Congratulations on finishing day 4 of Through The Bible In 30 Days! If you're following along through the daily recaps (whether alongside the daily reading plan, or instead of it), I do my best to extract the narrative of each day's reading, summarize important events, interactions, or teachings, and illuminate areas of scripture that might be more easily glossed over.
Yesterday, we finished Exodus and much of Leviticus. In the Daily Recap, found here, we learned the function and layout of the tabernacle, the reasons and specifications of the Levitical Offerings/Sacrifices, and what the purposes of the different Jewish Feasts were. Having a basic understanding of these three groups of teachings can catapult our understaning of Old Testament texts, as well as the extrabiblical culture of Israel.
Today, we finished Leviticus, and read through most of Numbers. Tomorrow, we will finish the Torah (Pentateuch, the Law (of Moses), The 5 Books). The Torah is most easily understood as a whole, and can be viewed as a 5-Act Story. Anyway, tomorrow will focus more on the Torah as a whole, after we finish reading it.
To finish the book, God promises the blessings for obedience to his commands, and informs of the consequences and punishments for disobedience. Afterwards, he instructs Israel for the valuation of persons, specifically in relation to making vows to God and devoting property and belongings to him.
The book of Numbers covers roughly 39-40 years, and is titled such because of its two censuses that are important features in the book. The first census was taken of everyone twenty years and older in Numbers 1, while the second census was taken of everyone twenty years and above in the following generation in Number 26. Perhaps the most central theme of the book of Numbers is Israel's nomadic exploration (or occupancy, rather) of "the wilderness." Beginning at Mt. Sinai (where Leviticus ends, also where the entire law is given to Moses, then to Israel) the people of Israel travel through the wilderness up to the border of the Promised Land.
A map beginning at the Exodus and ending in Joshua 3 when Israel crosses the Jordan River is below. The Israelites are at Mt. Sinai (bottom of peninsula) until Numbers 10, when they begin to travel Northeast (tribe by tribe) to the Wilderness of Paran (seen in yellow writing), which was about a three-day journey (Numbers 10:33).
Levites and Nazarites
After the census was taken, God pronounced the Levites as guards for the tabernacle, and exempt from the Israel ancestry. (Number 1:47-54). God took the Levites for himself from among the people of Israel (Numbers 3:12). Levites were specially consecrated for priesthood, and were dutied to take care of the tabernacle and its treasures. Unlike the tribes of Israel, the Levites camped closely around the tabernacle, securing its holiness and ensuring the divine pleasure of the presence of God. As written in Numbers 8, the Levites had special instructions for cleansing themselves, and were to be in active duty for the service of the tabernacle from age 25-50, when they would retire from service. At the age of 50 and above, they were still allowed to minister to the people, but not service the tabernacle.
In Numbers 6, God gives special instructions for being devoted as a Nazarite. A Nazarite was a special lifestyle, either decided by the individual, or imposed from birth. The Nazarite was to consecrate himself (or herself) by not cutting his hair, not touching any dead body (even of the closest family member), and not drinking any wine or anything produced by grapes. By becoming a Nazarite, the man set apart would show God that he is first in his life, and that he is worth taking radical assurances in holy dedication. Some Nazarites specifically worthy of noting are Samson (Judges 13:5, 7; 16:17), Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), and John the Baptist (Matthew 11:18, Luke 1:15, 7:33).
In Numbers 11, the people complain about wanting meat (they are tired of eating just manna). Moses and the Lord are both angry, so the Lord promised to give them quail meat until it "came out their nostrils" (11:20). The Israelites are forgetting here all that the Lord has done for them already, and it makes God angry. They don't trust that God will provide for them, and complain, stating Egypt would have been better than the wilderness. Because of their complaints, God appoints seventy elders to help Moses guide the people (this structure is likely the reason the Sanhedrin was formed the way it was).
12 spies, one from each tribe, are sent to Canaan to spy out the land for 40 days. When they returned, they reported that the people in the land were strong, large, and fortified, which convinced the congregation of Israel to be scared and lack faith. Because of the report, their lack of faith, and their unceasing complaints against the Lord, God said that no one in the current generation twenty and older would enter the Promised Land. With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, who remained faithful, only those under twenty years old would enter the Promised Land, and still after forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Numbers 16- Korah's Rebellion
Jude 1:11 is a helpful, small verse is determining Korah's Rebellion as well as the story of Balaam: "Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion."
Korah, the son of Izhar, and 250 men assembled against Moses and told Moses he had "gone too far!" (16:3) They were angry that Moses was calling the shots. They felt that Moses brought them into the wilderness just to die (though the original purpose was to lead them to the Promised Land, and the reason they weren't going now was actually their own doing). So, Moses inquired of the Lord, and drew an ultimatum: "If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.”
To this, the ground opened and swallowed all the men to their deaths. The next day, all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses, and the Lord sent a plague among Israel, killing 14,700 people.
The people ask for water, and God tells Moses to speak to a rock to give water to the people. Instead, Moses strikes the rock twice. His method still provided water for the people, but it was disobedience to God. Whether Moses was angry, rash, or simply careless, he disobeyed the simple instructions that God gave him. Thus, Moses, Aaron, and the assembly would also not go to the Promised Land either.
Balaam, Balaam's Donkey, and Balak
This is an oversimplified summary to help understand the ultimate conclusion of this seemingly contradictory story.
Balak, King of Moab, with the help of the elders from Midian, inquires of the prophet Balaam to see if he might bless Balak's attempt to defeat Israel.
Balaam inquires of the Lord, and the Lord tells Balaam that Israel is blessed, and will not be defeated. However, Balak is relentless and sends people to Balaam again. Balaam then inquires of the Lord again, with which the Lord responds the same way, giving Balaam instructions to "go with them; but only do what I tell you" (Numbers 22:20).
God sends an angel to kill Balaam, and Balaam's donkey talks to Balaam (and also informs him of the angel), because the Lord was angry with Balaam, perhaps for being prideful, greedy, or for inquiring of the Lord with a question he already knew the answer to. Either way, it seems at first glance that Balaam is doing what God commands him to do; however, we know from God's response, and from the illustration in Jude 1:11 and 2 Peter 2:15-16, that Balaam is on his high horse (pun intended).
"Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion." Jude 1:11
"Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness." 2 Peter 2:15-16
It's clear with the help of these scriptures that Balaam's heart was not righteous, and that he was after the gain of his own desires. However, God still used him, and used him powerfully.
After the interaction with the donkey, Balaam goes on to receiving three Oracles for Balak, all telling of Israel's blessed relationship with God. After the third oracle, Balaam and Balak part ways.
Joshua, a man full of the Spirit, succeeded Moses. Joshua will be leading the second generation Israelites into the Promised Land, which we will read in two days.
The material for today's reading was very dense, and to exhaustively summarize it all would take days! However, these are all helpful bits within the reading that will broaden our scope and assist in reading further through the Old Testament.
I hope these recaps are helpful for you! They are very helpful for me.