Sin is serious.

Adventures with Moses in the Wilderness –

Laws and Consequences


Numbers 15:1-21, Some Laws about Sacrifices
Numbers 15:22-41, Some Other Laws
Numbers 15:37-41, The origins of the Jewish prayer shawl
Numbers 16:1-15, Korah’s Rebellion
Numbers 16:16-40 [16:16—17:5], The Punishment
Numbers 16:41-17:11 [17:6-26], The people whine and complain; God responds.


More Adventures with Moses in the Wilderness

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Trespass Offering of the Poor. See below for provenance.
Numbers 15:1-21, Some Laws about Sacrifices (11/25/11)

Have you completed your Thanksgiving rituals?  Once a year we gather with our families and friends to be together, eat, and give thanks to God for our many blessings.  We perform our Thanksgiving ritual only once a year, and that once has to be right.  The week before Thanksgiving, I make three lists:  menu, cooking schedule, and shopping list.  Without these lists, things don’t go well.  This year, for example, my handsome and charming husband had no shopping list, because I was in the final throes of software development.  Consequently he had to make several extra trips to the store to get all the ingredients.  In other years, there was no written menu, and vital dishes did not make it onto the table until it was time for leftovers.  In still other years, there was no schedule, and by the time we sat down to eat, I was exhausted.  The lists are crucial to getting the ritual right.

The children of Israel had sacrifices that were performed daily, weekly, monthly, annually, and voluntarily.  Because the rituals had to be right, God gave them detailed instructions in Leviticus, and he also gave them summary instructions in the form of lists, one of which we read today.


Numbers 15:22-36, Some Other Laws (11/28/11)

This little passage discusses several cases of sin and what to do about them.  There seems to be some difference of opinion among scholars about vss. 22-23.  It may mean, “if you accidentally omit an observance,” and it may mean “if you accidentally do something incorrectly.”  It appears to me that the majority opinion seems to be in favor of the first idea, but that it doesn’t pay to be too dogmatic about it.  Either way, it is talking about a corporate sin – “y’all,” not “you alone” – that can be dealt with by means of a sin offering (vss. 24-26).

Second, an individual, either an Israelite or a foreigner, may sin ignorantly or accidentally, and this too can be dealt with by means of a sin offering (vss. 27-29).

Third, a person may willfully sin.  No solution is offered for willful sin in this passage.  Now, there are many, many, numerous, MULTITUDINOUS promises in the Bible that any sinner who confesses and repents can be forgiven; however, the absence of any remedy in vss. 30 and 31 does show that willful sin is a serious problem.

Fourth, the death sentence for working on the Sabbath??  My goodness!  The topic of working on Sunday came up this morning in Sunday School (not in connection with our study of Numbers), and there seemed to be consensus around two points:  1) those of us who shop or go out to eat on Sunday shouldn’t dare to judge those who are working at the stores and restaurants, and 2) there’s work that has to be done even on Sunday, e.g., hospital nursing, and I would add, e.g., manning the fire stations.  Jesus did work on the Sabbath, although his specific examples don’t grant us blanket permission.  Vss. 32-36 show that God takes the Sabbath rest seriously, and so should we.


Numbers 15:37-41, The origins of the Jewish prayer shawl (6/24/09)

Hang on to your hats: we're going to have a brief Hebrew and Greek lesson. Recently I read an interview in the United Methodist Reporter, in which the people being interviewed said that Jesus, being a perfectly orthodox first-century Jew, wore a prayer shawl – and it was this prayer shawl that the woman we are going to read about tomorrow reached out to touch. Well, I always like to check up on this type of statement, because sometimes people are just inventing stuff. Other times I'm about to learn something interesting. It turns out that these particular people are correct, and I learned something interesting that I'm sharing with you.

Have you ever put a little marker on your refrigerator or your hand or wherever as a reminder to yourself? After God took the Israelites out of Egypt, they spent a long time in the desert. Some of them could read, and some couldn't, but they certainly didn't have any printing presses. God set up a system of visual reminders of what had happened to them and of their relationship with him. One of these reminders was the fringe or tassel on their "garments," which I gather later turned into the prayer shawl specifically. The Hebrew words for fringe or tassel are tseetseeth (in Numbers) and ghedeel (in Deuteronomy). The rabbis who translated the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint) used the Greek word kraspedon in both places, and himatiou for "garment" in Numbers. Tomorrow we'll see how kraspedon and himatiou are used in the New Testament.
Numbers 16:1-15, Korah’s Rebellion (11/29/11)

We all remember that
holy means “separate”.  And we remember that all of God’s people are required to be holy, because God is holy.  Nevertheless, some people are designated as being more separate, for example, Nazirites and the Aaronic priesthood.  Korah and his group remembered the first part, but they forgot that last part.

Korah might have had a little bit of a case, since he was at least a Levite, but the Reubenites Dathan, Abiram, and On really had no basis for the argument that they should be allowed to serve in the tabernacle.

Take special note of vss. 10-11.  Moses says that in grousing about Moses and Aaron’s authority, Korah isn’t complaining about them.  He’s actually complaining about God, who put them in authority.  We should consider this possibility when we are unhappy with our church leaders.


Numbers 16:16-40 [16:16—17:5], The Punishment (11/30/11)

 Korah was a Levite who wanted to be a priest, contrary to God’s instruction that only the men of Aaron’s family were to be priests.   Dathan and Abiram were Reubenites who wanted to be priests, even though they weren’t even from the tribe of Levi, which was the tribe of Aaron’s family.  Another 250 men took part in the rebellion; it doesn’t say what tribes they were from.  The rebellion turned out badly for them.  The leaders and their families were swallowed up by the earth, and the 250 followers were consumed by fire.  Their censers – the brass vessels for burning perfumes – were hammered out as an altar covering as “a sign to the children of Israel.”

You may have seen in the paper that the family of Michael Jackson wanted his doctor punished as reminder to other physicians.  Now, what I want to know is this.  Why is it that we always have to learn from someone’s else bad example?  Why can’t we, just for a change once in a while, learn something from someone else’s good example?  However that may be, the children of Israel were suitably impressed and alarmed by what happened to Korah and his followers, and none of them made that particular mistake again.

Numbers 16:41-17:11 [17:6-26], The people whine and complain; God responds. (12/1/11)

Now, you probably know that the original Hebrew and Greek texts of our Bible did not have verse and chapter numbers.  Verse and chapter numbers were added fairly recently, as these things go, and the people who added them didn’t always consult each other.  So in a few places the verse number differs between families of translations.

Today’s reading has two sets of verse numbers.  The first set, Numbers 16:41 – 17:11, follows the versification that we are used to if we read the King James Version and all its relatives.  The second set [17:6-26] follows the versification in the Hebrew Bible, as does The Jerusalem Bible.  This discrepancy began in the last few verses of yesterday’s reading, and is gone by the beginning of Ch. 18.  Note that the words are the same either way; only the numbers added at a later date differ.


More Adventures with Moses in the Wilderness
Census and Organization
Offerings
The Order of March
Failure to Enter Canaan
Laws and Consequences
Complaints in the Desert
Balaam and Barak
Almost Ready to Leave
Scheduled Sacrifices
Getting Close to Canaan
Home at Last!

Copyright 2011, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

The illustration showing the sin offering of the poor is from the Binns family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.


Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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