He or she was not
to eat or drink vinegar, grape juice, or eat grapes or raisins. The Nazirite
was to abstain from anything that came from the grapevine. The fruit of the
vine was a wonderful blessing for the people of God. We can only imagine what
it would have been like to have tasted grapes as they wandered through the
wilderness. Wine was used in celebrations with family and friends. All these
luxuries were sacrificed by Nazirites as they turned their attention to God.
second requirement of God for those under a Nazirite vow was that no razor be
used on their head (verse 5). This meant that their hair was to grow long. This
long hair identified them as Nazirites. As long as they were under their vow
their heads would be covered with this long hair.
third requirement God had for the Nazirites was that they never go near a dead
body. To go near a dead body would make them ceremonially unclean. This rule
applied even when the Nazirite’s immediate family died (verses 6-8).
Their obligation to God at this time was more important that their obligation
to their own families.
someone died suddenly in the presence of one who was under such a vow, verse 9
tells us that his or her hair would be defiled. This shows us that the long
hair was a symbol of their vow. In this situation, the Nazirite was to go
through a seven day ceremonial purification. On the seventh day, the individual
was to shave his or her head. Two doves or two young pigeons were brought to
the priest on the eighth day and offered as a sin offering to the Lord (verse
11). The priest would then set the Nazirite apart again for his or her vow with
the sacrifice of a one year old male lamb as a guilt offering (verse 12). The
Nazirite was then cleansed from his or her defilement and could start the vow
all over again. The time spent prior to defilement by the dead body could not
be counted toward the time vowed to the Lord.
time of the vow was over the Nazirite was to bring offerings to the priest at
the entrance of the tabernacle. These offerings were to include the following:
A one year old male lamb
without defect for a burnt offering
A one year old ewe lamb
without defect for a sin offering
A ram without defect for a
A basket of bread made
without yeast, cakes made with fine flour mixed with oil and wafers spread with
16-17 tell us that the priest would present these offerings to the Lord. The
Nazirite would have his or her hair cut and put on the fire, offering it to the
Lord (verse 18). The priest would place a boiled shoulder of the ram, a cake
and a wafer in the hands of the Nazirite and wave them before the Lord as a
token of giving them to Him. Only when this ceremony was completed could the
Nazirite drink wine and return to his or her regular lifestyle (verse 20).
While the vow was a voluntary one, God still expected that Nazirites be
faithful to their promises and act in accordance to His requirements (verse
6 concludes with a blessing that God gave to the priests to be said over the
people at special times. The blessing communicates the heart of God for His
people. Notice that the blessing contains three separate statements.
Lord Bless you and Keep you
speaking this blessing over the people of God, the priests were in reality praying
that the Lord would bless His people with all good things. Notice also that the
priests were to ask the Lord to keep His people. God would keep them from harm.
He would protect them and keep them as His own, surrounding them with His care
Lord Make his Face Shine Upon you and be Gracious to You
second part of the blessing asks God to make His face shine on His people. When
the Lord’s face shines on someone, He is in reality showing them His
favour. The request is that the Lord would be gracious, kind and compassionate
toward His people and that He would prosper them in their ways.
Lord Turn his Face toward you and Give you Peace
the blessing calls for God to turn His face toward His people and give them
peace. When the Lord turns His face toward someone He is turning His attention
to them. He is seeing their needs and reaching out to them. The opposite of
turning ones face toward someone is to turn ones back. By turning His face
toward His people God reaches out to them and ministers to their needs. He
strengthens them in the face of their enemies. With God’s face turned
toward them, God’s people would have nothing to fear. They could live at
from this that it is the heart of God to bless His people. He wants to provide
for their needs and show them His favour. He wants to care for them in the
presence of their enemies and give them peace.
chapter shows us how God wanted to bless and favour His people. He also
provided a way for His people to draw nearer to Him through a Nazirite vow. He
is a very personal God who delights in fellowship with His people.
Have you ever felt the need
to take time apart to be with the Lord in a special way? What was it that
brought you to that place in your life?
The Lord provided a means
by which His people could voluntarily commit their time to seeking Him in a
special way. What does this tell us about God’s desire for deeper
fellowship with us?
What does the blessing God
gave to Aaron teach us about the desire of God for us?
Thank the Lord that He
delights to draw close to us.
Ask the Lord to strengthen
you in your relationship with Him. Ask Him to show you what you can do to strengthen
your relationship with Him.
Take a moment to thank the
Lord for how He has blessed you in your life.
Thank the Lord for the
times He has turned His face toward you and kept you from spiritual, emotional
and physical harm.
Ask the Lord to continue to
keep you as you face the difficulties that this life will bring.
the tabernacle was set up, Moses anointed and consecrated the altar and all its
utensils. To celebrate this occasion, the family heads of Israel brought gifts
for the Lord. From verse 2 we understand that each tribe gave an ox and every
two tribes gave a cart load of offerings. All these gifts were brought to Moses
at the tabernacle (verse 3).
Lord was pleased with the gifts brought to Him and told Moses to accept them
for the work of the tabernacle. He was to divide the gifts received among the
Levites, as their work required (verses 4-5).
divided the gifts as follows among the Levite family clans:
that each Levite family received a different amount. This was due to the
responsibilities that had in the tabernacle. Verse 9 tells us that the
Kohathites did not receive any of these gifts because their responsibility was
to carry the holy things on their shoulders and so their responsibilities did not
require these offerings from the people. Each of us has a different
responsibility before God. God gives us what we need for the responsibilities He
has given us.
10-88 describe for us what took place when the altar for sacrifices was
dedicated to the Lord. The dedication took twelve days and on each of those
days the leader of one of the tribes of Israel brought an offering to the Lord
and presented it before the altar (verses 10-11). Verses 10-88 can be
summarized in the following chart:
Who Brought Offering
Offered by Each Tribe
- 1 silver plate
- 1 silver bowl of flour & oil
- 1 gold dish of incense
- 1 young bull
- 1 ram
- 1 male lamb a year old
- 1 male goat (sin offering)
- 2 oxen
- 5 rams
- 5 male goats
- 5 male lambs a year old
that each tribe brought their offering on a different day. The offering was
brought by the leader of the tribe. Each tribe brought the same offering.
Verses 84-88 gives us an account of the total number of gifts brought for the
dedication of the altar over those twelve days. These verses can be summarized
Filled with flour/oil
for grain offering
Filled with incense
1 year old male lambs
those twelve days 252 animals were sacrificed on the altar at the tabernacle.
These offerings were for the sins of the people and expressed their worship and
thankfulness to God for His forgiveness and mercy in their lives.
important that we note the importance of the altar in the life of the Old
Testament believers. The dedication of the altar took twelve days and involved
a significant number of sacrifices. It was by means of this altar that sins
would be cleansed and people restored to a right relationship with God. This
altar pointed to the even greater sacrifice that would be made by the perfect
Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus, who died for our sins on the cross of Calvary,
ending forever all further sacrifice for sin.
how verse 89 concludes the chapter. Moses entered the tabernacle and heard the
Lord speaking to him from between the two carved cherubim on the cover of the
Ark of the Covenant. God’s presence came down to the tabernacle. What
made this tabernacle special was not all the sacrifices and service that took
place there but the presence of the Lord who spoke to His people through Moses
from between the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. In the midst of a chapter
that counts the number of sheep and goats that were offered to God and weighs
the amount of gold and silver that was contributed, it is refreshing to see
that this chapters ends by focusing our attention on what is most important,
the Lord God and His presence in the midst of His people. May that be our focus
in ministry as well.
Each tribe of Israel was expected
to contribute to the work of the Lord and the dedication of the altar. What
does this tell us about the importance of our contribution to the work of the
Lord today? How have you been contributing to the expansion of God’s
Each Levite family clan was
given a different amount of the offering contributed by God’s people. God
gave each one according to His need. What does this tell us about God’s
desire to provide all you need to accomplish the purposes He has for you? How
has God been providing for your need?
The dedication of the altar
took twelve days and required a significant number of animal sacrifices. What
does this tell us about the importance of the altar for Israel?
The chapter ends with a statement
about how God revealed His presence in the tabernacle between the wings of the
carved angels on the Ark of the Covenant. How easy is it for us to get caught
up in counting people and offerings? What does the conclusion of this chapter
teach us about what is really important?
Ask the Lord to show you
what he wants you to contribute toward the work of His kingdom.
Thank the Lord that He is
willing to provide all that you need for the ministry and life He has called
you to live.
Take a moment to thank the
Lord that He came to be the final sacrifice for sin. Thank Him that His
sacrifice paid for your sins in full.
Ask the Lord to forgive you
for the times your ministry has been focused on numbers and not on the Lord and
begin chapter 8, the Lord is speaking to Moses and giving him instructions
about the lampstand in the Holy Place of the tabernacle. Moses was to instruct
his brother Aaron to be sure to set the lamps on the stand in such a way that
they would light up what was in front of the lampstand (verse 2). We need to
remember that the Holy Place where the lampstand was located contained a table
on which bread was placed and an altar of incense. The Holy Place was very dark
as there were no windows, and thick curtains kept any outside light from coming
in. The only light in the Holy Place was from the lamp which was to be kept
burning at all times. Aaron was to be careful in how he placed the lamps in the
placed the lights in the lampstand so they gave the best possible light to the
Holy Place. The lampstand on which those lights shone was made of a piece of
hammered gold decorated with carved golden flower blossoms (verse 4).
interesting to note that this chapter begins with a comment about the
importance of the lamps on the lampstand shining as brightly as possible in the
holy place. The chapter continues to speak about the Levites who were
God’s representatives in the worship of the tabernacle. Just as the lamp
was to shine brightly in the presence of the Lord in the Holy Place, so the
Levites were to shine brightly and purely for the Lord they represented.
Levites were to shine brightly for the Lord and be His true servants in the
tabernacle they would need to be set aside in a special way for the Lord and His
purposes. In this chapter, the Lord gives instructions to Moses concerning His
requirements for the dedication of a Levite to the service of the Lord.
serving Levites were to be made ceremonially clean (verse 6). Several things
needed to happen for this to take place. Notice first in verse 7 that they were
to be sprinkled with “the water of cleansing.” Leviticus 19:1-10
speaks about the water used for purification. A red heifer was slaughtered. The
priest placed cedar wood, hyssop and a scarlet thread on the sacrifice and
burned it all to the Lord. The ashes were then gathered, put in water and used
to sprinkle the people. The Levites were sprinkled with this water that
represented the sacrifice made for their sin.
the Levite had been sprinkled with water he was to shave his whole body and
wash his clothes. Notice in verse 7 that these Levites were to “purify
themselves.” What is interesting about this is that the water of
purification had already been sprinkled on them, but they were still required
to wash and purify themselves. This is a picture of our salvation. The Lord
Jesus has died and our sins are forgiven through his work on the cross, but we
are still required to live each day in victory over our sins. We are to purify
ourselves and discipline ourselves to live in the reality of what He has done.
By washing themselves and shaving their bodies, the priests were agreeing to
live in what God had done by cleansing them with the water of purification.
verse 8, two young bulls and a grain offering were brought to the Lord. The
Levites came and stood in the front of the tabernacle and the people of Israel
stood around them (verse 9). Those who gathered would lay their hands on the
Levites in the presence of the Lord. Aaron presented them to the Lord as a wave
offering. A wave offering was brought to the Lord and waved before Him as a
reminder that it belonged to Him. By laying their hands on the Levites, the
people recognized them as their representatives.
Levites then laid their hands on the heads of the bulls that had been brought.
One of the bulls was sacrificed as a sin offering and the other as a burnt
offering to the Lord. By laying their hands on the heads of these bulls, the
Levites were recognizing that these bulls were being sacrificed for them and
because of their sins.
ceremony for dedicating a Levite was important because of what it symbolized.
These Levites were sprinkled by the water of purification and set apart for God
and His service. As His servants, they were to be clean before Him, walk in His
forgiveness and represent His people well.
to the people in verses 15-19, the Lord reminded them of how He had chosen the
tribe of Levi to represent them. When Israel was in Egypt, the Lord struck down
every firstborn male child in the land. Only those whose door posts had been
painted with the blood of a lamb were spared. At that time, God claimed the
firstborn of every animal and Israelite male child as His own (verse 17).
Instead of taking the firstborn from every family, however, God chose to have
one tribe represent them. The Levites were chosen as His servants in the place
of the firstborn from every family. Their role was an important one. They were
to help the priests in their daily responsibilities at the tabernacle and to
make atonement for the people. In other words, they were to make the necessary
sacrifices so that the holy and just anger of God against the sin of His people
would be kept from them.
in verse 19 that the priests, assisted by the Levites, were the only ones who
could approach the Holy Place and perform the duties required by God for the
cleansing of His people’s sin. Anyone else who dared to perform these
sacred duties or approached the Holy Place would bring a plague on the nation.
and the Levites did everything God had commanded them to do. The Levites
purified themselves, washed their clothes and Moses presented them before the
Lord and offered the sacrifices required for their sin. Only when a Levite was
ceremonially clean and dedicated to the service of the Lord could he begin his
work in the tabernacle. He would begin his work at the age of twenty-five and
serve until he was fifty. At the age of fifty a Levite was required to retire
from service. During their retirement, they could assist their brothers but
they could not be responsible themselves (verse 26). They were to be willing to
hand over the responsibility to the next generation to carry on for the glory
What do we learn in this
chapter about our responsibility to be a light for the Lord God?
The Levites were to be ceremonially
clean as they served Him in the tabernacle. How important is it that we, as
God’s servants, walk in purity? What happens when God’s servants
are not walking in obedience and truth?
What role has God given you
in His kingdom? Have you been faithful in what He has called you to do? Have
you been serving Him with a clean and pure conscience?
Ask the Lord to help you to
shine brightly for Him. Ask Him to forgive you for the times you have not been
the witness you should have been.
Ask the Lord to show you
what role He has for you. Ask him to help you to be faithful in that role.
Thank God that He has
provided a way for you to be forgiven and cleansed of your sin.
Take a moment to pray for
your spiritual leaders. Ask the Lord to strengthen them and help them to be
faithful servants for His glory.
begin chapter 9 we discover that it was now the second year since the people of
Israel had come out of Egypt. The Lord spoke to Moses at that time and told him
that the people were to celebrate the Passover. As you will recall, the
Passover looked back to the escape from Egypt and how the angel of the Lord had
“passed over” the land of Egypt and struck the firstborn of each
home. The firstborn male children of Israel were spared by painting the blood
of a lamb on their doorposts. That act of judgement caused the Pharaoh to give
permission for the Israelites to leave his country. The Passover was a
celebration of God’s goodness and compassion toward His people in setting
them free from their bondage. God reminded Moses that His people were to be
careful to celebrate this Passover exactly as He had commanded from twilight on
the 14th day of that month.
knows how easy it is for us to forget His goodness in our lives. The Passover
was a reminder of what the Lord had done for His people. It caused them to
remember their obligation to God for what He had done for them. God gave
His people special times in their calendar year to stop and remember their God
and His goodness. It is good for us as well to stop what we are doing for
a time to remember God and His work in our lives. These times help us to
refocus our priorities and remember who and why we are serving.
verses 4-5 we see that on the 14th day of the 1st month,
Israel stopped its normal activities and took the time in the Desert of Sinai,
to celebrate the Passover in remembrance of the goodness and compassion of God.
in verse 6 that a problem arose. Some of the people were not ceremonially clean
because they had touched a dead body. They wanted to bring their offerings to
the Lord but could not do so because of this uncleanness. These individuals
came to Moses to see what they were to do (verses 6-7).
told the individuals concerned to wait until he had consulted the Lord to see
what He said about their problem. It is important that we see what Moses is
doing here. He is seeking the will of the Lord for the situation. He could have
made a decision himself based on what he felt would be to the glory of God but
he didn’t. He wanted to know the heart of God. All too many decisions are
made in human wisdom and not according to the clear teaching of the Word of God
or the leading of His Spirit. Moses leaves us with a powerful example here. He
wanted to know God’s will for this situation and so he spent time with
God seeking His will.
Moses’ decision to seek Him in this matter and responded to his prayer.
God told him that when an Israelite was unclean or away on a journey at the
time of the Passover, he was to celebrate it on the 14th day of the
2nd month (one month later). They were to do everything as God
required. They were to eat the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. No
bone was to be broken and nothing was to be left over until the morning (verses
that while God made provision for those who were unclean to celebrate the
Passover at a later date, His people were to be careful not to neglect this
celebration. If a person failed to celebrate the Passover at the appointed time
he would be cut off from the people of God and would be guilty of serious sin
(verse 13). God makes provision for our weaknesses and obligations but we must
be sure that these weaknesses and earthly obligations do not provide us with an
excuse to ignore our spiritual obligations.
also in verse 14 that the foreigner living in Israel who wanted to celebrate
the Passover was permitted to do so; provided that he did so in accordance with
all the rules and regulations God had given Moses. They were not permitted to
celebrate the Passover in any other way. This was particularly important for
the foreigner who may have been tempted to add things from his own cultural
background or add significance to the celebration other than what was
see from this is that the Lord wanted the Passover celebration to be kept pure
and undefiled. God knew that there would be a temptation for His people to
neglect the celebration of this important day. He also knew that they would be
tempted to add or take away from the purpose of that day. For this reason He
demanded that it be celebrated exactly as He had prescribed on the day and time
He prescribed. We are left to wonder if we have been guilty of adding or taking
away from God’s Word and His purpose for His kingdom. Have we, like Moses,
been seeking God’s will, and doing exactly what He desires or have we
been seeking to advance His kingdom in our own ways and for our own purposes?
Moses was careful to do exactly what God required. In the same way, the Word of
God must also be our guide in all things. We must never compromise or follow
our own wisdom.
verse 15, the Lord’s presence came down and covered the tabernacle. His
presence was revealed in the form of a great fiery cloud (verses 15-16). When
God wanted His people to move from their camp to another location, He would
lift up the cloud and the people would follow it (verse 17). The people of God
stayed wherever that cloud was whether it was for a prolonged period of time or
for a few days only (verses 18-23).
are some important truths in these verses for us to grasp. God’s people
followed His leading. Notice that God did not stay in one place. Sometimes His
presence would remain in a place for a few days and other times for longer
periods of time. In the course of my life God has led me to different places
and given me different opportunities to serve. It is easy for us to get settled
into one thing and believe that this is what God wants us to do forever, but
God sometimes has different purposes for us. He may use us for a time in one
way and then move us to something completely different. We need to be ready
always for whatever He leads us to do.
also that the people of God were not in control of their own future. I find it
interesting how many Christian workers set out their goals and plans for
ministry and expect God to submit to their human agendas. This is not how it
was for the people of Israel. They submitted to the purpose and plan of God.
They did not set the agenda; they only listened to God and followed His
leading. When God moved, they moved with Him. When God stayed, they stayed. We
need to understand that more than anything else we need people who will put
aside their own plans and simply follow the leading of the Lord.
we fail to move when God moves. There are churches that continue to exist even
when the presence of the Lord has been removed. There are Christian workers who
stubbornly persevere in ministry when God’s presence has moved somewhere
else. These ministries are often without power. They are maintained in human
strength and vision but are not under the direct blessing and presence of the
Lord. God is calling for a people who will follow His leading. He is looking
for a people who will set aside their own goals and agenda and seek Him and His
will. We would do well to examine our lives and ministries in light of the
teaching of this passage.
What was the Passover? What
did it celebrate?
How important is it that we
stop and take time to remember the goodness of God?
God expected His people to
follow His purposes exactly as He had commanded. How often have we been tempted
to compromise in our spiritual life? How often have we done things in our own
wisdom without following the clear teaching of the Word of God?
What do we learn here about
the importance of following the Lord’s leading?
Take a moment to consider
the goodness and compassion of the Lord in your life. Thank Him for what He has
done for you?
Ask the Lord to help you to
put aside your own goals and plans. Ask Him to help you to follow His leading.
Ask Him to forgive you for the times you have been slow to follow His leading.
Take a moment now to ask
the Lord to show you His purpose for your life and ministry. Ask Him to show
you if you are where He wants you to be and under His blessing and presence.
last chapter, we saw how the presence of the Lord came down in the form of a
fiery cloud that covered the tabernacle. As long as the presence of God was
over the tabernacle, the people of God stayed where they were. When God’s
presence moved, they moved with it.
Lord commanded Moses to have two silver trumpets made to let the people know
when it was time to move (verse 1). If both of the trumpets were sounded, the
people would gather together in front of the tabernacle for instructions (verse
3). If just one of the trumpets were sounded, only the leaders (the heads of
the clans) would gather (verse 4).
the people were packed and ready to leave, a first trumpet sounded. When they
heard this trumpet, the tribes camping on the east were to set out. When the
second trumpet sounded, the camps on the south were to follow (verses 5-6). It
should be noted from verse 7 that there were different types of trumpet blasts.
The call for leaving the camp was different from the call to assemble before
tells us that Aaron’s sons were to sound the trumpet. Not only would they
do so when it was time for the people to leave the camp but, according to verse
9, they would also sound the trumpets to call the people to war. Notice
particularly in verse 9 that when the priest sounded the call to battle, the
Lord would remember His people and rescue them from their enemies. Verse 10
tells us that the priests would also sound the trumpet to call people together
for times of rejoicing.
interesting to note the role God gave the priests in these verses. They were to
help the people to know the leading of the Lord. When the presence of the Lord
rose from the tabernacle and moved elsewhere, the priests were to sound the
trumpet. The priests were to lead the people of God into His will and purpose.
This meant seeking the purpose of God and watching always for His leading.
Their role was to discern where God was leading His people and summon them to
follow that will.
the priests were to discern the heart of God regarding the enemies that
surrounded them. When it was time to take up arms against the enemy, the priest
would sound the trumpet. When the enemy was attacking, the priest would warn
the people. There are many enemies for the people of God today. God’s
servants need to be always watching out for those enemies. Pastors and
Christian workers need to be a people who are ready to sound the alarm when the
enemy comes to harm or weaken the faith.
notice the priests were to sound the trumpet to bring people to worship and
rejoicing. They would call them to worship God. They would encourage them in
glorifying His name and enjoying Him. As Christian workers today, our purpose
is to lead people into the celebration and worship of the Lord God who is
worthy of all praise and adoration.
11 tells us that on the twentieth day of the second month (two years after
leaving Egypt), the cloud lifted from the tabernacle. The people of God set out
from the Desert of Sinai and followed the cloud until it came to rest in the
Desert of Paran. The Desert of Paran was about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north
of the Desert of Sinai.
14 to 28 describe the way in which the people of God left the Desert of Sinai.
Each tribe knew its place and time to leave. Everything was done in order. The
following chart summarized verses 14-28 and shows how the camp of Israel left
and moved from Sinai to the Desert of Paran.
tabernacle, carry it and set it up again.
Carry holy things
Moses prepared to leave the region of Sinai he spoke with his father-in-law
Hobab. Hobab was a Midianite. It may be that he felt somewhat out of place in
all the preparations because he was not an Israelite. Moses reassured him,
however, that if he came with them he would be treated well and would prosper.
Moses reminded his father-in-law that God had promised good things for His
people and that he could be part of those blessings (verse 29).
did not want to go with Moses and the Israelites. He chose to return to his own
land and live out the rest of his days with his own people (verse 30). Moses
did not accept his answer and pleaded with him not to leave them. Notice how
Moses told Hobab in verse 31 that because he was a Midianite he would be able to
show the people of God where to camp. Obviously, Hobab had experience in living
in the desert that Moses felt he needed. He promised him again that if he came
with them, he would share in all the good things the Lord had promised to give
His people (verse 32). It is hard to know if this shows something of Moses’
lack of confidence as he leads the people into the desert. God would certainly
have led and directed Moses even without the experience of Hobab; but Moses
felt that he needed the experience of another human being on this journey.
leading and direction in our lives does not mean that we never have to listen
to advice or counsel from those who have had more experience than us. Moses
would follow the leading of the Lord but he would also listen to the experience
of his father-in-law.
God, the people set out from the mountain of Sinai and travelled three days.
The Ark of the Covenant went before them and the cloud of the Lord was over
them leading them all the way (verse 34). Notice in verse 33 that it was the
Ark of the Covenant that went before them “to find a place to
rest.” It would not be Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses who would lead
them by his experience, but the Lord God.
the people of God would rise in the morning to follow the cloud and the Ark of
God, Moses would pray:
up, O LORD!
May your enemies be scattered;
may your foes flee before you. (verse 35)
prayer was that the Lord God would go before them to protect them from any
enemy they might encounter on the way. When they came to rest Moses would pray:
Return, O LORD, to the countless
thousands of Israel. (verse 36)
praying this, Moses was asking God to come and be in their presence, protecting
and keeping them as they waited on Him for the next step. Moses' confidence was
in the Lord. He knew the dangers that were before them and felt inadequate to
protect and guide the people himself. He also knew, however, that the Lord was
big enough to care for him and all the people that had been placed under his
Lord will often call us to something that is bigger than our wisdom and
resources. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves, however, but promises to
provide all we need to do his will and purpose. Moses knew the immensity of the
task before him, but he also knew that God would provide all he needed. He
lived in total dependency on God for the task he had been called to do.
This chapter shows us how
the camp of Israel was ordered and how each tribe knew its place and time to
leave. How important is it that the body of Christ have this same order? What
happens when there is no order in a church?
What does this chapter
teach us about the role of the priests? If you are a spiritual leader take a
moment to consider if you are following the example given in this chapter.
How did Moses see the role
of his father-in-law? Does God give us people to encourage and help us along
the way? What is the difference between accepting the encouragement and advice
of a brother and trusting in them and not in God? How do you find the balance
between accepting the advice of a brother or sister and trusting in God’s
As Moses set out from
Sinai, he was fully aware of his inability to lead the people in his own
strength. Has God brought you to a point where you knew that your own strength
or resources were inadequate for the task?
Ask the Lord to show you
your place and role in the body of Christ. Thank Him that He has a particular
purpose for you.
Take a moment to pray for
your spiritual leaders, that they would be able to guide those under them in
seeking the will of the Lord, warn them of the dangers before them and
encourage them to be true worshippers of God.
Thank the Lord for those
who have been an encouragement and support in your life.
Ask the Lord to increase
your faith and confidence in Him. Ask Him to give you faith to trust Him to do
what seems impossible with human strength and wisdom.
people of Israel wandered through the wilderness, the Lord provided for their
daily needs. That is not to say, however, that they did not have difficulties
along the way. The desert is not a place of plenty. God’s people lived in
tents and did not have the luxuries of other nations. They also did not know
when the cloud would move and they would have to pack their tents and follow
the leading of the Lord.
Christian life will certainly not always be easy. God may move us from our
comfort zones. He may stretch us in ways we have never been stretched before.
The great comfort we have in these times is that the Lord God will never leave
us and will provide all we need to accomplish what He calls us to do.
point in the life of Israel, however, they were not seeing things from
God’s perspective. They felt the hardships of the desert and did not like
them. In fact, in verse 1 we read that they began to complain about their
hardships before the Lord. The Lord became so angry with them that fire came
down and burned the outskirts of the camp (verse 1). The people were afraid and
cried out to Moses. He prayed to the Lord and the fire stopped.
are several things we need to understand from this verse. First, we need to
recognize that the Lord God is God. This means that He has the right to do as He
pleases. We have no right to grumble and complain about His purposes as if He
owes us something. The fact that we are alive and that He hasn’t
destroyed us because of our sin is a sign of His great mercy and compassion.
What right do we have to complain because He hasn’t made our life easier?
people had lost sight of what God had done for them already. He had set them
free from the bondage of Egypt and the cruelties of that nation toward them. He
had opened the hearts and hands of the people of Egypt to bless them with much
wealth as they left the land. He had given them victory over Pharaoh’s
army. He had opened the sea for them so that they could walk across on dry
ground. He had placed His presence among them and led them personally step by
step through the desert. He provided them with food to eat every day so that
they were not hungry. Now Israel was complaining because their lives were not
easier. By complaining against God, they failed to appreciate what He had
complaining, Israel failed to recognize that God had their best interests in
mind. He knew His people better than they knew themselves. He loved them and
had clearly demonstrated his love for them. His people did not understand that
love. They felt He didn’t love them because He didn’t give them
more. In fact, they were making their comfort more important than God and His
purposes. Instead of trusting God and worshipping Him for His care and
provision, they set their hearts on the pleasures and comforts of this world. These
things angered God and so He sent his fire as a warning to them.
from verse 3 that the place where God sent His fire against the camp was called
Taberah. The word itself means “burning.” This name would be a
reminder to the people of what God did when they complained against Him.
are not easily learned. We see in verse 4 that God’s people still longed
for greater things. They had been eating manna every day and were growing tired
of it. They craved other food. Notice the use of the word “wailing”
in verse 4. This is a strong word. God’s people wailed for other food.
They cried out for meat to eat. They remembered the fish they had enjoyed in
Egypt as well as the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic (verses 5-6).
All they had to eat now was manna.
manna God provided would be gathered, ground, cooked in a pot or made into
cakes. Verse 8 tells us that it tasted like something made with olive oil. It
was gathered each morning.
to verse 10, Moses heard the people of “every family” wailing at
the entrance of his tent. The whole nation was unhappy with the provision of
the Lord. It wasn’t that they didn’t have enough to eat; it was
that they didn’t have the kind of things they wanted to eat. As one voice
they lifted up their cry of discontent to God, longing for the days when they
had been in the bondage of Egypt and had what they wanted to eat. Their perspective
was very shallow. They were not looking at anything beyond their present
appetite. They could not see what God was planning for them. They could not
focus on His promises and what He was doing through them. All they could think
about was their stomachs.
became “exceedingly angry” at what He saw in the camp of Israel
(verse 10). Moses also became very troubled. He understood the holiness and
justice of God. He knew that God could wipe out His people in an instant.
Notice what Moses says to God in verse 12-15:
(12) Did I conceive all
these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my
arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their
forefathers? (13) Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep
wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ (14) I cannot carry all
these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. (15) If this is
how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now — if I have
found favour in your eyes — and do not let me face my own ruin.”
does Moses do in response to his people’s complaining? He complains! In
verses 12-15, he questions God about why He had brought this trouble to him and
why He had given him such a heavy burden to bear. He questions God’s
wisdom in choosing him to carry the nation to the land promised to their
forefathers. He questions whether God was able to provide meat for this people
to eat. He literally told God that if that was how He was going to treat him,
he didn’t want the job anymore. He would rather die.
whole nation is cast into confusion. From the leaders down to the members of
each family there is discontent with God and His purposes.
how God responds to the complaint of Moses and the people. He commanded Moses,
in verse 16, to bring seventy of Israel’s elders to the tabernacle (verse
16). He would meet with them and put the Spirit that was on Moses on these
leaders as well so that they could help him to carry the burden. God recognized
Moses’ complaint and did something about it. Moses had been carrying a
heavy burden. God now provides him with seventy Spirit empowered men to help.
regard to the people, God told Moses that He would provide them with the meat
they wanted the very next day. He had heard their complaining. He would give
them what they longed for, not just for one or two days but for a whole month
(verses 19-20). They would have more meat than they could ever want. In fact,
they would eat that meat until they hated it as much as they hated the manna.
God would use this abundance of meat to teach His people an important lesson.
you ever longed for something but were disappointed when you finally got it?
One of the great lessons we need to learn as believers is contentment. God
wanted to show His people that earthly things can never truly satisfy. They
believed that if they had meat then things would be better for them. God was
showing them that they could become tired of eating meat just as they had
become tired of eating manna. Instead of complaining and longing for something
more, they needed to learn to be content with what God had given them. The
secret was not in having more, but in being satisfied with what they had.
Moses heard God say that his people would eat meat for a whole month, he
questioned God. He could not imagine where they would be able to find a
month’s supply of meat for 600,000 men (as well as women and children).
He reminded God that even if they slaughtered all their flocks and herds it
would not be enough. He could not even imagine being able to catch that many
fish in the sea. Moses was trying to understand things from a human
perspective. From a human point of view, what God was suggesting was
likely Moses feared to go to the people to tell them what God had said. He
feared because he knew the people were angry. Perhaps he feared their response.
Would they feel he was mocking them? What would happen if God did not provide
all the meat He had promised? What would the people do to him? Moses lacks faith
at this point in his life. He seems to be feeling tired and overwhelmed with
the responsibilities God has given him.
verse 23, however, the Lord reminded Moses that His arm was not too short. In
other words, He was able to reach down to him at this time. He was fully capable
of meeting the needs of His people. He would do everything He said he would do.
Nothing was impossible for Him. God told Moses that he would see that what He
said would come true.
that assurance from God, Moses went to the people and told them what the Lord
said. He also brought seventy elders before the Lord at the tabernacle as the
Lord had requested. The Spirit of the Lord came down and spoke to them. That
day the Spirit came on the seventy elders in a very special way to equip them
for the ministry God had for them. When the Spirit of God came on them, verse
25 tells us that they prophesied. Notice that this was a onetime event. They
prophesied the day the Spirit came on them but never did so again. The passage
does not explain the nature of this prophesying. Obviously, the words spoken
were special words given to them by the Spirit of God. They may have been words
of praise and thanksgiving to God as their hearts were touched and moved by his
Spirit. They may have come in the form of songs of praise sung spontaneously to
the Lord in worship. Though the Spirit of God rested on them for ministry, this
particular type of prophesying would not be repeated in their lives.
also in verse 26 that two of the seventy men chosen did not come to stand
before the Lord in the tabernacle. We are not told the reason why they did not
join the others. Eldad and Medad, however, were among those chosen by God to
lead the people. While they were not present with the others in the tabernacle,
the Spirit of God fell on them where they were. They, too, began to prophesy
just like the others.
man noticed what had happened to Eldad and Medad and ran to Moses to speak to
him about it. We understand from this that what was happening that day was
unusual. This young man did not know what to do when he saw Eldad and Medad
responding as they did. When Joshua, Moses’ aid heard the young
man’s report, he asked Moses to stop them from prophesying (verse 28).
Joshua was uncomfortable with what was happening that day.
understood that what was happening was from the Lord. He told Joshua that he
wished that every person in Israel could experience what these men were
experiencing that day. We will not always understand God’s ways. Sometimes
we will find ourselves fighting like Joshua against the purposes of God. Moses
had enough discernment, however, to recognize that these strange events were
truly from the Lord.
regard to God’s promise of meat, that day God sent a wind that drove large
quantities of quail from the sea to the camp. Verse 31 tells us that so many
quail had been driven by the wind into the camp that they were piled on top of
each other to a height of about three feet for a distance of a day’s walk
in every direction of the camp. The Israelites gathered these quail all day and
night, prepared them and spread them out around the camp (possibly to dry).
Notice in verse 32 that no Israelite gathered less than ten homers of quail
(500 gallons or 2,200 litres). This was a phenomenal amount of quail all at one
time and enough for them to eat for a month.
in verse 33 that while God provided the people with the food they longed for,
before all the quail had been eaten, a plague struck the camp and many died. It
is likely that the plague was the result of the large amounts of quail in the
camp. These quail may have brought diseases with them. It may be that the meat
had gone bad and bred bacteria. What is clear from verse 34 is that many people
died from the plague that broke out because of the quail. The Israelites named
that location Kibroth Hattaavah with literally means “graves of
to see from this that very often the things we crave for in our human flesh can
destroy us. How many people, craving for the things of this world, have fallen
and lost their way. This story is repeated in our day as even God’s
people set their eyes on things God has not provided. Not content with the
provision of God, these individuals seek their pleasure and fulfilment in the
things of this world only to become destitute in the end. May God help us to
see that His ways are right and best for us. May we learn to be content with
what He gives, understanding that there is reason in what He does.
What struggles have you had
to face in your Christian life? What was your response to those struggles?
How does complaining show
our lack of trust in God and His purposes? Have you ever complained about
God’s purpose for your life?
How does Moses demonstrate
a lack of faith in this chapter? Have you ever found yourself in what appeared
to be an impossible situation? How did you respond?
How did God equip the 70
elders in this chapter? How important is the Holy Spirit in the Christian
How did Joshua fight
against what God was doing in this chapter? Have you ever fought against
God’s purpose because you did not understand it?
What do we learn in this
chapter about the importance of contentment?
Thank the Lord that He
knows what is best for you and provides you with all you need to accomplish His
Ask the Lord to forgive you
for times when you have complained about His purpose for your life.
Ask the Lord to teach you
to be more content with what He has provided.
Thank the Lord that He has
given His Holy Spirit to us to guide and enable us in our ministry and life.
Ask the Lord to increase
your faith so that you will not give up when things become difficult.
ministry the Lord gave Moses was certainly not an easy one. As the leader of
God’s people, he was not always respected. In chapter 12, we read of an
occasion where Moses’ brother and sister spoke out against him.
the accusation of Miriam and Aaron in verse 1. They complained because of his
“Cushite” wife. The region of Cush was located just south of Egypt
and is generally connected with the country of Ethiopia. While the name of
Moses’ wife is not given, the fact that she was a foreign wife would have
certainly been an issue. It was God’s intention that His people marry
people of their own faith so as not to be influenced by the gods of the foreign
nations. On the other hand, however, the Lord did make provision for foreign
women to marry Israelites and become part of the Israelite nation. Consider the
words of Deuteronomy 21:10-13 in this regard:
(10) When you go to war against
your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take
captives, (11) if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are
attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. (12) Bring her into your
home and have her shave her head, trim her nails (13) and put aside the
clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and
mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be
her husband and she shall be your wife.
interesting here is that while they were using the fact that Moses was married
to a Cushite woman as an excuse, in reality they seemed to be complaining about
something else. Listen to what they were complaining about in verse 2:
“Has the LORD spoken only
through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn't he also spoken through
and Aaron seem to be jealous that Moses was getting all the attention. People
were coming to Moses and seeking the will of the Lord. Miriam and Aaron seemed
to be left out. They felt they were just as good as their brother and resented
the fact that he seemed to have so much power and authority in the nation. They
felt they deserved some attention as well.
and Miriam appeared to understand that it would not look very spiritual if they
complained that God was speaking to Moses more than to them. If they expressed
their grievance this way it would become quite obvious that they were jealous
and things would look bad for them. They began to look for something to use to
accuse Moses and bring him down. They took advantage of the fact that he was
married to a Cushite woman and used that against him. We are not sure how far
their words travelled. The intent of the words, however, was obviously not the
glory of God but to damage Moses' reputation in the eyes of the people.
in verse 3 that Moses was a very humble man. In fact, the verse tells us that
there was no one as humble as Moses on the face of the earth. This leads us to
believe that Moses did not seek to get even or to defend himself in the eyes of
his brother or sister. God, however, heard what Miriam and Aaron had said and
told them to meet Him in the tabernacle. When they had gathered, the presence
of the Lord came down in a pillar and cloud and stood at the entrance of the
tabernacle as if to guard it against anyone approaching. Moses had experienced
this before, but this was likely a new experience for Aaron and Miriam. They
were perhaps quite afraid.
the presence of the Lord descended on the tabernacle, God called Miriam and Aaron
to step forward. Obviously, they were to step closer into His presence where
God would speak to them. This was their complaint in verse 2. Now God was going
to give them what they wanted. He was going to speak to them.
verses 6-8, we have the words of God to Miriam and Aaron in the presence of
Moses. Notice that God reminds Miriam and Aaron that His usual way of speaking
to prophets was through dreams and visions. It was through these dreams and
visions that He would reveal His purposes. Often these dream and visions had to
be interpreted to make sense.
were different with Moses, however. God spoke to Moses face to face. Notice in
verse 7 that God reminded Miriam and Aaron that Moses was faithful in his
house. In other words, he was living in obedience and walking with God. God
does not condemn him for his Cushite wife. God chose to speak to Moses face to
face. He did not speak in riddles that needed to be interpreted. He spoke
clearly and plainly as a friend would speak to a friend. He did this even
though he had a Cushite wife.
fact alone should have caused Miriam and Aaron to fear speaking out against
Moses as God’s servant. God had chosen him from among his people. They
were not merely complaining against Moses but against God’s decision to
often have we complained against others? Maybe they belong to another church
and have a different understanding of Scripture. Maybe their background has
been less than ideal. God’s servants do not look the same. They come from
various theological positions and backgrounds. The early church had a problem
accepting the apostle Paul because of his anti-Christian background. Some may
have had problems with Peter preaching the sermon at Pentecost because he had
denied the Lord three times. How easy it is for us to stand in judgement of
others. Often we do this not because we are concerned for the glory of God but
because we want to look good ourselves. God spoke clearly to Miriam and Aaron
about their sin.
tells us that the anger of the Lord “burned” against Miriam and
Aaron and he left them. It is unclear what verse 9 means when it says that the
Lord left them. It may simply be that his presence left that tabernacle. On the
other hand, there may have been a sense of His blessing being removed for a
time due to their evil attitude toward Moses.
case of Miriam, we see that when the cloud lifted from the tabernacle, she was
leprous. Leprosy, in the Bible can refer to any number of skin problems. In
this case, Miriam’s skin was white as snow. This meant that she was
unclean and needed to be separated from the rest of the community where she
would live in isolation. This was clearly a judgement of God against her for
her complaining and angry words against Moses.
unclear why Aaron did not receive the same judgement. It is interesting,
however, to note the order in which the names appear in this chapter and in the
rest of Scripture. In verses 4 and 5 Aaron’s name is mentioned first.
This is true also in Micah 6:4:
I brought you up out of Egypt and
redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and
only time in Scripture where Miriam’s name is mentioned first is found in
Numbers 12:1. There may be some significance to this. This has led some to
assume that the reason for this was that Miriam was the one who initiated the
criticism of Moses and Aaron simply followed along. If this is the case, then
this may explain why Miriam was punished and Aaron escaped without harm.
in verse 11 that while Miriam was the one to be judged by God, Aaron recognized
his part in the evil as well. In the verse, he pleaded with Moses not to hold
this sin they had so foolishly committed against them. Aaron does not
excuse himself from this sin, even though he may not have started it. He
pleaded with Moses to do something for Miriam and her condition. In turning to
Moses, he is recognizing his position before God and that he has sinned against
him by going along with Miriam in her complaint.
cried out to God for his sister. He does not hold her words against her. He
does not want to see her suffer for the things she has said about him and his
wife. He pleads with God to heal her. God heard Moses but demanded that Miriam
be punished for her evil words.
reminded Moses in verse 14 that if Miriam’s father had spit in her face
she would have been in disgrace for seven days according to the Jewish law.
What she had done, however, made her even more unclean than if someone had spit
in her face. God demanded that she be confined outside the camp for seven days
for her evil. After those seven days she could return to her family. God would
heal her of her leprosy. According to verse 15, the people did not move from
the camp until Miriam had completed her seven days of punishment. There are
three things we need to see from this.
God did not leave Miriam behind. The people stayed in their place as long as
Miriam was in confinement. Verse 16 tells us that as soon as Miriam was
restored, the Lord led them on to another region. God did not reject Miriam or
her position as a prophetess in the community. God did not remove her from the
community or her ministry because of her sin. She needed to learn a lesson, but
God still had a purpose for her and a role for her in the community. How often
do we reject people who fall when God still has a purpose for them? God does
not leave her behind or reject her.
notice how God used this situation to teach the people of God a lesson. In some
ways, the whole community was held back because of Miriam’s sin. During
those seven days the whole nation of Israel was forced to see what God had done
to Moses’ sister who dared to complain and question the authority of the
leader God had placed over them. Miriam’s situation would be a warning to
everyone in the nation who dared to complain against God’s choice of
notice that the community could not move forward until Miriam’s sin had
been addressed. God held the whole community back until Miriam’s
judgement had been completed. Because of her uncleanness, she would have to
bring her sacrifices before the Lord and Aaron would offer them to the Lord.
She would then have to be ceremonially cleansed again before being restored to
the community of God’s people. Only when she was cleansed again could the
community move from where they were to the next location God had for them (see
verse 16). We are left wondering what it is in our lives that holds back our
brothers and sisters.
Did Miriam and Aaron have a
legitimate complaint against Moses for marrying a foreign wife?
What was the real reason
for the grumbling of Miriam and Aaron?
Does God’s opinion of
people differ from ours? Does He use people we feel are unworthy of their
What evidence is there that
Miriam may have been the person to lead the complaint against Moses?
How does God show mercy and
compassion on Miriam?
What was the effect of
Miriam’s sin on the nation as a whole?
Ask God to set you free
from any form of jealousy or envy.
Take a moment to consider
the people around you and the ministries God has given them. Thank the Lord for
the various ways He is using your leaders and friends to expand His kingdom.
Ask the Lord to help you to
be content with the role He has given you.
Ask God to give you greater
acceptance of people around you.
Ask God to show you if
there is any way you have been holding the community of God’s people
back. Ask Him to show you what you need to do to make things right.
last chapter, we saw how the Lord punished Miriam and Aaron for complaining
against Moses. After these events, the Lord led His people into the Desert of
Paran to the north.
they arrived in the Desert of Paran, the Lord told Moses to send men into the
land of Canaan to explore it. He was to send leaders from each tribe. It was
God’s intention, according to verse 2, to show these leaders the land He
was giving to them. As they walked through the land, they would see the wonderful
blessings He was going to give. This should have been a real encouragement to a
people who had been wandering through the desert living on manna. What an
encouragement this should have been to these leaders to think that this was
going to be their new home. It should have stirred their faith and produced
praise and deep thanksgiving to God in their hearts for His grace and
to the Lord’s command, Moses chose men from each tribe to explore the
land. The following chart lists the names of the leaders by tribe who were
chosen to explore the land of Canaan:
gave these leaders some special commands as he sent them to explore the land.
He told them to go through the Negev and the hill country and see what the land
and the people were like. Moses wanted to know if there were many people in the
land and if they were strong. He also asked them to see what their towns were
like. Did they live in walled cities? Was the land fertile and were there trees
in the region? Notice in verse 20 that he also asked the men to bring back some
of the fruit of the land.
the passage does not speak about the reason for Moses giving these particular
commands; we understand that as the leader of the nation he had some very
particular concerns. As leader, he assumed that he was going to have to lead
the people into the land and help them to settle. As any good leader, he likely
wanted to know what was ahead of him. His concern seems to be about the type of
obstacles they would have to face as they followed the Lord into the land.
Likely his request for fruit from the land was an indication that he longed to
have fresh produce to eat as he and his people had only been eating manna
through their time in the wilderness.
verse 21, the men went out as the Lord commanded. When they reached a certain
valley in the region they cut off a single cluster of grapes that took two men
to carry. They also brought back pomegranates and figs. They called that valley
Eshcol which literally means “cluster” in reference to the large
cluster of grapes they had found there. Altogether they spend 40 days exploring
the land before they returned to the Israelite camp.
brought their report to Moses and the camp of Israel, showing them the fruit
they had brought back (verse 26). They reported that the land was flowing with
milk and honey (verse 27). In other words, it was a land of plenty. Notice
also, however, from Numbers 13:28 that they reported that the people were
powerful and their cities fortified and large. They found many different
nations in the region. The Amalekites lived in the Negev, the Hittites,
Jebusites and Amorites lived in the hill country and the Canaanites lived near
the sea (13:28-29). They also reported that they saw the descendants of Anak in
the region (verse 28). From Numbers 13:33 the descendants of Anak were also
called the Nephilim. We first read about the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4:
The Nephilim were on the earth in
those days — and also afterward — when the sons of God
went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of
old, men of renown.
6:4 describes these men as “heroes of old” and “men of
renown.” In other words, they came from a long line of brave and mighty
warriors. The leaders who returned from exploring the land of Canaan described
themselves as “grasshoppers” compared to these mighty men (verse
33). That is to say, they were small and insignificant before them.
what the leaders were reporting was beginning to discourage the people. The
Lord had promised this land to Israel, but the report of fortified cities with
mighty fighting men much superior in strength was causing the people to wonder
if it was even possible to obtain this land. Caleb, the representative from
Judah seemed to see what was happening and silenced the other leaders. He told
them that it was his opinion that they should go up and take possession of the
land. He was sure that God would give it to them (verse 30).
saw what the other leaders saw, but his confidence was in the Lord God and His
promise. He believed that God would give them this land. He knew that there were
obstacles to overcome but he believed what God had promised and was willing to
take a step of faith. The other leaders, however, did not see things that way.
The saw an enemy army that was stronger than their army. They saw fortified
cities that were well protected. They saw the descendants of Anak, who were
famous and mighty warriors. They believed that they would be devoured by the
people of the land if they attempted to take it from them. Notice in verse 32
that they “spread a bad report” about the land among the Israelites
discouraging them from even attempting to settle in the land.
cannot read this passage without seeing the difference of perspective here.
Caleb saw the same obstacles as the other leaders, but his focus was on the
promise of God. God had promised them this land and despite the obstacles, Caleb
knew that God would be faithful to His word. He was willing to stand up against
greater enemies because he believed what God said was true. The other leaders
knew the promise of God concerning the land but focused on their own wisdom,
experience and understanding more than God’s promise. They were unwilling
to risk everything on God’s promise.
believers today, there are two roads before us; the road of faith in
God’s promise and the road of human wisdom, reason and experience. What
road will we take? God’s promises will not always come easy. There will
be obstacles to overcome and enemies to fight. Sometimes the path of faith will
not make sense to our human minds. As we examine the picture before us, we see
a people who refused to take hold of the promise of God because they were
afraid. Before them was a land filled with more blessings and riches than they
had ever experienced. God was offering it to them but they would not take it.
They turned their back on His blessing because they were unwilling to take the
risk of trusting His word. Will we take that risk?
What did the leaders find
in the land of Canaan? What were the blessings? What were the obstacles?
How was Caleb’s
perspective different from that of the other leaders?
Does the promise of God
come without struggle? What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome to
see the promise of God fulfilled in your life?
Have you ever trusted human
wisdom and experience more than God’s promise? How does ministry suffer
when it is based on human wisdom and experience?
Thank the Lord for His
promises. Thank Him that He is always faithful to those promises.
Ask the Lord to give you
more of Caleb’s perspective. Ask God to help you to trust in Him and His
Word more than in your own human wisdom.
Take a moment to pray for
your spiritual leaders. Ask God to help them to be more like Caleb, trusting in
Ask the Lord to show you if
there is any way that you need to be more like Caleb in your ministry or
Christian life. Ask God to give you more confidence in His leading and
chapter 13, we saw how the leaders of the twelve tribes came back from
exploring the land of Canaan. They had seen the blessings in the land but they
had also seen the enemy’s powerful armies and their fortified cities.
While Caleb wanted to go into the land and take it over, the other leaders
refused, discouraging the people.
the response of the people when they heard the report from their leaders. Verse
1 tells us that they wept aloud and grumbled against Moses and Aaron, telling
them that they wished they had died in Egypt. They questioned why the Lord
would bring them out of Egypt only to let them be killed by the sword of a more
powerful enemy who would have their wives and children taken as plunder (verse
3). In fact, they even spoke in verse 4 about choosing another leader to take
them back to Egypt.
this grumbling about Moses and Aaron comes in the context of chapter 12 where
Miriam was struck by God with leprosy for speaking out against Moses. While the
people had seen what had happened to her, they did not learn a lesson from it.
The fault lies not only with the people but also with the leaders who
discouraged them because of their lack of faith in God’s promise to give
them the land.
only imagine what an insult this would have been to God who had delivered them
from the bondage of Egypt and promised them their own land. They refused to
take the land, preferring instead to return to the place of their bondage. How
often has this been repeated in our day? How often do we see those who have
been set free from the bondage of sin, secretly lust after it again? We see
this temptation in our own hearts.
Moses and Aaron heard what the people were saying, they fell face down in front
of them. Obviously, they were pleading with God to forgive them for their
attitude. Joshua and Caleb, who had explored the land with the other leaders,
tore their clothes in a sign of mourning. They reminded the people that the
land they had explored was a rich land filled with blessings. They knew that if
the Lord was pleased with them, He would give it to them. They pleaded with the
people not to rebel against the Lord. The land was theirs because God was with
them and He would give it to them as He had promised.
their pleading, the people refused to listen to Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua.
In fact, the “whole assembly” spoke of stoning them. Notice the use
of the phrase “whole assembly.” This implies that there was a
general agreement among the people that they no longer wanted these men of God
to lead them. They wanted to go in another direction. They were no longer happy
with the Lord and His purposes and wanted to do things their way instead. The
fact that they actually spoke of stoning these men shows how strongly they
the impression that were it not for the fact that God came down into their
midst, the people would have carried through with their plan to stone Moses,
Aaron, Caleb and Joshua. As they were speaking about these things, however, the
glory of God appeared at the tabernacle in the sight of the whole nation. The
presence of God that day would certainly have brought an end to the discussion.
day the Lord spoke to Moses and asked:
(11) The LORD said to Moses,
“How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse
to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among
them? (12) I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I
will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Numbers
Lord said three things to Moses that day. First, He told him that the people
were treating Him with contempt (verse 11). The word used here is a strong word
that could also be translated by “provoke,” “despise”
or “blaspheme”. In other words, by refusing to trust in God’s
promise, rejecting what He had done for them and threatening to kill His
servants, they were provoking the Lord and blaspheming His character and
purpose for their lives. This was the most serious crime a Jew could be guilty
of committing and was worthy of death.
God accused His people of refusing to believe all the signs He had performed in
their midst. This is not the same as not believing because they had never seen
evidence. This was not the case for the people of Israel in the days of Moses.
They had seen miraculous demonstrations of God’s power and love. He
provided for every need. They had witnessed the destruction of the nation of
Egypt at God’s hands. They saw the fall of the Egyptian army when God
drowned them in the sea. God had provided for them and overcame every enemy in
their path. The people of that day did not have an excuse. Their unbelief was
not rooted in a lack of understanding but a wilful choice not to believe.
notice what God intended to do. In verse 12, He told Moses that He was going to
send a plague to destroy the people and make another nation from his
descendants that would be greater and stronger. This shows us just how angry
God was at His people. He wanted to destroy them completely.
Moses heard of God’s intentions in verse 12, he cried out to God on
behalf of the nation. He reminded the Lord of what the Egyptians would say when
they heard what had happened to the people of God in the desert. The people
would say that the Lord was not able to bring them into the land He had
promised so He killed them in the desert (verses 14-16). Moses’ concern
here seems to be for what the people of other nations would think about the
Lord God. In this, he demonstrates a true missionary heart, desiring that every
nation see and understand the glory of God.
sake of God’s name, Moses pleads with Him to demonstrate His great strength
by forgiving His people’s rebellion. Notice the connection between
forgiveness and strength (verses 17, 18). It takes much more strength of
character to forgive than to punish. Moses pleads with God to demonstrate that
strength of character and forgive His people just as He had done many times
since their release from Egypt (19).
heard Moses’ request that day and forgave His people for testing him
“ten times” (verse 20). We should not necessarily see here that God
was counting the number of times His people had tested Him. Most commentaries
agree the reference to “ten times” simply is God’s way of
saying that His people had tested Him many times. While God would forgive His
people and refrain from sending the plague He had spoken of, they would pay for
their evil and rebellion. In verse 22, God told Moses that not one person who
saw His miraculous signs in Egypt would see the Promised Land. Every person
twenty years old and over would die in the desert (verses 28-29). An exception
is made for Caleb in verse 24 and 30 because he wanted to follow the Lord in
taking the land. An exception is also made for Joshua in verse 30. God would not
give the land to those who treated Him with contempt (verse 23). Instead, it
would go to the children born to Israel during their wandering in the
wilderness (verse 31).
forty years Israel would live in the desert. Their children would suffer for the
unfaithfulness of the parents in rejecting the land God offered them (verses
31, 33). Notice in verse 34 that their punishment was to spend one year in the
desert for every day their leaders spent in the land God had promised them.
During that time, every person twenty years of age and over would die. Only
then would God set them free to inherit the land.
also that the sin of the parents had an impact on the lives of their children.
Because the parents rejected the Promised Land, the children had to live in the
desert. Our sins do not affect us alone. Our children and those around us will
suffer the consequences of our unfaithfulness.
the leaders who discouraged the people, verses 36-38 tell us that the Lord
struck them with a plague. With the exception of Caleb and Joshua all the other
leaders died from that plague. God held these leaders accountable for misleading
the people heard the judgement of God they “mourned bitterly.” They
saw the price they had to pay for their rebellion. The next morning, they
confessed that they had sinned and decided to go up and take the land (verses
39-40). Notice, however, that Moses told them that it was too late. Because
they had rejected the Lord, He would not go with them. Moses warned them that
if they did try, they would be slaughtered (verse 43). The people did not
listen to Moses. When the Amalekites and the Canaanites saw them in their land
they attacked and defeated them, and Israel was chased out in shame.
was no going back now. Though Israel tried to make things right, their sentence
had already been passed. They tried to obey, but it was too late for that
because the damage had been done. God’s presence had been removed. What a
sad picture we have here. The opportunity for victory had been passed by and
though they sought it now they could not have it.
their rebellion and refusal to obey when God called them, Israel forfeited the
blessing and opportunity before them. This is a warning for all of us. The
challenge of this passage is for us to be faithful to the Lord when He calls
us. There are opportunities that will never come again. God is a forgiving God
but we have much to lose by our unfaithfulness.
verse 25, God commanded Moses to take the people from the border of the land of
Canaan back into the desert where they were to travel along the route to the
Red Sea. There they would wander for the next forty years.
Have you ever found
yourself grumbling and complaining about your spiritual leaders or the
situations that God has placed in your life? Why is it a serious matter to
grumble and complain about God’s purposes?
Moses interceded for his
people and God saved them from the plague He spoke of sending among them. What
does this teach us about the importance of prayer?
Does forgiveness mean that
we do not have to suffer the consequences of our sin?
What were the consequences
of the sin of God’s people on their children? How do our sins affect our
children and those around us?
God’s people missed
an opportunity to enter the Promised Land. Are their opportunities in your life
that you missed?
Ask the Lord to help you to
accept the circumstances He brings into your path without grumbling and
Take a moment to intercede
and pray for those who are now under God’s judgement. Ask Him to open
their eyes to the truth before it is too late.
Thank the Lord that He is
willing to forgive us for our sins.
Ask the Lord to help you to
obey Him when He calls so that you will not miss out on opportunities for
service. Ask Him to give you grace to walk faithfully with Him.
people of God had refused to enter the land that God had given them as an
inheritance. They did not trust the Lord to protect and strengthen them. As a
result, everyone over twenty years of age would die in the wilderness and never
see the land of Canaan. God would, however, give the land to their children.
as we begin that the Lord expected that when their children entered the land He
had promised, they would worship Him in a prescribed way. The Lord told Moses
that the Israelites were to bring a grain offering and a drink offering with
every burnt sacrifice they presented to the Lord. God describes in verses 3-12
what He expected for each offering brought. The following chart summarizes
(2 quarts or 2 litres)
(1 quart or 1 litre)
(4 quarts or 4.5 litres)
(1 ¼ quarts or 1.2 litres)
(6 quarts or 6.5 litres)
(2 quarts or 2 litres)
(2 quarts or 2 litres
that the larger the animal, the more grain and drink offerings were required.
God makes it quite clear in verses 13-16 that every native-born Israelite as
well as every foreigner living with them was to present these grain and drink
offerings with their sacrifices to the Lord. The rules for the offerings were
to apply to both the native-born Israelite and the foreigner living with them.
interesting to note that God accepted the offerings of the foreigner living in
Israel who truly wanted to worship Him. God’s heart has always been for
the whole world. He has always accepted people of all nationalities who come to
Him with a sincere heart.
of these regular grain and drink offerings the Lord also expected that when the
Israelites entered the land He had promised, they would make a cake with the
first grain ground on the threshing floor and present it to Him (verses 17-21).
This offering was in recognition of the fact that He was the provider of the
harvest. It was offered in thanksgiving for His gracious provision.
knew that His people would sin against Him and in His mercy and justice He
provided a means by which those sins could be forgiven. Sin against a holy God
was a serious matter, worthy of death. Instead of taking the life of the person
who committed the sin, God allowed for an animal to be sacrificed in his or her
place. In verses 22-27, God lays out His requirements for the sacrifices made
for unintentional sin.
in verses 22-27 that the Lord speaks of sacrifices for
“unintentional” sins. This is distinguished from
“intentional” sins in verse 30-31. Unintentional sins were committed
without the person being aware that he or she has sinned. For example, an
Israelite may have touched something unclean without knowing it. An
unintentional sin might also be committed due to lack of understanding. Maybe
an individual did not have enough understanding of the requirements of God to
know they were sinning. Unintentional sins could also be committed by accident
or due to circumstances. Imagine a Jewish man working with an axe and the axe
head comes off the handle striking another man and killing him. He is guilty of
killing his brother but it was not his intention to do so. He is guilty of an
unintentional sin. Human weakness might also cause an individual to commit an
unintentional sin. Maybe because of sickness a man is unable to meet his
obligations. This too would fall under the category of an unintentional sin.
important for us to understand is that a sin does not have to be intentional to
be a sin. Even unintentional sins needed to be confessed to God and required
in verses 22-27 that the requirements of God varied depending on the person or
persons committing the sin. There was one requirement for the sin of an entire
community and another for an individual. The following chart summarized
God’s requirements as laid out in verse 22-27.
Flour and Wine
1 yr. Female goat
there were sacrifices for the forgiveness of unintentional sins, intentional
sins were quite different. Verses 30-31 tell us that anyone who sinned
intentionally (defiantly, NIV) was to be cut off from his people. Intentional
sins were those sins committed wilfully and rebelliously against God, with full
knowledge of the sin. There was no sacrifice for anyone who committed an
intentional sin. They were to be cut off from the people of God.
an example of intentional sin in verses 32-36. The Israelites found a man
gathering wood on the Sabbath day. They confined him until Moses had consulted
the Lord to see what to do with him. God told Moses in verse 35 that the man
had to die. He was to be taken outside the camp and stoned to death. This was a
clear example of a man who, knowing the command of God regarding the Sabbath,
chose to ignore it and wilfully defied God and His purposes for that day. There
was no sacrifice for his sin. He was to be killed for wilfully defying the Lord
15 concludes with a statement about the garments the Israelites were to wear.
God told Moses in verse 38 that the Israelites were to make tassels for their
garments from blue cord. It is significant that these tassels were to be blue
in colour. Blue cloth was used to wrap the Ark of the Covenant when it was
transported from one place to another (Numbers 4:6). The curtain separating the
Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was to be made entirely of blue cloth
(Exodus 26:31-33). The priestly ephod was to be made of blue cloth (Exodus
28:31). The colour blue seemed to be used for the holy things of God.
that the purpose for the blue tassels hanging from their garments was so the
people of Israel would remember the commands of God and not prostitute
themselves by going after the lusts of their own heart (verse 39). These blue
tassels on their garments reminded them that they were a people set apart for
God. As they went about their daily routine and were tempted to compromise in
their faith, those blue tassels swinging from their garments reminded them that
they belonged to God and needed to follow His commands and ordinances.
expected His people to walk in obedience. He provided forgiveness for those
times when human weakness and circumstances caused them to fall. He challenged
them to wear tassels on their garments to remind themselves of their obligation
to His law. He also required the most severe punishment for those who ignored
and wilfully defied Him. As the people of God left the border of Canaan to
wander for forty years in the desert, God reminded them afresh of His
requirement of obedience and the consequences of disobedience. He reminded them
also, however, that through the sacrifices He had provided they could be
forgiven and restored to Him.
God had specific
requirements for how His people were to bring their offerings. How important it
is that we follow the requirements of God as laid out in the Bible today? How
easy it is for us to do what we feel best and ignore the clear teaching of
What is the difference
between unintentional sin and intentional sin? Give some examples of each.
Is a person guilty of sin
even if what he or she did was not intentional?
Why did the people of
Israel wear tassels? What can you do to remind yourself of your obligation to
Ask the Lord to help you to
follow the requirements of His Word. Ask Him to forgive you for times you have
chosen to ignore His Word in favour of your own way.
Ask the Lord to protect you
from intentional sin and wilful disobedience.
Thank the Lord that He has
chosen you to belong to Him. Ask Him to remind you of your obligation to Him
and His Word on a daily basis.
the great sins of God’s people in the wilderness was their grumbling and
complaining against God and His purposes. Moses and Aaron, as God’s
representatives, often became the target of this grumbling. As you will recall,
God judged Miriam for this sin when she spoke out against her brother Moses in
Numbers 12. While the Israelites saw the judgement of God on Miriam, it did not
stop them from repeating her sin.
Numbers 16, we read of how a man by the name of Korah rose up against Moses. We
discover from verse 1 that Korah was a Levite from the Kohathite clan. As a
Kohathite, he was responsible for transporting the holy articles (lampstand,
Ark of the Covenant, altars, etc.) when the Israelites moved camp. Korah, with
the help of two others (Dathan and Abiram) gained the support of 250 well known
community leaders (verse 2). Together these men approached Moses and challenged
their argument in verse 3:
You have gone too far! The whole
community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do
you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?
argument is theological in nature, although it may have been more about
jealousy than theology. Korah’s argument was that no one person should be
considered more holy than another. Everyone in the community belonged to God and
on an equal standing with each other. They rejected the idea of one man holding
so much power and believed that everyone who belonged to God should have the
same privilege as Moses.
Moses heard their complaint, he fell face down (verse 4). The passage does not
tell us why he did this. Moses knew, however, what God felt about this kind of
grumbling and may have been asking the Lord to spare these individuals from
told Korah and his followers that he would bring this matter to the Lord for His
decision. In the morning, they were all to bring a censer, put fire and incense
in them and stand before the Lord God. We need to understand that the offering
of incense was a task that only the priest was to perform. Korah and his
followers believed that they had the right to be priests before the Lord and so
Moses challenged them to see what the response of the Lord would be if they
took on this responsibility.
in verse 6, however, that Moses did warn Korah and the other Levites with him
that they had gone too far. God had separated the Levites from the rest of the
community and given them a particular task in the tabernacle. These men were
not content with their roles, however, and wanted to be priests as well (verse
10). Moses reminded them in verse 11 that their complaint was against the Lord
and His will for their lives.
and his followers wanted to be priests. This was the highest position in
Israel. It was a position of respect and honour in the community. These Levites
wanted position and respect more than they wanted God’s will for their
lives. This is a common temptation. Often our desires and ambitions in life
clash with God’s purposes. We can fool ourselves into believing that what
we want is for the glory of God. Korah justified his actions stating that all
of God’s chosen people were holy and had the privilege of serving Him as
priests. He placed his personal theology and his ambitions ahead of God’s
call and purpose.
understood that this revolt did not only come from Korah, but also from Dathan
and Abiram, ordinary citizens of Israel. In verse 12, he summoned them to speak
about this matter. Dathan and Abiram refused to come before Moses. Notice their
response to him in verse 13-14:
(13) Isn't it enough that you
have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the
desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? (14) Moreover, you
haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an
inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men?
No, we will not come!”
and Abiram had clearly rejected Moses and his leadership. In these two verses
they accused him of taking them from a land of milk and honey and bringing them
into the desert to kill them. They accused him of “lording it over”
them and failing to bring them to the land of Canaan. In their eyes, Moses was
a failure as a leader and they would have nothing to do with him. They failed
to see their own sin. It was because they had rejected God and that they had
not been given the land of Canaan. They chose to blame their leaders for their
own sin and rebellion.
Moses heard their response to his summons he became angry with Dathan and
Abiram. They opposed him and the position of leadership the Lord had given him.
Verse 15 tells us that he became so angry with them that he asked the Lord not
to accept their offering. If the Lord did not accept their offering there would
be no forgiveness for them. In reality, Moses was sentencing these two men to
death without the forgiveness of God.
also in verse 15 that Moses reminded the Lord that he had not taken so much as
a donkey from these men or wronged them in any way. Moses had a clear
conscience before God with regard to his leadership. Moses knew before God that
he had led his people with honesty and sacrifice. He left all judgement in the
hands of the Lord God.
Dathan and Abiram refused to appear before Moses, Korah and his followers were
quite free to do so. They came to the tabernacle with their censers in hand.
They prepared their incense and put fire in the censers and stood with Moses
and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. About 250 men stood
with their censers burning before the Lord (verses 17-18).
Korah and his followers stood at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory
of the Lord appeared over the people. God spoke to Moses and Aaron and told
them to separate themselves from the people so that He could kill them (verse
21). When Moses heard this, he fell face down and begged the Lord to forgive
the nation. He reminded him that the sin was the sin of Korah and his followers
and not the sin of the entire nation (verse 22). While, in a sense, it was
Korah who had led this revolt against Moses, the heart of the nation was not
pure either. God saw the attitude of the entire nation. These people had the
same heart as Korah and often grumbled and complained about Moses and Aaron
(see Exodus 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 14:2; 14:27: 14:36).
the whole nation was guilty, God did listen to Moses. In verse 24, the Lord
told Moses to have the people move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and
Abiram. Moses went to the place where these families were camped and told
everyone to move away from them. As they did, Dathan and Abiram came out of
their tents and stood there with their wives and children, separated from the
rest of the people of Israel (verse 27).
then made a prophetic declaration before all the people, saying:
This is how you will know that the
LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea:
(29) If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually
happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. (30) But if the LORD
brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows
them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the
grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.
31 tells us that as soon as Moses had made this declaration the ground opened
up underneath the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and the people fell alive
into the great hole with all their earthly possessions. The screams of those
falling into this great opening created terror throughout the camp. Many people
fled from the scene, believing that they too would be swallowed alive (verse
34). When all these families had been swallowed, the earth closed over them,
sealing their fate forever (verse 33).
this was happening at the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the two hundred
and fifty men were still standing with their censers in hand before the Tent of
Meeting. The Lord judged them as well. Verse 35 tells us that fire came down
from the Lord and consumed all of them.
reminder of what had happened that day, the Lord asked Moses to get Eleazar the
priest to gather the censers “out of the smouldering remains” and scatter
the coals that were in them some distance away from the Tent. He was then to
have the censers hammered into sheets and use those sheets to overlay the
altar. Verses 38 and 40 tell us that these sheets overlaying the altar were to
be a sign to the people that no one except a descendant of Aaron should burn
incense before the Lord. If they did, they would be punished and suffer the
same fate as Korah and his followers.
particularly striking about this story is the response of the people to what
had happened that day. Verse 41 tells us that the community grumbled and
complained against Moses and Aaron saying: “You have killed the
Lord’s people.” You would have thought that the incidents of that
day would have taught them a lesson, but it didn’t. They still grumbled
and complained against God’s servants. Some lessons are never learned.
Had the Lord not opened our eyes, we, too, would certainly be like those people.
understand from verse 42 that the people of God gathered together to voice
their discontent with Moses and Aaron. We are not told what their intention was
when they gathered. There had been other times when they spoke of stoning Moses
(see Exodus 17:4; Numbers 14:10). Whatever their intention was at that moment,
it was interrupted by the glory of God. A great cloud suddenly appeared over
the Tent of Meeting and the Lord told Moses to get away from the people so he
could kill them (verse 44).
the Lord spoke to Moses, he and Aaron fell face down on the ground, likely
grief stricken and crying out to God on behalf of their people. Immediately the
judgement of God seemed to fall on the nation and a great plague broke out.
Moses told Aaron to take his censer, put incense and fire in it and make
atonement for the people. The intention here was to appease the wrath of God on
the nation. Notice in verse 47 that Aaron ran into the midst of the people with
his censer in an attempt to cover their sins and seek God’s forgiveness.
Verse 48 tells us that Aaron stood between the living and the dead and stopped
the plague through the incense he offered to the Lord. Before the plague
stopped and the wrath of God was appeased, however, 14,700 people lay dead
before the Lord (verse 49). Were it not for Moses and Aaron who sought the
favour of God for these rebellious and complaining people, many more would have
died. We are left to wonder how many people God will spare because of our
prayers for them.
What does this chapter
teach us about respecting those the Lord has put over us? Have you ever been
guilty of grumbling or complaining about your spiritual leaders?
Are you content with the
role God has given you and the circumstances He has put you in today?
Does God still call people
to a particular service? Are you where God wants you to be today? How can you
know God’s will for your life?
Have you ever felt jealous
about the ministry God has given to someone else?
Are there lessons you have
trouble learning? What are they?
Aaron stood between the
“dead and the living” seeking to save his people. Are there people
for whom you need to pray and seek God? Who are they?
Ask the Lord to give you
the ability to honour those He has placed in authority over you.
Ask the Lord to show you
His purpose for your life. Ask Him to help you to be faithful and content in
Take a moment to pray for
someone who is currently under the judgement of God. Ask God to forgive and
restore that person to Himself.
time in the nation of Israel, there was much dissatisfaction with the leaders
God had given His people. Miriam had spoken out against Moses (chapter 12).
Korah and his followers had rebelled against both Moses and Aaron, resulting in
the anger of God destroying their families (chapter 16). Also in the final
section of Numbers 16, we read about how the nation as a whole was punished
because of their grumbling about Moses and Aaron as leaders.
only imagine what it was like for Aaron and Moses as leaders of God’s
people to have so many people dissatisfied with their leadership. Certainly, if
I were in their situation, I would be asking the Lord if I was really where He
wanted me to be. In these times, as leaders we often need a confirmation from
the Lord of His purpose for our lives and ministries. It is interesting to note
in Numbers 17 that the Lord speaks directly to this need in Aaron and the
begin chapter 17, we see that God spoke to Moses and asked him to tell the
leaders of each tribe to get a staff and write their names on it. They were to
bring these staffs to the tabernacle and place them in front of the Ark of the
Covenant in the presence of God. God would look at these staffs and cause the
one belonging to the person He had chosen to be priest to bud. Notice that the
purpose of this demonstration was to get rid of the constant grumbling against
Moses and Aaron by the Israelites (17:5).
concerned about what the people were saying about Moses and Aaron. He wanted
all this grumbling to stop. He wanted to confirm them in their calling before
the eyes of the nation. We can only imagine how encouraging this must have been
to Moses and Aaron at this time in their lives.
obedience to the Lord, the leaders of the twelve tribes each brought a staff
and placed it before the Lord in the tabernacle. These staffs were left in the
presence of the Lord overnight.
next day, Moses entered the tabernacle to examine the staffs. He noticed that
the staff which represented the tribe of Levi had not only sprouted but budded,
blossomed and produced almonds. There could be no doubt that this was a miracle
from God. Notice that God did far more than cause the staff to bud. He went
beyond what was necessary to communicate to the people His purpose for this
family. There could be no doubt that Aaron was to be His representative before
staff is a picture of what the Lord wants to do through each person He calls.
He wants to place His life in them so that they can blossom and produce fruit
for His name.
told Moses to put Aaron’s staff in front of the Ark of the Covenant so
that it would be a sign to all who grumbled and complained about Aaron and his
position. Notice in Numbers 17:10 that the punishment for continuing to grumble
about the Lord’s choice of servants was death. To grumble and complain
about the servants that God had chosen was to take a stand against God Himself.
the response of the Israelites to this powerful sign in Numbers 17:12-13:
(12) The Israelites said to
Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! (13) Anyone who
even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to
they saw that day struck them powerfully. They realized that they had been
wrong and that Aaron was indeed God’s chosen servant. They feared for
their lives because they had stood against God.
clear that God had chosen Aaron and his sons to be His representatives.
God’s call came with its privileges and obligations. In Numbers 18, the
Lord spoke to Aaron and his sons about those privileges and obligations. Notice
in Numbers 18:1-7 that Aaron and his sons had a two-fold obligation.
for the Holy Things
Numbers 18:1, the Lord reminded Aaron and his sons that, as His chosen
representatives, they were to bear the responsibility for any offences against
the tabernacle or priesthood. They had a God-given obligation to see that the
tabernacle, its objects and its servants were honoured by God’s people
and that God’s purposes were being accomplished through them. God would
hold them accountable for any offences against His holy things. Aaron and his
sons were to be assisted by the Levites in this ministry (18:2, 4). The
Levites, however, were not to go near the furnishings of the Holy Place or the
Most Holy Place lest they die. That privilege was reserved for Aaron and his
calls us to take seriously the name of the Lord and His word. He gave Aaron and
his sons the responsibility to care for the holy things. They were responsible
for offences against everything God had set apart for His name.
day we too are called to lift high the things of God. How often have we seen
His Word depreciated or ignored in our churches? How often has His name been
blasphemed in word and deed? How often has His Spirit been grieved in our
midst? Has God not called us to stand up for these holy things in our day as well?
All who are called by God to minister in His name would do well to honour these
to the People
reminded Aaron and his sons in Numbers 18:5 that they also had a responsibility
for the work of the sanctuary and the altar so that His wrath would not fall on
the Israelites. This clearly involved the sacrifices that were made on behalf
of the people for the forgiveness of sin. As priests, they stood between God
and sinful Israel. Their role was to assure that the people of Israel were
walking in forgiveness and purity before God. This continues to be a vital role
for the spiritual leaders of our day. What is our obligation as spiritual
leaders before the people we serve? Is it not to help them to walk in
forgiveness of sin? It is not to teach and train God’s people to walk in
victory and righteousness? Aaron and his sons were responsible for the care of
the holy things of God and to minister to the people so that they were living
in the experience of God’s forgiveness and victory.
their service, Aaron and the Levites would receive a portion of the offerings
brought by God’s people. Their needs would be provided for through the
people they served. In verses 8-32 God tells Aaron what offerings he and the
Levites could keep for themselves and the needs of their families. Below is a
summary in chart form of the offerings kept by Aaron and the Levites for their
Aaron and his
Could only eat
the portion that was not required to be sacrificed to God
oil, wine and grain
Firstborn male child and unclean male animal
Owner of the
firstborn male child or animal needed to buy it back from the priests at 5
shekels of silver. This money belonged to the priests and their families
sheep and goat
The fat and
blood was placed on the altar but the remainder of the animal belonged to the
priest and his family
needed to give a portion of the tithe and the rest belonged to them. The
tithe they gave back to the Lord needed to be the “best part.”
priests were well provided for through the gifts of God’s people. Notice,
however, in Numbers 18:30-32, that God expected that His servants the priests
be generous in their giving as well. God required that they give a portion of
every tithe given to them. God makes it clear that they were to present the
“best part” of their tithe to the Lord. In fact, God tells the
priests that if they did not present the “best part” of their tithe
to Him they would be guilty of defiling the holy things of God and die (18:32).
tribe of Levi would not receive any inheritance of land. They were to be
content to serve the Lord as His priests and devote themselves to this work
alone. As they devoted themselves to the work of the tabernacle, God would
provide for all their needs through the gifts of His people. Any other
Israelite who approached the tabernacle to serve the Lord as a Levite would be
struck dead by the Lord God.
a plan for the worship of His name. He has called out a certain people to be His
servants. He has honoured those people and expects that those to whom they were
ministering would honour them. The calling of priest was a serious calling and
required the complete dedication of their lives, but God would enable and
provide for their every need as they served Him faithfully.
In this passage the Lord
God confirms His call to Aaron, His sons, and the Levites. Have you ever needed
God to confirm your calling because of difficulties or obstacles that came
across your path? How did God confirm you in your calling and ministry?
Why was it important that
the Lord confirm Aaron and the Levites in their calling before the people? How
important is it that we respect those called of God to be our leaders?
The priests and the Levites
had the responsibility to care for the holy things of God. Are the holy things
of God being despised today? Explain.
The priests and the Levites
were called by God to help the people of their nation walk in the forgiveness
of God and victory over their sin. Do you know individuals who are not walking
in the forgiveness of God and victory over their sin? What can you do to help
God provided for the needs
of His servants through His people. Are the needs of your spiritual leaders
being cared for? What sacrifices do you need to make for your spiritual leaders
so that their needs are met?
Ask the Lord to show you
clearly His plan for your life and ministry.
Thank the Lord for your spiritual
leaders. Ask Him to show you how you can be more respectful of them. Ask Him to
show you if there is anything you can do to provide for their needs.
Ask the Lord to help you to
walk in victory over sin and temptations in your life.
Ask the Lord to teach you
how to give Him the “best part” of all you have.
Old Testament, it was important that an individual remain ceremonially clean
before the Lord. Uncleanness could come in many different forms, but Numbers 19
deals with uncleanness caused by touching a dead body. When a person touched a
dead body, he or she was required to follow a procedure set out by God to
become clean again. In this chapter, we discover that an unclean person could
be restored by being sprinkled with special water.
water of cleansing was a mixture of water, blood, ashes and wool. In verses
1-10, the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron on how they were to make this water
of cleansing. A red heifer (cow), without defect which had never been placed
under a yoke, was to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in the presence
of the priest (verse 2-3). Notice that the heifer needed to be red. The passage
does not tell us why it had to be this colour.
also that the animal was not slaughtered in the tabernacle courtyard but
outside the camp. This heifer was to be used for the cleansing of those who were
unclean and who would normally be forbidden access to the tabernacle because of
their uncleanness. It is interesting to note that the Lord Jesus came to
identify with us as sinners. He left the glories of the heavenly tabernacle to
be slaughtered on the cross on this sinful earth for us. He identified with us
by going “outside the camp,” to the place where He was crucified
for our uncleanness. This heifer, slaughtered outside the camp, in some ways,
is a picture of what the Lord Jesus did for us.
heifer had been slaughtered, Eleazer the priest was to put some of the blood on
his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle).
While the sacrifice took place outside the camp, it was still a holy sacrifice
and the blood was sprinkled toward the Tent of Meeting in a gesture of offering
to the Lord. In a similar way, although the Lord Jesus was crucified outside
the city of Jerusalem in the place where unclean criminals were killed, His
sacrifice was pleasing to the Father who accepted it for the sins of His
also that the heifer was to be completely burned. Normally the blood of the
animal sacrificed on the altar was spilled out at the base of the altar. The
hide, flesh and dung were cleaned out of the corpse before it was burned in the
presence of the Lord. This is not the case here. Verse 5 tells us that the
entire animal was burned with its blood, flesh, hide and dung. Possibly this
was the reason why the sacrifice could not take place in the tabernacle.
animal was being burned, the priest would put some cedar wood, hyssop and
scarlet wool on the fire. This would mix in with the ashes that fell to the
ground. It is interesting to note the requirements of God for the cleansing of
a disease of the skin in Leviticus 14:1-4:
(1) The LORD said to Moses,
(2) “These are the regulations for the diseased person at the time
of his ceremonial cleansing, when he is brought to the priest: (3) The
priest is to go outside the camp and examine him. If the person has been healed
of his infectious skin disease, (4) the priest shall order that two live clean
birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the one to be
the use of cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop. It is obvious from this that
the ashes of the heifer mixed with the cedar, scarlet yard and hyssop were to
be used for the cleansing of an unclean person.
the sacrifice had been made, the priest and the man who burned the heifer were
to wash their clothes and bathe themselves in water to remove any impurities.
They were to remain ceremonially unclean until evening and as such would not be
able perform any more duties until the next day (verses 7-8).
man, who was ceremonially clean, would then gather the ashes that remained
after the animal had been completely burned. These ashes were to be placed in a
ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They would be kept for use in the
water of cleansing. When the man, who had gathered up the ashes, had completed
his task, he was to wash himself and his clothes and, like the other men, was
considered unclean until the evening (verse 10).
focus of Numbers 19 is on the ceremonial cleansing of a person who came into
contact with a dead body. Even an indirect contact with a dead body would make
a person unclean. For example, if a person died in a tent and someone went into
that tent, they would be considered unclean because they had entered the place
where a person had died (verse 14). The law of God stated that even the contents
of an open jar found in a room where a person died was unclean (verse 15). A
person touching a dead body, whether the person had died of natural causes or
in a battle, was unclean.
who touched a human bone or a grave where a dead person was buried needed to
separate themselves from the whole community of Israel for seven days (verses
11, 16). On the third day of separation, the individual was to purify himself
with the water of cleansing (the mixture of the ashes of the red heifer and
water). He was to do the same thing on the seventh day (verse 12). Without this
water of cleansing, the person would not become clean. In fact, if he did not
use this water of cleansing to purify himself, he would be cut off from Israel
learn from verse 17 that the ashes from the red heifer were put in a jar and
fresh water was poured over them. Someone who was ceremonially clean would take
a branch of hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent, its furnishings
and every person who lived in it. He was also to sprinkle the individual who
had been defiled by the dead body (verses 17-18). The unclean person was to be
sprinkled in this manner on the third and the seventh day of his separation.
When the seven-day period of separation was over the individual concerned was
to wash his clothes and wait until the evening when he could be ceremonially
clean again. The person who sprinkled the tent and the unclean person was
himself unclean until the evening.
important for us to note here is that there was a means provided by God for the
cleansing of an individual defiled through the touching of a dead body. An
animal was sacrificed outside the camp to cover this defilement. Because there
was provision made for the cleansing of this defilement, God expected His
people to take advantage of this to live lives that were pure and undefiled
are many things that can defile us in our day. We can speak hurtful words that
defile our mouths. We can think sinful thoughts that defile our minds. We can
do sinful things that defile our hands. We can watch things that defile our
eyes. There is a provision made for these defilements. The Lord Jesus died
outside the camp and His blood is sufficient to cleanse us from the daily
defilements of life. How important it is that we walk daily in the cleansing He
provides. Each day we need to trust in His sacrifice to cover our defilements.
It is by means of His blood that we can walk each day in purity and holiness
before the Father, cleansed of all our defilements and sins.
How is the red heifer,
offered in this chapter, a picture of Jesus and His work for us?
What kinds of things defile
How important was it for
the children of Israel to take advantage of the provision of God for their
Do you know people who have
turned their backs on the forgiveness of the Lord? What keeps them from
accepting His cleansing?
Thank the Lord for the fact
that He has provided for your cleansing.
Ask the Lord to help you to
live in His forgiveness and cleansing on a daily basis.
Take a moment to pray for
someone who has not yet accepted the offer of forgiveness through the Lord
Jesus. Ask God to open their hearts to receive His forgiveness and cleansing.
are times in our life when it seems that everything is going wrong. Sometimes
all these things seem to come at once. Numbers 20 speaks of such a time in the
life of Moses. Even as the chosen servant of God, he was not free from pain and
regret in life.
20 begins with the sad news of Miriam’s death. Miriam was the sister of
Moses and a very important female leader in Israel. This would have been a very
sad occasion for both Moses and his brother Aaron.
time of Miriam’s death the nation was in the Desert of Zin in the region
of Kadesh. Verse 2 tells us that there was no water in that region and the
community gathered “in opposition to Moses and Aaron” (verse 2).
This would have made their grieving for Miriam even worse.
in verse 3 that the people “quarrelled” with Moses. They were angry
with him for leading them into a region where there was no water. In fact, they
told Moses that they would prefer to be dead like their brothers rather than to
be in this place without water. The reference to their dead brothers is likely
a reference to the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Numbers 16. After
Korah and his followers revolted against Moses, the Lord opened up the ground
and swallowed them alive. The people who came to Moses that day were openly
defying God. They came in rebellion against the leadership of Moses just as
their brothers who had been killed by God, only they didn’t care whether
they died or not. In fact, they almost dared God to take their lives because
they detested their circumstances and did not like where He had led them.
in verses 4-5 that the people questioned why Moses had brought them out of
Egypt only to die in the desert. They described the place where God had led
them as a “terrible place” (verse 5, NIV). It was a place where
there was no grain, grapevines or pomegranates and certainly no water to drink.
They hated this place.
the death of Miriam, the grumbling and rebellion of the people would have been
particularly difficult for Moses. As he usually did, Moses went to the Lord to
seek His wisdom. Where would we be if we could not, like Moses, go to the Lord
for wisdom? Notice that when Moses went to the Lord, the Lord appeared to him
and told him what he was to do (verse 6). All too often we try to bear our
burdens alone. We try to figure things out in our own wisdom. Moses knew his
wisdom was insufficient and chose to go to the Lord. God met him and counselled
him. He will do the same for us if we wait on Him and seek His wisdom.
solution to the problem the people were facing was really quite simple, but it
was not a solution that would ever have been discovered by human wisdom. The
Lord told Moses to take his staff and assemble the people before a certain
rock. Moses was to speak to the rock in front of the people and God promised
that when he did, water would pour out from the rock and provide all the people
and their livestock could drink.
obedience to the Lord, Moses called the people to assemble before the rock in
Meribah. When everyone had gathered, Moses addressed them: “Listen,
you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Notice two things
about these words of Moses in verse 10.
Moses calls the people rebels. He was angry with the people for their rebellion
against God. The people did not want God’s plan for them. They were
wandering in the desert because they had refused to take the land God had
promised them. They were grumbling against the leaders God had given them. They
longed to be back in the land of Egypt. These things angered Moses and so he
spoke of his people as rebels against God.
second, that Moses asked the people if he would have to bring water out of the
rock for them to drink. In saying this, Moses seems to be reminding the people
that the Lord God they served was fully able to provide their needs. He had
given them manna each day. He had delivered them from their enemies. He could
now even bring enough water out of a rock to quench the thirst of every person
and animal in the entire nation. God was the God of the impossible. Nothing was
too difficult for him. Moses was going to show his people just what God could
verse 11, Moses raised his arm and struck the rock two times with his staff and
water gushed out. The whole community and their animals drank. This was a
tremendous blessing for the nation, but by striking the rock instead of
speaking to it, Moses had disobeyed the Lord’s direct command. This
angered God, and Moses and Aaron would suffer the consequences of their
disobedience. God told them in verse 12 that because they did not trust Him
enough to honour Him as holy before the Israelites, they would not bring the
nation into the Promised Land.
only imagine what this must have been like for Moses and Aaron. They would die
in the wilderness without ever stepping foot inside the land God had promised His
people. They would not see their people settle in the land of Canaan. They
would live out their days leading the people of God in the wilderness. We all
want to be able to see the fruit of our labours. Imagine working all your life
and never seeing the fulfilment of your dream. Imagine working for over forty
years on a project and not seeing it completed. Imagine knowing that your whole
ministry would be spent in a desert wasteland. This is what the Lord was
telling Moses would happen to him because he had not honoured Him before the
people that day.
in this chapter, we have seen how Moses had lost his sister, had to deal with
the rebellion of the whole nation against his leadership, and now God told him
that he would live out his days in the barren wilderness and never physically
enter the land God had promised his fathers. This would have caused any normal
person to give up and walk away. Moses does not do this. He continues to serve
faithfully despite these tremendous discouragements.
problems did not end there. In verses 14-21, Moses sent a message to the king
of Edom requesting permission for his people to pass through their territory.
He promised the king that they would simply pass through the land but they
would not drink water from their wells or go through their vineyards (verse
17). Their intention was simply to pass through the land. Moses also reminded
the king of how difficult things had been from them in Egypt but the Lord had
sent His angel to deliver them (verse 15).
king of Edom responded harshly toward Moses, telling him that if he passed
through his land, he would attack them with his army (verse 18). When Israel
heard this response they told the king of Edom that if their animals even drank
water from their land they would pay for it. They only wanted to pass through
their land and nothing else (verse 19). The Edomites again refused to let the
Israelites pass through their land. This time, to make sure the Israelites
understood that they were serious, they sent out their powerful army against
them; forcing Israel to turn away and go around their territory (verse 21).
interesting to note here is that the God who brought water out of the rock
refused to give them favour with the Edomites or victory over their army. While
Moses and the Israelites wanted to pass through this territory, the Lord had a
different plan. There are times when we make our own decisions and expect the
Lord will bless what we have decided. There was no question that the Lord could
have given the Israelites victory over the Edomites. He could have miraculously
defeated Edom’s powerful army and demonstrated His strength and mercy
toward His people. This was not his purpose. The unbelieving Edomites would
watch God’s people retreat and go deeper into the desert. There are times
when we will have to retreat.
led his unhappy people into the wilderness. This would be a tremendous
challenge for him. They had already been complaining about his leadership and
this would certainly not make things any easier.
set out from Kadesh and headed eastward toward Mount Hor (verse 22). When they
arrived in Mount Hor, the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron. That day, he told them
that Aaron would die. Notice that the reason Aaron would die was because of his
part in what had happened at Meribah when Moses struck the rock twice (verse
24). They were to take Aaron’s son Eleazar and go up Mount Hor. Moses was
then to take Aaron’s priestly garments and put them on his son Eleazar
who would take his place in the service of the Lord (verse 26).
obeyed the Lord and the three men went up the mountain in the sight of all the
people. There Moses put the priestly garments on Eleazar, and Aaron died. It
appears that they left Aaron on the mountain and Moses and Eleazar returned
alone. When the people of Israel heard that Aaron had died, they mourned for
him for thirty days (verse 29).
what Moses has been going through in these days. He has lost his sister. As he
mourned for the death of his sister, the whole community of Israel turned
against him, telling him that they would rather see God strike them dead than
continue under his leadership. On top of that, God told Moses that he would not
let him go into the Promised Land but that the rest of his ministry would be in
the desert with a grumbling people. This was due to a failure on the part of
Moses to honour God before the people. If you ever experienced public failure
you know something of how humbling this can be. The king of Edom refused to
give them any support or encouragement and stood against them, forcing the
people to detour into the desert. Moses is forced to walk away in what may have
seemed to be defeat. Now on top of this, the Lord took Aaron, his brother,
co-worker and faithful companion of many years. These were difficult days for
Moses. Many lesser men would have given up. Moses, however, continued to walk
faithfully and humbly before his God. He is a powerful example for us in the
trials we face in our day.
Consider the response of
the people in this passage to the difficulties they were facing. Compare their
reaction to that of Moses. What is the difference?
Moses was guilty of not
following the Lord’s instructions completely. This led to God’s
refusal to allow him to enter the Promised Land. What does this teach us about
the importance of walking in complete obedience to the Lord?
disobedience, the Lord still provided water for His people. What does this
teach us about the mercy and compassion of the Lord?
Does God promise that
things will always be easy for us? How do you respond when things are
difficult? How is Moses’ example an encouragement to you?
Have you ever found
yourself asking God to bless your plans and agendas instead of asking Him to lead
you in His? Explain.
Ask the Lord to help you to
walk faithfully with Him even when things are difficult.
Confess to the Lord the
times when you have not always listened to Him and have chosen to walk in your
own way. Ask Him to help you to walk in complete obedience.
Thank the Lord that despite
the fact that we have often failed Him, He still blesses us despite the
consequences of our sin.
Israel’s presence in the desert spread. The people of the region saw them
as a threat and took an active stand against them. We have an example of this
in verse 1. When the king of Arad heard that Israel was in his region, he
attacked and was successful in capturing some of them.
attack caused the people to cry out to the Lord. That day, they made a vow to
Him saying that if He gave them victory over Arad and his people, they would
completely destroy their cities. God heard their cry and gave them the victory
they sought. Israel was faithful to their promise and destroyed the people and
their town. The place where Israel won this battle would become known as Hormah
which means “destruction.”
interesting to note that the attack of Arad caused God’s people to turn
to Him. God was pleased to show His power through His people that day and give
them the victory. Sometimes God needs to allow problems to come our way before
we seek Him and His victory. God’s people saw evidence of the power of
God at work. This was a foretaste of the great things He would continue to do
that victory over King Arad, the Lord led His people along the route to the Red
Sea. Notice that it was God’s purpose that Israel travel around Edom
(verse 4). God gave His people victory over Arad but did not want them to fight
Edom. We cannot assume that we know God’s purpose. We need to seek His
direction for each new situation we encounter.
also in verses 4-5 that the people of Israel grew “impatient on the
way.” This impatience revealed itself in their speaking out against
Moses. What is important for us to note is that not only was it important for
the people of God to see Him for each situation they encountered on their way
through the desert, but it was also important for them to wait on God’s
timing. Here in this verse, we see that the people of God were following the
leading of the Lord but they were not happy with His timing. How easy it is for
us to fall into this same trap.
seek to walk with the Lord, we must be careful not only to follow His direction
but also submit to His timing. While Israel was going in the direction the Lord
wanted them to go they failed because they were not willing to wait on Him for
His timing. All too many servants of God become impatient with the Lord’s
timing and fail to experience the fullness of His blessing. Often their impatience
will cause them to move from God’s purpose and seek their own solution.
see from the context of this chapter, Israel’s impatience caused her to
become bitter with the Lord and Moses, His servant. In verse 5, they grumbled
against Him and expressed their discontent by speaking out against both God and
Why have you brought us up out of
Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest
this miserable food!
should have known better than to grumble and speak out against the Lord and His
servant. They had seen the Lord’s judgement in previous times against
this particular sin. Their impatience, however, caused them not to care about
this judgement. In their impatience, they carelessly risked their lives.
response to the complaints of God’s people, the Lord sent poisonous
snakes into their camp. These snakes bit the people and many of them died.
Seeing what was happening, the people cried out to God confessing their sin and
pleading with Him to take away the snakes. It is significant that the people
notice that the presence of these snakes was actually in punishment for their
sin. Their eyes were at least open to the fact that they were being punished.
The people knew that these snakes were from the Lord.
prayed to the Lord for the people and the Lord told him what he was to do. He
commanded Moses to make a snake from bronze and put in on a pole. Anyone who
had been bitten and looked up to that pole would live (verse 8-9). It is
interesting that these snakes represented the judgement of God on His people. A
snake, as a symbol of God’s judgement was to be lifted up on a pole so
that anyone who looked to it would be healed and live. This is in reality a
wonderful picture of what the Lord Jesus did for us. He took our judgement on Himself.
He was lifted up on a pole (cross) carrying our sins and died so that anyone
who looked to Him could be saved. In John 3:14-15, Jesus compared his
crucifixion to the snake that Moses lifted up that day in the wilderness:
(14) Just as Moses lifted up
the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, (15) that
everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
many did die as a result of these snakes, those who looked to the snake on the
pole were healed and experienced the forgiveness of the Lord.
His people from that place northward. They camped at Oboth, Iye Abarim and the
Zered Valley as they moved northward toward the territory of the Moabites and
the Amorites to the southeast of the land God had promised them. A record of
this route was found in a book called the Book of the Wars of the Lord (verse
14). While this book was not part of Israel’s Scriptures, it was
obviously a reliable source of information on this account.
Valley of Zered, God led His people to the region of Beer where He provided
them water to drink (verse 16). It appears that Israel was quite content to
find water and so they sang a song about it. Notice that the song tells us in
verse 18 that the princes and nobles dug this well with sceptres and staffs. We
don’t have any clear indication as to why this well was dug with sceptre
and staffs, but it may be an indication of how easy it was to find water in
that region. Those digging did not have to use shovels but were able to find
the water close to the surface by uncovering it with their staffs. This was
indeed a real blessing from the Lord.
the region of Beer, the Israelites continued to travel northward through the
desert and the regions of Mattanah and Hahaliel, finally arriving at Bamoth in
the valley of Moab. From there, they could see the top of Mount Pisgah on the
eastern side of the Jordan River across from the city of Jericho (verses
19-20). They were now approaching the region of the Amorites under the
leadership of King Sihon.
arrived in the region of the Amorites, Israel sent messengers to their king
asking permission to pass through his country. They promised that they would
not take or eat anything from the fields or vines in his country as they passed
through nor would they drink water from any well. They were simply passing
through his country by way of the king’s highway northward (verses
King Sihon heard that Israel wanted to pass through his land he gathered his army
and marched out against them (verse 23). A battle took place in the
region of Jahaz. That day, the Lord gave victory to Israel and they defeated
Sihon and his army and took control of a territory from the Arnon River to the
River Jabbok (a piece of land about 80 kilometres or 50 miles north to south on
the east side of the Jordan River). Israel captured all the cities of the
Amorites and their surrounding settlements. They put King Sihon to death and
occupied the city of Heshbon where he had lived.
should be noted that Sihon had fought against the nation of Moab (to the south)
and had successfully taken this piece of land for his own people (see verse
26). A poem was written about the victory of Sihon over the king of Moab. That
poem is recorded in verses 27-30
Heshbon and let it be rebuilt;
let Sihon's city be restored.
Fire went out from Heshbon,
a blaze from the city of Sihon.
It consumed Ar of Moab,
the citizens of Arnon's heights.
Woe to you, O Moab!
You are destroyed, O people of Chemosh!
He has given up his sons as fugitives
and his daughters as captives
to Sihon king of the Amorites.
But we have overthrown them;
Heshbon is destroyed all the way to Dibon.
We have demolished them as far as Nophah,
which extends to Medeba.
poem was written to honour King Sihon and his great victory over Moab. It
speaks of how Sihon went out like a great fire and consumed Moab, destroying
the people who worshipped the god Chemosh. He took their sons and daughters
captive and overthrew the king of Moab demolishing any resistance and taking
over his land. It was this great king, of whom songs were written, that Israel
conquered that day. God gave them victory not over an insignificant king but
one who had already demonstrated his power and might in that region.
also gave Israel victory over the Amorites who lived in the region of Jazer
(verse 32). They continued northward toward the region of Bashan. When Og, the
king of Bashan, heard that Israel was marching toward his land he sent out his
army against them as well. He reached them in region of Edrei (verse 33).
promised Moses that He would give Israel victory over Og and his army. Israel
was to do to Og what he had done to Sihon, completely destroying him (verse
34). By completely destroying this people, they would not be a temptation to
Israel. Verse 35 tells us that Israel obeyed the Lord in this matter and struck
down the army of Og, leaving no survivors. They then took possession of his
land extending the territory they controlled possibly another 80 kilometres (50
miles) northward on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
In this chapter, we see how
the Lord God gave His people victory over three nations (Arad, Amorites, and
Bashan). On each occasion it was the will of the Lord that the Israelites
completely destroy these nations. Why do you suppose it was so important for
Israel to completely destroy their enemies?
How important is it that we
seek complete victory over our sin and its strongholds in our lives? Is God
willing to give you more victory than you have right now?
We learn in this passage
that not only is it important that we follow the direction of the Lord but also
that we learn to wait on His timing. Have you ever become impatient as you
waited on the Lord? What is the temptation when we become impatient?
How was the bronze snake
Moses put on the pole a symbol of the Lord Jesus and His work?
Ask the Lord to show you if
there are areas in your life where you need further victory. Ask Him to give
you that victory.
Ask the Lord to give you
more patience as you wait on His timing in your life.
Thank the Lord that He took
our judgement on Himself and went to the cross so that we could be forgiven and
healed from the consequences of sin.
Israelites continued their journey on the eastern side of the Jordan River
where they camped just across the Jordan from Jericho in the plains of Moab
(verse 1). Their presence did not go unnoticed by Balak the king of Moab. He
had seen how Israel had defeated the Amorites and was very afraid. It should be
remembered that the Amorite king Sihon had defeated Moab and taken their land.
Now that Israel had defeated Sihon, Balak had cause for fear. In fact, we read
in verse 3 that the whole nation of Moab was afraid because of the presence of
Israel in their midst. They feared that Israel was going to gobble them up like
an ox eating grass. They knew they would not be able to stand against the
Israelites and feared that they would lose their land and their lives. The
people of Moab expressed this fear to their leaders (verse 4)
Balak believed he could not fight the Israelites and win. He had seen how they
had destroyed their enemy, the Amorites and did not want to engage them in
battle. He decided, therefore, to take another path. He sent messengers to a
pagan prophet by the name of Balaam who lived in the region of Pethor. He told
his messengers to tell Balaam that a people had come out of Egypt and had
settled next to him. He wanted Balaam to come and curse the people because they
were too powerful for him to defeat. Verse 6 tells us that the reasoning behind
putting a curse on the people of Israel was to gain an advantage over them so
that Balak could drive them out of the country. Balak shows his confidence in
Balaam’s spiritual powers when he told him: “For I know that those
you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.”
Balaam was a well-known and respected prophet in the region. As a prophet or
holy man, he had likely been hired to pronounce blessings or put curses on a
number of people. He had obviously gained a reputation in the region for his
in verse 7 that the elders of Moab and the region of Midian went to find Balaam
and brought with them “the fee for divination.” We should notice
two things here. First, Balaam made his money by blessing or cursing people.
Second, the term “divination” shows us the nature of what Balaam
did. Throughout the Old Testament the word is connected with witchcraft,
sorcery and magic. In fact, in Leviticus 19:26, God gave strict orders not to
practice divination. We see from this, therefore, that Balaam made his money by
practicing something that God strictly forbade in His law.
the messengers arrived and brought the message from King Balak, Balaam told
them that he would consult the Lord, bring them back and answer (verse 8).
While it was likely that Balaam had consulted many different gods in his career
as a diviner, it is interesting to note that he chooses to consult the God of
the nation he was going to curse before responding to King Balak’s
Balaam was not a true prophet of the Lord, the Lord did appear to him. God was
certainly concerned about His people and what King Balak intended to do to
them. When He appeared to Balaam, God asked Him what these men had come to him
about (verse 9). Balaam explained that Balak had asked him to curse the
Israelites so he would be able to drive them away (verse 11). God told Balaam
that he was not to go with Balak’s messengers or put a curse on Israel.
Balaam listened to the Lord God and the next morning told Balak’s
messengers that he would not return with them to the king (verse 13). The men
returned to King Balak with Balaam’s response (verse 14).
was not happy with Balaam’s refusal and sent a larger and more
distinguished group of princes and leaders to see him again. These
distinguished messengers showed Balaam just how important it was that he return
with the king. The security of the nation of Moab was at stake. King Balak told
Balaam that he was not to let anything keep him from coming to him. He promised
that he would pay him very well for his services (verses 15-17). King Balak
stood against the Lord God of Israel in this statement. It was the Lord who
told Balaam not to return. The king is literally telling Balaam to ignore the
word of the Lord and come anyway.
the response of Balaam to this important delegation that had been sent to him.
In verse 18, he told them that even if King Balak gave him his palace filled
with gold and silver he would not to anything contrary to the command of the
Lord God. He asked the messengers to stay there that night until he could again
consult the Lord (verse 19).
night, the Lord God appeared again to Balaam. This time God told him that he
was to go with them but he was to be careful only to do what the Lord told him
to do. Notice the words of the Lord here, “Since these men have come to
summon you, go.” We get the impression that it was because of King
Balak’s insistence that God allowed Balaam to go. There are times God
will give us what we insist on having. He gave Israel an earthly king when He
wanted to be their King Himself. He did this after they insisted that they
needed to have a king like the rest of the nations. He allowed His people to
reject Him as King and gave them what they asked for, but Israel paid the price
for their rebellion. King Balak would receive what he asked for, but things
would not turn out the way he expected.
morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the messengers from Moab
(verse 21). Notice, however, in verse 22 that the Lord was very angry when he
went and sent an angel to oppose him. We are left to wonder why the Lord was
angry. One thing is sure, while God allowed Balaam to go, He was not pleased
with the reason King Balak had called for him. God did not make the way easy
for Balaam and the king’s servants as they returned. The Lord sent an
angel to “oppose him.” The opposition here was not because God had
changed His mind but because he wanted to teach Balaam a lesson.
was riding his donkey. The angel of the Lord stood in the road with a sword in
his hand. When the donkey saw the angel, it turned off the road and went into
the field. Balaam did not see the angel and was angered because his donkey had
strayed from the path. He beat her to get her back on the road (verse 23).
angel then moved from that place to a narrow path between two vineyards with
walls on both sides. As Balaam and his donkey continued their route, they
arrived at this second place where the angel of the Lord stood. Again Balaam
did not see the angel but the donkey did. This time, to avoid the angel of the
Lord, the donkey pressed close to the wall crushing Balaam’s foot. Again
Balaam became very angry with the donkey and beat her (verses 24-25).
As he did
the first time, the angel of the Lord moved again to another location farther
down the road. This time the angel stood in a very narrow place where there was
no room for the donkey to turn off the road or to get around him (verse 26).
When Balaam and the donkey arrived at this third location the donkey saw that
there was no way of getting around the angel so she lay down on the road and
refused to move forward. Again Balaam did not see the angel of the Lord and
became very angry with the donkey. For the third time he beat her with his
interesting to note that as a prophet and diviner, Balaam did not see the
angel. It is also interesting to note that he did not read anything from the
fact that the donkey had turned from the path and now was refusing to move
forward. As a diviner, he interpreted strange events and occurrences but here
for some reason his eyes were closed and he could not see any significance to
what the donkey had been doing.
made things clearer to Balaam in verse 28 by opening the mouth of his donkey so
that she spoke to him. The donkey asked Balaam why he had beaten her these
three times. Balaam told her that it was because she had made a fool of him and
if he had a sword he would have killed her (verse 29). Verse 21 tells us that
Balaam was travelling with the princes of Moab. He also had some servants with
him. It may be that Balaam was quite embarrassed before these important
officials by the behaviour of his donkey.
verse 30, the donkey asked Balaam if she had ever behaved this way before.
Balaam knew that his donkey usually was a well behaved donkey and responded by
saying, “No.” This would have given Balaam occasion to think. Why
had the donkey been acting so strangely? What did all of this mean as he
embarked on this journey to Moab?
Balaam reflected on these things, the Lord opened his eyes so he could see the
angel of the Lord standing on the road with his sword drawn. When he saw this,
he fell face down before the angel (verse 31).
Balaam lay face down on the ground, the angel of the Lord spoke to him. He
asked him why he had beaten his donkey those three times. The angel told Balaam
that he had come to oppose him because the path he was on was a “reckless
one.” The angel went on to tell Balaam that the donkey had actually saved
his life because if she had approached the angel, Balaam would have been killed.
When Balaam heard this, he confessed that he had sinned because he did not know
the angel had been in the road opposing him. He told the angel that if he was
displeased with his path, he would even now return home (verse 34).
are some very important details we need to see here in these verses. Notice
that the angel opposed Balaam. Balaam had left, according to verse 20, with the
Lord’s permission and direction. God told him to go with the princes of
Moab. Balaam had made it quite clear to them in verse 18 that he would not go
with them unless the Lord made it clear that this is what he was to do. Even in
verse 34, when his eyes were opened to see the angel opposing him, he told the
Lord that he would return to his home without going to see King Balak; if this
is what he was asking him to do. The angel of the Lord, however, told Balaam
that he was to continue his path but only speak what God told him to speak.
From this, we understand that Balaam was following what he knew to be the will
of the Lord by going to see King Balak. The question we need to answer here is
why then did the angel of the Lord oppose him?
have suggested that it was because Balaam was greedy or because he secretly
wanted to curse the Israelites. This does not seem to be the case as Balaam had
clearly refused the messengers who came the first time and told the second
group that even if the king offered them his palace filled with gold and silver
he would not go unless the Lord God told him to go. After meeting the angel of
the Lord, Balaam seemed to be quite willing to return to his home and not
follow the leaders of Moab. This indicates that he wanted to do what God told
him to do and was not rebelliously going to Moab because of any secret desire
to curse God’s people.
opposition from the angel of the Lord and the incident with the donkey seem to
be God’s way of reminding and warning Balaam of the dangerous path he was
on. King Balak was expecting him to stand against God and his people. Balak
would offer Balaam great riches and wealth if he would curse the Israelites.
Balaam would have a place of honour in Moab if he obeyed the king and Israel
was successfully driven out of the land. There would be great temptations ahead
for Balaam. If he gave in to those temptations, he would face the anger of the
angel of the Lord who opposed him.
God calls us into dangerous situations. This is the nature of spiritual battle.
There are times when we will have to face serious temptations in life. In these
times, we are going to have to be very strong and cling to the Lord and His
Word. Sometimes we will have to tread on Satan’s territory and we will
face his opposition and temptations. Balaam was going into enemy territory. We
can be sure that Satan was very much aware of King Balak’s desire to
curse the people of Israel. He would do his utmost to bring that about.
times of temptation and difficulty, many have fallen. We see David standing on
the balcony of his palace looking down at Bathsheba and lusting after her. We
see Peter denying Jesus before the group warming themselves at the fire during
Jesus’ trial. These men faced serious temptation and dishonoured their
Lord by falling. God was sending Balaam into the midst of a great spiritual
battle and the temptations would be great. God did not send His angel to keep
Balaam from going to Moab but to warn him of the seriousness of not doing and
saying exactly what God gave him to say.
Balak was very happy to hear that Balaam had agreed to come to see him. In
fact, he was so happy to see him that he went out to meet him. This was not the
usual behaviour for a king. Generally the person invited would meet the king on
his own terms. Balak does not wait for Balaam to come to him. He goes out to
meet him personally at the border of his territory.
that Balak questions Balaam about why it took him so long to come to him and
why he had refused to come the first time. It appears from this that King Balak
is very worried about the presence of Israel. Notice also that Balak reminds
Balaam that he was able to reward him for his work. Balaam would receive a very
rich reward for his services in cursing the people of Israel. This would be a
temptation for many to compromise, but Balaam makes it quite clear to the king
that he could only speak what the Lord put on his mouth to speak (verse 38).
day, Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep and gave the meat to Balaam and those who
had been travelling with him. They would obviously be hungry from their trip.
The next morning, Balak took Balaam to the region of Bamoth Baal where he could
see part of the nation of Israel camped in the distance (verse s 40-41). The
test of whether Balaam would obey the Lord was about to take place.
Notice Moab’s fear of
the people of God when they recognized that the favour of God was on them. Do
people see the favour of God on you today? Is there evidence that God is with
Balaam sought the
Lord’s will before going with the messengers from Moab. Do you seek the
will of the Lord in what you do? How easy is it for us to do what will work
best for us without seeking the Lord’s will?
Did Balaam disobey the Lord
by going with King Balak’s messengers? Why did the angel of the Lord
What are the temptations
you face in your life and ministry?
Thank the Lord that He
loves you and has forgiven your sin. Ask Him to enable you to demonstrate His
love and power through your life.
Are you where God wants you
to be? Ask the Lord to show you His clear purpose for your life. Ask Him to
help you to walk faithfully in that purpose.
Ask the Lord to show you
the areas where you have been compromised in your walk with Him and in your
ministry. Ask Him to give you victory over the temptations you face so that you
can be a faithful servant.
was now with King Balak of Moab. He had been invited to curse the nation of
Israel. It was Balak’s hope that if Balaam cursed Israel, he would be
able to drive them away from his country.
Numbers 22:41, King Balak took Balaam to the region of Bamoth Baal. The name
literally means “the high places of Baal.” Balak takes Balaam into
a place obviously known for its worship of the god Baal.
they arrived in Bamoth Baal, Balaam asked King Balak to build him seven altars
and prepare a bull and a ram for each altar. When sacrifices were also offered
in the worship of God, they were done only by the priest. The sacrifice offered
here was not in accordance with the Law of Moses but was likely intended to
gain some favour with God.
the rams and the bulls had been offered to the Lord, Balaam told King Balak to
remain beside the offerings while he went to meet with the Lord. He told the
king that he would tell him whatever the God of Israel revealed to him. Balaam
then left the king and went off to a barren place to see what God would tell
him (verse 3).
meet with Balaam. In verse 4, Balaam told the Lord that he had prepared seven
altars for Him and he had offered a bull and a ram on each one. While we have
no record of God saying anything about the offerings, He did give Balaam a
message for the king (verse 5).
Balaam returned to the king, who was waiting with his officials by the altars,
Balaam opened his mouth and spoke what the Lord had given him. We have a record
of this in verses 7-10. In these verses, Balaam speaks of how King Balak had
brought him from his place in Aram to curse the people of Israel. Balaam told
King Balak and his officials that day that he could not curse those whom God
had not cursed (verse 8). In fact, Israel was blessed by God in number and
their end would be glorious. Balaam only wished that his life would end with
the blessing God’s people would experience (verse 10).
these were not the words that King Balak and his officials wanted to hear.
Balak was angry with Balaam, telling him that he had brought him to Moab so he
could curse his enemies but he had only blessed them. Balaam reminded the king,
however, that he could only speak what the Lord gave him to speak.
Balak decided to take Balaam to another place where he would only see part of
the nation of Israel. He took him to the field of Zophim on top of Mount
Pisgah. There they built another seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on
each of them as before (verses 13-14).
did the first time, Balaam told the king and his officials to remain beside the
altar while he went to meet with the Lord God. For the second time, God gave
Balaam a message to bring back to the king. When Balaam returned, Balak was
anxious to hear what the Lord had said this time.
answer is found in verses 18-24. In these verses, Balaam told King Balak that
the Lord God did not lie or change His mind (verse 18). He had received a
command to bless Israel and he could not change that (verse 20). There was no
misfortune seen for Israel. Their God was with them (verse 21). He had brought
them out of Egypt and made them as strong as a wild ox (verse 22). There would
be no sorcery against them (verse 23). In fact, as a people they were like a
lioness who would wake up and hunt down it prey until she had completely
devoured them (verse 24).
again Balak is frustrated with Balaam. Balaam remains firm, however, and
reminded the king that he would only speak what the Lord God told him to speak
Balak was not willing to give up. He decided that he would take Balaam to a
third location. This location was on the top of Mount Peor and overlooked a
wasteland (verse 28). Obviously, the king believed that if he could get the
circumstances right, God would give Balaam another message. He was hoping that
seeing the wasteland would inspire Balaam to bring a curse on Israel.
third time seven altars were built and another seven rams and bulls were
offered on those altars (verses 29-30). This time, however, Balaam did not go
aside to consult the Lord. Notice in Numbers 24:1 that he did not resort to
sorcery as he had done the other times when he spoke to the Lord. We are not
told what Balaam did or what the nature of that sorcery was but it is
astonishing that the Lord seemed to overlook those things to communicate His
message to Balaam.
time Balaam turned his face toward the desert and tribes of Israel camped
there. As he looked out over them the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke to
Balak for the third time. He reminded King Balak that as a prophet he could see
clearly the purpose of the Lord for His people (verses 3-4). They were a
beautiful people blessed of God. They spread out like fertile valleys and well-watered
gardens planted by the Lord (verse 5-6). Their king would be greater than King
Agag (a well-known and powerful Amalekite king) and the nation of Israel would
be exalted (verse 7). The God of Israel had brought them out of Egypt and He
had given them the strength of an ox. They would devour nations, breaking their
bones in pieces and pierce them with their arrows (verse 8). Balaam compared
Israel to a sleeping lion. Whoever dared to wake such a lion would suffer the
consequences. Anyone who blessed Israel would be blessed but anyone who cursed
them would themselves be cursed (verse 9).
heard these words of Balaam, King Balak was very angry with him. Striking his
hands together in anger, Balak reminded Balaam that he had asked him to curse
his enemy but he had blessed them three times. He told him to leave, reminding
him that the Lord had kept him from receiving the rich reward he was going to
give him for cursing Israel. Balaam, reminded the king, however, that he had
already told his messengers that even if the king had offered him his palace
filled with gold and silver he would not speak contrary the command of the
Lord. He could only speak what God had given him to speak (23:12-13). Before
leaving the king, however, Balaam prophesied to him about what the Israelites
would do to him in the days to come. In this prophecy, he also has words to
speak to a number of nations in that region. Let’s take a look at this
prophecy as recorded in verses 15-24.
about Moab (24:15-17)
verses 15-17, Balaam spoke to King Balak and told him what would happen to his
nation in the future. He began by reminding the king that as a prophet he saw
these things clearly (verse 15-16). Notice in verse 17 that the prophecy would
not be fulfilled for some time. The time was coming when a “star” or
“sceptre” would come out of Jacob and crush the foreheads of Moab
and the skulls of the sons of Sheth (believed to be a Moabite leader). In other
words, a great leader would come from Israel and conquer the nation of Moab.
Throughout the history of Israel in the Old Testament there would be war
between Israel and Moab. God promised, however, that His people would one day
about Edom (24:18-19)
about the nation of Edom (the descendants of Esau), Balaak prophesied that they
would be conquered, while Israel would grow stronger. A ruler would come out of
Israel and destroy the survivors of their city. We read in 2 Samuel 8:14 that
King David would eventually bring Edom into submission:
(13) And David became famous
after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley
of Salt. (14) He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites
became subject to David. The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.
about Amalek (24:20)
verse 20, Balaam spoke about Amalek the leader of the Amalekites and told him
that while he had occupied an important position among the nations he would
come to ruin. This nation had attacked God’s people as they wandered in
the desert. The Amalekites would be a constant enemy to Israel throughout a
good part of the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 14:47-48 recounts how Saul fought and
defeated the Amalekites. King David also fought against the Amalekites. It
would not be until the reign of Hezekiah however that the Amalekites would be
completely destroyed (see 1 Chronicles 4:41-43) just as Balaam had predicted.
about the Kenites (24:21-22)
prophesied in Numbers 24:21-22 about the Kenite people. He told them that while
their dwelling place was secure and they lived in the rocks, they would be
taken captive by Asshur. Asshur was the son of Shem whose descendant would
become known as the Assyrians. These Assyrians would conquer the Kenites and
take them captive with them back to their nation.
about Asshur (24:23-24)
final prophecy Balaam spoke was about Asshur or the Assyrians who would capture
the Kenites. He prophesied that the day was coming when ships would come from
Kittim (located in the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Greece and Italy.
These ships would subdue Asshur (Assyrians) so that they too would come to
ruin. Historically, the Greeks and the Romans would conquer the Assyrians.
Notice, however, that those nations that destroyed Assyria (Greeks and Romans)
would themselves come to ruin (verse 24).
prophesy predicted the ruin of many nations. These prophecies would come true
just as he predicted. When he had finished speaking, Balaam left King Balak and
returned to his home. He received no payment for his services but he had
faithfully proclaimed the truth that God had given him to speak.
What evidence do we have in
these chapters that Balaam was not familiar with the laws of God? Despite his
lack of understanding and his pagan ways, how does God use him?
Is God restricted to only
using people whose lives are completely in tune with His purposes?
What risk does Balaam take
in speaking only the truth of God’s word to King Balak? What does he
sacrifice for speaking the truth? Are you willing to take such risks and make the
What do Balaam’s
prophecies teach us about how God sees and cares for His people? Were the
Israelites always walking in obedience to the Lord God? How would you describe
their spiritual lives at this time? What does this teach us about God’s
faithfulness despite our unfaithfulness?
Thank the Lord that He is
willing to use us even when our lives are not perfect.
Ask the Lord to give you
more courage to speak and live out His truth in your life, even when it costs
you something to do so.
Thank the Lord for His
wonderful purpose and protection. Thank Him for His mercy and that He continues
to be faithful to us even when we fail Him.
Balaam, the Lord God had promised great blessing for His people. They would
become a powerful nation. Balaam had seen God’s blessing on the
Israelites. It is important that we realize that while the blessing of God was
indeed on His people, they were far from perfect. After the glorious picture of
Israel painted by Balaam we see deeper into the reality of what the nation was
really like in chapter 25.
in the region of Shittim, the Israelite men became involved in sexual
immorality with the Moabite women. These women invited them to make sacrifices
to their gods. As a result, the people of Israel turned from the true God to
eating food sacrificed to idols. It is interesting to note Revelation 2:14 in
this regard. Speaking to the church in Pergamum the Lord Jesus said:
Nevertheless, I have a few things
against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who
taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols
and by committing sexual immorality.
are two important details we need to see from this passage in Revelation.
First, notice that Numbers does not present the whole picture of what Balaam
did. He was not as honest a man as we may have pictured from his story in
Numbers 23-24. Revelation 2:14 tells us that he taught King Balak how to entice
the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and committing sexual
immorality. What was taking place in Israel now was the fruit of Balaam’s
second that Israel, who was blessed by God and about whom Balaam had prophesied
a glorious future, was unworthy of such blessing. As a nation they often fell
into sin and rebellion against God. The blessing of God on their lives was
unmerited. Despite their shortcomings, the Lord God had a wonderful plan for
them. He would be faithful to His promise even when they were unfaithful to Him.
God’s blessing was on the nation, their sin and rebellion did anger Him.
God would judge them severely for turning from Him to worship the Baal of Peor.
In verse 4, the Lord told Moses to kill the leaders who had turned from Him and
expose their dead bodies to the nation in broad daylight (verse 4). These
leaders were turning God’s people from Him. The exposing of their bodies
would be a reminder to the people of their sin and God’s judgement. We
learn also from verse 9 that the Lord sent a plague against His people. While
the leaders were killed by the sword, the people themselves were dying as a
result of the plague. Verse 9 tells us that this plague killed 24,000 people
before it was stopped.
great judgement of God brought the people to their knees. In verse 6, they
gathered at the entrance to the tabernacle and wept. As they grieved over the
judgement of God for their sin, an Israelite, by the name of Zimri took a
Midianite woman and brought her into his tent (likely to have a sexual relation
with her). The context tells us that he did this in front of Moses and the
assembly that had gathered that day. Zimri was the head of the Simeonite family
(verse 14). He was an important leader in the nation. As leader, he should have
been with the people of God seeking forgiveness, but he chose to openly defy
the Lord. The Midianite woman he was with that day was Cozbi, the daughter of a
Midianite tribal chief. She too was a person of influence.
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, saw what Zimri and Cozbi were doing,
he followed them into the tent. He then drove the spear through Zimri and into
Cozbi’s body, killing them both (verse 7). His action stopped the plague
against Israel and appeased the wrath of God (verses 8-9). We should note that
killing these two individuals would not be a simple matter. Phinehas was
killing a tribal leader in Israel and the daughter of a tribal leader in
Midian. He did not know what the consequences would be, but he knew that they
were openly defying the Lord God and needed to be stopped.
pleased with Phinehas. He saw how zealous he was for the glory of God and
promised that His peace would be on him and his family. The actions of Phinehas
actually saved the nation from greater destruction. Who knows how many more
people would have died had Phinehas not acted for the glory of God in this
one thing for us to grieve over the judgement of God and quite another to do
something about it. As Israel grieved, the sin and immorality continued in
their camp, driving away the presence of God and continuing to stir up His
anger. Something needed to be done to stop the sin. Phinehas not only grieved about
the evil in the camp, he took action to stop it. There are times when we need
to do more than just repent and grieve over the condition of our nation.
Sometimes God calls us to do something to stop the things that grieve His
uncertain what the response of Cozbi’s father, the tribal leader of
Midian was to Phinehas. It is interesting to note, however, that the Lord told
Moses that Israel was to treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. They
had deceived and mislead Israel into sin (verses 16-18). Israel was to
completely cut off all ties with the Midianites, treat them as enemies and
destroy them because they had been turning them away from their God.
the plague had stopped, the Lord asked Moses and Eleazar the priest to take a
census of all the Israelite families. They were to count those who were twenty
years old and older (26:1-4). This is now the second census Moses took. The
first census was in Numbers 1 when the people began their journey. Notice what
this second census revealed.
descendants were lost when the earth swallowed them (see Numbers 16)
had no sons so his daughters are listed in verse 33
the descendants of Dan numbered were from one clan (the Shuhamites)
the number of men 20 years and older had declined by 1,820 over their years of
wandering in the desert. Much of this had to do with the judgement of God on
them for their sin and rebellion.
census of men over twenty years of age was to determine how many men were able
to fight for Israel. God was going to take His people across the Jordan into
the land He had promised and so these men were counted and made ready for the
battles that would be coming. God told Moses in verses 52-56 that when He took
the people across the Jordan to conquer the land of Canaan, the territory would
be given to each tribe based on this census. The larger tribes would receive a
larger portion and the smaller tribes would receive a smaller piece of land.
Levites were counted separate from the rest of the people because they were not
to be part of the army. They were to devote themselves to the service of the
Lord at the tabernacle. When a census was taken of the Levites every male one
month of age and older was numbered (as opposed to 20 years old for the rest of
the tribes). The total number of Levites counted at that time was 23,000 (verse
the punishments God imposed on His people was that not one of them aged twenty and
up would ever see the land He had promised their fathers (see Numbers
14:20-23). When the census was completed, it was discovered that not one of
those numbered in the first census was alive, with the exception of Caleb and
Joshua. All had been fulfilled as God had said and now the He was preparing His
people to inherit their land.
particularly interesting about these two chapters is that they remind us of the
true nature of the people God was going to bless with this land. They were like
their parents who had sinned against God and died in the desert. They fell into
idolatry and sexual immorality. They were easily tempted to stray from God and
His principles. Despite their failures, God was going to do a wonderful work in
their midst. He would bless them even though they were unworthy of that
We discover that Balaam taught
King Balak how to entice Israel to sexual immorality and idolatry. Is this a
problem among believers today? What does idolatry look like today?
In this chapter, how does
God punish His people for their sin? Did this punishment mean that He had
forsaken His people and His promises toward them as a nation?
Does God punish us for our
sins today? Is there evidence of this in your society?
Do God’s blessings
depend on our worthiness to receive them? Have you experienced God’s
blessing in your unworthiness.
Ask the Lord to protect you
from immorality and idolatry in all its forms.
Thank the Lord that He does
not forget His promises when He punishes us for our sin.
Thank the Lord that His
blessings do not depend on our worthiness to receive them.
Thank the Lord that despite
our failures, He is still able to use us.
Ask the Lord to help you to
learn the lessons He wants to teach you through His discipline and punishment of
Numbers 20:12, the Lord told Moses that he would not be the one to lead the
people into the land he had promised their fathers. The time was fast
approaching when God would bring His people into that land. Before this
happened, however, there were a few more things Moses needed to do.
Numbers 27, the daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses with a particular problem
they felt needed to be resolved. The daughters of Zelophehad were from the
tribe of Manasseh (verse 1). Their names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah,
Milcah and Tirzah. Notice in verse 2 that Eleazar the priest and the
leaders were all present that day when they came with their problem to Moses.
verse 3, the ladies explained that their father had died in the desert. While
he had not been among the followers of Korah, who revolted against Moses, he
suffered a similar fate because of his own sin against God. When he died, he
had no male heir. In Old Testament times, the father’s inheritance was
passed on to his sons. Daughters did not receive an inheritance. This meant
that their father’s property would be taken from them and given to the
nearest male relative. There would be no more remembrance of their father's name
in the land and his daughters would be left with nothing.
verse 4, the daughters of Zelophehad pleaded with Moses to allow them to have
some property in the land; not only to carry on their father’s name but
also so that they would not be taken from their home and land.
quite important in Old Testament times that every family line continue. Each
family was important and it was a terrible thing to have any family die without
descendants. The name of the family continued through the sons and through the
property they held in the family name. While there were no more sons to carry
on Zelophehad’s name, the desire of his daughters was that their father's
name continue by means of his property.
the case of Zelophehad’s daughters to the Lord in verse 5. The Lord told
him that what these women were saying was right. They were to have their
father’s property as their inheritance (verse 7). That day, the Lord gave
Moses a law regarding the transfer of inheritance when a father died without a
told Moses that if a man died without a son, his inheritance was then to be
turned over to his daughters (verse 8). If there were no daughters then the
following rules were to be applied:
If a man had no son, the
inheritance was to go to his daughter (verse 8)
If a man had no son or
daughter, the inheritance would go to his brothers (verse 9)
If a man had no brothers,
the inheritance would go to his uncles (verse 10)
If a man had no uncles, the
inheritance would go to the nearest relative in his clan (verse 11)
only imagine how encouraging this would have been for these women. God had seen
their need and responded to their request. They were important in His eyes and
so was their family. Admittedly, their father had died because he had sinned
against the Lord, but the Lord had not forgotten them. Through Moses, God
provided for the needs of these women and every woman in a similar situation
daughters of Zelophehad give us an example to follow. They came to Moses and to
the Lord with their need. They could have just simply accepted the way things
were, but they didn’t. They wanted to see a change and so they stood
before Moses and the leaders of their community and presented their case. They
did not riot or revolt, they simply presented their case and God answered.
to understand that this law regarding the right of the daughter was not
something God had overlooked. God knows all things and is concerned for every
person in society and their needs. He also expects that we have a role to play
as well, however. He did not give this law to protect the rights of these women
until the women came to Him and presented their case. James 4:2 tells us that
we often do not have because we do not ask. There are things that God wants to
give but He will not do so until we come to Him and ask. There are things that
God intends to do, but He will not do so until we step out in faith. This is often
how God works. We have the privilege, like the daughters of Zelophehad, of
taking steps of faith and watching God work in response. May God give us more
believers today like these daughters of Zelophehad.
verse 12, God told Moses to go up on the mountain in the Abarim range. On that
mountain he would look down on the Promised Land. God told Moses that when he
had seen the land he would be “gathered to his people.” In other
words, he would die. Moses would not take his people into the land because he had
disobeyed God at Meribah in the Desert of Zin (see Numbers 20).
offers no complaint to God about his coming death. Notice his great concern,
however, in verse 16. He asked the Lord God to appoint a man over the nation to
lead and be a shepherd to them. Moses had spent the last forty years being a
shepherd to these people. He knew their heart. He knew that they would wander
from the Lord and His laws. When he asked the Lord for a shepherd for his
people, he was asking a big thing. He was asking for someone who would keep the
people of God on the right path and minister to them when they were hurting.
This was a task that could only be done in the power of the Spirit of God. It
was essential for the spiritual health of the nation that God provide them with
such a leader.
answered Moses’ prayer. He told him to take Joshua and set him aside.
Notice in verse 18 that the Spirit of God was on Joshua. Moses was to have him
stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire nation. He was to lay hands on
him and pass on to him some of his authority. He was to do this before the
nation so that the people would see that he was the Lord’s choice to lead
them and that God’s authority was on him. To assure the people that
Joshua was the leader God had chosen for them, Eleazar the priest was to
inquire of the Urim before the Lord.
about the Urim and the Thummim in Exodus 28:30:
Also put the Urim and the Thummim in
the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the
presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions
for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.
Urim and the Thummim were likely two stones used by the priests of the Old
Testament. Exodus 28:30 tells us two things about these stones. First, they
were kept in the breastplate that Aaron and his sons wore. Second, they were a
means of making decisions for the Israelites. It is uncertain how these stones
were used but the practice was something like the casting of lots (see
Leviticus 16:8-10; Acts 1:26). The Jewish people believed that the Lord God was
a sovereign God who had control over all things. They believed that when they
cast lots or used the Urim and Thummim stones, the Lord determined the outcome.
This is very evident in Proverbs 16:33:
is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.
told Moses in verse 21 that Eleazar the priest was to determine the will of the
Lord by means of the Urim stone in the presence of the people. By using the
Urim stone, the people would know that the decision was from the Lord and not a
human decision. It was by this means that Joshua was chosen to be the successor
of Moses. He would lead the people into the land God had promised their
ancestors (verse 21). Moses laid hands on Joshua in front of all the people and
commissioned him to be his successor.
that God had a purpose for each person. It was not his will that Moses lead the
people into the Promised Land. Moses was to take them to the border and then
hand the rest over to Joshua. We can only imagine how difficult this must have
been for Moses, who had led these people for over forty years. Sometimes we
want to go farther than God wants us to go. Moses prepared the people for going
into the land, but it would be Joshua who would take them in. Are you content
to simply be a link in the chain? Are you ready to let God use someone else to
harvest the crop you planted? How often has God’s work been hindered by
men and women who were not willing to step down and let God use someone else?
needed to be humble enough to let God use Joshua to harvest what he had so
diligently cared for in the desert. He needed to learn to be content to do what
God had called him to do. Now that Moses was completing the work God had called
him to do, God would take him to be with Himself. May we complete what God has
called us to do before God takes us.
What problem did the
daughters of Zelophehad bring to Moses? Why do you suppose God waited until
they came with their problem to do something about it? Are there things God
wants to do but waits until we ask or step out in faith?
What does the law God gave
Moses in this chapter teach us about the importance God places on individuals
(even when they have sinned)? How do you treat those around you who have
Why was it important that
the Lord publicly confirm the leadership of Joshua?
How important is it that we
understand the role God has given us in this life? Have you ever been tempted
to go beyond what God has called you to do?
Are you willing to hand
over to others the harvest you have planted? Do you have enough humility to let
God choose whoever He wants to complete the work He has begun through you?
Ask the Lord to give you
courage to step out more boldly like the daughters of Zelophehad in this
chapter. When do we simply do what has always been done and when do we seek a
Thank the Lord for those He
has placed in authority over you. Take a moment to pray that the Lord would
bless and give them wisdom for the task He has called them to do.
Ask God to help you to understand
more clearly the role He has for you. Ask Him to give you humility to be
content with that role. Ask Him to give you grace to hand over your
responsibilities to others when the need arises.
people of Israel were required to offer regular sacrifices to the Lord. These
sacrifices were for the sins of the people and in gratitude for God's forgiveness
and compassion toward them. While it was possible for an individual to offer a
sacrifice at any time, there were special sacrifices required at regular times
in the year. In Numbers 28-29 we have a summary of the sacrifices and offerings
God required of His people in the course of a given year. I will summarize
these offerings in the form of a chart.
Offered in the morning with flour, olive oil and fermented drink
Offered at twilight with flour and olive oil and a fermented
in morning as the regular daily offering with grain and drink offerings
at twilight as the regular daily offering with grain and drink offerings
a special Sabbath offering brought with grain and drink offerings
Offered in the morning as the daily offering with grain and
Offered at twilight as the regular daily offering with grain and
Offered with a grain offering of flour, oil and a drink offering
7 male lambs
1 male goat
or Feast of
with grain offerings of flour and oil
Feast of Weeks or Pentecost
Offered in the morning as the regular offering with grain and
Offered at twilight as the regular offering with grain and drink
Offered with a grain offering of flour and oil and a drink
in the morning as the regular daily offering with grain and drink offerings
Offered with a grain offering of flour and oil and a drink offering
this was at the time of the regular monthly offerings, these regular monthly
sacrifices were also offered
Day of Atonement
An additional burnt offering was brought on this special day
accompanied with a grain and drink offering (verse 11)
An additional sin offering was brought on this day accompanied
with its grain and drink offering (vs. 11)
lamb offered on each of the 8 days in the morning as the regular daily offering
with grain and drink offerings
lamb offered on each of the 8 days at twilight as the regular daily offering
with grain and drink offerings
over the 8 days beginning with 13 bulls sacrificed on the first day and
decreasing one bull each day until the seventh day. One final bull was
sacrificed on the 8th day. Each bull was offered with a grain
offering of flour and oil and drink offering
rams were sacrificed each day for seven days and one final ram on the 8th
day. Offered with grain and drink offerings.
lambs besides the regular daily offering were sacrificed each day for 7 days
and 7 lambs on the 8th day.
male goat was sacrificed on each of the 8 days
Whatever the Lord put on an individual’s heart could be
brought to the tabernacle as an offering.
are several things we need to learn from this list of offerings and sacrifices.
notice that every day (both morning and evening) sacrifices needed to be made
for God’s people. This was a regular requirement to appease the wrath of
God for sin. God’s people were in need of daily, regular cleansing for
their sins. While the Lord Jesus has removed the requirement of animal
sacrifice, we still need to be cleansed of our sins against Him daily. His
blood covers all our sin and keeps us clean before the Father on a daily basis.
notice that these sacrifices were required of God from His people. Sacrifice is
a common theme in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Every day
required a sacrifice. In the New Testament, while we no longer offer our
sacrifices of animals, God still requires us to take up our cross daily to
follow Him. This requires the daily sacrifice of our time, effort and
ambitions. Are we ready to make these sacrifices each day? God required them of
His people in the Old Testament and He requires the surrender of our lives to Him
each day as well.
finally, that there were special occasions in the life of Israel where they
were called to remember God's goodness toward them. The Passover looked back to
their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and God’s protection on their
lives. Other celebrations gave thanks to God for His bounty in the harvest. God
called His people to remember what He had done for them with thankfulness and
gratitude. Their thankfulness to God was shown by their sacrifice and offerings
to Him in return. Whether it was by bringing a grain offering as the first part
of their harvest or a free will offering for something else, God took delight
in receiving these tokens of thanksgiving from His people.
Are you trusting in the
work of the Lord Jesus on the cross for your forgiveness? Have you come to Him
for forgiveness for your sin? How does His work end all animal sacrifice?
Does the church of our day
understand the concept of sacrifice (not the sacrifice of animals but of our
lives)? What sacrifices are we making for the cause of the Lord and His
What are you thankful to
the Lord for today? Take a moment to consider the goodness of God in your life?
What can you do to express your gratitude to Him for His goodness?
Thank the Lord for the
sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for you. Thank Him that His sacrifice covers
all your sins.
Ask the Lord to cleanse and
forgive you for the sins of this day. Ask Him to help you to live in His
forgiveness and cleansing.
Ask the Lord to show you if
there are any sacrifices you could make for His kingdom.
Take a moment to express
your gratitude to the Lord for the good things He has done for you.
were many reasons why a person in Israel might make a vow to the Lord God. We
have the case of Jephthah in Judges 11:30-31, who promised that if the Lord
gave him victory over the Ammonites, he would sacrifice whatever came out of
the door of his house when he returned. Hannah also made a vow promising that
if the Lord gave her a son, she would give him back to serve Him all the days
of his life (see 1 Samuel 1:10-11). Even the Apostle Paul made a vow to the
Lord in Acts 18:18.
A vow is
a promise or commitment. God expected that those who made commitments and
promises to Him be true to their word and fulfil their vows. This is quite
clear in Deuteronomy 23:21-23:
(21) If you make a vow to the
LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly
demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. (22) But if you refrain
from making a vow, you will not be guilty. (23) Whatever your lips utter
you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God
with your own mouth.
was no obligation to making a vow to the Lord. Vows were generally made freely
by individuals who wanted to express their gratitude to God in a very practical
way. Those who did make a promise or vow to the Lord, however, placed
themselves under an obligation to fulfil that vow.
Numbers 30, the Lord speaks to Moses about vows. According to verse 1, we see
that the Lord expected that when a man made a vow to the Lord he was not to
break his word. The Lord took what an individual promised to Him very
to consider this briefly before proceeding. In our day, we still make vows
before the Lord. The most common is the marriage vow spoken before God and His
people. We promise to love, honour and cherish our partner until death parts
us. How seriously have we taken this vow? Do we truly love our partners, not
just in word but also in action? Are we showing honour by our words and
actions? Remember that the wedding vows we made were before God and He takes
vows are not the only vows we make before the Lord. For those who practice
believer's baptism, remember the promise you made to walk with the Lord and
serve Him? Or when you joined your church, remember the promise you made to be
faithful with your gifts and resources? What about the promises we make to the
Lord in the quiet of our own homes. There have been times in my life that I
have offered myself afresh to the Lord to serve Him with all my heart or to
follow Him wherever He would lead. God expects us to be true to our word. He
hears our promises and expects that we do what we promised. Numbers 30:1 makes
it quite clear that when a man made a vow to the Lord he obligated himself to
do what he said.
are times when we make promises to God without thinking. Sometimes our
immaturity or lack of experience in life will make us promise things that are
unreasonable. The Lord made provision for these types of vows in the law.
the Vows of Children (verses 3-5)
for example, the case of a young unmarried girl living with her parents at
home. She is still under her father’s care. Any vow she made to the Lord
would have to be approved by her father before she would be held accountable to
it. If she made a vow and the father heard about it and let it stand, she would
be obligated to fulfil what she promised before the Lord. If on the other hand,
when her father heard about her vow, he spoke out and forbade it, she would be
released from any obligation to fulfil what she promised. In this case, the
father is acting as a guardian for his daughter and protecting her interests.
He was responsible for her well-being before God and as such had authority to
break any vows she might make that were not for her good.
day, we often have to do this for our children. God expects us to watch out for
their interests. Sometimes they commit themselves to things that are not in
their best interest. Sometimes as parents, we have to step in and overrule the
decisions of our children because we know they are not for their good. God
gives us this right and obligation as parents for the good of our children.
the Vows of a New Wife (verses 6-8)
was true of a father’s obligation in verses 3-5 was also true for a
husband. A husband had an obligation before God to care and provide for his
wife. If a man married a young girl who had made vows prior to being married,
he had the right to cancel those vows so that she would no longer be
responsible for their fulfilment. On the other hand, if he said nothing, the
young wife was required to follow through with her promises before the Lord.
idea here is that there may be vows that were made by the wife that would
hinder their relationship as a couple. It was the obligation of the husband to
deal with anything that would be detrimental to their marriage.
husband today, are you doing everything you can to assure that nothing stands
in the way of your marriage being what God intended? God’s desire is that
as husbands we take this role seriously. God’s desire is for strong
Vows of a Divorced Woman or Widow (verse 9)
in verse 9 that the vows of a widow or a divorced woman were binding. That is
to say, they were responsible for their own actions and promises. It is
important for us to note that God took the vows of women seriously. They had as
much a right to make a vow as a man and were accountable to God for their fulfilment.
Vows of a Married Woman (verses 10-15)
final section of chapter 30, God speaks to Moses about the vows of a wife
living with her husband. If a wife made a vow and her husband heard about it
and did not forbid it, her vow would stand and she would be obligated to fulfil
it. If on the other hand, when he heard about it he forbade it, her vow would
be cancelled and God would release her from it. Verse 13 makes it clear that a
husband was given the right to confirm or cancel any vow his wife might make.
husband was accountable to God for the well-being of his wife and family. Part
of that responsibility was the right to cancel any vow he did not feel was for
her good or the good of the family. The husband would have to answer to God for
his family. With this responsibility came the right to make or cancel decisions
made by his family that he did not feel were in their best interest. The family
was expected to submit to his leadership as he sought to honour God.
husband needed to act immediately when he felt that a vow had been made that
was not in the best interest of the family or his wife. If he said nothing, he
confirmed his wife’s vow by his silence. If later he decided to cancel
her vow, he would be held responsible for her guilt in breaking it (verses
important to note here is that when a husband confirmed his wife’s vow,
he was entering that vow with her. He could not simply pass off the blame to
her when she did not fulfil her vow. When he confirmed her vow, he obligated
himself to seeing that it was fulfilled. It was as if he co-signed the
agreement and legally would be responsible for any failure to fulfil the terms.
easy it is to promise God that we will do something and not follow this
through. God expects that every promise we make will be fulfilled and He will
hold us accountable for each one.
other important detail we see in this chapter is the obligation and
responsibility of the father or husband toward his family. God expects that men
will take their role as husbands and fathers seriously. They are given the
authority from God to intervene when they feel things are not for the good of
their family. They are to take the role of provider and caregiver seriously.
God expected that men be spiritual leaders who were concerned for the
well-being of their families. He also expected that they intervene when things
were not as they should be.
looking for fathers who will take an interest in the decisions made by their
children and who addresses those issues when they are not wise. He is looking
for husbands who will do all they can to be sure that nothing stands in the way
of a good relationship with their wives. How easy it is for a man to leave the
care of the family to his wife. God, however, has called fathers and husbands
to take seriously their role in the family and care for their wives and
children. He will hold them accountable for any failure in this regard. They
will have to answer to God for the condition of their families.
Have you ever made a
promise or vow to the Lord? What was that promise? Have you been faithful to
Have your children made
wrong decisions and commitments? What is your obligation toward them?
Are there things in your
marriage that do not honour God or your partner? What do you need to do about
What do we learn here about
the obligation of a father or husband in his family?
Ask the Lord to forgive you
for vows and promises you have not fulfilled. Ask Him to show you what He would
have you do.
Take a moment to pray for
your children, the decisions and commitments they have made. Ask the Lord to
show you how you can help them to walk more fully with Him.
Pray that the Lord would remove
any obstacles in your marriage that do not bring Him glory and honour.
Ask the Lord to give us men
who will be the fathers and husbands God wants them to be.
Read Numbers 31:1-54
As we begin Numbers 31, the Lord speaks to Moses and tells him that
one of his last tasks before dying would be to take vengeance on the Midianites
for what they had done to His people (verse 1). It is important, in this context,
for us to understand what the Midianites had done to Israel.
In Numbers 22:4-7 we read how King Balak hired Balaam to curse the
people of Israel. While Balak was the king of the Moabites, the passage tells
us that the Midianites joined him in his effort to curse the people of God.
Midian sent their elders along with the elders of Moab to Balaam.
elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When
they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said. (Numbers 22:7)
When we come to Numbers 25 we discover that the Israelites fell into
the sin of idolatry and sexual immorality with the Moabite women. God judged
them for their sin by sending a plague which would ultimately destroy about
24,000 people. As the people gathered before the Lord God at the tabernacle to
repent of this great sin, Zimri, the leader of the Simeonites took a Midianite
woman in his tent to have sexual relations with her. He did this in front of
those who were repenting of this very sin (see Numbers 25:6-9). We see from
this that the Midianites were a great temptation for God’s people. They
were leading them away from God and the requirements of His law and turning
them to sexual immorality and idol worship. God’s anger and jealousy
burned so deeply that He commanded His people to treat the Midianites as
(16) The LORD said to Moses, (17) “Treat
the Midianites as enemies and kill them, (18) because they treated you as
enemies when they deceived you in the affair of Peor and their sister Cozbi, the
daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came
as a result of Peor.” (Numbers 25:16-18)
It is quite clear from these
verses that the reason the Midianites were to be destroyed was because of how
they were drawing God’s people away from Him by their evil ways. God
wanted to get rid of this temptation for His people.
In obedience to the command
of the Lord, Moses ordered the Israelites to gather their men and go to war
against the Midianites. One thousand men from each tribe were to go out against
the Midianites (12,000 men in total). Also with them was Phinehas, the son of
Eleazar the priest who took with him trumpets for signalling and some articles
from the tabernacle (verses 5-6). The presence of the priest would be a reminder
to the people that the battle was a spiritual one. They were fighting to remove
evil from their midst.
We can only imagine what it
would have been like for the men of Israel to fight this enemy. They had been
tempted by their women and some may have worshipped their gods. The Lord God
was calling them to take a stand now against this great temptation. Sometimes
we need to deal with sin and temptation very severely. Perhaps as you read this,
the Lord is speaking to you about a sin in your life. He is asking you now,
just as He did the Israelite men in Moses’ day, to stand firm against
this temptation and cut off all ties. This would not be easy for the men of
Israel who were strongly tempted by these Midianite woman and their gods.
Verse 7 tells us that the
Israelites fought against Midian and killed every man. Included in those who
were killed were five kings of Midian. Notice that Balaam was also killed with
the sword (verse 8). The killing of Balaam seems to indicate that while he
refused to curse God’s people in front of King Balak, he was not
innocent. Verse 16 tells us that he advised Israel’s enemies in how to
turn them against their God and bring His curse on them. God judged him for his
evil and he too was killed by the sword.
What is particularly striking
in this passage is how the soldiers took the Midianite women and children
captive. They burned all their towns and camps, took their wealth and returned
with all their women and children (verses 9-12). We need to be reminded that it
was the women who had been a temptation for the men of Israel. It was with
these women they had committed sexual immorality. It was these women who were
leading them away from God and into the worship of idols. The army of Israel
went out to battle against the Midianites. They took over their territory and
destroyed their men but returned to camp without dealing with the actual source
What would it have been like
for Moses to go out to greet the returning army only to find that they had
brought all the women back with them? Verse 14 tells us that when Moses saw
this he was angry. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he
asked in verse 16. Notice how he reminded the men that these women had followed
Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning Israel away from the Lord.
In verse 17, Moses commanded that all the male children be killed along with
every woman who had ever slept with a man. Only the young virgin girls were to
be saved (verse 18). These women would very likely have to go through a special
ceremony before they could be accepted as Israelites and permitted to marry.
Deuteronomy 21:10-13 describe what these Midianite women would have to do
before being accepted as part of the nation of Israel:
(10) When you go to war against your enemies and the
LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, (11) if
you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you
may take her as your wife. (12) Bring her into your home and have her
shave her head, trim her nails (13) and put aside the clothes she was
wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father
and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she
shall be your wife.
In reality, these young girls
would renounce their former nation and ways and be accepted into the nation of
Israel. As such, they would be required to follow the ways of the Lord and turn
from their former gods.
When the men returned from
battle, Moses required that anyone who had killed anyone in that battle or even
those who had touched someone who had killed another person was to remain
outside the camp of Israel for a period of seven days. They were to purify
themselves according to the law. This was to be done by sprinkling themselves
with a special water on the third and the seventh days (see Numbers 19:11-13).
Every garment or anything made of leather, goat hair or wood was also to be
purified (verses 19-20). Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead or anything that
could withstand fire was to be melted down and purified by the water of
cleansing. Whatever could not withstand fire was to be washed thoroughly in
water (verses 21-23). Nothing could be brought into the camp without first
being purified. On the seventh day, the men were to wash their clothes and only
then could they return to their homes to be with their families (verse 24). All
this shows us the requirements of God for His people. They were to be pure and
clean before Him with nothing that would offend Him. What a contrast we seen
here between the requirements of God for the purification of the soldiers
returning from battle and the picture of the men returning with all the women
who had led them astray.
Verses 25-26 describe how the plunder brought back from the battle
was divided. They were to count up the number of people and animals that had
been captured. One half of the plunder was to go to the soldiers who fought the
battle and the other half to the rest of the community. The Lord would also
receive a portion of each half. From the half that went to the soldiers, the
Lord required 1 out of every 500, whether people, cattle, sheep goats or other animals
(verse 28). This was to go to Eleazar the priest (verse 29). From the half that
went to the community, the Lord required 1 out of every 50, whether people,
sheep, goats or other animals. This was given to the Levites (verse 30). The
following chart summarizes how the plunder of war was divided according to
Notice in verse 48 that the officers who were in
charge of the army counted the soldiers under their command and found that not
one of them was missing. This would have been a significant
undertaking as it required counting all 12,000 men who went to battle.
Generally a census was only taken at the command of the Lord. David was
severely punished by the Lord for taking a census in 1 Chronicles 21. This may
have been because God wanted the people to learn to trust in Him for their
victories and not in their numbers.
When the officers discovered that not a single person was missing
and there was not one single death in this battle against the Midianites, two
things happened to them. First, they realized that the victory had been
miraculously given to them by the Lord who had protected every man in a
wonderful way. Second, they seemed to come under conviction for thinking that
their numbers had anything to do with their victory. As a result they decided
to bring another offering to the Lord, likely out of gratitude, but also to
make atonement for their sin of trusting themselves and taking the glory from
God. They came, therefore, with gold articles that had acquired from the plunder
and presented them to the Lord (verses 49-50). Moses and Eleazar the priest
accepted their offerings. The total weight of their offerings was 16,700
shekels of gold (420 pounds or 190 kilograms).
The chapter shows us that there are times when we need to deal
harshly with sin. God expects that those who serve Him would walk in purity of
life and thought. We are challenged here to examine our lives and remove any
impurity that would hinder us in our walk with the Lord.
was the sin of the Midianites that God would require that they be destroyed
did the Israelite men have with them when they returned from battle? What was
the response of Moses to this? What temptations still remain for you? How would
the Lord have you to deal with these temptations?
seven days after their return from battle the soldiers purified themselves and
everything they had brought back with them. What does this tell us about the
importance of walking in purity before God?
an act of gratitude, the people offered back to the Lord a portion of what He
had given them. How do you express your gratitude to the Lord for the victories
He gives you?
the Lord to give you courage to take action against your temptations today.
the Lord to give you grace to desire His will in your life.
the Lord to help you to walk each day in purity before Him.
a moment to thank the Lord for the victories He has given you. Ask Him to help
you to be more thankful for those victories.
Read Numbers 32:1-42
The people of Israel were on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
They had conquered Sihon of the Amorites, Og of the Kingdom of Bashan, and had
been proven to be superior to Balak of Moab. With God’s strength, Israel
had taken over the region east of the Jordan, causing all the nations to fear
them. When the tribes of Reuben and Gad saw that the land was very good, they decided
that this was the land they wanted as their portion.
In verses 1-5 they approached Moses, the priests and the community
leaders and asked to be given possession of a number of cities on that side of
the Jordan. Notice in verse 5 that they asked Moses and the leaders not to make
them cross the Jordan. There are some important details we need to see in this
Remember that before the people of God could settle in the land west
of the Jordan (the land promised to them), they had to overcome the people
living in the land. There would be great battles and loss of lives ahead before
Israel could inherit the land God had promised them. By asking for an
inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan River, Gad and Reuben may have
also been trying to avoid the battles that they would have to fight across the
river. They had already fought and overcome their enemies in the east and now
they simply wanted to settle down and live in peace. Their request shows that
they were content with what had already been conquered. It also shows that
their concern was not for their brothers and sisters who had not yet received a
portion of land.
When Moses heard the request of the Gadites and Reubenites, he
became very angry with them. He challenged their selfish attitude in verses 6-7
Shall your countrymen go
to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from going over
into the land the LORD has given them?
Gad and Reuben were, in reality, discouraging the people of God by
their selfish attitude. Not only this, they were also encouraging them to
settle for something far less than what God had for them. They were saying:
“Why go over and risk our lives when we can have what we have already
conquered on this side of the Jordan?” How often have we been content
with far less than God’s purpose for our lives? Like the Gadites and
Reubenites, we are happy with where we are in our relationship with God. We
settle down and don’t grow any more. There is no new fruit being produced
in our lives. If we are going to become all that God wants us to become and
produce the fruit he wants us to produce, there will be battles to fight. Many
people are unwilling to face these struggles and content themselves with where
they are. They find a comfortable spot on the way to the Promised Land and
settle there. There they will stay.
Moses rebukes this attitude. He reminded the Gadites and the
Reubenites that this was the sin of their fathers who had explored the land of
Canaan and discouraged the people from taking it in Numbers 13. Because the
people refused to enter the land, God’s anger had burned against them and
He told them that not one person over twenty years of age would enter the land
He had promised their fathers except Caleb and Joshua (verses 10-11). As a
result of this sin, God’s people had to wander for forty years in the
desert (verse 12). Moses spoke harshly to the Gadites and Reubenites that day
calling them a “brood of sinners.” He told them that they were
repeating the sin of their fathers. He warned Gad and Reuben in verse 15 that
if the Israelites turned away from God’s purpose as a result of their
proposal, God would leave them in the desert until they were destroyed.
These are very serious words. Gad and Reuben did not fully realize
the implications of their actions. They may have simply wanted to settle down
and be at peace. They had wandered for forty years in the desert and here was a
land that was good for their herds. They may have seen the land as the blessing
of the Lord. They were thinking of themselves and not of the rest of the
community. Their actions could have meant the destruction of the entire nation.
Our actions can have a profound effect on those around us.
To the credit of Gad and Reuben, when they heard what Moses said,
they modified their request. In verse 16, they told Moses that they would build
pens for their livestock and cities for their women and children on the eastern
side of the Jordan, but they were willing to take up arms and fight so that
their brothers could also have land on the western side of the river. They
requested, however, that their wives and children be allowed to stay in the
east and live in fortified cities for protection from their enemies until they
returned from conquering Canaan with their brothers. They promised Moses that
they would not return home to their wives and children until every tribe had
received its inheritance (verse 18-19).
Moses told the Gadites and the Reubenites in verses 20-22 that their
request for this portion of land would be granted them only on the condition
that they armed themselves for battle and went with the other tribes over the
Jordan to conquer the land. Notice from verse 22 that this was their
“obligation” to the Lord and to their brothers. How easy it is to
see anything we do for our brothers and sisters as something extra we do out of
the goodness of our hearts. We expect that they will in turn be indebted to us
for our kindness to them. What we see here, however, challenges this attitude.
Moses was telling the Reubenites and the Gadites that they had an obligation to
their brothers and sisters. None of us are to live for ourselves and our own
comforts alone. God had given us gifts that we are to use for the good of our
brothers and sisters. If we love God we will also love His children.
Moses made it clear to the Reubenites and Gadites that if they
failed to help their brothers conquer the land, they would be sinning against
the Lord and they would be judged by God (verse 23). Moses told Reuben and Gad
that they could build their cities and pens for their flocks, but warned them
very clearly that they were to do what they had promised to help their brothers
Reuben and Gad gave their word to Moses that while their wives and
children would live on the east side of the Jordan, every man would fight with
their brothers to conquer Canaan. There was a certain risk in this for Reuben
and Gad. They were leaving their wives and children without any soldiers to
protect them while they were away. They were willing to entrust them into the
Lord’s hands, however, to do what He required of them.
Moses knew that he would not be allowed to see the land God had
promised His people and would not live to see that Gad and Reuben fulfilled
their promise. Knowing this, he gave orders to Eleazar the priest and Joshua
his successor. He told them that if Reuben and Gad were faithful to what they
had promised that day then they were to give them the land of Gilead (east of
the Jordan) as they requested. If they failed to keep their promise, they were
to live with the rest of their brothers in the land of Canaan (verses 29-30).
That day, before God, Moses, Eleazar, Joshua and the leaders of Israel, Gad and
Reuben promised to cross the Jordan and fight with their brothers. On the condition
that they kept their promise, Moses gave Gad, Reuben and Manasseh the kingdom
of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan. This would
become their inheritance (verse 33). The following chart lists the cities that
each tribe built for their families on the eastern side of the Jordan River:
you ever become content with less than the purpose of God for your life? Does
God have something greater for your ministry and personal life?
can our actions and attitudes discourage others in their walk with God?
obligation do we have toward our brother and sister? Have you been living your
life for yourself alone? What concern do you have for your brother or sister?
the Lord to help you to not be content with anything less than His will and
purpose for your life.
the Lord to help you to be a good example to your brothers and sisters. Ask Him
to open your eyes more to their needs.
God to give you faith to step out into the greater things He has for your life
Read Numbers 33:1-56
Numbers 33 traces the route of the children of Israel over the forty
years they wandered through the desert. Many of these locations are unknown to
us today, so the exact route the Israelites took is somewhat debated. It was
important for the Lord, however, to record the names of these locations. In
this chapter, 42 locations are mentioned. While we don’t want to make too
much of this number, it is interesting to note that this number does occur
elsewhere in the Scriptures.
Matthew groups the ancestors of the Lord Jesus into three groups of
14 names each. This is a total of 42 names listed as Jesus’ ancestors
(see Matthew 1:1-17). It is also interesting to note that the beast of
Revelation 13 is given 42 months to make war against the saints (see Revelation
13:5-8). My purpose here is not to say that there is any connection between
these passages as the Bible itself does not connect them. It is merely of
interest to note that the number 42 does occur several times in the Scriptures.
Verses 1-2 introduce us to the content of the chapter. Here the
author tells of the various stages in the journey of Israel from Egypt under
the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Verse 2 makes it clear that the Lord
commanded Moses to record the stages of this journey. This means that this list
was inspired by God, who led Moses to write it down for the people of God to
It is important that we also remember the way God has led us in our
lives. We must never forget where we have come from and how He has led us. The
lessons learned at each stage of our life are all too easy to forget.
God’s purpose in having these details recorded was so that His people not
forget their time in the wilderness.
For the people of God, this time in the wilderness was one they
would have liked to forget. It was not an easy time. They often grumbled and
complained about God’s purposes for them. There were memories of
rebellion against God and His servants. While in the desert, they had made a
golden calf and bowed down to it. They had also fallen into immorality and Baal
worship. They had failed God by refusing to enter the Promised Land. Some of
them had lost their lives through plagues, fire, or on one occasion when the
earth opened up and swallowed them alive.
While there had been failures in the wilderness, God's people had also
experienced tremendous blessings. They had seen God provide their daily food
and water. He had given them miraculous victories over their enemies and led
them day by day by means of a pillar of fire. Through Moses, He had given them
His law and organized them into a nation. These days of wilderness wanderings
were very important for the people of God.
It was God’s intention that His people remember their failures
and their victories. He did not want them to forget the lessons learned in the
wilderness. By writing down the names of their camps, God led Moses to keep a
record for his people of these important times in their lives. Let me summarize
the details of verse 3-56 by means of a chart.
they left Egypt in full view of the Egyptians
This was on the
edge of the desert
They camped near
To get to this
location they passed through the sea
God blessed them
at this camp with 12 springs and 70 palm trees
Desert of Sin
No water for the
people to drink
Desert of Sinai
This was in the
Desert of Zin
Aaron died here
in this region forty years after leaving Egypt, at the age of 123.
This was on the
border of the country of Moab
They camped near
Plains of Moab
This camp was
across the Jordan River from the city of Jericho
While the Israelites were in the Plains of Moab, across the Jordan
from the Promised Land, the Lord spoke to Moses and told him what He required
for those who would cross the Jordan to inherit the land. In verses 52-55, God
tells His people that they were to do three things when they crossed the
First, they were to drive out the inhabitants, destroying their
images and idols and demolishing all their high places (where they worshipped
their pagan gods). There was to be no mercy shown. The pagans living in the
land were to be driven out and everything that remained of their pagan religion
was to be destroyed. God made it clear in verse 55 that if the inhabitants of
the land were not driven out they would be a constant thorn in their sides.
Notice also in verse 56 just how serious God was about this matter. He told His
people that if they did not do so, He would do to Israel what He planned to do
to the nations. That is to say, He would drive them out and destroy them as a
nation. God expects us as His people to renounce sin in our lives and society.
Second, God told His people that when they entered the land they
were to take possession of it and settle in it (verse 53). To possess is to
take control and be responsible for something. Driving out and destroying the
idols of the people who lived in the land was only the first step. God also
expected that His people take control of the land. They were to bring it into
submission to the Lord and His laws. In a similar way, the Lord calls us to
bring our lives under submission to His purpose and plans. This will mean
surrendering each day to Him. It will mean forsaking our evil thoughts and
attitudes and bringing them into submission to the Lord. This is an ongoing
battle for the believer.
Finally, the people of God were to distribute the land by lot according
to their clans. Each tribe was to receive a portion in accordance with its size
(verse 54). God is asking His people to share their victory with each other.
Each person was to have what they needed for their families. No one person was
to have it all. What has the Lord given you? Has He blessed you with spiritual
gifts? Those gifts are not for you alone. There are others in the body of
Christ who need you to use those gifts for their benefit. Is there a brother or
sister in need? God is calling you to share what He had given you with them so
that they, too, will have enough. The people of God were to be sure that
everyone had what they needed. This meant moving away from thinking only about
themselves to thinking about each other. As God gave them victory, they were to
share the fruits of that victory with their brothers and sisters so that
everyone had all they required.
a moment to consider the path God has laid out for your life. What lessons has
God taught you in your life?
there things in your life that still need to be conquered? Are there sins you
need to renounce? What are they?
you living each day in victory? Are you “taking possession” of your
attitudes and actions and submitting them to the will of the Lord?
have you been sharing the blessings God has given you with others?
the Lord for the many lessons He has been teaching you in life. Thank Him for
the path He has laid out for you.
God to give you courage and strength to conquer anything that does not bring
honour to His name.
the Lord to show you how you can use what He has given you to bless others.
nation of Israel was preparing now to enter the land the Lord had promised
their ancestors. Moses has been preparing the people for the months of conflict
that were about to come. Here in Numbers 34-35, he tells them about the
boundaries God had set for them and what God was willing to give them. It is
important for us to note that God had a place for His people. They were to take
what He had given them and possess that land, but they were to be content with
the boundaries He had set. In a similar way, it is important for us to seek the
Lord regarding what He has for us, and then possess that territory with
contentment and obedience. Sometimes we want what God has not given us.
Sometimes we have not truly possessed what He has given. It is up to us to seek
God’s purpose and learn to be everything He wants us to be within the
boundaries He has set for us.
how God describes in great detail the limits of Israel’s boundaries in
verses 3-12. The details here show us that God knew exactly what He wanted to
give His people. I have summarized these boundaries in the following chart:
of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom
the Salt Sea, south of Scorpion Pass to Zin
of Kadesh Barnea to Hazor, Addar and Azmon
the Wadi of Egypt and ending at the Sea
Great Sea (Mediterranean)
Great Sea to Mount Hor
Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath
Zedad past Ziphron to Hazar Enan
Hazar Enan to Shepham
from Shepham to Riblah east of Ain
the slopes east of the Sea of Kinnereth
the Jordan River to the Salt Sea
land described in the chart above was to be assigned to nine and a half tribes.
The other two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh)
were to receive their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan River as
had been agreed (verses 13-15).
appointed Eleazar, the priest and Joshua to be sure that the land was divided
fairly among the nine and a half tribes. They were to be assisted by one leader
from each tribe (verses 16-19). The following is a list of those appointed from
each tribe for the task of helping Joshua and Eleazar divide the land:
men would work together to assure that each tribe had the territory they
As for the
Levites, they did not inherit land of their own as the other tribes. Instead
they were given towns throughout Israel with pastureland for their cattle,
flocks and livestock (35:1-3). Notice from Numbers 35:4 that the Lord placed a
limit on the amount of land the Levites could have. Their pasture land around
the town could extend out fifteen hundred feet from the town wall on each side,
giving them 3,000 feet on the outskirts of their pasture land. The best way to
understand this is by means of this illustration:
total, the Levites were to be given forty-eight towns throughout the territory
of Israel. The larger the tribe, the more towns they were to give to the
Levites within their territory (35:8). Of those forty-eight towns, six were to
be set aside as cities of refuge (35:6). Three of these cities were to be on
the eastern side of the Jordan and three in Canaan (35:14).
purpose of these cities of refuge was to protect a man or woman in the case of
unintentional sin. If an Israelite or someone living in Israel accidentally
killed another person, they could flee to one of these towns where they would
be protected from anyone who wanted to avenge their death until they were
brought to trial (35:12).
cities of refuge were not intended to protect murderers or those who struck
another person with intent to kill. Verses 16-25 make a distinction between a
murderer and someone who killed another without intent. If a person struck
someone with an iron object, a stone or a piece of wood and he died, that
person was guilty of murder and would be put to death by an avenger of blood
(35:16-18). The avenger of blood would likely be a relative. It was only common
sense that if you strike someone with this kind of object the intent is to
seriously harm or kill them. This was punishable by death if the person died as
a result of the blow.
example of murder would be if someone pushed another, threw something at them
intentionally or struck them with their fist so that the person died. In this
case the individual would be guilty of murder and as such punished by death
(35:20-21). Again, we can see that the intention is quite obviously to harm or
kill the victim.
deaths were the result of intentional murder. Imagine two young men playing
together and one pushed the other without any intention of harming him and he
died. A person might also toss something to someone without any intent to kill
but the object strikes that person in such a way that it kills them. Maybe a
stone was dropped on someone without the person who dropped it even being aware
that there was a person below. In these cases, the deaths were accidental.
There was no hatred or intent to harm involved.
case was tried and the death judged to be accidental, the guilty person was to be
protected from anyone who would seek to avenge the blood of the one he had
killed. For their protection, such individuals were sent to a city of refuge
where they would stay until the death of the High Priest (35:25). If at any
time the person left the city of refuge and the avenger of blood killed him
outside the city, he would not be guilty of murder. The only protection for the
one who accidentally killed someone else was to remain inside the city of
refuge until the death of the High Priest. Only then could he return to his own
was punishable by death, but only when there was more than one witness to prove
the guilt of the murderer (35:30). No one was to be put to death for murder
based on the witness of only one person.
person was judged guilty of murder, he or she was to be put to death.
God’s people were never to accept money to release a murderer or spare
him or her from death (35:31). Even if the death was ruled accidental, a person
could not pay to return to his own land. He was to remain in the city of refuge
until the death of the high priest. God made it clear to His people that money
was never to corrupt their decisions. They were to do what was right and never
allow themselves to be swayed for personal gain.
in Numbers 35:33-34 that the reason God demanded punishment for death was
because bloodshed polluted the land. The only way the land could be purified
again was through the blood of the person who had murdered another human being.
The land the Lord was giving His people was to remain pure. They were not to
defile that land, and if it was defiled by murder, they were to purify it by
punishing the murderer. It is our responsibility to keep what God has given us
What has God called you to
do? What are the boundaries He has given you? Have you been content with those
How important is it that we
know the boundaries God has placed on our ministries? Have you ever tried to go
beyond what God has asked you to do?
How does the establishing
of cities of refuge show God’s protection and mercy toward those who were
guilty of unintentionally killing another human being?
While those who
unintentionally murdered another were protected from the avenger of blood, they
were still guilty and had to remain in the city of refuge. Do we still have to
suffer the consequences even when we didn’t intend to sin?
How does money corrupt
judgement? What does God say about not allowing money to keep us from doing
Ask the Lord to teach you
how to be content with His purpose for your life and ministry. Ask Him to
forgive you for the times you tried to go beyond His purpose.
Thank the Lord that He
protects us even when we fall short of His standard.
Ask the Lord to give you
courage to face the consequences for your sins, whether they be intentional or
Ask God to keep you from
being influenced by the things of this world to turn from the path He has set
out for you.
Numbers 27, the daughters of Zelophehad, the descendants of Makir of Manasseh came
to Moses with a problem. Their father had died without leaving any sons to
inherit his land. To that point, the inheritance had been given only to male
descendants. This meant that their father’s land would be taken from them
and given to someone else. When Moses consulted the Lord about this, the Lord
told him that when a man died without having any sons, the inheritance would be
passed on to his daughters (Numbers 27:8).
Numbers 36, the family heads of the clan of Gilead came to Moses with a problem
regarding the law that gave an inheritance to a daughter when there was no son.
The problem related particularly to the daughters of Zelophehad. Let’s
say that the daughters of Zelophehad were to marry men from another tribe. The
children born to that union would belong to the tribe of their father. These
children, now belonging to another tribe, would inherit their mother’s
land. This meant that the land would be transferred from the mother’s
tribe to the fathers through these children. The territory allotted to that
tribe by God would be taken away from them by marriage.
brought the matter to the Lord. The Lord told Moses that in this case the
daughters of Zelophehad were free to marry anyone they pleased as long as they
married within the tribal clan of their father. Any daughter who inherited her
father’s land was to marry within her tribe so that the land would remain
in the possession of that tribe. No inheritance was to be passed on from one
tribe to another (verses 6-9). In this case, the daughters of Zelophehad
married their cousins on their father’s side and their inheritance
remained in the tribe of Manasseh (verses 10-12).
are several details we should examine in this short chapter. First, notice that
the leaders brought their problem to the Lord. Obviously, God was very much
aware of this problem even before the leaders brought it to Him. As the
sovereign and all-knowing God, nothing takes Him by surprise. It is impossible
to think that the God who formed the world failed to see this problem.
have to come to God on a regular basis for guidance and direction in the
various issues that present themselves each day. Just as God gave manna each day
to the children of Israel, He also provides us with what we need for each day.
The leaders came to Moses that day for wisdom and direction from God for the
problem they were facing, and God had the answer they needed. We need to make
it a habit to come to Him regularly for guidance and solutions to the issues we
face each day.
in verse 6 that the Lord told Moses that the daughters of Zelophehad were free
to marry anyone they wished, provided it was someone from their father’s
clan. God gave these women freedom to choose within boundaries. They could
choose to marry any man they desired. God was willing to bless their choice of
husband, however, there were some restrictions. In this case, the husband they
married needed to be from the clan of their father. We see from this that God
does give us freedom as believers. He allows us to choose and make decisions
and He will bless those decisions as long as they are within the boundaries He
has set for us in His Word.
daughters of Zelophehad had received the inheritance of their father and as
such were responsible to God for that inheritance. This meant certain
sacrifices for them. They were not free to marry someone outside their family
tribe. They could not allow their father’s inheritance to be lost. With
every blessing comes obligation and responsibility. A new child brings new
responsibilities. A greater blessing on our ministry means great obligation
before God. Sacrifices will be required of us. Zelophehad’s daughters
were responsible to God for their inheritance and needed to do all they could
to keep it in their family line. This meant sacrificing the privilege of
marrying someone outside their clan.
finally, that the allotment of God for each tribe could not be passed on to
anyone else. It was for that tribe alone. In a similar way, what God has given
to us is for us alone. He has particularly prepared us for the ministry to
which He has called us. No one else can do what God has called you to do. He has
placed you where you are. He has gifted you for a particular purpose. He has
made you the kind of person you are for a reason. He has a purpose and place
for each of us. This is not something we can hand off to someone else. God
expects us to be faithful with what He has called us to do.
chapter ends in verse 13 with the words:
These are the commands and
regulations the LORD gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab
by the Jordan across from Jericho.
were the last commands God would give to Moses for the people. God had told him
that He would not allow him to go into the land. He would die before the people
entered Canaan. God had set a boundary for Moses as well. He had reached the
border of that boundary and now the ministry was to be handed over to someone
else. Moses had accomplished what God had given him to do. He had finished his
work. We can only pray that we would be as faithful as Moses in doing what God
has called us to do.
How would the land given to
the daughters of Zelophehad be lost through their marriage to men of other
The men of the clan of
Gilead came to Moses with a problem related to his ruling on the matter of the
daughters of Zelophehad. What does this teach us about how God reveals His
purposes to us? Why do you suppose God reveals His purposes a bit at a time?
daughters had freedom to marry within certain boundaries. What freedom has God
given us? What are the boundaries of that freedom?
What sacrifices were the
daughters of Zelophehad required to make because of the inheritance they
received? What sacrifices does God expect you to make because of His calling on
Ask God to help you to be
faithful to His calling on your life. Ask Him to show you clearly what He has
given you to do.
Ask God to help you to walk
within the boundaries He had given you, and in accordance with the teaching of
Ask God to give you grace
to make the necessary sacrifices in your life so that His calling and purpose
for you will be accomplished.
Thank the Lord for the
example of Moses in this book. Ask God to help you to be faithful as he was to
the purpose of God for your life.
LIGHT TO MY PATH BOOK DISTRIUTION
My Path (LTMP) is a book writing, publishing and distribution ministry reaching
out to needy Christian workers in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Many
Christian workers in developing countries do not have the resources necessary
to obtain Bible training or purchase Bible study materials for their ministries
and personal encouragement. F. Wayne Mac Leod is a member of Action
International Ministries and has been writing books with a goal to distribute
them freely or at cost price to needy pastors and Christian workers around the
tens of thousands of books are being used in preaching, teaching, evangelism
and encouragement of local believers in over forty countries. Books have now
been translated into a number of languages. The goal is to make them available
to as many believers as possible.
ministry of LTMP is a faith based ministry and we trust the Lord for the
resources necessary to distribute the books for the encouragement and
strengthening of believers around the world. Would you pray that the Lord would
open doors for the translation and further distribution of these books?
information about Light To My Path visit our website at https://www.lighttomypath.ca