Numbers 27:1-11 – The inheritance for women
Numbers 27:12-23 – The successor to Moses
Numbers 28:1-15 – Commands regarding offerings
Numbers 28:16-29:40 – Commands regarding festivals
Numbers 30 – Commands regarding vows
Numbers 31 – The War against Midian
Numbers 32 – The Settlement of the Transjordan Tribes
Thoughts about serving others
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One Reply to “Instructions for the New Generation — Numbers 27-32”
The title for this entry, Instructions for the New Generation, comes from the NIV Study Bible’s outline of the book of Numbers. Interesting to see the words, “New Generation” in this context. I wonder how often I have simply this section without seeking to understand why it’s here. We believe the Bible is God’s word for us, our daily conversation in writing. Indeed, as I read through the Bible I would say I hear the Lord speaking to me. If this is the case, why would I skip a section?
As a father of four daughters, Numbers 27:1-11 resonates with me. These women confidently approached “Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (27:2) (that alone is reason to pause) and presented their demand: “Give us property among our father’s relatives.” (27:4). The scene in my mind is a band of women with the strength of my wife speaking to these men with great authority. Notice they didn’t say, “if you would be so kind as to consider our case…” or “please sir, we humbly ask…” Nope. These are no doubt women of great integrity, willing to carry the weight of family without the men in their lives. We don’t have these details, but I don’t think I’m stretching too far to make this assertion. They would not have made it to the presence of Moses without going through levels of leadership. The response: the leaders don’t quibble one bit and Moses puts the case before the Lord. Though we don’t know how enthusiastic he was, we do read the Lord’s response: “You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them” (27:7). Further, the Lord provides a new law for such cases.
The second half of chapter 27 is a completely different passage. The Lord reminds Moses that he will not enter the promised land because of his sin “at the waters in the Desert of Zin” (27:14), but he will get to see the land before he dies. Moses doesn’t argue a bit. Rather, he simply asks the Lord for a worthy leader to take his place, someone “who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (27:17). Joshua is chosen and commissioned. It’s a simple passage, but the humility of Moses is astounding. Here’s the man in charge of literally millions of people, a man who’s dealt with grumbling, deception, rebellion and horrible incidents most of his life. Moses doesn’t dwell on these things and I think we would do well to observe that Moses is confident in his eternal reward and chooses not to focus on his present circumstance. Much to be learned from these words.
“On the Sabbath day, make an offering…” (28:9) leaped out to me this morning. This requirement sounds like “work” on the Sabbath, yes? Ah, but the Levites are responsible for administering the work of the Tabernacle and thus they work on the day the rest of the people call the Sabbath. Just a good reminder for our clergy, not an excuse to avoid taking a Sabbath day!
Chapter 31 provides the end of the story that began in chapter 22, especially 25: “They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. Among their victims were….Balaam son of Beor” (31:7-8). Thus Balaam succumbs to the evil he instigated and the Midianites are routed, many killed and the Israelites acquire lots of wealth as a result. Moses was not unaware of Balaam’s advice and counsel to Balak (Moabite king in collusion with the Midianites). It was Balaam who advised the women to enter into sexual immorality with the Israelites (31:15-16). Moses completes the cleansing by killing all those involved, an act we simply cannot understand in today’s society. All I can conclude is these were different times. When I read about atrocities in what we refer to as Third World areas, I wonder if they read these ancient words and apply them in modern times. Difficult to understand. A subject worth considering all by itself, needed to argue for Christian faith among unbelievers who would point to this scripture and claim we advocate genocide. Careful consideration indeed.
Chapter 32 includes an interesting interaction between the Reubenites and Gadites, they don’t want to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land because they like the land they have gained in conquests along the way, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan” (32:5). Moses was outraged! He’s greatly concerned that the 40-year wandering is about to restart, “because they have not followed [the Lord] wholeheartedly” (32:11) and “The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone” (32:13). Moses is not done, these words get their attention: “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel” (32:14). As a result, the Reubenites and Gadites strike an accord with Moses, an agreement to march into the Promised Land armed and ready for battle. Moses makes sure this is know to the priests as a solemn oath and agrees to let them have the land if, and only if, they cross over first. For some reason, this strikes me as a scene from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here the battle must be fought, no time for second chances. Moses’ leadership here is at a peak. His tough stance ensure the positive outcome for all of the Israelites.