Saturday, March 6, 2010


Numbers 34-36

In chapter 34, the LORD outlines the boundaries of the land that he is giving the Israelites, by noteworthy cities and towns, and geographical barriers. The western boundary is the Mediterranean, "the coast of the Great Sea." To the south, it reaches to the Wadi of Egypt, on the east it extends to the Jordan and the "Salt Sea," and to the north it coes to Mount Hor. It was to be divided among 9 1/2 tribes, with Reuben, Gad and Manasseh already having received theirs on the east side of the Jordan "toward the sunrise." One man from each of the remaining ten tribes were set to assist Eleazar and Joshua in assigning the land.

The Levites were given towns in chapter 35, and the pastureland around them extending out for 3000 feet for their cattle and livestock. Six of the forty-eight towns assigned to the Levites were to be Sanctuary Cities, three on each side of the Jordan. The Sanctuary cities were to be a refuge for anyone, Israelite or alien, to flee to in case they accidentally killed another. Anyone striking someone with "an iron object" or "a stone in his hand" or "a wooden object in his hand" such that that person dies is a murderer. "The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him." But someone killing another "without hostility," unintentionally, shall be protected from "the avenger of blood" in the sanctuary cities until the high priest dies, and then he can return to his home. The penalty for murder is death, but there must be witnesses and "no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness."

In chapter 36, some of the heads of Israelite clans discussed, again, the issue of Zelophehad's daughters and their inheritance. The issue was that if they married men from other tribes, the inheritance would end up leaving their tribe. Moses said that the LORD said they could marry anyone they wanted as long as it was "within the tribal clan of their father" and that no inheritance in Israel was to pass from tribe to tribe. And the book of Numbers ends with "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."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Numbers is a bit of a smorgasbord. There are passages of law, narrative stories, scenes of sex and war, obedience and reward, disobediance and punishment, and long passages of historical data, such as the two censuses, the travel itinerary and the historical boundaries of the promised land. It covers almost the entire forty year span of the Israelites wandering between the exodus and the conquest.
  • The boundaries of the promised land are well defined. I'm curious, though, as to how well we understand any of them today. Clearly, the Jordan and the Mediterranean are what they are, but the rest of the identifying boundaries are based on place names. How well do we understand, now, where the places referred to are or were?
  • The concept of Sanctuary as we currently understand it apparently dates back to Numbers 35. Interestingly, though, it does not exist to protect murderers, but accidental killers.

Psalms 25

A psalm of praise of the power and glory of GOD.

Psalm 29
A psalm of David.
1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.

8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.

11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

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