October 26, 2015.
Daily Reading: Numbers 29-31.
Background: Numbers 25-28.
Concepts and Connections.
Offerings in the seventh month: The seventh month was a busy month for the Israelites, as they had several memorials and feasts set aside to worship the Lord. Here, Moses is given instructions about the offerings that were to be made at different times in the months. There are three specific events listed here (see also Leviticus 23:23-44): the feast of trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, the day of atonement on the tenth day of the seven month and the feast of booths starting on the fifteenth day and lasting for seven days. More information about these holy days are given elsewhere in the law (such as the passage mentioned above), but here the focus is on the specific offerings that were to be made on these days, in addition to the regular burnt offering that was offered daily (see Leviticus 28:11-15). The offerings for the feast of trumpets and the day of atonement are the same, whereas the offerings for the feast of booths are larger in quantity, though they are the same in content. It is interesting that the bull offerings for the feast of booths start at thirteen and then decrease down to seven by the seventh day, which is a significant number in Scripture. On the eighth day, the children of Israel were to hold a solemn assembly before the Lord, doing no ordinary work, with one final set of offerings. Thus Moses told the people of Israel all that was commanded from the Lord.
Men and Women’s vows: This chapter deals with the taking of vows and how the responsibility of vow taking was different between the genders. Note here that the higher responsibly is placed on the man in two ways. One, the vow that a man takes at anytime would be held against him, as there was no one who could nullify his vow. Further, it was the man’s responsibility to nullify a woman’s (foolish or rash) vow if she was under his protection. To better understand this passage, especially in a culture and time that is so far removed from this time period, it is important to notice that typically when vows are taken in the Old Testament, they are negative (foolish, or rash). Remember Jephthah’s tragic vow (see Judges 11:29-40) and Saul’s foolish vow (see I Samuel 14:24-52). Both of these vows should not have been made, and the end result of each was supposed to be the death of their child, though Jephthah was the only one to follow though with the vow. Vows and oaths were serious matters, so much so that we are warned not even to take them (see Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, Matthew 5:34, James 5:12). It is implicit in this text that the vow that would be nullified by the man in whom the woman finds protection, wether that be her father before she is married or her husband after she is married, is a foolish or rash vow (note ‘thoughtless’ in v. 8). Thus, this passage is a protective measure for women, as it gives them a way to not go through with a rash vow that they made. It should be noted that if the woman was divorced or widowed, there would be no one to nullify the vow, or if the father or husband did not hear the vow, there would have been no way to nullify it and the woman would be bound by her own word.
Vengeance on Midian: Picking up where chapters 25 and 27 left off, the Lord calls Moses to avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites because of the stumbling block they became to the children of Israel, causing them to sin. Later on in this chapter we get an interesting insight as to why the Midianites had such interactions with the Israelites, enticing them to whore with them and yoke themselves to their gods, as Moses says that it was Balaam’s advice to the Midianites to have such relations with the Israelites (apparently he was still looking for a way to curse Israel and secure Balak’s reward for him, see chapters 22-24). Moses here calls 12,00 men, 1,000 from each tribe, to go to war with Midian. Israel strikes down every man of Midian, but Moses is angry with them because they left the women, those who lead them astray by Balaam’s advice, alive. Thus they were commanded to kill every male child and every woman who was not a virgin, leaving only the virgin females. The congregation of Israel took possession of the Midianites land and the people who had touched a dead body in war were told to go through the cleansing ritual for uncleanness and the spoils of war were purified with fire or the water of purification. They were then divided between the warriors and the rest of the congregation, and a portion of the spoils were taken for the priests and the Levites who kept guard over the tabernacle.
The inheritance of Ruben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh: Though the promised land of Canaan was on the other side of the Jordan which the children of Israel had not been allowed to cross over into yet, the people of Ruben and Gad came to Moses and requested the land that they were in east of the Jordan be their possession. Moses was angry at their request at first because he thought that giving them the possession would cause them not to fight with their bothers against the Canaanites when they crossed the Jordan into the land of promise, and thereby discouraging them just as ten of the spies did when they came back from spying out the land of promise (see Numbers 13-14). However, Ruben and Gad assured Moses that they would build fortified cities and places for their animals here, and every man that was armed for war would cross the Jordan and fight alongside their brothers. Moses accepts this condition, saying that if they indeed fought alongside their brothers in the land of Canaan, they could have the land they were in now as a possession, and he gave commands concerning them to the priests and Joshua. Thus, the tribes of Ruben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh would settle on the east side of the Jordan when the land was divided as an inheritance amongst the tribes of Israel (see Joshua 13:9-33).
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Chronicles 11-15.
The Lord give you strength.