Currently we are in the Book of Numbers. This book deals with several numbers including census and the long journey to the promised land. In this book, we will see the cloud lifting up from the Tabernacle - which means time to move on. What should have been approximately a 12 day journey turned out to be 38 years long affair, and we will see how and why. Just as we saw 'Holiness' in Leviticus, we will see 'Obedience', 'Disobedience', 'Faithfulness' and 'Trust' in this book.
This book opens our eyes to the extend which God is faithful with His people, even after they sin and reject God; He is still leading them in the wilderness and providing their needs. We will see the meaning of Trust and some 'internal tension' within the camp.
We are still at the base of Mount Sinai. We erected the Tabernacle, performed consecration and each of the 12 tribe made their offering to God - a tribe a day. We made a covenant with God and agreed to abide by it. Moses wrote it down and he made 13 copies of it - one of which he gave to the tribe leaders. One copy he kept for himself - which he probably deposited in Ark of the Covenant already.
About 15 days ago, we celebrated the first anniversary of passover - to remember that deadly night in Egypt.
Here is a summary of our trip so far, (in numbers):
Exodus from Egypt Day 15 of 1st Month
Arrival at Mount Sinai Day 1 of 3rd Month
God reveals Himself at Mt.Sinai Day 3 of 3rd Month
Completion of Tabernacle Day 1 of Month 1 of Year 2
Command to number Israel Day 1 of Month 2 of Year 2 >>TODAY.
Today, is the first day of second month, of year 2. We just received word from God, to count every male member, 20 yrs or more, who can serve in the army. One man from each tribe will be helping Moses out. God speaks to Moses and that's how we hear Him. Moses is our intermediate person.
According to God, the tribe of Levi is not to be counted. They will be in charge of taking care of the Tabernacle and all it's furnishings from erecting, dismantling, and carrying it. The Levites would set up their tents just around the Tabernacle. In short, the Levites were fully responsible of the Tabernacle.
Moses and Aaron completed counting the men. If Moses and Aaron had plotted a graph, this is how it would have looked, for the twelve tribes. Remember - of the twelve children of Jacob, Joseph and Levi were not counted towards those 12 tribe leaders. Instead, Joseph's two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh were part of the twelve tribe leaders. The total men over 20 yrs of age were counted as 603,550.
Image: Graph of Census # 1
The Arrangement of the Tribal CampsGod also told Moses to have a layout so that each tribe has a specific location. The Tabernacle was to be in the middle, surrounded by Levite tents. Then each of the twelve tribes were designated a location along the east - west - north - south side. Chapter 2 gives a detailed account of the setting, the same is captured in the image below.
Image: Layout of 12 Tribal Camps - click to enlarge
Every firstborn male child of every Israelite woman belongs to God. Now, God wants all male members of the Levi tribe for Himself. This is in-fact a reward and recognition to the Levi tribe. They have been staying true to the One True God ever since they came to Egypt, and did not mingle with Egyptian culture.
God asked for a census from the Levite tribe. God asked Moses to count every male one month or old in the Levite tribe. God also instructed where every Levite clan should stay: (clan is a smaller set within a tribe).
- Moses, Aaron and his sons were to stay on the east side of Tabernacle.
- Gershonites would camp on the west side and take care of Tabernacle curtains and coverings.
- Kohathites would stay on the south side and take care of Ark, Table, Lampstand, Altar, etc.
- Merarites would stay on the north side and take care of frames, crossbar, posts, etc.
The total number of Levites counted at the LORD'S command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.
Are you noticing these numbers at all? When Moses counted the 12 tribes, they were perfect 100's. Again, now the count of Levites was perfect 22,000. LORD was not happy with this approximation.
The LORD said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names."
So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lord commanded him. The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273. (Poor Moses - he counted them a second time, at the age 83 years. Counting 22,273 males is not an easy task and he would have taken few days to do it accurately).
Next, God asked Moses to redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites (22,273 vs 22,000), and collect five shekels for each one and give the money to Aaron and sons. Moses did so.
The Numbering of the Levite Clans
There is an instruction from God to count the Levite men from 30 - 50 years of age who are capable of serving and working in the Tent of the Meeting. Next, God outlines those responsibilities to those Levite clans. Remember that Aaron is the High Priest, and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, have now taken the place of Nadab and Abihu, who died during consecration. The remaining Levites are priest's helpers. Based the work assigned by God:
- The Kohathites were to take care for “the most holy things” - only after Aaron and his sons had covered them all up!
- The Gershonites were responsible for carrying all of the curtains for the tabernacle - under the direction of Aaron's sons - once Ithamar Ok'd it.
- The Merarites were to carry the frames of the tabernacle - under the direction of Aaron and his sons, specifically Ithamar.
Moses and Aaron counted the Levites between age 30 - 50, as commanded. There were:
2,630 Gershonites, and
The Purity of the Camp
God commanded the Israelites to send anyone who is “unclean” - anyone who has an infectious skin disease or bodily discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body, outside of the camp, so as not to defile it. This included both men and women, and is because God is dwelling in the camp. They did as LORD instructed.
Restitution for Wrongs
When a man or woman commits any wrong 'common to mankind', they are guilty and must confess the sin they committed. The chief type of sin here is fraud and trespass (by a false oath, or a fraudulent lie in denying it). God wants to do a combination of confession and restitution with 20% fine.
The Test for an Unfaithful Wife
This part tries to answer an age old suspicion of a husband, "Is my wife having sexual relationship with another man, and is she hiding it from me?" Feelings of jealousy come over a husband especially when he learns she is pregnant. This procedure was usually to get a confession out of a woman, when there was a doubt.
The husband brings her to the priest along with an offering of barley flour. The priest brings her and makes her stand before the LORD. If a confession was reached earlier, this ordeal was not necessary.
Some early writers mention the woman standing with hair untied and upper body stripped and bare breasted. She will be holding a clay jar with some water and dust from the tabernacle floor mixed in it. Next, she has to undergo the 'ordeal of jealousy' or 'ordeal of bitter water'.
Then the priest puts the woman under oath and says to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband, may the LORD cause you to become a curse among your people when He makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
The woman is supposed to say, "Amen" (meaning 'so be it').
Next, the priest writes a curse on the scroll and washes it in the water. Then the grain offering for jealousy is offered and the woman is made to drink the water. If she is impure, the curse will cause bitter suffering by abdomen swelling and womb miscarrying. If she is pure, she will bear children.
This was effective when there was a slight doubt about one's wife. When someone's wife was moving visibly in public squares, flirting with everyone, there were no need for such tests. In any case, the husband did not have to lose anything for having the doubt and getting her examined. If he was suspicious about his wife being guilty or not guilty, no punishment was inflicted upon him. He had the passage to perform the 'ordeal of bitter water on grounds of 'doubt.'
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is believed to have undergone this 'ordeal of bitter water' when she became pregnant. The practice has ceased after the fall of Jerusalem Temple in AD 70.
Let's wrap up our tour for the week here. Enjoy your weekend.
I should warn you that chapters 1 and 2 are loaded with names. You will particularly enjoy it, if you are looking for some cute 'baby names'.
Today's Number - 12
Jacob had 12 sons, whose descendants became the 12 tribes of Israel.
The 12 tribes of Israel are represented on the the table of bread in the Tabernacle.
The Ephod of a priest had 12 stones representing the same.
Jesus Christ chose 12 disciples, and when Judas Iscariot disgraced, Matthias was selected to complete the 12 again.
The Book of Revelation has many numbers divisible by 12.
Revelation 12:1 talks about a woman wearing a crown of 12 stars.
Orthodox church observes 12 Great Feasts.
Yuletide celebrations are extended 12 days, thus the name 12 days of Christmas.
God told Abraham that his son Ishmael will be the father of 12 rulers.
In Orthodox Judaism, 12 signifies the age a girl matures.
Most calendars have 12 months in a year.
Most clocks have a circle divided into 12 hours.
Revised Schedule (Click here)
In order to honor Sabbath, I will be working only six days, and posting material online; will relax and take rest on the seventh day. We have revised our schedule with that in mind. I had to forego couple of earlier holidays to make it work. Make note of holidays here.
The take away is that, "Hereafter, there will be no postings on Sundays, related to the guided tour." Hope that will give you adequate time to catch up on your readings.